“Still 100% failure, guys! Is there some magical record you’re going for for the highest number of attempts at a spell without doing one single damn thing right?”

The spellcasters had taken to ignoring Quatre completely when he started in on them, which meant his verbal attacks weren’t nearly as relieving as on previous days… but he’d become so accustomed to doing it that he wasn’t going to bother trying to stop himself.

“We need to take Roussel out of the wording when Becotte’s not around to concentrate on him,” one of them was insisting, as he had several times already. “He’s the only one who cares enough about Roussel personally for it to make a difference.”

“Mentioning Roussel is absolutely essential to a spell designed to manage the energy from Roussel’s artifact,” someone else said, the slight weariness of her tone a reflection of the fact that she too had made this argument several times already.

“I don’t even have any magical abilities,” Quatre put in derisively, “and I could be less completely useless than you failures at this.”

“The energy itself wasn’t Roussel’s, though,” the third remarked doubtfully.

“Where did everyone go?” wondered the first.

Quatre had been aware that something must be happening out in the parts of the building he wasn’t really familiar with ever since the spectators and concentrators had quietly left the room in the middle of the ritual. At the time he hadn’t said anything — not only because he’d been warned very seriously about the dangers of interrupting a spell like this, but because the damn thing was painful and whatever he might have said would probably have come out as an inarticulate groaning snarl — and he didn’t feel like saying anything now because he honestly didn’t give a crap what the obnoxious extraneous Confrérie members were up to.

“Buh,” said one of the people that remained in the room with him.

“That sounded really stupid even for you guys.” Quatre turned in his chair to glance at the source of the idiotic noise, giving as he did so a frustrated grunt of his own. The sensations of whatever the hell they did during their worthless rituals tended to linger for a few minutes, so it still felt as if his body was being pulled in several directions at once, threatening to tear apart, every time he moved. And that was only top of a headache that never had gone away.

In growing curiosity and irritation, Quatre scowled as he observed not merely the person he’d been looking for but all three of the Confrérie members around him heading toward the floor: one sitting down deliberately, cross-legged, and leaning against a chalk-covered wall; one sinking to his knees so sluggishly it almost looked as if he’d somehow been cast into slow motion in real time; and the last simply toppling forward and face-planting onto the concrete, losing her glasses in the process, in a movement that looked extremely uncomfortable but for which Quatre had little room for pity at the moment. What was going on?

And then a voice he knew extremely well said his name from the direction of the door.

No. No. Trowa could not be here now — now, when Quatre had spent the last week deliberately getting into the habit of saying aloud every last nasty, irrational thing he could think of in order to work off some of his anger; now, to see the spirit-extinguishing depths of powerlessness Quatre had sunken to, the wretchedly different person he’d become; now, when the unhealed Quatre could not accept, could not allow anything he loved near him lest he ruin it forever.

Remaining in his uncomfortable twisted position in his chair, unseeing eyes fixed on the collapsed Confrérie member behind it, Quatre took a deep, shuddering, stabbing breath. He wanted to look around and confirm Trowa’s presence, because, little as he wanted Trowa here, he wanted Trowa here with a desperate ferocity that stiffened his entire body and made his pressurized head throb. He wanted to run to him, cling to him and never let go… but he couldn’t allow himself to try to take comfort in something that would only force him to admit how much he needed comfort, how completely out of his control was his situation.

And what emerged around his clenched teeth was, “Why the hell are you here, Trowa?”

The quiet reply, “To bring you home,” came so immediately and earnestly that it erased any idea of wishful thinking or that Quatre might actually be collapsed like the spellcasters around him and dreaming that one of the things he wanted most in the world had come to pass. The word ‘home’ spoken in Trowa’s voice seemed to lance into him and draw blood, and it must be impossible to deny how ardently he longed to go there with the man he loved.

But what he said was, “You just decided that, did you? ‘Time to pick Quatre up from daycare,’ was it?”

“Come home,” said Trowa as quietly and seriously as before, “and we’ll get this problem fixed.”

“Seems to me you’ve got plenty of problems of your own to worry about before you try to fix someone else’s.” Quatre still hadn’t turned, and the twisting of his chest and stomach was becoming worse than the fading pain from the ritual. He wanted so much to look around, to see Trowa’s face that he so missed, to seek solace there, but he just couldn’t. “Why don’t you work on that instead of trying to make my choices for me?”

“We need to get you out of here.” Did Trowa sound somewhat hurt? Trowa sounded somewhat hurt. Quatre had hurt him again, had done specifically what he’d come here to avoid doing.

Squeezing his eyes shut against the irate tears burning them, Quatre shouted, “I didn’t ask you to come here!” Except that he had — every moment he’d been here, he’d been silently calling to Trowa with all of his angry heart. “It’s not your responsibility to fix my problems!” Except that Quatre’s own attempt at fixing his problems had failed so miserably; someone absolutely needed to intervene. “You need to mind your own damn business!” Please don’t leave me. “Just get out of here!” Please don’t leave me!

“We won’t leave you.” It was Heero’s voice, quieter than Trowa’s, more horrified, but perhaps equally hurt. Was everyone Quatre most cared about here to see him in his weakness, this supreme state of wretched, culpable, powerless rage and misery?

“We’re not going anywhere without you,” Trowa agreed, and audibly took two firm steps into the room.

Clearly set in motion by these familiar and beloved voices, something was building inside Quatre, perhaps toward a climax of sorts, as if all the anger and unhappiness was coming to a boil. He couldn’t go much longer like this, having an exchange if not entirely rational at least composed of the usual back-and-forth of conversation. What would happen when this peaked he didn’t know, didn’t want to know, but it couldn’t be much longer.

Finally he turned, though his emotions didn’t untwist along with his body, and took one single, brief look at his friends that had come so far to rescue him: at Trowa’s solemn face, shocking in how much Quatre loved the sight of it after what felt like an eternity apart, and his slightly outstretched hand that offered reunion and comfort Quatre could not allow himself to accept; at Heero’s stiff form in the doorway, features appalled and pitying; and, oh, was Duo here too? Quatre should have expected that. But the sight of him peeking around Heero with concerned and would-be-helpful eyes — again, offering comfort Quatre simply could not accept — was as infuriating as that of the other two. Burning with directionless fury, Quatre could feel the shrinking of the fuse that had been lit inside him.

“They took my phone,” he snapped, standing and moving forward so abruptly that he kicked the horrible old chair over and probably into the face of one of the Confrérie members behind. “I have to find it.” And he pushed past his friends, avoiding a second look at any of them or even touching them lest the touch become a blow before he could stop it, into the hall.

Though he’d momentarily escaped the ritual room and the people in and around it, he had not escaped and could not escape the turmoil inside himself. The heat was still rising, warping his vision and turning his steps into stumbles as he made his way toward the locked office where he believed his cell phone had been held hostage ever since he’d arrived in this terrible place. This maneuver had bought him time, but whether it would do any good in the long run he couldn’t tell.

The door opened under his hand — whether because La Confrérie had left it unlocked or because of something Trowa had done, Quatre neither knew nor cared — which was fortunate, since he would otherwise have kicked it or even thrown himself against it until it let him in. Now he knocked aside the chair he encountered and started ransacking the desk beyond half blindly, looking for something he was only partially certain was there. What he would do with his phone if he found it he wasn’t sure; he just needed some pursuit that would turn his anger away from his friends and give him some time to try to get even the faintest hold on himself.

