Duo paused in the entryway, scanning the room. He found who he'd been seeking and slipped along the wall, heading for a dim corner to watch. It'd been only a little over a week, but even that felt too long. A girl in a white shirt and black string tie held out a silver tray to him, and he nodded thanks, picking up the flute crystal filled with bubbling amber.
Held in the largest ballroom Duo had ever been in - including the one at Sanq Palace - the party was part New Years celebration and part ten years of peace. He appropriated another glass of champagne, knowing he could crawl up the three flights to his room if he had to; best thing there was about holding parties in hotels.
It was at the private Christmas party two days before Christmas Duo thought he knew; the first true signs had been shown. Since then, there had been nothing. Duo downed the last of the drink in his glass and sought out a third. He knew he was going through them too quickly, but the lingering touches, the more than friendly hug and the whispered endearment lead him to believe there was more to his friend than friendship. But...
His calls had not been returned and his email had gone unanswered.
He spotted Hilde sitting off to the side with a clear view of the dance floor, and dragged a chair over next to her. Though she was barely into her third trimester, her abdomen was well rounded, and her dressed was pulled taut over it. She had her shoes kicked off, and the toes of one foot were scratching the sole of the other.
"Hey baby, what's a gorgeous girl like you doing in a seedy place like this?" Duo dropped his voice into faux sultry tones. He leaned closer, bussing her cheek and brushing a hand over her distended belly.
Her eyes opened with a start even as she smiled. "Duo!" He grinned as she pulled him down for a kiss. "I didn't think you'd be here. You're late!"
"Wouldn't miss it," he was saying, staying close, but putting a little room between them. "Where's that husband of yours, anyway? Finally decide you were more trouble than you're worth?"
The punch was strong enough to let him know that girl that she was, pregnant girl even, she was still strong - ex-soldier and no slouch in the scrap yard business. "He's off talking to one of Quatre's contacts." Her tone held just that edge, and Duo let it drop.
"Sorry I couldn't make it up for Christmas, Hil." He squeezed her hand slightly, thinking he'd like to get another drink but didn't want to abandon his friend. Raising his head, he scanned the room, his eyes found his original target and passed him by, looking for a wayward husband.
"Jerk," she told him, already resting her head back against the wall and closing her eyes. "Had to eat your share of dinner, and it was a big share."
Looking down, Duo lightly rubbed his palm over her stomach. "Yeah, I'm a pig, I know." He chuckled at her snort. "So, how are the boys doing?" his hand still caressing in light touches.
"Hmmm," Hilde hummed softly, her hand touching his. "Fighting constantly already." She cracked an eye. "Must take after their uncle."
"Maybe you should go lay down..." Duo half suggested. Hilde was already shaking her head.
"I can last another hour. Tomorrow I sleep ‘til noon, eat my fill of whatever I want from room service and then join Lucrezia in a spa treatment for the rest of the afternoon." Her eyes were closing again, and a soft smile appeared.
Duo watched her relax for a moment, knowing from her previous pregnancy just how much a gentle touch soothed her, before signaling to a waiter. He sipped at his drink slowly this time, telling Hilde stories of the weird and unusual about the office, his hand continually tracing invisible patterns.
"Why are you avoiding him?"
His story died and he shot her a look. She still had her eyes closed, with her head tilted back but her hand closed over his. "What makes you ask that?"
"After what you told me last week, I would have thought you would have been hanging out with him instead of keeping me company." She stopped his hand and sat upright. "It's close enough to a new year, and you've spent enough time dancing around the whole ‘I love him but am afraid' shit."
"Hilde.." Duo glanced around quickly.
"You're twenty-five years old, Duo. Quit acting like a sixteen year old girl." She glared at him before using his shoulder to lever herself to her feet. "Now I'm going to go find my husband and make him dance the last dance with me before the year ends."
He stood, helped her to find balance and watched her walk while attempting to not waddle. Lifting his glass, he discovered it empty and went off in search of another.
Ten minutes to midnight, Duo had lost his jacket somewhere, his tie even before that and the sleeves of his shirt were rolled up. Wufei was talking, but his words were muffled to Duo's ears; the music in the background even more so. He tried to focus on his friend, but his eyes kept sliding away to fix on those moving behind Wufei.
The glass he picked up off a passing tray was plucked from his hand and he spun in a stumble with it. "Hey!" he was saying and came face to face with Heero.
"You've had enough," Heero told him, grabbing his arm. "Come with me." And Heero began walking, Duo keeping pace behind him.
"Almost midnight," Duo said, looking up at the countdown clock they passed underneath. Heero made some sort of noise that might have been a laugh, and Duo tried to focus on his back. "Where've ya been?"
Heero led him to a small anteroom, empty with its lights dimmed, and stopped by a padded gaming table. "It's been... a busy week."
Duo leaned with his back against the table's edge and watched Heero shed his coat and toss it on a nearby chair. "Too busy to return a call?" Heero loosened his tie, his eyes flicked upward and held. "What happened, man?"
"No," Heero said at last. He turned away and Duo waited. "I... had to think," he looked up at Duo and offered a slight smile. "I think I... might have gotten a little carried away last week."
Now it was Duo's turn to look away, not wanting to see him, shutting off the memory. "I see." He boosted himself up on the table and laid back, scattering stacked chips and a deck of cards. He was staring up at the ceiling, fingers digging into his hair, suddenly too clearheaded.
A hand was on his thigh, its presence firm and warm. "No, you don't."
"Heero?" Duo was sitting up, bracing himself on his forearms, watching Heero, letting him part his legs and step between them.
"You don't see," Heero was saying, leaning up against Duo's chest, a hand planted on the table next to Duo's hip and the other circling up to hold him between his shoulder blades. "If you had seen," Heero's mouth was brushing against Duo's, "you would have known just how fucking scared I was."
And Heero was kissing him. His eyes were closing, his hands rose to Heero's waist. Lips parted, and Duo tasted champagne. Whether it was his own brand of courage or Heero's own, he pulled back. "Scared? You?"
Heero nodded, kissed the side of his mouth, his cheek and the dipping curve where his jaw and ear aligned. "Terrified, actually."
"What?" Duo jumped; Heero had worked his shirt out of the back of his pants, and his hand was now touching bare skin.
"Thought it was the drink, the moment, a latent teenage dream," Heero was saying, and Duo wondered at that moment just how many hands Heero had. Buttons undone, his shirt opened and Heero was pressing lips to his collarbone.
"Was it?" he asked, believing he knew the answer already, but wanting to hear it said.
Heero looked up at him, mouth open against skin. He pulled back, rubbed his cheek on Duo's chest. "No." Both of Heero's hands were now high on Duo's back, holding him, cradling him. "The more I tried to ignore it, the more I knew it had been there for a long time. The more I wanted it to be there."
Duo tugged on Heero's hair. "And you didn't say anything?"
Heero stood up, then, pulling Duo from the table and holding him close. "Did you?" he was asking even as he was kissing him again.
A moment passed, and Duo's hands were in Heero's hair, his shoulders, his chest; Heero's hands were on his back, his neck, down the back of his pants. A minute passed, and Duo's hands were pushing at Heero's shoulders, and Duo was gasping, sagging against Heero, leaning upon the table for support.
"Fuck!" He was staring at Heero, a wide grin sliding on his face. "That was some fucking kiss, Yuy. I swear I saw fireworks."
It took a second only to hear the muted cheering from the other room, the distant booms and pops from outside. But Heero started to laugh. "Idiot," he said pulling Duo close.
"Happy New Year, Heero."