Darling Maxine Part 1
The dark haired boy irritably flicked his riding crop against the side of his leather boots. He had been so close to escaping. Idly, he wondered what would happen if he just kept walking.
"It's a ...message, m'lord. From one of Lord Maxwell's friends, " the man managed to wheeze out. He gasped for breath, even as he relayed the rest of it. "Your ... ward, Lord Maxwell is ... in danger. Come to his townhouse ... quickly." With those ominous words TM, the messenger's eyes rolled back, and he collapsed bonelessly onto the ground.
Hn. Heero gently, well for *him* gently... we won't speculate as to what the kicked would categorize it as, kicked the exhausted man. Maybe the stables *were* a bit far from the rest of the house. Lord Heero Yuy, also known as the "Incomparable," squared his shoulders and started his ten mile stalk ... err walk back to his home. What kind of trouble had the brat gotten into now?
Either way, Heero felt a slow smile cross his normally stolid features, the wedding plans with Relena would have to be postponed ... for the fifth time. He let out a triumphant, cackling laugh and walked that much faster.
Relena, with a practiced flair, stood smoothly up from the seat and gave a little twirl in front of the mirror. Pink had always been her best color, flattering on the complexion and so much better than black. With a little frown on her face, she started her way out the door. Now why did I think that? Only Heero's ward and insane friend, Earl Maxwell of Saithe, wore black... A tingle of apprehension or perhaps a hint of oh so subtle foreshadowing ran up her elegantly, silk clad back. Tightening her lips resolutely, she cleared her mind; Relena Peacecraft had a trout named Heero Yuy to land and nothing would stop her.
So determined was she, the blonde girl nearly ran over the maid standing right outside the door. "Miss..."
"The Master has left a message for you."
Relena felt an eyebrow arch, "A message?"
"Ah... yes." The girl started to creep away slightly, "He's... been called away to London unexpectedly and couldn't make today's tea party." She curtsied several times and backed away rapidly at the expression on the young lady's face. Hn, nobles.
A distinct twitch fell over her lips as the blonde girl contemplated her situation. Heero had run off, again. Just when she had been sure... "Noin!!"
Her black haired guardian calmly appeared on the scene, already having been apprised of the situation by several of the servants. "What is it, Relena?"
"We're going to London."
"Barbarian, " muttered the dark haired boy by his side. He was dressed at the height of fashion with neither the frills of the Tulip set nor the stark efficiency of the Corinthians. The distinctly Eastern cast to his delicate features combined with the deep bronze of his skin made him stand out from the crowd. Not that Wufei cared.
"*Why* are you throwing a party when you know perfectly well that you're being targeted."
Dazed violet eyes rapidly gained focus and the slurred words gave way to a crisp, low, confident tone, albeit with a distinctly American flavor. "What's a better way to draw out the killer than to use the perfect bait?" Duo, earl of Saithe and holder of titles too numerous to count, smiled viciously, an expression Wufei was knew all too well, before lapsing once more behind the goofy, alcohol drenched facade. "Now play along, and keep an eye out, Wu."
With a roll of his eyes, his companion complied. "This has to be one of your *stupidest*, hair brained, least thought out-"
Duo thoughtfully interrupted his friend's tirade, "Nah, I think the chicken, horse, vodka and mud incident was the pinnacle of *my* idiocy."
Wufei's jaw snapped close mid-rant, and he nodded agreement reluctantly. "True, I doubt *anything* could top *that*." He was rewarded with a cheeky grin.
Though, the highwayman, if servant and local gossip proved true, gave out nearly all of his "earnings" to the poor... Which brought up an interesting memory...
"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
The blonde haired boy struck a pose, "I'm going to be like Robin Hood! Rob from the rich and give to the poor!"
The other boy dryly replied, "And what nom de plume will this mysterious savior go by?"
"Hmmm..." He scrunched his face, deep in thought. "How about 'The Silver Rider'?"
Treize swirled the brandy in its glass, eyes not focused on the rich color of the drink. "Silver Rider is it...." Abruptly he ran for his manservant.
"Prepare the carriages and my luggage. I feel a sudden urge to visit my friends in London."
"Very good, mi'lord."
Duo jumped up from his slouched position by the elaborate rose decorations and waved a champagne glass about gleefully, sloshing most of its content all around him. Much to Wufei's annoyance. "Over he~~~re!"
Quatre and Trowa sweatdropped briefly before making their way slowly across the crowded ballroom, occasionally stopping to greet an acquaintance or old family friend. Trowa was, as usual, dressed impeccably if a bit conservatively. The blonde boy was at his elegant best in his usual combination of white, black, and blue. The two made a stunning pair.
"You look grand!"
