Warnings : Yaoi, angst/sap/romance, citrusy moments, OOC,
language, Duo POV, unrepentant use of pet-names.
Thanks to Christy, the beta reader I have not been able to break. ^__~
Thanks also to Kitana for artistic technical suggestions,
Kracken for opinions rendered, and Plaiddragon for the loan of the Zechs
Feed-back is a dream
And I don't own anything in this series, either.
Why do things keep taking me by surprise? Why did it never once cross
my mind that Captain Yancy 'meet my son the illegal co-pilot' Gray would
attempt to dispute the charges Heero made against him? Why, once that
stupid return trip from L2 was over and my sleep-deprived bout of paranoia
had eased, did I not realize that we were somewhat out-numbered in the
'their word against ours' department?
Gray, his son, the two flight-attendants and even the damn bar-tender
were attempting to claim that the whole fiasco was the fault of two 'hot-shot'
ex-Gundam pilots with some sort of twisted need to 'play the hero' even
if they had to manufacture a crisis to rush into the middle of.
Heero's and my... delay in reporting to the head of security might have
turned into a tactical error on our parts. Ms. Kasten, who had been somewhat
on the fence in her opinion of us, was rather unsympathetic after that.
I think she took our attitude as... well, attitude that lent credence
to Gray's hot-shot accusations without us even realizing what was going
Somehow, while we'd taken our sweet time getting back to the shuttle port
security office, Gray's son Spencer had managed to get in to see his father.
I wouldn't have taken Ms. Kasten for a chief with holes that big in her
policy... but who knows how the kid managed it. Captain Gray hadn't wasted
the opportunity though, because not long after that, the crew of flight
fourteen-ten suddenly had a united front and a story they were sticking
to. I imagine all that time locked in his cabin during re-entry had given
the good Captain plenty of time to think his situation through and he
used it to get his shit together.
It got kind of ugly after that. What we had assumed was going to be a
miserable day or two filing paperwork and giving statements had turned
into more. A lot more. Gray had opted to take the thing to trial, claiming
his innocence. He was going to make us work to prove our allegations,
the son of a bitch. And the first smoke-screen he'd thrown up was mucking
with the shuttle's black box recorder. While Heero and I had been outside
his ship, saving his ass... saving his son's ass... saving the asses of
his passengers and crew, Yancy-boy had been in the cock-pit applying enough
current to the ship's recorder to assure that the thing was wiped and
useless. He was claiming it must have happened during the initial impact
that had taken out the deceleration vane. It was... an unbelievable story
and nobody in their right mind bought it. Unfortunately, Heero and I were
alone in that cockpit just as much as Gray was. We'd had just as much
opportunity to 'destroy the evidence' as he had. The question hadn't been
so much that the evidence had been tampered with, but more... evidence
That act had utterly crushed whatever spark of sympathy I might have had
left for Captain Yancy Gray. It had turned his impromptu panicked embracing
of the opportunity to save his career, into something a hell of a lot
In the Preventor business, they call it pre-meditated murder.
Heero hadn't had any damn sympathy for Gray to start with, but finding
out about the black-box had sent him into a seething rage. In his mind,
somehow, it had all become about me. Gray had tried to murder me.
Gray was lying about me. And I don't suppose by now I have to tell
you that Heero has a protective streak wider than a four-lane highway?
The result was his using his standing with Une to turn the case into Preventors'
business. With all the scrutiny that entailed. Scrutiny that Heero and
Wufei were right in the thick off. Not that he'd had to apply a lot of
pressure, Commander Une had not been happy with what was being implied
about one of her top agents.
My partner was doing his best to keep me the hell out of it, for which
I was eternally grateful, but when it was all said and done, two weeks
after our Christmas trip to L2 found me pretty much living the life of
a bachelor. Heero and Wufei were out of town, dealing with interviews
and trial preparations and I was just trying to maintain 'normal' while
great chunks of my life were being turned upside down. Again.
Ever wonder just what it is about me that rubs God the wrong way?
