Author: Maldoror
Disclaimer: The usual, Gundam Wing belongs to it's owners (Bandai, Sunset, and a whole host of others, none of which are me) and I'm not making any money off of them. Not a single peanut.
Rated R for language, lots of violence, sexual content
see chap. 1 for more notes

AN: Whew, I'm sooo busy, but still managed to squeeze out this chapter. Thanks to Sol for letting me bounce the 3+4 conversation off of her and to the rest of the War Room for support and random insanity, and thanks to all of ya who are reading this fic, hope it's still fun to read as it is to write!

The Source Of All Things + Chapter 22
Resonance and Consequence

Quatre picked up a stunned jackdaw and absently smoothed the rumpled feathers. It had been standing on the crook between two leaning stones, defending its nest against the danger it had felt but not understood. It had been knocked clean out, and all but one of the eggs in the nest was broken.

Trowa and Heero were looming over Svale like two mean bookends, glaring down at the diminutive form.

"You should have warned us, Svale." Quatre said accusingly.

Svale looked ornery for a few seconds as if she was going to try to bluff her way out of it, then she shrugged gracelessly.

"I'd have warned you if I'd seen it coming, kids. I didn't think the chain reaction would get away from me like that. It was a hell of a lot easier to trigger than I thought it'd be."

"Trigger what?" Trowa asked through gritted teeth.

"Um...let's go sit down and have a drink." Svale suggested, trying to pat down her static-filled hair. "I think better when my blood stabilizes at 1% alcohol."

"Very well but you're not allowed to slip into an ethylic coma until you tell us what you did." Quatre muttered. In his hand the jackdaw suddenly revived, healed, and flew away in a crash of wings that sounded terribly loud in the ringing silence around them.

---

"Trowa, you and Rabbit know that this is no ordinary Jishin Sanctuary, right?" Svale declared then looked sideways at Heero. He stared back, impassive, giving no indication that he'd ever had any thoughts on the matter. Svale shrugged and knocked back the contents of her cracked mug in one shot. Many of the mismatched dishes she'd accumulated over the years had not survived the vibrations but fortunately for her mental stability the bottles in their boxes of straw were mostly intact.

"It's why you live here and study this one." Quatre said patiently. "You always said this was the principal one on Centre."

"Yes. There are a few Jishin mounds and sanctuaries on many a planet, where the Tricksters played mischief with the local population or did whatever weird experiments they wanted. But Centre was a special case, they knew the importance of this place of Sources. They created this sanctuary particularly for Centre, and its unique design has always intrigued me. Normally Jishin places are covered, secret. This one has a partially open design and it's huge compared to others. It also has a complex connection to a really old and subtly-powerful Source beneath it. No one knew what it was for, it's been abandoned for centuries. The other wardens supposed it was used as a portal to Imanohone, same as other sanctuaries. I always felt there was more. I recently found...evidence that suggested - or rather confirmed my suspicions - as to what that 'more' is. Damn is this bottle finished already?"

"Svale, finish explaining before you get completely pissed." Trowa said darkly as he stopped her from getting another jug of moonshine.

"Oh all right. Anyway, to cut a long story short...The Jishin were always wary of Centre and its Sources. They were smart enough to recognize a power greater than their own and be suspicious of it. They studied this planet for a long time, in fact for a while Centre was almost a second home to them, as they explored and connected to the planet in a way only that race of creatures close to stone and earth could. This is the result.

"They wanted a method of restricting the sheer raw power that could come out of Centre - and defend it against anything that might seek to attack and control it from outside. They made Centre ready for battle. The fairy mounds on this planet are bunkers. The Elsire trees in the sacred groves were sentinel watches. And this sanctuary is the guardian node that connects them all with Centre, and itís the powerhouse of their defence.

"This sanctuary's stones and leylines act as an amplifier for the power of the Source below. Each Source has its own character, its own expression of its power - that's why they tend to produce different kind of Gods; aggressive, benevolent, destructive, creative... This is what you could call a defensive Source. That's why it feels practically inactive, and doesn't have a god. The power it generates expresses itself in the form of defensive magic, closing it off to the outside."

