Choking. That one word summed up everything for Quatre - the excessive workload his corporation offered him, the stale air of his office, the seas of contracts, memos and documents awaiting his perusal; how it all had gained an invisible stranglehold on him, on his very soul. When the Mariemeia conflict ended, he had returned to the family business with high hopes, and at first the challenge had been a welcome one; a distraction from all other thoughts. Now, with the challenge turning into a way of life he never really wished for, he was facing a choice - letting the chokehold be, and face the eventual consequence of that, or free himself from it. Some of his sisters had been adamant he take more time off, and delegate more of the management of the Winner corporation to them. It was time to accept. It was time to deal with what he had been hiding from for months. With one last ragged breath and of frustration, he swept his arm across the desk, toppling the piles of paper, sending documents everywhere, letting the dark mahogany desk return to a clean slate. With a trembling hand, he activated the intercom built into the desk, and called in the head secretary. He gave orders for the rest of the day, and left. In the evening, he would contact his sisters and ask them to seize control of the family business for the time being, letting him remain in an advisory position - but right now, he had but one place to go; a small gazebo at his mansion, in search of music to soothe his soul, air to breathe and space to think - and remember.
In the open gazebo, he let his violin pour out tones of regret of past choices, and chords of anger at his own cowardliness. Occasionally, he'd pause, take a deep breath, and continue, seeking solace in the music, comfort in memories. Had it really been two years since- No, he didn't want to think of it. A small voice in the back of his head kept whispering it was time to act instead. There had been enough of thinking, and nothing had come of it - nothing at all; nothing bad, but definitely nothing good either. He knew what he wanted, what he longed for, but he had never summoned the courage to go beyond his own sheltered mind with those thoughts. Perhaps the voice was right.
And he knew all his answers were hidden under a great piece of colorful canvas. All he had to do, was go there and ask the questions. The answers might not end up being what he wanted, but at least he would know. Uncertainty is the surest path to regret, and he had walked down that road long enough. Quatre finished the tune he had started, took another deep breath to clear his mind and walked back to the mansion to pack. There would be objections to his plans, both here and at his destination. He believed he could convince Rashid to let him go alone, but he would need some kind of cover story to be accepted at the circus - Quatre knew he would falter in asking the questions the minute he set foot on sawdust, and he wanted to spend at least some time with the keeper of answers until he could utter the questions.
But what would Trowa's response to simply that be?
Quatre's family had mostly been surprised at his abrupt decision, but they had seen how he had deteriorated over the last weeks, and knew the breaking point approached. Therefore, a few had prepared for the eventuality and were able to make the transition smoothly. As expected, Rashid had objected to his going alone, but had reluctantly accepted it - after giving an extensive tirade of caution, of course.
Quatre had tracked down the circus quickly enough. They had just begun a tour of the L3 cluster, and his quick investigations had prompted the cover he needed. With but a small bag, he had made his way this far, alone. Now, standing in front of the big top, he felt his knees were about to buckle, a new little voice crying out to go home, to let things be. Mere moments away from surrendering to the sound of retreat, he was stopped by someone shouting his name, waving and smiling to him - Catherine. She ran over to him.
"Hi, Quatre. Been a while since you visited us."
Smile. "Hello, Ms. Bloom. I'm sorry for that, I have been a bit busy, and-"
She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, goes with being a bigwig in the corporate world, I guess - and call me Catherine, okay? We're friends, aren't we?"
He chuckled, nodded.
"So, I guess you're here to see Trowa? I mean, we've just finished the performance here, and are about to pack up and leave for the next colony, so-"
"Actually..." He reached into his vest pocket and fished out a small newspaper clip. "I'm here for one of the job openings."
That clearly took her by surprise. "You're looking for a job? Hey, did the Winner corporation go bankrupt while I wasn't paying attention, or something?"
Snicker. "No, nothing like that - if you could take me to the manager, I'd like to explain."
She nodded, still puzzled, but also very curious as to the explanation.
Having stated his errand, Quatre sat back for the verdict. Catherine sat quietly by his side. The manager leaned back in his chair and rubbed his bearded chin. "Are you telling me you want this job as a case study?"
