Afterwards + Part 4A loud thud woke me the next morning. I was instantly awake, gun in hand. Duo was up just as quickly, his knife in his. Quatre stared at us sheepishly from where he was sprawled on the floor. Val was next to him, panting happily.
"Your dog tripped me, Heero." He growled at me and I had to chuckle.
"Sorry Quatre. She's trying to get you to feed her." I looked at the clock and swung myself out of bed. "Were you on your way back or to the bathroom?"
"Back," Quatre groaned as he levered himself up.
"Good, since I overslept." I looked at Duo. "Help yourselves to whatever's in the kitchen. I've got about 30 minutes before I have to leave." Duo put his knife away and grinned at me.
"No problem. Go get ready while I protect Quatre from your dog." I scooped up a clean pair of jeans and boxers and headed for the shower.
10 minutes later I was showered, brushed and somewhat dry. Pulling my hair back into it's ponytail, I walked out of the bathroom to find Quatre and Duo at my kitchen table with juice and cereal. Val was eating happily out of her bowl in the corner.
"All finished, Heero?" Quatre asked me.
"Just have to grab a shirt," I replied, turning to my closet.
"Why? It's not a bad view," he shot back with a smirk.
"I don't care to get knifed by an irate Trowa," I raised an eyebrow back at him as I pulled a shirt out from my closet, "when he finds out that I let you ogle me." Duo laughed and Quatre made a face at me.
The phone rang and I went over to answer it, pulling the shirt on at the same time.
A wolf whistle greeted me as I hit the answer button. "Sophie," I greeted my boss's assistant, "to what do I owe the pleasure?"
"Oh, it IS a pleasure, Frey," she said eyeing me. She leaned towards the camera and ran her eyes over me appraisingly. "What a great way to start my morning. Are you sure you're only interested in guys, handsome?" I lifted an eyebrow at her and started buttoning my shirt. Sophie was always like this.
"I'm sure, gorgeous, but if it ever changes, you'll be the first one I'll call, okay?" I thought I heard a faint snort from the kitchen, but I didn't turn to look.
"I'm holding you to that," she leaned away from the camera, back to her normal busy self. "Ange wanted me to call you before you left this morning and tell you that the Monday meeting's canceled today."
"Let me guess," I frowned, "Lee didn't finish." She gave me a gamin grin.
"Of course not. So Ange wants you to focus on the backgrounds for the shooter. You can do that at home, right?"
"Got it all here. Tell her I said thanks. I would've been beyond pissed if I got there and found that out."
"I know it," she grinned. "Lee's terrified of you, you know. He called this morning in a complete panic." I grinned back at her.
"Really? I wonder why?" She choked down a laugh and shook her head at me. "When's the meeting rescheduled for?"
"Next Monday," she said, not meeting my eyes.
"He's THAT far behind?"
"Frey!" She rebuked me. "We aren't all as dedicated to our computers as you are. Cut him some slack, he's a good programmer."
"I know he is, that's why I haven't killed him yet." She laughed merrily. "Anything else, Sophie?"
"No, that's it."
"So Jack knows I'm not coming in today?"
"I'll tell him," she frowned this time. "I don't know why Ange keeps him on..."
"He's good at his job," I told her. "Thanks for the phone call, Sophie."
"Anytime Frey." She tilted her head, flirt mode back on. "You coming to the bar next Friday?"
"I've got visitors in town this week. Have to play it by ear."
"Bring em along." She winked at me. "You owe me a dance."
"I haven't forgotten," I smiled back at her. "I'll try, okay?"
"Okay," her smile widened. "You have a good day, handsome."
"You too, gorgeous. I'll see you next Monday." I hung up shaking my head. I looked over towards the table to see Quatre and Duo regarding me with wide eyes.
"I knew you had relaxed a lot, Heero, but I didn't think it had been that much," Quatre told me.
"You were flirting with that girl," Duo added, sounding just as surprised. I got up from my chair and went to start the coffee.
"Sophie flirts with everyone," I informed him. "That's her way of communicating."
"But you flirted back," he told me seriously. "That's just a bit mind- bending. I mean, you usually just grunted when any of the girls flirted with you at school."
"I have learned some things about social interaction since then, I'm happy to say."
"Including dancing?" Quatre asked.
"Including dancing," I told him. "I enjoy it actually, as long as I have a good partner." I opened my fridge and surveyed the contents. "Looks like I need some more groceries. Anything you two want in particular?"
"Anything you normally get is fine, Heero," Quatre told me with a faint smile.
"Anything's fine." He grinned at me. I made a quick list and faxed it down to the store. The place catered to people who didn't get out much, and so they had a great delivery service.
"Should be here in an hour or so," I told the other two as I got my cup of coffee and went to warm up my computers.
