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

Notes:  Heero takes Duo and Quatre to lunch.

Strays and Misfits

Part Seven

Duo smiled warmly as he watched Quatre’s reactions to everything around them.  The two of them were currently sitting in the
backseat of Heero’s car, which the human was driving along a modestly busy city street.  Quatre was ducked down in his seat,
trying to keep out of sight of the people walking along the sidewalks.  Yet, there were moments when curiosity won out over
caution and the blonde would peek out the window, his eyes wide with amazement, his ears perked up and alert.

“Everything all right back there, Duo?”

Duo looked up and met Heero’s eyes in the rear-view mirror, and he smiled at the human who had saved his life just the other
night.  Heero claimed that he couldn’t do much in the way of helping . . . but he had already done more than any other human
had ever done . . . well, except for one other, but that had been a long time ago.

“I think Quatre’s just a little nervous.”  Duo responded.

Heero nodded and turned his attention back to the road.  “If he’s been stuck inside his whole life, and his only exposure to the
outside world and humans have been only cruelty, I can’t say I blame him for being nervous.”

Quatre cleared his throat nervously.  “So . . . umm . . . how long until we get to . . . Trowa’s house?”

Heero took a quick glance at Quatre and smiled.  “Not for a while yet.  Before we go to his place, we have a few stops to make.  
First stop will be to a nice restaurant I’ve heard about that caters to feline companions . . . and I’ve heard their meals are five
star quality.”

Quatre gasped, his eyes widening.  “Eating . . . at a fine restaurant?  You . . . You’ll feed me?”

Duo chuckled warmly, reaching over to brush a hand along Quatre’s arm.  “Well . . . Heero had already made the plans.  I’m
glad you’ll be there, though . . . I ain’t never been to a nice restaurant before.”  He smiled.  “You can even help me bully Heero
into eating something.”

Quatre giggled, shaking his head.  “I don’t see how I could bully anyone into doing anything.”

Duo felt a warmth inside himself toward Quatre . . . sort of like he had felt whenever he had protected a stray kit on the streets.  
“For you?  It’ll be simple.  Just open your eyes really wide and look at him in a pleading way.”  Duo laughed in delight as Quatre
gave him a surprised look.  “Close, but not quite.”  He smiled again.  “After lunch, Heero was going to take me shopping so I
could get some clothes of my own . . . so I don’t keep ruining his.”

Heero stopped at a light.  “And Quatre will be getting clothes too . . . I won’t make Catherine foot all the bills.  After that, I
suppose we should go to a supermarket.  We have to get those prescriptions filled and pick up some groceries.”

Duo nodded.  “I guess we’ll be going to Trowa’s after that.”  Duo grinned happily.  Despite the collar around his throat, he felt
more free than he had ever felt before in his life.  Heero was letting him choose . . . letting him think for himself.  Heero was
doing JUST as he had said he would.  Heero treated Duo like an equal . . . a partner . . . a friend, and that meant a great deal to
the former stray.

After Heero had parked in the restaurant parking lot, Duo fought the urge to giggle as Heero opened the door for the two of
them.  It felt so odd to be treated like he wasn’t some lower being meant to be walked upon.  It was kinda nice to be treated like
an intelligent being.

“Thanks.”  He nodded, turning and helping Quatre to get out.

Heero smiled and ducked his head, a faint blush on his cheeks.  “You don’t have to thank me.”

Duo’s delight vanished as they approached the hostess kiosk.  He felt a little nervous about going inside this place and he could
tell that Quatre felt the same, if not even more afraid.

The hostess was a feline whose ears and tail were white with black tips.  She was pretty, with short auburn hair pulled back in a
tight ponytail.  The tag around her neck was silver, signifying that she was a free feline . . . living on her own without being
owned.  That meant she had gotten an education somewhere, since feline companions were only freed if they could provide a
suitable income in order to live off of . . . Duo had heard of schools teaching felines to be independent . . . but there weren’t
many of them.

She looked quite dignified, and she smiled as she looked from Heero, to Quatre, to Duo and spoke aloud.  “Good afternoon,
sirs.  Will it be just the three of you?”  The question was directed at Duo.

Duo glanced at Heero in askance, and almost laughed when Heero returned the look with one that clearly said, ‘Why are you
looking at me?  YOU are the one she asked.’  Duo smiled instead and nodded.  “Yes . . . just the three of us.”

