Journalism was in my blood, so to speak. My parents were journalists. My guardian was a journalist. Following in their footsteps was always what I wanted to do.
Looking for employment for the summer of my junior year in college, I was offered an internship for a local magazine. The only other job opportunity being offered was by a previous employer from summers' past to work as a lifeguard. And while being a lifeguard had its benefits, it didn't help a journalism career. I accepted the magazine's offer blindly, not caring what the pay would be, not caring what the job would be.
It was more than a pleasant surprise to find the local magazine catered to women, or gay men who didn't read the articles.
Not that it bothered me; they offered a good program. And the pay had been better than most. Twelve weeks for a cool six thousand, and a subscription to the magazine for a year. I guess I was lucky I don't read the articles.
The intern program allowed a working perspective in almost every department the magazine had. Every two to three weeks I rotated jobs. This set up was to provide a holistic viewpoint to what it takes to produce a monthly publication. By the end of my sixth week, I had worked in advertising, shipping and receiving, and on the print line. That Friday, I was told to report to photo layout on Monday.
I had never seen more exposed male flesh in my life. Not even at the swimming pools. Not even in the locker rooms at school. If I believed in heaven, I'd have thought I had died and gone there. Photographs hung from wires strung across the room, littered the surfaces of desks, tables and workbenches. Framed, blown-up photos of centerfolds past, decorated the layout department. No wall had been spared.
Being surrounded by gorgeous men for three weeks had rather a jading effect over me. No longer did I feel as a Pavlovian subject; drooling the moment I walked into the office. It had gotten to the point where I didn't even look at the models themselves, but sought only how pose and subject of one photo appeared alongside the subject and pose of the next.
On my last day in Photo Layout, my manager tossed a small stack of files over the layout grid I was working on. I looked up at her, slightly annoyed she'd just messed up my latest attempt.
"Get over it, kid. There's always somebody in this business that'll come along to tear apart your work." She grinned and leaned closer. "These," she said, tapping a manicured fingernail on the hardcover portfolios. "Are your next assignments. Now that you know photo layout, you can take this set of subjects and do their dossiers."
Almost interested, I flipped over the first cover. Photo proofs populated the first several pages, followed up by the photographer's notes, and the editor's ideas on how to use the model. "Their what?" I mumbled, moving on to the next portfolio.
"Their dossiers. You know, biographical material, human interest stuff, an interview." Her hand stopped mine from closing the folder. "I especially like this one. There's something about long-haired men." I glanced from her avid expression to the object of such a lustful look. The man did have more than a little appeal. And the photographer made great use of his hair.
"So, what am I supposed to do to get these dossiers?" I asked, sliding the open folder out of the way, and reaching for the next.
Her eyes remained glued on the spread of photos, even as she answered. I couldn't help the smirk. For as professional and jaded as they came, she seemed more than a little smitten by the blue-eyed, auburn haired college guy from Kansas, no less. "You'll get a list of standard questions plus a handful of special ones for this spread. September's release will focus on "Brains and Brawn in the Midwest" and..."
What she'd been saying faded. A flash of heat lightninged through every vein, only to be drenched ice cold the next moment. I must have made some sound, for the woman stopped talking.
"Oh, so you like blonds, hmmm." I chose to ignore the amusement in her voice. "He's very pretty, but is a bit too ...angelic ...innocent looking for my taste." She might have gone on, explaining what I was supposed to do next, telling me more of what her tastes entailed, I don't know. I tuned her out, and continued to stare open-mouthed at the most beautiful man I had ever seen.
An arm dropped over my shoulders as my manager sat on the stool next to mine. Forcing my attention back to her, I saw a seriousness in her expression for the first time in our acquaintance. "This one's got you hooked, hasn't it?"
I risked a glance at the portfolio and nodded.
A thump on the back of my head had me glaring at her immediately. "Well knock it off! We can ogle all we want at the photos, but you can't get involved with the subjects!"
The look I flashed her set off a gale of laughter. I might have known she'd be impervious to mere annoyance. Another lingering gaze at the spread, and I started to explain my interest. "It's not like I'm going to get involved..."
She gave my shoulders a squeeze. "Listen kid, if you was straight, I wouldn't worry 'bout you. But ever since you walked through those doors, you've been rather like Charlie at the Wonka factory." Her usually harsh voice had softened in sympathy. "You've got another three weeks of being surrounded by these beauties and the last three in Marketing."
I shook my head. "It's not like that." Dragging my eyes away from the blond Adonis, I met her gaze. "I know him. We went to school together."
Her scarlet lips made a perfect circle as her brows disappeared beneath the fringe of bangs. "Shit..." She seemed speechless. A first in my presence.
"His name is Quatre Winner. We both attended West Julian High School our senior year, and not only had he been captain of the swim team, but class president and the editor of the school newspaper." Our eyes remained locked.
