Down the Road
Back on the sidewalk, Heero looked down the street and considered his choices. He could continue driving around in search of Duo or go to that bank and what-- pay Duo's mortgage? The prospect made him chuckle. It seemed ridiculous to buy someone out of debt who, for all intents and purposes, might never speak to him again. But without further thought, Heero got back in his car and drove to the First Bank of Union Grove. There he took note of a couple of rather nice cars in the parking lot, including a Lexus. He parked in the open space next to it, certain its owner would never bump his Mercedes with the door of a Lexus.
Heero was not exactly sure what he was doing, but he went inside the bank. As the door closed behind him, he was enveloped in the hushed, carpeted world of monetary transactions. He was very familiar with this world, but it now struck him as out of place, out of sync with life outside its' walls--Duo's life to be exact.
He scanned the large, open room, noting the teller counter and the desks of the middle management. A stop at the reception desk pointed him toward Joe Wilke's secretary. He crossed the room to find the secretary at her desk, completing a transaction on the phone while filling in a form on the computer. Delilah Rose, as her nameplate read, was petite, thirty-something with mousy brown hair, and wearing a navy blue pant suit with a silk scarf tied loosely at her throat. She looked at him, holding up her forefinger and mouthing the words, "I'll be right with you."
He was impressed by her effortless multi-tasking, and decided that this might not have been such a bad idea after all.
A moment later, the call ended and she turned to him. "May I help you?"
"I'd like to speak with Joe Wilke."
"Do you have an appointment?"
"No, I was passing through town and saw the sign on Route 12… the farm that's for sale."
"Oh, I see," she said, sounding oddly disappointed. "I'll check if he's available. Have a seat please."
Heero nodded and retreated to a burgundy colored chair several feet away. He noticed the sign on the door behind her, "Joe Wilke, President," and wondered why a bank president would be the contact for the sale of a farm. It seemed more appropriate for one of those middle managers to deal with the inquiries.
After a short time, a rather plain looking young man in a gray suit came out of the office. He came around the secretary's desk, smiled and held out his hand as he approached.
"I'm Joe Wilke."
Heero shook the hand automatically, and wondered if this was the man who had visited Duo's house last Monday morning. "You're the bank president?"
The man laughed. "I get that all the time. I inherited the job when my father died of a heart attack last year. But let me assure you, I've worked here for years. You're in good hands."
There was something oily about this one, and Heero suddenly had the urge to wash his hands.
"You're interested in the Maxwell property on 12?"
Hearing the name gave Heero a start. "Yes. I understand it's for sale."
"Yes, yes. Why don't we go into my office?" Wilke gestured for Heero to walk with him. They settled themselves inside, closing the door behind them.
The room was filled with reddish-brown mahogany furniture and a wall of books. The books were a curious touch in a bank president's office. Was this young man a scholar, or merely a pretender? The banker offered Heero a comfortable chair, and then sat behind his massive desk in a high-backed leather chair.
"You're the first to inquire. We only put up the sign this morning. But I have to tell you, the property isn't technically for sale until after five o'clock today."
"Why is that?"
"The owner is delinquent on his mortgage… He's in arrears $3,000 and has until five o'clock to pay. But between you and me, I think it highly unlikely that he'll come up with the money."
Heero's brow tightened. So, his suspicions were correct. Duo had been struggling with this burden and had not told him about it. He supposed that made sense considering the newness of their relationship, but it made him a little sad. The time they had shared had been amazing. He had never felt so immediately close to anyone before, and yet Duo had not felt comfortable confiding this in him.
He was not after my money, Heero thought, re-affirming what he already believed to be true.
"Does it matter where the money comes from?"
The banker blinked. "What do you mean?"
"Is the owner the only one who can pay off the debt to your bank?"
"I suppose not. My responsibility is keeping this institution sound and that means collecting the money that is owed. If Mr. Maxwell can find someone to pay his debt-- well, money is money wherever it may come from."
That was the answer then. Heero would pay off the debt or rather this part of the mortgage debt. He owed a total of $3,000 for the paintings that he still hoped Duo would create, so it was not as though he would have to be paid back. This would allow Duo to keep his farm.
He reached inside his leather jacket pocket and withdrew his personal checkbook. "Three thousand, is it?" He set the checkbook on the desk, taking a pen from a walnut holder and began to write.
"What are you doing?"
"You said it didn't matter where the money came from. And I am a friend of Mr. Maxwell."
The man looked stunned. "You are? I don't believe I got your name."
"Well, Mr. Yuy. How do you know Duo?"
The use of Duo's first name sent a ripple of discomfort through Heero. He was not sure why, but he did not like this Joe Wilke or the way he said Duo's name. "Like I said, we're friends."
Wilke raised an eyebrow appraisingly. "I see."
Heero signed the check and tore it off, handing it over, and wishing he had been this generous the previous night. "Three thousand made to the First Bank of Union Grove."
"I'll need to verify this with your bank."
"Go right ahead."
The man's eyes narrowed as he got up from his desk and went out to his secretary. When he came back several minutes later, he handed Heero a receipt. "Everything seems to be in order. This is your receipt" Wilke's tone was barely civil.
