Author's Note: Okay, now to include little facts involving the fic. Hilde is portrayed as an older woman; she has a seven-year-old son and she's twenty-one. Do the math and you'll find she was only fourteen when she had Solo, but all will be explained in later chapters. Heero is twenty, and Duo is almost nineteen. Were Duo's mother alive, she'd be thirty-nine, and Helen is sixty-two, but looks young for her age despite her being sick. Ne?

As of 8-01-05: Heero's hair isn't green. "Moss green" is a particular shade of brown that some of my favorite GW authors used to describe Heero's hair being -in fact, hairstylists typically refer to Heero's shade of brown as being moss green. The particular term always stuck with me, and I fell into a habit of using it occasionally. I'm very sorry for the confusion though!

The Professional and the Amateur Part 5

"What about this one?"

"The one in the green bottle?"


"Well, like I said, it depends on your body chemicals. That one tends to dry me out, but it could work wonders for you. Still..." Duo picked up a different bottle, showing it to the cautious older woman with a cheeky smile. "My gut instinct tells me this brand will work wonders for you. It's also much cheaper."

"Yes, but... I heard cheap shampoo isn't really great on your hair," she said, dubiously studying the bigger, cheaper blue bottle to the smaller, more costly green one.

"Pfft!" Duo waved it off, grabbing his braid and unconsciously stroking the chestnut locks. "I couldn't afford that mess. I love my hair, but I can't afford to pamper it with the 'better' stuff when my brand works wonders... with my hair AND my wallet."

"Really?" The older woman sounded surprised, eyeing the long, healthy braid with much desire and astonishment. "But you have beautiful hair!"

"And I use possibly the most inexpensive brand of shampoo here. That 'the pricier, the better' myth is just that: a myth." Duo leaned in closer. "Tell you what, miss. You try this bottle and see how good it is for you. If you come back unsatisfied with the way it turned out, then I'll buy you the brand you wanted. Okay?"

"I couldn't possibly do that! You told me yourself that you couldn't afford something like this!"

"Hey, trust me. This is how strong of a gut feeling I have, ne?"

"Well... Okay." With a small smile she placed the item in her buggy. "Thank you."

"No, no. Thank you!" With an exaggerated bow that brought a laugh to the woman's lips, Duo smiled and waved good-bye as she wheeled away.

"Squirt, you keep showing customers those saving tricks of yours and I'll be out of business by the end of the year!" A high, feminine voice complained playfully, filled with laughter and appreciation. With a skip Duo whirled, facing a tall, beautiful young woman with high cheek bones and a tanned complexion. She was leaning against a store case display, smiling ruefully as she combed her finger through her long bangs.

"Sure, Carla-boss lady-ma'am," Duo saluted, bringing the other woman's facetiously stern face cracking into a grin. "Is there anything in specific you came to talk to me about, or is this just a social chitchat?"

"Chitchat sounds fun, but alas, I came to gossip."

"To gossip? You? Nooo..." It was a known fact to everyone who worked at the Kwiki Shop that the owner--one Carla Blake--was conceivably the biggest gossip hound in the area. So when one Duo Maxwell decided to tease her about the title, she simply blew a raspberry and flicked her thumb at him.

"Uh-uh-uuuh! Naughty, naughty, naughty little Maxie-poo!" Coming in closer, a gleam in her greenish blue eyes, she whispered, "You, my dear, dear darling honey, have been keeping secrets."

Insert cerebral groan here, Duo quipped mentally, all the while fixing the taller woman with something of an innocent blink and thoughtful wrinkle of his brow. "I don't understand..." It was bound to be found out, and she would be the first to really hear about it. Duo knew this, but pretending to be a totally loss was fun.

"You scoundrel! I hear you fell off a bridge or something," she went on. "Some cute guy saved you or something, I heard. Is he single?"

Duo blinked, this time in real disorder. He never even thought of the question! My God... what if he?... What if he wasn't single? What if he had this beautiful girl waiting for him at home and he was off chasing a poor American kid he felt sorry for? That would most likely break up a perfect union between soul mates and it would be all his fault!

Let it be known that Duo Maxwell has THE worst reasoning in the history of man. He is also, unbeknownst to himself, a closet pessimist.


"Oh, wait! Me and my big mouth!" Carla smacked her own forehead. "This is Heero Yuy we're talking about. Did I mention that I found out that your hero is Heero Yuy, possibly the most gorgeous actor alive? Did I? Well, he is! Anyway, he's never got a girl or guy hanging on his arm in the tabloids or anything, so I bet he's single. But anyway, did you get his autograph?"

