Disclaimer: The boys belong to Bandai/Sotsu/Sunrise, honest.

Notes: Detailed notes are provided with the Prologue to this fic.

"Daydreams...like books in the shelf of my mind"
--Lolah Burford, 'Edward, Edward'

Chapter Sixteen
by D.C. Logan

Heero read through the kissing book while waiting for Duo to arrive. Like the hugging book, it too had background notes and cultural differences. Kissing was rather more difficult and intimate than hugging though, Heero wasn't sure about Duo, but he didn't think _he_ was ready for anything that intimate yet. If they got that far anyway. Though the hugging had been wonderful, different than he'd expected, but worthy of further exploration.

They'd started out rather stilted and formal, approaching the book as the textbook he'd intended it to be, but then Duo's infectious laughter had gotten the better of him. There'd been laughter, a lot of it, and one or two awkward moments that could have been gropes, but were more likely than not just the adolescent type of fumbling he'd expected of himself. It had, after all, been years since he'd anything approaching this sort of human contact. He wasn't sure he could have tolerated it, except that it was Duo, and Duo had a way about him that was disarming and cheerful with just enough of a thread of seriousness beneath it all to make it easy to recall the intensely intelligent man under the surface sparkle.

At Heero's insistence, they'd started out the evening with some basic ground rules--hugging only. No other contact allowed. That had been more for his sake than Duo's. If he'd been worried about 'what next?' or other variants on that theme, he would have been a tense, paranoid man, incapable of relaxing enough to give, receive or share in any hug they might pull out of the excellent little book. Duo had seemed surprised at the initial stating of ground rules, but had shrugged willingly and followed Heero into his office.

Warmth, firm and solid warmth, _that_ was his current impression of Duo. Yeah, he might have started with an attraction to his outward appearance, moved inward to his dynamic wit and canny intelligence, but his body held a new and magnetic attraction for Heero that, for the moment, overpowered the rest of the criteria. Okay, to put it as bluntly as only a writer of bodice-rippers could, he lusted for the man. Dear god he lusted. There was a powerful strength behind the physical attraction as well, and an insidious jealousy of what he had been starting to feel was his property. It had lurked below the surface only to leap out at him when Trowa had surprised Duo that day in Daydreams weeks ago. It had peaked then, in that moment, only to retreat under the surface, rumbling with need and irrational thoughts that simmered. There was a new insidious need to have that attention turned only to himself, and a need that felt unworthy of his intelligence to keep other people away from Duo. The man had well and truly gotten under his skin. Hell, he was even jealous of the attention Trowa and Quatre paid to him. Knowing empirically that they were a very solid and demonstrative couple did nothing to quell his fears or suspicions.

His guts were twisting into knots just _thinking_ about it.

He'd thought briefly of how his attraction to Duo was like ivy climbing a brick wall. It had started with subtle and delicate contact, tendril to wall, and the vine had slowly gained an insignificantly small foothold and then exploited it to the best of its ability. The point of possible separation had passed long before Heero thought it would. His attraction for the other was deep. Deeper than he'd thought it could be in so short of a time. Even Wufei had been surprised at how rapidly his interest had progressed. That caused some more self doubt to surface though..._was_ he moving too fast? Should he be taking longer before investing his heart? There was such a narrow line between caution and missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Risk. It all came down to risk, which was a game he was adept at playing--so he would just have to trust that his instincts weren't off this time around. So far, they felt right on target.

He looked up at the clock behind the desk, 10 am. Duo was due back in about an hour. That should give him just enough time to find their next book project--a task Duo had directed him with as he'd left the night before. Heero stood, stretched, and wandered back over to the self-help area, a hopeful Sandrock following him through the stacks to re-settle at his feet in the far corner of the store.

There should be something appropriate in here... something, well, non explicit--though he'd paged through a number of those already. He wanted something creative and interesting, and wished dearly that Duo had taken the initiative and set the next step into place. Though he suspected that this was something Duo had asked him to do so Heero could set the pace of their growing involvement. Though he appreciated the courtesy, he would have embraced the loss of control at this point. It suddenly hit him, how willing he now was to place himself at the mercy of another person, and knew for a brief instant what Duo had felt in his chair, bound in place, and wondered at what a heady feeling handing your trust over willingly, completely, could be. He suspected that it would be just one of the many valuable lessons he'd learn from Mr. Maxwell.

