Disclaimer: Gundam Wing and all its characters © Sotsu Agency, Sunrise, and TV Asahi. All fics are not for profit.

A/N: Another submission for the gw_dark's first darkfic exchange at LJ, written for Ederyn (do try to visit her profile page here at FFN and at Livejournal. She writes lots of deliciously dark fics! Most of them are yaoi though). I posted it two or three days before her wedding, and I'm glad she considered it a 'sweet wedding prezzie'. XD (glomps E)

The prompt for this fic is "Trowa and one of these characters: Heero, Duo, Zechs, Treize, Dorothy, or Relena. They're either in an established relationship or are just coming together now (can be said explicitly or just shown). One of them is suffering and the other helps."

Contains sexual innuendos.


"Trompe-L'oeil"

by Schizoid Sprite


"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." -Albert Einstein


She heard somewhere before that a circus is a place where ponies, elephants, and lions are permitted to see humans acting like fools. She had laughed at it, but considered that if that was true, then the daily prison routines at her office and stovepipe business playpen were circus acts; the star performer of her self-made version of Big Top was, undoubtedly, herself.

She never knew why she kept on functioning like everyone's source of entertainment until now. Maybe she was just really a doll, and it was her undying batteries—her genes and her name—that were forcing her to dance to someone else's music, even if the sound was like nails on chalkboard to her ears. She found it funny, for all her life she thought she was the one controlling them. Rebellion has always been her defense mechanism, but did it work? Their teeth-and-gum grins told her that her wrath was weak and soft, like she was just an angry, spitting kitten trying to intimidate a larger beast. She had already asked everyone about it: the mosaic of the girl between the blood-fringed shatter lines of her mirror, the undulating figure in front of her at the funhouse, that scowling Snow Queen she saw on the melting puddle of ice at the last days of winter… but they just don't know anything. Everyone doesn't know anything at all.

All of these thoughts suddenly popped out of nowhere when she heard that a famous traveling circus was in town. She thought, would he know? Would the literal sense of the analogy help her find it out? For the first time in a long time, she walked towards a place without having herself dragged by the strings they attached to her. She felt so right. She felt she could find all her answers there.

"I'm one kind of human wreckage that they love," she spoke quietly to the air before her, watching a string of ragamuffins rush past her bench as they wave rainbow lassoes and animal balloons in the air. He slumped next to her and stayed speechless for the first couple of seconds. No hi's or hello's or good afternoon's—only friends and acquaintances would dare share such an exchange.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he finally snapped, precariously balancing his half-mask on his fingertips. He didn't bother to change before they went out of the circus grounds; his heavily-muscled body was still shining beneath those tangerine-colored suspenders and a sheen film of perspiration, fresh from his last trapeze act that ended just about five minutes ago.

She shrugged. "I'm talking about my life, Trowa Barton."

He mimicked her gesture. "The Trowa Barton you think you're talking to was already dead. I know nothing about you."

His fingers twitched and the mask fell off to his feet with a dull clank. She smirked at it.

"Once upon a time there are two men with one name," she playfully drawled out. "The first man was killed without knowing that a certain war-hungry little girl existed on the other branch of his family tree. When the second man emerged, he did so like the first man's name was the safest chameleon skin he could sport. If he didn't realize that he'd become a sole flame in a dark tunnel of moths, the war-hungry girl doesn't know. She had become one of those moths, but not only because of the borrowed nametag…but also because of his identity as a Gundam pilot."

She bent to pick up the mask.

"But every flame was dangerous to a moth at extreme proximity," she continued matter-of-factly. "The girl knew this, so she kept her distance. She was aware that the farther you run away from something, the nearer you get to it…but she didn't care. At first it was the same for all the Gundam pilots, but he shone brighter after he spat to her face about how sad it was for a woman to be not able to cry…"

She rocked the mask on the crib of her palms, humming a random carnival tune.

"He burned her," she muttered to the half-smile of the mask. "He spoke of home, one of the hundred things she was dying to have. And he burned her some more."

Trowa snatched the mask from her hands. She stared at her empty hands for several seconds, as though she could make out a pattern of the inanimate object in the lines of her palms. She frowned and balled them into fists.

"Catalonia," Trowa said in an almost soundless voice, "are you blaming me for what your life had become?"

