December 31 AC 207
Heero was sitting at an empty table, scrolling through something on his cell phone. To Duo, this was in clear violation of party etiquette, and naturally he was going to have to point out Heero's social faux pas in his own way.
"Whatcha got there, Zero One?" he asked, coming up behind Heero and resting his chin on his shoulder.
Heero shrugged in an attempt to dislodge him, but Duo took that as a challenge and resisted. "C'mon, dude, if you're playing Angry Birds, I wanna watch to see how you get the piggies. I'll bet you cheat and send for the Mighty Eagle."
Without turning around, Heero splayed his fingers over Duo's face and shoved backwards, successfully removing Duo from his shoulder. Damn, but he could play rough. It was actually kind of flattering, but he couldn't let the assault go without comment.
"Ow, Heero," he complained mockingly. "You could have given me whiplash with that move, ya know."
That should have earned a glare, or a withering gaze, or at least a long suffering look, but Heero refused to look up from his phone. Oh, he was good, but in Duo's opinion, not as good as he was.
"Fine, fine," he said. "But I'll be back. With reinforcements."
Heero paid him no mind, and Duo left to wander around the room, snagging a bacon-wrapped something or other from one of the trays being circulated around the room and popping it into his mouth. He had to hand it to Quatre, the guy really knew how to throw a party. Duo looked around the room, in search of his friend's blond head, but to no avail.
"Looking for someone?" Trowa asked.
"Your better half," Duo replied with a grin. He waved the toothpick from his hors d'oeuvre. "And these were great."
Trowa stared at the clean toothpick. "Thanks. We have a whole box of them in the kitchen, if you'd like any more."
Duo's face lit up with interest, and then he looked at the toothpick he held and wagged his finger at Trowa. "What is the world coming to?" he bemoaned. "Left is right and up is down. Yuy is ignoring me – me!" he emphasized incredulously, "and now you're moonlighting as a comedian."
Trowa rolled his eyes.
"That! That's what Heero should be doing right now! OK, new plan. Winner out, Barton in. Come with me!" Duo grabbed him by the sleeve and dragged him over to where Heero had been sitting.
"That asshole," he said, realizing his quarry had escaped. "He did it to me again."
"And what exactly did he do?" Trowa asked.
"He got away!"
Trowa's eyes flicked down to his sleeve, where Duo still had a grip on it, and back to Duo.
"I don't know what Quatre sees in you," Duo complained, throwing his hands up in a gesture of surrender. "You and Yuy, both, with your…" his finger drew small circles in front of Trowa's face.
"Devastatingly handsome looks," Trowa deadpanned.
"Ha! Don't quit your day job, and you wish. I mean that talking without talking thing, with the looks and the eyebrows."
"And the hands," Heero appeared behind Duo without warning, "Don't forget the hands." He ran a finger down Duo's spine, causing Duo to yelp.
At Trowa's raised eyebrows, Duo scowled. "That wasn't what it sounded like." He looked from one to the other, and shook his head. "OK, fine. You two hang here like a couple of super bad asses. We'll see if you still think you're all that before the night is over. Mwa ha ha," he cackled, using his best late night horror show host imitation, and backed away from them, making wavy fingers in their direction the whole time.
Duo wanted to laugh when he saw Trowa turn to Heero with a "what the fuck?" expression. This party was already more fun than he'd expected.
He nearly walked right past Quatre, who was standing near an ice sculpture of a lion. He was in deep discussion with Sally and Wufei, gesturing up and down suggestively. Duo didn't point that out; for all the fun he had with adolescent humor, there was a time and a place for that sort of thing. Besides, he wanted to know what the other three found so interesting.
It turned out to be acupuncture. It was one of the techniques Quatre had learned while on his sabbatical. This party was sort of a welcome home party, for both of them, actually. Trowa had flown to Asia at the end of the summer to be with Quatre and they'd just returned a few days earlier.
The reason it was "sort of" a welcome home party was because it was also a belated birthday party for Trowa's nephew, who had turned one in September. Catherine was not about to let the milestone for her son go without celebration when her only brother was out of the country. Duo had overheard Rashid earlier in the evening relating how Catherine had swooped in like a little general and put them, and her new husband, to work readying the Winner mansion for the event.
Duo didn't understand why Trowa and Quatre had ever wanted to go off and live in a tiny two-bedroom apartment when they had all of this and were hardly ever home anyway. Just looking around the room gave Duo ideas of where he would want the surround sound system and which wall he'd have chosen for the buffet table if this was his home.
