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


Note: Takes place about two years after the final chapter.


Through the Furnace, Unshrinking + Epilogue, Part 2

Epilogue 2. Trowa

They know my name 'cause I told it to them
But they don't know where and they don't know when
It's coming, oh when?
Is it coming?
Keep the car running
Keep the car running
Keep the car running

- "Keep the Car Running" Arcade Fire

Trowa carefully tucked in the top sheet, tugging it tight and flattening the creases as he went. He tossed three pillows to the head of the bead, then folded up the blankets and laid them at the foot. They probably wouldn't be needed in this heat, especially with three bodies sharing the same mattress. The spare room was small and stuffy and Trowa was already sweating. He glanced at the single bed in the corner and decided he should make that one up too. Their three friends had ended up needing it last summer after one of their infamous, floor-board rumbling fights. He didn't know which of them had been excommunicated to the spare bed - maybe they'd switched off for that week. Better to just have the bed ready this year to avoid having one of them stomp into his and Quatre's room in the middle of the night, in his underwear, asking for the spare set of sheets, like last year. He retrieved the sheets from the linen closet, turned the fan up to high and set to work. Heero, Duo and Wufei wouldn't be arriving until after dinner, so hopefully the room would be cooled off by then. As it was, everyone was having a hard time sleeping.

Honestly, Trowa had a hard time envisioning how their three friends could sleep together at all, let alone on steamy nights when the temperature didn't drop below 25 centigrade. They were all such strong personalities and there was never one of them that served as the anchor, the one that tied the other two down together. The way Trowa saw it, the three of them were bound together with equally strong and equally complex flexible knots. It made them essentially unbreakable, but also left them constantly tangled and wound up in each others' lives. He decided it was messy and troublesome but, at the same time, utterly necessary and probably fantastic enough for all three to feel that it was worth the stepped-on toes and invaded personal space.

Last summer, he and Quatre were fortunate enough to see their relationship in all it's permutations: Heero sleeping with his head in Duo's lap, both arms wrapped around Duo's middle; Duo and Wufei swimming down at the lake, stealing underwater kisses between attempts to dunk each other; Heero and Wufei lovingly trying to kick the shit out of each other in the field that Trowa had spent all morning baling. Then there were the times that he and Quatre came upon all three of them otherwise engaged in one of the cabins they were supposed to be cleaning out for the next round of guests. And Quatre, on more than one occasion, when in the downstairs den, had looked up at the ceiling and inquired about the structural integrity of both the floor in the spare room and the bed itself. This was an old farmhouse after all. Times like those, Trowa was glad that the old farmer was deaf and his son and daughter-in-law had good senses of humor.

Times like those, Trowa was also glad to be in love with one person and one person only. Every day that he woke up next to Quatre, he was grateful to only have one person to pour his heart into. He still woke up in the middle of the night, terrified that Quatre was gone for any number of reasons: he'd stayed in Europe with his family, they'd not caught his illness in time and liver cancer had taken him in weeks, that girl he'd gone after at the end, Olean, had stuck him with her sword, Gael's ghost had come in the night and absconded with him. No matter how absurd the reason, he woke up sweating, his limbs humming with adrenalin. He would roll over and just stare at Quatre until he felt normal again. If there were two people whom he loved as intensely, he didn't think his 25-year-old heart could take it.

He finished making the other bed and sat down with a heavy sigh. One hand automatically reached around to massage his lower back, working out the stiffness that sometimes gathered there when he bent over for any length of time. Despite the best efforts of the physical therapist back home, he still suffered the occasional twinge that brought him up short and drained his face of all color. They served to remind him of everything he and his friends had been through. If he looked at it that way and then took whatever opportunity he had to grab hold of Quatre and kiss him until he laughed, then the twinges didn't bother him much at all.

+

He found Quatre in the side yard stacking wood from a tree that had come down in a storm the week before. He watched his lover's back and shoulders bend and twist as he lifted the logs and then placed them carefully in interlocking rows. In the past year he'd regained most of the sleek, long muscle he'd lost while undergoing treatment for his illness. Trowa thought he now looked healthy and strong. He worked slowly and deliberately, pausing only to wipe his forehead and upper lip with a lightly tanned forearm.

