Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing. The following is an intellectual exercise with no intention of profit. That said, these characterizations, words, and situations are mine. Please ask before reprinting.
A/N: This fic will feature several different pairings - and probably not the ones that you expect after a first glance. This is told in third person POV, but it will switch to different characters with each chapter. While not a crossover, I definitely want to acknowledge that the TV series, "Dirty Sexy Money" and the movie Two Weeks Notice both influenced me to write this. I would appreciate any feedback, whether it be negative or positive, criticism or lavish praise. Lavish praise preferred.
A Little Less Normal: Chapter I
The insistent buzzing of his alarm finally penetrated Trowa's sleep fogged brain. He reached over the naked man beside him to turn off the alarm, and then lay back down with a groan. It was seven a.m. and he had only managed to fall asleep at three.
He slanted a look over at the naked man, taking in the long expanse of tan, muscled flesh and the shock of blonde hair that was almost, but not quite, white. Trowa frowned as he desperately tried to remember the man's name. He couldn't, which wasn't surprising with the amount of alcohol that he had consumed last night.
As if he could feel the weight of Trowa's gaze, the man stirred and blinked open sleepy blue eyes. He grinned at Trowa.
Trowa found himself smiling back at the almost familiar face.
"Morning," he repeated stupidly.
The other man laughed and stretched, his morning erection bouncing proactively under the sheets. Trowa forced his gaze away from the sight when the man laughed again.
"Listen, last night was great. Thanks for letting me sleep over." He rose from the bed and started to look for his clothes.
Trowa blinked in surprise, taken aback by the hurried manner in which the man started to dress.
"Um – I've got food in the fridge, orange juice, if you wanted breakfast?"
The man shook his head.
"No thanks, I should run."
"You're welcome to use my shower."
The man shook his head again.
"Nope, got one back at my place." He smiled at Trowa as he pulled on his jeans. Trowa watched despondently as more and more of the man's body was covered by clothing.
"Look, seriously, I had a great time. Take care of yourself, okay? Maybe I'll see you around." He winked at Trowa, and then left the bedroom. A moment later, Trowa heard the slam of his front door. And then he was alone.
He sighed and lay back down. It was his own fault, he knew. A one night stand wasn't exactly the way to start a meaningful relationship. But even so, Trowa had felt a slight connection with…. Whatever his name had been. He had even set his alarm early enough so that they could have breakfast, maybe more sex, before he had to get ready for his job interview that morning.
Which unleashed a new set of thoughts in his mind.
Trowa had only moved to New York last week, and his apartment reflected this – boxes stacked everywhere, Ikea furniture in various states of construction or unwrapping. This move, and this new job opportunity, had a potential to change his life, and Trowa still couldn't decide if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
His had quit his previous job just two weeks ago, after it became painfully obvious that while he, Trowa, was desperately in love with his boss, said boss did not return those feelings.
So now he was a resident of New York City, having spent seven nights in a nearly empty apartment with seven different men, each of whom looked as much like Trowa's old boss as possible. And each of whom left him every morning.
He knew it wasn't a very productive cycle, but Trowa had a penchant for self-destruction, as his sister had often said.
Trowa groaned and sat up.
He also had a penchant for success. And he wanted this new job. So, he pushed his self-pity and self-loathing to the back of his mind and prepared to face the day.
An hour later, Trowa left his apartment wearing his second best suit. Second best, because his sister had a superstition about wearing your absolute best clothes to important events – she believed that it brought on bad luck because it showed hubris. Since his sister had practically raised him, Trowa had also become ingrained with the same belief. And since he had already had a bad start to the morning, he certainly wasn't about to risk the wrath of the heavens.
He walked to the nearest subway station and took the car headed to midtown. He got off several blocks from his interview location and made his way to the nearest Starbucks for his second cup of coffee.
He left the Starbucks fifteen minutes later, soy latte clutched in one hand, briefcase in the other, and continued his brisk walk towards midtown. He took advantage of the stop sign at a crosswalk to take a few sips from his coffee and hummed in appreciation. The sign turned to walk, and he moved forward with the other pedestrians. He had just stepped up to the opposite curb when he was shoved back into the street, his coffee coating his chest and crotch in a scalding flood.
