Started & Completed: Dec. 25-29, 2002
Genre: Romance, Angst
Pairing: Eventual 1x2x1, 3x4x3, 5+6+5, DxR, surprise pairing at end (het)
Warnings: AU(?), OOC, Swearing
Disclaimer: Duo and Heero and the rest of the GW gang aren't mine. This
story is. Nuff said.
Notes: Set in December A.C. 202. Written for Sita Seraph's xmas fic challenge
to write a fic inspired by the song "It Must Have Been the Mistletoe".
+ = Time passing or scene change
Author's Notes: (Author stomps in, glares at muses, and drops fic with
a hefty *thud*. Darned angst muse, turns a perfectly good 5-page humour
fic into a 30+ page monster... Even had to waste a perfectly good title...)
I had no intention of writing a *third* holiday fic this year, but Sita
Seraph's challenge wouldn't leave me alone. This was supposed to be romance/humour
again, but my so-far-nameless angst muse decided to make a contribution
along with my romance/humour muse Quin (who may have got a little carried
away in the sheer number of pairings...), so this is definitely angstier
(more angsty? whatever...) than anything else I've posted so far, though
there is still some humour and the requisite happy/sappy ending. Feedback
Must Have Been the Mistletoe + Part 1
Quatre woke slowly. Damn, did his head ever hurt. Cautiously opening his
eyes, he recognized his own bedroom. That was strange - the last thing
he remembered was standing up to speak at the WEI board meeting. As he
attempted to sit up, a soft voice exclaimed, "Finally! Careful now,
you've been out quite a while..." As Iria hurried over and helped
him sit up, Quatre moaned and raised a hand to his head. Anticipating
his question, Iria informed him, "You passed out in the middle of
your speech to the board and hit your head on the table as you fell. No
sign of a concussion, but you've got a real doozy of a black eye."
"How long was I out?" Quatre asked anxiously. "I was supposed
to go straight from the board meeting to Preventers HQ to go over the
budget proposal with Une."
"Yes, you were. Yesterday. You've been out for over 24 hours, Quatre.
You can't keep going like this. You simply cannot keep putting in 10 hour
days at WEI then another four to six hours at the Preventers. When was
the last time you went for a horseback ride? Went swimming? Visited any
of the other pilots? Spoke to anyone regarding anything that wasn't work-related?
Did anything that wasn't work-related?"
"But there's so much to be done, Iria! I can't simply stop."
"Quatre, everyone has to eat and sleep occasionally! You're
twenty-two years old and you're burning out!" his sister said, voice
rising in worried exasperation.
"You asked about visiting the other pilots - when would I do that?!
They're working just as many hours as I am! We all have our debts of conscience
to pay, sister. Sleep? None of us can sleep more than a few hours
before the nightmares come. The more tired and stressed we get, the worse
the nightmares get. The worse the nightmares get, the harder it gets to
sleep, and the cycle just keeps repeating itself. And the good doctors
that trained us put a lot of effort into building up our resistance to
all forms of drugs, so most sleeping pills won't even work on us!"
"You didn't have this problem sleeping when Trowa..."
Quatre cut her off abruptly, "No, and neither did he. But we were
just very good friends, starting to explore the possibility of becoming
something more, and as the demands on our time built up, we simply...
drifted apart. As did Duo and Heero. Trowa and I at least have the excuse
of being on different colonies most of the time. They live in the
same Preventers apartment building and still barely see each other unless
they happen to have a mission together!" Half under his breath he
added, "Or at least that's what Duo told me the last time I spoke
with him almost six months ago."
"Well, that's all going to change for the next month at least. I've
spoken to Catherine, Lady Une and Sally Po, and Professor G. All five
of you are being given forced leave from all of your jobs, not
just Preventers, for medical reasons, as are Zechs and Relena who are
working themselves into the ground just as badly. Dorothy will be coming
as well to keep Relena company and because she has been keeping
equally terrible hours trying to ease some of Relena's workload. Une,
Sally, and myself will be dropping in from time to time to make sure that
you are all following doctor's orders and not doing anything
work-related. From now through until after New Year's, the eight of you
are under strict orders to be the teenagers you should have been
given the time to be after the war instead of moving straight into all
the responsibilities of adulthood."
"Iria, it's a lovely thought, but..."
"No buts, Quatre. I'm speaking as your doctor now, not your sister.
