Back at the house, they stripped out of their clothes and slid beneath the sheets, coming together in a passionate embrace. Their bodies moved like an undercurrent below the surface, in constant motion and growing heat.
"Duo... you are a dream of flesh," Heero said as he laid claim to Duo's body once again. "Your eyes are as bright as the sky in morning," he said, kissing each cheekbone as he thrust inside him. "And your need as full as the moon at night."
Duo moaned at the words and what Heero was doing to his body. He didn't know whether he was quoting a Japanese poem or if the words were flowing from him spontaneously, and he didn't care. It melted him to hear them spoken, to hear a man recite such beautiful words as they made love.
"I summon the rose in your cheeks as I fill you again and again," Heero continued, trance-like as he succumbed to Duo's beauty.
And so, the poem continued, broken only by deep, lingering kisses as their bodies rocked together slowly just as they had when they had first made love.
Long after their shared climaxes, Duo lay with his face on Heero's chest, his fingers moving in circles over the finely toned body.
"What were you quoting... when we were making love?"
"Quoting?" Heero asked, looking down to see Duo's large, blue eyes staring up at him. "That was from my heart... and maybe a little from ancient poets, but truly I was speaking from my heart, Duo."
Duo leaned up on his elbow. "Now I know you're a figment of my imagination."
Heero smiled. "I take it you liked my poetry."
"Couldn't you tell? You were driving me mad. I'm amazed I didn't come sooner!" he said, smiling brightly and then leaning down to kiss one of Heero's rosy nipples.
Heero caressed Duo's hair and watched him suckle and lick his nipple. He knew they would make love again, and very soon, but first he needed to wrestle with his growing feelings. His heart was pounding in his chest and in his brain, demanding he pay attention. He had never felt anything like this before, feelings so extraordinary, so new that they could only mean one thing...
I'm falling in love, Heero thought. Or I already have. The realization passed through him with a wave of dizziness... or was it just the motion of Duo's tongue over his nipple making him dizzy? Oh, but he knew better, it had to be love, and it had struck as hard and as true as any arrow from Cupid's bow.
Damn, he thought, turning his face away and covering his eyes with his forearm.
Duo released the now tender nipple and looked up. "Too much?" he asked, and stretched up to cover Heero's lips with his own. "Hey, silly, we can take a break if you need to."
"No, it's not that," Heero said, oddly using a business-like tone.
"Then what is it?"
"I want you to come to Japan with me," he said, letting his arm drop to look at Duo. "But I know that's a selfish request."
"And why is it selfish?" Duo asked, half-thrilling at the invitation, but sensing it had already been retracted.
"Because it wouldn't be the life you deserve. If you think being gay is difficult here, you should try it in Japan."
"Out of the kettle and into the fire, huh?" Duo joked, though he didn't laugh.
"I'm sorry," Heero said, brushing Duo's bangs from his eyes. "I shouldn't have said anything. You probably think I'm a jerk for mentioning it." And a coward for not telling you that I love you...
"It's okay. Gee, me in Japan... talk about sticking out like a sore thumb."
Heero smiled. "You'd be a trend setter with your long hair and tight jeans. They'd love to hate you."
"And that's a good thing?"
They laughed and held each other, both too tired to continue this conversation. Heero regretted bringing it up, not only because it wasn't possible to bring Duo home, but because Duo hadn't seemed interested. He was now glad that he hadn't shared more... and that was Heero's mistake. Duo's heart was still pounding hard with the knowledge that Heero had even thought of taking him with him.
The next morning, Heero went through his exercise routine while Duo showered. The slow, purposeful movements of T'ai Chi Ch'uan calmed and centered him for the day. He dreaded this day, because he knew it was his last in Chicago and he would be spending much of it apart from Duo. He had a morning meeting scheduled with Jim and Lou, and then he was off with Jim again to look at several more properties. He had considered canceling his afternoon appointments, but quickly reminded himself that this was a business trip and he still had responsibilities. In any case, he and Duo would be having dinner together this evening.
Duo emerged from the bathroom in a satiny sky blue robe, and sat on the edge of the bed to brush his towel-dried hair and to watch Heero. The sight of Heero, dressed only in his navy trousers and moving with the fluidity of a feline, made Duo ache. Heero was beautiful in so many ways, but especially in his intensity. Though he was physically perfect, it was the combination of this with the intensity in his eyes and the tone of his voice that set Duo's heart racing. And now, to see Heero move like this made Duo sense all the more what pleasures and comforts they would miss not being together.
I swore I would never fall in love, Duo thought as he admired the young man before him.
"What ya' doing?" Duo asked with sincere curiosity.
"It's called T'ai Chi Ch'uan. It's a blend of the healing, martial and meditative arts," Heero explained as he continued with the slow movements. "It was developed by monks over a thousand years ago for health and spiritual growth, but also to defend themselves against bandits."
"How could they defend themselves moving that slow?" Duo asked, snickering, but his laughter was silenced when Heero suddenly sped up his movements a hundred fold. "Oh, wow!" Duo said, smiling brightly. "Just like Kung Fu!"
Heero's brow knit as he slowed his movements once again and stared at his lover. "Kung Fu?"
"Yeah, I loved that show. It was about this Chinese monk. I think his name was Grasshopper. He killed the emperor's nephew and had to leave China..." Duo explained, but he could see that Heero didn't have the faintest idea what he was talking about. "Oh, it doesn't matter. But I see now how this T'ai..."
"T'ai Chi Ch'uan," Heero said.
"Yeah, that it could be used for self defense. Very cool."
Heero smiled, and decided that was enough meditation and exercise for one morning. He joined his lover on the bed.
"Your hair is beautiful," he said as he admired the long fall of dark chestnut hair.
Duo smiled, looking at him with eyes nearly purple in the morning light. "Thanks," he said, shyly.
Heero's hand reached out, brushing through Duo's hair, and then he leaned forward and kissed him. His thoughts went back to the night at the club when Duo had danced to that song. "Your hair is beautiful tonight," the lyrics had rung out over the loud speakers. Now he understood completely why the DJ had chosen that song and why everyone had watched with mouths gaping. "Tonight, make it magnificent, tonight, make me tonight... oh... atomic." Though atoms were infinitesimally small, they could cause massive destruction and change, something that T'ai Chi Ch'uan taught as well... change was inevitable and should not be resisted.
And so, as Heero pulled back from the kiss and sat next to his lover on the bed, he was shaken by how a seemingly inconsequential meeting of two young men could so profoundly change his life. And it wasn't fair, because from this day forward he would have to move through life knowing that a young American named Duo Maxwell existed... walked the earth, breathed city air, and laughed his cares away... and Heero Yuy could not have him.
"You're far away again," Duo said, setting his brush on the bedside table.
"Just wishing for a little more time..." Heero said, taking Duo's hand in his.
A noise downstairs turned their attention toward the open bedroom door.
"What's that?" Heero asked.
Duo looked to the clock and then back at the door. "Shit, it's Lou!"
