Keeper of the Keys

 

The Passage

 

"Let’s go now."

Trowa squeezed my shoulder slightly. "Today? Are you sure you wouldn’t rather wait until tomorrow?"

"No…" I sighed. "We’ve waited all morning. That’s long enough. I know that if I continue to put off going, I’ll get to the point where I can’t leave."

He brushed his hand over mind where I still clutched the Amber key I’d uncovered that morning. My fingers were cold; his were warm. I hadn’t let go of the key since I’d picked it up. "Are you sure there isn’t anything you want to take with you?" he asked.

I glanced toward my music room, then looked up at him with a rueful smile. "Nothing that wouldn’t get in the way."

"All right." He stood. "Can you put all the keys in a pocket of some kind? You’ll need to be able to get at them easily, but you can’t have them in a place where they might be lost somehow."

"I’ll find something." I got up with a sigh and moved toward my room. "Is there anything else you’re going to need?"

"Some of your food, maybe." He was already looking through the kitchen. "It’s good to have extra rations when you’re traveling. And I’d hate to waste this if you don’t come back for it soon."

"That makes sense." I found the back-pack I’d used for school and put in an extra set of clothing – just in case. There would probably be clothing to fit me in Trowa’s homeland as well, but it was better not to take chances. The keys went into a side pocket. If I needed them, I could slide the bag off and reach inside it to grab one.

My fingers still felt cold when I put the Amber key in with the rest.

"Quatre?" Trowa interrupted my thoughts. He was standing in the doorway of my room. "There’s someone knocking on your door. And if you’re ready, we can go whenever you want."

I slid my arms through the straps of my back-pack. "All right."

It was Duo who was at the door, not surprisingly. He didn’t even bother with a greeting. "What the hell happened last night?"

I smiled. After being Duo’s best friend for the past few years, I’d learned what to expect from him – for the most part. "Do you mean before or after she dropped the table on the floor?"

"Both." He firmly braced a hand against the door frame. "Jesus, Quatre, what the hell is going on with you? Ever since you got that weird note, you’ve been acting really funny. What’s the deal?"

"It’s hard to explain," I began awkwardly, but he was on a roll and talked right over me.

"And another thing…" He gave me a look that was even a touch hurt. "I understand you don’t want me prying into your sex life and all. But you never even really introduced me to the guy! Am I your best friend or what? I’d introduce you if I was sleeping with someone on a regular basis!"

"We’re not sleeping together," I said hastily.

"We slept together last night," Trowa corrected unexpectedly, moving to stand beside me.

My face went red and Duo let out a cackle, momentarily forgetting his annoyance with me. "O-ho! The truth comes out!"

"That wasn’t the same kind of sleeping together!" I protested, turning slightly to face Trowa. There was the barest hint of a smile on his face; he was teasing me! "It’s not the same!"

"And how many kinds of sleeping together are there?" Duo asked teasingly. "Don’t tell me you’ve been researching this." He grinned. "Through experimentation, am I right?"

"That’s usually the best way," Trowa said with an absolutely straight face.

"Stop it, both of you!" Still, I couldn’t help laughing, which was a complete and total relief. Duo joined right in with me, and even Trowa was chuckling. "You’re both out to get me, I know it!"

"You’re just so easy to pick on." Duo slung an arm around my shoulders, then stopped as he noticed my pack. "You guys going on a trip?"

I risked a glance at Trowa, who had clammed up again. "Yeah," I answered. Well, we were… "Just for a little while."

He raised an eyebrow. "Where to?"

I floundered for an answer, blurting out the first thing that came to my mind. "Camping."

Duo shook his head. "You know, you’re a really bad liar, Quatre."

"We’re visiting my home," Trowa said calmly.

"Yeah? Well, why didn’t you say so then?"

"Because we didn’t."

I looked from Duo to Trowa and back again. My best friend obviously wanted to respond to that, but Trowa had effectively robbed him of ammunition. And the excuse he’d given Duo had been complete truth, too. I almost felt like laughing again.

"Let’s go, Quatre," the green-eyed boy said simply.

"All right then. I’ll see you later, Duo." I moved past my best friend, with Trowa following along behind.

 

"If you think that’s the end of that, you’re crazy," Duo muttered. I pretended I hadn’t heard him.

"Will it matter if he tells anyone?" I asked, digging into my pocket for my car keys. "I mean, will there be a lot of trouble if Dorothy or one of her friends finds out where we’ve gone?"

Trowa shrugged. "They know where we’ll be going. It won’t be anything new for them to find out." He opened the car door after I’d unlocked it and got in.

I slid into my seat and fit the key into the ignition, then turned to face him. "All right, where are we going?"

"The place where you first met me. That’s where the passage is."

"OK." I moved to start the car, but stopped when I felt Trowa’s hand on my arm. "Trowa…? What is it?"

"Wait." He looked directly into my eyes. I felt paralyzed for a moment – were we back to where we’d begun? That gaze was so intense, searching… But it had changed since that first time. He was studying me softly, with less wariness, like he was trying to memorize what I looked like. Should I…?

I leaned forward, feeling bold, and touched my lips to Trowa’s. It was feather-light, contrasting the desperate way I’d been kissing him before. But I liked this way a lot better. I had a better sense of his closeness – the warmth of his face near mine, his hand squeezing my shoulder lightly… It was almost like I could feel the life in him. I pulled back and smiled, blushing slightly.

