Duo made it to work in record time the following morning, regardless of the sleep he lost wondering what surprise Heero had up his sleeve. No matter what it was he was sure the gift would be calculated to show everyone that they were a bona fide couple. Setting the kick stand on his sleek and shiny black motorcycle, is pride and joy, he sighed as he dismounted and pulled the helmet off his head. He fastened it to his handlebars then shook his head so he wouldn't have helmet hair walking into the building.
As he made his way to the elevators, he wistfully wished their pretense of being the happy couple was true. Still, he harbored some hope that the quick, unsolicited kiss he'd given Heero the night before, when no one was there to see, might have given the Japanese man a small hint of how he really felt. Maybe next time they were alone he'd be bolder and slip in some tongue. It wasn't as if they hadn't kissed before, tongues and all, but it had always been for the benefit of others, open displays of affection to prove their interest in each other. That had been part of the deal. It had all been a ruse, a sham, and what a damn shame it was that everyone but Heero believed the affection, at lest on his part, was genuine.
There was only a slight bounce in his step that morning as he approached his office, a result of his sudden downturn in mood. Even the thought of Heero's surprise didn't buoy his spirits up as he stepped into the familiar room. While in the process of pulling off his leather jacket he looked to the room's occupants. "Hey, guys!" he casually greeted the five, all sitting at their desks. He continued towards his own spot in the room then slowly came to a halt, somewhat stunned. Comically, his eyes widened and jaw dropped. In place of his abused and well-worn, cloth-covered chair was a deep blue leather, executive-style one that could easily stand up against the fancy, expensive one that Quatre occupied in his office at Winner Industries and come out its equal. Reaching out, his hand passed over the smooth, cool surface of the high chair back, noting the contours in its design, shaped to fit his head and body perfectly. The raised arms of the chair appeared to be just the right height. A yellow bow was tied around the middle and a card was dangling from it's center. Pausing to look around the room and noting the smiles on everyone's faces, his gaze settled on Heero. Was it his imagination that the smile Heero wore was a bit brighter than usual? And was that a spark of excitement in those wonderful deep blue eyes?
"Surprised?" Heero asked, obviously amused by his reaction to the gift.
"Very." It felt as if his grin was going to split his face.
"Go ahead and try it out." Heero gave a nod towards the new piece of furniture.
"Okay." Setting his jacket down on the edge of his desk, Duo then searched his pockets to make sure there wasn't a sharp edge poking out somewhere that might mar the perfectly smooth surface. Assuring himself it was safe, he made a slow production of removing the bow and card, setting them on the desk, and then easing his body down onto the exquisite seat. Leaning into the back, his eyes slid to a close out of the sheer enjoyment of having such a decadent resting spot. The only thing that would be better, he decided, was if he could sit in it without the barrier of clothing that separated his skin from the cool, new smelling leather.
"I take it he likes it," Wufei said with a soft snicker.
"Like it? I'm deeply in love," Duo purred, then realized his comment could have a double meaning. Oh well, all the better for their audience.
"Is it comfortable?" Heero's voice was much closer now and Duo opened his eyes to see the other man standing at the edge of his desk, absently fingering the sleeve of his discarded leather jacket.
Jumping up, he threw his arms around Heero, hugging him tightly. "It's the best gift I've ever gotten," he said, then whispered in his ear, "But don't tell that to Quatre or he might think I didn't like all the gifts he gave me for Christmas last year."
"Just between us, then," Heero replied, his lips brushing against the sensitive skin of Duo's neck, his warm breath causing a pleasurable shiver to ripple down his spine.
"Maxwell! What's going on here?" Une's unhappy voice abruptly separated the two young men.
"Umm... hi, Boss," Duo answered lamely, his cheeks warming with embarrassment. Stepping back from Heero he looked to his boss and directed her attention to his new chair. "Just thanking Heero for his gift."
Director Une's eyes narrowed as she gazed at the expensive piece of office furniture. "Don't you think it's a bit showy, Yuy?"
