Author: pyrzm
see ch. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Broken Warriors + Chapter 40
Project Trowa: Implementation

Stage I

12:07 pm EST


The familiar jolt of the shuttle hitting atmosphere woke Trowa from another dark and guilty dream. Quatre wasn't in his seat and Trowa looked back over the tops of the seats, seeking that distinctive head of blonde and blue hair. Quatre had moved back to sit with Cathy. The two of them were looking out the windows, watching Earth come up beneath them like a green and blue sea swell. The other performers, his friends and fellow artists were all doing the same, laughing and talking excitedly. It was the first Earthside tour they'd done in over a year. It meant early set up and grueling practice sessions to reaquaint their bodies with this gravity and this natural atmosphere, but most had done it before. It was well worth the effort, to feel a real breeze on your face again, and see hills and forests and the sea.

And New Orleans! Quatre had never been here before, but Trowa had and loved this wicked painted lady of a city. He wanted to walk those dark cobbled streets again in the French Quarter, seek out the low dives and fine cafes, and stand under the ancient palms in Jackson Square, watching the street performers, vagrants, fortune tellers, artists, and whores. The smells of the French Quarter, the colors and the music everywhere. He'd spent weeks there, long ago, immersed in that sensual waking dream.

He'd wanted to take Quatre to New Orleans for so long, to share that with him, but now he was desperately afraid that would never happen. He was afraid, so afraid, that Cape Cod was as far as they would travel together, and after that, everything they'd built up-their life, their act, the exciting, terrifying new venture they'd come here to launch. That was all going to end today. And it was all his fault.

He fell back in his seat and closed his eyes again, trying to ignore the sweat trickling under his arms and down his sides. He'd never gotten this sick feeling before missions during the war, or back when he was with the mercenaries.

They'd worked like dogs since Madrid, refining the acts, overseeing the final set and costume designs, completing and recording the musical score, making endless changes and commitments and compromises. It was always that way before the start of a new tour, but this time it had been different. This time he'd slowly found it an all too convenient excuse to put a little distance between him and the love of his heart. Not so much during the day, of course: they had to practice together. It was at night he felt it most and it was killing him by inches, not to be able to touch Quatre the way he wanted to, but he just didn't trust himself not to flash his sick obsession again. The sad, knowing look in those big blue eyes every time he said he had to work late or rise early was bad enough, but nothing was as bad as the tears it caused when he slipped up.

Sunk in misery, he was startled when Quatre dropped into the seat beside him again. God, he looked wonderful! Trowa always noticed, but even more so now. Quatre was going for a slightly more subdued look these days, less jewelry, no makeup. The studded biker jacket hadn't been out of the closet in weeks. The tan suede pants Quatre had on now still hugged him in all the right places, but they were simple and unadorned. The shirt, a blue one that matched his eyes and the fresh streaks of color in his hair, was loose and flowing and unbuttoned far enough for Trowa to see the little round pink scar on his lover's chest, just below his left shoulder, where Dorothy Catalonia had run him through with an epee during their duel on Libra. His body remembered exactly how Quatre had felt in his arms when he carried him out of that control room. His lips remembered what that scar felt like when he kissed his way to it in the dark.

Trowa swallowed and looked away quickly, pretending to take in the view outside, but a firm hand closed over his arm and Quatre kissed his cheek.

"It's going to be OK, baby," Quatre whispered. He was trying to reassure him, but Trowa felt as much as heard the undercurrent of his lover's own fear. "Please, believe me. It will. You don't have to feel--"

"Don't read me!" Trowa whispered.

"I'm not. I won't."

"I love you, Quatre."

"I know. Ti amo, tesoro!"

Trowa managed a broken smile; he'd taught Quatre those words, caressed him with them so many times. "We could just stay on the shuttle. Keep going to New Orleans with the others. There's still so much to do--"

"No." So gentle, yet so firm. Sometimes even Trowa was taken in by Quatre's outward demeanor: the gentleness, the sunny disposition and playfulness. But under that cute little bad boy exterior was a core of steel. If Quatre said they were going to the Cape, then that was that.

