Author's note: This is set during the timeline of my other GW fanfic Kimi no Koto wa Itsudemo Mamoru. To read this please go BACK to the Gundam Wing Index.
Disclaimer: Gundam Wing and all the characters belong to Sunrise, Bandai... etc etc. Sophy Winner belongs to me!
Catherine clasped her hands together tightly and tried to calm the fluttery feeling in the pit of her stomach as the limo arrived at their destination.
"Catherine?" Quatre turned to her. "It's alright you know, they won't bite."
Catherine flushed slightly. Obviously she had betrayed her nervousness... damn.
"I know, Quatre," she said. "But still... I can't help feeling a bit anxious that I'm going to stand out in this crowd."
He nodded. "I understand," he said. He smiled. "But you look lovely Catherine, if you do stand out it will be for the _right_ reasons!" he got out of the car.
Catherine blinked. What a sweet thing for Quatre to say! She shook her head, of course, he was just being polite. He'd say the same to any girl.
Quatre opened the door on her side and held out his hand. "Shall we go inside?"
"S-sure," Catherine took his hand and stepped out, moving carefully so as not to overbalance in her high heels ot step on the hem of her full skirt. One of the other women in the circus troop had loaned her this off-the-shoulder dark green ballgown and she didn't want to ruin it. Besides which, falling flat on her face outside of this magnificent mansion would be _incredibly_ humiliating.
Catherine took Quatre's arm and they made their way up the stairs to the front door. The doorman opened it, bowing them inside.
Catherine tried very hard _not_ to gape as they walked down the long hallway, but she could resist the occasional peep. It was the most garishly decorated place she had ever seen! All gilded in gold with elaborate carvings.
"Hideous, isn't it?" murmured Quatre. "I can never come in here without wincing!"
"How can anyone live like this? Does money make people tasteless?" Catherine whispered back.
Quatre blinked. "You think I'm tasteless?" he asked in a slightly hurt voice.
Catherine mentally kicked herself. "No, no!" she hastened to assure him. "You must be the exception to the rule, Quatre, because I never get blinded in _your_ home!"
Quatre laughed quietly. "That's good."
They reached the main room and were ushered inside.
"Mr Quatre Raberba Winner and Miss... er... Catherine Bloom!" the usher announced.
"Mr Winner!" a tall dark haired man came up to them. "I'm so pleased to meet you once again."
Quatre bowed. "Likewise Mr Fuuma, thank you for inviting me."
Yuto Fuuma smiled, but Catherine noticed that his smile didn't reach his eyes and she wondered if Quatre had seen it too. Fuuma bowed politely to Catherine, raking his eyes over her and then dismissing her as unimportant, he turned back to Quatre.
"There are several people here who have a great interest in doing business with you, Mr Winner," said Fuuma. "Please let me introduce you."
"Certainly," said Quatre pleasantly. He turned to Catherine. "Why don't you get a drink and something to eat?" he suggested pointing to a buffet table. "This won't take long."
Catherine readily agreed. She had no desire to be introduced to alot of rich businessmen who were concerned in shallow things. She felt sorry that Quatre had to associate with them, but she knew that he had no choice if the Winner Corporation was to continue to prosper.
Quatre was led away by Fuuma and Catherine walked over to the buffet table. As she walked she looked at all the other guests. They all looked supremely confident with themselves and were dressed very elegantly. Catherine brushed her hands nervously against the skirt of her dress, aware that it was plain and only enlivened by a gold chain around her neck and some star-shaped gold clips in her hair.
"Are you the girl who came in with Mr Winner?" an arch voice behind her made Catherine whirl around.
Two women, one blond, the other a redhead, were regarding her. They were young, not over twenty-five and were exquisitely dressed. Catherine could feel them weighing her up and finding her lacking in consequence.
She took a deep breath and answered the redhead who had asked her the question. "Yes, yes I did."
The two looked at each other and then back at her. The blond leaned forward slightly. "So... how long have you known him?"
Catherine shrugged. "Oh, about four years now I think, my brother is his best friend."
"Oh... so you're just a _friend_," murmured the redhead. She turned to her companion. "I told you."
The blond smiled. "Well, that's good, I'd hate to see him wasted, and I know we haven't seen _her_ in the right places so she must be associated with that dreadful circus Mr Winner likes so much."
