by D.C. Logan
Trowa gently touched the edges of the cut while dabbing a thin coat of salve. He sat back and evaluated his work. "I think it's going to scar, at least a little."
Quatre shrugged, "It'll add character."
The sofa bedding had been neatly stacked on the chair by the time Trowa had made it out of the shower that morning. Quatre had set the pot on for tea and made coffee as well. When Trowa commented and gave his thanks, Quatre shrugged and confessed that he knew how to prepare little else.
"Duo has to work all day today. I was planning on stopping by to bring him lunch in a couple hours, you feel like walking around Cambridge a little?"
Now that he had the luxury of time alone with Trowa, he didn't know what to do or say. Okay, he knew what he wanted to do, but didn't want to risk his safe haven with a few questions on the aforementioned 'experimentation'. No matter how inordinately curious he was.
He'd already given a lot of thought to this. A mild interest had recently turned into a full-blown urge to test and explore what he had been missing. He'd read everything he could get his hands on, watched a few videos in the privacy of his bedroom at home, and had done, well, rather a lot of personal hands-on exploration. What he hadn't done was find anyone willing to tell him about what living the lifestyle was like, the risks, the joys... Or show him what that could be like with another person. He'd had sex with a woman once, and the experience had been so distasteful to him that he'd never felt the urge to repeat it. She'd worked for an exclusive escort service, and had been his present on the event of his sixteenth birthday. He hadn't thought of the mechanics of sex in a positive light until he'd encountered gay fiction in college. _That_ had interested him, but not enough to explore its real-life possibilities, at least not then.
He wasn't sure what impulse had made him reveal such a private desire in front of his roommate. Except that he was away from home, a home that had been feeling less and less like home lately. And that he'd finally found himself ready to take that risk. And try. It had felt like the right time.
He was encouraged by the start he'd made towards friendship with Trowa, and yes, now that Duo had pointed out the possible advantages of living with Trowa, and had put the idea in his head that Trowa was gay, available, and had been assigned as his keeper for as long as he desired... Well, he couldn't get the idea to budge from the forefront of his mind. He just hadn't a clue how to proceed from point A to point B, and now he wasn't sure he was willing to risk the foundation he'd established on the dream of something better.
"Yeesss?" Trowa pretended to sort the contents of his refrigerator as he listened for Quatre's question.
"You really don't mind if I camp out on your sofa while I... figure all of this out?"
Trowa didn't have to ask what 'all of this' meant, and he knew that Quatre would be safer on his living room couch than any other place in Cambridge. Besides, whether he realized it or not yet, the decision had already been taken out of his hands. Well, as long as Trowa had anything to say about it; or for as long as Duo felt like arranging their lives to his preference.
"No, I don't mind in the least. We'll have to negotiate all the little details though--like who showers first in the morning and how our schedules overlap."
"About that other thing that Duo asked you to do?"
"That one is non-negotiable." He shut the refrigerator door and leaned against it. "I'm not backing out of that responsibility... unless you've had a change of mind?"
Quatre chuckled, a darkly sensual sound that surprised even himself, "_I'm_ not going to let you to do that. You're stuck with me."
Trowa didn't respond aloud, but his thoughts were telling, even to himself. 'Oh Lord, I dearly hope so.'
Duo's bookstore occupied the basement of an apartment building about three blocks from the center of Cambridge. Trowa peered through the window into the store, waved for Quatre to wait for a moment, and eased the door open without ringing the bell. Quatre, puzzled by his odd behavior, looked on as Trowa crept low along line of windows, carefully stalking Duo, who was sitting behind the sales counter engrossed in a book. Apparently. Duo turned a page and casually spoke in a voice loud enough to carry through the glass, "Hello Trowa. Nice to see you too Quatre."
Trowa stood up in defeat before waving Quatre in. "Been trying to get the advantage of Duo for years now," he confessed.
"Eventually, I'd like to move to a location with better road traffic and more square footage, but this is a good place to start."
Duo accepted his ham and swiss no mustard and proceeded to unwrap it. There were no customers, but since Duo hadn't been in business long, he wasn't worried yet. The three of them sat comfortably in the assortment of second-hand chairs he'd found in a storage closet and passed around drinks and chips. Duo focused his comments on his store and his plans for it--the type of customers he hoped to see, the books he wanted to showcase. He showed Quatre his most prized book--a signed first edition of H.Y. Elwon's second espionage thriller, and gave Quatre a complimentary copy of the author's latest book to take with him. He also took the opportunity to study every interaction between Trowa and Quatre in minute detail.
