When Trowa jumped to Quatre’s office on Friday evening, he considered it a bad sign to find the room dark and empty. Where was everyone? Most importantly, where was Quatre? Trowa desperately hoped his boyfriend hadn’t decided he didn’t want to participate in this evening’s activities and gone home early.
A glance through the window into the hall showed the group he was joining, sans Quatre, just outside. When Trowa opened the door to step out of the office, Heero and Duo both turned toward him with a start.
“Where’s Quatre?” Duo demanded at once.
“I don’t know,” Trowa replied, closing the door behind him. “Have you seen him today?”
“No,” Heero said.
Worried but deciding he’d better get the necessary introductions out of the way, Trowa turned his attention to the other two people present. The first was Hajime, and the second, presumably, his partner. Quatre had remarked on Tuesday that Hajime’s appearance was not what he’d expected of an exorcist, and Trowa felt a little guilty for his immediate corresponding thought now that this newcomer did not look at all as he would expect. There was no reason in the world an exorcist, especially one that might not be quite out of his teens, shouldn’t have dozens of earrings and alarmingly spiky hair with a neon blue sheen, but Trowa was… old. And a recluse. Perhaps ‘stodgy’ might be a good word in some contexts.
Hajime gave a gesture that seemed, to Trowa, studiedly casual. “Sano,” he said to his younger and less professional-looking partner, “this is Trowa Barton.”
Sano’s gaze snapped to Trowa and both his pierced eyebrows rose. “The Trowa Barton?” He glanced back to Hajime as if to check whether he was joking. “I mean… really?”
“That’s right,” Trowa said wearily, extending a hand.
“Wow.” Sano shook almost reluctantly. “I have a friend who would go crazy if he knew.” Over his shoulder he accused, “You didn’t tell me we were meeting him.”
Hajime gave a self-satisfied smirk.
With the formalities out of the way, Trowa started looking around again, wondering where Quatre was. “You haven’t seen him at all today?” he said to Heero.
“That does sometimes happen,” Heero replied at a murmur.
“He could show up any time,” Duo said soothingly.
“I haven’t seen him since Tuesday.” Technically Trowa wasn’t whining, but there was some of that quality, ephemerally, to his statement. Trying to pull himself together and not worry too excessively, he gave his head a firm little shake. “But you’re right; he could be here any time. He might be at the other office today.” Quatre probably would have mentioned that, if it had been the case, when he’d made the appointment, but it was a good explanation for now.
Heero looked pensive, and Trowa moved toward him in the hope that he might be able to confirm the guess. At the same moment, Duo went in the other direction and addressed the young exorcist Sano: “So the Raiders!”
“Yeah!” replied Sano with some enthusiasm. “I should have worn this shirt yesterday for the last pre-season, but I didn’t actually have time to watch most of the game.”
“Boller didn’t look too bad,” said Duo.
“Well, seven of thirteen isn’t spectacular,” Sano allowed, “but at least he didn’t throw any interceptions.”
Trowa stopped listening.
“Quatre might have been downtown today,” Heero said, quiet and uncertain.
Shaking aside an almost superstitious reluctance to mention it, Trowa wondered, “Do you think he decided not to go through with this?”
“It’s possible.” With a sigh Heero added, “Just when this all could have been over…”
“Counterproductive decisions are not unusual for people in his situation.” Hajime, apparently also disinterested in the football conversation he’d previously been standing beside, had joined them. “He seemed to be in some denial on Tuesday, and that does sometimes progress to outright defiance of logic.”
With a frown, Heero nodded.
“But it’s only ten minutes after five,” the exorcist went on. “Give him time.”
Silence fell among the three of them, and gradually they all turned toward the other, far more animated discussion. It still wasn’t even a little interesting, however, and Quatre continued not to show up, so Trowa grew increasingly uncomfortable. Finally, just for something to say, he asked quietly, “What are your partner’s skills?”
“Getting angry,” replied Hajime easily. “Wasting time. Not putting DVD’s back in their cases when he’s done watching them.”
“I heard that,” Sano growled over his shoulder. Evidently, though, it wasn’t enough to drag him from his conversation with Duo.
Heero had pulled out his phone and was making a call, and Trowa kept an anxious eye on him as Hajime spoke again. “Sano is extremely good at absorbing and then dealing with red shade. He’s very useful for cases where someone has internalized it, like this situation. I think he’s a natural, though.”
Normally this would have been quite interesting, since naturals were rare and Trowa would have liked to ask a few questions — but just as Hajime made the statement, Heero lowered his phone from his ear.
