11-22-2004

Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing or its characters
Title: Love Thy Neighbor
Author: Karen, The Huntress hickman@rockbridge.net
Rating: R
Warning: AU, language
Pairing: 1x2
Part: 11-12/?
Feedback: Always appreciated
Other stories also archived at Shades and Echoes http://www.psinergy.com/dryerspace/gundaniumline/karen/karen.html Summary: Duo and Heero continue to move forward in their relationship.

Love Thy Neighbor

 

Part Eleven:

Seven days until opening night.

Rehearsals had moved from the hall to the theater hosting the musical and practice hours had been extended until 6:30 p.m. The relocation further uptown added an extra hour roundtrip to Duo's daily bus commute so he seldom got home before 7:45 or 8:00 pm.

Aware of Duo's long hours and his tendency not to eat properly when he was tired, Heero insisted on fixing dinner. Sharing the evening meal with the often exhausted dancer was a relaxing way for both Heero and Duo to unwind from their busy schedules so Duo was under strict orders to come directly to Heero's apartment each night.

"Do you want to shower before we eat?" Heero wondered as Duo dropped his practice bag by the door and toed off his shoes.

Duo joined Heero in the kitchen. "Maybe we can share a shower later." he replied with a saucy wink.

Heero offered a warm smile and gladly accepted a kiss on the cheek. "Maybe we will if you eat all your vegetables." he teased.

********

It had been over a month since Heero and Duo first bumped into each other in the apartment lobby and two weeks since watching Akira together had ended in kissing and fondling and mutual hand jobs.

In the following days and nights several showers had been shared as well each other's beds but the foreplay had never gone beyond heavy petting and the release of their pent-up sexual energy had been achieved by manual manipulation.

As much as Heero seemed to enjoy the passion sessions, Duo knew that the architect, who had become a very special friend, was not ready to take their relationship to the next level. But that was all right with Duo because Heero's happiness was more important than going all the way.

********

The table was set, the teapot was brewing and tempting aromas wafted from a large pot simmering on the stovetop. "Something smells good." Duo commented as he used a padded oven mitt to lift the lid.

"Its beef stew," Heero replied, "we both need a hardy meal. Also," he continued lowering the oven door, "biscuits."

Duo bent over to study a cookie sheet covered with a dozen lightly browned rounds of fluffy dough. "Don't tell me you made these."

"Yeah, my mother taught me how to bake when I was a teenager. She said one day I'd be on my own and she wanted to be sure I didn't starve."

"Wow you're not only smart but can cook, too." Duo declared shutting the oven door and sliding his arm around Heero's waist to pull him closer, "And you're one hell of a kisser." The last words were muffled by lips pressing together.

While Heero placed the biscuits in a napkin lined basket, Duo ladled out two bowls of stew consisting of cubed beef, chunks of potatoes and sliced carrots swimming in brown broth seasoned with just enough onion, salt and pepper to keep the dish from being bland.

A tub of reduced fat margarine and a jar of grape jelly were set beside the biscuit laden basket, Heero poured out the tea and he and Duo sat down to enjoy the homemade dinner.

Duo scooped up a generous spoonful of stew. "This is so good." he praised the cook, "but I'm goin' have to watch how I eat or I'll gain too much weight to fit in my costume."

Heero put a dollop of jelly on half a biscuit and spread it out with a knife. "I think you could stand a little more weight."

Duo took a moment to finish chewing then swallowed before answering. "I know but dancing works off all my extra calories. Do you think I'm too thin?"

"No but as long as you're dancing you need to eat right."

Fishing out another spoonful of potatoes and carrots Duo nodded in agreement. "If you keep feeding me like this I don't think that'll be a problem."

"I stopped by the theater box office during lunch and brought a ticket for opening night." Heero announced, pouring a second cup of tea.

"I sent my family tickets. Would you like to meet them after the show?" Duo invited.

"Yes I'd like that very much."

"I wished we were allowed to have free tickets but I guess the Producers need every extra cent."

Heero reached across the table and intercepted Duo's hand as he reached for another biscuit."Don't worry, the price of a ticket won't ruin my budget."

Duo interlaced his fingers with Heero's fingers and squeezed. "I just wanted to do something special for you."

"When you're the principal performer in a blockbuster Broadway musical you can do something special for me."

"Like what?"

"How about a house in the Hamptons and a silver-gray BMW Z8."

