Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
Heero was just finishing getting into his clothing, adjusting the ruffle at his collar, when he heard the knock at the bedroom door. "You can come in. I am dressed now," Heero said loudly.
Ursula opened the door a crack. "I couldn't hear you... did you say it was all right now?"
"Hai," Heero breathed.
The door was pushed open further. "Adin is here."
"Good." He turned from the mirror and smoothed the sleeves and lapels of his newly acquired indigo velvet frock coat. The cuffs, collar and lapels had silver embroidered scrollwork on them.
"Let the other's see you," Ursula whispered.
Heero stepped toward the door; he'd taken a hammer to the boots and then worn them around the apartment since the night before, to be sure they were broken in and he would be able to dance in them. They had a slight heel, which Heero had become accustomed to over the course of the day, but he thought they still altered his stride somewhat.
"Do I look presentable?" Heero asked. He saw Midii look up from the tea table. Quatre and Trowa were both at the kitchen island, playing with the nesting Gundams Heero had finally given them. Koi was at the other end of the kitchen. Ursula was near the desk with Adin, who was wearing a kilt.
Trowa laughed, but Heero was certain that he was expressing happiness rather than amusement.
"Heero!" Quatre said, the tone seeming disbelief.
"Good?" Heero asked. He thought that he looked good. He would not have purchased the formal clothing if he did not think he would look attractive in it, but he thought he would feel even better if his friends told him what he wished to hear. Assuming it was true, of course.
"Like a World Sovereign," Midii said.
"Midii!" Trowa scolded.
"It's OK," Heero said. He expected that, just because he was wearing blue and white and the boots were tall. He was confident that he looked nothing like Treize Khushrenada and if the clothing was remotely similar, that was not bad, for many people in the sphere agreed that if anything, Treize had always appeared as they would wish a leader to appear.
Quatre whispered something to Trowa.
Trowa looked at Quatre, then back to Heero. "You are, right?"
Heero understood when he looked at Quatre. He made a slow nod. "Only nail polish, lip gloss and eyeliner. It is a special occasion, and Duo has indicated that he would find me attractive this way. He is my date..."
"It looks good," Quatre confessed, "I just was not sure; it is subtle."
Well, the green nail polish was not subtle, but the rest was. Heero had only been willing to wear subtle cosmetics, but he had to admit, the nail polish did not seem too terribly trendy. It was a very attractive shade of green. It matched his hair.
Heero had trimmed and re-dyed his hair the night before. He was overall contented with his appearance. Looking attractive for Duo was the intention and Heero believed Duo would be pleased.
He turned to look at Adin's formal clothing. Heero had seen pictures of Scotsmen at weddings and this did not seem traditional Scots attire, but fairly modern formal shirt and jacket worn with a kilt in a black, blue and green tartan. Adin began to speak loudly and quickly. "Yes, I happen to be 1/8 Scots, but no, it's not meant to be traditional costume. Besides, the stuff most people think is traditional was invented by the English. Being 1/8 English as well, I feel I have the right to appropriate Scots design concepts and use them toward my own ends."
"I thought you were just Russian," Heero admitted. He thought that Adin was either offended or very nervous.
Adin shrugged. "I am fully half Russian, so far as I know. I'm also Polish, English and Scots. Not that it really matters, but you were eyeing the kilt."
"Nervous?" Ursula teased Adin.
"Is there anyone who wouldn't be nervous being Relena's Prom date?" Adin asked. His eyes moved to Heero, "Except Yuy?"
Heero smiled. Last night he had felt nervous to be Duo Maxwell's Prom date, but now he felt very calm. That likely should be attributed to masturbating twice and taking one long hot bath between waking in the morning and now. The day had also involved cleaning the apartment, working out, and eating nothing but two small bowls of rice. All of those things helped Heero to feel secure.
"Man, thanks to you there will be even more cameras trying to follow us around! I know it's not true... but what really happened?" Adin asked. Heero decided the volume did indicate anxiety.
"The truth is I was showing Relena a ring that I got for Duo, but even though the media outed us as a couple last week, they did not seem able to add the events together in any way but to assume that this week I was back with Relena after a fling and proposing." Heero shook his head. He had seen the news. He was past being upset or offended. He knew the truth. Duo knew the truth, well, he knew Heero and Relena were certainly not getting married.
Adin nodded. "They're outside of your building."
"I know. I have noticed them more often over the past week. They know I live here now. My neighbors do not comment. They are good people." Heero took Koi's harness and leash down from the coat rack. "Everyone is ready to leave?" Heero asked.
"Let me make sure I have the camera!" Midii said.
Heero gave the others time to vacate his apartment while he fixed Koi's harness. Midii would ride as far as Relena's house. She had a date of her own. Trowa and Quatre were escorting Ursula home and then going out to see a movie together.
Heero collected the bag he'd packed and then waited for the others to leave before locking up. He knew that they planned to stay overnight at the hotel where the Prom was hosted, and he had packed a small bag with the things he might need.
Adin lagged behind on the stairs, waiting for Heero. "I know what Duo likes. You look good. I mean, Duo will be really happy. He's totally into you."
"Thanks. I have a feeling Relena will find you similarly attractive." Heero skipped stairs then, leaving Adin behind him as he bounded down to the street.
A hired white limo and chauffeur were waiting at the curb. Heero saw some of his neighbors gathered on the walk, wondering why a limo was in front of their building.
