Peace Children + Wednesday (cont)

+

The violin throbbed like a heartbeat in Quatre's hands. Around him they sat, entranced. He played one song, then another. Relena's eyes were closed -- Catherine was crying -- Sally could not tear her gaze from him. He seemed to move with the violin, to cry as it cried and to shudder with it as it screamed in pain. Wufei's hand was clutched lovingly around his sword hilt; Meiran looked to be at prayer. Only Faiza, Heero noticed, seemed at all unmoved, but then, she had probably heard this countless times.

Duo was missing.

Heero stared at the floor, feeling the music move in him like the battle-lust, like the sensations that had ripped through his body when the other boy had touched him. Like the half-remembered songs his mother had sung to him when he was a baby and she was alive. Like a heartbeat, it beat in his chest.

He had never killed a man, but he had been raised to do it. For the first time he wondered what it would feel like. Before Duo he had known -- like finally becoming himself. But now he asked the music, will I hear you when his life slips away? Will I be able to feel you afterward? What will I do when he looks at me and knows that I have killed him?

Across the room Zechs Marquise stared out the window and thought about his father. Lucrezia Noin watched him, and wondered how love and hate existed together.

"You were flat on that last note," a bored voice put in.

They all jumped -- Quatre stopped playing.

Trowa moved from where he lounged in the doorway. "Cheap tricks," he said. "Tell me, do you use that in business?"

"Your highness," Sally said, standing, but Quatre cut her off.

"No."

Faiza stood beside her cousin, and opened her mouth, but he shot her a look and she stayed quiet.

"I don't."

"Really? It would prove so useful, don't you think? And the Winners are so very wealthy. . . so very powerful. . . so very old. Are you all so gifted?" The sarcasm hung heavy in his voice.

"I force nothing on those who hear me," Quatre said with quiet dignity.

"What do you do, then, Kitten?" Trowa asked, resting on a table.

Catherine closed her eyes to try and stop the tears.

"I'm empathic," Quatre said. "When I play, my emotions flow with the music. The same as everyone else who plays with any spirit. Only if I so desire I can make an entire room weep or laugh or scream." He met his lover's eyes. "Today I felt. . . pensive. My music carried that."

"You're a witch?" Dorothy asked from where she had followed her countryman.

"No," Quatre said. "I simply feel things. . . strongly."

"And so does everyone else when you're around," Lucrezia said. "You might have warned us."

"I wonder how good a musician you are without your tricks," Trowa taunted lightly.

"If I played with no emotion, I would be as wooden and dead as. . . well," Quatre said, then stopped.

"As me?" Trowa purred.

"Why don't you play for us?" Catherine said, standing, reaching a hand out towards Trowa.

He studied her for a long moment. "I don't play the violin."

"Perhaps a flute," she said, moving around the couch towards him. . . past him. . . to a cabinet the princess had pointed out earlier. She had thought of him as soon as she had seen the flute.

"Please," Relena said, and that was that. You didn't refuse a princess, even if you were Trowa. He sneered, but picked up the silver flute. Quatre saw the gentleness of his fingers on it and shut his memories off quickly. This was not the man who he had shuddered beneath last night, and again this morning. This man -- Began to play.

It was an angry song, a fiercely lonely and bitter and hating song, and Quatre wondered if he was the only one who felt it. He could not look away, though, could not bear to look away from that straight tall body and that haunted look. Could not see that everyone around him sank back, into their seats, as the first strains attacked them. He could only hold onto his violin and watch the man he had kissed that morning hate him.

Relena wondered if peace could ever be found, if the Weapon that was to defend her country would be used instead to destroy it. Sally thought of her loneliness, of her usefulness, of her worth as measured in deeds done for other who barely noticed. Wufei thought of his honor, and grew angry at all who dared even think him weak. Meiran thought of her family and felt herself growl at the enemies who sat with her, drinking tea like friends. Lucrezia thought of the shameful feelings she had been fostering for those she should only hate; Zechs thought of his father.

