“A curse affects both the victim and the caster. A skilled curse-caster can bend this effect so that their share in the curse is something they don’t mind, something that doesn’t inhibit them… but even if they manage that, repeatedly having a share in any curse leaves a mark eventually.”
When Heero rescues an abandoned doll from the gutter, he hardly thinks it’s going to change his life; but now he and his best friend Quatre find themselves involved in the breaking of a curse from almost a hundred years ago, and perhaps in falling for exactly the wrong people.
Quatre had never been the type to take issue with a repetitive routine. He didn’t mind going to work every single day at the same time through the same traffic and doing things that varied very little from one month to the next, and he almost never thought, I need a vacation. Saturdays and Sundays were enough for him to relax on, and he was careful to accept only the social invitations that would still allow him time to do so. He’d been the same way during college, and the attitude had always alternately annoyed and impressed his friends and acquaintances. Heero called him a workaholic, at which Quatre just laughed (sometimes somewhat abashedly, depending on how many hours he’d been at the office that day).
But lately he’d caught himself thinking, upon awakening, I have to go to work again? It was taking an increasing amount of effort to stay concentrated on what he needed to get done every day, and he had significantly less patience with everything that didn’t involve going home and seeing Trowa. Quatre couldn’t decide whether this was because he’d never encountered a set of circumstances so interesting as the curse and its victims… or because his relationship with Trowa was more meaningful and engrossing than he’d realized. Or possibly just because of the death thing.
He remembered what his father had said, of course, and tried his hardest not to let this affect his effectiveness; he thought he did well, and that, even if his co-workers recognized that he was not quite himself lately, nobody except perhaps Heero was aware of the amount of impatience and tension coming gradually to a boil inside him.
That Friday had finally arrived he was incredibly grateful. Only the weekend and one more day of work remained before the night when the curse would supposedly break. But that was another thing… As if he hadn’t already had enough to think about, now there was the issue of whether or not anything would even happen at all on Monday evening. Of course if the curse didn’t break on Monday evening, Trowa certainly would not die on Monday evening, which was a relief… but what other effects would that have on the curse victims? Could either of them handle getting so close and then being let down? Would they be willing to try again?
He also still couldn’t decide if Duo was right about leaving Trowa in the dark. If Cairo’s little trick turned out not to have affected the curse-breaking process, Trowa’s awareness of it would be an entirely unnecessary source of worry for him. And if it had messed things up, was there anything Trowa could do? Surely the burden would still be on Heero’s shoulders, so would it matter if Trowa found out on Monday rather than today?
But Trowa seemed to believe so firmly now that the curse would break — the catalog on his study table was an ongoing testament to that — the only remaining uncertainty the question of his own fate once it did… Was that a belief in the curse breaking on Monday, or the curse breaking at some point? If Monday, then surely it would be better to warn him, guard against any false optimism… or would that shatter his belief entirely, return him to the despondency of before, all the worse now after that brief taste of hope?
Quatre just didn’t know. If it had been entirely up to him, he would have taken a chance on honesty and openness… but since he was so uncertain, and since Duo had made the request for silence, he was holding his peace at least for now.
It wasn’t as if it was the only matter of import he was keeping quiet about.
“I still think Duo needs to know,” he was telling Trowa; they had been debating across their lunch/dinner.
Trowa pursed his lips. “I don’t want to make him unhappy about something that’s unlikely to happen.”
Though the words ‘unlikely to happen’ in relation to Trowa’s upcoming death were music to Quatre’s ears, he wasn’t sure he agreed with Trowa’s point; and the thought process was all too similar to what Quatre had been going through all day in regards to the other secret.
“He’s your best friend.” If Heero’s theory was right, Duo might very well consider himself something more than that. “He may not be able to do anything about it, but he at least needs the chance to say goodbye.”
“But I don’t think it’s very likely that we’ll need a goodbye.”
“And that’s wonderful,” said Quatre vehemently. “But just in case, since you still think there is that chance, he needs to be told.”
“He’s looking forward so much to being human again…” Trowa was gazing at his food as if it was very interesting, which seemed to Quatre, at the moment, somewhat evasive. “I don’t want to spoil his happiness.”
“You don’t think having his best friend unexpectedly die the instant he’s human again will spoil his happiness?”
Trowa’s uncertain frown had slowly transformed into that pensive, repressive expression that suggested he had arguments he was reluctant to voice; he probably had some other, totally different reason for not wanting to tell Duo, and Quatre couldn’t even begin to guess what it was.
