Wow, I can't believe this is over... and while this isn't *exactly* how the movie ended, it was still a wonderful movie, and if you ever get a chance to see it, you should. ^_^
by: Caroline

Shall We Dance
XII : Endless Waltz

Heero glanced at his watch and tapped his foot impatiently. He sipped on his iced water and pretended to study the menu for the third time. Reaching the end and not finding anything he felt like eating, he put the menu down and glanced around the outdoor cafÈ once more.

'Where is he? Dammit Milliardo,' he thought as he scanned the busy afternoon crowd for the tall blonde man.

Heero had been surprised when Milliardo had called him the night before and asked to meet him for lunch. He hadn't wanted to - he wanted to try and see Duo today. But Milliardo had been insistent, though he hadn't said why.

Heero sighed and picked up the menu again. 'If he's not here in the next ten minutes...'

"Hello, Hee-chan."

Heero's eyes widened in shock as his head flew up. Standing on the other side of the table, smiling sadly, was Duo.

Heero stood so quickly that he cracked his knee on the underside of the table. "Itai!"

"Oh God. Heero, are you okay?" Duo asked worriedly as he rounded the table and grabbed Heero's arm to support him.

The touch of Duo's hand on his bare arm sent a jolt through his body. He looked up into Duo's face. Both young men froze as cobalt met violet. The world seemed to shrink until it contained just the two of them. They stood unmoving, staring into one another's eyes until a loud noise from across the street broke them out of their reverie. Heero's hand crept up to cover Duo's.

"What... what are you doing here?" Heero asked, his mouth suddenly dry.

"A little birdie told me you'd be here."

"I'm glad you came," Heero replied softly. Remembering where they were, he gestured to the other seat. "Would you like to sit down?"

Duo smiled. "Thank you."

A waiter hurried over to hand Duo a menu. While the American studied the menu, Heero studied Duo over the top of his own. The gentle breeze blowing down the street rustled Duo's hair playfully. The young dancer looked paler than usual, and there were dark circles under his eyes. Heero felt a fresh wave of guilt surge through him.

The waiter returned and took their order. When he was gone, they sat together in an uncomfortable silence until Heero spoke up. "I'm glad you came. I tried to see you..."

"I know. Une told me. I didn't want to see you..." Heero looked away. "...until now."

Heero looked back up at him. "What changed your mind?"

"Your letter. And a little visit from Milliardo Peacecraft." Heero opened his mouth to speak, Duo held up his hand. "No, Heero. Let me talk. You hurt me. You hurt me in a way I didn't know I could be hurt. When I found out you were married, it felt like my heart had been ripped out. I was a mess. For two days I slept on the futon where we... where we made love. I could feel myself slipping back into the depression and despair I felt when Treize betrayed me. But it was different this time. It was worse. I had only thought I loved Treize. I did love you."

"Duo, I... I'm so sorry," Heero said helplessly.

"On the morning of the third day, after I woke up, the sun was shining so brilliantly through the window of the dance room. I looked around and remembered our time together. I could almost see us dancing around the room like we did the night you first came over. And that's when I realized what I was doing.

"All my life I only wanted someone to protect me, the way that dancer had protected his partner at Blackpool. Solo was my protector when I was little. I adored him. After he died, I thought I found one in Treize, but I was young and naÔve. I realize that now. But it still hurt. After Treize, I didn't want to let myself get hurt again, so I closed myself off. I went to work for Une, teaching in her school. I was so afraid to love that I even lost my love of dancing. I still danced, but only because it was all I knew. I had forgotten the thrill and absolute joy of dance. Then you came to the school.

"I was leery of you at first. So many others have signed up for lessons just to get close to me. I ignored it, even put up with some of the worst of it. I thought you were just another one of them. But... something was different with you. I was so rude to you, but you stuck with dancing anyway. And then you began to enjoy it, really enjoy it. I could see it in your eyes. And it touched something within me. It felt like the block of ice around my heart began to thaw as I watched you dance.

"I don't know when it was that I began to fall in love with you. I was afraid, but I couldn't help myself. I knew I loved you when you agreed to be Hilde's partner for the competition. But I didn't realize just how much I loved you until the day of the competition. When you fell, I saw you twist your body to protect Hilde. You didn't have to do that. And when you hit your head... you were so still. I thought... I thought I'd lost you too. And in that moment, I knew I had lost my heart completely.

"I realized this all on that third morning. I recognized your strength. And even though you had hurt me terribly, I wanted some of that strength for my own. All my life I had depended on other people for strength. It was time I started relying on myself... time to start protecting myself. You helped me see that I could do it. As soon as I realized that, I found the strength to get up off that futon and start reevaluating my life. So I did. My only regret was you."

