A/N: This story was written out of the mere fact that I never write anything fun anymore. So yeah, this isn't meant to be taken seriously at all. I just wanted to give myself a chuckle. I thought something like this happening would be funny. And yes, my OC Lista is part of this story. Couldn't write something like this without her being around to suffer through it. XD

Sixteen Candles

Blinking sleepily, Quatre made a discontented noise and curled into the warmth next to him. He could see the sun's rays fighting their way through the closed satin curtains, trying to rouse him from his lethargic haze, but he would have none of it. Lying in bed, his body grazed delicately against Lista's, was far too appealing than waking up and meeting the day.

"Is it morning already?" Lista's sleep-induced voice sang in his ear. Her body shifted to face him, her arm draping around his midsection.

"No," he lied, wrapping his arms around her back to pull her against him. "Go back to sleep, sweetheart." He heard her moan of confirmation and nuzzled her nose in the crook of his shoulder, settling in the comfortable cloak of his arms. Her fingers curled over his nightshirt, one of her bare legs stretching over his.

Yes, this was a nice way to spend his day.

The door to the bedroom slammed open with a start, causing Quatre and Lista both to jerk from their sleepy hold on one another. The object of the disturbance, a rather rambunctious and violet-eyed terror, stood tall and proud, a smile stretched across his face.

"Rise and shine!" he shouted, marching over to the other side of the room and casting the curtains wide open. When the sunshine beat into the room, Quatre shielded his eyes while Lista glowered at the braided menace. Duo spun around and took in the twosome's countenance. Lista's hair was pulled atop her head, but during the night, most of her locks had come loose over her shoulders. One side of Quatre's hair had been pressed flat, a sure sign that he'd slept on that side for most of the night. Laughing, Duo shook his head. "Good God, you both look like hell. Were you guys getting busy last night?"

Lista heard Quatre groan loudly in embarrassment. "Duo! Don't talk like that! I have half a mind to—"

"Calm down, Lissy," Duo said, waving her off dismissively. That only seemed to anger her further. The Deathscythe pilot watched flames nearly engulf the normally majestic emerald in her eyes. He shrugged her off and grinned. "Today is no day to be spent in bed! It's a special someone's birthday!"

The irritation all but melted from Lista's visage as she turned to Quatre, who groaned again and shook his head. "I told you that any kind of celebration was unnecessary, Duo," the blonde pilot reminded his friend, lowering his arm to gaze upon the braided boy.

"How did you get in the house anyway?" Lista suddenly asked, tilting her head. "Surely Rashid didn't give you clearance."

Duo's smile, if at all possible, only widened further. He puffed out his chest proudly, resting his fists on his waist. "He sure did. I think he wants to have a party just as much as I do. I got here bright and early to start the preparations. The others arrived not too long ago."

"The others?" Quatre repeated, eyes widening. "Heero, Trowa and Wufei are here as well?"

"Sure are!" Duo walked over to the edge of the bed and plopped down. "They wanted to let you two sleep, but you can sleep whenever you want. You only have one birthday a year, so you should meet the day with a breath of fire and make this day one to remember!"

"It seems as if it already has been made one to remember," Quatre pointed out wryly. "It's not very often that I get woken up so forcefully."

"Well, I had planned on waking you up in a different way, but my plan wouldn't have worked so well with Lissy in the bed with you," Duo confessed, casting a sly grin in the ebony-haired woman's direction.

She folded her arms over her chest. "And what does that mean?"

"I was gonna jump on the bed," he grinned with a shrug. "But I figured Quatre would have a cow about that since you were in here with him."

"Quatre would have been the least of your worries if you tried that," Lista grumbled.

"Yeah, yeah," Duo said, waving her off again. Before she could rebuke, he thrust himself to his feet once more. "Anyway, we got a big birthday breakfast waiting for you, buddy! Up and at 'em!"

Quatre and Lista looked at one another for a moment, and silently knew that Duo had no intention of leaving the room until they made at least an ounce of movement. So, begrudgingly, both Gundam pilots tossed the blankets off themselves and stood, stretching and yawning as they rolled the sleep from their limbs.

"Give us a moment to dress, and we'll meet you in the hall, Duo," Quatre finally said, noticing the boy was fit in casual wear: a pair of black slacks and a red t-shirt tucked into his pants.

The braided pilot's shoulders instantly slumped. "Oh c'mon, Quatre. You don't need to be dressed or anything. It's just us! Your breakfast will get cold!"

"Don't pout, Duo," Lista scolded, walking over to a dresser Quatre had designated as her own. "We're getting dressed first. It'll only take five minutes."

Duo sputtered, but knew he was in a losing battle. He lowered his head and sighed. "Okay, fine. But five minutes! I'll be outside the door counting the seconds!"

Lista rolled her eyes as Quatre chuckled in amusement. "There's no doubt in my mind that you will be, Duo. Now go," she said, pointing her finger towards the door.

Duo silently consented and walked from the room, shutting the door behind him with a resounding click. Lista sighed exasperatingly as she searched the drawer for her favorite pair of stone-washed jeans and a plain white three-quarter sleeve shirt.

"I hope you know he probably has more than just a breakfast planned," Lista pointed out, turning over her shoulder to gaze at Quatre as he rummaged through his closet for a pair of khaki pants and a shirt that would match.

"I know," he answered, choosing a burnt orange dress shirt. He slung both articles of clothing over his arm and walked to her side as she pushed the dresser drawer shut, having chosen her own clothing for the day. He pressed a kiss to her cheek. "I hope you are prepared as well for what he could have in store."

Lista groaned, shaking her head. "I don't think anyone could ever be prepared for any kind of surprise Duo plans."

After having dressed and brushed their hair into a more presentable nature, Quatre ushered Lista out into the hall where Duo, as promised, was leaning against the wall with his eyes cemented on his watch.

"You were seconds away from me coming back in there," Duo warned as he lifted his head with a grin.

"And those would have been your last," Lista warned with a frown. "Let's get this over with." She squeezed Quatre's hand and the twosome followed Duo through the large estate as he whistled a random tune, his hands tucked deep into his pockets.

Quatre's mind was in a hurried flash as he wondered what Duo could possibly have planned for him. He knew this was just the beginning, a hopefully well-mannered breakfast with his former war comrades. Lista wanted to have some kind of celebration for him, but he declined. At least she settled for his decision without much argument.

Duo would never relent, no matter how much Quatre insisted that his birthday be taken like any other normal day. He figured it would be less painful for him to just try going with the flow at this point.

Duo thrust the double doors open to the dining room. "I'm back, and I've got the birthday boy in tow!" he announced.

Quatre and Lista walked into the room, watching as their other three friends—Heero, Trowa and Wufei—all stood from their spots at the large rectangular dining room table.

"It's good to see the both of you," Trowa greeted first, walking up to the twosome with a warm smile. He was clad in stonewash jeans and a green buttoned shirt. He rested his hand on Lista's shoulder and turned to Quatre. "Happy birthday."

Quatre offered his friend a warm, grateful smile. "Thank you, Trowa. It's nice to see you." The Arabian heir turned to his other two friends, Heero dressed in dark blue jeans and a black t-shirt while Wufei chose black slacks and a form-fitting honey-yellow dress shirt. "Thank you all for coming. You didn't have to."

"Believe me, we didn't have much choice in the matter," Wufei informed him, his arms folded tight over his chest. He ignored the stare coming from the American pilot and smirked. "Happy birthday, Quatre. Sixteen comes quick, doesn't it?"

