Coffee + Part Five (cont)
"Not Alex! You didn't!"
"He very kindly offered to give you a lift. I don't know what your
problem with him is," Hilde continued. From their tones this was
a long running argument.
"Yeah, that's cause he's never tried to grab your ass," Duo
complained, catching sight of me. "Nice towel, Quatre."
Hilde squealed. "I knew there was a reason you asked Quatre to move
in with you!"
Blushing, I ran into my room to get clothes. Coming back, I found the
conversation hadn't changed much.
"Alex is a lovely man. I don't know what you have against him."
"How about the fact that he's a overly-aggressive sleezeball who
plays wargames in his spare time and enjoys hurting people?"
"Duo! You're not still on about that! Alex was showing Mueller the
karate hold and you volunteered to help him demonstrate. And he apologised
"He knew it hurt and he liked that," Duo insisted. "I had
bruises for a week--"
"Well, don't volunteer to help him with any more martial arts demonstrations
then," Hilde snapped. "I honestly don't know what you have about
Alex and Mueller. You've never forgiven Alex for that and he's trying
so hard to be friends with you--"
"Fine," Duo said. "I'll go with Alex. But I want your pepper
"Fine," Hilde said, giving it to him. "But you're being
ridiculous." She looked at her watch. "I have to go now, I need
to start getting ready."
"What do you want to eat, Q?" Duo asked, pulling saucepans out
of the cupboard. "Stirfry sound good? Or Mexican? I think we have
some tortillas left."
I'd learned that anything Duo cooked was good. He was qualified to help
out in the kitchen to the extent that if necessary he could cover for
a sick cook.
Duo left me in charge of stirring the stir fry while he got changed for
the party. I dutifully chased vegetables around the pan, loosing a fair
few in the process.
"Gently, Quatre," Duo corrected coming up behind me. "Like
this. Well, I think this is ready. How's the rice?"
The rice was a sticky congealing mass.
"Sorry," I said.
"Rice is tricky," Duo told me. "Don't worry about it."
As we ate I studied Duo. He was wearing a red shirt with a black pattern
over top, and the same pair of trousers he'd worn when we'd gone clubbing
with Wufei. This time he had his hair neatly plaited.It might have been
just me but he didn't seem very happy.
"Something wrong, Q?"
"I was wondering if everything was okay. You don't seem very enthusiastic
about your party tonight and, well... "
"Hilde's mad at me. I hate when we fight. She's more like family
than a friend, you know, the little sister I never had," Duo sighed.
"And then Alex isn't exactly one of my most favourite people either.
Still, Walker's okay. He just acquired a lot of weird friends in military
There was a knock at the door just then. Alex had arrived to pick Duo
I didn't like him. He filled the entire corner he stood in as he waited
for Duo to finish his meal and grab his things. Maybe it was the bad press
he'd received, maybe it was the way he leered at me when Duo introduced
us... but I was willing to believe Duo's earlier description of Alex entirely.
"Have a good time!" I called as they left. I wanted to say 'be
careful' but I couldn't say that with Alex around.
"See you Quatre!" Duo called back. "And keep your hands
I didn't think that was directed at me--which didn't make me feel better.
With a sigh I returned to finishing my meal and the dishes. After that
I tried to find something to do. There was nothing on TV that interested
me. I felt bad about delaying the cleaning so I went back to the cafe
and finished cleaning the fridge--making sure to leave the door open this
time. After that finished I settled down with a book on the sofa. Even
then I didn't feel settled.
It wasn't until I tried to go to sleep that I realised what I was doing.
I got up to check on every little sound. Eventually I gave up and sat
in the kitchen to wait for Duo to get back, knowing I would not be able
to relax until I saw him home safely.
Eventually, the door clicked open.
I groggily raised my head. I'd fallen asleep on the sofa, and it took
me a few moments to orientate myself.
"Thanks very much for the ride home and everything," Duo said
from the kitchen. "I really appreciate it... are you sure I can't
offer you coffee?"