Trowa bit his tongue to keep from shouting out in pain and anger, and only just managed to avoid falling over into the street.
This only confirmed his theory that God hated him. A lot. He decided that, from then on, he could wear his best suit whenever he wanted to. Wearing his second best clearly wasn't worth it.
"What – hey! Oh shit, I am so fucking sorry."
Trowa scanned the ground and saw his briefcase laying in the gutter. He reached down, ignoring the voice, and grabbed it.
"Look, I wasn't paying attention and – Christ, please tell me that that coffee was cold or something because you got soaked."
The voice belonged to a tall man, dressed in jeans, a navy vest, and a gray button up shirt, the top button of which was unbuttoned. A man whose face momentarily distracted Trowa from his current situation. He had very lightly tanned skin and sharp features, including a strong jaw line and wide lips. His eyes were a curious shade of blue that was nearly indigo, half hidden by long, messy brown bangs. He was breathtaking. And if he wasn't the source of Trowa's current pain, he might have taken longer to stare at him. As it was…
"Um… are you okay?" The man was speaking again, and Trowa made himself focus.
"Fine," he ground out and started to walk past him.
A hand grabbed his arm and stopped him.
"Listen – you are completely covered in coffee. Where are you headed? Anywhere important?" The man seemed genuinely concerned.
"Job interview," Trowa said reluctantly after a moment of silence.
The man winced.
"And this would be a great first impression." He scanned the streets and then brightened. "Look, Barney's is just a few blocks down – let me buy you a new suit."
Trowa arched an eyebrow at the magnanimous offer.
"Gotta balance out my karma," the man explained. "If you showed up like that, no way you would get your job, and then you'd probably end up homeless and get infected with cholera and die. And then that would be on my head."
"Cholera?" Trowa asked, amused despite himself.
"Absolutely. It's on the rise, you know. People just don't pay attention to contagious diseases like they should."
Trowa snorted and rolled his eyes. He looked at his watch. Still thirty minutes before his interview. If he wanted to live dangerously, he might be able to make it back to his apartment and change, and then maybe get to the address a minute or so late. If he took a cab. He looked back at the grinning maniac in front of him.
"If you insist – "
"I do! And seriously, I'm really, really sorry." The man started walking, and Trowa fell into step beside him. It was then that Trowa noticed the braid of hair that extended halfway down the other man's back.
"I'm Duo Maxwell, by the way." He held out a hand, still walking.
Trowa switched his briefcase to his other hand and shook Duo's.
Duo nodded. "Nice to meet you. Probably nicer for me than you, but, well…." He shrugged.
Trowa felt equally amused and exasperated. He wondered if Duo was like this all of the time.
"So, Trowa, what do you do?"
"I'm a lawyer."
"Ah, what kind of law?" Duo appeared genuinely interested, which surprised Trowa. In his experience, the L word usually led to a change of subject.
"Corporate. I deal mostly with… personal asset management."
"Personal asset management? That sounds like a euphemism for covering your client's asses."
Trowa felt his lips twitch.
"Something like that, yes."
Duo nodded sagely. "Times like these, I imagine there's a lot of work for folks like you."
Trowa debated whether or not to be offended by that statement, but before he could decide, Duo was off again.
"Still, work is work, I guess. So what do you really want to do?"
Trowa scowled. "What makes you think I'm not already doing it?"
Duo waved a hand in dismissal. "If you loved your job, you wouldn't have looked so guarded when you told me you were a lawyer. AND if you enjoyed your career in CYA then you definitely wouldn't be walking to a job interview – you'd have a driver and a nice black Rolls-Royce, AND you wouldn't be willing to go out for a drink with me tonight."
It took Trowa a moment to catch up with Duo's line of reasoning, and by that time, they had reached Barney's. Duo ushered him inside, seeming to have switched tracks again, their previous conversation forgotten.
Trowa followed Duo through the store, feeling like an awkward, out of place tourist as Duo navigated the floors and brought them up to the men's suits.
"Hey! Travis! I have an emergency!" Duo raised a hand and flagged down one of the impeccably dressed Barney's sales associates.
Travis approached them with a smile.
"Duo! What kind of emergency, you look great, and –oh. I see." He looked over Trowa's soaked suit and then turned back to Duo with a smirk.
