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

Notes:  Une visits her students.



Strays and Misfits



Part Twenty-Six



Une smiled warmly when Heero opened the door.  "Heero."  She couldn't resist the urge to hug the boy she cared about as if he
were her own brother and pulled him close to her body.

Heero shakily returned the embrace and then pulled back to regard her, his eyes settling on her swollen belly briefly.  "You're
looking wonderful."

Une frowned and looked at him.  "And you're a twig.  Have you been starving yourself?"  She didn't miss the way he fidgeted,
his fingers tightening briefly on his robe.

She stepped into the apartment and closed the door.  Then she gave her attention to the apartment, looking around the front
room with all the curiosity of a kitten.

"Where's this Duo I've heard so much about?  Even his physician is spouting praises over him."

Heero looked away, toward a hallway leading from the front room and fiddled again with the knot that held his robe closed.  
"He's locked himself in the bathroom."  He suddenly turned to face her, looking very distressed.  "He says he's going to leave as
soon as he gets himself together, and he won't come out even though I promised to make him waffles for breakfast.  I-I don't
know what I've done wrong.  Maybe it was my fault."  He started breathing heavily.  "I've done something wrong again, haven't
I?  He hates me for some reason.  I don't want him to leave me."

Une blinked in shock.  She reached forward and slid her fingers through his unkempt hair, smiling faintly as he tilted his head
toward the tender touch.  She pulled him close again, stroking her hand in gentle circles across his back.  "What happened?  
Maybe I can help."

She didn't miss the blush that darkened his cheeks.  "Umm, it's kind of personal and awkward."

Une tilted her head and pulled back away from him, fixing his flushed and weary features with a stern look.  "Tell me, please.  If
you don't, then I can't help at all."

Heero turned an even deeper shade of red before leading her to the sofa.  They sat and he started talking.  Slowly and haltingly at
first, and then more rapidly as if he was trying to get the whole story over and done with as quickly as possible.

Une listened carefully throughout it all and put all the pieces together quite easily.  She smiled kindly and patted Heero's hand.  
"Go on and make those waffles.  I know what's wrong and how to calm him down.  Do you have anything that will be loose on
him?"

Heero nodded.  "I'm sure he has something.  His room is down the hall to the right."

Une stood.  She smiled down at Heero, gently brushing her fingers through his hair again.  "Don't worry.  I'm sure everything
will be okay.  This was not your fault.  Nor was it Duo's.  It's just a matter of ... a lack of understanding."

The young man smiled back, if only faintly and wiped the back of his hand across his eyes.  He stood up quickly and rushed off
to the kitchen.  Une watched him with worried eyes.  Despite his eagerness to get breakfast started, she knew he was still in a
fragile state of mind.

She shook her head and went down the hall - after leaving her case by the table in the dining room - heading to the room Heero
had indicated as Duo's.  When she walked in, he smiled in satisfaction.  It was adequately furnished but had plenty of room for
additions.  She carefully checked the closet and the drawers, smiling when she found a rather large t-shirt and a pair of boxers.  
She took them with her and went to the door at the end of the hall, assuming it to be the bathroom.

Raising her hand, she knocked on the door.  "Duo?  My name is Une.  I'm the tutor Heero called.  May I have a word with you?"

There was silence for a moment before a soft voice replied.  "I'm not exactly ... decent at the moment."

Une fought a laugh.  The poor boy was probably confused and just a little scared. Being a stray, he would have had no one to
teach him about certain aspects of his genetic make-up.

"I have some clothes you can wear.  You don't have to come out, just listen."  She smiled a little as the door opened a crack and
a shaking hand reached out.  Without hesitation, she handed the garments over.  Once the door was closed, she leaned against
the wall.  "Let me guess, you feel all hot and jumpy and your senses are far more acute than they usually are.  And you want
something, but you don't know what it is you want."

The door opened again.  This time, a flushed and sweaty face peered out at her.  "Yeah ..."

Une smiled kindly at the boy.  He looked utterly disheveled.  "You look about the right age, perhaps a bit late for a first one, but
as you were a stray until recently your body wouldn't have accepted it before ... the sense of danger around you would have
made it highly unlikely."  She sighed, seeing that her words had little meaning.  "I'm sure you'll prefer bluntness."

The boy nodded at her, looking confused.  "Yeah, what's wrong with me?  I don't know what to do!  Well ..." He blushed a
little.  "I know what to do, but I don't know why I want to!"

Une shook her head.  "There's nothing really wrong with you.  Fact of the matter is, you're ovulating and seeking a mate to
fertilize your eggs."

Duo blinked at her a few times as if he were trying to process that bit of information.  "I'm ... I'm ovulating?"  When Une
nodded, he groaned.  "Oh, this SUCKS!  What am I going to do?"  He dropped to a crouch, holding his head in his hands.

Une couldn't help it and laughed out loud then.  "I'm sorry.  We don't have much of a choice.  On the bright side, it's only really
bad for the first few days."  

She held out her hand and helped Duo up again.  

"It's perfectly natural.  Like I said, you wouldn't have gone through this before because of your living situation.  We were bred
to not need to mate unless there was a sense of safety and security.  It wouldn't have been any use to the government during a
war if we all went off humping each other instead of battling to the death, so our sexual urges are sort of turned off in the case
of physical danger.  Being a stray, you would have been in physical danger constantly.  Life on the streets can be harsh from
what I understand.  But being in a safe situation like you are now, your body has naturally taken a step toward further physical
maturity."