The voice that replied was warm and pleasant--and definetely not Alex's.
"I'm sorry but I really do need to get away. Some other time maybe?"
"Count on it," Duo purred.
"Goodnight, then. It was a pleasure to meet you, Duo."
"The pleasure was mine," my friend answered. "Drive safely."
I waited until I heard the front door close before pushing the kitchen
door open. Duo was still facing the door, a wistful look on his face.
He started guiltily as I came in.
"Quatre, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to wake you up."
"You didn't," I told him."I was worried about you and Alex
"You decided to wait up for me? That's so sweet. Remind me to make
you coffee cheesecake tomorrow," Duo ruffled my hair.
"So how was the party?" I asked, trying not to blush.
"Great. I caught up with a lot of Uni friends I haven't seen since
classes finished. I was having a really good time in fact, despite Alex
breathing down my neck the entire time. He was even worse than usual,
had heard about me and Heero breaking up and decided that since I was
single I must be desperate--" Duo shuddered. "I sincerely hope
I am never that desperate. Anyway, to cut a long story short he got drunk
and then, well, let's leave it at overly tactile. I didn't really want
to ruin Walker's party by making a fuss, but I wasn't going to put up
with Alex either. I thought if I could get him outside, I could get rid
of him without making a row, but I hadn't counted on Mueller being there
to protect his buddy's honour. He threw me into a rose bush. That wasn't
much fun, I can assure you." Duo sighed, showing me a scratch across
his wrist. "Lucky I decided to wear a long sleeved shirt, huh?"
"Lucky you weren't seriously hurt!" I told him. "What were
you thinking, going out by yourself! You're not exactly the biggest person
and the world--and if Alex knew martial arts--"
"On looking back it might not have been the smartest thing I ever
did," Duo conceeded. "But at that moment I was more concerned
with not getting Walker's house wrecked."
"So what happened?" I asked. "How come you're not, uh--"
"Pushing up roses?" Duo asked wryly. "That would be Otto."
"Otto?" I questioned.
"My knight in shining armour, the exceedingly classy guy who dropped
me home, the same guy who put Mueller in a head lock and convinced him
he should take Alex inside to deal with the pepper spray. That Otto."
"Oh," I said.
"He has the most gorgeous German accent I've ever heard--" Duo
sighed happily. "Still, don't suppose I'll ever run into him again."
"Too bad," I said. "He sounded nice."
For some reason I didn't feel very sincere when I said that.
The phone rang then.
"Who the hell rings at this time of night?" Duo grumbled as
he ran for the lounge. "Heero," he said, snatching up the phone,
"if this is you--" he blinked, doing a classic double take.
"Old man? Where are you?"
I grinned, sitting back to listen to Duo and Howard's conversation. I
managed to gather that Howard was still in Mexico, although he'd joined
up with a group of travellers doing a bike tour of the more remote temples.
"Sounds pretty cool--and you're learning the local cooking? Seriously?
Avacado? I'll have to try that some time--what do you mean, Rose can show
me? Who is this Rose? Darlian--she's a widow? A very lovely lady--why
do I not like the sound of that? You're thinking of doing what? You're
kidding! I mean, how long have you known her--well, age? Relatives? Financial
situation?" Duo choked. "If she's got that much money, why'd
she want to marry you?"
My turn to choke. Even though I'd been on the receving end of Duo's brutal
honesty before, he'd never been quite that blunt.
"If you must know, I think you're both equally crazy," Duo said.
"I hope she says yes, old man. No, still single. But Quat's been
keeping me company--no, not that way! Geez, someone is frisky! What have
they been feeding you? Yeah? Well, get the recipe--uh-huh, I will. Take
care of yourself. And tell your girlfriend she's welcome to you--I didn't
want to be financing your retirement anyway. Yeah, I know. Love you too."
Duo chuckled as he hung up. "Man, can you believe that? Howard wants
to get married."
"I gathered," I said. "Uh, Duo, why are you so upset?"