Quatre kept the hair out of his eyes with a large red baseball cap that all of his friends agreed looked ridiculous on the former Winner heir. He'd bought it at the dollar store when they first arrived to work for the Bresees, claiming that it made him look less like a city kid. He still refused to wear anything else when he worked outside. Last summer Duo had stolen it and written "Winner's Trucking: We're Relentless and Stub" across the front in permanent magic marker. Quatre had snatched it back before he could finish "Stubborn." He proved Duo right every time he wore the stupid thing, especially when they went into town for cabin supplies and he watched people reading the front of his hat and stumbling on "Stub."

When Trowa worked, he pulled his long bangs up into a spiky ponytail on top of his head. He did it partly in response to Quatre's red hat, but mostly because it also kept his hair out of his face. He wasn't ready to cut it yet. He strode over to where Quatre worked, pulling his hair up as he went, tapping his shoe against Quatre's in silent greeting. He bent to help with the work, but before he could, Quatre bumped him with his hip, jostling him away from the wood pile. They both straightened and Quatre took off his hat to rub his arm over sweat-darkened hair. He looked up at Trowa and grinned.

"It's the desert shrub," he said, reaching up to ruffle Trowa's spiky hair.

He jerked his head away and swatted at Quatre's hand. "It's Relentless and Stub," he countered with a smirk.

Quatre laughed and settled the cap over his hair again. His hands were large and clumsy in yard-work gloves and he tossed them on the ground before resting his hands along Trowa's spine, fingers gently massaging lower back muscles, skittering over the puckered scar under his t-shirt. "How's your back?" he asked. "You're standing like it hurts today."

"It's fine," Trowa said, voice smooth. "I need to strengthen the muscles for the summer and fall. I got lazy this year." Quatre looked worried, and Trowa didn't want him to be, so he glanced around to make sure that the old farmer wasn't sitting out in the front garden and leaned down and to the side to kiss Quatre underneath the brim of his hat. His lips were a little salty but his mouth tasted like the sour cherries that had just come in.

"How are you feeling today?" Trowa finally asked when they drew apart.

Quatre took a deep breath, eyes closed, measuring how it felt to breathe, looking inward to his other functions. He opened his eyes and, even after all his months of good health, he still looked surprised and relieved. "I feel good - normal."

"Good."

The first few months they were here, on this side of the ocean - two years ago, at the end of this summer - had been terrifying for them both. They were on their own in the big city, with no friends and very little money. The Winners had set them up with a doctor for Quatre to continue his weekly treatments, and the others had told them about the restaurant they'd all worked at for the few months they were in Toronto. They were already out in Ottawa without a car or enough money to come down to Toronto to see them. Trowa worked as much as he could at the restaurant and thought about asking Quatre to send for money from his family. Trowa figured the Winner's owed them. But Quatre wouldn't do it. This was their life, he said. They would do it themselves, without handouts from his family. The Winners were already taking care of his treatment, anyway.

But Quatre was unable to work. The side-effects of the drugs were many and, in his small body, severe. After only a month, Trowa gave up the restaurant job to be home with Quatre. His lover was restless during the day, especially right after treatments, racked with headaches, chills and fever. Fatigue and depression also plagued him, though not as often after his doctor reduced the dosage. He slept like the dead at night, pale and exhausted in their bed. That was when Trowa made the rent and food money. He didn't like leaving Quatre alone, but if he worked quickly at the odd jobs he found, he was always back before the sky began to lighten. He didn't give Quatre the details of his jobs - he didn't like to think of them himself - but he suspected that Quatre knew, given the hours they'd both kept in their previous occupations. Toronto was a different sort of city than the one they'd lived in. But some things remained the same - dark, secret, and quick. Trowa still spoke that language fluently, if not naturally.

That winter had been long and hard and cold, and Trowa wondered often why they hadn't opted to live somewhere warmer when they'd followed their friends across the ocean. But then the cold let up and with it came the end of Quatre's 24 week treatment. The doctors told him that his viral load was down below perceptible levels, which meant that he was essentially cured and his liver was out of immediate danger. The long delay between when they'd discovered his illness and when he'd finally started treatment had been just long enough for the disease to slip from acute to chronic. But the doctors had been aggressive - Quatre had insisted upon it - and it looked like the months of near-crippling side-effects paid off when his lover was able to join them all the next summer in their work on the Bresee's farm and lake-front camp. While the four of them did all the manual labor, Quatre stayed on the riding mower and avoided all serious scrubbing and heavy lifting. He brought them their lunch down by the water, much to Wufei's amusement. He called Quatre the wife only once before Trowa and Duo picked him up and hurled him off the dock. He emerged dripping wet, pulling weeds out of his shorts, tail between his legs. It was one of the few times they heard Heero laughing, though he apologized later, feeling that it was inappropriate.

