“A curse affects both the victim and the caster. A skilled curse-caster can bend this effect so that their share in the curse is something they don’t mind, something that doesn’t inhibit them… but even if they manage that, repeatedly having a share in any curse leaves a mark eventually.”
When Heero rescues an abandoned doll from the gutter, he hardly thinks it’s going to change his life; but now he and his best friend Quatre find themselves involved in the breaking of a curse from almost a hundred years ago, and perhaps in falling for exactly the wrong people.
Heero’s official job title was Pacific Division Sales Coordinator, but a better one would have been The Guy Who Fixes All The Mistakes Of A Third Of The Company’s Sales Staff. Normally this didn’t bother him too much; there was something about redoing a really shoddy piece of work to a higher standard, then taking a good long look at the finished product from arm’s length, that satisfied him intensely. But this entire work week had been an impatient nightmare from beginning to middle, and he almost felt he couldn’t get through the two more days of cleaning up after his co-workers that lay between him and the weekend.
Not long ago, if anyone had asked him what he would have been looking forward to doing on this particular evening, he would have (besides wondering why they cared) mentioned the first of the NCAA regionals. But things were different now that there was a wizard (or whatever Trowa preferred to be called) with access to Heero’s living room. Duo could be human again any time, and then he and Trowa might be off without a word.
Heero was curious to see more magic, and more specifically he would very much like to see Duo’s curse lifted. He wondered what Duo would look like as a human. Sure, the doll face gave a fairly good idea, and Heero imagined the hair would be about the same… but living flesh, more nuanced facial expressions, body language… How tall would he be? Were his eyes really that intense and improbable shade of blue-purple? Heero was exceedingly interested in all of it.
So the work days had been dragging, and today’s tedium was an ominous indication of what tomorrow would be like when the current situation was compounded by the usual impatience of a Friday. At least, though, between today and tomorrow (provided he could survive today) there was Duo. And it didn’t matter how often or how vehemently he reminded himself not to think that way.
Most of this he relayed to Quatre in a grumble at lunch, and found Quatre more than ready to agree. Though Quatre’s reason for wanting to be away from the office was more along the lines of, “Do you know that Trowa doesn’t eat unless someone’s there to make him?”
“That explains his reaction to breakfast yesterday,” muttered Heero.
“By the way, how’s the tenth for tennis?”
It took Heero a moment to shift gears, and another to try to remember what he might or might not be doing two weeks from the coming Saturday. But finally he said, “Fine, I think. I’ll tell you if it turns out I’m doing something that day.”
It seemed strange to be making plans to do normal, non-magical things with their normal, non-magical friends. It was like they’d started living in another world and were scheduling a step out of it for a day. Which was stupid, since barely anything in their actual lives had changed. Sure, there was a talking doll on the end table in Heero’s living room, which room also contained a door that opened onto a magician’s house across the country, but what difference did that really make?
Or so Heero kept trying to tell himself.
Having satisfied the tennis question, Quatre’s thoughts had also undoubtedly gone back to the matter of their new friends, for he said pensively after swallowing a mouthful of turkey sandwich, “We could use some time off, I think.”
“I certainly wouldn’t object,” Heero replied.
Quatre nodded again. “I’ll see what I can do” — reminding Heero yet again that there were benefits to having the Pacific Division Regional Manager as your best friend.
Even after what felt like the longest four hours of Heero’s life — really, this was not boding well for tomorrow — he still couldn’t quite go home yet; it was his turn to provide the snacks, so he had to stop at the grocery store this time. And as long as he was at the store already, his overriding logic wouldn’t let him leave until he’d done all of his grocery shopping (though admittedly somewhat in a hurry). But thereafter, finally, it was time to go see Duo. The game, that is. The basketball game. It was time to go see the basketball game.
He had high hopes of making a true college basketball fan out of Duo. The doll remembered not only the rules, but the general workings of the tournament and that their team was already out of the running. In fact, he required very little further tutoring to seem like he had a fairly good idea of what was going on at any given moment. And his cheers, necessarily rather quiet though they were without a real diaphragm to support them, were always properly timed and must have bolstered the team had they been there in person.
