Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
Relena had been at home studying. Not only did she have exams, but she was still making up work. She had been given an extension on end of the semester reports and projects, but only so far as the end of this week. Only her servants were with her and Relena was feeling overworked, so she let Heero in and insisted that he stay, at least long enough to give her a pep talk and share dinner.
Heero thought a small meal was what Relena needed to be able to focus on her work, so He suggested they eat before anything else. He dished out Koi's food and then the cooks warmed up some stuffed pastries for Heero and Relena. They seemed to come from a frozen assortment in a commercial-size package and included pirozhki, some kinds of dim sum, and strudel within the large selection. The cooks even managed to variously steam, bake, fry or boil the food in order to bring it up to temperature, but then they were professionals.
They sat at the breakfast bar, as Relena called it, and drank soda with their snacks and various condiments. Relena asked about Heero's work. He said things were going well. Relena said that after graduation she wanted to visit with her mother for a little while and then travel on Earth. After that, she wanted to find a University at which to study, because she felt that she was only 18 and whatever more good she would be able to do for the Earth Sphere was not to be done presently or without a more advanced education.
Heero reassured her that he thought University study a good idea. Of course, it would have to be somewhere safe.
They went upstairs to Relena's bedroom, but that was where she liked to study. Heero wrote a lab report on beans grown in simulated Martian soil while Relena finished editing her history report. It was cheating, but they both knew Relena could have done the work if she had time, and Heero had used her notes to write the report. She still had to do the final edit by herself.
Heero quizzed Relena on some formulas and astrometric word problems, she had difficulty with them, but she grasped the subject better than Heero had expected.
They went downstairs for a late dinner, thick beef steaks with some fried potatoes. After dinner, they played a racing video game and then they went to bed. They took turns washing up in the bathroom; there were other bathrooms but they lacked tubs or showers or were meant for the servants to use. Relena slept in her room and Heero slept next door in the bed Duo most often used.
He knew they washed the sheets, but he thought that there was a strong sense of Duo in the room. He still had things there. The sheets, red flannel, with black satin pillowcases were probably brought into the house by Duo. The satin kept his hair from tangling and pulling from his braids in his sleep.
Heero did not even have to count, he just fell asleep.
He thought he was dreaming when he woke up. Heero thought that he was becoming lucid, aware of the erotic nature of his dream, but then he realized that someone really was in the bed, pressed close to his back, teeth nibbling his ear. He knew it was really Duo.
"Hey goldilocks," Duo whispered.
Heero thought that was one of his faerietale references. He said nothing, just enjoyed the sort of full body slide Duo was doing beneath the sheets, against his own body. Duo snaked the palm of his left hand across Heero's chest and he was very aware that he had undressed as far as his shorts before getting into bed.
They shifted weight at the same time, reading each other well. Heero rolled to his back and Duo climbed on top of him. Breath was exchanged, Duo's tongue licked Heero's lips and then the kiss came. This was one was soft, in a good way. Heero felt like he was still dreaming, like he was sinking into the bed.
Duo's clothes were just gone. His fingers dug at the top of Heero's shorts and began rolling them down. There was an awkward moment as their bodies flexed to be rid of the shorts and then the next moment Heero closed his eyes, went still and entirely enjoyed Duo's dick touching his.
Duo's hands were pressed to the mattress, either side of Heero's body. Much of his weight held in his arms, Duo did that slide again. There was no thinking, Heero just reacted to how good it felt when Duo's body touched his, the caress of skin and slightly damp hair. He felt Duo's legs against his legs. Heero drew his right leg from beneath Duo, not really thinking about his actions at all.
Heero bent his leg at the knee and then put the sole of his foot to Duo's calf. At the same time, he lifted fingers to Duo's chest, wanting to feel more of that skin, wanting Duo to feel something of the electrifying brush of skin against skin that he was feeling.
Duo broke the kiss and stared at Heero. His breath had a clean mint smell that matched his taste. Duo licked his lips and kept staring. Heero stared back, but it was intense and he really felt that he would be the one to turn his eyes at any second. He did not know anything.
