04_after: (interested)

"Mr. Winner," Pelle says, and Quatre turns to look at the screen, curious. He sets down his oatmeal as he does so. "Ms. Ziane’s called for you."

"Oh, send her through in 30," Quatre says, before moving the oatmeal bowl out of sight and fixing his hair slightly. He’ll just have to hope there’s nothing in his teeth.

As her screen flicks on, Quatre leans back slightly with a smile. Her hair’s up in a loose clip, and she’s wearing a brilliant blue scarf tucked around her neck, with a casual three-quarter length sleeve white button-up shirt. On her wrist is a bracelet of turquoise and orange jasper that she’s had since she was twelve.

She’s in her L4 apartment, which is something of a surprise. He thought she was still at university.

"Marhaban, Quatre!"

"Marhaban," he replies, grinning. "When did you get in?"

"Oh, last night," she says, uncapping a water bottle. "That’s actually what I’m calling you about— it’s related, at least."

He raises his eyebrows slightly.

"There’s an opening gala at the new Georgian exhibit in the Lit, on the seventeenth. 6 to 9, probably," she says, taking a sip of water. "Dad can’t make it, and I really don’t want to have to drag one of my cousins along."

Quatre nods, pulling out his planner. "I’m pretty sure—yes, I’m full up on meetings until 9 on the seventeenth. Do you want to grab dessert afterward?"

"Even you are not be having 9pm meetings on a Saturday," Olivie says, raising her eyebrows right back at him.

"The seventeenth’s a Friday, Ziane," Quatre says, mouth quirking up.

Her eyes move as she checks out another screen, hair falling slightly out of her clip; she tucks it back up quickly. "Of course, the eighteenth." The eye roll is more implied, but it’s pretty clear if you know her. (Quatre dated her for three years. He's fairly certain he knows her.)

"That, I should be able to do," he grins at her. "Colors?"

"I was thinking of wearing my amethyst gown," she says.

He narrows his brow slightly. "The halter-neck?" his tone is doubtful.

"No, of course not; the off-the shoulder with the horizontal pintuck," Olivie laces her fingers through each other, and stretches her hands.

"The one you wore to Ildri’s wedding," he confirms. "I still have the waistcoat."

Olivie smiles, suddenly, and leans on her still interlaced hands.        

"It sounds good. I’ll see you on Saturday, Winner."


-Saturday-


"You still haven’t read them?"

"Ah!" Quatre says, holding his hands up defensively, "I’ve decided to read them with someone, and she won’t read it until she’s done writing something of her own." It seems rude to read the books before Ms. Austen has written them. Also, it gives him a good excuse to avoid the time it would take.

He takes a sip of the juice, and Olivie kindly waits for him to swallow before asking "Are you and this someone dating?"

Quatre still winces, slightly. "No, and I have no reason to believe she has any interest in me."

"Ah," Olivie smirks, glancing away. "She has a boyfriend."

"No," Quatre says, studiedly calm, "not that I know of, but I do."

Olivie’s surprised glance in his peripheral vision makes him grin. "So there is a someone. Very sneaky of you, Mr. Winner."

"I try my hardest, Ms. Ziane," Quatre replies, humbly.

"Do I know him?" she asks, setting her empty drink on a server’s tray. Quatre’s isn’t quite empty, but he sets his down as well, offering her his arm as they make their way towards the main space. "Is he Duvernay, again?"

"You’ve met," he replies, honestly, and Olivie smiles. "And no, you know he’s not."

"Secrets, secrets," she says, cheerful and unsurprised. "Well, you know if it doesn’t work out you can always find out if Miss Someone has any interest in you."

Quatre glances down at her with a sudden, honest smile. "I really don’t think it’s going to come to that," he says, "or at least I hope not. Would you like to dance?"

She lets go of his arm enough to turn and face him, standing a little on her tiptoes to look him in the eyes. "Secrets," she whispers, emphatically, and then smiles, settles back onto her heels and nods graciously.

It’s more than Quatre can do to avoid laughing quietly before they begin. 

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.
04_after: (open)

When Quatre's watch goes off, he wakes up immediately, the late evening light drifting in through the window. He'd fallen asleep on top of the covers, though he expects the workers here wash them regularly. It was as much for comfort as anything else.

He changes into the clothes the bar gave him--the same black linen pants and practical shoes as it gave him after the Cullen party, but a soft blue-grey sweater instead of a long sleeve shirt. He carefully stores his already folded business clothes in the bag, and takes it down with him to the Bar (locking the door behind him).

He drops the bag and key off at the bar, and peels the tangerine he'd picked up while sitting with Trowa and Cass, and he waits for the former.


04_after: (out of focus)
Quatre's good at keeping his worries from distracting him at work. It helps that things are busy, right now. He's had to move a few trips around in order to be able to welcome some Earth officials to L4. It's not like Quatre’s an official political figure, but given many things (his friendship with Earth Vice Foreign Minister Relena Darlian not the least among them), his first cousin twice removed had politely requested he be around.

When one’s first cousin twice removed is the prime minister, "family obligations" start to become a little more important than might be expected. Fitting work around the meetings has been—stressful.

However, in the more than a week since his conversation with Enzo, Quatre finds himself slipping back into worries whenever he gets a few, rare moments of peace in his office.

(Quatre’s learned to decompress in the small moments. It’s like getting sleep when you can; two hours sleep will never be as good as eight, but it’s a lot better than none.)

He can’t formulate it into words. Or he can, but too many words. Not words he can say (not words he has any right to say), but the boy’s demeanor troubles him, tugs at his mind.

He wishes he still had the rubber ball Caton gave him when he started work here, to "keep his brain occupied while he was busy thinking". She uses one religiously; you can hear it bouncing in her office as she untangles a problem. Quatre’d tried to justify keeping it to himself - she was right, and it kept his ability to judge distances and angles.

But when it came down to it, Caton had been a grown woman with over 15 years in business when she’d given it to him. She was an executive who helped herself concentrate using a children’s toy. He was a new CEO, young and inexperienced; untested and untrusted. He had been a child, not much older than—whatever Enzo would be, if he were human. He hadn't the room to play with toys.

Still, it nags at him and it has been for long enough that he finally decides to do something about it.

--

Quatre calls Iria ahead of time, to see what her schedule for the night is; when she says it's free, he invites her to dinner.

This being Iria, who hates to leave the house after 3pm, what he's really doing is claiming the dark-paneled conversation room in the main wing, and ordering in Thai. Iria says that she knows he must want to talk, because he can’t possibly eat Thai while walking around.

Quatre almost says "Watch me," but she's right so he just laughs and says he'll meet her at 9.

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Quatre Winner

April 2012

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