Duo stared at the older woman blankly for more than a few seconds before bluntly stating, "Why would I?" Carla looked shocked, and eyed the boy with more than the tiniest incertitude.

"You're joking." Duo shook his head, his braid whipping to and fro. "You've got to be pulling my leg." Again Duo shook his head, wondering where the current conversation was going. Carla stayed calm. Really she did.

For about five seconds. Then she exploded, "Why wouldn't you?"


"I mean, he's only the hottest honey of Hollywood! He's only the most available bachelor in the U.S.! He's only the most untouchable person anyone could ever run into! And you tell me you didn't get his autograph!"

"Well..." Duo finally figured he had the upper hand. With a smirk, and a small wave of his hand toward the exit of the store, he asked, "Did you see what I drove to work today?"

Silence reigned for but a few seconds before Carla replied guardedly, "Yeah..."

"Do you know who gave it to me?"

Her eyes went wide. "He didn't..."

"He sure did. The cocky son of a gun wouldn't take it back either," he added ruefully. "Do you have any idea how he bribed me into keeping that car? He made something of an innocent wager, see, and..." So he went on to explain to his boss just how he ended up with an expensive car that survived a night in his neighbor due to the help of some 'neighborly' gang members being paid two hundred dollars a week by a mysterious donor. By the time the braided store clerk's story was completely done--from the morning he found the car at his doorstep to the fit he threw when he stomped back into his apartment later that day--he was irate and very, very touchy.

"Ooohhh, when I get a hold of his neck when we're alone, I'm gonna jump all over his ass!" Carla raised an eyebrow, and Duo found it impossible not to blush. In all his time working for her, he'd never even uttered profanity. Now it seemed all that non-foul mouthedism was all leaving him, and things other teenagers said when no respected adults were around was gaining on him with a vengeance...

It's all Yuy's fault, Duo pouted.

"Are you sure it'll be mine getting jumped?"

"Gah!" Duo jumped when the voice registered in his mind under the category 'nasal+smoothHeero'. Blushing crimson, the braided boy whirled to face the handsome man standing behind him.

Heero grinned.


"Are you sure it'll be mine getting jumped?" Heero's grin widened further when he noted the American beauty jerk to attention and twirl to face him, reddening face and all. He'd been standing behind the American through his whole tirade of complaining and slight whining, all the while feeling his insides convulse as one when laughter became too much to bear. The woman he was talking too--his boss, Heero supposed--had noticed him milliseconds before he even opened his mouth. Her jaw had neatly dropped open in quiet surprise, though it snapped shut with a slight 'click' between her teeth.

Amused by Duo's sudden lack of anything to say, Heero held out a bag. "Nuts?"

That seemed to snap Duo's automatic response awake. "You aren't supposed to eat in the store."

"The cashier said it was okay."

"She was probably floored by your greatness, oh Endowed Lord of Mine," Duo quipped finally, placing a green bottle he'd been throttling back on the shelf.

Heero raised an eyebrow suggestively before replying, "In more ways than one..."

"Eep!" Duo slapped both hands over his mouth and looked around to see if that comment drew any attention. Breathing a sigh of relief when he espied everyone was too busy to even note the Japanese actor, he let both hands drop and tried to mentally kill his blush. "Don't say things like that..."

"Like what?" The Yuy Blink of Total Innocence didn't affect Duo in any way. So, he changed the subject to what he thought was safer ground. "So how's the car?"

"Purrs like a kitten, I'm sure," Duo mumbled, stroking his braid as was habit. Heero watched those hands for a while before hearing Duo make a noise deep in his throat. "For goodness sake, Yuy, give Carla her autograph so she'll go away."

The older woman stopped in her drooling to look at her employee as if he were crazy. "You mean he doesn't give out cars?" Switching her look from Duo to Heero and back again, she suddenly got the picture. With a twinkle in her eye and a grin on her lips, she grabbed a random magazine and pulled out her permanent marker, handing them both to Heero.

Heero smiled charmingly. "Your name is Carla, right?" She nodded, the twinkle still in her eyes as she jerked her head just the slightest toward her worker and winked at him.

'Go for it!' she mouthed. After a moment he merely gave a secret wink of his own and signed the magazine that just so happened to have his picture on the front. Go figure.