"The sanctuary is casting a shield spell, powered by the Source?" Quatre asked abruptly. "It was made to defend the Jishin here, so that they could have a fortress to fall back on if something really ugly crawled out of a Source?"

"Yes and no, Rabbit." Svale's eyes looked distant. "That's what I always thought, but the shape seemed so...grand for just that purpose. And the sanctuary seemed so keen to drag and collect leylines to it...Then I...er, had a moment of insight a few days ago. The sanctuary isn't what is supposed to cast the spell. It's a transmitter that will pass the spell on to the planet's magnetic field so the -"

"The whole planet resonates with the spell!" Quatre gasped, surging to his feet staring at the old crone.

"You got it, kiddo. Can I go have a drink now?" Svale looked at the box full of lethal liquor longingly.

"Wait a minute." Trowa said firmly. "The spell or whatever the sanctuary cast only lasted a second. Though I grant you it feels like it went right around the planet." He added. His bones were still aching, and, through the sanctuary's usual interference, he could feel strange echoes run up and down Centre's leylines. Something pretty massive had happened. Massive but very brief.

"Yeah, I'm still looking into that part." Svale said, and Trowa, who knew her well, realized she looked worried. "I didn't want to have this test get out of hand today, actually. The whole planet rang like a fucking gong. You can't hide this amount of power, however briefly it lasted."

"This will have been a warning shot to Juusan." Heero said unexpectedly. His eyes were focused inward and he ignored the startled looks of his companions.

"He don't say much but when he talks he occasionally makes sense." Svale grunted, absently reaching out to grope Heero's thigh. A hand like a steel vice caught hers and put it back on the table with a smash that left imprints in the grain.

"Jusan? This shield could stop the Scourge?" Trowa asked softly.

"Yes." Svale rubbed her wrist with a grimace. "Shield is actually not the right word, kiddos. This spell is a fucking mind-job for mages. It eats power and accumulates it. So the harder you punch it, the stronger it gets. It also acts as a power dampener in its containment area - which is the whole bloody planet - so the more power you have, the more it will reduce it to -"

"It will remove Jusan's power when heís on Centre?" Trowa said, hardly daring to believe it.

"I wish. It will slow him down. How much remains to be seen. Only a Jishin could really tell us that and he wiped them out a few years ago. He knew he might be in a position of weakness coming back here, maybe it was a pre-emptive strike. I don't know if the Jishin would have opposed him, they were getting pretty detached from the affairs of the Galaxy but the Scourge isn't known to leave anything that could even resemble an enemy alive."

"This could give us a chance." Trowa murmured. Besides him, Heero nodded thoughtfully.

"That's the idea! But for it to work we need to figure out how to get the planet resonating with the spell for good. And then we can batten down hatches and get ready for some real fun and games."

"What do you mean?" Quatre asked sharply.

"The reason the Jishin didn't just turn on their shield and leave it on and forget about it is because it has...side-effects." Svale said morosely.

Trowa and Quatre stared a her, at the tremble of danger in the air, and were almost afraid to ask.

" You see, the resonance shields the planet from outside attack - which is nice 'cause it means Jusan can't just wipe out all form of life, from Great Wyrms to earthworms, with a flick of his fingers. It also dampens magic within. But the way it works, the resonance is going to cause a lot of havoc to reality inside the shield. It's like Centre is a pressure cooker and the shield is gonna put on the lid and everything inside it is gonna stew. Powerful mages and creatures will find their magic reduced, that's the whole point. The stronger they are, the more affected they'll be. But ambient magic will be overall more prevalent, easier to use, and the barriers between the arcane and the physical are going to disintegrate. Magical creatures will be able to feed off Sources directly, which will make them both powerful and quite frisky. And Gods...well, Gods will be walking the earth, kiddos. Or at least making day-trips away from their Sources."

"It sounds like Armageddon, not salvation, Svale." Trowa said tightly.

"It will make life very interesting, but at least we'll be here to enjoy it." Svale pointed out gnomically. "You prefer Jusan's option? Once he's rejuvenated, he won't even spare the bacteria."

