the_goldenpath: made by <lj user="dawnrune"> (Gundam Wing Fics - God of Death)
[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




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



Duo followed Lubjan into the living room, which was stuffed to the brim with furniture and knick-knacks. He zigzagged between the large sofa and the two large seats, all covered with afghans and colorful cushions.

“Sit, sit please!” Lubjan made a wide movement with his arm, suggesting that Duo could sit anywhere he wanted. He walked towards a sturdy, tall oak hutch and opened its cabinet to retrieve a photo book. Duo chose the seat closest to the window, so he had the best light to view the pictures. Lubjan handed him the book.

“You open it, I talk,” he said. “But not before coffee! Branka..?”

“Coming, tatâ!”

Duo opened the book, unable to contain his curiosity. The pictures were grainy, obviously aged, but the images in itself were quite clear: World War II, a country in ruins, Nazi-adepts and illegal resistance. A time when the entire world was trampled by a horrible ideology, geared towards eradication and destruction.

“Grandfather,” Lubjan said. “Andrei Silivaş. Not even devil could scare him. He spat on Nazis from the beginning.”

Branka entered the living room, carrying a tray with mugs and a large coffee pot. She also had plated a large amandine, a type of chocolate cake. Heero was right behind her and helped her to serve everyone before he sat on the armrest of Duo’s chair. The girl excused herself.

“I’ve heard these stories time and time again,” she said. “So if you don’t mind…”

“It’s all right, thank you so much for your help,” Duo said. She made a curtsy to him, smiling.

Lubjan watched his daughter’s retreating back, frowning. It wasn’t a disapproving frown, more like a worried frown. Heero caught his gaze, and the mayor coughed awkwardly. He picked up his coffee and stirred it, as Branka had put in quite some milk and sugar. Heero handed Duo his coffee and a slice of the cake, so he balanced the photo book on his knees.

“You must realize, Romanians proud people, very proud people,” Lubjan said. “But lots of ethnicities, different people. You ready for history lesson?”

“Bring it on,” Duo said, managing to eat the cake and enjoy his coffee almost at the same time. Heero listened attentively.

“Our country remained neutral when World War II started. But when war started, secret pacts were made to not help the enemy of the other party.”

“The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact,” Heero provided.

“Excellent knowledge of history, young man.” Lubjan drained the last of his coffee with a big swig. “Secret pact forced our country to give up large parts of land: Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina and the Hertza region. Bad, very bad. Our beautiful country, divided by power-hungry assholes.” He paused for a moment. “Not going to bother you with politics,” he said, though the tone of his voice belied his words, “politics should be discussed over a good meal, now it’s too early. From 1941 on, Antonescu took power. Bad man, bad man. Chose the side of Nazi Germany to ‘win back’ what we had lost to Soviets.”

“But the Soviet army was stronger, right?” Duo said. “Hundreds of thousands of young Romanian soldiers died at Stalingrad.”

“Yes, yes.” The older man heaved a deep sigh. “Too late, it was all too late. It was already 1944 when Mihai, our king, joined forces with the Allies. We fought for our freedom - but when the war was over and victory declared, Romania was seen as an opportunist, a coward who sides with the Nazis first, then the Allies. We were never acknowledged for our efforts to fight alongside the French, the British, the Americans...”

“Subsequently, Romania was run over by the Red Army and the communist party became the leading party,” Heero finished his sentence.

Lubjan nodded. “Our country was modeled after Russia, abandoned by the rest of the world. I grew up under Ceauşescu and his megalomaniacal ‘politics’. We lived in fear for the Securitate, and we were always cold and hungry.”

“So that might explain the current anti-American sentiments around here,” Duo said, pensive. “I mean… You guys got the short end of the stick during WWII, then the communists waltzed all over you and the western countries abandoned you…”

“Anti-American, Anti-Russian, Anti-European,” Lubjan said, downtrodden. “That’s why so dangerous around here. People like Marku Djurdjevic deny everything that has happened here, and want to start over.”

“Start over?” Heero repeated.