Once Duo's boss was out of hearing range, Duo finally turned his attention back on Heero with narrowed, stern violet eyes.

"What's this I hear about someone paying the gang 'cross the street two hundred dollars a week to make sure my car pulls through?"

Oops. "That was never mentioned in the game," Heero murmured smoothly, reaching into his bag and grabbing a handful of salted cashews. "Can I help it if outside forces prevent other outside forces from taking your car?" Innocent Blink #334 was enacted during this moment.

"Nymph," Duo muttered moodily, walking passed the actor to straighten an item on the shelf. Heero smiled softly and followed.


"Look who's talkin', pal."

"That wasn't an insult."

"Good for me, then."

Heero wasn't used to this sort of playful arguing. He found it very, very relaxing and very, very fun. With a slow, measured movement he was beside the braided bisheinen, standing at least three inches taller than him. Unthinkingly the shorter of the two looked up to meet the gaze of the taller, words at the edge of his tongue as he opened his mouth to speak--

That is, until Heero covered the braided American's mouth with his own. Shockingly aware of the sensuality in the actor's small kiss--a kiss that literally took his breath away and left him weak at the knees--Duo barely noticed people as they stopped to stare at the sight before moving on as if nothing happened. Those days, two people of the same sex kissing in public were the norm, especially in big cities.

No one had ever kissed him as softly and as deeply as Heero did. No one had swept him off his feet as Heero did. As the Japanese boy's lips parted from his own, the braided boy fought the butterflies flittering around in his stomach and trying to smother the wild beating of his heart. Dazedly he stared at the actor, blinking owlishly.

"What was..." He paused to clear the hoarseness from his throat, feeling a wave of desire wash over him in that instant. Faintly, he asked softly, "What was that for?"

The actor didn't reply for a moment. Finally, he uttered, "I just felt like it."

"Aa..." For a while the two were quiet, staring deeply into each other's eyes. Prussian blues met amethyst hues, each exploring, in their own ways, the possibilities and the reasons for a kiss as sweet as the one shared between them. Duo had never felt more evaluated. Heero had never felt more alive.

"When do you get off work?"

The question was so sudden, Duo had to blink and ask him to repeat it. When Heero did, he replied dutifully, "I get off at four o'clock..."

"I'll pick you and your family up at five, ne? They won't have to dress nice, though. It'll be taken care of." Placing a palm against Duo's cheek, he hovered in and planted a sweet brush of his lips against his forehead, turned, and left without another word.

Carla had to leave her eager perch from the security room, having been watching eagerly with three others in the room through one of the many security cameras placed throughout the store, to snap Duo out of his trance.


Heero knocked on the chipped wood of the ghastly pale green door three hours later, a wistful, quirky smile still on his lips as it had been for the better part of the day. He seemed to be doing that a lot lately; smiling, that was. With even the smallest thought of Duo, his mouth would just involuntarily turn upwards. The American's pouty expression made him smile, his sparkling playful amethyst eyes caused him to almost laugh. The sternest gesture gave Heero a giddiness he could barely understand himself.

What was this feeling he had for the American? He hadn't felt so truly happy for years, ever since his mother died in that terrible accident five years ago...

"Mr. Hero!" Heero shook his head softly, snapping himself from his thoughtful musing to look at the boy standing in front of the door. Solo looked happy, his eyes looking so much like Duo's in that moment. With a steady beam, the boy grabbed Heero's hand and pulled the older man in.

"Hey, Mr. Hero!" he chirped again. "Sorry Uncle Duo didn't answer the door. He's dancin' with Momma in the kitchen, an' Aunt Hel--I mean, Grandma is still in her room."

Heero raised an eyebrow, listening to the music leaking from the kitchen. It was upbeat rap, sounding only vaguely familiar to him. To Solo, he said, "I see. Did your uncle Duo expect me?"

"Uh-huh!" Solo nodded quickly. "Uncle Duo's been like 'I can't find my black shirt' and 'Where the hell are my good jeans?' and stuff. 'S been all over the place like a chicken wit' his head cut off or somethin'!"

Heero chuckled, amused by the child's account of his uncle. "Oh, okay. Well, let's go see what your mom and uncle are up to, shall we?"

Heero took this time to look around the apartment as they made their short journey to the kitchen. The outside may have looked rugged, but the inside was a cozy little place. The furniture was well-worn, but well kept, and the painted vases had fresh cut flowers in them. Still, to Heero, it was no place for a family to live considering the neighborhood and the state of the building, but if it weren't for those two things, he wouldn't worry so about Duo and his family.

