Legal stuff: I don't own Gundam Wing or the characters, they all belong to other people *sniff*. Don't sue me, okay?
"So," Gerrard put the coffee in front of Duo and then took a seat opposite him. "You were rescued by the miners?"
Duo Maxwell grimaced. "If you can call it 'rescued', but yeah, they picked me up out of the debris," he took a gulp of coffee. "Apparently I drifted quite far away from the site of the original accident."
Gerrard frowned. "Why the hell didn't they let anyone know they'd picked you up?" he asked. "Why didn't _you_ tell them?!"
"Believe me, if I could've I would have," said Duo sincerely. "Unfortunately I was in a coma for nearly five months and when I woke up..." he mimed shooting his head. "Bam! No memory. The doctor who treated me said that probably had to do with the oxygen deprivation I suffered," Duo shrugged. "Anyway, as soon as I was strong enough they put me to work to get a return for saving me."
"I've heard that the outer rim mining bosses like to indenture people - without their consent- and that they especially like people who can't be traced," said Gerrard.
Duo smiled bitterly. "Believe those stories, as an amnesiac I just was _perfect_ for them!"
"How long did you work for them?"
Duo stared at his cup. "For over a year," he said softly. "A year of hell... you can't imagine, Gerrard, what it's like in the mines..."
"Didn't you remember anything?"
Duo snorted. "Bits and pieces that made _no_ sense, I thought they were fever dreams, especially the ones that involved the Gundams!" he laughed and then sobered. "But I did get my memory back, six months ago, thanks to a knock on the head! I got caught in a rock fall and when I woke up in medical I knew _exactly_ who I was!"
Gerrard shook his head. "How like you to have to be hit on the head to remember."
Duo stared into the distance. He recalled the terrible shock he'd had on awakening as all his memories assaulted him. He'd grabbed the coat of the nearest medic, babbling. "I'm Duo Maxwell, and I don't belong here!" The medic had stared at him coldly and pried his hands away. "I don't care who you are," he'd said. "Even if your name is God, you belong to the company now." And Duo had lain on his bed, too weak to move, remembering and raging at his helpless state. He'd learnt to play 'nice' though and watched carefully for an opportunity to free himself; the transport going to L2 had appeared in the light of a gift from God and Duo had quickly wrangled a place on board.
"I see they chopped your hair," Gerrard commented in the silence.
"You noticed," said Duo sarcastically. He was _still_ unhappy about that. The full tragedy of his hair hadn't kicked in until he'd regained his memories and was therefore still painful. He stood up abruptly. "Look, Gerrard, thanks for the coffee and all, but I have to get going, I need to be long gone _before_ the captain of the transport comes looking for me!"
Gerrard lifted a bushy eyebrow. "Where are ya going to go, kid?"
Duo smiled. "Home of course! I have to give Hilde a big surprise!"
Gerrard blinked. "Hilde..." he muttered. "Oh yes, your girl."
Duo opened the door. "See you around sometime!" he said cheerfully and left.
Gerrard frown. He was forgetting something, he was sure, something Duo needed to know... about Hilde...
"*&#@!" He stood up and ran to the door. "Duo! Wait!" he looked outside. There was no sign of Duo. Gerrard swore again. Now he remembered, Hilde had gone. Duo neither had a girlfriend _nor_ a house waiting for him.
Duo sauntered through the main streets of L2, soaking up the atmosphere. God, but it was _good_ to be home! He grinned broadly and pushed the memories of the hot, stinking mines into the depths of his mind, not to be dredged up again. No time for dark thoughts, Duo decided not when he was about to see Hilde after nearly two years!
He chuckled to himself. "Oi oi, she's going to be _so_ surprised! Hope she doesn't pass out!"
He ignored the small voice that tried to tell him that expecting Hilde to be in the same place after his apparent 'death' was a little naive. After all, Hilde loved him; she wouldn't _believe_ he was dead... right?
Duo shook off the little voice as he rounded a corner and found himself staring at his old home.
The house looked just the same, a basic unit in the middle of a bare yard surrounded by a plain fence. Hilde had often complained that the windows looked out on a very boring garden and would make noises about planting some flowers to liven things up. Duo smiled at the memory, he'd always _meant_ to do something about the place, but it had never seemed _that_ important.
