Quatre finds his friends to be irritating. Poor Quatre...it must
suck to be an empath around this crew...
Know Who I Want... + Part 14
I glance around
the table, carefully monitoring all my friends, while trying to seem as
though I'm not. Since Duo, Trowa and Heero walked in a few minutes ago,
the feeling of tension in the room has just been increasing.
It doesn't seem like they're fighting, though. They don't feel angry.
Well, Heero does a little. But it's not...
I can't really describe it. Wufei asks me sometimes about the feelings
I get from people, and always seems surprised at how hard I find it to
articulate them. But really - think of how hard it can be to articulate
your own feelings sometimes. Now imagine feeling someone else's emotions,
filtering them through your own perceptions, then trying to separate them
from yourself and explain them to someone else.
It's particularly hard with anyone that I'm close to, because it's just
difficult to have the experience of feeling your friends' emotions. Especially
when those emotions that you - and they - are feeling are negative or
Heero is angry, but not at the other two. It's that futile, frustrated
sort of anger that has no target, and so is the worst kind. It's also
the kind generally turned upon the self.
Duo is worried. Nervous. Everything isn't as it's supposed to be, but
he's not sure how to go about making it right.
And Trowa... Trowa is the hardest to read, because Trowa is better than
anyone I have ever encountered at repressing his emotions. When he's doing
that and I try to read him, I just get this deep, dark sense of
nameless... feeling just sitting there, seething menacingly beneath an
I told Wufei that once, after the latest war, when we were discussing
all of our friends, and he was very dissatisfied with that explanation.
Wufei is very literal sometimes - he believes that everything can be explained,
categorized and catalogued. I argued that the human vocabulary is severely
limited when it comes to emotional expression, as it was mainly created
to describe things tangible and visible, things that must be worked with,
described and controlled in order to ensure purely physical survival.
It's only in the last few centuries since sustaining life has become so
much easier that the majority of people have had the time to worry much
about their thoughts and emotions. Human language just hasn't kept pace
with that development.
After the intense philosophical debate that that argument sparked, though,
Wufei dragged me back to the subject of Trowa, asking that I try to explain
to him what I meant by the feeling of repression I got off of him. I tried
to explain it in physical terms. Have you ever been in pain - in the dentist
chair, when you fell and hurt yourself, when you sprained your ankle -
and felt that for some reason or another you weren't free to express that
pain? Sometimes, when I'm in that situation, I create a smaller pain -
bite my tongue, pinch my arm, dig my toe into the ground - and focus all
of my attention on that pain. I feel it, experience it, focus on it to
the exclusion of the larger pain. After a moment all I feel is that pain,
from my tongue, my arm, my toe. All the time, however, the knowledge of
that larger pain lingers in the back of my mind, the realization that
it's there, waiting to spring on me if I let my attention slip for the
barest of instants.
Trowa is like that. He deliberately focuses on the need to feel nothing
until he does feel nothing - but the pent-up stream of painful
emotion is there all the while, straining to crash through the barriers
that he has created and descend with the fury of a tidal wave on his head.
Wufei stared at me for a moment after I told him that. Then he pulled
me to him without a word and made love to me for hours. He hasn't asked
me about Trowa since.
As my eyes move from face to face, though, I wonder for the umpteenth
time about the veracity of my ‘gift.' Do I really feel these things off
of people, or am I just really good at observing and cataloguing body
Heero's sitting bolt upright in his chair, in a posture that suggests
that the seat he's sitting in is a straight construction of the most unyielding
wood, rather than an ergonomically designed creation of the supplest leather.
His jaw is tight - always a sign of tension to anyone who knows him. His
hands rest flat on the tabletop, seemingly relaxed, but closer observation
shows that the very tips of his fingers are pressed hard against the surface
of the table, as if he's trying to dig them into the polished wood.
Duo is fidgeting madly - demonstrating how the seat swivels, sliding away
from the table and then gripping its surface to pull himself back to it,
teasing Wufei and laughing at his outraged responses, tugging at the collar
of his crisp white dress shirt and laughingly berating Trowa for using
too much starch when he ironed it, demanding of me whether or not I can
believe that Trowa Barton, feared Gundam pilot, is actually so domesticated
as to be ironing shirts... he hasn't been silent for a second since he
entered the room. Duo is rarely silent, but there's a frenetic quality
to his speech today that underlines his inner apprehension.
In stark contrast, Trowa has hardly spoken. He looks comfortable - there's
none of Heero's rigid tension or Duo's frantic movement in his posture
- he leans back in the comfortable chair, arms loosely crossed, calmly
observing the room. He even smiles faintly at some of Duo's remarks, and
responds politely to my and Wufei's questions and comments. But the blankness
that he's keeping from his face appears in his eyes, and the tone of his
voice is bland and expressionless.
