The Beginning's End + Part 7
I slam the door to the small trailer open without knocking, not caring about how rude an action is that.
Cathy looks up, startled, then her blue-violet eyes narrow as she sees me.
"Where is he?" I demand without preamble, ignoring the accusation in her eyes.
"Why should I tell you?" she returns rudely.
I sigh. I'm really not in the mood for Catherine Bloom, mother hen, right now. I know I'm an asshole on wheels; she doesn't have to point it out for me.
"Because, Catherine," I say in a low, reasonable voice, "if you don't tell me where he is, I'll tear this whole place apart until I find him."
She glares at me, but she knows I'll do it. Cathy and I actually get along pretty well, usually, and she knows me by now. "He's in the tent, practicing," she finally tells me reluctantly.
I raise a brow at her. He's practicing? I immediately feel better. Maybe then he's decided not to carry out his stupid plan of going back to L3. Quatre told me about that little decision in the plane, and it was all I could do not to wrench the controls out of his hands and fly back myself, at a decent speed.
"I don't know if you should talk to him, though," Cathy continues.
I scowl at her. "Why not?" I demand. "I should just slink away with my tail between my legs and let him play the tragic hero?"
"That's not fair!" she bristles, jumping to her feet. "You don't know how he feels about…"
"I know," I interrupt grimly. "I've broken all ten commandments in one go, and…"
"Well, you broke a few," she snaps.
Despite everything, I grin. "Got me there," I admit ruefully. "So I just need to be assigned my penance, and…"
"Don't think a few Hail Mary's are getting you out of this one," Cathy warns me flatly. I roll my eyes. This conversation is getting way too Catholic.
"He's planning to go to L3," she tells me abruptly.
So he hasn't changed his mind. The heavy, sick feeling I'd been experiencing since Trowa left in the Aries and Quatre first told me of these travel plans, that had just started to go away when Cathy said Trowa was practicing, abruptly returns.
"He can't go to L3," I say flatly. He can't. He can not leave me like that.
"I don't know if you -,"
"The Hell I can't stop him!" I bellow, answering her challenge before she even completes it. I'm not letting him throw away what we have like this. I'm not!
I turn and slam out of the trailer again, heading for the big tent where the circus is held. There are no performances during the week in the off-season, so I assume Trowa is in there rather in the smaller facilities that exist expressly for practice.
I hear the door bang shut behind me, and a moment later hear it open and close again. So Cathy's following me. Bully for her. This will probably be a better show than the circus.
I push my way into the big tent, but stop near the opening, blinking as I allow my eyes to adjust in the dim light. The only illumination in the tent comes from the three big spotlights, all of which are focused on the big ring in the center of the canopied arena.
My eyes are immediately drawn to that area, to the sight before me. The tightrope is set up, along with four trapezes set at a variety of distances from each other. Swinging and flipping and flying from trapeze to trapeze is Trowa, moving with incredible speed, agility and grace.
My chest aches as I stare at him. He's clad in his customary practice outfight of tight black spandex pants and a green T-shirt. The shirt is tucked tightly into the pants, to keep it from flying up and distracting him while he's practicing.
That shirt is a reminder to me of Trowa's deepest-held, most secret suffering, and it hurts me every time I see him in it, see it plastered to his chest with perspiration, hear the other performers kid him about it. Most of the other male performers simply dispense with a shirt while they're working. Trowa, though, never voluntarily goes shirtless, not when practicing, not at the beach, not even when sitting around the house with me. On very infrequent occasions, Cathy bullies him into wearing a costume that doesn't have a shirt, but he's withdrawn and moody for days afterwards. She thinks it's for his own good, thinks it will help him get over his issues, but I really think that it's almost physically painful for him to do it.
He won't let anyone see his back, and it's the one place on his body he doesn't like to be touched. He stiffens, moves my hands…sometimes, even breaks our contact completely if I touch him there. I've never pressed the issue, believing that when he was ready to tell me how he came by those scars, he would. Maybe I should have pressed it.
I continue to stare at him, frowning as I realize that the routine he's performing today is different than what I have seen him do in the past. His legs flex as he pumps them through the air, his hands clinging to the first trapeze. He swings back and forth a few times, gaining momentum, then abruptly lets go, turning several rapid somersaults in the air past the second and the third trapeze before his hands come in stinging contact with the fourth and farthest away. He swings his body upward so that he's practically standing on his hands on the thin bar of the trapeze. Even from here, I can practically see the muscles in his forearms quiver from the strain. He drops down, releasing the bar, catching it with his knees and swinging outward, to grab the next trapeze with his hands. His movements are hard, rapid and ceaseless.
I turn to look at Cathy. "Is he…this isn't how he usually practices, is it?" I've seen him before, and I don't ever recall that it looked like this.
"No," she says flatly, her mouth pressed into a grim line. "It isn't."