The WEI board has already been informed and several of our sisters have
stepped up to take over various aspects of the jobs you've been trying
to do all alone." As Iria turned to leave Quatre to rest, she added
casually, "Oh, and just in case you were thinking about sneaking
some work along... I've located some old friends of yours and hired them
to go along and look after the house, run interference with the media,
and so on..."
A feeling of impending doom slowly creeping over him, Quatre hesitated
to ask exactly who she was referring to. The question became unnecessary
a moment later as a booming voice that he hadn't heard in several years
echoed through the room.
"Master Quatre, you really should take better care of yourself!"
the voice scolded.
"I'll get you for this, Iria," he muttered under his breath
as the owner of the voice swept over to the bed to begin fluffing pillows
and fussing over him.
"Do not worry about a thing, Master Quatre, I, Rashid, am here to
look after you!"
"As are the rest of the Maguanacs, most of whom are currently involved
in getting the estate you are going to ready," Iria informed him
with a wicked smirk. "Well, except for those delegated to pick up
the other houseguests..."
"What did you say?" Trowa demanded in disbelief.
"Abdul is here to pick you up for your vacation," Catherine
repeated calmly, handing Trowa's already-packed bags to the Maguanac in
"Cathy, I can't go on vacation now! We have extra performances
scheduled from now right through Christmas! And Une almost always calls
me in for extra hours in December as well!"
"Not this year," his sister informed him. "After your medical
the other day, Sally put you on leave. Your stress level is through the
roof; your blood pressure is too high; you're underweight, overtired,
and simply unfit for duty. Once I informed the ringmaster, he put you
on leave as well. If you're not fit for even desk duty as a Preventer,
you're sure as hell not fit to be walking a tightrope or working
with the lions."
"No buts, Trowa," she scolded firmly. "You're going and
that's final. You aren't the only one either."
"I am simply glad that I am not the one who drew the short straw
and ended up having to fetch Master Wufei," Abdul said, chuckling
slightly. "Poor Hamid... I hope he took Rashid's advice and took
Hamid swallowed a chuckle. He suspected that it would not be wise to let
the irate Chinese man know that he found his ranting amusing. Or rather,
he found it amusing in light of the fact that the petite blonde doctor
it was directed at appeared to be completely unimpressed by it, continuing
to unpack work-related items from Master Wufei's bags with a total lack
of concern for the stream of complaints directed her way.
"You're going, you're not taking anything work-related with you,
you're going to have a good time, and that's final," Sally finally
said, cutting in as Wufei paused for breath.
"There is far too much work to be done for me to go gallivanting
off on some - some - vacation for an entire month!" Wufei
stated, grimacing as if the word "vacation" had a truly sour
taste to it.
"That may have been the case in past years," Sally told him
very seriously, "but not any more. The Preventers have enough well-trained
agents now. No one needs to be working 16 hour days, not even Chief
Une! And all of you have enough vacation days saved up to take six
months off." As Wufei opened his mouth to continue his protests,
she held up a warning finger and cautioned him, "And if you keep
this up, I'll make you take them all. At once."
Muttering under his breath, Wufei grabbed his remaining luggage, only
to have Sally neatly snag his laptop case out of his hands.
"Nice try, Chang," she said, "but I don't think so."
Turning to Hamid, she smiled apologetically, "He's all yours. Try
not to throttle him before you get there, please. He is one of
our best agents when he isn't so exhausted that he's putting completed
paperwork in the wastepaper basket instead of Une's 'In' box."
"It only happened once," Wufei muttered grumpily. "And
I'd like to see her try taking Yuy's laptop away from him like
Une sighed. She had hoped Heero would be a little more accepting than
this. Oh well, at least he always followed orders...
"Heero Yuy! You are taking a month's leave and you are
going to the estate with the others and you are going to take part
in any and all activities suggested and you are going to have a
good time and you are not taking that damn laptop with you! And
that's an order!! Am I making myself perfectly clear?"
she growled out, glaring right back at him.
"No buts! Are you questioning a direct order?"
"Chill out, Une-chan," another voice said from the door of Heero's
apartment. "If he promises to use the laptop for personal things
only, no work stuff, can he take it?"
