Lies - Between Friends and Lovers
by Dyna Dee
The View was an apt name for the restaurant located on the top floor of The Orbiter Hotel. The clear and thick synthetic dome that covered the top of the building allowed a spectacular view of space. Presently on the dark side of the moon, the shield doors had been opened so that the beauty of space and the dots of light laced throughout the dark expanse could be seen and appreciated. To the far right, a small section of Earth was visible, and yet even that small portion of the planet seemed enormous from this vantage point, and breathtaking.
Heero checked his watch for the fifth time, noting that Duo should be arriving any moment, that is if the other man was on time. Shuttle departure and arrivals, he knew, were often delayed by the planet's atmospheric conditions. He had checked his computer before leaving his room and knew that the shuttle port in Florida had experienced some delays due to thunder storms, so it was a very real possibility that Duo would be late.
Soft music played in the background while other diners, most likely also guests of the hotel, ordered and ate their expensive meals. With a food and wine menu in front of him, Heero found it hard to concentrate; his mind preoccupied with thoughts of the long-haired man. The image that kept popping up in his head was of Duo standing in the doorway of his apartment wearing that damned satin, poor excuse for nightwear that had caused his heartbeat to race. Anticipating seeing the braided man again left him feeling both excited and nervous. It was a feeling similar to what he'd experienced piloting Wing into battle.
He wondered, and not for the first time since he began his journey to the moon, if meeting up with Duo was something he was truly ready for, even though he was quite anxious to see the other man again. During the past couple of years he'd been very successful at pushing his memories of the handsome American into the far recesses of his mind, allowing himself only short glimpses of a past that was filled with regrets.
His and Duo's past relationship had been turbulent at times, and yet fulfilling, emotionally as well as sexually. One of the main reasons for any discord between them back then had been his inability to let go of his training, a fact that had frustrated the both of them. But regardless of any past dissension, he could never deny that he had fallen in love with his comrade in arms.
His initial fascination Duo began not only because of the long-hair boy's physical appeal, but from the American's ability to be spontaneous, to act upon instincts honed by living on the streets of L2, and displaying his deadly fighting skills whenever the occasion called for them. Duo's mind was sharp and he was clever. He was also competitive, something Heero found strangely attractive. The other boy always seemed come up with a devilish grin even under the most direst of circumstances, such as facing an insurmountable number of enemy mobile suits in battle.
It was after their relationship had ended that he'd come to understand that he'd been like a leech, sucking up everything the other boy had freely given without giving much in return. Sure, the sex had been great, but Duo craved another form of closeness, an intimacy that didn't have anything to do with sex. One night, as they'd lay in Heero's bed with their arms and legs entwined, the orphaned boy from L2 had confessed to him that he hoped one day to have not only a lover, but also a partner in life, someone who was a part of his everyday existence, someone who would never leave him. Duo had whispered in his ear that he hoped Heero would choose to be that "someone".
With his emotions nearly trained out of him by Dr. J, Heero had considered himself an odd choice for Duo to begin a relationship with. Even from the onset of their affair, after the first time they'd experimented with sex, he'd disappointed the other boy by leaving a few minutes later for a mission. It was a precursor for how their relationship would continue during the war. They were more often than not sent in opposite directions when their mission assignments came in, which meant they had to steal moments to be together. And when they did manage to end up in the same place, they often engaged in frantic copulation before being separated once more by necessity. Those brief encounters ultimately left both of them wanting more.
After the first war, Heero had taken off to "find himself", or at least try to figure out what he was going to do with a life he never really considered having, believing he would not survive the war. After several months of wandering Earth, he came to the realization that Duo Maxwell could not be dismissed as a war-time fling, nor just a convenient partner for his sexual release. He'd found himself missing his former lover and couldn't stop thinking about him. Once he'd made up his mind that he wanted to tackle his future with Duo by his side, it took only a couple of days for him to track his former lover down. He located him on L2, working at a junk yard with Hilde Schweibecker, the girl who had helped him during the war.
Duo was surprised but definitely not unhappy about his sudden appearance at his door. After several days of catching up, their physical relationship resumed in a most satisfactory way. They made progress as a couple, learning over the months that passed to cohabitate with each other on a daily basis and to communicate better. He made progress during that time in overcoming some of his training, and he'd been happier than he could ever remember being.
