Disclaimer: The GW characters do not belong to me and I make no monetary profit from writing about them.
Note: Many thanks to Kaeru Shisho for proofing and polishing (and surprise packages!)
This one is for KS, Snow and Dyna. Ladies, thank you for being around, and being amazing. Happy Christmas!
What Happens under the Mistletoe…stays under the Mistletoe:
The word "mistletoe" is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words, "mistel" (dung) and "tan" (twig) - misteltan is the Old English version of mistletoe. It's thought that the plant is named after bird droppings on a branch [source:
The club was offering non-alcoholic eggnog free for designated drivers on Christmas Eve. Big freaking deal, Duo thought sourly; eggnog without booze was basically nothing more than raw eggs beaten up a bit with cream and some other stuff he didn't know because Solo had always been the one to make it.
Raw eggs….Gross, really.
Officially, he supposed he wasn't even a designated driver any more; his last remaining driv-ee for the night had, quite clearly, found someone else who would be more than happy to take him home.
He wouldn't have gone off and left Quatre with a stranger, but Trowa was someone they knew, sort of. They had a few friends in common, and they ate sometimes in Trowa's restaurant, and hung out in the same bars and clubs, so even if Duo didn't know him all that well, he was fairly sure that Trowa wasn't a serial killer who preyed on cute blonds, or a ninja vampire assassin, or just a general weirdo who liked boy bands.
Quat would be fine; better than fine, probably, Duo decided, looking over at his friend at the other end of the bar. Quatre looked blissfully happy, nursing a glass of eggnog – the proper, boozy stuff – and gazing up at Trowa with the adoration he generally reserved for a brand-new spreadsheet he'd set up. A weird species, accountants.
Right. That was him sorted. Zechs and Wufei were on the dance floor, and oblivious to anything but each other. Zechs' apartment was only a few minutes away; they could walk home. The girls had left an hour ago. As usual, they'd claimed they wanted to go to a gay club where they could dance and have fun without guys hitting on them. Then, as usual, they'd got bored without guys hitting on them, and gone off somewhere else.
Relieved of all designated-driver responsibility, Duo supposed he could have a drink – a proper one – but then he couldn't drive home, and getting a taxi at 10 pm on Christmas Eve would be a nightmare, which was the reason why he'd driven into town in the first place.
He drained the last of the beaten raw eggs in his glass, grimaced, and set it down on the counter. Time to go home. He waited for Trowa to turn to the barman, then managed to catch Quat's eye. His friend appeared at his side a few seconds later.
'Oh, Duo, I'm sorry. I didn't realise you were by yourself; I thought you were talking to that blond guy. He looked really nice.'
'Yeah, he was OK.' Up 'til the time he'd started telling Duo about his collection of BDSM gadgets and thrown in an offer to introduce him. 'Listen, Quat, I'm wrecked. I might push off. You think you could get Trowa to take you home?'
Quatre blushed prettily. 'I think, maybe.'
Duo laughed. 'It's high time the two of you got together. You've been stepping around each other for the past year.'
Quatre grinned giddily. 'We have, haven't we? So stupid! We were talking about that. He used to think that the two of us were a couple, and then we thought he was with that Japanese friend of his, and then there was the fiasco about the Valentines cards, and that misunderstanding at Hilde's party and the mix-up at Halloween and – anyway, it's all sorted.'
'Yeah, I kind of got that.' Duo stood up. 'I'll see you tomorrow morning. Happy Christmas.'
'Happy Christmas.' Quatre leaned in and kissed him on the lips. He meant well – Quat always meant well; it'd be engraved on his tombstone – but it was kind of sad that the best Duo could do on Christmas Eve was a pity-kiss from his best friend. It was a nice kiss, though; way better than the first time they'd made out when they'd been eighteen and Quat had got the hiccups and a nose bleed simultaneously, and they'd made an executive decision that they were better off as friends. 'Are you sure you want to go home so early? I want to introduce you to Trowa properly.'
