"This is so much fun! Why didn't we do this a lot sooner?!" Duo was walking next to him, his hands folded behind his head.

They'd been shopping now for almost four hours, and Quatre truly felt good. It was nice to be with Duo again, not for any other reason but to be together. That thought had him thinking about Trowa back at the base, slaving over mounds of work. He felt with the link and took in Trowa's calm emotional state; it was peaceful knowing that Trowa was happy.

"I'm not sure, but I'm glad we did this. I'm having a great time as well." A strong arm wrapped about his shoulder, and he answered with an arm about Duo's waist in kind.

"You know, it's been a while since we ate. You getting hungry?"

"Would it matter if I said no? You'd just make me sit and watch you eat anyway." He smiled; how could he not? Duo was at his finest today, making him laugh at every turn. Everything was funny today. He wondered if it was backlash from the conversation he'd had with his sisters that morning. Shaking his head, he decided to pretend the conversation had not happened, at least until he was back on the base, back with Trowa.

"Hey! I'm a growing boy! And besides, if you had a lover like Heero, you'd completely understand. That guy's built like a race horse!"


Laden with packages totaling far too many credits for boys their age to have, they sat down at a small café and ordered. For a while the conversation was light, revolving around what they'd purchased or what they'd seen and now wanted to go back and get. But the sun was shining above them; a storm had to be brewing.

It arrived in the form of a little boy, not more than eight, who ran into the jumble of packages that rested around their table. The boy crashed into them at top speed, and got tangled in the handles. Checking to see if he was hurt, the two pilots untangled him, and after evaluating his skinned knee, gave him one of the candies off Duo's plate, and sent him on his way. They couldn't help but laugh at the entire situation.

"Good idea with the candy. I thought the kid was going to cry any minute."

Quatre shook his head. "Whenever Marieminna slips while we're shopping together, I get her something nice. Little kids love surprises; and once you get their minds off the pain, they usually just forget about it entirely.

"You're really great with her. I heard Lady, saying she was actually kind of jealous of how easily Marieminna originally took to you."

"You're kidding! Oh no, I'll have to apologize-"

"What! No way, you can't tell her I told you that!" Together they laughed some more, causing the people who passed them on the street to stare at them.

When they finally settled down, it was Duo that completely sobered the mood. "Mind if I tell you something personal?"

Hesitantly, he shook his head.

"I don't want this to get back to Heero, got it? He barely even knows I'm thinking about it, and even then, I don't know how he feels about it."

"Is everything alright?" Duo hardly ever spoke this way.

"Yeah, I mean it's nothing life threatening or anything, it's just..I've been thinking a lot about something, and I kinda want a second opinion on it. You know, before I talk to Heero about it."

"Sure, I'll do anything to help."

"Well, hold on, it's not exactly the best question to be asking you. I don't want you to get upset or-"

"Whatever it is, I can tell it's really bothering you. You know you can tell me anything; at anytime. That's what friends are for."

Duo looked at him strangely then, almost like he was trying to decided if he was telling the truth or not. Then with a weak smile he continued.

"I've been thinking about adopting a kid. You know, me and Heero raising a little girl. Wouldn't that be sweet? She'd have to have blue eyes-like Heero-I'd ask that she look just like him. Well, maybe with better hair, but just like him. I know this sounds really cruel to bring up with you-"

"No. It's fine, just caught me off guard is all. I think it's a great idea. My only concern is how young you and Heero are." That wasn't his only concern, he felt as if someone had stabbed him in the stomach; and he knew God was laughing at his pain right now.

Duo didn't seem to notice. "Yeah, the age thing is kind of a problem, but everyone's adopting war orphans now, and since there are so many, they're practically giving them away. I know we're young, but I just think Heero would make such a great father. He'd be the strict one out in public, but the girl would have him wrapped around her little finger in a matter of minutes."

He wanted to cry. That was the easiest way to describe it; yet at the same time he wanted to scream, to yell at his friend for being so insensitive at a time like this. He had to remind himself that he was pretending to be better now, pretending that the pain didn't hurt as much now-for all of their sakes. He was fairly certain he could go to Trowa later, that Trowa would make it better, but he wasn't completely sure.

"If you feel so strongly about it, maybe you should talk to Heero then."