Heero thought of Duo. Quatre remembered the brush of hands on his neck, his helpless murmured phrase. I love you. Of the cool response. Yeah, you're not a bad fuck either. He bit his lip. And lifted his violin.

The song changed, became a duet, the flute and the violin lovers, the song their child. Quatre prayed for peace as he played, for love. And Trowa, despite himself, found his eyes drawn to the redheaded girl who sat, gripping her handkerchief, tears unchecked.

Triton, I can't go with you. . . you can't stay. . . but I love you. . . I always will! I'll write you every day -- I'll think of you all the time -- please, Try, please remember that. He cursed, the sound breaking the music, and dropped the flute. "Tricks," he said.

Catherine stood. "Triton," she said.

He looked at her, looked at Quatre, spun furiously and stalked out. Quatre laid the violin down and followed him.

"Try."

"Don't call me that, kitten." The endearment was spat, the words hateful. "Or should I call you Lord Kitten?"

Quatre merely watched him.

"You knew who I was," Trowa accused.

"Of course I did," Quatre said. "I remembered you fondly."

The prince drew back. "What?"

"Don't you remember?" Quatre said, drawing closer. "When we were younger. . . in the summers. . . we would meet at the festival my family held every year. You would come with your animals and I would come with my sisters, and you and I would run off together. Every year we got in trouble. Of course I knew you, the second I saw you. Your eyes. . . haven't changed. The feel of you, in my head -- that's changed, but I still knew you. I thought you knew me, too."

"I don't remember you at all," Trowa denied, but he was lying. He was starting to remember -- cool woods on a summer day. . . a squirrel on his shoulder, a boy's hand in his. . . avowals of eternal friendship. He shook his head. "More of your tricks, kitten?"

Quatre stepped back. "No. Not. . . no. I thought you and I. . . ."

"You thought you loved me?" Trowa asked, beginning to steady. This was familiar ground. "Hasn't anyone ever fucked you before, little cat?"

Quatre met his eyes calmly. "No. Nobody's ever done anything to me that made me feel like I do with you."

"And nobody ever will again," Trowa mocked.

"You play the flute well," Quatre observed quietly, moving closer.

"I play you better."

"Yes, I suppose you do." He raised a hand, slightly trembling, to Trowa's cheek. Then kissed him, softly, on the underside of his chin. "You play me perfectly." He wrapped his other arm around the still boy, who was staring determinedly at the wall. "Encore, my prince. Encore."

+

In the music room it took a minute for them to be able to think again. Catherine rose from her chair, Hanako in her arms again, and picked up the flute. The lion batted at it, but Catherine didn't notice. She took a deep breath and wiped the last of the tears away.

Faiza, unused to being prey to anyone's emotions, rose. Before she could leave, however, Sally put a hand on her arm. "Perhaps you'd better tell us a little more about your cousin." She studied the girl for a second, then added, "and about yourself as well."

Zechs Marquise strode from the room in a different direction than the one Trowa and Quatre had taken. Relena watched him go, then turned to hear Faiza speak. Wufei looked at Meiran's hand: she had dug her fingernails so deeply into it that she bled. He fumbled for a handkerchief, then remembered that he never carried one, so he removed the silk band from his waist and wrapped it around her hand. Meiran sat as if afraid to breathe.

Heero looked over them, then ducked out the window. Flowers and music. The palace had too much of both.

+

Zika smiled brightly at Duo. "Aye and I'll be fine in a day or two, I think. It's all starting to come back, a bit better each day."

He studied her. She was putting on the cheer a bit, but she wasn't lying. He nodded, satisfied. "I'm glad. What did that bitch do to you, Zi?"

She shrugged. "Gods only know. I just got sort of trapped, in my head like, and couldn't think clear. It was like she knew everything about me, Duo, everything I'd done in me life. And most of it she thought wrong."

"Her kind don't know much about real life," he said gently.

"No, but they know a thing or two about clothes," she said, and touched the necklace around her neck. "She might have taken my eyes for a few days, but I'll have this bauble for as long as I like."

