Relena Dorlian hitched her purse strap higher on her shoulder as she left her office. She figured she could grab a light lunch then get back to catch up on some of her backlogged work. She had recently been made a sales manager at Colony Communications and didn’t intend to give the bosses any reason to regret their decision to promote her.
After all, her position gave her a sense of power, and Relena was all about having power. Whether it was power over subordinates or power over men, it was all the same to her. Her intelligence and skill at her job garnered her the former, and her carefully maintained appearance guaranteed her the latter.
However, as Relena headed towards the reception area, her attention fell on the one man she’d coveted above all others. The one man she had failed to win.
Across the room, Heero Yuy was speaking to his secretary, leaning over the woman’s desk braced by strong arms. From this angle, Relena couldn’t see the eyes half-hidden behind tousled dark hair, but she knew from experience that they were a piercing cobalt blue. She could, however, admire the way his slacks stretched across his firm buttocks and thighs as he bent over to point out something to the woman.
Relena cursed under her breath, berating herself once again for her oh so brilliant actions of three years ago. Relena was self-centered enough to actually believe that, if she had never brought it to Heero’s attention that he was gay, the handsome Asian man might have ended up with her. She had, of course, conveniently forgotten how Heero had constantly ignored her and frankly rejected her advances.
‘And now, he’s living with some *man*,’ Relena groused peevishly.
Heero had not been secretive about the fact that he’d met someone. In fact, Heero had married the guy almost a year ago, taking advantage of some liberal lawmakers’ new policy of tolerance regarding non-traditional unions. He wore his wedding band proudly and talked about his ‘Duo’ incessantly.
Relena’s curiosity about Heero’s husband knew no bounds. However, even though Heero kept a picture of his spouse on his desk, Relena was definitely persona non grata around Heero’s office. So she had never seen the photo of the man who had apparently made the formerly somber Heero a much more approachable and personable individual.
Relena reflected on the changes that the last few years had rendered in Heero as he laughed heartily at something his secretary had just said. Relena shook her head. She remembered how, only three years ago, Heero had been a poster boy for the grim and taciturn.
‘Well, now look at him,’ Relena mused as she passed the laughing pair.
Heero looked up as Relena walked by, his eyes raking over the young woman dismissively. Without the slightest acknowledgement of her existence, he turned back to his assistant. Relena gritted her teeth at the careless rejection. ‘You think he’d at least have the decency to be grateful. Heck, if not for me, he’d still be wallowing in denial about his sexual orientation.’
Relena cursed herself once again for her own stupidity. However, she was a woman who believed in the power of positive thought. She figured that she could still have Heero someday. All she had to do was make him see that he did, in fact, like women; he’d just been misguided. ‘And I’m just the woman to do it,’ she thought, tossing her long, blond hair over her shoulder with a practiced motion of her head. Passing a floor length mirror, she looked appreciatively at her trim figure, stylish clothing, and bright blue eyes. ‘After all, what man wouldn’t want me,’ Relena crowed.
Relena stepped into the reception area and was about to head to the elevators when all thoughts of Heero instantly fled from her mind. Her confident stride faltered as she gaped at the tall man leaning against the receptionist desk, regaling the flustered woman with a sinfully charming smile.
Relena’s gaze started at the man’s booted feet and rose slowly over slender but firm legs and thighs clothed in tight, black jeans. A loose, unbuttoned, black shirt covered muscular arms and a navy blue tank top clung lovingly to washboard abs and a chisled chest.
But it was the man’s hair that transfixed Relena’s attention. Dark chestnut hair, shot through with streaks of reddish gold, was caught back in a braid that reached clear past the man’s shapely butt. Even Relena’s own luxurious locks paled in comparison with the young man’s impressive mane.
The receptionist turned her attention away from the young man long enough to see Relena standing in the middle of the floor.
“Going to lunch, Ms. Dorlian?”
The words caught the young man’s attention. He turned towards Relena and she found herself trying to remember to breathe. White teeth were revealed in a sexy smile that had Relena nearly forgetting her own name. But even more incredible than the man’s arresting good looks were his eyes. They were amethyst in color and Relena didn’t think she had ever seen anything more beautiful in her life.
She stared at the man for a few more moments before she realized how stupid she must look, standing frozen in the middle of the floor gawking at him. She smiled in what she hoped was an intriguing manner and sauntered over to the young man, swaying her hips just so.
Duo watched the attractive young woman approaching him and stifled a rather evil chuckle. Although the woman didn’t seem to know who he was, Duo was well aware of who she was. When the receptionist had spoken the woman’s name, Duo had turned, determined to see, at last, the woman who had been such a trial to his beloved Heero. He wasn’t disappointed. She had ‘woman on the make’ clearly written across her face and Duo laughed silently at the irony.
‘It seems this poor creature is doomed to be attracted to gay men. Oh well, might as well have a little fun with dear Ms. Dorlian.’