"Are you joking?! I can't ask Heero something like that, he'd totally flip! Besides what if he said no? What if he doesn't want to have kids with me? What would I do then?"

What would he do if Trowa didn't want to have children with him? But they were talking about Duo now, not him, not his problems; he almost wished they were.

"You won't know until you ask. I don't think Heero would ever deny you something you really wanted. He loves you, and you're probably right about that 'wrapped around her little finger' part; Heero's such a sucker for girls, especially blondes."

"Yeah, no kidding! Man, what do you think he'd do if I somehow managed to get Relena to supply for a genetic? Or even better, if we just did the nasty and then Heero and I could raise the baby! Can you image how he'd react to that! He'd be pissed at first, and then he'd pamper Relena as much as she used to dote on him. It'd be a riot!"

Duo was laughing his ass off, but Quatre could only chuckle along. A genetic, or a bed of convenience; those had been his two choices as well. He'd labored over the decision for years, trying to decide on the best one, and yet here was Duo laughing about it like it was nothing. He wanted to punch something, and he wanted to do it now!

Grabbing a hold of himself, he took the dishes from their table and stood to take them to the collector. While he was away from the table, he opened the link as wide as it would go, hoping that Trowa wouldn't notice, and at the same time hoping he would, that he'd feel his distress and come for him. He doubted it. He might be able to trust Trowa with his secrets, but Trowa couldn't protect him. Help him, yes; save him, no. Trowa wasn't strong enough, and that thought made him want to cry all over again.

When he returned to the table he immediately changed the subject.

"The last time I was in town, I didn't get to buy Trowa something nice. Now, he really deserves something grand. I had an idea last time, and I want to run it by you before I go through with it."

"Ok, shoot."

"I was thinking I'd get him a kitten. You know, something exotic, with long hair, something he could pet and take care of, and yet it could take care of itself while we're on missions. What do you think?" He didn't say that if Trowa had something besides himself to take care of, he might not notice just how much he needed it. He tried not to think about it himself.

"I think it sounds great. Trowa will love it. Didn't we pass a pet shop down the street a little ways?"

"Yes, that's what reminded me of it. Do you think we'll find a good match for him in a pet store though?"

"If we don't, we hop in the car and drive to the shelter. Actually, maybe we should start there. Trowa might like knowing that his kitten was saved from certain death by your-oh so beautiful-hands. Think of the hero's reward you'll get tonight?" He wiggled his eyebrows.

"Duo! Is sex the only thing you think about?" Quatre had to admit though, it was putting him back in the mood he'd been in before the little boy had tripped over their packages.

"NO! I think of tons of other stuff, like.like.like.oh hell, nope!" They laughed, and stood, intent on loading up the car and heading for the shelter. Hopefully they'd find the perfect kitten for Trowa. Quatre could hardly wait to see his face.

When they arrived, the place was practically empty. They checked at the main desk, and after explaining what they wanted, were escorted to one of the many viewing rooms that would give them a detailed image and history of all the available animals that fit their description. After they'd narrowed down the view, they picked ten kittens and were then ushered into the cage area, where the animals were lifted by robotic cranes to deposit in their viewing area.

One by one, they examined the kittens. Each was different in some way. Two of the kittens were Siamese and another two were Persians; the others had no formal breeding and were little more than saved street cats.

Quatre was at first intrigued by the Siamese kittens; but soon found that they were less than agreeable and figured they wouldn't make very good affectionate kittens for his beloved. Next he moved to the Persians, but they didn't seem very eager to play or cuddle either, and one even tried to scratch Duo.

"Oh, you are so not getting that cat!" He'd readily agreed.

But after examining the other kittens, they couldn't find a single one that they liked.

"This is hopeless! Maybe we should go back to town; there was that huge pet store."

"No way! We have to find one here! Your sex life depends on it!"

"Duo, for crying out-my sex life is great! In fact, it's better than great; it's mind blowing! I don't need to get Trowa a kitten from the shelter."

"Wait a minute! You said mind blowing and sex in the same sentence," he paused to go over the conversation. "Well, at least the same paragraph or whatever. The point is, you had great sex! Was this last night? Come on Quatre, you can tell me; I am your best friend after all. And besides," he looked very sad then, "I didn't get any last night. Heero had a headache. Normally I'd be pissed, but I really do think he had one, so I let it slide. Hey, maybe I should get him a kitten here too!"

