by: Shoori

The Beginning's End + Part 6

I instinctively hug the ground, tucking my head down, shielding it from being struck by any of the detritus that inevitably accompanies an explosion like that one.

Noone could survive that. The self-destruct mechanisms in our machines were made to destroy Gundanium. Heero survived a self-detonation once, but Wing took the brunt of that explosion. This time, there was no machine to shield him.

The aftershocks of the eruption subside, and I carefully rise to my feet. I shield my eyes and stare into the inferno. I see Duo, standing with his back to me, staring at the flames.

He thinks this is his fault. It isn't - Yuy is responsible for his own decisions - decisions made that night, decisions made today.

I stare past Duo, into the flames. Someone should probably attempt to go there, to see if any…if anything can be found. It can't be Duo. It shouldn't be Quatre.

I turn and glance at Wufei, and see that he's comforting a quietly sobbing Quatre. I suppress a sigh, and move forward, walking past Duo without looking at him.

I can not leave without having looked for Heero.

I begin to pick my way carefully across the ground, watching where I step to be sure I don't accidentally tread on anything expelled from the wreckage.

Therefore, when I glance up, I am totally unprepared for the vision I see before me.

A firmly built, determined figure, clad in spandex shorts and a green tank top, with dark hair falling down over a forehead creased in irritation, is striding toward me, eerily backlit by flames.

For one horrible moment, I am back in the war.

The next moment, which is equally though differently horrible, I am sure that I'm losing my mind. That I'm seeing ghosts.

No ghost ever scowled quite that blackly.

He's not dead.

He stops walking, and looks uncertainly at me.

I open my mouth to speak, and something rushes past me and throws itself at Heero.

"You idiot! What the Hell do you think you're doing?"

It's Duo. My mouth closes, my words unspoken, as I watch him wrap a seemingly surprised Heero in a fierce hug. He pulls away and angrily dashes the back of his hand across his eyes, brushing away unshed tears of relief.

"Don't ever scare me like that again, Yuy!" he shouts. "What do you think I'd have done if you'd self-destructed, huh?"

I don't wait to see if Heero has an answer. I don't want to hear it. I turn, and move away unnoticed, back the way I came.

Wufei and Quatre are hurrying over. Wufei brushes past me, and I hear his voice raised in anger as he upbraids Heero for his ‘foolish and dishonorable behavior.' I hear Heero's voice growl in return, but can't hear what he's saying.

Quatre stops and puts his hand on my arm, arresting my movement. I raise my eyes and look at him.

"Where are you going, Trowa?" he asks softly.

"I will return the Aries to Une," I answer, turning away.

"Trowa! Duo's glad Heero's not dead - he was scared, now he's relieved. He's not…"

"Tell Yuy that I am glad he is not dead," I interrupt, walking away.

"What am I supposed to tell Duo?" he calls after me.

I stop, and glance back. "Nothing," I mutter. "Nothing at all."

___________________________________

I've never felt so relieved about anything in my life.

I want to hug him, to tell him that nothing is his fault, that nothing is so bad that he has to self-detonate, to let him know how important he is to all of us.

I also want to punch him in the head for scaring me like this.

I content myself with a compromise - I hug him to make sure he's real, and he's alive - then I yell at him.

"Don't ever scare me like that again, Yuy!" I shout at him, grabbing him by the shoulders and shaking him. "What do you think I'd have done if you'd self-destructed, huh?"

He frowns at me. "If I'd…"

"Really, Yuy," Wufei says disapprovingly. I hadn't heard him approach, but he's standing next to me, frowning fiercely at Heero. "This may have seemed a valiant course of action when we were fifteen, but following such a path now is nothing short of foolish and dishonorable behavior."

"What on earth are you…"

"So, what happened? How'd you get out of that explosion? Did you change your mind in time to run?" I still can't believe that he survived that inferno. Maybe he's made of Gundanium too.

"Change my mind? From what? What are you doing here?"

"Commander Une, may Allah bless her, put a tracking device on you," Quatre says as he joins our merry little band. I notice out of the corner of my eye that he's glaring at Heero with the same expression of exasperated relief that Wufei and I wear.

"She did what?" Heero shouts. "What in the hell for? And why'd you…"

"You take off in a stolen Aries - "

"I didn't steal it, I borrowed it, and I told Une…"

"A practically stolen Aries," I continue, drowning out his protest, "Carrying a self-destruct device and telling people you're going ‘back to the end.' What conclusions are we supposed to draw, Heero?" I finish in a shout.

He blinks at me, a puzzled frown on his face. The frown deepens to a scowl as comprehension dawns. "You mean you thought I was self-destructing?" he demands, his voice heavy with indignation.

"Thought?" Wufei replies angrily. "Tell me you attempted anything different!" he shouts, gesturing to the chaos surrounding us.

"I didn't self-destruct!" Heero protests indignantly.

Quatre closes his eyes for a moment. Maybe he's praying for endurance. Maybe he's giving thanks that Heero's not dead, so that he can have the chance to kill him himself. "We see that, Heero," he says with exaggerated patience. "How did you get away?"

"I was never trying to self-destruct in the first place!" Heero bellows, his face reddening.

I look around in disbelief. "This is the most destructive non-self-destruct I've ever seen," I remark disbelievingly.

"I was…" Heero sighs deeply, running his hand through his already disheveled hair. "I was just…doing something."

"And what might that be?" Wufei demands.

"Never mind. It was something I had to do," Heero mutters, trying to turn away.

