A NEW LIFE

PART FOURTEEN

A painful buzzing noise startled Trowa. Opening his eyes, he attempted to sit up, only to have Quatre gently pull him back into his embrace. Trowa watched with closing eyes as his lover reached out with intended violence to slam the alarm clock off. He was already half asleep when he heard the strangled gasps and feminine exclamations.

Sitting up in bed, now fully awake, and only covered up to his waist, he stared across the room to the wall length vid-com. In almost life-size detail, sat and stood Quatre's sisters, all looking directly at him and his fully exposed lover.

Stunned for a moment, he could only stare at them before his mind clicked onto what had happened. The sound they'd heard was the newly reinstalled vid-com; Trowa had been confident enough to allow it back into their room after Quatre's first session with Corinne; they'd installed it while Quatre had been asleep on the couch. When his small partner had reached for the clock, he'd actually tripped the vid-com, answering the call his sisters were obviously trying to put through.

He saw Cijen in the view stand up, then with lightning fast reflexes born from his time in the circus, he reached across Quatres' nude form and slammed his fist into the vid-com unit. However, things didn't go as he'd hoped.

Startled by Trowa's sudden movements, Quatre awoke fully and yelped, scrambling to sit up. His wild movements struck Trowa off balance, and he crashed almost face first into a very compromising position over Quatre's groin. To make matters even worse, his attempt to cancel the call had failed, and all he'd really ended up doing was placing the women on mute. Then it got worse.

"Trowa, if you wanted to jump me, you could have at least woken me up first, it's more sporting that way." He tried to sit up, but Quatre-who still didn't know his sisters were watching everything they did-placed a firm hand in his hair, holding him in place.

For a very long split second, he considered giving his beloved's sisters a good show. Then his common sense returned to him. Grabbing the edge of the comforter, he threw it across Quatre's lap, and sat straight up, knocking Quatre over and back onto the pillows, effectively dislodging the material he'd thrown over his lap, making his actions useless.

Quatre was going to kill him.

But Quatre just lay there, his entire attention focused on Trowa. He held a wicked smile on his face, and Trowa knew instantly what he was thinking. He had to do something fast!

"Quatre-"

"Trowa." He wasn't listening, still thinking it was an early morning game.

"No, Quatre listen to me-"

"Trowa, if you-"

"Your sisters are on the vid!" There, he'd said it, now what?

Still not completely understanding what was going on, Quatre looked past him to the wall, and suddenly, his face blanched. His eyes grew wide as he stared into the picture before him, recognition stealing over his face. Then with a sharp yelp, he reached for the blanket and covered his lap. Unfortunately, the blanket was what had been covering Trowa, and with that one quick yank, he now lay bared to the prying eyes of twenty-nine females. He sighed and shook his head; it was going to be one of those days.

Then Quatre noticed. "TROWA! What are you doing!? You're naked!"

Instead of answering, Trowa looked pointedly at the blanket now wrapped tightly around his lover's waist. Quatre looked from his naked form to the blanket and then back again before blushing crimson and trying to hand him a corner. Trowa just dropped his face into his hands.

Then an amazing thing happened; Quatre giggled. Not the type of giggling a man does at a little child, but the kind of giggling that comes from being caught stealing cookies from a cookie jar-high pitched gasps of air that sounded far too feminine to be coming from the pilot of a Gundam. Trowa lifted his face and stared. But once Quatre saw he was looking at him, he broke out into a deep and heart felt laugh that shook the bed and made even Trowa smile. Quatre thought this was funny.

Sisters still on mute, and seeing everything they did, Quatre fell back into the pillows and continued to howl. Tears gathered at the corners of his eyes, only to be released as another round of laughter shook him. Trowa couldn't help it, the situation was too grave; he had to laugh.

Together they roared as Quatre's sisters looked on in stunned silence and angry muted shouts. Trowa stole a look at the screen, and it seemed every one of Quatre's sisters were watching them, too surprised to look away. Tipping his head back, he roared at their display.

Suddenly he felt warm hands grabbing his shoulders and pulling him face forward onto the bedspread, his very naked bottom flashing into view. This only sent Quatre howling louder, and Trowa turned his head to watch his lover laugh and acting so carefree, knowing that once he let the reality of the situation finally hit him, he'd be less than jovial. But Quatre wasn't finished yet.