“Will you at least tell him on Monday?” Quatre asked, a little impatiently. It drove him crazy when Trowa did this.
“Quatre…” Trowa’s low tone was serious and sad. “If you were in a bad situation, and you learned that the only way out of it might kill your best friend, what would you do?”
There were further points Quatre had wanted to make, but at these words he was stunned and momentarily speechless. How he had never come to look at it from that angle he didn’t know, but now that he did…
What would he do? No experience in his life, he felt, was analogous to being a doll for eighty-seven years, so here was another of those circumstances where he didn’t know if his imagination was up to the task. But of course at the phrase ‘best friend’ his thoughts flew instantly to Heero, who had held that position for a decade, whom he wasn’t at all averse to admitting that he loved… the thought of seriously endangering Heero for any advantage of his own didn’t sit right, no matter what suffering was involved on his part.
Would Duo risk the life of someone he loved for his humanity? Or would he refuse… throw away the month’s progress and continue in his current form for Trowa’s sake, even if no one — including himself or Trowa — wanted him to? And what would Heero think of that?
“It’s my sacrifice,” Trowa said. “It should be my choice, I think.”
But didn’t Duo deserve some choice too? What if he didn’t want Trowa to take such a risk for him? Whose right was it to make this type of decision? In such moments, it was not unusual for a man to fall back on his primitive training… but no teaching Quatre could remember from the whole course of his life indicated how such a situation should be handled. All he was certain of was that he didn’t want Trowa to die, and that Duo would certainly feel the same. Who needed to know what when was rather beyond him at this point.
“I guess it is up to you,” he said softly at last. “I just hope you’re right.”
“So do I,” said Trowa.
Duo was laughing again.
“Stop that,” Heero ordered, accelerating more than he needed to and consequently taking a fairly sharp turn at a greater speed than was strictly wise.
“I really can’t.” In testament to this, Duo was still chuckling as he said it. “Just… the look on your face… If he’d been able to see it, he’d have probably taken back the invitation right then.”
“You must know him better than that by now,” sighed Heero. “He doesn’t take hints.”
“Yeah, I know. But it was still heeee-larious.”
“You’ve heard every single conversation I’ve had with him since he started being so friendly,” Heero went on in some frustration as he pulled into his own lot. “Have I given any indication at all that I’d like to hang out with him outside of work?”
“I’m not really sure you’re capable of giving that type of indication,” Duo said, his tone all of a sudden very solemn — though it was the solemnity of a joke at Heero’s expense. “In fact, I might just have a heart attack if you did.”
Heero had his revenge by pointing out, “You don’t have a heart.”
“Oh, yeah,” said Duo jovially. “Damn.”
“But seriously…” Finding that his usual spot was taken (again) by next door’s boyfriend (Heero considered it a tragedy that the truck was that familiar), he pulled into a farther parking place. “Have I given him false signals or something? Why would he invite me to anything?”
“He’s trying to get into your pants,” said Duo wisely as Heero lifted him out of the car along with his briefcase. “I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s nice in there.”
Heero didn’t reply, as they were passing another apartment-dweller that was already giving him an odd look at the sight of the doll in his hand. And once he’d entered the empty stairwell on the way up to the second floor, Duo spoke again:
“Honestly, though, I think the poor guy’s just lonely. He feels like he’s made a connection with you, so that’s all he’s going to see for a while. You could be ten times more anti-social and he’d still probably act the same.” Hastily he added, “I know, I know, you’re not anti-social. Hell, compared to that guy, you’ve probably got the best social life ever.”
Heero smiled wryly as he unlocked his apartment door. “OK,” he said. “Thanks.”
Wufei had invited Heero to accompany him to the unveiling of some new collection of figures from some show or other, and the current relatively rational discussion of the circumstance had only arisen after the incapacitating bulk of Duo’s laughter had passed. Now that they were home, however, the subject was dropped in favor of Duo’s usual flirtatious remarks as Heero changed clothing, Duo’s usual grumbling about his inability to eat as Heero found dinner, and eventually Oz. But it came up again later as Heero was getting ready for bed.
“I can’t believe that guy asked you out,” Duo was chortling after a long silence during which his mind had obviously returned in some amusement to this topic.
“He didn’t ‘ask me out.'” Heero was glad he was in the closet where his blush couldn’t be seen.
“Yes, he did! Looking at action figures together? That’s totally a nerd date!”
“He’s straight,” Heero said flatly.
