The door was answered eventually by a weary-looking Trowa, who welcomed them in with pleasure that formed a significant contrast to his apparent overall emotional state. The first thing he said was, “There’s never any reason for you to knock on my door. Just come in.”
“Well, if it’s locked…” said Duo reasonably as he moved forward for a hug.
“Then you can unlock it with magic,” Trowa replied with a faint smile, returning the embrace. And though Heero had no power to effect the mentioned magic, he felt he was specifically included in this admonition.
“How’s Quatre?” asked Duo next.
Trowa’s facial expression in response was so mixed as to be unreadable, but his words were more definitive: “Cured. The energy is entirely gone as of about an hour ago.”
“But…?” Heero prompted.
Trowa lowered his voice to match Heero’s quiet tone. “He’s not exactly happy. He’s thinking pretty badly of himself right now.” And there was such a sense of grimness and guilt about him as he said it, a clear mirror of Quatre’s reported state, that the hearts of both his friends went out to him.
“It isn’t up to just you to make him feel better. We’ll all help.” In fact Heero longed to talk to Quatre as soon as possible, to see how he was and do what he could to improve that condition, and to demonstrate to himself that Quatre really was completely cured as Trowa said. “Where is he?”
“In there. He’s…” Trowa’s initial gesture indicating the living room turned to one of helplessness, which drew the other two men immediately to him.
“Hey… Trois… it’ll be OK…” Duo was hugging him again. “We’ll figure it out.”
In his pity, Heero actually put a hand on Trowa’s arm as he reiterated Duo’s statement. He wanted to continue reassuringly, but, fearing it would take too long to decide how to word what he had to say, just sent the idea mentally instead: that he’d become convinced in the last couple of days — if he hadn’t already known — that even if things weren’t perfect right now and might take some time to fix, it wasn’t hopeless; it was a situation they could get through, that would improve.
Trowa, from where he remained enveloped by Duo and couldn’t quite turn any look toward Heero — comforted or otherwise — at least nodded.
There was more Heero could have sent. He needed to recount what had happened at Galerie de la Lune after Trowa had taken Quatre home; he needed to inform him that the weird agents had promised to deal with the magical painting, and in fact he needed to tell him about the magical painting in the first place and discuss the weird agents and whether Trowa knew anything about them and whether they were likely to encounter them again.
But Heero felt no urgency about any of this right now, not only because there were more pressing matters at the moment, not only because none of it would make Trowa feel better, but because opportunity for this conversation would be available to them at any time. As Trowa had essentially said, his door was always open to Heero. And there was always, Heero considered with resigned glumness, texting. At the moment, since he sensed that Duo was going to remain attached to Trowa in an effort to offer what further solace he could, he simply turned and headed into the next room.
Mismatched shorts and t-shirt rumpled, hair disheveled, demeanor guarded, Quatre stood near the sheet-covered sofa staring into the back yard. He looked very much as he had that day in his office when they’d waited for Hajime to arrive, but today, presumably, it was a different set of emotions that had him so stiff. This wasn’t a defensive standoffishness; rather, it was as if Quatre still smarted from recent events, and had drawn himself up in fear of being touched.
Not knowing exactly what he would say, Heero approached quietly to join Quatre at the window.
“I thought I heard your voice,” Quatre said in a pale imitation of his normal tone. “And Duo’s. You guys made it back OK, then, I guess.”
“Yeah.” Heero didn’t feel the need to mention how bad Duo’s nightmares had been in the Louisiana hotel, nor his belief that anxiety on other subjects stirred them up; nor that Duo, tired and agitated after his disturbed night, had slept through much of the flight and again missed his chance at reveling in the new human experience, though he’d awakened sufficiently at disembarking from the plane to drive them back to Trowa’s house from the airport.
“It was amazing that all three of you went all the way out there.” Sluggishly Quatre turned to face Heero. “I may have acted like a jerk when you showed up, but now I really appreciate it.”
Saddened but unsurprised at the redness of Quatre’s eyes and the puffy bags beneath them, Heero nodded acknowledgement.
“And I’m sorry, too. Dragging you all the way out there just because I made a bad decision…”
“It was inconvenient,” Heero admitted, “but it’s OK. I’ve always wanted to try some authentic Cajun food in New Orleans.” He wasn’t about to bring up the relationship drama that had taken place there, since that would undoubtedly have arisen eventually no matter what the circumstances or where they were. Heero blamed Quatre no more for that than he blamed Duo himself.
Though he didn’t necessarily feel hurt or betrayed by his boyfriend’s behavior or attitudes of the day before, he perhaps felt a little hurt and betrayed by his own nature, and couldn’t help dwelling on it to some extent even in the midst of this business with Quatre. It almost seemed he’d had a mean trick played on him by destiny, or heredity, or magic, or something. It was as if he’d walked away unscathed from a car accident: in something of a daze, he almost couldn’t believe it had happened, and now there was nothing to be done but adjust to the change it had caused in his life. In this case, the change was nothing he could specifically pinpoint; it had to do with his closeness with Duo, a state he had not lost but in which something was altered, some aspect put on hold until a certain remedy could be enacted, and Heero could only wait patiently for that time.
