By Keelywolfe
Rating: PG
Pairing: Almost 1+2
Feedback: Yes, please do! Any and all is well loved.
Summary: Relena needs a bodyguard for the day, and Duo needs some Ritalin.
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their respective creators. I'm just borrowing them to toy with their little minds.

The Games We Play

Vice Minister, former Queen of the World and renowned pacifist Relena Darlian Peacecraft was sitting in her office on Earth, with a stack of papers she had reviewed at one elbow and a stack that still needed to be done at the other as she fought the urge to commit murder. Just one, and it was only a little one, really. Surely she was allowed one murder in her lifetime.

The object of her homicidal thoughts was sprawled on a chair across from her, tapping out some sort of tribal rhythm on the floor with one booted foot. Past experience had taught her that asking him politely to stop would only earn her a brief reprieve before it began again, and she had resolved to simply ignore it. But that continuous tapping was prompting her to not-so-peaceful thoughts, and she was starting to contemplate places where she could hide the body.

Then again, someone might notice if Duo turned up dead.

She paused briefly in her reading to study her bodyguard for the day. Her normal bodyguard had needed a day off on short notice, and there hadn't been time to run a security check on someone else. So Sally Po had offered one of her people as a substitute for the day.

When Duo had turned up at her office, he'd been dressed neatly in the traditional Preventer's uniform, hair done up in its usual braid and looking quite as proper as she had ever seen him. The jacket hadn't made it through the first hour and was now haphazardly tossed across the back of a chair. The tie had lasted a bit longer, nearly another hour before it had joined the jacket as a crumbled ball of fabric. She wondered, with a touch of sour amusement, why he couldn't have just taken the boots off while he was getting comfortable.

Sighing, Relena returned her attention to the seemingly thousandth document that demanded both her perusal and her signature. Paperwork was so tedious, and she did have a little sympathy for Duo. A hyperactive young man trapped inside an office all day watching someone else do paperwork...it was probably like a little slice of hell.

In a neat script, she signed her name to the document and retrieved another, absently rubbing her temples as she waited expectantly. For the last hour or so she had been anticipated a question from her oddly silent companion.

She didn't have to wait much longer.

"Are you almost done?" Duo asked, something very close to a whine edging his voice as he pushed himself upright in the chair.

"No," Relena replied calmly, not even looking up. "I expect I'll be another hour or so, at the very least."

Duo heaved an exaggerated sigh and flopped back into the chair again, and Relena had to hide a smile. This was what she had been waiting for, the moment where Duo finally crossed the borders of boredom and started chattering on about anything and everything. The longhaired boy amused her, and it was something of a delight to banter on with him once in a while.

Right on cue, Duo started in on his opening monologue. She could have nearly timed it by the minute. "I'll bet a few years ago you never expected you be doing this," Duo said, cracking his knuckles in a very obnoxious manner. "Bet you thought you and Heero would be shacked up by now with a couple of rug rats."

Relena paused, peering upward at the young man over the rims of her reading glasses. "No, I never believed that," she replied calmly. Ah, the debate begins. Not quite the subject she had expected, but she could work with this. "A few fanciful daydreams, perhaps, but nothing more than that."

Craning his neck, Duo looked at Relena, eyebrows raised. "Oh? But isn't he 'your Heero'?" The last bit was said in a cloying tone, and Relena resisted the urge to roll her eyes. The ball was in her court.

"He no more belongs to me than he does to anyone else," she said, a hint of cool disapproval in her voice. "He's not a toy to be played with. I would think you of all people would know that."

Duo sat up abruptly. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

Another glance over her glasses, with wide, innocent eyes. "I just meant that you know him better than most people, Duo." Careful, she told herself. If you riled him too quickly then the game ended.

He relaxed back down, the threat averted. "Yeah, I guess so."

"After all," she continued calmly, "You're probably the best friend that he has. You two have a mission coming up soon, don't you? In space, going through all the major checkpoints?"

"Yup," Duo replied easily, and she controlled a wince as he pulled his handgun from the shoulder harness and toyed with it. He paused in his fondling of the firearm to give Relena a suspicious look. "How did you know that?" he asked, and then shook his head. "Never mind. Still keeping tabs on him, eh?"

She stopped writing, the pen still pressed against the paper as she said, quietly, "I keep tabs on all my friends, Duo." At his sheepish nod, she resumed, and the room was silent for a moment before she asked, "Why do you still do this, work for the Preventers? I know you have a very successful salvage business on L-2."

Duo slanted her an amused look and shrugged. "Everyone needs a hobby."

With a helpless smile, Relena shook her head. "Quite so."

