Sometimes, memories of a traumatic or painful experience get lost in your head. You try to forget about them, if you can, but usually a physical state of shock will blur them up so much you can’t tell if they’re real or a dream.
It’s happened to me a few times—well, lots of times, I guess, though unfortunately I remember more battles than I’ve forgotten. The scientists and army personnel prefer it that way, of course, so I can give them a full report, but they don’t have to deal with the pictures that stay forever burned in my head. The nightmares that play in front of my eyes when I’m trying to sleep.
Explosions. Screams. Bodies. Body parts, when the explosions are powerful enough. Blood. Hellfire and brimstone? Maybe, if only for symbolism’s sake. Most people after a while will develop a sort of shield to these images, so they can make it through the jobs a war puts in front of them. A callous, if you will.
I never did. I never will. I felt every single life I took. But I think, in the long run, I’m better off for it.
Once, when I was sixteen, I had a mission with Trowa to destroy a weapons lab. I was out in the middle of nowhere, and in the dead of winter. This is one of the missions that clouded, I honestly cannot formulate a single memory of the facility itself or what we did to blow the place up. I remember getting there on a stolen moterbike, how the airborne snow bit at my skin, and how my fingers got frostbitten. After that, nothing. Not even a blur. Trowa maintains I was conscious and even fairly useful for all of it, and I believe him. After all, if I hadn’t been, and we hadn’t pulled it off, the next memory would have been decidedly less dramatic.
The image is one I will never, ever forget. We’d retrieved the bike, were preparing to make a break for it, could hear the results of our efforts rattling the still of the forest. I had finally gotten the ignition to start, and Trowa just stopped.
Just froze. Facing the way we had come, he stood there, ankle deep in snow and stared. He was lit sporadically by a flash of orange and yellow light as another wing of the building exploded, and the resulting thunder shook me to the core.
I yelled at him to get it together. For all either of us knew, the debris could reach us, or the trees could catch fire. Now would be a good time to leave.
He didn’t move. He’d been standing there for a couple of minutes, and his breath had frosted the tips of his bangs. His cheeks were red, his nose, too. I was glad his hands were in his pockets.
It was as if I hadn’t said anything. Another building blew up, and the sound nearly knocked me off the bike. Trowa didn’t even flinch. As if on cue, the wind picked up, buffeting me with snow like a slap across the face with a pincushion. I was sure he’d gone into shock or something, and a hint of panic lit in the back of my skull.
“Trowa, get on the damn bike!”
I don’t usually use language like that. It must have surprised him. He was instantly alert and had jumped onto the bike behind me before my heart could beat again. And he was shivering now, all right. I could feel the tremors shake him as I kicked us into motion.
There wasn’t time for any sort of verbal exchange, and once we were moving the wind would have stolen our words anyway. But I drove fast. Fast enough that he had to hold to me tightly around my waist. I wanted to know he was there, that I hadn’t left him behind in the snow.
The safehouse I had managed to procure wasn’t much more that a cabin for rent I’d booked for the two days we had to complete our assignment. Better than some places we’d been, worse than others. I was happy so long as the furnace was working and there was a functional kettle to be had. As this place had both, I wasn’t complaining.
I threw Trowa onto the couch the minute we got in the door, wrapped his hands around a mug of hot tea not much later, then took off in search of a blanket. I was looting around the cupboard in the single bedroom when I heard the kettle sing a second time, so I gave up and stole the quilt off the bed instead.
But I was still worried. Trowa still hadn’t said a word. I mean, he’s never a chatterbox, but this was a particularly empty silence, the kind that always leaves me babbling to fill it. He drank his tea, helped me get the quilt around his shoulders, even let me check his hands and face for frostbite. But he was quiet as a mouse. And he was still shivering.
I sat beside him and sipped my own tea, wishing we had sugar. The tea was decaff, so it tasted funny. Not the best quality. And it was stale. In the overall perspective of things, that was probably the least of my problems, but it irked me all the same. Trowa stared at the wall, but at least it wasn’t a blank stare so much as a vaguely contemplative one. I’m not sure which was worse, the comatose, or the ability to find something of interest in a wall. When I set the tea down, it was empty, and I started to get to my feet to refill it.
“No.” His voice froze me, halfway into a standing position. “Don’t go. You were keeping me warm.”
I sat back down slowly. He was finally looking at me, his one visible eye as unreadable as the one hidden behind his hair. “You don’t want more tea?” I asked.
“No.” He shook his head. “It doesn’t help.”
A frown wrinkled my brow, and I reached out to touch his forehead. “Are you still cold?” He felt fine to me. In fact, he felt even a bit hot, burning a little with the exaggerated heat that follows a chill.
