*moodily* I don't like it... I wish my muses were here...
Wufei: *even more moody* Shut up, on'na...
Here is the sixth installment of "The Professional and the Amateur"! ... Well, including the prologue, it's the seventh...
DISCLAIMER: They ain't mine, they belong to someone else. *shakes her
right fist at an imaginary person* Damn you!
PAIRINGS: 1+2, 3+4, 5+D, `nother surprise pairing.
STATUS: AU (Alternate Universe)
The Professional and the Amateur
In the attractive alcove leading to the dining area, Duo absently studied the painted walls as they walked toward the lighted end of the hall. The painting wasn't too awful to say the least. Greens and blues combined in a beauteous array, forming a wonderfully done hallway with a country riverside look.
In the main dining area, the place was done similarly, if not less so than the alcove. Plants adorned the place, well-placed to give the restaurant a flourishing look. Golden chandeliers hung from the vaulted ceiling, lit with dim bulbs made to look like real candles. At the tables, wealthy-looking people sat chatting amiably with guests, dressed casually.
"It's beautiful," Hilde said softly, staring at one of the more exotic plants and marveling the unique, natural bluish color. "For a casual, modestly-priced place, this place is exquisitely decorated."
//Modestly-priced? To Heero, maybe...// Duo thought grumpily, crossing his arms and fixing the older boy with a stern look that he didn't notice. The fact he was in his old workplace was not that far from his mind, but once the idea of Heero paying for five meals that would cost a small fortune had shoved it farther away from his main view. He knew exactly how much a meal cost at `Fortunado's'. More than he made with six paychecks from his job as a store clerk and his ex-job as a cook and waiter.
"Chin up, Duo," Hilde teased, placing a long finger under her cousin's chin and tilting it from his pre-pouting position. He saw a flash of baby blues under her purple bangs before she moved away from him again, a small smile on her mouth. "You look like someone is going to take you out back and shoot you any minute now."
"He wouldn't do that... His wife, though..."
Heero's eyes snapped into his direction, having heard that comment loud and clear where Hilde, Solo, and Helen missed it totally. With a flush he bowed his head, allowing his bangs to obscure his face in hopes of keeping his reddened cheeks from his sight.
Something was definitely wrong with Duo. As soon as the group had walked through the elegant doors, the braided American had become timid, ready to bolt at any second. Where the spark of curiosity and the flare of stubbornly burning fire smoldered was something akin to the look of dread and reluctance.
The fact Duo gave Heero thinly veiled glares every once in a while didn't escape his notice, either.
Making sure the family was well-occupied with admiring the excellence of the lovely restaurant, Heero moved to Duo's side with open concern.
"Duo..." Heero paused, watching as Duo frantically jerked bodily toward Heero. It wasn't the fact that Heero had surprised him, he knew; it was because two waitresses chatting had just passed, and one of them had looked in their direction. With a calming smile the woman signaled that she would seat them in a minute and parted from the other, heading for the backroom.
"Would you rather go somewhere else?" Heero finally asked, looking down at the shorter boy.
"Why do you ask that?" Duo quipped, a spark of defiance taking its usual claim in his smoldering violet gaze. "You wanted a modest dinner, and this is about as `modest' as it gets, ne?" Rolling his eyes, the braided American gave him a knowing look. "Please, Heero. I'd have known this place would most likely burn my checkbook to ash even if I was born yesterday."
"You disapprove." It was more of a statement than a question, his Prussian eyes studying the American intently. With a small sigh the stiffness left his shoulders as he slumped, glancing in the directionof his family before turning purple eyes back on him.
"Yes and no. I don't like the fact that you're spending all this money and me and my family, but... I appreciate what you're doing for my family, what with taking them to this place and all." Shoving his hands in his jacket pocket, Duo added in a mumble, "Something I could never do for them, even if I tried..."
"Soon you'll have enough money to do this at your leisure," Heero reminded him gently, hesitantly placing a hand on the petite boy's shoulder. "If you want... I'll allow you to attempt to pay me back. I can't guarantee that I'll take it, but you can try."
Duo laughed aloud, covering his mouth with one hand. "You conceited jerk!" With a playful push against Heero's ribs, Duo began laughing again, the sound like the chiming of small, tinkering bells. Some patrons close by, both male and female, paused in whatever conversation they were indulging to look for the person belonging to the beautiful laugh. Heero simply stood, momentarily stupefied, as he watched the mirth play across Duo's face before dying down to roiling chuckles. Snapping out of it, he held back the urge to reach over and kiss those parted pilgrims called lips.