"Isn't it terrible?"
A hot rage surged through Catherine. "I'm still _here_ you know!" she gritted as she held back her anger.
The blond tittered. "Yes... we know!" she linked arms with her friend. "Poor little nobody!"
The redhead laughed. "Where _did_ he find her?"
Catherine was conscious of a great desire to pick up the punch bowl and throw the contents at them. She swallowed, fighting the impulse. She couldn't cause a riot here! It would only hurt Quatre. Stiffly she turned and swept past the women, her head held high, but her ears burning as they continued to laugh at her. Clenching her fists she walked towards the french doors at one end and found herself on a balcony.
As soon as she was safely out of earshot and eyesight Catherine swore and punched the rail. "Ow!" she muttered and rubbed her knuckles. "Grrr... I knew I shouldn't have come! Damn Trowa and damn Quatre too!"
She leaned on the rail and stared moodily into the darkness. "I wish I could've said something to those creeps!" she choked as tears of frustration welled in her eyes. "Over-dressed bimbos!"
"Why didn't you say anything then?"
Catherine's eyes widened as Quatre appeared at her side. "How long...?"
"I followed you," he said softly. "I overheard what happened, but you left before I could reach you."
Catherine sighed. "I had to leave, or I would have decked them," she rested her chin on her hands. "Or at the very least insulted them terribly!"
Quatre laughed suddenly surprising her. "You should have!"
Catherine blinked and straightened. "But... wouldn't that have wrecked your business dealing? Your date causing a scene?"
Quatre turned to her and his eyes rested on her face, a great warmth in them. "I would prefer _not_ to deal with people who insult my friends," he said calmly. "People who are rude to the ones I care about are not the type of people who I want around me," he smiled and reached up to gently wipe away a tear that had escaped from her eyes.
Catherine's chest constricted slightly and she felt a bit breathless. "But, what about the Winner Corporation? Surely you can't afford..."
Quatre took her hands in his. "Catherine, the Winner Corporation can handle the loss of a few business partners, _I_ cannot handle the loss of _any_ of the ones I love!"
Catherine felt tears welling up again and blinked them away. She felt strangely nervous and oddly happy at the same time. Trowa had always told her that Quatre had a great heart and she had agreed, but this was the first time she had felt the full force of Quatre's gentle kindness. She swallowed and attempted to keep her voice light as she answered him.
"That's a nice sentiment, Quatre, but hardly practical."
"Maybe not," Quatre admitted. "But I prefer to live by it."
Catherine chuckled, amusement driving away her nervous feelings. "Does this mean that it's alright if I deck the next person who insults me?"
Quatre looked faintly alarmed and then he laughed. "Well... only if insulting them back doesn't work!"
"Can I quote you there?" Catherine asked in a teasing voice.
Quatre's eyes widened. "Ah! Don't you _dare_!" he smiled. "This time I'll stick close to you and glare at anyone who tries to insult you, perhaps that will prevent bloodshed."
Catherine smiled warmly at him and took his arm. "My dear Quatre, glaring was never one of your strong points, unless you've been taking lessons from Heero Yuy! But I promise to behave... if the other guest will!"
"I suppose that's all I can hope for," sighed Quatre.
Laughing, they returned to the main room to continue the evening.
The limo pulled up outside the main circus tent and Quatre gently tapped the arm of the girl snoozing on his shoulder.
"Catherine, wake up, we're here."
"Hmmm?" Catherine blinked and rubbed her eyes with one hand. "Oh... right..." she became aware of her position and felt her cheeks heat up.
She had dozed off two minutes after they had left the party, not surprising as it was 3am. Quatre had been too polite to move her as she slept on his shoulder and besides, he had to admit, having a pretty woman snuggled in your arms was not an unpleasant sensation.
Catherine straightened and smoothed her rumpled hair, trying to conceal the embarrassment she felt. *God knows what he thinks of me!* She thought in concern, *I bet none of his other dates snored on his shoulder after a little party!*
Catherine was still chiding herself as she stepped out of the car, but she composed herself enough to turn and say goodnight to Quatre.
"Goodnight Catherine," said Quatre. "I do hope that you managed to have a nice evening."
Catherine nodded. "Thank you for inviting me Quatre, even if it _was_ Trowa's idea!"
Quatre laughed. "Next time I take you out it won't be on Trowa's suggestion!" he said as he closed the door.
