Author: Mel and Christy,
Category: AU, Drama, Romance
Pairings: 5x2, 1xR, 3x4
Warnings: Yaoi, language, angst
Disclaimer: The characters and settings of Gundam Wing are not ours. We
lay claim to the Assinks and other original characters, though! Even the
ones we'd rather give away... Take Justine Gilmore. Please.
Feedback: Oh, go on! You know you want to!
minor scene change (from person to person at the same place, etc): ----------
major scene change (at another place, some time later, etc): * * * * *
flashback or dream starting or ending: ~*~*~*~
thoughts (and the occasional sound effect): *Tadah!*
some more sound effects (little ones!): -tadah!-
electronics (phone, TV, intercom etc): <<Tadah!>>
+ Chapter 19
As Relena and Heero came down
the steps outside the courthouse, Karl slightly behind and to one side,
the waiting reporters surged up towards them, microphones and cameras
at the ready.
"Minister Peacecraft!" one called, shifting agilely to the side and matching
their pace downwards, following without obstructing them. "Would you care
to make any statement about today's verdict?"
"Certainly," Relena smiled. It was difficult to keep the smile from expanding
into a vicious smirk when she thought about how the hearing had gone;
she concentrated instead on how polite all the reporters were being, waiting
for her to answer the first question before cutting in with their own.
Losing my temper with them really did pay off; I'll have to keep that
tactic in mind for future use. Better not overdo it, though... "I'm
delighted to report that the court has dismissed Ms Reynard's accusations
of wrongful dismissal and defamation of character. Judge Abrams ruled
that I was perfectly within my rights to fire her, and any damage to her
character resulted from publicity she sought out."
"Are you going to reveal exactly why Ms Reynard was fired?"
"No, I am not," Relena said firmly, shaking her head. "Ms Reynard was
dismissed for a breach of trust, the details of which are to remain private.
That's why I requested a closed hearing. I can tell you, however, that
I will be counter-suing for damages on behalf of a person, a very good
friend of mine, who was harmed by the actions for which Ms Reynard lost
her job. That will also be a closed hearing, so I'm afraid you're not
going to get much concrete information out of this, sorry."
"But Minister, why won't you reveal any details?"
"As I said, it's a private matter. I can assure you that it has no political
ramifications; it is nothing to do with my position as Vice- Foreign Minister;
the person on whose behalf I am counter suing has no political connections,
and until now has been unaware of my intentions. I'm sure they'll find
out soon," she added dryly, gesturing to one of the cameras, and the reporters
laughed. "Since this matter has nothing to do with my public position,
I have no legal requirement or moral duty to give out any more information
than I already have. In fact, I can't -- since it was a closed
hearing, if I were to give you any more information, I could be arrested
for contempt of court!"
"Well, we wouldn't want that," one of the reporters said, grinning, and
there was a chorus of amused agreement. One young man pushed forward,
lifting a hand, and Relena nodded.
"Just one more question, ladies and gentlemen, and then I really must
"Minister Peacecraft, I know this is a bit of a stretch," the young reporter
said, "but your dismissal of your secretary happened only a couple of
days before Winner Enterprises, a company which we all know is headed
by a close personal friend of yours, severed their contract with Elite
Secretarial Services and initiated legal proceedings against them for
breach of their previous contract, fraudulent dealings, and criminal
negligence. Is there any connection between these cases?"
A small, Mona Lisa smile curled Relena's lips. "I... really can't comment
on that," she said demurely.
"That sounded a lot more like a yes than a no to me," the reporter said
"As I said, I really can't comment. Now, if you'll excuse me?"
"Just one more question, if I may?" another reporter called after her
as Karl was opening the door of her car. "Have you and Mr Yui set the
Oh yes. As soon as Duo is able and willing to attend... "Not really,"
she laughed, glancing back. "We can't agree! As soon as we work it out,
though, you'll be among the first people to know."
* * * * *
"You're sure this is legal?"
"For us, yes," Wufei assured Duo, biting back a chuckle as he saw the
other boy eyeing his new insignia-less Preventers jacket dubiously. "For
anyone else, it would depend on what they used it for and whether or not
they said they were a genuine Preventers agent... and if Lady Une decided
to make an example of them, it wouldn't matter if they just wanted to
wear it for Halloween. Since when do you worry about the legalities of
"Since I ended up on Lady Une's side and decided I don't want to piss
her off," Duo said in heartfelt tones.