"I can't wait for them to get here!" Quatre blurted, jerking Trowa out of his daze. He raised his arm to shade his eyes from the hot sun and nodded. Quatre had returned to his stacking with renewed vigor. "I'm serious, Trowa. I don't think I've been this excited since..."

"Since last summer?"

"Yes!" He paused, hands resting on the growing stack of wood. "Well, no, actually. I was excited to see them then, but I was afraid of what they'd think of me. I was so skinny and sick looking." He shook his head to clear the memories. "But this year, this year is going to be great! And they're going to be so surprised when they see what my family sent over. I can't wait to see their faces!"

"Are you sure they're going to want them back?" Trowa asked.

Quatre nodded, still looking like an excited adolescent. "I thought about that for awhile, right after I received them. I thought maybe they wouldn't want to be reminded. But - I was so glad to get mine back. By the end, in those last few days, they were a part of us; they saved out lives." He fell silent for a moment. Trowa stacked wood beside him, curious whether he'd say more on the subject. They hadn't spoken much about it when the package was first delivered. "Did you get their room ready and everything?" he asked instead.

"Yes. I made the extra bed too, in preparation."

"Good idea. Remember when Duo stormed into our room last year, demanding a spare set of sheets so that-"

"Yes, I remember."

"I found it interesting that, even though they fought louder and more cruelly than anyone I've known, the furthest any of them went from the other two was the spare bed... right across from the big bed."

Trowa thought about trying to explain his theory of tangled, flexible knots, but let it go. "We'll probably get a repeat performance this year."

"Good thing Mr. Bresee is nearly deaf."

"I find myself thinking that regularly."

Quatre laughed.

+

They arrived just after dark, pulling into the driveway as Quatre came out onto the porch to greet them. Duo was out of the car first, leaping over the hood with his characteristic exuberance. Heero and Wufei came next, at a more sedate pace, stretching stiff muscles. Trowa came out of the barn a moment later, dragging several rickety lawn chairs behind him.

"Q!" Duo shouted, dispensing with the formality of porch steps and climbing right over the railing into Quatre's arms. "You look amazing, buddy, even in the dark!" They embraced and kissed like friends who'd been apart for years rather than months. Quatre laughed and lifted Duo up, spinning him around until his legs caught in a piece of wicker furniture and they both went careening into the side of the house.

Heero approached Trowa with arms outstretched to take a few of the lawn chairs, and Trowa handed them off with a murmur of thanks. In the dark it was difficult to see, but Heero looked like he was grinning. Wufei definitely was as he climbed the porch steps to pry his lover out of Quatre's grip, only to shove him out of the way so he could greet Quatre properly.

They left the luggage in the car, though Trowa knew it was a mistake to do so. Now that it was dark, the mosquitoes would be out in force. Whoever was unlucky enough to have to venture out to the car later would come back red and bumpy and traumatized. Apparently, their friends did not remember the bugs from last year. They sat now on the screened-in porch, filling each other in on the details of the last six months. At the moment Wufei was recounting his harrowing escape from a disgruntled poodle on one of his deliveries. The dog had not liked him the moment she laid eyes on him and she'd chased him off the porch and down the sidewalk, right out into the street. He'd barely made it back onto his bicycle before she was trying to sink her teeth into his calf muscle.

"A poodle, Wufei?" Trowa murmured, his usual monotone perfectly conveying his skepticism.

Wufei sniffed. "It was a standard poodle and those are full-size dogs. I read somewhere that they used to take them into battle. They wore armor and made fierce warriors. And I'm telling you, it tried to take my leg off."

"Did it have pompoms on it's ass?" Trowa returned.

Wufei glowered at him. "I'm not answering that."

Quatre glanced between the two of them, his grin wide, face lit up by the citronella candles on the table. Trowa smiled to himself, glad to see his lover so happy.

"Wufei insists he's got the most dangerous job of the three of us," Duo said with a glint in his eye. "But he's got nothin' on me. At the shop, I have to deal with knitters." He shuddered and so did Heero. "These ladies come in with their crazy cable-knit socks all kinds of fucked up and they expect me to work miracles. I try to tell'em my area of expertise is on the other side of the store and if they have a question regarding brush size or lead hardness, I can write a freakin' essay for'em, but I wouldn't know a purl stitch from a square knot. And they never believe me!"

