Disclaimer: Once again, I don't own these GW characters and make not even a dime from spending hours writing about them.

Warnings: AU, sexual situations, yaoi 1x2, 3x4, and various past relationship

The Pretender
Chapter 11
by Dyna Dee

After going to his apartment after work to freshen up and change, Duo made a mad dash to the address on the back of Heero's business card and soon stood before door 612 a few short hours after leaving Heero's office. A glance at his watch showed he was five minutes early. Would Heero think he was too eager if he knocked on his door now? Damn, he didn't want to appear overly eager, or worse, desperate. It didn't help matters that he could hardly stand still, a result of being anxious, excited and... well, as hopeful about the man on the other side of the door.

Of course he'd experienced similar feelings before, usually at the onset of a new relationship. He'd dated a bit during and after college, well, he'd had plenty of first dates. Only a few of the guys he'd gone out with had agreed to go along with his suggestion of going slow and getting to know each other, and even fewer had been told the reason behind that request. After all, he needed to know and trust someone to some extent before telling them about his intimacy problem.

With his left hand holding the bag containing the items he'd purchased after work, he wiped his right hand on his pants hoping his palms weren't sweating. He remembered this part of dating also, but the nervous excitement he was feeling at the moment somehow seemed different from other times, and there was no doubt that the difference was Heero. The man made his heart race, made him hope for... for more than what he'd ever had before. Now standing in front of the lawyer's door, he had the distinct feeling that he was about to embark on a dangerous yet thrilling venture. It was his heart that was at risk here. Heero, he thought, just might be the one he'd been hoping to find.

Shaking his head, he put a stop to that kind of thinking. He was getting ahead of himself, especially this early in the game. What he needed to do now was take the first of many steps towards forming a relationship with the man behind the door in front of him. He would be cautious, he promised himself, and could only hope the risks would be worth it in the long run.

Inhaling deeply, he held his breath to the count of ten then slowly let it out and reached out to knock on the door. Then shoving his free hand into his pocket he ordered his racing heart to slow the hell down. After all, this was just a date, not a world changing event. He had absolutely nothing to be anxious about. Heero had asked him out, seemed interested, and that was a great start. Then Heero opened the door and smiled at him with all the warmth of a summer's day, and Duo couldn't help but hope that this gorgeous man was indeed "the one".

Heero welcomed him as he stepped back and motioned for him to enter his apartment. Duo complied, eyeing his host as he moved through the doorway, appreciating how hot the man looked in slightly faded Levis and a dark blue T-shirt that hugged his upper torso to perfection. As busy as lawyers were purported to be, this one definitely found some time to spend in a gym. Heero gave him the once-over also, with a pleased look in his eyes. Black jeans and dark gray oxford shirt had been a good choice after all.

The moment the front door closed, Duo found firmly pushed back and pressed up against it with Heero's lips covering his own. He didn't know how long they stood there, but they enjoyed the hell out of themselves before parting. Heero smiled at him. "Damn, you taste as good as you look."

"Thanks," he said, returning the smile though he mentally winced at the lame reply. Surely he could come up with something better than that, something more sophisticated or worldly. He handed Heero the bag he'd been carrying. "I picked up some red wine for you and a cherry cola for me. I hope you don't mind, but I also brought some ice cream for dessert."

"Thanks," Heero set the bag in his left arm like he was carrying a football while putting the other arm around Duo's waist. He then proceeded to lead him further into his apartment.

So far, so good.

"Something smells great," Duo commented with a grin. "I can't believe you actually had time to cook after work. What are you, a renaissance man? A capable attorney by day and a hot, romantic chef by night?"

Heero chuckled. "I'll admit to the attorney part, and I'll have to accept your judgment on my being 'hot'. With some effort I can be a romantic, but I'm afraid I'll never be in the same class as a chef. I suppose this is where I confess that a good friend of mine is a chef at Orlando's."

Duo couldn't help gawking at the other man. "You've got to be kidding me. Orlando's? That place is impossible to get into, or so I've heard."

"Then I hope you'll not be disappointed when I tell you that after you left my office I placed a call to my friend and he prepared most of tonight's meal for me. He gave me the pork chops and explicit instruction on how to cook them so that I could honestly say that I did make at least part of the meal."