"Duo, if this sort of thing was going to piss her off, she wouldn't have
put you in touch with Gilmore's sister. It's the same sort of thing, a
grey area in the regulations, not precisely approved but not specifically
illegal. Besides, Barents' wouldn't have let us buy it if it was illegal."
"You mean 'shouldn't have let us', 'Fei. There are all sorts of
things we shouldn't have been allowed to buy during the war, because they
were sure as hell illegal, immoral, and sometimes even fattening, but
we still got them," Duo pointed out dryly, hanging the jacket in the closet
and closing the door.
"Exactly. That was during the war," Wufei countered. "Dealing on the black
market for explosives and ammunition at a ridiculous markup is a bit
different from buying an off-the-rack uniform jacket from a stodgily respectable
family business. A business, I might add, that got the contract for the
Preventers' uniforms because they are so stodgily respectable,
and have to account for each one of their sales if they want to keep that
contract. Don't worry, Duo. If something goes wrong, we'll just
tell Une the truth."
"And that is...?"
"It was all my idea. The shock of having me take responsibility for something
unorthodox should distract her from whatever punishment she would otherwise
have imposed," he said, smirking.
"True," Duo admitted, a brilliant grin breaking through his worried expression
immediately. "That's a good distraction-- hold on, are you sure
she's worked with you for long enough to know your orthodox habits properly?
Otherwise it won't have the proper impact."
Wufei snorted. "She's observant. She knows."
"It's a good thing she didn't work it out during the war, then, or she
would have been able to predict your behaviour better and might have caught
you. Of course, you are the person who once stabbed his own Gundam
with its main weapon and used the resulting explosion to get away. Maybe
that fooled her."
"Yes, I have to admit that mechanical hara-kiri is hardly an orthodox
tactic," Wufei murmured blandly, a faint smirk tugging at the corners
of his mouth. "On the other hand, it was a successful tactic, which
is what I wanted at the time."
"There was method in your madness, in other words."
"So how come you never let me use that excuse when I did something
that seemed crazy, yet worked? Hmmm?"
"Because my 'madness' never involved glitter, aerosol cheese, rubber cockroaches,
or insane amounts of jello."
"...You have a point there. You're a spoilsport, but you have a point."
"I thought I did. Now let's go start dinner! I'm hungry, and if you aren't,
you should be."
Dinner eaten and dishes done, Wufei walked out into the living room to
switch on the TV while Duo made coffee. The news was on, and a familiar
voice brought him up short as he turned to go back and help carry the
< < --statement about today's verdict? > >
< < Certainly. I'm delighted to report that the court has dismissed
Ms Reynard's accusations of wrongful dismissal and defamation of character...
"Duo?" he called, eyes fixed on the screen. "You might want to see this."
"What?" Quick footsteps pattered up behind him. "Is it something about
the Preven-- oh."
< < ...I will be counter suing for damages on behalf of a person,
a very good friend of mine, who was harmed by the actions for which Ms
Reynard lost her job... > >
Wufei risked a glance back at Duo and saw him swallowing hard, eyes wide.
Okay, that's... not exactly a happy expression, certainly, but
it's not angry or upset either. More like... shocked?
Well, that's hardly a surprise. Great. I am going to have words with Relena
and Heero for not warning us about this beforehand. And if Duo ends up
taking it badly, it's going to be more than words!
They watched the rest of the news item in silence. Duo's face was blank
when Wufei looked at him again, withdrawn and almost cold, and the Chinese
Preventer winced inwardly. Lots of words. Starting with 'sha zi' and
going downhill from there, I think! Duo's been willing to come out of
his shell around other people for less than a month, damn it, and now
it looks like he's going back in even around just me, thanks to those
< < Have you and Mr Yui set the date yet? > >
< < Not really. We can't agree! As soon as we work it out, though,
you'll be among the first people to know. > >
There was a soft, choked sound, and Duo spun and walked out.
"Duo?!" Wufei was on his heels before it occurred to him that perhaps
following Duo might not be the best idea. I don't want to push-- I
keep telling myself I can't push-- but what if he needs me?
A spoon clattered noisily as Duo dumped sugar into a cup, movements jerky
and hurried. "I don't see what the heck she's waiting for," he said roughly,
face hidden behind his bangs. "I mean, they've got everything they want,
they've got everything they need, it's not like they need to wait for
anything else before they get married."
...I really hope telling him this is a good idea. "Actually,"
Wufei said carefully, "there's one last thing they're waiting for."
