The Right Choice
A Gundam Wing fanfic by Orla


Disclaimer: I don't own Gundam Wing or the characters. If I did I'd be rich, but I'm not, so don't sue!


Author's note:

This is my take on what happened to Hilde after she helped Duo in episode 23 and how she came to be living with him.


The heavy doors swung open and Hilde Schbeiker was marched inside. Despite an almost overwhelming desire to be sick, she kept her head erect and her expression calm. There was no way that she was going to let anyone see how scared she was.

Flanked by two guards she was taken to the middle of the courtroom and placed in the stand. Before her sat the commanders of OZ forces on the L2 colony – they regarded her with various levels of disapproval from behind a long table on a raised dais. In front of the table was Hilde's commanding officer, Lt Thomas.

Hilde quickly glanced from side to side and noted that all the soldiers lining the room were cadets like her. Some of them she knew personally, but there was no sympathy for their former comrade in their faces. Hilde frowned slightly, obviously she was to be their object lesson, to see what OZ did to traitors.

The three commanding officers took the measure of the young girl in front of them as the proceedings began. She was young, just turned sixteen, and looked it. A petite, slender person with short black hair and wide blue eyes, Hilde was not beautiful, but the description of 'seriously cute' could easily be applied to her. Certainly she neither looked like a soldier nor a traitor and more than one of the commanders felt a little sympathy for her.

Lt Thomas, however, felt no sympathy for the little fool he believed Hilde to be. His eyes were snapping with rage as he read out the charges against Hilde. After all, the whole mess had happened under his command and that could lead to some unpleasant questions about his fitness as a commander – especially since the culprits were a couple of teenagers.

Hilde could see that if it were up to Lt Thomas she would have been shot long before she made it to the courtroom. She thanked God that he was a stickler for the rules; dying would be so inconvenient right now, especially before finding out what had happened to him.

Duo Maxwell.

The Gundam pilot.

Hilde had met him while on a recruiting drive for OZ on her native L2 colony. She had overheard him making some disparaging comments about OZ and she had gaily defended them. To be frank his good looks and engaging smile had caught her eye too, and she had found herself hoping that he would join up so she could get to know him better.

Then things turned to custard. He blasted his way out of the colony in a stolen MS (to be fair he was careful not to hurt anyone) and she had chased after him, full of righteous anger. Her commanders' realisation that he was one of the feared Gundam pilots didn't deter her one bit. Then he surprised her. Instead of shooting her down and continuing on his way, he argued with her! Tried to convince her that OZ had no right to mobilise the colonies. Told her that OZ was using them just as the old Federation had! Despite her anger Hilde had realised that he was a much better pilot than she was and very capable of killing her. It was very confusing and she started to find his words were haunting her after he was captured.

Seeking a way to quiet her doubts she tried to question him and only wound up getting even more confused. When Duo broke out, she threw her career and her life away and helped him escape to the moon base.

And now she was here, facing the consequences of that reckless decision. Hilde wrinkled her nose slightly, well she had no idea what was going to happen to her, but she didn't regret what she had done.

The trial dragged on and Hilde began to feel light-headed from standing so much, but she didn't think they'd give her a chair, so she kept her eyes fixed and her expression mulish.

Lt Thomas was advocating that such a traitor should be shot. Hilde controlled a shiver of fear. That did not sound pleasant.

However, the commanders were not prepared to smear OZ's reputation by executing such a young girl for a foolish error in judgement. In fact, they were almost inclined to simply discharge her.

"Cadet Schbeiker, do you care to explain your actions to the court?" asked the most senior commander.

Hilde realised what he was asking her to do, blame the whole thing on Duo. All she had to do was break down, confess that the dangerous Gundam pilot led her astray and she had made a silly mistake like the silly girl she was, and the commanders would simply discharge her – dishonourably of course! Hilde's eyes narrowed. She was not a silly girl and she had not made a silly mistake!

Hilde grinned at the commanders. *Okay you stupid old men; see how you like this!*

"Sir, I did what I did because it was right!" she stated boldly.

The commanders blinked. Lt Thomas looked grimly satisfied. The cadets fidgeted.

Hilde took a deep breath. *Firing squad, here I come! Oh well...* And she continued.

"OZ is trying to control the colonies just like the Federation did! Well, they have no right to tell us what to do!" she thought of Duo's words to her and decided that she might as well echo them – she was condemning herself beautifully. "Since when have the colonies played such an important part in the war? The Federation attacked from Earth and we abandoned hope, the Gundams fought to restore our happiness and we betrayed them by letting OZ control us just as the Federation did! We shouldn't have to die just because the consequences of Earth's war has reached into space!

"Cadet Schbeiker, that is ENOUGH!!!" roared Lt Thomas.

Hilde glared defiantly at him. "Is it?" she questioned. "I don't think I _have_ said all that needs to be said!"

There was a rustle of shocked whispers and, Hilde was pleased to hear the occasional giggle from the cadets. Lt Thomas went almost purple with fury and the chief CO pounded his fist on the table.

"Silence!" he glared around the room before bringing his eyes back to Hilde.

"It is the court's decision that Cadet Schbeiker is to be incarcerated… indefinitely!"

