A Moment of Perfection
Our transport was ready for docking a full twenty minutes early. To
my surprise, after charming a stewardess into taking him for a tour the
cockpit, the pilots had actually allowed Duo to take the controls.
"Have fun?" I asked as he came swaggering back down the aisle.
"Yeah, but they wouldn't let me take her down," he said and picked
up my wrist off the armrest. He flipped my hand over and put something
shiny in my palm.
"Landing never was your forte," I replied. Duo gave me a dirty look
and snatched back the little bit of metal before I had a chance to look
"Just for that, you're not getting this," he made a fist around the
thing and peered at me slyly. I knew he was waiting for me to ask what
it was and make a deal to get it back.
"Not getting what?" I couldn't disappoint.
"This," he replied, still hiding it from view. He leaned halfway
into my seat with a huge grin and waggled his clutched fist just below
my chin. "What'll you do to get it back?"
'Kiss that grin off your face,' I thought.
"I don't know," I said. "Give you my bag of peanuts?"
"Nah...I need something better than that...I know!" he grinned wider
still and his eyebrows lowered ominously. "I'll give it to you, if you
promise to dance at the ball."
I pressed my lips together and looked at his fist thoughtfully. I
considered his proposal while trying to figure out what the little bit
of metal could possibly be. He knew full well how much I hated
"Five seconds to decide," he said and shook his hand again.
"Stipulation," I said. "Firstly, I must be asked to dance." Duo
grinned at that. We'd spent hours declining dances at these sorts of
affairs in the celebratory days after the end of the wars. I kept my
face carefully neutral as I relayed my second condition.
"I can agree to that," he said after some deliberation that
consisted of narrowing his eyes and looking at me suspiciously.
I was pleased that he agreed. If such a seemingly innocent condition
would lower my chances of actually having to dance, I wasn't going to
let the opportunity go to waste.
"Guess I'll be basking in the glow of the famous Glare all night,"
Duo said wryly and opened his fist.
I took my prize and smiled as I flipped it around in my fingers.
"Gonna wear it?" he asked and added conspiratorially, "I filched it
straight off the co-pilot's collar."
I chuckled and pinned the tiny silver wings next to my shirt pocket.
Duo slanted a grin and nestled back into his seat as the warning lights
blinked on and the ship began its descent into atmosphere.
As we were exiting the front of the spaceport, I pulled on my jacket
and my hand brushed the pin. I let my knuckles rest on it a moment. It
was fastened directly above my heart.
'Sometimes, you gotta stop waiting for the perfect moment...'
"Duo?" I said, catching hold of his sleeve. He whirled to look at me
and nearly fell off the curb. I tightened my grip and pulled him back on
"Whoa! Thanks buddy," he arched an eyebrow and waited for me to
speak. When I just stood there frozen, he clapped a hand on my shoulder
and looked into my eyes with concern. "Heero?"
Words failed me and I had no backup plan. I used the first excuse
that sprang to mind, "Duo, lets get something to eat."
"You're positive you're feeling alright?"
"I'm fine. Didn't sleep much on the flight and I just need a little
food in me," I assured him.
"If you say so."
I couldn't get up the nerve while we ate, or during the cab ride to
Relena's estates, and when we arrived, there wasn't time. We were
assigned quarters and ushered off to get settled in and ready for the
I looked at my reflection in the wardrobe mirror, and for the fifth
time, pulled loose the bow at my throat and worked at retying the damn
thing. There was a knock and I undid my sixth attempt as I strode across
the room and pulled open the door.
"Duo," I tried to hide my surprise.
"Expecting someone else?" he asked, with a tilt of his head and a
"I wasn't expecting anyone," I admitted and stepped aside. Duo
closed the door behind himself and watched as I resumed my task in front
of the mirror. His presence was only making it harder for me to
concentrate. I could see him out of the corner of my eye, he was dressed
in a dark blue suit with a faint metallic sheen to it; the cuffs of the
jacket were folded back casually, yet somehow he still managed to appear
suitably formal. It was uniquely Duo and I couldn't think of a single
other person who could pull off the same look half as well.
"Thought I'd come and see what was taking you so long," he chuckled
as I undid yet another attempt at tying a bow. "Here, let me." My eyes
followed his reflection as he moved to stand behind me.
I let my hands drop to my sides and Duo wrapped his arms around me.
I had to suppress a shiver, and prayed that I wouldn't embarrass myself
by getting aroused. Duo took each trailing end of the black fabric and
swiftly tied a neat bow at my throat.
"Thanks," I choked out.