The insult slid off of him. "I'm only speaking the truth."
"That's the funny part," Duo replied easily, grinning up at him, his head tilting to the side slightly. "Why?"
"Why?..." Heero blinked, perplexed at the meaning of Duo's question.
"Why? Why are you doing this?" Softly sighing, the smile on the violet-eyed angel's turned wistful. "At first I thought Howard asked you to butter me up so I'd take the part... but you keep doing the damned sweetest things that make me want to both thank you and hit you... Why?"
It was a question he couldn't answer to even himself. Why did he? He couldn't understand. He'd never treated someone like Duo. He'd never worried about anyone other than Dorothy and Duo. It seemed that ever since that day on the bridge... he just couldn't stop thinking about him. He had frequently wondered if Duo was eating right, or if Duo might have fallen down those steps to his apartment, or if some cruel person set the apartment building on fire...
He answered Duo truthfully. "I don't know." He paused, searching for the right words. "I... Duo, you are the most amazing person I've ever..." He paused, again, this time realization dawning. Duo was the most amazing person he ever had the chance to meet. His innocent smile sometimes polluted with sadness, his violet gaze burning with inner fire, his lithe frame, petite form, sparkling personality... Duo was an angel from Heaven to his dark world of ignorant parents and fanatical fans. He kept the hurtful self-thoughts at bay, and one smile could melt Heero's resolve... Duo was... Duo was...
"I can't explain it, Duo," Heero murmured softly, this time allowing himself to reach forward and caress his cheek softly. Duo leaned toward the body heat, closing his amethyst eyes and moaning softly and quietly. "Just trust me when I say... that at this moment, my world has centered around you. You're like this... I'm sorry, I just can't explain that well. I refuse to deny that I'm attracted to you in a physical manner," Duo flushed and averted his face by tilting his face downward... but never allowing his face to loose contact with Heero's larger hand, "but I'm also attracted to your personality and how your inner beauty matches your outer beauty. You're a wonderful, caring person and I..." //I adore him for it.// Yes, adore. It was the strongest word he could even think to use so close to his first meeting of Duo Maxwell. Adoration... closely bordering and tittering toward love...
He was falling in love.
He was falling in love with Duo.
"Yuy, party of five?" the waitress finally chimed out, diverting Duo's attention momentarily from Heero's eyes. He never saw the brief flash of realization before it was firmly hidden from sight and replaced by something else.
It was night in the home shared between five great friends that happened to be five of the most popular actors on the big screen. Chang Wufei looked around the darkened kitchen silently, confused. There was always at least one person in the kitchen snacking or keeping another company. However, the large, well-stocked room was completely empty.
//Trowa and Quatre are upstairs doing their... `nightly rituals'.// Wufei thought wryly, grinning in the darkness of the hallway. //Dorothy is just coming in from the pool... Where's Heero?// The Japanese actor was usually always home on a Friday night. He never dated.
He stopped his lover before she made her way to change from her bathing suit. "Where's your brother?"
She smirked ferally. It was a smirk that Wufei well-enough recognized. //She knows something Heero won't realize about himself unless he thinks real hard.//
"He's out realizing he's falling madly in love with an American boy who, by the way, is replacing Mags in our little project together. Now." She gave him a heated look. "Why don't you come upstairs and help me out of this bikini? You've been shut in the guest room for a better part of the week memorizing your lines, you've probably forgotten all about the warmth given to a man by a woman..."
All thoughts of Heero falling in love flew out the window the second Wufei took his first step toward his goal. Let the poor sod find out his own love problems. He had some major kissing up to do.
Duo had never had a chance to sample any of the food when he worked for the owner of the Italian restaurant. Sure, he'd cooked plenty of it in his time, but that had nothing to do with the fact he never sampled it himself. He never had the material to cook like so at his home, but his customers usually commented about how good it was.
Duo found that he really liked Italian food other than spaghetti. Half of his chicken con broccoli was well on its way into his digestive system when he started to feel very full.
A fork-full of cupped pasta lingered in mid-air, his mouth open to accept the delicious morsel. Instead of gulping it down as he normally would have, he turned his head to the side ever so slightly to glance at the owner of the shrill yell.
Heero simply leaned back into his chair after putting his fork down, stuck between a smirk of amusement and a frown of disapproval.
