Disclaimer: This is fanfiction based on the characters and universe of Gundam Wing.

Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
Chapter 66

There was some manner of Russian techno music playing within the gym as Heero walked from the unisex changing area in his exercise clothing, which just happened to include a green tank and black shorts. He noticed a woman staring at him, in fact, he nearly walked right into her, she was so intent on looking that she forgot to keep walking.

"Have we met?" she asked.

Heero realized how familiar he must look, having chosen these garments rather subconsciously when leaving his apartment. Then, Heero realized that they had met. "I hired you to give my boyfriend a bath," Heero said quietly. "Dauphine."

She raised a hand to her mouth to cover her gasp. "Oh! Yuy-sama! I am sorry. I did not know it was you."

"Just call me Heero. Are you here to work? I thought you were only here weekends."

Her brow wrinkled.

"I have a good memory," Heero offered. He thought he had scared her by knowing her schedule.

"No, I started school in the summer semester to get some of the core level classes out of the way, so I quit my other job. This is closer."

Heero was guessing, but it sounded like she was starting at University several years later than most students and was likely going to a public college. "S4U? I took some classes with them online."

"Yes... Heero."

"It is a good school. So, you are working here for us often, then? Or just using the gym?" He was certain that the last time they had met that Karen or someone on the staff had told Dauphine that Heero was the owner of L Street.

"I work mornings all week so that I can take day and evening classes."

"What's your major?"

"English... probably English Literature."

"Not required to declare," Heero said thoughtfully. "Not a bad language to have." He smirked, knowing how serious his tone had sounded. "Let me know when you get to the Romantic Period. I have a slight interest in that."

"You do?"

"Is this my brother flirting with the employees?"

"What?" Heero turned quickly and saw Midii and Ursula just behind him. Flirting? He looked back toward Dauphine. "Did you think I was flirting?" he whispered.

She smiled.

"That would be very inappropriate," Heero said firmly, "I just meant that my boyfriend has an interest in Romanticism and... I just admire people who are working to further their knowledge. The seeking of knowledge and information is a noble thing."

"Romanticism is more broad that just the writings of the English. I would think that you might understand Romanticism very well, having been a Gundam pilot. Your own story is a romance in the medieval sense. The Romantic Movement touched all civilized parts of the globe in its time, or rather, Western parts." Dauphine bowed apologetically. "Right now we are in a Romantic Period."

"Neo-Romantic?" Heero asked, only slightly stunned that Dauphine knew her subject so well.

"There had already been a New Romantic Period, but certainly this period is Romantic." Dauphine sighed then checked her watch. "Excuse me. I have to shower and get upstairs in time for Sevens."

Heero gave a nod and saw that Dauphine moved past them. "Ursula," he said gently.

"Ohayo," she said, with a small wave.

"I think they have a commuter rush around now," Midii said, noting the emptiness of the gym.

Heero considered that. Sevens must be the time in which people stopped by the brother on their way to work. He did not imagine it was the best way to arrive fresh at work on a Monday morning, but it did not seem like a bad way to start the day in general. He combed his hands through his hair and tried to shake the thought of waking up with Duo.

Nearly two weeks of Duo, and now nothing, since Friday. It was best just to get to work.

"I actually have souvenirs for you both, but I left them at the apartment. I did not expect you would be here, Ursula."

"You were not mistaken. It was my decision to come here with Midii."

"But... why did they let you in the back way?"

Midii laughed, amused by this. "Ursula is really very stealthy. I just know to be quiet and stand downwind." Which was her explanation for surprising Heero here as well.

"Adin has not arrived."

"I have had the rare privilege of witnessing Mr. Barnet in the morning. He is not, as they say, a happy camper."

Heero laughed softly. He had seen Adin in the morning also. "It's like he slept on the tree root every night."

"Hey, I don't think you should call her a tree root!" Midii warned. Then Heero realized whom she meant.

"I do not want to picture that," Heero said.

"Ohio gauzy mouse!" The happy camper called from the entrance near the lockers. The accent was just annoying, "I brought coffee," but seeing how very happy Adin looked and the pink-striped pink thermos really put Heero on edge. "Sorry for the cute thermos," Adin told the girls as they accepted neat white paper cups from his pack.