"Oh God, Duo," Heero began, finally finding his voice. "I'm so, so sorry. You don't know how I wish I had told you about Relena. I was too afraid to do so. I tried to many times but..."

"I know that now," Duo interrupted, smiling at him sadly. "Looking back, I could tell there were times you wanted to tell me something but couldn't. And I was so afraid you were about to reject me that I didn't really want to hear what you wanted to tell me anyway."

He broke off as the waiter returned with their food. Both had ordered small salads. Duo picked up a carrot and nibbled on it for a moment before continuing. "After I read your letter, and after Milliardo came to see me, I realized that, in your own way, by not telling me the truth, you were protecting me. I understand why you married her. I understand why you didn't leave her. And now I understand why you didn't tell me."

Heero felt his heart beat a little faster. "Duo, what are you trying to say?"

Duo looked into his eyes. "I forgive you, Heero. I know you didn't mean to hurt me."

"Do... do you really mean that, Duo?" Heero asked hopefully.

The braided dancer reached his hand across the table. Heero clasped it, looking deep into the American's eyes. "Yes," Duo answered smiling brightly. "I meant every word."

Heero brought his love's hand up to place a tender kiss on Duo's palm. He felt like a terrible weight had been lifted from his shoulders. "You don't know how relieved I am to hear you say that, koi. I thought I had lost you forever."

Duo shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Heero, there's something I have to tell you."

"What is it?"

"I... I'm leaving Japan. I'm moving to England."

Heero looked startled. "But I thought you had forgiven me."

"I have. And as much as it pains me to leave Japan... and you... it's something I have to do."

"I don't understand."

"Heero, in your letter, remember how you said I taught you to love again?" Heero nodded. "Well, you taught me to love again too. And not just people. You taught me to love dancing. I thought I had forgotten how. During the months we practiced for the competition, something began to change within me. You taught me to look beyond the steps. You showed me the splendor of dance, of how wonderful it can be when you truly enjoy it. So I've decided to start again from the beginning. I've found a new partner. I'm going to try again."

"A new partner?"

"When I had made my decision, Une and I placed a few calls. I'd need a new partner if I was going to start dancing professionally again. Much to my amazement, I found one quickly. Her name is Sylvia Noventa. She's one of England's top dancers. She remembered me from my amateur days and was looking for a new partner as well. So I took her up on her offer to move to London and become her partner. I'm really looking forward to it. Dancing is my life. I had lost sight of my dream after Treize. But then you came and I found it once more. I have to do this. I want to do this."

Heero could see the conviction in Duo's eyes. And while he was elated that the American was following his dream, his heart was breaking at the thought of losing him again. But he couldn't stand in his way. To do so would be inexcusable. He'd already caused Duo so much pain. He couldn't cause him any more. Much as he hated it, he had to let his beautiful Duo go. Forcing himself to smile he said, "Then I wish you the very best of luck, koi. I hope you find your dream."

Duo looked at him sadly. "I'll always love you, Heero. I wish you could go with me, but your life is here." He smiled, and Heero could see tears forming in his eyes. "I'll miss you, Hee-chan."

Heero swallowed hard. "I'll miss you, too, koi. More than you'll know."

Duo stood up, placing his napkin on the table, and leaving his salad mostly untouched. "I need to go. I'm leaving in three days. There's still a few last minute things I need to take care of."

'Three days? Oh God...' Heero thought as he, too, stood up.

"There's a party tomorrow night at eight o'clock at the dance hall where Une works," Duo added, taking Heero's hand once more. "It's kind of a going away party. I would... I would really like it if you could come."

Heero looked away. Go to a party where he had to say good-bye to Duo? He didn't know if he could. "I'll... I'll think about it."

Duo smiled sadly, nodding as if he understood. He stepped forward, leaned up, and pressed his lips against Heero's. The Japanese man leaned into the kiss, wrapping his arms around the young dancer and pulling him close. He dug one hand into the loose hair at the base of Duo's neck, holding on as if he couldn't let go. He swept his tongue into Duo's mouth. He wanted to memorize this, memorize the taste of the boy he loved so much. He never wanted to let him go. And yet, he had to.

He broke off, trailing fingers down Duo's heart-shaped face. Duo looked up at him and smiled, one silver tear falling from his violet eyes. "Good-bye, Heero," he whispered as he turned and walked away.

Heero could feel his own eyes burning with unshed tears as he watched his love walk away. He wanted to run after him, beg him not to go. But he couldn't. All he could do was sit down and mourn for what he'd lost.

+

[cont]