Love, At Last
By DRL (Dedicated to Cristina)
"Whaddya pay for these plates Fei" Duo Maxwell asks as he runs a finger gently around the rim of the large, white, bistro-style pasta bowl that I have just placed in front of him. I pause, momentarily thrown by the question.
"About $5 dollars each, I think." I reply at length. "I bought them at Heals." I resume my seat and indicate that they should help themselves. They comply with a will - all except Duo, who first lifts the bowl and turns it upside down studying its base, then, righting it again, hefts it lightly between both hands as if testing its weight.
"Heals huh?" he says contemplatively as he replaces the bowl onto the placemat in front of him, as carefully and delicately as if it were a piece of Dresden. He turns to Heero, who is seated across the table from him. "Hey hun!" Heero looks up from his task of serving himself from the large bowl of salad on the table and gives Duo his full attention. "Maybe we should get some of these." He raises the bowl slightly, by way of indicating what he is talking about. "Fei paid only $5 each for these. I saw some at Habitat the other day for $10 each and they weren't half as nice as these."
"Okay," Heero says, smiling fondly at his husband, "We'll go tomorrow, if you like."
"Great, thanks hun." Duo smiles happily back and helps himself liberally from the serving platter heaped with spaghetti and meatballs that Quatre has just passed to him.
I smile to myself. Heero would willingly buy those bowls even if they were $50 each, if Duo has his heart set on them. They have been married for almost two years now, and they are as happy as sandboys. Heero denies him nothing, not that Duo ever asks for much. In fact, this recent exchange is typical of Duo. His background is such that before his marriage he had always had to be very careful with money and old habits died hard. Heero is always complaining that Duo insists on carefully budgeting to the last penny, despite their being quite comfortable financially and constantly takes him to task, albeit good-naturedly, about being such a spendthrift but if this is the worst he can say of his husband, theirs is indeed a harmonious union.
And to think I once called him a gold-digger! It is an episode that I am deeply ashamed of, and although all now seems to have been forgiven and forgotten, I will never forget how nasty I was to Duo when Heero and he first met. Understand this - I offer no excuse or mitigation for what I did, for nothing could excuse my behaviour, but I will tell what I did and explain why, as far as there is any explanation, anyway.
It all began when Trowa met Quatre. The three of us had been friends since childhood, Trowa, Heero and I. We had similar personalities (not to mention similar sexualities, coincidentally) and we kept mostly to ourselves. None of us dated very much. I don't know why - perhaps we just never met the right people. However, about three years ago Trowa met Quatre, a sweet, angelic blond, and everything changed. He began spending less and less time with Heero and I as the relationship developed, which was only to be expected of course. As Trowa's best friends we should have been delighted for him, and Heero gave every sign of being just that. I, on the other hand, was not quite sure what my feelings were. I was happy for Trowa, but I think I resented Quatre somewhat for coming between us.
The thing was, he was a thoroughly nice person - for an ingénue, Trowa had done right well for himself. Quatre was beautiful, good natured, affectionate... and a multi billionaire! Not a bad catch for a beginner. I actually liked him tremendously and I was happy for Trowa, I really was, but the ordered equilibrium of the small world I inhabited had been altered and I was not particularly happy about that. Consequently, I found myself being a little... shall we say, curt, with Quatre. Just a terse reply now and then when he spoke to me, and a few barbed comments - nothing much, although a sensitive person might have been upset by it. Quatre remained as pleasant and polite to me as ever, so I took it that he was not too bothered by my coolness towards him. Trowa said nothing either so I assumed that it hadn't even been noticed. I thought I noticed Heero glaring at me once or twice, but he said nothing either, so I put it down to my overactive imagination (and possibly a guilty conscience). It was only later that I discovered how wrong I was and how upset Quatre had been by my treatment of him, but for the moment I considered myself home free.
Time passed and Trowa and Quatre eventually married. Theirs was a whirlwind courtship and from Trowa's meeting Quatre to the day of the wedding was less than a year. I'm ashamed to admit it, but my behaviour towards Quatre only worsened after he married Trowa. Irrational as I now know it to be, I saw Trowa as being lost to me. One of my best friends was gone, and it was all Quatre's fault. This was nonsense of course, because Heero and I saw Trowa often. Quatre was always there, however, and for me that spoiled everything. I consoled myself that at least I still had Heero, and at least our lives continued on in the usual manner. It even crossed my mind that with Trowa spoken for in the most absolute way, Heero and I might...well, you know, make a go of it together. After all, it was not as though potential beaux were beating down the doors to ask either of us out, was it? I was wrong about that too as transpired.
