Author: Merula
1x2x1. AU.

Californication + Part 5

Duo parked the car in the studio lot and turned to look at Heero. "Ready?"

"Guess so." He smiled. "I feel like a prisoner being taken to the execution- at least my last meal was good."

Duo laughed as they got out of the car, slinging his briefcase over his shoulder.

"It won't be so bad. Just do what you did yesterday." Heero blinked at him.

"Throw a temper tantrum?"

"That was not a temper tantrum. You didn't throw anything, insult anyone's sexual practices, nor did you threaten legal action..." Duo took in Heero's expression of disbelief. "Yes, people really do that."

"So that's why no one took me seriously when I walked out. Thanks for the tips."

Duo shook his head. "Why do I feel I'm going to regret telling you that?"

They entered the building, Duo waving at Hilde who made a little running gesture with her fingers.

"We're late," Duo rolled his eyes.

"Is that what that means?"

"Yep. Hilde and I have a code." Duo laughed. "When I first moved out here, she took me under her wing and showed me the ropes." Heero looked back over his shoulder at the petite dark haired woman.

For some inexplicable reason- he was jealous.

Stupid. He'd only known Duo for a day, really... true, they had talked a lot- and done other things- but really... tomorrow he'd go back home and it'd all be over.

He didn't like the sound of that.

"You okay?" Duo asked as he hit the button for the elevator.

"Huh?"

"You got a weird look... are you okay? I don't think Tro's going to show any clips today..."

"I'm fine." Heero summoned up a smile. "So, where did you live before here?"

"Washington," Duo answered as the elevator doors slid open and they got on. "That would be the state- not DC."

"The one that has Seattle." Heero smiled. "I've been there on a book tour. They had some lovely hotel rooms- and some nice bookstores."

"You didn't see anything else?"

"I usually don't. I go from airport to hotel to bookstore to hotel to airport."

"Next time you should get out and look around." Duo smiled. "I lived on the Sound up there. Really lovely area."

"It rained while I was there. They said that happened all the time."

"It does- but I like the rain. It's one of the things I miss out here." Duo's smile vanished. "I haven't been back there in a long time."

"Your family isn't up there still?"

"I don't have one."

"Oh..." Heero groped for words. "I'm sorry..."

"It's okay." Duo's smile returned, reassuring. "I don't remember them well anyway."

The doors slid open and they headed for Winner's office.

Quatre again greeted him with a smile and a handshake, and Heero wondered if he was just supposed to pretend yesterday had never happened. This time Winner led them into a smaller room where Trowa and Zechs were already sitting at a table covered with sheets of paper.

"I hope you slept well- your hotel was comfortable and all that?" Winner asked and Heero nodded.

"Well enough, thanks." He took the seat Winner had indicated next to Trowa. Duo moved around the other side of the table and sat next to Zechs.

"And I hope Duo's been a good tour guide? Did you stop for lunch?"

"Oh yes," Heero smiled. "We went to someplace called In-n-Out."

Quatre's eyes widened and he looked at Duo. "You took him to In-n-Out?!" He sounded upset.

Oops, thought Heero. He hadn't meant to get Duo into trouble. He opened his mouth to protest that he'd wanted a hamburger, but Quatre wasn't finished.

"And you didn't bring me anything? You know I love their shakes!" Heero closed his mouth, surprised.

"Quatre, you have how many people working for you that could run out and get you one?" Duo laughed.

"Yeah, but you were there!"

Trowa nudged Heero with an elbow. "You did get it with grilled onions right?"

"Yes."

Trowa sighed. "I'm so there after this is over."

"And I'm going with you." Quatre added as he finally sat down.

Zechs shook his head. "I wasn't hungry when I came in here. Can we please get started?"

Quatre sighed. "Fine. Heero- I know you said yesterday that you didn't feel that people would want to see your movies. We had Duo write a script, and I think if you'd look through it..."

"I read it," Heero interrupted. "This morning."

Quatre's eyebrows shot up and he looked at Duo. Duo reached into his briefcase and brought out the script. "We were talking about it in the car this morning and he asked to see it. He's a fast reader."

