Author: FancyFigures
4x2, romance, yaoi, lemon (a little)

Written for Dacia with much love, from a plot bunny of hers.

Pazienza + Part One ... Year 1

The piped music was gentle and soothing -- Debussy, he recognised; it was one of his favourites. He sat on one of the padded benches around the walls of the large room and leant back to admire the view. It was his favourite place in the whole of the Art Gallery; the ceiling here was high and the natural lighting was bright from the skylights above. The paintings themselves were grand and dramatic -- their striking colours a contrast against the pale background of the painted walls; the sweeping movement of the subject matter a spectacular trompe l'oeil against the smooth lines of the interior decoration.

The occasional visitor wandered past him; some paused, and murmured to companions, and consulted their guides. Quatre Winner watched them with mild interest. If they glanced back at him, they lowered their eyes quickly, as so many people did in the gallery, as if apologetic for disturbing the peace and contemplation of other visitors. Quatre knew what they'd see -- a slender, tall young man, with smartly cut blond hair and fine, classical features. He wasn't particularly vain, but he'd been told enough times that he was good-looking for him to accept it as a fact of nature. He wore casual clothes today, well-cut linen pants and a pale yellow silk shirt, making him look younger than he did in a business suit. They'd probably assume he was on holiday from college, or maybe a junior manager at the gallery itself.

That was his personal evaluation, of course. There were other, more telling characteristics that people saw in him. They saw bright, alert blue eyes and a firm, confident set to his shoulders. They saw a slight restlessness to his hands, as if he wanted always to be busy. They saw the promise of a charming smile, from a mouth that looked as if it could set just as comfortably in determination. Indeed, a second look would have made them question just how junior he actually was -- and more than a few eyes opened with personal interest. He was a very handsome young man! There were plenty of women who drifted a little more slowly past him as he sat there; often a man or two, as well.


*


He was aware of the boy quite slowly -- initially he'd been distracted by a group of tourists around the new collection of sketches, and had been enjoying their whispered enthusiasm. When he looked back to the main part of the gallery, his eyes fastened on the youngster, though he couldn't have said why. The boy seemed tall for his age, slender and athletic-looking; his steps were slightly awkward, as if his shoes didn't fit properly, and his hand trailed along the protective red cord in front of the largest painting in the room. He paused in front of it, and his body stilled. His head tilted back to look up at the highest point of the painting, moving slightly to each side as if to absorb the width of the scene as well.

Quatre found his eyes drawn quite irresistibly. The boy was in a school blazer, perhaps here on a school trip, though he couldn't see any evidence of other children. Besides, they usually found the modern galleries more entertaining, with the bold graphic designs and the scenes of life that they might identify with better. And the postcards and novelties in the shop, of course. He wasn't that much older than the school kids himself, not to know how short their attention span could be.

It was something about the way the boy stood that fascinated him. Some intimation of his character from just the careless hand on his hip -- from the occasional scuff of his shoe against his other pants leg. Quatre stared at the back of a head of vivid chestnut-coloured hair -- it was surprisingly long, considering the strictness of any school regulations he'd come across. It was bound back in a tight braid, but even then it teased down between the boy's shoulders. He couldn't decide on the boy's age -- maybe he was only twelve or so, there was still a gangling awkwardness to his limbs that implied he was still growing. But he was probably only a few inches shorter than Quatre himself; he looked well proportioned, with long legs and a lithe grace that hinted at good sports abilities.

And then he turned to face Quatre.


*


He glared, and flushed slightly. "So you'll remember me next time, won't you?" came a rather belligerent voice. A couple of other visitors turned away, perhaps wondering if there was going to be an unpleasant scene.

Quatre flushed as well, but he held up his hand appeasingly, and his smile came easily. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to stare."

"I'm allowed here," the boy said quickly. "You wanna see my ticket? Don't need you glaring at me -- I can feel it down my back, like you're poking at me. You work here or something?"

"No," Quatre quickly reassured. "Look, I'm sorry, please forgive me. I was just looking at that painting myself." He felt strangely shocked -- the boy's boldness startled him, and he felt a little breathless. What was happening to him? He was rarely caught unbalanced like this. Quatre Winner had been carefully coached for most of his conscious life to deal with everything and everyone that came across his path. He met business executives, at his father's side, including their families; he went to their homes, and often to formal functions -- despite his relatively young age. He was indulged and admired and had been expected to absorb the civilities and protocol of adult life long before he was even this boy's age.

And now he sat in a gallery, facing a near-teenager, and feeling as if the parquet floor had shifted awkwardly under his feet.

The boy's face was astonishingly striking! He was obviously as young as Quatre had thought, but his eyes were wary and full of a lively guile, making it difficult to see him merely as a child. They were wide, dark violet eyes; Quatre found the colour entrancing. The boy's mouth was quick with words too, it seemed, and very expressive. Quatre found himself wondering how it looked, creating a smile.