"You're joking," Heero said, but Duo was immediately in motion.
"You've got to get out of here," Duo said, nervously. "If he finds you here..." He didn't need to explain, instead he was rushing to throw open the window. "You can climb down the fire escape."
Heero grabbed the rest of his clothes from the floor and then felt a burning in his gut. "My shoes!"
"Look under the bed," Duo said, motioning frantically for Heero to hurry.
"No, they're downstairs... by the front door."
Duo's face paled. "Shit!"
An image of Heero taking off his shoes as he came into the house flashed through Duo's mind. What had seemed a charming Japanese custom now had become nearly a criminal offense.
"You can't go down there," Duo said, rushing to Heero's side and pushing him toward the window.
"Duo? Are you home?" came Lou's voice from downstairs.
Both young men froze. Their eyes met with fear. At last Duo went back into motion and scurried over to the door.
"I'm here, Daddy. Just getting out of the shower... I'll throw something on and be right down."
Heero's blood boiled. "Daddy?"
"It's what he wants me to call him," Duo whispered and gave a shrug. "I don't know why he's here." He rejoined Heero and ushered him again to the window. "Maybe he's just swinging by before his meeting with you..." Duo noticed the fierceness in Heero's eyes and shut up.
"What about the shoes?" Heero asked, his jaw clenched.
"Oh, right... I'll distract him somehow and set them on the front porch for you. Just wait by the side of the house."
"How will you distract him?"
"Let me worry about that, you just get out of here. I've got to get dressed."
Duo gave Heero a quick peck on the cheek and went back into motion. Heero threw one leg over the low windowsill and watched as Duo rifled through the closet and then pulled out a cotton skirt.
"Is that what you're wearing?" Heero asked.
"You still here?" Duo said, turning to the window and frowning. "You've got to get out of here..."
"Answer my question first," Heero said, suddenly not caring if he were caught.
Duo sighed. "Lou likes me to dress as a girl sometimes... that's all."
"That's all? All right, you're coming with me," Heero said, and climbed back into the room.
"Who are you talking to?" Lou called from the bottom of the staircase.
"Shit," Duo said, shoving Heero back to the window. "Just myself, Daddy," he called back over his shoulder.
"Well, get down here!" Lou shouted. His tone made it obvious that he was getting impatient.
"Be right there!" Duo shouted back and then put his hands on Heero's bare biceps and squeezed. Damn, Heero was adorable when he was jealous and scampering out of the window with half his clothes tucked under his arm.
"You've got to go," Duo whispered. "We'll see each other for dinner like we planned." He kissed Heero then, hard and deep, their tongues twirling around each other. "Now go!"
With one last long look, Heero went out the window and down the fire escape.
With his lover gone, Duo flung off his robe and quickly slipped into pink silk panties, a short, red skirt and a white cotton blouse. As a final touch he pulled his damp hair into a ponytail with a pink ribbon.
As he descended the wooden staircase, Lou looked up from sorting through the mail. "There's my girl," the large man said.
Duo stopped several stairs from the bottom and leaned playfully over the railing. "I wasn't expecting you, Daddy," he said, blushing at the name Lou demanded he use.
"I missed you last night," Lou said, reaching up to touch Duo's hand. "I got an early start this morning and have a little time before my meeting..."
Duo knew that tone and that caress too well. Lou was here for sex.
"Oh, Daddy, you're terrible," Duo said in a teasing voice. He continued down the stairs, eyeing Heero's shoes by the door. Damn, how was he gonna get them outside?
Lou followed his eyes. "Those damn shoes," he muttered. "Since when do you leave your shoes at the door? I nearly tripped over them."
Duo gulped. Praise be, Lou thought they were his!
"Sorry, Daddy," Duo said as he came to stand on the bottom step.
Lou came over and stood before him. Even standing on a step the top of Duo's head barely reached Lou's chin.
"How's my girl?" Lou asked, as his big hands came around and grabbed Duo's ass.
Duo yelped at the touch. "There's something I want to show you," he said, as Lou pawed him and nuzzled his neck.
"There's something I want to show you, Daddy," Lou corrected as he nipped the pale skin under his lips.
Duo shivered at the man's touch. "Yes, Daddy, there's something I'd like to show you, but it's in the other room. Could you go in there and wait for me?"
The man groaned as his hands reached under the skirt and found the silk panties. "Mmm, all right, but I can't wait long," he said, slowly releasing Duo.
As Lou let him go and went into the living room, Duo sighed in relief. His stomach was doing flip-flops from nerves and repulsion. What was happening? Lou was his bread and butter, if he couldn't perform for the man, he would be out on the street.
Once Lou was safely in the other room, Duo grabbed Heero's shoes and quietly opened the door. He set the shoes on the porch and without looking around for his lover, retreated back into the house. He couldn't bear for Heero to see him now.
It was a little after six o'clock in the evening when Heero arrived back at Duo's house with a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of Japanese plum wine. After spending a long, unhappy day apart from his lover, Heero was looking forward to taking Duo for an expensive dinner and spending the evening talking and making love. It would probably be their last chance to be together... his flight left the next morning... and he wanted everything to be perfect.
The house seemed unusually quiet when he approached, and when he rang the doorbell there was no answer. He rang again, imagining that Duo was upstairs dressing for dinner. Another ten seconds passed with no answer. Heero checked his watch. It was after six and they had clearly agreed on that time to meet, so he rang again. Finally, through the frosted glass of the door, he saw Duo's silhouette approaching. Heero's heart raced. He couldn't wait to take Duo into his arms again.
The locks were unlatched and the door slowly opened.
"Duo," Heero said, smiling, but his smile quickly faded. The young man staring back at him looked listless, broken, and he certainly wasn't dressed for dinner... he was wearing only a white, long-sleeved shirt. "What's wrong?" Heero asked.
Duo turned away. In one glance, he had seen more than he could bear. Heero looked incredibly handsome tonight in a caramel colored suit, and his arms overflowing with flowers and wine. What could this successful businessman possibly see in him and why wouldn't he stay away?
"Aren't you going to invite me in?" Heero asked, confused by the change in his lover.
"For one last fuck?" Duo asked, as he looked back over his shoulder. "Well, come on in. I've got ten minutes to spare."
"Why are you talking like that?" Heero asked as he stepped inside and closed the door behind him. "I thought we had a date tonight."
Duo gave a derisive snort and then turned to face his persistent suitor. "Is that what you're calling it? A date?"
Heero stared dumbfounded at his formerly cheerful lover. Obviously something had happened to change Duo's sentiments toward him, but what? Was this just Duo's way of breaking things off? Was this how he was dealing with their impending separation, by causing a fight on their last night together?
"Yes, it's a date. I brought you flowers," Heero said, holding out the bright bouquet. When Duo made no move to accept the gift, Heero set them and the plum wine on the table. "We have reservations at the Japan Garden for seven..." he said and then stopped, the words just stopped coming from his mouth as he noticed an angry cut on Duo's lower lip. "What's that?" He reached his hand out to touch the swollen spot.