"Trowa, stop flashing my sisters they may see something they like." Grabbing a pillow, he dropped it over Trowa's exposed bottom.

"They do look slightly interested." His good mood was further spurned on by Quatre's.

His lover looked stunned at his words and then quickly looked from him to his sisters and back again. "My God, Trowa, I think you're right. They do seem interested in you. Well, we can't have that now, can we?"

Before he knew what was even happening, Quatre had him on his back, his smaller lover covering him with his own body. The deep, passionate kiss took him by surprise, but at Quatre's urgent tongue he opened his mouth to deepen it further. Locked together, they ignored the women who were beside themselves and focused solely on each other. Passions ignited, and it was all Trowa could do to remember they had an audience.

Barely separating their lips, Quatre spoke. "Trowa, they may notice that particular change in your physical appearance. I think I should stay right here I am; wouldn't want them to see what they've been missing."

"Quatre." Gentle lips allowed him to speak his peace. "Perhaps we should postpone this for a moment; or at least kill the connection."

"You don't feel like giving a performance today? Trowa, where's that professional showmanship I've heard Catherine talk so much about?"

"This is not the showmanship she was referring too."

Again they roared in laughter, both caught up in the mood they'd set against the distraction. Trowa didn't have to ask Quatre if he was all right he could see it in his eyes. Somewhere over the course of the last forty-eight hours, Quatre had changed. Maybe it was because he now felt that even if his sisters turned their backs completely on him because of their display, he'd still have Trowa by his side. Or perhaps it was because the sex from the night before had cracked Quatre completely. Trowa hoped for the first
explanation.

To his amazement, Quatre leaned over him, his face lining perfectly with the bellybutton of his love, before he grabbing the vid-com controls and pressing the mute button.

Angry shouts filled the room, and Quatre leaned back, kissed Trowa squarely on the lips and then sat up, dropping the sheet over Trowa's raised anatomy. "Good morning. How are all of you this fine day?" A note of good humor resided in his voice, and it took a great deal of strength not to explode into chuckles at their flabbergasted expressions.

None of them talked, and Trowa took a hesitant look towards Cijen. But the normally abusive woman was simply sitting in her chair, staring at them, no expression on her face. It unnerved him, not knowing what she was thinking, but he held his tongue, letting Quatre explain.

"What in the hell is going on?!" He didn't recognize the woman who spoke, but he knew her to be one of Quatre's older, more outspoken sisters. She had graying hair and stood red faced, glaring deathly at them.

"I should think, Liteea, it would be easy to see, but if you need a detailed explanation, I'm sure I could manage not to blush through the entire thing." Quatre's cheeky reply was filled with more life than Trowa had seen in him in a long time. He watched, amazed, as Quatre brought his sisters to their knees.

"What in God's name to do you think you're doing?!"

"Hm? Well, I originally was sleeping, but now, it seems I'm having a meeting. I hope you don't mind-I didn't dress properly-big night last night." He watched Quatre grin suggestively, and then turned to see the wide eyed expressions on his sisters' faces. "Mind?! Of course we 'mind'! How dare you answer the call dressed-dressed-" The woman was at a loss for words-Quatre filled them in.

"Actually, I'm not dressed at all. I hope that's not a problem considering you did call my home number at-" he paused to look at the clock before forgoing the rest of his sentence and looking at Trowa. "Trowa, it's nearly ten am! I don't think we've ever slept in this late before." He paused again as if to think very hard about something-Trowa just watched, completely amused. "Oh wait, there was that one time, or no actually two-wait, three, you know, I think we sleep in an awful lot." Grinning evilly, he leaned into Trowa, whispering into his ear. "Well, at least we know we deserved it."

Before Quatre could pull back, Trowa had to ask, "Are you alright, Quatre?"

In answer, all Quatre did was wink. Trowa was very, very nervous now.

"Damnit Quatre! Get some clothes on immediately! And get that-that-no-breed sex toy out of our sights!" Liteea shouted, anger flashing in her words. A few of Quatre's sisters shouted agreements with her, but Cijen just sat in the chair, a blank expression on her face.

Trowa was too busy watching the women to notice Quatre's storming anger; however, be it some sort of byproduct of their pathing from last night or not, Trowa could feel the rage boil inside his smaller lover. He turned back just in time to see Quatre erupt.