Straight faced, Heero answered the head of the Preventers in his most professional manner. "His other chair was in poor condition and affected his posture and performance. I requisitioned a replacement for him, but it appears there is a month's waiting list. I took matters into my own hands and purchased a proper chair for him from my own funds. I don't believe there's a regulation that prohibits such actions."
Une remained unresponsive for a moment. After giving a quick rebuking glance at Wufei, whose humorous snort had been quite audible following his teammate's explanation, she answered, "No. I don't believe there's a clause that says you can't purchase your own office furniture or, in this case, for someone else. I do know, however, that there is a no fraternization-between-partners rule that might bear reading by both you and Mr. Maxwell. It seems you two are the talk of the entire building and the little demonstration I just witnessed seems to support the rumors. Must I remind you gentlemen that any deviation from this rule may have serious consequences to your current standing in this organization?"
With those words of warning, Duo's hopes and dreams for a true relationship with Heero came crashing down in a heart-crushing demise. He could only guess that his lapse in memory of such a rule was due to the thickness of the employee handbook he'd been given on his acceptance into Preventers. He vaguely recalled briefly glancing at the monstrously thick volume before tossing it into the bottom of his desk drawer, intending to use it as a reference when needed. He'd never read more than three pages. He supposed it only made sense that there was a rule about not being involved with a partner, emotional attachments had the potential for causing an agent to hesitate at a moment of crisis. Glancing at Heero and his face, now closed off from all emotion, there was no doubt in his mind that the other man would never break with regulations just to be with him, especially if it endangered his career. He studied Heero for a moment longer, with both curiosity and dread, wondering what he would say in reply to their boss. He suspected that he would assure her that the situation would be dealt with and their deal would be off.
"If you have a moment, I would like to have a word with you in private." Heero's focus was on Director Une as he spoke, and Duo couldn't help but wonder what he was up to. Would he tell her about the deal, that it was only a farce? Why did that idea not make him feel any better? Telling Une was probably the more practical thing to do if they wanted to keep their jobs.
Une glanced at her watch and frowned. "I came here to get Maxwell's report, but I can give you five minutes. Here or in my office?"
"Here." Heero looked to the others with a nod of his head towards the door. Byrd and Kurhle were the first to leave. Trowa and Wufei moved a bit more slowly, waiting for Duo to join them.
"Should I stay?" Duo asked hesitantly, looking for some direction from Heero.
"No. I'll handle this. Could you make me some tea?"
Nodding, Duo grabbed his jacket from off his desk and hung it on the rack by the door before being ushered out of the room by Trowa. Wufei turned to close the door behind them, pausing only to give Heero a warning glare before shutting it completely.
"How could I not have known about the fraternization rule?" Duo asked while moping between his two friend as they walked towards the cafeteria.
"What do you think Heero's saying to her?" Trowa asked, concern evident on his usually placid face.
Duo shook his head, and answered glumly, "I don't know. I can only assume he won't risk his position here by keeping our relationship going."
"Maybe that would be for the best," Wufei mumbled.
"Yeah, maybe." Duo's voice sounded as dejected as he felt.
Abruptly grabbing Duo by the arm, Trowa jerked the long-haired man around to face him. After leveling an unhappy glare at Wufei for his last comment, the tall Preventer's green eyes focused solely on the man in his grasp. "What are you saying, Duo? I thought things were good between you and Heero. Isn't his gift to you this morning proof of his feelings? Even if his former training urges him to obey rules and regulations, are you just going to let him give you up without a fight?"
Duo could only shake his head, unable to truthfully answer his friend considering the fact that he and Heero had led them to believe there was much more to their relationship that there truthfully was. But it wasn't real, not like he wished it to be.
Wufei took that moment to speak up. "Just leave it alone, Trowa. It will work itself out in time."
Trowa frowned at the Chinese agent. "What do you know that I don't, Wufei?"
"That perhaps things aren't always as they seem." With that said, Wufei turned on his heel and proceeded to the cafeteria get his morning tea.
