it Down to Learning + Chapter 13 (cont)
Echoes from the Past
One day, Trowa had been sent
to a nearby town to pick up some supplies to help with their progress.
He didn't usually run these errands, but it had been rumored that some
of the forces they were fighting were in the area, so the others sent
Trowa instead of going into possible danger themselves.
When he finally returned it was late, and the camp was, for the most part,
silent. Trowa dropped off his heavy load of supplies, and wandered back
to his own tent, which was located near Aubin's.
He glanced over at the clearing, to the small fire burning before Aubin's
The other boy was there, but not alone. He lay, naked on his back, and
a solider grunted and rocked atop him. Trowa was about to look away, not
wanting to see the other boy's shame, but something about the way Aubin
lay there made him look closer.
In the slight light from the fire, he saw that the boy's face was covered
with blood. He'd been beaten almost beyond recognition, the delicate nose
broken, the blond hair matted with blood. He lay so limply beneath the
soldier who labored over him that Trowa wasn't even sure that he was alive.
A strange pain rose in his chest - a pain like he'd never felt before.
It flowed through his body, making every nerve end tingle and ache. He
shuddered for a moment, almost unable to bear its intensity, when the
debilitating pain suddenly transformed into a furious energy. He stepped
closer to the fire, not caring if the soldier heard him, or was angry...
he wasn't even thinking about it. All he could think of was the broken,
bloody body lying on his back in the dirt.
The mercenary stiffened, raising up and yelling as he came, thrusting
viciously in the battered body beneath him. He sat back on his heels,
grinding himself deeper into the boy's body, and released his pleasure
into the form beneath him. He sat for a moment, trembling with passion,
lost in the haze of desire.
Trowa suddenly hated him more than he'd ever hated anyone in his entire
life. His fists clenched, and he stared at this... this savage... and
he wanted to kill him. He wanted to hurt him as much as he'd hurt Aubin,
and him, and every other innocent that had ever been hurt by this pack
of animals he lived with... Trowa had committed violent acts upon more
people than he could count, but he had never wanted to hurt anyone
before like he wanted to hurt this man.
The soldier, still unaware of the murderous presence lingering in the
darkness outside the circle of light cast by the fire, smiled widely down
at the boy beneath him.
"It's been a pleasure knowing you, boy," he said evilly, and Trowa watched
as Aubin's swollen eyes flickered open as much as they could. Abruptly,
the solider reached down and wrapped his meaty fists around the boy's
neck. Aubin managed one hoarse cry, but his airway was restricted by the
hands compressing his neck.
Something snapped in Trowa, something that had been perilously close to
breaking for some time, something that he'd managed to keep together,
something that was viciously torn asunder by the small, pained gasp forced
out of Aubin's throat.
Trowa heard a low rumbling from somewhere, heard a furious beating in
his ears, saw a film of red suddenly filter across his vision. Before
he knew what he was doing, he was throwing himself across the distance
separating him from the soldier - from Aubin's attacker - from the man
who suddenly embodied everything that was coarse and evil and ugly in
Trowa's life. And his knife was somehow in his hand, and before the soldier
could do more than look up, surprised, Trowa was on him, and the knife
was buried in his chest.
His initial rush still propelling him, he managed to knock the soldier
off of Aubin, into the dirt beside him. He pulled his knife out of the
man's chest, and thrust it again and again and again into his unprotected
torso, slashed it across his skin, hit him with the blade over and over,
not even noticing that the man was no longer moving.
Slowly, he came back... the rushing was gone from his ears, and the only
light came from the weak flames. He looked up, suddenly alarmed, but noone
was there. He'd been too quick - the soldier had never even had time to
spread an alarm.
He turned slowly, dreading what he would find.
His worst fears were confirmed - Aubin's eyes were open, and he was staring
at him with something akin to horror.
Trowa's shoulders slumped. It was all over. He had proven himself to be
nothing more than the other men - an animal, a savage. There would be
no more letters, no more lessons... no more flute. He no longer had any
right to it.
But then... Aubin smiled at him. He opened his mouth as though to speak,
then grimaced in pain. Trowa hurried over to his side and knelt beside
him, not even wanting to think about how he must look, covered in blood
"The flute... is yours... " Aubin whispered, so softly that Trowa had
to bend closer to hear him.