A beautiful wheat-blonde stood beside their table, smiling brilliantly at the assembled family with the star. Her cornflower blue eyes missed nothing, even lingering on Duo for a second before moving onto Hilde and loitering even longer. With a final, slow grin she turned her eyes back to the Japanese boy.
"You know I hate it when you do that."
"Hai," she said airily, accepting Heero's hand and shaking firmly. "How's everyone?"
"Dorothy's fine." Heero finally let the frown die into a smirk before turning his Prussian blue eyes from the new girl's moody expression. "May I introduce Relena Peacecraft. Duo, she'll be playing the opposing role from you."
Duo nodded, smiling meekly once the girl turned her gaze back to him. "Hello."
"Hi," she bubbled sweetly, admiring the picture. "Oooh, Hee-chan! You're boy would make a lesbian go straight if she ever thought she had a chance!"
Hilde and Helen both respectively hid behind their napkins. Hilde because she was busy choking on the veal lodged in her throat, and Helen because she was hiding a laugh. Duo ended up sinking low in his chair with a delicate blush splashing his pale cheeks.
//How embarrassing,// he thought miserably.
Heero just snorted. "As you can already figure, she's an airhead and she talks before thinking. Relena, this is Duo Maxwell, his aunt Helen, his cousin Hilde and her son Solo." The wheat-blonde actress took the time to nod a respective hello to each, but she especially gave Hilde a hidden wink before turning her attention back to Heero. Not hidden enough for Duo to miss, however. Nor Hilde.
"Well, I really do hate to visit and run, but I have an appointment to keep. It was nice to meet you and your family, Duo. I hope we become good friends as the movie plays along. Good-bye, Helen. Bye, Solo." With a large, sensuous grin, she stared at the blushing Hilde. "I hope to see you soon... Hilde."
When the wheat-blonde was well away from the table, Duo couldn't help it. He crowed with laughter and slapped his flushed cousin on the shoulder. "Coz got a girlfriend, coz got a girl~friend!"
"I'm really sorry about that," Heero apologized, though there was also a faint smile on his lips. "Relena usually lets someone know she's interested, and she's really picky about her women. She had a crush on Doro-chan for the longest time, but it faded."
"Oh, it's really all right," she said softly, stirring her angel hair pasta leisurely while keeping her eyes on the bread sticks. "It's just, nobody has done something so outrageous like that after they find out I have a son." Her eyes twitched to Solo, who was too busy wrestling with his pizza to notice. With a sad smile, she said, "It was a nice change of pace."
There was an uncomfortable, stale hesitation lingering in the air as Heero merely frowned at the odd statement, yet saying nothing to encourage further discussion. Chitchat would have gone on as planned if it wasn't for a small detail in the form of a young child with reddish hair and strange, forked eyebrows dragging her equally amused blonde aristocratic father toward the familiar figure they knew as Duo Maxwell.
Duo jumped in his seat, all of a sudden becoming a bit paranoid as his violet eyes flew to the child, than to the child's father, and then to search out another, although luckily absent figure. With a sigh of relief, Duo smiled at the child and her father.
"Hey, Mariemaia-chan. Khushrenada-san." He nodded toward both, though nervousness entered those amethyst orbs again. "Lady Anne isn't here?..."
"Nor is Une, Duo," chortled the man only known as Khushrenada. He was a very tall, wealthy-looking man, set blue eyes and mild mannerisms his best known features other than the strange forked eyebrows that his daughter seemed to inherit that decorated his brow. "It's good to see you again. You seem to keep..." Those blue eyes landed on Heero and he smiled slyly, "better company these days."
"You mean Mark?" Duo asked softly, a sad smile on his face. "Ah, well. You know I was never interested in him."
"Oh, of course."
"Duo? You know this man?" Hilde asked politely, finding the perfect place to interrupt.
"Yeah, I do. I kind a' worked here until I had to turn in my resignation." Duo flushed pink, turning his eyes downcast. "This is the owner of the restaurant, Mr. Trieze Khushrenada and his daughter Mariemaia. Lady Anne is Trieze's wife, for clarification."
"`Had'? When did you turn it in, and why?" Helen asked softly, confused. Duo rarely ever gave up on something unless something prevented him from doing his work at his best.
"Oh, well..." Duo shrugged, fidgeting with his braid. "Lady Anne doesn't like me all too much. She can't stand being in the same room with me, in fact. It's not that I did anything in particular to piss her off, it's just that Une has a thing for young men with long hair. Usually what or who Une likes, Anne won't stand for."
