see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
the Furnace, Unshrinking + Part 18
All the time we spent in bed
Counting miles before we set
Fall in love and fall apart
Things will end before they start
- Sufjan Stevens "Holland"
Trowa stood in front of the bathroom mirror, twisting his long torso around
so he could see the emerging bruise on his lower back. It'd be a doozy.
He'd hit his dresser pretty hard, not expecting the violent shove from
Quatre, not expecting Quatre's violence or anger at all. But what had
he expected? A fragile boy who needed his help and comfort? A weeping
and broken child who'd suddenly been dealt another crap hand? Not hardly.
Not even on the night he was taken from his family -- a worthless bunch
who Trowa cursed daily -- did Quatre need that comfort. He may have allowed
it; and Trowa believed he may have even liked it, coming from him, but
he didn't need it. Quatre had a kind and giving heart, one that loved
life, loved people and, Trowa thought, loved him. But that heart had a
core of steel and was guarded by a bandolier of wicked-looking knives.
It needed no one. Quatre could be cold and distant when his heart was
in danger and when he'd finally come home, so many hours after he'd left
for the doctor, his heart was under fierce guard, one that shoved Trowa
into a dresser and gave him one hell of a bruise.
The tall Frenchman grimaced at himself but then shrugged. His clients
loved bruises. Some loved to give them; others just liked to see them.
Bruises gave them power over him. And Trowa allowed it. He never hit back
even though he knew dozens of ways to kill his clients with his bare hands.
He'd tested most of them in years past. But now... he didn't want to hurt
anyone. Selling people their pleasure, letting them have his body for
an hour or two seemed fair enough. Let people take from him for awhile.
He'd certainly taken enough.
It was all fair in his mind, until today. When Quatre had kissed him.
The stakes had changed over the course of one afternoon. Very suddenly,
Trowa wanted his own body back, wanted to reinstate himself as sole owner
and proprietor . He wanted control over his body so that he could give
it to Quatre and only to Quatre. In their brief time together and the
precious few minutes afterward, futures budded and bloomed in Trowa's
mind, futures he never thought he'd see before today, futures he never
thought he deserved. Most of them involved Quatre and himself leaving
the country together, escaping the Family, running to Canada, or Australia,
or Northern China or Argentina. Someplace remote and quiet and free of
danger. Their futures involved lots of music and good food, food they
could afford to buy and cook for themselves. They could sit down and eat
it together because they'd have all the time in the world -- no jobs to
rush off to. And there'd be lots of sex -- easy and slow sex, hard and
fast sex, sex that lasted hours, sex on the floor, in bed, on tables,
against walls, in the shower, outside, hidden and in plain sight. But
above all, sex only with Quatre. Trowa had seen all this and for a brief
time, he allowed himself to hope it would come to pass. But then Quatre
had come home, soaked in sweat, rain and tears, and Trowa quickly put
his plans on hold.
"Where have you been? Duo came home hours ago and you didn't. Where were
you?" Trowa's voice was low and urgent. He knew his anxiety and concern
were leaking out all over the place, knew Quatre could tell he was upset
-- knew it, but didn't care.
"I- was running for awhile. I needed some air." Quatre's voice was ragged
and tired. He looked like hell. And he'd been crying. Trowa reacted on
instinct, stepping forward and folding his best friend and lover into
a strong embrace. The diminutive body in his arms went limp for about
two seconds then rigid as a board.
"No!" the boy shouted, pushing savagely at Trowa's chest.
"Don't touch me!"
"Why not? Quatre, what's wrong?"
The boy backed away from him until he reached the couch. Trowa felt an
intense need to follow him, sit beside him, touch him. It was liked a
rope wrapped around his heart, tugging him forward. But he fought it.
"Because it's not safe."
"What?!" It came out as sort of a barking laugh, totally inappropriate
and further evidence that Trowa was thoroughly out of sorts.
"Don't laugh. Not you. Please, just be quiet for a minute." Trowa's mouth
closed with a snap, and he watched with growing apprehension as Quatre
readied himself to speak some horrible news. "You need to go to the clinic
to get tested. You cleaned me up that night. And there was so much blood.
You need to get checked out. The doctors will be calling here regardless,
to make sure you come. Save yourself the hassle and get in as soon as
Trowa's blood filled with ice, brain leaping to the most logical and the
darkest conclusion. Not Quatre. Fuck -- of all of them, not him.
Quatre looked up, fresh tears streaming down his cheeks. "I can see you
want to, and god do I want you to, but don't touch me, Trowa. It's not
safe. I'm- I'm not... safe anymore. You don't want me."
The ice in his veins melted very suddenly and started to boil. His usual
quiet monotone went up a few decibels. He shouted to drown out the static
in his own head. "The hell I don't! Quatre, who have you been talking
to? Why would you ever think that I could just-" He took a step forward
and then paused, glancing around the apartment. They were all home. And
the walls were thin. "Do the others know?"
"If Duo told them. And I expect he did." Quatre sounded exhausted. "I'm
surprised he didn't tell you."
"He probably didn't think it was his place," Trowa murmured. Duo had a
sense about things like that. And he knew how Trowa felt about Quatre.
"Can we please talk about this in our room?" Without another word, they
left the living room, the Frenchman rounding on his roommate the moment
the bedroom door shut. "Don't... fucking say things like that.
How could you possibly think that it'd be unsafe for me to touch you?
Of all the absurd..." Why was he yelling? This was the last thing Quatre
needed. Christ, what was he doing? "Where did you get shit like that?
