Author’s Note: Yes, believe it or not, I’ve written Chapter 7 of this fic. I knew I shouldn’t have started Alone/Together until I finished this!! Bad, stupid me . . . As for that fic, look for more possibly this weekend . . . As for this fic, I split this chapter into two sections because it’s a VERY long chapter and this part is done and I know people are waiting, the rest should be complete very shortly. It won’t be another month, I promise!
LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD
By Midii Une
As fast as the shuttle carrying them deeper into space the final battle approached. She could see the faces of all the combatants clearly even though her eyes looked at stars and colonies and hordes of mobile suits and mobile dolls sprinkled across the vastness of space.
“Miss Linnea,” an officer said. “We’re approaching the resource satellite MO-II, please buckle up.”
She turned from the window and sat down without a word, lost in her thoughts. What horrors and loss would the next hours bring? She pushed the concept to the back of her mind, her heart torn between two of the three factions that were ready to face off. It was going to happen now for better or worse, a battle to the end, a battle for peace, a battle for outer space, a battle for the Earth . . . And when it was over? Then what?
Hilde ignored the stunning vista of outer space that surrounded her Taurus shuttle. She forced herself to concentrate on her self-imposed mission. Tried to play out everything she would do in her mind. She was small and she was quick. Hilde thought her chances of obtaining the data on Libra and escaping from the battleship undetected were better than average. She wasn’t a Gundam pilot, no one knew her face or affiliation, she was the one with the best chance of success.
Duo couldn’t be angry with her if she didn’t fail, she reasoned. He might make a show of yelling at her, but inside he’d be proud of her she knew. A grim look of determination settled itself on her deceptively adorable face. A look nearly worthy of Shinigami himself. Hilde was going to make a difference.
Relena Peacecraft didn’t see the the awe-inspiring view of outer space that lay beyond the observation portal of her room on the Libra. Her room. Her cell. Dorothy had had the nerve to lock her in after she refused to assassinate her own brother. It was starting to occur to her that war had driven Dorothy Catalonia insane. She didn’t see the view because her eyes were closed and she was far away. Her heart was searching for Heero Yuy. He was in space and so was she and perhaps they would find each other again.
There was still a chance she could get through to Milliardo. She clung to that hope, if only she could speak to him again she was sure she could make him see that his plans made a mockery of the Peacecraft philosophy of absolute pacifism. Relena had a sickening feeling that if she didn’t convince her brother of this that there would be a battle between him and the Gundam pilot she loved. A terrifying clash of state-of-the-art war weapons between Milliardo Peacecraft and Heero Yuy. How ironic that the names of the combatants should be Peacecraft and Yuy. The names symbolized the struggle for peace on Earth and in Space. But Relena did not appreciate the irony, she saw only that by the end of all this chaos one of them would be dead.
He knew that she was thinking about him. It bothered him.
He was nothing but a soldier, a disposable commodity. His mission was to fight against those who continued these meaningless battles.
Her mission was to bring the healing balm of peace to the world when the fighting was over. In his mind it was much more difficult to represent peace. To maintain an attitude of absolute pacifism in the face of absolute madness. Only she was strong enough.
She shouldn’t be thinking about him. He shouldn’t be envisioning her eyes, as sparkling and blue as the water surrounding the Cinq Kingdom. Confident eyes that had never done wrong. Never killed. Never failed in their mission.
To the outside observer the turmoil inside the 01 pilot was invisible as always.
His words repeated themselves in her brain. She felt as if she was swimming toward the surface that was her consciousness. The water she swam through was holding her back, as if it was full of seaweed tugging her back down. But she fought against it. She felt as if she could see a light far away. Like the sun sparkling through a league of azure water.
If she could reach the light she could reach out to His Excellency. He had lost sight of the true beauty of battle.
To the outside observer the medical status of Lady Une remained unchanged.
“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.”
Duo stared at the words and the two letters that had once meant so much to him. LL. She still remembered and she obviously still gave a damn. It had been easier to believe that she didn’t.
