Keeper of the Keys

 

Amber

 

I could barely feel the sun filtering in through my window. It was just faintly warm, not that I needed it. My barely-awake brain could only register warmth and contentment. I was sleepy and comfortable, and whatever was keeping me so warm also made me incredibly happy. I started to snuggle back under the covers, then stopped, frowning. Why am I still in my good clothes?

Wakefulness hit me fully and I groaned. Damn. No chance of going back to sleep now. I tried to shift and sit up, but something held me down, firmly.

Trowa! I blinked, remembering the previous night. We’d been kissing, almost like the beginning of a "make-out fest" as Duo called it. But… I was still dressed. We hadn’t done anything. So what…?

I fixed my gaze on the taller boy, whose arms were firmly locked around me. He looked peaceful, happy… Unconsciously, it seemed, he’d snuggled in close to me. My heart skipped a beat. Oh, Trowa… You… Could he feel it, the same way I did? We were connected… he had to know that.

And I loved him…

"I love you, Trowa," I whispered, kissing his forehead softly and then sighing. It felt good to finally get that out – I may have just realized it moments before, but some part of me had known, even before…

Could it really be this easy?

Looking down at Trowa’s sleeping form, I answered that myself. Yes. It could. And it wouldn’t be so simple, no matter how it felt, or how fast this had turned into something so right that I wanted it to last forever. We had a war to fight, and enemies to deal with… If we wanted a life together – and I know I did – then we’d have to work for it. With each other as much as with outside forces.

And I was more than willing to do just that.

"Mmm…" Trowa shifted against me a bit, and his eyes slid open slowly. I held my breath for a moment, waiting for the memories to come to light in those mysterious green orbs. Then his mouth relaxed in a smile.

"Good morning."

I let out the breath I’d been holding. "You don’t mind? Where you are, I mean."

He looked amused. "It was my idea."

"I know, but I thought you might regret it." I laughed sheepishly. "I guess that was kind of silly, wasn’t it?"

"It was." He leaned forward and kissed my lips softly, making me feel warm all through, and then trailed a line of those soft kisses down over my jawline. A strange little pleased noise escaped my throat, and I tilted my head to give him access to me.

"Trowa?" I felt his lips brush against my throat, and shivered. "What exactly happened last night?"

"You fell asleep."

"Oh." Figures. I smiled. "I’m sorry. But… maybe it was for the best. I mean, I really don’t want to rush into this…"

He pulled back slightly and gazed at me. I felt another surge of warmth rush through me at the look in his eyes – pure, beautiful affection, and all for me. "Are you a virgin?"

The abruptness of the question caught me off-guard, and I blushed. "Yeah," I said awkwardly, feeling suddenly embarrassed by the fact. Great. Another thing to add to the "pure, pale, helpless" cliché. Why couldn’t I ever have…?

"Then waiting is a good idea." He brushed my cheek with gentle fingers. "Make sure you have a clear idea of what it is you want." Abruptly, Trowa pulled away from me, moving to get out of bed. "We should get ready. And you should check that note."

"All right." I sat up, feeling cold without Trowa’s arms around me. I glanced over at him, and the question just sort of blurted itself out. "Are you, Trowa?"

He stopped. "Am I what?"

I was blushing horribly, and wished I could stop it. "A virgin. Are you?"

He gazed at me for a moment, long enough to make me feel embarrassed for having asked, then moved to the door again. "Yes," he said simply, and left the room, leaving me to stare after him in complete bafflement.

~~~~~~

"That doesn’t make sense."

Trowa glanced up from the note paper. "Most of them didn’t."

"No, but this one really doesn’t! I don’t get it, Trowa!" I dropped the note back onto my dresser so that the words ‘Amber already holds your soul’ were facing the smooth wood surface. "How can it hold my soul if I don’t have it yet?"

He watched me for a moment, and I thought I caught a hint of something new in his eyes – sympathy. That’s idiotic. Why would I need sympathy? "Maybe we should take a walk – just to clear your head," he suggested.

"All right." I felt bemused for a minute – then irrationally agitated. "There’s no way that could be right," I continued, more to myself than to Trowa, as we made our way across my dorm room. "There’s just no way."

He glanced to the side, at… At nothing. But he didn’t answer me.

"There isn’t," I repeated softly, and still I got no response.

I decided at that point that it was time for a subject change. "Where did you go last night?"

He glanced up at me. "Hmm?"

"You know, at the dinner party. Just before Dorothy showed up, you said that there was something you needed to take care of, remember?" I half turned to face him. "What was it?"

"I needed to break her contact with their world." He twisted the door handle and moved out. "She won’t be able to send any more of their creatures after us."

"So we’re safe?"

"Nobody is safe. Not until this war is over." He looked away.

"What are you going to do?" I asked him, shutting the door behind us and locking it. "When this is all over, are you going to go back to that spirit world?"

"I don’t know."

Don’t, I wanted to say to him. Don’t go back there, Trowa. I had a nasty feeling it would kill me to follow him there. "Oh," was all I actually said. At some point, I was going to have to ask him again.

"I have to choose," he said.

I pushed open the door leading out of the building. "What do you mean?"

"It’s in the prophecy."

"Whether or not you stay here or go there is in the prophecy?" I turned off down the path I’d taken the previous morning, toward Richland Falls.

Trowa stayed beside me, close enough so that we were almost touching. "I can’t make that decision too soon," he told me. "It’ll happen when it’s supposed to. What I choose determines whether or not I’ll be happy where I am."

And whether or not I’ll be happy where I am, I thought to myself, glancing briefly up at him. He was watching me already, a half smile on his face, fondness in his eyes. That immediately made me feel better, and I smiled back. "I hope you do make the right choice. You deserve to be happy."

He brushed his fingers against my shoulder softly, then slid an arm around them both, comfortably. It felt like we’d been together for a lot longer than a day. "I’d sooner see you happy," he answered, softly. "That’s more important."

I smiled in return. Then here’s hoping we both have the same goal in mind.

