8-11-2003

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Title: Breaking Rule Number One
Author: Calic0cat <calic0cat@fastmail.fm>
Beta: Sunhawk
Story Completed: May 28, 2003
Genre: Shonen Ai, Friendship, Romance
Pairing: 1+2
Rated: PG-13
Warnings: AU, OOC, Swearing
Archives: At Lev's Lair http://www.gwaddiction.com/levlair/ and at http://calic0cat.freeservers.com/ (my site) and at Mediaminer.org under Calic0cat. Also at Moments of Rapture http://zerotwofan.com/rapture/ under the Spring 2003 Contest. Anyone with archive permission for my other fics can help themselves.

Disclaimer: Duo and Heero and the rest of the GW gang aren't mine. This story is. Nuff said.

Notes: Takes place about five years after Endless Waltz. Duo POV.

'Thinking'
"Speaking"
*** Time passing or scene change

Author's Notes: Thanks go out to Sunhawk for beta-ing this for me. This was written for the 2003 Moments of Rapture Dating Fic contest. Feedback is appreciated.

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Well, this was going well. Not. Couldn't even bring myself to ring the stupid doorbell.

Here I was, standing in the hallway outside Heero's apartment, arguing with myself yet again. 'This is nuts. I can't go through with it. I mean, yeah, I know I'm considered attractive, get asked out on dates all the time - hell, once in a while I actually *accept*, but well - I don't even know if Heero's ever *thought* about dating a guy. Fuck, I don't know if he's ever thought about dating *anybody*. Far as I know, he's only *ever* gone out with Relena and I think it's more or less because she doesn't really ask, she just *tells* him they're going out and he just goes along with it for whatever passes for a logical reason in that screwed-up head of his...'

But then, that was the whole reason I was even considering doing this. Because some little part of me had always thought that some day, Heero would suddenly *notice* me and ask me out and fall in love and... 'And life would just be peachy-keen. Shyeah, right Maxwell. As if.'

But it had never happened. And now, I was pretty sure I was running out of time for it to do so. Because Noin and Zechs had finally set the date for their wedding and what with all the wedding preparations going on, Relena was getting a certain look in her eye that I was pretty sure meant *she* was thinking along those lines. And if Heero took the path of least resistance as he usually did where Relena was concerned... 'I'll never even get a chance to find out whether Heero and I *could* have had something worthwhile together...'

If I believed that Heero loved Relena, was *in love* with Relena, I would just stay out of the way and let things take their natural course. But I didn't. Heero's eyes didn't go soft when he looked at her or when she called him. He didn't seem to miss her when she was away for a few weeks on political business. Okay, so it wasn't like he *did* do any of that for me either, but...

It wasn't as if I had anything *against* Relena really. She was pretty nice when it came right down to it. It had taken a few years for her to lose some of that starry-eyed idealism and get more realistic, but then we'd all changed a lot over the past few years. I was pretty sure that she *did* genuinely care about Heero and I felt kind of bad about wanting to take Heero away from her but frankly, if a few dates was enough to "steal" Heero, then she never really had him in the first place.

If Heero was only with Relena because she made the effort to go after him, fine. I straightened my back and set my shoulders determinedly. I could do that too. *Would* do that. Even if my stomach *did* feel like I'd swallowed a whole net full of butterflies.

Before I could lose my nerve again, I reached out and rang the doorbell. 'Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit...' was the only thought running through my mind as I heard footsteps inside the apartment. 'Come on, Maxwell, you were always a pretty good thief. Surely stealing a heart can't be *that* much harder...'

"Duo? I wasn't expecting you," Heero said as he opened the door. "Is something wrong?"

"Uh, no. Umm, are you busy right now? 'Cause I can come back some other time if you are..."

"No," Heero said, holding the door open further, "I'm not busy. Come in. It's - nice - to see you outside of work like this..."

I winced slightly as I entered the apartment and took a seat on the couch. I wasn't sure when things had gotten this way between us. Just that, somewhere along the line, we'd let our friendship drift into nothing more than being partners at work. And by the time I'd realized it, I hadn't known quite how to reverse the process. We'd never had a fight or anything, but the distance between us outside of work just kept growing.