Duo looked around as soon as he walked through the door of Daydreams, but Heero wasn't in his usual chair. Damn. Quatre gave him a wave of greeting from behind the counter and he grinned back. Duo liked Quatre. He was a good guy, really, a genuinely nice person. What made him special to Duo was the way Trowa simply doted on the man. Trowa of all people, who frightened young children into correct behavior, who looked ten times meaner than he was, and was quick and dexterous enough to lift the hubcaps off of a moving car, had fallen for his partner within minutes of meeting him.

It had amused Duo no end to tease his friend and to enact his own brand of revenge for the comments that had been passed over the table at _him_ over all those years of friendship. Lately though, both Trowa and Quatre had been gently poking him to show his interest a bit more openly to Heero. His interest had been just as blatant as Trowa's had been for Quatre three years earlier, though more circumspect in its exploration. Hell, he hoped the hugging session hadn't spooked Heero into hiding. Finally obtaining permission, hell, solicited even, to be able to hold him and be held in return had been heady stuff indeed. He wanted more of it, but knew full well that Heero would probably pull back and reconnoiter before advancing again. Hell, he didn't have a problem with that. Though the tension would probably kill him before Heero got around to the interesting books in the self-help part of the store. Yeah, those books, the ones near the bottom shelf where they weren't _quite_ as obvious.

"Morning Duo."

"Hey Quatre, thanks for minding the place." Duo shifted his pack to his side, and slung it behind the counter as he rounded the corner. "You meeting Trowa for lunch? He said something about it yesterday."

"Hmm. Duo?" Quatre slipped from the stool and continued after Duo nodded. "Heero is in the self help section." Quatre folded his paper and collected his bag. "He's been there all morning."

Duo's only response to this was a broadening grin and a shift to replace Quatre on the stool behind the counter. Realizing that he was broadcasting his happiness to the store at large, he reined it in a little and directed his attention back to Quatre, who was looking at him curiously. "Sales decent?"

"It's ten fifteen in the morning, on a Tuesday. Really Duo." Quatre turned and left the store with a merry laugh, leaving Duo with his thoughts and Heero in the self-help section where he'd been busy all morning, presumably selecting their next book.

It took iron-willed control to keep Duo pinned in his chair and waiting patiently for Heero's verdict. He distinctly hoped that the Art of Sensual Massage was on the menu for this week. That would be perfect, but what were the odds really?

At ten forty, he heard a shuffle from over in the corner and the chime of the hawk bell on Sand's collar. So, Trowa hadn't taken her this morning, interesting. Duo spared a brief thought for what his lunch date with Quatre would entail, and left the thought quickly after that. He kept his focus down on the crossword puzzle in front of him, intending to give Heero an easy approach. He waited a count of three after the footsteps halted before slowly looking up. Heero looked nervous again.

"Can I help you with something sir?"

Heero hesitated briefly, and Duo could nearly see the gears turning in Heero's skull as he processed the voice and tone.

Initial concern turned into a wry grin as he responded with the clipped consonants of one of the regular customers. "Certainly, yes. I have selected a book and wondered if you might give me your educated opinion on it." It was an uncanny imitation, and Duo wondered where he'd been hiding that talent up to now.

"Is this a book for yourself or were you intending to purchase it as a gift for someone, sir?" Duo smiled broadly back at Heero, pleased that he'd caught on to the game so quickly.

"Neither really, I was hoping to share it with a friend. I'm not sure if this is something that he'd enjoy though." Heero ventured a careful look to gauge Duo's reaction. "Would you care to venture an opinion on this book sir?"

