Strictly Ballroom Strictly Ballroom

Fandom: Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
Pairings: 2x5, 1xR, 3x4
Rating: PG
Date: April 2005
Warnings: Abuse of the waltz, brief MarySue, the appearance of nice!Relena
Spoilers: None

Summary: Ballroom dancing lessons bring out some hidden feelings

Author's note: Dancing the tango is really, really fun.

"Yo, Wuffers!"

Wufei groaned. "Maxwell, my name is Wufei. What do you want?"

Duo smirked, leaning against the doorframe, for once not immediately invading the other boy's personal space. "Spandex Boy's getting hitched."

"I'm aware of this, Maxwell," Wufei replied, not looking up from his book. "I'm in the wedding party with you. Your point?"

Now Duo bounced in, flopping down beside Wufei and rumpling the immaculate bed, earning himself a long-suffering sigh. "Well 'Fei, since Lena's such a bigwig, there's gonna be a truckload of spiffs at the reception."

"So . . ."

"So I'm taking ballroom dancing lessons."

Wufei could see where this was going. "And you need a partner."

"Hey, whadda ya know, he's smarter than the average bear! So, will ya come?"

The curt 'no' was on his lips, but Wufei considered. He hadn't even thought about the reception. Ballroom dancing was something he had never really considered before, but could be a useful skill. Besides, if he didn't agree, Maxwell would pester him for weeks. And flash those gigantic violet puppydog eyes at him. Like he was doing right now. Finally he sighed. "How many lessons?"

"'Fei!" Duo crowed, flinging his arms around Wufei's neck, sending his book flying. "You're a prince among men!"

"Get off, Maxwell!" Wufei growled, elbowing the braided boy off him.

Duo bounced to his feet. "First lesson's tonight at seven! Thanks, man!" And then he was gone.

Wufei sighed and retrieved his book. As he settled back onto his bed, he thought about their strange, hodgepodge lives. After the war, they had picked themselves up. Quatre and Trowa, inseperable as ever, had headed back out to space. Wufei had joined the Preventers, and Heero had followed a month later. Duo had shown up at Une's door a few months after that, unable to settle up in space. The three of them had bought a house and more or less settled down.

Now Heero was getting married. Wufei and Duo could handle the mortgage and expenses fine on their far-too-large Preventers salaries, but the house was big for three - too big for two?

For some reason, Wufei found it hard to imagine life without the constant annoyance of one braided baka. And he didn't much want to, either.

Wufei crossed his arms and scowled, glaring around the gymnasium half-full of chattering couples. Duo bounces on the balls of his feet beside him. "Why am I doing this, Maxwell?" he growled.

"'Cause you love me," Duo replied, grinning. "C'mon, lighten up, 'Fei. You might actually have fun." He was spared a biting riposte as a swaggering Latino man all in black - down to the cowboy boots and all - and a pleasant-looking Slavic woman crossed into the middle of the room and began the class. The first thing they did was divide the couples into two lines, one of men and one of women. Duo took one look at Wufe's face and headed for the ladies' line, rolling his eyes. "We're switching next time," he called over one shoulder.

Wufei was surprised to find himself, in the line of middle-aged to twentysomething men who towered above his own slight frame, standing next to a dimunitive girl his own height.

"All our guy friends ran away too fast," she said in response to his quizzical look, grinning.

Wufei folded his arms. "Duo couldn't find any women to come with him."

The girl grinned again. "This may be the beginning of a beautiful relationship."

The first dance was, predicatbly, the Boston waltz. Wufei watched with some amusement as the line of women (and Duo) caught the beat of the music easily, moving with perfect synchrony, while the line of men (minus Wufei and the girl) stumbled and clumped to some beat playing in their own heads. Finally, the instructors wincing, they called for the couples to pair up to see if the men could fare any better when being steered. Awkwardly, Wufei placed his hand on Duo's shoulder, keeping almost a foot of space between them, lacing their fingers together.

