DISCLAIMER: (Borrowed in part from Jay, with her permission) The Gundam Universe of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is Sotsu Agency, Sunrise, ANB, and Bandai America, Inc. Characters, places, timeline and other elements of the Gundam Wing series are the property of said organizations, and I do not profess to own them. The original material herein is the author and not considered public domain. Please don't sue or plagiarize. I'm in a perpetually non-prosperous state and all spare change usually goes into coffee or bags of oats.

WARNINGS: AU, angst, suspense, death (of non-main characters), bad language, romance, yaoi.

SUMMARY: Someone wants Duo dead, and Heero is the one who is supposed to do it!

Murder Has Blue Eyes
Part One
by Shira

A bellowing voice filled the expansive hallways of the estate, echoing off marble floors and resonating through cathedral-like rooms adorned with crystal chandeliers and porcelain objects d'art.

"Mister Maaaxxweeeellll!"

Jonathan strode hurriedly from room to room, checking the entire top floor of the mansion looking for the youth, finding no one. He jogged down the grand main stairway, turning right in the foyer, continuing his search, calling the entire time.

"Mister Maaaxweeeeell! Where are youuuu?"

As he rushed into the study, Jonathan was met head on by none other than the one he sought. Nearly knocking the older man off his feet, Duo Maxwell reached out to keep Jonathan from falling over from the fright of his sudden appearance in the doorway. Once steady on his feet again, Jonathan straightened his uniform coat briefly.

"Oh, Mister Maxwell, I..."

"Jon, please don't call me that." Duo said casually, turning to re-enter the study with the distinguished-looking older man following behind him. He was always telling Jonathan not to call him that, Mister Maxwell. It made him feel old.

"It's proper for..." Jonathan began, only to be silenced by the younger man before him.

"I know, I know," Duo said, patronizingly. "My mother had to hire a 'real' English butler, and since you are a 'real' English butler, it's proper for you to call me 'Mister Maxwell,' even if I don't want you to, right Jon?"

"Eh... precisely."

"Bullshit," came the unexpected answer, and Jonathan flinched as if someone had slapped him in the face. "Jon, you're a great guy. I like you a lot. Did it ever occur to you that rich people want their servants to call them 'Mister,' and 'Sir,' and 'Lady,' because it makes them feel big, like somehow, because they have money and can afford a butler, they are a better person than you are?" Duo stared straight into Jonathan's gray-blue eyes and the other man faltered somewhat.

"Well... yes, I know you're probably right, however..."

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Mister Maxwell it is."

"One other thing, if I may?" Jonathan questioned politely of his quarry as he smiled.

"Hmm?" Duo was already retreating back to the leather sofa on which he had been sitting, playing with his Xbox in front of the sizeable flat screen TV up on one wall. They had been his Christmas present to himself that year, since there was no one else with whom to exchange gifts other than Jonathan, so he'd splurged. Flat screen technology was still a new thing, and the prices were pretty steep, but the sales pitch had been a good one, and Duo was in need of a toy anyway. He'd really made the salesperson's day, that one Saturday before the holidays, picking up a new 36" color TV and DVD player to give to Jonathan as well.

"With all due respect, Mister Maxwell, you know I do prefer Jonathan." The silver-haired man walked around to the side of the sofa, his eyes trained on the game that Duo was playing. It was Silent Hill 2. With an expression of utter disgust and non-amusement, he shook his head and looked back toward the young man.

"So, what does the old man want this time, Jonathan?" Duo asked, without even batting an eyelash in Jonathan's direction, his eyes fixed on the game only.

"Mister Banes asked me to remind you that his acquaintance, Miss Kathryn, will be arriving in an hour for dinner, and he would appreciate it if you would change your clothing to something a little more suitable for having guests."

"What? Ripped jeans and a stained T-shirt isn't good enough for 'Miss Kathryn'?" Attention still fixed on the screen, Duo accentuated the 'Miss Kathryn' part, contorting his face mockingly as he did. He hated the bitch, to put it bluntly. She was after one thing and one thing only, and Duo could see right through her shallowness even if William couldn't. "Motherfucker is lucky if I don't just show up naked... wouldn't THAT be a treat for 'Miss Kathryn,' eh Jon," he mumbled under his breath so that only he could hear himself.