"Upset? I'm startled that's all--I mean, I never expected him to
be falling in love at his age--oh, you mean the phonecall. That's just
what we do, Quatre. He expects me to hassle him. If I told him I was sincerely
happy for him, he'd be wanting to fly back here to take my temperature."
"Are you sure?" I asked doubtfully.
"Yeah--well, I'm mostly happy for him," Duo conceeded. "I'm
going to have to meet this Rose person. It's so weird--the thought of
Howard getting married again." Duo sat down on the sofa, thoughtfully.
"All my life it's been just him and me. Sure he had a couple of girlfriends,
but they never lasted long--he never even considered marrying any of them.
My gran was a once in a lifetime match, he said. And now--" He shook
his head. "I guess I just feel as if everyone I know is getting hitched.
Hilde, Howard, Wufei and Sally are definetely long term and you've got
your handsome zookeeper--"
I hugged Duo."Don't be silly. You'll find someone, and until you
do, you have all of us. You're not alone."
"I know, I think I just needed to have someone tell me that,"
Duo hugged me back. "Thanks Quatre, for waiting up for me and...
I soon discovered that no matter how placid the cafe seemed on the outside,
in the kitchen things were always hectic.
"Desserts table six!"
"Mains are go for table nine!"
"What happened to the french toast?"
"Quatre, where are those vegetables?"
I fretted. No matter how fast I tried to cut those carrots up, they always
seemed to be running out. "They're coming!"
"Easy!" A hand caught mine suddenly. It was Duo. "You don't
want to lose a finger, Quat."
"I'm sorry," I said. "I'll be more careful."
Duo studied me carefully. "Lloyd, can you get one of the waiters
to take over the veggies? Quatre doesn't look so well."
As I protested, Duo pulled me out the back into the tiny open-air terrace
that was attached to the cafe. Terracotta tiles and sunflower and lemon
plants in large pots adorned the terrace, while a couple of comfortable
wicker chairs were set in the shade, next to a bathtub planted with herbs
used in the kitchen. It was a quiet, restful place, ideal to recuperate
from the noise and heat of the kitchen. Duo made sure I was sitting down
before fetching a glass of water for me.
"I'm fine, really," I said. "You don't need to make a fuss
In answer Duo held up my hand, already sporting three bandages. "To
quote Howard, you're not operating at a hundred percent, Quatre. What's
the matter? Are you feeling sick?"
I sighed, sipping the water he'd brought for me. "I'm just a little
tired, that's all. I haven't slept well for a while now and I kind of
feel like everything is overwhelming me--I'm just working myself into
a state over nothing, that's all."
"Well, what's at the root of this?" Duo asked, taking the chair
beside me. "I have my break now, so you can tell me all about it."
Duo was wonderfully patient with all my insecurities and fears, even when
they were little things. I knew I could trust him to listen and understand.
"Its just, well, I haven't seen Trowa all week. Not since the picnic.
I've called him a couple of times, but he doesn't seem very interested
in talking to me, and I don't know why and I have no idea what's going
"Easy there, Q. It's okay. Now, he doesn't seem interested in talking
to you? What gives you that impression?"
"He just doesn't seem all the way there when we're on the phone.
And he usually has some reason to end the call--" I scrubbed at my
eyes, feeling like a baby. "It's nothing, I just wish he'd come round--"
"This is odd," Duo said. "You say that Catherine was delighted
to see you -- so why would Trowa have a problem with that? Unless--"
"What?" I asked.
"You're not going to like this."
I didn't. The idea of Trowa having a problem with commitment was enough
to ensure that I almost lost several more body parts that afternoon. After
I broke a plate the head cook ordered me out of the kitchen, telling me
to swap jobs with one of the waiters. Luckily Lloyd had a crush on the
second cook, a very pretty Asian girl, and he didn't mind taking my job.
Waiting tables was enough of a diversion that I managed to put Trowa's
odd behavior out of my mind until the cafe closed.
