Heero sighed deeply as he ran his hands through his hair. It wasn't the first time Duo had gotten angry with him, but it was the most confounding. It felt personal this time.
Their clothes were strewn on the floor, and Heero gathered them up and headed into an adjacent room. It was a glorified walk-in closet that held all of Heero's clothes, including designer suits, formal wear, sports wear, Italian-made shoes and boots, and the spandex shirts and pants he often wore on missions. He tossed his and Duo's clothes into a hamper, and selected navy trousers, a mocha brown dress shirt of a cotton-silk blend, and brown leather shoes and a belt. He smelled of sex and sweat and needed a shower, but it was best to give Duo some space. He would dress and head to the locker room for a shower before speaking with Doctor Po. He was curious about the details of her meeting with the Project team.
As he walked through the corridors, Heero replayed all that had happened since his return from the mission. He had found Duo with the maid, dancing and singing, and carrying on like he hadn't a care in the world. Had it been that nice to have Heero gone? Had Duo enjoyed the solitude and the time to make new friends? But Duo had surprised him with the movie and popcorn. It was so normal and cozy that Heero had warmed to the idea that this was his true homecoming.
He shouldn't have let himself get suckered into the moment, and he certainly shouldn't have asked Duo why he had planned that "surprise." The explanation had been very disappointing. Heero had wanted it to be something more. Now he was making his way to the training facility's showers, because Duo had drawn another line in the sand.
Heero accepted that this situation was stressful for Duo, but Duo had acquiesced. He responded to Heero's touch, and found pleasure in their couplings. But to tell Heero to "get a new fuck buddy" was like proclaiming his own death sentence. Duo was an intelligent and remarkably stable individual. He knew all too well the consequences of those words. Was it merely frustration talking or was he throwing in the towel?
After showering and re-dressing, Heero made a beeline for Doctor Po's office. The psychiatrist had a small staff, but Treize had given her a handsome suite of rooms overlooking the corporate campus - a testament to her importance within the Project. The doctor's medical and psychological training were necessary and beneficial to Heero. She had looked out for him over the years and in some ways he considered her an older sister.
When he walked into the office, Lucrezia Noin was sitting cross legged on the floor with papers spread all around. Noin had a military background, having graduated from the Air Force Academy with high marks, and she often dressed in short jackets and pants that had a military flair. She'd been assisting Doctor Po for the last year, but it seemed that her clerical skills needed improving.
"Hello, Heero," she said, smiling up at him.
"I dropped this report and it's all out of order."
"Weren't the pages numbered?"
Her shoulders slumped. "I haven't figured out how to get the computer to put page numbers at the bottom of the pages yet."
"Then just print a new copy."
"Oh, I couldn't waste all that paper!"
He scanned the floor, quickly assessing there were over a hundred pages scattered about. Taking the time to sort through this was a bigger waste, but he decided not to mention it.
Heero blinked, surprised by the question. "He's fine."
"I'm glad. He seemed upset when you left on your mission."
"Yeah, he called me wondering where you'd gone. I think he was lonely."
"Did he say that?"
"Well, no, but I could tell by the tone of his voice."
Heero's mind flashed on the image of Duo and Clementine twirling around his quarters in each other's arms. "Don't worry. He found a way to occupy himself."
He continued through the front office, side stepping the papers, and knocked on the doctor's door. It was partially open, so he heard her invitation to enter.
He closed the door behind him, and crossed the room. Doctor Po was seated behind her desk, looking over some handwritten notes. With so much technology at her fingertips, she still preferred to take notes the old-fashioned way.
"Are you here about my meeting with Treize and the scientists?" she asked, nodding to his chair.
"Yes." Heero sat down, leaning back in the chair with his arms on the rests and crossing his legs.
"Obviously, the liaison program is being allowed to continue. But there were concerns."
"Nothing surprising. Disengaging the security system to allow Duo to escape, and your fight with the guard. His condition has stabilized, by the way, but it's unlikely that he'll fully recover."
"I won't apologize for defending what's mine."
