The Beginning's End + Part 20 (cont)

I wish I weren't still so damn tired all the time. I try to suppress my weariness, but can't keep it at bay. Carefully, I lean back on the large inflated cushion the doctor brought when he changed my bandages.

I still feel that burning pain as my back comes in contact with the cushion, but it isn't as bad as when I leaned on the frame of the bed, or even against the pillows. And it's worth the discomfort to be sitting up, rather than lying there flat on my face, unable to see what's going on behind me, or to the side of me, or anywhere but directly horizontal to the side my face is pointing.

I rub my thumb slowly over the papers I hold in my hand. Duo's letter. I've lost count of the times I've read it. For a few days, while they were away, it was all I had holding me to them. Then, for a few horrible hours, I thought that it was all I had left of Duo. Today, I must have read it a thousand more times since Wufei left my room a few hours ago.

I remember my thoughts on my way to XV7889, and the first time I read this letter, and when I thought that Duo had been killed. All three of those times, I wished I had the chance to do things over, to repair things. I told myself that holding onto my hurt was silly, was a waste of time and life.

Then, each time, when the situation was rectified, I didn't act on my earlier instincts. I took refuge again in my hurt, my anger. I continued to push away those that I had so desperately wished I had held closer, when it seemed too late to do so.

I sigh. Although I am incredibly weary, I'm just not sleepy. Thoughts of Duo, and… and Heero whirl around and around in my head.

All those times I wished for another chance to make it right. Then, when the chance came, I threw it away.

And I've been alone here for three hours, and Wufei said they'd been gone a half a day by the time he left.

Maybe they aren't coming.

Maybe I blew my final chance, and they've given up.

But maybe…maybe that's good. I don't know…I don't know if I could let them in. Maybe it's just as well that they aren't giving me another chance to shut them out.

But the thought that they would - that they could - give up on me is suprisingly hurtful.

I don't know why I should be surprised, though. I did it to them, after all.

I open my eyes, and glance down at the letter again, slowly sifting through the pages.

…everyone has another person, another half that completes them and makes them whole. A soulmate… But there's not one other piece needed to make me complete, there's two. You and Heero.

Me and Heero.

I scowl at the paper.

That can't be. It can't. That isn't the way these things are done.

He wants Heero, but he doesn't want to hurt me. So he's including me, out of a feeling of obligation.

I stifle a sigh. That's starting to sound a little ridiculous, even to me.

Could it be…that I'm…jealous? That I'm trying to punish him for wanting someone else, for not being satisfied with just me? Am I trying to get back at him for wanting Heero?

Or…am I punishing myself…for the same transgression?

I lift my head and scowl at the ceiling.

That's even more ridiculous. I never thought of such a thing as …Heero…until Duo put the idea in my head.


A few dreams, a couple of random fantasies…an occasional minor physical reaction to his presence…

But that sort of thing is normal.

Isn't it?

I'm bored with the ceiling, so I redirect my scowl to the door, just in time to see it swing open, revealing none other than Duo himself. I hadn't expected to see him there, so he gets the full force of my scowl, before I force myself to assume a more neutral expression.

His step falters slightly, his grin wavers a bit, but he presses gamely forward, stopping only when he's standing directly next to me, so close that I have to look up a bit to meet his eyes.

"Hi," he says softly.

I nod somewhat stiffly in reply.

He bites his lower lip nervously.

"How are you?" he asks.

I shrug slightly. "Ok," I manage. I'm being cruel; I know I am. I was just chastising myself for this behavior a few minutes ago. But here, under that penetrating violet gaze, I just can't….can't do it. I can't relax. I can't lower the barriers that are separating us.

"Good," he murmurs, seeming at a loss.

I feel a spark of hope that had kindled when he arrived start to fade. This is a duty visit.

"I want to talk to you," he blurts suddenly. "Are you up for it?"

I feel myself stiffen, feel the damaged and abraded muscles and flesh of my back protest as my involuntary tensing causes them to stretch and strain uncomfortably. I manage to nod.

To my surprise, Duo proceeds to seat himself on the side of my bed, rather than in the chair beside it. I tense further, trying to move my legs away, but he stops the movement with one hand, arranging himself so that he's sitting about level with my knees, facing me. I feel my heartbeat quicken as he stares at me.

"Are you still pissed at me?" he asks bluntly.

I blink, surprised at the question. Then I blink again, considering it.

"No," I say finally, hesitantly.

One of his sharply defined brows juts upward. "Really?" he demands.

I nod. "Really," I affirm.

He sighs. "Good," he says, and he sounds relieved. He chews on his lower lip again. He does that when he's nervous. I don't think he knows he does it, and he'd probably deny it if anyone told him, but he does.

