author: 0083
disclaimer: i don't own gwing.. my bad. again.
pairings: 1x2x1, 3x4x3
genre: AU, fantasy, aka no spoilers
warnings: angst. oddness. read previous parts for rest of warnings and notes.

Evergreen + Part 10

Fate is written in stone, but even the hardest of stones can break and shatter under the right guiding hands.

Most days, Milliardo slept well past noon since he spent his nights poring over documents necessary for running a kingdom. His father, the one who was king and supposedly responsible for taking care of those documents, was too old and senile to do anything so it had fallen to him and Relena to take care of the kingdom. And with Relena safely out of his way of ascension to the throne and everyone else in line, he was effectively in charge of the kingdom. Dorothy's promise of helping him achieve the throne seemed unneeded now, but he would not take the chance of breaking his end of the bargain in fear that she could prevent him from becoming king. It was a hard business being a prince, especially today.

The sun was barely up and he had not slept more than an hour when a guard came into his room to announce in a tremulous voice that the two prisoners he had captured for Dorothy and Noin had escaped the dungeons. There was nothing to do but for him to order an all out search, as discreetly as possible of course, and then figure out a way to keep this bit of bad news from the ladies. Milliardo watched the guards exit his room with undue haste to carry out his orders and pondered if he should go with the search team himself to make sure the job was done right. However, with the ladies Noin and Dorothy as his guests in the castle somewhere, it would be very unseemly to leave. The rules of etiquette held him in the castle in the end.

When a guard came in several hours later, the news was not good. It was as if the two had disappeared completely, like a breeze in a hurricane. No one could figure out how they had managed to escape from the dungeons either and the mystery of them deepened. After hearing the news, Milliardo decided to talk to the ladies; if they found out on their own later, it would certainly do him no good.

Formulating a suitably apologetic yet defensive speech within his mind, Milliardo walked towards the guest quarters of his lavish palatial castle, each step echoing off the marble walls in sharp ringing beats. He had already decided that he would apologize to the Lady Noin first since it seemed that she was in charge, then offer a solution of sorts. What solution, he was yet unsure since it seemed that those two were completely out of his hands, but he had to say something or incur their wrath.

Sometime during his long thought processes, he had reached the large double doors of cedar and gold leading to the rooms assigned to the ladies. Usually, the doors did not seem so imposing, but with the news he had, they looked like the gaping maws of hell to him. For some reason that even he could not clarify, he was afraid of the two ladies. They were slight in stature, willowy and beautiful, exuding grace and culture unlike any women he had ever met. They should not have caused him any fear, only appreciation and perhaps some lust. However, something about the way they talked, the way they seemed to have knowledge far beyond the mortal sphere..

Swallowing his fear and reasserting his manliness, Milliardo knocked on the double doors and awaited permission to enter.

+

"She isn't vindictive, Noin. She's just as desperate as we are."

Snarling, Noin pushed past Dorothy and continued to stalk around the room like a maddened tiger on a leash. It was quite unacceptable, no matter what Dorothy said to excuse Relena's behavior. Just earlier, not even half and hour of human time ago, her delinquent sister had woven the threads to let the two chaotic elements escape from their clutches.

"How dare she do this to us? She wants chaos? She wants to lose everything to nothingness?"

Dorothy could do nothing as she watched her oldest sister rant on about the end of the universe. She might have laughed at the display Noin was putting on had the situation not been so dire. And honestly, she had never thought Relena would go that far either. Yet, Dorothy had to wonder, if the two were really as bad as Noin thought they were.

"Noin.. if they do manage to escape the Raduleum, would it be as terrible as you say?"

The thick and tense silence was almost unbearable as Noin stared unbelievingly at Dorothy. It was enough that Relena had completely defected from their cause, but to have Dorothy question her was too much. But Dorothy had questioned, the one who should have supported her through the end with the Raduleum. If she questioned now, what could be in store in the future?

"Do you even have any idea what you are asking? Dorothy, two mortals are without destinies. They can muddle all the other threads! They are like a drop of water in a still pond, seemingly small and insignificant until the ripples dance through the entirety of the pond. They are already damaging everything! Look what has happened to the threads of those mortals they've touched already. Nothing is going the way I planned, the way Relena should have planned!"

Dorothy listened to Noin rave on sadly, knowing that her sister was right about everything but still feeling that nagging guilt in the back of her mind. She had not known Heero as well as Noin nor loved him like Relena, but she had never felt animosity for him. He had never done anything to her and he was family. Dorothy could care less for the mortal... they came and went so frequently that she couldn't really be bothered to remember. But Noin was talking about Heero. The one who had been with them since the beginning, if there had ever been one.