"No one's asking you to apologize, Heero. But we do want what's best for you, and erratic behavior no matter the cause is still a concern." Doctor Po got up from her chair and came around to the front of the desk, leaning against it. "Tell me what you felt when you saw the guard with Duo."
Heero's eyes widened as the memory spiked inside him. "I wanted to kill him."
"Because he was touching Duo."
"And that bothered you, because..."
"Because Duo is mine."
"I see." Sally nodded. "It's not surprising that you would feel possessive of Duo. You've given up much of yourself for the Project, and have little you can call your own."
"And that's wrong?"
"Under the circumstances it's a good thing. You need companionship."
He thought about that a moment. He used to consider his quarters a sanctuary, a quiet place where he could retreat. Now he liked that someone was there for him - a body to come home to for physical pleasure and to share the space. Heero suddenly realized just how alone he had been. All this time, he had been on his own. His parents had died many years ago, and his guardian Odin Lowe had been all too quick to hand him over to Treize. Yes, Heero had volunteered, but it was more out of desperation for attention than to serve a cause.
He was lonely. Why hadn't he noticed it before?
"Heero... What is it?" There was concern on her face. "You looked far away just then. What were you thinking?"
"About Duo," he said, softly.
"Are you getting along? Your readouts seem to indicate as much."
"The sex is great, but... this isn't easy for him."
Sally pulled up a chair and sat down. "I know it's important to you that he's willing."
"He gave in to me, to the situation. He let me do whatever I wanted, but today...." Heero grinned, remembering. "He surprised me."
"Judging by the look on your face it was a good surprise?"
With a small chuckle, Heero nodded. "He wanted me to watch the movie, 'North by Northwest' with him. So, we watched it together and he even made popcorn."
"How did that feel?"
"Good. For a couple of hours I..." He couldn't finish the thought. This wasn't a good idea, going down this path with Doctor Po. He folded his hands in his lap and clenched his jaw shut, stopping the words.
Sally leaned forward. "Tell me, Heero. What was that like just the two of you watching the movie together?"
"It felt normal like we..." He stopped the words again. No, he couldn't possibly be thinking that he and Duo belonged together. That was absurd. Impossible.
"It's okay for you to feel happy when you're with Duo. I had hoped you would find companionship."
"It's not okay," Heero said, standing. He looked down at her and the shock on her face. "He doesn't want me to touch him again. He told me as much today."
"After the movie we had sex. And then he told me to get a new 'fuck buddy'."
"Why do you think he said that?"
Heero gave a snort. "I'm sure he's got a hundred reasons."
"Fair enough. But how did that make you feel?"
"Stop asking me how I feel, doctor! It doesn't matter how I feel."
"Of course, it matters, Heero. Now please sit down."
He was breathing hard. He felt warm. He wanted to dive into the pool and swim a thousand laps.
He couldn't sit down again. He didn't want her questioning him anymore.
"Duo's comment is remarkably perceptive," she said. "It was suggested in the meeting that every few days you be given a new sex partner."
"Your erratic behavior needed to be addressed, but of course, I talked them out of making any changes. If a change is to be made you need to weigh in on it."
A new sex partner? Heero's mind spun. Had Treize and the scientists actually considered removing Duo while he was away on the mission?
"Would you like to look at the candidates list again?"
"Who's to say you couldn't have more than one bed partner?"
"One's plenty, believe me," he said and turned toward the door.
"I have a meeting with Doctor J."
"But we need to discuss this further."
No, we don't, he thought. He threw a glance over his shoulder. "No one's going anywhere, doctor." And he walked out the door.
At Doctor J's private laboratory, Heero found the old scientist working on an engine design. He had many assistants, but Heero had never spoken to any of them. They were irrelevant. Doctor J was a visionary much like Treize Khushrenada. Of all the people involved in the Project, they were the two that Heero respected most. They had had the biggest impact on his life and what he had become.
"I'm glad you're here," Doctor J said, looking up from his work table. "Take a look at this."
Heero stepped up to the table, standing across from the doctor. "The X1," he said, noting the engraved silver plate on the side of the engine.
"It's similar to the P-Series engines I created, but much more powerful. G says he can modify it to run in stealth mode. If that works we will have something special on our hands." The doctor hopped off the stool. "I'm tired of sitting."
