Darkness surrounded him, fearfully pulling at his soul. It scared him so bad because last time the abyss opened; he fell. His mind wrapped itself into the grips of insanity. He blindly lashed out, harming the innocent and hurting his friends. Only after intense sacrifice was carried out, did he process what was going on. After the realization of what he did was his own fault. And then, the pain hit him in indescribable waves.

He couldn't give in to the darkness again or he feared he would be forever lost. But there was NO-where to turn, no place to HIDE. It enfolded him entirely, so much that he couldn't see his hands inches from his eyes. He had never been so frightened. What PUT him here? And most importantly, how could he ESCAPE? The darkness surrounding him was complete. It pressed against him so closely till claustrophobia threatened.

He couldn't even struggle. His limbs felt separated from the rest of his body. But it was impossible, how could he have SURVIVED such a horrific procedure? A panicking thought entered his head. Could...he be...DEAD?

His own short, gasping breaths hit his ears. Unable to see any part of his person was creeping him out intensely. Ghostly, frightened breathing seemed to belong to someone else as it continued, so unlike his tactical businesslike demeanor. He tried unsuccessfully to keep his imagination from going haywire. Shivers crawled up his spine, making the hairs on his body stand up. Mentally, he started pleading to wake up. He wished for a small beam of light to appear so he could see himself, to assure his spooked thoughts he WASN'T dead. To shine on his body and show he WAS real.

From somewhere, his wish was granted. A small shining twinkle of yellow stood out defiantly. Relief hit him immediately and he struggled to look down, to see fingers or an arm. He was extremely confused to see the familiar gray space suit he wore recently. The light seemed to intensify slowly, taking out some of the extreme shadows that his arms produced. He lowered both to his sides and found a dark spot that wouldn't go away. His eyes moved to the one side curiously. The light brightened, going from yellow to white.

His fear of the dark was cast aside as he tried to figure out the dark patch on his suit. A hand rose and feather touched the large area. The light slowly, but steadily increased. His eyes regained their fear as he stared at his fingertips. Blood covered each one, soaking through the fabric he wore. His breath started decreasing to shallow standards. Once again, he silently wondered if he was dead.

The pain that shot up his raised arm proved him wrong. He quickly doubled over, his breathing stopped. Any air he tried to inhale just caused more hurt. A bead of sweat slowly trailed down the side of his head from having to endure something that invaded every vein in his body. Both eyes squeezed tight in pain. What HAPPENED to him?

The light eventually chased all darkness from the area. Pain-filled eyes squinted open as he looked around slowly. The area previously a black hole was now a white void. His eyes stayed in their current position as he looked around. There seemed to be no END to the light. There was no ceiling or floor. But the solidity underneath his feet assured him he was standing on SOMETHING. Slowly, he looked down at his wound, trying to classify it. A small, bloody hole gaped at him. If he HAD been bleeding, it stopped. Now, the sticky substance dried against his skin, making it crawl in revulsion.

The light kept intensifying. His eyes struggled to stay open under the glare. It didn't burn him like the sun would from such depths, but made it nearly impossible to see through. It was pure, white light. Unable to take it anymore, his eyes squeezed shut.

~*~*~

"I think he's coming around."

The soft, concerned voices reached his ears; drawing him from the nightmare he seemed unable to get away from. His eyes unsuccessfully fluttered open under the lights. "Bright." He muttered tiredly.

"Someone shut off those lights!" Someone quickly barked.

"No. Not the darkness again." He worriedly mumbled. "Not again."

"I'll just dim them then." A familiar voice softly answered. His eyes gradually fluttered to slits as he took in his surroundings. Rashid faithfully sat next to him, Trowa walking away from the switch by the door.

"Rashid? Trowa?" With slow determination, his arms moved to prop himself up for a better view. Pain shot up his side, freezing his movements and decorating his face with a harsh grimace.

"Careful Master Quatre." Rashid softly admonished. Both arms situated themselves around his brave friend.

Feeling strength encompass his weak form, his body went slack. Trowa fixed the pillows behind him to allow a better, more relaxed view. He allowed Rashid to slowly situate his limp form as his eyes jumped to the occupants in the room. "What happened?" He weakly asked.

Rashid's face darkened with a scowl and Trowa met his friend's eyes.

"I'll go inform Sally you're awake." He reported monotone. Without another word, he quietly walked out. Quatre blinked at his friend's strange exit. Turning to Rashid, he patiently waited for an answer.

"You were wounded on Libra."

He looked down at the covers as memories came flooding back. The fencing battle with Dorothy on Libra... He remembered the words he gritted out through the pain and then...blackness.

'I must've passed out.' He blankly realized. He remembered missing the jab and the feeling as the metal hit its mark. That would be forever burned into his brain. 'But how did I end up HERE?'

"So, how's my favorite patient fairing?"

Blue eyes jerked up to the new voice. Sally Po walked in, eyes scanning a paper on a clipboard, Trowa following in her wake. She looked at him with tired, but happy eyes when she stopped at his bed. He gave her a slightly pained smile, a headache starting to form behind his eyes.

"Under the circumstances? Fine, I guess."

She smiled slightly and tapped the bed with her clipboard. "Glad to have you with us Quatre." She softly stated. He smiled softly. "Okay, everybody out while I check up on our hero here." She shooed Rashid and Trowa from the room lightly before turning back to the youth.

~*~*~

The days quickly passed for him. He was extremely happy they did too. He was TIRED of being stuck in bed. People out there were doing their job and he was unable to help. He HATED that feeling; it made him feel useless, like so long ago. The thought sent shivers up his spine from his old behavior. It was so unlike him now. He gratefully changed so much, sadly, but thankfully due to the war.

Rashid watched over him nearly every minute he was bedridden. He patiently saw to his friend's every need, helping him even though there were times when he was very able on his own. The bond between two generations strengthened while he healed.

