Disclaimers:  I do not own Gundam Wing or any of its characters.

Notes:  Lily meets Howard and takes him up on his kind offer to stay for a while and get some much needed rest.



Secrets



Part Three


Lily followed Duo’s lead as they walked to the farmhouse.  She did truly hope that her young son was right about this man.  Her
children did need food and rest.  She wished that she had been able to pack some things before leaving their home, food or
clothes, but there had been no time.  It had taken too long just getting the kids dressed and finding Quatre.  There had been no
time left for packing.  Everything that they owned was gone now, probably burned along with the rest of the village.

Her hand trembled as she raised it, rapping lightly on the door of the farmhouse.  Not a moment later, the door was pulled open
and Lily was looking at a strange man.  “You are Howard?”  She asked, biting her lip nervously.

The man nodded.  “Come inside, Miss . . . take a seat, you look tired.”

“Thank you, sir.”  Lily said.  Even if she was unsure of this man’s motives, there was no cause to be rude to him.  

She stepped into the modest, little house, her children along with her.  In her arms, Quatre stirred, but didn’t awaken.  Lily
warily watched as Howard closed the door behind them.  She nearly smiled as he left it unlocked, thankful for that small
comfort.  She saw to her children first, helping them all into the seats around the table.  Duo and Solo had to share one.  But
since Duo was so small there really was no trouble.  Still, she didn’t want to take up all the chairs, leaving one for Howard if he
chose to sit with them.  It was the man’s house after all.

Howard moved over to the stove, fixing something there.  Lily couldn’t see what he was doing, but the smell that accompanied
his cooking was mouth-watering.  She hadn’t realized how hungry she was until now.  As he cooked, Howard spoke.

“Mind if I ask your name, Miss?”  He asked, his tone kind.

Lily nodded.  “My name is Lily Maxwell.  You have already met my son, Duo.  And this is my oldest son, Solo, and my daughter
Une.  And this here is Quatre.”  She said, gesturing to each child as she introduced them.  As she said Quatre’s name, the boy
awakened, immediately beginning to cry.  No doubt he was hungry, as well as frightened . . . yesterday had been most difficult
on the poor child.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Lily.”  Howard said.  He rummaged around in a cabinet briefly, before pulling out some
plates.  He set the plates on the table in front of each of them, then dished a large portion of scrambled eggs onto each plate.  
“Afraid I don’t have much, just some eggs and bread . . . some milk to drink.”  He said, getting some wooden cups and utensils
and setting them out as well.  Nothing matched, not the cups or the plates.  This man probably didn’t get many visitors to his
home.

“It is fine.  Thank you.”  Lily smiled.  She pulled Quatre away from herself, setting him on her leg to make it easier to feed him.  
Meanwhile, Howard poured some milk into the cups, then took a seat and began to eat.

Quatre rubbed his eyes, sniffling a little.  However, he perked up when he saw that there was food for him to eat.  Lily pushed
her hood back, then helped Quatre to eat his breakfast.  Duo, Une, and Solo ate happily.  Howard indeed was a kind man, to take
them all in and give them a meal.  Lily hoped that she could repay him somehow.

When they were done eating, the children remained seated at the table.  “Mama, I’m tired.”  Duo pouted, wiping his hands over
his eyes.

Lily sighed.  It was understandable.  They had been traveling for an entire day.  She was tired as well, but didn’t want to impose
on Howard any further.  Before she could say anything though, Howard spoke.

“You can use my bedrooms if you want, Miss Lily.  I have two beds, enough room for you and the young ones.”

“Oh, thank you but I can’t impose on you like this.  You’ve been so kind already.”  Lily argued, shaking her head.

“Nonsense.  It’s no trouble.  Been a long time since I’ve had any company . . . been here on my own since my brothers left.”  
He said, a smile on his face.  “And you all look as if you’ve traveled a long way.  Get some rest now . . . and later on we’ll have
a talk about where you came from and where you’re heading to.  Perhaps I can be of some help getting you where you need to
go.”  He stood, taking hold of Lily’s hand and helping her to stand.