So, he is sleeping with Relena, is he? Waking up so happy... or...? Does she pack him a thermos of coffee herself or let the servants do it? Then they all know, that Relena has a lover.

"Coffee? Heero?" Adin asked weakly.

Heero knew he was glaring. It just bothered him. He did not want it to, but Relena was such a special, kind person. She was the first person that had really been kind to him and not also expected him to kill people... well, until he had threatened to kill her. But... she was just a special person and...

It did not bother Heero if other girls had sex. It could not be jealousy. Heero took a deep breath and wondered if this was what normal people felt like when their mother began dating.

"Is she happy?" Heero demanded.

"Heero?" Ursula touched his hand gently.

He shook her off.

"Just leave him with me a minute," Adin told them calmly.

Relena was really having sex with Adin now and Heero did not even have Duo there to say, "Hey, why don't you worry about your own lover, Baby." Heero did feel a little better when he imagined Duo being there and having something to say. Duo would probably remind Heero that Adin was a trustworthy young man who was not attracted to Relena for her titles.

Was that not what Relena deserved? Someone who could be attracted to her not for her titles or just because she was famous. Heero had seen them together; it was not purely physical either. He had been OK with this idea before, so it should not bother him.

"Heero, listen. Relena would have told you herself. She just did not want to disturb your vacation."

"She is just special to me," Heero said angrily. "I did not choose for her to be, she just is, so would you please tell me she is happy. Tell me she is happy and mean it!"

"Relena is happy," Adin said.

Heero blinked quickly, took a deep breath and then made himself look at Adin directly. He thought: This man is not afraid of me. Adin was not afraid... because he knew he had not hurt Relena. He was not afraid of Heero at all, but he had been in the past, a little. Adin was only happy and confident. That meant it was love. Heero was pretty sure. He felt his lips quirk into a slight smile. "She is happy?"


"And you are?"

"Da." Adin grinned, eyes low.

"Then... you are lovers?" Heero saw Adin had not answered yet. "You are not such a happy camper only because you held her protectively as she slept?"

Adin laughed loudly. His eyes flashed to Heero. "Lovers," he said, almost smugly, but not enough that it upset Heero.

"Does Duo know?"

"Yeah. Not the details of course! Just that something's happened. We talked to him last night."

Heero had been home by Sunday, but he had spent the day cleaning, buying groceries and just adjusting to his old schedule and environment. He had spoken to Duo briefly over the phone, to thank him for the Holiday List he had put onto the digital pad. Heero was glad that Duo had gotten back to work, even if it meant he could not see him. Duo's work should be important to him. Though, Heero wished Duo had at least been interested in the rumors about Zodiac Tech.

Sometimes Duo's desire not to have as much information as possible really puzzled Heero.

"She liked it?" Heero whispered.


"Relena thought it was OK... what you did?"

"Well, of course, I mean she was doing most of it!" Adin then laughed rather nervously. "I can't tell you any more. She actually said, 'Do not go tell Heero or Duo everything we did.'"

"Seems to agree with you... whatever it was."

Adin shook his head to say he could not tell, but he did speak. "Of course! Not that it was anything like anyone would expect from Relena... but it was Relena!"

"Not what anyone would expect?" Heero asked himself. What could she have done? "She let you be the first, Adin. That is very important to some people."

"Hey, I let her take..." he paused. "That is really all I am saying!"

"You were not a virgin."

Adin laughed, nervously. "Can't say," he said in sing-song.

"But she is happy?" Heero asked as he saw Adin beginning to walk away from him.

"Call her yourself if you want. Let her tell you all about how great I was; I don't care. She'll hurt me if I tell, though, and she's stronger than she looks!"

Yes, she was very special, Heero thought. He would have to call Relena tonight. He worried about her, even with Adin to take care of her. Then, perhaps Relena did have other friends, girls, whom she confided in and who gave her relationship advice. Maybe Heero should just call her. If friends like Dorothy, Duo and Adin were the ones giving her advice then Heero worried.

He realized, as he made his way to the mats, that this was probably one of his more male traits: keeping this seeming double standard and wanting Relena to be pure, but feelings were not chosen, just felt.

Koi was lying on the mats, chewing on a faux bone Heero had given him. Ursula was kneeling beside the dog in her usual casual clothing. When she was not at work, she often wore sweaters and designer jeans.