"Nope, the kitten idea's taken. And Trowa and I tried something.different last night; it worked amazingly well." He smiled smugly and then adamantly refused to tell Duo any of the details. "Oh Duo, I know it's hard to take, but you'll just have to try and understand; Trowa and I just have way better sex than you and Heero."

He didn't see his friend jump for the attack until it was too late. Together they rolled on the floor, Duo tickling him and trying to make him tell his secret, and he trying his hardest not to laugh and spill his guts. In the end, they sat facing each other breathing deeply; Quatre had lost.

"I opened the link last night."

"Opened? I thought it was always open?"

"Well, it is, but instead of keeping it a one way link, I pathed with Trowa. Basically I opened a channel that allowed us both to know exactly what the other was thinking. It was incredible! His emotions bouncing through the link, mingling with mine, and then bouncing right back at him. I can't even explain it! It was so incredible."

"Sounds like it. I guess you empaths have all the fun, you and blondes, I hate you all!" Duo kicked out at him with his foot, and then the two were engaged in a foot fight, both kicking, and only half hoping not to hurt the other. It was like old times.

Suddenly, a horrible sound caught their attention. It sounded like a child screaming at the top of her lungs. Together they stood, and ran through the door marked "Employee Only". On the other side of the door was the kennels the animals were being kept in. They were stacked one on top of the other, sometimes five or six high.

"Man, this is sick!"

"We have to find that child!" There was a panic in his voice. He couldn't help but think that maybe, just maybe, it was the little boy from his dream; or maybe even the 'her' he had to protect.

Splitting up, they worked their way around the kennels, searching for the screaming that still had not stopped. Eventually, Quatre found himself in the middle of the large warehouse type place. He couldn't help but feel disgust towards the people who would lock animals up like this. Even Trowa's lions were given bigger cages and let out to roam their wide pens. But this, this was unacceptable.

Suddenly he rounded the corner and came face to face with the screaming. One of the kittens he had not chosen to view had somehow managed to get its paw trapped between the top of its kennel and the one above it. The robotic arms that moved the kennels around for viewing had just dropped it's load onto the unsuspecting kitten's paw. The poor thing dangled, suspended in mid-air, screaming its pain.

Acting quickly, Quatre reached up and pulled the kennel on top off the wounded kitten's paw. Reaching back up, he threw open the doors and reached inside for the very hurt white ball of fluff. Its paw was obviously broken, and it hung at a terrible angle. The poor thing was so weak from screaming and so fatigued with pain that it didn't even fight against him when he picked it up.

Cuddling it close, he moved as quickly and as carefully as he could to the exit. Duo caught up with him right by the door.

"Oh man, she doesn't look good. We gotta get her to the doc, and pronto!" Together they exited the room and got back to the main counter. Once there, Quatre explained what had happened and demanded that the kitten be given proper medical attention. However, the secretary didn't agree.

"I'm sorry, we simply don't have the funds available to take care of every animal that gets caught by the crane. The most humane thing would be to put it down."

"WHAT?! Of course that isn't the most 'humane' thing to do! Her medical bills are no problem, I'll personally pay for whatever fees accrue, but you have to get her in right away; before it really is too late!"

"I'm sorry, really I am, but the doctor has some vaccines to give today and couldn't possible see this kitten. If you'll just give her to me, I'll see that she goes comfortably and quickly."

A rage so pure it rivaled his earlier display that morning erupted inside of Quatre. Why did so many people put such little value on life? Wasn't that why he'd attacked the colonies? Wasn't that why man deserved to die? They didn't value anything except themselves; they didn't deserve to be free.

Settling the kitten into one hand, he reached into his back pocket and withdrew his wallet. He handed the kitten to Duo, who was currently screaming bloody murder at the wicked woman. Opening the wallet, he pulled out his credit card. Credit cards were color coded, much like the old style credit cards from before A.C. Quatre was the riches man in the colonies. His card was made from Gundanium.

He nearly threw the card at the woman. "My name is Quatre Raberba Winner. My current holdings include over 879 Trillion credits. I don't care what you have to do, but get this kitten into the doctor, now." His voice was cold, so much like his father's, but it worked.

