Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing or its characters or its quotations or plotlines. They belong to the Sotsu Agency who owns their trademark, Bandai who licenses their use, Sunrise, and, of course, the guy who created them. I am neither receiving payment for this work, nor do I intend to accept any.

Part Two of the Leashes and Lovers Series

Er, almost immediately follows Wash My Hair, which would be Part One of the Leashes and Lovers Series. Clever, huh? Two follows one? I figured that out by myself, too! Snark.

Rating: R
Warnings: Post-EW, some citrus, Trowa POV
Spoilers: Of course!
Reviews: Always welcome, any sort of review. Fair warning, the Muffster is slow at responding, but she does respond. Eventually.

Mr. Tangerine Speedo
Chapter Three: Your Demented Ball of Fur Kidnapped Quatre
by Muffie

Heero was fucking annoying. I discarded the idea of knocking some sense into him because I'd probably break my hand when I hit the rock he called a head. "We already looked here."

He glared at me. "They might have doubled back."

I didn't roll my eyes. Again. "Refresh my memory. They is who?"

His deepened glare came with a huff of annoyance. "The kidnappers! Pay attention, Barton."

I loved this little theory. No, really. "No one kidnapped your demented little ball of fuzz."

He huffed again and launched his cell phone at me while yanking out his palm top. "Check the voicemail again."

I threw the phone at his head. "No one kidnapped Duo. If anyone was kidnapped, it's Quatre and your peabrained Pomeranian is the one who did it."

Heero stopped charging down the hall and turned on me. "Duo was kidnapped!"

I just stared at him, tempting as it was to snort in disbelief. Any number of Wufei's usual expressions of derision would have been perfect at the moment.

He ground his teeth together, snatched his phone up, and dialed his voice mail. Again. With a beam cannon death glare, he jammed the phone in a pocket and yanked out his palm top to check his email. Again. He looked about ready to self-destruct out of sheer frustration.

"Duo's kidnappers haven't contacted you since the last time you checked?" It was hard, but I kept my face perfectly bland. "You know, in the last thirty seconds?"

"Duo was kidnapped!"

"No one in the entire Earth Sphere would want to kidnap Duo!" I yelled back. "You wanna know why? Because Duo kidnapped Quatre!"

He gestured around the hallway. "Do you see Duo anywhere around here?"

I couldn't help it. I rolled my eyes.

He crossed his arms over his chest and grunted smugly.

"Your kidnapping theory is based on the fact that you can't find Duo?"

A look of complete horror blossomed on his face. He turned white and whispered, "Do you think he's ill?"

"No! I think he's mad at you and hiding because of it! What in the hell made you think that it was a good idea to grab Relena's breasts? Under the bikini top? Did J drop you on your head a few times too many?"

He turned a dull reddish color and mumbled something.


"She was crying."

I really wanted to beat my head on the wall. "Heero, next time Relena cries, just give her a hanky. Okay?"

"I made her cry!" He yanked his phone back out and pressed a few buttons. "Goddammit, where is he?" Heero's brain was made out of fucking gundanium! Maybe Duo's insanity was contagious. That's got to be the only explanation for it. Heero's normally able to work well within the bounds of the logical and the rational. And Duo just had to steal my Quatre. Where in the hell could I get Quatre vaccinated?

"He's out there, somewhere, corrupting Quatre! That's where he is! And do you know why he's doing it? Because you were stupid enough to feel up Relena in front of him, that's why he's out there leading poor Quatre astray!"

"Is there some particular reason why you two are yelling about my sister's, erm, sister in the middle of the hallway?" Zechs looked, to borrow a phrase from the psychotic Pekinese, extremely pissed.

"Duo's been kidnapped," Heero explained, all business. He tapped at his palm top, then cursed.

"Kidnapped?" Wufei stepped out from behind Zechs, crossed his arms over his chest, and frowned. "That idiot was skulking around the library a few minutes ago. It's impossible to truly contemplate the depths of Paine while that idiot is anywhere around. He wouldn't shut up. Yuy, next time you feel the need to put your hands on the Vice Foreign Minister's person, please do so where I don't have to listen to Maxwell rant about it. I have no idea how Winner puts up with it."

