Story: THE SUCCESSFUL STRATEGY
Author: FancyFigures ([email protected])
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, wish I did, just enjoy writing about ‘em for free etc
Category: Romance, humour
Warnings: Yaoi, lime
Notes: A week is a long time, in Wars of the Heart! It seems that even Desire has to be planned for; fought for; and won! Sometimes against ridiculous odds…
Feedback: If you liked it, PLEASE let me know!
The safe house was quiet; the pilots were currently between missions. They each had to find their own amusement – that was usually the case.
“You going out tonight, Wufei?” asked Duo, eyes wide with unusual innocence. The Chinese man turned the page of the car magazine that he was reading, and grunted something. “I’ll take that as a ‘yes’, shall I?”
“Why are you asking, Duo?”
Duo leant forward in the chair beside him. “What’s it like, then, going out with Sally?”
Behind the magazine, Wufei raised an eyebrow in surprise. “What’s it to you?”
Duo snorted. “So have a nice day yourself!”
Wufei sighed, and put the magazine down. His concentration had already been lost, the minute the other young man had entered the room. There’d been a succession of coughs, and drumming fingers, and then the wide violet eyes, appearing over the top of the new advert for the Aston Martin Vanquish. Wufei’s mood of quiet, contemplative ecstasy had, indeed, been vanquished. “OK, sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. But I somehow thought you –“
“Never mind,” said Wufei, hurriedly.
“So – how did you two get together? What drew you to her? How did you actually move from friendship to intimacy?”
“Duo!” protested Wufei. “We just did! I can’t remember exactly what happened –“ Actually, he remembered very well, and the very words he spoke; something about her calm professionalism as a soldier, and her firm decision-making. Then there had been Sally’s enchanting blush in response, and the exact feel of Sally’s waist underneath his hands, as his fingers slid gently under her blouse – but he wasn’t telling Duo all those private details!
“Just thought…” started Duo, slowly. Wufei felt a familiar nausea rising in the back of his throat; Duo’s thoughts rarely meant anything but trouble. “Just thought a man of the world like yourself would be able to clear up some issues for me. I mean, you’re very intelligent, a fine martial artist, and damned handsome as well – we all look up to you in many ways –“
Wufei’s face was a picture of pure astonishment. “What the hell are you going on about, Duo? I’ve never heard you compliment me like that! Well, I guess you’ve been known to tell me I’m the most awkward, intractable, perfectionist kind of guy – but that’s a little different.” He peered at Duo, perhaps wondering if he had some new, spot-less disease. “I don’t have any money to lend you, y’know.”
“I know that!” Duo flushed. He sat back, and he seemed to be struggling with his words. “It’s not you, so much as – I mean, I just wanted to practice –“
“Practice? What? Borrowing money?”
“For God’s sake, enough already with the borrowing money!” growled Duo. “Perhaps I did in the past, a couple times, that’s all! And I always paid it back! Dammit, Heero got fixated on the same thing, when I had this same conversation with him –“
“You did?” asked Wufei, eyebrow raised questioningly this time.
Duo nodded, then flushed. “I just said a few similar things; just pointed out what I admire about him…”
“And he said?”
“He said he didn’t understand why I should compliment him, when we were perfectly aware of each other’s characteristics, good or otherwise; he said that talking about physical relationships wasn’t a priority. Then he said he’d lend me enough money to get me through to next payday,” said Duo, a little sadly.
“Well he’s as much a fool as you are, isn’t he?” Wufei’s smile was broad. “Despite his pragmatic response, he makes too many allowances for you already. But that’s to be expected, isn’t it?”
“What does that mean?” snapped Duo.
Wufei raised the eyebrow again, demonstrating a fine cynicism this time. “If you don’t know, I’m not the one to tell you.”
“But it’s not about the money, y’see…” said Duo, plaintively. “He didn’t understand…”
“Whatever,” replied Wufei, tiring of the distraction. “Now if you feel the need for a lesson in tae kwon do, I’m your man. But if it’s just more fatuous questions about dating girls –“ He lifted the magazine in emphasis, hiding his head behind it.