I knew that I'd *started* it, with that crazy idea I'd had a year or so ago that maybe Heero would finally *notice* me if I wasn't always around, always coaxing him out to a ballgame or out for a drink or two with the guys. Except that Heero hadn't responded to the gradual decrease in coaxing the way I'd hoped. Heero hadn't started asking *me* to do things; he'd simply let Relena take over the time that had been freed up. I'd been - a little hurt - oh, alright, maybe more like a lot hurt - that Heero didn't seem to miss the time we'd spent together and hadn't immediately made the effort to correct my mistake. 'And it *was* a mistake. I should have known he wouldn't pick up the slack and take over part of the responsibility for keeping our friendship going. It just never even occurred to him.'

And on the one solitary occasion that Heero *had* made the effort, had mentioned having tickets to a ballgame and had asked me if I wanted to join him, I'd had to turn down the offer. For one brief moment, I'd considered blowing off Hilde's wedding and going to the game with Heero. But then reality had intruded rudely, reminding me that Hilde was a damn good friend and didn't deserve that kind of treatment. I'd tried to explain why I couldn't go, but I wasn't too sure that Heero had listened beyond, "I'm sorry, I can't". And the distance between us had continued to grow.

It had never affected our work together on missions. In the office or in the field, Heero remained the same cool, focussed individual he always had been. And I had continued to function as the professional peacekeeper I was as well. But that was all there was left of our friendship. 'At least I'm not risking a hell of a lot with this. There's not much friendship left to lose if he doesn't go for my suggestion...'

"So, what brings you all the way over to this side of town?" Heero asked. "I'm surprised you still remembered the way."

My eyes widened slightly in surprise. Was that *bitterness* in Heero's voice? Had Heero missed the time we used to spend together after all?

Well, it wasn't like the lack of it was *all* my fault; Heero sure as hell hadn't bothered coming to visit *me* either. I bit my tongue, fighting back the urge to snap back that Heero obviously *had* forgotten where *I* lived. 'You came here for a reason, Maxwell. Picking a fight won't help your cause any. Nor will it help your friendship. Not at this point, anyway.' "Uh, actually... I was wondering if you had any plans for Friday night," I said in a rush, eyes focussed on the coffee table in front of me rather than on Heero. I knew Relena was off-planet for the next two weeks. Long enough, I hoped, to figure out whether there was any chance of Heero being interested in me.

"Why? Nobody else available to keep you company?"

'Whoa. That was *definitely* bitterness. What the hell is *his* problem?' "No, I just thought that maybe with Relena out of town you might actually have a few minutes to spare," I sniped back sarcastically. 'Dammit, that was *not* what I meant to say.' This wasn't going to work. I'd let things go too long. All I was going to accomplish would be the destruction of our working relationship, the only thing left between us. "Forget I said that. I'm sorry, this was a mistake. I shouldn't have come." I rose jerkily and started towards the door.

Heero got there first, blocking my path. "Why *did* you come? Just to see if a former friend would help you use some tickets after one ofyour new friends cancelled out at the last minute? Surely you could have asked that at work and saved yourself the trouble of coming all the way over here."

"*What?!* *Former* friend? *New* friends? What the hell are you talking about, Yuy?" I demanded, temper rising. "And if you think that I was about to ask you out on a date in front of the whole fucking office when they *all* know that you and Relena are about *this*," I held my thumb and index finger a few millimetres apart, "close to tying the knot, then you can just damn well think again!" 'Oh *shit*... That was *not* the way I meant to handle this...'

"I'm talking about the new friends that you've evidently been so damn busy with for the past year that you don't have any time for..." Heero stopped in mid-shout, expression going from hurt anger to shock in an instant, mouth opening and closing a few times before finally choking out, "Ask *me* out on a *date*?!"

I started to back up slowly. Damn, I wished Heero's apartment wasn't on the tenth floor. I'd *really* like an alternate exit about now. Wufei always said that someday my big mouth would get me in trouble.

"And what do you mean, everyone knows Relena and I are close to 'tying the knot'?" Heero demanded, brow wrinkling in confusion.

