“They’re considering it an accident,” was Trowa’s weary recap, “probably caused by the old wiring — the house was built in the 40’s, after all. And I probably wouldn’t have been able to figure even that out without Heero’s help. Playing along with the brainwashing was… a challenge. I doubt I could have managed if they hadn’t all been so foggy about what was going on.”
“So you’re not going to get in trouble or anything?” As a bystander, and given that his friend was unhurt, Duo felt more burning curiosity (pun perhaps intended) than anything else, but he tried to keep it from his voice since it would only make Trowa more unhappy. Weariness made this a lot easier than it might have been.
“I don’t know.” Trowa sounded far more worn out than Duo felt. “From the police probably not, but there’s still the insurance to deal with.”
Duo nodded, then yawned. “And no clues at all,” he wondered when he could speak again, “who was doing what?”
Trowa shook his head.
“I don’t know what kind of spells take what kind of skill,” Heero murmured from where he stood just behind the sofa, “but I was still impressed with that brainwashing.”
Now Trowa nodded. “It was impressive. Someone with some real power and training must have been out there. I just wish I knew why…”
Heero went on, “When the second cop showed up, he was only wondering what was going on for about half a second after he got out of his car, and then he went into the same frame of mind as the rest of them. So whoever it was must have still been there, and they worked fast.”
Trowa nodded again.
“Real-time awareness management,” said Duo, inventing a label he thought sounded accurate.
“But I can’t reach out and get people’s thoughts yet. It’s still just whatever’s on the surface. So there was no way I could have…” Heero’s frustrated remark faded into a sigh.
“Don’t worry about it,” Trowa murmured.
And then nobody said another word — too tired, Duo thought, all of them. He was half busy contemplating the events of the evening, half blank in the head contemplating nothing at all. He’d assisted in raising a magical barrier around Trowa’s house that would prevent entry into the building during the night, and was now, like Trowa, completely spent.
Finally Heero gave a sigh and pushed away from the couch. Though not nearly as worn out as the other two, his puzzling over the matter of the brainwashing had probably rendered him just as ready for some rest — and it was, after all, well past bedtime. How so many hours had passed during their little adventure (especially when Duo had spent so much of it kicking around rather pointlessly in the dark in Trowa’s study), Duo had no idea.
“Trowa, if you need anything,” Heero said, “just knock on our door.” Obviously he’d observed as well as Duo had the reluctance with which Trowa had accepted the offer of the bed in the computer room for the night. Actually, Duo didn’t really know how much of Trowa’s thoughts Heero could read; possibly Heero had observed far more than Duo had. In any case, Heero was clearly trying to reiterate the welcome. “And feel free to help yourself to anything in the kitchen if you want something to eat.”
“Thank you,” Trowa said. Noting that Duo had stood from where he’d been sitting beside him, he added, “Good night.”
Duo gave a comforting pat to Trowa’s shoulder before moving toward the hall. “Good night. You get some sleep too!”
His own sleep was surprisingly placid and deep. In fact, one thought among several upon awakening in the morning was that being magically spent (a condition he hadn’t ever properly experienced before) might be a decent way of staving off unpleasant dreams. He would have to ponder this later when his mind wasn’t so busy with other things.
And his mind was busy with other things, which was probably the reason he’d awakened so much earlier than usual on a Saturday. There was a lot to consider and a lot to do today, and no way he was going back to sleep now. His eager jump out of bed raised a complaint from Heero, so he tried to keep quiet as he brushed his teeth and used the toilet and then headed out toward the living room.
To find Trowa sitting on the couch in so precisely the same attitude as last night that it almost seemed he’d never moved was no surprise, but it was a bit of a surprise to find that he had the TV turned on. Even with the volume almost all the way down, it was the first time he had ever, in Duo’s presence, deliberately watched TV (or acted as if he was doing so).
“How…” Trowa dragged his gaze away from the television slowly and fixed it on Duo, displaying somewhat blurry eyes with dark circles beneath them. “How did you survive so long watching this stuff?”
Duo grinned. He was not about to remind Trowa that survival hadn’t exactly been an area of concern for him during the TV-bound years. Instead he assured him, “Some of it’s actually pretty good. But sometimes it’s a huge pain trying to find it.” Before Trowa could say anything else, Duo went on, “How long do you expect to survive not sleeping?” Normally Quatre was the one that got on Trowa’s case about this sort of thing, but at the moment Quatre was not available to perform that function. Duo had caught a couple of glimpses of him last night, and it had been more than obvious that Quatre wasn’t there to goad Trowa kindly on his personal habits.
“I slept a little,” Trowa said. “I’m still so used to not sleeping at all, or only sleeping when…” He still blushed, too, when he referred to details of his sex life, even those as innocent as the fact that he slept more and better when Quatre shared his bed.
Duo sat down beside him. “Did you at least have any great ideas while you weren’t sleeping?”
“No. As you said, I’ve had plenty of time to make enemies, but who would have done this and why I can’t guess. I went back home a couple of hours ago and looked around in the light in case there was some message that would explain things, but there was nothing.”
“And divinations?” The fact that Trowa looked perceptibly more tired than last night made Duo assume he’d been doing more magic.
Trowa frowned. “I think someone is blocking.”
“Same person who cast the spell.”
“Probably. It seems to make sense, in a way… but with the information I have right now, all I can do is guess.”
Duo nodded. “So what’s next?”
“My house isn’t livable. I stabilized the floor, so it’s safe to walk in, but… I don’t even have a bed to sleep in anymore. I’ll need to find…” He paused thoughtfully, and didn’t seem entirely unhappy as he said, “It’s a decent opportunity to move here, actually. I was already thinking of that, but I hadn’t made any plans yet… Now there’s nothing stopping me. In any case, I’ll need a place to stay while I look for something new.”
