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

Notes:  Heero and Duo have a pleasant visit with Howard while Quatre naps.  Then it’s finally time to go to Trowa’s house and
introduce Quatre to his new owner.



Strays and Misfits



Part Nine


Heero checked in on Quatre and tucked a lap blanket around the napping feline before returning to join Howard and Duo in the
other part of the office.  Mueller was sitting on the floor next to the sofa that Quatre was resting on, watching the blonde
curiously.  Heero nodded at the timid, dark-skinned companion before leaving the room.

“The gall of some people . . . almost makes me ashamed to be human.”  Howard smiled at Heero as he entered the room.  “This
kit was just telling me how the two of you met.  You can’t know just how grateful I am for what you did.  Duo here may have
been a stray, but he’s always been more decent than some of the registered felines I know.  There were nights when he’d pass
the food I gave him right to a bunch of stray kittens.  Poor little things.  Seeing mere kittens out on the streets makes me even
angrier.  It means their owners just got tired of them and didn’t care enough to bring them to a shelter.  I would take every last
one of them in if there weren’t a limit.  If business was better, I’d open a place for them.”  He handed a cup of tea to Heero.  
“So, how’d you talk this young scamp into letting you keep him?”

Heero smiled and sat next to Duo after accepting the tea.  “I didn’t.  It was Duo’s idea.  He needed a place to stay so the
catchers, like that jerk, wouldn’t go after him, and I needed someone to make sure I take care of myself.”

Beside him, Duo snorted.  “Salad and water for lunch.”  The feline muttered.

Heero sighed.  “It was food, Duo.  I still don’t get what the big deal was.”

Duo rolled his eyes.  “Salad is what food eats.”

Howard snickered, shaking his head in amusement.  “So . . . what about the kit in there?  You only have him on a temporary
basis, according to his tag.”

Heero nodded.  “Quatre . . . Quatre’s had a hard life.  He’s from the Winner Camp.”

Howard nearly dropped the cup he was holding.  “No shit?  Aww, man . . . the poor thing.  So . . . where are you taking him?”

Heero smiled.  “I’m taking him to see if he’s compatible with one of the shut-ins I know . . . a friend of mine.  Trowa . . . well,
he needs company and he’s been badly traumatized from what I’ve heard.  I think Quatre would be a good companion for him.”

“That’s nice of you.”  Howard grinned, taking a sip of his tea.

“You gonna tell me how Mueller got to be owned?  Who owns him?  Better be someone nice or I’ll make him regret hurting
him.”  Duo spoke, his eyes narrowing a little.

Howard let out a laugh at this.  “No need to worry about that . . . I own him.”  Howard said.  “I thought it was time I got off
my ass and actually did something more than hand out food.  I found him behind the dumpsters out back a couple weeks ago . .
. he was pretty messed up.  I couldn’t just leave him out there, and if I’d have taken him to a hospital, he’d just have gotten put
in some shelter.  I gave him a choice, told him he could go to a shelter or stay with me . . . I had some positions needed filling
here in the store . . . he chose to stay.”

“That’s great!”  Duo exclaimed.  “How’s he doing?”

“Just fine.”  Howard nodded.  “He can’t read, but we’re working on that.  He works in the produce department, has a real
knack for telling when things have spoiled.”

“I’m glad he’s got someone looking out for him.”  Duo smiled.

There was a soft knock on the door, and all eyes turned to it.  Mueller’s face peered in only a moment later, his shy voice
speaking.  “Y-Your friend is . . . h-he’s awake.”  He whispered, only to duck back shyly.

Heero smiled gently and got up to go into the other room.  He walked over to the sofa and knelt by Quatre’s side.  “Hey . . . you
okay?”  He asked, moving aside to let Duo sit by Quatre.

Quatre nodded a little, not verbally replying.

Duo reached forward and tenderly rubbed Quatre’s arm.  “Don’t let assholes like that guy get you down.  Jerks like that only
put us felines down because they need to feel important.”

Heero snorted.  “I actually feel sorry for bastards like that.  It’s pretty pathetic that they have to use force to get attention.”

Duo smiled at Heero.  “More people should try your method.  It’ll get them further with us stubborn felines.”

Heero flushed at the praise before turning to fully give Quatre his attention.  “You feel up to shopping with us, or would you
rather stay here with Mueller while we shop?  I’ll understand if you’d rather stay here.  You’ve just received a fright.”

