"Put your hands down. I was the first one to surrender and come out, remember?"
To choose to surrender, to leave the safety of the bowels of a giant fighting machine in mid-battle, to refuse the aid of a whole support army to fight, to win. It was admirable. And convincing. It was that attitude that had caused Trowa to lower his suspicions of the other pilot. It was that apparent sense of nobility and honor that had provided some trust - just enough to accept an offer for repairs, refueling, ammunition - and shelter. Regardless, if betrayed, Trowa knew he could quickly 'rectify' the situation. A gundam pilot - a soldier - usually has more than one possible way to achieve goals.
Trowa had been on a battlefield for as long as he could remember. Those who fought beside him, had not taken care of him, nor he of them. Even while fighting on the same side, they were individuals - and thus prone to subversion. Betrayals had happened before. He would not - could not - risk that happening again. A single mantra echoed in his mind.
I can't trust anyone but myself - I fight alone.
Once before had he shown compassion for another. A girl. A cross. A beacon. Salvation. Or not. As a result, he had survived, but his comrades in arms had died. Yet, he did not regret his past actions... much.
Their convoy had been travelling for quite a while now. After departing from Corsica Base, and crossing the Mediterranean, they were now heading through desert.
Sand and machinery... Heavyarms was not designed for operations in desert regions, but it is a solid machine. I stake my life in its abilities. Still, it is just a machine - isn't it?
The others came to a halt. Trowa stopped Heavyarms. Outside, he could see nothing but sand nearby them. In the far distance, a low, flat cliff cropped up. Nothing else. Nothing else visible. In front of them, a trapdoor opened, grains of sand drizzling down along its sides, some of it down in the darkness of the metallic cavern beneath.
"This is our base," the other pilot stated. "The repair bays are down there. Please follow us."
He had watched as repairs on Heavyarms commenced. He didn't like the idea of others meddling with his gundam - but they were doing a good job. Even when he had made his presence less obvious, rounding a corner, the repairs continued with the same zealousness. He turned, only to face the blonde pilot. Up close, he certainly didn't look like a warrior - but Trowa remembered how respectfully the other soldiers treated him - Their battle had shown part of the reason for that respect - but Trowa felt there had to be more than met the naked eye here. Even so, he could sense no ill-will or hidden intent.
"Please, come along. I'll show you to your quarters," the other said with a gentle smile. "This way."
Trowa was led down a hallway, up one flight of stairs, two left side turns, down another hallway, and up yet another staircase. In his mind, he plotted down a map, to be certain he could find his way back to Heavyarms should the need or desire arise. Something sharp in his duffle bag began poking him in his back. Shifting the bag slightly to avoid this, an object fell out from the bag. It never reached the ground. Nor did the orb stop moving until it was returned to its origin, all in one swift, steady motion. Having heard the sound, the other turned, but not in time to see. They continued upwards, against the slowly growing daylight.
The complex built on top of the military base, could hardly be described as anything less than a small palace. The sunlight fractured and danced through the colored glass mosaic windows up beneath the roof high above, creating a spectacular light show on the tapestries hanging on the brick walls of the carpeted hallway. The whole place literally screamed wealth. Still, Trowa did not show any signs of surprise, or even appreciation of the wondrous views - he had no intentions of being bedazzled by mere images of money. Proceeding down the hallway, he casually glanced through some of the open doors and passageways, seeing rooms with even more expensive artifacts. He began to suspect the army below was nothing more than a mercenary army - but somehow, he failed to see how they would treat the kid walking in front of him with such respect, if that was the case. Mercenaries might respect the money - but hardly ever the provider. Besides, a mercenary's benefactor rarely participated in the battles - the whole reason for having hired guns was usually to avoid doing the dirty work oneself.
His guide stopped in front of a large, wooden door, slowly pushing it open. Plaster walls in a blueish purple. A single curtained window opposite of the door. A framed painting hung on each side wall, as if forming a square with the door and window. Two dressers, a single simple bed with covers colored like the sky, all above slippery brown floorboards. Although it did not seem to match the hallway in sheer luxury, Trowa was glad it wasn't. Had it been too pleasant, it might not be easy to leave. Still, looks could be deceptive - something he had proved to adversaries many a time before. He had to make certain he retained his freedom of movement - or acquire it.