Didn't they teach you in school... didn't the doctor-"
"No, Trowa, they didn't!" Quatre shouted back, voice breaking. "I was
fucking home schooled. Sex-ed was not a part of the curriculum. I'm 18
years old and before I started this fucking job, I'd never slept with
anyone let alone nearly raped by a... a... So, no, I don't have
all the facts. I'm not like you. I'm- I was a stupid, naive kid who lost
his virginity to a john who never even told me his name. And now,
I have this thing inside me that may eventually kill me, and I know nothing
about it, because my parents didn't see fit to explain diseases that only
gay men who have rough sex are supposed to get, because they didn't know
I was gay and they sure as shit didn't think I'd end up fucking strangers
for a living."
"So you'll forgive me if I'm a little a skittish about you touching me
because I don't know what's in my body. I'd never heard of it before
today." His biting tone shredded Trowa's anger to pieces and the screaming
inside his head stopped. Confusion and doubt seeped in. How could he not
have heard of... "I don't know what it will do to me, and I don't know
what it could do to you and I couldn't live with myself if you got it
from me. I do know that Richard Craven ruined me. My body isn't mine anymore;
it's his. Even if I find him and kill him, my body has him inside it.
And-" Trowa wanted to bury his head under a pillow or shove his fingers
in his ears or shout loud enough to shut out Quatre's bitter voice. But
he could only stare at his lover as his words bled all over the carpet.
"I know I'm jumping to conclusions about things I don't understand. I
know I'm panicking and making an ass of myself, but I don't know enough
about what's happened to me. I only know that Craven stole my life and
he stole you too. He ruined me for you. And I'm so sorry about that. I'm
so sorry." He stopped, then, leaning heavily against Trowa's dresser.
Trowa swallowed a few time, not at all sure where to begin. The beginning
was probably as good a place as any. "Quatre, what exactly did the doctor
say? Do you have the paperwork with you?" A slightly shaking hand handed
him two sheets of paper. One was an order for blood work. The other...
"Liver? Why do you need to see a liver doctor?"
Quatre stared at him for a long second. He cocked his head to the side
and then said very slowly, like he was speaking to a child, "Because I
have acute hepatitis C, Trowa."
Trowa blinked and looked down at the paper. Then he looked back up. "Wait
a minute. You mean, you... So you're not positive?"
Quatre shook his head in confusion. "Positive?"
"HIV, Quatre. You don't have HIV."
Quatre's eyes widened and he jerked back in surprise. "God, no. Why would
you think I have HIV?"
Trowa laughed, sharp and loud. An edge of hysteria tinged his normally
calm voice. "Because you have sex with a different man every day of the
week, because we're hustlers for fuck's sake and if we get sick and it's
not something obnoxious like the clap, then we get... Jesus Christ, this
is not a safe profession we're in, and, Quatre, you're sure you're not
"Yes, of course I'm... obviously I'm sure. But, Trowa, I'm- not like I
was. I'm not just me, I'm-"
Trowa knew that he should be consoling his best friend, but his heart
had nearly stopped a few minutes before, and he needed just a moment to
revel in that fact that it had started up again.
"I have to stop hustling. I have a blood disease, a virus. I can't work
for Gael anymore."
Trowa's brief euphoria came crashing down. He shook his head quickly.
"No, of course you can't. You have to go back to your family. They'll
take care of you; they have to." Quatre was shaking his head. "Why are
you shaking your head?"
"I can't just show up there. They won't just... welcome me home. They
sold me to a drug lord; they want Dad's money and if I... it wouldn't
be safe for me or for any of you. Gael would take it out on you for letting
me leave and making it look like he failed my family."
"Then go to the police or the press. You'd be protected. But, you need
treatment. What you have is treatable if it's caught early."
Quatre looked at the ground. "I... don't think I can leave you. If I went
to the police and dragged my family through the mud for what they did,
you would be..."
"I would wait for you."
Quatre looked at him, tired and unsure and still achingly confused and
angry. Trowa realized the gravity of what he'd just said and looked away
quickly, face flushing hot. They'd been together all of an afternoon and
here he was, proclaiming his devotion, hours after Quatre was diagnosed
with a potentially life threatening disease. He suddenly felt very stupid.
He looked up again to see Quatre still watching him with conflicted blue
Trowa decided to screw his embarrassment. If ever there was a time for
him to proclaim his intentions, to reassure his best friend of his loyalty,
it was now.
"We can talk about this more in the morning, Quatre, but I wanted to tell
you now. You won't be alone in this and I won't be afraid of it. The others
won't be either. And I'm not going to give up on us, either. I won't catch
anything from you by sharing your food, drink or bed. I won't catch it
by kissing you, or touching you. I'm not going anywhere." Trowa took a
deep breath. "So, I wanted you to know all that now. Up front."
His best friend's was shaking his head, eyes narrowing, arms wrapped around
himself, withdrawing. Trowa couldn't stand there watching that for a second
longer, so he reached for him, again pulling him into a strong embrace.
The reaction was instantaneous this time. All traces of fatigue fled as
Quatre viciously lashed out, his small body stronger than men twice his
size. Trowa found himself spun around and shoved into his own dresser.
"Stop it! You can't just... you can't just do that now!" Quatre
shouted. Then he turned and fled the room. Trowa heard the bathroom door
slam a moment later and sighed in relief. At lease he hadn't run off again.
Gingerly getting to his feet, the Frenchman winced, knowing he'd have
a nasty bruise in the morning.
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