"Can we turn this shield off after we put it on?" Quatre eyed Svale suspiciously.

"Erm...that's open to debate." Svale managed to dodge them all and grab a bottle from the box.

"Wonderful." Quatre sighed, and Trowa nodded.

Besides them, Heero was scowling at something only he could see.

---

The room throbbed with restrained power. The boy was hanging in midair, nearly naked, eyes closed in concentration, sweat trickling down taut muscles, his mind pooled and almost entirely closed in on itself in an effort to keep a mental grip on his growing armour.

The creature, known to the bags of mortal meat around it as Juusan, stretched out a tendril of thought and brushed away a few shivers of pain and stress from the mind before him. It was an idle gesture, like a man picking lint from his cuff. Though the repairs were complex, it didn't require all his concentration. Nothing ever did.

While parts of his intellect maintained his physical body - every atom, molecule, cell, vessel and organ functioning correctly - and another part made sure the ship and its crew followed his orders, part of his mind concentrated on Shenlong. And part of him was free to speculate. What would he do once Wufei became his war leader, and took back the direction of his race? The Dragons were useful, even in their reduced state. But would he allow them to make more armour?

Had the Dragons he'd destroyed even realized the potential of what they'd created? Probably not. But one day, they might. To an immortal creature, one day or one century or millennia was all the same. The instant the Dragons had developed Wing, and he'd seen that they were capable of it, he'd destroyed them. Because of Wing...and of the armours and the warriors who would surely follow, today, tomorrow, next century, one day, and all in Juusan's time-span. It had been as immediate a threat as a direct attack. Too bad the Dragons had not realized it...A small part of Juusan hovered over Wufei's mind, watching the ripples of thought and feeling beneath the steel-like concentration. The boy still hated him. He would always hate him. That was inevitable. Oh well...Wufei's hate was always a hundred times more interesting than the fawning adoration of some of the other sycophants who had commanded Juusan's forces yesterday, last year, last century, once upon a time...

Juusan concentrated on a nexus node in the armour. Gundanium...the metal, extraordinarily rare and so difficult to refine and use, had the most wonderful properties, which only a race of mechanists like the Dragons could have fully appreciated. Each atom by itself was just an ordinary metal. Join two particles together and they triggered each other's energy levels, in a way that resembled radioactive disintegration but was far more useful and less harmful...to those who harnessed the reaction. It was a minute speck of energy, but the reaction amplified with each additional atom. What was really interesting was the way the energy generated this way could harmonize with the human psyche.

That was where the Dragon armour had crossed a dangerous boundary in Juusan's eyes.

Juusan could feel it here and now. To dominate his growing armour, Wufei was using a mental program like meditation that bordered on the mage trance. Of course Dragons despised the arcane so they hadn't realized this was the direction they were heading. Most of their armour and their men did not have the refined abilities to do more than make sure the metal and its mechanical components meshed properly. But the higher Dragons and their armour...

Wufei's mind and his body's energy were triggering and controlling the chain reaction rippling around him as the gundanium expanded. Although the armour looked like solid metal, in fact it was only the thinnest crust of gundanium over a mix of carbon and energy pockets, making the whole thing tough and more cohesive than any metal had any right to be. And that was just the start. The waves of energy, controlled by Wufei's considerable willpower, danced in Juusan's vision of the world. The real armour, invisible to the mortal eye, cloaked the boy from head to toe, or would once the armour's gundanium particles were re-energized to their appropriate levels of excitement. Shenlong sang in the boy's mind, helping him control and express his mental powers, and Wufei's will boosted the armour's energy and fields, refining his control. It was a cycle that, theoretically, might never end.

Mechanised magic. The unfettered will of the human mind assisted by the power of a nearly sentient machine.

Dangerous boundaries indeed...

Juusan's power touched the boy. It would be so easy. A flick, a thought, and this strange mortal who had never been afraid of him would be dead, and the danger his harmony with his all-too-intelligent machine would no longer be...what, a threat? Wufei wasn't a threat. But his descendants might be...A threat to Juusan and above all to his task, his sacred duty.