"It is not true, is it, Heero?" His landlady inquired.
Heero shook his head. "Tonight is the Prom at the school Relena and Duo attend. Duo is the one I am dating."
"Is that so? I had not noticed. I am happy for you."
Heero smiled. She had noticed everything, she was only trying to be polite in pretending she did not know Heero had been seeing Duo. "Yes. Duo and I have been dating for some time. Thank you. You will not have noticed, but my friend Trowa has been staying with me often. He will probably not be staying here any longer, though he may visit. You should expect that the apartment is empty now, until I come home."
The older woman bowed and so Heero bowed in return. Midii was calling him from the car.
Heero watched Koi climb into the limo and then he ducked inside and closed the door.
The driver knew to go to Relena's house and they arrived shortly. Before they reached the door it opened. Hilde was there, waving to them.
"You should use the scanners, even for us," Heero whispered as he passed by Hilde.
"Yes, Sir, would you care to step outside and allow me to run the scanners, Captain?"
Heero glared, but it only made Hilde laugh.
She noticed Midii waiting behind Heero then.
"Hi," Midii said.
Heero stepped away from them and looked around the hall. He could not see anyone else.
"Where are they?" Adin asked.
"Oh! Upstairs," Hilde said. "I think they are ready. I'll get them." She ran up the entire flight of stairs. Heero could hear her bounding along the upstairs hall. He had expected to wait, so he leaned within the doorway between living room and hall and waited.
Adin was pacing in front of him.
"You guys look good," Midii said. "I'm sure they'll be pleased."
Hilde returned to their view. She stood alone at the top of the stairs. "Duo wants to know if you think your outfit would look good with flowers, since he has not seen your clothes."
"I asked Duo if there were any traditional requirements expected of me and he said he would take care of that," Heero answered calmly.
"He has some flowers, he just isn't sure if you wish to wear them or not. I did not know what to say."
"As long as they are not red roses, I will wear flowers, if Duo wishes it."
Hilde did not look satisfied with the answer, but she left again to relay the message.
"She didn't even say if Relena was ready," Adin complained.
"You know them at least as well as I do," Heero said, "Relena is likely entirely ready and politely waiting for Duo to also be ready. Duo looks perfectly pulled together by now, but he is obsessing about some detail that is important mostly to him. It is my understanding that arriving late is not a problem. Are you all not dreading the theme?"
Adin nodded. He stopped pacing. He was wearing no sporran, but he did wear a belt across his hips, over the kilt. The dress shirt was neatly tucked, but plain and without tie, vest or cummerbund. The black jacket was open and decorated in a row of many silver buttons from hip to collar; it looked like the sort of jacket Heero had seen some schoolboys wear, but then he had been to very many schools on Earth and in the Colonies before eventually testing out. Adin's own school jacket was a blazer.
Instead of low shoes and long socks, Adin wore a pair of motorcycle boots.
"Did you decide on that outfit with Relena?" Heero asked.
"Duo. I went shopping with Duo. You can tell?"
Heero nodded. "The point is to have fun, not to be uncomfortable. That seems a fun outfit to wear. It is not 'stuffy.' Relena will appreciate that."
"That is what Duo said. That Relena would appreciate something slightly less formal or traditional. I haven't seen her dress."
Adin was definitely nervous.
Hilde appeared again. She smiled apologetically. "Duo says that he is sorry to keep you waiting and that he has decided that you do not need flowers to decorate you, but he hopes you do not mind that he is going to wear flowers in his hair, because they did not look good anywhere on the kimono, in his opinion."
"That is acceptable. Thank you, Hilde." Heero thought that if anywhere there might be flowers tucked into an obi, but he did not think that was usual. He did not mind waiting.
"If he's redoing his hair we'll be here forever."
Hilde appeared again, this time walking down the stairs. "They're ready, but would you both mind stepping into the parlor? They are both saying that they are afraid they will fall down the stairs if they look at you while walking down." Hilde laughed.
Heero smiled as he crossed the hall. He heard Midii ask Hilde how they had looked upstairs. Hilde told her to wait.
Heero stood with his back to the door. He heard the shoes on the hard floor of the hall. It sounded like a pair of women's heels and some other sort of shoes Heero did not immediately recognize, accompanied by a walking stick.
Heero heard Adin telling Relena that she looked beautiful. He heard Hilde and Midii whispering. He felt Duo near him. "This side looks good, why don't you turn around?"
Heero turned slowly. Duo looked gorgeous, but Heero was not shocked. He knew how beautiful Duo was and how he seemed to take pride in accentuating the beauty he had with choice of clothing, hairstyle and cosmetics. He really felt proud to be Duo's date.
Heero took Duo into his arms and held him close for several seconds. He missed being able to touch Duo now, when they were apart for more than a day. Duo's right hand rubbed his back. His left arm only leaned against Heero as he put weight into the stick. "This is nice, but let me get a better look at ya," Duo whispered.
Heero opened his arms and took a step back. He raised his eyes. He first noticed Duo's lipstick, if that was what it was. The lips were pale, except for a thick red stripe on the lower lip. Heero realized it was one of the artful designs Queen Amidala had worn on her lips in the Star Wars movies.
