It had been several months since you’d come to the penthouse. It was a strange arrangement. First, being ‘bought’, then, unable to choose one of the guys to help, you’d been passed around, helping each of them with some dangerous job or other, and, one by one, being released from your ‘debt’. Most of them, anyway. A weird friendship with the guys had developed over the long weeks, as you got to know them better.
The first time you’d been asked for your opinion on something, you’d very nearly swallowed your tongue, but managed to give a thoughtful response.
There were times, as you straightened hotel rooms, that you found yourself wondering if maybe you weren’t suffering from some level of Stockholm Syndrome.
In truth, you knew why you still found yourself drawn to the penthouse when you weren’t cleaning and hadn’t been called.
Straight-up curiosity. Sure, being around so much wealth and power was exhilarating. Being treated as a friend by such powerful, and frankly, beautiful, men, being on a first-name basis with them, was excitement personified. But it was curiosity that kept you hanging around.
The cause of the curiosity?
The one guy you hadn’t been asked to help. He was always smiling, always friendly. He’d started calling you ‘Princess’ within days of your initial arrival. The mysterious thief, Baba.
There had been a handful of times that he’d come into the penthouse while you were there for whatever reason, and he’d just handed you a flower, or a bouquet of flowers. Usually accompanied by, “Well, someone should get some enjoyment from them”’, or other, similar phrase.
You were under no illusions that he was harboring a secret crush or anything of the sort. It was more like he treated you like a little sister, and you could feel that same sort of affection developing for him, which only made you want to get to know him better. (If you were honest with yourself, you would admit how easy it would be to fall for him, but it was easier to ignore that little tidbit.)
He never lacked for beautiful companionship when he wanted it - he was quite the flirt - but you could sense a deep loneliness in him. More than anything, you wanted to see him happy, but you were unsure how to go about it, or even broach the subject, so you let it be.
One day, you were cleaning the penthouse. The bidders were all out of the penthouse, so you had cranked up the tunes on your phone, dancing and singing as you cleaned. As you finished, a call came through, Kenny, needing some help.
You ended the call and turned to see Baba, leaning against the wall, a gentle smile on his face. You felt your cheeks growing hot, wondering how long he’d been watching.
“Got a hot date, (Y/N)?” He asked, nonchalant.
You shrugged and began winding up the cord on the vacuum cleaner.
“Not really. Just a long-time friend who needs some help. Some overly-dramatic and juvenile help, in my opinion, but….” You shrugged again.
“Is there anything I can do for you before I leave?”
“No thanks, Princess. I’m just going to chill here for awhile.”
“Alright. Have a good day, then.”
You left the penthouse and clocked out for the day, heading to your room to shower and change into street clothes, grabbing your camera as you headed out. The golden afternoon light would make for some great reference photos for Ota.
You arrived at the park before Kenny and set about getting photos of flowers and birds, squirrels, the water arcing out of the fountain and glittering in the sun, whatever caught your eye.
Caught up in getting the perfect shot of the colorful caterpillar making it’s way across a leaf, you didn’t notice you had company until a hand touched your shoulder.
“Aahhhhhh….. Kenny!” You jumped and twirled, throwing your arms around his neck. His wrapped around your waist and lifted you off the ground in a bear hug.
“Haven’t seen you in ages, (Y/N). How’s life been treating you? Still working at that hotel?”
You released each other and walked to a bench so you could pack up your camera. You notice an old man sitting on the next bench down, and wondered when he’d shown up. He hadn’t been there when you’d started taking photos.
You spent the afternoon walking and chatting, looking to outsiders as though the two of you were madly in love, which was part of his plan.
If only they knew Kenny is as gay as the day is long, you thought wryly.
The two of you stopped at a photo-finishing shop so you could get prints of the pictures you’d taken that day. Two copies - a set for you and a set for Ota.
“So who’s the second set for?” Kenny asked, watching as you slid the two sets into separate envelopes.
“A artist friend of mine.”
“Anyone I know?”
“I’m sure you’d recognize the name, but, since I met him after and because of my promotion, I’m pretty sure it could be construed as breach of contract if I were to say anything more.”
“Sounds mysterious. Any blossoming romance I need to be aware of?”
“Oh, hell no! I’ve seen the way he treats the women he dates, and there’s no way in hell I’d let myself be degraded that way.”
Kenny chuckled, then jumped as his phone started ringing. He pulled the phone out of his pocket and stared at the screen.
“Maybe our ruse today worked? Answer it, silly.”
He nodded and walked away, putting the phone to his ear. He came back a minute later and took your hand, putting his phone in his pocket.
You walked back to your dorm in silence, stopping outside the door to the building.
Kenny wrapped his arms around your waist and rested his forehead against yours.
“He wants to talk,” Kenny intoned.
“You know you need to do it. You guys have been together since high school. People change and grow. Sometimes, even if you love someone, you can’t be with them. You need to be honest with each other, and decide together if your future paths are different or the same. You know I’ll be here for you, either way.”
“Okay, Bestie. I’ll call you later. Have some beer and sad movies ready, just in case.”
“Will do, Bestie.”
He plopped a kiss on your nose and walked away, and you walked into the dorm, returning your camera bag to your room, and sliding the envelope with your copy of the pictures into your portfolio.
You had originally decided to just take the other set with you to work tomorrow, but, feeling restless, you decided to go ahead and take them up now.
You exited the elevator into the penthouse, turning to make your way to the anteroom to Ota’s studio, and noticed Baba sitting on the couch.
“Hello again, Pretty Lady. How was your outing?”
“Pretty good, thanks.” You hold up the envelope. “Got a few reference pictures for Ota.”
“That’s kind of you. I know he appreciates it.” He stood up and walked closer to you.
“I don’t suppose you’d care to go on a date with me, would you?”
