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.