By morning, Trowa's convulsions had calmed down. He vaguely stirred for a half hour then sunk into a deeper sleep. Duo, Wufei and Heero had taken turns at his bedside and in the room where Sally had installed her lab, hoping for some good news. But she couldn't do anything; as she had told them, it was a total reconstruction of the genetic code of his every cell; it was already miraculous and more than incomprehensible for the scientist she was, that he had not died on the spot, him or the three other Weres. If she gave him anything, it could finish him off.
Each time one of them entered the bedroom, he passed Quatre, sitting on the floor in the corridor, curled up, and brooding in his corner, not daring to ignore the banishment. Each time the boys got out, hours later, and the end of their shift, the blond pilot was still there. And they all knew that when it would be time for their next shift, he'd still be there, his eyes full of tears that refused to flow.
* * * * * *
Heero rested his chin on his arm and tried to get some rest. Night would fall soon and then, the fits would come back, more violent and frequent than the day before, as it had been for now nine days. Since two days ago, they could count in minutes, not in hours, the moments between each convulsion. Heero wondered if his comrade would be dead even before the Full moon if the suffering kept on worsening at the same rhythm, in only six days... still six days. Or even if, totally exhausted by his successive attacks, he would be able to undergo the transformation without failing from pure tiredness.
In a second, the werewolf was crouching at the ex-mercenary's side. Trowa looked like he was hovering on the edge of consciousness, and that was a rarity these days.
"Trowa…? How do you feel?"
"Hmm... Heero...?" the green-eyed young man whispered hoarsely.
"Yes," the Japanese pilot answered with a small relieved smile, touching his friend's arm to make him feel his presence. It was encouraging, he thought, Trowa had not been conscious even once for at least three and a half days now. Heero had begun to fear that it had been the last time.
"No, Cathy isn't here," Heero answered in a low voice, wondering if he had talked too fast.
"No, I mean..." Trowa gulped and closed his eyes again, teeth clenched. The pains were coming back with a vengeance.
"Want Cathy," he moaned. He bit his lips, and tried to curl up. A spasm of pain in his limbs took him by surprise and he gasped, struggling to keep the scream in when the liquid fire spread like a tsunami along his backbone.
"Ca... Thy... Feel... safe with her..."
Taking his decision, Heero got up and leaned over the ill boy.
"Trowa, I'm going to fetch Cathy for you, ok?"
Barton answered by a moan, which could have been an agreement, or maybe just an aborted shout of pain.
"I'm going to get Cathy," Yuy repeated, grabbing on his comrade's request to fight back his feeling of total uselessness.
He was already wondering how he was going to contact Duo or Wufei to watch over the teen when he closed the door behind him; and just when he was turning around to leave, he came face to face with a set of pissed off aquamarine eyes.
"You leaving him alone is out of the question," Quatre forbid, glaring to hide his pain.
Heero shrugged, feeling lost and disoriented. Not one of the available decisions was without risk...
"I have to go get Catherine Bloom. He wants her here."
"Oh..." Quatre breathed, strangely hurt even worse that the green-eyed boy would request her presence when he didn't want to even see him. "Stay here, I'll ask Wufei or Duo to replace you. I'll be right back."
Heero was going to accept the arrangement when he changed his mind. If he felt powerless and useless, him who could at least watch over his sleeping friend, give him water and make sure he didn't hurt himself during a convulsion, how must Quatre feel, pushed back out of their circle, not having even the possibility to approach? Quatre was burning with impatience, unable to do the first thing for the guy he loved. And it wasn't good for his mental health to stay sitting there brooding and feeling guilty all day and a big part of night.
"We need to act fast and I don't know where they are. And they need a pause anyway. Go fetch her yourself."
"Go! We don't know how long he'll be healthy enough to see her."
'We don't know how long he'll stay alive' floated between them, unexpressed but still heard by both.
"Take Wing," Heero shouted after Quatre who had dashed off toward the boat's storage rooms, where the Gundams were stocked.
Then the werewolf returned to his unconscious comrade and continued to look over him.
* * *
Quatre ran in the corridors as fast as was possible for him, which, being a werecheetah, was way faster than anyone would have given him credit for, even himself. He didn't even slow down to think about where he was going, letting himself be guided in the labyrinth by a mix of memories, of floating smells, and of pure instinct. Many times he ran past a stupefied Sweeper, but he didn't notice any of them more than he noticed the red fire extinguishers on the walls. Either ones made practical anchorage points for turning sharp.
