The Babe Magnet
by D.C. Logan
"So much for flights being delayed for weather." Heero collected his luggage at the baggage claim carousel and pushed his way through the crowds around the airport departures gate area. His airline cancellation had instead turned into his rare good fortune, landing him an earlier connection on a partner airline that had him with his feet on the ground a full three hours earlier than expected, and hopefully with a few more hours of sleep available before the end of the weekend wound down into the small hours of Monday morning.
Thankfully, it was only raining at his destination airport, the freezing rain that had bogged his connection was three states safely behind him, and it was nearing eleven-thirty. Not a late hour, nor an early one, probably too late to expect Duo to still be at his condo though.
At first he'd fought with the idea of calling Duo over the weekend, ostensibly to check to see how Little Girl was doing while he was away, but in actuality, to hear Duo's voice and to test whether the connection they'd made, or that Heero thought they'd made, was strong enough at this point to hold over the narrow extension of a phone line.
He quickly discovered that it was, and Heero had found himself hard pressed to not call Duo during his breaks and then again, long after his sessions with the customers were through for the day. There was something about talking with Duo, for however long or however brief a period of time, that made his day seem better somehow. Their subject matter ranged from the inane blandness of the weather, to what Little Girl was doing at that moment, to Heero listening in as Duo put his cell phone in his pocket and spoke knowledgeably to a customer about the type of fish to buy for his son's first ever aquarium set up. Duo had apologized for the time it had taken, but Heero hadn't minded at all, content to hear Duo's voice even if it wasn't directed at him. He wished he could capture the quality and timbre of it and bottle it somehow and save it for other times. He had a sense that it would come in useful.
He wanted to keep Duo close to him. Was that a good thing? Or something too dangerous for consideration at this point in his life?
By the time he pulled up outside of his unit, the rain had tapered off to a heavy mist, miserable but bearable, and he was very much looking forward to the comfort of being home. The door was locked, the outside lights were on, welcoming him home, and he could tell that the television was on by the flickering glow coming from the living room area. He opened the front door, set his bag and briefcase on the hall floor with care, and approached the back of his home with growing apprehension.
Why wasn't Little Girl crying in her crate or coming to the door to greet him? His answer to that question, once he found it, stopped him in his tracks. Even tired and worn from his weekend of work and his endless day of travel, she still managed to wring a pale chuckle from him. "Some watchdog you are."
Here he was, triumphant in his return to the household from his journey away from hearth and home, wishing nothing more than a warm welcome from his faithful companion. What did he find instead? Duo Maxwell, stretched out in all his relaxed and rumpled glory along the breadth of his sofa, arm wrapped carelessly around a throw pillow, the other falling across his face and shading his face from the glare of the television screen, and his dog sprawled out on top of him, sound asleep until the moment Heero so very rudely interrupted her slumbers.
Heero looked hungrily at Duo. Lucky dog.
She lifted her head to look him over in an 'oh, you're back' sort of fashion, and then dropped it heavily back to Duo's chest startling him into shifting his position and moving his arm on top of her. That was apparently her cue to move, as she clambered off of him with much apparent painful foot and elbow positioning and ran over to Heero to make up for her initial quiet greeting.
Duo yawned and slowly propped himself up on his elbows as he watched the excited wiggles and dancing of the reunion from a safe distance. "I think she missed you."
"You're still here."
"She wasn't the only one who missed you, you know." Duo shifted position until he was sitting more comfortably on the sofa. He patted the cushion next to him in a silent request for Heero to join him. "You're back early."
"My flight was cancelled, and the other airline had a better connection." Heero yawned as well, despite his best effort not to do so. "Wasn't expecting to find you here." He smiled at Duo, trying to put some of what he'd been thinking over the weekend into his expression. "Thanks."
