One sip told the young man he did not like American coffee. The strong, bitter drink left a fowl after taste in his mouth, but he would make the effort for his host. He picked up the small, silver container of cream off the table and poured nearly half of it into his cup. The white liquid swirled into the dark brown, turning it a pleasant tan. Another sip. A little better, but he was still unhappy with the taste. All this fussing was simultaneous as he listened to the list of properties that for one reason or another his host, a real estate broker, thought would make good investments. The man was eager to do business with Yuy International, a Tokyo based hotel and restaurant dynasty.
"I know you don't own any nightclubs, but there's a man here in Chicago I'd like you to meet. His name is Lou Almati, he owns several clubs and some rental properties, and he's interested in expanding and partnering."
"Yuy International does not partner," Heero Yuy, the son of the company's president, said. His voice was flat as his eyes gazed past his lunch companion to a group of young Americans being seated across the room. "Do Americans always dress so... casually?" he asked, his eyes narrowing on their shorts and t-shirts.
The realtor looked over and grinned. "I guess so. We're a bit less formal than you Japanese," he said, noting that even though the temperature was in the high 80s today, Heero was dressed in a suit and tie, but did not appear to be sweating.
Yuy International had long dominated the hotel and restaurant business in Japan. In the last decade it had expanded into the world market with establishments in Britain, Australia and Singapore, and most recently in the United States. And now, with Heero taking on more of the responsibilities from his semi-retired father, they were striving to make more inroads into the American market. This was his third visit to the States, but for all intents and purposes it was his first real exposure to America and Americans. The previous trips had been brief and only as a participant in the grand openings in New York and Honolulu.
"Anyway, I think it'd be a good use of your time to visit one of Lou's clubs," the realtor continued. "If nothing else it may give you some ideas of your own."
"All right," Heero said. He would be in Chicago several days, and this realtor came very highly recommended. He would look at the properties and meet the individuals he suggested. In the meantime, he would try to drink the rest of his coffee.
Twenty minutes later, as they were leaving the restaurant on their way to look at a vacant building for sale, a young man came rushing through the door, practically knocking Heero down. They bumped squarely chest to chest.
"Hey, sorry man," the American said as he took a step back and looked the stranger over. "Isn't it a little warm for a suit?"
Heero was about to comment on the American's state of near undress in his cut-off jean shorts, t-shirt and tennis shoes, but instead he found himself drowning in the largest violet eyes he had ever seen. "I'm fine," he managed to say.
"Cool," the young man said, smiling and then continuing into the restaurant.
As the American brushed passed him, Heero noticed the long braid hanging down his back. He turned to watch him go, fascinated by the plaited chestnut hair. In Japan, only women or very eccentric old men wore their hair long.
"We should be going," the realtor said, bringing his potential client back to the moment.
Heero shook his head, feeling like he had temporarily left this dimension.
The realtor noticed his continued distraction. "He bumped into you pretty hard, you sure you're okay?"
"Yes, thank you," Heero said and then followed the man out to his car.
That evening, Heero and the realtor arrived at one of Lou Almati's nightclubs before it opened for business. They were ushered inside by a bouncer and seated at the bar. The club had a certain quirky charm. Its walls were painted black with large, white polka dots and the barstools were covered in vinyl zebra stripes. Heero liked the decor, and when he inquired about the designer the bartender informed him that the owner's "personal assistant" had fixed up the place.
"Used to be real dark in here... all black, but he gave the kid free rein and this is what he came up with," the man said as he filled bowls with popcorn and set them on the mirrored countertop. "There he is now," the bartender said, waving. "Hey, Duo, these guys like what you've done with the place."
Heero looked over his shoulder and was surprised to see the young man with the braid from earlier that day. Tonight he was dressed in all black--a black t-shirt tucked into tight, black jeans, a silver studded black belt and black combat boots. The look was definitely American, and Heero found himself turning on his barstool to get a better view.
"Who are you?" Duo asked as he walked over to them.
"I'm Jim Marks with Chicago Realty, and this Heero Yuy of Yuy International."
Heero stood and bowed in traditional Japanese fashion, causing Duo to give a little snicker as he said, "Never heard of ya'."
"They're here to see Lou," the bartender told him as he handed Duo a beer.
"Oh," Duo said, unimpressed.
Heero frowned. The notion that Americans were less formal than Japanese was an understatement. Americans were downright rude.
Duo gulped his beer, looking over his glass at the young man in the suit standing before him. "Hey, don't I know you?"
"You bumped into me this afternoon at..."
"That's right! You're the guy I nearly knocked over at Zabe's. Sorry about that. Sometimes I don't watch where I'm going," Duo said, and then shrugged as he took note of the contrast between the man's pressed suit and his tousled hair. "Well, Lou ought to be here any minute," he said, and headed off to talk to some of the employees.
Heero's eyes watched, transfixed, at the sway of Duo's hips as he walked, and the way his braid brushed over his behind. He had never seen anyone like this. He had never been so instantly drawn to anyone.
It seemed the bartender noticed his interest as well. "I don't mean to be a butt-insky, but Lou's real possessive and well... let's just say he wouldn't take too kindly to you looking at Duo like you're doing."
Heero looked up at the bartender, embarrassed that he had been that obvious. "I apologize. It's just that in Japan men don't wear their hair long and..."
"I got ya'," the bartender said and winked. "Duo's pretty unique here, too."
The disc jockey had just arrived, and Heero got back up on his barstool and watched as the dance floor lights were checked. Everything from strobe lights to a disco ball to colored laser lights were turned on to ensure they were working properly.
"Hey, Duo," the DJ announced over his mic. "How 'bout warming up the dance floor for us?"
Duo tossed his head back as he let out a huge, happy laugh. "Depends on the song."
The DJ laughed and then announced, "this one was written for you." A second later the club began to pulse with the rhythm of Blondie's "Atomic."
Heero's mouth dropped open as Duo cheered and made his way out onto the dance floor all by himself. Heero looked over at the realtor, who shrugged his shoulders, and then back at the lone figure standing amid the colored lights.
"Tonight, make it magnificent...," Blondie sang. "Your hair is beautiful, oh-oh, tonight..."
