I'm not paid to dodge.
The words kept ringing over and over again in Catherine's mind. Trowa remained a puzzle to her. He had shown no fear - not reacted at all - when the knife had lost its course. He had shown nothing else, either. Strapped to the knife thrower's board, his face had gone blank. Completely blank. Not a muscle moving, eyes gazing at a nothingness somewhere between them. Catherine had never experienced that before. Even the bravest shows some fear when risking pain and suffering - voluntarily. Not much, perhaps, and usually with any signs of fear kept well hidden, but the fear was there. Trowa had shown none. Catherine had lost her focus because of that, and the result could quickly have become fatal. She still wondered why Trowa didn't dodge the wayward knife. When attempting to apologize for the dangerous throw, she had confronted Trowa over this, but gotten no answers. Catherine had her suspicions however, but one of those very suspicions kept her from pushing the issue. If Trowa was tired of living, she could do nothing that might push him over the edge. She maintained that policy of silence for a few days, but every time she saw Trowa in a potentially dangerous situation - clearing the still-occupied animal cages, working high up among the big top's masts and ropes, rehearsing acrobatics, polishing knives - her heart pounded a bit faster, wondering if that might be the moment. Finally, she broke. Catherine decided to confront, rather than circumvent. When your target is silent and calm, one can only learn about the target through reactions to provocations of word or action.
Trowa was by the lion cage, tending to the aging animal inside. Catherine walked over to him slowly, waiting for Trowa to acknowledge her presence.
He turned, looked at here, waited for her to say something. She did not. For a few seconds the silence between them was all that was. The lion brought them out of the awkward silence, with a growl demanding attention and, in turn, food. Trowa threw in the designated piece of meat, returned to face Catherine's silence.
"Trowa, I..." She stopped. She didn't want to approach this too strongly. She started again. "Trowa, I've been wondering - is there anything bothering you? I mean, you're always so quiet, and you disappear for a while occasionally - where, or why, is none of my business, but it can't be anywhere that can make you happy. You're always so... so... glum, especially when you've just returned."
"There can be only so many happy clowns in the world," Trowa muttered, eyes now downward, expression without eminent emotion. Catherine sighed.
"There is something troubling you, isn't it? You've been even more depressed than usual since you came back this last time - what happened?"
Trowa did not answer. He didn't want to. He also knew Catherine wouldn't stop this interrogation until she had gotten an answer she deemed acceptable. Lying would be easy - to do, but not to live with. Trust. I must learn to trust again.
Catherine became impatient.
"Trowa, please, tell me. Whatever it is, I'm sure talking about it will make you feel better." There was still no answer. "Well? Are you going to tell me what happened, or do I have to find another way to get to the truth?" Ever so slowly, her words she broke through.
"It wasn't a what," Trowa mumbled, barely audible. "It was a who."
Catherine looked surprised, but she was happy with her progress. Unlocking and peering into the vault that is another's mind can provide grand feelings of empowerment.
"You mean you've met someone? Who? What did that someone do or say to make you sad?"
"Nothing. I made myself depressed."
"Why would you do that - how did you do that?"
"I left. I should have stayed."
"Are you saying someone scared you away for some reason? That doesn't sound like the Trowa I know." He looked up, eyes tinted, no longer empty.
"Not scare - terrify. ...but also delight."
Seeing those emerald eyes glaze over, Catherine began to understand what had happened. She had seen that lost look on others many times before. While embracing him in a light hug, she said "Oh, Trowa. I thought you were about to... but you weren't - you're just a bit lovesick, aren't you? Who's the lucky girl?"
"It's not a girl."
"...but the 'diagnosis' is correct."
"Oh. Well, you shouldn't feel sad over something like that, Trowa. Life has a funny way of sorting out matters of the heart."
"Not if you work against it."
"Wrong - especially when you work against it. Trowa, whatever happened, it's over now. You can't undo or relive the past. Only live in the present, and plan for the future. Before you know it, you'll meet that girl-"
"Whatever - guy again. Does he like you?"
"I don't know. Every time he gets close, I almost panic." Catherine smiled.
"I think I know why - he gets past your defenses, doesn't he? Makes you want to say things you've never told anyone else? Don't get me wrong, Trowa, you're a nice guy, but you're just too quiet for your own good. I think it would do you good to open up a bit to people - you've done well enough with me, now."
"I don't risk losing anything with you." She laughed, but not in mockery.
"Don't let that stop you, Trowa. Even if you do lose something, think of the things you could gain."
She knew he did. His eyes glazed over again, lost in daydreams for but a few fleeting moments. She turned to walk away, satisfied with the answers given.
"Trowa, you can always come to me should you need someone to talk to. We're a big, happy family here at the circus, you know."
