Authors: TB and Marsh
Pairings: 3x6, 3xOC, long-past 3x4
The bar was the least dive-like
of all the dives on the block, but that wasn't why he chose it. There
was a little rainbow flag almost hidden in the corner of the display window,
under a hand-written sign for a new drink special. It wasn't like L2,
where there were entire sectors full of gays or gay-friendlies. Bars like
this were non-existent on L4. Almost. He was curious to see it, if nothing
else, and hopeful of a certain kind of prospects, if it would help pass
the evening faster.
Not much impressive, as it turned out. The bell clang as he opened the
door was subdued, like the atmosphere. It was dim, but it was clean, at
least, and the waiters wore actual uniforms, spruce polo shirts that showed
off muscles in the right places without being overly obvious. The clientèle
didn't measure up quite as well as the staff. He got a few glances on
the short path to the bar, but it was mostly couples or older men, who
stayed occupied with the business at their own tables. There was a prominent
license displayed over the taps. Everything had the overly-cared-for look
of a place that expected to get hit. It didn't exactly welcome with open
He ordered a beer and chatted with the bartender long enough to decide
he didn't want to stay for the conversation, and paid upfront for the
drink instead of opening a tab. The bartender came back as he was taking
out his wallet to pay. "What was that, three fifty?" Trowa asked him.
"Try five fifty, sweetheart," the bartender answered. "Here. With compliments
from the gentleman." He put a long-stemmed martini in front of Trowa.
"I don't take drinks from strangers." Trowa used two fingers to push it
away. It sloshed with a strong smell of sour apple green.
"Your loss, honey." He took the tenner Trowa handed him and went back
to the register for change. Trowa turned, as casually as he could, and
sent a subtle glance around the bar. There was no-one immediately obvious
looking back at him-- no, there he was. Almost hidden by a support pillar,
in a dark little corner table. Zechs Merquise.
Merquise raised his glass in a silent toast. Trowa grimaced and turned
his back again. That was not a face he particularly wanted to see. In
a gay bar.
It still stung, how Merquise had known exactly what to say, the day he'd
come to take Kaelin away from the big bad man who was tarnishing his innocence.
Merquise wasn't exactly one to talk-- child soldiers had one thing in
common, no matter if they were "real" military or rebels hiding in abandoned
satellites, and that was adults who wanted to control you and change you.
It wasn't fair, entirely, to compare Trowa to that. To compare Kaelin
to that. They all chose, even if they only thought they did, but Kaelin
was-- rich. Loved by his parents. Privileged. Educated. Safe. Trowa didn't
want to change any of that, take any of that away. But maybe it was fair
to say that he might, accidentally, without even wanting to.
Trowa turned around again. Merquise was still looking at him. Sour apples,
indeed. That was probably meant to be a joke-- if it wasn't supposed to
be an insult.
"Your change," the bartender said. "Honey, you listen good-- we don't
get faces like that in here much. You need to take one for the team. Make
He cracked a smile at that. "Yeah. Probably you're right." He pocketed
his cash, swept the drink off the bar, and took it across the floor to
"You always were such a fag," he said, and took the open chair across
from the man.
Merquise was drinking a perfectly normal whiskey. He toasted, again, and
sipped at the icemelt. "Your boyfriend too young for bars?"
"I don't have a boyfriend." The drink tasted as bad as it smelled, but
it was at least heavy on the liquor. "You slumming, Merquise? I didn't
think this was your kind of place."
"I like to mingle with the common folk every other Tuesday."
That was funny. Might even have been true. They were the belles of the
ball, certainly. There were definitely eyes on them now, people taking
an interest. He wondered if people always fell over themselves for Merquise.
"So," the man said. "You broke up with Kaelin?"
"You should know," he retorted. "You're the one they sent to drag him
"I didn't really expect you to listen."
"You gave a pretty good imitation of it." He shrugged, and took a deep
swig of the martini. He was back to the notion of finishing fast and getting
the hell out. "Whatever. None of you were wrong. Apparently."
"He was too young for you."
"No-one denies he's an attractive young man. I don't think the theory
"So now that we've established this was the best thing for everyone, can
we drop the platitudes and the rationalisations and just drink our fucking
Merquise took that in better grace than it was delivered. He even managed
to shut up. He signaled the bartender for another round, and Trowa turned
to make sure that what he got was a beer, not another joke. They were
mutually silent until the drinks came, and with them a bowl of peanuts.
Trowa seized on them first, not because he was hungry, but for something
to do with his hands besides get drunk. Now that he had an audience who
knew him, he wasn't so keen on getting shit-faced. No need to confirm
all of his bad habits in front of other people. He broke open shells,
several shells, and rattled the paper-skinned nuts in his palm before
funneling them into his mouth. "So you really come here?" he asked around
the mouthful. "On a regular basis?"
Merquize answered easily enough. "I discovered a long time ago that the
person I used to be was not the person I wanted to be, and that it was
a matter of choice."
He thought about that. He'd often thought about Merquise, actually-- the
two men he had been. Merquise had re-invented himself, more than a few
times, in the past. Maybe not so distant past as all that. "Who do you
want to be?" he said.
"Sam Massey." Merquise sipped at his new whiskey. "I went to Academy with
Sam. He washed out. I had completely forgot about him, until I ran into
him, totally by chance, a few years ago. He's a father. Two kids. His
wife is a chemical engineer. She's gorgeous. He drives a family van and
a Harley, wears a suit five days a week and leather the other two. He
smokes dope once a month at poker, and what his priest doesn't know won't
hurt any." He drank again, and let the glass rest gently to the table.