He should have known she wouldn’t stop caring and the words were there in black and white, right there on a paper on the table Howard liked to call his command center.
A flood of memories washed up to the surface like the water slapping violently against the freighters out on the Pacific. It was like she was right there in the hangar, the irritated tone of her voice coming through in the words. How easily she got upset when he pulled a throttle too hard or pushed a button too aggressively.
But she never complained when he took her in his arms.
Duo looked up at DeathScythe and spoke to the mecha with his mind.
“She still cares buddy,” he thought. “I bet you already knew that though, huh.”
Sometimes he wondered if the other pilots ever talked to their Gundams like he did. He suspected that they must. Hell, he’d even caught technical, no-nonsense Linnea chatting away with DeathScythe one day at Quatre’s base while she sat in the cockpit working on something or another.
He sighed. Every battle might be the final one. As he strapped in and the cockpit flooded with neon green light he closed his eyes and thought of her as he’d always used to do. Before . . .
“Wish me luck baby,” he said.
Hilde looked at the disc in her hand. It was definitely worth the risk. The Libra was huge and there would be no way to make any sort of attack on it without knowing where all the strategic points were located. And then there was her other discovery -- the two Gundanium mobile dolls. The Mercurius and the Vayeate. There was something chilling about them and something chilling about the girl with the long pale hair. She had looked at those suits as if they were something alive, as though the sight of them gave her an amoral sort of pleasure.
Hilde shuddered and took a last glance back at the Libra. She had never been so happy in her life to see the last of something, but despite the speed her mobile suit was starting to attain the huge battleship seemed to be reluctant to let her out of its shadow.
Relena Peacecraft, the girl she had met, the one she’d heard so much about on the television news, really was brave to stay on the Libra, Hilde thought. She herself had felt sick and suffocated while on board, even though it was more than twice as large as Peacemillion.
She looked back again, her blue eyes peering through the darkness. She sighed in relief, the Libra was out of sight. But before she could turn her attention back to her course for Peacemillion two sparkling and ominous glints appeared in the distance.
And any mobile suit pilot knew what that meant.
Hilde looked at the disc in her hand and wished there was a way to send it hurtling through space to the Peacemillion ahead of her. Because right now she wasn’t sure that she herself was ever going to make it there.
“Come on, damn you,” she urged the Taurus suit as she tried to increase speed. But the indicator in the cockpit clearly showed that whatever was following her was going to catch her well before she reached her destination. She had no choice but to send out an SOS.
“Peacemillion . . .”
Wufei was disgusted. Battling mobile dolls was even more unsatisfactory than battling a weak opponent. Nataku moved almost of its own volition to decimate the powerful weapons of war that seemed to almost reproducing before their eyes. “Send as many as you want,” Wufei thought. “It’s still a meaningless battle being fought against a horde of soulless machines.”
The whole situation revolted him. White Fang and its leader Milliardo Peacecraft had turned outer space into a battlefield and Treize was increasing the hostilities, massing his mobile suit army, the largest ever assembled, out there at MO-II.
Treize Khushrenada. Frustration, humiliation and shame. His shame. All tied up in that one name. And yet he couldn’t wait to meet him again. It would happen, if destiny had any sense of justice, it would happen.
Altron’s two powerful dragon fangs shot out with deadly force, anchoring themselves in the midsections of two nearby mobile dolls, time paused for the minute fraction of a second and the dolls, the empty warriors, exploded in a blast of blinding light and deafening sound. But the awesome display of power and the lack of an opponent worthy of such a show only intensified Wufei’s sense of futility. He wouldn’t feel any satisfaction in battle till he met him again. Treize Khushrenada.
Duo wouldn’t have minded facing a few dozen mobile dolls right about then, better that than the foe he was actually facing.
But yet they were not. An eerie sensation filled him, he was almost unable to convince his mind that the two other Gundam pilots weren’t inside those suits. His eyes and mind were both telling him that the pilots were Trowa and Heero. The style, the ability, everything intact, perfectly recreated in the mobile dolls.