Duo nodded.  “And I’m sure Howard won’t have a problem with it.”

Howard spoke up from his place in the doorway.  “I don’t have a problem at all.  Matter of fact, it’ll be better for the poor kit to
stay here.  He’ll be jumpy as it is.  Alex had that affect on all the felines he accosted.  I would have fired him sooner, but the
damn laws protecting HUMAN rights wouldn’t let me unless all previous warnings were given.”  Howard snorted.  “They should
concentrate on making life easier on the felines.  It’s prejudice . . . pure and simple, and folks like Heero and I are in a sad
minority.”  Howard sighed, shaking his head sadly.  “You’d think the stupid bureaucrats would learn from past mistakes.”

Duo smiled.  “So, what do you want to do, Quatre?  It’s your decision.”

Quatre flushed, biting his lip, his hands tightening on the stuffed rabbit he was so fond of.  “I . . . I would l-like to stay here.”  
He said, keeping his eyes averted.

“Okay then.  We’ll come back and get you when we’re ready to leave . . . all right?”  Heero said, reaching out to lightly scratch
Quatre’s ears.

Quatre flinched, but nodded.  “Yes . . . o-okay.”

Heero sighed and got up, helping Duo to do the same.  Quatre’s progress in learning to trust humans had most definitely
suffered a setback.  He could only hope that it wasn’t too late to correct things.  The poor feline had been through enough
heartache as it was.

“Tell you what . . .”  Howard said, moving forward.  “You and Mueller can watch one of the videos I got . . . that is if you don’
t mind educational programs.  Mueller’s trying to learn how to read . . . and I got these programs from the FCPS people.”

Quatre’s ears perked up at that. “Educational?”  He asked, moving to sit up.  He nodded a little, a ghost of a smile coming to his
face.  “I . . . I would like to watch it.”

Heero smiled as Mueller and Quatre arranged themselves comfortably on the sofa that Quatre had been sleeping on only
moments ago.  The two felines paid rapt attention to the program as soon as Howard started it.  At least now, Heero was
satisfied to see that Quatre was enjoying himself.


*****


Duo was grinning from ear to ear.  He was just so happy.  Heero had let him help shop for the groceries . . . had taught him
how to pick out the freshest fruits and vegetables.  Duo had never thought he’d be allowed to do things like this.  True, waiting
in the checkout line hadn’t been all that much fun . . . but then Howard had been nice enough to give Heero a discount on the
groceries they bought . . . so that was good.

Now . . . now they were on the road again.  The groceries were packed in the trunk.  Duo, Heero, and Quatre had said their
goodbyes to Howard and Mueller.  Duo had promised to come back to visit . . . and Heero had given both Howard and Mueller
the phone number to his house in case either of them ever wanted to call Duo.

Quatre had been in a delighted mood when they had gone back to get him.  Enthusiastically, he had hugged Duo, chiming the
alphabet in a sweet voice.  Now, the little blonde was asleep, his head laying across Duo’s lap as he mumbled the letters of the
alphabet again in his slumber.

Duo smiled, sifting his fingers through the blonde’s soft hair.  He was glad that Quatre was feeling better . . . that incident with
Alex had made Duo fear for him.  He didn’t want Quatre being traumatized any more than he already was.

He looked up as Heero slowed down, parking the car along the curb.  “This it?”  He asked, glancing out the window at the home
they had stopped in front of.  It was a nice two-story house with a small garden in front of it.

Heero nodded, shutting off the engine.  “Yeah.  Looks like Catherine is home.  Good.”  He opened the door and got out.

Duo turned to Quatre and gave the blonde a little shake while Heero was opening the trunk and getting out the groceries they had
bought for Trowa and Catherine.  “Quatre?  C’mon, buddy.  We’re here.”

Quatre blinked his eyes open and rubbed them sleepily.  “Iria?  Where’s Iria?”  He asked with a tired yawn.

Duo guessed at what Quatre meant and retrieved the bunny from the floor.  “Here you go, Quatre.”  He smiled as Quatre hugged
the bunny close to his chest . . . idly wondering when Quatre had given it the name ‘Iria’.  He decided not to question it though.  
“Let’s go and meet the people who will be looking after you.  If you don’t like them, I’ll ask Heero if you can come live with
us.  I don’t mind sharing a room.”  With that, he got out of the car and helped Quatre to do the same.


