Shall We Dance
XI : Foxtrot (cont)

+

Several weeks later...


A loud knocking broke Heero out of his half-asleep, half-awake daze. He glanced at the clock to see that it was a quarter past eight in the evening. His small apartment was mostly dark, lit only by the flickering light of the television set. Shadows danced around the sparsely furnished room.

Truthfully, Heero preferred this small, bare apartment to the lavish, museum-esque house Relena had kept. He had simplistic tastes and didn't need a lot of things. Yes, this apartment suited him a lot better than Relena's house ever had.

The knocking at the door grew more persistent. "Heero? Are you home?" Milliardo's voice came from the other side of the door. Heero quickly stood and let his brother... no, former brother-in-law in.

"Are you alright, Heero?" the blonde man asked as he stepped inside. "I must have been knocking for a full minute."

"Gomen. I was half asleep. Long day at work," Heero replied as he clicked off the television and turned on some lights. He gestured for the taller man to have a seat. "So what brings you here this time of night?"

"I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd stop in to see how you were doing, what with everything that's been happening in the past few weeks." He looked around. "Nice place."

"Thanks. It's not much, but I like it. I'm happier here."

"Happy?" Milliardo asked. "How happy are you really, Heero?"

"I'm fine. The divorce has come through. I have my own place. I'm... okay."

Milliardo looked at him. "And Duo?"

Heero looked down. "I haven't seen him since the competition. You know that."

"Yes, I do. And I still say you're making a monumental mistake by not seeing him and trying to explain things."

"I tried, Milliardo, I really did. I went to his house the day I got out of the hospital. Une wouldn't let me in. I called and left messages both at his house and the dance studio. He doesn't want to see me."

"Fight harder."

"How, dammit?" Heero cried, hitting the cushioned arm of the couch with his fist. He took a deep breath to calm himself. "It's hopeless. I've lost him."

"Heero..."

"No. Please don't push it. It's better this way. I've already caused him too much pain. I'm afraid any more contact with me would just give him more grief. And I won't do that to Duo. I just wish I could apologize... tell him how sorry I am. Tell him that I never, ever meant to hurt him." He gestured to a small, white envelope on the nearby desk. "I even wrote him a letter. Took me nearly twenty tries before I could finally put all the thoughts in my head on paper. But it's all there. Everything I felt for him, everything I did... it's all written down."

"Then why is it still sitting on your desk?"

"I told you, I won't add to the pain I've already caused. I won't mail it to him. I thought that by getting all my emotions out on paper, it would make me feel better."

"But it didn't." It was more of a statement that a question.

"To an extent, it did. I finally had everything I was feeling written in black and white in front of me. But knowing that I'd never be able to share those thoughts with Duo... it broke my heart all over again."

Milliardo looked at him thoughtfully for a long moment before speaking again. "Heero, tell me the truth. How do you really feel about Duo?"

Heero stared into space as he thought about Milliardo's question. How did he feel about the beautiful young dancer who had captured his attention? Kinship - the boy had lost his family as he had lost his own. Protectiveness - he wanted to spare Duo from the pain and suffering of the world. Friendship - during their long talks over dinners they'd discovered they had a great many things in common, a love of dancing being but one. Lust - that one was a given as he remembered their one, magical night together. But when he thought about it, he realized that his feelings for the violet-eyed American went much, much deeper than any of that. When Duo was happy, he was happy. When Duo was in pain, Heero hurt right along with him. They were kindred spirits, soul mates. The shining soul that was Duo Maxwell had taught him how to live and laugh again. And in the end, only three words were needed.

"I love him."

Milliardo nodded, apparently seeing everything Heero left unspoken in the Japanese man's eyes. "Good. That's what I wanted to know."

Heero opened his mouth to ask what he meant by that when a soft knock on his door interrupted him. He excused himself and went to answer it, wondering who it could be. He was very surprised to see Quatre standing on the other side.

"Konbanwa, Heero-kun. May I come in?"