Hilde blinked. After all that they weren't going to execute her? How restrained of them. Lt Thomas looked as if he was going to have an apoplexy though, that almost made being stuck in prison for a long time worth it!

As she was led away Hilde looked at the cadets again. Now there were expressions of sympathy on some faces and expressions of puzzled anger. Duo's message, through her had got to some people at least.

Hilde smirked. *Go suck on that OZ!*

***

Hilde opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling of her cell. This was the third day of her incarceration and it wasn't getting any easier. She sat up and groaned, the bed was hard and her body was aching all over, it felt like she hadn't slept at all. Swinging herself out of the bed she shuffled over to the tiny basin and looked at herself in the mirror.

"Ugh... I look as bad as feel!" she sighed and began to wash her face in the icy water. "Ah! Ow! Oh... oh... c-cold!!!" she yelped. Still, at least it woke her up.

Drying her face Hilde considered what she was going to do with the rest of her day. Any moment now the guard would come along and shove a foul breakfast at her (what did they make the porridge out of? Sawdust?) and after she'd finished she would be let out for some exercise before being returned to her cell. Hilde ran her fingers through her short hair and wrinkled her nose, she was starting to get very, very bored...

There was a sound of footsteps and Hilde turned to face the door, her expression resigned. The door opened and the guard stood there... with Lt Thomas.

Hilde's eyes widened and fear began to trickle down her spine. Had they changed their minds? Were they going to execute her after all?

Lt Thomas stepped inside the cell. His mouth was puckered up as if he'd been eating sour lemons and his eyes were dark with anger.

"It seems you are a fortunate individual, Cadet Schbeiker!" he rasped.

Hilde blinked. "I... I am?" she asked in confusion. Okay. obviously she wasn't going to be executed.

Lt Thomas produced a slip of paper, to Hilde's eyes it looked _very_ official. Lt Thomas shook it and looked at it with the expression of one who hoped the content had changed, then he looked back at her.

"You have been dishonourably discharged!" he snarled. "You are no longer to be held here."

Hilde's jaw dropped. "You mean I'm... I'm FREE??!!!" she yelped.

Lt Thomas gave a curt nod and turned to the guard. "Do what you need to do," he said, then he looked back at Hilde. "I don't know who ordered this madness, but I intend to find out!" he smiled unpleasantly. "Don't get too used to freedom, Schbeiker!" he said as he stalked away.

Hilde didn't care the guard was watching her, as Lt Thomas walked away she made a face at his back. "Screw you too, asshole!" she growled.

The guard, a young woman about five years older than Hilde, blinked and then choked slightly. Hilde grinned at her and resisted the urge to dance madly around the room. She was FREE!!!

***

Hilde took a deep breath as she exited the prison gates and exhaled loudly. *It's true that nothing smells as good as free fresh air!* she paused that thought *Although this is a colony so I guess technically this is recycled air so... oh whatever! I'm free and I'm so out of here, I...*

Hilde halted and frowned.

*I have nowhere to go.*

She bit her lower lip and considered her options. All she had was the clothes she was wearing (the shirt, pants and boots of her uniform, they hadn't allowed her to keep the jacket) plus a few other items in her duffel bag. Worse still, her credit limit was low, she had only been a new recruit and that didn't pay much!

*I could go back to my Aunt and Uncle's old house,* Hilde pointed out to herself, *But... can I resurrect the old scrap-yard?*

She took another deep breath and her cute features set in determined lines. *Well, can't stay around here, they might decide to throw me back in!*

Hilde's stomach growled at that point reminding her that she hadn't had breakfast. Hilde blushed and hoped no one had heard.

No such luck.

"Hahahaha..." a sudden whoop of laughter made her spin around. Hilde's eyes widened when she saw who it was.

Sure, he was 'disguised' with sunglasses and a black cap with his distinctive braid tucked underneath it, but there was no mistaking that wide grin.

"You..." Hilde whispered. "Duo Maxwell..."

The boy responsible for her current predicament.

Duo stopped laughing and pulled off his sunglasses to regard her. "Well, it looks like it worked," he said cryptically.

Hilde frowned, what was he talking about? What worked? Then a horrible suspicion sprang to her mind. She glanced back at the prison and then looked at Duo with wide eyes.

"Did you organize my release?!" she squeaked in alarm. "D'you mean that I'm still supposed to be in..."

"Shhh!" Duo put a finger to his lips and grabbed her hand. "I don't think this is a good place to talk about this, let's go and fill your stomach - before it alerts the whole neighbourhood!"

Hilde went red. "You're not very polite!" she snapped, but she went along with him anyway.

Duo grinned. "Don't have to be, Ma'am, it's not part of my job description!"

Questions tumbled through Hilde's mind as Duo lead her into a long street filled with various cafes. "Um... how did you escape?" she asked eventually. "And... my name's Hilde, not 'ma'am'."

Duo glanced up from examining an outside menu. "I remember your name... Hilde Schbeiker. And I can't tell you," he winked. "Unless you're eager to die."

Hilde blinked. "Would you kill me then? You might as well have left me in the prison!"