"He's the most normal human being I've ever met."
The long answer amused him, when he hadn't expected to be amused. He began
to let his guard down. Merquise wasn't here for another kick in the ass,
after all, not if he was going to talk like that. "Kinda kinky there,
Zechs. I don't know. Normal has never been for either of us."
"No," Merquise agreed. "But it's not the worst goal to bear in mind."
"Good luck with that then."
"So how long has this been going on with you? The mid-life crisis."
He coughed on a carbonated mouthful. "Mid-life what? You're kidding, right?"
"You have all the classic signs. Up to and including a fling with some
pretty young piece of fluff." The creases next to Merquise's mouth suggested
a smile. "I admit, going to your best friend's son was an extra effort,
"Kaelin was not a piece of fluff to make me feel young again. And you're
on dangerous ground, Merquise."
"Stop feeling so threatened. The worst I'll do is take a few swipes at
"I'm not threatened. I'd just rather not talk about Kaelin."
"Message received." There was a pause as Merquise tilted his head and
however many pounds of hair he still had back for the final swallow. "So
in a week of what I presume was enthusiastic and athletic fucking on bear-skin
rugs, you actually developed feelings for a teenager?"
"I distinctly heard, 'message received.'"
"Oh, was I supposed to obey something?"
"One rule. Kaelin's off limits."
Merquise reached across the table to touch Trowa's wrist. "All right.
He wasn't fooled, this time. He didn't relax. "No problem," he lied. "You
always did love playing devil's advocate. So to speak. Treize must've
"I believe he regarded it as one of my many sterling qualities, yes."
There was a lot about Merquise that Treize had probably 'loved'. Merquise
was bland enough to let it hang there, implied. Trowa didn't like that.
Didn't like that Merquise seemed to have the upper hand every time they
faced off, knew where to strike whenever it came Trowa's turn.
"So you couldn't find a man your age who appealed?" Merquise asked, one
more time disregarding his requests. Trowa slammed his bottle to the table.
"I only sleep alone when I want to," he said flatly.
"Want to, then?"
"What-- with you?"
"I did buy you a drink."
How was that for being blindsided. He called for a second beer, buying
time. Who knew L4 was going to be full of offers? "I'm cheap, but not
that cheap, your highness."
"I suppose I can spring for another."
"Why not?" The third round was fast arriving. Merquise arranged their
empties on the edge of the table, a little glass wall between them and
the rest of the bar. "I haven't had you since you were my bit of fluff,
a few decades ago. Maybe you remember. Maybe not."
He remembered. It had been before Quatre-- well, during Quatre, but before
he'd figured out certain important things. Heero had been monofocussed
on the upcoming duel, those long cold weeks in the arctic, and Trowa had
felt a loyalty to him, a need to be close to him and support him, heavily
coloured with hero worship. The littlest things had been capable of utterly
devastating him-- a frown when he'd expected a nod, silence when he wanted
a thanks. Heero's steady resistance to touching him. His nights were full
of confusing dreams, and with nothing to do but trail Heero around there
was nothing to distract from everything he couldn't do anything about,
and everything had taken on the same nightmarish importance. Catherine.
The war. Blue eyes and a disappointing inability in himself to say no
Well, that at least was in character. He probably couldn't get drunk enough
to forget Kaelin in one night, but maybe it was worth a try after all.
"To what end?" he said, remembering suddenly there'd been a question.
"To your end." Merquise raised pale eyebrows. "Unless you're a top, these
There were ways and ways to forget, maybe. One of them probably wouldn't
wake him up with a headache and nausea. So why not? They were both adults,
which was Merquise's point, and he already knew it would be good. Assuming
Merquise managed to keep his mouth shut, or at least put it to better
use than poking Trowa at every opportunity. Probably he shouldn't count
on that to happen, but he could always walk away. Merquise wasn't going
to come stalking him, like Kaelin had. Nobody who wasn't seventeen was
going to figure Trowa Barton was worth it.
Trowa finished his beer, and said, "I guess we can work that out."
Merquise grinned into his glass. "We can take the tram to my place."
It was the second time since arriving on-colony that he was dangerously
close to getting off in public transport. Merquise stood close behind
him, though there was plenty of standing room, even that time of night,
gripping the same handle as Trowa, and sometimes just gripping his hand.
Merquise was still taller, if not by as much these days; tall enough to
lean a little over him, close enough to feel his breath when the tram
rocked them against each other. And Merquise had an instinctive feel for
how to touch, too; a man's touch, a mature touch. His finger trailed the
soft hairs at the back of Trowa's neck, rifling gooseflesh and raising
shivers; nothing more sophisticated than that, but he didn't need more.
It was-- kind of perfect. Trowa found himself staring out the window with
a crooked smile on his lips.
"I was never your bit of fluff, Zechs," he said.
Merquise smirked down at him with heated eyes. "You were damn close."
"I guess we'll see what else we can get close to now."
He played at almost-kissing Trowa. Their mouths were only a hair apart.
"Do it," Trowa whispered.
Merquise immediately released Trowa's waist. "This is our stop."
Tease. A very capable tease.
He couldn't have retraced the walk from the tram stop to Merquise's apartment
if he'd had to. The reality of their little assignation was hitting him,
and his blood was up-- a lot was up. And it felt-- different, than that
short time with Kaelin, in ways he hadn't even realised he was missing.