"I'm not disappointed," Duo said as they entered the dining room. The iron-rod, glass table was already set and a mouth-watering aroma roused his appetite. "In fact I'm thoroughly impressed that you'd go to so much trouble for me." To prove it, he turned to his host and gave him a kiss of deep appreciation, his hands sliding into that glorious mass of unruly hair. Heero's free hand pressed against the middle of his back and pulled their bodies closer, and Duo forgot about everything but the feel, smell and taste of the man holding him. Once again it was Heero who pulled back first. "Food first," he said with a grin. "We've got to keep up our strength for later, don't we?"

"Ah... yeah." Duo could only hope that Heero would remember their conversation that afternoon, agreeing to take things slow. "Need some help?"

"Not really, but I wouldn't mind your company. Why don't you select some music and then joining me in the kitchen."

Duo looked in the direction Heero had nodded and saw a very impressive sound system, easily rivaling the one in his apartment. "Very nice," he said with honest appreciation.

"The CDs are in the case next to the receiver. Put on something to your liking."

Heero smiled again before leaving him, and as soon as he disappeared into what Duo guessed was the kitchen, the braided man made a beeline for the entertainment center. Leafing through the music, he could see that Heero liked a wide variety of music, leaning more towards jazz than anything else. He'd been exposed to different types of music in high school, having sung tenor in the symphonic and jazz choirs and listening to Aunt Helen's classical and oldies music, he'd gained an appreciation of almost every type of music.

He came across the CD of a well known pop singer who had aged more gracefully than most and remained in the music business by singing love songs from an era before he was born. He was familiar with the music only because his aunt had a fondness for tunes from that decade. Aunt Helen used to come home from work and turn on the oldies while she made dinner. She used to sing along while she worked. Looking down at the cover of the CD, he smiled at the memory of her soft voice filling the warm and aromatic kitchen. It was a good memory. Surprisingly, he had many more good memories from the time he'd lived with his aunt. He remember the first time he came to live with her after the death of his parents, the love and warmth her family gave him as well as the sense of belonging often helped to smooth over the waves of bitterness he felt from time to time over his aunt's repeated attempts to brainwash him. He was grateful to her; he loved her. One day he hoped to be able to forgive her for messing up his life.

Setting the CD in the player, he pressed play and waited until the music began before he adjusted the volume. Once he was satisfied, he turned towards the kitchen, lured in that direction by the heavenly aroma and the man making dinner, both promising a wonderful evening.

Duo entered the kitchen to find Heero standing in front of the stove wearing a standard chef's apron, the pork chops sizzling in the hot pan. He wanted to go to the handsome man and press himself against his back, wrap his arms around him and look over his shoulder while he cooked; but he held back. It was too early in the game for him to put himself out there like that, to allow himself to do something so... domestic. He refused to let his hopes get too high, too soon, or to envision what it might be like to be in relationship with someone like Heero, not when it could all be taken away. Having someone he cared about walk away from him was something that had happened too many times for him not to practice caution.

"Almost ready," Heero said with a glance over his shoulder. "Why don't you finish tearing up the lettuce." He nodded to the other side of the sink where a bowl and preparations for a salad had already been started.

Washing his hands, Duo began to tear the romaine lettuce into bite sized pieces, humming to the tune Tracks of My Tears.

"I'm surprised you like this type of music," Heero said over the sizzling sound coming from the pan on the stove. "I lean more towards rock and alternative music," Duo answered, glancing up from the lettuce to make eye contact with the other man. "My aunt played this kind of music all the time when I was in high school. It reminds me of home."

"Are you on good terms with your aunt?"

Now there was a loaded question. "Pretty much. I owe her a lot, and I do love her. She took me in and raised me as her own. She was good to me, but I can't help blaming her for some of the things she did that messed me up. She's still in denial that I'm gay."

Heero frowned. "That can be tough."

"Yeah, sometimes it is. I spoke with her on the phone recently and told her we needed to sit down and talk when I go home for Thanksgiving, try to come to an understanding. She's going to try and explain why she acted the way she did, having constantly harangued about the evils homosexuality. Hopefully, whatever she has to say to me will help heal the rift that's grown between us. She's my only family, Heero, and I don't want us to be at odds with each other."