I rolled my eyes in exasperation. Only Heero Yuy would even need to *ask* a question like that. "Well, considering that the two of you have been going steady for at least the last five years and she's been borrowing all Noin's bridal magazines and stuff, it's a little obvious..."

"Relena is a *friend*," Heero said icily. "A friend who actually makes time in her busy schedule for me. Unlike some other so-called friends."

"Oh really? Just a friend, huh? You sure about that?" I spun around and picked up a thick, glossy magazine from the coffee table. "So how come the latest issue of Bridal World is laying on your coffee table, huh?" Noticing a few folded-over corners, I took a chance and flipped open to one of those pages. Yep. I'd guessed right. "With pages of engagement ring advertisements clearly marked?"

"Relena forgot it in my car when I dropped her off at the spaceport. She mentioned something about Noin having given it to her and asked her for her opinion on some bridesmaids' dresses. Noin must have marked the pages," Heero answered.

Sure, Heero. That wouldn't be *uncertainty* in your voice, now would it? "Noin's had her engagement ring for ages. It's a Peacecraft family heirloom, one of the few things recovered from Romefeller, remember? This is supposed to be a nice big *hint*, buddy-boy, whether you want to believe it or not."

Heero wrenched the magazine away from me and flipped through the rest of the marked pages before tossing it back on the table with a succinct, "Fuck". While he was occupied, I started for the door again, only to be brought up abruptly by a sharp yank on my braid. Damn hair, everybody's forever manhandling me by it. One of these days, I swear I'll just cut it all off. 'Yeah, along about when hell freezes over...'

"Let. Go. Yuy," I snarled. This visit was *so* not going according to plan.

"Only if you promise to sit down and finish this conversation," Heero answered grimly.

Conversation? What conversation? Seemed to me that the only thing going on here was a lot of bitter sniping and I really had no desire to continue it. But what Heero Yuy wanted, Heero Yuy got, one way or another. He'd stand here holding me by the braid all night if he had to. Though I had no idea what the hell he thought he was going to accomplish either way. "Fine," I said grudgingly. Miserable paranoid bastard didn't let go of my hair till I was sitting down again.

Heero sat down in the chair across from me. And stared, waiting. Well, two could play at that game. I stared back, mouth stubbornly closed. I really didn't have anything else to say anyway.

After what seemed like hours, Heero finally sighed and dropped his gaze, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees. "What the hell happened to us, Duo? We used to be friends... or at least, I thought we were..."

"So did I..." I unbent enough to respond.

"So what changed? Why did you stop doing things with me?"

"I didn't stop doing things with you, I stopped *asking* you to do things with *me*." I sighed, realizing from his blank look that he still didn't understand the difference. Maybe I should just tell him the whole thing. I couldn't fuck up our relationship any more than it already was. I was pretty sure that this disastrous visit had been enough to wreck the working relationship that was all we'd had left anyway. "I got tired of waiting and thought that maybe if I wasn't always dancing attendance on you, you'd notice me as more than just a friend," I said bluntly. "Or at the very least, you'd take over some of the responsibility for keeping our friendship going by asking *me* to do stuff together once in a while." I chuckled darkly, "Backfired on me though. Bigtime. You just let Relena take over the time I no longer occupied. Should have known you'd never bother making the effort if I left it up to you."

"I made an effort!" Heero protested. "You turned me down!"

Leave it to Heero to completely overlook the part where I admitted I'd been hoping he'd notice me as more than a friend and latch onto the bit where I criticized him. Mr. Perfect just couldn't possibly be at fault here. "*Once!* Heero, you invited me to a ballgame here on Earth on the same fucking day as Hilde's wedding on L2! How the hell was I supposed to manage that?! Call Hilde two days before her wedding and tell her sorry, Hil, you'll need to find another usher 'cause I'm going to a ballgame with Heero?!"

"Why didn't you tell me that was why you couldn't go?" Heero demanded.

I gave him a disbelieving look. "Heero, I *did* tell you. Unfortunately, you pretty much seemed to stop listening along about when I said 'I can't'. And dammit, if I'd given up the first time you turned an invitation from *me* down, our friendship would've died before the damn war even ended!"

