Author: June
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer


A-N/ Summary: Right, so this chapter is totally chopped up. The narrative is all over the place and out of order. The sequence isn't difficult to figure out, I don't think, and even if it is, the important thing is that it all happens in one night, a few days after the last chapter. I was having trouble with this chapter so I hacked it apart to make it more interesting. This is Quatre's bit of self-discovery. Lemon and Blood!! (though once again not at the same time)

Through the Furnace, Unshrinking + Part 28

28. Quatre

Scrape your knee; it's only skin
Makes the sound of violins

- "Only Skin" Joanna Newsom

Quatre perched motionless on the rooftop, eyes trained on a small square of light across the street, insides seething. It was Wednesday, and that meant he was working, tracking this girl who did in fact look a lot like him, planning her seizure and potentially her death. It was Wednesday, which meant Heero had not contacted Trowa to tell them to get the hell out of their apartment, to head for the police and then the airport. It meant they were off dicking around somewhere while he and Trowa remained with their heads between the lion's jaws.

He tried to calm the bitter resentment roiling in his belly; he tried to keep his head on the job, but he couldn't shake it. He thought of Trowa wishing him luck, standing in the doorway watching him go, finally turning away to pack his own things for work. It was fucking Wednesday and their three flat mates had been gone for four days. Trowa told him that Gael's search for the missing hustlers was still in full, rabid swing. The police as well as dozens of the boss's henchmen were combing the streets of the city, looking everywhere. Until Gael changed strategies or gave up or at least backed off a bit, it was too dangerous for Heero to even try to get to the police station. Quatre believed what Trowa said he knew that Heero was putting his life on the line for all of them but... fucking hell, it wasn't fair! He swallowed hard and then shivered in the chill night air.

The girl he watched looked nice incredibly dangerous, but nice. Quatre could recognize the potential power coiled in those lean muscles even from this distance. She moved about her flat, pulling on tight-fitting black clothing as she went from her bedroom to her bathroom and back. He watched her slide a knife into her boot and he almost shuddered. She pulled her bright hair into a spiky knot at the back of her head. When she strapped on a katana similar to Wufei's, Quatre gave in and let a quiver of admiration and apprehension work it's way up his spine. He already knew from the photos he'd seen as well as the small bit of reconnaissance he'd already done that she was a fearsome creature, but the thought of actually engaging her in a fight, the thought of subduing her... he had a sinking feeling he was out of his league.

She made no attempt to conceal her weapon, probably because no one would see her, let alone it. She opened her window and climbed out onto her fire escape, gloved fingers clutching the metal railing. Pale eyes swept the cityscape and then the ground as she swiftly descended the metal staircase. Quatre slid from the shadows and began the climb down as well.

+

"Quatre, I think you should take this with you." He turned in his preparation to see Trowa walking toward him, holding something heavy and solid wrapped in gray cloth. He looked down at it and then up into Trowa's intense gaze. Then he finished pulling his black turtleneck sweater down over the many layers he'd stacked underneath it. He'd need every one of them tonight.

"What is that?" he asked quietly.

"It's mine. Was mine. I haven't used it in several years. My first employer gave it to me."

Quatre hesitated and then reached out to take the gun. He left it wrapped in the cloth and hefted it gently, testing its weight. He started to hand it back to Trowa, shaking his head. "I don't want it. I've never shot this gun before. I shouldn't-"

Trowa backed away, refusing to take it. "Please, Quatre. From the little you've said about your job tonight... I think that you should have it."

Quatre raised his chin and took a breath. "What do you know about it? Do you think I won't be able to handle her?"

Trowa smiled sadly at him and Quatre's bravado slipped a hair. "And I've seen your surveillance photos."

He automatically puffed himself up. "You shouldn't be looking through my things. The jobs that Gael sends me are strictly confidential; it's not safe for you to know about them." But Trowa was still smiling at him with that slightly infuriating, 'I've seen all this before and far more frequently than you' look in his eyes. Quatre felt himself deflate.

