by Artemis

Illusions of Love + Part 4

At exactly half past seven, Duo took off his apron, folding it and placing it on the counter.

"Another hot date with the blond God?" Rikk asked, though he knew the answer too well.

"You bet!" Duo grinned.

In less than three hours it would be exactly twenty-eight days since he and Zechs had first made love. Duo wondered if other couples counted the success of their relationship in this way, but to him the last four weeks had been a triumph. His life was set on a new path and he was completely over "what's his name." There was no one else, just Zechs, the Zechs who made love to him each night and pampered him with sweet words and expensive gifts.

Duo looked down at his wrist, checking the time once again, and admiring Zechs's latest indulgence. The designer watch was not gold or set with diamonds--that would not have suited Duo--but was made of polished gun metal and a state-of-the-art time piece.

"Damn that guy is good to you," Rikk said as he tapped on Duo's shoulder to get his attention. The taller boy was a little jealous, not that he was interested in Zechs, but he wished someone would buy him expensive gifts, too. "I still say you should take him up on his offer to move in with him and quit your jobs."

Duo shook his head. Yes, Zechs was very, very good to him, but he could never just live off the man. As it was, Duo had cut back on his work schedule to spend more time with him. The meager income allowed him to keep his apartment if nothing more. Though he spent nearly every night in Zechs's bed, to justify keeping his own place, they occasionally made the bed creak at Duo's, too.

"Despite what your perverted little mind would like to believe," Duo said as he walked toward the employee entrance, "I am not a kept boy."

"Ha!" Rikk laughed and then waved as Duo disappeared out the back.

Stepping into the employee parking lot, Duo was startled to see Zechs leaning against his motorcycle.

"Hey, I didn't expect to see you here," he said cheerily as he walked over and gave the man a kiss.

"I've got a surprise," Zechs said, smiling ferally.

"You're not the surprise?" Duo chuckled and then took a step back to look his lover over. The man was dressed as impeccably as always. This evening he wore a deep burgundy cotton shirt, unbuttoned to mid-chest and tucked into pressed black trousers. The ensemble was finished with black leather shoes and belt.

"What have you got planned?" Duo asked, smiling and crossing his arms over his chest as if he were suspicious of the man's intentions.

"Mmm, how does a weekend getaway sound?" Zechs asked, pulling Duo to him possessively and nipping at the boy's neck.

"Sounds great," Duo replied, his eyes blinking shut at the arousing sensation of Zechs's lips on his throat. "But I'm working this weekend."

"Mere details..." Zechs said, releasing him and then dangling a pair of keys in front of him.

"What are those for?"

Zechs did not answer, instead he pointed the silver cylinder on his key ring toward the parking lot. Two beeps and suddenly car lights were shining on them.

"Whoa," Duo said, squinting and holding his hand up to shield his eyes. "You bought a car?"

"I had to do something today while you were working," Zechs teased and then grabbed Duo by the hand, taking him over to see his latest acquisition.

Duo gave a long whistle when he got a good look at the sports car. It was a small, silver convertible with black leather seats. "Very nice," he grinned.

"Hop in," Zechs said.

"What about my bike? And I've got to work..."

Zechs bent down and kissed Duo, silencing his worries. "All taken care of. Now get in, Baby."

Duo raised an eyebrow. That was the first time Zechs had ever called him that, but he kind of liked it, and jumped in the passenger seat without further delay.

Zechs behind the wheel was a wonderful thing. Duo leaned back, taking in the scenery speeding past him, but more so the man next to him. Zechs's hands worked the machine like they worked Duo, anticipating the moment when it was time to shift gears, making the transition from first to second, third and beyond, smoothly... effortlessly.

This car, despite its small size, suited Zechs perfectly. It was sleek and fast and looked very expensive. In minutes, they were heading out of town, and Duo again wondered how this weekend would unfold.

"Whose gonna work my shift tomorrow when I don't show up? And shouldn't we stop at my apartment so I can throw some clothes in a bag?"

