Author’s Note: Well I guess it happens to us all at some point . . . this story is slightly yaoi in nature, but hey there’s a lot of other stuff in here too, so try it out!! Nothing graphic, only implied. Lots of pairings but the main ones are HxR, 1x2 and 2x4. Please review my first fic of “that kind”. With apologies to Patricia Highsmith, the author of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Anthony Minghella, the author of the screenplay for the movie.

The Talented Mr. Maxwell, Part 1

by Midii Une

Duo Maxwell slouched on a stool in an upscale bar on the Mars colony. Everything on Mars was upscale and he wondered what the hell he was doing there and how the hell he was going to get off. Four years since the end of the war. Four years was all the time it had taken for him to hit rock bottom. He scrounged in his pockets for some change to buy a beer, in a place like this it would take quite a bit of change, even for a brew of the domestic variety.

It was the trademark braid that caught his eye, there was nothing else distinguishing enough about the young man slouched at the bar to catch his attention. Milliardo Peacecraft’s brow furrowed a bit in disgust as he saw the former Gundam pilot digging through his tattered jacket pockets, probably for loose change. My God, what a comedown, he thought. But perhaps, perhaps he might be able to do me a favor . . .

“Duo Maxwell, isn’t it? You were a friend of Heero Yuy’s,” Milliardo stated, sitting at the vacant stool beside the younger man. “Can I buy you a drink?”

“Sure,” said a startled Duo, who was wondering if this could really be Milliardo Peacecraft or Zechs Marquise or whatever the hell he was calling himself these days. “I’ll have whatever you’re havin.’”

What Peacecraft was having happened to be 250-year-old Scotch. “The older the better,” he pointed out to Duo, who was turning his face away from the strong scent of alcohol emanating from the drink. “This Scotch happens to be older than the colonies themselves. Drink up.”

Duo tried to hide his disgust as he sipped away at what tasted almost exactly as one would imagine varnish would taste, if one had the courage to drink it after smelling it. Peacecraft on the other hand appeared to be enjoying his beverage immensely.

“Your friend Yuy is on Earth, did you know that,” Peacecraft said conversationally, trying to sound casual as the wheels started turning in his mind. “He’s latched onto my sister and they’re the talk of the Cinq Kingdom. No doubt he thinks he’s set for life. She’s beautiful and rich, what more could a man want.”

Duo shrugged. “You sound like that bothers you. I guess you don’t like that the guy who stopped your mad rush to destroy the world is gettin’ in your little sister’s panties, eh.”

Peacecraft grabbed Duo by the collar and pulled him up till they were face to face. “Don’t talk like that about Relena. I don’t recommend it, for your health’s sake,” he said.

“Sorry,” Duo muttered.

“Besides,” Peacecraft continued. “That’s not the problem. I admired Yuy once, he was the perfect soldier. But the perfect soldier was left without a heart or a soul. That’s exactly what he is, a heartless, soulless son of a bitch and that’s not the life I want for my sister.”

“I hear ya,” Duo said, trying to stomach another sip of the Scotch. He found himself slowly getting used to the acrid taste.

“You had influence with him once, or so they say,” Peacecraft said quietly. “I’d pay you to go to Earth, pay you to get him to leave my sister alone. Name your price Maxwell.”

It didn’t take Duo long at all to accept Milliardo Peacecraft’s offer. He was broke, he was down and out and hell, once on Earth he could do what he wanted with Peacecraft’s money. Maybe he’d even try to pry Heero away from Relena’s side. Just so he got off this planet full of snobs.

Peacecraft’s eyes lit up as a tall, slender, dark-haired woman approached. Her movements were slow and graceful as she strode toward him, her eyes shining with love and contentment. “There’s Noin,” he said, his voice lingering over her name. “Join us for dinner Maxwell, looks like it’s been awhile since you had a decent meal. Just don’t mention our agreement. My beloved Lucrezia’s a romantic at heart and she approves of this relationship of Relena’s.”

“No problem,” Duo said jauntily. “Mum’s the word. And dinner sounds great, as long as you or anybody else is picking up the tab.”

*******

She stood by the ocean’s edge, tears streaking her pale cheeks. She put up a hand to cover her large aquamarine eyes. Her mind was whirling with the memories of his hands on her body, his mouth on hers. She’d hated him but wanted him at the same time. Could she really blame her grandmother for casting her out? Sylvia had no where to turn, she had no idea where Heero was. He’d pursued her, used her and left her in that order and now she was pregnant. Alone and pregnant and unmarried.