"I don't think so, kemo sabe," I say firmly. "What's up with all this, if you weren't trying to self-destruct?"

"I was just…" Heero stutters to a stop again, looking uncomfortable.

"Spit it out," I order suspiciously. I don't know if I believe any of this mysterious ‘something I had to do' crap. It doesn't sound like Heero.

Heero blows out his breath in another irritated sigh. "I decided I have to change my life," he says in a quick, hard voice, obviously trying to get this explanation over with as soon as possible. "I'm miserable. I'm going to leave Relena."

Quatre murmurs in surprise. Wufei's eyes narrow suspiciously.

Ok. I can buy this so far.

"So what's with the pyrotechnics?" I demand, waving my hand at the still merrily burning fires.

He looks embarrassed again. "Well…I thought I had to end with the past before I could start the future," he mutters. Even his ears are red. "That device was all that was left of Wing. I brought it here, where he is…and got rid of it here. Now everything tying me to then is gone, so…"

I stare at him incredulously. "So now you can divorce Relena, because you set off Wing's self-detonate?" I ask, trying to follow this particular twisted thread of Heero logic.

He scowls at me. "When you say it that way, it sounds stupid," he grumbles. "But it made sense in my -,"

I can't help it. It's probably all the accumulated stress and worry and tension and fear of the last day or so. I laugh. And laugh. And laugh. In seconds, I'm down on the ground, rolling around.

"All right, idiot, get up," he mutters, kicking me none too gently in the ribs.

"Oh, oh, oh," I gasp, pulling myself into a sitting position. "And people say I'm melodramatic." I have to wipe my eyes, the force of my mirth has made them tear. "Heero Yuy, Perfect Soldier, blowing up spare bombs on remote corners of the planet rather than go home and drop the big bomb on the wife."

"It's not a bomb," he says in an irritated voice.

I stand up. "Well, I'm glad you're not dead," I tell him, clapping him on the shoulder. "I would have had to go after you in the next world and kick your ass but good if you'd checked out like that."

He gives me a curious look. "Why would you think I was self-destructing?" he asks.

Now it's my turn to look embarrassed. "Well, uh…After yesterday morning…you seemed upset, so I thought…"

He raises his brows at me. He always tries to raise just the one but he can never quite manage it.

"You thought I was going to self-destruct because I'd messed up your love life?" he asks calmly.

Well, geez, when he puts it like that…

But the reminder brings me off my cloud of amused hysteria and back to earth with a decided thud. Trowa! I'm an ass! I'd forgotten him, haven't said a word to him since I saw him head into the flames, presumably to look for Heero's body…

I wheel around quickly, frantically trying to figure out how to save myself from losing even more points than I already have on this one.

But he isn't there. Quatre stares steadily at me, the only hint of his nervousness the way he catches his lower lip between his teeth.

"He…he left, Duo," he tells me quietly.

He left? Just…without a word to me?

Somehow, that shakes me more than anything else that has happened between us so far. He didn't speak to me on the plane, and I'd been too wrapped up in my guilt and worry over Heero to press it.

But now…

Trowa doesn't walk away from things. Ever. Take that circus, for example. He's been with them for years - longer than he ever had to - because those people helped him when he needed it, and he considers them family. With his experience as a soldier and a pilot he could have gotten hundreds of jobs with higher prestige, more money, more challenge. But he won't leave the circus when he feels they need him. He even managed, with a great deal of personal effort and cost, to get them a permanent location, at an amusement park outside the Sank capital, just to make things easier for them, because he owed them.

He works with Une whenever she needs him, because he had made promises to her when he infiltrated OZ all those years ago. Even though he was there as a spy, once Une began to use her power to make the world more like the vision he had fought for, Trowa felt that those vows he'd made under false pretenses had become binding.

For the same reason, he visits Mariemaia frequently at the school where Une placed her. She was a child who had been manipulated, and he had joined her army and taken the name of her only uncle, so he feels he has responsibilities to her.

Trowa won't turn his back on anyone, unless…

He once killed the mercenaries who had raised him because he believed they had double-crossed their unit.

He won't even set foot in a church, and tells me it's because the crosses remind him of a friend who had deceived him.

He has remained on earth all these years in silent protest against the weak and vacillating colonists.

Trowa won't turn his back on anyone unless he believes they have betrayed him, and thus has totally severed all contact with them.

Can he feel that way about me?

He can't! It's not possible. After all these years, one mistake…

One mistake.

One slip.

One betrayal.

Three strikes.

"When…when did he go?" I manage with difficulty.

The worried look is back in Quatre's eyes as he stares at me.

"As soon as he saw that Heero was all right," he says quietly. "He said he would see that the Aries got back to Commander Une," he adds.

Damn the fucking Aries, damn Commander Une and damn Trowa.

"Did he say anything before he left?" I ask, hating myself and him when I hear the pathetic note in my voice.

Quatre shifts uncomfortably. "He said to tell you he's glad you're not dead, Heero," he says, transferring his gaze to Heero.

Heero has the slightly-sick, guilty look on his face again. I hardly notice. "Did he say anything for me?"

Quatre looks even more uncomfortable. He slowly shakes his head in the negative. Now there's pity in his blue eyes.

The hell with that! This is not happening.

I am not letting him throw three years away like so much garbage because of one small transgression and a dramatic invention of his own insecurities.

"Well, we'd better get back then," I say grimly, "Because I have a few things to say to him."

_____________________________________

[cont]