Disclaimer: Again, I donít profit from this. I wish I owned them, but I donít. Alas.

Pairing: 1x2x1
Category: AU
Rating: PG
Warnings: Yaoi, lime, very mild language, potential cuteness and (don't choke on this) sappiness.
Spoilers: Not a one.

Note: This is what happens when you like people. They ask you for a fic that you'd never dream of writing on your own. *sigh* Dacia requested this, and the plot is her bunny. I just wrote the darn thing. Can you believe I wrote something even remotely sappy? I can't. And it's right in front of me.

Falling Sideways
Part One
by Blue Soaring


"Great shot, Duo!" Walker called from the sidelines as the basketball flew from Duo's hands and swooshed easily through the net.

The sun shone brightly in the spring sky, coaxing flowers to bloom and trees to blossom. An ancient ponderosa pine tree stood tall on the edge of the basketball court, its bark transformed into a muted golden hue with the passage of time. The younger, leafy trees surrounding it were dwarfed by its sheer height, standing like guards around a monarch.

"YEAH!" Duo shouted, jumping high into the air with his arm raised above his head. His braid flew out behind him in a great arc. "I am the greatest!!" Then he added a little victory dance once his feet were firmly back on the ground.

"Do you think he's delusional?" Quatre wryly asked Trowa. The two were walking over to congratulate the currently dancing boy.

"Definitely," Trowa wisely agreed, absently shoving his stubborn hair out of his eyes.

When they finally reached Duo, he was vigorously trying to get Wufei, his partner in the two-on-two game, to join him in his little dance. Wufei couldn't help but grin as Duo insisted that dancing was not hazardous to one 's health. Winning against Quatre and Trowa in basketball was just too rare to not enjoy.

Walker, a senior at Ascension High, grinned at Duo's antics and watched the group discuss the game. He turned around when he heard Heero's voice behind him.

"Duo won?" Heero asked, halting when he stood side by side with Walker. He had his knapsack slung over a shoulder, his hand resting lightly on the strap.

"Yeah, can't you tell?" Walker responded, jerking a thumb over his shoulder in the group's direction.

Heero nodded.

"They're finished now," Walker continued. "Go haul him off the court so the rest of us can have some game time."

"Excellent game, Quatre," Wufei said diplomatically when the blonde was within earshot.

"Quit it, Wufei. You're as happy as he is that you won."

"Yes, I am," Wufei replied with a smile.

"Man, oh man, that was great," Duo said, taking a deep breath. "Thanks, guys."

"No problem," Trowa said, shrugging. "We needed the practice."

"If you let them defeat you," Heero said, wandering over from the benches, "then you need more than practice."

Quatre made a face. "Thanks a lot, Heero."

Duo snorted. "I think we should be the indignant ones, huh, Wu?"

"I will show you indignant if you keep calling me that, Maxwell," the Chinese student threatened.

"My day just isn't complete if Chang Wufei doesn't threaten my life at least once," Duo sighed.

"Then your days must be very complete, Duo," Trowa put in. "That's the third time he's threatened you today."

"And that's only the ones we know about," Quatre added.

"Alright, that fills my daily quota of abuse. You ready to head home, Heero?" Duo said, turning his attention to the Japanese youth.

"I came to see if you were finished. The exam ended a half an hour ago," Heero said, nodding at the other three in goodbye as he and Duo started walking towards the benches.

"Later, guys!" Duo called out, walking backwards for a few feet and waving goodbye to the others. "So, how was it?" he asked, facing forward again.

"What I expected," came the answer. "Are you ready for the chemistry exam?"

"Uh . . ." Duo said, reaching down and gathering up his belongings. "Yeah, I think. I'll finish up my review this afternoon. Shouldn't be a problem. You coming over? I'll feed you," he added with a wink.

"You mean your mother will feed me." Mrs. Maxwell was an amazing chef, a fact that never failed to escape Heero's consideration.

"Either way, you get fed," Duo said.

"I can review at your house just as well as I can at my own," Heero replied, visions of chicken primavera parading through his mind.

They chatted easily as they walked the short distance to Duo's house, breathing twin sighs of relief when they stepped into the coolness of the front porch. Spring had a way of heating up quickly. Duo kicked off his shoes and bounded into the kitchen, Heero following him at a slower pace, his socked feet making no noise on the clean tiles.

"Hey," Duo said, seeing his parents seated at the small table tucked under the large kitchen window. "We're just getting a drink before we hit the books."

"Sure, Duo," his father replied, not looking up from the stack of papers he was buried in. "Hi, Heero."

"Hello, Mr. Maxwell."

"How was your exam?" Mrs. Maxwell asked.

"Alright," Heero replied, watching Duo go from fridge to cupboard and then back to the fridge again.

"That's good, dear. We're having pizza tonight, are you staying?"

Duo rolled his eyes, shoving a tall glass of something a bright lime color into Heero's hand. "Of course he's staying. All he uses me for is your cooking."

Heero shrugged.

Mrs. Maxwell laughed. "I'll call you when it's ready. Have fun studying," she added with an arch smile.

