and Soldiers, II + Part 7
Duo and Heero both nodded, their hard 'mission faces' making them look much older.
"Let's move out," Milliardo ordered and they all climbed out of the car as one. The press of reporters gave back only slightly.
"Prince Peacecraft!" A reporter yelled over the loud cacophony, "We've all seen the vids! Is it true that Duo Maxwell is your lover? If so, then will you be splitting in light of his documented infidelity?"
Another shouted, "How do you respond to allegations that you are breaking laws by committing sexual acts with minors?"
Yet another, "Some say that you have compromised your sister, Relena Peacecraft, with your indiscretions. How do you respond to those allegations?"
Milliardo coolly replied, "I will be releasing a statement soon. There will be no comment before then. Good day."
Duo and Heero were suddenly there to run defense as Milliardo pushed his way through the crowd. Their reputations alone made men and women fall back from them, but the questions didn't stop.
"Duo Maxwell," one shouted, "Is it true that you were a prostitute on L2 before joining the Preventers and do you think this led to your problem with promiscuity?"
Duo looked stunned and then he scowled, but he didn't respond, only shoved that person away extra hard.
"Duo Maxwell," another shouted, "You were once an inmate at a correctional facility for military personnel. Some say that there should be an investigation as to why you were allowed to become a Preventer agent with such a past record. Any comments on that or the allegations that Prince Peacecraft secured your position for sexual favors?"
Duo went white. He almost opened his mouth to retort, but then he swallowed hard and continued walking.
Heero was not immune to questioning either, despite his stone like _expression and his killer's eyes.
"Heero Yuy! Is it true that you were also having relations with Duo Maxwell?"
"Heero Yuy, how do you respond to people who think that Duo Maxwell and yourself should be taken into custody and given legal guardians?"
"Mr. Yuy, will you confirm that you are having a relationship with both Milliardo Peacecraft and Duo Maxwell?"
They were moving through security then and going into the Preventer building, leaving their pursuers behind. Duo let out a shuddering breath. "I think my bones were picked clean back there."
"If that one man had touched you, I would have broken his arm," Heero seethed.
Duo shivered. "He asked about the detention center. That worries me more than the rest of it."
"Why?" Heero wondered as they entered the elevator.
"Because they may try to discredit me even more by insinuating that I have an underage criminal for a lover," Milliardo replied tersely.
Duo laughed, but it was harsh. "That's so much worse than all of us being killers hundreds of times over. I think they're going for the street trash angle. Milliardo's slumming in bed."
Milliardo reached out and gently ran a hand along Duo's arm in comfort. "You did very well out there. Both of you. Remember, they want you to react. They want to make you angry and afraid and they want it all on video."
Heero was still glaring angrily. "We were both given legal status after the war. They can't rescind that."
Duo ran a hand through his hair and seemed to see old, unpleasant memories. "Take it from me, Heero. They can do anything they want. I wouldn't worry about it, though. They'd be stupid not to realize that we wouldn't go meekly into a situation like that."
Milliardo frowned, a thought occurring to him that maybe it would benefit someone to have two ex Gundam pilots appear to go rogue against government orders. He didn't voice his concern though. Heero and Duo had done very well. He didn't want to compromise that by adding to their stress level. "Forget about them," he said, instead, "and let's get to work."
It was a relief to leave all his troubles outside his office door. Sinking down into his leather chair and booting his computer, Milliardo cherished the silence.
Milliardo's vid phone beeped. He checked the number and sighed. Only four people had direct access to his vidphone. He lived with two of them, one was Sally Po, and the last was his sister, Relena.
Milliardo had a brief urge to pretend that he wasn't available, but then he touched the accept button, knowing that it was inevitable that he would have to talk to the woman sooner or later.
"Relena," Milliardo greeted her with the false pleasantness of a courtier.
Relena wore her hair up in an intricate weave at the top of her head and she was wearing a white, silk shirt that clung like a second skin. A sky blue scarf was draped around her slim throat and it was bound to one shoulder by her badge of office. She looked cool and official, but her frown was more personal.
"Have you prepared an official statement?" Relena asked.
Milliardo quirked a pale eyebrow at her. "Won't you ask, first, whether the rumors are true or not, sister?"
Relena looked very uncomfortable. "You always did have a fascination for the Gundam pilots, Heero Yuy especially. "
Milliardo didn't interject, 'and so did you'. Relena wasn't playing 'concerned sister' she was playing scandalized official. "Heero Yuy is a friend of Duo Maxwell. He is staying at my home in that capacity."
Relena suddenly looked prime. "Milliardo, I've had both pilots researched thoroughly. What you do in privacy is you own affair, but when it is with two such individuals and certain rumors are put forth, I don't have any choice but to remind you of our positions and how delicate and very important they are."
Milliardo felt a headache take hold and he rubbed at his temple. "I am an honorable man, Relena. It is true that Duo Maxwell is my lover. The rumors that Heero Yuy is as well are false. The rumors that Duo Maxwell, coerced photos not withstanding, is carrying on with other men, is false as well. Our relationship is loving, solid, and likely to be lifelong. It is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I will make a statement to that effect. I will not deny it. I will not try and cover it up. I will denounce the people who have been seeking to smear my reputation."
"And mine," Relena added. "I don't think that I have to point out that you are being attacked to get to me?"
"No, but I won't stop living my life to save you embarrassment, sister," Milliardo grunted. "Now, if you'll excuse me. I have work...."