"I suppose so," Quatre said with a shrug. "I never gave it much thought."

"It's better that way," Heero spoke up, hands rested casually at his sides. "You don't need to dwell on age. It's meaningless."

Quatre appreciated his friend's logic on the matter. Leave it to Heero. "Yes, you have a point, Heero."

Duo released a heavy sigh of air and came up behind Quatre, wrapping his arm about his friend's neck. Lista snapped her hand out of Quatre's in surprise, wishing to avoid being forcibly thrust from Quatre's side in the process. "Oh come on, we don't have time for all this talk. Breakfast is on the table, and I'm starving!"

"That's certainly no surprise," Wufei said under his breath.

The six Gundam pilots walked over to the table, but Quatre stood at the edge for a moment, his eyes tracing a path over the mountains of food prepared for them. Pancakes, sausage, various types of cereal, eggs, blueberry muffins and toast adorned the table, accompanied by pitchers of ice water, apple juice and orange juice. Six silver place settings were placed with empty glass flutes and white napkins.

"Well, the cook certainly went all out, didn't he?" Lista said, gaping at the exquisite dressings before her. She settled herself in a chair next to Trowa and folded a napkin on her lap.

"I'd say so, but I'm sure he wasn't the one who was behind it all," Trowa replied, casting a sideways glance to the braided pilot that sat down across from him.

Duo was nearly drooling as he began snatching up slices of toast. "I had nothing to do with it," he defended. He filled his glass to the brim with orange juice and drank half its contents in several large gulps. Smacking his lips at the refreshing taste, he looked up at Quatre, who still had not taken his seat at the head of the table. "You awake over there, Quatre?"

The blonde pilot blinked once and shook his head. "Sorry. You didn't have to do this, Duo. It's completely—"

"Unnecessary, I know. But you deserve it, buddy! It's your sixteenth birthday, and that's something to celebrate!" Duo pointed out as he scooped a large spoonful of scrambled eggs onto his plate. "Well, you'll see." He flashed his blonde friend a wink and turned back to filling his plate to the very edges with food.

Oh Allah. That was the last thing Quatre wanted to hear.

The birthday celebrant finally took his seat at the edge of the table and began sifting small amounts of food on his plate. As much as his stomach grumbled, he wasn't quite certain he'd be able to eat anything as Duo's words echoed in his head.

The element of surprise was not something Quatre looked forward to, especially if it was coming from Duo.

The Gundam pilots engaged in casual conversation, each asking the other what had been occupying their time since the end of the Eve Wars. Quatre relayed how busy his schedule had become now that he had taken the head of his family's business. Ten to twelve hour days were customary with most of his time spent fleeting from one meeting right to the next. He didn't mind the hustle and bustle of his day, though; oftentimes he didn't even realize how long he'd spend at the office until his advisors began leaving.

Wufei really had nothing going on since the war ended. He admitted he was rather aimless and wasn't sure what to do with his life now that soldiers were deemed unnecessary. He spent most of his days updating his Gundam, just in case. Quatre assured him his niche in life would come to him eventually.

Duo worked closely with Howard on his salvage team. He enjoyed the freedom, journeying from colony to colony and living the life of a drifter. He was often accompanied by Hilde, who found she also enjoyed that type of work. He liked the company she provided. Even though he didn't admit it, Quatre was certain the ex-OZ soldier kept Duo grounded. He wasn't sure how she could handle his bursts of energy.

Trowa was also an avid traveler, having returned to the circus life as soon as the war ended. He found he enjoyed being around Catherine and the animals. He felt a connection with them that war could never sate. He was quite content living that life of peace, of normalcy his life had previously been vacant of.

Heero was somewhat silent on what he'd been doing with most of his time, but Quatre was very aware that he was Relena's secret security detail. However, he was sure she wasn't quite conscious of that fact. He hid himself in the shadows, listening to her speeches and watching from afar the things she did to keep peace a realistic ideal.

And Lista, as Quatre knew, was granted a military title by ESUN. However, she became a very active voice in pacifism and wished for the colonists to fight for their own ideals, much like she had as a double agent. She was becoming just as publicized as Relena; in fact, Lista was one of her strongest supporters.

"I'm glad we've all been able to move on from the war and look to the future," Quatre said with a smile before taking a bite of pancake. It melted in his mouth, vanilla extract evident as he chewed and swallowed. "The restoration has been going rather smoothly so far. I think ESUN enjoys that we often lend a helping hand."

"They do," Lista confirmed after taking a small sip of her apple juice. "They think we were the ones who brought on the peace, and it comforts them to know we are helping to maintain it. We're their freedom fighters, as Relena has often put it."

Quatre opened his mouth to make a reply, but Duo was quick to interrupt him. "We don't need to worry about any of that. The war's over, and everything's hunky dory. That's boring stuff now." He pointed his empty fork at Quatre before sticking it through a large piece of pancake. "I have big plans for you today, buddy. I hope you're not going to be too busy."

Quatre winced. "Well, I do have some paperwork that needs checked and filed before the end of the day. I promised my investors and advisors I would have contracts mailed out today. So yes, I will be a little busy."

Duo's mouth hung agape. "What? It's your birthday! You can't work on your birthday!" Duo spat the words like they were blasphemous.

Quatre shook his head. "I'm sorry, Duo, but I do have some things to do. But perhaps I'll be able to get everything complete, so some of the day can be salvaged for whatever you have planned."

As soon as the words left his mouth, Duo's pout quickly changed into a satisfied grin. "Great! I can handle that! I'm sure we can all find something to do while you work."

"Of course. You're all welcome to any part of the estate," Quatre replied with a smile. "I'll see what I can do about finishing my work as promptly as possible."

Breakfast continued without a hitch, Duo the first to jump up and exclaim how full he was. He patted Quatre on the back and promised he would come searching for him periodically to check on his progress. Quatre chuckled at his prowess and watched him leave the dining room. His other comrades, save for Lista, excused themselves to explore the estate and find adequate work to occupy themselves with in the intervening time.

"I'm going to take a shower," Lista announced as soon as they were alone. She rested her hands on Quatre's shoulders before he could stand from his seat. "Would you like me to guard your office so Duo can't interrupt you?"

Quatre peered up at her, grateful of her care. He shook his head. "No, I'm sure he understands that I need concentration to get my work done in a timely manner. If he wishes for his plans to go smoothly, he'll just have to be patient."

Lista smiled and leaned down, giving the tip of his nose a gentle peck of her lips. "All right then. I have some conference calls to attend in a little while, so I'll be in the library if you need me. They shouldn't take too long. I'll still keep an eye out for Duo. He has that glint in his eyes."

"I noticed. I'm trying not to think about it. Whatever he has planned, I'm sure he's managed to make it memorable," Quatre replied with a nervous smile. "I'm just not sure in which manner it's intended."

"Don't dwell on it. If Duo plans something a little too unruly for you, I'll handle it," Lista assured him with a smile. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and kissed the side of his mouth. "I'll see you in a little while."

Quatre watched her walk from the room, the tingle left from her touch an afterthought he'd rather not forget. He heaved a sigh and pushed himself to his feet, deciding it best to get started on his work. It was going to be a long day.

Two hours later, Quatre mulled over the remaining contracts that needed his attention. He rubbed his fingers over his temples, his head throbbing from the endless amount of paperwork he'd read two and three times over.

If it weren't for Duo's interruption that morning, he surmised he'd probably still be in bed with Lista, blissfully asleep and warm with her in his arms. He much preferred that to sitting at his desk like a mindless drone, scribbling his signature at the bottom of nearly every paper presented before him.

