by Dyna Dee
Saturday evening marked the end of L.A.'s fashion week, culminating with shows featuring the west coast's top designers. The day had been frantic at times yet ended with a standing ovation and Charise taking a bow in front of an enthusiastic and, hopefully, buying audience. There were a few snags before the show, namely two wardrobe malfunctions, a missing suit, a model's hair catastrophe, and a misplaced accessory. A constant at Charise's side, Duo helped her to calm the models, correct the problems and sending the models wearing her garments onto the runway. He lost count of how many times he'd run to the coffee truck. And of course, a successful show was followed by a blowout after party. Celebrities, wealthy patrons as well as colleagues, personal friends of Charise's, many of her peers in the fashion industry and the show's models all joined together to congratulate the famous designer on her newest collection.
He finally managed to slip away from the party around ten p.m., feeling incredibly good about having helped pull off yet another successful show. Instead of going home to his apartment and hitting the sack, mostly because he was too wired up to sleep, Duo decided to burn off a little of that excess energy by making use of the tickets Dorothy had sent to him. He'd use one tonight and if he liked the Palomino or met someone interesting there, he'd save the second pass for another time. Since the passes were neatly tucked into his wallet and the club was conveniently located only a few blocks down from the posh hotel where Charise was holding her party, now seemed the perfect opportunity to check out the place out.
A brief glance into a store window confirmed that the sharp-looking suit he wore, one that Charise had designed specifically for him, fit his body to perfection. He looked good, if he did say so himself, and coupled with the night's success he felt confident enough to venture into the gay club alone. He loosened his tie as he walked along the city street, nodding to those passing by who also looked to be enjoying a night on the town.
Much to his delight the club was situated in a nice section of town and the building appeared to have been recently remodeled. Unlike the clubs he'd visited as a teenager, with dim-lit windowless facades and a single door entry, the front of the Palomino was artfully illuminated, with a large front window and tall double doors framed in mahogany. The encased glass was frosted with images of horses running through water, giving privacy to the club's patrons from curious pedestrians passing by. It was the classiest gay club Duo had ever seen. He could only guess how much the membership fees must be and knew it was probably more than he could afford.
With one hand in his pant's pocket he tried his best to appear at ease as he strolled into the entrance foyer, where he was immediately greeted by a tall and handsome older man dressed in a suit almost as impressive as his own. The man's head was completely shaved, but the dark brown eyebrows suggested what color his hair might have been in his younger years. The man politely welcomed him to the Palomino Club and asked for his membership card. Duo reached for his wallet and presented one of the two guest cards and received a brief nod from the greeter.
"Follow me, please," said the man before he promptly turned and walked down a small corridor, leaving Duo to follow. Stopping in front of the first door they came to, the tall man opened it for him and then stood to the side to allow Duo to pass through. "Enjoy," he said with a pleasant though not toothy grin. As he passed the man on his way though the door, Duo thought he could feel the man's eyes following him. A quick glance confirmed the guy was staring at his ass. On second thought, it could be his shoes the man was openly ogling, which wasn't surprising. After all, they were his favorite dress shoes and had been hand crafted in Italy. Which ever of the two had captured the doorman's attention, Duo decided to take his appreciative stare as a compliment.
"I will, thanks," he replied over his shoulder, then promptly dismissed the man from his mind as the door closed behind him and he was left to survey the room before him. The walls, he noted, were covered by expensive embossed wallpaper, the color resembling a soft green patina and adorned only by bronze sconces, wood wainscoting and crown molding. Both masculine and stylish, he thought. The room itself was longer than it was wide and the bar along the far wall was a mixture of bronze metal and polished mahogany. He was pleased to note that the sconces gave off just enough light for him to easily view everyone in the room, most of which were men dressed in business suits. The hum of male voices combined with the soft jazz music playing in the background presented a pleasant atmosphere, giving him a hopeful feeling that he might actually enjoy himself tonight. The club's ambiance helped ease some of the residual tension in his shoulders, and he was sure that after a drink he might begin to relax from the stressful day. Looking more closely now at the other men in the room, his confidence began to grow. He could handle businessmen, seeing as how he dealt with them five days of the week.