Lily smiled.  “I thank you again.  I wish there was some way we could repay you, but we have no money or anything of value.”

“No need to pay me.”

“But we have to do something.  Perhaps my children and I can help you with some of your farmwork.  You look like you’ve
been falling behind in it.”  Lily suggested.

Howard nodded.  “Yes, I’m sure we could come to some arrangement.  For now, you all just go and get some sleep.”  He
ushered Lily and the children to one of the bedrooms, letting her take care of her children.

Lily helped Solo, Une, and Duo out of their clothes . . . they wore their nightshirts beneath their outdoor garments, being in such
a hurry they had just kept them on when they had dressed.  Then she tucked them all into the bed that occupied the small room.  
It was most definitely Howard’s bed, the rumpled blankets attributing to the fact that it had been recently used.

She kissed them all, brushing her fingers through Duo’s hair before she picked Quatre up and left the room.  Lily closed the
door behind herself, trying to be quiet.  She looked around, wondering where Howard had gone to, then saw a door that was
partially open.  She walked over, pushing the door open the rest of the way.

A smile alighted on her face as she saw that he was making up the bed, shaking out a blanket and setting it over the clean bed
sheets.  “You don’t have to go through all this trouble for us.”  Lily commented, adjusting Quatre’s weight in her arms as she
stepped into the room.

“It’s no trouble, Miss Lily.  You look like you could use the help.”  Howard replied.  “Where you coming from anyway?”

Lily sighed.  She knew that she had to tell him something.  Now was as good a time as any to divulge the truth, or as much of it
as she was willing to confess at the moment.  “From a village about a day’s walk from here.”

“Oh, King Ashraf’s lands?”  Howard asked.

Lily nodded.  “It was.  The king is dead now, so are the children . . . the entire village most likely.”  She covered her mouth with
her hand, not wanting to cry.  Still, she spoke.  “Men . . . soldiers . . . they attacked the village in the night.  There was no
warning, no time to escape.  I don’t know if anyone but my family survived.”

“I’m sorry you had to go through something so horrible.”  He finished with the bed, then turned and stepped over to Lily, laying
a hand on her shoulder.  He then turned his attention to Quatre, sliding a gentle finger along one of his cheeks.  “He's not yours,
is he?”  Howard asked, not waiting for Lily to say anything.  “He's about the right age to be Ashraf’s little boy if I’m not
mistaken.”

“How did you know?”  Lily asked, genuinely surprised.

Howard shrugged.  “Wasn’t sure ‘til now.  The boy looks nothing like you though.  And I heard Ashraf had a boy named
Quatre.”

“I saved him . . . went to the palace during the attack to find him and his sisters.  I had hoped some of the girls had made it, but
. . .”  She didn’t finish that line of thought, not wanting to get lost in the grief.  “I couldn’t leave him behind.  I was hired to take
care of him, and that’s just what I plan to do.  I hope you won’t be telling this to anyone else.  I wouldn’t want Quatre to be put
in danger.”

“You have my word of honor, I won’t breathe a word of this to anyone.  Quatre’s your son as far as I’m concerned.”  He said.  
“Now, you go on and get some sleep.  Don’t worry about helping me out with the farmwork today, it can wait until tomorrow.”

“Thank you.”  Lily smiled.  Howard definitely was very kind.

He turned and left the room, closing it behind himself.  Lily set Quatre down on the bed, gently removing the cloak from around
his small body.  He was already half asleep again, and looked quite adorable as he fought to keep his eyes open.

Lily removed her own cloak, kicking off her shoes and taking off her skirt and blouse.  She too wore her nightshirt beneath her
clothes, not having had time to take it off before dressing last night.  Lily got herself into bed, settling Quatre beside herself and
drawing the blankets up over the two of them.  

Quatre snuggled closer to her chest, his small hands clutching at the front of her nightshirt as he fell back into slumber.  Lily
followed him quickly, her arms protectively wrapped around his tiny body.  She could only hope that they would be all right
from now on.



To Be Continued . . .