At last... some 1+2 action. Well, sorta.
by: Caroline

Shall We Dance
V : Rumba

Milliardo sighed as he watched the kaleidoscope of people dance past him. His feet hurt from following Heero, and the music from the band was making his head ache. And above all he was bitterly disappointed. He'd followed Heero from his office last Wednesday expecting him to go to the apartment of his lover, only to find that while Heero had been sneaking around behind Relena's back, it hadn't been with another woman. The damn fool had been taking dance lessons. It was enough to make Milliardo sick. He'd been so hopeful...

Milliardo still didn't buy the idea that Heero wanted to learn to dance. There had to be an ulterior motive, and he was determined to find out what. But since he knew nothing of dancing, he'd called on the one person he thought could help, the one person he knew who knew anything about dancing... the one person who was currently working on getting drunk.

"Uncle Howard, don't you think you've had enough?" he asked the older man standing next to him.

"I paid the cover charge. I'm entitled to a drink or two," the brightly dressed man replied.

"But not twelve," the tall man muttered as he tired to keep his eyes on Heero.

"I'm not getting any younger, Zechs m'boy," Howard explained, using Milliardo's childhood nickname. "And neither is the night. I'm itching to give the old dancing shoes a whirl. See you in a few minutes!"

"Uncle!" But it was too late. The old man had scuttled away and was currently trying to convince a woman young enough to be his granddaughter to dance with him. Milliardo sighed, wondering if bringing his uncle with him had been such a good idea after all.

He stuck to the shadows and watched as Heero danced with an older woman he recognized as being one of the teachers at the dance school. He'd thought at first perhaps she was the reason Heero had started dancing, but all his inquiries had him rethink that theory. Une Maxwell was somewhat of a recluse. She'd been widowed some years before and had apparently devoted her life to the dance school. And nothing he'd observed while watching Heero suggested he had any interest in the woman other than as a teacher.

Milliardo sighed again. He was getting nowhere. Maybe he should just tell Relena what Heero was doing and be done with it. Then he could quit following Heero and go back to his own life. Yes, that's what he'd do. He'd get a drink from the bar then call it a night. But just as he had made up his mind, a ruckus at the bar caught his attention. A ruckus Heero seemed to be in the middle of. Milliardo smiled. Perhaps he'd been a little hasty. He'd wait and see how this turned out, then decide on a course of action.

+

"Kami-sama, what's he doing here?" Une muttered under her breath.

Heero looked at Hilde in confusion. "Who is that?"

"That worthless piece of humanity is Treize Khushrenada," Hilde explained. "Duo's ex."

Heero's eyes widened. His ex. Duo's ex. Duo and that man. Duo liked men. Heero's mind reeled.

"I thought Duo told him to take a long walk off a short pier," Hilde said.

"He did. But he just won't give up," Une replied, sighing. "I should go over there and give that man a piece of my mind."

"Une!" a voice called out from the area of the band. A man gestured for the tall dance teacher to come over to him.

"Damn. It's my boss," Une muttered, obviously torn between seeing what he wanted and protecting Duo. The man called out to her again. Une swore under her breath. "I have to go see what he wants. Keep an eye on Duo for me?"

"Don't worry," placated Hilde. "We'll watch him."

Une nodded her thanks and hurried away. Hilde and Heero continued to watch Treize and Duo talk. Or rather, Treize talked, leaning close to Duo, while the young dancer tried his best to ignore him.

Heero could feel his anger rising as Duo kept shrinking away from the older man. When Treize ran his fingers down Duo's face, Heero almost growled.

"Ugh," Hilde muttered in disgust, "that man is slimier than a snail."

Heero was inclined to agree. Duo seemed to agree also. He jerked away from Treize and started to walk away. But the ginger-haired man grabbed Duo's wrist to prevent him from leaving. Heero saw Duo wince in pain as the grip on his arm tightened. That was enough for Heero.

"Wait here," he told Hilde and quickly began to push his way though the crowd to the bar.

"Let me go, Treize," he heard the young dancer say as he got closer.

"Not until you listen to me," the older man said as he dragged the smaller man behind him.

"Treize! No!"

"I believe the young man wants you to let go of him," Heero said as he stepped in front of them, blocking Treize's path.

"I don't think this is any of your business," the taller man sneered.

Heero glanced at Duo who seemed surprised to see him there. "It is my business if it involves him. He's my dance teacher and I have a lesson scheduled in half an hour."

"Well you'll just have to reschedule," Treize said sarcastically as he shoved past the Japanese man. Heero reached out and grabbed Treize's free arm, twisting it behind him. The action caused the taller man to gasp in pain and drop Duo's arm. The American quickly stepped away looking incredibly pale. Heero twisted Treize's arm harder and leaned up to whisper into his ear.

