by: Shoori

The Beginning's End + Part 19

"How is he?"

I glance up, and see Quatre’s worried face staring down at me. I shrug, feeling the exhaustion that I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to keep at bay. "Better," I admit cautiously. "He’s not as warm - I think the fever is breaking. He might just be asleep now, not unconscious." He’s been out almost an entire day. The doctor said he might be out several more days. I need him to wake up. I need him to…

"Good," Quatre says simply, interrupting my train of budding hysteria.

We’re silent for a moment, the two of us, staring down at the still form in the bed before us. I’m aware of Heero and Wufei’s presence in the room. We’re all together, all in one place. It’s been…far too long since that happened. I thought it never would again. I feel a stinging in my eyes, which I impatiently blink away. I must be more tired than I thought.

Quatre notices though, damn him, and his tired aqua eyes fill with pain.

"Duo…" he whispers. "I’m…I’m sorry, Duo. It’s my fault that…that you almost…lost him again," he finishes brokenly.

I shake my head wearily. "No, Q, it isn’t," I say firmly. I really don’t want to have this conversation here and now, but it’s obvious that the Q-man’s been beating himself up over this for far too long already. "Everything I did was my own decision. You didn’t make me do anything."

"But you would have left. I made you…"

"I wouldn’t have just left," I interrupt. "I would have lost my temper and so I’d have been done quicker, but I never planned to make it neat and easy for him."

Quatre shakes his head. "It was my idea…God, Duo, those things we did…it was all my…"

"Don’t, Quatre," I interrupt, more harshly this time. "Don’t go there. Just…don’t. I know…I know it wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t…well, it wasn’t our finest hour. But some things…some things just have to be done. So we have to accept what we did, and move on."

"What exactly did you do?" I turn my head, and see Wufei regarding us with a calm curiosity in his dark eyes. I glance over and see the same expression in Heero’s steady blue eyes. I feel a sudden surge of irritation.

"What, you want a detailed accounting now?" I snap.

Wufei is silent for a moment, his calm gaze never wavering. "I want to know what happened," he said finally. "It involved you and Quatre, and it almost led to your death. And," he finishes slowly, "it obviously bothers you both a good deal. We want to…share it with you."

"You don’t have to," I say roughly. "It’s not yours. It’s ours. It doesn’t concern you, and…"

"But it concerns me."

I turn, startled, to the source of that voice and see that Trowa’s eyes are open, staring at me. I stare back, caught between relief that he’s awake and chagrin that he’d overheard this particular piece of conversation.

"Trowa," I say lamely. "How…how are you? Do you feel…"

"I’m fine," he interrupts. "Answer Wufei’s question, Duo. What happened on that colony?"

"I…You need to rest. The doctor said not to…"

He interrupts again, this time to suggest a rather biological activity that the doctor could engage in. "Tell me," he repeats urgently.

I stare at him for a moment. Despite his insistence that he is ready to hear this, I know he isn’t, really. His features are tight and drawn, he’s still got a faint flush of fever across his pale cheeks, and those impossibly green eyes are clouded and fogged from fever and exhaustion. He’s not going to let up. But I have to try.

"Trowa," I begin hesitantly. "We will tell you. You’re right, you deserve to know. All of you," I concede, glancing briefly at Wufei. "But now…you need to rest now, Trowa and…"

"Tell me, Duo." His voice is implacable.

I sigh. I glance at Quatre, and see the trepidation in his gaze. Fat lot of help he’s going to be.

In slow, halting sentences, I describe what went on during that interminable hour. I explain, in as clinical a manner as possible, how I disarmed Barton, shooting away the fingers that held the gun trained on us. I relate how we ‘convinced’ him to take us to where he’d held Trowa. I try to gloss over details, injuries inflicted, instruments employed, but Trowa won’t let me. Every time I am less than specific, he interrupts, in a flat monotone, insisting on more clarification. I stare at him the whole time, silently pleading for…something. Acceptance, forgiveness, understanding…I don’t know what. But I don’t get it. Early on in my recitation his gaze moves from my face and fixes on a point at the edge of his bed. He never looks away from it, even when he’s talking to me, asking me questions, demanding more answers. He never looks at me.

