Disclaimer: Don't own any part of Gundam Wing or the characters, more's the pity. This is for fun...no profit involved.
Warnings: yaoi, swearing, lemon and/or lime, post-War
Pairings: 1X2, 3X4 background
A/N: This is a Valentine's Day story, just a bit early. I expect to have all three parts posted before the big day. Enjoy!
THE HIGHEST BIDDER
Chapter One: Going Once
"Quatre! I need you to loan me some money, man!"
The blonde looked up in surprise to see Duo leaning over his desk, hands flat on the surface and an anxious expression on his face.
The braided man was slightly disheveled, his braid looking almost ratty and a smudge of dirt across one cheek. His clothes weren't any better, reeking of gunpowder, sweat, and maybe a hint of blood.
"Did you just get back from a mission?" Quatre asked, leaning to see around the tall vase of long-stemmed roses on his desk.
"Yes, yes! Now loan me some money fast! I don't have much time."
The aquamarine eyes blinked slowly, and Quatre reached for his wallet. "Duo, it's almost quitting time…the cafeteria won't be open." He glanced up to see Duo looking anxiously at the door, not even listening. "How much do you need?"
The braided man looked back at him. "Oh. I guess five thousand should be enough."
"Five thousand?!" Quatre demanded. "Duo, what do you need that kind of money for?"
Duo let out an explosive breath of frustration. "C'mon Quatre. Just loan me the money. You know I'm good for it."
"Of course you are," Quatre said slowly. "But—honestly, Duo—you've never wanted to borrow money before. Even when you were between jobs—before you came to the Preventers to work—you wouldn't let me help you out."
"This is important!" Duo said urgently, scowling with impatience.
"Are you in trouble?"
"No!" Duo exploded. "Goddamnit, Quat, are you going to loan me five grand or not?" His fingers were drumming restlessly on the polished desktop, and his muscles were taut. He practically thrummed with suppressed urgency.
"Of course I will," Quatre assured him. "But can't you at least tell me why you need it?"
"No time!" Duo snapped. "I gotta be across town at the Hilton by six—and with traffic, I'll barely make it."
Wufei had been drawn by the sound of raised voices, and stuck his head in the door. "You'll never make it, Maxwell. You have a mission debriefing to type up before you leave."
"Fuck the debriefing!" Duo spat. "I'll do it over the weekend. Her Ladyship will have it on her damned desk before she gets in Monday morning."
Wufei's jaw dropped. "As accustomed as I am to your irresponsibility in some aspects of your life, Maxwell, I've never known you to shirk your Preventer duties."
Duo turned on the Chinese man. "An' I'm not, 'Fei. But this is more important." He turned back to Quatre. "C'mon Winner!"
"Okay—okay. But I don't have that much cash," Quatre told him. "Let me put in a call to my bank manager to authorize the transaction, and we can go to the ATM across the street." He fixed a stern look on his friend. "And you'll explain this to me while we walk."
Duo deflated a little at that, and finally gave a reluctant nod. "But you have to promise you won't tell me it's a waste of money and change your mind about the loan."
"You're borrowing money?" Wufei demanded, shocked. "Maxwell, you wouldn't let me buy you a stinking cup of coffee when you were flat broke after getting fired from your last job and losing your apartment! And now you're borrowing from Winner? For something frivolous?"
"It's not frivolous!" Duo insisted. "I'm helping a friend out."
Quatre quickly finished his phone call, and then stood up and grabbed his jacket, coming around his desk and putting a reassuring hand on Duo's arm. "Relax," he said gently. "You can have the money for anything you want—I won't refuse you no matter what."
"Thanks, man. I promise, I'll pay you back—with interest, even."
Quatre chuckled. "I won't charge interest, Duo. And you can take all the time you need to pay me back. All I want is to know what's so important to you. Who's the friend you want to help so badly?"
"…ro…" came the muttered reply, as they headed out the door with a curious Wufei on their heels.
"Just spit it out, Maxwell!" demanded the anxious Chinese man, falling in step with them.
"Heero!" Duo finally blurted, blushing to the roots of his hair and picking up the pace.
"Heero?" asked two identically puzzled voices.
"What's happened to Heero that you need five thousand dollars to fix?" Quatre asked with sudden concern. "He's not injured—?"
"No! Nothing like that," Duo assured him. "But he is in—danger. Sort of."
"From—?" Wufei asked suspiciously.
They'd reached the front lobby of Preventers headquarters, only to meet Trowa walking in from having been out on an investigation.
"Hey—what's the occasion?" he asked, looking over the trio questioningly. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen his friends together like that at work.
"Duo's borrowing money from Quatre to rescue Heero from some sort of dangerous situation he was about to explain to us," Wufei replied dryly, folding his arms across his chest.
Three sets of intense eyes settled on the braided man.
"Aw, fuck," he muttered, shoulders slumping. "All right. I'll explain this just once. And I don't want any teasing, harassment, or interference—got it?"
"No promises," Trowa shrugged, a faint smirk touching his lips.
"Just spill it, Maxwell, and take the consequences like a man!" Wufei chided.
"Yeah. Whatever." Duo drew a deep breath. "It's like this. I got back from my mission at 1530 hours, only to find a message from Relena on my desk. It seems she suckered Heero into volunteering for some charity auction this evening. It's one of those stupid things where they auction off eligible bachelors to sex-starved women for a night…"
Quatre's lips twitched, and he bit his cheek to keep silent.
"Didn't you do that a couple of years ago?" Trowa spoke up. "Remember when Preventers had a 'perfect date' auction to raise money for the new biohazard suits?"
