Pygamalion + Part 1 (cont)

+

"Itís not inconceivable that he could be blocking you," H said as we hung up our dinner jackets.

"But even if he was, there should be some awareness of it. Not just blank space," I protested.

"Quatre, I do not wish to malign your powers but you are only an amateur in these things," H chided gently.

I supposed he could be right. After all, my gift was slight ... "Iíll see you in the morning, then."

H nodded, bidding me goodnight. I returned to my room but did not undress. I was far too restless to be able to prepare for sleep ... my thoughts would not stop returning to Duo. I had to know how heíd blocked my thoughts, I just had toómaybe I could ask him?

I returned to the room we had dined in, letting the sounds of conversation guide me. Master O had excused Wufei and himself on the grounds of needing time for meditation before they retired, while Trowa had left as soon as politely possible. J and G remained, squabbling about their pupils, and occasionally discussing the years acquisitions with O. Heero was still talking to Duo at the end of the table.

I pulled a chair over to them.

"Hello," I said, smiling brightly. "I don't know if I've been introduced to you yet. Quatre Winner." I held out my hand.

Duo blinked at it a moment, then smiled beatifically and reached for it.

Perfect, I thought, even as a rather foolish grin etched itself onto my face. Skin to skin contact gives a much greater empathic reading -- and he was smiling at me!

However, I only got the merest touch of warm skin against my fingers before it was abruptly cut off. I stared in surprise at Heero's hand firmly clamped around my wrist, so tightly it seemed it might cut off circulation. The look he was giving me was almost as painful. He was still beautiful, but frightening -- his eyes were hard and devoid of all light, containing only malice.

"Go away," he said coldly.

I stared at him, before my eyes flicked over to Duo, staring astonished at us.

"No," I said. "Now, if you'll be so kind as to release me -- "

Heero's hand dug tighter into my wrist even as his other hand went for my throat. I struggled madly to protect myself.

"Now now boys," G cackled as J pulled us apart with a silent efficiency that spoke of smouldering anger, "Play nicely. I can't have you damaging my pièce de resistance."

J glared at him. "You haven't won yet, G."

"But I will." His companion was unfazed. "Come now Duo, we should leave the others to their beauty sleep -- they'll need it after all."

He extended a hand to Duo who complacently let himself be led from the room.

Heero leaned back against the wall to watch.

"He's confident," S observed. "I wonder where he acquired his protégé?"

J wasn't going to be drawn into a conversation. "Have you forgotten your training? What has possessed you, to act like that? Don't you want to win?"

Heero looked coldly at his teacher. "Winning the competition is no longer my objective." He bowed to all of us and walked out of the room -- taking the same door as G had.

"I think I too will retire for the night," I said, smiling to everyone else. "See you tomorrow." I hurried after Heero.

He'd already gone out of my sight. I wandered down the corridor, looking in the open doors as I passed. Within them was a collection of paintings and sculptures, all worthy of museums. It was very tempting to just browse among them, and forget my task. As I came to a branch in the corridors I sighed.

Which way to go now?

I'd never really considered using my empathic ability to search for someone, but it seemed the quickest way to determine where the others had gone -- I shut my eyes and concentrated. A sharp burst of frustration located to my left -- Heero.

I took the left corner.

There were no doors in this corridor. I followed it down carefully -- there were no lights on. Clearly not a well used corridor --

I reached the door at the end of the corridor and found it slightly ajar. Trying to move as quietly as possible, I slipped inside. The room I found myself in was dimly lit, the only furniture being a desk at one end, at which G was seated.

A hand clamped itself over my mouth.

"Don't say anything," Heero instructed me, in a cold tone that did not bode well if I disobeyed.

After a moment I nodded -- I did not want to be accused of sneaking around my host's house. Heero let go of my mouth and pulled me back into the shadows in which he was hiding. "Stay quiet," he told me. "With any luck he will leave soon."

I settled back to wait. Luckily G was not much longer. He scribbled a few more lines in his notebook and then, cackling to himself, flicked the lights off and left.

