Disclaimer: The Gundam boys in their original incarnations belong to Bandai and Sunrise.

This is a prequel to 'All I Want For Christmas'
Pairing: 1x2
Rating: Lemon! NC-17
Genre: Alternate Reality, angst, parenthood

Notes: This is dedicated to my goddess of a beta, Alex. Please keep her in your thoughts... she's been in acute care for the last several weeks due to a nasty spider bite. She's on the mend and should be home in two more weeks.

Summary: Two lonely hearts meet.

A Boyfriend for Daddy
Part 1
by Artemis

Public transportation wasn't so bad. Sure it required some walking, and waiting, and occasionally standing in the cold and rain, but for $1.50 each way, it was a damn good deal. Considering his car was in the shop and his checking account near empty, the elevated train was looking good for the next few days.

Duo hoofed it the four blocks to the train platform with his camera case and backpack slung over his shoulder. He was running late this morning. His four-year old son, Solo, had a tummy ache and Duo had hesitated to leave him at the sitter's. Sure Mrs. Berry was his neighbor, but that didn't make it any easier. He knew Solo would feel better in his own bed, but Duo couldn't afford to stay home. If he called in sick he wouldn't get paid. It was that simple. And so, Duo had wrapped Solo in a blanket with his stuffed bear and took him downstairs to the sitter, and then headed to work at the Herald—the city's smallest, but most bulldoggish paper.

On the platform, Duo glanced at his watch and then down the tracks. It looked like he would make the 7:41 after all. It was only a fifteen-minute ride downtown from here, but a lot of people rode the train rather than fight the traffic. Even so, Duo preferred to drive, since he needed a car for work and the newspaper reimbursed his mileage. They had tried to give him a company car a year ago, but the thing was an embarrassment—a white, old lady car, as far as he was concerned. What kind of an image did that project if the photographer for a news story showed up in a granny car? As it was, he'd have to suffer that car this week with his own up on the rack.

He peered down the tracks again, rocking from heel to toe. The train would be here any minute, but glancing at his fellow commuters you'd never guess it. The dozen or so who waited with him were near motionless and quiet, except for the two on their cell phones and the guy who couldn't get his newspaper folded right. These small observations had been made quickly. There was an unwritten code in the city that you shouldn't make eye contact or smile or talk to anyone. Just keep your nose to the pavement and mind your own business.

Cigarette smoke tickled Duo's nose, and he tilted his head to take a whiff. He didn't smoke, but the scent of the occasional cigarette pleased him. His eyes followed the white trail back to its origin and he nearly gasped. Holding the freshly lit cigarette to his mouth was a young man so haltingly beautiful that Duo couldn't help but stare. The dark haired stranger was dressed in a long, black coat, over what looked like a decent black suit and comfortable black shoes.

Duo appraised him slowly, letting his eyes drift over the slender fingers that held the cigarette to pink lips, and the heavy, dark brown bangs covering his eyes. As he followed the line of those bangs around the stranger's brow he realized he was being watched right back. He turned away, embarrassed and feeling warmth rush to his cheeks. Damn, getting caught was always awkward, but getting caught gawking was nearly criminal.

He made like he was looking for something in his backpack, half wishing he could crawl inside it and half wanting to take the camera from his bag and snap a few. He hadn't seen anyone that good looking in a long time. It was going on fourteen months since he'd gotten laid—thirteen months and twenty three days to be exact. His last experience had been so base, so beneath him that he had backed away from dating or even trying to get laid. Or maybe it had more to do with being a dad than anything else? By the time he got home from work at night, made dinner for him and Solo, spent time together, and got the boy bathed and ready for bed, Duo didn't have the energy to go out to the clubs, let alone the resources to hire enough babysitters to accommodate the kind of nightlife a guy his age should be enjoying. Instead, he just gaped at businessmen waiting for trains.

At last the train arrived, and Duo made a point of walking further down the platform to enter by way of a different car than the stranger. As it turned out, they ended up in the same car, the young man sitting just a few seats ahead of Duo. Of course, this afforded Duo the opportunity to continue to stare, even if it was only at the back of the stranger's head.

Nice head of hair, Duo thought, scratching his own head. He wondered what it would be like to twine his fingers in hair like that—so thick and unruly it would take the better part of a day to explore.

His stop came too soon, and Duo found himself reluctantly getting off the train. When it pulled away he looked up, wondering how far the stranger would ride it. He shook his head. Some mood he was in today if he could get so easily fixated on a guy with a great head of hair.

