Disclaimer: I hereby accept the Nobel Peace Prize for... oops, wrong dream. I own all the rights to Gundam Wing and... damn, wrong dream again...

Warnings: Barely 3+4

Summary: Quatre receives a letter and considers his life after the war.

by D.C. Logan

It had been a long and tedious business lunch, and Quatre retreated to the quiet of his office with a deep sense of relief. Miller and Son (and daughter) had impressed him with neither their credentials nor their business savvy; Marla had begged him for that favor, and now it was repaid. What she saw in the son was beyond him, as he'd seemed too shallow to hold the attraction of Quatre's older sibling for long, but that was her business. Quatre was in no position to argue her choice of dating material. Not by any stretch of his fertile imagination.

Too keyed up and irritated to sit, he prowled around his office, trying to nail down that quiet spot within his brain so he could find the strength to approach yet another afternoon of senseless paperwork. He walked into his private restroom, a perk left over from the shallow personal excesses of the last division president, braced his hands on the edge of the vanity and shrugged tiredly into the darkened mirror. "You're getting too old for this sort of nonsense - no more favors to sisters that involve business dealings." He said it, but in his heart of hearts he knew that he could deny them nothing. The man in the mirror nodded - recognizing the truth behind the words. His hair had escaped its combed order to rebel in a frantic blond cascade around his face. He shook his head, smiled thinly at his double in the glass, and blew upward, inwardly amused at the way his bangs flipped up and then settled back into the same arrangement again. Some things never changed. Quatre backed away from the vanity, shucked off his suit coat, and hung it carefully on the hook on the back of the door - the one thing he'd installed himself in a rare attempt to gain some slight measure of control over his life. It hadn't made an appreciable difference.

Facing the glass again, he slipped the cufflinks from his dress shirt with a practiced ease and rolled his shirtsleeves back midway. The tie went next, along with a quietly desperate loosening of the top two shirt buttons. After wrenching the tap open, he ran his fingers under the water for a few seconds. Time living in the desert had earned him a lifelong appreciation for running water; he rarely missed taking a moment to appreciate its immediate and welcome presence in his life. He dampened his hands and ran them upward through his hair, pushing back the day and clearing his mind for the quiet afternoon of paperwork in front of him. Fingers dented briefly against his head as he tilted backwards and closed his eyes, relishing the moment. He rubbed his face into the rough towel on the rack, dried his hands, and returned to his office, ignoring his desk in favor of the view. The city never slept, but in daylight the population was more apparent, at night there were only lights to indicate that they were there in any number.

He preferred the view after dark; it didn't demand as much from him.

He considered his vague pale reflection in the glass: a trim man, elegant by some standards, professional by most; dressed in the remainder of a custom-tailored gray suit, imported shoes, and a fine linen shirt, sadly abused by his recent modification of it. Add to that list a matched set of tired blue eyes and that damn wild hair that he couldn?t seem to control with the best of intentions. He needed a haircut, he didn't need a shave; even now, twenty-five years old, his hair was so fine that he barely needed to observe the daily ritual. What a physical disappointment.

And what had he done with his life? The first half of it had been interesting enough to satisfy the demands of any man - living colony side, training in and piloting his Gundam in the wars of AC195 and AC196. Not many could lay claim to such a childhood. But what had he done with his legacy? Nothing. Here he was, whiling away the second part of his life operating and dispensing part of the Winner Industries' vast holdings, cloistered within an office, locked in the trappings of his business life. It had seemed like the right thing to do at the time - comfortingly close to his remaining family, steady and regular with all the stability that promised; no excitement, no chance of getting skewered by erratically motivated blonde women. He rubbed his scar absently, it still hurt when the weather changed; today it was a dull point of fire deep under his ribs.

He shifted and thought about taking off his shoes, but decided that he'd already reached his limit of what he could allow himself to do during regular business hours. Maybe tonight, after Madeline had left for the day and it was just him, his paperwork, and a carton of takeout from whichever speed dial button he hit at random. His life didn't vary much from day to day, but the work was the one consistent thing that never ended. Thinking of which, he turned and moved to sit behind his desk. His secretary, that most considerate of women, had left a stack of messages and letters on it while he?d been occupying himself in the private bathroom.

Madeline - yet another one of his sister's friends who had been looking for work and to potentially make herself invaluable to him (one in a long string of optimistic suitors) - had actually proven competent, but then again, Samil was one of the few of his sisters that had little interest in setting him up with a wife. "You'll find someone perfect for you when the time is right," she'd said in that all-knowing tone of hers. "Not to say that they'll be perfect, but you should find someone just as screwed up as you are and settle down someday." He'd half-heartedly pitched a crumpled wad of paper at her head after that remark, but she'd laughed cheerily at him and batted it back at his face. He rather liked Samil, she didn't treat him like he needed careful handling.