The hostess then turned to Heero.  “Would you like to sit in the dining room, or would you prefer a table on the patio?”

Duo glanced back at Quatre and frowned.  The poor kitten’s ears were flat against his head, and he looked more than a little

Heero’s voice was calm though.  “Duo, Quatre . . . what would you two prefer?”

Quatre looked confused for a second, but then looked a little relieved.  “Outside . . . please?”

Duo nodded in agreement.  “Something a little closed off so Quatre won’t be startled.”  He added, moving closer to the blonde
so that he could wrap a reassuring arm around his bony shoulders.

Heero turned to the hostess.  “On the patio then.”

The hostess had looked shocked for a brief moment, then smiled brightly at them.  It was obvious that owners rarely asked their
property what the felines’ preferences were.  “Of course, sirs.  A table just opened up.  There are shrubs blocking the view of
the street, but it opens onto the gardens in the back . . . . quite a lovely view.  We occasionally do get patrons who are easily
startled, not just felines, so we have a few tables set up outside to give those patrons the privacy they want while also making
sure they don’t feel trapped.”  She said, as she led the way to the table.  “Is this suitable?”

Duo looked around, enjoying the scenery.  This was nice.  He looked at Quatre, smiling as the blonde relaxed.  Quatre smiled a
little, breathing out a soft reply.  “Yes . . . it . . . it is perfect.”  He said, bowing his head.

The hostess smiled, setting three menus on the table.  “My name is Alicia, and I’ll be your server this afternoon.  Can I get you
anything to drink?”  She asked, as the three young men took their seats.

“Water will be fine.”  Heero stated, opening his menu and looking through it.

Quatre bit his lip, his ears remaining down.  “I do not know what to get.”  He whispered, not making a move to pick up his

Duo smiled, reaching over and setting his hand on Quatre’s shoulder.  He then looked up at Alicia.  “Do you have any fruit

Alicia nodded.  “Why yes, we have a wide variety.  We have apple, orange, grape, grapefruit, cranberry, and prune.”

Quatre looked so unsure of himself.  “Umm . . . what should I order?”  He asked, taking a quick look at Heero, his eyes full of

Alicia bent a little so she could look Quatre in the eyes.  “Well . . . if you’re unused to drinking anything besides water, I would
suggest the apple juice.  It has a very light flavor and won’t disrupt your digestive system.”

Quatre nodded.  “That sounds good.  Thank you.”  He then flushed and ducked his head shyly.

Alicia turned to Duo.  “And you, sir?”

Duo grinned, having a devious idea.  “I think I’ll have a cola.”  He smiled at Heero’s frown.  “Is there a problem?”

“A moment, Alicia.”  Heero held up the diet plan that Sally had laid out for Duo.  “This says that caffeine is not good for you,

‘Gotcha!’  Duo thought, smirking at Heero as he nodded.  This had gone just like he had planned.  “All right.  I’ll make a deal
with you.  I’ll order some nice, healthy orange juice if YOU order something besides water to drink.”

Heero sighed and nodded.  “All right . . . I’ll have iced tea . . .”

“Sweetened.”  Duo interrupted, and simply gave Heero a glare to match the youth’s displeased expression.  He knew it would be
an issue, but he was now responsible for Heero’s welfare, and he wasn’t about to shirk his duties to take care of him.

Heero sighed again and closed his eyes.  “All right . . . you win, Duo.  I’ll have a sweetened iced tea.”

Duo shook his head at Heero.  “No, I didn’t win, Heero . . . we compromised.”  He looked up at Alicia then.  “And I’ll change
that cola to an orange juice.”

Alicia chuckled softly as she wrote down the beverage orders.  “I’ll be back in a moment with your drinks.”  With that, she
walked away.

Heero let out a breath.  “I don’t usually drink sweetened iced tea.”

Duo chuckled and looked at the menu, glad that there were pictures on there as well as writing.  There were several words that
he couldn’t make out though.  “That’s part of the problem.  If you had ordered unsweetened, you’d only be drinking sour
tasting water.”  He shuddered at the mere memory of that beverage . . . he’d never liked it himself.  “How ANYONE can stand
to drink that is beyond me.”

“It’s not that bad.”  Heero grumbled, picking up his menu again.

Duo was glancing over the seafood meals, when he first took notice that Quatre hadn’t yet bothered lifting his menu from the
table.  He twitched his ears, watching for a moment as the little blonde fidgeted in his seat, looking down at his lap.

