by Dyna Dee
Relena's party was well under way and appeared to be a resounding success when Heero entered the ballroom, two hours late and alone. Many heads turn his way, casting appreciative glances at the striking young man who is impeccably dressed for the occasion in a black tuxedo. His dark, naturally messy hair frames his handsome face and partially obscures the deep blue eyes that conflict with his Japanese heritage. Heero is as handsome as he is uninviting. It's the intensity of his gaze that keeps sane people at a wary distance. Despite their dark blue color, Heero's eyes are cool and calculating as he scans the room, gleaning as much information as possible. No doubt he's taking note of all the exits, the security measures in place and anyone he might consider enemies or allies as well as what weapons they may be carrying. I recognize the habit, for it's something that I and the other former pilots still do out of habit. Those of us who know him well understand that the training Heero received in his youth still dictates a good part of his life two years after the last war, though he has made some progress at living like a "normal" person.
I continue to watch Heero assess the room and observe the moment his gaze pauses, his focus centers on someone or something of interest. Wondering what it could be, I follow his line of sight and am not surprised to see he had targeted Duo Maxwell, standing halfway across the ballroom.
Smiling fondly at my braided friend and co-worker, I can see he's busy charming yet another diplomat, who I immediately recognize as the L1 representative Mitzagawa Hito. The older and distinguished Japanese man is attractive, and his white, straight teeth are in full display as he laughs at something Duo has said and casually places his hand on the American's shoulder. My smile falters as that hand moves with deliberate slowness down Duo's arm and tightens slightly just above his elbow, tugging the braided man forward so that Mitzagawa can whisper something into the younger man's ear.
Glancing back at Heero, wanting to see what he makes of the scene, but I find the former Wing pilot is no longer standing at the room's entrance. A quick scan of the immediate area where he'd stood only moments before fails to locate the elusive Japanese man.
Straightening my white jacket, I calmly but with purpose in my stride make my way to Duo. If Heero doesn't feel the need to intervene on our friend's behalf, then I will. The L1 representative is rumored to have an eye for young and attractive males, and I'll be damned if Duo winds up as one of the man's many conquests that he boasts about with his cronies over sake. It isn't as if the American can't defend himself - of that he's more than capable - but I'm one of the privileged few who knows that Duo is much more sensitive and vulnerable than he would ever let on. I refuse to let the likes of Mitzagawa hurt my friend or his reputation.
As I approach the two, it becomes apparent to me that Duo is trying his best to maintain some semblance of decorum, declining whatever offer Mitzagawa has proposed by laughing lightly - his usual tactic in diffusing an awkward situation. Stepping up from behind the braided man, I call out his name. His reaction is instantaneous.
"Wufei!" Duo enthusiastically greets me like a long lost friend, breaking Mitzagawa's grip on his arm when he turns and embraces me, patting me roughly on my back. "It's good to see ya, man. Where the hell've ya been?"
I'm amused by his performance, having spoken with him earlier in the evening. I smirk over his shoulder at the diplomat who is scowling, his attempted seduction thwarted by my interruption. In return for my undisguised amusement, Mitzagawa gives me what Duo calls the evil eye.
My friend lets his arms drop away from me before turning back to the other man and taking charge of the conversation. "Mr. Representative, have you had the pleasure of meeting my good friend, Chang Wufei." My heart warms every time he refers to me as such. I deem it an honor to be Duo Maxwell's friend and strive to live up to such a worthy title. Tonight I have every intention of proving that I am indeed his very good friend.
"Yes. Mr. Chang and I have met on several occasions, mostly professional." The Japanese man has slipped back into his more diplomatic role, much to my relief. Duo is safe, for the moment at least. I have a feeling that this is going to be a very long evening.
Duo is grinning at the L1 representative, not realizing he is hampering my efforts to extricate him from the lecher's reach when he displays his dazzling grin and the two charming dimples in his cheeks. He's one of those individuals who has a natural charisma that draws others to him, an innate characteristic that is enhanced by his physical good looks. He's even more attractive by his apparent disbelief that he happens to be - as I once heard Sally and Noin saying - drop-dead gorgeous.