~~~~~~

"Are you ready yet?"

I glanced up, startled, from unlocking my door. "What?" My mind flew back over the conversations we’d had that morning, but nothing matched.

Trowa shrugged. "To take your Amber key."

I tore my eyes from his, blinking rapidly. "I… I don’t know where to find it," I answered, so softly it was almost a whisper. For some reason, the words were hard to get out.

Trowa didn’t answer, but watched me silently. He knew something I didn’t, and I knew he thought I should know it too. Perhaps I did, but it didn’t seem like it.

That agitation was back, knawing at me.

Maybe it was something to distract me, and maybe it was something to distract him. Maybe I was just desperate to feel something other than that uneasy sense of foreboding. Whatever it was, as soon as the door was closed, I threw myself at Trowa, arms closing around him so he couldn’t escape, crushing his lips with mine.

I felt the warmth of his body against mine, felt him relax and hold me, but it wasn’t the same as before. I kissed him desperately, again and again. "Trowa… Trowa… Trowa…" I murmured his name like a chant between frantic kisses. He pulled me closer, body tensing with controlled excitement, and I felt a brief surge of triumph. He enjoyed it; he was supposed to.

He broke away, breathing heavily, leaning his forehead against mine. "This won’t change things." His normally calm voice was breathless; his hands slid almost possessively over my back. "It won’t go away."

I ignored him, leaning forward for another kiss, which he returned. "Can we move to the couch?" I whispered, kissing him again, softly, then progressively gaining more passion. We fell more than lowered ourselves down onto the couch, tongues battling, hands exploring each other actively.

Trowa didn’t say anything more to me; he was response and eager to reciprocate any and all intimacies, but I could feel his reproval, still. You’re stalling, he seemed to be saying. You know what to do, you just don’t want to. I kissed him harder, trying to get rid of that feeling, but it wouldn’t leave me alone.

I didn’t want it this way anyway.

Breaking the kiss as gently as I could manage, I turned my face from Trowa’s, feeling completely and utterly wretched. "I’m sorry," I whispered, with as much sincerity as I felt able to put into the words. "This isn’t how I want it to be."

Trowa touched my cheek gently, and I realized with something akin to shock that I’d been crying. "I hadn’t meant to make you upset," he answered quietly. "I’m sure you’ll get the key when you’re ready. I won’t bother you about it."

I turned my face so it was buried into the place where his neck and shoulder met, but I didn’t cry this time. "I’ll find it," I promised, voice muffled. "I will. But…"

"We have time." He brushed a hand through my hair, running the other soothingly over my arm and shoulder. "We have all the time in the world."

"Thank you." I pulled away slightly, and managed a shaky laugh. "Do you want some breakfast? We sort of forgot about that, didn’t we?"

"I’ll make it." As though he hadn’t made breakfast every morning since he got there.

"All right." I moved away from him so he could get up off the couch, and Trowa immediately walked into the kitchen, getting out what he’d need without hesitation. Since the first time, he hadn’t needed to be reminded where I kept everything. It made me smile, watching him. Trowa has a fantastic memory. If we do end up together, I’d better watch what I do; he’ll probably remember it two years later if I ever once forget to turn off the bathroom light. It was a pleasant distraction, thinking about him…

My gaze drifted away from Trowa, and the smile faded.

You know.

I couldn’t…

You know.

It wasn’t possible.

You KNOW.

"No!" I sat up fully, trembling.

"Quatre?" Trowa had stopped what he was doing; he was gazing at me from the small space I used for a kitchen, eyes reflecting concern.

"I’m all right." I tried a smile for him, hoping to keep any worries from forming. "I… don’t know what came over me. Sorry, Trowa."

He smiled briefly, eyes warm, then turned back to what he was doing.

I’ve stalled this long enough. With a sigh, I pushed myself off the couch and moved toward the small glass case at the edge of my dorn room. I need to… to do this. I need to be strong.

My knees felt weak. I sank down beside the case. It has to happen. It’s for the best…

"You all right, Quatre?"

"Fine, Trowa." My voice shook. He knew what I was doing. But I had a feeling he wouldn’t interfere… Not unless I needed him. I was grateful for that.

Opening the glass door, I drew out my prize.

~~~~~~

"Can we play ring-toss, Dad?"

"Ask your mother."

"Mom? Can we play?"

A smile. Warmth. "I don’t see why not."

Strong arms. The feeling of being carried. "All right then, son. I’ll hold you up… and you can throw them."

"Thanks Dad!"

A blur of effort, throwing. Laughter. Triumph. Fun.

Happiness…

Love…

And one prize to hold those memories locked away.

~~~~~~

With a small wordless cry, I threw the cheap carnival prize against the floor, watching with something almost like detatchment as it landed with a satisfying smash.

It hadn’t taken much to shatter it.

Amid the broken pieces of red-gold material was that glittering, perfect key shape – still whole, as I’d known it would be, finally freed from the confinement of the other objects. I made no move to take it.

My shoulders started to shake as I sobbed, and Trowa finally came in from the kitchen, wrapping his arms around me and letting me cry onto his shoulder.

 

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