Disclaimers: They belong to people with money. Therefore they don't belong to me. Easy enough to understand, yes? Though if anyone's thinking of selling Trowa, I'll mortgage my parent's house... hey, I'll get it eventually anyway!

Pairings: 4+3 - or is it 3+4? They both equal seven, after all. Question: if it's just a ?+? story and not a ?x? (lime or lemon) story, then does it matter who's on first? (What's on second, I Don't Know's on third...) Also mention of 1+2, 5+S, lots of adopted kids (except for Wufei's g) and such. Maybe a touch limey towards the end.

Archive: Yes, feel free to if you want to (though I'm not sure why...) If you do archive, I go by the name of Quoth the Raven.

Rating: Uh... no sex, a lot of mildish to moderate swearing, some cuddling. PG? PG-13? One of those, I suppose. Or should I call it completely unrateable for the shocking idea that two gay men might be allowed to adopt a child every bit as legally as a straight couple, or as legally as a lesbian is permitted to have a child for herself via sperm donorship. Gasp! (Okay, sorry, feeling a little bitter today.) Anything in square brackets is the characters' thoughts.

Warnings: T and Q perhaps a little OOC, Trowa especially, but I figure people change dramatically from when they're 15 (or 16) to when they're 28 (give or take a couple of years). And I made up the bit with Quatre's father since I have no idea what was actually said.


Quatre sighed and rubbed his hand across his eyes, allowing the paperwork on the desk to go out of focus for a few seconds while he reached over for his cup of tea - only to send it spilling all over the rug and cracking the porcelain. "Dammit!" Quatre hissed crossly under his breath, picking up the ruined cup. Oh, sure, it only had a minor crack in it, he could hardly see it unless he looked hard, but that one crack was enough to make the cup brittle - the next time he tried to use it, it would break. Good thing the kitchen had plenty of cups.

The high, faint laughter of a child blended in with a deeper chuckle reaches his ears through the window, and he stood up, [Just to stretch for a minute,] he told himself, and went to the window that looked out onto the garden. There, out on the green grass, playing, he saw his husband and Peter, their son. Quatre allowed himself a soft smile as he watched their antics. After Hide and Seek where Trowa persisted in hiding by simply keeping his hands over his eyes, came a game of Tag, where Trowa's much longer legs gave him an extremely unfair advantage - or would have, if he didn't insist on flipping over and chasing his prey on his hands. The fact that he still managed to catch the giggling boy more often than not was a tribute to all the circus work Trowa had done. [Heaven knows that I certainly couldn't move while doing a handstand like he can,] Quatre thought. [Not that I'd want to,] he added as he saw Trowa right himself, gasping between laughs and red in the face from exertion and blood rushing to his head.

The Arabian couldn't help giggling a little himself at the sight of his tall, slender lover, so stoic and quiet just a few years ago - could it really be twelve? - on hands and knees growling, pretending to be the big bad lion for Peter the Mighty Circus Lion Tamer to, well, tame. Now *that* was interesting... [I wonder if Trowa's going to play... ahem... a version of that game in bed soon?] The smile in Quatre's lips broadened a little at the thought. At the start of their relationship, he'd been the one who'd had to initiate everything, and Trowa was too shy to try anything even remotely like the things he was now suggesting on a regular basis. Even Duo, who had visited them about a month back, had been bowled over by the casual playfulness that had replaced Trowa's normal tense silence, especially when minding Peter. Several expensive things around the house seemed to break every day now. Quatre shook his head in amusement at the memory of Duo's words. "Big kid! Trowa, you've been holding out on us all this time. Admit it, you're just a big kid!"

Trowa had just laughed and said. "If you want to put it that way Duo. I prefer to think of it as making sure my son has a happy childhood - and there's only one real way to make sure he's having fun." And he ruffled his son's light brown hair affectionately, holding Quatre close with one arm and pulling Peter to him with the other. Duo just laughed right back, saying something about wait until Heero and Wufei heard about this, and Trowa and Quatre had both known that Duo would never let him live it down. Not that Trowa really cared. Quatre knew that Trowa was perfectly happy to look after the two of them the rest of his days, having the childhood he had never gotten to have through Peter's, and he could hardly deny that the joy Trowa was experiencing was a wonderful thing, but...

Quatre sighed as he heard Peter's voice ring out. "Another game, Papa, another game!" and his smile faded a little as he saw Trowa, who had scooped Peter up and had been headed inside, promptly turned around and obliged the youngster, cheerfully wrestling and skilfully losing each match with seemingly endless energy. Headed back to his desk, the blond man took up the papers again, trying to ignore the fact that Trowa rarely came in here any more to bring him tea, or massage his shoulders when he got tired, or even just talk with him and provide some relief from the boring paperwork he was forced to do at least a couple of days a week.

So he worked, signing papers and ignoring the sounds of pure childish fun outside.

[Weren't you coming inside to me?]


Quatre mumbled something unrepeatable under his breath as another hyperactive teenager bumped into him and bounced off without apologising. He hated this. Heero, Duo, Wufei and Sally, plus their kids, were all visiting tomorrow, and they should be home getting ready, especially for the hurricane called "mixture of children of ex-Gundam pilots." But no. [Trowa, this has to be the worst idea you've ever had. "Oh, come on Quatre, Peter should go, he's never been to one, and neither have I! You said you loved them, so you'll enjoy it too..." Yeah. Sure, Trowa. Right.] Carnivals had been fun when he was a child, but after the adrenaline rush of piloting Sandrock, none of the small, made to be portable rides really appealed to him, plus he was tired after a long day working, too tired to try and find any of that old childhood enjoyment. And Peter was still too small to go on the majority of the rides.

Of course, that didn't stop Trowa. Not caring about spending so much money on each ride which only lasted about three minutes, he just hopped on every ride that caught his eye, leaving Peter with Quatre. [Yeah, why should he care about the money? It's not his money, it's mine!] grumbled a small part of Quatre's mind which he promptly dismissed as unkind. [After all, he's my husband, what's mine is his, right? And if he wants to go on some oversized disco-themed blending machine called the "Breakdance" and have fun, and leave me looking after Peter for once, then it doesn't bother me one bit.]