The younger boy leaned back, frowning in confusion. "Mine? But it's your...
" His words trailed off as he stared at the other boy. He looked closer,
and saw the bruises, the welts, the bleeding wounds on the blond's delicate
body. He saw the swelling around his neck, and the blood on his face.
Aubin was dying.
The blond attempted a smile as Trowa stared down at him in horrified understanding.
"Thank... you," he whispered painfully, glancing at the mutilated body
of his attacker.
Trowa shook his head. "I didn't... I wasn't here," he reminded the other
boy miserably. He'd failed Aubin. He hadn't protected him.
Aubin smiled again, despite the pain it must have caused him. "Your name,"
he said, his voice feather-light, forced with obvious effort through his
damaged throat. "You are... Aluin. Noble friend."
He smiled again, and despite the damage that uncaring men had done to
his face, it was somehow his real smile - full of hope and mirth and cheer.
He smiled up at Trowa, then his eyes closed... and he was gone.
He was dead.
He had been Trowa's only friend. And the younger boy hadn't even realized
it, until he was dead.
He finally had a name... but noone to call him by it.
He'd never told anyone else that name, had retreated back into the anonymity
of Nanashi. Nanashi had been able to shrug blankly when asked if he knew
anything about the dead soldier lying beside the dead whore. Aluin would
have had to scream, to protest, to try to attack and punish and kill all
of those who had hurt Aubin.
So Aluin had been pushed away, buried so that Nanashi could live, and
Trowa could be born. He'd never told anyone about him... but he'd never
forgotten about him. And sometimes, he'd been able to be him again, in
dreams, where he visited with Aubin, who was happy and at peace and reunited
with those whom he loved.
Trowa scowled, annoyed at himself. He pushed himself up out of his bed
and headed toward the door, intending to go to the kitchen to get himself
something to eat.
Why was he thinking about Aubin now? He'd never forgotten the other boy...
but he tried not to think of him. Aubin's memory was just another bitter
reminder of the ugliness and horror that flourished so freely in the world.
He'd been so innocent, and he'd died. Another wasted life.
That was what he'd wanted to stop, when he'd joined the Preventers. No
more wasted lives.
Now, it only seemed he was wasting his own.
He put his hand on his doorknob, and jerked the door open, but something
stopped him before he went into the hall. He stood in the open doorway
for a moment, then slowly, reluctantly, turned back into the room.
He opened the drawer of his dresser, shoved away several shirts, and retrieved
a small, battered case hidden among them.
He'd kept it for years - kept it through battles and wars, kept it in
space, carried it with him on Heavyarms when he'd become part of Operation
Meteor. God knows by what miracle he'd never lost it, but he never had.
He had another flute - a sleek, expensive model Quatre had given him,
carefully fashioned and polished and perfect. When he played, he usually
But today... He opened the case carefully, minding the hinge that had
broken years before. The flute that lay in there looked forlorn - somewhat
tarnished and dull, like something once loved that had been forgotten
He reached down, and carefully picked up each piece, fitting the instrument
together almost reverently. Gently, he set the case aside, and lifted
the flute to his lips.
He hesitated. He hadn't played this flute in years - not since he'd been
working as a mechanic on L3, plotting his revenge on a cruel, spoiled
rich man named Trowa Barton, who was willing to pause in his plans to
take over the world to engage in a small dalliance with a young, nameless
mechanic who had wanted nothing to do with him. Like it always had, this
flute had salvaged him - had brought him somewhere shining and pure and
clean that protected him from the reality in which he'd lived. He hadn't
been able to stay in that place long, but the respite it brought him enabled
him to endure everything else.
Since those years, though... he hadn't needed to be protected.
Even in the few years he'd spent alone after the Eve Wars... there had
been more in his life than there had ever been before. Then there had
been Duo, and then Quatre and Wufei, and Heero, and he hadn't had to hide.
He scowled at the thought of his lovers. Another beautiful thing, tarnished
and battered, like the flute in his hands.
Before he could allow those black thoughts to entirely take over his mind,
he closed his eyes and lifted the flute, slowly breathing into the instrument,
playing one stretched-out note at a time to allow it to warm up. Then,
slowly, he began to play, letting his fingers wander over the keys, allowing
the darkness behind his eyes to be replaced by a bright light, filled
with smiling faces and gentle voices and beauty...