She crinkled her brow at his words, let silence coil around them for the short seconds a memory tumbled around her head. "Mr. Barton," she said, "did you know that my grandfather used to call all my cousins—except Treize—by the names of the cities where they were born? Valencia, Andalusia, Madrid, Aragon…apparently there are too many of us for him to memorize our names. But he never called me Catalonia."

She crossed her legs, and in the corners of her eyes she saw him stole a glance at them. "Well, first it's because I never really lived in Catalonia. Second, he hated my father beyond belief. I didn't understand anything at that time, but I didn't choose who to follow or love. Both of them are important to me."

"Red herring," Trowa commented.

She cracked a mirthless laugh. "I blame nobody, Barton," she answered his first question, a blunt admittance of the digression that he noted.

"Why are you here?"
"To understand my life, I guess," she responded nonchalantly. "We're the same."

He chuckled—a strong and real sound that made her own lips tug into a curve. It was one of the first music she ever listened to since she realized that the screams of explosions were not the best soundtrack for her life.

"When I was ten years old," he stated in a voice with a subtly derisive edge, "I told a girl that I saved her life because I was just like her. Her life is ruined by now."

"Do you mean that being like you is equivalent to a ruined life?"

"No," he responded slowly, his face contorting in an expression like he swallowed something bitter by mistake, "but maybe yes. It's not easy to live my life. It's never like winning a Day Glo toy from a gumball machine."

"Nobody said it has to be that easy."

"Nobody said it has to be this hard, either," he argued. "And anyone who lives like me would be sick of his own dreams. Too unlikely, too…fantastic. If those dreams would come true, the reality I see when I wake up—the reality I think I see when I wake up—they're all going to be a lie."

"That's exactly why they're called dreams," she offered. "Some were too far to be reached, some were just heartbeats away. Either way, there will always be a gap between them and reality."

"I know. But people differ in their perceptions of reality."

The creaking of the wooden bench against some shifting weight grabbed Dorothy's attention. A gasp escaped her lips when a strong hand reached for the diamond pendant of her choker. One pull was all that it took for it to snap. Pearls dribbled down onto her lap and the ground, bouncing off the sunlight that caught them. Bewildered, she let her eyes chase the rolling beads through the narrow cracks in the weathered cobblestones, then darted an upwards glare at Trowa. He paid her no notice, holding up the pendant to his eye.

"Just like this thing, reality has many facets." He shot her one quick glance before he stood up, then shocked her again by hurling the diamond away. She gaped in horror as the small glint of the jewel vanished in the crowd.

"Diamonds," he said sotto voce, "are just broken glass made to look harder and shinier by the value they were given. When people give too much importance to the wrong thing, that's the time when we shape our own versions of what's real and what's not."

Dorothy fingered the hollow in her neck where the diamond has rested for about thirteen years. Duke Dermail had given her that necklace as a gift for her seventh birthday, and she wondered idly why she wasn't feeling bad at all. She cleared her throat in preparation for a fit of mock anger, but the supposed recipient of that was gone from her side. She sought for the half-naked man in the rush of people but didn't leave the bench, almost sniggering at the image of a lost girl that she made. She was relieved when he surfaced on the dull sea of passersby, his figure too distinguishable as if he were some sort of a light god, the pair of fluffy pink clouds in his hands adding humor to the comparison.

"Contentment," he said as he handed her the first stick of cotton candy, "is the reality behind true happiness."

She pressed her nose to the confection's wooly texture and inhaled the familiar smell of her short childhood from it. "Are you happy?"

"I think I'm still not contented," came his quick response. "I'm missing something…"

Whatever that might be, Dorothy didn't to ask. Maybe she didn't want to know. They turned their full attention to the fast-melting fairy flosses in their mouth, the silence that never was rolling in the short gap between their bodies. She contemplated everything that he told her and attempted to connect it with her own life; she was so buried in her thoughts that she didn't notice the first raindrops that thawed a small lump of her treat.

"It's raining," Trowa observed quietly. She blinked when a heavy drop landed on her eyelash.

The crowd had thinned considerably when it started to drizzle. People panicked for cover, and Trowa did a good job of dodging every rushing form that would come their way. He kept his big hand wrapped around Dorothy's wrist as he darted his head from side to side in search of a roof. Dorothy winced at his viselike hold and thought of suggesting about going back to the tents, but Trowa had already jostled her in a phone booth before she could even open her mouth.

