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.”