He did not know why Duo was here, now. He could not think what time it was. He did not know exactly what this feeling was that he felt, curiously trapped beneath Duo, with his rhythmic sliding movements... and the way his dick slid determinedly upward against Heero's abdomen and then withdrew softly, teasing Heero's dick before the cycle restarted.
Uncomfortable, the kind of uncomfortable you felt when you liked something you did not plan to like.
Heero wanted to look away, to be on top, to have control of something, but he just kept staring. He moved his fingers over Duo's torso, its image being traced into his mind again even as he looked at Duo's eyes.
The droplets in the air and seeping from the tape on your spacesuit when you entered an airlock injured... and there was yet no oxygen. An unsettling yet precious color.
Heero blinked and then stared again. Long lean body, like a statue, like one of those gods. Only it moved. Moved like a porn star.
Heero cried out softly, wordlessly and Duo only stared. "Go down," Heero whispered.
Duo stared, movements slow, eyes softening into a gaze that questioned.
"I want you to," Heero rasped before he was able to continue in a stronger voice, "suck me off."
Duo smiled at him and a second later his hand swiped beneath the pillows and he was kissing a trail down Heero's chest.
This was better. Heero understood this. Duo seemed very willing and it did feel good for him. He closed his eyes as Duo shifted his weight, freeing his arms as he lay down between Heero's legs. Duo's hands touched his cock before his mouth was close enough. Heero felt him roll the condom on.
He opened his eyes then, saw Duo smile at him, eyes dark half-circles, as he tested the taste of the condom with his tongue. It did not feel like one of the cheap ones, but in the dark, Heero had entirely trusted Duo on the choice.
Duo licked his lips and then bowed his head, taking Heero in the mouth. He kept his right hand about Heero's cock much of the time, only working the head with his mouth. Some times Duo would, depending on position, use two hands, often going for Heero's ass, but this time the left hand rested splayed across Heero's stomach, the thumb at Heero's navel. Heero knew Duo could deep-throat too, but he did not seem interested this time, or yet. It still felt perfect.
It was not the same every time with Duo, but even when it was very similar Heero did not think he could ever tire of this. There was just nothing bad about Duo Maxwell sucking his cock. Heero would take it before, after or as the only sex they had.
He thought about wanting to fuck Duo, but for the moment he did not want it enough to ask Duo to stop. He thought, maybe later.
"Take it off," Heero whispered, "Duo, take it off."
Duo made some sound and then lifted his mouth and all his weight from Heero. He said nothing, but crawled up the bed and kissed Heero. That kiss was communication enough. Heero knew he had been wrong to say it. They had both agreed.
Just a few more days, Heero told himself. There was no guarantee that he and Duo would agree to it, they had not gotten there yet, but Heero sensed that he and Duo might want the same things now. There was a chance. Heero needed to believe it was going to happen.
He felt like, Duo was saying he wanted the same things.
Heero drew breath through his mouth. "I love you."
"Let me finish," Duo whispered. His lips touched Heero's again, lightly. "I want to do it."
"Oh, yes... did not mean it was not good," Heero said quickly. "It was so good."
Duo was already moving. Heero snatched one final short kiss and then watched Duo grab his hips. Heero felt himself pulled toward Duo. He slipped from the pillows and lay flat on his back.
Heero felt Duo sucking on him and he stared at the ceiling, at the slowly shifting patterns of light as cars passed the house. The sensations bordered on pain. Need, pleasure, need, pleasure. And then there was no more need.
Heero disliked the soft grunting sound he made, but he knew that he did it. He had not thought about Relena being on the other side of the wall in the silent house, not until afterward.
"Stuff you need is there," Duo said casually, with a tip of his head toward the small chest of drawers beside the bed. "I gotta go finish getting ready for school." He got up and started for the door.
"You do not want me to do you?" Heero asked as he sat up. He moved his right hand to catch the slipping condom.
Duo smiled, looking over his shoulder. "I'm OK, Heero, I just really wanted to do that for you. Why don't you go back to sleep?" That smile became the grin. That smile said that it had not been only for Heero. Heero did not have experience with others, but he thought that when he was the one sucking dick he liked it. Heero licked his lips.
