“Thank you for not asking if I’m sure I can handle this.”
Seated on his bed beside Trowa, Quatre leaned over and kissed his boyfriend on the cheek. “See? I’m getting better.”
“I didn’t think that was possible…” Trowa murmured.
Quatre grinned. “And you’re getting better at flirting.”
Trowa inclined his head gravely.
“And, as a matter of fact, I know you can handle this. You’ve proved you can deal with people; you just don’t like to.”
“That’s mostly true,” Trowa admitted. “I really am not very skilled at it, though.”
“Well, practice makes perfect.”
Almost under his breath Trowa said, “Why you would ever want to be perfect at something like that…”
“My poor Trowa,” Quatre laughed, hugging him. “You’ve gotten pretty good at dealing with me, though.”
“You’re not ‘people.'”
“Thank you. I think.” Quatre glanced at his watch. “It’s probably about time. Let’s go down.” And, standing, he pulled Trowa up after him and gave him another quick kiss before heading for the door.
They met his mother on the landing. “Oh,” she said, “were you up here all along? I didn’t even see you come in.” Quatre thought she was more surprised at the way Trowa looked, though, than that they’d somehow been in Quatre’s room without anyone observing them enter the house. “It’s good to see you again, Trowa,” she smiled, obviously restraining herself from searching his face curiously. They’d decided to claim that Trowa had just recovered from fairly serious anemia if anyone asked about his newly-healthy coloration, but Quatre anticipated that his parents would be too polite to comment and his nephews wouldn’t remember clearly enough to wonder.
When everyone ate together — well, even when two thirds of them ate together — they had to use the larger dining room with its improbably long table and ornate wainscotting. As they entered, Trowa looked around with just the faintest constriction of brows; he’d already expressed to Quatre the feeling he had in certain parts of this house, like nostalgia but not as comfortable, as he was reminded of places he’d sometimes been invited to during that brief part of his life he would most like to forget. But he didn’t balk, and was quietly courteous as he was introduced to those he hadn’t met yet. As this consisted of six different people, the shaking of hands and friendly greetings made it some time before everyone was seated.
Dinner conversation around here was always lively and somewhat random, though there was usually an underlying or recurring theme of Winner Plastics since that topic could easily fill any gap. This allowed Trowa to remain silent throughout most of the meal; certain of Quatre’s housemates at times sought to include him in the conversation, but, though he answered politely enough, it wasn’t difficult to tell that he’d rather listen than talk, so eventually they kindly let him be. Quatre was pleased. He had always thought well of his family, but it was moments like this that made him actively proud.
He’d been almost certain that this was one of those nights when his parents would want to indulge in an after-dinner brandy in the adjoining parlor — an old-fashioned habit they’d mostly abandoned but still conveniently revived whenever they had (for example) a new significant other of one of their children to interrogate. He’d warned Trowa earlier of this probability when he’d briefed him on how the evening in general was likely to go, so Trowa was able to acquiesce to the invitation without any apparent surprise or displeasure.
The routine was nothing unfamiliar to Quatre. Even when he’d been too young to understand what was going on, he’d watched his sisters and the dates they brought home go through this, and he’d experienced it himself a number of times. But he’d never cared quite so much before. This was only in part because he liked Trowa better than he’d liked previous boyfriends; there was also the fact that Trowa had more to fabricate, and felt worse about having to do it, than previous boyfriends.
And it was still surprising how well he pulled it off. Trowa might believe himself unskilled in dealing with people, but the way he combined (unless Quatre was very much mistaken) actual facts from his own life and plausible circumstances he’d observed over the years into a very believable-sounding history was remarkable, and his solemn and somewhat formal manner could come across as nothing less than trustworthy.
In response to the various well-oiled questions put to him with utmost innocence, he told the Winners that he’d been born in 1985 in some town in Michigan that might, for all Quatre knew (he would have to ask sometime), be Trowa’s actual place of birth. He didn’t say much of his childhood, fictional or otherwise, and even in this partially false account seemed reluctant to mention his parents. Tactfully, Mr. and Mrs. Winner did not pursue the issue. Quatre himself, his curiosity aroused, decided that he must sometime see what Duo knew of the matter; that seemed the easiest way to get a general idea without having to ask Trowa what might be painful questions.
Trowa claimed to have moved to this area after high school to stay with a more distant (and, he implied, much kinder) relative, and ended up attending the same college as Quatre. They’d decided on this beforehand, as it provided a way for them to have first met a little more believable than ‘he found me by divination after Heero posted on a message board about the talking doll he picked out of the gutter,’ and Quatre could provide any details Trowa needed to flesh out his remarks.
