Divination was in some ways the simplest branch of magic, since at its most basic level it involved just asking a question. Not infrequently, however, it also proved the most frustrating of the three branches to which Trowa had access, because the universe was so picky about what information it would give out. The more general a question you asked — “How can I break Duo’s curse?” for example — the more general an answer you were likely to receive — such as a meaningless vision of the moon. But to ask a more specific question, you had to have some information already, which was why Trowa had, up until this moment, been consistently thwarted.
Knowing both that Duo had been with Heero all week and that Duo was now able to bend his elbows, an answer that simply pointed out the correlation between the two facts was wonderfully easy to obtain. And that answer was the first step on the path to the greater answer — a path that was an interconnected series of questions, answer leading to question leading to answer. Trowa could see it now before him, bright and clear, and he could feel the stinging of tears in his eyes.
Quatre had brought him what real diviners — which Trowa had never pretended to be — called the ‘gateway fact’ or sometimes just the ‘key:’ the elusive piece of information that, once found, put you onto that path of productive questions. It took only five or six of the latter, after the initial “Why can Duo bend his elbows now?” to reach the complete, final conclusion and to understand why things were the way they were.
It seemed impossibly, almost agonizingly simple now that he saw it; it was the same twisted sort of logic that lay behind all curses, purposeful or unintended, and now that he recognized it he found it almost incredible that he hadn’t seen it all along… He had accused Duo of being fake and superficial, of fabricating an attachment, and then he had cursed him; so what Duo required to escape the curse was a real attachment, a connection to someone that went beyond the superficial.
Of course there was more to it than that, or else the curse would have been broken decades ago, but that was the baseline. And it couldn’t be Trowa, since he was restrained by the curse as well. Obviously it could be Heero, though… and Trowa had a feeling he knew exactly what kind of attachment it was — though naturally he wasn’t going to walk in there and say that. The last time he’d given his opinion on what Duo felt for someone else, it had ended in plastic and almost a century of grief. But he could explain the physicalities that were required, and the curse could be broken.
The curse could be broken. After eighty-seven years, the curse could be broken.
He had completely lost track of what he was doing, so deep in his own thoughts and the attendant emotions that he’d forgotten Quatre was here — and, as a matter of fact, where ‘here’ even was. Now he looked around, gradually noticing and remembering. He was seated in the armchair in his study, very still, staring at nothing, and Quatre was beside him with a box of Kleenex. This was undoubtedly because tears were still pouring down Trowa’s face, running unchecked over his cheeks and neck to soak his collar or sneak beneath it.
Turning his head, he met Quatre’s eyes, and saw hope and curiosity and a certain amount of worry in the attractive face. And he realized belatedly that Quatre, devoid of magical skill, wouldn’t have any idea of the breakthrough he’d just had. He reached out a faintly-trembling hand, took a tissue from the box Quatre held, and said, “I know how to break the curse.” His voice shook a little, but the words came out clear enough.
Quatre drew in and then let out a long breath, his mouth curving into a pleased smile that seemed at once to commend Trowa and invite him to share further insight. “I knew you could do it,” he said quietly, his tone an echo of what that welcoming smile conveyed.
Trowa paused in the act of drying his face and said, “I couldn’t have without the news you brought me. Thank you.”
Quatre’s smile became even warmer, but all he said, in a somewhat amused tone, was, “I was just the messenger.”
“Messenger,” Trowa murmured, echoing him almost blankly. Inside he was momentarily overwhelmed by the thought of carrying this infinitely good message to Duo. When he found that once again he’d moved without really noticing it — this time standing from the chair into which he’d sunk at some point in his shock — he also found himself smiling at Quatre. And it wasn’t the first time he’d smiled at Quatre lately, was it? He looked around, then headed for his bathroom. When he returned, he found Quatre leaning on the doorframe between the study and the bedroom looking curious.
Trowa raised his newly-lensed eyes to meet Quatre’s again and said, “No reason to distract them from the point.” Quatre grinned his understanding and turned to lead the way out of the house.
Stepping into Heero’s apartment for the first time in over a week, Trowa found his old friend and Heero involved in a rather strange-sounding discussion that might have been about basketball and might have been about elbows, and either way seemed to be pushing the limits on how animated each was capable of becoming. Trowa discovered, somewhat to his surprise, that his smile only grew at the sight of them. Yes, he could see it all now.