Duo considered it for about two seconds. The options were to stay, in which case he'd probably end up getting pissed and probably end up taking someone home for a drunken shag and then have to deal with a drunken stranger the next morning.
Been there, done that.
Option two, far better, was going home alone. There were tonnes of comfort-eating Christmas goodies in the fridge and the box set of James Bond DVDs Zechs – his not-so-Secret Santa - had given him.
'I think Trowa's happy enough having you all to himself; he probably doesn't want me playing gooseberry, and it's been a long day anyway. I'll pick you up around eight tomorrow, OK?'
'OK,' Quat echoed. 'Um, Duo, I was telling Trowa that we volunteer at the orphanage on Christmas morning and he thought it sounded wonderful and he was wondering if he could come along. Would you mind?'
''Course not.' He thought he said it a bit too heartily, but Quat didn't seem to notice, or at least was kind enough not to point it out. And he didn't really mind that much; Trowa seemed a nice guy and it would be great to have another person to help out. It was just – this was obviously how things were going to be from now on. Trowa coming along where it had just been Duo and Quat.
Quat going off with Trowa.
It was great, Duo told himself firmly. Great that Quat had found someone he cared about. Great.
He'd had Quat to himself, pretty much, for the last couple of years. Time they both moved on.
'We can always use the help, you know that. And we can stick him with all the gross jobs; mopping up the sick when the kids get too excited and cleaning out all the greasy pots and pans.'
Quatre laughed. 'Poor Trowa. I hope he won't run off screaming.'
'I've seen the way he looks at you, Quat. He'd volunteer to scrub out a sewage plant with his toothbrush if it meant he got to spend time with you.'
'Yes, well,' Quatre flustered, looking down at his shoes. 'Duo…it's all right, isn't it?'
'All right and way overdue,' Duo told him firmly. 'Now, you go and make out with your new buddy, right? You've spent more than enough time holding my hand lately.' He gave Quatre a hug, and then a shove in Trowa's direction. 'Scat, you. Before he gets bored waiting.'
He'd have The Talk with Trowa at the orphanage, Duo decided, pulling on his leather jacket. It'd be easy enough to pull him aside for a few minutes. Nothing too heavy; he'd just let Trowa know that if he ever deliberately caused Quat one second's unhappiness, he'd have Duo after him with heavy artillery and a back-up horde of screaming orphans.
Making his way through the club, he stopped to say a few words to people he knew, and dodged a few people who'd earlier made it clear that they'd like to get to know him better. In the sexual sense. Actually, he was quite glad he'd grown out of the one-night-stand phase fairly quickly.
He could be home on the couch with a box of chocolate Brazils and Daniel Craig in half an hour; maybe not everyone's idea of the perfect way to spend Christmas Eve, but it actually sounded pretty damn tempting.
He was going to enjoy the night, damn it, and focus on how lucky he was to have amazing friends and a job he loved and a cat and his own home and he was not going to go all maudlin and sentimental. He was going to be upbeat and positive about how lucky he was and….
It was snowing. Shit shit shit. Duo looked out through the main doors and his heart sank. The forecast had mentioned something about the possibility, but they'd been saying it for the past fortnight – a big build-up to a traditional White Christmas - and Duo hadn't paid any attention. He'd overheard a few guys in the club saying it was snowing outside, but he'd expected a few stray flakes, not an honest-to-God blizzard.
Outside, people were exclaiming in delight; putting out their tongues to catch falling snowflakes, taking photos with their phones; a few guys had started an impromptu snowball fight.
Duo shivered, watching them. He hated snow to the point of almost having a phobia. Even though he now had a perfectly nice apartment with an open fire and under-floor heating and a dresser full of warm clothes, that wasn't how he'd grown up. People died in the sort of cold that produced snow.
It had seemed like a perfectly good idea, at the start of the night, to leave his overcoat in the back of the car. He'd parked right outside the restaurant where they'd had dinner and then, after the meal, it hadn't really seemed worthwhile to bring it to the club, where it could get lost or stolen or puked on. Walking a few blocks to the club without it hadn't been too much of a hardship, with Quat's arm in his and both of them surrounded by a laughing group of friends.