The blond pilot flung himself at Heero's Gundam and climbed it in his momentum, then slid inside. He strapped himself in with a nervous hand, using the other to bring the motors on. And then, when he was going to make the suit move, he froze. He remembered well where the circus had been the last time he was there, but it was nearly six months ago already.
"Open the doors!" he demanded through the intercom, launching a search on the Net to find traces of the whereabouts of the circus.
It was situated at, approximately, a thousand miles away. With Wing in Bird Mode going as fast as it could, he'd be back in a maximum of three hours.
And too bad for the Ozzies who would try to stand in his way.
* * * * * *
Catherine Bloom was hosing the bottom of the cage of their most ancient lion, Sultan, when she felt the earth vibrate under her feet.
It was hard not to compare it to the shiver caused by a landing MS, she thought. But she hadn't seen any MS up close since the end of their problems with OZ for having sheltered a known terrorist. They had been accused of complicity and had needed months swearing their good faith, getting interrogated right and left and getting invaded in the middle of the night in surprise investigations. Finally they had managed to make the officials admit that not one of them had known that the boy was a rebel. Which was true... except for two of them.
But Catherine and the ringmaster were persuaded that they were still under surveillance. And since then Trowa forbade himself to come back, by fear of endangering them, when she had seen him open up slowly in their extended family.
She missed him, that boy who made her think of her brother so much...
The water hose nearly fell from her fingers and she started. How had she come to think about Trowa? And all that because of a vague shiver that had reminded her of an MS... Now that she thought about it, that was not the sound a Mobile Suit would have made. The vibration was of too great amplitude and there hadn't been a big racket of motors.
She finished washing the cage and opened the communication door to let the old beast come back in his place, then, impulsively, to fight off the heat, splashed some water from the hose on her face and torso.
Catherine whirled around and lifted a hand to a throwing knife she luckily wasn't wearing. A blond adolescent boy was looking at her, barely a few steps away, and she hadn't heard one sound. Had she been that distracted?
Quatre held his hands up to show that he wasn't threatening her. He gave himself a mental slap for not having thought about making a minimal amount of noise so not to startle her, but he had been distracted and that way of walking was now second nature to him.
"Do you recognize me?"
Catherine snorted and lifted her chin, not answering. Of course she remembered him!! How could she forget? He was the guy who had snatched her adoptive brother away, who had taken him far away when he had just begun to adapt... She wondered a second if he hadn't in fact saved Trowa's life taking him away that day; the soldiers had raided the circus the morning after, he could have been taken prisoner. Then she shook her head. Trowa would have gotten away without him. And who said that it wasn't his visit there that had attracted OZ's attention on them? She didn't have any debts to this thin blondie.
"What do you want?" she asked curtly.
She didn't want to be impolite, but if someone saw him there, the circus people's innocence would definitely be questioned. ... Well... now that she thought about it, she had been asked about the boy Trowa had taken back to the circus one day, badly injured, the one he had accompanied for a while after he was fit enough to leave, Heero, and on the one he had briefly invited one day, a depressed-looking Chinese dude who had not even had the courtesy of telling her his name; and also on a laughing teenager with a meter-long braid she had never seen in her life; but never on the lithe blond one who had irrupted their life. Maybe they didn't have any information on him... But Trowa had known him as a Gundam pilot; so at least he wasn't a traitor she had to be wary of.
"So?" she asked again when she saw that he wasn't answering.
Quatre took a deep breath and clenched his fists to give himself some courage. He knew that Catherine didn't like him at all, and he didn't blame her. After all, he had stolen Trowa from her.
He had resented himself for a long while after that, because he had seen that, for the first time in his life probably, the taller teen was nearly happy, accepted. But he had his instructions; Trowa couldn't directly contact his mentor, so Quatre had been the one to relay the order to him. But Catherine didn't give a damn about that, and he couldn't say that he blamed her.
But he wished that her animosity would be less bubbling; his empathy was sending it back on him with full force. And he was too tired and moved to be able to erect the smallest barrier.
"I... Trowa is asking for you," the blond boy whispered, looking away and wringing his hands. "He... He's ill... very ill."