Another few minutes of near silence, with nothing but the scratching of a pen but at the first tap of a foot, Relena asked evenly, "Was that what you believed then, Duo? That you and Heero would be...how did you say it, shacked up?"

He nearly fell out of his chair, twisting awkwardly to keep from hitting the floor as he squawked out an indignant, "What!"

"You've never bothered to hide the fact that you're homosexual," Relena bothered to point out and at first she thought she'd gone too far. Duo was one of the most truthful people she knew, but there was a fine line between truth and honesty. One story told a thousand ways can still be true, and pushed too hard Duo would fall behind one of those distorted mirrors, hiding his real emotions behind a wall of cheerfulness and idiocy that was as blatant a lie as he ever told.

The too-long moment of silence that was broken by a careless laugh and Relena's heart sank, only to stutter back upward at Duo's words. "That's true enough. But I never thought that -Heero- and I would end up together." An ironic smile twisted his lips. "I don't lie, not even to myself." He sighed, a note of something genuinely sorrowful within it. "I always thought he'd end up with you."

Again, the pen stopped, and Relena met his troubled eyes, saying softly, "Odd, because I rather thought that it would be you."

They held gazes only briefly, and it was Duo who broke it, jamming his gun back into the shoulder strap. Relena's relief that he'd put the weapon away was only temporary as he pulled another one out of his boot and began playing with that instead. Well, at least it explained why he'd kept his boots on.

Nearly a quarter of an hour passed in silence, only the rustling of papers and the sharp clicking of metal as Duo fiddled with his weapon before stuffing it back into his boot.

Without looking up, Relena said, "Duo, why don't you go on now? My regular bodyguard will be back very soon."

He was on his feet before she had even finished talking, but once there he hesitated, and she could see he was about to protest, however reluctantly it might be.

"Go on." She smiled at him warmly. "Thank you for coming, but I think I'll be fine on my own for ten minutes or so."

"Well, if you're sure," he protested weakly, already slipping into his jacket and knotting his tie unevenly. He had one hand on the doorknob when she called his name a last time.

"Duo." He paused, waiting and Relena said, gently, "I know how you feel about him. Why don't you just tell him?"

As she watched his shoulders stiffened and she knew then that she'd pushed too far, much too far, and it was likely that Duo would go to ground completely, running off to the safety of L-2 and leaving Heero to make the rounds on his own.

Then all the stiffness melted away, and he didn't sag so much as wilt against the door, as if standing was suddenly too much for him. One hand lifted to press against the hard wood of the door, holding him upright.

"Because," he whispered, so quietly that Relena had to strain to hear it. "I would rather spend the rest of my life as nothing more than a friend to him then to ever have him look at me with disgust in his eyes."

He shifted, resting his forehead against the door and the faintest smile curved his lips as he stood upright again, straightened his tie and turned back to Relena. He gave her a bow worthy of a courtier, sweeping low as he said, "It's been lovely chatting with you, Miss Relena. Good night."

Without another word, Duo turned and walked out, leaving Relena to stare with some bemusement at the closed door. Taking off her glasses, she set them aside and rested her chin on her folded hands. A gift, she decided, being allowed to see, even briefly, a glimpse of the true Duo Maxwell. She smiled to herself as she stood, walking over to the side room of her office and switching on the light.

The lone person in the room was sitting on desk, arms crossed and head lowered. He said nothing as she walked in, not even seeming to notice her presence.

A gift, indeed, although Duo wasn't to know how much of one it truly was.

"Was that what you wanted to hear?" she asked finally, a thread of impatience in her tone.

He shifted slightly, and after a long minute he said, slowly, "I'm not sure."

Blowing out her breath impatiently, Relena had to resist the urge to stomp her foot in frustration. "If you want a signed declaration, you're going to be waiting a while." He finally looked up at her, a slightly lost look in his eyes and she relented. "All right, this is what you do. Go pack your things. Go on your mission and just..." she smiled a little, "You're intelligent, you can figure it out."

His eyes didn't change. "Relena..."

She hushed him in the best way she knew how, throwing herself at him. He caught her out of sheer reflex and Relena hugged him fiercely, clinging for one brief moment to the last vestige of a child's dream. Then she let him go.

"Go," she said gently, "Go on, now."

Heero smiled at her, a rare, gentle smile and she snatched that memory away, tucking it into her heart for safekeeping. Two gifts in one day, from two different men. It was enough, she decided, watching him walk away from her. It was enough.

She stood alone in the room, for just a moment longer, as if she could still feel the warmth of his presence. Then she shook her head with a sigh and walked back into the office, retrieving her reading glasses. She had paperwork to do.

-finis-

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