The braided man's eyes trailed after the retreating man, his eyes narrowing as he remembered Heero's comment the night before, that their Chinese friend was onto them. "You know Wufei tends to be cryptic in the morning. He thinks conspiracies and plots surround him before he's had two cups of green tea and visits the bathroom."
The expression on Trowa's face indicated he doubted Duo's reasoning, yet instead of pressing it further he gave the braided man a slight smile and slung his arm around the smaller man's shoulders. "Let's get our drinks and then strong-arm Heero into telling us what happened."
"Sounds like a plan," Duo replied as lightly as he could manage, then let his friend lead him in the direction Wufei had disappeared to a moment before.
They returned to the office five minutes later to find Heero back at his desk. Duo approached, setting the hot cup of tea down on the desktop and waited until the other man looked up. "So, what happened?"
Heero glanced up from his computer, then shifted his gaze to the other occupants of the room. "Can we talk about it at lunch?"
Duo blinked, expecting a straightforward answer, not a delay. It could only mean Heero had bad news to deliver. It seemed their ruse had definitely come to an end. "Ah.. Yeah. Sure."
Turning, he went back to his desk and sat in his new chair. Before him was the bow and card he'd taken off earlier. Next to them was a note from Une saying his report should be sent to her no later than noon that day. Ignoring her note, he reached for the card, turned it and lifted the unsealed flap. It was a piece of light blue, high quality paper with four Japanese characters in the center, written in bold, black ink. Beneath it was Heero's more recognizable writing in English, probably for the benefit of their nosey friends. Glad you're home. I missed you. Love, Heero.
I missed you, too, Duo thought to himself with a sigh as he folded the card and put it back into the envelope for safe keeping. He'd ask Heero later what the Japanese symbols meant. For now, he had a couple of hours to prepare himself for the emotional letdown he was bound to have when Heero delivered the bad news.
A call came to Wufei at approximately 11:15 a.m. A breach in the security had been detected at the government building. He, Trowa and Heero quickly left the office, leaving Duo to finish his report with agents Kurhle and Byrd for company.
The others didn't return to the office that afternoon. Disheartened, Duo shut out the office lights as he followed behind the two other agents, who got off the elevator on the main lobby while he continued on to the lower parking level. Entering the nearly empty parking garage he walked directly to his motorcycle, automatically tucking his braid beneath the collar of his jacket. Upon reaching the black bike, he worked to unfastened the strap holding his helmet securely to the handlebar. Before he had a chance to place it on his head, the sound of running feet stopped caught his attention.
He turned around to see Heero coming from the direction of the stairwell, looking anxious. "What's up?" he asked, concerned that Heero seemed to be a bit breathless. He set his helmet back on the handlebars and waited for the other man to reach him.
"I wanted to talk to you before you went home. Sorry I missed you at lunch."
"It's okay," Duo shrugged, though he was thinking, At lunch, now or next week, bad new is still bad news, whenever it's delivered.. The other man came to a full stop less than a foot in front of him. There was definitely something about Heero that was... off, Duo decided. With a start he realized that Heero was biting the inside of his cheek, a sign that he was either upset or nervous.
Guessing that Heero was having difficulty severing their deal, Duo decided to make things easier for the other man. "So the game's over, isnt it?"
"Yes.. No!" Heero snapped, quickly correcting himself. "The ruse, well... it served its purpose, right? But now it looks like we have a new... dilemma."
Thinking Heero meant they were back to square one, with the same problems they'd had before coming up with their plan, he answered, "Ah, yes. The dating vultures. I suppose we could say we're just too heartbroken from our breakup to even think of dating anyone else. That might keep them off our backs for a month or two."
The look Heero shot at him was rather strange, but then to confuse Duo even more, his friend cast his eyes down to the cement floor and said in a subdued tone, "If that's really what you want."
Duo frowned. What the hell? Something was definitely wrong here. He hadn't seen the other man act this insecure before. "Are you alright? What did Director Une say? Did you tell her about our plan, the reasons for our displays of affection?"