It was a half mile walk, or five city blocks, to the newspaper's offices. At the editor's desk he picked up his assignments for the day—the mayor's annual luncheon, a pet fair at one of the grade schools, the Mannheim tunnel construction project, and a groundbreaking ceremony at the City Center Mall. If nothing came up in the meantime, he might make it home early.

Assignments were generally given after the reporter had completed interviews and was well on the way to finishing the article. Occasionally, Duo went out on a shoot with the reporter in tow, but more than not he worked alone, and he liked it that way. Yes, he was a sociable guy, but when it came to his photography he preferred to go it alone, concentrating on his work, his art.

He decided to go out to the Mannheim tunnel first. Laborers tended to break for lunch around eleven, and he wanted to get some photos of the work in progress. Generally, he found that people were uncomfortable with having their photo taken, but if he could capture a candid moment of them in their environment, he felt that came closest to the truth of whatever it was the reporter was going to convey in words.

After the tunnel shoot, he got back in the company car and headed to the pet fair. On the way, he called Mrs. Berry on his cell phone to check on Solo.

"Is he feeling any better?"

"Much better. He had a poopie and that seems to have done the trick."

Duo's nose scrunched with the image. Why did she have to talk that way?

"So that was the problem? He was constipated?"

The woman laughed. "Looks like it. Just make sure he eats his oatmeal in the morning."

Duo hesitated, not wanting to get defensive. He knew she wasn't implying he was a bad father, but... "Thanks, Patrice. Can I talk to him for a sec?"

"Sure, he's right here."

"Daddy! When are you coming home?"

"A little later... you know I gotta work, buddy. So, you're feeling better?"

"Yeah, my tummy doesn't bother me anymore."

"That's good. Are you behaving for Mrs. Berry?"

"Of course! I like Mary Berry," the boy said, and Duo chuckled. For some reason he could not get Solo to call the woman missus.

"Okay. I'll see you later, now let me talk to Mrs. Berry again."

"Okay, Daddy. Bye!"

Patrice was back on the phone telling him about how she planned to teach Solo how to make peanut butter cookies and that she hoped Duo would be on time tonight, because it was her Bridge night out.

"I remember. Right now it's looking like I'll be early... I'm thinking around 4:30."

"That'd be wonderful."

The call ended, and Duo found himself feeling much better about being at work. When Solo was sick it broke his heart to leave him. It was hard every day, but especially on these days.

The pet fair was charming, and made Duo think of his son again. He wished events such as this made the front pages of the newspaper, but it had no spice. Feel good stories were fillers. After the mayor's luncheon, Duo swung by his favorite deli for a sandwich and then headed to the City Center Mall for the groundbreaking. Back at the newspaper, things were slow, so he was able to head home early as planned.

After collecting Solo from the sitter's, they went upstairs to their apartment with Solo carrying a plate full of peanut butter cookies. Duo ate one of the cookies as he prepared dinner—grilled cheese, sliced potatoes baked in the oven, and apples and oranges. He handed Solo a slice of apple and then returned to the stove to flip their sandwiches in the pan.

Solo was seated at the kitchen table, coloring. He took the apple slice and happily munched on it as he continued his project.

"What are you making?" Duo asked.

"It's a surprise."

Duo grinned. He poured some milk into Solo's plastic, sippy cup, and then plated their dinner.

"Okay, buddy, dinner's ready. Gotta move your project so we can eat."

Solo's face scrunched, but he did as his father asked, pushing the paper and crayons to the other side of the table.

Duo sat across from Solo to eat.

"Did you like my cookie?" the boy asked.

"It was very good. You helped Mrs. Berry make them?"

"Oh, yes! I put the flour in the bowl and stirred it all up with the eggs and stuff."

"That's great. Maybe you'll be a baker when you grow up."

"No, Daddy. I want to be an artist like you."

Duo smiled. "Like me? Really?"

"Uh-huh," Solo said with a firm nod.

Though Duo's art these days was photography, he had spent many years drawing with pastels, and a couple of those drawings were hanging in their apartment. He was surprised that the boy remembered that about him. It'd been months since he'd taken out his own art supplies to draw anything.

After dinner, Solo went back to work on his drawing while Duo cleaned up the kitchen. The drawing turned out to be Duo making dinner though on first glance Duo thought it looked more like he was painting a board. They each had another cookie and went into the living room to watch a program on polar bears.