"Dealings with the Preventers, huh?" Duo teases the older man with a grin that has turned slightly mischevious. "Well, if you've worked with Wufei you've worked with the best." He claps me on the shoulder and then turns that grin on me. Although I'm a tried and true heterosexual, I'm not totally immune to the braided man's natural charms.
"Flattery will get you no where with me, Maxwell. But I am ready to brave the refreshment table. Care to join me?"
Duo chuckles and pats his flat stomach. "You know me, Wu, I never turn down good food. I'm sure Relena has gone all out for this shindig."
"You have a good appetite, Mr. Maxwell?"
Duo glances back at the Japanese man and grins. "My appetite is famous for being insatiable."
The rather salacious grin the other man levels on my friend tells me he's taken Duo's statement to mean something other than what was intended. The snake has obviously not given up on enticing Duo Maxwell into his slithering coil.
"You must come to my residence at the embassy and sample the excellent culinary talents of my highly trained chef. I can assure you that he produces the finest Japanese cuisine that can be found within the borders of Sanq."
I almost laugh as Duo wrinkles up his pert nose. "No offense, man, but Japanese food just doesn't sit right in my belly, and believe me, I've given it an honest try. I think I'll pass on your offer, Hito, but thanks anyway."
The diplomat blinks, taken aback at Duo's blunt refusal. He recovers quickly, however, and adds, "If you don't care for Japanese food, then I'm sure he can prepare any favorite dish you desire."
"Chili and cornbread?" Duo asks, a glint of mischief in his eyes.
Mitzagawa falters a moment, then grins. "Just name the day and time and this... chili and cornbread will be served." It's pretty obvious that man has never tried the American dish before.
Duo laughs easily and claps his hand on my shoulder. "That's a great offer, Hito, but I'll have to think about it. I've a very busy schedule, ya know. It's been nice chatting with ya. See ya around." With a dismissive wave of his hand, my friend turns from the other man and winks at me. I quickly grab his arm and pull him away from the baffled man before Mitzagawa can say anything more.
"Can you try to stay out of trouble for at least five minutes?" I ask as we move through the crowd.
"Trouble? I wasn't in trouble," Duo replies with a devilish grin. "I might have been, though, if you hadn't come by when you did. I was about to deck the prick for his discreet yet creepy indecent proposal and because he wouldn't let go of me. Persistent bugger, isn't he? Guess that's why he's a representative of anally retentive L1."
"You shouldn't stereotype an entire colony. They might not all be anal retentive."
"Have you ever met anyone from L1 that wasn't single-mindedly driven?"
I have to think a moment before I shake my head. "No, but then I've only met a handful of L1 citizens. Still, I stand by my statement. Would you like people to judge all of L2 with you as the standard?"
Duo stops in his tracks and turns to me with one affronted eyebrow raised as he asks, "And what the hell is wrong with me?" He sticks his chin up in a haughty manner and continues. "I'm a model citizen, I'll have you know: holding down a job, paying taxes and, most of the time, law abiding."
I see the corners of his lips twitch, a sign he's not offended but teasing. I can't help but grin back. "Nothing is wrong with you, per se, but that bit about law abiding 'most of the time' has me worried. Anything you want to tell me?"
"Hell no," the joker laughs. The bastard likes to pull my chain and does so on a regular basis. I tug on his arm again and lead him the remaining distance to the tables that are heavily laden with tempting delights.
There's nothing quite like seeing Maxwell's large and expressive eyes widen with delighted surprise. He always displays a look of wonder when a decadent display of mouth watering food is at his disposal and in copious amounts. You can take a starving kid off the streets of the poorest colony in space, make him a war hero and set him into a decent life, but the memory of near starvation and depravation will remain. Amongst his friends, Duo's appetite for food is legend and his slender frame puzzling.
