see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
Lost Souls + Chapter 33
The grand peace reception was held in the huge ballroom of the Sanque palace a mere day after Libra fell. If Relena was in mourning for her fallen brother, she wasn't showing it. Dressed in a resplendent white and blue gown and crown, she presided over the reception like the queen she was, moving from group to group, talking and laughing, making sure she was attentive to the guests of honor, especially Heero.
Heero had never understood her attraction to him, and now less than ever. He did his best to be polite, but excused himself as soon as an opportunity presented itself. That didn't stop her from looking for him, though. So he told himself that that was why he hung at the edge the crowd as much as possible, even though he and the other Gundam pilots were the focus of the event. They'd all survived, every one of them. If Heero had been able to feel anything, it probably would have been disappointment, at least for himself.
Everyone around him was rejoicing. Well, everyone but 05. Wufei looked as aloof and icy as always, dressed in his traditional white clothing, hair pulled sharply back. Only when Relena paused to speak to him did he smile, and after that something seemed different, though he returned to his aloof demeanor.
02 was talking with that Hilde girl, a friend, apparently, or so Heero had guessed from the way 02 had hovered over her on Peacemillion. From what Heero overheard tonight, Duo was going to move in with Hilde on L-2, and work with her in the scrap yard she owned. Heero walked away before he heard any more. It felt private, nothing that concerned him. Nothing that bothered him. No. 02 noticed him and broke into one of those thousand watt smiles of his and tried to wave him back. Heero pretended not to see and walked away. So what if Duo went back to L-2? What was that to him?
03 and his sister Catherine and some of the folk from the circus were hugging and crying over each other. Well, 03 wasn't crying; Heero couldn't imagine that, but he looked very happy. They'd tried to engage Heero earlier, and he'd tried to be engaged--he'd spent weeks with those people, after all, when Trowa had nursed him back to health, but it felt as if he were talking to them through a pane of glass.
Across the room, 04 was surrounded by Winner family members and other dignitaries. Out of the five of them, only Quatre looked at home in this sort of gathering. Heero had seen enough pictures of him online to know that this was the world Quatre Winner had grown up in. Relena spent quite a while with them, too, and seemed to know some of them well.
Heero drifted from group to group, always on the edge, the outside, even as people shook his hand and thanked him and tried to give him champagne to drink. Deep down in the back of his mind something stirred, the memory of being able to feel--perhaps not exactly like everyone else, because he knew even at his best he'd never been like everyone else--but he had been able to experience and share emotions.
Like that night with 02 in the silo . . .
No point in remembering that failure now.
And even if he did let himself think of something like that, something so painful it has made his guts knot, he felt nothing now. Nothing. J had taken all that away from him at last and now that the war was over, he was left with nothing.
But in the past he'd even been happy. It was hard to imagine tonight. He was being toasted as "the boy who saved the world" and he felt nothing.
Well, not nothing. He glanced across the room to where Duo was standing with Hilde. She had an arm around him and as Heero watched, she kissed him on the cheek.
Heero turned away, looking for somewhere else to be.
Where the hell is he? wondered Duo, finally extricating himself from Hilde and a knot of conversation. He'd lost sight of Heero again. The dark-haired boy kept disappearing in the crowd before Duo could get to him. It was like Heero was avoiding him, which was entirely possible. Every time Duo tried to break free there was someone else--some well wisher or reporter or Hilde getting in the way. Hilde was still going on about him coming back to L-2 with her. He didn't want to hurt her feelings, not here, not now, and was being as tactful as he could be, but that only seemed to encourage her.
Run and hide! he thought, finally getting loose and wending his way through the crowd. No, find Heero and drag him into a quiet room and get it over with, the Big Confession. Climbing on a chair, he scanned the room and finally spotted Heero over by the huge silver punch bowl. So J had fucked Heero up good; Shinigami was up for a challenge! What the hell else did he have to do with his life?
No, that's not it! he told himself, elbowing his way through the crowd. The war was over. There was no reason he'd see Heero again, unless he made a reason. Heero didn't have anyone, Duo knew that. Maybe he'd even welcome an invitation to throw in with Duo. Hell, maybe Hilde would take them both in! The hard work would agree with Heero.
And maybe, in time, that last bout of conditioning would wear off, like the others had, and then--
And if it doesn't?