Shitty fucking shit. Now he was going to have to go five blocks in an outfit that had been chosen based on factors of general sexiness and slinkiness. Fine in an overheated club; not so fine in a snowstorm.
Duo stamped his feet a couple of times. The weather wasn't going to get any warmer and he might as well just make a dash for it. Warm thoughts, Duo. His actual eyeballs were starting to feel cold, looking outside.
He wrenched the door open and collided with someone coming in. Someone who just stopped him from falling over his own feet by grabbing his hand and then cursing him. 'Can't you look where the hell you're going?'
'Sorry,' Duo muttered, and then realised he knew the guy. Well, knew him from seeing him around. Trowa's Japanese friend. He kind of thought someone had introduced them once, at a party, but he couldn't remember the name, just that they'd had a weird, stilted conversation for a few minutes until they'd both thought of excuses to be somewhere else.
'It's all right.' His expression softened, very slightly. He was still holding Duo's hand. 'You're Duo, right?'
'Uh, yeah. Look, sorry, I know we've met, but I can't remember your name.'
'Heero. It's nice to meet you again.'
'Right. Actually, I was planning on leaving, if you don't mind.' Duo looked, a bit pointedly, at their joined hands, and Heero let him go.
'You're leaving this early? I'm meeting Trowa; why don't you come in and have a drink with us?'
'Uh, you talked to Trowa any time lately?'
Heero frowned. 'This morning. Why? Isn't he here?'
'Well, yeah. But he might not entirely appreciate you turning up. He and my friend Quatre clicked under some mistletoe about an hour ago.'
'Yeah.' Duo grinned suddenly. 'About time, right? Considering pretty much everyone else in Sanque knew they had a thing for each other.'
'Absolutely,' Heero said heavily. 'Now, maybe Trowa will stop talking about him all the time.'
Duo's grin broadened. 'Dream on, man. I hate to burst your bubble there, but I sort of doubt that.'
'True,' Heero mused. 'Still, it may possibly be better than months of unrequited love. He was practically turning into a stalker. He kept inventing the most ridiculous schemes to try to get to know him, and I somehow ended up getting roped into most of them.'
'You too? That whole Halloween thing?'
Heero moaned graphically. 'You have no idea how bad it's been. Well, maybe you do at that. Anyway, since he's probably forgotten that I exist, can I buy you a drink instead?'
It was tempting, for a second; the thought of staying in the warmth, but the prospect of being home was even more so.
'Thanks, Heero, but I don't have snow chains on my tyres and I'd don't want to leave driving home too late in case the roads start icing up.' He looked away from the other man – such blue eyes! – to glance outside, and tried to convince himself that the snow wasn't falling so heavily.
Heero nodded. 'That's probably a good idea. There's already been one major pile-up on the corner of LaGrange Road. No one was seriously hurt, but the road will be closed for the next couple of hours.'
'Aw, shit. That's where my car is. And it's gonna take forever to take a taxi tonight.'
'I can take you home,' Heero offered at once.
'What?' Duo stared at him. 'No. You can't do that. I mean, you're supposed to be meeting Trowa.'
'He's probably forgotten I exist at this stage. And I doubt he'd be overly pleased if I did turn up. I may as well go home, and I can drop you off on the way. It's no trouble.'
'You don't even know where I live.'
'Actually I do. Those apartments in Victoria Crescent.' He laughed at Duo's expression. 'You told me; that time we met at Hilde's. We were talking about property prices in the city. I live a few minutes away.'
Duo winced. No wonder Heero'd been desperate to get away from him. Nice, Maxwell. Chase the hot guys away by boring them to death. 'That must have been a seriously boring conversation. Sorry.'
'Not at all. Now, do you need to get your coat from the cloakroom?'
'I don't have one with me.' Duo stuck both hands in his jacket pockets; he loved the jacket itself but it really wasn't great blizzard wear. 'Don't ask.'
