Broken Jade

Part Twenty-Five: The Winter Moor

Trowa waited until the sound of the Jeep's engine died in the distance, before he was able to shake himself and step forward to kneel by the table. Jade was still huddled under the table, his arms over his head and his knees under his chin.

"Hey," Trowa whispered. "Come out of there. We need to talk." When Jade didn't move, Trowa reached out and caught Jade by an ankle, and tugged firmly. The crying man slid along the wooden floor, and Trowa smiled wryly as he pulled harder. When Jade was completely out from under the table, Trowa put his hands under Jade's arms and lifted him, glad Jade had the sense to let his legs fall. "Let's make some hot chocolate," Trowa suggested, guiding Jade into the kitchen.

There was a scratching at the back door, and Trowa let Ifrit in with a burst of wind. The cat's hair was on end, and he stalked proudly to the food bowl, meowing angrily when he found the bowl was only half-full. Jade stood in the doorway, his arms crossed and his head down, and Trowa busied himself putting milk on to simmer and then feeding the cat. Once the bowl was full, Ifrit turned up his nose at it, and went to rub up against Jade's legs. Without seeming aware of his actions, Jade leaned down to pick up the cat, burying his nose in the cat's fur as he absently scratched Ifrit behind the ears. Trowa fixed up the French hot chocolate, and poured two mugs, and Jade followed him back into the living room.

Trowa settled on one end of the sofa, bringing one leg up as he twisted to watch Jade at the other end. Ifrit jumped from Jade's arms to sprawl across the middle cushion, his green eyes blinking as he looked from Jade to Trowa and meowed again. Trowa chuckled and used his free hand to pet the cat for a few seconds, before leaning back against the arm. Ifrit responded by turning his back on Trowa and focusing on Jade, who let Ifrit into his lap.

"It hurts when we use your name," Trowa said.

"No," Jade started to say, then frowned.

"Duo," Trowa declared. Jade flinched, his hot chocolate sloshing, and he scowled at Trowa, who raised his eyebrows in an abbreviated shrug. Trowa kept his tone amiable. "Jade means long life, did you know that?"

Jade shook his head, one hand falling to his lap to pet Ifrit.

"I wonder if someone gave you that name because of Deathscythe," Trowa mused. "The concept of Death having a long life...probably appealed to a poetic sense. Thing is, you're not only Jade."

"I'm not Death, either."

"You're both."

Jade exhaled noisily and glared at Trowa from under his bangs. "Master, I don't know why---"

"Because it's the truth." Trowa sipped his hot chocolate, and let his gaze travel to the fire. He considered that he should get up to put another log on the fire, and decided it could wait a few minutes. "Heero and I have known you for ten years. We would know, better than anyone, whether or not you are Duo Maxwell."

Jade shivered, and a muscle in his jaw flickered.

"I wonder," Trowa said. "Do you have any memories? Anything?"

"No." Jade shrugged, and stuck a finger in his hot chocolate, stirring it a little.

"Did the other... pets?"

"Of course." Jade paused, his expression creased as he thought about it. "At least some. I met a few who didn't remember much... " He sucked on his finger, and waved the hand in the air in a vague motion. "I don't think those pets were very smart."

Trowa made a noncommittal sound. "Perhaps we should find you another name," he suggested.

Jade's head came up, and he gave Trowa a hopeful look. "Would you? A name, for me?" Jade's smile was tentative, but brilliant nonetheless, and Trowa's breath caught in his throat.

"I think you should pick it," he said.

"No, no, Master," Jade replied, the smile faltering. "I want you to." He leaned forward, setting the mug down and sliding the cat off his lap. Twisting on the sofa, he crawled forward until he was stretched out, his head on Trowa's chest. "Is this okay, Master?"

Trowa dropped one arm around Jade's shoulders, pulling him close. "Of course it's okay. And we can compromise... I'll come up with several names, and you can pick the one you like."

Jade made a face, and wriggled closer, until his head was on Trowa's shoulder. His breath was warm on Trowa's neck. "If that makes you happy, Master."

Not really, Trowa thought, running his hand up and down Jade's spine. But it'll have to do, for now.


The fire had almost died down when Trowa's eyes opened, feeling the weight of Jade across his chest and leg. Groaning, he lifted Jade's lax form up enough to slide out from underneath, biting the inside of his lip as pins and needles started up in the leg that had been trapped beneath Jade's body. Grunting, he stretched the muscle, stomping lightly to get the blood flow going, and bent to drop several more logs onto the fire. He watched, rearranging the logs a few times, until he was satisfied it wouldn't go out.

