"I can't believe I'm doing this," I muttered, running my hands nervously down my soft, dove colored skirt. I also couldn't believe how nervous I was... I'm a prosecuting attorney for the Dorlian-Peacecraft law firm; I look meaner and nastier people in the eyes than a social worker for Christ's sake. And yet, here I am, sweating bullets because I agreed to pose as wife to one Duo Maxwell so that he and his male lover, who happened to be my best friend, could adopt. I knew the implications that came with agreeing to this scheme but when I had seen the hopeful adoration in the eyes of Heero Yuy and Duo Maxwell when they'd told me they wanted a family and I was their only hope... I was won before they were through convincing me. I could deny those two nothing. Still... "I can't believe I'm --" I broke off when a strong arm snagged me around the waist from behind and swung me into a loose hug.
"Yes, you can," Duo claimed, his chin brushing the top of my head as he spoke. His voice was breathy with excitement and he released me, bending to smack a kiss against my cheek. "Here, I've got something for you," he moved in front of me and held out his hand, opening it palm up. I looked at the contents for a moment, blinking stupidly.
"What in the world is that supposed to be?" I asked, my eyebrows drawing together in confusion. In a quick move Duo flicked his wrist and was suddenly gripping the item between his thumb and forefinger, bringing it up to his vibrant eyes to examine it. The he looked at me and shrugged.
"It's a, uh, ring?" he grinned and grabbed my left hand, slipping the thing onto the third finger. "For show, yanno? As of today you, Relena Dorlian-Peacecraft, are my wife," he teased and snickered softly. I brought my hand to my face, staring at the band encircling my finger.
it's a 25 cent ring from a grocery store vender."
"Hey! I can only afford so much, Lovely. I have budgets and limits and --"
"Duo," an exasperated sigh came from my right and we both turned to see Heero leaning casually against the doorway leading to the kitchen. He gave me a smile before pushing away from the doorframe, striding over to wrap his hand around Duo's thick braid and tug slightly. "Be a good boy and give her the real ring, Duo," he said reprovingly, a half smile still tugging at his lips as he looked into his lover's face.
"Yeah, geez, a guy tries to have a little fun and they act like it's a crime..." Duo muttered good-naturedly, his hand digging in his pocket. It came out holding a thin band of gold gently. He extended it toward me, offering silently and I took it, looking at the two of them in mild confusion.
"Read the inside," Heero prompted, his arm wrapping around Duo's waist to drag the other man against his side. I brought it up close to my face and titled it so that I could see the inside of the band. My eyes filled as a turned the band, reading and rereading what was written there in tiny script.
To the sister of our hearts - thanks. D:H
I looked up at them, my eyes bright with tears and Duo's face lost his grin. "Hey, Lovely, none of that. We wanted to thank you and we know you love pretty things -- because all women love pretty things -- and you needed a ring to pass as a married woman and I'm babbling but I'm not gonna stop until you stop and --"
"Duo!" I shouted to get him to stop, blinking down tears and laughing at the same time. He seemed to be hiding in Heero's side by the time his mouth snapped shut. His lover stroked his back soothingly but there was laughter in Heero's dark blue eyes. "I'm not sad," I assured him, taking the plastic ring off my finger and replacing it with the gold one. "I'm actually very happy."
Duo considered that for a moment before shaking his head and stepping a little away from Heero. "Man, I will never understand women," he muttered, raking a hand through his bangs.
"Which is why it's a good thing you're gay," Heero finally let out the laugh he'd obviously been holding in.
"Good for me or good for you?" Duo looked up at Heero, a mischievous gleam to his violet eyes.
Heero rolled his eyes but answered anyway, "Both."
I groaned loudly as they continued to stare into each other's eyes, "You two can be so sweet it's amazing. Are we ready to go, Duo? We have an appointment to meet."
I watched as Duo's gaze became suddenly serious as he looked up at his blue-eyed lover. I turned away when Heero lifted Duo's chin to lay a deep kiss on his lips, respecting their privacy. I had known Heero since kindergarten. His family had moved into a house in the same neighborhood as mine and I still remember the sullen, friendless little boy I'd run into - literally - while riding my bike without training wheels for the first time. I got a skinned knee and a crush that lasted until about fourth grade from that experience. My little girl mind had been certain he was going to marry me one day. We had been married if you counted our excursions in my back yard; me wearing a tablecloth as a veil and him tying a twisty-tie around my finger as my stuffed-cat kindly pronounced us man and wife. That was my most vivid memory of my childhood, the second being the day we met Duo.