Heero looked Duo up and down, trying to recognize all the small details that were different today. The bangs were crimped. The hair was in a myriad microbraids, these being split into two bunches, one either side Duo's head, tied with red cord so that tassels and braids lay neatly over Duo's shoulders and chest. There were flowers bound to the thick bundles of braids by the same red cord, but the flowers were most visible when Heero moved to view Duo from the side or rear. He thought they might be peach blossoms.
He had lined his eyes and dusted the lids in dark pink powder, but Heero had seen that before by now. He was sorry he could not see the shape of Duo's lips as easily as he normally could, but he thought he liked the touch of 'space princess.'
The kimono fit perfectly of course. The black and indigo obi was safe, tied low about Duo's waist.
"Are you wearing your cast?" Heero asked urgently. Duo seemed to wear a pair of socks and zori.
"Yeah," Duo said warmly, "I just went and got a different style so that I could wear more shoes, though, I can't take quite as much weight or move as fast. That other cast rocked, ya know?" he laughed.
"I will just have to be careful with you," Heero said, "I did not mind waiting. You look gorgeous."
Duo lifted his right hand to touch Heero's face. He leaned in close. "I thought you said you wouldn't."
"I had just not understood its function," Heero said honestly.
"More specifically, stimulating your particular sense of aesthetics."
"Color me stimulated," Duo breathed.
"I do not want to mess up your lipstick."
"You know me better than that, don't you? I made sure to use indelible stain tonight. You can kiss me... or is that makeup remover on your lips?"
Heero laughed softly. He leaned, opened his mouth.
"Stop there," Duo whispered.
Heero felt Duo's arm shift between their bodies. He saw Duo lift something, apparently from beneath the obi. Duo's wrist flicked and a round paper fan decorated with birds and peach branches opened. Duo held the fan beside his face, to block the view of his profile. Heero understood, to block the view of their mouths as they kissed.
"Duo!" Midii complained.
Heero felt Duo grin as he kissed him. Midii had actually been trying to get a photo.
Very good idea, Heero thought. That meant no one else would be getting pictures either. It would be obvious what they were doing, but no one would get an uncensored view. They would be sure people understood Heero was not with Relena and still have some measure of privacy.
Heero really had missed Duo. He kept the kiss shallow long enough to tell Duo so.
"Me too," Duo whispered rapidly. He then sucked Heero's lower lip into his mouth.
Heero put his arms around Duo again, he really liked the way Duo felt. Firm, his body felt firm beneath Heero's hands. The grade of silk used to make the kimono was not at all flimsy, but it draped and gave just enough that Heero could feel Duo's shape when he touched him. It felt like Duo might be wearing additional layers of clothing below the obvious one. The amount of detail that was lost to Heero's sense of touch through the layers of fabric only made Heero want to touch Duo more, to see if he could feel more.
Duo's hand, the one that did not support his weight, strayed beneath Heero's jacket and then squeezed his ass.
Heero only drew himself more tightly against Duo then.
Duo moaned, his tongue stroking Heero's tongue and vice versa.
Someone coughed and someone said "ahem."
"If you faggots could leave off each other for one second..."
Heero was stunned. He knew that word. He had never actually heard it used outside of movies or seen it except in books. He did not understand how Adin could mean to use it in the sense it seemed he must mean.
It stunned him just as much, the speed at which Duo moved from him and turned to Adin.
Maybe it was one of those words that were more appropriate when used by certain people. Maybe if blondes could freely tell blonde jokes without recrimination then...
"Adin you cunt, you can say whatever the hell you want to me, but you better not let me hear you talk like that to my boyfriend, ever! I know he isn't used to hearing shit like that; I don't want him to be! I know you know how those words can be used in an ugly way. You should have fuckin' known better!"
"P-prashu proshcheniya." Adin straightened sharply, "Vinovat!" His eyes swam toward Duo. Heero rolled his eyes toward Duo and saw him still glaring at Adin. Heero had felt stunned, but he was more shocked now by the harsh language Duo had used to speak to someone who was his friend. "Gomen nasai?" Adin tried.
Heero could see Duo mouthing words to Adin from the corners of his eyes, "Sumimasen."
"Sumi... masen," Adin said.
Heero bowed politely. "I accept your apology. I hope our display and this delay does not disturb you too much. None of should be fighting tonight. We should be having fun."
Duo punched Heero in the arm. It hurt. Heero touched his arm and glared at Duo.
"A time for your manners to kick it! You sound like Quatre! This is hardly 'in public.' And even if it was, we have nothing to be sorry about. Adin does fucking know better and I was right to tell him so."
"Heero, why don't you come help me decide where we should pose for pictures," Relena suggested.
Heero knew Relena did not need him to decide where to pose, but he left the parlor with her, knowing that Midii was close behind. Hilde had remained, but she could help Duo now. Heero understood now. Duo was the one who was the most upset.
"You know that Duo and Adin curse and toss slurs at each other. It is just how they are. It is even affectionate." Relena whispered to Heero in the hall.
"I understand now. Yes. Thank you," Heero said quickly.
"He is protective of you, Heero, and he is nervous about tonight. You know better than I what he deals with. I have met very few people in my life who pick that particular pointless basis of prejudice, but some days it does seem they must all be at our school."
"It is not that they are Catholic," Heero stated. "I was there..."
"Yes, it is more the general exclusivity of being a private school in the Capitol. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but attacking others for their gender preferences is equally as ridiculous as attacking people simply because they were born on Earth or born in Space. But the political climate being as it is, it is serves their purposes to go out of their way to have Colonials and Earthlings within their circle of friends and to exclude others on some other arbitrary basis, like ancestry or appearance or sexuality."