"Excuse me?" Jonathan asked, pausing as he made his way out of the room.

"Oh, nothing. Umm... yeah, fine, whatever. I'll be there with bells on."

"Very good. And, Mister Maxwell?" Jonathan hesitated outside the doorway, turning back to face his young charge.

"Yeah?" Duo was barely paying attention at this point as James was having his second encounter with Pyramidhead on the huge screen in front of the sofa.

"Please behave yourself. I know you don't approve of William, but please, let's have an evening of peace in this house. Your mother would be happy about that."

"My mother..." Duo began quietly, then changed his mind, sighing. "Gotcha. Will do, Jonathan. For you." Duo turned to look over the back of the overstuffed sofa, catching the caring guardian eyes of the older man briefly. Flickering a half-smile and his expressive eyes, Duo seemed to appease the man, who smiled back hopefully before turning and disappearing down the foyer hall. Duo turned back to his game just in time to see James get killed in a puddle of his own blood by the economy-sized-knife-wielding Pyramidhead.


His mother, rest her soul, would be anything but happy to see what was now going on in her home.

Victoria Maxwell-Banes had been a very well to do socialite and businesswoman before her death. An unfortunate death, at that. She and William, her husband by remarriage, had been repelling while on vacation in Australia when her rope let go. She plummeted hundreds of feet down the cliff side to her death as William watched, dangling from his trappings above her, not able to be of any assistance to her. As experienced a rock climber as she was, accidents such as hers can never be predicted and are generally regarded as the risk of the game, so there was never any suspicion that her death was anything but that - a tragic accident, but from the beginning, Duo suspected otherwise.

She'd always enjoyed dangerous outdoor activities, being extremely physically fit and active, and she frequently caused William much distress with her outlandish adventures. When he returned from their trip unexpectedly early and without Victoria, nobody even second-guessed him, since most people who knew Victoria also knew that she liked to "live dangerously," as William had termed it. William's display of distraught had been so heart-wrenching, the people who were close to the couple immediately sought to comfort him as he tried to recover from the accident and get through the weeks following Victoria's death.

Her body had been delivered, after preservation, to the local morgue in a transport box that arrived from Australia so that Victoria could be buried at home by her husband and son. Prior to the funeral service, Duo drove to the morgue to positively identify his mother, fighting the entire time to contain the anger and suspicion that had immediately begun building inside him from the moment he'd learned of her "unfortunate accident." From the instant that William had phoned him from the coroner's office in Sidney, thoughts of deceit were forming in the young man's head, and these thoughts were beginning to make too much sense.

William had cried crocodile tears to Duo, Victoria's only son and her heir, for weeks, expressing his sadness in "their" loss, only to have Miss Kathryn show up three months later. He explained her appearance at first as being a mutual friend of his and Victoria's who'd offered her support to him in light of the circumstances, the same as he'd done for Victoria when she lost her first husband, Duo's father. Within no time though, this stranger to the household had seemingly become very close to William. Too close to William, Duo felt, and coincidentally at the time when Victoria's trust was scheduled to be announced by her lawyers.

According to the young heir, Kathryn's welcome had already been overstayed - he didn't trust her as far as he could throw her - and he wished there were a way he could get rid of her, but there really wasn't. As long as she and William had "a thing" going, there was no to convince her to leave, other than to just be as annoying as he possibly could and hope that she got tired of it. With any luck she might just dump William and take off to find herself an easier prey, but considering the fact that rich widowers were few and far between, Duo doubted it.

Victoria's estate had been willed equally to both William and Duo, including her Fortune 500 company, the entire home site, and various other vacation properties that she'd owned throughout the globe, and they were to continue to run the company under the Maxwell name. She'd seen to it that Duo's education had been taken care of as soon as he'd graduated high school, having sent him to the best colleges while she was still alive, and had instated him with the co-presidency of the company beside William. They both worked under her, and now would be forced to work beside each other without her, since they were the ones who knew the company, a prominent financial firm, just as well as she did.

