by D.C. Logan
"So what sort of a name is Quatre anyway? French?"
The three of them were clustered around the two boxes of pizza Duo had brought along with him. Quatre's eye was still swollen, but the color around it was turning from blue-black to a purple red, which Duo pronounced an improvement. Quatre wasn't quite as convinced.
Duo seemed to feel that the time had come to find out more details about Trowa's temporary roommate and had been plying him with questions, both irreverent and serious, as they ate their supper. Trowa vacillated between being appalled over Duo's forwardness, and riveted by Quatre's candid responses.
"What about Trowa?"
Quatre looked up from his slice. "Good, you're both sitting down. Ready for this one?" Trowa nodded, Duo peeled another slice of pizza from where it had congealed on the box and waved him onward with his free hand.
"Catherine Francis Louis Elliot Raberba Winner"
Trowa looked momentarily flummoxed. "So Quatre is short for..."
"Catherine, yes." He smiled. "What can I say, I came after three sisters and thirty-two hours of labor complications. Mother was apparently a little, um, out of it when the doctor asked what name should be on the certificate. She insisted on using a family name, and they wrote it down after she threatened to sue them over it. Quatre is a childhood nickname that sort of stuck. Father made up for it somewhat by adding all the names in the middle afterward."
He looked at Trowa, who was spinning the name carefully around in his head. "So that would make you a byproduct of the merger between Raberba Chemicals and Winner Enterprises right?"
Quatre nodded, well aware of what he was confessing. Hell, his roommate didn't even know who he was. Not really. He just knew that he was rich; which was all that seemed to matter to him.
Quatre braced himself for the inevitable questions: not the least of which was why was the heir apparent to one of the largest fortunes in the world happily eating out of cardboard boxes in a third-floor apartment with two near strangers. He waited, but thankfully, Trowa didn't pry.
"Trowa is just an old family name from back on dad's side." He shrugged and looked over to where Duo was looking at both of them curiously.
Quatre smiled at him, "Duo isn't exactly normal either you know."
Duo stood, walked over to where Quatre was sitting, and extended his hand with an exaggerated flourish, "Maximillian Robinson Maxwell, at your service." He paused while walking back to his chair, tilted his head to the side, and thought back to what Trowa had just said. "You know, believe it or not, I think our parents sort of know each other." He turned and sat back down.
Quatre nodded. He recognized the names. "Stella Robinson and..." he reached for the right name, smiling when he found it, "Trip Maxwell."
"We don't keep in touch. Differences of opinion." Duo sounded more resigned than sad. "I'm not sure they even know where I'm living at the moment." He pitched the pizza crust into the box with a sense of finality.
Quatre looked at Trowa who shook his head. It was an old and closed subject, and Quatre was smart enough to recognize one when he saw it. They switched to safer avenues of conversation.
"You need to go back to your dorm?" Trowa was standing near the door with Duo. "I offered to drive Duo back to his place, and I can swing around and take you past your room on the way."
Quatre stood and took a quick inventory of his possessions. The only things he had with him were clothes he planned on burning at first opportunity, his wallet, and his shoes.
Damn, okay, so the interlude was over, and it was time for him to get back to his old life. So much seemed to separate then from now, and it had only been a day. The thought staggered him. Had he really only known Trowa for one day? He ran his hand through his hair and flinched. He'd have to stop doing that; it hurt.
Trowa, concerned that Quatre was standing in the middle of his living room and not talking, looked to Duo for advice before walking over to touch Quatre gently on his shoulder. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm good." He looked around once more before deciding. "I'm ready."
He sure didn't look like he was up to much, or really wanted to go back to his dorm either, thought Duo. It was patently obvious that few people took the time to discover the impressive brain behind the 'rich kid' facade. The guy was brilliant, well educated, polite, and positively smitten with Trowa. It would be interesting to watch and see if it lasted longer than a week or two; truthfully though, he thought it just might, the two of them had a sort of instant chemistry between them that was hard to miss. Hell, even he'd forgotten that Quatre was a complete unknown from time to time over the course of the day; he just fit in that naturally.
Trowa's car wasn't what Quatre expected. Trowa pulled back the tarp to reveal an ancient and venerable TR7 convertible that looked like it had survived driving through all nine levels of hell with the top down. The paint was chipped and scratched, and even the license plate looked like it had been transferred over from a series of more reputable cars. He didn't bother to keep it locked. Either Trowa was so well known in the neighborhood that no one would touch it, or it simply wasn't worth the bother. It hummed like a mechanical song though, purring happily under Trowa's direction.
Duo bowed to the inevitable and crawled into the back seat for the first time since he'd befriended Trowa. He figured he'd be seeing rather a lot of the miniscule back seat if Trowa had anything to say about his future with Quatre. Ah well, he'd have fun being the third wheel for once. Trowa teased him nonstop whenever he'd had a lover and the turnabout was bound to be entertaining. What Duo really hoped was that Quatre's roomie was around. He was just dying to meet the creature that had set him up like that. Still, that was more Trowa's territory, much as he'd like to assist. There was something fairly ugly about anyone that took advantage of Quatre the way he'd obviously done.