It felt good to rip out the squeaky drawers, empty them onto the floor, then throw them across the room, and he thought there might be some hope of working off enough of his surface-level emotion that he could manage to articulate some thoughts that did not arise purely from a wrathful desire to strike and wound… even if the sight of everything in this desk that was not the phone he was looking for took him another step back toward the anger and away from rationality.

Though it was a couple of minutes before he discovered what he sought in nearly the last drawer, nobody accosted him and none of his friends had followed him into the room. Deeply relieved that they’d had the sense to see the intolerability of their presence at the moment, Quatre was simultaneously hurt and increasingly irate that they weren’t bothering to help him, to continue insisting he come home with them, or to offer further comfort he couldn’t possibly countenance. As he waited for his phone to turn on, bombarded by conflicting emotions and waiting in helpless tension to see whether or not he was going to be able to avoid the critical mass he’d already predicted, he listened to what he thought was shuffling and breathing just outside the door where he couldn’t see.

The phone’s little startup jingle had been annoying, but nothing compared to what happened now the device had finished booting and located its signal. Had the evidently brainless designers really been able to think of no good reason for playing a single text tone to indicate the presence of multiple unread messages? In the cacophony of text tone after text tone, continually overriding each after the first two notes, the voicemail sound (which did only play once for multiple messages) was mostly lost, and the email icon appeared subtly at the top of the screen without any audible indication in the midst of the din.

Increasingly agitated and headachy as he tried to wait this out, Quatre came gradually to hold the phone at arm’s length in distaste for the jarringly repetitive sounds, and he felt his stomach clench as it struck him just how much of his life he’d missed lately. He’d transformed monstrously, hurt everyone he loved, run away to Louisiana to absolutely no benefit, and left everything behind in shambles. What was there to go home to besides a greater ordeal?

When the aggravating chiming finally stopped, he found his hands trembling slightly as he dragged down the alert bar to see what he’d missed since dropping out of contact with his entire world. And when he was greeted with the information that he had 33 texts, 14 voice messages, and 27 emails, that was, somehow, the final straw, the catalyst needed to bring about the emotional apogee he’d been dreading.

With a roaring sob he hurled his phone away from him in a motion like a hard tennis smash that resulted in a loud crack against a wall, but he didn’t see what had actually happened to the missile since his eyes had entirely clouded over with an upwelling of uncontrollable tears. Everything around him was hot chaos, anger, despair, throbbing pain, and voices crying out his name; it crashed over him like a tidal wave, tossing and battering and drowning his sprit.

When he felt someone take hold of him, try to draw him into insistent arms as if for a consoling embrace, he fought back viciously, striking out against the nearby body with both fists. He couldn’t; he couldn’t; there was nothing of that in this hell; there was nothing left but rage and suffering.

“I did tell you it would be better to let us knock him out too,” said an unknown voice, sounding completely unperturbed, in the midst of the others calling out to Quatre.

“I’m going to jump him home,” replied another voice, very familiar and very close by. It slipped around behind him, evading his flailing blows and speaking in the magical language, as arms clamped decisively around his waist. Then a sudden disorienting weightlessness briefly paralyzed Quatre’s lungs, so that when he next drew breath it was of different air in a distinctly different place.

Everything had happened so quickly, event after event after unexpected event, magic and realizations in such rapid succession, that Heero, though he stood perfectly still on the sidewalk outside Galerie de la Lune with Duo equally motionless at his side, felt as if everything was transforming and rearranging, and his head was spinning.

Cars passed behind him along Burgundy Street, and people occasionally walked by, their thoughts sometimes detectable. The world progressed in the warm, humid evening, but Heero was frozen for the moment. What might be going on inside the building he’d left, though he could speculate to some extent, he didn’t know for certain and almost didn’t want to think. He merely continued to stand still, hugging to himself the clothing he’d recognized as Quatre’s and therefore confiscated in order to return to his friend when they got back home.

Finally Duo took a deep breath and shook his head, sluggishly at first but vigorously after a moment as if awakening from a trance of stillness and indecision similar to Heero’s. “I guess…” he said, but didn’t finish the statement.

Heero managed to rouse himself enough to agree, “Yeah.” He looked down at the suit, shoes, and broken-faced cell phone in his arms, then back at Galerie de la Lune in front of him, and shook his own head. “Yeah, let’s…” Then he and Duo turned simultaneously in the direction they’d originally come from, heading vaguely back toward the parking garage and their rental car.

It was no surprise that Duo was the first of them to manage an entire sentence. “I guess Trowa doesn’t have to worry about those weirdos anymore.”

Though he knew, from Duo’s thoughts, the answer to his question, still Heero asked sardonically, “Which weirdos do you mean?”

Duo chuckled darkly. “The Confrérie weirdos, not the secret agent brainwashing sunglasses weirdos.”

“Yeah, the secret agent brainwashing weirdos specifically said we won’t have to worry about La Confrérie in the future.” Again Heero shook his head. “And practically offered me a job.”


“Apparently I have ‘a lot of raw talent.’ Someday I could be a sunglasses weirdo too, I guess.”

Duo was torn by multiple internal responses to this: he liked the mental image of Heero in sunglasses and a stark secret agent suit, but the idea in general weirded him out as well; by the mention of Heero’s magical ability, he was reminded of things he wanted to discuss with his boyfriend and had been putting off, but he wasn’t sure, even with Quatre safely jumped home, that it was a good time yet.

Silently Heero sighed. Whether there would ever be a good time he didn’t know, but right now, with little more they could do for Quatre beyond worrying pointlessly, might be an acceptable time. Even with Quatre’s mental shouting, the first thoughts Heero had ever picked up from him, still echoing poignantly through his head and heart — Please don’t leave me; please don’t leave me! — it would be better to force himself not to concentrate on that when it could accomplish nothing.

Trowa, after all, must be taking care of Quatre back home even as they walked, and Hajime was there at his house; things could progress now as they’d all been wishing. Heero could even hope that Quatre would be entirely returned to normal by the time he and Duo, after catching their scheduled flight tomorrow, saw him again. So this was probably as good a time as any for Duo to say everything he’d wanted to say — at least everything he’d wanted to say to Heero — ever since the plane ride here.

“I think,” Heero began slowly, “I will not be able to forgive myself in the future if I leave without getting something at a decent New Orleans restaurant.”

Duo looked at him sidelong, with little to no emotional response for the moment beyond some curiosity. “I saw you looking up restaurants last night, and I wondered what you were doing. Can we afford that?”

“We didn’t spend any money to get here, remember? I may not have thousands of dollars, but I have enough for a dinner for two.” He felt a little guilty about the proposed expenditure, after Quatre’s parents had paid for plane tickets, a rental car, and two hotel rooms (not anticipating that Trowa and Quatre wouldn’t require one), but they did need dinner somewhere tonight. And that he would regret for the rest of his life (or at least until he managed to visit this city again) passing up an opportunity to sample New Orleans food had not been a lie.

“I guess there’s really nothing more we can do for Quatre right now,” Duo said pensively.

