//We are young, heartache to heartache we stand
No promises, no demands
Love is a battlefield
We are strong, no one can tell us we're wrong
Searchin' our hearts for so long
All of us knowing, love is a battlefield//
[Love is a Battlefield - Pat Benatar]
"Fuck Heero Yuy!" Duo flung Relena's bedroom door open violently and stormed into the room, his violet eyes flashing murderously.
Relena sat up and eyed him nervously. "Things didn't go well?" She inquired.
Duo took several deep breaths, trying to calm himself. "I never expected it to go _well_." He confessed. "But I would've appreciated something more than the fucking silent treatment from the fucking Perfect Soldier!"
"What did Heero do?" Relena asked. "Did he say something?"
"No. He didn't say a thing, he just looked at me as if I was going to
reach through the screen and pull Hilde away from him!" Duo began to pace
up and down, kicking the odd piece of furniture as he ranted. "I called
to congratulate them! Would it have really hurt for him to have said SOMEthing?
What kind of man does he take me for? Of course I don't LIKE him with Hilde! But that doesn't mean I'm going to crash into their lives and try to ABDUCT her!" He paused and turned, looking at Relena with pain-filled eyes. "Did I really mess things up that badly between us, 'Lena?"
She opened her mouth to say something, but Duo held up a hand. "Ya know,
on second thoughts... I really don't want to talk about it yet." He ran
a hand through his bangs. "I might just... go for a walk and cool down...
I really don't feel safe right now..." With an apologetic smile Duo exited,
Relena blinking in his wake.
"Argh!" Relena made an explosive exclamation and flopped back down on her bed. Part of her wanted to run after Duo and check that he wouldn't do anything stupid, but she sharply reminded herself that she would do him no favours by smothering him with concern. So instead Relena focused her mind on Heero's behaviour and a possible explanation for his apparent coldness towards Duo.
Had Duo ruined their friendship beyond repair during the early days after he returned? Surely Heero could understand that Duo's emotional pain had made him lose control! Relena frowned, there was one possible explanation, but it seemed so... silly. Was it remotely possible that Heero _was_ afraid that Hilde still loved Duo?
Despite the changes in his life, Heero still remained quite stiff and
serious. Certainly his association with Hilde had made him more 'human'
and nowadays it was common to see him smile. He was also very handsome,
fulfilling the promise of his teenage years, but was still quiet and morose
at times. Compared to Duo's energetic charm and sexy smile, well... even
Relena admitted that Heero could have caused to feel nervous. After all,
Hilde _had_ fallen for Duo's charm once. It wasn't insane to believe that
Heero was concerned about Duo's gorgeous violet eyes, well-turned out form,
engaging smile and bright personality. Relena's minds-eye lingered on Duo and she smiled. He was very sexy and...
"Oh!" Relena sat back up and swallowed. "What am I _thinking_?"
She nibbled nervously on a fingernail. This was no time to start thinking
of Duo as attractive, she told herself sternly, not when we're were
both still recovering from the scars of lost love. Besides, Relena bit
her lower lip, he would be very unlikely to fall for _me_ anyway. I'm completely
in looks and personality from Hilde for a start! And really, getting involved would only make things complicated.
Relena got up and looked at her reflection in the mirror. "Duo Maxwell
is your friend." She told her reflection firmly. "You like his company
and are happy to be a _friend_ whom he can talk to. Mistaking physical
attraction for anything else would be a bad idea and is exactly what you
_don't_ need right now!" She sighed. "And furthermore, talking to myself is really not a good sign..."
"Relena?" Dorothy popped her head around the door. "Are you alright?"
Relena twitched. "Dorothy! Can't you learn to knock?" She demanded.
Dorothy raised one eyebrow. "I did knock," she defended herself. "Twice. _Are_ you alright, Relena?"
"Yes, yes. I'm fine, I was just thinking about... things." Relena blushed faintly and cursed inwardly as Dorothy smirked slightly.
