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Call Close

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Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is owned by Sotsuo, Bandai, and various other companies. This work of fiction is meant for entertainment only, no profit is made.

Call Close

Shai PeriHawk

She didn't ask for personal things very often, so when the former Queen of the World did ask, she usually got what she wanted.

The latest assassination attempts had come far too close for the officials at the Foreign Ministry to let it go any longer. They demanded she have body guards. So Relena told them she would take care of it.

Nobody was more surprised than Duo Maxwell when she called him first.

Duo stared at the phone in his hands as the woman's voice came from the ear-piece. Disbelief was putting it mildly. Yet that was her voice, calm and slightly pleading. He really should put it back to his ear and listen to what she had to say, she was a pretty important person, still.

Which made the question of why she was calling him that much more puzzling.

"Mr. Maxwell?" A note of uncertainty slipped into Relena's voice.

"Yeah, I'm here, Princess-"

"Please, Mr. Maxwell. That title doesn't belong to me any more, if it ever did. Call me Relena, Ms. Darlian if you're feeling formal. And if you insist on titles, Vice Minister is the appropriate one," her voice grew sharper with every word. That was the Relena he remembered.

"Well, Miz Darlian, I'm afraid your call took me a bit by surprise, would you care to repeat what you just said?" Duo said, a hint of a smirk on his lips.

Thousands of miles away, Relena closed her eyes and counted to ten. She was rather glad she'd saved this phone call for her home-office. "I'm calling to offer you a job, Mr. Maxwell," she said finally. "I realize you have one you enjoy already, but I need you for this particular job."

"What? You need a space yacht salvaged?" he asked sarcastically.

There was a muffled thump as Relena's forehead hit her desk. "No-just-Can we meet some place? Face to face?" she asked, stifling the temper that struggled to flare.

"Fine, you know where I'm docked?" At her assent, he went on. "There's a bar, not a mile from here called The Back Door. I ship out tomorrow night, but I'm having dinner there. Six o'clock and no entourage." He closed the line.

The handset of Relena's phone shattered against the wall. "Pagan!" she shouted, then immediately felt contrite. The trusted servant and friend did not deserve to be the target of her frustration with Duo Maxwell.

When the elderly man poked his head through the door with a raised eyebrow, Relena tried to gentle her expression. "It's been quite a few months since Ellen and I caught up," she said, referring to her childhood friend and Pagan's granddaughter. "Do you think she'd be up for a last-minute girls' day out?"

Pagan's other eyebrow rose to match the first. "I shall call her to inquire, Miss."

As he left, Relena took out her mobile to arrange a jet.

The Back Door was approximately one and a half steps up from a dive bar and thus almost too fancy for Duo's liking. But he never got food poisoning and the staff was content to serve him cola or water. In return, he was a frequent customer and a good tipper.

He was checking over his launch paperwork when he felt her stop by his table. The first thing he noticed was the messy short hair. Frankly, he'd had a weakness for that kind of hair since his teens. He hadn't even taken a full breath when he realized who was under that haircut in too-tight jeans.

He hadn't realized the Vice Minister had such a... pleasing figure.

He couldn't resist tweaking Relena's nose, just once.

"Nice rack, Princess."

He caught a flash of anger in her overly-kohled eyes as she slid into the booth across from him. Only his desire not to deal with the fall-out kept him from tweaking her into losing her temper. He nearly laughed out loud as she made a conscious, visible effort to slouch.

That is, until he noticed the delicate way she handled the slight bulge under the left sleeve of her green turtleneck. If he didn't know better, he'd say the princess was hiding an injury. Duo sat back, drink in hand, to study Relena Darlian/Peacecraft. All told, she hadn't done a terrible job looking like someone else.

Between the bold make-up, clothing, and the hatchet-job haircut, she looked more like a hooker trying to get by on her resemblance to the former Queen of the World rather than the lady herself. Which just brought him back to the question of just why she'd come down off her mountain to see him. His instincts told him that slight bulk on her left arm was distinctly related.

He just waited for her to start talking.

He didn't have long. "The Mars terraforming project is ready to start releasing water vapor to form an atmosphere," she said in a low voice, eyes on the table.

For a second, Duo couldn't breath. His first response was Already? But it had been ten years since Milliardo Peacecraft and Lucrezia Noin had left Earth as the heads of the Mars mission. Even given the bulk of their vessel, it would only take five to get there.

His second thought was far less charitable. His protective instincts flared. The colonies were that much closer to being obsolete. He looked away from Relena and forced a bored note into his voice. "So? What does that even mean?"