Duo pushed the thought away; it would be enough just to be his friend, to work beside him, and see him every day. Yeah, that would be enough.
He could see Heero again. Wufei and Relena were with him now, talking and Heero seemed very interested in what they were saying. It was the most engaged he'd looked all night. Suddenly Duo had a bad feeling. Shoving his way though the last of the crowd, he was just in time to see Relena throw her arms around Heero, gushing, "Oh, thank you! Thank you both! I'm so glad."
"Glad about what?" Duo asked, sidling up to them with a fake grin plastered on.
"Heero and Wufei have agreed to join my personal security detail!" Relena told him.
"You--you did?" Duo struggled to keep the happy mask in place as he turned to Heero.
"Yes," Heero told him, deadpan and cold-eyed as ever. And there was something else in those hard blue eyes.
God damn, he's on a mission! Duo thought as his heart fell like a rock in his chest.
"As have I," said Wufei.
"Oh." Think, Shinigami, think! "Uh, well, if you're hiring, Relena--"
"You already have a new job," Heero said, and it sounded almost accusing. "You'll be working with Hilde, right?"
All the courage and hope Duo had managed to scrape up in the past twenty four hours shriveled up like an ant in a blast furnace, landing him right back on Peacemillion that day when Heero had shown up with those hard eyes, acting like he and Duo had never been friends. Had never shared an almost romantic evening together. Never kissed and touched and--
"Yeah, right." I've got to get out of here, thought Duo. He could almost feel his expression beginning to crumble. Heero had been actively avoiding him all night, and now this. Message received, 01! "Well, uh, have a nice life!"
And with that, the great Shinigami turned tail and ran. Well, walked fast and kept his head down until he could trust himself not to cry in the middle of this goddamn crowd. An open doorway to the garden beckoned.
Run and hide.
Rashid told them all about me, Trowa thought as he stiffly shook hands with all the relatives Quatre insisted on introducing him to. He and his fellow pilots had been the center of attention since the battle yesterday but Quatre had been whisked away by his family soon after they all touched down and Trowa hadn't seen or heard from him until this fucking reception. And Quatre was still surrounded by dozens of sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, and of course, Rashid, who looked to be silently seething at Trowa.
In the midst of them, Quatre, obliviously happy, was positively aglow.
"I hope you are ready to get to work, my boy," one of the uncles was saying, arm around Quatre's narrow shoulders. "The corporation needs you, you know. The family needs you!"
"You are the heir!" one of the sisters exclaimed, pinching his cheek. "Everything depends on you now."
This is where he belongs, Trowa thought. Looking across the room, he saw Catherine and his friends from the circus--people the Winners were far too grand to mingle with, apparently. Those were his people, and they needed him as much as Quatre's people needed him.
Which left Quatre and him where? Quatre hadn't so much as taken his hand since they'd met again tonight. In fact, he seemed to be keeping his distance.
Of course he is. What's he going to say to these people? 'This is the guy who fucked my ass yesterday'? Trowa was feeling a little ill now. "Quatre," he said, catching his friend's eye, hoping he'd take a hint and follow. "I'm going out for some air."
Quatre flashed him a brilliant smile and returned to talking to his sister. Trowa hid behind his bangs and made for the garden.
It was quiet out here, and cool. A few people were hanging around just outside the numerous French doors, sipping their wine and laughing. Trowa hurried past and headed for the shadows beyond. There was a lake in the distance and he chose that as his destination. He needed something to focus on, so he wouldn't think too much about how angry and hurt he was right now.
Reaching the water's edge, he decided this had been a bad idea. There was a moon overhead, and some palms. It reminded him far too much of the oasis where he and Quatre had first kissed. Shoving his hands deeper into his pockets, he stalked along the white gravel path, and was passing an arbor when a familiar voice brought him up short.
"Crowd too much for you, too?" Duo sat slumped on a bench in the shadow of the arbor. Trowa couldn't make out his expression, but he didn't sound happy. "Where's your boyfriend?"
"With his family." Trowa was surprised at how bitter that came out.
"Why aren't you with yours?"
Trowa sat down next to him. "Just taking a break."
"Hate to tell you, but that poker face of yours ain't working so well tonight, buddy. But neither is mine, I guess. We can hide out here together."
"No luck with Heero?"
"He's going to work for Relena."
