by D.C. Logan
Quatre and Trowa were already here. Damn. Oh well, so much for all of us arriving fashionably late. Quatre saw me first, and sauntered over with Trowa in tow. He gave me a quick engaging smile, one of his better expressions, and nodded to Heero. "Is he with you?"
I did a classic double take for effect and tossed back, "Never saw him before in my life." And immediately wished I hadn't said that when I caught the quick shift of pain that crossed Heero's face. But Quatre grabbed my arm and was hauling me off to meet a friend before I could issue an apology.
Quatre's friend was chatty, intelligent, and mercifully non-essential, and I managed to ease my way out of the conversation within a few minutes. That left me free to play my favorite sport - Heero hunting. The room wasn't as crowded as the noise made it seem. It didn't take long to backtrack up to the long balcony that ran the width of the room. And I quickly settled in for a long session of my favorite game. It was the only thing that made these damn Christmas parties survivable. And since this was the third event this week, I wasn't about to waste any of my valuable time on preliminary socializing.
There was a moment of panic when I couldn't find him among the guests, but then he surfaced over in the opposite corner of the room and I had to laugh out loud. He was doing the same thing, watching. He probably saw different things than I did though. We have such different perspectives on life and people in general. I asked him once what he saw, and he'd replied with "hawks, pigeons, and chickens." At my blank expression he'd modified it into "fellow predators, potential targets, and cannon fodder." Which didn't make any better sense to me, but I let it drop. Later I realized what a sorry state his mind must be in for him to see only three types of people - and I wondered bleakly which category he put me in. But still, there was something almost sensual about watching him sort out all the others. And he had to know I was up here. He didn't miss much - if anything - and there was no cover up here except for a couple of chairs and a narrow table. But he seemed content to let me continue my watching game.
So I dropped my chin to my hands and looked on, and thought about him. Yeah right, I may run and hide, and I never tell a lie - but there are all kinds of lies: white lies, lies of omission, lies of self-realization, lies to myself...
How long have I loved him? Years maybe, months at least, though I don't think I could have pinpointed an exact day or moment even. He just crept into all the places that used to be empty and dark. And I found myself thinking, 'I need to tell Heero about this,' and 'I wonder if he'd like this,' and 'I must bring him here soon.'
Without even being aware of it, I'd been lying to myself for months. Not a little white lie either, though I despised those, but an honest-to-God full-blown whopper. And when I realized that the lie was only to myself, and I let the realization fill my unwilling mind, well, it all made sense. He doesn't just complete my life, he expands it. When I thought I wouldn't be around to live it at all, he made it worth living. And he made it impossible for me to untangle my life from the threads of his. The thing is, I never quite got around to telling _him_ any of that. Well... not yet anyway.
It was amazing, towards the end of the war, how much "be careful" could sound like "I love you," at least to my own ears. The problem was, as much as I wanted to believe, and could happily continue to lie to myself, sooner or later I would either have to confront Heero. Or give up on my hopes, bury them where no one would ever find them, and get on with the rest of my life.
But the first option was too painful and permanent, and I strongly suspected that Quatre knew where my loyalties were aligned and wouldn't let the second option come to pass without a long discussion over his unbearably (even to me - and that's saying something) strong coffee. And it took the edge off my better threats to have Trowa walk into the room with ten Maganacs as back-up to support whatever Quatre believed in.
Oh lord, how had I ever gotten into this mess? I closed my eyes, clasped my hands behind my neck, and rocked back and forth on my spindly chair, pushing it onto its two back legs and nearly toppling it. Which was a mistake. By the time I came back to myself, dropped down onto all fours (so to speak), and looked back out across the room, Heero was gone.
Damn, where the hell had he gotten off to... I started quartering the room, looking for the dark tousled head, for a man with a slinky way of moving through a crowd, but, damn. Where did he go?
"You were watching me again."
Shit. Well, at least I found him. "Hey Heero, nice party doncha think?" Yeah Duo, nice try at levity, except that even I heard the trill of panic at the end of the sentence as Heero sat at the table across from me.
He made eye contact, and then, to my relief, looked out over the ballroom below. I watched him. Up close it was even better - I could see the minute twitching in his face, the tracking of his eyes across the room. He watched the crowd, I studied his features, it worked out. So targeted was he on his subject that I doubted he even noticed my study of him. I glanced down to see what his attention was fixed on. Ah, Trowa and Quatre. I shifted my stare back and turned my thoughts to Heero yet again.
He is the only person I am comfortable enough with to maintain a silence of longer than ten minutes. When I realized that, I knew I was in trouble. Even with Quatre, dear friend though he is, I feel a need to maintain a running commentary, as if a silence too long between us would end our friendship. I never had that problem with Heero. Yeah, definitely I wasn't going to say anything to him, not anytime soon anyway. Better to keep going on like this than have my one-sided fantasy crushed and left bleeding. Besides, with Quatre and Trowa acting as the example of the 'original foundation partnership coupling,' if Heero hadn't figured out that I was still attracted to him, I was probably safe. Maybe. I looked down at the tabletop and traced the floral inlay with the tip of a finger... thinking. Yeah, maybe. I glanced back down and across the ballroom - distracted by the direction my thoughts had taken me.
Heero was watching Trowa with an odd considering look in his eyes, and Trowa was carefully working the crowd, one person at a time. Quatre wasn't near him, which was odd, and I scanned the room for him. Aha, there he was, on the sidelines for once, standing with an older society matron and sneaking surreptitious glances at Trowa between sips of his champagne. He looked happy and balanced and content just to watch his partner. They continued their respective conversations, but took turns peering out through the crowd to keep track of each other. It was really sweet. Hell, they'd been together for years now and they still kept watch over each other like new lovers.
