As the week progressed, I found myself worrying less about Trowa. Although I missed him terribly, I had other things to worry about. Like how the hell I was going to pass the cooking course.

Duo and I stared wordlessly at the blackened mess sitting in the cake dish. It looked more like a disaster area than a dessert--tiny craters, the crust split and twisted, and the entire thing adorned by blackened chunks.

I moaned. "This is too hard! I'm never going to pass this course!"

"Don't give up too easy, Quatre. I actually think this is an improvement--this is nowhere near as bad as the crepes after all--No-one lost their eyebrows--"

Then again, nothing could be as bad as the crepes.

I sighed as Duo started trying to chip the cement-hard mess away from the cake dish. "I guess I'm just not cut out to work in the restaurant business, Duo. I'm sorry--"

"Stop apologising, Quatre. Think of this as a temporary setback. Come on, let's try and review what went wrong here and how it could be avoided." Duo suceeded in shaking the cake tin free. "Man, is that solid! I bet we could use this as a doorstop--"

I sighed again. My only consolation was that at least we weren't at class where I would have had an interested audience. Duo was coaching me in the basics of soufflee making at home.

"I don't understand it," I said. "I followed the instructions."

"We'll try it again and this time I'll watch and make sure you get it right," Duo said.

"Okay," I said. "500g butter--where are the scales?"

"Wait--you have to preheat the over first," Duo said. "What's the temperature?"

"180," I said.

"You know, I think I might have found your problem, Q. This is set at 250."

"Oops," I said.

Duo adjusted the temperature. "Turning up the temperature doesn't necessarily speed up the cooking process, Quatre."

"It just didn't seem to be cooking," I protested.

"Neither is this!" Duo waved the doorstop at me. "If I wanted a block of cement, I could have gone to a construction site!"

In spite of myself I smiled.

"Is it that bad?"

"Let me put it this way," Duo said. "You can only improve, Quatre. What are you doing with that butter?"

"Melting it," I said. The 500g of butter was sitting in nicely chopped up pieces ready to go in the microwave--chopping was one of the few things I could do.

"No you're not! Metal bowls and microwaves do not make for a good combination, Quat. And I believe the recipe said cream butter and sugar--"

"Well how can I do that unless I melt the butter first?" I asked. "Cream means to mix, right?"

"Not exactly. To cream butter and sugar you do this."

Duo showed me how to melt the butter into the sugar by placing the metal bowl within a sink full of hot water. Together we sifted the flour and baking powder and everything into the mix. Just as Duo was lecturing me on the appropriate use of an electric beater ("For God's sake, turn it off before you take it out of the bowl or you can scrub the mess off the ceiling all by yourself") the phone rang.

"I'll get it!" Duo dashed off to the lounge leaving me with the beater. It made a very satisfying roar as I started it up and I enjoyed watching as the various different substances seemed to melt into a smooth creamy mix.

Duo returned holding the phone and looking grave. He flicked the mixer off at the wall. "It's Trowa," he said.

"Oh," I stared at him. It felt like ages since I'd even thought of Trowa--

"Remember, calm and aloof--" Duo whispered as he gave me the phone. I nodded although my heart was dancing around in my chest in a way that made in hard to be anything but flustered.

"H-hello?" I said.

Trowa was as charming as ever. With just a few well put sentences he had me as completely enthralled by him as that first magical night at the club. I chatted happily with him. "Tomorrow night? That does sound like fun--"

Duo coughed.

"--except I've just remembered--I'm rather busy at the moment. I probably shouldn't go."

Trowa made sounds of disappointment while Duo gave me an approving nod.

"Good for him to worry a little," he said once I'd said goodbye. "After all he's had you on tenterhooks for weeks now."

"I guess," I said. "But--"

"Don't start fretting now," Duo said. "Come on, I'll let you make the icing."

That did cheer me up. That and the fact that this tartlette soufflee aux framboises was a marked improvement on the last one. It was actually edible.

"I think you could maybe beat it a little less," Duo said as we ate my creation. "But this is great, Quatre."

I glowed. "Any idea what we'll be doing in class tomorrow?"

"Otto did say something about playing with gelatin. I'd say either cheesecake, or jellies off hand. Of course, there's a lot you can do with gelatin."

"Jelly doesn't sound so hard," I said, hopefully.

"We're not talking packet mixes here, Q, I hope you realise that," Duo said and my delight faded considerably.

"It's easy, I'll show you," Duo looked at the clock on the microwave. "It's still early. Let's try some jellies."

Two hours later Duo and I sat in the kitchen looking at the pile of desserts that surrounded us.

"These look great!" I said, happily.

"They do that. How's your hand?"

"Hardly hurts at all. I don't think I need the ice pack anymore."

"That's good. At least you won't go picking up a container of hot gelatin again-"

"Definetely not," I agreed. "So what are we going to do with all this food? We'll never eat it all."

"This," Duo said, picking up the phone, "is what friends are for."

Hilde was delighted to see us. She was very apologetic to Duo about the whole rose bush incident. Duo was magnaminous, and said it didn't matter. They then started talking about Otto. I endured.

"We'd better get the rest of these delivered," I said, when I'd taken all the speculation I could about how "interested" Otto was. "Before they melt or get soft, or whatever it is that these things do."

