Author's Note: What a relief. Finally, it's Chapter 4. I'm going on vacation for awhile but look for more in early August. Please read and review!!
Love is a Battlefield
by Midii Une
Linnea sat straight up, heart racing with adrenaline and her breathing heavy and labored. The sounds of battle had been like a lullaby, the distant sounds of explosions cushioning her reality as she slept off the effects of the Zero System.
But now it was silent.
And she was alone.
Oh, what had she done? She yanked back the sheets and stumbled out of bed, dizzy from the fever and being unconscious for so long. For how long she didn't know. She clutched the window sill so hard that her nails scratched the varnish in the polished wood.
Smoking ruins of mobile suits everywhere.
Dead soldiers everywhere.
She tried to blink these visions away but they were still there when she opened her eyes. All destroyed as if some mighty hand had descended from heaven and crushed it all. No, not from heaven. Epyon was something out of the depths of hell. She tried again to block it out by shutting her eyes tightly but she was overwhelmed by memories of a nightmare so real that she was forced to open them again to escape it.
Then she realized something.
It was gone. No longer there. The battle here was over, so it had gone on. To vent its destructive nature elsewhere. "
I'm thinking about it as if it's something alive," she thought to herself. "Am I losing my mind?"
Her teeth chattered and she wrapped her arms around herself. She sat there alone on the floor beneath the window as the realization dawned on her that she had made an awful mistake. One that she could never rectify.
There was still so little she really knew about Duo, Hilde thought as she sat in the park waiting for him to come out of one his meetings. She'd believed all her dreams would come true if he finally kissed her. But this wasn't the movies and this wasn't a romance novel. This was real life. And he was still haunted by something, something he wasn't willing to discuss with her.
That kiss had proved one thing however. She loved him. She really loved him and she would do anything to prove that to him. Oh Duo, she thought, shutting her eyes and remembering the feel of his lips on hers and the breathless way she had felt when he touched her. . . .
Linnea pulled the brush slowly through her hair, pulling painfully on a tangle she couldn't quite reach. It was difficult to put your hair up without looking in the mirror, but that was something she was reluctant to do these days. She put down the brush and bit her lip thoughtfully. For the first time in so long she had no purpose in life. Where should she go? Back to the colony? She had nothing there. And since the Epyon disaster she didn't belong here either. She spent her time looking out the window, watching as people put their lives back together in the aftermath of battle.
She sighed and picked up the brush again. She asked herself where she would go, what she would do if she could have any one wish, change the past. Immediately she thought of Duo but that vision was shattered by a memory of his eyes. The look in his eyes the last time she'd seen him. Not even a magical wish could erase that. Every good memory ruined by that one awful look. From somewhere deep inside another memory came. A memory of bright sun and dry air. Waves of shimmering heat rising up from a vista of endless sand. A pair of sky-blue eyes. And he had loved her. Could she have ever loved him back, she wondered. Quatre . . .
Linnea rubbed her hand tiredly over her eyes. Stop torturing yourself with these foolish dreams. You made your choice already. You made your choice . . . "
Linnea?" a voice, smooth and cool, interrupted her thoughts. And just in time, she thought, dreams like those can only drive you crazy. This is the reality of my life, the rest is gone. "
You're feeling better," he stated, almost as if it was an order. She hadn't seen Treize, really seen him, since before she tested Epyon.
She nodded slowly, not looking at him. She didn't think he was the type to tolerate failure. And Epyon had been a major failure, there was something so wrong about it, even though she had calculated everything correctly. "
There's something I need to discuss with you," he said.
And she thought, he's going to make me leave. She didn't know how that made her feel now. There was a time when the thought of his rejecting her would have hurt, but now all her feelings were dull, as if they were stored somewhere far away. "
If I asked you," he said. "Would you build another mobile suit?"
She shook her head, almost afraid. "I don't think I ever could again, Your Excellency," she whispered, looking away. "
What I have in mind," he said, seeming to ignore her protest, "would be a mobile suit to restore the beauty and honor of battle. A mobile suit that would be superior to all others in one on one combat. I am going to engage in a duel Linnea. A duel to save the Earth."
He told her about the fall of the Cinq Kingdom and Relena's accession to the post of head representative of the Romefeller Foundation. Linnea was shocked. Both by the destruction of the Cinq Kingdom and by what Relena had chosen to do. "
She can't lead the World Nation to peace now, however," Treize said. "Zechs knows that there must be a final battle, if there is ever to be peace. And I must be the one to give it to him."
He tilted her face up to his and looked at her. Saw that she was tormented as he was by the visions of Epyon. "If we do this thing. If you create this suit, it will be like atonement," he said.
She nodded, understanding. "I'll try," she whispered and picked up the brush again. "
Your beautiful hair," he said, running his hand over the tangled mess she'd made of it. He took the brush from her and gently undid the tangles. He reached for a ribbon and tied it back softly from her face. Like everything he did, it looked perfect. Too perfect. He remembered when he had first seen her at OZ headquarters, the first time he asked her to build a mobile suit. How she had looked, brave and frightened and more than one hair out of place. He reached out and pulled a few hairs loose. That was better, perhaps he had changed her too much.
