Just as Wufei was about to express his concerns about their missing teammates, the noise of
the ocean suddenly flooded the room and Duo walked in from the deck smiling and greeting
them both, "Hey there, sleepyheads! I was on my way to go kick you out of bed for some
Crossing his arms in classic Chang mock-annoyance, Wufei commented dryly, "Really, Maxwell,
you must learn to curb your more violent tendencies! Simply asking us to get up would suffice,
you need not plan to 'kick' us to achieve your goal."
Violet eyes went wide and with a flurry of chestnut braid the Deathscythe pilot rushed to
embrace his smaller friend. With a laugh, Duo held Wufei at arms' length and looked at him
closely before grinning, "You're feeling a whole bunch better, ain't ya, Wu?"
Wufei allowed the old arrogant mask to melt away and smiled almost shyly before answering,
"Yes, thanks to Tro, Duo. I almost feel human again, actually."
"'Almost human' was all ya ever was, ya hound dog!" Duo teased adoringly, pulling him in for an
even tighter embrace and sticking his tongue out at Trowa who was doing his level best to
pretend to be jealous and failing as he smiled at the scene of camaraderie before him.
As the spontaneous celebration started to get too distracting, though, the other two pilots
stepped back inside.
"Hi guys!" Quatre beamed, readily joining the spontaneous group hug for a moment before Duo
pulled away with a squawk of dismay.
"The garlic bread!" Duo groaned and then rushed into the kitchen. Barely a moment later he
shouted to them happily, "No worries! It's not burnt! Everybody get something to drink, it's
time to eat!"
"You sound like my nanny used to, Duo," Quatre giggled before pulling Wufei by one hand to
the seat he'd chosen for him, leaving Trowa to follow along in silent amusement.
Grinning, Quatre pulled Wufei's chair out for him and said, "Your seat, sir," as deferentially as
his privileged upbringing would allow.
Coffee-dark eyes blinked rapidly in astonishment, but Wufei did as he was bidden, and he slid
into the chair before carefully picking up the brightly colored Calico Scallop that Quatre had
left for him. The Arabian teen's afternoon of shrimp boat watching had been interrupted in
favor of seashell collecting and he'd happily selected a different one for each of them as
informal place-cards on the dining table.
Wufei turned the shell over in his hand a few times, found it to be particularly attractive and
then placed it back on the table with a gentle smile before he looked up at Trowa, asking,
"What do you suppose is going on here, angel?"
"I think," Trowa said uncertainly, "that either they've had a particularly pleasant afternoon, or
there's something fishy going on here."
At that point, he, too, noted a shell was awaiting him, actually a joined pair of them. The
aptly-named Butterfly Wings that were indigenous to the East Coast of the United States had
been placed prominently at Trowa's place and the taller teen regarded them with mild
"There's nothing 'fishy' going on, Trowa," Heero remarked nonchalantly, setting two glasses of
milk on the table, one in front of Wufei and one by the place-setting next to him, then
gesturing for Trowa to be seated. "There's some good news to share after dinner, though, and
without any clue what it is, Quatre was ready to celebrate just the same and wanted to
surprise everyone with some stuff he found on the beach. Just go along with it, okay?"
The Wing pilot had noticed that Quatre had been in a particularly good mood after his walk on
the beach and he was glad that the helpful teen was finding some pleasure despite the
difficult matters they were facing together.
"Right," Trowa nodded in understanding and took his seat, smiling at the bubbly blond who
carried in a huge salad as well as his own glass of dark beverage. Unable to resist a chance to
tease his friend, the green-eyed teen asked, "Since when do you drink dark beer this time of
year, Quatre? I thought you once told me it was only 'in season' during Oktoberfest?"
Quatre laughed and rolled his eyes, hoisting the glass aloft with an enthusiastic smile. "This,
my dear Trowa, is not just *any* 'dark beer'! Oh no, this is A&W Root Beer and it's 'in season'
all year around!" Grinning at the look of honest surprise on Trowa's face, the blond took a few
swallows and then giggled as he realized that he sounded like a TV commercial, "Ah me, I'm
being silly! I guess the sunshine just got to me a little. Anyway, it's just root beer, Trowa,
"I stand corrected," Trowa nodded at him with a forgiving smile. "This place is just filled with
the unexpected tonight."