"Do you hate me?" he asks, in the same abrupt manner.

"No!" I maintain, certainly more heatedly than I had intended.

His eyes soften somewhat as he stares at me. "Good," he says again, his voice gentler this time.

I can't hold that violet gaze for long so I look away, my own eyes falling nervously to my lap, where I'm fidgeting with the papers I'm holding there.

His gaze follows mine, and he reaches out and carefully, allowing me the opportunity to resist, takes them from my grasp. He ruffles through them, and I see his expression change as he realizes what it is. I'm almost holding my breath as his eyes lift to meet mine again.

"Oh, Trowa," he murmurs softly. "I didn't even know if…I can't believe you're still reading this. I wasn't even sure if you'd finish it the first time."

My tongue moves over my suddenly bone-dry lips in a mostly futile attempt to moisten them. "I…I read it," I tell him inanely.

"What did you…" He stops, inhaling deeply. "Did you…believe it?" he questions hesitantly.

I look away again. I don't know what to say, what to do. I force myself to shrug, and even I can see the negligence, the indifference implied in such a movement. I want to talk to him, want to tell him, want to…I don't know. I want to let the walls down, but I can't. He knows too much, he knows…

"Trowa." His voice is still gentle, but suddenly firm. "Look at me."

I want to. I want to look at him. I want to but I can't, I can't lift my head, my eyes, can't…

I jump, startled, as I feel his fingers on my chin, lifting my face, forcing my gaze to meet his. I tremble at the feeling of his skin on mine, apprehensive at the contact, wanting it to end, while at the same time feeling intensely aware of the warmth of his hand on my skin, the familiar scent of him as he leans closer to me, the swirling depths of his amethyst eyes…

"Tro-chan," he whispers softly, so close to me I can feel his breath as he speaks, "what are you afraid of?"

I reel, faced with a question as powerful as one of the Gundam's weapons, firing round after round into the walls I'd erected to protect myself, destroying barrier after barrier until it reached the small, unprotected area I was huddled inside.

"Duo…" I manage thickly. "Duo, I…" I can't finish the words, can't finish the thought. Blindly, I reach out to him, the one real thing in this…mess…I find myself trapped in.

His hand closes warm and solid over mine, and his other arm goes around me, resting feather-light against my injured back.

That touch, ephemeral as it is, is enough to jerk me out of my incipient hysteria.

"Duo…don't…don't touch it," I choke.

He pulls back slightly so he can see me clearly, but doesn't move either hand.

"Am I hurting you?" he asks softly.

I shrug and shake my head at the same time, indicating both my lack of concern over whether or not it hurts and trying to express that pain is not the issue, not the reason I don't want him anywhere near my back.

"Why can't I touch it, then?" he questions, gently but persistently.

I screw my eyes shut, shaking my head from side to side. The walls are springing up again, like new, intact and impenetrable and…

"Do I make it worse?" he asks. "Do I remind you of…them? Of Barton and…the others?" The question is quiet, but I can hear the hurt in the softly spoken words, and the walls crumble a little.

"No!" I reassure him, my eyes flying open. "Duo, no…you're not…that's why…"

"Are you ashamed of it? Of what happened with Barton, and…whoever else?"

I look down, my stomach twisting with humiliation. I can't stand this, can't bear that he knows about this. I tried so hard, for so long, to keep him from knowing, to hide my past from him…

"Why?" he asks, and suddenly his voice is angry.

I look up, confused.

"Do you think it will change how I feel about you?" he demands. "Did you think I thought you were a lily white virgin the first time you were with me?"

I open my mouth, but nothing comes out. I don't understand…

"Do you really think I'm shallow enough that I would abandon you or think less of you for what happened in your past?" he presses.

"No!" I insist. "I just…you…"

"You know, there's a lot I've never told you either," he interrupts, his voice losing the edge of anger. "I never…you seemed to want to keep the past in the past, and that was certainly okay with me…" He trails off, and he glances away. "I'm not exactly pure and pristine myself, you know," he continues after a moment.

God, not him too. I can barely stand the thought of Wufei having been hurt by Treize, for Duo to have experienced that as well…

"Do you know what I did after Maxwell Church was destroyed?" he asks.

I stare at him. "Joined the Sweepers…." I venture slowly.

He grunts. "Yeah," he concedes, "Four years later." He shakes his head slowly. "First, I spent a couple of years on the street, doing anything and everything I could to feed my addiction."

"Addiction?" I repeat, bewildered.

