Duo was forced to desist hugging Trowa as the latter, very much like a dog with its pleading eyes locked on the bearer of desired treats, swiveled insistently to watch Heero walk into the other room. Trowa had undoubtedly spent the last twenty-four hours agonizing over Quatre’s state and trying to figure out how to help him, and was now anxiously waiting to see what effect Heero might have on this endeavor. Yet when he turned back to Duo, there was a surprising amount of tranquility in his face and bearing. He seemed to have nothing to say at the moment, for he just moved to the nearby staircase balustrade and leaned against it.
Feeling likewise no need to say more for now, Duo followed and threw himself down on the third step, leaning back and looking at the ceiling high above. He heard the voices of Heero and Quatre distantly, and, though he could make out none of their conversation, he had no problem leaving them to it. He was tired anyway, and after a while closed his eyes.
Presently, though, it did occur to him to ask, “Is that exorcist still here?”
“They’re both still here,” Trowa confirmed.
“Oh, Sano’s here too?” Duo sat straight and twisted around to look up the stairs toward the second-floor room where he assumed the exorcists must be. “I should go see if he wants to come over and watch the game on Sunday.”
“I would recommend waiting until they come out on their own,” replied Trowa. “You didn’t see their exorcism method.”
“Why? What was it like?” Duo wondered with interest. And as Trowa told him, he found himself grinning and wincing. “OK, yeah,” he eventually agreed, “maybe I won’t go bug Sano yet, then.”
Placing a hand on the staircase’s off-white finial, Trowa stared at it as if into the crystal ball it somewhat resembled. “Quatre feels like he forced them to fight each other. Of course he feels guilty about that too.”
Duo nodded, screwing up his lips thoughtfully. “It makes sense for him to feel guilty. He’s put everyone — especially you — through a lot, and, if I know Quatre at all, he probably doesn’t care much that it wasn’t really his fault. But you know what? I’m not nearly as worried about it as you guys obviously are.”
Trowa looked over at him, clearly curious, silently soliciting Duo to go on.
Duo did, with a smile. “Heero got annoyed at me, back when this started, for not taking it seriously enough, and he might get annoyed again now… but the thing is, I’ve been watching a different friend of mine, who did something way worse than what Quatre’s done, working on getting over that and accepting himself as still a good person, and he’s been doing pretty damn well so far.”
Weakly Trowa returned Duo’s expression. “He’s had Quatre to help him, though.”
“And now Quatre has him,” Duo replied matter-of-factly: “a guy who didn’t give up trying to help a friend for eighty-seven years.” He rolled his eyes, not as a gesture of sarcasm but to emphasize his point. “I’d have to be out of my mind to be worried with that guy around. Though, like Heero said, it’s not just your– that guy’s job to make Quatre feel better.”
For a moment Trowa’s smile strengthened as he seemed to accept this offer of confidence, but then it faded again. “Are you still upset with… that guy?”
“Um… not really,” Duo answered after a brief search of his emotions. “I was pretty mad and hurt for a while, but it’s mostly faded away by now. Plus Heero thinks I should go easy on you, and I kindof agree.” He hadn’t planned on bringing this up so soon — he’d thought it would be best to wait until the business with Quatre was good and over, so as not to heap too many troubles onto Trowa’s head at once — but since Trowa had introduced the subject, they might as well get it over with.
“I am sorry I didn’t tell you,” Trowa said. “I haven’t really had much opportunity to think about it since the airplane, but I’m sorry I hurt you.”
“It’s all right. Just, when you do get around to thinking about it — and you’ve probably got a lot to think about right now, so don’t even worry about it if it takes a while — think about not keeping important stuff like that secret in the future.”
Trowa nodded. “At the time, I didn’t think it was worth giving up your chance at being human just to keep me alive, so I didn’t want to run the risk of you deciding to cancel everything.”
“I guess I’m not really surprised,” Duo said unhappily, “but it’s really awful to think about you thinking your own life’s so worthless.”