A calculated expression slowly replaced the surprise. "Then this shouldn't be the first time you've seen him in all his glory." More than a little interest sparked in her eyes, and her grin turned a bit wolfish.
Trying to hide the flush wanting to creep up my neck, I focused back on the portfolio. "No, I never saw him out of a bathing suit. I was too nervous to look."
She sat back, dropped her arm, and standing up, she cuffed my shoulder, back to business. "Well, now you get to see what he's been up to these past, what? Four years?" I nodded absently, closing the files, and stacking them neatly to the side. "Who knows? Maybe he looked." Her laughter as she walked away reminded me again of her imperviousness.
A slim manila folder held the assignment sheet with a copy of the interview sequence. As I skimmed over the standard and the special questions, my mind wouldn't let go of his image. His lightly bronzed skin and well-toned, muscled body told me he still swam. The easy smile and friendliness hinted in his look appeared the same as when I'd first met him. Over four years seemed a lifetime ago. He probably didn't even remember me, but I knew, as I had then, that I would never forget him.
Being the new kid in school had become a career of mine. In my seventeen years, I had transferred to nearly twenty different institutions, not counting pre-schools and summer programs. My 'walk tall, and keep my mouth shut' motto had always gotten me through most situations. It worked at West Julian as well. But not with Quatre.
When the AP news service moved us to Chicago, my guardian told me it would be temporary. We'd be there four, five weeks tops. He was angling for a European slot, something close to the standstill in Bosnia. Ironic humorist that he is, he often said he was there when it first broke out, he wanted to be around when peace finally reigned. Sometimes he'd forget I was there as well, and there hadn't been anything pleasant with that assignment of his.
School had been in session at West Julian for two months by the time I registered. Since I rarely stayed at a school long enough for my transcripts to catch up, the first couple of days usually entailed a battery of placement tests. Given my history, most counselors were more than a little shocked at my achievement levels. One of the advantages of growing up in a press core, someone had always been around to keep me interested in just about any subject named.
Becoming a part of the school's newspaper went without question; joining the swim team had merely been personal.
My first introduction to West Julian's journalism class started in mild disorganization and ended in orderly chaos. The room bustled with activity; the air filled with voices and tossed paper. At a large table in the back, a slender blond directed movement, copy and layout with the precision of a general executing battle plans. As each instruction was given, one of those waiting by his side would run off to carry it out.
He glanced up when I stopped on the opposite side of the table. The boy had been leaning over a news grid on braced arms, the cuffs of his shirt rolled up. Intelligent, blue eyes looked back at me. "Can I help you?" A smile slowly curved his lips.
For a moment, I forgot why I was there. Prying my tongue loose, I nodded slightly. "I'm Trowa Barton. Mister Posener told me to speak to you to work on the paper." Though he'd been handed a small stack of papers, the boy's eyes never left mine. His hands automatically went about their work as I spoke.
"Quatre! Donavan's said if we don't deliver copy by five, they can't guaranty full print by Thursday! We still have to finish the layout, and Greg ripped the ad page!" A rather intense girl with badly permed hair clutched his arm, pulling his attention from me.
"I'll call Donavan's. We still have time. Use the back up ad and overlay the new spread. Pete and Jami are working to get the articles cut to size. I need you to go work with Greg to get the ad page put back together, and try to keep him from over-handling the new copy." The girl's head bobbed in agreement with each statement.
"Right!" She declared before spinning off again.
The blond watched her leave before looking back at me. "Welcome to the madhouse, Mister Barton. As you can see, we're a bit busy today. Less than two hours to print and the layout still hasn't been completed." He waved a hand towards a door behind him. "If you'll walk with me, we can talk a bit. I really must speak to our printers."
He waited for me to join him. "So, have you worked on a school paper before... Trowa?"
I nodded and looked down at him. "As often as I can." His hand paused on the doorknob, his expression curious. "I've moved around a lot, and not all the schools I've attended had papers."
The door opened, letting us into a tiny office crowded with a desk and several file cabinets. "What parts of the paper do you like working on best? What do you feel you're most suited to do?"
Leaning a shoulder against one of the metal cabinets, I gave him a half shrug. "I've done pretty much everything at one time or another. Why don't you let me help you with the layout, and we can talk about it then," I offered.
Phone receiver in hand, he smiled and nodded eagerly. "Sounds great. Most of the others are new to the paper. Very few from last year could commit, so I can use a second hand." He paused in dialing. "If you have the experience you say you do." Another smile softened the bite.
I didn't take offense to his words; it would have been something I would have said had our positions been reversed. Listening to him handle the printers verified my initial thought of the blond. Very much like a general laying out plans, and demanding performance, his tone never wavered. Even when his words reflected his anger, he remained polite with the slightest trace of coolness in his voice.