Duo leaned over and stroked Heero along the side of his face with at first tentative, and then very gentle fingers. "You look ripped." He leaned over and gave a very surprised Heero a gentle kiss at the corner of his mouth and then stood back to survey his work, paying careful attention to the balance of surprise, tiredness, and tender welcome he found there. "Go get some rest. I'll call you tomorrow."
And then he was gone. Leaving Heero sitting on the sofa with his dog, who was far too large to be considered a lap dog, studiously trying to cram the entirety of her bulk including her cast onto his lap. He felt along his face and traced his lip with the tip of his tongue, tasting Duo there as he absently patted her.
Tomorrow, only a few hours hence, seemed a long time away.
Heero could hear Trowa ratting silverware and making breakfast in the background. Quatre must have spent the night again. Lucky bastards, both of them. Not that he was sure he was ready for the whole gay sex adventure, but the almost-sort-of-kiss had been damn hot, and he was getting fairly anxious to see what the rest of the vacation package had to offer. Especially given the personal tour director he had in mind...
"This is starting to sound pretty serious."
Heero backpedaled and tried to downplay his involvement. After all, it wasn't like he was as involved as Trowa and Quatre were. "It's only been three sort-of dates and a few other times that I've seen him in the store that you can't even remotely consider official date-type sort of activities."
"This from the same guy who has the three-hour one-date elimination process down to a clinical science? Heero? What aren't you telling me?"
Okay, so the man had a valid point there.
"This is starting to get pretty serious."
There was the sound of something dropping. "I'll be right over. Don't go anywhere."
"Hell, Trowa, not this morning. I need to be at the office in... Trowa? Trowa! Dammit." Heero looked down at Little Girl, who stared patiently up at him as she waited for her toast crust. "I love him like a brother, but I swear to you that if he had anything to do with making me gay..."
Trowa found him on the kitchen floor fifteen minutes later, hugging his dog and crying.
"No, honest, I feel better now." He waved off the offer of another cup of coffee and sat limply on the sofa, a worried Trowa hovering over him. "I just never applied the term to myself like that before and it just hit me strange, I think." Heero leaned over and fisted his hands in his hair. "Ah, fuck. I really don't want to talk to my parents about this." He looked up at Trowa with red eyes. "I really don't."
Trowa sat on one of the low chairs and looked unusually serious. "Heero? Look at it this way, if this is the guy for you. If this is the one person, the one soul, the one individual you're supposed to spend the rest of your life with. Who truly loves you and that you love back, that brings you joy, and that you bring joy in return, and that you truly do want to spend the rest of your life with. Realize that this is not going to be easy." He paused and his expression lightened somewhat. "It can have incredible rewards, but it will be complicated. It may make things very difficult, if not impossible, with your parents. You may lose some of the closeness you currently have with them, but you don't live with your parents anymore. On the other hand, if you work at your relationship, and he wants it to work as much as you do, you'll have him, he'll have you. And, you have to decide. Is it worth it? Is he worth that?"
Trowa shrugged one of his negligently elegant shrugs. "In the end, it really is both that complicated and that simple, all in one." His look turned serious once more. "But be aware that this lifestyle is a true life-changing decision, and you should take this very slowly and be very certain for both your sake and Duo's. Your family may hate you, and everything from employment to grocery shopping to mistletoe becomes a social issue you can't afford to ignore. Do you really want to live the rest of your life that way?"
Heero looked forlorn and lost, plucking dejectedly at loose fur in Little Girl's coat. "I'm not sure I have a choice in the matter. In any case, I think it may already be too late for me. I'm not so sure about Duo."
Trowa pulled Heero to his feet and gave him a push towards the door. "Why don't you go ask him?"
"He's at work. I'm supposed to be at work. We're supposed to meet later anyway." Heero shoved Trowa towards the door instead. "Thanks for the pep talk. I owe you another bottle of that red wine you like. Go home, Trowa."
"Hey, I've been dealing with this most of my life, you're just getting used to the concept."