Heero nodded, corroborating his story. "I went into the store one weekend to see Duo and they had him backed into a corner. They were waving needles in his face and shouting. I almost called the police."

Wufei snorted. "That's interesting because when I had to make a delivery on that block, I stopped in and he had a gaggle of girls braiding his hair with ribbons." Quatre nearly shot seltzer through his nose. "He appeared to be enjoying himself thoroughly." Duo crossed his arms over his chest and scowled.

"If I'd said no to them, they would have gotten out their knitting. I sold record yardage of ribbon that day. It got a me a raise as I recall." Wufei rolled his eyes.

The conversation continued in that manner long into the night. Trowa did not contribute any stories, but that didn't keep him from interjecting his comments. He listened and laughed and spoke rarely and wondered at the mundane details of their new lives. He was happy that Duo found his freshman-level art classes to be a little boring, and that the 18-year-olds running around campus seemed so young and ridiculously clueless to him. He was glad that Wufei rode his bicycle around the city delivering parcels and letters, and that he didn't find his literature classes so demanding that he couldn't find time to stop in to see Duo at the store. He was glad that Heero didn't need to make full use of his considerable computer networking skills at his job and that his employers didn't know he could write viruses that would wipe them off the map in a matter of minutes. He was infinitely grateful that he and Quatre had found the old Bresee farm in need of two kids with good backs and no particular objection to looking after an arthritic, near-deaf patriarch.

For the first year and especially during the first few months, he'd felt their new lives were barely real and in no way certain. He felt violence, ugliness, fear and disgust clawing at his back, threatening to latch onto him and drag him backwards if he only glanced over his shoulder long enough to acknowledge that they were there. Those feelings would take years to disappear completely, and their memory would probably always be with him.

Especially because Quatre didn't want to forget. Maybe it was because he was the only one with family that he kept in touch with. Maybe it was because his family still made cautious advances to keep the former heir involved in the politics of the city the five of them had left behind.

During a lull in the conversation his lover had disappeared into the house and he returned now lugging a familiar case. The others regarded it with a mix of curiosity and healthy suspicion. When a woman with pale skin and white-blond hair had showed up on their porch a few weeks ago, that case in hand, Trowa had known instantly that she was a Winner and since Quatre was in town with the old farmer, getting him a haircut, he'd tried to turn her away without even a word of greeting. He had less than no interest in what she wanted from them and he certainly didn't want whatever was in the case. The woman had just smiled and said that the contents of the case were not for him; they were for Quatre, and she wasn't leaving until she saw her little brother, so he could either invite her in or sit on the porch with her in the rain.

They sat on the porch and he smoked several of the farmer's cigarettes because he needed something to do with his hands and his mouth that didn't include strangling her and shouting in her face to get away from them and never come back across the ocean again.

Fortunately, Quatre returned after twenty minutes. Trowa was sick from all the cigarettes by then. Unfortunately, Quatre kept the case.

Duo whistled softly and held the sheathed blade flat across his open palms. "Never thought I'd see this again," he murmured.

"Me neither," Heero said from beside him, loosely gripping the familiar handle of his serrated knife.

Wufei drew his katana from the sheath and examined the blade for only a second before sliding it back and setting it at his feet. He stared at it for a moment, and then raised his eyes. "It's still bloody," he said, voice flat. "If that's whose blood I think it is, why do you have my sword and why are you giving it to me? That's police evidence."

His two lovers quickly dropped their own weapons and Duo wiped his hands on his shorts. They turned, eyes narrowed to Quatre, but the former heir didn't recoil under their stern gaze. He lifted his chin and puffed up his small chest, and Trowa marveled at how someone so small still managed to be the biggest presence in a room.

"It was police evidence. It was proof that the four of us where involved in the deaths of twelve people. The Winner lawyers took care of me. Self defense isn't murder. But you all left. You ran before they could help you."

"We didn't want their help," Wufei snapped.

"Yeah, Q, we talked about this," Duo said, laying a restraining hand on Wufei's arm. Wufei jerked his arm away and Duo didn't try to touch him again. "We all decided that we should run. It was too dangerous for the three of us to stay there."

