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April Showers

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When they say April showers bring May flowers, I don't think they meant rain that went on endlessly with flooding that reached almost Biblical proportions. I can't believe I left Chicago for this. It rains even more here than it did there and don't even get me started on the snow. When I used to think about upstate New York, I'd always pictured quaint little towns with old, colonial homes. Window boxes filled with every flower imaginable and Sunday afternoon church picnics where ladies still wear sunhats and white gloves and shit. 

The hell was I thinking?

I suppose at the time, just about anywhere seemed to be a potential paradise. It is nice, I'll give it that and there are small, picturesque towns like the kind you see in those old films where no one has a bad hair day, or bad breath, or bad anything. Turns out, though, it's just like anywhere else. And it's still a fuckton better than where I came from. 

Still wish I'd chosen UCLA, though. At least the weather is nicer. 

Coming from the streets of Chicago, just about everything seems better. The air smells cleaner, the food tastes better, there's nature and trees and birds and all kinds of neat shit that the slums of the Windy City haven't seen in probably a few hundred years, not that anyone cares much there. It's hard to stop and smell the roses when you're too busy trying to survive. It's also expensive as all get out up here. If there was one perk to living in Chicago, it was that everything was dirt cheap. Not that we paid for anything, mind you. 

No, sadly I was one of those people you probably talk about after watching the evening news. The kind of guy you hide your daughters from. Loser, street rat, hoodlum, delinquent. Yeah, those all come to mind. And I won't deny that that was what I used to be. Growing up in a shit hole not even fit for rats and not having proper role models is going to increase your chances of being a stain on society. It's not like I had anyone to teach me morals and values and all that jazz. 

When my dad wasn't too busy chugging down his whiskey and practicing his right hook on my brother and I, he was making sure we knew how worthless and disappointing we were. We'd stopped going to our mother for support when it became apparent that she was too high to give a shit about what any of us did. 

Solo was the one I looked up to and looking back on it, he wasn't the best role model either. Granted, what he did, what we did, was survival. Our old man didn't feed us, our old lady didn't give two crack pipes and a pack of smokes if we starved to death. What else were two kids supposed to do? The streets called to us like a beacon and we answered it. Anything was better than sitting around at home waiting to be used as a punching bag. 

So, yeah. We stole, we robbed. I'd even taken the plunge down the bottle myself for a while. How's that for some shit? A boozer at ten years old. What can I say? I was depressed about my shitty existence. If I wasn't getting my ass beat for asking my dad for a few scraps of food, I was getting beat for stepping into some gangbanger's territory. It didn't seem like there was a way out. The booze temporarily eased the pain and when the pain came back, I'd drink more to get rid of it. It's the circle of life, man. It wasn't until I was twelve and had gotten a beat down from my piece of shit father that was so bad, he'd knocked three of my teeth out, not to mention my lights for a good forty eight hours, or so. I woke up in a hospital with some broad from CPS standing over me with her clipboard and a smile that was faker than her press on nails. She informed me that my parents were in the slammer and that Solo and I were the next lucky contestants to take a spin on the Wheel of Foster Care. 

Unlike Solo, I knew deep down the streets weren't for me. Solo was good at crime. He thrived on it. Lived for it. Me? I hated it. I did it because I didn't think I had any other options. I was scared. Scared of being displaced. It didn't matter that it was a horrible way to live. It was all I knew and it became a comfort. It was familiar. Something I knew I could count on. I was also terrified that I'd never see Solo again. I knew there was a very high risk that we would be separated. 

And we were. I ended up in this middle class neighborhood in the suburbs of Chicago and I don't even know where Solo ended up. I was forced to go to school. And therapy. And rehab. I tell you, it's a real trip being the only twelve year old alcoholic in AA, surrounded by adults who look at you like, "Damn, I thought I was bad." Pffft. Whatever. 

But yeah, I got clean. I suppose I should thank my "higher power". Har har. In this case, it was my foster parents, I suppose. They were real religious types. Jesus freaks as Solo would say. They were determined to make me turn my life around and they promised me with the help of my "Lord and Savior", I could make that happen. 