The song was perfect, Heero thought as he watched Duo slowly groove into the music, slowly warm his body to the rhythms. Duo rubbed his hands over his thighs, stomach and chest as he began to gyrate and to move to the thumping beat. In moments, his braid was swinging wildly as he twirled on the dance floor, a sensual feast for anyone lucky enough to be watching.
Heero swallowed hard; this was the most erotic thing he had ever seen, and it was having a decided effect on his body. His heart was pumping hard against his chest. Duo was one with the song. He was magnificent and his hair was beautiful in the changing lights. But the spectacle came to an abrupt end as a large man stalked onto the dance floor, grabbing Duo by the wrist and pulling him forcefully to a darkened corner. Squinting, Heero could see the two men arguing and Duo wrenching his wrist free and stomping off. A moment later, the music stopped as well. Lou Almati had arrived.
With the club quieted, everyone went back to their assigned tasks. Lou came up to the bar and held out his hand in greeting. "You must be Yuy. So what do you think of the place?"
Heero stared at the proffered hand a moment and then shook it. "It has a certain... charm," he said.
Lou gave a low chuckle and then gestured for them to follow him into his office. He was a very tall, very broad man with thick dark hair and a bushy mustache. Dressed in a black silk short-sleeve shirt and slacks, Heero could see that the man was hairy all over. His arms and his chest were covered in the stuff. Perhaps he was more ape than man, Heero thought trying to rationalize the mistreatment he had witnessed.
The three men spoke for some time about the nightclub business, and then Heero and his realtor left. The club was full of young patrons as they departed, but Heero did not see Duo again.
The next day, Heero carved out a few hours to enjoy some culture. It was something he tried to do in every city he visited, but he was especially excited about the prospect of seeing the wonderful French Impressionists' paintings at Chicago's world famous Art Institute.
After paying his admission, he made his way to the second floor galleries, pleased that they were not overly crowded for a weekend afternoon. He took his time at each painting, admiring for long minutes the bright colors and intricate brushwork of the masters. The museum's collection was very fine and he was glad he had opted to come here rather than have lunch with Jim the realtor again.
He stepped into another gallery of Impressionist paintings, walking along, hands clasped behind his back, as he admired the work of Monet, Manet and Seurat. A series of paintings from Monet's garden at Giverny especially interested him and he stepped back to have a look from a distance.
"Hey, do you think you could move a little to the left?" a voice called from behind.
Heero immediately moved aside and then turned to give his apology, but the words stuck in his throat. Sitting on the floor just behind him was Duo, sketchpad in hand.
"Thanks. Didn't think you saw me down here," Duo said, smiling.
"No, I didn't. I'm sorry," Heero said, his pulse racing to see the long-haired American again.
"No problem. I'm just glad you didn't trip over me," Duo said, looking passed the stranger to the painting of Monet's water lilies. His hand brushed over the paper and then he began to sketch again with his pastels.
"You're an artist?" Heero asked, unwilling to move elsewhere in the gallery even though he knew he was intruding.
"Well, I'd like to be when I grow up," Duo said and laughed. "Right now I'm just practicing."
Boldly, Heero leaned over to see the drawing. It was not an exact copy of the master's work, but rather an extension of it. It seemed Duo was using this painting as inspiration for another idea.
"You look like an artist to me. And from what I saw at the club last night, you have an eye for design."
Duo looked up at the stranger, his brow furrowing. "You were at the club?" he asked, and then Heero could see in his eyes the moment he was recognized. "Oh, wow, it's you again. Guess I didn't recognize you without the suit," he said, grinning.
Heero smiled, too. He had made an effort to look less formal today, to fit in a bit more with the locals, so to speak. Instead of a suit and tie he was wearing navy slacks, and a white, short-sleeve polo shirt and brown loafers.
"I'm Heero Yuy," he said, extending his hand in the Western manner.
Duo put down the blue pastel chalk and wiped his hand on his jeans and then shook Heero's hand. "Nice meeting you. I'm Duo Maxwell. You're not from around here, are you?" he asked, as he withdrew his hand.
"No, I'm Japanese."
"No kidding? You don't sound Japanese," Duo said as he began to gather his supplies into his backpack.
"How should I sound?"
Duo shrugged, looking up in the middle of his task. "Dunno. Like you have more of an accent I guess."
"Yes, well, I've been speaking English my whole life. My mother is British."
"Oh, that explains it," Duo said, smiling. "So what brings a guy like you all the way around the world to Chicago?"
"Not exactly. My American real estate broker would like me to buy one of Mr. Almati's clubs, or possibly partner with him in building a new club. I'm not really interested though. I'm looking to possibly build a hotel or restaurant here in Chicago."
Duo nodded, impressed. "I'm headed downstairs for something to eat. Would you like to get a coffee?" he asked, as he got up from the floor.
"Yes," Heero blurted out, even though he disliked coffee, but the offer was one he could not refuse.
They walked downstairs to the museum's cafeteria where Duo ordered two apple turnovers and "one Coke and one coffee."
"You're drinking a Coke?" Heero asked, as he reached into his wallet to pay the cashier.
"Yeah, I hate coffee," Duo said, handing the cashier the money first. "It's on me."
Heero nodded his appreciation. "I don't like coffee either."
"Then why didn't you say so?"
"Because I... I didn't want to say no to your offer," Heero said, swallowing.
Duo looked at Heero and gave a sly grin. Either the guy was just being polite or he was interested. "We'll get you a Coke instead, okay?"
The pair sat down across from one another at a table near a large potted plant.
"You're Lou's personal assistant?" Heero asked as he sipped his Coke.
"Uh... yeah," Duo said, nearly choking on his mouthful of turnover.
"And that includes interior design?"
Duo finished chewing the savory treat and then swallowed. "Sometimes."
"You must enjoy working at the club. You're a very good dancer."
Duo's face warmed. He had forgotten about that. "Lou doesn't like me to dance in public," he said, suddenly feeling a little embarrassed and realizing he should let Heero know how things were. "Last night was a mistake."