I don't know. I don't know how much of my empathy is true feeling and
how much is observation. But I suppose it doesn't matter. I know for a
fact that something is wrong between my three friends, something that
I can't help them with because I don't know if even they know what it
is, or have even acknowledged that it exists.
They don't need this, any of this. They don't need Relena's bitchiness,
or the World Council's weak indecision, or the pressure of coming down
on one side or another of an issue... they need time.
But then, as Wufei pointed out to me last night, they had a year away
from the world. It's a lot more time than most people get alone to work
out their differences. Maybe they really do need to learn how to interact
with each other within the world, with all the annoyances and inconveniences
and troubles of everyday life that invariably intrude on us all.
I repress a sigh. Maybe they do need all that. But it doesn't make it
any easier, or any better.
"So, Q," Duo says, suddenly directing a comment to me, "Are you planning
on feeding us?"
I repress a smile. My father taught me a long time ago one of his favorite
tricks for shortening the length of a meeting that threatened to go on
forever. If, he said, you had people gathered together that you knew would
go on and on and on you had to manipulate the situation so that they were
willing to cut themselves off. Otherwise, they would complain that you
didn't allow them to say everything they needed to say. The best way to
do that is to schedule the meeting an hour or so before a normal meal
time. Lunch works best, he taught me, because the dinner hour varies wildly
for a lot of people. But everyone has lunch at around the same time, and
most people skip or skimp on breakfast, so they're usually hungriest at
lunch. So you schedule a meeting a little before lunch, make vague promises
of a meal after the meeting, and let them go. When they get hungry enough,
they'll all push to finish so that they can eat. If you feed them first,
he warned, they'll settle in for the duration and you'll be stuck.
He was absolutely right. I've used this tactic many times over the course
of the last few years, and it almost always works. I've rarely had an
eleven o'clock meeting that went past two o'clock.
I'm not sure quite why I felt that this one needed to be scheduled this
way. I just think that it's best if we can all meet, discuss and finish
as efficiently as possible.
"We'll have lunch when we're done," I tell Duo, smiling in amusement at
his theatrical groan of despair.
There's a knock on the door. We're meeting in one of the conference rooms
in the business wing of my mansion here in Sanc. It used to be owned by
some Sanc noble whose tastes ran heavily to polished mahogany, so the
sound of the knock on the heavy wood is impressive.
I call permission to enter and the door opens, revealing the last member
of our meeting today, American Nation representative to the World Council,
I stand up and move to greet him.
"Tom!" I call, shaking his hand warmly as I approach him.
"Good to see you, Quatre," he replies, lightly punching my shoulder with
his free hand as he returns my handshake, the skin around his blue eyes
crinkling as he grins at me.
"Come and meet everyone," I invite, steering him lightly into the room.
"Wufei, of course, you know," I begin, gesturing to my lover. Wufei nods
politely, rising from his seat..
"Dufasion," he says, his voice cordial but slightly distant. I have to
hold back a grin. Wufei - though he would die before admitting it - is
a little jealous of Dufasion.
Of course he has no reason to be - I have absolutely no interest in a
romantic or sexual entanglement with anyone in the world but Wufei himself.
But it's kind of flattering nonetheless.
And I can't say I don't see why he feels that way. Tom Dufasion is quite
good-looking. And the fact that I notice that means nothing but that I
can see. It's hard to miss.
I glance across the room, and notice my friends noticing. Tom is about
the same height as me - six feet, and he too has blond hair and blue eyes.
We look almost nothing alike, though. His hair is a lot darker than mine,
and his eyes are a darker blue. His shoulders are much broader than mine,
his build more solid. Put a hat on him and you could picture him in one
of those old American cowboy movies.
I move Tom over to introduce him to the others, carefully gauging their
"Tom Dufasion, this is Duo Maxwell." I begin with Duo, who is seated to
"Mr. Maxwell." Dufasion eagerly shakes Duo's hand. "I'm very pleased to
meet you. I've heard a lot about you and... "
"Sadly, it's probably all true," Duo grins, clapping Tom on the shoulder.
"Guilty as charged."
Tom grins back at him, and I feel the interested friendliness flow between
them. I knew that Tom and Duo would get along. They're a lot alike, actually.
"Actually, Mr. Maxwell, I've heard a lot of good things about you."