"And Une is?..."
"My poor wife's multiple personality," Trieze put in, placing a hand on top of his daughter's head. "Duo decided in order to keep trouble from brewing, he'd turn in his resignation. I declined it. I fired him instead."
Everyone but Duo (even Solo; even HE knew what this meant) blinked. "What?!"
"Relax!" Duo laughed. "He insisted that this way, I can draw money from him for six weeks as law. He believed it would have given me long enough to find another job." Fondly hugging the little girl, he added, "I tried to refuse, but Trieze is too persistent for my own good."
"It's the least I can do for the trouble my wife's other caused you," the older man replied smoothly. "If it weren't for her come ons whenever she visited the restaurant, you would have never been put in such an uncomfortable situation. The cooks in back and some of your regulars are still complaining over your recent situation, Duo."
Heero nodded. "I see," when he really didn't. Duo could tell from the curiosity lingering under his smoldering Prussian eyes.
"Tell them to expect to see me soon," Duo grinned cheekily, holding up a victory sign. "I got my biggest break yet!"
"Oh, Duo-kun," Mariemaia bubbled happily, "you'll come by and show us, won't you? I'm sure Momma won't mind!"
"Sure thing, Marie-chan!"
Trieze nodded at the assembled group. "We need to be going. It was a pleasure meeting you again, Duo, and it's nice to see that your tastes are improving." He grinned unruly as he eyed Heero. "I do believe Anne is a truly big fan of yours, Mr. Yuy."
"Send her my best wishes," Heero replied automatically, still smarting over the unfairness of Duo's condition with the woman. Deciding it was all for the best, he nodded his farewell.
"You're curious, aren't you?"
Heero didn't hesitate in nodding. They were walking toward the nearest mall, deciding to take a slower pace than the three in the limo. The night air, despite being in the city, was cool and crisp, and the sky was cloudless. He could just imagine the individual twinkling stars in the sky as it had been near Kyoto ten years ago, spending the summer with his elderly grandfather at the lonely shrine...
"Let's just say that were it not for her accident when she was fourteen, Hilde would be very interested in Ms. Peacecraft's offers."
The Japanese boy paused in mid-step, but kept his pace after the slight stagger. "I don't understand. Solo--"
"Is the result of the accident," Duo interrupted quickly, sucking in his breath and looking dispirited. "Aunt Helen has been sick for a very long time. Before I came to live with them, Hilde had gone out one night to go grocery shopping. She hadn't the time during the day, and she thought it wouldn't be too bad at night."
Heero's eyes widen. The family lived a terrible neighbor, a violent part of the city. Going out at night and coming through a place as such was bound to have horrendous results... "She... Oh, Kami-sama..."
"Yes... We don't usually talk about it, and I don't like letting people know. But I just wanted you to relay the story to Ms. Peacecraft. I don't want Hilde hurt, especially if she decides she likes Relena. Heero, promise me..."
"I'll tell Relena. I promise." Heero took Duo's hand and squeezed in comfort, seeing the distress deep in his violet orbs. "Don't worry, koibito. Relena will treat Hilde like a princess if she ever decided she's interested. She'll be nothing if not courteous and caring. I know Relena." Almost distantly, he added, "Everything will be fine."
Duo laughed meekly, leaning against Heero's shoulder. "Koibito?" came his humored inquiry.
"Aa. Sou ka." Grinning widely, his mourning for his cousin not forgotten, but shuffled in the back of his mind, he snuggled into the Japanese boy's arm, breathing in the scent of a personal smell and a sweet whiff of cologne.
Yes. Everything would be fine...
To be continued...
I don't know if that `law' thing is still law anymore (it was down here some years ago, I think). But if it isn't, it is in the story.
I posted this on Thursday. I KNOW I did. But it didn't show up, and I didn't bother to check... *growls* I blame it all on Yahoo...
Relena- an excuse to make her nice in at least ONE of my fics. Since Duo isn't around to NAG ME about it, that is... *grins*
Hilde- yes, she was raped at an early age. *shrivels* Sorry, sorry! I'm just trying to have some background romance and stuff. I thought it was a pretty good idea at the time...
Forgive me for any misspellings and mispronunciations. Also, if a Japanese
word is used or spelled wrong, I'm truly very sorry. And SORRY for making
the chapter so damn short! ^.^; I wanted to get it out as soon as I could,
so... *shrug* Thank you for reading, and C&C very welcome!