[Okay, so it does.] Mainly because Peter, not being able to enjoy the rides, went after the other things that carnivals so prominently displayed. Namely, junk food. And expensive games with stuffed animals as prizes and zero chances of actually winning one. In vain did Quatre point out that Peter didn't need another teddy bear to go with the twenty in his room that Trowa kept on buying him, along with Catherine sending toys on a regular basis. In vain did Quatre mention the full meal and dessert that he had made Peter have before coming along this evening. No, it didn't work. Why? Because on the rare times that Trowa was not on a ride, he ignored the rules of good, firm parenting and cheerfully indulged Peter's every whim without protest, even going so far as to *offer* more candy and treats! Then, whenever Quatre tried to put his foot down and maintain some sort of discipline, or at least make sure that Peter wasn't violently ill later that night, he copped every parent's worst nightmare. Brimming eyes, a trembling lip and the whine every parent dreads - "But Daddy, please. *Papa* always lets me..." Groaning, Quatre tried to find a balance between giving in to Peter and saying no. Peter was as yet too young to understand that saying "no" doesn't mean "I don't love you", and Trowa simply couldn't say no to his son, unless what Peter wanted was absolutely deadly. Which meant that Quatre was the one who ended up seeming unloving and unkind to Peter. [Dammit, Trowa, why did you have to go and make *me* the bad guy?]

Just as he was at the end of his patience and was about to 'suggest' in the strongest possible terms that they go home, Peter begged to go on the merry-go-round. Quatre felt like he was ready to kill when Trowa made a show of looking at his watch, and then told Peter he could go, but then they would have to go back home because it was getting late. "You've had enough fun for one night, I think," Trowa solemnly told Peter, and Quatre sweatdropped. [HE'S had enough fun for one night? I don't think it's HIM, Trowa! And it sure as hell isn't ME!]

Paying the operator the right amount, Trowa helped Peter onto the horse, then stepped back as the ride started, heading back to Quatre. As the two watched their smiling son cheer and shout "Hi-ho, Silver! Away!" which he had learned from 'Uncle Duo', the Arabian felt himself relax a little, especially as Trowa's hand slipped around his waist. [This really isn't so bad. If they've enjoyed themselves they way I used to enjoy myself, then I suppose the headaches and tantrums and tears have been worth it. I guess I was once the same -]

They were interrupted by a shriek from the merry-go-round, and twin gasps of shock were heard from the former pilots as they saw Peter slide helplessly from his seat and tumble to the floor, dangerously near the edge of the merry-go-round. The only thing that stopped him tumbling off completely was the fact that his foot was caught in the stirrup on the side of the plastic horse. Quatre was about to shout to the operator to stop the ride, but Trowa was already moving. Thrusting past some other parents, he vaulted effortlessly into the air and landed exactly next to his son, quickly untangling his foot. Quatre saw his mouth moving, face anxious, and he knew that Trowa was asking if Peter was all right, a guess confirmed when Peter nodded his head. He saw Trowa turn, preparing to hop off the ride carefully with Peter in his arms, but he was stopped by Peter's shout, which everybody, including Quatre, heard over the music.

"No, Papa! I didn't get to finish the ride!"

"... Okay, do you want me to put you back on the horse?" And Trowa prepared to lift Peter back onto the horse.

"NO! But I don't wanna get off either! It's not fair, Papa! You've had lots, now it's my turn to ride!" And Peter started howling at the top of his lungs, attracting even more attention from the crowd that was gathering. Quatre winced. [For heaven's sake, Trowa, get him off there! The accident was just an accident and no one judged him, but now you're letting him make himself look bratty!]

Trowa looked hesitant for a second, then suddenly switched Peter to one arm, digging in his pocket with his free hand. [Trowa... what the hell are you doing?]

Coming up with a few heavy coins, Trowa tossed them to the startled operator on the next rotation, shouting, "That's to pay for my ride." Then he turned so that he was facing in the same direction as the horses, and sat Peter firmly on his shoulders, holding tightly to his sons' legs.

[Oh no. No, no, no, he is not doing this...]

Peter cheered again, tears already drying, as he was able to stay on 'his' ride. "Giddy up, Papa! Giddy up! I want to go up and down like the others!"

[Don't you dare, Trowa, don't you bloody well d-]

But, of course, Trowa already was, obligingly bending and straightening his knees to mimic the horses so that Peter could enjoy his one ride to the fullest after his mishap. It didn't help Quatre's mood that half the crowd was gawking at the sight of Trowa's butt and legs as he moved, wearing his favourite too-tight jeans which showed every goddamn movement, and the other half were laughing. Some were laughing affectionately at the sight of a parent willing to go so far to make his child happy, but Quatre's ears, already tuned to bad vibes after a hard day, heard every snigger and snide comment and amplified them until he was positively pissed off. Normally he'd be irritated at the smart-asses who were making fun of his two most beloved people, but this time he was not just irritated, he was furious. At Trowa.

A little girl behind them turned a little and shouted, "Hey! How come YOU get a special ride?"

Peter stuck out his tongue. "Cause my Papa's nicer than yours, that's why!"

"That's not fair!" screeched the girl. "Da-aaaaaaaaaad! *I* want a special ride too! Come up here!"

This caught on rather rapidly, and soon every child on the ride was whining for a parent or older sibling to come and give them the 'special' ride. Parental goodwill towards the happy two who began all this was rapidly disappearing, although some of the other spectators still thought it was sweet, not to mention funny. The whispers began in earnest now, as Peter started shouting things like "To Infinity And Beyond!" and Trowa grinned at hearing it. And Quatre's blood hit the boiling point.

"Who does he think he is, jumping on a moving ride like that? At least he damn well paid!"

"He should have just taken the boy off! Now look what he's started!"

"What's worse, he's made himself AND the boy look like total idiots!"

"*I* sure as hell am not going to do that!"

"You wouldn't catch me doing it in a million years! It's practically *obscene* the way he's moving!"

[This does it. This second childhood thing has its limits, and this is it. The screaming and shouting on the roller coaster like a demented idiot so loudly that I could hear him over the noise and on the ground, I could handle. The showing off on the shoot-em-ups, I could take. Practically breaking my neck by banging into me at full speed in the dodgem cars while Peter laughed and egged him on, I didn't mind too much. Going on that damned Breakout or whatever the hell it's called five times in a row and leaving me with a hyper boy, was okay. But This. Is. IT! I've HAD it with him tonight!]