And I could cheerfully kick my own ass for starting the whole Winner sister
art gallery ball rolling when I had. If I'd had a clue what we were going
to be facing in the days and weeks after that stupid trip, I'd have never
in a million years made that call to Trowa. But I hadn't, and I had, and
I'd been right to equate the woman with a rat terrier, who had been held
on a short leash for far too long, and when she'd been given the ok to
approach me... no time had been wasted. Had she not been out of town at
the time of the initial call, I have little doubt she'd have been on my
doorstep that same night.
And somehow, on the day that I ended up going to meet her for the first
time, and Heero was gone because of that stupid trial and not able to
be with me... I found a whole new reason to hate Captain Gray.
I can't tell you what I expected Aleyah Winner to be like, I really can't.
I'd felt somewhat like the woman had been stalking me ever since she'd
first been mentioned. Back before she'd been more than 'the watercolor
I forget sometimes just how damn many of them there are, and by virtue
of that fact, the spread in their ages. Not that I think that Daddy Winner
didn't cook them up more than one at a time, but when you've got a brood
of thirty children... they aren't all going to be from the same decade.
I sometimes have trouble getting my head around the fact that 'Quatre's
sister' does not necessarily mean of the same damn generation. Half of
them were old enough to be his mother.
Aleyah Winner was one of those, probably in her early to mid forties?
not that she would dream of telling you her age, and a damn imposing woman.
A scary woman. A woman with a family name that lent her a certain amount
of power that she had parleyed into a social circle that she used like
clothing, if that makes any sense. I had this feeling that if you took
the woman out of that circle; she would just cease to exist.
She was tall for a Winner, her blond hair darker than Quatre's, but shot
with gray that she wore with some amount of... I dunno, not quite pride,
but almost like a banner, as though making sure that people knew she was
of an age to be taken seriously.
I had little doubt that nothing in her wardrobe cost less than one of
my paychecks, and I also doubted she bothered to wear any of it more than
once. And that included her shoes and ridiculous hats.
She was the polar opposite of everything I was. The classic, clichéd
single rich woman. Right down to her little dog.
Her little dog that was keeping me from truly concentrating on the woman's
words. The little dog that was wandering about Quatre's sitting room just
as though it owned the place. The little dog that Trowa was currently
trailing quite unobtrusively.
Maybe it was Trowa to whom I owed the distraction, and not so much the
dog, Cocotte. Because it was damn surreal and kind of amusing to watch
the doggy dance he was doing. Cocotte sniffed and wandered, sniffed and
wandered. Trowa shifted and trailed, shifted and trailed. Cocotte wandered
and... squatted. Trowa nudged and then they started all over again.
And while the corner of Quatre's mouth twitched just slightly whenever
Cocotte was thwarted, Aleyah seemed to be totally oblivious to the entire
Dog Piss Ballet that her own dog was leading.
The whole bizarre thing at least gave me something else to think about
besides the kind of sick tightness in my chest as the woman leafed through
my portfolio with a detached aloofness that I couldn't read for the life
I'd about given myself an ulcer picking through sketches and trying to
decide what to present for her... God, for her interview, I guess you
would call it. Because it sure as hell felt like I was interviewing for
a job. A lot of my art is... a little too personal to be showing to anybody,
much less to be contemplating showing to a lot of anybodies. It
had taken me every second of time between Trowa calling to tell me when
to be at their house and actually leaving for the appointment, to pick
out a set of sketches that didn't leave me cringing. I'd settled on some
from the time period right around when Hayden had met Toria, back in the
days when he and I had been hanging around together and contemplating
a partnership in the trade. Those had been... not bad days. Most of the
sketches from then were studies and portraits, some memories and some
fanciful stuff. But there wasn't a lot of the darker crap that started
surfacing after I'd been out on my own for awhile.
But it was still my art, it was still bits and pieces of... me
that she was carefully leafing through with those exquisitely painted
'And where did you say you studied, dear?' she asked as she turned a page
to look closer at a portrait of Hayden in free-fall.
I let out a sigh and tried not to let myself rub at the back of my neck.