“He thinks he is,” said Duo in a tone of correction. “I am going to have so much fun with him when I’m human again…”
“You’re going to try to prove he’s gay?”
“Well, that, and, like, put Silly String all over his car.”
Heero emerged from the closet at this point and began looking for a different shirt to wear to bed, since he deemed that last night’s had passed its between-wash limit. Duo whistled at his bare chest and started saying teasy flirty things, and this derailed the conversation again.
Once he was in bed, Heero found his mind drifting to the oft-contemplated idea of Duo as a human and what he would do at that point; and he had to admit that he really liked the idea of Duo messing with Wufei on a regular basis. Only (hopefully) three more days…
And it occurred to him all at once, somewhat idly — a clown of a thought — to wonder what would happen if he were to discover on Monday night that it had all been a hoax this entire time. After all, though he’d seen proof that magic existed, what he’d seen didn’t actually prove that most of what Duo and Trowa had said was true. What if it was all an elaborate prank?
The thought was too absurd for any reaction but laughter — out loud, even — which seemed to be the theme of the day, and Duo couldn’t but hear him. “What are you laughing about all by yourself in bed there?” he demanded.
“I’m not all by myself.” Heero rose onto an elbow and turned toward Duo on the nightstand. “You’re here.”
“Yeah, but I’m not in bed with you,” Duo said coyly.
“In one sense you are… you’re in bed, I’m in bed, we’re in the same room…”
“OK, OK, OK.” In the darkness, Duo’s little waving arm was barely visible. “But what were you laughing about?”
“I’ll tell you,” said Heero slowly, “but you have to understand that it was just a stupid thought… nothing serious… I definitely know by now that you’re a real person…”
“Whoa!” Duo laughed. “Now I’m really curious!”
So Heero told him. He’d been a little worried that Duo might be unhappy at such an idea’s even having occurred to him, but it turned out Duo was only amused at the hypothetical situation Heero proposed. The question of why anyone would want to trick someone else into carrying a doll around with him for a month was the subject’s primary source of amusement for him, and he started speculating enthusiastically.
And though the ‘anyone’ in this case was, of course, Trowa, Heero couldn’t be jealous — or anything but amused, really — at Duo talking about him continually, due to the wildness of the various theories Duo put forth as to why Trowa might act that way. In fact, Heero couldn’t help voicing a few of his own, or occasionally just building on Duo’s. And it wasn’t the first time they’d lain there talking and laughing in the dark, like kids at a sleepover, far longer into the night than one of them at least should have been awake.
Quatre forced himself to play with the dogs for a bit on Sunday morning before, pleased with his self-discipline, he headed over to Trowa’s house. There, after a long discussion about books, he chose one of the few Trowa owned that wasn’t in the unreadable magical language, and sat back in Trowa’s computer chair (dragged into the study for the day) to read it.
Trowa was once again making notes for his own hypothetical book, and it was pleasant to be able to look up and see him working placidly throughout the morning. Additionally, today Trowa finally noticed, for the first time, that his tea was a different flavor than what he’d been buying for decades, and Quatre got to tease him about that.
For lunch they had fajita steak and rice, which Trowa seemed to enjoy — but he seemed to enjoy it even more when, after they were done eating, they somehow (Quatre really had no idea how it came about) ended up making love in the living room. Then they finished clearing up after lunch, which process had been interrupted by the previous activity, and attempted to return to what they’d been doing earlier.
They found, however, that the fond looks they kept throwing each other for the rest of the afternoon rendered them absolutely useless at their respective pursuits. Finally Quatre set aside the book he’d been trying to read — it was interesting, just… not as interesting as Trowa — and went to join his boyfriend in the armchair.
It was remarkable how quickly hours could fly during the course of a conversation that was one third intelligent and productive, one third flirty and stupid, and one third kissing. Of course there was also an extraneous fraction in there somewhere comprised of the dark thoughts Quatre could not entirely banish about Trowa’s possible death, and, since Thursday, the possibility that the curse might not actually break tomorrow — but despite this, the time passed relatively swiftly and smoothly. And even once it was over, Quatre could still look back on it and work through it all again in his mind, if not with exactly as much pleasure as when actually taking part in it, at least with more than he took from anything else that didn’t involve Trowa.
But eventually, aware that he needed to leave yet reluctant to do so, Quatre slid out of the chair, standing straight and stretching slowly. “Well, tomorrow’s the big day…”
“Yes.” Trowa also stood behind him, and ran a hand up Quatre’s back to settle between his shoulder blades. He still moved somewhat hesitantly making gestures like that, but he was getting better.