Just as he was finished thinking that, and he thought he was about to have a stroke in relief as he saw the ride was finally ending and people were getting off, kids running up to clamour for a ride on their parent's backs, Trowa neatly exited the ride by somersaulting off, Peter still on his shoulders. This caused shrieks of envy and renewed demands from the kids, dirty looks from the parents, and a expression of smug, superior rapture on Peter's face as Trowa swung him back down onto the ground, smiling and taking hold of the tiny hand.

[I should have known it wouldn't have been that easy. Just couldn't resist showing off, could you?! I'm going to murder you!]

Some chubby lady in a light blue dress poked Quatre in the shoulder to get his attention. "Who on earth does he think he is, pulling stunts like that and ruining it for all the others? Who IS he, anyway?"

Humiliated to desperation, angry enough to kill and stressed to the point of dropping, Quatre snapped. "Why ask me?" [Leave me alone, lady!]

The lady stared at him. "But... I thought I saw you with him earlier... so you don't know him, then?"

This blunt question left Quatre rather boxed in. "No," he said shortly, crossly. [I don't want to talk, get the hint?!]

"Well I know what I saw, but I can't say I blame you, I guess. God knows even if I knew him, *I* wouldn't admit it!"

Unable to form a reply to that, he stalked off a little to the side, cheeks aflame. [When we get home and Peter's asleep, you are so dead, Trowa. How could you do that to me?]

Waiting around the corner of the popcorn stall, knowing that Trowa had seen where he'd gone and would follow with Peter, he stewed for a minute. He knew from the sounds around the corner that Trowa was catching an earful and a half from the crowd, but he wasn't going to fish him out of this one! [Let him swallow the medicine, he's sure as hell earned it,] the Demon Of Bad Temper And Sulking whispered into his ear, even though part of him knew that that was a little unfair to leave him there. [Well, maybe I won't murder him later if he's already been yelled at like this. I'll just explain to him, very calmly, that if he does it again, that's when I'll murder him.]

Soon enough, Trowa came around the corner, releasing his hands from Peter's ears where he had apparently put them to block the less-than-polite language of some of the crowd. Peter ran to Quatre happily. "Daddy, did you see? Papa helped me ride!"

Quatre smiled a little tensely at the reminder. "Yes, I saw, Peter. That was a very nice thing for him to do, since he really, *really* didn't have to do that. But I'm glad you enjoyed it. Now, let's go home and you can show Rashid that... camel you won on the clown game."

"It's a *dromedary*, Daddy!" Peter was always glad to show off his zoological flair that he had picked up from Trowa's love of animals.

"Uh, dromedary. Sorry. Let's just go, okay? Daddy's very tired and he has a headache." And they left. Quatre was so wrapped up in his headache, embarrassment and a nagging feeling of guilt that he shouldn't have been so mad in the first place over what really wasn't the End Of The World As He Knew It, he didn't even notice that Trowa wasn't saying anything except to respond to Peter's chatter. And he wasn't smiling any more.

In fact, if Quatre had looked... he would have seen the face of the wartime Trowa. No smiles, no winks, no... nothing.


Rubbing his temples in a futile effort to banish the ache, Quatre heard Trowa's voice. Factual, and though neither husband nor son realised it, far too calm. "Go to sleep if you're tired. I'll look after Peter."

Relieved to leave the task of bathing a candy-sticky and overexcited son and then sending him to sleep to Trowa, Quatre stumbled off to their bedroom, leaving the bedside lamp on low for Trowa to see by. Despite the dim light, he fell asleep in moments after taking some headache pills and lying down. His last feeling was of mixed annoyance at Trowa for tonight's antics, and relief that despite it all, he was still a reliable parent who would make sure Peter was clean, dried and asleep. [I guess that's the most important thing... I've got to stop overreacting... start relaxing or soon I'll be having seizures every time Peter drops ice cream or whatever on the carpet...]

The next thing Quatre knew, the alarm was shrilling in his ear. Jerking bolt upright in bed, he turned around and slammed his hand down on the overly loud clock, flinching from the dim light of the lamp. [I swear I only just went to sleep! No way can it be seven o'clock already...] He checked the clock, frowning at the offending hands that proved him wrong. [Oh well.] Yawning, he was surprised at how much better he felt. A good night's sleep did wonders for one's perspective, and he started to feel very foolish for overreacting last night and listening to the Demon Of Bad Temper And Sulking.

Sighing, he stretched a little, then frowned at the lamp. "Trowa, why didn't you turn off the..." his voice trailed off in puzzlement as he turned to find the other side of the bed empty and unslept in. Quatre sighed. "Again? We're going to have to wean him off the bedtime stories." Slipping out of bed and pulling on a robe and his slippers, he prepared to make his way quietly down the hall to his son's room. This had happened before - Peter would beg for story after story, and an exhausted Trowa would comply until he finally fell asleep in the chair next to Peter's bed, head resting on Peter's pillow while Peter snuggled up fast asleep and held Trowa's bang firmly in one hand. The blond man could help but smile at the memories of the mornings he'd peeked in to see that picture. Of course, he'd done it himself enough times, but...

Suddenly a thought struck Quatre, and he dug in the closet for a minute before pulling out the camera. [I can't believe I never thought of this before,] he grinned. [This will make a beautiful picture.] Sneaking down the hall as quietly as he could, he gently pushed the door open, wanting to catch them both asleep. Then he paused. [What?]

Blinking, he surveyed the scene. A book on the floor at the foot of the chair, dropped from a tired hand - check. A mountain of stuffed animals on the bed - check. Peter's tousled head poking out from under the colourful covers, one hand clutching the pillow - check. The camel, dromedary, whatever the heck it was supposed to be, even though it didn't look like either to Quatre - check.

Trowa in the chair... One sleeping husband - missing.

Quatre frowned. Had Trowa awoken already? But then why hadn't he come back to bed? Unless... well, if it had been close to seven when he woke, he probably wouldn't have bothered. [He's probably downstairs having some coffee before he takes a shower.]

Sighing slightly with disappointment, Quatre returned the camera to his room and quickly showered and dressed, heading downstairs. He blinked at the sight of a pillow and a blanket on the sofa. [Huh?]

"Good morning, Quatre-sama." Rashid said, coming into the room. "Your breakfast is ready in the dining room, if you wish."

Quatre shook his head. "I'd rather not start eating before Trowa. I was pretty grumpy with him yesterday evening, and I think I owe him an apology for being so cranky when he was only trying to have fun. Do you know where he is, Rashid?"