"A... aa," Heero murmured as he stepped aside, ushering the small blonde into his apartment. It wasn't the first time Quatre had been to visit him. He, Trowa, and Wufei had all stopped by at one point or another to see how he was. Heero was grateful for their concern - and even more grateful that they had forgiven him for what he had done to Duo after he had told them the whole story. Sadly, it wasn't their forgiveness that he craved.

"What brings you here, Quatre?" Heero asked as he took the young man's coat.

"Hilde's finally forgiven you. We told her everything." Quatre smiled. "Of course that may be because she's getting fed up with having Wufei as her partner. She wants to dance with you again."

"Tell her I appreciate her sentiments but I'm through with dancing," Heero replied as he gestured for Quatre to enter the living area.

"I'm sorry to hear that, Heero-kun. You were turning out to be a fine dancer. I... oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize you had company," he said, catching sight of Milliardo sitting on the couch.

"Quatre Winner, Milliardo Peacecraft," Heero said, introducing the two men.

"Pleasure to finally meet you," Milliardo said. "I saw you at the hospital did I not?"

"I believe so, Mr... Peacecraft?" Quatre looked at Heero. "As in..."

"He is Relena's brother," Heero explained.

"Ah," Quatre said, looking slightly confused. "How did things with Relena go anyway?"

Heero picked a sheath of papers off his desk and waved them at his friend. "The divorce came through yesterday."

"That's good. I mean..." Quatre trailed off, looking embarrassedly at Milliardo.

The taller blonde laughed. "Don't worry. I'm on Heero's side. I love my little sister, but she has some severe selfishness issues to work out. Comes from being too spoiled as a child, I guess."

Quatre turned back to Heero. "So getting the papers signed wasn't a problem?"

Heero winced. Milliardo laughed. "Of course it was a problem," the taller man said. "Relena tried every trick in the book to keep Heero."

"Like what?"

"Alimony," Heero answered. "She said I couldn't afford to divorce her."

"His lawyer then said since Relena had more money than Heero, she'd have to pay him!" Milliardo exclaimed, humor gleaming in his eyes.

"Will she?" Quatre asked, grinning. Heero had told them all what Relena was really like, and they had all agreed Heero had made the right decision by seeking a divorce.

"No. Her lawyer argued that since I was the one who cheated on our marriage, I wasn't entitled to a thing." Heero shrugged. "And I'm not. I don't need or want her money."

"Relena thought she had him with that one until Heero explained he had his own money," Milliardo added.

Heero allowed himself a small smile. "She never seemed to realize that I'd had a job and that I never spent a cent on myself. I invested every yen I earned. I have myself a nice little nest egg. It's not big, but it's enough for me to live comfortably on."

"You should have seen her face when she found that out. I swear her face turned purple." Milliardo grinned. "But that wasn't the best part."

"Oh, do tell," Quatre begged.

"Milliardo..."

"Hush, Heero. Let me tell this. When Relena said she wouldn't sign the papers, Heero stood up, looked her in the eye and said, 'This divorce will happen, one way or another. Either we do this today and the details stay between us, or we do it the hard way - in front of a judge, complete with a big, splashy media parade.' And then he got real close to her and said, 'Which scandal would you prefer, Relena? A quiet divorce, or the fact that I left you for another man?' She signed the papers quickly after that."

Quatre collapsed back on the couch in a fit of giggles. "Oh I bet the look on her face was priceless! I wish I could have seen it."

Heero rolled his eyes. "If you two gossiping old hens are through discussing the details of my life..."

"Sorry, Heero-kun," Quatre said, still grinning.

Heero looked at the smaller blonde. "Why are you here again, Quatre? Surely it wasn't to tell me about Hilde."

"Er, no. I did need to talk to you about something but..." He glanced at Milliardo. "Maybe it can wait."

Milliardo stood. "No. You stay. I should be leaving now anyway."

Heero saw him to the door. "Thank you for stopping by."