I blinked in the sudden darkness -- then was suddenly seized by my throat.

"What do you think you are doing?" Heero demanded.

I pulled myself away. "I could ask you the same thing," I said. "However, I think we're both here for the same purpose."

He glared at me. "He is mine."

"That's debatable," I said, rubbing my neck absently and hoping this wouldn't leave a bruise. "Duo is not a normal person. Far from it, in fact."

"What do you mean by that?"

"I'm an empath," I explained. "I can sense emotions from people, sense what they're feeling."

"And what does Duo feel?" Heero asked. It was not quite the innocent question it seemed. I could feel anticipation coiled underneath it like a snake.

"Nothing."

I put a hand up hastily to forestall his reaction. "I don't mean it like that. Duo does not project any feelings at all -- empathically speaking he's totally blank. As far as I know, such a phenomenon has never been encountered before."

"And that fact that he is gorgeous has nothing to do with it?" Heero turned his back on me before I had a chance to properly formulate an answer. "In any case, we're in the same boat. I saw G bring Duo in here. As you can see -- " he gestured to the empty room. "He's clearly not here now."

I frowned as I found the light switch. "Well that's not possible. There must be a door or -- "

"None. I looked before you turned up."

I frowned as Heero prowled around the room, looking for what, I wasn't exactly sure. "Well, this is a puzzle."

"Hn," Heero grunted, indicating he'd much rather be left alone.

With nothing else to do I looked more closely at the room. It was not as empty as I'd assumed. Crates of clay and broken statues were piled haphazardly around the periphery of the room, while the centre was taken by an object slightly taller than me and draped in a sheet. No doors were visible save the one we entered by.

"You're sure you saw Duo come in here?" I asked.

Heero ignored me.

I poked through the bits of statue either side of the room. It was rather disconcerting -- a hand lay next to a dismembered body, a delicately formed foot stood by itself to one side of a pile of shards, on one of which a smile was etched --

I picked it up. "I know this smile," I said puzzled.

"What nonsense are you talking?" Heero demanded.

"This smile. Look at it. It's so familiar -- "

Heero spared the briefest cursory glance over my shoulder. "Duo," he said.

He was right. That was Duo's smile, copied perfectly in marble -- but then --

Heero and I acted simultaneously, turning to pull the sheet away from the object it concealed.

There could be no mistaking that smile. Demure and still, the statue looked out at us blankly.

Heero reached out, almost hesitantly, to touch the statue's face. "It is Duo. It's a perfect copy -- "

"G is a far greater sculptor than I knew," I whispered, as I stared at what would surely become a latter day masterpiece. "But why -- why would he keep it here? Why hide it rather than display it with his other works?"

"And where's the original?" Heero added.

"There's nothing more we can do here," I decided. I started to draw the sheet back over the statue, only to be halted by Heero.

"Leave it. I haven't quite finished looking at it."

J's pupil was hit bad. I left him to his infatuation. Returning to my room, I found my thoughts kept returning to the mystery of G's pupil -- I would solve it. I would make sure of that.

+

Kept awake by unanswerable questions, I slept late, and was the last to join the company the following morning. A servant directed me to where breakfast had been served on a veranda, overlooking a pleasant garden where a bare chested Wufei practised katanas in the still morning air. I paused on the threshold to observe. The Asian youth was in his element, performing the complicated exercises with accuracy and grace.

O was smug, Trowa watched from the outskirts of the gathering with interest, G supervised the serving of breakfast with Duo seated by his side, and Heero, not far behind, watched the longhaired youth with a glance that never wavered. J was pointedly not talking him, discussing politics with H. I don't think Heero even noticed.

"Ah, Quatre," G hailed me. "Help yourself to the buffet and come join us."

Loading my plate, I complied, taking the empty seat on his other side.

"Well, you've seen O's prodigy in action. What do you think?"
The question was laced with cunning. I was reminded again that I did not like him.