Quatre held his hand for the rest of the flight and didn't try to make him talk. They'd run out of words about this a long time ago. Trowa concentrated on the feeling of Quatre's touch, so warm, so trusting, so loving. So patient, but he'd asked more of him than he had any right to and he knew it.

'I am such a sick bastard to fuck this up!' he berated himself. 'What am I going to do when he leaves me?'

But even as he thought it, another part of him, the part that had woken up and flexed its muscles in Madrid, that part replayed images of Heero Yuy in his mind, especially that awkward momentary embrace in the hostel.

Obsession. That's the word Quatre had flung at him during the last bitter fight. It was true. He was obsessed and he didn't know what to do about it except stay away from Heero, but that meant staying away from Duo, too, and that hurt Quatre just as much, and probably Duo, too.

Fuck! Fuck! They'd all be better off without him.

Quatre's hand tightened on his and that silky head settled on his shoulder, soft and warm against his cheek. Quatre wouldn't read him after saying he wouldn't, but Trowa knew his guilt and misery must be plain for anyone to see.

"Mio caro!" he managed, a husky whisper. He couldn't look Quatre in the eye, just kept his gaze on their interlocked hands, unable to give voice to the words that followed in his mind, over and over again. 'How will I ever live without you?'

The shuttle landed at the Boston spaceport and Trowa went through the motions of customs and baggage claim and finding the rental car feeling like a man going to his own execution. But he insisted on driving, in case another flash of the rising storm in his heart leaked out. He didn't want Quatre behind the wheel if that happened. As they wove their way though the snarl of Boston traffic to the coastal highway, he made up his mind to simply live in the moment, savoring the nearness of his lover in these last few precious hours.

Quatre dialed Duo's cell phone. "Hi! Yeah. We're on the ground and headed your way. About two hours, unless we hit traffic. Yes." A pause. The faint whisper a distant voice on the other end. "Yes." Another pause. "Yeah, me, too. See you soon." He signed off and put the phone away in his duffle. "Duo says hi."

Trowa kept his eyes on the traffic ahead. Two hours.

2:18 pm EST

Duo jumped and dropped the pencils he'd been fiddling with as the cell phone on the worktable next to him chirped, flashing Quatre's number. He turned to exchange a look with Heero, who was stretched out on the couch, doodling in his sketchbook.

"Kat?"

"Hi!" Quatre sounded overly bright.

"So, you're in Boston? Is Trowa right there with you now?"

"Yeah. We're on the ground and headed your way."

"ETA?" Heero was behind him now, one hand on Duo's shoulder.

"About two hours, unless we hit traffic."

"Are you as petrified as I am?" Duo asked. Heero frowned and shook his head.

"Yes."

Heero took the phone from him but let Duo lean in close to listen. "Quatre, we're ready on this end. We want this to work."

"Yeah, me, too. See you soon."

Heero signed off. "You shouldn't reinforce his fear, Duo. He's got to keep up the act until they get here and he's already under considerable strain."

"Sorry, but I am!" Duo grumbled. "Dr. B wasn't exactly raving about our plan, you know."

"And he couldn't suggest a better one."

Duo glanced at his watch. Two twenty four. "You're really going to make me wait, aren't ya?"

Heero returned to the couch and picked up his sketchbook. "The timing is important."

"And you're sure you don't want to take a shower or something?"

"We'll wash up at 3:15, as planned."

Duo slumped on his stool, fiddling nervously with his braid. "This all seemed like a better idea when you first came up with it. Maybe you should just punch him and be done with it."

Heero ignored him, knowing he wasn't serious. The last thing a high wire artist like Trowa needed this close to an opening night was a concussion and a black eye, or worse. Duo just hoped nobody else ended up with one, either. He lifted his arms and sniffed at his pits. Heero had banned showers since yesterday and he was getting pretty funky. Heero had banned sex since Wednesday, too, which had probably been a good idea. He was getting horny enough to ignore all this obsessive clock watching. It was still kinda freaky, though.

