Author: Merula
1x2x1. AU.

Californication + Part 7

There are some cameos in this part, and I should mention that although Relena has been spared bashing in this fic, I do bash another Gundam girl, but she's not from the GW series... and I do slightly change the personality of another cameo character, but keep in mind, he's getting paid... and I suspect he's been tempted to use his fan more than once in the course of his job...

Duo grinned at him as they walked down the driveway to Zechs' home. "You look gorgeous."

Heero rolled his eyes back. "I can't believe you're making me wear a shirt like this."

"The invite said Hawaiian attire. Trust me, one shirt with hula girls on it is not going to make you stand out. At least," Duo winked at him, "I didn't make you wear a grass skirt too."

Heero shook his head. "I suppose I should be grateful, but really, who would have a grass skirt in California?"

Duo just laughed. "Wait and see."

Heero shook his head and focused on the house in front of him. Zechs lived in one of what Duo had called the 'beachside cities', small communities that were not that far out of LA and right on the water. He could see the ocean waves beyond the house, reflecting the moonlight. It was a pretty area, and he inhaled the sea breezes with thankfulness- the smog in LA was oppressing.

The house had rows of tiki torches illuminating a pathway that led around the side of the house. Heero expected that the party was taking place on the beach, but once around the side of the house and through the third security checkpoint, he saw that the party was actually on the back deck of the house. Zechs was standing near the stairs, greeting his guests as they walked up onto the deck.

"Duo!" Heero stiffened a bit when Zechs hugged Duo in welcome, only to blink in surprise when Zechs did the same to him. "Mr. Yuy! Can I call you Heero? I'm so glad you could come. Go find a drink- the pig's already been roasted- so go get some food too. Quatre and Trowa are already here."

There was no chance to reply as Zechs had already descended on the next guests. Duo grinned. "Now that we've gotten by the gatekeeper, take a look around and tell me how much you stand out again?"

Heero rolled his eyes, but did as Duo asked.

Duo laughed at Heero's expression as he looked around the party. "Told you that shirt wouldn't stand out."

Heero shook his head. Duo was right. His shirt was mild compared to most of the ones he saw. Most of the guests were not in the shorts and Hawaiian shirt combos like Duo and he were wearing. Some guests were wrapped in sarongs, others were just wearing bathing suits, and here and there was indeed a grass skirt.

Duo grabbed his elbow. "I see the guys have already secured a corner."

How Duo could see anything in the crowd was beyond Heero. Still, he followed the other obediently enough, listening to the conversations as he moved past them.

"Does pork have carbs?"

"Last week in my spin class this guy dropped dead...I was like eww!"

"Can you believe she's here? She's looking for husband number five."

They pulled themselves out of the main crowd. Trowa and a dark haired girl were sitting on benches at the end of the deck. Quatre was standing nearby talking to a red-haired girl who was wearing a bright orange sarong. Heero blinked at the eye-watering combination.

"Really Mr. Winner," the girl was saying, her red-tinted lips twisted in a pout. "He can't just go off all the time! He's never home and his schedule never meshes with mine. Can't you work something out?"

Duo and Heero sat down on the bench beside Trowa and the dark-haired girl. Trowa smiled. "Good to see you two. Quatre's been waiting for you."

The girl next to him dug an elbow in his ribs. Trowa rolled his eyes. "Mr. Yuy- this is my sister Cathy. She's been wanting to meet you."

Heero extended his hand, wondering if the girl was one of the gushing types. She clasped his and shook it firmly. "I'm a huge fan," she said. "I've read all your stuff! I'm the one who made Tro read it. I'm so glad you decided to do the movie!"

"Thank you," Heero replied. "I'm glad you liked them. I wasn't planning on agreeing to the movie, but your brother and Duo had put so much work into it..."

She laughed pleasantly. "I know. They were so excited! I'm hoping they let me do some work on it too! I'm a costume designer," she explained.

"What movie is this?" The red-haired girl had turned away from Quatre and was eying Heero. "You aren't an actor are you?"

