Author: girl_starfish
Category: Drama / romance/ AU.
Pairings: 4+(various-it's an experiment with writing a gw dating fic. Quatre isn't going to meet the perfect gundam pilot over night, you know) Background 1xR & 1x2.
Rating: pg 13
Warnings: Yaoi, AU, some of the characters (Heero) being somewhat emotionally stunted. Also untypical pairings, and sorry but this is one fic of mine that is not going to end in happy 1x2.

Over Coffee + Part One

One of the freshest, sunniest days I've ever experienced in this city--and to top it off, the perfect cup of coffee and someone to share it with. What could be nicer?

I look across the table to Abdul and smile. "So what do you think?"

"You were right," Abdul smiles at me, placing his fingers over my own. "The coffee is magnificent."

"And have you seen anything to match the décor?" I ask, happily beaming around at the place as proud of it as if it was my own. I suppose in a way it is--this café is rather like a secret of mine, a place I come to for special occasions only. When I'm feeling depressed, blue, in need of something to cheer me up, something wonderful to cap off a successful project, Howard's is where I come.

It's a combination café, art-house, junk collection--across one wall is a set of outlandish cockroaches, sculpted from metal and highly polished--but rather incongruous in a café, don't you think? I love them, they're typical of the laid back style that makes Howard's unique.

The other thing is the waiters. They're mostly all of them students at the local University. Rather than being professional, they share the same laid back attitude as the decorator, friendly and ready to chat so you can have some really fascinating conversations. They're also usually cute. I think it was here that I figured out my sexual orientation, when I realised I was returning each week to waiter-watch.

It was that or the coffee. Which, by the way, is heavenly.

"I think its safe to say this place is unique," Abdul said, with a look round. "Although, not, perhaps, as unique as you."

I glowed. "I should be getting back to work now. Call me tonight?"

"Of course," Abdul squeezed my hand as he collected his jacket. "Tonight."

I sighed happily as I finished my coffee. Yes, this was turning out to be a pretty nice day--

"You're finished?" a warm voice asked.

I looked up to smile at the waiter. "Thank-you," I said, sliding my cup over to him. "That was great coffee."

He laughed. "It always is but I'll pass that onto Howard. Old as he is, he never gets tired of hearing that."

It was one of my favourite waiters, the guy with the long brown braid. He'd won my attention with both his outlandish hair-style and his cheerful attitude--he always seemed to be ready with a smile, or to take a moment to chat with customers.

"You mean there really is a Howard?" I asked. "I thought it was just a name."

"Nope, this old place comes complete with one hard-case old geezer." The waiter deftly gathered up the plates and winked at me. "But don't tell him I said that."

I smiled. "Sure. Could I have the bill please?"

He complied, and I found the right amount of notes. As I waited for him to bring me my change I watched the people walking along the street outside. Everyone seemed happy--and why not? It was a beautiful day--

"Your receipt," the waiter said, placing it along with my change on the table and moving on to serve another table. I gathered the coins into my wallet, idly glancing at the receipt as I did so--and froze.

For a moment I just stared at it in shock. It took a moment for me to reach out and pick it up, and a moment more for me to convince myself that this was real.

My first reaction was anger. How dare he--after all, he didn't know anything about us! And what's more, he had no right! I wanted to march right up to him, demand what he was thinking--

He was smiling as he took the orders of an elderly couple. The rest of the café was reasonably crowded--it wouldn't do to make a scene. No, I would put this behind me, rise above it with true Winner fortitude, and not give him the pleasure of seeing me upset.

After all, that's what he was wanting wasn't it?

It couldn't possibly be true?

That persistent little thought managed to haunt me through the rest of the day at work and into the evening. As I sat by the phone, waiting for Abdul to ring, I unfolded the receipt for maybe the fiftieth time and read the carelessly scrawled words.

Ditch the boyfriend. He's not as interested in you as he is in what he can get from you.

Was it true?

I mentally berated myself. What kind of boyfriend was I if I doubted Abdul after a complete stranger made assumptions about him that he had no way of verifying? And yet...

I couldn't quite shake those words off.

Surely I'd be able to refute it if I thought about it seriously?