The counselor had told me Quatre was my age, but I couldn't shake my first impression. He appeared to be a boy playing in his daddy's office. At least until he looked at me. The cut of his hair combined with the friendliness of his expression, added with his short, slender frame lent the illusion even more credibility. The eyes, though, held a shrewdness I had seen reflected in hardened newsmen. In that, he seemed more adult than even my guardian.
Following him back to the table, I couldn't help but watch the way he walked, the way he carried himself. His every movement fluid and graceful. While I on the other hand, felt gangly, all arms, and legs, having recently added another two inches to my height. At just under five nine, my guardian believed I could grow to be taller than my father had been. Another inch, and I would be.
The rest of the afternoon passed in the typical frenzy of activity of putting a paper together. As we worked tagging pieces of print to the grid, he asked about my experiences, what I'd done, and if I had samples of my writing. I arranged to meet him the following day to hand over a few selections.
By the time the next paper went to press, I became its co-editor.
As the weeks passed, Quatre had become a friend. Though I'd met many people, and I knew more than the average teenager did, I had very few friends. Moving around so often limited opportunities to develop even casual friendships. And with Quatre, I found I wanted more.
Our only contact had been through the paper and then the swim team. I had only joined to provide an excuse to see him, and talk with him more than three times a week. Team sports I avoided, though I knew how to play the games. I couldn't commit to being there, and didn't want anyone to become dependent upon me. Through it all though, I had never visited his house; I had never brought him home with me.
Almost four months to the day after I had registered, the European assignment came. It demanded my guardian's immediate presence and we were gone in three days. I never had the chance to tell him goodbye.
Leaving the office for the weekend, I took his portfolio with me. The others I'd abandoned on my desk until Monday.
Quatre's folder sat on my table all of Friday night without my touching it. I was almost afraid to. On the way into the kitchen Saturday morning, I touched fingers to its cover, knowing what it held. From the breakfast bar counter, I could see it lie on the table, and a part of me wanted to believe he sat there waiting for the coffee to finish brewing and for me to make him eggs the way he liked them.
I was in my boxers, and a half cup of coffee drank before I sat down and flipped open the cover. It wasn't so much his body and parts I looked at (though, those were very nice, indeed), but his face and eyes. He smiled for the camera; his eyes told another story. Suddenly, I wanted to know everything about him, and Monday wasn't coming soon enough.
It was during my second cup that my roommate came home. He didn't say a word. Just pulled out a chair and sat, holding his head. I went to the kitchen and poured him a cup, snagging the bottle of ibuprofen on my way back. He grunted, shook out a pair of tablets, and swallowed them with a drink.
"Another all nighter?" I was smiling, watching him grimace around the bitter taste. He didn't have to answer; his look said all I needed to know. "You don't have to play wonder stud for him every weekend."
Heero closed his eyes, and drank from the cup. "I don't play wonder stud."
"No, I guess there's no playing in that."
His eyes opened and he glared at me. "You're an asshole when you're not getting laid, Barton."
I had to laugh. "And you've been hanging out with Duo too long." Heero merely grunted again, and drank more coffee. His night must have been long - Heero hates the stuff. "I can make you some tea, if you want."
"No need," Heero said, setting his mug down. "I'm heading to bed in a minute. Have to be at the shop by two-thirty, and need some sleep."
"Maybe you should suggest to Duo to have a quiet night for once."
"You mean like cuddle on the couch and watch movies?" Heero's laugh was quiet as the man.
"Something like that. Bring him over here for dinner. We could play a game or watch a movie. Something that didn't involve a dance club, or drinking, or fucking until dawn."
Heero stared at me for a long minute. "I'll think about it," he said finally. But then, he was blinking down at the open portfolio in front of me. "Who's that?"
"Tell me again why I thought going to work for Martelli was a good idea?" Heero was tilting his head to the side, angling for a better look.
"Because he doesn't have anything to do with your dad." Heero snorted. "I went to high school with him."
Without missing a beat, Heero nodded. "He's the one you told me about freshman year?"
I was staring down at the photo layout again, but I nodded once in answer. Heero pushed away from the table then, took his cup to the sink, and rinsed it out as he had hundreds of times since I'd met him. The water shut off, and I heard his quiet steps behind me; heard him pause before heading toward the bedrooms.
"If you need anything..."
"I know." He didn't have to say more, and he didn't. A moment later, his bedroom door closed.
Over the next hour, I must have replayed every conversation, every look and gesture shared. In high school, I would dream of him, waking in the night, touching my erection, sometimes jerking off. It had been four years since I'd last seen him, but he still haunted my dreams.
When I went to take a shower, I took his folder with me.
Nearly every weekend, I headed for the Sun's office. The city desk was always in need of an extra body, and just as often, the editor would toss a little something my way. I wasn't paid for my time, but, I didn't need the money; I was after the by-line.