Duo turned his face away to hide the mark. "I tripped... going up the stairs," he said, pointing to the staircase. As he pointed, his unbuttoned sleeve slid up his arm, revealing a darkly bruised wrist.
Heero stepped forward, taking Duo by the waist and turning him back to him. "How did this happen?" His eyes darkened with burgeoning anger.
"I told you... I tripped."
"And I'm telling you that I don't believe you. Did Lou do this to you?" Heero asked, his voice going deeper as he inspected Duo's other wrist as well. "I know I didn't leave these marks on you. Damn it, Duo. Tell me!"
Duo pulled away. "All right, he did it!" he shouted as he stumbled back and bumped into the wall. "I didn't want him touching me after... after I'd been with you." His hands went up to hide his face as he began to cry.
Heero felt a rage building inside him and was frightened. He had never felt such a consuming anger in his life. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath to center himself. He would need more than a deep breath to calm, but it did help... a little. When he opened his eyes he went to Duo, holding out his arms to comfort him, but the young man pulled away again.
"Tell me exactly what happened," Heero demanded as he helplessly watched Duo cry.
"No," Duo said, shaking his head.
Heero would not be deterred. "The last I saw you, you were putting my shoes on the front porch... you looked fine. So what happened?"
Duo looked up through his hands. He hadn't wanted Heero to see him. "After that I went into the living room where Lou was waiting, but I wasn't in the mood for what he wanted," Duo said, quietly.
"And you told him this?"
Duo nodded. "It didn't matter. He was here for one thing... and I'd never resisted before."
"Did he hit you?" Heero asked as he reached up and wiped some of Duo's tears away. This time Duo allowed the touch.
Duo nodded again. "We were heading upstairs, but I didn't want to go with him," he said as a shiver raced through him at the memory. "I was trying to get away, but he was holding my wrists tight... and then he hit me and I fell onto the stairs."
"You tripped, huh?" Heero asked, seeing now how Duo had tried to rationalize this scenario.
"I can't tell you anymore," Duo said, looking away as the tears spilled down his cheeks again. After the beautiful lovemaking he had shared with Heero he couldn't bear to have Lou touching him, and now couldn’t bear to think of how Lou had claimed him so ruthlessly.
"Did you call the police?" Heero asked, guessing that Lou was not the kind of man used to getting ‘no’ for an answer.
Duo laughed. "What for?"
"To file a report of abuse."
"Even if I thought the cops would give a rat’s ass, I know they wouldn't arrest Lou."
Heero's eyes narrowed. "I don't understand."
"Lou Almati is part of the syndicate here in Chicago," Duo said, and when Heero didn't seem to understand he worded it differently. "You know... the Mafia."
The color drained from Heero's face. "I've been in negotiations with the Mafia?"
"Yep," Duo said, wiping his nose with the sleeve of his shirt.
"Then Lou is running more than a nightclub operation?" Heero asked, tentatively.
"You catch on real fast."
"Well, then I definitely don't want you here," Heero said, taking Duo by the arm.
"Hey, what do you think you're doing?" Duo asked, pulling back, but was unable to break free of Heero's grasp.
"I'm getting you out of here," Heero said and turned for the door.
"Who said I wanted to go?" Duo asked, as he gave Heero a solid punch in the arm.
That got Heero to stop in his tracks. "The guy forced you..."
"I know what happened and whether you want to believe it or not, Lou's a decent guy. Yeah, he's with the mob, and yeah he can be a bit rough sometimes..."
"This has happened before?"
Duo sighed. "I don't know what you're trying to do here. I was getting along fine..."
"I'm in love with you," Heero blurted out.
Duo froze, his mouth hanging open in shock. "W-what did you say?"
A blush colored Heero's cheeks. He hadn't meant to say that, but now that the truth was out he would not deny it. "Yes, I've fallen in love with you, hard and fast, just like the sex."
Duo shook his head. He still didn't think he had heard Heero correctly, or if he had, then Heero must not know what he was talking about. "You're dazed from the great sex we've been having..."
"No, that's not it," Heero interrupted, putting his fingers to Duo's lips. "It's not my cock talking, it's my heart... I'm in love with you, Duo. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me."
The lips under Heero's fingers began to tremble and then Duo swatted Heero's hand away. "Don't tell me things like that," Duo said, going to the table and picking up the flowers and the wine. "Now get out of here." He shoved the gifts back at Heero.
Heero took the items automatically, but was stunned by Duo's reaction. "What's going on?"
"I want you to leave... now," Duo said, his tone harsh.
"But I just told you that I love you," Heero said, certain that Duo must have misunderstood, otherwise he wouldn't be acting this way.
"A lot of good that does me," Duo said, shoving Heero towards the door. "You're going back to Japan in the morning."
Heero put his hand on the door, preventing Duo from opening it. "I'm sorry," he said, looking into Duo's eyes.
Duo was just barely holding onto his composure and it didn't help having Heero looking at him that way. "I'm going to ask you again nicely... please go."
Heero let his hand fall away. Duo opened the door, and after one last glance at his lover, Heero walked out the door and onto the front porch. The door closed and locked behind him, sending a shiver through his body. Unsure of what to do next, Heero stood on the porch and tilted his head back, looking up at the night sky, hoping for a sign. Instead, he saw nothing but blackness; the light pollution from the city prevented the light of any stars getting through. It seemed only fitting. The loss of Duo was nothing less than the loss of all the stars in the night sky.
Why won’t he let me love him? Heero wondered as he stepped off the porch. But of course he knew. It would’ve been better for Duo if they had never met.
Inside the house, Duo turned away from the door and headed upstairs. Halfway up, he stopped, his entire body trembling. He could not take one more step... up or down, backwards or forwards. There was no point in it. He had just sent away the most beautiful man he had ever met.
"Heero...." The name tore out of him with a gasping sob as Duo collapsed onto the steps, broken hearted.
The Yuy Family had not come to dominate the hotel and restaurant industry in Japan by sheer luck, but by an extraordinary family trait... perseverance. Heero Yuy exemplified this family virtue. As a child, he was tenacious to a fault. If he lost at a game, he would play it until he mastered it. If he scored anything less than perfect on a test at school, he would deprive himself of all extra-curricular activities until his grade was brought up. His English mother had often worried that his intensity, his seriousness was unhealthy, but his Japanese father only had praise for his desire for perfection.
It was this tenacity that led Heero Yuy, eldest son of Nakahara and Madeline Yuy, back to Duo’s house that night. After their last, disastrous rendezvous, Heero had returned to his hotel to think. When Duo had shoved him out the door with not even a kiss of farewell, Heero had been torn apart. Perhaps it had been too soon to tell Duo of his love for him, and he reasoned that if their roles had been reversed, he would have acted as Duo had, ending their affair as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Four hours later, Heero had paper strewn about him on the desk and the bed behind him. Lists of the pros and cons of bringing Duo to Tokyo, of Heero moving to Chicago, or of them living apart and seeing each other only once or twice a year. Of all the choices, the last seemed to upset the status quo the least, but it didn't matter, none of the choices were acceptable.