"Then it's probably a good thing you're both willing to talk things out, and better sooner than later, before it's too late, " Heero said, turning back to the meat in the pan and flipping it over. Duo wondered at the doomsday ending of that sentence, and he noted a hint of sadness in his voice, too. The next words Heero uttered explained everything. "I found out a couple of weeks ago that my Mom has pancreatic cancer."

Duo expressed his heartfelt sympathy. From what he'd read, there was no cure for that type of cancer. When Heero continued, it was in a thoughtful mien. "She was extremely unhappy with me and hurt when I went to live with Mema in Chicago after high school. Our relationship became strained at that point and I regret not trying harder to try to close the breach that seemed to grow with every passing year. In a strange way, my trip home to see her is the reason we met."

Duo stopped what he was doing to look at the other man, surprised by that last statement. "How so?"

"I went home to the ranch after finding out about her illness with every intention of patching things up with my Mom and to see if there was anything I could do to help her in some way. It was depressing as hell, Duo," he admitted, looking sad and resigned. "She'd had several chemotherapy treatments and had already lost large clumps of her hair and so much weight that she hardly looked like herself. Her sister and brother, who live on the ranch also, as well as her current partner, are caring for her, so at least I know she's no alone in this. Regardless of how much I wanted to stay, the time came that I had to return to L.A. and my job. Though I tried to hide it, I was very upset, not knowing if I'd ever see my Mom alive again. Perry, or rather, Mr. Rhodes, was aware of what was going on with me and noticed right away how upset I was. He more or less ordered me to take another couple of days off. He'd been invited to Charise's ranch for the week but was too busy to take the time off, plus he had his trip to Ireland approaching. He called and arranged with her for me to take his place."

A small smile came to Heero's face as he continued. "I rode one of the horses every day I stayed there, venturing up into the hills for a little clarity and to... I don't know, prematurely grieve. I actually found the House on the Hill on my first day. I stopped to water my horse and discovered fairly quickly that the place was a famous whore house. It was my final day at the ranch that I'd ridden out early and stopped at the House on the Hill on my way back. Lucky for me, I was sitting on the fence, basically enjoying the scenery and fresh air when you came along."

Taking the pan off of the gas burner, Heero carefully removed the pork chops and set them on a plate. Then picking up a pint-sized Styrofoam container, he poured its contents into the hot pan. It sizzled and a fruity aroma quickly filled the kitchen. "Like I told you at lunch," Heero continued, quickly stirring the pan's contents, "from your appearance alone, thinking you were the most handsome man I'd ever seen, I thought you worked there. So, I eventually gave into my curiosity and followed you in, and that's how we met." With the last word, he cast a knowing grin at his guest while shifting his eyebrows suggestively.

Turning his attention back to the pan, he stirred the contents once more and announced it ready to be served. The microwave opened and revealed rice pilaf and carrots, and the pear sauce was poured over the pork. All that was left for Duo to do was to add the lettuce to the vegetables which were already chopped and waiting in the bowl. Dinner was now ready to be served.

During the course of the delicious meal the two men spoke of many things they hadn't touched on during their lunch date: their taste in music, restaurants, entertainment, sport, movies and generally life in L.A. While the food was delicious, it was the conversation that captivated both men. It was clear as the evening progressed that they had a lot of common interests and there was no question about whether or not they were enjoying each other's company.

Eventually the dishes were cleared and put into the dishwasher, then Heero popped two boysenberry tarts into the microwave while Duo scooped out the vanilla ice cream. Sitting in the living room, they ate their dessert and flirted with each other.

After a movie was selected and started, Duo found himself leaning into Heero's side, with the man's arm wrapped about his shoulder. He was feeling very pleased and comfortable with the situation. Not more than fifteen minutes into the movie, Heero turned to nibble on his ear, then his neck. Before long Duo found himself on his back with the other man's body pinning him down and thoroughly enjoying Heero's mouth exploring his own. They made out for most of the movie and were unaware that it had ended until the T.V. screen went blank and the sound of static filled the air. Heero reached for the remote while Duo checked his watch; it was 12:30 a.m. He motioned for Heero to get off of him and sat up when he was able. "It's late. I'd better go."