"Yeah, thanks a lot," Duo said, picking up his hastily dropped knapsack and flying out of the room, all the while muttering under his breath.

Heero gave Mrs. Maxwell a small smile, then turned and dutifully followed Duo as he trudged up the stairs to his bedroom.

"They're just like Pepe Le Pew and that cat he's always chasing," Mrs. Maxwell said, turning to her husband.

"I'm sorry?" Mr. Maxwell said, finally looking up from his work.

"You know, that cartoon," she said with a wave of her hand. "Where the cat runs like mad," she made her fingers scrabble across the table top, "and Pepe just follows along, always just behind her, but never rushing?" she finished, making her fingers do a loping half-run over the table.

"And which one's Pepe?"

"Heero is, of course. Can you see him scrambling and stumbling around?"

"No, I guess not," he replied. "That would be Duo."

"It's so . . . cute," Mrs. Maxwell said, her eyes shining.

"Helen, sometimes, I don't know about you," he said, turning back to his papers. "Just don't tell Heero you compared him to a cartoon skunk. All the cooking in the world wouldn't save you from one of his death glares then."

Mrs. Maxwell laughed again, the light and joyous sound filling the bright kitchen.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Dumping his books on the bed, Duo turned to Heero and said, "I'm gonna grab a quick shower first. Quatre was trying to run us into the ground." He started rummaging around in his dresser, grabbing a clean set of clothes.

Heero pushed Duo's books to the side and sat cross-legged on the bed, laying his drink on the nightstand. He dug out the thick chemistry text from amongst his things. "Hilde mentioned meeting her and the others at Scoops' later."

"Yeah?" Duo said, stopping in the doorway. "You up for it?"

Heero shrugged. "Why not?"

"Great! By the way, you're buying," Duo said with a wink. Whirling around, he headed off to the bathroom.

Snorting, Heero turned his attention back to his schoolwork.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Scoops had started off life as a small ice cream parlor frequented by the teenage crowd. Five years later, it had morphed into an odd combination of restaurant, dance club and sundae bar. The newer additions were built on, leaving the original parlor untouched. And the town's youth still flocked to it in droves.

"I've gone way beyond stuffed," Duo was saying as he and Heero wandered into the parlor that evening.

"Then I don't need to buy you ice cream."

"Did I say that?" Duo said, grinning. "You're getting me ice cream, Heero Yuy, and you're not getting out of it."

"If it's got anything to do with food," a voice said nearby, "you haven't got a prayer, Heero."

"Hiya, Hilde!" Duo called, craning his neck around until he spotted her through the evening crowd that had already gathered.

She sat in a large booth set against the windows, sipping on a milkshake. Beside her, next to the window, sat Wufei, who was involved in a highly animated discussion with Quatre, who sat across from them. The blonde was smiling as Wufei gestured vehemently with a hand, punctuating his point with a particularly vicious bite to one of his french fries. Trowa sat calmly next to Quatre, watching the exchange with quiet interest.

Hearing Duo's voice, Trowa nudged Quatre in the ribs, making him shuffle over so the others could sit. Heero slid in beside them on the cushioned seat.

"Scoot over, Wufei," Hilde said as she flicked a strand of dark hair out of her eyes. "Make some space."

"S'okay, Hil. Heero's getting back up anyway," Duo said.

Heero's eyebrow winged up.

"Ice cream," the braided boy reminded him.

Letting out a quiet sigh, Heero got to his feet.

"Can I have-"

"A waffle cone with Black Raspberry Cheesecake?" Heero finished for him with the small twist of lips that served as his smile.

"Man, you're too good," Duo said, sliding in behind Heero and taking the place he had just vacated.

"I know," Heero replied and set off in search of ice cream.

"That's so cute," Hilde said, her eyes gone dreamy.

Duo stopped halfway in the process of nabbing a fry from Wufei's plate. "Cute?" he choked.

Wufei pulled his attention away from his discussion with Quatre in time to see Duo's hand hovering above his fries. Slapping Duo's hand away automatically, he said, "What are Yuy and Maxwell doing now?"

Hilde laughed. "See, Duo? I say 'cute', and even Wufei thinks of you guys first."

"Shit, Hil, he owes me five bucks. He's just buying me ice cream to square up. And," Duo added, rolling his eyes, "THAT'S not cute."

"He has a point," Trowa said.

"It's more . . ." Quatre paused, searching for the right word.

"Honorable," Wufei supplied.

"Er . . . yes, thank you, Wufei." Quatre said. "More honorable than cute."

"Well, I think it's cute," Hilde insisted.

"You think what's cute?" Heero asked, returning with two cones full of ice cream. He handed one to Duo and took a quick taste of his own. "There was no Black Raspberry. That's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough."

"Mmmmm, cookie dough. Thanks, buddy!" Duo said, swiping his tongue across the top of his cone.

Wufei moved further inside the booth, making room for Heero to sit. The shorthaired boy settled comfortably next to Hilde, still looking questioningly at her.

"Your buying Duo ice cream," Quatre said, swiping one of Wufei's fries.

"Is nothing sacred?" Wufei suddenly asked. "These are MY french fries," he said, pointing to his plate. "Mine."