I'd say it was love at first sight for those two, but I'd be lying through my teeth. Nothing could be that simple when it came to Heero and Duo. No, at first they hated each other's guts. I never quite understood why they did, but the reason was enough for Heero to contemplate taking the katana off his wall and sharpening it for the sole purpose of running Duo through. I'd asked them about it, after they'd suddenly decided to stop hating and start screwing like wild bunnies, but they always managed to distract me before they had to give an answer
"I wish you could come, Heero," Duo whispered after a moment.
"Me too," Heero said after another pause. It made me sad that in our supposed modern 21st century my friends weren't allowed to give a child a home because they were considered abnormal. A felt a hand on my shoulder and I looked up to see Duo give me a crooked smile. I could tell from the look in his eyes that his thoughts were moving in the same direction as mine.
"Ready, 'Lena? Got the papers and stuff?" I nodded.
"In my car, in the glove compartment. Well be back, Heero," I looked over my shoulder to see him standing in the place Duo had left him. He nodded and gave a silent wave before turning to disappear back into the kitchen.
"C'mon!" Duo snagged my hand, dragging me out the door to my car. "Appointments and all that; we can't be late." He opened to drivers side door and pushed me into the seat, racing around the car to get in the other side. I shook my head at him, starting the car and pulling out of the drive once he was buckled in.
"Glove compartment?" He asked, but it must have been a rhetorical question because he was already opening the door by his knees and pulling the thin manila envelope out. He pushed the metal prongs together to lift the flap and upended it, an authentic looking marriage certificate sliding into his hand. "Man... Remind me to thank your dad next time I see him. He's great, doing this for us," he said quietly, reading over the paper. My father was a judge, former prosecuting attorney of our family-run firm. He had been the best attorney this city had seen in decades. I was following quickly in his footsteps, some said.
"You still need to sign it. There, next to my name," I said, handing him a pen when we had to stop at a red light. He scribbled his name illegibly across the blank line and slipped it back into the envelope right in time for the light to turn green again. He rested it against his knees and sat back in his seat, turning the volume on the radio up, he rich voice singing perfectly along with the words.
The orphanage wasn't too far away from where Heero and Duo lived, but it was more than a 20-minute pleasure drive. As we pulled into the parking, I finally got a good look at the place. The first word that came to mind was 'institution'. From the outside, there was nothing homey about it and I doubted that would change much once we got inside.
We got out of the car, doors slamming loudly behind us. I looked at Duo, smiling reassuringly when I noticed how nervous he was. He was gnawing on his bottom lip, fiddling idly with the envelope grasped loosely in his large hands.
"'Lena, what if --"
"No," I said firmly, shaking my head. His snapped his mouth closed and swallowed, nodding slightly before starting forward, an air of calmness settling over him like a cloak. We stepped into the institution - for some reason my mind refused to call it an orphanage - and turned into the office located right off of the foyer. A woman was sitting hunched over some paperwork behind the large wooden desk that took up most of the office's space. I reached over to knock politely on the frame surrounding the doorway since the door itself had been open. The woman looked up, the crows’ feet at the corners of her eyes crinkling further as she smiled broadly.
"Come in!" I walked through the door, Duo following behind me and we sat down in the chairs provided before the desk. "You must be the Maxwells. I'm Martha Derry, welcome to the St Jerome Orphanage."
"Thank you," Duo replied, giving her his best charming look. He only used that look when he was feeling intimidated and was trying to find the best way out of the situation. I placed my hand quietly on his arm.
"I received your file yesterday and I have to offer my condolences. It must be awful, knowing you can't have children of your own," the Mrs Derry was looking at me with genuine sympathy and I have to fight to work up a sad look to go along with the lie.
"It is..." I said and looked down at the hand resting in my lap.