To consider erasing him from existence completely was somehow unsettling, too close to home. If they could find a reason to erase Heero, why not another? Then another? It seemed like a line of immeasurably long dominoes hovering before her and Heero the first in line to get tipped. The prospect of Heero's escape from the Raduleum was horrible, most definitely, almost as much as the prospect of erasing one of their own. Now, Dorothy was having doubts about their plan.

"You will not be betraying me too, are you?"

Dorothy turned her head sharply towards Noin who stared at her with wide eyes. More than the look in her eyes, it was the tone of betrayal and hurt present in Noin's voice that put it through to her that her sister was more fragile than she appeared. Noin may have been ranting and raving about the order of the universe and being adamant about Heero's erasure, but Dorothy suddenly knew that her older sister was not as gung-ho as she wanted others to believe. Noin was as uncertain, if not feeling more guilty, about this whole venture.

"I would never betray you, Noin. But only if Relena had talked to us before she gave Heero the Pendulum.."

"Love makes all of us do foolish things."

There was nothing truer in the universe than that.

"Enough of this idiocy. We must find Heero."

And the work began again, both Noin and Dorothy rippling through the threads of mortal fate in an effort to recapture and put the world back on its proper axis.

+

Strands of blond hair floated in the air, wafting gently to the ground. Quatre stared at his hair which had been attached to his head only seconds ago as they danced in the air before him, ignoring the sharp knife whizzing just beyond his face. He managed to just get back out of staring at his hair in time to avoid the backward slash from the same knife and then he shoved a poniard through his assailant's heart with a professional's posture.

The sun was setting in a splash of oranges and pinks in the western sky, but no one was watching the lovely display of nature. In fact, everyone was much too busy fighting off yet another wave of Milliardo's recovery squad. They had all met up again without incident just after the sun rose at the appointed meeting place, Heero and Duo in one piece as they were supposed to be. Then soon after, they had found themselves hiding from the castle squads as they searched high and low for the missing twosome until finally, they had broken cover and had run for it. Now, they were fighting off wave after wave of what seemed to be an endless group of soldiers, just fighting to keep their lives.

The one bright spot in this desperate flight was Relena's presence as she desperately wove and rewove countless threads to help them out, thwarting her sisters' plans. Wufei and Sally stood around Relena as she concentrated on forming the pattern, defending her body and her concentration. Duo and Heero fought as one as they always did, each a smooth extension of the other, moving fluidly and continuously in one constant body. Quatre, besides losing a bit of his hair, was doing just fine, but he was distracted ever so often by Trowa's presence, his resolve to stand his ground breaking every time the green eyed boy was in any remote danger. Thankfully, Trowa fought with caution and expertise, knowing of his blond lover's concern.

After what seemed to be an eternity, the skirmish was over and they were on the move again. Relena ran along with them, lifting her silken skirts above her knees to keep from tripping, keeping pace with the more experienced crew. When she had suddenly shown up before Sally and Hilde as they ran around the castle to help out, it had been a miracle that her sisters had not pounced as soon as the threads had started moving again. Then it had been touch and go, constantly trying to out-think Noin as they ran. It did help that Duo and Heero were free from Noin's meddling... what they did, Noin could not control. More than that, it had helped that they were both very skillful fighters, able to hold their own against most anyone.

The Raduleum.. Relena could only shudder at the thought of using that against anyone, especially one of their own. Noin was quite adamant, however, and Relena had no choice but to go against her. For better or for worse, Relena could not help her sisters wreck Heero once again. So she ran desperately alongside her new group, determined for the first time in her life to defend something other than herself.

+

The couple of days ran out for all parties involved in a haze of battles, hiding and strategizing. Noin and Dorothy became more overt in their actions, sending out mortals in a whim to find the errant chaotic elements, using Milliardo's thread shamelessly in an effort to recapture Duo and Heero. Relena was no less unscrupulous, constantly barraging selected mortals with horrible futures in an attempt to keep them away from Heero and the group. She personally felt bad for a couple of the mortals whom she had set off on a path to a terribly painful death, but it was all for saving her friend. It had to be worth the suffering others felt.

They only had a few hours left until the Raduleum would be ineffective and all they had to do was run until time ran out on them. Once they passed the appointed time, then the Raduleum would be unusable for a hundred and some years, enough time for Duo and Heero to live out their mortal lives in happiness. Relena wondered even if the Raduleum was not used, if her sisters would be able to leave the two of them alone. Noin was not the type to give in easily and she definitely did not appreciate mortals who warped the pattern. There were so many things to worry about, but that would have to wait until after they were done running from Noin.