The boy's eyes narrowed. "You're still staring. And you talk very properly, don't you? Are you a prefect? What school are you with?"

"I'm not with a school." Quatre still felt a little flustered. He couldn't take his eyes off the boy's face, yet he didn't want to seem even ruder. He wondered when he'd last had to explain himself to someone like this. "I'm just graduating -- I'm starting work for my father's company soon."

"Damn lucky for you!" announced the boy -- and then he did smile. It was a generous, vibrant grin, and Quatre found himself smiling in return. The light seemed brighter now in the room -- the hum of voices seemed clearer to his ears. The boy threw himself down beside Quatre without asking anything more, as comfortably as if he'd just met up with another of his school friends. He shrugged off his blazer and let it crumple on to the bench beside him, sighing as if it had been a dreadful burden that he'd just shed. "God, it's been grim, following those morons round every floor, scribbling crap about such boring stuff, trying to keep Gazza from spitting, and Henderson from touching anything. And then when old Fester told us the tour didn't include this part of the gallery, well, I just bunked off." He saw Quatre looking across at his jacket pocket and he guiltily pushed the end of his school tie back down into its depths. "You going to get me thrown out?"

Quatre laughed, shaking his head. He didn't know any of these people the boy talked about -- but he'd drawn Quatre straight into his life, without question. "Of course I'm not! So you like this room, do you? It's not the usual route for school trips."

"It's that one," the boy replied, indirectly. He nodded his head at the large painting where Quatre had first seen him. "That one does it for me every time. Fantastic. Everything moving -- everything really alive. And the colours are awesome."

"Rubens," said Quatre, rather unnecessarily. "The fall of Phaeton. He flew too near the Earth on the Sun God's chariot -- Zeus struck him down in punishment. The painting's on loan..."

"Yeah," said the boy, impatient to speak again and with no interest in the logistics of running a museum. "He painted from real life, you know, Rubens. All those pictures people see of his, of chubby ladies and men with fat red cheeks -- not my scene at all. But then he paints this fantastic riot, looks like a real battle, looks like the end of the frickin' world." He looked a little flushed again. "Been in three times this week. I can scoot in on the back of other school trips, or there's a side door that isn't properly covered by the security guys, at least not when they get more than one or two old ladies squeezing in --"

His words dried up and Quatre saw his mouth closing quietly. He turned his head and he didn't meet Quatre's eyes any more.

"So when you said you'd show me your ticket..." said Quatre, gently.

Duo grimaced. "Well, I got one today, haven't I? I'm with the school. But maybe not all the other times..." He glared at Quatre, but then he saw the smile twitching at the side of the young man's mouth. "You're kidding me, right? You don't work here, you said."

"Right," smiled Quatre. "I don't. And I won't tell. It's better the place is full of people like you who enjoy the art than the fee-paying hypocrites we usually see." The boy was looking sideways, back up at him, his _expression a mixture of scepticism and perhaps confusion as to what he really meant. "What's your name?" asked Quatre, softly.

"Duo," said the boy. He shoved rather quickly at the other pocket, also hiding it from view -- it was crammed full with an awkwardly folded notebook, which he was obviously meant to be filling with notes on his trip. "Duo Maxwell, School of Christ the Saviour. Yours?"

"Quatre," said Quatre. He didn't elaborate, and Duo didn't ask any more.

"So, Quatre, which is your favourite one?"

"Painting?"

"Sure," said the boy, looking pityingly at him. "Why else are we here, if not to look at our favourites?" He rummaged a bit further in the pocket and brought out a handful of something else. "You want some gum?"


*


They talked together for nearly an hour. Duo's voice kept building back up again in pitch as he got excited, and then he'd grin and lower it back down to a loud whisper. Quatre found himself questioned and challenged and excited in a way he couldn't remember from any time before. They both loved the Reubens pictures, and the El Grecos, though Duo also found them 'weird'.

"I can't help it," shrugged Quatre, defending his favourites but with a happy smile on his face. "They're magnificent! The colours, the agonised emotion -- that unusual elongated look." His hands were sketching it out in the air, his long, slim fingers graceful and lyrical in their movements.

Duo was watching them, and every twist of Quatre's wrists -- his eyes were bright, and he grinned even more widely. "Spooky stuff, man! Like they're all stretching towards the sky -- up to God, or something. Like they need a good meal --"

Quatre laughed aloud at that, and neither of them cared when some of the visitors looked round disapprovingly. "My Mom says that," said Duo, a little shyly. Quatre smiled again, alongside him. He didn't really like gum, but he took another strip from Duo's warm, open hand. He liked the feeling of them sharing.