“Holy Virgin,” she muttered softly. “Forgive me this sin. I cannot live with this shame.”

Her cheeks grew hot. Damn him. Still, even now she wanted him. Remembered the last time they had been together. She’d wanted him so much that she’d let him take her in that dark alley. She remembered his rough hands in her hair, on her breasts, pushing up her skirt. Everywhere.

They had both been breathing heavily, foreheads pressed together, his body crushing hers against the dark doorway of an abandoned palazzo. “I love you,” she’d confessed. “Heero, I love you.”

“Do you? Do you Sylvia? How interesting,” he’d said, letting his eyes flick over her unemotionally, eyes that were same color blue and just as cold as the ocean she was standing in.

She’d never seen him again.

Sylvia started to slowly walk into the water until it touched her chin. Then she dropped to her knees and let the current take her away.

******


Relena Peacecraft’s eyes narrowed. She found him so annoying, Duo Maxwell. Heero however, was acting like he was the most amusing person he’d ever been with. He laughed his grim little laugh at every obnoxious joke the braided young man made. Heero’d even put him up in a guest room of her palace. He went with them everywhere. She was still trying to forget the humiliation of taking him along to her box at the lovely new Cinq Kingdom Opera House. Duo had fallen asleep and snored loudly through a performance of Don Giovanni.

She watched the two of them dueling with foils in the fencing salle of the palace. She smirked a little as she noticed that her darling Heero had no trouble whatsoever backing his nasty little friend up against the wall.

“Okay, okay, I surrender,” Duo cried, tossing off his mask and dropping to his knees, hugging Heero comically around the legs. “Just don’t kill me. I acknowledge that you’re the better fencer.”

A look of fond amusement crossed Heero’s face then faded. He touched Duo’s cheek with the unguarded edge of the foil and with a swift movement made a small nick that drew blood.

“Acknowledgement accepted,” he said, a small smile appearing on his face.

“Shit Heero,” Duo yelled, getting up off the floor. “That hurts like hell.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Heero said. “It’s just a scratch. I can almost wipe it away.”

He licked the tip of his finger and swiped it across the wound on Duo’s cheek.

“See. All better,” he said, turning and walking away.

******

Pagan came into the drawing room. Relena was scowling as Heero and Duo ignored her, intent on a game of chess.

“Miss Relena,” the elderly butler announced. “I regret to inform you of this horrible situation. But it seems that the body of a young woman has washed ashore on the coast. The authorities are wondering what action you want to take to have the girl’s body identified?”

“Ohhh, how awful,” Relena said, repressing a shudder. “I suppose I should go and talk to them.”

“Don’t worry about it Relena,” Heero said. “Duo and I will go down to the coast and take a look. We’ll only be gone overnight.”

“But Heero . . .” Relena protested. He silenced her with a kiss, his hand grazing her cheek and his teeth nipping at her lower lip.

“It’s only one night Relena,” he said, walking out of the room with Duo trailing behind. “You’ll be just fine.”

******

The coroner pulled back the sheet.

“Mr. Yuy, I’m afraid there was no form of identification on the young lady’s person. All I can tell you is that she died from drowning and that she was three months pregnant. Based on that and the lack of evidence of foul play I’d say it was suicide,” the official said.

“I see,” Heero said shortly, turning away from the girl’s body on the table and looking a bit green. His hands were balled into tight fists which he jammed into his pockets. “Just go ahead and bury her. Send the bill for the funeral to the palace. There’s no need to investigate further.”

He hurried out of the room into the foyer where Duo was waiting.

His friend immediately noticed that try though he might to hide it, Heero was upset.

Heero didn’t say a word but he handed the keys to the convertible sports car Relena had given him to Duo.

He merely glared as Duo commented how he couldn’t believe Heero would let him drive his precious car.

After a few miles, he finally spoke. “Pull over,” he commanded. Duo did as requested and Heero jumped out of the car without opening the door. He walked quickly over to a rock and bent over and vomited violently.

Duo jumped out of the car as well and hurried over, putting his arm around Heero’s shoulder. “Heero? Are you sick? What ---”

Heero stood up and looked over the dark blue water, tipped with whitecaps. “That’s Italy over there, across the ocean, on a day like today you can just make it out. That’s where that girl’s from. The body they found. Sylvia was her name. Sylvia Noventa. She was going to have my child and she killed herself. I-I didn’t know.”