He whistled as he appraised the sapphire. "Aye and that'd keep you warm and fed for a year at least."

"Aye, but it'll keep me pretty for a bit first," she said with a laugh. "Blood says it makes me look like a queen."

"Aye and he's right," Duo said, and brushed a kiss across her cheek.

"Duo?" she said as he was about to leave.

"Hmm?"

"You needn't send him after her. I'll be fine."

Duo shrugged. "He already went, Zika."

She smiled a bit then. "I can't say as I'm sorry."

Duo shut the door behind him. "I can't say as he is either."

+

Quatre gingerly prepared himself for that night's dinner. Trowa would be there.

"I never thought you of all people, Quatre Raberba Winner, would do that type of thing," he told his reflection. He thought of the way that Trowa had touched him, there in an empty library not two (unlocked) doors down from the princess and the Children. Of the way he had moaned and writhed and touched Trowa back, all the time knowing that he was little more than a willing body to the other boy. He hadn't cared. He still didn't. And that wasn't like him.

"I'll take what I can get," he whispered to his reflection, to the angelic countenance on the nicest boy anybody had ever met. "All nine inches."

The angel in the mirror winked.

"My lord Quatre!"

He glanced up curiously as Rashid burst into the room. "Rashid. What is it?"

"Mohammaed. . . a messenger from your father."

Quatre straightened. "What's wrong?"

"The caravans. . . seven of them. . . gone."

+

"Poe! Poe! Anna, whatever! I'm late, can you help me?"

"If you're looking for the maid, I sent her away."

Duo, climbing in the window, dropped to the floor and came up in a crouch with a knife in each hand.

Quatre simply watched him. "You've been gone a while."

"Shouldn't you be at the dinner?"

"I've been excused. Family problems."

"Is that so?" Duo said, putting on a grin. "Three weeks from home and you're still plagued by `em. Got a big family?"

"A rather talented one," Quatre said. "You missed my musical show this afternoon." He made a move as if to brush that aside. "That's not the point. The point is this. I received a message from my family today. Seven of our caravans have disappeared without a trace."

Duo's eyes widened. "That's a hell of a lot of goods."

"Not to mention people," Quatre added quietly. In the dark he stared at his feet and wondered what was happening to his people while he'd been getting the brains fucked out of him.

"I'm sorry, my lord," Duo said. "Is, uh, there something I can do?"

"Yes," Quatre said. "You're a thief. You can tell me who did this."

Duo froze, then sighed. "God, everybody's seeing through me these days!" He dropped into a chair, and, as an afterthought, put away the knives. "Why should I help you, after what your bitch of a cousin did to my sister?"

Quatre looked surprised. "Is she? Your sister?"

"Close enough," Duo growled.

"You can help me because if I hadn't been there the blindness wouldn't be wearing off. At least not this year, and maybe not any other."

Duo whistled. "She really is a bitch."

"Sometimes you have to do what you can -- no matter what it is -- to prevent future damage. Like having seven caravans disappear." He sighed again. "One of my sisters was part of one of those caravans."

"You have a sister?" Duo asked.

"Twenty-nine," the boy confirmed.

"And you're going to miss one?"

Quatre glared at him. "I want to know who did this. And why."

"I don't do charity work," Duo said.

"You won't do any work if the king finds out that you robbed my cousin and I. And that you've been terrorizing her."

"The king couldn't catch me."

"The Winners could." Quatre's smile was without humor. "Unless of course you like running every day of your life, never having enough to eat or a safe place to sleep, not being able to steal more than enough to scrape by on because every fence in the world is waiting for you to walk in the door. Unless you like being chased by bounty hunters who only have to bring you in still breathing to get the bounty of a lifetime."

A muscle in Duo's face tensed. "And here I thought you were a nice guy."

"I am," Quatre said softly. "That's why you're not being chased right now."

"I'll see what I can do," Duo said, and slipped back out the window.

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