As a girl, Dorothy Catalonia had never thought the day would come that she would find herself married off. Yet here she was, walking into her new home -- not as a Catalonia, but as a Winner. Her new surname struck her as ironic, more suited to her husband than to herself in the present circumstances.
"Home sweet home," Quatre announced as he carried her bag across the threshold.
"Yes, very sweet," she murmured in a halfhearted attempt to be agreeable, but already the house was in a number of ways alien to her and her tastes. A life in the colonies! Who ever would have thought it? Clenching and unclenching her jaw, Dorothy surveyed the surroundings she would have to call home from now on.
The entryway was light and airy, soaring straight up into a domed ceiling. Walls, floor, and ceiling were all intricately decorated in hand-crafted white-and-blue Islamic tiles imported from Earth, which bounced both light and sound around the room. The wings of the house met here; twin staircases to both left and right led up to the second storey and a railed-in walkway which ringed the room. Directly ahead of her were a pair of French doors. Dorothy strode over to them and peered out; they gave onto a covered cloister and a central garden courtyard around which the house was built. The square of lawn contained a single date palm and several small orange trees, flowering bougainvillea and, in pride of place, an elegantly crafted cascading fountain.
Even for a family as rich as the Winners it seemed there were no great country estates to be found in outer space. The Winner abode might be sumptuous, and certainly larger than what most colonists could claim, but there were still neighbors pressing in on either side of them; Dorothy had viewed them with dismay as they had driven up. Quatre had informed her with pride that his family home was built in the style traditional for the nations which had founded L4, and that the 'indoor garden' was a sign of wealth even on Earth. A sign of wealth it might be, but in Dorothy's mind it was a rather pathetic one. The meager attempt at a private outdoor area could only be to compensate for the cramped closeness of the people in outer space. Dorothy hardly thought the effort worth it -- if one looked up, past the wisps of cloud that floated in the center of the colony wheel, one could see the upside down roofs of the colonists living directly opposite. Private, indeed.
"Master Quatre -- welcome home!"
"Berta, thank you, it's good to be back at last. Come, meet Dorothy: the new lady of the house."
Dorothy turned from her study of the garden to take in the servant offering her a polite curtsey, a short brunette woman dressed in, at last, a traditional black and white uniform. "Berta, is it? Do fetch us some tea, will you?"
"Please, yes," Quatre agreed at once. "Would you mind serving it out on the balcony by the library? Oh, and Berta, could you also have someone take our bags upstairs, please?"
"Right away, Master Quatre -- Madam Dorothy."
Dorothy watched the girl make her way back down the corridor, turning to Quatre once she was out of sight and saying to him, "You must tell her she's not to call me that. I won't have her using my given name."
Quatre smiled at her indulgently as he moved to her side. "Try to be patient with them -- everyone here is used to a certain amount of informality."
"I won't have it," Dorothy repeated, pulling sharply away as Quatre tried to lean in to kiss her nose. "And you -- you're not a child anymore. You're a married man now. She shouldn't be calling you Master Quatre; it's Mr Winner from now on. It's not seemly."
"I'll speak to her," Quatre promised. "But, come, let me show you the way to the library. The view from the balcony there truly is excellent."
"Very well." Dorothy allowed Quatre to hook her arm around his as he led the way. He kept his hand over hers, trapping it there with a warm, dry weight. Dorothy wished he would release her, but she said nothing, merely let her resentment simmer. The feeling was almost comforting in its familiarity amongst so much newness.
"I hope you'll like it here," Quatre said as they walked. "I want you to feel at home, so anything you want to change, please just say. I know you're used to a certain standard of living on the Earth, and L4 may be something of an adjustment for you, but I'm confident we can make arrangements for whatever you wish."
"I'm sure I'll find it all to be quite adequate for my present circumstances."
Quatre laughed, a joyful sound. "You really are quite something, Dorothy. My very dear Dorothy." He ducked through a door on their left, ushering her into what could only be the library. There were books, yes, and acres of plush rugs and red brocade cushions and sofas. Small stained glass windows pocked the ornate ceiling casting colored light around the otherwise dim room. And dead ahead, through another set of French doors, was the promised balcony.
Quatre sighed as he flung the doors open. "I've missed this place," he told her, throwing another of his radiant smiles carelessly back over his shoulder.
