Marking it Down to Learning + Chapter 18 (cont)

Quatre sat down on the edge of the still-rumpled bed, and looked up warily at him. Trowa stood stiffly before him, bracing himself for whatever Quatre had to tell him.

And he was very surprised when the blonde's tentative gaze crumpled into an expression of distress, and tears fell from the dull aqua eyes.

"Quatre!" he barked, dropping to his knees in front of the other man. "What's wrong? Are you hurt? Did they do something to... "

"I'm sorry," Quatre whispered. "I really am, Trowa, I... "

"Don't be sorry, Quatre, just tell me what's wrong," Trowa demanded almost frantically. "Are you hurt? Are you... "

"No," Quatre interrupted, shaking his head impatiently.

"Did they... "

"I'm sorry I make you so angry," Quatre blurted.

Trowa stopped speaking, feeling the expression drain from his face, taking refuge in implacability.

"I know how angry you are all the time, Trowa," Quatre confessed, his words tumbling over themselves in his rush to speak. "I can feel it," he continued, placing his hand on his chest. "And I know it's worse every time you see me. I can... feel you getting angrier when I walk into the room. And I know you... " Quatre swallowed. "I know you... you are angry with me for... for what I do there. To... to all those people, and to... Duo." By this point the blond could barely speak. "You're... you're right to be angry with me, Trowa, I just want you to know that I'm truly sorry, and I really don't want to do any of this. I know I do it, and I know you hear it and it sounds like I'm enjoying it, and I... I suppose that physically speaking I am, but it's not real, that's not real, that's just... "

"Quatre!" Trowa interrupted, a little more forcefully than he'd intended. "Quatre, no!" he insisted, horrified. "I thought we'd established this, Quatre, I'm not mad at you. I know... "

"I know you're angry with me!" Quatre interrupted. "I told you, Trowa, I can feel it every time you look at me, every time you see me... "

Trowa squeezed his eyes shut, feeling the pain in his stomach intensify, spread, rising through his body into his throat where it threatened to choke him. He couldn't explain, couldn't tell Quatre why he was so angry, couldn't admit it to even himself...

"I... I just wanted to tell you I'm sorry... " Quatre whispered, breaking the tense silence that had fallen over them.

"No, Quatre... " Trowa managed. "Just don't... don't... " He sighed. "I'm not angry at you, Quatre," he swore.

The blond shook his head stubbornly. "I can feel it," he reminded the other man. "I know that you... "

"Can't you feel that I'm telling the truth?" Trowa demanded desperately. "Can't you feel that I mean it when I say that I'm not angry with you, and I know you don't want to hurt anyone, especially Duo... "

Quatre stared at him a little uncertainly for a moment, as Trowa concentrated on the sincerity behind the words he'd just given the blond.

"I can... " he admitted slowly. "But... every time you see me, Trowa, there's such anger... "

"I'm not mad at you," Trowa repeated, for what felt like the thousandth time. "I just...I'm just angry, Quatre. At... at... at all of this," he stammered. "I'm not angry at you, Quatre, I'm... " He clenched his fists, trying to control himself, trying to force himself to stop speaking. "I'm... " He pushed himself to his feet, turning his back on Quatre, moving for the door, the hall, anyplace where he could go, escape this until he could control himself, control the torrent of words that threatened to erupt.

"Trowa! Trowa, don't go!" Quatre shouted despairingly behind him. He felt more than heard the blond get up and move toward him. "Trowa, please, tell me why you're angry with me and... "

"I'm not angry with you!" Trowa roared, whirling around and advancing on the Arabian. "I'm not!" he shouted, feeling the blood rush toward his face as Quatre retreated ­ rather precipitously ­ in the face of his anger.

"I'm not angry with you, Quatre!" he shouted. "I'm angry at Une and her fucking plan! I'm angry with the Preventers ­ what kind of force for peace makes its own people do this? I hate her, and I hate them, and I hate that we have to be involved in this!" he shouted, feeling himself trembling with fury. "How could you think I'm angry at you?" he bellowed at the blond, staring furiously at Quatre as he stared at him, his eyes huge in an ashen face. "I'm not angry with you ­ I'm angry for you! I'm angry that you have to do this ­ that we have to do this. How many fucking times, Quatre," he demanded, his voice breaking, "how many times do we have to save the world? Isn't once enough? Isn't twice? How many times do we have to go through this?" he shouted.

"Trowa, please... please don't do this to yourself... " Quatre began, his voice shaking.

"Myself?" Trowa shouted. "Nothing's happening to me, Quatre! It's you. You're the one that's hurt, you're the one that's suffering... Not me! You... and... .and Duo!"

