see ch. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
Warriors + Chapter 27
Heero and Duo took things easy
for the next few days, trying to find a rhythm for this strange new place
in their lives they found themselves in. Duo had to keep reminding himself
that less than two weeks ago he'd still been shuttling between numbness
and despair, unable to stop mourning for the finality of Heero's loss
and unable to find a direction for his own life. Now, as the shock of
Heero's return began to wear off, he found himself head over heels in
love with this "new" Heero who'd come back to them, even as he learned
how different that man was from the cold, seemingly emotionless boy he'd
In many ways, though, Heero was still very much Heero. No one was going
to mistake him for the normal, lighthearted boy-next-door. His normal
expression would still scare small children. He still looked at strangers
as if they were enemy mobile suits. He still spent what Duo considered
an unhealthy amount of time on line, first with the computer Quatre had
provided, and now on the compact, state of the art new laptop that arrived
two days after Heero ordered it. He also still spoke in that seemingly
toneless way that sounded robotic to anyone who didn't know him as well
as the other Gundam pilots.
Not only that, but now that Heero was getting healthy again, he still
reached for a gun at all the right moments. Duo had been ecstatic when
he'd finally accepted the Glock. It made him feel--what? Like Heero was
really better? Like life was falling back into a pattern Duo Maxwell understood?
He wasn't sure. He was just fucking glad that Heero Yuy wasn't afraid
of guns anymore. Let Dr. Batoosingh make of that what he would.
So Heero was, in a word, still weird in his own unique way, yet also warmer
in general, more engaged with life around him than Duo had ever imagined
possible. And more sensual and passionate than he'd ever dared dream to
hope! For the first time since they'd first met, Duo saw Heero really
trying to follow that long-ago advice to follow his feelings.
That some of those feelings led to the most mind-blowing sex Duo had ever
known was a definite bonus, as far as he was concerned. For someone who'd
ignored sex and stayed a virgin most of his life, Heero was one hell of
a fast learner. When Heero "Perfect Soldier" Yuy made up his mind to master
a new skill? Watch out! He was unstoppable and so focused it was scary.
Talk about zero to sixty in record time. Well, zero to sixty-nine, and
beyond, Duo thought with a happy shiver of lust. Not that he wasn't just
as bad. All it took these days was one heated glance from Heero, or even
a non-heated one, and Duo was hard and ready for anything! The way things
were going, he'd be happy to just spend the rest of his life in bed with
this new and improved 01.
For the next few days when Duo wasn't working on the masks and teaching
Heero that craft, they slept late, ate simple meals, spent hours walking
the windswept beach, and made love anywhere they felt like it. That was
a particular luxury, considering recent experience.
Their big bed was great--hell they'd had to change the sheets twice already--
but Duo liked to experiment and found Heero just as willing. Together
they ended up making a game of "christening" every room of the house,
even the cramped, dusty attic space above the tower, both bathtubs (which
seemed designed especially with such pastimes in mind) and a rather rushed
and chilly session on the rooftop widow's walk. Hands braced against the
low wrought iron railing, Duo had been able to admire the distant lights
of New Provincetown as he came and shouted and prayed that he could keep
his knees from giving out long enough to keep Heero and himself from pitching
over the side.
The wide rope hammock on the porch was novel but uncomfortable, not to
mention unstable. Once was plenty for that. The only thing so far that
Heero had just plain vetoed was making love in the dunes, both for security
and hygienic reasons. As he'd patiently pointed out, no matter how hard
they tried to be careful during their beach combing trips, they always
ended up with fine, sugary white sand in their clothes and stuck to their
skin. Heero insisted that no amount of care and blankets would prevent
it from getting into more intimate places if they followed Duo's "sex
on the beach" scenario. He firmly refused to take that risk, citing the
potential recovery time that might result. Duo had to agree; the rewards
weren't worth the risk.
Life wasn't all sex and hair brushing--oh yeah, Heero Yuy still had a
thing for his hair! Duo only had a couple of weeks to get the masks ready
for the guys' debut in New Orleans. Even with Heero's assistance, he didn't
have time to dawdle.
Trowa and Kat had remained stubbornly secretive about the exact nature
of their new acts, but they'd had no choice but to share Quatre's sketches
for the costumes and some guidelines so that Duo could design appropriate
face gear. The masks had to be close fitting and fastened on tightly,
with no obstruction to vision or breathing. The one Trowa would wear for
"Red Silk" had to be especially minimalist, with nothing loose at all.
The costume for that act was a sheer, hand-painted singlet that would
cover Trowa's slim body like a second skin from shoulders to knees. If
they stuck to Quatre's sketches, the designs on the suit, augmented with
some body paint, would give Trowa a rather ghostly appearance. The overall
color scheme was much paler than his usual choices: a bone white background
with swirls of pale, metallic silver, black and blue. Quatre gave every
costume he designed a name, meant to capture the spirit of the act. This
one was called "Passages" whatever the hell that meant.
According to Catherine, who'd known Trowa the longest, Trowa's earlier
acrobatic clowning, animal work and trapeze work had all been standard,
if inspired, circus business, designed to entertain and thrill. Since
the war's end, with Trowa working full time instead of as a cover, he
and Catherine were trying to take the old show in a new direction.
Somewhere along the way, Trowa had discovered recordings of a 20th century
pre-colony Canadian circus named Cirque de Soleil. Duo had watched some
of them and was amazed at the difference. That circus had been more like
theatre. There were no animal acts, for one thing, and each season's performances
were done in the form of a loose, wordless story, with recurring themes,
often in a made up, gibberish language or one foreign to the audience.