"Don't start," Duo said, holding up a hand in warning. "My new friend here had a little accident… which I might be entirely responsible for, and needs a new suit for a job interview."
"Which starts in twenty minutes," Trowa added after a glance at his watch.
"Hm, no problem. Let's see…" Travis looked over Trowa in a considering fashion. " We will definitely stay away from black… and brown. I know it's in right now, but…" Travis wandered off, talking to himself.
"He's the best," Duo assured Trowa after taking in his skeptical look. "So… back to you. What's the dream job?"
Trowa shrugged. "I don't have a dream job really. I just want to make enough to live a decent life."
"It's just work."
"Sure, when it's the wrong work. You gotta do what you love, man, or you'll wind up – ah! Nice, Trav!" Duo stopped midsentence and reached out to run a hand over the suit that Travis presented to Trowa.
It was a deep gray wool, with a slight tweed look to it. Travis had also brought forth a white dress shirt and a sage green tie.
"It's a bit understated, but I think it will make an impression," Travis explained. "The jacket is a 40 Long, the trousers 32x 36."
"Yeah," Trowa agreed, surprised that Travis had been able to guess his measurements.
"Try it on," Duo instructed.
Trowa obediently followed Travis to a fitting room and removed his soiled suit, scowling at the feeling of his wet shirt and trousers as he pulled them away from his skin. His boxers and undershirt were molded to his body, however, and he did not want to put on another suit over them.
"Here you are," Travis opened the door slightly and held out a shirt and a pair of boxer briefs. Trowa gratefully accepted them and shucked out of his own.
Once he was dressed, he took a moment to admire himself in the mirror. The suit color was understated, but the tie emphasized his eyes without seeming obvious, and the whole ensemble was clean and professional. Trowa thought he looked better now than he had when he left his apartment an hour ago.
He stepped out of the dressing room and Duo let out a low, appreciative whistle.
"Nicely done, Trav. He looked great before… but this is excellent work."
Travis beamed from the praise, even while Duo smirked at Trowa.
"Well, looks like our work here is done. Put it on my account, will ya?"
"One moment," Travis said. He disappeared and then came back almost instantly with a bag, he put Trowa's dirty suit inside and held it out.
Duo grabbed it before Trowa could.
Duo started walking out of the store, forcing Trowa to follow him.
"Thanks for the suit – but I've got to run to this interview."
"No sweat. Thanks for taking my clumsiness in stride so easily!"
Duo made no attempt to give back the bag with Trowa's suit in it.
"I need to go," Trowa said again.
"Great. Well good luck, okay?"
"Um, my suit?"
"Oh yeah! Look, I'll get this dry cleaned and then give it back to you. Tonight, say 7? I'll meet you at the Blue Martini."
Duo looked confident and it irritated Trowa.
"I'm not really interested in – "
"One drink. Then I will feel that I've made amends. Promise." Duo held his hand over his heart, still grinning.
Trowa tried to stare him down, but Duo was immovable.
"Excellent. See ya later!"
And with that, Duo merged back into the pedestrian traffic.
Trowa watched him for a moment, then shook himself and started back towards his interview.
If the morning's events thus far were any indication, he was likely going to be in for a hellish time.
After waiting in the reception area for nearly an half an hour, Trowa was finally ushered into the office of his potential employer.
He had used the time to mentally review what he knew about the company he hoped to work for.
Yuy Incorporated was one of the largest and most successful investment firms in the world. They had holdings in real estate, finance, steel, oil, and a growing interest in alternative energy production. It was a company that had been founded by Odin Lowe Yuy forty years ago, when that man immigrated to New York City from his native Tokyo. He had, with the help of his American wife's influence and connections, managed to become a multi-millionaire almost overnight. His success had been legendary. Almost as legendary as his infamously callous business and personal relationships. One of those relationships, that with his son, Heero Yuy, was a common fixture in the Wall Street Journal, business magazines, and even a few issues of Time and the New Yorker. The two had a strained relationship at best, with the son attempting to push the company in a completely different direction than his father's dream of apparent world domination. Heero, on the other hand, had made it clear through numerous interviews that he wanted Yuy Inc. to become a haven for researchers and developers who wanted to make the world a better place, through renewable energy and sustainable manufacturing and design.