Trowa was rather surprised to see us appear laden with cheesecake and jellied pears on his doorstep. "I thought you were busy."

"I am," I said. "I'm learning how to cook."

He was impressed, I glowed. I told him all about Duo's offer of a job and how Duo had thought I should become acquainted with the cooking side of things, and how Duo was not being put off by my minor culinary setbacks and coaching me through the hazards of cooking.

"I made the cheesecake myself!" I said. "Duo says its pretty good and the crumbly base could have happened to anyone."

"Did he really?" Trowa gave me the impression of being somewhat less than thrilled. I couldn't determine why. Duo was at his most amiable, trading favourite recipes with Cathy. She was telling him how they had to invent recipes for certain types of hard-to-feed zoo animals, and at that moment was giving Duo a very entertaining account of a musang that refused to eat anything but the highest quality anchovies.

"We better not keep you any longer," Cathy said eventually. "You have more desserts to drop off after all, I understand."

"She's right, Q. I'll go start the car."

Trowa caught my hand as I turned to leave. "Don't I get to kiss you goodnight?"

I beamed. "Thought you'd never ask!"

Next stop was Wufei's house. He was very glad to see us because he'd just mastered LandSharks 4 and wanted to challenge Duo to a deathmatch on his Playstation. While they annihilated eachother, I chatted with a harried looking Sally who was sitting on a sofa, surrounded by stacks of paper.

"I have a new tutorial group," she explained. "They're even worse than last year's bunch-complete no-hopers the lot of them. I mean look at this one-he's even spelt psychology wrong-"

"How's your thesis?" Duo asked as he casually KOed Wufei.

"Don't ask! Thanks to the ineptitude of the department secretary I'm stuck teaching two classes instead of working on it-she did it purpose too, I swear. Obvious control complex, I suspect the head of the department only keeps her around as a showcase for the pupils."

"Is she that bad?" I asked.

Duo laughed. "She's even worse than your sisters-heck-"

"Got you that time!" Wufei crowed. "Vengeance is mine!"

"We'll just see about that-eat dirt Chang-"

The death match was on again in full force.

Sally rolled her eyes. "I'm glad you don't go in for that sort of thing, Quatre. It's nice to have at least-" she raised her voice "-One civilised male in the room-"

Wufei and Duo ignored her, too busy struggling to inflict grevious bodily harm on each other to hear.

"Honestly," Sally muttered, then turned to me with a bright smile. "So is the boyfriend behaving himself?"

Only to happy to talk about my favourite subject I gave Sally a full update.

She listened to me carefully, tugging thoughtfully at one of her long plaits as she did so. "Duo told me things weren't going well," she said. "I see what he means."

"Trowa was very happy to see me tonight," I said defensively.

"Was he?" Sally murmured. "I have a suspicion that you'll find Trowa is suddenly very interested in spending time with you."

I blinked at her. "Why would that be a bad thing?"

"You'll see," Sally said.

I did not feel happy.

"Who else is on our dessert list?" I asked Duo.

"I thought we could give the rest to the waiters tomorrow," Duo yawned, his character throwing Wufei's across the screen. "I'm about ready to call it a night, you?"

"You can't go now," Wufei said, struggling with the controls. "I'm just about to wipe the floor with you."

"Promises, promises!" Duo taunted.

I snickered inspire of myself.

"Like ten year olds, aren't they?" Sally said, poking Wufei with her foot. "It's past your bedtime, Chang. Let Duo get home, it's a school night."

Wufei grumbled a goodnight, and we left.

"Hope we didn't bore you, Q," Duo said as we headed home. "Mindless violence, you know-I just lost all track of time."

"I didn't mind," I said. "I talked to Sally."

My voice sounded uncertain, even to me.

"What's the matter?"

"Oh-its nothing," I said. "Something she said . . . I just can't shake it off." I shook my head. "It's nothing."

"If you're sure," Duo said. "You know, don't you Quatre, that I'm always ready to listen-"

"That's what I'm afraid of," I muttered, sotto voce.

Duo heard. "Why's that?"

"Everytime you give me advice on a relationship it leads to the end of the relationship," I said with a sigh. "Maybe I'm just being paranoid-"

"I'm a catalyst, nothing more than that. None of those relationships would have been good for you anyway-"

"And how would you know?" I snapped. "A psychology degree doesn't give you the right to mess up other people's lives you know!"

I was surprised at myself. I knew Duo was a friend-a very very good friend. But I couldn't fight back the urge to lash out at him.

Duo didn't respond, and we continued the drive home in silence.

--oOo-

I stumbled into the kitchen the next morning, yawning and in search of the coffee that had smelled so good. For some reason I was having trouble waking up. I felt like I hadn't slept at all.

Duo was getting something out of the fridge as I entered. I was instantly reminded of why I hadn't slept. Guilt-how could I have taken my unease out on Duo like that? How to apologise?

As Duo leaned forward to pull something from the lower shelves his hair fell forward. I was surprised to see it loose-Duo hadn't worn it down since the night we'd gone clubbing with Wufei. It was damp, obviously he'd just washed it. It curled in little tendrils, not quite curly, but not straight either. I was reminded forcibly of a illustration in a book of fairy tales I'd had as a child.

"Look's like its jelly for breakfast, Q. Suit you?" Duo asked, tucking his hair back to reveal a pale shoulder.

