This is a fusion, of sorts, with the movie Pretty Woman, written in response to a challenge issued on the 1x2ML (Yahoo Groups), with Duo in the role of the businessman who makes the acquaintance of Heero, a prostitute working Hollywood Boulevard.
Warnings: AU, yaoi, coarse language, violence, angst, cliffhangers, red herrings, mention of various vices, random bits of useless knowledge, nongraphic male/male sex, enough footnotes to choke an army of horses.
Disclaimer: I don't really need to be Captain Obvious here, do I? No ownership, no money being made. Written for fun, not profit.
Spoilers: None for GW, very few for Pretty Woman.
I'm not sure about the title, but I thought it a damn sight better than "Pretty Heero."
Edulcoration- noun form of the verb edulcorate, meaning to free from harshness (as of attitude) or to soften.
Chapter 1 - The Meeting
Wufei Chang made his way through the throng of people, surveying everything with a cool eye. He was pleased with the arrangements his wife Meiran had made, and if Duo knew what was good for him, he'd damn well be appreciative. So far, everyone's reception to the rumor that he and Duo were thinking of taking over yet another business seemed positive.
He made another sweep of the room with his coal black eyes. Where was his associate, anyway?
Duo Maxwell was standing behind the door to a room that looked like a library, a cell phone to his ear. His head was bent slightly, and he held his free hand to the other ear to block out the noise that filtered through the hall.
"Hilde? What's going on?" he said, his tone genial, his eyes looking anything but. Hilde, of course, could not see the slow burn that dwelled in his lowered gaze, nor the slight clenching of his jaw.
"You heard me, Duo, I don't think I need to repeat it," the tinny voice on the cell phone said. Duo gripped the phone tighter. You'd think for all the money he'd spent on the damn thing, the reception would be better.
"I think you do," he said calmly. Despite the soft tone of his voice, Hilde heard him.
"Duo," she said, sounding almost pained. "It's not working. You know it, and I know it, and we gave it our best shot, but it's time to move on."
"And I don't have any say in this?"
"How can you say that?" the voice blared, making Duo pull the phone away from his ear a bit and staring at it before returning it to its previous position. "Duo, you're never here when I need you. There's always someone or something more important."
Duo jumped on that last comment. "Someone? You think there is someone?"
"Isn't there? I talk to Sylvia more than I ever talked to you. If I didn't know Sylvia personally, I'd think you had something going on with her."
Duo counted to ten before he replied. "You really think that."
"No," she sighed. "No, Duo, I don't think you'd be interested in Sylvia."
He recognized the evasion. "And you don't think so because…?"
"Duo, if you don't know, far be it from me to enlighten you."
Duo's fingers clenched on the phone until he heard the plastic casing crack.
"Oh, I don't know," he said, his voice dropping an octave. "Please, do be so kind as to 'enlighten' me."
"It's just..." Hilde paused, and Duo could picture her shifting uncomfortably. "Duo, have you ever thought that maybe you're..." she trailed off, her voice sounding almost timid.
"That maybe you're gay?" she said in a half whisper. That's all Duo caught before the tips of his fingers wrapped around the phone, hitting the off switch as the crack in the casing traveled up its length.
A slender young man stepped out of his shower and toweled off his hair, the end result looking like a thatch of dark brown grass just ripe for mowing. He didn't bother to wrap the towel around his waist. The towel was folded and placed on the towel rack beside the tub. He looked into the mirror briefly, then scowled. He grabbed a hairnet from the medicine cabinet and placed it over the unruly locks, tucking every stray hair under the stretchy mesh.
The blonde wig, he decided. Eye liner? He pondered briefly, then decided against it. It wasn't as if he were going to try to pull off the transsexual tactic. He wanted his clients to know what they were getting, for the most part, anyway, to avoid any unpleasantness when they found out the hard way. He almost snorted at the unintentional pun.
He headed for the door, then hesitated. It was the end of the month, and he could hear their landlord rapping on the door down the hall to collect the rent. He went into the bedroom next to his and lifted up the mattress, spilling pillows and blankets onto the floor. He reached into a small hole poked in the center of the box spring and pulled out the glass mason jar hidden there, but even without looking at it, he knew it was empty. He took a deep breath. Quatre better have a damn good excuse this time.
Five minutes later, the young man was dressed and slipping out the window, into the night.