"You should use the poker, Master," Jade's voice called from behind him. "You'll burn your hands!"

Trowa shrugged, turning to see Jade lying on his side. His head was propped up on the arm of the sofa, and his braid was over his shoulder. It was half undone, long tendrils of hair slipping out and across his face, and he held out one hand, beckoning.

"I'm cold now," Jade said, a teasing look flitting across his face.

"I'll get you a blanket," Trowa said with a smirk. He stood up, stretching again.

Jade stuck out his lower lip, then sighed, pulling his legs under him and twisting around on the sofa. Trowa walked to the sofa's arm and looking down as Jade came to a kneeling position, throwing his arms up to clasp around Trowa's neck, pulling the taller man down a little.

"I liked the blanket I had," Jade whispered.

"Technically, you were being the blanket," Trowa responded, and patted Jade's arms. "Let go, Jade. Want to play a board game? Pick one while I make more hot chocolate."

"I like this game," Jade said, clinging tighter as he pushed his face against Trowa's chest.

Trowa stiffened a little, uncertain, and took a deep breath, his hands reaching up to pry Jade's fingers loose from around his neck. "Jade, enough. Let's---"

"Master," Jade moaned. "Please, just once? One more time?"

"Just... " Trowa froze, not sure what Jade meant, and not sure he wanted to ask. "Once what?"

"Don't go," Jade begged, his voice dropping to a murmur as he stretched upwards to plant his lips against Trowa's neck. "Stay here. I want it to be like it was, before."

"Before?" Trowa's answer was a monotone, his mind struggling to follow Jade's half-spoken intentions. Distantly he allowed Jade to guide him around the sofa, sinking into the cushions with a grunt. Jade immediately clambered onto his lap, straddling him and curling up against his chest.

"Before, when I didn't know you didn't love me," Jade answered, his fingers digging into Trowa's shirt.

Trowa realized his arms were laying on the cushions, and he raised them to embrace Jade. His heart was hammering, and he wasn't sure why. The only thing he could register fully was Jade's words, and he set aside his instincts to consider them logically.

"I didn't, at first," he admitted, keeping his voice low and neutral. "But... I changed my mind. And... you should know, I always knew you were loveable, and worth loving." Trowa ran a hand down Jade's tangled braid, smiling a little as Jade moved against his neck.

"Do you?" The words were muffled. "You say you do, but... sometimes you frighten me, Master."

"I do?" Trowa was stunned, and confused. Shifting, he pushed Jade away enough to see the other man's downcast face. "What have I done to frighten you?"

"It's the way you... " He shrugged. "I'm not good enough for you to really love me," Jade answered, his fingers tugging at the hem of Trowa's shirt.

"You're good enough, you're always---"

The rest of Trowa's words were cut off as Jade pressed his lips to Trowa's. Then a delicate pointed tongue was slipping between Trowa's lips, and he moved instinctively, letting his mouth open. Jade murmured something inaudible into his mouth, and shifted in Trowa's lap, tilting his hips against Trowa's. The auburn-haired man blinked, his eyes opening wide as he fought to push Jade gently away. Jade continued to reach into the kiss, and Trowa shuddered at the warm wetness of Jade's mouth before yanking his head backwards.

"Jade, please," he said, his voice sounding strangled to his ears. "This isn't---"

"I know," Jade said, sinking backwards to rest on Trowa's thighs. His hands dropped to his sides, and he stared downwards. "I guess I just... I'm not a very good pet."

"You are," Trowa started to say, then frowned. "You're not a pet, damn it. You're a person, and I love you for being a person."

Jade shook his head, and raised his head. Tears glittered in his eyelashes, and he dropped his gaze quickly, looking away from Trowa. "I don' t know what to do, Master," he said in a softly plaintive voice. "Other Master wants me, and you don't... but you're my Master, and I---"

Trowa blinked. "What do you mean," he asked, in a slow, deliberate manner. "Heero... what?"

"Wants me," Jade said with a little frown, and ducked his head again. "But I don't love him... as much... and I was scared." He gave Trowa a bewildered look. "Did I do wrong, Master?"

"Do wrong?" Trowa echoed, dully.

