by D.C. Logan
The bruising looked worse in the morning, and Quatre's pale complexion didn't help. Trowa did his best to not react when he saw how dark and mottled the bruising had become, but he couldn't help but overhear the low moan of despair that drifted out from the closed bathroom door once Quatre had a chance to see himself in the mirror. It was one of the problems with being male--not only did they tend to get hit more often, but it wasn't socially acceptable to cover the evidence with makeup.
Remembering his guest's comment from earlier that same morning, Trowa started the coffee pot as well as the tea kettle and was sitting down and flipping though his mail by the time Quatre made his official appearance. Trowa tried for casual.
"Morning Quatre, you get any sleep last night?"
Quatre moved his hand to swipe back the hair from his face in what looked like a typical nervous reaction, but hit the bruised area by accident and flinched. He looked nervous and unsure of his reception. "Yeah, thanks. I should go..." But he didn't sound like he meant it.
Quatre was trying to figure out what to do next. Hell, he'd finally met a good looking, intelligent guy roughly his age that he was attracted to and who even happened to be gay. Then, not only had he managed to make a horrible first impression, apparently he'd done such a good job of acting like an idiot that the guy had absolutely zero interest in him at all. Either that or he already had someone, which made more sense. What were the odds that Trowa was single? What was the standing joke about single men? That they were like parking spaces--the good ones were always taken and the remaining ones were handicapped? This man didn't look or behave like he'd have any problem finding someone. Damn.
"You're looking better than I thought you would this morning. Here, sit." Trowa kicked a chair out from under the table and waited until his guest took the offered seat. "Coffee, tea? I'm low on food at the moment, but I can make toast as well?..."
"Coffee, if it's no trouble." Despite the good face he'd put forward a few moments before, Quatre looked done in, rattled and exhausted with the stress of the previous night no doubt. Trowa rose and fetched mug and sugar and milk for his guest, and paused at his side of the table.
"Can I take a look at your eye again? I want to check the bandage."
Quatre obediently tilted his head so Trowa had an unobstructed view of his face. As Trowa explored the area with soft fingers, gently learning the tolerances of the injury, Quatre leaned into the touch, responding to the gentle contact. Trowa regretfully retracted his fingers as the phone rang, breaking the moment. Casting a glance at his guest, he hit the speakerphone option on the wall phone and moved back to the counter to start making toast. "Hey"
Quatre looked at the phone in interest, and listened with surprise--a conference call?
"Yo Tro! Hey man, you didn't call me. How did it go last night? Your stray make it home okay?" The voice was confident, charming, and the sense of humor that came through the line was incredibly infectious. He didn't bother to wait for a reply before moving on either. "The temp I hired last week said he'd watch the shop for me if you want to meet up for breakfast. You interested? If not, I'll send him out for something to eat later. Tro? You there man?"
"Morning Duo. Say hello to Quatre."
There was a brief hesitation on the open line before the cheery voice called out in welcome, "Morning Quatre, you guys want to go out for breakfast? Or did you two eat already?"
Quatre looked confused, and Trowa smiled in sympathy. Duo had that effect on people sometimes. It was nice to hear Duo in a better mood; he'd been worried about him.
Trowa replied for both of them, "I _was_ going to call you; last night was interesting; and my stray, as you refer to him, is named Quatre, and he spent the night on the couch in my living room. I don't know if we're up for breakfast yet; you want to hold on for a second while I ask?" He walked over to the phone and hit the mute button and looked to Quatre. "It's your decision, if you don't want to go out this morning that's understandable, Duo can pick up something and we can eat it here if you'd prefer?" Quatre nodded, mildly ashamed at his reluctance to leave the apartment and venture out.
Trowa hit the phone again. "Duo? How about you pick up breakfast for the three of us and we'll eat here? That okay with you?" Trowa, who knew Duo better than anyone else, could practically hear the gears shifting in his brain as he processed the information Trowa had given him and came up with the right answers. "Gotcha! Any preferences?" Trowa was watching Quatre, who was shaking his head no. "Nothing specific, go ahead and surprise us."
"See you in thirty then!" and the line disconnected.
Quatre looked confused. "Um, is he your, uh..." He spluttered and started to turn pink. Trowa watched him in mild surprise, damn if he didn't blush after all; would wonders never cease to amaze him...and then he got it. "No, we're not now, nor have we ever been lovers, if that's what you're asking." If possible, Quatre reddened further. "He's my best friend, and he's a helluva decent person. Now, do you feel well enough to help me set the table and clear off the counter before Duo gets here?" Better to keep Quatre moving and get his mind off of the events of last night he thought to himself. Duo's presence should help, and together the three of them could discuss what should happen next.
It didn't occur to him that he was already including Quatre in his plans; he'd already forgotten using 'we' to account for the two of them; it felt as natural as breathing, and had been just as subconscious a reaction.