The story they presented was that they’d known each other casually during school, had recently met again by coincidence, renewed the acquaintance, and after not too long started dating: nothing terribly unusual or exciting. As a sort of distraction tactic, they managed to spin a much more interesting tale out of the account of Trowa’s best friend that had led the poor Pacific Division Sales Coordinator around in dizzy circles for over a month before admitting that he liked him.
Quatre’s parents had grown up in an era during which the phrase ‘good breeding’ had still meant something. Actually, now that he thought about it, that applied to Trowa too, didn’t it? At any rate, Mr. and Mrs. Winner the excellent hosts had never been even the least bit unpleasant to any one of Quatre’s boyfriends in the past, regardless of their real feelings about them. But Quatre had learned to read the signs, and could usually tell, as brandy/interrogation time was winding down, what their general opinion was of the latest subject.
He knew Trowa had made a good first impression during their brief introduction, and tonight, to his great satisfaction, he thought he was picking up pleasure and tentative approbation from his parents in response to this longer meeting. They were hesitant anymore, he knew, about immediate approval, since they’d ended up disliking all of his past boyfriends — even the ones they’d thought well of at first — so this was the most positive reaction that could be expected of them. And it was enough for Quatre. He was absolutely certain they would come to love Trowa eventually; this was good for a start.
“Well, Trowa, it’s been wonderful getting to talk to you so much tonight,” Mrs. Winner was saying politely as they began their slow exodus from the parlor. She was always perfectly friendly, and, though Quatre wasn’t overly fond of the way she had of repeating the name of someone she’d recently met in just about every sentence she addressed to them, her poise was flawless.
“Yes,” agreed Mr. Winner, “feel free to come by any time. Though,” he added with a smile, “I suspect you already do.”
Trowa favored them with a slight smile of his own. “Thank you for having me,” he said.
Their further goodbyes and goodnights were conducted with the same good will, and the fact that Quatre and Trowa were pretty obviously heading upstairs for Quatre’s bedroom did not garner any reaction different than if they’d been walking out the front door. Quatre knew his parents hadn’t been nearly so relaxed about the idea of their children’s sexual activities — especially in the house — back when his first couple of sisters had reached dating age… but, then, that had been in the 70’s. There were benefits to being the youngest of ten (not least of which the fact that there had been three lesbians before him to pave the way of understanding and equity). Just as they began climbing the final stretch of the great staircase and were about to put the first floor entirely out of sight, Quatre glanced back and saw his parents still standing together down there looking up after him; he smiled at them.
As he closed his bedroom door, Trowa beside him let out a long breath and seemed to wilt somewhat, leaning forward against the wall as if exhausted. With a pitying noise that was half a laugh, Quatre took his hand and pulled him over to the bed.
“You’re brilliant,” he said, pushing Trowa into a seated position and crawling onto the bed behind him. “And I think they really liked you.” Settling down cross-legged, he began to massage Trowa’s shoulders and back, trying to release some of the tension that had gathered there during the last hour.
“I’m glad,” Trowa said, sounding a little dull. “But I don’t like having to tell so many lies. If it were somebody I’m never going to see again, or somebody I didn’t care about, it would be different, but…” He shook his head.
Though he pitied Trowa, it was difficult for Quatre to feel anything but happiness at this implication from him that the Winners were neither transient nor unimportant; that seemed like a real breakthrough. “We’ll tell them the truth eventually,” he said reassuringly. “As soon as they realize how wonderful you are and how crazy I am about you.” One step at a time, after all; when his parents were already worrying about Quatre in another relationship — in their minds a fairly significant concern, given the precedent — they didn’t need the added complication that the new boyfriend was a 111-year-old magician and had once cursed his best friend to live as a talking doll for ninety years.
Trowa half-turned to meet Quatre’s eye. He looked simultaneously weary with the entire situation, as if the bulk of human relationships was just too taxing for him to continue thinking about at the moment, and pleased with Quatre’s words. “That’s good,” he said tiredly, “because I won’t be able to remember which details I included in this story. I should have made notes.”
Quatre laughed a little, and, taking Trowa’s arm, pulled at him as he scrambled backward. “Come here,” he said. Trowa obeyed, and soon they were cuddled up comfortably on the pillows, Trowa settling against Quatre with a sigh that sounded far more contented than his previous.
After a few moments of warm silence during which they just held each other comfortably and drowsed a bit, Trowa said simply and quietly, “I’m crazy about you too.”
Having seen fresh proof in Trowa’s willingness to endure such a trying evening full of strangers and cross-examination for his sake, Quatre was already aware of this — but that didn’t mean it didn’t make his heart burn beautifully to hear it spoken aloud. He held Trowa more tightly, pressed a kiss to the first spot his lips could find, and smiled against his lover’s soft brown hair.