"Hey, spend too much time glowering and not paying attention?" Duo chided lightly. "Hand on my hip." Wufei moved his hand accordingly while Duo changed their hands so they were clasped instead. As the music began, Wufei stepped forward in the first step of the waltz, and Duo followed, but only took a half-step back, bringing them closer. Wufei knew he should move back again, but really couldn't bring himself to.

They weren't perfect. They tripped a few times, lost the beat, and crashed into other couples, especially when they switched the lead a few waltzes later. They ended up dancing beside the two girls, who seemed to be having the most fun of anyone there, cackling whenever they missed a step and cracking raunchy jokes. They had distracted Wufei for the hundreth time as he followed Duo, but stepped forward instead of back.

Duo nudged his leg back with one knee. "Submit, 'Fei, submit!"

"Oh, shut up."

"So, 'Fei, how was that?" Duo asked as they pulled out of their parking spot, past the two girls bickering about the taller's parking job.

"Ridiculous," he growled. "Pointless."

Duo almost wilted in his seat. He turned to the window, scrunching in on himself. "You don't have to come next class. I can switch off with someone else."

Wufei felt rather guilty.

Two days later, Duo walked down the corridor to the dance class, the bounce gone from his step. You knew it was a long shot, he berated himself. Wufei is touchy as sin. It was a big step just to get him to the first class. He sighed internally. Give it up. You've got a silly little-boy crush. Give up on Wufei and head back to space to the girl who worships the ground you walk on. Suddenly he laughed. Like I can do that. I can leave Wufei's side the day Relena dumps Heero.

His mind so wrapped up in thoughts of Wufei, Duo didn't quite register the sight of the Chinese piot himself, arms still folded and still scowling, standing by the row of chairs at the back of the room.

"You're late, Maxwell," he growled.

"Wufei! You came back!" Duo had to forcibly restrain himself from glomping him. "But . . . why? I thought you hated it."

"It wouldn't be fair to those two onnas to not get to dance," he replied, with a sourness he didn't really feel. "And I never said I hated it."

Like the dawning of the sun, a small smile broke over Duo's face.

Heero slipped into the house late one night a week later, long habit making him pad down the front hall in soundless darkness. He frowned as he heard music coming from the den. Music wasn't unusual with Duo around, but usually his tastes ran to pop and soft rock, not . . . classical? And . . . Heero frowned. It was the Bolero, by Ravel, wasn't it?

"Submit!" Duo's laughing voice called suddenly, and Heero raised a quizzical eyebrow. They were good friends, and he didn't want to be seen as spying. He retreated back down the hall.

"Duo! I'm home!"

"Ack! Heero's back!" came the muted squawk. There was a flurry of movement, and the bolero cut off suddenly, replaced a moment later by a heavy synthetic beat. "We're in the den!"

We? Heero padded curiously to the door. Duo was sprawled on the carpet, nodding his head to the music, a manga weekly in front of him. Wufei (Ah. We.) was on the chesterfield, reading some scholarly tome or another, as usual, radiating disapproval of Duo's musical taste. Somehow, Heero thought, it never seemed to occur to him to move.

Heero cast hard, suspicious eyes around the room, but saw nothing that gave away what had been going on before he had interrupted. He briefly wondered if the braided boy had finally acted on his long-time crush on the oblivious Chinese pilot - a fact which seriously contributed to Heero's desire to whale on him during the Eve Wars. Insensitive prick. He quickly discounted that theory - Duo would have told him the moment anything had happened.

Screw it. "So, anything interesting happen while I was out?"

A pause. Duo shrugged. "Nah. So, how're the wedding plans coming?"

Heero groaned. He sat, almost collapsing, on the couch next to Wufei. "Why can't we just elope? If I survive the next three weeks, the war was a cakewalk."

"That bad?" Duo said sympathically, rolling and sitting up. "Relena's being picky?"

Heero snorted. "Relena wants to elope just as much as I do. Pargan has been possessed by the ghost of Martha Stewart. He's gone crazy. The flower arrangements, the table settings, the guest list . . . Relena's looking homocidal."