"You really should go into politics after you graduate from University."
Relena smiled. Heero noticed only then, she did wear a pretty dress. It was rather flimsy and casual, but it's silvery color, the flawless makeup and perfect upswept hair made her overall appearance formal. "You look beautiful tonight, Relena."
She tipped her head and laughed softly. "It is quite reassuring that it took you so long to notice."
"Duo looks good." It was not an excuse. Relena was correct. Heero had paid attention to the person he was meant to. He turned back to the parlor. Duo, Adin and Hilde were in some manner of three-person embrace. Though, the other two were careful not to muss Duo's hair or crush the flowers.
"I know that Adin is good to you and Duo. I should have laughed, given the context, but it took me several seconds to figure that out."
"I know. Duo was the one who was hurt."
Heero nodded. He went back to the parlor. "Your date is missing you, Adin," he said.
Adin stepped away from Duo then. He gave a sharp nod then went off to find Relena as if he'd been given a mission.
"I think Midii may need advice on how to pair her couple," Heero said.
Hilde laughed at Duo's chest then straightened. "Thanks, Heero!" She skipped into the hall.
Duo stood with his back to Heero, arms crossed over his stomach, weight all on his good leg.
"Thanks for the assist, by the way. I admit, I was really stunned for a moment there. Dead in space, you know? You were right; I just had not heard anyone talk like that. Even so, I figured Adin did not mean to be 'ugly.' I am not hurt. I have my bearings. If you need it... I've got your back," Heero said, purposely trying to sound casual. He touched his finger to Duo's neck. The nape was bared by the parted hair and the fairly low collar of the kimono.
Heero watched his own finger trace the vertebrae. The site was erotic, at least mildly so. Perhaps the nail polish did something to enhance the visual sensory input. It might just have been that it was Duo's pale slender neck. It definitely had something to do with Heero knowing it was his hand that got in close enough to touch Duo in such a vulnerable place.
"You remember what I have said to you, Duo? I like things private and secret, but I would never be ashamed of you. I never have been. You have been bested, but never in a fair fight."
"But you could be ashamed of yourself."
"No. Not really. I regret past outcomes, but I am not ashamed of my own actions. The worst things I did... I did unintentionally or when I was not in control or when I was not properly informed. I regret those events and situations very much, but I do not think you could say I am ashamed exactly. I am to blame, but not entirely to blame. Shame is an emotional response. It is more than being responsible. I think you have to do wrong on purpose and know it to feel shame."
"You have to sin."
Heero laughed. "Duo-chan, stop being melodramatic. You do not believe it is a sin."
Duo sighed. His shoulders relaxed. He dropped a hand to retrieve the walking stick that had been leaning against his thigh. "You're right." Duo laughed softly. "Guess I'm all affected or something." He turned around.
"But you have me here, Duo, so you will be OK. If I notice that you having depressed emotional reactions or making bad decisions while your mood is affected I will let you know."
"Like you did just now."
Duo smiled. "I can get really sensitive about some things."
"I know. You are not wrong. You learned to be defensive because you had to defend yourself and others. That is natural. You did understand that I was not trying to admit guilt to Adin really, I just wanted to smooth things over quickly as they say."
Duo nodded. "Yeah, yeah, I talked to him already."
Heero smiled. "I do not know if you noticed, but he is really nervous about having an official date with Relena," Heero whispered, "Righteous as we may be, it is likely also true that we did fail to consider that right now Relena and Adin are very nervous about affection in general. We did not only kiss in front of them. There was moaning and groping."
"Yeah." Duo's vacant expression said he was remembering that now.
"So, Adin probably really did feel uncomfortable. He was trying to tell you he wished you would wait, he was trying to say it with humor."
"Matte, matte!" Duo looked over Heero's shoulder into the hall and then looked Heero in the eyes. "Them?" he mouthed silently.
Heero nodded once sharply.
"More than they likely realize."
Duo smiled. His lips quivered. His body bent and then he shook with silent laughter. After half a minute Duo straightened and pressed close to Heero, taking the opportunity to observe the hall over his shoulder again. "Well, well..."
Heero drew his head back to look at Duo's face.
"I feel like partying again."
"It does not matter if the theme is lame, or if you run into a few snobs from school. You are my date, Duo. You only need to be concerned with me."
Duo grinned. He put his hands on Heero's shoulders and turned him. For several seconds afterward he seemed preoccupied with placing his feet and hands. Then he craned his neck and pressed his lips to Heero's lips, while leaving a lot of space between their bodies. "Is that chaste enough?" Duo asked through his teeth.
So, as long as it was a game, Duo had no problem censoring his behavior. Heero thought that was all right. Denying one's nature for friends was wrong, but rescheduling one's actions for friends was considerate. There would be plenty of time alone later. And, Relena and Adin might soon have the opportunity to be distracted by each other or a crowd of people.
Heero moistened his lips with his tongue. "Let me try?" He looked down to his feet and planted them squarely, being sure a foot or knee did not slip between Duo's legs. He made certain his posture was straight and put his hands on Duo's arms. Heero pressed his face toward Duo, tilted his head at a very slight angle, and kissed him.
No tongue, Heero told himself.