I managed to not glare at Heero. "I told you so. Your master kidnapped Quatre!"

Wufei gave me his patented don't be such an idiot Maxwell look. "Hardly. Those two are thick as thieves. They're up to something. Between the two of them, I don't know which is worse."

"Duo," I said.

"Quatre," Heero had the absolute gall to slander at the same time. We glared at each other, fists curling. He might be the Earth Sphere's gundam darling and the savior of everything from the Vice Foreign Minister on down to Dorothy Catalonia's belly button lint, but I could still kick his ass. I stitched him up after a self-destruct. I know where the weak spots are.

Wufei snorted and glowered at Heero. "Maxwell. Definitely Maxwell. I've checked eight times this afternoon and I still can't figure out where he's managed to hide the damned thing."

I blinked. Heero frowned.

"The camera!" If he'd been a teenaged girl, Wufei would have stomped his foot and wailed.

Heero rolled his eyes and Zechs barely managed to wipe the smug look off of his face. Since neither of them were going to help, I narrowed my eyes. "Explain."

Wufei's finger jabbed toward Zechs who did everything but rock on his feet, whistle, and stare up at the ceiling in his attempt to look innocent. "That idiot is obsessed with taking compromising photographs of Marquise." He snorted again, crossing his arms. "The man refuses to believe a word of it so someone must watch his back and I'm the only bodyguard qualified individual on the premises that can be trusted to do so." Wufei's eyes might be glaring the old Chang Wufei Champion of Manliness glare, but his bottom lip was pouting like Relena's whenever she had to confront Heero's state of gayness. It was rather like watching a plane crash, horrifying yet compelling.

Heero's hands clenched and unclenched, as if he couldn't decide whether to hit Wufei or feel him up to comfort him. "Duo has done no such thing."

This was not helping!

"That idiot of yours is completely insane! He honestly believes that I have some sort of feelings for Marquise other than the respect and admiration due a fellow agent." Wufei turned his narrowed eyes on Zechs. "I can hardly believe that someone as intelligent and insightful as you are would fall for Maxwell's matchmaking lunacy!"

"Well, you have been following me around all day."

"To protect you! I would do the same for any comrade!" Who knew Wufei could yell so loudly?

Zechs heaved an overly dramatic sigh. "You're protecting me from a non-existent threat."

I clenched my fists. "If you were so worried about Duo's lunacy hurting someone, why aren't you protecting Quatre from Duo? Did you see what Duo did to Quatre? At least Zechs is wearing clothes!"

"Too bad, I so wanted to see much more of our little Zechs." Dorothy slid her hands into her pockets and smirked. "Cousin Treize simply would not indulge me. Pity."

Heero glommed onto the blonde cockroach. "Have you seen Duo? He's been kidnapped!"

She did something with her eyebrows that was probably supposed to signify a thoughtful frown or something equally ladylike, but the smirk ruined the entire effect. "I just passed him the foyer. He and Quatre were practicing a little breaking and entering on the Gundam Memorial Museum." The smirk deepened. "One does wonder what those two find so fascinating in there that they'd stoop to committing burglary? All they had to do was ask Pagan for the key."

My fingernails dug into my palms and I felt all of the blood drain from my face. Not only was Duo turning Quatre into innocent prey to be unwittingly offered up to the despicable clutches of the local sexual predator club, he was turning Quatre into a criminal.

"See!" Wufei bellowed at Zechs. "That idiot is obsessed with you! All of your uniforms are in that ridiculous museum!"

True, Duo was twisted enough to find something in Relena's stupid tribute to Heero, Savior of the World, to get himself into trouble over, but Quatre?

Heero was turning a funny shade of purplish green. "Duo is not obsessed with Zechs!"

"He is, no doubt, doing something perverted with your uniforms!" Wufei yelled.

Dorothy smirked even more, if that was at all possible.

"I'm sure Duo isn't doing anything to my old uniforms. It will be all right." Zechs sounded a lot like Quatre did every time he spoke with Cathy when he came to pick me up for the winter. Soothing and quiet, like a handler approaching a starving lion with a toothache.