He was confused, watching Duo leave. The door closed and then shortly after Heero heard the bathroom door click closed across the hall. He turned toward the nearby drawers. Tissue could be of use. Leaning to get some tissue, Heero saw the wastebasket beside the chest. He smiled at that. He could just imagine Duo masturbating in bed. Though... it vaguely disturbed him that this was Relena's house and she was in the next room.
Well, Heero thought, better than being in the next room with her, I suppose. He shivered. He cared for Relena, but he did not want to picture her having sex. He particularly did not want to picture Duo being involved.
He wondered if Relena masturbated in her... no, he did not...
Heero cringed at that stray train of thought.
Heero did not think he could sleep now. He wanted Duo back in the bed with him. He had not even had time to express appreciation, in any way. Heero thought that in general Duo might be the one that needed physical affection more. Sometimes though, Heero did want to hold Duo. Sometimes he wanted to and he felt bad that Duo was not there. He felt that way now.
Now that he thought of it, it seemed early for Duo to be rushing to get ready for school. Exams did not even run the same hours that classes did.
Heero lay down and turned toward the windows. The dark panels also seemed to indicate Duo's presence. Heero dipped a hand to the lower drawer beside the bed, expecting that Duo stored some porn there. He was curious to see if he was right in his guess.
Indirectly, Heero decided as he saw the first object inside the drawer. Print copy of a Japanese magazine-book featuring various rock stars. The book was Japanese, not all of the rock stars. Well, Duo wouldn't want to be too obvious with what he kept at Relena's house. There were print 'zines in English too, even some in German and Spanish. Heero was certain they were all purchased for the pictures, even if Duo did read the articles.
Heero growled at the dog-eared manga at the bottom of the drawer. Duo did not take care of his things. Heero would have thought, from the way Duo spoke of not always having money, that Duo would know to care for things better. But, maybe only those with money had the luxury of thinking of possessions as 'collector's items.' Even the antique clothing Duo owned was worn.
Heero played the games he collected, but he also kept them securely boxed when not in use. The models and books stayed on a shelf.
Heero's fingers touched something as he was drawing his hand away from the stack of paper. A card or, something, was standing against the side of the drawer. Heero lifted it in his fingers. A photo.
Heero felt the smooth thermal paper as he turned the photo over. He was in the photo.
He looked... fifteen. He was wearing that flightsuit that Quatre had acquired and given him on Peacemillion. He seemed to be sitting on a sort of window ledge, with Earth behind him. MO II, Heero thought. The hospital. Quatre and Hilde were recovering. Duo and Trowa had gone in to visit them. Relena had been off being interviewed. Heero had... been wondering what he would do.
He was staring at the camera, not quite glaring. Had Duo caught him in a contemplative moment? Yes, it was a cheap camera that Hilde had requested and someone had supplied. Duo had found Heero.
"He really did want me," Heero said aloud, "for a long time."
Heero tried to think what Duo had looked like then. He had been much smaller, shorter, and more narrow. The face had looked different, more heart-shaped, with larger eyes. The hair was much the same, only it was bright with natural highlights then, from all the time spent on Earth near the water and sitting around Quatre's pool waiting for a time when they could act. But he hadn't gone swimming, unless Quatre had rubbed sunblock on him; there had never been tan lines on that skin.
Really? He knew that? Yes, he did. He must have looked at Duo's body. He knew that there had never been tan lines.
Duo came into the room and found Heero still staring at the photo of himself. He laughed. Heero looked up, saw Duo dressed in his school uniform and his hair was neatly braided. "Told ya I liked ya in the suit," Duo said. He leaned over the bed and kissed Heero on the mouth.
Heero grabbed Duo's ear to hold him close. "It's early. You have time to stay with me a while."
"I want to, you look dead sexy right now, but I got some stuff to drop off on my way to school." He made an apologetic smile.
Heero let him go. He turned to his side and watched Duo collect things from his desk. "I want to go to Hawaii."
Duo froze, then laughed. "Hawaii? I thought we were having our honeymoon in St. Petersburg."
"That is still a nice idea, but I want to go to Hawaii. I never went to Hawaii. I want you to go with me. Then I can put sunblock on you and put you under an umbrella on the beach, so you can feel warm without hurting your sensitive skin and eyes."
Duo turned and sat back on the desk. He tipped his head and looked down at Heero, half a smile on his lips. "You might need sunblock too, Little Prince."