Dorothy followed him outside. Instinctively, she looked up, glancing for where the sun should be. Idiocy. The diffuse, omnidirectional light of the colonies wasn't a thing like real sunlight. She gripped the rail of the balcony tightly to give her surge of irritation a focus. This balcony did not face inward to overlook the courtyard; located at the rear of the house it instead offered a view out over the rest of the colony. Directly ahead, a public park added some greenery to the view; beyond that it was a grid of interlocking streets, apartment blocks, and office towers, arcing up and overhead and back behind. Left and right, the exposed metal walls of the colony enclosed them. There was no view of the black space that lay beyond.
It was still only a few short years since the embargo on travel between Earth and space had been lifted, and in that time Dorothy had heard stories of people arriving in the colonies for the first time who couldn't handle the disorientation of seeing civilization hanging upside down on top of them. In some cases the sight induced vertigo and panic attacks severe enough to completely incapacitate the sufferer. So far, thank goodness, she had no such adverse physical side effects to contend with, although it was, she had to admit, an eerie thing to behold.
"Quite something, isn't it?" Quatre said from behind her shoulder.
"All this, birthed from the indomitable spirit of mankind."
"Oh don't get poetic, for pity's sake. It doesn't suit you."
Quatre ran his fingers down through her hair before he gathered it to one side and planted a teasing kiss against the back of her neck. "It's a good thing you're here to put me in my place, then."
Dorothy easily shrugged him off and sank down onto one of the cushioned chairs. "Where is that girl with the tea?"
"She'll be here soon enough. In the meantime, I, for one, am glad of the time alone with you." After a mere three months of marriage Dorothy already recognized that smile on Quatre's face. He padded over and knelt down in front of her, reaching out a hand and running it gently up and down her leg. When she made no protest, his other hand joined its brother. Playfully, he dipped under the hem of her dress, then ventured further, caressing her thighs, encouraging her to spread her legs wider and grant him better access. Quatre's thumbs teased her through the thin material of her panties. She gave in and shifted her hips, lifting them just enough to allow him to slide off her knickers. He took his time, hooking them over her ankles and shoes, careful not to catch them against her heels.
He held the underwear up to his face admiringly, stroking the black satin and lace, finally bringing the panties directly to his nose and inhaling deeply. Catching her eye, he waggled an eyebrow and asked, "May I keep these?"
"What's mine is yours," Dorothy replied, her voice placid.
Quatre broke into a grin and folded her underwear with care before tucking the parcel into the inside breast pocket of his jacket. "Now let's see," he murmured, "where was I?"
His hands came back to her legs, followed by his face, tickling and kissing and licking his way up, up under her skirt, up, up to her cunt. Dorothy let out a sigh and leaned her head back against the chair.
Her eye turned to the door just in time to catch Berta's, who was brought up short on the other side of the French doors, the tray of tea things balanced precariously in her arms. A deer caught in headlights, the servant froze to her spot just long enough to blush bright red under Dorothy's steady gaze before turning to flee. Dorothy watched her embarrassed retreat and began to laugh, long and loud, genuinely amused for the first time in she didn't know how long. Let Quatre think he was the source of her delight, she didn't care -- she would not enlighten him. Dorothy turned her face back out to the view just as, under her dress, her husband finally began to do something interesting.
Quatre's technique might be unpracticed, but he certainly had no end of enthusiasm. He continued what he was doing with eager determination, not withdrawing until he was certain she was well and truly finished. Dorothy peered down at him through half-lidded eyes, admiring the way her foot looked pressed against his shoulder, while he smiled back up at her.
Berta bustled back out and set the tea tray down on the table as Quatre rose up from his knees to resume his seat. "Your tea, sir," she said faintly. She did not look at Dorothy.
"I'll pour," said Dorothy. "Run along," she added to the servant, curious to see what sort of response the sound of her voice would elicit.
"Yes, Madam Dorothy."
Dorothy shot Quatre a quick, pointed look, and he cleared his throat. "Er, Berta, I just wanted to make you aware, that's not actually the appropriate form of address for my wife."
"Oh, I -- I beg your pardon, Master Quatre. How am I…?"
"You may call me 'my lady,'" Dorothy instructed her, her attention on the steaming cup she was pouring into. "And this is Mr Winner from now on. Do you understand?"
"Yes, my lady. Very good, my lady."
"That will be all. See to it the other servants hear that as well. I don't want to have to correct anyone else."
"Certainly, my lady."
Berta's cheeks were red and splotchy as she made her escape. Dorothy glanced after her with a faint smile, then handed Quatre his cup of tea before pouring her own. "There now, that will be much better going forward."
