by: Shoori

The Beginning's End + Part 3

My lips pursed, I stare at the darkened, silent base. Slowly, I lift my hand, and press the large button on the edge of the detonation device.

Instantly, the base is no longer silent or dark. It’s a flaming inferno, a mass of flying shrapnel, a tumultuous cacophony of exploding metal and the cries of the dying.

"Mission accomplished," I mutter, as I turn my back on the chaos I have wrought.

Suddenly, I hear a noise that doesn’t belong. Wheeling around, I see that one of the giant mobile suits has withstood the explosion, but was knocked off balance. It falls and hits another, which crashes into the gate surrounding the compound. The gate wasn’t made to withstand such damage and it gives, sending the mobile suit crashing down on a civilian apartment complex.

A civilian apartment complex. The bastards built it there on purpose - built it as a human shield to guard against enemy attack; anyone bombing the base from above ran the risk of taking out thousands of innocent civilians.

That apartment complex is the reason I had to infiltrate that base myself, lay the charges myself, set off the explosion myself.

I determined I would not kill the innocent.

All those people dead, because of me.

I have relived this event so many times that I realize even in the heat of the action that it is a dream, but I am powerless to stop the course of events from unfolding.

The flames are out. The surviving soldiers have gone. There were no survivors from the apartment complex.

None.

The area is utterly abandoned. All that is left are charred debris, scraps of waste that used to be buildings, and machines, and people.

I wander into the wreckage of the apartment building. Lying discarded among the rubble is a teddy bear. Its fur is scorched and stained. Innocence destroyed.

Close by lies one of the two things I most dreaded finding. Even in the dream, I feel the shudder that runs through my body. I feel something wet on my face and I look up, hopeful that this time - this one time - I am being allowed some kind of release, being granted the permission to express my grief. But this time, as every other time, the moisture is just snow, melting on my cheek.

Duo told me once that he had been taught that rain was tears wept by angels, grieving over the sins of man. What, then, is snow? It’s proof that even the beings that are supposedly representative of divine mercy are, essentially, cold. Frozen. Unfeeling and unmoved at the suffering of humanity.

I bend, and pick up the lifeless body of the puppy. Yesterday, it ran and barked and played with its owner, a little girl who asked me if I was lost and gave me a flower.

As I have done a hundred times before I turn my back on the wreckage and walk away, unable to bear the thought of what I might find if I continued my search.

I start to walk away, but stop abruptly as something appears before me.

This is new.

I stare at the figure, unable to believe my eyes. It is the little girl! She’s alive. She’s escaped the wreckage of the explosion, the explosion I caused.

"You’re…you’re…" I stammer, unable to voice the though, afraid that it might be a cruel hoax.

I was right.

She shakes her head. "No, oneesan," she chirps, her voice as bright and cheerful as I remembered. "I am dead."

I blanch, almost dropping the puppy.

"I am dead, and so is my dog," she informs me, gesturing to the dog in my arms. "And my mother and father, and grandfather, and my brother, and…"

"Stop!" I blurt, closing my eyes in anguish. This is too cruel. "I’m sorry. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. None of the civilians were supposed to…"

"How was it supposed to be, then?" she asks sharply. Her voice is different, but familiar, and I raise my head to frown at her. My wife, Relena, now stands before me, staring in disgust at the wreckage surrounding her.

"Is this all you’re capable of, Heero?" she asks scornfully.

"It is what I was," I tell her. "I am no longer. Now I protect…"

"The innocent?" she asks, disbelief apparent in her tone as she smiles sardonically at me. "Like me?"

"Relena, I tried," I tell her desperately. "I wanted to protect you, to keep you from…"

"Protect me." She laughs bitterly. "You protect me by tying me to a monster; a murderer?"

I wince. The body of the dog is growing cold in my arms. "Relena, it isn’t like that. I…"

"See them, Heero?" she demands, gesturing behind her. A crowd of indistinct shapes has somehow formed, pushing and clamoring to advance, advance on me, but Relena’s outstretched hand keeps them back. "They are the people you’ve killed. Are you proud of this? See how many there are. You’re a true warrior," she finishes, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

My gaze sweeps the crowd. There are soldiers there, yes. But there are women, old men, children. The innocent victims of my actions. I see a mother with a baby. An old couple holding hands. A teenage boy who looks very like…

I can’t face this any more. I turn to run, but can’t move. I try to drop the dog, but I can’t. I can only stare at the vast sea of the dead, the dead who died at my hands, can only…

"Heero. Heero."

