The entirety of Saturday had passed without Quatre either answering or returning any of Heero’s calls, and the physical quest to locate him had been equally unrewarding. This, Heero thought at first, was the reason he awoke the next day (and was even inclined to rise) so much earlier than he generally did on weekends; but he rethought this assessment on leaving his bedroom and finding Trowa sitting on his sofa in the living room.
Though he could tell immediately from Trowa’s expression (and, really, mere presence) that it might not be the most welcome good morning he could give, he still offered, “Happy birthday.”
Having learned everything he needed to know from this, Heero didn’t bother asking. Nor did he volunteer to make some breakfast for Trowa, assuming such a discussion would turn out much like yesterday’s. The more upset Trowa was, the less inclined he seemed to be to do normal human things; at the moment he looked like he hadn’t slept much last night, and had probably forgotten what eating was.
Heero wanted to offer some form of comfort, however. His own mood was morose enough; he had no doubt Trowa, especially after a night of whatever had kept him awake, felt even worse. And no matter what Trowa had done or might be that Heero didn’t entirely approve of, he surely deserved some reassurance. So, once Heero had gotten the coffee started, he leaned against the counter down at the end nearest the sofa and said, “Quatre helped me through a couple of the most difficult times of my life.”
Trowa turned halfway toward him, his expression dark and sad, but said nothing.
“And he stood by all of us through the whole process of breaking the curse.”
“Whatever’s happened to him now, I don’t think he’ll abandon us. He doesn’t give up on people.” He restrained himself from adding, “Even when he should,” lest Trowa take it as a personal attack. Instead he finished up with, “We’ll hear from him eventually.”
Brows lowered, Trowa hesitated a moment, then nodded again. He might have been about to speak, but was kept silent by the sounds coming from down the hall.
Though Duo didn’t seem to have any great problem being separated from Heero when it was necessary, still he tended to keep close by whenever they were together. Heero had no idea whether or not Duo had resumed being a ‘sleeper-in,’ as he’d once called himself, when Heero had to get up early and leave the apartment, but whenever Heero was at home it was rare for Duo to stay in bed much longer than Heero did. This was fortunate, since, even after all this time, the instinct to keep Duo close had not yet entirely faded.
“Hey, Trois! Happy birthday!” Duo’s cheer was very unfitting to just about every circumstance currently in place; Heero feared he still wasn’t taking this issue with Quatre seriously enough. Conversation yesterday while Heero had driven around town trying to pretend he was helping had indicated that Duo’s sanguinity arose not from a disinclination to believe his friends that something was definitely wrong with Quatre, but from his great faith in Trowa’s powers; Duo obviously thought Trowa would be able to snap his fingers or something and cure Quatre completely. That he of all people could have so much confidence in the abilities of the man that had been unable to find him for eighty-seven years and then unable to figure out, except by chance, how to break his curse, Heero was more or less astonished, but he’d tried not to make a big issue out of it.
“Thank you,” said Trowa dourly.
“Come on, come on,” said Duo, the increased gentleness of his words seeming at odds with the words themselves, “it’s your first birthday since you started aging again… you’ve got to enjoy it.”
“Duo, what do you want for breakfast?” Heero inquired, thinking to leave this conversation to them and busy himself in the kitchen. After yesterday’s experience, he wasn’t going to attempt a proper, recipe-based breakfast again until things were settled down, but there were plenty of other options.
“Do we have any English muffins left?” Duo wondered as he took a seat next to Trowa on the couch.
Heero had been living with human Duo for almost four months, and in a technical sense had been living with Duo for as long as he’d known him, but it was still possible for Duo to thrill him with a simple use of the word ‘we’ even in the middle of concern about another friend such as Heero was experiencing now. He was smiling as he answered, “I bought a new package.”
“Oh, good, then we can force Trowa to eat a couple too.”
“I don’t really–” Trowa began, but Duo made a noise to stop him and held up an arbitrary hand. Heero, still smiling, turned to prepare some English muffins, jam-loaded for one of his companions and lightly-buttered for the other. His own he took with scrambled eggs, and he only wished he had occasion to round out the eight in the package with the sausage he knew Quatre had no use for English muffins without.
Whether or not Duo’s level of concern was appropriate to the situation, he definitely had that situation on his mind as he continued to address Trowa in that relatively gentle but still fairly cheerful tone. “You’re a hundred and twelve today. It’s not a very round number, but it’s still a pretty important birthday! There’s no way he’ll ditch you.”
“He managed to avoid all of us all day yesterday,” Trowa said dully.
“Well, yes, but I’m sure that was just because he was trying to work off his annoyance or whatever.”