If they were to be a threat, then he'd cull the descendants when the time came, he decided. Juusan didn't deal with individuals - for one living in the timelessness of immortality, entire races were what he considered to be his peers, if far beneath him. Yet for all that he didn't want to kill the boy, not unless he had to. It was important to keep Wufei around. It reminded Juusan that he could destroy humans but he could never entirely control them, or disregard them, or even understand them. They were so fragile but they had depths that he could never fathom, a strength that was puny compared to his yet refused to admit it. A will to fight, to survive for just a short handful of years more, and then to reach for what immortality they could, through their genes or their actions...that frantic effort he could never understand, never share, left Juusan baffled...and ever so slightly envious.

He was the shepherd. He dealt with entire herds, leading them to green pastures, or slaughtering them if necessary.

He smoothed another ribbon of pain from Wufei's stressed mind - the boy was making almost inhumane efforts to keep up with the pace Juusan had set for the repairs, even he was impressed...

He was the shepherd and his charges were many but he allowed himself to keep the occasional lamb as a pet.

A smile flickered across Juusan's materialized features. He couldn't grasp much about how individual humans thought, for all he could read them like a book, but he knew enough to know that he should never, ever, ever refer to Wufei like that to the boy's face. Oh dear, no.

He teased a few more gundanium particles with his mind. He was restoring their energy levels, in essence irradiating them using magic turned into chemistry - another boundary but as the shepherd and the one who'd set the lines in the first place he did not worry about crossing them himself. Once the gundanium was restored in each section the more mechanical parts of the armour could be repaired. Shenlong was still a machine, it had mechanisms and programs to help its owner control it, and assist him in battle. Juusan was looking forward to repairing those parts, he loved technology, precisely because it was so alien to him; but first the gundanium that linked and powered the armour's mechanisms had to be restored. It was a slow process. Not for Juusan who could re-energize a ton of gundanium with a twitch of his mental fingers, but he had to go slowly to allow Wufei to keep up, integrate each newly energised particle into the whole, so that the Dragon could control and manage the chain reaction, merge it with his thought patterns. It was a huge mental effort, and the stress would have already exhausted a lesser creature. Juusan petted away a few more quivers of pain and then pulled his mind back from Shenlong and let the boy down. Wufei staggered and went to lean against the wall, but his glare was indomitable.

"Why did we stop?"

Because you need a rest, you stubborn-..."I need to think about the configuration of the left wrist guard. I'm not familiar with this design."

Wufei grunted. "It was broken a year ago." In the confrontation between Wufei and Juusan's troops, or perhaps when the boy attacked Juusan himself. Neither of them commented. "I cobbled it together with the parts from another mecha and rewrote the program to integrate the two."

Juusan was impressed. "Did you now? By yourself?"

"Yes."

"Then we will look at this together, once I've restored the gundanium, and we'll see how you want the mechanism repaired." Juusan said, and let a mental hand linger in the pleasurable tingle of Wufei's sudden relief at being given a part in the repairs, a speck of control.

He materialized a chair for the boy, and thought it a good sign of their improved relations when Wufei sat down with a tired grunt. Juusan's muscles were powered by a will that could destroy planets but he'd picked up a lot of human habits in the aeons of his stewardship and so he accompanied the boy and took his own seat. He watched clinically as a bead of sweat trickled down Wufei's chest, noted the slight slump to his shoulders, and decided it was time to start chipping away at the boy's stubbornness again.

"You'll be able to rest tomorrow, and the day after I think. I will have other work to do..."

Wufei's eyes widened though they stayed fixed on the floor. It was obvious he wanted to shout and protest but he knew where Juusan was coming from...and leading to.

"Such a pity you refused my offer to become my herald, Wufei." Juusan had never mastered the art of subtlety.

The delicate lips, the colour of sandstone, twisted. The eyes slowly rose to pin Juusan with a glare. The creature thrummed a bit in the heat of Wufei's anger, though he noted the slight lessening of the intensity, the beginning of a crumble in the stone-hard front.

"It puzzles me...as my war leader, you would almost be expected to do this..."

