Authors: TB and Marsh
Rating: R
Pairings: 3x6, 3xOC, long-past 3x4
Notes: Yes. A lot of pairings. Yes. An original character. It gets even worse. Oh, read the tease.

Age Inappropriate

The only thing Trowa Barton had in common with Duo Maxwell-- and that was something he was reluctant to admit even given the benefit of sheer coincidence-- was a certificate from an orphanage.

He didn't particularly remember what it had been like or even where it had been. He knew it had been on Earth, because the memories he did have included snow and cold, and if he'd been born a colonist he wouldn't have known what snow looked like. The certificate had even been paper, a much-folded print-out, with a blank for his name that had never been filled and a scrawled, unintelligible signature as the only evidence there was a human being somewhere who might know where he'd come from. Trowa was not much of a one for futility; so he had never bothered to track it down. The certificate itself was dust by now, gone the way of most of Trowa's past-- discarded because it had to be, and forgotten because it had never had anything to do with who he was.

That one thing, though, was still more than he had in common with Quatre Winner.

He'd known there were people out there living a better life than he had, eating better food, sleeping in warmth indoors, and probably able to sign a name of their own. It had been pointless to wish for what he had no way of obtaining, so he hadn't bothered to think about it. He wasn't much for abstracts, either. His life was what it was, and that was that. Becoming a Gundam Pilot had been hardly a step upward, being, essentially, a suicide mission, particularly given the bullets decorating the original Trowa. If Alliance didn't kill him, Dekim Barton would have been happy to finish the job.

Since then he'd roamed palace halls without sparing them a blink. He'd stood side-by-side with princes and princesses, and as far as he could tell they sweated just like normal people. He'd had jobs that made actual money, requiring an actual bank account-- or an edge-of-legal facsimile thereof-- which was a hell of a lot more than he'd ever expected.

But there was something about the gaudy, shameless ridiculousness of the Winner Estate that just boggled the mind. It pulled him back to days of thin patched blankets and dusty tasteless hard tack. Nothing he was ashamed of, but the comparison was inevitable. The Estate was large enough to house a shopping mall. A big shopping mall.

There were staircases that didn't lead to anywhere in particular, just so there could be a place for someone to sweep down grandly amid marble and crystal. There were not just one, or two, but three rooms that were built inside of other rooms. There were turrets. He'd been up to them. Quatre kept spare chairs in them.

There was art on the walls that those princes and princesses he'd once fought beside couldn't have afforded to buy off the Winners. There were mirrors of gold and pewter that cost as much as an entire family's shipping allowance, and had probably taken as much room as an entire family on the early transports. There were beds and tea chests and china hutches made of priceless woods that were actually extinct on Earth. There were entire suites full of luxury furniture that had never actually been sat on, because there were just that many rooms.

Quatre kept a spare key in a plastic hide-a-rock by the service entry basement door. "What?" he'd said, when Trowa had stuttered his incredulity. "Who'd ever believe it?"

Entirely true.

Quatre was rich. It was one of the first things he'd ever learned about Quatre. He was rich, had always been rich, and his father had always been rich, and his grandfather, and probably so had whichever ancestor who'd come up with the idea of moving out to the colonies. He had perfect teeth, manicured nails, and a neat six-bump vaccine scar on his right arm that said he'd been one of the lucky, and very few, non-military innoculated against Colony Plague back in the 180s. But it took seeing the Estate to really sink the point home.

Still-- "Noin has definitely improved this place," he was able to say, in rare and fervent truthfulness.

Quatre laughed at him. "The only thing that'll actually improve this place is a bulldozer and a good fire or three," he answered, and took Trowa on a straight trip to the third-storey east-wing study, which meant that they had to double-back twice and climb down nineteen steps and up seven more. The 'study' was yet another marvel of taste and subtlety; four sofas of overstuffed scarlet leather, a full-size kitchen full of stainless steel and granite, a wall of television and computer screens, and a bank of windows overlooking the solar fields outside.

"You're back in town for good?" Quatre asked then. He disappeared into the kitchen, and returned a minute later with two bottles of beer.

"If by 'town' you mean the colonies." The scarlet leather couch creaked under his weight. In his own home, he would have propped his feet up on the Chinese teak coffee table. Quatre, in fact, did, but Trowa decided not to risk it. "I signed my resignation. I'm unemployed. Officially."

"Don't even pretend to be sad. You hated that job."

He popped the cap from the beer. "Yeah, probably it was a mistake. You don't win 'em all."

"Do you know what you'll do now?"

He wasn't a Winner, but he had more than enough in the bank to comfortably sit on his ass staring at his navel for the rest of his life. Assuming he didn't get bored, which he would. "Something will come up."

"Stick around a while. It'll be like old times."

"What will?"

"We can spend more time together. Actually see each other. Since, apparently, you've never figured out how to use a phone."

"I called," Trowa said defencively.

"You did not."

"Yes, I did. I called that one Eve War Anniversary--"

"That was five years ago, Mister Communication."

"Take it or leave it." He sipped the beer. It was a good stout, considering it was one of the hydroponic brews. "I'll look around the area, maybe one of the 4-B satellites."

"Ugh, why? You know those satellites are falling apart. 14 and El Obeid don't even have a traffic system."

He heard a door slam, with no ability to discern from which direction. But shortly after there were footsteps stumping up the stairs, a rapid little run. "I thought Noin was out with her bunko group," Trowa said.

"She is. It's probably Kaelin--"

Kaelin indeed.