"She carries a sword similar to Wufei's. If you have to fight her unless you can hit her from a distance you'll have to get close to take her out with one of your knives. With that sword, she can keep you at a distance which will make that very difficult for you. You need a blade of similar length and since Wufei has his with him and you haven't trained with it anyway, I think that you should take my gun."

Quatre examined his best friend closely, saw the man's thinly concealed concern for him behind the flat words, saw the way green eyes rested on the scar in the corner of his mouth, saw his careful, guarded posture. Quatre turned away quickly and reached for a stick of licorice. He turned back and, chewing it thoughtfully, he nodded once. "Okay."

Trowa breathed out in relief and then went to his closet to pull out a weathered shoulder holster. He approached Quatre warily and then closed the distance between them when the hunter gave him a small nod of permission. He helped fit the holster to Quatre's smaller frame, adjusting the straps and tightening a buckle, his voice soft in Quatre's ear. "The gun's not registered, so keep your gloves on if you can. And wipe off the prints if you have to touch it. If you have to ditch it, try to put it somewhere no one will ever find it. I don't mind never seeing this gun again."

Quatre turned slightly amused eyes on his best friend. "Someday you'll have to tell me more about what you did before you worked for Gael."

Trowa regarded him soberly. "I probably won't." Quatre blinked and then looked away. "Just worry about yourself tonight. Do not at any point underestimate your target. It'd be best for both of you if you didn't end up having to kill her."

Quatre puffed himself back up a little. "Well, obviously. But hey, have a little faith in the trained bounty hunter."

Trowa's expression remained blank.

+

His nostrils flared as he pressed his foot down on her chest and fired three rounds. Her body jerked and went still. The smell of gun smoke and blood assailed his nose and he snorted like a dog, trying to ride himself of the harsh scent. His breath came in sharp gasps as he stood over her body and swallowed the sick taste in his mouth. Her mouth was smiling up at him, her beautiful face peaceful and bloody. She'd asked him to end it and he'd said no. He'd said there were other ways to finish it. She'd asked him again and he'd still said no. Then she'd tried to kill him and he'd had to.

He removed his boot from her still chest and slid Trowa's gun into the holster hugging his ribs. He dropped to his knees and felt for a pulse. Her skin was hot and living, but the blood was slowing down. He felt pressure on his fingers, once, twice and then nothing. He made a small sound in the back of his throat as he pulled her up into a sitting position, ignoring the blood dripping down from her hairline. He ran his fingers through that bright hair, straightening it and removing street dirt. Then he pressed his lips to her forehead and shut his eyes tight.

"I hope your journey is swift and that you do not look back," he said softly.

He felt wetness on his cheeks and found with surprise and relief that he was crying. These were the first tears he'd shed since he'd found out about his illness, the first tears since he'd started his new job. This girl was the third person he'd killed for Gael and the first for whom he felt he could mourn. He tightened his grip on her and let a harsh sob rip through him. It felt good and it eased some of the tightness in his chest as his sorrow hiccuped through his lungs, finally jostled loose. He clutched her shirt in gloved fingers and wiped his dripping nose on her shoulder.

Then he raised his head and reminded himself that he had to get home because Trowa was waiting for him. He cast about, looking over his shoulder for the materials he needed, spotting a stack of newspapers still tied together against a wall. Beside that he saw a pile of weathered and broken pallets and his mouth pressed into a tight smile. He gently pillowed her head on his bag and went to fetch them, glad to find it all dry and brittle. There hadn't been much snow this winter to dampen them. On his way back to her side, he passed a man hunched in a doorway, drinking from a bottle in a bag. Pausing, he offered the man all the money in his pockets in exchange for the liquor and his silence. It was enough to get him a night in a motel, so the man took the money with a grunt of thanks and fearful look at the gun at his side, handing over the bottle and quickly shuffling away. Quatre took it with a tight smile and took a sniff. He immediately forced the air back out of his nose. Cheap 80 proof whiskey. He returned to her body and knelt down beside her, preparing a pyre of brittle paper, wood and liquor.