Duo shuddered theatrically. "Remind me to kidnap her for a wedding-plans-free day sometime. Hey Wu-man, wanna come with us?"

Wufei rolled his eyes. "No, Maxwell, I wouldn't like to come. And -"

"Your name is WuFEI," Duo chimed in. "Fine, ruin my fun. 'Lena and I will have scads of fun without you."

"You do that," Wufei replied cooly. He marked his place and stood. "Good night, Maxwell, Yuy."

When Wufei had gone, Duo sighed, climbing onto the couch beside his friend, settling his head on Heero's knee and twining his braid around one hand. Heero let his hand rest on Duo's head, smoothing his spiky bangs in their old ritual of comfort.

"So you're still Maxwell?" Duo made a a little sound of discontent. Heero sighed. "You're killing yourself, Duo. And me. Can't I just maim him already?"

Duo snickered. "That's my Heero. And no, you can't. It's cool. I don't mind being Maxwell to him."

Heero sighed. "Why do you do this to yourself? Head back out to space."

"Because that worked so well last time," Duo rolled his eyes. "We're going to die a pair of old bacheors, because I don't think I'll ever be able to leave his side. I think I would die if he sent me away."

Heero chuckled softly. "If you haven't noticed, Wufei's about as capable of sending you away as you are of leaving."

"Stop playing with my head," Duo said quietly, and there was very little humour in his voice. They fell into a comfortable silence, Heero's hand still stroking slowly, rhythmically, across Duo's forehead.

In the dim shadows of the hallway, just out of sight, Wufei strode away, mind racing. He had paused, just through the doorway, and turned to apologise for being so curt, when he had stopped, transfixed by the simple platonic intimacy between Heero and Duo, and hd felt a sudden sharp pang of jealousy. He couldn't stay to hear what they said.

The next night at their dance lesson, their extra practice seemed to be paying off. They had time for civilised conversation as they samba-ed around the room. Wufei, his mind still on the scene from last night, almost missed Duo's question. "What?"

Duo snickered. "Man, I never thought I'd see you zone out, Wu. I said, what are you getting the happy couple?"

"I was not zoned out, and I hadn't thought about it."

Duo shook his head. "Do you think of anything? Twirl me."

Wufei complied and Duo spun away from him. "I'm not so good at Western weddings," he said when they were facing each other again. "I never had a reception. Or presents."

Duo nodded. Three steps later, he suddenly blushed. "Wait - you were married?"

Wufei nodded, then wondered at the sudden stab of pain and sadness in the violet eyes. "Long ago. She died."

"Oh." Duo was quiet until the next twirl, when he said, "Well I was going shopping this weekend for presents. Did you want to come with?"

"Sure," Wufei replied, surprising both of them.

"Great," Duo said. Was it just Wufei's imagination that his smile seemed a little less bright, and he dance just a little further away than usual?

The talk moved on to other things, chatting about this or that. There was something about the quiet intimacy of dancing that made them learn more about each other over the next two weeks than during the entire war - even being incarcerated together on the lunar base. The lack of air had made talking impractical.

While foxtrotting one night, Duo finally brought up the subject of Life After Wedding.

"Wh-what did we want to do with the house after Heero moves out?" the braided boy asked casually as he led them around the room. At Wufei's small frown, Duo smirked. "Let me guess, something else you didn't think of. Getting forgetful already, old man."

Wufei scowled. "I had thought of it. The house is a big for the two of us. Would an apartment be too small for us? maybe we should look at a condo."

Duo almost let hope thrill. "You're not going off on your own? I mean, you still want to live together?"

Wufei looked surprised. "Sharing costs is more logical. Besides which, Maxwell, you need a keeper. You'd probably die of loneliness in your own place."

"I could just be like the wacky neighbour on a bad sitcom," Duo shot back, grinning. "Eating all your food, watching your TV, using your toothpaste up . . ."

Wufei chuckled. "Gods forbid. You watch too much television, Maxwell."