"...not your war leader yet..." Wufei muttered in reply, but his shoulders were slumped in fatigue. Really, he should ease up on the boy. Humans were so fragile.

"And when you are? Will you accept to be my herald then?"

The slightest flinch across the lean frame. Juusan sighed internally.

This very resistance was what made Wufei so strange, so foreign and yet interesting to the Scourge. Lesser men would fear becoming his herald because there was always a possibility it would destroy them. But Wufei's strength of mind and will were great enough where the risks would not be considerable. Yet those very qualities were what was making him refuse; what a conundrum. Like the boy himself, really.

"I don't...I will not give myself over to you, Jusan." Wufei ground out. Did he sound a bit less positive? A touch less angry?

"I know you fear the risks-" Juusan didn't know much about humans but he knew some of Wufei's buttons.

"Blow the risks! I won't let you make me your puppet!" Wufei snarled, surging to his feet, fists bunched and body rigid.

"My herald, Wufei. My voice, my fist, the bearer of my power-"

"I'd be an empty husk and you'd be using me!"

"No, you'd still have all your mind and senses." Juusan corrected, not bothering to point out that they would be a hiccup in a hurricane.

"But they'd be under your control!" Wufei snarled.

"Your opponent on Centre might be stronger than you. He wears Wing-"

"I'll defeat him!"

"Yes but-"

"Without your help!"

Juusan steepled his fingers, staring at the young man burning before him like a flame, darkness and fire, anger and passion. He didn't doubt for an instant that Wufei would defeat this Heero or die trying, if he could do so unopposed.

"But what of this man's allies?" He asked smoothly. "The ones who are trying to cast this shield, and protect themselves against me? They might have other tricks up their sleeves. Treacherous little vermin that they are. Wouldn't it be a pity if you succumbed to some backstabbing little spell without even getting near this Heero?"

Wufei snarled and spun around, kicking some curio near his feet. A tiny fraction of Juusan's mind caught the object, repaired it and returned it to its place.

"We could always compromise..." The Scourge murmured.

An ebony glance from the corner of almond-shaped eyes, quick, reluctant.

"We could send you down there with a patched-up Shenlong and let you try to defeat this Heero...but you would have the herald's link to me, and I could be at your side in a heartbeat, at the slightest call- " he'd nearly said 'for help' but caught the warning ripples in the familiar mind and instead said: "- for backup against any pernicious sorcery they throw at you."

Wufei's lip curled. He could probably feel Juusan manipulating him; he'd been with the Scourge for five years or so and his kind learned fast (when you only lived a scant century or so, you certainly had to learn fast before it all ended, poor creatures). But the truth of the matter remained: Juusan needed a herald on Centre as quickly as possible. That shield nonsense they were trying to cast wouldn't do much more than slow him down, of course, he wasn't particularly worried about it; but it was an annoyance, an insult really. He wanted a herald down there as soon as possible, before it was finished and cast. He thought he had a couple of week's leeway before that happened.

A herald had to be strong to stand the might of Juusan's power and mind using him as a channel, a conduit to act directly on the planet he was still several months away from reaching. Most men would be destroyed with only a fraction of Juusan's power, and would be useless to him. A strong body and mind like Wufei though...he'd be able to stand a considerable portion of Juusan's power and remain intact. Mostly. Juusan had absolutely no intention of harming the boy if he could possibly help it, but there was always a risk.

"If you can defeat that usurper of your race's armour by yourself, I will be the first to applaud you, Wufei." Juusan murmured and meant it. If there were no real danger down there, if those plotting wretches were just playing with forces beyond them with no comprehension, as was likely, then he did not want to take risks with the boy's mind, the delightful, intriguing mix of anger, pride, arrogance and intelligence, sprinkled with vulnerabilities like a tangy dash of spices...no he wouldn't want Wufei to summon him unless things got out of hand.

But if Wufei did summon him...then the Scourge would kill everything that moved on that planet and quite a lot that didn't.

Juusan didn't take lightly to being opposed in any shape or form by anything that might have the slightest ability to actually hurt him. His task was too important for that.