"What did you think of it?" Quatre asked. "It's really still a rough draft, and of course, we can change anything you like. Even screenwriters," he gave Duo a faintly apologetic glance. "If you don't think Duo's style works with your vision. Duo usually just does a treatment, but we wanted to really show you what we could do..."



Heero wondered if he should interrupt Quatre again, or just let him go on.

"Duo has a good grasp of storylines," Zechs was the one who interrupted. "I've done several movies with his scripts, and lots of them had last minute rewrites and all that stuff depending on budget and the actors..." He laughed. "Duo is an excellent screenwriter. Writing screenplays is very different from writing novels. It's a whole separate skill..."

Heero watched Duo turn a light pink color as Zechs spoke, noticed the side smile the director gave the scriptwriter.

That jealous feeling rose up again, and Heero tried again to squash it.

Quatre leaped back in. "A lot of authors get upset- they feel that they should be the ones to write the script, but really, we can't have everything in a movie, right? At the very least if you aren't happy with the script, I suggest going over it with Duo or one of our other writers..."

Ah, at least he could get them off this point. "I wouldn't want to write the script even if I was interested in doing the movie. I also understand that you can't put everything into the movie and that things have to be changed. That's understandable."



Duo's eyes were focused on the script in front of him, his fingers playing with the edges. Why was he looking so worried?

"Well... that's good." Quatre said. "We usually have to spend some time convincing authors about that aspect. So, since you read the script- what did you think about it?"

Heero noticed Duo slide down a little in his chair. Was he expecting Heero to blast the script despite what he'd said before?

"It is very well done. I am very impressed with it." Duo looked up and blinked at him, his cheekbones turning dark red.

The other three simply looked at him, surprised.

"You liked it?" Zechs asked when Quatre couldn't seem to find his voice. "What changes would you make?"

"None. I like it just as it is. He is obviously very familiar with my story and I felt the screenplay reflected that."

Quatre and Zechs blinked at each other. Trowa chuckled. "Looks like I'm going to get to In-n-Out sooner than I thought." Heero turned to look at him. "Usually the script debate takes hours. Would you like to see the storyboards we have for the movie? Or maybe some more of the character designs?"

Maybe Duo hadn't been exaggerating about the other writers.

"Does it usually take hours?"

"Oh sure," Trowa shrugged. "Usually things get thrown. Like the script."

"At Duo," Zechs laughed. "Or more accurately, the treatment gets balled up and tossed at him." He gave Duo's braid a gentle yank. "Did you put something in Mr. Yuy's double-double?"

"He read part of the script before we got to In-n-Out." Duo protested pulling his braid out of Zechs' grip.

"Still, you must have done something to the man..." Zechs laughed at him and Duo made a face back. Heero didn't bother to try and squash the jealousy that time.

"Gentlemen, please," Quatre protested, finding his voice at last. "So, you liked the script. You said yesterday that the piece you saw was dead on. Won't you give us a chance to make the movie?"

Heero looked down at the table, frowning.

He still didn't think it was a good idea.

But Duo's script was good. Wouldn't it be a shame if no one else saw how good it was?

"If I could jump in here?" Zechs said with a smile. "Allow me to show you what Trowa and I have for you to look at." He slid a stack of papers over.

"We did some computer modeling, went out and looked at sites, took some pictures." Trowa explained as Zechs laid the pictures out on the table.

"This is how I see this story," Zechs started, his voice dropping. "We start in a light place... Mary's home. She's happy in her life, everything seems well- except for some dark hints... a photo face down on her mantle, avoiding the topic of her family with her boyfriend's parents... and then the phone call in the middle of the night- the darkness begins to creep in. We cut down on the lighting, things start to look darker..."

Heero listened as Zechs tapped pictures, explained how he saw the story unfolding, and again, felt caught. Here was his story, transmuted by Duo, and now having life breathed into it by the director...

"And then the basement..." Zechs pulled out a picture and Heero gasped out loud.

The broken stairs... the damp walls....

All four men looked at him concerned. Heero didn't notice. "Where... where is this?" It can't be his house...it burned... it's gone...

"It's an old set that we added stuff to," Trowa told him. "Did we get it right?"