Heero considered asking if he planned to phone Duo to let him know the debt had been paid, but then he thought better of it. The fewer favors this Wilke fellow did for him the better. And besides, Heero was still determined to find Duo and talk to him.
"Duo seems to have found himself a higher class of friend. I'm impressed."
It was bait, he knew, and so Heero ignored the remark. "Good doing business with you." He got up and left the office without a handshake or another word.
Outside and safely back inside his car he took a deep breath. Now to find Duo and hope to hell he had done the right thing.
+ + +
All the way over to the bank, Duo kept hoping that a miracle would happen. Maybe the debt had been calculated incorrectly, or the payment date postponed. Duo even delayed the inevitable by going to the drive-up window at McDonald's for coffee. He sipped the hot drink, hoping the caffeine would ease his hangover, but kept driving towards the bank. At last he was there, pushing open the glass doors and getting his first whiff of cool, corporate air. He winced, knowing he was sunk.
Delilah was all smiles as he approached her desk outside of Wilke's office. He liked her, despite her close association to his nemesis, but usually she was not this happy to see him. Perhaps the smile was in sympathy. She had to know the circumstances surrounding this visit.
"Yes, and free, although he's had a busy day."
Duo did not care about Joe Wilke's busy day, but he nodded. He watched as she made the call and then smiled at him again.
"He'll be right out."
Duo swallowed hard and his body tensed. This was it. He would not beg. He would negotiate. Oh, hell, who was he kidding? He would do anything to keep that farm.
"Duo," Joe said with a feral smile as he emerged from his office. "I've been expecting you."
"Well, here I am."
"Come in, come in." Joe gestured for Duo to enter his office and closed the door behind them. "Have a seat."
Duo settled in the chair, and Joe leaned against the desk, uncomfortably close at just a few feet away.
"I got your voice message. Perhaps the sign was a bit premature…"
"Perhaps? As far as I can figure," Duo said as he looked at his watch. "I have full title for another two hours."
Duo's brow tightened as he glanced back at his watch. "Yeah, two. You don't need to rub it in."
"I see. Then this isn't a social call?"
"Right." Duo snorted. This guy had some nerve pretending he did not know what this visit was about. "I'll get to the point. I've got $1,600 and I'm willing to deal on the rest."
Joe crossed his arms over his chest, a grin curling at the corners of his mouth. "Yes, of course, let's deal."
"What do you want? I don't have all the money, so I'll have to pay you back some other way. Maybe I could work for the bank?"
Joe chuckled. "Yes, you could work for the bank… so to speak."
Duo closed his eyes briefly, trying to get a grip on the situation. This could not be happening. He was not about to sell his soul to the devil incarnate, Joe Wilke.
Joe unfolded his arms and rested a hand on the inner thigh of his slacks. The feral smile was back. "You may have noticed that this room affords a great deal of privacy. I take my lunch at noon and four weeks of daily visits from you ought to cover your remaining $1,400 of debt."
"Four weeks!" Duo stood up, his fists clenching. "What kind of a deal is that?"
"The math is quite simple, and a generous exchange for your services."
"Services?" Heat rushed to Duo's face.
"Why yes. Or do you prefer calling them tricks? Either way I'm sure you know what I mean."
Duo's patience snapped. "Son of a bitch!" He leapt forward, throwing a punch that connected with Joe's face, sending the man backwards onto his desk and knocking off the lamp.
Joe shook his head and sat up, eyeing Duo menacingly as he wiped a trickle of blood from his lip. "You little shit." With a growl he sprang from the desk, giving Duo no time to react. He shoved Duo hard into the chair, forcing it to tip back on its hind legs and then settling on all four once again.
Joe stood over Duo. "Maybe you've forgotten that I was on the varsity wrestling team. I could pin your ass to the floor in three seconds."
"Then why don't you, mother fucker?"
Joe inched closer, impossibly closer, forcing Duo to tilt his head back or have his face buried in the man's crotch.
"We're old friends, you and me," Joe said in an oddly sweet tone. "And what are friends for if we can't help each other? My terms are simple… you provide me with relief and I'll make sure you keep that farm."
Now Duo wished he had not joked to Quatre about sucking dick for money. "Two weeks…" he said in desperation, hating himself for it. He was cornered, literally pressed against the back of the chair, and his mind raced for an answer. "Make it two weeks."
Joe gave a snort. "You're in no position to negotiate, but I like you and despite your little outburst I'll agree to a full two weeks. That means the weekends, too."
"All right," Duo said with a sigh. He was out of maneuvering room.
Joe unfastened his belt. "Take it out."
"What? You wanna do this now?"
"That's right. Take. It. Out."
The emphasized words soundly oddly like Heero's "Get. Out." from the previous evening. The reminder tightened the knot of anger in Duo's stomach, but he felt compelled to go through with this. He had arrived at the proverbial bottom of the barrel, and for the life of him, he could not see a way out. He reached his hands to Joe's waistband, unfastening the button and unzipping the slacks. Bile rose in his throat, and he swallowed it back as his hand dipped inside to grasp the hardness.