“Something wrong?”  Duo asked, setting his menu down.  Out of the corner of his eye, Duo noticed as Heero set his own menu
aside, his attention now focused on Quatre.

Quatre ducked his head down further, his cheeks turning pink.  “I . . . I cannot . . . I was never taught to read.”  He whispered,
forcing the words from his throat with some difficulty.

“It’s okay.”  Duo smiled, reaching over to lightly scratch Quatre’s ears.  His smile only widened as the little blonde arched his
back, leaning himself closer to the delicate contact.  “I don’t read too good, myself.”

Quatre blinked and pulled back.  “How’d you learn?”  He asked, his eyes wide and full of curiosity.

Duo took a breath.  “Well . . . my first owners were some wealthy couple . . . they wanted a playmate for their kid.”  Duo
shrugged.  “The kid was nice enough.  I was four . . . and he was a few years older than me and already in school . . . when he
came home from school, he would excitedly show me what he’d learned that day.”  Duo frowned.  “I liked it there . . . they
were nice people.”

“What happened?”  Heero asked.  “If you don’t mind me asking.”

Duo’s frown deepened.  “Well, the kid’s parents got to thinking their son was too old for a playmate, especially once he started
making human friends in school.  So they handed me over to a camp, and I was sold again . . . and again . . . until I finally had
enough of it and took off on my own.”

“Well, you have a home now.”  Heero nodded.

“Yeah . . .”  Duo sighed, offering Heero a grateful smile.  He really was happy that Heero had taken him in . . . it was just that he
still sometimes missed that little boy who had been his first friend.  For a human, he had been nice, and fun to play with.

Duo shook off the memories, instead focusing his attention on the here and now.  He looked to Quatre, feeling sorry once again
that the blonde had lived such a difficult life.

“I’d help you pick something . . .”  Duo said, gesturing to the menu.  “But I don’t know what half the stuff is . . . although I do
know what I want.”  He smiled again.

“I’ll help.”  Heero offered, rising from his seat and moving around to Quatre’s side.  He knelt down, picking up the menu and
opening it.

Quatre tentatively took hold of the edges, looking at the words that held no meaning to him.  He simply looked lost.  His ears fell
a little, his brow furrowing as he tried to make sense of the jumble of letters and numbers set out in front of him.  Duo felt sorry
for him.  Although his own skills weren’t much better than Quatre’s . . . at least he could read somewhat.

“Your stomach probably isn’t strong enough to handle most of this food.”  Heero said with a sigh.  “I don’t want you getting
sick from eating too much.  Perhaps you should just stick to some soup.  I see here they make a number of different varieties.”  
Heero said, pointing to a section on the page.  The page was a photocopy that had been inserted into the plastic cover of the
menu . . . that particular page detailed the specials for today, including the soups.

“I . . . I have never had anything more than a bland nutritional supplement . . . anything you choose will be fine.”  Quatre said,
averting his gaze.

Heero took a breath.  “I’m not going to choose for you.”  He said, a small smile on his face.  “I’m going to list the choices, and
you can decide for yourself.”

Quatre’s ears perked up at that.  “I get to choose?”

“Of course.”  Heero nodded.  Smile set in place, he turned to read the menu again.  “Let’s see . . . they have vegetable . . .
cream of broccoli . . . tomato . . . and chicken noodle.”

Quatre’s ears twitched.  “I . . . I have heard that chicken is good for you.”  He whispered.  “I think . . . I would like to try it.”

“Okay.”  Heero said, rising to his feet.  “Chicken soup it is.”  He returned to his own seat . . . just in time too, since Alicia came
over only a few seconds later.

She set their drinks down, smiling all the while.  “Are you gentlemen ready to order, or do you need a few more minutes to

“I’m ready!”  Duo chimed.

Heero nodded.  “Yes, I think we all are.”  Heero agreed.

“All right then.”  Alicia said, pulling out her pad and a pen.  “What’ll it be?”

“I’ll just have the garden salad . . . no dressing.”  Heero said.

Duo frowned.  He’d have to fix that . . . but first he wanted to order his own food.  “I’ll have the salmon.”  He smiled, nodding
his head.

Alicia nodded.  “And you, sir?”  She asked, addressing Quatre.