"Wufei," Heero said to me one evening as we sat down to our regular Wednesday evening Chinese takeaway, "There's someone I'd like you to meet." And suddenly I knew that he had gone and fallen in love. It was as serious as that - I could tell from the twinkle in his eyes, the way in which they could scarcely meet mine, the barely-suppressed excitement in his voice, the sappy smile on his face. Yes, Heero Yuy had fallen in love. I wonder now that I hadn't noticed it before.
I barely registered what he said to me after that. I suddenly saw my whole life disappearing through a long, dark tunnel, without so much as a light at the end. Heero, my last hope, had fallen in love with someone else. I now realised why he had politely but firmly put me off when I had suggested meeting up on several occasions during the past few weeks. At the time I had attached no particular significance to this. Heero worked as a freelance computer systems analyst/ programmer and it was not unusual for him to turn down social engagements due to work commitments, although I never recalled this happening as frequently as it had of late. I now knew why. He had never lied to me, telling me that he couldn't meet with me because he had to work - I had just made the natural assumption. The fact that he was actually going out with someone else had never - would never have occurred to me.
To this day I don't know how I got through that meal. I'm sure I must have made the right noises because Heero went on, telling me about this paragon that he had met a few weeks ago, and that he had been seeing ever since. The food turned to ashes in my mouth and Heero's litany was no more than a faint hum at the back of my mind. All I could think about was that Heero had found himself a boyfriend and I would be all alone. I had no other friends apart from Heero and Trowa, no-one at all. Soon Heero too would be consumed by his new relationship, and I would have nothing to do to while away the evenings, except grade test-papers. I sometimes met some of the other teachers from school for a drink from time to time, but I would hardly call any of them friends. Heero and Trowa were my only true friends – my best friends. Now they had moved on with their lives, leaving me behind. It was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears.
Heero had arranged for a meeting the next evening (he simply couldn't wait to introduce me to his new swain). He invited me round to his apartment for dinner. When I arrived Heero opened the door to me and greeted me with an apprehensive smile. He led me through to the dining area (which was unnecessary, since I had been to the apartment around one thousand times before). As we approached I saw a young woman at the dining table, carefully placing a tray of hors d'œuvre down onto the centre of the table. I was at once horrified, and I think my step faltered. I know I hadn't really been listening, but the person Heero had been telling me about couldn't possibly have been a woman. I would surely have picked up on it, however far my mind had wandered. Then the woman looked over at us, smiled, straightened up and walked over to meet us.
"Wufei, this is Duo." I heard Heero say, but once again I wasn't really listening to him. My attention was caught by the person he had just introduced as Duo. I saw now that I was in error. Duo was indeed male, but I also saw how I had made the mistake. He had extremely long hair that he wore in a thick braid that fell down his back and ended just above the waistband of his jeans. As he bent over the table to place the tray the braid had fallen forward and it now lay along the right side of his torso. That was the first thing I noticed about him. The second was the radiance of the smile with which he greeted me. It was a smile that conveyed the distinct impression that meeting me was just about the best thing that had ever happened to him in his life. The third thing I noticed, as he came close, was his eyes. I don't recall ever seeing eyes as beautiful as his were. They were clear, bright and wide, rimed with long, dark lashes, and of an unusual violet colour that was most attractive. He took my hand with a firm, sure grip and shook it warmly, placing his other hand on my upper arm in a gesture of friendship that impressed me. In fact, everything about him impressed me. He led the conversation during dinner, but not in a domineering or overbearing way. He was just a warm, friendly, chatty person who enjoyed company and conversation. He was the most open and guileless person I had ever met, except perhaps for Quatre. Heero too appeared to have done well for himself.
I ought to have been pleased for him and I wanted to be, really I did, but just as I had anticipated (and feared), Heero spent less and less time with me as his and Duo's relationship developed, which it did quite rapidly. To my horror, disgust and utter helplessness, I found myself behaving in the same way to Duo as I had to Quatre, but this time to a more marked degree. I was a desperate man whose life was being slowly drawn from him, and I was powerless to stop myself. Heero eventually proposed to Duo and was accepted, and my life just about ended. Heero had asked me to be his best man, which I should have seen as an honour, but so steeped in sin was I by this time that to me it just served to heap insult upon injury, and thus I hurtled towards my undoing. One day, about two weeks before the wedding, I went too far and almost lost Heero's friendship for ever.