The boy said he hated school, but he chatted happily enough about the lessons and the kids, and what nicknames they had for the teachers, and how he was pretty excellent at basketball, and how he was the only one who dared slip the leash from his teacher, and how he'd eaten four packed lunches today already. Quatre felt a little giddy -- the boy talked a lot! He felt as if he were speeding along a high cliff road, close to the edge, with his eyes on Duo, rather than the wheel. He didn't seem to mind it, though. His ears were full of the chatter and his eyes watched Duo's mouth, smiling and chewing and spilling out enthusiasm with every breath.

He was being taken some place very different -- and he was a willing traveller.


*


Duo let a stray thought race across his busy mind, and he realised he hadn't had so much fun for ages! This guy was amazing -- he was smart, and obviously rich and yet he was so easy to talk to. He didn't make him feel like a stupid kid, like they all tried to do. No, he treated him like they were in the same class, or something. Like he was interested in what Duo had to say. Like his Mom was -- but it was different from that, of course. It was exciting stuff, whatever! He spoke very politely and maybe he was just that little bit too easy to shock -- but he wasn't an idiot, either. Duo had summed him up within a few minutes -- he had no interest in spending any longer on it than that. And he felt like he'd known this Quatre guy for months -- years, maybe.

"You're about sixteen - seventeen, right?" Duo hazarded the guess, and watched for Quatre's nod. "That's cool. So you can do what you like now, right?"

"Wrong," smiled Quatre. His eyes widened a little, like he was struggling to keep up. "Not quite."

"Your dad will get you a good job, though, won't he?" continued Duo. "Hell, no point working with the family unless you get something out of it."

"I suppose not," said Quatre, slowly. It was an interesting viewpoint, and one he'd had himself many times before. But so far he'd kept such thoughts hidden to himself. "What does your family do, Duo?"

"Just got a mom," he said, quickly. Quatre might have seen his slight shiver, but he was pretty sure he'd never say anything about it. "She paints, you see, she says that's why I like being here so much, says it's in my blood. But not stuff like this!" He waved an expansive hand. "She does modern stuff. Cubes, circles -- splashes of colour -- twigs and paper stuck in amongst it all. Always got the stuff in her hair. Apartment stinks of paint at night, that's when she works, when I'm meant to be in bed."

"You might be an artist, too, then?" Quatre looked intrigued at the thought, as if he wondered what Duo's own style might be. Made Duo feel rather flattered, just for a moment.

But he laughed in reply. "No way! Not enough money in it. I already have to work evenings to keep things going." He suddenly realised what he'd said, and darted a quick glance at Quatre. His tongue was too loose again -- Quatre made him relax too much. Would he tell the school? Or the authorities? There was no way a kid of Duo's age should be doing work, paid or otherwise, but he didn't see any other choice, when he needed uniform and lunches and another pair of shoes by the end of the term, and stuff for Mom to paint with. But Quatre didn't seem concerned; he was just listening to him carefully.

"I want to do Business Studies, but the funds for it are low at school, they say. May have to cancel the course by the time it's turn for my year. I'll get stuck on geography with Gazza if there's nothing else, and that's going to be as much frickin' use as a chocolate teapot."

"You want to go into business?"

"Sure," said Duo. That was what he said, wasn't it? He leant back against the wall behind them and sighed a little theatrically. "Mom says I organise well -- I have a logical brain. I want to be successful, I want loads of kids working for me -- I want to be rich!" He knew he was blushing, suddenly, and so he laughed at himself before Quatre did it for him.

But then they laughed together, and it all seemed quite natural.


*


It was rather a rude shock when a red-faced older man stumbled into the gallery, accompanied by a thin, pale young woman and a couple of other school children with similar blazers to Duo.

"There he is, sir!" cried one of them.

"Sir, he's got his tie off, sir," whined the other one.

The red-faced man came rushing up to the bench where they sat, and looked as if he were about to slap Duo. His voice was breathless as if he'd been running, and his eyes bulged slightly. "You stupid, disrespectful, disobedient little brat, you'll be in detention for this until they have to take you out in a coffin --"

Duo didn't look remotely intimidated. He was opening his mouth, presumably to answer back, when Quatre rose to his feet and addressed the new arrivals first. His voice was cool -- icy, almost -- and although quiet, it was perfectly clear. "I think it would be more acceptable in the circumstances to lower your voice and to moderate your language, don't you agree?" The arrivals turned to him, surprise on their faces. The older man's words dried up. "May I ask what the matter is?" Quatre continued, civilly enough. "Duo has been spending time with me in the gallery, discussing the new exhibition. Are you connected with his school?" He gazed quite calmly into the man's face, forcing him to keep his eyes away from Duo. "May I see some identification?"