"So you want to be like Bond, James Bond." Duo declared in one of the worse Sean Connery accents Heero had ever heard.

Duo leaned closer until his sparkling eyes focused on Heero's handsome face, "Tell me Mr.007 is your gun big enough to back up your desires?"

Heero moved nearer until their faces were inches apart. "I'm always cocked and ready. he whispered huskily then planted a playful kiss on the end of Duo's nose.

********

Duo and Heero lingered at the table for nearly an hour after the meal. Although their conversation focused mainly on Duo's rehearsals, Heero eagerly told his dining partner about a new house in the Adirondack Mountains that Barnes & McKinley had been contacted to design.

"Have you ever been to the mountains?" Heero asked.

Duo grinned in that shy way that always melted Heero's heart. "This is as far away from home I've been except when I was ten and my Uncle Howard took Robert, Lily, Rose and I to see Niagara Falls. I bet you've been lots of places."

"Not really. The only trip my family has taken outside the New York, New Jersey area was when my father won a sales award and was given tickets to Hershey Park in Pennsylvania."

"Hershey," Duo repeated excitedly, "as in chocolate bars."

"And kisses." Heero confirmed.

"There you go talking about kisses again." Duo teased, "I swear Heero Yuy you're incorrigible."

"I hope I'm not too far beyond redemption." Heero declared coming to his own defense.

This time Duo's shy grin broke into a full smile."If the truth be known my thoughts center on kisses all the time."

"Then maybe we shouldn't fight the feelings." Heero announced then rose from his seat, cupped Duo's face with his hands and gave the stunned dancer a kiss to remember.

********

Duo and Heero fell into a comfortable routine...work during the day and shared supper each evening. After clearing the table and cleaning the kitchen they would snuggle on the sofa, listen to music or watch television.

Duo would usually drift off to sleep sometime during the ten o'clock news and Heero would take pleasure in watching him sleep. At the program's end Heero would wake Duo with gentle persuasion in the form of feathery kisses then they would retire to bed to engage in a few minutes of pillow talk and a few more kisses before drifting off to dreamland in each other's arms.

********

The days and nights passed swiftly. Twenty-four hours before the premiere performance of "Dance into the Fire".

********

Physically Duo was worn out and more than ready to sleep but his mind was preoccupied with perfecting each step. As phantom music, underscored by Jay Johnson calling out the cadence echoed inside his head, his arms and legs involuntarily twitched and his breathing quickened to keep up the pace.

Heero stirred from his own restlessly sleep. Although Duo had tried to hide his increasing nervousness about opening night, Heero could easily read each anxious expression, clearly see the tension in Duo's body. The dancer's normally mellow manner had frayed around the edges, his usually enthusiastic temperament had become sullen and his talkative nature silent.

The bedside clock's bright scarlet digital numbers glowed in contrast to the bedroom's predawn gloom---4:21 am. Heero eased up on one elbow and brushed back bangs tangled in Duo's long eyelashes. "Duo." he called softly.

Duo jumped as if startled and his violet eyes popped opened to search for the source of his sudden state of alertness. A heavy sigh betrayed his battle with his uncooperative brain and the resulting mental agitation.

Confusion mirrored in Duo's blurry sight. "What happened?" he wondered in slightly slurred speech.

"In think you were dreaming." Heero replied with his own brand of bewilderment.

Tilting his head to one side to stretch out a kink in his neck Duo tugged his ragged braid over his shoulder. He pressed the heels of his hands over his eyes and asked in muddled tones."What time is it?"

"Almost four-thirty."

Duo squinted up at Heero trying to focus on his shadowy face. "Dammit." he whispered then added for clarification. "I can't shut off the music."

"Unfortunately we don't have much control over our mind when we sleep." Heero confirmed that he understood.

"I'll be glad when the first show is behind me; opening night is always tense. I love dancing but...." Another sigh accentuated Duo's frustration.

"I know but its natural to be nervous."

Even with heavily lidded eyes, with wispy hair in disarray around his face, Duo was beautiful. Heero had never considered that a male could be beautiful but that was the only fitting description for the person curled up next to him.

Heero slipped his arm over Duo's waist and drew the drowsy dancer closer. "You don't have to do this alone. I can't be on the stage with you but you will always have my support."

"The stars smiled on me the day I met you." Duo affirmed his belief in celestial intervention, "Do you believe in fate?"

"I believe there is a force that guides our paths but whether its fate or the stars..." he paused in thoughtful contemplation, "I don't think we should be concerned about why or how but be grateful for each day we have."