Heero gave a slight nod. He remembered how Lou had hauled Duo off the dance floor and they had argued briefly. He wanted to ask Duo what this all meant, but he didn't need to. Duo was quick to clarify.
"Lou pays for everything," he said, his eyes slipping from Heero's and looking down at his dessert. "He takes care of me."
"Look, it's not something I'm proud of," Duo said, interrupting and looking up again. "But he's been real generous and I've been able to concentrate on my art. If this makes you uncomfortable, I'm sorry. It's probably not something people do in Japan."
There was a short pause as Heero stared into Duo's eyes. They were so intensely blue, violet blue like the flower. He barely knew Duo, but he could see what he was saying was true. He wasn't proud of this arrangement.
"The only difference between this and how people behave in Japan is that you're much more open about it. In Japan, men pursue their... needs in many ways," Heero explained, speaking softly so as not to be overheard by other museum visitors. "An individual must never forget his duty to marry, have children and be productive at work. If he maintains this image, no questions are asked about his private life."
"Are you married?" Duo asked, suddenly intensely curious.
"No," Heero said, looking away a bit shyly. "I'm still young for marriage and have much I need to accomplish in the company."
"How old are you?"
"I'll be twenty-one in a few months," Duo said, liking that they were nearly the same age.
"I thought you were older," Heero admitted.
"Because you were drinking at the club. Don't you have to be twenty-one to drink here?"
"Yeah, stupid, isn't it? Hey, don't tell anyone they were serving me or Lou will get into trouble, okay?"
Heero smiled at Duo's concern.
They sat for nearly an hour, talking about art and the differences between Japanese and American culture. Finally, Heero had to leave in order to go back to his hotel to change for a meeting with the realtor.
"It was very nice talking to you, Duo. I'm glad I got in your way."
Duo laughed. "Yeah, me, too."
"Good luck with your art," Heero said, and bowed.
"Good luck to you, too," Duo said, feeling sad to see Heero go. He couldn't remember another time when he had enjoyed such a nice conversation with another guy.
As much as both young men had enjoyed each other's company, neither took the next step in asking to see the other again. Duo figured Heero was straight and too busy to want to spend any more time with him. Heero thought it foolish to try to start something when he would only be in Chicago a few more days and he had already been warned that Duo was off limits.
Still, over the next two days, the friendly meeting lingered in each young man's mind. Heero went back to the nightclub twice, hoping to glimpse Duo again, but he was not there. And Duo spent another afternoon at the Art Institute and was disappointed.
Monday evening, Heero received a call from his realtor.
"Lou Almati's got some drawings of a new nightclub he'd like you to see. We have a meeting with him tomorrow morning, but I can't swing by to get the drawings tonight. Would you mind going over there?"
"To the club?" Heero asked, as he towel dried his hair.
"No, to Lou's house. I don't think he'll be home, but the plans will be in an envelope taped to the front door."
Heero was ashamed of pursuing a possible partnership with Lou. It had everything to do with wanting to see Duo again and nothing to do with good business sense. His father would most certainly disapprove, but at this stage he didn't need to know and Heero could continue pretending to be interested.
After dressing in his navy suit, minus the tie, Heero took a taxi to the address the realtor had given him. The upper middle class neighborhood was lined with mature trees and 1930s era, brick row houses. It was more pleasant than he expected.
"I'll only be a minute," Heero told the taxi driver as he got out.
He opened the iron gate that fenced in the small front yard and walked up a brick sidewalk to the steps. He smiled at the whimsical touch of potted, red geraniums sitting on each side of the steps, and wondered if Duo had done this or if he even lived here with Lou.
At the top of the steps, Heero looked around for the envelope, but didn't see one. It was getting dark, but not dark enough to miss a large manila envelope. He hoped a passerby hadn't snatched it off the door, and then, through the frosted glass of the front door, he noticed a light flick on inside the house. Someone was home.
He pressed the doorbell, sending his heart pounding. Did he dare to hope that Duo lived here and was home? A moment later and someone was coming to the door. The chain and deadbolt were unlocked and then the door slowly creaked open.
"Heero," Duo said, smiling. "What are you doing here?"
"Lou was supposed to leave some architectural drawings for me to look over," Heero said quickly, irrationally fearful that Duo would close the door in his face.
"Oh," Duo said, opening the door wider and going back inside to have a look.
Heero watched from the door stoop as Duo sorted through a pile of mail on a long, narrow table in the hallway. He was wearing only cut-off blue jean shorts and a snug white tank top. Heero watched, letting his eyes follow the movement of Duo's braid as it swayed over his bottom, and the gentle brushing of fringe at the edge of his shorts as it caressed the backs of his thighs. He moistened his lower lip as he willed Duo to bend over, just a little further, so he could see the place where the young man's thighs and buttocks met….
"Is this it?" he heard Duo saying, startling him out of his daydream. Duo turned around and handed over a large envelope. "This was on the door when I got home and I just figured it was for Lou."
"Y-yes, that's it," Heero said, still a little foggy from his fantasy. He took the item from Duo's hands, and with his errand complete, felt his heart sink. He'd have to return to the hotel now, knowing that Duo was living here with Lou.
The two young men stared at each other a moment and then Duo peeked over Heero's shoulder. "That your cab?" he asked.
Heero looked to the waiting taxi on the street and frowned. "Yes."
"You in a hurry to be somewhere?"
"No. I don't have any plans,” Heero confessed.
"Would you like to come in for a minute?" Duo asked with hopeful eyes.
Heero wasn't sure how to answer. He wanted to say yes, but he had a taxi waiting, and he was afraid that Lou would be home any minute. "I'd better not," he finally answered.
"Oh," Duo said, disappointed. "I just thought... well, we had such a nice time talking the other day, and if you didn't have any place to be... but that's okay. I understand."
"You understand?" Heero asked.
"Yeah, you really don't have time for someone like me," Duo said, a little embarrassed at how desperate he was sounding. There was something exciting about Heero, but it wasn't becoming to be throwing himself at the guy... especially if he was straight. Duo stepped back, swinging the door closed as he added, "Good night, Heero."
"Wait," Heero said, holding out his arm to stop the door from closing. "I would like to talk, but do you think it's a good idea to ask me in?"
