Five Black Dresses
by zillie
Companion piece to GPIG [(Getting) Physical (in) Geology]
This fic features 1+2 and 3+4, but is primarily about the friendship between Duo and Hilde in my little GPIG AU. This fic takes place after GPIG as well as after an unposted (unfinished) 1+2 getting together fic, so. . . well. . . yeah. I think there will be a second part to this, but it stands on its own, so have at it.

Five Black Dresses

Five black dresses hung in his closet.

Duo shut his eyes, his mouth suddenly dry. All around him cardboard boxes were full of his life, full of all the tangible things that made him who he was. Or so he had mused to himself happily as he had stacked books, pausing to run his fingers over the spines or read a favorite passage -- which was why the procedure had taken hours -- and as he had wrapped small mementos in bubbles -- popping only a few sheets. He had continued to think in rosy-hued nostalgic clichés until he had dumped a handful of shirts on the bed and turned back to the closet to see --

This.

Five black dresses, pushed to the back of his closet. He'd almost forgotten they were there.

Which was a lie.

He reached for the first one. Short, sleeveless, a tight black slip with a separate black lace thing over it. He pressed it to his nose, and smelled the vanilla perfume she'd worn then. Vanilla Fields. He'd bought her some once, embarrassed all the way to the counter, but it had been worth it.

He'd been with her when she'd bought the dress -- or, rather, when she'd acquired it.

+

Bloomingdale's, Bar Harbor, Maine, 1996.

+

When he'd told her he had taken up shoplifting, he'd been hoping for disgust.

After all, it was what she'd shown when he'd mentioned the smoking -- of various things -- and the light drug experimentation. She'd stared at him like he was crazy and told him that she would never, never speak to him again if he ever, ever touched any of that shit again.

"I have enough friends," she had snapped. "I don't need one who doesn't care enough about himself to think before he snorts. I don't need one who doesn't like himself, and I don't need one who'll be dead of lung cancer in thirty years if he hasn't died of an overdose long before that."

He'd never told her how glad he had been to give it all up.

He'd never had to.

So when he'd admitted where the new clothes had come from, he'd expected the same kind of thing. Instead she had merely raised an eyebrow.

"I've always wanted to be a thief," she said.

And he'd remembered too late her fascination with certain kinds of badness -- and that Gambit was her favorite X-Man. So here they were, wandering through Bloomingdale's, doing the same thing they'd done almost every weekend for the past two months.

"So Syl got you started in this?" she asked, fingering a blue top.

He glanced up. "Yeah."

"Big surprise," she muttered.

"I thought you liked Sylvia."

She shrugged. "Sylvia Noventa might be fun, and I might identify with her on some things, but she isn't what I'd call an upstanding citizen. I mean, the fact that she's got more money than anyone else around here and still shops with a five digit discount says something about her."

He studied her, then, and wondered for a second. . . ever since they'd started high school it had been harder and harder for them to spend time together. . . he knew he'd made a lot more friends than she had, but he was always like that. . . surely she wouldn't take up shoplifting just to have a way to hang out with him?

No. Not her.

She emitted a short sound of delight, and he looked over. She held a black dress -- well, two, really, a shift of black lace roses over a slip-like dress -- up against her. "What do you think?"

He noted it was thin -- easy to sneak in a bag or wear out under the bulky sweatshirt she had worn for that purpose. "It's gorgeous, babe. Hilde, it's totally you."

+

He brushed his fingers over the dress and hung it back up, not sure what to do with it.

His lover stepped into the room. "I've got all your kitchen stuff packed."

"Thanks, babe," he said, a bit absently.

The kiss on his neck took him by surprise. "You okay?"

Duo turned, swinging his braid a bit, and returned the kiss. With interest. "Yeah. I'm great."

He put on his best smile under the scrutinizing gaze -- if anyone could tell --

"I'll check for books out in the other room."

Duo ran his hand over his hair and smiled. "Thanks, babe. Be lost without you."

+

They'd been friends since fifth grade, when, after a year of hating each other with a passion, the pudgy brat girl and the annoying hyper orphan boy had bonded. Over dogs, as he remembered.

Hilde had been walking her dog, and he had loved the golden beauty of the retriever more than he had detested her. And something about the way she smiled at him had made him wonder if she wasn't as lonely as he was. So he had offered to show her the best place to take Beau. They had returned home just before ten that night, covered in mud and exhausted by laughter, to find that the police were just about to go look for them.

Things like that made people friends.

They had been inseparable all through school. He had even taken her to both their proms. He looked at the next dress in the closet -- black satin with lace bodice, halter neck, short skirt. She'd worn that their junior year, with her hair still long up in shiny clips, and her eyes beautifully made up.

+

Neptune Hotel, Exodus, Maine, June 1998

+

He tugged his rented tux -- the damned thing had, out of necessity, been cheap, and it felt it. "You look gorgeous, Hil."

She looked away from the stars and appraised him. In the moonlight that lit the balcony she looked half-fey, slight and delicate as the moonbeams that danced along the waves. And was, he knew, as tough and persistent as they were.

God, how he loved her.

The thought brought a wave of guilt and frustration.

He was pretty sure she loved him too.

"You look good, Duo," Hilde said. She turned back to the view. "I was just thinking about. . . everything. In another year we'll be done. Gone. Leaving Maine and off somewhere. Anywhere. Everywhere."

He perched on the stone balcony, the chill of it touching him through his tuxedo. Even in the summer Maine had cold nights. "Where?"

"I don't know, Duo," she said, and for a minute he thought she looked lost, overwhelmed by the vastness of the sea and the sky before them. Dark and endless, he thought.

