by: Shoori

This Beginning's End + Part 17

"Trowa. Come on, Tro, we need to get up."

The voice sounds like it's coming from far away. I don't know who it is. Don't know what they want. I feel like I'm drifting, floating. The only things holding me to wherever I am are a persistent ache in my knees joined to the now-familiar throbbing in my back, and the feel of something hard against my head and under my hands.

"Come on, Trowa. The doctor is here to change the dressing on your back. You need to get onto your bed."

The doctor? He can't. I don't care anymore.

Slowly, I open my eyes and lift my head. I look up, and stare into worried, clouded blue eyes.

Heero.

The knowledge that I had been attempting to distance myself from while I tried to drift away suddenly slams back into me with almost tangible force.

Duo.

Duo is dead.

And it's my fault.

I lower my head, unconsciously rocking forward again against the hardness of Heero's chest.

I can't cry anymore. I hate crying, and I've spent God knows how long weeping against Heero.

"Can you get up?" Heero asks, his voice concerned. I feel him shift from his knees into a squatting position, balanced on his heels. He slides his hands up my sides, attempting to help me lift myself to my feet.

I can't help a small shudder as I feel his hands move up my body. He doesn't notice, or takes it as an effort to stand. It's Heero, I remind myself. He's... well, despite the fact that he obviously hates me, he's not going to hurt me.

I feel the weak, stupid tears well up in my eyes again, this time in reaction to the thought that Heero hates me, blames me for Duo's death.

He's right. Everything he said was correct. I hurt Duo, and he died for me, never knowing the way I really felt for him.

Heero's right to blame me, to hate me. But here I am, ready to cry at the thought that I've lost them both.

Lost them both? I pushed Duo away from me, and Heero... well, I never had him. Didn't even know if I wanted him.

God, how arrogant I am. Sitting in my little room while they sought my revenge for me, trying to decide if I would forgive them, when they returned, for their sins against me.

I am a jerk.

While I work my way through my litany of self-idiocy, Heero is gently pulling me to my feet. My knees buckle as my feet touch the ground, but he's there, supporting my weight against his own, not allowing me to fall. He grasps one of my upper arms firmly, someone else whom I dimly recognize as my doctor holds the other, and between them they manage to guide me to my bed.

The trip is only a few feet, but in my drained, exhausted state it seems an immeasurable distance. My eyes close while they hold me in a sitting position, trying to summon some strength, some energy to be aware of what's happening around me. I can't seem to find any. I'm drifting again, drifting away...

I'm jerked abruptly back, however, by a burning, pulling sensation on my back. I open my eyes and see sheets. I'm lying on my stomach... I feel the rub of the material of the sheets against my chest and legs... They've undressed me, and... I gasp aloud at a particularly sharp pain from my back.

"What are you doing?" I manage, trying to pull away from the feeling of the hands on my back.

"I'm changing the bandages," Dr. Rushton's calm voice says, behind me. "It's two hours past the time we're supposed to do it. We don't want it to get infected again, Trowa."

I could give a good god-damn whether or not it's infected. I want his hands off my back.

"Go away," I growl, struggling as much as I can. It's a feeble effort at best. "Where's Heero? Did he go... "

"I'm right here, Trowa," he interrupts, stepping into my line of vision.

He didn't leave. He's here... he's... here! Watching the doctor... looking at...

"Heero," I gasp. "Don't! Stop... " Panic overwhelms me. He can't see this!

"What's the matter?" he frowns, bending down to look into my face. "Are you in pain?"

What the hell does that have to do with anything? "Don't, Heero," I manage.

"Don't what?" he demands.

"Don't... look at it," I choke out. He can't look at my back. He can't!

He stills, staring at me intently for a moment. I close my eyes, unable to bear the intensity of his gaze. When he speaks, his voice is strangely gentle. "Why not?" he asks.

I can't answer. I can't put it into words.

"It looks better," he tells me softly.

I screw my eyes closed even more tightly, feeling still more tears burning at the back of my eyelids at the reminder that this isn't the first time that he's seen it.

"Trowa." He calls my name quietly, but intently. "Trowa, what's the matter?"

I shake my head, unable to answer, unable to think. I hear a scraping sound as he moves the chair across the floor to the side of my bed, and a rustling as he settles into it. Then, abruptly, I feel his hand on my head, stroking down over my hair, onto my face, and this time he feels my unconscious flinch at the contact. His hand stills, and for a moment I think he'll move away. He doesn't, though. His hand doesn't move, it just presses a little more firmly, solidly, against me. I feel the warmth of his touch against my cheek.

Neither of us move for a moment. I'm acutely aware of all the actions of the doctor. He's gotten quicker cleaning and bandaging my back, knowing how much it bothers me to have it exposed. It still takes a long time though, and I shudder under his ministrations, wonder if Heero is watching again, staring at the gashes and knowing how they came about and thinking of me in that position...

"It's nothing to be ashamed of, you know," Heero says. His voice startles me and I jump slightly, opening my eyes. He's not looking at my back. His face is only inches from mine, and his eyes are staring intently at me.