When Odin Lowe Yuy had died suddenly six days ago, it had ground the business world to a halt for nearly a full day until Heero, who had been banished to the company's Chinese headquarters in Macau, could return to New York and claim the reins of the mighty empire.
And now, Trowa was about to interview for the position of Heero Yuy's legal advisor, his 'personal asset manager', as he had put it for Duo only a short while ago.
It was a large office, filled with imposing furniture and decorative elements that looked designed to intimidate guests. Trowa smirked. With the reputation attached to this company, he had no doubt that that was the intent.
"Sorry to keep you waiting," the man behind the massive desk in the center of the room said as he rose.
Trowa took a moment to inspect the man.
He was two or three inches shorter than Trowa, with dark, messy hair and piercing blue eyes set at a slight tilt, giving him an exotic air. He was impeccably dressed in a black suit, tie, and shirt. The suit fit him well and showed off a trim physique. He was, by Trowa's – and anyone's, really – standards devastatingly handsome. He looked self-assured, and Trowa had no doubt that he knew just how handsome he was.
"It was no trouble," Trowa assured him and shook the proffered hand. The handshake was quick and firm, and Trowa forced himself not to read into it.
"Heero Yuy. It's a pleasure to meet you. Please, sit." Heero gestured not to the chair in front of his desk, but to the two armchairs in one corner of the room.
Trowa followed him over and sat in one while Heero sat in the other.
"Why do you want to work for me?" Heero asked a second after Trowa had sat, catching him completely off guard.
He took a moment to consider his response. Heero was well known for being brusque and honest, so Trowa decided to take that route.
"I would never have interviewed for this position with your father, but I like the direction you are trying to take this company, and I can appreciate the challenges you will face from your board, your peers, and, let's be honest, the government. Yuy Inc. has made a lot of people a lot of money, and you are proposing to revolutionize the way that people live. You won't be seeing a lot of profit, at first, and your board is going to resent that. You will likely have legal attacks from them, and in the next few months and even years, there are bound to be cases brought against you or your late father as people try to destroy his legacy. And I like a good challenge."
Trowa held his breath as he waited for Heero's reaction. His gut told him it was the right answer, but the other man's face was unreadable.
"You worked for Winner Enterprises for two years."
"Yes." Trowa wasn't about to elaborate unless prompted.
"And you left two weeks ago. Why?"
Even though he had been expecting this question, Trowa was still uncomfortable as he answered.
"Quatre Winner is an amazing person, and I admire him greatly. But, frankly, I missed living in the States. I have no problem travelling for work, but I was tired of living in Qatar and I missed my family." It wasn't precisely a lie, but it certainly wasn't the truth.
"My sister and her kids. Probably as close as I will ever get to having a family."
"Hn." Heero looked thoughtful, and his intense gaze pierced Trowa, as though he were trying to read his mind.
"Quatre Winner speaks very highly of you."
Trowa remained silent.
"You started working for him… the day his father died, correct?"
"Is this a habit of yours? Move in when the old guard dies and help the son take over the family business?"
"It's not an intentional habit. I knew Mr. Winner from school, and I was happy to assist him as he transitioned into a leadership role with his company."
"What assurances do I have that you aren't still working for him now? Maybe you're a mole, sent here to acquire my financial plans and uncover my assets."
"If you really thought that was a possibility you wouldn't have bothered with this interview. Your time is too valuable to waste. As for assurances, I can't offer you any other than to say that I'm an honorable man, as is Quatre Winner. He certainly sees your company as a rival, but you are a challenge to him, and not a threat. His exact words to men when I told him I wanted this job."
"Hn." Another long pause as Heero continued to stare at him.
"My father and I… did not have the most easy relationship. There is quite a bit of resentment towards me from my board, as you guessed, and these next few months are going to involve long hours of work. And the months after that… will also involve long hours of work."
"I know what kind of hours it takes to keep up with an international schedule, I am prepared," Trowa responded.
"You don't elaborate much."
"I do when necessary. I'm not… chatty. If you want a personal advisor who is, then you don't want me."
Heero openly smiled at that statement, and Trowa was amazed by how it transformed the man's face.