“Right,” said Heero. With a deep breath he added, “And we can… talk.”

“You want to… talk… in public?” Duo made no effort to hide his surprise.

“When you’ve been so thoughtful about waiting, not making you wait any more is the least I can do, I think.” Still hugging Quatre’s possessions to his chest, Heero watched the sidewalk in front of him instead of his boyfriend as they continued moving from the circle of one streetlight to the next.

“I didn’t want it to get in the way when we were doing more important stuff,” Duo said a bit awkwardly.

Heero’s statement was no less awkward. “I don’t know which was more important, but it was still really nice of you to put it off.”

“And it’s really nice of you not to make me keep putting it off… but I might get kinda loud about this.”

“You always get kinda loud.”

“OK, then. I guess if you can handle that, let’s find a restaurant and… talk.” And as they kept walking, Duo was thinking very seriously and with greater concentration about everything he wanted to discuss. It was a chaotic set of reflections, and he wasn’t really sure where to begin. After a few moments, Heero noticed that Duo wasn’t sure when to begin, either. Were they waiting until they actually reached a restaurant, or should he get going right away?

“So talk,” Heero urged.

Question answered, Duo cleared his throat determinedly, fixing on his starting point. “I… I really can’t believe you agreed with Trowa about not telling me he might have died. I couldn’t believe Trowa didn’t tell me that in the first place! Well, no, I could totally believe Trowa didn’t tell me that — actually it was more of a surprise that he let it slip at all; it would have made sense if he’d never told me, but I think he was scared Quatre was going to, and he felt like he’d rather be the one to say it, but still… the point is that the news was a surprise, the fact that Trowa never told me wasn’t, and then when you agreed, it was again.”

The great benefit to having postponed this until a fairly long time after it had arisen was that Heero had been granted, at disparate moments, the opportunity to consider it and choose how to respond to some of what he knew Duo wanted to say. He wasn’t always skilled at on-the-spot self-expression in heated discussions, so this had been a blessing. Now he was able to reply immediately, despite the publicity of the sidewalk and the difficulty he often had with these words, “I’m sorry I hurt you. Really sorry.”

Before Heero could proceed, however, Duo went on; it seemed he wanted to get all his thoughts on this particular point out into the open at once. “And I know you’ve been getting better with Trowa lately, and that’s great. I can’t even tell you how happy it makes me to see you guys being better friends; that’s something I’ve wanted to see this whole time, like, ever since we all met. But then to hear you say something like that to him… it’s like you took something that was exactly what I wanted all along and used it to stab me in the back.”

Heero found this dramatic wording a little hurtful, but wasn’t going to say so; as he had this morning, he recognized now the baffled sense of betrayal in Duo’s head, and understood why Duo would represent it in such strong language. He merely tried to explain. “You said I agreed with Trowa, and I can definitely see why that bothers you so much. But I didn’t ‘agree’ with him. I told him I understood why he didn’t tell you, not that I agreed with him not telling you.”

Briefly Duo looked over without saying anything, then back to the street they were crossing. He could already see some of the distinction Heero was trying to make, but waited for Heero to elaborate.

“I’m sure he couldn’t stand to tell you something that might make you think you couldn’t keep trying to become human.” Heero lowered his voice, moving slightly closer to Duo, as someone passed them. It really was an effort to be talking about this in public. “He didn’t want to ruin your chances, and since he wanted the curse to break so much that he didn’t care what happened to him, he felt like it was a better idea not to tell you something that might make you call the whole thing off.” Before Duo could offer the violent protest against this idea that was exploding in his head, Heero continued quickly:

“And I wanted him to know I understood those feelings — it wasn’t exactly the same situation for me, of course, but I completely understood feeling like getting you human again was much more important than whatever I was going through on the way, because that’s what I did feel like. But that doesn’t mean I think he did the right thing, or that I would do the same thing in his shoes.” Not that Heero, who had never suffered anything like what Trowa had suffered, could say exactly what he would have done in Trowa’s shoes, but to mention that would be straying from the point.

Now Duo paused, his brain still in turmoil, before the entry into the parking garage they’d reached, and faced Heero with a frown. “That’s… OK, I see your point… And the fact that you felt that way was… But, I mean, not telling me something like that…”

“I think I understand your end of it too,” Heero said quietly, bumping Duo’s shoulder with his own in order to usher him onward into the greater darkness before them and out of the potential hearing of a nearby booth attendant. “Him not telling you that was taking a choice away from you, and you already had no control over your life because you were a doll.” Finding uncomfortably that his voice echoed a bit inside the expansive garage, he lowered it yet again. “I don’t think Trowa thought of it that way — I think he just saw it as what was best for you and what he had to do to try to make up for cursing you in the first place — but he really was kinda reinforcing the fact that you were a doll.”

“Yeah,” Duo said, with more certainty and emphasis than his previous half sentences. “Yeah. It’s not just that it’s horrible to think about losing my best friend when I got something else I really, really wanted… it’s this same thing it’s been all along, of having other people controlling my life like they’ve been doing for so freaking long. And this time it was my best friend, so I don’t even know how much I can trust him anymore. And now…”

Pausing, Duo scanned the line of cars they’d been walking along. “We parked about here, didn’t we?” he muttered. “What the hell did our car look like…?” He was obviously avoiding glancing at Heero, seeking the rental car so avidly at this point, because he couldn’t bear to discover, from Heero’s face, whether his latest thought, at the tail-end of what he’d been saying, had been audible.

It had.

“And now,” Heero echoed quietly, closing his eyes and drawing a deep, silent breath against the pain that had arisen in response to what he’d picked up from Duo’s head, “you’re not sure whether you can trust your boyfriend either.”

He’d hurt Heero. This conversation had been intended to work out and overcome Duo’s hurt feelings, not retaliate against Heero; that was the last thing Duo wanted. But somehow he’d managed to hurt him… and perhaps it had been inevitable.

At the moment he was concentrating intensely on backing out of the parking space — something still close to the bottom of his driving skills list — and that endeavor probably kept the specific reflections he needed to voice sufficiently subdued that Heero couldn’t hear them… but eventually he must continue.

He was trying his hardest to put every little thought he had about all of this into words, because he felt better saying it aloud than being aware of Heero reading it from him without his having voiced it. It seemed more honest, and partook more of precisely what he wanted to express, to put everything on the table of his own free will than simply to know that Heero could see his hand whether he played it or not.

“Turn left,” Heero commanded as they approached the parking garage’s exit. He didn’t sound hurt or angry; in fact his tone was completely flat and emotionless, a sound Heero was particularly good at but generally didn’t direct toward his boyfriend.

Duo turned left.

And eventually, forcing himself to get the damned explanation underway, he said, “The thing is, I know Trowa really cares about me, and I know you really care about me, and you and him have some things about you that are pretty similar — more than I ever really thought about before — so when you said you understand why Trowa wouldn’t tell me something like that — even if you say you don’t necessarily think he made the right choice not telling me — I can’t help thinking…”

“Left again at the next intersection,” Heero put in.

“I can’t help thinking, how do I know you wouldn’t keep something like that hidden from me? Hell, how do I know there’s not something like that already that you’re not telling me? Like that after the curse broke, there was some kind of backlash on you and now you’re cursed, but you think I don’t need to know because it would ruin my happiness as a human or something? Or… it wouldn’t even have to be magical… like, what if you had some awful disease that was going to kill you, and you weren’t telling me because you thought I should have all the time I possibly could to… or, I don’t even know.”