When he finished his preparations, he pulled a book of matches from his bag and leaned down to kiss her cheek, tasting the bitter liquid he'd spread over her. He lit the pyre and disappeared into the shadows, her sword strapped to his back along with his knives.

As he walked, her words flickered through his mind in short phrases, her voice sharp and judgmental. Though they'd only known each other for a scant few hours, she'd felt entitled to ridicule him, taunt him, comfort him and advise him on his love life, or awkward lack thereof. Now as he heard her voice in his head, he found his feet hitting the pavement faster and faster. He was jogging and then he was running and then he was sprinting toward home. He ran because Trowa was waiting for him. Quatre decided he'd been waiting long enough.

+

A slender body flickered through the beam the flashlight cast and Quatre found himself shoved awkwardly up against the fire escape, a fist in his sweater, pressing against his throat, a knife probably the one from her boot, he thought uselessly pressed against his ear. His neck bent uncomfortably under the grated platform, but his right arm was still somewhat mobile and he had his knife pressed firmly at her throat. He couldn't see her face, but he could feel her breath and he knew she was staring at him with wide blue eyes. He could feel her gaze even in the dark and it made him very nervous.

"We could kill each other," he managed to wheeze around the fist in his throat.

"Correction. I could stick this in your ear and you would die. I would walk away."

"Please don't do that."

"Why not," she said flatly. Her words were succinct and hard. She was American he realized. Gael had failed to specify that in the dossier.

"I'm not here to hurt you." He'd used up all his breath and he couldn't draw another, so he fell silent and hoped that was convincing enough.

"You couldn't hurt me, but I think you intended to."

He wanted to say something rude, but couldn't so he made a small gurgling sound instead. He still had the knife pressed against her throat, though she didn't seem to care. But he thought perhaps if he lowered it...

"Who are you?" she demanded.

He gurgled again, and even though he couldn't see much, his vision still went noticeably screwy. He lowered his knife and then found himself on the ground, sucking in a breath and looking up at the woman standing over him. He blinked in the sudden brightness of the flashlight in his eyes. She had her knife in the other hand, but held it in a fist now resting on her hip. He could just barely make out her expression and it was one of utter shock. Quatre rubbed his throat and croaked. "What."

"You," she said softly. "I know you. You're the Winner kid, and you're not dead. You are very obviously not dead."

Quatre scratched his head through his hat. "Should I know you?"

She barked a laugh. "No, definitely, absolutely not. But you're famous, at least to us poor folk who hope to make it rich some day. You're our prince."

She was mocking him, clearly. "I do know something about you; you're name's Olean. It's a pretty name."

"It's short for Oleander, and it's not my real name."

"Oh. What's your real name?"

"What do you call your lover when she gives you a BJ?"

"What?"

"If we're getting personal."

He cocked his head to the side, eyes narrowed.

She grinned at him in the strange glow cast by the flashlight. Her teeth flashed; one of them, a canine, was crooked, he noticed. "It's very interesting that you're not dead, Quatre."

"... I guess."

"It's just that you've been missing for, like, almost a year. And my boss thought about trying to find you just to pick up that reward money from your big sisters. Seems you disappeared but good, though, 'cause he wasn't ever successful. He, like the rest of the city, thought you were dead."

"I was pretty well hidden."

"Clearly. What've you been up to?"

He took a breath and decided to just tell her. Not like she'd believe him. "Sex worker."

She regarded him soberly, blue eyes traveling up and down his frame. "Is'at so."

"It is."

"That's a rough business." Maybe she did believe him.

"Yes. I didn't like it very much."

"Didn't like fucking dudes?"

"It wasn't that they were dudes that was problem." His mouth said the word 'dudes,' and he almost laughed at the way it sounded coming from him.

"Ah," she said, nodding wisely. "I guess a more appropriate question would have been, 'what do you call your lover when he gives you a BJ?'"