He would want to talk to his best friend about all of this eventually. Honestly, he’d love to talk to him about it now. Quatre was one of very few people in the world with whom he would feel comfortable discussing such personal details, and whose opinion and probable offers of comfort he would value. But at the moment Quatre would, most likely, consider some or all of it his fault, so Heero wasn’t going to broach the subject.
“Running off to New Orleans in a tantrum wasn’t the only thing, though,” Quatre continued with a sigh. “I also said things to you that nobody should say to his best friend.”
“You pretty much said,” Heero agreed, “that I’m no good in a manager’s position because I don’t like exercising authority over people, and I’m a less than perfect friend because I have a hard time telling people important things.”
“I’m so sorry,” Quatre murmured.
Heero shrugged. “It was totally true. You’ve known me for ten years; there’s probably not a lot of what’s wrong with me that you don’t know.”
“I still shouldn’t have said it.”
“I don’t know. I don’t know whether or not friends should point out each other’s problems and maybe help each other change. It might actually be a good idea. I… don’t know.”
“Well, I shouldn’t have said it the way I said it.”
“I’ll give you that,” Heero allowed. “It hurt, and, honestly, it kinda still hurts to remember it.”
Even more faintly and unhappily this time, Quatre repeated, “I’m so sorry.”
“I forgive you,” replied Heero immediately.
Quatre gave a self-deprecating snort. “Just like that, huh?”
“Yeah.” Heero raised his hands one at a time to illustrate his two points. “You hurt me, and I forgive you.” As he watched fresh tears spring into Quatre’s tired eyes he added, “I think you’ll do better if you know exactly where we stand.” He feared that, despite his entirely believing it, if he walked in here and said, ‘None of it was your fault,’ Quatre would only feel worse. “You hurt me,” he reiterated, “and I forgive you: that’s what you have to deal with.”
“I hurt more than just you.”
“I think this applies to everything you said and did. You’re… sometimes stupidly responsible about things, so of course you can’t just let go of something you did wrong, no matter what the circumstances were. You hurt people, and they forgive you, and you have to learn to accept that. It’ll be completely understandable if it takes you a while and you have to struggle for it.”
Abruptly Quatre threw his arms around Heero, pushing forward into a close embrace. “Thank you,” he said brokenly. “You’re right: I appreciate you putting it that way.” After a moment he added, “And I’m sorry… you’re not really a huggy person.”
“But you are,” Heero replied, any awkwardness that might have colored his tone overridden by his amusement and the relief he felt at Quatre’s altered demeanor. “Whatever it takes.” The truth was that Quatre was also one of very few people in the world Heero was (more or less) comfortable accepting this kind of physical demonstration from, and he didn’t mind too terribly raising his arms to squeeze him in return.
For several seconds — probably not as long as Quatre would have liked, but longer than Heero did, though he didn’t begrudge it him — Quatre dragged out the hug, then finally let go and stepped back. He didn’t exactly look happier than before, but there was a new determination about him that had replaced the vulnerability.
“You’re going to be OK…” Heero wasn’t sure whether he was asking or commanding.
Quatre took a deep breath and then puffed it out in a sound like a sigh that was trying to be anything else. “It feels really good not to be angry.” He said it like an admission of wrongdoing, which fit perfectly with his next words: “I feel a little guilty about feeling so much better, but feeling this much better — and some things you and Trowa have said — makes me believe I should be OK.
“Right now,” he went on, “I want to curl up in a ball and avoid the whole world for a while — so it’s lucky it’s Friday — but at the same time I’m just so happy not to be hating the whole world anymore, which is a strange contrast. I feel guilty about being so happy, like I said, and guilty and unhappy about how I’ve been behaving, especially what I’ve said and done to my friends. And then, again, at the same time, I feel incredibly blessed and grateful to have you guys around, to have friends who would go all the way across the country to drag me back home and then jump straight into trying to make me feel better even after everything I’ve done.” Quatre shook his head, and this sigh sounded much more like a sigh, perhaps even a little like a sob.
Heero usually wasn’t able to come up with quotes at appropriate moments — Duo was not only much more skilled at that than he was, but much more inclined to try — so he was rather pleased with himself now when he managed, “One person can’t feel all that at once. They’d explode.”
Weakly Quatre laughed, and hugged Heero once more. “Thank you for everything,” was his muffled statement. “Thanks for being my friend.”
“It would take more than a magical bad mood to change that,” Heero replied seriously.
“Speaking of magic…” said Quatre as he again pulled out of the hug. “Well, first, I apologize for being so snippy about it before. I didn’t even realize I was jealous about being the only one without magic until all that nonsense brought it out.”
“It makes sense to be jealous,” Heero shrugged. Then, when it looked like Quatre might press the issue, he added more pointedly, “I forgive you for that too.”
Quatre pursed his lips briefly, then let out another sighing breath. Accepting clemency really was going to be his major struggle in days to come. “Anyway,” he said at last, “I understand I’ve entirely missed the beginning of your magic.”
With a wry monosyllabic chuckle, “It’s been… interesting,” Heero said.
“I want to hear all about it, if you don’t mind telling.”
“If you need distracting that badly.”
“I do, but I also really want to know. I’m annoyed that this whole thing has made me miss watching it firsthand.”
“All right,” Heero smiled. “It actually started just when you destroyed that artifact…”