I come awake with a start. I glance wildly around, unable to recognize my surroundings. My mind shifts to the familiar checklist: apparently captured, holding indoors, dark; body unbound, injuries minimal to non-existent…

"Heero."

My eyes jerk to the sound of the voice. Duo. Companions: pilot 02, condition; conscious…

"Heero, wake up." He grabs my arm and shakes me, and things click into focus. I still don’t know where I am, or why I feel so strange, but I know the war is over and I haven’t been captured.

"You’re in my and Trowa’s apartment," Duo tells me, apparently aware of my disorientation. "It’s about 4 am. We’ve only been back about an hour and a half. You were having a nightmare."

A nightmare. God. Unconsciously, I reach out and grab Duo’s hand, the hand still resting on my arm. He jumps a little, startled. I don’t generally initiate physical contact.

I feel very strange. Maybe I’m still in the dream. The room is fuzzy and unreal, covered by a strange haze. The bed beneath me and the blanket over me feel unsubstantial. The only thing that seems in any way solid or substantial is the hand in mine and the concerned eyes staring at me in the dim light.

"Do you want to talk about it, Hee-chan?" Duo is asking me hesitantly.

I shake my head no; I don’t want to talk about it. I really don’t. So I can’t understand why my mouth opens, and the words come tumbling out.

"It was the base. The one that went wrong where the apartment building was destroyed, where the little girl with the dog was killed. And she was there, Duo, but she was dead. She told me I killed her, and her family…Then she was Relena, and she called me a murderer, and they were all there, Duo….God, there were so many Duo, so many…"

I’m physically shaking by the time my incoherent babble winds down. Some section of my mind is screaming at me to knock it off, get a grip, quit making an ass out of myself. It’s ordering me to send Duo back to bed, and go to sleep like a sensible person.

But Duo reaches out and puts his hand on my back, gently pushing my head onto his shoulder, giving me the option to pull away if I want.

I should.

But I don’t.

"It’s all right, Hee-chan," he murmurs. "We all have those dreams."

"You do?" I ask, pulling back slightly to look at him.

He nods. "Yes," he says soberly. "I do. So does Trowa."

"Trowa?" I repeat, surprised. Trowa always seems so collected, so fatalistic about everything we’ve done. I can’t imagine him having nightmares about it.

"Yes," Duo assures me quietly.

I think for a moment. "What do you do when you have one?"

Duo chuckles richly. "That’s not generally the kind of thing you like hearing about, Heero," he tells me, amused.

I pull back and look at him, stare into his smiling eyes in the dimness. I need to shut up. I will not speak. I will lay back down and…

"So, show me," I blurt out.

Never have I seen such an amazed look on Duo’s face. "What did you…" he begins.

I don’t let him finish. I could never repeat it, never face myself if that inquiry were thrown back at me. Impulsively, I throw myself across the distance separating us, and press my lips to his.

He stiffens momentarily, but Duo is at heart a sensualist. His mouth shapes itself to mine almost of its own volition, and he’s kissing me back.

I never knew kissing could feel like this.

Suddenly, he pulls back. "Hee-kun, stop. You’re drunk, and…"

"Duo, please," I say harshly. "Please don’t leave."

He stares at me, surprised at the stark need in my voice. My mind shrieks at me to shut up, that I am going to despise myself eventually for behaving in this manner. At the moment, I don’t care. I need human contact, need someone to touch me with tenderness if not with love, the way I have never been touched before.

"Heero, I’m not leaving you. But you’re drunk, and I don’t want you to be angry or to regret…"

"I won’t," I interrupt. "I won’t. Duo, I need…" But I can’t say it.

So I show him. I kiss him again, and I feel the exact moment when his resolve breaks. He takes control of the situation and pushes me back on the bed, looming over me, covering me, shielding me.

My mind floats away as I lose myself in a cloud of sensations created by Duo’s hands on me, Duo’s mouth caressing me…I feel a sudden, unexpected pain, followed by pleasure the like of which I’ve never experienced. I feel Duo on top of me, feel rather than hear him moan into my mouth, feel him stiffen above me and feel his release within me. Then I feel nothing as my own body seems to explode with pleasure, and I sink into a darkness where there is no feeling, no dreams, no pleasure or pain, where finally I can rest, untormented by the deeds of my past.