"Heero, I know we're not family anymore, but don't let that make you a stranger. Come over any time," his former brother-in-law said, smiling.

"I'd like that. Thank you."

"I'll see you sometime soon."

After saying their good-byes, Heero shut the door and returned to Quatre. "So what was it you wanted to talk to me about?"

Quatre hesitated for a moment before answering. "It's Duo."

Heero immediately felt a surge of fear run through him. "What is it? Is he alright?"

"I haven't seen him. He hasn't been back to the dance school. Une-sensei has hired someone new to teach Duo's students. Big guy by the name of Rashid. Looks like he has all the grace of an elephant, but he's actually quite good." He noticed Heero's worried look. "Don't worry, Heero-kun. Duo's fine, physically at least. Hilde went to see him a couple of days ago. She said he had a rough couple of days after the competition but that he's doing better now. However..." He shifted uncomfortably on the sofa.

"What is it?" When Quatre didn't answer him, he grew even more worried. "Quatre, please tell me."

"He's leaving the country, Heero. He's moving to England."

Heero felt like someone had punched him in the stomach. Duo... gone? He had consoled himself that even though he and Duo weren't together anymore, he could catch glimpses of his love in the dance studio window. But now he wouldn't even be able to console himself with the fact that Duo lived only a few blocks away. Duo was leaving the country. Heero suddenly felt very ill.

"Why?" he rasped, his mouth dry.

"I don't know. Hilde didn't elaborate. But Heero... you should go see him. It may be your only chance."

Heero didn't say anything. Quatre was right. Duo was leaving. He had to try to see him before that happened. He didn't know what he would say, but he couldn't let Duo leave without seeing him one last time.

"Heero?"

He looked back to Quatre. "I'm sorry. You're right. I need to see him," he said softly.

Quatre nodded and stood. "I only stopped by to tell you that. I need to get going."

Heero stood as well and walked him to the door. "Thank you for coming here to tell me that, Quatre."

"I thought you should know. And Heero... I hope you don't stop dancing. You were really good, and I know you were enjoying it. Come by the studio some time?"

"I'll think about it. Thank you again for coming."

Quatre smiled. "Don't let him slip away," he added as he stepped through the door to leave. Heero closed the door silently behind the little blonde. He felt numb. He thought he had resigned himself to never seeing Duo again. But Quatre's announcement hit him like a ton of bricks. He really wouldn't see Duo again if he left the country. He didn't know how he could handle that. All he knew was that he had to see the young dancer before he left. He wouldn't be able to live with himself if he didn't.

As he stared off into space, his eyes gradually shifted to his desk. With a start, he realized that the letter he had written to Duo was gone.

+

"Duo-chan?"

The braided dancer looked up from where he was wrapping several framed photographs carefully in tissue paper to see his sister-in-law standing in the doorway of their living room.

"Hai, 'neesan?"

"I thought you might like to take this one with you as well," she said, handing him another frame. Duo looked down at the photo and grinned. A mud-splattered ten-year-old version of himself and an equally muddy Solo looked up at him. "I remember when this was taken. Mother was livid."

"She just couldn't believe how much mud you two managed to get all over yourselves. And she couldn't believe that her twenty-five year old son would get in a mud fight with his ten-year-old brother."

"Hey. He started it!" Duo exclaimed cheekily as he wrapped the frame in tissue paper. He looked up as he felt Une staring at him.

"I'm going to miss you, Duo-chan," she said, tears misting in her eyes.

Duo moved to embrace the tall woman. "I'll miss you, too, 'neesan." He wiped an errant tear from his own face. "You could come with me, you know."

Une laughed and shook her head. "No. I have my school. It's something I've always wanted. My life is here."

Duo nodded. "I know. It'll still be hard, being away from you. You're the only family I have."

"You just better come back on holidays and vacations," she threatened lightly.

"I will, I will! I know you'll hunt me down and drag me back otherwise. And what would that do to my reputation?" Duo joked as he stood.