"To tell him I didn't... " Jade shrugged, and leaned forward into Trowa, resting his head on Trowa's shoulder. His voice dropped to barely above a breath. "He was really insistent."

Trowa felt sick, like he should shake himself to clear the thoughts swirling in his head. Heero had tried to force himself on Jade? Something wasn't right, but Trowa couldn't put his finger on it. True, Heero hadn't explained yet about the cause of the mutual bruises, but Trowa hadn't even considered it could be related to anything sexual. He'd figured Jade had found a chink in Heero's armor and rammed home with the insults one too many times. Given that Jade had been friendly around Heero since then, the idea of Heero being so forceful didn't make sense.

But he had noticed Heero stealing odd looks at Jade, over the past few days. Trowa mulled that over, feeling Jade's body gradually relax against him, a comfortable, steady weight. He picked up Jade's braid, twisting it to see the red streaks of the fire's reflection in the chestnut hair. Sighing, Trowa dropped the braid and pulled Jade closer.

"I'm sorry," he finally said. He wasn't sure what else to say, and wasn't willing to without speaking to Heero first. "It seems to me you' ve been friendly with him, since then."

"He's a Master, too," Jade said, sighing, and the warmth against Trowa's neck made Trowa shiver. Jade's fingers ran down Trowa's sides, swirling idly in random patterns. "But you come first." Something wet dripped on Trowa's neck, and Jade sniffled. "I don't understand, Master... I just want to make you happy."

"You make me happy," Trowa answered automatically, his mind still puzzling out Jade's comments. Reluctantly he brought the conversation back to Jade's comments. "When Heero... " He paused, uncertain how to put it. "When whatever happened... " Trowa frowned, realizing what had him the most confused. It wasn't in Jade's makeup, for the most part, to deny a Master. "What *did* happen? Why did you say no?"

"He didn't want me to tell you," Jade whispered. "And I couldn't do that... " He raised his head, his eyes wide in the lowlight, the dark blue irises a mere thin line around huge pupils. "You're Master... and it would hurt you, if you found out." Jade ducked his head, throwing his arms around Trowa's neck. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, Master, I shouldn't have told you... please don't be mad at him... "

Mad at Heero, Trowa thought, choking a little at Jade's tight hold. Carefully he pried Jade's arms from around his neck, pushing Jade backwards until Trowa could see the other man's face. Trowa released one wrist, and pushed Jade's long bangs out of his face.

"I want you to feel like you can talk to me," Trowa said. "I'm a friend of yours, and I love you... "

"But you love him, *really* love Other Master," Jade responded. "I know you do, I can hear you in the morning... and if you don't have Other Master, you would be sad. I don't want you sad," he added softly.

"I would be sad," Trowa agreed, pulling Jade close enough to plant a kiss on Jade's forehead. "But if Heero... " He stopped again, once again caught by that feeling of knowing something was out of place, but unable to put his finger on it. "Heero," he started again, then closed his mouth.

"He makes you happy," Jade murmured, pressing closer against Trowa. He sighed, his hands beginning their path up and down Trowa's sides again. "It was wrong of me to say anything. I know he's the one you like the best."

"Well," Trowa hedged, a little uncomfortable. "I don't know if I'd use words like best or second-best. It's different."

"Different," Jade said. He nuzzled Trowa's neck just below Trowa's ear, his lips ghosting across the skin. "You deserve the best, though."

Jade was still for several seconds, and Trowa raised an eyebrow, curious as to what Jade was thinking. Granted, Trowa told himself, it's better than when Jade didn't speak at all. But now, when he speaks, it's half-words, hints and implications. Like he's afraid of using words, that the words themselves might make something real. It didn't make a great deal of sense to Trowa, in some ways, yet intuitively it felt right. What he couldn't figure out was what Jade was afraid would be true, or real. He wondered if the two were the same thing, and knew they weren't, always.

"I've learned a lot from you, Master," Jade murmured. His fingers paused, then crept up to run along the edge of Trowa's shirt, just barely gracing the skin. "That what's really important is that the person you love is happy, even if you're not."

"Even if you're not?" Trowa frowned, slightly. "I wouldn't say that's entirely true. One shouldn't be completely self-effacing in a... " He realized he was about to say *relationship*. "... A friendship," he finished. He shifted under Jade's weight, and the other man slid to one side, one leg curled under him, the other leg stretched over Trowa's lap. Trowa let one of his hands fall to around Jade's waist, while his right hand began playing with Jade's braid again. "And I thought... your training... taught you that your Master's happiness is paramount."