'You'd better take mine or you'll freeze to death out there.'
'But then you'll freeze.'
'I've got a sweater underneath. Here you are; there are gloves in the pockets.' Ignoring Duo's protests, he took off his coat and draped it around Duo's shoulders. It was still warm and smelt of pine needles and it was so soft that it had to be made from the fluff of Persian kittens or something, and normally Duo would have been appalled at the thought of baby kittens giving their fluff to satisfy human vanity and warmth but this time he thought their sacrifice had not been in vain.
God, his brain was turning to mush with the cold, and he wasn't even outside yet.
Heero held the door for him, as he was still buttoning up the coat. It wasn't quite so bad as he'd thought. In fact, he was occupied in relishing the feeling of being warm, deliciously so, that it took a few minutes to register that Heero was wearing a gorgeous, dark blue sweater that just shaded his eyes and somehow made his skin glow.
'This is the best coat ever,' Duo enthused, forcing his eyes away from the coat's owner, and following Heero down the steps. The gloves were fancy leather ones that fit perfectly. 'Where's your car?'
'On Nova Square. We can cut across the park; that'll be quicker.'
'OK.' The snow wasn't falling quite so heavily; wrapped in Heero's kitten-fur coat, it wasn't too bad at all. 'Listen, I feel really bad, wearing your stuff.'
'Why?' Heero asked absently, gazing across the park. 'I offered; actually, I insisted on you taking it, and I would have been offended if you hadn't. Isn't this beautiful? A white Christmas!'
Duo shook his head vehemently. 'I don't like snow. Actually, I hate it, and for the record, I don't like winter much either.'
'So, I take it your second name is Scrooge, is that it?' Heero teased.
'I like Christmas,' Duo protested. 'Well, to be honest, I'd like it way better if it came in July, but I like parts of it anyway.' That was true enough; he did like the time off work, and the food, and watching Christmas specials on TV, and choosing the perfect tree and decorating it. The problem was that all those things were so much better when you had family or someone special to share them with.
'What parts do you not like?'
'All the hype; you know, the pressure to buy all this stuff that you don't really need. Christmas songs for months beforehand. Frosty the freaking Snowman. Brussels sprouts, 'cause, seriously, those things are just wrong. They're evil mutated vegetables. Mistletoe.'
'Mistletoe's a plant, Duo.'
'No, actually it's a parasite that grafts onto innocent trees and lives off them and sucks the life out of them. That's not right.'
Heero's eyes glinted. 'You have a problem with mistletoe because it's unethical?'
'Something like that, yeah. And it's just, like, this excuse for people to snog you without even bothering to say a few words to you first. I spent most of tonight dodging all these random weirdoes who thought they could just wave a couple of leaves at me and next thing they'd be swinging out of my mouth like Tarzan.'
Heero gave him a quick, sidelong look. There were snowflakes on his eyelashes. 'You're not in the market, then?'
'Not in the market for shifting random weirdoes, no. Seriously, I let on to this one guy that I was taken and he just smirked and said 'Oh, baby, what happens under the mistletoe stays under the mistletoe.' Talk about sleazy. And this other guy started talking about his collection of nipple clamps and gags and shit. 'Ew.' Duo grimaced. 'OK, I've sort of been out of the whole dating game for a while, but honestly, is it acceptable now to talk about stuff like that straight off?'
That made Heero laugh. 'I'm not sure. I would imagine it's a breach of etiquette on the first date, at least. It seems a little crass for a pick-up line.'
Duo heaved an exaggerated sigh of relief. 'Good. It's been a while since I did the dating thing but it used to be normal to exchange names first, before launching into your private kinks…Hey, stop laughing at me. It's not that funny!' He poked Heero in the side, slipped slightly on some wet snow and was hauled upright.
'I can actually walk by myself, you know.'
'Hn. All evidence to the contrary.'
'Can I have my hand back?'
Heero gave him a hurt look. 'My hands are cold, since you're wearing my gloves. I thought you wouldn't mind trying to warm me up a little, and to tell the truth, I'm actually concerned about my coat. It's my favourite, and I don't really know you very well, and you might take off in it, if I don't keep hold of you.'
