Author: Isis cw PM
4xD. A sequel to Manifestations, this story explores the, ever eventful, relationship between Quatre and Dorothy. If they don’t send each other to early graves, they could just be friends… or more.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Humor - Quatre W. & Dorothy C. - Chapters: 68 - Words: 513,264 - Reviews: 1,077 - Favs: 224 - Follows: 178 - Updated: 04-05-13 - Published: 06-27-05 - id: 2457660
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AN: Another aside to talk about my general writing. Many have asked if I would do an epilogue for "Realizations" to try to sum up their relationship now that the story has moved to the realm of the "complete." My basic answer is… I don't know. I'm still kicking around an idea or two. It probably won't come real soon regardless, but if I decide to I will let you know.
Others have asked if I would be moving on to any other GW couples after this is through. Gilligan's Ghost nicely suggested I do a Wufei and Sally piece titled "Frustrations." I laughed so much I wanted to write a bit piece just so I could name it that! But truthfully I don't think I have enough of a grasp or interest in the others to try a story in their honor. I have no intentions to start any other GW works at this time but I suppose you never know. I never meant to write a Quatre and Dorothy novel either and yet I now bring you chapter 60. As always, thank you for listening to my ramblings.
…He never meant to.
It was unreal. He didn't even know that was possible. Well possible, but not probable. At least not admittedly probable. After all, this was….
He'd scared her. He didn't mean to scare her. Quatre would never intentionally do anything she'd take in such a negative way. Well when he'd left he was doing it mainly to show her…. But he didn't really mean to scare her. He didn't know what he meant to do by it, but it wasn't that.
He felt awful.
He'd made this whole, overblown premise about her never being able to apologize, and now that he got one he felt about two inches tall.
He was tempted to say she'd done this on purpose!
Oh sure, blame the woman for feeling abandoned. That was a loving response. He about slapped himself.
With a miserable sigh, Quatre dropped his head onto his desk that was still scattered with the reports he'd been analyzing. For a while he just laid there and waited for the mental nagging to get tired and quit.
And slowly the guilt did bleed out, and again he was left in a stunned quiet. So… she had apologized. Nicely. Heartfelt, even. He really couldn't say that it wasn't touching.
Touching? Dorothy Catalonia had broken down and said the words "I'm sorry, love" with complete honesty. That was a cosmos altering event and all he gave it was touching?
"…Love." Huh, she'd called him that again, hadn't she?
Alright, he was over-reacting. It wasn't the first time she'd apologized for something. It had just never felt like this before. He moved to cross his arms and placed them under his chin while he sat staring into space. All in all, no matter if he felt bad for causing her any worry or fear, this all worked out rather well.
He still felt a little guilty about considering this a good thing. But looking at its repercussions it was actually successful. He'd made some vague and worthless point that he couldn't exactly name, and she had obviously come to realize that she didn't want to lose him.
That was almost cause for celebration.
Almost. There was still the nagging feeling that he'd hurt her in order to get that little revelation out of her. And the fact that he certainly hadn't had a clue what he was doing when he caused all of this put a damper on congratulating himself.
No luck like dumb luck.
"Don't leave me again… please?" It really wasn't a question until the "please" at the end. At first it was simply a sentimental statement. Which was unusual, but not unheard of from her. When her softer side showed through it could really destroy her typical fortified persona. Which he knew she hated. She was never comfortable slowing all of her thoughts or emotions.
It was probably one of the reasons he loved her, even if it did aggravate him. Dorothy was her own treasure map, so complex that you got so caught up in trying to solve her that you lost the goal in the search.
And she loved that. He smiled to himself at the thought. Someday he would tell her just how confused and anxious she'd made him all this time and she'd get a good laugh at his expense. He didn't even care. He'd take her laughing at him for it.
Right now, he'd really like to hear her laugh. He'd even take that high-pitched cackle, but what he really wanted was that soft little chuckle when she was teasing him. It was so cute. Most of the time he was annoyed enough with her to not notice, but she really was cute when she was being playful.
He really shouldn't ever take that side of her for granted. Although it didn't always seem particularly affectionate, it was. She only teased those she liked and she only took it to extremes with those she trusted.
It was just like reading between the lines to understand her compliments, or insults, or congratulations, or apologies. The little wordsmith just couldn't spit anything out in plan language. That was too easy on her audience. He'd always known that getting a short, honest response from her meant something was wrong. It just wasn't her normal way of handling herself.
Her confession still left him a bit concerned though. Was she alright?
Dorothy lay in her bed on the Mars Satellite, blissfully asleep with her phone still curled under the covers with her.
L5 167977 seemed to be a rather highly populated colony. As with many of the older colonies in the L5 cluster, an oriental cultural heritage prevailed in the community. The farther she'd moved away from the spaceport, the easier it was notice. Although the Colonies had always been a melting pot of people and cultures, there still seemed to be a charm associated with the founding pioneers that had settled outer space.
Dorothy had slipped off the Satellite again fairly early. Avoiding anything associated with the spaceport this time, she'd found a local listing of churches and made it just in time for Sunday Mass at one. From there she had then discovered a perfect little spot for breakfast right across the street.
So now she lingered over her cappuccino at the little Italian-style bakery which seemed a tad out of place between two Chinese restaurants which weren't open for business yet. She seemed to be in a fairly residential area but people still walked by the windows of the shop without pause.
It was a nice feeling. Although use to suburban, and now rural, life she didn't mind mingling into a crowd. It was a wonderful distraction and waste of time.
Glancing around the little shop she noticed all the tables were full and decided that she should give up her seat. Buying herself another cup to go, she stepped into the foot traffic on the sidewalk outside and simply followed along for while with no destination in mind.
