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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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.