"Jelly for breakfast?" I said dubiously. "Well-why not?"

Duo laughed. "It won't kill you, you know."

I smiled. "Duo, I'm sorry about last night. I was unfair-"

"It happens, Q. We wouldn't be human if we didn't lose our tempers occasionally. Besides, you probably feel better for having vented a bit."

"Actually I do," I said surprised. At least, I did, now that I knew Duo wasn't mad at me.

"See?" Duo ruffled my hair. "You polite types need to learn it's okay to vent. Gets it out of your system and you can relax."

"If you say so," I shrugged. Impulsively I put a hand out to Duo's hair. "I like your hair like this," I said, softly, admiring the way the strands slipped through my fingers.

Duo went very still. "Really?"

"Yes. You don't have it down very often." From what I'd seen Duo was very private about his hair. The sudden thought that I might be taking too great a liberty occurred to me and I drew back my hair. "I'm sorry, I should have asked first."

"S'okay," Duo said. "I don't mind. I know you'll be gentle with it." He looked at the microwave. "Hell! The time!"

We made a very fast dash for class.

--oOo--

Thanks to Duo's coaching I got an A- for my cheescake, and a B+ for my jellies. Otto congratulated me on my hard work.

"You're coming along nicely, Quatre. If you keep this up, the test will be no problem."

"There's a test?" I asked apprehensively.

"It's nothing to worry about," Otto assured me. "Just a few general kitchen procedure questions and a practical demonstration." He moved onto the next table.

"You didn't tell me there was a test!" I wailed, turning to Duo.

"Didn't you know?" Duo was surprised. "That's where our final grade comes from."

"I'm never going to pass! What the hell are general kitchen procedure questions?"

"It's easy, Quatre. Just stuff like what temperature bacteria grows at, hyginene routines, how long you have to cook different things for," Sylvia said reassuringly.

"Most of it you already know from kitchen-handing," Duo said. "I'll help you practice for the practical. Don't worry about this Quatre-we'll manage."

Otto set the date for the test to Friday afternoon. This gave us two nights to prepare. I managed a weak smile.

Duo was determined I would pass. He made it his task to help me revise for the test.

"What's the proper way to prepare merangues?" Duo demanded as we made our way home.

"What part of the egg do you use to make pavlova?" he wanted to know at breakfast.

"If a recipe instructs you to flambe something, what should you do?" he questioned during our break. "What is granite de pamplemousse Rose et Sauternes?"

Friday afternoon, I waited anxiously as Otto walked around the class, handing back our test results. Duo was helping me tidy up.

"I don't see," he was saying, "how one person can make so much mess."

I scrubbed half heartedly at a chocolate smudge on the counter. I felt sick, to tell you the truth. I was dreading getting my results back.

"Here you go, Quatre," Otto said cheerfully. "And Duo, another excellent result. I wonder-"

I stared at my envelope, as Duo and Otto discussed the finer points of french pastry. Eventually I slipped it inside my bag without opening it and kept scrubbing at the bench.

"How did you go?" Duo asked, looking rather flushed as Otto left.

"I haven't looked yet," I said. "You look very happy."

"Otto asked me if I'd like to go out tonight and celebrate a successful course. He's picking me up from the flat at seven," Duo glowed.

"Oh," I said. I wasn't doing a very good job of appearing happy.

"Quatre, I'm sure you did okay. You put a lot of effort into preparing for this-it must have shown."

I wasn't convinced. By the time we'd got the last of the chocolate smudges off all the surfaces the rest of the class had gone.

"Will you open it?" I said, giving the envelope to Duo. "I don't think I can."

Duo quickly undid the envelope, and skimmed through its contents. "Let's see-good comprehension of kitchen hygiene practices, baking needs more work, more care required on finishing touches,--76%. Quatre, that's an A-!"

I gulped. "You're kidding!"

"No, it says right there-A-. Look!"

Duo was right. I laughed, and hugged him. "I passed! I passed the course!"

"I knew you could!" Duo spun me round. "Well done, Q!"

I drew back breathlessly. "I'll take the job!"

"What?"

"I'll be your business manager!" I said, happily.

Duo took a breath. "You mean that? Really?"

I nodded happily.

Duo threw himself around me. "You won't regret it, I promise! Thank-you Q! It's going to be great!"

There was an unamused cough behind us. "I take it you've got good news?"

Trowa.

While I beamed and showed off my A-, Duo packed up his stuff and left, saying he had to get ready to meet Otto.

"I was hoping that we could do something together to celebrate the end of the course," Trowa said. "How does dinner sound?"

"Great!" I said. "As long as its not high cuisine. I've had enough of gourmet cooking to last me a lifetime."

Trowa ruffled my hair affectionately. "How about pizza?"

Pizza with Trowa sounded great. So did clubbing afterwards.

"You know what would make this night perfect?" Trowa said, as we took a moment from the dance floor. "Watching the night sky with you. There's a full moon tonight, it should be beautiful."

"Sounds very romantic," I said happily.

"You'll need a jacket. Would you like to stop by the flat first?" Trowa suggested.

I thought this was a good suggestion.

It didn't look like Duo was home yet. I grabbed a jacket and scribbled a quick note for him. Locking the door after me, I headed back downstairs. Hearing someone come up the stairs, I stepped back into the little alcove halfway up that we used for storing umbrellas to allow them to pass.

