A Touch of Human Kindness
Two years later:
Howard could only shake his head as the braided bishounen finished his lunchtime concert. Everyday at noon, Duo would regale his fellow mechanics and any customers who happened to be around with a musical tribute to old Earth songs known as Dusties. He had a wonderful baritone voice, and as usual he received a rousing response from his captive audience.
With the concert over, everyone went back to work. Howard noticed Duo talking to a female customer. She was in stitches as Duo explained the workings of her carburetor by using hand puppets. Howard could hardly believe that this cheerful jokester was the same person as the sullen young man he'd met only two years ago. Not only had Duo lost his pallor and the haunted look in his eyes, but also he'd gained weight due to Heero's cooking. Duo had become even more beautiful than he'd been before, but this time his outer beauty was matched by an inner peace.
When his good friend Heero had asked him to meet with his new roommate about a job, Howard had readily agreed. He'd known Heero for two years and had nothing but respect for the serious young man. When he'd met Duo, however, Howard had doubted that the deeply depressed kid would live long enough to justify Heero's efforts. Fortunately, Duo managed to slowly rid himself of his despair and had become one of Howard's best mechanics. The kid had a real gift with machines and could return even the most unlikely prospect to working order.
Howard suspected that Duo and Heero were more than just roommates, but he wasn't judgmental. He was very fond of both young men and was just glad they were both happy.
Duo said goodbye to his still chuckling customer and turned to work on her busted carburetor. His Temptations selection had gone over very well that afternoon and it only increased his already jubilant mood. 'Not that anything could bring me down right now,' he thought. Yesterday was he and Heero's two-year anniversary and it had been a night to remember.
Duo had begged, pleaded with, and nagged Heero for an entire week. Finally, Heero had given in and agreed to take Duo to a new nightclub that had just opened in their neighborhood. Duo had sweet-talked Heero into wearing a tight, sexy pair of leather pants. He'd looked good enough to eat, and Duo intended to. After a wonderful dinner at their favorite restaurant, they spent the rest of the night dancing at the club. Or rather, Duo danced and Heero ogled him. Finally, they went home and spent the rest of the night having mind-blowing sex, even though they were both exhausted.
Duo smiled as he remembered that he'd tried to go to sleep but that Heero refused to let him. Yes, his koibito was insatiable. They had developed a certain daily ritual. Heero would wake Duo up every morning for work. They would take a shower together, which usually resulted in them doing things other than showering. Then Heero would fix Duo's hair. Heero was obsessed with those long chestnut locks. Duo couldn't remember the last time he'd actually washed, brushed, or braided his own hair.
When they finally left the house, Heero would take Duo to the garage since it was on his way to his own job. They would then kiss goodbye and would usually spend the rest of their day counting the hours until they could see each other again. After getting off of work, Heero would swing by and pick Duo up. It was when they got back home, however, that things sometimes got interesting.
For a quiet guy, Heero could be rather creative. Duo almost blushed as he remembered the 'dishwashing' incident. Heero had cooked so it was Duo's turn to do the dishes. He hated the chore and would usually listen to his headphones to help pass the time. That particular evening, Duo was jamming to Metallica when Heero suddenly appeared behind him. Without a word of warning, Heero had reached under Duo's t-shirt with one hand and into his sweat pants with the other. Duo could hear nothing but heavy metal and his own shouts as Heero jerked him off right there at the sink. Fortunately, only one plate had been lost.
Of all the things Duo loved about Heero, and they were many, Heero's innate sexuality was definitely near the top of the list. He could be tender or he could be forceful. He could be dominant or, when Duo was so inclined, he would bottom most gracefully. But, whatever the tone of their encounters, Heero was always considerate and mindful of Duo's past.
The present rapport between them hadn't always existed. Duo could admit that he'd been a mess when Heero first took him in. Those first few weeks were rough for both of them. However, towards the end of their first month together, Duo took his first big step towards ridding himself of his heavy emotional baggage and obtaining his current peace of mind.
