04_after: (out of focus)
When Quatre gets back to his suite of rooms at home, it's nearly midnight local time. He changes into his suit of navy silk pajamas quickly, before shutting the door behind him and walking down the library stairs in bare-socked feet (he doesn't turn the lights on, even though the stairway zags back and forth; he's been walking these stairs for 19 years, now).

In the solarium, he spots seven-year-old Janei curled up with a book (The Shadow Maze, so he can't fault her taste) in one of the armchairs, having snuck back out of bed after everyone else left the main rooms. He takes the book gently out of her hands, causing her to stir, and puts the book's ribbon in to mark the place before tucking it into his left armpit. He half-wakes her with a quiet whispered come along in French, and picks her up with a little effort as she wraps her arms around his neck and legs about his waist. In a couple of years she'll be too big for this, but for now he manages to sneak her back into her room without waking her parents.

After he's dropped Janei and her book off, with a kiss to her forehead and a quiet (only half-meant) admonishment, he leaves Wardah and Laurent's suite of rooms, to take the stairwell at the end of the wing.

At the top of stairs, he turns left down a side-hall and ends up at a door with a whiteboard, which is currently empty except for a collection of lyrics from Cheche’s favorite song of the moment.

He raps on her door, and settles back to wait.

It only takes Cheche about a minute to open the door, dark hair pulled back into a sloppy ponytail, wearing her pajamas and reading glasses.

She takes a brief look at him and grabs his hand, dragging him into her dimly-lit front room.

She closes the door behind them.

Her hand drifts up to his face to get a good look at him once they’re standing inside, and her mouth turns down slightly with concern. She pulls him into a hug, which he returns gratefully.

"Are we going to need tea?" she asks to his neck after a minute.

Quatre shakes his head, slightly, and pauses. "Maybe white," he says, changing his mind, and lets her go.

He sits on one of the barstools by the counter, and watches her ready the teapot. As she's adding the leaves, he says "Have you — ever wondered if Father loved you?"

"Quatre...." Cheche turns to glance at him, and bites her lip slightly before glancing back at the pot. "I think he loved me," she starts, quietly, "but because I was his daughter. I don't really think he knew me, or really any of us younger girls. I think — maybe he thought he knew you, but I don't know if he did." She turns, now that the tea is brewing, to look at him better. "Why?"

"I – had a dream," and he can't quite look at her. "We were talking and – he was angry, Cheche, he – he was right, I mean, but – he was so disappointed."

She rounds the edge of the counter, and pulls him off of the barstool into a tight hug; Quatre returns it, and after several moments lets himself start to quietly cry.

It's all right, with Cheche. She's the only sister young enough that they really grew up together, that their relationship is really that simple.
04_after: (out of focus)
What wakes Quatre up is a quiet noise between the kitchen and the main room -- the sound of someone moving the curtain between the two, perhaps.

He's not worried; nothing feels threatening, and Trowa's not lying on the bed. He expects that his boyfriend has just gone to grab something. But he's awake now, so he stands and stretches slightly.

His pajamas rub against his skin -- which should be the first sign that he's still dreaming, he hadn't changed into pajamas before sleeping, but he doesn't notice it -- and he walks out into the kitchenette, and then pulls open the curtain to the main room.

There's a tall man with dark hair and a mustache, seated at his desk, reading through one of the paper reports Quatre brought with him.

Quatre stands -- staring, shocked.

"Do you really think it's wise to be working towards acquiring the L3 contracts while you're still doing repairs in the K-39 sector?" the man asks, glancing up slightly. He's speaking unmixed Arabic, the formality of which isn't lost on Quatre.

"If we waited, the L3 colonies would fall further into disrepair and the government would trust us even less, as it is we're still only mostly through the diplomacy; there was also danger of a power vacuum -- Father," Quatre hesitates, slightly, "what are you doing here?"

"Making sure you don't run the colony into the ground," Mr. Winner replies, and both he and Quatre wince at the sentence the moment after he ends it. "To you and your sisters' credit," he continues, sounding mildly apologetic, as he turns the chair and stands, "you don't seem to have done so -- hm." Mr. Winner stares at Quatre for a half moment, taking a few steps closer. Quatre doesn't move. "You're taller than I expected."

Quatre half-smiles, even though his father still looms over him by several inches, and says "It's been a long time," quietly. They both stand there awkwardly for a long moment, before Quatre draws himself together and extends a hand to the seating area. "Would you like to sit? I have beverages, if you want anything."

Mr. Winner relaxes, almost imperceptibly, and holds up a hand in gracious refusal. "I'll be fine, but of course -- we should sit."

They do; Mr. Winner takes the armchair, and Quatre sits on the couch. Mr. Winner is thinking about something, in the way Quatre's long learned from watching him on conference calls and in his office, and talking to his eldest daughters, elbows crossed on his knees as he looks down over them. Quatre is quiet, almost reflexively.

"You stayed a Gundam pilot."

Quatre was expecting the statement, but he still feels the breath catch in his throat for a moment before he pushes the feeling away. "Is this really what we want to discuss?"

Mr. Winner straightens, slightly. "Would you rather discuss trivialities? I'm talking to the man who holds my family's future in his hands; I think his decision-making might be of importance."

"If you hadn’t noticed," Quatre says, voice cold, "we saved Earth."

"And how many died, unnecessarily?"

Quatre is quiet. His father looks to him, and he swallows. "Too many."

They are silent, and then Mr. Winner sighs. "You know that war engenders war," he says, slowly. "Don’t you, Quatre?"

"Sometimes,” Quatre easily falls into the old rote, though it's not less heartfelt for its familiarity, "the only way to buy peace is through defeating those who oppose it."

"And that was your logic behind destroying that colony?" Mr. Winner's tone is disbelieving, wry.

"Father -- " he lets out a harsh breath, and squeezes his eyes shut against the tears surprised out of him. "No, no, of course not -- that was different -- that's not -- "

There's the noise of his father standing up from the chair, and he's opening his eyes as Mr. Winner sits near to him, a look on his face of uneasy surprise. "I shouldn't have," he starts, and stops. "I'm sorry." He pats Quatre's knee, awkwardly consoling. "You know -- I don't agree with you. But you know I love you, don't you, son?"

Quatre stares back at him, trying to think of what to say, before he's jolted out of the dream as his boyfriend wakes up.

He lies on his bed for a moment, staring at Trowa, before letting out a shaky breath. He's guiltily, overwhelmingly, relieved.

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Quatre Winner

April 2012

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