Then a year after the war had ended news reached them that Relena had been kidnaped, and from that moment on their lives changed in ways they'd never imagined. It began yet another dark time in Heero's life, something he didn't like to think about very often, if at all.
After recuperating from the injuries he'd sustained in the last battle, he and Duo had gotten an apartment on Earth, and then came the discussion as to what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives. Their meeting with Wufei and Une had begun the countdown to their nightmarish breakup. Everything they had overcome and built together had come to an end after the arguments began about joining Preventers and eventually Zero's influence had taken hold of him. He knew, after his vision cleared on that last, horrible day, and he saw Duo on the floor, his face unrecognizable from the beating it had taken, that he'd ruined any chance for sharing his life with the other man.
Duo disappeared after that day, and Heero had never blamed him for that act of self preservation. It was nearly two years later when he first saw the American's face smiling seductively from the cover of a well-known magazine. After staring for at least five minutes at the photograph in utter disbelief, he purchased the issue from the corner newsstand, in spite of it being a fashion magazine normally purchased by women. He took his purchase home and studied the photographs of his former lover as he modeled a line of men's clothing. He eventually wore out the pages from repeatedly searching every detail of Duo's face and body, looking for evidence of the brutal beating the other man had received by his hands.
From that first glimpse of Duo on the cover of that magazine, it seemed the former gundam pilot was a constant presence on the newsstands, either a featured model for one line of clothing or another or an object of gossip for the tabloids. His popularity as a model skyrocketed once the press and public realized the handsome young man had been the teenage gundam pilot who had been the first to be captured in space. The image that had been imprinted on those viewing the broadcast throughout the colonies and Earth was of an unconscious teenager, small and slender in build with a long braid of burnished brown hair and dressed all in black being dragged out of his gundam by a couple of OZ soldiers.
With the war now five years past and a forgiving public that was enamored with the handsome former pilot, television entertainment news followed Duo to every public appearance. The paparazzi had even dubbed him their most photogenic, sought after subject. Duo's rise to stardom seemed to have happened almost overnight, and his popularity hadn't diminished over the years, despite his history as a rebel fighter from L2. In fact, his past seemed to make Dup all the more mysterious and noteworthy to his adoring fans.
During this same time, when Duo was rising in celebrity, Heero had tried to move on, dating once in a while and engaging in a couple of very short-term relationships. Yet no one he'd met had come close to matching the passion he'd shared with Duo Maxwell. Neither male nor female interests had lasted long. No one had challenged him or understood him like Duo had. Typically, those he'd associated with, other than his former comrades and Director Une, regarded him with either awe or fear, neither one a good foundation for a healthy relationship.
He glanced at his watch again. Duo was now ten minutes late. He was beginning to wonder if he was even coming. What would he do if he didn't show up, if he was stood up? Just as worry began to replace his nervousness, Heero glanced towards the entry, just in time to see the most striking man he'd ever seen stroll casually into the restaurant. Wearing black fitted jeans, a white button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his forearms and a jet-black jacket slung casually over his right shoulder, the man with the white spiked hair and tinted glasses paused to scan the room. Even with the wig and blue tinted glasses, obviously worn in an effort to disguise himself, Heero recognized his former lover. Duo stood at the entrance a moment, exuding an air of confidence that was probably the sexiest attribute of all the man's wonderful assets.
And then their eyes met. Heero found unable to breathe as Duo looked his way, and the dazzling smile he gave him blinded Heero to all else. He stared unblinking at the vision approaching the table and wondered how he'd ever existed without this breathtaking Adonis in his life.
Target acquired. Duo grinned at the devilishly attractive man sitting at the table across the room. Although he'd always considered Heero a knock-out before, the man had only gotten better looking over the years.
Even as he met his dinner date's gaze, he made a quick tally of the changes in the man from the boy he'd known. Still fit as ever, Heero's once reed-thin yet muscular teenage body had most definitely acquired a man's form. Though still slender and strong, there was a physical maturity now that had caught up to the mental state of the serious-minded man. Heero's eyes lit up with recognition, seeing past the wig and tinted glasses. There was something so attractive about that small smile, which represented both the other man's pleasure at seeing him and maybe just a hint of uncertainty.