Even as close as he was to finishing, he couldn't help but stand from his desk, insistent on stretching his legs now gone numb. He walked over to the large multi-story window, gazing out into his backyard. He sighed in relief when the first person he noticed was Duo, sporting a pair of navy blue swimming shorts as he walked briskly to the edge of the in-ground pool.

But in a flash, the braided pilot was flailing his arms and falling face first into the water. There was a large splash and seconds later, he came to the surface, sputtering and shouting curses that Quatre could not hear thanks to the layered glass of his closed window. He couldn't help but laugh, especially when he saw the culprit had been Lista, her chest puffed out proudly at her success.

Duo thrust an incriminating finger at her, but she only shrugged and chuckled. Duo scowled and began flailing his arms again, this time sending waves of water careening towards the ESUN official. Lista cried out, held her hands out in front of herself in defense, and ran back into the house. Duo thrust his fist into the air, declaring himself the victor.

Shaking his head, Quatre turned away from the spectacle and returned to his desk, believing the small break was what he needed to finish his paperwork. At least he knew Duo wasn't hiding in a corner, basking in whatever surprise birthday plans he had. Somehow that knowledge comforted him. The blonde picked up his ballpoint pen and returned his attention to the contract before him. A contagious smile pasted his lips.

It was nearing lunchtime just as Quatre finished filing his paperwork back into his desk. It took less time than he thought, thanks to only one interruption from Duo not long after Lista's pool attack. He managed to vent just long enough for Lista to come in search for him, quickly shooing him from the office so Quatre could finish his work. He thanked her not only for the protection, but for the spectacle at the pool. With a quick kiss, Lista was out of the room again, claiming she had one more conference call before she could call it a day.

Quatre had finished before her, and thought he could peruse through some security cameras to see if Duo was up to anything suspicious. He headed to his surveillance room down the hall, encountering only several of the Maguanac soldiers who all greeted him with a happy birthday.

Taking a seat in front of the many screens before him, he began the tapes starting early that morning, fast forwarding until he noticed Duo's arrival to the estate. Just as he said, it was Rashid who cleared him and allowed him inside. He followed Duo's every action, and saw that nothing out of the ordinary followed the braided pilot around. He did, however, notice that Duo was talking an awful lot with Abdul and Auda, but that seemed like nothing new. Duo did enjoy his gossip.

Heero, Trowa and Wufei arrived at the estate about an hour later, all within minutes of each other. He was sure that was planned on Duo's part. The American pilot was no slouch when it came to his antics; Quatre was certain that Duo arranged their flights to the desert estate. The four pilots talked for a short while before Duo disappeared, no doubt choosing that moment to come and wake him and Lista.

He continued forwarding through the tapes, finding nothing out of the ordinary for Duo to be doing while he hid himself in his office. He shut off the tapes and sighed. So, he could find nothing in Duo's short time there that could possibly hint what was planned. Somehow that irked him even more. He was hoping to find something, anything, that could help brace him for what Duo was planning.

Quatre gave up and exited the room, heading for the library to see if Lista's conference call had ended. When he walked around the corner right before the closed doors of the library, he bumped right into Trowa.

"I'm sorry, Trowa. I didn't know you were there," Quatre apologized, offering his taller friend a remorseful smile.

Trowa shook his head. "No harm done, Quatre. Actually, I was coming to search for you. Duo has arranged lunch for us."

Quatre's smile faded. "What? After that large breakfast? I couldn't possibly eat another bite!"

"I tried telling him that, but he's insisting. Lista just got off her conference call. You just missed her. She headed for the dining room. We should probably go ourselves," Trowa suggested.

Quatre sighed and nodded in defeat. He didn't think he had any room left after the bountiful breakfast they had only a few hours earlier. Hadn't Duo heard of eating in moderation?

The two pilots walked into the dining room, finding that everyone was accounted for except the two of them. The table was empty, save for place settings arranged much like that morning. Wufei and Heero were seated in the same places as they were earlier, while Lista was whispering to Duo in the corner.

Quatre walked over to the table, peering down at Wufei and Heero. "What are they talking about?" he asked, curiosity striking his features.

"We don't know. I'd like to think Lista isn't so easily reeled in and hasn't become a co-conspirator in whatever Duo has planned for you," Heero answered nonchalantly, eyes closed.

"Definitely not," Quatre instantly rebuffed. "I made my feelings known when she tried to arrange a birthday celebration of her own. She has respected my wishes on the matter."

"You hope," Wufei added. Quatre looked over at him in question. "Perhaps you've forgotten that those two are rather close and are not quite as different as you may think them to be."

Quatre opened his mouth to rebuke, but his voice was lost. He certainly hoped that Lista hadn't decided to help Duo in his secret planning. The more he thought about Wufei's words, the more fear seemed to spark through him like a bolt of lightning. Duo and Lista conspiring together was worse than having to face all of White Fang alone.

His worries rose to the surface when Duo and Lista broke away from one another and came to the dining table. Duo sat down, eerily silent, while Lista joined Quatre's side and pressed a kiss against his cheek in greeting.

"Did you get everything done?" she asked with a smile.

Quatre knew he was overanalyzing the situation, but he could have sworn her voice sounded too sweet for his comfort. "Yes, I did. And did you?"

She nodded. "I did. Everything is taken care of on my end. I can enjoy the rest of my day without having to deal with anything work-related."

Quatre clasped a hand over hers. "Glad to hear it, sweetheart." He quickly turned to Duo, who was sitting with his chin rested in his palms. "So Duo, what lunch have you planned? Surely you didn't think we'd be hungry after such a large breakfast."

Duo snapped his head up and instantly grinned. "Hey, don't worry, Quatre. It's nothing huge, and you don't have to eat if you don't want to, but I wanted to make sure you got it now. You'll be too busy this evening."

"Too busy?" Quatre turned to Lista, who only shrugged, but her smile remained plastered on her lips. The blonde pilot frowned. "Do you know something you're not telling me?"

"I know nothing, sweetheart," she answered with a swift shake of her head. "Believe me, I would tell you if I knew. Duo won't tell me a thing. He's insisting it stay as a surprise. He's the only one who knows what's going on tonight."

"So, at least I know it's happening tonight," Quatre said, somewhat sated by that small bit of information. "I suppose that gives me time to prepare for whatever may be heart attack-inducing." He pulled a chair out for Lista, and this time, decided to sit next to her rather than take the head of the table like at breakfast. "All right, so what have you arranged, Duo?"

"Well, what's traditional for a birthday?" Duo asked with a sly grin. He didn't give anyone a chance to answer. "A birthday cake, of course!"

As soon as he made his rather boisterous announcement, Auda and Abdul came walking through the kitchen with a chocolate-iced three-tier cake. There were lit candles circling each gold-icing streamed tier. They placed the cake gently on the bare table and grinned at their master.

"Happy birthday Master Quatre!" Abdul said, flashing the blonde boy a thumbs up.

Quatre smiled and nodded. "Thank you, Abdul. Auda." He walked to the other side of the table, gazing down upon the mountainous cake. "Happy 16th Birthday Quatre" was scripted on the top tier in golden yellow icing. "Who made this? It's lovely."

"That would be Miss Lista," Auda quickly answered, a sly grin covering his face, sticking his thumb in the black-haired girl's direction. "She's a damn good baker if I do say so myself."