"I did." Heero's reply seemed hesitant.
The long pause that followed was fraught with tension. Then Heero straightened, looked Duo in the eye and boldly declared, "I told her that the game was over."
"Oh," was all Duo could manage in reply with his heart in his throat and eyes strangely itchy.
Heero's bold attitude was suddenly replaced again with an appearance of uncertainty and his eyes turned towards the cement floor once more. The braided man watched as Heero seemed to struggle for the right words to say. Finally, when those deep blue eyes rose to meet his own, there was something in them that begged for understanding. He didn't have time to ponder the meaning behind that look, for the gap between them suddenly closed when Heero's arm reached out, his hand slipped around his back and pulled their bodies together. And then those warm, wonderful lips quickly captured his mouth. Without any thought of hesitating, Duo reciprocated in kind, even though he'd initially been surprised by the suddenness of Heero's move. The soft moans of pleasure he was unable to suppress seemed to encourage the former Wing pilot as he continued to deepen the kiss, melding much more than just their mouths together. Duo wasn't sure what this kiss meant, if this was Heero's way of ending their deal or something more. But he figured that if this was indeed the end of their faux relationship, he'd take whatever Heero was willing to give him, even if it was a last, goodbye kiss.
When at last their lips separated and their bodies were trembling, and not only from a lack of oxygen, Duo buried his head in the crook of Heero warm neck, not wanting to be anywhere else in all the world. "Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but why did you do that? There's no one here to see it."
"Exactly," Heero answered, cradling Duo's body against his firm chest. "The game's over, Duo."
Disappointment, sadness and hurt filled the braided man's heart and mind. He only had himself to blame for falling in love with Heero all over again. Even though he knew an end to the deal was inevitable, it wasn't helping him to cope with the pain of losing the only man he'd ever loved. With a resigned sigh he pushed himself away from Heero embrace and moved to step back. He was stopped short when two strong hands firmly clasped his upper arms. Looking up, he was confused by the shy smile that Heero was wearing.
His confusion and hurt must have shown on his face, for Heero's smile faltered slightly. A hand, one which had once bent steel, came up to gently cradle the right side of his face, and Heero's incredible blue eyes softened. "No more acting or hiding our true feelings," he said resolutely.
"True feelings?" Duo's confusion doubled.
"I love you."
The braided man blinked as he assimilated what Heero has just said. Surely he hadn't just uttered the three words Duo had longed for yet never thought to hear uttered from Heero's mouth. "You love me?"
Cautiously, Duo asked, "As a friend or what?" Clarification was vitally important at this point.
Heero's smile widened, and to Duo it was more beautiful than anything he'd ever seen before. Leaning close so that there faces were only inches apart, Heero answered the question. "As a friend, lover and, hopefully your life-long companion."
The darker haired man blurred for a moment as moisture gathered in Duo's eyes. Lunging forward, he threw himself at Heero, wrapped his arms around him and held on for dear life. Was this real or just one of his far-fetched dreams of a perfect world? He continued to cling tightly to the other man, feeling Heero's warm body, firm and strong against his own. This close, he cold smell the fading scent of orange and cinnamon from the soap the other man favored. Heero's arms held him in place, reaffirming that this indeed was no dream.
"I can't believe this," he whispered with a choked voice. "I've loved you for so long."
"I know, and I'm sorry to have made you wait."
Pulling slowly out of Heero's arms, Duo touched the handsome face of the man who had held his heart since they were fifteen. Heero had changed since then, his face was no longer that of a boy, but of a maturing man. There was the strong chin, angular face and beautiful blue eyes that now were focused solely on him. "You knew how I felt about you during the war?"
Heero nodded. "I knew."
"Then why didn't you say anything?"
"Because I didn't know what I wanted back then. During the war, when I first noticed your attraction to me, I was completely focused on the war and the ending of it, which was my ultimate goal. I couldn't be distracted from that end. After the wars it took me a while to discover that I was not only attracted to you, but that my feelings for you were something I'd never had for anyone else. I wanted you Duo, but I didn't act or tell you how I felt because by then you were actively seeing other people. I thought it was better to stand back and let you find who or what it was that you wanted or needed. You appeared to have outgrown your infatuation with me, so I waited and watched.