Just then, Delilah buzzed on the intercom. "Mr. Wilke?"
"Don't stop," Wilke said, putting his hand over Duo's. "It's a one-way comm. She can't hear us." He moved his hand forcing Duo's to slide over the heavy cock.
Duo trembled with repulsion, but the secretary's intrusion seemed to fire Wilke's need as he squeezed Duo's hand harder.
"Mr. Wilke?" The secretary's voice came again. "There's someone here to see you…" She sounded truly hesitant to interrupt, and Duo felt himself blushing as though she knew what was happening behind the closed door. "Please excuse the interruption, but the gentleman has an urgent matter."
Joe groaned loudly, swatting Duo's hand away. With teeth barred he tucked his cock into his pants and retreated to the desk. After a deep breath he picked up the phone. "Can't it wait, Delilah?... Oh. I see. I'll buzz you when you can send him in." He hung up the phone and turned to Duo as he zipped his pants. "You'll need to wait in the conference room."
Duo stared at the man as though he was speaking another language. He had just been given a reprieve from that vile act, and Joe wanted to put him in a holding cell until they could continue?
"Get up," Joe said, now looking and sounding angry. He grabbed Duo's arm and pulled him out of the chair, shooing Duo toward an oak door at the side of the room. He practically pushed Duo inside. "Wait here. I won't be long."
The door closed with a whoosh and Duo was suddenly alone in a semi-darkened room. The blinds on the windows were drawn, letting in just enough light for him to take in the typical conference room layout—large, oval table surrounded by chairs, dry erase board, flip chart, and coffee maker. But what intrigued Duo were the framed photographs on the walls. Even in this poorly lit space he could see they were beautiful images of rural landscapes. Did Wilke have something to do with their selection? Could he actually appreciate beautiful things?
Duo shook off the notion and sat down in one of the chairs and like a petulant child waiting for the principal he swiveled back and forth, expending nervous energy. He had trembled, actually trembled in revulsion when he had touched Wilke. How could he go through with this? It was complete madness to sell his body to a man he was not in the least attracted to and for whom he had no respect. It would be fourteen days of fucking, blow jobs, and degrading himself in countless ways… for what?
His bravado was seeping away, and his good sense returning. What was he doing here? He had limits. As much as he loved that farm and the memories it held, he could not do this. His integrity and self-esteem were worth more than that. He would have to accept the loss of his childhood home. He would start over.
He looked up at the door and noticed a shaft of light running vertically along one edge. The door had not closed completely, and Duo was drawn up and out of his seat with the sense of freedom and curiosity the open door gave him. Maybe he could slip out unnoticed? Or if he thought Wilke would try to stop him, he could latch onto the other person in the room.
He walked over and peeked into the brightly lit office. He saw Wilke sitting behind his desk and heard fragments of conversation.
"I didn't expect to see you again," Wilke said. "A deal is a deal."
Duo turned his head at an angle trying to see who Wilke was talking to, but the person was out of his line of sight. He put his ear to the opening.
"Is Duo here?"
Duo's breath caught. They were talking about him?
"It looked like his truck in the lot…"
"He's not here. Are you backing out of our deal?"
"I want to know how much for his farm."
Duo's eyes grew wide. He knew that voice. "Damn it!" he shouted as he burst into the room. Wilke stood up, but Duo ignored him as he squared off in front of his former lover. "God damn you, Heero."
"Wait a minute," Heero said, holding up his hand. "I've been looking for you—"
"So you can take my farm away from me?"
"So I can save it!"
Heero looked amazing, absolutely perfect in his brown leather jacket, white shirt, blue jeans and loafers. It made Duo angry just how good he looked and how together he acted even when he had been caught in the act.
"My farm's not for sale."
"I'm not interesting in buying it, Duo. I'm trying to help you."
Duo barked a laugh. "What bullshit! I catch you dealing with Wilke and you have the balls to say that? Well, screw you, asshole!" Duo stormed past Heero, knocking his shoulder as he went.
He ran out of the bank, not caring about decorum, and only half hearing the confused comments of the staff and customers. In the parking lot he fumbled for his keys, unlocking the truck's door just as he saw Heero coming straight for him. Shit, he did not want this confrontation.
"Listen to me," Heero said, coming around the truck and standing just feet away. "I was paying off your debt."
Rage bloomed on Duo's face. "Oh, now you're all loose with your money? Have a change of heart, Bob?"
Heero's eyes narrowed as he pulled a sheet of paper from inside his jacket pocket and held it out. "Here, take it."
The command angered Duo further. "I don't want anything from you."
Duo swung the door open, forcing Heero to step back. He got into the truck, slammed the door and started the engine. With his hand on the gear shaft he stared at Heero across the hood, gritting his teeth against those intense blue eyes. He wanted to shout, tear Heero apart with the sharpest words he could find, but he did not have the strength. This was all wrong. He did not want Heero here, at the end, seeing him on the verge of falling apart.
He backed out of the space and threw the truck into drive, peeling rubber as he sped out of the lot.