Duo buried his face in Heero bare chest to stifle a yawn. "Each day is a gift." he mumbled sleepily.

Heero tightened his hold around the man who had become his shining star. "Go to sleep, morning will come too soon."

"Heero." The name was murmured so softly Heero wasn't sure if his ears were playing tricks but the breathy warmth of words and tingling vibration against his skin told him it was not his imagination.

"What?"

"Thank you."

Heero started to answer but Duo's breathing had evened out into a relaxed rhythm telling him that his beautiful bedmate had finally settled to hopefully peaceful slumber. Tucking the coverlet snuggly over Duo's back Heero whispered, "You're welcome."

********

The clock's digital number advanced silently counting off the hours until a new day.

Heero stood alone in a field carpeted with fragrant flowers but overhead the sky was murky as he stared into the moonless night. Slowly tiny pinpoints began to sparkle in the darkness like dazzling diamonds or multi-faceted prisms refracting sunlight into shimmer bands of rainbow colors.

Then the illuminated specks began to glitter and Heero realized that the ebony backdrop was studded with thousands of stars. *The stars smiled on me.* repeated in his mind and the true meaning of that declaration tugged at his heart.

As the twinkling "eyes of heaven" offered their promises of guidance and protection Heero began to comprehend what his emotions had been trying to tell him for some time

Heero hadn't consider himself gay, he'd always dated women but was love a question of gender or a matter of the heart? Heero knew how Duo felt, that he cared enough not to ask for everything beyond his comfort level.

Heero couldn't deny that the physical stimulation had been satisfying, in fact he had become a willing participant in his and Duo's sexual interactions. But was he brave enough to proclaim his feelings...to give verbal credence to a commitment with another man?

As Heero gazed skyward the stars merged into a single beam that sliced through the darkness and blinded him with its purity.

Heero woke up with a shudder that shook the bed so hard it stirred Duo from his sound sleep. Now it was Duo's turn to wonder. "Are you all right?" he asked, surprised at how quickly his mind had cleared away the Sandman's cobwebs.

Heero, too, was fully awake. Now his mind and heart no longer debated the depths of his feelings or their fairness to Duo. In the bedroom's dim light, Heero gazed once more at the influential stars and followed his heart.

Placing a chaste kiss on Duo's forehead Heero put the certainty of his emotions into words. "Duo, I love you." he proclaimed without hesitation.

Duo blinked as he also questioned his hearing but the sincerity in Heero's voice, the honesty in his eyes left no room for doubt. Strangely Heero's declaration of love was not a shocking revelation but seemed as natural as breathing.

One slender finger gracefully traced the ridge of Heero's cheek, down his jaw line and paused over his trembling lips. There was no need for a lengthy explanation when two hearts spoke with the same voice.

The light in Duo's eyes, like that slicing beam of starlight, reflected the joy in his heart. "I love you, too." then sealed the promise with a kiss.

When the kiss ended Heero drew back far enough to see Duo's face. "What happens now?"

Duo smiled at the question within the question. "We take one day at a time and don't do anything different until we're both ready."

"But..."

"Not until we're ready." Duo repeated, "Now let's just hold each other and let love lead the way."

Author's Note: The BMW Z8 was introduced in the James Bond movie "The World is Not Enough".

 

Part Twelve:

Heero parked the rental car in a side lot, paid the attendant then glanced in the side mirror for a final appearance inspection. Attired in a charcoal suit, black shirt and wine and white striped tie, the Barnes and McKinley architect merged with other pedestrians strolling along the avenue.

As he approached the single story off-Broadway theater that set midway down the block there was no long line of limousines delivering celebrities of stage and screen.

There were no stunning women adorned in shimmering gowns with plunging necklines and dripping with gemstones worth more money than Heero would earn in a lifetime or wealthy men in tuxedos.

There was no red carpet lined with cheering fans hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite superstar. Absent were newspaper and magazine photographers and interviewers from the television networks or Entertainment Tonight. Even Emily Frances the entertainment editor from WPIX had not deemed the opening night an event important enough to cover.

Still there was a sizable, well-dressed crowd milling around the theater's entrance. "Dance into the Fire" was spelled out in bright red letters across the backlit marquee.

A playbill in a glass-front frame was printed with several color pictures and the cast member's names. Of course the larger portraits were of the principle male and female dancers but there was also a smaller photograph of the entire cast.

