The bed was too big, empty without the presence beside him.  But it didn't matter since he wasn't planning to sleep.  Oh, he'd caught a few hours on the couch
in the main room, but Ireia kept sending him back to his room.  As if it were better for him.  He couldn't sleep in his room anymore, too many memories.  Even
now he could almost feel strong arms around him, warmth pressed to his cheek.  The flickering darkness of the wall across from him dispelled the dream, his
eyes dull from staring at nothing.  Trowa wasn't coming back.

Reports of Dorothy's death had stunned his family, and he was certain Ireia had connected the girl with their own recent incidents.  But she hadn't asked,
she'd merely mentioned the coincidence then dropped it.  They were all like that, walking on thin ice around him, afraid to set him off as if he could possibly be
more miserable than he already was.  His sister wasn't the only one who'd made a connection between Dorothy's death and the attack on him.  The police had
shown up, asking questions that he refused to answer.  They pushed, but eventually they left with nothing.  He was left with the knowledge that two other
people had been injured in the same room in which Dorothy died.  Two blood types besides hers had been found, and one of them was surely Trowa's.  

If they had found a body, he might have eventually reconciled himself to living alone.  But they hadn't, and his hope that the boy lived was at odds with the
betrayal he felt.  If Trowa was out there, he was keeping his distance.  Christopher was staying with them, more for Ireia's benefit than for protection.  Quatre
didn't mind since he liked the man, and Christopher had instigated a search of the city.  But it turned up nothing.  He hadn't expected it to, despite the man's
high hopes.  If Trowa didn't want to be found, he wouldn't be found.  It was that simple.  Quatre's eyes flicked closed for a moment, then he shifted on the bed,
sitting and swinging his legs over the edge.  

He walked to the window, touching the curtains with a reverent expression.  He could still remember standing there, looking down at Trowa, opening he window
so the boy could climb inside.  The trellis was gone now, torn down so no one could ever try to enter his room again.  That was what Ireia had said, but Quatre
knew it was to keep him inside.  They wouldn't let him search for himself.  Twice Christopher had caught him trying to leave and he was surprised they hadn't
decided to lock him inside his room.  A shadow flickered at the edge of his vision, a dark figure moving out of sight.  For a moment he stared in a gush of
hope, then he shook his head, one hand rubbing at his temples.  It wasn't the first time he'd had visions when looking into the dark outside his room.  Once
he'd been ready to open his window and call down.  But on a second glance, there'd been nothing, no one at all.  It was the same now, and he knew that.  He
still moved toward the door of his room, pausing only to pull on a pair of shoes.  No matter how many visions or imaginings he had, he couldn't let one go by
without being absolutely sure.

Karen was gone.  She'd left a day ago, and he was convinced the house held too much uncertainty for her.  She'd never forgive it for allowing someone to
threaten her and her family.  But another of his sisters was due to give birth to her first child, and Karen had moved in with her for that reason.  It left her room
empty, and Quatre slipped inside quietly.  Christopher was a good sentry if a person were trying to sneak out the front door.  But the man would never dream
of going into Karen's old bedroom.  The girl had left items there, and he wouldn't intrude.  Quatre had no suck qualms.  They would have been surprised to
find out that he'd already managed to sneak out of the house twice, using the new exit.  His cloak was hidden in the closet behind some of Karen's old
dresses, and he pulled it over his shoulders.  There was no trellis climbing the wall, but the large pear tree was close enough to the window to make an even
better ladder.  Barely two minutes passed before he was standing on damp grass in the back of the large house.

The shadow had flickered near the corner to the right of his room.  Moving in that direction, Quatre had to admit he was not helping himself cope with Trowa's
loss.  He knew, but didn't really care.  The back of the yard was dark and empty.  His heart fell again, his eyes dropping to the grass as he continued to walk
forward until he could lean against the tree in the corner of their property.  There were no tears left, he'd used them all up and his eyes remained dry as he
closed them tightly.  He had to stop doing this.

"Quatre Winner?"

Despite his preoccupation, Quatre had taken no chances since Trowa's disappearance.  His gun was in his hand before the words registered, his arm raised
as he turned quickly.  Dark eyes blinked at him from above, and he jerked in surprise as he saw a girl not much older than him.  But he didn't relax.  She also
held a gun that was pointed at his head.  For a split second he wondered at the oddity of the situation, then he realized she was smirking at him.

"From the way you hold a gun, you don't look very innocent."  The boy frowned at her and she lowered her weapon, slipping it out of sight.  "It figures Trowa
would fall for a blonde."

"You know Trowa?!"

The boy nearly dropped his gun, catching it and shoving it into a pocket before leaning against the tree.  Wide, pale eyes stared up at her, and Catherine
suddenly knew why Trowa had decided to protect the boy.  "Yeah, but I guess he never mentioned me."  Quatre shook his head, the hope not leaving his face.

"Did Trowa send you here?"

"Nope."  The boy's shoulders drooped, and she snorted before dropping to the ground beside him.  "Looks like he left both of us in the wake.  The name's
Cathy," she said, extending a hand, "nice to finally meet you, Quatre."