"It did," Jade said. His fingers paused, then ran along Trowa's neck, tracing the tendon up to the ear and back down. "But there's a difference between what I should do, and what I really, truly want to do." He leaned forward, planting a kiss at the base of Trowa's neck, where his finger had rested a second before. "I wish I could be happy, just for you. At least then... "

"At least," Trowa prompted. He realized he was holding his breath, straining to hear the next words. Perhaps then, he thought, the puzzle will fall into place and I'll be able to see the pattern.

"It's so important to you that the people you love be happy," Jade said, and sighed, pushing his arms around Trowa's chest, to slip between Trowa and the sofa cushions. He hugged Trowa tightly. "And it must be horrible that neither of us are."

Neither, Trowa's mind repeated. He felt like a parrot, and shook his head just once. "What do you mean? Jade, look at me." Trowa leaned back, and reached to catch Jade under the chin, lifting the other man's face. They were nearly nose-to-nose.

"Other Master is miserable," Jade said, giving Trowa a sorrowful look. "And I want to be happy, too, but you don't want me to love you, so I'm sad. And Other Master wants to love me instead of you, so he's sad, too."

Heero wants... Trowa's mind was whirling. He could only stare into those mercurial blue depths, watching in distant fascination as Jade's gaze dropped, clearly studying his lips. In some far part of his brain, Trowa knew what was happening. Jade's eyes slid closed, and Jade tilted his head, pressing his lips against Trowa's, that warm tongue once again slipping into Trowa's mouth, prodding gently, seeking entrance. Trowa couldn't breathe, and couldn't think, beyond the simple idea that he had not been making Heero happy. His mouth was opening without his awareness, and he was returning the touch automatically, instinctively. His mind continued to reel, replaying Jade's words, as he fought to logically deny or agree. Trowa's eyes closed, and he moved his head, his hands gripping Jade's waist tightly as the other man shifted to straddle his lap again.

Jade pressed closer, tilting his hips, and Trowa nearly groaned at the blessed pressure against his groin. Heero, he thought, feeling as though everything around him was happening without his control, and he was lost, spinning. Heero was unhappy, and worse yet, Trowa hadn't known it, hadn't thought to ask, and hadn't even thought to notice. Slim fingers plucked at Trowa's shirt, and the kiss broke off long enough for Jade to pull Trowa's shirt over his head. Trowa allowed it, his eyes half-closed, his mind dazed as nimble lips and warm mouth kissed him fiercely, then ran down his neck to his chest. Jade was curled over, his fingers clenching and massaging Trowa's shoulders and hip, as his mouth latched onto a nipple and began to suckle.

Trowa arched his back, gasping. Why didn't Heero say anything? Have I been so blind? So willing to accept that things were fine, the way they were, and not look past my own satisfaction? Faintly he could feel that same instinct nudging to the surface, but it was overwhelmed by the sensation of a finger slipping between his jeans and his skin, searching. Jade shifted on Trowa's lap, pulling back as he slid down Trowa's legs to perch on Trowa's knees.

"Jade," Trowa gasped, feeling Jade's cool hand pull the button open and slip beneath his shirt. A heartbeat later Jade's hand was around Trowa's half-hard cock, and Trowa's eyes flew open. This isn't, he thought, but he couldn't formulate the words. Then Jade's mouth was on his again, and the kiss drowned out all thought.

Jade's hand tightened, and Trowa's hips bucked involuntarily. No, Trowa thought, Heero wouldn't... The thoughts ran away from him, pushed back by the wet mouth against his, the hand on his chest, plucking at his nipples, and the hand inside his jeans, coaxing him into a frantic energy. Jade was murmuring sounds into Trowa's mouth, and Trowa swallowed them helplessly. Heero has been watching Jade, and I thought it was only... Trowa moaned as Jade's hand increased its pace, and he pulled away from the kiss to rest his head on the back of the sofa. Jade came up on his knees, hovering over Trowa, and Trowa closed his eyes. He wasn't sure whether to stop or to continue, unable to find his bearings long enough to choose.

Emotions were always my weakness, he thought numbly, and there's no logic in passion.