In his frustration, Heero crumpled the pages before him and threw them into the waste bin. It was ten o'clock, and though he didn't have any answers, he knew one thing… he loved Duo. And so, Heero found himself standing on Duo’s front porch once again.
He rang the bell twice, a testament to his impatience, but there was no response. The house was dark and Heero feared he would have to break in to gain entry. Fortunately, a neighbor was watching and took pity on him.
“Duo’s gone out,” the middle-aged woman called to him.
The voice startled him, and then Heero’s eyes adjusted to the figure sitting on a nearly identical front porch just twenty feet away. “He’s out?” he repeated.
“A car picked him up about a half hour ago. Looked like he was dressed to go clubbing,” she said.
“Clubbing?” Heero asked, unfamiliar with the term.
“Sure. You can probably find him at Lou’s.”
Heero took a deep breath. Damn, that complicated things.
“Thank you,” he said, bowing, and then headed down the porch steps.
“Aren’t you the boy who was here earlier?” the woman asked.
Heero froze and then turned to her in the darkness. “Yes. I was picking up a package from Lou…”
The woman chuckled. “Never heard Duo called that before."
The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. If this woman had noticed him going into the house and not coming out until this morning… He shook off the dread that threatened to engulf him. Even though he wanted to know if she had told Lou what she had seen, Heero didn’t want to play her games.
“Good night,” he said and headed off down the walk to hail a taxi.
And so, Heero found himself standing at the front door of the club, giving the bouncer his name and waiting for word from inside whether he could enter or not. A couple of anxious minutes ticked by before the door swung open and he was welcomed.
The mood of the club was much different tonight, different than he had seen it during pre-open hours and when it had been pulsing with the energy of a full house of young club goers. Tonight the club was about half full with patrons crowded around the bar, in booths or on the perimeter of the dance floor. About a half dozen couples were dancing, but Duo was not among them. Heero pushed through the club, searching for Duo. After a couple of inquiries, he was pointed to a booth in the corner---a booth hidden from the glare of the psychedelic lights and the booming dance beat.
Heero approached the booth with a pounding heart. He had no idea what he would say when he saw Duo, he just knew that he had to see him again. In seconds, he was standing in front of the table, his eyes adjusting to the near darkness of this secluded corner, and then focusing painfully on the sight of Duo sitting on Lou's lap. Duo's face was heavily made up with dark eyeliner and pink lip gloss. He wore black patent leather shorts, a sleeveless, high-necked black spandex shirt, leather wrist cuffs---to cover the bruises, no doubt--- and polished black combat boots. This metamorphosis of the Duo he had made love to made Heero's stomach knot. His eyes met his lover's, but then Duo looked away, burying his face in Lou's neck.
The fact that several of Lou’s business associates were seated around the table snorting lines of cocaine was quickly disregarded. All Heero cared about was Duo.
"Mr. Yuy, I wasn't expecting you this evening," Lou said, noting Duo’s sudden shyness.
"I-I'm leaving in the morning," Heero said, now looking directly at Lou.
The man wound his arm around Duo's waist more tightly. "Did you change your mind about opening a nightclub in Chicago?"
"No... I mean, I'm not sure," Heero stammered, his mind blank as his belly whirled hot with jealousy.
Lou's eyes narrowed. "You seem... distracted, Mr. Yuy," he said, pushing Duo off his lap. "Be a good boy, Duo, and get the box of Cubans from my office," he said, patting Duo on the rear.
"Sure, Daddy," Duo said, as he walked away, keeping his eyes to the floor as he swooshed his hips seductively the way Lou liked him to do.
Though his body showed disinterest, Duo’s heart hammered as a foolish hope rose within him. It was late the evening before Heero would be leaving... they had parted badly... maybe Heero was here to sweep him off his feet?
Stupid dreams, Duo thought as he sauntered toward the club's office. It couldn't work, Heero had said so himself. Japan was no place for a gay relationship and besides, Heero had just gotten an eyeful of what Duo was really about. No self-respecting young man would try to make a life with a whore.
"Have a seat, Mr. Yuy," Lou said, gesturing for his colleagues to move over.
Heero sat down, hesitantly.
"Would you care to join us?" Lou asked, nodding to the lines on the table.
Heero shook his head.
"Smart boy. It's a nasty habit," Lou said, chuckling.
"Eh, Lou," one of the men spoke up. "I'll give you a thousand dollars if you let me have Duo for the night."
"A thousand dollars and you can watch," the man added.
"Five thousand and you can do whatever you want with him," Lou countered.
The other men at the table whooped and slapped the man making the proposition on the back. "Go on Charlie, accept, you know Lou doesn't like to share."
Heero averted his eyes as the bile rose in his throat. How could these men casually talk about whoring Duo out for the night?
"Excuse me," he said, standing and thinking that the Mafia bosses in Chicago must have very low standards. "Where's the restroom?"
The men quieted, staring at the stranger with suspicion. They didn't like their fun interrupted.
"Over there," Lou said, nodding toward the far wall.
Heero couldn't get away from the booth fast enough. As he approached the restrooms, he spotted Duo coming out of Lou's office, a box of cigars in one hand. Heero stepped in front of him.
"Do you know what they're doing over there?" Heero asked, dispensing with the greetings.
"Yeah, drugs... the stupid fucks," Duo said. He tried to act cool, as if it didn’t mean anything having Heero standing so close, even though it made his head spin.
"Not that," Heero said. "Lou's just sold you for five thousand dollars."
"So what's the big deal?" Duo asked, shaking his head. He didn't like the idea of having to go home with one of those dope heads, but he really didn't have a choice.
"No one should treat you like that!" Heero exclaimed, angry at Duo's nonchalance.
"How else should they treat me? I'm a whore, Heero, or hadn't you figured that out yet?"
The challenging tone infuriated Heero. How could the man he loved think so little of himself? He let his eyes rake over Duo's body, assessing it as though he might make a purchase as well. Duo's outfit was very provocative and snug in all the right places.
"You're certainly dressed like a whore..." Heero said.
"You bastard!" Duo cried out angrily, slapping Heero hard across the cheek. "You're no better then those horny old men!"
"You don't want me to be any better," Heero shot back. "Because then you might have to care." Heero grabbed Duo by the wrist, pulling him close and holding firm. He suddenly felt panicked as he realized things weren't turning out the way he had hoped. "Are you listening to me?" he asked, angrily.
Duo's eyes went wide at Heero's intensity, and then even wider as he looked over Heero's shoulder to the looming figure standing behind him.
"W-what?" Heero asked, but barely had the question formed when he felt a large hand grip his shoulder.
"What's going on here?" Lou asked as he spun Heero around, causing Heero to release Duo's wrist.
"It's nothing, Daddy," Duo answered, smiling nervously. "I've got your cigars..."
"What are you two talking about?" Lou demanded.