.-.

He was tired, but there was no place he could go.  Quatre's family had obviously spent a good fortune looking for him, and it was the first time he'd ever had to
elude people with pictures of him.  It would have been detrimental to his career if he hadn't already given that up.  There was no way he could continue in the
city without an informant.  And he couldn't replace Catherine.

Finelli's last words had set him off, and he'd made a crucial mistake that would haunt him for the rest of his life.  He'd killed the man without finding out where
Cathy was.  He'd delivered the man's body to the rest of the cartel, and they were as good as finished.  They'd been terrified that he would continue to kill the
rest of them, and he knew they hadn't lied when they'd claimed to have no knowledge of any girl fitting Cathy's description.  In fact, none of his inquiries had
turned up anything.  She hadn't been public, but she had numerous connections.  Yet she'd disappeared without a trace, right after his last contact with her.  
The worst thought that Trowa imagined was that she'd still been alive when he killed Finelli, that she died because no one knew where she was.  He should
have thought of that.

But he hadn't stopped looking, he was like Quatre in his stubbornness.  He spent as much time avoiding the boy's searches as he did instigating his own, but
neither found its target.  It was nearly four days before he returned to the girl's home, the place where he'd seen her last.  He'd been by multiple times, but he
never stayed, it was too painful.  Yet he couldn't help but return again and again.  There was the possibility that she'd gotten wind of Finelli's intentions and
had hidden.  If that were the case, she might come back there.  The alley was deserted when he entered it, and he could tell just by looking that the door
hadn't been touched since his last visit.  There was no point entering the place, but he moved forward anyway.  Then he paused, his hand near the knob as
his eyes narrowed.  His eyes snapped to the side and he glared at the figure standing near the mouth of the alley.  A large handgun was aimed at him and a
second passed before he realized it was aimed low.

"Run...and I'll knee-cap you."  One visible green eye widened at his words and Quatre shook his head, the hood of his black cloak falling to his shoulders.

"Quatre..."  For a long minute he was frozen, his stunned mind taking in every feature, pausing on the shadows beneath the boy's beautiful eyes.  His fingers
brushed the gun he'd been reaching for and he remembered himself, blinking abruptly.  "What are you doing here?"

"I'm the one who should be asking *you* that question," Quatre said.  It was hard to keep his voice low, and he wanted nothing more than to run to the boy and
grab him.  All his fears were washed away.  But his anger wasn't feigned any more than his previous threat and he knew that anger would be the key.  "Why
didn't you come back?"

"I finished the job."  The words sounded hollow in his mouth, but it was the only excuse he could give.  Then he flicked his eyes away.  "There was no reason
for me to come back."  The lie hurt, but he had no time to wallow in his own pain.  A sharp click broke the silence and his eyes flew back to the blonde boy.

"Try again," Quatre murmured, not the least bit hurt.  He could practically *see* how much those false words had hurt the boy.  Trowa was staring at his gun in
evident confusion, and he held his back straight when the boy frowned suddenly.

"Quatre, put that away.  You aren't going to shoot me."  The blonde actually raised an eyebrow at that and he found himself wondering, seriously wondering if
the fury he could feel was coming from the slight figure in front of him.  The gun hadn't faltered any more than that straightforward gaze.  No excuses were
going to be accepted.  Besides, he owed the boy more than that.  He had to remember, Quatre was in love with him.  "There is no point in my coming back," he
said again, his voice softer this time though it rang with an underlying current of ice.  "The only thing I could have ever offered you was my protection.  I can't
protect anyone.  I have nothing, and I won't take you down with me."

"That's so sweet, but you don't expect to get away with something so self-sacrificing as that, do you?  I don't think you have any idea how much you scared
him, he's very angry with you, Trowa."

His breath stopped and he turned so fast he knocked himself off balance for a moment.  "Cathy!"  The shocked cry barely made it past his lips before he
moved, nearly lunging at the girl.  The gun she raised threw him and he stopped suddenly, not bothering to hide his confusion.

"Surprised to see me?  First things first, Trowa.  You have some answering to do."  Meeting Quatre's gaze, Catherine took in the boy's sharp nod.  Her eyes
moved back to Trowa and she glared at him.  "Where the *hell* have you been?!"

"Me?!"  Trowa couldn't remember the last time his voice had risen so high, but he couldn't seem to cope with what was happening.  "I've looked everywhere for
you.  I thought you were dead.  Finelli said-"

"As if I'd just sit around and wait for him to catch me.  You know better than that.  You didn't actually think I was dead...did you?"  The boy nodded slowly and
she finally noticed how pale his face was.  "Oh, Trowa...I was hiding.  I just got word that Finelli had been killed, yesterday.  Then, I started looking for you."

"I see. I'm glad you're okay...Cathy."  He should have known better, and part of him berated himself for having doubted her.  She'd survived the streets long
enough, she didn't need him.  "I should have known you could take care of yourself."