"I don't call him anything because we've never-" He shook his head sharply. "And you are doing an excellent job of distracting me. I did not come here to talk about my completely screwed up love life. I came to ask that you come with me. My employer requests your presence at his mansion."

She crossed her arms over her chest. "Oh, well that sounds like lots of fun." She paused. "Not."

Again, his eyes narrowed. "What are you, six?"

"What's with the personal questions, Q? The way I see it, you don't get to ask me questions."

He scowled. "And why's that?"

The dim glow of the flashlight abruptly blinked out and he felt her weight pressing on him, felt her very sharp blade pressed against his throat. He felt his skin split, felt warmth dripping down the side of neck. He gasped and panicked, his knee surging upward into her gut. It was a stupid reaction and he knew it. She could have easily sliced him open completely; however, she only grunted sharply and rolled away. Clutching his throat, Quatre scrambled to his feet, knife out in front of him.

"I don't what to hurt you, but I have to take you to see my boss." He couldn't see more than her dim silhouette in the dark alley. "I'm not a sex worker anymore because I got sick and now I work as a hunter... like you. That's what I'm here for. He wants to see you; I don't know why, but if you don't come with me... Well, you just have to." She stayed hunched on the ground. "I'm not afraid of you. You could kill me, and I'm not afraid of that either."

"Well, that's a shame," she said quietly, voice a bit shaky. Had he really hurt her with his knee?

"Which part?"

"All of it. I don't want to meet your boss. The fact that he has someone like you chasing after people with sharp objects leads me to believe that he's not a very nice guy. And the fact that you aren't afraid to die. You're just a kid. What would your lover say if you ended up dead?"

Quatre flinched because it was dark and she couldn't see him do it. "He wouldn't say anything."

"But he would mourn your death. He would be sad."

Quatre swallowed. "Yes."

"So let's go out where there's more light and see what there is to see, okay?"

She stood in front of him, a large strong hand extended to touch his bloody throat. He didn't flinch as her fingers ran along the cut. It'd already clotted, but her fingers came away rusty. In the light of the street lamps she looked like a rumpled pale child probably very much like him. "You're cute," she finally said with a crooked smile. "He's lucky to have you."

Quatre found himself blushing, even though he knew she was just stalling. "He doesn't really... I turned him away. He should have someone better than me, someone whole."

She withdrew her hand and waved it dismissively in front of her nose. "Oh, pshh. Quit being so melodramatic. "

His brow twitched. Enough stalling

"So are you coming with me? We should really be going; it's cold out here."

Her casual air faltered slightly. "Maybe. I might go with you. What happens if I don't? I have work to do. As I'm sure you know, I have a job tonight."

He considered his answer, arms loose and ready at his sides. "Well, I see four options. Would you like to know the four options?"

"Sure."

"You come with me; I take you to my boss and we part ways. I never see you again. That's the first one. The second is you refuse and I fight you until you give up and agree to come with me."

She snorted, muttering, "Right."

"Third, we fight and I kill you and take your body to my boss. He informed me that was an acceptable outcome, by the way."

Another snort. "As if you could." Then she tapped a finger against her chin. "I don't like that option."

"Fourth. We fight and you kill me and go free, until he sends someone else to bring you to him. You could kill that person too. He has lots of people on the payroll."

She looked away and he thought he saw a subtle shudder slide along her shoulders. "I like that one least of all," she murmured. The corner of her mouth twitched. "I'm rooting for this lover of yours. I'd hate for him to have a dead body on his hands. I'd hate for you to miss the opportunity to take him back, to make him yours again."

He watched her warily, not at all sure how to interpret her strange comments. "So, what do we do?" he asked finally.

She looked up at the sky, the clouds heavy with snow that didn't want to fall. She stared up at them, their undersides eerily lit up by the street lamps. When she looked back at him, she was grinning like a wolf. It frightened him in its ferocity. "Well, options one and two are out."

His heart sank.

"Let's see where we get with three and four."