Une laughed again. "You hungry? I thought I'd make us some lunch."

"That sounds great."

As Une moved toward the kitchen, Duo heard the sound of the mail being slid through the tiny slot on their door. "Mail's here!" he called out as he moved to the door.

"Will you get it?" Une called out from the kitchen.

"Hai!"

He picked up the envelopes off the floor and began sorting them into piles... bills, junk mail, personal. He frowned as he saw one with his name written neatly on it. Tearing it open, his heart leapt into his throat as he saw who it was from. He walked into the living room, sat down on the small sofa, and began to read.

Duo,

I've tried to write this letter many times, trying to find the right words. And even though you will probably never read this, I realized that no words could express how terrible I feel for what I've done to you. Please understand that I never meant to hurt you. I'd sooner cut out my own heart that to cause you any pain.

These past few months have been nothing short of magical. I hadn't been aware of how truly unhappy I was with my life until I walked through the doors of your dance school... until I met you. And suddenly, I was having fun again! I could actually feel myself getting excited with each new dance I learned. For the first time in a long while, I actually had something to look forward to. And I had you to thank for it.

What started me dancing was you gazing out of the window. You can see those windows from the trains. Every day on the train home I looked for you. I felt relieved if I saw you or disappointed if you weren't there. Your melancholy look and sad smiles, they totally charmed me.

I married Relena for all the wrong reasons. I never loved her - for me it was a marriage of convenience. It was for love of my parents that I did it. After they died, it felt like part of me had died with them. I suppose I should have gotten out of the marriage then, but without my family, I felt like I had nothing left to live or fight for. So I stayed. Even though we were legally married, Relena and I hadn't lived together as husband and wife since before my parents died. I felt trapped, but I was so numb from my parents' deaths that I didn't care.

Then you appeared. I don't know what happened, but seeing you in that window touched me in a way I hadn't been touched in a long time. Looking up and seeing you there made me want just one time to dance with you.

My divorce from Relena will be finalized in a few days. Please don't blame yourself for this. It was a long time coming. You were merely the catalyst. Without you, I might not have had the courage to do it. And for that, I thank you.

Thank you for allowing me the honor of dancing with you. I just wish I had found the courage to tell you about my marriage. I tried to, many times. But each time I would look into your beautiful violet eyes and I was lost. I couldn't add to your pain. But I ended up doing that anyway. Please believe me that I would give anything to take that back.

I have no right to ask for forgiveness. I can only hope you will be able to move past this and not let it affect your life. You have changed my life for the better and I will never forget you for that.

I could no sooner forget you than I could forget my parents. There was one last thing you taught me. You taught me that I hadn't lost my ability to love. I think I fell in love with you from the first moment I saw you standing in the window. I love you more than anything, Duo. I only wish I could tell you this in person.

Be happy, Duo. Wherever you are, wherever you may go...

I love you.

Heero

Tears were streaming down Duo's face as he finished the letter. In the background he could hear the doorbell ringing, but made no move to answer it. His world was spinning. His mind was a maelstrom of thoughts and emotions. He didn't know what to do or what to think about Heero's letter.

"Duo-chan?"

Duo looked up as Une entered the living room, followed by two people, one of which he knew.

"Miss Noin?"

"Hello, Duo," the short-haired woman answered as she stepped into the room. "This is my friend, Milliardo Peacecraft. He wanted to talk to you."

A tall man with long blonde hair stepped in behind her. He looked at the letter in Duo's hand and smirked knowingly. He extended his hand for Duo to shake. Duo took it, looking at the man questioningly. "Do I know you?"

"No, but I know you." He sat down next to the distraught young man as the two women quietly left the room.

"I don't understand," Duo said.

"I have a story to tell you, Duo," the man said, leaning forward. "It's the story of a man trapped in a loveless marriage who learned to love again. I need you to listen to this story, and I need you tell me how it ends."

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