Leaning against him, Quatre sighed, mostly in contentment. “I can’t wait to see you un-cursed,” he said. He couldn’t help adding mentally, Assuming the curse actually breaks, and you don’t die. Damn secrets.
“I’m looking forward to it myself,” Trowa understated.
Quatre’s backwards-seeking hands found Trowa’s arms and guided them around him, consequently pulling Trowa closer. “Are you nervous at all?”
“Yes,” Trowa said simply. “I never asked to be immortal, but I’ve gotten used to it… I’ll have to get used to mortality all over again.”
In one way or another, Quatre thought a little despondently. He noted, at the same time, that Trowa had expressed no nervousness about the curse’s actual end; it seemed he really did have faith that it would break tomorrow. Quatre said nothing about this, however. “I’m glad you’ll be mortal again,” he replied instead. “I’d hate to keep getting older and older while you stayed the same.”
“I’ll always be older than you, though.” Trowa’s tone was so serious, it was a few moments before Quatre recognized that he was teasing. Trowa was teasing him. Unprovoked!
It was difficult to keep his voice level after that realization. “But you always being older than me doesn’t mean very much.” He started walking, not really with a destination in mind but enjoying dragging Trowa along behind him. “I mean, I’ll always be older than Heero, but so what?”
“I’ll always be a lot older than you,” Trowa amended.
Quatre’s grin was now definitely sounding in his words. “That depends on how you’re keeping score! You were born when, 1898? And the curse started in 1923?” He laughed. “Actually that’s probably still older than me. When’s your birthday?”
Trowa had to think for a moment. “August twenty-second.”
“So that would make you about twenty-four and a half, right?”
“‘Twenty-four and a half…'” Trowa murmured. “It’s been a long time since I thought of myself like that.”
Quatre chuckled. “Well, mine’s in December, and I’ll be twenty-five then.”
“So I’m still older than you.” Trowa bent to kiss Quatre’s neck from behind.
Several minutes passed before Quatre made any further move to depart, and even then it was only at the sound of the clock; and after he’d been so responsibly keeping track of the time on his own, too! “I need to get home to bed,” he sighed.
He had already turned away when Trowa said hesitantly, “I wish… I wish you could stay. I know you have to work in the morning, but–” But he got no further than that, as his mouth was suddenly otherwise occupied.
Maybe Quatre had been unreasonable in wanting to hear voiced this particular desire; maybe he’d been asking Trowa to read his mind (something he knew now, since he’d inquired, that Trowa could not, in fact, do). And maybe it was silly to have essentially been wishing for Trowa to behave selfishly — to ask Quatre to stay even when he knew Quatre needed to leave — but somehow the lack of that request on all previous occasions had made Quatre feel as if his company was something to be enjoyed but never actively sought.
Someday, provided Trowa was still around, Quatre would explain to him that the real issue was not where he slept but how much (and thus the important question was what aspects of his sleeping arrangements might keep him awake); but at the moment he didn’t give a damn whether or not he was up all night — because Trowa wanted him to stay.
Eventually he drew back, releasing Trowa’s lips from the passionate kiss with which he’d enveloped them, and looked his somewhat baffled lover in the eye. “I’ll stay as long as you want,” he whispered.
Trowa looked pleased but a little confused. “Don’t you have to be at work in the morning?”
“Yes. But right now I have to be here.” And, taking Trowa’s hand, Quatre pulled him toward the bedroom.
“We should have gotten today off too,” Heero murmured as he set Duo down on his desk and tried to decide whether it was yet warm enough in here to take off his jacket.
Duo didn’t answer. Instead, a voice behind Heero said, “And why is that?” He turned to face Dorothy, not having realized she’d followed him into his cubicle. As usual, she looked simultaneously amused and accusatory. “You guys have taken a lot of time off lately. It must be nice to be a Winner’s best friend.”
“Yes,” Heero replied calmly, “it is.” He didn’t answer her question.
She didn’t repeat it. Dorothy was very good at picking her battles. “Medford’s systems are down,” she informed him instead. “You probably have fifty emails waiting already. Send anything my way you think I can handle.”
In some consternation, Heero turned back toward his computer and began logging on from his standing position. “Thanks,” he told Dorothy abstractedly.
On any other day he would have grumbled a bit about the greater and more complicated workload, but today it was exactly what he needed to keep him occupied and distracted. Which did not by any stretch of the imagination mean that he didn’t think about the doll on the desk beside him or the man that doll would hopefully become tonight — but at least he managed to keep that to every other thought.