"Why, because of Lou?" Duo asked with a snort. "He's at his house in the 'burbs with his wife and kiddies tonight."
"Lou has a family?"
"Surprising, isn't it? I guess he'd fit in real nice with your Japanese customs."
Heero looked at Duo a moment, considering, and then smiled. "Excuse me," he said, and went back down the steps to the waiting cab. He handed the driver the fare and sent him on his way. In less than a minute he was back at the front door.
Duo stepped back and opened the door wide. "Come on in," he said, grinning ear to ear.
Heero walked into the hallway and slipped out of his shoes, a Japanese custom that made Duo grin. Duo then closed and locked the door behind them. As the door clicked shut, there was a nearly audible sigh from them both. It was as if they had just shut out the world, creating a place where they could talk and get to know each other without interruption.
"Lou's only here a couple nights a week," Duo explained a bit shyly. "He'll probably stay tomorrow night since he's got a meeting in the city, but usually he's not around during the week and I have the place to myself."
Heero looked around as Duo led him into the living room. The house was handsomely decorated in Prairie style furniture made of dark wood and accented with earth-toned cushions. The oak floor was covered in a large woven rug with a geometric design at its center.
"Did you decorate this?" Heero asked, indicating the welcoming decor.
"Yeah, I know it's probably not what you were expecting," Duo said, shuffling his bare feet across the oak floor. "It's a fantasy really... it’s what I think it'd be like to have a home and a family."
Heero's brow furrowed. "You don't have a family?"
"I did once... But what use is a fag for a son?" he asked and forced a little laugh, before looking away quickly.
"I'm sorry," Heero said, stepping closer and placing his hand on Duo's arm.
Duo looked down at the hand and then up into Heero's eyes. "You're real nice, you know that, Heero? You must come from good stock."
Heero grinned. "Thank you."
"Hey, can I get you something to drink? There's wine, beer, Coke..."
"A beer would be good, thank you," Heero said, taking his hand away.
Duo dashed into the kitchen and returned with two glasses of beer, handing one to his new friend.
"Are any of these yours?" Heero asked as he nodded to the framed prints on the walls.
"No, I bought those at art shows," Duo said, sitting down on the couch.
"You don't display your work?"
"No one's ever been interested," Duo admitted.
"I'm interested," Heero said, as he joined him on the couch.
Duo's mouth went dry at the tone in Heero's voice. If he didn't know better he'd say Heero was interested in more than just his drawings. "I could show you what I've been working on," he offered, timidly.
"I'd like that,” Heero said, smiling, conveying his true interest.
Duo nodded, setting his beer on a magazine on the coffee table and getting up to retrieve his portfolio in the other room. When he returned, he set the black leather case between them on the couch and unzipped it. "I've never shown these to anyone."
"Are you okay showing them now?" Heero asked.
"Yeah," Duo said, softly.
Inside the case was a very private part of Duo's life. All his work, his thoughts, his creative self… his very soul… was contained in this leather portfolio. And Heero understood this immediately.
Slowly, Duo’s hands moved over the contents of the portfolio. Piece by piece, he revealed watercolors of the Chicago harbor, pencil sketches of flowers, street bums, alley cats, seagulls, torn out pages from magazines with notes written in ink, and the pastels inspired by Monet's water lilies he had completed at the Art Institute.
As Heero watched Duo’s hands sorting and holding his creations, he realized he had stumbled upon a great talent. "These are wonderful," Heero said.
"Thanks. I'm just fooling around mostly..."
"No, these are as good or better than what I've seen for sale in Tokyo and London."
"Yeah, right,” Duo said with a snort.
"I'm serious," Heero said, looking into Duo's eyes. "Have you done anything bigger? Oils or watercolors on large cavases?"
"I'd like to, but I’m a bit intimidated by the idea."
Heero smiled. "You're already larger than life. I would think painting big would come naturally to you."
Duo laughed and smiled brightly. "Yeah, I see what you mean. Well, maybe someday I will."
They talked for a little while about his work, what inspired him, what blocked his creativity, and then Duo took one of the water lily pastels and handed it to Heero.
"I want you to have this," he said, his cheeks faintly pinking.
Heero took the drawing in hand and felt a calm come over him as the lavenders and blue tones soothed his tired eyes. “Thank you, but I can’t accept this,” he said, handing it back. “You should give this to one of your friends."
"But you are my friend," Duo said, with wide, blinking eyes. “You're the first person to show a real interest...,” he said, his words trailing off as he turned his face away to hide the tears brimming in his eyes.
Duo swallowed and wiped at his face with his hand. "Do you have dreams? I mean… for your life?" he asked, looking at Heero again.
"Of course," Heero grinned.
"Yeah? What would a guy like you dream about?"
"Lots of things… seeing the world, making a name for myself, but most recently I’ve been dreaming that my new American friend could be more than just a friend." He gently laid the drawing down and reached his hand across the other artworks to touch Duo's hand. "What do you think? Does this dreamer have a chance?"
Warmth rushed through Duo, settling sweetly in his cheeks, and coloring them a deep rose. He had secretly wished that Heero would want him, but this couldn’t possibly be real. A low sob escaped Duo’s lips as he realized he must have misunderstood.
The anguished sound caused Heero to pull away. "I'm sorry," he said, sitting up straight. "That was very forward of me."
"No," Duo said, blinking back tears. "I liked it."
“Uh-huh,” Duo said, nodding. “I just didn’t expect it from you.”
“Well, you’re straight,” Duo said almost apologetically, but suddenly wasn’t so sure and asked, “Aren’t you?”
The answer was so simple, so succinct that Duo thought he had heard incorrectly. “You’re not?” he asked, his heart pounding harder. Hope surged and then ebbed... “Okay, but you couldn’t possibly want to be with someone like me.”
“And why’s that?”
“Well, because of what I am," Duo said, raising his chin even though he now felt ashamed.
“Because you're an artist?” Heero asked, knowing what Duo was referring to, but refusing to acknowledge its significance.
“No, not that..."
“You're an artist, Duo,” Heero said, taking Duo’s hand again. “That’s who and what you are to me.”
