Disclaimer: Legal claims to characters and setting; none. Desired claim to the same; significant. Conclusion; still don't own the rights, but as so many others spend the meantime toying with the characters somewhat unlawfully. ;-)

Pairing: 4x3x4
Contents/Warnings: Shounen Ai/Yaoi, angst, sap, lime/lemon.

Escaping Solitude
Part 4 - Nudge
by kebzero

Quatre's deep frown and the throbbing furrows on his forehead were just as good indicators of his mood as the near-curses he kept mumbling to himself, or the way he sent the shovel hard into the piles of sand, dirt and sawdust, swiftly lifting the scoop with just enough force not to send the cargo airborne, but rather in a slingshot motion strong enough to deposit the shovel contents in the wheelbarrow at his side, before repeating the process yet again, filling the wheelbarrow with foul-smelling content in no time flat.

All in all, he was not happy.

Then again, that same anger that kept him pushing the full wheelbarrow at high speed towards the biowaste dumpster kept him from thinking about Trowa's date, much less worrying over it. Instead, the idle part of his mind was busy plotting revenge, easily helped by the never-failing creativity of the imaginative imp - though the angel kept trying to let Catherine escape a bit easier, reminding both Quatre and the imp of how helpful she'd been - for a back-stabbing blackmailer. Quatre hit the dumpster onramp at enough speed to make the wheelbarrow bounce onto the wide piece of plank, and he deposited the contents quickly, not wanting to stay a second longer than he had to above the badly odored container crate. If the manager didn't change his mind - which seemed very unlikely - that dumpster might for once be completely filled up by departure time, and the very thought of that was unpleasant enough.

Quatre had turned to walk back down from the onramp plank when he noticed something fluttering below the streamer above the main tent. He squinted and finally realized what it was, short-lived surprise giving way to a snicker. He had a fairly good idea of who the owner was, as well as who the perpetrator that pinned the fluttering pieces of undergarments up there had to be. For a fleeting moment, Quatre cursed himself for not having a camera handy. The scent from the dumpster brought him back quickly enough, and with that reminder of his current work detail, he stepped down the onramp, wheelbarrow in tow.

In the midst of filling the wheelbarrow with a load of sawdust, he spotted a figure balancing up one of the taut wires of the tent rigging. At first, Quatre wondered if it was Catherine - but the body shape was definitely not hers. Whoever was up there noticed him though, and when the figure waved a brown cap, it dawned on Quatre who the tightrope walker was. He waved back to Joseph, still a bit shocked the old man would risk his neck like that. Joseph waved to someone on the other side of the tent too, before proceeding up towards the streamer. Quatre watched him every step of the way, taking in how easily the big-nosed clown tentatively made his way up the steep angle. At least there was no wind to speak of in the colonies - had there been, the feat would have been far more difficult. Still, Quatre was left impressed enough to see Joseph reach the top, grab a hold of the little flag pole and untie the few pieces of flimsy clothing. Joseph laughed and waved them as a prize, and from the other side of the main tent, Quatre could hear a fierce growl in response. Of course, the animal cages were on this side...

He didn't wait to see if Joseph made it down safely - or if he would still be breathing when he got down. If the man surrendered his climbing trophy peacefully, they would hopefully not find friar clown's body decorated with throwing daggers any time soon.

It wasn't until he unloaded the third wheelbarrow with smell-impairing sawdust Quatre realized he might be a target for Trowa's little revenge too. If he'd been upset enough to go after Catherine for her participation, what would Trowa not do to him, given that he had been just as active in setting up the date? The imp was more than happy to offer a few scenarios, all of which made Quatre shudder - and not in a good way. The minute shoulder-fiend continued the imagery for a few minutes more, delighting in Quatre's troubled expressions, though his laughter was at last cut short by a powerful angelic slap to the head. Never mess with the forces of good, unless you mean business. With a sigh and a shrug, Quatre resumed his duties. If Trowa had something in store for him, he'd know soon enough. Still, he made a mental note to check all drawers upon his return to the trailer. He had no desire to see his own underwear flying in the wind.

After finishing his own chores as well as his share of Trowa's, Quatre had gone over to Catherine for dinner, just as planned. They didn't speak much. Catherine was still fuming over having her delicates strung up for the world to see - even though she had gotten them back - and it was all too clear that behind her mutters of anger and occasional plotting smirk she was well on her way to find a way to get even. Quatre wisely refrained from commenting the situation, and concentrated on his meal.

Trowa returned only minutes before show-time, leaving no time to talk - and since Trowa showed up so late, Catherine had taken control of the cotton candy stand until Sylphie could replace her, leaving Quatre stuck in the popcorn booth. He hadn't seen Melissa anywhere, but he caught Trowa's faint smile as he disappeared through the rear entrance of the big top. As the good feelings for Trowa's apparent happiness mingled with slight selfish sadness for the same, a weary smile came across Quatre. He shook the thoughts away and sighed, remembering he'd put himself as well as Trowa up to this. Now all that was left, was to see it through to the end. In some far recess of his mind, he prayed it would turn out well. On one shoulder, the angel did the same. The imp just huffed, and accused the other two for not having enough faith - something that earned him an odd one-eye glare from the feathered one, the other eye remaining closed in reverence. It dawned on the black creature what he'd just said, and he grinned sheepishly, give a quick rub to his neck and adjusted the dark baseball cap to fit more snuggly between the two sharp protrusions on his forehead, before trying to cover up his blunder, stumbling even more on the words. Quatre could swear he heard the white one snicker, and though the angel's palms remained clasped in prayer, the beginnings of a grin showed on tightly pressed lips.

Only when Sylphie called his name, making him aware he had a new customer, did Quatre return from his thoughts. As he scooped up a bucket of popcorn for the little kid barely able to reach the counter, he cursed himself for wallowing so in self-pity. If Trowa was happy, then that was all that mattered. Still, he couldn't wait to hear all about the date later - if only he could beat Catherine to ask - no, even better, have Catherine ask all the questions, and get the answers he craved without effort or risk. The usual sunshine returned to his face, and as the toddler placed a crumpled bill for payment, he got more than the note's worth of popcorn in return, along with Quatre's biggest smile of the day.

The kid grinned even greater, and took off into the tent.

From the other booth, Sylphie smiled at him, handing a cotton candy stick to the last customer in line. When they were alone, she chuckled. "You're a nice boy, Quatre - but if you continue to give more than they pay for, the manager could get upset."

His cheeks turned slightly pink, and he took to studying the counter.

Again, Sylphie chuckled. "Don't worry, I won't tell." She paused for a minute as she began to restock the machine. "So, what put you in such a good and generous mood, son? I thought Trowa was the one with the date."

Quatre smiled back at her, shrugged before attending to his own machine. "Sometimes, knowing others are happy makes yourself happy..."

She nodded in agreement, and Quatre was glad she didn't ask further.


A few minutes before the pause in the show, Joseph came around. He exchanged a few quiet words with Sylphie. Quatre couldn't hear them from across the makeshift hallway - not that he wanted to listen in on the conversations of others in the first place - but the words were evidently pleasing ones, as Sylphie smiled and giggled at them. The gray-haired man spun around and leant back against the counter, elbows back to rest on it.

"Quatre, if you want, I can take over the popcorn booth for the rest of the evening." Taken a bit by surprise by the offer, Quatre wasn't able to formulate a response before Joseph continued. "You know, why don't you go watch the show for once? You've already missed the highlight, of course - since I'm done, but..." He grinned.

"O-okay. If it's no bother-"

"Oh, it's no bother at all, son. Now, shoo. I think Catherine is about to throw her daggers - she might pick a volunteer from the audience, so don't take a seat near the front, unless you're feeling very lucky."

For half a second, Quatre's mouth remained agape, but he grinned along with the other two soon enough, quickly giving in to the offer.


Quatre found himself a free seat high up in the bleachers, at the very back, next to the bandstand above the artist entrance. The corner was rather dark, but he felt that was an advantage. He'd rather nobody - especially not Trowa - see him, notice his presence and act more than perform.

As Joseph had promised, he arrived just in time for Catherine's dagger tosses. Trowa was standing in front of the wooden target board, perfectly still as always. Something was amiss, though. With a squint, Quatre determined what it was - Trowa lips curled just a bit, a very vague smile if there ever was one. For a moment, he wondered if that was enough to throw Catherine's aim off. Trowa had told him how she'd made a slip with the knives the first time he stood before that board, simply because he didn't look afraid. Now that he looked happy, instead of his usual blank, would Catherine make an even worse slip?