There was a strange kind of freedom in being able to do whatever the hell
he wanted without having anyone look twice at them, or at least no more
than they would for any gay couple walking up the street with their hands
down each others' pants. Which Merquise was very free about doing, squeezing
his ass, slipping a hand up his jacket to his pecs. He was turned on,
But not by little Mr Sam Massey. It was an odd thought to have. With Kaelin,
it hadn't really been about sex. Sure, the kid had run a strong campaign
to get him into bed, but he'd been aware the whole time of who it was
revving him up. Now he honestly couldn't say it had anything to do with
Merquise had a proper hotel, not the long-stay residence Trowa had got.
They had to cross the lobby, though it was thankfully empty of anyone
to stare as Merquise sucked on his neck. He got Merquise's shirt open
in the lift, and Merquise pressed him against the door to do a very dirty
thing with straying fingers. There was no more wasted speech, not now.
Merquise finally got the key in the lock, and they tumbled through the
door. Trowa got a muzzy impression ritzy modern digs, fresh flowers in
an ugly black-and-white arrangement, two uniforms hanging neatly pressed
in the open closet, and then Merquise had him against the wall again,
stripping him of his jacket, pinning him there with his hips and rocking
against him. There was no more play in the deep, forceful kiss that pressed
his jaws open, in the tongue that invaded his mouth. Trowa dragged Merquise's
jumper off over his head, dug fists into the tangled hair that sifted
down. It was silent, and serious, and if it lacked a little of the-- sense
of play, of excitement, that it had had with Kaelin, well, there was nothing
going to be wrong with the way it ended.
"Bed, couch-- floor-- or right here?" Merquise opened his trousers and
stroked him one-handed. Sure touch, callused fingers, with a primal sense
of exactly how hard was just hard enough. Trowa returned the favour, ripping
the man's zip open. No underwear, of course, which should've been silly,
not sexy, but he was just glad to have the hot heavy cock come easily
to hand. He'd forgotten how hung Merquise was. Smug about it, too, self-satisfied
in the smirk Trowa tried to bite from his lips. He took a thick handful
of warm balls and squeezed them.
"I really," he said, "don't give a shit."
Merquise did exactly what Kaelin had done. He reached for Trowa's wallet
and found the condom in the pocket.
There was only one way to deal with pain, in his experience. Bull right
on through it.
He took the condom, this time. He tore it open with his teeth and got
it started unrolling with his tongue, then went down between their hips
to slip it onto Merquise. There must not have been too much like hesitation
in his actions, because Merquise didn't pause at all, still jerking him
off slow and rough, lips against his ear, his neck, teeth digging at his
collarbone. Still close like that, Merquise walked him backward, fingers
teasing his ass crack, fist on his dick around front using it like the
handle of a push-cart to move him in the right direction. His calves hit
a mattress, finally, and he went with the shove that pushed him backward,
bouncing off a silky duvet. Merquise took care of the rest of their clothes,
pulling his shoes off with his jeans and underpants, then kicking his
own to the carpet. He posed for a moment with one knee on the edge between
Trowa's legs, fisting himself with a palmful of lube, eyes hot as he touched
himself. Trowa made an equal point of enjoying the show.
"Why'd you get involved with this at all?" he asked. He pulled one of
the decorative pillows from behind his head and propped it under his hips.
"Don't you mean Lucy Darling?"
"Quatre makes her a better husband than I ever did. She was a comrade
before she was a friend."
"Facts is facts, huh."
"You were wrong for the boy." Merquise lowered himself down, positioning
Trowa's left leg high on his shoulder and setting muscular thighs to Trowa's
hips. "He was wrong for you. This is right."
He shut down the conversation with a rough kiss. Merquise obeyed that
signal, at least. He fit the tip of his cock to Trowa's asshole, and then
he pushed in.
It had been several years at least since he'd bottomed. He had completely
forgotten how it felt. There was no pause for adjusting, no consideration
for any pain he might have felt-- not with Merquise. He was moving immediately,
deep strokes that sawed in and out as if he could barely squeeze back
in each time. Merquise didn't spare extraneous touches, not now, except
to gather up his dick and balls in one tight grip that guaranteed he wouldn't
be coming too quickly. No tenderness here, not even in absence-- it was
a good hard fucking from start to finish, cracking the headboard against
the wall, creaking the mattress springs, driving the breath out of him
with each thrust. He would have had to be dead not to be into it.
Into it. Not Merquise.
They separated long enough for Trowa to roll onto his stomach. Merquise
lay over him, sliding back in more easily now, urging him into a low crouch,
a rougher rhythm. Trowa let Merquise take care of balancing them, freeing
his hands to dig his nails into the thick flexing thighs behind him. "You
have a great body," he said breathlessly. "How often do you work out?"
"Three hours three times a week." Merquise fisted his hair, wrenching
his head down, exposing the back of his neck to sharp teeth. "You're perfect."