Duo noticed that Quatre couldn't seem to figure out why a relative stranger like Duo was being so nice to him. Duo smiled to himself, he'd be sure to put the pieces together eventually. That is if Trowa had figured things out. Well, he was a bright lad, shouldn't take him too much longer... then again.
"Would you be so kind as to run down to Jasper's and fetch us coffee?"
"You have a coffee machine in the back." Trowa sounded puzzled.
"Then would you go buy some decent coffee to put in it?"
"You have that too."
Duo looked at Quatre with an 'I can't help it if he's dense' commiserating look before turning to Trowa. "Trowa, I want to talk to Quatre without you around, so if you're not going to cooperate with my manufactured excuses, could you please just leave for ten minutes?"
Trowa got serious. "What do you need to discuss with him that you can't say in front of me?" Duo felt mildly sorry for his friend, he actually sounded slighted and mildly indigent.
Trowa looked suspiciously from Quatre to Duo and back again before shrugging and walking towards the door. He did get in one parting remark aimed at Quatre though, "Don't believe anything he tells you." At Duo's broadening grin, he reiterated, "_Anything_."
Duo waited until Trowa was not only though the door, but also held his breath until the door latch closed with a click and the quiet chime of a bell. "Okay, ask."
"Whatever you want. Most people get to find out all the gory little details about someone they're interested in by word of mouth. You get me instead." Duo tilted his chair against the wall in anticipation. "I mean, you want to get around to fucking him eventually right? You should probably know a little more about him first, right?"
Quatre flushed bright red, but didn't back down. "Hey, I've been holding my own pretty well so far if I do say so myself." Quatre's blush faded a little once he'd confessed his interest and done nothing to deny Duo's statement. "For any other situation I'd already have a 12-step procedure in place and thoroughly tested, but Trowa..."
"Yeah, he snuck up on you." Hell, it was easy to see that the poor guy was dying to ask him questions, but good breeding and ingrained manners were holding him back--so much for being straightforward with him. Oh well, he'd give it another go. "Questions? C'mon, I know you've got them."
It was amazing, thought Duo, how such an innocent and open expression could adequately house such a devious and clever mind. If Quatre was given to thinking out loud he was sure he would have been treated to a dozen or more questions, as it was, it was easy to tell that he was sorting and grading all the possible questions he might ask, knowing that time was limited and the information important.
"What are his weak points?"
Aha! Good question. "He's horrendously ticklish, he loves animals of all varieties and rarely makes rational decisions where they're concerned, he will promise you outrageous things if you play with his ears, and, well, as of recently, his major weak point is anything to do with you." Duo watched him carefully, half expecting to see him pull out pad and paper to better record his thoughts.
"The tattoos? They seem kind of personal and I didn't know if I could ask."
"You won't get the same answer from him if you ask, and you should ask him. He didn't start his project until after we'd both left school. I think the reason he decided on tattoos is based on the fact that he is a chameleon--a good one, jack of all trades and master of any that he cares to be. All his life, according to what he's told me, he's drifted into whatever persona the people around him wanted him to be--musician, student, perfect son. When he started on his own, he needed something to ground him in the life he'd chosen, and the silver and the tats--well, they do that. They keep him from shifting. At least that's what I see."
"Why did he decide on tat..." but he was interrupted by Quatre, a little rushed with the thought that Trowa would walk back into the store at any moment.
"No, why are you doing this? Pushing us together?"
"Smart. I knew you were smart. You want the selfish reasons or the unselfish ones?"
"Both. Definitely both."
Duo rocked the chair back onto four legs before resuming. "Because I've been his friend for ten years now and I've seen him with any number of people, and I've yet to see him as floored as he is by you. Hell, the man can barely link two words together when you're in the room with him. If I didn't see that you return the same interest, I think I could easily hate you." There wasn't a hint of threat to the statement, it just stood under its own weight. "I don't know you personally, but I have heard of you through family and such. That, plus the way you look at him when he talks to you, is enough to validate your claim in my book. That's it for the unselfish ones. Other than that, he's been harassing me nonstop to find someone for myself. I figure if he's busy with you, he won't have as much free time to manage my life. Right?"
Quatre didn't answer, he was too busy replaying Duo's listing of Trowa's weaknesses in his head before stopping on one in particular, and he could feel his face grow serious as he asked, carefully, trying to balance the jealousy he felt rising in his chest, "Duo? How, _exactly_, did you find out about his ears?"
"So," Trowa asked conversationally, a little _too_ conversationally, "what did you and Duo talk about?"
"What I'm going to do in the near future mostly, where I'm going to live, stuff like that." He walked alongside Trowa, matching him stride for stride. Trowa slowed down a half step to see if Quatre would remain in sync; he did.
