by Bronze Tigress

Short Shorts

It was the peak of the summer, and man was it hot out. The guys were all back from their latest mission to save the world, and a few of the girls were planning to pop in later as well, and they were all planning to meet by the pool, have a barbecue on the patio, all the "usual" sorts of summer things according to Quatre - and no-one really wanted to argue with him, not having much of a basis on which to do so.

Duo, not having that many clothes besides his standard blacks and a lone pair of rather ancient, worn, and very faded once-black jeans - oh, and a couple of undershirts that were grey until that incident with the washer and the red shirts, since which time they had been a pale lavender shade, and after which no-one would allow Quatre near the laundry room - had improvised. The jeans, already ripped to a fare-thee-well, had been artistically ripped right off just long enough to cover that which was necessary.

The newly-fashioned shorts and one of the lavender shirts would suffice - it truly was too hot to wear more - even if he looked rather as if he'd raided both Heero's and Quatre's closets to come up with the ensemble, Duo decided. A last quick spin in front of the mirror, and Duo was padding barefooted down the halls and out towards the pool. He hoped to secure a good spot, not too close to the water, where he could watch the proceedings without having to be too worried about being tossed in - and that meant showing up a little early.

Outside, the sunlight was bright, and it glinted in stray sparkles off the tiny ripples created by the circulation pumps - there wasn't enough breeze to move the water - and even the air hung thick with stillness.

Duo paused in the doorway for a moment, letting his eyes adjust to the brightness and taking advantage of the relative coolness of the shaded area. He scanned quickly across the entire deck, looking for the best location. Several lounge chairs had been distributed around the perimeter, one of the nearest ones turned so that the back faced the doorway. There were no signs of life yet, however, and Duo breathed a sigh of relief and turned his head again, more slowly this time. And that's when he felt it.

Duo froze.

There was no sound of movement behind him, nor even of breathing. So, who had come up behind him and, of all things, tickled the back of his thigh? Slowly and silently, he turned to scan the... completely empty hallway behind him. Granted, there was that little alcove only a few paces back. So someone wanted to play games, did he? There weren't that many people who could sneak up on him, and, well, it seemed even less like something one of them would do than it seemed unlike something the other would. Duo could play games too, then. Duo turned, as nonchalantly as possible, back towards the patio, and took a step forwards into the light, and then, once again, slowly scanned the area.

There it was again!

"Damn it, Fei, quit tickling me and grope me like you mean it, koi!"

With a startled squawk, Wufei's dark head popped into sight -around the raised back of the nearest lounge chair. "Maxwell? What the hell are you talking about?"

Whoops! So much for logic! Or perhaps Trowa had suddenly developed a sense of humour? Nobody else could have pulled it off... "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..." Duo wound slowly to a stop under Wufei's curious and rather... annoyed gaze.

"Did you say someone was tickling you, Maxwell?" Wufei carefully pulled a 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.

"Ah, yeah..."

"And you thought it was me?"

"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..."

"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..."

"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."

"Ah, well... Um, look, Wufei, I said I was sorry; I really didn't mean to offend you or anything like that... Um... what're you doing..?" Somewhat unnerved by the serious expression on the approaching Chinese man's face, Duo glanced quickly to one side, then the other, and...

"Aaah!" Duo jumped and spun like a cat on morphine, braid whipping out behind him as he turned to catch... nobody behind him.

Wufei stopped, one hand reflexively raised to catch the flying end of Duo's braid before it hit him. "Again, Maxwell?"

"Huh?"

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

Duo turned back to look at Wufei, who extended the hand with the braid to him. He took the end and tossed it back over his shoulder. "Ah, yeah... But..."

"Where?"

"What?"

"And I am the one who has been sitting in the sun?" Wufei's question sounded more than a little bit amused, and very rhetorical. "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 and then raised one hand, making a twirling motion. "Turn around."

This time, Duo just looked uncomprehendingly at Wufei.

"Turn around, Maxwell, and let me see. Perhaps your..." Wufei's gaze swept from Duo's face down towards his knees and back up again before he continued, "new shorts have a thread loose in the hem."

"Oh. Oh, kay then..." Somewhat hesitantly, Duo turned his back on the other young man, but couldn't quite keep from peering back over his shoulder. The view became one of the top of Wufei's head, as he went to one knee, peering intently at the hem of Duo's shorts. At least, Duo rather hoped it was the shorts, because the other alternative - that Wufei had taken the half-teasing appellation seriously and was checking out something other than just the shorts - wasn't really something Duo wanted to think about too hard while they were in this position. Er, check that. Not something he wanted to think about, period, while they were in this position. Relative hardness wasn't something that... Damn, too late. Pink elephants. Think about pink elephants.

A faint noise from the doorway caught Duo's attention, and he turned his head back to look for the cause. Almost immediately, he yelped and jumped again, only to be caught at the waist by two strong, tanned hands.

"Ah, hah. Once again?"

"Yeah..." Duo had frozen in place again at the touch, and the hands dropped again almost immediately once he stopped moving.

"Right about here?" Wufei's fingers on the back of Duo's thigh, tracing a line just below the edge of the shorts, were... warmer, firmer, more electric than... whatever that other thing had been.

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

"Ah..." Wufei stood, then. As he did, however, his hand stroked back along the path it had just taken, then upwards until it cupped Duo's butt, and squeezed reassuringly. "Just so that in the future there is no mistake? That was me - and I meant it. But the tickle?"

"Yeah?"

"Meet your assailant, Maxwell," Wufei said with a small smirk on his face, presenting Duo once again with the end of his braid, then brushing the end of it against the tip of his nose for emphasis.

"Um..."

"Congratulations, Maxwell. Your hair is now officially longer than your clothes. 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.

It was only when Duo's questioning gaze fell as far as Wufei's white... ah, erstwhile white shorts that he realized what the man had meant. In fact, the thought that Wufei appeared to have raided both Quatre's and Heero's closets crossed his mind, but only briefly, as he realized that he had actually seen him wearing that tank top before. It just hadn't been faded in that odd, almost tie-dyed pattern the last time he'd seen it. The shorts, though. Wufei might not have liked the colour, but it only served to make him look more golden, and Duo hadn't realized that damp silk could cling like that...

Several blank moments spent staring later, Duo once again managed to get his brain to engage in something resembling thought. He carefully tucked the end of his hair into a hip pocket where it could cause him no further troubles. Then he went to fetch the next nearest lounge chair, and with a little effort, carried it over to set beside Wufei's.

"Mind if I sit here?"

"Hmm." But there was a smile hiding behind the syllable and the open book, just the same.

"I don't believe we've been properly introduced. My name's Duo Maxwell, but, please - call me Duo."

"Chang Wufei - and I thought 'koi' sounded good as a nickname."

With a smile, Duo settled back in his seat to watch as the others began to arrive.

fini, owari, end.

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