Moving more confidently now, he approached the bar and waved to get the attention of the attractive, muscular-looking bartender, who happened to be dressed just as nicely as the rest of the men in the bar. When the man answered his summons, Duo ordered a Manhattan. He didn't want to chance getting tipsy around a bunch of strangers, so his plan for tonight was to slowly nurse one drink while checking out the bar's patrons. During the next twenty minutes, several mature men, some even with graying hair, approached and initiated conversation with him, but he honestly wasn't interested in older men. To his relief, they were quick to catch on to his disinterest and left him to his drink, no doubt continuing their hunt for someone else while the night was still young.
After a while a faint pulsing sound caught his attention, and Duo recognized it as the reverberations of a bass guitar. He looked for the source but was unable to pinpoint its location. He motioned for the waiter again and asked where the music was coming from.
"The dance floor is behind that door," the blond, strikingly handsome bartender replied, nodding towards the far end of the room. Sure enough, to the right of the bar he spotted a thin rectangular cut into the wall, a doorknob set in the rich brown wainscoting. Until it was pointed out to him, Duo hadn't seen the door at all.
"Can I go in there on a guest pass?" He hoped he could because standing around the bar was not his idea of a great time. He never had liked the bar scene, and the last half hour brought back to mind the reason he felt that way.
"Of course," the bartender replied with a warm smile. "If you get past the front door, the entire club is at your disposal. There are billiards upstairs, a cigar room adjacent to it, as was well as a lounge and game room. We have a full service gym with saunas and showers."
"Sounds great," said Duo. Finishing off the last of his drink, he left the empty glass on the bar and walked towards the nearly invisible door, nodding and saying hello to those who made eye contact with him. After opening the door, he was surprised to find that it didn't immediately lead to the dance area at all, but to a small corridor that led to yet another door, opposite from where he stood. The space appeared to be a sound buffer between the bar and dance area. With the music almost audible now, he crossed the short distance and pushed opened the matching door, finding himself in a slightly darker room that was alive with dance music. He was moderately surprised to find once again that, like the rest of the club, this room was different from what he'd expected. The dance clubs he'd visited before had been dark and overly loud with dance music and people trying to talk above it. The Palomino's highly polished wooden dance floor was not overly populated, yet had enough people dancing to make the room feel anything but empty. The lights overhead were soft, illuminating but not glaringly so, unlike the wildly pulsing strobe lights that were the norm in other clubs. Along the walls were at least two dozen semi-circled booths, all facing the dance floor; to his right, a long bar with a line of stools, most of which were occupied.
At his entrance, quite a few heads turned his way. Being the center of attention was something Duo was used to, especially when he accompanied Charise, but he couldn't really say he was comfortable with it, but then he would never be accused of trying to hide himself either. Having a braid the length of a yard stick and clothed daily in designer threads that were perfectly tailored to his body, pretty much make him a walking billboard advertising DuFrame Designs and garnered him a lot of attention. Confident that he looked his best tonight, he held his head high and strolled to the bar where he ordered a cherry cola, having already had his one alcoholic drink limit for the night. Over the tall, cold rim of the tumbler his eyes scanned the room to see if there was anything or anyone interesting.
His eyes, as always, searched out men who had dark hair, a physical trait he found appealing. He couldn't explain his attraction to darker haired men, there was no real reason for that preference. Sure, he could appreciate the beauty of someone who was, say... blond or redheaded, but those shades just didn't turn him on. Take Quatre, for instance. The man was a natural blond and good looking, too, but he never felt any sexual attraction to him. He guessed he just wasn't drawn to men unless they had very dark hair. Trowa had been the one exception. His former boyfriend had glossy auburn colored hair, almost red in the sunlight.
"Duo Maxwell?" a hauntingly familiar voice called out from behind him, jolting him out of his thoughts of Trowa. Turning, he held back a groan as his eyes lit on the last person he'd hope to see. It was none other than his former boyfriend, Wufei Chang. Their brief relationship hadn't ended well. No, not well at all.
"Hello, Wufei," he answered as politely as he could manage as the Chinese man closed the distance between them. As the ebony haired man stepped to his side, he couldn't help but note the man was as handsome as ever but that his smile had retained that haughty slant that Duo had come to hate when they'd dated.
Unexpectedly, Wufei embraced him like a long lost lover, of which Duo technically had never been, and then he stepped back to say, "It's good to see you, Duo. How have you been?"