Always prepared for anything, she'd even planned for the unexpected details, including the unlikely event of her premature death, scripting out her wishes so she could rest knowing that her son would always live comfortably. Although she loved William dearly, Victoria was not quite as concerned about his future without her - he had his own money to fall back on, as well as part of her company and estate; there was no worry that he would not do well. Duo, on the other hand, had been her one and only child, and she loved him more than life itself. He was young and not as experienced in the business world, even if he was quite good at what he did. Though she liked to think that she taught him well, her main interests were always that he was allowed to be as happy as possible after her passing, in the event that she died early, so she had more than adequately provided for him in her will. He could essentially, if he so desired, not work another day in his life and never have to worry about money, however that wasn't how Duo chose to spend his mother's hard-earned fortune. He instead continued going to work to perform his duties and collect his regular paycheck as the now co-president and co-owner of Maxwell Financial Corporation.

As declared by Victoria herself in the legal document, William could not, not ever, ask her son to leave the estate against his wishes, since it was rightfully half his. The same went for Duo - he could not try to force his stepfather out in order to be the sole possessor of the wealth that she'd left them. The only way that either of the two men could continue on without the other was in the case of a legal buyout, or in the event of a death. That had been Victoria's method to see to it that both of the beloved men in her life were taken care of, without the ability to argue over her riches. In most cases that method would probably have fared well, if the relationship between stepfather and stepson were what it was thought to be. In this case though, Duo knew his mother's wishes and instructions would only bring about trouble in the future, because really, there was no closeness at all to bind him and his stepfather. Duo was of the opinion that William simply wanted it all to himself, and he was waiting to find out just how far the man was willing to go to get it.

Duo detested William Banes. As a matter of fact, he hated him with a passion. From the moment he met him at the age of nineteen, Duo always felt there was something wrong with the man, something he was hiding, and he didn't trust him one bit. The now forty-nine year old William had shown up in Victoria's life as a supportive "friend," there for her at the time of Jake Maxwell's death from cancer, four years prior to her own death. Advanced lymphoma had killed Duo's father at the young age of only forty-three, leaving Victoria a widow at forty-one, and with a huge financial company to run by herself. At the time, William had been a co-vice president in the company, one of the many cut-throat business suits looking for a way - any way - up the Maxwell corporate ladder to the sweet prize that lay at the top, and he used Victoria to help him get to that prize. He'd been teeing off with Jake on Saturday mornings for over a year, and was a frequent guest at the Maxwell home for dinner and cocktails. Supportive of her, a companion to her, a sympathetic shoulder for her to cry on when the loneliness go to be too much, William stayed by Victoria's side for nearly two years, faking his loyalty to her family and her company, until the day that he asked her to marry him, and she accepted.

Duo was livid when he found out. He asked his mother how she could be so naive, telling her that William Banes was after only one thing, and that was her money, not her love. He knew that the truth would hurt her, but if she couldn't see it, he felt it was his responsibility to tell her. Victoria had been shocked to the point of tears at her son's outburst. As far as she had ever witnessed, William had been totally devoted to her and everything that she considered important in her life. It had been a plan, perfectly laid by William himself, and it had worked like a charm.

However, what she had been so blinded to was the fact that behind her back things were not wonderful at all. William had kissed Duo's ass so well while his mother was alive that Victoria was easily fooled into thinking he actually cared for the boy. Therefore, when it all came to brass tacks, Duo could do nothing to stop the marriage after his mother forbade him to interfere. She had accused him of selfishly trying to do sabotage her chances of finding any remaining shred of happiness that she might still find in her life, and that comment had really cut him deep. Before William had shown up in their lives, she would never have considered him so harshly as she did then, knowing full well that Duo's only concern was for her best interest. It all left even bigger mounting feelings of distaste for William in Duo's mouth, that he could bridge a gap between he and his mother so. By the time the wedding came around, Duo had no choice but to simply back down and watched from afar as Victoria married William, the slithery man grinning sadistically at him behind Victoria's back the whole time, making his blood boil.