That Saturday was no different. The story I spent most of the afternoon, and into the night chasing, was. The reporter on the story pulled me from some petty-crime piece, and sent me off to hunt down a lead, to meet up with a contact of his. We met back at the office two hours before print, and he let me collaborate on the story; let me share the by-line on a front page.
So it was after midnight when I got back to the apartment. And I was a little surprised to hear music coming from Heero's room, to see glasses in the living room, and the remnants of a meal on the table. I didn't want to look in the kitchen. The music disguised some of the more distinctive sounds, but not the reason for it being on in the first place.
I think I was more surprised when it went quiet not even a half hour later. But that didn't stop me from being grateful.
Sunday morning, I stumbled out into the kitchen to find Heero's boyfriend, Duo, holding two boxes of different kinds of tea. He was wearing one of Heero's shirts and a pair of gym shorts I knew Heero usually slept in. Apparently, Duo didn't have a problem locating the coffee, for it was already brewing.
"Use the spice one. Heero usually only has the other after dinner when he wants tea."
"Thanks." Duo flashed a smile, and pulled out a teabag from inside. "I've never-we've never had breakfast together."
The coffee finished about then, and taking a pair of mugs from the cupboard, I poured both Duo and I some coffee. Pushing his mug across the counter toward him with the sugar (just in case), I added, "Milk's in the fridge." He shook his head, and reached for the mug with an eager expression. Watching him drink, I think I got a clue on what Heero found so appealing.
"I was going to make Heero breakfast - for dinner last night - but," Duo gestured around our small kitchen. "I have no idea what he likes to eat."
"Eggs," I told him promptly. "Two over-easy, with lightly tanned toast, no butter." Duo's shock was melting into a pleased smile. "French toast, cocoa-brown, without burning, no syrup, no butter. He prefers jam. Blackberry if we have it, strawberry if we don't."
"Okay, I think I can handle that."
I leaned over and opened the pots and pans cupboard. "Eggs and milk are in the fridge; bread's in the microwave hutch." I sipped on coffee, wondering just how surprised Heero was going to be. "Of course, most mornings he has oatmeal."
A cracked egg in hand, Duo turned to look at me. "Oatmeal?" I nodded.
"He doesn't have big meals, but I think he'll need the extra calories today." And I had to take a long drink to keep from laughing at the red flushing Duo's face.
Whether Duo realized I was teasing, or he was quick to get over embarrassment, he was fast at his task; both eggs sizzled nicely in the pan, and he was sliding two slices of bread in the toaster. "Thank you, Trowa."
Lost in musings that had nothing to do with Duo being domestic, I stared at him a moment.
"For suggesting dinner and movies, for a quiet night instead of the 'usual'."
"Sure." I didn't know whether to be amused or smug or a little of both. "Heero was going to wind up in the hospital if he kept it up much longer."
Duo laughed softly. "I was sort of headed that way myself."
"Assumptions and non-communication will kill you every time." Yeah, I settled for both.
I let Duo make me a couple of eggs as well, and helped him clear and set the table. Quatre's portfolio folder was on the counter, and picking it up, I held it wondering why I hadn't put it away yesterday.
"He's... good looking." Duo wasn't looking at me, but was setting out napkins and silverware. "Heero says you knew him?"
"Yes, I did. In high school." My grip eased on the folder.
"And now you have a chance to talk with him again." His head was turned slightly; he was watching me.
I was shaking my head. "It's not going to happen."
"Why?" And Duo was standing next to me, pulling the folder from my hands, and opening it. "He's gorgeous." I stopped looking at Quatre. "Heero said you...that you two never hooked up because-"
"Your toast is burning," I told him, taking back Quatre's folder.
"Shit!" Duo rushed to the kitchen, too late for the smoke detector.
Through its beep-beep-beep, Heero stumbled down the hallway, boxers half skewed, skin flushed from sleep and hair even more messy than usual. "Duo?"
I had the cover off the detector, and yanked the battery out. Duo was holding fresh slices in his hand, and one of the most mixed expressions on his face that I'd ever witness from anyone.
He was giving Heero a goofy grin, holding up his hands filled with wheat bread. "I wanted to surprise you."
Heero gave him his short version of a laugh, his eyes flicked my way, to the smoke detector, and back to the kitchen were the smoke was thinning against the ceiling. "By setting the apartment on fire?"
"Well, yanno, if you're gonna to do something, you gotta do it big."
The bread was tossed to the side, and Heero was being pulled into Duo. I turned away, and went to open the sliding glass doors to the balcony. The heat and humidity was already bordering oppressive, but it helped ease the constriction in my chest.
When Duo kissed Heero, I wanted to gag just on principle. But, what sent me outside in my boxers was the wanting what they had. Well, something like what they had.
It wasn't until I heard them murmuring to each other that I came back inside. By that time, the smoke had cleared enough; I popped the battery back, and closed up the cover.
