Over Coffee + Part Five (cont)

Duo was staring at me. "Quatre, that's brilliant! Can I ask a big favour?"

"Uh--" I said, having a fair idea what he was going to ask. "You don't want me to--"

"Please?" Duo said. "Heero saw us that night I brought you home, remember? We don't actually have to do anything--we just have to look as if we are."

Blushing I sat back down on the sofa, close to Duo. "So what do you want me to do?"

"Lean into me a little--like that--and try not to look as though I'm going to kill you, please Quatre."

"Sorry," I said, trying to relax. "This just feels so weird."

"Come on--this isn't the first time we've done this," Duo reminded me.

That was true.

"Okay," I said. "Go ahead."

Duo smiled at me, running his fingers up to cup my face, before sliding our lips together gently. He kissed like his hot chocolate, warm, smooth and addictive--

I forgot my embarrassment, reaching out to wrap my arms around Duo's shoulders. In fact I pretty much forgot everything--

I blinked, my dazed mind registering the fact that Duo had pulled away from me.

"Wha--" I gasped.

"He's gone," Duo said pulling the curtains shut.

"He is?" I said, trying to work out what he was talking about.

"I can only hope he's got the message," Duo sighed, running a hand through his fringe. "Not that I mind kissing you, Q, but I have a feeling it would be rather hard to explain to Trowa--"

"Yeah," I said. "It would."

Duo yawned. "I'm beat. I think I'll head off to bed now--you don't mind if I disconnect the phone? Don't want to be woken up again--"

"Be my guest," I said, my thoughts so confused that I let his use of a double negative go unremarked. Was I disappointed--or relieved?

+

Taking Duo's advice I decided to give Trowa time to come to terms with the idea of me meeting his sister on his own. Resolved that there would be no pressure from me, I didn't allude to the subject again. As two weeks went by and he didn't allude to it either, I grew worried.

"Why hasn't he said anything?" I grumbled to Duo as we set the tables before the cafe opened. "Am I okay as a fling but not as a long term partner? What?"

"Insecure this morning, aren't we?" Duo teased. "Relax Quatre. It's not you--look, it's obvious Trowa is procrastinating. He doesn't want to take this step, for whatever reason. If you keep avoiding the issue, you're implicitly telling him that you're okay with this and he will continue to avoid the issue, leaving a void in your relationship that will fuel your insecurities, leading to doubt, miscommunication and the eventual failure of the relationship."

I blinked. "So what should I do?"

"I think its time to take the matter into your own hands," Duo said.

"How do I do that?"

"I'm giving you the day off," Duo said, scribbling a note down on the blackboard. "You're going to go to the zoo--you have the day off and you thought that you'd surprise Trowa the way he does. Take some flowers or something, the way he does--and we have those filos left over from the wedding party last night--you can take a picnic," Duo set about packing a basket. "There's enough there for three--"

"For three?" I asked.

"Yes," Duo said. "You're just going to happen to bump into this Catherine while you're waiting for Trowa. Of course, having told her what you intend, it would be rude not to invite her too--"

I hugged Duo. "That's brilliant! Thank-you Duo--but who's going to do the dishes?"

"Actually, Q, Hilde has a friend who needs the money, and she told her I had a job going. I'd kind of like to give her a try and move you on to assistant chef, if you don't mind. Pete's girlfriend is expecting any day and so he wants to be with her--"

"Fine with me," I said. "When do you want me to start?"

"We can discuss that after you get back from your picnic. I'll be here all day--I want to go over the new menu with the cooks, and then its time for the monthly total cleaning spree."

"Sounds like fun," I said.

Duo whapped me with the dish towel. "Get out of here before I change my mind."

The day was fine, just right for a picnic. I felt my spirits rise as I reached the zoo. Although there were people around, it wasn't too crowded--surely I could find a nice place for us to share our lunch undisturbed.

I spotted the girl I'd seen getting on the bus with Trowa at the information counter and went over to her.

"Excuse me," I said, in my most polite voice. "Could you please tell me where to find Trowa Barton?"

"At the moment, he should be cleaning out the spider monkey sleeping area," the girl told me. "Why are you looking for him?"

I could see that her name tag said Catherine. "I was hoping to surprise him with lunch," I said, holding up my basket. "You're not his sister, Catherine, are you?"

"Call me Cathy," She smiled. "I'm afraid I don't know who you are... ?"

"Quatre Winner," I shook hands. "I'm so pleased to meet you. Trowa has told me so much about you."

"Well, as only siblings we are very close," Cathy said. "Still, I'd been wondering who it was that my brother had been going out to meet.I can see why he'd keep you a secret--probably afraid I'd try to take you for myself."

I blushed. "Um, thanks. That was a compliment, wasn't it?"

"Oh, you're adorable! You must come round for tea sometime!" Catherine patted me on the head. "Let's see, Trowa usually starts his lunch break in a few minutes. If I give you a ride in the cart, we should get there just as he finishes."

"Would you like to join us?" I asked. "I've got enough--"

Catherine hugged me. "And you have manners too! Oh, I do hope Trowa keeps you!"

Rather bemused I followed Catherine to the spider monkey's cage.

"Trowa! Your boyfriend's here to see you!" She called as Trowa emerged, dusting off his overalls.