Now 24 years old, Duo Maxwell was fighting for what was rightfully his, and for the truth about his mother's death. Ever since William returned from Australia without Victoria a year ago, he'd had his suspicions of the prospecting man. Victoria was a careful woman. She loved the outdoors and she loved being adventurous. She was never careless - she knew all too well that one stupid mistake would mean her death. He just couldn't believe that she would attempt to repel from anywhere, let alone as high up as they were, without carefully checking her gear. William had explained to the police how one of Victoria's ropes had frayed without either of them noticing the weakness before it was too late, causing the rope to ultimately snap from the pull of her weight as she began to descend the cliff, but Duo just couldn't believe it. He wouldn't believe it. It was just too fishy for his liking, and he had it in his mind to let William know of this.

William, who was previously divorced and had already disowned two of his own adult children, apparently detested the younger Maxwell as much as Duo disliked him. It was obvious by the way he treated the boy, from the moment they were introduced. William was sweet, caring and attentive while Victoria was present, but behind her back, he was nasty and vindictive, with never a nice thing to say to Duo. Now, five years later and with Victoria out of the picture, Duo was to William nothing more than a road block between him and all of Victoria's riches, and both he and Duo were aware of it.

He'd played the "suicidal husband" for going on two months after Victoria's death, making sure that everyone they knew saw how emotionally wrecked he was. He broke down and cried for everyone at the mere mention of her name. He even went as far as attempting to jump off the balcony on the second floor, the one that was attached to the master bedroom suite, so that the police and a psychologist could talk him down. Yes, he did very well in gathering everyone's sympathy, William did. Everyone's sympathy except for one - the one who had seen him so many times dancing and singing quietly and toasting himself with goblets of champagne. Lots of champagne, and if there was no champagne, wine would suffice until Jonathan could have more delivered.

However, William didn't realize it, but he talked a lot when he was drunk. He would probably be very embarrassed if he actually knew some of the thing's he'd said out loud during some of his private, one-person celebrations. Actually, he would probably be mortified, because as depressed and sad as he was in the public eye by day, he was every bit as giddy and happy by night, looking suspiciously like a husband who had just bumped off his rich wife. Carelessness was usually the demise of all deceitful people, and champagne tended to turn William into a very happy, careless man.

When William began verbalizing in the privacy of the master bedroom about how he was "the king of the world" now, now that he had everything his heart could desire, Duo took immediate notice. It was convenient that Victoria had installed a dumb waiter in the master bedroom that led to the kitchen below. She used to use it so that her breakfast could be enjoyed in quiet and privacy from the balcony, her meal being delivered to the room without interruption, but it was beginning to look like the tunnel in the bedroom wall also served another purpose. From what had become a regular spying perch in the kitchen, Duo would wait until William had retired for the evening, and then go sit by the dumb waiter with the door open. William knew it was there, but he didn't use it. What he didn't know, however, was that voices could be plainly heard from above through the channel.

So, the young man would sit alone in the kitchen, after Jonathan had long since been relieved for the evening, and listen, expressionlessly, to the tale of William and his new found fortune. Most nights he overheard nothing, sitting on a stool near the dumb waiter until he was sure that the other man had gone to sleep. Occasionally though, he heard enough to twist his gut into knots, and cause him to have to force himself not to run upstairs and deliver the same fate to William as had been delivered to his mother. "Stay calm... stay controlled... you owe it to her to figure this out," Duo would whisper to himself over and over as he eavesdropped. The really difficult part for him though, was always trying to act natural during the days to follow, so as not to let William to suspect anything. Yes, that was the hard part indeed.

All that Duo needed to do now was prove that William was a liar, and had killed Victoria... but how?

He'd brought tape recordings to the police already. They attributed the slurred words as non-incriminating, partly because William had already conveniently been diagnosed as suffering from "temporary emotional trauma," after seeing his wife fall to her death the way he did, and also because, honestly, he hadn't really said anything yet that actually incriminated him. At least nothing that Duo had been able to get on tape. There were the occasional fits of drunken happiness, but disappointingly, William had chosen nights that Duo was unprepared for recording to spill the most information. Beyond that, he mostly whined and cried about Victoria being dead, and carried on about being the one who was responsible. There was really no basis behind his drunken babble, since everyone on the outside only knew the William that loved Victoria with all his heart and was willing to do anything for her. His statements could, and were, simply taken as words from a distraught husband feeling remorseful for having taken his wife on the vacation that would ultimately be the death of her.

