by: girl_starfish
see part 1 for warnings/disclaimers

Over Coffee + Part Three

I turned up at the work the next today to find my desk piled with folders that needed urgent attention. Apparently when I'd taken the afternoon off I'd missed a crucial development meeting--complete with office heads and catering. I would have been in serious trouble--if not for the fact that thanks to the catering everyone in my department was off work due to salmonella.

So I was not in trouble--not unless you count having sole responsibility for the success of the project and minimal personnel trouble.

It was over a week before I made it back to Howard's. I heaved a sigh of relief as I took a seat at the table by the wall with the colourful flower mural. It felt like coming home--

"Nice to see you," Hilde said, coming up to me with her notebook. "I was beginning to wonder what had happened to you."

"I've had a busy day at work," I answered. "Where's Duo? Isn't it his shift today?"

Hilde frowned. "He's off... sick."

"Sick?" I asked, concerned. "What's wrong with him?"

"Only the messiest break-up I've ever seen," Hilde sighed. "His boyfriend was going to tell his girlfriend about them and move in with Duo. Then at the last moment he changed his mind. If that wasn't enough, she then found out through someone else. She came down here to yell at Duo. It was pretty ugly."

"Oh dear," I said. "Is there anything I can do?"

Hilde brightened. "You know--he doesn't live that far from here. Maybe you'd be able to persuade him to go out and do something. Ever since it happened he's just been moping--I don't think he's left his apartment in days--"

Thanks to Hilde's directions I soon found myself standing in front of a door in what was obviously student accommodation. I knocked, rehearsing what I was going to say.

"Hi Duo. I hope you don't mind me coming around, but Hilde doesn't think you're eating properly and sent me over here to make sure you got a decent meal."

That worked.

I took a deep breath. The door opened and I prepared to launch into my little speech--

Instead I spluttered. "Wufei?"

"Quatre?" he blinked at me. "What are you doing here?" Then he shook his head. "Doesn't matter. You are just the person we need. Come inside."

Still somewhat bemused I followed Wufei into the flat. The lounge had only the basics of furniture, a battered looking TV with the aerial taped upright sitting on an old beer crate, while none of the chairs matched the sofa--but it was cheerfully decorated with colourful posters, artwork, potplants and assorted textbooks. Definitely student accommodation.

"I don't hear screaming--" Duo stuck his head round the divider wall that separated the lounge from the kitchen. "Is it safe to come out?"

"It's Quatre," Wufei said.

"Quatre? Hey," Duo smiled at me, a weak reflection of his usual grin. "Sorry about that. The bitch showed up yesterday--I'm a little wary of opening the door." He disappeared beyond the divider again.

"Heero's girlfriend, Relena," Wufei clarified. "She has a remarkably direct way of expressing her displeasure."

"You were here?" I asked surprised.

"No, I got here about an hour ago," Wufei said. "I managed to convince him to change his clothes but I'm not having much luck in persuading him to do something. A change of scenery is just what he needs."

"Hilde asked me to come over and make sure he got something decent to eat."

"I haven't eaten yet either," Wufei said. "How about I go out and fetch us all takeaways?"

"Sounds good," I approved.

"Duo?" Wufei asked the divider. "I'm going to get us some tea. Want anything?"

"I'm not really hungry, Wufei."

My friend patted me on the back. "See what you can do to cheer him up. I'll be back soon." He left.

Why do I always seem to end up in situations like this? I sighed as I followed Duo into the kitchen area. It was pretty ordinary save for this one ornament--a wind-chime made from glass that was supposed to look like crystal. It glittered like liquid silver in the sunlight.

"Want a cup of coffee?" Duo said, from the bench.

"I don't want to put you to any trouble," I said.

"It's no bother. Wufei bullied me into making myself one just as you arrived," Duo said, as the hot water jug flicked off. "Find yourself a mug." His voice turned bitter. "Just not the 'World's Best Shag' one. I got that for Heero."