"Are you going to teach Koi to fight?" Midii asked, looking down at Koi as she sipped coffee.

"No," Heero said flatly. "I think that would be cruel... to teach him to fight. He is getting better at Hide and Seek. He is getting big enough to learn to traverse ladders or open doors."

"I think he does look bigger. He must have been quite young when you got him."

"I think he will be his adult size by the end of the year. I could ask Quatre when he was born, I suppose."

"Quatre," Midii said. She straightened and looked toward Heero. "How was your vacation?"

Heero had corresponded with Midii while away, more than anyone else, but it had mainly been business matters. He smiled. "It was great."

"I like your color," Ursula said. "In the hair too."

"Yeah, now you look more like you could be her brother," Midii laughed. "You do look pretty good, Heero, I have to admit."

"We might have really seen him glowing if we had caught him a few days ago," Adin said.

"You want to gang up on the boss?" Heero asked. "Let's go." He took a few steps back across the exercise mats and beckoned Adin and Midii toward him with both hands.

Midii laughed, a low smug sound. "You never tried fighting me before." She rolled her head and then cracked her knuckles in preparation to fight.

Heero made a slight bow to her, while keeping Adin in sight. He was putting his coffee and pack down at the edge of the padded flooring. "You should watch out for her. No really special moves, but she is just vicious."

"You think I'm vicious?" Midii asked Adin seriously, but Heero did not think she really disagreed. She shrugged then. "I slept with a whole string of sensei." She winked at Heero.

Heero did not doubt that Midii had sexual experience, but the longer he knew her, the more he suspected that she was much more innocent than she led others to believe. It was as if she felt that giving herself a reputation as sexually cold and predatory would keep her from being taken advantage of. Heero did not understand it.

"Just remember not to underestimate me because I'm female. I'm not afraid to fight you."

"I have no such problems with women. Just remember we are sparring." He flashed a smile."

"Yeah, and try not to kill me either. We're supposed to be on the same side," Adin told Midii.

"I'll distract him and you strike," Midii said.

Heero was just about to point out how foolish it was to say that in front of him when Midii kicked him in the side with her booted foot. "Baka," Heero said to himself. She had distracted him and struck.

"Paying attention now?" Midii asked assuming a defensive stance Heero recognized.

Adin was then coming at him with his usual speed, which was impressive. "I feel like I'm playing a video game with this music," He laughed.

Heero caught Adin's leg as he attempted to land a kick and used his grip to throw Adin to the floor. "Like my special move?"

"Did you use so much witty banter when you were fighting mobile suits?" Midii demanded as she attacked with a series of rapid punches.

That question really did not need a reply. Heero blocked all of her strikes, with a little effort, and kept some of his attention on Adin.

Predicting the moves of two opponents was more difficult than on, but Heero managed it. Midii and Adin had been training together, but only as opponents. They could not reliably read each other enough to compliment each other's attacks. Effectively they could not attack in unison and Heero was only fighting one of them at any time.

They were a little better when Heero was on the offensive. They knew how to cooperate in their mutual defense better than they could attack together.

Finally Heero called the fight, saying it was a draw. He thought he could have beaten them if he really tried, if there was a real objective in question. As it was, he was not really trying to hurt them, and even though all three were taking hits and likely bruised, Heero could not keep both of them down for more than a few seconds before one recovered just enough to attack.

"You fight well," Heero told Midii as he stretched his arms. "You wouldn't wear that earring on field assignments? It seems important to you, but it would hurt you if I ripped it out."

Midii touched the mangled cross that hung from one ear. "I would take it off if I had to fight," She agreed. She cleared her throat. "It is disadvantageous to have identifying jewelry or marks," she said seriously.

Heero touched the ring hanging from his neck. "It is OK. I did not take this off." Heero laughed softly and rubbed his jaw. "I might have a bit of a bruise here for it."

"Always hurt the ones you love," Adin said quietly.

"OK, now see if I can fight the two of you," Midii suggested.

"I only take on loosing battles."

Adin laughed loudly at this. It had been a sort of joke, though it was also true.

"So Adin and I are supposed to be the dishonorable ones for ganging up on you?"

