If Quatre had known how long the door-linking would take, he wouldn’t have requested it of Trowa so close to the time he’d had to leave. And if he’d known how ritualistic a spell it was, how much effort it required of its caster, he might not have requested it at all. He hadn’t wanted to stop Trowa, however, once the process was started, because working out complicated magic seemed to be something Trowa genuinely enjoyed — and almost without attendant guilt, apparently — and Quatre wouldn’t take that experience from him for the world.

But it had been necessary for him to rush away the very moment Trowa was finished, hurrying to get back to work in something like a timely fashion and leaving a lot of things unsaid. Things like, “It’s amazing to watch you do that,” and, “That is so sexy,” and half a million questions concerning the various elements of the ritual and their purpose. Fortunately, these could all be expressed after work (and after the near-perfect distraction of thinking about it all afternoon during work).

It was with great pleasure that Quatre headed toward his own house rather than Heero’s apartment upon leaving the office, for the first time in… how long had it been? A week? It wasn’t that he minded spending a lot of time at Heero’s apartment — he’d always spent a lot of time at Heero’s apartment — but having direct access to Trowa’s front door from his bedroom was a delightfully more intimate arrangement that he was looking forward to taking advantage of.

There was a joke somewhere in getting into his boyfriend’s house through his closet door, but Quatre couldn’t quite put it together. Duo probably could have; Quatre would have to mention it to him at some point just to see what he would say. Except that, as far as Quatre knew, neither Duo nor Heero was aware of any of this.

Trowa, evidently out of some erroneous sense that this constituted a betrayal of some sort, hadn’t yet been able to bring himself to tell Duo — though Quatre understood he’d gone over there a few times hoping he could manage it — and Quatre had continually failed to mention it to Heero for various reasons. Which meant six days of Heero unnecessarily under the false impression that Duo and Trowa were still in love… six days of Quatre being a terrible person and a miserable friend. He would really have to fix that.

Not right now, though.

Trowa was in his study, in his chair, at his table, with his head bent over a book, but there was about him that look of just having begun to move that indicated he hadn’t been working at least a minute ago, if not all evening. Quatre was aware that the dilution of the amount of work Trowa got done was due in large part these days to the distraction that came from being involved with Quatre… he couldn’t help feeling a little bad about this, but at the same time, it was much better than how things had previously been.

Actually, it looked as if Trowa might just have awakened from another chair-bound nap, which was, on the scale of ways Trowa could spend his time, far toward the desirable end. As was beginning to be something of a custom, Quatre came over and sat down on Trowa’s lap in the chair.

“I take back every negative thought I ever had about this chair,” he said as he did so. “I’m really quite fond of it now.”

Trowa, accepting Quatre’s embrace, paused in the act of reciprocating and asked, “What didn’t you like about it?”

“It’s probably the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen,” Quatre answered seriously, running a hand across the tassels on the underside of one of the arms.

“Is it?” Trowa seemed genuinely surprised.

Quatre laughed and kissed him. When he’d finished with that he told him, “Well, like I said, I like it now.”

They discussed then what Trowa had and hadn’t gotten done on his book today, as well as a few minor and largely uninteresting points of Quatre’s day at work, and finally, at Quatre’s insistence, Trowa explained in detail the spell he’d cast earlier.

Quatre very much enjoyed it when Trowa talked about magic. For one thing, Trowa seemed to enjoy it too, and there weren’t a lot of things about which that could be said, and even fewer he could be said to enjoy without immediately hating himself for it. But there was also the simple fact that Quatre found it all very interesting, and Trowa’s knowledge and understanding very impressive.

This particular spell, though Trowa claimed it was not difficult, was very involved, and required, as Quatre had noticed earlier, a good deal of energy — especially since it drew upon two different branches of magic, one of which was not Trowa’s specific area of skill. Hence, as well, its ritualistic nature.

Really it seemed to be a number of spells wrapped up in one, and the only reason Trowa had even known how to do it was that one of his followers had once built him a new computer in exchange for his working it out so her boyfriend could accept the promotion he’d been offered and still visit her two states away during her last college term. Evidently the couple had broken up not long after, and at least one of them still owed Trowa a favor for his subsequent dismantling of the spell.