I don't reply. I'm not sure what he's talking about.

"There's no reason to be ashamed to have people see your back," he clarifies.

I close my eyes again. No reason? He has to know, by now... The doctor surely told him, and if he didn't Barton probably broadcast it during the battle...

"Trowa, look at me." His voice is soft, but insistent. I hesitantly open my eyes.

"You were a prisoner of war," he says softly. "You allowed yourself to be captured, in order to keep your allies from having to fight and die from a position of weakness. You sacrificed yourself to buy us time, to save us and help us save everyone else. You refused to betray us, no matter what was done to you." He pauses, and shakes his head slowly. "Your actions were never anything but honorable, Trowa. You have no reason to be ashamed."

I feel the doctor begin to apply fresh bandages to my back. He's almost finished.

"Do you understand, Trowa?" Heero presses.

I close my eyes. He doesn't understand. And I can't tell him... can't...

I don't feel anything from my back anymore. Dimly, I hear the sound of the door shutting. The doctor must be finished.

"Trowa." I open my eyes again. I can't argue with him... but neither can I tell him...

"I know what happened," he says softly. "I know everything."

He can't possibly know everything. For all of Heero's Perfect Soldier reputation, for all the war and death he has experienced, in some areas he is rather touchingly naïve.

"Quatre told me... " He pauses, looking away for a moment. "He and... and Duo... when they were on the colony... they saw where you were imprisoned. They saw... "

I cry out, interrupting him. God, no. Those sights were something I wanted to protect them all from. And they went there. Why did they go down there?

"Barton is the one who should have been ashamed. He is the one who acted dishonorably. Not you, Trowa. Do you understand?"

"I'm... I'm sorry, Heero," I manage.

"Sorry?" He sounds confused. "What the hell for? I'm trying to tell you, it's not your fault that... "

"You were right, before," I interrupt. I don't want to talk about Barton anymore. I don't want to talk about him ever. I look into Heero's eyes. I must give this confession properly. "You were right. It's my fault that Duo's dead. I'm... I killed him."

"Trowa, no," he interrupts, a look of pain and guilt flashing through his eyes. "It's not your fault. I didn't mean that, I only... "

"You were right," I insist, breaking in on his attempt to take back the words. "I was... I was a jerk to him. Because I was jealous. I was jealous of you."

Now he closes his eyes. "Trowa... " he begins.

"I was jealous of you because I couldn't see how he wouldn't prefer you to me," I press on, determined to finish this before weariness overtakes me. "You've always been... well, the perfect one. You've always done everything better than me. I've always... admired you. How could Duo not want to..."

"Trowa, I'm not perfect," he interrupts, and I hear the despair and the desperation in his voice. "Everyone's always said that, and that's what people think, but... God!" He pulls away, leaning back in the chair, raising one hand to rub his forehead. "God, Trowa, I don't think you can even conceive how far from perfect I am. I tried," he tells me, lowering his hand and staring at me. "I tried to be what everyone thought. I even married Relena, because that was the perfect ending to the story." He laughs bitterly. "The perfect couple. That's what they called us, you know."

I nod slowly.

"Can I tell you something?" he asks abruptly. I frown, confused, even as I nod permission.

"There was not one single time I made love to Relena - including the first time, including our wedding night - that I didn't pretend that she was someone else. That I didn't pretend she was Duo... or you."

I stare at him for a moment, feeling my mouth fall open with astonishment. Me? I can understand Duo, but Heero... felt that way about... me?

"Some ‘perfect' husband, huh?" he demands bitterly. "Screwing his wife and pretending she was other men. You want to know how fucking obsessive compulsive I am?" he demands. "I would alternate which one of you I thought about while I was with her. Heaven forbid I lost track. It was easier to pretend she was Duo," he confesses morosely. "All the hair, you know."

I can't help it. It's wildly inappropriate, insensitive... but I can't help it. I laugh. And I can't stop.

"I'm sorry... " I gasp after a moment. "I don't mean to... I'm just picturing Relena's reaction if... "

He grins. "I know. She'd lose it." He sobers. "See what I mean, though? What kind of sick bastard am I? I was so envious of you two... you both had each other, and there was no room for me."

"But why... " The question trails off into nowhere. I can't believe that Heero Yuy ever wanted me that way, can't understand why he would.

"You both... You both took care of me," he says quietly. "Duo took me with him, broke me out of prisons, followed me around and protected me from myself even after I spurned him and stole parts off his Gundam and was a jerk to him. You... you picked me up off the ground and hid me while I recovered - I would have died if it weren't for you. Then you spent the whole next month with me, and never told me I was an idiot or that I was wasting time... you told me Noventa's death wasn't my fault, but you understood what I had to do to believe that. You did everything, Tro." He leans forward, his eyes suddenly clear and steady. "You lent me your Gundam. You got in front of me and took the shots Quatre meant for me - you saved my life again and almost lost your own. Shit, Trowa, you're the one who's perfect. I've always wanted to be like you."