That evening we had had dinner at Trowa & Quatre's, and after dinner we retired to the billiard room, just to relax and chill out. Trowa, Heero and Quatre were seated at a card table playing poker, I was stretched out on the sofa reading the evening editions and Duo was playing a one-man game of billiards at the large table that dominated the room. He wasn't talking for once, he was just moving lithely around the table, skilfully potting one ball after another. I glanced across at him from time to time, and soon I abandoned all pretence of reading the newspaper I was holding and just watched him as he played his solitary game. As I observed him a feeling of - if not quite hatred, then extreme dislike came over me. As I watched he raised the can of soda he was drinking to his lips. It seemed to be empty, so he went across to the bar, I supposed to fetch himself another. I then saw him disappear behind the bar (looking into the fridge, I surmised), straighten up, then leave the room. I rose and followed him. I seemed to be driven by some unseen force - I didn't even think about what I was doing, I just acted. I followed him to the kitchen and stood behind him as he opened the enormous fridge and removed a can of Coca-Cola.
It was late and the house was still and quite as all the household staff had retired for the evening. I moved silently and Duo was completely unaware of my presence as I took up a position close behind him. When he turned around to leave he saw me, and started violently. I saw a glint of fear in his eyes, and I have to say it gave me a frisson of satisfaction, seeing him afraid of me and at my mercy. You see, as friendly as he was towards me at the start, by this time he wary of me. As I said previously, I was more offhand with him than I ever was with Quatre, and he had a tendency to be somewhat cautious around me. This incensed me even more of course, and spurred me on to even greater perfidy, and thus I dug my own grave. As I said he turned around to leave, having obtained what he came for, and started violently at my presence.
"Wufei, you startled me." He said, affecting an air of affability, but I could sense his trepidation. I took a step closer to him and he shrank back against the door of the refrigerator.
"So you've got what you wanted you gold-digging little guttersnipe" I hissed venomously, stepping so close to him that our faces were merely inches apart. So shocked was he by this unexpected onslaught that he just stared at me. Seeing his lovely eyes looking at me, wide with fear, made a small voice in my head scream 'Chang Wufei, what the hell are you doing?' But the devil had too firm a hold on me and the voice of my conscience fell upon deaf ears. "You managed to make him marry you, although, I must say, I would have thought that Yuy had more sense than to lose his head over a pretty piece of tail." I looked him up and down as if looking at something foul I had just trodden in, then I said, "Mind you, looking like you do, perhaps I'm not all that surprised – I'll bet you're quite the honey-trap and I suppose Heero is only human and as susceptible to a pretty face and a tight ass as the next man. After all, Trowa fell for Little Lord Fauntleroy, so I suppose it can happen to the best of us." Then I moved my face even closer to his and said, "Don't think we don't know what you're up to. We all know - me, Trowa, even Quatre knows. We all know that you are only interested in Heero for what you can get out of him. Have a care you little tart, we'll be watching out for our friend.' He seemed to gather his wits at this point because he suddenly pushed me roughly aside and ran from the room. I let him go. I stood, staring blankly at the refrigerator door, and only then did the enormity of what I had done hit me.
I had no idea where Duo had gone, but my guess was that he had gone straight to Heero with news of what had just happened, and I could hardly blame him for that. I walked back to the games room on leaden feet, not because I was reluctant to face the repercussions of my actions, but because I wanted to delay what was certainly going to herald the end of my friendship with Heero. He was bound to cut up pretty rough when he heard about what I had done do Duo, and I didn't expect that he would let me off lightly 'for the sake of auld lang syne'. When I got to the billiard room, however, Duo was nowhere to be seen and Heero, Trowa and Quatre were still playing cards. I slipped quietly back to my seat, picked up the paper... and waited. It was Quatre who, ten minutes later, raised his eyes from his hand and suddenly asked,
"What's happened to Duo?"
This alerted Heero and he looked up, eyes searching the room. He looked across at me.
"Wufei, do you know where Duo is?" He asked this in all innocence, nothing but concern for his fiancé in his eyes. I shrugged absently, as if I didn't much care where Duo was, which was little more than the truth because I knew that the end was nigh. As I did so I raised my eyes from the newspaper I was pretending to read and they met Heero's for a second. I must have given something away because at that moment Heero rose abruptly from his seat, causing the chair to topple over backwards. "Excuse me for a moment, I'll just go and see if Duo's alright." He said to Trowa and Quatre, and he rushed from the room but not before giving me a look that bore through me like a red-hot gimlet. It was a look that said 'If you've hurt him, I'll kill you', and I did not doubt it for a moment.