"But you were always so *busy*! You were forever talking about going to the park or going biking or something! Obviously you had plenty of other friends filling up your time!"

Clapping a hand to my forehead in exasperation, I informed him, "No, actually I was talking about those things hoping you'd pipe in and say you wouldn't mind going along. But instead you always were talking about going to this garden party or that political function with Relena."

"No, I was always talking about how she *wanted* me to go with her because I didn't want you to think I was sitting around moping while *you* were off having a good time with someone else. I only ever went to a few of those things when I got tired of sitting home alone hoping you'd call wanting to get together," Heero corrected me firmly.

Well *shit*. "You mean we've both been sitting home alone thinking that the other one is out having a good time with," I hesitated, then used his term for Relena, "some other friend for the past *year*?! *Fuck.*"

Heero's reaction was a bit stronger. I filed several new Japanese swear words away for future reference.

"So... we're still friends?" I asked hesitantly after Heero's curses had died down.

He looked back at me, seeming equally hesitant. "If - you want to be..."

"Hell yes!" I exclaimed a bit more forcefully than I'd intended. "Of course I do." I gave him a grin that was *definitely* more shaky than I'd have liked and added, "I've missed you, Heero."

His smile in return looked almost as shaky as my own felt. "I've missed you too, Duo."

We sat there, grinning idiotically at each other for a few minutes before Heero's eyes narrowed and he said, "So now tell me why you came here today."

"I already *did*, remember? I wondered whether you had any plans for Friday night."

"No, I don't. Why? You planning a guys' night out?"

"Uh, no, not exactly..." Though if he'd forgotten or chosen to ignore what I said about a date, maybe I should just forget about that part for now, settle for a guys' night out. Work on fixing our friendship first and hope he didn't cave to Relena's pressure before I got a chance to try the whole date question again.

Heero went very still and I realized he'd just remembered the rest of what I'd said. Too late to back out now.

"You mentioned... asking me out on a *date*..." he said slowly. "And said that you'd... been waiting for me to notice you as... *more* than a friend..."

"Umm, yeah. The Friday night thing? I was thinking date-date. Not guys'-night-out-date," I said nervously. "I mean, I don't know if you even swing that way, it's not exactly something we've ever discussed, and if you'd rather just do the guys'-night-out thing, I can live with that too 'cause I'd really like to have our friendship back, but if you're willing to try the date-date I'd really like to see if..." A hand over my mouth stopped my nervous babbling long enough for Heero to interrupt me.

"I don't know if I 'swing that way' as you so elegantly put it, either. I've never really thought about it. But..."

My heart sank. He wasn't interested. Well, maybe we could at least salvage our friendship...

"But I'm willing to give it a try."

I blinked. That was *not* what I'd thought he was going to say. "Uh, really?" I managed finally, realizing that Heero had taken his hand away from my mouth and was waiting for some sort of response.

"Yes, really."

"Oh. Okay." I floundered for a moment, trying to remember what I'd originally planned. It seemed like forever since I'd stood in the hallway reviewing my plans. "Uh, I thought maybe dinner and a movie?"

He raised one eyebrow quizzically and said disbelievingly, "Dinner and a movie?!"

"I know, I know, it's kind of hackneyed, but it's pretty comfortable territory for a first date," I explained, cheeks suddenly feeling awfully warm. "Unless you've got a better suggestion..."

Heero shook his head, "No. You're right."

"Okay, then," I said, relieved. I stood before adding, "Pick you up at six? And - wear something just slightly nicer than jeans? I thought we'd try that new steakhouse over on Lincoln near Seventh... The one that's been getting all the great reviews?"

Nodding as he rose, Heero said, "I've heard of it. Jeans would definitely be out of place there. And six will be fine."

"Good. Umm, see you at work in the morning, then, Heero." I started towards the door, only to be stopped by a gentle tug on my braid, nothing like the sharp pull earlier. "Hmm?" I asked, looking back over my shoulder.

"I'm glad we're still friends, Duo," he said with a slight, hesitant smile.

"Me too," I said softly.

"No matter how Friday night goes, maybe Saturday we could try biking that trail you were talking about a couple of weeks ago? Just as friends, like we used to?" he asked a bit nervously.

