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.
“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.”