Author's Note: Sorry this took so long, suffering a little writer's block and holiday hangover. But here you go and there's a little something in here for all you Duo/Hilde fans!! Actually not much happens, this turned out to be a chapter all about inner feelings . . .
Love is a Battlefield
by Midii Une
It wasn't the same this time, Hilde thought despondently. Duo didn't seem to be as comfortable with her, it was as if he was trying to keep his distance. The last time, although there had never been anything actually physical between them, there had definitely been affection, the ease of friendship and he had always touched her. That was the kind of guy he was. He was a physical person, he was constantly making contact, whether it be a pat on the arm or a gentle squeeze before bedtime or a mischievous tousling of her short, dark hair. It had seemed as if they were living together. And now it was if he was simply staying here.
She missed the little things that had used to bother her. The rubber bands from his hair everywhere, getting stuck in her vacuum cleaner belt. Finding his white collars in the most unusual places from under the couch to inside the medicine cabinet and always, always left on the kitchen counter and getting in her way when she tried to cook. Not to mention he never put the toilet seat down. But now he was unnaturally neat, as if he was trying not to be a bother. And worst of all he was careful never to touch her. "
Oh Duo," Hilde thought. "Why are you afraid to get close to me now?"
She looked at the sleeping boy on the sofa and despite her concern she couldn't help but smile as she sipped slowly at a cup of hot tea and picked at a cinnamon roll. Duo must really be tired if the warm smell of cinnamon rolls hadn't woken him up, it usually worked like a charm every time. But he loved to sleep and he looked so adorable with a pillow clutched tightly to his chest with one arm and the other flung over the side of the couch. He had undone his braid, which was unusual. He'd have tangles when he woke up, she thought. But she let her eyes linger on his loose hair. The sun coming through the blinds touched strands of it and emphasized the glossy highlights. He moved a little in his sleep and she sighed, wishing she dared to go and touch his hair, smooth the pillow creases on his face. Dared to touch her lips to his and tell him how she felt. But then he might leave and she'd be worse off than she was now . . .
. . . Was this a dream, he thought vaguely, as he twisted restlessly on the couch. It sure was a boring one. Another echoing, cavernous hangar. A mind-numbing, repetitive meeting where the topic was always the same and always unresolved. Probably that was because there was no right answer. He never joined in unless they asked him directly and his answer was always the same. He would fight on alone.
Duo studied the somber men from his seat in the shadows. He wondered why he came to these meetings. He never learned anything. He leaned back in his chair in the darkness, crossed his legs, folded his arms and tipped his hat over his eyes which blinked heavily. He hadn't been sleeping well since returning to space . . .
He felt her hand run through his hair, smoothing it carefully and her fingertips trailed down his cheek, lingering gently on his face. His hand automatically came up and caught hers. He would hold on to her this time, keep her with him and never let go. "
Duo," her voice whispered, softly and urgently, placing her other hand on his face and making him look at her. She looked him directly in the eyes. "Please," she said. "I know this is the way. Come back to me. Fight with me . . . please."
He could see in her eyes that she believed she was doing the right thing, believed it with all her heart. But he knew that she was wrong. She was so wrong. Couldn't she see ahead? Couldn't she see that the future would be no different from the past if the Treize Faction won? There would be no peace only the constant threat of dictatorship and more battles.
She leaned forward as he hesitated and pressed her lips to his. He kissed her back, but he was kissing Linnea goodbye. "
I can't," he told her finally. "I'm sorry baby. I can't. I'll fight on alone."
She shook her head and pulled her hand from his effortlesly even as he tried to tighten his grip. She turned and ran out of the hangar and he couldn't make a move to stop her.
It was so real. The fluourescent lights, the mobile suit parts, the grit on the floor and the smell of oil and propane.
A voice broke into his dream. "You're not alone. I'm here with you. I'll always be here."
He woke with a start to see Hilde bending over him, shaking him gently. "
Are you alright?" she asked with a worried look on her face. "You were saying something in your sleep."
Duo rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand and tried to grin at her. "It was nothing," he said trying to convince himself of that as well as her. "Must have been that movie we watched last night. Hey, you did save me some cinnamon rolls didn't you?"
She laughed at him as he gulped down the remaining rolls for breakfast and then used the spatula to scrape every crumb out of the pan. This was the Duo she had missed, the Duo she loved.
He looked down at her lying there and when he put his hand near her face to brush back her hair he could feel feverish heat rising up.
There was a knock on the door, but she didn't stir and he didn't want to be disturbed. It had been 36 hours since he pulled her out of that cockpit and it seemed like she was purposely hiding in unconsciousness. Afraid to wake up. The clinical diagnosis was exhaustion, overwork and hallucinations, probably due to too much caffeine. He had believed it, until he had tried the mobile suit himself because she was still such a child in so many ways. Forgetting everything, including eating and sleeping, in her excitement over the project.
Her failed project. Or was it he who had failed? His own failure was such an alien concept that it was hard for him to grasp. But it was true. He could not pilot Epyon. But, to be fair, he wondered if anyone could. Could one of the Gundam pilots handle it? More importantly could HER pilot handle it. Duo Maxwell. She'd said she loved him. He had been surprised that that fact bothered him. Made him admit that he, himself, cared for her deeply. And if they could withstand this attack and she could regroup from her encounter with the Zero System he had a project for her. A project that would help him recover the beauty of war. A project to build a mobile suit that represented all the glories of single combat. Then he'd recover his honor again . . . could banish the visions of Epyon, visions of his own death.
The knock came again and he rose to open the door. "
It's a Gundam, Gen. Treize sir," the officer said. "It's joined the battle. Fighting against Romefeller."