Jade was moving, one hand still down Trowa's jeans, but releasing him long enough to pull the jeans back, exposing Trowa. There was the sensation of weight lifting off Trowa, then settling back down, and Trowa opened his eyes to see Jade poised above him, heavy lids watching him with a pleased look. Jade's hand was back on Trowa's cock, and Trowa could feel himself bumping against something. Jade's eyes closed, and Trowa watched in fascination as Jade bit his lower lip, then gasped. Trowa's eyes went wide, as he was pushed into Jade. He groaned at the sensation, and immediately rebelled.

"No!" He sat up, his hands around Jade's waist, lifting the other man upwards. "No, Jade, no, no," he repeated, unable to speak coherently. His entire body was quivering, feeling the deprivation harshly. "No," he said, feeling a sob catch in his throat.

"Master," Jade cried, his expression panicked. His hands landed on Trowa's shoulders, and he wriggled, trying to sink back down onto Trowa's lap. His sweatpants were missing, and Trowa absently wondered how Jade had removed them one-handed. "Master," Jade said again, desperately, when Trowa didn't respond. "Please, we can be happy---"

Trowa froze. He watched as Jade's eyes grew large, and the longhaired man began to shake, his arms pulling ineffectually at Trowa's grasp on his waist. Trowa realized he was growling, and with a tremendous shove, his stood up, pushing Jade backwards. Jade yelped as he ran into the low table. Trowa shook him a little, and Jade whimpered, tugging more frantically at Trowa's hold.

"You," Trowa snarled, then stopped, trying to contain the fury rising in him. With those simple words, everything had fallen into place, and he could see straight through to Jade's intentions. "You are *not* going to separate me from Heero," he said flatly. "If you want to remain in this house, you will have to accept this as fact." He laughed, a barking sound, and released Jade, watching the other man stumble a little to one side. "Put on your pants, Jade, and... Damn it, I don't care. Just stay out of my sight."

Trowa bent over, grabbing the sweatpants from the floor, and threw them at Jade. He grabbed his shirt and yanked it over his head, letting it fall down to cover himself. He turned to leave but stopped, as though a thought had just occurred to him, and glanced over his shoulder at the shocked look on Jade's face. Trowa gave another bitter laugh.

"And you accused *us* of mind games."

With that, Trowa headed for the study, shutting the door firmly behind him.


It was several minutes before Trowa could manage a deep breath, pulling himself together long enough to tuck himself back into his jeans, zip up, and stalk across the room to collapse into the chair. Purely out of habit, he reached forward and flipped on the computer, watching as it ran through its opening program. He felt drained, and in some ways, mildly surprised.

I thought I would hurt more, he mused. Jade nearly manipulated me... and yet, there's truth in what he says, but it's all a matter of phrasing. He chuckled, understanding why Heero had laughed that other day. Because if I don't, Trowa told himself, the only other option is tears.

He clicked on the email program, waiting as it dialed into the local 'net and began downloading. Most of it was spam, but Trowa's mouse arrow hovered over an incoming mail from Quatre. One week, Trowa thought, since the sting operation. Better be a damn good reason for the radio silence, he thought. He clicked on the mail.

Trowa was about to read it when there was a soft scratching sound at the door. Sighing, he pushed away from the desk, flinging the door open, ready to yell at the cat. He blinked, looking down at Jade's naked body, the hair unbraided and spilling over the floor. Jade's hands were clasped behind his back, his forehead pressed to the floor, and he was shaking. For a heartbeat, Trowa tensed, rearing back when it dawned on him he'd been about to sink to his knees to reassure Jade.

Fuck that, he thought. I'm not going to be played again.

"Put your damn clothes on and leave me the fuck alone," Trowa snapped.

Jade's head lifted, and Trowa shut the door. Breathing heavily, he leaned against it, raising one hand to stare at its shaking, then rubbed his forehead. He let his head fall back against the door, his hand dropping to his side. The scratching sound came again, and Trowa gritted his teeth, refusing to give Jade the benefit of attention.

"Master," came the soft voice. "I'm sorry... please, I was bad, please... don't go away, Master, don't make me go away, please... "

The pleading hiss trailed off, and Trowa listened as something heavy settled against the door. The scratching sound came again, fading into a faint brushing sound that made Trowa wonder if Jade had begun stroking the wood instead.

