Author: CalicOcat
Disclaimer: Duo and Heero and the rest of the GW gang aren't mine. This story is. Nuff said.
See Part 1 for warnings

'Thinking'
"Speaking"

************ Time passing or scene change
*~*~*~*~*~* Major POV shift

Mission: Marriage + Chapter 6

Quatre hung up the phone, smiling slightly in amusement. Trowa, just entering the room, raised an eyebrow in silent inquiry.

"Lady Une," the Arabian answered, "calling to let me know that she and Sally would not be arriving today after all. Apparently, forms indicating an upcoming change in marital status for two Preventer employees appeared in her email this morning, along with a note reminding her of all the pertinent items of the labour laws and the organization's own regulations. Apparently, dealing with said pertinent items and preparing a few contingency plans to deal with someone's probable reaction to them is going to cause a slight delay in her departure from Preventer HQ."

Trowa blinked. "Heero sure isn't wasting any time, is he," he observed.

"No, he isn't," Quatre said. "He's already off 'running errands' himself - and I know one of those is to pick up the rings that he ordered after things settled down last night. I suspect his plan today is to stay clear of Duo till things are far enough along that he won't be too likely to back out. And of course, I'm supposed to be keeping Duo too busy to even think about backing out."

Quatre beamed beatifically at Trowa's inquiring look and said, "I have completely free rein in arranging the wedding. Heero gave me only two stipulations: it has to be before the end of his month of vacation, and they have to end up with the same surname but he doesn't care which or if it's hyphenated as long as it's the same. He said that when he was on his way out, he would slip a note under Duo's door telling him to talk to me about wedding plans, so I'm expecting him any minute now." Giving his lover his most angelic look, the blond said, "For some reason, I don't think he's going to trust me to make them on my own."

Surveying the piles of brochures, catalogues, fabric samples, sample flower arrangements, etc. that Quatre had somehow managed to acquire already that morning, Trowa said drily, "Well, I really can't imagine why not."

************

Later that day - much later that very long, very hectic day - Duo finished braiding his hair and flicked a few loose hairs off of his shirt. He hated formal dinners. But Relena apparently expected the Winner household to dine formally, and, rather than stirring up a fuss over something so minor, Quatre had given in.

Swinging by Heero's room to see if he was back and ready to go down for dinner, Duo was appalled to discover Relena, dressed in only her slip and camisole, standing inside the doorway, ostensibly looking for an opinion on which of two dresses she should wear. Heero had, understandably enough, barricaded himself in the bathroom. Taking matters firmly into his own hands, Duo sent a passing servant to request that "Miss Catalonia please assist Miss Peacecraft in dressing for dinner", sent Relena back to her room, and sent another servant to locate either Abdul or Rashid. Relena had resisted at first, but when his voice had dropped into a Shinigami growl (and he suspected his eyes were making his displeasure pretty clear too, judging by her quick avoidance of his gaze), she had caved in and retreated in at least temporary defeat.

"Okay Heero, it's safe to come out now," he said, knocking lightly on the bathroom door.

"She's gone?"

"Yeah, I got rid of her."

"Permanently?" Heero asked wistfully as he opened the door a crack, revealing that all he was wearing was a towel.

"Unfortunately, no. She's really gettin' out of hand, isn't she?"

"That was exceptionally bad, even for her. I think our little announcement sent her into desperation mode."

"Yeah, well, this next bit just might send her right off the deep end then," Duo said. 'I am so going to regret this. But I can't leave Heero in here by himself, especially after Dorothy's warning. Relena's gettin' way too aggressive,' he thought. Duo was very carefully not thinking too carefully about why the thought of Heero being driven to locking himself in the bathroom to escape Relena had roused all his protective instincts. Something told him he wasn't prepared to deal with that just yet.

"You wanted to see me, Master Duo?" Rashid inquired from the bedroom doorway.

"Yeah, Rashid. Could you please get somebody to move all Heero's stuff to my room while we're at dinner? Then this room can be cleaned and prepared for Lady Une's use when she arrives later instead of the small room Quatre had previously planned on."

Rashid sent Heero a questioning glance. Receiving a slight nod in response, he agreed, "Certainly, Master Duo."

"Thanks, Rashid," Duo said as the burly Maguanac left the room, closing the door behind him.

"Thank you, Duo," Heero said, resting his chin on Duo's shoulder and giving him a grateful hug.

"No problem Heero. But since Relena obviously isn't going to give up too easily... You watch my back, I'll watch yours. 'Kay, partner?"

"Okay," Heero answered, quickly crossing the room to remove something from his jacket pocket. "Catch," he said, tossing a small box to Duo before starting to get dressed.

Averting his gaze from Heero's body as the towel was dropped, Duo examined the small box. 'Ferguson's Custom Jewellery? Oh shit, don't tell me...' Shooting a nervous glance in Heero's direction, he opened the box to reveal a narrow "half" eternity ring. Set in a three-strand band of plaited tri-colour gold, diamonds alternated with deep blue and violet star sapphires. Each sapphire was small, but every one had a perfect six-pointed star in it. Tilting the ring, it was clear that the stones were natural, not synthetic since the star moved as the viewing angle changed.