So, in all his time trying to prove William as Victoria's murderer, Duo had made it his mission to piss the man off as much as he could, to basically instill it in him that he was well aware of something, even if he didn't know exactly what. His many trips to the police had succeeded in nothing other that causing him to be known as a "trouble maker," trying to blame an honest and reputable man for something that he didn't do, because he couldn't face the reality that his mother had simply had an accident. They suggested that he get counseling to get over Victoria's death. Then when William was apprised of the situation, suddenly things changed in the Maxwell home, and there were no more private celebrations and no more confessions to overhear as Duo returned home from work one evening to find workmen leaving the mansion after remedying the problem of the dumb waiter.

Duo Maxwell was a good-looking young man who was lithe, lean and physically fit. He always took after his mother's love for the outdoors, being quite the sportsman himself. Victoria had insisted that her only child grow up experiencing the finer things in life, so he had always been exposed to the arts and the best instruction in whatever athletics happened to interest him. In his twenty-three years with her, Duo had been all over the world on trips, and was experienced in many activities, some of his favorites being repelling, like his mother, riding, and windsurfing.

Able-bodied, he stood about 5'11"; his compact shape mirroring his mother's more than his fathers, as did his expressive eyes. Victoria had the bluest of blue eyes, so deep they could suck someone into them, and Duo's were no different, except for the color. His were, oddly enough, violet, almost a purple color. Jake Maxwell had vibrant emerald eyes himself. Victoria used to always say to Duo jokingly that the Maxwells were royalty and didn't even know it, evidenced by the "jewel toned eyes" that the family bore, and still, every time Duo looked at his own eyes in a mirror he was reminded of her. Reminded of the way she called him "her prince" when he was a child.

Long copper-colored hair, as long as the bottom of his buttocks, created a look for the young Maxwell that was purely him, and reminiscent of her. Duo had the same hair as his mother, straight down to the glistening highlights, although she would only allow hers to grow to shoulder length before cutting it. He, on the other hand, loved his long hair since it made him feel so unique, and never did more than trim it, much against his mother's suggestion to cut more. He kept it all bound in a neat plait which protected it from the elements and any other damage, and in spite of all the wealth that surrounded him, his single rope of hair was his most prized possession. That, and his memories, photos and video recordings of his mother.

There was yet one final thing about Duo Maxwell though, that was the sealing factor in his and William's hate for each other. Duo was gay. Duo was gay, and William would have none of it, which was a shock to his being, considering how tolerant his mother had been after he came out of the closet to her as a teenager. As a matter of fact, William too had been seemingly tolerant as well, that was until Victoria was out of the picture. Once she was gone, however, things did a complete turnaround, William now regarded Duo as an outcast in his own home. He called him things like "fag" and "pansy" and "fairy," to only name a few. There were definitely no feelings of anything besides animosity between the two, which was for certain.

Nearly a year had passed since Victoria's death, and in that time William had managed to not only completely change her company, but he'd practically alienated all of her former friends and clients, and made life a living hell for Duo. As he could not relieve Duo of his co-presidency at the company, William sought whatever other ways he could to annoy the young man, probably in the hopes of convincing him to leave - both the company and the mansion. William would purposely schedule important company meetings on days that he knew Duo could not possibly be there, and would frequently make rude comments regarding his stepson's lifestyle to the other employees, tarnishing Duo's reputation with them.

Outside of the office, William would purposely interfere with any male guests that Duo brought over, making it apparent to the young men that they were unwanted in the home, and naturally, they never returned. It got to the point where Duo simply did not date any longer, because as soon as he began to get close to someone, he would then have the problem of dealing with William, and he was getting tired of the hurt of ruined relationships. It wasn't at all for the fact that Duo blamed his fellow romancers - but it was growing old all the same, so for the meanwhile, he just decided to not deal with it, and deal instead with William. It was beginning to get pretty pathetic that he couldn't have a private life in his own home, so the time had come to do something about it.

What William really wasn't counting on though, was the fact that Duo was of much stronger will than he assumed - and actually, he rather loved a challenge. It had, in a sense, become a race to see who could annoy whom to the death, since that was the only way either of them were going to give up any part of their inheritance or residence at the mansion. Naturally, William wanted it for the sheer greed that he possessed. However, Duo was just trying to uphold everything that his mother had worked toward, and he insisted to himself that he refused to lose out to the lowlife scum of a businessman, murderer and excuse for a human being that was William Banes.