I grinned and promised happily, "Sure. I never did get around to actually trying it out; just didn't seem like it would be any fun by myself."

"Good. Good night, Duo."

"Night, Heero."

I made it as far as the elevator before my knees gave out on me and I had to prop myself up against the wall. Damn, that had been - weird. Considering how lousy things had started off, they'd ended up better than I'd dared hope. Heero and I were still friends and he was actually making an effort towards helping to rebuild that friendship. And he'd agreed to try dating me.

I couldn't quite keep what must have been a thoroughly goofy grin off my face. 'Heero agreed to go on a date with me. And he says Relena's just a friend.'

Yeah, I know, I know. That's all I was at the moment too, just a friend. But *I* was the one he was willingly and knowingly going on a date with. Sure, it was just a first date but you've gotta start somewhere. I crossed my fingers as I walked out to my car. 'With a little luck there'll be plenty more...'

***

Friday afternoon arrived more quickly than I'd thought it would. I'd expected the few days between my talk with Heero and our date to drag by. But - well, they hadn't. We'd been kept so damn busy at work that I hadn't really even had time to think about the upcoming date.

I hadn't mentioned the date at the office at all. Didn't think it was anybody else's damn business, for one thing. And it *was* just a first date. No point getting everybody gossiping when it was entirely possible that nothing more would ever happen. Right? Right.

On the other hand, Heero *had* stopped me on the way out the door at the end of the day and simply asked, "Six?" I'd grinned and nodded, he'd nodded back, and we'd both headed off to our cars. Not exactly a scintillating conversation on the topic, but hell, I'd take what I could get. I hadn't expected him to mention it at all.

Arriving at Heero's apartment, I didn't even get to press the doorbell before he had the door open. I'd made a point of being a few minutes early, too, since Heero has a real thing about punctuality. Maybe he was almost as anxious over this evening as me?

"Ready to go?"

"Yes," he answered, exiting his apartment and pulling the door shut behind him.

"Good. Our reservation's for six thirty, so we shouldn't have any problem making it. And there's a few different movies starting between eight thirty and nine that don't sound too bad, so we shouldn't have too much trouble picking something halfway decent..."

"Sounds good," Heero observed as we exited the elevator and started out towards my car.

I hoped so. I sure as hell hoped so.

***

Dinner started off pretty well. The restaurant actually lived up to the reviews and was well worth the slightly exorbitant prices it charged. The conversation... Well, it could have been better. We still hadn't really dealt with the whole "who screwed up our friendship" thing, despite deciding we still *were* friends - or at least *wanted* to be. And that was starting to create more than a little tension. Or at least, I hoped it was that, not simply that Heero was uncomfortable with the fact that we were on a *date*. Obviously, we were going to have to settle the blame question, and soon.

Did I really want to get into a discussion of who did what and why and whose fault this past year of not-friends-just-coworkers had been? Here and now, in public and during our first date? Err, no. I thought not. Especially since I wasn't quite sure what the answers to all those questions *were*. Yeah, I willingly acknowledge that I started it. Mea culpa on that bit.

But I didn't think the whole damn thing was my fault. I mean, Heero asked me to get together *once*. One single solitary fucking time. In a whole damn year. And that was still more than he'd ever done before. There was something just *so* not-right about that. And while he *was* apparently ready to put some effort into rebuilding our friendship now, judging by his suggestion that very first night that we get together for a little trail biking on Saturday, I couldn't quite forget that our friendship apparently hadn't been worth the bother before.

Okay, so the *real* reason I hadn't fixed things as soon as I realized he wasn't going to make an effort? The honest-to-god, cannot-tell-a-lie *truth*?

I was sulking. Yeah, sulking. Hurt and more than a little pissed off and just plain old sulking. Damn embarrassing to admit, but true.

And the worst part? Part of me still was. A little tiny voice deep down inside kept reminding me that I hadn't been worth an effort, that our friendship hadn't, that he'd just let Relena take over more of his time instead of going to the incredibly huge bother of actually asking me whether maybe I'd like to shoot a few hoops or go see that new exhibit about the war at the museum or... 'Enough. Stop it, Maxwell. Deal with it later.' I surreptitiously tried to straighten the fork I'd just bent. Oh well, I'm sure I wasn't the first person to damage the cutlery a little during a date, though probably it was more normal to do so out of nervousness than irritation.