Though Heero almost always exuded an air of confidence and possessed the ability to be single minded when the need presented itself, Duo was probably one of the very few people who knew how often Heero, because of his training, had questioned his emotions and worried about how he could possibly fit into the world as a normal, functional citizen. Those inner conflicts, along with the boy's uncommon good looks and the mystery he presented had initially drawn Duo to the former Wing pilot during the war. That fascination continued to this day. Despite the years they'd been apart, Heero Yuy, by way of dress and outward appearance, especially that knee-melting smile, still exuded self-confidence and mystery. But in his eyes Duo could detect a hint of uneasiness, a hint of worry at his approach that made him seem vulnerable, which made him even more irresistible.
He met the other man's gaze straight on. He had shared similar experiences in his youth as Heero, being dedicated to the cause of freedom and wondering if he had a place in the world other than being a terrorist. Despite everything he'd gone through since the wars, he was also stronger and more confident now than he'd ever been, both physically and emotionally. He was less needy and insecure about himself and his place in the post-war world.
Heero was now smiling openly at him. Duo's breath caught in his throat and his heart sped up as a result of that simple gesture. Forget Helen of Troy, he thought, it was Heero's damned smile that could launch a thousand ships. He could see from the other man's gaze how important this rendezvous was to him, and he hoped Heero could read the same in his face.
After pausing to whisper to the wide-eyed hostess that he was joining someone already seated, he strolled as nonchalantly as possible towards the handsome Japanese man. He couldn't help but wonder where this night would lead, and then as a second thought he reminded himself to tread carefully. Knowing how Heero's mind used to work, he knew the other man could piece together bits of information and come up with a completed puzzle. He had to keep Heero from finding out that he was hiding something from him. Too many lives depended on him, and keeping the Preventers out of his clandestine business was paramount to his continuing to help those in need.
"Hey," he greeted the dark-haired man as he reached the table for two, set at the rim of the building with a view of the moonscape and space. His eyes strayed for a moment to the spectacular panorama the clear domed room offered. The planet below, while only partially in view, was visually stunning. "Wow, isn't that a sight for sore eyes?"
"Yes, it is," Heero agreed.
When Duo's gaze returned to the other man, he could see that Heero hadn't been talking about the view; his attention was fixed on him and nothing else. Duo was used to having people stare at him, photographing him at work and on the streets and handing out compliments about his appearance by the shovelful, but the heated stare of this one man caused him to feel flattered beyond words as well as a rush of warmth that was no doubt a result of him blushing.
Taking his time to carefully place his jacket behind his chair and to compose himself, Duo sat down on the opposite side of the table from the other man. "Glad you could make it," he said while Heero continued to drink him in with his eyes.
"Thanks for the invitation."
"So, how are things going? Anything new on Relena's disappearance?"
Heero's smile faded as he shook his head. Duo was trying to tread into safe territory, thinking they could talk business for a while, just to break the slight nervous tension that stood between them. Heero commenced telling him about the mystery surrounding Relena's disappearance, the lack of leads and ransom demands. Duo countered that maybe she hadn't been kidnaped, a natural assumption they'd all had, at least in the beginning.
"Are you and Relena very close?" Duo wondered, curious about the relationship between them.
"We're on friendly terms, though I wouldn't call us close," Heero replied. "I was in charge of setting up the security for her home and taught her how to defend herself. Even with my best efforts and warnings she continued to find ways to slip out of the protection of her home. She's a willful woman who resents being told what she can and cannot do, though she will take direction from her brother. My work with Preventers limited the amount of time we spent together and hampered any closeness as friends we might have enjoyed, but that doesn't mean her welfare isn't important to me. Naturally, I'm worried about Relena and frustrated by the lack of leads that might shed some light on what's happened to her."
"I'm sorry, Heero," Duo said after seeing the troubled look in the other man's eyes as he spoke of Relena. "I know it probably sounds like another useless platitude, but I'm sure she's all right."
Heero nodded, his frown still in place. Duo decided it was time to change the subject and lighten the mood. "So, tell me about the other case you're working on with Wufei?"