Jonathan, Victoria's "imported" butler, from jolly olde England herself (Duo always thought that it was so cliche to actually have a real butler that spoke in the stereotypical butler English accent), was the only other resident in the mansion other than himself and William. They got along quite well, Jonathan and Duo, which left Duo feeling that there was at least one person in his life that he could count on. Jonathan had been employed by the Maxwell family since before Duo's birth. They were a good family to work for, Jonathan would agree. That was, before Victoria's death. Jonathan was more than happy in his position of caretaker and servant there. He was very well compensated, had a lovely place to live, plenty of personal days and vacation time, and just about anything else he desired in exchange for his loyalty. Jonathan had a lady friend whom he visited, or who came around to the estate to see him regularly, but he never had the desire to marry, so for him, the situation was ideal. In that light, that almost made Jonathan a surrogate father to Duo, and they were indeed close. And, Duo could joke with Jonathan about his loath for William, since really, the Englishman wasn't terribly fond of Mr. Banes either. The only reason why he stayed on these days was because Duo begged him not to leave, and his affection for the young man that he'd helped raise wouldn't let him go.

Entering the double French doors of the large dining room, elaborately decorated with gold plated this and crystal-encrusted that, Duo appeared just in time for dinner. Already seated at the table in the middle of the spacious room were William, dressed in a dark gray business suit with straight corners and thin lapels, and his "friend," Kathryn. Kathryn was dressed in a screaming red sequined garment so tight and so revealing, Duo chided himself that maybe she was the one intending to be naked to dinner, and not himself as he'd joked with Jonathan earlier.

Thin spaghetti straps barely held up the top of the glistening party dress, which barely held Kathryn in at all. She was a thirty-something bleach blonde bombshell with plastic chest, plastic face and plastic personality, all of it, Duo suspected, having been paid for by William, with Victoria's money. The Barbie doll look-alike watched him as he approached the table, seductively undressing his youthful form with her eyes. If there was ever a picture that went with the word slut, she was it. Duo wondered to himself, as he did every time he saw Kathryn, where on earth women like this came from, and if they were all straight from the set of B-rate porn flicks. And William wasn't embarrassed to be seen with this? Duo laughed inside as he approached the table.

She had nothing in common at all with William - not age, not hobbies, from what Duo had seen, not even taste in movies, as she and William had argued many times over what cable movie to turn on - except for her obvious lust of money. She was sure to stick around as long as William kept giving her handouts. He bought her expensive clothes, took her to the best restaurants, and gave her lavish gifts. Duo thought that William surely had to realize that she was as fake as a two-headed quarter - he wasn't that stupid. But then again, so was William, so perhaps they deserved each other. She got paid to let him pretend to love her so he could get his rocks off, and be seen with a pretty (which was subject to debate), young girl. Yup, definitely a slut. Duo raised an eyebrow to the slut who was staring at him naked from across the table.

William caught wind of Kathryn's attentions, and remarked snidely. "Don't bother, dear. You're wasting your time. You already know that Duo only goes for young, hot men like himself. He wouldn't know what to do with a woman like you." The middle-aged man chuckled out loud, impressed with his off-color wit.

"Oh, that's for certain," Duo thought, in response to William's comment. "If you like," he replied sarcastically, "I can arrange some for you, too, William." The longhaired young man smirked spitefully toward Kathryn as he seated himself at the table, across from her. William sat at the head. "So, here I am. What do you want?" He was blunt, since he was in no mood to chitchat. Honestly, he was never in the mood to converse with William about anything.

William looked over his stepson with distaste in his eyes. "Is this what you call presentable?"

Duo was dressed in jeans still, but new ones that were still dark and clean looking, with a stylish shirt and a black leather belt. He wore leather penny loafers on his feet with no socks, and a light, black leather jacket.

"Well, I don't know, Bill." Duo answered curtly. "All my hot-piece-of-ass dates always think I look pretty good dressed like this." He eyed Kathryn for a response, and she giggled absentmindedly. Bimbo. He'd been suspecting for a while now that she wanted to get into his pants more than she wanted William to get into hers. Too bad for her.