"Why give these to us, Quatre?" Heero asked, voice hard, suspicious blue eyes already searching the dark beyond the dim light of the candle. That powerful body disguised in t-shirt and shorts quietly revealed itself as the weapon it had once needed to be when he reached one arm up to grip the side of Duo's chair.

Trowa tensed and then twitched his hair out of his face to regard his friends with both eyes. "Let him finish." He looked specifically at Heero and tried to keep his voice nonthreatening. "And calm down." Heero flinched and the cheap aluminum lawn chair under his fingers squeaked in protest. Trowa turned to Quatre and nodded for him to continue.

Quatre licked his lips and closed the case. "My family... we were- they were looking to expand. And a few of my sisters who hold office in the city wanted to clean things up a bit. Getting rid of Gael was one of the best ways to do both of those things. In the time you've been away and without really letting me in on any of it, they've filled his shoes and beyond." He looked up when the others all shifted uncomfortably in their seats. "Things have gotten better apparently. Everything that Gael did, all his business ventures, they brought them out into the open and made them legitimate." Duo barked a humorless laugh and looked away. "And- and anyway, if it weren't for us, if we hadn't ended up there and-"

"Incited a fucking massacre?" Duo snapped.

"Yes," Quatre replied softly. "If we hadn't done all the leg work, they would have had no way to do what they've been able to since he's been gone."

"So it was all part of some elaborate plan to avoid getting their hands dirty?"

"No, of course not," Quatre said meeting Duo's gaze, eyes sparking. "We did all of that ourselves. Wufei and I killed Gael ourselves because he was going to kill us if we didn't. It was us or him. But the Winners have always - well, we don't pass up opportunities like that, they fixed things for us. We're practically heroes there now." He looked down at the case again. "When this was delivered, I was told that it's different back home, not as volatile as it used to be. We could go back and it would be safe for us. If you wanted to, we could go home."

Even though they'd made him ill, Trowa thought about reaching for the pack of cigarettes that always sat by the farmer's chair. Quatre had not told him about this part of his conversation with his sister. Their three friends looked like they were about to bolt. Heero picked up his beer and took several large swallows. Last summer they hadn't had any alcohol in the house out of respect for Quatre. This year, he'd said that he really didn't mind, and it looked like their friends were glad as, after Heero, both Duo and Wufei took long pulls off their drinks. Heero set down his bottle and then picked up the knife. "So, these aren't police evidence anymore?" He looked up at Quatre, and the young man shook his head, no.

"And we're not wanted criminals?" Wufei asked skeptically. Again Quatre shook his head.

"As far as the city's concerned we did everyone a great service by getting rid of him."

"And we can go back?" Duo didn't look at them as he said this.

"We could go back and we would be put in good positions throughout the city. We'd have influence. Power, even."

Trowa watched them absorb this, left hand reaching for the cigarettes.

"What kind of positions?" Wufei asked, eyes still narrowed, clearly suspicious.

Quatre shrugged. "Well, there are obviously Gael's moneymaking enterprises that need leaders with heads for business. But there's also organizational positions, coordinating programs and meetings between families, outreach to other cities, and the like. Or... if you wanted, more specialized positions could be arranged. My family would love to hire you to take care of their security, Heero. And Wufei, the city school district has been in need of an overhaul for years. When you finish your degree, the district would surely pay for your graduate studies while you worked for them. My family has been in touch with the board; they could really use some fresh ideas in the English Department. And Duo, you were always more comfortable with these things than any of the rest of us were." The young man in question stiffened. "There's an entire legion of nighttime workers who are in real need of representation and leadership. You could-"

Trowa's fingers closed around the cigarettes and accidentally crushed them. "Absolutely not," he said, just barely managing to conceal his panic. His voice was no louder than normal, but everyone heard him and everyone turned to hear what he had to say. He took a slow deep breath and put the ruined pack of smokes back on the table. He looked to Quatre whose face was aglow with the possibilities that awaited them. Trowa could only hear Duo screaming when Cecile pulled on his injured shoulder, his voice echoing raw and broken. He could only hear gunshots striking muscle and lodging in bone, his own muscle and bone. He could only see his lover's torn mouth, his small frame wrapped in blankets on their couch, a virus in his blood, already attacking his liver. Time rewound further and he saw Wufei returning from his first job, sick and disgusted with himself. He spent the entire night in the bathroom. He saw Duo's easy sensuality and his easy smile rendering his hurt nearly invisible. Duo could bend into any shape necessary and like Trowa he was a master of stealth, disappearing when in plain sight of a dozen people, but he couldn't hide his hurt from everyone. Trowa had always known how to find it. He couldn't hide it from him four years ago and he couldn't hide it now. So Trowa cleared his head of all the shit and spoke his mind, stepping between Quatre and what he was about to say to Duo.