"You don't know the half of it!" Duo beamed, following Heero into the room and searching for
room on the already full table for space for more food. "Um, Heero? Put the asparagus over
there and the glazed carrots at the end of the table, okay?"
Wufei's eyes widened appreciatively at these additions. One of the things he'd hated most
about living alone in the mountains had been the lack of the more unusual vegetables like
asparagus or the more elegant preparation methods that the glazed carrots required.
Duo, however, had saved the crowning glory for his own to present and placed a huge platter
of the most delectable spaghetti any of the five youths had ever tasted right in the center of
the table with pride. Straightening, he glanced at Heero who had gone to retrieve the bread
and the last few items, placing them all before the group before assisting Duo into his chair far
more subtly than Quatre had helped Wufei.
With a broad smile at all of his friends, Duo said, "I hope you're hungry!" He glanced around
and added encouragingly, "Well, what're you waiting for? Dig in!"
Without additional urging, the teenagers set about consuming the meal with all the enthusiasm
that boys their age are known for.
Conversation was light and tended towards neutral topics, the closest thing to conflict being
wagers made between Duo and Heero about which of the two of them would catch the largest
fish the next day. Wufei had expressed his surprise that this was even being discussed, but
the Japanese teen made a muttered remark about watching someone surf fishing and noticing
that the flounder that were being caught looked good enough to eat so he wanted some.
The meal drew to a close and virtually all of them had eaten more than expected, something
that pleased Duo endlessly. Taking a look in an empty serving dish, the Arabian teen pretended
to pout and the chef felt obligated to ask, "What's wrong, Q? Did we run out of something you
wanted seconds of?"
"Thirds, actually," Quatre finally grinned, "I just loved that garlic bread, Duo. How'd you get it
Duo smiled and nodded his head at Heero, "He did all the hard work on that, Q-Ball. How many
cloves of garlic did you mince for that stuff, Heero? Five?"
"Hardly," the Wing pilot responded with a slight smile. "More like ten, but there's more bread
and garlic in the kitchen, Quatre. Did you want me to make another batch of garlic-butter
spread for you?"
Heero suppressed the urge to suggest that Duo write down the recipe for the combination
they'd created since it was clear that Quatre was going to ask for it sooner or later for his
head chef in Cairo. The simple blend of a quarter of a cup of butter, ten cloves of garlic, and a
heavy dash of salt, had made the loaf of French bread into one of the highlights of the meal.
Quatre brightened but shook his head, "No, thanks, Heero. I might eat some of that tomorrow,
but I think I'd better just save room for dessert later."
"Dessert?" Wufei groaned, "I can not possibly imagine eating anything more for a day or two! I
feel stuffed already!" What the dark-eyed pilot didn't mention at that moment was that he was
also feeling remarkably better for the good food and fellowship, but his friends all assumed that
was the case with his light-hearted remarks during the meal and more frequent smiles.
"Aw, that's too bad, Wu," Duo said with as much gentle-natured sarcasm as his entirely
satisfied condition would allow. The meal had been a lot of work, but watching Trowa Barton
consuming a fairly substantial amount of food had made it all worthwhile and he doubted that
his too-slender friend even realized how much he'd eaten.
Finally giving in to the desire to baby the smallest pilot, something they all seemed to be
enjoying doing lately, Duo commented more kindly, "Actually, I thought we'd save that for
after Heero tells us the good news you were promised earlier. After you hear what he has to
say, I think we'll want to celebrate and that's when I'll get out the cake Quatre ordered for
"Cake?" Wufei asked eagerly, suddenly forgetting how full he was, "What kind? Chocolate?"
"Of course, baka! Devil's food, no less!" Duo teased gently, smiling at Trowa's amused look,
then asking in all seriousness, "What other kind do you eat anyway?"
