A Valentine's Gift
by Dev-Aki Basaa
I had seen signs of it all day. The color schemes in the shop windows; the predominance of red clothing on the people I passed on the sidewalk. There were beams of happiness flashing in so many smiles; people walking close together but gazes fixed only on each other. I saw flowers everywhere, in the hands of the men crossing the streets, cradled against the chests of women rushing to catch a cab. I caught glimpses of red and white buds as one van after another had their back doors thrown open, their drivers retrieving yet another delivery. In the outdoor café where I lunched, a woman wept in joy as the man she sat with announced to anyone who would hear - she had agreed to marry him. The responding applause was thunderous, even those people on the sidewalk, passing by, noticed and called out their congratulations as well. The waiter brought them a complementary bottle of champagne.
As I continued on my way, I passed the regular newspaper stands and saw that they were decorated just like the shop windows and carrying items they never usually did. I stopped at one of the stands, glancing at the little stuffed bears and the small boxes of chocolate. I thumbed through a collection of pink and red cards adorned with hearts and sentiments so sappy I cringed. Shaking my head, I turned to walk away, continuing on to my destination when something caught my eye, something I'd seen all day, but until this moment, I'd not considered buying one. After a hesitation almost too brief to mention, I turned back and made a purchase, then headed off, my fingers idly toying with what I had bought for him.
A few more blocks and I was jogging up the front steps to Preventer's Headquarters. I strode down the hall to our office and slipped my hand behind my back, holding the gift out of sight.
He didn't look up upon my entrance, just kept digging through the stack of files on his desk. He looked frantic, though not in expression, his face still ever relaxed with a touch of the typical twisted glee he took in his job. Only in the quickness of his fingers belied his agitation as they flew from one page of paper to the next, searching, pulling, creating a new stack.
"We've got that briefing in about 15 minutes and we've yet to go over the procedural checklist," he said. He still had yet to look at me, instead bending towards my desk behind him, his back arched over his own chair as he stretched, reaching out until his fingers barely brushed and then snagged a few pages of paper sitting in the perfect center of my desktop. He turned back to his desk and added them to his growing stack.
"You know Une is going to ask if we'd covered all the points listed on that damn checklist," he continued.
His braid swung in time with his movements, over his shoulder as he turned, around his side as he twisted, resting down his back as he hunched over his desk yet again. Little wisps of loose hair framed his face, curling around his ears and jaw. I had once thought those fly-aways bothered me, always making me want to brush them back and away from his face, thinking how annoying they must be - how unnecessary and in the way. Now, I realized that notion for what it really was - a long held desire to touch his hair, to feel if it was as soft as it looked, to brush my fingers through what I'd learned was an intimate part of him. And perhaps, if I could touch his hair, he would permit me to touch his hand, let my fingers slide up his arm, caress his jaw-line, feather across his cheek. And if that were allowed, then maybe I could lean forward and press my lips to his, feel his breath against my teeth, touch that ever-present flame within him with the tip of my tongue. For a long time now, it was all I could think of.
"Hey, Heero, you all right?"
He stood before me now, his stack of pages clutched in one hand, twirling a pen in the other. He'd tilted his head just slightly to the side, eyeing me in that way I had once seen him regard a modernistic painting - confusing on sight, but eager to understand.
I began to draw my hand around from its place behind my back, but my muscles jerked, tense, suddenly nervous. What would he say in response to my gift? What would he do? What would he think?
Then I realized it didn't matter, my gesture was sincere and not wanting of anything. The only response I required was that of a polite thank you - he needn't do any thing more. I had bought a gift for Duo purely because I chose to. I had been inspired by the day.
I brought my arm around and stretched it out towards him. The full red bloom of the rose bobbed from the movement, one leaf drooping over my hand.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Duo," I said.
The papers in his hand fluttered to the floor and slipped across the linoleum. His gaze stayed frozen to the flower, eyes wider than usual. His jaw began to work, opening and closing without sound, but trying very hard to manage something.
I shook my head. "You don't have to say anything, Duo." I then nodded towards the bloom. "I got it for you because I wanted to. It doesn't have to mean anything if you don't want it to."
He looked up at me and for the first time I saw how his blue eyes had a tint of violet to them, slight, but there. They were so beautiful, even more than I'd already believed, wide and expressive. I wished he'd not be so shocked and would close his mouth and smile. I needed to see him smile.
When he spoke, his words were so quiet, yet intense. I'd never heard him sound like that before and I found the timbre caused reactions in me I'd not expected.
"And if I want it to mean something?" he asked me and I felt hot instantly - my face, my ears, the back of my neck. I didn't know what to say to that and even tried to form a response. Until he smiled. All thoughts went out of my head at the way he looked at me and smiled. The heat in my face spread down my body, pooling in my gut and igniting my groin. Only in my well-hidden fantasies did he look at me like that and did I allow myself to feel these feelings. That is, until now.
He came forward, taking my hand with the rose into his and bringing it close to his body, close to my body as he drew so near our chests touched - his face, his hair was so close. He tilted his head again, but not in contemplation of me this time. In contemplation of my lips, my teeth, my tongue, my breath. I must have closed my eyes, because beyond that moment, everything became sensation. The touch of his lips to mine, the pressure of his tongue questing past my teeth, the shear heat of his mouth on mine, his body pressed against me.
I brought my free hand up and buried it at the nape of his neck, my fingers sliding into the base of his braid. Like silk, it was so soft, just as I'd imagined it would be. His fingers traced along my jaw-line, back and forth, feathering across my cheek in one pass or another. I felt like I could climb into his body, bury myself in his heat and never be without it again. But this moment was fleeting and soon he broke the kiss. It left me only with hope for another.
"Our meeting," he said, still so close his lips brushed mine as he spoke. "We're already late. Une will have my hide and send you to have your head checked." He nuzzled his nose against my cheek and I felt the velvet of a rose petal ghost across my lips. He was bringing it close to sniff.
He shook his head, nuzzling his nose again against my cheek. I think he was breathing deeply of me as much as of the rose. "I've never known you to be this spontaneous."
Hn. Neither have I. "Just following my emotions," I told him, though.
"What?" He pulled back and looked at me with those blue eyes that still hinted at violet. The rose brushed across his cheek as he peered at me again as he had before, head cocked, eyes curious but wanting to know more. He wanted to know me more.
Maybe together we could discover that.
I let myself smile and shook my head in response to his question and said instead, "Happy Valentine's Day, Duo."