Memento (Part Twenty-Five)
The hours between twelve midnight and five in the morning were never his favorite time periods. Ideally, he would be fast asleep dreaming about various things he won't remember in the morning, but that was a different morning. That morning was one of the few mornings in the year he was required to be up and running, preparing himself to face another boring day guarding politicians and ensuring that there would be no strife in the fairly young world of peace.
"No. He is an invalid and therefore will not be capable of handling such a high profile operation such as this one. He stays."
Frustrated and very cranky from his lack of sleep, Trowa chose to hum some distant tune in his head to stop himself from loosing it. At four am, after consuming numerous cups of tea and finishing off the office's supply of honey, Trowa still found himself unable to function properly.
"That's bullshit and you know it."
Trowa watched the proceedings with little interest. Duo and Heero were currently having an argument with the head of operations. He grimaced, realizing that the guy who replaced Une was a little too difficult to deal with. Being a military general from the time of war, the man was too strict about everything, including the combative preparedness of his troops as he called them.
"Look at that," General Schwarzkopf, their boss for over a year, said, pointing to the other side of the protective glass where Quatre was drawing something with crayons and a ruler. "He is an invalid!"
Trowa winced, not liking at all how that sounded. True, Quatre came out a little worse for wear after the series of operations he went through. After his seventh and final operation just eight months back, he experienced a few difficulties. For one, his eyesight was bad and required the use of glasses. He was also unable to count, identify certain objects, understand simple phrases, and remember familiar names. At one point he'd been declared mentally unfit to function on his own.
"Will you stop saying that word," Duo screamed, unmindful that it was his very muscular, very intimidating boss he was screaming at. The guy could probably crush him with one arm.
"He was born to do this," Heero spoke up before Duo could say anything more. Being the least aggravated by the situation, he pushed Duo into a seat and walked up to within inches of the former general. "He's proven it twice already."
"Yes, with rodents and insects," their boss said, murmuring thoughtfully as he stood before the glass. He watched Quatre lick his lips while drawing a line on the piece of artwork he'd been working on since they arrived a little before three am.
Trowa watched Une's replacement battle out reasons within himself. He was sure that after Quatre's display just a few days ago, his skill was hard to ignore. It made him smirk. To prove that Quatre was entirely capable of handling operations, the former general had assigned him to train a group of worker ants to build a nest in a specific area with specific conditions. The task had been completed in less than a week. Unable to accept that Quatre was as functional as they let him out to be, he assigned another task where a group of 12 mice were required to defend themselves from 2 very large cats.
"Those cats are scared shitless now, aren't they?" Duo said out loud before laughing it off, hitting Wufei's back hard in the process.
Trowa smiled at the memory. Duo had insisted that they commission little military style outfits for the white lab mice Quatre was supposed to command. Within the end of the week, without any protests, requests or complaints, Quatre had turned once docile rodents into soldiers as the war of rats versus cats commenced. The military strategy enforced was a success and the former general was a little more than surprised to watch the display, nearly salivating at the command with which Quatre had lead the too adorable mice to victory. If only Duo didn't suggest the outfits, Quatre would have probably been taken more seriously.
"That is one fact I can't invalidate," General Schwarzkopf said, continuing to scrutinize the man on the other side of the glass. Wufei scoffed at the comment with an air of superiority.
"It is useless to try for your approval anyway. I'm sure he'll make himself a part of this operation with your full consent before the end of the hour without saying a word," he said, not waiting for anyone to follow him as he left the room. Trowa had to admit that their discussion was taking a little too long, making even him more aggravated by the minute.
"Very well," the former general said reluctantly, watching one of his more experienced men walk out. "However, I must make one last check to make sure that he will be able to function during today's operation. Be aware that despite his capabilities to command, he is still unable to perform strenuous physical activities. His life will also be in jeopardy if he is unable to defend himself."
By that time, Duo was making a face behind the former general, mimicking his movements with a little less than flattering exaggeration. When Heero rolled his eyes, Trowa put a hand over his and sighed. They should have been preparing. After the long argument, he was sure they no longer had much time to plan what they were supposed to do.
Following the large man out the door, Trowa was not surprised to find Wufei already in discussion with Quatre. The quiet but serious voice of the later tickled his ears for a few moments before it was interrupted.
"Quatre," the former general tried to get his attention, talking to him as if he were a five year old being prepped for a visit to the dentist. "I just wanted to make sure that you were comfortable going with these nice men to work on a very important mission."
