by: Shoori

The Beginning's End + Part 18

Even as I begin to rise out of slumber, I fight it.

I don't want to wake up.

Dimly, I'm aware that there's…something bad that I don't want to wake up to.

My mind stubbornly refuses to acknowledge…whatever it is that I don't want to remember. At the same time, though, it refuses to protect me with sleep anymore, forcing me ever closer to awareness.

I groan softly, shifting slightly, trying to get comfortable enough to convince my mind that I can - that I need to - stay asleep.

The surface my head is resting on moves beneath me, and I rub my cheek against the warmth. I inhale, and immediately feel myself relax as I breathe in Duo's familiar scent. I slide my right hand up along the firm length of his chest, restlessly searching for his braid. I wrap my fingers around the thick, silky rope of hair, clutching it tightly as I relax, slowly fading back toward complete slumber.

I push on the bed with my left hand, trying gain the leverage needed to turn myself over in the bed. The action is met with a light grunt of pain that melds with my own indrawn breath as the movement sends a flash of pain across my back.

The sound pushes me almost to complete wakefulness. That was Heero.

What's Heero doing in my bed?

What's wrong with my back?

My back.

Barton.

Heero.

The memory that I was fighting so hard against recognizing, the one that's been preventing me from waking up, the one that I've been refusing to open my eyes to face, is suddenly there, hanging stark and barren in my mind.

Duo.

Duo is dead.

My throat constricts, and a knot of pain solidifies and pulses within my chest.

Duo is dead.

But…if Duo is dead, why can I smell him? How am I clutching his braid in my hand?

Maybe I've finally gone completely crazy.

It's no wonder, really. Maybe I'm to the point of insanity where I'm experiencing sensory hallucinations, where I can smell and feel things that aren't really there.

But if I'm crazy, how can I be wondering if I'm crazy?

Maybe all madness contains within it a small core of sanity, a minute remnant of reason that knows - knows! - that the rest of the psyche is crazed, but can't help it, can't change it, can't control it.

Somehow, the thought of that little piece of awareness, surrounded and trapped by insanity, is one of the most horrible things I can conceive of. A moan of protest escapes my lips, and I frantically shake my head back and forth. No! I can't be imprisoned by myself! I can't spend the rest of my life trying to get out, trying to…

"Trowa." Hands gently clasp my shoulders, and I feel fingers stroke my hair. Hands on each shoulder…another in my hair…too many hands, too many…

"Trowa, wake up. You're dreaming."

That voice. I must be dreaming. But what am I dreaming about? Am I dreaming he's here? Am I dreaming he died? Am I dreaming I'm crazy? Or is it just more hallucinations, auditory mirages that will vanish when I open my eyes…

"Open your eyes, Tro. Wake up."

Delusion or no, I can't refuse him. Slowly, I open my eyes.

The first thing I see is my own hand, wrapped securely around a familiar length of chestnut braid. I gingerly trace the plaits with one finger, feeling the softness of the hair against my skin. My eyes move over the expanse of tan uniform shirt both my hand and head are resting on.

Slowly, painfully, I lift my head, turning it to the side…

…and stare into a pair of smiling violet eyes.

Violet eyes.

Duo's eyes.

My gaze moves over his face - taking in his eyes, the structure of his cheek bones, his too-hollow cheeks, the wide, generous mouth…

I feel like I'm suddenly in greatly increased gravity - like the atmosphere itself is pressing on me, and the simplest of movements takes massive effort and can only be accomplished in slow motion.

Slowly, fighting against this oppressive force, I move my face again, and find myself staring into Heero's dark blue eyes. He seems…confused, as though he's not quite sure how to react. I read joy, excitement, tension, worry and bewilderment in his expression, before I turn my head again.

He's still there, staring at me. He hasn't disappeared. Will he vanish if I speak?

"Trowa."

He spoke. And he didn't disappear.

"D…Duo," I stammer, my voice a bare whisper. Please don't let this break the spell. Don't let him disappear. If it's a dream, let me stay in it.

"It's me, Trowa," he assures me softly, his hand rubbing up and down the length of my arm. "It's me, and I'm here. I'm all right."

"Duo…you're dead," I whisper. Maybe he came only to say good-bye to me. Maybe he doesn't even know.

I feel a flash of impatience. How could he not know?

God, I don't have to…tell him, do I? Send him away? That's too…cruel…

"And too impossible!" my logical side bellows. I'm barely aware of the reproach.

"I'm not dead," he assures me softly, his voice sincere. "I escaped. My suit was damaged and it took me a long time to get back, but I'm not hurt. I'm alive."

Alive. Duo…alive? Here?

"You're not…dead?" I ask tentatively.

He shakes his head firmly. "No, Trowa." A small smile curves his lips, breaking up the sober stillness of his expression. "I promised you I'd come back," he reminds me softly. "You weren't conscious, but I promised you. I never lie."

Duo never lies. And he said he's alive. So he must be…must be…

The smile fades away, and he stares at me, raw honesty and sincerity in his eyes. "I'm here," he tells me, "and I'm not going anywhere. I'm never leaving you again, Trowa. Do you understand?" he presses gently. "I will never leave you alone, ever again."

Duo's alive. Duo's here. With me. And…Heero. He's…Heero won't…is he… leaving, now? Does he…do I want him to?

I turn my head again, and he's still staring at me.

"Me too," he promises softly. "I'm here too."

I can't answer. I don't know what…I can't…My fingers tighten, clenching the material of Heero's uniform shirt in my fist, hoping that that tells him… something… what he needs to know…what I need to express.

