AUTHORS: Mel & Christy (and their muses)
WARNINGS: Language? Violence! 'They Might Be Giants' songs! Collateral Damage!
PAIRINGS: 1x2, 3x4, 5x?
DISCLAIMER: They still aren't ours. We tried theft, but the security systems were too good. Wufei was slightly injured during the making of this fic, and Duo got a concussion, but they got better. (And Trowa just brushed his bangs back into order.) No money is being made from this fic, and if there was we'd just spend it on more tapes, so that's OK.

Demon of Justice + Chapter 17
All The World's A Stage

The four pilots had dinner in Duo's room that night, while watching the news. Quatre sat in a chair by the bed, with Trowa on the floor leaning back against his legs; Heero was perched on the edge of the mattress by Duo.

"We should bring up a couple more chairs," Quatre mused, scooping up a forkful of pasta.

"Not on my account," Trowa said, reaching back to pat his lover's knee. "I like this." And it gives Heero a chance to be close to Duo without being pushy about it, he added silently, smiling faintly as he glanced sideways under cover of his hair. After all, he has to sit somewhere...

Heero's eyes were fixed on the television screen, with the occasional glance down at his plate, but his body language showed that he was acutely aware of Duo beside him. It's impossible to stay that close to someone without ever bumping into them by accident,Trowa thought, watching Heero's elbow tuck in a centimeter or two, just enough to avoid being hit by Duo's as the braided pilot chased a noodle around his bowl. He's trying so hard not to make Duo uncomfortable. I'd laugh, but then I'd have to explain what was so funny.

< <... and finally, we have a statement from Relena Dorlian-Peacecraft, Vice Foreign Minister in the interim Earth government. Your Majesty? > >

< < Just Minister, please, or Miss, > > Relena said, smiling sweetly at the announcer. < < The Sanc Kingdom no longer exists as a separate nation, and in any case, I abdicated any rights to the throne several months ago. > >

"Whoa," Duo said, pausing with his fork halfway to his mouth. "The Queen of the World is turning down her proper homage? Freaky."

"Be nice," Trowa murmured.

"Duo, hush," Quatre scolded. "Let's listen to what she has to say before we start insulting her."

"Okay, but if she declares her undying love for Heero on world-wide TV, I'm gonna ralph."

Heero almost choked. "She's done everything but that," he growled.

< < Citizens of Earth and of the Colonies, greetings, > > Relena continued, then dimpled slightly at the camera. < < That sounds a little awkward and pompous, I think, but I can't exactly say 'good evening' considering the number of time zones I'm speaking to. > >

"Ugh," Duo muttered under his breath. "She's doing cute at us. Save me from the saccharin, Heero."

Heero glanced at him, a little uncertainly, then smirked. "Hn. Close your eyes," he advised, and put his hands over Duo's ears.

"Will you two be quiet?! Quatre sputtered, torn between annoyance and laughter.

Snickering, Duo batted at Heero's hands. "Yeah, Heero, behave. Quatre says stop distracting us."

"Oh, you start it and suddenly it's my fault?"

"Trust me, Heero," Trowa said dryly. "With these two, you can't win."

"Shush!" Quatre grabbed the remote from the bedside table and turned up the volume.

< < --matter of titles is actually related to what I wish to say, > > Relena was saying. < < In a few months, at most, there will be a world-wide referendum on the question of what form Earth's government will take in the future. Will we remain unified as one nation, or will we revert to separate countries again? I'm here to ask people to vote for the first option. > >

< < And more than that, > > she went on, looking serious, < < I'm asking the colonies to join with Earth. I'm asking for the formation of a new entity; not space versus soil, not one subordinate to the other, but a unified Earth Sphere. Every human in our solar system, no matter where they were born or where they stand today, living in peace with one another as countrymen. > >

"...o-kay," Duo muttered, eyebrow lifting. "Didn't see that one coming..."