"Too tight?" he slid a few fingers under the bow to test. I was
certain he could feel the wild beat of my pulse.
"No, it's just right."
Duo rested his chin on my shoulder and stared at us in the mirror.
His fingers were still curled at the base of my throat. Time seemed to
stretch and I raised my hand to place it over his and finally say what
I'd been skirting around for a week. His grayish purple eyes widened and
I felt his entire body stiffen.
"We're gonna be late," he stammered and pulled away. My stomach felt
cold and I wanted to disappear into the carpet.
I set my jaw and nodded. Duo picked my jacket up off the bed and
tossed it to me. I pulled it on and ran a hand through my hair.
Bitterness and disappointment carefully hidden away behind a neutral
facade, I followed Duo out into the hall.
As we came around the corner, a slim figure in white silk spotted us
and waved hello.
"Hey, where's the clown?" Duo asked, pulling Quatre into a hug
before pointedly looking around.
"He's downstairs already," Quatre replied with a soft laugh, then
glanced over at me. I narrowed my eyes, I knew he could sense the edge
of what I was feeling, but now was not the time.
"Shall we?" I said smoothly.
Duo grinned and started briskly down the stairs, I half expected him
to take them two at a time or slide down the rail. Quatre descended in
step with me and I could tell he wanted to say something.
"Not now," I said.
"You're hurt," he said quietly, laying a hand on my shoulder.
"Not now, Quatre," I repeated firmly and he removed his hand.
"Heero!" Relena called to me from the bottom of the steps. Duo was
nowhere in sight. I felt a twinge of disappointment by his abandonment
and I heard Quatre suck in a quick breath.
"You look beautiful, Relena," I said as I took her hand and kissed
it. Quatre smiled politely at her, then engaged in easy conversation
with the man standing at her side.
"Thank you, Heero," she beamed and caught the eye of the man I
supposed was her fiance. He and Quatre made a promise to speak again
later and then he divested his full attention to me. "Gerald, this is
"A pleasure. I've heard a good deal about you," the man said warmly
and shook my hand. There was no hint of animosity or awkwardness in the
gesture, he seemed genuinely pleased to meet me. It spoke volumes about
his character. "I'd like to offer you a place at our table, I believe
Lady Relena would like you there, but thought I might be offended if she
tendered the invitation herself."
"I'd be honored." I was, very.
"Splendid. Well then, I believe everything is just about ready.
Let's take our seats," Gerald offered his arm and Relena rested her hand
delicately in the crook of his elbow.
The banquet went quickly and I survived with a minimum of
conversation. Afterwards, I retreated to the balcony to avoid the crowd
that milled around and made small talk as they waited for the ball to
I heard footsteps approaching and knew who it was immediately.
"Deja vu," she said and came to stand next to me.
"Did your wish come true, Heero?"
"In a manner of speaking. Yours?"
Quatre and Relena's fiance appeared and cut off whatever she had
been about to say. The four of us spoke for a short while, more them
than I. I had little to offer to the conversation, as I had no real
interest in politics.
"Darling, we've the first dance," Gerald prompted as the sounds of
the orchestra warming up reached our ears. She was smiling as he led her
"He's a good man," Quatre said quietly. "They love each other very
I nodded and stared up at the sky again.
"You still love her," he said more than asked.
"Of course." I wondered what he was getting at.
"Can you be happy for her?"
I looked over at him sharply, "I'm very happy for her."
Quatre furrowed his brow and searched my eyes. I didn't want him
prying into my feelings.
"Heero! You can't cheat by hiding all night!" Duo strode through the
open the glass doors and flashed a grin at Quatre before grabbing my
arm. I jerked free of his grasp and stalked past him wordlessly. He had
a hurt look on his face and I wanted to go back and apologize, but I
didn't want to bare my soul to him in front of Quatre.
"Look man, I'm sorry. Deal's off alright, you don't have to dance,"
Duo said hesitantly as he approached.
"I keep my word," I said.
"Yeah well, don't say I didn't offer," he grumbled and crossed his
I couldn't help it, the dark look melted off my face and I smiled.
Just my luck too, a young woman spotted my smile and sidled up to invite
me to dance. I glanced down quickly and was relieved to see that I
didn't have to dance with her. I politely declined and she drifted away
for easier prey.
Like usual, Duo got most of the requests. After a buxom redhead
approached him I noticed that there seemed to be a hint of regret in his
refusal. I paid closer attention to the way he handled the next couple
"You know, I would've thought you'd be the type to like to dance," I
remarked as soon as the latest petitioner was out of earshot.