He silently rejoiced when Sally proclaimed him in good health. After donning a clean set of clothing, he set out in exploration of the ship's condition. As far as he knew, Libra and Peacemillion should still be haphazardly entwined.

A surprise awaited him when he peeked through a closed door. He was also hoping to find the others as WELL as explore. He hadn't seen anyone other than Trowa since his last battle and he was hopeful they all made it out all right. His eyes widened when he saw Duo.

The boy was in apparent anguish. He didn't need to sense it to tell. The posture he kept was evidence enough. The person he kept constant vigil over seemed to fair better than HE did. Though ghostly pale and hooked up to a number of machines, Hilde's face was peaceful. The pain she'd gone through during their final battle was no more as she fitfully slept on.

Hoping he hadn't disturbed anything, he silently shut the door, feeling immensely perturbed. 'I wonder what THEIR deal is.' He pondered curiously.

His searching put him into the hanger. Everyone was scrambling around a shuttle, creating a large amount of noise in their haste to get things ready. Lady Une stood in the center of it, directing everything smoothly. He eyed her appearance with a little confusion. Though she still donned her military outfit, brown hair flowed around her, those wire-rimmed glasses missing. Shaking himself from stupefaction, he floated to her, questions in his head.

"Lady Une." He greeted.

She turned his way and nodded with a small smile. "Quatre. How're you feeling?"

Her pleasant manner took him off-guard for a second. It was such a strange twist of fate that their enemy was now a friend. "I just got pronounced a clean slate by Sally." He smiled and looked around. "What's going on?"

"We're getting ready for departure." She looked to the shuttle. "I've had people working on getting everything ready before we boarded." She turned back to him. "Can you go find Trowa for me? I haven't seen him and I am needed here. We need to make sure all who're going are accounted for."

He nodded; glad to be of help. Floating off in one direction, he left the hanger to start searching.

~*~*~

He checked entire floors, calling his friend's name as he went. Each time he spoke, he was met with silence. After searching for a while, he came upon a room, Trowa standing by the glass separating them from space. "Hey Trowa!" He called. He smiled as he floated to his friend. Trowa's attention was diverted as he turned to the one calling his name. "Everyone is making final preparations for departure." Trowa nodded. "A few of us were wondering where you'd wandered off to." He expected the pilot to react, but he seemed melancholy. He wondered what was up. His friend didn't answer and he felt even more than before that something was wrong with his friend. "Trowa?" He asked softly.

"Just taking one last look at the stars before we head to Earth." In a fluid movement, Trowa pushed away from the wall suddenly, startling him. "Let's go." He said. Colorful blue eyes narrowed at the curious behavior his friend betrayed. He changed somehow... He eyed Trowa's body as he casually walked away, sensing something was off. He seemed more bogged down with his thoughts, as if he'd been thinking heavily about something other than the war.

'So different from DURING the war.' He speculated.

Trowa stopped and met his gaze questioningly. "Quatre?" He asked softly. His head tilted slightly, affirming Quatre's suspicion.

He smiled softly. 'He's not thinking about the war.' He thought. 'It's allowing him to be more open to his emotions, to express more. Even if he doesn't REALIZE it.' The sudden realization that HE didn't need to be on guard all the time; didn't have to hide his real feelings anymore finally sunk in. He and his friends could live their lives without fear of dying from the war, from the hatred that consumed everybody's common sense.

"Feels weird now that it's all over." He softly voiced. "No more worrying, no more fighting." Exhaustion seeped into his bones, making him tired, but serene. A hand slowly rested on his shoulder, drawing his attention to Trowa's minutely sympathetic eyes. "It's finally over."

A corner of Trowa's mouth twitched. "Bout time peace gets the upper hand." He agreed monotone. Their eyes met, emotions flowing through unsaid. Reaching a silent agreement about the war, both left the dark room and the stars in all their glory.

~*~*~

Their way back was silent, but when they reached the hanger, the noise that greeted them had strengthened since he was last inside.

"I want a full report of all systems running, fixed and damaged!" Commotion and movement followed her order. "NOBODY goes home until I get those reports!" He heard the commanding tone of Une's voice and wondered what was going on once again. She was so different from a few minutes ago, but he remembered something about a split personality. He wondered if her domineering military side was showing through again. A technician handed her a paper and she thoughtfully looked at it, but a faraway look resided in her eyes.

Blue eyes narrowed as they slowly jogged toward her. "Miss Une! I found him!" He called. She turned to them, that thoughtful look still in her eyes. The two stopped before her and he noticed her eyes were still kind. Perhaps she'd found a way to conquer both sides?

"Good, final departure begins as soon as everyone is aboard...WHERE ARE THE REST OF THOSE DIAGNOSTICS?" Her commanding voice bellowed. She waved the paper around. "NOBODY LEAVES PEACEMILLION TILL I GET THOSE STATS!" She walked away from the two, muttering something about incompetence.

Trowa and Quatre looked at each other, he just shrugged. "I guess this past week has taken its toll on everybody." He speculated, having been absent for most of the commotion. "Come on, let's go get aboard before Lady Une takes off without us." He smiled and the two floated up to the hatch. As they approached the main door, he was reminded of something. "Sally said earlier that she was putting Hilde up front so she could keep an eye on her readings." He nonchalantly said.

He floated to the front, stopping in front of a closed door. He knocked softly before opening it when no one answered. "Duo? We're taking off soon." He softly reported. The sight of Hilde hooked up to a few machines was horrible for him to watch. He met Hilde a few times through Duo and the girl seemed so full of life. By the protective way Duo kept watch, letting emotion slip from his eyes when he thought no one was looking, showed Quatre he cared for Hilde more than he let on.

"I heard Une." He said bluntly, his eyes never leaving his beloved. "Someone needs to tell her to keep it down before she wakes Hilde." He smiled, but it was as empty as his eyes. He managed a small smile at the attempt of a joke, knowing he was suffering more than he let on.