Meeting the darkly-shadowed eyes of Heero's best friend, Une realized
that there must be something more involved with the laptop than what she'd
assumed. "Nothing work-related," she warned, turning back to
"Agreed," he said with a faint hint of relief in his voice.
"Arigatou, Duo," Heero said, directing a tiny nod in Duo's direction.
"No prob, 'Ro," Duo responded, leaning heavily against the doorframe.
"Une, G already filled me in. No arguments here, but when are we
gettin' picked up? I should prob'ly get somethin' to eat first 'cause
Sally's on my back about losin' weight again and I worked through lunch
so's I could get over to the mads' lab early... Then G gave me a scoldin'
and sent me back here..." He stifled a yawn and gave Une a weary,
slightly abashed, grin.
"In other words, the last time you ate was breakfast?!" she
exclaimed, throwing a glance at her watch. "Duo Maxwell, no wonder
you keep losing weight! Yes, you damn well better get something to eat
if the last time you ate was nearly twelve hours ago!"
"I had an energy bar and a coffee at lunch while I worked,"
"I haven't had supper either," Heero volunteered, "so since
Chief Une seems to feel the need to supervise every item I pack, why don't
I let her finish packing for me, and we can go get a meal
at that Italian place down the block that we keep meaning to try?"
Looking from the tired grin that nevertheless reached Duo's eyes in a
way she hadn't seen for quite some time to the tiny, hesitant smile on
Heero's usually sternly set face, Une wasted no time in contributing,
"That sounds like a great idea to me. Whoever's coming after you
can wait, so take your time and have a good dinner. Now go on, shoo!"
Watching as the two young men exited the apartment, Une felt a distinct
stab of guilt. How had they all overlooked the state that their brightest
and best were slowly but steadily slipping into? Even Sally hadn't noticed
anything beyond her usual battle with Duo to eat properly until Iria drew
their attention to a distinctly ominous pattern. The pilots, Zechs, and
Relena (and therefore Dorothy) were all well on their way to burning out
at incredibly young ages. Their abilities had been so badly needed in
the first few years of peace that they had never been given a chance to
recapture any of the youth they had sacrificed to earning that peace.
Nor had they really even had a chance to enjoy the peace that they
had fought so hard to achieve. Instead, they had all placed any semblance
of a personal life "on hold", gritted their teeth, and dug in
for a different sort of battle - that of maintaining the hard-won peace.
By the time things became more stable, everyone had settled into a routine
of overwork that had simply continued. That was going to have to change.
Hopefully a month away from the pressure of work and in the company of
others facing the same problems would help get that change underway. Then
once they came back, she and the others would have to make sure that they
stopped taking their "indestructible" young colleagues for granted
and kept things from slipping back into the same pattern again.
"So G scolded you?" Heero asked as he and Duo were seated at
Duo gave him a wry grin. "Yeah. I walked in the door of the mads'
lab and he pounced. Dragged me off to a window so's to get a good look
at me in natural lighting, looked me up and down, then laid into me."
Waving his arms around wildly in an uncannily accurate imitation of G,
he mimicked, "How the hell do you expect to be creative and inventive
when you're undernourished and overtired, boy?! How many times do I have
to tell you that just because you learned to ignore hunger on the streets
that doesn't mean you should do it now? I thought I'd taught you better
than that, boy! I sure as hell didn't spend all that effort trainin' you
and buildin' that damn machine of yours to get you through the war alive
just to watch you kill yourself with work now we've got peace!" Dropping
the imitation, Duo continued in amusement, "He went on like that
for a good ten minutes, then sent me back home with my tail between my
legs like a naughty little puppy." Shooting a cautious glance at
Heero out of the corner of his eye, he mentioned casually, "J said
to say hello from him and that he wants to see you when you get back.
Somethin' about another lead on tracin' Odin's travels before what you
remember, but whoever it was he needed to talk to wouldn't be available
till after the holidays."
Heero made a noncommittal sound of acknowledgement. Where G's relationship
with Duo tended to fall somewhere between fatherly and that of a favourite
uncle, J's with him was considerably more strained. J seemed sincere enough
in his desire to remain in contact with him, perhaps to even take on more
of an uncle role than mere mentor, but he couldn't entirely forget or
forgive the apparent ease with which J had ordered him to self-destruct
all those years ago.
As the waitress arrived at their table and Duo started to order, Heero
snorted. "No, you will not have an extra-large soda,"
he stated. "No caffeine, Duo. We're being picked up, if you
fall asleep in the car it won't matter."