The acts, mostly acrobatic in nature, were thrilling, but also charged
with emotion. Costumes, music, even the other business going on in the
ring at the same time all melded into a coherent whole, like a painting
A lot of it was artsy-fartsy egghead stuff Duo didn't really get, especially
some of the clown acts, but it was pretty and the aerial acts were fucking
impressive. Tro, Kat and Catherine were really excited about it and had
been working elements of that into the new season. For that reason in
New Orleans there would be daytime, family-oriented shows, and a few special,
adults-only night shows. Judging by the costume designs for those, it
was going to be no place for kids. Trowa's trapeze costume looked like
a demonic version of Heavyarms. And what he and Quatre planned to wear
for whatever it was they were doing together? Well, it was just this side
of pornographic, just leather thongs and body paint, in sketches titled
"Meld". And, of course, the masks.
"Quatre did say he was worried about his family's reaction," Heero said,
eyeing those sketches. "Perhaps this is why?"
"Like I told him," Duo chuckled, making a few last changes to his drawings.
"No one will even know it's him when I get done with him."
Duo's studio, as Heero thought of the downstairs room they'd set up for
the mask making project, soon became one of Heero's favorite places in
the house. The light was good here, and they'd moved in a couch and a
couple of the long worktables from the kitchen. One was set up for the
wet and messy business of the actual leatherwork. The other would be a
clean, dry surfaced for curing and painting.
Heero watched with genuine interest as Duo demonstrated how the fine vegetable-tanned
leather had to be scraped, or skived, to the proper thickness, then soaked
briefly in a pan of hot water to make it more pliable. When it was ready,
he had Heero pull it over one of the block forms of Trowa's face and tack
the edges to the back of it. Then, using everything from a small hammer
to bits of natural cow horn and antler and shaped pieces of wood called
"thumbs", they pressed the leather to conform to the cast facial features.
When it was tight, Duo used a razor-sharp scalpel to cut holes for the
eyes and mouth. After that, he showed Heero how to burnish the leather
smooth with one of the thumbs. After that it would dry overnight. When
it was completely dry, it would be removed from the form, the edges carefully
trimmed, rolled and burnished smooth, and then it was ready for decoration,
which could take days depending on how many layers of color were needed,
and if other materials, like feathers, glass jewels, ribbons or braid
trim, and beads were to be added.
"That's the basics," Duo said, seeming pleased with Heero's work. "What
I have to do is a bit trickier."
Heero helped Duo unpack the rest of the face forms and found that most
were of Trowa's face, and the many of these had had the features altered
to accentuate or exaggerate the features. Some only partly realized, for
half masks like the one Trowa had originally worn when he was clowning
in the early days.
Quatre's sketches called for masks that covered the face only from forehead
to just under the nose, but with fancy extensions formed like wings or
other fantastic shapes around the wearer's head. This was achieved by
leaving lots of extra leather around the form, the cutting and pinching
it into whatever elaborate shape was called for.
"This smaller, visor-style works best for Trowa," Duo explained, showing
him drawings for much simpler, smaller masks. "It lets him move his face
and jaw without dislodging the mask, and doesn't obstruct his breathing."
Leaving Heero to experiment with his newfound skills, Duo unfolded a cardboard
sheet printed with a large grid, took out an impressive array of calipers,
compasses and other drawing tools and started transforming his designs
into paper patterns. He referred often to a small notebook filled with
various measurements he'd taken from his friends' faces.
Heero found himself entranced as Duo quickly lost himself in this work.
His face was serious, but relaxed, and he kept up an almost continuous
stream of quiet noise, either humming along with the radio on the windowsill
or muttering to himself under his breath, a running self-commentary on
measurements and shapes. Heero smiled. This sort of thing was why Wufei
had always referred to Duo as "the noisy one." No matter what the situation,
that mouth just didn't keep still for long.
None of this distracted Heero from noting Duo's talent. Like all the other
Gundam pilots he'd either been trained or already possessed some natural
talent for drawing. They'd often needed that in the field to capture accurate
plans of enemy installations or weapons, but Duo's skills clearly extended
far beyond that.
Heero found himself wishing he had a camera to capture this Duo, perched
on his stool in his stained canvas apron, the ocean light striking him
just right as he bent intently over his work. Heero had seen him like
this before, he realized, but he'd been making bombs at the time, with
all the same deft skill and intensity.
So caught up in his work was he that Duo didn't even notice when Heero
borrowed one of the sketchbooks and a pencil and tried his hand at drawing
Duo. Both Lowe and J had fostered Heero's natural talent, and he'd spent
a lot of time learning from books, as well, telling himself in those days
that it was a useful, practical skill to be refined and mastered. Only
now did he discover that without the pressure of a mission or clandestine
recon, drawing a subject of his choosing for no practical reason beyond
wanting to was really quite pleasurable. In a few minutes he'd roughed
in Duo's profile, capturing the curve of his cheek, the angle of his lowered
eye lid, the thoughtful set of his mouth and chin. He kept the table and
it's scattered tools to a few spare, suggestive lines, concentrating instead
on the relation of Duo's body over it, the way the apron was folded in
the front, how the dark tee-shirt hugged his back and shoulders, the way
his braid lay over his shoulder, stray tendrils escaping here and there
to glint in the sunlight.
As he worked, some part of Heero's mind registered his detachment. Concentrating
on the task at hand, he could forget emotion for a while, and see his
sensual, complex lover from a new angle unclouded by desire or frustration.
It was much the same way he'd looked at the enemy, not hampered by feelings
of empathy or even anger. It had allowed him to fight without remorse.
Now it allowed him a mental clarity that was freeing. When he finished,
a very good rendering of Duo filled half the page, with the suggestion
of the window and room. Setting the pencil aside, he felt rather pleased
with himself. This was better than a photograph; without meaning to, he'd
somehow captured a bit of the moment, though he couldn't put it into words.
The picture just "felt" like the scene he'd been looking at. He wondered
if he looked at it a year from now, if he would recall the moment very
clearly, the way smells were said to trigger strong memories.
"Damn, Heero, that's good!"
Looking up, he found Duo staring at his drawing. "It was only a quick
sketch, but I am pleased."