Zechs shook his head. "I talked to Rikk earlier today and he said that Trish would be happy to work your shift tomorrow, and I've taken the liberty of buying you new clothes. I've planned the entire weekend, Duo. Now I just want you to relax and enjoy it. We have some celebrating to do."

Duo had been about to protest all these plans being made without his knowledge, but Zechs's last remark undid him. "Celebrating?"

"Twenty-eight days today," Zechs said, turning to smile at Duo and then looking back at the road.

"Four weeks isn't very long," Duo said, suddenly feeling silly that he wanted to make note of this day.

"It's been a beautiful four weeks," Zechs added, taking one hand from the wheel to rest on Duo's thigh. He gave a little squeeze. "I value every moment with you Duo. Whether it's one minute, one day or four weeks, it means a great deal to me."

Duo swallowed, feeling overwhelmed. "It means a lot to me, too, Zechs," he said and then grew quiet as he turned his attention onto the city's twinkling night skyline.

Not long into the trip, Zechs revealed their destination... New York City. Duo was a bit surprised by the choice, trading one city for another, but he also knew that New York held its own delights and he was happy to be spending a couple of uninterrupted days with Zechs no matter where they landed. In only a few hours they arrived at their five-star hotel, but tired from the journey they retired to their suite, ordering sandwiches and champagne from room service.

Duo had never been so indulged in his life. Zechs made sure that every luxury was provided and prompted Duo to partake in this lifestyle fully. It gave the man great pleasure, and a measure of self-forgiveness, to lavish Duo in this way. After all, Duo had in one way or another been victim to Zechs's war persona. But since the first night they had had sex, Duo had not asked Zechs again to explain what he had done. Of course, Zechs was grateful that Duo had set the past aside, but he still hoped that one day he would be brave enough to face that other self.

The next evening, after a lazy day of sleeping late, shopping and visiting museums, the two young men headed out for a romantic dinner. Duo wore the new indigo blue suit Zechs had bought for him, quite pleased with the tailored fit. But being Duo, he turned his nose up at the hard-soled shoes Zechs had also purchased, and instead wore his well-used black and white tennis shoes.

Coming out of the dressing room, Duo crowed in triumph at how sharp he looked in his new clothes. "You got the size just right!"

"I think by now I know your body better than you, better than anyone," Zechs said, smiling seductively.

Duo swallowed. Yes, Zechs had learned him well, but did he really know him better than anyone? The question made Duo uncomfortable and he quickly retreated into the bathroom to brush his teeth before they headed out.

At the restaurant, Zechs ordered the best wine and talked of the art they had seen in the museums that day. Duo enjoyed Zechs like this, carefree and seemingly whole. Whatever terrible things he had done or had tried to do no longer mattered. Zechs was no longer a former enemy, he was the person Duo turned to for everything... comfort, release, companionship. And he suspected he had become the same, perhaps more, to Zechs.

After dinner, the pair stepped into the night air ready to find a dance club or just walk along the city streets taking in the sights. Just as they set off, walking hand in hand, they noticed a crowd gathering in front of another restaurant, a half block down and across the street.

"Are those photographers?" Duo asked, curious of the unexpected spectacle.

Zechs narrowed his eyes on the scene. It did seem that the local media was well represented. "Perhaps they've found us out," he said, chuckling, and pulled Duo to him for a swift, public kiss.

"Ah, the elusive lovers have been discovered," Duo snickered, letting Zechs pull him into the dark recess of a doorway.

They indulged in the forbidden love fantasy for a moment, kissing and holding each other tight, until they heard several in the crowd cry out excitedly. Looking across the street, they watched as several white limousines and black cars with darkened windows pulled up in front of the restaurant.

"Wow, looks like something big is happening," Duo said.

Men in dark suits jumped from the black cars, making a perimeter around the limousines and pushing the crowd of reporters and onlookers back. Duo stepped in front of Zechs, watching with wide-eyes as the scene played out. He was certain it must be someone very famous for there to be this much security and interest.

Zechs placed his hands on Duo's shoulders, wanting to keep the boy from bolting across the street to investigate further. At first, Duo found the touch comforting, but then noticed that the pressure on his shoulders was growing.