'That's a good point, actually. It is a very nice coat and I am kind of tempted just to make a run for it.'
'Just as I'd suspected.' Heero swung them both to a stop. 'I'd better hang on to you in that case.'
Duo expected a kiss, but instead Heero fussed with the collar of his coat, pulling it up and, God, it was ridiculously erotic; just the feel of his cold hands, and the warm puffs of his breath on Duo's skin, and then one chilled finger brushing his mouth.
He wasn't much good at this any more. He was out of practice, that was the problem. He'd been with in a relationship pretty much forever, and in the two years since Solo, there hadn't really been anyone, except for a couple of months of regrettable, random hook-ups, which hadn't involved flirting or conversation or words so much as his leather pants and alcohol. He wasn't sure if he could even remember how to flirt. It was nice, though, having someone that close.
Heero smiled, and then put both arms around him. 'I hope you don't mind, but you are wearing my coat and my gloves and I thought you wouldn't object to sharing a little bit of body heat to stop me freezing to death.'
'I don't mind, no,' Duo agreed. Understatement of the century; it felt great. Heero felt warm and solid and he was surprisingly good at snuggling; something Duo would never have guessed in a million years. Not that he'd have guessed any of this, really. He'd always had a vague idea that Heero disliked him, disliked most of the universe given his tendency towards glaring around him, and that he was probably straight in any case.
Time to start revising a few things.
'Wouldn't want you dying of cold or anything. My feet are getting damn cold, by the way.' He glanced downwards at Heero's sturdy boots which were probably lined with baby polar bear fur or something. 'I don't suppose….'
'No way,' Heero said firmly, but he looked amused. 'Come on. Let's get you to the car. Before we both freeze.'
'Yeah.' It was a bit warmer, walking. He could feel snowflakes – nasty, wet, cold things - landing on his cheeks, on his hair. Ugh. And his highly impractical shoes were soaked and he'd got to the point of not being able to feel his feet. He'd probably get frostbite and his toes would drop off. Then, Heero slipped an arm around his waist and suddenly everything got just a bit better.
'You're having a rotten Christmas Eve, aren't you?' Heero asked quietly. 'Weirdoes waving mistletoe at you and then me dragging you out into the snow. I'm sorry; I hadn't realised you were serious about hating the cold that much. I should have gone for the car and then picked you up.'
'It's OK,' Duo said, touched. 'This isn't so bad, actually, this part.'
Heero's sudden smile was every bit as warm as his coat. 'I'm glad.'
'Yeah. Me too. Oh!'
The gasp wasn't for anything Heero had done. They'd rounded a corner and came out at the artificial ice rink in the centre of the park.
'I'd forgotten all about this place.' That wasn't true, really. He'd just tried to, very hard. Nothing had changed. The same circular rink, with booths around selling mulled wine and hot chocolate and mince pies. Fairy lights strung around the trees and piped Christmas carols. Exactly the same, except that he was with Heero.
He dragged in a deep breath. 'My last boyfriend…he was really into the Christmas stuff. I haven't been here in a couple of years.'
Not since that last time, when Solo had insisted on them coming here, even though he hadn't been anywhere near well enough. He'd wanted to have that one last memory though, a memory that didn't involve hospital beds and bedpans and medication, so Duo had taken him.
Heero was friendly enough with Zechs; he probably knew about all that. He didn't say anything though and Duo was grateful for that. Most people gave him overflowing sympathy or else brisk, bracing comments about moving on. Heero just kept one arm tight around him.
'Would you like to skate?'
Duo thought about it. There weren't many people on the rink this late; a few teenagers spinning around and a handful of couples. It didn't really hurt the way he'd thought it would. He hadn't skated that last day either, although Solo had wanted him to. They'd just sat and drunk mulled wine and watched other people on the ice.