Heero looked at the skin on his arm. "My skin offers somewhat more protection."
"I might tan."
"I wonder how nude they go on Hawaiian beaches these days?" Duo wondered aloud. "I wouldn't want any tan lines on you, so I think I'd have to get you the least decent sunbathing garment imaginable. The, uh, 'tropical banana sling,' eh? And, of course, be sure to rub sun block into every bit of exposed skin."
Heero was not sure about this sling Duo was describing, but he did want to go to Hawaii. "OK," he said.
Duo smiled wide. "When should we go, in theory? Before or after we get married?"
"Before." Heero had never said they were going to get married. He did love Duo, but 18 seemed a young age for a man to get married. If it was at all common now it was because the war had killed off so many middle-aged men that younger ones had matured too quickly and felt driven to start families to make up for those they had lost.
Something like a family would be nice, but...
"Actually, Howard knows some people down there. He might be able to hook us up. You really want to go?"
"OK, I'll give it thought." He was looking at Heero, at his body. "Now, I really gotta go!" Duo moved to the door with his knapsack. He turned to look over his shoulder. "Look, I..."
Heero looked right at him.
"Nevermind. S'ki!" That backward wave as Duo left the room.
"Luv ya!" Heero called after him, quietly.
"Lena, you're gonna be late if you're just getting into the bathroom now!" Duo laughed, "You don't wanna look in here, Heero's all naked."
"Really?" Relena asked.
The bedroom door clicked securely shut.
The muffled conversation continued for several seconds and then stopped. Heero could faintly hear water running.
Heero quickly pulled on the clothes he had worn before and moved stealthily out of Duo's room and into Relena's room. He went to her closet, acquired the goods he wanted, then moved just as stealthily back to Duo's room, where he got undressed again.
He was covered by a blanket and pretending to sleep when Relena knocked at the door. "Heero?"
The door opened a crack. "I didn't want to leave without saying goodbye. I'm going to school now. Will you be here later?"
"I have things to do," Heero said.
"OK. Koi is in the rear yard. It's enclosed. Should we let him in?"
"I will go get him. Thank you."
"Very well. Goodbye."
"Oh, still having lunch Thursday, tomorrow rather?"
"Yes, if you want to."
"Yes. Tomorrow then. Goodbye, Heero."
Heero did not say goodbye a second time. He waited until Relena had left the house, and then he gathered up his things and went down to get Koi. He let the servants know that he was leaving, got his skateboard from the hall, and took Koi home.
Quatre was gone, but Trowa was asleep in Heero's bed, and he had that sort of look. Heero did not know exactly how to describe it. He looked like a person that had recently had sex and then fallen asleep. It wasn't just the way Trowa looked, it was the bed. Then, his hair did look decidedly tousled. He was smiling. Nothing Heero had ever done had made Trowa smile like that.
Heero wanted to be angry at the state of his room and the smell that was not just Heero, or Koi, or Duo, or even Trowa. But then he saw Trowa wake.
Somehow, expressionless as he usually was, Trowa managed to look contented and apologetic at once. "Hi," he said.
Heero tried to be angry, but he felt his anger slipping away. Instead, he started laughing. Then Trowa started laughing too. Heero held up his right hand for Trowa to five it, but then as Trowa sat up and reached to clap his hand to Heero's, Heero drew his hand away.
"Your hand is clean?" Heero asked.
Trowa made some disgusted, insulted sound, but he drew his hand back and looked at it in the bluish light from the window. Heero switched on the lights. "Yeah. Yeah," Trowa answered slowly.
Heero laughed and held his hand up in front of Trowa again. Trowa gave the high five and then he laughed. Trowa looked around the room then. "Quatre's gone."
Heero nodded. He saw the paper on the dresser. "Aa, he left a note." He lifted the piece of printer paper and handed it to Trowa. Heero saw Trowa smile, more, as he read it.
"Here," Trowa said, "you can read it."
Heero was not certain he wanted to read it, but he took the note. It was written in English script in ink. Heero started to read. There was nothing graphic, just Quatre telling Trowa that he was sorry to leave and that he wanted to see him again very soon. The rest of the note explained how sorry Quatre was for having abused Heero's friendship and his bed and how embarrassed he was and how guilty he felt and how much he wanted to make things up to Heero.