Sticking to what seemed to be the main roads and loitering among large packs of pedestrians she figured she couldn't get too lost. Pausing at one of the neighborhood parks, she mentally shrugged and turned in. The narrow walking trail led a meandering path through a small, but immaculately kept garden. There was really no place to sit aside from a few decorative benches that looked anything but comfortable. The place had been designed to be walking tour, not a lounge.
Finding herself back at the gate she paused and decided on one more lap. Slowing her pace this time, she managed to catch some of the hidden detail in the vegetation and perfectly placed statues and rocks.
Happily finding her way back out again, she stood at the gate and scanned her surroundings for a minute, looking for a public transit sign. What she noticed instead were the bustling people. Traditional Chinese garb was prevalent among the entire assortment, seemingly despite any obvious ethnic backgrounds.
Of course, this was its own ethnic background. This colony was its own country. L5 was its own continent, of sorts. Culture here had little regard for race.
"Every person that comes here brings something different. That's the way of colony life, you focus on the inside."
It seemed she was been overly nostalgic about some of her first meetings with Mr. Winner after the war. So very long ago…. My, how she'd changed.
Looking up she studied the curvature of the colony ceiling for a moment and then returned to her search for a transit sign. Yes, she had changed. The stale, stagnate environment that she'd always associated with Colony life had been corrected for her. With a glance back at the garden she smiled to herself and headed out for a larger intersection a few blocks away. Perhaps she had finally spent enough time here to learn to look for the details.
"…you focus on the inside."
Or perhaps she'd managed to learn to focus on her own inside.
"Will that finish your crew?"
Alstead stood towering over her desk as Dorothy ran a curious eye down the applications in front of her. She had no reason to second-guess Foreman Alstead's decisions, but she was a tad bored and hadn't talked to anyone else all day, so she was stalling.
Flipping to the last one she stopped and blinked at it oddly. "'Deal?'" she read. "That's what he gave for a name?"
"I gather that's all he's got."
She raised an eyebrow and looked up at her Foreman with a smirk. A true underground solider then. Nameless, as it were. It had been some time since she'd met someone like that. "Well, that won't go through on the payroll forms, will it?"
Alstead nodded and crossed his arms over his chest. "That's why I gave it to you before Huberts."
Smart man. "Let me talk to the right people," she paraphrased. "Meanwhile, bring him by. I'd like to meet Mr. Deal."
Again he nodded.
"Any other fun little items I should know about?" she batted her eyes at him.
Hum. "Any other fun little items I shouldn't know about?" she insinuated heavily.
Marcolm Alstead actually broke a smirk. "No."
"Drat," she sighed. "I was hoping you'd brighten my day."
"Sorry to disappoint."
"I'm sure you are," she nodded sullenly and turned back to the applications in hand. "Well, this is something. And I have to say it will be nice to finish off the roster for one section. You've done remarkably well, Foreman Alstead."
"Thanks," he muttered.
The man wasn't used to praise. She'd probably just tripped every mental alarm he had. Now he would stand and wait for the "but" to come and his knees to be cut out from under him.
So she just tucked the applications away with the others and went back to the mess she had in front of her. After an uncomfortable silence she looked up at him again and tilted her head to the side. "Something else?"
He blinked. "No, Lady."
"Alright then. Dismissed," she stated offhandedly and went back to work.
The man stiffly turned and left the room, the door sliding shut behind him. And Dorothy giggled to herself. So maybe she was having just a bit of fun with these souls. She couldn't help it. After all, she supposed she did have the secondary mission of attempting to help these people meld into normal civilian life.
Sitting back in her chair, she pulled out Deal's application again and looked at it a moment. His picture looked back at her from the corner of the page. Youthful, light brown hair, brown eyes, a bit of a smile. Somehow he came across as an optimistic soul in this little headshot.
Well, she supposed he was. Anyone not so optimistic would have faked a name and ID number and hoped no one ever caught on. On the line for birth date he had only stated his age as 28. And as with many applications that she'd seen, "permanent address" was completely blank.
Interesting little twist. Let's see. How to handle this…?
There were, of course, back door ways of getting someone an ID number so that they could nicely pay their taxes. And she, of course, knew the ways to get that done. However, it was a slightly more delicate task of how to deal with the person himself and arrange such things.
Well, he wanted to work here, so hopefully he would be agreeable about having an identity drawn out of a hat and handed to him.
She did keep running into interesting people.
Alstead once again rapped on the door, probably startling the woman behind it. A call to come in answered him and he stepped aside to let the younger man enter first.
As the doors opened and two stepped inside, the young man glanced around the small, narrow office before he stepped forward to extend a hand to the woman at the desk. "You're who they call Lady, right?"
"I am," she offered her hand as well and he engulfed hers with a strong shake. "And you are who they call Deal?"
"Yea, Ma'am," he nodded. "Been called that as long as I can remember."
"No memory of your real name?" she asked, sitting back in her chair.
"No, Ma'am," he answered a bit more quietly.
"Your employment history is a bit scattered as well," Dorothy noted as she scanned the last page of his application.
Raising a hand, Deal rubbed at the back of his neck and gave an almost nervous chuckle. "Yeah, well, never stuck to one place too long. Always seemed like something kept throwing me out the door. I spent every living day 'till the time I was 14 on a freight hauler under Captain Moses. That wasn't his real name either," he explained. "Good man, looked after us. Had a heart attack at the controls one night and ran the boat into a scrap yard dock. Police figured it all out later, but most of the crew was long gone."
Dorothy raised an eyebrow but didn't interrupt. Alstead stood at the back of the room and watched the Lady's amused interest in the story. If any of this bothered the well-bred heiress, she certainly didn't show it.