Quatre winced slightly as he looked at his friend's attire, wishing he could return the generous but honest compliment. "You look..." He paused delicately, trying to find the right word.
"Drunk, " supplied Trowa helpfully, unable to conceal the spark of amusement at Duo's over exaggerated, crestfallen expression.
"Inebriated, " supplied the ever helpful Wufei.
"Totally smashed, " agreed the brown haired boy.
"Absolutely bombed out his mind."
"No doubt about it."
Both Wufei and Trowa nodded in agreement, both pretending to ignore their friend's rather woe begotten look.
Quatre hastily interrupted before Duo launched into Japanese, giving the other two a chastising look ... which had no effect since *his* lips were twitching with the effort not to laugh aloud. "That's enough. Duo just needs... a little freshening up."
Both pairs of eyes, ebony and emerald, pinned the blonde boy with a *look*.
"No doubt about it."
"Oh hush," retorted Quatre, trying haphazardly to retie Duo's rather lopsided cravat. He almost squeaked in surprise when strong, callused hands impatiently brushed aside his own, tying the wrinkled piece of linen for him.
A familiar, nasally voice asked dryly, "All right, brat. What's this about death threats?"
All four pairs of eyes swerved and focused unblinkingly on the new speaker, Heero.
Duo smiled weakly and wiggled his fingers in greeting. When I get my hands on the idiot who told Heero about this, I'm gonna... The boy didn't have the time to finish *that* gleeful thought before Heero suddenly shouted, "Down, " knocking Duo to the floor, protectively covering the slight body with his own.
Several shots rang through the air only moments later, causing the massive throngs of people to panic and break for the exits. Wufei shook his head and muttered a few choice, colorful descriptions on Yuy's common sense, or rather lack thereof. "Everyone, please calm down. 'The Incomparable' was exercising his rather ghastly sense of fun. Everything is fine." Heero's eyebrow twitched at that, but he refrained from answering in kind. After all, he could always get Wufei back *later* Right now, the boy in his arms was rather... unconscious.
Unfortunately, "The Incomparable" had forgotten to calculate his own strength, the hardness of the floor, and Duo's rather unprepared state.
In other words...
"Did you finally kill him then, " queried Wufei rather diffidently, having complete confidence in Duo's hard headedness, both literally and figuratively.
A snort. "Don't be stupid. I just knocked him sillier." Despite his callous seeming words, Heero carefully cradled the unconscious boy in his arms. Quatre quickly led their little group to Duo's study. They would need the quiet to plan their next move.
The little boy simply hunched deeper into the bushes, muffling his sobs into upraised knees. Boys did not cry ... at least not in front of *other* people. That's what his poppa had told him, and that's what Duo would do, no matter that poppa and momma weren't ... here anymore.
"Duo, you idiot! I swear..." The voice calling him sounded extremely exasperated ... and worried.
The violet eyed boy carefully thought over his options, sucking on his lower lip thoughtfully. Abruptly his eyes crossed and Duo sneezed, disturbing the bushes and shrubs all around him. Uh-oh... He smacked himself. Brilliant, just brilliant.
He winced slightly, not wanting company ... but it was his best friend. "Uh.. yeah?"
"... You ok?"
He nodded briefly, huddling in on himself more. Stupid, he can't see you. "Yeah... 'm fine." Then suddenly, Duo wasn't alone. The other boy carefully wrapped his small, sturdy arms around the grief stricken boy.
A small, determined voice whispered in his ear, "'S okay to cry."
"But poppa said *never* cry in front of other people..." Duo's voice sounded rather forlorn.
Heero thumped Duo lightly upside the head, even as he held his best friend tighter. "Stupid, I'm not *other* people."
Duo made a noncommittal sound. "You sure?"
"All right..." And finally, Duo let himself cry in the arms of his friend, the only comforting presence there for him.
"I'll always be here for you, Duo. I promise." Heero tried to whisper words of comfort into his best friend's ear. The very same words, in fact, that the braided boy had murmured to him when *his* parents had died.
"Best friends ... always."
Heero, damned that perfidious cur's eyes, looked faintly amused while his *friends*, Duo was beginning to doubt their loyalty, wore expressions ranging from disbelief, to concern, to amusement.
*He* was not amused.
"... A woman."
"Yes Duo, a woman."
With a pained expression on his face, Wufei murmured, "Could you not scream the word 'woman' like that, Duo? You're giving me a headache."
Duo glared at his dark haired friend, "But Wufei... a woman!!"
Everyone sweatdropped. Duo seemed to be fixated on that single word. Then again ... no one could really blame him. First, the blow to the head and now this...
"Can't I just go into hiding or something??"