"Yes, they are," Trowa agreed, nimbly snatching another. "And they're very good."

"You're as bad as Maxwell," Wufei grumbled, pulling his plate protectively closer to himself.

"I owed him," Heero said simply.

"That's what I told them," Duo said, exasperated.

"Well, Duo, it's just logical," Quatre said, abandoning his theft of Wufei's fries to munch on his own banana split, "You guys are always together."

"Did you cover the concept of 'friends' in kindergarten, Q?" Duo said archly. "We've been friends since . . . since . . . geez, I think since we were born." Duo's face took on a comic, slightly puzzled look.

"I think the connection is prenatal," Wufei snorted.

"Ha, ha ha, Wu," Duo said, somehow managing to make a sour face and eat his ice cream at the same time.

"WuFEI," the Chinese boy responded automatically.

"Are we discussing Heero and Duo?" Relena said, strolling over.

"Again?" Dorothy added, appearing beside the honey blonde girl.

"Aren't you guys sick of this subject by now?" Duo said, affecting a slightly mournful tone.

"But we simply adore discussing your love life with Heero," Dorothy said, snagging a chair from a nearby table and indicating that Relena should do the same.

"Look, we don't have a freaking love life, Dorothy," Duo said, blowing out an explosive breath of air. "We're good friends, okay?"

"Heero doesn't protest nearly as much as you do," Relena said, turning towards the cobalt-eyed boy.

"Duo protests enough for the both of us," Heero said.

"True," Trowa agreed.

"Loudly, too," Wufei added.

"I give up," Duo said, throwing one hand into the air. "And you're no help, Heero," he accused, frowning.

Heero looked unaffected by Duo's rising ire. "They never listen, regardless," he said, shrugging. "Your ice cream is melting." He reached for a napkin.

"Ack!" Duo exclaimed, suddenly feeling the cold trail of melting ice cream oozing down his hand. He raised his arm and licked the stickiness away, making a small slurping sound. Then his tongue darted out again to catch the next bit before it could fall off the cone.

Heero blinked, then shrugged and handed the napkin to Hilde, who stared at it for a few minutes before handing it to Wufei.

"Anyway," Duo said, attempting to change the subject, "what's everyone's plans for spring break?"

"He's trying to change the subject," Trowa said to no one in particular.

"We'll let him, just this once," Relena said, smiling.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Leaving the bustle of Scoops behind, Heero and Duo slowly made their way back home. The evening had cooled off, a small breeze ruffling Heero's perpetually messy hair.

"Doesn't that bug you AT ALL?" Duo demanded, kicking viciously at an unoffending rock and sending it flying.

"Yes," Heero admitted. "It annoys me very much."

"Then why don't you SAY something?"

"It never deters them," Heero said, tipping his head back and staring up at the starry sky.

"Maybe it would if you agreed with me for once," Duo huffed.

"Maybe, but I doubt it."

"Yeah, you're probably right."

"I always am," Heero said with a perfectly straight face.

"Uh huh, sure you are. I just let you think that," Duo replied, grinning. He tucked his hands into the pockets of his jeans.

Heero gave him a small shrug. "If it makes you feel better."

They finally arrived at the fork in the road that marked where they parted ways. Duo reached up and scratched the back of his neck, then stretched.

"Well, Heero, I'll catch you tomorrow at lunch," he said.

"I have to get my literature paper after class, before I meet you for lunch," Heero replied.

"I'll save a spot for you at a table then. Wouldn't want you to miss Friday 's Lunch Surprise," Duo added with a snicker.

Heero gave him his characteristic half smile. "See you then."

"Later, Heero," Duo said, smiling. He waved once, then turned and headed down the road that would bring him home.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Noon on Friday found Duo sitting in the lunch room of his school, absently shoveling fries into his mouth. Relena plunked her tray down on the table, then seated herself across from him.

"Duo, where's Heero? I haven't seen him all morning," she said, pushing open the small carton of milk on her tray.

Swallowing a mouthful of drink, Duo said, "He said he was picking up a paper from one of his classes." Lifting his wrist, he glanced at his watch. "Gonna miss lunch if he doesn't hurry up, though."

"You never said yesterday what you two were doing for the break," Relena said.

Quatre showed up at Duo's elbow then, literally flopping into a chair. His head fell forward onto the table, cradled by his arms.

"I don't like chemistry," came his muffled voice.

"Q?" Duo said, his eyebrows shooting up as he poked the other boy in the arm.

The blonde turned his head just enough so that one blue eye peeked out from under the fringe of his hair. "That was the worst exam so far this year."

"Oh, man, don't tell me that," Duo moaned. "If you found it hard, it's gonna be brutal."

"You'll do fine, Quatre," Relena said, offering him a cookie from her tray. "You always do."

"Thank you," Quatre said automatically, gratefully taking a bite of the cookie. "I really need a long weekend."

Duo glanced at his watch again. "I'm gonna grab a bite for Heero, he's running really late."

"Okay, Duo," Quatre said as the braided boy got to his feet and headed towards the front of the cafeteria.