Heero leaned closer, shielded his eyes from the glare reflecting off the glass and searched for Duo among the costumed performers. He finally located the object of his visual quest in the first row, third from the right.

First Heero was struck by how handsome Duo was in his costume. Secondly he noticed that the form-fitting material didn't leave much to the imagination, especially in the lower frontal region.

"I can't wait to see you dance." Heero whispered under his breath as his finger traced down Duo's athletically toned body. Yes, athletic was an ideal description of the dancer's trim but muscular physique.

But then Heero had already seen all of Duo's charms in their natural state. His slender body stretched out across the bed or arms and legs flexed in positions that caused Heero to wonder if Duo's joints were made of rubber bands.

Standing on the bustling sidewalk, gazing into Duo's smiling face, more memories surged to the surface. Creamy skin wet from the shower, slick with soap. Unbounded hair hanging like satin ribbons around Duo's shoulders and the way the silken tresses felt as Heero took care to plat a perfect braid.

Heero and Duo had yet to have intercourse but the petting and stroking and hand release had been sufficient. They had come to a mutual agreement, had wisely decided to wait until their bodies, minds and spirits were in tune.

The dancer and the architect would instinctively know when they were ready for their eventual physical bond but until then Heero was more than satisfied to fondle and cuddle and fall asleep next to person who made every day special.

********

The majority of the chairs were occupied and there were more patrons filing down the twin aisles. Heero handed an usher his ticket stub and was escorted to the center section, row six, seat eighteen.

The murmur of conversation was almost overwhelmed by the orchestra tuning up in the pit below a polished wooden stage draped in burgundy velvet curtains. The musicians held each note until the tones blended perfect together, moved through the diatonic scale then repeated the process an octave higher or lower.

Heero sat quietly studying the four-page program that a pleasant silver-haired lady wearing a green tea-length satin dress had handed him in the lobby. Each dancer's name was listed along with a short biographical paragraph. Duo's write up didn't reveal any secrets not even the fact that he loved to have his feet massaged.

The scant personal information reminded Heero that Duo's family was sitting somewhere in the Victorian era playhouse. He shifted his weight and scanned the assembled audience searching for a group seated together that might bear a resemblance to Duo.

Heero's curious observation sparked questions that he suddenly realized he had a pressing desire to find the answers to. Did Duo look more like his mother or his father? Which side of the family was responsible for the dark auburn streaks in his chestnut hair or from what genetic code had Duo inherited his unusual blue-purple eyes?

Was his brother, Robert, an older version of Duo complete with a long braid and were his sisters, Lily and Rose, fraternal twins or identical clones that mirrored each other's movements and finished each other's sentences?

Unfortunately the diffused overhead light from three large gold and crystal chandeliers and the just-as-understated illumination from wall sconces with ivory glass shades didn't allow Heero to pick out many details of anyone seated more than five chairs on either side or two rows forward or back.

With a sigh of surrender Heero gave up his hunt. "I'll meet them later." he reminded himself as he remembered the backstage pass tuck safely in his wallet. Duo had also given passes to his family so everyone could get together after the show.

Earlier that evening when Heero drove Duo to the theater they had shared their first public kiss outside the rear stage door. "I guess I should say something like "break a leg". he whispered so only Duo could hear.

Duo leaned nearer and whispered back, "Just wish me luck."

The orchestra became quiet and the house lights blinked twice to signal that the show was about to begin.

Now all Heero could do was settle back in his seat and try not to be too nervous for the charismatic dancer who had become a close friend and, hopefully soon, a lover.

********

In the maze of halls segregated by backdrop sets and noise-damping curtains, stage hands, light and sound technicians, riggers and a dozen other people skilled in putting on a musical rushed around in organized confusion that resembled an anthill stirred with a stick.

Inside the minor performer's communal dressing room dancers wriggled into skin-tight costumes and put finishing touches on bizarre hairpieces and overdone makeup that had to compete with the dazzling stage lights.

Duo stood sideway to check his profile in a mirror that covered the entire wall. His braid was coiled at the nape of his neck and secured with clips so it would fit under his coal black wig with red spikes. He smoothed down the black costume with iridescent flames clinging to his legs and arms and blazing over his shoulders then discreetly rearranged his manhood in the snug crotch.

Shyly he glanced over at his dancing partner, Susan, hoping she hadn't noticed the anatomy adjustment but she was too absorbed in applying bright red lipstick.