"And you're direct. Two qualities I appreciate. But you are… very young."
"I'm twenty-nine, which, from your advanced age of thirty-one might seem young, but I was at the top of my class at Brown, and again at Harvard Law. I have impeccable references from my time with Mr. Winner, and before that with one of Paris' leading law firms. It's true that I don't have thirty years of experience, but that also means that I don't have thirty years of baggage."
Heero was silent for a long moment and Trowa wondered if perhaps he shouldn't have teased him about his age.
"As my personal asset manager, it would be your job to protect me from any litigation – personal or professional – and also to act as an advisor in reference to my board and career. My family is… rather high maintenance, and you would be expected to act as legal counsel regarding their involvement in the company as well."
Trowa nodded in acknowledgement of this. He doubted that Heero's family was more complicated than Quatre's had been – the youngest of seventeen children, Quatre had had sixteen older sisters and 8 step-mothers to contend with.
"I called Quatre yesterday. We are also friends from school – prep school. He told me I would be insane not to hire you. He also said that, in his mind, you only had one flaw."
Trowa felt the blood rush from his face. There was no way Quatre would have told a potential employer that Trowa had fallen in love with Quatre the first day they met and spent the next eleven years worshipping him.
"He said that once you committed yourself to a cause, a situation, a person, you did everything in your power to protect that commitment, even at the cost of your own personal gain."
Which, Trowa reflected, was a nice way of saying the same thing. He didn't know if Heero wanted him to comment, so he remained silent and held the other man's gaze. After a moment, Heero nodded.
"Thank you for your time this morning."
Heero rose to his feet, signaling the end of the interview.
Trowa also stood, wondering if a fifteen minute interview was a new low record for himself.
"I will be in touch," Heero said, and walked back to his desk and sat behind it, not bothering to look at Trowa.
As he left the office, Trowa's mind replayed the interview, wondering where he had gone wrong.
He was back on the street and headed towards Central Park when his phone rang. He frowned at the unknown number.
"Yes, Mr. Barton, this is Sherisse Turner, is this a convenient time?"
"For?" The name was completely unfamiliar to him.
"Oh, yes, to discuss the details of your contract? Mr. Yuy wanted me to call as soon as possible. He would like to you start tomorrow, if possible." There was a pause. "Is that possible, Mr. Barton?"
"Wait, I got the job?"
"Oh yes, of course! You were the only one Mr. Yuy didn't throw out after five minutes! He must really be impressed with you!"
Trowa reflected on that. Fifteen minutes meant that Heero was impressed with him?
"Now is fine."
"To discuss the contract."
"Oh! Of course! I will email over our standard non-disclosure forms, and our basic contract. I'm sure that you will redraft it to your preferences. When might I expect to see a draft to give to Mr. Yuy?"
"I will have a draft over within the hour," Trowa assured her and held up a hand to flag down a cab."
"Excellent. I will let him know. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow, Mr. Barton!"
Trowa settled in the back of a cab and gave the driver his address after ending the call.
His phone rang again, and this time Trowa recognized the number. He couldn't help the smile on his face as he answered.
"Trowa Barton here, important lawyer and recently hired litigator for Yuy Inc."
"You got the job."
"Of course I got the job. With such a glowing reference from you, how could I not?"
"No, you got the job because you're perfect for it. I knew you and Heero would hit it off." There was a slight, wistful tone to the voice on the phone.
"I'm happy for you, Trowa. And I miss you. Your replacement is…nothing like you."
Trowa bit down on his tongue to keep from saying that he also missed Quatre.
"I thought you liked Dorothy?"
"I do, I do. But she's… a bit crazy. And not in the charming, anal-retentive way that you are."
"Charmingly anal retentive and crazy? Is that how you described me to Yuy?"
"Of course! I had to be honest." There was a moment's pause, and then Quatre asked, with a mischievous tone, "what did you think of him?"
"I admire him… what he's trying to do with the company."
"No, what did you think of HIM?"
"What do you mean, what did I – Quatre, what exactly are you asking me?"
"Nothing, nothing. I just…well, I know that Heero is gay, and I know that he's handsome, and – "
"And you told me to apply for this job because you wanted to set me up with my boss? Are you insane?"
"Look who's talking!"