He now stood before Heero with his fists on his hips. The man was very tall and very broad, something that Heero had noticed before, but had not felt intimidated by until this moment.
"Nothing, Daddy," Duo repeated.
"I want him to answer!" Lou shouted, giving Duo a hard look and then focusing blazing eyes on Heero. "If you think you can do business with Duo directly to save money, you're very wrong. You'll negotiate with me or not at all."
Heero's eyes widened. For a brief moment he had thought Lou had found them out, but it seemed he was only concerned that Heero might sleep with Duo and not pay for the privilege.
"This is a private conversation," Heero said, raising his chin.
Lou's eyes narrowed. "Nothing's private when you're on my property. Now if you want to continue your conversation with Duo you'll pay for the right."
"I won't degrade him by paying to speak with him," Heero said, defiantly.
"Heero," Duo said, reaching out to touch the young man's arm.
"What's this?" Lou asked, looking back and forth between the two young men. "Then it's true...?"
Lou took Duo by the arm and pulled him toward him roughly. "The old bitch was right!"
"No, Daddy, I don't know what you're talking about!" Duo exclaimed as tears formed in his eyes. The grip on his arm was brutal.
"If you want to live to see tomorrow you'd better leave, Jap boy," Lou said to Heero.
"Let him go," Heero said, his eyes narrowing as anger swelled within him.
"You don't seem to realize the gift I've just given you. You should be dead right now," he snarled. "Duo belongs to me!"
"He belongs to no one," Heero said in a flat, but firm tone.
Lou released Duo's arm, shoving him down to the floor in the process. "Have it your way," he said, and without further warning he took a swing at the much shorter man.
Heero stepped back, feeling the whoosh of the fist as it missed his face by a fraction of an inch. Lou swung again. This time Heero turned and kicked, making contact with Lou’s thigh.
"You little shit!" the man yelled as he lunged forward to wrestle Heero to the ground.
But Heero was fast. His T'ai Chi Ch'uan training made him limber and quick. He ducked and spun away from the larger man's grasp, and then delivered a punch to Lou's stomach. The blow did little damage other than making the man angrier.
Duo slowly got to his feet, watching the scene with wide eyes. Were they really fighting over him? Well, Lou was fighting for dominance and property, but Heero... could he be defending Duo's honor?
As fists and legs flung out before him, Duo’s only thoughts were of Heero. The young man was fast and well trained in the martial arts, but Lou was meaner and larger and had more to lose. Then the odds got worse as two of Lou's bouncers responded to the commotion. Outnumbered, Heero was cornered and then grabbed and held from behind. Lou took a great deal of pleasure in punching Heero in the stomach and then watching him crumple to the floor.
Duo cried out and rushed forward to comfort his lover, but Lou turned and swung an arm at him, striking him and sending him back onto the floor. By now the crowd in the club had formed around the scene, making it even more important for Lou to save face.
Heero looked up from his kneeling position on the floor. He would be lucky to get out of here in one piece. He held up his hand to fend off another attack, but Lou grabbed him by the collar of his suit jacket and yanked him up to his feet.
"You're a dead man, Yuy," Lou said, venomously. "I won't kill you in my club, but you'll never be able to sleep with your eyes closed again."
"No," Duo said with a sob. He knew from experience that Lou never made idle threats. Heero was as good as dead.
Lou shoved Heero back to the floor, his knees hitting hard, sending a shooting pain through his legs. He wasn't down for long, Lou's bouncers took him by the arms and dragged him from the club, tossing him out onto the sidewalk.
As his ass hit the pavement one of the men shouted and pointed a gun at him, "Say your prayers, dead man."
Heero watched as the door slammed behind them. The club's neon sign shone brightly above. Dead or alive, what did it matter? He couldn't have the man he loved.
Inside the club, Lou stood at the center of an adoring crowd, his prowess and his position reaffirmed. When Duo stepped forward, looking as though he might go after Heero, Lou grabbed him by the shoulder and whirled him around.
"Little slut," Lou said, gripping Duo's arm hard. He leaned close to Duo and said, "Not getting enough cock, huh? I can arrange for you to get it 24 hours a day, starting right now." He pulled Duo toward his office.
"No, Lou!" Duo said, afraid. Lou's ego and his adrenaline were pumped full right now and there was no telling what he might do.
Lou didn't acknowledge the protest as he opened the office door and pushed Duo inside. Duo stumbled in; the cigars scattered on the floor. He turned and looked up at the large man before him. "Lou, you don't want to do this."
"You're to call me Daddy!" came Lou's angry response, as he hauled Duo to his feet and shoved him onto the couch.
"Please, Daddy, don't..." Duo began to say, and then Lou backhanded him across the face. The blow turned Duo's face away and burned like a brand. Duo had never seen Lou so angry before... it frightened him.
"You're more of a whore than I gave you credit for," the man said as he unbuckled his belt.
"No, Daddy, please don't... not now," Duo pleaded again, holding his hand to his cheek.
"I'm going to teach you and your boyfriend a lesson."
"It wasn't Heero's fault... I seduced him," Duo said, hoping to draw Lou's anger away from Heero.
Lou only laughed. "I'm giving him an hour's head start. I think that's generous under the circumstances."
Duo felt a heaviness in his gut. Lou was really going through with this, and knowing Lou he would probably even call in a couple of favors to make sure the job was done right.
"Heero's the son of Yuy International's president," Duo said, trying to reason with him. "The Japanese government will investigate..." He was unable to finish as he was struck in the face by Lou's open hand.
"I've given you everything... a house, clothes, whatever you've wanted and this is how you repay me? There's nothing you can do to save your lover. Now turn around..."
Duo tensed as Lou gripped his biceps painfully and forced him to turn around, pushing him down onto the couch.
"Let go of me! You're hurting me!" Duo cried out.
"I'll do what I please," Lou growled back.
Just then a knock sounded on the door.
"This better be important or you're a dead man!" Lou shouted, looking at the door angrily.
"Sorry, Mr. Almati, but it's the cops," a man's voice said, muffled through the closed door. "They heard about the commotion and they need to talk to you."
"Fuck," Lou said, annoyed. "This'll have to wait," he told Duo as he got up from the couch and righted himself.
Duo sagged against the thick cushions.
Before leaving the room, Lou turned to Duo once more saying, "You'd better be ready for me when I get back or I won't just have Yuy killed, I'll have his head brought to you on a platter!"
When the door closed behind Lou, Duo sat up, wild-eyed and shivering. Life as he knew it was over. After tonight he'd be lucky if he slept in the same bed twice... and with the same man. The tears that had been forming now fell freely as Duo put his face in his hands and cried. This was all his fault. He should have never slept with Heero, but not for his own sake. Heero had been hurt twice over... first by having his love pushed away and then by endangering his life.
"I'm sorry, Heero," Duo said aloud, wishing that he could apologize in person. I'll do what I can to stop them from hurting you, he thought, brushing away the tears.