Well, Cathy didn't much care for Quatre. I'm not sure why that is.

"Of course it will be all right!" Wufei snarled, "I won't let that obsessed maniac do anything to your uniforms!"

"Duo is not obsessed with Zechs!" Heero howled again.


Wufei ignored both of them and took off running toward the foyer. Heero growled, clenched his fists, and raced after him. Zechs sighed, shoved his hands in his pockets, and followed behind.

The blonde cockroach was all but chortling with glee. "Well, are you going to join the parade, Barton?"

I refrained from glowering at her. "No. Duo will sneak out before Heero can find him. I'll have better luck getting Quatre away from him on my own."

She arched one of those locust eyebrows. "I don't believe Quatre wants to be gotten away from Duo."

I shoved my hands in my pockets to keep from strangling her until I felt better. The hairball was right. She is the Spawn of Satan. "Of course he does. Duo kidnapped him." I narrowed my eyes threateningly. "And don't think for a moment that I've forgotten your part in this insane little plan you two have cooked up to turn Quatre into a tart."

She smiled, like a gloating weasel. "Quatre has certain, shall we say needs. You know what that's like, Barton."

Needs? Quatre most definitely does not have certain shall we say needs.

The smile softened, until she almost looked human. "This is a safe place for him to start exploring his sexuality. Duo and I are watching out for him. We'll keep the bad eggs away."

I gave in and snorted Wufei's favorite don't be ridiculous snort. "Putting him in a speedo and having him strut around a bunch of over-endowed predators is not some sort of rite of passage into manhood. Quatre does not need to dress and act like some rent boy to explore his sexuality. He was doing just fine until you and your kidnapping sidekick decided to help him out."

Her eyebrows beetled together and her nose wrinkled. "Up until two days ago, he dressed like a twelve year old. You want him to start dating men who are interested in schoolboys?"

To quote Duo, as if.

She waved her hand in the air dismissively. "Not that it matters. Quatre is quite capable of making his own decisions. If he'd been as aggressive at the end of the war, I would have enjoyed quite the battle with him."

And the Spawn of Satan thought it would be a fabulous idea to remind me that she had nearly killed Quatre for what reason? I wondered if Quatre would be angry if I--

"Gangway!" Duo yapped, trotting past.

"Hi Trowa!" Quatre chirped.

My lungs tried to exhale at the same time my nose started to inhale and I choked on the air clashing somewhere in the middle. Fucking Christ, I should have beat common sense into Duo back in the last war when I had the chance. Quatre was wearing a white, button down shirt, but that's where it parted ways with appropriately tailored clothing that a person of my Quatre's stature should be wearing. It was a few sizes too big, the sleeves rolled and then pushed above his elbows, and it was completely unbuttoned! Not one single button was pushed through a button hole! This was worse than the speedo. Well. Almost. Maybe. His chest flashed between the lapels, occasionally displaying a nipple and playing some perverted form of peekaboo with his navel. Why was that happening? Because he was wearing a too-tight pair of button fly cut-offs that were both thread bare and the top button undone!

Duo, that corrupter of innocents, grabbed poor Quatre's wrist and practically yanked his arm out of its socket. "No time, Q!"

"Oh, sorry. Bye Trowa!" Quatre smiled bravely at me, terror reflecting in his eyes, as the braided powderpuff towed him down the hall to disappear around a corner.

Just as I managed to breathe again, Miss Relena's personal tribute to Heero quietly exploded in Heero's usual understated if somewhat melodramatic manner. Well. Heero was a big boy now, he could patch himself up after this self-destruct on his own. There was no way in hell 0I would leave Quatre in Duo's insidious clutches for another momen--

Heero's fist wrapped around my arm. "I need your help."

"Let me go before I break your fingers. Your demented ball of fur kidnapped Quatre again! Quatre is barely dressed!"

Heero grunted and shoved multicolored skeins of silly string out of his face. "I need your help. Master is up to something and he talked Quatre into doing the planning."