Trowa clenched his jaw at the words. He supposed it was fair for Quatre to assume that, because Trowa had fallen in love with him, he would naturally be attracted to any handsome man who happened to be his employer. To be fair, Trowa did find Heero attractive. And he admired what he was trying to do with Yuy Inc. But he hadn't felt the instant connection that he had with Quatre when they first met.
"That's not what I meant," Quatre said, as if reading his thoughts. "I just… I want you to be happy, Trowa. And I can't make you happy."
"I know." He swallowed. "I want you to be happy too."
"I wish things were different, Trowa, but –"
"Quatre. We've been through this already. You don't have to apologize for – for anything."
"No, but I do have to apologize for breaking my best friend's heart."
Trowa sighed and leaned back against the seat in the cab. This was why he had such a hard time forgetting about Quatre – he was perhaps the most unforgettable person Trowa had ever met. That thought reminded him of his encounter with Duo Maxwell that morning.
"I've got a date tonight, actually," Trowa told him. He didn't mention the string of Quatre look-alikes that had populated his bed for the past week, because he knew that would be too pathetic, even from him.
"No, Quatre. I'm not going to get involved with my boss, not again. No, it's someone I… ran into this morning on my way to the interview."
"Ran into? An old classmate or something?"
So Trowa told him the story of meeting Duo, finishing just as the cab pulled up to his apartment building.
Trowa handed over the fair and a tip and then exited the cab to the sound of Quatre's laughter.
"I like the way this guy thinks!"
"So, forget about your matchmaking attempts with Heero Yuy and go after a man who scalded me with coffee?"
"He did buy you a new suit."
"Second degree burns, Winner. All over my chest."
"Well, when you put it that way, maybe not. I've got to go to a meeting, email me and let me know how the date goes! Make sure you don't order anything hot, flaming, or toxic!"
"Take care," Trowa said with a grin.
"You too, friend Trowa." Friend Trowa. It was what Quatre had been calling him since they met as freshmen at Brown. It was as endearing as it was frustrating, because Trowa knew that he would never be anything more. And he also knew that he would likely never stop wanting to be more.
Trowa arrived at the Blue Martini at 6:50 that night, dressed in dark, tight jeans and and a long sleeved, forest green henley shirt. He had left it unbuttoned and pushed the sleeves up to his elbows. He knew he looked good, but casually so. Not as if he had spent time on his appearance.
He had arrived early so he could scout out the restaurant and find a public, crowded place to sit. His plans were thwarted, however, when he spotted Duo already inside, at the bar, nursing a beer. Duo had also changed. He now wore dark jeans and a black, v-neck sweater. There was a hint of a white undershirt at the collar.
Duo spotted him, and nodded in greeting.
Trowa waited at the front of the restaurant while Duo paid his tab and came towards him, grinning.
"Hey. You look good."
"So you do," Trowa returned the compliment. Duo shrugged, still grinning, and nodded at the hostess.
"We're all set," he said.
"Follow me, Mr. Maxwell." She started to walk off, and Duo followed her. After a slight hesitation, Trowa did as well.
The woman led them to a fairly secluded corner of the restaurant, and gestured to a table in front of a floor to ceiling aquarium that stretched the length of the back wall, and gave the restaurant part of its name.
Trowa sat down across from Duo, but he was distracted by the multitude of fish swimming in the aquarium.
"Pretty cool, huh?" Duo said and nodded at the wall.
"It must cost a fortune to keep it filtered and stocked," Trowa mused.
"I know you agreed to drinks, but any chance you'd like dinner as well? My day ran late and I haven't had the chance to eat yet."
Trowa arched an eyebrow at the excuse, wondering if Duo had manufactured it. However, he had spent the afternoon putting together the rest of his Ikea furniture, and hadn't had time to eat either. By the time he had finished his coffee table it was time to dress and meet Duo.
"Why do I feel like making a deal with you is like making a deal with the devil?" Trowa mused aloud.
"Probably because I'm incredibly handsome and charming. Irresistible, I think, is the way I've been described," Duo answered back in apparent sincerity.
Trowa's lips formed into a smile without his consent. Duo Maxwell was certainly possessed of enormous self-respect. But somehow it wasn't as annoying as it should have been.