She paused a moment and suddenly realized what the ramifications could be.  There was only one person here who Duo could
deem suitable mating material.  

"Has Heero told you anything about his past?"

Duo nodded miserably, his ears dropped.  "A little.  So you know that this could be a major problem.  He doesn't even want a
human.  Why would he want some pervy feline humping him?"

Une reached out her hand, but stilled before she could touch him.  There was no sense in stirring him up now.  "Think of how
hurt he'll be if you leave him though.  The urges can be resisted, Duo.  It's not as if you'll die if you don't have sex.  
Masturbation will help to ease the symptoms."  She saw his cheeks reddening.  "Don't be ashamed, Duo.  This first ovulation
will be the most difficult for you.  All these new hormones flooding your body ..." She broke off, seeing his distress.  "Duo?  
Are you all right?"

"Excuse me!" Duo turned and ran back into the bathroom, slamming the door shut.

"Duo?"

The answering grunt she received gave her all the information she needed.  Duo was answering the call of his raging hormones.  
She cleared her throat, feeling her own cheeks warming.  "Duo, when you're ready, please come out.  Heero is very worried
about you."

"Yeah ... okay," Duo replied, followed by a soft moan.

Une shook her head, leaving him to his task.  She went to the kitchen and frowned as she watched Heero bustling about.  He
looked so agitated, as if he would break down if he were to stop moving for even an instant.

He hated being ineffective, she knew that.  To be without a task was the worst thing to him.  He needed to keep busy to keep his
mind off his troubles.  He was also a nervous cook.  Whenever he got upset, he began to cook.  And cook.  And then he would
cook some more.  Already she could see pots and pans strewn all over the counters, ingredients piled up and measuring
implements cast carelessly aside once their purpose had been fulfilled.

"Heero?"  She offered a gentle smile when Heero jumped a little, turning to face her, his fingers fidgeting around the wooden
spoon in his grip.  "Heero, please sit down.  I need to explain something to you."

Heero did what he was told, moving out of the kitchen and into the small dining area, and the look on his face was enough to
break Une's heart.  There was a plea in his eyes as if he was silently begging her to make everything all right.  Unlike the last
time he had looked at her like that, this time she could do something.  She slid into the seat across from him and reached across
the table to take hold of his shaking hand.

"First off, you haven't done anything wrong.  Being in the medical profession, you will appreciate candor in this area."  She
smiled, trying to offer him comfort.  "I'll give you the explanation in three words.  Duo is ovulating."

Heero immediately sagged as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders.  He lay his head on the table and when he
talked, his voice was muffled.  "I was certain that I ... I had done something wrong."  He shook his head as he raised it again.  
"What can I do for him?"

Une chuckled and patted Heero's shoulder.  "Be patient and understanding.  As a stray, this would never have happened to Duo
before.  His life was too dangerous before he came to live with you.  For the next few days, I suppose he's going to be taking a
lot of cold showers and taking matters into his own hands.  Don't be surprised if he suddenly leaves a room you're in with little
or no warning."  She looked over and smiled as Duo trudged shyly into the room, his ears drooping.  "Feeling better?"

Duo nodded a little.  His ears flickered a bit, then pressed flat against his head again.  "For now."  He nibbled on his lip and gazed
at Heero.  "Do you ... do you want me to stay even though I'm going to be a pervert feline for a few days?"

"YES!"  Heero practically jumped out of his seat, but he swallowed and blushed as he looked down in embarrassment from his
outburst.  "Please, I like having you here and I value your friendship and companionship.  I-I don't want to be alone again."  He
glanced up and gave Duo a shy smile.  "It's not like you asked for your body to go through this natural occurrence."  He
motioned to a chair.  "Please, sit down and I'll finish cooking."

Duo shuffled over with a blush on his face.

Smiling warmly, Une reached over to scratch Duo behind the ear as he slumped into his seat.  "Now, I have a standard test with
me."  She pulled the two tests out of the case she had left by the table and set one booklet down in front of the young feline.  
The other she put away.  "It will tell me what you already know and what you need help with.  There is no shame in not
knowing all that much.  I've met some of our kind that have grandchildren and still don't know the alphabet.  It sickens me how
the full humans used to treat us, and some still do."

Duo smiled a little and darted his gaze over to the kitchen briefly.  "Yeah.  But I'm glad for the exceptions."  He flipped through
the pages and bit his lip lightly.  "May I start it now?"

Heero poked his head out of the kitchen.  "You can start whenever you want to, Duo.  I know how eager you are to be free.  
Even though I only own you on paper, I'd like you to be free in the eyes of the law, too."

Une retrieved a pencil from her case and put it on the table.  "Go ahead, Duo.  Take your time.  There's no limitation.  I only
want to see how much you already know so I can make an appropriate lesson plan for you."

He smiled at her, then eagerly went about working on the booklet.  She already saw that his handwriting could use some work,
but that wasn't quite so important.  She watched as he worked his way through the first few pages and then frowned when she
realized that Heero had yet to come back.