"Trowa," he emphasized his name, "Is my partner, not a passing phase, and most definitely not a toy and is NEVER to be spoken about that way again!" Anger raged in Quatre's eyes, and Trowa couldn't remember a time he'd ever seen him this angry; not even over the last few days. But Quatre wasn't finished. "Furthermore, it seems I've been a little too lenient on all of you. I have allowed you to believe that you have some measure of control in this situation. Let me assure you, that you never did, and you never will!" Quatre was shouting now, letting his frustration over the last four years of his life come crashing down upon his family like lightning, striking without mercy.

"Until such time that I am twenty-one years old, this family still belongs in my-oh so capable hands! I control everything! Do you understand that? Do all of you understand? I control everything that belongs to this family and everything in it! That means I not only control our holdings, but I also control each and every one of you!"

Not expecting it, Trowa could only stay where he was, lying on the bed, as Quatre stood, fully nude, and approached the wall vid. In Trowa's mind, he was the most beautiful image of strength and power he'd ever seen. He watched as Quatre's sisters took unconscious steps away from the approaching Quatre, and the ones still sitting leaned away. Clearly they all recognized the power Quatre truly had now; and not one of them hadn't figured out that Quatre was no longer taking their bullshit.

When he was in full view of the vid, he spoke again. "Every part of me is screaming to disinherit all of you! I want nothing more than to see the pain and fear on your faces for once! I want to see YOU, begging for scraps at the table where I will sit! You think you are in control? A web of lies I've spun for you! I own this family! I control where the money goes and who gets it! If I wanted, I could give all of it to Trowa today! I could have the lawyers place it all into his name, and then when I come of age, there would be nothing to lose for me anyway!" He screamed the last part, and for a moment, in the silence that followed, Trowa wondered if Quatre would actually do it.

"I allowed you to think you had power, that you had control! But think, dearest sisters," the endearment spoken as sarcastically as he'd ever heard from those sweet lips, "Why would I ever want any of you to have anything?! You who have ridiculed me, betrayed me, thrown me to the wolves; not just  now, but my entire life! What makes you even think that I would allow any of you to have anything?!

"But perhaps you're all thinking that I wanted to see if you could accept me? What do you think my answer to that will be?!" The sound was deafening, both from Quatre's shouting and the silence that followed as his sisters truly listened to his words and were afraid.

"Not one of you stood by my side! Not one of you tried to think of me first! I've never been much of anything, especially to Father, but I am a human being! And as far as Father is concerned-come dear sisters-you all should be aware by now that I don't give a damn that our precious Father is long dead and hopefully in Hell! Why would I ever follow his will? I've done nothing but disobey him, for spite and all other reasons; what makes any of you think this is any different!"

They were no longer masking their fear instead, it stood stark and open, exposing them to Quatre's angry stare. They were afraid. They were terrified. Good.

But Trowa was completely baffled when he again looked to see Cijen just sitting in her chair, still with no expression on her stoic face. He wondered if Quatre had looked at her yet before he reasoned that his love was most likely doing everything he could to keep from looking at his confusing sister; right now he needed strength, not something he could get by glancing at his betrayer.

"I have a question for all of you. Something that has been bothering me for quite some time." The cool nature of his voice sent shivers down the spines of his watching sisters. "Did any of you actually think that by screaming slanderous remarks at my lover, you were going to endear yourselves to me?! I'm curious! Please, humor me!"

There was no noise in the room; not a sound could be heard. Sitting up, Trowa made to move from the bed-to gather some clothes-thinking this would be a very long conversation; but his movement caught Quatre's attention, and his blond lover's eyes softened just a bit as he spoke. "Trowa, sit. Don't move. I have a few more things I have to clear up here, and then we'll have breakfast." His eyes told him to do as he said, and Trowa barely realized that he'd been commanded, not asked. But at the same time he was proud of Quatre, proud of the fact that he could hold this conversation-without reservation-while he was still in the room; not to mention that he could allow his anger and frustration to show even in the way Quatre talked to him. Finally, Quatre had truly learned that he could be trusted, not only with information, pain, and suffering, but also with the backlash that it created.