"Yes, you're probably right," Quatre said with a sigh. After a quick sip he set his tea aside to spread jam on a croissant, eating it swiftly with small, neat bites, holding his plate just beneath his chin to catch any crumbs before they reached his suit. Dorothy watched him uneasily, slowly stirring a lump of sugar into her tea. She kept moving the spoon round and round long after the sugar had dissolved. Quatre finished his croissant and set his plate aside. "Well," he said briskly, "I must go into the office for a few hours." He looked at her with apparent concern. "Will you be all right here on your own? I don't like to leave you alone so soon after we've arrived."
"No need to worry about me. I'm sure I'll find some way of amusing myself."
"Oh -- and remember Trowa is due to arrive sometime today. If he gets here before I'm back, would you be able to do me a favor and keep him company?"
"I shall be his constant companion," she promised.
Quatre smiled again. "That's great. Thank you. I'll try not to be away too long." He stood and bent over to kiss her. His lips tasted of raspberry jam and her cunt. After he'd marked her mouth with her own scent, he withdrew. Dorothy rinsed her mouth with tea and waited at the table until she was certain she was truly alone. Then, leaving the tea tray for Berta or whoever to take away later, she made her way back inside.
The last three months she had spent almost entirely in Quatre's company. This breath of solitude was a blessing. She walked the long halls of the house in silence, encountering no one.
Her bag had been removed from the foyer, she saw at a glance from the top of the stairs. Without descending, she continued into the opposite wing of the house. The master bedroom must be down here; Dorothy was certain she'd have known if servants had brought her bags into the other wing. And though it was large by colony standards, the house was no maze: she was bound to find it if she simply opened enough doors. And who was stop her from doing so? It was her own house now, after all.
Yes, here she was. She opened a door, and there were her things.
She went at once to her largest traveling trunk and threw it open. Setting layers of clothing aside, she found what she wanted: a slim, careworn leather case. She drew it onto her lap, relishing the softness of the leather, the heavy weight of it on her legs. This, now, this was familiarity itself. Dorothy flipped the twin latches holding the case closed and the pungent scent of gunpowder filled her nose.
How magnificently the world crystallizes when viewed down the barrel of a gun, Dorothy mused; how simple it all becomes.
She withdrew one of her father's two antique dueling pistols and hefted it in her hand, feeling the weight of it. Here was a beautiful thing, the smooth metal barrel transitioning to warm, soft wood etched with gold filigree, the spindle thin delicacy of the ornamentation belying the weapon's solid heaviness. Dorothy's fingers ghosted over its mechanisms, her movements slow and almost dreamy as she half cocked the gun and loaded powder and bullet. Setting that pistol aside she took out the other and repeated the procedure. "There now," she murmured when she had finished, a satisfied smile gracing her face. This was the way to face the house.
She rose to her feet and examined the two pistols laid out side by side before selecting one. It felt alive in her hand; she cradled it carefully.
She set out. Her gait was steady and smooth; Dorothy could imagine what she looked like from above, the relentless power of her stride as it took her down the hall of Quatre's house. Her house. She would tame this place and claim it for her own. It was within her power to do so; yes it was.
After some time spent familiarizing herself with the rooms around the master bedroom Dorothy moved on to opposite wing of the house. She selected a door and opened it, went in. Her eyes narrowed as she peered around. It was disused, this room; dust sheets lay over the furniture. She crossed to one and pulled it off, revealing a large freestanding crib beneath. The movement set the hanging mobile spinning, a tired tune chiming in the stillness.
The room must be Quatre's old nursery, she realized. She moved about it, removing the dust sheets one by one, slowly exposing it to her examination. The dresser drawers were full of soft blue baby blankets, knitted socks, and onesies. "Is this what you wore, little Quatre?" Dorothy asked aloud, holding up the garments one by one before discarding them again. What could she discern from these? What knowledge, what understanding might she gain?
She turned her attention to the walls, where dozens of pictures hung. She moved from one to the next, looking at each in its turn. Here was the young master of the house clinging to what was presumably his father's arm. Here he was smiling and waving at the camera. Here he was being cradled in the arms of a woman -- a sister? a nursemaid? hard to say. Here he was, carefully posed, looking solemn, his chubby toddler's lower lip almost disappearing as he sucked on it. Here he was, an infant, fast asleep. And so it went, a catalogue of her husband's early years.
Dorothy moved to the center of the room and raised her arm. She stood still, breathing slowly. She sighted down the length of her pistol, cocked the gun, and fired it.