"And the Oscar goes to..." Hilde called as Midii captured a photo.
Heero opened his eyes to look at them, without removing his lips from Duo's lips. He saw Duo lift his right hand and flick them off. Duo broke their kiss, leaning heavily on his walking stick as he turned and walked into the hall. "It's our camera, right?"
"It's Heero's camera," Midii said.
"I told him to buy it," Duo said, as if this really made it his. Maybe it did. The money had come from Heero's account, but they had both been involved in the process of buying it and they both used it. Heero had a directory of graphics files captured on their trip to Moscow on his mobile. "You can give it to me now. I'll take some photos, maybe I'll let you see them."
Midii gave the camera to Duo. There was a bag on the table against the wall, presumably Duo's. Duo put the camera in an outside pocket and removed something else. Heero supposed they would go, so he called Koi from the kitchen and collected his own bag.
"I got you something," Duo said.
Heero started to speak but Duo's mouth was faster.
"I mean, I got you a sort of gift, but this isn't it. Just something to carry with you with that outfit."
Heero took it and saw it was a fan. This one was white, made of fabric trimmed in a thin row of lace and stitched over slats that swiveled open to form a semi circle.
"Not that I knew what sort of outfit you would wear... I had back-up."
Heero peered over the edge of the fan. "I suppose a hand fan is an appropriate accessory for one in a frock coat?"
"Velvet," Duo said. The fingers of his right hand touching the cuff of one sleeve. "I am going to be all over you."
"That was my intent." Heero laughed behind his fan.
Duo grinned. That stripe on his lip, it made his expressions harder to read, or rather, the paleness around the stripe did. The stripe itself was... cute, Heero thought.
Heero folded his fan and slipped it into a coat pocket. "Lets," Heero agreed. "You can lean on me for now." Heero stepped to Duo's left side so that Duo could put weight on his shoulders, rather than the walking stick.
Hilde and Midii saw them to the car. The driver opened the door. Adin had already invited Relena to enter the car first and when Duo reached the door he ushered Adin in before him. Heero helped Duo get the bags and walking stick inside. Koi leapt into the car on his own. Heero ducked in last and then the driver closed the door.
"We forgot to be sure to kiss for the paparazzi!" Duo complained.
"And after that perfect rehearsal," Adin teased.
"It might be just as efficient if Relena kissed Adin," Heero said, as casually as he could manage, which probably sounded cold and serious.
Relena laughed. She also was appreciating Heero's sense of humor these days.
"We'll be sure to do it in front of the hotel, right, Heero?" Duo asked.
"Right," Heero agreed. Duo was staring at him. The cabin within this limo had two wide bench seats facing each other and Duo was seated opposite Heero. Heero quirked a brow in question.
Duo grinned and winked. He shifted in his seat and Heero's eyes tracked the movement. He found his gaze drawn toward Duo's legs. The way that Duo's legs were folded before him caused the edges of the kimono to part below the knee and rather than just the black tabi a layer of bright red fabric was revealed.
Heero knew that he did not know very much about traditional Japanese dress. Duo probably knew more than he did. Even so, he was fairly certain that he was looking at a sort of under kimono, or slip. There was probably a proper name for it in Japanese. Heero was also fairly certain it was not a garment normally worn beneath a men's kimono. If he was mistaken about that, he was sure he was not mistaken that it should not be bright red silk unless one was being very untraditional or one was a woman and very formally dressed.
Heero wondered what else was under the fabric that he could see.
Duo made a small cough and purposely tried to look casual about arranging the ends of his clothing to hide the red fabric.
Heero could still see it. He was starting to think that this was comparable to a man wearing women's bra and panties beneath a tuxedo.
Duo opened his fan and attempted to look innocent as he fanned himself. The problem was, he seemed to be just as interested in Heero's clothing. At least, his eyes remained low, even when Heero looked up. Heero had been so busy looking at Duo, he had not noticed how Duo was looking at him.
"Could you have calculated any way to make me want you more?" He laughed then, just because he knew Relena and Adin had heard him.
"No. I factored in your personal aesthetic when calculating the maximum desirability of my look for the evening."
Duo sighed. He feigned collapse and fell against Adin's shoulder. "Did you hear what he said? I so fucking love him!" Duo announced.
Relena laughed. "You used to say you hated that. 'Hee-boy talks like a machine; I swear he's not even human!'"
"But that was before he started talking about sex like that," Duo sighed. He lifted his head and looked intently at Heero, "It seriously turns me on!"
Duo waved the subject away, as if it was nothing. "I had a whole slew of 'em."
"We will talk later, Duo-chan."
"So, you can call Duo pet names but he's not allowed to do the same to you?" Adin asked. "That doesn't sound fair."
"Pet names," Duo sighed.
Heero smiled, looking at Duo. "It is not supposed to be fair."
"Goes along with the bondage gear Heero does not wear," Relena said quickly. "Duo told me once that a man doesn't wear underwear beneath a kilt."
Heero tried to remember. He thought Duo had worn underwear beneath his kilt.
"Well, you know Adin, he's sure to end up dancing on tables and he didn't want to flash the Sisters, that would just be wrong."
Adin punched Duo in the arm.
"Adin, please do not hit my boyfriend," Heero said. "You know you deserved that," he said to Duo.
Duo leaned forward, his fan open again to conceal his face from the others. He beckoned and Heero leaned toward him. "I'm kinda wondering now... I know you only own one color of underwear."