Duo gave the man a closer look, trying to figure out what the other man was up to. Wufei was dressed in an expensively cut suit, dark gray by the looks of it with a matching satin shirt. It looked nice in contrast to his shoulder length, straight glossy black hair. His ice blue tie provided the only splash of color. The Chinese man looked even better than he had six years ago, and from what he'd heard, he was a successful stockbroker working for a prodigious financial group.
Feeling an arm slip around his shoulders, Duo was reminded of the reason why their fledgling relationship hadn't lasted more than a couple of weeks; Wufei found the concept of fidelity hard to adhere to. Even though he and Duo never had sex, they had gotten close rather quickly. They had met while in college, seeing each other several nights a week; enjoying meals together, watching a movie or having a night on the town. Wufei had all the moves. He flirted like nobody's business, kissed like sin, and courted like Casanova. Duo thought they had something good going on only to realize after a month of dating that Wufei had something better going on the side, several in fact. Though he'd never regretted the abrupt end of their relationship, Duo had thought about the Chinese man every now and then, though mostly about his delicious body. And from the way the man's suit fit, it was easy to see Wufei had kept himself in top shape.
"I'm good, Wufei. Real good," Duo replied, smiling at the other man. "I've heard you're working for some big shot financial group. If that suit you're wearing is any indication, business is good."
The dark eyes sparkled with delight. "That it is, but I could say the same about you. I thought you were hot before, Duo, but seeing you in person after all this time, I have to say you've surpassed even my fondest memories. Can I buy you a drink, ask you to dance or just drag you home with me?"
"I've got a drink, thanks, but a dance might be nice."
Wufei took the drink out of his hand and set it on the bar, preparatory to leading him onto the dance floor. Even though the music was fast enough in tempo to dance separately, the Chinese man enfolded him into his arms, careful not to snag the long braid, and began a seductively slow dance.
"Up to your old games, Wufei?" Duo asked with a chuckle.
"I'd like to think I've learned a few new ones. Just say the word and I'll be happy to share it all with you. I take it you're here alone?"
"Seeing anyone seriously?"
"No," Duo answered with a shake of his head. "My last boyfriend dumped me for my shrink, so I've been a bit... cautious about dating again." He couldn't help but wonder what Tex would say to that remark. He sure hadn't been cautious in that hot tub, where they'd shared more than polite conversation. Thoughts of that day began to stir up the desire for a repeat performance. He studied Wufei again, thinking it would be nice to be naked and pressed up against the other man's body, which even in college had been sculpted from years of perfecting several types of martial arts.
"Ouch!" the man said with an exaggerated wince. "He left you for your shrink? Shit, that had to hurt." The leaning forward to press his cheek against Duo's, Wufei said into his hear, "Bet I could make you forget all about him." He heard Wufei breath in deeply, and then he said, "You smell positively delicious. Tell me, have you gotten over your... hangups?" There was a hint of anticipation in Wufei's voice as he asked that question.
"Pretty much." Remembering Dorothy's words of caution, Duo wasn't one hundred percent confident that he was cured, but he was going to practice what Quatre termed positive mapping. Basically described, it entailed picturing a desired outcome in his mind and believing it could happen. Positive mapping had been part of his therapy for the past couple of months. Dorothy had a similar yet cruder way of saying the same thing. Perhaps applying that tactic now could help him enjoy a very satisfying tryst with his former boyfriend. If nothing else, Wufei was pleasing to the eye, experienced in bed, and he felt he could trust Wufei... well, maybe for one night. He couldn't envision them going any further than that.
"How about you? Are you with anyone?"
"Not at the moment."
After a moment, the corners of Wufei's lips turned up and his eyes took on a look of appreciation. "Damn, Duo, I'd forgotten about your incredible eyes. You can make a man hard by just staring into them." And to prove it, Wufei's hands cupped his bottom and pressed their lower bodies together so that Duo could feel the undeniable evidence of his claim. "There's a room in the back we could use. You know, to get reacquainted."
For some reason Wufei's suggestion was like a bucket of cold water being thrown on him, cooling down any sexual reaction he'd been having towards Wufei. He took a mental step back to ask himself, Is this what I really want, to have sex in the back room of a club I've never been in before? What was he thinking? He hadn't seen Wufei in years, and yet within five minutes the other man was propositioning him. What did that say about the man. A tiger can't change his stripes, and Wufei would probably never stop being a player. Why would he want to be with the man, even for the evening? In the back of his head came the question, But isn't this why you've come here in the first place? To have some fun, let loose and make up for lost time? The familiar tug of war that he'd dealt with for most of his life was back again. Sensing that Wufei was waiting for an answer, he swallowed with some difficulty before suggesting, "Why don't we get reacquainted out here on the dance floor first, and then we'll see."