“You think I’m a what, now?” Sano demanded. And apparently this one was enough to drag him from his conversation with Duo, for he turned rapidly toward Hajime. “Are you serious?”
Trowa drew nearer to Heero, who murmured, “Straight to voicemail.”
“You actually think I’m a natural?” Sano was demanding, stalking over to his partner. “Since when?”
“Since we met,” Hajime replied.
“And why is this the first time I’m hearing about it?”
Duo appeared at Trowa’s side. “Nothing from Quatre still?”
Trowa shook his head. “I wish I could jump to him. Even if he’s too angry to be here right now, I could take the exorcism to him.” He tilted his head toward the exorcists, one of whom was actively berating the other for never having related to him an apparently long-standing theory about his magical talents.
“He might change his mind…” Duo suggested. “He might still show up.”
Though Trowa doubted this, he thought they should give it a bit longer, just in case. Heero was texting now, his expression suggesting that he too had little hope. Meanwhile, Hajime seemed to be endeavoring to bring an end to the conversation with his partner that was threatening to become rather unprofessional.
“This is so stupid,” Duo complained. “Why does he have to be so angry today of all days that he won’t show up right when we’ve got the solution here?”
“Maybe there’s another reason,” Heero murmured. “I’m going to call his house.”
Sano had turned his back on Hajime, looking irritated, and Duo wandered over to talk to him again while Hajime approached Trowa. Heero stepped aside far enough not to involve his phone call in whatever would take place nearby, and Trowa couldn’t help thinking with some faint amusement that this continually rearranging group must appear somewhat funny to anyone watching. He hadn’t noticed anyone walk by in this hallway outside Quatre’s office since he’d arrived, but if they had, some curiosity must have been the result.
“Did you hear about Russell and his drugs?” Duo said.
“How is your divination?” Hajime wondered as he approached Trowa.
“Darryl, it’s Heero. Do you know if Quatre’s home?”
Duo’s reinstated NFL conversation was easier to ignore than Heero’s call to Quatre’s housekeeper, but with an effort Trowa answered Hajime’s question. “I’m an expert on the theory…”
Hajime nodded with a slight smirk at the somewhat facetious statement. “And all I can tell you is that, on Tuesday, he was sincere when he promised to come today.”
“No luck,” Heero said in quiet frustration, lowering his phone.
Under other circumstances, Trowa might have let it go at that; but with what he’d resolved on Tuesday, he couldn’t. He pulled out his own cell phone in order to see if his boyfriend would be more inclined to answer a call from him than one from Heero. Unfortunately, besides the continued football talk from off to his left (at least he thought they were still discussing football; he couldn’t in any way be sure), all he heard was Quatre’s voicemail message. The light, friendly tone of the recording, often so sweet and comforting, was downright depressing under these circumstances.
When Heero observed that Trowa had been as successful as he had, he said, “It’s 5:30. Do we want to keep waiting around here?”
Hajime looked at his watch. “As your friend pointed out, it’s not impossible that Mr. Winner will change his mind and want to keep the appointment. In case that happens, Sano and I should still be accessible for a while. But it might be a good idea to wait outside the building.”
“It looks a little weird for us all to be standing here,” Heero agreed. Then he glanced toward Duo and added, as if struck by a thought, “Maybe we should all go get dinner somewhere close.”
Trowa would rather wait as near as possible to the place Quatre had promised to be, but it wasn’t his building to be paranoid about strangers hanging around in. And his friends were probably hungry; it looked as if Heero had picked the idea out of Duo’s head, in fact. So he nodded at the suggestion.
Hajime nodded too, seeming just as reluctant as Trowa but perhaps, like Heero, reacting to some idea not his own. “We passed a Chili’s on the way here,” he said.
Now Heero shook his head. “There’s a seafood place the other direction.” He gestured. “It’s closer.”
Trowa, who was far from an expert on local restaurants, accepted this decision without a word. He watched as Hajime — rather rudely, he thought — broke into Sano’s conversation with an announcement that they were going to dinner and began walking away down the hall. Sano followed with some apparent pleasure at the news mingled with some annoyance, which he expressed as he prodded Hajime’s suit-coated back: “I still can’t believe you never told me you think I’m a natural.”
“I’ll buy you some seafood, and you’ll get over it,” Hajime replied.
“Is this the place with the amazing catfish?” Duo asked Heero as they too set off down the hall. As Heero somewhat morosely confirmed this, Duo threw a glance back toward Quatre’s office. The look turned to one of pity as it crossed Trowa, demonstrating that he, like Heero, wasn’t entirely distracted from the real concern of the evening even by the prospect of amazing catfish.
With a sigh, Trowa brought up the rear.