"Duo," he corrects. "And you must not have been talking to Wufei much,"
Duo comments, grinning down at our Chinese comrade, who scowls back up
"Call me Tom," he invites, wisely not commenting on Duo's last remarks.
They'll get along fine. One down.
I move Tom around the corner of the table. "This is Heero Yuy," I inform
Tom, probably unnecessarily. Heero stands up and shakes Tom's hand.
"Mr. Yuy, it really is a pleasure to meet... "
"We've met before," Heero interrupts, scowling up at Dufasion. "Haven't
Tom's eyebrows go up in surprise. "We have," he admits. "I'm surprised
that you remember, though, it was... "
"But I don't remember hearing your name," Heero interrupts again, still
I know Heero well enough to know that he isn't really scowling at Dufasion,
but at the fact that he recalls Tom's face but not his name. That's the
kind of anomaly that would really bug Heero. I hope Tom realizes it too.
"That's because I wasn't introduced by my correct name," Tom grins. "We
met in the reception line at a party at the palace two weeks after I was
elected to the World Council, about a month or so before the Gundam attacked.
I was way out of my league, awed to be meeting you, and when the guy introduced
me as Tomas DaVavio I was too paralyzed to correct him."
I grin at the story, and Duo chuckles. Even Wufei smiles. It's the kind
of story designed to put people at their ease - humorous, slightly self-deprecating
with just a hint of judicious flattery. Masterful. Of course, the effort
is wasted on Heero. He nods abruptly, the name obviously clicking in the
right place in his methodical, well-ordered mind. He nods again, and I
can almost see the metaphorical white-out erasing ‘Tomas DaVavio' and
replacing it with ‘Thomas Dufasion.'
"It is an honor to meet you," Tom continues sincerely.
People are always genuinely honored to meet Heero. He's really a very
impressive guy. He doesn't realize it, though, so testimonials like that
always make him suspicious. So, true to form, he grunts, dismissing what
he sees as flattery and abruptly sitting back down in his chair.
Well. Not as successful, but not a disaster. If Heero expressed unconditional
trust upon a first meeting, I'd die of the shock.
"And, finally, Trowa Barton."
"Mr. Barton," Tom smiles, enthusiastically shaking his hand. "I... "
"Call me Trowa," Trowa interrupts. I wince, hearing the insistence in
his tone. Tom smiles though, obviously missing it. I guess you have to
really know Trowa to pick up on the nuances of his speech.
"Trowa," Tom repeats smiling. His smile drops slightly. "I hear that you
were the real hero of the last war," he says seriously. "On behalf of
the Council, which never does anything useful, I'd like to thank you for
everything you did to... "
"You were a soldier, correct?" Trowa interrupts.
Tom blinks. "Yes," he replies, his voice hinting at the slight confusion
"Then you know that there is no ‘hero' in a war," Trowa says flatly. "Everyone
does what they have to to win. Noone wins a war single-handedly."
"I didn't mean to offend you," Tom begins delicately. "I only... "
"You didn't offend me," Trowa says lightly, with a smile that doesn't
reach his eyes. "You're just in a room with five veterans of that war.
Credit, or blame, applies to everyone equally."
"Tom, you can sit here," I break in, trying to smooth over the awkward
moment as I lead Tom to his seat at the foot of the table, and resume
my own at the head, Wufei to my left and Trowa to my right.
That didn't go well at all. I try to smooth down the slight irritation
I feel at Trowa. Of all times for him to go self-righteous.
Tom busies himself pulling papers out of his briefcase, lightly trading
talk of the Council with me, but I feel the waves of uneasiness coming
off him. Oh well. This is a tough room. Good practice for the Council,
"Well, to begin, I'm sure that Quatre has informed you of the conflict
within the World Council," Dufasion begins, his voice suddenly brisk.
"And of the two splinter groups that have formed."
Nods and murmurs of assent answer him.
"You're probably wondering who the Hell I am and how I got this position,"
he says next.
I grin. He's adjusting his tactics. Very good.
Actually, it's great. Over the last year, Tom has had to become a politician
to deal with the politicians on the World Council. He's had to flatter,
hint, and charm his way into deals. That isn't really him, though. He
doesn't like acting that way.
And it sure as Hell isn't going to work on any of my friends. So, it's
good to see that he can abandon those tactics and act more like himself.
"The thought had crossed my mind," Duo admits candidly.
"I am a citizen of the American nation," Dufasion begins. "I am thirty-two
years old. When I was eighteen, I joined the Earth Force Alliance military.
When OZ took over I was twenty-five, and was a lieutenant in charge of
a small unit stationed in the Chinese nation. My unit resisted the coup,
but were forced from our barracks into the woods. We continued to resist
OZ for months, and pretty much got our asses beat across the continent,"
he admits ruefully.