I turn back to Duo. He's still there. I can't…I should say something…but I can't speak…

"It's really ok, Trowa," he assures me. "I'm fine. I'm here, with you." He pauses, and smiles at me. "I love you," he whispers, and leans up, pressing a soft, gentle kiss against my lips.

My eyes close as he draws away, and I feel myself begin to tremble violently. My head drops back down against his chest, and I hear the hoarse, choked sounds that escape from my throat. Hands are gently stroking my arms, my shoulders, my hair…touches meant to calm, and soothe…I hear Duo's voice, murmuring words of comfort as I weep out my fear for him and my overpowering relief at his return against his chest. He's still patting me and murmuring his reassurance when I sink back into my oblivion, this time drawn there by the irresistible pull of exhaustion, not running there from a need to escape.

There's nothing I need to run from anymore. Duo is alive. Nothing else matters.

_______________________________________________

I start awake, jolted out of slumber by a loud rapping on the door.

Wufei.

I blink sleepily, turning my head to peer at Heero as I absently stroke Trowa's arm. Heero is awake, and staring at me. I don't know if he was sleeping too and was just awakened, or if he was awake all the time, watching Trowa and me as we slept. Heero's one of those annoying people who's immediately completely aware and alert, the second they wake up. Trowa's usually like that too, but this time the rapping on the door didn't even wake him. He slumbers on, his weight sprawled evenly over both Heero and me, one hand clenched tightly in the material of Heero's shirt, the other wrapped close around my braid. I smile slowly at Heero as I luxuriate in the warmth generated by the close huddle formed by the three of us.

Heero smiles back, almost shyly, before yelling out permission for Wufei to enter.

The door opens, but instead of Wufei, Dr. Rushton enters the room.

I guess I should feel embarrassed. I mean I hardly know this man, and here I am in bed with two guys.

I'm not, though. I mean, we could hardly be more clothed. Well, except for Trowa. He's just got one of those weird hospital gown things on, but…I'm starting to feel almost uncomfortably hot, I have so many clothes on. The doc's a cool guy, anyway, he won't…

"What do you two think you're doing?"

I blink, surprised at the harsh tone. Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I see the doctor scowling at us.

"I was…we were…we wanted him to…"

Is that Heero? Stammering? I turn my surprised gaze to him. Maybe that's why he'd never let anyone patch him up. Maybe he's scared of doctors.

"You both need to get up. Now."

There's no mistaking that tone of command. I start to feel a bit irritated, though I don't argue. Carefully, I peel Trowa's fingers away from my braid, and start to carefully slide out from under him.

"Don't jostle him any more than you already have," Rushton snaps, moving to my side of the bed to support Trowa's weight in a stationary position while I slide out. He orders me to the other side of the bed to do the same thing while Heero gets up. Carefully, we settle Trowa's unconscious form onto the bed.

Rushton scowls down at him, then lays one palm on his cheek, testing for something. He makes a sound of exasperation, moving his palm from Trowa's cheek to his forehead, swearing slightly under his breath.

"What's the matter?" I demand. What's his problem? What's going on?"

He ignores me, and picks up one of Trowa's arms, settling his fingers against his wrist. He holds his hand steady for a moment, glancing at his watch. Abruptly, he rests Trowa's hand back on the bed and swears again, more viciously.

"What's wrong?" I demand, more loudly this time. I feel the panic start to mount, worse because the doctor won't tell me what's wrong.

"Stay here," he orders tersely. "I will be right back. Don't touch him," he finishes over his shoulder as he bangs out the door, leaving it open behind him.

Immediately disregarding his order, I reach down and press my own palm to Trowa's cheek. Heero is immediately beside me as I cry out, reaching over me to touch Trowa's forehead. We stare worriedly at each other, both of us feeling the heat radiate from his flushed skin.

The heat.

Too much heat.

"What's wrong?" Wufei's voice comes from the open doorway.

"I think his fever is back up," Heero says after a moment.

I can't stop staring at Trowa, noting the pallor of his skin under the artificial flush of the fever. I thought he would be better than this by now. It's been two weeks. I mean, I didn't expect him to be running any marathons, but I thought that he'd be out of this stage by this point.

Wufei moves further into the room, stopping at the foot of the bed to stare down at Trowa.

I glance up, noticing he's alone. I look past him into the hallway by the open door, but don't see anyone.

"Where's Q?" I ask.

Wufei looks up at me and shrugs, the worry in his dark eyes belying the casual gesture. "I don't know," he admits. "He went off with Dr. Rushton about a half hour ago, and when the doctor came back, Quatre wasn't with him."

I scowl. Now I'm starting to get mad. He drags Quatre off, bursts in and starts giving orders, won't even tell me what the Hell is going on, then he's gone again. The doc better get back here soon; he's got some ‘splaining to do.

Just then he reappears, several nurses with him. They push us unceremoniously out of the way and bang things around on the bed, releasing several levers that hold it in place and enabling it to be moved. Still without a word to us, they begin to wheel the bed out of the room.

"Just a god-damned minute," I burst out angrily, ignoring Wufei's restraining hand. "Where the hell are you taking him? What's going on?"

The doctor nods sharply to the nurses, and they wheel Trowa out the door. The doctor turns and frowns at me.

"We are transferring him to another room," he informs me, and his words are clipped with annoyance. "His condition is being upgraded again. He needs to be in a room more accessible to the nurses, with monitors. Again."

"Why? What's wrong?"

"Follow me," he orders. Turning on his heel, he strides out of the room, the three of us tagging on his heels.

[cont]