Fortunately, Quatre's concern turned out to be without foundation. Catherine had hesitated on her first toss, but each knife, including those that were supposed to be 'near-misses', according to their scripted act, found their precise mark. Both prima donna and clown were bowing and giving way to the next act long before Quatre's heart climbed down from his throat and found a relaxed pace again. Somewhere during the trained sea lions' playful acts with nose trumpets, flipper claps and hugs given to their handlers, did he find the will to laugh again, applauding along with the audience. His nerves found themselves on edge again when Trowa and Catherine returned to make their fleeting dance in the trapezes and ropes high up under the big top, and only through reassuring himself over and over again that they were professionals and knew what they were doing, was he able to calm down.

Soon enough, the show came to an end, the manager beaming with pride as he called in all the performers - that is, the human ones that hadn't already retired for the eve - and with them thanked their audience. As the applause died down, the performers retired through their exit, and the audience through the main entrance. Quatre considered heading right back to his own trailer, but he was very curious as to how Trowa's date had gone, and wanted to find out right away - but he didn't want to appear to eager about it, either. In the end, he waited until most of the crowd had disappeared before sneaking down the bleachers and out the artist entrance.

He found Trowa and Catherine right behind the now drawn curtains, packing away the throwing daggers. Catherine gave him a genuine smile for a greeting, Trowa closed the box with the daggers, and nodded. His vague smile still remained. A few seconds passed before Catherine reached out for the box to stow it away with the target board. "So, did you watch the show?"

Quatre nodded. "Yeah, a bit of it, at least."

"Did we do good?"

Faint sunshine. "Yeah, you did just fine - more than fine."

Catherine grinned, nodded in acknowledgement. Another few seconds of silence passed. As the last of the other performers left the entrance area, Catherine turned to Trowa. "So, tell us, brother dear - how did the date go?"

Trowa shrugged.

"Oh, come on! You've been grinning like a madman all night!"

"I did not grin, not once."

"Well, for you, that was a big, Cheshire-cat-like grin. Spill, Trowa!"

He looked to Quatre for support, finding none whatsoever. He rolled his eyes. "You two are going to pester me until I tell you all about it, aren't you?"

Catherine laughed. "Why, sure, little brother. That's what meddling big sisters and friends who really care do."

Trowa sighed, shook his head. "Okay, okay. I'll tell you - but I'd really like to get something to eat first."

"It's settled, then - we'll go change, and you'll both come to my trailer in, say fifteen minutes, for supper? Or were you too busy on your date to get dinner, Trowa?"

A faint, single chuckle and another dejected head-shake. "We'll talk over food." With that, he left for his trailer.

Catherine followed him out the staging area with her eyes, turning to Quatre the second Trowa was out of sight - and hearing range. "Looks like he had a good time, Quatre," she near-whispered. "Are you sure you'll be able to handle-"

Quatre held up his flat palm to stop her. "I told you before, I want him to be happy, above all else. I'd love for him to be happy with me, but I can't get everything I wish for, can I?"

She shrugged. "I don't know, Quatre. I don't think that's too much to wish for - but if he's happy with that Melissa girl, we shouldn't interfere."

He sighed, nodded. "You're right. We won't do that. I still want to confess my true feelings to him, but..." He shook his head. "I won't do that as long as I think it'd hurt him."

Catherine placed a hand on his shoulder. "You're a nice guy, Quatre. But you know the saying."

Chuckle. "Yeah, looks like I'll be finishing last."

Playful grin. "Well, better late than never, right?"

Short-lived laughter. "Yeah, probably."

She nodded. "Okay, I'll head back for my trailer now, and get out of this thing - I think I'll make something not quite so tight-fitting next time I expand the costume wardrobe. I can barely breathe in this getup." She smiled, and headed for the exit. "See you soon, Quatre."


Quatre had walked back to his half-a-trailer residence, grabbed a washcloth and went for the shared bathroom, moistened the cloth and wiped his face, as if the cool wetness would clear his mind as much as his face. He opened his half of the bathroom cabinet and picked up a hairbrush, giving his blond locks a few, quick sweeps. Then, he stopped, and glared first at the brush, then at the wet cloth deposited next to the sink. The brush went down next to the cloth, and Quatre rubbed his eyes. He leant in across the counter, studying his reflection in the mirrors of the cabinet doors, cursing himself for being so overly nervous about appearances when he had so little to worry about - he hoped.

Right about then, he got a reminder he'd forgotten to lock the other door of the shared bathroom when Sylphie came in, busy straightening her dark red skirt when she noticed him. "Oh, sorry, Quatre. Didn't know you were in here - the door was unlocked."

He sighed, mustered a smile and put the brush back in the cabinet. "That's okay, I'm done."

She nodded, warm grin as always plastered across her face. "Say, what are you doing here freshening up, son? Have you gotten yourself a date, too?"

Chuckle. "No. I'm just heading over to Catherine for supper."

"Aaaah..." The way she elongated and made a hill of an intonation of the vowel, made Quatre sigh and turn to her with a gentle glare. "Well, she's a nice, young woman. I'm sure you two would-"

"Look, we're just friends. It's just a meal. Trowa's coming too."

Still grinning, she nodded. "Well, that almost goes without saying, doesn't it? You can't split the Bloom siblings apart even if you tried." Slight chuckle. "But I'm sure Trowa would give you his blessings, if-"

Quatre closed the cabinet abruptly, nearly slamming the door. "Friends, Sylphie. That's all. We're not like you and Joseph."

Another chuckle. "If you say so, son - but it never hurts to have someone to love, and be loved back by."

Quatre didn't argue that statement, but decided not to say anything that could give Sylphie the wrong ideas. He suspected he'd already made another rumor to her ever-growing pool, or at least reinforced an old one. "I'm done. Have a good evening, Sylphie." He went out his bathroom door, and closed it.

"Same to you, Quatre." The door closed. "Same to you..." she whispered to herself, and sighed. "Youth shouldn't be wasted by insecurity, young man," she told the mirror, as if it would relay her words to Quatre later. "My eyes might not be young anymore, but I'm not blind - I've seen where your heart lies, Quatre..."


Trowa had already shown up by the time Quatre entered Catherine's trailer. The two siblings Bloom were seated by the table section at the end of the trailer, Trowa busy munching on a few sandwiches Catherine had made. She was nibbling on one too, though it was fairly evident she did it more as a means to pass time than to still hunger. A pitcher with water and three glasses were also placed on the table, next to the plate of assorted sandwiches. Quatre felt an urge to sit down next to Trowa, but fought it - especially as Catherine tapped the space next to her. It would appear she wanted both the interrogators on one side, and their hapless victim on the other. Quatre complied.

Catherine finished her sandwich, and leant in across the table. "Well?"

Trowa looked up to meet her over-eager eyes. He put what was left of his sandwich down, poured himself a glass of water from the pitcher and took a sip. He smirked, just barely. "For starters, I think you should add some peppers or something on your cheese sandwiches, Cathy - and these with-"

She made a playful punch to his elbow. "That's not what I meant, and you know it. Now, come on. Tell us what happened, everything that happened. Got that?"

Trowa half-grinned, nodded. "Yeah, got it." He paused. "Well, there really isn't that much to tell..."

Catherine rolled her eyes. "Okay, let's start at the beginning. Where did you go when you left here? What did you do?"

Shrug. "We just walked, at first. I know I didn't have any destination in mind, not sure if Melissa had. Anyway, we ended up at the library a few blocks from here."

"You went on a date to the library?"

He smiled. "Turned out that was one of her favorite places, actually. She guided me down the aisles, pointed out her favorite books and authors... We argued a bit over some of the titles, and I tried to find some of the few books I remembered reading, but mostly, she just led me down along the bookshelves."

Catherine leant back, grinning. "A library..." She shook her head in disbelief.

"There's nothing wrong with going to the library, even for a date," Quatre cut in. "It's a quiet place, good for reflection, thought and silent discussion - and it sounds like you found out something about Melissa through her choices of books - right?"

Trowa nodded. "She's nice enough. Don't know if she deliberately avoided any particular books to appear more shy or innocent than she is, but she didn't seem the type to be deceitful - unlike you, sister dear."

She rolled her eyes, clasped her forehead with the back of one hand, let the other cover her heart, and made as much a mockery of a dying prima donna as she could. "Oh, the anguish... Why do thee hurt me so?"

Quatre chuckled, Trowa near grinned.

Normalcy returning. "But seriously - back to business. Where did you go next? What's Melissa like?" Smirk. "Did you do anything that you shouldn't have?"

Trowa sighed. "We didn't really go anywhere else. We just browsed the library for hours, sharing bits and pieces of our minds as we walked."

"You mean you didn't even take the poor girl out to eat?"

Another shrug. "We never got around to it, I guess. I asked if she wanted to go for something to eat before we got to the library, but she just shook her head and said she wasn't hungry. While we were at the library, she didn't mention anything about eating, and I never really got hungry. I wouldn't have noticed the time if she hadn't told me - had to hurry back here in time for the show."