Trowa regained his usual strict composure, and returned to his duties. A big, happy family. Yes. ...but there are some things you hide even from family - for their own good.
Trowa had gotten new orders; relocate to San Fransisco. Target; The Alliance base at New Edwards. While OZ activity world-wide had increased since his arrival on Earth, the activity at that base was by far the most interesting. The OZ organization sure had guts if they dared gather all of their top leaders in one confined location during a losing war. They had to know they'd be attacked, so defenses would be strong - but not strong enough. Trowa was sure Quatre would go there - a target like that would be hard to pass for any gundam pilot... ...which meant there could be others heading for New Edwards too. According to what he had learned from the now dead man whose name he had taken and Doctor S, Operation Meteor included sending more than just two gundams to Earth - a lot more. The primary impact of that operation had been avoided, though. If the other pilots were like the one Heavyarms was built for, they would have to be stopped. How Quatre could have been selected as a pilot for such a mission, he couldn't understand. In Trowa's mind, Quatre was many things - a power-hungry, bloodthirsty or revenge-driven individual was not among them. Perhaps that meant the others were reasonable people too - but he could not take the risk of blindly believing that.
In the woods near the circus, Trowa had been busy for hours rearming Heavyarms, preparing both the machine and himself for battle. He was about to get into the cabin of the flatbed truck carrying the gundam, when a nagging feeling held him back. He didn't want to drive off again without letting Catherine know he would return - especially since he felt there was a chance he would not return.
He found her in her trailer, busily mending a costume. Her attire was as free-spirited as ever; both that in her hands and that on her body. Trowa had opened the door without a sound, but closed it audibly enough to be sure Catherine would be aware of his presence. She turned, put down the costume.
He simply stood there, unable to get himself to speak.
"So... What's on your mind?"
"Catherine, I have to go for a while."
"Go? Where? -Oh, are you going to see that guy you talked about?" The answer was abrupt, almost panicky.
"No." ...and yes, he thought - but didn't say. It would have given an incorrect impression. Catherine's voice became careful, soft, as if vocally defusing a bomb.
"O-kay... ...but you are coming back?"
"Yes. Soon, hopefully," Trowa said with regained calm.
"You know, the manager is not going to be pleased about this..."
"Can't be helped. I have to go." She smiled.
"Then, go. I don't know about the manager, but I'll wait for you. Just hurry back to us - you know we worry about you when you're gone."
"Yeah." One big, happy family under the big top...
"...and if you should meet that guy - coincidentally, of course - don't be afraid of showing some emotion on that severe face of yours. You don't have to act the 'strong, tall and silent' type all the time. Seek what makes you happy, Trowa - sadness will find you easily enough. I know that from experience..." Her smile faded, voice trailed off, mind flashed with memories past. Trowa took that expression as a sign to leave. He turned, walked toward the door.
"Catherine, don't worry about me. I'll be fine." The door closed.
I sure hope so, Trowa. I've already lost one family. I don't want to lose this one too...
Of course he ran into Quatre again - but sooner than expected. Trowa knew they'd see each other again, but he hadn't anticipated that to happen before the battle at New Edwards. Trowa had reacted sourly, been evasive. Quatre's suggestion had been reasonable enough; work together during the attack. Trowa didn't mind the idea itself, but he didn't want to let Quatre get into a position to learn more about him, possibly hurt him. Working together, information never intended to be shared might be extracted or deduced. He did not yet trust Quatre - or anyone - enough for that. There are some things one wants to keep hidden for as long as possible, even from potential friends and allies.
Trowa had gone up on deck, walked to the aft of the ship, resting his elbows on the railing, looking out on the calm, moonlit ocean. Beneath, he could hear the distant roars of the engines. For the longest time nothing else broke that tranquility - until he heard footsteps. Careful, slow, testing footsteps. He didn't have to turn to know who it was.
"Enjoying the view?" Quatre's tone of voice was reminiscent of that of a shrink; persuasive, gentle and inquisitive. He came up next to Trowa, leaned against the railing. "I don't think I'll ever realize just how beautiful Earth can be. The colonies might be closer to the stars, but they sure look better here. Especially now. No clouds, no obstacles. Nothing obscuring that lovely dim light from afar." Quatre paused, took a deep breath and sighed. "There's something special about the salty, moist air of the sea. Don't you think so too, Trowa?" Trowa merely stared onwards to the distant horizon, over the gently moving surface where the moon reflected sunlight.
The lack of an answer did not deter Quatre. He was determined to get Trowa to agree to cooperation. The last thing either of them needed, was to begin fighting each other during the attack. Quatre did not think that it would happen, there would be no point in them fighting. However, to ensure the safety of the both of them, it would be wise to coordinate the attack, especially considering the vital importance of this mission. Being direct on the issue hadn't worked. He thought it better to let it rest for a while, try to talk of something else, find another angle of approach.