Finally, the tale winds down. Halting, I relate the part noone but me has heard. I tell them all of Barton’s death, of my attempt to escape. For the benefit of the rest, I repeat what I hold Heero, telling them how I escaped death and made it back to the base.

And then there is silence. Noone speaks. Noone makes a sound.

I glance around. Heero and Wufei both wear almost identical expressions. They’re analyzing the new data, trying to formulate conclusions. I shake my head at them. Sometimes I think that they’ve spent too much time working on and with computers and Gundams. Their own thought processes have come to mirror machines.

Quatre stares at the floor. He’s had to come face-to-face with the violent side of his own nature, a side that he tries to squelch, to hide, to deny even exists. I have the feeling that this experience is bringing all sorts of unresolved issues to the forefront for him.

Trowa’s eyes closed tightly during the last part of my speech, when I described how Barton finally died. He hasn’t moved since I stopped talking. With his eyes closed, I can’t tell what he’s thinking, what he’s feeling. Is he angry? Disgusted?

Abruptly his eyes open. He still doesn’t look at me, still stares at the edge of the bed.

"Why?" he asks flatly.

I blink. Rather broad question there, Tro.

"Because…he deserved to suffer," I venture. "He didn’t deserve an easy end."

He grimaces slightly, and waves one hand in irritation. Ok, guess I didn’t hit the right ‘why.’ You’ll have to be more specific, Trowa.

"Why?" he repeats.

I’m not answering this time.

I don’t know what he’s asking.

Why.

Why did we torture Barton?

Why didn’t we get out more quickly?

Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?

Why what?

At my continued silence he glances up, almost making eye contact.

"Why you and Quatre?" he asks, managing to both clarify the question and confuse me even more.

"Because, Trowa," Quatre bursts in. He seems pleased to finally know the right answer. "Duo and I have both…loved you. We knew how horrible a thing Barton was doing to hurt you, of all people, the way he did. We knew he had to be punished."

"Loved me," he repeats flatly, glancing up.

Even though he’s staring at Quatre, I see the expression in his eyes. They’re flat. Expressionless. Empty.

Uh-oh.

That’s not good.

Red alert.

Danger, Will Robinson!

Quatre, still trying to expiate his guilt, doesn’t pick up on the curious blankness in Trowa’s eyes.

That’s the main flaw in Quatre’s empathic armor. He’s usually very good at picking up on emotional cues from other people. He can read them, understand what they’re feeling, where they’re coming from and what they need. He then can react in the way they need him to, knowing what that need is based on the cues that they feed him. He’s been this way so long that that automatic emotional adjustment has become instinctive. He doesn’t even need to think about it.

But when he’s experiencing emotional turmoil himself, it seems to block those signals he’s so accustomed to getting. He doesn’t pick up on those emotions around him, because his own are so abnormally enhanced. He doesn’t realize that, though. And he’s so accustomed to automatically acting in the appropriate fashion that he doesn’t even realize that his normal behavior is based on signals he gets from others, signals that he just doesn’t receive when he’s extraordinarily upset himself. So at those times, he doesn’t realize that he’s behaving based on his own emotions, not the emotions of those around him.

And I’ve found over the years that there is noone more thoughtless than an empath who is suddenly getting only his own emotional messages. Most of us are accustomed to trying to feel our way through sticky situations, and are aware - even if we don’t care - when we’re acting in a basically self-focused way. Quatre isn’t. He doesn’t even begin to realize it. So that’s how the most sensitive person that I’ve ever met can occasionally be the most clueless dork on the planet. Or off the planet, as the case may be.

And that’s how he missed the danger hanging in those two little words.

"Yes, Trowa," he insists, staring earnestly into Trowa’s eyes. "We know how gentle you are, how loving. We both know what…what you have to offer a lover. So when Barton abused that, hurt you…he had to die."

I close my eyes briefly. That’s got to get the award for Most Clueless Remark of the Year. I know exactly what Quatre was trying to say. And I know exactly how Trowa is going to interpret it.

"I see," Trowa says, right on cue. I wince as I hear the flatness in his tone, opening my eyes to look at his strangely impassive face as he continues. "So, not only did Barton invade your playground without permission, he damaged it in the process. That’s why he had to die - so he would learn that noone can break your toys and get away with it?"

Ouch. Worse than I thought.

