The Beginning's End + Part 11 (cont)

"This is ridiculous," he mutters, pacing around the small room.

I can't hold back a small sigh. He's made that same remark - or one very like it - every ten or twenty seconds for the past hour. I understand his impatience and agitation, but it's starting to get on my nerves a little.

I summon my most patient smile as he pauses in his pacing to look at me. His expression softens slightly.

That softness, that tenderness he tries so hard to hide still surprises me sometimes. He tries so hard to become strong, not realizing that he is strong, and always has been. He doesn't show his gentleness often, fearing it will be interpreted as weakness. But he is so beautiful when he does.

"This has been a horrible shock for Duo," I remind him as delicately as I can "Heero's probably having a hard time convincing him to come up here."

He snorts. Heero left this room an hour ago, promising to find Duo and bring him back, so we can plan the course of action we must follow over the course of the weeks to come. Neither of them have returned. I am not surprised. I can only imagine the force of the grief Duo is feeling at this moment. It is so much to ask that he put it aside and continue as if nothing happened. It may be too much to ask.

"We have to get moving, Quatre," Wufei reminds me. "We have work to do."

I smile at him again, this time not bothering to hide the sadness I feel. It hurts me to see him try to repress or deny his own feelings. He feels he must be strong for the rest of us, that he can't pause to mourn Trowa lest he risk the safety of everyone else. It's taken him so long to even admit he has such feelings, and now this damn war is forcing him to renounce them again. I wish with all my heart that Dekim's son had remained dead.

Wufei stares intently at me until I can no longer hold the false smile on my face. I gaze into his dark eyes and let him see the sorrow in mine, and begin to see that sorrow reflected back to me. Then, to my surprise he sits beside me, lowers his head into his hands and leans against me, allowing me to support his weight. This is the closest Wufei can come to asking for comfort.

I close my eyes and rest my chin against the top of his head, drawing strength just from the warmth of his body next to mine. I'm suddenly wracked with sympathy for Duo, and for Trowa, neither of whom can experience this comfort now.

"He's going to die, isn't he?" he asks abruptly, breaking a long silence.

I don't trust myself to answer. I've been trying not to think about it. But he is. Trowa is going to die, going to be killed by a figure from his nightmares who has come back from the dead to capture him. "Probably," I manage, not trusting myself to say any more.

"He didn't have to go like this!" Wufei bursts out angrily. "There was no indication the enemy had discovered this base! We had time!"

"He is protecting us," I tell him softly.

I'm startled as he moves abruptly, rising to his feet and glaring challengingly at me. "No one asked him to do that!" he fumes. "I don't need his protection!"

I hold back another sigh. "It's not your fault, Wufei," I tell him, cutting through to the heart of his unspoken fear. "Trowa did what he felt he had to do. For you, yes, but also for me, and Duo and Heero and Une and for everyone on earth. It isn't your fault that he did it, or that we can't save him."

He stops and stares at me, a stricken expression on his face. I see it in his eyes, now. Trowa has done something that Wufei is unsure that he himself would be willing - or able - to do in his place. He believes this to be a weakness, believes Trowa thought him weak, and went alone to his death because there was simply noone for him to rely on.

I feel an entirely unreasonable flash of irritation. Trowa believed no such thing. He analyzed the available data, realized that he would provide the only diversion, and acted upon this knowledge. He weighed the value of his life against the value of the many lives that would be lost if he didn't act and made his decision accordingly. That decision made sound strategical sense.

It is only because we know him so well, and love him so much, that the rest of us are unable to accept this cold evaluation with equanimity.

"You aren't weak," I tell Wufei sharply.

He jumps, startled. He thinks I've read his mind again. I didn't, of course. I just know him, know how he thinks. Not to mention the fact that his worry that he has somehow let Trowa down disturbingly mirrors my own deepest buried fears.

"You had your ‘I'm so weak' face on," I tease, trying to distract him with a hint of levity.

It works for a moment. He's distracted. "My ‘I'm so weak?' face?" he repeats.

I smile. "We aren't doing anyone any good," I remind him. "Noone forced Trowa to his decision. He is doing his part. Now we can only do ours."

He nods curtly, accepting, if not believing, what I tell him.

"Well, we could do our part," he stresses, the irritated look crossing his face again, "If Yuy would get here with Maxwell."

I stand up, stretching slightly. "Why don't we just go get them?" I suggest. "Heero could probably use a hand by now."

We walk together down to the level where all of us are quartered, and I notice that Wufei stays very close to me. He doesn't touch me or take my hand - he has difficulty expressing affection in public - but he is somehow nearer to me than usual. I understand. After seeing the look on Duo's face and the anguish in his eyes, I want to stay as close as I can to Wufei, assuring myself that he's still here with me.