"I try." Merquise gripped the headboard. "Harder," Trowa said, and braced
Merquise could do harder. Harder everything. Trowa found himself pushed
face-down into the pillows, his ass in the air. Merquise held him down
for it, and abandoned himself to everything but the slap of their bodies
together. Trowa didn't even have to touch himself. For maybe the first
time ever, he came just from being fucked. He shot his load into the duvet
and lay panting into the pillows. He rocked with the four more violent
thrusts, and then Merquise stilled behind him, his hands painfully clutching
He allowed Merquise to go collapsing on top of him, since it was kind
of the done thing, but the man turned out to be pretty heavy. He bore
it for a few minutes before shifting significantly. Merquise took the
hint with a huff of breath, and rolled off him to the side. Trowa had
to fight his hair off his face, smashed down and tangled from being shoved
into the pillows, but the view was worth it. Merquise really was a good
looking man. The-- he found a clock facing him from over the television
in the entertainment centre-- twenty minutes of solid effort had wrung
them both out, but Merquise was basking in the afterglow, sweat matting
the hair on his chest, gleaming on his skin.
"Do this often?" he asked eventually.
"I don't sleep alone unless I choose to," Merquise mimicked him. There
was no bite in it, though. He ran a lazy hand over Trowa's chest, and
let his palm rest warmly over Trowa's stomach. "No, not often."
He smiled a little. He didn't, either, not really. Maybe if he'd been
a little more-- satisfied--
Or not. There was more to Kaelin than a one-off. Whether he wanted there
to be or not. It wasn't like he'd really said no. Kaelin had been able
to waltz right back in where he wanted, minus a little pride, perhaps,
but it was good to feel like you'd earned something. Won something. Not
like Trowa, who was probably a little too easily pushed around. He'd let
himself be dictated to since landing at the shuttle port. Go here. Do
this. Sleep with me. No, with me. Let go. Merquise at least didn't seem
to think it was a serious short-coming, or not serious enough to outweigh
a ridiculously easy trip into bed.
He hadn't even argued about topping. Next time. Merquise was democratic
enough for turn-switching.
Next time. His mind was making itself up without his input.
Merquise said, "Don't take it the wrong way if I drift off."
"Am I staying?"
"If you want. If not, I understand."
"I'm tired. It's cold out." It was perfectly balanced, of course, because
L4 was nothing if not self-consciously perfect. Perfect. "No point rushing,"
Merquise yawned into his hand. "I'll toss breakfast into the deal." He
finally got rid of the condom, and tossed a few fluttering tissues at
Trowa. Trowa took them, but made the extra effort to get up and find the
opulent little bath to take a piss. When he got back, Merquise was dozing,
just as promised, mouth slightly open in a way that suggested snoring.
Trowa nudged him over onto his side, which he took to without any protest
or without really even waking, and that was the last thing Trowa remembered
doing before going to sleep.
He woke up sore on the inside
and numb on the outside. Merquise was draped all over him again, and his
arm had gone tingly without access to his blood. He turned his head to
bite Merquise's shoulder hard enough to wake him. He got a mumbled 'ow',
but it served. Merquise rolled away. Trowa flexed his arm gratefully.
"You're heavy," he said.
"Are you blaming me?" Merquise fumbled for a travel clock on the bedside
table. He muttered something unintelligible and got up for search that
ended in clean underpants out of a suitcase.
"Late for something?" Trowa asked him.
He laughed. He rubbed a little sand from his eyes and stretched out the
kinks. Merquise's swanky hotel had a better bed than the one he'd been
living on. He'd have to sneak a look at the mattress tag later. "What's
"Yeah." He tossed a pair of boxers at Trowa, and shimmied into a pair
of tighty whiteys with a disgusting sort of inherent grace. Trowa displayed
absolutely none of the same, fumbling out of the bed, tripping in a corner
of trailing sheet and having to look under all sorts of furniture he didn't
remember being there the night before as he looked for his clothes. He
found his jeans draped mostly behind a settee, couldn't locate his underwear.
It wasn't worth wearing Merquise's, though.
Joining the list of ways Merquise's hotel was better was the expansive
kitchen and dinette attached to the suite. It was as large as the kitchen
Trowa had had in his last place on Earth, and newer and nicer, at that.
Merquise was digging in the full-size refrigerator, and he emerged with
eggs and packaged meat as Trowa followed him in. "Coffee?" Trowa asked.
"Cupboard over the stove. Get it started?"
"Sure." Snooty African beans in a jar, not a bag. There was a grinder
next to them, which reinforced Trowa's notion that fancy food was another
way of saying hard work. He filled the grinder and set it to running.
Merquise had a pan on the stove heating, and a large spread was taking
over the counter. Sausage, potatoes. Corned beef, being shredded, currently,
with a fork, for a purpose Trowa wasn't awake enough to figure out. He
did jump when Merquise suddenly turned around, a plant from the windowsill
in his hand, a leaf being pushed past his teeth.
"Mint," Merquise said. "Chew it."
He did, but only because he could taste that it really was mint. "You're
not normal, Zechs."
Merquise kissed him, lingering at it. "Mint," he said again. "How do you
take your eggs?"
"Over-easy." He went through the business of setting up the coffee maker,
autopiloting through a task his hands knew better than his brain. He was
turned again for another culinary assault on his mouth, this time a cut
pepper, and a minute after that a sliver of the corned beef. "What are
"Hash and browns." The pan was sizzling, and Merquise kept the contents
moving, flipping, fussing with a spatula. Trowa managed to dodge the next
bit of finger-food headed toward him, and warned, "I'm not fifteen any
"Who said you were?"
"You don't need to hand-feed me."
He shrugged his acceptance, and fed himself instead. "Plates are the cupboard
over the sink."
Maybe he wasn't fifteen, but he did feel-- less. More awkward than Merquise.