"No, I'm a writer."

"Ah, I didn't think you were good looking enough for an actor. For a writer not bad." She put her hand out as if she was royalty. "I'm Flay."

Heero blinked. Flay? As in 'skin off a back'? "Nice to meet you." He took her hand and hoped he didn't have to kiss it.

She took her hand back and he was relieved. "Now, why did Zechs invite you? I know he works with these guys-" she waved her hand at Trowa and Duo. "Are you working on his new movie too? Are you another script writer?"

"Oh no!" Cathy spoke up. "Mr. Yuy is a famous writer! His books are on the bestseller lists!"

Flay shrugged. "I'm sorry," she said. "I don't read much. I don't think I've heard of you."

Heero smiled. "That's okay," he said. "My books aren't for everyone. What do you do?"

Flay's eyes widened. Quatre bit his lips, Trowa put a hand over his mouth and Cathy froze.

"Oh, I am sorry, Heero," Duo jumped in. "Flay is a singer. She heads up the band The Seed Pods. She's Zechs' girlfriend, the one he's throwing this party for- I should've told you."

"I see." Heero smiled at Flay. "I'm sorry. I don't listen to music much."

Flay's skin started to turn reddish, nearly the exact same color as her hair.

Before she could open her mouth to speak though, a tall blond man appeared at her side. "Flay, my child, your negative energy waves are out of control."

Flay blinked at him, closing her mouth.

"You need to go recenter yourself. The execs are here tonight, don't forget." Flay took a deep breath, gave Heero a hate-filled glance and took off into the crowd.

The blond man turned and raised an eyebrow at Duo. "You owe me for this Maxwell. You know perfectly well that Flay has to keep her temper- she's already in trouble with the execs."

"I didn't set her off." Duo retorted. "She was just mad that Heero didn't know who she was."

The blond nodded and extended a hand towards Heero. "A fellow music lover I see, nice to meet you."

"Heero Yuy." The eyebrow arched farther up.

"The horror writer? Ah, that's right. Zechs is doing your movie. I'm Genjo, Flay's spiritual advisor." He smiled sardonically. "Or to be more precise, her keeper for the moment."

"How fun for you."

"It pays well." He sighed. "There are times I miss the monastery though." He vanished back into the crowd.

"Spiritual advisor?" Heero asked Duo.

"Yeah, Flay threw a huge temper tantrum in the middle of one of her concerts. Walked off the stage. The only way her record company would keep her is if she promised to control her temper. So she found religion- sort of."

"He has his hands full," Quatre sighed, dropping down on the bench beside Trowa. "I still don't know what the hell Zechs sees in that horrible woman. Do you know she wants me to have him film on location in a way that matches with her tour dates?"

A lovely black-haired woman suddenly appeared before them. "There you are Mr. Winner. Zechs wanted me to be sure you were enjoying the party."

"Now that the musical menace is gone, we're fine, thanks Lucrezia." Quatre smiled at her. "I don't suppose you've given my offer any consideration? I still need competent help and you're wasted as Zechs' assistant."

The woman shook her head and smiled. "Not yet, but you'll be the first to know when I'm looking for a new job." She left and was immediately replaced by three young women who began to talk to Quatre about movie roles.

Some designer who wanted to talk about Milan grabbed Trowa and Cathy; another scriptwriter emerged from the crowd and started talking to Duo about a recently released movie.

Heero watched and listened. The girls sounded like they were ready to do anything to get a part for Quatre's studio, some of their offers were downright blatant and desperate sounding. The designer sounded as if he delighted in ridiculing every recent show, and the scriptwriter wasn't much better.

He sighed and looked out at the ocean. It was beautiful, dark and mysterious, the stars reflected in the dark water, making it look like a liquid sky. He wondered if any of the rest of them had even bothered to look at it.

He excused himself from the group and went looking for the bathroom. On the way there he was asked six times if he was in the movies, eight times what he "did", and once if he was interested in buying something the guy referred to as a 'powdered dream'.