"When you announced your unhappiness to everyone in the office, I jumped in when I saw an opening. Thanks to the two women on my floor, competing for my attention that day, I finally got my chance. The ruse to act as a couple came as inspiration, a solution to showing you that I'd changed, that I could be more than just your friend."
Duo really didn't think it was possible to be more surprised than he was at that moment, and he stood slack-jawed while listening to Heero's explanation. He was suddenly filled with regret, thinking about all the people he'd dated and openly talked about, many of whom he'd used in trying to fill the emptiness his unrequited love for Heero had caused. "So much time wasted," he whispered unhappily with a shake of his head.
"Not wasted, but time invested," Heero corrected. "I know what I want now, and that's you, Duo. I can only hope I've read you correctly in thinking that you want me also."
Moving closer, the braided man brought his lips close to Heero's, then paused to whisper as their eyes met once more, "I have dated a lot of people, slept with a few, but you're all I've ever wanted, Heero." The kiss they shared following that declaration was heated, but only a precursor to what was ahead of them. They parted once more with twin smiles of happiness set on their faces. Though there was much more to be said, at the moment, they had said enough.
Reaching into his jacket's pocket, Duo pulled out the card Heero had given him that morning and waved it in front of the Japanese man, wearing an impish grin. "So, what do these symbols mean?"
"O...kay. Wanna tell me what it means?"
A mischievous smile came to Heero's lips. "I think it requires a demonstration rather than simply telling you."
A light of understanding lit up Duo's eyes. He looked around nervously at the parking garage. "Here?"
"Not unless we want to lose our jobs."
That reply caused Duo to pause and recall the events earlier in the day. With a worried expression he asked, "What do we do about the fraternization clause?"
Heero shrugged. "I told the director that I'd quit rather than lose you."
Duo blinked, unable to believe his ears. "You'd quit your job just to be with me?"
"That's what I just said," Heero said with a grin.
Duo wanted to throw himself on Heero and show him that he'd never, ever regret falling in love with him, but he really did love his job and he was well aware that there were security cameras throughout the garage. "Come on, then. Let's get out of here." Turning back to his motorcycle, Duo retrieved his helmet and handed it to Heero to strap on. Swinging a leg over the seat to straddle his bike, he let down the kick stand, started the engine and revved it while waiting for Heero to sit down behind him, and nestle close against his back before moving.
"Where to?" he asked his companion over the motorcycle's low rumble.
"Wherever you lead, I'll follow," Heero said, and he was close enough that his breath tickled Duo's ear as he spoke, the braided man knew the other man meant much more than just a destination, it Heero's subtle way of making a promise of commitment.
"What about Une and our jobs?" Duo shouted back, the job issue resurfacing.
"She looked like she was about to be ill when I said I'd quit rather than give you up. After recovering, she indicated that if we were discreet, she'd look the other way, at least for now."
Duo twisted in his seat and smiled at the other man sitting so close behind him and wearing his black helmet. His heart was near to bursting with love for Heero. "That might be a problem," he stated, letting his hand rest possessively on Heero's thigh. "Now that I know you're mine, it's going to be hard keeping my eyes and hands off of you. Any suggestions?"
Heero's grin grew to match Duo's. "I suggest we take all of our back sick leave and vacation time and leave town, take the time to... absorb each other."
Absorb each other had so many wonderful connotations, Duo thought. "Sounds good, but what about the cases I'm working on?"
"You've got competent agents working in the field for you, hand them over to your top man with a promise to check in regularly. We can even leave him our cell phone numbers."
It seemed to Duo that Heero had everything worked out. He vaguely wondered what their friends would say about them taking over a month off of work together. Undoubtedly it would stretch the team, but at the moment, he didn't really care about anyone other than the man sitting behind him, his blue eyes blazing with something other than mild interest "Sounds like a good plan," he replied with a grin.