*****


Heero rang the doorbell and forced a smile.  Truth be told, he didn’t KNOW how Catherine would react to Quatre.  She had her
hands full already with taking care of her little brother.

The door opened to reveal Catherine, wearing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt declaring her to be ‘Hot Stuff’.  “Heero!  You aren’t
due here for a few days!  What . . .?”  Catherine obviously saw the two felines, when her expression changed to a puzzled
frown.  “Heero?  What’s going on?”

Heero took in a deep breath and let it out slowly.  “Catherine . . . this is Duo and Quatre.”  He said, gesturing to each feline in
turn.  “I’ll explain inside.”  He stood aside and let the two felines in ahead of him.  He nodded in encouragement to Quatre, who
had paused beside Catherine.

The shy feline ducked his head.  “It’s . . . very nice to meet you.”  He said, then buried his face in the stuffed rabbit he carried
and scurried inside the house.

Heero walked into the house after the felines and looked around.  He chuckled when he saw Trowa and Quatre regarding each
other.  Trowa was peeking out from behind the closet door, where he usually hid if time was short and strangers were present.  
Quatre was nervously sniffing at the door . . . at least he was before he moved into the living room and hid himself in a corner
between a large potted plant and the sofa.

“Hello, Trowa.”  Heero greeted, nodding his head at the closet door.  “That was Quatre.”  He smiled, shaking his head as the
closet door clicked shut.  Then he carried the bag that he had been holding into the kitchen, following Catherine and Duo.

“Okay, Heero  . . .  spill it!”  Catherine pulled the bag out of Heero’s arms and gave him a sharp look, even as she set the bag on
a counter.  “What’s with the felines?”

Duo raised his hand, his ears lowered slightly, tail swishing a little.  “I’ll put some stuff away so you two can talk, okay?”  Not
waiting for a reply, he moved about the kitchen, first checking to see where everything went before he started putting things
away.

Heero sat down with Catherine at the kitchen table, and began telling her the whole story about how he had come across Duo
and Quatre.  She was kind enough not to interrupt too much . . . although Heero was upset to find that now and again Duo
would falter in his task of putting things away, especially when Heero was speaking of the more disturbing points, such as
Quatre’s origins in the Winner Breeding Camp.  As he finished, he motioned to the living room.  “So, I figured that Quatre could
stay here and help you with Trowa.”

Catherine shook her head.  “Not that I’m complaining, but why me?  Why not Treize?  You have to admit, your half-brother
does know how to work with felines . . . he has one already.”

Heero shook his head negatively.  “No.  Two reasons.  Reason one . . . he has a presence that would startle Quatre right now . .
. so does Zechs.  Reason two . . . Zechs doesn’t need Quatre’s companionship like Trowa does.  I mean . . . Quatre is
unthreatening and small . . . and injured.  He wouldn’t be able to help with Zechs much, but Trowa doesn’t need so much
physical assistance.  To put it simply, Quatre is the perfect companion . . . regardless of what race he is.  And if things don’t
work out, I’ll shuffle things around at my place so he can come live with me and Duo.”

Catherine sighed and watched Duo for a moment.  “Well . . . you DO need someone looking after you, but . . .”  She frowned
again.  “To go against your beliefs like that.  I never would have thought it of you.”

Heero was genuinely puzzled.  “What do you mean?”

Catherine motioned to Duo, who was currently putting some canned goods away.  “You always said that you hated the feline
system . . . that you would never think to own another person.”

Heero laughed outright as understanding dawned on him.  “Oh . . . well . . . I still don’t want to own another person.  I don’t
own Duo.”

Duo nodded, smiling happily.  “That’s right!”

Heero smiled at the feline, who had become a close friend to him in a short amount of time.  “We have an agreement.  If he
wants to leave me at any time, he can.  As a matter of fact, I’m going to call someone later to see about getting Duo an
education.  Maybe Quatre too.  That way, they can earn a degree and I can free Duo so he can do what he wants without me
having a piece of paper saying I own him.”

“WHAT?”  There was the sound of a can hitting the linoleum floor.  Duo was at Heero’s side in an instant, his eyes wide with
shock.  “You’d . . . you’d DO that?”  He asked, ears perked up, tail swinging back and forth in his excitement.