William ignored the comment and began pouring wine into three glasses as Jonathan appeared with a first course of appetizers. Clearing his throat, he began. "I called you to dinner tonight to discuss something with you."

"Shoot." Duo acknowledged as he sipped some wine and nibbled on a shrimp cocktail.

"We've undergone some changes at the company." William ignored his stepson in every manner other than with his words, paying attention instead to Kathryn. He ogled the woman in a way that made Duo want to wretch right there at the dinner table.

"What do you mean 'we've undergone'? You're supposed to discuss any changes with me first before you take any action. I'm your partner, remember?"

William wiped his mouth on his napkin, leaving a vague pink mark behind on the stark white cloth. "Yes, I'm aware of that. But, I can't very well expect you to agree with me about your own termination now, can I?" William turned toward the longhaired man, a vindictive smirk on his lips.

"My WHAT?" Duo slammed his glass down on the table, spilling red wine all over the pristine tablecloth as it sloshed over the edge of the vessel.

"You heard me. Look, let's just cut to the chase, Duo. I know you don't like me."

"Understatement of the year, Bill," Duo said with a smirk as William ignored the casual manner in which the younger man referred to him.

"I know you don't like me, and I really don't like you. Additionally, we seem to have a major difference of opinion regarding...how should I say... your personal preference?"

"Yeah, so? What has that got to do with anything?"

"William poured himself a second half-glass of wine, then held it up to the light, swirling the dark liquid in the glass, inspecting it. "I think you are a detriment to the company, putting forth a bad image, so I've decided to let you go."

Duo shot out of his seat, anger seething from his eyes. "Bad image! My ass! I know more about that company than anyone there does. Since when does my personal life have anything to do with how I run my mother's business?"

"Au contraire, Duo. You aren't running anything anymore." William turned to whisper to Kathryn sweetly, making her blush and giggle. "And besides... it seems to me that some of the other higher-ups are getting a little concerned with your obvious disregard for the company's well being."

"Disre... I know what you've been up to, William. I know you're making me out to look bad in front of all the Vices'. I know you're spreading rumors behind my back," Duo replied angrily.

"Yes, and there isn't a damn thing you can do about it now, is there. You do look the fool right now, that's for certain." The older gentleman calmly sipped his wine again.

"You can't do that, William. You know you can't. I'll sue you over this." There was a violet rage looming in Duo's eyes now as he began to sweat under his shirt collar. This was just the kind of thing he expected out of William, although to say he wasn't at least a little bit surprised would be a lie. It was one of those situations that the young Maxwell knew would eventually come to pass, but all the while he denied that it would actually ever get that far.

William chuckled haughtily. "You do that, Duo. I'm not afraid of you. But in the meantime, until you gather your forces, you aren't needed any longer at the office. I've already replaced you and a few others, structuring the corporation the way I intend to continue with it."

'What do you mean, structuring? Duo glared at the older man. "William... you know damn well that's not what my mother wanted and..."

William broke in abruptly, slamming his fist down on the table, jarring silverware and causing his guests to startle in their seats. "Victoria is dead, and until the dead can run companies from their grave, I will do what I damn well please with this one. You are nothing more than a thorn in my side, and I intend to yank you out and dispose of you." He shot an angry look at Duo and glared at him. The bimbo remained silent, at least smart enough to sense the tension in the room.

"You son of a bitch!" Duo's voice rose. "She loved you! My mother loved you, and this is what she gets in return? You're a murderer, William. You're a murderer and we both know it!" He threw down his napkin, his chair sliding out behind him as he rose, no longer intending to stay for dinner.

"Accusations like that will get you in a lot of trouble, I assure you," William countered, then carelessly went back to his adoring girlfriend. He'd gotten the last word in this time, and Duo was speechless.

Completely flabbergasted, Duo stood at the table for a few more seconds, looking on as William and Kathryn proceeded as if he were not in the room, then shook his head. The young man turned and left the table, striding quickly out of the dining room and right past Jonathan who was bringing in dinner salads for three.

"Mister Maxwell?"

"I won't be staying for dinner, Jonathan, thank you." Duo disappeared out the French doors and down the hallway in a fury of black leather and flaxen braided hair.

on to part two

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