"I discovered that one cannot wear black shorts beneath white pants without looking like a fool, so now I own two colors."
"Did you pass Physics, Duo? You do understand the fan does not absorb the sound waves generated by speech." Relena laughed.
"Hey, jump to my defense here, she's making me sound stupid," Duo hissed loudly.
"Would you rather her infer you are just being obnoxious?" Heero whispered behind the fan.
Heero smiled, suppressing laughter. He thought he saw Duo's game. He sat straight. "Duo understands the physics, Relena, he just figured that since you were blonde the sound waves would travel in one ear and out the other without you understanding a word," Heero deadpanned.
"Yuy-kun," Adin said, in clearly patronizing tone, "Don't insult my date or omae o korosu!"
Heero just laughed. After a minute he said to Duo, "This is normal?"
Duo smiled wide. "Yeah. This is normal."
Heero nodded. They were friends and the insults were all jokes. Every insult helped them to prepare defenses for when real attacks came. It was verbal sparring. It was like competitive but healthy. It was like pushing each other to work out in a gym. They made each other stronger. It was good.
But if there was a chance that real attacks would come, they might need more than strength and weapons. They would need to be inspired to go on. "I think that Relena looks very nice tonight, don't you, Duo?"
"I do," Duo said seriously, "I helped her pick out that dress. You see how it is cut so that we can see her lovely slender limbs but she does not look at all trashy?"
"Yes, it is not too tight. I approve on behalf of Milliard," Heero said.
"And, it is not too restrictive, like those horrible dresses stylists talked her into wearing to those speeches and political dinners. She can dance and not have to adjust her dress. It is so unladylike when girls are always adjusting their dresses and stockings."
"So we kept my legs bare," Relena said.
"Which guys like," Duo said. "Right, Adin?"
"I hardly feel comfortable saying so with two such lethal and brotherly young men in close proximity," Adin said, "Relena, of course you look beautiful as usual, but that is not what is really important. What is important is that you are very sweet and unbelievably funny and I have to respect a woman who can beat my ass at just about any video game. So, even if the theme is lame and you aren't voted Queen, I'll still come over to your house to get free meals and to try to beat your high scores. You now you have at least one friend who does not care what your title is this week."
"A girl still likes to hear that she is hot," Heero said, "Not that I understand girls very well, but I am fairly sure this is true."
"We do," Relena admitted, "But the other stuff is good to hear, because you don't expect guys to notice."
"Hot as Hell," Adin whispered.
Duo did not seem to notice, he kept on talking. "Guys wouldn't notice," Duo said.
"A man might," Heero said, "Or a nice boy."
"Well, I for one leave 'nice boy' to Maxwell here," Adin said, "I don't know how he does it. He looks like he'd be this bad boy a lot of the time, but he isn't, only he gets enough for several bad boys."
Duo did his nervous laugh.
"That is because people think they want bad boys," Relena said, "They look exciting and dangerous, but no one really wants to be treated badly. Duo looks dangerous, and he is, actually, but he's not bad. He's so sweet and honest. He's great. That's why people like him so much. You are all of you very kind and all the more precious for remaining kind after you have been attacked and fought battles and survived the wars."
"Same to you," Adin told Relena.
"Ditto. We're proud of her, right Heero."
Relena was blushing. "Oh, we are near the hotel."
"OK!" Duo said, "Remember the plan. Heero, you kiss me. Adin, you kiss Relena."
"Hey, I am resolved to be a gentleman. Relena asked me to be her date. If she kisses me... I'll let her. I kinda want to know if she kisses better than you, Duo."
"Cherish those memories," Heero growled. Soon that would be all anyone would have of Duo, except for Heero.
"Well, no one's a better kisser than me, of course," Duo said in mock serious tone, "But without 'kissing and telling' exactly, I'll just say that it won't be too much of a let down. I know it's heartbreaking that you can't have me, but, you'll just have to take comfort in each other!"
"You're an ass, Maxwell," Adin told him.
"Yeah, but I'm Heero's ass!" Duo laughed loudly. "That makes me perfect!"
It took Heero several seconds to get the joke and to understand the compliment. He smiled at Duo when he did. Duo winked back.
"We can do this," Relena said, "If the theme is wretched, if the DJ reeks, if the Sisters decide to keep us from dancing to close, if people start some drama... it's just Prom. It's not like an inhabited Colony is falling on Earth. We can always leave and go upstairs."
"Right," Duo agreed as the limo stopped in front of the hotel. You can't go back once you leave, but then they can't tell you what to do once you leave. We could even drink."
"I need a drink," Adin said.
"Lena, don't let him drink too much."
"No, no, not too much, but we're all a year above legal and I do think the dry policy a little restrictive. They could have just arranged safe transportation home. It is a special occasion after all."
"We do have some sixteen-year-old Juniors and there are underclassmen serving. You know they are only being wise," Duo said quickly.
"Yes, I suppose," Relena said. Their driver opened the door. "I would like to stay as long as I can stand it. It is the last time we will see some of these people. Graduation is all ceremony and realistically, I can't run off to everyone's graduation party without special agents following me around."
"If you need to leave, Relena, just tell me," Adin said, "I won't mind."
Duo climbed out of the car first, walking with his stick. Heero followed with Koi. They waited together near the car while Adin climbed out and then turned to offer Relena a hand.