"That's…dangerous, isn't I?" I ask, somewhat tentatively.
Her eyes never leave him. "He's going to kill himself," she mutters. "Noone can keep up that pace without slipping eventually."
"We have to stop him!" I announce, panicked, and start to make my way toward the ring.
Cathy grabs my arm, yanking me back unceremoniously. "Don't even say anything," she hisses. "Don't distract him. If you do, he will fall."
So I'm forced to endure what I soon decide is among the most hellish ten minutes of my life. I can't take my eyes off him, can't stop staring as he moves up and around and over and through the straps and wires and bars. Every second, I expect to see his hand slip, see a trapeze move a fraction of an inch too far from his questing grip, see him plummet and crash into the ground below.
At the same time, he is absolutely beautiful. Looking at him fully dressed, you'd never imagine the muscle and power that hides behind his generally loosely draped clothes. But his strength is incredible. He's so graceful that he makes the complex movement seem easy and casual, like a dance held many tens of feet above the ground. Even as I dread seeing him slip and fall, I'm held entranced by the sheer majesty of his movements.
I don't recommend the experience. It's rather unnerving.
Finally, after what seems like forever, his movements finally begin to slow. He hangs from one of the trapezes for a moment, catching his breath. Then he swings over to the ground wire and slides down it, his legs buckling almost imperceptibly as they touch the ground.
Once the spell of his movements is broken, I'm suddenly furious with him.
I sense Cathy melting away behind me. I guess I'm on.
"What was that all about?" I demand, still standing in the same place.
He jumps slightly. I've startled him. Good.
He looks over at where I'm standing and sees me glaring back at him. He stares at me for the briefest of moments, then turns his back and walks over to the side of the ring, where he's left a towel and a bottle of water. He picks up the towel and runs it over his face and through his hair. He takes a long swig from the water then squirts some of it onto his head, toweling the cool liquid over his flushed cheeks
He's ignoring me again. I hate that.
But I also swallow hard when I see the water plaster his hair to his skull, and see it shimmer in rivulets down the side of his neck. I want to lick it off, tasting the contrast between the sweet coolness of the water and his heated, salty skin, want to…
Jesus, Duo, knock it off!
I can't help it. He's really confusing me today.
"Well?" I demand after a moment when he still doesn't answer me. I walk toward the ring, until I'm only standing a few feet from him. "What were you trying to do up there, huh?"
He raises his eyes and looks at me. That look that I hate so much - the blank, expressionless automaton look - is still in them.
"Well?" I repeat again. I hear the shrewish note in my own voice, and make a conscious effort to curb my temper.
"I was practicing," he says softly, his voice as expressionless as his eyes.
"Oh? Why bother if you're taking off for L3?" I demand disbelievingly.
Not even a flicker. He shrugs slightly. That's my only reply. A shrug.
"Why are you going to L3?"
Again. He lifts one shoulder slightly. He shrugged at me. Again.
"Don't you think you're over-reacting a little?" I press, feeling my frustration build.
Great. At least this time his eye twitched slightly when he freaking shrugged at me. So he's still going to refuse to talk to me, but at least I managed to give him a nervous tic. This conversation is going really well
"Well, I think you're over-reacting," I announce, hearing the anger in my voice.
All right. That's it. No more of this shit.
"If you shrug at me one more time, I swear I'll break your damn shoulder," I tell him evenly, glaring at him.
Not even a twitch. His eyes go, if possible, even deader.
Smooth work, Maxwell. Threaten him with physical violence. That'll make him coming running back.
"Trowa…I'm sorry." This isn't going like I planned. "We need to talk about this."
"There's nothing to say," he tells me stolidly.
"There is so!" I shout. "There's a lot to say. Why are you leaving me?"
He actually blinks. Well, he'd better. If he hadn't, I'd despise myself even more for the pathetic, plaintive tone in which I just asked that question. Thank God Wufei wasn't around to hear it.
His eyes lower, and he stares at the packed dirt of the ring. "I told you. I can't stay around knowing you want to be with Heero…"
"Bullshit," I interrupt forcefully.
He looks up at me, and for a moment, there is expression in his eyes. I've managed to startle him. Now if I can just keep him off balance…
"You're afraid," I accuse him. "You're jealous and afraid, and you don't know what to do, so rather than stay and work it out like a grown-up, you're running away to hide in the colonies and…"
"I don't believe you," he interrupts. His voice is quiet and there's no anger in it, but somehow they have at least as much force as my own heated denunciations. "You go to bed with Heero. You expect me to sit and take it quietly. Then, you tell me that I'm a child when I don't want to calmly accept sharing with Yuy. I don't think I'm the only one who needs to grow up."
This is better! He's not yelling at me, but at least he's talking to me, insulting me. This I can work with!