"Yes, I know, you're earning your way though a full case of wine at your present consultant's rates. Now go home." Heero waved Trowa through the threshold and then wedged his knee in the doorway to prevent Little Girl from escaping. "And thanks."
Trowa hesitated on the porch. "You know Heero, I have a wide selection of books and videos when you get to the next stage of your relationship."
Heero smiled back, implying that he knew more than he was letting on. "I'm certain that you do. Thank you, Trowa." He shut the door, already feeling much better about his late morning.
Five-thirty-six P.M. after a nearly useless day at Epyon, during which no less than four people leaned over the side of his cubicle and shook their heads in disbelief at the state of his production schedule, Heero slotted his Mustang into its now-customary spot in front of the Safari.
Five-thirty-seven found him face to face with his favorite addiction, this time stacking bags of different colored aquarium gravel onto the store shelves before waving Heero over to the register area.
Heero stared at him, trying to feel out the best way to approach what could be, for the two of them at least, a potentially volatile subject. "So, Duo, that kiss yesterday, what was that for?"
Duo paused and glared at him accusingly. "Because it's your fault that I was answering every damn call that came into the Safari over the weekend. Every. Damn. Call. Uncle Howard thought it was hilarious. Every time the phone would ring I'd drop whatever I was doing, ignore whichever customer had my attention the moment before, blush like mad, because I knew that deep down inside he was laughing hysterically at me, and I'd run for the phone anyway, because you might have been on the other end of it. That kiss, Yuy, was takeback for a weekend of public humiliation."
Heero noted that Duo did not look in the least bit embarrassed at the moment to be stating this as fact. In fact, he seemed somewhat pleased with himself. Heero nodded. "So noted. Do I owe you then, or is the tally even for the moment?"
Duo grinned wickedly and propped himself on the counter, leaning back against the palms of his hands. "I think we've accounted for up until five P.M. or so on Friday. So I'd say you still have the rest of the weekend to work off."
Heero looked down along the length of Duo's torso, liking what that pose was doing for the inside of him. A lot. "Any suggestions on how you'd like me to... work that off." This was still blindingly new territory for him, as Trowa hadn't had a chance to explain how this part was supposed to work yet. He supposed he could just wing it though...
"I'm sure you'll come up with something."
Was Duo being suggestive? Or casual? Or... damn. He was probably double- or triple-thinking this. "How about dinner tonight?"
Duo pretended to consider that for all of about a nanosecond. "Okay."
Heero gave him, and his suggestive pose, a second look. "In or out?"
Duo blinked at him. "What?"
Score. "Dinner in, or dinner out?"
"All of this and you can cook too?"
"I can, yes. " Heero rolled his eyes. "Actually, I promised the guys I'd meet them tonight for dinner at the Carousel. Trowa wants to introduce us to Quatre." He looked at Duo and smiled. "What time can you leave? I still need to stop by the house and let Little Girl out before we head over to the restaurant."
Duo laughed. "Guess this means I'm going, huh?"
"Easy." He rested a hand on Heero's shoulder with easy familiarity. "Thanks for including me. Give me a few minutes to let Howard know what I'm up to and to grab a clean shirt from the back, okay?"
Heero felt himself relax under the warmth of that hand, under the truth in the words. "Okay."
Duo winked as he headed off to the storage room, braid swinging. "And you still owe me."
"I still owe him. Right. Sure I do." Heero looked around the store. "And now he's got me talking to myself."
Duo reappeared a few minutes later, tugging a black tee shirt into place and carrying a stuffed toy. "Howard's going to close for me, so we can leave now."
Heero eyed Duo's chest with a fair bit of enthusiasm, the dog toy in his hand with something a bit less. "Do I want to know about the duck?"
"It's for your girlfriend. We get sample merchandise in all of the time and I thought I'd try it out on her.''
Heero raised an eyebrow in silent question at him.
"It has an electronic soundbox that quacks."