"You keep working on that and I'll see what's taking Heero so long in the kitchen."  She stood up as gracefully as she could.

"You're pregnant?!"  Duo's voice was full of surprise, his pencil falling from slack fingers to roll across the tabletop.

Une smiled down at him.  She wondered why he hadn't noticed before.  Honestly, it wasn't as if she were early on in her
pregnancy.  Some days she felt that she looked as if she had swallowed a basketball.  Of course, he had been distracted the first
time they had met.  His own worries had most likely weighed heavily upon his mind.  It was understandable.

"Yes, I am," she replied, running her fingers over her enlarged stomach.

He tilted his head and his ears perked up, turning in his seat to fully regard her.  "Can I ... can I feel?"

"Of course you may."

Une was quite used to this, so she approached and smiled as Duo tentatively placed a hand on her abdomen.  He seemed as
curious as a small child and that was quite understandable.

"The little one isn't moving around so much right now."

Duo shook his head with a bemused expression.  "That's all right.  It's still amazing to think that a new little life is in there.  I've
only seen a few pregnant felines, my friend Mueller just told us he's knocked up.  Sorry, I mean he's carrying."  He bit his lip.  
"And the one girl I remember was still fairly early along, just showing.  Umm, how long?  I mean how many months are you?"

"Six months.  And before you ask, I don't know the gender of my precious one.  I wanted to be surprised."  She patted Duo's
hand.  "I'll be right back."  With that, she eased away from Duo and turned to walk into the kitchen, calling out to the young
man as she did so.  "Heero?  What's taking you so ... oh."

The kitchen was a bit of a mess with bowls and cooking utensils spread out on almost every available surface.  Heero stood
from where he had been replacing one thing in the oven with something else.  "Une?  Duo can't be done yet, is he?"  He turned
again and started rummaging through the cabinets.

Une looked around and smiled in a bemused way.  "Heero, what are you doing?"

"Looking for the vanilla.  I just had it, too!"

He was quiet for a moment before he let out a small exclamation of victory.  When he emerged - and turned in a way that Une
could see him better - Une was amused to note that he had splotches of flour on his face and in his hair.

He looked at her sheepishly, biting and tugging on his lower lip.  "I'm just making breakfast."  He hastily returned to his task, his
hands moving swiftly.

Une looked around again.  "Hmm, a pile of French toast that says you used the whole loaf of bread, the waffles you said you
were going to make, what looks to be a pound of bacon and sausages, fresh hash browns because I know you can't stand the
frozen kind, muffins, biscuits, scrambled eggs ... and I think I just saw you put some cookies in the oven."  She looked at what
he was measuring the vanilla into.  "Are you baking a cake?"

Heero paused in his actions to take a deep breath.  "Yeah."

Une glanced around and sighed again.  "Right.  Well, Duo's still working.  I'll leave you to what you're doing."  With that, she
turned and went back to where Duo was working.  She sat down and smiled when he gave her a worried look.  "A word of
warning.  When Heero's nervous, he makes food ... a LOT of food.  I think he's going to be in there for a while."

Duo blew out a breath.  "And we just bought all that food, too."

"Well, most of it can be frozen or refrigerated to be reheated at a later time.  But some of it I'll take with me."

Duo nibbled on his eraser and nodded.  "It would be a good idea to bring some stuff to Trowa's if you're going to see Quatre
next.  But, uh, Trowa doesn't like strangers much, so you might as well give it right to Quatre.  He'd love it."

Une smiled and nodded in reply.  "Thank you for that advice."  She remained quiet as he went back to work, pleased that he
seemed calm except for some minor squirms.  It seemed that now that he knew what was going on with his body, he could
control his urges a little better.

About half an hour later, Heero emerged from the kitchen bearing two platters heaping with food.  Not only were there waffles
and French toast on one of the platters, but it seemed that pancakes had joined the pile of food as well.  On the other platter, was
all the fried foods.  Eggs, bacon, sausages and even slices of ham sitting alongside a pile of hash browns.  The eggs weren't just
scrambled either.  Scrambled, over-easy, even a couple poached eggs and a few that were hard boiled.

"I'm sure you'll let Duo take a break so he can eat breakfast."

Une nodded and watched as Duo stretched.  She was pleased at how well he was doing and looked forward to having him as a
pupil.  "Of course, Heero.  I'm a good enough teacher to know that one thinks better when one doesn't have the distraction of an
empty stomach."  

She watched as Heero placed the plates down before going back to the kitchen for two more trips.  He placed plates down in
front of her as well as Duo and a place for himself, alongside silverware, carrying yet another platter on which were three
glasses of juice.  On the second trip, he returned with a plate of muffins and an armful of condiments.

"Thank you, Heero," she said, when the young human finally took a seat at the table with them.

Heero nodded, but his eyes trailed to Duo.  "Are you feeling better?"

Duo looked a little ashamed of himself and his ears drooped.  "Yeah, it sucked not knowing why I was doing that.  It's not much
better with an explanation, but at least I know the why of it, so ..."  He shrugged, spearing a pancake with his fork and bringing
it onto his plate.  "I'm amazed you can even stand to talk to me after ... ummm ... that."

Heero's cheeks turned scarlet.  "Well, as I said it wasn't your fault.  And ..." He looked down and mumbled something
unintelligible.

