Chapter Twenty-Half Life
All his life, Trowa had been inert. That was the best way he could describe it. Not sad, not in pain, not empty. All these things were close to what he'd felt but did not entirely describe the state of uncaring acceptance in which he hovered, barely existing. He did what he was told, he performed as he was expected, he never hoped for better, never feared the worst. It was as restful as the grave but he'd not known enough to realize it.
Like the cat in Schrödinger's box, he'd been in a state of flux, neither dead nor alive, until the event which suddenly defined him.
Quatre had smiled at him. And told him to lower his hands (he was surrendering at the time).
A minute later, Quatre asked him to lower his hands again. This time, Trowa heard him.
But that first smile, that first look... it had been like a stream of energy, hitting him and suddenly he was in an entirely different state, a different level of awareness. He didn't know what had passed between them, that current, but the results were plain. He was no longer Nanashi, no longer the automaton with the borrowed name. He still obeyed orders, performed as he was expected, in fact only one person could say that he was any different than before. But he was. He now had something. A focus, an energy. Someone had smiled at him and thought he was worth it. It was not something he could explain, why that smile had been different from any other grin his mercenary colleagues had given him during his tour of duty with them. Why that first look had transformed him so completely, had given him this energy, this purpose, this being.
But it was there. And it wouldn't leave him, he knew, until the day he died. It didn't matter whether Quatre was his lover or not. It didn't matter that they were even friends, or that Quatre was alive or not, though the universe could cease to exist for all he cared if that eventuality came to pass. Nothing could change the fact that now he was aware, he'd broken the barriers that kept him in his inert state and he was now a little source of light which pulsed to the memory of a smile and a look from bright blue eyes.
Trowa looked at Duo carefully, ensconced behind his magazine. He'd overheard the conversation from the beginning; Trowa, the perfect infiltrator, had no compunction about eavesdropping, didn't even fully understand the notion. He replayed the words, the tones of voice, and categorized the different sentences. It hadn't been very clear.
Quatre had sought Duo out to talk about what had occurred between them before they'd stumbled into Trowa. Quatre had wanted to know if Duo was serious about it. Duo had just been his usual hyper self (the words 'lover-boy' and 'little angel' rang hollow in Trowa's mind, though) but had implied that whatever happened, Quatre had apparently not protested, had maybe even enjoyed it. It had sounded teasing. When Quatre had said he cared about Duo, it hadn't sounded teasing at all.
Seen logically, the overheard conversation could have meant a lot of things, but he was hard pressed to find many explanations that could entirely fit when added to the notes he'd taken earlier.
He also analysed the looks of the two once they realized he was listening. Quatre had looked aggrieved and guilty to see him, and that actually managed to hurt him a little. Quatre should never have to feel guilty or angry at him. 'Someone's going to get hurt', the Arabian has said, well, that worried Trowa. Quatre was a kind and loving person, who should always follow his heart. If he had fallen for someone else - not an unlikely contingency in Trowa's mind, he never understood how he'd earned the privilege of being loved by Quatre in the first place - then Trowa would be horrified to think he could be the cause of pain or hesitation to Quatre.
Duo had looked nervous and guilty as well. That Trowa could live with. He didn't feel anger towards Duo because he'd become the attention of Quatre's affections. But the tone of the conversation indicated that if that was the case (and there were still reasonable doubts) then Duo was not taking this very seriously, and that, Trowa found, worried him too.
The joy he felt at being with his love, the pleasure, the friendships he had developed while basking in that warm glow of Quatre's openness, all that he could forego. He could live without it because he already had for most of his life. The loss was manageable. He would still pulse to the energy of a smile that had been meant for him alone, and that had awakened him. He didn't want the person who had given him that gift to be hurt. If all other acquired emotions died, that one would remain.
He had been staring at Duo for five minutes, fixedly, but the thief had not left the ramparts of his magazine. Duo always knew when someone was watching him, so he must be hiding deliberately. Trowa wondered if he should say something. 'Hurt him and I'll snap you in two' sounded presumptuous - Quatre was his own person and had to live his own life, as did Duo - as well as premature. Nothing had happened yet, he was guessing, and, since the conversation was ambiguous, nothing might be happening at all.
