By: Lyssira
Disclaimer: To write fanfiction is human. To create Gundam Wing is divine. I'm mortal. You do the math.
Warnings: OOC. Shounen Ai. Het. Yuri mentioned. Sap. Slight Angst. Humor. Relena-friendly (Gomen to those who hate her). Heh gag gifts.
Pairings: 1+2, 3+4, 5+D
Feedback: If you have the time and the inclination, please feel free to give your opinion. I appreciate it, good or bad.
Note: It's definitely not the best thing I've written but I thought you might put up with so-so writing and bad plotlines for a little X- mas in June? Maybe? Feliz Navidad!

Owari

[ AC 199, December 24 ]

The stars glittered in a blue-velvet sky like so many diamonds hanging above mounds of clean, white snow. Cheerful caroling warmed the air around many houses, in many cities and many countries. It seemed no one could afford to be gloomy that day; all of the world celebrated. Families gathered around trees, tables and fires in cozy homes, friends met on street corners to exchange gifts and well wishes, newlywed couples cuddled together by tiny heaters in tiny apartments. No one waited up late for a telegram announcing the passing of loved one in the service. No one cowered from the shadows of OZ's forces hovering above them. This was Relena's perfect world and she reveled in every moment spent there, no matter how brief. The young, blonde vice-minister stood at her window, surrounded by holly and pine, watching the lights flicker down the pavement.

Perhaps the next car would be her guests or the ones after that. Perhaps they were held up in traffic or there had been a last minute call from the office. Perhaps they had decided not to come at all. She worried the hem of her newest dress, this a simple white silk trimmed in faux fur (Real animal skin? Perish the thought!). Her hair hung pulled back in a tight ponytail, cascading nearly to her waist in honey-colored waves. Relena was a vision, named by all who saw her lovely. She was professional, but friendly. She was one of many reasons they celebrated that night.

She was a nervous wreck.

Her mind fumbled over a million different things: what to say, how to dance, how to offer them food, etc. As much as she had depended on the five pilots of Gundam, she knew so little about them as people. Quatre had been her good sense. Heero held her strength, as did the other, more mysterious three. But she did not know their favorite colors or their birthdays. Cornflower blue eyes drifted to the enormous tree in one corner and the presents beneath. Would they like the gifts? She'd spent so many hours agonizing over what that tall, young clown could possibly want for a Christmas gift. Relena smiled briefly at the many strings of cranberry, the antique ornaments that belonged to her mother. The holidays were a happy time, yet she could not settle the butterflies churning in her stomach.

It had been a while since she enjoyed Christmas at home. Relena traveled through many memories while she waited, seeing herself grow and change. She remembered snowball fights and late- night story-telling. She could hear her father's voice as he sang her to sleep. She wiped away tears even as she smiled at those almost forgotten images. It was yet another Christmas without her father, adopted though she was.

A knock at the door interrupted her instant of self-pity, reminding the blonde girl of her true purpose for being there. She dried her eyes quickly before hurrying to answer the door, beating Pagan to it. She flung it open, heedless of the cold and her lack of sleeves, smiling bright. Quatre Raberba Winner stood on the stoop, clutching a bouquet of roses and a paper bag overflowing with wrapped gifts, his aquamarine eyes alight with the same honest joy. Behind him lurked two taller youths, one with a darker, Asian look about him and a short black ponytail. The other was the same violet-eyed, braided pilot she'd met on a military dock four years earlier. His cocky grin remained the same, though now he was armed only with packages, not a gun to protect her.

"Merry Christmas, milady!" Duo crowed, sweeping forward to kiss her hand, then hug her briefly. His black, leather jacket hung loosely around lean shoulders, as if it didn't quite fit and a bright red sweater peeked from under it.

"Happy Holidays, Relena," Quatre echoed, clasping hands with her. Wufei nodded his greeting, still silent and mildly disapproving. Though, the vice-foreign minister could have sworn she glimpsed a bit of mischief twinkling in one onyx eye.