Duo sighed deeply and saved me from further comment, "Forgive her, it's difficult to talk about. We want a family so badly, though, and it's enough to know that we're giving one of the children here a chance to have a good life." 'We.' If only the woman knew that 'we' meant 'Heero and I' not 'Relena and I'. I smiled inwardly.
Mrs Derry nodded in understanding before she continued. "Having reviewed your file, I must say that I have full confidence that you will give one of our children a good home. However, I do still need proof of your marriage. You have to understand that it is our goal to give our children to proper, stable parents, without the worry of having them loosing a mother or father at a moment's notice." I felt Duo stiffen slightly beside me, but I simply smiled and lifted the manila envelope from his lap, handing it to the woman for inspection.
Mrs Derry 'hmm'd over the certificate for a moment before putting it back in the envelope and sliding it across the desk at us. "What kind of child are you looking for? An infant is usually the most popular choice for younger married couples but would you want a boy or a girl?"
Duo spoke up, leaning toward her ever so slightly for support. "Actually, it doesn't matter. Age, gender, anything. We just want a child to love and raise as our own." His voice was husky as realization finally started to overtake him. He was going to have a family. I knew that to Duo this would be one of the greatest experiences of his life. He hadn't had much of a family growing up. His father had been a drunk and his mother had never been home, always off trying to find a man to take her away from her dead-beat spouse and unwanted child.
He was finally going to have a real family.
A heard Duo draw in a shaky breath as the woman stood. We followed suit, walking after her as she exited the room and strode down the hall with familiar ease.
"I'll take you to the nursery... we had two teenage mothers leave their infants here earlier this month," she was saying, but I stopped paying attention when Duo came to a sudden halt. He was looking through the window at what appeared to be a playroom for 'older' children. It was filled with ten children ranging from about five to seven years old.
He moved to open the door, stepping into the room on near-silent feet. The children running around the room hardly gave him notice, much too busy playing with each other and their toys to care about a strange man in their midst. The room was covered in toys. There was a mat with cartoon street patterns and dozens of toy cars strewn over it in one corner and four were crowded around it. A kitchen set took up the other corner; a large dollhouse close by it and girls seemed to be swarming in that area. In the center of the room there was a round table, painted in bright Crayola-colors and one little girl sat there, separated from the rest.
She had strawberry blond hair, which fell in ringlets around her shoulders, and light brown eyes that were squinting at the paper in front of her. Her tongue was stuck out of the corner of her mouth and she was clutching a ragged teddy bear to her chest with one arm and scribbling determinedly with the other hand. Duo walked over to the girl, settling down onto his knees beside her.
"Hello," he murmured in a friendly tone, trying to catch the girl's attention.
She looked up, setting her crayon down on the table. "Hi!" she smiled brightly.
Mrs Derry walked up behind me from where I was watching. "I suppose you found the playroom... Children this age don't usually get adopted, that's why there's so many of them. They're 'older' and already have set personalities and that doesn't often appeal to prospective parents." I nodded to let her know I'd heard her before walking over to the table to seem more the attentive mommy.
"'m Kayla and this is Mr Snoops," she said, holding out the ragged teddy before pressing it back against her chest. "Who're you?" Kayla asked in that inquisitive tone only small children could really pull off.
"Duo Maxwell, at your service, m'lady," Duo said, dipping a gallant bow from where he sat on his knees. Kayla giggled, the sweet sound reminiscent to tiny bells. "How old are you, Kayla?" he asked, looking into the brown eyes expectantly. Kayla held up a hand, all five fingers spread outward. "Five! Well, that's a very good age," he grinned and the little girl grinned back but didn't say anything more. "Why aren't you playing with the other little girls?"
"Oh, 'd rath'r draw than play," Kayla replied, reaching for her paper so she could show it to Duo. "See? I like drawing. 's fun." Duo took the sheet of construction paper and nodded solemnly at her.
"I like to draw, too." He moved off of his knees, hunkering down beside her and turned the paper so that I could see what was drawn too. "What's this?" he asked, pointing to an oblong shape with two spikes on one end and four lines sticking out of the other. "Wait, I know! It's a flower."
Kayla let out another silvery ripple of giggles. "No, silly! 's a kitty!" she exclaimed.