He was gone for around 15-20 minutes, and during that time there was a desultory conversation between the three of us left in the room. Quatre wondered idly where Duo had gotten to, but was not unduly concerned about his safety, probably because this was his house and he couldn't conceive of any harm coming to Duo while he was here. Trowa however, fixed me with a steady, even gaze. He didn't say anything, but there was a knowing accusation in those emerald green depths and I had no doubt that he knew I was responsible for whatever had caused Duo's absence. When Quatre attempted to go off in search of Heero and Duo, it was Trowa that stopped him, convincing him to leave them be, and that they would be back soon. Eventually Heero came striding back in to the room, ignored Quatre's enquires regarding Duo and came straight to me. As soon as I saw him re-enter the room I sat up apprehensively and laid aside the newspaper. I was ready to take my medicine. It was well-deserved, and I knew it.
"Get up Chang." He said in a stentorian voice. I complied, swinging my legs to the floor and standing up in front of him. I looked at him defiantly, but I was scared and I'm sure he knew it. He was fuming and his rage was held in check only by a supreme effort, I could see that.
"Outside, now!" Heero jerked his head toward the door.
"No." I replied in a quavering voice. Trowa and Quatre looked on in stunned silence.
"Don't make me do this in Trowa & Quatre's house." Heero warned, but I still did not move. "Very well," He said resignedly, "If that's the way you want it..." He grabbed a handful of my shirtfront, drew back his arm and drove his fist into my face with all the force of an advancing locomotive. I felt my head explode in a paroxysm of excruciating pain, I swung round and fell to the floor... and I remembered nothing more.
When I came to, a man I did not recognise was prising open my eyelids and shining a light into my eyes.
"Is he alright, Doctor?" I heard Quatre ask, concern evident in his voice.
"He'll live." An unknown voice announced crisply. "Just a broken nose, with serious contusions around the eyes and probably a mild concussion. He'll be fine, just take him down to the nearest emergency room and they'll splint that nose for him. He'll have the deuce of a headache when he comes round though." He wasn't telling me anything!
After I was patched up, I had Trowa & Quatre take me home. The medics had insisted that I should not be left alone after having been concussed, and the couple pressed me to stay with them for the night, but I couldn't face it. I was too ashamed, and their solicitousness and concern, coupled with their non-judgemental reticence in asking any questions regarding what had happened, made me feel even worse. When I got home, I crawled into my bed and finally gave in to the tears I had been holding back for so long. Feeling desperate, wretched and ashamed, I cried myself to a fitful, troubled sleep.
I was absolutely right about having lost Heero's friendship. He never spoke to me after the incident in the billiard room. I had, of course, been stripped of my role as best man. I was not actually told this, but Trowa told me that Heero had asked him to step in instead, so the inference was clear. Trowa and Quatre were very good to me – much better than I deserved. They kept in close contact with me and made sure that I didn't sit at home alone, brooding. They still asked me no questions, however, for which I was doubly grateful, and the incident was never referred to between us. Whether or not they had discussed it with Heero and received an explanation, I did not at that time know. I resigned myself to my fate, but as the wedding date drew closer, I found it harder and harder to accept things as they were. My best friend – I still thought of him as that – was getting married. He was about to take the most important step of his life to date, and I was not going to be there. No, it simply could not be. On the evening before the wedding, rather than sitting at home licking my wounds, I decided to take action.
Having no real plan of action, I got into my car and drove over to Heero's swanky apartment building. I had no idea whether he would actually be at home, or whether he would be spending the night elsewhere, but I had to do something, take some action. Sitting at home just brooding about the situation was driving me insane. I parked outside the sleek, glass edifice, pulled out my cellphone and telephoned Heero's number quickly, not giving myself time to think better of my decision. When Heero answered the phone he sounded irritable.
"Yuy – what is it?" He said. I hesitated a little before speaking.
"Heero, it's me." He recognised my voice instantly.
"I'm outside your building. Can I come up?"
The door release buzzer sounded almost immediately. I pushed open the street door and I ascended to his floor in the elevator. I tapped lightly at the door and Heero answered it, then stepped back to allow me to enter. Duo was standing in the hallway behind Heero, and he drew a sharp breath when he saw me.
"What do you want?" Heero asked.
"Er, I'll just go and er...," Duo backed away as if to leave.
"No," I said, "Please stay Duo. I came to speak to you as much as to Heero."
Heero half-turned towards Duo and held his hand out to him. Duo advanced to stand beside Heero, entwined his fingers with his finance's and stood, waiting for me to speak. Duo looked tense and anxious but Heero's expression was inscrutable. I swallowed hard, then spoke in a clear, unwavering voice, addressing my remarks to Duo. I had not in any way rehearsed what I was going to say. I simply opened my mouth and voiced what was in my heart, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
"Duo," I began, "I don't know what to say to you. I owe you so much more that a mere apology, that I don't think I will ever be able to repay the debt. I have treated you abominably from the first moment of our meeting, which I am heartily ashamed of, but I bitterly regret and repent of my behaviour towards you the other evening – I think you know what I mean?" Duo nodded, still looking a little apprehensive, and I continued. "I had my reasons for behaving as I did, but I do not put them forward as any form of mitigation, because they were very selfish reasons and would not enhance my reputation in any way. Suffice it to say that I was very wrong to do what I did to you and I am very sorry to have upset you. You did nothing to deserve my treatment of you, you who have nothing but love and goodness in your heart. Heero is very lucky to have found you." I then turned to Heero.