He stood and went to the worktable, giving the collection of masks there a final once over. They were pretty damn impressive, if he did say so himself! He tugged at his braid again and went back to his sketchpad, where nothing constructive was happening. He drummed with a couple of pencils for a while, until a polite cough behind him suggested that this might be annoying. He tossed the pencils aside and went to the window, staring out at the driveway and the sea. He tapped the end of his braid on his chin, and then nibbled at a few stray strands of hair, hardly noticing what he was doing.

"Duo, come here."

Duo slouched back to the couch and Heero pulled him down, positioning him with his back against the armrest and his bare feet in Heero's lap.

Duo wiggled his toes, still scowling. "Watch out, my feet probably stink by now!"

Heero lifted one foot and sniffed it, then kissed his way softly up the sole, tickling a little with the tip of his tongue as he went. Duo snorted and tried to pull away, but Heero held the foot still and kissed his toes. "Smells fine to me."

He massaged both feet for a while, until Duo began to unwind, then reached for the book he'd been reading earlier. It was the leather bound edition of "Peter Pan" that Quatre had given Duo. He'd been a little surprised when Heero asked to borrow it the other day, but pleased, too. It had been a guilty pleasure of his ever since he'd read it that first time in the hospital. The Lost Boys reminded him a lot of the street kids he'd run with back on L-2. It would have been real nice if some guy like Peter had come along to protect them, or Wendy, to find them a home. So what if he was still a sucker for happy endings?

Heero opened it to a passage he'd marked with a bit of folded paper. Holding the book one-handed, he continued to stroke the tops of Duo's feet as he read aloud.

"'Chapter Eight. The Mermaid's Lagoon.'"

Duo smothered a giggle. OK, now he got it. Heero said he'd read the book before, a long time ago. Paging Dr. Freud, we've located the root of a fetish!

"'If you shut your eyes and are a lucky one, you may see at times a shapeless pool of lovely pale colors suspended in the darkness; then if you squeeze your eyes tighter, the pool begins to take shape--"

"And turns into a freezing cold lake in Finland!" Duo put in, unable to resist.

"I was thinking more of that huge bathtub at the embassy," Heero admitted, grinning. "Now be quiet. I'm getting to the mermaid part. 'the pool begins to take shape and the colors become so vivid that with another squeeze they must go on fire.'"

"Ow, my eyes!"

"'But just before they go on fire you see the lagoon.'"

"Bathtub."

"'This is the nearest you ever get to it on the mainland, just one heavenly moment-'"

"Unless you're in the Sanque embassy orgy suite."

"'If there could be two moments you might see the surf and hear the mermaids singing-- off key, because they are as tone deaf as they are beautiful, especially the ones with pretty violet-colored eyes . . .'"


"Hey, I thought you liked my singing!"

They continued on like this to the rescue of Princess Tiger Lily, whom Heero insisted on calling Duo Lily, who'd been captured sneaking aboard the pirate ship with a knife in her teeth to assassinate Captain Hook. She was now tied up and on her way to a watery death in the lagoon at the hands of the pirates Smee and Starkey. Duo accepted the name revision, and added a few of his own. The pirates were changed to Mr. Zechs and Mr. Starknaked, Hook to Hookreneda, and the hero to Peter Yuy. He also interrupted with lots of naughty bondage jokes, then began to giggle again when Peter Yuy, impersonating Hookreneda, ordered Mr. Zechs to cut Princess Duo Lily loose and Mr. Zechs gasped, "This is queer!" And they both totally lost it when, freed from her bonds, the princess "at once like an eel slid between Starknaked's legs into the water."

"Into the water, my ass!" Duo gasped out, doubled up with laughter. "After all that bondage, that's not where this Duo Lily would be headed!"

Heero closed the book. "That's good to hear, because it's almost three thirty."

Duo stopped in mid-chuckle, checked his watch, then glared at Heero, who was looking entirely too pleased with himself. "You sneaky son of a bitch! This was part of your mission plan? Keep Duo amused so he doesn't freak out?"

