Author: Honor A. De'Mandoren
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Matchmaker + Part Four
Other People

Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it.
Lily Tomlin

+

I woke up to a degree when the alarm went off. Trowa gave me a soft kiss and a whispered thank you before he disappeared. I didn't even consider wondering about that until an hour later, when I truly woke up. I was prepared to be all excited about having him in my bed when I realized I was in pajamas.

Rats.

That meant I hadn't gotten any.

Hmph. Getting out of bed, I staggered through the morning routine of shower, hot tea, toast for breakfast, and getting dressed for the day. Amee, as usual, was ready before me, but then she has an unfair advantage. She's a morning person. I was just grateful that Trowa had been up and gone before she got up -- otherwise I would have had a ton of questions to answer.

By eight, Amee was at school and I was in my office, ostensibly doing paperwork while part of my mind was plotting a way to drop by and check on Trowa. Maybe get him into the back of his suburban again for another hot make-out session.

*knock, knock*

"Come in!" I called, trying to look busy and professional.

"Mr. Winner, I think you should see this."

Whenever Charlene says that, I know I'm in trouble. Cautiously I accepted the newspaper she was offering me and flipped it open to the front page.

I simply could not believe what I was seeing.

Taking up a good half of the page was a picture of me on the couch, Trowa half-draped over me. I recognized it instantly -- it was a snap shot of last night. How the hell had this been taken?!

"Charlene, get Heero up here. Now."

"Yes sir." She scurried out of the office, being wise enough to get out of the blasting radius before my temper blew.

Shit! If my relationship with Trowa had hit the tabloids, then it was a matter of time before my grandmother was aware of this. She usually gets out of bed at 8:30, which meant I had about twenty minutes to get ahold of Trowa and warn him about what was going on. Snatching up the phone I dialed in his cell.

<<This is Dr. Barton. Leave a message.>>

Dammit, this was not the time for voicemail! "Trowa, its Quatre. We have something of a problem."

Someone knocked on the door, then Heero popped his head in. I waved him forward, still speaking.

"Someone has a picture of us plastered in the tabloids. My grandmother is going to descend on us like an avenging angel. Call me back." Hanging up the phone with a little more force than necessary I looked up at my head of security. "How long would it take you to put a security system into my townhouse?"

Heero arched an eyebrow. "Not long. Two days to get it tweaked to perfection. Dare I ask what's made you change your mind?"

"Some damn reporter is taking pictures through my windows," I bit off. "Public exposure is one thing, invading my privacy at home is another. I want top of the line."

Heero was damn near gloating. He had wanted to install a system in my house for four years, but I hadn't wanted to deal with it. He's been with me for five years running building security so I knew how good he was. I could trust him to do the job. "I'll get right on it."

"Thank you. Have Charlene give you one of the credit cards, then send her into me."

"Certainly. I hope he's worth it."

I looked up sharply, then exhaled a little. Heero was more than an employee -- he was something like a friend as well. "He is. Dare I ask how you knew?"

"Charlene warned me," he admitted easily. "What are you going to tell your grandmother?"

"The truth."

"Should I have paramedics standing by?"

I smiled bleakly at his black humor. "That might not be a bad idea."

"And the newspaper? What will you do about them?"

My face stretched into a feral grin.

+

After calling Trowa ten times in fifteen minutes, I gave up and just drove to the clinic. The receptionist looked up as I came in, did a double take, took a covert look at the newspaper next to her, then pinned a professional smile to her face. "Are you here to see Dr. Barton?"

Behind my polite smile my teeth were clenched. "Yes, please."

"One moment."

I waited patiently while Trowa was being paged, glancing around the waiting room. I saw at least two copies of that damn paper, and quite a few mothers were looking at it discreetly, and me not so discreetly. I have no doubt that steam was coming out of my ears.

"Quatre?"

Spinning back around, I grabbed his arm and stepped in close. "We need to talk. Privately. NOW."

"Um." He looked a little bewildered. "Okay. This way."

I snatched up the receptionist's paper as he towed me down the hall and into an empty room, closing the door behind us. "What is this about?"

