By: Sintari
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Tangled Up in Blue + Part 5
Geography of the Heart

I've tasted other lips I thought were true. I have looked into the eyes I thought were you.
John Prine


Two weeks passed and Quatre found himself working with Trowa almost constantly. Today they were in one of the three-sided enclosures that dotted the zoo grounds sorting different types of grains into bins. This sort of thankless work wasn't exactly what Quatre had expected when he had landed the job at the zoo, but then again, what had he thought? That he would parade around in a safari hat and field glasses, handing out lollipops to the swarms of little children who called him Uncle Quatre and tugged on his sleeve while he dispensed jewels of wisdom like, "Did you know that if a man could jump as well as a flea, in proportion to his size, he would be able to jump the length of a football field?"

That was true. A man with flea-like abilities could jump the entire length of a football field. Quatre glanced over at Trowa who was working diligently in front of a tall red bin. He wasn't even a football field away, but Quatre would volunteer to jump him anytime. The fact that Dr. Johansson continued to push them together hadn't helped matters any. As he followed the soft-spoken, green-eyed man around the zoo, his strong attraction had developed into a full-on crush. Even the weather was working against him. It was unseasonably warm for March, with heavy coats coming off in favor of thin t-shirts. Quatre's crush, damn him, preferred the tight, stretchy kind. So when Trowa flexed to open the top latch on the animal habitat gates, Quatre was right there next to him, unable to tear his eyes away from the way the green-eyed man's t-shirt rode up to expose his perfectly sculpted abs. When Trowa bent over to pick something up (the blonde couldn't bring himself to remind his co-worker to lift from the knees), Quatre was there. When he stretched, tightly muscled arms flexed behind his head after a long day's work, there was Quatre, controlling his drool reflex by sheer willpower alone.

But looks weren't enough for Quatre. They never had been. It was Trowa's love for his work that really killed Quatre. His co-worker had graduated from a preeminent biology program. He had worked with lions in Kenya while writing his master's thesis and sometimes, when they weren't that busy, he would tell Quatre stories from his days spent in the Masai Mara Game Preserve. He showed a genuine affection for his lions, referring to them more as family members than research subjects, and sometimes Quatre had to interrupt and ask which multi-syllabic Kenyan name belonged to a lion and which belonged to one of the gamekeepers. Trowa had been to places and seen things that Quatre had only read about in National Geographic. Of course he was going to crush on the guy!

Unfortunately though, his crush was turning him into a delusional wreck evidenced by the fact that every once in a while, he imagined that Trowa could like him, too. There were small signs that even Quatre couldn't write off. A long look, a hand left too long on his shoulder, a mischievous wink at Dr. Johansson's expense. And Quatre didn't think he was imagining the small, slow smile that Trowa flashed just for him when they both arrived in the break shed in the mornings. Trowa certainly didn't smile like that at any of the women. But then again, all this had to be in Quatre's traitorous mind. He couldn't bring himself to ask, but he was pretty sure that Trowa had a girlfriend. And judging by the amount of times per day the mysterious Cathy called him, Trowa was kept on a pretty tight leash.

Hilde had suggested setting elaborate traps in order to discern whether Trowa was gay or not. Sally had advised that Quatre just go for it and ask him out. Wufei had remained oddly silent whenever Trowa was mentioned. Duo, naturally, had told Quatre to "grab the hottie by the shirt and throw him against the tiger cage."

"But that could be dangerous!" Quatre had said.

"The danger is what makes it fun."

"But I don't even know if he's gay!" Quatre had wailed.

"Everybody's gay," Duo had winked at him. "If you play your cards right."

"Maybe for you," Quatre had said mournfully. At that point in the conversation, Duo had just finished regaling them with the tale of how he'd seduced his boss's married son at their company anniversary party. If he could only bottle Duo's charm and use some of it on Trowa...

"You're doing it again," Trowa's low, patient voice interrupted him from his reverie.

Looking down at the grain bags and the bins, Quatre realized that he had mixed the wrong types of grain for the second time.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry! God, I can be so stupid."

Trowa's eyes narrowed and he put a hand to Quatre's shoulder. "That's not true. You're doing a great job, Quatre. Here..." Trowa took one of the heavy bags of grain. "I'll do these today, it can be tricky to measure out just the right amount of this sticky kind."