"I hitched from there, bounced around the small freighters that pay under the table, finally washed up in L1 one night, and when I got back to dock my ship was gone. Best bet is the Captain found out I'd taken a liking to is daughter, and that she wasn't fighting me off none," he admitted with an embarrassed note to his voice. "Not implying anything," he immediately threw in when she lightly chuckled at his wording. "She was pretty, but mean. I get that type a lot," he snickered at himself and then moved to lean a hip against the desk.
"We'll get along well then," Dorothy teased.
"Oh, no ma'am. The Foreman here said if anyone could help me, it'd be you. That makes you real nice in my book," he smiled at her.
"I believe I can be of assistance," she nodded. "You ended up with the Alliance after these random years in freighters?"
"Yeah. I fell in with a group in L1 to begin with. Not a decent mechanic among them. I'm pretty good at being able to jump right into something I've never seen before and still be able to put it back together. Even there I got moved around a lot. I went from base to ship to base. I couldn't tell you where for sure. They just liked to ship me around fixing this and that. It wasn't the best though, by the time they stopped moving me around and the end was in sight, I just hoped they never needed every man in one of those flying suits. Not enough hull around those things for my liking," he nodded to himself. "I slipped away afterwards, got odd jobs around L3 until I heard Queen Relena asking for help. And I came running. If she'll have me, I'll be here for her."
"You don't mind the thought of settling down?" Dorothy raised an eyebrow at him.
"No, ma'am. Not at all," he smiled. "Be happy for it."
"Well then," she nodded and flipped his application back to the front section. "I can't process you through here under just Deal, so we're going to have to give you a little more information."
"Anything you need," he nodded to her and stood up straight in front of the desk again.
"You need a name, and we'll get you an ID number," she mused looking up at him curiously. "What's a fitting name?"
Alstead waited, watching the younger man's hands fidget on the side seams of his pants. "Neal," he suggested. No sense changing it to anything too far off from what the kid knew.
"I like it," Dorothy nodded. "Neal Goodman," she pronounced with a little smile. "How does it fit?"
"Fits real well, ma'am," he quietly nodded. "Thank you."
"No need to thank me, Neal. We're happy to have you aboard. I'm sure you are exactly what Miss Relena wants working on her project." Marking over his application she wrote in his name for him and then added today's date for the birthday information, still making him twenty-eight. "There now, I just need your signature at the end, Mr. Goodman," she flipped the page around and handed him the pen.
The man took it from her slowly and seemed to practice out the movement of the new name before he carefully bent over and signed it across the bottom. "Wow. Never thought I'd see that," he mumbled.
"Get used it," Dorothy smiled. "As soon as I get a number for you, you'll be signing all of these employment forms," she waved towards the two stacks under Director Huberts' name at the corner of the desk.
"Yes, ma'am," he nodded vigorously and grabbed her hand in both of his as she reached for the pen again. "Thank you, ma'am!"
"Good luck to you, Neal," she emphasized his name. "And happy birthday."
If she'd been standing Alstead was sure the young man would have hugged her.
Quatre was avoiding unpleasant thoughts today. He'd decided that already. Whether that was working or not he refused to comment.
Instead, he had pulled out a somewhat forgotten project and was actually amusing himself with it. Ten sheets of scribbled on, almost unintelligible, staff paper looked back at him from the top of the piano. If he rewrote this it would probably only be three or four pages, but he didn't have the nerve to "finalize" it like that yet.
Well, he was getting there. He'd actually forgotten how much he had. There were a few spots that he felt were far too disjointed yet, but otherwise there was a nice eddying flow to it.
He found that appropriate for the subject of this little musical love-letter.
Appropriate. That had indeed been the hard part. How do you condense anything down far enough to place the Lady Catalonia into terms that could be represented by "appropriate?" The woman was so unreasonably complicated. If anyone else heard this he doubted they would find it consistent enough to be dedicated to only one person.
Well, he didn't honestly care what anyone else thought.
Raising his violin again, he eyed the pages and picked out a particularly choppy spot and tried it again, looking for a way to improve it.
It struck a sour note against the ring of his phone in his pocket. Lowering the instrument he carefully set it aside before pulling the phone out with a smile. "Hello?"
"You have a birthday coming up."
"Do I?" he mumbled and then tried to remember today's date. "I suppose I do."
"Three weeks to the day. Where am I taking you?"
"Why Lady Catalonia, will you leave that Satellite long enough to have dinner with me?" he smirked. There was no hint of the emotional apology from last night and it somehow eased his mind to hear that.
"I intend to be off this Satellite far longer than one dinner. A few loose ends and the maintenance and the first wave of the loading crews will be completely named, and if I have my way I'll have the first ship's crew finalized and congratulated by tomorrow night."
"Sounds like progress."
"Yes. All the camaraderie is sort of touching. It's making me nostalgic."
Chuckling, he nodded to himself, remembering just how "happy" everyone seemed to be together when Dorothy had made her little ploy on the Foreman candidates. "Well, I'm sure they all appreciate your unique view of them," he teased.
She always idolized the soldiers, and those willing to fight for something. He did wonder now and then how much of her affections he'd gained for no more merit than to have once been a Gundam pilot. It really wasn't what he wanted her to respect him for, but there wasn't anything he could do about it either.
"Anyway, I've made my excuse for why I need to leave here so you just need to decide where I'm taking you."
Leaning on the piano he smiled at her, "So basically you're just using me as a conveniently timed excuse for why you have to leave all of those people to fend for themselves."
"…I find people work better when they understand the time constraints."
"And you really needed to be able to say 'I have a previous engagement on…' to do that?" he teased.
"Well it sounds so much better than 'It's been fun, but I'm tired of this stinking satellite.'"
"I suppose it does."
"Besides, I haven't done enough research into finding a way to fill your house with random flowers to be able to rightly pay you back as far as birthdays go."
Rolling his eyes he decided there was no reason he should be fighting this. "Flowers are a little feminine of a gift, aren't they?"