"It was a contingency plan. But you're still my mermaid, see?" He opened his sketch book and showed Duo a drawing of himself on the stool at the work table where he'd been earlier, only here he was a mermaid with a long scaly tail that twisted and curled around the leg of the stool. His hair was still braided, and he was wearing nothing but what appeared to be a gun holster made of seashells around his scaly hips and a sheath knife strapped to his left forearm. Instead of drawing, his mermaid self was cleaning his pistol. Even with the screwball fantasy details, it was amazingly realistic and a damn good likeness. It was signed and dated, like all his others, and titled "My Kind of Mermaid!"

How the hell was he supposed to stay mad after that?

But he still paused at the bottom of the stairs a moment later, scowling up at Heero. "This is kinda weird, even for you, mission boy. I mean, the whole 'window of opportunity' angle isn't exactly getting me hot."

Heero just held out his hand, giving Duo a 'look' as if he was trying to chicken out on bombing an OZ base or something.

"Yeah, yeah, I know!" He climbed the stairs with less than his usual enthusiasm and let Heero lead him into the bedroom. Glancing at the clock, he shook his head. "Little ahead of schedule, aren't we? Forget to synchronize all the clocks in the house or something?"

Heero eased Duo's tee shirt off over his head, than ran his fingers inside the waistband of his jeans. "Oh, I'll find some way to fill the extra time," he growled, then leaned in and mouthed the curve of Duo's neck.

Duo shivered at his touch, and the dark, sexy tone of Heero's voice. "Yeah, I just bet you will, baby. OK, mission accepted!" Heero smelled pretty sexy, too, come to think of it. Pheromone overload later was part of the plan, after all.

Stage II

4:04 pm EST


Trowa pulled in beside the rental SUV in the driveway and turned off the motor. For a moment all he could hear were the waves on the beach behind them. He'd loved being here last spring. Now it was an effort just to get out of the car. He glanced up at the front door, expecting to see Heero or Duo coming out to meet them, but it stayed shut.

"Maybe they went for a walk," Quatre said. "No problem. I've got a key. Come on, let's see. We can come back for the bags."

As they climbed the steps and Quatre slipped the key in the lock, Trowa heard a muffled noise from inside that could have been a cry of alarm or pain. Ever since the war, he tended to always react to the unknown in terms of a possible threat--a child's cry at a park, the sound of an engine backfiring, Quatre not being where Trowa expected him to be--it all seemed to send him into instant worst case scenario mode.

Now was no exception, especially as he heard another, much more distinct cry and recognized Duo's voice. Yanking Quatre back behind him, he drew his Sig Saur from its ankle holster and slipped into the hallway. Another cry, lower, harsher--Heero's voice. And from the direction, upstairs. That, together with the unmistakable rhythmic sound of a bed creaking made him lower his weapon, but his heart was still racing. Quatre slipped an arm around him and gave him a quick hug, whispering, "Stand down, soldier! They must have lost track of time." Then, raising his voice, "Heero, Duo, we're here! You guys decent?"

They heard a final thump and what sounded like the rustle of bedclothes, and then Duo warbled down, "Com-ing! Just--ah, give us a minute, OK?"

Trowa retreated hastily outside to get the bags from the car, face burning. Yeah, this was a perfect start, all right.

By the time he came back in, loaded down with duffels and backpacks, Heero and Duo were downstairs, hugging Quatre hello. Actually, Heero was hugging Quatre hello and kept an arm around him as he turned to greet Trowa. He and Duo both had on bathrobes and had that 'just fucked glow', cheeks flushed, eyes bright, hair looking like it had just been hastily combed. Duo's was still loose around him, something Trowa had seldom seen. Heero's robe was open halfway down his chest and Trowa found himself transfixed by the pink flush on that fair skin, and the scattering of fresh love bites on his neck and chest. So transfixed, that he froze like a deer in the headlights as Heero gave Quatre a kiss, then over to embrace Trowa.