"Quatre, I see you found him." Both turned to see Relena float to the doorway. "We were wondering where you'd wandered off to." She smiled a little, but her eyes held only haunted emotions. "I'm glad you agreed to stay at the Sanc Kingdom while you find what you're looking for." Trowa nodded. She looked at him. "I'm going to get strapped in. Lady Une said we'd be taking off very soon." Turning, she floated back to the passenger area.

He turned to Trowa, but saw in his eyes that he wasn't ready to leave yet. Something was still on his mind. Smiling, he turned and floated after Relena, leaving the two to talk. If possible, he was going to start on the paperwork that Rashid had given him about his father's business. He requested it while healing, but not allowed to read it, by Rashid's order. He hoped the trip was long enough that he could get a good head start in understanding what he was going to be the head of. He swallowed harshly, the prospect of becoming the leader of something so foreign a scary concept to him.

He sat down next to Relena silently, but the perturbed woman stared out the window, not meeting his gaze; not moving. He glanced at her worriedly for a second before leaving her to whatever thoughts were plaguing her. Strapping in, he reached to the stack of documents safely held behind a mesh overlay on the seat in front of him.

Minutes later, after he was halfway through his first document, the shuttle began its assent into space, flying towards home.

~*~*~

His eyes pulled back from the tenth paper he was looking over, unable to take the eyestrain anymore. He'd been reading and rereading each document carefully, making sure he understood all the rules and regulations stipulated by each paper. It was necessary, but exhausting.

He lost track of time and where they were. Leaning a heavy head toward his hand, it wrapped around his eyes, a finger and thumb rubbing over each temple. The pressure subsided somewhat and his fingers moved to rub his eyes tiredly. He only started too and THAT was the worst thought he had to endure.

'I'd almost prefer the WAR.' He lamely joked. A smile appeared, gone as quickly as it came. He would NEVER prefer death and killing to a hectic lifestyle. At least one would be ALIVE to endure the hectic schedule.

Setting the paper in the air, he let it aimlessly float as he looked around, giving his eyes a break. Relena was also busy reading a document, her brow furrowed in deep concentration. She didn't even move when he looked her way, didn't notice he was taking a break. His view shifted from his busy companion to the rest of the ship. Passengers sat more up front toward the door, probably from a quick entrance before the ship set off. Looking out the window, he was greeted with the friendly glow from Earth. An eyebrow rose from a twinge of shock. He hadn't realized he'd been working so long. He KNEW that the voyage would be a few hours at LEAST, but he didn't know he'd be BUSY the entire time.

'I hope this doesn't become a habit.' He thought, slightly amused. A small smile appeared, staying as he forced himself to relax until they landed. He could finish looking over the rest of the contract later. Being reminded of it, he snatched it from its resting place in the air before gravity claimed it. Shuffling that and the others into order, he stuffed them all back behind the mesh to keep safe until he could grab a briefcase to put them all in. He figured Rashid would have one for him, knowing of the bundle he would have to carry around.

The plane began its long journey into orbit and landed in the vicinity of the Sanc Kingdom. An ambulance immediately came to pick up Hilde, Duo following closely behind with a pained look of nostalgia on his face. He wondered what it was all about, but wasn't able to ask questions.

A limo pulled up in place of the ambulance for the rest of the passengers. A breeze met his face, ruffling his hair as he walked down the stairs with the others. It felt good to feel the coolness on his skin. An elderly, kind looking man got out and walked to the edge of the ramp.

"Miss Relena! So GOOD to have you home."

"It's good to BE home Pagan." Relena agreed. "These two are going to be staying at the Sanc Kingdom for a while." Her arm stretched to wave at them. "Trowa Barton and Quatre Rebaba Winner." He nodded in greeting, glad to see the kind, elderly man again. "Also once we get back I want a list of the best doctors and nurses in the area. The ambulance that just left holds one injured and another friend. They will be staying somewhat longer." Noin and Sally Po walked off the plan and near the others.

"Why Miss Noin. It's good to see you again."

"As it is with you Pagan." Noin smiled kindly. "Been keeping safe, staying out of trouble?" Her eyes danced with merriment.

"Of course. Wouldn't want the captain of the royal guards after me, would I?" Noin chuckled.

"We should hurry back Relena." Sally intervened. "I want to make sure Hilde took the trip okay."

"Yes of course."

Pagan walked to open the door and let the five enter into the luxurious setting. He took that time to review a document he started when the shuttle approached Earth, wanting to finish it up. He neglected it for the ride into orbit, but he knew procrastination wasn't allowed right now.

Upon arrival in the Sanc Kingdom grounds, Relena stopped and looked lovingly at her home, now to be occupied by more than just her and the workers. She smiled as everyone got out of the car.

He looked at the immense structure he once stayed in, glad to see it again. "There are thirty bedrooms and twenty bathrooms. Take whichever you want." Relena explained, sweeping her arm in a grand introduction as they walked. "Most of the bedrooms are in the expanse of the third floor, above the classrooms. The kitchen is on the ground floor, along with a dinner hall, ballroom, library, and study. There are classrooms along the west wing there," She pointed as they walked up, "along the first floor to the main staircase by the entrance doors."

He looked around, knowing the grounds from his stay with Heero. Thinking of the absent pilot, he worriedly glanced at Relena and gave her his full attention. She hadn't said a thing about him since the war was over and he was worried she wouldn't be able to handle it. He knew they were close.

"The gym and fencing room are in the basement along with all the other pipes and machines that run this hulk. If I remember correctly, I read something about a mechanic's garage that connects with the outside." Arriving to the main doors, Relena opened them both and walked inside. Stopping at the main stairs about ten feet away, she turned to her group and smiled. "Welcome Trowa and Sally to the Sanc Kingdom. Quatre, it's a pleasure to have you back, under better circumstances of course."

He smiled, feeling the same way.

