the_goldenpath: (Gundam Wing Fics - Heero and Duo)
[personal profile] the_goldenpath
Title: Duo Maxwell and the Amber Room of Gold
Fandom: Gundam Wing
Pairings: established Heero and Duo
Genre: AU, action/adventure with light angst/drama/romance
Warnings: Duo’s potty mouth, some violence. Shounen ai.
Summary: After his adventure in Tibet, Duo Maxwell returns home with Heero and receives a request from the military organization known as The Alliance to retrieve paintings lost during WWII. He travels to Eastern Europe and soon discovers that’s not all he’s supposed to retrieve…
Author’s note: unbeta-ed. Sequel to “Duo Maxwell and the Sword of the Khan”, following the same Tomb Raider-ish concept (not a cross-over), but can be read as a stand-alone. Some references to people and events from the Tomb Raider comics, movies, and/or games. Feedback is a nice thing.

Key: ----------------- = scene change



-----------------------


“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Amen.”

“Amen.”

Silent, not having prayed along with the others, Duo Maxwell and Heero Yuy watched as the simple coffin was gently lowered into the open grave. Heero put his hand on Duo’s shoulder to show him his support. He would’ve taken his hand, but Duo sat in a wheelchair because of his broken leg, a souvenir from his adventure in Tibet. It wasn’t healed yet, and Duo couldn’t stand on it for long, even if he wanted to. Heero wasn’t disturbed at Duo’s lack of response; he knew he was too occupied with his own grief. Jeeves Wilson, Hillary’s father, had passed away. He had been into the Maxwell family’s service for as long as Duo could remember, and it was hard to accept that the man was gone. He died of heart failure, and Duo was convinced it was because of the eventful night when Marco Bartoli’s men had ‘visited’ the Maxwell Manor. Their brutal violence when searching for Marshall Noventa’s notes had caused the man a heart attack, and now, not much later, he was dead. The sadness was overwhelming and Duo kept touching his silver crucifix, a gift from his mother, who had also passed away, years ago - it was a painful reminder of his own loss. Duo felt guilty and avoided to look at Hillary, who stared at the lowering coffin, his eyes blank and refusing to believe what he was seeing, and his face paler than a ghost.

The Wilson family was fairly small. The other attendants were a few far-removed cousins and personal friends of Jeeves’. Elderly people, shaking their heads at another friend or relative gone, mumbling about death claiming another good person. It was depressing. Now that all the burial rituals were taken care of, the attendants walked by the grave for one last token of respect. Hillary, Duo, and Heero were the last to remain.

“I want you to take all the time you need, Hillary,” Duo said. He looked up at the other man, deeply hating that he had to sit in a wheelchair.

“Thank you, Master Maxwell,” Hillary answered. There was an obvious hitch in his voice. He was about to say more, but one of the attendants walked up to him, wanting to talk about Jeeves. Heero nodded at Hillary and moved Duo and the wheelchair along, back to the small auditorium, where the attendants were served coffee and something to eat before returning home again.

“I really, really hate funerals,” Duo said.

“Me too. We should go back to the Manor. You need to rest.”

“I haven’t exerted myself today, Heero.”

“The funeral was exerting in itself. Besides, I know you tried to pick up your regular exercises, against your physician’s wishes. It’s a complicated fracture, Duo. You’re not in a wheelchair for nothing.”

“Only because my leg can’t support my weight yet. For crying out loud, I’m not a baby!”

Without further comment, Heero wheeled Duo to the black limousine and planted him firmly in the backseat, ignoring his grumpy look. Driving was out of the question, and he loved driving any kind of vehicle. Heero instructed the chauffeur to take them back to Maxwell Manor before he got in himself. Duo stared in front of him.

“You have to accept that you’re going to be… limited in your actions for a while.”

“I hate sitting still,” Duo said. “I hate sitting behind my desk and doing nothing!”

“Spending attention to the Maxwell Foundation isn’t ‘doing nothing’,” Heero reminded him.
“There’s a huge backlog of artefacts waiting to be added to the catalogue, and I saw a huge pile of interview requests on your desk. People all over the world want to hear about your adventures!”

“It’s not the same as going on an adventure,” Duo still pouted. A dramatic sigh, and he relented. “I’m sorry, I’m whining. You’re right, I have to spend more time on the Foundation.”