A fierce protectiveness washed over him. Even though his own life was shit, maybe he could help Heero, protect him from Lou's wrath. But there wasn't much time to think... Lou would be back any minute. Duo wondered what he could do to strike at Lou, to hold him immobile while he slipped away into the night and Heero returned unharmed to Japan.
His eyes settled on Lou's desk. The heavy cherry wood furniture gave the impression that a powerful man sat behind it. But Duo had an advantage over that powerful man, he knew his secrets. Lou had arrogantly conducted illegal business in full view of Duo.
The young man rose from the couch and looked to the door, his blood pulsing loud in his ears. He reached over and locked the door, buying himself an extra minute should Lou return too soon. He went to the desk, but not having a key took a letter opener from the top drawer. With trembling hands, he worked the lock on one of the drawers, but it didn't open.
"Damn," he said in frustration as he began to look around for something else to try the lock.
He grabbed a paper clip, but again no luck. Then, searching through the top drawer again, he came across a Swiss army knife. By now his hands were trembling almost uncontrollably. Lou would be back any second. Fumbling with the knife he found the nail file and fit it easily into the lock. Almost instantly the door unlocked and he pulled it open. Without hesitation, Duo reached inside and grabbed three ledgers. He didn't need to open them to know their contents... one contained a list of every person who paid Lou protection money. That book he set aside. It was the other two books that were worth Duo's weight in gold. At first glance, these books were identical, but Duo knew better. One held the actual earnings of Lou's clubs while the other was the doctored version of those earnings. The doctored ledger, in Lou's own handwriting, was shown to the mob each quarter for accounting purposes. Lou was skimming off the top from the mob, and with these ledgers in his hands, Duo essentially held the noose around Lou's neck.
"He has to let me go now," he said, and found a piece of paper and a pen to jot down a hasty note.
Despite the safety the possession of these ledgers could give him, Duo still needed to get away from this place without being seen. His hand worked quickly, writing a warning to Lou. "I have the books," it read. "You know which ones. If you come after me, or if you hurt Heero or my family in any way, these books will be sent to your bosses."
Duo didn't actually know the names of the men Lou worked for, but he prayed that Lou didn't know that. Hopefully, just the fact that he had the books and might possibly hand them over would be enough to stop Lou's vengeance.
God, I hope this works, Duo thought.
He hurried across the room to his backpack and stuffed the ledgers inside. Now he had to get out of the club. With a deep breath, Duo unlocked the office door and poked his head outside. As he'd feared, one of Lou's bodyguards was standing guard.
"Hey, Joey," Duo said, casually despite his legs trembling beneath him.
The man nodded. "Lou told me you're to stay in his office."
"Yeah, I'm waiting for him," Duo lied. He looked the burly guard over, remembering a brief encounter they had had many months ago. "I just gotta take a whiz," he said, posing seductively as his eyes raked over the guard.
"Nah, Lou said not to let you leave this room."
"Oh, come on, Joey. You know it ain't good for a guy to hold it in. It'll just take me a minute and then I'll be back."
Joey shook his head.
"Lou won't know... and I'll make it worth your while," Duo added desperately.
The guard's eyes drifted over Duo's body. They had managed a little pleasuring some months ago and no one had found out. He had wanted more, but this was the first Duo had offered since then.
"Okay, but if you're not back here in one minute I'm coming in for ya," Joey said, hoping Duo planned to lure him into the restroom for a quickie.
"Thanks, man," Duo grinned and then winked as he slinked past.
At the restroom door, Duo turned back to see if Joey was watching. He was. Damn, that complicated things. He was hoping to sneak out the back door, but now he had to pretend to be using the restroom. He went in and looked around, thankfully there was no one there.
How was he going to get out? He could wait until Joey wasn't looking and slip past to the back door, but he only had a minute. With the look he had given the bodyguard, the man would be waiting for the chance to get that free blow job.
Duo's eyes scanned the light blue tiled room and cringed. He had wanted Lou to put some money into re-decorating the bathrooms, but the man had always refused, claiming the added expense added nothing to the club's appeal. It amazed Duo that Lou's clubs made money at all with that attitude, but they did, even with filthy bathrooms that looked like they belonged in a 1960s gas station.
Shaking off his frustration, Duo saw his only way out... a half window above the sink at the far end of the room. If the sink would hold his weight he just might make it.
With his backpack slung snuggly over his shoulder, he hoisted himself up onto the sink in a squatting position. When the sink groaned under him, he froze. His heart was beating wildly in his chest, but with no further movement under his weight it seemed the sink would hold. Reaching up he unlatched the window and pushed, but it didn't budge.
"Damn it," he said, feeling completely trapped. He had to get out and quick if he and Heero were going to live to see another day.
Maybe he should've invited Joey into the restroom with him? An opportunity might've presented itself to dart out of the room and through the back exit. But the thought of servicing one more man made his stomach turn. If he survived this night, he would have to find a new way to make a living.
With the blood pulsing in his ears, he tried to listen, to be aware of anyone coming, but it didn't matter, he just had to act fast. Desperate, Duo banged at the window with the heel of his hand and pushed again. This time he felt some play in its hinges. Another bang and push, and the window lifted enough to put his hands under it and open it all the way.
A rush of warm night air poured into the room, making Duo realize he wasn't sweating because the club was so hot, but because he was so damn nervous. The club was actually quite cool from the high-powered air conditioner humming behind the building in the alley. Duo poked his head out the window. Unfortunately the air conditioning unit was not under the window. He would have to drop six-feet to the ground.
"The first step's a dousey," Duo chuckled. "But it's the first step of my new life."
With that simple encouragement, Duo maneuvered his small body through the window, legs first. With a pounding heart, he clung to the sill as his legs dangled down, and he took one last look back into the restroom. Just then, Joey came walking in.
"Hey!" the guard called out.
"Shit," Duo said, letting go of the sill and dropping to the ground. He landed on his feet, dropping into a roll and knocking his elbow and knee hard on the blacktop.
Joey stuck his head out the window. "What the hell are you doing?" he asked, and then ducked back inside.
Though dazed and smarting from the fall, Duo knew he had to get moving. Somehow he pulled himself up, thanking God he hadn't broken anything. With some effort he moved forward, practically stumbling all the way down the alley as he got the feel of his legs under him. Distantly, he heard Joey yelling at him, but he didn't look back. He just kept running, clinging tightly to his ticket to freedom---the pack on his shoulder.
He was still alive. Ten hours had passed since Lou had threatened his life, and yet Heero Yuy still walked and breathed. He had taken a circuitous route back to his hotel, trying to shake anyone who followed---if they followed. The feeling of being pursued, hunted in a strange city kept the hairs on the back of Heero's neck on end and his heart rate up. He had met the eyes of every person on the street, wanting to look death straight in the face when it came, but it had not. He couldn't explain why he was still alive, but that mattered little to him, knowing that he had left Duo behind at that club.
All night long, Heero tortured himself by reliving moments with Duo. Everything from ecstasy to rejection played in his mind and slipped into his dreams as his weary body finally succumbed to sleep. The next morning he was surprised to wake unharmed in his hotel room. He quickly showered, dressed and packed his suitcase.