He played guided by no specific melody - he let the flute sing the song
that it wanted to, grateful only that his breath and his hands could be
used by the instrument to create its music, humbled that it accepted him
enough to use him to bring into being the sounds that filled the room
and transported him to that place where he was always protected, always
He played on and on, allowing the music to soothe the raw anger and pain
that had been churning inside him. But after a time - minutes, perhaps,
maybe hours - he slowly returned to reality, and realized that he was
exhausted. His breath slowed, and the flute went back to sleep, taking
the music with it.
He lowered his arms, noticing how they shook with fatigue, and let the
flute rest gently in his lap. He sat for a few moments, slowly regaining
awareness of himself and his body and his surroundings... and realized
that he was no longer alone in his room.
His eyes jerked open, riveted on the door he had left open when he'd answered
the demanding call of the flute. And he met the steady, intense, but tear-filled
gaze of Heero Yuy.
They stared at each other in silence for a moment, then Heero spoke.
"I've never... heard you play like that before," the other man ventured
hoarsely. "Your playing is always beautiful, but this... " He shook his
head slowly, blinking back the tears in his eyes. "This was... amazing."
Trowa just stared at him, waiting for the scorn and betrayal and rage
that had sprung to life inside him every time he looked at Heero for days
to rise within him. But nothing did. He was just tired, and hurt, and
Heero moved cautiously into the room when Trowa didn't yell at him, and
stopped a few feet in front of where the other man sat on his bed. "I've
never seen that flute before," he commented slowly, obviously trying to
make some conversation.
Trowa continued to stare at him, watching his progress as an animal would
track another animal, not speaking or reacting to his words.
Heero stared back, obviously unsure, not wanting to break the peace of
the moment, but realizing that he couldn't stop here.
"It looks old," he ventured, gesturing at the instrument. "Have you had
it for a long time?"
"Since I was ten," Trowa replied briefly, momentarily surprised at the
scratchiness of his own voice as well as the information he was unexpectedly
revealing to Heero.
Heero frowned. "You got it when... "
"It belonged to another whore," Trowa told him bitterly, feeling some
more of the hurt that he'd felt in the last weeks rise. He should be over
it - Quatre had come to him, had shown him that he still believed him
worthy. Wufei had done the same. He had enjoyed being with them, had been
relieved to still have the option... but for all that the experiences
with his two lovers had been meaningful and pleasurable, after they were
finished, they had left him feeling... depleted. Strangely devoid of the
emotions the act was intended to express.
It kept coming back to that. He was a whore, and now they all knew it.
And Heero... Heero had rejected Duo for that. Perhaps he'd repented of
it after, but his first instinct had been to push him away in disgust.
And wasn't the first reaction the most accurate? Why would his reaction
be any different for him?
"Of course, the person that gave me this flute never wanted to
be a whore. He never got to the point where he gave it away willingly.
But, he was dirty anyway, right Heero?" the green-eyed man finished belligerently.
He pulled apart the pieces of the instrument in his lap, shoving them
almost roughly into the molded depressions in the worn black velvet that
lined the inside of the old case.
"Trowa!" Suddenly Heero was beside him, was practically upon him, was
sitting directly across from him on the bed. Trowa struck out almost instinctively,
crashing the fragile case into Heero's chest.
The blue-eyed man didn't react to the blow, but grabbed the case firmly
and yanked it away. Trowa tensed, suddenly horribly afraid that Heero
was going to throw it aside in anger, damage it, destroy it...
But the Japanese man stood up and carried the case carefully across the
room, setting it down gingerly on Trowa's dresser, making sure that it
was secure there before moving back across the room to sit on the bed
"You're not dirty," Heero said bluntly.
Trowa stared at him, still recovering from the sick feeling that had overtaken
him when he'd thought that Heero was going to destroy his flute, and startled
by the directness of the comment. But that was Heero. Once he had something
in his mind, he went straight toward that goal, no matter how unexpected
or unorthodox his plan.
"I never thought that," the Japanese man continued. "Not about
Duo, not about you. Never. I... "
"Bullshit," Trowa snapped. "You told me what you said to him... and I
saw you... "
"Christ, can't you allow someone to be surprised?" Heero snapped, suddenly
angry. Trowa glared at him through narrowed green eyes, but Heero glowered
right back, the hesitancy of the last moments and days suddenly gone.