Trowa rolled his eyes before watching Quatre react to the infantile and very insulting display. Quatre nodded once, his face blank and lips in a thin line as he looked back down at whatever it was he was drawing. His glasses slipped down a few centimeters before he used his middle finger to adjust its position. Trowa wondered if he was subtly giving their superior the finger.
"Now what are you drawing there? May I see?" their boss inquired, continuing to speak in that same tone of voice that had Duo ready to sic the dogs on him.
Quatre looked up, hesitating for a moment before pushing his work forward for the man to inspect. Trowa's eyes widened as he recognized what Quatre had been doing while they were arguing in the next room over.
"It's very nice, but I don't think I like abstract art that much."
"Oh for the love of God," Duo exclaimed, shoving the man's face to the blueprints taped to the other end of the wall. "That thing you call abstract art is the plan for operations later today. It's the surrounding area of the Loyola convention center and those blue dots are the primal locations where snipers could position themselves."
General Schwarzkopf blinked before straightening up and immediately stopping his foolish treatment of an obvious equal if not superior.
"Very well then," he said in a gruff voice. "He may come, but there is still the issue of his physical incapability. I don't care if he's been going to physical therapy. He's still a scrawny kid. Make sure he doesn't become a hindrance to operations. You may carry on, men," he said, facing the other direction and stiffly walking out the door. Duo could not help but laugh.
"Man, that is one very annoying creep," Duo said, pulling up a chair and positioning himself across Quatre. "Ignore him. You're more than capable, Quat. Just do your thing."
Quatre nodded once. It seemed the only reaction he was capable of doing as he picked up a green crayon and continued drawing. That gave Trowa a full view of his head, which looked like a map with a zigzag of stitches littered everywhere. It wasn't very attractive but it wasn't hideous either. It just looked unique, like a tattoo rendered on alabaster canvas. His head was starting to grow hair albeit not very much. Duo had considered the crew cut he now sported a desecration of all that was thick and healthy. To Trowa, it was just a phase.
"Winner," Wufei's voice boomed all of a sudden from the background, jerking Trowa out of his concentration on Quatre's head. "It's about time we talk to you about combat," he said, pulling up a chair next to Quatre. Quatre was forced to let go of the crayon he had in his hand.
"Yes, Sally's bitch," he said with so much intensity that it was very hard to tell if he was kidding. Duo snickered.
"Er," Wufei faltered, finding the dead serious look on Quatre's face a little more than disturbing. "Idiots like these," he said, pointing towards Duo. "They only use muscle to defend themselves."
"You, however, are not an idiot and are obviously incapable of using muscle at the moment. We have all agreed on a compromise. This should be enough to get you through the day," he concluded, handing Quatre a taser gun. It was not very imaginative, but no matter how simple the device looked, they were sure Quatre could do something useful with it.
Quatre retrieved the offered gift, nodded once, and then continued working. Meanwhile, Wufei and Duo argued about the name tag that Duo secretly replaced while he wasn't looking. Trowa looked down at his own to double check and was thankful that it still had the words 'zero-three' on it.
"You're nervous," he heard Heero say upon looking back up. His comrade had his hand on Quatre's, stilling the other's movements. Trowa hadn't even noticed Heero take the seat on the spot next to Quatre. The blonde refused to let go of the crayon and looked intently at his restrained hand. He nodded once. The exchange caught the dueling pair's attention, enough to stop them from bickering.
"You sure you want to do this?" Heero asked gently, letting go of Quatre's hand. Quatre nodded again, pointing to his drawing with a colorful finger. It meant that he got it covered. Trowa forced himself to understand the other's body language.
Despite the ache he felt to go ahead and touch the other, he restrained himself. Quatre was still a little wary of him and he refused to scare him away. It was too hard sometimes just watching and waiting.
"I'll just be outside," Trowa said, extricating himself from the room to relieve the tension he felt building. It was best to concentrate on other things. To do just that, he picked up his cell phone and dialed a memorized number.
"Hi sweetheart," he said dotingly as another's face came into view on the other end of the screen.
"Zero-three, Walta will be coming out from an alternate exit. Proceed five paces from your position. Go vertical."
"Affirmative," Trowa said into his mouthpiece, easily jumping up and landing on a narrow ledge while his hands remained in his pockets. He walked another few steps before jumping again to the next level, each level traveled one at a time until he was standing at the right spot.