“I’m asking, just in principle, y’know,” said Duo, disgruntled.
“Sure,” murmured Wufei. He’d already switched off the conversation.
Trowa was bent over the circuit board, a stretch of thin wire held between his teeth, and the soldering iron balanced precariously against a miniscule connection.
Duo’s head appeared in his view like a natural disaster. Sudden, and completely consuming.
Trowa’s movements were very deliberate, as he laid down the spoiled solder, and his struggle for control was very laudable.
“Hi Trowa! You busy?”
Trowa ignored the – obviously – rhetorical question.
“What’s it like, Trow, having Quatre as a boyfriend?”
Trowa struggled again – as he so often did with Duo’s conversation - to understand the context of the question. It eluded him; he decided caution was the best policy. “Well – you know –“
“I know what?” Duo looked genuinely interested. “Why should I know anything about going out with a boy?”
Trowa stared at him, bemused. “I just thought that you –“
“Never mind,” said Trowa, gently.
“So – how did you two get together? What drew you to him? How did you actually move from friendship to intimacy?”
Trowa frowned. He put down the delicate tools with exaggerated care. “I can’t remember the exact moment, Duo. We just found that we were attracted to each other.” Very much, he thought, and hoped that he wasn’t blushing. He remembered, very clearly, the way that Quatre had sat beside him for many long evenings, until his enjoyment of the man’s companionship had grown to a more tantalising awareness of his physical presence. Quatre and he had shared the development and implementation of many complex electronic projects, until their professional partnership had shifted on to a personal basis. He thought of the slim, strong boy who now slept so soundly in his bed most nights; he knew exactly the first night that had happened. And he knew he was blushing, now! But he wasn’t going to share all that with Duo!
“I’m fascinated by the work that you’ve done to enhance the reception area of the radio network,” said Duo. He licked lips that were a little dry. “The speed of the connections; the robust performance of the long distance signal. Can I watch you working on it? Will you talk me through it?”
“Jeez…” said Trowa. “Why are you staring at me like that, Duo? It unnerves me.”
“Just fascinated by you and your skills, Trowa.”
Trowa felt a nausea, similar to Wufei’s, rising in his own throat. “I think I’d rather you weren’t, Duo,” he said, still careful. One never knew quite how Duo’s mind was working. “It’s not really your subject, is it? I’m not sure why you should suddenly find it - or me, for that matter - so fascinating. I know that you find me rather introspective, sometimes, though it doesn’t bother me. Is this about borrowing money again?”
“Christ,” wailed Duo. “Why does everyone assume that’s all I want? Heero said the same, when I talked to him about his work on the advanced hydraulics…”
Trowa laughed. “It’s because you never make your money last. And what else did Heero say?”
Duo’s face looked rather flushed again. “He said that my approach to the relevant engineering skills was over-enthusiastic; and that the question of physical relationships had no specific bearing on the mission parameters. He said that my staring unnerved him. Then he said he’d get the money to me tomorrow, as I obviously needed it sooner rather than later.“
Trowa smiled. “Sounds like him. Heero is always objective at mission time, but his personal response to your natural enthusiasm will, of course, be very different –“
“What does that mean?” snapped Duo.
Trowa grimaced. “Let me get on with this, Duo, OK? If you’ve got questions about radio communications, I can answer them another time. But if it’s questions about intimacy with boys, it all depends whether you find boys attractive, rather than girls. And vice versa.”
“I’m just asking in principle, y’know!“ protested Duo. “But Heero thought it was about the money, again…”
“Sure,” replied Trowa. “Whatever.” He bent his head back over his work.
There was a God-awful yell from up the corridor, and the sound of running feet. Trowa and Wufei had been relaxing in the lounge - they looked up at each other over the chess board, startled by the noise.
“What the hell -?”
Quatre came thundering into the lounge, naked except for a towel draped round his waist, the water from his shower still dripping from his hair and torso.
Duo followed him – hands held out in appeasement. He was dressed the same as Quatre, though he was still dry – his towel was also a little less well fastened.