Quatre lay on a bunk on the Peacemillion. He worried about Miss Noin. It was Milliardo Peacecraft that she was in love with he knew. How could she stand the knowledge of what he was doing? He admired the depth of her love and the fact that despite that she was still helping them. She was such a good person. He wished there was a way he could spare her from this heartache. But there was no way to that.
He felt a measure of peace himself. Trowa was alive. He wasn't the same, but he was going to fight with them. Linnea had been right, he had survived. Trowa had done it. Did that mean he was forgiven for what he had done under the influence of the Zero System, in the throes of grief for his his father?
Things were coming to a head. One way or another it was all going to be over soon. He got up and looked out an observation portal. He could see the Earth. She was down there he knew. Linnea. He had hope, since Trowa was alive, anything was possible. He lay back down and closed his eyes, remembering everything about her, every kiss on the cheek and touch of the hand they had ever shared. He fantasized that he had kissed her that night on the piano bench when she'd been so sad. If only he had, if only he had the real memory of what it was like to kiss Linnea . . .
On the other side of the wall, Duo lay awake too. He couldn't sleep, there were so many thoughts running through his head. Thoughts of Hilde back on the colony. He'd said good-bye again without telling her how he really felt. Memories of her kisses and her very presence in his life constantly in his thoughts. And then today, joining up with Quatre again. It was so awkward, with her name unspoken between them.
He supposed Quatre would have told him if she'd changed her mind and come back to the Cinq Kingdom after he'd left. Linnea. What if she had come back, would he apologize? Would she accept it? Was there any future for them at all? He saw her tear-streaked face, heard his own voice telling her that they would be together after the war. But now there was Hilde, so different from Linnea, but the same in some ways. He hadn't made her any promises, but there was a bond between them. Slowly but surely Hilde was taking over his heart, not leaving room for anyone else. But part of him still fought against it, stayed loyal to Linnea. Maybe a little piece of him would always belong to her. And besides, what did he have to offer Hilde, he didn't even know how long he could stay alive in a battle like this.
Romefeller, Treize Khushrenada, OZ, even Relena Peacecraft. It made no difference. The battles weren't ending. The colonies were joining the battle through White Fang and the Gundams were weapons without a mission and more people were being dragged into the conflict. It wasn't just the Gundam pilots fighting the battles anymore. It had to end now. But when it was over, if he survived it, what would he do?
Hilde sat on the couch where Duo had slept. She had a big bowl of strawberries, strawberries with sugar and lots of whipped cream. The taste of the strawberries was the taste of Duo. He'd left her again. Left without really saying anything about the future. Yet, she knew he cared about her. She felt again his lips on hers before he left and his hands on her body. He touched her as if he was trying to memorize her feel and shape, as if he might never come back again. "
Damn you Duo Maxwell," she said out loud. "Why does it have to be you? Gundam pilots aren't the only ones hoping for peace and they don't have to be the only ones to die for it."
Why was she just sitting there on the couch, eating strawberries and pining for a boy who might never come back? Why wasn't she out there fighting by his side? Just because he wanted to do it alone, just because he thought he had to be the sacrifice, that he should be the one to fight and everyone else should stay safely at home? No. No way. She could fight. She would fight. She was going to space. She was going to find Duo and never leave his side. Hilde could help and if he died she was going to be right beside him. All the way to the end.
Taking over the World Nation from Relena Peacecraft had been ridiculously easy. Her belief in total pacifism had made it so. Still, he had admired her as she left. He knew she was going to Zechs, to Milliardo, to try to stop him in his quest to rid space of the contaminating influence of Earth. Treize knew she would fail, but he admired her for trying. And when the battle was over, then would be the time for Relena Peacecraft. But he wouldn't be here to see it. Epyon had shown him that.
Hey there! Long time no see," a voice casually announced from the communicator screen on the desk.
That voice. It was one of the oddest voices Linnea had ever heard and she immediately knew who it was. She had spoken to him so many times from the desert base, sharing ideas and getting input on repairs to DeathScythe. "
Howard? Howard! What are you doing? Where are you? How did you get through the security blocks?" she said, bending close to the screen and barraging the older technician with questions faster than he could answer them.
He put his hand up to the back of his head and rolled his eyes behind his sunglasses. "Slow down little girl, that's too many questions and we probably don't have much time," he said.