"Please," the whisper came, so quiet Trowa had to hold his breath to hear it. Jade's voice was thick with tears, and Trowa scowled, unwilling to fall prey to Jade's games one more time. "Master... punish me, please, and that'll make it better, right? I was... " The voice choked, and was quiet for a minute, then picked up again. "I'd do it myself if I just knew what you'd want me to do, if that would make it better... I want to be better... I just wanted... I just wanted to love you... Anything, please, just don't make me go away... please... "

Trowa gritted his teeth and strode back to the desk chair, sitting down heavily and leaning forward to focus on the email. He considered connecting to 'net radio, but realized he could no longer hear Jade's faint whispers. Growling under his breath in frustration, he dragged his attention back to Quatre's email. He scanned it quickly, and felt his heart skip a beat. Leaning his elbows on the desk, he buried his face in his hands as his shoulders began to shake.

Tears dripped down between his fingers, splashing the desk's surface.


Trowa was vaguely aware of the Jeep's engine outside the house, and the front door opening and closing, but he didn't pick his head up from the desk. He wondered if Jade had gotten dressed. He wondered if Heero would come find him. He decided he didn't care about either, and thus didn't bother to open his eyes or raise his head, even when the study door opened and closed with a gentle snick.

"Tro?" Heero's voice was puzzled, and a second later there were two hands on Trowa's shoulder. "What's---"

He fell silent, and Trowa could feel Heero leaning over him, heard the click of the keyboard bringing the screen back to life. He heard the hiss of a sharp intake as Heero read the email. Trowa didn't raise his head. He felt empty, useless, and helpless.

"Holy fucking mother of god," Heero breathed. He backed away, removing his hands from Trowa, and his footsteps echoed as he stumbled, pacing the room like a caged beast. "Holy fucking... "

Trowa still couldn't respond. He wasn't sure what to say.

"Fifteen," Heero said, his voice choked. "How could... those fucking bastards... god damn it."

The words made the email come back to Trowa's mind, and he squeezed his eyes tight, as though it could block out the words playing in his memory. It didn't work.

* ...the investigating officers were forced to imprint to get the victims to cooperate... Wufei imprinted twenty-two, I imprinted twenty-three... Every day, every minute, focused on dealing with the victims... *

Trowa groaned, moving a little to press his ear against his arm. It did nothing to block out the sound in his head.

Five officers shared the burden of one hundred seventeen victims. Trowa struggled to sit up, twisting in the chair to see Heero in the middle of the room, his head hanging down, his hands lax at his side. One hundred seventeen Jades, terrified and desperate.

"Heero," Trowa murmured, climbing unsteadily to his feet. Heero shook, but didn't speak.

* ... nineteen suicide attempts in the first five days... fifteen successful... *

"Heero," Trowa repeated, reaching out with one hand. Heero spun under his grasp, lifting his face to reveal tear tracks etched on his cheeks.

* ...I lost three... Wufei lost two... Noin lost four... *

"Heero," Trowa called again, and suddenly Heero was against him, clutching him tightly. He swayed with the impact, a sob rising in his throat.

* ...Pearl died of massive heart failure as the second round of therapy tests began... Tiger made it to the third round, before his body went into coronary arrest... Amber died fifteen minutes after the first test began, from a possible contraindication... *

"All of them... " Heero started to say, and shuddered.

Trowa couldn't speak. He could only cling tightly, and wait for something to catch him.

* ...Tests continue despite our protests... *


Trowa had no idea how long they remained there, but eventually they both pulled away, as if understanding the need for space. They didn't move apart farther. Trowa let his hands drop to his sides, uncertain.

I have to, he told himself. He twitched his head to get his bangs out of his eyes, and waited until Heero's gaze rose to meet his.

"Jade tried to seduce me," he said. His voice wavered, and he took a sharp breath. "And I almost let him."

Heero's face was inscrutable.

"He said... " Trowa swallowed hard. "He said you'd tried to force yourself on him... and didn't want me to know about it."

"Jade---" Heero's eyes narrowed, and his brows came down in a hard line. "I'd say it's the opposite."

"Why didn't you tell me," Trowa asked, and wondered if he sounded like he was begging. He felt like he was drifting, cut completely loose. "He manipulated me... and I had no defense, because I didn't know---"

"I should have told you," Heero admitted, his gaze dropping for a second before coming back up to meet Trowa evenly. "But... I *am* attracted to him."

Trowa felt like he'd been punched. He took a step back, and closed his eyes, trying to steady himself. It was like floating in space, he thought, or drifting in deep water. There is no real direction of up, he thought, bemused that he could find it even remotely amusing.