"Oh, rapturous joy." Heero tried for a deadpan expression, and subsequently decided that the sound of Duo's laughter was worth any pain the quacking duck would bring. He shook his head and waved at his car. "Go. Get in the car, or we'll be late."
They both entered his condo to the sound of Little Girl pawing at her crate and whining loudly for attention.
"You go get changed; I'll get her fed and outed and set up for the evening, okay?"
Heero gave a dubious glance at the living room, at the dog toy, and at Duo's clean tee shirt. It sounded too good to be true. "What's the price for this service?"
"I'll come up with something." Duo shoved Heero, not ungently, towards the bedroom. "Now go, we're on a timeline here."
"Not that much of one we're not," he called back over his shoulder, already stripping off his tie.
"That would depend entirely upon what it was I intended to ask you for as my payment for dog care services this evening."
Heero started changing his clothes with a newfound urgency, and elected to walk back though the house still carrying his shoes instead of taking the time to put them on, calling out for Duo as he went.
"In the kitchen."
Heero stopped at the edge of the tile to appreciate the view. "What is it with you and sitting on counters. Umm, not that I'm complaining, mind you."
"You're not complaining? Could have fooled me. And here I thought you would have put in multifunctional countertops--good for all sorts of uses."
Heero tried to look insulted on his kitchen's behalf, but failed to suppress a chuckle. "It's holding its own admirably, just like its owner."
Duo waved him closer. "Yeah, well. I think maybe it's time to see just how well your technique measures up. Tit for tat and quid pro quo and all that."
Heero knew a challenge when he heard one. Not quite understanding the best way to approach the subject, he stalked across the kitchen until he stood between Duo's bent knees, and moved in until his chest pressed lightly against Duo's, his hands sliding along the slick marble countertop until he came up with the better idea to slide them around Duo instead. He leaned forward until his face neared Duo's, and he set his lips to work exploring the varied textures of Duo's lower lip, slowly working inward, tugging slowly at his prize until Duo gasped openly in surprise or some other emotion, and he took advantage of the moment to explore gently within.
Men's mouths really weren't that different than women's he discovered, firmer, more demanding, less sweet, and equally smooth. He liked kissing Duo. Very much. He pulled back, licking his lips slightly to reach for more of the lingering taste. "God, you taste good."
Duo, he found upon withdrawing and looking at his face, was wearing an expression somewhere between bewildered, enchanted, and enraptured. He leaned after Heero as Heero backed away from the kiss, as if an extra moment or two of contact would be more than worth the risk of falling from his perch on the counter. "More?"
Heero laughed. "Greedy."
"Where you're concerned? Hell yeah, especially after that appetizer."
"We need to leave soon if we're not going to disappoint Trowa."
Duo reached out and draped his arms over Heero's shoulders. "I vote for disappointing the man then."
Heero chucked. "Do you really? After all he's done for us?"
"Okay, when you put it that way."
"Trowa is introducing Quatre to Wufei, and I thought it would be a nice opportunity for them to meet you as well. I mean, Trowa you know already, but..."
Duo held out a hand. "It's okay, Heero. Where are we going again?"
"We're supposed to meet them at that new restaurant over on Hageman."
Duo nodded, doing his best not to alert Heero to his nervousness, but Heero leaned into his touch again. "Don't worry, they're good people, even Wufei, who can be a bit of a prick. Trowa you've met; Quatre works with him at Tallgeese, and Wufei works with me at Epyon." Heero got a thoughtful look. "I don't think Wufei is planning on bringing anyone to dinner. He's been dating someone at the office, but I don't think they've reached the stage where they're meeting other friends yet."
Duo smiled. "And we have?"
"Yes. We have." Heero pulled him into a tight embrace. "It feels good, doesn't it?"
"Yes, yes it does."
Heero looked up at him. "Do I get another kiss for that?"
Duo smiled back. "Now who's being greedy?"
