by Murasaki

The fundraiser went off without a hitch, and the committee found they had been more successful than they'd thought they would be in obtaining funds. More people had attended than they had counted on, and it seemed the hospital would be able to build a new wing without having to rely on Quatre's benevolent nature.

It was late Sunday afternoon, and the fairground had disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. Trowa packed a bag of clothes and said goodbye to Catherine, telling her of his plans to reunite with the troupe in Paris in around two weeks. His sister lingered in the doorway of her trailer, grinning as she watched him roar away to the house on his one extravagance--his motorcycle. It had been ages since he had taken a break, and his eyes had taken on a curious sparkle ever since he had met up with Quatre again.

"Maybe, just maybe," she mused.

When Trowa arrived at the house, dusk was settling over the sky, the glorious blue deepening into a rose-streaked indigo. Only one light twinkled from the upper floor, and as he rung the bell, Trowa was struck by how lonely the house seemed.

Then, he heard the faint thump of footsteps coming from within, and the door opened to reveal one rather rumpled but extremely comfortable looking Quatre. "Trowa! Hi! Come on in," he gushed as he stepped back to allow him entrance. "Sorry for my appearance, but, um, I...well, I fell asleep and I lost track of the time," he admitted as he hastily raked his hands through his tousled hair and attempted to smooth the few wrinkles out of his t-shirt.

"That's okay, Quatre," he replied, chuckling.

"Let me show you your room. You can get settled while I check on dinner," he said as he began his ascent of the sweeping marble staircase leading to the upper floors.

Trowa followed him. "I thought all the staff had left for their holidays."

"They have. *I'm* making dinner."

"You cook?"

"Of course, I do. How do you think I take care of myself when the staff is away?"

This bit of news pleased Trowa immensely. Cooking was one skill he never mastered, and he'd had an irrational fear that he was going to have to make some of the meals during his stay. After years of having to eat food prepared, or rather destroyed, by his own hands, he was content to relinquish that particular chore to others more capable of performing it. From the delectable aromas wafting through that part of the house, he was sure Quatre was one such person.

Quatre stopped in front of an ornate wooden door and opened it. "Here's where you'll be staying for the next two weeks."

Trowa couldn't believe his eyes. The room Quatre had selected for him was at least twice as big as his trailer. The bed was large and Trowa surmised it would easily accomodate his 6 foot frame. On the other side of it, were a pair of french doors leading to a balcony. The rest of the furniture consisted of a dresser, a wingback chair, the bedside tables and two lamps. More than adequate.

Quatre gestured to a door near the far wall. "That's the closet, and there," he said as he waved a hand towards a door on the other side of the furthest nightstand, "is the bathroom. Is your room satisfactory?"

Trowa dropped his bag on the end of the bed. "It's very nice, Quatre. Thank you."

"Don't mention it," he answered softly. Trowa turned to look at him, and received another wistful smile for his trouble. "I'll leave you now. When you are ready, come to the kitchen. Go down the stairs, turn left, and then go straight back; it's not hard to find," he said as he walked out the door, closing it behind him.

Trowa finished unpacking and, after a quick shower and a change of clothes, he went to the kitchen. Quatre was in the middle of taking the main course out of the oven, some kind of lamb and rice dish. The air was redolent with the scent of cinnamon and onions. "That smells good," he said as he leaned against the jamb to watch him.

"It tastes even better," he replied. "The cook we had when I was a boy used to make this for me as a treat. I made dessert too."

"You didn't have to go to all this trouble."

"Are you kidding? This is a special occasion, and it deserves a special meal."

"Do you want me to help you?"

Quatre flashed him a quick smile as he laid some pita bread on a plate. "No. You are the guest after all." He jerked his head in the direction of a doorway just off the kitchen. "Go in there and have a seat."

Dinner had been a pleasant affair, the conversation revolving mainly around the happier moments the two men experienced when they were younger. But now the dishes had been removed, and the mood was quieter as two men lingered over their coffee at the cozy table Quatre had set up.

"Would you care for some brandy or cognac? I do keep some alcohol on hand for my guests."

"Thanks, but I don't drink," he responded, idly swirling his spoon through the inky liquid. Not anymore, that is. He shifted in his chair and glanced at his companion. "How did you end up in politics?"

Quatre shrugged. "What better occupation for someone like me? I have the money and the connections, and since I believe in pacifism, Relena probably thought she'd have someone to blindly support and promote her policies. However, I didn't always agree with her," Quatre confided as he poured himself another cup. "I guess she wanted a puppet, but she got me instead," he added, grinning.

"Poor Relena," Trowa muttered, returning his smile. He remembered just how stubborn Quatre could be.

"So, what have you been doing all this time?"

His brief smile faded. "I haven't been doing much of anything, really."

Quatre toyed with the napkin ring next to his cup. "Didn't you go back to Catherine?"

"I couldn't," he said quietly. Why? He wanted to ask him so badly, but he held back. Pressuring Trowa to confide in him never did anything but make him angry. But Quatre knew how to read him, and he knew that a little pushing never hurt. If he hadn't used such tactics when they were boys, he probably wouldn't have gotten to know the reserved young man at all. Quatre contemplated his former fellow pilot for a moment before speaking again.

"Why did you leave after the war?"

Trowa's eyes looked strangely flat in the soft glow of the candlelight. "As I recall, I really had no choice but to leave."

Quatre shook his head. "You had more choices than that. You could have stayed with me. I would have made room for you."

"I couldn't have imposed upon you that way."

"Imposed upon me?! How? We were...friends. Weren't we?"

Trowa fell silent for a moment, his face was expressionless. "Yes."

Quatre gazed at him mournfully, debating whether or not he should continue the conversation. Trowa made up his mind for him.

"I'm tired, Quatre. It's been a long day." Quatre nodded, a little taken aback at the suddenness of his declaration. "Yes, I'm sorry if I kept you up too long, Trowa," he stammered as he gathered the cups and stood up. "If you need anything just let me know."

Trowa stood up, barely looking at Quatre. "I will. It was a good dinner, thanks," he said as he walked away. "Good night."

"Good night, Trowa."

Trowa stood before the open French doors leading to the balcony off his darkened bedroom. The night was mild, and a trace of a rose-scented breeze wafted up to him from the garden below.

Already he felt vague stirrings of regret. Maybe agreeing to stay over wasn't a good idea, but he had been so happy to see Quatre again that he couldn't resist his offer. A wry smile crossed his features. When had he ever been able to truly resist Quatre?

He leaned against one door and sighed. He knew his life was going to be altered somehow, whether he wished it to change or not.

Elsewhere, Quatre had stopped by the study, his favorite room in the mansion. Bookshelves covered the entire length of one wall, and in the area near the windows stood an shiny black piano, sheet music scattered over its mirror-like surface. Across from it stood the cabinet where he kept the rest of his small collection of musical instruments. He opened the glass doors and ran his fingers thoughtfully over an old, rarely-played flute before removing his violin. His hand flew over the strings as the vivid notes of a half-remembered Paganini piece broke the stillness. Then he switched tempo, and played something softer to match his mood.

"Oh, Trowa."


On to part four. Back to part two.