“Besides, there’s this whole renovation thing going on,” Heero said dryly. Marco Bartoli and his criminal friends had destroyed the entire atrium, and hadn’t been skipping on explosives either. “In case you forgot. Let’s just agree for now that you’ll deal with that, and I’ll deal with anything else.” Heero looked out the window. Ever since Duo Maxwell had returned to the archaeological field like a prodigal lost son, he had reclaimed two priceless artefacts: the Never-Ending Circle and the Sword of Kol An Anuum. People all around wanted something of him, and not all of them had his best intentions in mind. Heero made sure to weed out all the fanatics, idiots and total quacks, and took care of Duo in the background, allowing his lover to stand in the spotlights, which Duo adored. Even though he didn’t say it out loud now, Heero was convinced that it was good for Duo to be confined to paperwork for a while. The Foundation was in desperate need of an update for its catalogue, the damaged collection of the library needed to be rebuild, the entire collection of armoured suits needed to be checked for repairs, and that was just scratching the surface.

“What’s in the current request pile?” Duo asked.

“Egypt, Syria and Texas,” Heero answered.

“Texas?”

“Something about a ghost town… I can’t believe all those people coming out of the woodwork with their strange stories.”

“The strangest stories are often the truest ones,” Duo said philosophically. He reclined into the seat and wiggled a little, trying to find a comfortable position for his leg.

“Are you in pain?”

“A little. It’s not as much pain as it is annoying. I feel restless.”

“I understand. As soon as we’re home, you’re going to lie down. You’re exhausted.”

“Funerals always drain my energy. Poor Hillary. It’s such a blow to him. He adored his father.”

“It wasn’t your fault, Duo. No one expected this to happen.”

“If only I were a scholar like my father, this wouldn’t have happened.”

“You would’ve been extremely unhappy,” Heero reminded him. “Like you said yourself, you hate sitting behind a desk. You’re not made to sit still. Your father appreciated the knowledge and the artefacts, you appreciated the adventure and the quest to retrieve them.”

“I know. But if I hadn’t done the things I did, Solo would still be alive and Hillary wouldn’t have lost his father.”

If Duo was in a depressing mood like this, Heero didn’t comment much. It would only lead to a heated discussion and eventually in a fight, and it wasn’t worth it. Solo, Duo’s older brother, had been a bookworm until he joined Duo in his adventures, discovering and retrieving more artefacts than anyone else. It all came abruptly to an end when Solo drowned during an expedition to Atlantis; he washed ashore with strange shards of metal embedded into his hands.
Instead of ending up in a discussion leading to nothing, Heero simply put his hand on Duo’s knee. This time, Duo put his hand over his and squeezed. The remainder of the trip to Maxwell Manor passed in complete, but not uncomfortable silence.

--------------------------


As soon as they arrived home, their new housekeeper approached Heero. Theresa Longbottom-Hampfordshire had decided to automatically defer to him, even though it was Duo’s Manor and he was standing next to Heero. She had come highly recommended by Hillary and she took care of his tasks now that he was indisposed. Heero had performed a thorough background check on the brisk woman, who had been widowed at quite a young age and never remarried. She had served her entire life as a nanny for families in the high society, meanwhile taking care of her own children. Heero had been impressed with her resume, and knew Hillary had made a good choice. Within a few days, Theresa had the entire household and kitchen under control.

“Would you like me to serve dinner now, Master Yuy?”

“Yes Theresa, thank you. Please serve in the small dining room.”

“I’m not really hungry,” Duo muttered. He had walked the small distance from the limousine to the entrance of the Manor, but he was leaning heavily on Heero, as if all his energy had drained. Heero shifted a little to support him, when Theresa handed him Duo’s cane.

“Here you are, Master Yuy.”

“Thank you, Theresa.” Heero handed the cane to Duo who used it to regain his balance. He immediately walked away from Heero, ignoring Theresa who shot him a compassionate look. Heero figured the woman saw him as the ‘weaker’ one, one who needed to be coddled and looked after as a small child, and he made a mental note to set this image straight. If there was someone who didn’t need any coddling, it was Duo - but right now, Theresa wasn’t one of his priorities.

“Duo, eat a little bit, and then you’re going to rest. No ifs and buts about it, mister.”

“Yes, dad.”

“Come on, Duo.”

“Yeah, yeah. First, I want to get out of these clothes. This kind of black doesn’t suit me.”
Heero watched his retreating back; he let him go without another word.

-----------------------------


A few days later, the daily grind of life went on, but not everything had returned to normal. Two nephews of Hillary, Alister and Zip, were added to the Maxwell Manor’s household. Duo himself had contacted Alister, a doctoral student at Oxford who would help him with rebuilding the library, cataloguing the artefacts and structuring the files and archives of the Maxwell Foundation. His extensive historical knowledge would be of great use and a welcome addition to streamline the massive collection, build up through the decades. Zip, a computer expert, doubled as a handyman around the Manor. Hillary was a dedicated and efficient butler, but he couldn’t turn a screw loose. Zip was handy with all kinds of tools, and as soon as he found out that his knowledge of computers and security systems paled to Heero’s, he switched his keyboard for screwdrivers and a hammer, to help out with the ongoing renovation.