"Soup's on," Duo called, carrying a plate of eggs. Heero followed with butterless toast, and a jar of jam. My mug freshened, I joined them at the table.
As though he waited for me, Duo was hovering about the living room when I left my room to head off to the Sun. He looked showered; his braid was at least combed, and hair wasn't sticking up all over. And he looked to be wearing his own clothes, not Heero's now.
"You know, I'm probably going to be spending a lot of time over here, now, right?"
I nodded. "I figured that out last night when I came home."
"I-I just wanted to tell you thanks again." His look slid away from me and toward the hall where the bedrooms were.
"It's okay, Duo. Really."
"Just, use your own advise, k Tro?" Duo was looking at me now. "Assumptions and non-communication can kill." His lips twisted up in a wry grin. "Or wear you the fuck out."
I nodded again. "I will, Duo."
Working on the follow up to the big story kept me busy for the rest of the day. Monday wasn't coming soon enough, but the time between copy and sleep, I devised a plan.
It was surprisingly easy, setting up a face-to-face appointment with Quatre. He was staying at a place between Chicago and Elgin. Training, he had said. Friday. We were going to meet up on Friday. I had four days to prepare.
The rest of the interviews were scheduled throughout the week, leaving Friday free. But then, the rest of the interviews were over the phone. Without asking a single question, my manager of the moment approved the travel expense (I would have paid for it out of my own pocket if he hadn't), and asked for preliminary copy on those I'd already interviewed. Apparently, he subscribed to the Sun, and we spent the rest of the afternoon talking about the weekend story.
I had the idea I wouldn't be interning the following summer.
Even if I was prepared for it, the week dragged slower than Christmas to an eight-year-old. And as if I wasn't jittery enough, the image of unwrapping Quatre as a present would not leave off. Friday morning, I didn't go into work; Friday was all Quatre.
Clothing had never been an issue in my life. I shopped for them; I wore them; I cleaned them as necessary. We had an easy and carefree relationship. Friday morning, I spent over an hour looking through my closet and drawers, looking for something smart, or chic. Something that didn't immediately say - college intern on a budget.
I settled for 'the casual professional', and wore a pair of nicer slacks with a short-sleeve button up. I skipped a jacket - even a sports coat. With the heat and the drive, I'd look more like the 'rumpled traveler' by the time I arrived.
It was about an hour's drive, depending on traffic. I decided to take my own car, though I could have taken any from the Sun's fleet. I wasn't sure how long I'd be, and didn't want any questions being asked. My shirt hung from the window hook, and my travel kit sat on the seat next to me; the case with Quatre's portfolio, my notepad, and the interview questions, was on the floorboard.
I was supposed to meet Quatre at a diner-coffee shop edging the town he was staying. About three-thirty, he had said. After practice. I stopped at a gas station when I hit town, filled up, and borrowed the restroom to wash up, change shirts, and make myself ready. This was it.
Quatre was nearly twenty minutes late, but, looking at him as he returned the waitress's greeting, I would have waited all night. His hair was wet, a darker blond from the water; his skin tanned golden brown. He was wearing a tee shirt, splotched wet, with shorts and sandals. He looked like he belonged on a beach somewhere in California. Or Hawaii. And then he was looking in my direction, sliding mirrored sunglasses from his eyes.
"He belong to you, hun?" The waitress who had been trying to service me something since I walked in asked Quatre.
"I hope so," Quatre told her, smile wide and just a little flirty. "Or I'm in trouble and missed my interview."
"I'm Trowa Barton, from..."
"The magazine," he supplied, reaching for my hand. I hadn't even realized I was standing and holding it out to him. "Quatre Winner, and I apologize for running so late. Practice is usually light on a Friday, but today Coach wanted extra sprints."
"It's no problem, Mister Winner." My tongue was suddenly having issues forming words.
He gestured back to the booth I was sitting at. "Then, let's order something, okay?"
The waitress appeared as we were sitting, and sat a tall glass filled with some sort of thick concoction and one of water in front of Quatre. "There you go hun." She fished a paper covered straw from her apron and set it next to the glass. "So, what'll you have?"
I looked from her to Quatre's glass, trying to identify what it was.
"It's a protein drink," Quatre supplied, picking up the water. "It has energy boosters, supplements to replenish after workouts." He was smiling easy, and drank his water.
"Trust me, sweetie, you don't want any of that," the waitress instructed me, grimacing at the odd-colored drink. "It might be good for a body, but it taste nasty, and if it wasn't for Quatre, we wouldn't make it."
"I'll have a Coke." Quatre lowered his glass enough to laugh, licking the water from his upper lip.
"At least he's normal," she told Quatre as an aside. Quatre finished off his water while she was gone, and she refilled both our glasses when she returned with my Coke. "Holler if you want anything else."
