The final day of Heero’s fairly miserable week as acting Sales Manager was halfway over, but unfortunately the need to remain accessible to the sales team up until the very moment Dorothy was in the building again remained — which meant that Heero must still eat lunch in the breakroom. After yesterday this was particularly chaotic, and he could really have done with a proper break from the sales team during that hour… but his sense of responsibility wouldn’t allow it. And, thanks to the latest angry edict from Quatre, he hadn’t even been able to get away from the sales floor a little early today so as to have some alone time with Duo before the rest of the team appeared. Not that alone time with Duo was something he lacked outside of work, but right now he was itching for a specific conversation in private that was agitating to have to put off.
Of course everyone else was already discussing exactly what he wanted to talk about. Quatre had paid an angry visit to the sales floor not an hour earlier with an actual written list of supposed problems he wanted to address — most of them minor issues that he normally never would have bothered about — and given Heero an incredibly hard time about anything and everything, much of it quite petty and all of it far too audible to everyone in the room.
This had only confirmed, in the minds of those already suspicious, the theory that Quatre’s current behavior arose from pain and anger over his breakup with Heero; many of those that had heard the theory but hadn’t been quite convinced were now leaning further in that direction. Of course that aspect of Quatre’s visit was not something they could discuss aloud in front of Heero and Duo except by means of oblique references and significant gestures they assumed would not be understood… but now Heero could hear their thoughts.
In between what else he’d been busy with, Duo had spent yesterday evening alternating between rather extreme amusement at the idea that Heero had dumped Quatre for him and indignation that the sales team would believe Heero could possibly behave so callously. Heero could see why Duo might find it funny, but definitely didn’t feel that way himself, so he didn’t really want to discuss that matter if he didn’t have to. He had a slightly more general topic in mind.
Another weekend approached over which Quatre was probably going to harass his family and torment Trowa even further than he already had. Presumably it was possible that Quatre might come torment Heero and Duo too, but not very likely: Quatre hadn’t been to Heero’s apartment once since Sunday, nor called or emailed him on a personal basis all week. But apparently he’d still been making his regular visits to Trowa on the east coast, and rendering Trowa more and more unhappy with each passing day. Trowa was, as far as Heero could tell, devoting all his time and energy to finding an answer and a cure, just as he had with Duo’s curse for so many years. Heero understood, in fact, that he’d actually bought a plane ticket out to the home of an acquaintance in Montana to look at some magical books for a couple of days. It was a sad thought that Quatre would be making Trowa’s weekend even worse than it was already destined to be.
Inactivity galled. Seven days was surely long enough for this experiment; Heero couldn’t imagine letting it go any further essentially doing nothing like this. Not that there was a lot besides nothing he could do when he still wouldn’t be able to consult Dorothy until Monday and his internet search back when this all started had been fairly exhaustive without producing many definitive suggestions — but there was one option he had seen mentioned online that he hadn’t explored at all yet, and this he thought should be looked into the very moment they got home. Hell, he would look into it here at work if there weren’t the danger of Quatre wandering in at any moment and catching him wasting company time and resources. Heero was salaried, but somehow felt that Quatre in his present condition would not consider this a legitimate excuse for personal internet browsing at the office.
And everyone’s thoughts were so overwhelming! Heero hadn’t been able to decide yet whether the benefit of having soothed (or at least redirected) Duo’s fears outweighed the inconvenience of having all these ideas in his head all the time competing with his own thoughts, of being still so extremely distracted. There were only a handful of people in the breakroom for whom ‘loud projection of anything to cross the mind’ didn’t seem to be the default state, but their lack of contribution to the mental din helped very little. In fact, though Heero supposed he really should appreciate them, he barely noticed them. Silence was difficult to hear in the midst of noise.
Duo sympathized — every time he looked at Heero across the table, he gave him an encouraging smile — but there was nothing he could do. Heero knew that bothered him, but there was nothing to be done about that either. And what Heero really wanted at the moment was to consult with Duo on Quatre’s continued anger and whether it was time for a next step. He could potentially pull him out of the breakroom and talk in the hall, as they’d done yesterday, but he shrank from enhancing the idea, which Duo had put about at that time, that he was engrossed in some kind of family emergency. It would have been a decent excuse at any other point, but now more than half of the gossips on the sales team believed it to have been a lie designed to cover up some blacker aspect of the business with Quatre. He really didn’t want to heap any more fuel on that fire.
As it turned out, Heero did not get the chance for any private conversation with his boyfriend until they left for home after (on Heero’s part) aggravating hours of trying to keep his own reflections, anxious and impatient, disentangled from everyone else’s. Duo was still the designated driver, since Heero didn’t know when he might be hit with a passing thought so distracting he couldn’t pay proper attention to road safety, but this was a duty Duo had accepted gladly.
“I think,” said Heero as soon as they were off toward home, “we’ve waited long enough for Quatre to get over this on his own. What do you think?”