Only they didn't.

"Thank-you Otto. I had a lovely time," Duo said, lingering on the bottom stairs.

"There's a but, isn't there?" Otto said.

"I'm afraid so," my friend answered softly. "I would like to get to know you better but at the moment I don't think I'm ready to be more than friends. I'm sorry."

Still Heero? I would have groaned, only that would have given away my position. I already felt arkward enough about overhearing what was obviously a private conversation.

"I understand," Otto answered. "Thanks for being honest with me."

"Would you like a coffee before you head home? I still owe you a cup for the rose bush incident-"

"That's all right. I'll get going."

Instead of leaving, however, Otto hesitated on the threshold, then turned back to Duo.

"There's someone else, isn't there?"

Duo nodded.

"Well, if the situation changes, you've got my number," Otto said, turning away. "And Duo? I hope Quatre realises what a lucky guy he is."

I was close enough to Duo that I saw his cheeks flame scarlet.

For one long moment Duo stayed looking after him. Then with a sigh and a muffled exclamation that sounded rather like 'idiot' he turned around. I froze as he passed the little alcove, but he didn't so much as glance in my direction. I heard him fumbling with his keys and then the click of the door. As soon as it clicked shut I crept down the stairs as quietly as I could.

Trowa was just getting out of the car. "I was just coming to find you," he said. "What kept you?"

"Couldn't find a jacket," I lied. "Let's go."

It should have been a magical evening. Cuddled up with Trowa, sharing a spectacular view of the cityscape and the night sky-yet I couldn't concentrate. My mind kept returning to two things. Duo had feelings for me-and Duo had turned Otto down because of me.

"You must be tired," Trowa said. "You've been very quiet."

"It's been a long week." I yawned, his words immediately making me feel sleepy. "Maybe I should turn in."

Despite my tiredness, I was reluctant to return. How could I face Duo, knowing what I did?

By the time I tiptoed up the stairs and into the flat, however, Duo had gone to bed. A note stuck to the fridge told me that he'd given us the next day off and I could sleep in as long as I wanted. Just as well, I thought sourly as I climbed into bed. I didn't see anyway I'd be getting much sleep tonight.

--oOo-

It was eleven o'clock before the smell of coffee and the sound of the frying pan lured me out of bed. Duo was making omelettes.

"Wufei mentioned your family was Muslim, but you've never said anything about it, so I thought I'd wait and see if you ate it before adding bacon," Duo said. "You've got perfect timing, actually, I was about to go and see if you were awake."

"No bacon, thanks," I said.

"Sure," Duo said, putting a package back in the fridge.

"You don't have to miss out on it because of me," I said quickly. "I mean, I was going to have toast for breakfast-"

"Don't be silly, Quatre. Its not a big deal. Besides, I like cooking for y--other people."

He'd been going to say you. I sipped my coffee thoughtfully. Had I noticed that because I knew? How long had he felt this way about me?

And what was I going to do about it?

"If I'm going to make breakfast, the you should make conversation," Duo teased, as he set a plate in front of me. "Did you have fun last night? What did you do?"

It was hard to gush about Trowa when I knew what I did. I didn't do a very good job.

"Is something wrong?" Duo asked worriedly as I finished.

I sighed, staring intently at my meal. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to-I overheard you and Otto talking last night."

Duo didn't say anything.

I risked a look up at him.

He didn't look mad. He just looked stunned. And pink.

Very pink.

"Duo?" I said, concerned that he might not actually be breathing. "Duo, are you all right?"

"I'm fine," Duo said, the catch in his voice belying this statement. "I just-aw, shit, Quatre. I didn't want you to find out like this."

My heart lurched. So it was true-

"In fact, I didn't want you to find out at all-"

"Why?" I asked. "Because of Trowa?"

"You're really keen on him, Q, any fool can see that. I don't want to stuff up whatever you have going. I was going to wait and see on the chance that things might change-" Duo wound a finger round the end of his braid.

"I see," I said.

"So now you know . . . I guess there's no harm in asking. What do you think, Q? Could you ever fall in love with me?"

I blinked, startled. I hadn't thought that far through-I was still getting used to the idea that Duo loved me. "I don't know-I'm so used to thinking of you as a friend-" Unbidden the memory of kissing Duo kicked me in the-well, it wasn't in a nice place.

"That's okay, Q, I understand," Duo said. "I should get over to the café now. I want to incorporate those new pastries we learnt into our new menu."

"Have fun," I said, as Duo left. "Oh, Duo?"

The door slammed before he heard.

I looked at his half of the omelette, still in the pan.

"Weren't you going to eat something?"

--oOo--

To put it politely, the next week was pure hell.

Trowa was wonderfully attentive and charming, dropping by to see me every moment he had spare. Much as I basked in his company, I was beginning to worry. Duo said he didn't mind me missing the odd minute there, or finishing early . . . but I was beginning to feel guilty for taking time away from work to be with Trowa and because even though Duo smiled and urged me to go, enjoy myself, I knew he wasn't totally happy.

It was worse because there didn't seem to be any way to resolve things . . . and talking to Sally and Wufei didn't help.

