Owari (cont)

"Duo and I thought it would be wonderful if we took group photos," she smiled brightly, "So we'll start with....Heero! Why don't you stand over there in the doorway?"

He shrugged and complied, raising an eyebrow at Relena's behavior. She was usually much calmer...Suddenly, she gave Duo a hard a shove, so he collided with the dark haired ex-pilot. They tumbled down in the doorway. Overhead hung sinister mistletoe, bright and festive.

"Okay, you stay right there, I'll go get a camera!" she grinned, "Who wants to help me?"

Five pairs of eyes blinked at her. The Vice Foreign Minister jerked her head towards the two collapsed boys, one sweatdropping heavily. Catherine suppressed an "Oh!" and jumped to her feet, hurrying away with Relena. Quatre smiled brightly.

"I think I'll go make some tea!" he said.

"I'll go with you," Trowa added, grabbing his blonde partner by the elbow and going with him to the kitchen.

"And...I left some presents in my car!" Dorothy realized at that exact moment. She
elbowed Wufei hard in the ribs, "They're very heavy."

Wufei shrugged.

"I don't think I can manage by myself," the blonde continued.

"I'll help you," Duo mumbled into the floor.

"No!" Dorothy yelled. The three boys looked up at her in surprise, "No...I think Wufei should show me how strong he is."

"Onna...get them yourself,' the Chinese boy sniffed.

"HELP ME GET THEM NOW WUFEI!" she roared, suddenly becoming ten feet tall. Wufei blinked very slowly.

"Ummm...ok."

"Thanks!" she said, "You're such a sweetie."

Of course, Pagan was no where to be found after the door closed.

Duo sighed, "Errr...Heero?"

"Yeah?"

"Can you get off me please?" he squeaked.

"Sorry."

Heero shifted his weight off Duo, leaning back against the door frame. Duo cracked his neck back into place and did the same. His feet rested against Heero's. They faced each other, though the braided ex-pilot still hadn't managed to look his ex-partner in the eye. He squirmed.

"Well...Relena's certainly different," he said finally.

Ha...when I get my hands on her and Hilde -- I know she was in on this, I just do -- I'll strangle them.

Heero maintained his trademark noncommital silence. He waited.

"Look, I'm not gonna goof around. I know you've been dying to verbally beat me into a bloody pulp for leaving. Here's your chance. We're all alone and, don't worry, I'm not gonna defend myself," Duo said, raising his hands in a gesture of surrender.

"I didn't come here for that, " his counterpart sighed.

"Then for what? The superb sparkling cider? Pagan's cookies?"

"I needed to talk to you. Seemed like a good place to do it," Heero acknowledged, his eyes still on Duo's violet ones. He wouldn't look up.

"Go ahead. Talk. Talk till you're blue in the face. Talk, talk, talk. I'm listening," he spoke to the floor.

"Look at me." Not a request. Duo shook his head. "Didn't anyone ever tell you that it's rude not to look people in the eye?"

"Didn't anyone ever tell you that it's rude to alienate your friends?"

"You can leave whenever you want. I'm not forcing you to do anything," Heero sighed again.

"Fine. What is it you wanted to say?"

They didn't noticed two sets of eyes peeking around the stair case or two faces pressed against the window. The kitchen remained silent and still.

"I really..." he trailed off.

Heero got to his feet, giving Duo a hand up so he could do the same. The Japanese boy stood a few inches taller than his friend, giving him a good excuse to continue avoiding his gaze. He had him cornered against the doorframe, though. No means of escape and Heero moved ever closer. Duo could feel warm air brushing against his cheeks and nose. Nothing happened. Time froze.

"You're an idiot," Duo said finally.

"What?" Heero snapped.

"You're a complete idiot. Not mention an asshole. You thought you'd come here and-and sweep me off my feet and everything would be better!?! Who taught you to be such an idiot?" He glared, trying to pull away. Heero's hold on him tightened.

"I believe you know him," he growled, "He goes by the name of Duo Maxwell."