The mayor rubbed the back of his neck. “Yes. Away with Americans, away with Russians, Romania for Romanians. Full-blooded Romanians, not Roma.”

“Gypsies?” Duo asked, not understanding.

“We’re not ţigani,” Lubjan said defensively. “We are Rromi!”

“A veritable melting pot,” Heero said. He remembered Branka’s words that got an eerie, dark touch to them after what Lubjan just told.

“And with so many sentiments, emotions and feelings, it’s just a matter of time before someone lights the fuse and everything will explode,” Duo said. He put his empty mug to the side so he had more room for his unfinished slice of cake. Heero drew his lips in a tight line. He had a sinking feeling who was more than willing to lit said fuse: Klaus Feldschweig. It didn’t sit well with him, how Branka had paled and cringed at just the mention of the man’s name.

“But, no talking about politics!” Lubjan laughed a little too loud and put his hands up, slapping them together. “You wanted to know about war cemetery!”

“True,” Duo said. “Branka mentioned something about it being removed…?”

“We had war cemetery here, yes. Big news when Alliance came to identify soldiers. Tourists, news reporters! But Djurdjevic ruined it all, wanted to send everyone away.”

“Branka told us that he accused everyone of being a collaborator?”

Lubjan pointed at his temple and circled with his finger. “The man’s crazy. Good food, but crazy. Says something one week, says something else next week. We told him that his family could be amongst the fallen soldiers. He didn’t want to know a thing about it! All collaborators, all bad people, he kept saying.”

“What did the Alliance do?” Heero said, intrigued.

“Brsiç very small,” Lubjan answered. “The cemetery was larger. So many dead… everything moved to outside of town, one monument for all of them.”

“So... no individual graves or markers?” Duo asked.

“Monument. One stone wall, with names engraved. Branka can take you there.”

“I’d like to see it,” Duo said. “And your grandfather?”

“Andrei Silivaş,” Lubjan simply beamed at the memory of his grandfather. “Big hero! Great hero!” He shook his head. “Terribly, terribly damaged by war. Said things that he’d seen happen, it made him so sad. So young when he was fighting, so old when war was over. I loved to listen to his stories, but in the end he… got a little carried away. He left me a lot of letters, and I wanted to publish them… but there are so many books about WWII already, and I… didn’t want to add to it.” He grabbed the empty coffee pot. “Let me get you more!”

Duo wanted to protest, that he had had enough coffee already, but Lubjan was out of the living room before he could stop him. The infamous Romanian hospitality was full at work here, and it wouldn’t surprise him if the mayor would invite them to stay over for dinner as well.

“What are you thinking?” Heero asked. He used the moment to steal a kiss, eliciting a warm smile from Duo.

“I don’t know. Like we said before, this isn’t our mission,” Duo said. “We’re here to try to recover paintings, and not to get involved into this hotbed of a war cemetery, anti-Western sentiments and conflicted ethnicities.”

“True that.” Heero shifted back into his previous position when Lubjan swooped back into the living room again, carrying a refilled coffee pot and more amandine. He also carried a shoebox and put it on the coffee table. With reverend gestures, he lifted up the lid, revealing a collection of letters. The paper was so fragile that Duo didn’t dare touch it.

“My grandfather’s letters,” Lubjan said. “You’re welcome to read them.”

“Thank you,” Duo said, “but I can’t read Romanian, I’m sorry.”

Lubjan shoved the shoebox towards them. “I’m not sure what you’re exactly doing here,” he said, voice uncharacteristically grave. “Your tires were slashed, and I heard Djurdjevic about ‘nosy strangers’. You have my blessing. As the mayor of Brsiç, I have to be careful what I say or do… but that doesn’t mean I can’t help you. Take it.”

Heero leaned forward and accepted the shoebox, placing it onto his lap. Lubjan motioned at Duo to keep the photo book as well.

“Take it,” he said. “You can give it back whenever. No hurry! No politics! We’ll eat soon! Branka is making sarmale, and you’ll stay and eat! We have cheese and wine too, or do you prefer beer?”