“You know I have never eaten pizza in my life?” Duo said a little wistfully during a commercial break.
Quatre stared at him. “That is so sad,” he said in perfect seriousness. “This stuff you get at the grocery store and cook yourself isn’t as good as the stuff you order, though.
“But it’s a lot cheaper,” Heero put in, defending his frugal snack choice.
“Oh, I’m not complaining,” said Quatre hastily, “just letting him know. We wouldn’t want poor impressionable Duo getting the wrong idea because we’re eating inferior pizza.”
Heero rolled his eyes and turned away from his friend back to Duo. “As soon as you’re human again, we’ll feed you all sorts of things you’ve never had before.”
“Is that a promise?” Duo grinned.
“Sure,” said Heero.
Trowa wandered in near the end of the game and stared blankly at the TV as if he’d never seen one before — though in reality he had witnessed the evolution of television. What a strange life he must had led, Heero thought without much sympathy. At least his appearance spared Quatre the trouble of going to look for him, once the game was over, to make sure he ate or whatever.
“Oh, hey, Trowa!” Duo said happily. Duo was always far too happy to see Trowa; it was a consistent and irritating reminder. “Come watch basketball with us!”
Trowa moved to stand beside the table where Duo sat, still gazing somewhat uncomprehendingly at the television. Heero thought about offering him a seat on the couch in the empty space between himself and Quatre. Quatre probably would have liked that, but Heero had no real desire to sit next to Trowa — so he said nothing and let him keep standing.
“He may not know what basketball is,” Quatre was saying in a teasing tone. “I don’t think he even has a TV.”
“No TV?!” Duo demanded in horror. “Trowa, when did you become such a godless heathen?”
“When television was invented, apparently,” replied Trowa.
“Well, at least have some pizza,” Quatre offered, holding up the plate that contained what was left.
“No, thank you. When is your game over?”
“Maybe about ten more minutes.” The proffered pizza was retracted with, Heero thought, some displeasure.
“I’ll come back,” said Trowa with a nod. “There’s a spell I want to try.”
This caught everyone’s interest, but Trowa was already moving toward his door again, evidently not planning to offer any more details. So they all turned back to the game until such time as he should satisfy their curiosity. Heero thought Duo’s attention span for basketball had significantly waned, however. Which was really for the best, he supposed, at least for Duo; what was the point of having a boyfriend if you didn’t find him more fascinating than television?
Quatre had intended to leave immediately after the game, but the opportunity to watch Trowa working magic was not one to be missed. This entire business really was wreaking havoc on everything Quatre needed to get done at home.
A large square board of some sort, carried very carefully under one arm, and a box full of candles accompanied Trowa when he returned. Quatre and Heero watched in silence as he knelt down, laid the board on the floor beside Duo’s table, and set the box next to it. Heero didn’t look entirely pleased at the idea of something to do with candles taking place on his carpet, but evidently didn’t think it enough of a concern to say anything yet.
Duo was also watching, from the table’s edge to which he’d painstakingly levered himself, but not in silence. “That’s really familiar,” he remarked when the network of careful lines on the black-painted board became visible. After a moment he added thoughtfully, “It looks like our end of the Wade.”
Trowa nodded, and picked up the first of his candles in one hand. The other held a piece of chalk. He tapped a spot where two lines converged. “This was where the first grocer in the district opened his store.”
“I remember that!” Duo agreed. “Took ’em long enough, too… that racist guy on 7th street wouldn’t serve half the people across the river, so they had to go clear to the south end market to go shopping.”
“It was convenient for us, too,” Trowa said, drawing a circle around the spot and setting the first candle in it.
“Yeah,” laughed Duo, “finally someplace that was close enough for the vegetables not to wilt by the time we got them home!”
“Not that we bought many vegetables.”
Duo laughed again.
“And here–” Trowa tapped another spot– “was the printers’ that put out that awful rag for so long.”
“Hey,” Duo protested, “I loved that paper!”
“Their ‘news’ was always at least two days old,” Trowa reminded him emotionlessly, “and it wasn’t always true.”
“Welllll…” Evidently Duo couldn’t argue with this. “We still wouldn’t have survived without them, and we got to know the city really well selling those things. Besides, that was the only paper most of the waders could afford most of the time.”
