Author: Reverand Maynard
Warnings: Fluff, sap, WAFF, 4+3; wee 6+2
Disclaimer: Yep, you guessed it.


Comfort and Joy

Christmas had become a rather odd time of the year. As the celebration of the birth of the Christian Messiah, Quatre had never had a reason to celebrate it before. But now, in AC 197, the date held deep significance for all the earth and colonies. It was a reminder of war, a remembrance of triumph, and everyone celebrated it differently--weeping for the lost, praising their chosen heroes, or just celebrating life and freedom in general. For the Gundam pilots and many of their associates, this was their way of celebrating, gathering once a year on on the eve of that which was the only global and colonial shared holiday.

"What's wrong, Q?"

"Huh?" Quatre responded a bit hazily, looking up from where he sat as Duo put a hand to his shoulder. The room they were in was almost dark except for twinkling colored lights and a few burning candles, and quiet save for the muted sounds of the others in the kitchen and den.

"You alright, Quatre?" Oh, Quatre thought, that question. It was the same one he'd been asked a hundred or more times in the past year. But now, like then, there was nothing wrong with him, nothing that wasn't always there.

"Oh, nothing, Duo. I'm fine."

Duo gave an easy, understanding grin, the kind Quatre would have found just as easy less than a year ago, "Him, huh?" He asked, motioning his head and his eyes toward another blonde in the room.

Quatre looked a little guilty for a moment, wringing tense hands in his lap, "Mm."

Zechs Merquise was seated across the room from his two observers, quietly nursing a glass of champagne. He stared at the wall, and then the floor, and then his hands, though Quatre was certain he didn't really see any of them.

"Somehow," Quatre said, "I think it's all been hardest on him. Maybe because he's not as young as we are, maybe because we still have each other . . ."

"He has Noin," Duo offered, and as if on cue, the lady mentioned appeared at Zechs's side. She leaned down to whisper something in his ear, to which he smiled politely, and then kissed his cheek, leaving in the direction she came. For a moment after, he seemed lighter and of the presence, then he looked at his glass again and lost himself in the sparkling liquid.

"Yes," Quatre agreed, "but that's hardly what . . . who he wants."

"And it hurts you doesn't it . . . to see---err 'feel' him this way?"

Quatre laughed a little at the absurdity of it, "It's stupid, isn't it? That I can't be happy unless everyone around me is too."

"You mean you're always like this?" Duo was sitting on the arm of Quatre's chair now, petting Quatre's head as the boy closed his eyes, the rest of the party happily ignoring them.

"No, but with Trowa gone . . ."

"Ahh. I see. Well, worry no more, my friend." Duo's smile was back and Quatre opened his eyes again at the mirth he heard in that voice.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, Q-man," Duo began while pulling something out of his shirt pocket, "it's Christmas, and there are certain traditions that cannot be ignored." He was smiling hugely now, brandishing his small green treasure for the blonde to see.

"Mistletoe?" Quatre asked. "Duo, you know I love you but Trowa and I--"

"It's not for you, baka! I've got a New Year's resolution and I think it's about time I started working on it." He gave Quatre a sly wink and a smile, tucked the plant clipping back into his shirt pocket, and stood from his perch to walk across the room, his direction clear.

It took Quatre a moment to realize what Duo meant, but by the way the other boy sauntered determinedly to Zechs's side, a gleam of merriment in his already bright eyes, a hint of seduction to the sway of his hips, Duo's intentions were quite obvious.

Now that was a surprise, Quatre thought. Duo Maxwell and Zechs Merquise? Of course, both of them were the only two who had yet to find someone signifgant since the wars.

At Duo's approach, Zechs was amiable and polite, and Quatre watched for a while as Duo sat with the older man, obviously saying something to make him smile. His heart was lighter again, just as it had been with Noin. Quatre could feel it. It seemed that Zechs was just so lonely, yet at the same time, he closed himself off. It just didn't make sense. They talked like that for a little while, and though Quatre couldn't hear a word of what was being said, Duo was quite obviously flirting and Quatre wondered if Zechs realized it. Whether he did or not, he seemed to have been enjoying himself for the first time that evening. Consequently, so was Quatre.

Then, as easily as he'd cheered, he was suddenly melancholy again. He didn't show it outwardly, in fact he was still smiling at Duo. But for Quatre, that's when the nausea began. Suddenly he was light-headed and he watched as Zechs's face, slowly, and possibly without his own realization, became solemn. He began to look somewhat embarrassed, a look that said he
wished he'd kept his mask. A moment later and he excused himself from Duo's company and the long-haired boy looked at Quatre with a face that asked the same question that Quatre wanted to know: what had he said?