Mid-morning he received an email from Quatre: I’m going to have to fly out to Medford tomorrow. I am so frustrated.
I’m sorry, Heero wrote back. He felt his friend’s pain, but couldn’t help being secretly glad that it was Quatre’s and not his own. Maybe have Trowa magic you out there tonight after everything’s over, and stay in a hotel?
Quatre’s answer read, That’s a good idea, but he can’t jump there if he can’t get a clear mental picture of it, and I haven’t been there often enough for that.
Maybe he has, though.
Maybe. Heero could almost hear the sigh in this single-word response. He shook his head.
As usual, bored with the monotony of a workday he wasn’t technically part of, Duo jumped eagerly on the movement. Figuratively speaking. “What’s up now?”
“It is so nice that you guys took the day off in the first place,” Duo said sincerely in response. “I mean, for you it already makes sense, since you’ll definitely need a day off after this last month of hell… but it’s just a really nice gesture from Quatre.”
This was a perfect opening for Heero to explain that Quatre also had a specific interest in this beyond politeness or even friendship… but, as usual, he couldn’t find the words. Not when Duo was looking forward so happily to becoming human tonight. So he merely nodded slowly, as if continually distracted by his email — though in reality his eyes were locked there solely because he couldn’t bring himself to turn them toward Duo at that moment.
At lunch time, Heero was distressed to find that it was only lunch time. He felt like he’d already been here a whole day plus overtime, but was, in fact, barely halfway done. His mood wasn’t improved by the awareness that he was unlikely to be able to avoid some overtime, given that he was absolutely not coming in tomorrow and therefore needed to make sure everything was set up to go smoothly without him even if they were still supporting Medford. This would put something of a burden on Dorothy, and, though he rather hated to admit it, Heero would owe her one. But he still wasn’t coming in tomorrow.
“So here’s our last lunch in this random parking lot,” Duo commented; Heero, pulling into the area in question, had to remind himself rather firmly that the pleasure in the doll’s tone probably had more to do with his desire to become human again than his disliking of spending lunchtimes with Heero in a random parking lot. When Heero just nodded, Duo went on, “And your last day having to explain me if anyone asks.”
Unfastening his seat belt and rolling down his window, Heero nodded again.
“You know, though,” Duo mused on, “I don’t think I ever heard you give a real excuse for having me there anyway. So it’s not like me not being there is going to change much.”
Heero thought it would actually change quite a lot about his job not having Duo there. As tiresome as being the in-house entertainment had been for the first few weeks, once that had died down he’d never felt anything but satisfaction at having Duo with him all day. The ability to turn to him and strike up a conversation about anything at any point (depending on who else was around, of course) easily allayed all of the little frustrations many of Heero’s co-workers often caused. He was going to miss him more than he could say.
He didn’t attempt to say any of this, however. Instead he just admitted, “I never did think of an excuse that didn’t sound completely stupid.”
“You know what you should have said? You should have said you had to take me to work for a whole month because you lost a bet. With Quatre, maybe. I bet he would have played along and everything.”
Heero turned to stare at him, surprised and perhaps a little annoyed. “You could have made that suggestion a month ago.”
“I would have,” Duo said sheepishly, “if I’d thought of it any time before just now.”
With a smile of defeat, Heero shook his head. “Well, it’s almost over, so we can just let everyone keep wondering.”
“Hopefully it’s almost over,” Duo muttered.
Heero nodded. He’d been trying to avoid thinking about the dog thing, but it was impossible not to taste occasionally the undercurrent of doubt that event had set in motion. Because the awareness was always there, beneath everything else, that even after so much toil and pleasant looking forward, it was still possible that nothing would happen tonight.
Of course there was another possibility they had not discussed at all — that the curse would end while Heero was still at work, and there Duo would be unexpectedly, a stranger in the midst of business and everyone, and Heero really would have to come up with an excuse this time. This particular possibility, however, far from being discouraging and worthy of avoidance like the other, struck Heero as rather amusing — which was fortunate, as he had need of amusement for the rest of that day.
He tried not to watch the clock, since he already knew he wasn’t going to leave until everything he needed to get done got done and everything was ready for his absence tomorrow — rather than the swift departure maybe a couple of minutes shy of five on which he’d originally planned — but even before Duo started asking him approximately every six and a half minutes what time it was, he marked the coming and going of 2:07, 2:20, 2:39, 2:42, and 2:56. Then the three o’clock hour passed in agony, and Heero couldn’t even bring himself to berate Duo for his constant demands, as his own eyes were on the computer clock more often than not anyway.