"Well, if you can take a break from these 'things', can you have a look a couple of reports?" She asked.
Relena nodded. "Sure, I'll be right there."
Still smirking Dorothy left and Relena resisted the urge to throw something after her. She drew in a deep breath and faced herself in the mirror again. "Friends," she reminded herself. "Just friends. Nothing more."
With that definite statement, Relena turned away, but there was a whisper of doubt, as if her reflection was speaking quite clearly into her unwilling mind.
Thankfully for her peace of mind, over the next few months Relena was kept much too busy to dwell on her unwanted attraction to Duo. New trade agreements between Earth and the colonies were being hashed out while several smaller colonies grew beyond expectations and emergency conferences were called to deal with what was perceived as a cronic shortage of basic human rights. Relena was a frequent traveller, barely spending more than five days in one place and with relatively little time to relax. In fact, it was likely that she would have had no time for anything but work if not for Duo's efforts.
Duo remained in Relena's staff as her bodyguard. He quickly made friends
with all other guards, various secretaries and other miscellaneous, but
necessary, people. The only person he clashed with, in any form, was Dorothy
Catalonia. His pranks became legendary and were soon regarded as a vital
way to liven up a boring flight, he was also a sympathetic listener for
anyone feeling stressed, and he even managed to convince Pagan to try inline
skating at one point. However, his primary target to relax and entertain
was Relena. Frequently he would saunter into her office, yank her papers
out of her hands and drag her off to enjoy herself. Relena saw more movies,
more games, ate at more burger bars and did more _fun_ things than she had ever done in her life. Yet, at the same time, Duo didn't let her over-exert herself either at work or play. Sometimes all he would do was bar the door while she slept, not even letting the most important minister disturb her.
One warm evening in May 204 Relena and Duo walked back to the hotel where they were staying at a slow pace. In Relena’s case it was also a slightly unsteady wobble. The circus had been touring the area for a few days and the last evening had nicely coincided with the resolution of a conference Relena was attending. Duo, despite her protests, had convinced Relena to join him, Trowa, Quatre and Catherine for a little celebration of a satisfactory conclusion to business for every one. The wine had flowed freely and Relena was now feeling the effects and clung to Duo’s arm as her feet refused to obey her.
“It’s not fair,” she complained. “You and Trowa were drinking like fishes and you’re _fine_!” Me… I’m all woozy… and it’s not like I don’t drink champagne often enough!”
Duo grinned. “Yeah, but at the functions you drink the champagne you always limit yourself to a glass and a half, tonight you had five glasses of cheap plonk. It makes a difference, princess.” He grinned at her.
Relena made a face at him and then looked up at the stars. “It’s hard to believe,” she murmured as her wine-hazed mind moved to another tangent. “That nine years have passed since the beginning of Operation Meteor.”
Duo blinked. “Really? Was it about now?” He scratched his head. “Wow…”
“Yes, April 7th AC195, my birthday too…” Relena tilted her head to smile at him. “Amazing isn’t it… how things change from what you believed then to what is happening now.”
“Yeah,” Duo rolled his shoulders. “I didn’t think I’d live this long, that’s for certain.” He snickered. “And I sure didn’t expect to see Quatre with Catherine Bloom or Wufei a daddy!”
“Mayling is so cute.” Relena cooed as she was distracted onto another tangent. “I was so pleased that you managed to contact Wufei and Sally to attend my birthday party last month.” She sighed. “One day… I hope I have a child…”
Duo awkwardly put an arm around her shoulders as they entered the hotel. “You’d be a great mother, ‘Lena.” he assured her and she smiled ruefully.
“Except at the moment I’m much to busy to even allow myself the luxuary of _thinking_ about it!” She pointed out. “It’s all very well for Heero and Hilde…” Relena caught herself abruptly and glanced quickly at Duo. He laughed at the stricken expression on her face.