Duo just grinned and made an unnecessary turn, making Wufei stumble and curse at him. But there was a happy little voice trilling in the back of his mind. 'Fei wants me around! We're getting an aprtment! He's not going to leave me! They silenced even the chorus of nagging voices that whispered, He was married . . . he's straight . . . he was married . . .

The next night was their second-last lesson. Heero and Relena's wedding was the following Saturday, and the media hoopla was in full swing already. It was practically the only topic of conversation wherever they turned. Wufei stayed out of it, but Duo couldn't help gossiping with the two teenage girls about Heero and his, ahem, assets.

They were practicing only that night, so Wufei let his mind wander as he waltzed Duo around the room. Duo saw the spaced-out expression on his face and his fixed stare over DUo's shoulder, and took advtage of it to dance a little closer than usual. It was nice to pretend that they were in love. His own mind wandered, imagining dancing at their own wedding reception, a moonlight cruise on their honeymoon . . . Wufei's hand was warm and dry, his arm curved delicately behind Duo's back. It was a tiny piece of heaven.

Wufei was thinking about weddings, too - Heero's to Relena, his own to Meiran. That quiet ceremony, resentment bubbling just beneath the surface. They hadn't had a reception. Meiran probably wouldn't have been able to contain her disgust for him long enough. He tried to imagine dancing like this with Meiran, but he couldn't hold the picture. Her face kept melting into Duo's in his mind.

Abruptly, Wufei realised where he was. Holding Duo, dancing close . . . he looked down at Duo's face just as Duo looked at him, his eyes for once without a filter, violet pools shimmering with love - for him. Wufei froze as a thousand and one things suddenly made sense. Not only about Duo, but about himself. Duo blinked, startled out of his own reverie. Wufei dropped his hands, took a step back, then turn on his heel and fled from the room. Duo ran after him, stopped short by slamming doors. Wufei disappeared into the darkness of the carpark.

"Wufei! Wait!" Duo called futilely into the darkness, slumping against the doors and listening as the chorus of nagging voices grew louder and louder, drowning out all thought.

Blindly, Wufei jumped in their car, almost taking a chunk out of the fender of the car behind him as he pulled out. He drove aimlessly, his thoughts confused and tumultous, breaking his mental discipline for the first time since Meiran's death. He found himself on the road out of town, through eerily slanted trees that were beautiful during the day. Stars wheeled above as he cut the ignition, running through a small strand of trees to a small rise. The rocks below were scorched, new growth of moss blurring the edges of the depression, colonising the destroyed land.

The site of Altron's destruction.

He sank down onto a large rock, gazing over the peaceful river valley, resting his head in shaking hands as he tried to order his thoughts.

Maybe this was the reason he had never been attracted to Meiran. Now, a million individual scenes played out in his head, little details of how Duo moved and talked and bounced and laughed. He could recall every detail of him, every long curling strand of hair. Had he really watched Duo so much? He had often thought how easily Duo got under his skin - but he had never left. Never even thought to leave. Wufei had found Duo beautiful, in that general, vague way that he recognised that supermodels were beautiful. But now . . . the memory of the huge, soulful eyes and the way Duo's body fit so perfectly against his, haunted him.

He raised his head, gazing towards the river below. Always before he had used his Gundam as an excuse, an escape. Now he had nothing but a few trace Gundanium atoms and a blast crater.

Duo. That infuriating, irritating, braided baka. But somehow, he couldn't stand the thought of a life without him. Duo made life interesting, made it brighter, more alive. Made it worth living. Even the dance lessons, something Wufei wouldn't have even considered trying on his own.

A curious owl swooped by, watching the stationary Chinese boy, who sat and stared as the river ran below.

When Duo padded down the stairs the next morning (after walking home from the community centre the night before), he glaced out the front window and saw the car they had taken sitting in the driveway. His unhappiness was alleviated somewhat when he walked into the kitchen to find a covered plate of fresh croissants and a note in Wufei's handwriting.