One black eyebrow rose in question, but then slowly settled back down to align with its twin. "Very well," Wufei agreed, though it looked like he had just sucked on a very sour lemon. No, the man was not pleased at all. "Tell me, what are you doing now, job wise?"
"I'm the personal assistant to Charise DuFrame," he rushed to say, relieved to have a bit more time to settle the debate going on in his head. "We just finished L.A.'s fashion week and the show for her spring and summer fashions for next year took place this evening. Being that it was such a huge success, I thought I'd celebrate by coming here tonight."
"Are you a member of the club?" Wufei asked, loosening the hold that had kept their pelvises pressed together. "I don't think I've seen you here before." It was becoming obvious that his interest in him was diminished by the mundane conversation.
"No. A friend of mine gave me a couple of passes to see if I'd be interested. This is my first visit."
A grin broke out on Wufei's face. Duo wasn't sure, but it had an almost predatory look to it. He began to think that maybe he was being looked at as fresh meat on the market. A glance around the room showed him that he and his dance partner were still being observed by the others. Even the eyes of those making out with their partners on the dance floor stole furtive glances their way. He suddenly felt exposed and very uncomfortable. He'd have to be careful to ease his way out of this situation or there was the possibility of an ugly scene in the making.
"Do you think we could sit and talk for a bit?"
Wufei pulled back, surprised by the request. "Ah... sure. Follow me." Taking Duo's hand, he led the him to the side of the room to an empty, circular booth. After sitting down, Duo immediately felt better, no longer the center of attention.
"So, tell me more about your job and your life, Duo."
With the Chinese man giving him his full attention, Duo told him of his years after college. How he'd worked his way quickly from a minor role in Charise's company to being her assistant, a demanding job that paid insanely well. While he spoke, Wufei's fingers caressed the top of his hand, which was resting on the tabletop. Before long, his hand slid away and disappeared beneath the table and began to kneed his thigh, moving steadily closer to his crotch.
Duo's pulse was racing by that time, but more from agitation than Wufei's attempts to seduce him. Something about this whole situation bothered him. An uncomfortable feeling had been building with each passing moment, setting off alarms in his mind. He almost bit his tongue as he asked, "How about you, Wufei? Are you still working out every day?"
"Six days a week," Wufei answered before leaning over his to let his lips begin a teasing assault on Duo's neck. "My stamina has always been good, but now it's even better."
Of course the man was alluding to his sexual prowess, which served to put Duo off even more. As Wufei moved to capture his not-so-pliant lips, the braided man tried to examine his confusion. Wufei was definitely eager and willing, so why was he being so critical, finding fault with everything the other man said and did. Why was he so put off by the man? The kiss became even more demanding, and despite his reasons for being there that night, Duo instinctively jerked back when a sure hand slid over his clothed, barely interested member. "Don't," was all he could manage to say in response to his sudden revulsion.
Wufei looked confused for a moment, then his dark eyes narrowed and where moments before they had been filled with desire, anger now flashed in the dark orbs. "What? Don't tell me you've changed your mind?" he snapped angrily. The look of anger quickly turned to condemnation. "I should have known you hadn't changed. You were always a cock tease, Duo, looking like a wet dream come to life and as frigid as the North Pole. Take my advice and get a refund from that shrink of yours. He took more than your boyfriend, he took you to the bank, therapy wise." Wufei slid out of the booth and paused a moment to derisively add, "It's no wonder your last boyfriend fell for someone else. A man's cock would wither and dry up before you're over your hang ups. God, you're a pathetic tease."
With that parting comment, the Chinese man stalked off towards the bar where he would no doubt tell the others congregated there all about the cock tease. Mortified, Duo sat there for a moment, desperately struggling to gather his wits about him. After collecting what remained of his dignity, he slid out of the booth and walked with his head held up as high he could muster under the circumstances and headed towards the door. He forced himself to walk rather than run, fighting the desperate urge to get out of there as quickly as possible. His face was burning and he figured it must be crimson from the embarrassment he felt. Hailing a cab, he returned to his apartment, thinking to lock himself inside for as long as it took to get over this latest bout of humiliation.