By: Shoori

I Know Who I Want... + Part 25

"Trowa."

I glance briefly upward as I hear the soft voice calling my name. I knew he was there, watching me. He's been there for awhile now. I didn't say anything, though, waiting to see if he wanted to talk to me, or if he would just move on.

Of course he wants to talk to me.

He's the other communicative one in our group. Wufei, Heero and I rarely are the ones to initiate any kind of ‘talk,' but Quatre and Duo...

Duo.

I scowl thinking of the many things Duo talks about to cover up the things he should be talking about, and Quatre misreads the expression.

"Am I bothering you?" he asks, his voice hesitant. Hastily, I wipe the unguarded expression of irritation from my face and shake my head.

"Aren't you cold?" he asks next, after a moment of quiet. I look up at him again, and see him shiver, bundled though he is in a thick winter coat.

I shrug lightly. I've been out here in the garden for a few hours now. I had noticed the bite in the air, of course, especially since the sun set a little while ago. Autumn is essentially over here in the chill northern climate of Sanc - soon there will be snow, and ice and everything else that makes the season oh-so-delightful. But years of sleeping outside, or in thin canvas tents, or even in the tiny, mostly-unheated mobile units the circus people live in have hardened me to the cold. It doesn't bother me the way it does Quatre.

"You should go in, if you're cold," I tell him, trying to make my voice mild. It comes out flat, and a little hard.

I don't do that on purpose. I think that they all believe that I do speak and act this way intentionally - that I wear my "mask" to show them all that I'm unhappy with what's going on. They must think I'm pretty obnoxious really, using screaming nonverbal cues to demonstrate my own pissy moods.

I don't do it on purpose, though. I really don't. I can't help it - even when I try to moderate it or change it - like now - it still comes out that way. Sometimes I worry that someday I won't be able to come back from the flatness, the hardness. If that were to happen, I would then have to be alone forever. I couldn't expose the people I care about to that all the time. I hate that I expose them to it ever. I couldn't - I wouldn't - make them be around that outer manifestation of the coldness inside me all the time...

Quatre speaks, interrupting my internal tide of quietly rising hysteria. "I'm not going inside and leaving you by yourself on a bench in my garden without a coat when it's twenty-five degrees out," he tells me, his voice a precise mixture of amusement, exasperation and warm affection that is particularly Quatre. No matter what he says in that voice he conveys the message that you're being a little silly, but he still likes you. Whatever your mood, it somehow makes you feel a little better, and makes you want to do whatever it is that Quatre is trying to encourage you to do. I can't do that with my voice. Noone else I know can, either. Just Quatre.

I wasn't that cold until he told me the temperature. Now that I know, I'm suddenly freezing - I feel the cold from the bench through the thin material of my suit pants, and my cheeks and ears tingle from the icy air.

Suppressing a sigh, I push myself to my feet. Quatre smiles approvingly at me as he slides his arm through mine, and we walk back through the gardens, already draped in the drab browns and grays of winter, into the private wing of the mansion.

Once we're settled in Quatre's - or rather, Quatre and Wufei's - private sitting room, Quatre bustles around, taking my suit jacket, nagging me to take off my tie, ordering up hot drinks and snacks from the kitchen, chattering about inconsequential matters until the food and drink arrives.

Once everything is set and I'm settled in a corner of the couch and the food is temptingly arranged on a coffee table in front of me and my cold fingers are wrapped around a hot mug, Quatre finally settles down. He kicks off his shoes, and determinedly arranges himself on the couch next to me. He sits facing me, with his legs folded beneath him, so close to me that we're touching in several places.

When he first moves that close to me I tense slightly, but almost immediately relax. It's hard to be tense in the presence of Quatre Raberba Winner in his comfort-mode. And... I'm not tense around Quatre. I don't mind if he's touching me.

We just sit quietly for a few minutes, sipping our drinks. I smile when I get my first taste of it - it's hot apple cider. It's delicious - hot and a touch sharp, with various spices in it - I can taste the cloves and cinnamon, as well as others I don't recognize. Quatre must have suddenly noticed that the change in season has occurred. He's in full winter mode tonight.

He presses me to eat some of the food, so I accept a few of the small hors d'oeuvres, more to please Quatre than anything else. I don't really taste them.

I slowly relax, lulled by the soothing sound of Quatre's voice as he converses with me. The conversation is mostly one-sided, but he doesn't seem to mind. He fills me in on the latest news of his family - always a lengthy ordeal. There's been the usual whirl of marriages, new jobs, one divorce - Bridget, the third oldest. No surprise there - I'd divorce her too. He has also gained several new nieces and nephews in the past year. Antoinette, my favorite of his sisters, the one closet to him in age, just had her first child, a little girl, four months ago. Eventually, most of my drink is gone, and so is a second one, and I feel much warmer, and much more relaxed. Quatre picks up a lidded silver jug from the table and carefully refills my mug again with more of the fragrant beverage.