A waitress appeared and to take their drink orders.
"Amstel," Duo said.
"The same," Trowa said when she looked at him.
"No martini?" Duo asked.
"I've never been a fan of vermouth," Trowa said with a shrug.
"I've never been a fan of the glasses," Duo confessed. "I'm convinced that it's going to fall over at any second."
"Good thing for me that you didn't risk it, then," Trowa said. "Most stores close soon, and I doubt you'd be able to find me new clothes."
Duo laughed. "Maybe this time I wouldn't shell out for a new wardrobe – might just force you to go around without your clothes on instead."
There was heat in Duo's indigo gaze as he looked over Trowa's torso.
"Hey – that reminds me. How was the interview?" Duo seemed to have a knack for changing conversation just as the sexual innuendo became too obvious, and Trowa was grateful for it.
"It went well. I got the job."
"Congrats! I'll bet it was because of the suit, right?"
"Undoubtedly. I walked in and he threw out my resume after looking at me. He said that there was no way a man with such good taste wouldn't be perfect for the job."
Duo grinned and saluted him with a water glass.
"You never told me what you do," Trowa pointed out.
"I'm a teacher. I work at a charter school in the Bronx. It's for low income families. Gives the kids a chance to get a decent education and not have to worry about being shot or stabbed at a public school." There was passion in Duo's voice.
"I'm guessing it's your dream job."
"Definitely. I'm obsessed with it. I want all of those kids to have a chance to make something of their lives."
The waitress returned with their drinks and took their dinner orders – chicken Marsala for Trowa and a steak for Duo.
"I just can't eat fish here," Duo confessed, referring to the fact that half of the menu featured fish dishes.
Trowa nodded in agreement.
"I mean, they're watching you," Duo jerked his head to indicate the aquarium behind them, " – they know that you're eating their cousin or something."
Trowa snorted a laugh at that.
"So, what do you do when you aren't managing personal assets?" Duo asked after a few moments of comfortable silence.
"I don't have a lot of free time, actually, with my line of work. Personal emergencies always seem to pop up, so it's hard to have any steady hobbies."
"Fair enough. I bet corporate sharks don't like to keep their law breaking to a strict nine to five scheule. Are you from the city?"
Trowa shook his head.
"No, I'm originally from Portland – Maine. I just moved here last week."
"Born and raised here, myself. Must be an adjustment coming from a smaller town."
"Not the first time I've lived in a big city," he explained.
"Oh? Travel a lot?"
"I lived in Paris for a few years, and I just moved here from Abu Dhabi. That was an adjustment."
Duo whistled softly.
"I can imagine. Did you enjoy Paris?"
"Absolutely. It was the best three years of my life."
"So why'd you leave? Especially for somewhere as different as Abu Dhabi?"
"Work. Well, a favor for a friend. For work." As stupid as it sounded, it was definitely better than confessing that he had abandoned his perfect job, his amazing apartment overlooking the Seine, his friends, and even his cat to jump at the chance to be near Quatre again.
"Uh huh. Right. Well, I guess Abu Dhabi had… some perks."
"Is that disdain I detect in your voice?"
Duo looked rueful.
"A little, yeah. I'm not a fan of their city planning, to start off with, and I definitely have problems with their government."
"I won't argue with that. My friend… well, between his family, his religion, his job, and the government it was more or less impossible for him to be the person he wanted to be. I'm not sorry to be gone from there."
"Sorry to leave him, though?" Duo asked with more insight that Trowa would have expected.
He nodded, but didn't elaborate.
A moment later their food arrived, and both ate in silence for several minutes.
"What do you teach?" Trowa asked, feeling that he should ask something about Duo, who had spent most of the evening interrogating him.
"Math – everyone's favorite. I also coach the baseball team."
"Let me guess, you're a Yankees fan?" Trowa asked, injecting as much disdain in his voice as Duo had when referring to Abu Dhabi.
Duo groaned and set down his fork.
" Born and raised! But you -no! No! Of course, you're from Maine. You're a Red Sox fan, aren't you? There go my dreams of happily ever after."
"I'm afraid that I have a soul, so yes, I am a Red Sox fan."
"What? You want to talk about soulless, let's talk about the Red Sox front office. They trade a guy as soon as he starts to slow down. Not like the Yankees, we keep our guys and let them retire with dignity."