Heero was still watching Trowa, or maybe the guy he was talking with, I couldn't tell which, and I shifted in my chair. Okay, the silence was getting uncomfortable now. Maybe it was time to make a polite escape down to Quatre and the hors d'oeuvres table. Yeah, right, probably time to move.
But as I pushed my chair back to leave the table, Heero reached out and touched my arm. I stopped what I was doing and settled back into my seat, puzzled. "What is it Heero?" Oh yeah, Duo, that was suave, smooth, and guaranteed to impress.
"I've got something I want to ask you." Oh shit. He had that super-serious look all over his face. What _had_ he put together in that complicated mind of his? And he had both his hands on top of the table; he must have done that while I was watching Quatre. Shit, shit, shit. This was serious. Now what...
Some of my mental panic must have surfaced on my face, because Heero crinkled his eyebrows in a concerned look. "Duo? You okay?"
"Yeah, fine." Okay, okay, now what? Shit. Ummmm. "Okay Heero, remember when I said I would never lie if you asked me a direct question?" He nodded without dropping his eyes. Okay, maybe all those looks weren't wasted after all. And all that time we spent together... Naah. I tamped down the giddy thought with some desperation and forced an even tone of voice from my mouth. "So go ahead and ask me your question."
Heero stared at me in mild shock, and I watched him wait - balanced on the edge, as if scarcely daring to believe it could be that easy to get me to say the truth. And he looked as if he feared that the answer might be one he'd give anything _not_ to hear. Caught in the balance, stranded equally between two fates - he looked really worried. A foreign expression passed over his face and faded into resolve. He straightened his shoulders, creaking the chair.
"So, do you think we have a chance Duo?"
Wha-hah. What?! Okay, so I wasn't expecting _that_ question. School-age fumblings and my chronic obsession aside, I didn't think Heero was all that interested. Okay, I mean _I_ was, I just hadn't a clue that the feelings were reciprocal. Shit. Wow. And I admit, I just sat there like a jaw-dropped idiot, thinking about what this meant.
Heero was beginning to look uncomfortable. I hadn't said anything yet. Oh hell. He was wearing an expression that managed to look frightened and fascinated all at once. It was like watching a plane crash, and I wanted desperately to ease his suffering, but the words were stuck. Yeah me, the mouth, no words left. Shit. So I did the next best thing, I shut my mouth, met his eyes, and gave him a solemn nod.
His face melted into relief. And I suddenly had my words back. "Hell yeah Heero," I fumbled out, "uh, how long have you, uh, felt this way..." Man, I was just grace personified tonight.
"A while now. You're okay with this? I know it's been a while since..."
"Yeah I'm okay... very okay really. With this."
Heero reached across the table and held my hand. Mine was warm with the rush of embarrassment, his cool with apprehension. That, more than anything he'd said told me how serious he was taking all this. He smoothed his thumb over the veins on the back of my hand. It had been nearly a year since anyone had done that; no one has ever touched my hands like he does. His eyes became deeper, warmer... I could tell he was remembering. Oh shit. He was grinning back at me now, knowing what he'd done.
"Is it time to leave yet?"
"You are such an idiot."
"Yeah, and you have such interesting ways of saying 'I love you.'"
He laughed then, loud enough to draw the attention of a small handful of guests below us. He stood, without releasing my hand, and pulled me to my feet. Then he let me go, smiling. He didn't usually smile. Maybe he would now, at least more often. I used to have that effect on him when we spent more time together.
The stairs were narrow, and he preceded me down them, trusting me to follow in his footsteps, and then turned and waited for me with a proprietary air on the landing. Oh yes, Merry freakin' Christmas Duo. I could feel the smile stretch completely across my cheeks. My face was going to hurt tomorrow - no doubt about it. I was sure I was attracting attention, and tried to tone it down for Heero's sake - he wasn't really a public affection kind of guy after all. But it was really tough; my grin kept on breaking out at odd moments as we crossed the room. Trowa caught my eye and gave me a subtle thumbs-up from the sidelines - aha, Heero's informant. That explained the timing. I returned the signal with a gleeful smirk and kept moving.
Heero paused at the threshold of the foyer, waiting for me to catch up. He was staring right at my face. It was too intense a look for such a public space; it made me uneasy. So I did what I do best. I broke eye contact and scanned around for an out - and found one. "Hey Heero, mistletoe!" and I pointed straight up and leered comically.
He knows me too well, and my attempt at distraction had little to no effect. Damn, I was just trying to interject some levity into the moment. Heero this intense was almost frightening - but a hell of a turn on as well. Something of the direction of my thoughts must have drifted too close to the surface, because Heero reached out, snagged my sleeve, and dragged me three steps to my right. "_Now_ you're under the mistletoe." And he moved in and pulled me to him and against him - in full view of the voting public. Oh shit, he was really serious this time. And he reached out and tilted my face so it would mesh into his, and any and all other thoughts I might have had at that moment melted away as he moved in and captured me under his gentle onslaught. Yeah, the kiss was, uh, thorough. Mmmm. Oh yeah, very thorough.
He released me slowly, breaking contact an increment at a time. And my world went silent except for the sound of my own labored breathing. No wait, that wasn't right. I could hear Heero's low chuckle rumbling deep in his chest. I didn't want to take my eyes off of him, but I _had_ to look. I tilted my face to the side and stifled a laugh with some difficulty. Apparently most of tonight's guest list had never seen two men connect their faces together before. Trowa had his arm around Quatre and both of them were grinning broadly. I couldn't resist, really.
I pointed up at the festooned ball of mistletoe with a long arm and a mildly lecherous grin. "Hey, look everybody! It _really_ works!"
Heero has always has a better sense of timing than I. He grabbed my arm, spun me around, and marched me down the hall, out of the doors, and deeply into his life.
And I've never looked back.