Heero was also in the lounge, reading, in a chair by the TV. He stood up, abruptly.
“Get the hell out of my face!” Quatre shouted at Duo. “You pervert!”
“A genuine mistake, Quat!” came Duo’s equally furious shout. “Christ, talk about over-reacting –!“
“A naked butt in my face when I’m trying to shower, and you tell me I’m over-reacting?”
“I was just practicing some moves,” growled Duo. His face was red. “I didn’t know you were in the bathroom – I just came in to – to –“
“To gaze at yourself in the mirror, stark naked!” snapped Quatre. “To twirl about like some lap dancer! To run your hands over your body, posing like some Olympian gymnast –“
Duo was now a very deep red colour; all over. “I just – wanted to see myself – as others might. If – what – to look at comparative standards –“
Quatre peered down at the towel covering Duo’s groin. “You want my opinion, I’d say it needs work!” he sneered. “But that’s your problem!”
Duo suddenly seemed to realize that the other three were in the room, watching and listening with open mouths. He turned to meet their shocked expressions; he groaned aloud.
“Look – guys – this looks worse than it is, right? Trow – I never touched him –!“
“Like - in your dreams!” hissed Quatre. “You make me feel nauseous – you’re lucky I’m not gonna throw up. And I bet this is just some new scheme to blackmail money out of me!“
Duo cursed at yet another reference to money; he shook his head, helplessly.
“Just stay outta my shower,” said Quatre, turning on his heel to return to the bathroom. It was difficult to muster one’s dignity with one’s hair dripping over one’s forehead, but he felt that he achieved it, regardless. “You want feedback on your ass, you ask the person who’s interested!”
“What does that mean?” Duo snapped back, but Quatre had left the room.
Trowa and Wufei looked at each other again, bemused.
Then Heero surprised them all, stepping forward, and staring at Duo. “What the hell were you doing? Why should you need to practice showing your body off?”
Behind him, Wufei rolled his eyes up into his head. Trowa hid a smile behind his hand.
Duo couldn’t form a response; he was too embarrassed. He just stared back at Heero; at the chocolate brown hair, impatiently pushed back off a wide forehead; at the confusion in wide, dark eyes. At the long, strong, wiry limbs; at the tight muscle definition of his torso, hinted at beneath the flimsy vest…
Heero was also staring back; but his eyes had dropped a little lower than Duo’s face. A pale pink flush was slowly rising, high up on his cheeks. The book he’d been reading dropped to the floor, from a suddenly nerveless hand.
Duo followed Heero’s eyes, looking down at himself. He realised that his towel was no longer secure. Things had stirred rather impressively in his groin area; the soft white toweling had been nudged gently to the side, by a gradual swelling of his private parts. The knot at his waist was unraveling; the cloth was slipping, irretrievably, down his legs. There was definitely rather more of Duo on display than he might have wanted to show – in public, that is.
With a mournful wail, he snatched the towel up in front of him, then turned and ran back out of the room. His buttocks wobbled a little with his haste; everyone watched his rapid escape up the corridor.
Heero stood as if petrified. He was totally unaware of the other two in the room.
“Well!” murmured Wufei, under his breath. “Whatever Quatre might have thought of Olympian athletes, I’d have given that body 9.75!” He was straight, OK, but he could appreciate the male form as well as the next man, couldn’t he?
Trowa nodded in reply, his voice also low. “I wouldn’t say that event needs much work!”
He looked at Wufei, and they smirked at each other.
The apartment had calmed down after the shower incident. Wufei and Trowa had returned to their chess game. Heero had gone rather quickly to his room; Duo had dressed and left the building, nursing his humiliation somewhere else.
The players paused, and looked at each other. Without needing to elaborate, they spoke about the same subject – Duo.
“What’s he on about, d’you think? He’s been asking strange questions – acting weirdly. It’s been going on for days now.”
“I don’t know…”
Quatre came back into the room, dressed now and glowing a little from his shower. He gazed over at Trowa and winked. “A little more foreplay than we usually get, hey?”
“As if we need it…” smiled Trowa, in reply, his eyes devouring the slender body in front of him.
