4-15-2001

Title: Working Out
Author: Phoenix Cubed
Feedback: Oh please. phoenix_cubed@hotmail.com
Pairings: Subtle 3x4
Warnings: None really.
Standard Disclaimers apply.

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Everyone was gone for the day. There was not an echo of a soul to disrupt his exercise. With a satisfied smile, he added an extra weight to his kick, sending the punching bag reeling into the wall. Quatre watched as it hit the blockade and spun wildly back to him, the point of contact still plainly visible. For a moment the blonde boy merely watched the erratic swing of the person sized potato sack on a rope, fascinated by its inexplicable twists and turns until it finally came to a reluctant rest at the end of a still rotating chain.

Space was growing problems again.

Breathing deeply and covered in a healthy sheen of sweat, Quatre turned his head slightly and spat a comet of saliva into a bean tin resting near the wall. He stripped off his boxing gloves and walked away from the punching stand, not bothering to watch his liquid projectile score a hole in one.

The eastern business associates had been bringing him problems that he didn’t want to deal with. Colony businesses were going under, resource satellites were drying up and drifting away, and the last remnants of the extremely right winged Barton faction were still popping out of their gopher holes, causing more headaches than he had pills to deal with.

Quatre stripped off his thin white exercise T, now nearly see though with sweat, and dropped it on the floor just out of the way. He went down on bent knee and began to relace his sneakers, his white knuckles pulling the laces tighter and tighter. He double knotted the rabbit ears and switched feet. Shiny white laces flexed easily under his fingers, daring the muscles in his fingers to stretch them to breaking as he had done yesterday with the old laces.

Duo and Heero had been gone for three weeks, running about the earth and various colonies, trying to track down the troublemakers that had been hassling the Vice Foreign Minister. Relena was a good diplomat, but she had been at the end of her own rope when she had called a month back, asking for advice. The former Peacecraft was true nobility: too stubborn to right out ask for help, too much of a ‘for the people’ socialite not to appeal to others for assistance. Quatre, thankfully, wasn’t quite nobility, and had tracked down the mismatched pair and recruited their services.

The Arabian stood and carefully stretched out his calf muscles, allowing them to cord under the strain. The slight pain felt almost good. He loosened his arms a bit before taking in a deep breath and stepping on to the track for a jog. Quatre wasn’t the prime specimen Heero was thought to be, but still, he was a top ranked terrorist and Gundam pilot, trained by the best in both mental and physical exercise. His wiry, finely toned body worked in perfect unison as he rounded the small track oval. A perfectly designed combination of the shoe soles and the pads of his own feet cushioned every pounding impact and sent him springing for the next stride. His arms and legs swung together in a well-proportioned gait, eating up the ground with an ever-increasing speed. Faster and faster he forced himself around the track until his lungs screamed for rest and his body begged for oxygen.

Wufei had sent a message to him earlier that week, care of Preventer mail. Letting Sally Po convince him to join the small organization had been a very smart choice on his part. The cheeky Chinese woman kept Wufei on his toes. Quatre had been hoping the letter would have been good news, like a wedding announcement, but it had been far from it. Wufei had written to inform Quatre that he’d been assigned to the resource pirating cases. For this, the blonde was very thankful. These were incidents that hit close to home, and complete in depth investigations would be necessary to bring the case to a close. However, the findings of these investigations would no doubt spring some very interesting questions from the bloodhounds sniffing about. Mainly about Quatre’s own private record. There were certain things that the Winner heir would prefer kept quiet, and as a boy in the same boat, Wufei would know what to avoid.

Quatre’s lungs could take no more, and the boy ground to a halt but kept his protesting legs moving. At a tortoise’s speed he looped about the track. Once. Twice. Once more. His pale torso moved up and down in a steady rhythm as his lungs expanded and collapsed in appreciation of the life giving gas that was pumped through the colony air system. The boy could feel his heart beating solidly against his chest wall, testing the physical boundaries of which it was confined to. Every now and then it would give an extra hard thump of protest. Quatre wiped off the sweat that was dripping erratically into his sea green eyes and ignored the organ’s piped protests.