"I don't know why you spend so much time fretting over this guy," Wufei said as he guiding his character through Mortal Kombat 3. "Either he likes you, or he doesn't. Find out which."

"It's not that simple, Wufei," Sally reproved him. "I think the two of you should have a good long chat about where your relationship is heading. You need to make sure you both want the same things."

"But what if we don't?" I wailed. "What if he says no?"

"Then find yourself a better boyfriend," Wufei said, death-dropping his current opponent. "Duo's available, isn't he?"

I choked. Did Wufei know . . . ?

"It's not that proposterous a solution!" Wufei said, turning his attention from the screen. "He's intelligent, nice, friendly, the two of you get on well-not to mention he's very attractive-"

"Uh," I said flushing, looking awkwardly from Wufei to Sally. "Should you be-ah-"

"Oh, don't worry about that, Quatre," Sally waved a hand at me. "I know Wufei is bi, remember? I met him through Duo after all . . . and anyway, as a psychologist, I should encourage my partner to vocalise his desires. Even without bring Freud into it, repression is not a happy state to be in-"

I'll omit the psychology lecture. Anyone I could have gone to for advice would have told me the same thing: go for Duo. After all, my friends were his friends too . . . I needed to find an unbiased opinion, problem was I had no idea where to get one.

That problem was solved for me by an early morning phonecall.

I found breakfast laid out for me (a filled bagel) with a note that informed me that Duo was sleeping in-he'd been up late taking care of another wedding the night before. My shift didn't start until after lunch so I ate leisurely, reading the horoscopes in the paper.

I was trying to work out what exactly classified as an unexpected fruitfall when the phone rang.

"Hello," I said. "May I help you?"

"I don't believe it," an exulting chuckle roared on from the other end. "Duo's got a boyfriend with manners!"

"Howard?" I said.

After I'd explained it was only me, and I wasn't Duo's boyfriend, Howard and I had a pleasant chat. He wanted to know how his grandson was, I asked how he was finding Mexico.

"Is Duo around?" Howard asked eventually.

"He's sleeping in. I'll go and see if he's awake," I offered.

"Been busy?"

"We had two weddings over the weekend and Duo stayed up to oversee both of them," I said.

"Then don't wake him. He's a good kid, but he's prone to forget that he needs sleep just like anyone else."

"Duo?" I knocked softly at his door, not wanting to wake him if he was asleep. When there was no response I pushed the door open quietly and stepped in.

Duo was sprawled across his bed, tangled in the blankets. His hair was loose, and spread out around him. He was snuggling one of his pillows, and his expression was one of blissful unconsciousness. I smiled in spite of myself.

Being sprawled out with as much grace as a sack of potatoes somehow made Duo look very vulnerable . . . and extremely cute. I leaned down to shift a strand of his long hair out of his way, feeling a burst of warmth run through me. Duo made a whiny noise in the back of his throat, much like a cat and burrowed further into his pillow, all without waking up.

I smiled, and stretched out a hand to stroke his hair-pausing as I realised that Howard was still on the phone.

"Howard? Are you still there?" I said breathlessly. "Duo's still asleep-doesn't look like he'll be awake anytime soon."

"That's a shame. Let him know that I rang, and I'll try again about this time tomorrow."

I agreed and put the phone down somewhat dazed.

What had come over me? I sighed, running my hands through my hair. Why should I be so flustered simply by being around Duo. I had a perfectly good boyfriend, after all, I had no business being attracted to-

Oh, heck.

I was attracted to Duo.

I stared glumly at my half eaten bagel. What was I supposed to do now?

It would help if I had someone to talk to about this. Someone unbiased, who was concerned for me, much like Duo had Howard-

Maybe I did.

--oOo-

"Oh, Mr Winner will be pleased. He gets so few visitors these days," the nurse said, leading me down the passage.

I shifted uncomfortably. To tell the truth it had been ages since I'd thought of visiting my father. We'd never been close-he was always busy. The few months we'd been working together in the office had been great. I'd seen and been able to respect him as a business leader. But just as I was beginning to know him as a person, he'd had the heart attack-his doctor had recommended a complete withdrawal from business. Iria had asked for our help to keep the business running 'as a tribute to Father' and I'd thrown myself into it, finding it easier to assuage my concern that way then to speak to a man I barely knew who had lost everything he enjoyed most. My sisters had made a show of visiting him, I'd assumed that there was no need for me to-

I had to stop making assumptions.

"Quatre?" The smile that greeted my arrival made my guiltiness double. "How nice of you to visit. I can't keep you long-you must be taking time away from the office?"

"Actually," I said, surprised my sisters hadn't already told him of this. "I no longer work for Winner Enterprises."

"I'm sorry to hear that," my father said. "Sit down, Quatre, tell me all about it."

My father made no comment when I told him why I'd been dismissed. I made the proceedings sound more dignified that they were. I didn't know how he felt about having a son who was a blight on the Winner name after all.

"So I'm working for Duo now," I said. "I'm his business manager. Some people would think it's a comedown but-"

"There's nothing like working in a place where you know all the employees," my father said. "Makes me nostalgic for the early days. Winner Enterprises started as a single office, you know."

I didn't. My father and I chatted, and I was surprised to discover how much we had in common. The nurse eventually came to hint that 'Mr Winner needed his rest.'