Beautiful, intense blue eyes looked back at Duo, pulling him in. Duo unconsciously leaned forward, wanting to get closer and said, “Kiss me…”
Heero’s breath caught at the invitation, but he did not hesitate. He leaned in and took Duo’s mouth in a tender kiss. Their lips pressed together, soft and warm. The kiss lasted only seconds, but when they pulled apart, each slowly opening his eyes, the possibilities were suddenly apparent.
"That was nice," Duo said, only inches from Heero’s face.
"Yes, very nice," Heero agreed, and then leaned closer until their lips met again.
This time the kiss was electric, sending nerve endings tingling, firing. It progressed quickly as they reached across the couch for one another, sliding hands up arms to necks to lock the kiss in place. Their lips lingered as hungry little moans escaped them, putting voice to desire.
A knock at the front door broke them apart, startling them back to their respective places on the couch. Both their cheeks were flushed red.
"Someone's at the door," Duo said, hopping up from the couch as though it was on fire. "I'll just go and see who it is," he added nervously as he headed out into the hall.
Heero knew it wasn't Lou, the man who ruled this roost would have a key. All the same, the interruption was a bit unnerving and it set him to thinking. What exactly was he doing here?
Duo was back a moment later, holding a plate of chocolate chip cookies. "Old Mrs. Mahoney sent her granddaughter over with some freshly baked cookies," Duo said, smiling as he held the plate toward Heero. "Want one?"
The young man on the couch was shaking his head 'no,' and getting up. Duo sensed it was more than a dislike for chocolate chip cookies that was making his new friend uncomfortable.
"What's going on?" Duo asked, setting the plate down on the table.
"I think I'd better be going," Heero said, apologetically. He stood at the opposite side of the low table, looking at Duo with a jumble of emotions racing through him. "It's getting late."
"No, it's not," Duo said, his emotions quickly turning to anger. "It's barely eight o'clock."
"Yeah, and I've got an early meeting tomorrow morning..."
"Oh, I see."
Heero's brow furrowed as he looked at the disappointment and anger on Duo's face. "No, I don't think you do. I'm only in Chicago another couple of days..."
"And you'd rather not get involved when it can't possibly go anywhere," Duo finished for him. "Yeah, I get it."
Heero stared at Duo a long minute without saying a word. He was very attracted to this American, more attracted than he had been to anyone. There was something intrinsically beautiful and wonderful about Duo, but Heero wondered what he could possibly offer him---one night, maybe two nights of passion, if they were lucky?
"We're from different worlds," he said, finally, even as he stepped forward.
"Yeah, east meets west," Duo said, trying to make light of watching this gorgeous young man walk out of his life.
"Japan is on the other side of the world," Heero explained, taking a couple more steps forward. "It's a culture rich in traditions, but also burdened by the very traditions that make it beautiful."
"And a kid from Chicago could never understand that... is that what you're saying?"
"No," Heero spoke softly, his steps shortening as he came to stand in front of Duo. "I'm saying that I can't exactly bring you home to meet my mother."
Duo smiled. There was a joke in there somewhere... and hope. "She wouldn't approve of you having a long-haired, American guy as your lover?"
The question made Heero's heart pound, his blood pulse hard in his veins. "Mothers are funny that way," he answered, and then in a rush of lust, swiftly, powerfully took Duo into his arms and covered his mouth in a fierce kiss.
Duo was stunned for all of two seconds, and then he responded, enthusiastically. His arms came about Heero, holding him tight, trying to convey with his body that he couldn't bear to have him walk out that door.
They clung to each other like drowning men, need thundering in their ears, resonating in their bodies and souls. This was right. This had been coming for days now.
They broke apart from the kiss, gasping, sucking in great gulps of air.
"Damn," Duo said, panting. "Damn, you can kiss."
Heero smiled. "You make it easy."
He pulled Duo to him once more, brushing his lips over the young man's and then nuzzling along his jaw. "Duo..." he said, liking the sound of the name on his lips.
Duo leaned into him, melting as Heero's warm breath seduced him further. "Heero... Do you want to...?"
The answer was clear in Heero’s eyes, and so Duo took Heero by the hand and led him up the darkened staircase to the second floor. No lights were turned on as they walked down the hall and into a large bedroom. Indirect light from the street filtered into the room through beige sheer curtains, giving it a soft, warm glow.
Duo sat down on the edge of the large four-postered bed and pulled Heero between his legs. He ran his hands over Heero's stomach and chest, looking up at him with a wide, appreciative gaze.
"I've never met anyone like you," Duo said, feeling his entire body long to be with this young Japanese businessman.
"I feel the same," Heero said, reaching out and brushing his fingers over Duo's cheek. "And I've met a lot of people."
"Have you... been with a lot of those people?" Duo asked, surprised at himself for asking, but wanting to know.
"No,” Heero answered simply.
Duo smiled as his hands continued to wander over the slender body. He reached up and pushed back on the navy suit jacket, pushing it off Heero’s shoulders.
Heero shrugged out of it the rest of the way and then leaned down to brush his lips over Duo's forehead, the long bangs tickling. Then his lips drifted down, gently planting kisses across Duo’s nose and cheeks until their lips met again and they shared a kiss rich in the promise of passion.
Duo stretched, reaching up with his body to meet that kiss. Oh, he had never tasted lips like this, he had never warmed so easily from a kiss.
"You asked me if I wanted to," Heero said as he pulled away slightly to unbutton his shirt.
Duo swallowed and nodded, watching the shirt open and exposing a finely defined and muscular chest.
"You saw the answer in my eyes, but let me say it to you … yes, I want to,” Heero said, kissing Duo briefly and then pulling the young man’s white tank top over his head and tossing it aside.
They moved onto the bed, their lips coming together again and never separating as they scooted back and Heero finally lay on Duo, covering him with his body. Their arms went around each other with a shiver of delight as they pressed into each other and into the thick mattress, kissing slowly, moaning softly. Both were lean and short for their age, but Heero was slightly more muscled. Duo thrilled at this discovery, his hands slipping into Heero’s open shirt to explore the hard muscle and breadth of Heero's back.
