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



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



True to his word, Duo put his Sig Sauer in a box, clad with a very thin, flexible layer of lead to prevent the X-ray machines at any airport to pick up on the gun locked inside. On the outside, it was a simple box for carrying stationary, but only Duo and Heero were aware of its double layer. For this trip, he was leaving his Uzis behind at the Manor. Duo didn’t expect anything extraordinary to happen, but it was better to be safe than sorry. He figured Heero would take some knives with him as a safety precaution. Heero’s preferred weapon of choice, the Remington shotgun, was way too big and too obvious to carry around. Duo finished packing and let out a huge yawn as soon as he threw in his last shirt.

“Time for bed,” Heero announced from his position in the door opening.

“How long have you been standing there?”

“Long enough to observe you ‘packing’,” Heero said dryly. “Nothing but shirts. What about some pants? Or underwear?”

“I don’t need underwear,” Duo snickered, “especially not when you’re around.”

“Sure, make me look like the sex-crazed perv,” Heero snorted, but he didn’t protest. He ventured into the room to stand close to Duo.

“Maybe you’re right, I should add some pants,” Duo said, but flipped the lid of the suitcase close. “Tomorrow. It’s time for bed, indeed.”

“How is the leg?”

“Stronger every day. See? I’m standing on it without using a crutch or a cane, or the wheelchair.”

“Has Prof. G. given you permission to leave?”

Duo pouted slightly. “Well, sort of… as long as I don’t overexert myself. As in, hiking twenty miles every day..
.”
“I’ll be sure to keep an eye on you.”

“I know you will. How was your day?”

“I continued my research on Septem and Acht, but so far I can’t find anything. If there’s any dirt on them, it’s either covered up or it simply doesn’t exist.”

The slight irritation in Heero’s voice didn’t surprise Duo. He knew that Heero could hack any database, any record, and if there was but one sliver of information, Heero would find it. Duo reiterated Howards words about records getting lost in wartime.

“He’s got a point there,” Heero said. “Relena mentioned the same, remember?” He turned towards Duo, slipping his arms around his waist. “I would go after records and archives myself in case of a war. That’s extremely valuable information. I don’t like it. Septem’s records might be destroyed, but Acht? He just pops up out of nowhere.”

“You sound irritated,” Duo said as he brushed a few wayward strands out of Heero’s face. “Does this have to do with your father?”

“My adoptive father,” Heero corrected him, without sounding curt. “If there was anyone who knew to stay off the grid, it was him. He was a ghost.” Odin Lowe had been a hitman for hire, and he had served as a mercenary in his younger years. He taught his adopted son everything about weapons, survival skills and electronics, but there was no room for warmth or real, genuine care. Lowe wasn’t one of Heero’s favorite topics. “Everyone leaves a trail. A paper trail, an electronic trail. I don’t believe that someone can just pop up and become an Inspector for the Alliance.”

“Didn’t Relena mention he was in the military first, before he became a pencil pusher?”

“Well, that’s it - I can’t find any military records of him. No private Acht. No documents of his enlistment. Nothing. And I don’t think Acht is as smart as my adoptive father. He doesn’t know all the ins and outs to be invisible.”

“You mean, he probably paid someone to erase his tracks,” Duo suggested.

“Precisely.”

“I’m sorry I brought your fath… adoptive father up. I didn’t mean to ruin the mood.”

“You didn’t ruin anything.” Heero kissed him on the cheek. “The man taught me a lot, but guerrilla tactics isn’t something you should learn when you’re young. I thought it was the most normal thing in the world to know how to strip an M-16 blindfolded.”

Duo cupped Heero’s face, caressing his skin. “I’m so sorry, love.”

“It’s all right. How about getting some sleep? We still have a lot to do tomorrow before we can leave for Eastern Europe.”

“Sure.” Duo smiled at him. “Why don’t you start undressing first?”


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



The next morning held a small surprise for Duo and Heero. A private courier brought them an envelope containing Alliance passes, specially issued and identifying them as temporary employees. According to the accompanying letter, written and signed by Acht, the passes didn’t hold any legal power or jurisdiction, but they might come in handy during the mission. The rest of the day was spend giving out instructions to Alister and Zip on how to handle the daily grind of Maxwell Manor, and to Howard in regard to the ongoing renovation.

After everything was taken care of, they took the limousine to Gatwick airport for their trip to Bucharest, Romania. The private yet, the Cessna, had been demolished during their trip to Tibet, and as neither the Alliance nor the Maxwell Foundation had the funds to pay for a first class flight, Duo and Heero had to take the economy class. Duo had refused to book a handicapped spot even though he had his cane with him, and Heero let him be.