A hole appeared in one of Quatre's many heads.
Dorothy smiled in satisfaction.
She turned, and had reached into her pockets for the powder flask and her pouch of bullets when the sound of running feet reached her ears. Berta burst into the room. Her eyes went from the sight of Dorothy's gun in her hand to the photograph of Quatre on the wall. "My lady!" she cried out in horror. "What are you doing?!"
"None of your concern," Dorothy told her. "Go back to your chores."
Berta's cheeks flushed and her eyes darkened in anger. "I will not," she said. "Master Quatre would not approve of this. You have no right to destroy these things. His things."
Dorothy whirled round and advanced on her. "It's Mr Winner now," she hissed in warning.
Berta eyed the gun still in Dorothy's hand, but stuck out her chin in defiance and replied, "He'll always be Master Quatre to those that love him."
Dorothy laughed. "That may be," she admitted, "but I -" The doorbell rang and she fell silent. Berta didn't move, continuing to stare Dorothy in the eye, her tiny chest heaving up and down. Dorothy took another step closer. "Go and see who's at the door," she ordered, her voice no more than a pleasant murmur. Berta's eyes dropped once more to Dorothy's pistol, then she turned and fled. Dorothy watched her go, her lips pursed with disapproval.
It was several minutes before Berta came back; her eyes were wide and round when she appeared again, and when she spoke her voice was hushed and almost faint: "It's… it's the Vice Foreign Minister, ma'am."
"Relena?" Dorothy stood up straighter in surprise. "Whatever can she want?"
Helpless to say anything, Berta could only shake her head.
Dorothy sighed. "Where have you put her?"
"She's waiting in the sitting room."
"You'll have to show me." Dorothy waved a hand, finally breaking Berta from her daze. The servant nodded crisply and turned on her heel to lead the way. Dorothy followed, thoughtfully stroking her thumb along her father's pistol as she went. "Miss Relena," she greeted, throwing her arms wide as Berta opened the door to the sitting room and stepped aside to let her in. "What a pleasant surprise!"
"Dorothy." Relena, as ever, was the more restrained. She turned where she stood, but moved no closer. "How lovely to see you again. I do hope I'm not intruding."
"Not in the slightest. Now do come and sit. It's been such a long time since we had a proper chat." Seven years, to be exact -- not since the end of the Eve Wars. Seven years. That could be no accident. Yet not even a day after arriving at Quatre's home she had the Vice Foreign Minister alone in her rooms. It appeared she had made the right decision in marrying him after all. Dorothy placed her father's pistol to one side and smiled as she chose a seat on the chaise longue. She patted the space beside her. "Has Berta offered you anything?"
"I'm fine, thank you."
"No? I'll take tea, Berta. Bring two cups, and then our guest has the chance to change her mind."
"Yes, my lady," Berta murmured stiffly, and went out.
"Now, Miss Relena, we're alone. Why don't you tell me what's troubling you?"
Relena turned her head sharply. "Troubling me?" she repeated. "What makes you think -- no, never mind. You're right. It must be obvious. But, to be frank, it's something I was hoping to discuss with Quatre."
"Oh. Quatre. He's at the office. He'll be back later."
"Ah. Serves me right for dropping in unannounced, I suppose."
Relena seemed distracted, not entirely herself, Dorothy thought; her eyes kept drifting around the room without seeming to take anything in. She wondered if the other young woman had even noticed the weapon she'd been carrying; Relena had given no indication of it. "You're welcome to wait for him here, if you like."
That drew her attention back; Relena looked at her with a smile -- her careful politician's smile. "Thank you. That's very kind."
Dorothy threw back her head and laughed. "Not at all -- I'm sure it's the least I could do for the Vice Foreign Minister! It's a great honor to have you here in the house you know, Miss Relena -- why wouldn't I do anything within my power to extend your visit?"
Berta entered then with the tea -- a damn sight more quickly than she'd brought it earlier that morning, Dorothy thought with grim amusement. No doubt Relena had that effect on people. "Thank you, Berta, you may go," Dorothy dismissed her just as Berta began to lift the teapot to pour.
"My lady," she murmured, awkwardly setting the pot back down before backing away. There was nothing improper in her tone, but Dorothy did not miss the flash of resentment in her eyes, nor her lingering look at the pistol on the sideboard, before she shut the door. Shifting forwards in her seat she took up the job of pouring out the tea.