He spied Trowa's brother-in-law at said table loading up a plate. It was amazing that much food could fit on there without spilling over the edge. The man could certainly eat, that was for sure. Duo thought he saw Catherine over by Trowa and Heero. A dark-haired boy who looked closer to three years old was in her arms, and she was dancing around with him. The kid laughed every time she spun in a circle, and she waltzed away, getting lost in the crowd once more.
Definitely a cute kid. Good thing he was going to be big like his daddy, though, with a name like Angus.
Duo returned his attention to the discussion of acupuncture. Sally was interested from a medical point of view. Wufei was more impressed by the reintroduction of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which had fallen out of favor decades earlier, around the time Lagrange Point 5 was created and the Long family banished there. Duo eyed the space between the two Preventers and wondered if the way Sally's arm kept brushing against Wufei's was unintentional.
"Duo!" Quatre exclaimed, finally noticing his friend standing there. "I feel like I haven't seen you all night. Excuse me, Sally, Wufei, but I've been meaning to show Duo something."
"You have?" Duo asked as he followed Quatre across the room.
"No," Quatre admitted. "But I know you're up to something, and I assume you came looking for me to help you with it."
"Finally!" Duo said, clapping the other man on the back. "A man with brains. This is what makes you the better half."
Quatre tipped his head to the side. "Is there a better half?"
Duo was about to tell him of course there was, for example, himself, but Quatre looked so sincere he had to answer honestly.
"Nah. It's just fun messing with Heero."
He mightn't have bothered answering at all, though, because Quatre was staring off in the distance. It didn't take a genius to figure out that's where Heero and Trowa were. Or at least where Trowa was; Duo was sure Quatre didn't particularly if Heero was with him or not. He turned in the general direction of Quatre's gaze. Nope, he was right the first time. Barton and Yuy were still talking, and Heero's cell phone was nowhere in sight.
"Sure," Duo huffed. "He gives up Angry Birds for your boyfriend, but not for me."
"Angry birds?" Quatre looked around ceiling, completely befuddled. It was almost adorable, if Duo was into that type.
"It's a gaming app," Duo said. "Don't worry. I doubt you'll have any avian emergencies to take care of tonight."
"Don't say that!" Quatre looked alarmed. "It could still happen!"
"You are not on call tonight, are you?" Duo asked, and then he realized Quatre had been putting him on. "Fucking hell, Quatre. I swear, Only you would work during your own party. I need new friends. You're ridiculous, all of you."
Quatre's gaze softened. "We are, aren't we? All of us?"
Duo sighed. Quatre had it bad. Not bad like back in '95, when Quatre had been a moony-eyed teenager with hearts and rainbows shooting out of his pores, but still bad. It was hard to explain, but it was almost as if Quatre liked the idea of Trowa being a pain in the ass.
It was almost enough to make Duo envious, but deep down, he kind of liked when Heero was a pain in the ass, too.
He threw his arm around Quatre's shoulder. "Lucky bastard."
"Same to you."
"Are we talking about the same thing, here, Quatre?"
Oh, yeah, Quatre had it bad. Duo was willing to bet he could strip down to his skivvies, stand on the table and yodel Beethoven's fifth through seventh symphonies, and Quatre wouldn't even notice.
Heero, on the other hand, would…
Duo sighed. As tempting as the idea was, he wasn't about to test that theory out.
He was slightly mollified when it looked like Heero wasn't faring any better than he was. Trowa had just turned toward them, and the smile he gave was clearly not meant to include Duo. He rolled his eyes. It looked like it was up to him to do all the work. "Come on, Romeo," he said, stepping behind Quatre and propelling him straight ahead. "So far away, so many dreams yet to find, see the jungle when it's wet with rain…"
"Those are two different songs," Quatre murmured, but otherwise he didn't seem to mind anything Duo was doing.
They didn't even make it halfway across the room when Duo was intercepted by a hand on his collar.
"Damn it, Heero, I'm playing Cupid here."
"Not without a diaper," Heero said dryly, nodding his head to indicate that Quatre was moving along just fine without him. He dragged Duo all the way back to where he'd started.
Quatre and Trowa watched their friends bickering across the room. There was no real heat in their argument.
"They're so different from each other," Quatre noted.
"Duo's been driving him crazy," Trowa said. "According to Heero, he's completely obsessed with rearranging the furniture. They'll just get everything set up one way, and then Duo will decide it's not quite how he wants it. He likes having 'control over his space'."
"Heero gets him back, though. Apparently he acts like he doesn't notice the difference when it's all done, even if he's done half the work."
"Duo likes to be noticed," Trowa agreed.
Quatre watched Heero put his hand on Duo's shoulder. Duo knocked it right back off.