Duo's cheeks flared, "Why? What the hell did I do to you?"

"It's not what you did. It's what you didn't..."

More silence.

"I want to be happy," Heero said.

"What has that got to do with me?" the former Shinigami snapped.

"You know the answer to that, idiot."

He gaped for a moment. His eyes flickered up the Heero's and the braided boy couldn't look away. He tried to glare, tried to protest. Duo didn't have a chance to answer. They were both leaning in, like in an old black and white, eyes locked. The space between them vanished. Unlike the old movies though, Heero banged into Duo's nose and Duo missed his mark entirely. Both of them sighed. Duo grinned sheepishly. Heero slipped a hand around him, resting it against the base of his braid. There was a bright flash.

"Mission accomplished," a voice said from the staircase. Relena stood there, camera in hand, smiling.

"Boy am I gonna get you for this one, milady," Duo mock-glared. Still, he couldn't help grinning when Heero's kisses traveled down his cheek and neck. He shivered again, wrapping an arm around the ex- pilot.

"Maybe you can get me a date with your friend Hilde," Relena smirked. Duo stared at her.

"You're kidding!"

Relena hummed mysteriously, sliding down the banister with Catherine close behind. She beckoned to Dorothy who waited outside in the snow, her pale face eagerly pressed to the window. She came in, trailed by a slightly blue Wufei.

"It's cold out there!" he grumbled, stuffing his numbed fingers under his arms. Dorothy laughed her cat-laugh at him. She caught his icy hands between her fur clad ones, rubbing gently.

"So Heero," Relena turned back to the couple under the mistletoe, who were still glued to each other, "I hear you've borrowed a page from my book and stalked poor Duo."

"I did no such thing," Heero replied, stroking the boy's hair with one hand, "I merely trailed him to his social functions. I never once followed him home."

"Only because Hilde would've castrated you if she knew it was bothering me," Duo grinned, sliding both hands under Heero's dress- shirt. Relena's eyes widened.

"Behave yourselves," she smiled indulgently, "Clothing stays on."

"Where are Quatre and Trowa?" Catherine asked. Relena stopped and looked around. They were no where to be seen.

"They were going to make tea, remember?" Duo snorted. The group of six trooped to the kitchen, Relena in the front. She choked the minute they stepped through the kitchen's swinging door. It wasn't every day she walked through that particular door to discover a pair of barely dressed young men on her kitchen counter. Quatre was about to deprive Trowa of the only covering he had left, plaid boxers. Relena blushed a furious red.

"What about them?" Duo asked loudly, "Are you gonna yell at them?"

Both heads snapped up. From the chest up, Quatre rivaled Relena's scarlet flush. Trowa's eye was the size of a dinner plate.

"It's about time," Catherine called. Her brother went burgundy.

"If you two would care to join us," Relena smiled her hostess- smile, "We're going to exchange gifts now. "

She was last through the door, "Though I daresay, I've already gotten my best one."

+

They gathered around the tree, the old-fashioned candles lit. Relena less-than-gracefully plopped down in front of it, beckoning the others to take seats. Immediately, without any formality whatsoever, the young Vice Foreign began sorting through bags and throwing presents at their owners. Catherine was forced to duck or be decapitated by an oddly shaped package roughly the size of a large dog. Presents from Wufei were all meticulously wrapped in the comics section of the newspaper. Relena seemed to have spent a small fortune on paper.

There were eight piles with seven presents each. But for some reason an extra eight was left over, all of them labeled `Pagan.' Relena beckoned the old man over and handed him the gifts despite his protests. He thanked them warmly and disappeared again, muttering about this being highly irregular. Relena smiled after her old friend, more of a grandfather than a butler. And he'd protected her through everything.

Her guests waited politely. She laughed and waved them off, grabbing her first present. She didn't open it though, instead watching those around her. Quatre and Trowa snuggled together in hastily thrown on clothes. Dorothy and Wufei were pointedly apart, though they kept trading appraising glances. Catherine sat on her left, Duo her right. Heero, not one to snuggle, still sat as close as humanly possibly to the braided boy without being in his lap.