Maybe it was too much clarity in the memory of their last 'morning after',
when Merquise had been far kinder than Trowa had expected, and been rudely
dealt with because of it. Apparently Trowa hadn't outgrown that response.
He didn't really care about the finger-feeding; it was the gentility of
it that put him off. Grown men didn't finger-feed. They fucked and ducked.
Assuming they stuck around til morning.
He'd been shoving men out the door for a decade. Until Kaelin.
Jesus. He had to stop thinking about the kid.
He set the table without being asked twice. "You surprised me. Last night."
"A little. Yeah."
"Pleasantly or un?"
Trowa shrugged. "Plans for today?"
"Dinner with Quatre and Noin. Lucy Darling, that is. You?"
"Sure as hell not that." Merquise grinned at that. "I've got shit to do.
You can come by after your dinner with the family if you feel like it."
Merquise left the cooking for a moment to meet his look. It hung there,
his invitation, long enough for him to regret it, and to remind himself
that fucking and ducking was a good idea for a reason.
"Want me to bring anything?" Merquise asked.
"Toothbrush." Trowa twitched a smile. "I hate when people try to share
He still had Kaelin's.
Merquise nodded peaceably. "Probably around half nine, then."
"All right." He used the fork he'd put out on the table to reach into
the fry pan. He speared a thick chunk of corned beef. "I'll stock up on
He finally got an outright laugh for that. "You do so."
The second time he went face-down
in a pillow, he realised he'd forgotten to ask-- say-- about topping.
In his own bed.
"Didn't I hear you were shopping for an apartment?" Merquise asked. He
hit the mattress with a little jounce, muscular arms propped behind his
head, all aglow and still awake, at least. Trowa, on the other hand, was
fighting off a nap.
"Yeah," he said. "I applied at a couple of places." He squirmed for comfort.
"So-- you're obviously carrying something, though."
"It's like you're trying to get something out of your system." He grabbed
for the tissue box. He was running low. He hadn't replaced it since renting
the room. He shared the last two with Merquise, and flung them at his
trash bin. "Out of yours and into mine. No-one fucks like that who hasn't
got some kind of issues."
Merquise followed his shot with the second tissue, swishing right into
the bin. "Maybe the rest of the time I'm trying to hold it in."
"Part of growing up is reigning in your impulses. Isn't it?"
It seemed like Merquise spent a lot of time reminding him of growing up.
Trowa hadn't figured out if it was intentional. "Not all of them," he
said. "Do that for long enough and you'll implode."
"Or grow up."
"I'm not surprised you think so." Merquise plumped his pillow and settled
facing Trowa. "You haven't asked me if Kaelin was at dinner."
He tried not to freeze in place. "Why would I?"
"No reason, then."
Short pause, with Merquise looking at him, blue eyes a mystery. "No."
He swallowed. Flicked his eyes to the painting on the wall, impressionist
flowers, a terracotta house somewhere on Earth. "Lucy cooked?" he asked
Merquise snorted. "Noin can't cook in a microwave. Quatre did."
"Let me guess. Paella." He could smile for that. "He always makes paella."
"Mmhm. Fresh mussels and langoustine. Decadent."
"Tin roof ice cream over chocolate pound cake for dessert."
"No, he didn't tell you? They're on low-sugar diets now."
"That's hilarious. And it won't last."
"I think it's precautionary. Family history of diabetes."
"Who, Quat?" He propped himself on an elbow, a little concerned now.
"His grandfather. He's not sure if his father had it. Died too early.
Of course if he can't have sugar, Noin won't eat it, either. Better altogether
to remove it from the house."
"Shit. He never said a word."
"He's not actually sick. Why would he say anything?"
He shrugged away Merquise's determination to be sensible. He was projecting
and he knew it. He was just sure that Quat would never speak to him again,
about anything; if it was his kid he probably wouldn't.
It didn't take Merquise but a moment to cotton on to his thoughts. He
said, quite gently, "Quatre will forgive you. Noin won't, but you never
cared about her."
"Not particularly." He pulled the pillow under his chest and lay on it.
"One way or the other. Why would I?"
"She's married to your past lover and the mother of your present one.
Reason enough to at least watch which way the wind is blowing."
"Kaelin and I are over. Quat and I probably are too."
Merquise kissed him, and rubbed his neck tenderly. "You really don't know
the first thing about Winners, do you?"
"Apparently," he said.
He couldn't say life on L4
The thing with Merquise became a regular. They never attempted to spend
the day together, which he liked; if they made plans they were always
for just the evening, never even for the night after, and he liked that,
too. It made it feel spontaneous, or at least-- uninvested. What the hell.
What the hell, everything. Life had always been a bit fucked up. A lot
fucked up. It was easy to hold back when there wasn't anything there to
pour into. He had no anchors, and he knew it; no job, a fractured friendship,
living in a hotel.
"Only for a little longer," Merquise reminded him. "By the way, did you
"You don't think Quat will say nice things about me when they call him?"
He finished his steak and dropped the plate onto the coffee table. Probably
Quat would, actually. He was just that fair. Ridiculously. "Une will make
the light shine out my ass. Don't you think?"
"Oh, definitely. She doesn't hold grudges at all."
"You know, Quat said, the first night I was here, something about we'd
both seen it coming. But I didn't." He swigged at the warming last swallows
of his beer. "I knew I wasn't particularly happy. I thought it was general
"Anyone who knows you could see you weren't cut out for a long-term commitment
to a job as regimented as Preventers."