Rashid gave him a rather odd look. "Trowa-sama has already eaten, Quatre-sama. He was sleeping here when I came in here at five this morning." He glanced towards the couch. "He used the downstairs shower and fetched fresh clothes from the laundry, then left at about six-fifteen, saying something about taking a morning walk." After a pause, Rashid asked, "Forgive me, but are you having a fight, Quatre-sama?"

Bewildered, Quatre blinked. "No... I don't think so. I was irritated at him last night, but I didn't say anything to him about it."

"Hm." Rashid looked thoughtful.

Quatre stared at him. "What?"

"Forgive me for my rudeness, Quatre-sama, but you mentioned something about owing Trowa-sama an apology. If he has chosen to sleep down here voluntarily, and to leave the blanket and pillow behind so that you would know it, then perhaps he feels that you owe him one as well?"

Quatre winced. [Ouch.] Probably Trowa *was* a bit mad about being left to face that mob of jerks alone - and now that he thought back on it he felt like kicking himself. [It wasn't like Trowa had hurt anyone or anything, so why in heaven's name did I get so mad? I had a bad day, but that's no excuse for leaving him AND Peter to face a crowd like that.]

At that moment, Trowa walked back in the door, freezing for a moment when he saw Quatre, then calmly proceeding into the room as if nothing was wrong and no one was there. He stopped in the middle of the room, tilted his head towards the ceiling at the slight shuffling noises coming from upstairs indicating that Peter was awake and would soon be downstairs, then nodded and continued to walk. Rashid tactfully made as discreet and exit as he could, and Quatre turned to face Trowa, ready to make up his crankiness. "Tr-"

Only to speak to a receding back as Trowa headed into the kitchen. Quatre blinked, then quickly followed him. "Trowa?"

In the kitchen, there was an uncomfortable silence as Trowa was busily moving around organising one cup of coffee, one cup of tea and one cup of hot chocolate. Glancing back, he remarked, "Your breakfast is getting cold. You shouldn't leave it any longer."

"What about you?"

"I've eaten."

Unnerved by this, well, this younger, colder Trowa, Quatre waited for a few moments before trying again. "Trowa, I'm sorry about last night." A pause in Trowa's efficient movements told him he was right. "I was in a bad mood and cranky at you, but I still shouldn't have left you to deal with the crowd alone, especially with Peter there."

Trowa's back had stiffened again. "I made sure he didn't hear what they said. No need for you to worry about it. It won't happen again." Placing Peter's chocolate on the table just as the boy entered the kitchen, he left silently. Quatre started after him, then gave up for the moment and sat down, bewildered. Normally, whenever he'd apologised for something, Trowa would hug him and say it was okay, or wink at him, or something. Even back during the times when Trowa acted, well, like he did now, he'd at least say, "Apology accepted."

So his apology wasn't accepted. But it wasn't like Trowa to hold such a grudge over such a small thing... especially not to the point sleeping on the sofa and making sure Quatre knew it.

"Daddy? What's wrong with Papa?" Peter asked, catching the bad atmosphere, though not knowing why it was there. Quatre had to shake his head - he was no better off than his son was.

[What's going on?]


"Hey Wufei, Sally! Great you could come!" The doctor grinned at the braided American's greeting as she hauled herself out of the car, making her rounded stomach visible to all.

"What - again? You go, Wu-man! How many does this make? Five, including the twins? Sally, you ever considered having him spayed?"

"MAX-WELLLLLLL! Don't give her IDEAS!"

Sally sniggered. "Oh come on, Wufei, don't overreact! I haven't hinted at a vasectomy for at least a week!"

Heero sighed a long-suffering sigh as he picked a now hysterical Duo off the ground and desperately tried to conceal his own amusement.

Quatre was ever the genial host as he beamed at his guests, tried not to laugh at Wufei - too much -, ushered them inside, offered them tea... but Trowa was still being the old Trowa and barely nodded in acknowledgment of them being there.

Hurricane Ex-Gundam-Pilots'-Kids was well underway in the garden as the adults, minus one, settled down inside. Trowa had quietly volunteered to supervise the children and slipped outside before anyone, even Duo, could protest. Raising an eyebrow, Duo turned to Quatre and asked, "What's with Trowa? I wanted to show everyone how much he's learned from me, and he's back to being an ice statue!" Despite the joking words, there was concern in the eyes and voice of the American.

Sally raised her eyebrows. "Seems like he's learned the famous childish art of sulking. Not bad teaching Duo."

Heero gave an amused "Hn," as Wufei smirked and Duo sputtered indignantly. "I did not teach him that! And I'm serious. What's wrong with Trowa?"

["What's wrong with Papa?"]

Quatre shrugged helplessly. "He was fine until last night, when we went to the carnival. Then this morning he was like this. I thought I'd figured out what I'd done wrong, but I obviously haven't yet because my apology was accepted rather... well, you can see how he took it."

Glances went around the circle of friends, and Quatre felt embarrassed again. "Please, don't feel bad. I'll figure out what I've done eventually, I'm sure."

A knock on the door startled them all, and Peter poked his head inside. "Daddy?"

Instantly alerted by old-fashioned parental instinct, all the adults asked in perfect harmony, "What's wrong?"

"Where's Papa?" added Quatre, worrying if perhaps he'd been injured trying too hard to play with the children.

"I told him I had to go to the bathroom, so he sent me inside while he looked after the others. But he's just watching. He won't play with us. Why won't he play, Daddy? Did we do something wrong? I told Xian about Upside-Down Tag, so Xian asked him to play, but he looked like it was a very bad thing to do, and said no, he wasn't going to play, but we could."

Quatre looked helplessly at his son, then at the others, who look grim and concerned. What could be said?


The morning continued in this fashion. Several times, one of them would try to talk to Trowa, sometimes Quatre, sometimes someone else. The response was invariably the same, and everyone was getting more worried and exasperated by the minute. Finally Wufei took him by the elbow and hissed crossly, "Trowa, what the hell made you so mad at Quatre that you'd act like this?"

"I'm not mad at him."

"Oh really? Well, in that case, if you're trying to embarrass him, hurt his feelings, worry your guests or upset your son, then you're doing a damned fine job of all of the above! What has gotten into you? I-"

"Quatre's embarrassed?"

"Yes!" [Am I actually getting through?]

"Why? I'm just watching the children. Someone has to watch them. They'll be coming in to eat and rest soon, then I'll join you."

Wufei was a little bit wary of this sudden change. "You'll join the rest of us like a civilised person?" Was that a flinch? Okay, he probably could have chosen his last words a little more carefully than that.