"Oh? Like what?" Duo snapped.
"Come here." Wufei reached out and tugged Duo away from the bench, pulling
him into his arms. Serious words. Serious, possibly unprintable
words, for making me have to bring this up before I'm sure Duo's ready
to hear it. He was okay with Relena when she stayed here, but he's nowhere
near comfortable even thinking about Heero, and he still shies
away from discussing what happened when he was out of touch... "Do
you know why we came looking for you when we did?" he said softly, rubbing
gently at Duo's back. "I don't think I told you, but did Relena talk to
you about it when she was here?"
"No." Duo shifted, and Wufei felt a rush of relief when he settled his
head more comfortably in the hollow of Wufei's shoulder instead of pulling
away. "She didn't."
"Well... I thought you were keeping in touch with Relena and the others.
They thought you were keeping in touch with me." Deep breath. "We found
out we were wrong when Relena and Heero called me to ask for your contact
details, so they could invite you to be best man."
Duo stiffened, and Wufei felt his mouth move soundlessly several times
before he spoke, almost inaudible. "They wanted me... to...?"
"They still do." When-- if-- your relationship with them gets back
to something like what it was before.
...They might be in for a long engagement, then.
"But-- but why?!" Duo burst out, one hand coming up to punch half-
heartedly at Wufei's shoulder. "Why would they think I was only talking
to you? For eight months!" His breath choked on an angry sob, and he hit
Wufei again, other hand knotted in Wufei's shirt and holding him close.
"Eight fucking months!"
"I guess they weren't thinking," Wufei said quietly, grateful that
Duo was hitting his left shoulder instead of his right. Not that he would
have stopped him if he had been hitting the still-sore one; this was the
most emotion Duo had allowed himself to show on the subject of his 'abandonment'
since the night he'd broken down crying. And that was self-hate and
guilt. This is at least half anger. Much better.
"So Quatre and Trowa thought I was having fun and would call if I needed
them," Duo went on in a tight voice. "They didn't know I was trying to,
and they were busy, but still--" Another sob, another thump on Wufei's
shoulder. "So Relena was busy too, with all that government and Preventers
crap, and it was her secretary's fault, but- - but-- oh, shit!"
The sudden switch from angry to panicked made Wufei jump as Duo's head
jerked up, eyes wide. "What? What's wrong?"
"She's suing her secretary for me!" Duo's voice scaled up towards
soprano. "Oh, shit! 'Fei, we gotta stop her!"
"But she's suing her!"
"Yes, she is. And?" Wufei chuckled darkly. "The only problem I have with
that idea is that it's not going to be nearly as painful as that onna
deserves. My preferred retribution would involve a locked room, me, and
my second-best sword, but unfortunately that isn't sanctioned by modern
"Heero would probably prefer to use a gun," Wufei went on thoughtfully,
watching Duo flounder between shock and laughter. "Trowa would like knives
-- again, not legal, so unfortunately that's not going to happen. Considering
what Quatre is planning to do to Elite's owner, I'd say he'd agree with
Relena's actions, only he'd go further; I'll be very surprised if Taarnby
has a credit to his name after this is all over. Marie Reynard is lucky
that Relena is dealing with her; she might not end up living in squalor
and misery until the end of her days. Of course, she's likely to end up
without a shred of reputation left, and for someone like her that's probably
"But-- but-- damn it, 'Fei, I don't want people hurt because of me!"
"It's because of what they did to you, Duo, not because of you," Wufei
corrected him gently. "There's a rather important difference there. If
Taarnby wasn't an opportunistic, unprincipled bastard, and Reynard wasn't
a social-climbing bitch, you would have been able to get through when
you first decided to come home, and nothing would be happening to them."
"Or if the guys had wondered where I was," Duo said quietly, letting his
head drop back to Wufei's shoulder.
"Yeah," Wufei sighed, tightening his arms around Duo. "I can't tell you
why the others let you go uncontacted for eight months, because I don't
understand it myself. Maybe they can explain. What I do know is that all
of us would happily kill to take back what happened, but we can't, so--"
He swallowed. "So we have to settle for what we can do. Let Relena
sue Reynard, Duo."
"...all right. I guess."
* * * * *
"Coffee, Miss Relena? Mister Yui?"
"Yes please, Karl," Relena replied, flashing him a grateful smile as she
dropped her handbag on top of her desk and sank thankfully into her chair.