A picture was worth a thousand words. I flipped open the paper and handed it to him.

His eyes went wide... then he flushed... then he looked ready to kill. "How the hell did they get a picture of us?"

"I have no idea, but it won't happen again. I'm stopping them today."

"I didn't even realize you were in the public eye," he muttered.

"I'm not usually." It took a lot of willpower to sound calm. After all, I wasn't mad at Trowa. "Every three months or so they suddenly remember that I exist again. Honestly, I hadn't expected anything like this." Taking a deep breath I went out on a limb. "Precisely ten minutes ago, if my grandmother is on schedule, she woke up and went down to breakfast. I have no doubt that she is looking at a copy of that paper in absolute shock as we speak. When she calls... I want to be able to tell her about you. About us."

Trowa finally let the paper fall to his side, and lifted a hand to cradle my cheek. "You're worried about me?"

"I don't want to push you into anything -- " I assured him desperately " -- and if you're not comfortable with that, I understand."

He hushed me with a soft kiss. "I knew what I was getting into, remember? The timetable just got pushed up a bit. Tell her. I don't mind."

What did I do to get this wonderful man? I wrapped both arms around him and just soaked him in, his warmth, his scent, the feel of him. "You're too good to be true."

He snorted, but hugged me back hard.

After a long, reluctant moment, I pulled back a little. "I need to let you go back to work. Don't worry about this, I'll handle it, okay?"

"Tabloids are outside of my experience," Trowa answered dryly. "I trust you to deal with them. What about your grandmother?"

"Um... there's a slim possibility that she'll calm down enough later today to want to meet you. I'll let you know what happens."

"Okay."

After a firm kiss I made myself turn away and walk out of the clinic. I was still boiling mad, but I was more in control now. Kissing Trowa puts a lot of things in perspective, I've discovered. My cell rang as I climbed into the car. I flipped it open. "Hello?"

<<Quatre. We need to talk.>>

I winced at the cold steel in her voice. "I thought as much. I'll be over in a half an hour or so."

<<Now.>>

"It will take me fifteen minutes to get there," I pointed out neutrally.

<<Fine>>

*click!*

Oh boy. This ought to be interesting. As I started the engine I called Charlene. "Charlene? Get hold of Zechs for me. I want him to buy Exclusive. Yes, the whole business. This is the last time that my picture is plastered across the nation."

One thing down. Now to things that I couldn't handle.

+

I was shown directly to the formal sitting room when I entered my grandmother's house. Vivian Winner was not only awake and dressed, but every hair was in place and she was wearing full make-up. This from a woman that usually doesn't function until ten thirty. Not a good sign. I didn't offer a greeting. In her mood, she might take my head off.

She tossed the newspaper on the coffee table, where it skidded a few inches before stopping. "That will take some very tall explaining."

Show-time. I looked back at her calmly. "There is no explaining. He's my lover."

A tic started at the corner of her mouth. "Lover." After a moment she drew in a deep breath. "His name?"

"Dr. Trowa Barton."

"A doctor. Well, at least you have some taste. Am I to believe that you are bi, then?"

"Gay," I corrected gently.

"I see." Her eyes were icy. "And how long have you known?"

"Ten years."

She looked like she had just been hit with a bus load of surprise. "Ten years?! And you didn't say a word to me?!"

"You didn't want to hear it. I knew precisely how you would react when you found out -- and I didn't want to deal with it. I didn't plan on telling you until I found someone that I loved."

"And did you consider Amee while you were doing all of this planning and scheming?"

Hot anger rushed through me like a dull roar, but I fought it back. I needed all my wits about me. "Don't you dare bring her into this. Yes, I considered Amee. I always consider Amee. She likes Trowa -- he's good with her."

"It doesn't matter if he is or not. She won't be living with you any longer."

Screw being reasonable. She wasn't taking my sister away from me. "Oh no you don't, madam. I am the CEO of Winner Inc. You have no power over it, or the family fortune. If you dare to pull me into court, fighting over her, then I will pull every ounce of power that is at my disposal."