Duo's ears perked forward.  "What?"

Heero's eyes flickered over to Une, before his cheeks went a deeper shade of red.  "I said ... I kind of liked it.  It felt ... nice."  
He sheepishly looked at Duo.  "But, I don't want you to feel like that's what I'll want you around for now."  He traced the rim of
his juice glass with his fingertips.  "I like that you listen to me and I don't feel like you judge me."  Heero shook his head with a
sad smile.  "We can talk about this some other time though, when it won't distract you."

Une nodded in agreement.  "A wonderful idea, Heero.  Now, why don't we eat some of this delicious-looking food."  Heero's
words gave her hope that he wouldn't shut himself off again.  Maybe he'd even welcome Treize back into his life again, and give
his brother the joy of meeting this fine individual that was helping to reshape Heero's life.


*****


Quatre was happily coloring a picture of a duck in the book that Miss Noin had given to him when the phone rang.  He jumped,
startled by the sound, then looked up as Trowa pushed his seat back from the kitchen table where he had been working.  Trowa
hadn't wanted Quatre to feel lonely, so had opted to do his schoolwork there, where Quatre could sit with him.  The blonde
hadn't really paid much attention to the lesson Miss Noin was giving, not truly understanding what she was talking about.

He didn't mind her presence so much.  She had been just as kind and gentle with him as Catherine had been.  She had helped
treat his wounds.  Quatre was pleased that the examination of his injuries hadn't hurt nearly as much as the last time, and it had
made the brownie he'd chosen for his treat extra yummy to him.

He blinked over at Trowa as the tall youth looked down at the phone.  Quatre knew the concept of Caller ID, if only because he
had seen a commercial for it during that program Trowa had let him watch.

"It's Heero," Trowa replied.  "Must be important or he wouldn't be calling while I'm taking my lessons."  He picked up the
handset and pressed the 'accept' button as he brought it to his ear.  "Hello?"  There was a pause and the tall youth started to
frown a little.  "Okay, when will she be here?"  He nodded and sighed.  "Okay, thanks, Heero."  He hung up the phone and let out
a shaky breath.  His hands were trembling.

Quatre looked to Miss Noin, then back to Trowa, worried for the young man.  His ears fell and he set his crayons aside.  
"What's wrong?"

Trowa shook his head and gave Quatre a frail smile.  "The tutor that Heero found for you and Duo just left his place.  She'll be
here in about twenty minutes."

Miss Noin was the first to move.  She moved with ease around the table, her hands coming up to grab Trowa's shoulders.  
"We'll take your lessons up to your room.  You'll do the classwork, and I'll sit down here with Quatre and take care of things
down here, okay?  You don't have to meet her yet if you aren't ready to.  She's probably only coming to give him his preliminary
exam.  I did that before I started any lessons with you.  Remember?"

Trowa nodded, but said nothing.  He quickly gathered his books together and all but ran from the room.

Miss Noin sighed as she and Quatre watched him flee.  It made Quatre's chest ache as he watched him go.  He wanted to get up
and go after his friend, to see if there was anything he could do to help.  But he didn't know if it would be welcome.

Miss Noin turned to give Quatre a gentle smile.  "Why don't you go up and get changed out of your pajamas while I get Trowa
started on his work?"

"Okay," Quatre nodded hesitantly.  

What he really wanted to do was run to Trowa.  But he couldn't.  His tutor was coming.  Quatre felt a burst of warmth fill him
at the thought, even though he still worried over Trowa's emotional state.  He stood up and headed for his room, pausing only
briefly at Trowa's room.

"Trowa?  Are you all right?"

Trowa smiled shakily and nodded a little.  "It's just ... strangers ... you know?  I'll be okay."  His smile became more genuine.  
"But this is good.  You're getting your own tutor.  I bet you're looking forward to learning."

Quatre smiled back.  He couldn't deny that was true.  "I am.  But I hope this tutor is as nice as Miss Noin is."

The brunette paused in setting up his desk.  "Heero wouldn't have chosen someone who wasn't nice."  He nodded and sighed.  
"I'm sure it'll be lots of fun for you."

Miss Noin entered the room and smiled at Quatre.  "Go on and get dressed now, Quatre.  I'll meet you downstairs, okay?"  She
brushed her hand along his arm.

Quatre nodded and hurried off.  He felt a great deal better about going to his room now that he knew Trowa was doing okay.  
He was purring lightly as he picked out an outfit he rather liked and dressed as quickly as he was able to given his healing injuries.

He returned downstairs to the living room and fidgeted nervously.  Miss Noin came down after a moment and tilted her head.  It
was obvious she knew that something was troubling him.

"Quatre?  What's wrong?"

Quatre nibbled on his lower lip.  "I-I can't read.  What if ... what if I'm too stupid to be taught?  What if the tutor wants to send
me back?"

Noin shook her head, smiling warmly.  "Quatre, everyone starts where you're starting.  No one who can color as beautifully as
you do is too stupid to teach."

Her words did make him feel better, though not by much.  He was still terribly nervous and afraid of just what his tutor would
think of him.  He couldn't even sit still.  He was up and pacing the whole while, his tail tucked down between his legs.  Noin
tried to calm him down, but it was no use.  Eventually, she did manage to get him to sit down.  However, only minutes later, the
doorbell chimed.