“Keep going for a while on this street.”

“Because, yeah, you did say you felt like he should have told me, and you even obviously completely get why he should have told me, but that’s just one situation… how do I know something else won’t come up — or already hasn’t come up! — where you would agree with Trowa? Sometime when you would feel like it’s more important to try to ‘do what’s best for me’ or whatever, try to keep me happy in the dark, than give me the choice and let me know?”

Into the ensuing silence Heero said, “You’re going to be turning left eventually.” Then the silence resumed as Duo attempted to find an opening in the left lane.

Finally, pensively, Heero spoke again, clearly aware that it was his turn but having taken this long trying to decide how to spend it. “So this really is a lot more about not trusting me than what Trowa said on the plane.”

“Yeah, I think this has been coming for a while…” Duo admitted with some regret. “What Trowa said just brought it out finally. I’m definitely going to have to talk to him about it, because he can’t keep doing things like that, but…”

“Go easy on him,” Heero advised. “He’s changed a lot since when he decided not to tell you, and he obviously realizes now that he should have, or he wouldn’t have thought of it as a secret he was worried about Quatre giving away.”

“Yeah…” No matter how easy he went, though, that conversation was likely to be as difficult as this one.

Another silence followed as Duo continued to sort out his thoughts and navigate the New Orleans streets in an unfamiliar vehicle, until Heero informed him, “Left at this light, and then you’re going to have to park somewhere.”

Realizing what that meant, Duo groaned. “I have to parallel park on top of everything else?”

“I have faith in you,” said Heero quietly.

Despite this declaration, the atmosphere in the car became even tenser than before as Duo went about the tricky and delicate task. Oddly, though, as he removed the key from the ignition, he was brought to laughter by the realization that it was possible to increase the agitation between them at the moment with something as frivolous as the difficulties of getting a car into a properly square position in relation to the curb and the other nearby cars. This conversation wasn’t exactly fun, but evidently it also wasn’t as horrific as he’d been thinking it must be.

Heero smiled a little, undoubtedly in response to this idea, as they disembarked, and it gave Duo courage to continue. Because, when it came down to it, the problem arose not so much (if at all) from Heero’s behavior as from the very power he’d just demonstrated. It wasn’t something he’d done wrong; Duo was not accusing him.

“Yeah,” Duo said on the way toward the restaurant door, at which he barely looked, resuming the conversation from the point his thoughts rather than his words had left off, “it’s stupid. Just because you can read my mind — and not even all of it! just some of my mind! — that shouldn’t make it harder for me to trust you; it shouldn’t have anything to do with that!”

Though the interesting smells inside the restaurant did distract him slightly, only the fact that an employee was talking to Heero prevented Duo from continuing immediately. This was probably for the best, since it gave him time to decide how to articulate the rest of his reflections before they were walking to and eventually seated at a table somewhere.

“People who don’t have magic and can’t see into each other’s heads have to trust each other based on things they’ve gotten to know about each other and things they’ve seen each other do.” Perhaps it was a bit of a shame, but later he wouldn’t be able to describe this place: not the decorations nor how big their table was nor how many people besides themselves were here nor even the name of the restaurant. The smell might linger, but nothing more, so wrapped up was he in this other matter.

“I mean, you get to know someone, and you have this pattern recognition that tells you, ‘He wouldn’t do such-and-such,’ right? But there’s always some, I think, sort of blindness to it too — because, even if you logically think, based on all this stuff you’ve seen, ‘He would never do that,’ you can’t really know. But you believe it anyway. It’s a sort of… faith thing, I guess.”

Heero, who had pulled his chair close to Duo’s, nodded his understanding.

“And I think that’s good for people. It’s a human thing, having to trust blindly, and I think it brings us closer together, especially whenever we get some evidence that we were right. And that’s where I am: having to trust you in this totally normal, human way, which is absolutely fine… except that then all of a sudden you get an advantage. You can see into my head when I can’t see into yours, so suddenly the way you trust me is totally different from the way I trust you. You’ve got a sort of… head start…” He laughed briefly and somewhat bitterly at the unintended pun. “You’re on a different level. It’s… it’s not fair anymore.”

Once again he had to shut up for a minute while a waiter talked to Heero — was that quick service? were they ordering drinks and food at the same time? did Heero just order for him, knowing full well that Duo hadn’t looked at the menu and couldn’t concentrate on it long enough to make a rational selection? — and once again, during this period, he examined and amended what he was and would be saying.

He regretted sounding as if he considered human interaction and trust some sort of contest, some sort of fight or race in which things like ‘advantage’ and ‘head start’ came into play; but inequality could make a difference in any field. Maybe it shouldn’t, but simply saying that something shouldn’t change things didn’t mean it didn’t change things.

“And it really shouldn’t,” he went on when they were alone again. “I’m still in exactly the same place, in that normal situation, and it shouldn’t make a difference that you’re not. How you trust me shouldn’t make any difference to how or if I trust you, but it does, for some reason. I kinda feel like I’m on the defensive, somehow, because you can look into my head, and then it makes it harder for me to trust you, even though I don’t have any real reason not to trust you and a million good reasons to trust you.”

This was about the extent of it, though Duo felt some annoyance when he considered that Heero probably understood his point better because of what he’d read from his head than because of how Duo had worded it. But at least it was all shared between them now, one way or another.

They sat silently for some time, Heero gazing down at the table with a pensive half frown and Duo staring at Heero. He wasn’t even demanding a response, willing him to say anything, because it wasn’t as if Duo had made some allegation Heero needed to refute; it was just that he couldn’t look away.

Finally, slowly, Heero said, “I don’t know what to say.”

“I’m sorry,” Duo offered, perhaps belatedly. Probably belatedly. “It’s not your fault you’re a communicator and I’m taking it weird.”

Heero smiled faintly. “I wish there was something I could do to prove…” He shook his head. “But I guess that might not actually help.”

Silence recommenced, and Duo continued to watch his boyfriend in frustration. This whole thing shouldn’t really be a problem, and he was annoyed that it had become one. After all the time he’d spent with Heero, after everything he knew of him — that logical trust he’d built up over the months — for something like this to hit them now, in the middle of other concerns…!

If he ever again had one of these shrimp sandwich things, he would surely associate its scent and flavor and texture with the memory he was reliving tonight as he ate at least part of one almost without noticing it: a memory of Heero, back in July or so, making a half-facetious verbal list of apology for every instance he could remember (some of them very insignificant indeed) of having taken advantage of Duo’s doll helplessness. As Heero had demonstrated this very evening, he really did understand — and seem to regret — how little control Duo had had over his own life because of the long curse.

Heero also opened up to Duo much more completely than he did to anyone else. Duo recalled the time, shortly after his first meeting with Heero’s parents, when he’d asked whether Heero now considered himself more out of the closet than he had before; and Heero had explained with obvious embarrassment or even shame, but little to no reluctance, that he wouldn’t feel properly out of the closet until he managed a more active part in the gay community and the struggle for equal rights, a struggle he hesitated to join in any manner more involved than his voting because of the uncomfortable publicity he perceived as being necessary thereto.