“Christ Heero,” Duo whispered. “I’m sorry. Did you love her? What about Relena? Holy shit . . .”

Heero wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and shook off the short outburst of emotion. “No,” he said. “She said she loved me but I didn’t love her. Relena’s everything I need. What else could a man want? She’s rich, beautiful, all the things a man is supposed to want in a woman.”

Duo couldn’t help hearing the echo of Relena’s brother’s words. So similar. Was it true, was it true that Heero was without a heart or a soul? He looked at him searchingly. The mystery of Heero and his emotions or lack of them was so tantalizing. It made Duo want to see him react. If only he could get something from him, he felt he would do anything to see if Heero *could* feel. He reached out a hand toward him, but he lost his nerve. So he questioned him.

“So you love Relena then,” he asked.

“She’s everything I could want,” Heero said shortly. “I hope you won’t say anything to her or anyone. About Sylvia I mean. It would only upset Relena and there’s no need for anyone to know. She’s dead and nothing can bring her back. Let’s get out of here. There’s a little place an hour up the coast where we can spend the night.”

“Sure Heero, I won’t say anything. But are you sure you’re okay? Seeing that girl like that must have been quite a shock,” Duo said.

“Of course I’m fine,” Heero said, dismissing the situation entirely. “Just perfect in fact.”

******

Heero leaned on a hotel room balcony overlooking the Mediterranean. The stars twinkled and the breeze that came in over the sea was cold and salt-tinged. His child dead, his lover dead, he should care, but he didn’t. It disturbed him that he didn’t care. He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn’t hear Duo come up behind him.

“Heero I know you must be upset,” Duo prodded, hoping still to see Heero show him something again, some evidence of feeling. “I’m here, don’t be afraid to show how you feel.”

He placed his hand on the other pilot’s shoulder. To his surprise Heero’s own hand stole up over his shoulder and took hold of his. “I’m glad you’re here Duo,” he said quietly. “I know I don’t always act like it, but it means a lot to me. Having you here. I hope you’ll stay.”

Duo put his other hand on Heero’s other shoulder and leaned into him, almost but not quite hugging him. “I’ll stay as long as you want me Heero. Longer even.”

Heero didn’t answer, but he stayed there looking out over the sea, silent in Duo’s almost-embrace.

********

Duo was puzzled. It had almost seemed like Heero cared for him. He’d actually said he wanted him around. Allowed him to be close to him like never before.

But now they were back in the Cinq Kingdom and he had shut down again. Worse in fact, now he seemed to be ignoring him, as if he wished what had passed between them on the balcony had never occurred.

They were having a picnic out by the gazebo and he felt like a third wheel. It hadn’t been this way before they’d gone down the coast and seen the body of that girl, Sylvia. Now Heero was playing up to Relena again and acting as if Duo was barely there. He watched, almost gritting his teeth, as Heero took a large strawberry from a crystal bowl and fed it to Relena.

“It’s almost like he’s rubbing it in,” Duo thought.

He had a lot on his mind. Peacecraft had contacted him and he was getting anxious about the lack of results. Duo had reassured him that he was close to getting Heero to leave the Cinq Kingdom. “These things take time,” he’d told Relena’s brother. “Don’t want to look suspicious. What would your sister think if she knew you were behind this?”

That had done it. Peacecraft would leave him alone for now. But Heero was leaving him alone now too. And he didn’t like it, not one bit. He had as much as said he didn’t love Relena. Then why? Why was he acting this way?

“Duo? Duo, did you hear what I said,” Relena repeated herself, she was in a better mood these days now Heero was being more attentive. “I asked if you could run up to the palace and get dessert. Seems I forgot it and Heero’s eaten all the strawberries already.”

“Dessert, huh?” Duo said. “You know I can’t resist, I’ll be back in a flash.”

“Take your time,” Heero said, not looking at Duo at all, but staring into Relena’s eyes meaningfully and leaning in to kiss her. “Don’t hurry back.”

Relena giggled a little. “Heero!!” she protested a little.

Duo frowned, he walked halfway up to the palace and redoubled his steps back to the gazebo. Heero was making love to her there on the grass, from the top of the hill he could see it all. He’d known it. Heero had known he would come back. Why was he torturing him. How could he be losing the relationship that had seemed so close. He turned and went back up to the palace. Screw Relena’s dessert, he thought, she’s getting hers already.

TO BE CONTINUED . . . Heero gives in to Duo’s request to take a trip together . . . Trowa decides