He followed behind the tall woman as she went to answer the door.  Staying hidden behind her, he peered curiously around her
as the door was pulled open and the stranger was revealed.  She was a beautiful feline with long brown hair, her ears and tail a
bluish grey shade.

He stayed quiet as the two women introduced themselves and stayed partially hidden as Miss Noin introduced him as well.  
However, as his eyes roamed up and down along his new tutor, Miss Une, he found himself quickly overcoming his
nervousness.  He moved out from behind Noin and leaned in close to examine his tutor.

She was pregnant.  It had been so long since Quatre had seen a pregnant feline.  He moved closer.  He nuzzled his cheek against
the other feline's stomach, purring loudly all the while.

Miss Une giggled and a soft hand came down on Quatre's head, lightly stroking through his hair.  "Why are you doing that?" she
asked, her voice not sounding at all angry, merely curious.

Quatre looked up at her, confused.  Surely, she would know.  But then, maybe it had been different where she had been raised.  
In the Winner Camp it had been common custom.

"To show the little one that there are people that want him to live."  He turned, pressing his head against her hand.  "Father said it
was better to greet them then.  Not many lived for long after birth."

Miss Une clucked her tongue, her nails scratching lightly in just the right place near his left ear.  "I'm sure they appreciated it,
regardless.  Now ..." She pulled her hand away and held a booklet in front of him.  "Are you ready to begin?"

Quatre swallowed and looked down, his ears drooping.  Well ..."  He hugged Iria close.  "It's just ... I ..."  He sniffled a little.

Une seemed to know without him telling her.  "Don't worry, Quatre.  I'm allowed to give you a verbal test."

Quatre perked up at that.  "I know my A-B-Cs!" he announced proudly, then proceeded to sing the song.  He felt pleased that
Une not only didn't laugh at him, but was actually mouthing the letters along with him.  The gentle smile on her face made him
feel as if he were safe, back in the company of his long-missed sisters.

"That was very good, Quatre!  Where did you learn that?"

His ears flicked and a purr of pleasure rumbled in his chest with the pleasure he felt at being praised.  "I learned it watching a
video at Mr. Howard's grocery store with his feline, Mueller.  Heero and Duo left me with him while they went shopping."

Une snapped her fingers.  "That reminds me."  She went outside, returning a moment later with a large basket.  "Here.  I brought
this from Heero's place.  Heero made them."

Quatre blinked as Une revealed the basket to be filled with all kinds of baked goods.  Slices of cake, cupcakes and muffins.  
There were even a few cookies.

"When did Heero find time to make all this stuff?"

Une chuckled.  "Heero is a nervous baker.  He had a scare this morning and was upset for a few hours.  It was more than
enough time for him to make a mountain of food.  I think he was baking the entire time I was there.  Even after the problem was
resolved, he worried."

"Ohh, ok."

He felt a little better now.  He blinked as he looked around, suddenly noticing that Miss Noin wasn't anywhere nearby.  He
wondered when she had left, but didn't think long on it.  Miss Une didn't seem like she was going to hurt him.  He trusted felines
far more than he did humans.

"Umm, may we start now?" he asked cautiously, his eyes focusing on a rather large chocolate chip cookie in the basket.  He'd
never had a cookie before.  He wondered if they were as good as brownies.

Une smiled and nodded.  "Of course!  Lead the way."

The blonde feline took a moment to close and lock the front door, certain that it was to remain that way.  Trowa never left it
unlocked, and Quatre didn't want to make Trowa mad by forgetting to do so.  Then he turned and walked into the kitchen with
Une not too far behind.

"You're sure that I'll be able to take the test even though I can't read?"  He sat down and hugged Iria close to his chest.

Une smiled and nodded as she set the basket of goodies down on the table.  "Of course you can.  The people who designed this
test took into account the felines who were never taught anything.  You have nothing to be ashamed of."

She took out a slim booklet and laid it out on the table in front of him.  She flipped a few pages and let out a small noise of
satisfaction.  "Here, you can start with these.  It doesn't matter what order you finish the test in and you can take all the time
that you need.  If you don't finish today, I can come back tomorrow morning to pick up where we left off."

Relief washed through Quatre's frame.  He felt better knowing that.  Curiously, he leaned over and looked at the page.  He
blinked at the somewhat random images, unsure of their purpose.  "What am I supposed to do?"

"Look at the example, here."  She pointed to the first set of symbols which was set somewhat apart from the others.  "It shows
you what to do.  These images are in a certain sequence.  What you need to do is select the next image in the sequence."  She
tilted her head as she regarded his bandaged fingers.  "Can you hold a pencil?"

Quatre nodded.  "I think so.  I can hold forks and spoons, but it hurts after a little while."  He considered the slender object she
was holding between her fingers.  "I've never held one before.  Could you show me how I'm supposed to?"

Une nodded.  She reached forward and delicately took hold of his right hand.  She was tender as she moved his fingers, never
causing him a moment of pain while she arranged his fingers in a proper hold.

"If you feel any pain at all, you let me know and we'll take a break, okay?"

"Yes, Miss Une."

"Please, just call me 'Une'."  She ruffled his hair.