Quatre turned back to his sisters when he was sure Trowa was still seated.  "Well?! Have none of you an answer?! Did you miss the looks or even the touches? Was I not explicit enough at the Winter party, or after when I insisted that Trowa accompany me to some of our meetings? Could none of you see how much I cared for him, how much I love him? Did any of you even care, or were you too busy counting your credits to notice?! No, I'm sure you all noticed, but I doubt any of you cared! I have news for all of you. Four years ago, I didn't matter at all, but as of Father's death, I became god to all of you! Your veiled threats and open promises of suffering have only sealed your places against me!

"Now you demand my attention, demand that I bow down to you?! I think not! I will say what is to happen, and I will say how it will happen as well!

"As of now, I will no longer consider any of your requests. Until I say otherwise, you are all to sit at home and wait for my decisions regarding anything and everything that has to do with our family. If I hear one word from any of you; or if I find out that you are at all plotting against me-and be assured that I will find out-I will have your names stripped from the records and your existence completely stricken from the Winner family. Do you all understand what that means? Let me be clear; you won't get a single credit!

"Hopefully that cleared up this little mess we've been having. I hope that you feel this meeting went well; I'm sure that I'll sleep better tonight. I 'll contact you if I need anything further. Quatre, out!"

The vid-com blinked out and left Quatre standing in front of an empty wall. Trowa was sure that Quatre would collapse, he knew how painful that entire ordeal was for his beloved, he'd felt his pain through the link. But Quatre stood tall, hands at his sides, head held high. When he turned back towards him, he could see that he had a proud look in his eyes but also a defeated one.

He was about to go to him when Quatre moved from his spot to the bed and sat down next to him. Not looking at him, he spoke, "I lied to them, Trowa. I told them that I'd planned the whole thing, but I never even considered it before this morning. I looked right at them and felt such rage that all I did was scream, lie, and promise to hurt them. And I meant it, Trowa, meant all of it. If they contact me, if even one of them contacts me, I may just disinherit all of them. I may put the fortune in your name and just keep it all, making it the second Barton fortune instead of the Winner fortune." Throughout it all, Quatre had not once looked at him.

"If you ever decide to do that, it will still be your fortune; what's mine is yours."

Quatre looked up at him then, startled to hear his words coming again from Trowa's mouth. "I guess you're right. What's mine is yours."

"Will that make it easier for you? Will it help in any way?"

Quatre thought on it a long moment before shaking his head. "No, I still want to believe that my family can come back from this. I have to believe that. So for as long as I can, I have to try and hold onto the hope that they'll come to their senses, let the money go, and come back to me. Even if it never happens, I have to hope  it will."

And then Quatre seemed very tired. Trowa watched as his love leaned into him, asking without words for a measure of comfort. He wrapped his arms tightly against those things that wished to hurt his Quatre.

"We'll get through this. You and I, together, we'll find a way."

He felt Quatre nod his head. Then with a gentle pull, Trowa leaned back and took Quatre with him. He guided Quatre's head to his shoulder and stroked his hair lovingly. Firm arms wrapped about his waist, and Quatre snuggled into him, seeking the comfort provided.

"I'm glad it was you, Trowa."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm glad it was you I fell in love with. No one else would have put up with everything my family has put us through. I don't know what I would have done without you; even when you didn't know you were helping me."

Trowa kissed his forehead. "I'm glad I fell in love with you too; but I'm even happier you fell in love with me. I wouldn't have been able to make it through my past if you hadn't been there to guide me. You see, beloved-together we'll find a way-together."

With another nod, Quatre lay against him for a long time, soaking up the strength he needed and had lost during his confrontation with his sisters.

Trowa held him tightly, knowing that Quatre was safe now, at least for a while. But in the back of his mind, an image played out over and over, threatening to undo all that Quatre had accomplished this day. That of Cijen, sitting without emotion, watching Quatre deliver his final say on the matter of the Will. He couldn't help the uneasy feeling that stole over him and traced shivers down his back; if anyone could destroy all that had been accomplished, it would be Cijen; and Trowa didn't know if she'd try something or not. He held Quatre a little tighter, trying to comfort himself as much as his lover.

After what seemed like a very long time, Quatre sat up. "It's getting late. We should go eat. Are you hungry?"

"We'll eat in the private dinning area; it'll be quieter there."

Quatre only nodded his agreement.

Together they stood and dressed, and Trowa couldn't help but notice the slow pace with which Quatre moved about the room. His lover was coping, but he didn't know how well; he wondered if Quatre would come to him; he really wondered.