"Let's get out of these clothes," Duo suggested, even as he began to unzip and wriggle free of his shorts.
Heero slipped off his shirt and then got up to shed his pants, underwear and socks before lying back down on Duo. The touch of hot, naked skin made them each hiss with pleasure, their bodies nearly sizzling with energy and need.
Duo spread his legs, wrapping them around Heero's thighs, arching his back as Heero kissed a wet path from his lips down to his chest. Each young man wrestled with the need to take this slowly and the need to fuck in a mating frenzy.
Duo, who had made a life from knowing how to please a man, fumbled nervously as he reached blindly for lubricant on the bedside table. He knocked his watch off the stand before finding the tube of lightly scented oil. He handed it to Heero who was still nuzzling his neck.
"Hnnn," Heero moaned, as he closed his hand around the cold tube. A shiver raced through him, knowing in moments he would be inside the beautiful young man who had transfixed him from the moment they had collided in that restaurant.
He kept his lips suckling at Duo's neck as he worked the tube open and squeezed a portion of the gel onto his fingers. Then he reached down, his fingers brushing, trailing down the soft skin of Duo's body until his hand came to Duo's cock. He grasped the hardened shaft fully, wrapping his hand around it, holding it, feeling its weight and size and then stroking it until Duo was gasping on the verge of orgasm.
"Not yet," Heero whispered, and then released the cock to apply more gel to his fingers.
"Don't play with me like that," Duo said, breathing hard. "I want you..."
Heero smiled and kissed Duo so that he would know he wanted him, too. Then he moved his hand over Duo's balls, fondling them just long enough to make a brief acquaintance before moving on to his final destination.
"There," Heero said as he rubbed two fingers over the tight pucker of flesh.
"Yesss," Duo moaned, letting his legs fall open wider.
Heero kissed Duo's chest as he sank the fingers into the tight passage, feeling them sink inside. In seconds he was up to his knuckles, and then his fingers were completely engulfed in that amazing velvety heat, a heat that Heero was eager to explore in other ways.
He knew that Duo was another man's lover, that this was the bed they shared, but somehow it didn't matter. He knew something special was happening between them and he concentrated on that feeling. Their mutual attraction had thrown them quickly into a dance... a dance that had begun when Duo had taken to the club's dance floor and let loose in a beautiful and free sensual rhythm.
Heero now knew that Duo danced for himself, and certainly Lou Almati knew that, too. That was why Lou had stopped the dance. Heero was slowly realizing the complex life that Duo led... beholden to a domineering man and yet not allowing himself to be fully possessed. And now, to be risking his comfortable life for a night of passion....
"More," Duo said, moaning and writhing beneath him. "More, Heero."
Heero considered inserting a third finger, but the need laced in Duo's voice, and his own need, made him decide to move ahead. He slicked his own aching and neglected cock with the lube and took a deep breath as he pressed it to Duo's opening. Their eyes met and he pushed forward, slipping the head in easily.
"Oh, yes," they moaned simultaneously.
Another long, hard push and Heero was completely inside, feeling Duo all around him. They were soon in motion, thrusting with the sometimes ill-timed rhythm of new lovers, but making up for it with enthusiasm and need.
Duo moaned with each thrust in and out of Heero's ample cock. The smell, the look, the feel of Heero was so different than... Oh, Duo didn't want to think about it. All he wanted now was Heero.
"You're so gentle," Duo said, as he brushed Heero's long, damp bangs away from his eyes.
"Would you like me to be more rough?"
"No, I like this," Duo said, grooving now, feeling the easy slide of hard flesh inside him. "It's like... like you're making love to me."
It's like I'm dancing with you on that dance floor, Heero thought as he thrust deeper, losing himself to the silky warmth of Duo's body.
"I am making love to you," Heero said, grunting.
As many times as Duo had had sex with men, no one had ever made love to him. He knew because none of those times had felt like this, like his lover actually cared for him and that they were equals on this ride... floating away together into sexual bliss.
"H-Heero..." Duo breathed out.
"Duo," Heero said, moaning and grinding harder. "You're... incredible."
Their bodies slick with exertion, Heero moved over Duo with ease... inside and out. It was as perfect a first time for new lovers as it could be and each of them wanted it to go on and on, but release was inevitable and fast approaching.
"I'm going to..." Heero began to say, and then Duo finished his sentence, "come." Each felt the strong pull toward orgasm.
Duo came a split second before Heero. "Yes! Oh, fuck yes!"
And then Heero, "Yes, Duo! Come for me!"
And they pounded into each other with their last remaining strength, sating themselves completely before falling limp to the bed.
Minutes later, Heero was the first to move. He raised himself onto his hands and looked down at Duo's resting, glistening body. They were still joined, and his semi-hard cock stirred as he admired the nakedness beneath him.
A little moan from Duo's lips prompted Heero to make the effort to roll off him. "Are you all right?" Heero asked, as he moved.
"Stay," Duo whispered. His hands came up and rested on Heero's buttocks, keeping him exactly where he was. He opened his eyes to see Heero looking down at him, and smiled, a lazy, sated smile. "Mmm, that was nice."
"Yes," Heero said, and bent down to kiss him.
Duo's hands skimmed Heero's back enjoying the feel of soft skin over hard muscle. He teasingly thrust his hips.
"Ready for more so soon?" Heero asked.
"If you are," Duo said, practically purring in his contentment.
Heero gave a low chuckle and experimentally thrust back. When Duo began to moan and writhe beneath him, the sight brought him fully erect in seconds.
"Oh, yeah... you feel good inside me," Duo said, marveling at the delicious sensation of Heero hardening.
With each thrust, Duo felt the increase of flesh inside him. His own cock and nipples were erect as Heero moved in the already slick passage. He loved the feel of Heero's cock... it was just the right size to fill him and it was perfectly proportioned to Heero's body.
"I want you to give it to me fast. Take me from behind... do me hard," Duo said as he petted the young man's buttocks and thighs.
"I don't want to hurt you," Heero said, though his groin stirred with interest.
"You won't," Duo said, now pushing at his lover to pull out. "I want you to take me as deep as you can."