"It's been a long day, and I've still got that stupid cocktail party to
go to this evening. First things first, though; I'd better call Wufei
and Duo before--"
The vidphone rang just as she was reaching towards it, and she jumped.
Karl's still right here, so it hasn't been transferred in from his
desk, and there's only half a dozen people who have the number for my
private line -- and even they don't use it unless it's important!
Frowning slightly, she hit the 'accept' key.
< < Oh good, you're there, > > Quatre said, Trowa visible
behind him. < < I've been calling for the past fifteen minutes!
"Quatre? Is something wrong?" Out of the corner of her eye, Relena saw
Heero move into pickup range behind her, exchanging short nods with Trowa.
< < No, not at all, > > Quatre reassured her. < < I
was just surprised, that's all; we didn't know you were so close to finishing
up in court. I thought you were going to warn us before the verdict came
out, so we'd be prepared in case we were asked for comments. > >
Oh, damn. "I'm sorry," she apologised. "I didn't realise the reporters
would get to you this fast, though I suppose I should have expected that
they'd want something to fill out the broadcast with--"
< < Oh, they haven't. We saw you on TV. > >
It was Quatre's turn to be surprised. < < Yes... you were on the
six o'clock news. > >
"Oh no!" Relena almost wailed. "It was five to six when we came
out of the courthouse, I thought for sure they wouldn't air anything
until later tonight!"
< < Slow news day, > > Trowa shrugged, leaning back against
the wall panelling.
"I haven't told Wufei and Duo yet! I don't think Duo even knows Marie
was suing me, let alone that I'm planning to sue her!"
< < Oh. > > Quatre's eyes widened.
< < That could be a problem, > > Trowa pointed out calmly.
Relena was rapidly approaching a state of panic. "A problem? If Duo saw
the news and takes it badly, Wufei's going to kill me! Duo's barely
back to talking to us, who knows how he's going to react if he gets this
dumped on him with no warning?"
< < Maybe he'll see it as a good thing, > > Trowa offered.
< < Maybe he didn't see the news, > > Quatre said hopefully.
"Wufei never misses the news," Heero pointed out bluntly.
"Thank you, Heero," Relena growled, glaring at him over her shoulder.
"You're not helping."
* * * * *
"Don't worry about this now, Duo," Wufei said eventually, still rubbing
the braided teen's back. "You can talk to Relena about it later, if you
want to, but right now you've got tomorrow's interview to think about.
Have you worked out what sort of questions you need to ask Ms. Gilmore
"No..." a muffled voice said from somewhere around his collarbone.
"Well, why don't you go and have a shower, get relaxed and into something
comfortable, then sit down with a pen and paper and work out what you
want to ask?"
"I dunno, 'Fei," Duo said doubtfully, pulling back slightly. Wufei saw
with relief that he was looking more thoughtful than upset. "I mean, this
is a bit different from the questioning I've been doing so far. All the
others were Preventers, and I had authority from Lady Une; they had
to answer me, and I was only asking about the course anyway. This time
I've gotta think of a way to ask 'hey, was your brother raised wrong?'
without getting thrown out of this lady's office!"
"Considering the number of people you've talked into, out of, and around
weird situations in the past, I'm sure you'll do just fine," Wufei told
him. "Besides, this time your life isn't on the line."
"I guess I'll just keep telling myself that," Duo sighed, managing a shaky
grin. "Note to self: the scary lawyer lady can not shoot me. Gotcha."
Five minutes later, the phone rang.
"Hello? --oh. Hello, Relena."
< < Um. > > Relena smiled weakly out of the vidphone screen.
< < I, ah, gather that expression means that you saw the news? >
"What the hell did you think you were doing, not warning us?!" Wufei snapped,
leaning in towards the screen with his hands braced threateningly on the
table. "Duo only settled down a few minutes ago!"
< < I'm sorry, honestly! I didn't know it was going to be on before
this evening, I meant to call you first... uh, is Duo there? Is he all
Wufei nearly said 'No thanks to you,' but managed to keep that retort
mental rather than verbal. "I think so. You can talk to him later, he's
having a shower right now. In the future, would you mind letting us know
about things that might involve or upset Duo before they get to
a point where they're likely to make it into the mass media?"
Relena winced. < < I'll do that. Really, I'm sorry. > >
*Don't be sorry. Be careful!* "Right. I'll let him know you called." -
* * * * *
Relena let out a hissed breath and leaned back in her chair, rubbing her
"Relena?" Heero leaned around the doorjamb, one eyebrow raised, a mug
of coffee in each hand. "How did it go?"