My mouth snapped shut. My Quatre might be all that is sweet and innocent, but give him a mission to plan--especially if he thought he was helping out a friend--and...and I didn't want to think about how much trouble Duo was going to get Quatre into. I narrowed my eyes menacingly. "You'll actually help me stop Duo?"

Heero glared, then nodded. "First, we need to secure my suite." He scowled toward the museum and yanked at the dangling silly string. "I don't know if Master has already gotten into the supplies I confiscated from him on our arrival. It looked like the bomb was made out of stuff stolen from Relena's rooms, though I don't know where he got this." He wadded up the silly string and threw it onto the carpet.

I tried not to grind my teeth. "After he kidnapped Quatre, Duo made a bomb out of things he stole from Relena and planted it in the gundam museum. To make matters worse, he has more stuff he can use to drag Quatre along with him into other misdemeanors and felonies. Is that what you're telling me?"

Heero turned beet red and shifted his weight. A sure sign that he was either gathering intelligence to help him out with his relationship with that hairy menace or he was going to try some verbal misdirection to get out of telling me something I didn't want to hear. "Well, no. Duo did not kidnap Quatre. And it wasn't a felony since no one was hurt and there was no property damage. It is his job as a gundam pilot and Preventer to make certain that Relena's security is--"

"In other words, no one noticed and you hope it stays that way."

Heero's glare all but snarled. "Depends on Wufei."

I grunted. "I'll have a word with him; make sure he understands that Quatre had nothing to do with this."

Heero snorted a remarkably Wufei-like snort. "Good luck."


"Let's go save the world from your yiffing Yorkie."

Heero frowned. "What is with you and this stupid dog thing? Are you obsessed?"

"Did you learn that from Wufei or did you hack into your psychiatric evals?"

Heero wiped all expression from his face. "That's humor. I recognize humor."

"Actually, it's called sarcasm. And don't we have to stop Duo from his plans to corrupt Quatre and make everyone else miserable because you couldn't keep your hands to yourself?"

Heero sniffed and headed for the stairs. "Duo has an exuberant personality."

"Exuberant? Is that a Heero-euphemism for psychotic?"

"He is not psychotic." He yanked his palm top from his pocket. Someone really needed to take that thing away from him. "He's just full of life."


"Sex between anthropomorphic animals or persons engaging in an anthropomorphic animal paraphilia?" Heero smirked, tucking his palm top back into his pants, and opened the door to his suite. "Are you into yiffing?"

I didn't hit him. Honestly, I didn't.

He glared at me suddenly, arms crossing over his chest. "There will be no Little Duo Riding Hood and the Big, Bad Zechs. Understood?"

I could see that. I think it's the hair. "You're as insane as your pet furball."

He unzipped his bag and pulled out a bug detector. He gave a blase little shrug and looked around the room. "You sweep the place, I'll find the bomb Master left and defuse it."

Who in the hell would want to be in a relationship with a person that could be counted on to leave bombs laying around for you when he's miffed? Heero, that's who.

My end of the afternoon's chores turned up clean. Heero found a stink bomb in his underwear. I dropped onto the bed while he started dismantling what looked like Relena's hair dryer. The stink part of said stink bomb proved to be a hefty dose of Relena's perfume.

"What's your plan?"

Heero blinked at me rather stupidly. "Plan? Plan? Have you ever disarmed any of Duo's homemade ordnance? There is no plan." He glowered at the hair dryer bomb in disgust. "It's difficult enough to figure out how it explodes, let alone disarm it. It's better to make it up as you go along."

I didn't roll my eyes. "I meant your plan to stop Duo from ruining Quatre's life."

"We just have to find him." He paused, brows furrowed. "He's not ruining Quatre's life."

I grunted. Of course he's ruining Quatre's life. Am I the only person who can see that? "We'll go find him, drag him back here by the braid, and then duct tape him to the bed until it's time to leave."

His eyes gleamed as he thought that over. I should have known how things would turn out when he called me up completely out of the blue during one of Cathy's feed Trowa baking frenzies and ordered me to turn him into Master Duo's Dream Sex Kitten Heero. He abruptly frowned and shook his head. "Won't work. I'm the slave, he's supposed to tie me up."