He stares ahead at the banquet table while we wait in line for our turn, talking about such mundane topics as the weather, his newest motorcycle and the upgrades he's recently made to it. I tell him about my latest assignment and complain about the lack of time for perusing my water colors. Though his eyes only shift from the table to me on occasion, I can tell by his comments that he's listening to every word I say. That's good, because as soon as we're alone I've got something important to say to him, and a suggestion he seriously needs to consider.
The music for the night is provided by a group of four musicians and three singers. The stage they are set up on is placed in the center of the ballroom and against the wall of french doors. After a brief break, they begin to play again and the dance floor quickly fills up with smiling couples. Some of the guests queuing up for dinner, abandoned their place in line for the dance floor. Even then it takes a good fifteen minutes before we make it through the line.
After making our way down the length of the table of food, I happen to glance down at my friend's plate and notice there's a considerable lack of food that would normally be there. Concerned by the unusual sight, I lean over and ask him if he's feeling all right. Without meeting my gaze, Duo answers my concern in a low voice. "Quatre took me aside after the last uppity party we went to and told me that loading up my plate is considered bad manners. He said if I took what was considered a proper portion, then I could go back with a clean plate and try something else. I guess I embarrassed him." Though he's telling me this in a casual manner, the pink dots brightening his cheeks tell me he'd been embarrassed that Quatre had felt the need to correct his behavior.
I clearly recall the party he's referring to, which the five of us had attended. I had shared Quatre's embarrassment that evening at Duo's mountainous plate of food. Since neither Heero nor Trowa seemed to care what Duo did or the negative reaction other people displayed at his lack of manners, I stated my intention to instruct our mutual friend on proper decorum. Quatre intervened, asking if he might have the dubious honor. He didn't want Duo's feelings to be hurt but neither did he want him to continue to act in ignorance, becoming an object of ridicule for those who looked down on his more humble beginnings and lack of manners. Frankly, I was relieved that our more sensitive friend took on the task of enlightening Maxwell. There was no doubt that had I broached the subject with him, I would have undoubtedly done more harm than good, being more blunt in my manner of speech.
"It appears Quatre is a good teacher for you took exactly the proper amount," I tell him, glancing down at his plate of food.
"Good," he sighs with relief. "I don't want to embarrass you guys, or myself either."
"Look." I nod towards an empty table near the back corner of the room. "There's an open table."
Duo follows my line of sight and with a grin he takes off for the table, intending to claim it before anyone else can. Reaching it, we set our plates and glasses of punch down, then take our seats while Relena's guests continue to enjoy the evening.
Duo chats amiably while eating his food and watching the party-goers in our immediate vicinity. When his gaze finally shifts to the dance floor, his eyes narrow and his entire face seems pinched from something that has caught his attention. "Figures he'd go to her first," he grumbles.
I shift in my chair to follow his line of sight and observe the reason for the downturn of his mood; Heero is dancing a waltz with Relena, smoothly guiding them both across the ballroom floor. The elegantly stylish young woman is smiling brightly, her blonde hair is coiffed in curls that dance on her bare shoulders while her pale blue evening gown swirls around her slender body as she spins in Heero's arms, giving the on-lookers a picture of someone who's on top of the world. I have to admit that they look good together, and that Heero is an excellent dancer, but he's wearing his poker face so it's hard to determine whether or not he's actually enjoying himself. The scene could not be a more perfect lead-in for what I intend to speak to Maxwell about.
"It is proper to greet your hostess soon after your arrival," I tell him, hoping to assuage some of the hurt I see in his eyes. "You know he doesn't have romantic feelings for her."
Duo turns angry eyes on me. "Oh yeah? What makes you so sure?"
"He told me."
Duo snorts before angrily tearing off a piece of his dinner roll with his teeth, and while chewing he says, "Yeah, well he told me that too, but he sure as hell didn't come looking for me when he arrived tonight. How long has he been here anyway?"
"About half an hour," I answer, only to see the other man's shoulders slump. I lean forward in order to speak without our conversation being overheard. "Why do you do this to yourself, Duo? Why don't you let him go and move on?"