"You okay, Zechs?" he asked, looking over his shoulder at his lover and then back at the crowd. "Do you know what's going on?" he asked and then froze as the answer emerged from inside one of the limousines. "Relena!" Shocked, Duo leaned back into Zechs and gasped, "What's she doing here?"

"Official business, no doubt," Zechs said calmly, staring at his little sister and noting with great interest that she wore the traditional white uniform of the Royal Peacecrafts. The image stirred many memories, but memories that seemed from another lifetime.

Duo watched with growing unease as Relena and other important dignitaries made their way into the restaurant. Seeing the Sankian princess again made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. If Relena was here then so was...

"Heero," he said. The name was just a breath on his lips, going unheard over the clamor of the press and the sound of the passing traffic, but it sent a jolt through him all the same.

Duo's eyes darted about the scene, searching for the familiar tousled dark brown hair. He scanned each person, starting with the security detail, but he did not see Heero. Of course, that did not mean he was not here. He might already be inside the restaurant, coordinating the operation from there.

Their last conversation came back in a flash. "Relena needs me," Heero had said. "You can take care of yourself like you always have." The words echoed inside Duo, cutting him again as they had months ago.

Damn you, Heero, he thought, as his heart hammered in his chest. He swallowed hard against the re-emerging pain, and then took hold of Zechs's hand and said, "Let's get out of here."

The two young men moved away back down the street, neither saying a word. They walked for some time after that, each feeling a little lost, a little off-center. It was not easy having the past thrown back at you when you thought it had been successfully tucked away.

Back in their hotel room it seemed the incident was forgotten. They fell onto the bed in a passionate embrace, their mouths coming together in kiss after kiss. Zechs pulled Duo on top of him, the boy straddling his hips as he wriggled out of his suit jacket and then worked to unbutton the other man's shirt.

Duo kissed each inch of the broad chest as it was exposed. He needed this contact, needed to make this connection, needed to forget... As he began to work open Zechs's pants, the man grabbed him by the wrist to stop his progress.

"Duo, I need to tell you something," Zechs said.

"Talk later," Duo said, continuing to kiss the bare skin. "I want to make love." He reached down to feel Zechs's bulge and grinned. "Mmm, and so do you."

"That can wait."

The statement stopped Duo's ministrations. Zechs had never made him wait before. He looked up to find Zechs's blue eyes intense and serious. "You really want to talk... now?"

"Just for a moment."

Duo sat up, still straddling the man. "Okay, so talk."

Leaning up on his elbows, Zechs took a breath. "I haven't been completely honest with you."

"You can be honest after we have sex," Duo said and snickered.

"I'm serious. I have to tell you something about this weekend. When I planned it, I wanted it to be a celebration of our relationship."

The boy smiled. "And it is. So what's the problem?"

"The problem is that I chose New York for selfish reasons." Zechs looked away and then back up at his lover. "I knew that Relena would be here."

"Oh," Duo blinked.

"Yes, oh. I read an article outlining the upcoming summit of the United Earthsphere Alliance. I knew they would be meeting here in New York City."

"And you knew Relena would be at that restaurant tonight?"

"Yes, I'm sorry, Duo. I thought it would be good to see her again, but it was very selfish of me..."

Duo shook his head. "Since when is it selfish to want to see your own sister? There's no way I could be mad at you for that."

Zechs rested back down on the bed, sighing deeply. "I don't deserve you," he said, running his hands over Duo's thighs. "But be honest with me. Tell me, are you all right? I should've consulted you before putting you in that situation. I hadn't considered your feelings about possibly seeing H---..."

Gentle fingers pressed against his lips, stopping the name from being spoken. He searched the big, round eyes staring down at him and saw the emotional scars. Of course, Duo had felt something out there. How could he not? But whether it was pain, regret or anger, Zechs knew he should not ask. They were in bed and this was no place to discuss past lovers. And so, Zechs kissed the slender fingertips and then pulled Duo down, taking his mouth in a deep, slow kiss. Tonight they would set the past aside once again.