"I'm afraid rescheduling is impossible. I'm a very busy man and I've already paid for his time." He twisted even harder. "And if you ever touch him again, I won't stop at breaking your arm." He shoved the taller man away and took a step back.

Treize glared at the two of them, holding his arm gingerly. "Fine. Since you've obviously paid for the little slut's time..." Heero stepped forward, not liking what the taller man was insinuating, but a slender hand on his arm held him back.

"Just go away, Treize," Duo said softly.

The ginger-haired man turned his attention to Duo. "Fine. But don't come crawling back to me. We're through." And with that, Treize stalked away, pushing his way through the crowd without so much as an 'excuse me'.

Duo sighed. He leaned against the bar, trembling slightly.

"Are you alright?" Heero asked, concerned.

"I will be. That's the first time he's ever told me we're through. You may have gotten rid of him for me for good." He looked up into Heero's face and blushed slightly. "Thank you."

"Duo!" Heero turned to see Une come running up to them with Hilde in tow. "I'm so sorry! I got called away. Are you alright?"

Duo brushed aside her hands as she reached for him. "I'm fine, 'neesan. I'm just... tired. I think I want to go home."

Une looked upset. "I can't leave right now, and I don't want you walking home by yourself."

"I'll be fine," Duo protested. "You don't have to watch out for me every second."

"I know, Duo-chan," she said, biting her lip. "I just worry about you."

Duo's face softened. "I know you do. But I'll be fine."

"I can walk you home," Heero said suddenly. Duo looked at him in surprise, while Une looked relieved.

"Are you sure it wouldn't be any trouble, Heero-san?" the tall woman asked him.

"Une! I told you I'd be fine," Duo protested again.

The older woman turned to him and placed her hands on his shoulders. "Please Duo. Do this for me. Let him walk you home. I worry about you."

Duo stared up at her for a long moment before his shoulders slumped in defeat. "Fine," he relented, then turned to pay the bartender for his half-forgotten drink.

Une looked at Heero over the top of Duo's head. 'Thank you,' she mouthed before Duo turned back to them. Heero nodded to the older woman, then followed Duo to the door, grabbing his jacket from the coatroom as they passed it.

They walked down the street in silence for a couple of blocks until Heero noticed Duo shivering slightly in the cool night air. The young dancer was wearing a thin, red shirt that, while accenting the copper highlights in his air, did nothing to protect him from the chilly breeze. Without thinking twice, Heero slipped his jacket off and placed it over Duo's shoulders.

The American looked up at him as if startled anyone could be so kind before blushing and saying, "Thank you."

"You looked cold."

"Yeah, it's chilly tonight. But my place isn't too far away."

"Have you always lived around here?"

"Here? No. In Japan? Yes. My...father was sent by his company in America to oversee operations in the Japanese branch before I was born. I was born here."

"That would explain why you don't have much of an accent."

"I suppose," Duo said noncommittally as they turned a corner. He stopped in front of a two-story town house. "Well, this is it. Home sweet home." A cold blast of air rushed past them, causing them both to shiver. Duo looked at the sky which had turned darker. Heavy clouds had blotted out the light from the stars and the moon. A clap of thunder could be heard in the distance.

"Looks like it's going to storm." At that moment, several fat raindrops fell from the sky, followed by a few more until the sidewalk was quickly becoming soaked. The two young men ran for the cover of Duo's small front porch just as a torrential rainfall was released from the heavens.

"Yuy-san, why don't you come in until this slacks off a bit," Duo invited shyly.

Heero looked at the young man incredulously. Duo had just invited him into his home. He knew he shouldn't go in. He knew he wouldn't want to leave if he went in. He was married. Duo was young. It wasn't right.

"All right," he heard himself say.

Duo turned from him and quickly unlocked the door. He and Heero moved inside, Duo carefully hanging Heero's jacket from a peg next to the door. Both young men took their shoes off, and Duo motioned for Heero to have a seat in the living room.

"Would you like something to drink?" the young dancer offered.

"No, I'm fine."

"Are you sure? A glass of brandy might warm you up."

He had a point. "Yes, thank you."

Duo nodded and disappeared into the kitchen. Heero took a moment to look around the sparsely decorated living room. Duo apparently liked open spaces. There was only one small sofa, a desk, and two end tables in the moderately sized living room. But what drew Heero's attention was not the lack of furniture, but rather the pictures on the walls. Dozens of framed photographs lined the four walls. Heero took a moment to study them.