"Hey, Pagan," Duo said, waving at the head chef once he was close enough.

"Duo, hello!" Pagan smiled, his bushy eyebrows rising just a little. "Where 's Heero today?" he asked, turning off the heat lamps above the now empty racks.

"Running late in class," Duo said. "Can I bug you for a little something for him? I think he's going to miss lunch."

"Of course," Pagan said, reaching down and emerging with a Ziploc container. "What do you think he'd like?"

"Knowing Heero, a bit of the Chef's Salad would be great."

"He's very lucky to have you," Pagan said, filling the container with salad and wrapping a fork up in a napkin. "Most boyfriends aren't that considerate." He handed Duo the container and napkin with a smile.

Duo sighed inwardly. "Nope," he agreed, foregoing to remind the aging cook yet again that he and Heero were nothing more than very good friends. Grabbing a small packet of salad dressing, he made his way slowly back to the table.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Thank you, Mr. Dermaile," Heero said on his way out the classroom door. He glanced over at the clock on the other side of the hallway. If he hurried, he might be able to get at least something from the cafeteria before it closed.

Right outside the large double doors, he ran into Quatre, Relena and Duo, who were on their way out. Duo waved goodbye to his friends, then walked over to meet Heero.

"Hey, Heero," Duo said in a slightly subdued voice. "Grabbed you a salad, figured you'd be hungry."

Heero smiled his little smile and gratefully took the salad Duo offered him. "I'm sorry I missed meeting you at lunch."

"S'okay, man." Duo jerked his head towards a clear space near the wall. "You wanna sit down to eat that?"

Heero nodded, moving over to where Duo had indicated. He sat down on the floor and poured the dressing over his lunch. Duo flopped against the wall, then slid down beside him, drawing his knees up and resting his head on them.

"I heard the chem test was nasty," the braided boy said, watching Heero eat.

"Not really," Heero said between mouthfuls. "Are you worried?"

"Naw, guess not."

"Is there something wrong, Duo?"

"I asked Pagan for your lunch," Duo said, letting his eyes half close.

Heero nodded, understanding now. "He said the same thing to me last week."

"I think we should make tee shirts," Duo grumbled. "Mine would say 'No, I am not Heero Yuy's BOYFRIEND'. Same thing for yours, just stick my name in there instead."

Heero snickered softy, imagining what it would be like walking around wearing that. "Relena would say we were protesting too much."

"I'm about to have a freakin' rally, Heero," Duo snorted.

"Carrot?" Heero said, offering his friend a bit of salad.

"Thanks," Duo said, crunching through the vegetable.

"Is that them?" a female voice whispered nearby.

"Oh, yeah!" another one answered loudly. A chorus of shushes followed her outburst. She giggled, trying to cover her laughter with a hand.

"Oh my GOD," the first female said. "They're gorgeous!"

"Would you keep it down, Sylvie?" a third voice chimed in.

"Sorry," the first girl, Sylvie, said, not sounding all that apologetic.

"She's right, though," the second girl said. "Together, they look even better! Just THINK about it."

Duo groaned loudly.

Heero looked up, leveling a cold glare at the threesome. One visibly paled, while the other two quickly busied themselves with their books.

"That's it, I'm going to class," Duo said, getting up off the floor and brushing off his jeans.

Moving his gaze back to the longhaired boy, Heero nodded. "Good luck on your exam."

"Sure thing. Later." Duo slung his bookbag over his shoulder and made his way passed the trio of girls.

The girl named Sylvie gave Duo a small smile but only got a curt nod in return. Discouraged, she glanced back at Heero, who was finishing off the remainder of his lunch. The dark glare she received from him made her physically shrink away and quickly avert her eyes.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Oh, hello Heero!" Mrs. Yuy called, seeing the boys walking up the driveway once classes were finished for the day. "Hi, Duo, honey. How was your day?"

"Not so bad," Duo replied, smiling.

"The exam was fairly easy," Heero added.

"Good, good. Go on inside, there's some Pepsi in the fridge. And I think Odin brought home some junk food for the weekend," she said, adjusting her purse strap on her shoulder.

"Man, I totally forgot it was Friday! Thanks, Mrs. Yuy," Duo said, going in the front door ahead of Heero.

"See you when you get back," Heero said to his mother, helping her balance the laptop case and pile of folders she was carrying. The shorthaired boy moved to follow Duo once she had everything safely in the car.

"One moment, Heero," she said, closing the back door. "There's a dance party at Scoops tomorrow. You should take Duo, he likes that sort of thing." A knowing smile creased her lips.

Heero rolled his eyes a little, a gesture more likely to come from Duo than from him. "We're friends, Mother," he said, his expression settling back into his usual glare.

"Oh, I know, I know, dear," Mrs. Yuy replied, patting him on the shoulder and getting into the car. She gave Heero the once over, then said, "You know, you could pick up some new jeans or something for the party. You look good in black. What about that blue shirt you have?"

"I'll see you when you get back," Heero said again, giving her a quick peck on the cheek.

"I'll be home by Monday. When was the last time you and Duo went on a real date, anyway?"