"Sorry to strand you last night, W." Duo read, and wilted a little. "No, 'sorry to flee from you?' I'd even take an, 'I can't deal with a crush'." Duo sighed, faceplanting against the fridge. "I'm such an idiot. Still . . ." he eyed the fresh pastries. "Maybe he doesn't hate me?

Wufei didn't appear that day, or the next. Duo went to the final dance lesson, hoping he would come. He ended up switching off with the two girls. Duo was silent and withdrawn, while Heero was increasingly frantic as the big day approached. Duo decided that moping was out of the question under the circumstances, and pulled out his best mask to cheer Heero through varying bouts of pre-marital jitters, and managed to kidnap the bride-to-be for a half-day at a spa. Pargan found them faster than Duo had planned on.

There was a rehearsal dinner Friday night, where Duo saw Wufei for the first time in days. He looked the same as usual, cooly polite but charming. Not once during the entire thing did he speak to Duo, or even look at him, despite the fact that they were seated next to each other. Quatre and Trowa, along with Rashid and Catherine, were down from space, and Howard and the Sweepers had invited themselves. Sally, Une, Zechs, and Noin rounded out Heero's side of the church.

Despite the happy reunions, Wufei excused himself early and left. Duo's perennial smile wavered a bit, and he excused himself. Quatre followed him out into the hall, cornering the braided boy out of sight of the party.

"What's wrong?" he demanded without preamble.

Duo grinned, a practiced, false expression. "Nothing, Q, I'm doin' great."

Quatre gave him the sternest look that sweet face could muster. "Don't argue with the empath."

Duo sagged. "It's Wufei."

Understanding dawned on Quatre's face. "Ah. And all becomes clear."

"I'm such an idiot," Duo sniffed, feeling suppressed tears start to beat down the barricades. "I drove him away. All I wanted was just a l-little t-time with h-him, alone, and n-now he h-hates me!"

Duo collapsed onto Quatre's shoulders as all the stress and hurt poured out in muted sobs. The blond rubbed slow, soothing circles on Duo's back as he cried and they rocked slowly back and forth.

The next day, Duo's troubles were drowned in a sea of ceremony. He was the best man, and Noin was the Matron of Honour, so they were kept predictably busy keeping the bride and groom from fleeing and keeping the media out of the church. Heero was darkly handsome in his tuxedo and Relena was glowingly beautiful in a fairytale dress. By the time the famous command to kiss the bride was delivered, Sally was sobbing into Une's shoulder and silent, manly tears trailed down Rashid's cheek. Duo was feeling sniffly himself, in a good way; seeing Heero's happiness almost made him forget his own pain.

Cheering crowds greeted the ex-Queen of the World as she and her new hubby bolted from the church to the limosine (white, this time; pink had been forbidden). Duo grinned at the glares Heero directed at the numerous cameras poking above the crowd.

Duo was the one to ignore Wufei this night. He gave his toast and the mandatory embarrassing story, prefacing his comments with the words, "The first time I met these two, I shot him for trying to shoot her, then he shot me and she yelled at me . . .", then settled back to enjoy Quatre's turn as MC. He was sitting at another table, chatting with Howard after the dinner, when Wufei stepped up next to his chair. Duo's heart leapt into his throat as Wufei, ridiculously attractive in his tuxedo and with his hair down, rested a hand on his shoulder.

"Would you care to dance?"

Duo blinked. He almost didn't believe it. He opened his mouth to refuse, but found himself rising from his chair and putting his hand in Wufei's, allowing himself to be led onto the dance floor. Wufei took the lead in the waltz, but Duo kept away, kept a step behind, unwilling to slip into the intimacy that had hurt him.

Wufei leaned over as he turned Duo again, placing his mouth beside the other boy's ear. "Submit," he growled softly.

Duo's knees almost melted. Wufei stepped forward and Duo moved with him, their bodies pressing together now, Wufei's arms supporting the braided pilot and Duo's head resting on his shoulder. They danced with a fluid romance that turned heads across the room.

Relena gasped, gripping Heero's arms, staring over his shoulder at the couple. He turned to look, and a smirk crossed his face.