** Heero woke and looked at the man sleeping in his arms. Duo had cried for what seemed like hours before finally falling asleep. Heero was worried that Duo would hate him for having seen him in such a vulnerable state. But there was nothing he could do about it now, so Heero sighed and got up slowly so as to not wake Duo.
Duo slept for the rest of the day. Heero knew that he had to be worn out after the big emotional draining he'd just gone through. So he let Duo sleep. Heero was fixing dinner later that evening when Duo finally made an appearance. He said nothing as Duo walked by him without a word and sat on the couch in the living room. Heero wanted to ask Duo how he felt but was afraid of Duo's reaction. So he just sighed to himself and turned back to the stove.
Duo was far from angry. However, he was extremely embarrassed and couldn't even make himself meet Heero's eyes, let alone actually speak to him. He watched television while Heero worked in the kitchen. After a half hour of silence, Duo began to feel ashamed of himself. 'He's been nothing but nice to me. He's given me a place to stay and is even feeding me, asking nothing in return. Hell, he even told me he loved me and this is how I repay him? Get it together, Duo!'
"Do you need some help," he asked.
Heero looked up quickly at the hesitant question. "No," he replied. "Dinner's ready. Just have a seat."
They ate in further silence, Duo still refusing to meet Heero's gaze. Heero glanced at him. He was beginning to understand how Duo thought and could guess what was bothering him. 'It's not just embarrassment. I'll bet he's thinking that he's done nothing to earn this, that he needs to repay me.' Heero knew that only time would cure Duo of his quid pro quo mentality. In the meantime, Heero had thought of a way to make Duo feel better about their situation.
"Duo, you're a mechanic, ne?"
Duo looked up in surprise. "How did you know," he asked.
"When we first met, I remember you talking about my car. I remember being amazed at how much you seemed to know about it."
Duo's surprise increased. He couldn't believe that Heero had actually paid that much attention to his idle chatter. "Well, yeah. I've always been good with my hands." Heero blushed at the double entendre and Duo felt his mouth quirk in a small smile. "Anyway, I've been fixing things since I was kid."
"Okay," Heero replied. "How about I take you to meet a friend of mine tomorrow. His name is Howard and he owns his own car repair shop. He's been looking for another mechanic and I think he'd like to meet you."
Duo stared at him for a moment. His debt continued to pile up. He sighed as he nodded in acquiescence. "Aa, and by the way," Heero continued, "if you get the job, you can help with bills and stuff if you want." With that, Heero turned his attention back to his plate. Duo's jaw dropped. He couldn't believe it. Not only had Heero figured out Duo's dilemma, he'd provided the perfect solution. Duo nodded again, unable to respond in any other way.
After dinner, Duo announced his intention to go to bed. He was still drained and felt he could sleep for at least another day. Heero nodded and went to his linen closet. Duo watched him and was puzzled when Heero returned with a sheet and a blanket. 'Of course, idiot. He wouldn't want you to just keep sleeping in his bed.' But Heero had again fathomed Duo's thoughts and said, "No, I'll sleep out here. You can have the bed."
Duo looked at Heero as he realized what was going on. 'Lord, save me nice guys,' he thought. Duo didn't want to chase Heero out of his own room. But, more importantly, he didn't really want to sleep alone. "Heero, you don't have to sleep out here. We can share the bed. I mean, it's not like we haven't done it before." Before Heero could protest, Duo interjected "Besides, I don't know about you but all I want to do is sleep."
As Duo walked toward the bedroom, Heero decided that it would be silly to continue to argue the point. He didn't want to sleep on the couch. He was just trying to be considerate of Duo's feelings. What he really wanted was to sleep next to the young man who'd come to mean so much to him.
They lay apart as they slept until Heero awoke suddenly. He wondered why he was awake when he heard Duo shout in his sleep. Obviously in the clutches of a nightmare, Duo called out again and began to trash around. Heero put his hand on his shoulder and shook him. "Duo," he said softly. "Duo, wake up. You're having a nightmare." But Duo refused to awaken. Left with nothing else to do, Heero pulled Duo to him and held him. Duo immediately began to quiet down. Satisfied that Duo was finally sleeping peacefully, Heero closed his eyes and fell back to sleep. They remained in each other's arms for the rest of the night.