Heero hugging anyone was enough of a shock, even after Madrid. But Heero hugging him still hot and reeking of sex kept Trowa rooted where he stood, brain heading fast for sensory overload. His nostrils flared as he was overwhelmed with a heady mix of Heero and Duo scents, laden with sweat and testosterone and semen and . . .

He felt faint. He raised his handsto push Heero away, but instead found himself clutching Heero's biceps, feeling the solid muscle there under the brown Chinese silk. Somewhere in the back of what was left of his mind, he recognized that robe, and Duo's, as the ones they'd worn in Madrid, or ones very much like them . . . And Heero still had his arms around him and didn't show any sign of letting him go and he still smelled like everything Trowa had been fantasizing about for the past month and a half and was radiating heat like an L-4 solar panel and why wasn't he letting go couldn't he see that if he didn't Trowa was going to faint or cry or kiss him deep just to see if he tasted as good as he smelled and then Heero would feel his hard on and life as he knew it was going to end and where the hell was Quatre and . . . ?

But Quatre was there, too, putting his arms around both of them, and so was Duo, who smelled just as good as Heero.

"What--what's going on?" he managed, voice already shaky with shock and amazement and the beginning of a serious panic attack."

"Remember that time you and Kat ambushed me with that intervention last year?" Duo said, hugging him tighter and kissing his cheek. "Well, it's payback time, Tro. We all know what you've been going through and we're here to help."

"A what? Are you all crazy?" They didn't know, couldn't know, what this was doing to him! The heat, the smells, and the way the silk robes left not doubt in Trowa's mind that they were naked underneath. "Oh god, no please. Heero, let go! Please, let go of me!" He was struggling for real now, and managed to knock Quatre and Duo away, but Heero's arms were locked around his waist and the more he tried to get away the more he found himself crushed against the one body in the room he didn't dare go near at all. That robe was falling open, exposing more of that body that had recovered so very much and looked the way Heero had all those years ago, only older and better and harder and taller. "Quatre, tell him to let go, for the love of . . ."

Quatre and Duo were back, holding him again, trying to soothe him and only making everything so much worse! He felt one of Heero's hands slide up his back to his neck, then his face was being pressed to that neck, against that shoulder and Heero was holding him close, growling "Calm down, 03, everything is fine. You're safe. It's OK."

"NO!" Trowa tried to twist free, but they all had him now, arms tight around him.

Eyes squeezed shut, he recognized Quatre by his scent before those soft, beloved lips touched his ear, whispering, "It's all right, don't fight, mio amore. No one is going to hurt you! This is for you. We're all here for you, baby. Please don't fight, Trowa! Relax, baby, relax. You're hyperventilating. Slow down."

But Trowa couldn't. He felt like he was drowning and his mind was screaming like an animal in a trap They don't understand! They can't or they wouldn't be touching me like this! He tried to tell them now but all that came out was a moan against Heero's shoulder.

He'd felt Quatre's emotions before, and he felt them now, as clearly as Quatre had ever read him. Quatre was worried, but that was eclipsed by incredible love and a desire to help and protect him. He felt it from Duo, too, in a different form, not so intense but just as real. Heero was the only one he couldn't read, but it was Heero who was still holding him close, stroking his back and hair and pressing a kiss--a kiss! --to the side of his head.

Trowa put up a final, futile struggle, then went limp against that hard, rock steady shoulder, too overcome to form a coherent protest. He hardly registered what was happening as the others began to move, until he felt hands--so many hands--slipping into and under his clothing, sliding the leather jacket from his shoulders, lifting his shirt up under his arms, holding his wrists when he tried to stop them and the shirt disappearing anyway. He felt bare skin against his. Heero and Duo had both dropped their robes. They weren't naked after all, but as good as despite the spandex shorts they both wore. Quatre stepped away long enough to shuck out of his clothes, down to a similar pair of red shorts, then he stepped in behind Trowa, reaching around to unbuckle his belt and open his fly.

"No, please!" Trowa begged, but it was no use. His jeans were tugged down and Heero was pulling him in close and up so Duo and Quatre could get his boots and socks off, too. Holding him close with only the thin cotton of Trowa's tiny, tight briefs between Heero's hard belly and his aching cock.