Duo accepted the hesitantly offered copy, a slim paperback. "'More Creative Dating'? By Doug and Todd? Hmmm, I'm not familiar with this book. A moment please?" Duo carefully flipped through the book, hesitating on a few pages, pausing for a lengthier period of time on one or two. "I don't know sir, this appears to be an excellent book, but it would depend on whether or not your friend would enjoy..." there was a pause as Duo turned to a page that he'd conveniently marked with an index finger. "...um, an evening reading each other children's fairy tales, in appropriate style costumes; or something they're calling 'busting shopping date boredom'." Duo looked a bit surprised over that idea, and his accent slipped. "Sir? Would your friend enjoy doing either of those things?"

Heero gave up on the pretenses--all of them--at that moment. It was time to risk, risk everything. This was the moment, the opening he'd been waiting for. To cast off his plans of a stable and regular life and instead tie his hopes and wishes to the answer of a very personal question. "I don't know Duo," he said in his normal tone and inflection, "would you?"

It was said with such a wistful tone of voice that Duo paused, looking carefully at Heero's face. Reading the want in his expression, and the need buried just underneath the surface, but close enough that Duo could see and find it there. Heero was serious. Very serious. Ah, the commitment point, the decision to move forward. Time to fish or cut bait.

"Yes, Heero. I would. If it involves spending time with you, yes."

Dammit, where the hell was Heero? Wufei reentered the pass code into the alarm system and walked down the quiet hallway. He hadn't called to let him know that he was coming this time. Somewhere in the back of his head was the idea that he could find out what Heero hadn't been telling him by arriving unannounced, but somewhere else was the thought that he'd been replaced, and there was some regret and resentment buried there as well. He had been Heero's first point of contact for most of his life, the one friend called when things turned for good or twisted to bad. The person he shared the highs and lows of his life with, regularly, without fail, until he'd met and apparently fallen for the guy on the first floor. The problem was that Wufei couldn't find fault with Heero's choice since he'd essentially thought of throwing them at each other in the first place, and it galled him that he could not. It would have made all of this internal turmoil so much easier to cope with, not that he let any of it drift to the surface or show on his face. It was so hard to both admire the man and resent him for superseding Wufei's place in Heero 's life at the same time, damned difficult. And speaking of the eternally dammed, where _was_ Heero?

There was no answer at his apartment door and Wufei paused, and then followed a hunch, a good one. It led him back down the stairs and to the busy early evening sidewalk outside of the door. He waited, and found a gap in the foot traffic on the walk to move closer to the glass that fronted Daydreams. Ah yes, much better than a condom store. It had been a good decision for both business and personal reasons. He'd had hopes initially, tenuous at best, but hopes, and look where they'd grown.

He peered through the window, trying to make out the people inside. Was that Heero? Over at the counter. No, leaning over the counter. He had a small book in his hand and he was pointing something out to Duo and talking animatedly while waving the book in his free hand--his other was occupied by holding onto Duo's free hand. Wufei gaped. Heero? Showing affection? In public yet? Then to his amazement, Duo glanced at the page Heero held open in front of him before pushing the book aside with his free hand and then leaned over the counter's surface to press his lips gently to Heero's. He seemed to be considering the contact, though it was difficult to tell through the reflections on the glass. Then he broke apart from Heero and started a _discussion_! A loud and lively one if the arm waving was any indication.

Wufei stepped back from the window, feeling oddly intrusive and,... not jealous, more envious of the fact that Heero had found someone just for him and in doing so, Wufei had lost a measure of contact with the friend that mattered most. Change, it was inevitable and it hurt like hell. He felt stranded and didn't know if he should enter the store, wait on the street, or head back to Logan and his apartment on the West Coast. Right, an apartment--not a home. Heero was starting a home for himself; never mind that he was creating it within and in his relationship with another person. Wufei needed space, and he needed it right now.

He shifted from the glass wall and crossed the road to the coffee shop across the street and walked into a comfortingly dark interior. There he was seated by an attractive blond woman, was promptly declared a lemon pound cake, and sat there in thought, planning his next meeting with Heero and Duo. Knowing that he would have to accustom himself to referring to them as a pair for the foreseeable future. With that resolution, and half a slice of the cake in him, he started to feel marginally better.