"So," he begins softly, setting the jug back on the table, "want to talk about it?"

I instinctively try to tense, but somehow can't seem to summon quite the level of uptightness I somehow feel I ought to. I frown, taking another deep swallow of my drink.

"Not really," I reply honestly, frowning down into the mug.

"Why don't you anyway?" Quatre suggests, and I hear the humor in his voice.

I glance over at him and he smiles at me, his aqua eyes shimmering faintly.

"I'm mad at Duo," I tell him bluntly. I listen with dread for that flat tone in my own voice, but, amazingly, it's not there. I sound... petulant. Great. That's so much better.

"You know, I'd gathered that," Quatre tells me, and he sounds amused again. I roll my eyes and lift the mug to my lips, swallowing deeply.

"So, tell me about it," Quatre suggests, again refilling my mug.

"There isn't much to say," I mutter, swallowing. I lay my head back against the cushioned back of the sofa and close my eyes, keeping a careful hold on the mug balanced on my knee.

"What are you mad about, exactly?" Quatre asks me, his voice reasonable.

I scowl, turning my head and opening one eye to glare at him. "Were you there?" I demand. "He sits up there and tells the world that he and Hilde fucked two months into his relationship with me... "

I sound petulant again. Quatre interrupts me.

"So, you're mad he admitted to it on the stand?" he asks, frowning. There's Business Quatre, checking for understanding.

"No... ." I half-groan. "He couldn't lie on the stand."

"So, you're mad because he slept with her?"

"Well, yeah." I glare at Quatre again.

"You're mad because he cheated on you with Hilde?"

I open my mouth to agree, but stop. That's not exactly why I'm mad.

"That's not exactly why I'm mad," I tell Quatre seriously.

Quatre nods. "I didn't think so."

"I mean, I know it was a long time ago," I reason, frowning up at the ceiling. "And I'm not thrilled, but... It was a long time ago. I can even understand why he did it. It's not that... "

"Are you mad he didn't tell you?" Quatre asks quietly, leaning forward. I feel his hand on mine and look down, confused, but I see he's just steadying the mug I'm holding as he refills it again. I hadn't realized that it was empty.

"Yeah." I scowl. "Don't you think he should have told me about it?" I demand.

"Probably, by now," Quatre agrees mildly. "But I see why he didn't tell you when it happened," he points out, smiling at me. "You would have freaked."

I transfer my scowl to Quatre, but find it impossible to be mad at him when he's grinning like that. So I grunt, instead, and look away.

"So, what are you mad at?"

He's not going to let it go. I stare moodily into the mug of gently steaming dark amber liquid. I swallow, feeling the sharp, sweet liquid flow around my tongue. It's good, so I swallow again.

"Quit playing with your cider and answer me," Quatre orders, reaching out and trying to take the cup away. I glare at him and he removes his hand, grinning.

"I'm mad at him," I state, clearly and unequivocally. I am mad at Duo. There you go. What more needs to be said?

Quatre sighs. "I know that," he tells me patiently. He looks assessingly at me for a moment, worrying at his lower lip, the way he and Duo both do when they're trying to decide what to do. The gesture still looks cute on Duo, but it looks a little funny when Quatre does it, since he's such a big guy now. He knows it, too - he's very guarded and aware of himself in public, always monitoring his own small habitual actions. He doesn't police himself like that in front of us, though. I smile at him as I realize that. He's himself only with us. Quatre always seems so genuine with everyone that it's hard to realize that he has a public face as much as the rest of us do, and that he only lets it go with people he trusts. And he trusts us.

Quatre smiles back at me and stops biting his lip. He shrugs slightly, and refills my mug again.

"Why are you mad, Trowa?" he presses. "What exactly is it that has made you so angry?"

I frown again, slumping back against the couch. "He's sorry he hurt me," I mutter.

"I know," Quatre says gently. "I heard him."

"That should be enough," I say, more to myself than to him. "What more do I want, really? I mean... "

"But you do want something more," Quatre interrupts. "What is it?" he asks, and his voice is gentle again.

I groan. "I want him to be sorry he did it," I half-shout. "Is that so damn much to ask? I mean, Christ, he fucks whoever he feels like, and he's sorry I'm upset about it, but I'd like him to be sorry that he did it in the first place not just that... "

"Ok," Quatre interrupts me, reaching out and lying his hand on my arm. I immediately settle, and I feel my cheeks grow hot. What in the hell is wrong with me? Did I just shout all that crap out in the middle of Quatre's sitting room? Did I just use the word ‘fuck' in a sitting room? I'm going to be quiet now. I'm not saying anything else.