Standing in front of the hotel, he double checked his Japan Air Lines ticket and sighed. In two hours he would be 35,000 feet above the Earth and speeding away from this place forever. When the taxi pulled up he got in and told the driver to take him to the airport.
"There's a water main break down the street here," the driver said. "Gonna have to take Michigan Avenue."
Heero nodded, not caring what route the driver took so long as he got him to the airport on time.
Traveling down Michigan Avenue, Heero's heart started pounding. He recognized landmark buildings and realized he was only a couple of blocks from the Art Institute. Impulsively, he checked his watch. The museum had opened fifteen minutes ago. Was there time for one last sentimental tour of the Impressionists' gallery?
"Driver, I've changed my mind," Heero said, not believing what he was doing. "I want you to drop me at the Art Institute."
"What about your flight?" the man asked.
"I've got time," Heero answered, feeling a fierce desperation grip his heart.
Despite his continued fear that he needed to get out of town before the mob got him, Heero got out of the taxi across the street from the museum. Surely he wouldn't be gunned down at a public museum. With his small suitcase in hand, he crossed the street and took the museum's stone steps two at a time.
Inside, he paid his admission and followed his heart upstairs to the Impressionists' gallery. A part of him believed he would find Duo there, sitting on the floor, sketching away. The image made him smile, but as he came into the gallery, eyes scanning, his heart sank. Duo was not there.
Heero's lips trembled. He had yet to cry over the loss of his lover, but he was very close to crying now in this very public place. He turned to the wall, as if examining one of the masterpieces, and clenched his fists tightly. Despite his best efforts, tears fell down his cheeks. Even with years of T'ai Chi Chu'an training and his Japanese upbringing, Heero could not stop the rush of emotion that was flooding him. He needed Duo in his life and coming here had been his last hope.
If I could turn back time, Heero thought as he wiped mercilessly at the tears. Please... let him be here when I turn back around.
The foolish wish only produced another disappointment. Duo was not here. The young man with the beautiful long hair was gone from his life... hopefully safe and happy... but gone.
Angry at the fates for toying with his heart, Heero looked down at his watch only to see his time was up. If he didn't leave now, he might miss his plane, and right now home was sounding very good.
He descended the stone staircase to the first floor and was immediately overrun by a group of schoolchildren. He tried to wade through them, but many were holding hands as instructed by their chaperones, and he was swept along toward another exhibit gallery.
By the time the group entered the Asian art gallery, Heero was able to break free. He turned to retrace his steps and head out of the museum, but noticed a sign for an exhibition of original prints by the famous Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai. Seeing the familiar name brought some calm to Heero's frazzled nerves. He stepped into the gallery and sighed. What a blessing to find this little piece of home here in Chicago.
Looking at his watch again, Heero decided he could give himself ten minutes. He walked slowly, stopping in front of each woodblock print, admiring the master's skill of composition, color and pure artistry. As he made his way around the room, he kept hoping he'd find Hokusai's most famous work, "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa." He had no idea if it was here, but his heart raced with anticipation as he looked to the next print, and the next.
At last, his eyes and his heart leapt as he saw the blue and white foaming wave. He felt joy, relief and sadness all at once. The tidal wave seemed to be about to swallow the mountain in the distance, surely a metaphor for the tumult of his own life, the mountain his very soul about to be drowned. He stepped back, aghast at the print's power over him and how something so beautiful could cut so deep.
"Duo..." he said, in little more than a whisper, and then turned, self-consciously, to see if anyone had heard.
The gallery had been empty when he entered, or so he thought, but now his eyes fell onto a curled form, sitting on the floor across the room. He blinked. Was that young man wearing black combat boots?
"Duo?" he asked, hesitantly as he crossed the room.
The bowed head came up slowly, revealing large, blue eyes ringed with smudged eyeliner. "Heero?" Duo asked, rubbing at his eyes as they opened. "What a strange dream," he mumbled as he stared at the slight figure coming toward him. His lover had magically appeared and was coming for him just as he had wished.
"You're not dreaming," Heero said, kneeling in front of him. "At least... I don't think you are." Heero smiled, throwing caution aside as he pulled Duo into his arms, hugging him tightly against him. "I knew I'd find you here."
Duo gasped at the fierceness of Heero's embrace. "You're alive," he said, breathless and still only half believing. And yet a smile curved his lips as the reality of Heero holding him overpowered his senses.
They held each other for a long moment before Heero pulled back and looked at Duo. Now he realized Duo was wearing the same clothes from the night before and his makeup was streaked as though he'd been crying.
"What happened last night?" Heero asked, wiping at the black smudge under Duo's left eye.
"I got out of there... for good," Duo said, too exhausted to explain his escape or how he had wandered the streets all night afraid for his life. Nothing mattered now that Heero was back. "Damn, it's good to see you."
"I was on my way to the airport and I had a feeling..." Heero's words drifted off as he brushed aside a lock of Duo's hair. "I thought Lou was going to have me killed."
"He was, but I found a way to keep us both alive," Duo said, picking up his backpack and unzipping it. "I stole these accounting records from his desk. The mob wouldn't be very happy with him if they saw these."
Heero took one of the ledgers and flipped through it. He nearly laughed. "You mean I'm still alive because of this?"
"I think so."
"You did this for me?" Heero asked.
"For us," Duo said, grinning.
Heero shook his head in awe. "After yesterday, the way you pushed me out of your house and the way you acted at the club, I thought..."
Duo pressed his hand to Heero's lips. "I'm sorry," he said, looking longingly into Heero's eyes. "I was afraid of what was happening between us. We both knew it couldn't go anywhere and..."
Now Heero pressed his hand to Duo's lips, and gently pulled Duo's hand away. "Something was happening between us?" he asked as though he really didn't know.
"Yeah, something special," Duo said, as Heero's hand slipped from his mouth.
"Something more than a one night stand?"
Duo's eyes widened. "You know it meant more to me than that."
"Do I?" Heero asked, skeptically. Certainly Duo hadn't made him pay for that night, but for all he knew, it meant little more to Duo than a nice way to spend an evening. "You know how I feel, Duo. I've fallen in love with you, but as far as I know you only think what we had was something special."
Duo looked away. It hurt that Heero doubted his feelings, but then, Duo had been very careful not to reveal too much.
"You don't love me?" Heero asked, bravely as tears welled in his eyes.
"The truth is," Duo began, choked and barely above a whisper, "I've loved you since that afternoon here at the museum." He looked back at Heero and trembled as he saw the tears in the other young man's eyes. "I'm in love with everything about you. But what's the point?"
Heero smiled at hearing that Duo loved him, but he couldn't understand the young man's hesitation. "What do you mean? What's the point?"
"Don't you have a plane to catch?" Duo asked, bitterly.
Heero sat back on his heels. "Do you really think I could leave you now?"