"His unit met up with Sally's a few times," Wufei inserts softly. "She
Heero nods, and I see him relax fractionally. He and Wufei are so alike
in some ways. There must be corroboration before either will believe anyone's
story. Allah himself could come and tell them something and they'd each
need witnesses they know personally to swear to the truth of it before
either of them would believe it.
"After the war, in the general amnesty Une offered, I joined up with the
Preventers. I fought in the Eve Wars," he reveals. "I was at the Barton
All three relax a little, even Duo.
"After that, I stayed with the Preventers for a few years. Then, one day,
I was bitching about the stupidity of the World Council - they were refusing
pay raises at the time," Dufasion grins. "As I recall, I went on at some
length. Finally, my buddies told me to put up, shut up or act up - if
I didn't like it, I should run for Council myself."
He pauses, grinning wider. "I'd drank quite a lot that night, so I was
full of stories about how great I'd be as a Council member. Finally, to
shut me up, one of the guys bet me that I wouldn't do it - wouldn't run.
I bet him... well, I bet him a lot of money," he admits. "More
than it would cost me to run a campaign. So, I took leave, went back home,
and ran for a seat that was coming open. And damn if I didn't win it."
He laughs, shaking his head. "Noone was more surprised than me. I took
office a few months before the latest Gundam attack. And that's about
it," he concludes.
"If you've been in office less than two years, how have you attained such
an influential position already?" Trowa asks quietly. The expression on
his face is politely curious. His voice is toneless.
Tom frowns slightly. He's not sure what to make of Trowa. He has that
effect on people.
"Well, when Her Majesty began revealing her plan, a lot of people objected
to it," Tom begins in the understatement of the day. "But she has a lot
of influence. People weren't sure how to go about disagreeing with her.
I wasn't smart enough to realize what a formidable adversary she really
is," he admits with a smile, "so I opened my big mouth right up, and here
"How did you devise your alternate plan?" Heero demands.
"Well, I relied rather heavily on my experience with the Preventers and
on several members of the Preventers themselves." Dufasion lists off several
names, and Heero nods approvingly. "I don't think there is anyone alive
as qualified to run this organization as Une is," Dufasion says flat out.
"And I'm hoping you're planning to resume your position," he adds, looking
at Heero. "The Preventers need you as well."
"How come I never met you when you were with the Preventers?" Heero demands.
"I was in the field most of the time," Dufasion explains. He reddens slightly.
"I, uh... well, I checked incoming ships for Gundanium."
I hide my smile. That was a very low prestige job. Une is a wonderful
woman. She really has done her best to reunite the world, to build the
Preventers, to create a lasting peace. But she's only human. It's odd
how many of the people who resisted OZ have ended up with crappy jobs.
Heero doesn't react to the revelation or Dufasion's discomfort.
"So, what's the plan for us?" Duo asks bluntly. Dufasion looks inquiringly
at him, and Duo shakes his head. "Don't beat around the bush, man," he
advises. "We know you want something from us. We don't want Relena in
charge of the Preventers any more than you do. Tell us what we have to
"So... you're willing to endorse our side?" Dufasion frowns.
Trowa sighs. "We were willing to do that before you showed up," he says
flatly. "We trust Wufei and Quatre." The unspoken ‘even if we don't trust
you' echoes loudly around the room. "What do we need to do?"
"Q said he'd scheduled a meeting for a week from Friday," Duo begins.
"What do we have to say there?"
Dufasion takes a deep breath. I smile sympathetically at him. I know from
experience how hard it is to move from the murky, painfully slow atmosphere
of political boardrooms to dealing with my friends' sometimes brutal directness.
"I... You're sure you won't be offended if I speak frankly?" Tom asks,
looking around the room, seeking clarification from each face.
"No time for games, pal," Duo says cheerfully. "What's up?"
"I've cancelled that meeting." Tom looks at me apologetically. "I think
we need to get your divorce," he nods at Heero," cleared up before we
begin anything else."
"It's not looking good," I tell him seriously.
Dufasion nods. "So I hear," he replies soberly.
"You hear? From whom?" Trowa demands.
Dufasion looks at him. "Quatre's lawyers are in contact with me," he explains
I turn my head and wince at the cold green glare directed at me. "Tom
needs to be kept abreast of what's developing with Relena at all times,"
Trowa drops his gaze to the table.
"If I may ask... " Tom's voice in uncharacteristically hesitant. "What
is the... relationship between the three of you?"
There's a tense silence.