The young man who came breezing into the study was not a product of two moderately attractive parents. He was some kind of fashion model. He had a crown of short inky curls, a slim oval face with high cheekbones and-- well-- lush lips. The lips were hard to ignore, actually, open and pursed, and quick, striking blue eyes skipping over Trowa in return.

"You smell like cigarettes," Quatre reproved him. But he was smiling. "You better shower before your mother finds out."

Trowa was shocked. Kaelin had been all of-- what, nine? Ten? Should have stayed that mop-top little boy, except time obviously marched on. It was like being sand-bagged.

And staring at Trowa.

Who tried to speak, and had to clear his throat instead. "You let him smoke?"

"Everyone experiments. I'll also let him pay his own medical bills."

"He aware of that?"

Kaelin finally broke eye-contact. "I don't smoke, Dad, Jamie does." He tossed a bookbag onto one of the sofas. "We went to the pub after practise."

Quatre twisted around on his couch to include both of them in his sights. "Kae, you probably don't remember. This is Trowa Barton. Uncle Trowa."

"I know," Kaelin said. "He used to take me to go-carts."

God, he looked like Quatre, at that age, excepting the hair. Noin's hair, that shiny black. "You've grown up," Trowa observed, rather more inanely than he would have preferred. He couldn't think of anything else to add.

Quatre filled the gap. "How's Jamie's mum?" he asked his son.

"She's out of work, how's she supposed to be?"

"I'll call," Quatre started, right as Kaelin overrode him with a "DON'T call her, please," and rolled his eyes.

Trowa agreed. "Seriously, Quat. You can't fix them all."

"Poo on you both," Quatre retorted, full of the dignity of a man of his station. "Kaelin, you want a beer? Trowa, ready for a second?"


Quatre went back to the kitchen. Kaelin stripped the smelly jacket, the plaid scarf wrapped double around his neck. He wore a jumper underneath, one of the thin navy cottons that were popular now, moulded to his torso. It went off over his head, a moment later. Dark hair under his arms, bright against pale taut skin. A teenager's body, a young man's slender muscles, unimposing but undeniable. His jeans hung low enough to reveal the jut of hipbones, before he tugged them higher. There was a trail of black down his belly, disappearing under the brass buttons of the waistband.

Trowa caught himself looking. Kaelin had caught him, too. He stared back, not blinking, but there was something smug and excited in his eyes that said quite clearly he was okay with it.

Trowa swigged the last of his beer, just for the distraction. "Why don't you tell him it turns you off?"

"Tell who?" Kaelin bundled his clothes and stuffed them into his backpack. He had a spare shirt, the little sneak, a wrinkled tee shirt. He was slower dressing into it than he'd been with the strip show.

"The smoking. Jamie."

"Maybe it doesn't. Turn me off."

"Huh." The kid was trouble, or wanted to be. There was no more beer to hide in, though he tried. "That's Hilde's kid, isn't it? I didn't know she was still around here."

"For most of my life."

"He your boyfriend?"

Kaelin glanced quickly for his father. That, Trowa thought, spoke volumes. Something vaguely resembling pity moved him, and he switched tracks. "Didn't you just have a birthday?"

Just in time, too. Quatre was back, and overheard, and took care of answering, too. "Seventeen," he said, "going on immortal. He knows it all, doesn't he?" He passed a bottle to Kaelin and one to Trowa as well, and resumed his seat. Kaelin was making the normal teenagery sort of grimaces at that, but he sat, and he sat right next to Trowa, even though Trowa and Quatre had taken separate couches and it would have been perfectly reasonable for Kaelin to do that, too.

"Seventeen," Trowa echoed. "We were immortal, then, too."

"I still am." Quatre grinned at him. Trowa had to stop himself from doing it, too.

"You owe me a present," Kaelin said then, a little boldly, a little sly. "At least one. Since you never sent cards even."

"Hey now," Quatre scolded.

"Fair enough. Guess I'll be getting something expensive then." Trowa looked away, this time, deliberately cutting the kid off and turning back to Quat. His friend was entirely too amused. "If you have boundaries, better let me know what they are."

"Oh, the usual, sex, drugs-- oh. Kaelin, you should ask him to that concert." That elicited a half-hearted protest, mostly out of surprise, but Quatre was in full-on daddy mode, already selling it to Trowa as a done deal. "One of whatever, it's rock or industrial or I don't know what they call it, but Jamie's got a make-up exam and Kaelin didn't want to sell the ticket. Dads aren't cool enough, but you were always more mysterious and interesting than me."

"I work harder at it." Possible consequences-- were apparently going to include teenage love crushes. He could probably handle it, but it wouldn't be pretty. Wasn't going to be comfortable, either, if the kid went around taking off clothes in front of practical strangers, uncle or no uncle. Kaelin was a little too aware of himself. A little too aware of other people being aware of him. Not an innocent flower.

Possible consequences were probably worse than he wanted to think about.

"What day is it, Kae, Friday?"

"Thursday. You said I could skip the next day."

Trowa swallowed a smooth mouthful of stout. "You picking me up or am I getting you?"

For a second he thought maybe he was out of it, after all. Then Kaelin said, "If you could get me, maybe."

He risked a look. Kaelin was staring at him again. How Quatre didn't object was beyond him, because it was pretty damn blatant. Looking right at his mouth, and then very deliberately, his eyes dropped to Trowa's lap. Just a second, just a fraction of a second flicking down there, but suddenly it was a very good thing Quatre seemed completely oblivious to the subtext.

He was dry-mouthed again. "What time?"

"Maybe nine. Nine thirty."

"I'll be here."

"Great," Quatre said, and that was fate.

[ cont ]