She must have recognized his name because the next thing he knew, the doctor was taking the kitten from him, promising to have her fixed up in no time, before he glared at the receptionist and went into the back. By this time, the kitten had completely passed out.

For the next hour, he and Duo sat in relative silence, glaring at the woman behind the desk. She was saved a few minutes later though as her shift finished. The next nurse got up every ten minutes or so to check on their miracle kitten and reported her findings back to them. Quatre liked her a lot.

A little while before the hour was up, Quatre walked up to the desk and the very nice woman. "Can you tell me how many animals are in this facility?"

She smiled warmly at him. "There are a lot. Mostly stray cats and dogs, but we even have a goat or two in the back as well. Since the war, there haven't been many homes available for pets, and unfortunately, most of them have to be destroyed to make room for new ones; it's so sad. Actually, that little kitten you save was scheduled to be destroyed tomorrow. Are you going to adopt her?"

He'd been thinking just that, and then some. He nodded his head. "Yes, would you mind drawing up all the paperwork for me? Also any bills she's accrued." The woman nodded her head and turned to start the process. "I'd also like to make a payment to keep all of the animals here from being destroyed. I'll be sending representatives to come and collect them soon. I have estates all over the globe, and they should be happy there. My staff tends to have children, and I think they'll love to have some animals to play with. I even have a home for the goats." He smiled at her astonished face. "All life is valuable; no one should be destroyed without good reason. Beyond that, I'll also make a contribution to improve these facilities and proved a shelter for the animals to play in; their cages are far too small. I'll leave the total in your hands; just tell me where to sign." He smiled and had to assure her that he wasn't kidding; he even went so far as to call his personal secretary to have her begin the process of sending people from his estates to collect the animals. He hadn't done something that felt this good in a very long time.

Duo was so excited that he insisted on helping the nice woman begin estimating the cost. He insisted his background in manual labor was essential for obtaining the right amount. Duo also proclaimed loudly that even though Quatre was his best friend, he wasn't going to skimp on anything, saying that Quatre was stinking rich and could afford to give the orphaned turtles an Olympic sized swimming pool to lounge in. Quatre only rolled his eyes and told him to do what ever he wanted.

Finally, when things were just starting to settle down, the doctor came out, carrying the tiny snow white kitten, her paw bandaged with a new type of cast intended strictly for animals. Gently he passed her to Quatre.

"She's been through quite a lot today. I gave her a sedative to help calm her down. She should be fine; the break was amazingly clean, and I managed to set it correctly. When it's healed, she shouldn't have any trouble walking. She's very lucky."

Quatre nodded his head in agreement. "Thank you very much. I know you were busy-"

"Actually, I wasn't busy at all. Meredith just didn't want to come and tell me. I'd never refuse to treat an injured animal, but with so many, it's hard to keep track of the front area while I'm working the back. Rest assured, this isn't her first offence, and she will be fired for it. The most important thing is our animals; she never understood that."

"Um, Dr. Tfos, I think you should see what Mr. Winner has done for our clinic." The secretary passed the doctor a piece of white paper with some numbers on it. The doctor looked confused for a moment before his eyes grew huge in understanding. Duo cut in.

"Those are only soft numbers; it could totally change depending on how grand you want this place to be. But you know Quatre; he's got the heart of a lion. Hey Q, leave your number so they can get back to you if they need something." Quatre nodded and did just that. He paid for the kitten's fees, and then bought food, bedding, medicine, and toys for her. Trowa was going to be so happy.

Together he and Duo walked out of the clinic, knowing that it was going to be a beautiful sanctuary for animals as soon as construction began, not to mention that each and every one of the animals were going to have a great home. Quatre had to smile as he looked down at the sleeping kitten in his arms; she had been worth it.

They rounded a corner, and suddenly Duo's insane whoop filled the air.

"HEERO!" The longhaired boy ran to his partner, who leaned against Quatre's red sports car. With all the force Duo could put behind it, they went crashing to the ground, tangled up in each other's arms and legs.

"Duo! Get off me! Baka!"

"Oh Heero, I helped save the animals!"

Even from his place across the lot, Quatre could see Heero's eyes furrow in confusion. He was about to explain when the most beautiful, sexy, and astonishingly graceful image fell into his line of sight.