In the kitchen, a quaint little place that also made up the dining room, someone was already standing near the doorway. Standing behind the slightly older woman, both Heero and Solo watched in delight--for two totally different reasons--the exquisite lithe figure writhe to the music coming from the old radio in the corner.

Beautiful, Heero thought absently, comparing Duo's grace to that of the best dancers he'd ever seen. Duo was absolutely the best.

Slowly, eyes closed, Duo rolled his body with his arms held above his head, and he flowed right into another elegant dance. Heero watched eagerly, soaking in the tune and beat of the music and the movements of the braided fellow. He was entranced with the beauty, feeling every positive emotion welling inside him with a vengeance.

He was... simply beautiful.

The chorus began to repeat and fade, and the lithe figure with flexible hips began to slow in his enchanting dance. When the song ended completely, his eyes snapped open when three different clapping hands broke the silence of the apartment.

When his flushed eyes met Heero's, he turned red and looked away quickly.

"You're Heero, right?" the woman beside him asked with a smile. She had hair the same color as Solo's, and the same features as the young boy's. Even with her apparent youth, Heero suspected this woman to be the younger boy's mother.

He nodded, holding out his hand for a handshake. "I'm Heero Yuy. Nice to meet you."

She took his hand in a firm grip, smiling widely as her eyes flickered to the braided boy standing awkwardly in the middle of the kitchen. "Nice to meet you. I'm Hilde, Duo's cousin." Kneeling, she smiled at her son. "Honey, go see if Grandma's ready, okay? Momma, Uncle Duo, and Mr. Yuy are fixin' to talk grown-up stuff."

The young boy's nose wrinkled, and he immediately zipped off to his grandmother's room.


"So what's on the agenda?" Duo was still blushing when he slid into the impressive limousine, disconcerted from the episode in the kitchen not ten minutes earlier. He had a habit of doing that when his nerves were standing on ends. Dancing used to be a favorite hobby when he had the time, though since Aunt Helen became sick he wasn't able to dance for enjoyment anymore. Seldom did he have the time like he used to.

And Heero saw him. The look in Heero's eyes when the American found them was absolutely raw and priceless. Merriment, amusement, and desire all mixed into one.

Solo wowed and admired the insides of the car, meddling in everything he could get his hands on. The cooler where the drinks were kept, the cell phone, the T.V... None of these were safe from the tinkering of the seven-year-old. Hilde tried to keep him from touching much, but Heero just waved it off and told the boy he could plunder anything he wanted.

"First, like I promised," Heero replied when the limo began its journey, "we're going to go to this nice Italian place my step-sister recommended. It isn't a black tie place, from what she's told me, and usually everyone that eats there dresses pretty casual. Then, if the ladies feel up to it, we'll stop by the mall and pillage the goods."

Duo snorted. Of course the ladies would feel up to it. They hadn't been able to browse in a while, and even Aunt Helen perked at the mention of a mall. Hilde backhanded his stomach gently, and he let out a simple grunt and sent a playful glare her way.

Solo, who had been switching through the channels rapidly ("Look, Momma! It picks up millions of channels!") , stopped on an action movie and giggled gleefully.

"Mr. Hero, it's you!"

Reflexively, Heero glanced at the screen. "Mission Accepted. That was one of my better movies."

"You do a lot of action movies?" Aunt Helen asked politely.

"Yes, ma'am. My agent believes I'm better in the roles of heros who love guns and explosions. It's no different in the movie Duo will be acting in, except this one will also focus a little more on a romantic level."

Duo shifted in his seat so he'd be looking at Heero. "Did Howard get back to you about that contract?"

"He wants you to sign it as soon as you can. He's afraid you'll change your mind, for some reason." Heero shrugged. "He's very annoying, but he's also very paranoid. He doesn't want another actor pulling their contract, so he's making sure everyone is renewing their own agreements."

They made idle talk involving the movie, getting as many facts as they possibly could of the movie while Solo and Duo watched the action film with rapt attention. So rapt that Duo didn't note the road they turned down or the restaurant the unknown driver pulled up to.

With the television off and the door opened, the family of four and the actor filed out of the limo. When Duo gained his bearings, he gulped as he gaped at the neon sign proclaiming the name of the restaurant in bright green, graceful letters.

"Fortunado's," Duo whispered numbingly. It was the place he was fired from the day he fell off the bridge.


Review please!


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