This part is dedicated to Jade, who bribed me with one of her yummy 1x2 fics to get it done. ^_^
by: Caroline

Shall We Dance
VII : Samba

"That's it. Heero, don't let your arms go limp. Good. Now side-chassé... Hilde! Posture! And the running finish..." Heero was breathing heavily from exertion as he and Hilde glided across the floor, listening to Une's directions. He twirled Hilde around one last time before the sweeping finish. But his leg muscles gave out at the last moment, sending both him and the girl to the floor.

"Itai!" Hilde exclaimed, rubbing her bottom.

"Gomen, Hilde," Heero apologized, helping her off the floor.

"It's okay. I'm tired too. I need a drink. Would you like one?"

"Sure. Arigatou."

"Une-sensei. I'm going to run down to the corner market to get some Chinese tea. Would you like one?"

"No thank you," the tall dancer declined politely, before turning back to Heero.

Hilde grabbed her purse and was heading for the door when a dark figure lurking just outside caused her to yelp in surprise. Heero and Une turned to see Wufei open the door, glaring at Hilde.

"What are you screaming at, onna!"

"Why were you lurking outside like a criminal?" Hilde shot back.

"Une asked me to come."

"Ah Wufei. Thank you for coming down here on such short notice. I have a favor to ask of you."

The Chinese man looked at Une suspiciously. "Why do I have the feeling I'm not going to like this?"

"Wufei, I wanted to ask you if you'd consider being Hilde's partner for the rumba and paso doble portions of the competition. I mean no disrespect to you, Heero, but you're stronger on the modern dances. Wufei, you've shown an affinity to the Latin dances. I thought with two partners, we could concentrate on your strong points, rather than playing catch up with your weaker ones."

"You want me to dance with him?!" Hilde complained loudly. "I'd rather take my chances with Heero."

"Hilde," Une admonished gently, "Heero's rumba still needs a lot of work. He will get better in time, but time may be something we don't have. Please consider dancing with Wufei."

Heero watched, somewhat amused, as Hilde and Wufei stared each other down. Finally Hilde rolled her eyes and put threw her hands in the air in defeat. "Fine. Whatever. I'll dance with him."

"Excellent!" Une said, clapping her hands.

"'Neesan?" Duo asked as he came up to the group. "I'm heading home for the night, unless you need anything."

"Actually, Duo-chan, are you busy tonight?"

Duo cocked his head at his sister-in-law. "Not particularly. Why?"

"Would you mind working with Heero for a while? I want to watch these two practice their rumba."

Duo glanced at Heero, his face turning pink, before nodding his head. "All right."

Heero felt the warm fuzzies he felt whenever he was around the braided boy creep through his body. As Duo motioned him to the opposite end of the room, Heero felt his mouth go dry and his palms turn clammy. His reactions surprised him. He hadn't been this nervous the first time he'd danced with Duo... then again, last time, Duo hadn't kissed him yet either. And he knew his own presence was affecting Duo, since the young American kept blushing every time he looked at him.

"Let's work on your waltz," the violet-eyed dancer said softly as he took his position. Heero could feel himself tremble as he took Duo's hand. Duo counted under his breath to set the pace. When it was his cue, Heero stepped forward, twirling them around the dance floor. After a few moments, Duo stopped them and brought them back into their original position.

"You're still hesitating on the turns," the young dancer told him as he brought his arms up. "Let's try it again."

For the next hour he and Duo practiced the waltz. As the minutes passed, Heero became less aware of his proximity to the beautiful dancer and concentrated more on the dance. The competition was in a little over two months. He had to be ready.

The lesson was over before he realized it. Hilde and Wufei were now speaking civilized to each other, though every once in a while they would shoot nasty glances at the other. Still, it seemed to be working out. Une had high hopes for the two.

Heero bade Duo and Une good night, his eyes lingering on the boy. Wufei and Hilde waved to him as they walked down the street. They didn't need to catch the train like Heero did. He climbed wearily up the steps, pleasantly surprised to find the platform empty. He was tired from dancing, but couldn't help but practice his steps as he waited for his train. As he came out of a turn, a movement from the dance studio window caught his eye. Raising his head, he saw Duo standing at the window, watching him intently. He smiled at the boy who hesitantly smiled back before closing the window and drawing the shades. Heero felt a warm flush flow through him. His attraction for the braided dancer grew deeper every day. With a heavy heart, he boarded the train as it pulled to a stop at the station. Yes, he was attracted to the boy. But he was still married. For the first time in his life, he didn't know what to do.

+

Milliardo cursed as the phone rang, startling him from the almost trance-like state he had put himself in as he practiced his dancing. It had been three weeks since he started his lessons, and he couldn't remember ever having as much fun as he was having now. Of course, his dance teacher might have had something to do with it... but he found he was really enjoying the class. Uncle Howard was right. Dancing was fun.

And the fact that Lucrezia has agreed to join him for dinner that evening was even better.

The phone rang again. Whoever it was was persistent to say the least. Milliardo decided to answer it rather than listen to the shrill sound of the bell.

"Yes?" he said curtly into the phone.

"Milliardo. Why haven't you called?" came the annoyingly shrill voice of his sister on the other end of the line.

The platinum-haired man sighed in annoyance. "What do you want, Relena?"

"I want you to tell me what Heero is up to! He's gone even longer now and I demand to know what's going on!"

"Have you tried asking him?"

"He'd just deny it," Relena insisted. "Besides, that's why I sent you to follow him. Have you found anything out yet?"

