Quatre was lucky he had his own office; otherwise he would have been continually looking over his shoulder in some embarrassment when the very first thing he did on Monday was to email Heero about the doll. He couldn’t imagine how Heero — whose ‘private cubicle’ on the sales floor lived up to its name only by having walls six inches higher than the other cubicles on the sales floor — was going to get through the morning.
Instead of answering Quatre’s question about whether he’d learned anything useful from the people on the message board, Heero responded simply with a link to the thread. The promptness of his reply made Quatre laugh; that Heero had the URL ready without having to go looking for the place meant he’d come to work fully intending to check on the answers to his question during his shift.
A situation such as this, Quatre thought, was a perfectly viable excuse for browsing an online forum to the exclusion of all other work before he really got going on a slow Monday morning. Besides, it wasn’t as if he was paid by the hour… or his father didn’t own the company or anything. And this artifact stuff seemed so interesting.
He was having a rather difficult time grasping exactly what artifacts were in this context, and hadn’t bothered to look it up, but the general idea he got made it clear that they were essential to the spells these people supposedly cast on a daily basis — and probably the cause of Duo’s problem, assuming Duo wasn’t lying. Unfortunately, though so far there was a good deal of back-and-forth in the lengthening forum thread as to whether or not the cursed doll predicament was possible, there were no concrete suggestions as to how to deal with it if it was.
Between his legitimate items of business, Quatre spent the day emailing Heero. The latter seemed reluctant to request the further information the magic people wanted from Duo, and therefore needed to be prodded — and beyond that, the topic was so interesting that they just couldn’t stop discussing it even when there was really very little to be said. They were both keeping a constant eye on the forum, too, and had to confer on every new post added to the thread; but by the end of the day they hadn’t made any significant progress.
That Heero was exceptionally emotionally invested in this was the only aspect of the situation that seemed certain to Quatre. Whether or not magic existed, whether or not the people on the message board really practiced it, whether or not Duo was what he said he was, Heero was taking more than just entertainment from all of this. Why this might be, Quatre wasn’t sure (though he planned on finding out), but it was undoubtedly the reason for the restless irritation Heero evinced as he sat in Quatre’s office after his own shift was over, waiting for his friend.
“Let’s go get dinner,” Quatre said at last, stretching so that his chair creaked.
Heero nodded and rose wordlessly.
“And then go interrogate that doll,” added Quatre pointedly.
Heero frowned, but didn’t protest. Neither did he object to the suggestion that he drive, nor even ask why, which was the last proof Quatre needed of his level of distraction. Quatre always drove when they took one car somewhere, simply because he made more money than Heero did (well, and also because Heero’s car was something of an ancient wreck).
“All right,” Quatre demanded as soon as they were underway, “time to come clean. I know this is all very interesting, but I think you’re getting more into it than really makes sense.”
As Heero was driving, he couldn’t turn and give Quatre a look of some kind — at least not for longer than a few seconds — and therefore had to answer verbally, which was part of the reason Quatre had suggested this arrangement. But, “I am not,” was all he said.
“Yes, you are,” Quatre insisted. “You’re totally wrapped up in this, more than I think I’ve ever seen you in anything. Did you get any work done today?”
“Of course I did.” Heero sounded just the tiniest bit guilty, though.
“Of course you did,” Quatre echoed in a soothing tone. “Whenever you weren’t busy obsessing over that magical message board.”
“I’m not ‘obsessing,'” Heero protested. “You said it yourself: he’s just really interesting. I want to find out what’s true and what isn’t.”
“So you’re starting to believe in magic!” Quatre concluded, amused.
“No. We don’t have enough information yet to make a positive statement.”
Quatre laughed. “The fact that you admit there even is information that might allow us to believe at some point shows just how into this you are.”
“I’m surprised you’re not,” Heero replied, changing tactics with unusual warmth (which, Quatre thought, just helped to prove his point). “A talking doll who might actually be human? Magic might actually exist?”
With a shrug Quatre said, “I’ve already admitted it’s interesting. I just think you’re a lot more interested than I am.”
Heero snorted. “All the different interesting aspects of this situation, and none of them are enough to get you really interested.”
“I think my attitude is more logical than yours,” insisted Quatre. He would have continued, but just at that moment the precise wording of Heero’s earlier statement belatedly struck him: “He‘s just really interesting.” But that couldn’t possibly…
Heero had pulled them into the parking lot of the restaurant they typically preferred after work, and Quatre was still contemplating the odd idea that had occurred to him as they got out of the car. He had only a few more moments to think about it, however.
They didn’t pay any attention whatsoever to the man by the door, just as they would have ignored any other restaurant patron they didn’t know. Quatre, in fact, didn’t so much as glance at him as they moved past — that is, until the man reached out a hand and touched Quatre’s arm lightly. “Excuse me,” he said softly. “Are you two the ones with the talking doll?”
A mysterious stranger?? Who could it be??