She nodded. "
I'm here in space on the Peacemillion and I sure could use your help right now," he said, praying she wouldn't turn off the screen. He sure as hell hoped he had made the right decision in contacting her. Despite what she was doing now he felt deep down she was like him, that she would always feel a responsibility toward the Gundams and their pilots. Especially one . . . "
I have a project of my own, perhaps you could help me too," she said. "You are familiar with the Tallgees?" "
The Tallgees is destroyed," Howard said. "Saw it go with my own eyes. So you've got gundanium and you want to rebuild it as a Gundam?" "
Not enough," she shook her head. "There's a bit left over from the construction of the--of the--the--the Epyon," she stammered slightly. "But not nearly enough to construct the whole MS. What do you think Howard? Should I dilute the gundanium throughout the suit, mix it in with the titanium I have or use the pure gundanium at strategic points?" "
My vote goes for using the pure stuff at your weak points, Linnea. I suspect you already decided to do that?" he said after a moment of thought. "
Yes," she agreed. "But it's good to hear you back me up. I'm surrounded by nothing but yes men here and I don't trust their judgment on anything. Not like I trust yours Howard," she added meaningfully. "What do you need?" "
Well," he said. "I'm about pulling out what little hair I've got left. I'm upgrading Sandrock and DeathScythe for improved fighting in space and I'm trying to round up a suitable MS for Trowa Barton." "
Trowa!" she said. "He's alive? He's there?" "
He's a little worse for wear but he's here and he's fighting with us," Howard said. "DeathScythe I know, almost as well as you do, maybe even better. But Sandrock, I could use some help there. Any shortcuts or hints you could give me on increasing its performance would sure be appreciated."
She was silent a moment, wanting to ask about Duo and Quatre, but unwilling to let herself think of them. Of what had used to be. "
But basically, the Sandrock and DeathScythe are intact," she ventured. "No major damage?" "
Depends how you look at it," Howard said, answering her coded question with a coded answer. "Everything seems fine from the outside but sometimes things get shaken up in a battle, things you don't notice from the outside."
He broke out of the code at the stricken look on her face. "And you? You are alright down there? If you could get up here and help me out personally it would make a big difference. Can you manage it?"
She shook her head. "I can't leave what I'm doing here unfinished. I have responsibilities I can't leave behind. I made my choice weeks ago. And you're doing fine without me Howard. You're all getting along alright without me," she answered. "
That may be true, but it would go a hell of a lot smoother with you up here. You belong with us, don't you see," he protested. "
About your question," she said, ignoring his proposal and cutting him off before he said something she didn't want to hear. "The main wiring in the Sandrock should be basically good for space. It's the connections to the weapons systems you need to work on. Increase the insulation at those points and only give a minimal upgrade to the main wiring. That should speed up the process." "
Sounds good. The Maganacs did a good job in repairing it after the self-detonation, looks like they used the upgraded specs you left behind," he said. "
Well, just be careful and don't rush whatever you do," she said, her mind starting to race with thoughts. Detailed images of the Sandrock and it's systems beginning to play in her mind. "Is there anything else?"
Quatre came in then to check on the progress on Sandrock. He paused in the doorway of the hangar section of the Peacemillion. Howard was in there talking to somebody, but who? Someone on the communications screen. Could it be important, more news about the situation they were in. He glanced at the screen over Howard's shoulder. The technician turned to see who was there, opening up a view of the screen. "
Quatre!" he said.
Linnea looked. Tears sprung to her eyes, he was right there behind Howard. She'd thought she would never see him again. "
Linnea," Quatre whispered. "Oh Linnea." He reached his hand out for the screen and their eyes met for a moment.
She quickly reached out and pressed the terminate button. The screen went blank. She brushed the tears off her face and quickly installed a block from that initiating point. She couldn't do this. It hurt. It hurt too much. "
Don't cry. Don't," she whispered to herself furiously. Then buried her head in her arms and let the hot tears fall silently. "
Howard! Howard, get the connection back," Quatre insisted. "What did she say? Did she contact us? Is she coming back? Howard, get her back on."
Howard pushed a few buttons then threw up his hands. " I got through to her. I'd been attempting that for a while. I wanted her input on the Sandrock upgrades. She's blocked us out now though. She's too smart for me. I'll never get back in. But at least I did manage to get some tips from her regarding Sandrock. It'll be ready before you know it now."
Quatre didn't answer. He put his hand back up to the screen and closed his eyes. He had seen her again. Could almost see an afterimage of her on that screen. So close to talking to her and yet he'd hardly gotten a glimpse. But he knew their eyes had touched, just a moment.
I'll be damned," Howard said, when a few hours later a 40-page document was transmitted to him on the Peacemillion a few hours later. There was no location of origin anywhere on the paperwork.
The document contained detailed analysis and suggestions for upgrading Sandrock for space. And a short personal message. "
Sorry we were cut off. I did a bit more thinking about your problem. Hope this helps. By the way, don't forget that after each battle you must recalibrate the cockpit devices in DeathScythe. Your pilot gets a bit too enthusiastic and the systems go all out of wack. Don't forget, you'll need optimum performance with what you'll be up against. LL."
It was all too obvious to Howard from that message where her heart was and that she still cared a great deal about those two pilots. Why the hell wouldn't she come to space?
TO BE CONTINUED . . .