Deep inside himself, Quatre felt heavy. As he watched Zechs retreat into the dark of a hallway, a hand clasped tightly over his mouth, he felt his chest constrict and he struggled for breath. This was a curse, this empathy of his! Certainly, during the war, it had proven itself useful more than
once, but now, in the aftermath, without the constant turmoil to keep him desensitized, the smallest things made him ill.

He leaned back in his chair, holding his stomach and closing his eyes after seeing Duo give an 'I'll take care of it' look and follow suit behind the blond. His head was swimming and the only solace he found was in a single whispered name.

If only . . . if only . . . "Trowa . . ."

"Something wrong?"

At the sound of the soft voice Quatre's eyes fluttered open, and there Trowa stood, both hands heavy-laden with plastic bags, his huge coat still on and wet from melted snow. Later, Quatre would remember that it was in that instant that he'd lost the connection with the melancholic prince, and that, though he couldn't quite recall himself, Trowa would comment that it was the fastest he'd ever seen him move.

"You're Back!" He had practically thrown himself into his lovers arms, hugging him hard, and ignoring the damp cold of his jacket.

"Yeah, would have been sooner but there weren't many stores open Christmas Eve." He looked around the practically empty room, "Where's everyone else?"

Quatre wasn't paying much attention, he'd finally let the other boy go but was in the process of unzipping his jacket.

"Quatre, what--"

With the heavy Jacket open, Quatre pulled up the hem of Trowa's oversized sweater, and stuck his head beneath, shimmying up into the warm green fabric to hug the bare chest. Finally surrounded by the smell and warmth of his lover, cocooned in the chenille sweater, the side of his face pressed to Trowa's breast, Trowa's heart beating in his ear, Quatre smiled.

"I missed you."

Trowa laughed a bit, not only at Quatre's strange behavior but the muffled words of sentiment, "I only went to get ice."

Quatre hugged him tighter, loving the thrum of his voice in his head. The pain of empathy was gone. Zechs Merquise was but another wounded comrade for whom he cared but did not ache. The world had stopped spinning, like a top that has lost it's inertia, and the only feeling in the pit of his stomach was warmth, and the same fluttering excitement that he could never suppress
when the other boy was around.

"I would crawl inside of you if I could."

Trowa breathed another light laugh, "Maybe that should wait until after the party."

Quatre was still smiling against him, "I love you."

"I know."

" . . . so much."

"I know . . . Quatre?"

Quatre sighed deeply and held him for a second more before he resigned to pulling out from beneath the sweater. When he faced Trowa again, his cheek was red and his hair was mussed, "Yes, love?"

Trowa smiled softly, "The ice is melting."

Quatre gave him a puzzled look, clearly having forgotten where Trowa had been until the other boy raised the dripping bags at his sides.

"Ahh!" Quatre laughed at himself, "You get warm, I'll take these."

"Where is everyone?" Trowa asked again while handing over the wet goods.

"Ummm . . . Heero, Relena, Mariemeia, Sally and Wufei, and . . . some others, are
in the Den. Duo and Zechs are on the Veranda . . . I think."

"Duo and Zechs?" My, Quatre thought, he is so adorable when he's surprised.

"If Duo has his way."

"I see." Trowa was shrugging off his jacket when one of the two men in question entered the room.

"You must excuse me," were Zechs's only words as he brushed between the two lovers, a few flakes of snow still melting on his overcoat. Quatre and Trowa turned to watch him move through the foyer. Heavy boots on hardwood floor and a soft click of the front door closing, announced his exit.

Trowa looked back at Quatre, confusion apparent on his face, "What's-"

"S'cuse me, gentlemen," It was Duo this time, ever present smile intact, following the blond man's path and idly rubbing at his jaw, "either of you see where his highness made off to?"

"Duo, are you okay!?" Quatre asked in concern. Perhaps his chasing the heartbroken prince had not been the best of ideas.

Duo only grinned wider, "Are you kidding me? Did you see how pissed he was?! I think I'm really makin' some progress."

"That way," Trowa offered, pointing toward the front door.

"Thanks, Trow. Good to see yer back," and with that, Duo was once again on the chase.

With a shrug of defeat and that same puzzled look, Trowa had finally managed to remove the last of his winter gear when he realized he was still being watched, and that Quatre stood between two growing puddles.

"I'm glad that you're back too."

"I was gone less than an hour, Quatre," Trowa reminded him and reached out a hand to smoothe wayward strands of blonde hair, "Are you sure you're ok?"

They stood a foot or more apart but Quatre imagined he could still hear that heart pounding in his ear. He closed his eyes to the soothing stoke of his lover's hand, and smiled brightly, "I'm fine now."


end

(Continued in the 6+2: And Hope)


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