Catherine grinned, sighed and shook her head. "Poor Melissa. She must have been starving..."

Faint smirk. "Not everybody are as gluttonous as you, Cathy."

Another mild punch went across the table. "You know damn well I watch my figure very carefully, thank you very much."

Trowa shot Quatre a glance. "Did I tell you about the last time Cathy baked a three-layered chocolate cake? She-"

He was cut short when Catherine stuffed the remainder of his sandwich into his mouth. "And that's all you'll say about that, Trowa. Now, more details about your date, please."

He coughed a bit, chewed and swallowed the remains of the mangled sandwich, before taking another sip of water to clear his throat. "I don't think I will."

"Oh, come on. You have to have something to tell us?"

"What Melissa and I discussed is between us. I'm not going to tell you anything, sis."

She groaned, rolled her eyes again. "Okay, tell me this - did you enjoy the day?"

He half-smiled, nodded.

"Okay, I can live with that - for now..." She paused, shot a brief glance at Quatre before glaring her brother in the eye again. "So, you're going to see her again, right?"

Trowa shrugged. "I guess so... She said there was a small park somewhere nearby she'd like to show me. I was planning to check when I had free time, and get back to her."

Mildly amused grin. "So, she gave you her number?"


Cathy got that look that reminded Quatre of impending impaling rapiers again - though the repeating addition of playful eyebrows countered the menacing look. "Think you'll need a chaperone next time?"

Trowa rolled his eyes, letting one slight chuckle escape.

"I take that as a 'no'?"

"No, Cathy. Take that as a 'No meddling sisters allowed to stalk us'." He smirked, got up. "I think I'll get some sleep now. Have to get up really early tomorrow, to inspect all the damage you two did to my chores." The other two glared at him. "Seriously - Thanks, you two. You were right about me needing to get out more... I've had a pretty good day." With that, he slipped out the door.

As the sound of Trowa's footsteps faded, Quatre let his smile fall into a selfish sigh. Catherine immediately put an arm around his shoulders. She smiled faintly, trying to be as sympathetic as possible. "Sounds like he's getting better, Quatre."

Tentatively, Quatre nodded in agreement.

She pulled him closer. "Look, don't give up hope, Quatre. Now that we know Trowa is at least capable of leaving the circus tent, not to mention hold a conversation on literature with a stranger, who knows where the limits go anymore?"

He smiled, gave her a weary glance, tapped the hand she had placed on his right shoulder. "Thanks, Catherine. I'm just glad he had a good day."

Catherine nodded. "Next thing you know, he'll be having a happy day with you, too. Give it time, Quatre."

"Yeah... I just can't help but feel I'm doing something incredibly stupid here."

Shrug. "Maybe... But maybe you're doing precisely the right thing, too. Trowa still needs our help, you know."

He glared at her. "You're not planning to follow him on their next date, are you?"

She just smirked, and gave a quick wink.

Quatre shook his head, smiling. "I don't think I want to know..."

Laughter. "No, I won't stalk them. Trowa's right, what's between them is their business - just like what's between me and you is our business, or like what is or isn't between you and Trowa is your business." She paused. "Mostly, anyway."

Light chuckle. "I'm glad you're my ally and not my enemy, Catherine."

"Oh, I don't know that... I just want to see people happy. Right now, I see one happy and one sad - but I don't want to see that swapped because of poor timing."

Quatre nodded, understanding what she meant. "I won't tell him, not yet. If he finds happiness with Melissa, that'd be fine."

"Well, there's more fish in the sea, right?"

Soft snort. "That's like saying you should be happy with water because the store ran out of champagne. I love Trowa, Catherine - no-one else."

She sighed, gave him a full hug. "Time heals everything, Quatre. Even unrequited love."

He didn't argue.

"We're not there yet, though," she near whispered.

Again, he didn't argue, simply enjoyed the warm embrace.

She loosened her grip. "Think you'll be okay?"

A few, slow nods. "Yeah, I'll be fine."

Soft smile. "You know, I rarely have trouble believing anything you say, Quatre - but that..."

Return sunbeam. "If I ever find myself unable to handle it, I'll just leave. Right now, I just want to watch from a distance for a while. Is that okay?"

She hugged him close again. "That's more than okay, Quatre. You know you're Trowa's best friend, and you're my friend too."

Quatre lingered in her embrace for a little while, before the two parted for the night, without exchanging more than soothing smiles. Back in his cabin, Quatre soon found himself trying to sleep, though many a thought kept him awake - as did the snoring from the other half of the trailer, as well as the suddenly unbearably loud ticks of the old alarm clock. At least he had his 'blankie' for comfort, as the hours passed until he finally fell asleep.


Two days later, Trowa had rearranged his duty roster enough to go out with Melissa again, taking advantage of a few old favors. The little imp tried to convince Quatre to follow them, to see just how well they got along. The black-clad one appeared to fade into dark green colors as he spoke, but went back to complete darkness as soon as the angel made sure Quatre stayed at the circus, tending to his duties.

He had tried his best to remain happy for Trowa, rather than feel self-pity. At the very least, he had been partially successful, and buried the remainder in playing comforting melodies on his violin, in a concert for one. That worked, until he again remembered the duet of two years past, the memory that had made him come here in the first place. Now, his feelings of envy and desire had begun clouding his mind, though the angel did his best to clear them, occasionally even aided by the imp. The latter had no interest in Quatre falling apart, especially over a plan by his own devising.

When Trowa returned hours later - in plenty of time for dinner, this time - the first thing Quatre noticed was that the brown-haired boy wasn't smiling, not even faintly. Instead, what looked like a mild expression of shock was painted across his face. The two creatures of conscience were quick to offer an equal number of scenarios, neither of which made Quatre happy. One was that something bad had happened, which would leave Trowa unhappy, the other was that something stunningly good happened, which would leave himself with more of the hurtful, splitting emotions. Quatre shook his head, and opted to find out - which meant asking. He put the broom he'd been using to sweep the pavement outside the main entrance aside, and walked up to Trowa.

"Uhm... Hi, Trowa."

It took a second before Trowa even acknowledged him. "Huh? Oh, hi."

Quatre grew slightly concerned. "Did something happen?"

Trowa shrugged, faint smile showing. Quatre let a minute mental curse slip, thinking what he thought was the worst possible scenario - until the imp provided even more heart-breaking - and quite vivid - ones. Quatre disregarded them all.


"She hugged me..."

Quatre brightened a bit. That wasn't so bad, and definitely far from what the imp had hinted at. "Oh, is that it? What, did she step on your toes while hugging you, or something? You looked a bit glum..."

Smile to smirk. "No, it was fine, I was just - I was just taken by surprise, that's all. Didn't expect her to hug me." He shook his head. "I guess I just haven't gotten used to someone I barely know hugging me yet."

Grin. "Well, a hug is a good thing, Trowa."

"Maybe... It didn't feel like when Cathy or you hug me, though."

Chuckle. "Well, there are many kinds of hugs, and most people have their own preferred types. Friends, family and lovers don't hug quite the same, either." He waited until he saw Trowa nod, acknowledging the words. "Plus, body shapes tend to change things too - You're still a fairly tall guy, compared to most people - And of course Catherine and I wouldn't hug the same." Quatre grinned. "She has a built-in natural 'bumper', after all."

Snicker. "Yeah, guess you're right..."

Quatre hesitated a bit. "So - did anything else happen during your little stroll in the park?"

Vague smirk. "If something did, it would be between Melissa and me, Quatre."

He nodded in agreement, at least finding some solace that the two hadn't come anywhere close to the impish scenarios still ringing in his ear.

"I should get back to the trailer. Think I'll go for dinner before the show today." Trowa took a few steps, before looking over his shoulder. "Oh, by the way - think you could come over to my trailer after the show? I've got something I'd like to talk to you about, if that's okay."

Quatre smiled, nodded, watched Trowa leave. He had a vague feeling the moment of Trowa's revenge on him for his part in the date setup had come, though since Trowa didn't seem to mind that anymore... He shook his head. No, he didn't want to speculate. Whatever it was, he would know soon enough. With a sigh, he returned to the broom, again sweeping the entrance area free from the trash left behind by yesterday's visitors. He was glad Trowa was happy, though it was difficult to block out how the shoulder-imp suggested Trowa should be happy with him, rather than Melissa. The angel retorted on Quatre's behalf, reminding the dark one whose plan this had been in the first place. The imp just stuck his tongue out, before saying the plan was foolproof, in the long run, and that they would just have to wait for it to work. The angel rolled his eyes, resisting the urge to put aside the halo and give the imp an overly firm handshake to the face. Quatre sighed again, shook his head clear of the little play on his shoulders, and went back to work.


