A Boyfriend for Daddy
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
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
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
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
Duo's nose scrunched with the image. Why did she have to talk
"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
"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
"Okay. I'll see you later, now let me talk to Mrs. Berry
"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
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
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
"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
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
"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
Holding out his hand, Duo introduced himself. "Duo Maxwell. The
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,
"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
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,
Duo turned to see the reporter watching them, and doing a good job of
"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
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
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
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 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
"I've got to clean up things at this end," the agent
"Right," Duo said, delaying his departure. "Official
"Still interested in that cup of coffee?"
"Sure, but it doesn't look like you've got time for
"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
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... 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?"