At The End of the Day
~ Chapter Forty-Two

September 24, AC214
- Institut Le Rosey, Switzerland, Earth's European Nation

Wufei had never been good friends with Relena, never really spent any period of time with her despite her marriage to Heero for several years. It was not that he didn't particularly like her. It was just that he didn't know her very well. Nevertheless, he somehow managed to end up with her that afternoon in his son's school after Heero's request. He'd been very convincing when he said that he was scheduled to do surgery on a young boy barely holding on to life.

'Accompany Relena with her nephews to the school they'll transfer to. Your kid is there anyway,' he'd said in his usual bossy, Heero-esque way. They'd never had a leader between the five of them, but OZ had always assumed it was Heero and with the way they heeded his commands with barely any protest, it made at least some sense.

Unfortunately, there was no warning that these boys were ill-disciplined. No wonder he didn't want to do it.

"They're a bit of a handful," Relena said apologetically as she could only watch Zech's twin boys cause havoc around campus.

"That's an understatement," Wufei said under his breath, soft enough that only he would hear. He was sure his son would not appreciate the unannounced visit either.

"They're the only kids on Mars so everyone tends to let them do whatever they want," she continued to say in excuse of her nephews' behavior. "Zechs thought taking them back to Earth would force them to grow up around children their own age so they'd be less spoiled and more… balanced."

Wufei would have wanted to say that at least a part of their behavior might have come from Zechs himself, but he didn't want to insult her family. After all, Relena was perfectly nice and 'balanced' - so unlike her brother.

"I'm afraid it's a long road to rehabilitation," he said with a pained face. These two kids would have to learn how to deal with concepts of discipline and consideration of others.

"I'm really sorry for dragging you here, but I didn't know this school very well and Heero promised-"

"No need for apologies," Wufei stopped her with a hand held up. "It is my honor to escort you around Le Rosey." The boys were a different story.

She nodded once in that demure way she used to address the world as queen. He had nothing but respect for her and all she'd done and continues to do for the always tenuous relations between the Earth and the colonies. To him, she was about the only bright light in the ugly world of politics.

"This way to the administration department," Wufei informed with an outstretching of his arm toward one quiet, empty hall. "Do whatever you need to do. I will attend to the boys while you take care of paperwork."

"Thank you. I really appreciate it," Relena said in a sincere expression of gratitude. He nodded once in acquiescence and then went to gather Zechs' children.

A calm stroll around campus despite the apparent hide and seek he was having with two blond heads peeking from every corner landed him within the vicinity of an ongoing match. Being full of expendable energy and curiosity for children their age, Wufei let his two wards loose within the crowd of avid supporters. They were easy enough to spot with their bright hair.

It was surprising to see that they were instantly amicable with the first group of boys they'd run into and within minutes, a group of Le Rosey students seemed to be enamored by them. Good. That Peacecraft charm meant they would be easier to handle and that he would be able to discreetly check on his son.

"Dad, what are you doing here?"

Too late for that. He hoped Shen would not explode the way Lina did when he accidentally showed up unannounced at one of her parties. He swore he never did it on purpose.

"Your mom wanted me to check on you."

Shen's cheeks tinted red. He was right next to a group of his friends. Okay, so Wufei did not know how not to embarrass his children. At least his youngest was modest enough not to scream at him with disbelief and utter outrage.

"And I'm here with Aunt Relena's nephews to help with enrollment," he added just as a precaution.

"Oh," Shen responded, moving away from his group of friends to address him quickly.

"You're embarrassing me, dad," he whispered with frustration. "I can't talk to you right now. We're supposed to be watching the game and it's almost over. Alex is playing so you can watch from the bottom of the stadium if you want. Don't go anywhere near the seats where anyone will see you."

So he was a leper. In any case, at least his son did not lose it and was considerate enough to give him a spot with which to make himself invisible. He watched the boys tease Shen before the group eventually entered the stadium. Wufei went the opposite direction, landing him somewhere below all the seats but a little closer to the pitch where he could see his son, Zech's boys, and the ongoing match.

Alex was easy to spot on the pitch. A group of Le Rosey's players were pointing to the back of a player's kit with the name 'Winner' and the number 10 emblazoned on the back. From the looks of it, Alex had just made an important goal against their opponents in the blue kits. Quatre's son, he confirmed, was the athletic type. He was also not as jubilant as the rest in accepting his teammates' enthusiasm. This lack of zeal seemed out of place within the stadium's deafening cheers, but Alex tended to be that way. Every successful outcome seemed to be a responsibility and here he thought Zech's boys were not well adjusted kids.