"I'll buy you pink ones," she teased.
"Dorothy!" Her cackle echoed over the line and Quatre hung his head and laughed at it. Well, he supposed he'd gotten what he asked for. "Alright, alright, I'll make reservations somewhere."
"Somewhere nice. I want to spoil you."
"Spoil me? You mean aside from the fact that I'm choosing the location and making the reservations myself?" he chuckled.
"Well a girl can't do everything."
"Of course, of course," he gave up. "I'll see what I can do."
"Perfect. What are your plans for the following week?"
With a sigh he tried to think through his schedule. "Probably a lot of catch up. I have a meeting with my Board the Monday before, and I can see that stretching into most of a weeklong debate."
"What did they do this time?"
"Nothing. It's what I'm thinking of doing." So much for not thinking of unpleasant subjects today.
"So what are you thinking of doing?"
Pausing he ran a hand through his hair and tried not to cringe as he said the words out loud. "I'm thinking of abandoning one of the stations."
There was a lengthy pause on the other end of the line. He didn't suppose anyone would expect him to be the first to really lay that suggestion out for discussion. His Board would probably stare at him for a moment too.
"L2's number 3. The smaller one."
"And you're the one bringing this up?" she clarified.
"Yes. I know. And no, I don't want to have to do it." Again the guilt nagged at him. He would certainly never wish to have to do this.
"Hum…. You're going to need a vacation too."
That was it? That was her great pep talk? "Could I speak my investor part of you for a minute?"
"No, she's on a nice beach somewhere."
"So she doesn't sunburn?" he teased.
"…With an umbrella," she added. "And a stiff drink."
"That wouldn't be good for her."
"The point isn't for it to be good for her," she tossed back.
"Now Dorothy," he chided.
"What do you care, you don't like her anyway."
"I never said that."
"You didn't have to."
"Well, she hasn't been particularly nice to me."
"You only got yelled at once."
"Once was enough."
"Fine," she ended it. "Take some time off the week after."
Quatre had to flip subjects again but thought about it. "If I plan ahead I might be able to take a day or two. Why?"
"You're not supposed to ask questions around your birthday. You'll ruin the surprise."
"Really?" He didn't realize there were so many rules associated with this. "And why do I get very nervous when you start saying things like 'don't ask' and 'surprise?'"
"Then I guess you should be nervous. So two days? Alright."
Had he somehow made that sound official to her?
"Let's bump this up. Make your reservations for the Friday evening before and pack for a long weekend."
Pack? "Um… I'll try. What exactly are you—"
"What did I just tell you?" she interrupted. "I'll meet you at the office and when you're through we'll head out."
Did he have a choice? "Alright."
"Good," she purred. "We'll travel Saturday and I'll have you back Wednesday."
With a sigh he simply gave up. "Sounds great."
"Of course. Have I ever led you astray?"
"Alright, now I'm scared," he teased.
It was wonderful to hear her laugh.
"You won't be here for the first run?"
Dorothy sat at the table nursing her chocolate cream pie while Alstead finished his meal. She had considered this to be a victory slice, but much like everything else in the cafeteria line it was failing to impress her. "No," she answered.
"What if something goes wrong?" Huberts looked up from his ever-present paperwork. His plate had been pushed away only half eaten, but Dorothy assumed the man was getting fed well at home. The upheaval of his job hadn't changed his figure any yet.
"Then you'll deal with it," she simply stated.
The two men at her table exchanged a glance.
"There won't be a problem," their fourth interjected. Cassa Nustrous had been appointed to her new position as Captain of the first IRIS owned freighter. Dorothy had handed out the commissions for the first crew herself less than 2 days ago. The ship-based loading personnel would be finalized with the crew's help to avoid any major personality clashes.
Dorothy was certain if someone stepped out of line, this woman would flush them out an airlock and pick them up again on her way back if their air lasted that long. It was nice to see such qualified placements.
"We don't have the luxury of anything going wrong," she reminded them. "The entire media world is waiting for a spectacular failure and I don't care for their lack of faith."
"But," Huberts paused and threw a look at the other two, "I'm no expert on ships, but that thing… isn't in the best shape. Even with all the obvious effort put into it," he backpedaled with a look at Alstead.
That was an understatement, but the ship's Captain and caretaker both shot him looks for it. "It isn't in good shape," Dorothy agreed. "And it won't be in good shape when we get rid of it either. It's temporary until we get the custom ships that are on order. However, if this project doesn't start doing its job as quickly as possible someone's going to get the bright idea that it's not needed."
The group around her nodded.
Dorothy went back to her pie and began scrapping it off the cardboard someone considered crust. "Our job might be nothing more than to make it to Mars and back, but right now we have no option but to look good doing it. Foreman Alstead is already convinced that we're ahead of schedule and I'm going to hold him to that," she pointedly looked over at the man who nodded. "And Captain Nustrous believes she can have the loading crew finalized by next week," the woman to her right also nodded. "That pushes us up a week ahead of the original schedule and we're going to stick to that."
None of the three seemed concerned about that and she had every faith in them. It would be tight, but that scrap-heap of a freighter would fly early. Whether it made it there and back was out of her hands.
"But… you're not going to be here?" Huberts reiterated.
Taking another bite of her pie filling, she shook her head, "I have an important engagement."
"What do we do with the reporters? The whole Satellite will be full of them."
Now her little Director was starting to think protectively. She granted the man a small smile for the accomplishment and pushed her plate away. "Keep them out of any sensitive areas. The docking bay, the control room, the operations floor, all of it. Throw every Employees Only sign up that we have and toss a couple people on guard duty if you have to."
"And when they ask questions?" he blinked at her.
Settling back in her seat she batted her eyes at him, "No matter what, you're just pleased as pie with it all."