He jerks back as if I've just punched him in the nose. "Let him go and move on? Are you crazy?" A few people turn their heads our way at his outburst. Duo sees this and hunches down, embarrassed. He leans closer to me and answers in a more controlled voice, "I love him, Wu, that's why I put up with all his shit. Do you think this was my idea, all this sneaking around?"
"Yet you put up with it, even when he doesn't appear to completely reciprocate your feelings."
"Who told you that? Heero?" There's a flash of alarm in those amethyst colored eyes and Duo's insecurity makes me feel both angry and sad.
"No, but you told me yourself that this arrangement you have with him was his idea. He keeps you at arm's length during the week, insists that no one know of your relationship, especially at work, and that he's only willing to spend part of the weekend with you. What kind of lover behaves like that?"
He's frowning, definitely not happy about my comments. "I know we're not exactly the picture-perfect couple, Wufei, but he really does care for me. I know he must seem aloof and thoughtless most of the time, but when we're alone, behind closed doors, he's a different person from the guy you see every day at work. I swear to you that he's gentle and affectionate, and the way he touches me tells me he cares. So what if he hasn't said in words exactly how he feels. We both know Heero isn't good at expressing his emotions. It's his actions when we're together that gives me hope that one day he'll realize he doesn't have to hide his feelings for me from everyone. I don't care what people say about us, but he does. And it's stupid, really, to think that we can't do our jobs well if people know we're a couple, that is would be a distraction." I can hear the frustration in Duo's voice as recites Heero's justification for keeping their relationship a well-guarded secret. Because I've heard this all before, I choose not to comment on it, but move ahead, hoping to steer the conversation in a slightly different direction.
With a shake my head I say, "So you spend a couple hours of quality time with him on the weekend, but what about the rest of the week, Duo? I can tell that you're lonely and often depressed. This isn't the way you'd imagined your life after the war, is it?"
He ducks his head and after a moment he give it a shake. "No."
"We've talked about this before," I remind him. I've lost count of how many nights he's sat on my sofa bemoaning Heero's insistence that they live apart and keep their affair a secret. "I recall you saying that after the war you just wanted to settle down, have a home and some stability in your life as well as someone to share it with. Do you still want those things?"
Duo's eyes are focused on his plate as he nods in reply.
"I think you may have to face the fact that Heero may never be able to give you what you need the most."
Eyes filled with sadness rise and lock with mine. "But I love him, Wufei."
I can't bear to see the anguish displayed so openly on his face, so I reach over and place my hand over his as it rests next to his half empty plate. "I know you do. But from what I can see it appears that he might not be capable of giving you the love you need."
Duo removes his hand from my grasp and brings both of them up to cover his face. "Then what the hell am I suppose to do?" he asks, his muffled voice sounding miserable.
"I propose that you step out of your self-imposed exile and live." He drops his hands to look at me and I can see he's about to protest, so I quickly continue. "I'm not the only one who's noticed that, for the most part, you've cut yourself off from other people and almost all activities outside of work. From what you've told me, you and Yuy typically spend Saturday afternoon and night together, and sometimes Sunday morning." Duo's nod confirms this. "But you spend the rest of your week going to work and then returning to your apartment alone with no outside activities or dates."
"I see you, Quat and Trowa," he says, sounding defensive.
"But for the majority of the time you're alone, yes?" His nod appears reluctant and the look of sadness has returned to his eyes once more. "Why?"
"Why what?" he asks.
"Why do you stay at home? Did Yuy ask you to do that? To be exclusive and reclusive?" I'm certain that's not the case, but there are some aspects of Heero and Duo's relationship I'm not certain of, and I just want to clarify any boundaries before I make my proposal.
"No!" Duo answered hotly, then clamps his lips together and quickly calms himself while considering my question. "He's definitely not seeing anyone else and he never said anything about being exclusive, so I guess that's been my choice, too." With an earnestness in his manner he adds, "He's in my thoughts all the time, Wu, and I love him. Don't you think it would be wrong to go out with someone else when I feel like this about him, deceitful even?"