Trowa nodded, circled this second spot, and set a candle on it.
“I bet the next one’s that church that used to give us lemonade if we came around on Sunday afternoons,” said Duo eagerly.
Quatre had been watching and listening in almost breathless interest, and now he really did catch his breath as Trowa looked up at Duo again and actually smiled. It was a faint, sad smile, but it was the first Quatre had ever seen on that face and was, as he had anticipated, enchanting. He had a feeling, though, and not for the first time, as Trowa and Duo reminisced about their early years, that this was all a little too personal for him and Heero to be listening to. It was nothing like what he’d expected when Trowa had said ‘spell.’
“Yes,” Trowa was saying, indicating the point where lemonade had evidently been served to pious urchins. “Do you remember the woman with the peacock-feather hat?”
“Yeah, I was just going to say!” Duo cried. “And how we always tried to wait ’til she was gone because she’d always make us tell her what the sermon was about, and most of the time we hadn’t actually been to it?”
“And you always looked up at her with your eyes wide and said, ‘God, ma’am, and the commandments.'”
“And it wasn’t a lie because that’s what all the sermons were about,” Duo chortled, “but she’d get so annoyed because she wanted to hear us say we were miserable sinners!”
“I believe the building is still there,” said Trowa as a third circle and a third candle took their places at his hands, “but I don’t think it’s used as a church anymore.” And his chalk moved on. “And here was where Jaelle Petulengro lived.”
“Yes! With her fifteen dogs!”
“Only five,” Trowa corrected.
“Whatever,” said Duo, his little plastic mouth stretching into a grin. “She still had to burn all that incense all the time because the place smelled like pee. I don’t know how she ever had any business in there.”
“By catering to people like us.”
“Yeah, but she hardly ever charged us.”
“Only because she thought of us like her own children.” Trowa drew a circle around the old woman’s spot and stood the second-to-last candle there. “And this?” he asked as he tapped a fifth point on the chalk-marked board.
After considering for a moment Duo said, “That house we always used to want to live in.”
“And it took us ten years to realize that it wasn’t really anything special,” chuckled Duo, “just bigger than the ones on our street.”
“It did have its own yard,” Trowa reminded him, circling it and setting down the final candle.
Duo made some comment about the house in question having seemed like a giant mansion to them when they were ten, but Quatre was distracted from his words by the brief glow that rose from the board as Trowa withdrew his hand: faint lines connecting the five candles, soft but brighter than the chalk-marks they topped, had shone out for a moment and then faded. That was more like what he’d been expecting, and the fact that Trowa had formed a pentagram by linking together memories from the days before the curse interested him quite a bit.
“And here is where we lived.” Trowa tapped a spot in the center of the five candles.
“Well, this looks very solid,” Duo said in a tone of commendation as Trowa rose up and took him in his hand. “Is this to scale, though? I mean,” he explained as Trowa set him down on that last-referenced spot, “were those things all exactly that far from our place?”
“Close enough,” Trowa replied.
“Well, that’s good enough for me,” Duo grinned. “What do you want me thinking about this time?”
“Those days. What it felt like to be human.” And without even the slightest change in his level, emotionless tone, he went on in a completely different language. At his words, the candles all simultaneously lit, startling the two non-magical watchers but not seeming at all to surprise Duo.
“Can do,” the latter was saying. “Actually, it’s getting me to stop dwelling on that stuff that’s the hard part.”
Trowa sighed quietly, doubtless at this reminder of a suffering for which he still felt responsible. Then he held out his hands over the pure white flames of the candles as if gathering warmth into his palms, which he subsequently rubbed slowly together. Quatre shifted a half-step closer as Heero at his side also moved slightly. Both of them were looking down in silent interest, extremely curious about what would happen next.
Again in the unfamiliar language from which Quatre couldn’t pick even one single word he could have imitated, Trowa began to speak. The phrase that formed his spell did not seem terribly long — though this was little more than a guess on Quatre’s part — but Trowa spoke so slowly as to draw it out for more than half a minute.
