Trowa was a little surprised, on Friday evening, to see Quatre in his house again despite the fact that he’d been there earlier for lunch. He supposed this shouldn’t have been much of a shock — Quatre was proving excessively tenacious — but he somehow thought he’d met his quota for the day. Or was Quatre going to start insisting Trowa eat dinner, too? Surely not.
He’d essentially given up trying to understand Quatre, who, while clearly a follower like the rest of them, didn’t quite behave like the rest of them. He still hadn’t ever asked for anything, and yet he fussed; he interrupted and intruded, and yet wasn’t necessarily unpleasant to have around. It didn’t make sense, and Trowa had other things to think about.
And now Quatre was walking the room slowly, coming to stand beside the table in front of Trowa, with arms crossed and a frown on his face. “I had a feeling…” was the first thing he said.
From his chair, Trowa looked up at the other man in vague curiosity.
“I’ve been watching you all week,” Quatre said, in a tone that suggested the delivery of bad news, “and…” His frown deepened. “You aren’t really working on anything, are you?”
Startled, Trowa blinked, and at first had nothing to say. It was a blow, and probably more than it should have been coming from a follower. On top of everything else, on top of the guilt and the sorrow and the hopelessness, now Quatre had noticed…
“I’ve seen you really working a couple of times,” Quatre went on, and by now he sounded almost apologetic, “but most of the time — especially these last few days — you just sit there staring into space.”
Trowa lifted his gaze the final few inches necessary to meet Quatre’s, and found there a strange mixture of accusation and pity. This did nothing to help with the weight on Trowa’s heart, which had only been increased by Quatre’s words. Feeling his lips tighten, Trowa stood abruptly, letting the book that had been on his lap — which he never had really looked at today — slide unheeded to the floor, pushed past Quatre, and left the room.
Through the dining room windows he could see the failing light of evening. He noticed as well in the glass the reflection of Quatre immediately behind him. “It’s none of your business,” Trowa said preemptively.
“It is my business,” Quatre replied at once, firmly. “I consider Duo a friend — and you too, no matter how you feel about it. Neither one of you is going to have a decent life until this curse is broken, so I want to know why the only person who has any chance of breaking it seems to have given up.”
Trowa frowned. A friend? Quatre considered him a friend? Was that why he expressed concern without making demands? Why he kept coming over here? Actually, it would explain all of Quatre’s behavior fairly well; Trowa remembered that some people did do things like that sometimes.
It was certainly more than he deserved.
“Being my friend can be unhealthy,” he said stonily, still staring out the window, tackling this secondary issue while he evaded the main one. “It’s best avoided.”
“You haven’t had any real friends since back then, have you?” Quatre guessed in a quiet, pitying tone. “Just those people who wanted magic from you.”
“You’ve seen what I did to my last friend,” Trowa explained a bit harshly.
“Trowa…” Quatre had taken another step forward and put his hand on Trowa’s shoulder, causing the magician to go stiff. “That was an accident. It was a bad combination of circumstances. Duo’s forgiven you for it.”
Although at least part of him didn’t want to, Trowa shrugged Quatre’s hand off. “That’s because that’s what Duo does.” It came out almost in a hiss. “He gets angry, and then he gets over it. But there are some things that shouldn’t be forgiven that easily.”
“That’s why you’ve stopped working, isn’t it?” Quatre wondered next, in the same soft, sympathetic tone as before. “You can’t forgive yourself for what you did to him, and it’s driving you crazy. So instead of trying to solve the problem so you can move past it, you’re just sitting around being miserable doing nobody any good.”
It was many years — decades, perhaps — since Trowa could remember being truly angry, but now the agitation he felt at this conversation was close enough that he thought it counted. He couldn’t deny the truth of what Quatre had said, but he felt that the other man didn’t — couldn’t possibly — understand him. He whirled on him, fixing his cursed eyes on Quatre’s face. “Do you have any idea,” he demanded, “how it feels to know that you’ve destroyed the life of someone you love?”
“No,” said Quatre quietly, steadily. “But I have done things I regretted, and–”
“You haven’t done anything like this,” Trowa interrupted harshly. “Something like this hangs over you forever, so you can never think right or feel like yourself again, so that every single moment of every day you’re…”
He trailed off, and not just because it was so strange to be putting into words how he felt, how he had silently felt for so many years, to someone else. He realized even as he said it that it was no longer entirely true. It wasn’t ‘every single moment of every day’ anymore. Because lately… somehow… with Quatre around… there had been moments…
But that didn’t matter. The fact that he hadn’t been entirely miserable at certain points during the last couple of weeks didn’t change anything.
Realizing that Trowa wasn’t going to continue, Quatre said, “I’m sorry. I can’t claim I know exactly how you feel, but I see what you’re saying. And normally I’d say that you need to get yourself straightened out before you can try to help someone else. But in this case, I think breaking the curse is what will help you. Giving up or slowing down is the worst thing you can do.”
It was sound advice. Whatever his motivation, he should be focused entirely on breaking the curse. But this thought only made Trowa feel worse. He said nothing.
Quatre’s face hardened slightly. “Even if you can’t do it for your own sake, at least think of Duo,” he said flatly. “I assume you haven’t come to see him because it’s painful for you… but it’s hurting him. He acts very casual about it, but he’s obviously unhappy that he hasn’t seen you all week.”
Trowa turned hastily back to the window, unwilling to let Quatre see his face crumple as it was now threatening to. The thought that he was prolonging Duo’s suffering by his own weakness was the worst of it, and made the rest that much harder to bear.
Finally, after several moments of silence, “I don’t know where else to look,” he said in the soft tone of absolute despair. “I don’t know what else to do.”
Again Quatre put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing this time as if eager to give what comfort he could. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I wish I could help you.”
And it occurred to Trowa that he didn’t have to understand Quatre to know that he wasn’t like the followers — that perhaps he wasn’t like anyone Trowa had ever met. He genuinely cared about Trowa and Duo and their situation, and he honestly wished he could help… and at the same time wasn’t afraid to risk Trowa’s displeasure by confronting him with unpleasant truths Trowa needed to hear. That was something friends did, wasn’t it? God, it had been so long. He’d been alone so long… it was no wonder he’d forgotten what it was like not to be…
“Maybe you can,” he found himself saying in a low, unaccountably level voice. “Will you stay here?” He thought there was a faint hissing breath behind him as he spoke the question, as if the latter had come as a shock to more than only himself. “Just… stay here with me while I work? I think it would help.”
Whether or not Quatre was surprised at the request, however, all he said, in a tone very much like Trowa’s, was, “Of course.”