Duo bent and rummaged in one of the boxes under the table, then presented
Heero with a handful of new drawing pencils and a black, spiral bound
sketchbook still sealed in shrink-wrap. Unwrapping the book, Heero tucked
his first drawing in between the first few pages. Then, as a thought struck,
he took it out again and, at the bottom of the page, printed in small
letters "#1: D. at work. CC house. 09/14/198."
Duo leaned on his shoulder. "You're really good, you know. Want to do
some life studies on me?"
Duo pulled his shirt off, dropped his pants and struck a pose. "Life studies."
That was the end of their work session for that day, and Heero didn't
get any drawing done at all for a while, but his second attempt was a
fairly detailed rendering of Duo sprawled asleep on the workroom couch.
Heero thought he captured the blissful smile quite well.
Heero continued his research on dating during stolen moments over the
next few days, but still felt poorly prepared for his first mission. He
picked up the phone several times to call Quatre, but each time something
stopped him. Embarrassment, perhaps, or pride. Whatever the case, he decided
at last to come up with his own plan. After all, Duo was nothing like
Trowa or Quatre, so their advice would be of questionable use anyway.
That's what he told himself, at least. Never mind the fact that he was
finding the research to be rather enjoyable. In the meantime, Duo had
given no sign of needing any form of violent sex or reassurance. Instead,
he was proving to be insatiable and highly creative. Heero discovered
with chagrin that being taken up the ass from behind was as much a pleasure
for him as it was for Duo, though from a purely mental standpoint, he
still preferred to be the one on top most of the time. Duo laughingly
labeled him a control freak, but with his own recently discovered preference
for being the bottom, they decided they were both happy and well matched.
Duo did seem especially pleased when Heero discovered that he liked having
Duo tied to the bed now and then. Secretly, he hoped that bondage would
suffice to fill Duo's darker needs for now. Like drawing, Heero was very
skilled with restraints.
By the end of their first week Heero decided it was time to equip himself
for the upcoming mission. His research had determined that everything
he needed was available in New Provincetown. He committed a city plan
and various addresses to memory. To avoid undue questions from Duo, he
made love to him late into the night, a sure way to guarantee that Duo
would sleep deeply and long. Heero woke himself at dawn, showered and
dressed in the downstairs bathroom, then went into the workroom to write
a note, knowing Duo might draw the wrong conclusion if he woke to find
Heero missing without explanation.
He thought a moment, hand poised over the blank sketchbook page. It needed
to contain just enough information to keep Duo from becoming worried at
any prolonged absence, without giving too much away.
Duo, have gone shopping today.
Time frame undetermined. Mission on a need to know basis. Can be reached
by cell phone. Call me with any purchase requests. Stay away from my computer.
There is no information there. Plan on me for dinner.
He read it over and frowned. Even to him it sounded a bit terse, but he
had no idea how to deliver the required information any better than that.
He considered the problem for a moment, impatient to get going before
Duo woke up. At last he signed it "Love, Heero." That still seemed rather
cold. Grudgingly, feeling very silly, he printed "xoxoxoxo" under his
signature. Relena had done that on the notes she used to slip him. According
to her, that was code for hugs and kisses. He stared down at the line
of gibberish for a moment, realizing he was blushing. Not giving himself
time to change his mind, he tore out the page and left it on the kitchen
counter next to the coffee maker. Another thought struck him and he took
the few extra minutes to load the grounds and water into the coffee maker
and set the timer for an hour later. Duo would appreciate the gesture;
Heero was usually the one awake enough to make coffee in the morning.
With that done, he slipped out the back door and was almost to the car
when another inspiration struck. This one seemed even sillier and more
embarrassing than the hugging code, but he made himself do it anyway.
He was several miles down the coastal road before he managed to make himself
stop obsessing over that one. He just hoped Duo didn't laugh at him too
much when he got home.
As uncomfortable and out of character as such efforts made him, and Heero
knew that much worse was likely to come later today during his current
self appointed mission, the fact that he could just as easily decide not
to do such things was not a viable option. Not if he followed his feelings.
Troublesome, embarrassing things, feelings, but when it came to pleasing
Duo, they seemed to be worth it. So far, anyway
Duo woke up and reached for Heero, only to find no one there. He sat up
and looked around, instincts telling him instantly that Heero was not
in the room and hadn't been for some time. The clock by the bed told him
it was nearly noon. The bed was cool except where he'd been sleeping,
and he'd have been able to smell it on the air if Heero had taken a shower
in their bathroom. He hadn't, but his sneakers were gone from their neat
place by the closet door and, on closer inspection, so was his jacket.
Duo stood at the open closet door, yawning and scratching himself awake.
Lucky for him, Heero didn't have many clothes and they'd just done laundry.
Checking hangars and shelves inside, he saw that the sweater and white
Oxford were still there, but a dark red tee shirt was missing, and the
blue jeans they'd washed yesterday. Looked like Heero had gone out for
a walk on the beach at some point. Duo hoped he was back.
He wasn't awake enough to question that last thought.
Unconcerned with modesty and still lacking a bathrobe, he wandered out
naked to the head of the staircase. "Heero?" No answer, but he could smell
hot coffee. So Heero couldn't have gone far, right?
It had always freaked him out a little when Tro and Kat took care of him;
Duo had never let himself rely on anyone growing up, except for that brief
time at Maxwell Church, and look how that turned out. On the streets,
self-reliance was part of the code. So it should have bugged the shit
out of him when Heero did little things like making the coffee or folding
the laundry just so or cleaning up scraps in the art studio while Duo
worked. But it didn't. None of it. Instead, it made him feel all gooey
inside, like a lovesick schoolgirl with her first crush. He should have
hated that, too, and gone all Shinigami on 01, but he didn't. No, it made
him want to go all Shinigami on Heero in a whole different, very mutually
In fact, the smell of freshly brewed coffee and the fact that Heero had
let him sleep in yet again made him feel like doing that right this very
minute. Grinning, he crept silently down the stairs and peered into the
living room, intending to jump Heero if he wasn't holding hot coffee or
No Heero there.