"What would you do if you suddenly found out I'd spent most of my life
being abused?" Heero snapped. "Would you just shrug and be fine with it?
I hope you wouldn't," he announced challengingly. "I'd hope it would shock
the shit out of you, and make you sick and angry and guilty and want to
beat the shit out of someone, like I felt when I heard that
some sick fucks hurt you and Duo."
Trowa glared at him. "I don't need your pity or your guilt," he sneered.
"Fuck it, Heero, and fuck you. I don't want... "
"You don't want anyone to know you," Heero accused with matching heat,
blue eyes simmering with anger. "You want to be the perfect, cold, composed
Trowa Barton, showing nothing, feeling nothing, saying nothing... "
"You're one to talk," Trowa interrupted angrily. "The Perfect Solider,
who can't even have a conversation with someone he's slept with for three
years without... "
"Why do you keep throwing that up in my face?" Heero half-shouted. "I
fucked up. I know it, and I'm sorry, and I'll grovel appropriately when
we find Duo - after I kick the crap out of him for running off like that.
But what do you want, Trowa?" he demanded. "I've told you that
I didn't mean what he thought I meant, that I wasn't disgusted by him
- or by you - or by anything you did... "
"You're full of... "
"I am not!" Heero corrected furiously. "But you won't believe it.
Why are you so sure that I think you're filthy and disgusting?" he probed
relentlessly. "Why are you so damn convinced that I couldn't think anything
else? Is that how you feel, Trowa?" he pressed. "Do you think you're dirty?
Tainted? Corrupted? That since you were used, and hurt, you can't possibly
be worth anything to anyone... "
Trowa shouted wordlessly, throwing himself at the other man, his fists
clenched. He wanted to hit him, hurt him, punch him... do anything to
stop the words pouring out of the other man's mouth. Heero caught his
arms and effortlessly held him away from his own body, holding him firmly
in place with his strong hands.
"Fuck you, Heero!" Trowa bellowed, all the rage he'd ever felt in his
life pounding through him. "You can take your amateur psychology and shove
it right up your... "
"No!" Heero shouted, shaking him. "I won't, Trowa! I won't
back off and let you sit here and brood and convince yourself that you
suck and noone likes you... You're not dirty, and I do care
about you, and I'm not disgusted... " He trailed off, and he sighed,
tiredly. "And none of this is your fault," he finished wearily.
Trowa stopped struggling, the wind abruptly knocked out of him.
"It's not your fault," Heero repeated, looking up to skewer Trowa with
his piercing gaze. "You couldn't fix what happened to you, or to Duo...
and it's not your fault that you didn't talk about it with him, or warn
us... " He sighed again. "We've all fucked up, Trowa," he said bluntly.
"I've been thinking about it... and we were so busy trying to convince
ourselves we had everything we wanted that we never gave each other what
"And... what exactly would that be?" managed Trowa. He'd wanted it to
sound scornful, but the words came out tentative, unsure, questioning.
Instead of showing how angry he was, he sounded like he needed... reassurance.
"I... I don't know," Heero admitted, his air of intense certainty faltering
slightly. "But I want to find out," he rallied. "I want to know.
And I want to know... with you, Trowa."
The taller man stared into Heero's blue eyes, his gaze moving slowly to
his wrists, still imprisoned in the other man's tight grip. Heero immediately
let go, gently rubbing the bruised flesh. "I... don't want you to be angry
with me anymore, Tro," he continued softly. "I'm... sorry that I hurt
Duo, and I'm sorry that I hurt you. You've got to... you've got to let
me try to make you believe that," he insisted gently, his thumbs carefully
kneading the reddened spots on Trowa's wrists.
Trowa looked up slowly, again meeting Heero's eyes.
"I don't know how to convince you," Heero admitted. "Maybe... " he suggested,
"you could tell me?"
His voice ended on a questioning note, but Trowa just continued to stare
at him. He didn't know... he didn't know if he believed Heero, but he
didn't think the blue-eyed man was lying. But he certainly didn't know
what Heero could do that would make him know for sure, one way or another,
where the other man stood...
"I asked Relena what to do," Heero told him slowly, grimacing in acknowledgment
as Trowa blinked in surprise, "and she said that I should tell you things."