Huberts gave a dejected little sigh and went back to his paperwork.
"Don't worry too much," she brushed it off. "When that first ship lands I doubt you'll be alone."
No, if she knew Miss Relena by now the woman would be on standby to be here at a moment's notice if anything went wrong. And if everything went right, she would still be the one flashing all the happy smiles to the cameras. The media wouldn't be nearly so interested in that case and would disburse quickly.
It probably wasn't a good idea for her not to be here, but if there was ever a time when this group needed to band together it was when that ship touched down again. Her specialty was crowd control, and aside from the media, these three could handle that. If Miss Relena was here there was no point in worrying about the media either.
She'd be here to wave goodbye and wish them well, but she would leave the vigil to their comrades. She'd given them a good start. It was time to see if her toddler would take off and run.
Besides, there were pleasant items to attend to.
Dorothy sat at the end of the table, sipping her coffee through a straw and trying not to look like she was eyeing the cheese danish on the pastry platter a couple people down.
She had no purpose in being here. It was mostly just moral support for Director Huberts, who had shakily requested she attend. Why she had said yes, she still wasn't sure, but she supposed she'd been entirely too nice to the man already to let him face the wolves alone now.
Why had she started that? Now she was stuck and this was just a waste of time.
Although a cheese danish would really make up for it.
As it were, the heads of the satellite had gathered to report on the individual workings of the project. All of this she knew second-hand. It wasn't that large a facility. Huberts had given his report, and very few had even bothered to question him. No one else had much experience with the working crews, these men and women were always holed up in the upper levels watching dials and read outs as far as she could tell.
A little message popped up on the laptop in front of her. She had only brought it so she could blend in with the rest of the crowd, but perhaps this would make for a nice little distraction until they served the refreshments. What did Quatre have to say this morning?
Slipping a hand over to the keyboard, she made sure no one else could see her screen and opened the message as the last person sat down and the table began informal discussion. Taking a sip of her coffee, she turned back to the screen in time to watch a picture pop up in the message.
And she choked.
Covering her mouth, she tried valiantly to keep from spraying the rest of her coffee all over the bald man in the corner seat next to her. Conversation stopped as the man in question tried to hand her a napkin. Taking it she coughed until she could manage to get her air back. "Pardon," she rasped out and tried to wave everyone else back to their conversation.
Standing, she closed her laptop and excused herself out of the conference room and down the hall to the ladies room. By the time she could breath without tasting coffee, she dabbed at her eyes and waited for the red to bleed out of her face.
Reentering the conference room, she sat down in her seat, flashing a polite smile to anyone who gave her a concerned glance.
And then she noticed that her cheese danish, and most of the rest of the plate, was gone.
"It's not funny," she pouted.
It was hilarious. Quatre couldn't remember the last time he'd laughed this hard.
"Well at least I can still amuse you," she grumbled.
"Sorry," he tried to stifle his chuckles. "How was I suppose to know you were going to have such an adverse reaction to Duo and Hilde's wedding picture?"
"A note in the subject saying 'no, no, don't look' might have been helpful."
"I didn't think it was that much of a shock," Quatre shrugged to himself.
"Are you even sure this is legitimate?"
"It's not the Fez's Love Connection," he rolled his eyes. "Hilde sent it herself. Although I'm not sure how well I believe it was 'completely spontaneous' and they just happened to be right across the street from a chapel when he talked her into it. Duo's the only person I know who tends to have a motive for all of his spontaneous actions."
"I'd rather know if she was drugged."
"Dorothy," he chided. She and Duo had just enough in common to work fairly well together if need be, but whatever had started this feud between them would not give up. He supposed he should be use to it by now.
"It was still no excuse to choke me to death."
"I'm sorry," he sighed. "I'll buy you a doughnut to make up for it."
"It was a danish," she retorted. "Cream cheese. Although for the pain and suffering I think I deserve blueberry too."
Snickering at her, Quatre actually scribbled down the order and decided that he might just find her some. "Of course. Are you sure that you'll recover?"
"I think I'll manage," she sighed loudly for effect.
And he laughed at her again. "I'll try to be more sensitive about your allergy to marriage."
"Yeah, well, until they invent a pill for it, I'm going to feel very sorry for Miss Hilde."
"I think it's wonderful," Quatre defended. It was a nice feeling. Romance was a good indicator of optimism. Relationships were forged in every type of environment. Some of the strongest were melded together under the worst of conditions. But love really only flourished when people had the time for it, and he was very happy to see his friends believed that as well.
"Sap," she muttered.
"Thank you. So, Friday?"
"I'll be there."
"You'd better be. I had to use my full name to get reservations at this place," he snickered.
"Well I can't miss that. Ciao darling."
"Goodbye," he hung up with a laugh. He was very tempted to call Duo up and tell on her reaction, but that would have to wait. Not to mention Dorothy may not like him much for it.
"Mail call," Mrs. Shanelle interrupted as he tucked his phone back in his pocket. Granting her his attention she leafed through a couple envelopes in front of him. "Nothing important," she deemed and handed them to him anyway.
He honestly didn't know why she didn't just open his mail like she did with the rest. She was always right. With a glance through the promotions and junk mail he reaffirmed that and tossed them neatly into his wastebasket. "Mrs. Shanelle, you don't know a good pastry shop, do you?"
"Malto's, a couple blocks down on Central," she nodded and then stood up straight for inspection. "They've been keeping twenty pounds on me for ten consecutive years," she smiled brightly.
Quatre laughed at the insinuation but shook his head. "They're a very nice twenty pounds," he tried.
"Flatterer," she waved it off. "But you seem to be in an awfully good mood for someone on his way to a board meeting," she commented, holding out a folder full of copies for him.
And his cheery smile slipped a few notches. "Well, I was," he mumbled and collected a few other items from his desk, along with her folder.