Heero shook his head. "I was a match for the both of you. It was just a training exercise anyway."

"Yeah, if we got in a fight, I'd expect you to back me up, if you're able, instead of nobly watching me get my ass kicked," Adin told Midii.

"No senseless dueling on the job. We get paid to make sure people are safe from real villains, and they usually do not have a lot of honor."

"So, do I get assignments now?" Adin asked.

Heero smiled. "Yes. You do."

Midii said that they had some business to go over. Heero said that he wanted to get some weight training in, so Midii and the others followed Heero to the machine he wanted to use. Midii set up their computers on the bench of one type of machine while Heero checked the resistance on his.

This one was like a sort of chair with weights attached. When seated with arms and legs properly positioned within the mechanism a resistance was placed on all directions of movement the machine allowed. Heero adjusted the resistance levels, checked that the various moving parts were all at their zero point and then seated himself.

Midii straddled the bench as she moved her fingers over the keys of her mobile and Adin began adjusting another nearby machine for himself.

Heero heard some vocalizations and saw that Ursula had some hand guards on and was attacking a bag suspended from the ceiling.

Midii began going over the recent business while Heero started his weight training. She confirmed that the report had been submitted to the cruise line and full payment had been received from them. There were a few information security contracts outstanding and Midii filled Heero in on the details of each assignment.

They did not anticipate having to do field work for these contracts, but Heero wanted to send Adin out to one company just to see if he could get anything from their offices that would risk the security of their data. He had done the same thing himself on a previous contract with a Bank in New London.

Heero explained to Adin what he should do and said that on the day Adin should do the job Heero would give him the gear he would need and make sure he had all appropriate identification he would need should he get caught spying.

When they had discussed their business Heero took a break from his workout to get a bottle of water from his bag and have a drink. "How are things going with Hilde? With their contract, I mean."

Midii nodded quickly. "Good. She has accepted my advice and I have actually seen their presentation."

"I saw the mecha."

"I did not actually see that, but I saw the simulations Hilde and the others prepared for their presentation and I read most of what they will submit to the MCP."

"Valentina Tereshkova is on the council that will vote to award the contract. So is Relena."

"I heard. It's a matter of public knowledge. Also Gwinter Septem and a Representative from one of the districts on Earth, whom I have not heard of before, Seth Naquib."

"I do not know Seth," Heero said, "But I have heard of the Naquib family. They have holdings in the Middle East."

"I think there is just the four of them."

"Yes. Lu Ivanova had heard some rumors about a Zodiac Tech project but only rumors."

"Do you think it will be one is the tie-breaker? You think this Naquib would be inclined to vote for Wadjet if they had a half-decent mecha? I am sure they would be submitting a proposal. Their business does seem to be competing with ZT."

"I am not sure. Ideally all of them would vote for the proposal they believed best."

Midii laughed. "I wouldn't have thought you an idealist!"

"I am not. Still, I have no reason to doubt they are not all good people at this point. They might be inclined to favor one group, but end up voting their conscience. I know Relena would, even if it meant hurting Duo. I know Duo would want Relena to vote for the proposal that would be best for the MCP."

Midii shrugged.

Heero went back to his workout. "You might think Tereshkova would be inclined to vote for Zodiac, because her present lover has some past affiliations with those people."

"Current supplier of components to the industry," Midii said. "Duo could even have bought from them."

Heero nodded. "Duo helped catch the assassin that was targeting her, but she probably does not know that."

"She is a Colonial though."

"So is Gwinter."

"Maybe Septem could be the swing vote."

"It could be any of them. In any case, it would be insane to attack or sway council members."

"Well, maybe insane to kidnap Relena for a vote, but swaying votes is a matter of life. There's a long tradition in swaying elections of all kinds. Do any of these people have kids that could be threatened, skeletons in the family closet? Interns they shouldn't have fucked?"

Heero laughed softly and let his limbs return the weight machine to the zero point. "They might, but is that work you want to do without hope of payment?"

Midii considered this. Of course, they were talking about learning how the council might be swayed so that they could prevent it. Doing that took a mind that could focus on how they might sway the election and the ability to neutralize the risks. Heero was not really sure they had the ability to neutralize risks if they did detect them.

"These people are all somewhat involved in politics. They know what they are doing and what they risk every day. They do not need us."