Duo rubbed a hand over his face and Trowa suspected tears were involved. With a sigh, he put an arm around the smaller boy and pulled until Duo's head was resting on his shoulder. Duo sighed heavily and just sat there, hands dangling between his knees.
"Did you tell him how you feel?"
"Didn't give me a chance. He'd already made up his mind. And he made it pretty damn clear he didn't want me around."
"Oh, Duo." Trowa hugged him again and pressed a kiss to the top of that silky head. Why couldn't the two of them have fallen for each other? Guilt followed hard on the heels of that thought; he wouldn't give up one minute of what he had with Quatre.
They were still sitting like that when they heard the crunch of footsteps coming their way along the gravel path beside the lake. The person stopped just out of sight.
It was Quatre.
Duo was on his feet at once. Dragging Quatre over to the bench, he forced him down beside Trowa. "You two talk. See you later!" And with that he disappeared.
Quatre had ended up on the far end of the bench and he stayed there. "You're angry with me."
Trowa didn't know what to say. He'd never been in this position before, being so angry at someone he loved so much.
"You haven't introduced me to your family yet," Quatre said softly.
"Didn't have much of a chance, did I?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You Winners are pretty clannish. And I guess Rashid clued them in. Some of them looked at me like I was dirt."
"Uncle Amid? He looks at everyone who isn't an Arab that way. Don't take it personally."
"You introduced me as your 'friend'."
Quatre looked down at his hands. "It's--complicated."
"You're ashamed, all of a sudden?"
"No! Not ashamed. Just--"
"You are. Now that you're back with your family, it all comes back, doesn't it? I know what you and I do is a sin in their eyes. Is that how you see it, too?"
"No," Quatre whispered. "But I have responsibilities. I have the family and the corporation to think of. The people I have to deal with--they wouldn't understand."
"I see. So where does that leave us?"
"I love you, Trowa."
For the first time, the words hurt. "Then come with me. My people don't care about any of that shit. They'll welcome you."
"I wish I could. But I'm the heir."
"How can that be? You're the youngest in the family."
"I'm the only son."
"Fuck, what century do you people live in?" Trowa exclaimed in frustration. When Quatre didn't reply, Trowa growled, "Two days ago you loved me forever. I tried to walk away, and you pulled me back, had sex with me, had me put my--"
"Don't!" Quatre begged. "I meant every word. I do love you! I want you! We can meet. I have houses all over the world."
"In secret?" Trowa went cold all over. He stood up. "I won't be anyone's dirty little secret."
"That's not what I meant!"
"Then what did you mean? Because what I'm hearing is that we can be with each other whenever you can sneak away and meet me where your family and business cronies won't have to know about it. Won't have to know that the pure little Winner heir is a fucking faggot."
"Trowa!" Quatre was crying now, of course.
Trowa held out his hand. "Come with me now, Quatre. If you want me, then come with me to my world, where none of that matters. Catherine will love you because I love you. It's a good life, meli, and we'll be together."
"I want to, Trowa," Quatre said, voice trembling with emotion. "You have no idea how much. But I can't just walk away from my responsibilities. Oh Allah, I wish I could! All I want right now is to be back in space with you, making love to you."
"But you won't."
"I can't! There has to be some other way!"
"I won't sneak around, Quatre. Not even for you. I'm not your whore and I won't act like one."
Suddenly Quatre was on his feet and in Trowa's face. "How dare you!" he hissed, furious. "How dare you think that's how I see you! Do you think I'm lying when I say I love you, want to be with you?"
"I think if you wanted to be with me, you wouldn't let anything else get in the way. I know I wouldn't."
"Yes, you are. Discretion! That's all I'm asking for!"
"I don't see the difference."
"Then I guess I can't explain it." Quatre looked up at him, and Trowa's heart turned over in his chest at the sight of the tears gleaming on those smooth cheeks. "Trowa, I do love you! But if that means I have to give up everything, then what kind of love is that?"
Trowa looked down at him, warring with himself. The looks of disdain from Rashid and some of Quatre's relatives still burned his pride. But life without Quatre? It would be so easy to give in. But then how would he look at himself in the mirror? It was hard enough to do that as it was. His time with Quatre had made him feel--clean. At least until now.
Taking Quatre's face gently between his hands, he brought their lips together in a light, lingering kiss. "You have your world and I have mine. I can't belong in yours. Good-bye, meli."
And with his heart blown to shards of sharp glass in his chest, Trowa walked away.
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