Quatre was smiling again, watching me suck soda through the straw. "How long have you been working at Photo Play?"
I nearly spit coke, and set the glass down in a hurry. "I'm interning there for the summer." He was playing with his straw, staring at me. "If you're ready, I can start the interview now. Unless you'd rather...?" I was fumbling with my notepad and pen, trying not to look at him. Suddenly, a hand was on my wrist.
"If you don't mind, I would rather just talk for a few minutes." He was giving me a soft smile, this time, and the worry the photos had shown disappeared; there was tenderness there, and I was nodding my head, putting my things away. "Tell me about yourself, Trowa. I hope you don't mind me calling you Trowa?"
"No, I don't mind," I pushed out. His hand was still on my wrist. "What-what do you want to know?"
He sipped through his straw, shrugging a shoulder. "Tell me what you're going to school for, what your major is, and why you've chosen it."
And I did. Some of it I had told him at West Julian, but, sitting across from him at that small town café, I told him of parents I barely remembered, of the bombings in Bosnia, of trailing after my guardian through every war-torn country on the globe. I told him of the story I'd helped write the past weekend, and how I wanted those stories; how the words would burn, and my fingers would itch until they were out.
"I remember," he said softly. And it was then I noticed his glass was gone, and his water had been refilled again. "The dinner crowd will start coming in soon. How about we finish this back at my place, okay?"
I glanced up at the clock by the register, and nodded slowly. Over an hour had passed. I never realized how much I had wanted to tell him until I opened my mouth and started talking.
"Good." Quatre was standing, waiting for me to slide from the booth. He laid a ten on the table. "Let me buy your Coke for making you wait." He was smiling at me again, and I could only nod, though I wanted to protest. "If you wouldn't mind following me, my place isn't too far from here."
Following him from the café, I decided right then, I wouldn't have minded following him anywhere.
His house wasn't far, within walking distance, and I suspected Quatre was a frequent patron of the place. I wasn't sure what to expect of Quatre's home, but a quaint little two-bedroom, complete with lawn and birdbath in the front yard wasn't quite it. Unlocking the door, he explained how the place belonged to a local college professor friend of his father's, and he was watching over it while the professor did his sabbatical on top some mountain in Nepal.
"People still go to Nepal?" The question was out before I thought about it. But Quatre laughed over his shoulder, and invited me inside.
The place was sparingly furnished, but cool and dim; welcomed from the outside heat.
"Have a seat," Quatre said, tossing keys on a side table. "I'll bring us something to drink."
One thing I did notice immediately about his place was the quiet. Our apartment, Heero's and mine, was fairly quiet for a couple of college students. But there was always noise - from other tenants, from one of the airports, from the subways, from the constant traffic five stories below. Out here, I could probably see the stars at night.
"I brought you another Coke," Quatre was saying, coming into the living room. He carried a glass in each hand, and sat on the couch a half cushion from me. "If you would rather something else?"
"No, Coke is fine." I took the glass from him, holding it with both hands.
Quatre sat at an angle, facing me with one leg bent between us. His arm was lying across the back of the couch, his fingers inches from my hair. "Are you ready?"
I nearly spit Coke again, looking at him for one wild moment. Oh, right. Interview. "Yes, just need to get my stuff." And I was bending over, reaching for my case. Quatre spotted the portfolio folder, and pulled it from the case.
"Is this mine?" he was asking, looking at me, but not opening the folder. I nodded, my mouth suddenly dry. His smile faded and he ran a hand over the cover. "Can I look at it?"
"Sure. It's yours." I shifted on the couch, chose a favorite pen, and opened my notebook with the standard questions laid out.
Quatre was looking over the photo layout, flipping through the pages and then back. "Will they-" He cleared his throat softly. "Will they use the ones that show...?" He was gesturing to one of the full-frontal nudes. "Or one of the others?"
"I don't know," I told him. "There are some really great poses. Some nice shots of you that don't expose a lot." He was looking up at me, closing the portfolio. "From looking at past spreads, I can tell the editors tend to go for the more artistic than the graphic." He was nodding, and handing me the portfolio back.
"I wasn't sure what they would look like, or if I'd have any say on what was published."
"I can ask the editor to give you a call on Monday, if you want?" I offered, already making a small note on the corner of my pad.
He was nodding again, his smile returning. "That would be great, Trowa. If you don't mind."
"Why did you do it?" I blurted out, and flushed immediately.
Quatre chuckled and reached for his glass. "When I was approached, Dad and I had just had an argument." He shook the ice loose and took a drink. "He claimed I was being childish about my choices, and I thought him too static." His smile turned sheepish. "Guess we both were what the other claimed."
"You could withdraw." I didn't know for sure, but I knew then if he asked, I would damage his negatives.
"No," Quatre shook his head. "It's okay, really. And it's for charity, right?"