"Then it will be my personal project," Midii said, "But you'll do some work for me if I ask, won't you?"

"No field work," Heero said flatly, and then purposely softened his voice, "Just tell me what I need to search for and I'll see what I can come up with."

"It's good karma."

"Did you think I was doing it just for you?"

Midii smiled. Mostly Heero was doing it for her. Good karma as it was, he really wanted to be uninvolved in something so close to Duo's work. The worst thing that could happen would be for Duo to win the contract only to be accused of winning dishonestly because his boyfriend was suspected of vote tampering.

It was later in the morning by then and the employees from upstairs were coming down to shower or work out between Sevens and Lunch. The monitors in front of the treadmills, stationary bikes, boats and skiers were powered on and various infotainment and talk shows. The Russian techno music that had been playing was switched to Latin Dance-pop.

Ursula said goodbyes and excused herself to go upstairs for her weekly massage appointment.

"I am going to get a shower now," Heero announced quietly.

"Do you need anything else?" Midii asked as Heero was standing from the weight machine.

Heero considered that. "Is there a day you and Ursula will be free for dinner?"

"Most nights, if it is not too early. The beginning of the week is better for us both." Even as Heero was responding with a nod Midii continued. "What do you think I will be able to pilot a shuttle between colonies on my own?"

"When you pass the test to get a legal license."

"Oh." Midii first frowned, then laughed. "I thought we'd just make one up," she said to Heero as she raised her head from her mobile.

"A false ID is one thing, a false aerospace pilot license is just dangerous. If you have found new motivation, I could take you out for lessons this week. I have been licensed long enough to accompany you."

"Was your first license legitimate?"

"False name, but I earned the license, yes. I was ten, I think."

"No age restrictions?"

"So. You just have to pass the test. It is actually better to learn just prior to, or during the teenage years; same with mobile suits. It has to do with brain development. This is why the Specials sometimes graduated cadets at thirteen and had officers younger than twenty."

"They were really all that young?" Midii asked. She lowered her voice, "I thought it was just us outside the organized military."

"Aa, in OZ also. Many Alliance soldiers disliked the Specials. You see, military pilots have a reputation for being elitist and arrogant as it is."

"But they must actually need to be pretty special to pilot fighters and mobile suits."

"I did not say it was an underserved reputation." Heero smirked. "Imagine how much worse it was for them that the mobile suit pilots were so young. Peacecraft was quite shocked that I was so young, but he was a Colonel at nineteen. Of course, all of that changed with the revolution. OZ pretty much replaced the Alliance throughout most of the Sphere and they allowed willing Alliance soldiers and officers to join them. That greatly increased the average age of their members, though on average mobile suit pilots remained young."

"And when they split again?"

"Most of the younger soldiers that had been Specials continued to follow Treize, as they always had. It was the older soldiers who went over to Romefeller, though previously Romefeller had secretly backed OZ. They had also largely supplied the Alliance with mecha and the older soldiers who had been in the Alliance had never entirely understood Treize's ideals or been fully indoctrinated in OZ's teachings, so they had nothing against the use of Dolls."

"So in all those battles, with mobile suits, it was always young people dying. People like us?"

"Yes," Heero said seriously.

"I thought it was difficult what I did. It was hard to do, even for my family. And then they all went and lost their lives to the war and all I had done for them meant nothing!"

Heero touched a hand to Midii's shoulder. "It does not mean anything to sacrifice so that others can go on living. All you have to decide is weather their lives at that time were worth indirectly causing others to die. What they did with their lives afterward is on their souls, ne?"

"Hai," Midii said quietly.

"It is easy to feel guilt in retrospect, but you must consider what you knew at the time you made the decision. Mistakes happen in war, and the best thing to do when we make mistakes is go on living and make sure we do not make those same mistakes again. That is what the good and innocent people who were hurt would want, because good people do not wish for others to die, no matter their sins."

"A pretty good sermon for someone who isn't religious," Midii laughed softly.

"What matters is that my audience believes in it, not that I do. It is true. Even if I would not have thought of things in terms of souls and sins."


Heero cleared his throat and then spoke up. "Adin, do you know a day when Relena would be free for a later dinner or should I call her myself?"