It was a standard, less than three hour flight to Baneasa airport, Bucharest. No stops or transfers, much to Heero’s delight; he didn’t like being cooped up for longer than was necessary. Duo had chosen Romania as the first country to start their search for the paintings. King Carol II had adopted a position of neutrality during World War II, but fascist and military factions staged a coup in the summer of 1940 and joined the Axis Powers at the end of the same year. It would take until 1943 and another coup before Romania put itself on the Allied side; but by then, the country had suffered at least 370.000 losses of human lives and after the war ended, their late association with the winning side caused them to lose large territories to Bulgaria and the Soviet Union, dismantling Greater Romania. After their flight had landed, they took a train to Çleçiani, Brasov county, a few hours away from the capital.


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



The next morning, Duo inhaled the fresh mountain air, his chest heaving. He had a nice view on the Fagaras Mountains, with the Vistea Mare as one of its tallest peaks. The sun felt warm and comfortable on his bare arms and he leaned against the railing of the balcony, ignoring his cane.

“Ah, that’s the stuff,” he said with a big grin. Heero came to stand next to him, clad in the bathrobe issued by the hotel. After traveling the whole day, they had done nothing much but to eat and go to bed early, replenishing their energy.

“It’s very nice weather,” Heero commented. “Do you want to start with the list immediately? Or do you want to look around and get a holiday feeling first?”

“Holiday, definitely,” Duo said. “How about breakfast, though? It’d be nice to get something decent to eat after that airplane crap.”

“All right, let’s go downstairs.” Heero went back into the hotel room, searching in his suitcase for something decent to wear. He chose a forest green shirt and black slacks, with a pair of sneakers. Duo dressed the same, only the color of his shirt was dark red. Prof. G. had removed Duo’s cast prior to traveling; he made sure not to put too much weight or strain on his leg and struggled slightly with his pair of jeans before he succeeded into putting them on.

At the breakfast table, Duo all but flopped onto the chair and allowed Heero to pour the orange juice. The hotel was fairly modern, yet modest; Çleçiani wasn’t exactly a tourist attraction. Heero brought over a tray with two plates filled with breakfast items from the buffet and put it on the solid oak table. The entire hotel was decorated with rustic oak furniture, making it adorably quaint. The Jankoviç family ran the hotel for generations, with the mother of the house cooking breakfast herself, and her sons and daughter helping out with serving, cleaning, and entertaining the guests.

Just as Heero sat down, the daughter, Mila, came to stand at their table. “Newspaper?”

“Yes, please,” he said. She handed him one; it was an International New York Times, two days old. Heero had brought his laptop along, but as this was their holiday, he had promised Duo not to use it too much. After all, even Heero was in need of a break every now and then.

Mila asked if everything was what they wished for. “You are staying here for holiday?” she asked, with a fairly heavy accent. Duo nodded.

“We’re looking for some health and fresh air,” he said.

“We have a spa,” Mila said enthusiastically. “Great for health improvement! It’s not far from here. Natural baths, herbs, and good quality of air.”

“Excellent. Does Çleçiani have a library?”

“A small one,” she answered. “Very small one. Some archives, but no newspapers. I bring newspaper to you, if you like? We don’t have a tourist information agency…”

“I’m sure I can rely on you for information,” Duo said heartily. “Say, do you have any whipped cream for my coffee?”

“Flirting with the staff, eh?” Heero said as soon as Mila left. He noticed that Duo had already cleared his plate, which pleased him. Duo with a firm appetite was a healthy, good-natured Duo.

“You know the drill: locals know much more and are more willing to talk if you heap up the charm.”

“As long as you reserve most of that charm for me.”

“You know that you’re the only one deserving of my charm,” Duo teased. He went silent for a moment as Mila returned with the whipped cream and a piece of paper, on which she had written the directions to the spa and the library. Çleçiani wasn’t that big of a town, everything was at walking distance. Duo thanked the girl and they finished breakfast in comfortable silence, while sharing the newspaper to read.


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



“Whoa, I’m stuffed.” Duo said as he climbed down the stairs. Heero followed him, wearing a loose jacket. Despite the warmth of the sun, the temperature wasn’t that high; when walking in the shade, it felt actually quite cold. Heero put up the collar of his jacket.

“The library?”

“Just around the corner.” Duo checked the directions on the piece of paper. The streets, paved with cobblestones, made it harder to walk for Duo than just plain tiles or asphalt. He concentrated on placing his feet right, as to avoid spraining his weaker ankle. Heero was tempted to take him by the arm, but he knew Duo wouldn’t appreciate the gesture. He had to remind himself that Duo could take good care of himself. “Here we are!”