Heero nodded, pushing the picture to the side. Zechs resumed his spiel, and Heero tried to focus on it, shoving his memories back down into place.

It's over. He's gone...

He focused on the pictures, the sound of Zechs' voice, aware that Duo was watching him with concern. There was another picture of a lake, the work of Trowa's special effects team, that he had to bite the inside of his cheek over, but he managed to keep any sound from escaping.

"And the ending shot... the sun coming up... light flooding the screen..."

Zechs' voice stopped. "So," he said, when Heero glanced up at him. "What do you think? Are we close to what you saw?"

"Scarily so," Heero said before he could think.

"I'm glad you think so," Trowa did sound pleased. "I love your books. I think I went a bit over on the pictures, but this is how I saw those things. You're a very visual writer."

"So, Mr. Yuy, what do you think? You like the script, you like what we have planned. We have a budget, a leading lady... all we need is your approval..." Quatre pushed.

Heero sighed- they had done so much. He caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. Duo had leaned forward slightly, and put his hand on Zechs' wrist, either restraining him, or... holding on while they waited for Heero's judgment. It was only one movie. Why was it so important to them?

"If I say yes, what does that entail?" He asked.

Quatre brightened. Zechs and Trowa leaned forward and Duo gave him an incredulous look, his hand slipping away from Zechs' wrist.

"All you have to do is sign the contract. You have a script approval clause, and any script changes we do have to be run by you. Casting and the rest is done by us- you met our 'Mary' yesterday. We want you to maybe do a few interviews about the movie, say good things..."

"As long as you like it of course," Trowa interjected and Quatre glared at him. "There's nothing in the contract that says you have to."

"That would be a tough thing to put in a contract." Heero agreed.

"We'd want you to come out here for the premiere- maybe we'll have a big one on the East Coast too. Again, that's not in your contract- we'd just like your support. That's it really." Quatre finished up.

"Dorothy said you have a contract already?"

"Yes."

"Excellent. Does she have a copy?"

"I faxed her one this morning."

"If you'll give me a moment to call her?" Heero got to his feet.

"Of course."

Heero left the small room and stood out in the hallway for a moment. He thought he heard a muffed 'YES!' on the other side of the door, but he couldn't be sure.

Dorothy answered on the first ring.

"You didn't leave the meeting again!" She demanded.

"I'm in the meeting right now. Do you have a copy of the contract they sent you this morning?"

There was dead silence on the other end for a moment.

"Heero darling... you aren't going to ask me to burn it or rip it up and send it back to them are you?"

"I was thinking about signing it, if you and your legal person have looked it over..." Heero rolled his eyes. His legal advisor was Dorothy's lover. He wondered sometimes about it being a conflict of interest, but Une usually took his side when push came to shove.

"She did. She says it looks good. Do you want to talk to her?" Before he could say yes, Une was on the line.

"Heero?" Une's voice sounded amused. "What have they done to you out there? Are you seriously considering it?"

"They put a hell of a lot of effort into it..." Heero said, and Une chuckled at him.

"Meaning it's not going to be crappy. All the better. The contract looks good. It's only for one movie, though there was something about wanting to option a few more of the other books."

"Did they say which ones?"

"All the King's Horses, and Cockle Shells. That doesn't mean they are going to do anything, just that they have the option to if they want- and you have script approval on those already."

"That's fine."

She laughed. "Then you have my approval and Dorothy's. She's salivating over here by the way. You do realize how much money is involved here, right? Not that you need more."

"I do. Maybe Sally needs something." Une laughed.

"The last time I talked to your stepsister the only thing she wanted was to see you. Your next vacation needs to be a trip to see her."

"I know, I know. Thanks Une. Tell Dorothy that I'll call her later." Heero closed the phone and took a deep breath.

The four men were talking excitedly around the table, pushing stuff at each other. They really were excited about this.

Quatre turned to look at him. "What did she say?"

Heero smiled. "She told me it looked good. My lawyer looked at it too, so it's all set. Did you want me to sign today?"

Quatre moved immediately to the door, yelling for someone named Rashid to find the contract.

Trowa smiled at Heero. "Thank you. I've been hoping you'd say yes."