The next morning, Heero took Duo to meet Howard. Duo and Howard immediately took to each other. After asking Duo only a few questions, Howard gave Duo the job. Duo was beyond grateful. He'd been feeling like a leech, sucking up Heero's kindness and giving nothing back. Now, he'd be able to contribute something, even if it was only money.
Duo started work the next day. He and Heero quickly fell into a routine. They would go to work every morning and would come home and eat dinner together every evening. During and after dinner they would watch television or sometimes they would talk about anything and everything. Duo eventually told Heero the entire sordid tale of his past. Heero wasn't at all disgusted or judgmental. Neither did he offer Duo pity. Rather he just accepted and offered understanding.
They continued to sleep together but were careful to keep to their own sides of the bed. Well, actually, Heero was careful. Duo tended to sleep however he wanted. His tendency to end up flush against Heero during the night wasn't completely random either.
After the first two weeks, Duo realized that he loved Heero. He loved the man who had taken him off of the streets and who had given him a new life without asking anything in return. He loved how Heero would look at him when he thought Duo wouldn't notice, intense cobalt clearly broadcasting his feelings. He loved how Heero looked sheepish and would blush every morning when he found Duo pressed up against him. And he loved how beautiful and sexy Heero was without even trying.
By the end of the first month, Duo had had enough. He was fed up with Heero's consideration and kid-glove treatment. Duo knew he was in love with Heero and he wanted Heero to know too. Also, Duo was sexually frustrated, a feeling he was unfamiliar with and didn't like in the least. Laying in bed beside Heero every night and not being able to touch him like he wanted to was driving him absolutely crazy. Duo decided that that night, their one-month anniversary, he would bring his enforced celibacy to an end.
Heero could tell that Duo was up to something. He looked askance at the smiling bishounen when he picked Duo up from work. Duo was unusually chatty during dinner and Heero could feel Duo looking at him almost constantly. By the time they went to bed, his nerves were screaming. He let Duo take his shower first. As he finally took his, he spent the time trying to puzzle out Duo's strange behavior.
His questions were answered when he went into the bedroom. There Duo was, lying in bed, wearing nothing but his gleaming unbound hair and a smile. Heero stopped and stared. 'Now what,' he groaned to himself. He'd spent the last month in a self-imposed hell. Sleeping next to Duo every night was sheer torture. But Heero was determined to be considerate of Duo's feelings. Now, he didn't know what to think.
Heero continued to stand frozen in place as Duo got off the bed and walked toward him like a panther stalking its pray. Duo put his arms around Heero's neck and stood so close that their lips were almost touching. Duo purred, "You've been a very good boy, Heero, but I think it's time we ended this little standoff, ne?" Heero opened his mouth to speak and Duo interrupted him with a kiss. After a moment, he backed off and said, "I know what you're going to say and you're wrong. This has nothing whatsoever to do with gratitude." He then leaned over to Heero's ear and whispered, "I want you to make love to me, Heero, because because I love you."
Heero closed his eyes and exhaled. He might have thought he was dreaming if not for being able to feel a very real Duo pressed up against him. He met Duo's eyes and smiled. Then their lips met and nothing further was said. They walked together toward the bed and fell so that Heero was lying underneath Duo.
They kissed for a few moments more but Duo was impatient. He left Heero's mouth to work his way down past Heero's muscled chest and stomach, ending up at Heero's hard cock. Duo took it into his mouth without further ado. Heero gasped and dug his hands into Duo's hair. It had been so long that he knew he couldn't take much more of this.
Heero was driving Duo crazy with his sexy growls and moans. He looked up when Heero suddenly pulled rather urgently on his hair. The look in Heero's eyes told Duo everything he needed to know. He moved up to straddle Heero, never breaking eye contact. He paused only briefly to get the lube out of the nightstand drawer. He put some in his palm and applied to Heero with long, slow stokes.