+

He pounded through the front door of the building and headed straight for the stairs, taking them two and three at a time. He thought of Trowa sitting in his armchair, reading a book, hair flopped in his eyes, long legs stretched out in front him, posture at once casual and capable of swift and deadly motion. His mind jumped ahead a few frames as he pictured himself coming through the door and trapping his lover in the chair, an arm on either side of him, a knee between his legs, a soft whispered confession of his sadness and love in Trowa's ear. "Forgive me, Trowa, for I have sinned. Please accept me and what I have; it's yours."

He ran up the last flight of stairs, blind in his eagerness. He didn't notice that the door wasn't locked. He didn't see Trowa's wide eyes and alarmed expression for what they were. He shrugged off the girl's sword and tossed his knives on the couch. He cornered Trowa in the chair, just as he pictured it. He wrapped his arms around his lover's neck and begged his forgiveness. "Forgive me, Trowa. I've been so stupid and frightened." He thought that the feel of those strong arms coming up around his ribs was probably the best thing he'd ever experienced; it might as well have been his first embrace.

"Sshh," Trowa soothed him, rubbing small circles on his back. "Don't speak," he murmured. An odd request, but Quatre nodded, eyes closed. "You're alright?" He nodded again. "The girl is dead isn't she." And again. "I'm sorry. But I'm glad you're alive."

"She said you would be," Quatre whispered.

Trowa held him tightly, arms wrapped all the way around him, as though someone were about to try to take him away. He turned his head to the side, nose against Trowa's jaw, his senses finally picking up on the off-ness in the room. "What's the matter?"

Trowa shook his head slightly.

"Did you hear from H-" Before he could finish, Trowa's eyes widened and he wrenched him into a hard kiss that thoroughly silenced him. Trowa's tongue was in his mouth, pressing insistently. Something was wrong. He pulled away and glanced quickly around the flat. It felt off... someone had been... He turned wide blue eyes on Trowa. "They're here, aren't they."

Trowa nodded and then cleared his throat. "There's been a change of plans. Gael wants us to stay with him for awhile draw the others out that way instead of the police combing the city." At his words, several men emerged from shadowy doorways, faces blank, but hands ready.

Quatre shook his head. "No, I don't want to go with them." His hand drifted toward the gun still tucked under his arm, but Trowa grabbed his wrist and shook his head quickly, no.

"It'll be okay. We'll be okay."

+

"You could come with us!" he shouted. "Olean, we don't have to do this; you could run with us. Or you could just run."

She gave a wordless cry and came at him again. His strength was leaving him; he was losing. He brought his blade up again and it felt heavy in his hands. His fingers were numb from the many times she'd struck at him, katana glinting and slicing at his throat, his chest, his gut, his back, his hamstrings. He'd blocked them all. He'd tried to get her to stop, but she was ruthless, and she was way out of his league. He should have been dead by now, dead many times over. She was holding back just a little, but striking with enough deadly intent to make him fight with everything he had.

His tired muscles dodged automatically as the blade flicked forward, and he dropped low and to the side, knife darting up into a space she left wide open for him. It was only after the blade slid between her ribs that he realized it.

"No!" he shouted, pulling the blade free and dropping it instantly. She staggered and wrapped her arm around her side. "Pick it up," she said firmly. He shook his head, dazed.

"I'll take you to a hospital and then I'll take you to the airport and you can run."

"Pick it up. I'm not like you."

"Sure you are; you're just like me. Which is why I won't do this; I'm not going to do this." She came at him again, sword glinting in the dim light.

It went on like this until she collapsed and he shouted his helpless anger at her. "Idiot! Throwing your life away! There are other options!"

She shook her head, breathing labored. "I'm not like you. This is all I've ever had, and your boss wants to take it away from me? He can go fuck himself."

"My sentiments exactly! We can help each other."

She smiled up at him. "Take my sword and give it to him. He knows I'd never give it up. It'll be your proof."

He dropped to his knees beside her and pressed his hand to the wound in her side. "Olean... "

"My name's Louise," she blurted and then winced, some instinctive fear of death taking hold. Panic crept briefly into her eyes before Quatre saw it resolutely smothered.