"Now Miss Relena, you won't force me to drink alone, will you? Do have a cup. I insist." Dorothy pinned Relena with her gaze, holding out the cup and saucer until the other finally acquiesced. Accepting the cup from Dorothy's hand, Relena sat down on the chaise beside her. "There now," Dorothy murmured in satisfaction before she settled back herself. Sipping delicately, she examined Relena in the silence. She sat with exquisite stillness, looking out over the room with the very expression that Dorothy remembered from the day she was crowned Queen. The memory of it brought a smile to her lips.
"Oh, Miss Relena," she sighed, "I do wish you'd tell me what's the matter. We used to be such good friends, you and I."
"Friends?" Not even her politician's charm could hide the startlement in Relena's eyes as she turned her head momentarily in Dorothy's direction. She turned away again and took a drink of tea. Said in gentle tones, "When you were in Cinq, I used to have a recurring nightmare. I dreamt you burned off all my hair."
Dorothy let out a delighted laugh. "Why, how marvelous. You had such pretty hair."
Self conscious, Relena held up a hand to touch her hair now, as if checking it was still there. It was. Shorter than it used to be, and hanging loose and unadorned, but there all the same.
"Come now," she urged, "we must be confidantes again. You must tell me your troubles. Quatre won't be back for ages, I'm sure."
Relena looked at her again, her blue eyes searching. Dorothy could sense her wavering, leaned in closer, lightly lay her hand over Relena's. "I need to tell somebody," Relena said in admission, then shook her head slightly. "But it should be Quatre…it's more his business."
"My husband and I have no secrets," Dorothy replied with a careless shrug. "And for all his…sensitivities…he's still only a man."
Relena stood up to pace the room. Haltingly, she spoke: "I came…to ask Quatre to speak to Wufei."
"Wufei? That washed up Gundam pilot?"
"You shouldn't speak about him like that."
"Oh?" Dorothy's curiosity was piqued anew. "What's he to you?" Relena started again at the question. "You can't keep secrets from me, Miss Relena."
"You'll have it all out, will you?" Relena turned away, went to stand by the window, wrapped her arms around herself in a way that made her look achingly young. "I suppose it will all come out in the wash soon anyway. Well if you must know, I've been seeing Wufei for the last year."
"What?!" Dorothy couldn't stifle the exclamation. She let out a breath, regained her poise. More calmly she asked, "What about Heero?"
"I've left him."
"Oh, Miss Relena, no!" Dorothy cried out in dismay. "The Princess of Peace and her White Knight. Your standing in the polls will never survive this."
"I don't give a damn about the polls." Relena was surely the only politician in the world who could say such a thing and mean it. Dorothy's lip curled. "I can't live my life to other people's expectations. What good would I be to anyone if I did that? Heero and I, we tried. We didn't work. I still care for him. I hope…I truly do hope he finds what makes him happy in this life."
"You parted amicably?"
"He's angry. Understandably. I would be, too. But he'll get over it, in time."
"Well then…and why do you need Quatre to speak to your new lover?"
Relena pressed her hands to her temples. "He's insisting on speaking to Heero." Dorothy tilted her head to one side and waited for Relena to make herself plain. "Wufei -- you'll have heard, obviously…he's had a difficult time, these last few years." Dorothy let out an undignified snort at the understatement. Relena turned and met her eye again, dropping her arms back to her sides, apparently feeling more herself again now that she had someone to defend. "He's doing much better now. Finding peace isn't easy. I have the utmost respect for the struggle Wufei, and others like him, have been through. But he wants to learn to exist in this world. He's doing what he can to find his way. He's worked extremely hard this last year attempting to find a way to that end. The fact is, he's been carrying out an investigation, which has touched on Heero's past. He wants to put his findings into the public realm. And I agree, it needs to be aired…but the timing couldn't be worse. And Heero…I don't believe he'd want any part of this. He has no interest in looking backwards. Anything Wufei has to say to him right now would only hurt him more."
"And you think Quatre can help navigate this…delicate situation between them," Dorothy summarized.
"I thought it would be worth trying. Wufei is on the colony. I managed to convince him to come here first and at least hear what Quatre has to say. He might side with Wufei, I don't know."
"And if he does?"
"Well. Then I'll have to trust their judgment. I'll have done what I can, at least. Perhaps Wufei is right, and I'm merely being selfish. I like to think I know Heero well, that I could predict his desires on this matter, but perhaps it's really not my place to say." She shrugged, a graceful rise and fall of her shoulders.
"I'm sure Quatre will work it out for you masterfully well."