Friends have teased me for being methodical. I retort that I'm just business like. However I drew up a chart--assets and liabilities if you must know. I started with the assets column. Abdul was very cute. That was a definite asset. So was his politeness, friendly manner, and the fact that he wasn't weirded out by me having a rather wealthy background. It had come up rather early on in our relationship, Abdul telling me that he didn't consider money important. He'd even offered to pay for our drinks which I thought rather sweet.

Liabilities, well ...

There were none. Well--

--not unless you could count today's coffee bill. He'd left before it had arrived--oversight on his side surely, and it would be awkward to bring it up again ...

Come to think of it that had happened the last time we went out, to the fancy Japanese restaurant--he'd been in the gents, and I'd thought it would be easier if I just paid it. Of course he'd protested when he returned, just like he'd protested when I'd paid for our tickets to that concert he'd invited me to, and entry into that nightclub the week before--

I frowned. Either Abdul had a bowel complaint he wasn't telling me about or--

--or my money was my most attractive feature.

The phone rang.

"Quatre, hi! I hope this isn't too late--got caught up at work, you know how it is," Abdul said smoothly.

"Yeah, I guess so," I said.

"Talk about evil bosses--you okay? You don't sound like yourself."

"Actually," I said. "I've had a tough day as well."

"What happened?"

It wasn't a lie if it didn't hurt anyone, right? And if the waiter was wrong, I would tell Abdul about it--

"My father called me into his office after work. He's been reviewing my sister and my allowances and has decided to cut back--says its not building character for us to have everything we need there for us. So, yeah, I've now got a considerably reduced salary--" I sighed. "Still, money isn't everything, is it?"

"Of course not. This won't change a thing between us, Quatre."

I smiled. "I didn't think it would. Meet me for coffee tomorrow, same place? I need a pick-me-up--I'm afraid that this time you'll have to get the bill."

"See you then."

I replaced the phone slowly. I thought I'd heard just a trace of hesitation. Mind playing tricks on me?

I'd know for sure tomorrow--

+

Tomorrow came.

Abdul didn't.

I stirred the now cold coffee in front of me. I didn't have to look at my watch to know that my lunch break was well and truly over...

"Here you go."

I looked up in surprise as a plate was set down beside me.

"Lemon meringue pie, our special for the day, with whipped cream and seasonal fruits." The braided waiter set out serviette and spoon deftly.

"I didn't order this--" I protested.

Violet eyes met mine sympathetically. "I know," he said simply. "I'm sorry."

"Why?" I asked. "For sticking your nose in where it didn't belong and screwing up a perfectly good relationship?"

"I'm sorry I was right." The waiter moved away then to take the orders of another table. I scowled fiercely at the dessert.

I was bitter, angry--at Abdul for not showing up, at myself for not seeing through him earlier, but mostly at the waiter for being right. The thing that I found worst about the whole thing was that the sanctity of Howard's had been, for me, destroyed. I would not darken the doors of Howard's again.

Well, after I'd finished my dessert of course.

+

"Personally I found the effects rather unnecessarily dramatic--but the pacing was superb. And the ending--"

"I know!" I chimed in excitedly. "I so didn't see that coming."

"Oh, I knew something was up from the start," Wufei said. "Someone does not get shot at that close quarters and not suffer repercussions--"

"I completely misinterpreted that bit," I admitted. "I thought it was the boy--you know, the little one."

"Then why was his wife happy then and depressed afterwards--which should have been earlier--"

"I never thought of that." I looked at my watch. "It's still early. You want to go get something to eat?"

"Sounds great," Wufei looked around. "Know anywhere good?"

I was about to say no when I paused. Howard's was only several streets away. . .

It had been two months since I'd been there. But now . . .

I was in a terrific relationship. Wufei and I had so much fun together. He was intelligent, charming, cute--moreover, we'd met at a business training session. He was employed in his families business the same as me, so I knew he wasn't interested in me for mercenary motives--He could argue like a lawyer though, and be pretty stubborn about things--but he knew when to concede defeat. Moreover, he was a gentleman, not pushing the physical side of our relationship at all. In fact he was perfect.

What a come-up for that opinionated waiter.

"I know the perfect place," I said.

+

"I can't believe I never heard about this place," Wufei said, looking around with awe at the furnishings. "Have you seen the cockroaches?"

I nodded happily. "Thought you'd like it."

"Can I take your orders, sirs?"