Heero didn’t hide things from Duo, and he did understand Duo’s need for autonomy. As Duo had said, there were a million reasons to trust Heero, and the awareness of them should be something Duo could cling to even through the doubts that had arisen because of his reaction to Heero’s communicative magic. It formed a sort of trust that, he discovered now, he still had in Heero despite his questioning.

This was a bittersweet realization, because, although it was a comfortable and reassuring place to return to, it was a place he never should have left — even if that trust was yet imperfect. Not only that, but if he was just going to come back around to this spot after his little jaunt through uncertainty, why had it been necessary to drag Heero through that with him and hurt him in so doing?

Well, he’d probably had to hash the thing out with Heero (out at least aloud in his presence) in order to get it resolved in the first place, so it had probably been, as he’d feared earlier, inevitable. Some things didn’t come naturally, after all; they had to be worked for, with their attendant discomfort and inconvenience. That was as part of being human as learning to trust in adverse circumstances, he supposed.

“You know what might help?” Heero said pensively, surely having picked up on everything that had gone through Duo’s head but letting it go without comment. “Hajime said that even non-communicators can learn not to project what they’re thinking. If you train so I can’t hear you anymore, except when you want me to, you might feel better about this thing I can do.” After a moment he added, with some of the same awkwardness that had colored several of his statements since they’d left Galerie de la Lune, “I don’t want to make it sound like this is a problem it’s your responsibility to solve or anything, but… that still might help.”

Despite things having been less resolved than postponed, Duo hastened to agree with this excellent idea. Heero was so considerate; he might not excel at this type of discussion, and he might occasionally have a hard time opening up, but he tried… he always displayed a genuine desire to work through problems when they arose, and he seemed so good at recognizing various sides of a situation like this.

And all of a sudden, as if this had been a much more definitive resolution than was actually the case, Duo felt he was, for the moment, very done with the entire thing, that putting off was exactly good enough for now. “I’m really freaking tired,” he announced, setting down with finality whatever he was eating.

“You’ve been through a lot today,” Heero agreed, displaying no lingering hurt or worry or anything more than quiet sympathy — whether because he really was that calm about this or because he also was satisfied to postpone for now, his companion was too weary to guess. He put his napkin on the table next to his own only half-finished meal. “Let’s go find our hotel and get some rest. We can eat these leftovers for breakfast, if there’s a fridge in our room, and then we can get home and find out how Quatre and Trowa are doing.”

Trowa’s right cheekbone ached, and he wouldn’t be surprised to find more than one bruise already growing where Quatre had hit him without appearing to be aware of it, but the tears slipping down his face were, he thought, only caused in small part by the pulsing pain. His heart, in the metaphysical sense, hurt far more than his body ever could, and he was tempted to say he’d found a new superlative.

It had taken some time for Quatre to calm — how much time, exactly, Trowa hadn’t measured — and this largely empty house had proven an optimal environment for directionless rage. There was very little to damage here, beyond Trowa himself, and Quatre’s frenzy had eventually burned out with no real destruction done. Now he sat sobbing in Trowa’s arms, pressed painfully against the tender spots he’d caused on Trowa’s chest and shoulders, shuddering and tense but growing quieter and more coherent by the moment.

Having found that comforting words of any kind, for some reason, had an effect precisely the opposite of the one intended, Trowa had said nothing for quite a while. When they’d first arrived, he’d immediately shouted Hajime down from the guest room and ordered him to get his partner over here as soon as possible. Then he’d made a few attempts at soothing Quatre, but, having discovered the aforementioned contradictory result of such efforts, had ceased and merely concentrated on keeping him from hurting himself. Eventually they’d settled onto the sofa, though the protective sheet had been torn from it and smoke from the stained upholstery was undoubtedly now transferring onto their clothes. Given the odd and poorly matched outfit Quatre currently wore, he probably wouldn’t care; Trowa certainly didn’t.

The living room had been bathed in afternoon light at their first appearance, and the fading of this into sunset dimness and then more serious darkness in which he never bothered to step away from Quatre to turn on anything electric had been Trowa’s only indication of the passage of hours. As Quatre first railed inarticulately against the entire world, then huddled pathetically against Trowa, suffering a mixture of unpleasant emotions that had taken him over and with which Trowa, for as deeply as he sympathized, couldn’t even empathize, it felt as if an eternity was passing; but a more coherent estimate suggested it was around 7:00 when Hajime entered the room to inform him that Sano, though he’d managed to escape the rest of his work shift for the evening, couldn’t get his car to start, and would have to be picked up and brought here.

A bleak, painful, surreal stretch of evening ensued, characterized by Quatre’s tears and Trowa’s heartache on his behalf, its length probably exaggerated by the helplessness and misery of its participants. How long it was before the exorcists returned, therefore, Trowa couldn’t guess and didn’t really care. He was so lost in his concentration on Quatre, in fact, that he didn’t even notice until the lights in the living room blazed on, piercing the strange grey bubble of unhappiness that had built up around the two men on the couch.

Quatre, who had fallen completely silent and gone mostly still, started and made a noise like a sob that was as irritated as it was sad, but he didn’t look from where all he could see, assuming his eyes were open, must be Trowa’s shirt, and he said no word. But Trowa glanced up at Hajime and Sano standing in the space where this room transitioned into the next.

The younger of the two exorcists appeared to be discernibly abashed and trying not to show it. The last time he’d been in this house, after all, he’d rendered its owner extremely uncomfortable and unhappy with a private conversation he hadn’t done much to keep private, and he probably wasn’t terribly optimistic about what Trowa’s opinion of him must be at this point.

The truth was that Trowa cared not the littlest bit about that right now; Sano was here to help Quatre, and any past indiscretions were entirely forgotten in light of that. And to convey this idea Trowa said quietly and very sincerely, “Thank you so much for coming. I’m sorry if it was inconvenient for you.”

Evidently, somehow, Quatre was aware of who was present and why, for he added to this, in a harsh, angry, desperate whisper into Trowa’s shoulder, “This had damn well better work.”

“Yeah, of course,” Sano replied, with some evident sympathy, as he and Hajime advanced. He seemed to relax a little from his concern about what Trowa might think of or have to say to him as he turned his attention to the miserable-looking Quatre. “We’ll get this done.” To the man at he side he muttered, “You were right — that’s a shit-ton of energy.” He frowned a bit, pensive, as he came to a halt in front of the sofa, and added, “Yeah, I think… yeah, you were right about how we oughta do this.”

Hajime nodded, and, turning to Trowa, explained, “It’s best if we do this in batches, so Sano doesn’t have to absorb too much at once.” He reached out toward his partner’s arm in a motion that, though restrained, struck Trowa as far less professional than his tone: it was an almost protective or even possessive movement; in fact it was the most personable and least self-contained gesture Trowa had ever seen him make, and for a brief moment cast him in an entirely and unexpectedly different light. By indicating that Hajime had some strong and deeply felt reason to want Sano not to have to absorb too much angry energy at once, it entirely negated any protest Trowa might have been inclined to make at the idea of not getting this done all in one go. So Trowa merely nodded.

“If you don’t mind Sano staying here with me tonight,” Hajime continued, “we’ll do a second round first thing in the morning after everyone has some rest.”