Instead I looked out to the garden where Wufei continued his exercises.

"I'm not familiar with the art myself," I said. "But I dare say he performs them excellently."

"Oh, do you now?" G smirked. "And do you have any special talents?"

"Quatre plays many musical instruments like a master," H said.

"Well, you must play for us while you're here."

"I'd be delighted."

"Trowa is happy to perform for us as well," S announced.

"And what can yours do?" G asked, rather unwisely taunting J.

"Heero is proficient in several martial arts," J said coldly.

"Interesting. Perhaps he can test Wufei," G suggested.

"I wouldn't suggest it. Wufei is an expert in the arts he practices," O said.

Heero stepped forward to catch Duo's eye. "I will beat him for you."

The breathtaking violet eyes fastened on him, and a tentative blush spread across alabaster cheeks. Then Wufei broke the spell.

"I am done here. I am a scholar. I do not fight."

"Why bother with the practices then?" G asked.

"The katanas I practice are designed to elevate both mind and body, so that I may achieve greater unity of purpose. I do not need to prove my strength against weaker opponents to prove my worth or courage," Wufei bowed mockingly to Heero and then left.

Heero's fists were clenched.

I could understand why. Wufei had insulted him in front of Duo -- I would not have been in the Chinese boy's shoes for the world.

"Quatre?" Trowa said hesitantly. "I play the flute."

"Really?" I smiled at Trowa. "Would you like to play a duet?"

"Now this should be worth hearing," G snickered.

I ignored him and took Trowa's hand. "I think the music room is this way."

I took the piano and after running through a few preliminary scales began a well-known piece. Trowa had found a flute and joined in with me.

"That was fun," I said. "Let's see, I wonder what else we can play together."

"Quatre," Trowa said quietly. "Why are you doing this?"
"Doing what?" I said, halting the chord I was in the middle of.

"Being nice to me. You know what the competition is."

"Just because we're competitors doesn't mean we can't be friends, Trowa," I said. "This competition isn't the be-all and end-all of existence, no matter what the others say."

Trowa gave me a smile. "I guess you're right."

"Let's see ... do you like Beethoven?"

We were on our next song when Trowa suddenly stopped playing.

"What's the matter?" I asked, turning away from the piano. "Why did you stop?" And then I saw why. "Duo? What are you doing?"

He turned around to go.

"Wait!" I said. "You don't have to leave. You're not intruding." I looked anxiously at Trowa.

"We don't mind if you stay," Trowa said.

Duo smiled at us, hesitantly taking a seat by the window. "Before ... when you were playing. I liked that."

"That was Beethoven," I said. "He's a great composer. You like classical music?"

"I don't know. I'd never heard anything like that before."

"But -- you must have heard Beethoven before," I said, startled.

He shook his head.

"Oh," I said. "Well, don't worry. Trowa and I will give you a good introduction to his music. Right Trowa?"

He nodded, picking up his flute.

Halfway through 'Ode to Joy' a hesitant voice joined in. I smiled and nodded to Trowa to keep on playing. After a few false starts, Duo found his pitch.

"Well. Isn't this a pretty picture?"

G's coarse voice interrupted our impromptu concert. I was startled to see not just G, but the other collectors, Wufei and Heero standing at the door.

"Time for dinner," J said coldly.

The others complimented us on our playing. I could see by the smile on H's face that I had managed to please him at least. Heero was another matter. He pulled me into a corner as the others continued to the luncheon set out for us.

"How long was he with you?"

"I'm not sure. I tend to lose track of time when I'm playing," I said.

"Did he say anything to you?"

"He did say something that struck me as odd -- imagine! Never having heard Beethoven. And with G being his teacher I'd have thought that surely -- " I shook my head.

"I went back to that room before," Heero said. "The statue is gone."

"What? How strange. But why tell me -- no. You can't think ... that's impossible!"

"I'm going back to that room tonight," Heero said. "I want to see what is really happening. You can accompany me as long as you don't get in my way."

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