Relena smiled then. "Thank you, Dorothy. I'm sorry, this conversation has been all about me. You must tell me how you are. And your marriage to Quatre -- it was all so sudden."
"Yes. It was a whirlwind romance." Dorothy laughed.
"You know, I always thought the day you got married would be the society event of the year."
Dorothy smiled blithely and gave a careless shrug. "Yes. And instead we eloped to town hall."
"Still, though, your honeymoon sounds as if it was most remarkable."
"It was unbearably hot," Dorothy told her. Three months of touring across North Africa and the Middle East visiting Quatre's business connections. Dorothy had spent it wilting in the shade, where there was shade to be had, and sweating through all of her good clothes.
"The Catalonia genes weren't up to the task?" Relena teased her.
Dorothy snorted. "The Catalonias haven't lived in Spain since the reign of Philip II. We emigrated to Austria during the Habsburg rule, and there the family seat has remained ever since." Until she'd sold it, last year, but dear Miss Relena didn't need to hear that. The doorbell chimed again just then, saving her from having to share anything more intimate. "I expect that will be Trowa Barton," she said. "It appears we'll be having a Gundam pilot convention here shortly."
"I don't want to intrude. Why don't I come back later?"
"Nonsense. Stay. We'll all bide our time together waiting for the master of the house to return home."
Relena shook her head. "I'll come back. I'm afraid I'm not terribly sociable at the moment. If Quatre returns before me, you'll tell him to expect me?"
"My lady." Berta appeared at the door again. "Mr Barton has arrived."
"Show him in. At least write down where we can find you and Wufei before you go."
As Relena busied herself with paper and pencil, Berta ushered Trowa Barton into the room. Dorothy stood to greet him, holding her hands demurely in front of her. He glanced back and forth between her and Relena and took up a position between them, standing casually. "Vice Foreign Minister. I didn't expect to find you here."
"Hello again, Mr Barton. I'm just leaving, actually. You're well? I haven't seen you for several years."
"Our paths don't have cause to cross often. Yes, I'm quite well. I'm looking forward to seeing Quatre again. It's been a long time since I've seen him, too."
Relena smiled politely as she finished writing and handed the scrap of paper to Dorothy. "I won't keep you. It was nice to see you both. And I will see you again, soon." She excused herself and swept from the room, taking Berta in her wake and leaving the other two alone.
Dorothy seated herself again on the chaise longue, watching as Trowa selected an armchair some distance from her. The first and last time she had seen this man was on board Libra. Quatre's arm had been around his shoulder, helping himself to stand. Trowa had been murmuring assurances in his ear. She had been slumped on her knees, watching them leave, a half broken thing. But that was long ago.
"So," Trowa broke the silence, "how's married life?"
Dorothy let out a tinkling laugh. "That's the very thing that everyone asks. I'm supposed to say that it's everything I dreamed it would be and more. Truthfully, it's dull as dishwater. I'm so glad you've arrived to liven things up, Mr Barton." She sent him a coy smile and tucked her legs up onto the chaise so she could lean in his direction. "Now it's my turn to ask you a question. So tell me, Mr Barton…are you in love with my husband?"
Trowa gave her an inscrutable look. "I don't see how my feelings are relevant to your marriage. Surely what should really matter is, are you in love with him?"
"Not especially," Dorothy answered with a dainty shrug, knowing full well that Trowa had not really been asking. She observed the way his jaw tightened from beneath her eyelashes. There was a pause. Keeping her tone amiable, she added, "I do hope I haven't offended you. Quatre's perfectly aware of my feelings."
"He settled for that, did he?" Trowa said, so softly Dorothy thought he must be speaking to himself. Louder, he asked, "So why did you marry him?"
Dorothy took a thoughtful pause before she answered: "I suppose it must have been because he asked about my father."
It was a mere four months ago. Quatre had just begun his business trip, and they were both in attendance at a large banquet being held at the Noventa family home in Sicily. Dorothy was sat in a position of no importance, a purposeful slight of the sort she had become accustomed to since the end of the Eve Wars. She made an effort to remain unoffended; it was, after all, merely a challenge to be overcome. Quatre had approached her after dessert. It was the first time she had seen him in person since their duel on Libra. He had nodded politely to her and commented on how long it had been, asked if she was well. And then he had smiled at her and said, 'Tell me about your father.' It was the beginning of their very brief courtship.
"Do you hate me?" Dorothy enquired suddenly, as pleasantly as if she were offering more tea.