She didn't like it, but she knew I was right.

"Leave Amee out of this," I reiterated quietly. "It's me you're angry with."

"Yes, I am angry with you! It's wrong to... to involve yourself with another man like this. Who taught you such a thing was acceptable?"

"No one. But you can't change the way I feel or think. It would be like me trying to teach you to like other women. I've never felt that kind of attraction to the feminine gender, and I never will. Even if I hadn't met Trowa, that would be true."

She took in a deep breath, no doubt to help her reign in her temper. "I want you to drop him. There's a ton of eligible young women out there. You will choose one, court her, then propose. An engagement to a woman of good standing will erase your indiscretion."

"You have two choices," I growled. "You can accept me the way I am, and the fact that I love Trowa and will not be separated from him, or you can remove yourself completely from my life. It's up to you, grandmother. But either way, I will have Trowa. And Amee." Without waiting for a response, I turned on my heel and walked out.

Arguing with her wouldn't do an ounce of good. It was time to go back to things that I could handle. And one of those things would be Amee.

I went directly to her school and checked her out early. She knew immediately that something was up, and was smart enough to stay quiet until we were in the car. Timidly she ventured, "Is something wrong?"

I must look really scary right now if Amee is intimated. "Sorry, sweetheart. I'm not angry with you, alright?"

"... okay. But you are angry."

"Oh yes. A reporter managed to get a picture of me and Trowa together and it's now plastered on the front page."

Amee winced. "Were you two kissing?"

"No. Cuddling."

She mulled that over for a minute. "That's still not good."

"No, it's not. I just had it out with grandma."

Amee quickly ran her eyes over me, no doubt looking for wounds. "How did she take it?"

"She didn't 'take it' at all. She told me to drop Trowa, and then get engaged to some suitable woman."

Amee huffed indignantly. "That's not right!"

"No, it's not. And I'm not going to do it. Amee... you should know two things. I told her that she could accept me and Trowa or leave me alone entirely. She just might cut us off completely."

Amee shook her head. "I don't care about that, grandma drives me crazy. What's the other thing?"

"She wants to take you away from me. I think she's afraid that I might pervert your way of thinking."

Something flashed through her eyes. "Can she do that?"

"No. She doesn't have the right, she gave me legal guardianship over you when you were eight months old. She'd have to go to court to do it, and if it comes to a battle in court I would win hands down and running, and she knows it. You're not going anywhere. But she might try and talk you into it."

"I want to stay with you."

"Just a warning," I reassured her. "Right now, I have Heero installing a security system in the house. You know that house better than anyone else, and you've got time right now. I want to drop you off there and learn how the system works, okay? You can teach me later."

"Okay. Are you sure Heero won't mind?"

Amee doesn't really know Heero that well, although they have met a few times over the years. She confessed to me at one point that he was better looking than the prince on Sleeping Beauty. I rather agreed with her. "No, he won't mind. Ask intelligent questions and follow him around. He'll eat up the attention." I knew for a fact that Heero had a weak spot for little girls, and Amee could charm a snake from its basket when she puts her mind to it.

She didn't look entirely comfortable with the idea, but she didn't protest. I dropped her by the house, made sure that Heero knew she was his responsibility (something he wasn't entirely sure how to take, judging from the look on his face) then went straight back to my office.

Zechs was waiting for me, casually arrayed in my chair and looking immaculate as usual. He grinned at me as I came in. "Hey boss."

"Zechs," I acknowledged with a cordial nod. "So?"

"I adore hostile take-overs," he informed me cheerfully. "It took three million, but you are now the proud owner of The Exclusive."

I blinked. "That was quick."

"Yup. It helps that I have some blackmail on file for the CEO -- ex-CEO, I should say. Your orders?"

I wasn't about to question his methods. There was a reason why I had Zechs on staff, he had a knack for doing the impossible. And quickly. "Shut it down."

He slowly straightened in my chair, the smile going wicked. "Is this about that photograph of you and the hunk?"