Catherine jumped as if she had been hit.
"What?!? How ill?"
We don't know if he'll pull through," the boy admitted in a very low voice. "He's suffering so much..."
Catherine could have let her rage explode in the boy's face if he hadn't been so clearly fighting back tears. She threw the hose on the ground and caught Quatre's arm to drag him toward the direction he had come from.
"Aren't you warning anyone?"
"Later," she shouted. "If Trowa is in danger, he has priority! To hell with the circus!"
Quatre nodded and guided her toward the dip in the mountainside where the Gundam had been hidden in a hurry, trying not to let his eyes wander on the girl's drenched top. True, he didn't feel that sort of attraction anyway, but still, you didn't look at a girl's chest when it was molded in clothes so wet they turned see-through. Even if Catherine seemed to worry about that as much as she worried about her first ballerina shoes, or maybe she hadn't noticed.
They wedged themselves in the tight cockpit as well as they could, which was Quatre sitting on the seat and the knife throwing girl sitting with half a butt-cheek on an armrest, leaning against his shoulder not to hit her head on the ceiling. She gripped his arm as they were taking off, her face carefully inexpressive, and he didn't remark that her knuckled were turning white with clenching them so hard. Quatre wasn't in a mood to complain about some pain.
Once they reached their cruise speed, Cathy began the second Inquisition.
"How long has he been ill?" she asked, wondering how long they had hidden Trowa's state from her.
"Nine days ... but it's twice worse each day. And the crises come closer and closer."
She gulped. She had a bad feeling about this. For them to permit a security breach...
"I know that you have to stay hidden, but you do have a doctor on you side, don't you?!! Couldn't he do anything?!"
"Sadly, no ... It isn't an indexed illness... She told us many times that she couldn't give Trowa anything without risking finishing him off. She's testing things right and left, but... No one is able to do anything, apart from holding his hand when he's trying not to scream..."
Quatre sniffled and turned the auto-pilot on to search for tissues in his pockets. Cathy clenched her fists.
"What the hell do you mean, not indexed?!"
She fell silent. The only idea that would come to her was that he had been victim of an OZ experimental virus. She felt ready to scream. If her adoptive brother had been handicapped in any way from this illness, if he died of it, she swore she would leave the circus and go to the Resistance and begin a vendetta whose size would leave them reeling for years.
"It's my fault," Quatre exclaimed, bursting out in long repressed tears, Cathy's powerless furor being the last straw for his already weak control over his emotions. "My fault... Pardon me, Trowa, pardon me... I didn't want to... I didn't know..."
The knife thrower found herself caught between two impulses. On one hand, her natural compassion pushed her to help this young distraught boy... On the other hand, his accusations of "my fault" deserved an enquiry before deciding if he had a right to mercy.
"What do you mean your fault, explain?" she asked, lifting the pilot's chin up.
His eyes were full of tears. Without thinking, she reached out to wipe them off.
Before she could blink, her wrist was caught in a vice-like grip. Quatre was staring at her, looking spooked by her compassionate gesture.
"Never do that! It transmits through contacts with body fluids..." he explained, wiping his tears off himself. "I don't know if tears could contaminate you, but I can't take such a risk."
"You have it too...?" she asked slowly.
"I was the one who contaminated him," he admitted, looking down. "I wasn't thinking, and..."
"And...?" she repeated slowly, menacing.
"We were chatting, I had been drinking, he was so nice... and then ... it just happened," Quatre whispered, nibbling at his lips.
"I kissed him," confessed Quatre, hiding his face in his hands.
He fell silent, waiting for the Big Sister's ire.
Cathy felt her brain running on empty for a short while. It wasn't that she felt anything against homosexuals, not at all, she was open on the question; it wasn't either the fact that she was surprised someone could find her brother attractive. Even if she was totally impervious to his discrete charm, she knew all too well that he was damned attractive with his mysterious airs and his unconscious grace.
No, she just hadn't been expecting it. However, retrospectively, Quatre looks and reacting when he had come for Trowa were unveiling their whole meaning. She wondered if it was the worry for her brother that had made her that blind. For one who knew what to look for, the attraction the blond pilot was feeling was as visible as the nose in the middle of someone's face. She decided to stop letting Quatre agonize, the boy looked like he was ready to take anything she could dish out to punish him without a whisper of protest.
