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

Through the Furnace, Unshrinking + Part 7

7. Quatre

Overtime all the time
Kill you faster than a bullet can
You won't go
Take myself from this
Take my-
I know I know I know I know
I know I know I know

- "American Special" Tugboat Annie

He watched from the doorway as Trowa patched up Heero's hurt, the former gentle but efficient, the latter stoic and still as a boulder. Quatre kept his winces to himself when he saw Trowa pull away the bloody gauze pads, held in place with masking tape.

"Where did you find these bandages?" Trowa asked softly.

"Fish market." The Frenchman looked up sharply, and Heero gave him a reassuring shake of his head. "I didn't get any fish slime in the cut. I just figured they'd have a good first aid kit."

"I'm sure they would, but why didn't you go to hospital?"

"I needed to buy fish."

Quatre hid a smile behind his hand.

"Why didn't you go after your got fish?"

Heero gave Trowa the patented 'Oh, please' look. "The fish would have spoiled. And I had to get to the grocery store to buy vegetables and Doritos for Duo."

Trowa gave him a small smile and shook his head. Quatre liked it when his new flat mates smiled. Only Duo did it on a regular basis, and Quatre wasn't quite ready to trust that one. But when Heero, Wufei or Trowa did it, he felt reassured, like if they could handle it, so could he.

"Well, regardless I don't think you need stitches. It's very shallow. I'll go get the hydrogen peroxide." Trowa's dark green eyes locked with Quatre's bright blue in passing, and the blonde boy ducked his head in shy submission. Quiet and unassuming. Quiet and unassuming. Trowa was watching him, had been very closely these last few weeks. Quatre liked him, thought he was pleasant and attractive, wanted to know him better, but he didn't trust him. And he didn't like that he was being watched. He felt Heero's eyes on him and turned to meet that turbulent blue gaze. Quatre looked away almost immediately, ducking a little further back into the bedroom he shared with Trowa. And Heero turned his eyes as soon as Trowa emerged from the bathroom.

The tall Frenchman gently dabbed the clear liquid from a cotton ball along the knife wound, and while Quatre bet it stung like crazy, Heero didn't move a muscle. Then Trowa stood up, throwing the bloody bandages and cotton into the kitchen wastebasket with an effortless toss. "I have to go to work now," he said in his quiet, accented English. "You can finish up?" Heero gave him a curt nod. "Quatre can help you if you need it. Keep it covered for the rest of the day and tonight, then let the air get to it."

"Yes, mother," Heero smirked. "You know, this isn't the first time I've had a scrape."

Trowa scowled. Quatre thought it an ugly expression. "I know that. And I know what Cecile does to you, what Gael lets her do." He picked up his bag and tossed it over one shoulder. "You have my permission to shoot her."

This earned him a smirk. "I would in a second if I didn't think the consequences would be dire."

"True. Well, the next time this happens, at least try to break her nose, or cut off her hair or something."

"Okay."

Then Trowa was gone and Quatre was left alone with Heero. The apartment was totally silent for the next few minutes; Heero quietly dressing his wound, Quatre leaning against his bedroom wall, deciding whether or not to join him on the couch. Finally, curiosity won out and, taking a quick breath, he strode out into the living room. Heero looked up as he entered, then back at his hip where he was carefully spreading antiseptic ointment. Quatre sat across from him perched on the edge of the arm chair. He cleared his throat.

"Um, do you need any help?"

Heero shook his head once. "No." Done with the ointment, Heero reached for fresh gauze pads, gently pressing them against the 10-centimeter slice running along his hip bone.

"Who's Cecile?"

Heero scowled and didn't look up. "She's the Boss's right hand and knife and gun and sledge hammer and resident psychopath. You should stay away from her."

"Is she the one who did that to you?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Because Gael let her."

"Why?

"Because he knows she doesn't like me."

"Wh-"

"What are you, two?" Heero snapped, turning his angry gaze on a surprised Quatre. "I don't want to talk about her, I don't need your help with this cut, I have to work in a couple hours, and I'm hungry. Back off. Please." He added that as an afterthought.