He moved on to the workroom, and then the kitchen. No Heero, or any sign
or sound of him, either. And no instinctive prickling at the back of Duo's
neck, either, to warn him that his lover had once again turned the tables
and was stalking him. Nope, nothing. And no leather jacket on the coat
tree by the front door, or neatly hung over a kitchen chair.
"Huh, must still be out on the beach," Duo muttered, trying to ignore
the stupid, silly little pang of emptiness he felt as he headed for the
coffeepot. Only then did he see the note lying there, held in place by
a juice glass holding three faded, end of season beach roses.
He stopped dead at the sight of it. This was a totally unforeseen development.
In Duo's limited experience, notes were usually a Bad Thing. Not always,
he told himself, but his heart was suddenly in his throat as he forced
himself the last few feet to the counter. Moving the flowers aside, he
picked up the note, read it, puzzled over the gibberish letters under
Heero's signature, then twigged to what they must mean and burst out laughing.
"Oh, Yuy!" he gasped, recovering a little. "Get your ass home!"
According to Heero's research, New Provincetown had been founded in AC
25, and had been designed to reflect native architecture that had been
lost when the end of the Cape was swept away, using lots of red brick
and fake antiques. Nonetheless, it was clearly geared to be a tourist
haven and the center of the small city was comprised of a dense cluster
of waterfront access streets lined with shops, restaurants and club establishments,
the most exclusive overlooking the harbor and marinas. Beyond this center
were neighborhoods made up mostly of expensive seasonal condominiums and
even more expensive homes. Many of them were neo-Victorian, like the house
he was staying at with Duo. Others were something called "salt box" or
more modern, rather bland modern style, with lots of balconies and large
windows to catch the ocean view. On the landward side, more modest neighborhoods
catered to year round residents, many of whom made their livings catering
to the needs of the wealthy tourists. Heero had found himself delving
into the water supply, power stations, and local law enforcement almost
before he realized what he was doing. That wasn't really necessary anymore,
but once again, he found that old habits died hard.
His early departure brought him to the outskirts of town with an hour
and a half to kill before the shops opened at ten. He spent some time
on recon, locating some of the shops and clubs he'd targeted, then withdrew
cash from an ATM and stopped at a corner convenience store gas station
for fuel and coffee.
He'd worn dark glasses and nondescript clothing, but bought a dark blue
baseball-style cap off the rack next to the cash register for added protection.
The bored young girl behind the counter gave no sign of recognizing him,
The first two shops he tried were disappointing. The first clearly catered
to high school kids, and the second featured colors that assaulted Heero's
eyes and deafening dance music to shop by. In the past when he'd needed
new clothing it had either been provided to him, stolen, or bought online.
Now he found himself faced with crowded racks of apparel in no immediately
discernable order and sales people who seemed more interested in talking
to each other than him.
It was a bit of a relief to find that the third place on his list had
gone out of business. The fourth and fifth didn't suit him, either. Examining
the outfits they had on display, he realized that he couldn't picture
himself in any of them.
By two thirty he was tired, discouraged, hungry, and nearly ready to fall
back on online shopping. The next to the last shop, a place called Loose
Threads, proved so hard to find he almost gave up. But the website had
promised "the best designer club wear in the region," so he downed a canned
protein shake and kept looking.
It turned out to be a small, unremarkable storefront hidden away on a
narrow side street several blocks from the harbor. He circled the block
twice before he actually spotted it. It had no display windows, and no
sign, just the street numbers and name in small gold letters on a curtained
glass door, and a small cardboard sign hanging above it that read "Open".
Carefully locking the car, he pulled down his hat brim and went in. Inside
it was smaller and darker than the others stores, and no music was playing.
Some of the suggested ensembles displayed on the walls looked promising,
There was only one clerk on duty at the moment, at work arranging jewelry
on rack beside the register. "Be right with you!" he called out.
Heero remained near the door, studying the man. He looked like a taller,
older version of Quatre. His ragged bleached blond hair was tipped with
a brilliant blue, and his ears and eyebrows glittered with the gold and
silver of multiple piercings. Both wrists were heavy with assorted bracelets
of braided leather and silver bangles and he wore so many large rings
Heero wasn't sure how he could function. But his clothes were reasonably
sensible, just a soft-looking dark blue shirt over low-slung beige jeans.
After a moment the man looked up and smiled. "May I help you?" It was
the first show of genuine interest Heero had seen today.
"I need club wear."
The clerk's eyes widened and his polite smile became an incredulous grin.
Coming out from behind the counter, he strode over. "It is you,
isn't it? I mean, when you came in I thought 'Wow, he looks kinda like
Heero Yuy.' But that voice? I'd know--"
Heero had anticipated this sort of situation. Removing his glasses, he
nodded curtly, then held out a crisp $100 bill. "I am not here. I was
The clerk laughed and brushed the money aside. "Oh, put that away! Don't
worry, I deal with celebs all the time." Going to the door, he threw the
lock and flipped the sign to 'Closed.' "There now, all nice and private."
He held out his hand, bracelets rustling. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Never-was-here.
I'm Nicky. What can I do you for?"
Taken aback by this sudden reversal, Heero stuffed the bill in his coat
pocket and awkwardly shook hands. "I--I require suitable attire to go
to a dance club. For myself, and--a friend," he added reluctantly.
"Friend, eh? Hmm, let me guess. A certain someone just about your height,
disgustingly slim, with amazing long brown hair, legs that go on
forever, and gorgeous big blue eyes?"
Heero tensed, though he supposed it had been all over the news here, too.
Nicky laughed. "Rumors of a 'G-Boy' sighting have been flying around town
for a couple of days now."
"I thought people were discreet around here," Heero growled.
"Yeah, right." Nicky shrugged. "You have to admit, he's hard to miss.
And he and your other friends aren't exactly strangers around here, either.