Duo opened his mouth to say that Trowa was welcome to stay here as long as he needed, but stopped himself. He’d probably better not go around offering out Heero’s spare room without talking to Heero about it first. He thought Heero and Trowa had become friendlier of late — and certainly last night, in particular, seemed to have brought about a greater level of camaraderie between them — but it was still possible that Heero wouldn’t be comfortable with Trowa staying here much longer. The idea saddened him, but he tried to push it aside.
While Duo thought about this and didn’t say what he wanted to say, Trowa went on. “And I’ll need to get my things — whatever isn’t ruined — out of there.”
“Trowa, you’re welcome to stay here as long as you need.” This was Heero from the hall, where he was emerging from the bedroom. The grogginess in his eyes — a look Duo had always considered more than a bit adorable — diminished quickly as he entered the living room, circled the TV stand, and gazed at his boyfriend. He had probably heard Duo’s thoughts; Duo wished the reverse could be true, since he knew Heero wasn’t likely to want to discuss them in Trowa’s presence. “And you’re welcome to keep your stuff here,” Heero went on after a moment, shifting his glance toward Trowa, “if you think it will fit.”
“Thank you,” said Trowa. He looked around calculatingly at the room. “Yes, I think there should be space. Most of my bigger furniture is ruined, and that can stay where it is for now, until…” He sighed. “Until I get the whole house dealt with.” Obviously he wasn’t looking forward to working with his insurance, and would probably rather abandon the wreckage entirely than come up with a bunch of lies. But he shook his head and returned to the pertinent topic. “The bookshelves are the biggest things that will need to be moved, but everything’s covered in smoke, which I don’t want to get all over your clean apartment…”
“We could use some of that painter’s plastic to keep it off the carpet,” Heero said, “and wipe everything down once it’s in here.”
“It’s going to be a lot of work.” Trowa sounded just as reluctant about this as he had about accepting the bed last night.
“Then we’d better get started as soon as possible.” Heero’s businesslike tone reminded Duo a bit of Quatre; perhaps it reminded Trowa too, for he made no protest, just nodded. Then Heero added, “Duo, let’s get dressed,” in nearly as pointed a manner, and turned back toward the hall again. He hadn’t said, ‘Duo, let’s talk,’ but he might as well have.
His first remark once the bedroom door had given them their privacy was, “This is your home too. If you want Trowa here, we’re going to have Trowa here.”
“Yeah, but…” Duo wasn’t likely to think of himself as a proper sharer of the home, rather than just a freeloader, until he was contributing to the rent. For several days he’d been running over a mental list of possible expenditures of his first paycheck, and the vast number of things he could buy had thus far seemed too overwhelming for any decision. Now, though, he thought he might feel best about handing over most of his money to Heero for September living expenses.
Detecting this resolution, Heero made a somewhat frustrated sound. “September’s already paid.”
“October, then,” Duo replied with a stubborn edge to his voice.
Finished donning jeans, Heero stopped in the middle of rifling through his t-shirts and turned with a serious smile to face Duo. “I want to help Trowa in any way we can. And I also want you to not forget that you have a choice about things around here. I’m not in charge.”
“Yeah, but I’m not going to just go over your head and invite someone to stay here without even talking to you about it.”
“Trowa is not ‘someone,'” Heero insisted. “Trowa is your best friend. When your best friend’s house burns down, you don’t have to ask me first to invite him to stay here.”
A hint of something like resentment arose in Duo at being lectured, even if what Heero urged was the autonomy Duo wanted to gain and express. Even as the sensation occurred, he was already trying to repress it; it wasn’t fair — it was just a thoughtless emotional reaction that would pass soon enough — and he didn’t want Heero picking up on it and thinking Duo was truly annoyed with him.
Heero evidently caught it anyway, for he stiffened a bit and his smile faded. He grabbed the first shirt to hand and turned away. Moving toward the nightstand, he pulled the t-shirt over his head and then reached to disconnect his phone from its charger. He offered no explanation, just started dialing someone, his back still to Duo. The latter continued dressing in silence as he waited to find out whom Heero was calling.
When Heero opened the conversation in Japanese, it narrowed down the possibilities quite a bit, and common sense shrank the field even further. Catching Trowa’s name, Duo thought he could guess, in general, what the call was about. He did wonder which language Heero would have conducted the discussion in if he and Duo hadn’t just had a tense little moment.
This business of having Heero in his head all the time was… well, it was a pain in the ass, really. It made things far more complicated than they needed to be. People without communicative magic could easily have little flashes of emotion that faded quickly and went completely unmentioned without causing strain. There would always be something even in the best of relationships that annoyed one or both parties, and under normal circumstances it didn’t need to be brought up unless it grew into a real issue. It seemed unfair that things had to be so much more… sensitive… around here because of Heero’s budding talent.
But at the same time, they were dealing with it. Even in the midst of other problems — and god knew they had enough right now — they were dealing with it. They weren’t going to let it ruin things. Duo loved Heero, didn’t see any impossible barriers in their way, and figured that even a rocky period like this would only make their lives better in the long run.
Heero finished his call while Duo tied his shoes, and when Duo sat up from this endeavor he found his boyfriend right in front of him, looking down at him seriously in silence. When their eyes met he said, “Relena and Colin are going to come help, and grab some things we might need on their way over. I promised her lunch, so I need to go see what we have in the kitchen.”
“OK.” Duo stood. “Good idea.”
“Also,” Heero added, reaching out, “you’re right. We’re dealing with it. We won’t let it ruin things.”
And for a minute or two, things were absolutely fine.