“Cut the loose talk, or go to your room!” growled Wufei. “We need to find out what’s wrong with Duo.”
“Look at his laptop screen,” smiled Quatre. “I just happened to see it, as I passed his room. It’s rather revealing!”
“That’s invading his privacy –“ protested Trowa.
“Disgracefully unethical –“ snapped Wufei.
Two minutes later, they were in Duo’s room, clustered round the laptop that he’d been in too much of a rush to close down.
“It’s one of those ‘How To…’ lists that you get popping-up on MSN Mail,” said Trowa.
“Seven Strategies to Rampant Ravishment,” Wufei read from the bright screen. “Tired of waiting for that Best Friend to become your Best Squeeze? Treat it like a Military Campaign – develop your Successful Strategies, direct them at the Target of your Lust, and then Relax and Savour the Spoils of Victory –!“
Trowa was laughing. Quatre’s eyes shone with mischief.
“Recognise the first three, guys?” He leaned over Trowa’s shoulder, and read aloud. “Strategy One; use Flattery. Everyone responds to personal attention! Tell your Target what you admire about them; what delights you about them.”
Wufei nodded. “I suffered that one,” he admitted. Practising, Duo had said!
“Strategy Two: be Smart, be Fascinated! No-one can resist a well-informed and deeply-interested fascination in their favourite subject. Spend time with your Target; share their Trials at every step of the way; then be there, when they celebrate the Thrills!”
Trowa flushed gently; Quatre squeezed at his ass. They had delicious memories of their own Trials and Thrills...
“Strategy Three,” read Wufei, impatient to solve the mystery. “Dare to Bare! Let your Target see you as the Sensual Being that you are! Release the Hot Bod that slumbers inside you; let Mother Nature’s more Wicked Cousins work on your behalf, and Awaken the Lust inside your Target!”
“Guess that strategy failed rather spectacularly,” grinned Quatre.
“Did it, though?” said Wufei, thoughtfully. The others looked at him. “Who’s he aiming this at, anyway?”
“Well, that’s obvious,” said Trowa. “Heero, of course. He’s mad about him. You need to ask?”
“He’s never actually admitted it,” said Wufei. “Just keeps hinting round it. Pretends it’s a big secret from us all. We all assumed they’d got it together by now…”
“But it looks like they haven’t!” Quatre butted in. “So Duo is frustrated – and growing increasingly erratic. Heero is just as bad! We all know he’s got the hots for Duo – but he appears determined to ignore the signs. In fact, he’s been giving Duo the cold shoulder all week. So, from the way that Duo’s been behaving –“
“He needs these strategies,” finished Trowa.
“But Strategy number Three showed definite promise,” Wufei insisted. “Remember Heero’s response?”
They all nodded. Trowa remembered Heero’s red face, as Duo’s towel had started slipping to the floor; Wufei remembered the dark-haired boy’s wide, shocked, excited eyes. Quatre smirked even more; when Heero had rushed off to his room, he’d barged past Quatre, outside the bathroom. Quatre knew that he’d been the one to notice the rather satisfying bulge in the front of Heero’s pants.
And they all remembered Duo’s reaction!
“They have been pathetic strategies,” grunted Wufei. “A scatter gun approach – never very successful. The boy needs support, from those who understand a battle campaign.”
“So what are the remaining strategies?” asked Trowa, peering at the screen. “Will he be initiating them, as well?”
Quatre thought about what might drive a young man to humiliate himself in front of his flat mates, barely dressed in a towel, and flaunting his family jewels – he considered the strength of that frustrated desire. “Of course he will!”
Wufei thought about what further embarrassment Duo might suffer, and he winced. “Then we must smooth the way for him – we must send in the cavalry, and breach the defences!”
Strategy Four: “Start a conversation! Ask a question, state an opinion, make a joke! Engage your Target with Witty Repartee, while you have the chance!”
Duo came into the kitchen, whistling softly – Heero was immediately conscious of him. He always was. The air would shiver whenever the braided boy walked in; the smell of the sun on his skin would follow him across the room; the breeze from his swinging hair would raise the goose bumps on the back of Heero’s neck.