The puff of air that escaped from Trowa's lips might have been a jaded laugh. "I don't hate anyone," he replied. "It's a wasted effort; it accomplishes nothing."
"My, what an enlightened stand you take, Mr Barton. I admit, I've always been a hateful person, myself. You're right, of course; it accomplishes nothing, but I find I take a certain pleasure in the effort of it, nonetheless. I must not be nearly so wise as you."
"I'm sure wisdom has nothing to do with it." Trowa settled back in his chair, restively watching her. Dorothy merely gazed back, unperturbed.
"Well," she said at last, "is this how we're to spend the rest of our day, waiting for Quatre? I'm sure he wants us to be friends."
"I'm sure he does," Trowa agreed, "but then, he can't have everything he wants."
Dorothy ducked her head in amusement. "Perhaps not, although he succeeds better than most. What is it you feel stands in the way of our friendship, Mr Barton?"
He answered at once: "I don't trust you."
"Ah, yes, that is a difficulty. Because of my little duel on Libra?"
Trowa, too, looked amused. "I asked Quatre, after that duel, why he was so worried about you, the girl who had just stabbed him. He told me you weren't so bad. He was sure you had a good heart." He shrugged. "I'm not one to second guess Quatre, and I don't claim to know you. You might well have a good heart, for all I know. But from the little I've seen of your actions, I can't see that you want anyone to trust you. Do you?"
"What an interesting question -- I don't think anyone has ever asked me that before." Quatre, of course, had been determined to trust her with or without her invitation to do so. It was part of his charm and, equally, part of what made him so insufferable. But here was Trowa, an entirely different sort of adversary; one who played her own sort of game. "There are advantages to each, of course."
Trowa inclined his head in acknowledgment. He'd made his way as a spy more than once; he knew. "So: you could have my trust; you could have us be friends. Or things can remain as they are. How would you have it?"
She smiled. "No, no other way. Once again, Mr Barton, you have it exactly right."
"Suits me fine." He met her eye. In that moment, Dorothy thought they understood each other perfectly.
"Hello, hello," Quatre called out as he came in the door. Catching sight of his friend he broke into a wide grin. "Trowa! It's so good to see you."
Trowa stood as Quatre strode over towards his chair, and allowed himself to be folded into a tight embrace. "It's good to see you, too, Quatre."
Quatre released him from the hug, but stood keeping his hand wrapped around Trowa's shoulders. "Dorothy's been looking after you all right?" he asked, turning his smile in her direction.
"We've just been getting to know each other," Trowa replied.
"Mr Barton is such interesting company."
"I'm glad," Quatre said. "Shall we go through for an early dinner? Trowa, you must be hungry?"
"I could eat," Trowa agreed. Quatre ushered him towards the door.
"Go through, go through -- you remember the way? Dorothy and I will be just a moment." Dorothy arranged her face into a pleasantly quizzical expression as Quatre turned back around. He himself wore a somewhat perplexed frown. "Berta told me about the baby picture," he said.
"Oh, that." Dorothy let out an airy little laugh and shrugged it away. "You had so many, I didn't think you'd mind. And I'm sure there are digital copies stored away somewhere."
"Nevertheless… I think perhaps it would be best if you refrained from target practice in the house? There's a shooting range nearby if you'd like to go there. I can show you tomorrow. It's private -- it's Winner property. I spent a great deal of time training there myself; it's part of the facility where Instructor H and I put together Sandrock."
"How interesting. Well. Perhaps. Shooting ranges are so…clinical. I don't often frequent them."
"It's your choice, of course. Just let me know." Affectionately, Quatre reached out to catch a lock of her hair in his hand, rubbing it between his fingers before tucking it away behind her ear. "Shall we join Trowa?"
"Certainly." Dorothy stood to precede him from the room. "I was thinking, actually. Your old nursery -- it's not being used for anything anymore. I'd like to turn it into a room of my own."
"Of course. That can be arranged."
"Good." Dorothy paused in the door, turned back, ran a finger down Quatre's silken tie. "I'll begin moving things out of there in the morning then. I presume there's a removals company on colony I can make use of?"
"Oh, no need for that. There will be space to store everything somewhere in the attic, I'm sure. We may have a use for them again sometime." Dorothy was inclined to pretend she had not heard that last part, but Quatre's lingering hand on her hip as he led her towards the dining room made it difficult to get away with the pretense. She bit back an angry response. "Just ask Berta to supervise it, she'll know what's best."
"Hmm." When Quatre released her to open the door, she said, "Did Berta also tell you the Vice Foreign Minister stopped by?"