Ah, hell. They were nice enough folks. It was just that their tighty whities were a little too tighty whitey, if you know what I mean. I ended up going to this Christian school since my foster mom, Helen, was able to pull a few strings and convince the administrators of my plight. They were generous enough to admit me. It was something I honestly thought I'd hate, but I turned out to be really good at school, particularly math. I'd attended public school, sometimes, when I lived at home, but if you've seen one inner city public school, you've seen them all. The teachers were usually too busy breaking up fights and confiscating drugs and weapons to actually teach us anything. 

I attended church with the Maxwells and while I pretended to be a good, little Christian, I just wasn't feeling it. I never said anything to my foster parents about it. They were good people and I didn't want to disappoint them. They eventually adopted me. I was shown off at church and at school as the poster child of Christ's faithful healing. See kids, miracles do happen. I'm apparently one of them. 

I even had some friends, believe it or not. Good, Christian children that James and Helen Maxwell pre-screened and approved of. We did a lot of the typical shit that religious kids grow up with. Youth camps and all that, bible studies, though we often snuck in our video games and dirty mags when our folks weren't looking. We talked about tits and pussy and about which girl would give it up first. Typical teenage boy shit. I'll admit, I do like me some female lovin', but I had other urges that I had to keep to myself. Being interested in your own gender is not often well-received in these religious circles. I obviously couldn't say that I enjoyed looking at naked cock as much as I did pussy, so I kept those fantasies tucked safely away in my head until late at night after my parents had gone to sleep. Then I'd allow them to move freely behind my closed eyes as I, shall we say, took myself in hand.

I lost my virginity when I was fourteen to a girl who'd had a crush on me since my first day of school. She was cute and she was willing, sticking her hand down the front of my jeans in the movie theater, therefore confirming the rumor that she was only a "good girl" in the eyes of the adults in her life. The kids at school knew better. Angel in the streets, freak between the sheets. Years of religious sexual repression will do that to you. A few weeks later, we were watching some cheesy horror flick in her parents rec room when she leaned over me and stuck her tongue in my mouth. I was so nervous, my eyeballs were sweating. My sexual experience went as far dear old righty, but she seemed to know what she was doing. She took my hand and put it on her breast, first over her shirt, then pushing it beneath the open gap of her blouse. 

By the end of the month, I was sticking my fingers up her coochie and the following Saturday, I'd gone all the way. I received many congratulatory slaps on the back that Monday morning, to say the least, not to mention offers from quite a few other girls.

Oh, and you better believe I took advantage of that. Who wouldn't? The girls were great and they always made me feel good, but my curiosity about doing it with a boy was getting stronger and more difficult to ignore. I fantasized about it almost constantly and as luck would have it, when I'd thought I was being subtle checking out a cute piece of ass, he approached me behind the school.

I thought it was over, man. I thought I was gonna get my ass pummeled and then outed to the entire school, which would no doubt find its way back to my foster parents. I was sweating bullets and shitting bricks. But, instead of kicking the shit out of me, the kid handed over a folded piece of paper and said, "If you ever want to try it." Then he walked away, leaving me with my mouth hanging open. 

I kept the number tucked away behind a piece of molding in my room, too scared to actually go through with it, but not willing to throw it away. It stayed there for two more years until my last year of high school when I realized I was going to be going away to college and may never have the opportunity again. So, I called him and asked him if the offer was still available. He seemed surprised, which made sense since it took me two freaking years to have the balls to go through with it. 

We got together one weekend when his parents were out of town, under the guise of studying. Ha. But, I was such a good student, the folks didn't question it. I was terrified, to be honest. This was nothing like going at it with a girl. Luckily, the boy had some experience and took the lead. 

It was probably the best night of my life and I'm not even exaggerating. We gave each other hand jobs, then we blew each other, and just when I thought I couldn't squeeze out any more jizz, he fucked me, and then I fucked him. Afterwords, we stretched out on his double bed, sharing a menthol and though I felt like I'd just run a marathon, the reward at the end was better than anything I could have imagined. I knew it was something I would always cherish. I thanked him and went home, feeling like a new person. I had a hell of a time trying to hide my giddiness and flushed face from the parents, but they easily fell for my excuse that I ran home. 