"Of course. I certainly wouldn't want to embarrass Quatre again."

Wufei winced a little. [Ouch. No matter what he says, he IS mad. Or very hurt. Or both.] "Very well." Not really knowing what else to say, he helped round up the children for lunch - "Yay!" - and a nap - "NO!" - and firmly hustled them inside.

The meal was quiet and strained, and the kids were visibly fidgeting as they looked around, trying to figure out what was going on. None of the usual threatened food fights or arguments, all eyes seemed locked on the one person who ignored it and continued to eat neatly, unhurriedly, as if it were his mission to finish his plateful and that was the only reason he was even bothering.

At the end of the meal, Trowa stood and silently took the empty plates, stacking them and taking them into the kitchen. Duo took the opportunity of his absence to hiss, "Any ideas, guys?"

Wufei looked uncertain whether or not to say something, then muttered, "When we talked just before we came inside with the children, he reacted a little sharply when I said he was embarrassing Quatre by acting this way. He said something... something along the lines of not wanting to do it more, or something similar."

"Ha! Okay, Quatre, does that help? Figured out what's wrong with him yet?"

"Why are you asking him that, Duo?" Everyone froze as Trowa came back into the room with a tray loaded with a cake and some plates. "Stop embarrassing him, he doesn't like it." Putting the tray on the table, Trowa began calmly cutting slices with a rather sharp looking knife and placing them on plates.

"Uhh..." [Oh crap. Now what do I say?] Duo tried again, but unfortunately he took another look at the knife and the only sound that came out was "Umm..."

"My hearing is better than you'd think - I hear a lot of things that people think I won't hear. Don't worry, you're not the first. In any case, if you want to ask a question about me, you shouldn't be bothering Quatre. Shouldn't you be asking someone who knows me?" And with that, Trowa stalked out of the room, headed for the gardens.

There was dead silence as everyone looked at one another, then as one turned to Quatre, who was rapidly turning an interesting progression of colours as he tried to force his numbed brain to get over the shock and get back to work.

[Okay. I *know* this was about last night... embarrassed? Me? Well, yes I was, but... wait a minute - hearing things - me embarrassed - knowing him -]

And then Peter heard his Daddy say a word he'd never heard *anybody* use, except for vidscreen actors, in his entire life. "Oh, SHIT!"

Blinking, everyone stared at Quatre, who was out of his seat and halfway to the door when he remembered that he wasn't alone in the room. Turning back, he said "Um, I -"

"Just go, Quatre. We'll see ourselves out," Heero said quietly as the adults started ushering their respective children together and getting ready for departure. "We'll be in contact."

"Thank you," Quatre said gratefully before taking off at full speed toward the garden, Peter hot on his heels. Looking around wildly, Quatre could see no sign of his husband. Calling out, "Trowa!" he dashed off towards one of Trowa's favourite shady haunts, with Peter two steps behind him, calling, "Daddy, slow down! Papa! Where are you, Papa? Come back!"

And Peter stubbornly stuck to Quatre's side, as if terrified to let his other father out of his sight for even a moment. So they searched the gardens together for almost an hour, as their guests silently filed out and left in the distance. Finally resting against a tree, breathing heavily from useless calling without an answer, Quatre held his sniffling son. Closing his eyes, he thudded his head against the trunk quietly, trying to dispel the memories...

["Quatre, I warned you of the consequences if you fought in the war..."]

["But Father..."]

["No buts, Quatre! From now on, you are not a member of this family, do you hear? As far as I am concerned, you do not exist!"]

["Who does he think he is? Don't you know him?"]


Quatre shuddered. [He heard me. I did to Trowa what my father did to me.]

[But I didn't mean it! I just wanted her to shut up!]

[Does *he* know that?]

Quatre began thudding his head harder in despair.

"You'll hurt yourself if you do that."

Eyes snapping open, Quatre looked up sharply to see Trowa lounging with practiced ease on a high branch, head turned away from them, voice calm.


"I'm sorry for ruining the reunion." And indeed, Trowa's voice held a note of genuine regret, that Quatre was able to discern with the long practice of dealing with this old, distant personality of Trowa's. "I'm sorry for embarrassing you again. It honestly wasn't my intention."

"Emba- Trowa, I'm not worried about that! I'm the one who's sorry! Please, come down! We need to talk!"

"I'd rather not."

"Please, Papa!" Peter looked as his tall father with his most pleading gaze, but to no avail. Childish lips scrunched into a determined pout. "Papa, if you don't come down to us, I'll climb up to you, then!"

Trowa looked alarmed. "No, Peter. Stay on the ground. Quatre, don't let him climb the tree!"

"I will so too climb the tree!" And Peter started to struggle his way up the trunk, only to find himself caught in Quatre's arms. "Let me go, Daddy! Or Papa might run away again!"

A soft thud next to them was the only evidence that Trowa had moved, and they saw him standing there suddenly as if he'd never been several meters up in the tree in the first place. An emerald eye looked at them somewhat tiredly as Trowa said "I'm not going to run away, Peter. Daddy stopped you from climbing the tree because he knew that."

[Actually, he didn't know that at all,] Quatre thought briefly, as Peter ran to Trowa and defiantly threw his arms around his Papa's legs. "You stay here," he commanded, imitating his elders in his chastisement. "Why didn't you answer us? I was scared you'd gone away!" Trowa flinched a little and knelt down to give Peter a hug.

"No, Peter. I was never going to go anywhere." Hesitating, Trowa said, "I think perhaps we should all go inside now."

Quatre nodded. "That's a good idea," he said, a little shakily.

The short walk back to the house was relatively quiet, Trowa and Quatre murmuring meaningless sentences to each other now and then. "Are you okay?" [Of course he's fine, he's jumped from heights that would put that tree to shame without a problem!]

"Yes. I hope you're not too tired." [No, of course not, they both just spent the afternoon running around looking for me, why would they be tired? Idiot!]

"I want some ice cream." [I want Papa to laugh and steal Daddy's cone and watch them chase and smile and make up and make everything all right...]

"Maybe. We'll see." [Why can't I just say no? If I didn't give in to him every single time, this whole mess wouldn't have happened.]

Once inside, Quatre placed a protesting Peter firmly in the hands of Rashid and asked him to please feed Peter some of the cake or whatever he wanted, as long as they had some privacy. "Daddy and Papa just need to have a little talk alone, all right Peter? Be a good boy, now. I promise I'll make sure he stays here." Quatre solemnly assured his son.