She looked at a nearby ornate grandfather clock and her eyes took on a surprised note. "Well, the time sure has passed. Why don't you three go pick out your rooms? Noin, yours should still be next to mine. Would you show the others the way?"

"Actually Relena, I wanted to go check up on Hilde first." Sally cut in. "Do you know where she might be?"

"I'm afraid I don't Sally. But we can go and check with the servants. And I'll tell the cook to make something light for everyone." Going their own ways, the group split up for now. Quatre, Trowa, and Noin walked up the large main stairs silently. He eyed Trowa as green looked around with somewhat wide eyes, knowing how impressive the place was. The exterior was a grand sight, but it paled to the view inside.

Noin stopped in front of her room next to Relena's and turned to them. "If you want, you can take whatever rooms down the hallway." Her arm swept down the lengthy walk, showing off the multiple doors. "They should still be all empty if I remember correctly."

He nodded and took the reins, allowing Noin into her room. He led the way down the hall, picking a door a few down from where Noin's was. He stopped in front of it, noticing Trowa took the next door over. "I'll take here." He voiced. Trowa nodded and turned the knob to his own quarters. Disappearing from view, the two pilots went their separate ways for the time being.

~*~*~

During the time Trowa spent searching for the circus, he took a large amount of his time reviewing more papers of companies his father was affiliated with. It was an exhausting job and more than once Relena came in to remind him to get out and get some sun or food. His room included a small study-like area, a wraparound desk assortment crowding one corner of the room. There was a small bookstand behind it resting against the wall, a computer sitting over the cherry wood surface. Many cabinets allowed places to put all the documents he would need, and he planned on using them. They would prove useful on certain larger bundles that a single company had.

Days passed with the same routine. He got up and showered, met everyone for breakfast, chatted for a while, and then nearly holed himself up in his bedroom to plow through the loads of paper till either lunch or dinner. It was a dreary, weary schedule he followed, but he didn't let it disturb his visit.

One of the days he stayed, he was so fed up with reading and eyestrain that he almost threw down all documents he was reviewing and left his room. He took the quickest route outside and walked around the grounds, reveling in the small sense of freedom and fresh air. A short distance later, he spied Relena sitting on an old-fashioned wood swing. She wasn't using if for anything other than means of a chair as she looked over the land she would rule. He stopped behind her and gave the swing a delicate push, hoping not to startle her TOO bad.

Relena DID jump and whirled around quickly. He smiled to her, relaxing her instantly. "I thought you'd still be inside." She muttered.

He gave the swing another soft push and moved around her to lean against the tree. "I had to get out." He said, his eyes staying on her swaying frame. "All those words...all that paperwork was getting to me." His head shook, blue eyes still locked on the hair that flowed behind her when she moved forward.

She smiled. "That's what I came to do. I feel like I'm IGNORING everybody by staying in my study, just looking through papers all day." Her lips formed a small pout. "But we don't have any other CHOICE do we? This is the life we are destined to take."

"We may be DESTINED, but we can still make the most of it." He answered. A hand rubbed his eyes despairingly, knowing that would be hard to live by. He wasn't fairing any better than SHE was, which wasn't SAYING much. "We don't have any other choice." He muttered, looking up into the tree. Relena stopped the swing and looked at him. His gaze swung to hers from the change in movement.

She smiled encouragingly. "We always have a choice Quatre." She softly argued. "But sometimes the choice we WANT isn't always the choice we GET." That haunted look appeared in her eyes, making him wonder at what she was double standardizing. She wasn't talking about their situation alone and he KNEW it. He could FEEL something was off with her statement. As quickly as those eyes clouded, they cleared. She smiled brighter than before. "When do you have to go back?"

He shrugged. "Soon is all I know. But I was hoping..." He stopped, blue eyes drawn to the bedroom windows of the palace.

Relena followed his gaze. "You were HOPING?" She prompted.

He looked at the ground with a sheepish smile. "I was HOPING that Hilde would wake before I left. I wanted to tell her thanks and how proud I am that she did all she has." He blushed slightly, revealing an ulterior motive.

She smiled kindly. "Well I hope your wish is granted Quatre because I'm sure she'd love to hear those words." She said. He met her eyes bashfully and nodded slightly. After a while of procrastinating, he sighed and let Relena know he'd be down for dinner and made off for his room again.

~*~*~

He once again sat at the desk, idly wondering if his rear was going to make a permanent mark in the leather seat. Propping his head up with help from his and the chair's arm, he fluttered the paper, utterly bored. He stared at the simple action transfixed, not all up to reading today. A knock softly sounded at the door. Before he could give word of acknowledgement, Trowa's head popped through.

"I'm leaving." He reported.

He looked from his papers and checked the wall clock. He wanted to get as much done as possible before he went back to the colony, but it was such a heady task. "Already? Time flies when you're trying to delve through accounts." He joked, tossing the paper down, all too happy to do so.

Trowa's eyes showed slight amusement at the jest. He deftly walked in and quietly closed the door behind him.

He got up from his chair and walked over to his friend. Standing near him, he looked into Trowa's eyes and smiled sadly. "I guess this is it for now huh? Going back to the circus?" Trowa nodded quietly. "See if you can talk to the ringmaster into flying out to the colony. I'll pay for the travel." Trowa's mouth tilted.

Seconds quietly ticked by before he gave Trowa a soft hug, feeling sad. He holed himself up in his room for so long and virtually IGNORED everyone else. Now his friend was leaving and they hardly had time to talk. It wasn't FAIR. Now he wished he could turn back the hands and allow himself more time to spend with the ex-pilot.

"I wish you could stay my friend, but you have your own life to get to." He sadly whispered. Pulling back, he blinked back tears. "I shall miss your presence Trowa."

"And I shall miss your friendship Quatre." Trowa softly commented. He beamed through shiny tears; glad Trowa called him his friend. "You have a safe journey to the colonies and don't work TOO hard." He admonished.

