Heero reached for the lock on his front door, then let his hand fall. Staring down for a moment at the key he held, he found he couldn’t bring himself to open the door just yet. After all, how did you prepare someone for the fact that a friend they’d thought long dead, a friend that had turned them into a doll, was actually alive and guilt-ridden and maybe a trifle weird after all these years, and would soon be here? Especially when you might have just a little bit of a crush on that someone, and the nature of their relationship with their friend wasn’t entirely clear to you at the moment?
How exactly was that man alive, anyway? Heero hadn’t asked because he’d still been assuming the whole thing was a hoax until having the wits startled out of him by the man’s proof; now he wondered. Presumably the answer would have something to do with magic, but Heero was by now getting a fairly good idea of what magic could and couldn’t typically do — and he didn’t think anything that would grant immortality was on the list of frequently miscast spells. Perhaps it had something to with that ‘extremely powerful’ artifact the man had mentioned.
Putting his back to the door, he settled in to wait. He didn’t have long, though; the work lot wasn’t much farther from his apartment than the restaurant, and evidently the teleportation (or whatever it was called) was instantaneous. Quatre and the stranger were soon approaching him down the hall, and at the sight of them Heero finally turned and put the key into the lock.
Again, “Thank you,” said the stranger — what was his name, anyway? — as Heero opened the door and gestured the others to enter in front of him. The man seemed to radiate tension now, and the atmosphere immediately pervaded the apartment. This was lit only by the television, which of course was still on, until Quatre flipped the switch. Heero closed the door and watched with interest — not uncolored by some assimilated agitation of his own — to see what the stranger would do.
Duo, fairly clearly visible on the end table, greeted them with, “There you are! I thought you’d be home around six or something, not halfway into Deep Space Nine. How late do you guys–” He’d turned his head while speaking — slowly, as if reluctant to look away from the TV — and cut off abruptly as it swiveled far enough to take in the little group in the entryway. In a tone quite unlike the previous he choked out, “Tr… Trowa?”
The stranger was stumbling forward now, circumnavigating the sofa only with difficulty. When he reached the end table, he snatched up Duo, whose little arms were waving wildly, paper towel skirt and all, and pulled him against his chest. After a moment, he sank to his knees on the carpet as if he were too weak to stand.
At first the conversation, already muffled on the stranger’s side by tears and on Duo’s by the stranger’s suit-jacket against which he was pressed, was almost completely inaudible, but once Quatre had turned the TV off Heero found he could make out some of the words.
“Holy shit, Trowa, it’s really you, isn’t it?” was the first coherent sentence from Duo.
“Duo, oh, my god, Duo,” was the bulk of the comments put forward by the other man. Trowa, apparently. This formed a sort of undercurrent to Duo’s next several statements:
“Trowa, stop hugging me; it’s pointless; I can’t feel it. Let me see your face! How the hell are you still alive? It was 1923, for god’s sake! How did you find me? How long have you been looking? Where have you been? Why aren’t you dead? I’m so fucking glad you’re not dead. I’m so glad to see you. Are you crying? Hell, I would too if I could.”
Heero and Quatre stood silently in the entryway, watching as Trowa finally gave Duo a little breathing room (as it were) and discontinued his repetitive murmur. The first coherent sentence from him was, “Duo, your hair… it’s real… it’s just like it always was…” And he stroked Duo’s hair so thoroughly, so desperately almost, that it began to come out of its braid.
“Yeah…” Duo replied. Unlike his friend, whose face was streaming with tears and who seemed to be shaking a little where he knelt on the floor, Duo’s thoughts and emotions could only be guessed through his voice — though this was a little shaky too. “I’ve never really understood it.”
“And your eyes…” Unable to finish this thought, Trowa bent so his brow rested on Duo’s head.
“It’s all right,” Duo whispered. “It’s all right, Trowa.”
“I’ve been looking for you for so long,” Trowa replied at the same volume.
“It’s over now.” Duo seemed to have much better hold of himself in this situation than Trowa did. Apparently ninety years of being a child’s plaything was better on the brain than ninety years of penitence, fruitless searching, and solitary magical study.
Finally Trowa looked up again, examining Duo in despair. “I never meant for this to happen…”
“If you had,” Duo laughed weakly, “I’d totally have to kill you.”
Trowa was not amused. “I am so sorry,” he said. “I can’t even ask forgiveness for something so horrible.”
“I forgave you back in, like, the forties,” was Duo’s impatient, still somewhat shaky reply. “So stop crying.”
This seemed to lighten the mood just a touch, though Trowa did not smile. Instead he raised a free hand to wipe at his face, and said, “I’m sorry. I’m a little drunk. And I haven’t seen you in eighty-seven years.”
“And, seriously, how are you still alive?” Duo wondered. “You look half-dead.”
“The curse. The artifact. It’s a long story.”
“I was keeping track all along, you know,” said Duo softly. “I’d look at the date and think, ‘Trowa’s thirty-seven this year,’ or whatever… until finally in the sixties I started to hate seeing calendars… because I’d see the year and think, ‘He might be dead by now…'” His voice sank even lower. “In the eighties it turned into, ‘He’s probably dead by now,’ and then…” He shook his plastic head. “And then here you are, still alive, in twenty-fucking-ten.” Bad language seemed to be part of his way of dealing with severe emotion; Heero hadn’t heard him swear this much before.
At this moment Quatre touched Heero’s arm. Heero, who had been somewhat hypnotized by the scene and hanging on every word as if it were something fascinating on a stage, started and looked at his friend. Quatre gestured him to follow. Only casting a brief glance back at the man and the doll that didn’t even seem aware of their presence or their departure, Heero did so.
Quatre led him out onto the balcony at the end of the hall, and, when the door was closed behind them, explained, “I think they deserve some privacy, don’t you?” Slowly Heero nodded, and Quatre leaned onto the railing and sighed. “We probably shouldn’t even have been in there that long, but I felt like I couldn’t move.”
Again Heero nodded, and came to join Quatre at the railing. “So what do you think about them?” he asked a little darkly.
Quatre smiled wanly. “We never had a chance.”