Heero’s heart sank a little. He pulled his seat a little more closely into the breakfast table.
into a seat beside him. “So – what’s
new, Heero? What do you have planned for
today? What do you think of that new
anime film? I’m not sure about the
artwork being up to standard for a full-length feature, myself. Have you heard the one about the Doctor and
the Tea Cup? What do you think the
Government will do about that new offensive in the
Heero stared. He wasn’t quite sure if he was expected to answer – and, if he was, where he was meant to start.
Duo beamed a huge smile at him. “Trow said you were looking for some conversation – that you’d appreciate some company. I’ve got hours before I’m due to go out!”
Hiding behind the kitchen door, Trowa gave a silent thumbs up.
Heero’s voice was very loud, and very clear in its reply. “I was hoping for some peace, Duo – some time for contemplation. I don’t like to be disturbed just before a mission. I would have thought both you and Trowa knew that.”
There was deathly silence from Duo – a momentous event in itself. Trowa grimaced.
“Duo? Is there a problem -?” Heero’s voice sounded a little less certain; even a little apologetic.
“Forget it!” came Duo’s response, crackling with temper.
Trowa pressed himself back up against the wall, in the hope he could blend into the plaster. He covered his ears with his hands, and bit his lip. Jeez, he thought. That’s the cavalry defeated - this campaign may be harder than we thought!
Strategy Six: “Be Mysterious! Hold some Personal Information back – make your Target Lust for More of You! No-one can Resist a Challenge! Yet make the Journey all the More Tantalising!”
Duo swung lazily through the lounge, snatching up his jacket. Heero was sitting alone, marking up some ordnance survey maps.
“Are you off out, Duo?”
Duo didn’t answer for a couple of beats. When he did, his voice was low, and almost sultry. “Maybe.”
Duo leaned on the back of the couch, and gave a careless, head-tossing laugh. “That’s for me to know, Heero, and you to find out!”
Heero stared at him, brow furrowing a little. “I would have thought that it’s obvious you know where you’re going, else you’d be very foolish to set off in the first place. But as for me having to find out –“
“Intrigued, Heero?” Duo half lowered his eyelids, peering up at Heero through his lashes; just as Quatre had suggested.
“No,” said Heero, coolly. “Annoyed. We’d agreed that none of us would go anywhere without alerting the others, for security purposes.”
“You could follow me secretly, and find out…” wheedled Duo.
“It’s unlikely to be secret then, is it?” said, Heero, reasonably.
Duo stared. His hand tightened on the cloth of his coat. “I’m crap at this, aren’t I?“
“Forget it!” snapped Duo.
Pinned out of sight against the corridor wall, outside the lounge, Quatre groaned silently. He pressed his hands over his mouth, to stop the comments spilling out. Perfect opening, he thought. And just as perfectly lost! That’s the infantry wiped out as well. The pair of them are beyond help!
Strategy Five: “Make use of Props! These are Natural Conversation Starters! Wear something Unusual; be Striking! Be ready to accept the Target’s Admiration and Amazement at your Individuality!”
Duo walked in from the hallway with the hat perched on the top of his head. Heero glanced up, wondering where all the others had gone, then looked back down to his latest report.
His head snapped back up again, sharply.
“Duo? What the hell have you got on your head?”
Duo smiled over at him, hands on his hips. “You noticed, then! Like it, Heero?” It was a tall, striped hat, in the colours of the Jamaican flag. It settled snugly on his ears, rearing up above his head like a large, bulbous growth; Heero couldn’t see any sign of his usual braid down his back.
“No!” said Heero, more sharply. The week had been an increasingly awkward trial for him. “What have you done with your hair?”
Duo’s eyes showed a mixture of emotions. Delight at Heero’s concern; a touch of worry at how his reply would be received. He reached up, and pulled the hat off. His hair fell down on to his shoulders, as long and rich as usual; though not so expected, was its style.
