by Bronze Tigress

Rainbow Sherbet + Chapter 5

Thursday : Dinner With Dorothy

Trowa spends most of Thursday morning wrapped up in the same sort of self-absorbed puzzlement he'd been subject to for most of Wednesday, and Zechs begins to wonder if perhaps he should request a new partner. He drops by Duo's office, hoping for some more insight into the matter since he had seemed somewhat knowledgeable the previous day. However, he finds only Wufei at his desk. "Oh," he says, seeming rather disappointed. "You wouldn't happen to know when Shade there will be back?"

"Let me guess, Triton is brooding again?"

"Er, yes, how did you know?"

"Oh, I... know a little about it. He has... received a large amount of information to think about lately; if anything, he should be better off than before, once it gets absorbed. As long as you two are not doing anything terribly important, he does need to process. It might do him some good to let him know you are concerned for him, however; he needs to know he has a support structure right at the moment."

Zechs nods thoughtfully as he wanders back into his office. He raps on Trowa's desk to get his attention, having learned very early on that it is not wise to put a hand on the ex-Merc's shoulder unexpectedly, and at the moment, it seems that the precaution is not unwarranted. When Trowa blinks and focuses on him, he says, "You know, if you want to talk, my desk is right over there, okay? And you owe me a coffee..."

Trowa blinks at that last, then looks at the dregs in the cup he is holding, and appears to notice for the first time just what is in there. "Eeeww... Uh, yeah. Just a lot on my mind lately. Sorry, you want that now?"

"The coffee? Don't worry about it - it's easy enough to add cream and sugar to yours," is the smiling reply. "But I'm your partner, right? You being this distracted isn't good - and if I can help..."

"Thanks. I appreciate that. And I may take you up on it, once I have a better idea what I need to talk about. Which reminds me - how well did you get to know Dorothy when she was on Libra with you?"

Zechs is clearly startled by the change in topic, but answers truthfully, "She was my Second in Command, and she's brilliant with tactics -it's why I set up the Mobile Doll ZERO system with her in mind. But you knew that already. We really didn't have anything else between us, if that's what you're worried about..."

"No. That never crossed my mind, actually. I was just wondering if you had any idea of something she was especially fond of that I might not. I've got a dinner date with her tonight, and somehow, I don't think she'd really like a spare ammo clip as a present..."

Zechs has to laugh at that suggestion, and sitting down and swivelling his desk chair to face his partner's, begins by listing several of the usual stand-by suggestions, and then goes on to pull out his memories of Dorothy's appearances at formal events to compare with Trowa's more prosaic experience with her. Eventually they settle on a few options, and when Trowa leaves the office a little early in search of just the right sort of flowers, Zechs is quite happy to have been able to solve at least one of the world's problems that day.

+

Dorothy is, to put it mildly, quite pleased to receive the flowers, and surprised that Trowa has managed, on the first try, to pick one of her favourite varieties rather than simply making the easy choice of red roses. Trowa is similarly delighted, if more quietly so, at having chosen well. After Dorothy has taken a moment to put her freesias in a vase, they are off for dinner at a little cafe they have been to before; Trowa has picked it because it is likely to be fairly empty at this hour since it mainly caters to the lunch crowd and late theatre-goers, and the quiet and relatively private ambience is definitely what he wants for the conversation he has planned.

Shortly after arrival, they are seated in a private booth on the back wall, well away from any other guests, the hostess having been quite happy to seat them at the table of their choosing. Trowa quickly places orders for their drinks, and they are ready to order by the time those and a basket of bread arrives.

Never one to beat around the bush when direct action would be more productive, Trowa comes straight to the point once the waiter bustles off to the kitchen with their food orders.

"You were speaking to Wufei on Tuesday about us?" His tone is soft, but even for Dorothy, rather unreadable; the question is more a statement for confirmation.

"Ah..." Dorothy has the grace to blush. "Yes, I was. I..."

Trowa cuts her off quickly with a "Thank you. I'm glad you did."

"Oh." She pauses, briefly, somewhat thrown, since she is well aware that such a conversation with an outsider is not the sort of thing that is usually appreciated. "Well, then, you're welcome..."

"Although I was rather surprised to hear about it from Duo over dinner at their place that evening," he continues, in a somewhat wry tone. "And I rather wish you had said something to me about your concerns first, but I suspect, thinking about it now, that it probably wouldn't have done you as much good anyway. Although it would have spared me a bit of shock..."

Dorothy appears confused by something, so Trowa pauses to allow her to ask, "You... heard about it from Duo? Why would Wufei be saying anything to that chatterbox? Mein Gott, I only went to him because I thought he'd be the last person to spread the news all over the department..."