"So what should I do?"
"Nothing. Trowa is obviously afraid that you're going to try and
tie him down. For the next week you will not phone him, drop by for a
visit, send flowers, talk to his sister--nothing!"
"You know, it probably won't hurt if you didn't talk to him when
he called either."
A whole week of moping around at home, waiting for Trowa to ring but knowing
I couldn't talk to him even if he did--I shuddered. "So what should
I do instead?"
"Go out, do what young people our age do, Quatre!" Duo whapped
me with a dishtowel. "We haven't been clubbing for ages."
"I don't feel like that sort of stuff," I said, shrugging. "Not
"You definetely need to get out of the house--I know!" Duo dashed
into the office, returning shortly afterwards with a brochure. "Take
a look at this!"
"Delicious Desserts--a week long course run by the School of Cooking,
the Polytechnic. The instructor, fresh from Paris, will guide you through
a selection of cooking techniques and presentation secrets. Ideal for
those involved in catering or casual chefs--" I read. "Why are
you giving me this?"
"Quatre Winner, living proof that everything they say about blonds
It was Duo's turn to get whapped. "Well?"
"I was thinking of going and letting you try running the cafe while
I did," Duo said. "But it would be much better if you came too.
After all, anyone running a cafe should know how to cook."
"You still want me to be your business manager?" We hadn't talked
about this since getting out of the fridge.
"I would have told you if I'd changed my mind. Have you thought about
"Not really," I said. "I've had other things on my mind."
Duo patted my shoulder. "Trowa's a fool."
I smiled half-heartedly. If that was true, then why did I feel foolish?
Duo managed to talk me into taking the cooking course. Pouring over recipe
books, wondering aloud whether we'd be making mousse and cheesecakes,
he coaxed me into accompanying him to the Polytech for our first lesson.We
were not the youngest people there, a fact that gave me some confidence.
Duo and I chatted to the chefs in training while we waited for our teacher
As Duo and Sylvia, a pleasant girl, debated the merits of waffles over
crepes, I looked around our classroom with some trepidation. I hadn't
been in many kitchens before--somehow they'd never found their way into
my education. The shining pots and the clean bench surfaces were rather
"Hello everyone." Our instructor entered the class room already
clad in neat white apron. He looked like the sort of person who would
be happier over a campfire than an oven, actually, broad shouldered and
tanned and a friendly air. He smiled around at us all. "Welcome to
the course. I hope we'll have fun working together. I'm Otto, your instructor.
Please feel free to ask if you are unsure about anything. Find yourself
a workspace and I'll come around and take the roll."
Duo and I chose benches next to each other.
"Is that your Otto?" I asked, studying the instructor as he
chatted with Sylvia.
"He's hardly 'my' Otto," Duo said with what could have been
a blush. "But yes, he's the one who rescued me."
"Hello again Duo," Otto said, walking over to us. "I've
been wondering whether or not it was you since I was given the role--after
all, Duo is rather an unusual name isn't it?"
"My mother was an artist," Duo shrugged. "I suppose I'm
just lucky I didn't end up being called Vegas or D'Artagnon or something
like that... I'm told she was considering those."
"An artist?" Otto smiled. "That's funny--I've often thought
you looked like something out of a painting." He put a hand out to
touch Duo's hair gently. "Old Master's may be... " he turned
to me with a bright smile. "And you are?"
"Quatre Winner," I said, watching as he crossed my name off
"Pleased to meet you," Otto replied. "Do you have any cooking
"Not exactly," I said.
"Well don't worry about it. I'm here to help, so if there's anything
you need help with don't hesitate to ask me."
As Otto moved on to the next student, Duo nudged me.
"Is it just me or was he flirting with me?"
"No, he was flirting with you," I said.
"Oh." Duo sounded pleased.
I eyed my friend. This had to be good, right? If Duo was even considering
this, then it had to mean he was no longer thinking of Heero--
Though why that should leave me feeling so uncertain, I had no idea.
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