I picked a nice safe Star Wars one. "Hilde told me what happened. I'm sorry."

"Me too. I guess it's my own fault for believing him though. I mean, he'd had every opportunity before now to tell her--I guess I didn't want to admit he never would--" Duo sighed as he handed me my cup. "I feel so stupid. But at least it's over now."

"That's one good thing," I said, stirring my coffee.

"Is it? I don't think so--who am I kidding? I just want him to come back, I don't care if he's still with her. I miss him so much, damn him--"

I sympathised.

"The worst thing--the thing that cuts me up the most... it's not that he left me for her. It's that he never had the guts to tell me so. You know why she came round yesterday? It was to get his stuff. He couldn't do that himself."

"You're better off out of this," I told him. "You said so yourself--you deserve more than half of Heero's attention--and now you're free to go and find something better."

"If only it was that easy--" Duo sighed. "You don't get over a relationship that deep overnight--"

"I'm not suggesting you do. But Hilde says you've spent the last three days at home--don't you think that's more than enough time for feeling sorry for yourself? If you stay and mope that's not helping you get over him--that's just making it worse. Go out and do things--get your mind off Heero."

Duo stared at me. Then smiled. "I thought I was the one who gave the good advice."

I toasted him with my coffee cup. "I learned from the best." I then sipped at my drink. And choked.

"Quatre? Something wrong?" Duo asked anxiously.

"This is the perfect cup of coffee! How did you do it?" I demanded. "It's exactly right--not too harsh, not too much milk--"

Duo laughed. "There are advantages in having a granddad who runs a coffee house. I learned how to make a good cup of coffee before I learned how to ride a bike--of course, the ingredients are crucial. We make all our own blends--and I grind my own beans, see?"

We discussed Duo's kitchen for a while, and Duo seemed the better for the conversation. By the time Wufei arrived back with our meal Duo was amenable to being persuaded to go out with us for the evening.

"But not before I take a shower," he said firmly. "I am not leaving this house until my hair has been washed."

"We're not really dressed for going out either," I said, looking at myself and Wufei. "How about we go and get changed and meet you back here in an hour?"

"Sounds good," Wufei said. "Quatre, would you like a lift to your place?"

I suspected Wufei had made the offer because he wished to talk to me. I was right. Maybe I was learning from Duo.

"Quatre--I want your opinion. Am I selfish in forcing Duo to come out with us?"

"Not really," I said. "I think it would be good for him to get out of his flat for a while. But I don't think you should try for a relationship at the moment--"

"I thought that too. It's weird, Quatre. Before I met you, I didn't have any close friends. People tend to be daunted by the fact I have a career despite my age. You knew what it was like because it's the same for you. Duo simply doesn't care about it--he treats me as an equal. I've found myself thinking of the two of you as my best friends--"

I grinned at him. "I'm honoured. And I'm sure Duo will be too."

"You think?" Wufei smiled shyly at me. "I've starting wondering if I want to take the risk that going out with Duo might spoil the friendship we have--I don't know what I should do."

I found it hard to give Wufei a coherent reply. I was thrown by the fact that my confident strong friend was trusting me with such a vulnerable side of himself. "You don't have to make your mind up now--Duo is going to take time to recover from this--and if you continue the way you are now, building a strong friendship, then when the time comes to make the decision you can evaluate your friendship and decide whether or not that's enough."

Wufei shook his head at me. "When did you get so wise?" he asked as he pulled over by my apartment. "I'll pick you up on my way back. Sound good?"

"Very good," I said. It didn't take me long to pull together a suitable outfit. My sisters wouldn't have approved of it, but I was happy with it. I hummed as I waited for Wufei to return--despite my worry about Duo, I was looking forward to an evening of fun. Wufei grinned as he picked me up. "It's been too long since we've done this."

"I know," I said. "So where do you want to go?"

He shrugged. "I'm not too fussed. Let's see if Duo has any preferences."