"Duo's in the shower, and Wufei was... brusque," she admitted, holding
out one hand for her mug and relaxing with a sigh. "He only swore at me
once, though, and I still seem to have all my limbs, so I'd guess things
aren't too bad." She took a sip, relaxing a little more, and waved the
mug at Heero. "Remind me not to get into this situation again; I doubt
Wufei will be so forbearing twice."
"Given the way you reacted when you found out what had happened, I doubt
you'll need reminding," Heero smirked, leaning on the corner of her desk.
"Remind me anyway. I'm not taking any chances."
* * * * *
Taking a deep breath, Duo stepped up to the desk in the foyer of Enwright,
Andrews and Bauer, resisting the urge to straighten his new tie one more
time. Just remember, he told himself firmly, this is just like
running an infiltration during the war, except that the scary lawyer lady
can not shoot me.
"Good morning, sir, how can I help you?"
"Hi," he said, automatically turning on his best smile, the one that always
made people feel like he was one of their best friends, the slightly disreputable
one who had all the fun ideas. "My name's Duo Maxwell, I've got an appointment
to see Ms Gilmore."
"Certainly, Mister Maxwell," the middle-aged receptionist said, dimpling
at him. He noted, though, that her eyes still flicked down to check the
I.D. badge clipped to his pocket, comparing the photo with his face. "If
you'd just wait for a moment, Ms Gilmore's paralegal assistant will come
to show you through."
Duo was shivering inwardly, part of him expecting someone to pop out of
nowhere and declare him a fake, a worthless bum with no right to be standing
where he was, wearing what he was, doing what he was... Outwardly, though,
none of that showed. A shadow of the bold fašade that had carried him
through the war was operating, letting him lean on the receptionist's
desk and joke with her while he glanced around the lobby, noting well-concealed
cameras and the large-yet- unobtrusive security guard.
Money money money, he decided, spotting yet another almost-hidden
camera. Lots of money to spend, and a real concern about security...
they don't let visitors wander around alone... it wouldn't be easy to
break in here. Not that I plan to try, but anyway.
Justine Gilmore's assistant didn't keep him waiting for long, emerging
from one of the elevators with a polite plastic smile and a smooth apology
for the delay. There was a slight surprised lift to her eyebrows when
she saw him, changing to an expression of suppressed interest, and he
decided to gamble that she might actually be human underneath the mannequin-like
perfection of her makeup job.
"So," he asked, shooting her a sideways grin as they stood shoulder- to-shoulder
in the elevator, "should I be quaking in fear, or is Ms Gilmore not
an Ice Princess?"
That got him a startled look and then a real smile. "I'd say 'quake',"
she told him in a confidential voice, "if it weren't for the fact that
she goes for visible signs of weakness like a piranha. It's a courtroom
reflex, and I did not tell you that."
Oh shit oh shit oh shit. No. Remember, Duo, the scary lawyer lady can
not shoot you. "My lips are sealed. Hmm. Quake internally, while maintaining
a sober and businesslike expression, then?"
"That would be the best course of action, yes," she chuckled.
"Thanks for the advice."
"It's even free," she said, stepping forwards as the elevator doors opened,
"which is against best practice for a lawyer. Luckily for you, I don't
have my diploma yet."
He was left to kick his heels in a comfortable waiting area for five minutes,
watching several paralegals shuffle files around their desks (exactly
the same as the files in Preventers headquarters, he noted, except for
the fact that they were literally tied up with red tapes). Before he could
either convince himself to relax or work himself up into a nervous breakdown,
Ms Gilmore's assistant answered her intercom, stood up, and beckoned him
"Mister Maxwell? Ms Gilmore can see you now."
"Abandon all hope, ye who enter there," one of the other paralegals muttered
in a low voice he probably didn't intend to be heard, ducking his head.
"Into the valley of death," Ms Gilmore's assistant murmured in agreement,
Duo took another deep breath and blew out his cheeks, for one moment wholeheartedly
wishing that he'd never said 'yes' to Une's offer of work. Wufei thinks
I can do this. "Ave, Caesar," he muttered, stepping forwards. "Morituri
The scary lawyer lady can not shoot me. The scary lawyer lady can not
 "Ave, Caesar. Morituri te salutant" = "Hail, Caesar. We who are about
to die salute you." Said by gladiators in ancient Rome before the Games
began. Talk about violence in entertainment...
[chap 18] [chap 20] [back
to Mel and Christy's fic]