"I don't need half as much rest as they insist on giving me," my father grumbled as she departed. "It was a pleasure seeing you, Quatre. I hope you'll visit again."

"Maybe you can visit me," I suggested. "I'd love to show you the café."

"I'd like that too," he smiled.

I hesitated at the doorway.

"Is there something else?"

"Actually, I was hoping you could give me some advice," I sat down beside him. "There's a guy I'm going out with, that I really like. But I found out recently that another of my friends has feelings for me, and I don't know what to do about it."

"You've made it clear that you're currently with someone?"

"He knows. That's not the problem-he doesn't want to come between us. The problem is that I know, and I can't just dismiss him-"

My father thought for a long time. "Without knowing either of the people involved, I can't offer you more definite advice than this. Your grandfather told me this. It's rather simple, but true. When someone is in love with you, you can tell because no matter how bad a mood they're in, no matter how sad or depressed things are, they will always make an effort to be cheerful and supportive of you." He shrugged. "It's an old man's advice, so I don't know how much its worth. Also, I can gurantee my father was thinking only of girls when he gave me that advice, but I'd say the principle would be the same-"

He didn't care.

I hugged him. "Thank-you, Father. For everything."

"Let me know how it works out," he said.

I promised I would.

I was in a much better mood as I left the nursing home. This feeling lasted right until I got to the café.

Trowa and Duo were standing outside the staff entrance glaring daggers at each other.

"I told you, he left before I got up! I don't know where he went."

"So you say."

"Yeah, I say. Do you want to search the place or something?" Duo's eyes flicked beyond Trowa and he spotted me walking down the path. "Quatre!" he greeted me. "Perfect timing."

"Sorry I'm late," I said. "I went to visit my father. Hello Trowa, I didn't expect to see you."

"I was hoping to take you out for lunch," Trowa said. "Of course it's rather late for that now."

"Any later, Q, and I swear your caring boyfriend there would have accused me of keeping you sedated somewhere for my own wicked pleasure," Duo joked.

"Maybe later," I said blandly, eliciting a strangled laugh from Duo and a cough from Trowa. "Duo, would you mind if I was a few minutes late?"

"Sure thing," Duo said, doing his best impression of a happy person. "Don't be too long-Kimmie's been taking your shift but she wants to get home."

"I won't," I said, smiling at Trowa. "Shall we head around the block? I'd like to talk with you . . ."

Trowa grumbled. "I don't see why Duo wouldn't let you go out for lunch. You're far too good to be working for him-business manager! You could run the place."

"Not like Duo could," I said. "Anyway, he'd give me the time, if it wasn't for Kimmie. She was on duty last night as well, its not fair to expect her to be on shift all this morning."

A cup of coffee was agreed upon as a suitable compromise.

"What did you go see your father for?" Trowa asked. "I thought you didn't talk much."

"I needed advice," I said. "On Duo." I stirred my coffee slowly. "You may have noticed he has feelings for me . . ."

Trowa's eyes glinted. "Did he tell you this?"

"Yes-after I asked him," I said. "Duo didn't want me to know."

Trowa's expression plainly stated 'I bet he didn't.' I ignored him and pressed on.

"Well, given that he is such a good friend, I think it only fair that we resolve this quickly. Sally said she thought it was about time we sat down and had a serious talk about where we want this relationship to go. I think you know that I'm ready to commit."

"Commit?" Trowa asked faintly.

I nodded. "We have been going out a very long time now, but we've never really discussed it-except to say that you weren't ready for me to move in with you yet."
I sipped my coffee. "I'm not pushing you on that, but I do think you should know that I'm in for the long haul."

"The long haul?"

I proceeded to elaborate.

"-so once we get a place of our own, I was thinking we could invite Cathy over for tea at least once a week-she can't feel as though she's being left behind-and maybe my father on alternate weekends--"

"Excuse me, Quatre. I'm sorry, but I have to go."

I blinked. I wasn't even halfway throught yet. "But-"

"This is all so sudden. I need time to think about this."

"Oh," I said, disappointed. I hadn't even got to tell him about the interior decorators I'd looked in to. "Well, phone me tonight?"

"Of course."

I sighed as he left. That hadn't been quite the reaction I'd been hoping for.

And he hadn't kissed me.

Disgruntled, I glanced at my watch and-

"Oh, heck!"

--realised the coffee break had lasted aproximately an hour.

"Duo!" I burst into the kitchen, panting. "I am so sorry!"

"I guess we can cancel the search party then," Lloyd quipped.

"Hey, Q. Grab an apron-we have a party of twelve just being served now," Duo said, balancing several meals precariously as he left the kitchen.

I followed suit. I was pleased to see that Hilde was also waiting on tables, meaning that Duo hadn't been left totally understaffed.

"Thanks a lot for helping," I told her, as we headed back to the kitchen with dishes.

"Not a problem," she said. "I stopped by to see Duo, and-chicken foccacia no tomato, soup of the day, table 8!-somehow got conscripted. I don't mind-was it an emergency?"

"Kind of," I said. "Trowa and I had to talk about where our relationship is going."

"Well, I hope it works out well," Hilde said. "Where's this pasta going?"

It was with heartfelt relief that I collapsed onto the sofa that night. "What a day!"

" You didn't have to do the cleaning yourself," Duo said. "I don't mind helping. It's my job after all."