When he came out of the bathroom, it was to find Quatre sitting on the bed staring at the vid-com. Slowly he crossed to him. "Quatre?"

"I'm just wondering if I could have done it differently, maybe better. I find myself acting more and more like my father everyday..it scares me."

Kneeling in front of him, Trowa rested his head in the Arabian's lap. Light fingers ran through his long bangs; Quatre always liked to have his hair touched, and now he knew why.

"You don't have to be scared. Maybe a few weeks ago, it would have been something to consider, but now, it'll be better. You have me, more so than you ever have before, and I won't let anything happen to you. Do you believe that, Quatre? Do you believe that I can protect you?"

There was no answer, and Trowa's heart fell as he realized that the conversation this morning with his sisters could have cost his lover everything he had accomplished so far. He hugged Quatre more firmly about the waist, holding him close, not daring to let go.

"I love you, Quatre."

"I love you too, Trowa. Come on, let's get something to eat." He stood and reached his hand down to help him to his feet. Together they left the room and stepped into the hallway.

Needing to have Quatre closer to him, if only physically, Trowa let his hand loose and wrapped his arm about the smaller boy's shoulders. He felt Quatre wrap his own arm around his waist, and he squeezed him closer, hoping to lend a measure of his strength. He knew Quatre was too upset right now, that anything but light conversation would be too difficult for him, so he chose the simple, something to take his mind off everything that had happened.

"What would you like for breakfast?"

He gave a slight shrug. "I don't really care. I'm not that hungry anymore; I just thought you might be hungry."

It was like before. The last time Quatre's sisters had come, the blond had been exactly like this, listless and withdrawn. Trowa'd had to coax him to eat, sleep, and even to get out of bed in the morning. He hated seen his beloved like this; this was what he really and truly feared from those women; they had the ability to completely disassemble Quatre, and he couldn't do a damn thing to prevent it.

He stopped them in the middle of the hallway and had Quatre against the wall, trapped between his two outstretched arms before the blond could blink.

"Trowa?" There was an ounce of uncertainty in his voice, an ounce of mistrust. They'd undone everything! And in only a matter of minutes.

"Quatre, you can't do this. You can't let them win. Please, beloved, you're stronger than they are; please remember, you will always have someone; you'll always have me." He knew his voice was pleading, knew he sounded weak. But right now, Quatre needed to be strong, and if that meant he needed to play weak so that Quatre would rise to the challenge of protecting him, then so be it.

He saw the light enter Quatre's eyes again. His love would never allow him to come into pain; Quatre would push his own suffering away to protect him. He knew the game he played was dangerous, knew that Quatre was so very delicate right now. But he had no choice; Quatre could not be allowed to fall back to where he'd been; he would not lose him again. Predictably, Quatre reached out and touched his face, a slight smile on his lips-a mask-but one that Quatre, at least, thought was real.

"I'm sorry I scared you, Trowa. It's alright. I'm just second guessing myself, that's all. Look," he pointed to his smile, "I'm fine. We'll have breakfast, and then see what's going on today. Maybe something fun like
going to town. It's been a while since we went out and spent a ton of money!" He gave a small chuckle, and Trowa could hear the false notes in it now that he'd heard Quatre truly laugh and only a matter of minutes ago. "Don't worry so much, Trowa. Everything's going to be fine. Let's go have some eggs and that meat stuff you like so much-what's it called again?-they cook it in a pan-oh yes, bacon! We'll have that, and some eggs, maybe some tea, and then we'll go out. Doesn't that sound good?"

How easily he sliped right back into it; offering comfort and protection without thought to himself.

"Yes, that sounds good. Maybe we'll just spend some time together; I've missed being with you, just being with you." Trowa's voice was purposefully soft and meek; it pained him to know how much he was deceiving Quatre, but he had no choice; at least not until he'd had a chance to talk with Corinne. Once he told her what was going on, she'd know how to handle this, how to make Quatre better; she had to.

"Well, come one then, let's get going." Quatre's mood had done a complete one-eighty. Now bright and smiling, he linked his arm around Trowa's waist and maneuvered Trowa's arm about his shoulder. He could feel the tears stinging his eyes. Why did this have to happen to Quatre? His angel was too good, to innocent, to be hurt this way again and again.

The door to the private dinning area whooshed open at their presence, and surprisingly they were not alone in their choice for dining atmosphere.