He smiled and nodded, knowing his absence and the meaning behind it wasn't lost on the quiet pilot.

Backing up, Trowa opened the door and looked at him again. "We will meet again, don't worry." And shut the door slowly behind him.

He sighed and covered his face with both hands, fighting back tears. Loneliness speared through him, quickly feeling detached from his best friend. He looked at his desk with distaste, the main reason he was unable to see Trowa. He never felt too boggled down as he did now. Even though he was always WORKING, he knew his friend's presence was nearby, and that always helped lighten his heart to take on the tasks he needed to finish.

"Oh to be as carefree as your life Trowa." He wished. Walking back to the leather chair, he sighed and sat. "As empty as you make it sound."

~*~*~

Another day passed, but Hilde had yet to wake up. Although her coma was an unfortunate thing, it was putting him behind schedule, though he was loathe to admit it. He spent too long away from the colony he was needed in. He procrastinated enough with his father's business and it was not a good habit to get into. He needed to stay on top of things or it would never thrive.

Clicking the locks shut on his leather briefcase, he looked around the room one last time. All he BROUGHT were the documents he now finished, having taken enough time to look over everything. He doubled his efforts now that Trowa was gone, knowing Relena was just as busy. With Duo never leaving Hilde's side, there was no real reason to leave his room except for food and exercise. He found no other way to fix the hole in his heart from his friend's absence, but it was still a poor way to pass the time.

What he REALLY wanted to do was take a long nap and a hot bath to relax from the stress of the war. But he wasn't given that tempting offer. He wasn't even able to do so now, his ride coming soon to take him to a shuttle. Looking at his watch, he figured enough time to say goodbye to everybody.

With a sigh, he grabbed his briefcase and walked to the door, shutting it quietly behind him. The first person he tracked down was Relena, knowing where she'd be.

He found her in her office as usual, looking through yet another manuscript. He didn't bother knocking since her door was open, a small breeze going through the archway. "Relena?" He called softly.

Her head jerked up, eyes lighting instantly when they landed on him. She smiled and stood. "Something you needed Quatre?" She asked cheerfully.

His eyes shot to the floor, feeling bad for disrupting her. He knew what that was like and it was hard to get back into the 'groove' of flying through papers when one was interrupted. He looked back into her eyes and smiled softly. "I just came to say I was leaving." He announced.

Relena walked around her desk and stopped in front of him. "Time flies." She softly joked, embracing him in a tight hug. He returned it as much as he could through his briefcase. She sighed, unable to hold it in. "Hilde still hasn't woken up." She reminded.

He nodded and pulled away to meet her eyes. "I know, but I can't WAIT any longer. I've finished everything IN here," His hand held up the briefcase momentarily, "and there's no other reason to stay. If I DON'T leave, I won't be able to get things STARTED." He sighed, a hand running over his tired face. "There's so much to DO, I need to find a shovel to dig THROUGH it all."

Relena smiled and one hand came up to comfortingly pat his shoulder. "I know what you're going through Quatre and I understand. I'll tell you what, I'll call you at the office the moment she wakes up." A smile lit her face. "And Duo lets her have visitors."

The two chuckled; knowing FULL well Duo hardly left her side, save for bathroom purposes and to stretch his legs when Sally examined the comatose girl. Duo even told Relena to have all his meals brought up to him so he wouldn't miss her waking up.

The small jest brought a smile to his face, lighting his eyes. "I'll send you the number when I get there and get things situated around." He promised. She nodded.

Not able to find a reason to stay any longer, he turned to the door, Relena walking him out. He paused in the hallway, a small sigh working its way through again. "I guess this's it. I'm going to go talk to Duo before I go." He said nonchalantly.

He wasn't about to say goodbye because goodbyes were forever. He knew he'd see his friends again, it was just a matter of WHEN. But that didn't make the seclusion dim any. Relena nodded and gave her friend another quick hug in departing. She followed his form until he walked around a corner.

~*~*~

The alarm sounded in the grungy apartment, startling its only inhabitant out of peaceful slumber. After hastily throwing off the covers, the annoying device was shut off a second later. After a sigh and a quick scrub to rub the sleepiness away, doe-like brown eyes looked around as sunlight filtered through closed blinds. A yawn littered the silence, quickly covered up through years of ingrained good manners. Slapping both cheeks a few times to wake up, the once peaceful sleeper stumbled into the bathroom to get ready.

After showering and finally drying a thick mound of deep chocolate hair, the single resident rummaged through cupboards to find something to eat for breakfast. A soft, despairing sigh worked through full lips in realization when there WASN'T any food in those empty cupboards. 'I guess I'll have to see if I can find something to eat at work.' Came the sad comprehension. 'And see if I have enough money to go grocery shopping later today.' Came the hopeful afterthought.

Picking up the small set of keys that rested on a hook by the door, a final swept was made through the apartment to make sure everything was in order and nothing was left behind. After being sure all was okay, the door was shut and locked.

Stopping in front of the immense office building, those chocolate eyes looked up, wondering how they were lucky enough to see such a magnificent structure day in and out. Looking at a pair of wide double doors, heeled feet started up the dozen steps to the office building.

'Why'd it have to be one of my ONLY days off?' Came the slightly irritated worry. 'My first day off in...two weeks was it?' A quiet sigh was expunged, but not heard through the milling crowd. 'If only I was getting PAID for coming in today, it wouldn't BE so bad.'

A courteous smile popped up on those full lips as the milling people waved or said hello to their fellow worker. A returned wave was the fruit of all the their efforts as the brown-eyed youth walked further through the lounging area.

"Hey girl, ready to meet the president today?"

Brown eyes looked at the co-worker, that smile a little more fake than when it was first presented. "Sure, I suppose the vice president can't do EVERYTHING while the main boss is gone." The soft soprano voice answered.