"Why couldn't he have asked while I was around?" Trowa sounded sincerely puzzled and Quatre gave in to the temptation to hint a little.
"Well, I think Duo is worried that you might take advantage of me. Wanted to warn me to be careful around you."
"He did, did he?" Trowa thought it might be time to have a chat with his 'friend'--take advantage of indeed. Ravish would be good. Living with afterward as well. Wait, had he told Duo that he was keeping this one? Surely he'd figured that out already.
They'd reached the stairs to Trowa's apartment before he thought to resume their discussion. "You're welcome to stay here you know. There's no time limit. I know that I'm still pretty much a complete stranger to you but, well, for what it's worth, Duo can vouch for me."
He sounded hopeful, and a little like a young child that had been told 'no' once too often. Quatre found it endearing on the man. "Where did you get the idea that I don't trust you? And yes, knowing a little about Duo and knowing that he's known you for a long time is a factor, but, I don't know, I just feel that we can trust each other, don't you?"
"You trusted that other guy well enough to get in a bad situation..."
"I wouldn't have gone out with him if I'd thought that would happen. And I wouldn't have gone at all if my roommate hadn't arranged it in advance. You never know, he could have been a decent sort of man instead of the idiot he turned out to be. Anyway, I'm thankful to him."
Trowa looked baffled. It was an odd sort of expression to see on such an intelligent face.
"Well, I wouldn't have found you without him, right?"
Trowa looked furious that Quatre was trying to make light of the situation that had brought them together. "I would have found you. I might have taken longer, but I would have found you." Trowa was getting uncomfortable with the direction the conversation had headed. Sure, he wanted to get there eventually, but he didn't want to rush things with Quatre. He had all the time in the world to wait. He wasn't going anywhere. Now, he had only to convince Quatre to stay, if not with him then with Duo. Though the thought of him living under Duo's corrupting influence was enough to make his stomach clench. Bad idea that.
Quatre walked into the living room and looked over the sofa. Home. Yeah, he could do this. It felt very adult and exciting, but under that and the anxiety associated with making a conscious decision that would likely affect the rest of his life, it felt _right_. Maybe his sisters had told him the truth and there _was_ a strong thread of intuition that ran in the family. Both of his sisters that had married had known within minutes of meeting them that they'd found their life partners. Why should it be any different for him? He could easily envision the two of them growing old together, sharing good and bad times. It was almost frightening how clear the mental image was.
Trowa interrupted his epiphany. "Sorry you'll have to make do with the sofa, I never thought to get a place with a second bedroom." He sounded hesitant, testing the ground, and Quatre realized that he hadn't told him that he was planning on staying.
"That's okay. As long as you don't mind, we can share the bed."
Trowa didn't respond to that remark, and Quatre looked at him questioningly.
Trowa resisted the urge to rap the side of his head. He didn't just hear that did he? Quatre was looking at him with that damned expectant expression on his face, so apparently so. "I know you didn't mean that, so we'll figure out the sleeping arrangements later okay?"
"Sharing doesn't have to imply sharing everything you know..." Quatre tried sounding thoughtful, considering, waiting to see how Trowa would respond. "I'm 28, I know what I'm interested in" (you, his mind supplied), "and I _do_ have some limited experience at this sort of thing."
Trowa looked at him patiently.
"Okay, _very_ limited." He waited a second before dropping the money statement. "Duo said that you'd teach me."
Trowa looked like someone had just granted him his fondest wish, either that or an elephant had kicked him in the groin. It was so hard to tell the difference between those two expressions when it was Trowa's face that was wearing them. Of course, most of that was still conjecture at this point, but with any luck and some careful planning, that wouldn't be the case for long.
"Remind me to kill Duo when the next convenient opportunity arises." Hell, Trowa might just owe his friend one hell of a favor if this went in the direction he was hoping for. Damn.
Trowa gave into temptation. "We'll work something out, okay?"
Quatre beamed. "Good." He looked around, estimating his belongings against the space available in Trowa's apartment. "Can you help me move my stuff from my room on campus then? We'll need the car." He thought ahead, his mind already ten steps in advance of his mouth--planning the packing and ordering of the contents of his room and how to fit them best into the car and then into Trowa's--no, their--apartment. Trowa hadn't figured it out yet, but he was planning on staying for a lot longer than a few weeks, and they would most certainly have to work something out. He planned on becoming a fixture in this man's life, whether Trowa was expecting it or not.
Trowa watched Quatre move around the apartment, pointing and asking questions, with growing affection. Hell, give the man a project and he was worse than Duo with all the strategy and planning. It had probably been a very bad idea to leave them in each other's company like that. Very bad. He made a mental note to stick around for any future discussions that involved him as the topic of choice.