As he finished, the lines of the pentagram flashed into being again, brighter this time, and suddenly everything — the entire room? the entire world? certainly Quatre’s entire field of vision — filled with an indistinct brilliance, a sort of glowing haze that momentarily blinded him. Beside him, Heero made a surprised noise and took a step back.
Shapes and colors came slowly into view again, and Quatre saw that Trowa was still kneeling on the carpet and now had fists clenched on his knees and a decided frown on his face. Even as Quatre’s eyes sought him out he spoke again: more words in the strange language, this time a shorter phrase and discernibly agitated. But their only effect, as far as Quatre could tell, was to extinguish the flames and make all the lines on the board — the magical ones and the chalk-marks — disappear. Duo was left sitting in a field of black in the center of five unlit candles.
“Dammit,” Trowa murmured.
Duo sighed quietly. Then, in a tone that was obviously meant to be cheering, he said, “You’re going to have to specify next time, ‘And don’t just show me the stupid moon, OK?'”
Trowa’s hand moved to cup around Duo’s back in a movement almost caressing, and then he slowly lifted the doll back onto the end table. Without a word he began replacing the candles in their box.
“Trowa,” Duo insisted, “it’s all right.”
With an indrawn breath, Trowa opened his mouth as if to reply, then closed it again and shook his head. He stood, lifted the box, pulled the board up under his arm, and turned.
“Trowa!” said Duo again, and now there was a touch of desperation to his voice. “This one didn’t work, but maybe the next one will. Don’t–”
“I’m not giving up,” Trowa broke in harshly. He’d already pulled his door open, and without looking back he was gone.
“I wasn’t going to say that!” Duo yelled futilely after him. His yell wasn’t much louder than his regular speech, but the tone was angry and unhappy. “‘Don’t blame yourself,’ I was going to say, dumbass!” He made a frustrated noise, and then his voice sank to a miserable low. “As if I’d ever think you would give up on me.” And then complete silence fell.
Heero was staring at Duo. Quatre was staring at Trowa’s door. None of them were saying anything, and it was dragging on. Intense curiosity and the desire to be comforting and the awareness that there really wasn’t much to say that could comfort someone in such a situation and a tight, unhappy feeling in the pit of his stomach in response to Duo’s last words all warred inside Heero, and he felt it safer, at least at first, to say nothing at all.
It was Duo himself, in fact, that eventually broke the silence. “Well, that sucked.” He added with a sort of false cheerfulness determined to put a good face on a bad situation, “Another day as a doll, here we go!” Before either of the others could think of anything to say in reply, he went on in a more genuinely pleased tone, “He’s really gotten good, though! I wonder how long it took him to come up with that ritual…”
This remark sounded very much like permission for them to ask questions, if not in so many words. Heero got his in first, moving to retake his previous seat on the sofa next to the end table: “What was the point of remembering all those places?”
“Oh… well… It’s kinda hard to explain.” Duo’s tone seemed to indicate he would have been scratching his head if he’d been human. Heero had never met anyone with such an expressive range of vocal inflection, and wondered if it was a skill Duo had always possessed or whether he’d developed it over the long years of having such a limited array of other forms of non-verbal expression.
“See, that was actually a divination trying to find out how to change me back — so I might have had another day as a doll anyway even if he’d gotten his answer, depending on what it was. Anyway, there’s another kind of magic I could never do — I can’t do divination either; I could only ever do your basic making-things-happen kind of magic — but this other stuff’s all about the mind: communication, mind reading, getting power from thoughts and memories and stuff. So he was using memories of before the curse to help divine how to get back to that — making a sort of connection back to those days to grab some extra power.”
“OK…” Heero nodded slowly. “That makes sense.”
“Really?” Duo grinned. “Awesome.”
“What did you mean about the moon?” was the next question, this one from Quatre.
“Oh, that’s the answer that keeps coming back on all these divinations. Not very helpful, since we know it was that stupid lunar artifact that did this.”
“You know,” Quatre said thoughtfully, “I’ve been over there a few times now, and I don’t know if I’ve seen the thing. What exactly is it?”