"Stay," Heero said, reaching out and clasping his hand.

Shaking his head, Duo was about to remind him that he didn't want things to go too far when Heero added, "I know I agreed to take things slow, and I won't rush you. I just thought it would be nice to hold you in my arms all night." With eyes that seemed portray sincerity, he softly confessed, "Everything about you feels right, Duo, I just don't want the evening to come to an end."

It was a tempting offer, but still... it worried him. He'd been in this situation before, had boyfriends or dates promise not to go further. More often than not they broke their word and tried for more by getting him aroused in one way or another, hoping, no doubt, that he'd be too carried away to refuse them. That's when his aunt's voice would resound in his head, telling him how wrong it was to even think about having sex with a man and that men who desired him in that way only wanted to use his body as a vessel for their lust, but not because they loved him. That was usually when things went sour. Abruptly stopping a date's attempt at seduction generally wasn't received well.

But that was then and this was now. Should he stay or go? "I don't know," he hedged, unsure of what he really wanted.

"Besides, you have to stay," Heero continued, looking more serious. "It's dangerous to be out this late at night, with that psychotic nut case on the loose."

That was the oddest excuse Duo had ever heard for him staying overnight. "Nutcase?" he chuckled, obviously not believing Heero's reason for him not to leave. "Is that some kind of expensive legal jargon?"

"All right," the lawyer grinned. "Calling a serial killer a nutcase is too tame of a description?"

Duo was now officially confused. "What are you talking about?"

Heero's expression turned to disbelief. "Where have you been that you haven't heard about it? There's a serial killer in greater L.A. He seems to have something against gays. It started last year, but the police didn't link any of the unsolved murders together until two weeks ago. The deaths of four gay men and a lesbian have been tied to the same killer. The authorities aren't revealing the details, only that the manner of death was rather gruesome and each murder has something in common."

"You're kidding me?" Duo didn't know whether or not to believe Heero. If he was making it up, he was doing a pretty good job. But if it was the truth, then he'd been damn lucky as well as stupid for not staying in tune with current events. He couldn't believe he'd been so caught up with work and his personal life that he failed to hear anything about a serial killer. " I've been so busy with work and the chaos of my life in general that I don't think I've even watched television for..., well, I can't even remember how long it's been."

From the look on Heero's face, he was being completely serious. "I'm not trying to pull one over on you, Duo, just to get you to stay. I swear it's the truth. There is a killer out there, and he's probably looking for his next victim. Please, stay." The man's blue eyes implored him to listen to reason. "Listen, you can share my bed, or if that bothers you, take the sofa."

Weighting the odds of being attacked by a serial killer against spending the night with Heero, he looked for a bit more reassurance. "I have your word that you won't try anything?" Then more firmly he added, "I'm not kidding here, Heero. I like you a lot, but I need more than one date before we can take things any further between us."

"Two," Heero said with a grin. "We've had two dates. I consider lunch this afternoon our first date and this our second."

Duo smiled back, unable to resist the man's teasing grin. "You're right. Two. Still, it's too soon."

Putting up both hands, Heero yielded, "Okay. I understand. No touching below the belt, correct?"

"That's right."

"But you're not opposed to me holding you, and perhaps more kissing, are you?" He reached out and cupped Duo's face before he added, "To be honest, I've had my fair share of daydreams about you." Taking a step closer, Heero lowered his hand to run it down Duo's arm and with a soft expression added, "I hope you don't make me wait too long. Damn," he paused and closed his eyes for a moment. "Just the thought of you beneath me makes me hard."

"What makes you think that I won't have you beneath me?" Duo answered back, blushing a bit as he talked openly about his fantasies.

Heero smiled. "I've always said, share and share alike."

"So you won't mind being on the receiving end?"

"Not every time, but over the years I've learned to enjoy both top and bottom positions."

That brought up another subject that had been plaguing Duo's mind. A bit more timidly he asked, "You've been with a lot of men, haven't you?"