By eight o'clock, Solo was in bed, and Duo was back on the couch watching a hospital drama. This wasn't how he used to spend his evenings. Mondays like this were occasion enough to stay out late at the clubs, and if he was lucky, for bringing home a new friend. He didn't exactly miss that life, because he would never trade what he had with Solo for the world, but he did miss the feeling of being young and free, and having regular sex.

His eyes drifted to a framed photo on the end table. It was the last photo taken of the three of them—Solo and his mom, and Duo. It had been taken just two weeks before she had died in that car accident. What a stupid waste. The drunk who had smashed into her car in broad daylight had had his license removed the month before. Obviously that hadn't stopped him from drinking or driving.

Duo loved that picture—they were all smiling, even ten-month old Solo was laughing. From the day he was born, Solo had changed Duo's life. It had never been just about donating sperm for his partner- less friend. It had been about their friendship, and Solo embodied the best that friendship had to offer. Duo's gay, single life had continued about the same after Solo's birth, but he had been touched very deeply by the introduction of this new life. It had never occurred to him that he would be the one to raise the child.

The shock of his best friend's death had hurt Duo deeply. She was the one person he spoke to every day, the one person who knew him best. To lose his best friend and to become a full-time dad on the same day seemed like too much to ask of anyone. Despite his grief, Duo didn't indulge in his own feelings when he had a baby to look after.

He supposed he was still getting used to being a father, but at least his neighbors had stepped forward to help. There was nothing like a single man with a baby to bring out the motherly qualities of women, and the sympathy of other men. Thank goodness for that or Duo would not have made it.

+ + +

On Thursday, he was sent with the paper's top reporter to the Federal Courts Building to cover a demonstration against globalization. There were upwards of a thousand people milling about, walking in circles, and holding up signs as they shouted in protest. Duo found the march exhilarating, and at one point got in line with the protesters to photograph them from within their ranks.

Catching up with the reporter for a moment, Duo hung back on the steps of the building, observing the happenings from a different perspective. There were certainly a lot of suits hanging around. He figured most of them were undercover police or investigators keeping tabs on the protest. Funny thing about free speech, it was always well documented by the government.

The warm scent of cigarette smoke caught Duo's attention, making him smile. He turned his eyes to the top of the granite steps. There he half-expected to see his stranger from the train. The thought was silly and remarkable. It seemed the stranger from days before had made an impression on him and now cigarette smoke would be forever associated with him. But his stranger wasn't there—only three men in suits. Duo shrugged and looked away, disappointed.

He saw the Herald's reporter now at the base of the steps, waving to him. It was time to go. He slung his camera over his shoulder and reached into his bag for his lens cap. Distracted, he began descending the steps and then... smack. He ran into something solid.

"Hey," he said, looking up, ready to blame whoever had run into him, but his mouth snapped shut. It was the guy from the train. "Oh." Duo cleared his throat. "Guess I wasn't looking where I was going."

"I guess not," the stranger said.

They stared at one another and Duo wondered if the man remembered him. He sure remembered this guy, but somehow had forgotten the details.

Holding out his hand, Duo introduced himself. "Duo Maxwell. The Herald."

The young man nodded. "Photo journalist?"

"That's right. And you?"

The man's eyes looked him over, seeming to catalog him. "I'm with the Bureau." A hand came out, clasping Duo's. "Heero Yuy."

Duo nodded, not knowing what to say, but enjoying the firm handshake. "The Bureau?"

"Federal Bureau of Investigation," the young man explained, nodding toward the limestone structure behind them. "You were on the train Monday morning."

A shiver raced through Duo's body. So, he did remember. "Uh, yeah."

"Thought you looked familiar. The braid is a giveaway."

"People tend to remember it."

The young man nodded, still intent on Duo.

"I'm covering the protest for the Herald. How about you?"

"I work here. Just getting back from lunch."

"Yeah, of course."

There was a long, painful pause as Duo waited for the man to say something more. It was just like a federal investigator to be quiet. Let the other guy dig himself into a hole.

Finally, the man held out his hand again. "It was nice meeting you, Duo."

Duo hesitated, his pulse beginning to race, but he took the hand in his. One pump, then two and their hands slowly separated.

"Would you like to get some coffee?" Duo blurted out.

"I'd say yes, but my break is over."

"Oh, of course."

"And it seems you're needed," the young man added, nodding.

Duo turned to see the reporter watching them, and doing a good job of looking impatient.