After looking to Papa for a confirming nod, Peter reluctantly departed to the kitchen, and Trowa and Quatre faced each other. After an unbearably tense silent second, they spoke in unison. "I'm sorry."

Trowa held up his hand to cut off whatever Quatre was going to say. "No, please listen to me Quatre. I knew you were tired last night, but I still talked you into going to the carnival for the simple, selfish reason that I wanted to go. I'm sorry."

"Don't say that! It wasn't selfish to want to go!" Quatre protested.

"The wanting may not have been selfish, but insisting on it when you were really too tired was, and I'm sorry. I made us stay much longer than we should have, and I'm sorry. I allowed myself to act irresponsibly all night and left you to care for Peter for far too long, and I'm sorry. I couldn't face Peter's tears on the merry-go-round; so I let all three of us become a laughing stock rather than just take him off the ride like I should have. I embarrassed myself, I made Peter look half his age, and I humiliated you all because I couldn't say no. I'm so sorry."

"No, Trowa," Quatre cut in, finally managing to get a word in edgewise. "My bad mood wasn't your fault, I knew it was happening but I didn't care and I deliberately let myself get into a funk. I had no right to abandon you to a crowd like that and as for saying what I said... Allah, Trowa, I'm sorry. I swear to you I didn't mean it." Quatre saw the flinch at the mention of his comment, and the sudden raising of the head at his last words, a bit of hope flashing in that green gaze. "It was just that my temper was all gone and that lady was making things worse with questions. I thought if I said no she'd leave me alone and shut up, that was all. I never meant for you to hear it, and I never meant it at all. I... I really can't apologise enough, Trowa. I know how it felt when my father said that to me, and at least he said it to my face! You must have thought I'd been disowning you behind your back for ages, but I've never, I didn't, I..." Quatre trailed off, words tangled and face flushed.

A long pause settled on the room. "You swear you didn't mean it?" Trowa asked finally.

Quatre shook his head. "I swear it, Trowa. On my life I swear it. If I could go and take it back, I would a thousand times over." Hesitantly he reached over and hugged Trowa, first tentatively, then tightly, gasping softly in pure relief. It would be okay, it would be okay, it would -

Trowa gently but firmly pushed him away. "Don't," he whispered in a pleading, choking voice. "Please don't touch me. I don't want it." Stepping away, almost stumbling, he headed out of the room, leaving Quatre wide-eyed in shock, bereft.


"I'm sorry, Quatre." And Trowa's face easily reflected his inner turmoil. Part of him badly wanted to just throw himself back into Quatre's arms and forget the last twenty-four hours altogether - why couldn't he just do it? [Why?] But the other half was firmly tugging him away, reminding him. [You didn't feel happy in his arms, you didn't feel safe. You felt sick. Stay out.] Turning, he bolted out of the room and up the stairs as quickly as he could, a door slamming distantly.

Quatre stumbled over to the couch before his legs gave out from under him and he collapsed down into the seat, one shaking hand going over his mouth. [What happened? I thought... I thought...]


Rashid was a very big, very tall, very strong man. If he wished, he could have picked up Quatre-sama in one hand, Trowa-sama in the other hand, and knocked both their heads together so hard that their brains merged and they finally managed to understand each other and resolve their current... issue. While that idea was beginning to hold enormous appeal to the poor Maguanac, who was getting more frustrated with each passing day, he knew it would not actually help matters.

The family that had been so happy a few short days ago was, to put it shortly, a mess. Trowa-sama was still sleeping on the sofa, and usually sought out solitude, where he sat in morose silence. Quatre-sama, meanwhile, did his best to find Trowa-sama every day. Each confrontation turned out exactly the same - each would apologise profusely for whatever had occurred at that cursed carnival, Quatre-sama would open his arms, and Trowa-sama would either silently shake his head and refuse the embrace, or enter it only to tear himself out of it moments later as if his immortal soul depended on it. Once, Rashid had watched Trowa-sama enter the main bedroom, determined to try and stay there, sleep there - only to come tearing out at full speed a few minutes later, back to the couch, leaving the soft sounds of wretched sobbing behind. Rashid had winced to hear the anguished whisper from the bedroom, "Why? Allah, I can't say sorry any more than I already have!" Several phone calls to Duo, which Rashid had had to forcibly restrain himself from eavesdropping on, produced absolutely no results whatsoever. Flowers and gifts were politely accepted and placed in water or put in a safe place, then were ignored. Rashid got the distinct feeling that Duo was ready to pull his own braid out as idea after idea of his met with invariable failure.

And Peter was doing his level best never to let either of his fathers out of his sight - a difficult task when they were on opposite sides of the house, and more often than not the poor child was in tears.

All in all, Rashid was beginning to really hate carnivals just on principle.

One morning, after the normal apology/self-blaming frenzy and failed hug attempt, Rashid entered the room that Quatre-sama had exited moments before, head bowed low and shoulders slumped. This had gone on long enough.

Sitting across from the silent form of Trowa-sama, he folded his hands and waited patiently. Trowa-sama was good at silent waiting, but so was he. And he had all day if need be. He highly suspected that Quatre-sama, curious as to why he had gone in the room, was outside the door, but that was all the better.

Finally, Trowa gave in with a sigh. "Rashid, please go away."

"I'm afraid I can't, Trowa-sama."

"Why not?" A flicker of annoyance passed over the younger man's features.

"Because, Trowa-sama, the situation is obviously not being resolved. And it must. You know yourself that this state of affairs cannot continue. It is bad for your marriage and it is taking a terrible toll on your son. Are you aware that he cries himself to sleep at night, saying something about a ride and that he never meant to be bad and make trouble?"

Trowa's eyes widened. "But it wasn't his fault! Rashid, you told him that, didn't you?" Unbeknownst to the green-eyed man, another pair of eyes had also widened outside the door.

"Yes, but he responded by asking me how I was to know, since I was not there. I was forced to concede that he was correct, even though he was rather less than polite in his tone." Trowa sighed and bowed his head.

"Trowa-sama, forgive me for asking, but what exactly happened? I deeply wish to help, if only for Peter's sake. You and Quatre-sama are adults and although I wish to help you as well, you are the ones capable of either resolving or exacerbating the situation. Peter is the one at the mercy of the decisions you make, and the one most in need of my aid."

