Author’s Note: One word--FINALLY! I’m gonna take a nap now!! Gotta start thinking about Alone/Together: Chapter 10 too. Also don’t forget to check out my website for fanart for this story!!! http://midiiune.tripod.com/MidiiUne/index.html Special thanks to EVERYONE who ever reviewed this story THANK YOU, the epilogue will be up soon, after a discreet pause to honor those who died in battle . . . Please review at this time, thank you!


Love is a Battlefield
by Midii Une

CHAPTER 8

Lady Une’s humiliating surrender accomplished little.

The Libra, with the Peacemillion still wedged permanently inside, was speeding toward Earth. Speeding with as much agility as a hulk of its size could manage on its damaged engines. But it was inevitable, it would hit.

The doors slid open and a group of people entered the MO-II control room.

What a strange group of conspirators was forming to thwart the intentions of Zechs Merquise. Howard, Sally and Relena Peacecraft stared at Lady Une as she welcomed them, her calmness and clarity of thinking eerie in the aftermath of Treize’s death.

********

Quatre strapped himself into Sandrock, exhausted from the hours of battling over the last days of the war, the wound from Dorothy Catalonia’s sword burning in his side like it was on fire. But still it wasn’t over. All so sad, he thought, remembering the horrible insanity of Dorothy. She was like he was after his father had died turning to war and hatred and revenge to soothe her sorrow. Just one of the horrors of war, it hurt people in so many ways.

He opened his eyes at the sound of Trowa’s voice. He hadn’t even realized he’d shut them.

“Quatre go back to MO-II,” Trowa said. “You shouldn’t fight. You need help.”

It was a tempting offer, but after everything he couldn’t leave now. Every bit of fire power was going to be needed to stop the Libra, if he quit now it might never be over. An angry Earth would never let there be peace in outer space if disaster rained down on it in the form of Libra. The hit of the massive battleship causing an eternal winter.

But if he went to MO-II she would be there. Her wounds as deep as his. But if he wanted to be with Linnea the war had to be over first. It was a thought to keep him going, to keep him conscious even with blood loss and pain threatening to overwhelm him.

“Trowa I’m staying,” he said, in a voice his friend couldn’t argue with. “But if I don’t make it there’s something I want you to do.”

Trowa shook his head. “If there’s something you need to do Quatre just make sure you stay alive to do it yourself,” he said, slamming the hatch shut.

He wanted to see her again more than anything. He would make it. He wondered how Trowa knew just what to say to make him want to survive this.

*******

Howard hid his stare behind the dark glasses he wore night and day. His eyes were sensitive, he’d spent way too much time with a blow torch in his hand adjusting mobile suits. Would her eyes be the same some day, he wondered. No, because the time for mobile suits was coming to an end. The giant mecha soldiers would be no more when peace came, perhaps a few could be salvaged to be converted for mechanical work in outer space but most would rust away or be destroyed.

He stared at Linnea whom he’d only ever seen on a communicator screen. In person the girl was so like her mother that he thought he was seeing a ghost. Poor woman, she’d been overwhelmed with the talent she had, disappeared God knew where so long ago. It took a certain frame of mind to work on weapons of war. It wasn’t a job for the weak or faint-hearted, or for those who thought too much about what the mobile suits would do once they were built. It had frightened the woman he’d known, she’d seemed strong enough when she’d first joined their team. Her ideas on Tallgees invaluable, astounding all of them as she easily found solutions to problems that had plagued them for months in constructing the prototype Leo.

Linnea was Marta all over again. Same hair and eyes, same frightened girl hiding behind her brains. Perhaps she thought maybe because she was a genius she shouldn’t have fears like other people. Seemed to him people like her had more reason to be afraid than the rest of them. They could see further, imagine things the rest of them wouldn’t dream of. It was a gift and a curse she had. Her father had been a cold son of a bitch and obviously hadn’t taught her how to deal with it. She looked ready to bolt and run if someone were to so much as drop a wrench.

Linnea was the only child born to that group of scientists, engineers and technicians that had built the original mobile suit. What was going to become of her, their future, if they actually achieved peace?

He thought of Duo, that boy was almost like a son to him. He hoped to hell those two would work things out. She needed looking after.

Howard halted his musings on the past and future. The present was requiring all the attention he could give it right now. Everyone was in place, the chances were slim but he had confidence in those pilots and their machines. If it were possible, they would save the Earth and they’d be able to give peace a fighting chance.

*******

Her eyes blinked but the explosion was burned into her vision like an old-fashioned flashbulb. Libra exploding in a brilliant display of fire.

Zechs.