Catherine blinked as she watched the limo moved away. Did Quatre _mean_ that?
She was still dwelling on his parting words when she entered her trailer. Trowa was sitting on the small couch reading, he looked up as she came in.
"Have a nice time?" he asked.
Catherine stared at him. "Trowa! Were you waiting up for me?" she asked. "It's 3am!"
"I know," said Trowa calmly. "But did you have a good time?"
Catherine took of her earrings and laid them on her dresser. "Yes," she said after a moments thought. "I did. The start was a bit rough, but Quatre was a great conversationalist and he made sure that I wasn't neglected at anytime," she took the clips out of her hair. "He dances very well you know."
"Good." Trowa shut his book and got to his feet. "I thought this would be a success."
Catherine's eyes narrowed and she looked at him suspiciously. "Trowa... if you weren't _you_ I'd suspect that you were trying to set me and Quatre up!"
Trowa regarded her without expression for a moment. "Goodnight sister," he said finally and left.
Catherine drummed her fingers on the dresser. Trowa... wouldn't! Would he?
Outside the trailer Trowa smiled to himself. *Well, it looks as if phase one worked,* he thought, *Now... onto phase two...*
The Next Day:
Sophy leaned over Quatre's shoulder and peered at the note he was writing. "Hmmm... an order for two dozen yellow roses... why _Quatre_!"
Quatre jumped. "Sophy! This is private!"
She took a step back and smirked at his flustered face. "So... who's the lucky girl? Anyone I know?"
Quatre blushed. "They're for Catherine," he confessed. "A thank you for coming with me to the function last night."
Sophy tapped her lower lip with her forefinger. "Catherine, huh? Well, I guess that's a good choice..."
"_Sophy_!!!" Quatre went even redder. "It's just a _thank you_, it's not as if I'm going to date Catherine or anything!"
Sophy pouted. "Awww, don't raise my expectations like that!"
Quatre gave up. He dialed up the flower shop. "Hello? This is Mr Quatre Raberba Winner, I'd like to order some flowers please for a Miss Catherine Bloom who is residing at the circus... ye..."
Sophy grabbed the phone. "Red roses!!" she yelled down it. "With a note saying..."
Quatre wrestled the phone back. "I'm sorry, the order is for _yellow_ roses, 2 dozen, and a note that says..."
Sophy nabbed the phone again. "That says - To my dearest Catherine, I would like to go out with you again..."
"NO!!" Quatre pulled the phone back. "No, the note shall just have my name on it and a thank you..."
"With all my love!" Sophy cried.
Quatre pushed her away. "Please ignore her, she's deranged."
Quatre ignored her. "Oh... thank you very much, goodbye," he put the phone down and shot an exasperated look at Sophy. "Did you _have_ to do that?"
Sophy shrugged. "I had to try."
Catherine frowned as she looked at her pink circus costume. "When did this rip get in the skirt?" she wondered aloud. "I don't remember it happening!"
Trowa, who was examining his own costume, looked at her. "It's probably just worn through," he said.
Catherine sighed. "I suppose so, oh well, I guess it's the green outfit tonight... I just hope that one is okay!"
"Catherine!" one of the circus hands came in. "You've got a present!"
"Eh?" Catherine turned around. "Oh my..." she dropped the costume. "Are those roses for me?"
The circus hand grinned at her as he handed her the large bouquet. "You're the only Catherine Bloom here!" he said. "Must be an admirer."
Catherine opened the note pinned to the yellow roses. "It's from Quatre!" she said in surprise.
"Really?" Trowa lifted an eyebrow.
"He says thank you for last night, he had a very nice time in my company and hopes that I did as well," Catherine admired the bouquet. "How sweet of him!" She murmured. Quatre's face appeared in her mind. The blue eyes under the fringe of blond hair. His sweet smile and gentle voice. The way he smelt of sandalwood... Catherine blinked. *How odd... I didn't think I remember _that_ much about him!*
"How interesting," said Trowa, he half-turned away from her.
Catherine looked at him sharply. "You're _smirking_!" she accused him.
Trowa turned a bland look on her. "Me?"
Catherine stamped her foot. "You... you... argh!" she stomped out, her cheeks red.