Trowa sighed again, before taking a deep breath and beginning his story. In an even voice, he told Rashid everything that had occurred the night of the carnival, up until and including the disastrous merry-go-round ride, leaving nothing out and admitting his fault, placing the blame squarely where it was due. Rashid listened intently, nodding.

"...And I was even foolish enough to somersault off the ride with Peter still on my back. I was too overexcited to care about anything but Peter and his enjoyment - and my own - but Quatre was absolutely humiliated. I knew that, I could see his face every rotation, but I just couldn't bear the thought of spoiling Peter's fun, not when we were going home in five minutes anyway. I was waiting for Quatre to shout at me, scold me, treat me like the child I had been acting like, but he didn't. What he did was something... else." At Rashid's encouraging nod, Trowa continued, his voice shaking slightly. "A lady next to him poked him and asked him who the hell I thought I was. I waited for him to say something about how mad he was, but he just said, "Why ask me?" And then when she asked him if I hadn't been with him before and didn't he know me, he said... n-no."

Rashid was silent, encouraging Trowa to talk. "And right then... I got so mad. I was angrier than he was. He is the man I love more than anyone or anything, but for one second, just one second - I think I truly could have killed him then and there for saying that. It was like, well..." After a moment's pause, he asked, "Rashid, did you ever wonder why my name is Trowa Barton if my sister's name is Catherine Bloom?"

"I had wondered. I assumed that it was none of my business, and that perhaps she was a stepsister, or half-sister, or sister by bond of affection and not by blood."

"No. She is my full sister. I didn't know this for most of my life, but apparently my real name is Triton Bloom. Our parents were killed when I was very young, and Catherine and I were separated. She was found by the circus, whereas I worked first for a mercenary group, then on constructing Gundam Heavyarms. In the construction, our boss was the future pilot of Heavyarms; a man called Trowa Barton. He was killed during an argument on how the Gundam was to be used. I offered to take the dead man's place and name. I know that sounds dishonourable, but I was desperate for his name, for any name. I stole his name... because I needed one. In all that time before, my only name had been Nanashi."

"I see." Two simple words, but the tone said it all. Rashid did see.

Trowa nodded. "But then Quatre came, and soon he was calling me Trowa in a way that didn't make me feel like a filthy thief who'd stooped so low as to steal another man's name. I'd never liked doing that, but it was better than "No-name". But Quatre made me feel like my name *was* Trowa, like it was a legitimate name of my own. And then he started calling me Trowa in a way that made me feel like I was *his* Trowa." So caught up in trying to explain what he didn't truly understand himself, Trowa missed the tiny choking sound at the door.

"And when Quatre said - what he said, it was like Trowa Barton and the last few years of my life all disappeared. Nanashi came back, and Nanashi was angry at having to live again. So he ruined the reunion we'd all been looking forward to out of spite, and it took almost two hours for me to send Nanashi away and get myself back. Until then, the anger had stopped me realising it, but once I came back, I realised that it was my fault Quatre had said that, my behaviour that earned it, and I tried to apologise for driving him to it, but it's not working! I know it's not his fault, I know he's sorry, I know he's upset, I'm upset too, but I can't let him touch me! I don't know why! I just can't bear it! It... it frightens me when he holds me now, I almost throw up. My head knows it's silly, but my heart can't accept his touch! And I don't know why!"

Rashid shrugged. "Is it not obvious, Trowa-sama? You are angry with him."

That stunned Trowa into silence for a few seconds. "What? No, I told you, I'm not angry any more, I know whose fault it was, I'm just scared for some god-only-knows reason!"

"You are angry, Trowa-sama."

"No! I told you, *Nanashi* was angry with him! I'm not Nanashi!" Almost desperate tone of voice, noted Rashid with pity. Could he truly not see?

"But you were, Trowa-sama. As you said yourself, for a few moments, you were Nanashi again. When you stole the name, you still felt like Nanashi inside, did you not? But when Quatre-sama loved you, you stopped thinking of yourself as Nanashi and *became* Trowa because of him. You placed your whole self-identity in his hands without realising it. And you were safe until a few nights ago. When he denied you, he took it all away, and made you Nanashi again. And you are angry with him."

"YES!" screamed Trowa suddenly, a tear trickling slowly down his cheek. "Yes, dammit! How could he do that to me? I already knew I'd angered him, I knew I deserved to be yelled at - I was *ready* to be yelled at, made to publicly apologise - I even would have preferred being hit to THAT! He didn't even want to know me! I was alone again, and he took everything away when he did that! It wouldn't have mattered to me what he ever did in public, I'd never say I didn't know him! I trusted him... trusted..." At this point Trowa stopped, gasping for air, eyes suspiciously wet. "I'm so angry, Rashid," he whispered. "I didn't realise it, but I'm so angry I might hurt him... and I'm terrified of that. He's not safe in my arms any more. And I don't feel safe in his."

Heart full of pity, Rashid reached out and touched the younger man's shoulder. "So, you are angry, because you feel betrayed. That is not a mortal sin, Trowa-sama. Many an unintentional word has wounded a man deeply, no matter how many times he reminds himself it was not meant. As you said, the heart does not always listen to the truth of the head."

"Now what?" A childlike voice, begging for guidance. [I've been irritated at Quatre before, but I've never been *angry*... not like this... I'm not safe...]

"Go outside. Now that you have realised your anger, you need to work it off, or as much of it as is possible. Go and talk to your friends, or be alone, whichever you prefer, but do not hold your anger in. If you do, you will slip back into old habits too easily and you will once again become the distant creature I first met, and that would be a great loss to this family. Go now, and trust the words of an old man." Rashid knew perfectly well he wasn't old, but he wasn't surprised when Trowa didn't argue, just took off at high speed out the front door, slamming it violently in his wake and causing a valuable vase to topple and smash. Rashid reflected that it was the first material thing to be broken in the house for almost a week. [Perhaps it was not a result of fun, careless play, but it is a good start nonetheless.]

Stepping quietly through the door he had originally entered, he was not at all surprised to see a blond head at the side of the door, buried in a small pair of hands as Quatre sat on the floor, back leaning against the door, legs curled up to his chest. Gently, he reached down and lifted his tiny master to his feet. "Quatre-sama, he needs time alone. I think perhaps you need time not so alone." Quatre only nodded, looking grief stricken, eyes wet with tears that refused the relief of being shed.