Duo leaned closer to scrutinize his own cosmetically altered facade. In contrast to Susan's scarlet lips, Duo's face was covered with pale powder and slate-gray eye shadow encircled his eyes making the orbs seem to recede deeper into their sockets. After all he was supposed to be a minion of the devil, a ghostly spirit sentenced to eternal torment so why not look like death warmed over.

Susan swiped over her scarlet mouth once more then leaned back to appreciate the garish makeup's full effect. As Duo sat down beside his counterpart, she tugged off the paper bib protecting her matching costume and offered a tense smile

"Are you nervous?" She wondered taking care not to bite her bottom lip and ruin the perfect paint job.

A little bit," Duo confessed, "but that's what gives you an edge. The time to worry is when you get too comfortable."

The door opened momentarily allowing the ruckus from the hall to filter into the room then closed behind the show's choreographer. Jay Johnson walked into the center of his fiery-outfitted troop and flashed a confident smile. "Has everyone warmed up?"

Affirmative nods and softly spoken confirmations disturbed the anticipative silence.

Like a coach rallying his team to victory, J.J. put all his enthusiasm to his pre-performance speech. "All of you are talented professionals and have worked hard, made sacrifices and pushed your physical and mental endurance passed the limits of any sane person. You know how proud I am of you so I'm not going to ramble on with any sentimental bullshit."

As if on clue someone knocked on the door and announced. "Ten minutes to curtain."

Jay nodded towards the hall. "Now go out there and give the audience a taste of hell." He paused with his hand on the doorknob. "Break a leg." he added with a sly grin.

********

Murals painted on backdrops and side panels depicted infernal scenes of the abode of the damned. Freestanding props of craggy stones and blackened pillars supporting equally scorched arches added to the underworld environment.

Duo, Susan and another pair of dancers took their places in the wings stage right, the remainder of the troop waited stage left. Duo locked his knees, bent at the waist and flattened his palms on the floor for a final warm up then kicked to loosen any leg muscles that might have tightened up.

A fog machine pumped waves of "smoke" across the stage to hide several prone dancers. Fans swirled the white vapors accenting the sinister mood. Artificial flames fluttered violently and crimson lighting bathed the stage providing stark realism to make the audience believe that they were about to "Dance into the Fire".

The house lights dimmed. The conductor cued the main score...the interwoven musical thread that would knit each scene together. An anticipative hush fell over the theater.

As the curtain rose the music's tempo escalated harshly and two kettledrums reproduced the rumble of thunder. The fog-concealed dancers lifted their arms above the mist, swayed their hands and groaned as if in agony. Then one by one they slowly emerged from the blanched mist writhing like forsaken souls destined to damnation.

The lead male dancer was dressed in scarlet from head to toe. His face was painted in glittering makeup that reflected the red light to give his skin an eerie glow. By means of an elevator in the center stage floor, like the witch on the Wizard of OZ, he suddenly materialized through clouds of smoke and cascading sparks.

At Satan's volatile arrival the performers waiting in the wings swarmed on stage in a flurry of frenzied steps as if they were under a bewitching spell. The devil joined the madness and circled his minions taking fiendish delight in them succumbing to his power.

The female lead with flowing flaxen hair and attired in an angelic white bodysuit with a gauzy skirt hid behind one stony pillar and peered with trepidation at the devil's debauchery.

A pair of male dancers slinked through the smoke and seized the innocent girl who shrieked in shock. As their terrified captive struggled to pull free, the men forced her across the stage and dropped her at their master's feet.

The devil leered down. The maiden drew back from his lecherous gaze. He leaned closer, caressed her hair then locked his eyes with her eyes. Totally entranced she took his hand, rose to her feet and surrendered to his wicked desires.

The music took on a lustful tone prompting the dancers to engaged in an orgy of sensual movements. Stroking each other in the throes of fiery passion, bodies entwined, arms and legs tangled in provocative embraces designed to raise their sexual excitement to feverish levels.

Heero was not aware of the maiden's plight; in fact he couldn't have told you the number of dancers on stage. His attention was focused solely on Duo. He studied every step intently, scrutinized the way Duo's body became one with the music, the way he became lost in the rhythm.

He recalled that night on the sidewalk outside the Blue Note Jazz Club when Duo danced with the same beguiling abandonment and, although Heero didn't realize it at the time, that was the dance that captured his heart.