He glanced at Linnea and saw her hand clench shut.
Duo Maxwell, he thought. It took you long enough. Aloud he said, "Is it 02?"
Deep in space she slept as if under some evil enchantment.
But part of her was still aware.
Aware that he needed her.
All the military trappings of her life were stripped away and she lay in the bed with her long brown hair streaming softly over the white, crisp pillowcase. There was only the essence of herself, far below the surface of her regulated breathing and her closed eyes. The staff wondered if there was anyone really still there, inside the badly injured body that stubbornly clung to life with a powerful determination they rarely saw.
There were actually brief times when Lady Une's vital signs jumped a little. Brief times when she approached lucidity and cursed herself for being unable to wake up, because that meant she was failing His Excellency.
But most of the time she was only able to lie there as visions of Treize played over and over in her mind. A shining example of perfection in everything he did. And she would do anything to maintain that perfection. Dishonor must never touch him. She would take it all upon herself, even commit murder, so that he could achieve his goals.
Treize. Tall, confident, charming, sophisticated and so handsome that every man she'd ever seen seemed pale and dull in comparison. His goals were her reason for living. She did not even presume to hope for his love or even his touch. It was enough that he allowed her to be a presence in her life. And when those occasional touches did come . . . her body would tingle and her mind would feel confused. Treize.
Of course there were many women who aspired to be more in his life. She had seen them at gatherings and receptions, clustering around him. She scoffed at them. Treize might have lovers but they meant no more to her or to him than his momentary enjoyment of a flower or a particularly beautiful operatic measure. He was a man who enjoyed all the pleasures of life: power, beauty, passion, war, music, nature. But she had lost all sense of wanting anything for herself. Everything she wanted, she wanted for Treize. Only her love for him was pure and no one could love him as she did, with a single-minded heart.
And now he needed her. She sensed that. But she was too far away and too incapacitated to be of any help. She struggled to come awake but the damage done was too great, it was too soon. She fell back into insensibility again. Back into her dream world of Treize.
Treize Khushrenada stared into the green eyes of Epyon. Seeing again the visions of his death and his final legacy. How ironic that his final legacy would be peace and an end to battles. He who loved the beauty of a battle between two strong foes, the purity of war, the attainment of power.
Nothing was happening as he had envisioned it. Epyon had shown him things he didn't want to see. And for the first time in his life he was struck with a sense of despair, a feeling that he was unfit to lead.
Could Heero Yuy do any better? For it was the Wing pilot and not Duo Maxwell who had come. Another disappointment, he'd thought Linnea would have inspired more devotion in her former lover. Still, a Gundam pilot was a Gundam pilot and Heero Yuy was the most infamous of them all. He would offer him the chance to pilot Epyon and see if he was brave enough to change his own vision of the future, to end his existence here and now and let Earth and the colonies decided their own fates.
And he was glad that Lady Une, his beloved lady, was not here to see him as he was now.
Duo chewed on the tip of his pen. I'll just make a few rules for myself, he thought. Then things will be fine. Nothing will get out of hand and we can just be friends.
Rule 1 -- Don't look directly at her for too long (a vision of her dark hair, the color of the ocean at midnight, contrasting with her soft pale skin, distracted him for a moment but he shook it off.) Rule 2 -- Don't accidentally brush against her like you've been doing (he felt again the smooth texture of her skin and the clean smell of the soap she always used). Rule 3 -- Do most of the talking yourself. That sexy, husky voice of hers is enough to drive you crazy (he thought what it might be like to hear that voice close to his ear, whispering his name as he made love to her). Rule 4 -- Do NOT imagine what it might be like to kiss her, to really kiss her (and he imagined just that, his lips brushing hers softly and the feel of her body contouring itself to his). "
Damn," the God of Death cursed, crumpling the piece of notebook paper into a tiny ball. "This is definitely not helping."
There was a knock on the bathroom door. "Duo! Are you ever coming out?," Hilde asked. "Don't you want to go have lunch in the park?"
She noticed that he looked a little sheepish as he finally exited the bathroom. "Just having a few problems, with my, umm, with my . . . hair. Yeah," he said.
It was a beautiful day. Little white clouds hovered under the canopy of the colony and the artificial sunlight seemed almost real. You could almost forget there were battles being fought somewhere, Duo thought.
He looked over at Hilde. She was just so damned cute, he thought. There was a little bit of juice from the peach she was eating at the corner of her mouth and he couldn't resist reaching out to brush it off for her. Really, he thought to himself, that was all he meant to do. But once his hand touched her velvety cheek he forgot his self-imposed rules concerning Hilde. His fingers brushed her face softly and she shut her eyes and leaned toward him invitingly.
Finally, he was going to kiss her, Hilde thought and a shiver of delight ran through her, raising goosebumps on her arms. All it took was a slight movement forward and they were kissing, actually kissing. The touch of his lips on hers was so soft and uncertain at first but she let her mouth open a bit under his and he put his arms around her and pulled her closer. Ohh, she thought, he tastes just like those strawberries he was eating, so sweet.
He kept one arm around her shoulder and let his other hand wander down her back until he could slide his hand into the back pocket of her jeans. She leaned forward a little more and he lay down on the blanket pulling her down on top of him. As his tongue explored her mouth he thought how much she tasted like a peach, (or did peaches taste like Hilde he joked to himself). She was sweet, but a little tangy too. He liked how she tasted. He liked it a lot.
To be continued . . .
Next time on Love is a Battlefield . . .God help me, but I don't know!!! Death to evil writer's block!! Actually, Treize takes over the world. Mwahahahahaha . . .