"Didn't mean to, didn't mean to, never say it again, just come back..." Suddenly Quatre pulled out of the bigger man's grip as they walked past the bathroom and dashed in, being violently ill. Silently, feeling almost ready to cry himself, Rashid wiped Quatre's forehead and stroked his hair, bringing him a glass of water to rinse his mouth out. Once Quatre had finished, he stood, shakily apologising to Rashid, who brushed it aside and hustled Quatre firmly towards the kitchen. [Too much apologising in this house recently, and it's done nothing but increase the problem.] Gently urging Quatre to sit, he encouraged him to talk as he went about making some tea.

[The more one loves someone, the more power that someone has to torture you. I'd almost forgotten that. How much these two love one another...]

After a long talk, Rashid tactfully left Quatre on his own for a while to sort out his emotions. Besides, there was one more person to talk to.

He was not at all surprised to find that Peter was in his room. He *was* rather surprised, not to mention alarmed, to see Peter brandishing a kitchen knife and yelling at some stuffed animal that looked somewhat like a camel. "Bad! Bad! I hate you! If we hadn't gone there, Papa wouldn't have tried to run away! It's all your fault!"

[Well,] Rashid thought as he dashed forward to snatch the knife before Peter could cut himself with it, [at least he's stopped blaming himself...]

Peter squawked in surprise as the knife suddenly disappeared from his hand as he was stabbing ineffectually at the toy, and he looked up... and up... and up... to see Rashid towering over him, HIS knife in hand. "Give that back!" he cried, trying to jump up and grab the blade. Rashid didn't even have to lift it to keep it out of his reach, but all the same he placed it on a high shelf.

"No, you may not play with knives. Your fathers have told you that many times. Now sit down and explain why you are attempting to mutilate a stuffed camel."

"It's a DROMEDARY! And if we hadn't gone to the carnival, Papa would still be happy and so would Daddy and everything would be normal!" With that, Peter gave the unfortunate plushie a vicious kick that sent it flying across the room and thudding softly into the wall.

"I see. Well, I remember what you said about me not knowing about what happened at the carnival, so I decided to ask your father. I found out," Rashid stated, deliberately leaving out which father he had asked. Though he suspected that it wouldn't have mattered anyway.

Peter looked distraught. "You weren't there! It wasn't your business! You don't know!" he shouted defiantly.

"I have been told. Please calm down."

But Peter plopped down on the floor in a miserable heap and started to bawl his eyes out instead. "I only wanted to ride the merry-go-round! I didn't want to make Papa and Daddy fight! I was just scared to get back on the horse again! It's all my fault, cause I didn't just get back on the horse!"

Rashid sighed. [I suppose it was too much to hope for that he'd stopped blaming himself.] "Peter, listen to me. Both your Papa and your Daddy have told me what they feel happened, and they both agree that it was not your fault. Your Papa could have gotten you off the ride, but he chose not to. Your Daddy could have stopped himself from getting angry, but he chose not to. That's what happens when adults argue, Peter. They could have each made the wrong choice about something else - it just happened to be that they chose the wrong things about that ride. It was not you."

Hugging the sniffling boy who had dived into his arms, Rashid lifted one hand to rub his forehead. [I am going to need a nice soothing massage. Or something.] It seemed to take forever, but eventually the inevitable happened and Peter cried himself to sleep. Tucking the boy into his bed, Rashid smoothed the ruffled hair and fetched a toy for him to hold. Not the dromedary, though. Privately, Rashid still thought it looked more like a camel.


It was late that evening when Trowa stepped back in the door, red-eyed and sore all over, scrapes and bruises covering his hands. But he couldn't deny that he felt better.

That was when he heard it. The soft strains of a violin coming from the living room.

Hesitating, he finally stepped through the doorway to watch his husband. For a moment, the blond was oblivious to his presence, eyes closed, drawing the bow across the strings in a song Trowa knew better than any other.

Their song.

The melody stopped abruptly as Quatre opened his eyes to see Trowa standing there, silently. A slight gasp escaped him and he almost dropped the bow. The two stared at each other for a moment, gazes locked, before Trowa went to the mantelpiece and picked up his flute case, asking a silent question. Quatre nodded, unable to repress a small smile of joyful relief.

The two instruments began, flute joining violin to complete the tune that before had been hollow, half of what it should have been. For a long time they continued to play, repeating it over and over, both too afraid to stop the music and communicate with words, content for the moment to let the notes speak for them.

Finally, Trowa lowered his flute with a sigh, and Quatre likewise ended the note. Both stared at each other again, wordlessly, until Trowa closed his eyes for a moment and swallowed, before taking a step closer and hesitatingly taking Quatre's hand in his. Quatre's other hand came up to clasp it, hold Trowa's hand between his own.

"Quatre," Trowa whispered. "This may not be safe... I don't know how to explain, but I'm angry, I..."

Quatre nodded. "I know. I... I stopped and rested against the wall when I went out this morning. I hadn't meant to stay and eavesdrop... but then..."

"So you heard." Quatre nodded, apprehensively. Trowa sighed. "It's just as well, I think. I'm not sure I could have said it all again without losing my temper. At least now you already know."

Slowly, Quatre slipped one arm around Trowa's waist, never removing his eyes from Trowa's, always making sure that it was okay. Suddenly, Trowa pulled him close, diving into the embrace as if it were a lifeline.

"You ARE my Trowa. Always my Trowa. No matter what," Quatre whispered fiercely squeezing Trowa as tightly as he could.

Trowa squeezed back, voice hoarse. "If you ever say you don't know me again..."

"Never," Quatre vowed, stroking his husband's soft hair. "Never, love. I promise."

"And I promise I won't act like that ever again, either. Not in public, anyway. I'll be a better parent and learn to say no once in a while."

Quatre kissed his cheek. "I don't care any more."

"I do. Now I do." But Trowa smiled a little as he gently detached from the close hug, softening his words.

Hesitating for a brief moment, Quatre asked softly, "Where are you going to sleep tonight?"

Trowa thought about it for a moment, then said quietly, "In bed, I think. At least, I'll try. It's worth trying again."

To try was enough. "And if you can't stand it tonight?"

"Then I'll try again the night after. And the night after that. I'm still angry, Quatre, and more than that I'm still hurt... but above all I'm willing to try. As many times as it takes."

"It's worth it," Quatre agreed, biting his lip in joy. "You're worth it. Peter's worth it. WE'RE worth it."