Heero resisted the urge to scream and instead calmly walked back to the front door, waving goodbye as she backed out the driveway.

Duo poked his head out the door questioningly. Heero plucked the cookie he held from his hand and quickly finished it in two bites, staring after the car with an annoyed look on his face.

"Hey, that was my cookie!" Duo said resentfully, stepping back inside so Heero could get through the door.

"And now it's not." Heero closed the door harder than was really necessary.

"Yikes, sorry man, you want this one, too?" Duo asked, holding out the cookie he had in his other hand.

"She believes I should take you on a 'real' date," Heero said, leaning against the doorjamb and crossing his arms. He frowned harder.

Duo's eyes grew comically wide and his face broke out into a huge grin. "You mean we've already gone on a not-real date?"

Heero snorted. "Apparently."

"Whoo, boy, this is getting worse and worse," Duo said, scratching the back of his neck.

"Did you know about the party at Scoops on Saturday?"

"Yeah . . . I think I did. Oh, yep, I told Relena we were going." A pause. "We are going, aren't we?"

Sighing, Heero toed off his shoes and wandered into the kitchen, digging around in the pantry.

"It really is bugging you as much as it is me," Duo said, perching on a stool.

"Of course it is." Heero emerged from the pantry with another cookie, holding it between his lips while he poured a glass of Pepsi for Duo and milk for himself.

"You're hot an' all, Heero, but I don't know why everyone has this obsession with us dating. Even our parents, for cryin' out loud."

"Are you asking me why?"

"Guess not," Duo grinned. "So, what are we gonna do about it?"

"Denial is getting us nowhere," Heero said thoughtfully. "What if we simply ignored it?"

"You might be able to do that, but one of these days, I'm just gonna throttle someone." Duo narrowed his eyes, furrowing his brow as he mimed the action in the air.

Remembering how close he had come to screaming in the driveway, Heero agreed with Duo. "Point duly noted," he said dryly.

They sat in silence for several minutes, each turning over different ideas in his head. Suddenly, Duo snickered. Heero raised an eyebrow.

"Naw, s'nothing," the longhaired boy said, but then he chuckled again.

"You're thinking something," Heero said.

Duo pinned his friend with a look, a calculating gleam in his eyes. "We could just prove them right."

Heero's brow furrowed. "You want us to date?"

"Not really," Duo said quickly, "but wouldn't it give them a turn if we only acted like it? After all these years? Dorothy would have a coronary."

While the image of giving Dorothy Catalonia temporary heart failure was amusing at the very least, Heero shook his head. "How would we act like a couple?"

"Geez, according to the majority of the population, act like we usually do. Maybe we could throw in a few moon-eyed looks, just for good measure," Duo said, giving Heero a mocking demonstration.

"If you look at me like that in public, I'll laugh at you," Heero said with a small, wry smile.

"Well," Duo waved his hand in the air dismissively, "I'd probably fall over laughing at myself," he admitted. "I think it'd be funny to fool them, though."

Heero took another bite of his cookie, chewing thoughtfully. "They are already talking about us . . . ."

"So, let's give 'em something to talk about," Duo said, winking at his friend.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Now," Duo began, reclining comfortably in a large, plush chair in Heero's room, "we should really have a game plan for this."

"Agreed." Heero sat on the floor next to his bed, legs stretched out in front of him.

"So, what's the plan?"

Heero blinked, staring straight ahead. His eyes flicked over to Duo's face. "You don't have a plan," he stated.

"Nope, not a clue. Okay, I've got a clue. I'm thinking the party tomorrow will be a great opportunity."

"For?"

"Us, Heero!" Duo said, rolling his eyes. "See, we hang around all the time anyway . . . all we have to do at the party is act like we're together. Maybe hold hands when we think no one's looking but we know they are. . ." Duo trailed off, scrunching up his nose.

"We act like a couple that doesn't want to be known as a couple, so we attempt to hide it, but we want them to think exactly that, so we arrange for them to see us?"

"Right on target!" Duo beamed.

"I'm almost sure I should be afraid," Heero murmured.

"C'mon, Heero! You got the idea in a nutshell. We get to sneak around an' everything!"

"Sneak around doing what, exactly?" the shorthaired boy queried.

". . . gazing deeply and adoringly into each other's eyes, waxing poetic about the beauty contained therein?"

"They're blue-violet."

"Huh?"

"Your eyes," Heero clarified. "They're blue-violet."

"Really?" Duo said, an odd look on his face. He got up and stood in front of Heero's full-length mirror. His nose almost touching the glass, he peered intently at his reflection. "Look at that, they are kinda purplish."

Turning back to Heero, Duo absently toyed with the end of his braid with one hand, resting the other hand on his hip. "Why'd you tell me that?"

"I was under the impression that it was something your boyfriend would know," Heero said casually.

"Have you been reading romance novels?" Duo asked, narrowing his eyes.

"No, I haven't," Heero replied flatly. "Hilde and Relena spend a vast majority of their time discussing eye color."

"Seems like an odd body part to be fixated on," Duo commented.

"Hilde is obsessed with something else," Heero said, resting one arm on his bed and leaning back.