The hotel was also within the English Quarter, but it was at its far end, near the Colony wall. The building itself did not look very special, it was a large tower as many modern hotels were. The entrance was above street level and many formally dressed students were on the ramps and steps.
There seemed to be a lot of local security, Heero noticed, as they began walking up the steps. But then, he saw some of them more closely and the uniforms were wrong and the officers to young. They were only students in costumes. Heero did not understand that, but these students were ushering others into the building.
Duo squeezed Heero's hand. Heero turned his head to look at him. "Kiss me for good luck?"
Heero gave a nod. He took out the fan Duo had given him and unfolded it. Duo smiled at that. Heero moved toward Duo and kissed him then, their faces mostly hidden behind the fan.
A sort of murmur grew and moved through the crowd. Heero did not think that was for Duo. He remembered going to school with Relena. That was for her.
The flashes going off in the simulated evening were likely mostly for Relena and her date.
Heero and Duo found them again in the lobby. The dance was in a ballroom on the same floor and signs clearly indicated the way there. Their luggage and rooms were handled by the driver Relena had hired. Heero saw the servant bring Relena the keys.
Relena gave Heero the second key. "Adjoining singles only, but they wouldn't expect us there. Of course, you can keep your side closed if you want."
"Same to you," Heero said.
They went into the ballroom and were assaulted with images of fire, war and destruction. Heero felt stunned again. He did not know how he felt. At the moment, he felt nothing.
He observed the large room coldly, unemotionally. There was a large banner that read: Celebrating Our Heroes. In places around the room, between murals depicting Libra, X18999 outside and when devastated internally, and cities on Earth including Luxembourg, were enlarged photos of people who might be considered Heroes. King Peacecraft was there, Heero Yuy was there, Johnny Gibson was there... Treize Khushrenada was there. As well, the murals depicted many unnamed Preventers and soldiers and local security and firefighting teams.
Two figures in black moved quickly toward them and reflexively Heero reached for where he had last seen Duo. He felt the silk sleeve and then Duo's hand held his and squeezed. It was only Dorothy and Yasmin, Heero saw then. Relena was turned away from the room, into Adin's arms. Dorothy and Yasmin were calling to her in soft voices.
"Did you know?" Dorothy whispered somberly, "We did not know they had changed the theme."
"I believe they meant well. So many people have felt more patriotic since those attacks," Yasmin said, "But there is a picture of my village in one of the collages... I do not think they even know... that even though I..."Yasmin stopped. She looked at Duo.
Duo was looking. Heero saw his eyes moving from side to side, scanning the room. Heero did not want to look. He understood exactly what Yasmin had tried to say. They should remember the people who really were heroes, but these images did not only show the people they meant to honor, they showed scenes of destruction and war. They showed corpses! The heroes they meant to celebrate were in collages surrounded by fire.
Luxembourg! Did they know? Who knew about that? Who really knew? In the history texts it just said that Romefeller mobile dolls had been deployed there en mass and that the Treize faction had defended the city against overwhelming odds. And perhaps one sentence confirmed that it had been the first battle in which the Gundam Epyon was ever deployed. And they said that Treize had survived. But they didn't say what Heero knew. Someone had tried to spare him, if they knew. Treize knew, but he was dead now. Others knew Heero had gone there. Other's knew Epyon had been brought to Sank. Milliard, Lucretia, Quatre.
So, they couldn't know. And they might not have known that Heero would be in the ballroom. So, he could not blame them, except, he knew: there had been no heroes in Luxembourg! Treize, whom them men had all defended had never left his château. Everyone who had not been killed by the mobile dolls had been killed by Heero.
He had killed them all!
The emotions broke through the reflexive suppression and Heero felt sick. He saw them. He did not know if that was the ZERO system or being a Newtype or the combination, but he had seen the faces of the mobile suit pilots that died when his fingers moved over the controls of the beam saber or heat rod. He had killed them!
"Heero!" Relena, help me, Heero's not OK!"
"Duo?" Heero could hear them, he knew they were there, but he saw the dead faces.
"Adin help me, I can't carry him."
Heero felt someone touching him and he struggled. "Koi, we aren't hurting him." Heero heard Duo talking to him. "Heero, try to focus. Let us help you." Duo spoke again, "Father, what can I do? It's these pictures I think. It gets to him."
I should die, Heero thought, I should not be with anyone. I should not be with Duo.
"Oh, Christ! Heero, please snap out of it. Can you hear me? It's me, Heero. It's Duo. Talk to me, damnit!"
"Duo. I killed them. I killed them all," Heero said.
"How can I just tell him its OK?" Duo asked angrily.
"Relena. You hit him, because I can't."
Heero felt someone smack his face. His consciousness jumped into defensive mode and Heero saw the small crowd of figures gathered around him. Someone was holding him. Duo was kneeling beside Heero, but someone else was supporting him and holding his left wrist. Heero saw Adin holding a watch. He recognized that they were determining his pulse rate. He saw Relena near Duo, looking at Koi, who stood between her body and Heero. Dorothy was there and Yasmin.
Heero struggled to sit straight and then he saw that Father David was the one who had been holding him.
Heero returned his gaze to Duo.
"Are you OK?"
"Flashbacks," Heero reported.
"Y-you do understand where you are now? Heero, you scared me. You were totally altered. You were seeing things from the war?"