"Control, I think I'm closer to the position," he heard Duo say. Trowa was still unused to Quatre's new codename and almost stumbled forward when he heard it. For as long as he knew, Quatre was always zero-four and to hear otherwise was confusing. 'Control' had been chosen both so Quatre could remember the codename easily and to prevent him from being forced into the position of his old self. Forcing him to remember, to all of them, was a grave sin.
"Zero-two, your position may be closer, but this is under zero-three's territory. Remain at your position. The man behind Walta will be targeted as well."
Trowa waited for further instructions. He stood still, getting bored by the minute before hearing two shots being fired. It could only have meant that one of them was being targeted. Unable to stay still, Trowa jumped one level down. He hoped that it wasn't what he thought it was.
"What the hell? Who got hit?" he heard Duo say, confirming that he was alive and well. That left three others. Trowa hesitated, waiting a few more seconds just in case the endangered party already had it covered.
"This is control. The shots came from my position. Two men are down. Maintain your positions."
Sighing in relief, Trowa jumped back up his former position, almost tipping over as he landed. He grabbed the closest wall he could find before making a sound that told everyone of his frustration. He hated feeling worried every five minutes. Quatre was capable. He was sure, but it didn't mean that he could keep his concentration focused solely on the job.
"Calm down, zero-three," Quatre's voice filtered through the earpiece, the gentle baritone soothing his nerves. "You will see her soon enough."
Trowa nodded although nobody could see his affirmative. Quatre's voice was calm, assuring him that it was all he needed to hear. With renewed concentration, Trowa looked far into the distance and spotted his guy.
"Sally's bitch, take over zero-three's G1 area."
"It's zero-five, damn it!" he heard Wufei hiss. All in all, what started as a very boring operation turned out to be quite entertaining.
Dressed in loose jeans and a well-worn shirt, Trowa made his way to the inside of Duo's house, every once in a while looking here and there, scrutinizing every corner of his friend's abode. Walking with purpose, he slowly inched into a nearby table before quickly looking under. There was nobody there.
"Isn't it a little late to be playing hide and seek?" Hilde greeted him as she exited the kitchen. On her hand was a glass of orange juice and a very large cookie.
"I was just looking for someone," Trowa answered before he looked behind him only to find nobody there.
"Well you aren't going to find her," Duo quipped, also coming out of the kitchen with half a glass of milk and what looked to be ten cookies crammed into his mouth. "She doesn't want to see you right now," he continued after chewing and effectively swallowing the cookies. "You might as well sit down, Tro and I'll do my best to entertain you."
Hilde, after dropping a quick peck on Duo's cheek and a friendly wave in Trowa's direction, left them to talk. Trowa snorted at Duo's comment but sat down anyway. Taking in his friend's appearance, it was obvious that he was planning to lounge around for the rest of the night. It didn't seem to matter that he was there and that Wufei and Heero were going to show up later that night. He was dressed for bed.
"Whatever happened to the 'not spoiling your dinner' rule?"
"In this house, we'll spoil you with whatever you want," Duo responded, winking Trowa's way. "So, you think Wufei will forgive me for having Quatre call him Sally's bitch all day?"
"I doubt it," Trowa answered, nearly laughing at the memory. It surely made the rest of the day worthwhile. "Where is Quatre anyway?" he asked casually.
Duo's smile widened at the question. He put his glass down before leaning into him and whispering.
"So you want to hook up with my boy?" Duo said, winking his way and acting like it was some big secret.
Trowa leaned back on his seat, pulling away from Duo's inquisitive look that spelled trouble. Ever since Quatre had been released from the hospital, Duo and Hilde had become his legal guardians. Despite being an adult, Quatre was considered unable to take care of himself. Trowa would have jumped at the chance to take him in, but his conscience told him to do the right thing. Duo had an extra room and Duo had no history with him, so Duo was the best choice. The distance between them would take away the pressure of forcing Quatre to remember whatever he didn't want to and would also ensure that Trowa wouldn't do anything he would regret later.
"Duo, I don't even think he likes playing the part of your son," Trowa replied, giving his friend a strange look. It may have been funny the way Duo and Hilde pampered him, but he was sure Quatre felt awkward being showered with so much attention.
"Ah well, he just has to live with it, doesn't he?" he said. Duo then deposited his bare legs on top of the coffee table before him. That was when Trowa noticed two tiny hands appear from underneath Duo's seat.
"Young lady, you better come out of there this instant," Trowa said with a warning tone. Not more than a few seconds later, a tiny body leaped up to deposit itself into his awaiting arms.