Ignoring her, Duo pulled her into a cafe and they took a seat at the back. He ordered for both of them, before Hilde could object. She thought about her meager cash and gulped. Duo saw her apprehensive expression.

"This is on me," he said.

Hilde looked up at him to protest and fell silent when she saw his eyes were serious.

"I owe you one," said Duo. "And I'm a man who pays his debts."

"I would have thought breaking me out of prison would have released you from any debt to me!" said Hilde tartly.

Duo chuckled, but said nothing more as the waitress arrived with their food. For the next ten minutes the two teens forgot all else except their empty stomachs and ate.
Finally Hilde swallowed her last drop of orange juice and set the glass down with a thump. She reached forward and tapped Duo's hand.

"Hey, can you tell me how you got me out at least?" she asked. "Or is the answer likely to get me killed?" she added sarcastically.

"Oi, oi, you just don't quit!" remarked Duo. He swallowed his mouthfull. "Okay, quite simply I hacked into OZ's datafiles and did a little tweaking, a few changes here and there and poof! You're a free lady!" he grinned in a self-congratulatory manner.

Hilde thought about Lt Thomas' parting comment and paled a little. "Could your 'tweaking' be detected?" she asked nervously, not at all convince by Duo's optimism.

Duo shot her a slightly hurt glance. "You think so little of my skills? That's painful! Don't worry, they won't find out!" he snorted in disgust of OZ's abilities. He got to his feet and pulled out some cash. "Here, this is for the food," he threw it down on the table.

Hilde stared at him. "You're leaving?" she asked in astonishment.

Duo shrugged. "Have to, gotta find a place to hide me and my mate! Take care of yourself, Hilde!" he waved and left.

Hilde watched him walk out of the cafe and made a snap decision. It could mean more trouble, but what did she really have to lose? Grabbing her bag she ran out of the cafe after him.

***

Duo was casually strolling down the streets as if he was an ordinary citizen and _not_ a wanted Gundam pilot. Hilde trailed after him, keeping some distance between them as she formulated what she would say to him.

Finally, in a quiet street, Duo stopped and turned. He shook his head in a puzzled fashion as Hilde drew to a halt two metres away from him.

"Would you mind telling me what the _hell_ you think you are doing?" he asked.

Hilde smiled. "Following you," she answered.

"I can _see_ that!" said Duo rolling his eyes, I thought I made it clear..."

"You need a place to stay right?" Hilde interrupted quickly. "Well, I know of a place."

Duo paused and regarded her. "Look," he said. "I can't stay in no high-rise apartment or fancy-pants house, I need somewhere where you can..." he grinned. "Fit a large object!"

"Your Gundam you mean?" said Hilde calmly. "That's no problem."

Duo walked towards her, closing the gap between them until they were only inches apart. "Hilde," he said softly, his violet eyes suddenly serious. "The last time you helped me you got in deep shit, people who... stay with me usually end up dead."

Hilde met his eyes. "I know you said that it was the responsibility of the Gundam pilots to fight for the colonies, but I want to help too! This is my home and I want it to be free! So that no one else will lose..." she choked slightly and swallowed. "So that no one else will lose their family," she finished in a quiet voice.

Duo rubbed his chin. "You women..." he said resignedly. "Always piling on the guilt... man, what am I supposed to say after that?"

Hilde smiled slightly. "How about... 'Yes Hilde, I'll let you help me'?"

Duo's mouth twitched. "And if I don't say that?" he asked, his eyes gleaming with amusement.

Hilde shrugged. "Oh, I guess I'll just keep following you around..."

"You're mad, you know that?" Duo grinned. "You want to hook up with me and get your cute butt into more trouble! You won't be let off so easy if you get caught again!"

Hilde grinned back at him as she sensed victory. "I'll be okay, I'm a survivor!" she reached out her hand and touched his arm. "Shall I take you to your new home?"

Duo gave the small hand on his arm a surprised look. "Oi oi, why do I get the feeling that the tables have been suddenly turned on me?" he asked plaintively. He shook his head. "Okay Hilde, I guess you win this one!" he grabbed her hand. "But you're going to pay for it!" he gave her a mischievious look. "You help the God of Death and you have to face the consequences!"

Hilde felt a warm feeling run through her as his hand enveloped hers. She knew then, knew one of the reasons why she wanted to help him so much. She wouldn't tell him though, not yet, but one day the time would be right. For now, being able to help him and be his friend would be enough.

"I can take it," she said. "I'm just glad that I can help you fight your battle. After all, you and I have the same goals."

Duo tapped her cheek with his free hand. "True, true, but no fighting for you, okay? I'm not hauling you out of the fire again!"

Hilde smiled warmly. "Alright, Duo," she said. "I wouldn't expect you to anyway."

"So what is this place?" Duo asked as they began to walk away together.

"It's a scrapyard, my uncle owned it and when he died I inherited it. It's quite far from the centre though."

Duo threw back his head and laughed. "A scrapyard! _Perfect_!" he grinned down at her. "Great idea, I _knew_ there was a good reason for breaking you out!"

"I thought you said you owed me a debt!"

"Yeah, that too."

"Duo!"

*****

The End

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