Disclaimer: Gundam Wing and all its characters © Sotsu Agency, Sunrise, and TV Asahi. All fics are not for profit.
A/N: The prologue takes place at the end of the series, with Quatre in the hospital (as shown in Operation Meteor: Odd and Even numbers).
by Schizoid Sprite
"Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it."- Mark Twain
She wouldn't cry. She swore to herself that she wouldn't be weak.
It had been her mantra from the day she narrowly escaped the fall of Libra; she heavily relied to it as though it were a second backbone, something that she could use as a crutch while groping her way back to a normal life. She nodded in approval when she succeeded in her first steps.
She expected stumbling, and when she did—in front of him—she couldn't quite measure how disgusted she was to herself.
They were alone. The soft groaning of the air conditioner swam along with the microgravity of the room. An unpleasant churning of mixed coldness and warmth could be instantly felt, though in herself she knew that the first was the only one physically manifested. The warmth part was unmistakably emanating from him—from his pulsing proximity as she paced hesitantly towards him, traveling through a mental channel towards her.
An inner earthquake had made her whole body tremble; she reached up to touch the epicenter on her chest but she was suddenly too terrified to know—or to wonder why —there was fear in her.
Her hands had balled up into tiny fists when a tear squeezed itself out of one of her eyes. She suddenly remembered why she was there, why he was there. The heat of the fluid was strangely comforting and at the same time stinging, but she liked their feel on her face for a reason she wouldn't like to understand at the moment.
He was asleep. He looked exhausted and drained, though a hint of lingering serenity somewhat overlapped that; he was an avenging angel who had finally found a chance to rest after a long hopeless battle. His tousled hair was his dissolved halo that dripped onto his sweat-beaded brow and eyelids. He appeared like he was having a dream, a pleasant one, because his lips were quivering with a ghost of a smile. One of his pale arms was clutching a lump of cloud—an extra pillow—and the other one was draped over his torso, a hand unconsciously protecting his side.
She shuddered when the muscles under her skin moved in spasms. She let her lids droop down.
And she was back there again, the pink light of the control room penetrating through her spacesuit, her skin, her muscles and bones and blood, fueling her up to underscore the reason why she chose Libra to be her personal battleground…
…and her personal gravesite.
She heard the thunderous clash of metals against metals with unbelievable clarity and by each crashing sound, she was convulsing with inner laughter, enjoying how the symphony of man's greatest nature complementing the dance of her Dolls. She could consider herself a mental case; she was grasping a lot of reasons to mourn about, yet her heart was beating with unexplainable euphoria...
Suddenly, there was a slicing force that pulverized all her defenses into a heap of stinking garbage. She was stripped naked: all her memories came tumbling over one another, ripping and torturing and killing her till she didn't know when or where or how or why—until she saw someone else's eyes. They changed color from a calm sea-foam green to a blazing electric blue as they fed on all her deepest secrets, her weaknesses that even her grandfather wasn't aware of, her simple wishes, her longing for a true home, a family…
The payment came soon. Her eyes cleaved through space and time, and she was brought back to the past of another person. The visions were shadowy but they showed enough details to be understood. She scowled at the sudden burning sensation of guilt, the ache to make up for the shortcomings and transgressions, the altitude of extraordinary intelligence, the disgusting care for others, love…
She was not childish to admit defeat, but right during that stage she couldn't afford to lose. Tugging the Zero helmet off her head, she let the heat of rage kick in and gush through her veins while silently screaming to deny the a flash of future defeat that crossed her eyes.
The scheme she built in her head could work twofold. With a flaming desire to finish off the only person who dissected her and learned who the real her was, she faced Quatre Raberba Winner in a duel of swords and words. Avenge for the violation of her privacy—intended or not—was one part of the plan. Once she'd taken it, she could subtly provoke him to retaliate. That was the other part, to achieve her main goal that she desperately wanted all this time: her own death.
She wouldn't let other hands do that for her other than that of Quatre Raberba Winner.
It was all in vain, though. In the end she still emerged as the loser. Not only she wasn't able to exact revenge, the brat also made her cry after all these tearless years succeeding her father's death. The second failure? She was alive, apparently, and he was still punishing her by adding more guilt—and something else that she preferred nameless—to burden her heart. It angered her more than anything.
A grunting noise brought her back to the present. She snapped her eyes open and found a stirring Quatre before her. Her first instinct was to run, but when he didn't wake, she calmed herself and sighed with relief.
Brushing the tears away with the back of her hand, she bent and instinctively slid the other hand to the sleeping boy's cheek. She gently thumbed a yellowing bruise there and breathed a shaky apology. It didn't sound sincere to her own ears, but that was all that she could manage at the moment.
More tears had come. Since she couldn't afford to let him see her like that, she spun on her heel and hastened out of the room.
He was awake.
His eyes were focused on an unseen blemish on the white ceiling while he tried to keep the warmth left on his cheek by caressing it with his own hand.
"I'm taking it back," declared a voice from the doorway. Quatre didn't need to turn his head there to know who it was.
"What are you taking back, Trowa?"
The taller man loomed into his line of sight. He caught the smiling green eyes of the other pilot and decided that for the first time, he didn't like it.
"What I said back on Libra," he answered with a twitch of an eyebrow. "She knew exactly how to cry."
Quatre closed his eyes, leaning in against his hand. "I know."
"You're a heartbreaker."
He snapped his eyes open. "Pardon?"
"Why am I a heartbreaker?"
"If I'm correct, it was you who made her cry."
"Yeah I think so…but I didn't break her heart."
"How can you be sure?"
"I don't know. I'm just sure."
He turned away from his smirking friend and snuggled into his pillow, gently sliding his hand away from his face. He smothered a whimper when a shock of pain from his wound made him shiver.
"Why didn't you talk to her when she was here? I know you're wide awake."
He sighed. "She wouldn't like it if I would see her crying. I've seen her cry way too many times when I shouldn't."
"Really?" there was an exaggerated amusement in Trowa's voice. That was a first, and though it made Quatre's eyes widen with his own version of entertainment, he couldn't bring himself to be totally happy about it especially that it was all because of him. "Tell me, then. How long have you known each other?"
"I don't know," was his truthful reply. "It seems like I know her long before I came to know myself."
Quatre didn't see the shrug Trowa gave him after that cryptic answer. "You like her."
"Yes." When he realized what he'd replied offhandedly, he bolted up to a sitting position and waved his hands in denial. "I mean, I—"
"Just what I expect from an honest man."
Quatre readied a retort, but Trowa gently pushed him to the bed and enveloped him with the blanket.
"Have some rest. You're not fully recovered yet from the gift she gave you."
He made a face but gratefully obeyed. The wound was still throbbing. "Thank you, Trowa."
He expected Trowa to leave or at least take a seat but neither was done. Quatre began to feel awkward when the man kept on staring at him.
"What?" he demanded, pulling the blanket higher up to his chin.
"Nothing," Trowa shook his head at first. "It's just…you act as if there's really nothing to forgive."
There was an unspoken question there.
"You know the answer to that." Quatre offered a bright smile, and when it didn't do the trick, he finally spoke: "It's because she has done nothing that needs to be apologized."