The other man's easy competence was daunting even on Quatre's best days. Today, though, wasn't one of those days. He and Iria had gotten into a silly argument over Scout's curfew the night before. Earlier, he had gone to Hope Gardens on his lunch hour to visit his mother and she hadn't awakened for his visit. And now he found himself unable to accomplish the simplest of tasks in front of his dead sexy, mind-numbingly intelligent, co-worker. The co-worker who had just paid him a rare compliment, too.

Nevertheless, some peevish part of his brain wanted to prove that, if nothing else went right today, he could at least succeed at pouring some goddamn grain into some goddamn bins.

"I can do it!" he muttered exasperatedly and yanked the bag away from Trowa, which only ended up causing a handful of grain to spill down his shirtfront. It was the sticky kind, too. Crap.

Quatre closed his eyes to try and get his embarrassment in check. When he opened them again, he was amazed to find Trowa eyeing him amusedly, a small smirk quirking his lips. Without a word about the outburst, the green-eyed man closed the space between them and began to swipe at the sticky grains clinging to Quatre's t-shirt.

The blonde man was suddenly very aware that there was a hole the size of a pencil eraser in Trowa's jeans, a couple of inches to the left of the zipper. Trowa's capable hands grazed a nipple through the thin cotton and Quatre was abruptly wondering if his little finger would fit into that hole and just how hard he would have to tug to make it wider. He wouldn't have to move his hand very far at all...

Trowa managed to pick most of the sticky grains off of Quatre's shirt while Quatre stood and gawked at him. The green-eyed man gave his t-shirt one last good swipe and stepped back to his own bin.

Then the unthinkable happened.

"Listen, Quatre, I was wondering..."

That wasn't like Trowa to use phrases like 'I was wondering.' Usually when he wanted to say something, he just came out and said it.

"...Do you want to go out sometime?"

Quatre's mouth fell open and glanced over his shoulder to double check that no one was behind him. "You're asking me?"

Trowa brushed a hand through his bangs, a nervous gesture Quatre had come to recognize. The smirk faded from his face. "Well, yeah, I was..."

"But what about Cathy?"

It was Trowa's turn to be puzzled. "My sister?"

Quatre did drop the grain bag now. "Cathy is your sister? Cathy that calls you thirty times a day?"

"Look, I know that must seem a little strange, but it's a long story. And I'll tell you all about it." That smirk was back. "But only if you'll go out with me tomorrow night."

Quatre felt himself flushing a little. "Well if that's the only way to assuage my curiosity I guess I could suffer through one date..." They smiled at each other, a quick curving of lips, both looking away at the same instant.

Trowa was shaking his head. "God, no wonder you didn't notice me flirting with you. Wait... you thought I was straight even after I told you about Abban?"

Quatre picked up the grain bag, this time managing to measure the sticky grains without difficulty. This also allowed him to avoid Trowa's eyes. "I erm... I thought Abban was a lion."

Trowa raised one eyebrow at him, but he was smiling ever so slightly. "That's ok," he said, completely deadpan. "So did Cathy."

This time, when green eyes met blue, both men burst out laughing.

+

Quatre hadn't meant to tell them about the date that night when they got together at Tangle. He planned to go on the date and then tell them. But they were all there, even Sally, who had been working a crazy schedule of split shifts in her job as an EMT. And then there was Duo, who knew with sixth sense certainty that something was up.

"So...." Duo spun around on his barstool to face Quatre. "How's Trowa?"

Quatre tried and failed to hide the grin that threatened to split his face in half.

"He asked me out!"

Hilde immediately squealed and lunged across the bar to hug him. Sally, after one sideways glance at Hilde, gave him a rather more subdued hug.

"It's about damn time," Wufei said noncommittally.

Duo arched his brows. "You mean you didn't ask him out? You waited around for him to ask you out like some woman?"

Hilde punched his arm. "Hey now!"

Duo's words stung a little. Of course, he had known they would. "You know I wasn't sure if he was gay, Duo. But hey," Quatre shrugged. "Turns out that Cathy is his sister. He promised to tell me all about it if I agreed to come out with him."

"Ooooh. I knew he liked you! I just knew it!" Hilde sighed before yelling "In a minute!" to an older guy who was banging a fist on the bar. "So when's the big event?"

"Tomorrow night."

