Quatre closed the door behind him and turned to watch the tall, robed man who was standing at the window on the far side of the office, looking out onto the street below. He never ceased to marvel at how still Trowa could be when he chose. It was like watching a mountain - quiet and motionless but almost overwhelming in its majesty. As always, just being in the other man's presence made his heart beat faster. He inwardly cursed his reaction, knowing that any relationship between them was wholly inappropriate given that they often worked together on cases, and not always amicably. But still, the blond couldn't resist the urge to move closer to the other man.
"Trowa, thanks ever so much for taking this case on such short notice. I really appreciate it."
The judge nodded in acknowledgement of his friend's gratitude without turning his attention away from the outside world. "No problem. It was pretty straightforward."
Quatre regarded the young judge for a moment before laying a cautious hand on a black-covered arm. "Then what's wrong?"
Trowa didn't respond for nearly a minute, continuing to look out of the window. Then he sighed and turned his head, looking down at the shorter man. The earnest concern in Quatre's aquamarine eyes warmed him as they always did and, not for the first time, he wished that there could be more between them than mere camaraderie.
"It's nothing really, just that every time I hear one of these damn CINA cases, I find myself appalled all over again at the atrocities that people can commit in the name of parenthood. Sometimes, I just don't know how much longer I'll last as a family court judge."
Quatre nodded, commiserating with his long-time friend. "I know what you mean. It's the same with me when I get a new case. But, then something like today happens and it makes it all worth while."
Trowa smiled. "Yes, those young men, Duo and Heero, they really love that girl, don't they?"
"Completely," Quatre affirmed. "I've never seen anything like it. If only real parents were so in love with their children, we'd both be out of a job."
"Hmm, hope springs eternal," the judge said softly. "Well, at least now I have confirmation that all that shit I went through last year was worth it. I'm glad I didn't give into the urge to throw in the towel, even when it seemed like the legislature would never get their asses in gear and pass that law."
"The Gay Family Rights Act was the most important piece of legislation to be decided on in years. There's no way it wouldn't have been passed."
Trowa marveled at his friend's naiveté and smiled down into the other man's wide eyes. "No, Quatre, it almost wasn't passed."
The social worker blinked in confusion. "What do you mean? I thought it was enacted by a landslide vote?"
The young judge shook his head, his full lips quirking wryly. "I'm afraid not. Even after I gathered the support of every gay judge on the bench and every gay lawyer on the bar, the legislature was still reluctant to pass such a radical law. If two of the new representatives elected in the last race hadn't stuck to their campaign promises and bullied a few of their cohorts, the bill would have died in committee. As it was, it only passed by three votes."
"What?!" Quatre couldn't believe his ears. The press had had a field day with the new law and dozens of legislators had paraded before the cameras, smiling about the new liberal policies the colony was adopting. "I don't understand. What about all the support the law seems to have garnered in the legislature?"
"That," Trowa spat, "is politicians trying to cover their asses. All the media coverage prompted citizens to express their support of the law, so, of course, the representatives have had to back track after the fact and support it, as well. No, it was close, but none of that matters now. The Gay Family Rights Act is law and we saw it at work here today. That made it all worthwhile."
Both men though about the new family they'd helped create and couldn't help feeling a bit like heroes.
"Well, I'd better go," Quatre said reluctantly. Though he wanted to ask Trowa to join everyone for the celebration that was sure to follow, he knew it was impossible. Trowa wouldn't compromise his position or his ethics no matter how happy the occasion. "Maybe we can get together for drinks later?"
Trowa gazed into Quatre's eyes, saying in his silent way everything it was so impossible for him to say aloud. The blond understood and reached up to press a brief kiss to the other man's lips before turning to leave. There would be drinks; and behind closed doors, who's to say what else there might be.
Duo clinked his knife on his juice glass - no alcohol in front of the child he'd insisted - drawing everyone's attention. 'Everyone' included, beside Laura and Heero, Quatre, Sally, Dorothy, and even Noin and Catherine. They sat in a small pizza parlor not too far from Duo and Heero's apartment, celebrating their victory by stuffing their faces. Standing up and raising his glass, the braided man cleared his throat importantly, making the girl seated next to him giggle and garnering amused glances from the other patrons.
"Here's to the new princess of the Yuy Kingdom! Long may she reign!"
Laura giggled helplessly at the rounds of 'Hear! Hear!'
Heero grabbed Duo's arm with the hand not holding a slice of pie and pulled him back to his seat, content in his role as the straight man of their little comedy troupe. Everyone ate and drank, for a long while discussing nothing more important than the virtues of beef versus sausage as an appropriate topping.
However, after sitting back in his chair and rubbing his too-full stomach, Quatre was obliged to bring up more serious topics. "The first order of business, of course, is to get Laura registered for school. I have a friend who's a teacher ..."
Duo chuckled and murmured, "Why am I not surprised?"
"...in a good school here on L2," the social worker continued. "I've already spoken to him about Laura's situation and he's agreed to help expedite the process. Allowing for paper work and processing time, Laura could start school in as little as two weeks."
The adults expressed sentiments regarding Quatre's amazing efficiency. Duo and Heero were especially grateful since they had no idea how to go about registering a child for school. But no one noticed the sudden fluster in the girl's cheeks.