"Heero, I come cap-in-hand to you today to ask you, not for forgiveness, which I would not dare to ask, but for a favour. I ask it in the name of the brotherly love you once held for me and the friendship we once had. I ask, nay, beg to be allowed to attend your wedding, not as your best man for I have forfeited that honour, but perhaps I could just sit at the back...?" I shrugged helplessly and tailed off, having run out of rhetorical steam.
"I'm afraid that it is not my decision to make." Heero said in an even voice. "It's for Duo to decide since it was he you injured, not I. It depends upon whether or not he accepts your apology. Duo...?" He looked at his fiancé.
"Er, well yeah..., sure..." Duo said and bless him, he actually looked at Heero with enquiry, as if asking whether he had said the right thing. With that small gesture, he captured my heart. After everything I had done to him, he would have forgiven me in a moment, if Heero sanctioned it. He was indeed a paragon, with no malice in him whatsoever. He loved Heero so much that he would clearly have done anything to please him. What would I not have given to have been worthy of such love as that?
"You can come," Heero said, then added, "And if you can cover those bruises, you can still be my best man. I'm not having you looking like a panda in my wedding photographs."
The wedding was magical and I acquitted myself well in my re-instated role as best man, even if I do say so myself. Heero looked dashingly dapper in a white tail coat with gold trim, silver-grey waistcoat and black tuxedo pants, but it was Duo who was the focus of everyone's attention. He wore a magnificent full-skirted coat made from a black, heavily patterned jacquard fabric, and he looked absolutely radiant. He and Heero looked so happy and so much in love that I confess to dabbing a bead of moisture from the corner of my eye more than once during the ceremony. The wedding was memorable for me in another way also. It was there that I met someone who would change my life.
As clichéd as it sounds, our eyes met across a crowded room, namely the assembly room where the wedding reception was being held. As Heero's circle of friends was limited and he had no family besides his uncle in Japan, most of the wedding guests were friends of Duo's (and there were a lot of them). When not organising things in my capacity of best man, I stayed mostly with Trowa and Quatre and it was as I was standing on the periphery of a group comprising Trowa, Quatre, Duo's friend Hilde and her date, and myself (I had no date) that I had a sense of being watched. I looked up and swivelled my gaze to look beyond the group... and saw that I was indeed being watched, by a man that I did not recognise. He was standing on his own, tall, lean and statuesque - very striking in appearance, in a dark suit, white shirt and striped tie. He was bold too. As I looked up and our eyes met, he was not in the least abashed at being caught staring, as it were. In fact, instead of looking away as I expected, he held my gaze and actually gave a wry smile, and it was I who ended up feeling abashed. I felt myself colour and I looked away. I was annoyed with myself for doing so, but there was something about the steady intensity of his gaze that unnerved me. I tuned back in to the conversation the others were having around me, but not for long. I felt that gaze upon me again... and again I looked up. This time the smile was accompanied by an insolently raised eyebrow and in spite of myself I gave a low, self-conscious chuckle. Hilde, who was talking at the time, stopped in mid sentence and they all looked curiously at me.
"Excuse me for a moment," I said with an apologetic smile, "Duties to perform."
I detached myself from the group and wove my way through the crowd towards him. If he wanted to be bold, I figured I would show him bold. However, when I reached him my bravura faltered a little. He was even better looking closer to - devastatingly so. He was older than I had first thought, perhaps as much as ten years older than I was. He had finely chiselled features that bore a distinctly patrician air, and startlingly blue eyes that were almost mesmerising. His thick, auburn hair had a slight wave and he wore it brushed back from his forehead, although a few recalcitrant strands fell forward onto his brow. He was considerably taller that I was and his whole body seemed to radiate strength and vigour. As I approached his smile broadened.
"Hello," I said, extending my hand, "Chang Wufei. I'm Heero Yuy's friend and best man." He enveloped my hand in his larger one and shook it firmly.
"Treize Khushrenada, delighted to meet you." He said, but he offered no further information. He did, however, hold on to my hand a moment or two longer than was strictly necessary for a polite handshake between strangers. Although I had never met him before, I recognised his name and I pressed my advantage.
"Professor Treize Khushrenada." I corrected. "You're Duo's tutor at college aren't you?"