Heero paused, sighed, then answered with a slight shake of his head. "I won't lie to you, Duo. Yes, I've had sex with quite a number of men, but I give you my word that I'm clean. I've never been in a long-term relationship; my schooling and job have always been too demanding to allow me that luxury. But I've always practiced safe sex and get tested every six months. I've had sex with one other person since our get together at the ranch, but in all honesty, I don't remember ever being drawn to anyone like I am to you or ever wanting anyone as much as I want you."

Heero's confession told Duo quite a bit about the lawyer and had given him more food for thought. With Heero admitting to having sex with a lot of men, he had to wonder what he had to offer, being as inexperienced as he was? Would Heero compare him to the others and find him lacking? Doubts began pouring into his head.

"You're upset," Heero observed.

"I... No. Well, maybe." Huffing with frustration and dragging his hand through the fringe of hair over his forehead he tried again. "Yes. Shit, I don't know, Heero." Duo was finding himself at a loss for words. What do you say to someone who had just confessed that he'd pretty much lived the very life his aunt had warned him about: a promiscuous, self-centered, indulgent lifestyle with no commitments, attachments or future.

"What bothers you the most? That I've slept around a lot or that I had sex with someone after being with you?"

"I think just about everything you've said bothers me," Duo shot back. "I told you I've been cautious about my relationships, so I don't have the experience you do."

"Are you concerned that I'll compare you to past lovers?"

"Won't you?"

"No, I won't."

"Is it really possible not to compare?" Duo asked, not believing it was possible.

"I don't know about anyone else, but for me I just don't compare. Some of the men I've had sex with have been more experienced than others. So I've been both tutor and student in bed, and either way I usually have a very good time."

Duo stood, becoming unduly upset. He wrapped his hands around his braid as he tried to express what he was feeling. "Don't you see, this is the kind of thing my aunt used to lecture me about. Gay men sleeping around for recreation, using someone for their own gratification and then leaving them for another when he got bored. Dammit, Heero, your past verifies everything she drilled into my head. I don't want to be just another sexual encounter to you, Heero. Another 'good time'. I can't be just that."

Moving away, Duo decided that the evening had definitely taken a turn for the worse and it would probably be best if he left. Frankly, he wished now that he'd left earlier and avoided this entire discussion. He went to the chair where he'd placed his jacket earlier in the evening and began to put it on.

"Wait a minute," Heero said from behind him. Duo shrugged on his coat and fished into his pocket for his car keys. "Duo, listen to me." Two hands grabbed his shoulders and gave him a gentle shake. Looking up, he could see by Heero's expression that the other man appeared to be just as upset as he was. "Will you listen to me?"

After taking a deep breath to steady himself, Duo nodded, though his body remained rigid in Heero's grasp. "I may not have been the most temperate of gay men, but I grew up differently than you. Mema's belief was that sex is a healthy way to express your emotions to another person. She certainly had no inhibitions about finding a new lover whenever she felt the need for a change. I think the longest relationship she had was with my mom before she set out to see what she'd been missing. I'm not saying I don't regret some of my behavior, but I'd like to believe that if I'd met you earlier I would have behaved differently."

Pausing only to take a breath and visibly calming, Heero continued. "I suppose the question now is whether or not you can accept the fact that I've been with more men than you're comfortable with. But I want you to know, Duo, that from that moment I saw you riding down the hill toward the House on the Hill, you've been a constant in my thoughts. You're intriguing, beguiling even, and I want to be with you. If it would help to say I'm sorry about my past, about all the men I've had sex with, then I would. But I can't help but feel that by doing so I would belittle those who have shared a bit of themselves with me, and I don't think that's right either."

Duo remained in Heero's grasp, listening to every word the man said and trying to come to terms with the situation. Unfortunately, his thoughts remained scattered as he struggled to weigh the challenges as well as the consequences of allowing himself to become involved with Heero, a man so unlike himself in sexual experiences. At the same time, he didn't want to let go of what might be the best thing to come into his life in a very long time. If he wanted to be honest with himself, he didn't think it was humanly possible to forget about the number of men the good looking attorney had slept with, but he couldn't deny his own fascination and attraction for Heero either.