Then they were embracing him again, skin to skin, warm and stroking and murmuring to him, and his heart was pounding so loud he could hardly hear them until Heero brushed his ear with hot lips and hot breath. "Listen to me, 03. We're here to help you. I'm here to help you. I know what you've been going through. Quatre told us all about it, because he wants to help you through this, too. He loves you, Trowa. He gave us his permission to do this, to help you the only way we know how."

Hands found Trowa's hands, clenched helplessly at his sides all this time, and guided them around Heero's bare waist, urging him to hold on, hold tight.

Slowly, Trowa unclenched his aching fists and surrendered, letting himself hold on, letting himself collapse against Heero and letting Heero and the others hold him up. They were all stroking him, all making soothing sounds and telling him he was safe and loved and that this was somehow all right, the four of them standing here like this on this chilly hardwood floor and they were warm against him, so warm and he wasn't quite so panicked now, but he was growing more and more alarmed by the fact that Heero was still holding him and it felt so damned good and right, even with Quatre pressed against him, and Duo. But they weren't letting him go and Heero didn't seemed to object to the hard cock pressed against him and every time he tried to move it rubbed and ached and he was surrounded by the smells of all of them, these boys he loved, and it felt good, even through the panic rising in him again as he recognized the heat building in his groin, spiraling up through his belly, intensifying every sensation, every breath against his skin and the feel of those roughened hands on his back and arms and--

"Heero, please, you have to let go. I--Quatre please, he has to--I can't-- I'm going to--O fuck, Quatre, don't you--?"

"I do, mon cheri, I understand. It's all right. Go ahead."

No! Trowa thought, as the panic and arousal rose to unbearable heights and Heero's hand slipped lower, down his back, past his waist--Quatre, don't you see what he's doing? O god, god, no! Quatre, help me make him stop! That hand was firm against his ass now, so big, so strong. And Duo's hands on him, and Quatre's too-- Quatre, help! Help me!

"I hear you, Trowa. I know, and it's OK, baby. It's OK. I know how bad you need it! We all know and it's OK."

"Oh god!" Trowa screamed, arching back in their arms, helpless to stop the driving spasm of his hips against Heero as the orgasm ripped through him, wiping out everything except need and release and the feeling of being held and all that warmth. And once it hit, it wouldn't stop and he couldn't stop the wild cries it tore from him, from the depths of his heart. "Oh god, oh fuck! Quatre! Heero! Duo! Ah-- amor! Mi corazon, mis queridos!"

"That's it," Quatre urged.

"Oh fuck. Je t'aime tout! Ti amo tutti! I schliesst you de auf! Te amo todo!"

"I know, baby. Say it so they know," Quatre said, burying a hand in his hair, caressing him. "Let it out, Trowa! Tell them."

"O god," Trowa sobbed as the last unbelievable waves crashed through him. "I love you! I love you all! I'm sorry. Oh god, Quatre. I'm sorry, sorry, sorry so sorry!" He was sobbing helplessly now, ashamed of his admission, ashamed of the wet mess cooling between his body and Heero's, ashamed of his own weakness and need. So weak! His legs wouldn't hold him as the others helped him up the stairs and into the bedroom where a fire was burning and the bed was neatly turned down with clean sheets. They lowered him onto the bed and he threw an arm across his face, too shattered to do more than that to cover his shame and despair.

Stage III

He couldn't look as gentle hands pulled off his sticky shorts and washed away the seal of his shame and weakness with a warm cloth. Then those hands were pulling his arm down, making him see that he was alone with Quatre in the room.

"Quatre." He couldn't get any more out, couldn't find words to express his sorrow and confusion, but Quatre was smiling.

"It's all right, baby. Don't worry. Here, let's get you into these."

Trowa sat up and tried to help Quatre get a pair of sweat pants on, but his limbs seemed to belong to someone else at the moment. Quatre managed alone, then helped him move to the middle of the bed and under the covers. He climbed in beside him, then called out, "All clear!"

