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




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


Biblioteca Academiei Romǎne, the National Library of Romania, was housed in a modern building and boasted a collection of over thirteen million objects, among them foreign old and rare books, audio-visual documents, prints and photographs, all kinds of manuscripts and a huge historical archive. Duo loved to visit libraries, but it also made him feel a little forlorn. His brother Solo had loved libraries even more; the older the written works, the better. Many of Duo’s childhood memories were about Solo sitting at the large desk in the Maxwell Manor library, his chair too big and his feet barely able to reach the ground, with a pile of books taller than he was, next to him.

Even now, it looked like Solo could emerge from behind the tall bookcases, his arms full with books, his glasses perching on the bridge of his nose and with that twinkle in his eyes that told Duo he’d found something fascinating. Along with the forlornness, came the huge feelings of guilt; Duo had coaxed Solo into joining him on his adventures, instead of staying at the Manor. After his initial hesitation, Solo had enjoyed going on expeditions as well, quickly learning that he could adapt his knowledge and skills in the ‘real world’. For a few years, the Maxwell brothers were the authority on retrieving ancient artifacts regarded as mythical, non-existent or plain lost… up until their fated mission to recover artifacts from Atlantis, and Solo had drowned… Duo allowed the moment of grief, sadness and guilt to overwhelm him. There was nothing he could do about it, and repressing these emotions wouldn’t do him any good. He really didn’t want to reminisce right now, he had work to do, but he would never push thoughts about his brother away.

After a few minutes, Duo took a deep breath. He was alone; nobody had witnessed his small moment of contemplation. He focused at the task at hand. He located the modern printing and scanning equipment and spend the next hours scanning Andrei Silivaş’ letters, sending them directly to Howard, along with an explanatory email. Between scanning and emailing, Duo checked his smartphone for messages, enjoying the fast wi-fi. Hilde was complaining about some guy she was seeing and in another email, she talked about a new kind of fabric she was developing. Howard had send him an update on the Manor and a few pictures; the renovation was progressing steadily. Duo kept scanning the letters, even when the dates on the fragile paper exceeded years after the war. As he was working, he wondered what took Heero so long. Surely it wasn’t that hard to find a suitable hotel? It was for one night only, and neither one of them had extraordinary demands.

Duo didn’t worry though, if there was anyone who could take care of himself, it was Heero. In the meantime, he put another letter through the scanner. The bottom of the shoebox was nearly in sight. His thoughts wandered off to Heero again, but then to Mila and Branka, two young girls in danger. Finally, he thought about Feldschweig. Out of curiosity, Duo went to search for the book the man had written and sure enough, there was a copy available of One Nation, One People, One Fate: Why Accepting Imperfection In Our Genes Will Lead Us To Our Demise. Duo flipped through the book as he walked back to the scanner and read a couple of pages, feeling sick to his stomach.

“What a surprise,” a female voice next to him said, “to meet you again!”

Duo almost dropped the book. It didn’t happen very often that people were able to sneak up on him. He had been so engrossed, so morbidly fascinated by Feldschweig’s writings that hee had closed himself off for everything and everyone around him.

“Laura,” he said, “no more spa for you?”

“Lauren,” she corrected him friendly. “And no, my health insurance won’t cover more than a few days, unfortunately.”

“Oh yes, your fibromyalgia.” Duo smiled sheepishly. He remembered talking to the young woman while at the spa in Çleçiani, but he didn’t recall every detail. “How are you?”

“Okay, as far as I can be.” She shrugged, then craned her neck a little. “I love a man who can multitask.”

The scanner was diligently processing the last of Andrei’s letters and Duo had carelessly put his smartphone on top of the shoebox. The phone beeped with incoming messages, and he was also holding the book, obviously showing that he’d been reading it. Duo twisted his arm to shove the scanned letters back into the shoebox and put his phone on silent in the same movement. He couldn’t keep her from reading the title of the book, however.

“Feldschweig, huh?” she said. “I… didn’t think you were into that.”

“It’s research, actually,” Duo said apologetically. “I don’t support an ideology like this.”

“I see.” Lauren tilted her head. “The last time we spoke, we didn’t get to really know each other, did we? Did I mention what I do for a living? I study international communication and media, specializing in Eastern Europe relations.”

“I see,” Duo repeated her words.

“I know who you are,” she continued, flirtingly. “I’m sorry, I just couldn’t help it. Duo Maxwell, of the famous Maxwell collection. You’re some kind of treasure hunter, aren’t you?”