I look at my friend with renewed appreciation. "You are an honorable man, Duo. I admire your loyalty. However," I continue, taking on a more serious tone, "As far as I can tell, you and Yuy have an informal, friends-with-benefits relationship. I don't believe it would be wrong for you to open yourself to new possibilities. You're young, too young to let your life pass by wishing for something that might never be. You survived a difficult childhood on L2 and then two wars. You should be out celebrating and enjoying your new life."
Duo shakes his head and is about to counter my statement, so I deflect it by quickly continuing, anticipating his response. "I'm not suggesting that you go out unrestrained. I'm talking about cultivating friendships, getting out of your apartment and engaging in activities that you enjoy, not sitting alone in front of your T.V. and feeling sorry for yourself."
Duo sits quietly, his eyes focused and yet not on the simple but elegant floral centerpiece while he considers my words. Hoping the seeds I've planted in his thoughts are taking root, I press on to the next subject I plan to tackle tonight. "I happen to know that there are several very eligible men who would jump at the chance to get to know you better."
"I'll bet," Duo grumbles, frowning. "I've met my share of guys who've made it pretty damn clear exactly what they'd like to do to with me, and it didn't have nothin' to do with seeing a movie or playing pool. I'm not interested."
"Again, I'm not saying you should indiscriminately bed hop, but look around. Isn't there anyone you've met that you'd like to know better? Anyone who piques your interest?"
Duo gives me a non-commital shrug. "I dunno."
"Just think about it, all right?" I wait for his reluctant nod, then continue. "Now, since Heero seems to have left you on your own tonight, I want you to accept a challenge from me."
"What kind of challenge?" he asks warily.
"If you are approached, I want you to dance with three different men tonight, excluding the L1 representative," I add, earning a weak smile from my friend. "Talk with them, find out who they are and what makes then unique."
"Here? At Relena's party?" It's clear that Duo is uncomfortable with my request.
"Are you ashamed of being gay?"
My friend's discomfort is apparent when he reaches his arm back to scratch the top of his head, a nervous habit I've come to recognize since the wars. "Well, it's not like it's common knowledge what my preference is. I just don't go around announcing it to the public, you know. I thought Quatre said it was socially unacceptable to announce something that personal, especially at a big-time party like this. He told me that most people, other than gossipers, would rather not know the more intimate details of a person's life."
"Which is why he and Trowa give everyone a mixed signal regarding their relationship. While striving to be discrete, those two come across as strangers instead of lovers and close friends." Personally, I'm not pleased with the example those two are setting for Duo and Heero. Their hands-off in public policy, for discretion's sake, seems the model for Heero's behavior towards Duo, though the Japanese man claims distraction at work as his reason. "Being blatant and shoving your sexual preference in the face of others is completely different from being gently forthright and honest. Dancing with someone of the same sex on a busy dance floor is different from draping your body over theirs and engaging in what you've once termed as 'tonsil hockey' for all to see. I certainly would not be offended to see you dancing with..." I pause to quickly scan the room for a potential name to put in my sentence, and then the perfect candidate comes into view - a possible contender for Duo Maxwell's attention. "Milliardo Peacecraft."
Duo's eyes almost bug out of his head. "Zechs?"
"He likes to be called Milliardo now," I remind him. "But yes. I've observed him watching you for quite some time now, discreetly, of course."
Duo's eyes scan the crowd until he locates the man I'm speaking of. Peacecraft stands out in any crowd. With his impressive height, long white hair, military posture and expensive wardrobe, he's often the topic of conversation amongst the women at Preventers, even though he's a discrete, out-of-the-closet homosexual. "He's definitely easy on the eyes, isn't he?" I detect a tone of interest in Duo's voice. Perfect.
"He is handsome, and richer than most."
"He's a prince," Duo mumbles. "Why the hell would he be interested in me?"