But they were just dolls after all. And the trademark Maxwell self-confidence kicked itself in. What a chance. To take on Heero and Trowa at the same time.
And he was Shinigami. A grin without humor, a grin worthy of the devil himself appeared on his face. He forgot everything. Linnea and Hilde. Libra and Peacemillion. All that mattered was the battle and that he would win.
He was Shinigami.
That’s what it was to be a Gundam pilot.
When the Mercurius and Vayeate were nothing but smoldering space junk Duo’s eyes sparkled victoriously. Had there ever really been any doubt who the best was?
The sparkle faded as suddenly as it had appeared.
“Hilde,” he said softly closing his eyes and concentrating on her. Thinking that if he shouted her name as his mind was screaming at him to do and she didn’t answer that would be it. If he whispered then he could try louder and louder until she responded. He was superstitious about such things and he wanted to give her all the chances he could. Screaming was definitely not cool.
He only had to raise his voice a little more to get her to respond and he picked her up on the communications screen.
She paused in her final systems check on the Tallgeese to listen to the status report an officer was presenting to Gen. Treize.
“The enemy has lost more than half of it’s mobile doll force and it’s being reported that two Gundanium mobile dolls patterned on the Mercurius and Vayeate were destroyed by Gundam 02. The enemy arsenal is significantly undermined,” the officer said.
Linnea continued the systems check, her hands moving with confidence over the controls, as usual everything was as it should be, in perfect working order. Of course His Excellency would never think of forcing a throttle or jamming his finger on a firing button with extra emphasis. Not like Duo . . .
“Destroyed by Gundam O2.” The words repeated in her head and the corners of her lips turned up in a pleased little smile of satisfaction. Her Gundam, her pilot. In a hidden corner, buried deep in her heart, she still saw them that way. She’d known he was the best from the moment he walked into that hangar so many months ago.
She ran a hand almost tenderly over the control panel. The Tallgeese II, a beautiful combination of elegance and artistry, design and power that had never been achieved in a mobile suit before. It WAS Treize. Between them they had recreated his commanding presence in the form of a mobile suit. It was an acheivement in engineering that would probably never occur again. Linnea tried not to but she couldn’t help but think that this one good thing from her relationship with Treize could not hope to match the bad. Because although Duo had destroyed Mercurius and Vayeate the Epyon was still out there.
His blue eyes bored into her violet ones. The scenario of the soldier leaving his beloved was an integral part of the beauty and romance of battle, Treize had always thought so. How hard he had tried to instill the chivalric ideals into his soldiers. He had already said farewell to Lady Une and now he raised Linnea’s hand to his lips, they lingered there on the back of her hand, his gloved fingers feeling the quickening pulse beat in the wrist he held, remembering for an instant those eyes of hers liquid with passion as she lay beneath him.
Treize glanced at the mobile suit and knew he would not come back to either of the women he’d said farewell to. But he’d leave the business of peace in their gentler hands, theirs and Relena Peacecraft’s.
Duo winced as he looked at Hilde’s mobile suit, it wasn’t often you saw a suit sustain that kind of damage. Usually if things got that bad the suit and the pilot ended up destroyed.
Especially suits that met up with Heero and Trowa. Or himself for that matter.
Hilde was nearly as banged up as the suit itself, she’d lost consciousness before they could get back to Peacemillion. It was hard to watch as they pried her out of the damaged suit. He’d never seen anyone hurt so badly.
The enemies who’d met with Shinigami didn’t end up hurt. They ended up meeting their maker.
Thanks pal, he said, looking up at his Gundam. Thanks for helping me save Hilde.
He jumped over the catwalk railing into the diminished gravity and landed next to the stretcher. They’d already hooked up an IV and started a blood transfusion. He wasn’t a doctor but he’d felt the agonizing pain of taking hits in his suit. She had to be suffering from internal bleeding.
“Can I have a minute,” he asked and the med techs left them alone. As badly as she was hurt only luck or determination could keep her alive, but they would do the best they could.