He didn't know what to do, but he would watch Duo carefully. If Duo and Quatre loved each other, well, fine. But if Duo was making Quatre fall for him just to relieve the normal tensions anyone their age would develop in these kinds of conditions... Trowa would have to warn him that this was compromising their team, if nothing else. If worse came to worse, he could tell Heero - no, that would be murder, he could imagine how the perfect soldier would react to that kind of dallying. No, he'd have to talk to Duo himself and see if he could sort him out, if he was, indeed, toying with Quatre instead of being, as the blonde had required, 'serious'. He'd have to have solid proof that Duo was teasing before he intervened though; otherwise, if they *were* both serious, then this was Quatre's business and his alone. He ignored the dull ache that was forming somewhere in his chest with the force of long habit -in fact, he'd never even noticed it before and wouldn't now if he didn't know what it was like to live without it. It settled on him like a crystalline coating, meshing him.
And something else...
Trowa glanced away from Duo who was still ignoring him with all his might and scanned the room. Heero was looking at the pilot of Heavyarms through the door's glass pane, a scowl and a strangely weighing look on his face.
As their eyes met, Heero opened the door. Duo shot out from behind the magazine with a relieved grin.
"Heero buddy! Just the guy!"
"Duo... could I have a word with you?"
Duo froze at the tone and the look in the prussian blue eyes. Trowa managed to feel a twinge of sympathy for someone he still couldn't help but consider a friend. Yuy was obviously chewing over something serious. Sounded like Duo was in trouble...
Quatre was leaning in the door to the comms room, his face serious. "We have a disturbance. Something's knocked over a sensor line."
"Did you get a visual?" Heero's voice was as precise and calculating as his laptop.
"No, whatever it is it's out of camera range for now." Quatre was turned towards the monitor, checking as he spoke. "North quadrant. No confirmation. Could be an animal." They were far out of any beaten path, it was likely to be some woodland creature. But it went without saying it would need to be checked. Quatre turned towards the others and suddenly something else flashed through his eyes.
"Duo, want to come with me to check it out?" Quatre asked, his eyes dropping and blushing slightly - he wasn't very good at hiding his feelings. Trowa felt the sinking feeling again, but ignored it.
"Sure thing, Q." Duo sighed, glancing at Heero, who was frowning at him.
Trowa spoke calmly. "Quatre, you need to stay by the monitors in case there's another disturbance. You set the motion sensors, you know where they're located. You can direct us to this and any other disturbance over the comms."
"Oh, okay." Quatre looked a bit put out, but couldn't protest. Trowa stood and motioned to Duo. He thought he caught a strange look from Heero, but a second later the blank face was all business again as he said: "Duo and I can go and check it out."
"Yeah!" Duo shot out of the couch, apparently forgetting he was in trouble with Heero, Trowa thought. He'd not wanted to keep Duo and Quatre apart, that wasn't his prerogative, but he did want a chance to ask Duo a few questions.
"Someone has to watch the Gundams... " Trowa murmured. He didn't know much about people and the way they reacted, but Yuy was ultimately predicable. Heero was out of the door with a confirming 'Hn' before any of the three registered his absence.
Trowa noticed Duo's shoulders slump. Was Duo so worried about Trowa's reaction that he'd rather go with Heero Yuy, who had a visible bone to pick with him, instead? Trowa frowned internally. The conversation would not be easy if that was the case. But he could try...
Heero walked rapidly towards the Gundam's hiding place, brow furrowed. Most of his mind was occupied with thoughts of defence and strategy. But right at the back, in the easily ignored part of his mind, another tiny thought was looping endlessly. He'd have been very annoyed at it but he'd run out of mental processes to cope with that extra input so it ran on unimpeded.
That had been... strange. He was not normally attuned to other people's emotions (and he didn't give a damn about them either, that probably didn't help) but...
He'd arrived at the door just as Trowa had sat down. He knew the tall stoic pilot was not one to sit around doing nothing for more than a minute so had waited for him to leave so he could talk to Duo. And he'd waited. And waited. And studied the very strange expression on Trowa's usually unreadable face as the man stared at Duo's magazine fortification which was also, on reflection, strange. Neither of them had even noticed he was there which was not only sloppy but proof positive that something weird was going on.
The look that Trowa was giving Duo... For some reason, Duo's usual chirpy phrase was running through his mind. 'It's always the quiet ones!'
Heero scowled, his face taking on the sort of expression that could kill small mammals at a distance. Up ahead several squirrels dived for cover and a rabbit ran for dear life.
Damn it, why were things getting so complicated all of a sudden!
On to chapter Twenty-five
Back to chapter twenty-three