Joseph had come to help Quatre and Sylphie close down the snacks booths that evening too. Evidently, the couple was in a hurry to sneak off somewhere. Quatre didn't pry into what and where. Instead, he went back to his own trailer-half, ate a hastily put together supper and psyched himself up to visit Trowa, hoping there wasn't some vindictive plan waiting for him there.

The colony lights were dimming by the time he walked over to Trowa's trailer, and most of the staff had already retired for the evening. Nearly all the animals had settled down for the night, too - except Fang. The lion gave a low growl in warning as Quatre passed his cage. The blond boy tried his best to ignore it, tried not to be the least bit afraid - and failed.

Soon enough, he was knocking at Trowa's door, throwing a glance or two over his shoulder towards the lion cage as he waited for an answer. The lock clicked, and the door opened.

"Hi, Quatre - please, come in."

With a nod, Quatre entered. Trowa closed the door behind him, locking it up again. Though it puzzled Quatre a bit, as Trowa normally only did that when alone, he didn't ask why. He took of his shoes and placed them next to the little wooden stool by the door. Trowa had sat down by the table at the end of the trailer, the dim light of the red-shaded lamp giving his face a vague coloring, unhindered by the other lights of the rolling residence. Quatre sat down in the couch on the other side of the table, and took note Trowa's fist was clutching something - the little, multicolored squishy toy ball he'd seen earlier. He smiled.

"Holding on to memories again?"

"Hm? Oh." Trowa let go of the ball, and put it aside on the table. "Sorry, I just like to-" His face became a tad more colored, unaided by the red lampshade. He shook his head. "Never mind."

"Okay." Quatre didn't want to push. Still, the flat way he said that one word was, combined with his smile, enough to win Trowa's answer. The brown-haired one shot him a glance before glaring back into the table.

"I - I just find comfort with that thing. Sounds silly, but-" He looked up. "Well, it helps. I don't get as nervous."

"Oh? You have something to be nervous about, Trowa?"

Trowa nodded. "I - Ever since Melissa hugged me, I've been wondering what if-" He stopped, started over. "I almost pushed her away when she did that, Quatre. I just didn't expect it, didn't have time to prepare for it mentally, and I nearly panicked. It wasn't that I didn't like it, I just wasn't ready for anything like that to happen - and that got me thinking."

Quatre still smiled, finding the faint red shade rather endearing. "About what?"

An idle hand went for the rainbow ball again, and began kneading it repeatedly. "Training."

Raised brow. "Training?" Quatre could feel the cogs of his brain kick into gear, halting at solution moments later. "Oh, you mean like us practicing hugs, like we did touches?"

The red went just a bit more crimson as Trowa shook his head. "Not... exactly."

Again, Quatre was puzzled. "Then what? What is it that you wanted to talk to me about?"

"You did say you'd help me with anything, right?"

Quatre nodded.

"Okay..." Trowa paused, gave the ball another squeeze. "I was wondering... If you could help me with kisses."

Well, that little statement certainly made three sets of jaws drop to the floor on the other end of the table. The imp was the first to recover, jumping up and down and more or less screaming his little lungs out into Quatre's ear to go for it, in all possible ways he could think of phrasing it. The angel was a bit more reserved, but not by all that much, rapidly chanting words of encouragement into the other ear. The main man himself was still too dumbstruck to really pay either of them heed. "Ki- kisses?"

Trowa nodded, face fully flushed now. "Well, she dared hug me - I'm not sure how I'd respond to her kissing me if I wasn't prepared for it. Plus, I've never really-"

Abruptly, Quatre stood up, nearly ready to flee. "But - but Trowa, we're both- I mean, we're not - Why don't you ask Catherine, or use your wrists or hands for practice, or-"

Head-shake. "I want to practice on a set of real lips, Quatre - to know what it really feels like. And Cathy? Are you crazy? For one thing, she's my sister - well, adopted, kinda - and then there's the fact she'd tease me to no end about it - and there aren't all that many people I'd trust enough to ask something like this. The last time someone kissed me was-" He stopped, not wanting to remember. "Look, I don't want to risk lashing out at Melissa if she... you know."

Quatre took a few steps backwards towards the door, before remembering it was locked. "But-"

Trowa got up, walked closer. "Quatre, I wouldn't have asked if I had problems with kissing you. You have lips, and so have I. Are there any other parts we really need for a kiss?"

The two creatures of conscience were finally able to reach Quatre's mind, at least in part. Hell yes, he wanted to go along with this - but the kiss would be for all the wrong reasons, and - wait, did Trowa just say he didn't mind kissing another guy? A far corner of his mind let loose a significant cheer at that delightful little insight, the remainder trying to restrain him from doing anything to risk it all right away.

Trowa still held the rainbow ball in his hand, nearly squeezing the stuffing out of it. "Forget I asked..." His voice was full of defeat. He turned around, and took a step towards the couch.

That was all it took to make Quatre finally make up his mind. He grabbed Trowa's shoulder, spun him around, grabbed both of his cheeks and kissed him with all his might. Quatre had closed his eyes on contact, but he could nearly feel Trowa staring at him with saucers. He definitely felt quick, panicky pulses of air across his cheek. The angel did his best to make the eager blond ease up, struggling to keep both Quatre and the imp in check, finally succeeding. Quatre ended the kiss, and let go of Trowa's jaw line, taking a step back. He glared into the floor, uncertain of how Trowa would react, well on his way to a blush of his own. "I... I'm sorry, Trowa. I didn't mean to-"

"No - no, that's okay. It's what I asked for, isn't it?" Trowa played with the rainbow ball in one hand, slowly wiped his lips with the back of the other, and near-smiled. "But... Do you really think she'd kiss me that hard?"

Quatre gave a light chuckle. "Probably not." He paused, working up his nerve. Then he leant in, slowly, one hand sneaking round to the back of Trowa's neck, softly pushing for a slight head tilt. "She'd probably... kiss more... like... this..." Their lips barely graced at first. Quatre upped the stakes just a bit, turning the kiss a little firmer. The white-clad blue-eyed one kept the imp and his libido in check, waiting. But not for long - Quatre could feel Trowa lean into the kiss; kissing back. He grew a smile, though he didn't pull away, rather the opposite. He grew more daring, let the tip of his tongue out to lightly trace Trowa's upper lip - something he regretted when he felt Trowa pull back at the new touch, just a bit, before returning, even copying the move. Quatre felt his smile - among other things - grow, and felt disappointed when their lips parted soon after. Trowa smiled back, put his free hand on Quatre's shoulder.

"I... I liked that, Quatre. Thank you."

Quatre fought the urge to thank back, maybe more than that, knowing it'd sound much too suspicious. He'd promised Catherine not to tell, or do anything until he knew, and also not to spoil Trowa's happiness. This was for Trowa and Melissa, not himself, he remembered. He didn't notice his smile fade away, but Trowa did. The shoulder hand went to Quatre's jaw, gently motioning his face up to view.

"Is something wrong, Quatre? I'm sorry I pushed you into this, but-"

"Don't be," he quipped, "please. I didn't mind, honest. I kinda... liked... it too..." He looked away again, shy grin and cheeks going pink upon him.

"Then... Maybe we could... try it one more time? You know, to be safe I got it?"

Quatre nodded, angel and imp both struggling to make the movement not look so very, very eager to please. Trowa placed his free hand around Quatre's neck, mimicking the blond's earlier move, meeting no protest. They moved closer, Quatre put his arms around Trowa's back, feeling him tense at the touch at first, but slowly relaxing. Quatre felt his head being tilted, but didn't mind the slightest; he had already lost himself in Trowa's eyes, and barely noticed when their lips touched again. Nearly without thinking, he tightened his embrace around Trowa, though got no reaction from the tall boy, other than a little more pressure to his lips, which he gladly returned.

It was right about then the imp whispered a few words, in all likelihood naughty ones, into the ears of the angel, getting a frown at first, though at his second attempt, a smirk and a nod. Together, they told Quatre of their little idea; another gamble, another risk. Quatre smiled at the plan, though his consciousness never really heard what his creations of conscience said. With a 'here goes nothing' thought, he let his hands snake down to Trowa's lower back, lift to only keep the wrists in contact. He crossed his fingers, and made a loose grab for Trowa's rear, barely really aware he was doing it.

Trowa certainly noticed, though. The rainbow ball fell to the floor, his emerald eyes went bigger than saucers, and his mouth went agape - which Quatre exploited on near instinct, sending his tongue in to explore, sweeping across teeth, palate and tongue with great zeal. After a while, Trowa relaxed, no longer bothered by either intrusion of privacy, and let his own arms embrace Quatre - though he didn't let his hands wander quite as far south. On the face front, he sent his tongue to spar with Quatre's, pushing it back, returning the favor, at least partially. Trowa wasn't quite as daring, and ended his exploration quickly, as well as the kiss itself, only adding a last soft, grazing touch of lips to finish it all.