He flipped idly through the phone messages, deciding mid stack that there was nothing that couldn't wait until the next day, he was in no state to conduct business over a vid phone anyway. The letters were usually from individuals or causes soliciting money from the foundation. Part of his job was to filter out the worthy causes and assign someone on his staff to do all the follow up and investigative work before issuing grant money or moving their request to another part of the company. Madeline sliced open the top of each envelope as part of her mail handling procedure, so it was easy to simply pull the letter, discard the envelope, scan the contents, and, more than likely, pitch the remaining papers into the 'to be shredded' bin.

One envelope, cream in color, hadn't been opened though, and he was just starting to mentally question her professionalism when he turned it over and read the note on the exterior - bold and difficult to miss: "personal and confidential - to be opened by addressee only, please."

It was the 'please' that made him hesitate in the act of throwing it into the discard bin, that and the fact that the words had been hand written in an elegant, confident hand and strong black ink. It begged for attention.

He edged a thumb under the flap and ran it along the paper, separating the layers and earning himself a nasty paper cut in the process. He sucked his thumb absently as he pulled the card from its wrappings, and reminded himself for the umpteenth time that he should have used the letter opener that Rashid had made for him from a scrap of Sandrock's plating. Instead, the memento rested peacefully and safely in his top drawer, and his skin suffered the punishment instead. "And you call yourself a strategist," he muttered to himself ruefully, and then fell silent as the message before his eyes took hold of him.

It was a card, tri-folded, with an image of water on the front of it and a typeset, pre-canned sentiment intended to provide support and relief.

A bereavement card...
...for the loss of his father,
...ten oh-so-long years ago.

It was the first such card he?d ever received, and he briefly wondered if he?d received it in error. But the name on the envelope was truly his own. The concept was completely unexpected, and it rocked him deep within the foundations of his mind. He closed his eyes - only the feel of the card, the touch of his fingers to paper, grounding him to the present. Hearing again his father?s voice - his condemnation of his only son. "Why now?" he pleaded softly, after all this time had passed? He held the card closed in one hand and swept back his damp bangs with the unbloodied one, thinking back to that day - that day when his father had taken his life in front of his own eyes.


After the only words of anger to ever pass between them.

There had been no time to beg for forgiveness, no chance of absolution, and with the war fast on his heels - no time to mourn over his passing once the deed had been done and the man was dead. No time or opportunity to reverse his father's opinion of him. No, no time then, and he'd avoided thinking of that day after the war - so much easier instead to bury himself in work and other people?s problems and daily issues.

It had been his fault.

Perhaps not entirely, but what if his behavior - his decision to pilot Sandrock - had been the incremental shift that had tipped the scales in favor of his father's ultimate decision? What if...

He didn't even want to start thinking about how living from day to day with that type of deep internal guilt had affected the decisions he'd made after the war. How, deep in his heart, he regretted and hated the emotional sensitivity that forced him away from his path of resistance into one that he knew his father would have approved of. A path not entirely of his own choosing, but done in penance and with the hope of eventual forgiveness.

He caught himself falling into the past and woke to the present, tipping the card in his hand in a subtle reminder that 'this was now'. He breathed deeply, set his mental and emotional barriers in place, opened the card in his hands, and started reading the words softly aloud in his mind.

"If I could bear the burden of your sorrow, I would.
If I could, but for a minute, take away your pain and make it mine, I would.
If I could tell you, 'There's a reason for this,' I would. I'd do anything to take away your hurt.
But sometimes the road of life takes unexplainable twists, unfortunate turns, and the whole world seems cold and heartless.
I can't tell you how sorry I am that your life has been interrupted this way, how sorry I am that I can't shelter you from this.
But I want to leave you with this thought -
I'm here if you want to talk, if you need to cry, if you can find comfort in sharing silence with me.
You are my friend.
I care."
--Renee Duvall

The pain in his chest increased with every word, and the printed words became fuzzier and lost their sharp edges as his focus went soft with emotion. It hurt, but there was a good hurt under the bad?lancing and healing as the pain leaked through him. He felt the emotions leap and twist under his control?straining, yearning for release - and with the recognition that he'd been suppressing this for all of those years came the peace of control. It settled over him like a blanket, comforting and warm, all the more so for its unexpectedness and sense of deep contentment.