"She has a pretty open schedule now, though she still keeps office hours, just to get through all the mail asking her to make speeches or attend some charity event. And she is still working with the MCP project, though she is no longer Minister."

"That was always a separate position. It was a project she went to the ESUN to acquire funding for, a project she came up with."

"So, are you inviting us to dinner?" Adin asked.

"I think I would like to have a get-together at my apartment," Heero confessed, "But I would like to determine which day would be best for everyone I wish to invite. I suppose it would be acceptable to see only a smaller group of friends and then see others later."

"He's really making progress if he's hosting his own dinner parties," Midii said. She was talking to Heero and just being rather mocking by referring to him in the third person.

"I have some things to do today. I will call you regarding dinner, if that is acceptable?"

Midii and Adin both agreed that it was and so Heero picked up his things then patted his leg for Koi to follow him. He used the water showers in the communal area. Heero felt very safe being exposed there. H sensed in a general way that the employees of the brothel had a most objective and professional attitude toward nudity and sex and thus Heero felt they paid even less attention than people might in the Preventers' locker rooms.

It was more difficult to convince Koi to stay in the water than in a closest stall, but Heero managed with a few firm commands and the dog did not need harsher reminders to obey. He was really quite well-behaved.

When Heero had dressed in more professional clothing, being a pair of black dress pants and a white shirt. He shouldered his satchel and led Koi out the side entrance. They walked around to the front of the building and then entered again on the first floor, through the main entrance.

Heero saw the waiting room with its elegant frosted glass cubicles and island of potted plants where clients met with the reception staff to obtain memberships or make appointments, or to wait for their scheduled time. Miss Hitachi was leaving the room. Heero moved toward the room, but a pair of security guards stopped him.

One of them was female and she spoke, "Sir, if you are not here for the stores, may I suggest you visit the desk first."

"I dyed my hair since I was last here, but I am certain I am cleared for this floor."

"I recognized him," the second guard told his partner; "Sir," he added with a nod to Heero.

Just then Karen reached them. She immediately hugged Heero and then tousled his hair with her left hand. "Heero-kun! You went back to brown. Where have you been? You look gorgeous."

"It is just a tan," Heero said softly. "I had a vacation in Hawaii."

"Kawaii," she cooed and then, quite suddenly, assumed a more professional attitude. She looked to the guards. "Heero is our landlord and owner. You should consider him one of the administrative staff. No honorifics, but do show respect."

"Yes ma'am!" The guards said together. At a glance from Karen they left to watch the door.

"They are good kids," she said quietly. Her red-brown eyes focused on Heero. "Were you looking for someone? If you ever want to have a break the waiting room is a good place. Very pleasant, and we have terminals with free 'net access in each cubicle."

"And a list of recommended pay sites we get kickbacks from as a startup?"

"Of course." She smiled. "Are you here to use your office then? Finished in the gym?"

Heero smiled then. Karen had the building completely in control. She knew who was here and what was going on. "Came to do some shopping, but I saw you and I thought I would say hello."

"Konnichi wa."

"Any advice on the costume shop?"

Karen pinched his cheek. It hurt a little. Heero felt flushed. He could not believe this woman was handling him like a little boy. "I am grown. I can buy a costume if I want to."

Karen smacked Heero's cheek, lightly and playfully in manner. "I know you are grown. I know what you like. I make a point of tracking celebrity gossip should one show up and have needs for us to fulfill. And, you did hire one of our associates." She smiled. "Duo Maxwell. I hear he has a lovely voice."

"I am aware of his membership in the therapist's guild."

"And just between us, I know about the bondage," she whispered.

"Yes." Heero found himself confirming all her suspicions.

"Not something that surprises me about boys who were in and out of military prisons."

"Aa." It was amazing. She really did have an understanding of what people desired. Or, Heero was much less discreet than he hoped.

Karen studied Heero for a long moment. "He likes you to dress as a girl for him?"

"How do you do that?" Heero's voice was full of awe.

"There is nothing special about it. I just have a lot of experience in the business. And I know some people who know your lover."

Heero frowned. She probably did. He made a small cough to clear his throat. "What of the matter I asked you about before? The dominatrixes?"

"I have had some applicants. No decisions yet."

"Decided to hire from outside?"