Dorothy tore into her gift, along with Quatre and Trowa. Wufei, with great precision, began unwrapping the package so as to remove the paper in one piece. Catherine pulled out a rather large knife and sliced the paper open. Duo only shook his gently, watched by a curious Heero, who's gift remained neglected in his lap. She pulled tape and ribbon from her own present, letting the wrappings fall into her lap. This one was labeled `From Quatre' in neat calligraphy. In her gloved hands sat a snow globe the size of both her fists. Inside glittered a crumbling castle, covered in moss. A unicorn grazed on the overgrown lawn, its azure eyes staring into her own.

"Oh! It's beautiful!" she smiled, running both hands over the carved surface.

Duo had chosen Catherine's gift: a sweater, this one the deepest ebony. Quatre examined the calfskin wallet Relena had given him with a smile. Trowa fingered a new watch from Heero, its band inscribed with lions. Catherine received a small ceremonial dagger from Dorothy. Heero discovered a substantial gift-certificate to his nearest computer store from Wufei. Wufei actually laughed out loud, discovering Duo had given him a Twister (TM) board and mat. Dorothy eyed the tweezer set from Trowa with something less than amusement.

They each closed their eyes and selected another gift. Relena smiled over a set of earrings from Wufei. Heero wrapped a new scarf from Catherine around his neck, laughing. Catherine shrieked with joy when she found the several yards of rose-colored silk from Relena. Duo grinned at Dorothy, threatening her with another hug. She'd given him a brand new portable CD player. Trowa raised an eyebrow at the collection of circus movies from Duo. Heero gave Dorothy a certificate to Tiffany's, just as considerable as his own to the computer store. Wufei blinked rapidly at a sculpture of a two-headed dragon from Quatre. Quatre however, was not at all thrilled to find his gift from Trowa was a bottle of platinum hair dye.

"That was before the kitchen," Trowa shrugged sheepishly.

Dorothy squealed over her opera tickets from Relena. For a minute, the honey-blonde foreign minister thought she was being strangled not thanked. Catherine sniffed slightly, but accepted Wufei's recipe book. Heero exclaimed at the fencing sword and mask Dorothy gave him. She smiled wickedly. Quatre giggled and blushed, unwrapping a large stuffed camel from Duo. Duo was delighted by a brand new pair of boots from Relena. The formal practice outfit from Heero brightened Wufei's normally blank expression. Trowa looked even more sheepish after receiving a carved set of bookends from Quatre. And Relena burned red the moment she opened Trowa's gift, labeled Victoria's Secret (TM).

Pagan's disapproving cough rattled across the room. Duo and Heero domino-ed after Relena tackled the braided boy. Her gift was a shuttle ticket to Greece to visit her brother and sister- in-law for New Years. Heero returned the tackle shortly, despite the fact Duo sat between them. She'd given him a new printer. Duo grinned maliciously, raising the practice sword from Wufei out of its shredded wrappings. Heero sweatdropped. Dorothy cried actual tears, discovering Catherine had made her a new dress -- just perfect for the opera.

Trowa's reaction was somewhat less dramatic, discovering she'd made him a hat, mittens (lose-proof string attached) and bang-warmer. Catherine smiled over her statue of back flipping clowns from Quatre, saying he'd make a great brother-in-law. Quatre reddened. He thanked Heero profusely for his vacation to Tahiti for two. Wufei was somewhat less thankful for his copy of "An Idiot's Guide to Getting Laid." They dove into the piles again, though not before an errant paper clip found its way into Trowa's famous hair.

Dorothy began suspecting her fellows of conspiracy when Duo's present turned out to be opera glasses. She accepted his hug. He was equally grateful for Quatre's jade carving of a church, though his throat tightened slightly. Relena squealed like a little girl, having just opened the pet carrier from Heero. A sleepy puppy crawled out, having spent the last few hours tranq-ed. He was immediatly taken out for a quick walk by Pagan. Heero had a hard time breathing. Wufei and Trowa were given gift-certificates to a music store by Dorothy. Quatre laughed at the carefully coiled escape rope from Wufei, saying he'd use it well. Catherine happily found a whetstone and polish in Duo's present. Heero received a sack of practical jokes from Trowa, including one foot long plastic penis.