She made him look up and stared in his eyes.
"Was he ok with that kiss?" she asked, surprising him.
"... I don't know," Quatre admitted. "I thought he was, when it happened, but later... I was tired, so I fell asleep, and he kind of avoided me for a while. At first I was ok with that. I had been drinking and so the memory of the evening was hazy for me. I just knew that I had revealed my feelings to him, and I was more occupied with agonizing over that than over what exactly I had done. I had startled him badly, and I figured we'd just talk about it later... and then he began to hurt. When it had happened, it had felt so natural to kiss him, but later... he went through his first fit and rejected me... He told me it was my fault, and he never wanted to see me again ...!"
He burst out in tears for the second time, and vanquished by his suffering, Catherine enfolded him in her arms.
"It's gonna be ok... he didn't really think that, I'm sure he didn't think that... Pain often makes you say things you don't mean and regret later, I know that... He was hurting, he wanted to lash at something, he wasn't thinking like he usually is... You know he's nice, and he likes you, never would he be that cruel deliberately... I am sure that as soon as he feels better, you'll be friends again..."
"You think...? That he likes me..? I thought… I believed... But maybe I didn't see what I should have seen... maybe I read him wrong... He was beginning to open up... I'm so afraid I broke it all!"
"Shhh... I know he likes you a lot. I know him too. And he trusts you; not even only with his life, that he doesn't value like he should, but with his feelings. How many people can boast about that? He talks with you, by himself, without having to be pushed. He does things for you, without asking questions, just because you're the one asking. He even plays music with you. You have to know what it represents for him. It's a side of him... I only know that he can play because I heard him one evening and I wasn't supposed to..."
Quatre clung to the young woman and closed his eyes, letting her comforting words wash over him. He felt as if she had her pinch of pain when she alluded to the music... her brother hadn't thought to tell her about it.
"Hey, I'm thinking, you were ill too! Were you as bad off as he is? Or were you a healthy carrier or something?"
"No, I was ill," Quatre answered, freeing himself slowly. "But it wasn't as bad as he's got it, by far... And my heart still stopped for nearly thirty seconds for the last.... fit."
"The last fit? Crap, will I have to pull each word out of you?"
"It's... a decisive point. If he pulls through, everything will be ok, better than just ok. He'll heal wholly... kind of. If he doesn't..."
"He'll always be a carrier, like I am. And there are some... consequences, which are irreversible. But they're not really a problem, no need to worry too much."
"An illness whose symptoms aren't a problem?" she repeated sarcastically. "I'd like to know what sort of illness that can be."
"Sally… that's our doctor... she calls it the lycanthropic virus."
* * * * * *
His limbs were so heavy, and /Nanashi/ tried in vain to lift them. But something was weighting down on it; and he felt so drained, so detached from everything, as if he had been drugged. He wondered for a moment whether opening his eyes was worth it, then realized that he couldn't do it anyway; he would only see blurry shapes. He knew it.
How did he know it...? He searched in his memories, but couldn't find anything that fit with that situation...
Then he remembered the coffee with the strange after-taste Roberts had given him, and a cold demoralization invaded him. Why hadn't he been wary of that man, whom no one in Nanashi's mercenary group had really accepted as member when he had been there for months, him who was always staring strangely at the boy without a name and made disparaging comments when they were out of earshot.
He should have been weary of the man, he knew that. He had never trusted that guy. Why had he judged it necessary not to piss off the man by refusing that coffee and drinking it despite its strange taste? Oh, yes, it was that he wanted to be sure not to fall asleep, because it was the first time he had been authorized to stand guard; and he didn't want to provoke someone who could give him trouble. After all someone as low in /the pack/ the social ladder as he was couldn't afford being difficult.
He tried to move, to open his eyes, but as he had thought, as soon as he began to get free, he was prevented from moving right away; and he could only see dark and indistinct shapes moving in front of his eyes. And he knew /remembered/ what was going to happen, had happened, was happening, was…
* * *
Heero leaned worriedly over the teenager and pulled his covers up. Trowa was sweating hard and shivering as if he was lost in a blizzard. And his nightmares were coming back.
Frowning, Heero sat on the edge of the bed and put a hand on his comrade's forehead. He was burning up, and dripping with sweat. The Japanese teen let his hand slide on the teen's cheek to comfort him; borrowing the gesture he had seen Sally do. But Trowa didn't settle down, and turned his head away. Heero let his hand fall, discouraged, not knowing what to do.