Wufei stepped back into the shadows of the bleachers as he checked his watch. It had not been too long since he'd left Relena so there was still time to kill and with the way the twins seemed to be enjoying conversation with the boys on campus, he found it rude to interrupt. He made himself comfortable on the seats closest to the pitch despite his son's earlier warning and waited there.

The crowds dispersed with excited cheers, a few bragging that they always, always beat their rivals in every game. Wufei's presence was ignored for the most part, including his son who paid him no heed as he headed off to wherever it was they were going. The Marquise twins pointed to their newfound friends then waved to a building close by. He acknowledged them with a nod, took note that they were considerate enough to let him know where they would be next and then retrieved his cell phone (banned on campus) to text Sally that Shen was doing just fine.

Wufei was surprised, when, in the silence of the empty stadium minutes later, someone addressed him.

"Uncle Wufei. Shen said you were here. I came to say hi."

Wufei almost dropped his phone in between texting with Sally.

"Congratulations on today's victory," Wufei said after he'd gathered his composure and tried his best to hide his phone.

Alex just shrugged, said thanks, and then sat next to him. His gym bag plopped heavily on the seat next to him.

"How's my dad?"

Wufei put his phone away, not really expecting the question when he should have. Heero must have been avoiding this too. He leaned back on his seat and looked forward into the expansive, well-maintained pitch. The grass was so green it looked artificial.

"I haven't seen him in a while, but your Uncle Heero says he's recovering just fine."

"That's not what I heard."

He was not a liar in any sense of the word, but rumors did fly and news had a way of being delivered in such a convoluted manner that hearsay preceded fact. Wufei knew that Alex was worried about his father, especially since he lived so far away, and he wanted to tell the child it was going to be okay. It was, but this was not the type of child that accepted empty reassurances.

"His body was rejecting the kidney the same way he'd been adamant about accepting it to begin with," Wufei relayed as he continued to look out into the empty pitch. "You know how your father is."

Alex considered this for a moment, leaned back on his seat and then sighed before responding.

"I wish he'd let someone take care of him."

It was a sharp observation, but Wufei could only wonder if Alex had specific criteria for that someone. After all, Quatre was still dating Limerence's lead singer. As far as he knew, they were still together.

"I don't know why he's so hung up on looking out for Uncle Trowa instead."

The child was learned, sure, but there were just some things he didn't seem to understand, such as the things you don't realize until you fall deeply for someone.

"Everything changes when you find someone to protect," Wufei said simply. Some things you didn't understand until it happened to you. He'd learned this many years ago as he too didn't understand.

"At a certain point, it just turns to stubborn stupidity," Alex responded, his face contorting into a frown. He was not fond of Trowa and for good reason.

"I can't believe you called your father stupid," Wufei said with a raise of his brow while looking at Alex to make sure he'd heard it right. "Being protective of your friends and family is usually a very admirable trait, a trait we've always known him for."

"Knowing when you're not wanted is a different story," Alex countered.

To him, those two were a conundrum. Everyone had their own theories with nobody daring to ask them for clarification. This was not something as simple as a failed relationship. Quite frankly, it was a relationship consistently, albeit slowly, headed downward. Attempting to explain all this to Alex would prove fruitless because up until recently, he couldn't have understood it himself. It all seemed so unfair to Quatre and then sometimes, it was unfair to Trowa. He wished he could tell Alex to realize how happy his father was around Trowa except that he never really seemed happy with him. One would wonder why this child's evaluation would not be considered accurate.

"But wanting to be wanted is every human's right."

Wufei turned his head toward the voice of wisdom addressing them. Relena was right behind with paperwork in one hand. She smiled at Alex as two more subdued boys followed close behind her.

"He makes your father stronger, makes him whole," Relena said without naming names. "I hope you'll give him a chance."

Alex nodded. He seemed to respect both their opinions but still seemed dubious. Like his father, he was a diplomat. He knew when to stop. He fell silent when the Marquise twins started talking to him.

"Thanks," Wufei slipped to her in a whisper as they watched the boys. "It was never my forte."

Relena nodded before she invited him for coffee at the administration building. The boys would be fine, he though, as he reminded himself to call Quatre. That son of his definitely needed some kind of reassurance. After all, the Winner heir's stability meant the stability of the colonies' future.

.

January 2, AC215
- The Big Top, Colony L2-Z32499

Everyone took a step back. He couldn't believe it. Given, you wouldn't really try to catch a falling six foot plus tall tower if it was coming at you, but that wasn't the point. The point was that everyone took a step back. Duo was more than upset and wholly confused. Wasn't said tower a prized possession of the colonies?