'Oh, to hell with it.' We'd just spent most of the meal sitting here either in total silence or having the most fucking stilted conversation I'd ever had, blind dates included. The date was already a write-off, whether I wanted to admit it or not. Might as well clear the air and at least get our friendship straightened out before it fell apart again.

I dropped the fork with a loud clatter and demanded, "Heero, why the hell didn't you ever make any sort of effort to ask me to get together like we used to? 'Cause I've gotta admit it kinda sucked realizing that my friendship apparently wasn't worth the effort of actually asking me to do something together once in a while. Yeah, I started the whole mess with that fucking stupid idea that me spending less time coaxing and dragging you into doing things together might make you miss me and stop taking me for granted, maybe even notice me as more than a friend, but it kinda hurt realizing that you obviously didn't miss me after all so for *some* odd reason I didn't much want to go back to the way things were and I just let things slide."

Heero's fork clattered even more loudly, bouncing right off his plate and onto the floor. "It hurt, did it? Maybe almost as much as it hurt when my best friend, the one person who'd always been there for me, who I could count on always acting exactly the same way, suddenly *changed*? Suddenly stopped hanging around with me as much, stopped asking me to do things with him, stopped asking how my day was going, stopped *caring*?! I never *could* figure out what the hell I'd done wrong, why you didn't want to be friends anymore! It took me *weeks* to get up the nerve to ask you to go to that ballgame with me! I'd never, *ever* done something like that before. And you said you couldn't and there was something somewhere in there about Hilde, another friend, one that you obviously had plenty of time for if you were going all the way to L2 just to see her, and I was jealous and hurt and it's no damn wonder I didn't catch the part where you said it was her fucking wedding that you were going to!"

Sitting there, blinking stupidly at Heero's flushed face, the only thing I managed to come up with was, "Oh". Brilliant conversationalist, aren't I? Well hell, it's no fucking wonder I was a little dazed; that was a longer, more emotional speech than I'd *ever* heard from Heero in the entire damn time I'd known him, not to mention that his face was expressing that mixed-up mess of hurt and anger and unhappiness just as clearly and I hadn't ever seen him show emotions that openly before either.

I'd never really stopped to consider what things must have looked like from his side. I mean, if I had a friend who started dropping out of touch - and it *had* happened with Q a few times already, WEI just keeps him so damn busy he loses track of time - I'd just pick up the phone and call or send an email or just show up and surprise him by taking him out for lunch or whatever and I'd keep at it till we finally *did* get together. I hadn't done that with Heero 'cause I was too damn busy sulking and I wanted *him* to be the one to make the effort. After all, wasn't that the way friendship worked? Both people taking some responsibility for staying friends?

Usually, yeah. But I'd kinda forgotten that this *was* Heero, after all. And pretty much everything he actually *knew* about friendship was what me and the other guys had taught him. Mostly me and Q. And well... I guess we'd never actually taught him to keep up his own half of the deal. We'd always just dragged him along, protesting at first, then over time the protests disappeared and he came willingly. But we'd *always* made the first move.

No wonder he thought of Relena as a friend. That was pretty much how she operated, too. Except that she had a different goal in mind and was going to end up even more disillusioned than I'd been. At least she would if *I* had anything to do with it.

I sheepishly paid the bill that the waiter rather pointedly brought to our table. It wasn't worth arguing that we weren't done eating; frankly I don't think either of us were exactly in the mood for dessert. "Let's go," I said quietly.

Heero nodded sharply, lips pinched thin, and headed out of the restaurant in front of me. We climbed into my car in silence and I pointed it towards my place. I didn't think going to the movies was on the agenda at this point. A hopeful little voice in the back of my head pointed out that if we didn't drag out the discussion too long, we could still make the last showing, the one that started between eleven and midnight. Yeah, hope springs eternal and all that jazz.

