Title: The Connoisseur

Author: Asuka Kureru (asukasama@ifrance.com)

Series: Gundam Wing

Notes: This is for the March 15, 2004, or more accurately 3x1x5x2x4 Day challenge.

... You will notice that I had quite a lot of fun with the order. ^^;

Thanks to Zania, Killraven and Joosetta. *cuddles her precious wifeys*

Entries hosted at Sweetlysour.net . Write your own! ^____^

Duo came to him first, during the beginning of the war. He was curious about Arabian traditions and his family and chess and the way VCRs worked and a thousand other things. He was brash in words and skittish in actions. He wanted to be comforted after Heero's self-destruction. He wanted to feel safe and wanted again. He wanted to feel like he belonged. He was scared to get too close. So Quatre lured him closer and closer, and when Duo realized that he was trapped by his soft smiles and gentle gestures and his warm, honest caring, he didn't know how to fight it. He ran; but then he came back. He belonged indeed. He belonged to Quatre, and Quatre took care of his pets with love. Duo craved love. After a while, he stopped fighting him, and allowed himself to relax.

Quatre's hold on Duo was gentle, but firm. Even Death would not make him let go. He wanted Duo, to keep and cherish. Death's earthly incarnation didn't stand a chance.

Trowa should have been easier despite his aloofness. He was a soldier without comrades, a wolf without a pack. He was drifting, lonely. He was also numb almost all the way inside, but for that core of guilt and caring and yearning for a lost innocence, that core Quatre had caught a glimpse of when they had played their duet.

With time, he would have thawed out, would have accepted the place Quatre offered him at his side easily, as if that was the most natural thing in the world. But then there was Zero, and he forgot Quatre, forgot the music they had shared, and lost his shields in the process.

He was only a teenager when Quatre saw him again, months later, lost and scared. To the child without memories, Quatre offered innocent friendship and warmth and all the harmlessness he was able to show, gaining his trust again as he proved to himself that he was deserving of that trust, building up both of their self-confidences once again.

When the wanderer awoke, the trust hadn't left, and so Trowa allowed himself to accept the quiet proposition, without making a fuss.

Heero was a challenge in some ways, but not in some others. The path to him was clear to Quatre. But it was steep and slippery, and dangerous.

Heero was uncomplicated. What made him tick was obvious. But the blast radius had to be calculated carefully. For him, there wasn't any of the friendly touches that had gotten through Duo or of the thoughtful quietness he had shared with Trowa. Heero was sharp and aggressive, his guilt and rage and self-destructive tendencies carefully bottled up. He didn't allow anyone to come close, preferring to freeze them out before they could come into contact with the unfocused anger and the self-hate, all burning, unstable and dark feelings shadowing his heart.

So Quatre forced his way in.

Deep down, Heero didn't want to hate anyone, and so he hated himself for the feelings they provoked in him. He strove to be perfect, but he wasn't. He hated himself more. He felt remorse over his failures, over the deaths he'd caused. He wanted, needed to be punished, but his idea of punishment would have been dying and he had already tried and missed, and everyone either admired or avoided him; not that he would have trusted them with his feelings, even the dark ones.

So Quatre punished him.

He gave him the pain he craved as his due, and scolded him for his mistakes, and when Heero exploded at him, raging against the gundanium restrains, Quatre bore the storm without flinching. He was the one in control. He would punish Heero if he went wrong again, and severely so. But he would also make sure that he wouldn't. He would tell him what to do so that he didn't risk hurting more innocents. Heero could let go of his guilt now, and release that storm of pain and mistrustfulness. Quatre would control him. Quatre was strong enough to control him, and caring enough to make sure that he was not used wrongly.

When Heero finally gave up and abandoned himself, he did so entirely.

Wufei... For a long time Quatre thought him a lost cause. He was often on the fringes of the group, and Quatre could see him observe the dynamics; it was as if he understood who held the reins in their group, and took great pains to make sure never to be in Quatre's sphere of influence. But he could be subtle as much as he could be blunt, and Quatre never found a way to call him on it. Wufei was his greatest challenge yet, the only one he thought he might not win. Not that it stopped him from trying to find an angle.

And then the war ended and he disappeared, and Quatre and his pets lamented the loss of their fifth, the loner who had refused to make a place for himself in their group.

When they found him again, he was their enemy.

It hurt all of them, Heero the most. He recognized the darker part of himself in Wufei's barely contained rage and need for an outlet. The others hurt too. Duo felt betrayed by one of his gang. Trowa quietly and neatly shut Wufei out. Quatre hurt for all of them and more. He hadn't been ready for this. But it only strengthened his resolve.

Wufei's honor had driven him to find a way to repair the wrongs he caused to Mariemeya and to fix what was still unjust in the world. Wufei's honor was his downfall. It was too rigorous not to show him clearly how wrong he had gone.

Quatre didn't do anything, just waited for him to come to the conclusion that he had betrayed the only people who were still there for him to pursue foolish dreams of absolute justice that did more harm than good to the people he had learned to protect. He just waited, and then, when Wufei finished putting right what he'd done wrong and there was nothing left for him to do, no way to soothe his devouring guilt, he forgave him and welcomed him in. Duo understood his need for revenge and how dark the path it could lead on was. Heero understood the rage and the need to keep people at arm's length lest they end up collateral damage. Trowa understood how difficult it was to face friends as enemies and hold convictions higher than personal attachments, and then continue on with it a part of your history, something that you would always judge yourself for.

Quatre just forgave him. That was enough.

It was rough at first. Every time he conquered another one, it was rough, but with Wufei more so. He had evaded them so long, they had a routine that didn't include him; it unsettled things. Quatre didn't mind. It kept things interesting. He wasn't about to let either of them go, and so they finally sorted things out. Everything goes smoothly nowadays. They're happy.

No one knows. Quatre doesn't want people to know. They don't need to tell anyway. They know who they belong to, and that's enough.

Now Heero is standing at attention behind him, on his left, as he works at his desk, guarding him faithfully. Trowa is kneeling by his chair, head on his lap, half-asleep. He deserves it after having played the flute until he fell asleep yesterday. Wufei's hair is down and he plays with Duo's as they curl up on their cushions by the fireplace like kittens, Wufei's bronze skin and sleek muscles a startling contrast to Duo's pale, pinkish skin and graceful limbs. Their collars match, though.

And Quatre smiles.