A soft, female chuckle sounded after. "Well...don't sound so HAPPY about it." Sarcasm laced thick in the joke, a small snort sounding right after. Deep brown eyes looked from behind the receptionist area, taking in the number of people that were waiting along with the two.

A small shake of the head flounced around the mane of thick, curly hair. "You know very WELL this is the first day off I've had in two weeks." Came the tight reply. "I was hoping to make a call while I was at it."

"Ah..." The female companion didn't really know what to say to that. "Well maybe...maybe it won't TAKE so long..." She offered hopefully. The smile was lost, a small grunt sounding through a tight, thin line.

"Let's hope so..." Was softly answered to her. With a minute shake of the head, a hand patted the female receptionist, gracing her with a small smile once again. "I'm going to the restroom to put my hair up real quick." Gaining a nod from the co-worker, a scrunchee was removed from one wrist and kept in one hand for future use.

Fastening the mound of hair under that large scrunchee, two hands did a quick feel to make sure everything was secure. Those doe-like eyes looked scrutinizingly in the mirror, wondering what made the face so special and worthy to work in such a classy establishment.

'What makes YOU so special?' Came the silent question. Hands propped over the porcelain sink as the face leaned closer to its reflection. The door opened, casting the once solitary occupant into slight embarrassment. Pulling away from the mirror, feigning a quick fix of makeup, those brown eyes darted around to make sure she wasn't being looked at. When the other female was out of sight, she quickly exited the women's room, hoping she wasn't blushing TOO bad.

Running a hand through the top of that thick hair, she casually walked back to the receptionist's desk, seeing her morning comrade taking a few calls. The part time worker spotted her and pointed to a slip of paper as she continued to work. Signing her name in with a list of other employees, she read the top silently and found she was the first 'wave' to meet the 'big boss'. That was fine with her, more time to herself when the mysterious meeting was done.

~*~*~

Ten minutes later found her and a dozen other people in one of the meeting rooms, patiently chatting about anything and everything while they all waited. She sat a few seats down from the head chair, looking around absently. One elbow on the white marble table helped prop her head up lazily. She wasn't in a talking mood, having too much on her mind. Groceries for one, a little more sleep was another. All she wanted was to sleep past five for once, that wasn't TOO much to ask.

A heaving breath left her, not caring about anyone else heard. 'Such is the sacrifice I do for money.' She thought despairingly.

Another ten minutes of patient chatting added a few rumors about their boss's location and she listened with half an ear. Tiredness was starting to catch up with her and she felt like getting a quick nap if she had to keep waiting anymore. All this sitting in comfortable leather chairs was going to be her downfall.

The doorknob clicked open, gaining everyone's attention. Quietly, a figure walked to the front of the table, setting a briefcase down softly, obviously nervous. Her eyes slowly moved to the head of the table, taking in the young man before her. Her breath caught as she looked into his eyes. They were the most unique color of blue/green she'd ever seen. Her own deep brown eyes widened and she felt her heart thump. He was EXTREMELY attractive and she felt her cheeks warm up a little.

'STOP that.' She ordered weakly. Full lips pressed together to keep the girlish smile from her face. Looking down at the marble for a minute while the handsome youth rummaged through the brown leather briefcase allowed her to compose herself. Looking back up with a neutral, businesslike face, she eyed the rest of his features.

After she'd finished looking him over, she wondered what he was doing. Her eyes narrowed skeptically. 'He's WAY too young to be the boss.' She thought quickly. 'Maybe the assistant or his secretary? Maybe to tell us where the big cheese IS?' She sure hoped that was it. Maybe the attractive blond was handing out some necessary papers they needed to read while they waited.

Leaning back in her chair, she casually eyed everyone else and saw smiles on a lot of faces. Her brow furrowed a little as she looked at all the elders. She was one of the youngest in the crowd, as well as the building. There were few people around younger than twenty, herself and her fellow part time receptionist being amongst the few.

He looked around his fellow co-workers, somewhat nervous. All these people worked with his father and probably expected great things from him as well. He hoped he was able to live up to them, to not fail their expectations. If he only knew what they WERE.

Clearing his throat softly, he pasted a soft, welcoming smile on his face. "I'm sorry to keep you all waiting," He softly apologized, "I was detained by a small emergency. I'm glad the staff at the Winner Company was able to do so well without the head president around to direct things."

Shutting his briefcase, he put it next to the chair and rested his fingers on the tips of the desk. He'd been reviewing one last document on the ride to the building and hadn't had time to put it away to his satisfaction. He was running late from his goodbyes and had to hustle to get inside.

He wished there was something he could do to busy his hands to relieve some of the butterflies in his stomach. All these people were staring at him with those wondering eyes... He took a deep breath, trying to figure out where to begin. 'I guess it's time I make it up as I go along. This IS only an introduction after all.' He thought.

Leaning back, he looked at each employee as he spoke. "I am happy you have been able to take time out of your busy schedules and meet with me. I have been working around the clock to get some of the necessary papers worked through, but I will need your help to further my knowledge of the business."

She sat up a little more in her chair, mind tingling. 'This guy doesn't SOUND like a personal assistant.' She thought doubtfully. Her eyes riveted to his figure as he slowly walked around the room, stopping minutely behind each leather chair an employee sat in.

"I would like to get to know all of you. Each of you have worked with my father and know the man he is. I am asking the same of you. I will work alongside you all to make this company better than before. I would like your first and last name, and which department you work in." He stopped in front of the his chair again and let his eyes land on the one to his right to start.

She was floored! The blood rushed past her ears, blocking out the people's voices as they humbly requested his wish. 'HE'S THE BOSS?!' She mentally screeched. If she was alone, she would've groaned out loud. 'Great...JUST GREAT. I JUST CHECKED OUT MY BOSS!!'