"Dr. Trowa Barton," I corrected icily. "And yes. I want it understood, Zechs. They can take a million pictures of me in public, but when I enter my home that's when it stops."

Zechs treated me to a dubious look. "You really think you can do it? A lot of people have tried to get the press to back off over the years, and they didn't succeed."

"They didn't buy out the worst offender and shut them down," I pointed out, gesturing him sharply out of my chair.

"... you do have a point." He got up and strolled out of the way, body language silently proclaiming that he had every intention of moving and that my silent command hadn't had a thing to do with it. "Well, if there's one thing that I love more than hostile take-overs, it's telling tabloid reporters where to stick it. You do realize that you'll get even more media coverage after this?"

"For a short time," I acknowledged grimly. It would pay off in the long-run, though, and that was what I was really concerned with.

"Just checking. Bye, boss."

I let Zechs find his own way out and went back to my other paperwork. Or at least, that was the game plan.

+

Roughly at noon Charlene opened the door and poked her head in. "Mr. Winner, Dr. Barton is here to see you."

I sat up abruptly, nearly knocking my tea mug over. "Send him in!" It must be something if Trowa was actually at my office to talk to me. I scrambled out from behind the desk and met him halfway as he came in. Charlene, bless her, closed the door behind him. "Trowa? What's wrong?"

He caught me up in a hug, pressing a kiss against my temple. "You're right. Your grandmother is definitely unhappy about your decision."

Uh... that sounded ominous. I tilted my head back so I could see his face. "And do I want to know why you know this?"

"She came to see me about twenty minutes ago."

I felt the sudden urge to sit down. I had a feeling it would be easier if I took this sitting down. I led him to the couch I have tucked in a corner and sat him down, putting myself on his lap. "And?"

For answer, Trowa brought out two pieces of paper from his shirt pocket and handed them to me. Even before I accepted them I recognized what it was. A check, torn in two. With icy dread gnawing at my stomach I flipped it over so I could look at it.

$250,000. 00

"She tried to buy you off," I choked out.

"I think there was a French villa and a condo in Hawaii in there somewhere to," he added quietly.

My god, I had not expected her to do anything like this. Helplessly I looked at him, wondering if I should apologize or... actually, I had no idea what else to do.

"There was an upside to this," he continued, still in that quiet calm way. I think it was the calm before the storm. It felt... unnatural. "She went there with the firm belief that I was nothing more than a fuck for you."

I flinched at the crude wording, but held my tongue.

"She knew when she left that I love you... and Amee. I won't turn my back on the two of you. Not for a king's ransom. Besides," he gave me an evil grin, "you have no idea how good it felt to tear that check up in front of her face and tell her to go to hell."

Shakily I drew in a breath. My grandmother had played a hand I hadn't expected... but Trowa was still here with me. He said he loved me. As long as I had him and Amee, I was okay. "Well, I'm glad that you got some pleasure from this. Thank you for telling me in person."

"I thought it necessary. I didn't want you doubting me."

I threw both arms around his neck and held on tightly. "I love you too."

His hold became almost punishing at that, and I could feel him exhale shakily. "Sorry. I should have phrased that better. It was a lousy way to say it," he muttered.

"You could try again," I suggested softly.

"... I love you."

I pressed a smiling kiss to his mouth. "You are definitely improving with practice."

He laughed softly, eyes shining. "Imagine how good I'll say it five hundred times from now."

"I'm just vibrating in anticipation. How much time do you have?"

"Actually, I took the rest of the day off. I didn't think I should stick around. This day has been such an up and down rollercoaster."

"Hm... don't move." I flew to my office door, stuck my head out into the outer office and told a startled Charlene "Hold my calls, and re-arrange the rest of my meetings for tomorrow. No, scratch that, day after tomorrow. I don't want to see anyone for the rest of the day."

"Yes, Mr. Winner."

"Thanks, Charlene." I popped back into the office, closed the door... and deliberately locked it, giving Trowa a lecherous smile and waggling my eyebrows. "Now... where were we?"