"Yeah, what?"

"Your ass."

"My what!?" Duo exclaimed. Then he started to laugh. "My ass, huh? What do you think, Heero? Is my ass my best feature?" he said, turning around and throwing a sexy look over his shoulder.

Heero made a show of indecision, making his friend laugh even harder.

Finally, Duo said, "Well? Or are you going to make me stand here all day, just so you can stare at my butt?"

"I can't decide," Heero said.

"Whaddaya mean, can't decide?"

"Your ass is very nice," Heero replied, deadpan, "but I think your legs are better."

Duo collapsed in his chair, tears leaking from his eyes as he struggled to gain a breath through his laughter. "Oh, shit, Heero, you're a hoot! This is gonna be fun," he added, dragging out the last word. "Now, what are you wearing to the party? My date needs to look good."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The next evening found Duo back at Heero's home, standing in front of his friend and eyeing him critically.

Heero, for the most part, stoically tolerated his friend's obsession with appearance. He was dressed in black straight-legged pants and a midnight blue shirt that was trimmed in black. He thought it was perhaps a bit too snug, but Duo assured him he looked great. The sleeves were short, ending just above his elbow. Duo fussed with the neckline, finally leaving the collar gaping wide open. The trim lined the collar and trailed diagonally across his chest, following the line of the shirt where it wrapped around his waist and fastened at the side. A pair of dark boots was the latest addition to his clothing.

"It's missing something," Duo said, chewing on his lower lip. "You've got a silver chain around here somewhere, right?"

"On the dresser," Heero said, sizing himself up in the mirror.

Duo stepped up behind him after retrieving the chain and, wrapping his arms around Heero, clipped it around his neck. It rested at the base of Heero's throat, glinting in the light.

"Now that's perfect. Heero, man, you're looking hot," Duo said, taking a step back.

"We are ready to go, now?" Heero asked, turning away from his reflection.

"Sure." Duo stuck his head in front of the mirror, fiddling with his braid. He tugged a few wisps of hair loose, letting them fall softly around his neck and face. "Right, how do I look?"

Biting back a sigh, Heero said, "You look fine."

Duo had dug up a pair of tight black jeans and somehow managed to pour himself into them. He wore a dark red turtleneck with no sleeves and had coiled a black bracelet around his left forearm. Heavy dark boots with silver clasps completed his outfit. He looked, Heero thought to himself, much better than simply 'fine'.

"Just fine? Some boyfriend you are," Duo laughed. "C'mon, let's get this show on the road. I want to watch Dorothy fall flat on her face."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The dance was in full swing by the time the two friends made their entrance. Music swept over them in a forceful wave from the live band. Inside, the room was darkened, trails of small white lights snaking across the ceiling. Different colored lights sat atop each table and lined the counter where two waiters were dispensing drinks and snacks.

Duo scanned the floor, spotting Relena, Quatre and Dorothy dancing with the large crowd. A second sweep revealed Wufei and Trowa at one of the high tables, with Hilde headed that way holding two glasses. Tugging on Heero's hand, Duo led him over to the stools.

Heero blinked in surprise. Duo's hand was warm, mostly soft except for the slight hardness of a few small calluses. It fit in his hand perfectly, long fingers intertwined with his own. He flexed his fingers experimentally, noticing for some reason that Duo's nails were trimmed short.

Trowa caught sight of them, a slightly puzzled look crossing his face. Duo turned his body, shielding their clasped hands and slowly let go. Trowa's frown of confusion deepened. When the two reached the table, Duo acted as if he hadn't noticed the green-eyed boy's look.

"Hey, all," Duo said loudly, hopping up onto one of the stools. "Did we miss anything?"

Hilde set a glass in front of Trowa, then turned her attention to the braided boy. "Wow, Duo," she said, "you look amazing! What's the occasion?"

"Party time, Hil! Gotta look good for the party," he replied.

Trowa shot Duo another appraising glance and took a small sip of his drink.

"I think I'm dehydrated," Quatre said, coming back to the table with Relena and Dorothy. "I need water." He smiled at the two newcomers, then headed back the way Hilde had come.

"Heero?" Relena's eyes were wide.

Heero turned around, his expression questioning.

"You look wonderful, Heero! That shirt really brings out your eyes," she said, sitting down on a stool.

Heero shot Duo a smug look.

Trowa's frown returned.

Dorothy looked from Relena to Heero to Duo, then lastly at Trowa. Her eyes narrowed.

"Whoa, guys, lighten up," Duo said, glancing back and forth between Trowa and the light blonde girl.

Someone tapped on Duo's shoulder and he turned around, meeting the slightly wide eyes of Sylvie. Duo's mouth thinned and Heero's eyes went flat.

"Hello, Sylvie," Relena said. "Have you met Heero and Duo?"

"Uh . . . no," she said, her voice just loud enough to carry over the music. "Not really."

Dorothy looked hard at Heero, then opened her mouth to say something, but Hilde cut her off.

"Sylvie, meet Duo, he's the one with the braid, and Heero . . . his friend," she said after a short pause.