A faint warmth spread through Quatre's cheeks.  Shyly, he turned his attention back to the booklet and studied the pages left
open to him.  There were no letters or numbers, so Une had probably directed him to a part of the test for felines who couldn't
read.  They were really simple; shapes with a varying number of sides, boxes with one corner colored differently than the rest,
and a few other images.

Quatre was enjoying himself immensely as the images became more complex.  He didn't even feel the slight tinge of pain
prickling at his fingers.  When he was finished, he pouted in dismay.  "No more?"

Une chuckled and shook her head.  "Not in the basic test, I'm sorry to say.  You have a knack for logic, it seems."

She turned the pages to another part of the test.  This one was comprised of a large amount of text, and several lines of words
that held no meaning at all to the frail blonde.

"Let me read this story to you to test your level of understanding.  Normally, you'd be the one reading this, but it's allowed for
the tester to read the story and the questions in the cases where the feline hasn't learned how to read yet.  Okay?"

Quatre smiled and nodded, no longer feeling stupid for not knowing how to read.  He had the feeling that Une would teach him
and that Duo, Trowa, Heero and even Catherine and Miss Noin would help him.  He absently nibbled on one of the muffins that
had been set on a plate nearby and listened to the story.

Two hours later, Quatre's stomach began to rumble.  He was hungry, but he didn't want to interrupt the test.  Beside the muffin,
he hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast that morning and it was nearing two now.

He was having fun.  Une had never once chided him for not understanding something.  He was so happy that when Une
suggested a short break, he actually voiced his displeasure.

"Do we have to?" he frowned, pulling his lower lip into his mouth to bite it lightly.

Her gentle hand caressed his cheek, easily pulling a soft purr from his chest.  "Quatre, I can hear your stomach growling it's
displeasure.  You must be hungry.  We've been at this for hours."

"But I was having fun," Quatre argued, fiddling with the ears of his stuffed rabbit.

"Don't you worry.  After a short break, we can get back to the test," she assured him, her hand brushing his skin lightly.  
"Besides, don't you think Trowa might be getting hungry, too?"

Quatre's ears flicked straight up, his eyes widening.  "You're right!  He hasn't eaten since breakfast!  He didn't even get to have
any of these baked things that Heero made!"  He stood, looking around nervously.  "We have to stop then.  Trowa's hungry.  He
needs to eat."

"Calm down," Une said, her hands moving to grip his shoulders as she also stood.  She smiled though and didn't seem angry at
him.

The fact that she wasn't upset did more to calm him than her words.

"But Trowa needs to eat," he whispered sadly.

Une stroked his hair.  "Then, why don't you and I make lunch for him and Miss Noin?  I'm sure they'd appreciate it."

Quatre smiled widely and he gave a soft bounce in his excitement.  He'd never been allowed to make food before.  He was
terribly excited about the opportunity.

"What do we make?  I've never cooked before."

"Well, let's have a look then."  She moved away and slowly walked the distance to the refrigerator.  Opening it, she looked at the
contents, making a soft sound as she considered things.

"There's some leftover chicken in here."  She sniffed lightly.  "It's a couple days old, but hasn't spoiled yet.  So I suggest we
make some sandwiches out of it.  Do you think you can pour some juice while I tear the chicken into strips?"

Quatre nodded eagerly.  "I think so."  

He set Iria down on the chair and moved across the kitchen to the cabinets.  He remembered where Catherine kept the glasses.  
He'd seen her getting them down.  He took two trips to get the glasses, not wanting to risk breaking them by taking too many at
a time.

He didn't really pay much attention to what Une was doing; he was so set in his task.  For the first time since he had gotten here
he felt a sense of usefulness.  Except that one time when he had been sent to wake Trowa.  But that hadn't ended well.  For the
first time since then, he was being allowed to do something, to help out.  He was very pleased.  And so, a healthy rumble started
in his chest, growing louder as the seconds ticked by.

"You really like helping, don't you?" Une asked with an amused chuckle.  She was standing at a counter, slices of bread set out
and slathered with a layer of mayonnaise.  Beside her was a plate of chicken chunks.

Quatre's purr diminished, but didn't go away completely.  "Yes, well ... I don't like being useless.  I've never gone for so long
without some task to perform."  He held the container of juice he had just taken from the fridge with both hands.  Apple juice.  
Trowa liked apple juice.  Quatre remembered that from breakfast that morning.

"I understand," Une replied, going about her own task.  "I'm afraid I'll find myself in that position in a short while.  Treize will
undoubtedly forbid me from doing anything strenuous as my child's birth day draws nearer."

"Treize is your mate?" Quatre asked.  He moved slowly and carefully as he poured the juice into the four waiting glasses.  The
container was heavy and it was cumbersome to tip with his bandaged hands.  He didn't want to spill any.

"No, but he is the father of my child.  We were seeing each other, but it didn't work out between us.  We make better friends
than lovers.  Besides, he is far happier now with Zechs than I could ever make him.  And I ... well, I suppose I am still
searching for the right one for me."

"I'm sure you will find him or her," Quatre easily replied.  "You are very kind.  And pretty."

"Thank you, Quatre.  You're quite attractive yourself."