They worked, in an odd kind of way. It was comfortable. They were both
men who reserved emotion. Who didn't make a big deal out of things that
weren't. He still didn't like how Merquise had a way of saying uncomplimentary
things as if they were obvious, but he wasn't wrong. For years he'd been
feeling like control of his life was just out of reach. Other people seemed
to find it easy and convenient to control him, though. It had been easy
to develop inertia. An antipathy to creating his own movement. It didn't
help that all around him there were people who knew exactly what they
wanted and how to go out and get it. It was just like being back with
Heero in those early days of the war, playing the clueless tag-along while
Heero made all the decisions. Trowa had never known what he wanted. He
hadn't ever really wanted anything.
Except Quat. He loved Quat, or at least that's what he'd told himself
it was at the time. The symptoms all fit the disease, and in his warped
frame of reference, it was a sickness then. A cumbersome sickness he
was careful to hide, like he hid what he felt for Cathy. He hadn't had
the luxury of forming attachments then. It wasn't until after the war
that he'd accepted what he felt for Quat was what it was. In true form,
of course; by then, having Quat was impossible. He'd meandered through
his little angsty crisis for so long that Quatre's feelings for him had
mellowed from passion to friendship. He still hadn't figured out what
it meant that he'd been replaced by Noin, of all possible people. So maybe
he'd lied to Kaelin. You were confused all the time, and by the time you
finally got a little corner of your shit together, it was too late, and
the opportunities you'd thought were immutable turned out to be as short
as a nine-month pregnancy.
He cleared his throat. "I never was a good company man."
Merquise set his dish down as well, and settled on Trowa's little couch
to look at him face-on. "What will you do now?" he asked.
"Go off somewhere. Write the great colonial novel."
"And there will be sex in it. A lot of sex."
He got a surprised and hearty laugh for that. "Well," Merquise said, "you've
got one reader primed and ready." He lifted his hand from the back of
the couch and let it rest on Trowa's shoulder. He squeezed gently, and
then pulled softly at Trowa's collar. It slipped a half-heartedly closed
button and opened enough for Merquise's thumb to brush his skin.
Trowa said, "Primed and ready is good."
They were well past the point where it needed any more introduction. Trowa
pushed the coffee table skidding away on the carpet and settled on his
knees. Merquise popped his jeans and Trowa peeled them down. He was already
hard and leaking. Big surprise. Since they'd begun this he'd hardly seen
Merquise any other way.
"More tongue," Merquise murmured at him, and there was something else
after that, but he tuned it out. He knew plenty what he was doing and
had no intentions of taking instruction. He even rather liked it. Even
when the guy was hung like a baby's arm. He scooted closer, with Merquise's
hand in his hair urging him on.
So of course Kaelin came in then.
Merquise got out a "Shit" when the door started opening. Trowa jerked
away and threw a pillow at the lap he'd been sucking. Unfortunately, Kaelin
wasn't a moron, so there was no hiding what they'd been doing. Kaelin
stood there staring at them like he'd been stabbed in the chest. Repeatedly.
Trowa pulled his shirt closed. "Come on in," he said dryly.
"I knocked," Kaelin accused.
"Yeah, I heard you. Most people go away when no one answers. Did you come
to return your key?"
Merquise eased to his feet, pillow secured in place. He grabbed his jeans
from the floor, and made himself scarce. The bathroom door closed after
Kaelin was still in shock. His face didn't hide a damn thing. Every horrified
thought was perfectly clear. Trowa fixed his buttons. "Hi," he said, trying
for a gentler tone. "Sucks that you had to walk into that."
"I--" Kaelin's chest heaved with uneven breaths. He was still wearing
his school blazer. He was carrying a flute case. "I've barely been gone
"Seventeen days, Kaelin."
"With him?" He flung a hand after Merquise. "He's old!"
"Not much older than I am." Everything took a sideways slide into the
ludicrous. He dragged a hand through his hair, only then realising it
was standing on end from Merquise rubbing all over it. "Look, you don't
belong to me any more. And it's better if I leave you alone."
"If you wanted to dump me for someone else you should have just said so!"
Then Kaelin blanched, so suddenly Trowa actually took a step toward him.
"Unless you were already seeing him--"
"You know better."
"Well, then-- why? I thought-- thought it was something--"
"And I thought you were gone."
"Because you tossed me out!"
"Yeah. I did. I care about you too much to put you at war with your parents
for a relationship you're probably going to outgrow in a few months. And
I care about your parents too much too."
"Yeah, I can tell you're really broken up over the whole thing!"
He tried for a reasonable tone. It went ignored. "Did you sit home pining
the last couple of weeks, baby? Come on--"
"I thought we had something. I thought, I don't know, if I came back here,
I could-- convince you." Kaelin swallowed. He opened his mouth for more,
but the bath opened, too, and Merquise emerged, immaculate. Kaelin glared,
but Merquise, with great aplomb, did not even glance at him. Instead he
came to Trowa by the couch, and kissed his cheek. "Good luck," he murmured.
Trowa touched his arm. "Hey. Sorry."
"It's all right. Another time." He put his shoes on. "Hello, Kaelin,"
he said then, and inclined his head exactly the right increment to suggest
they were all behaving like children, and should pull it together or else.
The man was born to lead. "Good night."
It gave them exactly the right amount of breathing time, too. Trowa sat
on the couch as the door snicked closed. Kaelin was clutching his arms
to his chest-- it was a good visual for a broken heart. "You thought what,
Kaelin came a step closer as if he were jumping into a pit of snakes.