"And his employer." He added. He was indeed the tutor that Duo was helping with research for a book, which was how he was paying his way through college. "And I've heard of you too, Mr Chang." He said, and a frisson of alarm shot through me as I wondered just what he had heard. Had Duo told him about the billiard room incident? I rather hoped not.
Professor Khushrenada's voice was rich and melodious, and just listening to him sent shivers of pleasure down my spine. Never before had I met anyone that made me feel the way this man made me feel and I was instantly smitten. First Trowa then Heero - could it now be my turn for love? Unfortunately, now I recalled that Duo had mentioned something else about this man. This was the man who had been constantly plaguing him with unwelcome advances just before he met Heero.
"But your glass is empty," He said as a waiter passed by carrying a salver laden with brimming champagne flutes, "Allow me."
He took the empty glass from between my nerveless fingers and handed me one he had taken from the tray. He took one for himself and looked at me with that knowing smile once more. My legs almost gave way beneath me. God, but he was sexy!
"What shall we drink to?" He asked.
"To the happy couple." I said, raising my glass.
"To the happy couple." He echoed, raising his. "Let's hope we can all one day be as happy as they are."
"Amen to that." I replied, and we both upended our glasses.
We spent much of the remainder of the evening together. I left him periodically to see to various matters in my capacity of best man, but we always managed to get together again. We talked about every subject under the sun, and we seemed to disagree about every one of them. We worked in the same field, broadly speaking, so we found common ground in this, at least. He told me about his work at the University and I told him about my high school students. Education - it was about the only thing we agreed upon but we got along famously just the same.
Eventually, we all saw Heero and Duo off in a chauffeur-driven car, suitably adorned, in time-honoured fashion, with 'JUST MARRIED' writ large across the windows and a garland of old boots and cans trailing behind, tied to the rear bumper, bound for a luxury hotel where they would spend the night, before departing on their honeymoon - a month-long tour of the Orient. The tour would take in Japan, Heero's homeland, and there he planned to present his new spouse to his Uncle Odin, Heero's only living relative. All of this I explained to Professor Khushrenada, or Treize as he bade me address him, as we watched the wedding guests leave as the party broke up after the departure of the newly-weds.
I had travelled with Heero in one of the hired wedding cars on the way out and I had arranged to travel back home with Trowa and Quatre. I reluctantly left Treize in order to supervise the packing up of the gifts. I was at the task for some time and though I was constantly on the lookout, I saw no sign of him. By the time I had seen to everything and was ready to leave myself, I assumed that he had left with the other guests. I was bitterly disappointed but not greatly surprised. It was foolish of me really, to think that what had passed between us that evening was anything more than a few hours of idle flirtation on his part. A meaningless dalliance to stave off an evening of boredom. After all, I knew the kind of man he was didn't I? His pursuance of Duo proved that. I really ought to have known better. As I watched the truck doors close on the last of the gifts and chided myself for my stupidity, I felt a presence beside me.
"Are you finished now?" I glanced up and there was Treize. My heart sang - he had not yet left, "Because if you are, may I see you home?"
"I... I thought you'd left already." I stammered, breathless with excitement at the realisation that he had been waiting for me.
"Without saying goodbye?" He said, "Inconceivable."
"Well," I prevaricated, "I don't want to put you to any trouble..."
"Absolutely no trouble at all. It would be a pleasure" He placed an arm about my shoulders and gently propelled me towards the exit. We stopped to take leave of Trowa and Quatre.
"Professor Khushrenada has kindly offered to drive me home." I told them hoping my eyes were conveying what my tongue could not - namely that I was sorry, considering the fact that they had waited for me and all, but...
"Okay," Quatre said quickly, a twinkle of mischief in his eyes, "We'll call you tomorrow. Safe journey!" As I turned to leave I distinctly saw Trowa wink conspiratorially at his husband.
Treize kept his arm around me as we waited for the parking valet to bring his car around, drawing me close since the temperature had dropped and the night was chill. The valet finally drew up in a beautiful Bentley (which drew a gasp of surprised admiration from me) and Treize opened the passenger door for me and settled me inside. To my surprise, while we chatted amiably of this and that, he drove me directly to my door, without once pausing to ask me where I lived. When he pulled up outside my small house, however, there was an awkward silence, the first of the evening. The truth was, having arrived at this juncture, I didn't know what to do. I desperately wanted to ask him in, so reluctant was I to give up his company, but I didn't want to come on too strong and thus put him off. On the other hand, I didn't want him to think that I wasn't interested. Far from it! While I procrastinated, Treize spoke, breaking a silence that was becoming uncomfortably lengthy.