My adoptive mother not only continued to encourage me in my school work, but she also worked with me at home, tutoring me and honing in on my skills, make them sharper, more refined. I was acing all my tests with little effort by the time I hit high school and even skipped a grade. Turns out I'm some kind of genius. Go figure. I graduated at sixteen at the top of my class and my SAT scores ranged near the top state-wide. Coupled with my "disadvantaged" background, I earned a full ride to several different universities where I decided to major in engineering.

Sometimes life is funny. One day, I'm neck-deep in shit and the next, I'm on my way to a prestigious college in upstate New York. I did well in my classes and earned top grades, easily making it into the graduate program for aircraft engineering. Got myself a nice group of friends and I dated, but it was never anything serious. I was more interested in having fun than settling down. Hell, I was in my early twenties and the meat market was prime. 

"You are developing quite a reputation around here, you know that right?" My friend, Quat, said this to me while we were down in the cafeteria one night looking to fuel our tanks in between cramming for tests. He dipped a french fry into some ketchup and shook it at me. "I heard through the grapevine that you're boinking your professors now."

"Who the hell says "boinking" anymore?"

Quat knew a diversion tactic when he saw one. His blue eyes widened, "So it is true."

I waved him off. "One professor. Singular, not plural."

"Fucking hell, Duo! That could get you kicked out of school."

Damn, it must be serious if he was cursing. "Relax, buddy. It was only once."

My friend took a sip of his pop - er, soda. Where I come from, we say pop, but apparently in these here parts, people look at you like you're funny in the head when you say "pop". "Duo, you have to be careful. Cavorting with professors is dangerous territory."

I nearly spit out my drink. "Cavorting? Jeez, dude. You've been hanging out with Trowa too much." English Lit majors. They were a whole different breed. 

He gave me the evil eye, which coming from a cute, little fluffball like Quat, was a terrifying thing. "At least I'm not single-handedly trying to repopulate the campus."

"Touché. But seriously, what's wrong with having some fun? I'm too young to tie myself down."

"Having fun and running around on campus like Lothario in El Curioso Impertinente -"

"What?"

Quat rolled his eyes and waved his hand. "It's a literary character. It's - never mind. It's not important. My point is that there's a difference between having fun and sleeping with everything on two legs."

"What about four legs?"

I had to bite my tongue at the look he gave me. Quat was a riot sometimes. "God, Duo!" 

"I'm kidding! Relax," I said, unable to contain my laughter. 

"Anyway. Sleeping with everyone you meet."

"I haven't slept with you."

"Uh...you tried to. Remember?"

Oh, that's right. "And I nearly got flattened by your boyfriend -"

"Fiancé ."

"Whatever."

"No, not "whatever". You see this?" He held up his hand, making a show of the gold ring on his finger. "This is the symbol of commitment. Something you know nothing about."

"I'm committed!"

"To what?"

"Uhhh...these burritos. I've been loyal to these babies since my first day here."

Quat giggled and shook his head, propping his chin on his hand and looking at me like I was hopeless. "You're hopeless."

I swiped one of his fries and popped it into my mouth. "But, you love me."

"Ugh. Yes, but I do wish you'd quit chewing with your mouth open."

"So what's Tro-man doing these days?"

"You would know. You see him almost as much as I do."

"Yeah, but I like hearing your perspective."

"Since when?"

I pretended to be offended. "Why, Quat. I'm appalled that you would think so lowly of me."

"I seem to recall you saying "who cares" when I offered my opinion on the political repercussions of legalizing drug use."

"I was joking. When did you stop having such a sense of humor?"

"When I entered grad school."

Damn, but I heard that. "When did we become such old fogies?"

Quat snorted, "Speak for yourself."

"Hey, we're in this together. You, me, a porch, and two rocking chairs reserved just for us. Deal?" I held out my fist.

Laughing, Quat tapped it with his own and nodded. "It's a date."

I leaned back, stretching in my chair. "Welp. Ready to go back to burning the midnight oil?"

"No," he whined, dropping his head onto the table, a lock of blond hair just barely missing the puddle of ketchup. 

"Come on, no time for lazy bones." I flicked him in the head. "Who the hell eats fries with ketchup anyway?"