Heero smiled. "So, Quatre is going to let Duo and I go to one of his houses and fuck in his bed?" Heero deadpanned.
Trowa pouted. "He only has two," He said then.
"Two houses. You said that as if there were a lot. Quatre only has two houses."
Heero shrugged. "I do not even have one."
Trowa gave a nod in understanding.
"Do you know very much about clothes?"
"What do you mean?"
"How to pin or sew or whatever people do to be sure that second hand clothes fit?"
"Well, I have kept uniforms and costumes maintained. I can sew a little. It is very mechanical really."
"Did Duo give you some clothes?"
"No." Heero opened his satchel and removed a bundle of clothes. "So, you owe me? For this?" Heero moved his eyes to the bed.
"Yeah, I'll wash the sheets if you want... not that there's anything... on them."
"It smells like Quatre in my bedroom," Heero said flatly.
"Quatre smells good," Trowa said defensively. He understood Heero's point. "I'll open your window. Burn some of your incense."
"Da, da," Heero said quickly, "Trowa, you owe me," Heero said in more suggestive tone.
"So, you will help me with something, secretly?"
"Ah... yeah. What is it?"
"I need help. I need someone else's opinion about some clothes, but I can't ask Duo. I want him... to be surprised when I wear them," Heero explained, whispering by the end. He had resolved to wear the outfit, but he was still a little embarrassed to admit it.
Trowa chewed at his lip, trying not to laugh Heero supposed. "You're going to wear some kinky costume for Duo?"
"I should have asked Midii!"
"No! I'm sorry! I will help you. You don't have to go to her."
"I will get a shower and you can try on the costume and then I will try to help you get it to fit just right."
Heero nodded again.
When Trowa was in the shower Heero stripped the bed, opened the window to the street and lit some, coincidentally on the shelves where the Buddhas were. Heero then lay the clothing he had stolen from Relena's closet on the mattress, two skirts, a sweater, a jacket and a tie. There had been some shirts, but Heero had thought they would be more difficult to fit. He thought an old shirt of Duo's would look appropriate enough.
Heero looked in his closet and found some of the plain white shirts Duo had given him. He also thought to take the old gym shirt Duo had given him from a drawer.
Heero was placing the appropriate garments into winter and summer uniform when Trowa came from the bathroom. He made a curious sound that Heero understood as involuntary arousal of some small level. Trowa cleared his throat with a cough. "Stole them from Relena?"
"Try them on?"
"No. Which do you think looks... more sexy?" Heero looked over the black, white and blue clothing. Winter was a black skirt, white shirt with a black tie decorated with school crest and a blue blazer, similarly adorned with crest; summer was a shorter-sleeved white shirt with the blue skirt and an optional black cardigan. Heero had checked SJC's 'net yearbook and he thought the sweater, which also displayed the school crest, might be optional year round.
"Depends how it fits you, Heero."
"You never saw this," Heero growled. He removed most of his own clothes and then put on Relena's winter uniform. The jacket felt tight, especially about the shoulders.
"You don't wear shorts anymore." Trowa's way of saying he thought Heero's legs rather attractive.
"You can't button the skirt."
"No, I suppose my waist and shoulders are wider than Relena's."
"And you don't have hips," Trowa said, smacking his hands to his own thighs. "But uh..." He walked around Heero to look at his rear. "I think we can shorten the skirt even more?"
"You are just going to wear it for Duo."
Heero looked at his reflection in the mirror. He felt ridiculous. He wondered why he had ever thought this was a good idea. He was wearing Relena's clothes.
"Try the summer. I think summer's going to work!" Trowa suggested enthusiastically.
Heero frowned, but he changed his clothes again. He thought that the blue skirt looked more like a uniform, though the cut was exactly the same. Both were short and pleated.
"No, wait, the long sleeved shirt."
Trowa nodded. "You are going for more naughty than innocent?"
"I do not..."
"I just don't see Duo getting really into you looking like an actual schoolgirl," Trowa said thoughtfully, "Not that I'm trying to picture it..."