Sticking his tongue out at Heero and starting to relax for the first time
in longer than he cared to think about, Duo retorted sarcastically, "Oh
fine, why don't you just go ahead and order my whole dinner then since
you don't agree with my choices?"
Smirking, Heero went ahead and did just that, ignoring Duo's surprised
protests. After the waitress had left the table, he leaned forward and
asked quietly, "Why don't we do this more often, Duo? When did we
stop doing things together? Why did we stop doing things together?"
"Because practically the only time we're in the same place at the
same time is when we're on a mission together? Because the more time we
spent together, the harder it got to take multi-month-long undercover
assignments away from each other? Because we agreed to put our own feelings
aside and put off exploring any possible 'relationship' until things settled
down, but somehow that time never came?" Duo shrugged unhappily,
drawing his braid over his shoulder and starting to fiddle with it agitatedly.
"All of the above? I dunno, Heero. All I know is that I'm just so
damn tired. Physically tired, mentally tired, emotionally tired. Tired
of workin' all hours of the day and night, tired of not bein' able to
sleep more than a few hours at a time, tired of bein' alone. G, Une, Sally,
& Iria are right, at least 'bout me. I'm burnin' out, and fast. If
the dreams weren't so damn bad, I'd never get out of bed 'cause I can't
think of one fuckin' reason why I should."
Looking at Duo more closely, Heero realized with a start just how thin
and drawn his face was. Any trace of baby fat was long gone from his face,
leaving his chin even more sharply defined than before. The hollows under
his eyes were dark, almost bruised in appearance. Those amethyst eyes
that had sparkled with vibrant life even during the worst the war could
throw at them were dull and shadowed. The long braid was neat and clean
but had none of the silky sheen of health that it used to.
Despite the fact that he himself was newly returned from nearly three
months undercover and before that Duo had been the one gone, off on Mars
testing some new terraforming gadget from the mads' lab, Heero cursed
his negligence in not noticing his best friend's condition sooner. Reaching
across the table, he stilled the restlessly fidgeting hands, gently removing
the now-unravelling braid from their grasp. 'I'm sorry, Duo,' he apologized
silently. 'Those invitations to come over for a movie night or supper
or any of the other things you've left notes on my desk about over the
past months - no, more like year - must have been your way of asking if
maybe we could finally try exploring that relationship, and my own overtiredness
and frustration with being bogged down in paperwork and red-tape led me
to dismiss them as nothing more than your old over-exuberant energy looking
for an outlet. I never even noticed that all of that energy wasn't there
anymore. Me answering most of your notes with nothing more than a "Sorry,
I'm too tired" or "Sorry, I'm too busy" sure as hell must
have seemed to you like I was saying I either wasn't interested in or
wasn't ready for a relationship when the real problem was that I didn't
realize you were trying to tell me that you were. I wasn't too happy about
this enforced vacation when Une told me about it, but now I've changed
my mind.' Offering Duo a small wry half-smile, he said aloud, "The
only reason I'm getting any sleep myself is that I'm using some of the
meditation techniques J taught me to get back to sleep after the nightmares
wake me up. Unfortunately, even that's losing it's effectiveness since
the dreams come sooner each time I go back to sleep. And I know what you
mean about no reason to get out of bed. It seems like I spend more time
tracking what turns out to be some petty criminal and doing paperwork
than anything else. That's made me even more grumpy and anti-social than
usual, and I'm afraid your invitations over the past months have fallen
victim to that. I'm sorry. Maybe the two of us can put this month off
to good use?"
Giving Heero a half-startled, half-hopeful look, Duo nodded very slightly,
"I think I'd like that."
Relena quickly shoved one last shirt into the suitcase and slammed the
lid shut before Zechs could stop her. "You're going, and that's final!"
she told him firmly. "Between running my security staff and working
for Une, you're working yourself into an early grave! I don't care what
anyone else has told you, being able to count someone's ribs when they're
wearing a bathing suit is not sexy."
"Relena! " Zechs exclaimed, blushing. "Little sisters
should not be discussing what is or is not 'sexy' with their brothers!"
"Fine, then pretend that I said it," Dorothy chimed in
as she entered Zechs's bedroom. "Because she's entirely correct."