"Here," Father David said. He reached slowly into his jacket. The movement made Heero nervous and he moved closer to Duo. "It's OK," the priest said. He pulled a flask from inside his jacket and offered it to Heero.
Heero eyed the flask suspiciously, but Duo gave him an approving nod. Heero opened the flask and took a gulp. Whatever it was tasted bad and burned his throat. Heero quickly returned the flask to the Father.
Father David smiled warmly. Then another person approached. Heero had met her before. She was Sister Tess. "How is Emily?" Father David asked her.
"Apparently her cousin died recently in that attack on X18999, they were close, she fainted after seeing one of the murals. I think we should just take them down. It is not.. in the best taste."
"I agree," Father David said. He stood up. He looked at Heero and at those around him. He touched Yasmin's hair. "I am very sorry. The class advisor approved the change in Prom theme. I was informed and I had concerns, but I decided to reserve judgment until I saw how the subject was handled. I regret that I was busy and neglected to check on the decorations until tonight. This is not the best way to honor or celebrate anyone's life or work. Please forgive your classmates, they have been spared the horror that some of you have survived and we should be grateful for that, even if it means they unintentionally remind others of that horror."
"Thank you, Father David," Relena said, "We appreciate their intent, but I am afraid the results are disturbing and better suited to a memorial service than to a school Prom."
"Exactly, Relena. Please excuse me. Let us know if you need anything else."
"Your watch," Adin said quietly.
The priest took the watch and put it on his wrist.
Duo took the seat Father David had vacated. He draped his arm across Heero's shoulders. "daijobu?" he whispered.
"Gomen ne," Heero said very quietly. "I feel dead in space again. And I thought I was coming here to protect you."
"No problem. I'm pretty disturbed myself, but..." Duo paused for a moment and then he whispered very quietly, "It was something specific, wasn't it?"
Heero nodded. It was, this time. He felt better sitting with Duo's arm around him, but those faces, the death, it was all still clear in his mind. He reached out and petted Koi's fur.
"Which picture, Heero?"
Heero commanded his arm to move. "The mural over there shows a picture of Luxembourg. After that, I did not see any other pictures. I don't know if you can tell that was Luxembourg, but I can; I was there." He went back to petting his dog. Koi licked his hand.
"Heero, I know what happened there. No one told me specifically, but I do know. It wasn't you."
"It was me," Heero hissed quietly.
"No, it wasn't. You were in Epyon, Heero. It had the ZERO system. Not even you used that system voluntarily at first. Trant made you do it, the system used you, and you got hurt. Epyon used you too. Maybe you kept ZERO from taking your humanity later, but in Luxembourg, the system was using you. It used the part of you that was trained to be someone's weapon. Heero, Epyon took that part of you that was human away and forced you to just be the weapon and it used you to bring balance by killing and destroying everything on every side. That's a wrong sort of peace. You know it's wrong. You never would have intended that. You couldn't. You have to intend to do wrong to sin, Heero. That's what you said. It was horrible, but it wasn't just you. And, those men died, but they were prepared to die, Heero. The thing they wanted to protect did survive. You didn't kill Treize, and so even though those men died, their mission was completed. The world still needed Treize then, much as I hate to admit it, and you didn't kill him."
Duo was right. Heero knew that he was not entirely to blame, but some of the blame was his. He still felt terrible. "I did not want to be a weapon," Heero whispered.
"I know." Duo lifted his other arm and held Heero close to him. "I know how it hurts, Heero. But, it didn't come from inside you. You never intended the worst things you did. That's what you said. I know it's true." Duo kissed Heero's face. "Ugliness does not come from inside you, Heero. You are too pure."
"I am hardly innocent."
"I didn't say 'innocent,' Heero. You are pure. You are the most beautiful man I know."
"No more than you," Heero whispered.
"From you, I'll take the compliment. I was feeling pretty tainted and hopeless before you came back. You know that?"
Heero nodded. He knew.
"My other friends did help me, but you've helped me a lot. I know the bad things that happened, Heero, but you make me remember the good parts too. I remember that when you were doing good, I was there, watching your back, and when you were doing bad, I was there too, to stop you or rescue you or to keep things from getting worse. Well, except for that day at New Edwards when I was just kinda in shock... but we all had our bad days, didn't we?"
Heero laughed. "Yes. We are not perfect."
"I love you, Heero," Duo said casually, "and I really didn't think I could love anyone and just feel OK. I don't even feel paranoid that you'll die or have any general 'sinking feeling.' I just feel kinda happy. It's really pretty kewl!"
Heero smiled. He had noticed. Duo had been rather depressed when Heero had come home over a month ago, and he had been hiding it well from his friends. He was feeling better now. It had not happened all at once, and there were still things that could bring him down, but generally speaking, Duo did seem happier. Over the last few weeks Duo had even had moments of genuine joy, Heero thought.
It all made Heero believe that Duo really was in love with him and that he would not leave or want for other lovers.
Duo did not feel hopeless anymore; Heero thought he felt very hopeful as well.
They were good friends to each other and they had needed to be friends again, but they were more than friends now, and it was working.
"Would you like to dance?" Heero asked.
Duo hugged Heero tightly, then eased away and grinned at him. "I would love to dance with you! The DJ totally reeks, but I bet we could convince him to play just about any song we want, and if we can't, the good Father can put the fear of God in him!"
"I am glad he is on our side," Heero said.