"Blue footed boobies."
"Blue footed what?"
"Boobies," Quatre repeated. "They're birds. That's what they remind me of. This fighting they do, it's their mating dance."
"I thought they were already a couple."
"Maybe. Sometimes. It's hard to tell."
That could mean anything from Duo confiding in Quatre about something to Quatre detecting conflicing emotions from both of them to the simple observation that they just didn't act like a couple should.
Duo reached into Heero's front pocket and whipped the cell phone out, holding it at arm's length as he scrolled through it. Heero looked half annoyed, half amused. When Duo slapped the phone back in Heero's hand, he put his hand back on Duo's shoulder. This time Duo not only let it stay there, he gripped the front of Heero's shirt and gave a little tug. Heero obliged by moving a step closer, and Duo whispered something in his ear that made Heero crack a smile. Quatre was right; it was a little like a dance.
"Maybe it's not that it's hard to tell; it's just hard," Trowa said finally. "Maybe that's what works for them."
The lights went down low, indicating there was less than a minute left in the year. Most of the guests moved outside, leaving Quatre and Trowa alone in the banquet room.
"We're going to miss the fireworks," Quatre said.
"We are." Trowa moved closer, and cupped Quatre's face. "But I don't really care."
Quatre slipped a finger between the top two buttons on Trowa's shirt and pulled. "Me neither."
They knew when it was midnight from the sound of noisemakers, but they were already kissing by then. There was no point in wishing each other a Happy New Year. Happiness wasn't something they could wish for; it was something they had to create themselves.
Quatre snapped the threads holding the very top button in place. His fingers abandoned their grip on the shirt altogether and moved to Trowa's nape.
Two sets of eyes were watching them through the French doors.
"See the pyramids, along the Nile," Duo sang sotto voce. With his attempt to be quiet, his voice was falsetto and off key, and he winced at the sound, but Heero had laid down the dare. He crossed his arms and glared at Heero. Top that.
"Watch the sunrise on a tropic isle." Heero rose to the challenge, singing just as terribly.
Duo threw his arm around him. Fucking hell, he was having fun, and since the game was on, there was no reason to be discreet. He made eye contact with Heero; Heero nodded in response. Together they turned toward the house and pushed the French doors wide open.
"Just remember darlin', all the whiiiiiiile!" they sang the next line together, at the top of their lungs.
Quatre and Trowa broke apart long enough to stare at their friends, who seemed to take that as encouragement. By the third verse, Duo was down on one knee, his arm outstretched. Heero was egging Duo on by clasping his hands in front of his chest and batting his eyes. It was so over the top ridiculous, it was hard not to stare at either of them.
"Maybe you'll be lonesome too…and bluuuuuuuue…"
It was a very old, romantic song, and and Heero and Duo weren't just singing "You Belong to Me", they were determined to outdo each other.
Quatre couldn't help it. He started laughing, uncontrollably, as their friends pseudo-serenaded them. He laced his fingers together with Trowa's, and Trowa gave them a brief squeeze in response. The sentiment behind the song really was romantic, but terribly misguided. Trowa didn't belong to Quatre, nor was the opposite true. They didn't belong to each other, either. Belonging suggested that they were together because they should be.
That didn't mean they were entirely against giving the people what they wanted – the people being a couple of former Gundam pilots who could not carry a tune. Trowa released Quatre's hand and slid it across his back and rested it on his hip. Quatre raised his chin, expecting another kiss, and Trowa surprised him by spinning him away from his body.
"And now, we dance," he said, holding Quatre's arm out in classic tango fashion.
"Oh, no they didn't!" Duo refused to be outdone, and he dragged Heero inside, grabbing a lily from a nearby vase and shoving the stem into Heero's mouth.
It was silly and embarrassing and fun in a way that made Trowa feel like he was fifteen. He and Quatre reached the end of the room and quickly switched hands in an effort to beat Heero and Duo on their way back across.
Tonight wasn't about doing anything they should, and it was liberating as hell.
He and Quatre hadn't gotten back together because they should have. If history taught them anything, they probably shouldn't have. They weren't together because Trowa couldn't imagine a life without Quatre in it. He could; he'd lived it for nearly a decade.
There were no illusions this time around. This time they were going to make it work because…Well, just because. Because sometimes love defied definition.
He laughed when Duo stumbled, because he'd seen Quatre's heel get in the way a split second before. This not-quite-three-legged race was becoming rather cutthroat. When Duo retaliated and hipchecked Quatre, Trowa caught him. Their gazes met, and the Battle of the Tango was forgotten for that single moment in time.
He didn't need to define love to know when it was staring him right in the face.