Duo frowned, and Heero could hear the agreement in his head before he nodded. “I wasn’t there for today’s tantrum, but it sure sounds like he’s getting worse instead of better.”
“I wouldn’t say he’s getting worse,” Heero remarked pensively. “I think he’s just… hit his stride. Figured out how to make the most efficient use of the anger.”
“Yeah, that’s Quatre.” From the glumness of this acknowledgment Duo cheered slightly to add, “But that might mean he’ll be using it up faster from now on.”
“Do you think we should keep waiting, then?”
“What else can we do? Trowa hasn’t figured anything out yet, has he?”
Heero had to admit — to himself, not aloud — that he was faintly irritated by the implication that Trowa was the only person capable of doing anything in this situation. But he didn’t let it sound in his voice. “I was thinking we could try to get in touch with an exorcist. If this turns out to be something obvious and simple that someone can fix really easily, we’re all going to feel stupid.”
“I doubt that’ll be the case,” Duo said with a slight laugh. “If it’s not something Trowa’s ever heard of, it’s probably not something simple and obvious. But you may be right about finding an exorcist… None of us is necrovisual, so it’s probably about time to find out for sure whether this is a necrovisual thing or not.”
“I just don’t want to leave Quatre for another weekend like this if there’s anything we can try. We probably won’t see him, but I’m sure he’s going to go bother Trowa.”
It was probably for the best that Heero hadn’t aired his annoyance a moment before, as he could detect now that Duo was pleased with his specific consideration for Trowa. Duo had been watching the interaction between them, somewhat concerned that it was turning into a sort of rivalry centered around Quatre, and had been wondering what to do about it; this apparent improvement was relieving, whereas, if Heero had resentfully pointed out that Trowa was not the only person with magic around here, Duo would undoubtedly have continued worrying.
“OK,” said Duo with decision. “So what do we try?”
“As soon as we get home, let’s see what we can find online. Exorcists probably have websites…”
“If they’re with the century. Hey, by the way…” Duo paused as it occurred to him that this wasn’t, most likely, the best moment to bring this up. Realizing he might as well say it aloud — since, in having started to bring it up, he’d probably already projected the thought at Heero — he shrugged slightly and continued. “When this is over and Quatre’s OK, do you mind having a party?”
Heero could tell that Duo believed he already had a huge number of things to celebrate, and would have another when Quatre was cured, not to mention a lot of new friends he would love to hang out with in a more casual setting than work. Duo actually felt a little sad that he’d never had a large-scale celebration of the breaking of the curse, and astonished that he’d been living in a steady home as a human for nearly five months without throwing a single party. Now that he had his own job, the only remaining reason to wait was Quatre’s condition.
Parties were definitely not Heero’s thing. They were, in fact, so far from being his thing that he could imagine few recreational pastimes he enjoyed less… and being unable to escape the deluge of thoughts that existed in a room full of people was not likely to improve that. But he’d been bracing himself for the parties to start ever since the curse had broken — and he, too, felt some astonishment for the same reason Duo did. It hadn’t required awakened communicative magic to pick up on Duo’s interest in that particular activity. He was ready for this. “Yeah, sure,” he said. “Whenever you want.”
Duo was extremely pleased at this easy acquiescence and excited at the prospect of the as-yet-completely-hypothetical party, and considered these emotions perhaps not entirely appropriate at the moment. He also knew Heero would see the excitement and pleasure anyway, but still thought it good form not to show them. From the demonstrative Duo, this was an admirable sign of sympathy and thoughtfulness, and Heero loved him for it.
At home, so focused on his goal that he didn’t bother changing clothes, Heero only tossed his jacket and briefcase down onto the couch before heading into the computer room. He might have put on something more casual after all, given that his computer was taking longer and longer these days to boot up — he needed to look into this at some point, especially now that two people were using it on a regular basis — but he was distracted and engaged by Duo, who had apparently really liked the motion by which he’d removed and discarded his jacket.
Suddenly against the wall between the open computer room door and the desk, being kissed and groped, Heero raised no complaint despite how interested he was in the evening’s task. Duo still loved to explore Heero’s body and revel in the ability to feel, even after all this time, and Heero was more than happy to indulge him in this — at least while the computer took its slow eon turning on. Or perhaps a little longer than that.
But then Heero caught two startling things at once: an unexpected smell, and Duo’s awareness of it. Actually Duo recognized it, assigned a name to what his nose was telling him, a split second before Heero did, but they pulled apart and looked around at the same moment. Nothing immediately visible in this room offered any explanation, so they stepped out into the hall.
Heero put his head through the bedroom door, but had barely started a quick visual scan before he heard the answer in the head of his boyfriend, who had gone into the living room and simultaneously called out. Heero hurried in that direction, and stopped beside the couch to join Duo looking at the haze of smoke coming through the cracks around Trowa’s door.