We stop outside of Duo's door. There's no sound from within, and Wufei looks doubtfully at me. "Do you think they're here?" he asks.

I shrug, and knock on the door. "Only one way to find out!" I announce as cheerfully as I can.

There's no response to my knock, so after a moment I try again.

Again, nothing.

Wufei swears under his breath in Chinese. Once I asked him to translate what he was saying. His skin darkened another two shades, and he unwillingly told me what he'd been saying. I laughed for half an hour. I guess that a lot is lost in translation.

"We don't have time for this," he grumbles. "Where the hell could they be?"

He reaches out and tries the door handle, grunting in surprise as it turns in his hand. He pushes it open and enters the room. I follow without speaking. I know that he's not intruding on anyone's privacy - he's just ensuring that neither of them are there before we embark on foolish searches elsewhere.

We're only a few steps into the room when he stops in his tracks, so abruptly that I crash into his back. It's like blundering into a wall - he doesn't move at all. I frown, moving to the side to try to see what shocked him into immobility.

I feel my mouth fall open. There, curled together on the bed in the center of the room, the sheet pulled up over their obviously unclothed bodies, are Duo and Heero.

I hear a low growl rise from Wufei's throat, see his hands clench into fists. I should try to soothe him, try to ameliorate his anger, but I'm too incredulous even to react.

"What in the name of the ancestors are you doing!" he roars, his voice rising with every word. I can tell he's deeply affected - he goes all traditional in his speech when his emotions are the most engaged.

"It isn't really your concern," Heero says tightly. "If you'd leave, we'll be with you in a minute."

"You'll be with us in a minute," Wufei repeats flatly. His eyes move insultingly over the entwined pair. "Is that all it will take for one more round?" he questions sarcastically. My mouth drops open even further at this astonishingly rude query.

"Shut your damn mouth, Chang!" Duo shouts furiously. "You don't know what the hell you're talking about!"

"Oh?" Wufei asks disbelievingly. "Am I misinterpreting events?"

"It's not your business, Wufei," Heero repeats, his voice controlled. "Please leave."

I stare at them. Duo shifts his gaze from Wufei to me, and I see some of the anger disappear. He stares at me pleadingly, begging for understanding. He needed comfort. He needed to be touched. He needed a few moments peace from the agonizing thoughts of what he has lost.

I see that in his gaze. I feel his pain, radiating from him in waves, and I sway, physically knocked off balance from the weight of the suffering diffusing off of him. I feel it. I understand. I sympathize.

But my gaze sweeps over him again, over the rumpled bed, his tousled hair. I see a bruise on his neck, a mark left by Heero's mouth, and I suddenly feel the stirrings of an emotion I don't often allow myself to experience. Anger.

I understand Duo's pain, his sense of abandonment, of loss, of guilt and grief. I have felt all those things, and I didn't have the intimate connection to Trowa that Duo did. I sympathize with his need for escape.

But what must Trowa be feeling? I don't want to even think of the agonies - physical, mental and emotional - that he must be enduring right now. And there is no escape for him, no moment's forgetfulness, no warm body to hold him and protect him from the bitter reality of the present. I am angry that Duo sought and found this respite from his suffering, when Trowa must endure his alone.

"Have you no decency?" Wufei hisses at the pair in the bed. "How could you so dishonor Barton?"

"Shut up, Wufei!" Duo shouts, sitting up in the bed, his face contorted with rage.

"You'll listen to everything I have to say, Maxwell," Wufei shoots back. "You don't want to hear it, I know. You don't want to face how despicable an act this is. You don't want to admit your guilt."

This has to stop. I understand Wufei's rage - agree with it in some measure - but tearing each other apart like this will help nothing.

"You're a self-righteous, sanctimonious bastard, Wufei," Duo accuses angrily.

"Did you ever really care about him at all?" Wufei demands heatedly. "Or was it all just an act, like he thought?"

"How dare you ask me that!" Duo rages.

"How dare I?" Wufei repeats incredulously. "He's been gone a day! He's gone to die, for us, and in a matter of hours after you find out about his loss you're in bed with someone else? How could you forget him so quickly? How could you do him such an injustice?"

"It's not like that, Wufei," Duo insists, and the anger in his tone has diminished. His voice is softer, desperate, pleading for understanding.

"You both disgust me," Wufei tells them coldly, his face implacable.

"That's enough," Heero interrupts suddenly. His expression is as cold as Wufei's. "You go too far."

"You are in no position to tell me that I have overstepped my limits," Wufei returns, sneering.

"Wufei, please. Quatre - explain it to him!" Duo entreats, turning toward me again.

I have to stop this before it escalates further. I must push aside the anger I feel on Trowa's behalf to save what is left of our team. We have, after all, a mission to accomplish.