There were photographs of Duo when he was young, surrounded by two adults who bore a family resemblance. Heero surmised they must be his parents. There were photographs of him and a boy about fifteen years his senior. He too had violet eyes. Must be an older brother, Heero thought.

On the opposite wall were wedding photographs - the brother and his bride. A proud-looking ten-year old Duo stood next to his brother beaming at the camera. Heero looked closer. The bride was Une. That explains that relationship, he thought as he moved on.

The next wall contained photographs of an older Duo at various dance competitions. Heero noticed that the more recent pictures did not have the parents or older brother in them. Heero frowned.

A flash of ginger caught his eye. Heero scowled as he saw a photograph of Duo at about age sixteen or seventeen holding a bunch of roses with a medal around his neck. Standing beside him with one arm draped around the young man's shoulders was the creep from the dance hall. Treize Khushrenada.

"That was taken after I moved up to level five in JADA when I was sixteen," Duo remarked as he came back into the room with two glasses and a bottle of brandy. He motioned for Heero to join him on the sofa.

"Who is he?" Heero asked, morbidly curious.

Duo hesitated before answering. "My former teacher."

Heero knew that wasn't the whole story but decided not to press the issue as Duo seemed reluctant to talk about it. Instead, he decided to turn the conversation. "So... Une is your sister-in-law?"

"Yes. She was married to my brother, Solo. They were fifteen when I was born. She's known me since I was a baby."

"Was married?" Heero had a sinking feeling he knew where this story was going.

Duo took a long drink from his glass before answering. "Solo and Une were married ten years ago. He and my parents died eight years ago. I was twelve. Une's taken care of me ever since."

"Aa. I'm sorry."

"Don't be. It's been almost eight years. The ache is still there but the pain has dulled."

"I know how you feel. My parents died a couple of years ago." He took the glass Duo offered him, taking a long drink. He hadn't realized how cold he had been. The brandy felt warm going down. Duo raised his glass. "Here's to the orphans of the world."

They drank in silence for the next few minutes before Heero decided to try for conversation that was a little less depressing.

"What's JADA?"

Duo looked confused for a moment before Heero nodded toward the picture he had been looking at earlier. "You said that was before you moved up a level in JADA."

"Ah. JADA is the Japanese Amateur Dance Association. You work your way through JADA by competing in various regional and national competitions. If you're good enough, you go on to international competitions like Blackpool."

"Blackpool?"

Duo smirked. "You really are a newcomer to the world of dance aren't you? Blackpool is a small seaside resort town in England. Normally it's very quiet. But that completely changes for the championship week. I first went to Blackpool when I was five. Une was a professional dancer and was had made it to the semi-finals. The central ballroom was so big and splendid. I joined all those strangers, imitating their steps. I'll never forget the finals at the Winter Garden. Une and her partner hadn't made it, but we all went to watch. There was one young couple I'll never forget. They had the most enchanting quick step routine. But just at the end they collided with another couple. He fell heavily and ended up in the hospital. But my brother and Une were tremendously impressed with him. I asked why and Solo explained that to the end, he tried to protect his partner. He fell so she landed safely on top of him. Since that first day in Blackpool, dance has become my entire world."

"I admire your dedication," Heero said. "And I've seen you dance. Did you ever make it to Blackpool?"

The young dancer's face darkened. "Yes, but I'd rather not talk about it if you don't mind."

"Gomen nasai," Heero apologized. "I didn't mean to upset you."

Duo smiled at him. "I know you didn't. Would you like another glass of brandy?"

"Iie." He looked out the window. "The rain seems to have slacked off a bit too. I should be going."

Duo saw him to the door and handed him his jacket. "Yuy-san..."

"Please, call me Heero," the Japanese man interrupted.

Duo blushed prettily. "Heero. I just wanted to thank you for what you did tonight. I'm sorry I was so rude to you before."

"Don't worry about it. I can certainly understand why you said those things. Are you sure you'll be all right here alone?"

"Yes. Treize knows better than to harass me here and Une will be home in a couple of hours."

"Aa. Well, I suppose I shall see you Wednesday," Heero said, suddenly feeling awkward.

"Yes." Duo hesitated like he wanted to say something further. Instead, as Heero stepped toward the door, he stood up on his toes and kissed the older man's cheek. "Thank you," he said, then closed the door on the startled Japanese man.

Heero stood there for a moment, stunned. He reached up with one hand to touch the spot where Duo had kissed him. He wasn't sure what had possessed the American to do so, but he wasn't going to question it. Slowly, he smiled. Duo had given him a precious gift. The world was becoming beautiful for him once again. And all because of a young dancer and the dances he loved so much.

Heero felt like dancing all the way to the train platform.

[part iv] [part vi] [back to Caroline's fic]