He took a steadying breath, finally seeing the plain truth before him. "Okay." He smiled reassuringly, running his hand through her hair. "Louise, his name is Trowa."

"Trowa," she said carefully, tasting the name. "That's nice."

"And if he ever gives me a-" She cleared her throat and cocked her head to the side, giving him a look. Quatre forced a laugh. "When he gives me a blow job, I think I'll call him Sparky because he'll look at me while he's doing it and his eyes will-"

"Okay, okay, whoa, that's enough," she said weakly.

"Okay." He rose to his feet and quickly drew Trowa's gun. Then he took a step forward, placing his foot firmly on her chest. She closed her eyes and managed to smile.

+

The heavy silence and the unfamiliar setting lent their lovemaking an air of urgency. The door had no lock; the walls were probably thin; there were men guarding their room. They had to be swift and quiet. Quatre braced himself against the wall and pushed back as Trowa drove quickly into him. They were both sweating, though the room was cool. He felt it trickling from under his arms and along his spine. Trowa leaned forward, kissing him, biting his lip. He tasted it on his lover's tongue.

This wasn't how he originally pictured it happening rushed and secretive and him still stinking of death. But Trowa hadn't said no, hadn't said anything really, just nodded and pushed Quatre back into the shadows, pushed him down into the space between dresser and bed, sheltered just a bit from the unlocked door. It wasn't how he pictured it between them, but it was still nearly perfect.

One leg wrapped around his lover's waist, the other bent, his foot flat on the floor, Quatre ruthlessly pushed down his panic and his fear. The condom wouldn't break. Even if it did, the disease was only transferred by blood. And there'd have to be a lot of blood. And there wouldn't be because this wouldn't be like the last time. This was Trowa and Trowa would never ever hurt him. This was safe.

He almost laughed. They was not safe. They were in Gael's compound, under guard. They were bait for Heero and the others. They were not safe at all.

But they were safe with each other. Trowa knew sex better than anyone. They both knew how to be safe. This was good; they'd be fine if-

"Stay with me, mon petite." Trowa murmured, hand wrapping firmly around Quatre's erection. The boy gasped and swallowed a groan. "Focus on how this feels. Don't be afraid. We're safe."

His soft words continued, whispered assurances in his ear. Quatre clung to them and repeated them until they drowned out the fearful buzzing in his head, until all he could see and feel and hear was Trowa. In the dark room, there was nothing else.

"I'm sorry I made you, made us, wait for this. I've wanted to, but I was frightened of what could happen. I trusted you, I swear, but-"

Another kiss silenced him. His words were meaningless anyway. He did what Trowa told him and focused on the way it felt. Trowa inside him, solid and real and careful and sure. A warm smooth palm touching him, bringing his pleasure out of him in small gasps and moans. An aching, fluttering pressure growing in his belly, threatening to blind him when Trowa pressed... right there.

"Trowa, I'm... "

The Frenchman swore softly in his native language and Quatre couldn't quite catch what he said, but he suddenly felt his lover tense, hips jerking forward. He realized what was happening and the sight of his lover eyes open wide and staring, hair pushed aside, sweaty, grip tightening on his thigh tossed him right over the edge. He wrapped his fingers around the back of Trowa's neck and dragged him down into a sloppy open-mouthed kiss. He moaned, the sound high-pitched and breathless in his ears.

Then it was over and they lay together, winded and sticking to each other. Quatre ran his fingers through Trowa's hair, ran his knuckles along his cheekbones, and brushed his thumbs over his temples.

They didn't speak as they cleaned up in their small bathroom, but Quatre shivered as Trowa gently wiped away the mess on his stomach with a warm washcloth. They hadn't turned on the light, so he could only just make out their silhouettes in the mirror.

Exhausted, they pulled all the blankets off the beds and piled them on the floor. Then they wrapped themselves inside until they were tangled up in a nest of fabric and limbs. They fell asleep with Quatre's knives in easy reach.

[part 27] [part 29] [back to Singles a-k]