"Quatre, Trowa! Hey guys, what's up?" Duo sat on Heero's lap, wolfing down a bowl of what looked like kids cereal. Heero too, looked up at their entrance, but Trowa could see his eyes darken as he took in Quatre's smiling face; he, like Trowa, knew something was not right.

"Duo! Not much, we just got hungry and decided to grab a bite. We were thinking about going into town later. Would you and Heero like to join us?" At the mention of going to town, both violet and Prussian blue eyes shot in his direction before violet ones returned to look at Quatre.

"Are you kidding!!!?? We'd love to go! It's been ages since we went shopping, and honestly, those clothes you bought Heero the last time.well, they didn't last that long." His voice lended a note of suggesting that let everyone in the room know just how they'd been destroyed.

Quatre shook his head and then indicated that Trowa should sit with the others while he went across the hall and into the main dining area, to get them something to eat. Trowa, hesitated.

"I'll be right back, I promise. Eggs and bacon, right?" Trowa nodded. "Ok, five minutes, and if I'm not back by then, you can send a squad to come looking for me, ok?" He winked to show he was playing and then, once he was sure Trowa had seated himself, exited the room, still smiling.

Heero barely waited for the door to close before he asked the question on all of their minds. "What's going on?"

"His sisters got a call through this morning, to our private line. Quatre thought the com-call was the alarm clock. When he hit it, he activated the com and accepted the call." He paused, "We weren't exactly dressed to receive visitors."

"Naked?" Heero-leave it to him to ask the simple questions.

"Yes. Then it got worse...I woke up at their gasps, but was too stunned to do anything. When I finally reached across Quatre to kill the connection, he woke up, and I missed the kill button, just the mute. Quatre thought it was a game.he didn't realized all of his sisters were watching."

"Oh no! Quatre didn't do anything embarrassing, did he?" Duo would have laughed, would have thought it funny, if it had been anyone besides Quatre's sisters.

Trowa nodded. "When I startled him, he moved and caught me off balance. I landed almost head first into his lap."

"Oh man. Is Quatre alright?"

"That's the strange part. At first he was almost upset, but more like he'd been caught doing something you shouldn't be caught doing; which is understandable to be discovered naked, and with your lover wrapped in your arms But God, you should have seen him, he thought it was funny! He laughed, and started to joke." Trowa paused in remembrance, and his voice took on a whispery air. "He even went as far as to kiss me in front of them." Shaking his head, he continued. "He treated it like it was a game, or even a joke; perhaps what he might have done if they'd approved of us being together."

Heero took the pause to interject a thought. "Maybe he didn't know what else to do. Caught in that kind of intimate predicament, he probably couldn't think of any other way to deal with it."

"Hn, maybe. But then he took them off mute and tried to hold a conversation with them. At the time it was funny. I truly mean that. Quatre was so like his old self, funny, open, and yet still kind. The way he treated them for those first few minutes, it was almost like how I treat Catherine; like a sister instead of an enemy. But it didn't last."

"What do you mean? What did they do to him!?" There was so much anger in Duo's voice. They all knew the power those women had over their friend, and none of them wanted to see Quatre hurt anymore than he already was.

"One of his sisters made a comment about me, and Quatre flew off the handle. I have never, in all the years I've know him, seen him that angry. Even over the last few days, he screamed at them! Literally screamed at them, and if you'd heard the sound of his voice, it was so cold, so very, very cold.

"He told them that he controlled the family and them. That he'd planned on letting them think they had power over him so he could find out who really cared about him. Then he said that if they ever contact him again he'd disinherit all of them and put the entire fortune in my name, so that he could keep it all Then he dismissed them, like, like servants."

"Can he do that? Can he put the money in your name like that?"

"I don't know, Heero. But he seemed set on it. After the conversation, he told me that he was serious, that if they tired to contact him first he would disinherit them. I don't think he's bluffing. But after it was all over, he collapsed. Quatre nearly fell apart. He said that he was glad that he'd fallen in love with me, and thankful that I'd put up with is sisters. Then he just curled up and was very quiet. I thought maybe when he suggested breakfast again that it was going to be alright, but when we were getting ready, he started second guessing his actions. In the hallway on the walk over, he was so much like he's been, listless, and withdrawn. I used what Corinne said about his obsessed desire to protect me, and played weak and upset. You saw the results. Now he's just pretending nothings wrong. I'm not sure what to do, I have to talk with Corinne, right away."