“Cool, eh?” grinned Duo. He pushed one of the long, twisted strands back over his shoulder. His face was framed with impressive layers of long, thick, tangled curls. “It’s good to have a change, sometimes, isn’t it?”
Heero stared. His mouth opened briefly; he lifted a finger, to point at the curls.
“Uhh…” Duo bit his lip. “It’s not permanent, or anything, Heero. It’s just for fun, y’know.”
Heero struggled to find the humour in the situation, but failed.
Duo looked lost. His words tumbled out, to fill the pregnant silence. “It’s to get me noticed –“
“It’ll do that, all right,” grumbled Heero. He’d found his voice again, after the shock had abated. “By every person, friend or foe, all points north and south of this previously safe house –“
“But that’s always your priority, isn’t it? Always the damned mission -!” hissed Duo, in response.
Hidden behind the lounge door, listening carefully with his ear pinned to the crack of the hinges, Wufei groaned. Was he going to have to go in and break up a fight? Didn’t Duo remember his battle instructions -?
“So if it offends, you so much, Heero –“ said Duo, a little testily. “Come and help me wash it out!”
“Huh?” said Heero.
“I’ll get in the shower,” said Duo. His voice reflected every shade of hope and flirtation. “You can come and help me wash my hair – and whatever else takes your fancy –“
Outside the room, Wufei clenched his fist in a potential victory sign.
Heero gave a strangled gasp. Wufei leaned in to the door hinges, peering between, desperate to see more.
“In the shower? With you?”
“Yeah,” said Duo. “You can notice me there, instead.”
“Like the other day –“ Heero’s words sounded very odd. Like they were squeezing out through his teeth.
“Yeah,” repeated Duo. “Like the other day…”
There was a sudden rush of footsteps, and Heero came out of the room at a run, nearly knocking Wufei over in the corridor.
Wufei pressed his hands over his eyes in a despairing gesture. Some throwback to childhood days, perhaps, when you thought that if you couldn’t see anyone, they couldn’t see you. But Heero wasn’t looking, anyway; he barely saw the Chinese man. His eyes looked wide and wild, full of shock, and a fair helping of misery.
And then he’d gone, into his room, the door slamming shut.
Wufei breathed again.
Duo’s parting words sounded more sad than angry, this time. “Forget it, Heero,” he muttered, now alone in the lounge. “Forget it, OK?”
That’s it! thought Wufei, fiercely. His combative spirit was up; his belligerence ignited. That’s a complete decimation of the whole damned army! Time to mobilise the troops in a whole new way!
The three friends held an emergency council of war.
“Disaster all round!” scorned Quatre.
“Never seen two lovers so awkward to get together!” mourned Trowa.
“Nonsense!” snapped Wufei. “It just calls for a different strategy now! An invasion from within – a new approach between aggressor and target!”
“A collaboration?” asked Quatre, interested again, now.
“A negotiation, rather!” said Trowa, nodding in approval.
“Leave it to me, as your envoy!” preened Wufei.
The others looked at each other, and shrugged acceptance. It had been a long week for them all, and a civil war in their own house was wearing them down.
Heero was sat at the kitchen table, extrapolating mission statistics on the laptop, when Wufei marched in. The Chinese man pulled a chair up opposite him, and stared at him until he lifted his weary head.
“For such a bright young man, you can be so unaware – in so many respects!” began Wufei.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean Duo – and your relationship with him.”
“Duo? He’s my friend. A fellow pilot. A team mate –“
Wufei snorted. “Don’t come the innocent with me! Don’t you realise how obvious it is? I’m not known for my intuition, but even I can see you drooling whenever he passes by. It’s time to flush the truth out into the open, and admit you want nothing more than to tumble your team mate all the way to Team Bed!”
Heero stared at him. He was a little flushed. He looked like he’d argue back, but then his face relaxed a little. “Guess it’s not obvious enough, though, eh?”
Wufei laughed, a little confused. He saw the bags under Heero’s eyes; the tight line of worry between his brows. “Have you seen this article?” He produced a printout from his pocket, smoothing it out in front of Heero; stabbing his finger at it, to draw the other man’s full attention.