"That's what you said in the car, too," Quatre reminds me. "I don't know... " He pauses, biting his lip again. "I don't think Duo understands that difference," he tells me slowly, his voice hesitant.

I growl, and immediately forget my resolution. "That's stupid!" I shout, half-sitting up. Quatre reaches out and gently restrains me, and I allow myself to fall back on the cushions again. A little of the hot liquid from the mug in my hand slops over the edge and runs down my wrist, and I swear. In the sitting room. Oops. I gulp down half the contents of the mug. There. It won't spill now.

"I don't think he does," Quatre insists quietly. He sighs, and the sound is weary. I look at him suspiciously, and his blue-green eyes are troubled.

"I don't want you to think you're wrong for being angry," he tells me seriously. "I understand the way you feel, and you're right. But... " He's silent for a long moment, searching for the right words. "I think you need to explain to him what you mean. I really, honestly don't think he's thinking the way you are. He's sorry he hurt you, and that equates to totally apologetic in his mind."

"But it's not, Quatre!" I insist. I stare at the mug in my hand, and suddenly the drink is repulsive. I carefully sit it on the coffee table, and turn to face Quatre. "It's not the same. And if he's not sorry for doing it... " I trail off, wincing at the pain in my chest. "If he's not sorry for doing it, what's to keep him from doing it again?" I burst out after a moment.

I'm disgusted with myself. First petulant, now plaintive. It must be this mansion. I never could function right here.

"Oh, Trowa." Quatre's eyes are wide, brimming with sympathy. "Is that what you're worried about? Trowa, you don't have to worry about that," he concludes firmly. "He's not going to... "

"How do you know that?" I interrupt desperately. "He's sorry it upsets me, but he still does it... "

"You're not looking at it the same way he is," Quatre insists firmly. He sighs. "In Duo's mind, both times he slept with other people, he was helping a friend," he begins slowly. "In the first case, with Hilde... you were never going to know," he points out. "You would be upset if you knew, but you wouldn't, so it couldn't hurt you. He could help her, and not hurt you... the best for everyone. Heero... well, that's more complicated," Quatre admits. He's silent for a moment, thinking. "But now... " he shakes his head. "Now you're all together, and he knows - really knows - the potential he has to hurt you by his actions. And knowing that, really understanding it, Duo will never do anything that could hurt you that way again."

I stare at him, uncertain. "You think so?" I ask unsteadily. I really want to believe that.

He nods firmly. "I'm positive," he tells me, his voice soft, but intense. "The whole situation with Heero was compounded by the feelings he had - and you had - for Heero, that neither one of you wanted to admit. I don't think he would ever have touched anyone but Heero by that point in your relationship, even without really knowing how strongly you would react. But now that all three of you are together... I'm sure he wouldn't," he finishes decisively.

I look down, remembering the look in Duo's eyes that night last week when he made me that same vow Quatre is talking about now. "I promise that I will never do that again. For the rest of my life, Tro, I swear, there will be noone but you and Heero."

He promised. And Duo doesn't lie.

"Trowa."

I shake my head slightly, returning my attention to Quatre. "You need to try to make him understand the way you feel, though," he tells me soberly.

I sigh. "I don't know if he can," I say candidly. I certainly am sharing with Quatre tonight. What's up with that? "I know that about him. I... couldn't have lived with him for this long if I hadn't realized that he and I just... think differently. It's just, sometimes... "

"Sometimes it really pisses you off?" Quatre finishes, smiling at me.

I smile back. "Yeah," I agree, sighing.

"That's understandable," Quatre says. "Especially now, with everything so... unsettled. But that's exactly why we all have to be especially... connected with each other now," he finishes delicately.

I yawn. Yeah, we need to support each other and all that. "I don't feel like it now," I say bluntly. "Can I stay here for the weekend? I don't want to deal with it. I need a few days off."

Quatre chuckles. "You are welcome here whenever you want to be here, for however long you want to be here," he assures me. "Always."

"Thanks," I mumble. I'm starting to feel a little sleepy.

Quatre catches me as I sag forward. He slides down the couch and pulls me down so I'm lying on my back, my head in his lap. His fingers idly stroke my head, running through my hair. This is a familiar position - we used to sit like this a lot, a long time ago, when we were together.

"Duo's jealous of you, you know," I tell him suddenly, opening my eyes to look up at him.

His brows lift slightly, and his lips curve in amusement. "Is he?" he asks, surprise in his voice.