"Trowa... "

"Duo!" Trowa roared. "God damn it, Quatre," he shouted, turning away, suddenly unable to face the blond anymore. "God damn it," he swore, pacing furiously across the room. "Duo's in there, and you're in there, and... " He broke off with a shout of wordless fury and slammed his fist into the wall, shouting again as it buckled under the force of his blow.

"What the fuck's he doing in there, Quatre?" he shouted. "Why did he go?" he roared. "Didn't he care, didn't he care at all about what would happen to us if he... "

"Trowa!" Quatre interrupted loudly, as he came up behind him. "Trowa, don't, it's... "

"Didn't he care?" Trowa roared, punching the wall again. "Didn't he care about us? About... "

He couldn't finish, the last word rose in his throat and choked him, and he fell to his knees, as the rage that had been sustaining him suddenly abandoned him, leaving him weak and without strength.

Quatre knelt beside him, but Trowa stared at the floor, the anger that he been so powerful ­ that had made him so powerful ­ a moment before gone, replaced only with a dull hopelessness that seemed to go on and on.

"Trowa... " Quatre began hesitantly.

"If anyone should be in there, it should be me," Trowa said flatly. "Not Duo. And not you, Quatre. Not you. Every time you go there, and I don't, I'm angry because I'm letting you go and staying here."

"Trowa... it has to be. I'm the only one who can infiltrate convincingly. You know that. We decided that and... "

"No," Trowa interrupted, shaking his head. "I'm the infiltrator, Quatre," he reminded the other man. "That was always my job. That's what I'm good at. I could have done it," he insisted over the other man's protests. "I should have done it. I'm the one that belongs there."

"What kind of bullshit is that?" Quatre demanded angrily. Trowa looked up, startled at the Arabian's tone, and saw the aqua eyes snapping with anger.

"What the hell do you mean, you ‘belong' there and I don't?" Quatre demanded. "Well?" he pressed when Trowa looked away.

The auburn-haired man stared at the floor. "It's nothing I haven't done," he said flatly.

"Trowa. You don't belong there," Quatre said baldly, reaching out and pulling Trowa's chin up so the taller man was forced to meet his eyes. Trowa tried to look away, but Quatre refused to let him. "You don't belong there at all," the blond repeated. "Not in any way. Not at all. None of us do, not me, not you, not Duo... "

"But you're there," Trowa interrupted angrily. "And I'm not. I... "

"Neither is Heero. Or Wufei, or Zechs," Quatre pointed out reasonably. "Because I'm the best choice, the one most suited for the mission... "

"No, you're not!" Trowa shouted, yanking his head out of Quatre's grasp. "You're not, Quatre, you're... "

"I'm a better choice than you," Quatre interrupted.

Trowa stared at him, his eyes narrowing with irritation.

"It's true," Quatre said calmly. "My cover is more convincing. My upbringing is more in line with Polynices' expectations... "

"Your upbringing is what makes you least fit for this," Trowa growled.

"Ah," Quatre said calmly. Trowa scowled suspiciously as the sadness suddenly apparent in the Arabian's eyes. "That's it. You think... you think because of your past you deserve this."

"Don't analyze me, Quatre," Trowa interrupted impatiently. "I've just... seen that sort of thing, and... "

"And that's a terrible thing," Quatre said gently. "But it doesn't mean you deserve to see more of it, or even that you should."

Trowa shook his head. The blond was confusing him, but that was really nothing new. "Quatre, I just... "

"You feel like you're dirty. Like them. And you don't want me to be dirty like you."

Trowa reeled from the force of those softly spoken words.

Dirty like him.

Quatre had said it. He thought...

"But you're not," Quatre continued. "You're not, Trowa. You're not. You... " The blond shook his head. "Look," he said wearily. "I'll believe you aren't angry at me, but you need to believe you're not ‘dirty.' Allah!" he swore suddenly. "I can't believe you would think that of us ­ of me!"

"Quatre... " Trowa began uncertainly.

"Don't you care about me?" Quatre demanded, his voice heated. "You're angry with Duo because he doesn't believe you care about him. How can I believe you care about me if you would think that of me? If you would believe I would think less of you for something you had no control over?"

"I didn't say I was angry with Duo because... "

"Don't lie to me," Quatre said coldly. "Don't lie to yourself, Trowa. If you won't think of the damage it does to you, think of what it does to the rest of us."

Trowa could only stare wordlessly at him.

"You've been so angry, and it's been tearing you apart. We can all see it, and you won't let us help. You won't let us help you, you won't talk to us... you won't even let us touch you. You won't even give us ­ me ­ that, Trowa!" Quatre continued, his voice losing anger and gaining hurt as he went on.