"I wanted to know if you'd like to dance," Sylvie said to Duo, visibly straightening her back and gathering her courage.

"Dance?" Duo echoed, a poleaxed look on his face. He glanced at Heero in confusion.

Heero started to shrug his shoulders, then thought better of it and gave Sylvie a dark look instead. "Alright," he mouthed.

Duo grinned. Heero had remembered that they were supposed to be acting like a couple. He cast a furtive glance at Trowa, wondering if the brown-haired boy had caught Heero's movement.

"Okay," Duo said, returning his gaze to Sylvie.

The girl smiled. Duo jumped down off his stool, walking with her to the dance floor. Along the way, she stepped closer to him, leaning in so she could be heard over the louder music without shouting.

"I'm sorry," she said, "I didn't mean to offend you yesterday."

Duo turned his head a fraction, looking at her face. "It's alright, we're used to it."

Sylvie shook her head. "No, I'm really sorry. I didn't know."

"Look, Sylvie, it's okay. I wouldn't have said yes to dancing with you if it wasn't."

Tension seeped from her shoulders. "Oh, good."

Wedging their way into the crowd, they started to dance. Duo dove right in, swaying his hips and moving with the beat. His hands traveled over his arms and down his sides, his braid curling itself around him as he moved. Sylvie started slower, but with an encouraging smile from Duo, began dancing in earnest.

Heero watched from his seat, wondering what the exchange was about. His brow creased as he ran the possibilities through his mind.

"Heero, you look positively green," Dorothy said, smiling at him and resting her cheek on her hand. She followed his gaze, watching Sylvie move closer to Duo while they danced.

Wrenching his eyes away from Duo, Heero grunted noncommittally. "Is there a reason you think that?"

Dorothy arched an eyebrow and glanced at the dance floor.

Heero gave her a frosty look, ending the trail of conversation.

Dorothy smiled and then turned to Relena, suggesting that they go dancing again.

"Am I missing something here?" Quatre asked, perplexed. He had returned with a glass of water somewhere between Sylvie's appearance and Duo's exit.

"Not particularly," Wufei told him, smoothing the material of his shirt.

"I've got to be missing something," Quatre insisted.

The song of the moment came to a sudden stop, leaving the room suspended in an instant of silence before the deafening applause erupted. The band started up again, this time playing something slower. Those on the dance floor paired off.

Duo gave Sylvie a questioning look, which she answered with a small, uncertain smile. Stepping forward, Duo rested his hands on either side of her waist. After a second's hesitation, she clasped her hands around the back of his neck.

Heero was talking to Trowa, who halted mid-sentence when he caught sight of Sylvie inching slowly but surely closer to Duo. Heero followed the direction that he was looking, noted that Duo actually was quite a good dancer and then did a mental double take. He was sure a boyfriend wouldn't be pleased with that development.

Heero easily stepped down from his stool and made a beeline for Duo. The longhaired boy's back was to him, but Sylvie saw Heero bearing down on them from over his shoulder. A look of confusion crossed her face.

"Duo?" Heero said, leaning close to his friend's ear.

Duo almost jumped out of his skin. Heero's voice was very low, breath hot against his ear. "Yeah?" he replied, turning his head. Suddenly Heero's face was very close to his own, and Duo was stuck by the fact that his eyes were a startling cobalt blue.

Frowning, Heero jerked his head slightly, indicating that he wanted Duo off the dance floor.

"Sorry, Sylvie," Duo said with a sheepish smile, releasing her. "I'm being stolen."

"That's alright, thanks for the dance," she said, stepping back. She smiled at Heero and received another blank stare.

Duo elbowed him in the ribs.

Surprise registered on Heero's face for a split second before it settled back into a scowl. Then his expression softened and he nodded to Sylvie. She looked relieved.

Heero led him away from the floor, first heading to the long bar and getting two drinks. Somehow, they ended up in a slightly out-of-the-way corner, attempting to have a full conversation without yelling.

"What'd ya do that for?" Duo asked, making a face. "I was having fun."

"Trowa froze when he saw you dance with her like that," Heero said. "I assumed that I was supposed to have a problem with it."

"Oh, that makes sense. Geez, Heero, I didn't think you'd be the jealous type," he laughed.

"Dorothy also called me jealous."

"Great, I've been dating your for less than a day, and everyone thinks you' re a jealous monster."

"No, if I was jealous, I wouldn't have let you dance with her in the beginning," Heero countered.

"Ooooh, so now you 'let' me dance with her?"

Heero glared at him.

"Quit that, I'm only yanking your chain. Ya know, I didn't think we'd be so obvious about this couple thing, but I think it's working pretty well. Relena's watching us like a hawk now," Duo said, his eyes focused on a point just to the side of Heero's head.

"Relena's always watching us like a hawk," Heero amended.

Duo smiled, agreeing. "Trowa froze when he saw me dancing with Sylvie like what?" he said out of the blue.

"When she moved closer to you."

"Yeah, that." Duo tucked a strand of hair behind his ear. "She was gettin' pretty close, wasn't she," he stated. "Hey, she's watching us now."

"Why?"

