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.