“I worked on spells for twelve hours straight.” Trowa lifted his hands in a gesture of helplessness. “I can jump again now without too much trouble, but I can’t use Quatre as a destination, and he wasn’t anywhere I looked. If he ever went back to his bedroom last night, it was after I fell asleep.” He sounded extremely regretful, almost miserably penitent, that he’d done so at all. “And he wasn’t there just now when I checked again.”
“We’ll find him,” Duo reassured seriously. “He can’t stay away forever, and if–”
Heero glanced over when Duo cut off so abruptly, and found his boyfriend’s eyes pointed across the room. Trowa too followed Duo’s gaze, and soon all three of them were staring at where the door in the wall had opened and admitted the very subject of their conversation.
Quatre closed the door behind him and stood before it, looking around at all of them, and Heero could already see the change. He didn’t think it was just because he was seeking the signs, either; he would have noticed that something was off about Quatre’s stance under any circumstances.
“Wow,” Quatre said, with a smile that appeared somewhat forced, “Heero’s up before ten o’clock on a Sunday.”
Not only was this a completely reasonable observation, it was a tease that Quatre might well be expected to direct toward his best friend. But in this instance it seemed to come much more forcefully, much more sharply edged, than many a more serious remark from that source.
“And hasn’t even called me yet,” Quatre went on. He still hadn’t moved from before Trowa’s door. “Whatever you were blowing up my phone about yesterday must be over with.”
Evidently Duo too felt the unusual edge to Quatre’s tone, for now he stood from the couch somewhat impatiently and said, “No, it’s not. We’ve all been worried about you.”
“‘We’ve all,'” Quatre echoed, and the laugh he followed this with had a strange hardness to it. “Why am I not surprised to hear Duo saying that on behalf of all three of you? Oh, it’s because my boyfriend and my best friend like to keep everything a secret from the people it’s important to.”
This was another fairly legitimate point, and something Quatre had teased Heero about in the past — specifically in relation to his reluctance to acquaint Duo with his feelings for him during the curse-breaking month — but not only did it feel a little out of place at the moment, it too was delivered more sharply than teasing remarks from Quatre usually were.
Trowa had also stood and turned to face Quatre, and now he said quietly, “I have at least one important thing to talk to you about right now.”
“Yes, well,” allowed Quatre deprecatingly, “it’s not usually actually me who doesn’t get told, since nobody thinks I’d ever get tired of hanging onto all their secrets for them.”
Heero had stepped to the edge of the kitchen with an intent locked gaze during Quatre’s last couple of statements. For there was appearing around his friend — or at least Heero was just starting to notice — a faint glow, an aura of sorts, that seemed to rise from his body and stream upward. Whatever it was, it dissipated into the air as he spoke, though there was no apparent end to it. Heero had no clue what it was — something magical, no doubt — and he wondered if Trowa and Duo could detect it.
In glancing at those two to see, he was distracted by the expression on Trowa’s face: he looked hurt, and in such a way that it was clear Quatre’s latest accusation had come as a complete surprise. What secrets, Heero wondered, had Quatre been keeping for Trowa that he was perhaps tired of hanging onto, and that Trowa didn’t even like having referenced?
Quatre appeared to have noticed the hurt expression as well, for he said, “I’m sorry” — though the impatience in the phrase sapped any sound of sincerity it might have had, and that strange aura around him didn’t diminish. “I know I’m in a bad mood, and I probably shouldn’t be around people right now. But I was looking for you–” addressing Trowa specifically– “to see if we’re still doing something today.”
“Are we?” asked Trowa hesitantly, his face settling into a more placid look of general unease.
“I don’t know,” replied Quatre impatiently. “It’s your birthday.”
“He may just want to stay here and celebrate with us.” Clearly unhappy with Quatre’s attitude, Duo had moved a step closer to Trowa in a show of solidarity and a somewhat alarming challenge against Quatre.
Quatre’s eyes narrowed as they flicked to Duo, and his tone sounded somewhat disdainful as he said, “Duo, go put a shirt on. I know you’re happy to have a human body, but not everyone wants to see you half-naked all the time.”
Duo’s brows went down and his mouth dropped open, but he didn’t at first appear to have anything to say in reply to that.
“Quatre.” Even Heero didn’t know whether that single word was a query what the hell was wrong, an admonishment not to talk to his boyfriend like that, or just a plea for Quatre to stop acting this way.
“Something on your stove is burning, Heero,” Quatre said dismissively, then turned his complete attention on Trowa. “Well, are we going somewhere or aren’t we?”
With a deep breath, seeming to rally, Trowa was probably realizing that if he didn’t agree to go somewhere with Quatre right now, he would lose track of him again for another unknown length of time; as unpleasant as Quatre was to be around at the moment, Trowa couldn’t afford to miss this chance to determine what was wrong with him and what he could do about it. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, let’s go.”
Quatre nodded sharply and turned. Before following him, Trowa shot a helpless glance at Heero and Duo. Then they two were left watching the door fall shut in stupefied silence.