He nods. "Yeah. My addiction. To what didn't really matter. Booze, coke, heroin..." He lets out a brief, harsh laugh. "For some reason, heroin is very easy to get on L2. A lot easier to get than food, anyway." He sighs, and pulls away a little, removing his arm from around me and reaching behind his own back to find the end of his braid. "Anyway….I was into some very designer chemicals, and didn't even have enough money to buy bread. I was too small to work, and didn't have anything worth selling…except this," he says, his hand moving in a sweeping gesture from the top of his head along the curve of his torso.

I feel my eyes widen. He's not saying…he wasn't…

"I was a whore," he says flatly. "A prostitute. I'd do anything anyone paid me to do - anyone, male, female, young, old…Anything, no matter how repulsive or perverted, as long as it got me enough money to buy a little escape. A few minutes…away."

I can't stop staring at him.

"How can you think you're unworthy because of something you were forced to do, when…when I did it voluntarily?" By the end of the question his voice is despairing, thick with unsuccessfully repressed emotion.

I look into his eyes and see the humiliation that this confession has revived. My chest aches as I think of the child he was, fiercely independent even then, forced to a point where he could no longer bear the loneliness and loss of his day-to-day existence, choosing to barter away the use of the one thing that belonged to him in order to be able to hold on a little longer, last another day, survive until things somehow got better.

What an ass I am. Wallowing all those years in my own suffering, my own painful past, not stopping to consider that I might not be the only one with deep, still tender scars from a childhood alone.

"Duo…" I begin, only to be cut off immediately.

"Trowa, if you're not ‘good enough' for me, I'm sure as Hell not good enough for you," he interrupts desperately. "You probably deserve more. But I'll be damned if I let you go again," he swears roughly. "I lost you when you left our apartment, and when you wouldn't talk to me at the circus, and when I thought…when I thought you were dead." He closes his eyes, shuddering at the memory. "I won't lose you again," he vows, opening his eyes again to stare into mine, his fingers crushing mine in their fierce grip. "I can't lose you again. I need you. If the past couple of months have proved anything Trowa, it's that. I love you, and I can't let you go again." All of the careful control he exhibited when he came into the room is gone. His words are raw, emotional. He is speaking his heart.

How can I do less?

"Duo…" My throat swells, cutting the words off. I can't get them out, can't get them through the shields, the barriers…I stare at him mutely, into his eyes, and so I see the spark of hope in them flicker and die at my continued silence. His eyes fall and he bows his head, his shoulders drooping in and his fingers relaxing around mine. He's given up. Defeated.

My last chance.

My final opportunity.

I let it go.


I pushed him away.


No, damn it! I won't. I won't!

"I love you," I blurt, forcing the words out. His head snaps up so quickly that it must have hurt, and the hope I just saw fade away is suddenly back, full force.

"Tro-chan?" he asks quietly, his voice tremulous.

"Duo….I love you," I repeat. It's easier this time. Why did I fight it? I love Duo. I always have, and can't be apart from him. I will be with him until I die. "I love you," I insist. "I do, I…" I break off in consternation as I see the tears run down his pale cheeks. Why is he crying? What did I do?

"I'm sorry, Duo," I apologize almost frantically. "I didn't mean to…I'm sorry I…Please don't cry, I…"

He reaches over to touch my face, wiping his fingers across my cheek, and not until he lifts his hand and I see the moisture glistening on his skin do I realize I'm crying too.

"It's ok, Tro-chan," he whispers. "I'm just…so…glad." The tone of his voice and the look on his face give the simple words the weight of a heartfelt declaration.

I sway slightly, the sudden release of so much tension and repressed emotion making me feel slightly light-headed. He notices, and moves so that he's sitting beside me, and gently tugs me over so that I'm leaning on him. For long moments we just sit there, my head on his shoulder, his arm lightly around me, our fingers twined together. Together.

After a long while, he shifts, pulling away a little. I look up at him, and he tilts my head toward his, and very lightly brushes his lips across mine.

I can't help it. I don't want to ruin our moment, don't want to distance myself from him again. But at the touch of his lips, I stiffen, fighting the urge to push him away.

He feels me tense, and moves of his own accord. "It's ok, Tro-chan," he whispers. "Only what you want, when you want it. No rush. I just…" he smiles slowly down at me, "I just had to kiss you now. I love you," he whispers

I stare up at him. Everything that seemed so simple and clear while we were sitting together a moment ago is suddenly clouding up again, all the problems and obstacles and complications rearing their heads again. If I can't even stand to have him kiss me, how will I ever be able to sleep with him? Can it be fair to him to ask him to wait indefinitely for the physical affection I know he needs to feel secure? And what about…what about…

"Yeah," he says softly, looking into my eyes. "We need to talk about…Heero."


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