Trowa chuckles lightly at her uncomfortable expression. "Apparently, Wufei isn't the type to keep secrets from his lover. And I wouldn't worry about Duo; he does know how to keep a secret, especially when it isn't his. Besides, it's a good thing Wufei did talk to Duo about it, seeing as.. Doro? Are you alright? Here, drink..."

Dorothy accepts the offered glass of soda, taking a sip, coughing, and wiping her face with her napkin before managing to choke out, "Lover?!" in an incredulous tone.

"Ah. Yes. For some time now, evidently..."

"Triton Bloom, that is not funny. We are talking about Chang Wufei, the man who is barely sociable and hasn't been out of mourning for his wife for a full year yet? And Duo Maxwell, terror of the steno pool, biggest flirt of the century? The same Chang and Maxwell that can barely keep from killing each other on a daily basis? How many times this past week have they gone tearing down the hallways with Chang threatening to lop Duo's braid off at the neck? I shudder to think how they manage to share... an apartment..." She trails off and her eyes widen as the implications of that last fact suddenly sink in, in their full glory.

"Nope, not funny at all. They do a remarkable cover-up at work, don't they?" Dorothy simply stares and sputters at that. "You know I wouldn't make something like that up, Doro. Although, in deference, they'd probably prefer you kept that little fact quiet. Ah, yes, you see it now?" he asks as her face begins to register realization. "It was news to me as well, although I am quite sure it's no joke. I have to give them credit for their acting skills; even Quatre doesn't realize they've actually got a spare bedroom."

"Well. That's certainly an interesting bit of news..." She shakes her head slightly as if to loosen cobwebs, then says, "Well, given that. You were saying it was a good thing Wufei did talk to Duo, because..."

Trowa picks up the tale again. "Because Duo actually has a solution."

"A solution? How so?"

"Well, perhaps I should start at the beginning? Ah, here comes dinner..." Conversation stops for the delivery of their meals, and only resumes when the waiter is once again heading away from their table. "You knew I grew up in a Merc Company, of course."

She nods, before asking, "Although I don't see what that has to do with Wufei and Duo being gay..."

"I, ah, don't think they are. They're just - with each other, for reasons that have more to do with understanding each other than that either was looking for a man. And this doesn't have much to do with their being together, either, although that does come into the equation. This gets at why you were speaking to Wufei in the first place."

"Because I wondered what your problem with kissing me was. Okay..." She is clearly puzzled by how the explanation is proceeding but, having been subjected to Trowa's story-telling style before, she has learned to wait for the background details before the conclusions.

"Yes, exactly that. You see, I grew up in a camp full of men who really weren't the nicest or friendliest people around. They were kind enough to me, I guess, but, let's say, they didn't manage to teach me that much about being with a person you love? If there was anything those guys loved, it was their suits and their weapons, but if any of them loved anybody else, I never found out about it.

"After I got up to space, I was with a circus for a while - about a year and a half, enough to learn a little tumbling and to find out I was good at the high wire - before I found another Merc Company and hired on with them. Well. That troop took me along on some of their victory celebrations - guess they figured I was old enough to handle it. I learned a few things about being together with another person, there - none of it much more than physical, and none of it very pleasant for whoever was unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of their attentions."(2)

"Oh..." Dorothy obviously hadn't expected this blunt a discussion. Just as obviously, these are some of the aspects of Trowa's early life that really hadn't occurred to her earlier.

"Anyway," Trowa continues after a few bites of his dinner, "you don't really need - or want - to know the details. The point is that what I learned about being with someone, physically, was that it only causes pain - and that's not something I wanted to cause you. So I've been trying to avoid the issue with you." He stabs an innocent vegetable rather more forcefully than necessary before lifting it to his mouth.

"I see..." And she does, now. It makes perfect sense that he wouldn't want to start something he didn't want to finish.

"Except, obviously," Trowa continues, "it wasn't working." She shakes her head negatively. "It makes sense, now, but I couldn't figure out why you would want me to hurt you, before."

There is silence for a while as both chew and contemplate, before Dorothy ventures, "I didn't know you thought that, Triton. I guess there's a lot I still don't know about you, and I'm beginning to realize that I can't just fill it in on assumptions, can I? But, you said 'now' -what's different now?"

"What's different now is you spoke to Wufei, who spoke to Duo, who understood where the problem was, and most of what it was for that matter, and who spoke to me. And in the last couple of days, I've come to realize that everything - well, almost everything - I had assumed to be true was pretty much wrong. I'd mentioned dinner at their place? When Wufei called, I had no idea what it was about. I certainly wasn't prepared for Duo to sit there over juice and cookies and tell me point blank why I was afraid to get too close to you - or for the way they kept using 'we' so casually...