He breathed deeply, surprised at how *good* he suddenly felt. He?d needed this, and hadn't known enough about the confinement of his own soul to think of searching out a solution to the tightness that had lived inside of him and controlled him for all this time. It had taken someone else to do that for him... someone... He turned the last panel of the card over to read the signature and felt his features fall slack with shock. One word, in the same stylized script and bold hand from the envelope: Trowa.

The same questions raced around his brain, faster now that they were familiar with the course: Why now? After all this time had passed? He turned the card, and then its envelope over, repeatedly - searching for more information, anything... but there were no other clues as to its source, only that one name.

Trowa. Who'd embraced him hesitantly and then left to travel with Catherine and the circus after the war had closed in AC196. Who'd had enough of war and intrigue and the duplicity of bureaucrats and politicians to last him a lifetime. Who had been in his thoughts in a regular pattern of regret and loss since he'd first met him that day at Corsica. That, and his unrequited attraction to him during the wars that he done nothing to confirm, deny, or pursue. What a loss - to not even attempt to follow a path he despaired of ever finding again. The unasked question, that answer always 'no' until it was asked. With the best of intentions, he'd thought about keeping in touch with the other Gundam pilots after the war had ended, but distance and differences more than the postwar climate could compensate for had kept them apart. That and a healthy fear of rejection.

So, what did it mean that Trowa had taken the time to select such a considerate letter to him? And what about the time and effort it must have taken to track down Quatre's address to deliver it through the system? He stood the card on its edge on the middle of his desk and pondered the questions its delivery had brought back to life, and wondered idly what Trowa had been doing since the end of the war. Remembering how easy it had been to lose track of his comrades and get caught up in his day-to-day work routine and mundane civilian life, and realizing how soul-deep pleased he was that Trowa hadn't let the same obstacles of time and physical distance separate the two of them indefinitely.

Quatre scanned the card, rethinking his feelings and settling them into new boxes in his mind. He felt an urge, no, a need, and slowly worked his mind around to the firm, committed resolution that he needed to find Trowa and thank him. At the very least, he needed to let him know that his message had been received - not only received, but also deeply appreciated.

With that was the trace of thought that, if Quatre felt at all daring, he might see what developed from there. After all, some opportunities couldn't rightfully be ignored more than once in a lifetime...

He did a double check of the packaging for clues - there was no return address on the transit pouch, no date stamp, no courier marks on the message at all.

He'd lifted the lid on a genuine puzzle - everything had to come from somewhere - it should just be a matter of connecting the logic to its eventual solution. He sat up in his chair, moved the rest of his paperwork to the side of his desk in a new stack he mentally labeled 'to be ignored until further notice,' and studied the card again before placing it back on the center of his desk. He strengthened his resolve, rolled the tenseness from his shoulders, and reached for the intercom button, striking it with a new sense of purpose. His secretary blinked back at him in surprise. He'd obviously interrupted her talking with someone.

"Madeline? Could you do me a favor please?" He hurried his words, trying to get the rest of the request out before he changed his mind - knowing full well that once Madeline had a project on her desk, little could sway her from the path to resolution. "I have a letter that I think is worth pursuing, and I'd like to ask you to track down the correspondent - a Mr. Trowa Barton."

"Wasn't that the letter I set on your desk while you were at lunch sir?"

"I thought we'd moved past the Miss Williams and Sir?"

"Certainly Mr. Quatre, and by the way sir, that message was hand delivered. Would you like me to send Mr. Barton in? Or should I refer to him as Mr. Trowa?"

The teasing tone to her voice was completely wasted on her audience.

The message was not.

The intercom clicked as the circuit closed, and there was a distinct pause from the other side of the wall before the door to Quatre's office hesitantly opened a notch, then swung wide.

Trowa was sitting on the sofa against the far wall of the reception area. He looked both so expected and foreign that it took Quatre a few heartbeats to see the changes in him - the soft smile, the hesitant question there for only him to read: "Am I welcome here?"

He'd been ignoring the trade magazine sprawled across his lap, and he folded it and set it aside as he continued to study the man standing in the doorway - who was looking at him with a curious expression on his face. He stood as Quatre continued to stare at him, and waited patiently as he watched the changing emotions march across Quatre's face.

"Trowa?" asked Quatre, not quite believing that it could really be him.

Miss Williams nodded decisively, "Mr. Trowa it is then."

The two men smiled at each other, not for the first time, and Quatre stood back and held open the door. It was way past time to explore the other side of it.


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