I nod, closing my eyes as I yawn again.

"How do you know that?" Quatre presses, the amusement stronger in his voice this time. I look up, and his eyes are dancing with suppressed mirth.

"You like it that he's jealous," I accuse, grinning back at him.

Quatre nods unabashedly. "I think it's great," he admits cheerfully.

"He asked me if I still loved you - if I was still in love with you," I tell him.

Quatre's expression sobers, and the light of amusement leaves his eyes. "What did you tell him?" he asks slowly, and there's something more than curiosity in his voice.

Little alarms are going off in my head. I shouldn't be talking about this with Quatre. What the hell am I thinking? I need to shut up and stop talking.

Instead, I open my mouth and answer him.

Good call, Trowa.

"I told him that was two separate questions," I reply readily.

He nods slowly. "So, what's the answer?" he questions, his eyes narrowed slightly.

"I told him of course I still love you," I tell him, amazed he could be asking. Some corner of my mind is shouting at me to shut up, this is a bad idea, this is one of those conversations I like to avoid. For the life of me, though, I can't remember why I avoid them, so I continue. "I'll always love you, Quat. You're the first person I ever loved. Nothing'll change that."

"Trowa... " Quatre's eyes shimmer with tears. "I... I'll always love you, too, you know," he tells me softly, moving his hand to rub his knuckles along my cheek.

"You'd better," I yawn, moving my head into the caress. Again, a small voice in my mind is screaming at me. I decide to ignore it. If it can't talk sensibly, it can't be that important, right?

"What else did you tell him?" Quatre asks.

"What else?" I search my memory. "Oh, yeah. I said I loved you, but I'm not in love with you. I'm in love with them."

His hands move through my hair again. "Good answer," he says after a moment. I look up at him.

"That's ok, right?" I ask sleepily.

"What?" he frowns.

I shrug. "That," I say vaguely.

"Definitely," he assures me softly. "I'm glad... I thought that maybe... " He trails off. Quatre out of words. That's weird. Everything's weird tonight.

"You're my best friend," I tell him suddenly. I feel embarrassed once that's out. The voice yelling at me is a little louder. "Just thought you should know," I mumble, closing my eyes and turning my head away from him.

"You're my best friend," Quatre tells me, tugging on my hair gently until I open my eyes and look at him. "I'm glad you told me that. I'm in love with Wufei, but it's still good to know you and I still... have that between us."

I nod. "I probably should have stayed in love with you," I ponder after a moment. "You're nice and calm and sane. They're more trouble than... " I search my mind. "Monkeys," I say finally, drawing the words out with gloom-laden relish.

Quatre bursts out laughing. "Monkeys?" he repeats. "I doubt they'd be flattered," he points out wryly.

I shake my head dismissively. "Monkeys," I assure him. "Always jumping around, making noise, breaking things... " I start to laugh, as a series of ridiculous images begins to play out in my mind. "Of course, they don't pick bugs off each other, and Heero doesn't throw poop... " We're both laughing uproariously now. "But you should see monkeys when they go in heat," I manage after a minute. "They freak out until they get some. Duo does the same... "

"Enough!" Quatre shouts, clamping his hands over his ears. "I don't need to hear that!"

I lay there chuckling, rambling about more comparisons between my lovers and monkeys. There's a frightening number of them, once I get going.

"You're silly," Quatre declares finally. "Time for bed." He pulls me up, rises himself, and pulls me to my feet.

I stumble, and he holds me up, supporting me as he leads me to one of the bedrooms in the same hall as the sitting room.

"I don't know what's the matter with me," I mumble, aware of my bone-deep exhaustion as he efficiently helps me undress to my boxers and T-shirt. "I don't usually... "

Quatre begins to giggle as he settles me against the pillows and pulls the covers up over me. He carefully smoothes them over, one hand lingering on the comforter above my chest.

"It could be all the rum added to the cider," he postulates mischievously.

I stare up at him uncomprehending. "What?" I manage after a moment.

Quatre giggles down at me. "It was hot cider with rum," he tells me cheerily. "And you drank rather a lot of it."

"You... you tricked me!" I half-shout at him.

"Yes," he agrees pleasantly. "Don't get all mad," he cautions. "I wanted to talk to you and I knew you wouldn't talk... without help."

"I'm going to be pissed at you tomorrow," I warn him as my eyes flutter closed.

I hear him chuckle, and feel a brief, warm pressure against my forehead. "No, you won't," he assures me. "You'll be glad you talked to me, and we'll hang out."

I'm too tired to answer him, but as I drift off to sleep, I feel my mouth curve upward in response to the smile in his voice.

+

[cont]