“Seven Strategies for Rampant Ravishment…” read Heero, slowly. His eyes remained on the paper, but his face reddened.
“Haven’t you noticed his behaviour this week?” persisted Wufei. “You’ve been particularly obtuse, I feel –“
And then Heero’s head snapped up, and his dark, angry eyes flashed a warning at Wufei. “No, my friend, I’m afraid that it’s you who are obtuse, though I don’t mean to offend. This explains a lot – this confirms my conclusion, that Duo has fallen for someone. I know the signs – I’m not the complete naïf that you all think I am! He’s been asking advice; he’s been practicing his skills of seduction on all of us. I would have thought that you’d all have realized that, before now! It’s preparing him for the one he wants…”
Heero sighed. “I’m glad for him – if only because it’s the perfect explanation for his erratic behaviour. He wants to share his pleasure with his friends – he needs our support. We must face facts – his approach has been nothing short of clumsy this week, eh?” Heero’s laugh was a little forced. “But it means I mustn’t nurse hopes for him myself, now.”
Wufei’s mouth was wide open. He tried to speak, but at first he couldn’t. Heero wondered if he were ill.
“What the hell -?” Wufei eventually spluttered. “How can you get it all so right – and yet so spectacularly wrong?”
A half hour later, Wufei and Heero sat at the table. Wufei had spoken for quite a while; Heero had his head in his hands.
“I’ve been blind,” said Heero. “Worse – I’ve been rude! I’ve just been trying to keep him at bay – I’ve been trying to keep out of his way, when I knew I couldn’t offer him any objective advice on attracting someone else. When I was just trying to be helpful to him! And now it’s gone too far – he’s given up on me –“
“Enough!” announced Wufei. This self-pity was uncharacteristic, and – more to the point – wasn’t helping to restore the harmony in the house. “I think that unlikely. He was in the bathroom last night until 3am, combing out the dreadlocks. And ranting on about the miseries of his life. We just need to plan the next move, most carefully.”
Instinctively, they looked back down at the printout on the table.
“So which one is left, then, Heero?” said Wufei, slyly.
“What are you suggesting?”
“You’re the soldier,” shrugged Wufei. “You’re as good a strategist as I. You want to win a war – you know the stratagem.”
“Target the general,” said Heero. “That’s the way to win…”
“Go to the top!” grinned Wufei. “Play him at his own game. Do whatever’s necessary to win!” He shifted the paper round so that Heero could read it for himself. “Read Strategy Seven, Heero; read the last one!”
Another half hour later, Heero walked alone into the kitchen, to find Duo standing by the fridge, mixing a chocolate milkshake. He’d already taken a slurp of it – Heero could see the dark, wet drops on his lips. He cleared a throat that had become uncomfortably tight.
“Duo – I must talk to you!”
Duo looked round, wondering where the other guys had gone. Wondering at that glint of light at the door hinges, as if eyes were peering through. He looked back at Heero, almost like a rabbit facing the reflection of its doom, in the eyes of an approaching snake.
He was tired of this game, already! Didn’t they all know it? He didn’t need any further humiliation!
Heero’s face was set in a most deliberate expression. Duo awaited the worst. Then his friend’s mouth opened, and rather than the usual diatribe, the most astonishing words came out instead!
“You wanted to talk about relationships, Duo – what I thought of boys versus girls. How I thought a friendship might be progressed on to a more intimate footing. What I thought about your – “ he flushed. “Your physical attributes!”
Duo stared, the glass of milkshake halted on its way back up to his mouth. Well, yeah, he had, but that was before -!
“I think that gender is unimportant, so long as you like the person,” Heero rushed on. “I think that you should follow your instincts, when you feel an attraction beyond friendship. I think –“ another flush. “I think you have a very – appealing body.”
“Appealing?” said Duo, faintly. “To you?”
Heero nodded. “To me.” And then he grinned at Duo.
Duo almost rocked back on his heels. “Christ, was that a smile, Yuy? Or has your breakfast caused indigestion? I told Trow some of those eggs looked iffy –“
Behind the door, three young men jostled for position.