Duo's words made it nearly impossible for Heero to stop thrusting, to pull out. Everything about this moment was screaming for him to be joined with Duo and now he was being pushed off.
When they separated completely, Duo was quick to turn over and get to his knees. Heero kneeled behind him and before he could position himself, Duo reached back for his cock and took hold of it, guiding it to his opening.
"Hurry! Take me as deep as you can..."
Duo's ass and Heero's erect cock were lined up perfectly, and the cock slid back in with little effort.
"Oh, yes," Heero moaned as he sunk in to his balls, his eyes rolling back in his head as he was surrounded by that tight warmth again. His hands settled on Duo's slender hips as he began to pull out and thrust back in... out... in... building the rhythm quickly.
"That's it... so good," Duo said, grabbing the headboard to brace himself.
Heero felt his control slipping as he slammed faster into this willing young man. He had never let go like this... never been encouraged to let go by a lover before. It was maddening, it made him want more and more, made him want to go deeper, faster, harder... all the things Duo was begging for.
As Heero's body smacked Duo's ass with each powerful thrust, the headboard banged against the wall and the bed creaked noisily. Heero honestly thought the bed and the floor might break beneath them... but he didn't care... he knew they'd still be fucking as the place crashed down around them.
He took Duo's braid in hand, holding it like the reins of a bucking stallion. No, he wouldn't break Duo of his spirit, but he would ride him as hard and as long as he possibly could.
"Yes, Heero! Yes!" Duo cried out as he was vigorously taken and his braid tugged so hard it pulled his head back. This was exactly what he wanted. If he and Heero only had a short time together, then he wanted it burned into their memories, branded on their bodies.
Too soon they were on the brink again, grunting and moaning as the pleasure built deep inside them. In moments, that pleasure was radiating out... tingling, firing and then bursting forth in a tsunami of orgasm.
"Duo! Ahhhh!" Heero cried out with a force of voice equal to the force of this coupling. His body tightened, froze as he thrust one last time, emptying himself in his lover.
Duo arched back and gave a wild cry of release and then collapsed forward onto his arms, his ass still in the air with his lover deep inside.
For the next several minutes all that could be heard were the loud, almost frantic gasps of two young men exhausted and desperate for air. This time, Heero's cock slipped out as it softened and he fell on his side, bringing Duo with him. He wrapped his arms around Duo, spooning his body as they both continued to shake and come down from their incredible ride.
"Thank you," Heero said, as he caressed Duo's flank.
"Mmm, I should be thanking you," Duo said and giggled.
They both laughed, knowing it had been very, very good for both of them.
"Want some ice cream?" Duo asked.
"I need to rest... no more sex for a little while."
"No, silly," Duo said, laughing. "Ice cream to eat, not to use for sex!"
"Oh, right," Heero said, and then frowned as Duo wriggled free of his arms and went to the bathroom to retrieve a couple of towels.
Duo playfully threw a towel at Heero and then wiped himself off. He then went over to his dresser and pulled out a pair of blue jeans and a white t-shirt with “Chicago Cubs” emblazoned on the front in blue and red.
"You getting dressed?" Heero asked as he finished cleaning up.
"Uh, yeah," Duo said, giving Heero an odd look. "Maybe it's not a problem in Japan, but around here you'd get arrested for public nudity."
"We're going out? Isn’t it a little late?"
Duo looked over at his digital clock. It read 10:30 p.m. "If we hurry, we'll just make it. The Crême Café is open til eleven."
Heero sighed. He would've much preferred lying abed with his lover, snuggled and sleeping until their bodies stirred once more. But he wouldn't refuse Duo this treat. With some effort, he pulled himself from the bed and picked up his clothes from the floor. Looking around, he could see they had been in a hurry to shed them.
Outside, the temperature had cooled only a few degrees. It was a typical muggy Chicago night, but that didn't seem to be keeping anyone indoors. They walked companionably along the sidewalk, but did not hold hands. In fact, Heero carefully kept his hands tucked inside his pants pockets. It wasn't as though people would've bristled at two men holding hands, not in this neighborhood anyway, but there was an unspoken understanding that they needed to be a little cautious with their affection, just in case the wrong person happened to see them.
Even at fifteen minutes of eleven, the Café was crowded and there was a line to order. Duo used the time to explain the different flavors and why this ice cream was so much better than any other, because of all the natural ingredients they used. Heero, who hadn't had American ice cream before, had no reason to doubt his new friend. By the time it was their turn to order, their decisions had been made. Cherry vanilla with chocolate chips for Duo, and coconut pineapple for Heero; and Heero insisted on paying.
They found a table for two out on the patio, which was actually a little alleyway between two buildings that had been decorated to look like the South of France. Duo ate the rich treat, eliciting some of the same moans he had during sex. The sound made Heero blush and turned the heads of more than a few other patrons.
"This is good ice cream, but do you really have to do that?" Heero asked in a near whisper, begging Duo to stop.
His long-haired lover smiled deviously. "Getting to ya', huh?"
"And to everyone else in earshot," Heero pointed out as he nodded to the stares they were getting.
Oh, I shouldn’t tease him like that, Duo thought and then laughed. "You wanna get outta here?” he asked with a wink. “They’re about to close anyway."
"Sure," Heero said.
They took their cups of ice cream with the little plastic spoons and slowly took the long way back to Duo's house. Along the way, they found a park bench and sat to enjoy the rest of their treat.
"This is so normal," Duo said as he took another spoonful of his melting ice cream. "It's like we're a couple."
"Well, we are... for a little while anyway," Heero said, setting down his cup.
Duo bowed his head and then looked up at him. "When exactly are you leaving?"
"The jet set life of an international businessman, huh?" Duo asked, forcing a little chuckle.
Heero stared at Duo a moment, deciding not to tell him that he had already postponed returning home once. "This all happened a bit fast, didn't it?"
"Yeah," Duo agreed, quietly.
Neither said another word as Duo finished the rest of his ice cream, and then took their cups and tossed them in a nearby garbage can.
"The Cubs," Heero said, nodding to Duo's shirt as he rejoined him on the bench. "That's your local baseball team?"
"Yep. Baseball is the only sport I watch. Do you have baseball in Japan?"