Heero hadn’t had any objection to the new arrivals. The Manor was large enough to house more people, and it wasn’t like they couldn’t use the help. The Maxwell Foundation was far too much work for one man alone, and Heero couldn’t help out with the renovations and the general upkeep of the Manor. Besides, both men’s ability to cook was disastrous, not to mention the general chores of vacuuming and cleaning. Before he moved in with Duo, Heero had only bothered to put clean sheets on his bed, and that was it. The new personnel brought new life to the Manor, which was very welcome as Duo had been in a terrible mood as of late. His frustrations were great; while still grieving for Jeeves’ loss, his exercise routine was also still too much for his body to take, his leg bothering him, and the lack of progress added more and more to the initial frustration.

In his office, Heero had all the silence and space he needed to concentrate on his own work. He had chosen one of the unused rooms at the end of the north wing, not far away from Duo’s office. True to his Japanese heritage, Heero had carefully selected a few pieces of lacquered, wooden furniture to represent his roots, and combined it with slightly more modern pieces to create an environment to his liking. Just as he was about to read his e-mail, he heard a small cough. He looked up. Theresa was standing in the door opening, a little nervous.

“Yes, Theresa?”

“There are visitors at the door, Master Yuy.”

“We receive people with an appointment only, not at the door.”

“I know, Master Yuy. The man told me to give you this.”

She walked up to his desk and almost reverently, handed Heero a small piece of paper. It was a business card and Heero flipped it over, staring at the embossed name.

“All right, Theresa. Please show them to the grey office. I’ll be there soon.”

“Should I inform Master Maxwell?”

“I will deal with these gentlemen.”

Theresa left to fulfil her task, while Heero stared at the business card. What did the Alliance want from Duo Maxwell? A military force without an army, it was an ancient remnant of a time when wars had destroyed entire countries and nations. Members of the Alliance were addressed with military titles, but they didn’t despatch or deploy militaries to war zones. His curiosity was piqued.

The grey office was one of the simplest rooms to receive guests; perfectly neutral grounds, as Duo would say. Heero wasn’t sure if he was going to regret keeping Duo out of this sooner or later, but he wanted to meet up with the people from the Alliance himself. When he opened the door, the guests had arrived already. A tall, rigid man was standing in front of the window, admiring the view. The gardens surrounding Maxwell Manor were renowned for their roses, wild herbs and intricate designs. The man was clad in a military-green uniform with golden tassels on the shoulders, his hands covered by white gloves. He sported a small moustache, and his black hair was receding, revealing an impressive, large forehead. The other visitor, an impeccably clad man with glasses and tan skin, was sitting in one of the comfortable chairs. He got up immediately when Heero entered the room.

“Good afternoon, gentlemen,” Heero said. “My name is Heero Yuy. Mister Maxwell is unavailable at the moment. As his companion, I’m fully up-to-date with his business so you can address your request to me.”

“Good afternoon, Mister Yuy. I’m pleased to meet you.” The man took off his hat, matching his expensive suit. “My name is Inspector Acht.” He waved at the man standing in front of the window. “This is my colleague in this matter, General Septem.”

A general, no less. Heero wanted to ask why the Alliance needed the services of an archaeological adventurer, when Theresa came in with a huge tray. She poured the tea and put a large étagère with cookies, chocolates and scones on the small table before leaving again.

“This matter,” Heero didn’t beat around the bush.

“Is rather delicate.” Acht sipped his tea. His eyes went over to Septem, who finally sat down, sipping his own tea. “But I’m sure you’re very familiar with delicate situations.”

“We always work with complete discretion,” Heero said, unfazed. “But when certain things can’t stand the light of day, no amount of discretion will help.”

“Very well said.” Septem spoke for the first time and his extremely raspy voice grated on Heero’s nerves. He suppressed his annoyance. Inspector Acht didn’t pay any attention to him and instead cleared his throat. He put his teacup down and folded his fingers neatly together.

“The Alliance is not entirely a military organisation, Mister Yuy. As you might know, Foreign Vice Minister Darlian specifically designed it as a controlling mechanism to study the atrocities of war and how to prevent armed conflicts in the future.”

“I have heard of these studies,” Heero said. “I know that Relena Peacecraft is supporting you.”

“The Queen of the World is a very wise woman.” Inspector Acht smiled, but it wasn’t a warm smile. “She values peace and negotiations over violence and brute force. The Alliance occupies itself with preventing conflicts and public awareness of the horrible consequences of war. Several departments of the Alliance are focusing on history, and one in particular on art and culture.”