Choosing to trust that the exorcist knew what was best in this situation, Trowa nodded again.

Sano, meanwhile, had been studying Quatre intensely, worrying at one of the rings in his lowered eyebrows with a single finger in an absent gesture of pensive consideration. Finally he grinned darkly, as if in anticipation of a challenge, and squeezed a fist with his other hand. “All right, let’s do this.” And, finished with the noisy cracking of his knuckles, he reached out for one of Quatre’s slightly trembling shoulders.

Quatre started at the touch, letting out an angry breath, but did not otherwise move or say a word; he didn’t seem to want to face or deal with this situation in any way. Trowa fervently hoped that, in a few minutes, he would be at least a little easier and less miserable.

With a deep breath and closing his eyes, Sano, in a nearly complete and very tense silence, began the absorption that was his method of exorcism — and, despite the agitation of the scene and everything unrelated Trowa had been and still was feeling, he couldn’t help watching in great and growing interest.

The energy streaming off Quatre didn’t change, since the fact that it was emerging from him visibly meant it was already expended and dissipating into the air, but other energy was palpably moving from him in a different direction. What fascinated Trowa most about the process was that this energy became less and less discernible as it traveled from Quatre to Sano, until by the time it actually entered Sano’s being Trowa could no longer detect it at all.

Presumably this was because it was a two-part mixture of magical energy and death or shade energy, and only the latter component, which the non-necrovisual Trowa could not see, was actually transferring; the rest of it, the pure magic that Trowa could feel, was being stripped from the rest in a process like the chemical division of molecules into component atoms, and was crackling in the air in little continual bursts of power between Quatre and Sano.

Stripping one type of energy away from the other, pulling one into himself and letting the other explode in the air in front of him, must have constituted a serious struggle for Sano, and Trowa greatly admired his ability to do it so smoothly — especially since he’d probably never had to absorb quite like this before. His frame was stiffening as he continued, his free hand slowly clenching into a fist and his facial expression turning gradually to a grimace. Conversely, Quatre was relaxing a bit, his breathing becoming less angry and rough and his grip on Trowa less painfully tight.

Eventually Hajime reached a hand out toward Sano’s free arm in another surprisingly invested human motion, murmuring as he did so, “Enough.”

Sano jerked away from the touch and took no heed of the admonition, continuing to draw power from Quatre with, though his eyes remained closed, an increasingly angry and determined look on his face.

Hajime rolled his own eyes and this time took Sano’s arm in a grasp that presumably could not be ignored. “Enough, idiot.” And he pulled at him hard enough to rock Sano’s entire body. “Are you trying to kill yourself?”

With startling suddenness, Sano discontinued his absorption, let go of Quatre’s shoulder and, wrenching his arm free, whirled with a clenched fist aimed at the other man’s face. Hajime, who had clearly been expecting this, dodged the blow and, taking hold of Sano’s shoulders with both hands, jerked him entirely away from the sofa.

Trowa watched in open-mouthed astonishment as Sano stumbled on the steps up out of the sunken living room area, caught himself, spun, and went at Hajime again, managing to land a hit on his shoulder even as Hajime simultaneously punched him squarely in the cheek with an agitating cracking sound. Sano reeled backward one step, making an angry noise, and threw himself forward once more.

This was so unexpected that Trowa had no idea what make of it. He couldn’t say he was surprised that Hajime, who seemed to enjoy startling people and then smirking at their reactions, hadn’t bothered to warn him that this would be a part of the exorcism process… and honestly the empty living room and front room where there was no furniture to dodge or worry about damaging was as perfect a venue for a fist fight aimed at working off the anger Sano had just absorbed as it had been for Quatre’s somewhat similar demonstration of that anger when they’d first arrived… but this violence still came completely out of nowhere, and Trowa had no idea what to say or do.

It wasn’t necessary for him to say or do anything about it, however, since just then Quatre whispered his name and tore his attention away so thoroughly that it didn’t really matter.

“Quatre,” he replied, losing track of the bizarre scene in front of him and tightening his grip around Quatre’s back. He found the blue eyes suddenly turned up toward him so abruptly, so poignantly clearer and more present, more Quatre, than they’d been since the reunion in New Orleans, or perhaps than they’d been since the beginning of this mess, that he suddenly couldn’t breathe for relief.

“Trowa, it… That worked…” The tears in Quatre’s eyes didn’t alter their increased clarity, the striking diminishment of rage in his overall expression and demeanor. “I feel… so much better… still angry, but…”

Squeezing out sudden new tears of his own in gratitude and overwhelming happiness, Trowa pressed his lips to Quatre’s forehead, pulling him tight against him. He could hardly bear to draw back far enough to reply, in as trembling a whisper as Quatre had used, “You’ll feel even better in the morning. They’re going to get rid of the rest of it too.”

Quatre made a whimpering noise, clutching in return, seeming to be experiencing much the same emotions as Trowa was — with the addition, of course, of the anger that still remained and that was probably still powerful. Trowa pulled him to his feet and, keeping his arms tight around him, spoke a spell that would jump them upstairs to his bedroom. Despite the distance being so short, he didn’t want to try to walk past the fist-fight going on between them and their destination; that could work itself out without them, and Hajime and Sano, in whatever condition of bruises and exhaustion, could go to bed in the guest room without input from the others in the house.

And what Quatre’s ability to sleep in his current emotional state might be, Trowa had no idea; but at the very least he seemed willing and able now to accept comfort. Trowa himself was mightily strengthened by the vast improvement to his lover’s temper, and ready to do whatever was necessary to help Quatre get through the night. One way or another, looking forward to further improvement tomorrow, they could survive until morning.

That Quatre had managed any sleep at all astonished and provoked him — astonished because he’d been so agitated the night before that sleep had seemed impossible; provoked because this wasn’t the time for it, because sleep was such a waste right now. Lying around unconscious for several hours contributed exactly nothing to any solution to his problem.

There had been some mention, yesterday evening, of drawing the energy out of him in batches, but Quatre didn’t remember hearing any convincing reason given for this plan, and it was extremely frustrating to find himself so angry so soon after the first session. Still, his attempts at not allowing that anger to be too pointedly directed at those around him — at the exorcists, one of whom Quatre knew not at all, or at Trowa, with whom Quatre had no reason whatsoever to be angry — were much more successful than any such efforts had previously been. It was easy enough simply to be angry with himself. God knew he had plenty of reasons to be.

The room in which he had spent the night was as new to him as the one to which Trowa had brought him from the Confrérie headquarters yesterday, but the presence of an air mattress beneath him and a blanket he recognized as having come off Heero’s guest bed atop him allowed him to make a guess as to where he was. And the ire aroused by the thought of Trowa’s having gone ahead and replaced his home in Quatre’s absence and completely without his input was also easy to rechannel toward himself; after all, Quatre was the one that had been unpleasant, unfeeling, and unavailable when Trowa needed a new house.

In addition to the trembling heat of anger, Quatre felt his eyes prickling as he looked around at the empty room, pale in the light of early morning through bare windows, to Trowa’s back turned toward him nearby beneath the blanket. He should be happy to find Trowa at his side, so close he could feel his warmth, but if he felt happiness ever again he would be just as astonished as he had been, upon awakening, to find that he’d slept. Abruptly he sat up and scrambled off the air mattress, turning away from the sight of his boyfriend before it entirely broke him.

