Over Coffee + Part Two (cont)

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Three cups of coffee in an hour. I didn't taste any of them. I was steeling my nerves for what in some ways would be one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

Asking the braided waiter for help.

After complaining about his interfering, I didn't feel I could turn around and ask his advice. But -- who else was there? Wufei was a lot stronger than me, he didn't understand my insecurities. I hoped the waiter could.

This time I'll ask him, I determined as he headed my way.

The waiter set his tray down on my table, gathering the empty coffee cups. "What's the matter?" he asked with a raised eyebrow. "Caffeine going out of fashion?"

"I've got a problem," I said.

"Relationship issues? Don't get me started," the braided waiter sighed as he sat down at my table. "I'm thinking I should have become a monk."

I made sympathetic noises. Anyone's problems were better than facing my own.

"Boyfriend is not being cooperative. I'd be mad at him, but its impossible to be mad at him. When we're together he'll admit that the situation is bad, that dragging it out will only hurt all of us, that Relena deserves better than this, hell, that I deserve better than this -- he'll agree that he needs to tell her or call it off with me, that something has to be done -- but does he do it?"

"No?" I guessed.

"Exactly! And why not?"

I had no idea.

"He doesn't want to hurt her. He's already hurt her -- and what is he doing to me?" The waiter sighed. "If I wasn't so attached to it, I'd be tearing my hair out."

I couldn't help it, I snickered.

The waiter grinned at me, then laughed too. "Thanks," he said when he was finished. "I needed that."

"No problem," I said.

"Yup, Roman Catholicism is starting to look very attractive right about now. So what's bothering you?"

As I described my meeting with Treize and our subsequent dates, I was aware of the waiter grinning at me.

"What?" I asked irritably.

"You know what this makes you?" The waiter smirked. "You're a toy-boy."

I groaned. "That's the problem exactly. I feel like Treize's accessory."

"You tried talking to him about it?"

"Yes. And everytime I do he manages to make me feel small and insignificant. Like I'm being ridiculous. And I agree with him, we go our separate ways -- and I'm left feeling like nothing has been settled. And then there's his ex-wife." I sighed. "She turned up at the restaurant we went to, on our second date. Coincidence right? That's what I thought -- until she and her partner turned up at the Opera, the Japanese restaurant, the society evening -- "

"Either that's a lot of coincidences," the waiter said. "Or -- "

"Yes," I said. "At first I thought his wife was stalking us. She's always so stiff around us, as if she's not happy to see him while he's always charming to her -- "

"Or it could be the other way round. I wouldn't be that amused if my ex turned up everywhere I went -- " the waiter grimaced. "By the sound of things she's moved on -- and he hasn't."

"That's the conclusion I'd come to," I sighed. "It certainly explains why the relationship feels so .. fake."

"Tough luck," the waiter sympathised. "Do you want to try and work through things or call it off?"

"Actually, Duo," I said, using his name for the first time, "that's where you come in." As he blinked at me, surprised, I elaborated. "I need you to dump him for me."

"What? No way -- that's way too personal."

"And interfering with my love-life isn't?" I asked. "You've already cost me two boyfriends. I think the least you could do is help me get rid of one I don't want."

"It doesn't work like that. Sure my note may have been the catalyst but that's not the same and informing a stranger that the love of their life thinks they should go their separate ways -- "

"Treize hardly thinks I'm the love of his life," I said. "Please Duo?"

"Puppy eyes generally don't work after a person's hit puberty, stud," he said. "Wait a minute. How do you know my name anyway?"

"Wufei," I said.

Duo grinned. "The cute Chinese guy. Should have known."

I sighed. "So you're not going to help me at all?"

"This is something you have to do for yourself. Trust me. Few relationships end without hurt feelings, and its better if its coming from you. Be kind, but be honest."

"That the best you can do?" I grumbled. "I'll do it tomorrow."

"Goodluck."

I nodded. "Oh, by the way, Quatre Winner." I held out my hand.

He laughed as he shook it. "Duo Maxwell."

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"Well," Treize said eyeing the bronze cockroaches dubiously. "It's not one of my usual haunts -- "

"I know," I said. "It's one of my favourite places -- which is why I wanted to come here. I have something important to tell you."

"Sounds intriguing," Treize smiled at me. "I'm all ears."