"I am not going to act on that," Heero continued after a pause. "I... I want you both to be happy, and I'll do anything for that... except sacrifice our relationship."

"To be happy," Trowa muttered. He figured the look on his face was odd, given Heero's puzzled reaction. "Jade's argument was that I've not been making you happy... that you think you'd be happier with him."

"No," Heero protested, stepping forward.

"Would you?" Trowa shook his head. "Ten years, damn it. I'm not ignorant! I know there was always attraction. But if it's going to happen, why'd you make me hear it from him?"

"I didn't---" Heero stopped, backing up a pace and turning slightly, facing away from Trowa. His shoulders were hunched, his fists clenched tightly. "I'm not going to be happy with him, and I'm not going to be attracted to him. Yes," he said, turning his head to stare at Trowa intently. "I've always had an attraction for my best friend. But that creature is *not my best friend*!"

In the wake of Heero's shout, the room's silence was eerie. Trowa could hear his blood rushing in his ears, and feel his heart pounding madly within his chest.

"I see him," Heero continued, his eyes boring into Trowa, "and sometimes I think it's Duo. Yes, god, yes, I am attracted to him. But I am not going to act on it. Not then, despite his pressure... but if you want to know, *yes*, I was tempted." Heero's face was twisted in anger, although Trowa couldn't tell if it was towards him or turned inwards. Heero turned his head away, crossing his arms. "But it's not enough that he's not my friend, not yet. Even if he were, that still wouldn't be enough... " His voice dropped to a whisper. " ...To risk losing what I have with you."

Trowa sighed, feeling the hurt and anger drain away with Heero's words. "I was tempted, too... I don't know why. I have no excuses. Everything he said... he wants just me." He frowned, turning that over in his head, and realized he wasn't entirely correct. "Jade wants one of us... either of us. He just wants someone for himself."

"Well, he can't have me," Heero snapped.

"I'd say I pretty much said the same thing," Trowa said, a bit wryly. "I was... oh, shit. Heero, I'm sorry." He could feel the momentary calm slipping away, and his breath hitched. "I almost... I just didn't care. I was so thrown by the thought that you've been miserable and I couldn't tell, that... "

"We're both fucked-up," came the dry reply.

Trowa laughed quietly. "Yeah, I guess so. I don't know what to think, or say, or do. Our best friends are either collapsing under the pressure of dealing with death and desperation, and our other best friend... " He stopped, and frowned, thinking. "Was Jade outside the door when you got home?"

Heero shook his head. "He'd better be making himself scarce if he's going to keep up these tricks." He sighed, and his irritated expression dropped away to reveal pure vulnerability. "Tro... I thought he was doing better. I really did. I wanted to think he was... becoming Duo. I didn't see... "

"Neither did I," Trowa said, and shrugged. He lowered his head, until his hair covered his face. "I am attracted to him, too. There's a great deal about him that's... magnetic. But... " He raised his head, peering at Heero from under the sheaf of hair partially blocking the view. "I feel like he's punishing us. Or maybe not realizing it, but he's angry. Nothing we've said or done was what he's expected."

"Nothing of what he's said or done would be anything I'd expect of Duo," Heero pointed out, his mouth twisting unhappily. "Fuck."


They were silent for several minutes, until Heero roused himself.

"Let's go get him, and then we should all talk."

Trowa nodded, following Heero from the study. He wasn't sure what they'd say, but the major aftershocks had cleared his system. We simply need to sit down and discuss what's going on, Trowa told himself, feeling a cold ache settle into his bones as he checked the kitchen.

He turned in the doorway to see Heero coming down the stairs. Trowa raised his eyebrows in a silent question, and Heero shook his head, grabbing his coat and heading outside. Trowa followed, glancing around at the gathering twilight and the darkness under the trees. Ahead of him, Heero had thrown the barn door open and moved into the depths, returning only a second later with a flashlight in one hand. His expression was bleak.

Jade was nowhere to be found.


Definition: contraindication is "something (as a symptom or condition) that makes a particular treatment or procedure inadvisable", as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. For instance, epileptics should not take certain types of sedatives, as the drugs will cause hallucinations. In other cases, a contraindication is when two drugs should not be mixed.


On to Chapter twenty-six

Back to chapter twenty-four

This page last updated: