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



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


“This is truly delicious,” Relena said as she took another bite of the duck confit, her every movement graceful. “You have an excellent cook, Duo.”

“Why thank you, mylady,” he said. “Theresa really likes to cook up a storm. As if she has to feed an entire army,” he added innocently. Heero chose not to comment on that; Duo’s appetite was quite legendary, as well as his own. He was glad though, that Duo and Relena got along so well. Relena wasn’t responsible for his first break-up with Duo, years ago. Many complicated things had caused them to split ways, but now that they had found each other again, Relena had become a good friend, fully supportive of their relationship. Heero had invited her for dinner to talk about the Alliance, and it was also a nice opportunity to catch up. He had to agree with Duo of course, Theresa had really outdone herself. Maybe she could stay on as a cook, relieving Hillary from that particular task, if or when he returned.

After dinner, coffee was served in the living room in the north wing of the Manor. The living quarters, offices and salons were concentrated in this wing, and Duo only received guests in his personal living room when he truly trusted them. Relena regarded it as an honor and made sure to sit down gracefully and carefully on the antique Chesterfield couch.

“You wanted to talk to me about the Alliance,” she said when Theresa had brought the coffee and a large étagère with bonbons and other sugary sweets.

“What’s your opinion about them?” Heero asked immediately.

She didn’t hesitate. “The Alliance’s research and educative programs are extremely valuable. Raising awareness about the atrocities of war is precious. They educate and publish to a large public, children and adults alike, and their contribution to libraries and schools is unmistakable. I’m supporting their programs, and make sure they have funding to reach out to the people.”

“So the Alliance is nothing but peace and roses?” Duo arched his eyebrows while he sipped his atrociously sweet coffee with whipped cream.

“Absolutely not,” Relena answered, almost coldly. “I was talking about their research and educative programs, not about the people involved.” She shivered, despite the cozy, warm temperature in the room. “They… I just don’t like them. There’s something… fanatic about them. I can’t put my finger on it. It’s slightly unsettling.”

“The same feeling I had.” Heero set his mug aside. “What kinds of people join the Alliance?”

“Of all ethnic backgrounds, different nations, clouded pasts… yes, I know that our background checks aren’t as thorough as yours, Heero. We lack the sufficient funding, manpower and computer equipment to do so. The people who join, have one thing in common: they have all suffered from war and its atrocities. I value their dedication and experience more than what they did prior to joining.”

“That’s a risky business, Relena,” Heero said. “What if someone with a double agenda is joining, using the Alliance’s resources to his own benefit?”

“I doubt that would ever happen. The Alliance’s resources are extremely limited, both financial and material,” Relena said, sternly. “A lot of people even put their own money towards it. Being a member of the Alliance isn’t a full time, well paid job. Most of them are volunteers.”

“I have a little trouble imagining General Septem as a volunteer,” Heero said.

“Of course you would immediately focus on the exception of the rule.” Relena couldn’t help herself, she chuckled. Heero refilled her cup of coffee and presented another bonbon. She sighed at the look of the heavenly chocolate goodies, but decided to forsake any kind of diet for tonight and treated herself to another one. “Septem is a different case. He, along with Acht, is one of the few who do get paid. Their work for the Alliance is extremely valuable. They don’t make enough to live wealthily, so don’t worry.”

“What’s his background?” Heero asked.

“Septem served in the Balkan during his military career,” Relena answered. “When the countries there fell apart, Marshall Noventa ordered an intervention to evacuate the people. He send a bunch of diplomats to see if there was any room for peace treaties.”

“Noventa?” Duo exchanged a look with Heero. Very few people knew about the details of the man’s death, and Relena wasn’t one of them. She wasn’t aware of the true facts of Heero and Duo’s previous mission either, in which Noventa had asked them to search for the sword of Kol-An-Anuum. He had paid the ultimate price, sacrificing his life, and his death had been presented to the world as succumbing to old age, after a short illness. His granddaughter, Sylvia Noventa, knew what happened, but to everyone else, Marshall Noventa was still the heroic activist for international peace, and neither Sylvia, Duo, Heero nor Chang Wufei, who had also been involved, had seen the need to shatter that reputation. Noventa had made mistakes, but his intentions had been honest and noble.

“It was over twenty years ago,” Relena admitted. “Back then, Noventa was in charge of international negotiations, interventions and peace treaties. It was a time of great conflict between nations, and Noventa traveled all over the world to talk to the parties involved, to bring about peace. Believe it or not, but Septem was Noventa’s subordinate at that time and reported back to him.”

Duo sat on the edge of his seat, his leg completely forgotten. Heero listened attentively as well, coffee going cold.

“During that intervention, Septem took a flight to Bucharest to negotiate a cease-fire in name of Noventa,” Relena continued. “His plane was shot down. He fell out of it at great height, but survived notwithstanding. His body was broken, but not his spirit. Ever since then, he devoted himself wholly to the Alliance to make people aware of the atrocities of war.”

“Interesting,” Heero said. “He looked in pretty good health to me.” It earned him a look from Duo, silently reminding him that they had jumped out of a Cessna at great height in Tibet, and they had had the fortune of a parachute, unlike Septem.

Relena didn’t notice. “Still a little paranoid, are we? It took years for Septem to recover. During his time in the hospital, between all the surgeries and therapies, he completely dedicated himself to the Alliance. He lives off of his war pension and the monthly fee the Alliance pays him.”

“I hardly call it paranoid,” Heero said. “Rather ‘on my guard’. But thank you for explaining, Relena. What about Acht?”

“Inspektor Acht… I don’t know much about him. Both he and Septem were Alliance members before I got involved.”

“Involved how?”

“As Queen of the World, and as a strong supporter of worldwide peace, I have to be up to date with the biggest organization in the field of education and public awareness of war and what they are up to,” she answered, dryly. “I read their mission statements and reports, I read their letters for new initiatives and I study their financial records to make sure that no one can accuse them of putting money in their own pockets. It hasn’t been that long since the Alliance was a world-dominating military organization, so I keep them under great scrutiny. I don’t want them to re-build their power in secret.”

“But still, you mentioned something unsettling,” Duo gently reminded her. Relena sipped her coffee and put the cup aside.

“Like I said, I fully support the Alliance’s goals,” she said. “If a huge military organization can make the change to advocate for peace instead of violence, that’s a huge victory for the entire world. I just feel unsettled by the fanaticism in the ranks. They go about the prevention of war with the same zeal as starting a war, if you know what I mean. I feel terrible just thinking about it, because no member of the Alliance has been on the wrong side of the law, and their goals are totally honorable. But still…”

“I’ll perform an extensive check on Septem and Acht,” Heero announced. Relena turned her head towards him.

“I can assure you, Heero, that you won’t find much on them. Septem’s story is fairly well-known, but he was hospitalized in a war-torn Rumania. Any and all record will be lost. And as for Acht… he once was a rookie, enrolled in the military and he failed to climb up in the ranks. He’s more of a pencil pusher than an active soldier, and when he’s on a mission, he sinks his teeth into it like a pit bull, and never lets it go.”

“Hence the list of all the paintings,” Duo said. “What’s the exact meaning of that?”

“The paintings… a lot of art has been looted in wartime, and Acht’s department is especially focused on retrieving those paintings. Imagine, Duo, Heero, what it would mean to the survivors or heirs, to get their rightful belongings back,” Relena said. “A huge token of goodwill...”

“…and a great diplomatic success,” Duo winked at her. Relena didn’t hesitate to return the wink.

“Exactly. Can you imagine all the positive press it would generate? It would strengthen the ties between the countries and show a really positive attitude.”

“If the paintings can be uncovered,” Duo objected. “It’s been so long.”

“Come on, you’ve searched for and found artifacts over thousands and thousands years of age,” Relena immediately retorted.

“Yes, but paintings are even more fragile,” Duo said. “Pottery and swords stand the test of time better than paint on canvas. What if a painting is dusting away in an attic, literally fading into non-existence?”

“I heard that Eastern Europe is quite nice around this time of the year,” Relena said lightly. “I also heard it’s a treasure trove of historical buildings and landscapes, and the nature is impressive and very healthy for a young man in the last stage of physiotherapy for his healing leg.” Ignoring Duo’s stuck-out tongue, she went on: “Why not combine it with a holiday? While you do your research on the paintings, enjoy some time off. No one is pressuring you to find them all - like you said, they could be dusting away in an attic. I think it’s a good opportunity to combine business and pleasure.”

“A holiday isn’t a bad idea,” Heero agreed. “Hilde mentioned the same, remember? What do you think, Duo?”

He reclined into his comfortable chair. “I’d like to do some fieldwork, but as I’m still restricted by my leg, research is the only thing I can handle at the moment. I haven’t been to Eastern Europe that often. It sounds like a good idea to me!”

“Excellent!” Relena took the opportunity to help herself to another bonbon. “Now, let’s discuss other things, or do you have other questions about the Alliance, Heero?”

“I know more than enough, Relena, thank you. What other things would you like to discuss?”

She looked at him with an impish grin. “I just want to know when you two are going to tie the knot!”

“Rele~eeena!”

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


Before any definitive arrangements were made, Duo visited his physiotherapist. He also consulted with Professor G., the family physician. He wanted to be cleared for traveling and walking abroad, but both men had their doubts, convinced that despite his great progress, Duo would over-exert himself. However, when it became obvious that Heero was coming along on the trip, they heaved a sigh of relief, knowing that he would make sure Duo wouldn’t get himself into trouble. Nonetheless, Professor G. recommended that Duo took his cane with him, to support him when walking longer distances. Duo agreed, albeit reluctantly. His leg simply wasn’t strong enough yet to be hiking all day long. He refused to take the wheelchair with him, though.

Howard swung by as soon as he heard of the business/holiday plans. Usually, he and Hilde would take care of logistics, weaponry and clothing when an archaeological mission was involved, but Duo didn’t think he needed any special outfits or difficult tactics to deal with his trip to Eastern Europe. The elderly man wasn’t all too happy when he searched out Duo.

“So, you’ve decided to accept this mission?” Howard stated the obvious. Duo hobbled around the bedroom to throw another pair of jeans into his suitcase.

“We talked it over, and we decided to combine it with a holiday. We look around, we research some, and we relax some.”

“You’re not leaving your Uzis at home, are you?” Howard asked sharply. Duo looked up, slightly puzzled.

“I don’t think we need weapons?” Duo hesitated when he saw the terse look on Howard’s face. “What’s the matter, Howard?”

“I don’t trust Septem,” Howard said. “An old man’s instinct, Duo. I told you I met him during the war, and I saw a fanaticism in his eyes that I haven’t forgotten till this day. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a fanaticism for war – everything he does, he does for 200%, or nothing at all. He throws himself at something and ends up totally blind for his environment. I’m not sure if he has an ulterior motive, though… but I can’t imagine a man like Septem being satisfied to fulfill his life with educating people about the atrocities of war.”

“Did he commit any? Crimes of war, I mean?”

“Not that I know of.” Howard shook his head. “I take it Heero performed a background check on him?”

Duo nodded. “I haven’t heard from him yet if he’s found something suspicious.”

“I’m afraid he won’t find any.”

Duo snorted. “The system Heero can’t hack or infiltrate, has to be invented yet.”

“I don’t doubt Heero’s abilities at all,” Howard said with a grin. He had come to regard Heero as his own family, just like he was regarding Duo as his son. “I mean he won’t find any, because it simply doesn’t exist. Wartime is a bad time for records and archives. It’s usually the first thing that ends up getting destroyed.”

“To avoid knowledge falling into the wrong hands,” Duo said. “Relena said something along those lines. I’m sure lots of records have been destroyed, or ‘disappeared’.”

“Exactly. Septem’s medical records are probably gone. It was a bad war, Duo, with genocide on both sides. I’m not saying that Septem committed these crimes. He was a negotiator, acting on behalf of Noventa.”

“Relena told me so,” Duo said.

“I forgot that you’ve got a hotline to the Queen of the World,” Howard said dryly. “Anyway… how much chance of survival do you give someone falling out of a plane?”

“Not much,” Duo admitted. “But then again, I jumped out of a Cessna, together with Heero, and we survived. Hopefully, he can find something on that accident.”

“If there are any records left,” Howard repeated. “Duo, I don’t think this mission is fishy, I do believe it’s the Alliance’s genuine goal to retrieve those paintings and be all diplomatic and stuff. But that doesn’t mean that everyone subscribes to that goal.”

“Heero’s got my back. Believe me Howard, I don’t make the mistake of trusting anyone immediately ever again.”

“I know. I just thought that… well, with your leg and all… you should take it easy.”

“Finding some lost paintings should be an easy mission,” Duo said. “And I mean ‘easy’, as in ‘not getting shot at’ or ‘not breaking another leg’.”

“Have a nice holiday,” Howard tapped at his infamous sunglasses, firmly perched on the bridge of his nose. “Who’s going to guard the fortress?”

“Well, you of course! The renovations are far from being finished, and I need you to keep an eye on the workers. Besides, Alister and Zip are going to be here,” Duo said. “You can keep an eye on them as well, if you want to. I like them, they’re really nice guys. Alister will take on duties for the Maxwell Foundation while I’m gone, and I guess Heero will give Zip some clearance to maintain the security systems.”

“And Theresa? Is she going to replace Hillary?”

“I don’t know how much time Hillary needs to get his affairs in order, but frankly, I want him to take all the time in the world to deal with his father’s estate. Until then, Theresa will run the household. She adores cooking for the boys, they’re young enough to be her grandsons.” Duo folded another shirt into the suitcase.

“All right.” Howard seemed to be satisfied, but he didn’t leave yet. His voice turned a few pitches darker when he spoke again. “One more thing, Duo. Take a piece with you. Any piece. But make sure you’ve got one.”

Duo remained still for a few seconds. “I’ll take the Sig Sauer with me, all right?”

“Good choice.”


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