The boy was shaking his head, but Juusan could feel the slight lessening of resistance, the faint horror at the sense of his own defeat. Wufei would know that if he refused, Juusan would stop repairing Shenlong to go and try to prepare some other miserable minion to be his herald, which would demand considerable work. He'd not have time to spend on Wufei's armour until the matter was resolved. And someone else would go to Centre before the Dragon did. Someone else would kill this Heero, with Juusan's power at his command there would be no doubt. Someone else would touch Wing before Wufei did...

Juusan's mind curled in a smile. He could force millions to obey his will, obliterate armies...but manipulating a stubborn Dragon was much more challenging and many times more entertaining. When his herald returned to him, after destroying their enemies on Centre, he'd let him have Wing, and the boy would be his war leader, and hopefully keep him challenged and entertained for as many years as the mortal pet had yet to live...

---

The door closed with a whisper that made Quatre tense nonetheless. He forced himself to relax before Trowa could pick up his reaction, and instinctively smoothed the lines of his own body like straightening out rumpled sheets. Soft shuffling, the sound of lacings being untied, boots pulled off...Quatre hesitated, then turned his head on the pillow to look at the shaman undressing in the small fraction of starlight and a sliver of moon.

"What was all the fuss about?" He whispered.

Trowa didn't turn around and his movements continued smoothly as he removed his jerkin from his shoulders. "I threw Svale in the horses' water trough."

"She sober now?"

"Is she ever? But she was conscious enough to call them."

"The wardens?"

"Yes. We'll need their help if we're going to get this to work." Quatre watched the leather pants slide off the long legs and firm buttocks and wished he could fish some desire from the morass of information and output zero was feeding him.

The spell was pricking his mind, trying to integrate the wardens and their role in the strategies that were unfolding in his mind. He knew Svale was one of a very small group of powerful beings that Centre had created to keep a sentient eye on the potentially dangerous land of Gods and Sources. He didn't know what they were like though, or their abilities. If Svale was a typical example, well, even zero would have a hard time integrating them into any kind of sensible strategy.

"What are they like? Have you met them?"

"Once." Trowa grunted as he slipped under the cover.

"They as bad as Svale?"

"Nothing is as bad as Svale." Trowa muttered, and Quatre remembered the shaman had just had the unenviable task of sobering her up against her will. "As individuals they're okay, I guess."

"Ah?"

"As a group, it's like dealing with six cantankerous tomcats."

"Oh." Quatre was silent for a second, then grimaced. "I've just thought of half a dozen Svales, please tell me-"

"Not that bad."

"Oh good."

Quatre felt the shaman settle, partway on his side and turned towards Quatre.

"They'll think of a solution for this shield. It's their job." Trowa's voice was calm and factual. "They are the minds of Centre, an element of her defence against the dangers that could threaten her."

Quatre nodded in the near-total darkness. A planet as rich in Sources as Centre was, was bound to become nearly sentient after awhile. Every weird and wonderful life-form, every god and demi-god, every Nightwalker and warden was a part of her, as well as the rest. Trowa had explained this to Quatre way back in his small room in the tiny clinic near the swamp. Quatre had been aware - he'd been warned - before Trowa even became his lover that the man was not entirely his own master but a piece of something greater. It had not impacted their lives greatly at first. Quatre felt a sharp pain in his gut as he remembered that first year of wandering. Sometimes the vardo headed in the direction Centre dictated and other times they went where they wanted, it really had not mattered because they were together. It wasn't as if Trowa's duties, if you could call them that, were involving. Most of the time the shaman simply had to go where the lines led him and that was all. Quatre had been nonplussed at first; the shaman didn't actually do anything most of the time. He just went to one place, stayed there for awhile, then left again.

Now Quatre had been wrenched from the tapestry and could see the grand design from above. He could see how his lover and others who served the sentient planet of Sources were like nerve endings, their very presence triggering an effect that kept the planet aware and dreaming its deep dreams. Quatre could even see - very faintly - the awareness of the planet now focusing on his lover. Trowa was no longer just an identical piece of the planet's nervous system. When Centre, through Svale, had asked Trowa to follow the line that had led him to Heero, he'd become one of the nodes at the heart of something big. And Quatre was one of them too. He brushed the tapestry curiously, looking at the many threads he was tangled in; Centre, Duo, Svale, they all had their strings tied to him and were playing him, more or less intentionally. Zero could show him the snarl of connections that tied him down to the present situation, though it couldn't cut him loose. Because -

"May I hold you?"