From his expression, Duo couldn't tell whether Heero was relieved by the change in subject or not. He did, however, proceed to tell him about the investigation into the space marauders and how, like Relena, there were very few clues as to their identity. The wine steward stepped forward to make his presence known, only to be disappointed when both young men ordered non-alcoholic drinks. The waitress soon after presented herself and took their order before leaving the two men with a small loaf of fresh baked bread and garlic butter.
Heero finished telling Duo about his investigation, and the other man listened with interest and often asked questions about the case, but was careful not to push Heero for more information than he was willing to reveal. Soon the discussion turned to Duo's life. Skipping his departure from Earth with Quatre and Trowa as his protectors, as well as the surgeries he'd undergone to repair the damage Heero had caused, he spoke of meeting Sadia Winner, one of Quatre's older sisters and an aspiring clothing designer, with both money and enough talent to launch her first fashion line. One look at Duo and she insisted that he was just what she had been looking for in a male model.
Having avoided being caught on camera for most of his non law-abiding youth, Sadia and Quatre had to work quite diligently to convince him that putting together a portfolio was necessary and that this opportunity would be a good move for him into the working world, if only a temporary way to make a living. The coaxing, closer to nagging, continued until he reluctantly agreed to the photo shoot. And that had been the beginning of his modeling career.
He modeled for Sadia exclusively for six months, but then as other designers began to contact him, she gave him her blessing to pursue his new career and suggested he retain a lawyer and an agent for handling contracts. Quatre, he was assured, would act as his financial advisor, helping him to manage the ridiculous amounts of money he was being offered to pose for photographs and walking down runways.
"I settled in New York as a midpoint between fashion capitals on Earth and the colonies," Duo said as he took a piece of bread from the basket. Heero's eyes followed his hands as he gingerly pulled off the crust and began to nibble at what was left of the butter-less bread. He then continued to pull off one small piece at a time and pop it into his mouth as he continued. "The rest of my career can be found in lurid detail in every rag magazine on the news stands." The sneer on Duo's lips was meant to show Heero that he had not appreciated the attention of the news media, if that's what tabloid news could be called.
"So is there anyone special in your life?"
Duo considered that a loaded question, but it appeared that Heero was hedging to find out if there was room for him in his life. "There are a lot of people I care about," he answered with a coy smile. "But I've yet to find someone to share my life with."
Heero jumped, just slightly, when Duo's stockinged foot brushed against his ankle. The grin on Duo's face was meant to relay to the other man that the touch was deliberate, a fact that was reinforced when that same foot began to stroke his calf. Heero reached for a piece of bread and fumbled with his knife as he made an attempt to butter it, causing Duo to chuckle. It was obvious that Heero was struggling to keep his cool composure.
"What about you, Heero? Got anyone "special" in your life? Since you and Relena never hit it off, perhaps there's some hot-shot Preventer with a big gun that's caught your fancy."
As Heero looked up, Duo wiggled his eyebrows at him, causing the other man to grin and shake his head. "Sadly, no." Then sobering, Heero leaned forward so that only Duo could hear him. "I've missed you, and I'd be lying if I said I don't want you, but there are some questions I need to ask you before we go any further."
A feeling of dread centered in Duo's chest, sensing what was coming. "Go ahead and ask, but if it's about my sexual history, I'm not handing out any names."
Heero blinked, looking surprised by what he'd said and he appeared momentarily distracted from what he was going to say. Duo had an inkling that Heero was wondering who he's been with and how many lovers he'd had over the past five years. "No," the Japanese man finally managed. "It's not that, at least not yet. I'm sure Quatre has told you that I've been looking for Howard."
Duo sighed. "Yes, and you and Wufei asked me about him also."
"I just need to ask, Duo, before anything can happen between us, whether or not you know anything about the manufacture of the stealth system or the ship it was built for. Do you know anything about these marauders?"
Duo looked Heero straight in the eye, unblinking. Then, with an expression of complete innocence plastered on his face, something he'd used often as a street kid and later honed to perfection as a model, he proceeded to lie through his pearly white teeth while trying to convince himself that doing so was for the greater good.