After some grunting, panting, and whining about how unpredictable the weather was, silence wrapped them completely. They couldn't even hear the softest murmur of the sprinkle blurring the glass of their small refuge.

"Are you happy?"

Dorothy raised a questioning brow. He looked almost funny with the water-darkened bangs plastered to his brow but for some reason, Dorothy couldn't pull the laughter out of her throat. Maybe it was the question…or maybe it was because of the eerie, fuzzy light that danced in the green gems of his eyes…

"I don't know," Dorothy whispered when he repeated the question.

"Are you contented?"

"I don't know," she croaked, wishing that she could melt onto the telephone set when he pressed his wet build against her. Blood boiled madly beneath the skin of her cheeks; her knees were suddenly feeling a tad weak and the uncontrollable earthquake in her chest was threatening to punch her out. He easily dwarfed her by five inches, his chin touching her forehead. She swallowed. He still smelled of sweat and rain and she didn't find it unpleasant at all. In fact, it stirred something in her, something tingling, something…

Not able to fight it any longer, she lunged forward and leeched onto his lips for dear life. It was almost like his mouth magnetized the symbolic steel she clothed over her lips. Closing her eyes, she focused on their heated activity, unconsciously snaking her arms around his neck. He was tastier than the concentrated sugar of the last confection they had, but never too sweet to the point it was nauseating. She hoped she tasted the same for him.

"Happiness also has many facets," he breathed huskily as he left her lips to nibble her earlobe, "and I'm going to show you one version of it."

Outside, the rain was slowly growing into a large storm. Coal-dark clouds splayed the sky's skirt open, spread it wider and wider, and they pushed in and readied themselves to unload their heavy rainwater onto the earth below. The progress was slow; drizzle still sluiced down with sensuous gentleness, as if the grounds would break if they pound too hard. The slick tongues of wind dueled mindlessly with the erotic sighs of thunders from a distance; the rain stroked and glided in secret alleyways, sucked on the healthy knolls behind the busy streets of the city, kissed down the whole structure of the tallest skyscraper, licked off the last light of the day away. As if the first bite of the darkness was a signal, the wanton teasing of the soft rain began to pick up speed. A more gratifying, savage tempo was established, pressured caresses squeezing the clouds for more rain to plunge harder and faster and deeper into the soil, and it was breath-taking and merciless and rapturous and unexplainably ecstatic until an earsplitting crash of thunder was heard, ending it all.

Satisfied, Trowa disentangled himself from her and crushed another kiss to her swollen mouth.

And he left.

No I-love-you's, no goodbye's or see-you-later's. Why would he say such things, anyway? Did she expect him to? They ranked lower than acquaintances in their relationship brackets; she just came to him to understand her life, and for the first time she did. He taught her that the greatest happiness was transitory, that her perception of reality was wrong from all the angles. He, a stranger, made her see what Dorothy Catalonia looks like inside out.

She heard somewhere before that a circus is a place where ponies, elephants, and lions are permitted to see humans acting like fools. She had laughed at it but it was true, as she had seen the circus of her life in the kaleidoscopic swirl of facades and fleeting dreams. Sometimes it was tiring to make a fool of herself in front of those drooling animals, but what could she do?

She lapped the salty water that rushed down her cheeks and pooled at her closed lips. She brushed her face to her wrists and leaned against the telephone for support, her system still humming with the buzz of her latest activity. It was dark outside, the uncomfortable hush after a storm seeping inside the booth. She let some more minutes pass before she made out her mind and stepped out of the box.

"Finally," a voice stopped her in mid-stride. "I see that you need a lot of time to…recuperate. I thought you fell asleep standing."

Trowa.

"I thought you're the one who's actually sleepwalking," she retorted hotly, "and finally woke up when you think your wet dream is over."

He snickered, "So we're back to discussing dreams?"

She rolled her eyes in response, and whatever her rejoinder would have been, it was left forgotten when he dragged her back inside the booth. Maybe, she thought, a life akin to a circus wasn't that bad at all.

Outside, it began raining again.


Fin.

Trompe-L'oeil- French word for 'trick the eye'