Quatre snapped his head in her direction, facing the flush of her cheeks as she tried to hide a smile. "You're too modest, Auda," she said, waving her hand up and down. "It's a guilty pleasure, I have to admit."

"Lista, you didn't have to do this," Quatre pointed out. He suddenly frowned. "When did you find the time to do this?"

A gentle giggle sang from the bed of her throat. "While you were working in the office today. I didn't have any conference calls. It was just an excuse." She cast a smile at Duo before chuckling. "That's what Duo and I were discussing. He wanted to make sure the cake was ready."

"So wait a minute," Quatre quickly interrupted. "Were you in on Duo's plan to come here with the others?"

Lista shook her head. "Oh no. I had no idea what he was planning. I just mentioned to him that I had every intention on baking you a cake today while you were taking care of business matters, and he thought he'd try to help. He was just going to order one until I mentioned my own plan. It just seemed to work out." She strode over to him, noticing his slight annoyance at being kept out of the loop. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she kissed his cheek. "I'm sorry for deceiving you, but I wanted to do something for you since you wouldn't let me organize a proper celebration."

Quatre's irritation backfired, his frown hidden behind a forgiving smile. "Thank you, Lista. That was sweet of you to go out of your way for me." His eyes traveled back over to the cake. He couldn't help but be curious. "So, what flavor is it?"

Lista laughed. "Yellow cake and chocolate icing. Your favorite," she replied. She noticed Quatre drag his tongue over his lips as she slipped her hands from his neck. "So, do you still believe the cake is unnecessary?"

"Well, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to have some," Quatre gave in. He picked up a silver knife. "Does anyone else want some?"

Lista quickly sifted the knife out of Quatre's hand. "You get the first slice. I'll cut it." She offered him a smile and carefully slid the knife down into the dessert. Auda handed Lista a stack of plates and the ebony-haired pilot began passing out slices to the others at the table. "There's plenty here for everyone, so all of the Maguanacs should be able to have some." She handed a plate to the two soldiers. "And if not, I made a little bit extra for you guys. It's in the fridge."

"You're the best, Miss Lista!" Abdul grinned. He hurriedly took his plate back into the kitchen, Auda following close behind with a shout of thanks.

Quatre was already on his third bite by the time his men had vacated the dining room. "Lista, it tastes wonderful," he gushed, staring up at her in gratitude. "Thank you, sweetheart."

Lista felt her face heat up in a blush, and quickly turned away. "You're welcome. Now eat up. Duo didn't actually arrange any lunch. The cake was it for now since we had such a large breakfast."

Quatre nodded to her, his mouth full of the moist dessert.

"This is the best!" Duo said, nearly spitting cake out all over the table as he spoke. "I'm having two pieces!"

Lista chuckled, shaking her head. "I figured. You like to eat anyway."

But Duo said nothing, nor could he even if he wanted to. He was only several bites away from clearing off his plate. Lista turned to her other comrades. She couldn't help but giggle as she watched all of them all but inhale the dessert in front of them.

After their lunch of Lista's birthday cake, Duo ran off in a random direction, claiming he needed to start getting things prepared for the night's plans. They all watched him go in curiosity.

"So, I don't suppose any of you know what Duo's actually planning," Lista spoke up, turning to her friends.

"He wouldn't speak a word of it," Trowa pointed out. "We asked him about it when we arrived, and he said he wanted to make sure it stayed a surprise, so he wasn't planning on telling anyone about it. I have to admit that unnerves me quite a bit."

"Quite a bit?" Quatre repeated incredulously. "That's an understatement. There is no telling what he has in store. He's obviously thought this through."

"I don't like being kept in the dark," Heero said, his eyes growing colder than the night. "I am going to trail him for the rest of the day. I want to know what he's doing."

"I don't think that's necessary, Heero," Lista replied. "If anything, we can just go into the security cameras and see what he's been up to. Most of the estate is under surveillance anyway. Don't waste your time."

"I already checked security," Quatre informed. Everyone turned to him, intrigued. "I wanted to know what he was up to, but I couldn't find anything. He was basically walking around merely speaking with several of the Maguanacs."

"Which ones?" Wufei asked. "Perhaps he was speaking with them about it. If he's arranging something, some of them may know about it. Maxwell is cunning, but he's going to need some type of help I'm sure."

Quatre bit down on his bottom lip, recalling the tapes. "Well, I do remember him speaking with Abdul and Auda more than anyone. Everyone else he just seemed to be making small-talk with."

"Then we start there," Heero said. He turned on his heel and walked down the hall, saying nothing else.

Lista folded her arms over her chest. "Well, I guess Heero is downright serious about this whole thing. I think he's blowing it a little out of proportion though."

"Do you not know Maxwell?" Wufei asked, brow lifted. "Surely you can't say you're not worried about what he has planned."

Lista opened her mouth, but said nothing. She lowered her head. "Well, it's Duo. Of course he probably has something big planned. But just how big can he get without a ton of help? Even if he's asked Abdul and Auda for something, that's only three of them. Besides, just what can they get past Rashid? The man knows everything that goes on inside these walls. I don't think Duo can really get away with much while he's around."

"He let him inside in the first place," Wufei reminded her. "That in itself was the first mistake. Perhaps you give him too much credit. He could be in on Duo's plans."

Quatre's mouth hung agape. "Rashid? I doubt it. He wouldn't let anything get too out of control around here. He likes organization and peace where he can spare it."

There was silence between the Gundam pilots, all of them staring at one another for yet another possibility. Quatre winced as he wondered whether Rashid was in on Duo's evening plans. The large Maguanac captain would surely not conspire against him… would he?

Quatre felt Lista's hand rest upon his shoulder, her fingers squeezing over him. He turned to look at her. "Don't worry about it too much, Quatre. I'm sure what we're all thinking is grossly exaggerated. Knowing Duo, it's not even much to begin with. He may have just anticipated that we would believe it to be. I think he'd get a good bit of enjoyment out of that. He's probably just going to make a fool of himself singing Happy Birthday to you and then have dinner."

Quatre mulled over her words. He liked to think she was right, that they were all thinking too much on it, and that was exactly what Duo wanted. But he still couldn't help but worry that the braided pilot really did plan something extravagant and flashy. Duo surely didn't stint on anything he did. He went all out and more. Somehow Quatre thought his birthday wouldn't be any different.

"Well, Heero has gone to trail Duo, who has left to make plans," Trowa spoke up. He turned to Quatre. "From what I understand it, you have finished with your paperwork, and we still have several hours before dinner and Duo's surprise. What would you like to do?"

Quatre shook his head. "We'll do whatever you guys would like to do. It doesn't matter to me at all. There's a good bit to do around here."

Wufei shook his head, folding his arms over his chest. "It's your birthday, Winner. You don't get to lay the choice on us. We'll do whatever you would like to do."

"Well…" Quatre rubbed his chin with his finger. He knew his estate held a great deal of activities they could easily pass the time with. It was just a matter of choosing something all of his friends would take enjoyment from. "Actually, I was recently the recipient of a pair of specially crafted dueling swords. They were a gift from one of my sisters as an early birthday gift with our family emblem on them. I voiced an appreciation for the art and would like to learn more about it. Perhaps you wouldn't mind giving me a lesson, Wufei? I'm sure Trowa and Lista wouldn't mind watching."

Wufei couldn't help but smirk. He turned to Lista and Trowa. "How about it? We need something to pass the time with."

"I sure wouldn't mind watching. I think it would be fun," Lista agreed with a smile.

Trowa just gave a nod of agreement.