"Am I free to leave the room? - walk around unguided?"
"Sure - go wherever you like. If you get lost, just ask anyone you see - I think just about everybody knows we have a visitor by now, and they will treat you with respect. If you need anything, don't hesitate to ask."
Quatre was slightly worried about his guest - not because of a lack of trust or any feelings of insecurity, but rather due to the other pilot's reserved nature. There had been made no more than the simplest of requests, nor had there been made any particular inquiries. The visitor had preferred to dine alone in his quarters, a desire Quatre respected. He could understand this need for independence. Some people would never accept aid or charity, regardless of the form it was presented in. The quiet guest was apparently one such individual. In the military complex beneath, Rashid and his men were still busy repairing the gundams. Quatre had been informed the repairs were proceeding faster than expected, as both fighting machines had many striking similarities in design and construction. Even so, it would still take a while for all damage to be mended.
The garden pavilion always provided comfort. The fresh fragrance of the green growths outside, the rays of sunlight coming through the holes in the roof, creating a breathtaking spectacle through the colored glass-ceiling beneath, the vase at the center, always holding fresh flowers - no other place in the complex reverberated tranquility as forceful. Quatre often came here to escape the battle mentality that often clouded his mind. Within this room, bathed in the tunes and compositions of old musical masters, or modern and contemporary prodigies, he could escape the painful death cries of those who fell in battle - on both sides. Even more importantly, here he could directly contribute something constructive, rather than destructive, by playing either to himself, to the room, or in contest, harmony - or both - with the records of others. His instrument of choice was the violin, an instrument he had played for as long as he could recall. Few minutes passed before the calming vibrations of the strings transported him to a mental safe haven, shielded from the world around.
Trowa had been well-trained in stealth; he had entered the pavilion without alerting Quatre, who was all but immersed in his music, eyes closed. Leaning towards the doorway, Trowa folded his arms, listened. The sweet, enchanting tones of the violin resonated through the room, making each stroke of the bow across the tight-wound strings affect appreciative ears far greater than it would elsewhere. Still, there was something missing. The violin lacked a counterbalancing force, a competitor, a rival - and a match. It was with that in mind, Trowa stepped over to the small cabinet on his right side. Within, various instruments were stored, the violin the only one removed. Trowa's musical training had been sporadic and short. He had been given quick, basic lessons for various instruments in the circus band, so that he could replace any of the band members should disease or other unforeseeable things occur. Anyone could be a clown or a target on a knife thrower's board - few could create the musical backdrop that is just as essential as the artists in the ring. He didn't mask his steps toward the cabinet, nor was he bothered by the squeaking sound the hinges made upon opening. He reached for the instrument within which he felt most comfortable with; a flute. He closed the cabinet, pressed the cold metal tube against his lips and let his fingers dance experimentally across the surface, trying to remember his lessons. Quatre had noticed him walking towards the instruments, and had begun playing a slightly repetitive tune; one that Trowa could easily follow.
The two instruments complemented each other quite well, playing along the same tones for a while. Then, Quatre appeared to break out of the harmony, making just a few resonances without Trowa following, but the sounds almost begged for a reply, a challenge; which they got with a few clear, beautiful whistles from the flute. The violin responded, and the two instruments dueled like this for a while, but never in complete disagreement; the melody and harmony between the two remained. The sounds streaked across the room, blending with the dancing light through the canopy above. The struggling between the two instruments quickened in pace, both unwilling to submit or let the other win. Thus, in a prolonged common finish, it ended.
"Thank you - that was beautiful," said the violinist, beaming with joy and enthusiasm. "Where did you learn to play so well?"
Trowa did not respond, he put the flute back where he had found it, gave Quatre a curt bow, and walked out of the pavilion, not stopping before he reached his room. Quatre did not follow. If he wants to talk, he'll talk. I'd better not push him into it. I hope he'll trust me enough for that soon, though. Silence can hurt from within - even kill. It was then he realized they had not even exchanged names. Again, he decided not to bother the other. If the pilot wanted to know his name, he could simply ask anyone at the complex. Then again, he hadn't asked for anything other than the occasional meal, or a status report on the repairs of his gundam. Better to wait. There's a time and a place for everything - we're just not there just yet.