I open my mouth to speak the words of reason that are my duty to give voice to, to ensure that we can all put aside our hurts and angers to a more appropriate time.

Before I can speak, though, I am struck with a pain the like of which I've never experienced. The ache is extreme, intense; it feels as though someone has punched me as hard as they could, directly in the center of my chest. I cry out and fall to my knees, feeling an equal pain in my head, and in my throat, and a sudden burning flash across my back.

At the same instant an intense awareness, a familiar sense, permeates my being.

Trowa.

I am used to the way Trowa feels. All of my friends, all of the former pilots, have their own particular presence, and all of them have been inside my soul so many times that I'm used to them. The emotional sensation of each of them is almost like an old pair of shoes or a favorite blanket - warm, familiar, comfortable.

But this - this feeling is unlike any I've ever felt before. I've felt Trowa fear before, felt suffering and pain from him. But nothing like this. The anguish and agony and terror are so intense that they almost overwrite the familiar signature that is Trowa.

I cry out again, dimly aware that Wufei is by my side, holding on to me, shaking me, frantically trying to discover what is wrong. I clasp my hands over my ears as a voice - Trowa's voice - echoes in my ears.

"NOOO! HELP ME!"
"Trowa!" I gasp. What's wrong? What's happened? I have to go, have to help him, have to save Trowa…

"Quatre! Quatre!" I'm jerked suddenly back to reality by two sharp slaps to my face. I jump, startled, and Wufei's anxious face suddenly jumps into focus in front of mine.

"Trowa!" I manage, feeling my body wracked with sudden shudders. "Merciful Allah, Wufei, didn't you hear him?"

"Hear what, Quatre?" Wufei demands, his face drawn with worry and fear - fear for more than me, now.

"Trowa," I gasp. "Wufei, Trowa's…something's very wrong with Trowa. We have to help him."

Wufei's eyes close, as if in pain. "Quatre, we…"

"What is it?" Duo interrupts. Suddenly he is beside me too, and a corner of my mind notes with startling irrelevance that he's managed to put shorts on. "Quatre, what happened to Trowa?" His violet eyes are frantic, the fear in them apparent.

I shake my head. "I don't know," I choke. "Such pain…" I touch my chest with one hand, sliding the other behind me to touch my back.

Heero kneels down beside us, his blue eyes almost black with despair. "Quatre. Is he…" He stops, unable to continue. But I know what he's asking.

"I don't know," I admit. "By Allah, Heero, it was terrible. I've never felt anything like that before."

"You felt pain?" Wufei asks clinically, trying to analyze the experience.

I nod. "Not just physical pain, Wufei. He's being…he's being tortured," I manage. Duo lets out a choked cry and I am sorry to bring him this pain. But I can't contain it - I can't bear it alone. Like Trowa is.

"I heard him, Wufei," I insist, staring into the dark eyes above mine. "I heard his voice. He asked…he asked for help."

"Asked you?" Wufei questions.

I shrug helplessly. "Not exactly…it was just….just a cry. To anyone I think. A cry for help."

Duo pushes himself to his feet, and I see the grimly determined look on his face. "We have to go," he announces, surveying the room, apparently trying to determine the best path through the broken glass to his clothes. "He needs help. We have to help him."

"Duo." Heero doesn't rise; he remains kneeling beside me. "We can't, Duo."

"What the hell do you mean, we can't?" Duo shrieks.

"We can't," Heero repeats inexorably. "They'll kill him the minute they see us coming. And we can't sneak up on it - we have no idea what their monitoring capabilities are."

"But…" Duo's face crumbles. "Trowa's…he's in pain, Heero," he says, and he sounds lost. "He needs help. He needs us. He…"

"We can't, Duo," Heero says, and the sorrow in his voice is real and raw and unyielding. "We can't do anything."

Duo stares at him for a long minute, and the realization of the truth of Heero's words slowly appears on his face. I lower my head, unable to look at him any more, and my shoulders begin to shake with sobs I can't contain. I'm aware of Duo slowly sinking back to the floor. I feel his head on my shoulder, then Wufei's arms around me, Heero's strong hand on my back and his hard chest under my cheek. We all crouch there on the floor in a miserable huddle, the knowledge of Trowa's torment and our own helplessness roiling unceasingly among us.

This will not go unpunished, Trowa, I vow silently, drawing strength from the presence of my companions. Whoever has hurt you like this, he will hurt in double measure. I swear it upon the soul of my father.

I know that each of the men surrounding me are making similar vows. And I know that each of them are as painfully aware as I of the futility and essential uselessness of such vows. But we will see them through. There is nothing else we can do.

[part 10] [back] [part 12] [back to Shoori's fic]