He hadn’t let her stay with him at the end. She had deserted everything to be with him. Noin floated there in her Taurus Mobile Suit. Alone in space, a tiny speck of white set against the black velvet pinpricked with tinier white stars.

Her tearless eyes stared out at the endless darkness and she vaguely felt wonder that she could still breathe, that her heart should still beat, albeit it was thudding painfully against her ribs and her breath was coming in short ragged gasps.

Why wasn’t she dead too? Why hadn’t her heart stopped its painful beating, how could she still breathe? Without Zechs. How could she exist in a universe without him in it?

It had become clear to her when he came to attack Peacemillion. Suddenly her mind had grasped what he was doing. He was doing this all for peace and it had worked. His brilliant mind had discovered the only way to true peace. He had shown the Earth and he had shown outer space the true evil of war.

No.

Her mind stayed clear and lucid but her heart embraced the insanity of wild hope. If she was still alive then he couldn’t be dead. He was the Lightning Count, the greatest pilot ever known. Why had she doubted? Why did she feel sadness?

“Oh Zechs,” she whispered, blinking her eyes at last as hot tears slid down her cheeks. “I doubted you. Forgive me.”

“Come back to me soon.”

********

It was over. The brilliant flash of the final destruction of the Libra had faded and realization was sweeping over them all. The Earth had been saved, the colonies would now enjoy a peaceful relationship with the planet all the people had originated from. She should be happy but Linnea only felt numb. Had Dorothy been right about her after all? Was there any need for her in a world without war? She had no family, no friends, no purpose. Well, maybe that wasn’t true. Howard insisted that Duo still cared about her. But that was hard to believe, the pain of his rejection in the Cinq Kingdom throbbed like a new wound. Now that Treize was dead she was seeing her actions clearly for the first time in a long time.

Everyone was celebrating, quietly it was true, but the atmosphere of the MO-II control room fairly reeked with relief and joy. She wasn’t strong like Lady Une. She ached from Treize’s death but part of her hated him for deluding her as he had. And she had fallen to his manipulations so easily that she also despised herself. She despised herself for feeling so lost without him in the world. He’d made her come to depend on his approval, like a drug addiction. Everything in her life had set her up for this, her father’s jealousy and constant rejection. She had been so starved for approval, for love, from Duo and when he rejected her, from Treize.

An inner voice taunted, a voice that sounded suspiciously like Dorothy Catalonia’s, no one will ever love you now. They loved you because of what you could do for them, because no one else in this world could give them the power to chase their dreams, not like you could. There’s no place for you Linnea Lang, not in a peaceful universe.

She slipped out of the bridge and leaned against the doors as they softly slid shut behind her. She didn’t belong in there. She didn’t know if she belonged anywhere.

“I’ve got to be alone,” she thought. “I’ve got to think.”

She walked aimlessly through the blank, monotonous corridors. Howard wanted her to stay, asked her to promise. She hadn’t answered. She wasn’t sure she was strong enough to face Duo. “I’m a coward,” she admitted.

She almost collided with a white-faced girl dragging an IV line, weaving almost drunkenly in the hall. Linnea snapped out her self-absorption and grabbed onto the girl who looked like she was about to drop from pain or exhaustion or both. Her eyes were dazed and heavy with pain-killing drugs.

She clutched Linnea’s arm so tightly it hurt. “I have to find him,” she said, her voice slurred. “I have to find out . . .”

Linnea sighed, getting this badly injured girl back to bed had to be her priority right now. She almost welcomed the distraction from the questions in her mind that had no answers and the burning ache in her heart. She turned the slight girl in the direction of the infirmary and got her to go back to bed, she’d have to find a medical technician to hook her IV back up. She looked at the name on her ID bracelet.

Hilde Schbeiker.

“I’m going to find someone to help you,” she said soothingly, patting the girl’s hand and preparing to leave.

“No,” Hilde said, grabbing at her hand with surprising determination. “Please. Help me. I have to find out. I have to know what happened.”

Hilde studied the girl, it was dark in the room but she could see she wore the uniform of the enemy. The uniform she herself had worn when she’d met Duo. Oh Duo, she thought, you must still be alive. I’m holding on because of you. Desperation kept her awake, enabled her to move her injured body, kept her searching for the answers. Why had she met him, why had she come to embrace his way of thinking if only to lose him now? It couldn’t end that way, he must be coming back to her . . .

“Where am I,” she asked the girl, it didn’t seem like she was still on Peacemillion. Enemy or not, she had helped her, and for all she knew they weren’t enemies any more. Could it all be over? Had it come to an end while she lay unconscious struggling to live?