Relena stopped at an uncomfortably close distance to Duo and smiled up at him in a slightly shark-like manner. “Hello. I’m Relena. I certainly hope there is some way I can help you.”
Duo returned her smile, leaning back against the receptionist’s desk in a way he knew would stretch the material of his tank top tighter across his chest. Sure enough, Relena’s eyes dropped to the intriguing expanse for a gratuitous glance.
Duo’s smile gained a tinge of mischievousness. “Well, thank you, Relena,” he returned in the husky voice that had made him so successful in the profession he had left behind in his distant past. He noted the flush that suffused the young woman’s cheeks with a small sense of victory. ‘Make my Heero’s life a living hell, will you? We’ll just see about that.’
Looking directly into the Relena’s wide, blue eyes, Duo continued, “Actually I’m here looking for someone.”
Relena’s smile brightened at the gorgeous young man’s suggestive tone. “I’d say you’ve found someone, haven’t you?”
Duo chuckled and Relena felt a tingle go through her at the sexy sound. “Actually, I’m here for...”
“Duo,” a voice said from across the room.
Relena blinked. She looked over her shoulder to see Heero looking at her, no looking at the young man she’d been talking to, with a mildly puzzled expression. Then she slowly looked back at the man who’s name she’d grown to hate over the past few years. She flushed an angry red, her embarrassment acute as she realized that she’d just been flirting shamelessly with Heero’s husband, Duo Maxwell.
Duo smirked down at her chagrined expression and held out his hand. “Hi, I don’t believe we’ve been properly introduced. I’m Duo.”
Relena looked down at the extended hand for a moment before grimacing and looking back up at the mocking, but still stunning, face. Duo had held out his left hand, instead of his right, so she could ‘admire’ his gold wedding band. She saw the receptionist looking at her curiously and shook herself from her bemusement. Awkwardly, she took the proffered hand in a brief clasp.
“Yes, well, glad to finally meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you, Duo.”
“As have I you,” Duo said softly. Relena cringed inwardly as she imagined the things the two lovebirds said about her behind her back. She knew that Heero disliked her, though she had hoped to change that. Now, meeting his unbelievably good-looking husband, Relena realized that her chances of winning Heero were slim at best. Not one to give in gracefully, Relena’s bitter thoughts turned immediately to getting even with her rival.
“Yes. Umm, I’d better get going. Nice to meet you.” Relena backed away and turned towards the elevator bank. Her gaze landed briefly on Heero. “Bye, Heero,” she mumbled, for once not even trying to make a nuisance of herself.
Heero stared at her retreating back, confused by her atypically subdued greeting. He looked back at his husband, raising an eyebrow at Duo’s smug expression.
“What are you doing here, koi?”
Duo nodded a goodbye to the receptionist and walked over to his lover. He smiled as he looked down at his slightly shorter husband. Though Heero was still the more solidly built of the two, Duo had hit a growth spurt in his early twenties that had turned him into a classic case of tall, sexy, and handsome. Mindful of Heero’s more bashful disposition, Duo refrained from giving his husband their more accustomed greeting of an earth-shattering kiss. Instead, he placed an innocuous hand on Heero’s shoulder.
“Howard gave me the day off from the shop, so I thought I’d take you to lunch.” Duo had worked as a mechanic for the kind, older man since Heero had gotten him the job almost three years ago.
Heero smiled and the receptionist sighed, wondering what she’d done to deserve being in the presence of two such incredible-looking young men. She must have been Mother Theresa in a past life.
“Okay, I was just about to grab something,” Heero replied. “Let’s go.”
Duo watched two children, a boy and a girl of about seven years, play in the park across from the restaurant. He sighed as he gazed at the precious pair. The little boy was chasing after a pigeon but tripped and fell in the dirt. He sat holding his skinned knee, trying not to cry. The girl rushed over to him, kneeling beside him and looking at his knee. Then she leaned over and kissed the boy’s cheek. Reaching into her pocket, the little girl pulled out a lollipop and handed it to the boy. Healed by the promise of sugar, the boy got up and dusted himself off. The two children ran off to continue their adventures.
Duo’s unusual silence caught Heero’s attention. He looked up from his sandwich and noted the sad smile on his husband’s face.
“What is it, koi? What’s wrong?”
Duo glanced over at his companion and reached over, giving in to the urge to brush unruly bangs out of the cobalt eyes. Heero caught the wandering hand and placed a kiss on the long, slender fingers. Duo smiled, never failing to be pleasantly surprised by how sweet Heero could be. His smile faded, however, as he considered how to answer Heero’s question. He decided to respond with one of his own.
“Heero, what do you think about kids?”
Heero blinked at the unexpected question. “Umm, well, I guess I’ve never really thought about it.” Duo’s face fell slightly and Heero rushed to add, “But I do like children. I like them a lot.” Duo smiled and nodded but Heero’s curiosity had been peaked. “Why do you ask?” he pressed.
