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.