“You’re on MO-II. The Peacemillion crew evacuated here. It’s all over, the battle’s over,” Linnea explained.

“I guess this is peace.”

“Who won,” Hilde asked softly.

“I-I think we all did,” Linnea said, starting to believe it herself a little. The reality sinking in. “The Libra was destroyed before it could hit Earth. The colonies have pledged to a peaceful relationship with the World Nation.”

Hilde closed her eyes. Peace. But what had been the cost? Damn, she felt so groggy, she had to struggle to talk, to ask the questions she needed to ask, every word she uttered was a small victory.

“But is he alright,” she said again, not realizing she didn’t make any sense to the girl she was speaking to. “I love him so much. He just has to be alright. Do you know?”

“Who? I’m sorry I don’t know who you’re talking about,” Linnea prodded gently, wanting to help. Remembering her own agonizing tension when Libra had exploded and the wave of relief washing over her when the report came in that all the Gundams were confirmed safe.

“A Gundam pilot,” Hilde said, speaking becoming difficult. “He’s a Gundam pilot.”

Linnea knew suddenly before the other girl spoke. It flashed through her brain with a strange certainty.

“Duo Maxwell,” Hilde said.

Linnea pulled her hand away and turned to the wall, biting her lip. She heard Howard insisting that she stay.

“Talk to him. It’s not too late, it’s never too late,” Howard had insisted.

What the hell did Howard know? It was too late, far too late.

“Please tell me,” the girl on the bed begged.

Linnea turned back to her, studying her, trying to picture her with Duo and finding it all too easy to do so.

“Don’t worry,” she finally managed to say. “They’re fine. They’re all fine. They’re on their way here now. It won’t be long.”

Hilde closed her eyes.

“Duo,” she breathed.

“Duo,” Linnea repeated. “I’m nothing to you now. Nothing.”

Hilde looked at the girl standing there. Tears were slipping silently down her cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” she managed, sleepiness overwhelming her not that her mission was over and she knew he was safe. “Did you lose someone today? The one you love.”

Linnea was silent so long that Hilde started to wonder if she’d heard her.

“Yes,” she said at last. “I lost.”

“I’m sorry,” Hilde said, her eyelids growing heavier. “Thank you for telling me. I guess in all the excitement the others forgot about me. Who are you? What’s your name?”

Linnea ignored the question. She brushed back the hair off Hilde’s forehead and looked at her closely, then squeezed her eyes shut.

“Just get some rest. He’ll be here soon to see you, I know,” she said.

When she opened her eyes again the girl on the bed was already asleep. Hilde Schbeiker, the girl Duo loved.


*******

She looked despondent enough to jump out of the airlock. If she did Vier wondered if he would stop her, push her, join her or merely watch. Her pale hair fell forward over her face as she leaned heavily against the door, her hand resting on the heavy pull lever as he watched her from a shadowed corner of the docking area.

Linnea was afraid. Afraid to be alone, afraid to come face to face with her former allies, afraid that while she lived there would always be the possibility that she would build something like Epyon again.

But Epyon saved everything, in the end. She reminded herself that thoughts like those were so very dangerous.

“You should be careful, it isn’t safe to stand so close to the airlock,” a soft voice said, a hint of sadness and understanding evident in it.

Linnea turned.

“Lady Une,” she said. “I suppose you’re right. I was just looking out there, and thinking. Thinking that already it’s as if the battle never was, the debris is scattered and the people on Earth and the colonies have probably already gone on with their lives. Another threat ended and so life goes on.”

The older woman took a deep breath. Her pain was unbearable, she knew that the feeling would be permanent and that she would have to get used to it. And yet only this girl could know in the smallest way how she felt. In a way they were the same and she needed her help if what she planned was going to work. A small wistful smile curved her lips and she saw Treize before her in her mind, strong and untouchable, handsome and noble. She hoped he would approve, perhaps he wouldn’t, but his beautiful sacrifice should not go unrecognized by the people. He was their savior and his name should live forever, forever linked with the permanent peace he had died for. “Mr. Treize,” she thought. “I’m trying to understand, trying to do what you would desire of me.”

As Lady Une began to speak quietly to the girl about her plans, Vier turned away in disgust. Peace couldn’t last and he’d learned a lot from Linnea Lang. Somewhere out there someone must still be interested in the technology of war, he’d find them.

*******

She looked just like a little kid, a very sick little kid, he thought. Her face was white and her breathing was rapid, but there was a tiny smile on her face. It was almost angelic. And she had come too damn close to becoming just that, Duo thought, scalding pain rising up in his soul from merely thinking about it.

