Trowa’s bedroom window was tiny, the home of more than one spider’s web, hidden by a dingy old curtain, and not positioned well for any good view of the front door. Despite all of this and despite being almost certain he knew who was probably on his porch on a Wednesday night outside of normal visiting hours, Trowa was looking through the window trying to see what was going on. He may actually have looked because he didn’t want to know, and would therefore derive some satisfaction from not being able to see; that was definitely the reason he didn’t use magic to find out.

Eventually he wandered away from the pleasantly unhelpful window and sat down on the bed, and it was there that Quatre found him on entering the room. The gift basket in Quatre’s hands and the puzzled expression on his face confirmed Trowa’s assumption. He did pause looking puzzled for a moment, though, long enough to glance curiously around the room.

“How many were there?” Trowa asked.

“Two.” Quatre’s baffled expression returned as he fixed his eyes on Trowa. “Teenagers, I think, a boy and a girl. They shoved this at me before they said anything–” he held up the basket a little helplessly– “and then asked if Mr. Barton was at home. That’s you, I assume.”

Trowa nodded.

“I said no one with that name lived here, and they apologized about ten times and were backing away like I was going to do something awful to them. I couldn’t even give the basket back because they were so busy apologizing.” He smiled a little as he looked down at the object in question. “There’s food in it, though; at least it’s some dinner for you.”

“Was the girl wearing a low-cut shirt or a short skirt?” wondered Trowa.

“Yes…” Quatre looked over at him. “Do you know her?”

“No,” said Trowa, then added simply, “but they all wear that.” He rose and made his way out of the room, leaving his visitor to follow. If Quatre was determined to feed him, it might as well take place in the dining room as was appropriate.

“Just as I was closing the door,” Quatre was saying as he trailed Trowa through the house, “I heard one of them say something about their dad getting a spell wrong. So they obviously knew who you were and that you’re… magical… Who were they and what did they want?” He was obviously immensely curious; at least some of it was going to have to be explained.

“I am a hundred and eleven years old,” Trowa said with a slight sigh, turning on the lights in the dining room and kitchen. “I can do nearly anything.” So far the line seemed to be drawn at breaking the curse on Duo. “Among magicians that makes me a… sort of… celebrity…”

Quatre grinned admiringly; Trowa had seen him do that once or twice already, and it didn’t bode well. “And your fanclub brings you fruit baskets?” The latest example of such an offering crunched slightly as Quatre set it down on the table and began pulling oranges out of it.

“They bring me a lot of things.” It was fairly useful on the rare occasion that he wanted to eat, or when the hopefuls had the presence of mind to give him something more useful than food… but it never came free. First it was, “Oh, Mr. Barton, you did such a nice job charming Rebecca Thomas’s garden for her back in 1973!” — because the magical community had dreadfully accurate memories like that — “You have to tell me how you did it!” But this turned into, “Wow, what a complicated spell! How do you keep that level of energy up?” Which became, “Well, can you teach me?” and eventually, “I could be your apprentice! Would you train me? I could work for you… I’ll clean your house and bring you anything you need and make all your meals for you!” Then they got a little bit older and it was more along the lines of, “My daughter’s really good at fire spells, and she’d love to hear any tips you have on the subject… she’s a nice girl; I’m sure you’d really like her.”

And now here he had one that he couldn’t ignore or dismiss. He hadn’t worried about leaving a key to his house at Heero’s apartment because Heero obviously didn’t like him very much; he hadn’t realized Heero’s friend might be the one taking advantage of it. Of course he was grateful to both of his new acquaintances for their kindness to Duo and the fact that they’d posted on that message board in the first place… but that didn’t mean he was eager to have one of them in his home being admiring and helpful.

“Either you really like oranges,” Quatre was remarking, “or someone really thinks you do.”

“I do like oranges,” said Trowa. At least he was fairly sure he did. His followers tended to remember what he liked better than he did these days.