Trowa smiled. "I just think that wanting an innocent schoolgirl is a very particular kink, I mean, apart from wanting actual schoolgirls... well, you know what I'm saying. The bad catholic schoolgirl is a fairly common turn on I think. Safer bet."
Heero thought that he liked Duo looking like a proper schoolboy, but he was certain it was not a good idea to tell Trowa that. He supposed he would listen to Trowa's advice. "I do not really want to be 'in drag' I just have to wear the skirt for him."
"That's no fun," Trowa said, amused and not hiding it very well.
Heero pushed his arms into the sweater after he had straightened the shirt. He checked the mirror again. He still felt ridiculous.
"Let me..." Trowa said. His knuckled touched Heero's stomach as he grabbed the front of Heero's shirt. He unbuttoned it quickly, such that Heero tensed and almost pulled away. But, he saw that Trowa was only adjusting the shirt. He tied the tails in a knot just below Heero's ribs and then pulled at the sweater here and there so that it draped as he wanted.
Heero looked in the mirror. That made a difference. He still felt awkward, but now he was sure he also looked sluttish.
"You need stockings," Trowa said flatly.
"I do not want to..."
"You have to. Think of how Duo will react. The more I think of it... well he's got Catholicism pretty well ingrained in his psyche, hasn't he? You dressed like a priest would probably freak him out, but this will probably work for him. Don't you think?"
"I suppose. He only asked me to wear the skirt."
"Yeah, but would he have expected you to agree even to that? I wouldn't have." Trowa laughed softly. "If he asked you to wear the skirt he'd probably be happy with more."
"More," Heero wondered, looking in the mirror. "Do you think... he wants to role play?" Sometimes people did play roles within a sexual context. Heero and Duo had done that, after a fashion, on the phone. It was like playing a role when Duo was his pet, though a little more serious than what Heero was imagining now. Maybe it was enough to wear this outfit. Heero really hoped that Duo appreciated it, because he did not feel very confident about his attire now.
You fantasized about Duo dressed as Princess Leia, Heero told himself, so perhaps this is fairly normal. Trowa will not tell. If Relena figures it out she will not say anything. Just wear the costume and remain open-minded when you Duo sees it.
Trowa was not responding, but Heero supposed his mind had wandered. He was probably wondering if he and Quatre could wear some costumes for each other.
"You are sure about the stockings?"
"And shoes and a garter belt."
"Do you want my advice or not?"
"Look, I'll go shopping with you. It's not like I am suggesting you wear a bra!"
"I am not wearing... one of those!" Heero insisted.
Trowa threw up his hands in surrender. "OK!"
Several hours later they returned to Heero's apartment with various shopping bags. "I am afraid the phone will ring and Duo will be mad at me again. He will say someone saw me in the costume fetish department at the Sex House with you and so I must be cheating on him."
Trowa shook his head sadly and then sank into one of the living room chairs to sigh at the gifts he had bought for Quatre.
Heero's phone rang and for a second Heero really believed it was Duo, ready to yell at him. Nothing had happened of course, but Heero had never been interested in Vero either, and Duo had been ready to believe Heero was with him.
It was not Duo on the phone, it was Eric. "Heero, I have a lead on the ring you left here. We may have identified a previous owner."
"It was stolen then," Heero said quietly.
"No. No evidence of that anyway. We may be able to establish the whereabouts of the ring circa 1879."
"It really is that old?"
"I believe so. I will show you what I have tomorrow. You are still available?"
Heero had that sense of being flirted with again. "I will see you tomorrow," he answered slowly.
Heero went to the shop within the English Quarter the next morning, taking Koi with him. Eric waved to him from the side counter and Heero approached. Eric smiled as he slid a small flocked box across the glass countertop.
Heero took the box and flipped it open. Duo's ring was inside. It looked cleaner and brighter than before. "It looks beautiful," Heero said.
"Twelve thousand Esdees."
"The estimated value of this ring. It seems to have belonged to an English poet named Dartmoor. Devon Dartmoor. Look here." Eric swiveled the terminal and Heero saw what appeared to be an enlargement of a painting showing a man's hand resting on the head of a walking stick; on the ring finger was the heart-cut ruby set in the silver crown and hands. It was the same ring, painted in some detail. "This is a portrait of Dartmoor dated at 1879. The ring is likely not much older than that, though the stone may be slightly older than the setting, as I suggested."