“Hilde,” Duo whispered. “Hey come on. Wake up. Don’t you want to hear what happened?”

Although she curled her hand into his when he touched her cold fingers with his, Hilde didn’t wake up. Once she was sure Duo had survived her body had been unable to resist falling into the deep sleep it needed to recover.

He smiled at her hand in his and rubbed his other hand over her chilly small one. “You found a way to get out of hearing me talk all about how great I was out there, huh? Go ahead and sleep, I’ll talk your ear off some other time.”

He stood in the doorway and looked at her. They said she was going to be alright but she looked so white and still. What if she had died? But she didn’t, he said to himself, somehow she escaped the curse of getting involved with Shinigami.

“I meant what I said, before on Peacemillion, Hilde,” he muttered. “I love you, but I don’t know what to do about it. You don’t need to get stuck with a guy like me. Look at you, look at all the pain I caused you. If I could take it on myself Hilde I would.”

*******
Wufei floated in Nataku, eyes closed, as he had so many times after battles both in victory and defeat. His face was slack and his arms hung loosely at his sides.

The kick of adrenaline and sanity he had felt when he had forced himself into Libra to toss Heero his buster rifle had been his final confident act.

He kept seeing Treize. A valiant and noble fighter.

Hearing Treize. Remembering all those who had died in battle for his sake, even though the number reached nearly 100,000.

And he knew now that since the time they had dueled he had lived only to fight Treize. And now he was dead.

So should he be. But the greatest weakness was to take one’s own life. Yet who was out there that was strong enough to kill him in battle? Battles were over, soldiers were unnecessary. He had fought to keep unnecessary battles from erupting around the colonies and outer space.

Yet his colony had destroyed itself to allow him the freedom to fight unimpeded. Meiran had destroyed herself to force him to see his own superior strength. What reason was there for him now to go on.

Perhaps he would just float here forever. Go into a trance as he had on the Lunar Base and simply never come back.

Or perhaps he would look for a new battle to fight.

*******
“Did you find her Trowa,” Quatre asked, his voice a little breathy from the puncture wound in his right lung.

The other pilot shook his head. “Howard said he hasn’t seen her since shortly after the Libra exploded. He’s guessing she took a shuttle and went off somewhere,” Trowa said.

Quatre lay back and shut his eyes. The war was over but he felt defeated. She was still hurting, still running. There must still be a lot of people left like that. He’d truly believed that when it was all over he’d find her there. But life wasn’t like that, it didn’t provide a pat and happy ending. The fighting was over but the wounds of war were far from healed. Look at poor Dorothy for instance.

Perhaps the best thing to do would be to leave Linnea alone. Probably the last person she’d ever want to see would be a Gundam pilot. He’d only bring back painful memories for her. It was true, he thought, once you’d saved someone’s life you were connected, he felt responsible for Linnea. If only he could be sure she was safe and happy . . . oh Allah, who was he trying to fool. If only she were sitting here beside him, holding his hand and looking at him with love and concern in her eyes. Looking at him just the way she’d looked at Duo.

Trowa sat in the chair beside the bed. He’d never seen Quatre look that way before, but maybe it was just the drugs they’d given him for the pain.

“How much do you love her,” he asked suddenly.

Quatre’s eyes popped open. It was a strange question, particularly from Trowa. But, then again, not so strange. His friend was known to make amazingly astute commentaries when the occasion arose.

“More than anything. If she wants me to leave her alone . . . if that’s what makes her happy . . .” he started to say.

Trowa interrupted.

“Sometimes when you love someone you have to be selfish Quatre,” he said quietly, so quietly that Quatre nearly had to hold his breath to hear him. “Tell her how you feel. Show her how much you want her or she won’t know. You owe yourself that much. You owe her that much. You have to find her.”

Before Quatre could answer Duo bounced cheerfully into the room precariously balancing three crystal champagne flutes in his hand.

“Hey,” he exclaimed, grinning widely although the smile on his face didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Why the gloomy faces? We won!”

He handed each of the other pilots an empty glass.

Trowa gave Duo an odd look but Quatre managed an understanding smile, the pain medication was finally starting to take effect.

“Sorry,” Duo shrugged. “Quatre requested non-alcoholic and this is the closest I could get.”

“Cheers,” they all said, clinking their glasses together.

TO BE CONTINUED . . . Next time on Love is a Battlefield: Epilogue . . .
A month after the Eve Wars Linnea meets a Gundam pilot at Treize’s grave, who is it . . . Will this ‘Endless Fic’ finally be over, or is a whole new chapter starting to unfold?!?!?!