"I... " Trowa knew what Quatre was talking about. Since this had all begun, he'd been... intimate with his lovers. He'd touched them, they'd been together... except that he had not been... on the receiving end of that intimacy. He'd taken them, but no one had been inside him since the night before their lives had blown up in their faces, nearly half a year earlier.

"You don't trust us anymore. You don't trust me. And that's not fair, Trowa, it's not... "

"I can't, Quatre," he interrupted. "Can't you see that? Can't you understand... "

"No, I can't," Quatre interrupted. "I can't understand, because you won't tell me. You haven't told me, you haven't trusted me enough to... "

"Quatre. Please, Quatre, please don't make me... "

"I need you, Trowa," the blond said. His voice was strangely distant. It unnerved Trowa ­ it was a tone he or Heero might employ, but not Quatre. "I need your... help. I can't do this, Trowa, unless I know that someone still trusts me, still believes in me, still knows that I'm not a monster... "

"Quatre, of course you're not... "

"I don't even know anymore," the blond interrupted, and Trowa heard the panic in his voice. "I don't even know, Trowa, all I know is that you're angry, and you don't talk to me, and now I know that you don't trust my feelings for you, and... "

"Quatre. Stop," Trowa said firmly, reaching out placing his hands on the blond's shoulders, his fingers running absently over the ridges of muscle. "Stop it. You're torturing yourself for no reason. I... "

"I need you, Trowa," Quatre repeated. "I need you, and you're pulling further and further away from me all the time. I've lost Duo ­ he left me, and I don't know if, after this, he'll ever even be able to look at me again. I'm killing whatever he may have felt for me, killing it myself. If I lose you too... I can't, Trowa," he continued, his voice rising toward hysteria. Trowa was suddenly very unnerved by the strange gleam in the blonde's eyes. "If I lose you too, Trowa, I won't be able to... "

"You aren't losing me, Quatre," Trowa promised firmly. "You won't lose me. Ever," he vowed rashly.

He shuddered as that frenzied gaze suddenly fixed on him. "How can you promise me that when you don't trust me... "

"I trust you, Quatre," Trowa repeated, trying to ignore the way his stomach was clenching in panic at the promise he'd just made. Don't think about. Don't analyze it. Don't... he repeated to himself in a silent litany.

"Trowa... "

And he couldn't think anymore. He had to show Quatre, had to cement the promise his heart had made before his head could interfere...

And so his arms moved around the blond, and his lips met Quatre's, and his tongue touched the other man's...

Then he was on his back, moaning as Quatre eased slowly into him, slowly stretching him open, and he was lifting his hand and wiping away the tears that were trailing down the blond's soft cheeks...

"I need you, Trowa," the blond whispered into his ear as he thrust in and out of his body. "I need you. I need you, always. Always, Trowa, always... "

"I know, Quatre. I'm here. I'll be here. I know... "

Trowa jumped, startled, as hands came down heavily on his shoulders. "He's waking up," Wufei told him softly. "We need to ready the tape."

Trowa nodded, and reached forward, drawing the small gap in the curtain he'd been gazing at fully closed. He turned and stopped, frowning, as he saw that Wufei still stood there.

"Are you all right?" the Chinese man asked.

Trowa opened his mouth to assure the other man that he was, but closed it without speaking. He considered the question for a moment.

"I don't know," he replied honestly.

Wufei nodded. "I was eavesdropping," he announced.

Trowa frowned.

"Yesterday," the Chinese man clarified.

Trowa stared at him, now a little more sure of the answer to Wufei's question. He was definitely not all right.

"I will always be here as well," Wufei told him simply. "For Quatre... and for you." He stopped and stared at Trowa silently for a moment. "And you may consider that my given word," he finished formally, then turned and walked toward the computer consoles.

Trowa stared at his retreating back, conscious only of a feeling of gratitude that he wasn't expected to say anything in return.

Too much. Too much said, but not quite understood. Too many implications, too many hints... Too much. It was just... too much.

At least he wasn't angry. He was too bewildered to be angry.

He crossed the room and sat down beside Zechs. The blond looked up at him, and nodded a brief greeting as he pulled one of his earphones away from his ear. "They just woke up," the prince of Sanc informed him as he handed Trowa the remaining headset. "It's Quatre and Polynices in the room ­ Polynices sent Duo out."

Trowa nodded his thanks at the report as he fitted the headset onto his head. Immediately, he began to type, transcribing the conversation between Quatre and Polynices so that he could alter later as he needed.