"Oh god. We need to go shopping. Will we have time?" Hilde looked at the clock as if they would hit the stores right that minute.

"I think I can dress myself. We're just doing dinner and a movie. It's not like he's taking me ballroom dancing."

"Dinner and a movie," said Duo, swirling the last contents of his glass. "That's original."

This elicited irate looks from all the friends.

"I don't know," Wufei said caustically. "Maybe after they've dated for awhile Trowa could take Quatre to the same bar every night."

Duo downed the last of his drink and replied sardonically, "I never said I was trying to impress anybody." A wolfish smile. "How about you?"

"It's an IMAX movie, anyway" Quatre interrupted before Wufei could do more than just glare at Duo.

"What's it about? Lions?" Duo teased. His good humor seemed to have returned.

"No, it's about um... wildfires," Quatre lied, suddenly feeling the need to defend Trowa from his best friend. That was why they had decided on dinner and a movie in the first place. Trowa had offered to take him to Tangle. He had heard Quatre plan to meet Duo there numerous times. But Quatre had refused. It was just that... Well, he didn't know what it was. He knew Trowa was different. And a gut feeling told him that if he put Duo and Trowa in a room together too soon that there would be an explosive situation.

It had always been this way between them. After fourteen years of wanting more than Duo had been able to give, Quatre was just starting to give up hope. Duo was like the mythical City of El Dorado. Remote, mysterious and full of dark places. Quatre could buy a compass, pack his bags. Hell, he could even get some old prospector to sell him a map. But he would never get there. Not really. All he could do was live out his whole life in hope of somebody reaching El Dorado. Along the way he could travel to some of the other wondrous cities of the world, but in the back of his mind, El Dorado was the only place he would ever truly want to be. The day he gave up hope would be the day he died.

Yeah, Quatre knew his cause was hopeless. But he could not have asked for a more beautiful dream.

Then there was Trowa. Trowa definitely wasn't Main Street. He was exotic Nairobi. He was the open savanna. It took an open mind and a leap of faith, but Quatre could get there.

And that was all anyone could ask for really.

+

Wufei started to leave Tangle not long after Quatre, but an obviously drunk Duo blocked him at the door.

"If you're ready to climb down off that cross now, Wufei, I'll help you rip the nails out."

Wufei gritted his teeth. "What the fuck are you talking about?" They were standing in the doorway of the bar forcing traffic to divert around them. Duo grabbed Wufei's arm and dragged him back into the crowd. "Dance with me and I'll tell you."

Eyeing him suspiciously, Wufei complied. It was so rare that Duo wanted to talk to him one-on-one that his curiosity was piqued. One the dance floor, Duo gyrated to the beat and then wrapped his arms around Wufei's shoulders. The Chinese man tried to shrug him off until he realized that Duo was going to talk into his ear.

Even more uncomfortable was what Duo had to say. "I think this Trowa guy could be good for Quatre. Don't ruin this for him, ok?"

Wufei did pull away then. "Who are you trying to convince, Duo?" he snapped. "Me or yourself?"

The music swirled on around them but Duo and Wufei now stood stock still in the middle of the dance floor.

There was that wolfish smile again. "Don't turn this around on me, 'Fei. I know how you feel about him. I've known for months. He doesn't see you as anything more than a friend. It's your own fault if you let it break your heart."

Wufei scowled at his nemesis. "So what you're telling me is that I'm weak for loving him. So does that make you strong because you don't love him?"

Duo's eyes narrowed. "You don't know anything about how much I love him. You have no idea."

"If you love him so much, then why do you treat him like shit?"

The pause in the loud music was the only reason Wufei was able to hear the soft reply.

"I never said I was any good at it."

For a moment there, Wufei was sure he had heard tears in Duo's voice.

Nah, must have been the music.

+

Trowa had only moved to Solomon after he got back from Kenya and Quatre soon found out that the biologist had never graced Tangle with his presence. Heads turned when the green-eyed man walked in the door and a beaming Quatre didn't even try to hide his smug expression.

For once, Hilde had a weekend night off. She, Wufei and Sally were sitting together and Quatre found it a bit disconcerting to see his spiky haired friend patronizing the bar rather than tending it. Duo, who had known this was the night Quatre was going to introduce his new boyfriend to all his friends, was nowhere in sight. The blonde didn't know whether to feel disappointed or relieved.