There was a bit of him that was never not going to hurt, probably; a part of him that would always belong to Solo, to what they'd had. But there was the rest of him too; that got lonely and desperately wanted someone to kiss goodnight and good morning, and talk to in bed, and do all the other stuff in bed - and out of it.
And there was Heero, holding him.
'Not now,' he answered finally. 'But some other time, that'd be really nice.'
'OK. That's a date then.'
A date. He hadn't really thought of it in those terms; more of spending some time with an awesomely hot, amazingly considerate guy who apparently liked him and whom he was starting to like more and more. OK, so maybe that was a date.
That was what tonight had been all about, hadn't it? Another step in the Duo Maxwell Moving On project. His friends had persuaded him to go out clubbing for the first time in ages, and Quat had chosen his outfit, and he'd been introduced to lots of guys and, yeah, most of them had been nice enough really, but it had all been so much of a damn effort to talk to strangers and he obviously wasn't ready for that sort of thing, and when you got down to it, just going out and partying on Christmas Eve was such a step forward from last year's that he'd done his bit by being there.
Heero, on the other hand, was easy enough to talk to. Technically, he was a stranger, but he wasn't really. He'd been there all along, if Duo thought about it. He knew that Heero was an architect and worked with Wufei, and had a horse, which he stabled in the same place as Zechs' horses, and Quatre often mentioned him along with Trowa so he knew that Heero played the guitar, and chess, and was into martial arts, and they knew most of the same people.
He'd been there on the periphery of Duo's life all along but Duo hadn't been ready to notice.
It might be fun to spend more time with him.
'Sure, why not? We could ask Quat and Trowa to come along; I guess we'll all need to get to know each other and maybe…'
'Duo Maxwell.' Heero was looking at him severely, all blue, blue eyes, and cheekbones you could grate breadcrumbs on, and snowflakes tangled in his messy hair. 'I'm not entirely sure if you're being deliberately oblivious because you're not interested and you're trying to let me down gently, or if you're actually just oblivious and I'm going to have to try harder.'
Duo breathed in, exhaled, watched his breath curl off into the cold. 'I'm not…uninterested, actually. And not that oblivious either.'
'That's a relief,' Heero observed. 'I was starting to get worried. You're not still tempted to run off on me, are you?'
'Uh, not so much any more.'
Not tempted at all, really. His feet had gone way beyond numb, and he could imagine little evil icicles forming on his braid, and none of it really mattered because he had Heero's chilled fingers cupping his face, and Heero's breath on his skin, and those blue eyes lasering into him.
He'd been all wrong about Heero, and it was on the tip of his tongue to blurt out something totally pathetic and shameful along the lines of I thought you didn't like me because Heero obviously did and somewhere along the way they'd just got their wires crossed.
'I know you're not into kissing any random weirdoes and for the record, I should probably state that I don't give my coat to just anyone.'
'Lucky for me, huh?' He wasn't sure exactly when he'd started smiling, but he could feel it blossoming across his face. No, this wasn't just going to be a random hook-up.
'I hope so, yes.'
'I'm cold, Heero.'
'I'd better try to warm you up then.'
They were standing close enough that Duo just had to cant his head, very slightly, and Heero had to press forward a little. A long time since he'd kissed someone properly; someone who mattered.
The first touch of Heero's mouth on his was a light pressure, his lips dry and cold against Duo's – like kissing a playful snowman - and then drifting across his cheek to suck one earlobe into his mouth and then nip it before tilting Duo's head this way and that, kissing his way back to find Duo's mouth and then kissing him properly, not so cold any more.
Oh, God, not cold at all. He wanted to kiss Heero every way imaginable; hot and filthy; and then slow and languid, and then bite at his bottom lip and chase Heero's tongue and then slide one hand under the hem of Heero's sweater and find bare skin and run the fingers of his other hand through all that messy, snowflake-spangled hair, and Heero, gloriously, seemed to want to do all those things too.
No mistletoe, and that was just fine, because this – whatever it was going to be – this thing between them certainly wasn't dependent on a few parasitic leaves, and it damn well wasn't going to stay under the mistletoe.