I shake my head as violently as I can against the bed. "I'm not perfect. God, Heero... I'm... I'm damaged goods. I don't even have a name, for God's sake, don't know who I am or... "

"You think Heero Yuy is my real name?" he interrupts. "I don't know my name or birthday or family either. Does that matter at all? And never," he finishes, his voice almost angry, "Never call yourself that."

"But it's true," I insist. "I... "

"It doesn't matter," he says heavily. "It has nothing to do with you. Other people are bastards. You are not."

I shake my head wearily, closing my eyes. He can't understand.

"Stop it, Trowa," he demands, and there is anger in his voice. I open my eyes in surprise and stare up at him.

"You're no different than you ever were, as far as I can tell," he tells me in a hard voice. "You're still Trowa. You still look like Trowa, you still... ." He pauses, frowning at me. "Well, right now you look like crap, but you're looking better than you were."

I sigh. "That's not it, Heero," I begin.

"So, you think you're suddenly a bad person because some asshole used you to play his psychotic games on?" Heero demands. "If it had been me, or Quatre or Wufei or... or Duo, we'd be bad then? We wouldn't be worthy of you caring about us? We'd dirty you with our presence?"

"Stop!" I insert hoarsely. I don't want to think of them in any relation to Barton. He's dead now, definitely dead, and he can't do any of the things he'd threatened to do. But the thought still makes my stomach churn, makes me shake with almost unbearable horror, makes me...

"Trowa." I jump, startled, as Heero's voice pulls me back to the present. "Trowa, he can't hurt any of us," Heero reassures me softly. "He can't, because he's dead. Because of you. You bought us the time to build up the army. If the battle had happened a month ago, we'd have lost. We'd have been horribly outnumbered. You enabled us to win, Trowa, more than any of us who were there."

I shake my head, unable to speak. It wasn't enough, obviously. I couldn't protect them. Couldn't save them. And Duo died, because I left that base without taking Barton with me.

"If anything, this whole damn mess shows how worthy you are. I don't know if I could have done what you did, Tro. After... after I hurt you like I did, you still went... "

"Oh, knock it off," I interrupt, suddenly feeling not a little irritated. "You sound like some damn self-esteem counselor. I went because I was the only one who could. It was my mission. I didn't want to. But... "

"That's just it," he insists, leaning closer to me. "You didn't want to, you knew what you were getting into and you went anyway. That takes more courage and loyalty than... "

"Bullshit," I interrupt rudely. I don't understand why I'm suddenly feeling so angry.

"It's true," he insists. He reaches out, and his hand brushes my cheek again.

I can't help it. I flinch, and try to move away from his touch, the anger I felt a minute ago replaced with apprehension... with fear. "Heero, please... " I whisper, hearing and hating the broken sound of my voice.

"No, Trowa," he says softly. "I'm not backing off. I'm not letting you run and hide and become Pilot 03 again. I... I don't know what the fuck I'm doing," he admits, and sounds more like himself than he has through most of this conversation. "But I'm not leaving you alone. I'm going to help."

"I don't need help," I grind out, and I feel the anger returning. "Just because you have guilt feelings over Duo doesn't mean you need to baby-sit me to pay him back for... "

"You are something else," he interrupts, and his voice too has a hard edge to it. "People say I'm hard to get along with... " He stops, pulling away, and takes a deep breath. "Yeah, I have guilt feelings," he admits. "I feel guilty I let him go down there, though I don't really see how the hell I was supposed to stop him. He was in the Gundam."

I don't reply. What's there to say? If he keeps talking, he'll figure out that he's not responsible, conclude that he was right in the first place in blaming me, then he'll be gone.

"Mostly, I feel guilty for messing his life up before. It was all me, Trowa," he says flatly. He averts his eyes from me, settling back in the chair again. His hands rest in his lap, and he stares at them as he continues. "I initiated the whole thing. That first time, in your apartment. He just came out to comfort me, and I... It was all me," he repeats. "Then, later, after you left... I sought him out. I knew what would happen. I just... " His voice trails off.

"I just... I wanted to be with someone who cared about me," he says, his voice so quiet I have to strain to hear him. "Relena never did. She never knew me at all, just her dream guy that she decided was me. But you guys... all four of you... you all know me." He stops again, and stares intently down at his unmoving fingers. "Especially you and Duo. Quatre and Wufei... they grew up... different. They had homes and families and parents... Things I never had. They couldn't quite understand me. But you and Duo... "

I understand. I understand because I feel - and felt - the same way. It was that unspoken understanding which had pulled me close to both of them. It was why I refused to tell Quatre - surrounded by his mansion and servants and delicate china - so much as my name, whereas I sat by Heero's battered body for a month, then followed him around wordlessly for weeks, not even thinking to question or argue with him. As close as Quatre and I have become, we never had the instinctive understanding, the instinctive knowledge of each other that I've felt with both Heero and Duo.

"We five are the only people in the world who could possibly really understand each other. And of you four, only you and Duo really... " He stops, a noise of frustration. "Really... get it. And I... I had to be near that. Had to feel it. So I messed up everything between you two, because I couldn't stand to be alone any more."

[cont]