“I’m not,” Duo said, slightly annoyed. He hated it when people equaled his work to ‘treasure hunting’. “I track down and retrieve ancient artifacts, never for profit. These artifacts are always of great importance to international or local cultural heritage. While I do get paid for my expenses and time, any financial contribution goes straight towards the collection or charity.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you,” Lauren said. She lowered her eyes. “I really sad something bad, didn’t I?”

“A treasure hunter implies that he’s into it for the money,” Duo explained to her. “I retrieve artifacts for their invaluable cultural and historical influence or significance.”

“I understand. I’m so sorry! Can I make up for it by buying you a cup of coffee? Or would the boyfriend disagree about that as well?”

“A cup of coffee? No, I don’t think he’d disagree.” Duo was quick to let the irritation slide. After all, the whole ‘treasure hunter’-thing was a common assumption and she didn’t deserve to be on the receiving end of his annoyance. A cup of coffee would do him good; it’d been hours since he had any caffeine. He grabbed the shoebox and followed her downstairs, to the library café, leaving Feldschweig’s book on top of the scanner.


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



“Thank you,” Heero said as he finished filling out the registration forms at the hotel reception desk. He had chosen Europe Royale Bucharest, nothing extremely fancy or expensive, but it was housed in a 19th century building which he knew Duo would simply adore. The entire staff spoke English and the friendly girl at the reception desk offered him a room on the 4th floor. He took it and made his way up, carrying the overnight bag Duo had prepared. The room had a spectacular view on the Unirii square and Heero watched the traffic for a few moments, clearing his mind.

He sat down at the small desk and took the locating device out of his jacket pocket. He studied it meticulously and with one of his keys, he pried the device open. It wasn’t modern, state-of-the art technology. It looked like someone had thrown it together at the last moment, with the very first means at hand. Someone who had access to a lot of tools and spare parts to construct such a thing. Someone working in a garage, for example. Heero hated the thought that he had to suspect one of the Pârvulescu brothers. Alexandru was too obvious, perhaps; he had serviced the Jeep, meaning that he had the best opportunity to stick the device under the vehicle. On the other hand, Dragos and Ferenç also worked in the garage and all three brothers walked in and out, leaving the doors wide open. The family was quite poor. Could any of the brothers have succumbed to the lure of money?

Heero frowned. That left the question… who would offered money to do this? Feldschweig? No, that man was too far in the open. He wasn’t afraid of showing himself and his tattoo in public, he wouldn’t resort to cheap, dirty tricks like this. Heero picked the pieces apart and photographed them with his smartphone. He emailed the pictures to Zip, one of Hillary’s nephews who helped out at the Manor now that his uncle was otherwise occupied. He had quite the knowledge on tools and computers, and he could help Heero to identify the used materials. Heero drummed with his fingers on the desk. If it wasn’t Feldschweig, who else could it be? The same people who had slashed the tires of their Jeep? Heero didn’t want to worry about it on his own. He wanted Duo’s opinion on this. Checking his watch, he realized that they had totally skipped lunch. He wasn’t sure how much more time Duo needed at the library, but his own stomach rumbled. A late lunch would be ideal to catch up.


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



At the library, Heero was going to search for Duo at the scanners, copiers and printing machines, but to his surprise, he noticed Duo at the library café as he walked by. His conspicuous braid was ideal to identify him, even if he was sitting with his back to Heero. To his even greater surprise, he was in the company of a handsome young woman with shoulder-length dark-brown hair, clad in a woolen dress. Her face wasn’t familiar to him and his curiosity was piqued. Heero entered the café and walked over to Duo’s table.

“There you are!” Duo smiled up at him. “Did you manage to find a hotel?”

“A very suitable one,” Heero gave a neutral answer.

“Heero, may I introduce you to Lauren White? Lauren, this is Heero Yuy.”

“Ah, the boyfriend has finally arrived,” she quipped and extended her hand. Heero accepted it and made sure to shake it firmly; not that he had anything to fear of her, but to let her know that Duo was his, in a subtle, territorial way. She didn’t flinch. “Nice to meet you, Heero.”

“Nice to meet you too, Lauren.”

“Lauren is an international communication and media student,” Duo said. “I met her at the spa in Çleçiani.”

Heero arched an eyebrow. “And now in Bucharest?”

“I’m in my final year, writing a paper on Eastern-European relations. The Balkan Peninsula has always been a hotbed of complicated conflicts, and this library is one of the best sources of my research.” She looked at him as if she dared him to comment on it, but Heero wasn’t in the mood for games. He noticed the empty coffee cups on the table.