* * *
He could feel a hand on his cheek, falsely soft, falsely caressing, and, repulsed, he tried turning his face away to avoid the contact. He knew that he was going to get hit, but receiving blows from that sweaty hand seemed less a lie than undesired and hypocritical caresses.
But the blow wasn't coming, and he felt more and more afraid, not knowing when, when... when the punition would fall ... and the wait was a nearly worse torture than the pain would be.
Someone was leaning over him, he could feel it confusedly, and the bed was dipping under the weight of the man, who was going to hurt him, who would...
'but there hadn't been any bed, it was on the ground... on the cold and muddy soil that oozed through my vest, with pebbles getting grounded in my back until I bled when his weight on me... his weight on me.. and ... '
"NOOOO!!!" he screamed, making a desperate effort to pull himself out of the torpor preventing him from moving.
* * * * * *
"THE WEREWOLF VIRUS ?! ARE YOU SHITTING ME?!??"
"Not obligatorily wolf ... Just Were," Quatre answered in a toneless voice, letting the marks of the cheetah appear on his skin.
The young woman, startled, jumped back and plastered herself against the side screen. He continued talking.
"The virus only gives the possibility to transform. The animal they will become depends upon the person. Generally, everyone has an inner animal ... but it can be anything, a cow, a squirrel, an eagle, a cat, a fish... Only tall and resisting enough the inner animals can survive the first transformation. Trowa is a fighter, I know his inner Were will be resilient enough, I was able to survive... well, he would have been if he had been in top form at the full moon. But he has been contaminated too late in the month, and the virus has to work harder to infect him wholly, to the last cell, before the first night of the full moon. And it exhausts him."
Catherine reached out toward the Arab's still slightly childish face, drew with a shaking finger the dark tear tracks that made him look infinitely sad. She stared at the small round spots on his temples and over his eyebrows. The short, soft golden hairs before his ears seemed to spread softly, covering his jaws in fine velvet.
Quatre didn't even get surprised by the proximity of the cheetah in his mind. The moon was so close and he had been, was still so stressed, scared... He greeted the afflux from his sense like a kind diversion, but refused the comfort of immersing himself in it more than a few seconds. The cheetah stepped back slowly, step by step, to go hide himself behind the barrier of his conscious mind, his presence like a purr that is felt more than heard.
"For example Heero became a wolf," he continued in a voice that he was forcing to sound impersonal. "I am a were-cheetah. Wufei's a tiger. Between the five of us, only Duo is still truly human. We still don't know what Trowa will be... if he survives."
The marks faded and disappeared in barely a few seconds as he forced his feelings down.
"And what if he's not wholly... contaminated ... by that night?"
His stomach twisting with the nausea invading him when he thought about Trowa's muscles and flesh trying to shift on a skeleton that stayed invariably human, even where the powerfully tensing muscles were breaking it in multiple places, Quatre didn't answer ... with words. But suddenly the young woman cried out with surprise and hid her mouth behind her hands, her skin snowy-white.
"Oh my god… Halfway? He'll only change halfway?"
"I don't know," Quatre lashed back, trying to stop thinking about it, since his mental shields were visibly in too much of a pitiful state to keep his thoughts in his own head.
Cutting the conversation short, Quatre caught Catherine's arm and dragged her down the armrest, sat her on his knees and pushed a last lever. The young woman's shout of protestation got drowned under the roar of the motors.
* * * * * *
Heero only had the time to block the flurry of blows Trowa was giving. He jumped off the bed and stepped back, caught by surprise by Trowa's violence.
"No, no, no!!!" was screaming the boy, desperate.
His eyes weren't entirely open, and looked glassy. He didn't seem to really be seeing the room and his friend, but something else, something worse.
"Trowa, wake up! It's just a bad dream, now calm down!"
But Heero's words didn't reach his comrade, who kept on whining and growling on the bed, half like a beast, half like a madman, or like a child who went past the limits of terror.
"Trowa, damn it!!"
Heero cursed and jumped back to let some space to the scared teen. His shout had only served to make Trowa tense up even more. Trowa was moaning with fright now, one arm over his head, as if to prevent blows from falling.