He bounced eagerly up to the door and pounded on it. "Hilde! Oi HILDE!!!" he yelled. "Open up, it's me, Duo! I'm ba... ACK!" he stared at the tall brown haired woman who answered the door. "Who are you?"
She glared at him. "I should be asking _you_ that question!" she snapped. "What's the meaning of yelling and pounding on MY door?"
Duo spluttered. "B-but... this is MY house!" he protested. "I live here!"
The woman laughed. "You must be drunk or something," she said. "My husband and I have been living here for over a year!"
Duo swallowed. "Hilde... sold the house?" he whispered. "Then where _is_ she?"
"I don't have time for this," muttered the woman and she started to shut the door on him.
"No!" Duo blocked her.
"Get out!" she yelled. "Or I'll call the police!"
"Wait... please," begged Duo. "You have to tell me... where is the woman who used to live here before you?"
"How would I know?"
"Is something the matter, Mina?" a large man appeared behind the woman. "Hey, who's this punk?"
Duo gritted his teeth. "The name's Maxwell, not 'punk'! And all I want to know is the whereabouts of the woman who lived here before you!"
The man scratched his head. "I don't remember dealing with a woman," he grunted. "Just a man..."
"A man?" Duo blinked. *Hilde... you didn't...*
"Yeah, intense guy, not the type you forget. Kinda looked at you like he knew how to kill ya."
"Heero..." Duo sighed in relief. "So he was with her..." he looked back at the man. "Did he say where he was going?"
"Didn't ask, didn't _want_ to ask," said the man. "He wanted to sell quick, I wanted to buy, simple as that."
Duo sighed. It looked like he had managed to get all the information he could from these two. "Thanks so much for the help!" he said sarcastically with a little bow.
Mina glared at him and slammed the door in his face. Duo turned away and reflected his next move.
So... Heero was with Hilde a year ago. *Looks like he was fulfilling his promise* Duo thought as he trudged back into the centre of the city. *I have no idea _why_ Hilde felt compelled to leave though... now I have to figure out _where_ she's gone!*
Duo frowned. He had a few credits, not enough to fly anywhere, but... "Enough to call a few people who might know something!" he told himself triumphantly.
Hunting for a public phone, Duo ran into a large crowd gathered in one of the major squares. Irritably he tried to get through it, noticing as he sidled by that there were several important-looking people on a podium. They seemed to be dedicating some sort of plaque to peace. One official was getting ready to address the crowd and beside him stood a tall blond woman. Duo stopped in his tracks and stared at her. It was...
"Relena Darlian!!!" Duo cried and started pushing through the crowd to the podium. "RELENA!!!" his shout bringing all eyes to him.
He broke through and ran towards Relena who was staring at him with a puzzled expression. "It's ME! DUO!!" he yelled as several security guards converged on him.
Relena's face went white as she recognized the young man struggling with the guards. "Duo...?"
"Ow!" Duo jerked back as the antiseptic stung the cut on his cheek.
"Hold still," Relena commanded him. She gripped his arm and leaned forward to continue to dab the cotton wool on the cut. "It's your own fault you know, Duo, getting into a fight with the security guards was not the brightest move!" she scolded lightly.
Duo submitted to her treatment with a sigh. "Yeah well, they were a pain in the neck, all I wanted to do was _talk_ to you!"
"Uh huh," Relena smiled. "You burst through the crowd, yelling my name like a lunatic and you expect them to just stand by?'
Duo shrugged. "Maybe not," he admitted.
Relena put a small plaster on the cut and then stood up. "Alright, you're done."
"Thanks Nurse Relena!" Duo grinned at her.
Relena put away the first aid kit and then stood and regarded the young man on her hotel room couch. She took in the short hair and the battered clothing with a frown.
"Well Duo Maxell," she said finally. "I think you have some explaining to do."
Duo laughed. "You're taking my return from the dead much better than I expected!"
Relena lifted an eyebrow. "I'm a politician," she said. "I'm trained to react calmly to surprising news, even if my first inclination is to scream, cry and faint at the same time!"
"Fair enough," said Duo and he proceeded to fill her in on what had happened to him over the past months. "The memory thing is a bit like what happened to Trowa during the war," said Duo. "Except I didn't have a Wing Zero to wake _me_ up!" He then told Relena how he had returned to L2 and discovered that his house had been sold and Hilde was gone.
A shadow passed over Relena's face as he said this and Duo was alarmed.
"Relena... what happened to Hilde?" he asked urgently. "Where is she? Is she alright?!"