He still wore the horrible clothing he’d been given by the cheap and tasteless Confrérie people, and the sight of it brought his rage right back up to something like its usual level. Why was he wearing this? Wasn’t there anything else here he could have changed into last night — or couldn’t he just have gone to sleep without clothing? Hadn’t Trowa considered the effect it would have on him to wake up in this outfit?

That was unfair, and again Quatre found it not too terribly difficult to bend the aggression around toward himself, where it was more appropriate, away from the innocent Trowa. His condition had definitely improved; he was capable of facing things much more rationally, and in fact capable of recognizing the irrationality that had gripped him for so long… but the fact that this was only relative, that he was still mad, still irrational, despite the improvement, actually increased his anger and made him long for something to strike out at.

“Quatre,” came Trowa’s voice from behind him, and it was like an echo of yesterday: it stabbed into Quatre with its beautiful familiar sound and its clear concern and pity, stirring in him all the desire he felt to be with Trowa, to allow Trowa to help and comfort him, and the contradictory desire he felt not to be with Trowa since he knew he would only hurt him with his behavior. Just like yesterday in the Confrérie basement ritual room, Quatre did not turn. And this time he said nothing; it was much easier to control himself today, now that he’d been brought back some distance out of the abyss of overwhelming fury.

The rustling of the blanket and the sound of the mattress shifting indicated that Trowa too had risen from the ‘bed,’ and a moment later arms slipped around him from behind. A slight hesitance to the movement immediately raised some annoyance in Quatre, but that emotion was tempered as he realized that this reluctance seemed based on uncertainty about Quatre’s possible reaction in this frame of mind rather than the old uncertainty about the entire world and inability to take initiative that had always bothered Quatre about Trowa. Something had changed, and trying to analyze it was an unexpected distraction.

“How are you feeling?” Trowa murmured.

Whether thanks to the aforementioned distraction or because of the general improvement to his condition since last night, Quatre managed to restrain himself both from shrugging out of Trowa’s arms and from retorting with something to the purpose of, “How the hell do you think I’m feeling?” The answer he did give, “Better, but not good,” was short and unfriendly enough.

“Should we see if those two are ready to help you again? Or would you rather find some breakfast first?”

Now Quatre did pull away from Trowa’s embrace. The thoughtfulness and practicality of the offer were too much at the moment, and only increased the snappishness of his reply, “Let’s just get it over with.”

As Trowa moved wordlessly past, he placed a hand on Quatre’s shoulder again briefly, squeezing, as if in acknowledgment of Quatre’s wishes, spoken and unspoken, and the gesture’s surety was another blow to what little composure Quatre had. He turned sharply so as to continue not looking at his boyfriend as the latter left the room, but he yet listened to the ensuing footsteps and the knock on a door not far off. Then there was a low conversation he couldn’t quite make out, the unknown door closed again, and the steps returned.

“Come downstairs,” Trowa said. “They’ll join us in a few minutes.”

With a nod, Quatre finally, reluctantly turned. Then his breath caught and his throat constricted painfully as he saw Trowa’s face for the first time today. For, although his memories of certain parts of yesterday evening were uncertain and difficult to summon, he knew without any doubt that he had occasioned those bruises. The sensation of solid resistance against his flailing fists flashed across his recollection with sudden, heart-rending clarity. He had actually struck his boyfriend, had offered physical violence against someone he loved. How Trowa could even bear to look at him at this point he had no idea.

With a growling sob of despair and self-loathing, Quatre ran past Trowa out of the room. He didn’t know where he was going, but ‘downstairs’ had been mentioned, so he descended, barely conscious of the rapid thumping of his heels on the unfamiliar steps. And as he moved into an echoing, high-ceilinged space, he felt he recognized the place somewhat. When he looked to his left into a lower room, in the far corner of which he could make out faintly, through his tears, the familiar colors of Trowa’s old sofa, he knew that this was where they’d sat last night.

Slowing his steps and wiping fiercely at his eyes with the back of one hand, Quatre made his way over there and, having no other evident option, seated himself. He couldn’t run away again; now that he knew with certainty that the techniques being used here were positively effective, he had to stay, had to get this condition eradicated. After that… after that, he didn’t know what. Maybe then he could run away again.

When he observed Trowa coming toward him, he swiveled with a gasp where he sat, forcefully, miserably directing his gaze toward the wall. And when Trowa sat down beside him, both of Quatre’s hands flew to his face, clutching angrily to block his view of anything that would only make the situation worse. Then the two men waited for a few minutes in silence but for Quatre’s ragged, unhappy breaths that echoed loudly off the palms in front of his nose and mouth.

The sound of a couple of voices, one Quatre somewhat recognized and one he knew only from last night, conversing as they came down the stairs and this direction, caused him to lower his hands but not to look around. He stared now at his knees, bared by the awful shorts he wore, and the floor he could see beyond them, and presently there moved into that space a pair of big bare feet. The less familiar of the two voices, deep and easy-going, said, “You’re looking better already.”

Grudgingly Quatre raised his eyes, up a pair of worn slacks, past a red polo with the words Imperial Panda II beside an embroidered representation of the appropriate animal, to a youngish face decorated with a number of piercings as well as bruises beneath spiky hair that looked like it had been slept on while the gel was still in. And while Quatre couldn’t help frowning at the absurd and juvenile overall picture, he did manage to restrain his scornful comment. Saying anything else in its place was beyond his power, but his attempt at a nod was successful.

“Well, let’s get some more out,” the young man suggested, raising a hand. Bruises dotted his arm in addition to his face, but Quatre was almost certain he hadn’t been the cause of these. He swallowed and nodded again.

Today he was in a better frame of mind to pay attention to the process and exactly how it felt. In contrast to the completely ineffectual rituals of La Confrérie, this apparently rather simplistic but perfectly sound technique was strange and uncomfortable, but did not hurt; he might have compared it to having bits of shrapnel magnetically extracted from his flesh if he could have imagined that process without the pain that must have been involved. It was agitating, though, and he felt increasingly tense as minutes passed and the expression on the young man’s face in front of him contracted into a scowl.

And at the same time, he could feel his own anger steadily decreasing. The stupid eyebrow and nose rings were irritating him less with each passing moment, and wondering why this couldn’t have been accomplished all at once last night was causing less annoyance each time his mind came back around to it.

That question was eventually answered in any case. The first exorcist, Hajime — whom Quatre had not yet seen, though he knew he was present — eventually took an abrupt step forward into Quatre’s line of vision and put his hands on the other’s arms in a firm grip. “That’s enough for now,” he said, evidently exerting some physical force.

The young man’s expression turned from anger in reserve to anger in full earnest, and as he wrenched backward, away from Quatre, and spun to face Hajime, he snarled out something that, though largely inarticulate, sounded a bit like, “You always fucking think you need to tell me what to do.”

“Because you’re too much of an idiot to–” Hajime had to abandon this reply in favor of dodging a punch that came flying at him evidently with all of the young man’s weight behind it.