Because the strongest thread of all was tangled around his heart and soul. A part of Quatre watched, helpless, as his mind splintered under the effect of that gentle, almost hesitant whisper.

I love him.

He's trying to limit me.

It's because he loves me. Deeply, entirely, intensely.

It's holding me back.

Then I don't want to go forward.

Then I'll be a puppet again. Duo made me shoot the one I love more than my own soul, and he made me weaken the bolt because Trowa is still useful in his schemes but I couldn't stop him!

It won't happen again!

How will I stop it? I'm weak.

I'll get stronger.

I let it happen.

I'll get stronger!

He won't let me.

Because he knows he could lose me.

In the world outside his mind, Quatre saw the lines seize around his silence, could see how, if he did nothing in the next three seconds, Trowa would catch a hint of the screaming internal debate, would be hurt at his lover's hesitation. Options expanded in the healer's mind like a deck of cards fanning out, he chose the best solution quickly, scooting over to move into Trowa's arms, while turning away slightly to press his back against his lover; a carefully calculated gesture that was an acceptance of contact with a gentle refusal for anything further. Warm arms folded tenderly around him, pressing him to the firm chest. Comforting, restraining. Loving, smothering. Trowa was not one to force a conversation, he was giving Quatre time to work it out; he was being very tolerant and understanding...without understanding anything at all. But then, Quatre wasn't explaining anything to him either...

He knew Trowa and himself well. In his zero-enhanced mind, the conversation where he'd try to explain his needs and desires to Trowa branched out like a tree. Each word Quatre could use was lined up with the predicted response from the shaman, with a statistical calculation weighing each path. And each branch of the tree ended in conflict. Quatre squeezed his eyes shut as if that could stop him from seeing the arborescence of probabilities that zero was gleefully drawing out for him.

Trowa loved Quatre. And the person he loved was changing, becoming someone different. In essence, Trowa would be losing Quatre. Zero was pointing out to him every instance of affection and words of love from the shaman; it dissected Trowa's past actions and words and laid the result out on display. The shaman was attached to Quatre's gentleness, kindness, his loving nature, his tenderness. Quatre could see each one of those qualities being shed like dead petals in the future zero promised him. But he had to lose them. They were weaknesses he could not afford if he wanted to defend what he had, and do something to affect the tapestry rather than being a hapless thread. But he didn't want to lose Trowa in the process.

Zero couldn't help him with this. Well, that wasn't quite true, the spell did in fact have a solution, and was getting rather pushy in trying to get Quatre to accept it. Zero was a weapon of war, and as such it didn't place love very highly as a goal to achieve. It didn't even fully understand it. Love was equated to a weakness, something holding Quatre back from becoming what he could be. So zero was trying to push him to accept one more change, one more mutation of his mind, adding on to the others he'd already reluctantly accepted. This one would allow him to dominate, even eliminate his emotions. Break right out of the internal debate raging in his mind, hampering his growth. Cut the last thread binding him helplessly to his fate. Make him the master of himself as well as his destiny.

Quatre's hands clasped Trowa's arms and drew them tighter around him like a blanket, drawing the warmth to him like a shield. The shaman tightened his grip, pressed a kiss like the brush of a tear against the nape of Quatre's neck. The healer instinctively noted the strands of the shaman's lines; he was worried, but Quatre felt pretty sure that Trowa could only sense the edge of the struggle. He probably thought Quatre was still confused by the new vision he'd been given. He wouldn't believe Quatre would have the strength to cope with anything more.

Above all, he would not understand that Quatre would want more.

Best to stay silent. Hide this from him. Quatre would fight this out between his conflicting inner desires, alone.

Hopefully this would not stop him from doing what had to be done, or the only winner of all of their struggles would be Jusan.

[chap. 21] [chap. 23] [back to Maldoror's fic]