"Splendid. I'll lead the way to the training room. Perhaps that will be a nice place to hide away from Duo anyway," Quatre replied, turning on his heel. His face furrowed. I would like to stay far enough away from him for now until I can figure out how to react to his surprise when he reveals it, whatever it may be.

Quatre and Wufei changed into attire more appropriate for a sword lesson. Wufei picked up one of the swords from its case and swung it around several times, getting a feel for the weight and handle of it.

"Hmm. They're a decent make, that's for sure," Wufei confirmed with an approving nod. "Your sister chose well."

"Shall we begin then?" Quatre suggested, starting to reach for the other sword.

"Perhaps a demonstration would be better first," Wufei replied. He turned to Lista, who was sitting on a bench next to Trowa. "How about it, Di Nevella? Want to spar a bit?"

Quatre's eyes widened as he snapped his head in Lista's direction. "Wufei, I don't think that's such a good idea. Lista doesn't have any sword training."

Lista pushed herself from her knees and cracked her knuckles with a glint in her eyes and a curl in her smile. "Actually, I do. Not much, I'm afraid. I wasn't able to complete my lessons due to my training as a soldier for the Alliance." She strolled over to the pair of men and picked up the other dueling sword, studying its blade. "My father enjoyed swords. He thought it would be a good idea for me to be well-rounded and know as much about weapons as I could."

"I'll go easy on you, then," Wufei vowed with a smirk. "Do you want to change into something more comfortable first?"

Lista shook her head and swung the sword, listening to its whistle as it cut through the air. "No. I should be able to move well enough in this." She turned over her shoulder to Quatre, who was staring rather worriedly. "Don't be so concerned, Quatre. I'm a little rusty, but I really do know how to handle a sword. There's nothing to worry about. It's not like Wufei is going to try killing me."

Quatre opened his mouth to protest, but figured it was fruitless, so he walked over to Trowa, taking the empty space at his side on the bench.

"Should be an interesting match," Trowa said, noticing the fidget in Quatre's posture. "Why are you so worried?"

"I'm not," Quatre denied. He groaned and sighed. "It's not that I don't have faith in Lista's abilities, because I do. I'm just not sure how easy he means to take it on her."

Trowa shrugged. "I think this will be a rather good first lesson for you."

Quatre opened his mouth to rebuke once more, but saw a flash of white in the corner of his eye as Lista made the first move. Her sword clashed with Wufei's. He parried her every strike with what Quatre thought was ease on his part, and then he turned it around on the offensive, charging Lista until she was rushing backwards, parrying to the best of her ability.

Trowa's eyes traveled to Quatre as he leaned forward, watching in interest as Lista turned the tables, going back on the offensive and causing Wufei to trip just slightly at the speed of her swings. He groaned loudly and in frustration, swung his sword hard enough to unhand her, thus ending the match.

Lista smiled at her comrade, heaving for a gulp of air. "I knew you were good, Wufei. You certainly gave Trieze a run for his money." She bent down and picked up the sword.

Wufei smirked. "You're not too bad yourself. Your speed is a nice advantage."

"That's what I was trained in," Lista said with a shrug. The two sword-bearers turned to Quatre, who was, by now, white in the face. "Would you like to stand in, Quatre?"

The Arabian pilot chuckled and shook his head, rubbing his hand through his hair. "No, I think it would be better to leave it at that for now. Perhaps we could find something a little less dangerous to do for the remainder of the day."

Quatre was surprised to hear the unfamiliar ring of Trowa's laughter, followed by Lista's and Wufei's. His cheeks heated up in an embarrassed blush, and he suddenly wondered if his friends would allow him to live this down.

Heero was still M.I.A. Duo was also nowhere to be found. Lista joked that Heero had him backed in a corner somewhere demanding to know what his plans were as she, Quatre, Trowa and Wufei sat on the back deck, staring into the gentle ripples of the in-ground pool that were made as Lista sifted her feet through the water.

"It's already been close to an hour since they both disappeared," Quatre pointed out. "Even if Heero has discovered Duo's plans for the evening, don't you think he would have come to tell us?"

"He's not back yet, so he doesn't know," Wufei replied as he took a quick sip of lemonade. "Yuy won't come back until he knows at least something to tell us. Until then, we should just relax and enjoy what sanity we can spare until Maxwell takes it with whatever his plans are for the night."

Quatre circled his finger along the rim of his glass. "I'm not sure I like being in the dark about this."

"If it makes you feel better, I'll go find Duo and insist that he tell me," Lista offered, turning over her shoulder to look at him with a smile. "Duo will respond to me if I give him the right threat. He knows better than to keep things from me anyway."

"No, that's all right," Quatre said with an appreciative smile. "Having Heero run rampant through the estate is enough for me. I would prefer for you to enjoy the day rather than go about looking for Duo."

Lista flashed him a smile and turned her attention back to the water. "So, is there anything else you would like to do today, Quatre? We do still have some time before dinner."

Quatre shook his head, although he knew Lista couldn't see him. "No, I'm content just spending time here with all of you. It's nice. It's a shame we can't do it more often."

"Well, I suppose we should amend to have a regular get-together to remedy that," Trowa suggested.

Quatre's eyes beamed. "That's a great idea! It might be hard, though, with all of us having our own thing going on." His smile faded just as quickly as it formed.

"Hey, none of that," Lista scolded over her shoulder. "We'll work something out. We'll schedule something as early as we can so we can all work around it in time. I wouldn't worry about anything like that." She reached for her nearby glass of lemonade, taking a small sip to cool her throat.

The pilots sat in silence for a moment, each enjoying the calm. Well, the calm before the storm, as Quatre thought of it.

"I was wondering where all of you were."

All four pilots snapped their heads around, finding that Heero had returned, arms folded over his chest and the same stern expression blanketing his face.

"You look less than pleased," Wufei noticed with an arched brow. "Do I take it that you found nothing out about Maxwell's plans for this evening?"

Much to Quatre's dismay, Heero shook his head. "Duo is barricading himself with the protection of some of the Maguanacs. Apparently he needs to put the finishing touches on his plans for tonight and doesn't want to be disturbed. I couldn't break through their defenses without effectively burning down half of Quatre's estate. I didn't think he would appreciate that."

"So everything will remain a surprise," Trowa added. "I suppose it can't be helped." He turned his head, looking upon Quatre as his hands fidgeted in his lap, his lemonade glass now sitting next to him. The uni-banged pilot rested his hand on the younger man's shoulder. "Don't worry, Quatre. We'll all be there with you tonight in whatever Duo has planned. I'm sure he wouldn't be able to do something too extravagant, especially with Rashid overlooking operations here."

Quatre had to appreciate his friend's attempt to cheer him up, but he knew just as well as the rest of them just how sly Duo was, and for all they knew, Rashid knew just as much about the braided pilot's plans as they did.

"Well, I'm not going to sit around and worry about what the braided tornado has planned," Lista spoke up, pushing herself to her feet after flicking the water from them. She turned towards the four boys, hands on her hips. "We should find something fun to do. If Duo wants to play around with his plans for tonight, let him. We shouldn't let him have us running around worrying about what he's going to do. It's Duo, for god sakes. We should expect anything from him. And besides, he wants us to act like this. We could always immunize ourselves now and not let it get to us when he eventually reveals what this plan of his is."

"The woman is talking some sense for once," Wufei replied. Lista shot him an arched brow, which only prompted an amused grin from the Chinese pilot. "An afternoon of leisurely reading sounds good for me." He turned on his heel, waving dismissively at his comrades. "Tell Maxwell to come and get me in the library when he's ready to try scaring Winner. Should be fun."