Quat raised his head, looking adorably confused. "What else am I supposed to eat them with?"

I shrugged. "I'm from the Midwest. We eat everything with Ranch."

He made a face. "What about dessert?"

"I said everything, didn't I?"

"Gross!"

 


 

It was nearing the end of April and it had literally rained every damned day. Usually I liked rainy days. It brought to mind quiet nights when our dad had passed out before he could lay a hand on us. We used to huddle under a pile of old blankets. I can still remember the musty smell of them. We'd listen to the rain hitting the roof and the windows and Solo would weave amazing tales of places far away and of lives that were full of adventure and intrigue. Of ancient castles and fire-breathing dragons. Beautiful princesses waiting for rescue. I would fall asleep listening to his voice, the only comfort in those dark days. It was bittersweet knowing he could have been a literary genius like Trowa.

I found out a few years ago that Solo's experience was far different from mine. He was sent to one foster home after another, the families that took him in unable to tame him. At eighteen, he disappeared into the underbelly of the city until a year ago when he was shot to death during a drug raid. There was no funeral. Just another low-life getting what he deserved as far as society was concerned. I was so angry. So fucking angry that the world didn't know, didn't care to know who he really was. My big brother, my protector. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops until everyone understood that while he wasn't important to them, he was important to someone. He was important to me. I hadn't seen him in years, but damn I missed him. Missed his quirky smile and his hilarious honking laugh. It broke my heart to know that he'd probably died feeling unwanted and unloved. 

Quat and Tro were with me during my grief. Through my depression, my rages, my catatonia. They gave me their shoulders to cry on and their ears when I needed to rant and rave. They were the best friends I ever had and I loved them dearly.

Despite the fact that Trowa and I initially got off on the wrong foot, we'd become very close over the past few years. I met him when he'd swooped in out of nowhere and grabbed the front of my shirt, snarling in my face like a rabid animal. I had gone into town for a simple drink, nothing more, but I'd laid eyes on the cutest little blond piece of ass standing alone at the bar, and I thought, Oh, what the hell. I approached him and offered to buy him a drink, laying the ol' Duo charm on thick. It usually worked, so I was surprised when he politely declined. Instead of walking away like I should have, I asked him if he was sure, making very clear my intentions by reaching down cupping a pert little ass cheek. Next thing I knew, I was grabbed by the shirt so hard it ripped, thrown against the wall and met with the very pissed off face of a brown haired guy who looked able and willing to bend me into a pretzel.

Turns out, he was Blondie's big, bad boyfriend. Oops. Lucky for me, Blondie had stepped in and broke it up before I could get my ass handed to me which I was eternally grateful for. I apologized to them about the misunderstanding and slunk back to my table to nurse my gin and tonic. 

When it turned out Blondie and I had some of the same classes, he approached me a few days later and apologized for his boyfriend's actions. 

"He's usually very nice, but he does have a temper. I'm sorry...about that." He blushed fetchingly and I lamented the fact that I hadn't been able to taste some of that sweetness for myself. 

"Don't worry your pretty little head, Blondie. It's cool. I can respect that and I don't blame him. No hard feelings, okay?"

He looked relieved, his shoulders losing their tension. "Oh, good. I'm Quat, by the way."

"Duo." I offered my hand and he shook it, his smile like sunshine.

"Nice to meet you, Duo. So, what are you majoring in?"

"Engineering."

Quat's eyes widened, his pixie face lighting up with excitement. "No kidding! So am I."

It was funny because that kid didn't seem like the type. Then again, I probably didn't either. It takes all kinds, I guess. "Well, that's cool. I guess I'll see you around quite a bit then. And just, let your boyfriend know I'm sorry again."

He waved his hand. "Oh, it's fine. He's fine. It's rare that he acts like that and it usually burns off quickly."

"Well, I suppose he had a good reason. Nice to know I was special enough to bring about one of those "rare" occasions."

He nodded, laughing. "Thanks for being so understanding. Friends?"

I was a little taken aback, not sure if that was a good idea, but I figured why the hell not? I was new. I could use some friends. "Sure."

"Oh, good. Okay, I'll see you around. Nice meeting you."