"Yes, it is." I wondered what Quatre had been childish about in choices, and he stood up suddenly.
"Trowa, would you mind terribly if I showered? The chlorine is starting to make my skin itch, and I would like to change into fresh clothes." He smiled down at me, and I could only nod. "I'll be quick, promise."
I choked out some kind of reply; he was already stripping his shirt off, and kicking his sandals to the side. He was down the hall and I was still watching him disappear. The sounds of water running drifted from the room Quatre went into.
His portfolio was sitting on the cushion, and I turned it around to face me, opening it to the first page of photographs. After seeing him in the flesh, the photos didn't do him justice. But, it was easier to imagine him under the shower's spray. My eyes flicked toward the hall, and back to his picture.
He would lean up into the water, his back muscles stretching with his arms overhead, fingers extended to the showerhead. His ass was small, but tightly muscled. His cheeks would be concaved, his thighs would flex. His hands would drop to the wall, and he would bend slightly toward it, letting the water sluice over his back.
I swallowed the moan and slammed the book closed, shoving it back into my bag. The water was still running, making those odd offsetting sounds water does - different when it hits a body than when it hits a wall. But, the sound wasn't changing. I was standing and walking toward the back rooms without a second thought. If the water shut off, I would have enough time to dash down the hall and sit before Quatre put in an appearance.
The bathroom door was halfway open. I hesitated only for a minute, but the odd sounds I was hearing, wasn't the difference between water landing on flesh and water hitting tile. It was the one and only sound of flesh on flesh, the slap-slap sound I heard from my own actions nearly every day. Quatre was jerking off in his shower.
The door wasn't wide enough for a direct view, but it showed the mirror fine, and Quatre was reflected in the mirror. I was so focused on just what Quatre was doing, what I was seeing in his mirror image; I didn't realize until later that he had left the shower curtain opened.
With the water stream beating down on his lower abdomen, Quatre had both hands at his crotch. One hand circled his erection, gliding up and down in quick steady rhythm; the other hand alternately squeezed and rubbed his balls and inner thigh. I was hard, squeezing my cock through slacks and boxers.
Quatre moaned softly, his head tilted back, and his mouth opened. His eyes looked closed, and his knees bent a little. His body was telling me he was close. Oh God, I wished I could be there to accept him into my mouth. He moaned again, and I with him. My own knees were feeling a little wobbly, and I gripped the doorframe.
He was murmuring something, something too low for me to hear clearly. My head interpreted its meaning to coincide with the fantasy I'd had on his couch - Quatre was giving me directions on how he wanted me to fuck him. I moaned again, and held my breath sure he would have heard me. But, his eyes were still closed, and his hands never hesitated in their work.
I was wondering how quickly I could get off, and hide the evidence when Quatre's eyes snapped opened, his head turned to look directly into the mirror. He was coming, but his mouth was moaning out my name. I nearly dropped to the floor, wanted to barge in and finish the job. Instead, I could only stare into his reflection. And then he was moving.
Backing away from the door, I hit the opposite wall, nearly sending a picture crashing to the floor when he jerked the door open. How the hell did I think I could explain this? Watching someone masturbate in the shower wasn't something stumbled upon by accident.
"Quatre..." my mouth worked, but no other words would come. My palms were flat to the wall; I was trapped as a mouse before a hawk.
"Trowa," he near whispered, stopping in front of me, naked, and dripping water from hair to toes. His hand rose, and though I closed my eyes, I didn't flinch. His fingers grazed the side of my face, touched my lips, and slid down my throat. "I had hoped, but wasn't sure."
Eyes opened now, I remembered to breathe. But stare at Quatre, I did. It wasn't making sense. Quatre's hands were ghosting over my shirt, touching my chest and down to my waist. "Qua-Quatre?"
He caught my glance, and smiled. "I've wanted to do this for so long, Trowa. Please?" His fingers were on my belt, and I found myself nodding before I even knew what he was asking for. He didn't waste time doing more than hook the elastic band of my boxers under my balls before he was on his knees, his mouth sucking in my dick.
"Oh fuck." My fingers clenched and slapped against the wall; I was ready to come - too soon! It had been a long time since anyone had touched me, and even longer since a mouth had sucked on my cock. And this was Quatre - my every fantasy coming to life.
Quatre hummed, his hands worked encouragingly over my thighs, squeezing my ass, and slid up my shirt. I was coming - Too soon! Too soon! - but, he was swallowing it, his humming continued, and his face turned up to watch me. I was breathing hard; my face felt enflamed, and I wanted the wall to engulf me.
My hands covered my face, and Quatre's mouth left my cock. I felt his breath skim its wet surface, and I shuddered - too intense! Quatre's hands were still stroking my legs, from thigh to calf, and I lowered my hands to watch him. He sat back on his heels, staring up at me, that tender expression back in his eyes.