< < I realise that many, if not most, people will view this proposal with skepticism, > > Relena said quietly. < < There have been far too many times recently when one organisation or another has preached unification, equality and peace, when what they really wanted was a comfortable lie to keep people docile while they consolidated their grasp on power. This time has to be different, if it's to have any chance of success. > >

< < Previous governments have been distant from the people they were supposed to represent, > > she continued, leaning forward earnestly. < < Some countries have been governed by a hereditary aristocracy, like my homeland. Others have been, theoretically, democracies, but in practice it was impossible to be elected if you weren't from the 'right' families and immensely wealthy; and once in office, you were considered an idiot if you didn't fatten your bank balance even more. It's very hard for the average person to have any sort of trust in their leaders, if they know that there's no way for them to become one of those leaders... and no real reason for their leaders to care what they think or want. > >

"Says Miss from-the-right-family-and-filthy-rich," Duo snorted. "By her reasoning, she shouldn't have anything to do with the new government, but I bet she's not going to resign."

"Duo!" Quatre hissed.

"I know... 'hush'!"

< < Previous attempts at unification would have been better termed subjugation, too, > > Relena said wryly. < < One country has conquered another, or a colony has been considered as inferior to the homeland-- both on earth and after man moved out into space. Again, there has been a clear division between governed and governors, rich and poor, high class and low. If we're ever to achieve a true peace, we have to get away from this way of thinking! > >

"Sometimes, her idealism and naivete is frightening," Duo whispered to himself.

< < That's why I'm asking people to vote for a unified Earth! > > she continued, eyes flashing with enthusiasm. < < After this first referendum, there will be more, concerning precisely what form of government we should adopt. We, the members of the interim cabinet, are not going to tell you what's going to happen; we're waiting for you to tell us. Surely, if we all work together-- if we all decide that we want a unified nation with a government that is truly representative of its people-- we can devise something that will work! Even if it's not perfect to begin with, we can learn from our mistakes and improve. Everyone has a stake in this. We have a chance to build a better future together; a future where social class and wealth aren't the divisive element they are today. > >

< < 'Everyone' means the colonies, too. Just because we've been enemies in the past doesn't mean we have to be enemies in the future, or even separate from one another. You've been treated badly in the past by Earth; first by the Alliance-- who, at least, were straightforward enough not to pretend they were acting in your best interest-- and then by OZ. You have a right to be suspicious of this sort of offer. But please, consider joining with us; not as subordinates or lesser allies, but as equal partners in the attempt to build a peaceful Earth Sphere-- > >

Relena broke off for a moment, eyes wide, and then laughed. < < Oh, dear! I'm afraid I've just illustrated the need to learn from our mistakes... Why call it the Earth Sphere? It's awfully planet-centric. It would be far too easy to think of Earth as the main part and the colonies as 'extras'. The interim cabinet has been fussing over the various options open to us for days, and none of us realised the name could be a problem! > > She laughed again, shaking her head. < < You see? This is why we must have a government that has to listen to its citizens. > >

"What do you want to bet that was written into her speech?" Duo muttered cynically.

< < That's really all I have to say for now, > > Relena finished, smiling at the camera. < < Please, think about what I've said, everyone. We have an opportunity to start from a clean slate, here, and i think it would be a shame to waste it. Thank you. > >

< < Thank you, Ms. Dorlian-Peacecraft, > > the announcer smiled. < < I'm sure your words have made an impact on many people to-- > >

Quatre muted the TV and turned to the others. "Any thoughts? Or have you already made all your comments?" he added dryly, looking at Duo.

"Think she means it?" Duo asked. "The whole 'rich-or-poor, social status doesn't matter' jazz, I mean. We know she's serious about the peace part of it..."

"I think she's sincere," Heero admitted grudgingly. "She doesn't generally act or speak contrary to her true feelings."

"Well, yeah... it's not like she played hard to get after all."

"Duo!"

"If Mister Cynicism has finished with the Peanut Gallery comments... ?"

"Oh, come on Q, we all know what she's like! Though she did seem serious," Duo mused. "Maybe too serious. A couple of times, there, she had the same obsessed stalker glint in her eyes that she gets around Heero--"

Trowa calmly leaned forward, pulled one of the pillows out from behind Duo and hit him with it.