"In another year, they can start planting simple flora. It shouldn't be too long after that for the atmosphere to have a sufficient gas mix for complex plant life and humans. And colonists will have a safer alternative." Her eyes flicked to Duo's hands. His tendons stood out white against his tanned skin. "Some factions don't exactly approve," she murmured. "But Duo," she looked up and caught his eye. "You saw first-hand how fragile the colonies are. It could decrease the epidemics and help with space-induced infertility."

Duo stared at his fist, then started unclenching one finger at a time. "I suppose," he acknowledged. "I still don't understand why you need me."

Relena splayed her hands on the table. "You care about the colonies above anything else. Don't try to deny it." She cut him off when he started to speak. "I have no proof, but I remember Gabriel Pimm."

Duo slid his eyes to the vice Minister, far more clever and observant than she let on. He said nothing, just waited for her to get to the point.

"Once they start releasing the water vapor, there's no turning back." Her spine straightened as she spoke, face turning hard. "but until that happens, the project is in a very tenuous position. Without continued drive, anything can pull the plug on ten years of work and the hope of the colonists." She interlaced her fingers and studied the seams, not daring to glance up. "Some people have taken to some extreme measures to make sure the project is cancelled. I need someone around who would be more dedicated to the project than anybody I could hire or appoint."

"You need a body guard."

The blush that stained her cheeks looked entirely out of place with her make-up and clothes. "Just for a little while," she mumbled.

Duo lounged back. If he weren't so damned surprised, he'd be laughing his ass off. "I'm supposed to keep you alive, all by my lonesome?" he asked dubiously.

Relena snorted, falling back into a slouched posture. "As if you have any doubt of your ability."

"All right, princess, if you agree to my terms, I'll do it," he allowed.

She eyed him warily, not entirely ready to trust. Duo saw that as a good sign. "Terms?" she asked quietly.

"I am in your pocket, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I enter rooms before you and you don't follow until I give an all-clear. It'd really be better with two people, but since you think I'm Super Man, we'll make do." He eyeballed her again. "We need to get you some escape and evasion training if you're still a hard-line pacifist."

"I am, and I accept all of your conditions, but this is what I _need_ from you." She rested her cheek on her fist to stare back. "Blend. I know you can do it, so the only reason you wouldn't would be to bait me. I don't care about any other time, but when we're on official business, I need my entire mind on the matters at hand. I need you beside me, managing my safety so we can get this done." She distrusted the calculating look on his face, but she'd be willing to endure whatever humiliation he tossed her way if it kept the Mars mission going.

That's when he spit on his hand and held it out to her.

It took three weeks, four days, and eight hours to shatter Relena's shell of patience and serenity. Duo followed her wishes to the letter, always the perfect gentleman when other eyes could see him. Once the doors to the public closed, however...

He let her use the first floor powder room by herself because there was only one way in or out. The "bathing chamber" in her suite had a massive stained glass window. Duo sat on the toilet while she showered. She very nearly offered to brick over the window the first time she'd tried to use the facilities in the middle of the night, but she was half-afraid he'd take her up on it. After that, she stuck to the first floor powder room except for showers.

She moved most of her work to her home-office. Duo made her move her desk away from the center of the room. She no longer had that awe-inspiring view of the grounds that made her pick this room in the first place. Now she stared at an old, non-functional brick fire place. It had been functional before he got his hands on it. He had muttered something about Santa Claus, but at that stage, she was actively trying to tune him out.

As she tried to work, so did he. Mostly making very loud complaints about her outdated security systems and making arrangements to update them. He spent millions in the first two days. She bribed Pagan to get her some ear-plugs, which Duo then confiscated because they could be poisoned.

That's when she went for his throat.

Ten seconds later, she was pinned to the floor, angrily squirming. Duo had twenty kilos on her, so he just lay there, letting her wiggle. The shit-eating grin on his face probably didn't do much to calm her down.

Finally, she just lay there, panting and glaring at him. "Let me up so I can kill you."

Duo held her wrists in one hand and used the other to prop up his chin. "I can't say there's a lot of motivation there, princess."

Relena took several deep breaths. Her brain started to function again and several things clicked into place. "Why did you want me to lose my temper?" she asked lowly.

"Because you needed to let off some steam. There are other methods, but I'm pretty sure you'd try to kill me for real if I suggested them." He deliberately leered at her body. "Even if we'd enjoy the hell out of them."

Even Relena couldn't tell if the blush that stained her cheeks was due to embarrassment or her intrigue in Duo's suggestive words. She didn't bother to smother the flash of curiosity.

"I need to get back to work," she said patiently.

She took great pleasure at the slightly shell-shocked expression on Duo's face as he helped her back to her feet.