We rode in silence for the ten minutes or so that it took to drive over to my dinky little condo. Neither of us was dumb enough to try and continue a rather heated discussion while I was supposed to be driving. By the time we got inside, the air around us was practically vibrating with tension. Heero's jaw was set and stubborn looking; I figured he was ready for me to start in blaming him again. And I was damn tempted to; I still felt like he deserved his fair share. But the simple fact remained that *I started it*. Ultimately, the blame for the whole mess came back to *me*.

I didn't give him the chance to start in on me; if I had we'd probably have ended up in a real slanging match that would have put paid to our friendship once and for all. I've got this awful tendency to turn all defensive and stubborn when somebody starts accusing me of things. Being at least partially guilty of them would just make it worse.

"I'm sorry, Heero. I should have come right out and told you that I was interested in more than friendship instead of trying to manipulate you into noticing me as more than a friend. And I'm sorry that I was too busy being petty and sulking to fix things once I realized that it wasn't working. It still hurts that you didn't make more of an effort to keep our friendship going but I guess I can sort of understand why you didn't."

Seeing Heero Yuy caught off-guard and gaping was almost worth eating crow like that. And actually admitting out loud that I'd been at fault did a little something for the guilt that had been gnawing away at me too.

"I - I'm sorry too," Heero said finally. "You're right, I should have done more. But you acted the same with everyone else, it was just me you were different with, so I thought I must have done something wrong. And I didn't know how the hell to fix it when I didn't even know what 'it' was." He spread his hands and shrugged helplessly. "Duo, if I'd had any idea that I was supposed to pick up the slack, I would have at least tried. I just thought you didn't want to be around me anymore and I wasn't about to go pushing in where I wasn't wanted... And after you turned me down the one time that I *did* try, I decided that it just confirmed that you didn't want to be around me."

I sighed heavily. "I should have made an effort to get things
straightened out when I came back from the wedding. But at first, I thought you'd try again. I didn't realize it was a one-time-only kind of thing. By the time I figured that out, you'd gone all cold and distant when I tried talking to you and..." I shrugged and sighed again, "And I just let it go. I was so damn mad and hurt that you didn't seem to miss doing things with me, at least not enough to bother trying to set something up yourself, that I ended up bound and determined not to make the first move. God Heero, I really am sorry..." The apology came much more easily the second time. Heero's admission that he *should* have done more was sufficient balm to my pride that it didn't rub so raw to apologize and take the blame.

"Apology accepted," Heero said quietly. "Do you accept mine?"

"You really did miss doing things together?" I asked, needing a little confirmation that our friendship meant something to him.

"Of course I did."

"Then yeah, I accept yours." I held out my hand to shake his, but was surprised when after grasping mine, Heero pulled me into a hug rather than just shaking hands. Surprised - but in a good way. Especially when he held the hug longer than I usually dared. When he finally released me, we stood there for a few minutes, not quite meeting each other's eyes. I wasn't sure what the hell to do. Offer to drive him home? I didn't think he'd want to go to a movie now. I figured the date was pretty thoroughly wrecked.

"We're going to be late for the movie if we don't leave now," Heero observed, glancing at his watch.

"Uh, you still want to go?!" That was unexpected to say the least...

"Don't you?" he asked.

"Hell yeah!" I exclaimed, starting to grin. "As long as you do..." I added hastily, trying not to get my hopes up too high.

Heero just gave me one of his "you really *are* a baka" looks and opened the door to leave the condo. I wasted no time in following him.

***

The movie... well, the movie itself was so bad it was good. One of those ones that's supposed to be a serious horror movie but ends up so cliched and campy that it's just damn funny. But Heero and I shared a bucket of popcorn and at one point he actually held my hand for a while. And he picked all the popcorn that the teenage kid behind us threw out of my braid for me and glared the brat into behaving. I didn't push my luck so far as to try putting my head on his shoulder. I figured that was a little much to ask of a first date, especially when my date wasn't even sure he was interested in another guy period, let alone me specifically.

And for the same reason, I didn't intend to try a good night kiss. I don't usually kiss on a first date anyway, so tempting as it might seem, I wasn't about to try it now either. Heero had different ideas, though.

"Don't I get a good night kiss?" he asked before climbing out of the car.

I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped before I blurted out foolishly, "On a first date?!"