* * * * *

"So, are you going to explain that 'travelling' comment?" Gunnar asked, sitting down opposite Uthmar with his breakfast. "I may only be your second-in-command, but I do need to know these things once in a while..."

Uthmar looked at him, over the rim of his mug, with a jaundiced expression. "D'you have any idea how much sleep I got last night?"

"Well, you were still pacing around the square when I went to bed, so... no."

"Neither do I. Don't push it." The Champion took another large swig of tea and set his mug down with a sigh. "The 'travelling' comment was a reference to the fact that Wufei has agreed to come with us when we leave."

"Mm-hm?" Gunnar raised a finger, chewing hastily. "Mmf-- *gulp* Good. I can think of a few people who wouldn't be too happy if we went back and said 'Yes, there were a couple of demons there, but they liked the village so we let them stay'."

Uthmar rolled his eyes. "You're not the only one. I was all set to spend hours persuading him to come, but he agreed right away."

The shorter dwarf snickered. "Maybe he's afraid Rami's going to propose."

"She may be the only thing he's afraid of," Uthmar snorted, prudently lowering his voice. "From what I've heard and seen, though, she's more likely to nobly give him up to her friend Naiya and romantically pine away, consoled only by the thought that her beloved will be happy."

Gunnar nearly choked on his next mouthful, coughing and sputtering. "Oh, gods," he gasped, eyes streaming. "She should write tragic ballads. I know at least three minstrels and a bard who'd have to sweat to come up with anything that bad..."

"It wouldn't be nearly as funny if there was a grain of truth to the whole 'romantic triangle' idea," Uthmar pointed out wryly. "Anyone with sense enough to come in out of the rain can see there's nothing going on."

"Rami must get soaked fairly often, then," Gunnar chuckled, wiping at his eyes. "So, Wufei's coming with us. Where to?"

"South, first," the Champion said, abruptly serious again. "There's a temple of Sharna down there that we've got business with."

"You won't hear me arguing about that, but... are we waiting for reinforcements?" Gunnar asked, eyebrows lifting. "Or do you think six lay brothers will be enough to back up your august personage and his Demonic Highness?"

Uthmar opened his mouth to answer, then paused and glared upwards as a sputter of godly laughter echoed in the back of his mind. "Any time you want to take him and his sense of humour off my hands, Torframos, just say the word," he sighed. "I'll manage without him. Really."

"Does the position of 'Jester to the Gods' come with a pay raise?" his second-in-command asked innocently.

* * * * *

"I will be leaving for my estate soon," Lord Yithar snapped, looking down his nose at the human lay brother-- at least he tried to. It was difficult to look down your nose at someone three inches taller than you-- "Today, in fact. Tell your leader."

"Certainly, my lord," Cameron said, inclining his head in the merest sketch of a bow, and ambled off at a pace that wouldn't strain his wrenched knee. Yithar scowled after him, wishing he dared order him to hurry; he had a niggling suspicion that the order would be ignored, and he'd suffered enough embarrassment for one lifetime.

Some time later, Uthmar strolled up, still combing crumbs out of his beard. "Leaving so soon, Lord Yithar?" he asked pleasantly. "I hope you have a pleasant trip."

"I'd better!" Yithar sputtered indignantly. "You're going to be escorting me home!"

"Actually, I have another commitment."

"You-- you what?!" The half-elf's mouth opened and closed a few times before he managed another word. "What other commitment?! It's dangerous out there, demons and-- and things prowling around! You have to escort me!"

"I think you're overstating the situation, m'lord," Uthmar said calmly, a faint, polite surface smail on his face. "This area is not crawling with 'demons and things'. Yet. Ensuring that this state of affairs continues is, I think, a higher priority than walking you home. You have your armsmen, after all."

"But--"

"This is what the militant orders do, m'lord," the dwarf continued smoothly, still smiling. It didn't reach his eyes. "We don't protect people by waiting for evil things to come after the particular person we're guarding. We protect them by going and getting the evil things first. Oh, and Prince Wufei will be accompanying us..."

"But you can't just-- Prince?!" Yithar blinked, jerked completely away from his train of thought. "He's a prince?"

[cont]