Duo hit the steering wheel and swore under his breath, then remembered that he was alone in Wufei's car and let loose with a stream of colorful language. It wasn't often he was able to vocalize his frustration without couching everything in polite language.
Wufei was going to be seriously pissed. Duo hadn't asked for permission before borrowing the car, but it was going to be obvious to his friend, once he recovered from the shock of finding his prized car missing, that Duo was also missing and then he'd put two and two together. It had been a long time since Duo had needed to utilize his thieving skills, but hotwiring a car was a lot like riding a bike. Even if the car was a Ferrari Enzo.
An Enzo. Three hundred and ninety-nine made in the entire run. Forget pissed. Wufei was going to kill him when he got back. Shit. He really should get back, before something untoward happened to Wufei's pride and joy.
Except he was hopelessly lost.
He really shouldn't have broken the cell phone after his conversation with Hilde.
"Where's Quatre?" a platinum blond haired man growled at the bartender of the little neighborhood pub he frequented. The brunet behind the bar pointed in the direction of the stairs, and received a curt nod in response.
A group of people were seated at a table in the upstairs section. A young man with honey gold hair shivered as if a chill had permeated the room, even though the heat from all the bodies around him made such a thing impossible.
"Quatre," a voice hissed in his ear as a hand clamped on his shoulder.
Quatre had known it was coming, but he winced anyway. He was so busted.
"How much?" the voice continued.
"He's in it for a couple hundred," a bald man to Quatre's right said, throwing a few bills in the middle of the table. "Call."
Quatre nervously glanced over his shoulder into furious blue eyes that looked as though they wanted to tear him limb from limb.
"I thought we went over this, Quatre."
"I know," Quatre protested. "But I just know that my luck is going to change this time!"
"You've been saying that for the past six weeks! You just blew our rent money, Quatre!"
"And some of next month's, too," a dark-haired man to baldy's right added somewhat cheerfully.
"Let's go," Quatre said nervously, shooting a dark look at the others before tugging on his roommate's hand and leading him down the stairs. If he was going to die, it sure as hell wasn't going to be with all those witnesses telling him "I told you so" as the life was choked out of him. He waved half-heartedly to the bartender on his way out, but he didn't dare slow his pace.
"I don't know why you're so upset," Quatre began. "I mean, you know I'm good for it. I swear, I'll replace it." He noticed the tightness around the other man's lips and remembered belatedly that their rent was due today. He was suddenly swamped with guilt and he reached out to touch a lock of the pale blond hair with his fingertips.
"This is a good look for you," he said, hoping his roommate would go along with the change of topic. "You're a pretty hot looking blond."
"I look like a girl," the other man snorted.
"Oh, believe me," Quatre said, shaking his head. "You don't look anything like a girl." His aquamarine eyes scanned the streets for another distraction from their rent woes, and he clamped his companion's arm in a vice grip.
"Holy shit, would you look at that?"
They both stared at the sleek black car that neither of them thought they'd ever set eyes on in their lifetime.
Quatre glanced over at his roommate and saw that the car had made a definite impression. "What do you have to lose?" he suggested, gesturing toward the car. 'Please give it a go,' he thought silently. Whether because he wanted his friend to have something else to occupy his mind so he wouldn't ask so many questions or because he had a feeling that such a rare car in their midst was an omen, Quatre wasn't quite sure. A good omen, hopefully, considering all the money he'd "borrowed" from their stash.
He would have won that poker game, too, if not for Otto.
Duo pulled over, letting the engine idle as he fumbled with the cell phone. He might still be able to hotwire a car, but apparently fixing small electronic devices was a rapidly deteriorating skill. At least it was in the dark. He suddenly had the feeling that he wasn't alone, and he looked up to see a pair of eyes staring at him in the dim interior. In this lighting, they looked silver, but then, so did the hair that spilled over the shoulders of his visitor.
"Do you mind?" Duo snapped.
"Not at all," a deep voice replied. "Need help?"
Duo scowled in the darkness. No, he didn't need help with the stupid cell phone. What he needed was -
He was being an idiot. What did he need a phone for, when he could just ask this...person...just as easily?
"Know where the Regent Beverly Wilshire is?"
"Of course," the voice scoffed, as if its owner was very well acquainted with the it. "Don't you?"
The scorn rankled. It shouldn't have, because even a streetwalker could guess that anyone with enough money to drive a car like this would naturally stay in a swank hotel like the Wilshire. Duo did not like feeling belittled, however.