"I dunno, maybe she expects a show."

Heero grunted.

"I think we should give her one."

Heero decided grunting wasn't a sufficient response to that. He was still in the process of finding a suitable one when Duo's arms snaked around his waist.

"What exactly are we doing?" Heero said, giving Duo a hard look.

"Givin' her a little show. This looks like a corner you'd drag your date off to for a bit of fun. Pin me against the wall."

Heero blinked. "What?"

"Put your hands on the wall just above my shoulders and lean in to me a little. Trust me, it'll look good," Duo clarified with a long-suffering sigh. His hand was idly trailing over Heero's side.

Planting his hands firmly on the wall and bending his arms a little at the elbow, Heero took a step forward, bringing the full length of his body into contact with Duo's. The other boy's face was mere inches from his own.

"Whoa, Heero, I said a little," Duo almost squeaked, his hand stilling. "Never mind though," he said, clearing his throat, "this'll work just as well or better. I think Relena just fell off her stool." He snickered softly to himself, using Heero to shield the action from the others. "Man, you're good at this snuggling bit."

Heero turned his head to the side slightly, catching a glimpse of Relena out of the corner of his eye. "What now?" he asked, flicking his gaze back to Duo.

"Um," Duo said, a small puff of warm air brushing past Heero's cheek, "I think this is the part where you kiss me."

The shorthaired boy's eyes grew a little wider.

"I think that's being a little too obvious, though," Duo was saying, seemingly unmindful of Heero's expression. "Not that being crushed into a wall by you isn't, but you know what I mean. Besides, in their minds, we've been going out for more than half our lives already and this is the most they've ever seen. Having a make-out session now would be too much, too soon."

"Tell me what we're supposed to do NOW," Heero almost growled. He hadn't even considered the idea that this plan would involve kissing. Maybe mild touching, but not kissing.

"We could have our own slow dance right here . . . no, wait, Q's lookin' around. I think he's trying to find us," Duo said. "Let's go back."

Heero stepped back, giving Duo room to breathe. The front of his body was suddenly cold. Duo absently straightened his shirt, and then they wandered back to their group of friends for the rest of the night.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Hey, that went better than I thought it would," Duo said as he set up the cot he used whenever he slept over beside Heero's bed.

They had eventually left the party with everyone else, walking to the various points in town where they usually parted company. Duo had made sure to brush Heero's hand at least once along the way, not bothering to see if anyone had noticed. When they had parted ways with Hilde and Trowa, the latter was staring at them through slightly narrowed eyes.

"Perhaps we were too obvious," Heero said, pulling down the covers on his own bed and tossing Duo a pillow.

"I thought about that, too." Duo fiddled with the string on his pajama bottoms, tying it into a looser knot. "The way I see it, it was a party, after all. Everyone knows people slip up when the lights are low and the fun starts. Monday we'll go back to being the way we were, with only a few changes."

Heero sat down on the edge of the bed and gave Duo a slightly expectant look.

"Well," Duo said, sitting cross-legged on the cot, "we . . . I mean ME, since you never do anyway, won't protest nearly as much or as loudly as usual. We should probably throw in a few of those lingering touches and looks and all that jazz."

"I missed Relena falling off her seat," Heero said, somewhat wistfully.

"I'm telling you, it was priceless. Next time, I'll pin you to the wall and you can watch them keel over like dominoes." A slightly evil grin spread itself across Duo's face.

Heero shot him an amused look and crawled underneath his sheets. "Goodnight, Duo."

"Night, man. See you in the a.m."

Clicking off the lamp, Heero lay flat on his back, mulling over the day's events in his head. When he got to the part where Duo was pressed up against him, he stopped. Then he went back over it again. The room was quiet except for the sound of the occasional car going down the road until a muted, "Heero?" reached his ears.

"Yes?" the shorthaired boy asked.

"Can I have pancakes for breakfast?"

Heero grunted an affirmative.

"Thanks, man. Night."

Heero went back to his quiet contemplation, listening to Duo's breathing grow steady and slow. Eventually, he drifted off to sleep, wondering what it was he had gotten himself into.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Heero awoke with a start. Duo was leaning over him, grinning like a madman. "Aw, shit. You woke up. I was going to jump on you," he said.

"You're hungry," Heero stated dryly.

"Starving," Duo agreed. "I need my pancakes."

"Go make them."

"Hey, I'm the guest here, you're supposed to get up off your lazy ass and make my breakfast."

"I'm busy."

"Doing what?"

"Sleeping."

"No, you're not. You're talking, so you're wide awake."

"I could be talking in my sleep."

"You do it very well. Get up and feed me."

Sighing, Heero tossed the covers aside and stood. He stretched, curving his spine in a smooth arc.

Duo was tapping his fingers on the doorframe, waiting impatiently. "C'mon, man, I'm hungry!"

"Alright, alright. Go."

Duo dashed out the door and thundered down the stairs to attack the unfortunate kitchen. His sleep-messed braid bounced merrily along behind him, and Heero was surprised to find a genuine smile on his face. Then again, it really wasn't all that surprising. Duo made him smile quite a bit.

on to part two

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