"And a happy New Year!" she added, returning Duo's hug. Relena beckoned the three boys in, urging them to pile their gifts under the tree and take a seat. Coats were carelessly tossed into the closet. Pagan left a tray of Christmas cookies on her coffee table, along with four glasses of sparkling cider. Holiday music flowed through the open doorway from the living room stereo, a deep baritone spinning dreams of a white Christmas around them.
"It's so wonderful to be with you all, today," the blonde girl told them, using her best foreign minister's voice, "To finally be able to celebrate Christmas in peace-"

"You don't have to sell us Relena-sama, " Duo interrupted quietly, "We're here 'cause we wanna be, not to give you more work. No speeches necessary. Just have fun, eh?"

She might've protested or taken offense to his soft admonition. The little rich girl in her sniffed at his long braid and rough voice. The politician didn't trust a boy not so easily swayed by her magnetic words. Yet, the braided ex-pilot seemed to so open to her, his violet eyes glowed with a sort of inner-strength that she envied in the five boys. Relena laughed, nodding her understanding.

"Well then...I suppose that means you three had better tell me about yourselves," she wrapped his slim fingers in her own, squeezing gently, like her mother in earlier days.

+

Dorothy Catalonia's familiar golden limousine pulled into the Dorlian driveway an hour or so after the three boys arrived. The pricey automobile plowed into a snowbank, sending clouds of white powder billowing into the air. Its three occupants stepped out: one a young woman draped in black with shoulder-length, pale blond hair and strange forked eyebrows, one a tall young man flaunting a single bang and, the third, a red-headed girl clad in sparkling bright green tights. The blonde girl tittered gleefully as she raced up to the front steps, while her passengers approached at a more subdued pace, their faces grey, jaws clenched and eyes bugging slightly. "I drive on the way home," the young man murmured before stepping into the golden atmosphere beyond the doorway.

Inside their hostess laughed long and loud, louder than anyone had ever heard Miss Relena Dorlian laugh before. Trowa raised an incredulous eyebrow at the scene before him. He recognized the dignified blonde politician from the many pictures he'd seen of her in magazines, newscasts and the papers. At that moment, however, Relena was anything but dignified. She currently had one arm on either side of Duo Maxwell's extended right leg and her torso perched precariously over Quatre Winner's rear end. Wufei, not at all solemn as he chuckled at the trio, crouched nearby, a neon- colored Twister Board (™) balanced on his knees.

"You must be Catherine!" the blonde girl called, raising one hand in greeting for the newcomers. Unfortunately that hand supported most of her weight and she went tumbling onto Quatre's back, who in turn bumped into Duo's shoulder. The three teens collapsed into a pile of giggles and yelps, formal clothing rumpled by the game. Trowa's sister burst into laughter with them, hurrying over in her bright red skirt to help the fallen foreign vice minister to her feet.

The new arrivals exchanged holiday greetings with their friends, each receiving an energetic hug from Duo. Even Dorothy accepted the embrace, though she had been slightly distracted by her first glimpse of the dark-eyed ex-pilot of Altron. Each placed his or her stack of presents under the tree and took a glass of cider, more of which had 'mysteriously' appeared at the impromptu end of the game. "Miss Relena, it's been so long since I've seen you!" Dorothy smiled, dipping her glass in salute.

"Just Relena, Dorothy. We're grown up now."

"Speak for yourselves," Duo laughed, "I'm going to stay a kid a lot longer."

"Cheers to that!" Quatre agreed, accepting a warm handshake from Trowa.

"You all look well," the green-eyed clown.

"Not as well as you, eh?" Duo elbowed him gently in the ribs, "I read about you, Tro. Bet your ego could sink a ship."

Catherine giggled, "You have no idea."

The tall boy (who now inched towards six feet in height) mock-glared at them both. He had, in fact, been interviewed for the Trans-Colony and Earth Sphere Life (TM) magazines. His fame as acrobat and former soldier spread far and wide. It was difficult to go anywhere ordinary because...well...not many people walked around with his particular hairstyle. Hence, he had asked Dorothy for a ride to Relena's Christmas party, against his better judgement.

"So what is it you do?" Relena asked, focusing her friendly cornflower gaze on the braided boy.

"Aah, me milady? I am but a humble salvage worker. I conserve our natural resources, especially those wasted on tools of war, and allow them to be reused," he bowed low, taking another swing of sparkling cider.