“What the hell’s going on?” hissed Quatre. “He looks like a rabid dog!”
“Hush!” growled Wufei. “This is a vulnerable stage of the negotiations –“
“It’s the final strategy, Quatre,” Trowa explained. “Strategy Seven – Smile! Show your Pearly Whites! Show the Target that they please you – that they give you enjoyment. That you’re Interested in them! It’s the Best and Most Effective Message that you can give them. It lights up your face and draws people to you –“
“Or not, as the case may be,” grumbled Quatre.
Wufei jabbed him in the ribs, to shut him up.
Heero and Duo were now only inches apart. They seemed fascinated with each other’s mouths – with their eyes – with the shape of each other’s body. Especially in the groin area.
“Follow your instincts, eh?” murmured Duo.
Heero’s smile never faltered.
“And you think I’m fit? That I look – appealing?”
Heero’s eyes flickered up and down the other boy’s body, and he nodded, enthusiastically.
“Even with dreadlocks?” said Duo, warily.
Heero nodded, eyes locked on the shimmering pulse of Duo’s throat.
“Dancing about in the bathroom like a fool, with just a towel -?”
Heero licked his lips. “Preferably without,” he said, his voice a little higher than usual. “Could you – are you interested in me, in the same way?”
Duo’s eyes flashed brightly, but his reply was slow. “Maybe…”
Heero shook his head, impatiently. He took another step towards him. “No, you exhausted that strategy earlier –“
“Huh?” said Duo, startled.
“The ‘be mysterious’ strategy.”
“You liked that one?” asked Duo, a little mystified. Heero’s hand had stretched out, and was nestling at his waist. It felt extremely good, stroking him there.
“I preferred others.”
“Which ones?” Duo felt the warmth of Heero’s breath at his cheek.
“I liked the ‘dare to be bare’,” whispered Heero. His lips brushed Duo’s ear, and the braided boy shivered with pure pleasure.
“Back to that one, eh?” smiled Duo.
“Got to be my favourite…”
“Put down the glass, Duo,” said Heero, softly. When Duo stared at him, bemused, he repeated it. “Put down the milkshake, Duo. I want to taste you.”
The glass clattered back down on to the kitchen table, rather hastily.
“Were you wise to the whole damned game, Heero?” asked Duo, a little plaintively. “Have you been playing me along, all this time?”
Heero opened his mouth to make his usual non-committal grunt, but then at the last minute he decided to repeat the smiling strategy, instead.
When Duo laughed softly, and leaned forward to taste his smile, Heero knew he’d made the right decision.
The three friends listened, shamelessly, now outside the lounge door.
“They’ve moved to the couch –“ hissed Quatre.
“The defences have scattered!” crowed Wufei. “The enemy troops have been annihilated! They are on their Victory parade!”
Trowa had the decency to blush, as he listened to the creaking sounds from the couch, as two strong young bodies bounced against each other. “Certainly sounds like a Treaty is being negotiated –“
Quatre was listening avidly to the sound of tentative – and more enthusiastic - kissing. He felt rather flushed, himself. “Doesn’t sound like they’re taking any prisoners, either!” he grinned.
Then Duo’s head popped back out through the door, startling them all. They didn’t even have time to look embarrassed at their eavesdropping.
“Duo!” cried Wufei. “Are you OK?”
“We’re going out!” the braided boy grinned. “Together! As a pair! On a date! Heero and me! A unit – a couple – an item –“
“Enough, already!” groaned Quatre.
“Will we regret getting them together?” mused Trowa. “The enthusiastic happiness may be more wearing than the enthusiastic frustration –“
Duo stuck out his tongue at them. “Whatever! Thanks, guys, for all your help, but it looks like we’ve worked it out for ourselves in the end, eh?”
The three of them stared, as his grin grew even broader. “Anyway, I just wanted to know if one of you would lend me enough to take him for a pizza? I’ll pay it back next payday -!”
There were incredulous cries; Trowa laughed, shortly. Quatre choked on something. They moved in towards him as a single body, and the air was menacing.
It was a while before the white flag flew.