Startled and appalled, Quatre stared as an all-out fist fight, complete with ducking, weaving, and loud, serious blows to body and face, began to range across this mostly empty room. It didn’t take much to interpret the reasons behind it, either: the younger exorcist had pulled so much angry energy out of Quatre and into himself that he was willing to attack his partner at the drop of half an insult, and this fight was what it took to work it off. In other words, the bruises the young man already wore — undoubtedly from last night’s batch of energy — really had been caused by Quatre, if only indirectly.

And his own anger still wasn’t entirely gone. Though the drawing-off of energy had, like last night, made that discernible difference to his attitude, the sight of the aftermath was dragging him back into rage and despair. It was as if all the blood had been cleaned from the surface of an oozing wound, only for more to well gradually up from within to take its place. He’d abused all of his friends, most especially Trowa, and put them to massive inconvenience; he’d forced a wretched state of mind and a violent, painful confrontation on the exorcist that was trying to help him; and his own anger was still coming back. Was there no escape from what he was, from the evils he had committed?

In a motion so forceful it seemed to mimic the hits going on out there in front of him, he once again buried his face in his hands, and once again found himself succumbing to anguished, angry tears.

His Own Humanity is an AU series set in modern-day America (plus magic) featuring characters from Rurouni Kenshin (primarily Saitou and Sano) and Gundam Wing (primarily Heero, Duo, Trowa, and Quatre). In chronological order (generally), the stories currently available are:

Sano enlists the help of exorcist Hajime in discovering the nature of the unusual angry shade that's haunting him.

Best friends Heero and Quatre have their work cut out for them assisting longtime curse victims Duo and Trowa.

During Plastic (part 80), Cairo thinks about thinking and other recent changes in his life.

A look at how Hajime and Sano are doing.

A look at how Trowa and Quatre are doing.

A look at how Heero and Duo are doing.

A meeting between Kamatari and Wufei.

Couple analysis among Heero, Duo, Trowa, and Quatre.

Quatre undergoes an unpleasant magical change; Heero, Duo, and Trowa are forced to face unpleasant truths; and Hajime and Sano may get involved.

During La Confrérie de la Lune Révéré (parts 33-35), Sano's 178-day wait is over as what Hajime has been fearing comes to pass.

During Guest Room Soap Opera (part 3), Cathy learns a lot of interesting facts and Trowa is not happy.

A few days before the epilogue of La Confrérie de la Lune Révéré, Duo and Sano get together to watch football and discuss relationships and magical experiences; Heero listens in on multiple levels.

On the same evening as That Remarkable Optimism, Trowa tells Quatre's parents the whole truth, as promised.


  1. Sharon

    Wow, that was written so well that I almost felt the rage and pain physically. Poor Quatre! I loved seeing what was going on from his POV. I do think he’s underestimating the ability of his friends to forgive him for everything, but no one will likely convince him of that.

    • kuroiyousei

      Ohhhh, yes, we are headed into some serious angsty times for poor Quatre. Man, I remember a long time ago, when I was just starting to write Plastic, when I made a post apologizing to Duo and Trowa for what I was about to do to them, and the only thing I had to offer to Quatre (in conjunction with Heero) was, “I apologize for making you guys the next victims of my misunderstanding fetish.” How things do change! Anyway, I’m glad you liked this part; thanks, as always, for your comments and for sticking with the story!

  2. Sharon

    Oh, the angst! I hope they can resolve this. I’m sure it’s going to be painful for both of them for a bit, but I have to think they’ll get through it. They love each other so much.

    • kuroiyousei

      You’d think that my loving them as a couple would lead to being kind to them as a couple, but in fact this is not the case XD

  3. Sharon

    I’m so glad they had this conversation. I agree with Heero that this is a good solution. I know I’d want to do that if my partner was a communicator. I love when you write from Duo’s POV. I was so happy to see that he straddled that line well between clearing the air and not hurting Heero.

    • kuroiyousei

      I suspect many couples that are half communicator go through something like this at some point. It’s kindof unfortunate for Heero and Duo that they have to go through it right when they’re in the middle of some other big things, but I don’t think it’s anything unusual… And you’re right; some training for Duo to put them back on a level is exactly what they need.

  4. priscel

    T_T aww, Quatre is in so much pain. I was afraid he have a brain hemorrhage and nose bleed from the build… And the thought of permanent damage… I had to push it aside and hope that that build would offer release, but it seems like it offered nothing more pain/frustration in the form of screams. So I think it’s Heero he’s pummeling, because he’s the most capable of maneuvering his body or blocking a punch to vital areas

    • kuroiyousei

      Yes, poor Quatre!! He’s so close to having his condition reversed, but he still has so much suffering left to do… Why am I so mean…

  5. Sharon

    Progress, at last! I really like how this is going. I’m more amused than I should be at Sano and Hajime fighting. Sorry about that. It was just too perfect a reaction from the draining of the energy. I’m glad for Quatre and Trowa. This has been a long time coming for them. I hope the second part of the draining goes well!

    • kuroiyousei

      And just think… if I weren’t such a jerk author Quatre hadn’t gone to New Orleans, this could have happened weeks ago without nearly so much trouble! Ah, well.

      You go right ahead and find it funny that Hajime and Sano are fighting as part of this process :D It’s a thing they do that I more often than not laugh about m’self… just one of many aspects of their relationship that I adore.

  6. priscel

    oh, that really hurt. Though I know Duo is tired of the helplessness he experienced as a doll on not being able to make an active, affirmative choice in things, he has to remember that most people only make those kinds of choices when they think it’s in the other person’s best interest. After everything they’ve gone through, Duo has to work on that part of human sacrifice? Good intention? And know that doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t trust Heero & Trowa, he just needs them to work on not doing things without him knowing when it’s something that directly affects them, all of them. i hope Duo sees the pain he’s causing Heero as well and can mend it. I don’t like seeing either one of them hurt but sometimes it’s a part of growing in a relationship. Lol please tell if this doesn’t make sense, I’m on my lunch break trying to put my thoughts into words and running out of time. :)

    • kuroiyousei

      Poor Duo really does have a sore spot regarding autonomy at this point, doesn’t he? It’s something that may not be fully resolved for quite some time, I’m afraid. 87 years of helplessness is difficult to get over!

  7. Sharon

    Well, that’s pretty typical of Quatre, always finding ways to take the blame. It is partly his fault, but I’m sure Sano and Hajime knew what was coming. They’ll probably let Quatre make it up to them by being EXTRA nice to their friend Trowa.

    • kuroiyousei

      Can Trowa step up and deal with it properly now that the “It’s all my fault” shoe is on the other foot? Find out next time!

      /advertising voice

      (Thanks for your comments, as always! XD)

      • priscel

        *snickers* you are awesome too you know ^__^

  8. priscel

    Although it seemed a bit one sided, and I feel Heero’s still a bit wounded by Duo’s statements, I’m glad he talked it out. It was a whirlwind of a conversation in his head and I kind of wished he’d come to the conclusion on his on to work on not projecting his thoughts/letting them leak all over the place. But for some people that realization isn’t gained until the conversation that it’s needed happens

    • kuroiyousei

      If you feel like this conversation was one-sided, you may be experiencing a bit of Duo’s problem :D

      • priscel

        *snickers* that’s possible seeings as it is Duo prospective ^__^


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