Heero smiled at Duo, reaching up to scratch his ears.  Yes . . . he’d call a tutor that he knew personally just as soon as he got
home with Duo.  “That’s what friends do, right?  They help each other.”

Duo’s smile was simply brilliant.  He launched himself at Heero, nearly knocking him out of his chair in his exuberance.  “Thank
you!”  He exclaimed, a deep purr rumbling in his chest.

Catherine chuckled, shaking her head.  “I see Duo will be a good influence on you, Heero.  I’ve been telling you for a while now
. . . you need someone to look after you.  I hate seeing you neglecting your own health.”

“I’m fine . . . there’s nothing wrong with my health.”  Heero grumbled.

Duo pulled himself away from Heero, frowning.  “That’s not true.  You try to eat only salad and water for lunch . . . that’s not
healthy.  I bet if you lifted your shirt, I’d clearly see your ribs.  You’re skin and bones, and I’m gonna make sure you get some
meat on you.”

Heero rolled his eyes, trying to push aside the feline’s concern.  Still, he couldn’t stop himself from wrapping his arms about his
stomach.  It was true . . . Duo was right.  Heero’s ribs were visible through his skin . . . he hadn’t been taking care of himself.  
He sometimes . . . he just didn’t see the point.  If he stopped to worry about himself, then he’d have to remember.  No, it was
better to work, to keep the memories away by staying busy.  He couldn’t stop . . . he wouldn’t remember.

Catherine nodded.  “I knew I was right about Duo.  He’ll take good care of you.”  She smiled, pushing herself from her seat.  
“Now, what say you introduce me to my brother’s new companion?  I’ll see if I can get Trowa to come out of hiding for a few
minutes.”

“Yeah . . . okay.”  Heero replied, rising to his feet.  He turned and headed out of the room quickly, feeling disturbed.  He hadn’t
liked the topic shifting to his health again . . . he was tired of hearing how badly he cared for himself.

They returned to the living room, only to find that Trowa and Quatre were just as they had been when Heero had gone into the
kitchen . . . hiding themselves.  While Catherine walked to the closet to talk to her brother, Heero and Duo knelt in front of the
small space between the sofa and the potted plant.

“Hey, buddy . . . time for you to meet these nice humans more formally.”  Duo smiled, offering his hand to the blonde.  “You
are going to be living with them after all.”

Quatre gulped, but nodded, accepting Duo’s help.

Heero turned his attention to Catherine, smiling when he found that she had been able to coax Trowa from inside the closet.  The
tall youth was visibly shivering though, his hands trembling as he wrung them together.  Heero was certain that if given the
chance, Trowa would run and hide somewhere else.

“Come on, Quatre.”  Heero whispered, placing a hand at Quatre’s back as he gently led the skittish feline over to his new owner.

“It’s okay, Trowa.  You don’t have anything to fear.”  Catherine whispered, running her hand up and down her brother’s arm.  
“I’m here . . . Heero’s here.  No one’s going to hurt you.”  She took hold of his hand, clasping it gently . . . offering her little
brother the comfort and reassurances he obviously needed.

“Trowa . . . this is Quatre.”  Heero said, guiding the little blonde to stand before Trowa.  “He’s your new companion.  It’s only
temporary for now, but if you two get along, it could be permanent.”

Quatre fiddled with the ears of his rabbit, his body beginning to shake.  “H-Hello . . . it is n-nice to m-meet you.”  The blonde
whispered, keeping his eyes focused on the floor.

“Hello.”  Trowa replied just as quietly, although he did raise his gaze to look over Quatre’s trembling form, as if taking stock of
this new person.  Most likely, that was exactly what he was doing, gauging to see if Quatre was a threat to him.

Catherine smiled.  “Trowa . . . why don’t you show Quatre to your room while I talk to Heero . . . then we can give Quatre a
tour of the house and show him his room . . . okay?”

Trowa nodded swiftly.  He turned and headed up the stairs, not saying a further word as he walked away.

“Go on, Quatre.”  Duo said, brushing his fingers through Quatre’s hair.  “We won’t leave without saying goodbye, so don’t you
worry.”

Quatre smiled a little, only to let the expression fall as he trailed after Trowa.  Heero hoped that the two of them would learn to
get along.



To Be Continued . . .