'Ah... I've never actually been to art school,' I confessed, cringing
inwardly and waiting for her to dismiss the whole thing, but her eyes
flicked up from the page and she graced me with a look that made me feel
decidedly like a side-dish.
'Oh,' she purred thoughtfully. 'Raw talent? I like that.'
I felt the heat rising into my cheeks and I glanced toward Trowa the second
she turned her attention back to the sketches, trying to catch some clue
from him. When he finished suggesting to Cocotte that she not pee on the
floor for the tenth time, he met my gaze and gave me a small smile.
I tried to be reassured by it. Beside me, Quatre delicately cleared his
throat. 'Would you care for more tea, Duo?'
I glanced from my full cup to meet his eyes and got a wink that was designed
to tell me his support was behind me and not his sister. Or something
like that. I honestly wasn't real sure. It was kind of hard to tell, because
my 'baby brother' was so damn busy being happy as a little gilded clam
over my 'breaking into the art world', that he couldn't stop beaming at
me. It made for some damn mixed signals.
'No thanks,' I mumbled, just for appearances sake, because there was certainly
no room in the little china cup for more tea. Though it served to make
me remember the stuff and I took a sip. I'm not a big fan of tea, I'd
have rather had a bottle of soda, and not just for the label I could have
been peeling into confetti. But today seemed to be all about appearances.
And of course, that thought only served to remind me of how tight
my damn collar felt and I found myself reaching to tug at it and made
Somewhere in there, I realized I'd missed something and I blinked up to
find Aleyah looking at me expectantly.
'Pardon?' I managed.
'Pay attention, dear,' she smiled bemusedly and I felt my face flame.
She laughed a dainty little laugh that still managed to chill my blood
and said, 'I am so going to enjoy you.'
I fell back on my carp imitation and beside me Quatre sighed with a hint
of resignation in it, chiding, 'Aleyah... be nice.'
The woman actually pouted in an almost elegant way... don't ask me how
that's done because I couldn't have reproduced the expression if I'd tried,
and brushed aside Quatre's warning with a wave of her hand. 'Quatre-pet
you are simply no fun at all.'
Quatre didn't bother to reply, and she didn't seem to expect him to. I
suspected it was a scene they played out quite often and it made me wonder
about her... habits.
'I said,' Aleyah turned her attention back to me. 'If you are paying attention
now, darling, that this piece is very interesting. What do you call it?'
I blinked down at the sketch she had it tilted for me to see, showing
me a study I'd done of a downed Leo. It was quite detailed in the damage
that could be done to metal by a beam scythe. That was the whole focus
of the picture actually; how the metal curled just so.
Ok... maybe one or two of the sketches had been a little darker than the
others. I did say that some of them were memories, didn't I?
'Call it?' I stammered, looking between her and the sketch.
She gave out with an exasperated little sigh. 'I must have titles, dear,'
she informed me somewhat dismissively, as though she had just delegated
some task. 'The Frenchman brought an artist in just last month that couldn't
title worth diddly. Sweet girl, but absolutely no imagination.
We simply can not do the 'untitled-101' thing again so soon. You
will have to title.'
She was already turning the page while I was still dealing with the fact
that she had just informed me in her non-informative way, that she was
going to sponsor me. Quatre made a noise and I glanced at him to see him
doing that beaming thing again. Guess he'd gotten the same message I had.
Aleyah was pausing over a study I had done of Toria's hands. It had struck
me one day, how different her hands were from some of the women I had
happened to meet near the end of the war. Women like Relena with their
porcelain skin and manicured nails. Toria had a spacer's hands; calloused
and scarred. Blunt-nailed and strong. But no less beautiful in their own
I felt my own hands curl around my tea cup.
Suddenly Aleyah turned the page toward me and commanded. 'Name this one.'
I blinked at her in surprise and finally faltered out with, 'Uh? 'Victoria's
The woman actually rolled her eyes at me. 'Oh darling... you suck at this,'
I was told in a rather resigned little tone. She turned the sketch back
around and swept her gaze over it again. 'Competence,' she said after
a moment's consideration. 'We shall title this one 'Competence'.'