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



“Well, as soon as we get home, I have to go on a diet,” Duo said as he patted his belly. “All that food! Delicious!”

“It was a lovely dinner, yes,” Heero agreed. He carried the shoebox with Andrei’s letters and the photo book, but he didn’t know what Lubjan Silivaş was trying to accomplish by giving it to him and Duo. Something the mayor wasn’t telling him? As he walked alongside Duo, he kept his eyes peeled for Klaus Feldschweig. Somehow he expected the man to pop up after his ominous ‘I had hoped to get into contact with you’, his words at the spa. He remained silent for the rest of their way back to the Pãrvulescu’s garage; the three brothers and their father were having dinner, and invited Duo and Heero to join them at the table.

“Thank you so much,” Duo said, “but we had dinner at the mayor’s house already. I’m so sorry, I’m stuffed!”

“You’re an American, you’re supposed to eat much! Burgers and fries!” Alexandru teased him, but Ferenç said: “You’re just jealous! You want to eat at mayor’s house too!” The rest busted out laughing while poor Alexandru turned red like a tomato. As they were speaking English, their father didn’t understand but he heartily joined the laughter. Alexandru hid behind his napkin as Ferenç slapped his shoulder. Duo didn’t really get the joke and took pity on the eldest son.

“Alexandru, would you mind taking a look at the Jeep? We want to go to Bucharest tomorrow and we need it in tiptop condition.”

“I’ll go look,” he said, still red in the face.

“After dinner,” Duo reminded him.

“After dinner,” he repeated and quickly stuck his fork into the potatoes on his plate. Duo and
Heero went upstairs to the attic, to their makeshift ‘bedroom’. Duo flopped on the bed while Heero put the shoebox and the photo book away.

“Bucharest?” he said, arching an eyebrow.

Duo nodded and wiggled his feet, so Heero went over to take off his shoes. He always wore heavy, steel-toed boots with impossible long laces. “I figured that the library in Bucharest has better, modern equipment. I want to copy and scan those letters and send them over to Howard.”

“So he can run them through translation software.”

“Exactly. Oh Heero, you’re so obedient today.”

“Don’t count yourself too lucky, young man.” Heero dumped the boots on the floor. “Do discuss this kind of things beforehand, hm?”

“I’m sorry,” Duo batted with his eyelashes exaggeratedly, “but I thought you fell in love with my fierce independence and no-nonsense non-conformism?”

“No-nonsense non-conformism?”

“Yeah! Try saying that five times fast!”

“Duo, a serious moment, please.”

“All right, all right…” Duo propped himself up on one elbow. “I know we should go after the paintings. We should visit antiquaries, we should do research… I selected Romania to start our search, just because of the multi-cultural nature of this country… but I didn’t think it was this complicated.”

“We can always extend our search, or move to a different country entirely. Perhaps Poland is a better choice?”

“I don’t know.” Duo looked pensive, and Heero understood what he was thinking about. Duo felt he’d be abandoning the people they had met here, who had reached out to him in a cry for help, if he would leave now. Turning his back to someone wasn’t in Duo Maxwell’s nature.

“You want to help them, and we should.” Heero brought him up to speed about Branka’s situation. Duo frowned.

“Poor girl, both her and Mila. What the hell’s going on, Heero? That Feldschweig guy… why is he so important? Why does he hold so much influence?”

“We’re going to find out,” Heero said. “And we do what needs to be done about it.” He looked at one of the suitcases, next to the bed, holding Duo’s Sig Sauer. Duo grimaced.

“Let’s not get too far ahead…”

“Bucharest first,” Heero reassured him. “It’s at least a four hour drive. Can you handle it? How’s your leg?”

“Much better since our visit to the spa,” Duo said. “I’d like to go back again… or to any other spa, for that matter. I really enjoyed the warm water!”

“We’ll find one in the capital city. I take it you don’t want to drive to and back in one day?”

“Oh no, we’ll spend at least one night there! I’m not in any haste to return to Brsiç.” He locked eyes with Heero. “We have to help these girls, Heero.”