He frowned. "I'm... not used to that," he admitted, "and... I don't really
know what's understood between all of us and what isn't. But... " He took
a deep breath. "But I know that I care about you, Trowa. I... " He swallowed.
"I care about you a lot. And I want to be with you. Always. I want you...
to be happy," he continued, "and I want us all to be together again, and
I want all of us to be happy. But I don't want to be exactly like we were,"
he frowned, "because there's more to... it... than what we had. I don't
know what, and Relena wouldn't tell me," he added in a growl, "but I want
to find out. With Wufei, and Quatre... and with Duo... and with you,"
he finished, looking up to stare directly into Trowa's eyes.
The other man found that he could hardly remember how to breathe, he was
so lost in the wide, compelling, achingly sincere pools of blue that were
currently pulling him in. Heero meant what he said - there was no doubt
about that. And if Trowa didn't fully understand what he was talking about...
well, Heero apparently didn't either.
But he was trying... and it was doubtful that Heero would make this much
effort over something that he didn't really want. He was far more likely
to just shrug and walk away... exactly what Trowa had thought he had been
doing for the past two weeks.
Apparently, though, he hadn't been... and he wasn't. He was here, and
he was trying... and Trowa could do no less.
He didn't know, though, what to do, where to start, how to tell the other
man that his apology had been tentatively accepted, and that he too was
willing to find out what they had to do to be together.
His eyes fell, and his gaze rested on their hands. Heero's hands still
gently held his, his fingers lightly cupping his wrist as his fingertips
carefully supported the slightly swollen skin. Slowly, Trowa turned his
hand around, moving his arm so that his fingers slid into Heero's. He
carefully tightened his fingers around Heero's, tensing slightly as he
waited for the other man's reaction.
He didn't have to wait for long. Heero's fingers moved in his, clenching
them tightly. The Japanese man squeezed his hand, letting his feelings
and relief and nervousness flow through his fingers into Trowa's body,
showing the other man through touch the truth of what he'd said aloud.
Trowa sagged with relief as he realized his gesture had been accepted
and returned. He swayed slightly, exhausted. Heero reached forward to
catch him, and suddenly they were both lying back on his bed, Heero against
the pillows, himself curled in Heero's embrace, the other man's arms warm
and strong around him.
He looked a little tentatively up at him, but Heero smiled down reassuringly.
Slowly, the Japanese man lowered his head, and his lips met Trowa's.
The other man tensed, waiting for some form of violent , intense, satisfying,
but numbing pleasure to rise between them. But it didn't - instead a warmth
slowly and gradually grew, filling the empty and cold places inside him,
saturating him with comfort and relief.
They kissed for a long time, and Trowa relished the feel of Heero's lips
on his. The Japanese man's lips were soft, his tongue warm and wet as
it gently probed the contours of Trowa's mouth. The green-eyed man ran
his tongue over Heero's, learning the feel of it, then sucked gently on
it, drawing a slight gasp from Heero. He returned the gasp when Heero
mimicked the gesture, but even that didn't push this comforting closeness
over into undiscerning passion.
They just continued to kiss, to gently touch each other, to taste each
other, feel each other breathe beneath their lips and their hands and
against their bodies. Heero's fingers twined in his hair, and he gently
moved his own fingers over the hard muscles of Heero's chest, tracing
their contours and shape, feeling the power coiled within them. All the
while they kissed, and eventually Trowa began to taste himself on Heero's
tongue, as if they'd somehow merged and become one being.
Eventually, Heero pulled away, dropping one last soft kiss on the corner
of Trowa's mouth. The other man didn't feel disappointed or rejected,
particularly when Heero gently pushed his face into the crook of his shoulder,
silently offering comfort and support and companionship. He reached down
and unbuttoned the button on Trowa's tight jeans, loosening them, but
made no movement to undress him or touch him intimately. The taller man
relaxed, letting himself lean heavily against Heero, letting the other
man hold him as he slowly fell asleep.
His last conscious thought, before he moved into a dark and dreamless
slumber, was that maybe... maybe it wasn't a dream. Maybe it was true.
Maybe they did want him, even tarnished as he was. Because maybe, just
maybe, there was something to him that he didn't see, but that they did,
and that Aubin had.
Aluin. Noble friend.
12] [back] [part
14] [back to Shoori's fic]