Midway though the dinner, Trowa gave Heero the signal and pulled him aside behind a privacy screen of wood lattice and live plants for a moment, standing with the table within sight, but careful to keep his voice low. "So, I wanted to ask but things got busy at work, how's everything working out so far?"
Heero couldn't help the mild smirk that escaped. "Fantastic? Wonderful? Terrific?" He gave Trowa a calculating look. "Or were you asking me about Duo instead of my new dog?" Heero ducked the half-hearted swipe Trowa aimed at him.
"Idiot." Trowa cocked his head, half listening in on the conversation between Duo, Quatre, and Wufei before turning to smile at Heero. "So, what do you think of Quatre?"
Heero shrugged. "I don't think it matters nearly as much what I think of him as what you think of him, and it's obvious that you think he's perfect, so..."
"Go ahead, be blunt with me, Heero. I can take it." Trowa laughed softly, but there was a painful quality to it, at being caught out and unprotected in his feelings.
Heero gave in and patted him on the shoulder in a commiserating fashion. "You've fallen hard for this one, haven't you?"
Heero saw something different in his friend's face as he stood and watched Quatre speaking with the others at the table. Something he hadn't seen until that moment, because he hadn't had anything, any personal experience, to compare the moment with until now. "Do you love him?" he asked quietly, hoping the others were as distracted as they seemed to be by the loud conversation at the table.
Trowa nodded again.
"Have you told him yet?"
"You don't think it's too soon? That I shouldn't wait and make sure that he's 'it', the one and only, the real thing?"
It was Heero's turn to shrug his answer.
Trowa got a distant look on his face, and Heero poked him in the side to gain his attention. Trowa waved him to silence and pointed to the other side of the privacy screen. "Listen."
Heero shook his head and then paid closer attention to the conversation that had been going on beneath his notice, something about Wufei explaining to Duo and Quatre about Heero's total obsession with cars. Heero shrugged and opened his mouth to continue questioning Trowa, but Trowa held up a finger in a bid for silence, and Heero waited.
Wufei was continuing with, "Did you know that he slept in that car the first night he brought it home? If you transport food, it needs to be in a leak-proof, closed container and either strapped into the seats or loaded into the trunk. He doesn't allow anyone to drink anything in it either, not even tap water." Wufei paused, building up for his finale. "The day he allows someone to sit in his car with an open drink container will be the day he's finally found the true love of his life."
The sound of Duo's voice, "But Heero and I drink our coffee in the Mustang all of the...," brought Heero and Trowa from around the barrier just in time to see the pole-axed expression on Wufei's face, and the puzzled look on Quatre's.
Seeing the group reaction, Duo backpedaled in a rush. "I'm sure it was just an occasional thing, really..." But Wufei's shocked face told him otherwise. Heero had made a regular exception in his case, and a big one, if his friends' reactions were any indication, and they continued to send telling glances his way throughout the remainder of the meal.
Maybe it was that simple realization that Wufei brought to new light, maybe it was the fact that he saw Trowa struggling with finding love and it made him see his own with more clarity. For whatever reason, Heero decided that it was time to bring the topic up again on the drive home from the restaurant.
"Duo? I'm not sure if this is the time for this, or if there ever really is a good time for this sort of thing..."
Duo recoiled in the passenger seat as if struck, eyes wide with hurt.
Oh hell. "Duo, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to start like that. I didn't realize what that sounded like until I said it. It's not that. I'm serious about you... but I think maybe we should talk about where all this is headed.''
"Hell, Heero... Can this wait until we get back to your place? I mean, okay, yeah, you're right. We probably should sit down at some point and talk about some of this before, well, it all gets too complicated and stuff." Duo gave him a glazed look, one that still looked spooked and shocked.
Heero didn't want to let this rest. Not this. Not after the damage he'd just inadvertently done. "Is tonight okay with you? I know it's a work night, but I can drive you back to your place after we talk for a while? It's still early yet..."