The W-Bs have been regulars for a couple of years now. Check this out."
He beckoned Heero to the back of the store. The man seemed harmless enough,
but Heero's hand still strayed to the Glock in his right coat pocket as
he followed him to the register counter.
A large bulletin board edged in rainbow colored ribbon hung on the wall
behind it, with "Our Heroes" scrawled across the top in red marker. The
board was covered with photos and news clippings of what Heero assumed
were celebrities, most of them male. Trowa and Quatre were featured in
many of them, caught together in various public locations. Duo was in
some, too, though not as many. In one photo the three of them were standing
here at this counter with Nicky and some other young men.
The clerk reached under the counter and pulled out a page cut from a magazine.
"I was just about to hang this new one up when you came in," he said,
placing it on the counter for Heero to see. It was a full-page color shot
of him kissing Duo on the steps of the Madrid hospital.
"Out of the closet less than two weeks and you already made our wall of
honor. Then in you walk! I take it your friends recommended us? This is
one of their favorite shops."
Heero ignored the question. If he'd been on a real wartime mission, talkative
Mr. Too-Much-Inside-Info here would already be a corpse cooling in the
back room. Trying not to show his annoyance, he studied the photo.
It was a good one. The photographer had caught them just as Duo had recovered
from his surprise. He had one hand on Heero's shoulder, the other hanging
loose at his side. The long grey wool coat hung open and he was bent back
slightly as Heero held him around the waist and leaned into the kiss.
Both of them had their eyes closed and Duo was grinning against Heero's
lips, looking very happy. Heero stared at his own face in the picture;
he thought he looked happy, too, but also rather determined. In the background
several Spanish policemen were either grinning or looking shocked and
Quatre was laughing. Trowa was partly visible at the edge of the scene,
just coming out of the door. He appeared to be frowning at someone or
something off to one side, both eyes obscured by his bangs. Underneath,
a caption read, "Question answered!"
Nicky reached behind the counter and took out another picture in a wooden
frame. "And this is Loose Threads' pride and joy," he told Heero. "Dave
won't even hang it on the wall, figuring someone will swipe it."
Heero recognized this one. He'd seen it on a newsstand one cold, rainy
day in Berlin. It was the Vanity Fair magazine cover featuring the Trowa,
Quatre and Duo in the outfits they'd worn for the wedding. It was autographed
by all three and Quatre had written, "Nice pants, huh? Thanks and best
wishes to Dave and all the guys at Loose Threads."
"We keep their sizes on file," Nicky rattled on. "You guys are all disgustingly
fit, by the way. See those pants they're wearing? Hand-stitched Dolchis!
I sold them those myself, custom ordered straight from Milano. We won't
even show the catalogue to anyone who isn't totally built. But those two?
Born for 'em. You, too. If you ever want some, just say the word. We're
the only place north of New York who can get them, but it takes two months,
The famous photographer had shot them against a stark white background,
and covered the floor with billows of sheer white fabric strewn with red
rose petals. Trowa sat in a fancy wooden armchair, a long-stemmed red
rose clutched between his teeth and one arm around Quatre, perched on
his knee. Trowa was glowering under his bangs, but Quatre was laughing
with his head thrown slightly back, a red rose tucked behind one ear.
They wore similar skin-tight black leather pants with silver and turquoise
conchos down the outsides of the legs. Their feet were bare, revealing
toenails painted the same dark red as the roses.
Duo lay on his stomach at their feet, chin propped on one hand, holding
a pink rose to his nose with the other as he pouted sexily out at the
photographer. Duo wore only that black leather kilt and black combat boots.
His feet were raised behind him, ankles crossed. His hair lay loose over
his bare back and shoulders; one long chestnut strand of it curled around
Trowa's ankle. Quatre had one bare feet planted squarely on Duo's backside.
"It's a fantastic picture, don't you think?" Nicky gushed.
"Hn." Heero had never liked it.
"So, you're shopping for Mr. Gorgeous here?"
"Gonna surprise him, right? Hot night on the town?"
Heero leveled a searing look at the clerk, who was proving far more perceptive
than Heero had anticipated.
But this Nicky person was proving as annoyingly immune to his dark looks
as Duo. "Hey, it's my job to be nosy, so help me help you. What sort of
club are you thinking of?"
"Rock or techno."
"Well, if you don't mind some advice from a local, stick to Barnacle Betty's,
Red Sails, or Ma Rainey's, over on Prospect. Most of the waterfront places
are tourist hell, or full of photographers. And don't go near Starz! They'll
let anyone in. But the door keepers at those other places know their job
and the music's good. Ma Rainey's is the hardest to get into, but they'd
let hotties like you two in no problem, even if you showed up wearing
garbage bags." He turned and studied the bulletin board, then pulled down
a couple of snapshots. "Yeah, see? Your friends go there sometimes."
Heero glanced at the photos. The backgrounds were too dark to make out
the decor but most of the people weren't wearing particularly outlandish
clothing. "Do they serve food?"
"There's a great seafood place called Jack's across the street, but you'll
need reservations on weekends." He jotted a phone number on the back of
a store business card. "If you call between now and midnight most days,
ask for John and drop my name. He'll get you in."
"He knows you?"
Nicky grinned. "He better. He's my boyfriend. So, let's start with you,
shall we?" He stepped back and studied Heero from head to toe. "Hmm, that
build, that hair--great jacket, by the way. Gift, or did you buy it?"
"Right. The rest of it your choices?"
"Well, don't worry. I'm good. So, I'll just go out on a limb here and
guess that you'll want to keep it macho. No messing with the hair color?
No kilts, no shorts, not too much glitter and flash? Dark colors?"
Heero nodded, relieved. "Acceptable."
"Great. Let's get started." Nicky went to a rack and pulled out a hanger.
On it hung what appeared to be a body suit of some sort made of a few
bits of black spandex linked together with large silver rings. Before
Heero could object, the other man burst out laughing. "Sorry, couldn't
resist. You should really loosen up. This is supposed to be fun!" He put
the offensive outfit back. "How soon do you need the duds?"
