Chapter Twenty-Nine: Tangled Skeins Can Be Safety Nets
" ...I think you have more to say than that." Quatre shook wet bangs out of his eyes.
Trowa looked out at the clump of trees playing peek-a-boo in the veils of rain. "We need to do a perimeter check, the monitors-"
"-are wired to my communicator." Quatre waved it in the air. "They'll warn us if anyone approaches the safe house within half a mile. We can still walk the perimeter if you want, or go to the hangar, or sit down right here in the mud, it's up to you, but you are going to tell me what you thought was going on between me and Duo."
"I ran into you both in the woods. Do you remember?"
Quatre shuddered. "Vividly. My head was spinning so badly I thought- I mean, Duo and *Heero*?! And then when Duo showed up I thought I was going to die! I couldn't believe you didn't ask... me... " Quatre blinked at Trowa several times as the rest of the pieces began to fall into place.
"You-you thought-... you thought it was me that Duo was with?"
"Along those lines." Trowa shrugged, then realized that was probably not what was expected. "I apologize, I drew the wrong conclusions from-" But Quatre was waving both his hands in a sharp cutting off gesture, blue eyes fixed on his own.
"No, don't apologize. I think I can see where the mix-up could come from, so instead tell me *why* you thought I would do this to you."
"Not 'do this to me'; I know you wouldn't hurt anyone deliberately." Trowa said gently.
Quatre paled as if he'd been slapped. "Any-... anyone?"
Trowa hesitated, unsure of what he'd said wrong. Since Quatre said nothing, he continued.
"I have no claim on you, Quatre. Obviously I was wrong about Duo, but, even had I not been... I was upset because he seemed to be trifling with you. And because he had apparently gone completely insane and was also chasing Heero, and I didn't want to see him get killed. Um." He thought he heard another yell through the drenched panes and shook his head. "But apart from that... I don't own you, and I care about your happiness. Duo is charming, gregarious, giving, much like you. If he won your affection I wouldn't be surprised, and I certainly wouldn't be difficult about it." The very concept seemed alien to him. What could he possibly say or do that could change the way Quatre felt and loved?
Quatre was staring straight ahead of him now. Trowa realized he was shivering. He took the blond gently by the shoulder. "Come on, you're cold. Let's go in. Sounds like Duo's stopped vocalising. Or maybe Heero gagged him." He gave Quatre a reassuring half-smile, and tugged the shoulder.
Quatre didn't move an inch.
Trowa realized that it wasn't only rain running down the ashen face under the wet gold strands.
"Quatre... I'm sorry, I hurt your feelings... did I insult you? I didn't mean... Are you angry?" Trowa felt around for any other reasons for the tears, the pallor.
The words were said in a small voice nearly lost in the drumming splash of rain, and they sunk to the bottom of Trowa's confusion.
"Because you're not just 'anyone'. You're the person I care about the most in the entire world and in space. And just by- by a simple set of coincidences, just by innocently doing one thing instead of another, I can hurt you so badly... I wanted to be the one who made sure you were never hurt again. That's... it's not supposed to work this way." He sounded lost. "But I don't know... I don't know how to avoid-... "
"Quatre, no need to get upset. I know it was a misunderstanding."
"And what about next time? Next misunderstanding?" The blue eyes were suddenly fierce as they caught his again, oblivious of tears. "Are you going to ask me first, next time, before you let yourself bleed to death in silence? Or are you going to assume that that's too *clingy* and that I'll be happier with someone else!"
Trowa was silent. He could lie - easily - and he could fool Quatre's empathy, he was the only one who could, but then next time, would things be any different...? Why should they? The fundamental facts as he had laid them out were still valid.
"Look!" Quatre grabbed the rain-drenched sweater to pull Trowa to him and gave the taller youth a shake. "Look, I-... " Then he smiled. The rain ceased to matter.
"Let's put it in technical terms. There's no one - not even as charming as Duo, and he must have the charm of the devil to get Heero interested - who can steal my heart, Trowa. Because I don't have it anymore. I gave it to you the moment I first saw you."
" ...so that's what it was... " Not a pulse of energy; a heartbeat, running between them.
" ...nothing... but... why?"
"I don't know! Some things you can't explain. Maybe because you needed it more than anyone I'd ever met? Maybe because I felt - at peace, at that moment, like I was sharing something too heavy, too... hard for me to carry alone. I don't know, but there you go. If Duo was trying to win my heart he was flirting with the wrong guy!" He tugged harder and Trowa stumbled into a very wet and cold embrace.