You blinked up at him, the subtle muskiness of his cologne clouding your thought processes, his nearness causing your heart to race.
“A date? With you? Where would we go?”
“Maybe someplace you could dance some more?”
You could feel the heat rising to your cheeks.
“You saw that, huh?”
“Indeed, and it was the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.”
You nibbled on your bottom lip, excitement and worry warring inside your chest.
“I’d love to,” you finally answered. You may regret it later, but you’d cross that bridge if and when you came to it.
The sweetest smile you’d ever seen brightened his handsome face, and he took your hand in his.
“Shall we away, my Princess?”
“Sure. Just let me put this down.” You dropped the envelope on the small table beside the door into Ota’s studio, then left the penthouse with Baba.
You stopped at a quiet diner for food before heading on to a club on the other side of town. The atmosphere was relaxed and laid back, the drinks flowed freely. There was a live band playing, and, when he noticed your toes tapping to the beat, he pulled you on to the dance floor. You couldn’t recall how many songs there were, but you danced through them all, fast, slow, and in-between, only stopping when the band stopped playing and the house lights went up.
You knew you were more than a little tipsy, but he seemed in control as you boarded the train to go back to the hotel. It was crowded and you had no choice to stand pressed against him. One of his hands held the handle, the other was wrapped around your shoulder. The first stop was jarring, and you stumbled unsteadily.
“Better hold on, Princess,” he whispered in your ear. His warm breath on your neck, the feel of his chest under your cheek, the comfort of his arm around your shoulders all served to turn you into a quivering mess.
You nodded and slid your arms around his waist, the texture of his shirt and the pattern of his muscles under the shirt loomed large in your senses.
Somewhere in the back of your mind, the logical part of your brain was screaming, “Danger! Danger! Danger!”, but your heart ignored it, reveling in the feelings he had awakened in you, just in this short amount of time.
The two of you arrived at the hotel and headed to the penthouse. It was still empty, for which you were grateful.
“Can I get you anything to drink, Princess?” Baba’s voice was low and gentle.
“Just water, thanks. I’ve had more than enough alcohol tonight.”
He nodded, handing you a glass of ice water, and leading you up to his personal suite.
The two of you sat on the couch, quiet for a minute.
“Thank you for tonight. I had a good time,” you tell him, your head on his shoulder.
“I’m glad you had fun,” he answered quietly. “I’ve spent the last several weeks wracking my brain, trying to decide if I should even ask you out, and then what we would do. Then, when I saw you this afternoon, dancing and singing, not a care in the world, I knew what I had to do.”
It took a few moments for his words to fully penetrate your alcohol-soaked brain, but then you looked up at him, confusion plain on your face.
He ran a finger lightly down the side of your face, then dropped his forehead to meet yours.
“All these weeks, I’ve tried to figure out a way to steal you away from the other guys. I was afraid one of them would capture your heart before I ever got the opportunity to tell you of my feelings. What I do is far too dangerous to take you along, and I would rather die than see you hurt. But I’ve wanted to be able to spend time with you.”
“Baba….” You were pretty sure he could hear the way your heart hammered against your chest.
“Shhh….let me finish saying what I need to say. I may not have the courage to say it sober, and who knows when we’ll have the place to ourselves again?”
His thumb ghosted across your lips.
“Ever since that first night, I’ve felt drawn to you. Every time you were handed over to one of the guys to work off your debt, I was afraid you’d fall for them, or worse, that you’d get terribly hurt in the midst of their ridiculous demands. I can’t tell you how relieved I was every time you came home safely, and more, how you showed no romantic interest in any of them. I knew that that didn’t necessarily bode well for me, but I had to try anyway.”
He traced a finger around the outside of your ear, down the side of your neck.
“I’m sorry to burden you with this,” he whispered, his voice husky. “I just knew I couldn’t put it off any longer when I saw you this afternoon. Your joy is contagious, and I’m selfish enough to want to keep it close.”
You were quiet for a moment, your eyes closed, your open palms on his chest, as your mind whirled with the implications of his confession.
Ah, fuck it, you thought, reaching your hands up and cupping his cheeks and pressing your lips against his.
He hesitated for only a moment before returning your kiss, his hand sliding up to the back of your head.
You were both breathless when your lips parted, his eyes searching yours.
“(Y/N), are you sure?” The implication that you were too drunk to think clearly went unspoken.
“Yes, Baba, I’m sure. I’m not that drunk.”
He chuckled, low in his throat.
“I can’t tell you how happy that makes me, (Y/N).”
He kissed you again, fervently this time, slipping one arm under your knees and lifting you, carrying you to his bedroom.
He laid you on the bed and loomed over you, one knee between your thighs, hands on either side of your shoulders.
You reached up and tucked his hair behind his ears, caressing his face.
“I’ve always felt drawn to you, too, Baba. I was curious why you never asked for my help, when you were the one I really wanted to help.”
The beauty of his smile stole any remaining shreds of your heart as he leaned down to kiss you again.
The next morning, you woke in a strange bed, a strong arm draped over your waist, soft breath on your neck, a very naked, very male body pressed against your own very naked body. You felt safe and loved, and a little embarrassed at last night’s activities. Sex had never been so romantic, so loving, so fulfilling. It brought a smile to your face.
Slowly, you started sliding out of Baba’s embrace, to head back to your room.
“Do you have to work today?” His voice was still sleepy.
“No. Today’s my day off.”
His arm tightened around your waist.
“Then stay with me today. We can spend the whole day getting better acquainted.”
You relaxed into his embrace, whatever fears you had chased off by his words.
Twisting in his arms, you slid yours around his chest, draping one leg over his hip.
“Nothing would make me happier,” you whisper.
“Your wish is my command, Pretty Lady.”