authors: Mel & Christy

Key:
minor scene change (from person to person at the same place, someone waking up from a dream, etc): ----------
major scene change (at another place, some time later, etc): * * * * *
flashback starting or ending: ~*~*~*~
thoughts: *Tadah!*
electronics (phone, TV, intercom etc): <<Tadah!>>

Reunion + Chapter 10

Wufei gingerly extricated himself from Duo's sleeping hold for the second morning in a row and staggered off for a shower, rubbing blearily at his eyes. Normally, Monday mornings weren't a problem for him, but today was definitely an exception.

At least I didn't have to hum all night, this time, he thought, turning the cold tap up in an attempt to shock himself awake. He slept quite peacefully when he wasn't coughing. I kept dozing off and jerking myself awake so I wouldn't sleep in. If he'd woken up and found me in bed with him...

I'm not really happy about sneaking out before he wakes up. It feels so much like... like what I did at Quatre's party. But... I don't know how he'd react if he did wake up in bed with me. I don't know how he feels about me now. He seems to trust me, but is that because he doesn't think he can trust anyone else? He might react very badly. And if he didn't react badly, I'd never be sure whether it was because he felt pressured to do whatever I wanted. What if he thought I was his only option, or if he thought he had to pay me back for looking after him?

No. Until he's better, and he's not so dependent on me, I'm not letting him know. Let him think the nightmares are just dispersing on their own.

...

Didn't I have this 'discussion' with myself yesterday? Why am I going over this again?

Gods, I've got to get some sleep...

* * * * *

"Heero, you've got to get some sleep!"

"I'm fine." -takatakatakatakataka-

"Oh really?" Relena leaned over the desk, but Heero obstinately refused to meet her eyes. "You haven't eaten anything in thirty-six hours, either. Even for you, that's pushing it!"

"Hn." -takatakatakatakataka-

She sighed, pushing herself back upright, and watched him for a minute, then continued on in a softer voice. "Even if you do find something that you and Trowa missed... what will you do about it? Duo's been found. You can't change what happened."

"I want to know." -takatakatakataka-

"But it won't accomplish anything..."

"I want to know! Everything!"

The typing stopped. Heero stared down at the keyboard, fists clenched.

"Then wait until Duo is better and willing to talk and ask him."

His shoulders started to shake, and she slowly walked around the desk to his side.

"I know you want to be doing something," she whispered, "but this isn't going to help... and if something else comes up, maybe something regarding Duo, you'll be in no shape to handle it. Why don't you get something to eat, get some sleep...? And then, if you want to do something, you could help me and Georg go through the message and call archives on my ex-secretary's computer. I want to know exactly what she said to Duo, and vice versa."

There was a half-choked attempt at a snort. "Is that going to accomplish anything more than what I've been doing?"

Relena's lips thinned into a humourless smile. "Since Ms. Reynard is attempting to sue me for wrongful dismissal and defamation of character, yes. I can win the case with just the recording of the call I made from Quatre's shuttle, but I want to do more than just win. I want to counter sue for damages on Duo's behalf, and I want to make sure that woman's employment prospects are gone."

* * * * *

"This is bullshit!"

Trowa blinked at hearing that in Quatre's voice and backed up a few steps until he was opposite the door he had just passed. Pushing it open, he peered into the study.

Quatre was paging through a handful of printouts, shaking his head. "Iria, who negotiated this contract? It's crap! The requirements are loosely written, there aren't any specified standards we can hold them to, there's no provision for performance reviews, and the only penalty for breach of contract applies to us! They can get up and walk out at any time they want to without ever giving us notice, but if we want out to change secretarial agencies, we still have to pay them the full value of the services they don't provide - and this contract goes to AC 216! Nobody signs twenty year contracts for clerical services!"

<<Quatre, I honestly don't know who's responsible for this.>> Iria said from the vidphone, looking harassed. <<I've never been involved in the day to day running of Winner Enterprises or contract negotiations, just general policy formulation and Research and Development.>>

"I know, Iria; your own work takes up plenty of your time. I'm sorry I snapped." Quatre rubbed his hand over his face. "This is just a printout of the text; all it's got at the end is 'signed by a representative of WEI and a representative of Elite Secretarial Services Inc'. I need to see a copy of the signed document to find out who's responsible."

<<Ah... it's a twenty year contract, ending in 216? >> Iria asked tentatively. << That means it was signed last year. When last year? If it was while Father was alive, there has to be something fishy about it. He would never have agreed to terms like that. >>

Quatre flicked quickly back to the end of the document, and then sighed. "Nope. March 15th. That's... wait... three days after Father died? Who would have been signing contracts then?"