"No," I said. "You all had to cover for me while I was talking to Trowa, I wanted to make it up to you guys."

"That's a nice thought, Quatre." Duo handed me a plate. "Tuna lasagne. There's more in the fridge if you want it."

"Has Trowa rung?" I asked.

"Nope."

I forwned. It was pretty late-but we hadn't really set a time. Maybe I should phone him once I'd finished eating? If he hadn't already rung by then-

I ended up ringing.

"Hi Cathy," I said. "Is Trowa there?"

"I'm sorry, Quatre. He's not here at the moment."

"Oh, okay. Do you know when he'll be back?"

"I'm afraid I don't." Was it just me, or did Cathy sound awkward?

I asked her to tell him I called then hung up. I didn't like this-

--oOo-

"Get up, Q. We're going out."

I blinked. "Huh?"

Duo was standing in front of me, holding my coat. "We're going out."

"But-I didn't know we had plans-" I said, as Duo shoved the coat into my hands.

"Well, we do now," Duo said. "Come on, get your butt off the couch. We're going to have some fun, if it kills us." As I looked dubious, he gestured to the sofa. "Come on, do you want to sit here watching old episodes of Charmed and eating ice-cream?"

I looked down at my bowl. After the fifth helping, orange-ripple was losing its appeal.

"But this is the eipsode where Phoebe and Cole get together!"

"Right, that's it!" Duo hauled me off the sofa. "We have to get you out of here before any more damage is done!"

I smiled half-heartedly as Duo bullied me into my coat and the car.

"Where are we going?"

"Ice-skating," Duo said. "Take this left."

Sally and Wufei were waiting at the rink.

"I see you were able to dislodge him without too much difficulty," Wufei observed.

"I didn't need the crowbar after all," Duo agreed. "It was a good thought though."

"Hey!" I said indignantly. "I'm not that bad."

"Sure Quatre. You've only been attached to that couch for a fortnight solid."

Sally gave me a sympathetic smile. "Do I need to lecture you on the need for social and recreational activity?"

"No," I said fervently, remembering the lecture on the evils of repression. "I'll take your word for it."

"Fast learner, isn't he?" Duo remarked to Wufei. Sally chased them both all the way to the rink.

I had the advantage of numerous holidays in Switzerland, Wufei was fairly athletic and had a good sense of balance, so we fared pretty well. Duo and Sally had neither.

"Do me a favour," Duo said, as we pulled him off the ice for what had to be the fiftieth time. "Next time I want to go ice-skating, shoot me first."

"And me second," Sally groaned. "I don't want to even think about how many bruises I'm going to have-"

"There's hot chocolate in the car, if you want it," Duo said. "In thermoses."

"Let's try this again," Wufei said, taking Duo's arm. "One foot at a time-slowly does it-left then right-"

Sally patted my shoulder. "You wouldn't mind towing me in the direction of the side? At the rate I'm going, I'd get there faster crawling-"

I obliged.

"I wasn't even aware that Duo had made hot chocolate," I said, as we gathered the thermoses from the car. "I wonder how long he'd been planning this?"

"He rang us last night and we decided that if you weren't showing signs of activity, we would force you to go out and do something fun," Sally said. "So, what's the matter Quatre? Trowa again?"

I sighed. "I had the talk with him, like you suggested. It didn't go as well as I'd hoped . . . but Trowa said he needed time to think about it and that he'd get back to me."

"That's good," Sally said. "Decisions like these can't be made in an instant. How long ago was this?"

"Two weeks."

"Two weeks?" Sally stopped and stared at me. "Quatre, I think you have a problem."

--oOo-

"I guess you're right," I said, sitting on the curb next to the parked car. "I mean, he should have rung by now-even if he hadn't made a decision just to let me know what was happening. But I don't see why he'd just . . . drop me like that. I thought he really cared about me. He was so attentive to me the last week or so we were together-"

"Think about that," Sally said. "Really attentive-was he like that through your entire relationship?"

"Well he was at the start," I said. "And then, just as I thought things were going to go further he became almost distant-but once I started the cooking course he seemed to be all interested in me again."

"Interested . . . because you seemed not to be?" Sally suggested.

"What do you mean?"

"Ever heard of the phrase not in love, but in love with love?" Sally said sympathetically. "It sounds as though Trowa has serious problems with commitment. He was interested in the challenge you posed, but once the thrill of the chase was gone-"

"So was he," I sighed.

Sally hugged me. "I'm sorry Quatre. You seem to have the worst luck with relationships."

"Tell me about it," I sighed. "Wait-if Trowa was only interested in me as a challenge, why was he suddenly all over me that one week?"

"Did you by any chance give him any reason to think that you might not be totally enamoured with him that week?" Sally asked.

"Duo said I shouldn't ring him-" I said. "Oh. So, Duo knew?"

"He suspected," Sally said. "He was hoping he wasn't right, that's why he asked me to talk to you tonight."

"I see," I said. "So he wouldn't have to?"

"Nothing of the sort," Sally said. "Duo wanted my opinion-he wanted to be sure that he was reading the situation correctly. Look, we're your friends Quatre-all any of us want is for you to be happy. Now, we'd better get back to the rink before that boyfriend of mine accuses us of drinking all the hot chocolate."

I followed slowly. I had a lot to think about.