Relena looked about her surreptitiously, noting that her companions were worn and tired, but still determined to run for all they were worth. She checked the threads and found that she had given them all paths of freedom and long lives in her efforts to help Duo and Heero. There was nothing Noin could do that could damage the paths she had set out for them at this point and that made her smile. In the past, she could have cared less for mortals that she chose futures for, always looking at the pattern instead of the individuals. But now, after spending so much time around this group, she felt like she had done well with her choosing for them instead of the pattern. Surely she had sent a few others down treacherous paths in an effort to secure these friends of hers a happier future and she had most definitely messed up the pretty picture of the pattern, but it satisfied her to know that her friends would not suffer due to her choosing.

It was worth it, she decided. Even after spending time on the mortal plane living out mortal lives as she wished, she had never felt connected to any one person outside of her family. Even those she was supposed to consider her mortal family had never touched her heart in any way, but had only served to be props in her little play at living like a mortal. The man who was supposed to be her brother, Milliardo, merited less care from her than a grasshopper, especially since his path had shown that Noin had used him to get her out of the mortal realm. She did not blame him for killing her, no more than she blamed Duo for carrying out his orders, but it rankled that someone who was supposed to be her brother had ordered her killed for something as paltry as the throne. She looked at Wufei, noting again that he would never be able to do that to anyone he considered family. No path she could have chosen held that type of a future for him, his thread and personality being devoid of betrayal of any sort. The same went for Trowa and Quatre, the two silver threads that she had woven so finely together as lovers. They also held nothing that could have turned them against anyone they loved. Sally and Hilde were also of the same kindred and nothing she could have chosen from her infinite will could have turned them into betrayers. She had fallen in with a most honorable crowd of mortals and she felt more at home with them than she had with Milliardo.

"You look like you're way too deep in that thought."

Relena swiveled her head towards the amused tenor voice and saw a smiling face dominated by violet eyes. As bewildering as it was to her, she had begun to like Duo Maxwell, seeing finally what Heero had fallen in love with so completely.

"I'm just trying to sort things out."

"Well," Duo said with a serious face, "if you think too hard, your head will explode.. but you're a god, you can put yourself back together pretty fucking well, right?"

Relena laughed, letting the delighted sound echo around the small clearing. The others in the group looked up, puzzled at the strangely merry sound coming from Relena. She had been so silent in the past couple of days, always too busy working her Fates mojo to converse or laugh.

"You still have a mouth that should be cleaned out with soap and a scrub brush, Duo Maxwell."

"Yeah, but I'd rather Heero do it with his tongue, if you know what I mean."

Relena rolled her eyes melodramatically, getting in the rhythm of repartee.

"How can I not know what you mean? It's not even a single entendre, let alone a double."

"That would be a point to Relena."

Both Relena and Duo cocked their heads towards Heero in unison, nodding in agreement. Then Duo sauntered over to Heero, his hips swaying overly indecently, and gave his lover a sound kiss on the lips.

"One of these days, I will beat her in this game of wits!"

"Yes, Duo," Heero replied stoically, but failing to hide the twinkling smile from his eyes, "you will. When you have lived as long as she has."

"Are you calling her an old lady?"

Wriggling his eyebrows, Heero turned slowly to face Relena with Duo still draped around him and gave her an appraising stare that made her blush faintly.

"Old, yes. Lady, never."

They both heard Relena grumble almost inaudibly.

"Point to Heero.."

"That was a low shot and you know it."

Sally jumped into the fray with professionalism, picking out her targets and getting set to defend herself. They all needed this light hearted break before the pressure mounted again.

"Low, but effective." Wufei replied.

"That's what a man would say."

"Yes," Relena continued when Sally gave her a look to go with it, "men have absolutely no sense of dignity, verbally abusing women in such a manner. Are we three women not delicate creatures, as subtle as the spring wind, as ethereal as the air?"

"Delicate my ass," said Quatre, "and subtle? Are you sure you're talking about the three of you, not angel food cake?"

"Oh, shush, you blond puff."

"Now, Hilde," Sally said in a mock school teacher tone, "be more creative. Blond puff isn't acceptable."

"Don't think of anything creative for my sake," Quatre said before Hilde could get herself together, "because that effort just may short fry your delicate feminine brain filled with ethereal air."

"When did Quatre get so good at this, Heero?" Duo asked, mildly surprised at his blond friend's wit.

"Duo, if you paused enough during the admiration for your own voice, you might have noticed that other people can talk as well, if not better, than you."

"Damn," Duo mumbled, "point to Trowa."

And so went the clever game of wits, each contributing biting remarks and humorous interludes. Relena had never had so much fun, matching wits with her friends. Her mortal friends. More than ever, she was determined to protect this group from her sisters. She would not allow anything to happen to them and she would keep vigil over their souls for as long as there was time.

+

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