As luck would have it, it was the braided waiter again. "Yes please. I'd like a special blend, full--"

"Full cream, no sugar?" The Waiter surprised me by remembering. "And you sir?"

"A herbal tea, thank-you." Wufei smiled at me as the waiter left. "Come here often?"

"I used to," I said.

The coffee came and was as marvellous as I remembered. I should never have let one self-important waiter spoil it for me, I thought as I drank. Wufei and I discussed our respective jobs very happily. It was with surprise that I realised I'd finished my drink and it was time to leave.

"I'll get the bill," I told Wufei as I signalled the waiter.

"That's not necessary, Quatre. I'll pay for my drink--"

"I insist."

From Wufei's puzzled expression he thought I was acting strangely--I have to admit I slammed the money down with a smug expression. The waiter collected the bill as inscrutably as always-- I showed him, I thought triumphantly.

"Quatre, is something wrong?"

"Oh, no. Nothing." I said hastily, my eyes on the waiter who was returning with my change and the receipt.

The waiter placed the receipt on the table. "Thanks for dining with us," he said before turning to serve someone else.

I waited until he was no longer paying us attention then grabbed the receipt. No writing--hah! I'd won this round--no wait, the receipt was folded--

I opened it with foreboding.

Definitely an improvement, the scrawled note read. But don't be surprised if you end up as 'just friends.'

I swore as I ground the note up into bits.

"Um, Quatre?" Wufei was looking at me. "What's the matter?"

"That stupid waiter! He's done it again!"

"Mischarged you? Because we can ask him to add the bill up again--"

"It's not that."

"Then what?"

"Nothing."

"It can't be nothing. Tell me." Wufei had his 'I'm determined to drag this out of you even if it kills you' look on. I sighed and capitulated.

"So basically he gave you unsolicitated advice about your love life which turned out to be accurate, thus leading to the termination of the aforementioned relationship?" Wufei asked.

I nodded. "Stupid waiter," I muttered, balefully watching the waiter take the orders of a cute couple, a messy haired guy and an immaculately presented girl.

"So what did he say about me?"

I blinked. "Huh?"

Wufei gave me an amused smile. "You said he'd done it again. Obviously that would imply he has commented about this relationship as well--"

"He said we would end up as friends," I glared at the waiter's back. "Isn't that just ... pathetic? He's obviously just trying to be vindictive."

It took a few moments for me to realise that the expected response in the affirmative wasn't forthcoming. "Wufei?"

He sighed, looking at me seriously. "Actually, I've been meaning to talk to you about that--"

+

I looked up as a plate of strudel was set in front of me.

"Apple and Boysenberry," the waiter said. "With whipped cream on the side."

I sighed. "How did you know? I thought we were going on great but--"

The waiter took the chair Wufei had just vacated. "People's body language can tell you a great deal if you know how to read it. While he was interested in you, he just wasn't interested in you romantically--"

"And you knew that just by looking at us?"

"Look at how you're sitting now. You're interested in what I'm saying--but you're not interested in me, are you?"

I blinked. He was cute and all but ... "No."

"That's how your friend was sitting all through your conversation. Now, watch that couple over there--the girl in particular."

I looked at the couple in question, the untidy boy and the well-groomed girl I'd noticed earlier.

"See how she's leaning in to him when she talks to him? And how they're not actually touching but they're still close?" He sighed. "She's besotted with him. It's obvious."

"I guess. That still seems extremely sketchy--a lot to read into posture and that. After all, everyone has different limits and comfort zones--"

"True, but you can read that, too."

"And how do you know all this?"

He laughed. "I'm a psychology major."

"Oh that explains everything."

He grinned at my sarcasm. "I've been doing a lot of field research so to speak--I'm good at reading what people's actions say about them."

"And that couple says happily ever after, I suppose?" I glared at them. Childish, I know.

The waiter laughed again, but this time he didn't sound amused. "That couple probably has more problems that the rest of us put together."

I blinked, turning back to look at them more fully. The girl was smiling, trying to entice her companion to eat some of the slice she'd ordered. He was looking round the café with an irritated expression that turned into a glare as it fell upon the waiter.

"What makes you say that?" I asked, a little troubled by the intensity of the glare.

The waiter sighed, standing as he returned to work. "He's been seeing me on the side for three months."

+

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