Iria's eyes widened. << Serena.>>

"Serena?!" Quatre's voice almost squeaked. "Serena's never had anything to do with WEI! She doesn't even have shares! The closest she ever got to the family business was keeping house for Father!"

<<Yes, which means she was right there at the main office after he died. All the rest of us were scattered from here to L5; it took several days for us to calm down the panic Father's death caused, tidy up our own affairs, and get back for the memorial service. The will wasn't sorted out until the 25th; nobody but Serena would be stupid enough to sign anything before then!>>

"Ohhh... we'd better find out if she signed anything else!"

<<Well, since she's never been an official representative of WEI, the contract's not binding. The only way they would get any sort of breach-of-contract ruling against us would be if they convinced a judge that they entered into the contract in good faith.>>

"And with terms like these," Quatre waved the papers, "nobody in their right minds would ever believe it. Thanks, Iria. Could you contact Serena and check the original of this contract, please? Make sure it was her, and find out what else she did..."

<<Sure, little brother. I'll be seeing you. And get some sleep! You look like you've been on a caffeine binge again.>>

"Er... yeah. Just a little."

Iria snorted. <<It's never 'just a little' with you, Quatre. Everything you do is all or nothing: caffeine, fighting work, love... Which reminds me - Say 'hi' to that nice European boy for me.>> *Click*

Trowa pushed the door open further and strolled in. "If she'd stayed on the line a little longer, she could have said 'hi' to me in person. How are you today, Quatre? I thought you were still asleep."

"Oh, Trowa, um... I'm fine. I was just, ah..." Quatre looked embarrassed. "Well, I still want to find out how all this happened, so..."

Trowa blinked calmly at him. "Since you seem to be going about it logically instead of wearing a hole in the carpet and giving yourself an ulcer, I'm not going to argue. What can I do to help?"

Quatre smiled in relief. "Well, I've asked for a copy of all the standard operating procedures that Elite Secretarial Services give their personnel, to be e-mailed to me; obviously, there'll be different ones for people in different positions, so I'm expecting a lot of stuff to sort through. I'd appreciate some help. We can concentrate on reception and secretarial staff, which will cut it down." He frowned. "Elite has apparently been supplying all of the receptionists and secretaries at WEI and a lot of the lower-level clerical staff for the past three years or so. Except for my father's personal secretary and she retired after he died. Duo's messages have to have gone to somebody supplied by them, but... well, I can't imagine why they'd deliberately work to keep him from contacting us, but I also can't imagine how all this could be a mistake! All of Relena's personal messages went through that one woman, but my messages at WEI come through whichever receptionist takes the call or screens the e-mail. They can't all be incompetent!"

Trowa frowned slightly. "If Elite has been working with WEI for three years, and this contract was signed last year, it has to be at least the second one. What was the first contract like, and was it actually due for a renewal in March?"

Quatre blinked. "I hadn't thought of that..."

Fifteen minutes later, they had some answers.

"The first contract was for two years, and the terms were much more normal," Quatre said, pushing back from his desk and rubbing at his eyes. "It was approved by my father and signed by him and the former head of Elite. He died a year later, six months before my father."

"So, when your sister signed the new contract, the old one still had six months left to run?"

"Yes... and I've found notes indicating that my father was not planning to renew it. He was concerned by a drop in Elite's standards since the first CEO died and his son took over. It looks like this guy - Matt Taarnby - took advantage of the confusion caused by Father's death to try and lock WEI into his new contract."

"That fits with what your sister says." At Quatre's confused look, Trowa gestured at the computer. "Iria called while you were going over that. Apparently, 'that nice Mr. Taarnby' came to Serena with the contract all ready for signatures and kindly explained that if she wanted business to continue as usual at WEI 'in this time of trouble', all she had to do was sign on the dotted line. Since Elite was already working with WEI, she thought there was no point in actually reading the contract first."

Quatre moaned and dropped his head into his hands. "That's Serena, all right. Did Iria happen to mention if she signed anything _else_ back then?"

"Serena doesn't think she signed any other contracts, but can't remember for sure. Iria's got people checking. Now, since those procedures you asked for have arrived, why don't you just forward all this to your lawyers and let them get to work on it?"

"Great idea. Give me fifteen minutes to write a cover note."

"Fifteen minutes?"

Quatre smirked. "Finding the proper wording will take a little while. Which do you prefer for the closing sentence...'take this jerk to the cleaners' or 'drive him naked into the financial desert'?"

"I like 'drive him naked into the financial desert' personally. Perhaps you could add something about bleeding feet and stony paths; that seems to be traditional in Arabic maledictions."

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[cont]