"I'm giving a lecture on 19th century forensic techniques on Monday," He said (this was now the early hours of Sunday morning), "Would you like to come?" As dates go, it was not the best offer I had ever had, but it was better than nothing and I welcomed it with open arms.
"Yes, I'd love to." I replied with enthusiasm. Having heard first Duo, and now Treize waxing lyrical about their mutual field of expertise, I was genuinely interested.
"And afterwards, perhaps we could have dinner, then maybe some dancing..."
I swiftly agreed. He got out of the car, came round to open my door for me, and drawing my arm through his, walked me up the short path to my front door. As we stood in the pool of light thrown by my automatic security porch lamp, I looked up at him.
"How did you know where I live?" I asked, which to me was the $64,000,000 question. He smiled that smile again, and again my knees almost buckled.
"Instinct." He replied, then he leaned in and kissed me. It was only a little kiss - he touched his lips to mine for only a brief second or two and the touch was feather-light, but it was the sweetest kiss I have ever experienced. "Until Monday then - 5.30 in the Darwin Lecture Theatre." He turned, retreated back down the path and climbed back into the Bentley. He waited until I had entered the house before driving away.
I attended the lecture, and it was amazing. I had undertaken a little research prior to turning up, and I discovered that Professor Treize Khushrenada was a recognised expert in the field of criminology, forensics and detection. He was also an excellent public speaker and he held his audience spellbound, both with his fascinating narrative (not to mention that wonderful voice) and the stunning visual presentation that accompanied his speech. If I was impressed with him before, I was completely enthralled by him afterwards. Sometime during the evening it occurred to me what a masterstroke Treize had delivered in inviting me to watch him speak as a prelude to us getting to know each other better. We did get to know each other better - very much better - and by the time Heero and Duo returned, we were lovers and quite an established item.
The first time we were all together like this - the six of us as three couples, was shortly after Heero and Duo's return from their honeymoon. Trowa and Quatre were playing host, and the situation was much the same as this, the six of us seated round a table, having dinner together. I laugh when I think back on it now, but I remember how nervous I was all that day. It was silly really, because it was not as though the fact of Treize and my relationship was news to any of them. Trowa and Quatre had made up their minds that Treize and I were a done deal as soon as he offered to see me home after the wedding. Concerning this, to this day I have my suspicions regarding how he knew where I lived, but no-one is talking so it is still only speculation. Duo and Heero knew a day or so later, because Quatre, gossipmonger that he is, told them all about it as soon as he was able to reach them by phone and had been giving them regular bulletins since then. Treize and I had visited and dined with Trowa and Quatre several times so they already knew him quite well. Duo knew him also, of course and Heero too, through Duo. So again, it was not as though I had to worry whether or not he would make a good impression on my friends. He had already made all the impression he was ever going to on my friends and I already knew that this impression was very favourable. In the light of my previous behaviour to Quatre and Duo in the early days, it was overwhelmingly important to me that they liked Treize and accepted him. I had absolutely no reason to fear any form of reprisal, but nevertheless, I was nervous.
I need not have worried; the evening was a resounding success and we welcomed the newly-weds back with great gusto. Although they didn't say so in so many words, my friends welcomed Treize into our little fold that night also. Heero and Duo were the guests of honour and they regaled the rest of us with accounts of their honeymoon and the exotic places they visited. Duo was particularly enthusiastic about Japan and absolutely adored Uncle Odin. According to Heero, his Uncle was quite taken with Duo also, and he sat looking smugly pleased as Duo sang the praises of Uncle Odin and all things Japanese.
This evening also went well, but I am tired and will be glad of my bed, when I finally get to it. There is something I have to do first, however (besides the washing up), something between Treize and I that has to be resolved. I come back into the house, having waved the guys off. Treize is beside me, his arm about my shoulders. I pull gently away when we reach the front door, and I enter ahead of him.
In the kitchen I busy myself scraping dishes and stacking them in the dishwasher. Treize does not offer to help me. As I work I hear him enter, pour himself a glass of leftover wine, and leave. He is not shirking toil but giving me the space and solitude he thinks I need. He's trying so hard not to pressurise me, but I know that he is desperate for an answer.
He popped the question this morning, while we were lying in each other's arms after making love. We were in his bed, which always seems to me as large as a field. In fact, everything in Treize's house is large, as is the house itself. Trowa is not the only one who managed to bag himself a millionaire. Treize is a fully-fledged, titled aristocrat, which I discovered shortly after meeting him, although the Bentley was a huge clue. He is a college professor only because he wants to be. He doesn't need to work. Anyway, we were lying in bed, languishing in post-coitial indolence. Treize suddenly heaved a heavy sigh.