I sigh with frustration. After the wars, Duo's belief in his own worth diminished, and his shaky relationship with Heero hasn't helped his self esteem. He often puts on a show of confidence and bravado, but I've come to realize over time that he behaves that way when he's feeling extremely self conscious. "He'd be interested because you're a very brave, intelligent and attractive man, Duo. And on top of that, you're outgoing, fun to be around and easy to get along with. You'd be a wonderful catch for anyone."
The other man's interest in Milliardo fades as he turns his head to look at me and says, "Except Heero."
"I'm not saying that," I tell him firmly. My intention tonight is not to split my two former comrades apart. "It's said that still waters run deep, Duo. Heero is cool and implacable on the surface, and as deep as they get."
"Is there something wrong with me, Wu? Why can't he love me the way I love him?" The anguish in Duo's voice and eyes are almost more than I can bear.
Reaching out, I touch his arm. "It's not you, Duo. Heero is emotionally handicapped by his training. I'm sure you're right, that he cares for you. You're the only person he's allowed to get close to him. I'm just sorry that his stunted emotions keep you at arm's length and makes you feel so alone. You're not alone, you know. I'm your friend, and you can call on me day or night if you need someone to talk to. I know Quatre and Trowa feel the same."
"I'm your friend too, Wu. You know that, right?"
"I've never doubted it," I tell him with a grateful smile as I rise from my chair and push it back into place, intending on completing two more tasks before I can make an excuse to leave the party. I look down at Duo and touch his shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "Just keep in mind what we've discussed tonight and remember my challenge. All right?"
"Ah... yeah. Okay." His reply seems a bit grudging.
I leave with some reluctance, knowing that Duo doesn't really like to be on his own at these types of parties. He's capable of taking care of himself and entertaining anyone from any social class, but his deep-seeded feelings of inadequacy makes him feel like a fish out of water. I would normally ask Trowa and Quatre to keep an eye on him, but that's not part of my plan tonight.
Across the ballroom floor I find one of the two people I need to speak with. I sidle up to the tall blond man first and tap him on the shoulder. Milliardo Peacecraft turns and looks down at me from his greater height, his eyes widening with surprise.
"Mr. Chang. It's good to see you," he says politely. "Are you enjoying the party?"
"I am," I tell him. "Duo and I have just enjoyed some of the fine food that your sister has provided, and we both agree it surpasses the last party."
The blond's eyes light up a moment before they begin to search the room. With his height being superior to almost everyone in the room, it takes only a moment for him to locate his target. "I see Mr. Maxwell is alone tonight."
"Yes, very much alone."
"Tell me," Milliardo begins as he bends over to speak in a more confidential manner, "is there any truth to the rumor that he and Yuy have something going on?"
"Nothing formal nor exclusive," I tell him honestly. A little bit of doubt comes creeping into my mind and I suddenly hope that I'm not miscalculating and making the biggest mistake of my life by encouraging Milliardo in regards to Duo and his availability.
"I wouldn't want to step on any toes," the taller man says, his blue eyes still on the American who has risen from the table we shared moments before and is now making his way towards the French doors, in the opposite direction of Heero who is standing at the bar ordering a drink after his dance with Relena.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained," I say, knowingly. "I think he might be agreeable to a dance, if you're so inclined." He nods, eyes still fixed on Duo's retreating figure. I make an excuse and remove myself from the blond's presence. I've planted the seeds, now I need to do that same in a different section of the room.
"You're looking good tonight, Yuy," I say in greeting to the Japanese man and stick out my hand to clasp and shake his.
"Chang." Heero nods his head and takes in my white suit. "Forty-five or thirty-eight?" he asks me.
Knowing that he's referring to what size firearm I'm carrying, I answer, "Thirty eight."
Heero's eyes glance back at the ballroom floor. "What were you and Duo talking about?"
"You," I answer evenly. He reacts by turning to look at me again, one eyebrow rising. He doesn't ask anything further but I can see that he's curious. "You can't possibly think he's happy about this arrangement you've got with him, do you?"
Heero's eyes narrow dangerously. Any lesser individual would be backing out the door having that threatening glare directed at them. "He hasn't complained to me."