I honest to God was surprised that she got that part. I glanced up to
meet her eyes and was graced with a tasteful little smirk. 'I shall do
the titling, I think,' she said, and there was such an air of command
about her that I found myself nodding, still trying to get my brain around
the fact that the prim Ms. Winner had just used the word 'suck'.
Then she shut the portfolio with a certain finality. 'These are lovely,
pet, but I will need more current work from you.'
It startled me, that she had known somehow that the sketches weren't new.
'I can manage that... I think,' I replied, trying to figure out if I had
anything current that was... audience friendly.
'Quatre-love,' she said, almost as though my answer hadn't mattered. 'I
want to display that portrait of your charming lover. It is exquisite;
you must let me have it.'
I missed the look on Quatre's face, because my attention leapt in Trowa's
direction to catch his reaction to the comment. He finished his step in
the doggy ballet and looked up to meet not mine, but Quatre's gaze, and
he shrugged unconcernedly.
'It's not for sale,' Quatre replied firmly, once he had confirmation that
his 'charming lover' didn't mind having his picture trotted out for the
art world to see.
'Of course it isn't dear,' Aleyah reassured. 'It's a must to have several
pieces labeled as part of a 'private collection'.' She tossed a small
wink in her brother's direction. 'I wouldn't sell your precious Trowa.'
Then she was pulling out a massive day-planner and was all business. 'I
have a block scheduled in my name at the gallery in two weeks. My potter
canceled on me... something to do with her job. I deplore artists with day jobs. You don't have a day job, do you dear?'
She never glanced up as she busily made notations and so missed my patented
'Aleyah,' Quatre warned, his tone implying a certain amount of exasperation.
'You know he does? I told you about it.'
'Quite right, pet,' she replied, topic already forgotten, or dismissed,
or some damn thing. 'No matter... his work is exquisite. I won't miss
the opportunity to make him one of mine.'
Whatever look came over my face then was enough that Trowa actually gave
in to a snicker. I was lost in visions of Aleyah Winner in a house full
of pet artists... all dressed in collars and not much else. Oh God...
what had I gotten myself into?
'I just have time to have the pamphlets printed, dear,' she was saying
and I tried to focus on the meaning behind her words. Pamphlets? What
fucking pamphlets? 'If we get you to the photographer immediately.' She
pulled out a business card, jotted something on the back and handed it
to me. 'Have yourself at the studio on Monday. I'll handle everything
'But...' I stammered, and stopped, disgusted with myself. Was I going
to stammer every damn line I delivered to the woman? 'I have to
work, I can't possibly?'
She laughed lightly. 'You do get a lunch hour, don't you darling?'
she reached across and tapped delicately at the card in my hand. 'Note
the time on the back of the card. Don't worry... Jacques is a wonderful
photographer. He'll have you done and back playing with your silly little
cars in plenty of time.'
It dawned on me in there somewhere, just how Aleyah Winner got her way
in everything, and I had no doubt that she did... she simply kept everyone
around her so damn off-balance that they never thought to object to anything.
'Now that that's settled,' she said breezily, making a couple more notes
before closing the planner. 'I'm going to need some more pieces from you
by the end of the week. Your sketch work is extraordinary, but I would
prefer at least two paintings as well; I don't want your scope to seem
'Paintings?' I queried, refusing to stammer again.
'You do have paintings, don't you?' she pressed. 'I've seen your
terribly unorthodox? ship's work, pet, and I simply must have paintings.'
Two paintings by the end of the week? 'That? shouldn't be a problem,'
I heard myself saying; suddenly loathe to admit that I didn't have a thing
that could be gotten into a gallery, unless she wanted to have the show
in a damn hanger somewhere.
'Good,' she smiled, actually looking at me for the first time in a bit.
'And more recent sketches than this; you mustn't hold out on your sponsor.'
I found myself blushing again for some damn reason and all I could do
'Perfect!' she declared and I felt dismissed. 'I believe that is all I
need for the moment. I will see you Monday at Jacques.' Then she was gathering
her things and preparing to leave. Trowa looked mildly relieved. Quatre
looked like he might bust something grinning. I'd graduated from a deer
in headlights, to a bunny-rabbit with a bad leg on a shuttle-field.
