"Hey, there you are!"
Heero grunted in affirmation, but otherwise remained still, frowning, leaning up against the wall in a nearly vacant section of the big ballroom. Quatre had gathered them at one of the Winner mansions to celebrate the imminent arrival of 198 AC.
Duo put his arms akimbo, grinning. "Oh, come on - you're not still pissed over that picture, are you?"
He was - granted, not as much as he had been immediately after the fact. All the guests, most of them good friends and the closest they had to family, had been gathered up for a group photo. Duo hadn't been happy with Heero's sullen expression, and every attempt at making him smile to the photographer had failed. In the end, he chose the exact moment of the snapshot to pinch Heero's butt. "You are the reason I'll look like an absolute idiot on that photograph, gaping in surprise. It doesn't help any that you're grinning like a maniac right beside me."
Snicker. "So what if they figure the connection? You've never complained before - and it's not like we're still 'in hiding', right?"
Sigh, dim smile. "True..."
Duo tilted Heero's chin up. "See, there ya go. Problem solved." Quick, light kiss. "So, what's bugging you?"
Heero straightened himself up, pushed away from the wall, and wrapped one arm around Duo's waist, moving their sides together. Duo reciprocated. Heero sighed. "It's nothing. It's... I just feel out of place here."
"Are you kiddin'?"
"I feel like I'm intruding on an established group ritual, and-"
"Would you quit blaming yourself for being hospitalized the two times - count them, two - the gang has been together for New Years? Quatre and Hilde had beds in the same darn hospital as you that first year, and-"
Heero's smile brightened a tad. "Yeah, I know... Maybe I prefer to be alone with you, that's all."
Duo blinked, grinned, and was about to give a slightly naughty reply, when Quatre came over and interrupted that plan. "Hi, guys - enjoying the party?"
Out of the blond's line of sight, Duo dipped his hand down Heero's back pocket, giving a slight pinch. This time, however, Heero was prepared, and his face remained almost unchanged - though he smirked as he retaliated with a similar grope. "Uh- Oh, sure. Yeah, Heero and I were-" Duo's eyes locked on the odd beverage in Quatre's glass. "What's that pink slush?"
"Hm? Oh, this?" Quatre took a sip from the straw, and reached for the small spoon beside it. "It's a Strawberry Special. It starts out as a dessert dish, and as it melts, it becomes a drink." He dug up a tiny portion of the frosting left floating on top.
Amused grunt. "Sounds more like ice-cream to me."
Shrug, smile. "I suppose it is - only, it melts faster, and is more viscous. It's quite good - please ask the bartender, if you want to give it a try." Wink. "I'm sure there's a bigger option with two straws and one spoon, if that sounds better."
Duo grinned. "Thanks, Quat. Maybe we'll try that later." Pause. "Where are Trowa and Wufei? I haven't seen them in a while."
Quatre paused mid-sip. "Oh - Wufei went out for some air some time ago, and Trowa's giving the Times Square mock-up outside a final check. We wouldn't want the ball to stop in mid-fall, right?"
Chuckle. "Well, I still say you should have gone with my idea instead."
Heero could almost feel the temperature drop as Quatre's cheerful expression shaped into a cold frown. "Duo, I will not replace the replica of the ball with a mock-up of a colony - and that's final." And he left hurriedly.
Heero sighed, tightened his hold on Duo. "You really shouldn't have made that suggestion. It's bad taste."
Snort. "Drop a ball, drop a colony, same difference. I still think it would have been a good joke."
Quick glance. "You didn't do it, right?"
"Make a last minute swap?"
Grin. "What do you think?"
Sigh, headshake. "Duo..."
Laugh, kiss. "You really think that little of me, do you, huh? No, of course I didn't. Wouldn't want to hurt Quatre's feelings. Besides, I'd have to fight Trowa to get that far."
"It's the final minute, people!" a voice sounded above the low chatter of the ballroom.
Duo and Heero locked eyes, crept slowly closer until their foreheads touched. "Dare stick with me for another year, Heero?"
Chuckle. "Oh, I think I'm ready for the challenge..."
The people on the porch outside, as well as those still inside, began pairing up, and all spoke with near unison voice. "Ten... Nine... Eight..."