Trowa’s explanations often required fairly extensive elaboration, since Quatre didn’t understand a lot of the magical terms he used, and the conversation expanded into one about magic and its various branches. It was extremely engrossing and fascinating, and Quatre had to try his hardest not to act like a raving fanboy. Some expression of appreciation was definitely called for, however, and this Quatre was more than ready to give. Of course this diluted the discussion even further, but neither of them was complaining.

When the clock in the entry struck four, however, Quatre jumped up in some distress. “Why is this the first time I’ve heard the clock?” he demanded of no one. “I mean, it only makes noise every fifteen minutes.” Turning, he pulled Trowa out of the chair to join him standing. “You’ve been distracting me again.”

“I’m sorry,” Trowa offered, and Quatre was glad to find that he seemed a lot more facetious about it than the last time they’d had an exchange like this. Quatre grinned and kissed him, then headed out for the entry. As he still held Trowa’s hand, Trowa was forced to follow.

Given that it was 1AM in his time zone and he had meetings all day tomorrow where he really would have to pay attention, he’d been planning on a relatively quick goodnight and immediate departure… but he found that the kiss just now had been enough only to make him want more. So, since a slightly longer goodnight could not really worsen things, he turned to face Trowa again with a playful smile and slowly backed him into the wall.

Trowa’s hands came to rest on the small of Quatre’s back as Quatre pushed up against him and kissed him slowly and deeply, and Quatre raised his own hands to tangle into Trowa’s smooth hair. He made a satisfied noise as he squirmed slowly, grinding Trowa against the hard surface behind him, then released his lips and began nibbling on his ear instead.

“Oh…” breathed Trowa, apparently somewhat inadvertently. Shifting slightly, Quatre realized exactly why this was.

He looked Trowa in the eye with a smile and a raised brow as he ran the back of his hand very lightly over the sudden bulge in Trowa’s pants. “I wasn’t even grinding all that hard,” he teased.

“But earlier… We were on your bed, and… ever since then…”

Now Quatre’s brows contracted in an expression of both amusement and pity. “You should have said something before! I don’t have time now!” Though admittedly if Trowa were to ask him to stay, Quatre would not require much convincing to do so, meetings or no meetings tomorrow.

Trowa did not ask. He didn’t even complain. He merely nodded. Quatre was disappointed, but not terribly surprised. And that was when he was struck with a thought.

“So I’ve got to go,” he said, and, though his mouth had spread into a wider smile, his tone was almost businesslike. “But I want you to be sure and take care of this, OK?”

For a moment Trowa didn’t seem to understand, but eventually he began, “Oh, I don’t…” And it wasn’t even a tone of protest, simply a statement of fact.

“I know you don’t,” Quatre murmured, leaning up close to Trowa’s ear, “but this time I want you to. I want you to think all about how I would be taking care of it if I didn’t need to get home and go to bed.” His voice dropped even lower as he finished, “I want you to think about me while you’re doing it.”

Drawing back, he gave Trowa his least innocent smile. Was it his imagination, or was there a touch of color, for once, to Trowa’s pale cheeks? Trowa was staring fixedly at him, eyes unblinking and mouth slightly ajar; Quatre had no doubt that he had never been given such an order before in his long life.

“Good night,” Quatre said cheerily, and turned completely away.

One thing was certain: Quatre was definitely thinking of Trowa as he went to sleep. He wondered if Trowa would do as he was told, and whether it would be admissible, tomorrow after work, to make him describe it.

Tomorrow came as early as usual, after a string of particularly provocative dreams, and Quatre could tell already that he was going to have to make an effort not to be horribly distracted all day long. His usual jogging circuit, his shower, and his drive to work were already full of thoughts of Trowa, even when Quatre was specifically trying to concentrate on the day ahead of him. And it didn’t get any better when he was settled in at the first of his many meetings with a cup of iced coffee and already having a hard time focusing on the words of the program director addressing them all. With a monumental effort of will, he dragged his mind off the memory of Trowa’s mouth against his and tried to do his job properly.

The one o’clock meeting at the downtown office was destined to be the worst, as it involved many of those most likely to take note of Quatre’s state. He’d picked up lunch for himself and his father — the only two people that would be physically present at this location — and made it there on time, but, as his father hadn’t arrived yet, had almost immediately slipped back into daydreams without even a struggle.