At the mention of the word 'school', Laura nearly broke out into a cold sweat. Although she knew what school was, she'd never had the slightest conception that she might one day go herself. Now that the proposition loomed in her immediate future, she was filled with trepidation. How would she ever catch up to the other students? She couldn't read. She couldn't write. Would they think she was stupid? Would they tease her when they found out she was a foster child? She'd never really been around children her own age; would she make any friends?
Laura kept these concerns to herself, however, knowing that voicing them would only worry her fathers. Convinced they'd been thorough enough already on her behalf, she resolved to be the most trouble-free child imaginable. And, if that meant keeping her problems to herself, she would do so.
Unaware of the girl's anxiety, the conversation amongst the others turned to what Laura would do during her last two weeks of truancy. "I guess she could come to work with one of us," Heero mused, acknowledging that they needed to return to their jobs now that things were settled.
Duo perked up at the suggestion, turning excitedly to the girl at his side. "Yeah, that's a great idea! Laura, how'd you like to learn about how cars work? I'm sure Howard, my boss, won't mind at all. He'll absolutely love you!"
Distracted from her thoughts, Laura mulled over the offer. Actually, she was very interested in cars. She'd spent many a day watching the vehicles drive to and fro, wondering what would happen if she could just get her hands on one and drive away, leaving her miserable life behind, if only for a while.
But before she could indicate her enthusiasm, Catherine piped in, "No, no, no! A dirty mechanic shop is no place for a young girl! She can come with me to my beauty parlor. Surely you'd like to learn how to do hair and nails and such, no?"
"Or," Noin interrupted, "since I run my interior decorating business from my home, she's more than welcome to stay with me for as long as she likes."
Even Dorothy put in her bid for the child's time. "And whenever I'm not in court, Laura can come to work with me." Rarely had any of her charges gotten to her like this brave little girl and she looked forward to spending time with the child under less harried circumstances.
Only Heero was silent on the subject, having his own reasons for not wanting Laura to join him at his office. He had no desire for a certain aggravating blond woman to become privy to his private business.
Quatre laughed at the slew of offers. "Okay, I see that Laura will have plenty to do before she has to start school. Now, the next thing are the sessions with the counselor."
Though reluctant to voice her ignorance, Laura asked, "What's a counselor?"
"A counselor is someone you can go to when you want to talk about any worries or concerns you may be feeling, someone who will listen to anything you want to say and will offer advice whenever possible," the social worker explained.
Laura was intrigued. Someone besides Duo and Heero who she could talk too? Someone she didn't have to worry about hurting with her problems? That's just what she needed. However, being that intimate with a total stranger was a daunting prospect.
"W-would I have to go alone?" she stuttered.
"Yes," Quatre replied, gently. "She will want to talk to you alone. That way, you won't have to worry about telling her whatever you want to."
Duo had been following the conversation closely and noted the pronoun usage. "She?"
Quatre glanced up at the braided man. "Yes, the counseling sessions have already been arranged. I thought Laura might feel more comfortable talking to a woman so she'll be seeing one of the female counselors retained by DYFS for just such a situation as this."
"You certainly don't let any grass grow under your feet, do you?" Duo laughed. "Okay, so when does Laura have to see this woman?"
"The sessions should start as soon as possible. Is tomorrow too soon?" Seeing the new fathers' reluctance to part from the girl so quickly, he rushed to add, "The meetings will only take an hour at a time."
Duo turned to look at Heero, including Laura in his questioning gaze. "Is that alright with you?"
Heero waited until Laura nodded before indicating his own agreement. "Tomorrow it is, then," Duo said to the social worker.
"Great!" Quatre handed the longhaired man a business card. "Here is the contact information for our counseling services office. I'm not positive who will be available so call first thing in the morning to arrange a meeting time."
Duo pocketed the card. Seeing their waiter approaching, he announced the end of all 'dreary talk.' "Now, it's time for cake!"
The waiter placed a large, chocolate cake on the table in front of the wide-eyed girl. A single candle burned amidst the frosting. She just looked at the confection, thinking she'd never seen anything quite so beautiful, except for Duo's hair, of course. With a gentle nudge from said braided man, she blew out the candle to a round of cheers.
Eventually, the evening came to a close and Duo and Heero gathered up their overstuffed child and took her home. She was asleep the minute her head hit the pillow and the young men stood over her for a moment, just content to watch her sleep. Finally, Heero dragged his husband away and they retired to their own room.
"You know, Heero," Duo said softly as they climbed into bed, "this place was fine for the two of us, but now, I'm thinking we should get something bigger. Like a house, or something?"
Heero nodded, in total agreement with the suggestion. "Good idea. You're right, this apartment is too small for all three of us. And a child should have a yard to play in."
"And maybe a dog?" Duo's eyes were bright in the dim moonlight coming through the window. Heero smiled; his shujin looked like a hopeful child himself. The Asian man was struck again with the thought of how deprived Duo's own childhood had been. Laura wasn't the only one who craved normalcy.
"And a dog," he agreed, pulling Duo closer. They looked at each other for a moment, silently sharing their joy at their incredible good fortune.
"I love you, Heero," Duo whispered. "I love you so much sometimes it hurts."
"Aishiteru," the other man replied, unable to express the depths of his feeling with mere words.
After indulging in a slow, tender kiss, they settled down to sleep, determined that their new family would know nothing but love and happiness for all the days to come.
But, in the moonlight, shadows lurked.