by FancyFigures
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

How the Other Half Lives + Part 5

Wufei struggled past several groups of chatting guests, clutching his collection of champagne-filled glasses. The function room was full of people from all parts of the media world, all gushing over piles of the new, glossily-printed bestseller. He passed one particularly tall pile and stared at the vivid picture of his friend on the cover. "Maxwell's Menu: from Minestrone to Mousse," he groaned to himself, shaking his head with wry amusement. He finally reached his own table with a sigh of relief, sat down, and handed the glasses around.

"Have you seen Duo yet?" asked Quatre, one of his new friends. "He went off to autograph some books but I haven't seen him since."

"Nor Heero," added Trowa. He sat beside Quatre, his arm casually around the back of his partner's chair. "They'll be together somewhere. The pair of them are like bookends nowadays."

"They've just developed a good friendship," protested Quatre. His back arched gently as Trowa teased at the hair in the nape of his neck, nuzzling into the protective caress. "Though God knows, they seemed to have little enough in common at first."

Trowa nodded. "On the one hand, Heero's obsession with order and control ..."

"Versus Duo's desire to be free of anything remotely resembling discipline," countered Wufei.

The three young men grimaced at each other. And then grinned.

"Things have definitely changed since then. Did you see that designer shirt Duo was wearing tonight?" Wufei sounded impressed. "Smart dressing is no longer a nauseating concept to him."

Trowa smiled back at him. "And Heero nearly arrived tonight wearing mismatched socks. He was scandalised when I spotted it and made a pile of excuses from not having the full laundry facilities around at Duo's apartment, to losing the matching items down the back of that sagging couch of Duo's --"

"You know Duo's thinking of getting rid of that couch?" said Wufei. "Says the springs have collapsed. He can't have had it longer than six months. He wants to replace it with one just the same -- said something about sentimental value."

"And apparently," added Quatre, excitedly, "Heero's antique Chesterfield is uncomfortable and just no good for mak--" He caught Trowa's widening eyes and bit off the rest of the sentence in time, "-- for sitting in."

They watched the rest of the party milling around them for a while, sitting companionably and watching for their mutual friends to reappear.

"The book's doing well in Europe," Quatre commented. "I had no idea Duo was such a talented cook. They love ... eccentric chefs over there, though. Apparently the publishers want him to do a series of books now, on creative cooking through the ages ..."

Wufei nodded. "It's to be illustrated with antique novelties, discovered and collected by Heero. An attractive combination."

They could see two young men peeling themselves out from among a cluster of reporters and publishing assistants, laughing their good-natured protests and insisting on a break to draw breath and have a drink themselves. They were both waving hands vaguely in the direction of their friends.

Trowa glanced at Wufei over the table top and he winked.

"Mission accomplished," murmured Wufei, nodding.

"Yes," sighed Quatre, still gazing at the couple on their way over. His expression could best be described as compassionate approval. "A very attractive combination."

+

I'm so proud of Duo, and of his creative success. It was a contact of mine in the publishing world who gave him the chance to put his proposal forward, but it's Duo's own work that's in that garishly illustrated book. I haven't been able to look at anyone but him all night. He's flushed and laughing and he's never looked more vibrant. I struggle to remember what my life was like before I met him. Whenever he's with me, it's like a fresh burst of energy: he's light and colour and noise, and maybe sometimes uncontrollable. But I can learn to live with that. I am learning to live with that! And enjoying the experience more than I could have believed possible. We've been surrounded by representatives from the publishers since we arrived, and we'd already decided not to show too much public affection except around our friends, but he still has that way of looking straight at me and smiling that's almost better than an arm around me ... or a kiss.

By the way, it's been three hours and eighteen minutes since he last kissed me, and that was merely a snatched moment behind the makeshift bookshelves. I'm only prepared to last another hour or so before asking for another. From the look in his eye, I think he's already guessed at my dishonourable intentions. As he turns to sign some more autographs, he grins, rather too knowingly.

He refused to wear anything smarter than his jeans, despite the fact that the knees have worn completely through by now. It never ceases to confuse me that he doesn't care about his clothing the same way that I do. He says the jeans are his favourites -- he says they're the ones he was wearing when we first ... anyway, he has a strange and robust capacity for sentimentality that I'm learning to treasure. At least he looks good in his new shirt. It's a beautiful, sensual fabric. I want to touch it where it clings to his torso.

Dammit, I want to touch him!

I feel transparent when he turns around again to catch me watching him. His grin is even broader. He has a whole portfolio of smiles, in fact, and I can recognise almost all of them by now. The knowledge amazes me.

And it thrills me to realise how much I enjoy smiling back.

+

The only reason I'm at this damned embarrassing book launch is because it's a chance to see Heero in a suit and then grope him shamelessly behind the refreshment table. Otherwise I'd be out of here, faster than either of us could spit. Well, not that Heero would spit, of course -- he's far too well behaved for that.

I don't know if success is going to go to my head. The champagne's doing that already. Thank God Heero's here to keep an eye on me. And my ass. Hell, that's the champagne talking.

I'm so glad he's here with me. I like to turn around and see him there. I like to hear his calm voice, listen to his dry jokes, tease him when he slips back into his most rigid ways. I like his weird antique stuff and his miniature trees and his cool sanctuary of an apartment. All of it -- I've always liked it ... always will. It's fun, getting to know each other. Well, I think it is! Heero occasionally looks a little left behind, but he doesn't seem upset about it. Kinda likes being swept along sometimes, I guess.

I feel a bit sentimental. I blame the champagne. Good to have something to blame.

He moves beside me at last, and his hand brushes oh so gently against my back. "I just spoke to your agent ..." he murmurs in my ear. "She said something about a European tour. For both of us."

I start to grin with the anticipation of a trip full of adventures and discoveries and cute accents and -- of course -- luxury hotel rooms with baths big enough for two slim guys and a mess of bubbles. I might even toss in some scented candles. But Heero's eyes are dark and still, the way that they sometimes go, and I pause for a moment.

"So ... how do you feel about that, Heero?"

He slips his hand under my belt at the back of my jeans and tugs me very slightly towards him. "Only one problem, Duo Maxwell."

Oh God, what? "What's that, Heero Yuy?"

He smiles that smile that makes my flesh melt against my bones and the champagne bubbles pop under my very skin. "Who the hell are we going to ask to apartment sit for us while we're gone?"

end

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