“I agree with you. I suggest we go to bed early and get as much rest as possible.”

“Excellent idea.” Duo moved his hands over his shirt, crinkling the garment. “Care to help..?”

“You’re incorrigible,” Heero said, but his smirk showed that he didn’t have a problem with it.


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



They left early in the morning for Bucharest. Alexandru had serviced the Jeep and Duo was very satisfied as he shifted the gears.

“It goes so much easier now,” he said.

“I guess he used a lot of oil,” Heero said deadpan. The Jeep had been nothing short of a wreck when Duo had bought it, primarily for easy and cheap transport, but now he was really warming up to the vehicle, who proved to be a diamond in the rough.

“It needed more than just oil,” Duo gave back. He loved cars and to tinker with them, but his work, both for the Maxwell Foundation and as an archaeologist-adventurer, left him little to no time to pick up his toolbox. He inhaled deeply, relaxed after a good night’s sleep. Duo wasn’t a morning person, but he had gotten up early for their trip to the capital city without any grumping or moping at all. They were so early that the Pãrvulescu family still was asleep, except for the middle brother, Dragos. He had made them some breakfast, and had insisted on packing them lunch; a large basket filled with enough food to last them the entire day, sat on the backseat of the Jeep.

“Just look at this, Heero,” Duo said ecstatically. “The sky! The mountains!”

He agreed. “The landscape is breathtaking.” After two hours, he tapped Duo on the shoulder. “You okay? Should I take over?”

“The leg’s fine, Heero,” Duo said, an exuberant smile on his face. Traffic picked up as they approached the bigger cities, but Duo held himself to the maximum speed limit and the Jeep’s engine hardly made a sound, as if it was brand new.

“You have the habit of overexerting yourself,” Heero muttered but left it at that. They only stopped for a short break at Ploieşti and as Duo left the Jeep to fill up the tank, Heero quietly switched seats. Duo didn’t mind and studied a map of the city, conveniently put in the glove compartment; Duo made a mental note to thank the brothers later. It was a handy map, with addresses to parking lots, the tourist information office, restaurants and hotels; even the library was marked on it.

Biblioteca Academiei Romǎne,” Duo said. “Sounds good to me, don’t you think?”

“I agree. Is there a parking lot nearby?”

“Yeah, and some hotels too. We should set up camp there.”

“Yes, commander-in-chief.”

Within the next minute, Heero drove into the city, concentrating on traffic. Duo guided him through the streets, but they ended up at a parking lot further away than anticipated. He jumped out of the Jeep and rubbed his leg a little, stiff and slightly sore from the long ride.

“Well, at least we’re here,” he said, folding up the map. “It’s almost a mile to the library.”

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to book a hotel first,” Heero said. “Why don’t you go ahead to the library? I’ll catch up with you later.”

“All right.” Duo pointed east. “It’s just down the road, all the way ahead.”

“No problem. I’ll find you.” Heero closed the door of the Jeep and closed it off. As he turned the keys around, he withdrew them at the same moment, an awkward gesture which made him drop the keys. Tsk-ing, Heero reached for the keys and picked them up from the ground, when he noticed a small flash of light, a red light to be exact. It came from under the Jeep! Baffled, he stared into Duo’s direction first; but the man he loved wasn’t really a prankster, and he had had no time to put something under the car: they had constantly been in each other’s presence. Duo was already gone for half a mile; he had a firm stride, bad leg or not. Heero lowered himself on one knee and twisted his torso so he could take a look under the Jeep. The small red light blinked at him and he hissed; could it be a bomb? No, the device sticking to the underside of the Jeep wasn’t a bomb, it was far too plain. He reached for it and retrieved the small box, plucking it easily off of the underside. With his technology skills, Heero recognized it in an instant. It was a device that constantly emitted signals to confirm the location of the object it was attached to; a locating device. He gritted his teeth. Someone was keeping tabs on them. Someone really wanted to know what they were doing. This was grating on his nerves. This was getting personal, really fast.


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