"Quatre," he murmured. "I love you and I will stand with you no matter what you do in life. And even though your heart is in the right place and you're doing what you think is best for us all, I swear to god, if you ever try to convince our friends to go back to that place, if you try to convince yourself that you want to go back there, I will drag you upstairs, tie you to the bed, and keep you there until you come to your senses."

For the next several seconds, the wind in the big maple tree was the only sound. The weather was changing, and Trowa could feel a storm rumbling closer. Quatre looked at him, deflated and unsure of himself. He looked down and thick blond bangs hid his eyes. Trowa thought that maybe he'd been a little harsh. Then Wufei cleared his throat and took another swallow of his drink.

"All things considered, that doesn't sound much like punishment to me."

Duo's grin was a little forced, but Trowa could see that he was also relieved, leaping up and grabbing both his lovers by the elbows. "Yeah, speaking of beds and tying people to them, isn't it time we head to ours? I'm bushed."

Before they crowded off the porch and into the house, they all grabbed the blades that the Winners had returned to them and Trowa had to admit that deadly weapons did look natural in their hands, even though Duo now sold knitting accessories and drew portraits, Wufei delivered packages and read books and Heero tinkered with computers for a living. As he passed, Duo let go of Wufei's arm and ghosted his fingers though Quatre's hair. "Let's talk about this in the morning, okay?" Quatre nodded without looking up. Trowa reached over to take his hand where it rested in his lap.

+

As the lightening got closer and the storm began to assert that it was indeed headed straight for them, Trowa rose from his and Quatre's bed and went to the window. The wind was picking up, rattling the old window frame. He bent down, nearly pressing his nose to the screen, and inhaled deeply, catching the thick scent of rain and cooler weather just behind it. The first drops of rain began to fall, and he turned back to the bed to pull on a pair of jeans. He glanced up when Quatre rolled over and shoved himself into a half-sitting position, blinking blearily. He rubbed the heel of his hand through one eye and spoke softly, voice thick with sleep.

"What're you doing?"

He straightened, jerking the jeans up over his hips and zipping the fly. "Covering the woodpile," he murmured. "We forgot to do it before dinner."

Quatre groaned and fell back onto the bed.

"It will only take a moment. I'll be right back. Don't want the old man complaining about wet wood in the morning."

His lover made another unintelligible remark and then rolled off the bed, landing on hands and knees and then climbing to his feet. "S'okay," he muttered. "I'll come with you." Lightening flashed outside, bathing their room in a momentary blue-white glow. Quatre blinked in the bright light and then braced for the thunder that followed. Storms made Quatre nervous. Their wild, destructive energy made him twitchy and reminded Trowa of the boy who'd done his best to fit in with a pack of hustlers and had ended up a killer.

"Let's hurry," Quatre muttered, as he pulled on a pair of cutoffs.

They stepped out onto the porch just as the sporadic fat drops of rain began to fall faster. Then they jogged down the steps and along the driveway into the side yard where the wood was stacked by one of the outbuildings. Trowa waited outside while Quatre ran into the shed to fetch the tarp. Briefly, light shown through the boards when Quatre turned on the flashlight and rooted around amongst the old push-mowers and garden hoses. Trowa stood in the rain and watched the lightening illuminate towering cumulonimbus clouds as they sluggishly passed overhead. Thunder assaulted his ears and rumbled in his ribcage. He liked storms. They made him feel small and inconsequential. As he stared upward, a small light from the house caught his eye and he glanced sidelong at its source, finding that the spare bedroom lamp was on. Before he could step back to get a better view, Quatre emerged with the tarp and together they stretched it over the pile, tucking in the edges and laying a few pieces of wood on top to keep it from blowing off. They completed this task in silence. They'd gone to bed in silence as well. They hadn't spoken at length since Trowa had threatened to imprison him in their bedroom.

The rain started in earnest and the lightening had Quatre jittery, so when they finished securing the tarp, they headed back for the house. Trowa's eyes returned to the illuminated window one more time and he stopped short, grabbing hold of Quatre's arm. "Look," he murmured, pointing up at the window.