+

I only got to keep Trowa about two hours. Then both of our cellphones went off within a minute of each other. When I finally pried myself loose, I checked my voicemail to find that Amee had called me, wanting to know if anything else had happened. Apparently grandmother had called her. Oh boy.

"I better let you go," I told him with true regret. It had been very relaxing to have him all to myself, with no immediate deadlines. "Real life is starting to invade again."

He nodded in rueful agreement. "Apparently. Look... I think I'll stay with Amee for the rest of the day. If your grandmother shows up there, at least I'll be there to help deal with her."

"That is a marvelous idea. Do it. I'll try to be home in another hour."

"Okay."

We cleaned up a little, as much as a box of Kleenex would allow, straightened out our clothes, then indulged in one last... long... kiss, before Trowa left. I could just imagine Charlene outside, taking careful note of every detail. She's a gossip hound, after all.

I was just in the process of cleaning up my paperwork when Charlene put her head in. "There has been a ton of calls from the news. They all want to do an interview."

And they'd keep plaguing me until they had it, too. The question was, which one did I choose? Hm... "Did WBC call?" I had dealt with them before, and knew that they were at least good about keeping what I said in context without construing it to mean other things.

"Yes, sir."

"Call them back. If they can get someone down here in the next twenty minutes, and they swear that this won't take ten minutes, then I'll do an interview."

Charlene looked at me like I was a pod person or something, but nodded and went back to her desk. Okay, so usually I don't like doing interviews... and I curse reporters... that doesn't mean I've suddenly lost my mind.

Fifteen minutes later, I was in an open conference room with the evening anchor, Ms. Bennett. She was smartly dressed in a light grey suit, hair done up and make-up perfect. I was just as confident that I looked like the businessman I was supposed to be... and not the man that had been entwined on a couch with my sexy lover earlier this afternoon.

The cameraman gave the signal that the cameras were rolling, and Ms. Bennett turned to me with a charming smile. "Mr. Winner, we've heard an extraordinary report that you bought The Exclusive today, only to promptly shut it down."

"That's correct," I replied evenly.

"Is it because of their article this morning?"

"No. It was because of the picture." I hadn't been entirely aware that an article was there. The picture had been my focus.

"Indeed. Why?"

"When that picture was taken, Ms. Bennett, I had been in my living room, supposedly in the sanctity of my home. Public exposure is one thing -- but I will not tolerate having my personal life invaded when I am at home."

"That is certainly understandable, Mr. Winner. But don't you think that buying a company, using millions of dollars to do so, and then shutting it down is a little drastic?"

"It's interesting you should say that, Ms. Bennett. A colleague pointed that out to me earlier today. I'll give you the same answer I gave him. Over the years, many celebrities and politicians have asked the news media to give them a little space so they can lead private lives -- those requests have never been granted. By buying The Exclusive, I hope that I've made my point in establishing that I will not be lenient on this subject."

"You're putting a great many people out of jobs."

Oh she would have to bring up that point. "Those who have skills that will adapt to my business will be moved elsewhere, if they wish." Except the reporters. Reporters aren't my favorite people right now.

"And if they don't?"

"Then they're going to have to go job hunting, just like anyone else would in this situation."

"That's a rather harsh thing to say, Mr. Winner."

"It's reality, Ms. Bennett. I might have been in a more reasonable mood and offered more help, if they had chosen a different and less private moment to expose. Actually, we wouldn't be having this conversation now if they had exercised a little discretion. They didn't. End of story."

"And... cut."

We both relaxed slightly as the camera was taken off of us. I stood and shook Ms. Bennett's hand politely. "Thank you for staying within the time limit."

"If you don't mind my asking," she was wearing that feminine grin that meant she was going to ask for dirty details, "just how did you meet such a gorgeous man?"

"My little sister can actually claim the points for that."

"And what does she think now?"

"She's gloating. I imagine most women would, in her position."

"Actually," Ms. Bennett corrected with a sharp smile, "most women would be jealous. Of him... and of you."

I was left completely without a response as she thanked me for my time, and led her people back out of the room. Women. Go figure.

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