Heero smiled back. "Your designs are too good to waste. I think I see Quatre's strategy. It's guilt, right? I'd feel bad you all put this effort into something that wasn't going to happen."

Duo made a faint noise. Heero looked at him, but Zechs already had a hand on his shoulder. "You okay Duo? You ordered your burger animal style didn't you? Not sitting well?"

"No, I'm fine," Duo answered Zechs with a faint smile.

"Oh good- because my party is tonight, in case you forgot."

"What's the occasion this time Zechs?" Trowa leaned back in his chair. "Let me guess- it's Saturday!" Zechs lifted an elegant eyebrow.

"Are you saying I throw a lot of parties Barton?"

Trowa mimicked Zechs' expression. "Is the 405 a parking lot?"

Duo rolled his eyes at Heero.

"You should come too, Mr. Yuy. We could spend some time eyeing the crowd and trying to find Relena's costar." Zechs smiled.

Heero shook his head. "Her costar ends up dead... that's not the best of roles..."

"Ah, but he dies saving the girl. That's terribly romantic." Zechs informed him. "So, you should come too. Duo can bring you- right?" He looked at the screenwriter.

"Sure thing." Duo nodded. "Then I'd have someone good to talk to for a change."

"Just what are you implying?"

Quatre reappeared with a sheaf of papers. "Here's the one we sent." He placed it on the table and Heero bent over it, checking for the details Une and Dorothy had mentioned, looking at the details.

Quatre talked the entire time, pointing more things out, making sure Heero saw all the points that were in his favor. When Heero got to the last page, he signed and dated it, then Quatre's assistant dashed off to make him a copy.

Quatre shook his hand and Heero was surprised by the strength of his grip. "Thank you so much Mr. Yuy. I hope we won't disappoint you. I need to go talk to the publicists..."

"I invited him to my party tonight," Zechs informed him, and Quatre looked relieved.

"Terrific! We can talk some more there!" The copy came back and he handed it to Heero. "Thank you! We'll talk tonight. Trowa?" And he vanished out the door again.

Trowa rose up from his seat and clasped Heero's hand. "Thank you, Mr. Yuy. I'll see you tonight. I've got to make sure Quatre doesn't scare the publicists again, and then he's taking me to get a burger." He grinned at the other two and left.

Zechs shook Heero's hand as well and left after making him promise that he would be there that evening.

Heero found himself alone with Duo. They stared at each other across the table for a moment. Heero searched for something to say.

"I feel like I've just been picked up by a tornado. That was fast."

Duo nodded. "Quatre likes to work that way. Shall we go?"

They left the office and headed for the elevators. Duo was unusually quiet and Heero couldn't think of anything to say.

They made it all the way out to the car, silence stretching between them. Heero thought it was almost physically painful. He was wondering if he should offer to go to a hotel, now that the deal was over so to speak... Duo had said it was a separate thing- but maybe it wasn't. And he and Zechs had seemed pretty close...

Duo started the engine, turned on the air conditioning and looked at Heero.

"Why did you agree?" He asked softly. "I know you didn't want to make the movie."

"You... all of you had put so much effort into it. I just couldn't say no... I'm sure it was all planned, but Zechs and Trowa seemed so excited, and your script..."

"It wasn't planned- well, not like you're thinking," Duo seemed to relax a little. He put the car into gear and pulled out of the parking space. "The three of us worked together on a terrible horror picture- one of the first that the studio did- oh, about two years ago. It was my first job. The script sucked and they brought me in to do rewrites. I had to be on set every day. Zechs wasn't as famous back then, and Trowa was working on it with us too. We'd spend the breaks bitching to each other about how awful the premise of the movie was and how we'd all rather be doing one of yours. We were the ones that talked Quatre into it."

He laughed suddenly. "Well, actually Trowa was the one who talked Quatre into it- he made Quatre read your books. That's what did it."

"Ah, that it explains a bit."

"Yeah, not your normal movie pitch, I know." Duo nodded. "We've discovered the four of us work well together."

"It seemed like it." Heero agreed.

"Yeah, not your normal Hollywood types- though there will be plenty tonight at Zechs' party. Are you sure you want to go?"

"Will it be that bad? What's the occasion?"