But then she gathered up my sketches right along with the rest of her
stuff and there was a funny little lurch in the pit of my stomach. 'Uh...
what are you??' I began, and she gave me that weird amused little smile
I had already decided I was going to be heartily sick of before very long
'Darling,' she informed me in a tone that can only be described as condescending.
'I can't hang sketchpads in a gallery. Things must be matted and framed.'
Well. That certainly made sense, didn't it? Another one of those things
that I should have thought of. Another one of those things that rather
took me by surprise. Some part of my brain that hadn't been frazzled to
death started doing math calculations but even that quickly ground to
a halt. I'd never had anything matted and framed... I didn't have a clue.
'Oh,' was the best I could manage.
Somewhere in there, she had stood up and it was the sense of her towering
over me that made me stand too. She laughed outright and stepped over
to pat me gently on the cheek. 'My dear, you are too adorable for words!'
she said and something in her voice wiped away the notion I'd had of her
as a rat terrier and changed it to something more akin to a shark. 'You
have a sponsor now; let Aleyah take care of everything.'
I was rather grateful that she turned away before I had a chance to actually
say yes Ma'am.
Cocotte didn't even have to be called, leaving Trowa's company and darting
to her mistress' heel as soon as Aleyah began walking. She gave Quatre
one of those proper little hugs, admonishing him to 'take care of his
acrobat', and then surprised me by stopping to give Trowa an identical
little embrace, though I didn't quite catch what she told him. It made
Trowa use his sardonic grin, and I decided I really didn't want to know.
Watching her walk out the door with my portfolio tucked under her arm
kind of brought it all home though, and my knees decided I should sit
back down on the settee. Trowa stayed with me while Quatre saw her out,
and no longer being busy policing the dog, he turned and smiled bemusedly
at me. 'So... you going to live?'
I looked up at him and didn't even try to school what must have been a
shell-shocked expression. 'Dear God... what have I done?'
'She is rather... overwhelming, isn't she?' he smirked and came to sit
in the chair closest to me.
'You did not warn me,' I accused, still staring at the door, still fighting
the urge to run after them, snatch my sketches back and tell the scary
woman to forget the whole thing. 'I thought we were friends.'
He chuckled and reached out to take one of the little shortbread cookies
off the saucer in the middle of the coffee table before sitting back to
nibble at it. 'Would you honestly have believed me if I'd tried to describe
I looked his way and finally had to let out a snort. 'I suppose you have
He quirked me a grin that was meant to be reassuring. 'Duo, as odd as
she seems sometimes... she really does know what she's doing.'
'I hope so,' I mumbled, giving in to the urge I'd had all afternoon to
rub my hand over my face. 'Because I sure as hell don't.'
When I pulled my hand away from my eyes, I started at the green bottle
that had suddenly appeared in front of me and looked up to find Quatre
there, grinning down at me. I took the offered soda with a heart-felt
sigh. 'Oh God, Quat; I love you!'
Trowa chuckled at me while I uncapped the thing and gulped down several
nerve settling mouthfuls. Quatre came around the settee and sat back down
beside me. 'Well... you didn't seem to be enjoying your tea.'
'I really don't like tea all that much,' I confessed sheepishly, 'but
swilling Mt. Dew in front of your sister seemed... crass, somehow.'
Quatre snorted and shook his head, then surprised me by reaching out and
before I knew it, he'd unbuttoned the top button on my band-collar shirt.
'You looked like you were about to strangle a couple of times.'
I gave in to the second urge I'd been having all day and rubbed at the
back of my liberated neck. 'Little brother,' I intoned solemnly. 'We have
a seriously weird family.'
He laughed with delight, his eyes fairly shining, and I had to work not
to look Trowa's way, though I could feel his approving gaze. Making an
effort to make Quatre happy was a fairly recent conscious decision of
'Aleyah is...' he said, when his laughter had faded. 'Very dedicated.'