"Daddy!" the little girl cried, circling her arms around his neck and nearly smothering him with her hair. "You're late," she reprimanded, gripping Trowa's neck even stronger.
"Don't try to kill daddy now, love," Trowa said gently, trying to remove the near death grip the little girl had on him.
"Ah, and here I thought I could steal her away from you," Duo said very dramatically, putting a hand over his heart. "Now I only have one son and no daughter."
"Quatre's not your son," Trowa reminded him again before he held his daughter at arm's length and looked at her. She was wearing a dainty pink dress Catherine had given her during her last visit. Dark brown curls came down from either side of her head held together by equally pink ribbons that matched the slight pink in her cheeks. Big, dark green eyes looked back at him with mirth and true love. How he loved the way she always looked at him.
"Whatever works for you," Duo said, signaling for him to let the kid go play somewhere. He looked like he wanted to discuss something important.
"Isabel, daddy has to talk to uncle Duo for a little while," was all he said before she smacked him with a sloppy, wet kiss and bounded to some unknown corner of Duo's house.
"Quite the kid you got Tro," Duo said, thrusting a thumb out at the retreating girl.
"Yeah, too bad Quatre's not interested in children," Trowa muttered, choosing to look at his shoes. Now that he had two loves in his life, it was difficult to make sure one loved the other. He would be devastated if they didn't get along.
"You've got to be kidding me," Duo said, blinking in his direction. "What made you think that?"
"Duo, Quatre doesn't even talk to her," Trowa said, feeling a headache coming on. He'd adopted Isabel a year ago and had come to love her, but found it strange and disappointing that Quatre didn't seem interested when she was around.
"You obviously don't know what's going on while you're not around," Duo said as he laughed good-naturedly. "Quatre doesn't talk to anyone -- well, except maybe Heero and just a wee bit to Wufei. You know how he's been these past few months, all seriousness and no fun. It doesn't help either that he's always staring at that blasted laptop Heero gave him, which brings me to what I wanted to talk about. The guy needs to get laid."
Trowa would have sputtered if he could.
"Tro, when are you going to make the move? I know he's been untouchable and all, but Quat's been looking lonelier everyday. You know I can't stand when he's lonely."
"Neither can I, Duo," Trowa sighed.
"What, so you're not going to do anything about that? Geez, it's about time you courted the guy. It's not like you haven't done it before."
"What? You lazy ass! All this time we believed you did all the work. Don't tell me you had him run that company and come woo you at the same time."
Duo looked about ready to burst. Trowa could not tell if it was because of his scripted responses or because of his lack of a more emphatic reaction.
"He was inquiring about you the other day," Duo started again after letting out a very loud sigh.
"Oh?" Trowa said. His interest was piqued. For the longest time, he couldn't tell if Quatre was interested in him. All the reaction he ever got out of the other was a blank expression and a formal nod.
"He wanted to know what kind of guys you were into. He figured you were gay and all. I said he liked blondes - blondes with thick, fluffy hair."
"Thank you very much, Duo. I'm sure he appreciates the tip... considering that he's practically bald."
"Damn it Trowa! That's not the point. At least talk to him once. You guys are like strangers. It's creeping me out."
"We are strangers."
"Shut the hell up and do as I tell you before I haul your ass to him!"
"Fine, fine," Trowa said. He got up from his chair and walked toward the room he knew to be Quatre's. That was, before he was hit in the head with a stray slipper.
"God damn it! He's up on the roof!" Duo said, removing his other slipper before threatening to take Trowa down with it. "You know he's always on the roof!"
Trowa concluded then that he really loved riling Duo. He'd been meaning to talk to Quatre before he left, but since he was being forced, he knew now was as good a time as any. Walking up the steps to the flat, expansive roof atop Duo's house, Trowa was surprised to hear a familiar voice talking softly to someone. He decided to take a peek.
"The ribbons are going to keep coming off if you pull at them," Quatre said, almost whispering as he adjusted the pink decorations on Isabel's head. His open laptop was beside his sitting form and he had a five year old sitting on his lap. "Try to make sure you keep them on this time." His face was as blank as always but his eyes looked adoringly at her.
"Mmkay," Isabel answered while chewing on the curls of hair she could grasp and tugging at her dress. She shifted from side to side as Quatre continued to arrange her hair in a semblance of normalcy. To Trowa, it was the perfect picture.
"There, that should do," Quatre said when he finished. He pulled the girl's hands from her mouth to reveal two rings attached to a necklace. "Don't swallow, ok," he instructed, allowing her to run off to whatever place she desired.