Trowa’s eyes were smiling back at me. "What was that for?"

I shrugged, feeling the blush start to fade. "I just wanted to kiss you. Is that OK?"

"Always." He tweaked my nose. "We can go now."

I turned back to face forward and started the car. "Why did you want me to stop?"

"I’ll explain later."

"Oh." I decided not to ask. Anyway, Trowa knew what he was doing. Whatever the reason for that brief delay, I was sure it was a good one. "Well, let’s go then."

It was going to be dark out when I made the climb that time, so I parked the car at the top of Torian Peak rather than at the foot of the cliff face like I’d done before. The climb down was more dangerous, but it was definitely quicker – and since it was early afternoon and the sun was out, we could make it with few to no problems. Also, it would be better to leave the car up there than at the bottom.

"Well…" I turned to Trowa with a smile. "Shall we go?"

"Hold on a moment, Quatre."

I looked up at him curiously. "What for?"

"Just wait."

A loud ‘thump’ came from the rear of my car, making me start. "What the – ?" I was interrupted by another thumping noise and some muffled swearing. Spinning to face Trowa, I found him watching calmly. "What’s going on?"

"Quatre…?"

That wasn’t Trowa. I turned back to the car, slowly. Oh lord… Don’t tell me…

"Quatre? Come on, I know you’re there! Lemme outta here!"

I whirled back toward Trowa, this time with an accusing look on my face. "What’s he doing here? Is this why you told me to wait?"

"Qua-a-a-a-tre!" Some more thumping noises. I ignored them, glaring at Trowa.

"He wanted to come."

"So we’re just going to let him tag along!? It could be dangerous!"

Trowa shrugged. "He can make his own decisions. If he wants to join us, who are we to stop him from doing so?"

"He could get killed, Trowa!"

"So could we."

Silence. I stared hard at Trowa, who fixed me with one of his trademark impassive gazes. A tentative voice broke through that quiet moment. "Um… Quatre?"

"Quiet, Duo!" I snapped, dismissing him to focuss on the tall boy in front of me. "You knew he was getting in that trunk, didn’t you? That’s why you asked me to wait!"

"True."

"Why, Trowa? He’s not part of this! Why get him involved?"

"Why not ask him if he’d like to be invovled?"

"But – "

"Excuse me." Duo’s voice had an edge to it that I recognized immediately. "But if you guys don’t mind, would you be so kind as to get me the hell outta here!?"

I gave up at that point.

"Fine!" Almost jamming the key in the lock, I opened the trunk and freed my best friend from his confinement. "There, happy now?" I felt horribly grouchy about the entire set-up.

"Much better." He hopped out, stretched, then turned to face me with an expression I’d seen many times in the past. "Before you ask, yes I’m coming, no I don’t care about the danger, and you’re not leaving me outta this, even if you chain me to a tree! I’ll take the damn tree along with me if I have to, but there’s no way I’m staying behind while you go off to who knows where to do who knows what!"

I sighed. "Duo, you don’t even know what you’re getting into."

"Right. And I don’t really give a dman." He shrugged, but his eyes were deadly serious despite the light gesture. "No buts, Quatre. If you’re going, I’m coming with you."

"Glad that’s settled," Trowa said calmly. "Now let’s get going."

I gave one last, defeated sigh then let it pass. "Shouldn’t I tell him about what we’re doing? It’s going to take a while to explain…"

"Don’t bother." Trowa started the climb down, moving quickly enough to make it look a lot easier than it really was. "Demonstrate first. It makes things easier."

I started after him at a considerably slower pace. "Does it?"

"It worked with you."

"But that was because…" I trailed off, not certain how I could accurately put into words the feeling of trust I’d gotten from looking into Trowa’s eyes. "I guess you’re right," I conceded instead. Duo would’ve laughed if I’d voiced that out loud anyway.

Trowa waited patiently for first me, and then Duo, to reach the cave. "We might as well get started," he said, when we’d both made it. "You’ll need theGold key."

"Right." I reached into my bag.

Duo had been acting uncharacteristically passive, but he shrugged it off at that point. "So what are we doing here? Opening up a cave to Never-Never Land?"

"Close." I brought up the key Trowa had mentioned, and raised it without needing encouragement first. The feeling of power was building around it like before; that feeling of denseness around the key that encased it like a lock would. I concentrated on the rock face I’d seen Trowa walk through before.

And turned it.

"Holy shit!"

Duo’s astonished shout was nearly lost in the sudden rushing wind that poured into the small cave. The previously solid face had become a dark passage – the same passage I’d seen Trowa pass through when he’d first stepped into my life.

"Good," Trowa commented approvingly, as I put the Gold key away again. "Now let’s get going."

Duo’s eyes were wide and he was staring at the newly formed tunnel in open-mouthed shock. "Wha… but… that…"

"Uh… I think I’ve got some explaining to do first, Trowa," I said.

He shrugged. "It’s a long walk."

I looked back at Duo, who was regarding me as if I’d grown an extra head. "You’d better start explaining!" he almost yelped. "And make it good and long! How did you just do that, what did you just do, and what else have you been hiding from me!?"

I sighed and started after my green-eyed love. Trowa was right. It’s going to be a long walk.

 

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