"Who said I don't like dancing?" Duo replied with a smirk.
"You never danced," I said.
"Oh?" It wasn't that I thought he was lying. I had just never seen
him dance at one of these sorts of affairs.
"I never could leave you just standing around looking awkward," he
explained with a low chuckle.
"You mean to say y-" I was cut off as Quatre and Trowa whirled off
the dancefloor and stopped in front of us.
"Giving up already?" Quatre teased and his lover nodded.
"In that case, mind if I take over?" Duo said, adjusting the knot of
his thin tie and grinning. Duo had long since discarded his jacket and
for some reason I was struck with the notion that if he ever got
married, he'd look much the same, standing at the altar with the sleeves
of his dress shirt rolled up and an easy smile on his face.
Trowa looked surprised but relinquished his exuberant partner
gracefully, or perhaps it was gratefully.
On his way past me, Duo elbowed me and boasted, "Just watch me, I'm
one helluva dancer."
Duo led Quatre out onto the floor and pulled him close, taking the
lead and twirling the slender blonde around expertly. I could see they
were talking as they moved, but the constant shift of dancers prevented
me from interpreting the words on their lips. Occasionally, Duo would
throw his head back with a laugh and Quatre looked positively thrilled
to have such a skilled and enthusiastic person to dance with.
"Sometimes, he has more energy than Duo," Trowa said of his lover.
I chuckled and for a time, we were like two old men, sitting on the
sidelines and watching events swirl around us, while we traded stories
of the war and how it coloured our lives now.
I found myself a bit envious seeing the two of them dancing together
and Trowa picked up on it. He always did have an unnerving way of
"It's not Relena is it."
"What do you mean?" I unbuttoned my coat and hung it on the back of
a nearby chair. I tried acting casual, even though I was fairly certain
that I knew what he meant and saw through my act.
"Quatre said you were upset. He thought it was because of her
I made a noncommittal noise and tucked my hands in my pockets.
"Dance with me, handsome?" I turned to see a slim girl in a blue
dress. I made my standard check and my standard refusal.
When I turned back to Trowa, he raised an eyebrow and flicked his
gaze to my shoes.
"I made a deal with Duo," I explained. "I promised to dance with two
conditions. I had to be asked and the asker couldn't be wearing open
"Clever prerequisite," Trowa said slowly and we went back to
watching Quatre and Duo on the dancefloor.
I smirked and nursed a glass of champagne. The night was swiftly
winding down and I knew there'd only be a few more songs. The smirk
melted off my face when Trowa moved to stand in front of me.
"Dance with me?" he said.
I was shocked.
"I believe the conditions of the deal are met," he nudged my foot
with his. He took the glass from my numb fingers and set it aside, then
held up his hand expectantly.
"I hate you," I hissed and shoved my hand in his.
He led me out onto the dancefloor with a slight smile.
It took me a moment to get used to not leading, but I adjusted to
the arrangement easily enough. I cursed inwardly because I knew
precisely where Trowa was steadily maneuvering us toward.
Duo stopped moving as soon as he saw us. Quatre looked around
puzzled, then his mouth opened in a little 'o' of surprise as Trowa had
the audacity to swing me around and dip me.
"Oh that's rich. He's not wearing those damned shoes!" Duo crowed.
Trowa nodded and then leaned in intimately. At first I had the
absurd notion that he was going to kiss me, but he spoke in a low sober
tone into my ear, "Take the opportunity. Be true to your emotions,
He released me and held out his arms to Quatre. Duo grinned and
executed a graceful bow as Quatre left him to return to his lover, then
he straightened up and looked at me expectantly.
"Back to the wall, eh Heero?"
I drew in a deep breath, looked at Duo, swallowed my fear and said,
"Why, aren't you going to ask me to dance?"
The cheerful look on his face disappeared and he drew his lower lip
in, sucking on it a moment before his grin resurfaced. "Alright, but I
get to lead," he said flippantly. He stepped in and when he took up my
hand in his I thought I was going to self-destruct in a shower of
sparks. We'd been in closer contact before, but there was something
different about this; the feeling of having Duo so close; him in my arms
as I was in his.
We danced together for the next two songs, but much to my dismay,
Relena claimed me near the end of the second. Open toed shoes or not, I
couldn't refuse; this night belonged to her.
She told me she'd heard that Duo had made a bet with me and she was
here to rescue me. I don't think she quite comprehended when I told her
that I wasn't dancing with him because of our deal. When the song ended
not soon after, she glided off to find her fiance so they could share
the last dance.
When the strains of music started up again, I couldn't find Duo