"Of course not," I shrug, sounding indifferent. "You know he loves you, but he's lonely. Did you know that during the war, just before the attack on Libra, I asked him what he wanted to do with his life if we survived. He answered that he wanted to have a home and to share it with someone who loved him, someone who wouldn't leave. You and I both know he has abandonment issues, having lost so many people who were like family to him."
"He's got an apartment," Heero states, his tone flat and, as usual, unemotional.
"But no one to share it with."
Heero doesn't say anything for a moment, so I push the subject a bit more. "I advised him to let you go and move on with his life."
If looks could kill I'd be a pile of smoldering ashes by the way he's glaring at me. "Quit meddling and mind your own business, Chang," he grates out between clenched teeth. The simple fact that I've got him riled up so quickly encourages me into thinking that I am doing the right thing.
"Duo's my friend, Heero. He's lonely and unhappy. He lives that way just to spend whatever small amount of time with you that your rules for a relationship allow. But that's not living, and I told him so. I've encouraged him to open himself to new possibilities."
Heero is the epitome of confidence as he states, "Duo's completely loyal to me. He would never betray me with another."
"Betray you?" I ask, folding my arms across my chest and giving him an inquiring look. "From my understanding and Duo's, you never asked that your relationship be exclusive, just secret. Don't get me wrong," I put my hands up defensively when Heero looks like he's about to tear my throat out for suggesting Duo might be sleeping around. "Duo's completely faithful to you, so much so that he sits alone in his apartment night after night becoming more and more depressed. He's too young and deserving of happiness to wait until you decide whether or not you really want to share your life with him and not just be your convenient fuck."
Heero brings his face within inches of my own, his eyes are smoldering with anger. "How dare you insinuate that is all he is to me," he hisses.
"You haven't told him that he's more than that, have you?" I believe I've just witnessed a flash of guilt skirt across Heero's fine-boned features. Good. "You might not have noticed, but Duo is the object of desire for quite a few eligible men and women. If you don't figure out and tell him what he means to you soon, you might lose him to someone who truly wants to be with him, and not just one night of the week."
I purposely change my tone, hoping to show Heero that I have both his and Duo's best interest at heart. "Duo needs more than what you're giving him right now, Heero. He loves you. He told me that not more than ten minutes ago, but he's been alone for a long time now, and he needs companionship, love and security. If you can't give that to him, unconditionally, then maybe you should let him go so he can find it with someone else."
From the corner of my eye I've been watching the tallest blond man in the room slowly make his way from the north side of the building to the south side, where I'd last seen Duo. Peacecraft is now moving out onto the dance floor and, leaning to my right, I get a better look at his partner. I'm pleased to see Duo has taken my challenge. It's a fast dance, so no doubt Duo feels somewhat secure in accepting the invitation - which serves my purposes very well.
"Duo's found a new dance partner," I inform the man next to me. Heero's head turns sharply to follow the direction of my gaze. If he was glaring angrily before, his new expression can only be called wrath.
"What does Zechs think he's doing?"
"He's had his eyes on Duo for sometime now. Haven't you noticed?" Heero doesn't deign to answer, but he's as rigid as a gundam standing at attention. "He asked me if the rumor was true that you and Duo were involved. I told him it was a casual thing, not exclusive."
"Do you have a death wish, Chang?" The tone of Heero's voice is icy.
"Did I speak falsely?"
We spend several moments watching the two dance with each other. Duo slowly loosens up and begins to move with a bit more enthusiasm. The American is a very good dancer and it's obvious by the grin on the tall blond's face that he's fully appreciating the smaller man's talent and assets. "They look good together," I say, knowing I might find myself with a concussion by doing so.