Heero closed in and began to place soft kisses against the corner of his mouth, then sliding his lips over Duo's, he sought permission for more. For once Duo didn't over think his reaction. He brought his arms up and encircled them around the other man's waist and pulled him closer. This feels so right, he thought. So damn good and hot. He moaned, opening his mouth and giving himself up to Heero's talented mouth.

Pulling back after a couple of minutes, Heero whispered against his lips. "How can you even contemplate giving this up before we've had a chance to discover what it means? You do feel it, don't you? I'm usually more articulate than this, but when I'm around you I feel like a fumbling novice. I can't seem to say or do anything right. Yet every time we kiss or touch, I get this indescribable feeling of rightness, of a want and need that's escalating beyond anything I've ever felt before. I've had enough experience, Duo, to know for a fact that what I feel for you, even after only two dates, is unique and something to be treasured. Maybe there's a better way of saying this, but being with you makes me feel like I've won the largest lottery in history." Placing a kiss on the tip of his nose, Heero smiled and said, "Come on, give me a chance to prove to you that I can be the man you need."

Somewhere deep inside him, Duo knew that Heero was right. What they felt for each other was powerful if not confusing and a bit frightening. He couldn't deny that he wanted this man, in spite of their differences. Feelings of desire and lust warred with common sense, which urged him to be wary, to pull back and put some distance between himself and Heero. Common sense was obviously being ignored when he leaned forward and gave the lawyer his answer by pressing their lips together and invading Heero's mouth briefly before pulling back. Something about this man aroused his body and senses. Yes, without a doubt Heero Yuy was exciting, alluring and a damn temptation he knew he should resist, but Duo also knew that he was about to throw caution as well as his doubts to the wind.

"I'm not very experienced," he answered back shyly. "I'm afraid that you'll find me lacking or be disappointed."

"Never," the other man said with a gentle smile. "I've already been with you, Duo, and the memory of that day comes back every time I close my eyes. Even the briefest kisses with you makes me forget everything and everyone else. No, I don't think it's possible that I could be disappointed in you, other than if you decided to never see me again." Heero reached out and placed his hand flat on Duo's chest, and the braided man blushed in knowing that the other man could feel the rapid beating of his heart. "The advice I received from my Mom was to follow my heart, and that's what I hope you'll do, Duo. Does your heart tell you to stay and give me a chance, or to turn and walk away?"

Never in all his life had Duo believed someone would touch him like Heero was doing. It was more than physical, more than just words. He'd heard plenty of smooth, polished lines before, delivered, more or less, in an attempt to seduce him. He'd dismissed such statements for what they were, tripe. He wondered if perhaps Heero was just a good actor, or simply a gay Don Juan. But the look in his eyes and the expression of sincerity on his face as he spoke seemed honest enough. Suddenly, on the tip of his tongue were the words, I think I'm falling in love with you, but he stopped himself short from uttering them out loud, shocked by what he'd almost confessed. For a long, drawn-out moment he found himself speechless by that new revelation. Could he really be falling in love with Heero Yuy? Already? Was it even possible to fall in love so quickly? And if he was in love, what would Heero say about that if he knew? He'd run, that's what he'd do, said the little snarky voice in his head, causing the need to protect himself to rear up. It would be wise, he thought, to keep his newfound feelings to himself for a while.

He swallowed nervously and said, "O.K. You've got your chance. I'll stay tonight." He was about to make the request that as long as Heero was seeing him that he not see anyone else, but on second thought, he knew it was too soon to ask such a thing from someone he'd just started dating.

Heero cupped his face between his hands and looked him square in the eyes. "You can trust me, Duo. I'll prove to you that I'm as good as my word." After giving him a brief kiss, he continued. "Now, if you mean to sleep with me tonight, platonically speaking, I'm going to need to take a very cold shower first. Let me show you my bedroom and I'll get you something to sleep in, then we'll go to bed, all right?"

Duo smiled, a bit nervously, then placed his hand in Heero's and said, "All right, let's turn in." An ominous shiver tingled all along his spine as the other man led the way to his room. Thinking back to when he'd first stood at Heero's door earlier that evening, he couldn't help but think this was one hell of a first step.

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