"No problem. It'll have to be off the rack, but you could make K-Mart
look like Prada, and honey, we don't carry K-Mart! Everything we have
is designer. Do you have any preference?"
"The clothing must be suited to the environment you suggested, but also
comfortable. Breathable fabrics, cut for optimum movement."
Nicky arched an eyebrow, no doubt at his manner of speaking. Heero sighed.
This was why he shopped on line. "And I wish to look--" Heero hesitated
again. Why couldn't the man just leave him alone to make his own decisions?
"Hot?" Nicky guessed. "Sexy?"
"Romantic," Heero muttered between gritted teeth.
"Oooo!" Nicky appeared torn between surprise and approval. "Lucky Mr.
Gorgeous! Price range?"
"It is of no importance."
"You just said the magic words." He pulled three pairs of black pants
off a nearby rack and handed them to Heero. "Try these."
"Don't you need to know my size or take measurements?"
Nicky looked insulted. "Dressing room's right back there. Let me see you
in them and tell me what you think. And be honest!"
Heero tried not to scowl too darkly as he took the pants into the small
dressing room. There was no mirror in here, just a large three-way outside.
The first pair was soft black leather, similar to the ones in the photograph,
but with no silver trim. They hung low on Heero's hips and hugged his
backside and legs, but didn't feel overly light. He tucked in his tee-shirt
and stepped out to the mirror.
"Well?" Nicky demanded.
Heero stared at himself in the mirror. He would never have thought to
try on pants like these, but he had to admit they looked good on him.
"Damn right they do! They're lambskin, like your jacket and they fit like
your own skin. So that's a maybe? Don't get all shy and say no. Try the
others, then we'll put some tops with them."
The next pair were cut low like the others and looked like black suede,
but were made of some fabric that hugged his body comfortably. "Very breathable,"
Heero noted, turning in front of the mirror. The legs were slightly flared
for boot wear. He could wear an ankle holster under them, he thought,
though he didn't share that with the clerk. "I like these, as well."
The last pair, raw silk dress slacks, fit just as well, but Heero found
himself frowning at his reflection.
"Not you," Nicky pronounced.
Heero nodded. No, they were not him.
"OK, so want to work with the microsuede? Put them back on. I'll be right
back. Hold on, look at me."
To Heero's surprise, he obeyed, standing there passively while Nicky came
close and scrutinized his face.
"Don't suppose you'd consider make-up--?" Heero's glare was answer enough.
"OK, OK, no make-up. Shame though, with those eyes?" Shaking his head,
he disappeared into the racks.
By the time Heero had gotten the micrcosuedes on, Nicky was back with
a pile of shirts over his arm.
The first one looked promising, a tight, sleeveless black tee shirt. But
when Heero got it on, he discovered that it was cut short, leaving a good
six inches of midriff bare above the already low rise of the jeans. Heero
peeled it off and handed it back without comment.
"At least I tried," Nicky said, handing him what appeared to be the identical
shirt. This one was long enough to tuck in, but still very tight. "It's
made of this new spandex and microfiber blend, designed to breath."
Heero had been working out regularly and drinking the protein shakes Dr.
Santos had prescribed, and his muscle tone had improved considerably,
but he was still thin, shoulders bony, arms more wiry than muscular. The
clingy fabric showed the contours of his ribs and still rather sunken
belly. "I look like a heroin addict."
"You say that like it's a bad thing!" Nicky chuckled. "Can't be too thin
or too rich, right?"
"Well, trust me, you look hot, but try this." He handed Heero a silky,
long sleeved shirt. The fabric was slightly iridescent, and dyed in marbleized
swirls of peacock blues and greens. He had Heero leave it unbuttoned,
then expertly rolled the cuffs halfway up Heero's forearms. He turned
Heero to the mirror and looked over his shoulder at the reflection. Heero
had never worn anything this colorful in his life and had had his doubts
when he saw it on the hanger, thinking maybe it would be better for Duo,
but it actually looked very good on him.
But Nicky was shaking his head. "Almost there. Take the shirts off."
Heero pulled them off and Nicky handed him a black tank top made from
the same fabric as the tees. Heero wasn't sure he really wanted to wear
this style again, but Nicky had been right about everything else so far,
so he pulled it on. This shirt clung to him, too, and revealed more of
his chest, but with the other shirt on over it, he looked slim rather
than thin, and taller. He stared at his reflection, then glanced at Nicky.
"You tell me."
Heero regarded his reflection again, noting how the shirt picked up the
color of his eyes. "Acceptable."
"Acceptable?" Nicky rolled his eyes. "How do you feel?"
How he felt wasn't really this stranger's business, but he was becoming
aware of a weird intimacy in this process of clothes buying. Heero wondered
if it was normal, or of there was something wrong with him. Being locked
in a small space with a man who knew too much about him had initially
set off the old alarms, but that had receded. Maybe this was normal.
"How do I feel?" he muttered, studying his reflection. Not how did he
look, but how did he feel. The clothes were snug, but everything hugged
him in all the right places in a way that revealed the lines of his body
without undue constriction. They were comfortable, without looking it.
Nicky walked off, returning a moment later with black western style boots
and a wide, silver studded belt. Heero put them on and let him wind a
long black braided thong capped with silver several times around his wrist
in a simple bracelet. "Now, imagine your friend seeing you in this outfit."
Caught thinking what other uses he could put that braided bracelet to,
Heero was surprised to feel his nipples and balls tighten with arousal.
It heightened the color in his cheeks, darkened the blue of his eyes,
and made his cock stir with interest.
Nicky chuckled. "That's right. You are drop dead sexy. You'll be lucky
to get Mr. Gorgeous out of the house at all."
Heero suspected the man might be correct.
"You're perfect. You'll take it."
"Great. Now for your friend. How do you want him to look? What do you
like him in?"