A few minutes later Duo and Heero came in, freshly showered and wearing pajama bottoms, and climbed into bed with them. Quatre moved aside, letting Heero pull a limp and unresisting Trowa in close with his head on his chest, while Duo spooned in against Trowa's back. Quatre nestled under Heero's other arm and reached across to stroke Trowa's face. "See, Trowa, it's OK. We're all here together and it's OK. Just relax, baby. We love you."

"Listen to me, Trowa," Heero said softly. "You have taken care of all of us, at one time or another. We all know how you stood by Quatre and loved him, and how you kept Duo safe while I was gone, and loved him, too. He told me all about it, how good you were to him, and all you did to make him feel safe. You and Kat saved him, and gave him a home."

"You did, Tro," Duo told him, stroking his hair. "Every time I went to pieces you guys were there, picking me up and putting me back together. You and Kat let me into your lives when there was no one else around to understand or care. You saved my life so many times! You were better for me than any drug or doctor."

"It's true," said Heero. "I will be grateful to you for that for the rest of my life, and for standing by him while I was sick. But you saved my life, too, three years ago, Trowa."

Trowa's eyes fluttered open at the unmistakable hitch in Heero's voice as he went on. He'd never heard him sound like this before.

"You saved my life that day, and you took care of me all that time. Then you stayed with me and tried to be my friend and Duo says maybe you even loved me a little--"

"A lot!" Trowa blurted out, unable to stop the words or the fresh tears that came with them. "I did. I loved you. Love you."

Trowa felt Heero swallow hard, and those arms tightened around him. "And I didn't even notice. I'm so sorry, Trowa. I never even thanked you! I was--I don't know. I just didn't know how to act or feel back then, and I'm so sorry if I hurt you and if all that made you end up like this now."

It felt like something was tearing in Trowa's chest. He could hardly get his breath for a moment and found himself clinging helplessly to Heero, sobbing against him. "You couldn't--I knew-I figured it out--"

"No, not really," Quatre said, stroking his shoulder. "Poor Trowa, you didn't figure anything out. You just accepted it and tried not to feel. You and Heero are so much alike that way! No wonder you couldn't communicate with each other. You needed this today, Trowa. I was too close to it all, too hurt, to figure it out. Heero's the one who did."

"And Duo," Heero told him.

"But I--I--Heero, downstairs--I didn't mean to."

"Quatre said it might happen. We were prepared."

Duo rubbed Trowa's back and chuckled. "Yeah, buddy, don't worry about it. It was pretty spectacular, actually. I mean, it's the first time I had a ring side seat, so to speak."

Trowa groaned and hid his burning face against Heero's chest. "I don't know what to say."

"You've said all you need to," Quatre told him. "We love you, too, mio amoro, each of us in our own way, just like you love all of us in your own way, all different."

"But what now?" Trowa whispered, feeling faint again as the significance of what they were saying began to sink in. "What do we do?"

"We don't know yet," Duo told him. "We kinda had to see how this stage of things was going to go, before we could get any further. But don't worry, OK? Everything will work out somehow. Right, Quatre?"

Quatre pressed his hand to Trowa's heart. "It will, baby. Can't you feel it? I don't know how, yet, but this is better. Trust us, OK?"

Trowa brought Quatre's hand to his lips and kissed his fingers. "All right, meli. I surrender. Anything you want. Un bacio di buona notte, per favore?"

Quatre leaned across and kissed him deeply, then held his hand as he snuggled down against Heero. "No endings today, il mio tesoro. Just something new starting. I wanted to tell you on the shuttle, but you wouldn't have believed me or understood. But you do now, don't you?"

Trowa sighed and closed his eyes. "Believe, yes. Understand? Not even close. But I accept, my dear one. If you are happier with this, then I am happy, too."

Duo laughed softly and found Heero's hand to clasp. "Damn, he is a lot like you, isn't he?"

Trowa was already drifting into an exhausted doze when he felt Duo chuckle again. "Whaddya suppose Wufei would say if he could see us now, huh?"

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