We ended up developing a close friendship after that. Turns out we had a lot in common when it came to music and whatnot. I found out his boyfriend was an English Lit major which surprised me. I didn't think Lit majors were prone to fits of violence when their boyfriends got groped in a bar. I always thought they were they weepy type. Go figure. Trowa was some serious eye candy himself, though. He had these soulful green eyes and he was built like an athlete. That Quat was a lucky guy.

Trowa was a little cold towards me at first when Quat reintroduced us. Considering I'd grabbed his boyfriend's ass the first time I met them, I didn't blame him for not liking me to begin with. It was Quat, sweet Quat that bridged the gap and once we hung out a few times and got to know each other, he began to warm up to me. Now, he is one of my very best and most cherished friends.

Despite his blond hair and blue eyes, Quatre was originally from Jordan. He spoke with a strong Middle Eastern accent that surprised me when we first talked to each other. He transferred to the U.S. only five years ago. Trowa was rather quiet, soft-spoken, which was a shock once I really got to know him, since he'd nearly shoved my head up my own ass that first night. They were still a fairly new couple when I first met them. I had the honor of watching their relationship and their love grow and I was thrilled to have witnessed Trowa's proposal. They really were adorable together, despite being polar opposites. Maybe that was what made them work so well.

I met Wufei in one of my classes and we became friends after having to do a project together. We had an interesting relationship and I'm sure it confused a lot of our casual acquaintances. It was built on mutual respect, but we also enjoyed tearing each other a new one sometimes. It was all good fun. We never took it personal. He was born in China along with his girlfriend, Sally, and they'd moved to the states when they were kids. Sally was a sweet gal who was currently attending med school. Fei was also amazing at martial arts and he'd even taught me a few moves, though he also enjoyed laughing at me since I could never have the kind of grace and agility he possessed. I tended to have two left feet when we sparred, something he never let me live down. 

All in all, I had a good life now with good friends. It's hard to believe I was where I was now, considering where I'd started out. I only wished Solo could have had that, too. I know my friends would have adored him. 

 

 


 

I was woken up the next morning before class by a text from Quat.

Where are you?

I turned over, glancing at my clock and nearly flipped my shit. I scrambled up out of bed and threw on whatever didn't stink, grabbing my bag and flying out the door. It was raining cats and dogs. Again. This was ridiculous. The place was starting to look more like a pond than a campus. I ran through I don't know how many puddles, the water soaking through my shoes. By the time I made it into the building where my class was, I was drenched to the bone and shivering. My feet made awful squishing noises as I walked down the empty hallway which made the sound all the louder. 

"Excuse me."

The soft voice nearly made me jump out of my skin, not realizing anyone else was around. I turned and nearly had to roll my tongue back into my mouth. You know what they say about that instant spark you get when you meet someone? Fireworks and angels singing and all that shit? Yeah, never believed in that despite Quat telling me that's what happened to him when he met Trowa. Now, I knew what he meant because Christ on a cracker, the boy standing across from me was nothing less than perfection and my stomach flipped like a pancake during breakfast rush hour. I swear I could hear harps playing, somewhere.

He was Asian. At least in part. A pair of striking blue eyes gazed into my own beneath a mop of dark brown hair. God, but he was beautiful. It took me a few minutes to realize I was staring at him like a drooling idiot and snapped my mouth shut with an audible click. Real smooth, man, real smooth...

I tried to cover my tracks with one of my trademark grins, though my heart was pounding against my rib cage. I wondered if I opened my shirt, I could actually see it busting through my flesh like you see in those old cartoons. The boy raised an eyebrow at me and I cleared my throat feeling dumber than a bag of doorknobs.

"Uh...yeah - yes. What can I help you with?" Weak start, but okay. Let's roll with it, Maxy ol' boy.

The boy held out a slip of paper and showed it to me. It was a schedule and I had to kick myself for feeling disappointed that he wasn't giving me his phone number. "I'm looking for this class."

It was hard to tear my eyes away from that beautiful face...those intense eyes. I glanced down and noticed he had the same class as me. "Oh yeah. That's right here," I said, jerking my thumb behind me. "I have that class right now, too. I'm not usually late though." I didn't want him to think I was some lazy bum who couldn't be bothered to make it to class on time.