Since Quatre had posed his question, Heero had been puzzling over it in the back of his head even as he listened. He’d thought Quatre’s experience watching Trowa’s spell had been the same as his, but in that case why should Quatre need to ask this?
Duo was saying, “I think Trowa said it was–” when Heero broke in:
“Quatre, didn’t you see the moon?” He made an apologetic gesture at Duo for his interruption and went on, “After the first thing Trowa said, didn’t you get a sort of vision of the moon blocking out everything else?”
Quatre stared at him. “No, just a bunch of light. Did you?”
“Yeah,” replied Heero a little uneasily. “It was very clear.”
“What does that mean? That you saw it and I didn’t?”
They gazed at each other for a long moment, then as one turned to Duo for the answer.
The doll didn’t have a great variety of facial expressions. There was his default blank look, which reminded Heero disturbingly of the Kens he’d seen at the stores, and there was a wider and far less creepy grin; then he could wink either of his eyes, but that was about the extent of it. At the moment, however, it looked as if he was trying very hard to give an amused, interested smile as he replied, “Off the top of my head, I’d say it means Heero has magical abilities and Quatre doesn’t.”
“Really?” Quatre turned a grin much like the one Duo was attempting toward his friend, apparently not at all bothered that he might be left out of the magical loop.
“Me?” Heero wondered in surprise at the same moment, almost certain he didn’t like the idea.
“I could be wrong,” said Duo in his ‘shrug’ tone. “But that’s usually what it means when you get a vision during a divination.”
Quatre looked very much as a proud parent might after a child’s successful musical recital, and also a little as if he found the revelation rather funny.
Heero, on the other hand, couldn’t quite accept it. “Is this magical ability anything like Ken’s bi-curious phase in the 90’s?” he wondered, a sardonic tone covering up his continual unease.
Duo laughed, half reminiscent and half rueful. “You’re never going to believe anything I say ever again, are you?” He grinned. “If you can find another explanation for why you got a vision that’s only supposed to appear to magicians…”
Heero frowned. “Shouldn’t I have noticed a little earlier, though? Can you have magic for twenty-four years without knowing it?”
“You have to be around magic for your own magic to wake up,” Duo explained. “So presumably you could go your entire life without knowing it. For me and Trowa it was this old gypsy lady in our neighborhood — the one with the five dogs. For you, apparently, it was yours truly.”
This silenced Heero utterly. He didn’t really disbelieve it, and the thought that it had only come about because of Duo made things a little better. At the same time, however, there was something disconcertingly… intimate… something far more appealing than it had any right to be when Duo was so unavailable… about the thought that Duo, by his mere presence, had awakened something heretofore unknown inside of Heero… and this made things, in another sense, much, much worse.
Quatre the perceptive friend jumped right in to rescue him. “Well, that’s exciting!” he said brightly. “You can learn to do all sorts of cool stuff, and maybe some of those message board posts will start to make sense!”
“Yeah,” Heero replied gruffly.
“You don’t have to, though,” said Duo reassuringly, evidently misinterpreting the discomfort Heero had been unable entirely to hide.
Heero forced a faint laugh.
“Well, I’ve got to go home,” Quatre said, somewhat reluctantly. “But I’ll see you both tomorrow.”
Heero rather wished Quatre could have waited until they’d come up with a change of subject before leaving, but understood this wasn’t necessarily possible. “OK,” he said.
“More basketball tomorrow, right?” Duo wondered eagerly.
Quatre cheerfully confirmed this assumption as he located his briefcase, and then he was gone. Heero was glad the subject had been brought up — now he could talk about tomorrow’s game until he left the room to go to bed, and leave thinking about Duo awakening his magical potential until he was alone.
An entire week off at such short notice for two employees that everyone knew were friends and many suspected were more than friends was something only a Regional Manager could procure, and then only with the understanding that said Regional Manager would still be on call for every little emergency that upper management (nearly all of whom were relations) wanted dealt with at his level. Quatre was satisfied.
He also didn’t consider it in any way inappropriate to leave just a little earlier than usual today. If anyone had asked him why, he could easily have made the excuse of wanting to beat traffic and get to Heero’s apartment before the game started. Which was true. And which would have caused some speculations among those that had an incorrect idea of his relationship with Heero that he would have considered inappropriate. But nobody asked him.
