Author: NagiLite

Rating: R

Disclaimer: I own Heero. No, really...Okay, I don't. I don't own any of the Gundam pilots. There, happy?

Warnings: Yaoi...but aren't most Gundam Wing fics yaoi/shounen ai nowadays? Maybe a teensy bit of OOCness, compared with all those other Gundam Wing fics out there...I like to imagine my characterizations are fairly close to the ones portrayed in the actual anime. *sweatdrop*



~Salva Nos~



~One~



Norman's Cafe was a tiny building squished in between a bank and an underground parking lot (along with its over ground counterpart). Norman Fili himself had been an Italian immigrant with a taste for coffee. The shop had opened in the late 130's, and even now, in the year AC 198, it stood on its little plot of land.

A young man sat in his favorite chair next to a large, slightly-dirty- window. He knew a lot about Norman's Cafe. For instance, the sign on the slightly-dirty-window read "Cappuccino--Special Offer, Today Only!--Two Cups, Half Price," and it had been reading that message for going on a year now. He also knew that Tifa, the waitress with the oddly shaped nose, and Mallory, the waitress who wanted to be a movie star, would not begin their shifts until two o'clock that afternoon.

He sipped his coffee (four teaspoons sugar, plenty of milk) and occasionally took a bite out of his croissant. Wisps of his long, plaited brown hair escaped to tickle his nose, and he brushed them back irritably. He usually came here to think and relax, sometimes to flirt with Mallory and Tifa (old Mina, who was on the morning shift, wouldn't tolerate his playful advances), but not today.

Today he was waiting for something--rather, someone--to come along and change his life.

The little bell over the door jingled as a customer entered; this, however, was no ordinary customer, for Duo Maxwell, anyway.

He was the same as ever, only taller, blue eyes flashing coldly around before settling on the braided man by the slightly-dirty-window. He walked (marched, really) over, took a seat, and stared silently at anything other than Duo.

"Morning, Heero," Duo said conversationally. He hadn't seen Heero Yuy in over a year, and hadn't planned on meeting the man ever again, if he could help it. Unfortunately, Duo had kept in touch with Quatre Winner, and Quatre was never one to forget a comrade. The Arabian had put Duo up to this: inviting Heero to L4, to a place Duo frequented, no less. 'It's worse than a fucking family reunion,' Duo thought wryly.

Heero nodded a reply. Much of his speech was body language, a dialect Duo had nearly forgotten in the time they'd been apart. But he was remembering it, now.

"Let's keep this short, shall we?" Duo smiled wolfishly, fixing on Heero a cynical violet eye. "You don't want to be here, Yuy, and I don't want you here. But I've been given the oh-so-honorable task of escorting you to Winner Estate. Quatre, for some God-awful reason, wants your skinny ass present, and though I've no qualms with anything he chooses to do, I never expected to be dragged into it."

"All of this is for Quatre?"

"Yeah," said Duo, getting up and motioning for Heero to do the same. He left a tip by his unfinished coffee. "It's hard to refuse him anything, you know? When he asked me to do this, I tried to convince him to get Trowa or Wufei to do it."

"Are they here as well?" Heero held the door for Duo, and the two emerged on the busy streets of L4. The "sky" was white and the air chilly. Duo was glad he'd decided to wear a jacket. Heero, in tank top and shorts, must have been miserable beneath that stony facade of his.

"No. I had some...financial trouble back on L2. Quatre offered to take me and Hilde in. She refused, of course. Too stubborn for her own good. But I didn't have anywhere else to go, so..." He shrugged and began taking them towards the entrance of the subway station. Winner Estate was large enough to have its own stop, and Duo planned to get off there. "As I was saying. Quatre asked me, and I finally caved in. Hence, my current position."

They took seats opposite one another. Duo blew on his hands, trying to get his circulation going again. After a few minutes, he said, "Quatre'll want to know what you've been up to this past year. He'll ask you tons of questions, and if you don't want to answer, he won't force you. But don't brush him off. It'd hurt him more than you can imagine."

"Protective, aren't you?"

"Think of me as your Friendly Neighborhood Death God. You hurt him, I hurt you."

"Understood."

Quatre Winner stood by the entranceway as the two ex-pilots jumped off the train and onto the platform. The Winner heir was as slight as he'd been a year before, his cheeks flushed from cold and expectancy. He smiled brightly and shook Heero's hand.