"Relena?" Quatre hovered in the entryway a moment, surprised, before finally moving through. "No, she didn't mention that. How nice. Did she come to wish you well?"
Dorothy scoffed. "Come to beg a favor. Of you, not me."
"She'll return later and no doubt spin you the pretty version of the tale. But in short, she's brought Wufei Chang here to beg for your advice. It seems he's unearthed something rather interesting about dear Heero, and Miss Relena doesn't want to hurt his feelings with it, bless her."
"Wufei here too! Did you hear that, Trowa?"
They joined him at the table. This was not the formal dining room. It was small and round and candlelit -- almost cave like, a hidden nook at the heart of the house. There were no windows and the candlelight dancing over the roughly plastered white walls made it seem suddenly much later than it was. Dorothy fought to stifle a yawn. The table was extremely low and there were no chairs; they sat instead on the floor, which was piled high with plush, colorful cushions and carpets. Berta brought in food, in a multitude of tiny dishes, and departed. They served themselves, reaching in with fingers and hands to take what they wished. Quatre and Trowa were completely at home like this, together; Dorothy observed them as they ate. The rich, heavy smell of cumin and spice hung in the air.
"I haven't seen Wufei in years," Quatre mused. "Have you, Trowa? I tried contacting him a few times, but he never returned any of my calls. And then, after he left Preventers -" After he was asked to leave, Dorothy mentally corrected. "- I had no way of finding him."
"I saw him once or twice, again while he was still with the Preventers. Not since."
Quatre stilled, a bite of food halfway to his mouth. "I wish I had done something. Helped him, somehow."
"If he'd wanted your help he'd have asked for it," Dorothy cut in, unsympathetic.
Quatre met her eye. Gently, he replied, "I don't think that's always quite how it works."
"You can't go around forcing your charity on unwilling recipients," she insisted.
He relented with a subdued shrug. "In this case I didn't."
"She's right, Quatre," Trowa said softly. "Don't blame yourself."
"It's not blame. I'm just…sorry, is all."
"Don't let Wufei hear you say that, either, or he'll think you pity him. He couldn't stand that."
"No," Quatre agreed with a laugh. "I'll be careful. Did Relena say anything else, Dorothy?"
"She left her phone number, and Wufei's. You should give them both a call, after dinner."
"Yes, I'll do that right away. That is…you don't mind, Trowa?"
"Not at all."
Quatre rinsed his hands in his fingerbowl and frowned off into the distance. "I wonder what this can all be about," he murmured, seemingly to himself.
"One way to find out," Dorothy prompted him and flicked her fingers towards the door.
Abashed, Quatre ducked his head and glanced back and forth between her and Trowa. "I don't like to just leave you here."
"Oh do just hurry up," Dorothy snapped, losing the last of her patience. "We've both finished anyway."
He made a last apologetic glance around the table, not leaving until Trowa too had nodded his permission. "I'll be as quick as I can," he promised.
Dorothy stared across the table at Trowa and offered a pinched smile. "It seems we're alone again, Mr Barton." He hummed in acknowledgment but said nothing in reply. "I think," she declared in desperation for something to say, "that I'd like Quatre to run for office. Will you help me convince him?"
"Quatre has his business," Trowa said, leveling a flat stare in her direction.
"Ah yes, but I think he's destined for much greater things, don't you?"
She'd provoked him. She could see the struggle in Trowa's eyes. Words were warring to escape his lips, and he was biting them back, either not wanting to say something she could easily deflect or not wanting to give her the satisfaction of knowing she'd gotten under his skin. She sat patiently.
"Quatre has already done great things," Trowa said at last, his voice just slightly strained. "And he would hate politics."
Dorothy tilted her head to the side and peered up at Trowa through her eyelashes as she pretended to weigh the words. "I think you are in love with my husband," she murmured. "Does he know? Have you ever spoken about your affections?"
The space of five breaths passed before Trowa looked away and laughed. "I think," he said, "that this ambition you have for Quatre is a purely selfish desire. You want to be a politician's wife. You want to be able to whisper in the ears of people with power."
"Since I myself have none," she readily agreed. "Is that so wrong? Do I offend your sensibilities so much?" She laughed. "We all need our little aspirations."
Trowa shook his head. "I have no interest in your little game. You can leave me out of it." Getting to his feet, he left the room. Dorothy watched him go before standing up herself. She looked briefly down at the mess left on the table, at the candles dripping wax down onto the carpet, then turned her back and left as well.