“Oh, Quatre, you’re all ready to go,” was his father’s greeting as he came into the office.

“Hmm?” wondered Quatre a little absently. Then, figuratively shaking himself, he blushed. It wasn’t that there was anything inherently wrong or embarrassing about his thoughts; it was just that this man was both his father and his boss, and here Quatre was a million miles away thinking about sex on company time.

If Mr. Winner noticed that Quatre was particularly distracted, he made no comment at the moment. Instead he bent his white head over the bags on the table to see what Quatre had brought him for lunch while Quatre double-checked the distance conference setup. Soon they were connected to the other regional managers, and, since nearly all of them were family, commencing the relatively unprofessional series of greetings and superficial catchings-up that came at the beginning of every meeting held at this level of the corporation. Quatre dug into his lunch and tried not to fall behind.

When the meeting properly started, he felt he was doing fairly well — but just the fact that there was still a part of his brain analyzing how much attention he was paying to his work showed that another part still pointedly wasn’t. Overall, however, he thought he kept his thoughts off of Trowa and what he’d like to do to Trowa, and made the expected contributions to the discussion, fairly well.

At least, that was the impression he had of his own performance right up until the moment his father reached out to shut off the projector that had been bringing them the sights and sounds of their familial co-workers, and turned slowly toward him with a conspicuously skeptical look. He didn’t even have to wonder; he went straight to the point. “So what’s his name?”

Quatre grinned sheepishly and turned back toward his laptop to close his programs. “Trowa,” he answered. “Trowa Barton.”

His father nodded slowly. “Is he rational?”

Although Quatre knew that by this he meant, “Does he have a steady job and no socially unacceptable or self-destructive tendencies?” he chose to answer in the affirmative. He didn’t feel like trying to explain all about Trowa at this point.

“Nice?” his father wondered next, and there was an edge to the word. He hadn’t approved of most of the guys Quatre had dated so far.

Again Quatre wasn’t sure that an unqualified ‘yes’ was really the correct answer, but gave it anyway.

“And this is the real reason you took that week off,” his father went on.

Quatre felt a little bad continually giving these half-truths, but what else could he say besides another yes?

His father’s white-mustached mouth spread into an amused grin. “Well, it’s obvious that you’re very fond of this one. You should bring him by sometime so your mother and I can meet him.”

Quatre smiled. “OK, I will.”

“And in the meantime,” his father continued in a more pointed tone (though without any unkindness), “pull yourself together! I thought I was going to have to reach over and shake you a couple of times today!”

“Sorry!” Quatre gave an embarrassed laugh. “I’m usually not quite this bad…”

“Oh?” His father raised a brow. “And what happened last night that’s left you so distracted today in particular?”

“Nothing much,” Quatre told him honestly. “It was more something that got me thinking about what might happen later.”

“So you’re not sleeping with this boy yet?”

“Dad! You’re not allowed to ask that!”

“When it concerns both my son’s happiness and my Pacific Division Regional Manager’s productivity, I’m allowed to ask anything I want.” Mr. Winner was smiling, and there was no real reproof in the statement.

“Well, don’t worry,” Quatre said, returning the smile. “Everything’s going great. And I swear I’m not usually this distracted.”

His father gave him a significant look. “Just make sure you do what you have to to keep it that way. I don’t want to see my little boy in another bad relationship, or one of my excellent managers falling behind.”

“Thanks,” said Quatre, pleased at hearing himself called an excellent manager. “Maybe you’ll meet him one of these days, and then you can see what you think.”

His father nodded and rose. “I’ll see you at home later,” he said. “Oh, and don’t forget to send me those compiled reports; I still want to look over that.”

“I’m going to head back to Lex,” Quatre told him, “so I’ll be able to put those together and send them before I go home.”

“Good. Thanks. Later, then.” And Mr. Winner left the room.

Quatre continued to smile after him for a moment before turning to clean up their lunch things and partially dismantle the computer setup they used for these cross-country meetings. A secretary would deal with the components, but Quatre liked to make sure it was taken apart properly before he left — it made things easier in the long run.

“Do what you have to to keep it that way,” huh? Quatre was more than pleased at having such a father… and pretty sure he knew exactly what he was going to do about Trowa before the week was up.

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