Disclaimers: Gundam Wing and its characters do not belong to me. Warnings: shounen ai, language in later parts, Relena bashing? (I'm not trying to, but some people will hate her anyway.) Author's Notes: When I finally get off my week of spring break, leave it to my muse to wait until the day before I have to leave to go back to school to start something new. Maybe it was the Girl Scout cookies...

Courtship Rituals
By Rapunzel

Part 1: The Plan

Relena paced restlessly across her office. Pausing by the desk, she reached over ad straightened a few papers that were not really out of order. He was late, and she was nervous, and just a little irritated. How could he be late? Hadn't he figured out how important this was to her? Maybe he wasn't the right person for the job after all, she thought dismally. But if he wasn't, then who was?

A knock at the door interrupted her musings, and she sprang towards it with a feeling of relief. _Finally_, he was here.

"Hey, Relena! Sorry I'm late. Got caught in traffic, you understand..."

Relena nodded politely. "Hello Duo. Please come in."

He stepped inside her office, a place he had never been before, and looked around him in appreciation. "Nice workspace you got here."

"Thank you," she said automatically. "Won't you please sit down?"

She sat at her desk and watched as he pulled up a chair and sat opposite her, the large expanse of paper-littered desktop between them. Placing his elbows on the surface in front of him, Duo leaned towards her intently.

"So," he asked, his casual tone belied by the intense way he was studying her. "What'd you call me here for? I figure it must have been important." Leave it to Duo to get straight to the point.

Relena nodded. "It is. Well, to me at least," she amended.

"So..." Duo prompted her.

"Well, uh..." Relena twisted her hands nervously. Now that he was actually here, she found herself incredibly reluctant to put forward her idea. He might think it was stupid, or that she was overstepping her bounds. But if anyone could help her, it would be Duo. She was sure of that.

"I need your help!" she blurted abruptly. He nodded sympathetically, so she continued quickly, "It's about Heero."

It might have been her imagination, but she thought she saw Duo's eyes narrow slightly. "What about him?"

"Well, it's just... I..." She took a deep breath, and then started to speak very quickly, afraid that if she stopped, she would never get started again. "See, I want you to help Heero. I think he needs some instructions on how to make women happy. I keep dropping hints, but he never seems to get it, and you're his best friend, so I hoped..." She trailed off. Duo was frowning at her.

"Wait a minute," Duo said. "Start again. What is it exactly that you're trying to get me to do?"

Relena took another deep breath, and tried again. "I want you to teach Heero about how to date. You know, all the little stuff, like bringing flowers, and conversations and such. He's hopeless right now. I give him hints, sometimes, but he doesn't seem to pick up on them. I was hoping you might have better luck. You don't have to really do much, just nudge him in the right direction," she added, seeing Duo open his mouth to object.

Duo still objected. "Now wait just a minute. I don't think this is really fair, getting me involved like this. What you and Heero do is your business, not mine."

"But you're my friend, aren't you?" Relena asked, looking at him with shocked, hurt eyes.

Duo looked uncomfortable. "Yeah, I'm your friend, but I'm Heero's friend too. I won't try to push him into doing something that will make him uncomfortable."

"But it shouldn't really," Relena said, attempting to allay his doubts. "See, I think Heero really wants to date and all that, he just doesn't know how. You know how inept he can be when it comes to social interaction. All I want you to do is help him figure it out, give him pointers and such. I'm sure he'll appreciate it."

"Are you sure?" Duo mused softly. "I'm not. Heero's proud, and he hates asking for help."

Relena nodded vigorously. "That's why I'm asking you to step in, because I know he won't ask."

Duo gave her a rather hard look. "And you think you know what's best for him?"

Relena opened her mouth, and then paused, sensing that "yes" was not the right answer to that question. She closed her mouth for a moment, then tried again. "Of course, I wouldn't ask you to do anything Heero won't agree to. But I don't think he'll turn down your help if you offer it. He knows he's no good in social situations, and just because he won't ask for help doesn't mean he won't accept it."

Duo considered that. "So you want me to go to Heero and offer him a little friendly advice on dating, on the condition that if Heero says he doesn't want help, I can just back off and let it go, right?"

Relena beamed at him. "That's it exactly! Oh, will you, Duo? As a friend?"