Heero looked over, his gaze fixing on Quatre. “Duke won,” he said, then added as if in afterthought, “Hello, Trowa.”
At this, Duo’s head swiveled entirely around — causing, Trowa thought, every single human in the room to wince. “Trowa!” he cried. “I have elbows!!”
“I heard.” Trowa had sobered again. Yes, he knew now what needed to be done, but it definitely fell into the category of things easier said. Heero was off to a good start, but could he keep it up for as long as was necessary? If not, was it likely Duo would ever find another person that could? He’d waited eighty-seven years for someone that could get him even this far…
Trowa moved to stand before them, between the silent television and the sofa and end table, looking down at both doll and human. They stared back; his new position (thankfully) required a far less extreme angle of Duo’s head, and Heero gave Trowa the usual polite blankness. Trowa neither knew nor cared why Heero disliked him; Heero liked Duo, and that was all that mattered — and probably, Trowa thought, the reason there was just a touch of intrigued anticipation to his expression as well at the moment: Heero was hoping Trowa had come in here with good news. They’d just have to see how good he considered it.
“I know how to break the curse,” Trowa said at last, slowly and clearly.
Duo went absolutely still. Of course this wasn’t difficult for him, given his construction, but seeing someone go so impossibly motionless, no matter what he was made of, was actually almost as uncanny as seeing a doll moving on his own. It was reminiscent of death, and Trowa didn’t like it. He reached out and picked Duo up in a sudden, impetuous gesture.
Heero twitched forward slightly, as if with an instinctive movement immediately restrained, and seemed to attempt to cover this up by saying a little breathlessly, “How?”
“Yeah,” said Duo, speaking at last nearly inaudibly. “How?” As he had that night when they’d been reunited, he sounded as if Trowa’s words had given him a sudden, desperate hope that he was trying wildly not to indulge lest he be hurt again.
Trowa fixed his gaze on the doll’s face, so disconcertingly, painfully, simultaneously close to and far from the face of the human that had been his best friend. How he wished he could be the one to break the curse. As it was, he wouldn’t have any control whatsoever over whether or not this was successful. Hell, he didn’t even know if Heero was going to be willing to try it. He had the information he needed, but it was crashing down on him more and more heavily just how uncertain the situation still remained.
“Having a friend who knows about the curse and wants to help you out of it is the key,” Trowa said, gesturing at Heero. He’d chosen these words very carefully — they were technically true, but not intrusive enough to get him into trouble. “You and Heero have hardly been apart at all this week, have you?”
A silence followed this statement, but this one was less shocked and anticipatory than it was contemplative. Finally Duo said, “That’s right, isn’t it? Actually, Heero, I don’t think you’ve even gone anywhere since, like, Tuesday or something… except to get the mail, wasn’t it? But you took me with you then…”
Heero confirmed this with a brief sound.
Trowa nodded. “And you’ve seen the result.” He reached up with his free hand and drew a finger over Duo’s arm, from the stiff little sleeve down to what would be his wrist if it were willing to bend.
Immediately Duo lifted his forearm, turning his head to look at it with a little plastic grin, and Trowa saw that the newly-revealed elbow was more like a human joint than a doll’s — that is, there was no sign of it; the arm simply bent. “Yeah, I can totally make rude gestures at people again finally,” Duo was gloating. “I won’t demonstrate on you, though,” he added magnanimously, looking back up at Trowa and continuing to grin.
Despite knowing Duo could not feel it, Trowa squeezed him affectionately at this typical statement. “So what you need to do to become fully human again,” he went on, “is to stay close to Heero.”
“How close?” Heero asked.
“Within your psychic field,” Trowa replied, glancing briefly at him. “For anyone untrained, that’s usually about a five-foot radius, though I’ll do a spell to determine more precisely how large yours is. In your own home, or any place that bears your psychic imprint, you may have a longer working distance, but I would not count on it.”
Duo said nothing, obviously digesting this, but Heero put his finger right onto the center of the issue with another laconic question: “How long?”
Trowa turned his full attention to Heero now, examining his impassive face intently. This, he knew, was the crucial point, the moment that would determine whether Duo would have a chance at being human again or would start another perhaps century-long search for someone else to fulfill the curse’s cruelly personal requirements. He took a deep breath and answered steadily, “A full lunar cycle.”