"Humble my ass..."Trowa muttered into his own glass.

"Maybe if you had one, Tro," Duo grinned.

"Perhaps you flaunt your own too much?"

Duo twisted around to examine the feature in question, "I don't know. What do you think, Miss Relena?"

Relena laughed again, hard, wondering why she'd never invited them over before.

"Speaking of good-looking asses," Trowa smirked, "Where's Hilde?"

"Indisposed," Duo answered, munching his way through Santa's sled,"She's on her second trimester and sends her regrets. And a very large fruit basket."

"Duo! You and Hilde...and you never told us?!?!"Quatre looked hurt.

Suddenly, Duo began laughing hysterically. Tears poured down his rosy, round cheeks. He clutched his stomach in glee. Fortunately he'd swallowed the remains of the cookie.

"Quat..." he gasped finally, "Hilde...is..a lesbian. She got artificially inseminated at the local clinic."

Quatre turned a brilliant scarlet, for an instant matching Duo's sweater and Catherine's skirt. Then, he joined in on the laughter.

"So you donated...?" Dorothy continued the conversation, still glancing at Wufei.

"Yup," Duo nodded, "I get to be a dad."

Relena kissed him on the cheek, "Congratulations."

He actually blushed, "Thanks."

"So he does have a weakness -- pretty ladies," a soft, familiar voice said.

Seven surprised pairs of eyes looked up, meeting the figure in the doorway. No one heard it open. He leaned against the frame, oblivious to the wind tossing snowflakes into the front hall. A heavy wool coat hung off his shoulders. He'd grown, like all of them, though he remained lanky, not brawny. Winter's kisses still clung to that familiar tousled dark hair. He carried a shopping bag in one hand, a pet carrier in the other. His Prussian eyes twinkled at them in amusement; they'd lost the angry fire of his early teens.

"Heero!" Relena called, returning his slight smile.

Duo paled slightly and looked down into his drink.

"Sorry I'm late," Wing Zero's former pilot nodded to them all, his eyes resting on his comrades.

"Good to see you, Heero," Trowa toasted him with his glass, joined by Quatre and Wufei.

Pagan appeared to take his coat. Heero shook hands with him, saying he was glad to see him still in good health. Pagan replied likewise. They carried both pet carrier and shopping bag to the tree, which had become quite full. Heero took a seat in a plush chair between Quatre and Dorothy.

"No more spandex, Heero?" Catherine teased him, noting the jacket and loosely done tie.

"Not without a nasty case of frostbite," Duo winked. Relena laughed, but tightened her arm gently around Duo's. She wasn't sure what was going on, but the tension in the room had sky-rocketed.

"Congratulations to you and Hilde by the way, Duo," Heero smiled, "I'm sure it'll be a beautiful baby."

Duo nodded his thanks, busying himself with another sip of cider.

Silence descended like the fresh snow outside.

"So, who's up for some dancing?" their hostess asked. Pagan immediately changed the stereo to something with a beat--a jazzy rendition of Jingle Bells, perhaps. Relena jumped her to feet pulling Duo with her. He obliged, spinning her around the carpeted living room floor. They carefully avoided each other's feet and she soon learned the braided boy wasn't such a bad dancer. In fact, he was better than Heero, who knew all the steps, but danced them stiffly like a robot. Catherine grabbed Quatre, who's blush returned, though only to a cranberry colored hue. Wufei stood up and formally offered his hand to Dorothy. She accepted.

Heero and Trowa shrugged at each other and faked a waltz, dramatically crossing the floor, clutching hands.

At the end of Jingle Bells, they switched partners. Trowa stole his sister back from Quatre, who snatched Wufei. Despite Relena's careful managing, Duo wound up with Heero. She giggled and spun around with Dorothy, all the same keeping a careful eye on her guests. Her violet-eyed friend looked very uncomfortable. The blonde's mind raced to discover the problem.

If only I could hear what they're saying...

"How's it goin', buddy?" Duo asked, keeping his eyes around the room, on his feet, out the window.

"Good," his ex-partner's dull monotone had deepened. He no longer spoke flatly. Duo shivered.

"Got a job?"

"Yeah. I create anti-hacking programs for corporations and government agencies," a touch of amusement tinged his voice.