Flipping his hair out of his face exasperatedly, Zechs growled, "I
don't have time for this! I'll agree that you two definitely
need a vacation, but I'm fine! "
"Alright then, if you don't go, I don't go," Relena said
sweetly. "I'm sure that I have more than enough things to do to keep
myself busy even if someone," she directed a mock-glare at
Dorothy, "has cancelled all my appointments and speaking engagements
for the month."
Caving in, Zechs threw up his hands in disgust, "Oh fine, I'll go
then. Just be prepared for a miserable month. Chang still hates my guts,
you know. And I won't win any popularity contests with Yuy either."
"And Duo and Quatre get along with everybody, so they cancel the
other two out, and Barton usually just goes along with Quatre or at worst
remains neutral, so you have nothing to worry about," Dorothy told
"And if Heero is nasty to you, I'll just follow him around saying,
'Hee-ee-rr-ooo, please don't fight with my brother! Why can't we all just
get alo-o-o-ng...'" Relena whined in a perfect imitation of her own
wartime self. Then she was forced to duck as two pillows were hurled at
her and two voices exclaimed in unison, "Don't you dare! "
It had been midnight by the time he and Duo had been delivered to the
Winner estate hosting the "holiday house party" as Iria and
the Maguanacs were calling it. And here it was, just after 03:30 and Heero
was ready to give up on sleeping for the night after waking from nightmares
for the third time. Recalling that he had seen a banked fire glowing in
a fireplace on the way in, he gathered up a blanket and pillow and headed
off to see if a change of location would help. Reaching the room, he spotted
a reading lamp switched on and a blanket-wrapped form curled up in the
nearest chair, reading.
"Duo? What are you doing up?" Heero asked. "How long have
you been down here?"
"Couldn't get back to sleep after the first round of dreams woke
me," the braided figure shrugged. "It was around 3 when I gave
up and came down to find something to read."
"Why didn't you just come crawl in with me like during the war?"
"I figured you'd have offered when we got here if that was okay,"
Duo mumbled, avoiding Heero's eyes.
Dropping into a crouch in front of the chair, Heero reached out and tilted
Duo's face up to meet his eyes. "Duo, this is me, Heero, remember?
I don't do subtle and I'm hopeless at either catching onto or dropping
hints because it just doesn't even occur to me. I'm sorry that I missed
my cue, but it's supposed to be your job to remind me of those
little social details, remember?" he finished half-jokingly, winning
a rather wan half-smile for his efforts. Considering the time and Duo's
very subdued state, he decided that it wasn't worth trying to move back
upstairs. Instead, he put another log on the fire, arranged his pillow
and blanket on the couch, then forestalled any argument by simply scooping
Duo out of the chair and transferring him to the couch.
"Hey! What's the big idea?!" Duo demanded.
"The 'idea' is that hopefully what worked during the war will work
now and we'll both get some more sleep," Heero answered, crawling
in between Duo and the couch back and pulling the blanket over them both.
"Now go to sleep!"
"Bossy as always," Duo muttered, snuggling back against Heero's
chest. It didn't take long for them both to doze off, waking briefly as
first Wufei, then Quatre, then Trowa, wandered in, spotted the others,
then found a comfy chair or rug to curl up on and go back to sleep. For
the first time in months, they all slept soundly. If one occasionally
stirred towards waking, the soft breathing of the others quickly lulled
that one back to sleep again. That same soft background sound and the
long-absent yet still familiar sense of security in the presence of such
deeply-trusted company held the dreams at bay just as it had in the past.
About to enter the library to rebuild the fire, Rashid stopped in his
tracks at the sight in front of him. A fond smile crossed his face as
he recalled the many times during the war that a similar scene had greeted
him in a Winner safehouse. Heero was lying on his back on the wide couch
with Duo draped across him, Duo's braid clasped in one of Heero's hands.
Trowa was sprawled on the thick rug in front of the fireplace, and although
a blanket trailed down from an empty chair, Quatre was curled against
Trowa's side, head pillowed on Trowa's arm. Wufei slept in a semi-sitting
position in a large wing-back chair, legs tucked up and resting against
one arm of the chair. Silently withdrawing from the room, Rashid very
carefully pulled the door closed and took up position beside it. He intended
to make very sure that no one disturbed the peaceful sleepers within before
they woke on their own, even if he had to stand guard all day.
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