Quatre touched Trowa's arm lightly and nodded toward the trio at the bar. He found himself inordinately pleased when Trowa slipped an arm around his waist as they made their way over. He felt oddly nervous about the encounter.

"Hey guys. This is Trowa Barton."

Trowa nodded to all of them and the group quickly made a little circle around the newcomer.

"So this is the famous Trowa. I'm Sally Po." She stuck a hand out for him to shake. Trowa did and she commented, "Firm handshake. I like that in a man."

"But you like it better in a woman," Quatre teased.

Sally shrugged and winked at Trowa. She could really be quite charming when she wasn't threatening to bench press them all.

"Sally's an EMT," Quatre explained. "If you stay on her good side, she'll give you an IV when you have a hangover."

Trowa smiled. "I'll have to keep that in mind."

"Ooooh. He has a sexy voice, Quatre."

That was, of course, Hilde.

Quatre laughed. "Hilde, he's right here. Trowa, this is Hilde, my friend since high school. Unfortunately we haven't developed telepathy yet or you wouldn't have just heard her trying to steal you from me."

"Not possible," Trowa commented, and then he leaned in and gave Hilde a peck on the cheek. Quatre could have sworn his friend turned a little red. Sally must have noticed it too because she was giving Hilde that special scowl reserved for girly behavior.

"This must be Wufei," Trowa nodded at the other man, who bowed his head a little in greeting.

"Nice to meet you. Wufei Chang."

"Trowa Barton," he answered automatically. They didn't shake hands, but then, it wasn't expected.

It was just then that a strong arm grabbed Quatre across the chest, dragging him backwards a few feet. Unthinkingly, Quatre leaned into the touch and laughed. "And this Trowa, is my best friend, Duo."

Trowa didn't think he should offer a hand to shake, especially since the recipient of said gesture had both arms already occupied wrapping around his boyfriend.

So instead he introduced himself again, nodding at Duo.

Duo let Trowa's introduction hand in the air for a few seconds. From behind Quatre, his eyes ran down, then up the green-eyed man's lanky form. "Duo Maxwell."

Quatre squirmed out of Duo's grip and placed an arm around Trowa's waist. It was only then that he realized that Duo was naked from the waist up. Blue eyes flickered from the hardened brown nipples to the sculpted abs to the thin trail that began just below Duo's belly button and disappeared into his low-slung leather pants. But ever more remarkable Quatre had to catch his breath his best friend's braid was unbound. Hair the color of mahogany hung loosely down his back and framed his slender chest. As far as Quatre knew, this was the first time Duo had ever unfastened his braid in public. Truthfully, he could count on two hands the number of times he had seen Duo's hair down in private. And what a sight it was. Given a minute, he could probably describe each incidence in detail.

One long silky lock snaked around Duo's neck and down over his heart and for one instant, Quatre's hand moved on its own accord to stroke it. He hoped he had caught himself before anyone could notice.

They had all been standing there for a frozen moment in time. Maybe they were waiting for sparks to fly. Duo broke the tension.

"Nice to meet you, Trowa." He flashed them all an impish smile and disappeared back into the sweaty throng of bodies on the dance floor. Quatre's eyes followed his movements until he fell in beside a tall, gorgeous and generously muscled dancer. They all recognized him. He was almost as notorious as Duo for sleeping his way through Solomon's gay male population.

Quatre laughed in spite of himself as Wufei speculated loudly. "I can't believe he's going after Sven. He's a notorious top. Wonder how they'll work it out?"

Quatre shrugged. "I know how they'll work it out. Sven will bottom or Duo will go home."

Wufei, Sally and Hilde all nodded.

Trowa snaked his arms around Quatre's waist, claiming Duo's former position. "That's all well and good, but..." he whispered. The sound was a low growl in Quatre's ear. The blonde melted into the body behind him as a long, dexterous finger lightly ran a fingernail over the line bare of bare skin between his waistband and his jeans.

"...The only person in this room whose sex life I give a damn about is yours," that sexy voice considered matter-of-factly. Quatre felt a knee slide in between his thighs, forcing them to part slightly. "We need to get out of here. Now."

Quatre leaned back, nuzzling his cheek against Trowa's, cat-like. "Yes..."

Across the room, Duo noted their departure by grabbing Sven's shoulders roughly and whispering something into his ear.

Neither best friend slept at home that night.

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