Milliardo hesitated. He desperately wanted to bring his stuck-up sister down off her high horse. But... something was holding him back. For the first time, he could understand how Heero felt... falling in love with dancing... falling in love with the dance teacher. How could he deny his brother-in-law the same feelings he was now experiencing? As much as he wanted to see Relena suffer, he couldn't do that to Heero. Not now. Not when he understood.

"Milliardo? Are you there?"

"Relena, I... don't have anything positive yet," he lied smoothly. "I may be on to something, but it'll take a little more time. Try to be patient."

Relena sighed. "Fine. But I want to hear something soon," she said as she broke the connection.

Milliardo placed the receiver down on the base before heading out of his study to look for some headache medicine. He'd figure out what to do about his sister later. Right now he had a dull ache in his temples he had to get rid of before he met Lucrezia at the restaurant. He hoped he had plenty extra strength stuff in his medicine cabinet. He had a feeling he'd need it before this mess with Relena was over.

+

Heero entered the dance studio the next evening in almost breathless anticipation. He wondered if Duo would be working with him again. He hoped so. He felt so much better about his dancing when the American was in his arms... as if he were lighter than air as he guided across the floor.

His heart almost sank when he walked in to the studio to see only Hilde and Wufei dancing under Une's watchful eye. As soon as she saw him, however, she hurried over.

"Heero," she said, smiling, "tonight you're going to start choosing a routine for the dances you'll be performing with Hilde."

Heero looked perplexed. Choosing a routine? He had no idea how to go about doing that, and voiced his concerns to the tall dancer.

"Daijoubu, Heero. Duo-chan will be here in a moment to help you." At that moment the door swung open to admit the beautiful dancer.

"Sorry to keep you waiting," he said cheerfully as he walked over. Turning to Heero he added, "Are you ready?"

"Ready for what?"

Duo shot a look at his sister-in-law. "You didn't tell him?"

"I was about to when you came in. Heero, I want you to go with Duo to our home. We have videos of past competitions I want you to take a look at and see what you'd like to do."

"You don't mind, do you?" Duo asked shyly.

Mind? Of course Heero didn't mind. His heart hammered away in his chest as he shook his head. He was going home with Duo... alone. Suddenly, he couldn't breathe. Forcing himself to calm down, he slowly brought his body under control. Nothing was going to happen. They were only going to Duo's home to work on the dances. That was all. He could handle that.

He left the studio with the braided boy in tow. As they walked, Duo chatted aimlessly about past competitions and what moves would impress the judges. Heero said very little as he watched the boy out of the corner of his eye. He couldn't help but feel happy. The American had a light in his eyes that he hadn't seen before. Just as dancing seemed to be bringing life back into his world, training for the upcoming competition seemed to be reenergizing Duo.

The walk to Duo's house was a short one. The long-haired dancer ushered him inside, gesturing for Heero to follow him up the stairs. Heero expected to see bedrooms and maybe a sitting room on the second floor, but when he reached the top of the stairs, his eyes grew wide in amazement.

The second floor was one big open room. Not nearly as large as the dance studio, but big enough to dance in without running into the walls every few feet. Like the studio, mirrors lined the wall. Duo smiled at Heero's stunned expression and made a beeline to the entertainment center at the far end of the room.

"Solo had this room built for Une as a wedding present," the braided American said, smiling wistfully.

"It's amazing," Heero breathed in awe. The room was truly the centerpiece of the house. "Where do you sleep?" he joked, then immediately turned red as he realized what the question implied. Duo blushed as well. "The bedrooms are downstairs at the back. They're a bit small, but it's worth it to have this space up here." He threw a couple of large pillows onto the floor in front of the television. He motioned for Heero to have a seat as he popped a video into the VCR.

For the next hour, he and Duo watched tapes of past competitions, discussing various steps and turns, what to do to impress the judges... what not to do to impress the judges. Heero was amazed at how much more there was to dance competitions other than the actual dancing. He'd feel nervous if it weren't for the boy sitting beside him. With Duo supporting him, he felt like he could conquer the world.

Duo was about to put in another tape when the phone rang. Excusing himself, he hopped up and ran downstairs to answer it. Heero amused himself by skimming through the Maxwells's record collection, and by thinking of how amazing Duo had looked in some of those videos. The boy had been young when he'd started. But he had talent. Even an amateur like Heero could see that.

Again he wondered why Duo had quit dancing professionally. He figured it had something to do with why the braided dancer seemed detached from the world... why the light seemed to be missing from his eyes.

A loud voice from downstairs broke his reverie. He recognized the voice to be Duo's, and he seemed to be shouting at someone. Concerned, he raced down the stairs and into the kitchen just in time to see Duo slam the phone onto the hook. The violet-eyed youth was trembling and the haunted look was back in his eyes.

"Duo? Are you alright?"

"No. I need a drink." His voice shook with emotion as he reached for a glass on the counter, then turned to rummage around in a cabinet until he found a bottle of brandy. Pouring himself a liberal amount, he tipped the glass to his lips and downed the liquid in one shot.

"What's wrong?"

"Treize. That manipulative bastard!" Duo said angrily.

Heero felt an unfamiliar surge of jealousy and anger coupled with an overwhelming urge of protectiveness towards the braided boy at the mention of Treize's name. "What did he want?" he asked coldly.

"He wants me back. To dance under his school's name. To bring him prestige and honor," Duo spat out the words bitterly. "That man has no sense of honor! After what he did..." He trailed off to pour himself another drink.

Heero reached passed him to grab another glass. Duo poured some brandy into it and refilled his own.

"Duo, please... tell me what's wrong."

The beautiful dancer looked at him for a long moment before shrugging his shoulders in defeat. "Let's go sit down. It's kind of a long story."

[cont]