The theater was suddenly surreal. The audience vanished leaving Heero alone with the music and Duo, who was once again weaving his spell. His hands became moist, his breathing quickened. His manhood strained against his trousers causing him to wiggle in his seat.

Now Duo danced only for Heero. Resembling the serpent in the Garden of Eden, his hips swayed seductively. He became the tempter, a feral creature using every inch of his body to entice the enamored architect with promises of paradise.

"Duo," Heero whispered completely enthralled in both body and soul, "dance for me."

********

Each sequential scene progressed to the breathtaking finale. In an intricately choreographed battle the hero defeated the devil and his unholy horde. Then with the aide of a hydraulic lift, the rescued maiden and her victorious champion ascended back to the land of the living leaving the hounds of hell howling in their retributive wretchedness.

As the curtain eased down, the music swelled to a climatic crescendo. Before the last note faded away the audience exploded into enthusiastic applause. Many people rose to their feet and shouts of "BRAVO!" echoed over the theater.

The loud, appreciative praise abruptly transported Heero back to reality. He sat motionless as the essences of Duo's mesmeric charms lingered like wisps of sweet incense then he sprang to his feet clapping and fighting the urge to weep tears borne of happiness.

In response to the prolonged ovation the entire cast made two curtain calls and each call sparked a renewed round of cheering. Finally the dancers joined hands and bowed in unison as the curtain descended on opening night.

********

Still tingling with excitement Heero showed a security guard his backstage pass and was admitted to the theater's private area. He asked a sound technician with a headset dangling around his neck for directions to the dressing rooms. "Right turn at the end of the hall." the tall man shouted above the noisy post-performance commotion.

As soon as Heero turned the corner all his speculations concerning Duo's family were answered. There were no doubts that Duo looked like his mother or that he had inherited his hair's chestnut shade from both parents.

Robert was indeed an older version of his brother but his shoulder length hairstyle was a bit more conservative. As Heero walked closer he quickly realized that the twins were mirror images of each other and that they shared the same odd eye coloring as Duo.

"Mr. Maxwell?" Heero addressed the fifty-something man.

When Mr. Maxwell acknowledged his name, Heero offer an explanation and his hand. "Hello, I'm Duo's friend Heero Yuy."

Duo's father shook Heero's hand with a firm grip, "Mr. Yuy, it's nice to meet you." he stated in a Brooklyn accent with a hint of Irish brogue.

"Please call me Heero."

"If you'll called me Peter."

Duo's mother smiled and again Heero was reminded how much she and Duo favored, "I'm Helen. This is Robert, Lily and Rose she introduced Duo's siblings in turn.

Heero and the Maxwell family had settled into a comfortable conversation when the definitely elated dances spilled down the hall. Smiles lit up their faces, there was a bounce in their steps and despite being on the edge of exhaustion, they were still soaring on the natural high of adrenaline-induced euphoria.

Seeing the six most important people in his life standing by the dressing room door, Duo quickened his stride, "Sorry you had to wait but the show's director, Mr. Patterson, had to give a speech and we had to listen."

"You were wonderful tonight." Helen praised

"Thank you." Duo replied accepting a hug from his mother and father.

Robert preferred to shake hands. Lily and Rose giggled as Duo playfully tugged on their braided pigtails.

"Now you have to promise me something, " Helen continued.

Duo nodded, "yes".

"Your first free weekend you and Heero have to come for a visit and a home cooked meal."

"I promise."

Peter glanced at his watch, "It's late, we should be getting home. We're all proud of you son and don't be too long before you visit, we miss you."

********

Although sweat had streaked Duo's makeup and the same damp condition caused his costume to bind on his body, Heero thought Duo was strikingly handsome. There was a sparkle in his eyes that no amount of fatigue could dull and his smile...his smile was warm enough to melt Heero's heart.

It was easy for Duo to read Heero's expression; he didn't need words to know what Heero was feeling. Without any hesitation he pulled his very special friend into a tight embrace and whispered close to his ear. "I can't wait until we're alone."

Heero held on not caring what anyone else thought of his and Duo's obvious display of affection. "I have a surprise for you." he whispered back.

"What?" The single breathy word tickled along Heero's jaw.

"Be patience."

"Okay." Reluctantly Duo's arms slid from Heero's shoulders. "Let me shower and change." he sighed as the adrenaline rush was rapidly wearing off. "I won't be long."

"Take your time, I'll wait over there." Heero nodded to several chairs lining the wall.