Duo laughed. "Well, the food will be good, the entertainment will be the best, but the conversations—" he rolled his eyes. "I think it's his latest lover's birthday or she's got a new video or something... who knows? I'm sure it's on the invite. We'll check in case we're supposed to bring a present or something."

Well, there went his theory about Duo and Zechs. He wasn't sure if he should be as relieved as he felt. He was leaving tomorrow night.

The silence stretched out again, but this time it felt comfortable. Duo seemed to be thinking about something, there was a frown-line between his eyebrows that kept appearing and vanishing. Heero wondered what he was thinking about, but wasn't sure if he should ask.

They were getting close to Duo's home, when Duo spoke again. "That basement picture really spooked you..."

"Yes," Heero hid a shiver. Duo bit down on his lip.

"I'm sorry," he offered. "I... I'm just sitting here wondering about it. You looked so- upset- when you saw it. It worried me. I know how that sounds... and then I was thinking about your other books- and I realized there were a lot of basements- and bad things happen in them..." He looked over at Heero briefly. "And you should really tell me to shut up..."

Heero looked out the window. "I told you I lived with my uncle after my father and stepmother died?"

Duo nodded.

"He... had a basement like that. When I upset him, he'd lock me down there. One time he left me down there for several days..."

Duo swore softly as they pulled up into his driveway. "Heero... I... that's awful. Did you tell someone? I mean that's abuse..."

"I tried telling someone once." Heero's mouth felt dry. "My uncle caught me. I only got locked in the basement when he was upset with me. When he was mad at me, he did... other things."

"That's why you have nightmares?"

"That's why I have nightmares." Heero confirmed.

"Bastard," Duo hissed. "Where is he now?"

"He's dead." Heero closed his eyes for a moment. "He's been dead for a long time." He got out of the car. Duo followed him, closing the garage door behind them.

Once they were inside, Duo leaned against him. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry..." he said into the hollow of Heero's throat, his arms pulling Heero against him. "I didn't mean to stir up bad memories. I want you to only have good ones this weekend."

Heero opened his mouth willingly when Duo kissed him, sliding his arms around Duo's waist and pulling him closer.

They exchanged kisses for a long time, Duo's touch banishing Heero's memories back into the darkness, stirring his body and making him want more...

"Let's see," Duo gasped as Heero's tongue found his throat. "We've used the guest bed, the shower, the bathroom floor... can I be conventional and invite you to my bed?"

"Will we make it there?" Heero asked as Duo tugged him down the hallway, trying to yank of Heero's shirt as they went, his mouth on Heero's collarbone.

"We can try..." Duo gasped as Heero's hand touched a sensitive spot.

Bed reached, clothes discarded, Heero gave himself up into Duo's touch, everything else forgotten.

Duo's mouth was tracing his spine. He'd flipped Heero over on his stomach and had started kissing his way downwards. Heero hadn't thought this entirely fair as he couldn't touch Duo, but on the other hand, simply letting Duo do what he liked was pretty damn good.

"Under the pillow," Duo slid upwards, letting his body caress Heero's as he moved. Heero stuck his hand under the pillow and found the small disc and tube.

"Always prepared?" He teased. Duo's teeth nipped his shoulder as he reached for the items.

"I put them there this morning..."

"So you were planning the bed thing..."

"I'm planning quite a few things. Hope your stamina's good." Duo's hand slid downwards. Heero gasped as Duo's fingers caressed him intimately. "Good..." Duo breathed into Heero's ear. "That's it, relax..." He kept whispering encouragements and compliments into Heero's ear. Heero couldn't focus on the exact words; he just gave himself over to Duo. His touch, his voice...

Afterwards he lay sweat-soaked, fighting sleep as Duo curled up against his back. "You okay?" Duo asked, letting his lips touch the back of Heero's ear.

"Better than okay," Heero managed and yawned. "You?"

"Oh yes..." Duo snuggled closer. "You'd better hide your plane tickets from me. I might not want to let you go." He kissed the back of Heero's neck and his breathing evened out.

Heero thought that didn't sound so bad. He closed his eyes, curled up tight in Duo's arms, and fell asleep.

[part 4] [part 6] [back to Merula's fic]