"Of course," Duo mimicked the stranger's comment. "Why else would I ask? Perhaps I'm taking a survey."
"Sarcasm doesn't become you," the voice chastised without a trace of humor. "You plan on staying here until all that's left of the car is the steering wheel you're putting dents in?"
Duo relaxed his grip on the wheel with his left hand. He leaned his right hand on the passenger seat and peered up into those silver orbs. The dispassionate face gave nothing away, but Duo had spent enough years working with negotiations to realize that the old adage about getting something for nothing was going to be true.
"So are you going to help me find it or not?" he asked. To his surprise, the passenger door swung upwards, and the blond stranger slipped into the empty seat.
"Twenty bucks," he said as he reached over his shoulder for the seat belt.
Duo nearly sputtered. "Twenty? Are you insane?"
"You have a point," his soon-to-be-savior agreed. "Make that fifty."
Duo's eyes nearly bugged out of his head. "You...you..." He bit his tongue. There was nothing he could do, and it would be worth fifty dollars just to get Wufei's baby back to him in one piece.
"Fine," he bit out.
His overpriced guide reached up to pull the passenger door closed, and Duo pulled away from the curb as soon as he heard it latch firmly. Once he'd calmed down enough not to provoke the stranger into doing something like raising the price to a hundred dollars, Duo asked, "what's your name?"
He received a grunt in response.
"Your people skills are charming," Duo muttered.
"I think we both know that I'm not paid for my witty banter," came the caustic reply. Duo glanced over at him, thinking that perhaps the man had a sense of humor. Either that or he was just cynical as hell. When Duo's eyes returned to the road, he heard the sullen response.
So the guy had a name after all. Duo thought of asking if it was his real name, but the reluctance with which the guy provided the information suggested that it probably was. Duo prided himself on his ability to read people. It was a necessary skill in the business world.
"You're going to get hypertension," Heero remarked as they merged onto the highway.
"You need to relax your grip. Stress often leads to high blood pressure."
"What are you now, a doctor?" Duo snorted.
"I could be if you want me to. For two hundred dollars, I'll give you a complete physical."
Duo glanced over at him quickly, his eyes nearly bulging out. "Two hundred dollars?"
"Find any physician you'd go to who would charge you less," Heero challenged.
Duo hated to admit the guy had a point. His curiosity was piqued, but he wouldn't be able to satisfy any of it as long as he had to keep his attention on the road. He was also finding it more difficult with each passing second to follow any directions Heero gave him without reading innuendo into every word.
"Hey," he began, once again praying Wufei wasn't going to kill him. "Ever dream of driving an Enzo?"
They pulled off to a side road and Duo watched Heero eye the car with something akin to lust in his eyes. Duo swallowed convulsively as he watched the young man's fingers ghost over the car in a near caress before he climbed into the driver's seat, sinking back with a look of orgasmic pleasure on his face. Duo bit his lip hard as he walked around the car and climbed into the passenger seat.
While Heero drove, Duo took the opportunity to study him. It wasn't easy, as much of the blond's features were still in shadow, but he could see the way the pale hair cascaded over Heero's shoulders and back, and from his profile, Duo could see that Heero's eyes had an exotic slant. His arms were slender but very obviously male, thanks to the tight muscles in his biceps and forearms.
Duo's gaze returned to Heero's hair. He didn't meet many men with hair as long as his. He absently reached behind his neck and pulled the end of the long braid into his lap. Heero glanced sideways briefly, but said nothing.
It seemed a remarkably short period of time before Heero pulled in front of the Wilshire, even though Duo knew that they'd been driving around for a while. Heero had obviously taken the long way there, and Duo couldn't say he blamed him. He'd watched Heero's long slender fingers each time he changed gears, or at least he had when his eyes weren't riveted on Heero's face. Heero had looked uninhibited and wild, but now that they were here, Heero's features were guarded once again. They stepped out of the car and Duo gave the vehicle a once-over, breathing a sigh of relief once he confirmed that all he'd owe Wufei was a tank of gas. And probably an explanation, but Duo didn't really have one himself.
He looked back over at Heero who was just standing there expectantly.