Twelve thousand. Not fabulously expensive, but much more than Heero had expected. Much more than he had paid. He typed at the keys, bringing up the larger picture. It showed a youthful man seated in a chair, his left hand resting on a cane. He resembled Duo. The man did not actually look like Duo, but he reminded Heero of Duo somehow. Maybe it was the way his smile was captured in paint. One did not often see smiles like that in old portrait paintings.
The ring, on Devon's hand, was facing inward. "It is a wedding ring, then?"
"I looked up Dartmoor. There was no mention of a marriage. I found some of his poetry archived. The portrait is in the Hermitage. That's in Saint Petersburg. It's unsigned and unattributed."
"The painter is unknown?"
"It was not uncommon. Portrait painters were in some cases only as appreciated as photographers in shopping mall studios. They were not known by name."
You do not smile like that for a stranger, Heero thought.
"Dartmoor died in Danzig. I could not find out anything more about him or the ring after that."
"Gdansk." If he died when it was Danzig then the ring's trail, as many things, had likely been lost in those wars.
"You have a receipt for me?"
Eric gave a nod then turned the terminal. He took a plastic envelope from beneath the counter. "I printed up hardcopies of the analysis, provenance and research sources." The receipt was printed for Heero.
Heero presented his card and Eric quickly scanned it so he might draw the cost of his work from Heero's account. Heero looked at the ring again. It was very special looking.
Heero took his card, envelope and ring and thanking Eric, left the shop with Koi in time to meet Relena at Romeo's for lunch.
Relena had not yet arrived and so Heero was shown to their table to wait for her. Koi crawled beneath the table and lay down. Relena arrived shortly after, removing hat and sunglasses as she walked to their table in a dimly lit section of the floor.
Heero stood as Relena was seated and then sat down again after Relena. "Konnichi wa," Relena said and Heero had a bad feeling. He was not sure he wanted to hear what Relena wanted to talk about.
"I think I will just have a salad," Relena said idly.
Relena usually ate quite substantial food, and it worried Heero more that Relena was eating light. She was nervous about something.
"Are you OK?" Heero whispered across the table.
Relena grinned. "Let's order."
Heero agreed with a nod, but he remained suspicious. Relena ordered a green salad and Heero decided to try their teriyaki chicken. Heero followed Relena's example in ordering wine with lunch, but he told himself he would only drink the one glass.
Relena toyed with her silverware as they waited for their food and Heero grew tired of waiting to know what was causing her to be so nervous. "You should just tell me what is on your mind," Heero said firmly.
"We are close, aren't we... I mean," she shook her head, "Not in a romantic way, but... almost as if you were my brother."
"I do not know about that. You have a brother."
"Yes. A brother I barely know and who is on Mars. You understand him, don't you?"
"I think so," Hero answered cautiously.
"I can't talk to my mother about this..."
That is bad, Heero thought.
"And Milliard is... distant in many ways."
"You are like the closest thing I have to family here, besides Duo, and I do not feel like Duo is the right person to say this to."
"Relena. What is it?"
"Heero, could you pretend you are like my brother? Tell me honestly, if... if you can approve of me."
"Of course I approve of you..." But there was something else, Heero thought. Did it have to do with her recent emotional troubles? "You are a good person."
Heero lifted his glass of water and sipped.
"I am planning to loose my virginity tomorrow night."
Heero choked, breathed water. And then felt it coughed back into his throat. He fought through the most unpleasant sensation and gasped for a breath of air.
"Heero! Are you OK?" Relena hissed.
Heero took several slow breaths and then looked up at Relena. "I should not have tried to drink water until you had given my your news."
"With whom?" Heero asked, noticing the rough tone of his voice as he spoke. It was not from choking. He did feel protective of Relena. Perhaps that was what she meant by 'like a brother.'
Relena smiled weakly. "Adin."
Heero cleared his throat. "You are planning to have sex with Adin Barnet on your Prom night?" he whispered.
Relena nodded, face blushing.
"And you want to know if I approve?"