To our surprise Duo didn't have to be coaxed out of the apartment. He was waiting on the footpath, and climbed into the car eagerly. "So what's our plan of attack?"

Wufei shrugged. "The night is young, we're dressed to kill--the city is our oyster, basically."

"What do you want to do?" I asked.

"Well Barracuda's is pretty cool--of course I haven't been there for ages. Heero didn't like going out with me in public--" Duo's grin wavered for a second.

"His loss," Wufei said subtly rearranging the rear view mirror to allow him to see Duo.

I hid a smile. Duo's top was made out of some silky black material that shimmered silver when he moved. He had his hair down and the combination transformed him from affable waiter to something seductive and slightly dangerous.

"Rules for tonight," I said. "No one gets overly drunk. No one is allowed not to have a good time."

"Quatre does not alter the radio station in my car," Wufei said. "Duo?"

"No one mentions Heero," Duo said. "Are we set?"

Barracuda's was great, creative décor combined with an emphasis more on dancing than on drinking and a pretty good live band. As it got later, the club got crowded. Eventually Wufei pulled Duo and myself outside.

"Not that I'm not enjoying this--but I'd like to be able to move without risking impaling myself on someone's elbow."

"Time to move on?" Duo said.

"I know a club not far from here," I said. "It's always good."

Wufei sighed. "Not the club you met mystery man at? I thought you'd given that up--"

I hadn't told Wufei about seeing him again. "It's still a good club."

"Sounds intriguing," Duo said. "Let's go."

Wufei groaned. "Fine. But if they play Quatre-music we're out of there."

I pouted. "What's wrong with my music?"

"Quatre, there's a reason why most people try to forget the eighties ever happened--"

+


A couple of hours later, I sat at the bar, watching as Duo tried to teach Wufei to waltz. The music had met with Wufei's approval and so we'd stayed. I was taking a break from the dance floor, scanning the crowd on the off chance that my mysterious green-eyed sex god might have turned up, when a shadow fell over me.

I looked up into the face of a taller blond sex god. He smiled at me. "Is this seat taken?"

"Oh, no," I stuttered intelligently. "It's free."

He gave me a smile that just oozed charisma as he sat down. "And you? Are you free?"

I blushed. "Maybe."

"Then let me buy you a drink."

His name was Zechs, he was a freelance photographer with his own business, he'd noticed me frequenting the club, and wanted to take me out for lunch. I was smitten.

"It's a date," I said as we exchanged phone numbers.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said, with that same wonderful smile.

I blushed, and stared at my drink in the faint hope that it would provide me with something intelligent and sophisticated to say. I was saved from this effort by Wufei.

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," he said, giving Zechs a speculative glance, "but I need to talk to you a moment, Quatre."

I immediately felt guilty, I'd forgotten my friends. "Is anything wrong?"

"No, Duo and I were talking of heading out. He reckons no-one can beat him at Mortal Kombat and so I have to prove him wrong--we'll probably head home after that. I was going to invite you along--but you seem to have found something more interesting to occupy yourself with."

I blushed and stared at my shoes. "I am quite happy to stay and just take a taxi home," I confessed.

Wufei grinned. "I thought as much. See you around Quatre--don't stay out too late--"

"Don't keep Duo out too late," I admonished him.

Wufei laughed and left. I turned back to Zechs with a smile--It was about time things went right.

+


"He's gorgeous!" I enthused. "And he kisses like nothing else!"

Wufei laughed. "And what's he like?"

I frowned. "I told you. Incredibly sexy and--"

"No, I meant personality wise--"

Personality wise? I frowned. "Actually... he's a little hard to get to know."

"Why is that?"

"I don't know--I guess the things we do tend not to be formulated for provoking deep and meaningful conversations. And it's early days yet--"

"A week?" Wufei considered.

"I think it's about time I saw this incredible sex god of yours," Duo said, handing me my coffee with a smile. He was not wearing his waiter's uniform but street clothes.