Quatre started, a shiver coursing up his spine.  He gulped, watching as a splash of juice escaped the last glass.  Quickly, he set
the juice container down and grabbed a handful of paper towels and went about cleaning up the slight spill.

"I-I don't think."  He shook his head.  "No.  I will not find a mate.  I do not like ... people.  Touching is ... it's not good.  It
hurts."  He remembered what that Catcher had been doing.  While he didn't understand all of what that man had been trying.  He
did remember the pain and knew that it had something to do with sex.

Une was at his side quickly, her hand turning his face to hers.  "Quatre, have you been hurt by someone?  Not by Trowa?"

"No!" Quatre very nearly shouted.  "Trowa would never hurt me!"  He shook his head, feeling that he should explain better.  
"When I was taken from my master, the catcher who brought me ... He did things.  I don't understand what he did, but I know
it had to do with mating.  But it hurt.  I don't like hurting."

Her hands pulled him close and held him in a gentle embrace.  "It doesn't hurt when someone you love mates with you, Quatre.  
That person was selfish and out for his own perverse pleasure.  He purposely hurt you.  When you find a mate that you love, it
will not hurt, because he or she will love you in return.  You wouldn't hurt someone you love, would you?"

Quatre shook his head, fisting his hands lightly in her shirt.  He liked being held, and her words were making him feel weird.  
"Does it feel good then?"

"Of course it does.  It feels unimaginably good, and I can't adequately describe it to you."  Her hands were running up and down
along his spine now, and he pressed closer to her body, arching his back with the tender touches.  He purred, nuzzling his cheek
against her shoulder.

"Quatre, how old are you?" she asked suddenly.

For a moment, Quatre thought on that question.  "Eighteen, I believe.  I'm not sure though.  Every year father and my sisters
would celebrate my birth on the same day and tell me my age, but my master did not do the same.  If I remember right ... yes, I
am eighteen.  My day of birth was in January.  The third of January.  Why do you ask?"

Une shifted away, much to Quatre's displeasure, and guided him to sit in a chair.  She pulled a chair closer to him and sat before
him, then took up his hands in hers.  "How much do you know about feline matings?"

He knew she must have some reason for asking, but it still left Quatre feeling embarrassed.  "I-I know very little, I'm sorry.  
Father was not whole and did not like speaking of the subject.  He sired thirty and was castrated, as was common custom in the
camp.  And ... I was not fully mature when the camp began-"  He swallowed, not wanting to think of the deaths of his family,
of his friends.  He shook his head.  "I know that females and males can carry young, but beyond that I know little.  My father's
male mates would enjoy it when I welcomed their unborn, just as the females did, and my sisters when they carried."

Her hand moved to the side of his head, a smile curling her lips.  "You've led a difficult life, and very stressful.  And just like
with Duo, it seems I have a lesson to teach you."

Quatre blinked at her, not truly understanding.  "But you are our tutor.  Aren't you supposed to teach us?"

She chuckled.  "Yes, but I didn't think sexual education would be among my subjects."  She cleared her throat.  "Please don't
take offense with anything I have to say.  But, you may go into heat soon and I don't want you to be frightened of it, as Duo
was when it suddenly came upon him this morning."

"Heat?  You mean Duo is wanting to rut with someone?"

Une coughed.  "Where did you learn that term?"

"Was it wrong?  The guards at the camp would often talk of heat cycles and rutting beasts.  Those suffering Heat were taken
from the population and locked in a small room with each other and left alone for several days.  When they came out they
smelled funny and some walked strangely.  Father would shush me when I asked questions and my sisters would always blush
and look away or change the subject."

"The terminology is crude, but quite correct.  Duo is in heat and his body is ready to accept a mating."

"Oh," was all that Quatre could think to say.  He hoped Duo was okay.  "Will he have a baby?"

Une shook her head.  "Not this time, I think.  Heero isn't ready for a mate just yet and there's no one else who could help Duo in
this."

"Why do you think I will go into heat?"  Quatre was confused by that.  In the camp Heat had been induced by an injection given
to random adult felines.  The only injections he had gotten had been from Sally days ago, too long for it to be an inducement.

Une's hand lingered on his cheek.  "Well, you are an adult now, Quatre.  Your body is gaining health and you're in a safe
environment.  It's only a matter of time now before your body becomes accustomed to the safety and moves into the next step
in your physical maturity.  But it probably won't happen until your wounds heal a bit more."

"Oh.  Well, what is Heat?  Mating?  What will I do?  I won't hurt Trowa, will I?

"No, you won't hurt anyone."  She smiled, brushing her thumb lightly against his skin.  "Tomorrow when I come to see you, I'll
bring a video on feline reproduction and we'll study it together, okay?"

"Okay," Quatre frowned, his ears falling back a bit.  "You're sure I won't hurt Trowa?  What if it starts tonight and I don't know
what to do?"

"I swear you won't hurt anyone.  As to the possibility of it beginning tonight, I can't lie and say it's not a possibility, but I highly
doubt it.  Here," she reached into her pocket and pulled out a thin piece of stiff paper.  "This is my phone number.  If you need
anything at all tonight, I want you to call me.  If you need me to, I will come right over and help you, okay?"

Quatre felt far better knowing he had someone to talk to.  He held the card between his fingers and looked at the numbers.  
Slowly, he glanced to the phone, then back at the numbers.  He hoped he would be able to operate it.