" ...Quatre... I have to tell you... that is probably the most nonsensical thing anyone has ever said to me." His arms closed hesitantly, warming them both.
"That sounds like a challenge!"
"Here's something serious then. Like it or not, I have the power to hurt you. But you also have the power to hurt me." The strong arms stiffened in alarm around him. "We share the same heart now. Hold it close, please. Don't give up on it because you think you might not be worth it."
"I don't know if I am... "
"And I know you are, that's why it was yours without a question right from the start. Don't give up on your happiness, you'd take mine away too."
Trowa felt himself tremble. Was this what being alive felt like? A taste of pure joy at the price of tremendous responsibility?
"I promise. I'll hold it close." He'd defend Quatre's happiness much more fiercely than he would ever have done his own.
"Good... you can hold me close too."
"That's also a promise... as soon as we get out of the rain."
" ...The second bedroom's free."
"And if you want to take care of me, you might want to make sure I get out of these wet clothes before I catch a- whoa! Hey- hey, I *can* walk, you know, you don't have to- "
"-just be careful not to hurt your back. You're going to need it... "
A humid breeze drifted through the hangar, shifting the wet strands of Wufei's hair, which he'd released from its strict ponytail to allow it to dry.
Something in him was also released.
The words kept repeating in his head. Honourable. Dedicated. Warrior. (And heterosexual as well, which was all the nicer to hear now he realized he was in a minority of one on that particular point.)
If he were one given to introspection, he would realize just how badly he'd needed to measure up in Heero's eyes because he'd failed so badly in his own. Treize had beaten him. He'd failed to exact justice for Meiran and his colony. All his skill, his prowess, his dedication, they all seemed futile when brought up against those truths, and against the steel of what he saw as uncompromising perfection.
Somehow, knowing that Heero had fallen for Duo (of *all people*, by the way... ), that brought the image of the perfect soldier down to a more human level, something he felt he could at least aspire to compare to... and it seemed to ease the burden of his own failure... to realize he, too, was only human in the end and entitled to his weaknesses. The real test of his metal would be to go beyond that now and achieve the goals and ideal of perfection he set for himself, without some impossible illusion to measure up to...
He guessed he didn't mind about those two, in that light. Although it still blew his mind, of course (*Yuy* and *Maxwell*!!). But really... He'd lost his temper so badly because, when he saw Duo insult the perfect warrior, it was like seeing life humiliate him, Wufei, all over again; the point of Treize's sabre against his helpless throat before the man smiled and let him go. Now...
He might even get around to apologizing to Duo, though he doubted it. He owed the L2 pilot that much for all the teasing he'd been subjected to in the past. Maybe Heero would have some influence on Duo that way... Then again, maybe not, even the perfect soldier apparently had his limitations.
Maybe it was for the best. After twenty-four hours, the lack of usual Duo-shaped irritant would probably make him lose his edge.
Wufei settled back against Nataku and closed his eyes, a timid feeling of peace settling into his heart, surprised at its new surroundings.
"Baka. I think my eardrums are bleeding."
Duo twitched as the words, muttered against his naked chest, tickled him out of the state of sated relaxation he'd been floating in.
"Well, I had to get some payback." Duo suddenly laughed as he absently toyed with chocolate brown hair. "Did you see their faces?"
"That was priceless. You don't realize what kind of mileage I'm going to get out of this. Erm, discreetly and with taste of course." He added quickly as he felt Heero lift his head to glare at him.
"Hn." Heero tightened his grip on the nuisance and let his head sink down again. He frowned. "I have been learning more about human interaction with you, but I must admit... I don't understand what happened back there."
"We rubbed their faces in it! We *owned* them! We-"
"They were so angry with you. Except for Winner who looked like he'd just been shot. Then it all went away. What happened?"
"You fired your gun, babe."
" ...If that was all it took I think I would be much better at human relations than I am... "
"You're probably right there. It's hard to understand for me too, it's not something I'm familiar with. But I think it's not that strange. Chance kinda threw us together, we fight and bleed side by side, we're very close, we share a lot but we're also very different. So sometimes we get things wrong and blow up in each other's faces. But when the chips go down, we're back to back in a second."
"Sounds stupid to me."
"Sounds like family to me."
"That about sums it up... "
On to chapter Thirty
Back to chapter twenty-eight