Catherine nodded, feeling an urge to hug the boy.  But she didn't forget her reason for coming.  "So, you were looking for me.  It's flattering that you'd forget
everything from worrying, but as you can see I'm just fine.  And you won't have to worry about me anymore because I've found new employment.  Which
means, you can go back with Quatre now."

"No, I planned to leave the city anyway.  If you won't need me, then there's no reason for me to stay."  The girl glared, but Trowa refused to say anything
more.  He didn't glance at the boy behind him.

"No reason?"

"If I were you," Catherine commented, "I'd shoot him for that."  The blonde boy nodded and she looked at Trowa.  "You told me before that you'd have to leave
after the job was over.  Back then, I figured it was something to do with him not wanting you, but I get it now.  You were just thinking about yourself, you never
gave a thought of him.  I really expected more from you, Trowa.  I've never known you to be so selfish."

"You don't understand."  He could hear Quatre moving closer, and it was difficult not to glance at him.  "He doesn't know what I am.  I *am* thinking of him, I'm
doing the best thing I can for him."  Catherine snorted softly, but he had closed his eyes.  After a few moments of preparing himself, he turned to face Quatre.  
The boy looked stronger than he remembered, as if he were fueled by something that made him determined.  But he was wrong.  "You shouldn't be here.  I'll
take you back."

"Good," Quatre said quickly, lowering his gun.  "But don't think you're going to disappear after that.  I planned to take you home with me, but you can lead the
way if you like."

"I'm not staying."

"Yes you are," Cathy argued.  "I don't think you understand what's happening here, Trowa.  You've been a real jerk to Quatre, but I guess I can forgive you
since you were worried about me.  But that's all settled now, there's no excuse for you hurting him more."  The tall boy's shoulders tensed, and Catherine knew
he resented her words.  He didn't like hurting Quatre, she knew that.  He honestly thought he was acting in the boy's best interests, that was the sad part.  
"See, when Quatre told me that you were avoiding him, I agreed to help him.  I did want to find you, after all.  And we're going to take you back to his place.  
My new job is to make sure you stay there."

"Cathy."  The girl gave him a soft smile, but it did nothing to end the conflict inside him.  He understood what she was saying.  Quatre had hired her to help get
him, if he didn't go back with the boy then she would have no job except the one she'd occupied before.  Here was a chance for him to solve two of the major
problems he'd had.  Catherine would be off the streets without his having to accept money from the blonde boy, and he would have an excuse to stay.  "Don't
you see?  He's completely clean, Cathy.  How could I ruin him more than I already have?"

"I told him your past," Catherine said softly.  The tall boy's eyes widened, and he stiffened.  "He says it doesn't make any difference to him."  Trowa's eyes
were blank for so long that she wanted to lay a hand on his arm.  Then he glared at her, the green filled with fury so that she wanted to step back.

"I never wanted him to know..."  Suddenly Trowa didn't care that she'd meant to help him, didn't care who she was.  She'd had no right.  "How could you."

"Trowa...?"  Quatre couldn't see the boy's face, but his eyes widened at Catherine's expression.  "Trowa, I already knew.  I've known since you left.  One of
those men called you Nanashi.  Ireia's fiancé looked into it for me.  You can't blame Cathy."  He stepped forward slowly until he stood behind Trowa.  "I know
everything, and I don't care."  Muscles flinched when he wrapped his arm around the boy's waist, and he sighed before leaning his forehead against Trowa's
back.  "I love you so much, Trowa.  Please don't make me shoot you."

"Her fiancé...?"

Quatre opened his eyes, looking at Trowa's dark coat.  "Christopher.  I don't think you ever met him, but he's been staying with us since you left, mostly to
keep an eye on me.  They were afraid I would do something rash.  And I may, yet.  Trowa, you have no idea what I've been going through.  If I have to shoot
you and drag you back with me...then I'll do it.  I swear I will."

"Quatre...you would never hurt someone you love.  You don't have it in you."  The arms tightened around him, and Trowa dropped his eyes, a small smirk
curving his lips.

"You two are so cute," Cathy murmured, smiling at them.  Trowa glanced up at her and she tilted her head to the side, hefting her gun so he could see it.  "If
he won't do it, then *I* can knock you out, and help him drag you back.  Either way, we'll see you where you belong."

Quatre nodded against Trowa's back, not loosening his grip.  "With me."

"You're saying I have no choice in the matter?"  Cathy grinned at him, and he could feel Quatre's head moving against him.  "I might run away again."

"I'll find you," Quatre said immediately, though he noticed the boy's voice didn't sound as hard as before.

"And I'll help him.  But next time we won't let you off so easily."

Raising an eyebrow at the red-haired girl, Trowa frowned.  "When did the two of you become such good friends?"

"When we thought we'd lost you."

"Quatre..."  He could see a light blush marring Catherine's cheeks and he gave a low, drawn out sigh.  "I guess if I have to choose, I'd prefer walking to being
dragged."

"See, Quatre?" Cathy smiled, "I told you he'd see it our way."

.-.
TBC



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