"He's mine." I turn to see Heero nearly vibrating with some emotion I can only guess as anger, his fists clenched tightly at his sides. The man is pissed, as Duo would say. Perhaps it's unwise, but I grab hold of the Japanese man's arm and hold him in place. "Think before you act, Heero. If Duo truly is yours, then you have only to prove it to him, not to Peacecraft, to me or anyone else. You can do that by simply telling him what he means to you and letting him into your life for more than one day a week. If you don't, he'll eventually fill the emptiness with someone or something else. He doesn't want anyone but you, Heero, but it's not fair to ask him to go on the way he's been living, alone and lonely while waiting for each Saturday night to come. If you can't let him in, whether it's because of your former training or because he just isn't that important to you, then let him go. He'll be hurt, crushed really, but Quatre, Trowa and I will be there to pick up the pieces, and I'm sure Milliardo would be available to assist Duo in moving on." I just couldn't resist that last little dig, especially with the waves of jealousy that are rolling off of the former Wing pilot.
With little effort Heero shakes off my restraining hand and walks with determined strides towards the couple on the other end of the dance floor. I hold my breath, hoping that Heero isn't going to create a scene that will cause a scandal and get us all kicked out of the party and make the morning news. I quickly follow in his wake, at an angle instead of directly behind him, aware of the startled expressions on the faces of other guests unfortunate enough to be in his way as he brushes past them. Though I'm inwardly pleased by his actions, the single-minded Japanese man is carelessly upsetting Relena's guests by his less than discrete behavior.
The band is playing at a moderate volume, allowing me to hear Duo's startled gasp as Heero's glowering face comes into his line of sight. Milliardo turns to see what has caused his dance partner to be startled. It speaks volumes for the man when he doesn't flinch or run from Heero's menacing approach.
I'm only a hand's span behind Heero now, ready to intervene if the scene gets ugly. He stops just short of plowing into Milliardo and surprises me by saying in a calm and polite manner, "Excuse me. I believe this is my dance."
Duo's eyes were as wide as saucers and he stands dumbstruck by the actions of his lover. "Heero, what's wrong?" he asks, looking alarmed.
Milliardo looks from Heero to Duo and then shrugs. He steps to the side, next to me, allowing Heero to take his place. Even though the tempo of the music is rather fast, Heero takes hold of Duo, who still appears somewhat stunned, and folds him into his arms, holding his trim, black tuxedo clad body secure against his chest. After holding him close for a moment, he slowly begins to move and Duo follows. Their steps are slow and I'd hardly consider it dancing, more like plastering two bodies up against each other and moving in a tight circle. Seeing that my presence is no longer needed, I move to get off the dance floor.
Stepping onto the sidelines not far from the two men, I turn to observe them, hoping that my meddling tonight has proven worthwhile. As they dance, moving slowly with their arms draped around each other, Heero pulls back slightly to look into Duo's face. I can't hear what he's saying to the braided man, but it's obvious he's quite serious. The moment he lifts a hand to cup Duo's face, Heero's expression softens and his eyes warm with something other than the look of serious determination I'm used to. I realize suddenly that I'm seeing for myself what Duo had spoken of earlier, a glimpse of the behind-the-door gentleness he'd said Heero possessed, the reward Duo felt was worth all the loneliness he'd endured each week. Heero's soft expression lingers as he continues speaking to his lover, and I can tell by way Duo leans into his touch, pressing his cheek into that cupped hand and by the dreamy smile on his face that the braided man is undeniably happy.
Mission accomplished, I tell myself, feeling a bit smug, but only until I find myself corralled by Milliardo. He leans over and whispers in my ear, "That doesn't look like a casual, no-strings attached relationship to me."
"I guess things are more serious than I was led to believe," I answer. "Who knew Heero was the jealous type?"
The blond gives me a calculating stare. "Somehow, I think I've been set up."
"Is that possible?" I ask, assuming an innocent expression.
A blond eyebrow raises as the tall man continues to study me, a smile growing on his handsome face. "I don't suppose you're gay, are you?"
The corners of Milliardo's mouth twitches upwards, causing me feel to feel a bit apprehensive, not that I'll show it. "Well, what's not good for the gander will most likely be good for the goose."
"Meaning?" I look at him warily.
The taller man gives me a grin. "Don't you think Relena looks lovely this evening? Have you had a chance to dance with her?"
I guess I'm not the only meddler in the crowd tonight.