Unable to cover her face to hide the humiliation in her eyes, she forced herself to remained poised like the rest of her co-workers. 'After all,' She thankfully thought, 'nobody else HEARD me comment about him. So I really have nothing to be EMBARRASSED about.' She nearly smiled, but felt a small nudge in her side. Realizing it was her turn to introduce herself, and forgetting to, she fought a blush. 'Too LATE.' She meekly realized.

"Divinity Barbados, receptionist." She stated quickly, letting the others finish up.

Now she REALLY felt like covering her face with both hands. 'Embarrassed on my first day of meeting the boss. That is NOT a good omen.' Oh, how she wished the floor would swallow her up right then. Keeping her eyes purposely diverted to the marble table, she kept her ears alert so she wouldn't make such a fool out of herself NEXT time.

~*~*~

Everyone started filing out of the room, the first wave of introductions done. Sitting back in his chair, he watched them all go with a small smile. Things didn't go QUITE as badly as he planned, though his quiet intro into the room and the beginning needed some work.

'Though I'm not leaving, and next time I'll do better.' He silently vowed. He didn't want anyone thinking him a moronic chief for not being able to find the simplest words of opening. 'I could've just said HI.' He cracked sarcastically. Shaking his head from the lessening stress, he checked his watch to make sure there was plenty of time before the next meeting.

Getting from the chair, he slowly walked to the window when everyone was gone. Clasping both hands behind him, his mind sprung back to his exit at the Sanc Kingdom. 'Ah Duo, you'll be okay. I know it.' He thought serenely.

"Duo, do you remember what Trowa said?" He asked, feeling it too ironic that he said something similar to the despondent pilot. The brown haired youth nodded slightly.

"To keep my love for Hilde strong and I'd be okay." He responded glumly.

He nodded and looked at Hilde. Giving her a gentle smile she couldn't see, his hand softly patted hers. "That's right. She'll wake up Duo. She's a fighter." His eyes turned wistful, thoughtful as he continued to hold her hand gently. "She's done so much for us, why would she leave all that? She'll want to see what she's helped wrought."

Colorful eyes wisely turned to equally colorful eyes. He gave Duo an encouraging smile. "She just needs time to let her body HEAL enough to stay awake. She's much too weak to support her internal systems. That's why she hasn't woken up yet."

Duo looked at him with slightly awed, wide eyes. After momentarily staring at him, Duo looked into his love's peaceful face. "That's what some of Sally's charts say." He mumbled.

He nodded. "Just give her a little more time. Be patient." He stood up and rested his shoulder over the ex-pilot. "And don't beat yourself up so much. You got to her before she couldn't return to us at ALL. Be glad you helped her THAT much."

He sighed. 'Duo loves Hilde so much... It's no wonder he's beating himself up over this.' Blue eyes roamed over the city, his location a good half dozen stories up. Eyes closing in resignation, his bowed head shook slowly. 'But he won't let any of our advice sink in until Hilde wakes up. He won't let himself listen to reason.'

A soft knock sounded, casting him from his despairing thoughts. Whirling around, he was face to face with the one person his eyes strayed to a lot during the conference.

Smiling a little, she stepped into the room once. "Sorry to bother you Mr. Winner. But there were those documents that financing brought up upon your request."

He nodded in remembrance, wanting as many documents about the company's spending habits as possible. They met in the middle of the room and she silently handed them over. He smiled a little as he looked at them.

Feeling like fidgeting, she hopefully cast aside all nervousness as she fought for confident words. "The rest of shipping and receiving should have their documents for you when you have your meeting with THEM." She babbled. Upon finishing the sentence, she forced herself to stop while he lazily flipped through the papers.

'God, do I sound like a complete MORON or WHAT?' She mentally berated. 'Okay, just act like you've been working her for a little MORE than two weeks.' She coached. Biting her inner lip, she fought to shuffle her weight to her other heeled foot.

"Did you need anything else Mr. Winner?" She asked, hoping she could leave. Answering phones on her first few days wasn't as stressful as standing face to face with her boss. A boss HER age that looked so incredibly handsome...

'HUSH!' She mentally screamed. 'No more instigations on his appearance!'

"Quatre." He said, eyes still scanning the numbers.

Unfocused thoughts flew away as she quickly turned her attention to him. "Huh?" She blundered, than mentally sighed harshly.

'Not very TACT of you was that?'

He looked up from his papers, those beautiful eyes of his contacting with hers. "It's Quatre. I've gone through it with you in the meeting. No Mr. Winner around the office, you'll make me sound like my father."

His eyes crinkled in the corners through his smile, but she saw underlying pain in those blue hues. She felt for him, having known that the former Mr. Winner was killed during the war for not wanting his company used for horrible means.

She smiled softly, almost in apology. "Sorry Mr. Winner. But I prefer to maintain a business atmosphere where I work. I know you want it to be impersonal, but I would feel uncomfortable calling my boss by his first name."

His eyes narrowed humorously. "But you'll allow ME to call YOU by YOUR first name?" He asked, his smile changing to one of humor, the pain now gone from his eyes.

Her head ducked, breaking eye contact as she sheepishly grinned. Exhaling a soft breath, she looked back into his eyes with small determination. "Well...it's a RIGHT for the head of a company to call his employees by their first names."

His head cocked to one side, an eyebrow rising. "Not REALLY."

His thoughts were straying from concentration as he stared into her rich chocolate eyes. Eyes larger than an the average size, irises filling more of her eyes than the whites. Long lashes that curled almost naturally upwards framed those rich brown orbs. Her nose was cute for someone her age, the little button shape different than most he'd seen around the workplace. Full lips curved to a sheepish smile, giving away a hint of white teeth.

A small course of adrenaline coursed through him as he stood a few foot away from her, feeling like bumbling for some reason. Giving a small dismissive shake, he smiled again. "Well, I can't stop your personal preference. I'm just saying that I'd like you to call me Quatre." Her smile turned to a half smirk as she continued to stare into his eyes.