Trowa answered *that* question. "Duo, can you really remain quiet and *still* in one spot for that long?"
Duo's jaw worked open and closed several times before the boy mutely shook his head. He glared at Heero once more. "You're getting me back for that chicken, horse, vodka and mud incident aren't you?"
Quatre cleared his throat and not quite successfully raised his voice above Duo's ranting. "Duo's been getting threats for the past three months now. He wanted to keep it a secret from you, " he nodded in the blue eyed boy's direction. "He wanted to solve it himself."
"I told you I was sorry! Geez, whadda ya want, my name in blood?"
"Err... Anyway, up to a few weeks ago, the death threats were mainly in form of threatening letters, messages, and a few random vandalisations."
"... wasn't my fault the chicken managed to get a hold of the vodka... Damned chicken..."
"Wufei's kept a copy of everything, the three of us have also been taking turns staying by Duo's side." Quatre sighed. "You have no idea how difficult *that* was."
"I mean ... so the horse knocked down the stables ... and the entire barn. How was I supposed to know that was going to happen??"
The dark haired boy shrugged briefly. "I probably have some clue." He continued watching Duo pace and rant ... and well rant some more. "We'll say that Duo went to visit some distant relatives that he has in the Americas. He'll disappear for the "training". And then Duo's mysterious cousin from the Americas can come to visit..." Heero paused, "What should we name her?"
A nerve throbbed over Duo's head. "Oi! Are *any* of you listening to me?? The horse got out of control ... not my fault the barn collapsing caused a mudslide..."
Trowa suggested Maxine Saithe. "That way if we call Duo by his last name accidentally..."
"We can cover it up by calling him ... her 'Maxine' and maybe her nickname can be Max." Heero nodded his approval.
Duo stood, fists on hips. "I said I was *sorry*. I mean... I didn't think the cemetery would be *that* close to the mudslide err.. barn. And the chicken was in my way too!"
"Be quiet, Duo err.. Maxine." Wufei frowned slightly. "Well, what about his first name? Won't it be obvious?"
A look of almost but not quite glee passed over Heero's normally stoic features. "Darling Max." He started to laugh quietly.
Everybody stared at the "Incomparable," wondering if perhaps they should change it to the "Inexplicable" or perhaps the "Irrational." Then things clicked.
"Oh, no! I gotta dress up as a ... woman, change my name to -Maxine-, but no way in the seven pits of hell will you start calling me...
"Smile, Max, " murmured Quatre through a polite smile. How he did it, Duo would dearly like to have known and probably would have spent a great deal of time musing on ... but the girdle was killing him!! K'so... oops... Dammit, how did women walk around in these? Duo peered down, making sure he wasn't lopsided. His "cleavage" was neatly sewed into the corset, they were heavy though. Duo let out another sigh, these breasts were killing him...
"Where's Heero and Wufei?" He tried peering about but was stopped by Trowa.
"Don't attract attention to yourself. They're already in the main ballroom, waiting for the grand entrance at your ... coming out ball." Quatre struggled to keep a straight face at Duo's expression. His cross dressing friend looked pained, even more so than the day he first had to wear the Girdle of Death TM.
It was Duo's Coming Out ... err ... debut ball, posing as a distant cousin of Lord Maxwell's from the Colonies or rather the Americas. Hopefully, it would also explain away some of Duo's distinctly un-lady like lapses in behavior. Hopefully.
Quatre and Trowa were currently escorting the fuming ... err blushing debutante to his doom ... her ball while Wufei and Heero scouted the premises, so to speak.
"What do you mean I'm his ward, " shrieked an obviously upset Duo.
Trowa Barton, both Duo's and Heero's lawyer, looked faintly amused before looking to his relatively calm friend, Heero, for the signal to continue on. "Quite simply, Duo, you are Heero's ward until he deems you mature enough to come into your independence."
Duo shook his head again, looking much like a frazzled cat, "He's the same age as I am!!"
"It doesn't matter."
"It. Doesn't. Matter???" The braided lord groaned and draped himself across the study's couch, his friends looking on with a touch of bewilderment at his dramatics. "Why me??"
Heero shrugged indifferently. "I'm obviously more mature, more intelligent, and better equipped to handle problems that yo-" He was abruptly cut off by a cushion in the face, care of one Lord Maxwell.
Quatre sighed and sipped some more of the wonderful tea that Wufei had brought along. "Scones?"
The black haired boy nodded gravely and accepted some more of the pastries while they watched two peers of the realm, two of the most sought after bachelors, attempt to pummel each other into bloody stains on the rich Persian carpet. "Violence never solves anything."
The blonde boy answered, "True, true. But what else would we do on a rainy Sunday night?"