Quatre had once asked whether there were schools for magic, and sometimes Trowa thought their casual time together almost qualified as one. Quatre was charmingly eager to learn what he could about magic and how it worked, especially whenever Trowa cast some type of spell he hadn’t seen before, or when an eager couple of magicians showed up at the door with a pie they just innocently thought Mr. Barton might like.

“That’s the disadvantage of having lived in this house for so long,” he told Quatre in a sigh once he’d gotten rid of the followers without answering most of their questions. “Half of the magical community knows my address.”

“So how did you find Denis Roblund’s daughter?” Quatre asked in great interest, echoing one of the things the followers had wanted to know.

Trowa shrugged. “I just jumped to her.”

“How? I mean, if she needed to be found, I assume nobody knew where she was…”

“If you have a very specific knowledge of someone, you can use them as a destination.”

“And you had a very specific knowledge of Denis Roblund’s daughter?” Quatre’s tone and look expressed playful false jealousy. “Who was this, anyway?”

“An eight-year-old girl. She was kidnapped. It was…” Trowa thought back. “1987. And it was her mother who had the very specific knowledge.”

“Oh, OK. So you just…” Quatre paused with a frown. “And this wouldn’t have worked on Duo why?”

“Because that very specific knowledge you need includes the physical, and he was in a completely new body. Don’t think I didn’t try, though.”

Quatre’s frown lingered for several seconds, but finally he let it go and climbed onto Trowa’s lap in the chair, as he often did at moments like this. “So the kidnapped kid… you locked onto her mom’s mental picture of her like you do on a place I want to go?”

“It’s more difficult with an image of a person; people’s images of other people tend to be far more… subjective… more prone to inaccuracy…”

“OK. So what did you have to do?”

It consistently pleased Trowa to find Quatre so fascinated by the topic he could most easily talk about, and so did the further queries Quatre used in trying to understand. Additionally, such discussions were good exercises in wording magical explanations comprehensibly, which was something Trowa would need to be able to do if he ever actually started writing the book he’d been contemplating. So he enjoyed these conversations very much, and not just because he held them with Quatre.

This evening’s culminated in his evicting Quatre from his lap so he would have the space to cast a spell as a demonstration of the principle he was elaborating upon. Gesturing wasn’t technically necessary, as he clarified to the displaced Quatre, but it sometimes helped a great deal in maintaining concentration — which was necessary, especially for a communion spell.

When he’d finished with the illustration, he found to his disappointment that Quatre did not intend to return to his lap; it was getting late. Quatre did pull him forward by his shirt collar, however, and kiss him slowly. When he withdrew, he reiterated the opinion he had expressed before that Trowa still had a hard time believing: “It is so sexy when you do magic.” With a grin he added teasingly, “I should have had that on my list of criteria for boyfriends years ago.”

“You’ll have to add it for your next one.” Trowa tried to match Quatre’s teasing tone, but obviously some of the dismay he felt at thinking about Quatre’s next boyfriend must have sounded in his voice, for Quatre’s expression gradually turned grim.

“You know,” he murmured, looking up into Trowa’s eyes, “I kept thinking it was just because you’d realized you might die soon…” Quatre shook his head. “But not all of this fits, and some of it started before that.”

“Some of what?” Trowa wondered warily.

“You’re just holding your breath waiting for this to end, aren’t you?”

Trowa frowned and said nothing.

“You assume I won’t care if you drop dead. You assumed you wouldn’t ever meet my parents. You talk about my next boyfriend like it’s something that’s going to happen pretty soon. You always look at me like you’re surprised I’m still around. You’ve never really thought this was going to last, have you?”

Finally Trowa admitted, “No, I haven’t. I’m just glad to be with you while you’re here.”

Quatre took a deep breath. “So what is it you’re thinking about me? That I have a short attention span? Or that I’m too spacy to have any idea what I want and I’ll realize pretty soon here that it isn’t you? Or do you think I’m just using you for sex and I’ll get tired of it one of these days?”

“No!” Trowa was horrified. “Of course I wasn’t thinking anything like that.” He hadn’t even realized that what he was thinking might imply any of that. “I just thought…”

Closing his eyes, Quatre sighed. “You just thought I don’t really know you, and the more I find out, the less I’m going to want to stay with you.”

It didn’t sound like speculation. And since it was perfectly true, Trowa could return nothing but a heavy, “Yes.”

“I don’t know what to do to convince you that you’re really, honestly stuck with me. What is it you’re…” Quatre raised both hands in some frustration and shook them beside his head. “Do you have some dark secret I don’t have any idea about yet? Were you a Nazi or something?”

“No! I… it’s just…” Trowa knew Quatre wasn’t going to like this, but there was no way around it. “Everything about me.”

“I thought it would probably come back to that.” Quatre sighed again, and allowed his hands to fall and clasp Trowa’s arms. “Let me tell you what I know about you so far. You are absolutely persistent and devoted; you’re not the kind of person who abandons a friend even after eighty-seven years, no matter what you personally are going through. You are intelligent and skilled and knowledgeable, and you use that to help and teach other people, and only ask for tiny little things in return. You’re blunt and clever, and you think fast on your feet; you’re fun to be around. You’re interested in talking about just about anything, and you make just about anything interesting to talk about. Not only that, but you’re extremely attractive and fun to have sex with. Should I go on?”

Trowa was definitely blushing, and he’d wanted to break in after every other word and deny it all. “I don’t really think that’s–”

“I know you don’t. And it’s driving me crazy. Why is it that you can believe the curse will be broken and everything will be fine, but you can’t believe that I honestly like you?”

“It took me eighty-seven years to believe the first one,” Trowa reminded him, forcing a weak smile.

“Trowa!” Quatre sounded simultaneously fond and very exasperated. “I’m twenty-four! I’m not going to live eighty-seven more years! I can’t wait that long!”

“I’m sorry,” said Trowa, almost automatically.

“I’m going to ask you for another favor.” Quatre slid his arms back up Trowa’s, and, as he had done on previous occasions, took Trowa’s face in both of his hands. “I know I ask a lot of you, my poor Trowa,” he said, half facetiously, “but I hope you can do this one more thing for me.”

“You haven’t asked much of me.”

“Then you shouldn’t mind doing this.”

“I’ll certainly try, whatever it is.”

“Well, it’s this: even if you can’t see anything good about yourself — yet — can you please try to believe that I do see it? That I’m not just arbitrarily with you because I have nothing better to do?” It was that same tone as before — the one that was both reproving and pleading — and Quatre’s facial expression just about matched… only there was a touch of sadness that was almost despairing to it as well.

In response to that look, the only thing for Trowa to say was, “All right.” Unwilling to be dishonest, however, he did add, “I’ll try.” He took a deep breath and attempted again to smile. “It isn’t as if it’s an unpleasant thing to try to believe.”

Quatre murmured approvingly, “That’s the attitude I want to see.”

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