They faced the town’s library: a simple building, not larger than an average house. “I don’t think we’ll find much there,” Duo said, slightly disappointed.

“There’s nothing as annoying as finding a dead end,” Heero said, “but even dead ends can bring new beginnings.”

“Since when did you become a poet? Come on, let’s go in.”

Duo put his hand on the door handle, and grinned at the eerie, creepy noise when it creaked open. A little bit of dust flittered out from the opening and it was dark inside. Duo coughed a few times as he stepped inside, but there was no answer. The hallway was small and lead to the living room, stuffed to the ceiling with book cabinets. Heero looked around, identifying a bookcase with old maps. He turned towards it, when he caught sight of the elderly man.

“Can I help you?” The man had the same heavy accent as Mila.

“I’m glad you speak English,” Duo blurted out.

“I can clearly see you’re not from around here,” the man said. “Tourists?”

“Tourists with a fondness for history,” Duo said. “I’m an archaeologist.” Heero didn’t introduce himself and the man didn’t ask. Duo hated lying, even though he sometimes took a run with the truth himself; he rather kept things ‘neutral’, and if people didn’t ask, he didn’t answer anyway.

“I’m afraid we don’t have much to offer in the field of archaeology,” the man said. “Are you going to dig for something? Like an excavation? That has already happened in the graveyard.”

“Excuse me?”

“About five years ago.” The man walked over to the same bookcase Heero had been examining, and took out a roll of paper. He spread it out on the large table in the middle of the room, revealing a hand drawn map of the city. “It was a huge project, set up by the Alliance,” he said and pointed to the east on the map, where a graveyard was clearly marked. “To identify unknown, fallen soldiers from World War II. I think they managed to identify over 75% of those soldiers.”

“So, that’s good work from the Alliance,” Duo encouraged him to keep talking.

“For the next-of-kin, yes, it was good work. And our little town earned extra money because the press was here, and all those Alliance workers were here, and they had to stay and eat somewhere, didn’t they? I never really understood why they went through all that trouble, though.”

“Public relations and goodwill,” Duo said. “Besides, it’s a great gesture to the next-of-kin and descendants of those who have fallen.”

“You can see for yourself,” the man said brusquely. “I have tapes from the documentary they made. Quite interesting. The VHS is in the next room.” He rolled up the city map again.

“Thank you.” Duo turned to Heero who retrieved the tape from the top shelf of another cabinet. The elderly man remained standing for a moment, then muttered something in his native language and left. Heero blew carefully the dust on the tape away.

“It doesn’t hurt to watch,” he said.

“No DVD, huh,” Duo said. “Hopefully the tape hasn’t corroded.”

“Only one way to find out.”

The VCR was dusty as well, but after a little fidgeting, Heero got the equipment to work. The TV gave a picture of good quality, and Heero and Duo sat down on the small couch in the ‘media room’, according to the small sign on top of the door. Snuggling up to Heero, Duo watched the documentary with rapt fascination. It showed General Septem, obviously in charge of this Alliance goodwill mission. He was interviewed by a man off-camera, and spoke pompously.

“We want to give war a human face,” he said, “to show that there are innocents involved! Not all of these victims were trained soldiers, they were mothers, fathers, children! All killed in the name of one fanatic, and laid to rest in unmarked, shallow graves!”

“Relena is right,” Duo muttered. “Look at his eyes. He’s totally fanatic himself! He’s taken it upon himself to identify every victim, up until the very last one.”

“It’s not healthy,” Heero agreed. He tilted his head. “This was five years ago?”

“Yeah, look at the right corner. The time stamp.”

“And how long ago was Septem’s plane accident?”

“Twenty years, remember? Why do you ask, Heero?”

“I don’t know. There’s something not right about him.”

“He didn’t do anything wrong. I mean… Howard knew the man back in his days, and Septem has no war crimes to his name. I believe Howard.”

“I have no reason to doubt Howard,” Heero said. “I doubt Septem. He survived that accident and there’s no record of it. It’s bugging me, and I don’t know why. And it bugs me that I don’t know why it bugs me.”

“You know, the city where Septem was hospitalized isn’t that far away from here. Maybe we can snoop around there, if you like?” Duo lowered his voice to a husky, throaty tone. “I know you want to…”

“This holiday is getting to your head,” Heero grumbled. He knew he had already lost, though. Duo could read him like a book. “Of course I want to.”


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