Her dress sparkled as she turned to him with a grin. "And what are you doing out here? Last I saw you were dancing with Leah, and she looked pretty happy." She made an attempt at waggling her eyebrows.

"Leah's not my type," he said, and this time he looked away.

"Duo, she looked willing. Isn't that every boy's type?"

His heart sort of rose in his chest and he felt like he was going to explode -- implode -- plode somehow, blasting apart from this internal pressure. So he said it.

"Hilde."

"Hmm."

"I think I'm gay."

The waves didn't change. The moon didn't fall, the stars didn't spin, and she didn't say anything. For a long time. Finally he looked up at her.

The expression on her face was -- amused? He wasn't sure.

"Duo," she said, gently, and laid a hand on his knee. "I think so too."

+

"Should have told me," he mumbled to the dress, breathing in the faint remnants of Chanel's Allure. "Could have saved me a bit of trouble."

"Duo!" His former roommate bounded into the room. "We came to help!"

Duo shoved the dress back and turned easily. "Yeah? You bring that sexy man of yours?"

"Of course I did," the blonde said. "What should I start with?"

"Uh, I'm not quite done in here, yet," he said, putting on his best dashing grin.

Cerulean eyes moved innocently over the contents of the closet and back to Duo's face with such a lack of guile that Duo couldn't be sure what the other boy was thinking.

"All right! We'll be out in the kitchen!"

"Probably thinks I'm a drag queen," Duo muttered, turning back to the closet.

The third dress was one she had bought for their first year spring break.

+

The St.James Maui, April 2000

+

"Isn't it great?" she asked happily, swinging around in their sumptuous Hawaiian hotel room.

He was stretched out on the bed. "Gorgeous."

"You didn't look."

His eyes were too intent on the beautiful boy passing by the window to bother with her. "I saw it when you bought it and when you packed it and about six times in between."

"Forgive me for being so excited. I've never been to any place like this before."

And if it hadn't been for a little help from his new friend Quatre she wouldn't be here now. Neither of them would, especially not in this palace that Quatre's friend's family seemed to own. Mr. Beautiful disappeared from view, and Duo sighed and turned over. He liked the way the men here looked -- he'd always had a weakness for boys with some Asian blood, and the combination of native Polynesians and Japanese tourists was a promising one.

"I just can't believe that after all that 'I need a bright summer dress' you buy a black one."

"Black is slimming and stylish. One cannot go wrong in black."

He peeked over to see if she was being sarcastic. "Maybe I just wanted to match you."

Now he was sure she was getting in a few digs. "I'll have you know that I plan on wearing a Hawaiian shirt tonight." "Yeah, because Quatre batted those pretty blue eyes at you and asked please real nice."

Duo grinned. Quatre did have nice eyes. And a nice body. Unfortunately, he also had a nice inside, which was one reason that Duo was on the prowl. One didn't play fuck-and-run with one's friends, after all.

Hilde finally hung up her dress -- soft cotton, low neck, straps that crossed in the back, clung to her body like a lover's thought -- and sprawled on the bed beside him. "See anybody nice?"

"A few."

"Keep an eye out for one for me."

"You gonna have a vacation flirtation?" he said, and the almost-rhyme amused him. "A vacation flirtation dalmatian plantation?"

She rolled her eyes. "Actually. . . I wanted to find somebody to sleep with."

He started back, completely and utterly shocked. "Hil."

She shrugged, not taking her eyes off the window.

"You can't just -- "

"You do. Sleep with strangers."

"Not that many," he said. Not often enough.

She shot him an arch glance. "Tell that to your priest, boy, because I know you too well. I'm sick of being a virgin. I want it over, done with. Gone. I want to be free, Duo, and right now I'm not."

He reached out, awkward for once in his life. "I could. . . maybe. . . ."

She laughed out loud. "I really think not."

"I just can't believe you'd do this so, so, abruptly!"

"I've been thinking about it for a long time, Duo, and this is what I want." With a grin she rolled from the bed and walked over to her suitcase. She took out a bottle of scent that she had purchased on their shopping trip that morning, something exotic and floral with a hint of dark pleasure. The scent bit at his nose as she delicately pressed it to her body -- rarely the same spots twice, but always somewhere a bit mysterious. The back of a knee, the underside of a breast, the inside of a thigh. Today it was one of her favorite locales -- the small of her back, right in the curve of the scythe she had tattooed there. He had chosen it, of course, just as she had picked the black rose that grew at the base of his spine.

"I love you, Hilde," he said.

She glanced over her shoulder, carelessly, and smiled.

For the first time he wondered if that wasn't enough.

+

The smell of the islands still hung to the dress, he thought whimsically, knowing full well that she'd washed it after that night. Had to, to get the bodily fluids out. He remembered her walking away down the beach with some overly pretty French tourist. He'd been being kissed by a totally beautiful island god, but as he'd watched her trip alluringly down the sands with Pierre or whatever the hell his name had been, he'd been unmoved. It was not his favorite dress.

He much preferred the next one. It was more mature, somehow, bought on the trip to Italy she'd gone on with her parents. In some ways it was like the first one, only this time the two parts were attached and the overdress was sheer chiffon rather than lace. The keyhole neckline had suited her, and the high beaded front had made her look older. By that time she had short, spiky hair, and wore Givenchy's Hot Couture with a slightly wicked air. Their second year of college had been notable, a red letter year. It had been then that he'd really truly fallen in love, and fallen happily into a relationship. She'd worn this dress to the end of the year ball, and he'd told her she looked like a goddess and twirled her around the dance floor while his lover watched.

Afterward they had stolen away, to the garden outside, and Hilde had tipped her head back like she was drinking the moonlight.

+

[cont]