Twenty-three minutes after his call, Duo rapped on the door and entered the apartment before Trowa could call out a welcome. He sauntered into the kitchen and settled his box and bag of good smells on the table before turning and greeting Quatre's surprised face. His expression went from politely cheerful to murderous in seconds. Quatre backed towards the doorway in misunderstanding, only to come up against a wall of solid muscle that stretched out both hands to gently steady him by his shoulders. Trowa spoke in low tones near his head.
"Quatre, meet Duo."
Duo stalked across the room, rage in every aspect of his demeanor, "Who. Did. This. To. You?" It was delivered in frosty tones and left no room for misunderstanding.
Quatre leaned away from Duo's wrath and closer into Trowa's steadying grip--a small fact that Duo noted and cataloged for later review. Trust was building there; Trowa's protective attitude did not go unnoticed either.
Quatre shifted nervously under Trowa's hands. Trowa wasn't going to answer for him this time. He swallowed hard, stood free of Trowa's touch, and schooled his features into something approaching normal for him. "A worthless scum-sucking bottom dweller?"
Duo hooted in response while Trowa shifted in surprise. Where had _that_ come from? He was unaccountably proud of Quatre's response. So, to see it, was Duo; who immediately turned his attention to Trowa. "So, did you get to hit him? Hard?"
"Didn't have to. The swine wet himself the minute the tables were turned on him."
Quatre looked at Trowa in surprise. "Truth?"
"Yeah." Trowa glanced back at Duo. His face turned saturnine and his voice darkened and lowered in tone. "I should have leveled the sonofabitch." Duo nodded, looked more carefully at the damage inflicted to Quatre's face and glared some more, upset, but with no direction to apply his anger.
"What were you doing there with that asshole anyway?" Duo slid a chair over to the table and began unpacking the bounty he'd delivered. He motioned for the other two to sit as he spread the food over the table.
Quatre wasn't sure how to approach this. It was a situation completely unique from the entire scope of his life so far. Did Trowa host 'strays' often? What sort of relationship did these two men have? He felt odd, almost like an expected addition or occurrence in their lives. Quatre cautiously accepted a seat in the chair nearest the exit of the room before explaining some of the why and what that had happened the night before. Trowa nodded in agreement as Duo fumed. Duo finally looked at Quatre consideringly.
"You were that curious?" Quatre nodded slightly. "Okay, I can sort of understand that, but you need a keeper." Duo leaned back in his seat, carefully balancing the chair on two of its four legs as he considered the problem. He pulled a pastry from the bag nearest his seat without losing his balance, and conducted with it as he put his plan onto action--shaking it for emphasis. "Trowa? You're gay, you're good looking, you're decent company; you should be able to tell him what the scene is like in this part of town. Until further notice, you get to keep an eye on him whenever he thinks he needs it, okay? Hell, I won't be able to sleep at night if I have to worry about him trolling for perverts like that again."
Duo dropped his chair back to the floor and used the momentum to aid his reach for the breakfast he'd brought. He also snuck a surreptitious glance over the two men sharing the table with him. He could see that Trowa was rolling this idea around in his head, obviously surprised with himself for not seeing the opportunity sooner. Quatre wasn't quite as adept at hiding his reaction, but as Trowa was too befuddled with delight to notice much that was going on around him, Duo was pretty sure that only he saw the flash of surprise on Quatre's face followed by a look of carefully concealed consideration. Hell, Duo liked this guy already--he was adaptive, he was bright, not to mention that it was patently obvious that he already had something going for Trowa. Smart man.
Quatre hovered between amazement over Duo's tactics and embarrassment over the semi-public exposure of his desires and curiosities. Hell, if he'd expressed an interest in bestiality, would they have found a sheep for him? What was it with these people? He suddenly felt unaccountably nervous, wondering what they had in store for him next.
Pleased with the reaction his high-handed tactics had returned, Duo left the table and walked over to fill his coffee cup before he turned around to look at each of the men in turn. "No objections? Good. Now we can eat."
Quatre was staring at him with his jaw slightly dropped.
"Your hair... that's amazing!"
Duo grinned, oh that. Next he'd be asking him how long it had taken to grow out...
Duo raised his hands in surrender as Trowa groaned loudly and started digging around through the bags for his breakfast. Quatre shuttled his attention between both Trowa and Duo, sensing a story.
Duo set his coffee aside and put his hands on his hips, leaning back on the counter and looking at Trowa. Trowa stooped closer to his meal, pointedly ignoring Duo until Duo gave in with a laugh. "It's his fault," he said, grandly waving at the man with his attention buried in his breakfast. "We made a bet freshman year of college. Got drunk at a party and dared each other to see who could grow their hair the longest. You'll have to get Tro to dig up the photos of the event later; the guys in our dorm documented the entire event and ran bets on us 'til we left school. The pictures of them shaving our heads are a riot."
"Shaved? As in bald?"
"Well, we had to start even... you know, to be completely fair about it all." He snickered while Quatre looked over at Trowa speculatively.
Duo grinned conspirationally at Quatre, "He looked stunning."