Neither of them spoke. The angel and the imp had also grown very quiet, as out of breath and words to say as the kissing couple. Trowa was the first to get his tongue back in order. "I... That was - that was even better."

Quatre just smiled in return.

Sated smile became smirk on Trowa's face. "Still - do you really think Melissa would be that aggressive?"

It was only then Quatre realized where his hands were, and he immediately let go, cursing himself for making such a move, and even more when he noticed his pants had grown just a little tighter. Blushing, he looked away, praying Trowa hadn't noticed. "Uhm... err... She might do something like that... I mean, she could be a forward person, once you get to know her a little bit - and some girls don't wait for the boy to start things - I mean-"

Trowa chuckled, slowly letting Quatre loose from his lingering, lax embrace. "Maybe. I doubt she'd be quite that progressive..." Quatre's blush deepened a tad. "I still enjoyed the experience, though. Thank you, Quatre. I think I might be ready for - for whatever Melissa might do now."

The words hurt; they stabbed at Quatre's overly sensitive heart. He knew it'd happen, knew these kisses weren't for him, knew he was only helping a friend find balance - though the whole thing felt utterly bizarre. Why had Trowa asked him about this? Yes, there was the trust thing, but still...

The imp kicking his neck made him snap out of his thoughts, reminding him of the bliss he'd felt moments earlier, regardless of all other factors. It had felt really good - and right - and Trowa said he enjoyed it, too. Only the cautioning of the white-feathered one kept him from spilling his heart out, and risk everything in hopes of Trowa wanting him over Melissa, or anyone else - but there was still his promise to Catherine to keep, as well as promises he had made to himself. He backed out of Trowa's grasp, though he kept a soft, somewhat deceitful smile.

"I - Unless there's anything else you need help with, I think... I think I'll go back to my own trailer now, if that's okay..."

Trowa's smile vanished. "I didn't offend you by making you do this, did I?"

Quatre shook his head, bent down to put on his shoes. "No. No, it's okay, Trowa." The imp screamed in his ear it was way more than okay, it was absolutely delightful; far beyond description. Quatre didn't dare relay that sentiment, though - the time wasn't right.

"Oh." Faint grin returning. "Again, thank you. I think I know what to do now - how to deal with... things." Trowa walked over to the door, unlocking it.

Quatre nodded, and went out into the night. He heard the door close slowly behind him, and the lock click in place again. He sighed, the warm linger of the kisses mingling with the falseness on which he felt they were based. A grin came across him when he remembered he'd gotten a good pawing done, too - hopefully without startling Trowa too much - but damn, it had been satisfying.

As night came, he had trouble sleeping, still trying to remember what Trowa's lips and, err, lower back had felt like. The green turtleneck was tightly wrapped in his arms when he finally fell asleep, a content smile on his lips.


The next morning passed pretty much in a blur. Quatre had clean-up detail in the main tent; cleaning the seat rows, sweeping away the assorted junk gathering underneath the bleachers, and checking the sawdust in the ring for things that shouldn't be there - be it something left behind by one of the animals, or a piece of trash that had made its way there from the bleachers. The work was rather monotonous, and left his mind free to re-live the events of the eve prior over and over again. Occasionally, he paused, closed his eyes to recall the sensations even more. He sighed and resumed his work, but returned to daydreams intermittently.

Just prior to lunch time, he was done with the main tent, and headed towards the equipment trailer to return the broom and dustpan, already having deposited the black plastic bag of assorted trash in the non-organic dumpster. The daydreams still lingered in his mind, especially a select few precious seconds. A grin grew on his face as he remembered the kisses, those delightful kisses...

"What kisses?"

Startled, he spun around to see Catherine standing behind him, warm smile in greeting. He remembered his last thoughts - had he said those out loud?

"Yeah, you mumbled something about kisses, Quatre."

Faint curse. At first, he could feel a chill as the color drained from his face, only to be replaced by a heat buildup in his cheeks, undoubtedly accompanied by crimson coloring. Quatre looked away, much to embarrassed.

Catherine chuckled. "What's going on, Quatre? First you looked like a kid who'd found where his mother hid the cookie jar, now you look like you were caught by mommy with a hand in the jar."

"Uhm, I - I was just talking, Catherine. It's nothing."

"Oh, don't give me that - I'm not blind, Quatre - so, what about these kisses that put you in such a good mood?"

Damage control. The words rang in his ear, courtesy of the imp, who were advocating for as best a cover-up as he could think of - which wasn't much. The angel shook his head, suggesting that being truthful was the wiser path in the long run - and also reminding the other two what had happened was only done on Trowa's request - it wasn't in violation of the deal Quatre and Catherine had made - was it? Almost out of habit, Quatre took the angel's advice. "I kissed Trowa," he mumbled.

Catherine's mouth went agape, and it took a few seconds for the words to sink in - upon which her face shifted to a grim frown. "You did what?" She grabbed his wrist and dragged him over to the equipment trailer, nearly threw Quatre inside and closed the door behind her. She grabbed his shoulders, shook him forcefully. "You kissed Trowa? Who could you?! You said you weren't going to-"

Quatre touched her elbows, and eased her to relent making him feel like a shaking rhythm instrument. "Catherine - please, let me explain."

She let go, pushing him back a bit as she did so, and folded her arms. "Okay, I'm listening."

"You have to promise you won't tell anyone, especially Trowa."

Catherine rolled her eyes. "Fine, I won't tell. Now, talk!"

He leant against one of the walls, putting his arms behind him as a buffer. He avoided eye contact. "Yesterday... Trowa asked me for help..."

Brief concern. "Help? Was he hurt?"

Quatre shook his head. "No, nothing like that - it was just that... See, Melissa had hugged him earlier, and he got a bit nervous because of that. He wanted to know if he could cope with kissing someone, without triggering flashbacks - you know which ones."

Anger faded into mild surprise. "Come again? You're saying brother dearest wanted to learn how to kiss, and you ended up as his first choice?"

Faint grin. "I argued against it too, believe it or not."

She smirked. "Oh, I can imagine you fought long and hard against that suggestion..."

Sigh. "Look, I won't deny I... enjoyed... the experience, but it was what Trowa wanted to do. He wasn't sure if he could kiss Melissa - or be kissed by her, if she goes impulsive again - without remembering... Well, you know."

She nodded, and let out a slight chuckle. "I guess you have your answer now, though."

Quatre looked up, shook his head. "No. I mean, he didn't mind the idea of kissing me, if nobody knew - that doesn't mean he likes me that way."

Catherine rolled her eyes. "Quatre, that's a puddle of poo bigger than what the elephants leave behind, and you know it. Did Trowa kiss you back?"

He tried remembering. The way his eyes glazed over and the accompanying faint smirk was all Catherine needed.

"I see he did. Quatre, he kissed you too, it wasn't one-sided."

"Maybe... But that doesn't mean anything. He was probably picturing me as Melissa, and practicing for-"

She threw her arms up. "Would you listen to yourself? Kisses aren't meaningless, Quatre!"

Quatre pushed away from the wall, rubbed his eyes a bit. "I hope you're right, Catherine. I really do - but I just don't know, and I don't want to risk everything by blurting out-"

Snicker. "Coward."

"Hey, we agreed I wouldn't tell Trowa how I felt about him until we knew what the answer would be - until we knew it wouldn't just make him retreat more into himself, away from everyone. I don't want to chance that, I-"

He was interrupted as Catherine hugged him tight. "You can be so silly sometimes... But I guess that's why you're so damn lovable too."


She relaxed the hug, put her hands on his shoulders. "So, how good a kisser was my brother, hm?"

Sigh. "That's between him and me, Catherine - and I would appreciate it if you didn't tell anyone about this, okay? It was meant to be private."

Chuckle. "Then you shouldn't have gone babbling about it out in the open."

The blush returned, if less severe.

Teasing grin. "I guess Trowa was good, since even the thought makes you faze out like that..."


Laughter. "You're so easy to tease, Quatre. Maybe you should ask Trowa to teach you indifference in return for your little kissing lessons, hm?"

Another sigh. "Look, I don't think Trowa wants the world to know about those, okay? Could you please keep your mouth shut about this - no, not just that, avoid hinting at it in any way, or doing a flat-out pantomime of the whole thing?" She opened her mouth to retort, but Quatre would have none of it. "Don't deny it, you'd be all too likely to do something like that."

She put her arms akimbo, and smiled. "Well, I don't look too bad in a black leotard, but it isn't quite my style."