"Come here," Une urged, getting him to rise and approach the phone.  "All you have to do is pick up this handset and touch the
numbers you see on this card, then press this button here.  If you hear a ringing, then you did it correctly.  If not, you can try
again."  She held the handset to him.  "Want to try?"

He took the phone from her, nodding.  "Yes.  I want to be sure I can.  I've never used a phone before."  He looked at the card
and then back to the phone.  Then he began to touch the numbers.  "When I'm done, I press this?" he asked, his finger
indicating a button with a strange green symbol on it.

"Right.  And the numbers are all correct, too.  I don't think you'll have a problem with it."  She pet his head.  "Put that card in a
safe place so you don't lose it, okay?"

Quatre nodded.  He slipped the card into his shirt pocket.  He would put it in his room later.  "Can we take lunch to Trowa
now?  I'm sure he must be starving.  We've kept him waiting so long."

"Yes, let's do that."  She uneasily moved to the counter and settled the sandwiches on two plates.  "Is there a tray here,
somewhere?"

"I do not know where it is, but they served my meals to me in bed with it when I was ill."  He looked around and began opening
cabinets.  It didn't take him long to find it and he handed it over to Une once he had.

She put one of the sandwich plates on it and two glasses of juice.  She also picked out a few cookies and set them on a smaller
plate.  "Why don't you take this on up to Trowa and see if he wants to have lunch with you?  I daresay he won't appreciate my
being in the room with him.  And Miss Noin can come down here and eat with me."

Quatre felt a smile pull at his lips.  He liked that idea.  Though he didn't like that Miss Une and Miss Noin would be eating down
here, he did want to have lunch with Trowa.

"When you're done, come back down and we'll continue your test."

"Okay!"  He couldn't make his smile go away as he carefully took up the tray and started on his way upstairs.

When he got to Trowa's room, he set the tray down on the floor outside the door and knocked lightly with the back of his
hand.  His fingers were starting to hurt, but it wasn't too bad.

Miss Noin answered the door and smiled when she saw him.  "Une was wondering if it was time for lunch.  We made
sandwiches and there's one for you downstairs with apple juice," he said proudly, beginning to purr again.

"How very thoughtful!" she exclaimed, brushing a hand along his arm.  "I was just thinking that it was about time for a lunch
break."  She looked over her shoulder to where Trowa was still working.  "Trowa, time for lunch.  Quatre's made some for
you."

Trowa turned in his seat, a smile blossoming on his features.  "Okay, I am feeling hungry."

Noin eased her way past Quatre.  "I'll be downstairs with Une.  When Quatre comes down, I'll come back up and we'll continue
where we left off."

"All right."  

He closed his books and moved them aside as Quatre picked up the tray and brought it into the room.  Carefully, he set the tray
on the bed, not knowing where else to put it.  There wasn't really anywhere else that the both of them could sit and still be able
to reach the food, except for the floor.  Quatre would rather Trowa be comfortable though.

Trowa sat on the bed on the opposite side of the tray and picked up the sandwich.  He peeled it open.  "Chicken?"

"Yes, Miss Une found it in the fridge.  She said it was still good."  He bit his lip.  "Do you want something else?  I-I could go
back down and get it for you, if you do."

Trowa shook his head.  "No, chicken is fine."  He took a bite to prove his point, causing Quatre to relax a little.

The blonde picked up his own sandwich and carefully ate it, feeling happy just being in Trowa's presence.  He began to purr
again, but didn't consciously realize it.

"How are your lessons going?"  Trowa asked after swallowing a mouthful.  He picked up his glass and took a few sips.

Quatre was excited and was hoping that Trowa would ask.  "It's going very well.  Miss Une is so nice.  And she's going to teach
me about sex tomorrow!"

Trowa, who had just taken another sip of juice barely managed to swallow the liquid in his mouth, then began to cough
violently.  He set his sandwich and drink down  quickly and held his hand against his mouth.

"Trowa?  Are you okay?  Did I say something wrong?"

The brunette shook his head, waving a hand in Quatre's general direction.  He soon got his coughing under control and took
another sip of juice.  Then he spoke.

"She's what?"

Quatre was unsure if it was good that he was going to learn about sex now.  Considering Trowa's reaction, maybe it was a bad
thing.  "I said that Miss Une is going to teach me about sex.  I don't much about mating but she seems to think it is something I
need to know.  Should I not learn the subject?"

"Why does she want you to learn about it?"

Looking down, Quatre felt conflicted.  He did want to learn.  But what if Trowa found the subject unsuitable?  "Well, she said
that I might go into Heat because I am now in a safe environment.  I don't understand why it's important.  Is it a bad thing to
learn?"

"No, of course not," Trowa replied.  Quatre looked up, feeling the human's hand tilt his face upward.  "I want you to learn all
that you can.  I was just surprised about the subject matter.  It's not bad.  In fact, it's probably a very good idea that you learn
about it."

"Okay, good."  He smiled, feeling far better.  

He began eating again, watching as Trowa did the same.  Quatre looked forward to learning about mating.

He felt a faint tingle in his lower belly as he watched his friend, but passed it off for excitement about his lessons.  What else
could it mean after all?



To Be Continued ...