The petite Chinese boy puzzled that over for a moment and then smiled charmingly and said, "I
will gladly eat almost any kind I am offered, Duo. While any kind of chocolate *is* my favorite,
I won't turn down lemon, angelfood, spice, or even carrot cake with cream cheese frosting."
When he stopped, Wufei shrugged as he realized he'd left off a half-dozen other types he liked
and noticed the look of confusion on Trowa's face before asking innocently, "Is something
wrong, Tro? You do not care for some of those, I take it?"
"No," Trowa shook his head with an amused yet adoring smile, "I just had no idea that you
liked sweets so much, koi."
"Um, well, I guess I do," Wufei hedged, embarrassed to have said so much about his previously
concealed passion for cake, missing entirely how very warm and human such a thing was in
the first place.
"That's okay, Wufei," Heero commented kindly, trying to take some of the attention off of him
as the Chinese boy was clearly uncomfortable with being the center of attention again. "I think
we tend to forget that we're more than just mobile suit pilots and that we like to eat the same
as anyone else."
"This is true," Duo remarked with a sidelong glance at Trowa that the taller teen failed to
notice. "Food is something everybody has in common and if you really like cake, that's nice to
know. I'm looking forward to seeing what everybody likes to eat since the kitchen here is killer
and I feel like doing more meals like this one while I've got a chance to play in it. Say, Tro,
what do *you* like to eat besides spaghetti?"
Trowa glanced up, surprised by the sudden shift in focus and he looked nervously at Wufei
who gazed back expectantly, hoping that there might be new clues to how to get the overly
slender youth to eat properly. "Um, well, I'm not usually very hungry, Duo. I think I must have
a weird metabolism or something and I don't need food as much as other people do."
"Nonsense," Quatre commented gently, "Everybody needs to eat, Trowa. But didn't you used
to like that grilled-chicken caesar salad that my chef prepared in Cairo?" The blond youth was
trying to help ease the sudden tension in the air by giving him a suggestion from the past,
anything to help keep the conversation flowing in a positive direction.
A small grateful smile lit up the green-eyed boy's face as Trowa nodded, "Yes, that was quite
good, Quatre. I enjoy salads and I usually like turkey, too, but there's hardly ever time for it."
"Or a big enough crowd to cook a whole one," the braided teen added. He brightened as a
menu manifested itself in his mind and he commented thoughtfully, "Seems to me that would
be a good choice for another meal. An old-fashioned American Thanksgiving feast might be
about right. After all, we've got a lot to be grateful for and it just keeps getting better!"
"Indeed," Heero commented with a slight chuckle at Duo's enthusiasm before he stood to begin
cleaning up the considerable mess the five of them had created at the table. "Why don't we
get this taken care of and then we can finally get to that news?"
"Sounds like a plan, Heero," Duo nodded and smiled at the group even as he and Quatre both
rose to carry dishes to the kitchen followed almost immediately by Heero who was muttering
something about wanting a cup of coffee.
Once alone in the room, Wufei looked at his beloved and asked innocently, "Any idea what
Heero has to tell us, love?"
Trowa bit back a remark that he hoped that it was the location where they could find Treize
Khushrenada since that was the first thing that came to mind. However, the vengeful teen
realized that particular information would have been heralded in a more somber manner, along
with the familiar sights and smells of weapons being readied for the anticipated confrontation.
Forcing the dark thoughts aside, he smiled a little and shrugged before leaning over in his chair
to brush a fleeting kiss to Wufei's cheek, offering only, "No clue, koi. I guess he feels like being
mysterious tonight. But it must be something really special, the way Duo's carrying on about
Nodding before turning to allow their lips to make contact ever so briefly, the Chinese boy
answered softly, "*You* are 'something really special', angel, and I am certain that whatever
they wish to share with us will be only good things, too."
Fighting a desire to blush, Trowa rose to his feet and then gave Wufei a hand as well and they
joined their friends in the pleasantly domestic task of cleaning up after the meal. The light
banter shared by the five Gundam pilots easily masking some of the feelings of excitement that
were building as their destiny approached.
Full Author's Notes to Run at Conclusion.