"Share me?" I repeat, latching on to part of his recitation. "I'm not a toy, to be kept away from other kids…"
He makes a noise of disgust and turns away. "Fine, Duo," he says coldly. "I renounce my claim. Go play with whoever you want."
What?! That's not what he's supposed to say!
"Go play with someone else? Are you accusing me of being some easy…"
He turns back toward me and looks at me again. I stop blustering as he stares into my eyes. "I'm not accusing you of anything," he tells me quietly.
Now I feel like a shit again. I know Trowa would never say that to me. I know that it hurts him that I would accuse him of breaking his trust with me like that.
Like I broke my trust with him.
How to fix this?
"Trowa…I'm sorry. I didn't mean to…I didn't realize that…I didn't think."
Well, that's as honest as I get.
He nods. "You didn't think," he repeats dully. He's silent for a moment. He nods again. "You didn't think…about me," he finishes heavily.
God in heaven. He is the most frustrating man I have ever met. He gets an idea in his head and he's like a rottweiler with a bone. He's capable of any contortion of logic in order to make the available data fit his theory.
"That's not what I meant," I growl. "I didn't think that this would bother you like this."
He's still staring at me. "Wouldn't it bother you?"
I think about it for a moment. "I wouldn't leave you," I tell him finally.
"If you found me in bed with Quatre, you'd be fine with it?" he asks disbelievingly.
Ack. Quatre. I've always kind of wondered why Trowa broke it off with Quatre so long ago…wondered if…
I shake my head firmly. "I wouldn't leave you," I repeat meaningfully.
He sighs, shaking his head. "This isn't going anywhere," he mutters. He moves past me, toward the opening of the tent.
"Where are you going?" I demand, chasing after him. "We're not done. I still…" As I'm talking, I reach out and grab his arm, trying to arrest his progress.
As my fingers brush him, he jerks his arm away suddenly and violently. He stops moving, his back to me, his hand cradling the place on his arm where my fingers had touched him although it burns.
I stare at his unyielding back, my mouth open in amazement. He doesn't want me to touch him? He leaves when I try to talk to him? He's…
"Don't, Duo," he finally says, his voice crackling with strain. "Just don't. It's not going to work."
It's not. I'm not going to be able to change his mind. He's really, truly, honestly leaving.
"You promised you would never leave me," I remind him, my voice angry and cold.
He doesn't move, doesn't look at me, doesn't speak.
"You promised," I accuse, my voice hard.
His shoulders rise and fall as he takes a deep breath.
"You promised," I repeat again.
"You promised you would always…would always…"
I have to strain to hear him, hear him struggle to complete the sentence.
He never does. At that moment, Cathy comes running through the tent.
"Duo! Trowa!" she shrieks. My head and Trowa's both jerk up at the same time, instincts instantly alert to the panic in her tone. Her cheeks are deathly pale, her eyes wild with fear. "Come! Come quickly!" she shouts, and turning, runs back outside.
Instantly, our personal woes are forgotten as rigid training kicks in. His legs are longer than mine, but I'm right behind him as we race behind Cathy. She moves like a blur, picking her way past the myriad of obstacles in her path as though they don't exist. She runs up the steps into her trailer, us close on her heels.
Inside the tiny room she stops abruptly, pointing with a trembling finger at the vid screen.
I follow the motion with confusion, wondering what about the vid could induce such horror.
"…live reports now from the scene," a pale, nervous newsman is saying. "We don't know how long the signal will last. John, what can you tell us?"
The scene flashes to a live action report. The reporter in question is very close to the camera, cringing away from the chaos taking place behind him. I see flames, explosions…I see war.
"Peter, this is awful, just awful," he stutters, his professional calm abandoned in his obvious fear. "This is entirely unprovoked, unexpected. They haven't even begun to estimate a death toll yet, but you can see behind me that a quarter of the city has been taken out, and it's not over yet; even now, the city…"
Abruptly, the picture disappears, replaced with a loud crackling noise and static. "John? John! Are you there?" the studio reporter barks, panic evident in his voice. He makes a visible effort to gain control of himself as he realizes the cameras are once again focused in on him.
"For those of you just tuning in, we are covering events now taking place at the city of Manturene in southern Asia. Just moments ago, emergency reports came in from the city that they were being attacked, attacked by a force that the world hasn't seen for several years…"
The picture shifts to pre-recorded footage, apparently the footage that the city had recorded and broadcast in their plea for help.
Both Trowa and I utter the same cry of amazement as we see the footage, drowning out the panicked, strained squawks of the anchor. The shining gold crest, the lethal body of polished steel, the orange shoulder casing, the large, deadly guns…
"…thought to be impossible, but all evidence at the moment indicates that the aggressor is a Gundam!" The announcer's voice breaks on the last word, almost unable to voice it.
Trowa and I stare at each other in horror.
"Heavyarms," he says in a choked voice. "It's Heavyarms."