Looking like an irritated statue, Quatre had gone back to gazing out the window with his arms folded as Heero and Duo left the room; he did not say goodbye. Trowa tried to stop staring at him, since the situation would be little bettered by worry or frustration or the attraction he felt toward Quatre despite everything, and all these and more were excited by the mere sight of his boyfriend’s rigid back. He sincerely hoped the precipitous dismissal of their friends hadn’t been a precursor to Quatre dismissing everyone else from his presence as well and refusing to agree to see the other exorcist on Friday.

Finally Quatre shifted, pulling his phone from his pocket in an abrupt movement. Still with his back to Trowa and Hajime, he started doing something with the device as if completely ignoring them. Trowa glanced at the exorcist, and found him waiting calmly with no sign of impatience.

“Friday at five?” Quatre’s words bounced off the glass in front of him and returned flatly into the room.

“That’s right,” said Hajime.

“And it won’t be another complete waste of time?”

“It won’t.”

Slowly, revealing gradually the annoyed expression on his face, Quatre turned, still looking down at the object in his hand. “Fine,” he said, his movements exaggerated as he wrapped up whatever he was doing — probably making a calendar entry. Finished, he raised his eyes as he pocketed the phone, then gestured to the door. “Out.”

Though Trowa was unhappy, Hajime didn’t seem to be bothered by this rude command, only turned without a word and moved to leave the office. As Quatre exited after and locked the door behind them, Trowa drew breath and courage to ask what he’d hoped to have a much better context for. The sharp look he received on saying Quatre’s name almost changed his mind, but he forced himself to go on. “Tomorrow I have an appointment with a real estate agent at 10:00 to see some houses here in town. Do you want to come with me?”

He should have known better than to bring this up when Quatre’s delicate mood had already been so taxed, but he hadn’t foreseen any other opportunity to bring it up at all. It was no real surprise that Quatre didn’t jump to accede to the suggestion; it shouldn’t have been any surprise that his response was unnecessarily unkind. “Really, Trowa? You need me to take off work and come hold your hand while you do that? Haven’t you bought a new house before?”

Of course Trowa wasn’t going to shout at his boyfriend, but this time it was even harder to restrain than usual, and he was definitely yelling mentally: I don’t need help; I need your opinion because I want you to move in with me eventually.

As Quatre looked into Trowa’s face, his own changed subtly: its hardness seemed to lessen a trifle, while simultaneously, around the eyes, grew the hint of an expression more haunted than angry. Shortly, but in a less cutting tone than before, he said, “I’m sorry. I can’t miss work.” And he turned in a motion that seemed, to Trowa, to convey just a touch of that same desperate unhappiness beneath the wrath. Watching him walk away, Trowa took a deep, steadying breath — inclined to wonder, as Duo had, whether there was really no possibility of getting the other exorcist over here sooner.

“My partner has full-time work and college classes,” Hajime explained as he came to Trowa’s side.

“You’re a communicator as well?” Trowa wondered somewhat dully.

“Primarily,” Hajime replied. “That was only a guess, though. You, of course, are not projecting — except for that shouting just now — and I’m not trying to read you. But I did read a lot from him.” He glanced after Trowa’s disappearing boyfriend.

Trowa didn’t relish the sound of that ‘You, of course,’ but still inquired, “What did you read?”

“That you’re not doing any good by refusing to engage. He’s running from everyone–” he gestured to the hallway, now empty, down which Quatre had gone– “because he hates the way he behaves under the influence of this anger.” Hajime’s air of excessive politeness had dropped entirely away, leaving behind a tone both serious and somewhat dark. “What he really needs, besides an exorcism, is something to let that anger out on. That’s what he wants, too, even if he doesn’t want to want it. If you would stand up to him, give him that outlet, it would do him good.”

“You didn’t.”

“Yes, but I walk a fine line between drawing out a client’s anger and retaining that client. You have a much surer relationship with him.”

Do I? Trowa wondered. If Quatre could jump so immediately to the conclusion that he needed help looking at houses rather than a prospective sharer of a new home, how sure was their relationship, really?