He slowly opened the door to the guest room. He had already knocked, but not receiving a reply, he had reached for the door handle. Peering his head inside, he faced an empty room, greeted only by cold plaster walls and red curtains flapping in the open window on the other side of the room. He rushed there. Outside, he could see the other pilot walk towards the flatbed truck carrying his now repaired gundam.
"Do you really have to leave?"
No reply. No reaction.
"I won't stop you - but at least tell me what your name is before you go. My name is Quatre Raberba Winner."
The other boy halted, turned.
"I have no name - but if you must call me something, it's Trowa - call me Trowa Barton."
While he spoke, he began walking again. Quatre smiled, and waved. "Goodbye, friend Trowa. We'll meet again." Of that, I am certain, he thought.
As Quatre sat down on the lone bed in the guest room, Rashid approached him, a concerned look on his face. "Quatre, should we be letting him go like this? He knows the location of this base, after all."
No, but I don't know how to convince him to stay, his mind raced - but Quatre knew that was not quite what Rashid had meant.
"I wouldn't worry. He's not the type to go around telling anyone." If anything, he's too quiet...
"But what if he attacks?"
Quatre smiled at him, and answered truthfully. "I almost wish he would - then at least I'd be able to see him again."
Rashid walked out of the room, leaving Quatre with his thoughts. In the distance, the roar of a truck engine could be heard. It sounds as if he's in a hurry. I... I hope I didn't offend him, or make him uncomfortable, somehow. He looked down at the floor. Trowa... I... I still don't know quite what I felt when I surrendered to you... but I did, and I'm glad I did. Staring through the open window now, Quatre let his hands slide across the made bed, feeling warmth from it still, his sense of touch playing tricks on him.
I... I've had so few friends. I trust the Maguanacs with my life, and I consider them my friends... but I can't tell them everything - I don't dare trust them that much yet - not even Rashid... And I wouldn't want to do anything that would risk losing their respect either...
Quatre stood up.
So, if I can't tell them, my closest friends, how I feel, what I think - how can I possibly tell Trowa? What I feel for him, is more than a desire to be just a friend - though I'd be happy with even that... I can only hope he wouldn't hate me if I dared tell him sometime...
"Goodbye, friend Trowa. We'll meet again."
Friend... I want to believe that. I want to believe that so badly - but it goes against everything I've ever experienced.
I did not stop walking at those words. I wish I had - but I couldn't. He made another turn, driving just a bit faster than reason would dictate. The tires of the flatbed truck squealed loudly under the stress. The weight of the canvas-covered gundam made the truck tilt slightly. I wanted to stay, but I couldn't. Not even for friendship. Trowa accelerated. There was no traffic on the road at present. No obstacles. Nothing to prevent his getaway.
Why did I run? What was I - am I afraid of? He already knew the answer. He simply refused to accept it. He showed me nothing but kindness and hospitality. I can't accept such things without distrusting intentions. I can't allow myself to rely on anyone else - to befriend anyone. It would weaken me as a soldier.
Soldier. The word resonated within his head, recreating endless unwanted memories. My entire life, I've been a soldier, fighting whatever enemy I was ordered to. To stop fighting at Corsica was my decision - mine alone.... Why did I stop fighting?
His mind was already churning out possible answers, both the logical ones, and the ones he didn't want to admit.
I was out of ammo. Quatre's private little army could probably have destroyed Heavyarms before I could escape in that state. I wouldn't have stood a chance, had he desired to defeat me - yet he surrendered to me... Why, I don't know. He is braver than I. To top it all off, he offered to help me. I had nothing to lose at accepting - at least, that's what I thought...
He reached a crossroads. Having studied the road maps in advance, he took the shortest route back to the circus.
Why did I leave? Did his kindness scare me? I'm not used to compassion, nor help, from strangers. I fend for myself - yet, I accepted his - trusted him and his companions... Why is it, that I feel angry at him, for caring about me?
He already knew the answer, but could barely make himself think of it.