I hedged. "Well... I've been thinking a lot about our relationship and I don't think its working out." I proceeded to elaborate, detailing my feelings while trying not to put any blame on him. He listened, nodding occasionally, and sipping his Earl Grey.

"Ah, Quatre," he said once I'd finished. "Your concern is a credit to you. Even if it is misplaced."

"Huh?" I replied, ever so eloquently.

"I see no cause for concern with our relationship. Don't worry yourself about this needlessly." He took another sip of his tea, appreciatively. "I must say the food is of a higher standard than the décor."

"Um -- " I said, spotting Duo heading behind the counter. "If you'll excuse me a moment -- "

I followed the braided waiter into the kitchen. "Duo?"

"Hey! You can't come in here!" a girl with short cut hair -- blue hair, I noted with some surprise -- told me.

"Its okay, Hilde. I know Quatre," Duo said, loading a tray of empty dishes into the industrial size dish washer. "Things are not looking good, Quat."

"Tell me about it," I sighed. "I just broke up with him -- and he didn't even notice."

"The man has a serious problems facing unpleasant realities. His subconscious must be having a field day."

"Psych students," the girl moaned.

Duo and I ignored her. "I think you're going to have to be brutal to get through to him."

"I can't do that," I protested. "Can't I just hide in the kitchen until he goes away?"

"We have health and safety regulations," Hilde said pointing to a notice on the wall. "Duo, stop eating that."

Duo put the cake down. "Don't worry about it Quat. You can manage this."

I wished I had his faith.

Hilde sighed. "Mudcake?" she said to Duo.

"With whipped cream and sauce," Duo nodded and patted my shoulder. "When all this is over, Quatre, come back here and we'll treat you."

I managed a smile before heading out to rejoin Treize. He hadn't noticed my lengthy absence, he was busy inspecting the café's surfaces for dust.

I slid in to my seat wondering how I was going to do this. I mean -- it had been hard enough telling him in a nice way. How could I screw up my courage to do it in a bad way?

Duo smiled at me as he passed by our table. Then suddenly he tripped, the tray slipping out of his hands, and the contents, a tea kettle and some glasses -- spilled over Treize. Duo and I exclaimed simultaneously.

"Are you all right? Let me fix that -- " Treize shoved Duo away as he tried to help.

"Fix it? Do you have any idea how expensive this shirt was? You'll be paying for this out of your own salary, you little rat!"

I gaped at him. Treize had always been perfectly charming -- to see him losing his temper so badly was actually kind of scary.

"It was an accident," Duo said, hastily mopping up -- "I'm very sorry -- "

"An accident! As if that makes it better! I'll see you lose your job for this -- "

Now that was going too far. Anger welled up inside of me. "No you won't!" I said. "He said it was an accident and he's apologised. Stop yelling at him, accept that the world does not always conform to your expectations, and get over it."

Treize glared at me. "Quatre, I hardly think this is a matter that needs your concern."

"I beg to differ," I said, glaring back. "In proper relationships you listen to what your partner thinks! And I think you're overreacting!"

Treize gulped at me. I think it was the first time I'd managed to puncture his cool self possession. "Any other pearls of wisdom you'd like to share?" he rallied sarcastically.

"As a matter of fact yes!" I was on a roll, I didn't care what I said now. "I think you're conceited, that you need to mature by about ten years, that you wear too much cologne, that you need to think about other people more! I think that you paid more attention to how well I matched your décor than to me! I'm thinking I'd rather not be your boyfriend!"

Treize just stared at me.

I stared back, panting. I'd said it -- I'd really said it.

The moment was broken by the rest of the café. The other patrons had stood to give me a standing ovation. Duo grinned as he clapped. "Well done, Quatre."

Treize glared at him. "I demand to see the manager! You will pay for this!" He stormed towards the kitchen.

"Oh, Duo, I'm sorry!" I said. "I've made everything worse -- you might lose your job."

"Don't worry Quat. I'm a good waiter, Howard's not going to fire me because one customer went off his nut at me." Duo calmly returned to picking up the things on the tray.

"Well, the dry-cleaning bill's on me," I said, calming enough to sit down. The adrenalin hadn't quite worn off -- I had stood up to Treize! I mild-mannered Quatre Winner had told him where to get off! I'd really done it! I was startled when Duo chuckled.