Hajime sighed faintly, and now looked a little annoyed. “I really have no desire to say this, especially to you, but you need to stop tiptoeing around this Quatre of yours. He specifically wishes you would be more assertive.”

Not liking ‘especially to you,’ wondering with some chagrin just how much detail Hajime had picked out of Quatre’s head, and a little agitated by this conversation as a whole, Trowa said nothing. Here was this man, who seemed to be a decently skilled communicator and had an air of decided competence, essentially giving the same advice Trowa been receiving from multiple sources lately in various forms: that he needed to be more proactive, more in charge of events. He needed to put aside backward concerns — be they based in fear or pride or whatever else — and do what should be done, say what should be said.

If he’d been readier to admit to a lack of knowledge in certain areas, he could have made inquiries about Quatre’s condition much earlier than he had. If he’d been able to disclose that he’d decided to destroy his primary source of power, he could have given an appropriate amount of detail in those emails and perhaps gotten detailed answers much sooner. If he’d been willing to accept the fact, unlikely to change any time soon, that he was a celebrity, he might have reached out to people that were ready to help him, and Heero would not have had to be the first, after almost two weeks, to get in touch with an exorcist.

And perhaps if his relationship with Quatre wasn’t as sure as he would like, that was because he had done little to make it so. Quatre had been the proactive one all along, and now, when Quatre needed help and support, what was Trowa doing for him? Cowering and, as Hajime said, refusing to engage.

A quiet, almost tired determination filled him. It was a sort of epiphanous resolution, though he couldn’t have put it into words. And where to start? Deciding to be more proactive, more assertive, was all well and good, but it wasn’t really something he could just do.

“Mr. Barton–”

That was where to start. With the man that hadn’t been told his full name but was obviously familiar with it anyway. “You know who I am,” Trowa interrupted.

“Of course.”

Trowa gave a sigh, but it was a much fainter sigh than it would have been if he hadn’t just resolved whatever he’d resolved. So he had fans. Sometimes they were annoying, but they weren’t going away, and it was really about time to learn to deal with that. They could, after all, sometimes be useful as well. He took a deep breath and turned toward Hajime. “Communion first and necrovisua second?”

The man nodded.

“I’m not much of a communicator, and not necrovisual at all.”

“Otherwise you could have solved this problem yourself,” Hajime agreed.

“Right now is obviously not the best time, but at some point in the future I could use a necrovisual consultant for the book I’m writing.”

Hajime looked interested. “A book about magic from Trowa Barton,” he mused. “That may change magical history.”

This time Trowa worked to restrain his sigh.

Clearly noticing this reaction, Hajime gave a crooked smile that didn’t appear very sympathetic. His words, however, were somewhat comforting: “If it’s any consolation, I’ve only ever heard of you in the U.S. — your fame hadn’t spread to Japan the last time I was there.” And when Trowa mutely shook his head he added, “I’ll help with your book in any way I can.”

Trowa nodded his thanks. Technically he could have waited until Friday to bring this up, but it had felt more proactive — and thus more affirming of his resolution — to ask here and now. Besides, he might (indeed, hoped he would) be very distracted by a healed Quatre on Friday.

He wanted to go home, and it was like a punch to the gut remembering that he didn’t have one. In an effort at least to get out of here, however, he pulled out his cell phone, relieved that he’d brought it with him. Once in his pocket, it often stayed there until he changed his pants, which, with magical cleaning available to him, sometimes didn’t happen for days — but that was only if he remembered to put it there in the first place. It would have been rather inconvenient at the moment to hunt through this Winner Plastics building for something to write on. “Phone number?”

Hajime told him, and Trowa sent him a quick text so the exorcist would have his as well.

“I’m jumping out of here,” he said when that was done. “Can you find your way down all right?”

“I should be fine.” There was a touch of sarcasm in this response to the suggestion that Hajime might not be able to locate the exit, but his tone was entirely sincere as he added, “It was an honor to meet you.”

Trowa nodded again, getting ready to cast his teleportation spell, and said, “I’ll see you on Friday.”

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