********

It was almost ten o'clock when the dancer and the architect stepped into the cool night air. Duo was freshly showered and shampooed and smelled like Old Spice Aftershave.

Dressed in stonewashed jeans and a navy blue pullover shirt, Duo was casual in contrast to Heero's more formal attire. Heero had slipped off the annoying tie and folded it neatly before placing it in the inner pocket of his suit jacket that was draped over his arm.

"I'm starving." Duo announced. He hadn't eaten much before the show because a full stomach would sometimes cramp up when he got overheated.

Heero unlocked the rental car, slipped behind the steering wheel and pushed the button to unlock the passenger side door. "Can you wait twenty minutes?" he asked as Duo settled in his seat and buckled his shoulder harness.

"Yeah. Is dinner my surprise?"

Heero switched on the engine, turned on the headlights, put the car in gear then stopped at the parking lot gate to check the traffic flow before pulling out. "Part of it."

Duo reached over and interlaced his fingers with Heero's. "A multipart surprise. Can't you give me a hint?"

"Twenty minutes." Heero repeated as he made a left hand turn and headed uptown.

~Author's Note: WPIX is a television station in New York City.~

 

Epilogue:

July 10th:

Duo had three weeks left on his lease. He and Heero had decided that when the agreement ran out Duo would co-sign on Heero's lease and move in with his lover.

The alteration in living arrangements was mutually beneficial. Every night the dancer and the architect were already sleeping together in Heero's apartment so consolidating the households made sense. Also if rent, utilities and expenses were shared, both men could save money.

Duo and Heero had established a weekly routine. Duo rehearsed everyday and had shows on Friday night, Saturday matinee and Saturday evening. Heero had his nine-to-five schedule during the week and took Saturday afternoon to catch up on laundry or shopping so he could pick Duo at 10pm for a late dinner.

Sundays they would sleep in expect when Duo attended Morning Mass. Although Heero didn't consider himself religious, he gladly went go to church with Duo then they would have brunch at their favorite diner called "Cathy's".

*********

"You won't have to give up too much closet space." Duo teased as he and Heero strolled through Central Park on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

"Since you're giving most of your furniture to the Salvation Army's Secondhand Store you won't have too much to move in." Heero stated before swiping his tongue around his chocolate ice cream that was swiftly melting in the summer sun. "Neither of us have that many things." he added then expertly slurped up a sticky dollop clinging to the waffle cone's side.

Duo matched his lover's steps and leaned closer, "Has anyone ever told you that you have a very talented tongue?" he whispered huskily.

"Yeah there's this guy with a braid that has high praise for several of my body parts." Heero stated motioning to a bench shaded by an oak tree's broad branches.

The "guy with the braid" and his multi-talented partner settled in the shade side by side. Heero offered his ice cream and Duo took his turn at tasting the sweet treat. It wasn't that they couldn't afford two cones but sharing the same one was more fun.

Duo stretched out his long legs, crossed his ankles and cocked his head back to watch the sun sparkle through the oak's fluttering green leaves. Within the tree's lofty protection a pair of gray squirrels scampered from limb to limb in a lively game of tag. Their playful antics reminded Duo of a spirited dance and he caught himself muttering out a step cadence under his breath.

Heero took a moment to again stem the tide of liquefied chocolate threatening to escape the cone's confines. Satisfied that the ice cream was temporarily under control he redirected his attention to the surrounding activity.

Most of the park's population moved along at a leisurely pace. However there were several red-faced, sweaty joggers who, in Heero's opinion, were crazy for running in the afternoon heat.

Men, women or mixed groups kept to their solitary paths. Couples holding hands engaged in private conversations. Families pushed baby strollers and watched after toddlers and older children. There were different breeds of dogs padding along on leashes or romping in the grassy areas.

Duo straightened his back and drew in his legs to avoid tripping a trio of girls. The gaggle of teenagers, their slender bottoms encased in tight shorts and their flat stomachs exposed by chop tops, giggled among themselves as typical fifteen year old females have a tendency to do as they cut across the sidewalk and hurried on their way.

An older lady dressed in a sapphire blue linen pantsuit guided a blond Cocker Spaniel through the meandering maze of people then sat down on a bench opposite Duo and Heero. She patted the bench and the dog eagerly jump up then nuzzled her hand until she stroked over the Cocker's silky head and scratched behind a shiny floppy ear.

Heero took one more lick of ice cream then offered the partially eaten cone to Duo. "That's all I can eat." he admitted.