"Oh, I don't think there's going to be a dry-cleaning bill," Duo said with an air of smugness.

I was doubtful. "You spilled hot tea on him, Duo."

"Not hot tea. Hot water."

I frowned at him, I'd seen him carrying a tea kettle -- "Wait a minute -- you didn't plan that -- "

"I demand you leave the premises at once!" We looked up as Treize exited the kitchen along with an old guy in a Hawaiian shirt. "Immediately, if not sooner!"

"You'll be hearing from my lawyers about this," Treize threatened as he left.

"Good. I'll be happy to tell them what kind of a moron they have for a client," Howard -- for the old man could be no-one else -- yelled after him. He turned around, muttering under his breath to find the entire café staring at him. "What?" he said. "No one speaks about my grandson that way and gets away with it."

I stared at Duo. "Grandson?"

"Did I not mention that?" Duo did his best to look innocent. Howard was coming over our way.

"Okay, and what was that about?" he demanded.

"What do you mean?" Duo hedged.

"You haven't dropped a tray since you were nine! What gives? That no-good scumbag boyfriend of yours giving you trouble? Cause if he is -- " I took a step back as Howard noticed me. "Is this him?"

"No, my no-good scumbag boyfriend is coming over later," Duo said. "This here is Quatre. I was trying to help him out."

"It's true!" I said. "If Duo hadn't done what he did, I never would have got up the nerve to dump Treize." I shook my head dazedly. "I still can't believe I did that."

Duo punched me in the shoulder. "I knew you could. There's a tiger inside you just waiting to be let out."

I grinned at him. "Rrraow," I said.

Howard shook his head. "Kids today," he bemoaned to the ceiling. Then glared at Duo. "What did I tell you about interfering with customers' love lives?"

"Uh... Not to?"

"Kitchen! Dishes! Now!" Howard barked at him. "Send Hilde out here to cover the shop! I don't want to see you again until closing time!"

Duo scampered.

Howard rolled his eyes as he turned to me. "I hope he hasn't caused you any trouble," he said. "He's really a good kid at heart."

I smiled. "I know."

"Tertiary education," Howard muttered. "I don't know why I agreed to it." He nodded to me and returned to the kitchen.

A few minutes later Hilde appeared with my dessert. "Sorry we can't let you have it in the kitchen but it's probably not a good idea to try Howard any more today."

"Duo's not in trouble is he?"

"Nah, Howard can't stay mad at him for long. They'll be fine." She winked at me. "Enjoy your dessert."

The mudcake was rich moist and perfect. Just as I finished it I noticed that there was a receipt folded under it.

Way to go, it read. Be proud of yourself -- go out and have fun. PS. Forgot to tell you the good news. Boyfriend is going to tell Relena about us tonight.

I smiled, folding the receipt away in my wallet. This one I would keep.

I walked back to work feeling entirely too happy with myself. I gave into the urge to abscond and wandered through the park, enjoying the flowers and sunshine and the feeling of freedom from care and responsibility. On a whim I bought a yellow rose from a little girl fundraising for her school and I twirled it in my fingers as I sat and watched the clouds.

It was with surprise that I realised it was getting late. I reluctantly turned towards the city, I would have to find a taxi stand --

I blinked as I realised the back in front of me was somewhat familiar --

He turned and I recognised him in an instant -- the startlingly green hue of his eyes, his elegant cheekbones, his quiet, subtle smiles --

I smiled, stepping forward and handing the rose to him. I could see the light of recognition in his eyes as he looked from the flower to me.

"Hey," I said, "I've been waiting for you."

He smiled that mysterious smile of his. "Have you now -- well, you know what they say. Once is chance but twice is fate -- "

"Yes?" I said as he leaned forward. He was going to kiss me. My brain was making cheering noises.

"Trowa?" An irritated voice called. "We're going to miss the god-dammed bus." A curly haired woman glared at me from the aforementioned bus.

I blinked as Trowa handed me back the rose with a grave smile. "But the third time is the charm."

"But -- " I protested.

I was too late. He stepped on the bus just as the doors closed and a moment later he was gone.

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Note:
[1] Anyone who thinks Quatre is being cheap -- In New Zealand, which is where I live, you don't tip waiters, they get a salary.

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