A day later:
Quatre tapped his fingers on his desk. "It's a beautiful day..." he said to himself. "Just right for eating outside... hmmm... I wonder if Trowa and Catherine would like to go on a lunchtime picnic?" Quatre picked up the phone. "I hope Catherine can make it..." he murmured. Then he blinked and wondered where that thought had come from.
"Quatre's invited us on a picnic," Trowa informed Catherine as she checked the net under the high wire.
"Both of us?" Catherine asked.
"Yes, he was insistant that you come."
"Oh, really?" The net was suddenly the most fascinating thing that Catherine had ever seen. "Well, I guess I have to go then."
"I guess so."
"Catherine!" Quatre leapt up to greet her. "I'm so glad you could make it! I hope I'm not keeping you from anything important?"
Catherine shook her head. "Oh no, just the everyday chores," she held up a small basket. "I made a cake," she said a little shyly.
"Great!" Quatre beamed at her. Then he glanced behind her. "Uh... where is Trowa?"
"Oh, he had a couple of things to do," said Catherine. "He said he'd be joining us in about fifteen minutes and we were to start without him."
"Alright, come and sit down," Quatre led her to a blanket set up underneath a cherry tree in bloom. There were a variety of delicacies laid out on the blanket.
"This looks lovely," said Catherine as she sat down. "Puts my poor little cake to shame!"
"I think your cake will be the best of them all," said Quatre smiling warmly at her. "After all, these are just from a caterers, yours was made by you and that makes it better than anything!"
Catherine smiled wryly. "I wouldn't praise it until you taste it!" she said.
An hour later:
"...and then Rasid said that he didn't _care_ if Advol thought it was funny, _he_ didn't approve!" Quatre laughed as he came to the conclusion of .
Catherine half-choked on her food and had to gulp down some juice. "Oh my... those Maganacs... sounds like you've had so fun times with them!" she chuckled.
Quatre nodded. "I don't know if I could have made it without them," he said seriously.
Catherine looked at him. "They're like family to you, aren't they?"
"Yes, like older brothers and uncles!"
Catherine sat up and brushed crumbs from her lap. "Speaking of brothers..." she said. "Where is _mine_? He's very late!"
"Maybe he got held up?"
Another hour later:
Catherine looked at her watch. "Quatre, I really don't want to cut this short, but I have to get back for tonight's setting up!"
"I should get back to work," said Quatre with a sigh. He stood up and looked at the picnic basket which had been packed up half an hour ago. "It's a pity Trowa missed this."
"Yes..." Catherine frowned. "He'd better have a good explanation!" she smiled at Quatre. "But I had a good time, thanks Quatre!"
He bowed. "It was my pleasure."
Their eyes met and held for some minutes. Quatre realized how beautiful Catherine's silver eyes were and Catherine thought that Quatre's blue eyes held a wonderful combination of strength and kindness. Then they blinked and looked away.
"I'll... er... see you at the performance tonight," said Quatre, his cheeks were pink.
"Ummm... yeah, tonight..." Catherine felt a little shy. She turned and began to run towards the park exit. "See you soon!"
Quatre waved after her and shook his head. How odd, he hadn't missed Trowa one bit...
Catherine got back to the circus and found Trowa by the lion's cage.
"Why didn't you show up?" she demanded. "Quatre and I were waiting for you!"
"Did you eat lunch?" Trowa asked not looking at her.
"_Yes_ and you _missed_ it!"
"Oh... too bad," Trowa got to his feet. "Things just took longer than I thought," he said and walked away.
Catherine stared after him. "You really _are_ setting us up!" she murmured. "Why Trowa Barton! You little _sneak_!" her eyes narrowed. "Well... you're NOT getting away with this!"
Quatre sat in his office and stared at the figures in front of him. But he wasn't seeing numbers, all he saw and heard in his mind was Catherine.
*What's going on?* He wondered. *Is it possible? It can't be! But if I don't... then why am thinking about her so much? And why now? I've known her for _years_! Why am I seeing her so differently?*
Sophy watched her little brother from the door and turned to smile at her older sister.
"See Iria? I told you, he's in love."
Iria Winner shook her head. "Finally... and it was all through his own doing!"
Sophy nodded. "Uh-huh. Now, let's hope he acts on this soon!" she looked determined. "Or I might have to step in!"
Iria rolled her eyes. "Poor Quatre..."
Go on to Part Three
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