"We have internal and external applicants. I am considering both groups equally, rather my decision will be based on their qualifications."

"That is good." Heero felt a little more confident now they had changed the subject. "He sometimes wears things that I would like, but I think that he has such fun choosing his own clothing that I only need to buy the costumes that I will wear for him."

"Do you role play?"

Heero was a little more wary that time and only gazed skeptically at Karen.

"It's a lot of fun," she said, assuming that Heero had played roles, "I've seen a good costume and a bit of role-play save a failing marriage more than once." She moved toward the costume shop and Heero followed.

"I do not know if I believe that! If two people are having such problems that they are considering divorce how can a costume help?"

"Someone your age would likely be surprised that a lot of marriages fail because the partners involved simply neglect to have mutually satisfying sexual encounters with each other. They say they are stressed with work or children or finances or they say that their spouse has gained weight or changed, but many times those are symptoms of not having good sex, at least as much as the failure to have sex is a symptom of the other."

"Vicious cycle."

"Exactly. Sometimes a last desperate effort to try something new to heat things up again makes people remember what they saw in each other to begin with and how comforting they can be to each other in the face of life's issues."

"It really does sound like therapy when you put it that... way?" Heero nearly trailed off. They were in the costume show then and there were sexy garments everywhere, things to fit men on one side of the shop and thing for women on the other. This clearly included garments designed for cross-dressing or impersonating the opposite sex. There were tough-looking pieces of clothing made of leather, faux leather, or latex. They also had very frilly and lacy clothing.

"Sex isn't just procreation. Sex is communication, art, exercise and game as well."

Heero rolled his eyes. "I rather like it." When he focused on Karen again she was eyeing him with one brow raised.

"You are being a safe grown up little boy, aren't you?"

"Yes!" Heero hissed quietly. "Are you like this with all your past clients and bosses or is it just me?"

"Just you," she said, then spanked him squarely across the buttocks with the flat of her hand.

Heero hopped toward the counter and then turned over his shoulder to fix a glare on Karen. She only laughed at him. She and Heero approached the counter at the same time. Another woman, who seemed younger than Karen was standing on the other side of the counter. Like Karen, she wore an outfit that qualified as a suit but which was tailored to expose cleavage and show the shape of her body.

"This is Anna," Karen said by way of introduction. "This is Heero."

"A pleasure," Anna said. It was a colonial accent and Heero could not mentally file her as belonging to a specific ethnic group, though she had pale skin and dark hair. She only seemed Colonial. Karen also seemed Colonial, except that Heero found he recognized the Japanese in her.

"A pleasure," Heero returned subconsciously.

"He needs a costume."

"Excuse me. I can speak for myself," Heero said, as politely as he could manage. He tried to smile at Anna. "I require at least one costume, to fit myself, which must be very femme and girly. The kind of thing that guys might wish a girl to wear. The first costume must be... I believe it would be called a French Maid. I must have it within a month, but I do not require any costumes before that time. Can you help me?"

"Yes. I understand. You have specific requirements," Anna said calmly, "May I ask you a few questions to be certain of your needs?"

"Yes," Heero answered, noticing Karen take a phone from her pocket and move a few steps away to take a call.

Anna brought several binders from beneath the counter. She gestured for Heero to follow and so he moved along the counter, which was made of clear acrylic to display small accessories within. Anna showed Heero that each of the four binders contained neatly indexed photos of models wearing costumes and that each costume had a bar code that when scanned would bring up the item in Anna's inventory control database.

Heero selected the binder labeled 'Feminine Costumes for Men' and began to flip through the pages. The first section was flagged as 'Classic' and included various cheerleader, nurse, schoolgirl and maid costumes. Heero soon figured out that there were many variations of each type of costume, ranging in price and quality as well as size.

"Do you have a price range or a level of quality in mind?"

Heero sighed looking at boys in schoolgirl costumes with skirts of various length and style. "Aa. Good quality. Though, it does not need to have been worn by an actual maid."

"We get requests for that," Karen spoke up, holding her hand over the mouthpiece rather than hitting mute. Heero disliked that. He felt people should use the technological conveniences given them. Respect your elders, he reminded himself, be polite.