"I want Noin returned to me," Relena told him as if it were a different subject. Milliardo knew better.
Milliardo couldn't help snapping. "Are you afraid that I will be accused of having a 'foursome'?"
"Foursome?" Relena clearly didn't understand the inference at first, but then she blushed deeply. "She is my chief of security. She is my personal guard. I don't wish her to be-"
"Damned by association?" Milliardo felt angry now and he couldn't keep it from his voice. "I thought that we had grown beyond persecuting people for their sexual preferences? You should be publicly condemning these people, not reinforcing their accusations and hatred."
Relena looked incensed. "How dare you accuse me of such thinking!" She attempted to calm herself, taking a deep breath and then letting it out. She said more softly, " Milliardo, you are my brother. You have taken very young men into your home, men who were once killers, terrorists, inmates in a institution for violent soldiers, and former sexual companions themselves."
"And what am I?" Milliardo asked, looking down at his broad strong hands as if he could see the blood there from all the people that he had killed. "I murdered, and ordered to be murdered, thousands upon thousands of people, sister. I almost carried out a plan to destroy Earth. I... I am still young myself and only my position as your brother and Prince of the Sanq kingdom kept me from the same institution that treated Duo Maxwell so horribly. Your brother is not clean. Your brother is not beyond criticism. Maxwell and Yuy don't taint me or make me an embarrassment to you. I am very capable of being that all by myself. Now, if you'll excuse me, I do have important matters to attend to. I will release my statement to the press shortly."
She drew breath as if to keep on arguing and then her mouth looked as if she had eaten a lemon. She gave a small, curt nod, and then the screen went black.
Milliardo swore under his breath and leaned back in his chair. It creaked in the new silence. Rubbing at his forehead, he punched the intercom button. "Please bring me coffee and pills for a headache."
"Yes, sir," his secretary replied in a worried tone.
No matter what happened, Milliardo thought, no matter what he had to give up, he vowed to himself that Duo Maxwell would stay by his side. If Relena wanted a fight, or to publicly disown him as her brother, he was more than ready to accept the consequences.
Sally Po came into Milliardo's office carrying a cup of coffee and several pain pills. She put them on his desk and then sat down in a chair . "I always enjoy coming to work and finding that a circus has set up camp on the Preventer's doorstep."
Milliardo sighed. He took his pills and took several sips of coffee before answering. "I will be releasing my statement shortly. If you would like me to take a leave of absence until the 'circus' leaves town, I will understand."
Sally snorted in amusement. "Have you ever known me to back down from a fight?" Milliardo raised pale eyebrows and she continued, "I think you're the best thing to happen to my best agents and I'll fight tooth and nail to help you keep that relationship together."
"Even though we're all sleeping together?" Milliardo replied sourly. "Even though I'm a pedophile taking advantage of defenseless, orphan boys? Even though-"
Sally frowned. "Even though you have breakfast with aliens and channel Noventa to help Relena govern?" She shrugged. "The press always has a story to tell and most sane people know they don't have much truth to them."
"When it reaches the level of beginning formal inquiries, you might think differently," Milliardo said .
Sally wasn't stupid. She nodded her understanding. "They'll make the charge that Relena is covering for you, manipulating the authorities to keep you free and continuing your perverted ways."
"Page one, above the fold," Milliardo intoned. "Peacecraft corruption scandal reaches to highest levels of government. New government discredited and collapses under allegations and court challenges. News at six...."
"My, "Sally said with an impish smile. "You do think a lot of yourself."
Milliardo grunted and sipped at his coffee again. "I've always been Relena's Achilles heel. We both knew it was only a matter of time before someone used me against her."
"So," Sally prodded. "You must have a plan, then?"
Milliardo nodded. "She will disown me and throw me to the wolves. We both decided on that early on."
Milliardo frowned, "You find that amusing?"
"I'm not amused," Sally corrected him. "I'm heartened by your decision not to throw Duo and Heero to the wolves. I take back everything I've always thought about aristocrats."
Milliardo felt a soft smile touch his lips and he couldn't help telling her, feeling as if he needed to share the strong emotions within him with someone, "Now that Duo is with me... I don't want to know what it would be like to be alone again, to be without him. He's... He's become very special to me. As for Heero," Milliardo's smile turned amused. "He's Duo's best friend and, I think, he's becoming mine too. He is an extraordinary man."
"Amazing," Sally replied. "Before you fell in with Maxwell and Yuy, you were stiff and correct, a military idea. Now..." Her smile widened. "You're a living, breathing, man who happens to be a Preventer officer. That's a much better state of affairs."
Milliardo felt a blush. "I agree."
Sally became all business then. She sat up straighter and she was suddenly 'Head of Preventers'. "Usually, it's against the rules to allow couples to work together," she told him, "but I am not likely to find three more skilled people on Earth or in space."
"There are three more," Milliardo pointed out. "Quatre Winner, Trowa Barton, and Wu Fei."
Sally shrugged. "Trowa and Winner are inactive members and Wu Fei has always worked better as a lone operative. I can't use any of them for an operation of this level."
Milliardo considered his performance during their last mission together. He had been afraid for Duo, but he had made decisions that were sound despite that. Now that their relationship was so much closer, could he still make those important decisions? Milliardo thought that he could.
"Give me the details and I'll brief the men." Milliardo told Sally and saw her approving nod.
[part 6] [part 8] [back to Kracken's fic]