"Your eyes bigger than your stomach?" Duo grinned, gratefully accepting the surrendered chocolaty delight. "Or are you savin' your appetite for me?" he asked with a saucy wink.

Heero chose to ignore Duo's blatant attempt at enticement and focused his attention on the lady and her canine companion. "We should get a dog." he stated matter-of-factly.

Duo stopped in mid-lick. For a moment his tongue dangled above the ice cream then, realizing that he looked like a lizard, he quickly slid it back over his lips.

After a few more stunned seconds Duo wondered."Where did that idea come from?"

Heero shrugged, "I've always liked dogs but my sister, Jen, has asthma and my mother was afraid that an animal might make it worse."

"My family had a dog named Buster when I was in elementary school."

"What breed?"

"Buster's mom, who belonged to our neighbor, was some kind of terrier and his father was a "traveling man"so we weren't sure of the breed."

"Do you still have Buster?"

"Nope he died of old age when I was in high school."

The lady rose from her seat and with the Cocker in tow moved on up the walk. Heero watched the exiting pair until they blended with the crowd and disappeared from sight.

Even though Duo couldn't hear the sigh or sense the barely noticeable slump of Heero's shoulders, he instinctively knew that something was wrong. It didn't matter that the melting ice cream was making another assault run down the cone...nothing mattered but the fact that his lover looked sad.

Duo dropped the cone beside the bench and took Heero's hand. "Let's get a dog."

"What?"

"A dog, let's get a dog."

Heero shook his head in bewilderment. "I didn't mean we had to get a dog."

Duo laced his fingers with Heero's fingers and squeezed gently. "I want you to be happy."

"I'm happy."

"But you'd be happier with a dog, right?"

Heero stated to reply but Duo cut him off with a wave of his free hand and continued. "The animal shelters have websites. It doesn't have to be pure bred and we don't have to decide right now."

"You're serious, aren't you?"

"Yeah, there isn't a "no pet" rule at the apartment and we can afford to take care of a dog, so why not?" Duo reasoned.

"Why not." Heero agreed with more enthusiasm at becoming a dog owner.

Duo leaned closer then used a quick kiss to add extra incentive to his next proposal, "Let's go home and seal the deal." he suggested that the proper place for any celebration was in bed.

********

August 15th:

The cast of "Dance into the Fire" had an entire weekend off. The respite from performing had been expectedly granted by the New York City Public Works Department in the form of repairs on four blocks of storm drains.

Duo and Heero took full advantage of the three free days. Heero used a vacation day on Friday so he and Duo could finally visit with the Maxwell family in Brooklyn.

Duo's mother was thrilled to have her son and his committed partner spend Friday and Saturday night. She also promised home-cooked meals and plenty of embarrassing stories about Duo's mischievous childhood.

While Heero put his and Duo's suitcases in the rental car's trunk, Duo walked through their apartment to make certain everything was secure and that he had the keys before he locked the door.

"Stay still Akira." Duo ordered the silver-gray Siberian Husky with pale blue eyes. "We can't go until I hook your leash." he declared as the dog named in honor of the couple's first passion session wiggled and wagged his tail in anticipation of he and his masters' upcoming trip.

"Ready?" Heero asked as his eager partner and their equally excited canine joined him on the sidewalk. He added a twenty-pound bag of Dog Chow and a watering bowl and closed the trunk.

With Akira taking the role of backseat driver, Heero slipped in behind the steering wheel and Duo buckled himself into the passenger side. "This is going to be nice." Duo smiled at his life partner.

"We both need to relax." Heero answered as he merged into traffic. "I'm relieved that your family has accepted our relationship. I'll admit that I was a bit uneasy when you called your Mom to make the plans."

Duo took Heero's hand, "They've been supportive since I came out in high school. I wish other people were as understanding."

"We won't worry about other opinions." Heero stated with sure conviction, "We're together and our love can stand strong against any criticism from narrow-minded people."

Duo reached under his navy blue tee shirt and pulled out the pendant that was his most cherished link to his lover. He rubbed his thumb over the inscription, "Duo and Heero...Friends and Lovers" he read aloud.

"When we get back we should take your pendant to the jeweler and have one more word inscribed on the back."

"Another word?" Duo questioned, "What?"

Heero raised Duo's hand to his lips and kissed the palm, "Forever." he whispered.

 

End Epilogue

Love Thy Neighbor--Karen Hickman--December 2004

Thank you for reading!!!