______________________________________

Light. I press my eyes more tightly closed, but it’s still there. Glaring, blinding light, battering at my eyes even through the protective covering of my eyelids. Light, waiting to assail me the moment I surrender and allow my eyes to open.

I won’t do it. I reach down, intent on finding the blanket to pull it up over my face, and my hand comes in contact with warm, bare skin.

Warm, bare skin isn’t necessarily a strange thing to find in my bed. Warm, bare skin covering hard, tightly-stretched muscle is, though. This is definitely not Relena.

Forgetting the looming threat of the light, I open my eyes. The first thing I see is a pair of amused violet eyes thoughtfully perusing me.

"Morning," Duo says mildly, smiling at me. "Do you feel awful?"

"My head feels like someone parked their car on it," I say thickly. I can’t seem to talk right - my tongue feels like it’s glued to the roof of my mouth.

"Do you have a headache?" Duo asks. "Feel like you’re going to be sick to your stomach?"

I pause, carefully evaluating the areas he mentioned. Finally, I shake my head in the negative.

Duo makes a small noise of exasperation as he props himself up on his elbow and stares down at me. "Well, you deserve to," he says firmly. "As much tequila as you drank, you ought to be out of commission for a week."

I don’t really hear much of the scolding, as the full impact of the events of the night have finally dawned on me. Duo is in my bed, very naked. I’m not exactly clothed. And…fleeting memories are returning to me - feather-light caresses, hot kisses, the sensation of skin on skin…the….good God.

I must have blushed, because Duo breaks off his lecture and grins down at me. "So, you do remember?" he asks wryly.

I nod stupidly. "I don’t know how I could forget," I manage, awkwardly.

Duo’s smile gentles. "Are you ok?" he asks. "I didn’t want you to be angry or upset this morning."

If my face gets any hotter I’ll qualify as a solar energy plant. "I’m not," I manage. "Not for me. That is, I’m ok, if you are."

"I’m ok, you’re ok," Duo quips, letting himself fall down on the bed so he’s lying pressed against my side.

"But what about…I mean, is this really ok?" I flounder. I’m way out of my league here.

Duo frowns. "Are you asking if we’re still friends?" Once again, he rises on his elbow. This time he reaches down to touch my face, pushing my hair aside. "Hee-chan, do you really have to ask?"

"That isn’t precisely what I meant," I mumble.

Suddenly, the door connecting the living room with the bedroom opens abruptly, and Trowa steps out.

Both Duo and I freeze, swinging our faces toward the sound. For a moment, Trowa doesn’t see us. He’s barefoot, wearing only a plain white T-shirt and a pair of faded blue jeans. He’s intent on zipping up the jeans, so he doesn’t notice what’s before him. He straightens up, pushing aside his mass of hair in the same movement. Only then, does he notice us.

For an instant he just stares, uncomprehending. Duo pushes himself into a sitting position and jerks frantically upward on the blanket, and Trowa’s eyes follow the movement of his hand, as if that movement will supply some obvious but unseen explanation. As he realizes what has happened, his mouth falls open in shock, and he almost stumbles backward, his spine coming in contact with the doorjamb. He leans back against it, apparently needing the support as he continues to stare at us.

I’ve never seen such an unguarded expression on Trowa’s face. Shock, horror, then - worst of all - a look of painful confusion chase each other around his face as he looks at the bed with its crumpled coverings, at my bare chest, at Duo’s chagrined face peering over the blanket.

For a moment, his eyes meet and hold mine. I want desperately to look away but I can’t; trapped, I can only stare deep into the emerald gaze, unable to supply the denial he wants so badly to see. All there is for him to see in my eyes is shame and regret for the sorrow I am causing him.

His gaze moves to Duo, and again he fails to find what he’s looking for. He looks back and forth between the two of us, as if still unable to believe what he’s seeing. His mouth is still open in his silent shock. His eye falls to the bed. When he sat up so suddenly, Duo had braced his hands on the bed to push himself up; one of his hands had come down on mine. I’d been too shocked by Trowa’s sudden appearance to move away. Trowa’s piercing gaze rests on our two seemingly joined hands.

I jerk my hand away but it’s too late. Trowa is shaking his head from side to side, still trying to deny what he’s seen. He looks up again, and I can see his eyes. I will never forget the bewildered, lost look in them at this moment. The green eyes that are usually calm, or shimmering mildly in amusement, or lilting sardonically are unnaturally bright, gleaming with…No. Not Trowa.