It hadn’t been an easy day to get through — even just reaching lunch time was more along the lines of ‘nightmarish’ — but when he saw how much worse Heero was taking it Quatre could at least be pleased with his own powers of concentration. Of course, he didn’t have to deal with the sales floor. Yes, some time off was exactly what they needed. A week should be enough for them to get things sorted out, and then they could come back to work and be productive employees again.
Admittedly this sorting out might well involve Duo’s curse being broken, and then he would undoubtedly be off with Trowa, and then Quatre and Heero would never see them again and would be left in the ‘getting over an unrequited crush’ stage and be very mopey productive employees… but the result, and hence the basic concept, was largely unaltered.
Though the same thought had evidently crossed Heero’s mind, he also seemed quite pleased at the prospect of a week off. And the moment he was back home and with Duo, he seemed fine in every respect. He’d evidently even gotten over the discomfort of last night regarding the magic thing, and could talk cheerfully to Duo about basketball and whatever else came up.
Quatre, however, was not nearly so at ease. It wasn’t that he paid no attention to the game… it was just that his eyes were on the door in the wall almost as often as they were on the TV. How likely it was that Trowa would come in here two nights in a row he didn’t know, but he could hope. Heero noticed his behavior and gave him a look or two, but Quatre couldn’t stop himself. And the very moment the game was over, he was off the couch and headed for Trowa’s door.
“Oh, are you going to go check on him?” Duo wondered. “Good.”
Reflecting on the absurdity of ‘checking on’ someone that had gotten along for ninety years without this service, Quatre replied that he was, and Heero gave him another look. This Quatre ignored, and went into Trowa’s house.
Once again, the moment he stepped into the entry, he was greeted by Trowa’s query, “Who’s there?” from what Quatre was coming to think of as the study.
“It’s me,” he replied as he entered that room.
Trowa didn’t look up from whatever he was doing at his table, nor did he have anything at all to say in response to Quatre’s identification of self, and it occurred suddenly to Quatre to wonder exactly why he had a crush on this man. As he went closer, into the globe of soft-edged light from the single lamp, and saw the disarray of the table and once again the now-cold remains of a cup of tea, he considered that pathos definitely had something to do with it. It had always been his habit — rather unfortunately, he thought — to assign greater importance to early impressions than they probably deserved, and Trowa had certainly been pathetic during that first meeting. And it had also always been one of Quatre’s habits to feel a greater-than-usual interest in anyone he pitied.
Other than that, though… an attractive face and body, a mystique consequent upon being a taciturn hundred-year-old wizard… and what else was there? It was true there was something to be said for instinct, but Quatre couldn’t help feeling a bit shallow. What did he really know about Trowa?
As he came to stand beside the table and the armchair drawn up to it, Trowa finally looked at him — sluggishly, as if his eyes were reluctant to release what they’d been studying and move elsewhere. But when they rose far enough for Quatre to see them, he took an inadvertent step backward in surprise.
From the first, Quatre had noted the unnatural brightness and vibrant hue of Trowa’s eyes, and if he’d thought about it would have realized that this was probably caused at least in part by color contacts. These were obviously absent now, baring the two glowing moons, nearly at the full, that Trowa had in place of the more traditional irises and pupils.
“Yes,” Trowa said impassively as Quatre stared, “if you come in here without warning, you may see things you won’t like.”
Quatre shook his head, as much to clear away his startlement and break off his riveted gaze as to deny the implication. “Well, they’re definitely a surprise,” he admitted, “but I don’t think…” He trailed off.
For Trowa had stood abruptly, taken a step forward, and put his pale face much closer to Quatre’s than anyone that wasn’t flirting or instigating a fistfight generally did. “Take a good look,” he said emotionlessly, “so you won’t have to stare again later.”
It didn’t really matter that it might be a little shallow to be infatuated with someone without knowing much about him; the infatuation was there whether he liked it or not. And it was evident that Trowa had rather fallen out of synch with the rest of the human world in the last however many decades, since leaning like that was a blatant invitation to be kissed and he obviously didn’t know it. Quatre would gladly have enlightened him, in a very practical way, if Trowa hadn’t been someone else’s boyfriend.