Duo and Quatre sat down with one of the space fighting games I had developed as I worked on my project. I had to laugh listening to the two of them play. They were very competitive- Quatre especially- and very adept at insulting each other in creative ways.
An hour later, my doorbell rang. I looked at Quatre and he went and hid in the bathroom. Stupid, but better safe than sorry. I opened the door to find my favorite delivery girl on the doorstep.
"Hey, Mr. Lowe!" She set down the box of groceries with a grin, her braid swinging behind her. "Bigger order today?"
"Got a friend visiting, Marie." I answered her as I signed the slip she presented me with. Duo came to join me in the doorway, leaning over my shoulder to look at the delivery girl.
"Hi!" Marie extended a hand to him. "I'm Marie! I'm so glad to meet you..."
"Duo Maxwell," he told her as he shook hands.
"Nice to meet you Mr. Maxwell! I was wondering if Mr. Lowe had any friends - other than his computer."
"I've often wondered the same thing," he told her with a grin. He picked up the box of groceries and headed towards the kitchen.
"Wow!" Marie took the slip back and raised her eyebrows at me. "No wonder you turn down dates from all the girls when you have guys like him around." She didn't bother to lower her voice.
"Marie," I said warningly.
"He's freakin' beautiful!" I saw Duo flush out of the corner of my eye.
"Marie, it's not like that. He's just a friend." She winked one of her big green eyes at me.
"Just a friend huh? Well, that's a start!" She stage whispered. I'm sure I turned an interesting color.
"See ya, Mr. Lowe!" She spun around, nearly whacking me with the tip of her foot long jet black braid, and bounced down the stairs. I closed the door after her, shaking my head. Quatre reappeared.
"I'm a bit hurt, Heero," Duo said as he unpacked the groceries. "I knew you for years before I knew about your preferences. How come everyone you know here already knows them?"
"Because it's the only way I could get them to stop hitting on me," I replied lightly, not wanting to get into THAT discussion.
"Why'd she call you Mr. Lowe?" Quatre asked.
"It's my name. Heero Yuy was the code name J gave me at the start of Operation Meteor."
"Where did you get Lowe from?" Duo asked, pausing in his unpacking to eye me thoughtfully.
"The guy who raised me was Odin Lowe."
"Sophie called you 'Frey'." Quatre nudged Duo back into action.
"Frey was the son of Odin in Norse mythology. Odin was the closest thing I had to a father, so it seemed appropriate."
"I've never heard you mention him before," Duo gave me an unreadable look.
"He died when I was 7 or so."
"I'm sorry," Quatre was studying me. "How did he die?"
"He was an assassin. He knew too much. One of his employers killed him."
"Did you know he was an assassin?" Duo asked me.
"Of course. Odin was my first teacher. After he died I met up with Dr. J." I went back to my computer, uncomfortable with the subject.
Quatre and Duo went back to the game and I went back to my programming. The rest of the day passed peacefully enough, something for which I was glad of. Quatre was chafing a bit at being confined indoors, but he admitted that it was smarter than risking being seen. He was a known face, after all. Plus, he added with a grin, at least my house had windows, unlike the room Trowa had put him in.
Duo volunteered to make dinner that night while Quatre called Trowa and I finished up the last little parts of my work.
Trowa reported that everything seemed quiet. They had told the servants that Quatre had gone to L4, so the Preventers were waiting for the assailant to tip his hand. I tried to tune out the rest of the conversation, once I heard Quatre's voice soften. They deserved their privacy.
I rose from my work once I heard Quatre hang up. Dinner was edible, it seemed Duo had learned something about cooking since the war. I volunteered to wash up and Quatre volunteered to help me. Duo went to check the news while we cleaned.
My phone rang as I was elbow deep in water. At my slightly panicked look Duo got up and went to answer it.
"Who are you?" I heard a familiar obnoxious voice drone after Duo's soft hello and mentally groaned.
"I'm a friend of Frey's," Duo smiled sweetly at the monitor. "Who are you?"
"None of your business. Is he there?" Duo looked towards me, one of his eyebrows slightly raised. I had already grabbed a dishcloth to wipe my hands off on. I rolled my eyes back at him. "Well?" that voice snapped and I bit back a groan.
"Give him a minute," Duo smiled cheerily as he turned back to the monitor. I put the dishcloth down and went to lean over Duo's shoulder. I pushed at Duo, trying to get him to move over, but he didn't move. He merely blinked those big violet eyes innocently at me.
"Jack," I said to the black-haired man on the monitor. "Why are you calling?"
"You didn't come in today," Jack snarled a bit, his grey eyes still flicking over Duo. I saw the hunger in that gaze and had to bite back the urge to snarl at my supervisor. Duo wasn't mine to fight over.
"Sophie told me that Lee wasn't finished with his part yet. Ange canceled the meeting. Why would I come in?" I said sarcastically, trying to get him to look at me instead of Duo.