Heero walked alongside J as he exited the laboratory. He was accustomed to the lack of conversation and the occasional click of the scientist's claw hand. Several minutes later they arrived in the hangar where the jets were housed and maintained for missions.
"The X1 will make you an even more efficient weapon," J said.
"When will it be complete?"
"Soon, but you'll probably have several more missions under your belt before it's up and running."
"The missions have been in close succession lately."
"Is that a problem?" the scientist asked.
"Only an observation."
"I see. But you'd probably like more down time to play with your new toy."
"You mean, Duo?"
"Yes, that boy that Doctor Po thinks you need."
Heero blinked. "I was under the impression that the Project team authorized---"
"Yes, yes, but under duress. She's cast a spell on Treize. You can't possibly believe it's good having that boy with you."
"Duo is not a boy---"
"That's right, he's a distraction."
"You know the risks you face with every mission. You put the organization and all of us in danger by sating your libido."
Heero took a step back. Doctor J had never questioned his commitment or ability before. It flummoxed him to hear this now.
"You can't believe that I would do anything to jeopardize the operation."
"When a man starts thinking with his penis he stops using his brain."
"My focus is unwavering, doctor." Heero clenched his fists. "I've completed every mission flawlessly."
"Yes you have, but it can't continue with Po filling your head with ideas of companionship and giving you that whore."
Heero seethed with anger. If not for the years of respect he had given this man, he would've taken J by the neck and choked him until he took those words back. Duo was not a whore. He had not chosen this path.
"I advise you not to speak to me about this again," Heero said.
"Are you threatening me?"
"Yes." Heero spun on his heel and headed out of the hangar.
"You see... it's begun! You're defying your superiors to satisfy your youthful desires."
Heero did not respond. He could not believe after all he had done for the organization's success that he was under fire. He had given them his life, the very blood that ran through his veins to make of him what they wanted. And now one of his creators was questioning him. Was it just J who was opposed to the liaison program? If anyone was sitting on the fence could the old doctor swing them his way? He hadn't succeeded at their last meeting, but Heero knew J to be tenacious. If the program hit another bump, Heero doubted the most impassioned plea from Doctor Po could stop the hemorrhage.
He exited the security zone via a private corridor, his mind working the problem. The Project's team had agreed that sex was the best way to relieve post-mission anxiety. Now certain elements balked at the first sign of difficulty. They wanted to change the equation. Take Heero back to square one.
It would be minus one, he thought.
This afternoon had been particularly trying - first Duo's surprise and then defiance, followed by Doctor Po's unrelenting questions, and J's accusations. What was all this about? Was it simply the sex? Or was it Duo? Had they all forgotten this had not been Heero's idea? He was only following orders, and he was doing it quite well. He got hard just thinking about Duo. About all the ways he had taken Duo, and how many more he wanted to explore.
It wasn't the first time team members had disagreed, but it was the first time they had wanted Heero to choose. Heero's hands clenched. Maybe Duo was a necessary distraction. Maybe they were worried he would choose Duo over them. He pressed the call button for the elevator and stepped inside. He knew what he had to do. He had to ensure that nothing changed without his consent. He had to prove to J, and the others, that Heero Yuy could do it all.
The elevator ascended from the depths of the mountain to the ground floor. The doors opened onto a secret corridor which ran parallel to the Corporate Tower's main lobby, concealed by a waterfall. He would exit the building, and re-enter through the public side like a mundane.
It was late afternoon, the sky was overcast and a light drizzle fell on his face as he made his way around the large white building. The majority of visitors and staff used the revolving door, but Heero disliked any door configuration that could trap him. He bypassed it for the regular glass door a couple of meters away. As he approached it, he fell in step with a young woman clutching a briefcase. He glanced at her and did a double take. She had been on Doctor Po's original list of potential bed partners.
"Allow me," he said, opening the door for her.
She smiled and walked on ahead. She was quite pretty in her pale blue jacket and skirt. Her long, straight blonde hair was pulled back into a barrette, hanging down her back and swinging gently. Her businesslike, yet carefree manner reminded him of Duo. Or what Duo had been like before the Project had gotten hold of him.