With a bit of a guilty smile, Mrs. Shanelle asked, "Should I call Malto's?"
With a chuckle Quatre gave her a pat on the shoulder and left for the meeting room. "I don't think doughnuts are going to help me now."
"So, when you said meet me for brunch, what week were you actually thinking of?"
Davonte sighed in annoyance at her. "Have I become so forgettable to you?"
"Von, you're taking this too hard. I simply forgot to cancel. Something came up."
"Something more important than the mere thought of me obviously," he grumbled.
"I'm sure you'll live."
"It's the quality of life issue that I don't care much for."
"Surely someone like you could find another brunch date," she insinuated.
"Of course. But it's the idea of being stood up. I don't appreciate that."
"Well at least you were accidentally stood up this time."
Insolent child. "Are you implying that this happens often?"
"Just making an observation."
"I'm sure you weren't," he groused. "Despite that, I'm offering you a way to redeem yourself."
"Do tell?" she finally sounded curious.
"I have received a very nice invitation from the widow Casadona to a rose tea." He paused, reading through the printed card again. "What the devil is a rose tea?"
"It's a formal tea, probably served in the garden with the roses," Dorothy supplied. "It's a garden party."
"Why can't you bloody uppity-ups just say that?"
"We like to confuse the lesser people," she snickered. "But she invited you? Alone?"
"Why do you have such a dreadful connotation when you say that? It says I can bring a guest," he mused, reading the card again. "What's wrong with inviting me?"
"Nothing, dearest. I'm just rather curious why the nice elderly lady is so interested in you all of a sudden."
"It's not sudden," he snipped. "She has been a great admirer of my work for some time. She's commissioned several, you know."
"Maybe she wants you to paint a garden party scene."
"Ah," he sighed. "How dreadfully boring. But for Ms. Casadona I would assuredly do my best."
"…Von, do I need to be concerned about your taste in women?"
With a smirk, he fanned himself with the card, "Not quite yet."
"She could be your grandmother."
"My grandmother was poor."
"That's no excuse."
"I could make the remainder of her life very enjoyable."
"You perverted little brat," he chided her. "For that I'm not taking you."
"Oh, was this going to be an invitation as 'guest?'"
"Why else would I be calling you? It certainly isn't for your blind view of romance."
"I am not blind."
"Tell that to Mr. Winner," he snickered. Poor sap.
"Why must you always drag him into this?"
"The man's haplessly infatuated. He should have his own sonnet. The ballad of Sir knight and the evil Temptress."
"You have such a low opinion of me," she sighed mournfully.
"No, just your ability to show affection," he reasoned. "Now then, what are you doing next Sunday?"
"Next Sunday? Well, it seems you will go to rose tea as an available bachelor for the widow after all."
"Oh? Too busy for me again?" Davonte pouted.
"I have an appointment with a dear knight that I don't show enough affection to."
He sat dejectedly and tapped the card against the café table in front of him. "I see where I rank."
"Yes," she chirped. "Do say hello for me."
"You as well."
Mrs. Shanelle had been nice enough to try a pick-me-up. The week had started off with the Directors all but falling out of their chairs at the idea of closing a trailing resource station, and had branched into an all out debate about the current state of the mining division. Quatre's cheerfulness had bled out rather quickly until his dear assistant walked in Friday morning flourishing around a large box of doughnuts and pastries, which had somehow landed on his desk again.
Either his receptionists were worried that he wasn't eating, or his Directors were trying to fatten him up before the sacrifice.
Hunched wearily over his desk, he eyed the clock in the far bookcase and noted it was almost over. Just another half an hour or so. Dorothy was on her way, and that thought had probably kept him going this week. Right now he was only hoping to be able to stay awake during dinner.
"You have a visitor," Mrs. Shanelle popped into his office again.
"Already?" he perked up instantly.
"Not that visitor," she snickered at him.
Wilting again, he eyed the door in case another of his Directors tried a one-on-one debate with him just to cap off a lousy week.
Removing the box from his desk, his assistant straightened the stacks of binders underneath. "It is Miss Jesimae Nickels. The front desk called, should I send her up?"
Quatre sat back in his chair and blankly watched her tidy up his desk while she absently waited for an answer. Repeating the name to himself his memory finally kicked over, and he swallowed despite himself.
It had been months since he'd spoken to the Resource Supervisor of Nickels Refinery. The brazen, strawberry blond who had all but thrown herself at him for a date while he was merely trying to spy on their operations for Lady Une still caused him to cringe. He had of course apologized for basically running out on their "date" once he'd figured out that his blind partner in the spy mission had been Dorothy herself. That was probably the last time he'd spoken to her though.
Their contract with Nickels Refinery was going well. Nothing of any interest had come up lately. What was she here for?
"Mr. Winner?" Mrs. Shanelle waved a hand in front of him.
"Sorry," he blinked back the thoughts. "Um, sure, send her up."
"Yes, Sir," she nodded and headed out of his office. "And if Lady Catalonia shows up I'll find a way to help you kick her out."
That woman knew him too well. "Thank you," he called after her with a chuckle.
Nothing to worry about. It was probably just a little polite follow up. She may have been on colony for something else and wanted to drop by. After this long he was sure she'd gotten the idea that he wasn't particularly interested in anything personal.
He did still feel bad about leaving her at the restaurant, but she had been the same bubbly person when he'd called a couple days later, still feigning an illness. Well, it would be nice to touch base with their company again.
Besides, if she asked him out to dinner again Dorothy would get a good laugh out of it.
Setting aside a week's worth of work and worry, he finalized one more email and closed down his programs before she appeared in the doorway.
"Hello, Quatre," she greeted warmly, the same inhumanly wide smile and red lipstick in place.
"Miss Jesimae," he nodded and stood to greet her.