"No, Trowa!" Quatre protests, horrified. "That’s not it at all! I meant…"

"Good work protecting your territory," Trowa continues relentlessly. "But you should be reminded that this particular playground had been declared off limits to you both anyway, so sadly the effort was wasted, unless of course you plan to play without permission…"

"Shut your damn mouth!" I shout, my angry command mixing with Quatre’s cry of pained protest. "How could you even say that?" I demand. "Why would you say that? Ok, so you’ve been mad at me a long time - but what did Quatre do to deserve that?"

He closes his eyes and I see him begin to tremble. Damn! Silently, I curse myself. Did I listen to a single word that the doctor said to me? I know he’s not really able to be having these conversations. I know he’s in a weakened condition, and isn’t himself. Why can’t I adjust for that? Why can’t I seem to do any of this right? I glance to the side and see Quatre’s stricken face staring back at me, appalled at how his words have been interpreted. I shake my head at him, trying to reassure him that this isn’t his fault.

"Trowa," I say more gently, "It wasn’t like that, and you know it. Q and I went because we’ve been the closest to you. You’ve shared more of yourself with us, so we could understand better exactly how deeply Barton hurt you. So…it was…our right. Our right to get your revenge for you."

"I didn’t want…" he begins, his voice very soft.

"Revenge?" I finish for him, frowning. I know Trowa very well, and know that he can be generous, but he’s certainly not that altruistic. None of us are, really. Not even Quatre. Maybe especially not Quatre. "Trowa, of course you did. It’s ok to want…"

"No," he breaks in more loudly. "I didn’t want…I didn’t want any of you…involved."

"Involved?" I repeat, surprised. "Of course, we’re involved, Tro, we…"

"I didn’t want you involved with him!" he insists, almost shouting. "I didn’t want any of you to know…to see…I didn’t even want you near him. God, I tried, I really….tried…" Suddenly, his voice has turned pleading, begging for understanding, belief, forgiveness. "I tried to keep you all away, Duo, I really did, I wanted to, I…"

"Trowa." He’s got to calm down. I move closer to him, bending down so that my face is close to his. I feel a hand on my back and a form bending beside me, and I know it’s Heero. "Trowa. Listen to me. You did what you needed to do. You warned us. You protected us. Then we just returned the favor. We had to eliminate him, to protect you."

His eyes open, and move from my face to Heero’s. "Heero," he whispers. "I told you…you failed. I told you that…it…was your fault. But it was mine. I tried, but I couldn’t…keep it…him…from touching all of you."

"You did try," Heero agrees calmly. "But you shouldn’t have."

Surprise flickers in Trowa’s eyes. "But I had to," he insists. His face is flushed again. The fever is back up. "I had to keep it from…"

"No," Heero disagrees softly. "It had already touched us, because it touched you." He’s silent for a moment. "Anything that touches one of us touches all of us, Trowa. You should know that. You are not alone. You don’t have to stand alone."

Trowa’s eyes stare up at us in confusion for a moment, then begin to slowly flutter closed.

"I…I can’t…" he mumbles.

"Yes, you can," Heero disagrees quietly.

"No," he mutters, trying to force his eyes open. "You don’t understand. I can’t let you all be…"

Whatever he can’t allow now is lost as his exhaustion overtakes him.

I turn to stare at Heero, and realize that he’s the focus of everyone’s attention.

"That was…well expressed, Yuy," Wufei says after a moment.

"I’m….I’m sorry," Quatre says helplessly. "I didn’t mean to upset him. I don’t know what…I don’t know what I’m doing," he admits woefully.

"I think you two need to talk," I say, looking meaningfully back and forth between Wufei and Quatre.

Heero nods. "So do we," he adds unexpectedly, staring at me.

"Why don’t you two go get some food or rest and have your talk," Wufei offers. "You’ve been here for more than a full day. You need a change of scenery."

God, was it only yesterday that we all got back? It seems like years have passed, and yet nothing at all has been resolved.

"Quatre and I will talk here," Wufei finishes seriously, softening his sober words by smiling gently at his lover.

I’m about to protest when Heero mutters thanks to Wufei, grabs me by the wrist, and drags me out of the room.

I guess this is the new, improved, in-touch-with-his-emotions Heero Yuy.

I hope I can keep up.

_______________________________________________

[cont]