"I know eternity rings aren't traditionally used as engagement rings, but I thought the flat design wouldn't catch on things or get in the way like a solitaire would. I could have got coloured diamonds, but the colour wasn't nearly as nice, and sapphires are almost as durable as diamonds. And sapphire symbolises loyalty and faithfulness, which I thought was appropriate for our friendship and the fact that you're doing this out of loyalty to said friendship," Heero said, sounding almost - nervous? "I picked the plaited band because it reminded me of your braid. And I went with stars instead of a regular cut because I know how much you loved to lay out and watch the stars at night on Earth..."

"I - it's beautiful, Heero," Duo said, blinking rapidly. 'Aw shit, Heero, now look what you've gone and done - I'm gonna end up cryin' if I'm not careful.'

Heero hesitated, then held out his left hand to reveal an identical band on it. "I know usually only one fiancÚ wears the engagement ring, but we're both engaged, so that didn't make much sense to me. We're partners, equals - so I thought it was more appropriate for us both to."

'Fuck, that did it.' Duo slid the ring on his finger quickly, then said, "Just a sec, I think my braid's coming loose," and slipped into the bathroom, barely getting the door shut before the first - and only - tear slid down his cheek. 'That is without a doubt the sweetest, most romantic thing I've ever heard. But that does not change the fact that it was my best friend saying it, not someone I'm in love with and who's in love with me. I should not be reacting like this.' Working quickly, Duo yanked out his braid, knowing Heero would notice if it had not been redone. Replaiting it, he pulled it tight enough to make his eyes water, hoping that would stop any more tears from coming.

Re-opening the door, Duo said in an exasperated tone, "Darn hair just will not stay in tonight! Did it tight enough to hurt this time, hope that it finally stays put!

"Come on, let's go get this damn dinner over with. Oh, and Yuy - you owe me big for abandoning me to handle Q's wedding planning frenzy by myself!"

************

With Duo beside him on one side, Quatre at the end of the table on his other side, and Trowa and Wufei across the table from him, Heero felt secure enough to ignore Relena's intent gaze. Curling his fingers so that his thumb could brush against the engagement ring, he thought about the other things that sapphire symbolized, the ones that he didn't mention to Duo, but that played an equally large part in his choice of stone. 'As well as symbolizing loyalty and faithfulness, sapphire expresses love and yearning. Maybe I still can't tell him with words, but at least I can use the language of gemstones to carry the message until I can...'

"Why Duo, what is that I see on your hand?" Dorothy asked archly.

Inwardly, Heero braced himself for the storm that was sure to follow. Much to his surprise, Relena merely stolidly ignored Duo's enthusiastic explanation of the ring, his insistent display of Heero's matching one, and all the assorted exclamations of admiration and approval that followed. 'She's up to something. She must be. She can't have given up that easily. My door was locked when I went in to shower, and she was in the room when I went to come out and get dressed. Either she's learned how to pick locks - unlikely that she would "lower" herself to such a level - or she got hold of a key somehow. I was SO glad to hear Duo come in looking for me...'

The thought of being reduced to locking himself in the bathroom to hide from Relena made Heero want to cringe. 'But I can't regret it since it kicked Duo into that protective "mother-hen" mode that he used to get in during the war if I got hurt on a mission... And that got me moved into his room. If looking a bit foolish is what it takes to make a little more progress with Duo, I can live with that.'

************

Climbing the stairs to go to her room, Dorothy stifled a yawn. She hadn't intended to stay up so late, but debating current Earth Sphere policies with Chang Wufei had been far too invigorating to quit just to go to bed. Even Yuy and Maxwell had abandoned the discussion ages ago and gone off to their room.

'I cannot believe those rings that Yuy picked out. I knew he had it bad where Maxwell was concerned, but the thought that went into those rings... What I wouldn't give for a mate as thoughtful and romantic as that!'

Heading past Relena's room, she noticed that the door was open a crack. 'Three guesses where she's slipped off to, and the first two don't count... She's not going to like what she finds!' Since she had still had to finish getting dressed after solving Relena's dress dilemma, Dorothy had ended up being the last one down for supper. On her way down, she had seen Rashid carefully supervising as a couple of servants packed up Yuy's belongings and carried them off, out of the guest wing and towards one of the large suites in the main hall. 'No need to guess whose suite either - I knew Maxwell would know what to do with that cautionary hint I gave him!'

Seeing the door of Heero's former room standing open, she peeked inside to see Relena, clad in a skimpy negligee, staring around the empty room in dismay. Deciding that, for once, discretion was perhaps the better part of valour, Dorothy silently withdrew and slipped into her own room, hoping to avoid the hysterics that were likely to ensue if she ended up explaining to Relena exactly where Heero had been moved to. 'Fun as that might be, I have had much too pleasant an evening to ruin it by giving myself a headache from all her screeching.'

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