Duo watched the traffic slip by in the opposite lane, the scenery moving along outside of his window... life passing him by? "Okay."
The rest of the drive was covered in awkward and tense silence. When they arrived back at Heero's condo, even Little Girl seemed to sense that something was up, and was unusually quiet when they let her loose. After a few false starts, first in the kitchen and then in the dining area, Heero sat down on the sofa, pushed Little Girl off of his lap, and called Duo in to sit next to him.
Heero started, hesitant and stilted. "Well, I wanted you to know that, yes, I'm interested, but despite being close friends with Trowa all of my life, all of this is pretty new to me and, well, it might take me some time to get used to some things.
"Trowa came over this morning and we talked about things for a while. And while I'm nervous about telling my parents, I just wanted to tell you that, though maybe I'm wrong, I think what we've got is worth dealing with the folks for."
Duo slumped back against the sofa cushions, looking bleakly at Heero in the dim light of the room, reading the absolute sincerity in his face. "God, I feel like such a fraud."
"I already had it out with my parents. I brought my college roommate home for Christmas years and years ago. We were close, he was openly gay, and my parents jumped to, in this case, most of the correct conclusions. They packed up all of my things and shipped them to my college address. At least I had a full scholarship, otherwise they probably would have pulled the plug on that too. Uncle Howard showed up at the end of the semester and took me to his house. He never asked me any questions, never gave me any conditions on living with him, just opened the door and welcomed me in." Duo started to sniffle a little, but Heero politely ignored that, not sure how he should react. "My own parents didn't even do that, and I was their own kid.
"Uncle Howard, now he's a trip. He went away to the war and stayed in Southeast Asia, got married, but they didn't have any kids. She died of cancer about ten years ago, and he came back stateside to be closer to what family he has left here, which would be my mom. I think he still talks with her about me, but he doesn't say anything to me about it. I just hear him on the phone every now and then, talking really softly late at night. I saw the phone bill once, and the number was my old phone number, so I guess she still cares, at least a little."
Heero looked a little closer, tears were trailing silently down Duo's face, somehow made all the more poignant by the fact that he did nothing to draw attention to them, nothing to wipe them away.
"Listen, I... I'm pretty sure I'm falling in love with you. But I can stop. I know I can. As long as we end this now. If... if we go on any further, if you let me get any closer to you, let me love you any more than I'm pretty sure I already do, then I don't think I'll be able to make this offer ever again."
Heero reached out to touch Duo, but Duo held up a single hand to stop him. "Think about it. Even just for a moment. Of what it would be like to never go home again. To never talk to your parents ever again. I'm not worth that. No one is. Family is flesh and blood. Family is generations of your relatives, people you know and grew up with. Family is important."
Heero finally gave in to his urge and grabbed Duo's shoulder and pulled him in a little bit, and Duo leaned in, and Heero tugged a bit more and Duo started crying, and before Heero knew it, he had Duo curled up entirely on his lap. Duo struggled to hold onto his control before Heero's arms around him allowed him to relax the mental walls he'd built around himself, getting through to him that he was in a place of safety and security. He finally let go and began to cry. Deep heart-wrenching sobs that he had held within for years without anyone to share the pain with, with no one to hold him and support him... he cried for his loss. He curled himself around Heero and let go, tucking his head under Heero's chin and bawling. Heero could feel the rumble and vibration of Duo's sobbing through his chest.
Duo's grief moved him as few things had up to that point in his life. Heero simply held him in the semi darkness of the living room--completely lost, both in love with Duo and in awe that Duo trusted him enough to let go like this with him.
He whispered against the warmth of his skin--feeling Duo's hiccoughing breaths as he tried to gain control. "I don't need to think about it. You are worth it. All of it." As he held Duo in his arms, he realized that he'd finally made his decision.
And when it had come right down to it, there hadn't been any decision to make at all.