Heero flipped to the maid costumes. Again, these were all specifically designed for men to wear and were sized and tailored differently than women's clothing. Some did include false breasts and were meant to be worn with these. "None of these," Heero said, pointing them out, "I do not wish to go that far." He continued at a whisper. "I'll wear a bra... just for show."

"Here," Anna said. She showed Heero another page that showed a young man in women's undergarments, or rather garment designed to approximate that look while accounting for wider shoulders and ribs, narrow hips and very external genitals.

"They really make these things? There are than many people who would wear them?" Heero asked. Honestly, he had not thought finding the costume would be this easy. "Last time my friend and I just found real clothes and altered them."

"Yes, it is very common."

Heero was not sure if that was true, or if Anna was trained to reassure all customers that their particular kink was entirely understandable and common. It did not matter. Duo liked Heero and he liked to see him in girly costumes. Heero had chosen the costumes as his signal for Duo. This shop had more costumes than he could ever wear. "And they are all currently available?" Heero asked.

"We would have to scan them for me to check that status. In theory if the costumes are discontinued by the manufacturer I would have removed then from the binder, but mistakes can happen." Anna presented Heero with a scanning pen.

Heero gazed down at the pages of not-really-girl-underwear. "I decided so... I may as well go all the way. This will work out better for everyone involved than that underwire thing."

"My sympathy," Anna said casually.

Heero laughed. She must be good at putting customers at ease. Heero began scanning. Some of these, he thought, in case I wear the schoolgirl thing again. And these look sexy. Black lace sounds like something Duo would like. Ah, but they have velvet!

This was going to take careful consideration. Heero did not want to spend too much money. But the more he thought about it, and the way Duo had reacted the last time Heero had dressed up, Heero felt very excited and eager to obtain costumes that he could wear for Duo.

Hmmn, Heero thought, if I get white cotton to be a good schoolgirl then I can get black velvet... no, I will get black lace and red velvet! Duo would like that! There must be some kind of red costume to wear with it. But silk sounded good too. What the Hell, they were not all that expensive. Heero could get green silk and blue satin. Or, should the satin be white and the cotton baby blue? Yes! As far as he was going, Heero was not going to wear pink. It was just...

When he thought about Duo being the one to see him and Duo discovering what Heero was wearing... Heero just felt... well he just felt sexy and hot!

"Is there something that a girl is that sounds Irish?" Heero asked Anna.

"Irish," she repeated. "I am not sure. WE might possibly have some type of celtic and medival clothing in the women's catalog and we do custom alterations.

"I am not sure that is what I need. It has to have... that naughty, girly quality."

"Short skirts?"

"Yes," Heero admitted.

"A fairy? I am sure we must have some kind of fairy costumes."

"Green ones?" The perfect thing to wear with girly green silk underwear.

"Yes, as I recall." Anna turned the page.

They had green faerie, but these all looked... busty. Heero shook his head.

"Let me see..." Anna said. She flipped though. "Here, what about this Forest Maiden? Would you at least prefer a top like this?" It was a small, cropped shirt that laced up the front.

"The top is better..." Heero stopped as his eyes fell on the opposite page. "Little Red Riding Hood! I totally need that!"

"This one?" Anna asked. It was so naughty and so... kawaii. It was even made of velvet.


"And you still require a green fairy costume?"

Heero nodded excitedly.

"I can make you a top like this out of a more sparkly fabric, if you like the other parts of one of these costumes?"

Heero flipped the pages again and pointed out the one he wanted. Within a short while Heero had selected enough costumes to last him until the end of the year. He would need to recycle the schoolgirl and he had counted only one per month, not including October, but that was probably enough. Duo would probably want to help Heero choose a Halloween costume for October; he had indicated that he wished to dress in costumes and go to a parade and a party in his Holiday List. It was the day Duo celebrated his birthday also, and Heero had not been able to decide so far in advance whether he should wear a feminine costume for him.

Still, four new costumes were likely more than Duo expected. Heero planned to save them all for special occasions. Of course, once he had worn one, if he happened to feel in a certain mood, he could always wear that costume again. Heero was certain that Duo would not mind. These costumes, on Heero, should really blow his mind.

Heero turned around and looked at Koi. "How do you feel about colorful ribbons and accessories, Koi?" Heero asked brightly.

The dog seemed to raise one brow in question.

on to chapter 67

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