Quatre bustled about the kitchen, occasionally exclaiming in wonder or amusement at what he found there, and Trowa felt somewhat powerless to stop him. It was ironic, really; he could jump instantly to just about any place in the world, fix complicated machinery without having the faintest idea how it worked, and essentially destroy anything that annoyed him… yet it seemed that, in the few areas of his long and empty life that actually meant something to him, he was consistently helpless.

Not that it was any more than he deserved.

But he would find a way to restore Duo’s humanity. He would figure this out if it killed him (which seemed more than likely, when he thought about it). No standard counterspell had worked, and no divination had given him any hint as to what he should be doing instead, nor the specific mechanics of the curse… but there had to be something. He refused to believe this was destined to go on forever. That might be an appropriate fate for him, but not for Duo.

During the course of these reflections he’d lost track of what Quatre was doing, but now found him at the table gesturing and smiling. He’d set a place for one, and now stood behind the chair like a butler welcoming his master to supper.

“It’s a strange dinner,” he said ruefully, as if he had been personally responsible for the selection, “but there really isn’t anything in your fridge. Not even lettuce.”

Trowa looked down, observing orange segments and apple wedges on the plate next to three cookies and some slices of what seemed to be some kind of cake or bread with raisins in it, and a glass of water. It was a strange dinner, but he might as well eat it, since it was here. “Thank you,” he said, and sat down.

Quatre just smiled and leaned back against the kitchen counter.

“Don’t stand there watching me eat,” Trowa ordered.

“Sorry.” With a slight laugh, Quatre began moving around the room, examining things he must have missed while preparing this little ‘meal.’

“You’re welcome to eat some of this too,” said Trowa eventually, a little less rudely (he believed).

Quatre turned to look at him, mildly skeptical. “I have food at home. You can save the rest of that for tomorrow.” Yes, he was obviously going to be one of those… the ones that insisted Trowa ‘eat properly’ and ‘get enough sleep’ and always wanted to make sure his linens were clean.

In an attempt at nipping this in the bud, “I don’t need food,” Trowa stated flatly. “I have a part in Duo’s curse; I can’t die.”

Quatre nodded. “Yes, that was the impression I got,” he said calmly. “But eating can only be good for you.”

Trowa considered pushing the plate aside and leaving the table to make his point, but he’d caught the smell of the orange segments by now, and his stomach had remembered, as it did at times like this, what food was and that it liked it; so he really didn’t have the option of walking away at the moment. Without a word he started to eat.

This burst of sensation always took him by surprise. He did like oranges. He liked food. It was just so explosively, unexpectedly enjoyable… which of course came with its own problems. Because he could never start enjoying something this much (or at all, generally) without an immediate kickback of guilt and self-loathing. He, who had doomed his best friend to a life without this kind of pleasure, did not deserve to be taking any pleasure in it himself. So what started out as quick and eager ended up tedious and forced.

And Quatre was watching him again.

“Stop that,” Trowa commanded. What he really wished he could say was, ‘Leave me alone,’ but he was aware of how little good that generally did. Once they got into the house, it was next to impossible to get them to leave; the trick was to keep them from entering in the first place… but this one had a key.

This one also appeared better able to take a hint than most, for he stood straight and said, “Well, I’ll get out of your hair now that I know you’ve eaten. Duo will be relieved to hear that, too.”

“Duo sent you?” Trowa wondered, relenting a little.

“Not exactly,” shrugged Quatre. “Last I saw, he was getting an earful from Heero for fooling him into believing Mattel had made gay Ken dolls. But he did say he hoped you’d fallen asleep, since he doesn’t think you get enough sleep.”

Trowa was silent under a fresh weight of guilt. Duo, who couldn’t sleep, who had specifically mentioned how much he hated his inability to sleep, whose inability to sleep was entirely Trowa’s fault, was worried about how much sleep Trowa was getting.

Quatre stood in the doorway leading to the entry as if waiting for an answer, and Trowa got the feeling that, if he could just give one, Quatre would go away. So with an effort he said, “Tell him… tell him I’ll sleep tonight.”

Quatre smiled and nodded and was gone. Trowa listened to the front door open and close, then looked down at the plate whose contents he doubted he could finish.

Perhaps he really would sleep tonight.

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