There was a tension steadily growing in the air that would not be dispelled by any words — even words that weren’t about how many minutes had passed since the last words. Heero thought that, at least on his side, words unsaid played some part in this. He should have told him by now; he should have told him long before this. And yet he just kept at his work in restless impatience and uncertainty, and the tension grew. He thought even Dorothy sensed it, when she came to consult with him about something… though it was nothing unusual to receive an odd look from Dorothy, especially these days, and Heero didn’t much fancy pursuing the reason for this one.
Duo certainly felt it… between four and five, his time-related inquiries came gradually to be replaced, mostly, by impatient humming and cursing under his breath at intervals. He waved his arms and legs in a distracting little sort of dance, and again Heero could not bring himself to find fault with the behavior; though he wasn’t given to fidgeting, and had other things to do anyway, he couldn’t deny that he was in exactly the same mood.
Every minute past five o’clock was downright torturous. If not for the minor Medford disaster, he would have been home by 5:20, and he was more than aware of this with each sixty seconds that passed. Duo had taken to whining intermittently and levering himself around the desk as best he was able, pausing comically if it sounded like anyone was drawing near and might notice him, which was even more distracting than what he’d been doing before.
The final straw was when Quatre — office-addict, uphold-the-business-honor-of-the-Winner-family Quatre — showed up in Heero’s cubicle and announced that, since he was being robbed of what was supposed to be his day off tomorrow, he wasn’t going to stay any longer tonight. Quatre was leaving before Heero.
“That’s it,” Heero grumbled the moment his friend was gone. “I’m done after this.” He gesture at his monitor almost angrily. “They can figure things out themselves.”
“We really can, you know,” came Dorothy’s sardonic voice from behind him. She’d stayed late for about the same reasons Heero had, and had probably wandered over now to see what the result of his visit from Quatre would be; though she didn’t know exactly what was going on, it wouldn’t take a genius to see that something was. “I’m impressed that you’re even still here. Go home.”
Heero glanced around and up at her. She was giving Duo that thoughtful look again.
Finally he nodded. It wasn’t as if the quality of his work wasn’t deteriorating rapidly at the moment anyway. He saved his current progress, told his computer to shut off, and started gathering his things.
“I’m looking forward to seeing you on Wednesday,” was Dorothy’s somewhat odd goodbye as Heero, having shrugged into his jacket, took Duo in one hand and his briefcase in the other and pushed his chair in with his knee. He didn’t pause to find out what she meant, just nodded as he hastened past her, and then practically broke into a run to get off the sales floor and out of the building.
Duo was not terribly sensitive to G-forces, but he got the feeling Heero was driving significantly faster than usual. And no wonder, really… Duo doubted Heero could be as anxious as he was for what would hopefully happen tonight, but still he must be pretty eager. The silence between them in the car, into the building, and up the stairs was tense, though not necessarily in an uncomfortable way.
“Shouldn’t Quatre have gotten here before us?” Duo wondered when they entered Heero’s empty apartment.
Heero gestured to the door across from the one they’d just used. “He probably went to get Trowa. His car was in the parking lot.”
After Duo’s noise of comprehension, the silence returned while Heero changed clothes in haste that wasn’t necessary but was definitely understandable. When he emerged from his closet in jeans and a t-shirt, he looked down at Duo where he’d put him on the end of the dresser as usual. Pensively he asked, “Are you going to tell Trowa about the dog?”
Duo sighed. “No, I don’t think so. Just keep your fingers crossed that I won’t have to. I’d cross my own, but… you know…”
Soon Quatre entered with Trowa, both of them looking quite agitated. Quatre threw himself down onto the sofa, and Trowa came to stand stiffly beside where Duo now sat on the kitchen counter.
“Dinner?” Heero suggested. He’d already been looking through what he had available when the other two arrived.
“Do you want to cook?” asked Quatre from the couch. “Or should we just order a pizza?”
“I don’t mind,” Heero said. He moved Duo across the kitchen and continued digging through cupboards. “I’ll make something easy.” Duo thought Heero actually rather preferred it this way, as it would give him something to think about.
“Can I help at all?” Trowa asked cautiously.