Quatre was growing more than a little annoyed, his voice clearly showing it, approaching a low grumble. "Catherine..."

Chuckles. "Okay - I'll be good - on one condition."

Groan. "What?"

"That you do my laundry today. I was planning to do it during the lunch break, but-"

He shook his head. "Catherine, I've never used a washboard to-"

"Oh, I know. Not like I'd trust you to handle that, anyway. Look, a few days ago I spotted a Laundromat a block or so away. You can handle the machines, right?"

Shrug. "I guess so. We had to use places like that occasionally, during the war."

Grin. "Okay, then. I'll just hand you the bags of dirty clothes, and you handle the rest. Deal?"

Sigh in defeat. "Deal..."

"Excellent!" She reached for the door, and put her other hand in a firm lock around Quatre's wrist, dragging him over to her trailer.


Quatre hadn't been too happy about the prospect of missing lunch. After changing out of the work 'disguise' of turtleneck and jeans back to his far more comfortable outfit of white shirt, vest and beige pants, he'd picked up the bags of laundry and headed out. He had dropped by a bakery on the way to the Laundromat, getting himself a small bag of buns, a few Danishes and a soda. The customers had eyed him oddly - not that he could blame them, since he was carrying two rather sizable black plastic bags containing Catherine's extensive laundry.

It took him a while to find the Laundromat, as it was hidden away down an alleyway from the street Catherine had mentioned. The minor worry that he'd be late returning if there was a crowd there, was quickly swept away by the nearly abandoned shop. An elderly lady looked up from her knitting as he entered, though she seemed a bit baffled by the sheer amount of laundry the young man had brought. Quatre softly smiled in return, dumped the bags in front of one of the available washing machines, and put the lunch bag over on one of the cheap, green plastic seats nearby. He opened one of the big black bags, and started tossing the load inside the washing machine. He judged he would need to occupy at least four machines with this load, if not more. A quick wallet check ensured he had enough change.

Once the first machine was filled, he closed the door, dug into the other bag for the bottles of detergent and fabric softener Catherine had told him to use, and applied those as well, before adding the dimes and starting the contraption, moving on to the next. By the fourth machine, the odd stares of the old lady combined with the low grumbles and mutterings of the imp in his ear lit his desire to get even with Catherine, the master extortionist. Detecting danger, the angel at first scratched his brown bangs in contemplation, trying to figure out the best way to intervene. In the end, he tried reminding the other two of how helpful Catherine had been - and she'd been far from dismissive, quite the opposite. What would the point be of getting even be?

The imp got to his feet and turned to glare at the angel, braided brown mane momentarily lashing out like a tail behind him. With great conviction, he retorted that Catherine would probably continue pushing for these slight favors until either Quatre caved in and let her tell someone - most likely Trowa - how he really felt, or until Quatre began responding in kind. Quatre let his frustrations get the better of him. He took one look at the washing machine he'd just filled with all whites. Then, he glanced over at a glaring deep red sweater that stuck out of the remainder of laundry, scheduled to fill the fifth and hopefully last machine. He smirked, grabbed it, tossed it inside, and started the machine before he could feel guilty. Well, the whites and the sweater had been in the same plastic bag, so he could have made the honest mistake of not detecting it in time - maybe it was wrapped inside one of the white bed sheets? The elderly lady again shot him an odd stare when he began snickering like a devious madman. Quatre didn't notice, and filled up the last machine, at last free to concentrate on his previously bought lunch.

Watching the clothes tumble wasn't particularly entertaining. The knitting of the senior citizen wasn't of interest either, so Quatre ended up turning the plastic chair around to look out the window, study the light traffic that went up and down the little side alley. He was nibbling on the last dry bun, trying to wash it down with the final gulp of his soda, when he saw a familiar face stroll past on the other side of the small street - Trowa. Immediately, Quatre straightened up, and watched his friend, his permanent crush, walk out of view. He noted the faint smirk, as well as the direction he was heading - towards the library. Quatre sighed, slumped. It was easy enough to guess Trowa had gotten the afternoon off again, and whom he was going to spend it with. For a short, selfish moment, he wanted to tell Trowa everything, lay everything out in the open, damn the consequences - but the thought it would only ruin the happiness Trowa had evidently found with Melissa cut all such ideas short. Maybe Catherine was right, maybe he should just tell and see what happened - but he didn't want to hurt Trowa, and he most certainly wouldn't want to destroy all the efforts that Trowa had made to become more of an extrovert. He shook his head, tried to clear his head. The first washing machine gave a high-pitched clink, and called him back to the task at hand.


Quatre had dumped the two big bags of done laundry outside Catherine's trailer. He didn't want to be there when she noticed some of her whites weren't quite so sparkling bright anymore. Instead, he went back to his chores, the imp congratulating him on a prank well done, the angel merely giving a grunt in lax opposition.

He spotted Trowa returning from his trip to the city just before dinner time. Much too curious, Quatre had walked over and asked if he'd had a pleasant day, who he had been with, what he'd done. To each and every question, Trowa just shrugged, and faintly smirked - though it widened just a bit at the last one. Quatre had walked away shaking his head, smiling outward, but screaming of envy inward. Still, he was determined not to let dark emotions get the better of him; he had set up the current game board, staged the pieces into position. All that was left, was to play it through - and hope for a victory, or at the very least a satisfying draw.

Dinner was a hastily put-together affair of 'only-needs-water-and-heating' products. Immediately following that was his tour of duty in the popcorn booth. Trowa maintained the cotton candy stand, as he usually did. Quatre could see he was a lot better with the customers now, nearly making idle conversation with a few of them, and he even shook the hand of a toddler that had seen the show a few nights earlier, but had tricked his parents into another visit. The young lad brightened at shaking Trowa's hand, asking if he was afraid when the knives came at him, or when he played with the lions, or when he was high up in the trapezes. Trowa had smiled, and replied the only time he was afraid, was when the other clowns made changes in the program and went after him with the cream pies. The kid had laughed. Quatre had smiled. At least some things were going just as they should.

Even so, whenever he snuck a glance at Trowa in the small gaps in customers, the brown-haired boy had smirked back; nothing faint about it at all. It was as if he was still answering the questions Quatre had asked earlier, not needing words. More than once, Quatre opened his mouth, about to ask again, only to be met with the clear smirk, which always derailed his train of thought. Catherine had hurried by at one point, and Quatre had taken a step away from the counter in fear of a possible retribution. None came. Puzzled, Quatre shrugged, assuming she hadn't noticed his little stunt yet.

Soon enough, the show started, and Sylphie closed the ticket stand to take over for Trowa, leaving Quatre to draw his own conclusions on the questions. After the break in the show, Joseph arrived, trying to hid a dark green bottle behind his back. Putting it down out of Sylphie's view, he offered to take over the closing of the popcorn booth. Quatre accepted it nearly right away, and decided to take a walk to clear his mind. He was already in the tiny nearby park when he remembered he was on a colony; recycled air, artificial lighting... Not the kind of night he had been able to lose himself in when he was on Earth. He sighed, intent on making the best of it, and as the lights high above darkened, at the same time lowering the temperature slightly, he was pacing back and forth through the nearly empty park, before he finally slumped down on a bench in the center of the little green lung, and simply sat there, deep in thoughts of nothing at all.


Quatre had lost all track of time by the time he returned to the paved circus lot. No decisions or conclusions had really been made, other than that he still wanted to do what he thought was best for Trowa - and right now, that was to keep his friend happy, and socializing.

He looked up at the colony ceiling - not that it was very visible, now that the lights up there were at their dimmest, shrouding the entire cityscape in shadows. The air had cooled, though he knew it wouldn't drop beyond the comfort zone. Being able to control the climate rather precisely had made some colony citizens spoiled, and anything but minor variations and the occasional light rain shower usually led to complaints.

The lamps in the colony streets had lit up to further the illusion they might as well be in any city on Earth - though that illusion was easily shattered. All one had to do, was look towards the horizon, and see that instead of disappearing downward, it came up at you, and disappeared somewhere up the never-ending hill of the spinning wheel-like structure that made up the colony.

Some of the city buildings also had lights in the windows, and down a few streets, signs in bright neon glared. In the circus camp, most of the trailers were dark, curtains drawn for the night. He headed for his own trailer-half, intent on trying to get some sleep, and leave his worries behind by fleeing into his dreams.

As he turned the corner of the neighboring residence trailer, he caught sight of his trailer - though something wasn't quite right. His half was dark, of course, though the curtains weren't drawn. Joseph's half, on the other hand, was clearly lit up, and he could hear noises. It took a while for him to notice the trailer was also in quite vivid motion. He heard laughter - the hearty chuckles sounded very much like Sylphie's. The deeper snickering had to be Joseph.