"It's good to see you again, Heero," he stated. The next thing he said was covered by the subway's departure, but he gestured for Heero and Duo to follow him.

Winner Estate was not unlike a miniature city. Quatre had established the subway station to carry people to and from their residences on his property. The Manguanac camp was encircled by a thick grove of trees, but Heero could see the flickering of a bonfire even from his current location. To his left was a shelter for homeless families, little children in overlarge clothes running after a red ball.

The Winner Mansion, positioned in the center of it all, was huge. It was done in the style of the eighteenth century A.D., a stone merman and mermaid proudly spewing water into a shell-like fountain base by the front entryway. Duo trailed his fingers through the water as they walked around it, shivering because it made his already numb fingers tingle.

When they entered through the tall front doors, a servant took Quatre's and Duo's coats, bowing low.

"Duo," Quatre said, turning to the American, "would you please find Madame Lauder and ask her to prepare tonight's meal early? I fear at least one of us has had a long journey, and you, Duo, eat enough for the entire Manguanac camp."

Duo grinned good-naturedly and said, "I'm a growing boy, and I need my food." He cast a meaningful look at Heero before setting off to annoy the Head Cook, Madame Lauder, with his endless flirtation and substantial appetite.

Heero watched him go with mild interest, and Quatre filed the curious exchange away in his memory, promising to dwell on them later.

"How was Norman's?" he asked, leading Heero into his office. It had thick carpet, which Heero's feet sank into, and huge chairs, one of which Heero seated himself in. The fire that was blazing in the hearth warmed him from a coldness he'd barely felt.

"The cafe? Fine, I suppose."

"Duo has made the place his own." Quatre settled himself behind his desk, crossing his ankles. "It's his 'Thinking Spot'. Did you try the croissants?"

"No."

"Delicious. But please, Heero. Tell me about your life."

Heero picked at the threads in his armchair, thinking that his life was really no one's business, but remembering Duo's warning not to "brush off" Quatre.

"My life is average."

"I know you were living on Earth, and in Sanc. How is Miss Relena Peacecraft?"

"She prefers 'Darlian' now. She's content. And pregnant."

Quatre's brows rose at this. "Pregnant?"

"Yes. The father is very proud. They were married months ago. I can't even recollect his name. The Press went wild, but Relena's brother made sure the news didn't go far outside the Kingdom. He feared the publicity would be bad for Relena and the child."

Quatre closed his eyes in thought. Miss Relena...married? It didn't seem possible. 'A child, she's going to give birth to a CHILD.' And still, it was surreal. He felt frozen in place.

At length, he forced himself to smile and meet Heero's indifferent gaze. "I'm so sorry," said Quatre sadly. "I know you have feelings for her."

Heero snorted in disbelief. "Feelings? You mean, I assume, romantic feelings."

"Yes."

"No."

"What?"

"Relena is..." The Japanese man floundered about for the right words. "...She's the innocence I never had."

"Oh," Quatre said, realization sinking in. "I...see. So you never--"

"No."

Quatre chuckled and collapsed back in his chair. "You are a man of few words, Heero."

"Hn."

"Married. I really should have known all of this. But life has been so hectic...Iria warned me time and again about the consequences of pushing one's acquaintances to the side whilst focusing on one's job. I'll listen to her, next time. And yes," he clarified, noticing Heero's confusion, "that is the reason I summoned you here. To try to get back in touch with the real world. Selfish of me, right?"

Heero shrugged. He wasn't all that clear on the concept of selfishness, as he'd rarely been selfish before. He'd always been dedicated to missions and orders, and had only been recently learning humanlike responses, a process Relena had begun.

Quatre wistfully played with strands of his blond hair, staring out at the iffy weather--he was afraid it was going to rain, and he hadn't yet sent out a repair crew to check the shelter for leaks. He was contemplating the likelihood of finding a crew that operated on such short notice when his stomach growled lustily.

To Heero he said, "I think it's about time to check up on Duo and Madam Lauder."

Duo was in a heated discussion with one of the kitchen girls, gesticulating wildly and exclaiming about the incompetence of God and the government when Heero and Quatre entered. The kitchen girl saw them, blushed, and scurried away. Duo glared at them accusingly. "Hey. I was just getting to the good part."