Wind and rain pounded against their backs as they gazed up into the spare room. They watched without embarrassment or shame; sex had been their livelihood for long enough that witnessing their friends in a compromising position was not something they flinched away from. And besides, the exact details of their friends' actions were hidden by the window frame. But going by the rhythm of their movements and the order in which they were arranged on the bed, Trowa could make a very educated guess as to what was happening. A glance to his left showed Quatre offering the window a tentative but affectionate smile.

Above them, more or less perfectly framed, they could see Heero on his knees, bracing himself against the wall with one hand, his other resting on the bed. His head hung between his shoulders, thick dark hair swinging gently with the rhythm of Wufei's movements behind him. Trowa couldn't see his expression but the muscles in his back stood out in stark relief. His hand was clenched in a fist against the wall. Wufei's hands were not visible, one most likely gripping Heero's hip below the windowsill, the other behind him, wrapped around the back of Duo's neck, hidden by his braid. Duo had the dragon's hair fisted in one hand, the other resting flat against his belly. Their movements were slow and fluid and it was obvious to Trowa that they'd had lots and lots of practice. Trowa knew sex and he knew men's bodies and he knew that no one could move like that unless they'd committed countless hours to understanding and exploring their partners' bodies. He admired the languid forward and back motion, the way leg muscles flexed and pushed.

Duo was speaking into Wufei's ear, his lips barely moving, their rhythm never faltering. Wufei's eyes slid closed and his mouth fell open in a gasp, head tipping back, Duo's fingers tightening in his hair. Heero looked back over his shoulder and said something that led Wufei to lean forward, his other hand falling to Heero's hips. Trowa swallowed hard when the dragon traced the bumps of Heero's spine with his tongue, pulling at light brown skin with his teeth.

Quatre's hand found its way around his waist, resting on the fly of his jeans. He hadn't bothered to do up the last button. "They're good at that," he whispered, echoing Trowa's thoughts. "They must practice a lot." Quatre slid behind him, wrapping his arms more securely around his middle. Trowa felt his head come to rest between his shoulder blades. Thunder crackled and then boomed around them and Quatre's arms tightened.

"I think they do."

He felt hair wet with rainwater tease the back of his neck. "Am I a horrible person for thinking that maybe we could have gone back?"

"No."

"Do you think I hurt them? I didn't mean to."

"I think you scared them. I know you scared me."

His lover's arms tightened again, a quick hard squeeze. "I'm sorry, Trowa. I didn't think... I wasn't sure how to deal with the idea myself."

"None of us are sure, mon petite."

A gust of wind swept against their backs, pushing them forward a half-step. Quatre kept them moving, shuffling Trowa back to the house. He pulled his arms from around Trowa's waist and stuck them in the pockets of his cutoffs. "We have these new lives and these things we do to fill our time, but I can't help thinking that... we're not normal. What we did before makes us different, and I don't know how long we can try to be normal here."

They both glanced up before they came under the porch roof. Their friends' lovemaking was growing more urgent and Trowa's heart thrummed in answer. He wasn't sure whether it was the storm, the sight of them, or Quatre's words that made his body feel charged and dangerous, but he felt like the slightest stimulus would shatter the calm he'd been working these last two years to achieve. He watched Wufei's right hand slide around the front of Heero's body, still out of sight. Heero's arms nearly gave out, his back arching up, eyes flying open.

Trowa shuddered and then almost shouted his surprise when Quatre pushed him up the porch steps and right into the side of the house. He couldn't make out his lover's features in the dark, but then lightening flashed close by and the young man's pale face leaped into harsh relief. The weak, sick, child was gone, had been gone for almost a year now. He didn't need Trowa to care for him anymore. Trowa saw the dangerous boy from their old home and he felt their new lives teetering on that slim edge between safety and free fall. Their three friends had those flexible complex knots, a solid, if not entirely stable base. Trowa had only this boy, who was by turns tender and caring and terrifying.

"I haven't had you from behind in a long time." Quatre's lips ghosted along his jaw when he spoke.

Trowa's mouth twitched up into a small smile. Maybe he'd missed this Quatre just a little.

"Are you saying we need practice?"

"We can always use practice. It will never be old, never routine."

"How do you know?"

"We're different - strange. It will always be like this for us. We are destined for greatness."

(end)

[epilogue 1] [back to Singles a-k]