"Ima, Duo," Heero cried as he felt himself start to lose it. Duo lowered himself onto him and started to ride. Heero was lost to all thought as Duo's tightness surrounded him. Duo, for his part, was equally lost except that he had the presence of mind to ask himself why in the hell he'd waited so long to do this. As he rode Heero, he felt a terrible pressure building within him. He gasped for air and flung his head back trying not to get lost in the sensations. But Duo could do nothing when Heero grabbed his unbearably hard erection and started to work his hand up and down.
Duo's eyes flew open, but he couldn't see. Heero continued to moan, but Duo didn't hear. Duo could barely breath. He felt as if he were standing at the edge of a precipice, staring into the unknown. Duo felt a brief moment of fear, but it dissolved as Heero continued to pump him. Finally, the pressure became overwhelming and Duo stepped off the cliff. He felt as if he were flying through space as he screamed Heero's name in exquisite agony and came in long, hot, endless spurts.
He collapsed bonelessly on top of Heero who had found his own release. Duo felt tears in his eyes. After 20 years, he'd finally been able to trust someone enough to completely let go. The fact that he loved that person with all his heart just made it that much sweeter. "Aishiteru," he whispered. Heero kissed him gently and they fell asleep in each other's arms. **
A few days later, Howard looked up from the counter when the door opened. He immediately took a dislike to the man who entered the shop. The man was fairly tall and had dirty-blond hair. What turned Howard off, however, were the man's eyes. They were small and gray and had the cold look of a shark. Howard was tempted to tell the man that the shop was about to close. However, a customer was a customer and Howard damped down his disgust long enough to listen to the man complain about his car trouble.
Duo sat in the back office doing some paperwork. He'd finally finished the carburetor job. 'Hmmm, I wonder if Howard will let me give this lady the senior's discount.' Duo was about to go out front to talk to Howard when he heard a voice straight out of his nightmares. '*Smoke!* No way!' Duo backed up back into the office and reached the desk just as his legs threatened to give out. 'What in the hell is he doing here? How did he find me,' Duo asked himself incredulously. 'No, wait. Just calm down.' Duo listened to what Smoke was telling Howard. 'Of all the dumb luck. He's just here about his car.'
Duo sat on the desk and decided to just wait until Smoke left. It wasn't just conceit on his part that made him certain he shouldn't let Smoke find him. The last time he'd seen Smoke was right after braining him with a brick. He was sure to be holding a grudge for that as well as for losing one of his most profitable workers. Duo was beginning to calm down when another mechanic walked into the office, saying, "Hey, Duo."
Duo cringed at the volume of the man's voice. 'Could you be any louder. *Chikushou!* I hope Smoke didn't hear that.' Duo waited nervously, expecting Smoke to barge into the office at any moment. But Duo's luck seemed to be holding up. Smoke finished his business with Howard and left. Duo let out a sigh of relief as Howard came into the office.
"What's wrong, son," Howard asked as he took in Duo's colorless face. "You look like you've just seen a ghost."
Duo looked at Howard for a moment and decided that Howard could be trusted. "Howard, I never told you about my life before we met. I think that I should tell you now." Howard waited for Duo to continue, not saying a word. Duo sighed, "Before I met Heero, I was a prostitute. Actually, that's how I met Heero. He was a customer."
Howard was surprised but he didn't react. He sensed that Duo was putting a lot of faith in him and he didn't want to disappoint. "Heero, rescued me from that life. I've left it behind me, or at least I thought I had." At Howard's questioning look, Duo continued. "That man who was just talking to you, the one with the blond hair well his name is Smoke and he was my pimp."
'I knew I didn't like that guy,' Howard thought. "How old were you when he found you," he asked gently.
"I was 12." Duo smiled at Howard's shocked expression. "Yeah, I know I was young but it was either that or starve. The orphanage where I lived had been destroyed in a fire along with the people who were taking care of me. I had no other choice." Howard nodded in understanding. The colony could be a rough place, especially for a kid on his own.