Duo sees it too, and moves instinctively as though to comfort and explain. "Trowa, no. It’s not…"

He stops as Trowa waves one hand to harshly cut him off. In an instant, as though the spoken words had broken some kind of bonds holding him in place, the vulnerability and pain are gone from Trowa’s expression. His back is still pressed against the doorjamb, but his arms move up and fold languidly across his chest. The carefully blank look that he hasn’t worn in years smoothes itself over his ravaged features. He shakes his head, and his long flow of hair settles over one side of his face, feathering down to reach his chin, covering half his features from view. Trowa Barton, Gundam Pilot 03, stares woodenly back at us.

The transformation is uncanny. It’s as though a completely different person now occupies the body that stepped out of the bedroom door a moment ago. I wonder - suddenly and illogically - if that’s what my Perfect Soldier face looks like.

"Trowa, don’t look like that," Duo blurts suddenly. He’d been unusually quiet for a moment there - perhaps he’d been affected by the same paralysis I had.

"No need to concern yourself," Trowa says, his voice as flat and cold as the look in his eyes. "My apologizes for interrupting." Abruptly he turns and moves back into the bedroom.

"Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit," Duo swears furiously under his breath, struggling to free himself from the tangled sheets. "Don’t worry, Hee-kun," he mutters, shooting a quick glance at me in the midst of his litany of profanities. "It’ll be ok."

Before he’s managed to free himself, though, Trowa has re-emerged from the bedroom, a leather jacket pulled over his shirt and neatly tied sneakers on his feet. He moves determinedly toward the door, not sparing a glance for us. He’s better at that than me. When I’m purposely ignoring someone or something, I always feel that I’m behaving ostentatiously; like I’m making a show of not looking at them. Not Trowa. We might have been on another planet for all you could tell from his expression.

"Where are you going?" Duo calls urgently, yanking in frustration at the imprisoning covers as Trowa crossed the room. "Trowa? Trowa!" he shouts as the door closes quietly behind the other man.

"Well, fuck," Duo mutters under his breath, staring at the door. He seems to remember me, and turns his head to give me a somewhat forced smile. "Don’t you wish he’d just slam the damn door? It’s really freaky when he does that man of steel thing."

"Does he do this a lot?" I ask. Maybe Trowa’s behavior switch isn’t as atypical or frightening as it seemed to me.

Duo’s smile falters. "No," he says somberly. He looks as though he wants to say more, but just shakes his head, at a loss for words.

I knew it. Not only can I not manage to control my own relationship, but now I’ve messed up the best, most caring relationship I’ve ever seen, the one that I wish mine could be, the one I’ve envied…

A sick feeling, totally different from the one Duo felt I should be suffering earlier, suffuses my body. Is that what I’ve done? Did I deliberately set out to ruin what Duo and Trowa have, because I’m jealous of them? What kind of rotten human being would do something like that to his best friends…

"Heero." Duo’s voice breaks my reverie. "Don’t worry, Heero. It’ll be ok," he assures me again.

I raise my eyes to his, unable to hide my own misery. "Duo, I’m sorry," I begin.

"Don’t even say it!" he interrupts firmly. "One, you didn’t exactly force me, and two…you didn’t exactly force me." He grins, and it’s almost convincing. "Trowa’s just…surprised. He’ll cool off, and I’ll explain, and it’ll be fine."

He’ll explain. He’ll explain to Trowa that it was just a pity fuck, poor Heero stuck with Relena…he needed something to make him feel better. It didn’t really mean anything at all.

I feel even worse than I did before.

"Yeah," I mutter, pushing the blanket down to my waist and reaching for my clothes.

"And Heero," Duo says quietly, reaching over to grab my arm.

"Yeah?" I mumble, not looking at him.

He says nothing, waiting. I break first and look up at him.

"I enjoyed it. Very much," he says softly. "I don’t regret it, and I don’t want you to."

I nod jerkily. Of course Duo’s going to say that - even when his own world is crumbling - because of me - he doesn’t want me going away upset.

I should know better than to do this kind of thing. Ever since I can remember, I have never improved or created anything. I have only destroyed. Now, all I can do is hope that I have not destroyed Duo and Trowa.

[part 2] [part 4] [back to Shoori's fic]