by Bronze Tigress

...And Tie-Dyed Tank Tops

Wufei checked the clock. Another twenty minutes until the pool party was due to start. If he went now, he could, probably, get in a little bit of undisturbed reading and thinking time before the others arrived. With the temperature out there, most of them probably wouldn't be venturing out too early.

With a sigh, Wufei looked down at himself. That was the last -and he did mean the very last - time he trusted Quatre with his laundry. Somehow the boy had gotten his white shorts in with the red clothes, and his navy tank in with something that required either extremely hot water, or a small amount of bleach, and had tied it in knots before dropping it into the washer. The resulting pale pink shade on the shorts reminded him of something Meilan would have sneered at, and the tie-dyed effect on the shirt was, well, something worthy of Howard. No offense to the man's engineering skills intended, but his dress sense definitely left something to be desired. The word "taste" came to mind...

Well, there was no help for it. Nothing else in his wardrobe was going to be cool enough to wear outside, and once the party began he could lose the shorts, anyway. And the tank, for that matter. Thanks be, the swimsuit hadn't gotten caught up in Quatre's colourful little experiments. He'd just have to see about finding a laundry partner or something. Duo would be ideal - they wore the same colours for the most part, after all, if not in the same proportions - but that was another item on the list of things he wasn't quite sure how to approach the other young man about.

Wufei chose a chair where he'd be able to see all the activity in the water, yet far enough back to limit the chances of getting his book wetted, sat down, and opened the volume at random. The poem revealed was one that had often drawn his attention, and after reading it through again, he dropped the book into his lap, leaned his head back against the chair, and idly began translating the passage. Perhaps, somewhere in the sentiments of the poem, he would find the proper words to use when he finally got up the nerve to approach the apparently oblivious object of his affections.

He had just reached a particularly erotic line when, from behind him, Duo's rather exasperated voice cried, "Damn it, Fei, quit tickling me and grope me like you mean it, koi!"

Wufei's heart nearly stopped, and several sections of his brain froze as well. Unfortunately, autonomic reactions being what they are, his mouth didn't, and before he could stop himself, he'd let out a startled yelp and jerked upright in the lounge chair. Then, realizing he'd already announced his presence, he leaned around the side of the chair to see what was going on. It seemed a most unlikely thing that Duo knew he was there, unless he was calling someone else "Fei" - and "koi", his hopes reminded him. "Maxwell? What the hell are you talking about?"

Well, it appeared that Duo hadn't been talking to anyone else, if the way he froze and his expression drifted towards shock and surprise when Wufei had revealed himself were any indication. //Was he serious? That's one hell of an invitation if he was...//

And then Duo was slipping on his devil-may-care mask and walking towards him with that easy loose stride and both hands raised in a placating gesture, and oh, Ancestors, where did he get those shorts from? Wufei was hard-pressed not to drool at the vision before him, and slipped on his own stern, cold mask in a desperate effort to reign in his hormones. Duo's voice was just as easy as his stride, as he began a rambling apology. "Oi, sorry, Wufei. I thought it must be you; didn't figure anyone else could sneak up on me that way, and when there was nobody there I figured you were playing a joke, and, well, I... Sorry..."

//He looks almost... frightened to have been caught? How is it possible that... no, I really haven't given him any indications that I might be interested in him, because I was afraid he'd reject me. Then again, this is the first indication he's really given me, either... Wait, what was that he said...//

"Did you say someone was tickling you, Maxwell?" //I wonder why? And if he wanted it to be me...// Wufei carefully pulled the bookmark from the front of the book, slipped it between the open pages, closed the book, and put it safely on the ground beneath the lounge chair, all without moving his eyes from Duo's face. Duo's expression was, what? Nervous, almost haunted at the edges. //Is he afraid he would be rejected?// Wufei's hopes rose.

"Ah, yeah..." Wufei had to give Duo cedit for standing his ground in the face of that fear.

"And you thought it was me?" //Best to check, before I do something stupid myself... How do you ask someone if he meant to call you sweetheart?//

"Well, I figured it probably was, 'cause I couldn't hear anything, and I didn't figure Trowa for the type to play a joke like that..."

//He did! Oh, thank you, Ancestors!// He shifted his weight, but not his gaze, preparatory to getting out of the lounge. His mind raced. "So you called me a fish?" Bare feet and legs swivelled to the ground as Wufei turned and levered himself gracefully out of the lounge chair.

"Ah, um, well... It was, um..." Duo's stammering and slightly embarrassed expression were all the confirmation Wufei needed. //Not the fish, then.// The conclusion, that Duo had meant the term as an endearment, was most gratifying. Still, there was the matter of finding out why he had made that startling request in the first place...

"I'm not certain whether I should be pleased at how quickly you thought of me, flattered by your estimation of my skills, or insulted that you would mistake someone else's touch for mine." Wufei straightened his shorts and began to walk, slowly, towards Duo. //And I intend to make very sure you know how it feels when I touch you... whoa, down boy...//

"Ah, well... Um, look, Wufei, I said I was sorry; I really didn't mean to offend you or anything like that..."

Duo's eyes tracked his approach, although Wufei could see the various minute shiftings that belied his readiness to bolt. //Hmm... Can't have that; he's too quick for me when he runs, and I don't want to let this chance pass by...// Wufei turned his hands palm up and lifted them - a movement of offering, or pleading. He wasn't sure which, only that he didn't want Duo to leave before they could finish this conversation.

"Um... what're you doing..?" Duo glanced quickly to one side, then the other, and then, abruptly, emitted a startled yelp, jumped, and spun about.

*Whack*. Duo's braid was in Wufei's raised fist, neatly caught before it could strike him, or Wufei could consciously register either its flight or his own reaction. //Now, why did he do that? There isn't anyone else out here, unless...// "Again, Maxwell?"