“Did you had lunch yet, Duo?”

“No, just coffee,” he answered. “We have quite a habit of skipping lunch, don’t we? The café only serves pastry or cookies, and I can’t survive on sugar only.”

Lauren packed her bag and slung it over her shoulder. “I wouldn’t dream of interrupting your plans for lunch,” she said in a pleasant tone of voice. “Maybe we’ll meet again?”

“Maybe,” Duo said and she winked at him. She passed by Heero without saying another word, and he didn’t offer any goodbyes either. Duo scratched the back of his head. “Something the matter?”

“No, everything’s all right.” Heero watched Lauren’s retreating back.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Duo said, “and I don’t like it any better than you do.”

“Let’s not discuss it here,” Heero said. “Lunch first, I’m famished.”

Duo chuckled. “It’s actually very rare for you to say that. Do you know a good place where we can eat?”

“Anywhere but here,” Heero said dryly. “I don’t like sugar at all.”

Forty minutes later, they had found a small, family-driven restaurant and had their lunch. Duo put down his cutlery after emptying his plate, grinning.

“That was delicious! Really savory.”

Heero agreed. He hadn’t mentioned anything about the locating device yet, as he didn’t want to ruin lunch. Now that they both had eaten, he decided it was the right time to tell Duo all about it. After hearing the news, Duo’s mood soured.

“I can’t believe it,” he said. “I refuse to believe that any of the Pârvulescu brothers is responsible for this, and I certainly refuse to suspect Alexandru.” He grumbled in annoyance.
“Ever since we started this… mission, people have been following… no, stalking us. What the hell is going on?”

“I don’t know,” Heero grimaced, “but it’s getting more personal, Duo. They, whoever ‘they’ are, want to keep exact tabs on us, they want to know where we are and what we do.”

“I said it before, and I’ll say it again: t feels like we’ve just opened one big, stinking snake pit.”

“Yes, but more and more innocent people are getting involved,” Heero said. “Mila. Branka. Lauren. I’m not sure if she’s innocent, but she’s also involved - I don’t believe in two ‘coincidental’ meetings. She could be persuaded, by money or by intimidation, just like Grigore Jankoviç.”

“Agreed. Maybe one of the Pârvulescu brothers has been persuaded as well, it’s hard to say no to a guy like Feldschweig. I read a couple of chapters from his book…” Duo shuddered. Heero reached for Duo’s hand, not caring if anyone saw it or not.

“You’ll be safe,” he said vehemently. “That man will never lay a finger on you.”

“I love it when you’re so protective,” Duo said, half-jokingly, half-serious. He put his other hand on top of Heero’s. “And that man will never lay a finger on you, either.”

“I know. We can’t assume it’s him, however. Not unless we have any proof. I wish I could research fingerprints…”

“We’re not crime scene investigators, Heero.” Duo got interrupted by loud beeps, coming from Heero’s smart phone.

“That has to be Zip,” Heero said. “I asked him to take a look at the materials used to build the locating device.” He pulled the smart phone out of his pocket and checked his messages. “It’s Zip indeed. He reports there’s nothing out of the ordinary,” he mumbled. “No uncommon traits or specifications. A dead end.”

“Anyone could’ve assembled it and given it to Alexandru or any of his brothers to attach it to the Jeep.”

“True.” Heero put his smart phone away again. He tilted his head towards the shoebox on the table. “What about the letters?”

“I’ve scanned them all and send them off to Howard. He’ll report back to me as soon as the software’s done translating them, of course. If necessary, Howard will hire a native Romanian to help out.”

“I hope that the letters will shed some light on the weird things going on in Brasov county,” Heero said, but he didn’t sound like he held too much hope. “And we still haven’t made any progress on the paintings.”

“I want to relax,” Duo said. “Go to the movies, a theatre, a show. I want to forget about Nazi-wannabes, strange women and locating devices for tonight.”

“Sounds perfect to me. Our hotel room has a really large bathtub. Why don’t you start there first…” Heero amused himself with the thought, “…while I’ll search for tickets online. What would you like to see? An action movie, an opera, a play? I’m sure that Bucharest has all kinds of entertainment to offer.”

“I’ll leave it entirely up to you,” Duo batted his eyes at Heero. “Surprise me, my love.”

“Then let’s get out of here,” Heero said. “We’ll double our efforts tomorrow. Tonight’s for us, and for us only.”


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