"Oh, no! Duo! What happened?" Sally demanded, drawing me from my thoughts.

I looked up to see Duo sitting on one of the seats by the rink, Wufei beside him, watching as one of the skating rink staff bound Duo's right hand.

"I had a rather interesting crash," Duo said.

"Into the wall at high speed," Wufei said. "He managed to bring me down while doing it too."

"Oh dear. Does it hurt?" Sally fussed over Duo.

"From what I can tell its only a sprain," the staff member said, tying off the bandage. "Try not to use this hand as much as possible for the next few days."

"I'm okay, Sally, really. It's just a sprain," Duo said.

"Are you sure you don't want to go home?"

"We can't go home! The real fun is just about to start!" Duo insisted.

I raised an eyebrow at Wufei. He shrugged, obviously just as mystified.

As if on cue the lights dimmed and a strobe light was lowered.

"Get ready folks! It's time for Disco on Ice!"

Wufei paled.

Duo and I squealed at the opening song. "Burn Baby Burn! Disco Inferno!"

Despite Wufei's protests ("I was tricked! He didn't say anything about Quatre music!") we joined other skaters on the rink for a game of musical chairs, on skates. When the music stopped, everyone had to skate to the nearest corner. A bottle was then spun, all the skaters in the corner it landed on eliminated. Last one left got a spot prize.

Wufei was fully occupied in keeping Sally from falling over, I found myself helping Duo round the rink.

"Isn't this fun?" Duo said, wobbling wildly as we left our corner. "Cool music, skating-what more could you wish for?"

"Balance?" I said drily as he toppled over.

"Oh heck," Duo said, as the music died.

There was no way we could have got to a corner in time. We were disqualified and I helped Duo to the seats.

"I'm sorry, Q," Duo said. "You're a good skater, you could have won."

I was more concerned with the way he held his hand. "Duo, how badly hurt is your hand?"

"It's only sore when I-ow-move it," Duo said. "I'm fine really."

I was dubious. "Are you sure?"

"Of course I'm sure! It's my hand, isn't it?" Duo waved it happily. "Ow-"

I was ready to catch him. "I think we need to sit down," I said firmly.

Duo didn't protest as I guided us towards the seats. "I'm really sorry about this, Q. I wanted you to have a fun night out."

"I am having fun," I said.

The lights dimmed as the game of musical corners continued. A new song blared from the speakers.

"Now you can tell by the way I use my walk I'm a woman's man, no time to talk. Music loud and women warm-"

"Stayin Alive," Duo sighed wistfully. "You should be out there, this is one of your favourite songs."

I stopped. "Still thinking about me?"

"Well, someone has to," Duo tried a nonchalant shrug. "I just want to see you happy."

Happy-that's what Sally had said.

"You're a good friend, Duo," I told him. "But you don't have to worry about me. I'll be fine. Now," I took his shoulder firmly. "I'm taking you home and you're not arguing with me. You shouldn't be out here with a hurt hand, you know."

Duo had the good sense not to argue with me.

--oOo-


It was my turn to look after Duo. I'd woken up early so I could practice making scrambled eggs before he woke up. Just as I'd finished the third lot, Duo wandered into the kitchen in tousled pyjamas and sleep rumpled hair.

"Good morning!" I chirped. "Just in time for breakfast!"

He looked from me to the saucepan in incredulity. "You cooked? Voluntarily?"

"Sit down," I said. "Let me get you a plate."

"You didn't need to go to all this trouble," Duo said as he gingerly poked the food set in front of him.

"Of course I did!" I said. "With your hand as it is, there's no way you should cook. I already phoned Lloyd and told him-the kitchen staff are confident they can manage without us for the next few days."

"Without us?" Duo said. "What will you be doing?"

"Taking care of you," I informed him. "Let me cut up your toast for you."

Once Duo's toast was in handy bite sized pieces, I gave him the fork.

"So what do you want to do today?" I asked him.

"I don't have anything in mind," Duo said. "After all, I was thinking of going to work-"

"In that case," I said. "May I make a suggestion?"

Duo froze as I seated myself on his lap.

"What . . . ," he whispered, as I leant into him. "What are you doing?"

"You're the psychology student," I told him. "You figure it out." And then I kissed him.

"Wow-" Duo murmured as we broke apart. "Wait-are you sure about this, Q?"

"Absolutely," I said. "You like me-I like you, neither of us have boyfriends-Unless you're no longer interested-"

I was rather abruptly hauled down for another kiss. This one was passionate, if a little rough, and left me gasping for breath at the end of that.

"That answers that," I murmured rather shakily, leaning in for another kiss, but Duo stopped me.

"Q-if we do this it has to be for the right reasons, otherwise we're better off just staying friends-"

That was enough to stop me. "Duo-I have thought about this. A lot actually-I'm sure of this. I-" I poked him in the chest. "Want you."

Duo smiled, a very attractive shade of pink creeping over his cheeks. "Well, can't argue with that."

"So we're together then? Its official?"

"I guess it is."

We grinned shyly at eachother. For all the effort it took getting us to this point, neither of us really knew what to do next. I noticed Duo's untouched meal on the table. "You haven't had your breakfast-"

"Ah, tell you what, Q," Duo suggested hastily. "Why don't we just makeout now, and worry about that later?"

"Okay!"

End.