The helmeted man pressed deliciously up against Duo's backside, his right hand eased inside his jacket and began to stroke his uniformed covered belly. Heero's breath warmed and tickled his ear when he said, "Depending on how things go, we could talk about sharing a place when we come back. That way we can spend our free time together so that the need to touch won't be as extreme as it is right now." Then in a more serious tone Heero added, "That is, if you don't mind having someone to come home to, someone to eat and sleep with and giving up your wild bachelor lifestyle for?"
The arms around Duo's waist tightened and he had to fight his own "extreme" need to touch which Heero had just spoken of. Twisting a bit more and navigating through the helmet's opening, Duo brushed his lips against the willing lips of man behind him before reluctantly turning forward, forcing himself to focus his attention on guiding the bike out of the parking garage. The sooner they were on their way the sooner they could be somewhere more suited to their needs.
The drizzle that greeted them as they emerged from the underground garage and onto the street didn't seem to trouble the two men as the motorcycle carried them into the late, rush-hour traffic, heading in the direction of the braided man's apartment. Nothing, not rain, wet clothing or rude drivers, could dampen the feelings of happiness and anticipation the two young men felt in that moment. Once again, a future neither man believed was possible was within their grasp.
Duo guided the motorcycle past the tangle of congested traffic with an unstoppable grin of happiness fixed on his face, loving the feel of Heero's body pressed tightly against his back. Oblivious to the rain, both men were a bit heady with thoughts of what was about to happen. There was no turning back, nor any desire to do so. They had waited long enough, and after years of pining, dreaming and almost giving up, nothing would stand in their way of being together. Neither man spoke during the remainder of the ride so they had no idea they were both thinking not only about how their lives were about to change, but how wonderful getting undressed, drying off and warming up together was going to be. Heero was hoping they could make it out of the parking garage and up to Duo's apartment complex before jumping each other, while Duo imagined the opportunity the enclosed elevator ride up to the sixth floor provided.
Sitting in the chair from which she made some of the most important decisions of her career concerning the welfare of the organization she helped to establish as well as each and every Preventer agent under her watchful care, Director Une viewed the scene captured by one of many security cameras in the parking garage after being informed by the monitoring room of the presence of the two targeted agents. She leaned forward in her chair as the men began to talk, anxious about the outcome of this meeting after her "chat" with Agent Yuy.
The two handsome men, valued agents to her organization, stepped closer to each other. "Get on with it," she muttered while leaning even closer to the monitor. She became worried as she watched their faces. It didn't seem as though things were going well. Then suddenly Duo lunged forward and embraced Heero tightly. The men held onto each other for several long moments and then... Unblinking, the woman watched two of her top agents practically devour each other in a desperate kiss, and when they hesitantly pulled back, she could see they were smiling at each other. She couldn't make out what they were saying, the cameras had no auditory devices, but after watching them talk for a few moments she believed that she'd witnessed enough to make the long awaited call.
Reaching for her phone she dialed a memorized number.
"Chang," came the voice on the other end of the line.
A sigh of relief could be heard from the Chinese man. "Good. Thank you for your help. Those two would have strung this out for months if someone hadn't forced them to act."
A tender smile grew on the director's face. Love was a wonderful thing to witness as well as experience. She removed her glasses with one hand and the clip that held her hair up with another and shook it out, relieving some of the tension that was typically a part of her work day. "Glad to help, Wufei. Now perhaps everyone else in the building will return to focusing on their own jobs and not on Agents Maxwell and Yuy's romance. And speaking of romance, are we still on for tomorrow night?"
Wufei's voice softened perceptibly, and there was a strong hint of warmth in his tone when he replied, "My place or yours?"
And so my fluff story comes to an end. I hope you enjoyed it. Not sure what's next, maybe a Halloween one shot. But whatever it is, it's bound to show up in a week or two. Thanks for reading, and an extra serving of gratitude for Swordy, my proofreader, and to those who took the time to make a comment or two. Hugs.