Said foot long, plastic penis bounced off Trowa's forehead and rolled under the tree.

Quatre smiled over a potted plant from Dorothy. It would look great in his office, the card said. Relena admired a new blouse and skirt from Catherine, again hand-made. Heero regarded the carving of a labrador from Quatre. He shared a secretive grin with the blonde. Dorothy immediately began fiddling with a Zen garden from Wufei. He got up to show her what the symbols along the sides meant. Trowa added another gift certificate to his stack, this one from Relena for a speciality shop. Wufei's face fell, discovering Catherine gift consisted of several packages of dried soup. Just add hot water. Catherine immediatly donned soft, leather gloves bestowed upon her by the Perfect Soldier. Duo caught Trowa in the back of his head with the padded bras in his package.

The wrapping paper piled high around them (except for Wufei, of course, who neatly stacked his). They were all grinning, all laughing. Carols continued playing on the stereo, the conversation never died and it was Christmas. Not a thing was wrong with the world. Even the foot long plastic penis under the tree. Each took his or her last present, saluting their friends with it.

Catherine received the last gag gift, several pairs of control top pantyhose from her brother. Dorothy smiled at the porcelain scene from `Phantom of the Opera', labeled in Quatre's neat calligraphy Yes, we planned this. Relena immediately tried on the sapphire necklace (from Dorothy) which matched the earrings Wufei had given her perfectly. Wufei picked up the ancestral sword from his clan with a sense of awe, the look in his eyes all the thanks Relena needed. Quatre rubbed a soft wool blanket made by Catherine against his cheek. Trowa admired the lion-head ring from Wufei; it was the same golden color (bottled or not) as Quatre's hair.

Duo's eyes tripled in size when the tissue paper fell away from his last gift, this one from Heero. A brand new leather jacket lay there, one that -- upon testing -- fit him perfectly.

"I know you have one but-" Heero began.

"Are you kidding? I got that at a pawn shop! It's a wreck. But Heero, c'mon this must have costed a fortune!"

He flung both arms around the Japanese boy and kissed him soundly, much to Heero's surprise. His eyes opened wide, a warm blush spread down his cheeks. He opened the last gift, his heaviest, by far.

Inside was a laptop, also brand new.

Heero returned that kiss and added many others, much to the entertainment of the others.

+

They gathered around the doorway, some gifts in hand, all of Quatre's statues carefully wrapped in discarded paper. Duo slipped his new jacket on. Heero added his scarf to his wool coat. Trowa reluctantly put on his mittens, hat and bang-warmer. Relena, wearing an cover-up now as the temperature had dropped, hugged them all, thanking them for coming.

"No," Duo grinned his easy grin, "Thank you, milady."

"Want a ride?" Heero asked him, planting a chaste kiss on Relena's cheek. Her puppy, named Pepper after his dark color, lay collapsed in the leftover paper.

"Sure," They shared one last embrace beneath the mistletoe.

"I know a place we can go," Quatre purred in Trowa's ear.

"I can drive you home," Dorothy told Wufei. He somehow missed Trowa's frantic mouthings of "Don't!"

Catherine sighed, "Some brother I have."

"You are, of course, welcome to stay here, " Relena smiled. The red- head nodded finally.

She walked her guests out to the vehicles. Somehow, a ball of snow found its way into her hand. The blonde smiled again, this time for the stars glittering above. She caught Trowa in the face with the loosely packed projectile. Of course, this meant a return fire...

The neighbors thought it odd there were groups of children chasing each other around the Dorlian's yard with snowballs. Each could've sworn all of their children were grown. They didn't complain, though, remembering their own antics in the snow in years past. The eight of them played far past midnight, their only chaperones an elderly butler and puppy who remained safely inside.

And they all lived happily ever after.

~Owari

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