"Anything." Or nothing, he thought.
Still looking in the mirror, he-- was surprised at the almost predatory
look that came over him. He blinked it away. That's not how he wanted
to look at Duo, not this time. He shrugged. "He's beautiful in anything."
"God, why don't they clone guys like you! Come on, then, let's cruise
the racks. I've got a few ideas."
"He appreciates fine things," Heero told him, trailing behind him. "Do
you know what designers he likes?"
Using some photos of Duo, the information on file, and a bit of modeling
by Nicky, Heero picked out a pair of Italian charcoal silk jeans cut low
on the hips, a snug midriff-bearing microfiber sleeveless tee in a light
teal green, a belt similar to the one Heero was wearing, but decorated
with small silver medallions, and a lightweight biker-style black leather
jacket that had been finished with something Nicky called a silver wash
that gave it an interesting sheen as it moved. It was very soft, like
glove leather. Soft black Italian leather boots with silver chains across
the instep were a must, according to Nicky.
The bracelets the man wore kept catching Heero's eye. At first he'd thought
them foolish, but now he found himself imagining Duo's slim wrists decked
out in silver and braided leather, arms bared by that ocean-colored shirt.
He selected a mix of bracelets like them from a rack on the counter, and
was pleased to find several with seashells braided into them. Money cowries,
Nicky informed him. Another had a silver moon snail shell in the middle.
"How about this?" Nicky took a short necklace from another rack and laid
it beside the bracelets. It was very simple, a single round disk of some
natural material a little over an inch in diameter set in a simple silver
bezel and hung on a thin black leather thong. The disk looked like cream
colored ivory, with a swirl of buff and brown that curved from the edge
to the center. "It's an operculum, the trapdoor from some big sea snail.
Also called a Shiva's Eye."
"It comes with this." Nicky handed him a small printed card.
Heero read the information and smiled. "Can you gift wrap this and the
clothes for him?"
"Don't you want to know the total?"
Heero took out his credit card and slid it across the counter. "Gift wrap.
Plain shopping bags."
Nicky swiped the card and glanced up at Heero as the $1,842.75 total was
accepted. When Heero didn't flinch, he grinned. "Any more like you at
Heero hid the shopping bags under a blanket in the back of the SUV, then
called the restaurant on his cell phone. Nicky's name was invoked and
John the Maitre'd promised him a very nice table for two at eight o'clock
the following evening. He made two more stops, then headed back through
the fading sunset feeling tired but very satisfied with the day's mission.
By the time he turned off on the beach road, stars were coming out in
the eastern sky. When he crested the dunes and the house came into sight,
he pulled over for moment and sat staring at it, a strange tightness in
The upper floors were dark, but warm yellow light spilled from the living
room windows and the porch light was on. Down on the beach, a small driftwood
fire cast a red glow across the sand. Somewhere nearby, maybe there in
the shadows beyond the fire, gun probably in hand, his lover waited for
Was this what "home" felt like?
He saw no sign of Duo as he parked in the driveway and headed down to
the fire, hands behind his back. "02?"
He heard the distinctive click of the Sig Saur's safety. "All clear here,
01. Where the heck you been all day?" Duo stepped into the circle of firelight,
slipping the pistol into the pocket of the oversized Alliance surplus
parka he was wearing. He had on old bleach stained jeans and a faded concert
tee-shirt underneath it. He must have started the painting stage with
the masks; there were streaks of blue and green paint on his hands and
one long one down the side of his nose.
"Where did the clothes come from?" Heero asked.
"Kat and Trowa shipped some down. Hey, I missed you today! Where ya been?
Whatcha got behind your back?"
Feeling only slightly less silly than he had this morning with the note
and flowers, he held out the dozen red roses and small gold box of Sanque
chocolates he'd picked up in town. He was nervous enough about such gestures,
and the feeling worsened when Duo took a step back and eyed him warily.
"What's going on?" he demanded.
"What do you mean?"
"The note, with those little kissy signs? Wildflowers with my morning
coffee? Now more flowers and candy. Jesus, Heero, ya got bad news, right?
You're still sick. Did Santos contact you?"
"No, I'm fine!" He wanted to hug him but Duo still hadn't taken the gifts
and Heero didn't really want to drop them in the sand.
"Then what?" Duo looked seriously concerned now, then his eyes narrowed.
"Did ya do something I'm going to be mad about? What? Seriously, Heero,
this morning was kinda sweet, but now you're scaring me!"
Heero was baffled. None of his research had led him to believe that this
reaction was a possible outcome of such gestures. Only then did it occur
to him that maybe Duo didn't know any more, if as much, about romance,
than Heero did himself. "Flowers and chocolates are a tradition offering
to one's object of affection," he explained. "To one's lover, that is.
Red roses signify deep love, and passion."
Duo was still staring at him like he'd grown an extra head, but he edged
a little closer and Heero saw the corner of his mouth twitch dangerously.
"And the chocolates, what do they mean?"
"They're Sanque chocolates. With liqueur centers."
The twitch gave way to a grin. "Are you trying to seduce me, Mr. Yuy?"
"That would seem unnecessary, given our history. I am trying to date you."
The grin widened. Maybe it was just the firelight putting that dangerous
gleam in Duo's eyes now, but Heero doubted it. "Date? Me?"
"Yes. I never had the chance before, with you or anyone else."
"There was someone else you wanted to date, Heero?"
Heero knew he was teasing and refused to take the bait. "Will you go out
with me tomorrow night? I have reservations."
"So do I, but seeing as how you brought me flowers and all---" Duo was
trying to keep a straight face. All the same, he sidled over, accepted
the gifts, then wrapped himself around Heero, flowers and all, and kissed
him. "Yeah, OK, I guess I could let you take me out. This is an actual
date? For real?"
"Yes, for real."
"Where we going?"
"It's a surprise."
"How will I know what to wear?"
"Taken care of."