"I've been thinking." He said
"What about?" I asked lazily
"About us." He replied. I immediately stiffened, but he rubbed my back reassuringly.
"What about us?" I said, raising my head so that our eyes met. I was suddenly fully alert.
"Firstly, I'm completely besotted with you, and you are clearly in love with me..." He began. I gasped incredulously. Oh the arrogance of the man!
"What makes you think I am in love with you?" I interpose as I prop myself up on one elbow, the better to glare indignantly at him.
"But of course you are." He replied. "What makes me think so? The way you call my name in your sleep, reach out to me and hold me to you whenever I attempt to get out of bed for any reason; the way you tell me everything that on your mind and in your heart, and I know that you are not a person to do that lightly; the way that my unhappiness is your unhappiness, and my joy is your joy; the way you are prepared to wear your hair loose, even though it irritates you and you hate it, simply because I like it that way; the way you make long-term plans that include me – shall I go on?" He raised an enquiring eyebrow. I forbore to reply, but lying back down, I placed my head upon his breast, wrapped my arms around him and held him tightly.
"Seeing as we are clearly in love with each other," He continued, "It seems to me that the obvious thing to do is to get married. You could then move in here with me. It would be nice to be together all the time, don't you think? I mean to say, this place is ridiculously large for just one person, and I can't imagine sharing it with anyone else but you."
Just like that. He said it as casually as if it were the most reasonable thing in the world, and as if he made such proposals every day of his life. It came so suddenly and unexpectedly that I was stunned into silence. I did open my mouth to reply, to accept, but my voice failed me and no sound issued forth. Not even the meaningless drivel I was sure was all I was capable of! Treize seemed to take my silence as uncertainty, perhaps even reluctance, and for once, he was checked in his confident stride.
"Think about it." He said as he stroked my hair gently, "Then let me have your answer this evening."
I had been at school all day. Afterwards, shopping for groceries for this evening's dinner, hours of cooking, the arrival of the guys and the dinner party itself. With all of this I had not much time to think about what Treize had said this morning. Now, as I tidied the kitchen, it occupied my mind completely. Was I in love with him? Oh yes, he was definitely right about that. After being in denial for around six months, I have finally admitted as much to myself. I balked at confessing my feelings to the object of my affection however, but it appears that, as always, he is way ahead of me.
In love with him I might be, but prepared to marry him...? I close the door of the dishwasher, turn and lean back against it, my arms folded across my chest as I replay a conversation I had with Quatre earlier this evening.
"What are you up to Wufei?" He asked conspiratorially, placing a gentle hand upon my knee. "What are you so happy about and why is Treize so worried? Things are okay between you guys aren't they?"
We had finished dinner and had repaired to the living room. I had taken a chair that was situated on its own, a little apart from the others. Quatre had dragged an ottoman across the hardwood floor, shunted it into position adjacent to my seat and squatted down, cross-legged. I smiled and gave a defeated but good-natured sigh. I don't know what it is, but that man seems to have an uncanny sense of what people are feeling. It's quite scary the way in which he can divine one's innermost feelings, sometimes even before one is aware of them oneself. It was for this reason that I didn't even try to dissemble, but came clean immediately. When I had finished he leaped up and enfolded me in a warm hug. After a moment he pulled back and looked into my eyes, smiling.
"I'm so happy for you, Wufei," He said, "You so deserve this," I wasn't so sure about that, but I hugged him back. "Now hurry up and put the poor man out of his misery." He added.
I finish in the kitchen and walk into the living room, thinking to find Treize seated in one of the easy chairs. However, I actually find him sitting at the dining table, in one of the straight-backed dining chairs. The empty wineglass stands before him on the table and his hands lay on the table also, fingers resting loosely on the stem. It occurs to me that in all the time I have known this proud, confident man, I have never seen him looking so lost and defeated. Moving to stand behind his chair, I place my arms around his neck and rest my cheek against his.
"Yes." I whisper into his ear. He jerks his head around abruptly and looks at me, his blue eyes bright, piercing... and infinitely hopeful. I nod reassuringly, smiling broadly. He breathes a relieved sigh and sweeps me into his arms.
"I thought... I thought you were going to refuse," He said, stammering uncharacteristically, "You took so long to decide."
"I decided immediately," I said, "But you were so sure of yourself, I thought it wouldn't do you any harm to be taken down a peg or two."
"You little minx." He rumbled, and sweeping me up into his strong arms he carries me up to the bedroom.
Later, as once again we lie in each others' arms, glowingly sated after a night of spirited lovemaking, I think again about what Quatre said. I might not agree with him about deserving it, but I have finally found it. I have found love, at last.