"Really, my friend... it's too early!" Quatre was saying laughingly. "I just woke up... I've had no tea or coffee, or breakfast... haven't even had a shower! I am not a morning person, and... "

"I know," Polynices interrupted. "I understand. But... " The man hesitated for a moment, and Trowa frowned. It wasn't like the self-assured leader of the Order to hesitate over anything.

"I've become quite... fond... of you, Quatre," the older man admitted. "In many ways... you remind me a great deal of myself, when I was young."

"That's very kind of you," Quatre assured him genially. "That's quite flattering, Polynices, though I'm sure I don't deserve... "

"I'm considering... making you an offer," the other man continued as though Quatre had not spoken. "I've not... quite... decided yet, but... I wish to begin letting you in on... a few of our... little secrets."


Trowa heard the interest in Quatre's voice, and knew that, for once, the other man probably hadn't had to feign it.

"I want to introduce you to someone. Would you like to meet them?" Polynices asked abruptly.

"Of course," Quatre assured him. "I'm not really dressed for company at the moment, though, I'm afraid. Could I have a moment to... "

"Don't worry about that," Polynices assured him. "This... person is one of our... employees, should we say? No?" he asked, sounding amused. "One of our properties is probably better, at that," he decided.

"Right now?" Quatre asked, and Trowa could see the perplexed frown. "As I told you, Polynices, I'm a bit depleted, and... "

"This is my prize," Polynices interrupted, his voice soft and gloating. "The prize of my personal collection. The one it has given me the most... personal... satisfaction to acquire."

"Indeed?" Quatre pressed softly, and Trowa heard the raw curiosity in his voice.

"This... piece... is... Well actually, he's my nephew," Polynices laughed.

There was silence. "Your... nephew?" Quatre repeated carefully.

Polynices laughed again, and the sound was delighted. "I know... how terribly shocking," he confessed gleefully. "Would you like to meet him?" he pressed eagerly.

"Well... I must admit that my curiosity is piqued," Quatre laughed. "I'm sure any relative of yours is worth my acquaintance, Polynices. I have to tell, you, though, that I'm rather confused... "

"It will all be clear," Polynices assured him. "Bring him in!" he shouted, and Trowa shivered at the childlike excitement in the other man's voice.

Trowa heard the sound of the door open, and saw Heero furiously typing, creating the layout of the room, modifying it to add any persons who might come through...

"Here he is," Polynices barked shrilly. "On your knees, boy, before your betters... "

The door closed again, presumably behind the guards who had brought this latest prize of Polynices' into the room.

There was a long silence.

"I can see I've surprised you!" Polynices chortled.

"Merciful Allah... " Quatre whispered. "I... Allah preserve us," he stammered, clearly at a loss.

"I'm rather surprised to see you here as well, Quatre Winner," a third voice inserted smoothly. Trowa frowned. It was a smooth voice, surprisingly cultured and confident considering the boy's ­ no, man's ­ position in that room.

Trowa's head jerked up in surprise as, beside him at the table, Zechs jerked convulsively, almost tipping his chair back. He reached out to steady the other man, but Zechs slapped his hand away, his face a stark white.

"Gods... " Wufei muttered, jumping to his feet, yanking his headset off. He ran over to the console and flicked the switch that transferred the sound to full speaker mode, eliminating the need for the headsets. Trowa opened his mouth to speak, but Wufei waved one hand imperiously, silencing him before he could utter a word.

"How is this... this is impossible," Quatre insisted, his voice suddenly hard.

"And yet, here I am," came the voice, now maddeningly familiar. It was amused, urbane, slightly superior...

"You will speak respectfully to Mr. Winner," Polynices ground out, his voice heavy with malice.

"I suppose it would be out of line then to remark on how much he's grown since the last time I saw him?" the unknown man asked, and the patronizing amusement was more apparent than ever.

"No," Zechs whispered, and Trowa felt himself tensing, panicking even, at the horrified, even frightened, expression on the cool blonde's face. "No, it can't be. It can't... He's dead. He's dead!"

Wufei muttered something in Chinese, his face set in the same expression of shock as Zechs'.

"You... you look remarkably good for someone who's been dead for eight years," Quatre managed weakly.

The man laughed again, and Trowa froze. Zechs' reaction, Wufei's, Quatre's words...

"Impossible," Heero muttered behind him.

But Trowa knew, knew it was, knew it before the anguished cry ripped from Zechs' throat, knew it before Wufei lunged over to catch the blond man as he fell from his chair, knew it before Quatre's tense voice confirmed the suspicion. Knew it was...

"Treize Kushrenada," the Arabian whispered. "You always did turn up where I least expected you."

[part 17] [back] [part 19] [back to Shoori's fic]