"Well you'll get Mr. Winner or Sir from me, Mr. Winner." She ended up smiling again from the strangeness of her omission. Remembering she was in with the boss wasting her off time, her mind popped up what she was REALLY supposed to be doing. "If there's nothing you need Sir, I'll take my leave and see you tomorrow." Taking a step away, she kept her front to his. It was bad manners to turn your back on the head of operations when you hadn't really been dismissed.

"It's Divinity, right?" Stopping instinctively, she nodded. Giving a quick glance behind her, one hand rested over the doorknob, waiting to close it after her. "You're not staying to work? I thought EVERYONE was." He continued somewhat confused. She denied his statement with a small shake of her head.

"Today is my day off. I was called yesterday evening, informed to be here to meet you." She smiled somewhat, still not all that happy to be here on one of her few days off. She saw ENOUGH of the place as it was. "And now that I HAVE, I'll say good day Mr. Winner, and I'll see you tomorrow bright and early."

He managed a lopsided smile and nodded, allowing her to close the door. When his eyes met the back of it, his brow immediately furrowed. 'She SURE was in a hurry to LEAVE.' Turning, he went back to the window and actually looked out over the colony. 'Pretty good view.' He absently thought. 'I wonder what it'll be like from father's office.'

Sadness tinged in his soul and poured from his eyes. He felt a little more comfortable after meeting a little of his father's employees, but he was still nervous at taking on the responsibility before him. All he'd seen so far were workers at LEAST twice his age. The only ones around his age that he saw SO far were Divinity and the other receptionist out front.

His mind shot back to the chocolate-haired woman, properly dressed in her maroon business pantsuit. She appeared to be extremely bored when he first entered, almost like she would fall asleep any minute. He felt eyes on him from a lot of the staff in the first meeting, but hers seemed to pierce straight through him. When he looked into her eyes the first time, she seemed discomfited about something. After their first gaze connected, he found himself drawing back to that deep shade of brown. 'Such a beautiful eye color.' He absently thought.

Quickly shaking his head to rid himself of those thoughts, he mentally chided himself. 'She's an EMPLOYEE. You're probably just happy she's around your age so you don't feel like the kid taking a tour.' He figured. Turning back to the papers he held, his leather chair was occupied again as he looked through a few numbers, awaiting the next group to soon enter.

~*~*~

Now back at the apartment, Divinity changed from her business clothes and into a pair of comfy sweats and t-shirt. Going to a paper bag on the counter, she quickly put away the small amount of groceries she was able to buy. A lot of it was rice and noodles, tea, and a small container of milk.

'Not that much.' She realized sadly. Most of it was bulk stuff, something she could combine with the other meager supplies in her cupboards. After closing the fridgerator, she leaned against it and covered her face with both hands.

"Sure has been one hell of a day." She muttered. Realizing she had yet to make the fated call she talked about earlier, she sighed. "DIOS mio but I hate doing this." She muttered, her dialect slipping to her native tongue.

Going to her small desk, she sat in a plastic chair given to her by her parents and turned on the vid phone. Dialing the number to her parent's home, she greeted by the sight of her eldest brother. The two smiled, but it was pained. "Enrique." She said.

He nodded. "Divinity. She's still the same hermana." He reported solemnly.

She nodded seriously. "Which is a good and BAD thing." She muttered sadly. Her eldest brother shook his head.

"Would you like to talk to padre?" He asked, knowing she would. Without a word, she nodded. Staring at the white wall only momentarily, she was soon face to face with her beloved father.

"Hola padre." She greeted, smiling tenderly.

He returned it, glad to see his only daughter. "Hola mi hija." He returned, a Spanish accent gracing his voice. Her own roots returning to her, the accent in her professional and much practiced tone slipped too. "How are you doing?" He asked.

She put on a strong face, hoping not to worry him more than he already was. She knew he had enough on his plate, with her mother and with her own position being so far away from home.

Her mind wracked for something positive to report to her father. A smile lit her face as she remembered what she was forced to get up so early for. "Well, the boss's hijo is on L-4. He's taking over the company. I just met him today." She reported.

Manuel Barbados's brow furrowed in confusion. "Wasn't today your day off, mi hija?" He asked, knowing a lot of her schedule. He had to, if he was going to get to talk to his only daughter. She worked when the company opened till they closed and he knew she worked TOO HARD. She would be too tired to talk to him afterwards. He tried calling her once after work, but she looked like she'd just waken up.

Divinity's head bowed. "Yes papa, but it was important that I be there, so I went." Looking back up at him, her eyes gleamed. "Besides, el jefe is pretty cute." She winked quickly, lightening both of their moods.

Manuel chuckled softly, shaking his head. "Just so you remember who he IS hija." He remembered, slowly wagging a fatherly finger. "Ese trabajo is better than your last one and you are better off with this."

She nodded patronizingly, having heard the speech to behave a NUMBER of times. "CONOZCO padre. I know how to behave at work." She smirked. "He's one of those types who're personal and I had to remind him about my professional status."

"¿Qué?" He asked confused. She smiled.

"He wanted me to call him by his first name, but I told him it would be Mr. or Sir."

He nodded, pleased with his daughter. "Bueno. I don't know how this man IS, but an employee should never be so personal with their boss. It's bad business when clients see that."

She kept that patient smile on her face, knowing her father's 'traditional business' tactics already. He lectured her upon learning about her new job before she left home.

The two talked for a little while longer until she yawned and her father told her to get some sleep. She knew he was all too aware she over worked herself, but there was naught she could do to change it. She longed to have the pleasure to work the normal nine to five hours stipulated in the ad, but wasn't able to do so.

Closing the vid phone, she left the chair and dressed for bed. Though only four thirty in the afternoon, she was still tired and fell asleep nearly immediately. Going to sleep so early in the day allowed her to be rested to the challenges each morning brought. And with a good sleep, the strength to work those long hours.

'Gods but I wish I could have a few more days off.' She wished before dropping off.