"End of your shift?" I asked.

"Uh-huh. I've got a psych tute in half an hour and then Wufei wants a Mortal Kombat rematch."

"How did that go?" I asked.

"I won," Duo said.

"But barely," Wufei said. "Three out of five, and I would have won if my controls had not jammed--"

"Oh yeah," Duo rolled his eyes. "Then explain how come I won when we swapped controls--"

"Luck," Wufei shrugged.

"Luck my arse," Duo said. "I'm better than you and you just can't admit it."

"You wish." Wufei stood. Despite the banter he seemed happy. "We should get going now if I'm to meet your tutor before class."

I frowned. "You're meeting his tutor?"

Wufei ducked his head and looked embarrassed. "We talked after we left the other night about the friends or dating thing--"

"I don't want to rush into anything," Duo said. "So we're going to Sally for her august opinion. I have to warn you, Wufei, she spends a good ten minutes every tutorial bemoaning the lack of cute Chinese guys in this country--she's going to jump at the chance to get to know you better."

"But I'm gay."

"Like that will stop Sally." Duo waved goodbye to me. "Enjoy your coffee, Q. See you later!"

"Bye!" I waved goodbye to both of them, feeling very happy.

"So," an amused voice said behind me. "This is where you hang out nowadays."

I jumped. "Iria?"

She laughed at my surprise, sitting down at my table. "We noticed you never join the other employees for lunch and wondered where you got to. Not a bad place, little bro."

I winced as she ruffled my hair. "Iria, do you have to do that? I know people here."

"Oh, am I embarrassing you in front of the girls?" Iria grinned and did it again. "One of the penalties of being a little brother I'm afraid, Squirt."

I sunk into my chair fuming. Twenty-nine sisters, and they were all taller than me. It wasn't fair.

Hilde saved me from further humiliation by appearing then to take Iria's order. "By the way, Quatre? We had a double up in the kitchen--we've got an extra plate of French toast. Would you like it?"

"Thank-you," I said.

"No problem. We've all had lunch, and we'd just be throwing it out if you didn't want it," Hilde explained with a smile.

Iria smirked as Hilde returned to the kitchen. "That was nice of her."

Something in her tone didn't fit the innocent statement. "What do you mean?"

Iria smiled disarmingly. "Well I can see why you keep returning here, little brother--"

I had to blink a few times before I realised what Iria was insinuating. That Hilde liked me and I liked her. I sighed. "Iria, it's not like that. Hilde is a friend--she's probably just grateful that I was able to help cheer Duo up. Anyway, she's not my type and I happen to be seeing someone different at the moment."

Iria nodded but looked as if she didn't believe me. "So who's the lucky girl?"

I sighed. "His name is Zechs and he's a freelance photographer. He's tall, with hair blonder and longer than yours and a smile that could dispel rain clouds."

Iria sighed. "Quatre, isn't it time you passed this phase and found yourself a nice girl you can raise a family with? When I was your age I was engaged--"

"It's not a phase--" I argued.

"Septem is bringing his niece over for tea tomorrow night. She's a lovely girl, very intelligent. She's studying animal psychology."

I had long been of the suspicion that my family had perfected selective hearing to an art form. I sighed and endured Iria prattling on about various eligible girls. Hilde returning with my French toast was the only bright point of the conversation.

Finally Iria ran out of things to say and I took control of the conversation. "Iria," I said. "I am not interested in girls. Not a bit. You can introduce me to all the wealthy females you want, it won't change a thing."

"How do you know?" Iria challenged. "You've never given them a try. Look Quatre, if I felt that you had given just one girl I've found for you a chance, I would stop trying to find partners for you."

"Really?" I said.

"Yes. I'll make a deal with you--you make an effort to get to know the next girl I find for you, and if it doesn't work out then I promise not to set you up with anyone, ever again, unless you want me to."

"And you accept that this isn't a phase I'm going to grow out of." We shook hands.

+


[cont]