And even though Trowa had just been going down on a man who was by any
measure an ideal of masculinity and good looks, something in his gut went
tight looking at this undergrown little boy who couldn't stop forcing
his way into Trowa's life.
"Convince you to take me back," Kaelin whispered.
He had to clear his throat again. "Why?"
"Because I'm better for you than Zechs Merquise!"
He had to laugh. There was something kind of wonderful about that brilliant
display of arrogance. He put a hand out, and that was all it took. Kaelin
was on his knees at Trowa's feet like he'd flown the distance. Trowa urged
him up onto the cushions, into the space beneath his arm, and held him
there. Considering he'd just spent seventeen days talking himself out
of this very thing, his brain didn't seem to be speaking louder than the
elation, or the tenderness. The triumph.
Healthy dose of fear, too. God, the kid had defied everything to come
back here. Even Trowa. What did you do with someone who could do that?
He wasn't sure he could live up to the promise. The kid was no angel,
but it felt like a long-lost chance. Like a fresh start.
"It's going to change things," he managed. Kaelin's hair smelled exactly
as he remembered. "Between the two of us, and them, forever. Maybe in
ways you won't like."
"I don't care," Kaelin said, of course. "They're just my parents. I love
He hugged Kaelin close with a shaky laugh. "That's bullshit. It's never
as simple as that. But I... love you, too."
Quat would have heard it. Merquise might have, too. Kaelin had been raised
with love, though, and those words were daily usage to him. Trowa didn't
mind. It was enough that he knew. It was enough to know he'd been wrong,
a million years ago, when he'd thought he'd never feel enough to actually
say those words.
It was enough that Kaelin heard what he wanted to, which was the same
adoration he was giving Trowa. He turned up to Trowa like chains couldn't
have kept him down. Like masturbation had been hell. He kissed harder
than he'd ever done it before, so deep that neither of them could breathe.
"You taste like him," Kaelin said. He slid onto Trowa's lap and bent his
head back with hands cupped to his cheeks. "You smell like him."
"You're mine. I'll fight for you."
He curled his arms around Kaelin's hips. It was like the whole world had
gone back on kilter. It just felt right. He tried to tell himself the
flood would pass and he'd wake up in the morning with a big load of reality
to deal with, but his blood pressure wasn't listening. He felt high as
"You stole that key," he said. "Didn't you?" He bit Kaelin's plump lower
lip. "I knew. I wondered if you'd use it."
Kaelin grinned down at him. "So what-- you expected me to come back all
No. No, he honestly hadn't. What a wonderful way to be wrong.
"Bastard." Kaelin bit back, enough to sting, and soothed it with soft
caresses with his tongue. Trowa was hard as a rock, harder; crazily turned
on. Kaelin arched in his arms, and his hands were fists in Trowa's hair,
locking him into place. "You have no idea what I went through, and you
were here going down on him."
"Sooner or later you'll forgive me." He had to move or go insane. He dumped
Kaelin onto his back and pressed between his legs. It wasn't enough, but
it was almost too much. He panted into Kaelin's neck. "Forgive me."
Kaelin dared him with dusky eyes. "Make me want to."
"Is that an order?" He fisted Kaelin's groin until he groaned, and then
he popped open each brass crested button on his trousers until he could
push them down the hips that writhed up against his. Kaelin tried to sit
up after him until Trowa pushed him down. He lay clutching the sofa arm
behind him as Trowa slipped his trousers down his long legs, and when
they were on the floor by two shiny black shoes he opened his mouth over
Kaelin's cock and swallowed him in. It wasn't at all like with Merquise--
he couldn't stop himself from touching skin wherever he found it, hips
and belly, the heaving chest under the starched white shirt. Kaelin was
touching him, too, his face, his lips, his eyelids, his hair. When he
began to move his head, Kaelin gasped. There was talking, incoherent words,
but he didn't have to listen to know what they were, a frantic explanation
for things that didn't matter, now. Anger fell by the wayside, and the
only thing left was need.
He needed. Wanted.
Kaelin wrapped his legs taut about Trowa's shoulders, the only warning
before he came. Then he lay there, limp and fighting for his breath. Trowa
swallowed and climbed gingerly to the cushions over him, waiting for a
sign to start again.
He got a sign, all right. Kaelin opened his eyes, and said, "Be mean when
you break up with Zechs. Really mean. Cruel."
Trowa grinned fleetingly. "I think we already did. Did you bring your
"No." He went a little shamefaced. "I... wasn't actually sure you'd take
"Are you sure now?"
The sun broke dawn on Kaelin's face. "Yes."
"Probably going to have to wait for a formal move until school's out for
"I can really move in?" Kaelin's voice cracked in excitement.
"Isn't that the next step?"
He couldn't have said a single other thing that would have made Kaelin
as wild as he was dragging Trowa down on top of him. He lost his balance,
and they tumbled to the floor with a hard thump, but there was no time
for pain. Kaelin ripped at his shirt, at his pants, couldn't get him naked
They never even made it to the bed.
He drove Kaelin to school in
the morning. He called the Winner house, but there wasn't an answer. There
wasn't an answer from Merquise, either. It was at least possible they
were all out together, doing something adult and normal, and not plotting
Trowa's death. He tried to hold to that thought.
Quat was waiting outside his hotel room when he got back from the academy.