"Do you think she'll have the answers?"

"She has to. I don't know what to do if she doesn't. I'm losing him, and it's not like any battle I've ever fought before. Before, if I died, it didn't matter, but this battle is for Quatre, and I won't lose it! At the same time, I don't even know how to fight in this one, or even how to plan for it. Corinne has experience in this; I have to talk with her and find out if together we can save Quatre."

"So let me make sure I understand this right." Duo's voice was tight and biting. "You and Quatre were naked in the bed, and his sisters got through on the com. At first Q's ok with it, then they say something stupid about you, and our little boy blue goes nuts. He tells them they're as good as broke if they ever call him again, and then he goes to you and falls apart. Now you want to get some alone time with the shrink so you can come up with a battle plan to save Quatre. Does that sound about right?" Trowa nodded his head. "Damn, what is it with you and Heero, everything is a battle to you guys! Ok, here's the plan."


* * *


Duo smiled at him as he entered the room laden with two trays. Trowa stood and helped him and then together they sat down to eat.

"The line was really long. We hardly ever eat breakfast this late in the morning, is it usually this bad?"

Duo nodded his head. "Oh sure. You know, late to bed, late to rise."

"That's early to bed, early to rise, baka."

"Hey, don't call me 'baka' just 'cause I'm making you go shopping with me. Really, Heero, you could at least try to have some fun."

"I'd rather do paper work, and get a paper cut doing it." There was a note of humor in his voice, but Quatre could easily hear that he didn't want to go, not one bit. Duo heard it too.

"Fine then! You stay here. Quatre, Trowa, and I will go have a huge orgy without you in the middle of the mall! Trowa, how do you feel about PF's?"

"PF's?"

"Yeah, you know, public fucks." He said the words to Trowa, but looked directly at Heero, tempting his lover to fight back. Heero rose to the challenge.

"Trowa can't."

"What do you mean by that?"

"He has paper work to do as well. Not to mention that back up work that's been accumulating."

Suddenly Quatre was worried. Trowa had told him there was hardly any work at all, but here was Heero saying there was a ton of work to be done. He turned to Trowa, "I thought you said there wasn't much work at all?"

Heero answered for him. "It isn't something that couldn't be finished in a day, but the deadlines are coming up, and there are some things that only Trowa can finish up."

Trowa nodded his head. "I haven't had a chance to finish a few things. But don't worry, I'll do them tonight while you sleep, we can still go shopping."

"What?! No, Trowa you need sleep too, you know. We can go shopping later; it's not that big of a deal. You should get that paper work finished, and then we can go shopping if there's time left over. I'll even help-"

"NO WAY! You promised that we'd go shopping, and since you have all the money, and I have, well, comic book money, you have to take me." Duo's voice fell into a true whine. "Please Q, I want to buy lots and lots of stuff; it always makes me feel better after Heero rejects me, the baka!" Duo swept his hand to collide with the back of Heero's head.

"Hey-"

"See! He's always being so mean to me! Please, Quatre, you and I'll go, and we'll leave these over-worked, under-paid, no-fun, poop-heads to their own form of fun. Please!" Duo was whining, and Quatre hated it when he whined; he never wanted to see his friends beg for anything.

For a moment he debated leaving Trowa's side. He felt a sudden rush of fear at being so far from his beloved; but he silenced that part of his mind quickly. Trowa wouldn't be more than a few kilometers away, and even then, there was only a phone call separating them. He'd still be able to feel him through the link, clearly, and this way he might actually get to buy Trowa a nice surprise to make up for what happened. Thinking of his sisters sent another stab of fear into his gut, but he ignored it. Trowa was making up his work along with his own, the least he could do was get him something nice. And then there was Duo; he hadn't gotten to spend anytime with him alone in a long time; it would be very nice indeed.

"If it's alright with Trowa." He looked to his lover. "Would you rather I waited for you? We could all go later, too."

Trowa shook his head. "It'll take me all day. I'm just worried about leaving you right now-"

"Oh don't worry about that! I'm fine. Duo and I'll have a great time." He winked. "And I promise, no PF's." They laughed, and the sound almost drowned out his fears and lies, almost.

"Great! So when do we leave?"