The man looked as if he were about to explode -- or maybe burst into tears. "I don't see what it has to do with you, young man, but yes, of course I'm with his damned school, I'm his tutor, I've been searching for him for nearly an hour and all the damned kids can say is that they haven't seen him since lunch. But doesn't he always go missing, and doesn't he always cause trouble and disruption --"

The pale young woman was tugging at the man's sleeve. Quatre looked fully at her and smiled encouragingly. Her eyes misted over with tears of excitement -- her cheeks flushed with uneven, mottled pink patches. Quatre had to admit that he'd seen that same reaction in young women more than once, even though it embarrassed him. But in fact, today he'd been relying on it.

"It's -- sir -- good afternoon, Mr Winner, sir! I must say, it's a great pleasure to meet you -!"

Quatre murmured something polite, and his eyes turned back to challenge the tutor. The red-faced man stared at him, then up at the banner above the doorway he'd just rushed through, then back to Quatre's steady gaze. "The Winner Foundation Room..." said the tutor, stupidly. One of the boys nudged the other, and they both stared at Quatre. Duo frowned.

The tutor regained some of his composure, though he still looked perilously close to spontaneous combustion. "Mr Winner, I had no idea you were here today. I'm so sorry if Maxwell has disturbed you! As I said, I'm Gerald Lester, his tutor. He's a liability, to be honest, one of our more awkward students --"

"We were just talking --" Duo protested, face twisting with anger.

"Mr Winner was being polite, Maxwell," the tutor hissed. "Don't be ridiculous! His damned family owns half this gallery, and plenty of other places round the city. A smart, busy young man like him won't be chatting to school kids like you!"

This time when Quatre stepped forward to protest, Duo was the first to speak. He'd turned to stare at the blond young man. There was a strange glint in his eye, and a slight darkness, high on his cheekbones. "You said you didn't work here. You said you were just graduating." You said... Every syllable was full of accusation. As if Quatre had tricked him -- mocked him.

"Be quiet, Maxwell, you're making it worse -- " began the tutor, but his words halted as Quatre held up a graceful hand to him. The young man was only a few years older than the school boys themselves, but the much older man deferred to him. Quatre Winner understood -- and had mastered - the power of assertiveness.

"Excuse me, Mr Lester, one moment." Quatre turned his full gaze back to the boy, showing a rare impoliteness towards the tutor. His training had taught him social propriety, true -- but it had also taught him to follow an instinct; and he was rarely wrong. Right now, in his opinion, it was Duo that deserved his explanation. "I didn't lie to you, Duo, please believe that. Nor did I try to mislead or embarrass you. I am graduating, and going to work for my father's company. I don't work there yet -- I don't earn much myself. It just happens that his company owns part of this gallery." He tried to engage Duo's attention, though the boy seemed to have withdrawn a little from him. His arms were folded across his chest, clutching his blazer to him. The body language was angry. "Duo, I'm here because I like to see the paintings, just as I told you. No other reason." He stepped forward and dropped his voice a little, so that the teacher couldn't hear. "You want to listen to Fester instead of me?"

Duo's eyes flashed with amusement at the shared joke, though his manner was still a little cautious. "You gonna tell him about me sneaking in here the other times? About me working after school?" he hissed.

"No," said Quatre. His eyes shone in answer. "Of course not, I said so. And I'd like to see you again some time, Duo. I'd like to think we got on well enough today to call each other friends. What do you think?"

Duo grinned, and the pleasure in his eyes was for Quatre alone. "OK by me." He peered over Quatre's shoulder, and he grimaced. "When I get out of detention, that is."

Quatre raised an eyebrow and turned smoothly back to the tutor and his classroom assistant. "I apologise for keeping him here, Mr Lester. In fact, Duo had suggested that Winner Enterprises might be interested in considering his school for future sponsorship, due to its obvious -- um -- respect for the arts. We were just discussing the potential, and I'd like to listen to some more of his ideas at a later date. At the school's convenience, of course." He darted a look back at Duo, catching his bemused _expression. His own eyes sparkled with mischief. "Perhaps you would take my card and call the office some time soon, with details of your school's mission statement, and educational objectives?"

"I --" said Mr Lester. "Of course. I --" He appeared unable to say anything more. For that, Quatre was grateful, as he had an overwhelming desire to laugh. He rather thought that Duo's detention would be forgotten, now. He turned back to the boy, even as Duo shrugged his way back into his blazer, flipping a careless finger at his sneering classmates.

"I'll see you some time," he said, warmly. "Thank you for your company today."

"Thanks to you too," said Duo, automatically. He wasn't sure what he was thanking Quatre for, but he knew everything was good. "It was fun, right?"

"Right," Quatre replied. He watched the small school group make their way back out of the gallery, Duo shrugging off the young woman's hand on his arm, and landing a well-aimed kick in the shin of the whining classmate.

Fun? It certainly had been!

[part 2] [back to FancyFigures' fic]