Trowa was still on the circus ring, and could be expected to stay with the traveling caravan for the rest of the season. Catherine, of all people, had sent a holiday greeting card and apologized about the little news that he ever received. It seemed that they were short on help and that Trowa was busy filling in the empty positions. Though grateful for the one way chat, Quatre wondered why the girl had bothered. It almost seemed as if she had been apologizing for her brother. There was no reason to apologize. It wasn’t as if he’d been expecting a letter in the first place and wouldn’t have received one if she hadn’t written. Trowa hardly bothered to talk, much less write letters.

His hand suddenly swung out and hit the punching bag as he passed it by on the track. Clouds of dust erupted from the bag in a sorry retaliation for the pain Quatre had unexpectedly caused it. The boy ignored the object’s silent screams and began pummeling the bag with his bare fists, backing it against the wall and slamming into it with a sudden rush of sporadic anger. In one final desperate attempt to escape its maddened attacker, the bag slid to the left in a swift fluid motion. Surprised, Quatre watched his fist fly past the elusive bag and connect with the wall with a spine tingling crunch.

Father always seemed to be disappointed in him. Disappointed in his size, dissatisfied about his upbringing, disapproving of his non-pacifist ideals, disgusted with this slow growth and lack of need to find a wife and produce another brilliant Winner heir. Quatre could never seem to do anything right in his father’s eyes. But father had always seemed a bit naïve in Quatre’s. Iria once said that it was like that for all the Winner children growing up. That it took time and fights to gain an understanding of the mind of the desert master. To find a place in the ever present but rarely seen love and respect within the expansive family. But Quatre would never know, because father had left, leaving him only time and unresolved disputes to toy with his thoughts and haunt his still forming judgements.

Blood began to flower on the spotless, white painted walls of the gym. Quatre watched in fascination as the split skin over his knuckle disappeared under a sudden onrush of crimson liquid. The stuff of life flowed over his hand and trailed down his wrist to cascade onto the floor and pool in hot, wet splashes. His turquoise irises shimmered in fascination as he rotated his wrist to better watch the blood fall. But instead the path of the liquid changed and began to candy stripe down his skin, dripping in erratic ebbs here and there about his forearm. Quatre sighed in defeat; nothing seemed to be going his way.

A voice tisked reproachfully behind him, "no shirt to keep the cold out and no bandage to keep the blood in. Rashid would not be pleased."

Startled, Quatre whipped about to face the unexpected new comer, inadvertently sending flecks of blood flying through the air as his adrenalized instincts brought his fists up into a defensive position. The Maguanocs had promised him an empty building and time to himself. This was a rare event that Quatre did not want interrupted by some half-assed would be business partner who thought he was being cute by sneaking up on the boy during his supposed personal time.

But when Quatre saw the owner of the voice, he changed his mind immediately. "Trowa," he said quietly, letting the surprise seep into voice. "I thought you were at the circus."

"I was." Trowa walked forward quietly, the gym first aid kid in his left hand. "Let me see your hand."

Hastily Quatre tried to hide his bloody deed behind his back. "Don’t worry about it. Its fine."

Trowa brought up his arm and slowly extended his long, slender fingers in a graceful gesture. "Give me your hand, Quatre."

Quatre sighed and relinquished the offending limb into the grass-eyed youth’s care. Trowa settled on the hard rubber floor, bringing his prospective patient down with him.

"You shouldn’t fight with walls, you know," Trowa said softly, taking out a soft white cloth from the kit and cleaning off the other boy’s hand. "They tend to win."

Quatre managed a crooked half smile, "I thought that’s what a Gundam pilot did—fight losing battles."

Trowa took out a fresh towel and dabbed it with a disinfectant; "we don’t pilot Gundams anymore."

"Have you ever heard the expression, ‘you can take the king from the throne, but you can’t take the throne from the king?’

"No." Came the answer.

"Oh," the blonde sighed at the usual short reply and decided to change the subject. "So why the visit, Trowa. Your sister wrote to say how busy you were and how short-handed the circus had become. I was ready to send some of the Maguanocs over to you."