Duo looked puzzled. "Yeah, maybe," he said, now finding it hard to look into Heero's eyes. "You've got obligations to your family."
"You're right. They are expecting me to return home, but maybe I can extend my business trip."
"Indefinitely?" Duo asked, raising an eyebrow.
"No, but it's a start," Heero said.
"Then you're serious about us staying together?"
"Yes," Heero said in earnest. "I want to buy you that house by the ocean you've always wanted."
Duo scooted back on the floor, distancing himself. "Just because we're in love doesn't mean you own me," Duo said as his cheeks reddened.
"Of course not," Heero said, resting his hands on Duo's knees. "I just thought..."
"You thought wrong," Duo snapped, defensively.
Just then several museum visitors came into the gallery, forcing the two young men apart. Duo got to his feet quickly, slinging the backpack over his shoulders. The small group of women stared at his unusual clothes and then eyeballed Heero who was slowly getting to his feet as well. Heero and Duo walked out of the gallery then, into the main corridor, and then Duo turned to Heero, his eyes ablaze.
"I'm not looking for another sugar daddy," he said, in a low voice. "I've gotta be my own man now."
Heero smiled inwardly. He liked the fire in those violet eyes and liked that Duo was telling him that he was leaving that life behind.
"Do you think you could be your own man with me at your side?" Heero asked.
The lightness, yet sincerity in Heero's voice caught Duo off guard. He wanted to be angry, wanted for some strange reason to keep Heero at a distance, but Heero wasn't going to let him.
"Then you understand how I need to make my own way?" Duo asked, a little suspicious.
"Yes, and I respect that. You told me about your dream to be an artist, and I believe that you can."
Duo smiled. "Yeah?"
"Yeah," Heero said, repeating the slang. "And I've wanted to be your dance partner ever since I saw you on that dance floor at the club."
"My dance partner?" Duo asked, chuckling. "Wow, that's romantic."
With the hum of museum visitor's and tour groups around them, they stared into each other's eyes. Each still not quite believing that the other was here. And yet, even with their feelings clear neither was quite sure what to do next. But then, quite suddenly, Duo took Heero by the hand and pulled him toward him for a quick, public kiss. Heero was surprised to feel warmth in his cheeks.
"You're blushing," Duo said in a whisper, and then led Heero out of the museum hand-in-hand.
"Where are we going?" Heero asked as they descended the museum's front steps.
"To the airport," Duo said, as though it were completely obvious.
"Wait," Heero said, bringing them to a halt at the bottom of the steps by yanking on Duo's hand. "We can't go to Japan."
"I know, I don't have a passport," Duo chuckled.
"Then where?" Heero asked, his heart pounding with the ambiguity of their situation.
"Anywhere but here... as long as we stay in the good old U.S. of A.," Duo said, as he hailed a taxi. "And you've got twenty minutes to decide."
"Why twenty minutes?"
"That's how long it'll take us to get to the airport," Duo said and laughed as the cab pulled up to the curb. "Now get in, lover boy," he said with a wink.
Heero shook his head, laughing as he ducked into the taxi behind the braid. Life was going to be very good from now on.
As they held hands in the backseat of the cab, an image played in Heero's mind... the image of he and Duo living in a house overlooking the sea. He hadn't been kidding when he had told Duo that's what he wanted to do. And that's what he still intended on doing, buying Duo that dream house he had always wanted. And Heero Yuy could afford it. Though his salary at Yuy International was not exorbitant, it was sizeable and he had been frugal. Now he had a reason to spend all those saved yen, turn them into something in which to be proud and something that would make Duo even happier than he was at this moment.
"Hokusai's 'Great Wave'," Heero said as he caught a last glimpse of Lake Michigan.
"What?" Duo asked, peering out Heero's window.
"The Japanese block print in that gallery. Did you see it?"
Duo shook his head. He had gone into the gallery seeking comfort, thinking that being surrounded by Japanese art would make the loss of Heero easier. Instead, it had made him feel worse and he had sat down on the exhibition hall floor and cried.
"The 'Great Wave' has always been my favorite by Hokusai, but in the past I only saw Mount Fuji as being swallowed by the tidal wave," Heero began to explain.
Duo nodded though he wasn't sure where Heero's thoughts were leading.
"Today, when I first walked into the gallery I felt the same way... no, I felt worse," he admitted as he turned more fully to Duo and caressed the young man's hand. "But after finding you and learning how you feel, I know that wave isn't going to drown that mountain... it's going to carry it on its back."
Duo reached over, putting his palm to Heero's forehead. "You all right?" he asked, thinking a fever was making Heero speak so strangely.
"I'm fine," Heero said, smiling. He took Duo's hand from his head and kissed its palm. "Don't you see? We're not going to drown, Duo. We're going to make it, and I know just where we can go."
The next day, having followed Heero's revelation, they found themselves at a Yuy International resort---this one on Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands, nearly halfway between North America and Japan. The resort was a great excuse for Heero to remain in the United States and with some persuasion he hoped to make this his and Duo's permanent home by asking his father to allow him to manage the resort. But that would all be worked out in the coming days. The priority of the moment was getting down to the beach.
Dropping their meager belongings in their hotel room, Duo and Heero opened their patio door and inhaled the mild ocean breeze. Without a word, they looked at one another and smiled, and then took each other's hand and walked the path that led to the resort's private beach. They were still dressed in their trip clothes... Heero in his suit pants and now just the undershirt having taken off the shirt, and Duo in the jeans and t-shirt Heero had lent him, and no shoes.
The sand felt warm and soft under Duo's feet as they made their way down to the water's edge. He couldn't help but continually look over at Heero and smile. He had learned a great deal about him in the last day, much of it from their long conversation on the flight over, but also from Heero's determination that they be together. Duo was in awe that anyone would go to such lengths to be with him, and even after they both confessed to having some fears for the future, Duo still knew that everything would be all right, because they loved each other.
It was the perfect compromise for two young men from different worlds. In Oahu they had great hopes of making a world just for themselves. And now, as they reached the point where the land met the sea, Duo sat down with Heero kneeling next to him. They looked out onto the vast ocean, contemplating the distance they had traveled together both in miles and in emotions.
"It's so big," Duo said, suddenly feeling small on this island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
"It has to be," Heero said as he deftly pulled the tie from Duo's hair. "It holds all our hopes for the future."
Duo looked up at him and smiled. "An ocean of dreams... that's beautiful."
"You're the one who's beautiful," Heero said, watching as Duo's chestnut braid unraveled and blew in the warm, tropical breeze.
A pink blush colored Duo's cheeks as he gave a little laugh. "Flattery will get you everywhere," he said and tilted his head up in invitation.
Heero let himself be pulled to Duo like the tide and was quickly swept away by the taste of sweet lips. The kiss lingered, neither young man willing to be the first to pull away. So much was written in that lazy, hungry kiss... promises, hopes, desire and especially love. This was the first kiss of their new life together. And now with the pact sealed, they slowly pulled apart, breathing in each other's scent, and turned to face the future... together.