No such luck though. Late Saturday night, still decent weather out, he was probably off bar crawling or doing something else equally...educational.
Quatre sat on the edge of his bed. Trowa stood and looked out of the window, and Duo? Duo tried to figure out what was holding up his lift home. Ah, he must be tired, it was taking him forever to fit the straps to the buckles today.
He looked around before his eyes stopped on Duo, and Duo sighed. Hell the poor guy looked wasted.
"Trowa is expecting you to stay at his apartment until you're ready to deal with your roommate or we have the opportunity to threaten him properly. So if you could please pack up some clothes and put him out of his misery?"
There was a startled "oh" and a darting glance to the window where Trowa's shoulders relaxed minutely before he nodded.
Quatre looked incredulous, "You... sure that's okay?"
Trowa stalked back to the bed. "Well, as long as you don't mind the inconvenience of the sofa?" He seemed surprised that Quatre was actually considering Duo's suggestion.
Duo looked around at the institutional décor with distaste, "Anything would be a step up from this. When did they buy all this stuff? The 70s?" He prodded a lamp to emphasize his point. "And what are you doing living on campus anyway? Slumming? You should get yourself an apartment off campus and ditch your current --no, not _that_ current-- roommate." He leaned back against the desk and set up his next round of play. "Trowa will help you, he knows lots of people. Hell, he'll probably let you bunk with him until you get resettled."
Duo leaned back and waited for that bombshell to land, expecting wonderful results. Trowa let loose of his rare smiles that told Duo that he'd scored a hit this time. Hell, given enough time, like a few minutes from now, Trowa would be convinced that it had been his idea in the first place.
"That's a good idea. Why don't you grab enough stuff to carry you over for a few days and leave a note for your roommate?" Trowa walked over to the closet; he seemed happy to have something physical to do to occupy himself.
"Or don't leave a note and see what he does." Was Duo's less than helpful contribution.
"I have to tell him something, otherwise he'll report me as missing to the university staff or my parents. Either would be, um, unfortunate." Quatre slid a desk drawer open and pulled monogrammed linen stationary and a fountain pen to the desktop. Duo took both from him. "You go pack and keep Trowa out of trouble, and you can tell me what to write. That work?"
Quatre looked at Trowa. "He's bossy, isn't he?"
"You have no idea."
"I thought the idea of telling your roommate that you'd left to shack up in your lover's retreat house was rather inspired myself," said Duo.
"I tore up that note, remember?"
"Did you Trowa? Really? Are you absolutely certain?"
Trowa swiveled his head around to yell at Duo, but thought better of it and turned to Quatre instead. "Don't mind him, he gets like that when he's tired."
Duo piped up from the back seat, "Gets like what?"
"Quiet back there, I'm trying to talk to Quatre."
Duo sat back and grinned like a fool. They were doomed, they just hadn't figured it out yet.
The ride back to Trowa's apartment was a lot quieter without Duo's company, and Quatre thought about him as the two of them drove back into Cambridge.
"I like Duo. He seems like a really great guy."
"He's the best."
"He seemed sad at times..." Quatre left the question unstated, giving Trowa the option of answering or ignoring it.
Trowa slowed the car as he pulled into his street, surprised at how well Quatre had been able to read Duo's moods after such a short time spent with him. "He's getting over the breakup of, what was for him, a fairly serious relationship. He hides it well, but yes, he's been a bit subdued recently." He turned off the ignition and sat for a moment in the quiet car. "He wouldn't appreciate hearing that you saw through his cover though, so you should definitely mention it when you see him next." He opened his door, but the interior lights had failed years ago and the car remained dark. "Ready?"
Quatre unfastened his belt and fiddled with the door latch before stepping onto the sidewalk, bag in hand. "Yeah, I'm set."
"Let's go then."
It wasn't until coffee the next morning that Quatre realized that he didn't really see Trowa's tattoos any more. After concentrating on the nuances of Trowa's expression and the subtleties of his movement for the better part of a day, they had simply disappeared from his notice. It was strange.
He could feel that they were headed toward something, the attraction was like a tangible current under the words they exchanged and the way they moved around each other in the narrow confines of Trowa's kitchen. Without Duo around to act as a foil, he could also feel the tension growing between them. He recognized it, but he didn't know what to _do_ with it.
Quatre was shifting in his chair again. For someone as hyperaware of his surroundings as Quatre was at the moment, it was very telling. He was feeling it too. Trowa was now more certain than ever that this man was going to become very important to him. He expected that it would take Quatre a little longer to come around to the attraction he was feeling. He was obviously interested and certain of the attraction, but too inexperienced to make any overt moves. Which was just as well, given his recent experience--Trowa had no interest in having Quatre associate attraction with possible abuse. Not that it was a given reaction, but he was taking no chances. Unbidden, came the memory of the spring long ago when he'd taken on the task of feeding wild birds in his back yard; it had taken weeks of patience to get them to eat from his hand. He planned on approaching Quatre's friendship with the same care and diligence.