Trowa lifted a compress off Quatre’s wound and inspected it with a critical eye. Replacing the compress, he dug into the first aid kit until he found a needle and thread. "Cathy told me that if I didn’t take a break and give her a rest that she’d start missing on purpose." Trowa paused and raised a slender eyebrow to look at the boy in front of him, his one visible eye dancing slightly with the humor of his statement. "I decided a vacation wasn’t a bad idea—she was sharpening her knives when I left."

Quatre managed a real smile and a low chuckle. "Never question a female who can split hairs three ways at eighty paces."

"That would be the philosophy, yes."

The gym was silent for a while as Trowa measured out and threaded the small needle. He poured a small amount more of alcohol on the wound and instructed Quatre to relax his hand. To his credit, the Winner hardly flinched as the needle began working its way in and out of folds of Quatre’s skin. The pain wasn’t great, but Quatre wanted some distraction from the tiny metal object.

"Trowa?"

"Yes?"

"Why—why did you come back here? It’s not much of a vacation spot."

The needle hesitated ever so slightly before dipping back into its rhythm. "There was no where else I wanted to be, I suppose."

"Oh." Quatre couldn’t think of anything to say to this, so he said nothing.

The silver sliver finished its deed and Trowa made a final knot before cutting the thread. "That should do it," he said, "just don’t pick any fights with walls for a while."

Quatre nodded and stood stiffly on his feet. As Trowa packed the kit he fetched his previously discarded T-shirt and walked over to the drying blood on the wall and floor. For a moment he considered using it to wipe up the traces of his act. It felt wrong for him to leave behind such blatant signs of his presence. Heero would definitely disapprove. With a sigh, the blonde wrapped the shirt around his good hand and moved to clean the unsightly mess.

A force tugged on the trailing ends of the makeshift rag. Surprised, Quatre kept hold of the T-shirt, but turned around to blink owlishly at his antagonist. "Something wrong?"

Trowa shook his head; almost amused by the look his friend was giving him. He continued to pull on the shirt, towing Quatre away from the stain on the wall. With a deft flick of his wrist, he twisted the fabric and bundled it into his own hand. Quatre relinquished the shirt and stopped walking, slightly annoyed with the other boy. "Trowa, what—"

But Trowa managed to surprise the other into silence when he reached up and began to wipe off the stray blood flecks from his cheek. "Clean up the messes that are worth cleaning," he said.

"But—"

"Quatre," Trowa cut him off, wiping away a particularly long streak that ran from the blonde’s collarbone to the middle of his neck, "Sandrock told you goodbye long ago, its time for you to say goodbye now."

"You make it sound so easy," he replied in an almost snide tone, taken aback by Trowa’s late response to his earlier defense.

"Why is it that everything we do in life has to be so difficult, Quatre. Don’t you think its time to settle down? Do what you want to do instead of what someone else wants?"

Feeling slightly guilty from his earlier comment, Quatre let out a long breath of air and dropped his head, "How am I supposed to do that?"

"Try winning a battle, for once."

The blonde looked up at the long banged youth, fixing him with a level stare. Then, with out a warning, Quatre’s snaked out and snatched the shirt from Trowa’s hands, "like this?" he grinned and twisted the towel and snapped it rapidly in Trowa’s face, allowing it to come within millimeters of his nose.

Trowa, who was used to the deadly swish of knives, blinked and jerked back slightly at the Arab’s sudden advance. Quatre’s grin grew wider, "I win."

"Take it easy there," warned Trowa, "or I’ll tell the wall on you."

Quatre laughed and threw the shirt at the other boy. "Its good to see you again, Trowa."

The boy nodded, "yes," he agreed, "it is."

The gym went silent again as Quatre relaxed and slowly looked about the track. His eyes drifted to the battered punching bag. It hung perfectly still in the center of its axis. Even the chain was still from its usual rotation. Quatre smiled. Space was calming down.

"How about some tea, Trowa." Quatre turned to his friend, " to start your vacation off."

A soft emotion flickered through deep green eyes. "I’d like that."

Quatre nodded, "so would I."

Quatre led the way from the gym, knowing Trowa would be right behind him. The long banged youth gave one last look around the gym before tossing the blood and sweat stained T into the corner. He turned off the lights and shut the door tightly behind the two of them. With a firm nod of resolution, he caught up to Quatre, and together they walked side by side down the long locker hallway.

 

* Owari *

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