“That’s changed.” This assurance was quick and definite. “Quatre pulled me out of that way of thinking… rather aggressively, really.” Trowa smiled again. “In fact, by the time the curse actually broke, I was ready to admit to him that I hoped I would survive, that I wanted to live.”
“But you still didn’t tell me.”
“At that point it didn’t even occur to me that I should, I was so caught up in other things. If I’d thought about it, though, I probably still wouldn’t have told you… I wouldn’t have wanted to spoil your hope and your excitement with something I wasn’t even sure about.”
There was something about this line of reasoning that, the more Duo thought about it, struck him as chillingly familiar. He pondered quickly and intensely, and as the complete memory occurred to him all at once, he could almost hear his own voice — an enchanted doll’s overly quiet voice — saying, “Don’t anyone mention this to Trowa, OK? He shouldn’t have to worry about it before he has to. Especially if it turns out he doesn’t have to worry about it at all.”
“Good god!” he exclaimed inadvertently with a horrified laugh. “I did the exact same thing to you!”
“Did you?” wondered the startled Trowa.
“Yes! There was this one time Heero and I got far enough apart that we were afraid it might have screwed up breaking the curse — though we didn’t know for sure — and I told him and Quatre not to tell you for that exact same reason: I didn’t want to spoil your hope with something I wasn’t sure about.”
“Oh, yes. When Quatre’s dog took you out of Heero’s psychic field? Quatre mentioned that.”
Bristling at the offhand way Trowa made this acknowledgment, righteously indignant at himself, Duo jumped up from the stair and glared at nothing. “Here I was thinking about how you not telling me something important and not letting me make my own choices was a controlling thing I was going to have to ask you to promise to not do again, and I did the exact same thing!”
“I don’t think it was ‘the exact same thing,'” Trowa said, and there might have been a hint of amusement to the protest. “The secrets we kept were very different in scope, and we were each in a very different situation, so the effects were different.”
Duo couldn’t deny this, especially since it seemed to indicate Trowa’s specific understanding of the problem, but that didn’t make him less annoyed with himself. He was just opening his mouth to say so when, at the last possible moment — practically in the middle of his first syllable — it occurred to him that expressions of self-blame from him right now would probably be the exact heaping of troubles of Trowa’s head that he’d been seeking to avoid.
Miraculously, Trowa seemed to be in a pretty decent place emotionally at the moment — perhaps Duo’s presence and conversation really had helped to comfort and distract him — and adding a second guilty friend to his concerns was not likely to move him in any good direction. And in any case, this was all six-month-old news — no need to belabor it any further; Duo himself probably shouldn’t be dwelling on it in the first place.
So he closed his mouth, took a breath, reconsidered, and said instead, “Look at you and me trying not to hurt each other and getting it completely wrong.” He grinned, and raised a formal hand. “I solemnly swear, from now on, to tell…” Realizing abruptly that he had the wrong hand up, he quickly corrected himself and resumed, “To tell you anything that has to do with you and choices you need to make for your own life, so help me whatever.”
Trowa chuckled, and, stepping forward, reached out to pull Duo’s upthrust hand back down in his own right for a firm handshake. “It’s a bargain,” he said. “We won’t keep important things from each other.” His tone was a little sardonic as he added, “Quatre once said we should all four get together and make a pact not to do that, so we’ll need to let him and Heero in on this when we have the chance.”
Duo struggled not to frown. What with Quatre’s guilty, unhappy frame of mind and the totally stupid and unforeseen trust issues between Duo and Heero, that might be easier said than properly done.
But Trowa, rather unexpectedly, evidently seeing Duo’s shift in mood, was suddenly the one to say, “Don’t worry. We’ll all be fine.” He squeezed Duo’s hand and released it, then leaned back against the balustrade again, the picture of patient faith for the future.
Duo found his grin returning. “Yeah, of course we will,” he said firmly. And he meant it.