I didn't sigh, long, low, and exasperated. "The common denominator is that we have to find him."

Heero nodded and looked at me.

I stared back, waiting from some sort of Saviour of the Universe brilliance to come spewing out. Or at least for him to self-destruct with the stink bomb.

He stared at me, the screwdriver in his left hand drooping ominously close to several exposed wires that would either set off the bomb, open the garage door, or were just there because they reminded Duo of the national flag of the team that won the last annual Lumberjack Olympic Games.

I nodded at the screwdriver. "You touch the wrong wire and you'll probably self-destruct on Relena's perfume."

"I do not self-destruct all the time." He glowered, like a puppy does after you take your favorite pair of shoes away from it. "What's your plan to find Duo?

"My plan?"

He glared. "You're our infiltrator."

"Infiltrate means hiding in plain sight. Une gave me a paycheck and some nice uniforms during the war. The dental coverage was great, I had a tooth capped and some whitening done. I never skulked around, hiding in the shadows while cackling evilly and referring to my alter ego, the God of Death mind you, in the third person under my breath. You worked with him the most, you figure out the plan to find him." It's so bad of me to take pleasure in Heero's acute frustration.

"Hunting him down isn't going to work, he's an expert at evasion. We'll have to ambush him."

Ambush. I could get into that idea, particularly if it involved choking him with his braid.

"He'll be at that stupid ball."

No way in hell.

Heero smirked. "So will Quatre."


My original plan had involved standing around at the masquerade ball, drinking ginger ale, and watching Duo and Wufei snipe at each other. My revised plan was to convince Quatre that I didn't feel well so we could stay in one of our rooms and watch the vid until it was safely too late for him to any of that dating business with any number of perverts that Duo or Dorothy could come up with. My new plan apparently had me infiltrating the ball wearing Duo's intended costume. To be honest, the only thing that sold me on the costume was the fact that it permitted me to go armed, even if I couldn't get my hands on a belt-fed .60. Well, that and Heero's little temper tantrum. I don't care if he is my best friend, he's not only paying to replace my circus costume, he's explaining to Cathy why he turned it into mulch. By himself. In person. Without backup. Or antiseptic. Hn. Serve him right.

We did one final sweep of the property for either the fluff ball or Quatre before we, ahem, infiltrated the ball room and took up our observation post. Heero had chosen not only the perfect location for surveillance of the main party and most of the exits, but the urban camouflage blended in nicely with the wall hanging behind us. Not that I cared. My ass was itching, right in the crevice where the back of your thigh meets your butt cheek. That's where the sweat was collecting into a small lake, roughly the size of the Dead Sea. The guerrilla soldiers from the Global Wars of the early AC 100s might have had the perfect gray, lavender, and blue camo to match our surroundings, but the titanium laced material was damned hot. What did extra combat shielding matter when any exertion--such as breathing--would baste you in your own sweat like a turkey? At least I got to wear my own boots since Duo's didn't fit me. The boy even had dinky feet like a schnauzer. Heero was stuck in alloy combat boots instead of his old yellow sneakers. The only real plus to the whole costume was the canteen full of water and the fact that I was wearing every weapon I'd brought with me. Oh, and no one batted an eye when I broke out the binos and started a visual sweep for Quatre. Where in the hell was he?

I briefly wondered who I'd have to kill to get some answers.

There was Dorothy, dressed like a Medieval princess of all things. I slapped Heero's hand away when he tried to appropriate the binos. It pays to be tall. She still looked like a cockroach. She not only did not have my Quatre with her, there was no sign of him in her vicinity. No Duo, either.

"Status?" Heero demanded when I wouldn't give up the binos. He should have brought his own.

"No sign of them. The Queen of Hell should have trimmed her eyebrows, though."

Heero grunted and uncapped his canteen. "Duo can hide his hair so you can't use it as a marker."

"Tell me something I don't know."

He glared at me, then took a swig from his canteen.


Water sprayed everywhere. I helpfully pounded him on the back while he tried not to choke.