Her eyes flickered open as she felt the touch of his hand pushing back her hair. His touch was so oddly gentle, it didn’t seem like it was Duo touching her. He touched her like he was afraid of breaking her. She wondered if she was going to die.
“Duo,” she breathed, the volume of her voice not even that of a whisper. “Get the disk, please . . .
“Screw the fucking disc Hilde,” Duo muttered hoarsely, immediately ashamed at his language when she was laying there like that.
An almost-smile appeared on her face. “How would you feel if those were the last words I ever heard,” she managed to tease him, before the smile turned into a grimace of pain.
“Don’t joke about that,” Duo said. “I’m the one that tells the death jokes around here, I’ll sue you for copyright.”
She was silent so long he thought she might have lost consciousness again.
“Duo. You can’t sue me. You already own everything I have, including my heart. Please listen . . . I love you. I’m sorry about getting caught, I should have been more careful,” she said.
“Hilde,” Duo said, furiously blinking back tears that welled and burned in his eyes. Her blue eyes held a strange look, peaceful and happy, despite the obvious pain she was in. He bent to kiss her cheek “I love you too,” he whispered against her neck.
When he looked up her eyes were closed again. He didn’t know if she’d heard him or not.
Dorothy swallowed her fury, giving vent to her anger only in the little barbs she could inflict on the annoying Quinze.
It hadn’t been as easy as it looked.
Her spectacular army of mobile dolls destroyed by the Gundams. Their force was depleted. And she’d lost the Vayeate and Mercurius as well. She admired Mr. Milliardo’s cool acceptance of her defeat, of the blows dealt to their cause.
And now Mr. Treize was approaching.
The silent fury was punctured by a tiny sensation of fear. Her father. Her grandfather. She had almost cracked then, almost forgotten when Grandfather died that war was beautiful. Glorious, she repeated to herself. Duke Dermail’s death had been glorious . . . but Mr. Treize couldn’t die. No, not even when faced with the Libra’s beam cannon.
Her eyes sparkled dangerously. War that had taken everything away from her and given nothing in return was about to pay her back. She would be a witness to the most awe-inspiring battle in all of history. The expansive view of space opened up before her from her place on the bridge of the Libra. Almost as if she were sitting in a velvet-covered chair in a box seat at the opera. But would this end in tragedy or triumph? A battle of two childhood friends, both highly-skilled and well-versed in the code of honor. She clasped her hands tightly over her chest and felt the excited quickening of her heartbeat.
It was as if she expected a visit from a lover, not the battle to come.
He despised himself and his weakness and as Treize approached him finally he vowed to himself that he would squelch any lingering feelings of friendship and loyalty to the man who represented Earth.
His eyes, the cold color of the sky on a sunny winter morning, stared out at the Earth. Total peace was worth anything. The end of the Earth, the end of Treize, the end of even himself. Milliardo Peacecraft. Yes, Peacecraft at last. Because he was doing this for the sake of peace. He would punish Earth with destruction and punish outer space with a view of that destruction so that in the future the possibility of war would be too terrible to be broached again.
He could resist Treize, he did not doubt it. Treize would even push him into it, if he knew him, and he did. His victory would be assured now if he’d only used Epyon to destroy Peacemillion. But in order to do that he would have had to fight Noin. Kill Noin.
And although he knew that that was what it was going to come to with Treize he still was too weak to fight her, her and her damned loving and accepting nature that could see no wrong in him no matter what he might do.
Despite himself Noin’s love wrapped itself around his heart like a soothing balm to his tortured soul. If nothing else in this life had been good to him, he had at least earned the love of a strong and beautiful woman and a skilled and loyal soldier.
TO BE CONTINUED . . . Next time (Soon, this week I hope, nearly finished) on Love is a Battlefield 7B ^_~. . . an unlikely friendship springs up following a tragic sacrifice . . . Duo’s feelings for Linnea affect his judgment . . . Quatre wishes for a happy ending . . . Certain people are already unsatisfied with the hard-won peace.