It wasn't that he'd never seen Trowa on a motorcycle before. In fact, Trowa would often take him for rides late at night or on their days off. He loved it because he could hold on as tight as he wanted, burying his face into Trowa's muscular back, and no one would be the wiser. No one would know that through this one act, Trowa was protecting him; and not the other way around.

But today was different; he could feel Trowa's concern and delight at seeing him through the link. At the same time, mid afternoon sun struck sunbeams through his hair, long bangs shining exquisite shades of brown and gold. It was all he could do to keep from running full speed into the arms of his lover. God, how he loved Trowa.

Careful to walk as gently as he could, he moved over to Trowa and sat gingerly against the bike, right in front of his love. Trowa pulled him forward and deposited a kiss on his waiting lips before looking down at the kitten in his arms. Ignoring the obvious question for a moment, he spoke softly.

"I finished the work faster than I thought, thanks to Heero's help. We decided to come shopping with you and Duo and followed the tracer in the car." Then he couldn't wait any longer. "You got a kitten."

Quatre laughed and saw Heero and Duo watching them from their place on the ground. "No, silly, I got you a kitten." Trowa's eyes widened. "I wanted to get you a lion, but Lady Une flatly refused, so I thought a kitten would be the next best thing. I'd meant to get it for you the last time I was in town but.things didn't work out that way." He paused, remembering how Cijen had cornered him and attacked him in the middle of the street.

Suddenly, Trowa had his arms wrapped about him and was sliding his small body across the bike's seat to rest more securely against him, offering comfort. "So is it a boy or a girl?"

"She's a girl. Duo and I found her hurt, and we had to rescue her. That's why her paw's in the cast, it got caught under the cage of another animal. The poor thing was screaming when we found her. I'm so glad she's ok. I just had to bring her home. I hope you like her." He said the last part under hooded lashes as he gazed at the loving expression on Trowa's face.

Leaning forward, Trowa captured another passionate kiss and then gently ran his fingertips over the beautiful white fur. "What's her name?"

"I don't know. She's your kitten. You should name her."

But Trowa shook his head. "No, I'm terrible with names, you know that. You pick one, then she'll truly be from you."

Not completely understanding the logic but knowing it would make Trowa happy, Quatre thought about the most appropriate name for the little kitten. She'd been through so much; she deserved a very, very good name.

"Um, alright, how about.um..well.I'll think about it. I wouldn't want to give her an on-the-spot name." Trowa nodded his head in agreement and gave him that one smile, that one facial expression, that was meant only for Quatre. He melted. Leaning forward yet again, he kissed his partner with all the passion he could afford; Trowa met him halfway.

The sound of someone clearing his throat caused the two to reluctantly pull away. Quatre had in fact considered ignoring the sound all together.

Suddenly, Duo's face was right next to theirs, cheeks touching cheeks. "I don't know Heero, they might just die from asphyxiation that way."

They pulled apart, and Quatre glared at Duo.

"Hey man, I was only looking out for your well being. Besides, you know what they say, never give'm anything they haven't paid for. And I haven't seen Trowa spend a single credit on you. Let's say we go back into town, hit the ritzy places, and then have dinner somewhere really nice. I'm getting kinda hungry."

"Duo, how can you be hungry? You ate less than two hours ago!"

"Quatre, I already told you, it's all Hee-"

"I remember! I remember! Come one Trowa, let's go."

They decided to take the car while Heero and Duo took the motorcycle; that way they could stay with their new kitten. On the drive back, Quatre confided in Trowa about the kitten episode.

"So you just bought every single animal in that place and then told them you 'd provide funding to make it better." Quatre nodded his head. "Now I know why I love you so much." Trowa winked at him, and Quatre felt all the love
the remark entailed. Scooting across the bench seat, he leaned up against Trowa and felt his arm slip about his shoulders.

"I love you, too. I'm glad you like her. I've wanted to get her for you for a long time."

"I love her. I can't wait to hear what name you decide for her."

Together they drove that way for a long time, Quatre leaning into Trowa, loving the way they were the perfect height for each other. But then he thought of something; the conversation he'd had with Duo over lunch. He waged a silent war within himself, either to tell Trowa about it, the pain he'd felt, or to ignore it, protect his lover from his pain. He decided to leave it, hoping the empty feeling that had suddenly stolen over him would eventually go away. Trowa didn't need to feel empty, too.