"That was for a good cause!" Duo said defensively. "And it was just for a company picnic—all I had to do was wait on Lily from the secretary pool hand and foot for an afternoon. And she was a friend, anyway. At least I knew her. Heero's going to be sold off to some stuffy society bitch who's got no idea what she's in for. And she'll own his ass until midnight tonight…dinner and dancing at the Hilton." He turned an appealing gaze to Quatre. "He's my best friend! And he doesn't know what he's gotten himself into! I can't just let him get auctioned off to some debutante who'll bore him out of his mind, hit on him non-stop, and force him to dance all night!"
"Why would you?" Wufei said snidely. "When you could be doing all that to him…"
"Yes. No! Wait a sec—," Duo sputtered. "I don't know what you're implying, Chang, but I'm not buying him to take advantage," he asserted. "I'm saving him…from a fate worse than death!"
"Oh, yeah, right," Trowa drawled. "Why would he want to hang out with a gorgeous woman and drink champagne, when he could be with you?" He eyed the rumpled uniform. "You smell, Maxwell."
"Well sorry I didn't have time to spruce up, Tro'. I just got back from a week-long infiltration mission and a firefight to end all firefights." Indigo eyes flashed in defiance. "I think salvaging my best bud's evening is more important than a little thing like showering…"
"Wait. You can't go to the Hilton like that!" Quatre said in horror. "Duo, they won't let you in the door."
Duo dropped a hand to the hilt of a knife in a wrist sheath. "Wanna bet?"
"More to the point," Wufei cut in. "Heero's a grown man, Maxwell. If he signed up for the charity auction, I'm sure he understood what it entailed."
"Heero?" Duo scoffed. "C'mon, 'Fei—all Relena had to do was make it a 'mission' and he'd bloody well jump into the Grand Canyon if she told him to!"
"Again—that's his choice to make." Wufei crossed his arms stubbornly. "Why do you feel responsible for 'rescuing' him?"
"Because I'm his best friend!"
Wufei gave a wry snort. "You just keep telling yourself that's all you are, Maxwell."
Quatre allowed himself a little chuckle. No matter how hard he tried to hide it, Duo was seriously in lust with his long-time pal. Wufei and Trowa both suspected, and Quatre knew for sure, having had Duo spill the beans to him once over one too many beers. Quatre didn't know what bothered Duo more right now, the fact that the auction would take Heero away from their weekly beer and pizza night at the local pool hall—or the thought of some rich snotty woman pawing at him.
"Maybe Relena could bid on him," Quatre mused, knowing she'd evoke a less jealous response.
"No, no, no!" Duo snarled. "She's in charge of the whole event—to raise money for some 'Save the Spotted Purple Gallinule' club or something! She can't bid! That's why she sent me the message. She said Heero was pretty bummed about missing our boys' night out, and that she hoped I'd understand." He raised troubled eyes to his friend. "Don't you see? It was a cry for help!"
"Did Relena suggest you bid?" Quatre asked carefully, wondering if it was a call for help or a set-up.
"She didn't come right out and say it—but you know 'Lena," Duo answered. "She wouldn't have told me if she didn't think I'd try to help him out."
Relena had long-since gotten over her school-girl crush on Heero and moved on. Although his Preventers job often entailed serving as her bodyguard at public events, he had many other duties, for which she gladly relinquished him. And her growing maturity had enabled her to become at least casual friends with all five of the former Gundam pilots.
"Maybe she wanted to let you know he wouldn't be available tonight for your usual plans," Quatre suggested. "As a courtesy."
"He already did that," Duo replied. "He left an e-mail…you know 'Ro. 'Can't make it to Skipper's this week. Will explain Monday.' He's as articulate as ever." Duo tugged at Quatre's sleeve. "C'mon, man. We're wasting time. I need the money and to get my ass across town." He glanced at his watch. "Shit! Only an hour!"
Quatre exchanged a look with Trowa. "You go ahead, love. I'll be back as soon as I get Duo on his way." He smiled a small, intimate smile. "And thanks for the roses."
Trowa blushed, ducking his head. "Glad you liked them." He grabbed Wufei's arm. "C'mon, Chang. Let Quatre deal with Maxwell's crisis. I want to run a couple of ideas past you on the Braxton case."
They headed for the elevators, and Quatre turned to face Duo squarely. "Okay. No more bullshit, Duo. You know you're doing this because of the way you feel about Heero. You can't stand the idea of him being at some woman's mercy for the whole evening, can you?"
"We agreed not to discuss that," Duo muttered, embarrassment coloring his face as he recalled the drunken confession he'd made to the blonde. "Can't I just be salvaging his evening because he's my friend?"
"Of course. But you and I both know there's a bit more to it than that."
"What if there is?" Duo mumbled. "'S not like I'm gonna tell him."
"No, I suppose you aren't," sighed Quatre. "But—maybe this will be an opportunity—."
"It's a favor among friends!" Duo retorted, scowling. "Please, Quatre—I'm running out of time."
"Then do me a favor. Go to my office. In the closet there's a clean suit. I keep it for emergencies. Wash up as best you can in the men's room—comb your hair—and I'll be waiting right here with the money when you get back."
"You keep a suit for emergencies?" Duo asked.
"Of course. Besides being a tactical advisor for the Preventers, I am the head of the Public Relations Department; I never know when a press conference might come up. And you know how the uniform intimidates people."
Duo just shook his head. "Think it'll be a good enough fit?"
"Better than what you've got on," Quatre assured him. "Now go! And hurry it up! I'll have your car brought up from the garage and waiting at the curb."
The braided man pulled him into a quick, fierce hug. "Thanks, Quatre. If you weren't Trowa's, I'd kiss you."
Quatre pulled away, grinning. "He'd kill you," he said with conviction, before turning and heading out the door.