"Please, it hasn't been that long," she happily chided him for the prefix.
"No, of course," he agreed. She offered her hand and he politely pecked a kiss on it and assured her around to the chairs. "So what brings you here?"
"Nothing of any consequence," she giggled, tossing her blond ringlets behind her shoulder again as she sat down. "I just happened to be here anyway and wanted to look you up."
With an easy smile, Quatre leaned back against the front of his desk. She was as pleasant as always and that eased away any of the nervousness from their last encounter. "Well, you're always welcome. How is your father doing?"
"Quite well. We have a new plant in the works in the outskirts of L1 and he's spending a lot of time there."
"You're doing a lot of expanding lately. That's good to see."
"There are a lot of building projects going on now. It's a rather lucrative time," she nodded happily. With a glance towards the door, she crossed her legs and tucked her skirt around her a little in the chair. "I hope I'm not keeping you. I noticed a couple of your receptionists were headed out already when I came up."
"Not at all," he waved it off. "I'm actually waiting for someone anyway. I have an engagement this evening." Might as well get that out in the open and save her an embarrassment if he had to turn her down for dinner again.
"Oh, I see," she nodded to herself. "I suppose then I can't use my rain-check for another date."
"It has been a while. I wonder if you've thought about me?" she questioned, raising her eyes to look at him expectantly.
Well, no, he mentally answered her. "Well, I've had some issues that…." What kind of excuse was that? "It's just…."
Her giggle cut off his attempts to phrase something coherently. Leaning forward in the chair, she smiled up at him. "You're really cute when you're nervous," she whispered.
Why did everyone think that? "Thanks," he muttered, looking away to try to salvage some form of dignity.
"I'm sorry," she chuckled. "I'm always a little too direct. It's a flaw of mine," she shrugged it off and stood up.
"No, it's… uh…" he faltered to a stop when she stepped in closer to him. Leaning on his desk was a terrible oversight. He had no way to maneuver. Instead he straightened, hoping for a chance to politely slip away and retreat to a respectable distance.
"You're a bit of the shy type, aren't you?" she teased, her eyes sparkling at him.
"I suppose I am," he tried to give her a smile.
"I was sort of hoping that opposites attract."
In a different situation he would probably agree with that. "I suppose that depends," he mumbled for something to say.
Slipping in closer again, she brushed against him, her hand touching one of his. Involuntarily he tightened his grip on the front of his desk, trying to keep from yanking away from her. "I really would be a little more subtle, but it seems I never get the chance to take things slow."
She lowered her eyes and seemed to be sincerely trying to come up with something else to say. And Quatre realized he couldn't get a single word to come out. His jaw worked a couple times but no sounds went with it. He had to salvage this. Somehow. Anyhow!
"You're always so busy. I understand that. I'm not trying to be pushy," she quietly reasoned. "I just," she raised her eyes to him again, "want a chance?"
It was far too much of a question. One that begged an answer.
And he froze. She was so sincere. So hopeful. That was all that kept running through his head. How did he…? "I…."
Again it was her giggle that interrupted his attempt to say no. "I'm not doing you any favors," she whispered, her eyes holding a very amused twinkle in them even as she mildly apologized.
He was an idiot. Say something! he demanded of himself.
"Forgive me?" she purred, the sultry edge apparent as she leaned into him farther.
The touch finally jarred him out his stupor. "Miss Jesimae—"
"Stop calling me 'Miss,'" she very quietly demanded. Without a chance for anything else she stretched up and pressed her lips to his.
Quatre snapped his eyes wide open at the contact and jerked his head away. On instinct his hands grabbed her shoulders and pressed her back a few precious inches.
Startled, the woman gasped and stared up at him wide-eyed. Calming down at the sight of the frightened expression, he carefully loosened his grip on her but didn't remove his hands. "Jesimae," he started, skipping the Miss as requested.
"I'm sorry," she squeaked.
"No," he shook it off forcefully, closing his eyes to collect himself. "It's not you. And I'm really very flattered." Actually he wasn't sure if he was or not, but it sounded good. "It's just…." Pausing, he looked at her again and tried to give her confused expression a bit of a smile. "There's already someone else in my life right now," he quietly told her, believing that for once he owed this woman the truth.
"Oh," she whispered, losing all of the sparkle that her eyes had held a moment ago. "I didn't realize." Looking down, she composed herself. "That's—that's really what I get," she chuckled nervously.
"I'm sorry," he apologized just for something to say.
"No, it's my fault," Jesimae looked up at him again, a smile coming back, although he wasn't sure how sincere it was. "I just sort of took you for oblivious and decided maybe if I made a first move…. Well, I tried my luck," she shrugged and he finally remembered to carefully remove his hands from her shoulders.
Licking his lips, Quatre tasted the waxy residue of her lipstick and tried forcefully to ignore it. "I, uh, do usually admit to being oblivious," he tried, giving her a smile.
It did successfully get her to giggle at him before nodding happily once more. "You really are very sweet. I hope I didn't offend you."
"No," he shook it off quickly. "Not at all. I'm sorry I just didn't say something earlier." Not that he was sure he would have gotten the words in edgewise, but he felt like an idiot. He couldn't possibly have handled this any worse.
"I did a good job of putting you on the spot," she teased and turned to pick up her purse from the chair. "Perhaps some time when you don't have another engagement I can still repay you a dinner. In a much more friendly manner," she flashed him a wide smile again.
With an honest chuckle he nodded and leaned back on his desk again for support. "I wouldn't mind that at all," he assured her.
"Good. Then I'll go before I cause any more trouble," she laughed at herself, still obviously a little embarrassed.
What was he possibly supposed to say to something like this? "…Thank you," he muttered, "for understanding."
"Of course. I do wish her well," Jesimae actually winked at him.