"Right. Guess we both have to get back to work." Duo took a couple of steps down and then looked back up at the young man, who surprisingly was still looking at him. "Maybe I'll see you 'round."

The young agent nodded.

Duo watched the man head up the granite stairs, thinking no one had a right to look that good.

+ + +

Early the next evening, Duo was running around his apartment, getting Solo ready for bed, and himself ready for work.

"But I don't want to put on my pajamas."

"It'll be easier for everyone if you do. Now get moving, Cathleen will be here any minute."

"Cathy lets me stay up and wait," Solo said.

"Not tonight, buddy. I don't know how late I'll be working."

"But Daddy...."

Duo sighed. His little guy was getting to be a fine debater and those sad, blue eyes made it hard not to give-in. "Nothing doing, Solaris. I don't have time for games."

The boy frowned, and Duo knew he had made his point. He so rarely used Solo's proper name that when he did the boy knew his dad meant business. In just a few minutes, Solo was changed into his polar bear pajamas and sitting on the living room couch, paging through his picture books.

Duo's camera pack was open on the kitchen table as he checked for his memory cards and organized his lenses. He didn't often accept an evening assignment, but sometimes it could not be helped. The newspaper only had three photographers, and there was only so much maneuvering he could do with the schedules.

Tonight he would be covering the final night of the World Trade Organization conference. The protest the previous day, in front of the Federal Building, had been an off-shoot of the three-day conference. Thoughts of the protest inevitably led to thoughts of the chance encounter with the guy from the train, making Duo's face warm. The long dry spell in Duo's love life made the lustful wishing all the more hard to ignore. He did not often meet someone who so quickly captivated him.

Maybe I should give him a call, Duo thought as he re-packed his bag. Now he knew where the guy--Heero Yuy--worked. They could have coffee together after all... and possibly more. It was not Duo's imagination that their hands had lingered together a bit long and that the other man's eyes had looked at him intently.

Wishful thinking aside, it was time to head to the convention hall. The doorbell chimed, announcing the sitter's arrival. Duo opened the door and went through the usual list of do's and don'ts for Solo and pointed out his cell phone number on the fridge. With a kiss to his son's forehead, Duo was out the door.

At the hall, his press credentials were checked and he was let in to the massive auditorium where nearly 10,000 attendees were gathered for the evening's keynote speaker. He hated the thought of sitting through a boring speech while he took uninteresting photographs of the guest speaker and convention goers. It was difficult getting anything out of the ordinary at these events, but then, even when he did, the newspaper's editor didn't use them. "I don't want art," he'd say. "I want the story." So out of dozens of photos, the editor might select one or two for a story. For Duo, all his work often boiled down to one image, so he tried hard to make that image a little more interesting than the next guy's, but not too much or it wouldn't be used.

Duo opted to wander the auditorium, rather than hole up with the Herald's reporter and the other newspaper men. He wasn't sure why reporters and photographers grouped together. All that made for was getting the same story and the same pictures. Of course, this line of thinking frustrated Duo's editor, but it couldn't be helped. Duo couldn't be like everyone else. Someday, he hoped that philosophy paid off.

After some candid shots on the convention floor, Duo settled in a seat in the first balcony. From there he could use his zoom lens to capture most of the action. Since simply looking through his lens made for a distorted impression of the event, Duo spent time letting his eyes drift over the faces and cardboard signs being held up by the conventioneers. There were certainly a lot of people, and Duo soon noticed a pattern in their attire—lots of suits, dark suits with bright ties. He doubted he'd be confused for an attendee, but not because of the press pass hanging around his neck, but for his clothes—a brown leather bomber jacket, navy t-shirt, jeans and black and white athletic shoes.

As the keynote speaker was introduced to a standing ovation, Duo snapped a few digital pictures. He had covered a lot of conventions, but was surprised to see the speaker was a woman. Clad in a dark gray suit and a red, sparkling brooch, she walked to the podium, smiling. She was pretty, conservative in dress and hairstyle, and middle-aged. It was then that Duo noticed the suits in the wings of the stage—men speaking into the cuffs of their shirt sleeves. He grinned... security.

The woman, head of a multi-billion dollar corporation, spoke on the values of free trade. Her voice was pleasant and clear, and her face, projected on the big screens scattered about the auditorium, beamed with confidence. And then it happened. A scuffle at the bottom of the stairs leading to the stage, and a strange man dressed in a light blue bodysuit lunging forward. Duo sat up—finally something to write home about.