"To make what could be a long story short - they've shown me just how far wrong my knowledge on the subject is - did you want dessert, or shall we head out?" She shakes her head, and Trowa raises his arm to signal the waiter, waits until he approaches, and asks him for the check before continuing. "And they've offered me some retraining on the subject."

"What sort of 'retraining' are we talking about here, Triton?"

"Detailed verbal information, some hands-on experience. Ah, thank you," he adds, as the waiter appears with the check. "Here, keep the change, thank you. Shall we, Doro?" He offers his lady her coat, and then his arm before walking her out of the small cafe.

It is beginning to be dark out by the time they begin walking back towards Dorothy's home, which helps disguise the startlement on her face when Trowa, rather than just walking beside her and taking her hand as usual, slips his arm loosely around her waist. It isn't a very close hold, but he makes no protest when she leans in a little closer and loops her own arm around him, tucking her shoulder under his.

Trowa steers them off the sidewalk and into the little park they passed on their way to dinner, leading Dorothy towards a bench near the playground area that is usually used by parents watching their children during the daytime. With the sun now down, the area is deserted. Once they are seated, Trowa begins speaking again. "After dinner on Tuesday, ah... they taught me a few things about loving someone, instead of just fucking them. Mostly we've been just talking, telling stories. They got some of the details you didn't, and won't, for instance. And I ended up staying in their guest room that night - I saw you'd tried to call on Tuesday and got the machine."

"And you didn't call me back the next morning because...?"

"Didn't check for messages 'till I got home from more talking with them last night; by then, it was pretty late and I didn't want to wake you. I'm guessing it wasn't anything urgent or you would have said something when I called from their place yesterday evening, right?"

"True..."

"I know it doesn't seem like it when they're at work, Doro, but those two - they really love each other. Seeing them together without their public faces... I think it made me realize just what it is I feel for you. I... I think I really need to take them up on the offer they've made. There's so much I don't know, and... I don't want to hurt you, even by accident, because I don't know something that's common knowledge."

Dorothy has by this point turned to watch Trowa's profile as he looks, rather distantly, in the direction of the swing set. "And you think...?"

Trowa shakes his head. "Don't think. I know they can teach me what I'm missing. Duo knew exactly why without my ever telling him a word. They know, Dorothy, know parts of me I don't even know, know what's going to freak me out before it happens. I love you, and that's why I can't ask you to be the one who sits through all the mistakes I'll make unless I do do this. Can you understand that?" He turns to look at her, meeting her eyes, an almost pleading expression on his face, as he asks this.

"I'm not sure, Triton, but... it's important, isn't it? That you do this? Even if I told you I really hadn't wanted to do much more than kiss you?"

"Even so, Doro. You're not going to tell me you're never going to want more, are you?"

"Um. No, I'm not going to tell you 'never', Tri; probably not soon, but eventually..." she breaks off, cheeks darkening in the dim light of distant street lamps.

He smiles, then, very softly, and shifts around, reaching his free hand across to land lightly on her shoulder, turning her towards him slightly before ghosting it in, up her throat to cup her cheek. His hand is warm against her face, and his voice almost a purr as he says, "Then, for now, I have no more reasons not to do... this..." His lips on hers are soft, pliant, at once asking her permission and offering her everything he is.

A startled instant later, Dorothy's arms have come up, one around his back, and the other moving to cup the back of his head, joyfully accepting, seeking to draw him even closer. When he parts his lips she is quick to do so as well, then flicks her tongue lightly against his lower lip. He opens further in response, welcoming the invasion and greeting it with his own tongue, gently encouraging her explorations, then following it back to return the favour. When she reluctantly pulls away to breathe, he leans towards her again, laying a slow trail of smaller kisses along her jaw to her ear, where he leaves a last, careful kiss on the hinge of her jaw before murmuring, "Hmm?" in her ear.

"Hmm," she agrees. "And this is because...?"

"Because eventually..." is his reply, the implications hanging heavy in his voice. He places a few more careful kisses down her throat towards the hollow between her collarbones before continuing to speak. "When 'eventually' comes, it will be alright. Well, hopefully better than just alright," he laughs a little, "but I don't need to be afraid, any more, that it will get to that stage, you see?"

He kisses, then licks gently at, that tempting little patch of skin, drawing an appreciative little moan from Dorothy's lips. Encouraged, he sets about trying to make her repeat that sound, until he is interrupted by her hands, one still worked into his hair and the other now resting under his chin, as she pulls his face up to kiss him again.