"I don't love him," Relena said simply. She lowered her eyes. "I think that I will go through with it all the same. I do not want to wait until I am in love."
She felt like she would never be in love. Somehow, Heero sensed that. "Do you feel... pressured?"
Relena shook her head. "No. I just want to do it. I need... something." He could barely hear her.
Part of Heero did not want to continue the conversation, but the rest of him understood that Relena was troubled and needed honest advice from someone she trusted to look out for her best interests. Heero took in a deep breath. "Did you promise him already?"
"No! He doesn't know."
Heero nodded. "But if you offer... he wants you."
"He is a good friend to you?"
"He knows how you have been feeling lately? You trust him, and Duo trusts him? He knows you are not in love with him?"
"I like him, Heero. Yes, Adin knows."
"I do not like to think about it. But, you are not mine, Relena. You are your own person. You are not anyone's doll or puppet. I trust you to take care of yourself. I think that your brother could tolerate Adin. But, you have to be careful."
"I meant, with your feelings. What if you do it and you decide you are falling in love? Will he love you back? Or, if he falls in love with you, can you handle that happening again?"
"That is the risk that everyone takes, Heero."
"I know," Heero whispered.
There was silence.
"Maybe you should," Heero coughed, "Not go all the way?"
Relena laughed softly. "Save something for when I am in love?"
Heero nodded, but really he just did not like the concept of anyone fucking Relena. Heero sighed. "You are human," he said, reassuring himself of this. He thought a lot of Relena, perhaps too much. "This is part of being human. You will just do what you feel."
"You don't think it is wrong?"
"You are of age, so it is not technically illegal on any level. Whether it is moral, I cannot say. You may have beliefs that I do not. Do you think it is wrong?"
"No, not wrong..."
"You are worried that you are reacting to an artificially sharp need? That your state of mind is not one that you should be making important decisions?"
"Do I sound rational?"
"I think so..."
"Sorry. I have this image, it keeps coming into my mind. I am trying not to see it."
"I just have to think of something else." He kept seeing it, the repeated powerful thrusting and Relena enjoying it. He really needed to think of something else.
"I know that Duo is really working to make tomorrow special for you."
"He is sorry that you won't see him until we go to Prom, but he's been very busy. Not just school and work. I think he's had appointments to have his hair done and... things like that."
"He is?" Heero asked again.
Relena nodded. "He really is romantic, Heero. I knew that he was. Duo wants everything to be perfect. He will be getting dressed at my house tomorrow. Shall I have the car pick you up?"
"That would be acceptable." Heero wondered if Duo had actually asked Relena to tell Heero about his preparations. Heero had not seen Duo since he left Relena's house the other morning. "I have my clothes prepared... and I got Duo a gift."
"Do you want to see?"
Heero took the small box from his pocket and turned it toward Relena. He opened it then, so that Relena could see the ring.
"Heero!" she gasped.
There was a sound, a familiar sound against the chatter and noise of silverware. The whir of a camera. "Shit!"
Relena looked around, also seeming to have heard the sound. "Don't worry. Heero. I'll make sure Duo knows what they are going to say is not true."
"But," she looked at Heero again. "How did you know about the Dartmoor Claddagh?"
"How do you know about it?"
"Duo did a report on Dartmoor's work last semester. It did not go over too well with Sister Pat. You know how she is. He used quotes from Dartmoor's poems and research on his life to argue that Dartmoor was the lover of some painter and that all his love poems were about a man."
"You mean... Duo knows who Dartmoor is?"
Relena nodded. "But if you didn't know? Heero... How did you know to have that ring made like the Dartmoor Claddagh?"
"I did not have it made. This ring is antique and the appraiser believes it is the ring that belonged to Dartmoor. I only found out this morning, though I bought the ring for Duo when we were in Moscow."
Relena was speechless. Her mouth opened and for half a minute no words formed. "But... that's... you're giving Duo the Dartmoor Claddagh on his Prom night?"
"That was my plan..."
"He will not like it?"
"Heero, he already loves you, but he's going to love you more! Even if it was a reproduction, even if you didn't know, it's a gorgeous ring! Heero, he's going to... explode with joy!"
Heero laughed. He hoped Duo could wait until they were in private and he was out of the kimono.