Relena closed her eyes. "Duo... Duo, I'm sorry..."
Duo felt cold inside. He got off the couch and went over to her. "Relena," his voice was quiet. "Please... tell me what has happened to Hilde..."
Relena clenched her hands, digging her fingernails into her palms. "I thought I had accepted this," she murmured. "But..." she swallowed and looked at Duo, at his worried expression, and she sighed.
"Hilde was very upset about your... death," she said. "She was almost incapacitated for several months."
Duo couldn't imagine his confident Hilde in such a state and he felt guilt for causing her so much pain. *I was never that good for you, Hildey...*
Relena took a deep breath and continued. "H-Heero... looked after her."
Duo smiled. "I knew he would... What is the matter Relena?" he asked puzzled by the pain in her blue eyes. "Why do you look so sad?"
Relena ignored his question. "Hilde decided that she couldn't bear to stay on L2, so she and... Heero set up a business on Earth."
"Hilde's on _Earth_?" Duo blinked. "And is she still there?"
"And she's okay, right?"
"I guess so, yes."
"And Heero's still with her?"
Relena nodded mutely.
"Well..." Duo frowned slightly. "It seems he's taking his promise a bit too far, but if he's looking after my Hilde..."
Relena's eyes flashed. "She's not _your_ Hilde anymore, Duo!"
Relena struggled to tell him. "Duo... Hilde and Heero... they're engaged." she whispered.
He stared at her blankly for a few seconds and then he began to laugh. "Ha! Good one, Relena! I _almost_ believed you!" He stopped laughing when he saw the sad expression on her face.
Duo stumbled backward and half-fell onto the couch. "You're not joking..."
Relena shook her head.
Duo's face went very pale, his mouth worked but no sound came out. He stared at Relena, making helpless, questioning gestures in the air, trying to fully comprehend what she had just told him. Relena waited, letting the fact trickled through him, her eyes bright with tears for his pain and her own.
Finally Duo croaked out, "W-when... how...?"
"Six months ago," said Relena heavily, she drew in a ragged breath. "They are planning to marry in two months."
"M-married??" Duo lowered his head into his hands. "No... Why?"
Relena hugged herself miserably and looked away from him. "I guess... they fell in love."
"Hilde and _Heero_?" Duo shook his head. "I can't see it!"
Relena swallowed. "They told me... they came and saw me and told me, six months ago, that they were... together..."
Duo laughed harshly and lifted his head. He stared at her, eyes glittering strangely. "And Miss Relena 'perfect' Darlian congratulated the _happy_ pair, am I right?!"
Relena twitched. "What else could I do, Duo?" she cried. "Hilde stood before me, crying because she felt so guilty, almost offering to step aside if I wanted Heero, and I _couldn't_ be so selfish, not after all she'd suffered!"
"How truly noble," sneered Duo.
Relena's eyes flashed with anger. Swiftly she crossed over to him, and before Duo could react, she slapped him sharply on the cheek.
Duo's head rocked back and he stared at her.
"Stop it!" Relena cried. "Don't you think I _want_ to scream over this? I was in love with Heero for _years_ and I always hoped that he returned my feelings! That hope was shattered six months ago and I have worked hard to accept the situation. I do _not_ need you coming in here and acting like a spoilt child, Duo Maxwell!!"
They stared at each other in silence for a long time and then Relena turned away.
"I'm sorry," she said softly. "You've just had a terrible shock and it's not surprising that you're lashing out at the most convenient person, I shouldn't have lost my temper."
Duo rubbed his cheek. "No," he said heavily. "You're the _last_ person I should be angry with. You're also suffering..." he got to his feet. "I want to see them, Relena, will you take me?"
Relena looked at him. "I don't know if that's a good idea, Duo, not when you really haven't had time to assimilate..."
There was a glimmer of a smile on Duo's face. "Do you think I'm going to go on a murderous rampage or something?" he asked.
Relena looked at him suspiciously. "I wouldn't put it past you," she said tartly. Then her tone changed to a pleading one. "Duo... please, stay put for a while..."
"Stay _where_?" Duo questioned. "I haven't got a home... Mr Yuy sold it!"
"You can stay with me," said Relena.
He smirked. "Heh, what's going to happen to your reputation when the reporters discover you with a scruffy ex-Sweeper?"
Relena frowned. "You let _me_ worry about that!"