"I knew that," he replied, very convincingly. He was silent for a moment, looking at the drawing in his hands almost wistfully. Then, "Kayla, how would you like to come home with me?" he asked, looking at the girl again, his expression painfully serious.
The girl seemed to think for a moment, her brown eyes squinting in concentration. "Would you be my daddy? 've never had one of those..." she said, the hand that wasn't holding the teddy bear clasped her knees under the table.
"I would. I've never had a daughter either, but I'll try to be the best daddy you could have."
The girl bit her lip, "Can I draw?"
"You'll have the biggest box of crayons in the world!" Duo promised and I almost choked on the sensation his hopeful expression created in the back of my throat.
"Really?" the girl asked, equally hopeful.
"Really!" he smiled and Kayla jumped to her feet, throwing her bear less arm around his neck.
"Okay! You c'n be my daddy."
Duo stood with Kayla firmly in his arms and looked at me, tears sparkling in his violet eyes, a heart-wrenchingly brilliant smile on his face. "Did you hear, 'Lena? I can be her daddy," he whispered and I was nearly crying as well. I blinked rapidly, turning to Mrs Derry where she still stood in the doorway with an approving look on her face.
"I suppose you'll be wanting to take her home tonight?" Mrs Derry murmured. "There's still some paperwork to fill out but that shouldn't take too long."
The paperwork took nearly an hour and I ended up filling out most of it, Duo much more concerned with the girl who had fallen asleep against his chest. He was running his fingers gently through her hair, a soft look in his eyes.
We left the institute, buckling the still-sleeping Kayla and Mr Snoops securely into the seat behind me. Duo looked back at her continuously once we left the parking lot as if trying to reassure himself that she was really there. "We really did it, Heero and I really have a family now," he breathed, exalted. "Do you think he'll like her?" he asked, a little worriedly.
I cast him a sideways glance before refocusing on the road. "He'll love her and you know it."
When we reached Duo and Heero's house Heero was dozing lightly on the couch, a book lying abandoned on the cushion beside him. His head jerked up at the sound of the door closing, his dark blue eyes darting around the room before landing on Duo and me. Duo was cradling his small bundle against him, Kayla's head resting on his shoulder. I was holding Mr Snoops in one hand by his arm, Kayla having finally released her hold on him in slumber.
Heero rose and walked slowly toward us, an amazed expression on his face as his trailed on finger down Kayla's downy soft cheek. The girl's brown eyes opened laboriously, her lips puckered into a tired pout. She looked up at Heero, seeming to come awake in an instant. "Hello," she smiled up at him. "Who're you?"
Duo looked lovingly at Heero over Kayla's head before saying softly, "That's Heero, Kayla. He's going to be your other daddy."
"Really? So I get two daddies?"
Heero cleared his throat, finally speaking. "That's right."
"Cool!" she beamed innocently at the two of them and I smiled at the adoration glowing in both of my friends' eyes. Two men and a little girl... I shook my head, smile developing into a smirk. They'd be wrapped around her little finger in no time.
Kayla yawned suddenly, her eyes starting to droop heavily toward her cheeks. "I guess it's time to show you your room, huh?" Duo asked as Kayla settled back down onto his shoulder. He cast Heero another blissful look before turning to walk up the stairs toward the room they'd prepared for their new addition.
Heero looked at me then, stepping forward to wrap me in a tight hug. "I can't thank you enough, Lovely," he said, using Duo's nickname for me, his voice thick with emotion. He let go, stepping back. "Kayla Maxwell," he murmured the name that was on the adoption papers now sitting in my purse. "I think that sounds wonderful, don't you?"
I nodded, rising on my tiptoes to plant a kiss on his cheek. "It sounds perfect."
Now, as I stand in my office, fingering the gold band now on the ring finger of my right hand, I look up at the picture drawn on light blue construction paper that hangs framed on the wall above my desk. Three people stand in front of a boxish house; one with a tell-tale braid sticking out of it's head, another with a wild scribble of dark brown for hair and between them stands a little girl holding both their hands, a broad red curve indicating her smiling lips. And I look at the lopsided heart drawn in bright pink above the three people and I realize for the hundredth time just why I agreed to be Duo's wife for a day. Because they are perfect. Perfectly stable, perfectly happy, perfectly loving.