It is perhaps fifteen or twenty minutes later that reality reasserts itself. Somewhere in that time, Dorothy has moved to kneel astride Trowa's lap, her knees hanging over the back edge of the bench and both arms wrapped around his neck and shoulders. Trowa still has his hands resting lightly at her waist where he'd helped her into their current position, although his fingers now brush lower over her hips. It is at about this time that the wrong combination of change of grip and head movement results in Dorothy breaking their kiss with a startled yelp.

"Wha... Doro? What is it?"

"You got my hair. Ow."

"Oops. Sorry, love..." He kisses her cheek in apology. Suddenly a thought strikes him, and a chuckle escapes before he squelches it.

"What?" Dorothy sounds rather miffed that he would find the situation funny.

"Oh, just that I was, rather obliquely, warned about that..." Another chuckle escapes him, before he comments, "And now we know why Duo keeps his hair braided at nights... Hey!" He mock-cowers at the glare she gives him for that. "You should've seen Wufei's face though - it looked like he had been the one being chased through the office with threats of mayhem upon his person..."

Dorothy blinks at the unlikely image of reversed roles, and joins him in laughing, before wincing as her knees make themselves felt. "Ooh. Okay, I think we'd better move now... before my knees fall off. Come on, help me up?"

He nods, and steadies her as they both stand up. "Perhaps we should get you home now?" Trowa's voice is still faintly tinged with the husky tones of his desire as he tells her, "I don't think 'eventually' means 'later this evening' - and I have to admit that sounds very tempting right about now. So..."

"Mmmm. Yeah, it does, doesn't it? But you're right, it is getting kind of late. And I have some thinking to do myself. I guess I don't get to be your first, now, do I?"

"Hm? Of course you do; I've never had a girlfriend before you, you know that."

"You never... that's not what I meant." He shrugs in response. "Let me guess," she asks, "one of those details I really don't want to know about, right?" Trowa nods. "Well, then... I guess I really don't have anything to lose by this, do I?"

This time he shakes his head, "No, not really. My company this weekend, but..."

"So soon? Well..." She walks on silently a little further before asking, "They know what they're doing, obviously, but... I'm not... I mean..."

"Don't forget, Doro, Wufei was married; it's why you spoke to him in the first place, right? I've been promised a few lectures on comparative anatomy. Although you'll have to suffer the practice runs there..." There's the barest hint of a tease in his voice at that.

"Ah. True..."

"They'll take good care of me, Dorothy. You can trust in that."

"Okay, then..."

"Doro." He stops and turns her in the circle of his arm to face him as he says, "I love you. Don't forget that." He punctuates the statement by leaning in and stealing her breath away with another kiss - one of the sort that might, under other circumstances, have led to the immediate acquirement of a room and far fewer clothes than the chilly October air dictated. As it is, Trowa laces it with all the passion and need at his command. When he finally releases her lips, Dorothy is practically quivering with the strength of her own response, and he wraps her closely in his arms. Acting half on instinct and half on the jumbled memories from two nights previous, Trowa finds himself stroking her back and whispering his love for her into her hair as she regains her equilibrium.

When she is able to answer him back, in much the same words, he loosens his hold enough to set her back on her own feet, and they begin walking again. It is less than another block to her building, and once she is safely at her own doorstep, Trowa releases her, dips her a bow, and backs up preparatory to turning away. "What, no kiss goodnight?" Dorothy teases.

"I don't think I'd better, Dorothy." He smiles at her then, and bids her, "Pleasant dreams," before turning to stride briskly down the hall, and soon he is out of sight.

"No, I suppose not," she whispers, as she lets herself into her apartment and kicks her shoes off. "I suppose not..." The scent of freesias fills the air as she gets ready for bed, snuggling up under her covers with hazy, half-formed fantasies of the promises that were hidden in that last kiss for company.

Trowa, meanwhile, spends the rest of his walk home replaying the evening and wishing he hadn't worn this pair of jeans - which happens to be getting just a little tight on him, now that he's actually eating on a regular basis and not spending most of every day in tumbling runs and mucking cages, or muscling around the controls of an eight-ton suit. Ah, well, he thinks as he lets himself into his own small apartment, locks the door behind him reflexively, and begins stripping down for a shower as he walks towards the bathroom. The jeans are probably the worst part of the day, and that, really, is not a bad thing after all!

Not more than fifteen minutes later, clean, dry, and significantly less tense, Trowa is slipping between his own sheets, contemplating the possibility that he might not be waking up alone in the now-foreseeable future.

++

(1) The first circus isn't canon, but it's a good guess; he had to have learned his stuff someplace! The existence of the second Merc company is canon, if you believe Blind Target, but what happened to/with Trowa while he was there is only a guess.


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