Heero raised one eyebrow and said, "Ignoring the whole - discussion - in the middle which would have happened sooner or later even if this hadn't been a 'date', the only difference I can see between tonight and the times we did things together before is that we held hands once and you paid for everything instead of us going Dutch. Now since I know I've heard Noin talk about going Dutch sometimes when she and Zechs were dating, and I doubt that handholding alone is the difference between doing something together and a date..."

I gave him a disbelieving look. "Heero, if you're trying to imply that we've been dating all along..."

He sighed and said, "Duo, I really don't see the difference. The only thing missing is the physical aspect. The handholding and kissing and so on. We tried the handholding and it felt kind of nice. Could we at least try the kissing so maybe I can decide whether or not I do 'swing that way'?"

When he put it that way, he had a point. Unfortunately. I'd hoped to get at least a few dates in before he made that particular decision, though. *Good* dates, not like tonight. Ones that would weight things a little more in my favour.

"Duo?"

"Uh yeah, just gimme a minute," I said, giving Heero a nervous smile. "I just hadn't really thought we'd get that far to..."

Apparently Heero decided I'd had my minute because he took matters into his own hands. Err, lips. The fact that I was in mid-word meant that my mouth was already open and Heero took full and immediate advantage of that fact. He was a little awkward and inexperienced but he more than made up for that with enthusiasm and dedication to his little experiment. By the time he finally let me come up for more than a gasp of air, I'd somehow ended up halfway in his lap, my braid was completely undone along with my shirt (which was also untucked), and according to the car's clock, I'd lost a good fifteen minutes or so. Which was a little bit scary because I've usually got a very good sense of time.

After I got my breath back a bit, I managed to ask, "So, did you reach a decision?"

Heero gave me a decidedly mischievous look (Which was *damn* scary, Heero Yuy just does *not* look mischievous. Ever.) and said, "I'm not quite sure. I think more research is in order."

Before I got the "do" part of "What do you mean, more research" out, he was kissing the hell out of me again. This time, I lost damn close to half an hour and the car was practically running on fumes from sitting there idling so long.

"Whoa. Okay, hold it," I managed to gasp out. I opened the passenger door (easily done since I was now *completely* on Heero's lap) and slid out. Fortunately, my legs cooperated though they *were* a bit wobbly. "Enough," I warned as Heero followed suit. Things were moving just a little too fast for comfort here.

We'd gone from barely civil earlier this week to tonsil diving tonight. Considering that Heero hadn't even been sure he was interested in guys, I was getting a little concerned about the speed things were moving at. He'd already talked me into kissing on a first date, I didn't think I wanted to find out whether he could convince me to break any more of my own rules. Not that I'd ever dated anybody long enough to get around to *needing* any more rules - no kissing before date three had been about all I'd ever got around to using - but a first date was definitely *not* going beyond kissing. If what we'd been doing still fell under that designation. I was pretty sure we'd gone well past "kissing" and into "making out" territory at this point.

"I mean it Heero. Enough," I repeated as he made a move towards me. He quirked an eyebrow at me as he caught hold of my shirt and started to button it up for me. I flushed, embarrassed that I'd misread him.

"You're right," he admitted as he did up my shirt. "I'm sorry, Duo. I got a little carried away." He smirked at me and added, "But I don't think we need to worry about whether or not I 'swing that way' anymore."

I choked on a snicker. No, judging by what had been pressing against my thigh while I was on his lap, we didn't have to worry about that at all. "True."

Heero let me tuck my own shirt back in after he finished buttoning it, thank god. He waited while I pulled my hair into a ponytail with a spare tie from the glove compartment. I had no idea what the hell happened to the one I'd had on earlier. Then he stepped towards me, cupped my cheek with one hand, and gave me a quick but tender kiss on the lips before drawing back. "Other than our little 'discussion', which at least got a few things cleared up, I enjoyed our date very much, Duo. Maybe after our bike trip as friends tomorrow, you'll let *me* take *you* out on a date?"

I smiled slowly. "I'd like that, Heero. Very much." Very much indeed.

Though I did sort of wonder how many rules Heero would get me to break on our second date. Guess I'd just have to wait and see.

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