For some reason, Duo didn't look at all happy at the prospect, but after a moment, he nodded grudgingly. "Fine," he said. "But I ask Heero first. If he tells me to butt out, that's the end of it, you hear?"

"Certainly," Relena said. "And just one more thing. Please don't let Heero know I asked you."

Duo shrugged. "If you say so."

Relena was nearly drunk with relief. That had gone so much better than she had anticipated. Maybe now her love life could finally get off the ground. "Thank you so much, Duo! You really are a great friend, both to me and to Heero!"

"I hope Heero thinks so," Duo muttered dubiously, rising from his seat.

"I'm sure he will," Relena reassured as she got up to usher him out of her office. "I'm sure he will."

She was sure, but she still wondered why Duo looked so unhappy with the whole thing.


"Hey, Heero."

Heero, who was in the act of removing his jacket and shoes, paused at the sound of his roommate's voice. There was a note in it that was not there normally, and it puzzled him. Moving into the living room, he beheld Duo sitting on the couch, looking rather like he was waiting for him.

"Duo? Is something wrong?"

Duo blinked. "No. Why should anything be wrong?"

"No reason," Heero said. Whatever it was that had caused that unusual tone of voice, there was no sign of it in Duo's face. It must have been his imagination.

"Sit down," Duo said, gesturing at a space on the couch next to him. "I want to talk to you about something."

Obediently, Heero moved to the couch and sat down next to Duo. "What?"

"It's been, what, about six months since the last battle ended," Duo began. "You feel like you're adjusting okay?"

Heero shrugged noncommittally. Since he didn't really know exactly what "adjusted" was, he wasn't sure how to answer that question. He had a job in which he was no longer labeled as a terrorist. That was adjusted, wasn't it?

Duo, perhaps sensing that that line wasn't the correct one to take, switched tactics. "How about Relena? Everything okay with her?"

Heero frowned. "Relena? Why do you bring her up?"

Duo shrugged. "I heard somewhere that you two were an item, and I'm just trying to confirm that."

"An item?" Heero asked, still confused.

"Yeah, you know. Dating. Going out. That kind of stuff."

"Oh." Heero paused. "We're not really dating, exactly." He frowned again. "Not exactly," he repeated.

"Any particular reason why not?" Duo prodded.

Heero considered that. It wasn't like Duo to ask him so many questions at once, at least not without a good reason, but Heero also knew that if Duo didn't tell him his reasoning of his own accord, he was unlikely to divulge it at all. And he trusted Duo, trusted that whatever the reason was, it would be a good one. So he answered the question as candidly as he could.

"I always get the feeling when I'm around Relena that she expects something from me," Heero admitted.

Duo nodded understandingly. "She probably does."

"But I don't know what it is she wants," Heero said.

Duo gave him a wry grin. "She probably wants you to act more romantic. You know how girls are."

"No," Heero said. "I don't know."

"Well," Duo said slowly. "Do you want to?"

"Huh? Do I want to what?"

"Know more about females. Relena specifically."

Heero paused to consider that. "I guess so."

"So, would you, say, want to date her?" Duo asked.

Heero smirked slightly, but there was no real humor behind it. If anything, there was a hint of self-contempt. "I wouldn't know how."

"Sure you would, it's easy!" Duo said. "The question is, do you want to?"

Heero nodded. "It might be nice. But there's still the problem..."

Duo interrupted him. "There's no problem, buddy. That's why you've got me. Free advice and all that. Not that I claim to be any expert with the ladies, mind you..."

"You'd do that?" Heero asked, surprised.

"Sure," Duo answered easily. "But only if you want me to."

"You know what you're getting yourself into?" Heero asked. It was a silly question, since Heero wouldn't be surprised to learn that Duo knew him better than anyone else in the world, but he had to ask it. He still had a lot of his soldier mentality left, and it was never a good idea to undertake a mission without knowing what you were getting yourself into.

Duo laughed. "I know, I know. You're going to tell me that you have the social skills of a log. But really, Heero, you have been getting better. It just takes time. If you want me to help you take this next step, I'm there."

"Well, then," Heero said, "where do I start?"


Author's Note: Well, what do you think? Love it? Hate it? Think it's been done too many times before? Supremely indifferent to it? This one's shaping up to be a multi-parter, but there's still time to call it off. Please let me know what you think of it.