Oh. Maybe that wasn't such a good time to actually tell her the truth. Swallowing tightly he nodded but hesitantly glanced towards the empty doorway. "It's nothing official," he tried.
"I certainly won't say anything," she solemnly held up a hand and giggled.
"Thank you," he all but sighed. He probably shouldn't be worried. He was sure the businesswoman understood the effects of random rumors. And she did honestly seem sincere underneath the overly outgoing facade. "I appreciate it."
"I get it," she teased. Again tossing her hair over her shoulder, she flashed him a smile. Her eyes still sparkled with her seemingly endless enthusiasm, and it eased some of the tension out of his back and shoulders. "Good evening, Quatre."
She turned for the door and he granted her departing form a smile. "Please have a safe trip, Jesimae."
"Thank you," she chirped as she turned the corner into the hallway with one last look back at him.
Well… that hadn't gone as badly as it could have. Underneath the perpetual smile of hers he really did hope that she didn't begrudge him for the rejection. She was actually kind of sweet.
In a different situation…. He really couldn't even think about that.
Sucking down a deep breath, he waited a long moment before he unlocked his hands from the edge of his desk and pushed himself up straight. Slowly walking around his desk he sat down and settled back in the chair, for some reason his movements coming silent and deliberate. He didn't need any other jarring interruptions right now.
"Mr. Winner." He involuntarily cringed before he turned to see Mrs. Shanelle's head peeking around the doorway. "I'm leaving. I'll leave the door open for you."
"Thank you," he waved her on. "Have a nice weekend."
"You too," she called back from down the hall already. "Please say hello to Dorothy for me."
Dorothy…. That really could have been…. If she'd shown up any earlier….
Did he tell her?
Dorothy slammed the taxi's door shut and tried to make it look like she wasn't scurrying for the doors. Bouncing up the steps, she nearly lost a shoe when she saw a security guard approach the doors from inside.
Don't lock me out. Don't lock me out. I don't have my phone! she mentally pleaded with the man behind the glass as she quickened her pace beyond any stately looking hurry. Jogging up the last steps she crossed the landing, only to watch the man politely open the door for someone else.
They'd already locked the doors then. Great.
The man smiled easily as he held the door for a woman to leave and then turned to regard her with the same polite smile. Maybe he recognized her. Wonderful, she wouldn't have to explain why she was trying to get in after hours.
With a nod he only held the door for her and let her pass as well. Mumbling a thank you, she finally paused and turned back over her shoulder towards the woman she'd crossed paths with.
The strawberry blond had done the same, but quickly gave her a polite smile and went on her way. Dorothy blinked to herself but continued on, heading for the elevators.
Jesimae Nickels? Was that woman still trying to get a date out of Quatre? How long had it been since the investigation into her and her father had resulted in nothing?
Well, maybe this was a business issue.
Getting into the elevator she pressed her floor and smoothed back her hair. She'd gotten on colony in plenty of time so she had decided to go beg Quatre's housemaid into letting her in. Not wanting to traipse three weeks worth of luggage all over the place, she'd stopped at the manor and let the older woman fret over showing her to "her" room. While there she quickly changed for the evening, figuring she should be attired appropriately for wherever they were going.
She'd discovered some time this week that all she had with her were suits and casual clothing. None of which was going to let her pass dress code if he'd taken her seriously about selecting a fine establishment.
She didn't particularly care for the hurried shopping trip she'd taken for this dress. Basic black wasn't really her taste, and it was boringly typical. It was also a tad too snug around the chest and an inch too short in the hem.
Oh, Quatre wouldn't notice.
The elevator dumped her off on the correct floor and she sauntered down the deserted hall and into his office suite. Not much activity here this weekend. His receptions were already gone too and it was almost eerily quiet.
Breezing around the corner and into Quatre's doorway, she didn't bother to knock. He sat at his desk, blankly staring into space and pushing a pen cap up and down in his left hand.
Dorothy stood for a moment, waiting for him to notice and then quickly gave up. Why did she even bother to dress up for this man? Stepping forward, she drew his attention as she moved into the room. "Master Winner, your guards nearly locked me out."
"I'm sure they didn't mean to," he responded, giving her a smile, and slight look-over.
"I was hoping they wouldn't. I accidentally left my phone at the manor," she explained and stepped over to perch herself against the corner of his desk.
"How is the Satellite going to get a hold of you?" he teased.
"I supposed they'll just have to manage," she answered automatically, pausing to look at him at closer.
…And perhaps Miss Jesimae wasn't here on business.
Quatre was just happy to see her. Everything else he was willing and able to forget as long as she was just right here. He'd let her be away far too long and it hit him now just how much he'd missed her. As beautiful as always, she was simply radiant. And he rather enjoyed the idea that there would be no emergency interruptions tonight.
Right now, he just wanted to tuck himself at her side and forget everything.
With a smile, he tossed his pen in its holder and rose to his feet. "I made reservations early, so if you're ready, we can be on our way." Scooting his chair in, he took his suit jacket off the back and slipped it on.
Dorothy actually scooted back a ways on his desk and crossed her legs, the slit at the side of her dress giving him a nice view of her knee down. He was about to take that as a no when she reached across his desk and daintily plucked a tissue out of the box.
"Of course," she responded. "But you may want to…" she paused and made a wiping gesture towards her lips before offering the tissue to him, "before we go out in public."
Quatre froze, watching the tissue. For a long moment all he felt was his heart being squeezed in his chest. Snapping his hand up he slapped two fingers over his lips and then stopped, staring down at the faint red smudge that had betrayed him.
Taking the opportunity, Dorothy laid the tissue over the stain in his open hand and hopped off the desk towards the door. "After all, it doesn't match your date's."
"A man always blames the woman who fools him. In the same way he blames the door he walks into in the dark." - Henry Louis Mencken