Quatre also managed, while these thoughts were passing through his head, to take the adjured good look at the eyes in question. They were nicely-shaped eyes. The strange glowing moons were somewhat disconcerting, especially when they moved as irises and pupils would have done, but they were also very interesting: peering intently, Quatre could make out a familiar pattern of craters in tiny detail on each one.
The moons didn’t really detract from the overall picture once you were accustomed to them, either; a more remarkable feature, in fact, was the lashes. Funny he hadn’t noticed before… Trowa had the thickest, most obscenely long and beautiful lashes Quatre had ever seen on a man. They swept down over his eyes when he blinked in very much the same way his hair fell across his face: a sort of soft veiling motion that almost invited more than it concealed.
Abruptly Trowa broke their locked gaze, turning back to his table and picking up his teacup and saucer with a clatter. Then he moved past Quatre out of the room.
Quatre took a deep, steadying breath, and moved slowly to follow.
Trowa was rinsing out his cup in the kitchen sink without looking at it. In the back of his head arose the vague thought that he could do with some more tea, but it never jumped the synapse to the next concept over of making more tea. So he dried the cup, again without looking at it, and put it away. Then he rested his hands on the counter and continued to stare blankly across the dark room — he hadn’t bothered to turn the lights on when he came in here — thinking about nothing. He would have liked to think he was thinking about spells and what he’d been working on all day, but what he’d been working on all day had been practically nothing.
Oh, yes, and Quatre was in his house again. The fact that Quatre was still in his house again despite having seen his eyes was interesting, apropos of nothing.
Undoubtedly Quatre was going to ask, and Trowa was going to have to explain. Curses were arbitrarily cruel things that would stab you in the heart just as readily as they stabbed you in the back, and the necessity of explaining this particular effect of this particular curse had become just another effect of the curse. And now Quatre would ask, and Trowa would have to talk about it.
But what Quatre actually asked was, “Do you know how to play Blitz?”
Trowa looked over at him, broken from his empty stare by the unexpected nature of this question. “No.”
“I’ll teach you, if you want to play.” Quatre held up a pack of cards that Trowa recognized as his own. He occasionally played solitaire to regulate his thoughts, and, though he didn’t remember when he’d last done so or where the cards had been, Quatre had obviously spotted and seized them.
Turning fully to face his guest, Trowa wondered, “Why?”
Quatre reached out to the light switch and brought the room to better visibility. “Last night’s spell was really interesting,” he said, not exactly answering the question. “And Duo said you’ve gotten really good, and wondered how long it took you to come up with that. I’m sorry it didn’t work.”
Trowa felt his mouth tighten, and he left the kitchen and went around the dining table toward the windows at the far side of the room. As he stared out into the darkness of his overgrown little yard, he heard Quatre moving toward him.
“You’ve been working on magic stuff for god knows how long without a break,” Quatre went on matter-of-factly, “and it would probably be a good idea to think about something else for a while.”
Quatre had evidently stopped at the table. There was the sound of cards being shuffled, and Trowa pondered the situation. He couldn’t quite figure out what Quatre was after. He hadn’t asked for anything yet, not even some pointless display of magic to gawp at; he seemed genuinely concerned with Duo’s predicament, and Trowa’s state as it related thereto; and he hadn’t wondered, at least aloud, about Trowa’s eyes. Any one of these things by itself Trowa might have been able to deal with, but all together they formed a sort of barrier to comprehension.
Then there was the fact that Trowa had no idea what to do next for Duo. His hopeless, rambling research since last night’s failed attempt at getting information had been slowing more and more as the day progressed, until by the time Quatre had entered he’d simply been staring at a book without any real idea of what was in front of his eyes. At a point like that, Quatre was absolutely right: it was about time to think of something else for a while. And why not some inane card game he’d never heard of with his enigmatic new fan?
“All right,” he said, turning, and took a seat at the table across from Quatre.