It was my turn to laugh. 'Dedicated?' I asked, a little incredulous. 'That
seems a little... tame, for a woman who makes you feel like you've been
run over by a steam roller.'
'She gets the job done, Duo,' Trowa told me, then popped the last of his
shortbread into his mouth.
'But,' I couldn't help saying, trying to decide which of them to address
the question to. 'A photographer? What in the world does she need a... a pamphlet
It was Quatre who answered me, reaching out to pat me gently on the knee,
as though he was about to impart the news that I was to be executed at
dawn. 'Duo, you do understand that there will be a reception at the opening?
When people go to gallery shows, they want to know about the artists.
There are usually little informational leaflets that are handed out...'
the more he talked, the more I must have looked like I was staring down
the barrel of a .45, and he finally petered out and stopped.
'Reception?' I stammered, suddenly understanding that this art world thing
might be a hell of a lot more complicated than I'd ever dreamed. 'I don't
know anything about...'
'That,' Trowa cut me off calmly. 'Is why you have a sponsor. It is Aleyah's
job to know what to do for you. All you have to do is listen to
'Oh God,' I told him, somewhat aghast. 'I'm supposed to trust a woman
to handle everything who can't even remember my damn name?'
Quatre let out with a bark of laughter that he tried to stifle and finally
managed, 'She does that to everyone, dear; it doesn't mean she
can't remember your name.'
I couldn't help the double take and he grinned at me rather unrepentantly.
'I sure hope so,' I grumbled. 'I really don't want to end up with all
those pictures labeled as 'by Pet'.'
Trowa chuckled and prodded my foot under the table in a companionable
way. 'Stop worrying,' he commanded. 'Now tell us how this trial business
is going. Are Heero and Wufei coming back soon?'
I sat back with a heavy sigh, taking the moment to up end my bottle for
another couple of swallows. 'Not likely,' I told him. 'They're still in
the interview stage. Heero hasn't given up the hope that they can keep
this from actually going to any kind of trial.'
'Have they found anything promising?' he questioned, sitting forward to
rest his forearms across his knees.
'Nothing he can tell me too much about over the phone,' I reported, trying
to keep the frustration out of my voice. It was rather eating at me to
be side-lined on something that I had as big a stake in as Heero did.
But, Heero was the agent. Mechanics, even Preventor mechanics, don't get
to go out in the field and do research. 'They were going to get to interview
Gray's wife today, I think.'
'I'm sure they'll be coming home soon,' Quatre assured me and I tried
my best not to hear the sympathy in his tone.
'That would be nice,' I replied, taking another drink. 'Because that would
mean this mess was over. As it stands now... they're likely going to be
on-site until at least the end of the week.'
Quatre didn't respond and I glanced over to see him looking at me with
that really bad poker face of his, struggling with words. I wanted to
tell him not to bother... the words were pretty well written across his
forehead. In glowing green script.
'I'm fine, you mother hen,' I told him firmly. 'I haven't had a psychotic
episode in weeks.'
It was rather fun watching him change colors.
But it didn't stop him from jumping all over the subject since I'd technically
been the one to broach it. 'You know you're welcome here, if you'd like
to stay,' he told me almost breathlessly, afraid I think, that Trowa might
shush him. Of the two of them, Trowa seems to have a better understanding
of what makes me squirm. 'And if there's anything at all that you need?'
'Just two paintings by the end of the week,' I told him with a bit of
a theatric sigh. 'You don't happen to have a couple I could borrow?'
That line made Trowa laugh right out loud, or maybe he was just helping
me change the subject, because that had rather been the point to begin
Quatre looked a little wide-eyed. 'You mean you don't have...'
'Not unless I could get some old spacer friend to take an acetylene torch
to their ship and loan me a section of bulkhead,' I said, and took another
swig of soda.
'What are you going to do?' he asked, delivering me my straight line.
'Paint like hell?' I deadpanned, and finally got a laugh out of the both
of them. It wasn't hard after that to plead an 'artist's dead-line' and
I made my exit. Though I wasn't too surprised that I got walked out to
my car by Quatre's 'charming lover'.