"Nope, that one didn't work for me. How about page 110?"

"Which one was that?

"Um..." Duo flipped the pages, searching for the right kiss. Heero waited patiently. "Ah, the androgynous kiss--wait, that's not going to work is it?" He read the description aloud to gain Heero's buy-in to the next experiment. "Hmm, it says here that this particular kiss, more than any other described in the book, provides the keenest insight."

"Okay. So hang on, You have to imagine that you're of the opposite sex and I have to imagine the same and, well. I guess there's no point to this one really, at least for the two of us. I wonder how straight people deal with it." He paged through the book again, seeking a better option. "Oh hang on, here's a Japanese kiss... Okay." He looked around the shop, making sure that they were still alone in the store. They were hidden by the new display and should be able to affect casual stances in the few seconds they'd have between the chime of the door bell and the moment when the counter area would become visible to the customer. Duo intended to take as much advantage of it as he could.

Contrary to his earlier supposition that Heero would panic over public, or in this case semi-public displays of affection, he'd taken to them like a pro--eager to explore and test his knowledge and limits in an environment where he knew what the acceptable limits would extend to. Odd as it seemed, it sort of made sense to Duo as well. As long as they were both very, very careful.

"Alright, there are fifteen steps for this one, let me see if I can condense it a bit. Okay, step one says we have to be shy." He looked up at Heero. Check. "Now we have to forget about everything we've read in this excellent little book," he paused. "Not sure I want to do that really."

Heero chuckled, low in his chest, and Duo bit back a groan. This hadn't been an easy few weeks.

Duo skimmed the instructions and frowned slightly, which piqued Heero's interest. He tried to move behind Duo so he could read the instructions as well. He wasn't sure he remembered that one.

"Okay, essentially we have to stand about a foot away from each other and press lips together without responding or touching each other in any other way."

He sounded disappointed thought Heero.



"Why are we doing this here when we could be discovered at any moment?"

"Good question."

"You want to come up to my apartment after work so we can work on this some more? I might need to use this in the book I'm working on right now."

Duo grinned broadly, "Now _that_ sounds like a plan."

"Heero?" Trowa walked up to the counter, taking in the relative position of both men and the slightly guilty look that told him that they'd been experimenting in the self-help section again. "I think I saw your friend outside the window a few minutes ago..."

If anything Heero reddened further, but pulled his fingers from Duo's to turn to Trowa. "I wasn't expecting him..." He looked thoughtful, "but it would be just like him to drop in unannounced. You see which way he went?"

"Coffee shop across the street, a few minutes ago."

Heero turned back to Duo, who grinned and shoved him towards the door. "Go get him, I'll wait here."

Trowa watched Heero run up the steps to the door, turning and looking at Duo with a smile of his own before moving out onto the street. Trowa adjusted to look at Duo, whose eyes were tracking Heero, not that they looked elsewhere anymore. "Things, um, working out okay between you two now?"

Duo unaccountably blushed, and Trowa was astonished. Duo? Embarrassed? This was one for the record books alright.

"Yeah. Things are working out." He said with a satisfied tone in his voice.

That was good enough for Trowa. "Good. I'm off to pick up Quatre--good luck with your visitor then."


Duo watched Trowa leave, and shifted the copy of 'Art of Kissing' that Heero had brought to his attention. It had been, um, interesting so far. He couldn't wait for the 'Art of Sensual Massage' and the 'Art of Gay Sex' to slide across his counter, and they would eventually, of that he had no doubt. He'd wait for those, and for whatever else the future would bring him.

He'd already found the best part of his life simply by letting him walk in through his front door and take hold of his heart. Yeah, life was a wonderful adventure, and he had the best company of all--good friends and a Heero all his own.

Author's Notes:

You may have noticed that I left a few significant plot points unresolved, and the answer is yes, I've already started working on a very 1x2 sequel to this.

There's also a 3x4 prequel to Daydreams that's currently in the copyedit stage, and Wufei may eventually get his own sidefic if he continues to behave himself.

Thanks again for reading!


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