Once they were both inside, the young woman turned to him. "I wish more men were like you and opened doors for women. Thank you."
"You're welcome." He watched her disappear into the bustle of the lobby, wondering if she realized how lucky she was.
The Corporate Tower evoked the light and openness of modern architecture. The floor was gray stone, and the upwardly spiraling rotunda white metal and glass. Treize Khushrenada had designed it himself, and people from around the world came to see this monument of human ingenuity. Heero had overheard Sally talk about how architectural students, scholars and those with an appreciative eye climbed this mountain, so to speak, on their pilgrimage to Treize's Tower. Heero was climbing the mountain, too, but for different reasons. Selfish reasons that he didn't fully understand. He would go all the way to the top of Bremen Enterprises to Treize Khushrenada's penthouse offices - without an appointment.
He skidded to a complete stop as he assessed the hulk in the security uniform standing near the bank of elevators for the penthouse. Anyone who wanted to see the CEO needed to go through this checkpoint. Heero could've made arrangements through Lady Une to meet with Treize at the Project's facilities, but that would've required waiting. Patience was not a virtue he cared to indulge just now.
He walked up to the checkpoint that was masked as a reception desk.
"Yes?" The receptionist smiled. She was a coiffed and perfumed brunette, dressed in a snug beige tweed jacket and skirt.
"Heero Yuy to see Mr. Khushrenada."
She looked at her computer monitor. "I don't see your name on today's schedule."
"I don't have an appointment."
"Oh, really?" The welcome was over. "Mr. Khushrenada is a very busy man."
"He'll see me. Call Lady Une."
By now the guard had stepped closer. From the way he was leaning on the balls of his feet, Heero determined he would be coming around to the front of the desk at any moment. Of course, that wouldn't be a problem for Heero, but he knew better than to make a scene in a public place.
"I'm sure you'll find that I have clearance, if you'll only take a moment to call."
"Call upstairs," the guard said. He kept his eyes on Heero, but seemed to believe his claims.
The receptionist flicked an annoyed glance over her shoulder at the guard. "All right." She was wearing a wireless ear and mouth piece, and needed only to press a couple of buttons on the phone. "Hello, Francine, it's Linda in reception... Oh, thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it. It's such a simple recipe."
"I have a Mr. Heero Yuy here to see Mr. Khushrenada... Oh, is that right? Well, I really wish there was a notation down here. Thank you, I understand." She disconnected the call and looked up at him, her smile returned. "I do apologize, Mr. Yuy. I've only been working this desk for a couple of weeks and no one told me---"
"It's not a problem," Heero said. "I don't usually meet with Mr. Khushrenada here."
"If you'll please proceed to the elevator directly behind me it will take you to the penthouse."
Heero walked around the desk and the elevator doors opened without him so much as pressing a button. Obviously, the receptionist had one or two tricks up her sleeve. He entered and the only button on the panel was one designated "Penthouse." He pressed it, the doors closed, and the elevator began its rapid ascent.
Treize Khushrenada was the force behind everything that happened within the Project and Bremen Enterprises. Only a man of his vision and power could simultaneously run a multi-billion dollar international corporation, and the world's most secret organization.
When they had met, Heero was only eight, and Treize eighteen. Treize had towered over him, but his sincere smile and grand dreams of making the world safe for all had resonated deep inside Heero. As a child who had lost his parents, Heero had felt adrift. Even Odin Lowe had not given him the kind of love and security he craved. But Treize's larger than life qualities easily convinced the little boy to tie his hopes for the future to one man and the team of scientists he had gathered. That was twelve years ago.
Heero exited the elevator onto the rich décor of Bremen Enterprises CEO's penthouse offices.
Lady Une was waiting. "It's good to see you, Heero."
"Thank you. You look well. Is that a new hair style?" he asked, noting that her hair was loose rather than in braided knots.
"Oh, do you like it?"
"It's very becoming on you."
She smiled brightly and directed him to a waiting area where several other people were already seated.
"You surprised us with your visit, but Mr. Khushrenada will be most pleased to meet with you in just a few minutes."