It was getting closer. I am not ashamed to admit that I did a little duck and cover even though Relena had never hunted me down like a prized buck all the while howling like a banshee.

Heero slipped behind the wall hanging and thumbed the safety off of his 9 mil. "She promised she'd stop. She'd promised!" He cocked the hammer back. "I've got it in writing. Notarized and witnessed by Lady Une, Zechs Merquise, Lucrezia Noin, Sally Po, Quatre, and Dorothy Catalonia."

"Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeero! There you are!"

"Fuck!" he snarled. "What's her location?"

"Oh Heeeeeeeeeeeeero! I looooooooooooooove you!"

Heero tried to shove his way behind me. "Oh hell! Not that a--"

"Omae o korosu!"

What? That had come from somewhere in the ball room, not from behind the curtain. I pouched the binos and squinted at the flash of pink skirts in the middle of the throng. Heero poked his head out of his safe haven and half glared, half ogled the crowd. He resembled a blue-eyed yak in dire need of hair gel.

"Oh Heeeeeeero! I loooooove you!"

Oh. My. God.

"Oh, Heeeeeero! I love you so! Kill me if you must!"

If the wall hadn't been supporting me, I would have landed flat in the sweat lake collecting on my sweaty butt, laughing.

"Omae o korosu! Get away!"

Heero, the one hiding behind the wall hanging, reached around to slap me. "Dammit, Trowa, quit laughing! Where in the hell is she?"

"Heeeeeere I am Heeeeeeero! Come and kill me!" Quote and unquote Relena shrieked.

"That's not funny!" Now that sounded like the actual Relena. "Stop it this instant!"

I wiped my eyes and tried not to choke too much.

"Oh Heeeeeeeeero!"

The real Relena charged through the crowd, directly toward us. "Heero! Quit hiding behind that curtain and make them stop!"

"Omae o korosu!" yowled the fake Heero somewhere out in the crowd.

"Yes, Heeeeero! I'll marry you!" Fake Relena howled.

"That's not funny!" Real Relena shrieked. "Get out!"

The real Heero peeked around the curtain. His jaw dropped and his gun drooped almost to the floor. "Duo!"

"Heeeeeeeeeero! I looooooove you!"

"Duo? What in the hell are you doing?" Real Heero roared.

Duo, wearing Relena's old schoolgirl look complete with pink dress and two tiny braids tied at the back of his head with a pink ribbon, broke through a knot of people. So that's what he'd been doing in the Gundam Memorial Museum. "Heeeere I am, Heeeeeeero! Come and kill me!"

The real Relena whipped the wallhanging down. Her finger stabbed toward Heero's pink bedecked poodle. "Heero, make him stop!"

"Omae o korosu!" That came from both the real Heero and the one hiding on the dance floor.

"Oh! Heero!" Duo bellowed, "I love you, too!" Then he glomped the fake Heero. The short, fake Heero. The short, fake Heero with blonde hair. The short, fake Heero with blonde hair wearing spandex shorts that were three sizes too small and a green tank top that left almost nothing to the imagination.


The short, fake Heero with blonde hair wearing spandex shorts that were three sizes too small and a green tank top that left almost nothing to the imagination and bared entirely too much of his left nipple ignored me.

Oh hell.

I shook Heero off and charged through the giggling crowd. "Quatre! What in the hell are you doing?"

Duo and Quatre disappeared under the tide of people in a flurry of pink skirts, hair, and death threats. And I thought the speedos were bad? That spandex showed everything. Not just everything, but everything. By the time I managed to get to them, Duo was smearing pink lipstick kisses all over every exposed inch of Quatre's face and neck in between squealed "I love yous". Quatre was under him, squirming and writhing, trying to say "omae o korosu" without laughing.

Relena nearly knocked me over, going in low, while Heero skirted me, going in high. "Duo Maxwell, you stop it right now! I mean it! This is not funny!"

"Quatre, what in the hell were you thinking?" I demanded.

