The first thing Heero noticed when he entered his living room on the way to the kitchen on Tuesday morning was a door newly set in what had previously been a blank wall. Aware though he was that he needed to get used to magic, if not necessarily actually used to it yet, this sight was still so surprising that he was forced to stop and stare.
It looked like the front door to a house; it was dark grey-blue with a bronze handle, and had a segmented half-circle of little glass windows set into its upper third. As he approached and peered through the glass at an improbable front hallway that, had it actually been there, would have cut right across his neighbor’s apartment, he heard Duo’s voice behind him.
“Don’t worry; it’s not permanent.” Heero turned a little reluctantly from the strange, interesting sight to where Duo sat, as usual, motionless on the end table. “It’s the door to Trowa’s house.”
“I guessed that much,” said Heero, moving to stand before Duo and look down at him. “Why is it in my wall?”
“I didn’t think you’d mind,” Duo replied apologetically, tilting his small plastic face upward and responding to Heero’s skepticism rather than his question. “He wanted to get your permission first, but it must have been two in the morning by then so I told him to leave you alone.”
“I don’t really mind,” Heero said slowly, glancing back at the door, “as long as I never have to explain it to my landlord. But why is it here?”
“Oh, because he lives on the east coast and it’s easier for him to have the door here than to jump back and forth.”
“Why didn’t he just take you with him?” Heero asked. Duo didn’t immediately answer, and it struck Heero belatedly how the question might have sounded. “I’m not trying to get rid of you,” he hastened to assure him seriously. “You’re welcome to stay here as long as you want. But I got the impression from him last night that, once he found you, he wasn’t going to let you out of his sight again.” He had been going to say ‘to let you go again,’ but amended his intention at the last second. It annoyed him that he had a crush, however undeveloped, on someone that was taken — a circumstance he generally tried to avoid — and he didn’t want to think about it right now. What he did want was his morning coffee, under whose influence he would speak a little less impetuously.
“Yeah,” Duo was agreeing, “he had a hard time leaving me here. I think he was afraid I’d be gone when he came back, and the whole thing would start all over.” His voice lowered and softened a trifle as he added, “And can you blame him? God, I can’t even imagine what it’s been like for him all this time. We talked for hours last night, and he told me plenty about it, but I get the feeling there’s plenty more to say.”
Though not unsympathetic, Heero had to point out as he moved into the kitchen to start the coffee, “That doesn’t explain the door.”
“Oh, sorry. He cast a few spells last night to try to put me back to normal–”
At this point Heero interrupted him in surprise, “Here?!” Why it should be so startling that spellcasting had taken place in his own apartment he wasn’t quite sure, but it seemed almost impossible somehow. Evidently he was farther from getting used to magic than he’d thought.
“Yeah,” Duo replied, and went on somewhat bitterly, “not that it worked. Obviously. Not that I blame Trowa,” he added in haste. “This whole thing is crazy, and without actually having me around he had to just guess all along what he should be getting ready in case he met me. It’s no wonder he couldn’t come up with the right spell.
“So he went home to look some things up. I wish he’d gone home to sleep.” Now his tone was one of irritated concern. “Really, you people who actually can sleep never value it enough. He was dead on his feet by the time he left, and how much wine did you guys give him? And that ritual to link his door didn’t help, but I bet he’s been reading old books ever since then, and he’ll come back in here later even more tired and want to try more magic. And I’ve tangented again, haven’t I?” Duo laughed a little. “You can’t really blame me, though, since he’s–”
“No, I can’t,” Heero broke in, not terribly eager to hear the rest of that statement. “Go on.”
“Well, he’s afraid the artifact — did he tell you it was an artifact that caused all of this? Well, he’s afraid that having me around it will just make things worse, so he didn’t want to take me home just yet. Not until he’s figured out some arrangement. He mentioned renting a room where he could put either me or the artifact so I didn’t have to keep taking up space around here, but neither of us was really sensible enough to make actual plans last night, and now you say I can stay as long as I want…”
“Yes,” Heero agreed, in lieu of nodding since Duo wasn’t looking in his direction. “You’re not exactly much trouble.”
“And I’m decorative,” Duo added complacently.
Heero was not about to agree with this aloud, especially since on the surface it seemed so stupid to be concurring about the physical merits of a doll. But after a short silence, shifting the subject, he asked, “What is an artifact, anyway?”
“An object that’s constantly exposed to magic and starts absorbing it,” Duo replied succinctly. “They’re really useful when you need more power, but you have to watch out for them. Magic performed around them is always affected, so if you have one and you’re not specifically using it for the spell you’re casting, it’s usually a good idea to put it in another room so it doesn’t interfere.”
“Well, that answers a lot of my questions,” said Quatre, entering from the hall. He was ready for work, neat and professional as usual, dressed in some of the clothes he kept here against situations like this. Well, no, there really were no situations like this. Heero poured him a cup of coffee.
Accepting this with thanks, Quatre went on, “Your Trowa told us a little last night, but I think he forgot we don’t know anything about magic ourselves.”
Duo laughed. “I don’t know how he’d even know that. How did he find you — me — us — anyway? We were so busy being incoherent last night I never got around to asking.”
“He didn’t exactly tell us either,” replied Quatre, “but it seems like he saw a post we made about you on a message board, and used magic to come to where we were going to be yesterday evening.”
“He really has gotten good,” Duo murmured. “Figuring out where total strangers are going to be takes some doing.” He brightened slightly. “And you guys were posting about me on a message board?”
“We wanted to know if your story was possible,” Heero answered.
Quatre turned to him suddenly. “You’d better go get dressed.” He gestured at the microwave clock, and Heero started. His dalliance here, where he’d only meant to come for a moment to start the coffee, was now in a fair way for making him late to work. “Do you want some toast?” Quatre called after him as he went.
“If you’re making some, sure,” Heero replied over his shoulder. Quatre burned toast and had no concept of the appropriate amount of either butter or jam, but it was better than nothing.
The last thing he heard from the living room and kitchen before entering his own room was Quatre’s interested, “So, what’s with the door?”