The imp was quick to whisper one possible scenario, reminding Quatre of the bottle they had seen earlier - one that looked remarkably like a wine or champagne bottle of some sort. The blond boy blushed.

From within the trailer, Sylphie laughed again. "You wicked, wicked man. Why did you put your hand there?"

Dark chuckle. "Oh, you know perfectly well why. I'm going for the prize, dearie."

More laughter. "Going to show you're still as agile an acrobat as you were two decades ago, are you?" The trailer shook again. Quatre's coloring deepened.

Briefly, he considered sneaking into his trailer-half. Most likely, the other two had thought he was asleep before they had started... well, whatever they were doing. Quatre shook his head; some mental images were just not worth it. The trailer moved again, more snickers. Quatre turned and walked away. He did not want to try to sleep in a trailer that acted like a ship on sea with a couple of noisy newlyweds in the cabin next door.

Walking without aim, he ended up in the corner reserved for the animal trailers. Most of the beasts were asleep too. Fang was breathing heavily inside his cage, though Quatre could have sworn he saw the lion's snout twitch as he walked past. Startled, he took a quick side-step. Fang didn't make any more sudden moves, though. Maybe Quatre's scent wasn't that much of interest to the king of beasts anymore.

Quatre continued his walk, soon enough passing Trowa's trailer, placed between most of the residence trailers and the animal pens. The lights were still on, despite the late hour. Thinking it curious, Quatre went to check. He couldn't see Trowa through any of the windows - but most of the curtains were drawn, so all he was likely to see, would be dancing shadows. Still, there were none of those, either - no movement.

For a moment, he wondered if Trowa slept with the lights on - but that seemed unlikely. Without really being aware of it, he walked closer, and soon enough, he stood on the stairs outside the door. He got ready to knock the door, hesitated for a moment, but finally made his knuckles impact the door, three rapid knocks. No answer came. He knocked again. Still no answer. He put his ear to the door, but heard nothing. "Trowa?" he whispered, but nothing. He glanced down at the door handle and went for it, surprised to find the door was unlocked. Only one time he could remember, had Trowa not locked that door; the one time he - perhaps just subconsciously - wanted someone to follow, to come inside. Tentatively, Quatre stepped in, took off his shoes and gently closed the door behind him. "Trowa?" he whispered again, but there was only silence, and-

He recognized the vague trickles of running water, recognizing the source as the tiny bathroom lodged into a separate side compartment of the trailer. Part of the mystery solved. Then, the shower was turned off. Quatre remembered where he was, and despite his mind trying to tell his body to commit a hasty retreat, lest he be seen, he remain frozen in place. The door opened, and out stepped Trowa, dressed in only a towel - though it was covering the wrong flaccid 'poker', as clown-boy tried to get his unibang dry.

Quatre's mouth went agape, before his modesty kicked in and made him turn, blushing furiously at the side-view sneak-peak.

Trowa heard the noise, and peaked out from the towel, seeing Quatre's back. "Quatre?"

"I'm sorry - I'm so sorry - I didn't know - I'll just leave, and-"

Nervous chuckle. "No, that's okay, stay - but lock the door, would you?"

Quatre did as he was told, but remained there, eyes locked on the door's threshold, cheeks fully flushed. "I'm really sorry, Trowa - I didn't mean to barge in on you like this, it's just that I saw the lights were on, and-"

Trowa grabbed a second towel, the first draped across his shoulders, and dried himself off as quickly as he could. "I told you, it's alright. Just let me find some clothes, okay?"

Quatre nodded. He fought the urge to sneak another glance, already much too embarrassed by the little incident. The two shoulder companions were another matter - the imp was on hands and knees, ogling Trowa's rear as he bent down to search a drawer for a pair of boxers. The dark one was practically drooling, and had a wolfish, devouring look in his purplish eyes. On the other shoulder, the angel stood where he had turned. Wings had spun around faster than Quatre had - only to be faced with temptation again, when Quatre followed suit. Though he had covered his face with his hands immediately, the minute brown-haired being couldn't resist spreading his fingers apart, just a little, for his round blue orbs to grow a wee bit less innocent. Quatre could vaguely hear the howls of the imp, and struggled just as hard not to grin as to not spin around and tackle Trowa right then and there, not to waste the opportunity. The angel noticed his thoughts however, and immediately tapped Quatre's shoulder and cleared his throat, stating his disapproval. Quatre grew a sheepish grin, before snapping back to reality. "Are you decent?"

"One sec," he heard a muffled voice say. "Yeah."

He turned around just in time to see a bright green T-shirt fall across Trowa's stomach, falling a bit over dark blue boxers, one towel around his shoulders, his moist bang draped across half his face. Quatre suppressed a snicker at the sight of the flat hair, but smirked nevertheless.

"What's so funny?"

"Oh, nothing - It's just I've never seen your hair so, uhm, relaxed."

Trowa snorted, half-smirked back. He used the towel to dry out his ears, and sat down at the edge the sofa-group-gone-bed at the end of the trailer. He patted the area right next to him. Quatre hesitated. Trowa faintly grinned. "I don't bite, you know..."

Quatre chuckled nervously, and sat down next to Trowa, feeling entirely too awkward about sitting so close to a half-dressed Trowa, though also quite happy about the same.

"...not much." Trowa whispered in his ear.

A bit startled, Quatre turned to face his grinning friend.

"Sorry, I guess I've been around Cathy too much." Awkward pause. "So, why are you here, Quatre?"

"I noticed the lights were still on, but I didn't see you, so I wondered where you were, and-"

Disarming smile. "Yeah, you stuttered as much earlier. I mean, why are you out walking at this hour? It is a bit late."

"Oh - Well..." Quatre looked away, hands in his lap growing a bit restless, and soon enough engaged in mild thumb twiddling. "You see... I went out for a walk - to clear my head, mostly. Evenings and nights can be good for that."

"And you just happened by here on your way back?"

Quatre shook his head, before he tried to explain the 'home situation' with the shaking trailer and all. He felt as if the awkwardness grew with every word he said - but so did Trowa's smile.

"Oh..." Trowa snickered faintly. "Well, I don't blame you for wanting to take an extended walk, in that case."

Quatre nodded, his face still slightly colored. "Why was the door open, Trowa? Don't you always lock it when you're alone?"

Another nod. "Yeah, I always lock the door, makes me feel safer. I didn't lock it because - oh, that's right." Trowa stood up, walked over to a small plastic bag deposited behind the door. Quatre surmised he had missed it earlier.

"What's that?"

Trowa took the bag, placed it on the counter, looked inside and took a few items out to fold properly, before they got too crumpled. "The reason the door was unlocked. Cathy did some laundry for me, and she said she'd bring it back tonight. I waited for her to show up, but had to take a shower, so I left the door open for her to just dump it here. Figured I could cope with that much." Trowa reached inside the bag again, and pulled out another item. "Hrm... That's odd." In his hand he held a formerly white, now pink T-shirt.

Quatre's jaw drooped a bit, and his face turned the same color as the T-shirt. As the angel immediately reminded him; all bad deeds done will come back to haunt you, sooner or later. Shameful, he glared into the floor.

"I have to talk to sis about this. It isn't like her to-"

"That's... That's not necessary, Trowa. It's my fault."

Trowa stared at him, and flagged an eyebrow.

Quatre fumbled with the words, twiddling his thumbs even faster. "You see... Catherine sort of tricked me into doing the laundry for her, and I wanted to get even, so I... tucked a red sweater in with the whites." He looked up. "I'm really sorry, Trowa - I didn't know she was doing your laundry too." He shook his head, looked away again. "I should have known, though - she doesn't have that many clothes..."

At first, he heard a muffled snicker, which steadily progressed into hearty laughter - and a bit beyond. Quatre glared up, treated the rare sight of Trowa in a genuine belly laugh. Trowa paused for a moment, saw Quatre's puzzled expression, and laughed a little more before calming down to a smirk.

The thumb twiddle stopped, and Quatre but both hands on the side of the bed, making sure to avoid eye contact again. "I'm really, really sorry, Trowa - I didn't mean to-"

Trowa wiped his eyes. "It's okay, Quatre. Really. I know how annoying Cathy can be sometimes. I'm sure she got what she deserved."

Quatre didn't look up. "I sorry you got caught in the cross-fire. I'm sure she's already plotting her revenge..."

Grin and a nod. "Could be. I guess she's just as happy you did this. I've seen in her eyes that she wanted to get even with me for flagging her undies."

The blush at last began fading, though the sense of shame did not. "I'm so sorry, Trowa."

Another chuckle. "Quit beating yourself up about this, Quatre. It was a pretty good trick. It's good to see you loosen up enough to pull a stunt worthy of Duo."

Quatre dared a vague smile. "Yeah... Well, I should probably go back to my own trailer."