“Hey, it’s not taboo to say their names around me!” He said, guiding her down the corridor to their rooms. “I’m not gonna start running around like a lunatic and bashing my head against a wall!”
“I should hope not,” Relena mumbled as he opened her door. “That would be really painful… and probably very messy.”
Duo chuckled at her statement and helped her to the couch. A blinking light on the coffee table caught his eyes. “You’ve got a message.” He said. “Do you want to hear it now?”
Relena managed to sit up straighter and nodded wearily. “I should, just in case it’s something urgent…” she grimaced. “Although I have severe doubts as to my mental capacity at the moment.”
Stifling another laugh, Duo pressed play on the vid-phone and the screen lit up. Mariemaya beamed at them, her blue eyes dancing. “Miss Relena,” she said. “I thought you would be at conference, but I figured that you would want to know the news as soon as possible…” She let out an excited giggle before continuing in a rushed, breathless tone. “I just heard from Sally Chang and she told me that Hilde Yuy just had her baby!”
There was a short, stunned silence, then Duo whistled. “Whoo… talk about not breaking something gently.” He muttered. Relena just stared mutely at the screen as the information trickled through the alcohol induced haze.
Mariemaya continued. “Anyway, it’s a boy and they’ve called him Shinobu.
Anyway, Hilde’s going to stay in hospital for a couple of days, but we’re
all going to meet them at home and congratulate them…” She chewed her lower
lip. “I don’t know if you want to come… but… ummm… I just thought you’d
like to know. I’ll talk to you later, Miss Relena!” She waved and the message
Relena looked at Duo. “I will probably go.” She said hesitantly and he nodded.
“I thought you might.” He looked at his hands and to Relena’s surprise a smile tugged at the edges of his mouth.
“I think I will to.” Duo said softly. “Perhaps this is the perfect time to finally mend things, once and for all.”
“That would be wonderful.” Relena smiled and relaxed. The alcohol finally overcame her and she closed her eyes, slipping into sleep. Duo looked at her and shook his head.
“You can‘t pass out on the couch, ‘Lena.” He picked her up. “Let’s tuck you in all nice and comfortable. It’s going to be a long flight tomorrow.”
There was a heavy scent of plum blossoms in the air as Duo and Relena walked up the driveway towards Heero and Hilde’s house. Relena found herself remembering the first time she had brought Duo here and the outpouring of emotional pain that followed, she fervently hoped that this time would be a lot different.
The front door was open, spilling light and the sound of voices into the night air. Duo raised an eyebrow. “Sound like there’s a lot of people inside.” He remarked. “Funny, I wouldn’t have figured Heero to be the party type.”
“Maybe they’re Hilde’s friends.” Relena suggested as they went inside. Duo shrugged.
The living room was crowded with people, mostly unfamiliar to Duo although Relena recognised a few members of the Preventers. Une, Mariemaya, Wufei and Sally were all mingling with the crowd and Relena went to greet them, Duo waved but looked around for one person in particular whom he wanted to talk to before anyone else.
He looked around at the shout and his eyes widened when he saw the speaker. “H-Heero?”
Heero was seated on the couch, a champagne glass in one hand and a huge, rather goofy grin on his face. He got unsteadily to his feet as Duo approached and opened his arms wide. “I’m a father!” He announced grandly.
“Yeah… and you’re _drunk_.” Duo said still staring at the other man in astonishment.
Heero blinked. “Hai…” he looked at the champagne glass. “People keep shoving these things in my hand.” He grinned back at Duo. “Did I tell you I’m a father now? Beautiful boy… ten fingers and toes… everything there… and…” He leaned forward, clamping his free hand on Duo’s shoulder to steady himself. “Y’know what the amazing thing is?”
Amusement sparked in Duo’s eyes. “I have no idea,” he confessed. “But I bet you’re going to tell me right?”
Heero nodded. “He’s so… so _small_!” He whispered loudly in Duo’s ear.