"Apparently not," he muttered to himself, fanning an unconscious Quatre seated on the first available seat Duo could haul him to. Thankfully, the seat was located in a secluded trailer guarded on the outside by the bodyguard who caught him mid-fall.

He shook his head in disbelief once again. He watched a disaster waiting to happen, running for the collapsing tycoon as everyone else save for the bodyguard - bless his heart, ran the opposite direction. It wasn't like Quatre had the plague and was going to spread it to anyone he came into contact with. Were they just going to let him fall on the glass he dropped on the ground mere seconds prior? Did they want him to collect some flesh wounds and a concussion in the process? Truly unbelievable.

"What a bunch of jerks," Duo continued muttering although he should have expected it. Quatre did not care that he was always around high end business associates who cared only for their own well-being. Before him, they presented an amicable façade meant to gain his favor. On the inside, Duo knew they were after his very influential support and more than quite possibly, his androgynous charm.

"Yup, you're still pretty after all these years," he spoke to his longtime friend although he knew that he would not receive a response. That hair of his that was always combed back neatly and held in place with the help of hair products came undone.

More like pretty awkward, now that he looked at it, since he was draped on an uncomfortable chair. Some days, Duo could still not believe that Quatre grew to the height he was now - a good quarter inch taller than Trowa. Duo tried to make sure that his head was at least not leaning on a weird angle. That was when Quatre started to stir.

"Hey, buddy," Duo greeted as lashes blinked, giving way to mostly unfocused eyes. "Do I need to take you to a hospital?"

"I'm fine, Duo" Quatre responded, his unconsciousness giving way to sudden caution. "What happened?" he said with apprehension while rubbing at his eyes.

Duo frowned, having been surprised at being recognized so quickly and with no recognition of his new looks. He hadn't seen Quatre in ages. Why was it that when Trowa trimmed his bangs, no one on the entire Earth sphere could recognize him, but when he cut his feet long tresses, everyone could still tell it was him?

"Well, you fainted. That's about all I can tell you," he said, unconsciously feeling for the braid that was no longer there.

"Where?"

"You're at a kid's charity function and yes, I'm here attending the function like you. I didn't think it was within the scope of your business, but considering the entertainers, I could guess why."

Quatre seemed to be trying to grasp the surroundings where he'd left off while pinching the bridge of his nose. The cold sweat that still covered his forehead and his neck was easily ignored.

"Hilde usually attends these functions."

The 'for you' at the end of Quatre's statement was left out. Duo diverted his eyes toward the ceiling. Quatre was too sharp for his own good. It was true that Hilde always attended any and all kinds of functions for their company while Duo worked behind the scenes. He didn't want to be out and about with these people, but his recent separation from her forced him to share at least some of her hard work. That was something he did not want to discuss with anyone at the moment, so he moved back to the topic Quatre had avoided in the first place.

"How are you feeling? I half expected your nifty bracelet to send out a signal and bring forth a brigade of medical personnel breaking into this room and strapping you to the first bed they could find."

"Thanks for staying with me," Quatre replied.

Duo noticed the way he brushed off what he'd just said. Hah! Two could play at that game after all.

Main health issues would come up eventually during their conversation given the way Quatre just all of a sudden passed out, but for now, Duo wanted to see if he was generally okay.

"Want some water?"

"No, I'm okay."

There was that struggle to sound satisfactory, but Duo hadn't known him for so long that he wouldn't be able to tell if something was off.

"Quat, it's okay not to be okay."

"I'm not. I just don't want you to dump me on the closest hospital you could find."

So he hated the hospital. No surprise there. He didn't have to go if he didn't want to. Duo stopped trusting those so-called medical facilities anyway after Quatre's stint with a shady one back on Earth.

"You want to tell me why you passed out then?" Duo suggested, not wanting to pry just yet.

"Duo, I'm a heavily diseased natural birth of L4 with replaced organs," he said, crouching down on his seat and continuing to massage the bridge of his nose. "I think I have the right to pass out every now and then. Where's Hilde and why did you cut your hair?"

Those two questions at the end of the explanation - it was coincidentally related, but Duo was trying his best to stay away from this topic. It was not a good idea to bring it up around Quatre, Mr. Fix-it-all.

His separation with Hilde was a long time coming although he had yet to admit that to himself. The business they owned was a joyous distraction at first with toys everywhere and dreams of little feet running around their house to peruse of their creations, but reality crept up on them little by little.

A business was what it was - a business. It wasn't just something you could run on enthusiasm and dreams. It was cruel and demanding, asking of you time to help it run and patience to make it work. Duo couldn't have gotten this far with it without some help from Hilde who kept them grounded, who worked the complicated side of it, and who accepted the reality of not being able to have kids of their own.