Heero nodded and took a seat on one of the red leather couches. The other visitors looked at him with unguarded curiosity. Surely they wondered who could see Treize Khushrenada on a moment's notice.
Heero had hardly warmed the cushion when Lady Une returned. "He'll see you now."
He followed her to the large double doors leading into the executive suite. She tapped on the door and then opened it for him.
Heero stepped inside. The space was as grand as any state room of a ruling monarch. The twenty foot high ceiling was painted with a mural of the God Zeus riding in his golden chariot across the sky with scantily clad angels, both male and female, escorting him. The marble floor was inlaid with an intricate rose design, accentuated by the sweet scent of fresh roses in a crystal vase on the CEO's mahogany desk. And the man himself, Treize Khushrenada, stood looking out a window onto his kingdom below.
The office was the size of a small ballroom. Heero crossed it in sixty paces to stand before Treize's desk.
"I am not fond of surprises," Treize said, his back still to Heero. "But I admit to a great curiosity to the purpose of this one."
"Thank you for allowing this interruption," Heero said. He was not afraid of Treize, but he held a great deal of respect and admiration for the man. After all these years, Treize was still the boss, and still towered over him. "I surprised myself by coming here."
Treize turned. He was wearing a cobalt blue suit, a color remarkably close to that of Duo's eyes. "Tell me what's on your mind, Heero."
It suddenly felt impetuous to be here, to be disturbing this man with concerns about sex. "Doctor Po relayed the team's concerns to me."
"And do you understand those concerns?"
"There have been difficulties in settling into the new program."
A hint of a smile curved at the edges of Treize's mouth. "Ah, yes... difficulties. You've come all this way to tell me this?"
"I'm here to ask that nothing change in the program without my consent."
Treize raised an eyebrow. "It's not like you to make demands, Heero. Is there some aspect of the Project that has become unsatisfactory to you?"
"You've told me in the past that your door is always open to me. That I could ask for anything."
"Anything within reason..." Treize stepped closer, eyeing Heero like a bug under a microscope. "It's Mr. Maxwell. You've become fond of him, haven't you?"
The discovery caught Heero off guard, and he swallowed hard. "He meets my needs."
Treize smiled. "As evidenced by the data we've been collecting on the two of you, I'd say he exceeds those needs."
"Then you're not considering removing him?"
"Ah, at last the real reason for your visit." Treize walked to a grouping of chairs and sat down, gesturing for Heero to join him.
The chairs were burgundy and embroidered in gold. Treize looked regal with his steady gaze. Heero sat across from him, mirroring Treize's confidant pose. It wouldn't pay to appear flustered or out of his league. He needed Treize on his side.
"Doctor Po should edit her reports to you," Treize said.
"Are you saying I shouldn't be kept informed of decisions that affect me?"
"Not at all, but the only decision that came out of that meeting was to allow the program to proceed. The fact that you are here is interesting on many levels."
Heero remained silent.
"Your well being is central to the success of the organization. That is why I allowed Doctor Po to implement her plan. The mixed success of this program brings up legitimate concerns, but I am willing to give it more time."
This was it exactly. Treize was always the deciding vote.
"You met while I was on a mission and considered removing Duo at that time."
Treize leaned back in his chair. "Go on."
"I need you to assure me that no changes will be made when I'm away or without my knowledge."
"And what do you propose in exchange for those assurances? You know that I expect a return on my investments. If I give you my word then you must give me something in return."
Heero's brow knitted. He had given his life to the Project - Treize's Project - and never asked for anything. What more could he do? "Name your price."
Treize chuckled. "Don't be so dire. I only ask that you make this program work. No more beating guards and pulling stunts like you did the other night with Mr. Maxwell's attempted escape. It's very tiresome for me to have to calm Doctor J and the other scientists."
Heero couldn't stop from smiling. "Thank you. I won't let you down."
"You never have, dear boy."
They stood, and shook hands before Heero exited the room.
For the first time in his life, Heero felt light on his feet. The excitement bubbled inside him. It was a strange new feeling, but he liked it. He could do anything. He could challenge J's assumptions with Treize's support. He was emboldened.