Quatre nodded. "Yes - I have little experience with the levels of business. Most people start at the bottom and work their way up. I started virtually at the top. While I feel capable of handling affairs, I have never gone through the corporate structure such as some of the board members have, and I haven't gotten a good enough understanding of what lower-level work is like."
The manager's eyes narrowed.
Quatre smiled in an attempt to disarm him, quickly waving his hand. "No, no, no - I didn't mean that the circus is a lowly place to work. I'm just saying that I'd wish to learn through working on a different level."
The manager straightened up again, and planted both elbows on his desk, folded hands supporting chin. "And why here? The Winner corporation is certainly big enough to give you work opportunities at entry levels."
The blond shook his head. "I believe whoever I got for a superior would give me favorable treatment - and that would ruin the experiment. I figured here, I'd be expected to earn my living, no special treatment."
"Hm - you're right there. You'd be treated as any other member of the group."
"I know. That is why I'd like employment here - it would have to be part-time, as I'm still expected to act in an advisory position for the Winner corporation while working here."
"Then you are already forfeiting your chance - if you intend to let that go before your work here, I couldn't possibly-"
"Whatever duties I have here would take precedence, you have my word. My sisters can handle the corporation, they just don't wish to let me go completely while I'm here."
The manager nodded. "And just what would you be doing here? We're short of people for rigging work, but I doubt you're built for that kind of job."
Catherine cut in. "What about the ticket stand, or the food shops? Quatre has a mind for finance, so he should do just fine there." She shrugged, smirking. "If all else fails, I could always do with another brave soul for my knife throwing act."
Quatre smiled, albeit it was a nervous smile.
The manager straightened up. "I suppose... Very well. Quatre, I will have to think about this for a while - come back tomorrow, and you'll have my decision."
With a sizable grin, Quatre got up, extended his hand, receiving the future boss' in a swift shake. The red-coated man raised a finger, shaking it as a warning.
"If I hire you, and you fail to meet the standards of this circus, I won't hesitate to fire you. Understood?"
Quatre nodded, excused himself and left the office trailer, Catherine hot on his tail. They hadn't gotten far before she grabbed his shoulder, stopping him. "Quatre, were you serious back there? You want to work here just to get your fingers dirty in 'real' work?"
Quatre shrugged. "It's always good to find new perspectives, Catherine. I think working here would do me good." Seeing her less-than-convinced vague frown, he sighed, pressing on. "I'm not here 'slumming', if that's what you think. I'm very serious about working here, and I expect to be treated like everyone else employed here. That's not something I could hope for anywhere else - my name is too well known for that, and no matter where I'd go, there would always be someone thinking they could gain a financial advantage by going easy on me. The manager won't do that. He knows who I am, but he won't care about who I am or what I own if I do anything to negatively affect his circus - he'd fire me, or at the very least give due reprimands."
Her turn to sigh. "Quatre, I still don't get why you'd want to do this."
Doing his best not to show signs his cover was jeopardized, Quatre avoided her eyes. "I don't really expect you to understand, Catherine. Not yet, anyway." He bit his lip before he could blurt out everything. "Look, I'll be back tomorrow - tell Trowa I said hi."
"You're not seeing him yourself?"
He shook his head, weary smile. "Don't have time - I still have to arrange a few more things with my sisters, and-"
She smiled. "You haven't got the job yet, Quatre."
He chuckled. "I know, but I have a good feeling about this."
Short giggle. "Okay. I'll tell Trowa you were here. Oh, one more thing."
"No matter what happens tomorrow, promise me you'll take the time to talk to him then, okay? He doesn't socialize enough as it is, and you're one of a very few people I know he could keep a conversation with for more than a few minutes."
Still smiling, Quatre nodded. "I promise. See you tomorrow, Catherine."
And with that he left, feeling somewhat light-headed, although he had not done what he came for at all. If he got a job here, at least he'd have an excuse to watch, and wait. Some day soon he'd build up the courage to bring all out in the open - but for now, being this close was good enough.