"Aah...sweet irony, "Duo laughed.

"You haven't changed," Heero replied.

"Ha...I can still outrun you, yes."

"Sure about that?" his counterpart smirked. Duo could feel it.

When's this damn song gonna end?

"Whadaya mean by that?" he watched Relena's long golden hair fly by. He almost wished he could ask to cut in. She seemed nice enough. She'd understand.

"Why won't you look me in the eye?" Heero returned, a challenge in his tone.

"......" His eyes studied his shoes again. They were boots, nice ones, but getting on in the years. The leather was starting to crack, they'd faded from black to charcoal.

Duo spun with the music gracefully, letting Heero twirl him by the hand. They were constantly switching roles: one leading, one following, the other leading, letting the music carry them through it. The last move brought him perilously close to the blue-eyed boy.

"I need you," Heero whispered in his ear. Duo pushed away, eyes flashing.

"I think I need a break, Relena-sama," he said loudly, "Where's your bathroom?"

The blonde appeared at his elbow in a minute, "I'll show you. Be back in a minute, everyone."

The rest of them flopped onto various pieces of furniture, accepting water from the ever diligent Pagan. He hardly seemed his age that night, though the wrinkles were even more defined by his smiles. Duo and Relena left her living room. As soon as the others were out of sight, his easy cool slipped and a growl of frustration escaped his throat. He was breathing hard. His violet eyes burned. She frowned with worry, eyeing this boy she'd only known for a few hours. One gloved hand came to rest on his wrist.

"Are you okay?" Dumb question. It was pretty damn obvious.

"Not your fault," he said instead, realizing what she meant.

"I invited you," Relena sighed.

"I accepted. My choice," he replied dully.

"I invited him," she added.

"Well of course you did!" he laughed. It was a strangled sound.

She guided him into the bathroom with it's soft peach walls and marble sink. She soaked a towel from the rack in cold water, pressing it against his face. He closed his eyes against her motherly ministrations and she could've sworn moisture escaped from the shut lids.

"What's wrong?" Relena asked him after a while, sure that Pagan or Dorothy would keep the rest of them entertained.

No answer.

"What happened between you and him, huh? You can tell me," the blonde urged.

"You love him." Not a question.

"I loved him. But not anymore. It's been four years, Duo. Puppy love, nothing more," she glared slightly, willing him to see what she was, not what she had been. No more whining teenager. It was her life now. His eyes searched hers frantically.

"He....."

There stood Queen Relena, eyes full of compassion. At the same time she was demanding for an explanation. He blinked once.

So this is what the people saw...

"He's been following me," he shrugged. His eyes became far away, seeing a dark corner at a party. Heero'd been furious. Because he was drunk? Because they were both drunk? He couldn't remember.

Relena nodded

"I don't know what he's looking for," Duo said finally.

"You. Duh," the blonde replied without a moment's thought. It took Duo a minute to digest this.

"What?" his eyes narrowed dangerously.

Relena snorted, "Come on, Duo, give me a little credit. I may be blonde, but I'm not an idiot. He cares about you. Surely you can see that?"

He flushed, not saying anything.

"You had no idea?" she made a frustrated noise at his further lack of response, something that sounded very much like "Men."

"Now wait just a minute-" Duo began, as she pushed him out the door.

"Get a grip," Relena snapped, "If I can't have him..."

The violet-eyed boy flinched.

She smiled sweetly, "...you'd better."

"And if I don't want him?" Duo stopped, hands on hips.

"Look me in my pretty blue eyes and say that," the blonde chirped.

She straightened her white dress and Duo's sweater, lest their trip to the bathroom look like something it wasn't. He gulped audibly, unable to prevent the nineteen year old Vice Foreign Minister from propelling him down the hall.

The others stood as they entered the room, Dorothy and Wufei looking most amused. They were all playing cards and a large pile of poker chips sat in front of solemn, silent Trowa Barton. Pagan dealt with lightning speed, chortling to himself. They took in a flustered looking Duo Maxwell and a most determined Relena Dorlian with interest. Her gaze was alight with an electricity only present during her speeches. Lesser people would've cowered before her. However they had not fought in the wars (in whatever manner) for nothing.

[cont]