Author: girl_starfish.
Rating: PG 13 at present.
Warnings: Yaoi/Angst.
Genre: AU/Angst/Romance/Drama.
Pairings: 1x2x1/3x4x3/2+5/13x5/13x6x13.

Gentleman's Wager + Chapter Two

Two weeks later, Duo had decided that he could get used to being a gentleman.

The former streetrat was eating breakfast in what was Wu Fei's drawing room. It had obviously been decorated by Wu Fei, the Asian youth's trademark elegance evident in the restrained décor as much as the obviously oriental furnishings. Two highly polished swords hung on one wall, next to a couple of bookcases. There was a desk in one corner, with a scroll that Wu Fei had explained contained the words of a renowned philosopher hanging over it, and a smaller wooden box, decorated with a gold dragon that doubled as a lock. Duo had decided that before he left the house, he would open that box. It would interest him to know what Wu Fei, who had everything, would consider important enough to lock away. Another wall was entirely taken up by four screen paintings, depicting each of the seasons. Before it had been set out a low table, on which a tea set, unlike any other Duo had seen, had been placed.

Duo sat on the window seat clad in a waistcoat of light blue silk, dark grey trousers, and a starched white shirt--all his clothes, according to the Man. His breakfast tray had been set out on the little mahogany table beside the window, along with a newspaper and an empty bowl of rice that had been Wu Fei's breakfast. The rice, that was, not the paper... Duo gave the sheets a curious glance but aside from the illustrations and comic sketches that were smattered in amongst the text they meant nothing to him.

Reading lessons weren't on the agenda so far, all Duo needed to pass in society was a surface knowledge of history and the latest fashionable trends. Wu Fei had offered to teach Duo later, should the opportunity arise. Meaning if he wasn't discarded like yesterday's fashions once his purpose had been served. Duo sighed. Sure he could manage to fool 'em for awhile, but he doubted any of them would be interested after the wager had been won... so what did that leave him? Going back to the streets? Duo felt a brief resentment for Wu Fei... as if he would ever be overlooked. Not only was he so refined he practically had class dripping from him, but he was smart too--he could read in two different languages, for heaven's sake! Compare that to Duo, who could barely make out his own name--

There was a knock at the door.

"What?" Duo demanded brusquely.

"There's a gentleman here to see Lord Kushrenada, uh... Mr. Maxwell." Damnit, he hated the way the servants hesitated that little bit before saying that title, just as though they were pointing out that he didn't belong there.

He realised the girl was still waiting. "What do you want me to do about it?" Lord Kushrenada was in Paris--had been for the last five days, and wasn't expected back until that afternoon.

"Should I show him up?"

Duo was expected to handle this. "But Wu Fei--"

"Mr. Chang has not yet emerged from his bath. He said that you would see Mr. Winner and entertain him until he can join you," the maid reported. "Should I show him here? Or to the Master's drawing room?"

Mr. Winner? That was not an acquaintance that he was familiar with. "Where does Wu Fei usually meet him?"

The maid gave him an odd look, almost sympathetic. "Most guests would be shown to the Master's room. But I believe Wu Fei would meet Mr. Winner himself."

"Sounds like a plan to me," Duo said, following the girl downstairs. He pushed open the door to the waiting room, not a little apprehensive. He hadn't expected his first test to be so soon! Still how hard could it be to pull out the charm on one of Treize's associates--

However, he did not get the well groomed and over oiled gentleman he was expecting. The two men stood as he entered--and he had no idea which was Mr. Winner.

Oh hell, thought Duo.

Wu Fei had not covered what to do when you had no idea who you were greeting, much less what you were supposed to do with them. Duo had a feeling that he would have been able to tell at a glance which one of the two well-dressed youths--either of which could not have been many, if indeed any, years older than himself--was Mr. Winner. Duo looked from one to the other. They both looked polished and well, somehow absurdly young to be in this sort of place--the blond in particular looked like he was hardly out of short trousers. And the other one--

Messy hair couldn't hide the intelligence and intensity in the crystal blue eyes. This had to be him--the Mr. Winner the maid spoke of with such obvious respect and that Wu Fei would greet personally--

Duo had just opened his mouth when the blond spoke.

"I hope we haven't put anyone out," he said. "The manservant who answered the door told me that Treize had not yet returned from Paris, but I was hoping I might be able to talk to Wu Fei."