Lista folded her arms over her chest in aggravation, especially when Quatre whimpered at the prospect. "That's not exactly what I meant, Wufei!" she called after him. Wufei, however, disappeared into the house, saying nothing in response.

"I'm going to utilize a computer and catch up on some research," Heero said, catching the attention of his friends. "I'll still be watching out for Duo to see if I can figure something else out before tonight." He turned to Quatre, who was tugging at his own fingers. "Don't worry about tonight, Quatre. We'll handle whatever the moron has planned."

Quatre sighed. "I sure hope so."

Heero walked from the patio, leaving Trowa, Quatre and Lista alone at the poolside. "So, what about you, Trowa?" Lista asked, turning to her taller friend. "What are you going to do for the rest of the afternoon?"

He gave a nonchalant shrug. "I'm sure there is something around the estate for me to occupy myself with. Perhaps I'll challenge one of the Maguanacs to a game of billiards. That sounds like fun."

Quatre flashed a jovial smile. "If that's the case, try to find Auda. He takes pride in his skill at the game."

Trowa gave a brisk nod. "Then I'll look for him." He patted Quatre on the shoulder. "Try not to worry too much, Quatre, or it will make you sick." His eyes settled on Lista as she came up next to them. "Try to keep him preoccupied. Somehow I don't think it will be an easy task for him to keep his worries averted from Duo's surprise tonight."

Lista smiled, circling her arm through the blonde boy's. "I'm up to the challenge. I'll see what I can do."

Nodding again, Trowa left the patio, sliding the glass door shut behind him. Lista turned her attention to her comrade, who was staring down at his feet. "Calm down, Quatre," she scolded lightly, causing him to gaze up at her worriedly. "We'll all do what we can to stop Duo from carrying out some twisted birthday surprise for you. You shouldn't be spending your birthday all worried anyway. We should do something fun. What would you like to do?"

Quatre shook his head. "We can do whatever you'd like, sweetheart. I'll let you choose the activity."

Lista's eyes fell on the rippling pool, and a smile crept to her face. "Well, we do have a pool to ourselves, and it's rather warm out today. I think we could take advantage of the weather and get in for a little swim. All we need to do is get some towels and change our clothes."

Quatre's eyes lit up. "That sounds like a good idea. I'll get us a change of clothes from my bedroom." He started to turn on his heel, but Lista snapped her hand over his wrist, tugging him back.

"I don't think so," Lista said, wagging her finger in warning. "You're the birthday boy. You sit down, put your feet in the water, and I'll get everything we need." She pushed him towards the edge of the pool and leaned in, kissing his cheek. "I'll be right back."

Quatre watched her jog off towards the house, thankful that he had friends—and a girlfriend—that were so considerate of his concerns.

But Lista hadn't thought of the dangers of leaving Quatre alone with his thoughts. He knelt down, wading his hand through the cool water. Now Duo had himself hidden off somewhere so he couldn't be bothered. And his own men were aiding him in his solitude. Somehow he felt like this night would be a rather torturous one for him.

Quatre lifted his head to the clock hanging on his bedroom wall. It was almost seven o'clock. Duo found everyone a half an hour earlier and told them to clothe themselves for dinner, and his surprise entertainment would follow soon after. Sandrock's pilot moved his fingers up the buttons of his brown dress shirt before flattening out his collar.

"You haven't gone into a seizure yet, so I suppose that should count for something," Lista's voice spoke up behind him.

Quatre turned around, prepared to offer her an answer, but his tongue suddenly felt weighed down as he watched Lista walk in from the bathroom. Her hair was pulled high atop her head, curled strands of hair prickling out from her ears. She wore a short strapless black dress that her equally-raven hair put to shame. A white belt hugged her curvy waist. "You look beautiful," Quatre finally choked out as she walked up to him, smoothing her hands over the slight creases of his shirt.

"So do you," she said with a giggle. "Should we go to the dining room? Everyone else is probably there by now, and I don't think you want Duo coming here to get you."

Quatre sighed. "Yes, I suppose that would be the best thing. I just want to get this evening over with." He offered his hand to her. "Are you ready for this? There's no telling what Duo has planned."

Lista frowned as she took his hand, tightening her fingers over his. "I'm prepared for just about anything at this point. Duo has no reservations, that's for sure. I'll just take it as it comes, and hope that my temper doesn't result in his untimely death."

Quatre had to appreciate her humor. "Well, then I suppose we should go." He pulled her from the bedroom and strolled down the hall towards the dining room, his heart thumping maddeningly against his chest. If it beat any harder, he feared he would crack a rib. He needed to calm down; for all he knew, Duo had nothing planned at all, and just wanted to get him worked up over nothing. Somehow Duo would take mass enjoyment from something like that.

But as the twosome rounded the corner into the dining room where his friends all waited, Quatre knew he was not that lucky. Duo did indeed have something planned, and he could see it on the braided man's face as his eyes connected with his.

"Hey guys! Glad you're here!" Duo shouted as he rushed over to them, slapping his hands over their shoulders. "Dinner's just about to be served, and I'm starving! I've had a lot of work going on today!"

"Yes, we know," Wufei spoke up from behind him. "You had yourself barricaded in a room for the majority of the day. Any reason why you needed the protection of several of the Maguanacs?"

Duo's grin widened as he shrugged. "Wouldn't you like to know? Well, you'll know about it soon, so don't worry about that, Wufei." He clapped his hands, rubbing them together. "But enough of that! Let's get dinner started so we can have fun!"

Despite the hungry rumbling in his stomach, Quatre didn't think he would be able to sate his hunger, especially after Duo flashed him a playful wink.

"Man, I'm coming here more often!" Duo exclaimed as he rubbed his hands over his belly. "I'm stuffed! Your cook sure knows how to cook, Quatre!"

Quatre smiled weakly. "I'm glad you enjoyed your meal, Duo."

"I definitely did," Duo replied. He leaned over the table, his eyes slitting slyly. "And to pay you back, I have your surprise set up in the rec room. I hope you're ready for it, buddy. It's gonna be fun. I invited all the Maguanacs to come too!"

Quatre's face paled. "All of them? Rashid as well?"

Duo chuckled. "Well, I couldn't not invite him, ya know? I didn't want the big guy to feel left out. I think he'll enjoy this chance to unwind anyway. He can be awfully serious sometimes." He pushed himself from his chair and walked around the table to Quatre's side, tugging him to his feet. "You can be too, buddy. Let's get you to unwind too. Should be loads of fun."

Quatre cast a look over his shoulder at Lista, who offered him a comforting smile as she, too, stood from her place at the table. "I suppose this night had to come at some point." Duo latched on his wrist and pulled him from the room while the other pilots followed them out and down the hall.

They came to a set of double doors where Abdul and Auda were standing guard, smirking and snickering to one another under their breath.

"Master Quatre! I hope you're ready for your birthday present!" Abdul said with a click of his tongue. "It's a doozy!"

"I'm as ready as I'll ever be, Abdul," Quatre replied. He felt Lista's hand on the small of his back, silently offering him support. "Let's get this over with."

The two Maguanacs pulled the doors open, and Duo shuffled the birthday boy inside the large room. The room was void of chairs; instead, pillows were circling the room, with one considerably larger situated towards the center of the room. There were two silver poles set up several feet away from the largest pillow.

"This already looks suspicious," Heero said with a frown.