Quatre's mouth dropped open. Then he shut it with a snap, indignation rising. People didn't snap at him. Heero had stood up and was trying not to limp over to his bedroom. "Hey!" Quatre called after him. "Don't snap at me." Heero turned back, eyes ablaze. "I'm sorry you suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of a girl. I can see why you'd be a little short about it, but if she's a big enough bad-ass to take you out, then I should know about it. Because like it or not, I'm with you now, and if she's someone I have to worry about, if she's going to try to do that to me, I'd like to know when and why. My safety is at stake here, too, and so is everyone else's -- not just your pride." Quatre paused to take a breath and see his flat mate's reaction to that little tirade.

Heero looked him over from head to toe, raking those dark eyes over every inch. Quatre didn't flinch away. Now was not the time for 'shy and unassuming.' "What do they want from you, Heero? Do they want it from all of us?"

He looked down at the carpet, fists clenching. He shook his head. "No. It's just me."

"Why do they want to hurt you?" he asked quietly.

Quatre watched that impossibly taught body wind up even tighter and then, after a deep breath, turn away and sag against the back of the couch. Without turning around, Heero began to speak, almost whispering his story.

"When Duo and I started working for the Boss five years ago, we were just street rats -- skinny kids with dirty faces, nobodies. We stole for him for almost four years. We were his eyes and ears among the other street gangs. He didn't feed us and he didn't give us a place to stay, but we had his name. And that was enough to protect us. He didn't care about Duo or me, probably didn't even remember our names, but we served our purpose. Then we got too old for the kid gangs, and he... he offered us a sort of promotion. We picked up the hustling gig, and that's when he really took notice. We were both 19, and the minute Gael, the Boss, heard Duo running his mouth, watched how he moved and how... well, I think he hates Duo. But me... I don't know what he sees. I mean if I were looking for someone, if I wanted someone, I wouldn't go for...me." Quatre thought he saw Heero flush. "But he does want me. He won't give up. He hasn't stopped since we started this job. Every month or so he finds me and drags me off to some rooftop, where he makes some pretense of asking about business or Duo or, most recently, you. But he always gets in my face and... makes these offers of power and money and sex, and he should know by now that I will never agree to be his. But he doesn't ever give up. And every time I say no to him, he gets pissed and has his muscle beat me up. But Cecile always draws first blood, because that's what ends the fight. My blood unfortunately, no one else's. I would fight her and kill her if I could. I would take on any of those bodyguards and win, but I can't. Because if I kill one of Gael's men, or his crazy girlfriend, he would hurt Duo or Trowa or..." Heero turned to look back over his shoulder. "...or maybe you. So, I can't risk it. So, every five to eight weeks, I come home with a knew cut. It makes Cecile happy, and I think Gael gets off on it, though he'd like me to think that he wants me for other reasons. The whole thing is totally fucked up and infuriating, and I hate talking about it."

"I can see why," Quatre said. "Does Duo know?"

"Of course he knows."

"What does he say?"

"We don't talk about it."

"Why not?"

Heero whirled around, anger returning to his voice. "Because we don't. It's humiliating enough without getting someone's sympathy. And now you know. If I have to see one more person giving me sad sympathetic eyes, I'll- I'll..."

"You need a way out, Heero."

The Japanese boy's eyebrows rose and for just the briefest second, Quatre thought Heero would lose it. His dark features held a moment of unadulterated despair, as if inside his own head he was screaming, 'I know! Fuck you, I know that!' Then, he shrugged and crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm not leaving Duo. If he's hustling, then that's what I'm doing."

"Then you both need a way out."

Heero looked Quatre right in the eye for several seconds. "What do you want? Do you want out?"

Quatre cocked his head thoughtfully, and then smiled. "I just got here."

Heero frowned. "You like..." He glanced around the room. "This? Meeting strangers in hotel rooms and alleys? Living with four people you don't know? You're a Winner. You had everything, you-"

"No. I didn't."

"You had your freedom and so many opportunities."

"My sisters sold me out to the fucking mob. I could have gone to the best schools, worked the family business and inherited millions. I could have bought as many friends as I wanted, but my family abandoned me. And now, I'm living with four people I don't know, but I can already tell that you have more of bond with each other than I've had with anyone in my whole life. So, no, I'm not sure I want out."