Duo bit his lip, considering his next words. He took a deep breath and said, “I’ve been thinking about children quite a bit lately and, well, what do you think about...” Duo paused, taking a moment to wet his suddenly dry mouth with a sip of water. “Umm, would you ever consider adoption?”
Heero felt his eyes go wide as he studied his lover’s completely serious face. He pondered the question, seeing that Duo had put a lot of thought into his question. Heero thought about what it would be like to be a father. His own father had been a very distant figure in Heero’s life, so Heero didn’t feel like he was extremely qualified to take on such an important role, at least not without considerable deliberation.
Heero looked up at Duo’s expectant face and sighed. Although the last thing he wanted to do was to disappoint the one person who meant the world to him, he owed it to Duo to be completely honest.
“I don’t know, Duo. I’ve never really thought about it. Why is this suddenly so important to you, koi?”
Duo thought for a moment before replying in a soft, subdued tone. “It’s not sudden, at all. Ever since we’ve been together, I haven’t been able to help but think, what if someone like you had found me when I was still a kid. I wouldn’t have had to grow up like I did, selling myself on the streets. I could have been like those little kids playing in the park. I just keep thinking that I’d like to give a child the chance to grow up normal, like I wish I could have.”
Heero considered Duo’s words for a moment then nodded, sympathizing with his husband’s point of view. However, he still replied on the side of prudence. “I agree with you but I think we would have to weigh all of the possible consequences before deciding to take such a huge step in our lives.”
Duo looked down at the table for a moment, his shoulders slumping. Heero opened his mouth to apologize when Duo suddenly glanced up. Heero exhaled in relief when Duo smiled at him.
“You’re right, koi. It is something we’d really have to think about. But, will you? Think about it, that is?”
Heero looked into his lover’s amethyst eyes and nodded. “Yes, Duo, I will think about it.”
Duo grinned. Forgetting about Heero’s sensibilities for a moment, he leaned over the table and pressed a warm kiss on his husband’s lips. Heero forgot to be embarrassed, enjoying the feeling of Duo’s lips on his, until the sound of a throat being cleared reminded him of where he was. He broke away and looked up at the smiling waitress with flushed cheeks.
Duo smiled fondly at Heero as he accepted the check. He loved to see Heero blush. It reminded him of when they’d first met and Heero had been so delightfully shy about propositioning him. Heero was just so kawaii with pink cheeks. Heero met his gaze and smiled at his husband’s teasing expression.
“I’d better get back to work. I’ll see you at home,” he said, getting up from the table.
“You’d better,” Duo replied, taking Heero’s hand in his for a final squeeze. Duo walked Heero back to his office and they parted ways.
Relena grimaced as she stepped over a questionable wet spot in the dimly lit hallway. When she’d looked in the phone book for a private investigator she could afford, she didn’t think she would end up in this run-down, decrepit building in a shady L-2 neighborhood.
‘Suck it up, girl,’ she chided herself. ‘If you want revenge, you’ve got to be tougher than this.’ Relena took a deep breath and made her way further down the hall. She stopped in front of a dirty, glass door. The sign on the glass read: “Jack Peevy – Private Investigator”. Relena knocked on the door.
“Yeah, come in,” came through the glass.
Relena gingerly turned the doorknob and opened the door. Her disgusted gaze first noticed the cobwebs decorating several of the surfaces, including the filthy windows. Across the grimy floor stood a battered desk, and seated at the desk, a small, grisled looking man sat peering at her from beneath a bent fedora, his body swamped by a long beige trench coat. Relena blinked at the man who’d obviously read too many detective novels in his day.
Jack looked up eagerly at the first customer he’d had in several weeks. A pair of long legs revealed by a short skirt caught his gaze. His gaze traveled upwards past a tight-fitting sweater and met a pair of haughty blue eyes. He whistled under his breath, hoping that this looker had come to hire him for a long job.
“And how can I help you, Miss...”
“It’s Relena. Relena Dorlian. I have need of your services, if you think you can handle the job.”
Jack winked at her. “Oh, I’m sure I can handle any ‘services’ you required.”
Relena’s lip turned up in a disgusted grimace but she pressed on. “As I was saying, I need to have somebody investigated.”
“Oh? Is it your husband? Boyfriend? Trying to catch him with another woman?” Jack’s dime-store novel mind provided him with endless possibilities.
Relena sighed in aggravation. “No, nothing like that. I just want some information on someone. You know, some dirt. Something I might be able to use.”
“Okay, who is it?”
Relena reached into her bag and removed a picture. She’d snuck into Heero’s office, copied the photograph, and returned it before he’d ever realized it was missing. She placed the photo on the table and slid it across to the PI.
Jack looked at the picture, whistling in spite of himself. “Huh, nice looking kid. Who is he?”
“That’s who I want the information on. His name is Duo Maxwell.”