There was a touch of a smile on his pretty lips and I melted right there like a pat of butter in the hot sun. Oh, jeez. I was gone for this guy. Quat would never let me live this down. I reached for the door handle and pulled it open, gesturing for him to go in. I almost jokingly said "Ladies first" as I would have done with my friends, but I tamped down on it before it could come out. I wasn't sure if he'd appreciate my sense of humor yet and I didn't want to blow my chances of getting a date with this spectacular specimen. 

He walked past me and I followed him into the room, taking a moment to see what he was packing in terms of bootiness. Oh, yes...now that was a nice piece. Enough to wrap my hands around, but not too much. My dick gave an interested twitch and I had to think unpleasant thoughts before it rose to the occasion and embarrassed me in front of this exquisite creature. 

Fries dipped in ketchup...

Dog poop...

Wufei in assless chaps...

Ah, there we go.

I turned to him, hoping the hearts in my eyes weren't visible. "You can sit with us if you want. I mean, unless you already have someone to sit with." I didn't want to be presumptuous after all, though my heart was praying he didn't. 

"Uh, yeah. Sure. I don't really know anyone, so," he trailed off, shuffling his feet shyly. I had the almost uncontrollable urge to take him into my arms and I clasped my hands behind my back, terrified that I would actually do it.

"Cool. Follow me." We walked over to my usual spot next to Quat and Wufei who both gave me a stern look, but raised a brow at the new guy. 

I gave them a little wave. "Hey. Sorry I'm late. My alarm didn't go off."

"A likely story, Maxwell." Wufei had this thing where he never called anyone by their given name. Except his girlfriend, of course.

I huffed. "It's actually true, though. Oh guys, this is..."

"I'm Heero. Heero Yuy."

I grinned. What a lovely name. I don't even care that I sound like an over-sweetened cheesebag. "This is Heero. Heero Yuy."

Sometimes I wish I didn't have such sharp tacks for friends because they both gave me a knowing look. I wanted to kick them in the shins so Heero wouldn't see their smug expressions. Quat, always the polite gentleman, extended his hand in greeting. "It's nice to meet you, Heero. I'm Quatre, people call me Quat. This is Wufei."

"Do you guys mind if he sits with us?"

"Of course not. Any friend of Duo's is a friend of ours, right Fei?"

"If you say so, Winner."

I turned to Heero. "Don't mind Fei. His britches are always a little too tight."

Heero barked out a laugh at that and I grinned, elated. We sat down and I turned my head when I felt Quat's laser stare. "What?"

The little shit grinned. "Nothing."

Class went by without a hitch and I was more than happy to share my text book with Heero who hadn't gotten his yet. It went by so fast, I panicked when it was over because I didn't know if I would see him again the rest of the day, or maybe ever. I just had to get to know this beautiful creature and I was terrified that I might never get the chance to. I shot Quat a frantic look as Heero got up, gathered his things, and left the room. Quat just shook his head, smiling at me like I was a drooling toddler in a candy store. 

"Well? Aren't you going to go talk to him?"

"Oh shit! Yeah - yeah, I'll -" Good God, what was wrong with me? I jumped up, stumbling over my own feet and tore through the door, glancing down one hallway, then the other. My heart jumped as I spotted his retreating back. This was it. No turning back now. I ran after him, accidentally knocking into a few people with my shoulder as I passed them. 

"Shit...sorry. Heero. Heero!"

He stopped and turned to look at me, raising a brow, and waited for me to catch up. I reached him and bent over, panting, holding up a finger while I caught my breath. When did I get so out of shape?

I finally got my wind back and straightened up. "Sorry. I'm sorry. I was just wondering...are you busy later?"

He blinked at me and glanced down the hallway. "Well, I should probably study tonight."

"You can still study," I said, a little too quickly and loudly. Okay, Maxwell, settle down. No need to yell in his face. I took a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves. "Well, I thought maybe we could get some coffee, or something and we can study together?" I could hear the desperate hopefulness in my voice and cringed inwardly. I had become like those annoying dudes who trip all over their tongues making fools of themselves for the attention of a pretty girl. But this wasn't just some pretty girl. This was Heero and I was desperate.