“Art and culture in a military environment?”

“To be exact, art and culture stolen during wartime. This department is taking inventory of looted art during wartime, with the intention to retrieve it and return it to the rightful owners, the survivors.”

“I see.”

“Not long before the colonies were launched, Mister Yuy, Earth itself had its own history of war. One of those wars is referred to as the Second World War.”

“I know my history lessons.”

Acht nodded. “In that period, a lot of art and artefacts was stolen, let’s not sugar-coat it. As I mentioned, my department focuses on retrieving this stolen art and returning it to the rightful heirs.”

“Noble,” Heero said. “And where do we come in?”

Septem gazed at Acht. The inspector moved his hand to the right to pick up a suitcase, standing next to his chair. He opened the suitcase and took out a sheet of paper. “We want you to find these paintings.” Heero reached to take the paper from him.

“Paintings,” Heero repeated as he skimmed the list. Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael. The Painter on the Road to Tarascon by Vincent van Gogh. Five Dancing Women by Edgar Degas. “Wouldn’t it be better if The Alliance actually helped out in war-torn countries instead of making a fuzz about paintings?”

“The Alliance was involved in several… incidents when the relations with the colonies were strained. You know your history lessons as you say, so you’re aware that The Alliance since then has been stripped of actual military power. We don’t send soldiers to whatever hotbed in the world like a bunch of cheap mercenaries, Mister Yuy. We research every aspect of war to make sure that history won’t repeat itself. In the meantime, we want to make up for what is lost. The paintings will be a sign of good will when we return them to their rightful owners.”

Pretending to study the list, Heero was slightly unnerved that Septem hadn’t spoken more than three words. Acht had finished his passionate speech, and looked a little taken aback by his own vehemence. He hid behind his teacup. Septem simply watched and observed. After a few moments of silence, Heero said: “I’ll have to take this up with Mister Maxwell. He’s the one who has the final word in accepting requests or queries. Thank you for your time, gentlemen. We will be in touch.”

“Thank you for taking it into consideration,” Acht said as he put on his hat again. He moved to shake Heero’s hand. “It will be a big step in the right direction.”

Septem mimicked Acht’s gesture, and his handshake was firm. Heero all but expected the man to salute, and he was a little disappointed when he actually didn’t.

---------------------------


“Paintings,” Duo said as Heero held the list in front of him. “Raphael? Degas? And a Van Gogh to boot?” He narrowed his eyes as he moved his body up, repeating another set of crunches. He supported his healing leg with a pile of fluffy pillows and wasn’t bothered at all by his audience: apart from Heero, Hilde Schbeiker and Howard were also present. Hilde had adjusted some of Duo’s wardrobe to accommodate him and was working on another article of clothing, while Howard was just there; the elder man dropped by whenever he wanted. “And why didn’t you call for me so I could attend this meeting?”

“I didn’t know what they wanted. Somehow, The Alliance sets off warning bells with me.”

Howard whistled. “Alliance? Who?”

“A certain General Septem and an Inspector Acht,” Heero answered.

“Sounds very German-y,” Duo said.

“I met a Septem in the war,” Howard said, pensively. “If this is the same man, I can’t believe he made it all the way up to General.” Howard had fought in the war between Earth and the colonies, even before Duo or Heero were born. It wasn’t his favourite topic of discussion.

“You don’t look too happy, Heero,” Hilde said, balancing needle and threads between her lips.

“I don’t know why I’m so bothered by them,” Heero answered. “Something feels off, I can’t put my finger on it.”

“You didn’t accept their request, did you?” Duo finally sat up straight, having finished his exercise.

“No, I said that I would take it up with you, and that we’d be in touch.”

“I think it’s a nice request,” Hilde said, biting off the thread. She held up the pair of black slacks and admired her work. “It doesn’t sound strenuous at all, just investigation and research. A lot of walking around perhaps, but that’s good exercise for your leg. For longer distances, you can take the wheelchair. This would finally be a mission without guns, scary criminals or jumping off great heights.”

“True. I don’t expect a search for missing paintings to be very dangerous,” Howard added his two cents. “But I agree with Heero. The Alliance doesn’t put in a request like this without an ulterior motive, is my personal opinion.”

“We could perform a background check on Septem and Acht.” Duo shrugged. “And if The Alliance isn’t legit, we don’t do it. We’re not obligated to help them out.”

“I can always ask Relena’s opinion,” Heero said.

“Invite the Queen of the World for dinner?” Duo smiled. He was quite fond of Relena, who he usually referred to as ‘princess’. “Finally, some female elegance in the Maxwell Manor!” He was promptly hit by a pillow by Hilde, right in his face.

--------------------------------------------



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