"Did you get any work done?" Jack's voice was dripping with anger as his gaze finally turned to me.
"I got quite a bit done. I sent my logs in- check them if you don't believe me."
"Good." I reached for the hang-up button. "Goodbye Jack."
"Frey..." He started again. I hung up.
"Wow, Heero, what a charmer. Is that your boss?" Duo looked up at me as I stood up.
"Project manager, not boss. Ange, thank all the gods, is my boss."
"He doesn't like you."
"Nope," I smiled slightly.
"Maybe because I gave him a black eye," I replied cheerfully as I went back to the sink. Quatre had finished up, however, and was leaning against the sink, eyebrows raised inquiringly.
"And how did that happen?" He asked.
"He tried to corner me in the bathroom." Quatre burst out laughing.
"That's not a good way to ask for a date."
"He didn't want a date," I flicked the dishcloth at Quatre. "And I didn't want what he was offering- thus the black eye."
We watched TV for a while, scanning the channels for any news about trouble on L4. There wasn't anything. Quatre fell asleep on the futon- I would swear that he was doing it deliberately, except for the fact that I knew how tired he was. I also knew that Quatre would never purposely hurt me. All this had taken a toll on him.
I made the rounds one more time, making sure all my systems were armed and running. Duo and I changed for bed and after tucking ourselves and our weapons in, went to sleep.
I woke up in the middle of the night. For a moment I lay blinking in the dark trying to figure out why I was awake. My internal alarms weren't ringing, the house was quiet and peaceful. In fact I was feeling quite safe, comfortable- and warm?
I looked down. Duo was sprawled across my chest, one arm flung around me, his body snuggled up tight against my side. His head was on my shoulder and his rubber band must've broken because all that lovely hair of his was spread across me. He was sleeping peacefully, a smile curving his lips, face tilted towards mine.
Oh gods. I managed to force myself to breathe. I raised a hand and reached out to touch his cheek, stopping my hand a centimeter from his skin. Without touching him I traced his face and the line of his hair. I closed my eyes, feeling the pain rising in my chest.
I slipped out of bed carefully, not wanting to wake him and headed for the back porch. I disarmed the system and sat on the back step. Val had risen when I had and came out to join me. She sat next to me and I buried my face in her soft fur, letting her coat absorb my tears. Unlike me, Duo wasn't used to sleeping alone. He had snuggled up next to me, thinking in his sleep that I was someone else. She got to hold him like that, have him hold her back, and oh gods, how I envied her.
A hand touched my head gently and I looked up to find Quatre standing over me.
"Oh Heero," he said softly and sat down next to me, opening his arms. I took the comfort he offered, leaning into his embrace.
"I didn't mean to wake you," I murmured, feeling guilty.
"It's all right," he reassured me. "I told you last time that I was here for you."
Last time. When Duo had met up with us again after meeting Hilde. He had spent all evening describing the spunky Oz pilot to us and I had finally given up on my dream of him. It had hurt like hell. Quatre had found me that night too. For the first time I had told someone what was in my heart and looked for comfort. Quatre had earned my loyalty that night as he had held me and listened to me pour my heart out without judgment. He didn't scold or tell me that I was wrong for loving Duo. He had just listened to me. I knew, even then, what a gift that truly was.
"You need to rest," I tried, but Quatre wasn't about to leave me. His arms tightened around my shoulders.
"It hasn't gotten any better?" He asked gently.
"No," I gave in. "I tried Quatre! I really tried to forget him. I don't want to feel this way about him. I just want to be his friend. I know that's all I'll ever be." I closed my eyes.
"So why are you out here?"
"I woke up and he was curled up next to me. I was in his arms..." I choked, and then took a deep breath. "Where I've always wanted- dreamed about- being... But I knew it wasn't me that he was missing... I'm not..." I had to stop and take another deep breath.
"He's not mine. I know that. He won't ever be mine." I sat up and Quatre let me go. "As much as I want him, as much as I love him, I'm not what he wants. I'll never be what he wants. Gods, I know that!" Quatre's hand rested on my shoulder.
"What can I do Quatre? I left. Made a new life. Tried to forget him. It didn't work," I looked out at the moonlight dancing on the waves. "I thought of him every day. Missed him every day. That's why I never called any of you, Quatre. I was trying to forget. Trying to get over him. I thought I was over him enough at least to not- do this. And here I am, a day after seeing him again- and it's the same. It hurts just as much!" I put my head in my hands. "The only other thing I can think of to do is to walk out there into those waves and never come back." Quatre's hand tightened. "Then maybe it would stop."
The phone rang inside the house before Quatre could reply. We were both on our feet instantly, pushing the screen door open.
Duo had gotten to the phone first. He looked up from the glowing screen, his face pale in the odd light.
"It's Trowa," he said, his eyes going to Quatre. "He's been shot."
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