Heero managed to find the food tables, but not the bathroom. He sighed and decided that he'd better quit while he was ahead. He hated parties. He hated the publishing ones he went to where everyone smiled and stabbed each other in the back, but this one was almost worse. You could feel the hopelessness...

He returned to the corner with a plate of food and was welcomed with smiles. The designer and the screenwriter had left, and Trowa and Duo were now talking about the plans for the movie. Quatre was talking to yet another actor, this one male and rangy looking. He was wearing sunglasses, despite the darkness, and his blondish hair was pulled back into a ponytail. A cigarette dangled from his lips.

"Heero," Quatre smiled as he sat back down. "This is Kudo, we were thinking he'd be a good one to play Mary's boyfriend."

"Pleasure," the actor shook Heero's hand. "I read your book. It was a total trip man. I'd ask where you get your ideas, but I think the answer would scare me."

"Nice to meet you." Heero said. Before he could say more, a scream echoed across the patio.

"You clumsy COW!" It was a shriek of pure rage. "Look what you did!"

The crowd parted a little and Heero could see Flay, her face twisted with anger. In front of her was Zechs' assistant.

"I am sorry," Lucrezia said softly, but Flay kept screeching.

"I don't know WHY Zechs puts up with such incompetence! You should be fired for this!"

Heero saw Flay's spiritual advisor in the corner, his hand over his eyes, a smile lurking on the corners of his mouth.

"Flay, my sweet," Zechs pushed his way through the crowd. "You need to relax. It was an accident. You know Lu didn't mean any harm..."

"Oh- sure take HER side!" Flay picked up a glass and threw it at him. Zechs ducked, and the cup sailed his head. Flay screamed in rage and grabbed another cup.

"I think it's time to make a graceful exit," said Quatre and jumped off the deck into the soft sand. Trowa and Cathy followed him.

"Shall we go?" Duo asked Heero as Flay pitched a plate at Zechs.

"I think that's best."

"Kudo?" Duo asked and the actor shook his head. He sat down on the bench Trowa had vacated and took a deep drag on his cigarette.

"Nah, this should be downright entertaining."

Heero followed Duo over the edge of the deck, the sand filling his sandals, as they crept around the edge and back up to the driveway.

"Well, what did you think of your first Hollywood party?" Duo asked as they climbed into his car.

"It was worse than the publishing ones." Heero shook his head. "People are so... desperate."

"You have to remember," Duo said as he started the engine and eased the car out onto the street. "People are fighting for their dreams. Back home they may have been the most gorgeous person in their class, here they are just another pretty face. Here you're made or broken on a single movie, on the kind of press you generate, on the kind of life you live. Unless you're on the top, you're fighting to get there, and once you're there, you have to fight to stay there. It's like being in a pit of starving tigers."

"You don't like it here, do you?" Heero asked after a long moment.

"I hate it here." Duo replied. "And I love it here. I like the work that I do, but at the same time, it's not exactly what I want to do. I take other people's visions and turn them into movies. I can't use my own. I love the energy in this town, the creativity, the people, and I hate the negativity, the way people will do anything to make it to the top. I've seen people make it, and I've seen people destroyed."

He sighed.

"I miss home. I miss the Sound, I miss the rain. I miss being able to take the Mosquito fleet through the Orca Islands..." He shook his head. "But I miss here too, if I went back... and I can't go back."

"Why not?"

"What would I do there? Go back to working in a bookstore? That's what I did before you know. I worked at a bookstore, got my first book published... and then you know what happened to the second one..."

"What about the third one?" Heero asked quietly. "Aren't you going to finish it? Try and get it published?"

Duo shrugged. "After the fiasco of my second book? Are you kidding? What publisher would touch me? Plus I didn't really endear myself to the critics with that little stunt of mine. No reviewer is going to look on someone favorably who attacked one of their own."

"You might be surprised," Heero replied. "That guy isn't well liked- and your book is good. You need to at least try..."

"I was burned once," Duo smiled. "I'm more careful of the fire this time. I doubt I'll ever finish it. I have too many other things I need to be doing anyway, and it's not even close to done... that was only the first draft- and it took me two years to get that far."

