The Asian district in this city wasn’t the most stereotypically Asian example of such a neighborhood Heero had ever heard of, which seemed to cause Duo some disappointment as he saw it now for the first time. That didn’t mean Duo wasn’t still behaving like an adorable dog with its panting head out the car window, though, or that he didn’t exclaim over what architecture and decoration did clearly say ‘Asian’ to his American eyes. Heero answered his random questions about the area and growing up there, but otherwise remained silent during the drive. He had no idea how tonight was going to go, and was bracing himself harder than usual.
His father had never been demonstrative, but even he, when Heero had made his announcement four years back, had been direct and rather emotional with his immediate expression of disapproval. Mrs. Yuy’s reaction didn’t bear thinking of. There had been tears and angry words and then that long period of noncommunication, and the wounds occasioned that day had never really been discussed or patched up. Gradually, eventually, they’d begun talking again, without ever really mentioning the confrontation or Heero’s sexuality. Things had smoothed out, for the most part, but for the occasional veiled hint or attempt to set him up with some girl, and hadn’t become truly awkward again until Relena’s engagement.
Quatre and Relena both thought that what Heero needed was a boyfriend, to show his parents that he really was gay, that he was happy that way, that he had the potential for life-long happiness in declining to deny what he was. Heero had always agreed with them, up to a point… and that point, unfortunately, seemed to be where he actually brought the new boyfriend to meet his parents and attempt to prove all those things. Because he didn’t know that he really believed it would help. And he just couldn’t stand the thought of his parents’ continued disapproval. If they were unpleasant to Duo, or if they gave any indication, in his presence, that they still believed this was a game or a mistake… Heero was afraid there would be another row, this one undoubtedly a little more difficult to recover from.
“You OK?” Duo asked presently.
“Yeah.” Heero couldn’t bring himself to say anything more.
Duo made a sympathetic noise, but it seemed he’d run out of reassurances.
At that moment, Heero’s phone gave off an obnoxious beeping he didn’t often hear from it, and he frowned as he fished it out of his pocket. Handing it to Duo he said, “Can you look at that?”
“From Winner, Quatre,” Duo read out. “Texting since you’re probably driving and Duo can read it. Just wishing you luck tonight. Trowa says so too. We’re cheering for you guys.” He made funny noises as he attempted to read aloud Quatre’s signature, which, if Heero remembered correctly, involved a number of unpronounceable symbols as decoration. “That’s so sweet.”
Generally Heero hated text messages, and had forbidden Quatre to send him any, but at the moment couldn’t but appreciate the sentiment written out so definitively — especially since, if Quatre had actually called him this close to the time, Heero probably wouldn’t have answered. He nodded his agreement to Duo’s statement.
His sister and brother-to-be had arrived first, but — bless her heart — Relena had obviously insisted on waiting around outside so everyone could enter together. Heero returned her greeting hug particularly enthusiastically. “How are you guys?” she asked as she withdrew.
“He’s freaking out,” Duo said bluntly before Heero could answer.
“I wouldn’t have put it quite like that,” Heero muttered.
“Oh, Heero.” Relena took his shoulder and squeezed it. “It’s going to be fine!”
“That depends on how you define ‘fine.'”
“Well, it’s going to be really awkward at first, but they’re going to see that you guys are serious about each other, and they’re going to realize that everything is OK. You’ll see.” Though she spoke with certainty, she clearly observed that he wasn’t convinced. Lips tightening, her face took on that authoritative expression so much like one their mother often wore. And in perfect keeping with this, what she said was, “Heero. In case you haven’t noticed any time in the last twenty-two years, I’m just like mama. I know how she’s going to react. Trust me.”
And at this, Heero had to smile. She was a good deal like their mother, and maybe she was right about being able to predict Mrs. Yuy’s reaction because of that. He was still short of words, but he nodded, and she seemed to accept this answer.
“And don’t forget that we have your back,” said Colin, placing his own hand on Heero’s unoccupied shoulder. Everything Colin said usually sounded so polished, but now there was just a touch of uncertainty to his tone. It wasn’t that he doubted what he was saying, Heero thought, but rather that he still wasn’t quite sure yet how brotherly Heero would allow him to be — which actually rendered his expression of support more meaningful, given that he’d still offered it.
“Thank you,” said Heero sincerely. Then he squared his shoulders, dislodging both of his well-wishers, and added, “Let’s get this over with.”
Relena and Colin joined hands as they headed up across the front lawn toward the porch. And as Heero moved to follow, watching them from behind, his steps slowed. Eventually he came to a complete halt, standing in the middle of the grass as his sister and her fiance drew farther and farther away.
“What is it?” Duo asked quietly. “Don’t tell me you’re backing out.”
“No…” Heero took a deep breath and turned to face him. “You know what it’s like in there; or at least you heard what it was like last time. It may be worse tonight. And I’m going to do my best to be a real person, but… if I curl up in a ball, or run screaming, I…”
“I’d like to see that,” Duo teased, though his amused tone was still sympathetic.
“But even if I turn into a… a frigid bitch… I want you to know that I…” It took some effort and another deep breath, but he managed to say it at last. “I love you.”
This time Duo really did knock them both right over with the enthusiasm of his full-contact embrace; he seemed to go from zero to sixty in half an instant and eight inches, and they were suddenly in the grass in a tangle, and from the porch Relena was failing to stifle a laugh. Duo was also laughing at his own inadvertent tackle, but Heero thought this laughter had somewhat the sound of restrained sobbing. When he put his mouth close to Heero’s ear and whispered to him, the tone of his voice confirmed this.
“You just wait, Heero Yuy… later I’m going to tell you exactly what I think of that.”
“Thanks,” Heero said, and found that he sounded a bit choked himself. “That thought should get me through the night.”
Duo’s ecstatic smile as he pulled away from Heero and jumped up, then offered a hand to help Heero up after him, would have been a sufficient reward in itself, even without his words. Once Heero was on his feet again, Duo kissed him hard for a moment before accompanying him on across the lawn. They all filed through the door, Duo still grinning and Heero with a heart just the tiniest bit lighter for it.
As usual, his father was waiting in the front room, and his mother entered when she heard them. There were the typical hearty greetings for Relena and Colin, and then the Yuy parents turned toward their son and the stranger. Relena had been the one to request permission for another friend to join them for dinner tonight, so this would be the first indication not only of said friend’s name but of what, exactly, he was to those present. This would be the moment that would determine quite a bit of Heero’s happiness or pain for the next he knew not how long.
Yet he found, now that it came to it, rather than the reluctance and deep concern he’d been experiencing all day — and, to a certain extent, all week, all month, perhaps every month and every year since he’d realized this moment must come — that this wasn’t going to be nearly as difficult as he’d anticipated. He had a man he loved beside him, and supportive friends around him, and the assurance of good thoughts from those that were absent; he would survive whatever happened here.
“Mama, papa,” he said. Deliberately, he reached for Duo’s hand. “I want you to meet Duo Maxwell, my boyfriend.”
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