'So,' he ventured as we made our way down the front steps. 'You going
to tell me what this sudden interest in entering the art circle is all
It hadn't been what I'd been expecting, and he rather caught me by surprise.
'Just broadening my horizons,' I tried, and got a side-long glance for
the line and nothing more.
I tried out lasting him, but he's got this way of making me feel guilty
as sin when I don't tell him what he wants to know, and by the time we
got to my car, I was squirming. 'Look,' I began, not sure just how to
explain myself. 'One of my... one of the kids at the Maxwell home was
bitten by a dog and she needs plastic surgery, but the insurance won't
pay for it. Considers it 'cosmetic'.' I found my hand rubbing over my
face and I leaned against the fender, figuring we were in for a long talk.
'When I started thinking about a second job... this seemed like a possibility.'
He regarded me quietly for a moment, and I tried to brace myself for what
was coming next, but again he surprised me. 'I thought there was something
pushing you into it,' he told me. 'You seem a little... reluctant. I just
wanted to make sure that Heero wasn't pressuring you.'
I blinked up at him, grateful as hell that he somehow understood my need
to handle this myself, and at the same time, surprised at his suspicions.
I snorted. 'Are you kidding? Heero wouldn't pressure me to get out of
bed in the morning if I didn't want to.'
Trowa grinned at me and shook his head. 'I should have realized.' Then
he seemed to dismiss the topic all together, but finally got around to
the one I had been anticipating. He reached out carefully and took hold
of the base of my braid, giving me a tiny little shake. It was a gesture
he had taken to using when he wanted to guarantee my undivided attention.
'You will call me if you need anything,' he commanded.
'Yes boss,' I replied and graced him with a roll of my eyes.
He didn't let go immediately, giving me that look he's got that makes
me feel like he's twice my age, twice my experience, and more than the
head taller than me than he actually is. 'I don't care if you just want
someone to come and watch bad movies with you. Quatre and I will always
have the time.'
I grinned slyly up at him. 'So; you get a 'watch out for Duo' speech from
Heero before they left?'
He grinned right back at me, not so much as blushing. 'He didn't have
to... it's a standing order.'
I chuckled ruefully and shook my head when he finally let go of me so
that I could. 'Sorry Tro, but I don't think I'm going to have the time
to be watching movies, good or bad. I wasn't kidding... I don't
have a damn thing painted that doesn't come with some sort of structure
'And you seriously think you can have two paintings done before the end
of the week?' he asked me, quirking his eyebrow and managing to look amused
more than surprised.
'Don't have a clue,' I said, rather cheekily, I thought. 'Never painted
on canvas before.'
He laughed and shook his head, stepping away so that I could open the
car door. 'Then I suppose you'd best go find out.'
I climbed in my car, but then hesitated, and he noticed it enough that
he didn't immediately shut the door he was holding onto. He didn't speak,
only looking at me expectantly until I finally blurted, 'If I can't manage
to come up with something, do you think...'
He snorted, not bothering to let me finish. 'Aleyah will have that gallery
opening even if she does it with nothing more than what you've already
given her. Trust me.'
It was about as disconcerting as it was comforting, but I nodded in acceptance
of the information. He shut my car door, stepping back, and I gave him
a little wave as I pulled away.
I had left home with a list of things to do a mile long that morning,
but somehow my brain had been fried and I couldn't think of a damn one
You know, at that stage of the game I couldn't even freakin' decide if
I liked Aleyah Winner or not. She just... intimidated the hell
out of me. She was so obviously used to getting her own way, that it grated
with me just a bit. But, what she was preparing to do for me was damn
generous and that fact was not lost on me. I may be a little uneducated
when it comes to the kind of thing that I had just jumped into, but I'm
not stupid. Photographers. Pamphlets. Matting and framing. Receptions.
These 'gallery shows' were apparently not cheap. And she was rather off-handedly
taking care of all of it. Paying for all of it. I guess I was just still
having trouble understanding what the woman was getting out of the whole
thing. And she was just so... pushy.
[back to Sunhawk's fic]