It would appear that Catherine's disapproval was not the problem. She cooed over what a lovely couple we made for a while before leaving to get back to work, saying she didn't want to intrude (or sit downwind off Trowa after he'd been cleaning). That took care of my other concern that Catherine might want to dominate Trowa's life in the same way that my sister's had attempted to control mine. But while happy that her brother had found a suitable partner, Catherine appeared perfectly happy to just let us be.

Trowa, however, was another story. Although charming as ever during our impromptu picnic, Trowa did not seem entirely, well, delighted to see me. This impression was confirmed when he returned to work as soon as we'd finished eating, despite Catherine telling me he had a lengthy lunch break.

Something clearly was not right.

I went to find Duo.

+

I turned up to find soap suds, dish cloths and mops everywhere. The two cooks were engaged in cleaning the huge ovens.

"Want to help?" they asked hopefully.

I reasoned it was the quickest way I'd get to talk with Duo. "Sure."

I quickly discovered that Duo hadn't been kidding when he'd said he was cleaning the entire kitchen. Although the shelves had been wiped down and the storeroom cleaned, the freezers scrubbed and the dishwasher wiped inside and out, the microwaves and fridge remained.

Duo was cleaning the fridge.

"Hey, Quatre. Can I help? Or are you happy just staring at me?"

I blinked, realising I was staring. "I'm sorry," I said. "I've just never seen you with your hair like that before--"

"Don't say it," Duo said. "I know darn well what I look like. But it keeps my hair out of my way."

I stepped into the fridge, trying not to smile. Duo had his customary braid pinned up in a sort of grandmotherly bun.

"And before you even think of it," Duo continued. "The last person to try and take a photo of me like this got a broken arm."

"Two days later," one of the cooks cut in. "When he fell off the ladder while painting his roof."

"It was bad karma," Duo insisted. "You know full well he brought it on himself. You guys heading off?"

"Yeah, the oven and microwaves are done."

"Excellent. Thanks guys."

"No problem. See you at Walker's?"

"Sure thing," Duo agreed.

"Walker's?" I asked.

"Hilde's fiance is throwing a party," Duo explained."I thought I might as well go. Would you like to come?"

"I'm not in much of a celebratory mood," I answered.

"The picnic didn't go well then? What happened?"

Duo listened carefully as I described both the meeting with Catherine and my feelings of unease about Trowa. "Do you think something's wrong? Am I just imagining this?"

"I think you're going to have to just wait and see," Duo told me. "There are a number of things that might cause Trowa unease, but we'll have to wait and see how things develop."

"I hate waiting and seeing," I grumbled.

Duo laughed. "Quatre can you get me a clean cloth? They're in the bucket by the door."

It would be much more convenient, I decided, to have the cloth bucket in the middle of the floor, so it could be reached easily, no matter what part of the fridge we were cleaning. I lifted up the bucket to move it but had not taken more than two steps before there was a soft click behind me and the lights went out.

"Q," Duo said quietly. "Tell me you didn't just shut us in the fridge?"

"Um," I said. "Oops?"

+

Half an hour later (as far as we could tell--Duo had taken off his watch while cleaning, and mine wasn't able to be read in the dark) Duo and I were sitting beside the fridge door, leaning against each other for warmth.

"Are you sure there isn't some sort of safety handle or something?" I asked.

"This fridge has been here for well, decades now. Long before inside handles were invented," Duo sighed. "Howard's been meaning to get it replaced for years, just kept putting it off. And I hadn't even thought of it-before now."

That was comforting. I shuddered again. We were pretty well trapped then--

"It's okay, Q," Duo reassured me. "If I don't show up at the party tonight, Hilde will be over here to find out why--unless of course she and Walker start making lovey eyes at each other--in which case we're stuck here until morning."

"I'm so sorry," I repeated.

"It's okay, Q. Everyone does stupid things like this. Howard shut himself in the fridge once--Hilde wrecked the dishwasher... I drove Howard's car into the delivery van," Duo laughed.

I wasn't convinced. "But what if we run out of air before someone finds us?"

"This is a big fridge, Q. If worst comes to worst and we're here til the morning shift comes in, I'm sure we'll be fine."

I shivered. The fridge just seemed to be getting more cold as time passed. Duo noticed and put his arm around me. "You know Quatre, there's something I've been meaning to talk to you about. You thought any more about Treize's job offer?"

"I've decided not to take it," I said, leaning gratefully against Duo. "It's too much like what I did with my sisters."

"In that case, I've got a confession to make. I asked you to be assistant chef with an ulterior motive."

"Huh?" I said.

"You've already waited on tables. The only area of the cafe in which you haven't already got involved is the cooking--and since I knew Darian wanted to go I asked Hilde's friend if she was interested in your job."

"But why?" I asked.

"I want you to be my business manager."

"Business manager?" I asked.

"You'd handle the accounting side of things, and help around the cafe. Kind of like what I do--you'd be second in charge in fact."

"Duo!" I said. "Oh--wow--" I shook my head. "I don't know what to say--"

"Just think about it. There's no rush."

Even assuming we do get let out of this fridge, I thought, but didn't say.

It was just then that the fridge door opened.

"You know, Duo," Hilde said, dryly. "If you didn't want to go to the party you could just have rung and said so."

Two hot showers later the feeling was gradually coming back to my body. Hilde was sipping coffee in the kitchen as I emerged from the bathroom, talking with Duo.

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