It wasn’t nearly as bad as he’d been anticipating. The rules were just simple enough to make the game relatively mindless, the sort of soothing, repetitive exercise that calmed the nerves and put the brain back into some sort of ordered channel without too much effort. Then, Quatre did not require him to speak except as the game demanded, and in fact filled the silence himself with talk that was a good deal less tiresome than Trowa would have expected.
For example, as they played Quatre told him, “I’m the youngest of ten, and my two sisters — the next ones up — we used to play a lot of card games when I was eight or nine. They were just enough older to take advantage of me every single time, and I was just young enough to be completely unable to catch them or to ever prove anything even though I was suspicious. They would announce rules they ‘forgot to mention’ in the middle of the game — usually whenever things were going my way — to make sure I lost, and, when I protested, they’d back each other up and act all innocent.
“And then they started betting things. I don’t even really know how they kept getting me to play with them, when I knew I always lost and they’d end up taking my stuff. I guess it was because they would bet things of theirs that I really wanted — things they never would have really given me even if I had won — things I was too dazzled by the prospect of owning to be smart about not playing made-up card games with sisters who cheated all the time. Eventually my parents found out, and it became a new family rule that dad or mom had to be present for all card games between minors.”
To his own surprise, Trowa found himself asking, “Did you get your things back?”
Quatre grinned. “Not only that, but the next game, under mom’s supervision, I won an entire Deadpool mini-series off my sister fair and square. I still have it, too.”
Trowa wondered, and not for the first time, what it would have been like to be a child, instead of an antisocial young elderly man, in the 90’s.
Quatre went on to tell him about that same sister’s successful career in an advertising firm and ongoing unlucrative side-projects as a ‘real artist’ — all of which was moderately interesting, required no comment from Trowa, and got them through a number of games of Blitz.
When the clock struck three, Quatre looked around, startled. Then he shook his head. “I forget it’s three hours ahead here. Where are we, by the way?” Trowa told him, and Quatre nodded. “I should come around in the day some time and see the town.” He stood and began gathering the cards, both from the tabletop and from Trowa’s lax hands. “For now I’ll let you get back to work.” He smiled.
If Trowa had been a bit more flippant, even just inside his own head, he might have started a countdown at this point. As it was, he was simply satisfied with knowing it was coming.
“But you should probably get some sleep instead,” Quatre said, precisely as expected. “Reset your brain, and then you’ll work better tomorrow.”
And the worst part was that he was right. At least he hadn’t said anything about food this time. Trowa just nodded.
Quatre set down the pack of cards neatly filled and closed. “Good night,” he said, and smiled again before turning. He had a remarkably warm, welcoming smile, especially for someone that hadn’t asked for anything yet — so much that Trowa thought the room actually seemed a little darker once he was gone. Not that it really mattered.
But then the moment he was alone, Trowa found himself wondering what in the world Deadpool was.
His Own Humanity is an AU series set in modern-day America (plus magic) featuring characters from Rurouni Kenshin (primarily Saitou and Sano) and Gundam Wing (primarily Heero, Duo, Trowa, and Quatre). In chronological order (generally), the stories currently available are:
Sano enlists the help of exorcist Hajime in discovering the nature of the unusual angry shade that's haunting him.
Best friends Heero and Quatre have their work cut out for them assisting longtime curse victims Duo and Trowa.
During Plastic (part 80), Cairo thinks about thinking and other recent changes in his life.
A look at how Hajime and Sano are doing.
A look at how Trowa and Quatre are doing.
A look at how Heero and Duo are doing.
A meeting between Kamatari and Wufei.
Couple analysis among Heero, Duo, Trowa, and Quatre.
Quatre undergoes an unpleasant magical change; Heero, Duo, and Trowa are forced to face unpleasant truths; and Hajime and Sano may get involved.
During La Confrérie de la Lune Révéré (parts 33-35), Sano's 178-day wait is over as what Hajime has been fearing comes to pass.
During Guest Room Soap Opera (part 3), Cathy learns a lot of interesting facts and Trowa is not happy.
A few days before the epilogue of La Confrérie de la Lune Révéré, Duo and Sano get together to watch football and discuss relationships and magical experiences; Heero listens in on multiple levels.
On the same evening as That Remarkable Optimism, Trowa tells Quatre's parents the whole truth, as promised.