He looked unsure and I was crushed at the prospect that he might not be interested. "I...don't know."

"Well, you know, I don't want you to feel pressured, or anything. If you don't want to, that's -" It was killing me to say that.

"Oh, it's not that I don't want to. I just don't know with all this work - I mean, it's so much."

"Jeez, I hear ya, believe me. But, it might be easier if we studied together. Quat is usually my study partner. He's the best actually. Really smart guy. We usually get a lot done. But...you know, if you can't tonight, that's fine. I can always give you my number and if you ever want to, you know, study, or even just hang out sometime..."

A cute little knot formed between his brows as he considered and I wanted to lean over and kiss it away. "You know what? Sure. That sounds great actually."

"Yeah?" My heart leaped into my throat and I almost squealed in a most unmanly way. It took every ounce of self-control I had not to jump up and down and do a victory dance. There was plenty of time to show him my dance skills. Now was not that time. "Oh, that's awesome!" Cool it, Maxwell. "Yeah okay. You want to meet us in the cafeteria at say...seven?"

He nodded and smiled and I swallowed down my giddiness. I felt like a schoolgirl with a crush, but I couldn't help it. He was breathtaking. "Yeah. I'll be there." He looked down at his watch. "I have to go. I've got another class."

"Oh, yeah, so do I. I'll see you tonight then?"

He smiled at me over his shoulder and I could have died a happy man right then and there. "I'll be there."

I practically skipped back down the hall towards Quat and Fei who were waiting for me by the door, shaking their heads at me. 

"That was a pitiful display, Maxwell."

Quat elbowed him. "Be nice, Wufei." He looked at me. "So? Did he fall for your charms?"

I grinned. Not even a pack of wild dogs chasing after a slab of prime rib could have pulled the smile from my face. "He's gonna meet us in the cafeteria to study at seven."

"Okay. Oh, Trowa's going to join us because he's got the night off. Is that alright?"

"Have I ever given you shit for inviting your boyfr -"

"Fiancé!"

"Whatever. Have I ever given you shit for bringing him along?"

"No, I suppose not. Okay, we need to get to class and you better not be late to yours, either."

"Yes, Mother. I'll be on time."

"Good. See you tonight. Come on, Fei."

I waved to them and set off to my next class, getting soaked all over again as I ran to the adjacent building, but this time, I didn't mind so much. Those April showers had never felt so good.

 


 

Now, I wasn't what you would call "vain". I didn't spend hours in front of the mirror, primping and primming. Granted, I thought I already looked pretty damn good if the fact that I was pursued quite a bit and almost never turned down for dates was any indication. I certainly wasn't horrible looking. My hair was probably my most popular feature aside from my eyes. It was long. As in, I hadn't had it cut since I was maybe seven, or eight. Sometimes it was a real pain, but it became such an intricate part of who I was, I couldn't bear to part with it. I usually just kept it tied back in a braid to keep it out of my face, but I would take it down during dates sometimes. The braid was also cooler in the summer anyway. Nothing more uncomfortable than a thick curtain of hair sticking to your sweaty neck when it's eighty five plus degrees outside. It gets pretty humid here in the summer, too. Very similar to Chicago summers in that respect. 

Fortunately, I didn't have to worry about that being as it was April and rather chilly at times. The rain didn't help. It'd been weeks since I'd seen the sun. 

Fucking Northeast, man.

So, making sure that I reiterate that I wasn't vain, which I wasn't, that afternoon after class saw me in front of my mirror fussing over my hair and my clothes for the first time in I don't know how long. Quat was laying on my bed groaning about the rain and my pathetic whining about not knowing what to wear. 

"For fuck's sake, Duo. Just pick something. You're not going to some black tie function. We're studying in the school cafeteria with friends."

"Yeah, but...it's Heero."

Quat shot me a look like, Yeah...and? 

"Oh, come on. Gimme a break here. It wasn't that long ago when you were doing the same thing. You still do I might add."

"That's because I'm trying to keep the spark alive."

I glanced at him through the mirror as I tried to decide to keep my hair tied back, or leave it down. "Quat, Tro would be all over you even if you'd just climbed out of a dumpster."