"That's because most of the Yankees are over 50. Seriously, it's like a retirement home. How old is Derek Jeter? And Rivera –"
"Don't even think about criticizing Rivera! That man will pitch until he's ninety-seven and still kick your precious Socks back to Boston!"
The argument had gotten heated by that last statement, and it took a moment for them to relax.
"Patriots too?" Duo asked after a moment in a resigned voice.
"I don't actually follow football."
"Thank god. We'll just pretend that you like the Jets and leave it at that."
Trowa chuckled at that and shook his head.
"I'm not sure, with your poor taste in baseball, I don't think we can ever get over this vast divide between us."
"We'll make it work," Duo said confidently.
Duo winced. "Yeah, we might have some issues then."
He leaned back in his chair and looked at Trowa, a smile on his face.
"This isn't my usual method of picking up guys," he confessed.
"I figured. It's sort of an expensive way to con a guy into a date."
"Worth it, though."
The waitress arrived to remove their empty plates, breaking the tension that comment created. She returned with the bill a moment later. When Trowa moved to pull out his wallet, Duo waved him down.
"You're a school teacher," Trowa pointed out.
"Yeah, but I do okay. You can buy next time."
Trowa marveled again at the man's confidence. But, he reflected, he certainly wouldn't mind doing this again. If nothing else, Duo was good conversation. And he was definitely easy to look at.
As they walked out of the restaurant, Trowa realized that Duo did not have his suit.
"Did you forget something at the bar?" He asked.
Duo frowned in confusion.
"Not my suit?"
"Oh – oh! Yeah, about that. Well, I took it to my cleaners – because I'm not going to take it somewhere that I don't trust – and Mr. Lee said it wouldn't be ready until tomorrow. So…"
Trowa rolled his eyes.
"You could just ask me out again, instead of holding my suit hostage."
"I could," Duo agreed. "But this way I'm guaranteed a yes."
They stood on the street, out of the way of the few people walking past them.
There was a moment of awkward silence.
Trowa debated whether or not to invite Duo back to his apartment.
"I had a great time tonight," Duo said at the same time. He chuckled and ran a hand through his hair. "And normally, I'd drop in some smooth line and ask you to come back to my place. But…I've got some family issues and it's ah, not a good time for me to jump into bed with someone I just met."
Trowa arched an eyebrow.
"You're assuming I would agree to come over."
"Because you weren't just about to ask me to come over to your place?" Duo challenged.
"Maybe. Now we'll never know." He tried to grin and ease the tension out of the awkward situation.
"So… how about your number? I can give you a call when the suit's ready and arrange a hostage exchange."
Trowa rolled his eyes.
"Any idea what the ransom will be?"
"Well… considering that the Yankees have a home stand this weekend…"
"Nah, not as a second date. Besides, you'd probably show up in a Red Sox shirt and I'd get laughed out of the stadium by my bleacher buddies."
Trowa shook his head, but reached into his wallet and withdrew his card.
"Thanks." Duo saluted him with the card before slipping it into his back pocket.
"Well – I had a great time tonight," he said again.
"Me too. I'm surprised I escaped with my clothing intact, however."
"All part of my plan to keep you off-balance. I'll be in touch," he added in a menacing tone.
"I look forward to it."
They stood looking at each other for a moment, and Trowa took a step towards him, but then Duo smiled again, raised his hand in a wave, and took off in the opposite direction.
Trowa watched him walk away, admiring the view.
And then his phone rang.
"Trowa Barton," he answered.
"This is Heero. I sent your revised contract back to you."
"Excellent." Trowa looked at the time. It was nearly nine.
"I'd like you to come in at seven tomorrow. I've got to go over papers for a merger, and then I should brief you on the board situation."
"And at some point this week my father's executor will have a reading of the will. We will want to prepare for that."
"I can contact him, tomorrow, if you like," Trowa offered.
"Yes. I – I'll see you tomorrow." The line went dead.
Trowa stared at his phone in confusion.
He wasn't sure, but he was pretty confident that today had been one of the more bizarre days in his life.
He just hoped that tomorrow would prove to be a little more normal.
Next up: A day in the life of Heero Yuy...