“Always,” Trowa whispered, and his voice shook with his shivering body. “I’m never not cold.”
I picked up his hands, and they were freezing. Holding them to my lips, I let my breath puff over them, hoping that would lend at least some heat. “What can I do?”
He sighed. “I don’t think you can do anything.”
We sat for a long time like that, me with Trowa’s hands between mine in my lap, and he curled up into the arm of the couch, still shivering. We did not speak. Outside, the wind howled, and threw tireless handfulls of snow against the thin pane of glass. There was a low whirr as the furnace kicked in again. His hands were still cold.
His head snapped up and I closed my mouth. He looked—not scared. Not pained, not sad. Just some weird amalgamation of all three.
“Trowa… are you OK?”
He closed his eyes and shook his head. “It’s just so cold in here, Quatre,” he told me, and his hands tightened to fists in my hold. “It’s freezing.”
I felt his forehead again, but saw no change. “You’re fine Trowa, I don’t understand.” My hand slid over his hair, coming to rest at his temple.
“Not like you’re thinking,” he said finally. “That’s not what I meant.” And he reached up and took my wrist, pulling my hand down until it rested over his heart.
Oh. Of course.
Trowa is, as I said, a man of few words. Luckily, don’t usually need words with him. Between the two of us is born a language spoken with the eyes, one that no one else can understand. And his eyes spoke clearly to me now, even the one I could barely see.
My breath caught in empathy, and I grabbed him around the shoulders and pulled him into my arms. I could see, now, what he meant. How he had watched me weep over the deaths of men I didn’t even know, and felt nothing but emptiness. So close to him now, I felt that void as my own, and it ached, oh it ached. I could feel, too, the ice around his heart, the frozen shield he had built, that numbed him. And that hurt, too.
When I lifted my head, I could feel tears spill from my eyes, though Trowa’s were dry as he stared at me. “What can I do?” I demanded fiercely. “There must be something I can do to help you.”
He glanced at my hand, which had gone back to his heart. “Just—give me something… warm,” he finally said. “Give me something to melt it. Make me warm.” His eyes were bright when they met mine again.
I pushed his bangs out of his face, I wanted to see him. “But—Allah, Trowa, what can I do?”
Trowa shifted on the couch, closer so that our eyes were just inches apart. “Anything,” he whispered, and his breath danced over my cheek. I swayed, a bit dizzy, as if pulled by some weird gravity.
Needless to say, I saw it coming. But I didn’t try to fight it.
Our noses bumped. My mouth brushed the corner of his, and a rush of air escaped him. I let my fingers tangle in his hair as he brought his own hand to my shoulder. It wasn’t graceful. It wasn’t perfect. But that didn’t matter, because then our lips found the other’s, and everything else was forgotten.
Who would have thought that simply touching your mouth to someone else’s could make your head spin so much? Or that it could make every nerve in your body buzz with energy? Maybe weird isn’t the right word for it. Staggering is better. Dizzying.
And it wasn’t even open-mouthed yet.
Trowa pulled away first. It took me a minute to get my heartbeat back to normal and open my eyes, but when I did, I was relieved to see he was as stunned as I was. My hand was still on his cheek, I realized, but I didn’t move it. I licked my lips nervously, and held my breath.
“That,” Trowa whispered, his voice rough, and barely audible even to me. His hand slid from my shoulder to the back of my neck. “You could do that.” And he pulled me forward again.
It blurs again after that. But I know what happened a little, at least. The kisses got deeper, our bodies got closer. Somewhere along, I stood up and pulled Trowa and the quilt with me, and we eventually ended up on the bed.
The memory is more of a feeling than anything. I remember wanting to surround him completely, to wrap around him like a blanket and melt the ice in his soul. When I touched him, it was like touching a frost-painted windowpane, the way his skin warmed and relaxed under my fingertips. I remember sitting on the edge of the bed, lying down and pulling him on top of me.
Kissing him was invigorating. Intoxicating. But this was crazy. It made me forget my own name. It made me forget everything but Trowa. It hurt a bit, of course. By that point, I didn’t care. But once I got used to the pain—then it was mind-blowing.
We were as silent afterwards as we had been until then. Trowa lay on my chest, his breath warming my skin. I played with his hair. Neither of us had it together enough to speak, I guess. Eventually, he fell asleep, and for once, didn’t wake up five times with nightmares.
Wufei picked us up early the next morning—if he suspected anything, he kept it to himself. Trowa rode in the car with him while I took the bike alone. We never got a chance to talk about it.
I don’t regret it though. Maybe things changed between us, maybe we had to go our separate ways, and maybe things that could have been never happened. But what I gave him that day, I offered freely. I will never regret it.