Relena tried to help by shoving Duo off, but her slick shoes slid out from under her, dropping her flat on top of Quatre. I pulled her gently to the side, ignoring her squawk of indignation, kicked Duo out of the way, and helped Quatre back to his feet.

I stripped my camo over shirt off and wrapped it around Quatre's shoulders. "Quatre, that spandex is too tight!"

He smiled, laughter dancing in everything from the hair on his head to the flash of silky navel visible between the shorts and the top. "No kidding! I'll never understand how Heero flew his gundam with this kind of a wedgie!"

Heero picked Relena up and got into a brief contest with her hands, trying to smooth down her hair and costume. Duo bounced on the balls of his feet, grinning like the evil little chihuahua that he was. "Vengeance is mine, so sayeth the God of Death!"

Heero cocked his head and smiled. "Does this mean you're not mad at me anymore, master?"

Duo frowned suspiciously. "I dunno. Are you humiliated?"

Heero thought about that, decided to lie like a dog, and nodded vigorously. "Completely, master."

Duo grinned again, this time pleased. "Then I'm not mad anymore!"

Quatre beamed at the lot of them, then shrugged out of my shirt and hand it back, but not before discreetly tugging the spandex out of places where no spandex should go. "I'm going to go get cleaned up and into something more appropriate." He smiled at me. "I like the costume, Trowa."

More appropriate? Good. Duo hadn't completely corrupted him. I smiled back. "Thank you."

"I'll be back in a few minutes. Please make sure that Duo and Relena don't kill each other."

I glanced in their direction. Heero had himself between them, refereeing their budding little argument. He was a big boy now. He could get in the middle of the cat fight. "I think you'll need some help getting all that lipstick off."

"I appreciate the concern, but it's water based."

"It's all right, Quatre. You're my closest friend, I'm more than happy to help you."

"You're my best friend, too." Quatre smiled a bit more brightly. "I'll be back soon!"

"Wait, I'll--"

He ducked through a couple of people transplanted from a bad Shakespearean play and disappeared before I could make sure he was safe. He would go change in his room. I would make sure he was safe.

Quatre wasn't in his suite. He hadn't gone to Duo's or Wufei's either. After twenty minutes of inspecting the guest quarters, I couldn't find Quatre. I'd make a sweep of the ball room again before checking the temporary locker rooms, er, guest lounges set aside for those who were not staying over night.

There was that Nicholas pervert, lounging against a pillar and laughing at something some trim drink of water was saying. Broad shoulders and a long torso tapered into a muscular butt. The sword resting against a well-muscled thigh was familiar, but the guy was wearing too-tight brown pants, a clingy cotton shirt, and one of those big-brimmed hats with a feather stuck into it. Right height, right associate, wrong body. Not my Quatre. The Nicholas over-sized predator had moved on. Good. Heero probably wouldn't help me hide whatever was left of the pervert's corpse after I laughed at the show Duo had just put on.

A few feet away, Heero stood, grinding the enamel off of his molars while Duo batted his eyelashes and simpered on his left. Relena huffed and glowered on his right. Nope, no Quatre.

Dorothy slithered in to poke fun at Heero, no Quatre in her vicinity either That Nicholas pervert sauntered over to join them, dragging his socialite bed toy with him. The bed toy turned and grinned at Duo.

Quatre. Those broad shoulders, tapered waist, and firm ass belonged to Quatre. That Nicholas pervert's socialite bed toy was my Quatre. The dance floor lurched like a stumbling gundam hit by enemy fire.

With his head tipping to the side, the floppy brim of his hat obscured his face. I could see a bit of the slim curve of his throat, a boyish peach arch that I was used to, but that was it. Beneath that, his collarbones flared into a deep chest. The cotton shirt I'd dismissed moments ago clung faithfully to his powerful arms and defined chest. It flowed down, past a long, flat belly to disappear into the waist of his tight leather pants. There was no mistaking that tapered v and slim hips. Or the powerful legs corded with muscle. They belonged to a man.

His head tipped back and he laughed again, his jaw was angular in a way that was both familiar and foreign. He looked like he needed a shave.

My Quatre was a man. A man.

Just when in the hell had that happened?

on to chapter four

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