I smiled as that made him laugh. I loved making people laugh. "Alright," he said. "Let's see what kind of mess we can make out of you."

"Gee, thanks."

He got up and walked to my closet which was just a corner of my apartment with a clothing organizer. I had one closet and it was tiny. I could barely fit my coat in it. He rummaged through my shirts and picked out a bluish purple button down. It was the nicest thing I owned and I saved it for special occasions which mainly means I never wore it unless I was trying to get into someone's pants. He glanced at it and put it back. "No, too much. That's your booty call shirt."

"How do you know about my booty call shirt?"

He looked at me like I was a few tools short of a stocked shed. "Are you serious?"

Okay, we weren't going there. "Right. Let's go for casual."

"It's probably a good idea if you just look like you usually do. Save the special stuff for the, not yet scheduled, date."

"Yeah, but I want to look better than normal without looking like I'm trying to look better than normal."

"Do I look like a miracle worker?" He sifted through my clothing and selected a very casual pair of jeans and a relatively snazzy t-shirt which, if you knew what my t-shirts looked like, it was a miracle in of itself. "Here. This will work. Casual, everyday, but much nicer than most of your tees."

I grabbed the clothes and slipped them on, then turned and shook my braid at him. "Braided, or down."

"Are you trying to look desperate?"

"No...yes."

"Leave it braided."

"Okay."

"And here. I brought some of my cologne."

"What's wrong with mine?"

"Yours is like the pheromones of a sex maniac."

"What's wrong with that?"

Quat stood with his hands on his hips, thoroughly exasperated with me. "Do you want a date with him, or not."

Good point. "Got it. Okay, how do I look?" I turned to him, holding my arms out to the sides, trying for a sexy pose and probably failing miserably.

"Truth?"

"Oh hell, lay it on me. I can take it."

"You look like someone who is desperate, but is trying very hard to not look desperate."

That would have to do. "Works for me."

"Good. Ready?"

My heart stopped in my chest for a second, then started back up a little painfully. "Wh - now?"

"It's five minutes to seven, Duo."

"When the hell did that happen?"

"When you were too busy fretting over your appearance."

"Shit, oh God. Okay." Deep breath there, Maxy. "Okay. I can do this. Okay." Shit, I can't do this.

"Duo, for God's sake, relax! He'll love you, or at the very least, he'll be hopelessly charmed into going on a date with you. You got this, okay?"

"You think so?"

"Of course I do. Hell, if I wasn't with Trowa, I would have gone home with you that night."

"D'awww." I punched him lightly in the arm. "You're just saying that." But, Quat shook his head.

"It's true. There's a reason everyone's always falling all over themselves to be with you."

"I don't want "everyone". Just him."

Quat looked surprised. I didn't blame him. I was surprising myself, too. "Wow, Duo. You've really got it bad. Could it be that maybe you've finally found the one who can domesticate you?"

"Let's not jump the gun here."

"Okaaay...just saying this is new for you."

"I know. I'm freaking myself out."

"Well, stop. I don't think you have anything to worry about. Just be yourself and if it happens, it happens."

I nodded, taking a deep breath. My nerves were on fire. Okay, Maxwell, chill the fuck out. You got this.

It was terrifying because this wasn't just the potential for a date and a fun, sexy night. There was something special about this one. Something I'd never felt before. I didn't want to blow it. I had to take this one slow, careful. I wanted so much more with this boy than I'd ever wanted with anyone else.

I never believed true love was meant for me. I'd always believed it was something that happened to people like Quat, or Fei, but never for someone like me. It honestly never bothered me before. Now, the prospect that something special like real love was suddenly much closer than I could have ever imagined. It scared me, but it left me feeling almost drunk with the promise of new feelings and experiences that I'd never had before. I wanted to reach out and snatch it with both hands before it got away from me, but it also made me feel like running away screaming. 

Quat wrapped his arm around me and laid his head on my shoulder. Together we watched the rain fall outside for a few minutes and I was overwhelmed with gratitude that my friend was there with me. There for me.

"Thanks for being here."

"You'll be fine," Quat whispered.

I could only hope he was right.