Quatre fiddled with the corner of the menu, blushing nervously.  “I-I’ll have the chicken soup.”  He said shyly, lowering his

Alicia nodded, reaching to take the menus.  However, before she could take Duo’s, he held up his hand.

“Hold on there a minute, Alicia.”  He said, sparing a glance at Heero.

“What now?”  Heero sighed.

“You have to eat more than just a salad.”  Duo chided, turning to give Quatre a sly smirk.  “See, Quatre . . . some humans just
need all the help they can get.”  He smiled as the blonde’s lips curled, a giggle coming from his throat.  Then he returned his
attention to Heero and clucked his tongue.  “No wonder you’re so skinny.”

“I am not . . .”  Heero began, only to be cut off as Duo spoke to Alicia.

“He’ll have a turkey sandwich along with that salad, Alicia.”  Duo said, handing the menu over to the young feline.

She smiled and left.

“Why turkey?”  Heero asked.

“Because you’re acting like one!”  Duo snapped.

Heero frowned.  “I am not.”

Duo smiled, shaking his head.  “Order something more filling next time, and I won’t have cause to order for you.  You have to
take better care of yourself.”

“That’s why I have you, now isn’t it?”  Heero smiled.

Duo blushed, feeling embarrassed.

While waiting for lunch to arrive, he spent the time chatting with Heero.  Once in a while, he managed to coax Quatre into the
conversation, but the timid kitten mostly sat quietly and sipped at his glass of apple juice.  Duo didn’t mind being the center of
conversation though.  It was nice to talk to others and not have to worry about someone shouting that a stray was bothering
people.  He was hardly aware that he was purring until he caught Heero smiling at him in a bemused fashion.  The realization
caused his purr to stop and he blushed.

“It’s all right, Duo.”  Heero took a sip of his iced tea and grimaced slightly, picking the lemon slice off the edge of the glass.  “I’
m glad to know that you feel some level of contentment.”

Duo would have responded, but their lunches arrived.  When Heero meant to pick up his fork, Duo snatched it away.  “Eat the
sandwich first.”  He said, grinning as Heero rolled his eyes.

Duo nodded in satisfaction when Heero proceeded to eat the turkey sandwich.  That done with, Duo took a deep breath in
through his nose and swallowed as the delicious scent of the salmon filled his nostrils.  He hadn’t had salmon in so long, but he
remembered it fondly.

Despite his hunger, he did not tear into the fish.  He took his time and chewed the fish with delight, feeling the urge to purr once
again.  After a few bites, he glanced at Quatre to see how the blonde was enjoying his soup, only to see that he was nibbling on
a bread stick with a despondent air about him.

“What’s wrong?”  Duo asked.  When Quatre blushed, Duo put his fork down and smiled in understanding.  “You don’t know
how to use the utensils, right?”

Quatre nodded miserably.  “Yes.  I’m so sorry.  I was planning to wait until it had cooled a little before drinking it straight from
the bowl.”

Duo shook his head.  “It’s better when it’s hot.  Here . . . let me show you.”  He picked up his fork again.  “See how my fingers
are?”  He held the fork just as Heero had shown him.  He watched Quatre frown and copy the positions with the spoon.  
“Almost . . . you only need your thumb, index, and middle fingers.  Like that.”  Duo smiled in encouragement as Quatre adjusted
the spoon.  “The end of the spoon should rest right against your hand.  Like that!  You got it!”

Duo felt a burst of pride as Quatre smiled brightly and began to eat the soup.  The blonde was a little unsteady with the spoon at
first, having a bit of difficulty in getting it to his mouth, but he figured it out eventually.  He then heard Heero chuckle softly.

“What?  What’s so funny?”  He asked, bristling a little.

Heero shook his head and smiled.  “I am.”

Duo was confused by that.  “Huh?  Why are you funny?”

Heero motioned to Quatre.  “I’ve been using spoons and forks most of my life, and yet you, who have only learned to use one
the day before yesterday . . . you’re a better teacher than I am.”

Duo flushed a little in pride.  “Well . . . my learning is still fresh in my memory.  I could put it to words so Quatre could grasp
the use easily.”

“Well, you did a wonderful job.”  Heero complimented, reaching to pick up his fork again.

Since Heero was done with his sandwich, Duo allowed it.  He smiled at Heero, a light purr beginning in his chest as he returned
his attention to his salmon.  Quatre and Heero were both eating . . . there was no reason why he shouldn’t be too.

To Be Continued . . .