"Not at all," Duo said smoothly. "Wu Fei asked me to meet you. I am Duo, Duo Maxwell--"

The blond shook his hand politely. "Quatre Raberba Winner," he said, surveying Duo with interest.

"Nice to meet you Mr. Winner, and... ?" Duo turned to his brown haired companion hoping his thoughts weren't legible on his face. What a narrow escape that had been!

The blue eyed man took his hand without taking his eyes away from Duo's face. "Heero Yuy," he said.

His voice--

How did he manage to make something so simple as an introduction sound so-so--important? And he wasn't flouting himself like Treize or the others--he just said it as if that was all one needed to know.

"Heero," Duo breathed. "I'm delighted to make your acquaintance--"

"Likewise," the blond Mr. Winner said, bringing Duo back to reality suddenly. "But I do hope something isn't wrong. Wu Fei is well, I trust?"

He pronounced Wu Fei's name correctly? Duo was further intrigued by this Mr. Winner. He seemed very much at odds with Treize's set even though he called the Lord by his name, and very few indeed were permitted to do that--

"Of course, he will be joining us shortly," Duo said. Heero had let go of his hand and he felt oddly bereft. "Shall we wait for him somewhere more comfortable?"

"After you," Mr. Winner said, with a lazy smile. He linked his arm through Heero's and leaned against the other boy.

"This way," Duo said faintly.

Well what did you think he was? He berated himself as he led the way to the downstair's drawing room. Mr. Winner didn't introduce him, he hadn't given himself a title, hell, the servant hadn't even said there was any besides Mr. Winner present--so of course he had to be his--

Why did that bother him so much? After all, what was he?

"Excuse me, Duo. Are we the only ones home?"

Mr. Winner's question startled Duo. "Ah... I suppose so," he said. "Lord Kushrenada is arriving back later today but--"

"In that case, might I suggest we adjourn to Wu Fei's drawing room? I think it would be much more appropriate for the matter I need to discuss."

"O-of course," Duo agreed. Was he allowed to say no?

"Good," Mr. Winner said, leading the way upstairs.

Duo followed faintly. What had happened here? He thought he'd been in charge... but the blond had different ideas.

"You obviously know your way around the house," he found himself commenting, unable to help himself.

"Oh, I've been here once or twice," Winner said off-handedly. His companion sent an amused grin back at Duo and the boy found himself just about to walk into a priceless vase. He could see why Heero had attracted Mr. Winner's attention.

They reached Wu Fei's drawing room to find the maid that had informed Duo of the visitor's downstairs was clearing away the breakfast things.

"Would you care for any refreshment?" Duo asked, signalling the maid to wait. Now, he was in command again--

"Tell Sally that tea would be lovely," Mr. Winner said, making himself at home on the windowseat. "As would any of her delightful ginger kisses."

Duo gulped. "What?" he demanded.

Surely he'd heard wrong. He'd met Treize's cook and Sally was a pleasant enough woman, if displaying rather overwhelmingly maternal qualities. And being from the same country as Wu Fei her skin colour was decidedly not white but he could hardly imagine kissing her--

"I believe Mr. Winner is referring to a type of cake, Duo," Wu Fei intoned sotto voce behind him. "Not the pleasures of Miss. Po's lips."

"Wu Fei!" Duo had never been so glad to see him. "We have guests--"

"So I'd heard," Wu Fei bowed in Winner's direction. "Quatre, it is good to see you," he said, with the most genuine smile Duo had seen him offer in the whole two weeks of their acquaintance. That observation troubled him, even as he noted that Winner did not seem to mind Wu Fei's use of his name, and indeed, seemed equally pleased to see him.

"I know it was impolite of me to insist on staying even when I heard that Treize wouldn't be here, but I hope you don't mind," Winner said, making himself comfortable on the window seat, and patting the empty space beside him with a look in Heero's direction. "After all, its you I've come to see as much as Lord Kushrenada."

"I am honoured," Wu Fei said, kneeling beside the table. He nodded at Duo, and the former street rat was glad of the opportunity to sit down, choosing the chair beside the desk. He felt very aware that he was out of his depth here. The maid entered then and Wu Fei busied himself with pouring tea for everyone. "Milk, no sugar, Quatre?" he asked, indicating that Duo should carry the cup over.