He shook himself. "Let's get off this topic. Let's talk about tomorrow, I think I have a good game plan in mind, but we'll have to get up early..."

Duo kept talking, things about fast passes, and shortcuts and hidden mickeys. Heero listened, but at the same time he was thinking about Duo's unfinished book. If only Duo had more time to write... and more confidence in himself.

An idea to help Duo formed in Heero's head, and he began to wonder how he could make it happen.

+

The alarm went off early the next morning. Heero blinked at the clock. It had been somewhat late when they had gotten home. Duo had dragged him back to the bedroom, telling him that they needed to get some sleep, and so Heero had pulled off his obnoxious Hawaiian shirt... and then Duo had helped him get rid of the shorts... and it was quite a while before they actually fell asleep.

Duo's arm reached over Heero's shoulder and slapped the alarm.

"Up and at 'em," he murmured in Heero's ear.

"Do we have to?"

"Unless you want to be mobbed by little kids, the best thing to do is go early on a Sunday and hit all the rides as fast as you can." Duo slid out of bed and smiled at him. "C'mon. Take a shower with me. I'll wash your back if you wash mine..."

The shower ended up being a bit longer than intended. Heero protested that it was all Duo's fault. He was the one who dropped the soap. Duo protested that it was Heero's fault for being so distracting in the first place. They were still wrangling good-naturedly about it when they got into the car.

"Good thing we can grab breakfast there," Duo grinned after Heero finally admitted defeat. "I will admit that not only are the rides great at Disneyland, but if you know where to go, the food is good too."

"You sound like an experienced tour guide," Heero teased. "They always know the spots to eat."

"Haven't I demonstrated that so far?" Duo winked. Then he sighed. "Too bad you aren't staying longer- there's lots of other good places to eat out here. Do you... do you think you'll come back for the premiere? Or maybe to visit the set?" Duo's voice sounded hopeful.

"I don't know." Heero said after a moment. "I'd like to. Maybe... if I do you could be my guide again? If you have the time and all?"

Duo's face lit up. "I'd be happy too- if you think you could put up with me again."

"Put up with you?" Heero shook his head. "Isn't that the other way around?"

"No," Duo replied. "I've really enjoyed this weekend with you Heero. You- I don't want you to think I do this with every writer that comes into town, because I don't... you're the first one I've spent this much time with, and I'd like to think that we're friends... or at least starting to be?"

"I'd like to think that too." Heero smiled in relief. "In fact, I've been thinking about that. I want to ask you something, as a friend- and as someone who admires your work."

"What's that?" Duo gave him a puzzled glance.

"I know you don't like it here, and I know you'd rather write your book. I have tons of space at my house, and I'd be more than willing to put you up so that you'd have time to finish. I wouldn't want you to feel obligated to me in any way, nor would I expect anything..." Heero found himself stumbling over the words. "I just... I hate to see your gift going to waste when I can help."

Duo blinked. "What... what are you offering me?"

"I'm offering my resources. You can stay with me, finish your book, and when it is, I'll do all that I can to help you get it published. You won't owe me anything- I'm not asking for..." Heero flushed. "I mean- I wouldn't expect things to be like they have been this weekend. I don't want you to feel obligated to do anything like that... but, I want to help you- as a friend... as a fellow writer..."

Duo was silent, and Heero swallowed down the lump that rose up in his throat. Had he offended Duo? Had Duo taken his offer the wrong way?

"That's... amazingly generous of you." Duo said, and his voice was very soft. "I'm overwhelmed... I really am..." He blinked again, and Heero saw a faint wetness in the corner of his eyes. "That you'd think I'd be worth the trouble..."

"Of course you are," Heero said, without thinking.

Duo reached out a hand and squeezed Heero's fingers. "Can I... can I think about it?"

"Of course, take all the time you need."

"Thank you." Duo's fingers squeezed his again.

[part 6] [part 8] [back to Merula's fic]