"But... you don't... actually like-"

"Sleeping with men? No, I don't." Quatre looked down and tried not to call up the memories of his first few jobs. While he'd tried to keep his cool, to not over react, he'd... well he'd responded in ways he was not proud of. He hadn't hurt anyone and he'd not been injured. But... he'd been shaken and struck with a biting need to be near those he trusted after it was over. And he didn't really trust his flat mates, so he'd been very surprised when Trowa had offered him help in the form of comfort and friendship. The silent Frenchman had sat him down for big meals and then taken him through the city on walks, never saying much, just making sure he wasn't alone. And Quatre was grateful. He didn't like the constant scrutiny, but his smile had been genuine and the feel of Trowa's long body beside his as they walked had been welcome. It wasn't much, but Quatre felt like it was a start.

"What do you think will happen to you?"

Quatre looked up quickly, shaking himself from his thoughts. Heero was looking at him, curiosity hiding in his tone. "What do you mean?"

"You don't think your sisters will come for you."

Quatre weighed his response carefully. "There was one who may have. Iria. We were close. I thought we were, anyway. But, no, I don't think any of them will risk coming to find me."

Heero took this in and nodded. "Trowa seems to think that you really miss them. But I think you're glad for the change, even if you are scared."

The blond boy shrugged. "Trowa seems to think a lot of things about me."

Silence hung heavily in the air and again Quatre squirmed under the feeling of being watched. Finally, he shrugged again and smiled. "I guess I don't know what will happen to me. I am a leaf on the wind."

Heero snorted and shook his head. "That may work for you and Duo, but I need a plan."

"I can see that."

"I can't do this forever. I don't think I can even do it for much longer."

"Not with Cecile carving you up ever few weeks."

"So, I need a plan. We need a plan."

"Okay."

"We either need to find a way to run without getting caught, or take him and his family down so they're no longer a threat to us."

"That doesn't sound too hard," Quatre said, his voice light and sarcastic.

Heero shot him a sideways glance but ignored his tone. He stood up carefully and began to pace. "I don't think we can ever move up enough in this family -- reach a high enough position to be out of danger. If we make it known that we want more power, we'll be competition and we'll be crushed discretely and quickly. Even you won't be safe," he said turning to Quatre. The blond boy gave a half shrug of understanding. "Even if we kill Gael and Cecile, it'll only prove that his leadership is fallible. We'll be the targets of the next coup. It has to be all or nothing. We run some place he can never find us -- and I don't think such a place exists -- or we make it so Gael is no longer a threat to us."

Quatre tapped his middle finger against his chin. "Sure; we'll send one of us in as a spy, earning his trust and simultaneously collecting as much dirt on the family as we can. Another one of us will see what he's got on his computers. We can hack them from here if we have the right equipment. Then when we've accumulated all this data... we can give it to some policemen he doesn't own and we'll be all set." He smirked up at Heero. "Should be a piece of cake."

His flat mate stared down at him, mouth hanging slightly open.

"Heero?"

A slow smile spread across his face until his dark features took on a whole new shape. Quatre realized two things then: that Heero was, in fact, a strikingly handsome man and that the look he was getting from his flat mate made him very nervous. Without warning, Heero let out a wild 'whoop!' and turned a perfect cartwheel in the middle of their living room. It may as well have been Duo standing there grinning.

"Quatre, you are a genius." Quatre's blue eyes went very wide. Then, clutching his bandaged hip, Heero disappeared into his bedroom, reappearing a moment later with a flier from a local electronics store. He leafed through it and then slammed it down on the coffee table. Quatre jumped then looked down at the open page.

"Build-your-own computer day!" Heero said excitedly. "It's in two weeks. Duo will be thrilled. We haven't had a good heist in years."

"You're going to steal a computer?"

"You got a few thou laying around, Winner?"

"Yes."

"That you can access from this building?"

"No."

"Well, then-"

"Heero, I was- I wasn't serious about this plan." But the elated expression on his flat mate's face told Quatre that he was wasting his words.

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