With his camera in hand he zoomed in on the disturbance, snapping the shutter repeatedly, documenting the bizarre intruder's every step. Amazingly, the man, paunchy and past his prime, shouting something about "stop the madness," made it within twenty yards of the speaker before security tackled him.

With a thud, the man and six security guards, some in uniform and some in suits, fell to the wooden floor of the stage. The audience was nearly silent as they gaped at the spectacle, but Duo didn't have time to gape. He had to capture the moment—all of it—until he registered a familiar face in the security detail.

"Heero." The name on his lips surprised him.

Duo let his camera slip to his lap to look at the man with his naked eye. Yes, it was the man from the train and from the federal building yesterday. Now Duo was the one gaping, but with the intruder shouting again, Duo snapped out of his lustful gaze and got back to work. In moments the protester was handcuffed and taken away.

The speaker, flustered, but appearing all the more human for it, began again, starting with a joke about men in tights. Duo laughed despite the joke not being very funny, but it did the trick to relieve the tension in the hall. With the intruder all but forgotten, Duo could not get Heero out of his mind.

Judging his assignment done—it would now be up to the reporter to get the story—Duo made his way through the auditorium and to the secured area near the stage. Of course, the location was swarming with reporters, but Duo's intentions were different than the others. He had the shots for the paper, now all he wanted was to see that good looking agent. At this point, he wasn't even sure the guy was gay, but Duo had hope and that was all he needed to plant himself in this spot and wait.

And wait he did. For nearly an hour he hung out making small talk with reporters until finally he heard rumblings that the protester was being taken downtown. He darted out a side door with several other reporters and made his way around to the stage door. Sure enough, the transfer was being made, and Agent Yuy in the thick of it.

It all happened quickly and efficiently, the squad car loaded and driving off with lights, but no sirens. For a moment, Duo lost sight of his man, but once the reporters, and now television crews, gathered around a convention spokesperson, Duo saw the agent standing off to the side. He wandered over, unencumbered now that the excitement was past.

"Nice night for it," Duo said, smiling.

Agent Yuy looked at him, grinning in return. "You see that?"

"It's all right here." Duo patted his camera like a proud parent. "It's got morning edition written all over it."

A police officer came up to Heero, asked him about dispersing the crowd that had formed, and then went on his way. That brief interruption was enough to make things awkward. Suddenly, Duo felt out of place, like he was hounding this guy, and he took a step back to leave.

"I've got to clean up things at this end," the agent said.

"Right," Duo said, delaying his departure. "Official business."

"Still interested in that cup of coffee?"

"Sure, but it doesn't look like you've got time for it."

"Can you meet me? Say in an hour? I should be done by then."

Duo's stomach did a flip. "Uh... yeah." He looked at his watch. An hour would give him time to run to the newspaper, download his photos for the editor's perusal, and then meet this guy—for coffee.

Trying to contain his excitement, Duo swallowed the grin, tugging at the corners of his mouth. "You have somewhere in mind?"

"Do you know Java Jo's on the river walk?"

"Yeah, the place with the red walls."

"That's the one. Meet me there in an hour... we can talk."

Talk... right, Duo thought. "Okay. See ya' there."

Without hesitation, Duo spun on his heel and got his butt back to the Herald. Luckily, things were running smoothly at the paper and he was able to meet with the editor to review what he'd captured on his camera. To his surprise, Duo noted that several of the images had Agent Yuy front and center. He would have to save those to his personal file, but for the moment he felt self conscious about them despite the editor not seeming to notice. The man was more focused on the action Duo had so vividly shot.

His meeting over, Duo made it to Java Jo's at exactly 9:30, taking a table near the front of the shop. He hated being the one to wait, and because of that he usually made a point of being late, but this time he didn't want to mess up. He didn't want to miss meeting the guy from the train.

Ten minutes passed... fifteen... and then twenty. Geez, was this guy going to stand him up? Duo cringed at the thought. Maybe he had been too eager, but wasn't it pointless to play games? If they were attracted to one another, and it was certainly looking that way, then why pretend not to be interested? Or maybe this federal agent was merely being friendly. Cops were always looking for reporters and stool pigeons to be their eyes and ears.

Duo looked at his watch again. In just a few minutes it would be ten o'clock. He'd been had. He got up from his chair, the metal feet scraping noisily across the tiled floor, and then he heard the chime of the shop's door. He looked up and his heartbeat quickened. It was Heero.

"Giving up on me so soon?"

on to part 2

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