Quatre looked up at the darkened sky, blanketed with stars. Not all were stars. Some were colonies, acting as artificial moons in the night, mirroring sunlight to Earth's dark side. Even so, telling the difference was difficult to the untrained eye, and even then, it felt better to imagine them all as distant stars to be appreciated from afar than close artificial constructs to fight and die for. He looked over at his silent friend. Trowa was also looking up at the distant beacons flashing obliviously of the effect their escaping light had on distant places.
"Trowa, what do you see when you look at the stars?"
"What do you mean?"
"Often, I've stood staring at space above - usually at the colonies, but also at the stars. I've dreamt of going to both. I went where I could go."
"You went there... You're not from the colonies, then?"
"Originally? No, I don't think I was. I always felt more at home there, though."
"Didn't you have a home on Earth?"
"No. I've never had a real home - none I can remember. I've been a drifter all my life. No real home, no real destination, no real travelling company along the road - and no real road to follow."
"That sounds incredibly lonely, Trowa. Why do you want to go through everything alone?"
"Then why don't you work with me for a while? At least during the upcoming battle at New Edwards?"
"I... I work alone. I always have. I've always been alone."
"I think you're wrong - about being alone, I mean."
"Well, when you're a drifter, wherever you are, is home. Wherever you want to go, is your destination. Whoever you want it to be, is your company for the road - and the road forms beneath you as you go. By that definition, this ship is home, our destination is San Fransisco, the road is the sea, and your travelling company is me - if you want me to be. So, right now, you're not alone."
"...but I could choose to be?"
"Right - but you're not. You're talking to me."
"That doesn't mean anything."
"Wrong. It means you don't want to be alone right now. You just said so, too."
Trowa didn't answer. Catherine was right. Quatre could pull answers out of him, answers he had never given to anyone else. Reasoning that the best defense would be attack, he asked a question of his own.
"Quatre, why did you surrender back at Corsica Base?"
"Well, I just didn't think we should go on fighting. We weren't enemies."
"You couldn't have known that for sure."
"No, but that's what my heart told me." Trowa did a poor job hiding his surprise of the answer.
"Yeah... When Instructor H gave me Sandrock, he told me to fight like my heart told me to - which I have - well, tried, anyway. Do you know what that is like? Fighting for what you feel to be right, not for what you think or reason to be right?"
"No. The fires in my heart were put out long ago."
"I... I'd rather not talk about it."
"Okay. That's fine. Let me know if you want to talk about it, though. It usually helps to talk about things, you know."
Not if you end up saying the wrong things, Trowa thought. "What is it like?"
"What is what like?"
"Fighting on your feelings."
"Oh. Liberating, at least. Even when the odds are against you, you'll stay fighting if there is something you still need to defend. You choose which things to protect, which to oppose. I haven't heard from Instructor H since I came to Earth. In a way, I guess I'm following his last standing order - but that same order made me free of any obligations to those who sent us here."
"So, you're a rogue?"
"Yeah, I guess you could say that. I don't think you are fighting according to some preset plan either, though."
"I'm not. I fi-"
"-fight alone. So I've heard."
"But I also fight for what I think is right."
"The freedom of the colonies, you mean?"
"...and you still think you'll be able to make that happen, all alone?"
"I can try."
"Trowa, please let us fight on the same side tomorrow. I don't want us to be enemies. I want us to be friends."
Friends? The word resonated in Trowa's mind. He wanted that too - and more - but he was still afraid - afraid to let someone in close, making him vulnerable. On the other hand, if he did not, he was guaranteed to be hurt. Quatre's disarming eyes pushed him over the edge of hesitation.
Those same eyes for a moment sparkled enough to rival the stars above, and then closed as they together with the rest of that lovely face buried into Trowa's chest in a fierce hug. Paralyzed by the sudden action, arms numbed, it took a while before Trowa realized what had happened. He slowly raised his arms, giving Quatre a soft pat on the back - not an embrace of affection, but a gesture of friendship. He dared not do anything more. The repercussions should he have read Quatre's actions wrong, were - in his mind - too severe to risk.
Quatre released Trowa from the hug. Impulsiveness and happiness had made him act. He hadn't considered the other might not approve. Trowa just displayed a narrow smile, no discomfort - though no joy either. That was a relief.
"Thank you, Trowa," Quatre muttered. He looked out over the slowly curling wakes of the ship, starlight still making the crests seemingly sparkle and dance. For hours, they stood there, not saying a word, barely looking at each other. Neither dared do anything to break the moment, neither dared do anything to destroy what little was accomplished between them. Neither was truly happy, but loneliness was no longer present, either.