Duo couldn’t see Heero’s face perfectly from where he sat, but at these words it seemed to take on a somewhat skeptical expression. Heero smoothed it away as he glanced over his shoulder at Trowa, however, and said, “If you want to find the biggest pot in the cupboard behind you and fill it with water…”
Trowa nodded and obeyed.
“Heero, can I help you at all?” Quatre echoed Trowa’s offer from the living room without, as far as Duo could tell, rising from the sofa.
“You stay out of my kitchen,” Heero replied with mock severity.
“He can’t be that bad,” Duo laughed.
“Wanna bet?” called Quatre.
“Heero, did you want this boiled?” Trowa asked.
“Yes, if you can figure out the stove.”
Trowa made a faint disdainful noise as he set the full pot down on the stove, and spoke a water-boiling spell.
Heero turned in surprise from what he was doing, which involved various vegetable-type substances. “Did you just tell the water to boil?”
“Aww!” said Duo gleefully. “Heero’s hit understanding!”
“I did,” Trowa said.
Heero stared at the now-boiling water for a moment, then reached for a tall plastic container nearby that held colorful noodles. Handing it to Trowa, he next pointed to a drawer and said, “Put four cups of noodles in.” He pulled a large spoon from a closer drawer and added, “And stir it.”
Trowa nodded and obeyed, accepting first the noodles, then the spoon, then looking in the indicated drawer for a measuring cup.
“So magic is really that simple, is it?” Heero mused quietly.
Duo had become somewhat hypnotized watching Heero’s hands dicing a variety of edible items into precisely similarly-sized pieces. When he realized that Heero had asked a question Trowa was not going to answer, however, he finally said, “Yeah, you pretty much just order things around. That’s why it’s called ‘command magic.'”
“When you order stuff to happen, yeah. There’s other kinds too; Trowa could probably tell you better.”
But what Trowa said was, “Did you need more water boiled?” as he gestured with his empty hand to what Heero was chopping.
“No…” Heero smiled faintly; he obviously wasn’t used to this kind of assistance in the kitchen. “But if you want to pull out a frying pan from that same cupboard and grab some margarine from the fridge… there should be half a stick sitting in the door…”
“You know, Heero,” said Duo thoughtfully, “we could help you start casting spells if you wanted. Once you’re awake enough where you can understand the magical language, you’re usually ready to start–”
“Not tonight,” Heero interrupted firmly. “Maybe sometime, but not tonight.”
Duo laughed. “Yeah, OK, you’re probably right.”
At Heero’s request, Trowa cast a few more spells to move the cooking process along, which Heero watched in cautious fascination. Duo wondered whether he was really interested, or whether it was simply another way of distracting himself from the concern and impatience he felt for tonight.
The dish in progress turned out to be pasta salad with shrimp, which the humans ate with wine because there was general agreement that they needed it. This was the first time Duo had ever seen Heero and Quatre drink, and hopefully the last time he would ever have to watch them eating without being able to join in.
And as they were dining and Duo was looking on, it occurred to him for the first time to wonder, “Hey, Heero… how come you don’t have a table?”
“See?” said Quatre triumphantly.
“Apparently,” Heero said dryly, “it’s because I have poor taste.”
“Well, if is kinda weird that you have an end table and not a dining table.”
“See?” said Quatre again.
Heero gave a defeated laugh. “I’ll get one one of these days.”
“He’s such a bachelor,” Quatre commented wisely.
Duo was so agitated that he didn’t consider himself up to any of the flirtatious lines that came easily to mind at this.
Once the humans had finished eating and cleaned up after the meal, there was some aimless wandering of the limited space available (which would have been even smaller if Heero had possessed a dining table), and then Heero and Quatre settled onto the couch (as far as their agitated and rarely lengthy seated spells could be called ‘settling’), while Trowa remained behind and, seeming unaware he was doing it, paced slowly. Heero did invite him to take a seat, but Trowa declined almost without a word.
A heavy silence fell over all of them, in fact, as time dragged on. It was one of those moments when Duo experienced all the mental effects of something typically considered physical without any of the actual associated sensations — in this case of stifling, of suffocating, of being slowly crushed by something he could not throw off. There came with this a raging, swelling impatience, both anticipatory and fearful, which was quickly swallowing up all else.
They tried to watch something to pass the time, but TV seemed even stupider and more aggravating than usual tonight, and they couldn’t agree on a movie. Besides, the others seemed more interested in watching Duo anyway. Whether Quatre was seated and fidgeting or making yet another restless circuit of the room, he was turned toward Duo about half the time; it was no surprise that twice he ran right into Trowa. The latter was pretty consistently staring too — Duo didn’t look around from his seat on the end table very often, but he was nevertheless aware of Trowa’s gaze. And Heero simply never took his eyes off Duo.