Trowa folded away the last item of the black plastic bag, and came back to sit next to Quatre. "Think they're still at it?"

Grimace. "I hope not. I was hoping to get a decent night's sleep."

Trowa shrugged. "You can sleep here, if you want."

Startled, Quatre near gawked at him, jaw loose, mild panic attack commencing. "I - no, I couldn't do that, I-"

Another shrug. "I wouldn't mind."

"A - Are you sure?" The panic was close to making Quatre just jump up and run away - despite how both the angel and imp tried to nail him to the bed he was sitting on; they had gotten the picture already, though Quatre had not. When Trowa placed his hand over Quatre's, panic won. Quatre abruptly got up and took a few steps away, ready to flee.

Trowa leant a bit forward, hands folded. "Quatre, something wrong?"

"No, it's just that- It's just..." He turned to face Trowa. "I can't sleep here, Trowa. It wouldn't feel right."


Quatre bit his lip. He really didn't want to explain that bit, but he didn't want to lie about it either. The two creations of conscience spoke with one, clear voice, though - it was time to confess, a lie at this point could only mess things up. Reluctantly, Quatre agreed with them. "Because - because I... I really care about you."

Faint smirk. "I know."


"I know, Quatre. I think I know just how you feel about me."

Quatre's expression was as good as any question mark. "What do you mean?"

Chuckle. "I know you've got a crush on me, Quatre. Don't deny it."

The blush returned. "I - I won't..."

Smile, nod.

"H - How did you-"

"How did I know, Quatre?" Nod in reply. "Well, by noticing little things, at first. The occasional stare you threw my way when you thought I wasn't looking, how you reacted that time I licked the candy fluff from your hand - stuff like that. I figured-" He paused, shook his head. "No, hoped you weren't here just for business studies, like you said. I got really uncertain again when you pushed me into the date with Melissa. That's partly the reason I asked for your help with touches - I wanted to test your reactions." He smirked. "I got my hopes up again when I saw my old turtleneck wrapped in your bed sheets."

Quatre looked away, embarrassed.

"The kisses yesterday was what really convinced me my hunch that you were interested was right, though."

The shade of red certainly didn't lessen by that statement. Tentatively, Quatre tried facing Trowa's eyes again. "T - Trowa, do you-"

With a warm smile, Trowa nodded. "Yeah, I like you too, Quatre. You think I would have let you kiss me otherwise, much less grope my butt and get away with it?"

Quatre lightened up a bit, insides growing much too warm and fuzzy, before other thoughts hit him. "Then why didn't you tell me? You said you were convinced how I felt about you yesterday, and-"

Chuckle. "Yeah, I know... I think I wanted to string you along for a while. I wanted to get even with you for Melissa, for interfering in my life, when I had told you and Cathy not to." He shrugged. "I was going to tell you tomorrow... Or the day after that, maybe..."

"But - I saw you when you walked past the Laundromat earlier today. Didn't you go on a date with Melissa?"

Trowa smirked, shook his head. "No."

Quatre's face made a puzzled frown.

Trowa stared ahead of him. "She's a nice girl, and we had a good time that day in the library. Turned out she was pushed into the date too. Her friends dared her to ask me, and she had half-expected me to say no. She liked me, but she didn't want a boyfriend as much as a friend - someone to talk to about things that didn't really interest her girlfriends." He paused, shot Quatre a glance. "I might not be the greatest of conversationalists, but I think I make a good listener."

Nod in agreement. "You do."

"Anyway, she told me all of this the day we walked in the park. She also said she thought I wasn't interested in her. At first, I almost denied it, just to let her down easy, but she saw right through me, gave me a quick hug and told me to go after whoever I loved." Trowa paused, reached out for Quatre's hands, softly using his thumbs to rub in gentle circles on the back of either, coaxing Quatre back towards the bedside. "That's why I went to the library yesterday - to talk to her about it, tell her I was going to follow her advice."

Quatre let himself be drawn closer, sat down next to Trowa again, hands still in his. He turned the tables, twisting his hands so that he was the one caressing Trowa's. Tentatively, he leant in closer, blush still fading, heart racing. He lifted one hand to brush the still moist bang draped across Trowa's face aside, before grazing across a cheek and behind a neck. Trowa smiled at him, came closer to meet him half-way, tilting his head a bit as he approached. The first touch of lips was light, short-lived. Quatre attacked anew, with just a bit more force, but he paused, waited for Trowa to answer, wanting to know if this was something Trowa wanted too. It evidently was, the way his lips pushed closer.

How long they kissed, Quatre lost all track of. He barely even registered when Trowa broke the kiss. The first thing he saw when he opened his eyes, were Trowa's emeralds smiling back at him. A sheepish grin came across Quatre.

"So... do you want to sleep here tonight?"

It took Quatre a moment to remember why he'd come to Trowa's trailer in the first place. Bliss gave way to a groan. "Right... I completely forgot about that."

Smirk. "That's not an answer."

"Sure it's okay?"

Nod. "I wouldn't have asked otherwise, Quatre."

Warm smile. "I'd love to... But I don't have any pajamas with me."

Trowa grinned, wiggled his eyebrows slightly. "Do you need any?"

Mild surprise, deep blush.

Gentle snicker. "I don't have any pajamas you could borrow, though. I usually sleep like this. Can't you sleep in your underwear?"

Quatre smiled into a gentle sigh, and tugged on his shirt collar.

Trowa nodded, understanding what Quatre was getting at. That shirt wouldn't make a good nightshirt, and its state in the morning would be anything but neat. Trowa dismissed the thought to suggest Quatre just sleep without one, sensing the blond would be uncomfortable without little more than the slightest of coverage. Trowa removed the damp towel from his shoulders and dropped it off the end of the bed, got up and walked over to the piles of folded clothes. He searched around in the stacks before he with a triumphant grin pulled out the white-gone-pink T-shirt from earlier, dangling it for Quatre to notice as he brought it over.

Quatre frowned, but snatched the T-shirt from Trowa anyway. "Thanks..." he mumbled. He could hear both angel and imp snicker, seeking support in each other not to fall over in laughter. Trowa went over to turn off the main lights of the trailer just as Quatre got up, fingers at the top shirt button. "Uhm... Trowa?"

Trowa turned around, flipped the switch. "Yeah?"

Quatre felt stupid for asking, but had to make sure. He didn't want Trowa to think he was going to take advantage of the situation. "Just sleep, right? No funny business?"

Chuckle. "No funny business, Quatre."

Nod, nervous smile. "O - okay." He unbuttoned the top three buttons before he took off his vest, putting it on a small wicker chair placed between the made bed and a closet. He unbuttoned his sleeves, and took off his socks. Trowa snuck past him as Quatre undid the last few shirt buttons. Quatre could have sworn he felt fingers graze across his stomach, but it happened too fast for him to be certain.

He reached for his zipper, but halted. He felt really odd and uneasy about undressing in front of Trowa, but - after a second of thought - figured it didn't matter anymore. Plus, Trowa had sat there in his underwear all evening, not to mention Quatre had gotten quite the glimpse earlier. It was only fair for him to return that favor, wasn't it?

Pants and shirt followed the vest and socks, and he put on the pink T-shirt. It was a little big, but Quatre didn't complain about that, far from it.

Trowa was already crawling up into the bed when Quatre turned to see if he'd been watched. He assumed he had been, judging from the way Trowa was smirking. "Kill the switch by the bathroom door, would you?"

Quatre complied, and the trailer went dark, except for the little lamp with the red shade still shining above Trowa's head. Trowa tapped his hand on the bed. With a grin, Quatre crawled into the 'red light district' of the trailer, and settled down next to Trowa, pulling a sheet over them both. The back of his head had barely made contact with a pillow before Trowa turned over, curling up on his side, placing his head on Quatre's chest, an arm across his stomach and a leg across his thigh, snaking back under his knee. Instantly, Quatre felt blood stream to his cheeks - among other places. That felt awkward enough, not to mention how difficult it might be to sleep wrapped together like this. "Uhm, Trowa?"

Closed eyes, snuggling against chest. "Hm?"

Quatre smiled, sighed contently, and placed his arms around Trowa. "Never mind..."

Trowa ground his head against the pink-draped chest a few more times. "You know..." he whispered within a smirk, "Cathy is right... You do make a good pillow... and you've got such a nice pink pillow-case, too."

Quatre chuckled a little, grinned and hugged Trowa a bit tighter. He waited for a few minutes, overheard the angel and imp congratulating each other on a job well done, and turned off the remaining light, sending them both off to sleep - eventually. Trowa fell asleep rather quickly, but it took nearly an hour for Quatre to calm down enough to finally fall into slumber, exceedingly happy.

on to part 5

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