"Of course, it's very popular which must have something to do with our fascination with all things American," Heero said, smiling.
"Is that right?" Duo chuckled.
"It might interest you to know that I played baseball at school," Heero added, anxious to feed on his lover's interest in the game.
"Well, it all makes sense now. I thought you had the body of a ball player. Trim and toned," he said, letting his eyes rake over Heero.
Heero swallowed and straightened his posture, and then casually put his arm over the back of the bench, creating closeness between them.
"Did I mention why I like baseball so much?" Duo asked, scooting a little closer.
"No," Heero said, suspicious and yet terribly curious.
"The uniforms. I love the way men look in those uniforms."
"I know what you mean," Heero said, and they both laughed.
"So, were you any good?" Duo asked, his hand now resting on Heero's thigh.
"Better than average," he admitted, though at home he would've been expected to downplay his ability and give all the credit to his coaches and teammates.
"Mmm, that makes two sports you're better than average in," Duo said with a wink.
Heero nearly groaned at the not-so subtle reference.
"Do you still play?"
"There isn't time," Heero said, a bit sadly.
"Because of work?"
"Don't you have any brothers or sisters to help with the family business?"
"My older sister is married with two children, and my two younger sisters and younger brother work part-time for Yuy International. It's a large family by Japanese standards. But I'm the eldest son, so I carry the burden of responsibility. But what about your family?" The question was out before Heero remembered Duo's bitter remark earlier. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have..."
"No, it's okay," Duo said, lightly. "I have a younger sister that I see once or twice a year when she can sneak away and meet me. My dad's the jerk. If it wasn't for his prejudices we'd have a nice family."
"And your mother?" Heero asked, hesitantly.
"Ah, mom's under dad's thumb. He won't even let her drive. Every so often I get a package from her with cookies and stuff. She'd like me to come home to visit, but the last time I did things got real ugly with dad."
"I'm sorry, Duo," Heero said, putting his hand on Duo's knee.
"Don't be. I've worked out a place for myself here."
"With Lou?" Heero asked, and then mentally kicked himself for bringing that guy into their conversation.
"Yeah... Lou," Duo said, knowing that his sugar daddy's name had to come up sooner or later. "I want you to know something, Heero," he went on, caressing Heero's thigh. "What happened with us tonight was really special. It meant a lot to me... more than you'll ever know."
The fact that Duo had spoken in the past tense did not go unnoticed by Heero, but he would not mention it. Duo already had a lover who housed, clothed and fed him. This affair, just like this night, would soon be over. Part of Heero wanted to leave now, get up and walk away and not look back while he still had the will to do so. But a bigger part of him wanted to grab onto Duo and never let go. It was a feeling, a torment that had been growing in him since Duo had practically run him over that day in the restaurant.
And I can't tell him, Heero thought, knowing it would only create hardship and pain. He was leaving in two days, returning to the bosom of his family and the family trade. He certainly couldn't bring a male lover back with him to Tokyo... unless he wanted to subject Duo to a life even more restrictive than the one he led here.
"You're so quiet," Duo said, reaching over and touching Heero's face with his hand. Maybe I shouldn't have told him that, Duo thought. Some guys don't want to hear mush like that...
"I apologize," Heero said, blinking and refocusing on the bright face before him. "I was thinking of... Well, it's not important now," he said, deciding to live in the moment. He smiled then as he noticed the look of concern and interest on Duo's sweet face. "You're really something," he said, brightly. "Remember when you asked me if I had any dreams and I said I wanted to make a name for myself and see the world?"
"And be more than a friend to me," Duo finished with a small grin, happy to have Heero back with him. "Looks like you're two for three on your dreams."
Heero smiled. He had never smiled so easily in his life. It would be a shame to lose that.
"Now it's your turn to tell me," Heero said, trying to shake his sad thoughts. "What does a guy like you dream about?" he asked, duplicating the question Duo had asked him.
Duo was touched by the request. Everything felt so right with Heero, and sharing his dreams was right, too.
"Okay. The first one's a bit obvious. I'd like to make a living as an artist. An openly gay artist," he said, snickering.
"That's a great dream. I think you could do that."
"The second dream could get expensive," Duo said, his voice and his face revealing his excitement in sharing with Heero. "I'd like to live somewhere with a view of the ocean. Have a house on a cliff with a path running down to the beach." His eyes got a bit dreamy as he imagined his perfect home. Over the years the location had changed from the West Coast of the United States to an island in the Pacific, but it was still the same dream.
"Hmm, the ocean would inspire your art," Heero said, thoughtfully.
"Yeah," Duo nodded, happy that Heero understood.
"Anything else?" Heero prompted, sensing the biggest dream of all was waiting to be voiced.
Duo blushed, embarrassed to share anymore.
"Would you like me to guess?" Heero asked, noting the hesitation.
"If you think you can."
Heero smiled, accepting the challenge. "If you were a successful artist and had your palatial home by the ocean what would you need to complete the picture?"
Duo's eyes blinked as he listened attentively and anxiously.
"Maybe a big, fluffy chow huddled at your feet?"
Duo laughed. "Definitely a loyal addition to my dream."
Heero nodded and went on. "Or maybe a lifetime subscription to the chocolate of the month club?"
"Oh, where do I sign up!" Duo cheered, giving Heero a quick hug.
"But somehow I don't think that'd be enough. You're too outgoing... you'd want to share your perfect life with someone. Ah, of course... a lover. Someone who would love you, faults and all. Though your faults are hardly apparent."
Duo's eyes had gone wide. Who was this guy that he could so easily see into his most secret dreams? "Yes," he said in a whisper.
"Then I guessed correctly?" Heero asked, lifting his chin in triumph.
"Yes," Duo repeated, his eyes glistening with a dreamy quality. "Heero... would you stay with me tonight... all night?"
The hope had been there, but until this sweet invitation had been spoken, Heero had not wanted to assume.
"I'd like that," he said, leaning in and rubbing his nose on Duo's. "I'd like that very much."
Duo breathed out in relief and then tilted his head to take Heero's lips in a soft kiss. Please let this night last forever, Duo thought.