Rayne joined their marriage years later to form a family and for a long time, that worked. Duo was happy to be a father and Hilde was more than happy to make that family a true one. But as it was with inexperience and lack of patience, Duo abandoned his business to his wife and in the end, it was what consumed them. Marriage wasn't just about loving your wife. It was about making all aspects of it work. Duo still loved his once bubbly wife, but it the end, things just didn't work out and she was now taking steps to end it completely. He was always jumpy these days, waiting for that summons to come knocking at his door. The thought of divorce was so treacherous that it hurt to even think about it.

"Let's not talk about it," Duo said, putting his hand behind his neck with his palm feeling the bareness of it. He'd cut it one night, on his own, in his bathroom, in front of a gigantic mirror with perfect views from all sides, while Rayne was sleeping at her mother's and while he broke down from the anger and sadness of his empty home. He hadn't done such a good job of it and had it trimmed the next day. Nobody who knew what he was going through ever mentioned anything about his hair - just today and only Quatre.

"Duo, I could guess."

"Then don't," Duo responded with sudden anger. How could Quatre do it so well? The business and the family were just fine. He and the ex-wife seemed to be amicable. In fact, it was almost perfect if not for his unrelenting obsession with Trowa.

When Quatre placed his hand on his shoulder, Duo shrugged it away. He was supposed to be the hero of the day. He came to save princess Quatre from his fainting spell and from the leeches outside. Why was it that Quatre was turning things around and trying to help him instead? Didn't he know that he just fainted? Didn't he know that he looked about ready to pass out again?

"It's not your problem," Duo reiterated. "I love you, Quat, but sometimes, you just have to let things happen. You can't fix this. Hilde and I - we'll figure this out together. Just be my drinking buddy or something."

"I'd rather not. I run my mouth on alcohol," Quatre responded with a swipe of his hand over his hair. Too bad it was not going back into place.

"You don't drink," Duo said as a matter of fact.

"I did once," Quatre admitted, presenting him with the expression of warmth and openness that never failed to calm people down. "Although with a penchant for addiction, I'd rather not."

And with that, things seemed to calm down. Quatre never failed to do that and he hated him for it, hated him for turning him into a jealous monster.

"I don't understand how you're still doing all this," Duo admitted, motioning around and sighing as he stretched his arms upward. Quatre liked putting things into place, the control freak. He probably couldn't help but try to get them back together, just like when he brought an orphan girl to his doorstep to ease the pain of sterility. What a bastard, really - the cutest, most damnable puppy you wouldn't want to kick. But Duo wouldn't change his unbelievable kindness for the entire world.

"I don't exactly have a choice," Quatre said. He didn't. It was a plain and simple fact, or rather, it was a fixed condition. The colonies wouldn't last a day if his company was not running smoothly. His company would not be run conscientiously if he was not in charge. Forget everyone else. Quatre had no greed in him when it came to money.

"Now that I've sidestepped your question, let me see you sidestep mine," Duo said with a grin. Quatre was not going to get away from this one for sure. It involved his greatest weakness. "Care to admit why you're attending a minor event that you don't have to when the circus is in town?"

"I haven't heard anything from him or about him in months, Duo. I don't have to admit anything."

"You're not hearing anything from me either," Duo said, unconsciously tilting his head right as if adjusting for the suddenly gone weight that used to be on his head. "Too bad his sister wasn't in today's group of performers. What happened to the bodyguard who answers to you?"

"Ralph? I try to be hands off when it comes to that."

"You're paying the guy," Duo said, fighting the urge to roll his eyes.

"To protect him, nothing more."

"Then just go."

Quatre made a dismissive sound. He stood slowly, trying to gauge his ability to walk properly and appear functional to the people just outside the trailer door - all for show, of course. He arranged his hair on the mirror located on one of the walls and frowned as a stray lock fell in front of his face.

"That is the least of my problems. My very obedient son no longer believes a word I say and my ex-wife is incensed that our daughter wants to do modeling and I said yes."

"Forget all that. You still need time for yourself, Quat."

Quatre looked at him with a smile, practiced and fake, his hair now properly combed and that limp of his reduced to the best extent he possibly could, given that it was an unavoidable impediment.

"It will happen when it happens," he said and exited the trailer with a charming little wave. "Call me if you need me. I'll come running," he said. Curious questions from the people outside followed in his wake.

"Ah, well," Duo said, petting an imaginary braid. The sudden loss of his hair really was more traumatic than he'd expected.

"It's okay, hair grows," he assured himself while looking once more at the closed door of the trailer.

"You'll come running, huh?" he echoed. Somehow he knew that wasn't a lie. Too bad that was the last time he would get Quatre alone again for a long, long time.