"You remembered! Thank you," Winner accepted the tea graciously--a real gentleman, Duo thought bitterly. How he could have doubted it for a second--

"What will your companion have?"

Heero knelt at the table opposite Wu Fei. "I will serve myself," he said.

"As you wish," Wu Fei pushed the cup over to him, before adding a heaped teaspoon of sugar to a cup and holding it out for Duo.

"I'm sorry," Winner said. "Wu Fei, this is Heero Yuy, my companion. Heero, this is a good friend of mine, Chang Wu Fei."

"Not Lord Kushrenada's famous protégé?" There was a faint sneer apparent in Heero's voice.

"The same," Wu Fei answered coolly but with an edge of determined politeness. Winner did not miss the insult inherent in Heero's tone either, glaring at his companion.

"Heero! Wu Fei is a very close friend of mine," he said sternly. "You'd do well to remember that."

The tension was gone in a second as Quatre turned a sunny smile upon and Duo. "I trust we haven't put your schedule out, disturbing you so early. It was good of you to greet us."

"Not at all," Duo responded cheerily. "I was just eating my breakfast."

"Duo shares your sleeping habits," Wu Fei said to Quatre in an amused tone. "If he had his way we would not see him before eleven."

"Well, we can't all get up and beat up a gardener before breakfast, I suppose," the blond aristocrat replied with a grin.

"Beat up a gardener?" Duo echoed.

"It was a case of mistaken identity," Wu Fei explained. "But Quatre has never let me live it down--"

"Not when it was my gardener that you threw into the ornamental hedge," Mr. Winner snickered, sounding the boy he was. "That was worth getting up early for--"

Duo, of course, demanded a more complete explanation, and Winner did not mind obliging him in the slightest. Wu Fei listened and interjected his own version of events with an indulgent air, rather like an adult pandering to the wants of children, while Heero, behind his bored façade, didn't miss a thing. An hour was spent pleasantly in this pursuit, until Quatre put down his tea cup in a way that signalled the conversation was at an end.

"This has been most pleasant," he said. "But I had a matter to discuss with you Wu Fei, of some importance."

"Not too serious, I hope?" Wu Fei actually sounded concerned. Duo collected Winner's empty cup pondering that.

Winner snorted. "The situation is utterly intolerable--I mean, look at him!" He waved a hand at Heero. "He hasn't said a word for the last hour! And his posture! And the way he drinks!"

Duo blinked. Heero scowled to find himself the centre of attention and Wu Fei hid an amused smile.

"Can you imagine what it would be like taking him to a social dinner? Especially if he is as rude to everyone else as he was to you?" Quatre shook his blond head woefully. "My reputation will be ruined--"

"I agree the situation is serious," Wu Fei said. "But I fail to see why you cannot simply replace him with someone more suitable or leave him at home--"

"What does it matter if Heero's a little rough around the edges anyway?" Duo demanded. "So he rubs a few people the wrong way, so what--is that any reason to just get rid of the guy?"

Wu Fei was frowning at him and Duo shut up hastily, hoping he hadn't said too much. Thing is, their casual assumption that people's opinions were worth more than Heero had just made him mad--

"I'm not in a position, Mr. Maxwell, where I can easily disregard the opinions of others," Quatre said, softly.

Wu Fei explained. "Quatre is the only son of the Mr. Winner. Surely you've heard of him, Duo? Winner the trade magnate, Winner of the golden touch, Winner with a foot in every market--"

"You're that Mr. Winner's son?" Duo gulped before he could stop himself.

"I'm going to inherit the family business one day," Quatre said composedly. "If I am to continue to run it, it is necessary that I maintain good links with our shareholders and customers, of which a good deal of London's society is. It's not a matter of choice, it's a matter of necessity--and any companion I have will naturally be subjected to a great deal of interest and speculation. Frankly, Heero is a blemish on the Winner name--" Quatre turned to Wu Fei. "You see why I came to you."

"You wish me to instruct him in proper behaviour? Surely it would be easier to find another companion for social events--despite the numerous good qualities I'm sure Mr. Yuy possesses he does not appear comfortable in this setting nor willing to amend his behaviour--"

"We're not lovers, Wu Fei."

Duo was aware his mouth was hanging open and shut it. Wu Fei did not appear that surprised.

[cont]