"Trowa… Trowa, it's me..." he tried to whisper soothingly.
But being soothing wasn't his strong suit, and Trowa didn't seem to want to listen.
At the other end of the room, the Japanese pilot was biting his lips. What to do?! If he came closer, Trowa would panic again, he knew that. But how to make him come back to consciousness? And he couldn't even leave to get Duo or Sally. He couldn't leave him alone.
"It's alright, Trowa..."
But the mere sound of his deep voice seemed to provoke shaking fits in the boy. The Wolf was howling with distress inside, drowning him under the need to go curl in a ball against his comrade, to give him protection and comfort by his contact. He stepped forward... jumped back when he heard the piercing scream of a tortured child coming from his comrade's throat.
"Trowa, onegai shimassu..." he pleaded, tortured by his own powerlessness.
He slid down the wall, his knees under his chin, lowered his head to stop seeing his friend's panicked face.
* * *
"What's going on?"
Heero jumped up and ran to her, pointing at Trowa. He looked lost, and if you knew him, even scared. Cathy bit down on her surprised gasp and felt her terror rise. For Heero to show such a feeling...
"I don't know what's the matter, he's delirious, I scare him... He's screaming, and crying, and... even my voice freaks him out!!"
His voice was rising without him meaning to, and Trowa moaned pitifully, curling his arms over his head. His legs were tangled in the sheets, and he didn't try to kick them off for long, as if he knew by experience that what was hindering him would refuse to let him go.
"No... lemme alone..."
Catherine clenched her teeth and wiped her tears away with anger. Someone had hurt Trowa, and in his fever and pain induced delirium, he was reliving it. And that someone sounded like it was male. No need to be a medium to get the picture.
"Heero, get out please, I'll take care of him."
Used to her taking charge from his time in the circus, Heero obeyed without a word.
"Cathy... don't let him bite or scratch you," he advised just before he stepped out.
"Don't worry, Quatre warned me," she told him, looking at her adoptive brother.
The Asian teen nodded and closed the door behind him. The young woman stayed alone with the shaking and terrified teenager.
"Trowa? Little brother…"
* * *
Nanashi couldn't bear anymore waiting for what he knew was coming. He was reduced to a heap of shaking apprehension, and every second that passed without the man attacking him added to his terror.
And then a soft voice pierced the haze of his fear... a woman's voice, or a girl maybe.
A voice that didn't have anything to do amongst the memories of that time.
"Midii…?" he murmured, vaguely remembering the blonde, young girl the mercenaries had taken in... / and who had betrayed them /
But the voice didn't inspire confusion, like Midii had inspired in him at first, when they had just met and he didn't get what she found so interesting in him that she needed to be always talking with him; it didn't inspire sadness and anger either, like he had felt after her betrayal. No... he wanted to trust the woman talking. Her voice was deeper than the other young girl's, more mature, more reassuring...
But apart from Midii, which girl had Nanashi known well enough that her voice would make him want to trust her?
Trowa? The Barton son? Trowa was here? wondered Nanashi, starting. Ouch… Not good for him...
He remembered very well the big burly blond, Dekim Barton's son, Dekim being the one in charge of the Foundation paying for the Gundam project. Simply put, Trowa was a bastard. He was pretentious, a show off, and much too prone to blabbering for a mission of that importance. And he liked bullying the technicians in charge of verifying the mechanic parts a bit too much. In private Nanashi strongly thought that he had only been chosen for his link with the man who helped Doktor S, the scientist charged of building the Gundam, to pay the bill. And the fact that he didn't stop bullying Nanashi, mocking him and harassing him with sexual innuendoes only because the boy was younger than him and didn't talk much didn't speak lots for his intelligence. There was only that dumb blond to risk pissing off one of the people supposed to make sure that his Gundam wouldn't blow up in his face as soon as he would be inside. If the ex-mercenary hadn't had an enormous weakness for HeavyArms's destructive beauty and a profound admiration for its technological level, he would have been furiously tempted to put the idea of forgetting to tighten a certain bolt in practice.
Luckily, he had always managed to avoid getting in a situation that would make him have to kill the cretin.