Duo laid a hand on her arm. "Relena, you _have_ to help me get to Earth and see them," he coaxed her. "If there's a chance that Hilde and I can..."
Relena's shoulders slumped. "You're not going to give up until I saw yes, are you?"
"Not at all!"
Relena rubbed her temples. "I know this is a bad idea..." she muttered. "But alright... I'll take you to them."
Three days later, Earth:
"You don't have to come with me," said Duo to Relena as they walked swiftly up the street towards Heero and Hilde's house.
"Yes I do," said Relena grimly. "I told you, I don't trust you to hold onto your anger!"
Duo shook his head. "She maligns me..."
"I _know_ you."
Duo looked around him as they walked. The street was attractively lined with trees. The leaves of the trees were showing the change of season by turning gold and falling to the ground to create a yellow carpet. All the houses lining the street were old, but beautiful with iron-wrought fences and long drives.
"Nice area," Duo commented.
"Yes," said Relena. "_They_ chose to move here about five months ago."
Duo reflected that this _was_ the type of place Hilde had always dreamed of living in. His mouth twisted at the thought of Heero Yuy providing Hilde with her dreams. *Control Maxwell... remember you promised Relena and she's had enough troubles as it is... control...*
Duo glanced at the woman walking beside him. Her expression was very cool and her blue eyes clear, her cheeks pink from the crisp air. He'd always had alot of respect for Relena, but they hadn't been very close. He was with Hilde and she was busy looking after peace as well as being in love with Heero. But over the past three days Duo had become closer to Relena. His appearance had dredged up the pain she had been burying and together they seemed to be able to help each other work through things - to a point.
Relena looked at him "What is it Duo?" she asked seeing his eyes on her.
"Nothing," he said. "Except... I appreciate what you're doing for me, Relena. You must be busy..."
She shook her head. "It's alright Duo, the universe can survive without me looking after it for a few days," she said with a glimmer of a smile.
They smiled into each otherís eyes for a while and then Relena looked away and pointed.
"Here we are," she said.
Duo felt a dark wave of anger and depression roll over him as he looked through the gate at the house Relena indicated.
It was a two storey, cream-coloured house with gabled windows. A short flight of steps went up to the front door. At the front was a grey car and two people were getting out of it.
Relena let out a tiny gasp and Duo's eyes narrowed.
It was Heero and Hilde, obviously just returning from some shopping as Heero was pulling out bags from the boot of the car. Duo took in the appearance of his former best friend...
Heero was dressed casually in blue jeans and wore a dark green sweater. His hair still fell into his eyes, but his posture wasn't so stiff and Duo could almost see a smile on his face.
Then Duo spotted Hilde as she came to help Heero with the bags. His throat constricted as he looked at her... she looked so good... so _happy_...
Hilde was as petite and slender as he remembered, dressed in a sleeveless maroon sweater and gray pants. She was laughing and talking to Heero in a lively way, her face beautiful... loving.
Relena looked worriedly at Duo who was gripping the bars of the gate, a look of jealous fury on his face. *I shouldn't have brought him...*
"Duo," she said firmly. "If you _can't_ control yourself we _will_ leave."
He blinked and looked at her. For a moment Relena saw the God of Death that he had styled himself looking at her through his eyes, but she stared back at him boldly without flinching. Then Duo closed his eyes and sighed. When he opened them again he smiled at her.
"I'll behave," he promised.
Relena didn't believe him, but she realized that no force on Earth would remove him now and she would only make things worse if she tried. With a resigned sigh she pushed open the gate.
"Let's go then," she said.
Heero and Hilde had gone inside, so Duo and Relena walked up the drive unnoticed. They walked up the steps and Relena knocked on the door, Duo keeping to the side, out of sight.
The door opened and Heero stood there. His eyes widened slightly when he saw Relena. "Relena?"
She smiled nervously. She hadn't spoken to Heero and Hilde for about three months now and the gulf between her and Heero felt incredibly wide. "Heero," she said almost breathlessly. "I've... er... brought someone to see you..."
Before Relena could beckon Duo over, he was at her side. Duo's lips drew back into a snarl and he glared into Heero's face.
Duo folded his arms and tilted his head. "Well, well... if it isn't Mr Heero Yuy... the girlfriend thief!"
Heero's eyes widened. His reaction was one that Duo would once have died to see - total shock mingled with astonishment and a little fear. "Duo...?"
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