Duo took the opportunity to take in the view. Heero's hair fell to his waist, where a pair of dark leather pants – probably navy or black - hugged his hips and did little to conceal Heero's attributes in the front. Duo flicked his eyes up to Heero's chest, covered in a loose shirt of deep green that was open at the neck, and his gaze followed the line of Heero's neck, up to his earlobe, and finally into Heero's eyes. Heero looked almost amused, if Duo could believe Heero capable of it.
"I'm not gay," Duo said, recognizing the look in Heero's eyes. He was assessing a potential mark.
"For five hundred dollars," Heero said, leaning toward him slightly. "I can change that."
Duo swallowed, then realized that there was a glint in Heero's eyes that suggested he might be kidding. Black humor, Duo thought. That was something he was familiar with, too, and for a split second, Duo felt he knew Heero better than he knew his own business partner.
"Hey," he said, rubbing the back of his neck. "Are you, uh, going to be alright?" He felt a flicker of concern about this stranger, despite the discomfort Heero had caused, wittingly or not.
Heero graced him with a look that suggested that it was an incredibly stupid question. "I will as soon as you give me the fifty dollars you owe me."
Duo nodded and reached into his wallet, pulling out a hundred dollar bill. "I don't suppose you have change," he said lamely.
"No, but I'd be happy to give you a blowjob to make up the difference," Heero offered.
Duo glanced around, realizing that the valet was still standing there, waiting for the keys. Which he didn't have, because he'd hotwired the car.
"Follow me," Duo said tersely, "and we'll finish our business there." As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he mentally kicked himself for the innuendoes that permeated that sentence. Heero was well aware of them, too, because his lips curled up in an almost-smirk.
Duo handed the useless cell phone and a business card to the valet. "Call Wufei Chang at this number regarding the Enzo," he said, then he put a hand behind Heero's back and guided him into the hotel entrance.
Once they were in the brightly lit lobby, Duo got his first good look at Heero and he realized that Heero looked like sin incarnate. The loosely fitted shirt did more to emphasize that, with the smooth expanse of skin revealed. Duo wondered if Heero had his chest waxed, and if he did, if it was a personal decision or something he did because of his line of work.
Maybe it was his reaction to Heero, more than Heero's physical appearance, that invited the curious stares of the other hotel guests. The leather pants, Duo realized, weren't helping matters very much, and the two of them garnered several disapproving sniffs. Duo wondered what the hell he was doing, inviting not just a prostitute but a male prostitute into his hotel room.
Heero intrigued him, he decided.
As they waited for the elevator, Heero glared at everyone who looked in their direction. The dark look he gave seemed incongruous with the white blond hair, and Duo couldn't stop staring at it. He saw his fingers creeping toward the platinum locks but pulled them back just as the elevator doors opened. Then he hauled Heero into the elevator and reached across the elevator operator to press the button, closing the doors before anyone else had a chance to overlook their puritan leanings and join them.
The elevator operator carefully averted his gaze, pretending not to notice them. Although they were only ones in the car, Heero was standing unnecessarily close to him. Not enough to invade his personal space, but definitely close enough so that Duo could smell him. He couldn't place the scent, but it evoked warm feelings in him, which was at odds with the coldness that had crept into Heero's eyes as he'd stared back at the other hotel guests. Eyes that Duo now realized were a stormy blue color, unlike his own, which he'd been told, numerous times, were like precious jewels.
He would not want to face those eyes in a dark alley, Duo decided, tamping down the memories from his own less than idyllic childhood.
He managed to only fumble with his card key once as he tried to open the hotel door, and Heero followed him in silently. As soon as the door shut behind them, Heero walked around the room, looking in corners and surveying the place as though searching for hidden enemies. Duo wanted to snort at the very idea, but somehow couldn't bring himself to think it was amusing.
He sat down at the desk and glanced at the light on the phone, but didn't bother to check the messages. He'd have all day tomorrow to listen to Wufei. He picked up the phone and informed the front desk that he did not wish to be disturbed. That would take care of any ideas Wufei might have about ringing the room after he got done ranting to Meiran about irresponsible, untrustworthy friends. Of course Meiran might end up making Wufei sleep on the couch, because Duo was sure that someone was going to be ranting about that car for the next few nights, but he didn't feel particularly guilty about that.
Thinking about the Enzo made his thoughts return to Hilde, and their last conversation.
Heero had been silent during his little reconnaissance of the penthouse, so Duo started when he heard that voice again. It had been deep before, but this time it had a husky timbre that made Duo's mouth go dry.
"Now that you have me here, Duo, what do you plan to do?"