"I know that's a very personal question," he plows on. "But it's going
to be asked a lot in the near future. And if we're going to figure out
how best to win this issue, we need to sort everything out."
Duo sighs loudly. "We live together, we sleep together, we love each other,
we call each other by pet names, we even cook meals and iron shirts and
watch TV shows we don't like for each other," he rattles off in a patently
false light tone. "Anything else?"
"I'm sorry," Dufasion apologizes soberly. "I'm not trying to offend you,
I just... "
"Skip the apologies," Trowa says flatly. "What else do you need to know?"
Dufasion sighs. "Quatre sent me copies of some of the assertions Relena
made in her divorce petition."
I very carefully don't look at any of my friends.
"I need to know if any of them are true."
"Well, I've never known Heero to be bad in bed," Duo muses thoughtfully.
Heero growls wordlessly, and Duo grins at him unrepentantly.
Dufasion chuckles. "Not quite what I had in mind, Duo," he informs the
"Hey, say what you mean then, Mr. Dufasion," Duo suggests cheerfully.
Tom's face sobers. "How long have you all been sleeping with each other?"
he asks bluntly.
Again, silence. I glance at Trowa. He's slouched in his chair, looking
perfectly relaxed... but the muscle by the side of his mouth is tensed
so tightly, it's twitching. He must have picked that up from Heero.
"Heero and I hooked up two days before the Gundam attack," Duo finally
says. His voice is hoarse, with, for once, no hint of amusement in the
tone. Heero flinches slightly, and Trowa stares steadily at the table.
"Trowa and I were together... and we sort of broke up after that."
"I left Relena the next day," Heero inserts briefly.
Dufasion frowns. "Were you two together then?" he asks.
Duo sighs, rests his elbows on the table and puts his face in his hands.
"Here's the run-down," he says, in a flat voice that in no way resembles
his usual tone of expression. "As I said, Heero and I first slept together
two days before the Gundam attack. Trowa left when he found out I had
cheated on him. Heero left Relena the next day. Later that day the Gundam
attacked and we all had to leave for space. About a week after we got
to space, Trowa left to surrender himself to Barton, in order to buy the
rest of us more time to mobilize resistance forces." Duo pauses, and swallows
hard. "None of us believed that Trowa would return alive. Heero and I
slept together while he was gone."
An almost imperceptible movement to my right causes me to turn my head
sharply to look at Trowa. He's completely still, his face, what's visible
of it under the sweep of his hair, is completely blank. Looking past him,
I see Heero's eyes close briefly, his face twisting slightly as though
"Trowa was gone for over a month," Duo continues determinedly in that
eerily expressionless voice. "When he returned, he was very badly injured.
We thought he might die. We went back and destroyed Barton's colony. I
was caught in the explosion and presumed dead. When I returned, the three
of us decided to admit the truth, which is that all three of us have feelings
for each of the others. It is an unconventional arrangement, true, but
that isn't really anyone's business, is it?"
Duo is almost yelling by the time he's done. He presses his lips together,
obviously fighting for control, and leans back in his seat. His cheeks
are flushed scarlet. Heero and Trowa stare at him intently.
Dufasion is quiet for a moment. "Thank you for telling me that," he says
quietly. "I... So, you three have been... .together sexually since right
after the war was over?"
"For Gods' sakes, Dufasion!" Wufei shouts, pounding his fist on the table
. "What the hell is the point of all these questions?"
I look, surprised at my lover. His face is dark with anger, his eyes flashing
furiously as he glares at Dufasion.
"Oh, come on, Quatre!" he shouts as he makes eye contact with me. "Why
badger them about this? Leave it to the damn lawyers. There's no reason...
"Believe it or not, this isn't exactly fun for me!" Tom shouts, finally
flustered past the point of patience. "Christ, I'm not in the habit of
pumping strangers for intimate details of their sex lives! But I can't
- I won't - let that woman get control of the world's only real
chance for peace!" he continues angrily. "I'm more sorry than I can say
if I'm upsetting all of you, and I don't want to, but I have to and I'm
already tired of apologizing for it!" He glares impartially around the
room. "If we could just get through this and move on, I promise you I'd
be as happy as all the rest of you."
Duo chuckles, breaking through the amazed silence that fell after Tom's
words. "Well, Tom," he says ruefully. "You might turn out to be good for
us here. We need someone to tell us to get over ourselves from time to
time." He leans back in his chair, more relaxed than he's been since the
meeting back. "Ask on," he says, waving his hand. "But don't say we didn't
warn ya - you might get more than you bargained for."
[part 13] [part 15]
[back to Shoori's fic]