"Huh?" Duo's question sounded a little confused, and he was breathing a little too hard for it to be just a reaction to the surprise.

"Whatever it was, since it was very obviously not me - it tickled you again?"

Duo turned back around, and Wufei extended the hand in which he had caught the flying end of the long chestnut braid. Duo's hand shook just the slightest bit as he took back the end of his hair and tossed it back over his shoulder. "Ah, yeah... But..."

"Where?" //Because now I am curious, too...//

"What?" Duo's voice was more than a little bit flustered.

"And I am the one who has been sitting in the sun?" Wufei asked, amused. "Where is this tickle?"

"Oh! Oh, sorry, Wufei. Ah... Um," Duo nearly blushed. "Across the back of my leg, up at the top..."

Wufei nodded. //No wonder he was complaining about wanting to be, what was it? Groped properly, yes. That would be annoying...//He raised one hand, making a twirling motion. "Turn around."

This time, Duo just looked uncomprehendingly at Wufei. //What does he think I'll do?//

"Turn around, Maxwell, and let me see." Wufei's gaze swept down to the shorts, trying to identify them and then abruptly realizing that they had only recently been much longer. He raised his eyes again, this time taking in the lavender shading on Duo's shirt that indicated he had also evidently fallen foul of Quatre's laundering skills, before he continued, "Perhaps your... new shorts have a thread loose in the hem." //And for the Ancestors' sake, do it quickly; I don't know how much longer I can keep up this cool facade...//

"Oh. Oh, kay then..."

Somewhat hesitantly, Duo turned his back on the other young man, and Wufei sank to one knee behind him, purportedly to study the hem of his shorts. And he was looking at the shorts, too. The fact that he was mostly admiring the way they clung snugly in all the right places didn't prevent him from examining the smoothly ripped edges and the way the very end of the chestnut-coloured braid hung below them, even though Duo was twisting his head around. //Curious, Duo?//

Something by the doorway caught Duo's attention, and he turned his head to look, causing his braid to brush against his leg, //that must be...// and almost immediately, Duo yelped and jumped again. Without conscious volition, Wufei caught the floundering figure by the waist to keep him from falling into his own lap. //Whoa there, pretty; don't need you falling on me.// "Ah, hah," Wufei noted. //Shit, say something, confirm your theory...// "Once again?"

"Yeah..." Duo had frozen in place again at the touch of hands on his sides, and Wufei, stung, dropped them again.

//Still, maybe... Maybe I just need to let him know I'm interested too? And when am I going to get a better opportunity to do this...?// "Right about here?" Wufei asked, lifting hesitant fingers to the back of Duo's thigh, tracing a line just below the edge of the shorts where the end of the braid had brushed against the //soft, warm, smooth// bare skin.

Duo merely nodded this time, swallowing hard, but otherwise not moving a muscle.

"Ah..." //You'll never get a better chance than this - and he's not running yet.// Wufei stood, then. As he did, however, his hand stroked back along the path it had just taken, a small corner of his mind whimpering with the effort it took not to do more. //Ah, hells, he did ask...// Gently, he slid the hand upwards until it cupped Duo's butt, and squeezed. It took an effort to keep his voice nearly casual as he told the other man, "Just so that in the future there is no mistake? That was me - and I meant it." Releasing Duo, he grabbed for the end of the braid before asking, "But the tickle?"

"Yeah?" The tiniest shiver ran through Duo's voice, mirroring the one that had traced through his body a moment ago.

"Meet your assailant, Maxwell," Wufei said, plastering a small smirk onto his face, and presenting Duo once again with the end of his braid. He brushed the feathery end of it against the tip of Duo's nose playfully.

"Um..."

"Congratulations, Maxwell. Your hair is now officially longer than your clothes." //Which reminds me - and maybe I can ask him, now..// "Speaking of which - next time you are planning to do laundry? Call me. The purple is lovely on you, but I am not quite so fond of the pink on myself, and between us we probably have a full load of whites." And with that, Wufei turned to walk back to his lounge chair. //And please don't let me have screwed this up...//

On reaching his seat, Wufei bent to pick up his book from the ground underneath it. He knew he was lingering just the slightest bit longer than necessary about it, but that should be the right move. //I hope.// Book in hand again, he sat down, swiveled his legs up, and arranged himself in the lounge so that his raised knees and the book resting on them concealed his stirring interest.

Several blank moments later, Duo began moving again. Footsteps padded over the concrete, and then there was a scraping and shoving and a small grunt of effort. Then Duo came into view, carrying another lounge chair which he put down parallel to and perhaps a foot away from Wufei's. //Well, well... This could be interesting. Now what, Duo?//

Duo came up between the two seats, and bent down to ask, quietly and, for him, quite politely, "Mind if I sit here?"

"Hmm." //What, are you kidding me? You could park yourself in my lap right now and I'd be ecstatic. Although, given that the others will be coming soon, perhaps you had better stay over there...//Wufei lifted his book a little, just covering the smile on his face as Duo leaned in, hand outstretched in a very American gesture of greeting.

"I don't believe we've been properly introduced. My name's Duo Maxwell, but, please - call me Duo." //And a very Chinese way of expressing his interest. Well, well... He has been paying attention...//

Tentatively, Wufei caught the hand in his own, letting his thumb travel over the back lightly before gripping firmly and then releasing it. //Might as well make things perfectly clear, now.//"Chang Wufei - and I thought 'koi' sounded good as a nickname."

Wufei watched as Duo settled back, smiling, into his chair to wait for the others to arrive. Under cover of the book, however, he smiled brightly as well. Duo was sitting as if he had something to hide, too.

fini, owari, end.

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