"It was better than I ever dreamt," he whispered, and stood, his palm sliding up my body as he rose. His lips hovered before mine, and he gave me the briefest touch before pulling back. "I need to go rinse off, brush my teeth." He nodded his head back toward the living room. "Please wait for me." It was more a plea, and my hands were shaking as I reached out to touch him.
"All night if you require it," I mumbled through numb lips. The skin under my hands was pimpling in gooseflesh. "Go," I croaked out. "Finish your shower, and dry off." He was nodding with a slight smile. "We-we'll talk when you get out."
"Good." His lips touched mine again, and he was gone, leaving the bathroom door open, but closing the shower curtain this time.
Somehow, I made it back to the couch, putting my pants back in some order. Synapses were slow in firing, but the connections clicked; Quatre knew who I was. Had known who I was before he saw me. My smile was slow in coming, but...he knew me. He remembered who I was, dreamt of me, too.
It was somewhere in the middle there that Quatre returned to the couch. Completely unselfconscious, he sat as he had before, but this time, his leg was touching mine, and his fingers were weaving themselves in my hair. He was dressed in shorts and a tank top, but wore no shoes. I had the idea that this was his normal summer wear.
"Can I kiss you?" he finally asked, a smile wavered, held and faded; his fingers trembled in my hair.
I nodded, and leaned closer. "Please?" And damn if I wasn't pleading in return.
He licked his lips, drawing closer, closing his eyes, and bringing his hand up to join the other behind my neck. I kept my eyes opened; I didn't want to miss a thing, wanting to see Quatre in his all. But, the kiss lengthened, deepened, and we were falling over.
Quatre was under me, and I wasn't dreaming. His hands really were working on the buttons of my shirt, his mouth really was laughing and smiling and kissing mine in turn. His legs really were on either side of mine, and his breath was really blowing steadily faster into my cheek.
I drew back and up long enough to strip off my shirt and drop it to the floor. His hands held each side of my waist. He was looking up at me, watching my face; he thrust upward, his mouth parted and his tongue held between his teeth.
I was shuddering, closing my eyes; my cock was hard already, and Quatre had just shown me he was in the same shape. Quatre's hands rose up my sides, his thumbs extended out, rubbed over nipples. I was gasping, arching forward into his touch.
"I want you to fuck me," he was saying, his legs lifted, circled my ass, and drew me closer. "You fucking me is all I dream about, Trowa Barton. And I want that reality." His hands pulled me down to him, and he was kissing me, his hands making soft caresses on my back.
My erection was rubbing against his hardness; the strokes came harder, faster. His tongue was in my mouth, mimicking my thrusts. Grayness was peeking about the corners of my eyes, and I jerked back, crying out. "No!" Quatre's eyes snapped open, his mouth wide, and he was arching up into me. I felt it, even as I was denying my own - Quatre was coming too.
I was smiling, then, raining kisses on his face. He was murmuring, not even a whisper, but words of need and want and something deeper. Words that spoke to the core of me; words I knew by heart. His eyes were open, and he was smiling at me, his fingers gliding in a lazy pattern over my back.
"I need another shower."
"Now?" I asked, ducking my head to touch tongue to neck. "Give me a few more minutes. I'll make a shower worthwhile."
And Quatre was arching his neck up for me, laughing softly. "Then show me what you have, Mister Barton."
It was sometime about eleven, I collapsed onto Quatre, breathing hard, feeling him panting just as heavily over my shoulder. Sweat dripped from my forehead, slicked itself between our bodies, mingled with Quatre's come. Muscles were trembling - in arms and legs, back and shoulders. I felt as though I could sleep a week.
Suddenly, it clicked - another connection made, and I started to laugh weakly. Quatre jerked under me, rolled me off him to rise up on his side.
"What's so funny?" He was smiling, but there was a hint of uncertainty there.
I rose up, pulling him down for a brief kiss. "I've a confession to make," I said, and rushed on, as the uncertainty became alarm. "If you're expecting sex this often in a day, I'll be dead in a week." I kissed him again; he relaxed into a smile. "I'd die happier than anyone ever, but I'd still be a corpse."
"If we had sex like this more than twice a month," Quatre said, settling his head on my chest, "my swim times will be for crap, and I'll be kicked off the team." His voice was already fading, his eyes closed.
Stroking a hand down his back, I tucked my other one up behind my head, staring at the ceiling. It had only been a week since I rediscovered Quatre. If I had to follow him wherever he would go, I would. If he had said he expected sex as we'd had every day, I would give it to him until my last. And I knew now why Heero was willing to go to such unusual extremes. With a little luck, less assuming and more communication, neither of us would have to go to those lengths.
I wondered how Quatre liked his eggs, if he liked eggs, and if I'd have time in the morning to interview him before heading back to Chicago.