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.