... But he had died anyway, had he not...? Yes, he had, Nanashi remembered his death, the boy had been elbow-deep in one of HeavyArms's leg motors when he had heard shouting in the hangar. Trowa had discovered that Doktor S had changed his mind on Operation Meteor... or more like he had never had the intention of sending the Gundams to ravage the Earth like Dekim Barton had wanted. Trowa Barton had accused them, S and his assistant, of betraying his father... Had tried to warn Dekim... and S's assistant had shot him in the head. When they had realized that Nanashi had witnessed the whole scene, they had wanted to kill him too, but, realizing that the marvelous machine was now free, he had jumped on the occasion to pilot it. He didn't really care if he lived or died... but piloting the red and white Gundam, that was something that made him want to keep on living a little while longer. And if, by piloting it, he could fight OZ...
… He didn't understand anymore. So, it was finished? He wasn't... He was not with the mercenaries anymore? No, he was not, he remembered a taller body in the mirror, a leaner face. He remembered Roberts' death. Kurt had caught him, shot him in the torso just as he was forcing Nanashi's legs open, and then dragged him in the middle of the mercenaries, and executed him once they had all turned their back on the bastard who would dare to lift a hand on their protégé, the boy who was more one of them than that man had ever been.
That voice, who...?
"It's me, Trowa; it's me, Cathy… You remember me, don't you?"
"Sis' …?" he asked, forcing himself to open his eyes.
Everything was blurred, everything was turning, twisting around him, he was seeing through a sort of white film. Too much light, his eyes felt torn. He was crying. But in the middle of the white haze, a face was appearing, gray-violet eyes, friendly, worried, and a cascade of auburn curls.
He reached out for her, tried to lift a hand to touch her. His hand was heavy and fell back, but the young woman caught it before it hit the mattress and cradled it between her own warm and reassuring hands.
"I'm here, hermanito, I'm here…" the woman whispered, trying to gulp down the knot in her throat.
"Cathy..." he repeated, the words of thanks he would have wanted to say getting swallowed by a sob.
He gave her a pitiful little smile, his eyelids half-glued shut by the tears of pain he had shed, and she caressed his face, slowly, tenderly.
For the first time in a long while, he wasn't afraid of sliding into sleep.
* * * * * * * * *
"... numerous rebellions in the Colonies, contesting the reinforced military presence of members of OZ. From several spokespeople, very few changes were put into effect since the era of the Alliance dominion, contrary to what had been announced. The rebels' claims are diverse, but they all have in common their demands that OZ finally agrees to keep the promises it had previously made to the colonists in exchange for their help in fighting the Alliance. Numerous requests have been addressed to OZ's army chief, General Treize Kushrenada, sadly unavailable for two weeks now. According to our military experts, General Kushrenada didn't leave any precise orders on the way to treat the new situation in the colonies, and so there were some problems with the interpretation of his usual orders subordinates that lead to conflicts and protestations from the population. You all heard about the L2-00745 demonstration a few days ago, where an officer gave orders to shoot at the people, killing two people and provoking a panic that led to fifteen seriously injured. The discontentment of many colonists seems to be growing ..."
Heero and Wufei, who had been going over plans in the common room, glanced at each other.
"It isn't like Kushrenada to leave such a situation to develop," Heero murmured, pensive.
Wufei nodded. Not at all like him, that was true. What had happened to him that was so serious he couldn't even give simple directives to his troops?
"From what my sources say, no one knows where he is, he disappeared without warning. The rumor mills are going full speed right and left..."
The Chinese teen shrugged.
"He's not dead, we'd assist to a real battle between his possible successors. Ill maybe. The Gods know they wouldn't be talking about it for fear of showing their weaknesses."
"From what they say, Merquise too would have disappeared."
The Japanese pilot snorted.
"That guy is so erratic; I don't see how two weeks of absence are exceptional with him."
"True," agreed his comrade, pensive.
He thought back on his stay with OZ for a while, trying to imagine what was happening, but he wasn't coming with any answer just now.
The news had ended. Heero got up and turned the TV off, then the two Asian men abandoned their planning to meet Quatre and Duo and tell them about it, in the corridor in front of the room where Cathy was still standing guard over their friend.
And no, if you didn't get it, Trowa didn't get raped. It came close, but he didnt. And the mercenaries weren't all child rapists anyway like you can see in some fics, just that one bastard. It didn't make Trowa close off. He was shy and standoffish before, he got a little more shy and standoffish after. He's not broken or anything over that, just warier ^.^