Trowa slowed, but the crunch of gravel under his boot was enough. The
blond head came up out of the newspaper, and Quat straightened.
"Hey," Trowa said, around the clog in his throat that was probably his
heart. And lungs, and stomach. "Lose your way or something?"
"Ask me in," Quat answered. "We'll order some kind of greasy food. I know
you have beer in there."
He made a face. He could hardly believe it was going to be this easy;
in fact he did know better. But it was at least not Noin, and maybe--
a little-- some tiny part of himself was glad to see Quat there, glad
to know that Quat would look at him, speak him to still. He didn't like
those tiny parts. They always got bigger, when it involved Quat.
"I don't eat greasy food any more," he said, and stepped past Quat to
swipe his key card. The door swung open noiselessly and let them into
a dark room. He chose against the overhead light and turned on the small
dim lamp over the table, instead. He looked back to see Quat toeing off
his shoes, as if the hotel carpet were something to worry about even.
Trowa removed his last two beers from the fridge and passed one, unopened.
Quat wouldn't drink it-- he never did. It was one of his arcane little
social graces, like the shoes, like the English style tea he always served
because white customers didn't like the Bedouin coffee he should have
offered. It had used to frustrate him, frustrate him so much, to watch
Quat pretend to be all these things he wasn't, and probably it had been
on the list of petty things he had taken with him in the flounce when
he left. Probably it had been unfair. What Quatre was was a person who
thought about other people first, and it made him happy to please them.
"Someone rang from Westwinds Apartments," Quatre said. He sat gingerly
on the couch. Trowa propped himself on the coffee table. "I told them
you were handy with the toolbox. I think it's in the bag."
"I'm glad you're sticking around for a while."
"Yeah?" Trowa opened his bottle and put it to his mouth before the hiss
of escaping carbon was finished. "Thanks. Want to me help me pack?" He
swigged again, and thunked the bottle to the table. "Kaelin's not here."
"You can only sleep on the couch for so many days before your back gives
out, or your principles do."
That threw him off the confrontation he was about to start. "What--'s
up her ass now? "
He was very surprised when Quatre opened the beer. He sipped, barely enough
to taste it, before he let it sit again; but it was still more than he'd
seen Quatre do with alcohol in twenty years of friendship. With concern
he noted how tired the other man looked, how run down. It was a shock
to notice grey hiding in the gold at his temples.
Quat said, "I was gone for so much of his childhood. Absent even when
I was there. I chose work. And Lucy loved him more than she should have,
maybe. Probably we did this to him long before you even showed up in the
"That's bullshit, and we both know it. Kaelin didn't go looking to replace
what you were, but were too busy to share. He went looking for exactly
Quatre sipped again. "You know he almost drowned, when he was four. I
don't know if he remembers. He fell into the pool at Lucy's parents' on
"So you and Luce have been crowding him ever since? He does, by the way.
Remember. He told me."
"I pulled him out. He wasn't breathing." Quat peeled the label where it
was sweating, carefully shredding it from the bottle. "I was holding him
and he was so little and still. Cold from the water. I guess I never really
let him out of my mind, from that moment. For years whenever I looked
at him that was the first thing I saw, and not the person he was becoming.
He's taller than me, you know. Three inches."
"Yeah, Quat. I know." He took a deep breath, to be sure he still could.
His chest felt oddly tight. "You were probably right to put a stop to
it. You always were good at taking care of him. He knows that. Even if
he's mad now. It's just that--"
"I didn't come to hear you say I was right. I know I was right." Quat
said it the same calm way, but there was a bitter undertone that didn't
suit him. He took a real swallow of the beer, and grimaced it down. "They
stop trusting you, this age. Even when they know your reasons are decent,
they resent the intrusion. I want to shake the teeth out of him sometimes,
but once he stopped trusting me, what else is there to do but let him
make his own mistakes? Choices. Choices, not mistakes. I hope not mistakes."
God. Quat hadn't come to tell him to shove off and disappear. He'd come
to give his son to Trowa.
"Up to him, though, the process. Up to you. The extent of what I ask is
that you not hide from me, whatever you do with him. Just not behind my
back. That's all."
He licked dry lips. "What are you doing? This is-- stupid. Do you really
think I can give him what I couldn't give you back then?"
"I think it's possible," Quatre said. "I think I'd rather I not be the
reason he couldn't at least try to find what makes him happy. I think
I'd like to not be that reason for you, again."
"Your wife agree?"
"She won't interfere."
He knew that tone. He knew it was true because Quat had said it; and he
didn't know an iota more, because Quat didn't want him to know. He didn't
want to know. God, he could be destroying their marriage. Quat would let
No. Fuck it. Quat was a grown man and made his own-- mistakes. He'd married
a woman he wasn't at all suited to, and she'd married him knowing Trowa
Barton existed. This was how the world operated. People acted. People
did. If Quat could let it go, so could Trowa. The only responsibility
left was Kaelin, for all of them.
So in the end all he said was, "Thank you."
Quat didn't quite meet his eyes. "I explained things to him," he said.
"He knows you did it for me. The rest of it, I suppose, is between you
and him. Just-- date him. Try to remember how to do that."
Trowa stood. He waited for Quat to stand, too, and took his cheek, brushing
it with a gentle palm. "It was never because he reminded me of you. Okay?
I need you to know that. He's... not you."
Some of the lines by his eyes smoothed. "For all three of us, I'm glad."
] [ cont