Quatre laughed. He was used to Duo's occasional rants by now. However, his biggest worry at the moment was food. Food and Relena, but mostly food.

Madame Lauder, a forty-something woman with a large belly and an even larger knowledge of cuisine, bustled in, bowing absently to Quatre. She ordered them out until she'd finished, talking to Duo in particular, and as they left, Heero could hear her grumbling about "aggravating boys" and "bottomless stomachs".

"I swear that woman is planning to assassinate me in my sleep," Duo muttered darkly, flopping into a Dining Room chair as Heero and Quatre settled gracefully down.

"Don't be sore, Duo," Quatre admonished, politely unfolding his napkin and positioning his eating utensils around his plate. "She likes you, in an odd way."

"Odd is right. So. Who's up for cards?"

Quatre spread his hands out before himself, shaking his head violently. "I'd rather not."

"Aw, c'mon, Quatre. I did your little errand for you." Duo jerked his head in Heero's direction. "You can at least play a simple game with me."

"Duo. Any game with you is...shall we say, less than simple."

Heero cocked his head in a "How so?" way.

The blond man caught Heero's meaning and explained, "The last time I played a game with Duo, I ended up dancing naked on my desk."

"Mental image," Duo laughed, "man, what a mental image!"

Heero stoically listened to their bantering. He stoically watched as Duo consumed half of the meal by himself when kitchen girls brought it out. He stoically ignored the food fight that broke out between Quatre and Duo.

In much the same way, he stoically finished first and left for the room Quatre had prepared for him. He hadn't brought any baggage with him, for he wasn't planning on staying more than one night, and he didn't mind wearing the same clothes for days at a time. The room was much too classy for his tastes (wooden floors and a small cot would have done well enough), but he locked the door, stripped to his boxers, and extinguished all of the lights except the bedside lamp.

He stared at the ceiling, outlining each crystal of the overhead chandelier with his eyes and thinking back on his earlier conversation with Quatre. The other man had been strangely...affected by the news of Relena's marriage and conception. But it was probably just shock; shock could do a lot to a person, Heero had discovered.

He was beginning to doze when there was a loud knock at his door. He tried to disregard it, but it came again, this time with a muffled, "Heero?".

He roused himself fully and got out from under the warm covers, stumbling only once on his way to the door.

Quatre, the hallway lamps highlighting his golden hair, grinned and asked, "Can I come in?"

"I'm not dressed," Heero said flatly.

"I don't mind, do you?"

Heero, wondering whether to take that as a compliment or not, stepped aside to allow his host to enter. Quatre didn't come in any further than three feet or so, then stopped, hands held behind his back. He cleared his throat and said, "Heero, I know you don't want to remain here any longer than necessary."

Heero nodded for him to go on.

"However, I have a favor to ask of you. In fact...I've been pondering over it for some time, but until now have not felt comfortable bringing it up," Quatre continued. He let his blue eyes come to rest on a spot directly to the right of Heero's head. "Every year Winner Enterprises, the company I own, holds a formal ball for employees and their friends and family. My sisters are all going, as is Duo, and Trowa if he can get away from his circus. Wufei has refused in favor of Preventer's work. I was going to invite Miss Relena, but in light of her current condition, I don't want to burden her with anything as insignificant as this. The only person I have not asked is you." He paused and met Heero's stare reluctantly. He was fairly certain the Japanese man would refuse; it seemed a given--the sun came up each morning, the world went round, and Heero Yuy didn't willingly go to balls.

Heero mulled over the invitation in astonishment. He'd never been to any sort of social gathering without a specific reason. Such as killing the host. And he definitely wasn't going to kill Quatre.

"Why me?" he inquired finally.

"Because..." Quatre picked over his thoughts carefully. "Because I think you ought to get out more, Heero. You're young, healthy...handsome. You need to open up to life. And what better time to start then now?"

'Have I said too much?' he wondered to himself. But Heero didn't look offended.

"I can dance," Heero said, as if it were an answer. And for Quatre, it was. He smiled broadly and resisted the urge to hug the quiet man.

"That's wonderful, Heero. You can teach Duo. He's awful at it."

He left quickly before Heero could argue.

Heero stood stunned before at last realizing he was alone. He shut the door, climbed back into the bed and switched off the bedside lamp, determined to fall asleep rather than think about what he'd agreed to do.