"I should have known he would come up with something like this," Wufei added, shaking his head.

"Like what?" Quatre asked, his naiveté rising to the surface. "Why are there two poles in here?"

Brows furrowed into Lista's eyes before she suddenly came to a harsh realization. "Oh, you have to be kidding me! Duo! There's no way I'm going to let you—"

A hand slapped over her mouth. "Hey, you don't have to be here if you don't want to, Lissy," Duo interrupted. "This is for Quatre's birthday, and every man should have this chance. I think he'll like it. Don't you want him to enjoy himself?"

Lista waved his hand away from her mouth. "I'm staying right here."

Duo shrugged. "Suit yourself, Lissy. It's gonna be weird, you being the only girl watching this and all." He wagged his eyebrows. "Maybe you'll like this too."

"Get real," she snapped, folding her hands over her chest. "You could only hope that I would like something like this."

Before Quatre could once again inquire as to what had Lista so up in arms, Duo turned around, cupped his hands over his mouth, and shouted out, "Hey guys! The birthday boy's here! Let's get this party started!"

No sooner did the words escape his mouth, all forty Maguanac soldiers filed into the room, chatting amongst themselves as they settled themselves on their pillows.

Rashid walked up to them, his face as stern as stone. "Forgive me, Master Quatre. There was nothing I could do to stop him from doing this. I hope you will not hold this against me."

The fact that Rashid was admitting that he could not stop Duo from making his plans unnerved Quatre to no end. He swallowed hard. "I won't hold anything against you, Rashid. Just what does he have planned?"

Rashid opened his mouth to respond, but the lights in the room dimmed. Duo jerked his friend to the center of the room, shoving him down onto his pillow. "This is gonna be awesome!" he said as Quatre turned over his shoulder, watching as his friends sat down in the row behind him.

Sultry music played in the speakers in the corner of the room, but the thundering of Quatre's pulse seemed to mute it out. His eyes darted back and forth, waiting for something to happen. He pulled his legs close together, resting his trembling hands in his lap, as a peppery scent misted into the room.

Two soft hands brushed against his shoulders, and he turned around, fully expecting to see Lista standing behind him, but the only thing he caught was the fluttering of skirts. His eyes connected briefly with Lista's—she seemed positively infuriated—before he turned around and found himself staring into the deep brown eyes of a woman he didn't know.

"Please tell me you didn't hire Quatre an exotic dancer," Trowa said with a sigh, leaning over to look at the jovial smirk on Duo's face.

Duo flashed him a thumbs-up. "Hell yeah I did!" he exclaimed.

"Do you honestly think I'm going to sit here and watch this woman get naked in front of Quatre?" Lista hissed, leaning warningly towards the braided pilot. "Are you that stupid that you would have this happen while I'm here?"

"I'll hold you back. Nothing to it," Duo said dismissively. "Give your man a chance to see what it's like to see a woman. Maybe if you didn't hold out on him, I wouldn't have to resort to this."

"Oh for the love of god," Wufei grumbled under his breath, pinching the bridge of his nose.

A muscle ticked in Lista's jaw. "What? Please tell me that you didn't just—"

"Hush it up, Lissy," Duo interrupted, shushing her. "It's about to start. Don't get too excited now. Maybe you should be a good girlfriend and get up there with her. I think Quatre would like that even more."

Lista was just about to shout at him again, but the music suddenly picked up, and she snapped her head forward, watching as the dark-haired woman bent down, whispering something in Quatre's ear. He snapped back, his hand stopping him from falling over backwards. The woman giggled and walked over to one of the poles, circling her leg around it as her skirts danced upon her thighs.

Quatre sat with his fingers digging hard into the crisp fabric of his slacks. His mind screamed for him to stand up and leave the room, but his eyes couldn't tear away from the buxom woman as she danced, her long chestnut hair flowing behind her as if waltzing itself to the music. Her hands fell upon the single clasp keeping her wispy skirts attached to her hips, and in one swift motion, the pink skirts fell to her ankles.

Quatre's eyes couldn't have bugged out further, especially when the woman, clad in her rather skimpy pink midriff top and pink thong, strutted over to him, bending over to wrap an arm around his neck, tugging him towards her. A long finger tipped his chin, angling him towards her red-painted lips. She giggled and dragged her tongue over her mouth before grazing it over his.

Duo whooped behind him, but the poor blonde boy couldn't register anything as he inhaled the woman's perfume, his head growing light. She pulled away from their light kiss and returned to her pole, twirling around it to the beat of the drumming music.

Lista shouted at Duo again, warning him that he would lose a very defining appendage if he didn't put a stop to the so-called entertainment he had arranged, but the braided pilot ignored her, instead wrapping an arm around her neck. She fought against him, her eyes falling on Quatre as he sat still as stone, body propped back on his palms, as he stared at the dancing woman, who was now in the process of removing her top.

"I'd bet that Quatre is seconds away from screaming," Wufei whispered to Heero with an amused smirk.

The Wing Zero pilot said nothing. The creases in his brow could have been deemed permanent as he sat with his arms folded over his chest. He found no entertainment in this, and liked even less that Quatre was tolerating it like a weak little boy. He had half a mind to put a stop to it himself, but who was he to do such a thing? It wasn't his birthday celebration, after all.

As the next article of clothing fell from the woman's body, Quatre's mind screamed "No" over and over, unbelieving that yes, this woman was stripping for him while all forty of his men sat around him cheering him on, his war comrades sat behind him, and even more heart-stopping was the fact that his girlfriend sat behind him as well, throwing an angry fit that Duo only seemed to find amusing rather than threatening.

The harsh reality of the situation seemed to swirl around him like a rainstorm. He pressed his hand against his head as the woman closed in on him again, wrapping arms around his neck and quite conveniently situating herself upon his lap. And then her lips were on his again, her tongue invading the very person space of his mouth.

Instead of throwing a fit, Lista sat behind him with her mouth hung agape in utter shock. Duo nudged her in the side with a snicker. "Looks like you have yourself some competition, Lissy," he said under his breath.

Lista turned her head slowly towards him, her eyes nearly engulfed in flames. "Duo Maxwell, your death will be my pleasure," she growled.

"Master Quatre! Are you all right?"

Duo and Lista snapped their attention towards the center of the room, finding the brunette woman now standing up, hands pressed against her cheeks in worry.

Quatre had fainted.

"This is all your fault, Duo!" Lista exclaimed, fanning Quatre's face with her hands while his head rested in her lap.

"I didn't know he would react that way! I thought I was doing him a favor!" Duo rose to his defense, waving his arms in emphasis. "Who would have thought he'd have such a weak constitution?"

"This was a bad idea. I shouldn't have let it continue," Rashid's booming voice spoke up from behind Lista's shoulder as he gave a watchful worrisome stare over his young master's unmoving form.

"He'll be fine, Lista," Trowa assured the raven-haired girl as she continued to erratically wave her hands over the blonde boy's face. "Just give him some air. In the meantime, I suppose we should get everything cleaned up. I'd say that's enough fun for one night. When Quatre wakes up, he'll be embarrassed enough as it is."

"I'd say "mortified" would be a more accurate term," Wufei added sardonically. "It's too bad it happened in front of everyone, or his pride could have been spared."

Rashid was already growling orders to the Maguanacs to clean the room and situate it to its former form. Lista was appreciative when she heard him order Auda and Abdul to arrange for the stripper's immediate departure from the estate. She would have to remember to thank him later.