“Okay, so he’s beautiful, intact and small.” Duo grinned. “Congratulations, pal!” He clapped Heero on the back and found, to his astonishment, that he genuinely meant it.
Heero pulled back and stared owlishly at Duo. “You wanna see him?”
“If that’s… okay…” Duo said slowly and Heero nodded.
“Upstairs… with Hilde.” He said and pointed a wobbly finger towards the stairs. “An… and I think she’ll wanta see you…” Heero nodded again and then stumbled backwards, falling onto the couch and laughing.
“Man, you are going to need a fireman’s lift up the stairs tonight!” Duo chuckled, shaking his head. “Are all new Dads this crazy?” he wondered as he walked out of the living room. As he ascended the staircase he began to feel apprehensive again, unsure of how he would feel when he saw Hilde.
She was in the bedroom, showing off Shinobu to a cooing Sophy Winner
who cradled the baby in her arms. Duo paused in the doorway and regarded
the scene, a slight smile on his face. Hilde’s face was flushed with happiness
and there was a loving light in her eyes as she took her baby back. The
glow didn’t fade when she looked up to see Duo, but her eyes did widen
in surprise. Sophy
glanced back and grinned.
“I’d better go, Hilde.” She said. “Remember what I said about babysitters!” She nodded to Duo as she passed by and hurried down the stairs.
“Is Sophy offering to babysit?’ Duo asked casually.
Hilde laughed and shook her head. “No, just volunteering her nieces and nephews without their knowledge.” She explained.
“Typical…” Duo cleared his throat. “Er… Heero said that you were here.” He said lamely. “You know he’s plastered?”
Hilde nodded. “Uh-huh, but that’s okay… the delivery was pretty long, and he was very tense by the end.” She rocked Shinobu gently, the baby burbling quietly in her arms. “Um… do you want to hold him?”
“M-me?” Duo asked, panicked by her suggestion. “Uh… uh… is it hard?”
“No, silly!” Hilde giggled. “Now, hold out your arms…”
“I don’t know, Hilde.” Duo said doubtful as he did as she told him. “I really don’t…” he gulped as she deposited the tiny, warm bundle into his arms. She then adjusted his grip so that he was supporting the baby right and stepped back.
“You look like a natural, Duo.” She teased lightly. “Very cute.”
Duo looked down into a pair of sleepy blue eyes. “He looks like Heero.” He said.
“Really? You think so?” Hilde beamed and Duo’s statement turned positively mischievous.
“Yeah, all grumpy and deadly serious.”
“Very funny.” Hilde picked a camera up from the bed. “Now, smile Uncle Duo!”
“Wha…? Hey!” Duo yelped as she took the picture. “No fair!” He objected as she giggled. Shinobu let out a little squawk at his sudden movement and Duo looked at him in alarm. “Uh…”
Hilde took her son back. “Don’t worry, Duo. He makes all kinds of funny noises, just be grateful that he’s not screaming.” She made a face. “That’s the worst.”
“But you’re happy, right Hilde?” Duo asked softly and she nodded.
“Yes, Duo. I am happy.” She met his eyes. “And you? Are you happy now, with Relena?”
“Yes, I…” he frowned. “What do you mean by ‘with Relena’?” he asked defensively.
“Happy working with her, that’s what I meant.” Hilde said, not letting him see the slight smile that flickered over her lips as she placed Shinobu in his cradle.
“Oh… yeah… yeah, I am.” Duo said, feeling unaccountably flustered.
“Good.” Hilde met his eyes squarely with her own. “I’m glad. I want you to be happy, Duo.”
Duo realised something then. There was no longer any anger or bitterness within him when he looked at her. Love still stirred his heart, but it wasn’t so tempestuous, and the painful ache of loss was not so harsh. He leaned down and gently kissed her forehead. “Hilde, I can one hundred percent guarantee you that I am _very_ happy with my life now.”
Go ON to PART SIX
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