"Really?" He shook his head. "So, it took you all day long to find some
flowers and some chocolates. Where'd you go? Boston?"
Heero gave Duo his best Perfect Soldier stonewall stare, revealing nothing.
"Riiiight. I see. OK, keep your secrets. But I warn you, I have ways of
making you talk."
"I'm conditioned to resist torture," Heero reminded him, starting up the
beach toward the house.
"Who said anything about torture?" Duo bounded after him and captured
Heero's hand in his. "Man, I missed you! Did I say that already? You know
that's the first time we've been apart in days and days? It was so quiet
here, and I wasn't really worried, of course, but I kept thinking you'd
be back any moment, or call, but you didn't--"
"You could have called me. I told you I had my phone."
"Yeah, I know, but I didn't really have anything to say except that it
was too weird here without you and that sounded pretty lame--"
Heero pulled him close and cut him off with a kiss. Duo's heart was racing;
Heero could feel it through his jacket. Had Duo been scared to be alone?
But when Duo pulled back he was smiling. "Yeah, yeah. Can't live without
you and all that. You hungry? It's such a great night, I thought maybe
we'd just do hotdogs and marshmallows over the fire out here under the
stars. That OK with you? I got everything ready in the kitchen, on a tray."
Duo held the roses to his face and inhaled as they continued on. When
he spoke again, he sounded almost shy. "These are really nice, Heero.
Thanks!" He tucked the candy box under his arm and found Heero's hand
again, bringing it to his lips. Heero did the same, savoring the mingled
scents of roses and gun oil on Duo's skin as he kissed the backs of his
They roasted hot dogs and talked about the masks Duo had started on that
day, the ones for Trowa and Quatre's duel act. Then they lay on a blanket
and watched the stars for a while, until it got cold and the fire died.
"Bed time?" Heero suggested, pleasantly tired and relaxed.
"Give me five." With that, Duo jumped up and loped back to the house.
When Heero followed a few minutes later, he heard water running upstairs.
He checked the security settings, turned off the downstairs lights, and
climbed the stairs to find the only illumination was candlelight coming
from the open doorway of their bedroom. Following the glow he found candles
burning on the mantelpiece, and the bed strewn with dozens and dozens
of wild pink beach roses like the ones he'd left for Duo that morning.
The box of chocolates sat open in the middle of the bed.
More wild roses floated in the tub, where Duo was already naked and waiting
for him, braid pinned up with pencils and paintbrushes this time. "See?"
he said, grinning at Heero over the edge of the tub, a red rose tucked
behind one ear. "You're not the only romantic around here. So what do
pink ones mean?"
"Pink? Perfect happiness."
Duo slid down in the tub, looking pleased.
Heero grinned happily as he shucked out of his clothes and joined him.
Duo recognized romance after all. He'd obviously planned this welcome
while Heero was gone, and he'd just applied that term to both of them.
Definitely a good sign that the mission was on the right track.
The bath was a relaxed affair. There was no need to hurry, no danger or
pressing concern. It was pleasant to just lay there in each other's arms,
enjoying the warmth after the brisk night breeze. When the water began
to cool they dried each other and climbed into bed to share the chocolates
in whatever fashion took their fancy. Heero took Duo's hair down and loosed
it from the braid, combing it out with his fingers and arranging it over
those smooth, pale shoulders and chest. Only then did he reach under the
pillow for the slim, gift wrapped box. "I got you something else."
Duo took it, but just sat staring at it. "More? C'mon, Heero! What's the
"I don't have a birthday."
"Everyone has a birthday. You and I just don't know when ours are. It
could be today. And if it isn't, then Merry Christmas and Happy Founder's
Day and Planetary New Year and any other holiday when no one gave Duo
Maxwell a present. That stops today. And don't say 'but I didn't get you
anything', either. You gave me that jacket."
Duo swallowed hard and kissed him again. "You're turning out to be one
helluva boyfriend, Heero Yuy." He opened the box and lifted the necklace
out. "Wow, that's nice! What is it?"
Heero grinned and handed him the little card Nicky had included with the
necklace. "Mermaid jewelry. Read."
"Again with the mermaids!" Duo laughed. "OK, I'll bite. 'This necklace
is made with an operculum, the trapdoor of a marine snail. It is also
known among the ancients as the Eye of Shiva, for the Hindu god. Shiva,
best known as the god of--" Duo paused and shot Heero a questioning look.
"'-a-s the god of destruction, also represents the most essential goodness.
Shiva is the god of the yogis, self-controlled and celibate-' Uh, Heero?"
"'-- while at the same time a lover of his spouse, Shakti.''OK, that's
more like it. 'Shiva's main attributes are the trident that represents
the three gunas and the snakes that show he is beyond the power of death
and poison and also stand for the magical sexual power of Kundalini energy.'
I like that last bit!"
"I thought Shiva sounded a lot like my Shinigami."
Duo was grinning again as Heero helped him fasten the small silver clasp
around his neck. "Does that make you my Shakti?"
"Only if Shakti was a man. I'm not sure what Kundalini is, exactly."
Duo pressed him back on the bed and placed one of the Sanque chocolates
on Heero's right nipple, the way they had in Madrid. "I think it's in
the filling of these. Wanna explore that?"
Some nice examples of the style of mask making Duo is doing can be seen
For those of you who don't know the reference, the 20th century circus
Trowa is inspired by is happily very real, and I have no doubt they will
have this sort of influence in the future! See: www.cirquedusoleil.com
If you can't get to one of their many international shows, the DVDs are
the next best thing but live? Wow! Go if you can! (Fans of CdS may already
have guessed what Trowa's secret act is based on, but keep it under your
hats for now, OK? *wink* )
If you're wondering what a Shiva's Eye/operculum actually looks like,
here are some nice examples: www.thefamilyjewels.com.au/prod242.htm, www.cyanrift.com/snaildoor_br.htm
26] [chap. 28] [back
to pyrzm's fic]