"You couldn't have chosen a more normal way of celebrating his birthday, could you?" Heero asked the braided pilot as he stood with his hands deep in his pockets.

Duo released a sharp gust of air, his shoulders slumping. "What? I thought it would be fun to unwind that way! We're only young for so long, after all!"

"Maybe, but it probably would have been a better idea to at least make sure Lista was nowhere in the vicinity," Wufei added. "I'd say she's very well planning your demise right this second. Just so you know, the longer Quatre stays unconscious, the more painful her retribution is sure to be."

Duo cast a quick glance over at his friend as she lay on the floor, whispering gentle urgings to Quatre for him to wake up. One hand continued to fan his face while the other petted the top of his hair.

Yeah, he was dead.

Quatre had a headache. He felt like there was someone pounding repeatedly against his temples, urging him to wake up. A moan escaped his lips as he summoned the haze of strength he had just to open his eyes.

"Quatre? Are you okay, sweetie?"

Turning his head, he found Lista looming over him, a hand reaching forward to cup his cheek. His eyes had a brief moment to take in his surroundings; he was in his bedroom. "Lista. What's wrong? You look upset."

A smile tweaked on her lips. "I've just been worried about you. You don't look pale anymore. You were out for almost an hour. It concerned me. I thought we were going to have to get a doctor for you just in case."

Quatre felt a wet rag leave his forehead. His face contorted. "A doctor? What for?"

Lista's smile disappeared. "Don't you remember what happened? You fainted when Duo's little birthday present put her hands down—" She bit off her explanation, snapping her head over her shoulder with furrowed brows.

"What? Don't look at me all crazy-like!" Duo's voice shouted from behind her. "I'm getting a restraining order if you keep doing that! Be glad that Trowa is acting as my bodyguard, or you'd be going down!"

Lista sighed exasperatingly and turned back towards Quatre, who still seemed bewildered as ever. "Duo got you a stripper for your birthday, and it seems as if it was too much for you to handle. You fainted when she started touching you in places she had no business touching."

Quatre's cheeks flared up at the coming memories, how the woman had rubbed her hands over his. He was taken off guard at her forwardness, although he shouldn't have been surprised at it. He recalled Lista behind him, yelling at Duo for going through with something like this, and just as he was prepared to turn around to see her, the woman's hands had dipped between his crossed legs, grasping a part of his body that he would have preferred to be left untouched.

"You mean… everyone saw that?" Quatre asked, his voice raspy. He hid his face in his hands. "Everyone watched her do that and I fainted?"

"It's nothing to be ashamed of," Lista immediately said, placing her hand on his shoulder. "That was a gross invasion of your privacy. I can't say I would have reacted any differently if a man touched me there."

Quatre's face instantly twisted into a frown. "Surely no man would touch you without your consent," he replied, protectiveness dripping from his voice.

Lista chuckled lightly. "Well, I wouldn't let anything like that happen, so you don't have to worry about that. I would burn his fingers off. And besides, this is about you, not me. I'm just glad to see you awake and looking better. You had no color at all in your face. It was a little scary."

"I'm sorry for worrying you," he murmured, eyes moving to look behind her. His other friends had since walked up to his bedside, as well as Rashid, who stood looming protectively over him.

"Forgive me for letting this transpire, Master Quatre. I hold myself responsible for this transgression," Rashid said, bowing his head in apology.

Quatre flashed him a weak smile. "Don't worry about it. It wasn't your fault, Rashid. Everything's fine now. I'm just glad it's all over." He turned his head, finding Duo staring at him with a pout. "Duo?"

"Sorry about this, buddy. I really thought we'd all enjoy it," Duo said, poking his fingers together in nervousness. "Didn't mean to make you faint and all."

Quatre shook his head against his pillow. "It's okay, Duo. It probably would have been more enjoyable had I not fainted. But I suppose we can all learn from this. Maybe it would be better for us to arrange something like this for your birthday instead of mine. I'd prefer not to have that kind of attention anyway."

Duo's violet eyes lit up. "Yeah, that would be awesome as hell! I look forward to my next birthday then! I expect to see some pretty girls!"

"Well, at least that dark cloud looming over your head was only there for a total of seven seconds," Wufei spoke up. He ignored the humph that came from Duo's mouth in response. He turned his head towards Quatre, who was now slowly easing himself into a sitting position. "So Winner, I suppose in the future we should stick to a more traditional way of celebrating your birthday to prevent anything like this from happening again."

Quatre chuckled, rubbing his hand against the back of his neck. "I'm not quite sure we need to celebrate my birthday at all after this, Wufei. I think I had enough excitement for this one."

Duo flashed a grin and bent down, poking his finger against Quatre's chest. "Maybe not next year, but just wait until you turn 18! That's gonna be even better!"

The smile faded from Quatre's face like rain evaporated against the sun-beaten sand. He could only hope that Duo's memory would fail him by that time, or he would risk losing several more years from his life. He didn't think Duo could come up with anything worse than a stripper, but then again, after this experience, he had to keep in mind that when it came to Duo, anything was possible.

Late that night, after he and his friends had shared a glass of expensive champagne to toast the end of his birthday, Quatre gave a quick prayer to Allah at the edge of his bed, thanking Him for keeping him alive and sane to live through another birthday.

As he pulled himself to his feet and prepared to climb into bed, the door to his bathroom opened and Lista walked through, stretching her arms over her head. "Maybe tomorrow we can sleep in more than we got to this morning," she said with a yawn. "I'd much rather not be woken up by Duo shouting and throwing the curtains open."

Quatre chuckled. "Well, I'd like to think he will stay clear of you for a little while after the colorful threats you gave him tonight. I'm pretty sure he is going to take you rather seriously."

"As well he should," Lista said with a frown as she walked to her side of the bed, pulling back the blankets. She climbed in, her body sinking against the feathery soft mattress. Quatre quickly followed suit. "If he doesn't learn from this, he's got some major punishment coming."

Quatre couldn't help but let the visuals flow freely through his mind. The thought of Lista chasing Duo around with something heavy only made him laugh. He pulled the blankets over his body, sighing at the satiny feel his sheets gave him. "Thank you for being so understanding today," he said as soon as Lista turned on her side to face him. "Anyone else would surely have done more damage at seeing their significant other in such a situation."

Lista scoffed, wriggling her body into a more comfortable position. "Believe me, Quatre. If you weren't in such a daze, you would have heard my threats. And if you hadn't fainted when you did, there would have been some major damage to your home, so much that it would have nearly drained every last bit of your inheritance."

"Then I suppose I should be thankful of my timing," Quatre said with a widened smile. He opened his arms, motioning for her to scoot into his chest.

She did so with no delay, nestling her head against his chest. "Despite all of that, I hope you had a good birthday. Sixteen is one of several milestones."

Quatre rested his cheek against the soft bed of her hair. "Well, I can't imagine having another one quite like this one. Duo seemed rather pleased with himself. I'm happy everyone had a good time, even if it came at my own expense. It was just nice having everyone here together to celebrate with me."

Lista sighed heavily against him. "Well, as long as you had a good day, I'm happy. That's all I wanted. You deserved to have a good birthday. We've all been so busy doing other things, and we hardly have a chance to see one another. I know how important it was to you that we were all here to celebrate with you. It wouldn't have been much of a birthday otherwise. I'm just glad that you had a good day, despite Duo's little surprise."

She lifted her head off of his chest, feeling his arms fall away from her back. He had fallen asleep. Lista smiled and pressed her lips against the underside of his chin. "Happy sixteenth birthday, my little Quatre."

The End