Isabel, seeing that her father was waiting by the ladder, ran up to him, almost knocking him two stories down. Luckily, Trowa had anticipated the move and held a death grip on the railings attached to the structure.
"You were spying on us," she accused, her eyes twinkling with mischief.
"Yes I was," Trowa admitted. It was hard to lie to her, even when Quatre was witness to his response. He swung her to the other side, balancing her on his hip before descending the ladder. It was best to take her somewhere safe for the time being. He was intending to take her to bed when he was caught off guard as she whispered something into his ear.
"Are we taking daddy home yet?" she asked. She obviously did not care that she was calling two different people 'daddy'.
Trowa blinked before shushing her.
"What did I say about talking that way around him?" he said, looking up to make sure that Quatre wasn't following them down. When he was satisfied, he continued his descent down the ladder. "You don't call him daddy, do you?" he double checked.
"Nah, he's uncle Quatre for now," she answered, leaning into him and depositing her head into his shoulder. "He misses you," she yawned before falling dead asleep on him. Trowa wondered if she knew what she was talking about.
After handing her over to who he hoped were responsible individuals, Trowa made his way back up the roof. Quatre was still there, but this time he seemed to be preoccupied with whatever it was on his computer screen. Disappointed, Trowa made his way down before he was stopped by that same voice he loved hearing.
"You have a beautiful daughter," Quatre said, continuing to type up something in his laptop, never making a move to look anywhere but at the screen.
"Yeah," Trowa answered absently. Taking the small talk as an invitation, he climbed up the rest of the way to join his former husband. He sat himself next to him, making sure that they were a safe distance apart. From his angle, he could see that Quatre was taking cognitive exercises probably meant to accelerate his progress.
"Do you find me repulsive?" Quatre started again after Trowa had made himself comfortable.
"Of course not," Trowa answered quickly. He made no move to extrapolate on his argument.
"That's a relief," Quatre said evenly with no inflection in his speech whatsoever. He didn't look very relieved at all, only detached as his hands moved clumsily over various keys.
"That's not relief I sense," Trowa said, frowning. He imagined that it was just as difficult to talk to him. It wasn't such an appealing idea that Quatre was becoming an extreme version of him.
"What do you want me to do, Trowa?" Quatre whispered all of a sudden, stilling his movements. His eyes fell. His head bowed. He looked like he'd been bullied by a mean kid. Trowa felt alarmed.
"I didn't mean..."
Amidst his frantic need to explain himself, Trowa stopped abruptly, closing his eyes. He froze, feeling a familiar, delicate hand against his cold cheek. Caught in a situation he never imagined could happen so soon, Trowa allowed Quatre to do as he wished.
Long, thin fingers traced his jaw before they ghosted over the side of his neck. Trowa shivered, feeling those nimble digits make their way down to land at the back of his neck. Not very long after, his lips were delivered a chaste kiss that barely lasted long enough before those same fingers weaved through his hair. Just as quickly, the contact ended. Trowa blinked his eyes open.
"Wha...?" he said, disappointed at the loss. Quatre was again working on his laptop. It was almost too cruel.
"That should keep you coming back for more," Quatre said in the same, aloof manner he spoke with. That was when Trowa realized that he'd just been manipulated. "I suppose dinner with me tomorrow night is in order. I've made reservations. This will be all you will need."
Trowa took the slip of paper Quatre handed to him, realizing that it contained the name of the restaurant, the time they were meeting, what to wear, where to leave his daughter, and directions to the place.
"This last paycheck should be enough to cover that," Quatre murmured, not displaying an ounce of the surprise and awkward embarrassment Trowa was feeling. In fact, he looked very calculating. All that time Quatre had just been waiting to earn enough money to take him out? Not for the first time, Trowa was unnerved with the way Quatre worked. He'd surely been planning it for a long time.
"O...kay," Trowa said carefully, feeling the need to remove himself from the situation. He felt like some giddy, self-conscious school girl who'd just been asked out on a date by her crush. He stood up, leaving as fast as he could while trying to look dignified. When he was almost out of Quatre's range of sight, he was stopped in his tracks.
"Will you wait for me?" Quatre said looking at him with the same look of true love he'd recognized from his daughter. That was when he confirmed that Quatre did somehow remember him.
"Of course," Trowa answered, smiling genuinely with all the heartfelt devotion he could express.
For Quatre, he would wait forever.