Under different circumstances Duo would have been pleased by such undivided attention, especially from Heero, but right now it was as if they thought they might miss something if they looked away. As if they wouldn’t know the moment he turned human if they weren’t actively watching for it.
And all the while, Duo himself grew more and more nervous and concerned. Surely it had been earlier in the evening than this…! Actually, hadn’t he and Heero been within the requisite five feet most of that day? Maybe the dog thing really had messed this up… But what would that entail, exactly? Trowa would undoubtedly know, but to ask him would involve telling him, and Duo didn’t even want to be thinking about it himself.
And they just wouldn’t stop staring…
Finally he snapped. “I swear to god, you guys, if you don’t all quit ogling me, I’m going to kill you all as soon as I’m human!” He thought he saw Quatre wince as he said it, and sighed harshly. “Heero, pick me up, would you? If I sit still in here for one more second…”
Wordlessly Heero obeyed, taking Duo in hand and striding down the hall toward the balcony door with every bit as much impatience in his movements as there had been in Duo’s voice. Past the door, he set Duo on the balcony railing, though for safety’s sake did not release him. “At least out here,” he muttered, staring up into the sky, “we can see the damn thing.”
Duo also turned his eyes toward the moon, and felt himself calm a little. It was a partial moon, not too far from the full, he thought, placid and distant, and not even the brightest source of light in the vicinity. A faint cool wind was blowing, and the night was quiet.
“It’s funny…” he remarked eventually in the most subdued tone he thought he’d used all day. “The moon doesn’t really annoy me, even though I know it’s got all this to do with me being a doll.”
“You probably haven’t had long enough,” Heero theorized. “If you’d spent a few years knowing that this magic had to do with the moon, you’d hate it.”
“Yeah…” A long silence followed while Duo thought about those hypothetical years and the very real ones that had already passed. Finally he said slowly, “Listen, Heero…”
Heero looked abruptly toward him.
“Thanks for all of this.” Duo’s meaning wasn’t really enhanced by the gesture he made here, but at least he got to use one of his elbows. “I want you to know that, even if this doesn’t work, I’ll still appreciate everything you’ve done for me just as much. OK?”
“Don’t talk like that,” Heero ordered. “Give it a little while longer, and you’ll be human again.”
Duo made a sound of longing, which didn’t even begin to express the strength of the emotion that filled his entire spirit, and turned his eyes back up toward the moon. Afterwhile, without looking away from the light in the sky, he murmured, “But seriously…”
And it almost came out right then and there. He almost told Heero everything. It was on the tip of his nonexistent tongue, and only with difficulty and indeed some reluctance did he restrain it at all. Not yet! he reminded himself. Don’t ruin this!
“Thanks a lot,” he finally managed.
Heero squeezed him. “You’re welcome.” And then they both went back to watching the moon in tense silence. Watching and waiting.
His Own Humanity is an AU series set in modern-day America (plus magic) featuring characters from Rurouni Kenshin (primarily Saitou and Sano) and Gundam Wing (primarily Heero, Duo, Trowa, and Quatre). In chronological order (generally), the stories currently available are:
Sano enlists the help of exorcist Hajime in discovering the nature of the unusual angry shade that's haunting him.
Best friends Heero and Quatre have their work cut out for them assisting longtime curse victims Duo and Trowa.
During Plastic (part 80), Cairo thinks about thinking and other recent changes in his life.
A look at how Hajime and Sano are doing.
A look at how Trowa and Quatre are doing.
A look at how Heero and Duo are doing.
A meeting between Kamatari and Wufei.
Couple analysis among Heero, Duo, Trowa, and Quatre.
Quatre undergoes an unpleasant magical change; Heero, Duo, and Trowa are forced to face unpleasant truths; and Hajime and Sano may get involved.
During La Confrérie de la Lune Révéré (parts 33-35), Sano's 178-day wait is over as what Hajime has been fearing comes to pass.
During Guest Room Soap Opera (part 3), Cathy learns a lot of interesting facts and Trowa is not happy.
A few days before the epilogue of La Confrérie de la Lune Révéré, Duo and Sano get together to watch football and discuss relationships and magical experiences; Heero listens in on multiple levels.
On the same evening as That Remarkable Optimism, Trowa tells Quatre's parents the whole truth, as promised.