"You still look a bit pale, Duo. Are you sure you're okay?"
"Thanks, man. Actually, I feel a little sick. Smoke affects people that way."
Howard nodded in agreement. "Why don't you go on home?"
"Thanks, Howard. Let me just call Heero and tell him not to pick me up." Duo called Heero's job but he was not at his desk. He left a message. "If Heero doesn't get the message I left, just let him know I've gone home." Howard agreed to pass on the message and Duo left.
The fresh air made him feel much better. 'I was probably just overreacting,' he told himself. Feeling a little foolish, he chuckled to himself as he passed an alley that was midway between the shop and their apartment. Just then, he felt a horrendous pain at his temple. Realizing that he'd just been hit, he could do nothing but sag against the person who'd just attacked him.
"I thought I must have been imagining things when I heard someone say 'Hey, Duo' in that crummy shop. I thought, it couldn't be him. I couldn't be that lucky. But here you are, all grown up and as pretty as ever." Duo thought that he had to be having a bad dream as Smoke spoke. Then he realized that this was all too real as Smoke dragged him into the alley.
"You caused me a lot of trouble, you little bitch. Not only did you give me a concussion with that damned brick, but I also lost a lot of money because of you. None of my other guys were as popular as you were. None of my other hookers have been able to make up the slack. You owe me, boy, and I'm here to collect."
Duo tried to break out of Smoke's hold but he was too weak because of his head injury. Smoke slapped him across the face, worsening his condition. The feeling of being punched in the stomach and being hit in the face by Smoke was surreal. It was as if the last two years of his life had never happened. When he felt Smoke pull down his pants, Duo tried to fight back. But it was too late. He was too weak to offer any real resistance as Smoke took out his anger and frustration on Duo in his most favorite way.
"What do you mean, he's not here," Heero asked.
"Duo went home," Howard replied. "Some guy named Smoke came in here and scared Duo pretty bad. He decided to go home. He tried to call you at work, but I guess you didn't get the message."
'Smoke,' Heero thought in shock. 'What in the hell was he doing here?' "I'd better call and make sure he's alright." Howard handed him the phone and Heero called home. When the answering machine picked up, Heero got worried. "We have caller ID. He'd answer if someone was calling from here," Heero mused aloud. He looked at Howard who was wearing a concerned expression. "Don't worry. I'll find him," he said with a reassurance he didn't really feel.
Heero drove slowly along the route he knew Duo would take if he were walking home from the shop. He calmed down and started to feel a bit silly when he didn't see Duo anywhere. 'He was probably just in the shower and couldn't answer.' But when Heero passed the alley, an ice-cold feeling in his gut made him stop. Not questioning his reaction, Heero got out of the car and walked towards the alley. He saw a figure lying on the ground behind a dumpster and his breath caught in his throat.
"Duo!" Heero ran towards his unconscious koibito. He felt as if he were caught in his worst nightmare as he reached Duo and gently turned him over. He groaned in agony as he saw Duo's condition. He'd been beaten so badly that he was covered in bruises and blood. His pants were around his knees and he'd clearly been raped. Heero lifted up his shirt and found bruises on Duo's midsection along with what appeared to be some broken ribs.
Duo opened his eyes at the feel of tears falling on his face. He felt as if he'd been run over by a truck, several times. But when he saw Heero leaning over him, crying, Duo tried to smile. "Hey," he said weakly, his ribs screaming in pain. "It's not as bad as it looks."
Heero was unable to return Duo's attempt at levity. "Who did this," he asked, his voice raspy with unshed tears.
Duo closed his eyes. "Smoke," he said in a whisper.
Heero's face turned into an expressionless mask. "Just hold on, Duo-koi. I'll get you to a hospital." Heero felt as if he were made of ice as he gently picked Duo up and took him to the car. Duo whimpered in pain and Heero cringed. He swore, right then and there, that Smoke would die for what he'd done.