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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.

Chapter Text

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.

Note: I'm all about criticism. If I've typoed or something just looks dumb, feel free to drop me a line.

Call Close

Shai PeriHawk

Duo was pretty sure the last attempt was the sixth on Relena's life in the last two weeks. He felt stretched thin, like a rubber band about to break. He rubbed his face wearily and studied Relena across the small expanse of the limo. She appeared to be completely absorbed in her notes.

"I called Heero."

Paper flew in all directions, most of it crumpled in her fists. "Why?" she hissed. Her eyes were narrow with rage, but behind that he thought he saw-

Duo shook his head, sure he was mistaken. "Look at me, Princess." Duo gestured to his face. "I'm slowing down. This guy is really out to get you, and I just can't keep up by myself." And how it burned to say that. The limo pulled to a stop, they'd arrived. "He's meeting me here during your session. We can talk about it after," he said firmly.

He was out the door in seconds, eyes peeled. Pagan stepped passed at his at his signal to help Relena out of the car.

Most would swear there was nothing to tip him off, but the blur of motion was impossible to sort out on security cameras even days later. Duo tackled Relena back into the car. Pagan hit the asphalt, blood pouring from a mangled shoulder. Duo fumbled with the opposite door handle, but it was yanked from his fingers and there was Heero.

Together, they tucked a struggling Relena between them and rushed to the nearest door in a half-crouch.

"Pagan!" Relena shrieked, fighting the men trying to get her to safety.

They made it through the door and out of immediate danger. Duo hauled the still-struggling Relena over one shoulder. "Now what?" he asked Heero.

"Now you put me down!"

Duo smacked her square on the butt. "Remember the terms," he said sharply. She subsided abruptly, earning a curious glance from Heero.

"There's an underground tunnel to the garage below here. My car is there," he said instead of asking questions.

Duo nodded in acceptance and followed Heero through the tunnels beneath the political complex. Amazingly, Relena kept silent through the entire trip, though he could feel the tension radiating from her body in waves. Heero led them to a black sedan with windows so dark they couldn't be legal.

He let Relena slide to the ground as the other man checked the vehicle for traps and bombs. She stared at him with a tight jaw, as if to say "this isn't over." Duo smiled, because he knew it was far from over.

Heero slapped the key into Duo's hand and ushered Relena into the back seat. Just like that, her back was up again. The long-haired pilot/bodyguard smiled and slimbed into the driver's seat. It really was a beautiful car.

Relena glared at Duo. "Take me home."

Duo glanced in the rear view mirror at Relena's frigid posture and Heero's impa- Wait.

Was that the smallest hint of a smile on Heero's face?

"Not yet. We need to discuss some things first," Heero said. Again, Duo was shocked. Heero had unbent slightly over the years, but a whole conversation?

"What could we possibly have to talk about?" Relena asked stiffly.

"Someone is trying very hard to kill you," he said shortly. "Given this-" he squeezed her healing arm until she winced. "Today was not the first attempt. Nor does the assassin care where he gets to you. Whatever you're doing iis not enough/i."

Duo cringed. As much as it stung, Heero was right. He kept his lips sealed in a tight line and let Heero take the show.

Relena's posture grew implausibly stiffer. "The ministry has people looking into it." Duo was rather surprised ianything/i could get passed those tense lips.

"If they were doing their jobs, your friend would not be in the hospital," Heero said coldly. He pulled a mobile phone from his pocket and hit a speed dial. When the other side picked up, Duo could hear Wufei's shout from his spot in the driver's seat. He repressed the urge to cower. No one did flamingly furious quite like Wufei. Heero had no qualms about interrupting his partner mid-tirade. "Did you see the news?" Pause. "I'm with her and Duo right now...She says the Ministry is on it." Wufei's derisive snort had no trouble crossing the cellular waves. "Exactly. Will you look into it?" At Wufei's curt reply, Heero hung up.

"Man, I almost feel bad for the assassin," Duo commented with a long whistle. He smirked at Heero's sharp look. "Hey, I said ialmost/i."

"Eyes on the road, ibaka/i," was Heero's only comment.

"Does this mean you've joined Team Keep-Relena-Alive-Through-The-Mars-Mission?" Duo asked nonchalantly.

"Keep Relena alive, period."

The woman in question gasped at that, eyes wide with confusion. Duo was sure his grin would split his face, any moment, he could see her thoughts flit across her face. It was a big change from the chronic death threats then silent indifference of the last ten years. Then her face hardened. "We are managing just fine, thank you."

Heero ignored her and reached for the buttons on her blouse. "Let me see your wound."

Even the unflappable perfect solder was unprepared for Relena's violence at that demand. Duo nearly swerved off the road. By the time he looked back again, Heero straddled Relena, her hands pinned under his knees. He was still careful as he slid the blue silk down her arms and peeled back the large white bandage. Duo saw the moment he froze His stomach dropped to his knees. Had she hid an infection from him?"

"How long since you were shot?"

"Two days before I called Duo." Her words were hard, almost challenging.

"And the knife wounds?"

That brought the car to a screeching halt on the shoulder of the country road. Duo was out of the drive door and in the back seat before either of his passengers could recover. He studied the angle and awkward inconsistent depths of the slices angling down from the mostly healed crease in her arm.

"You did this yourself." He didn't pose it as a question, but- He brushed his fingers close to the oldest wound, close enough to touch the hair on her arm. "When was this one?" he asked quietly.

Relena swallowed and looked determinedly not at Duo. "The day after I was shot."

His fist hit the roof of Heero's car. Relena flinched, but didn't move her gaze. He visibly swallowed his rage, at himself, at her, he didn't know. "When was the last time?" And how had he not noticed?

Relena held herself erect, staring straight into Heero's chest. "The day before the ear plugs."

Duo really didn't know what to do with that. He returned to the driver's seat and started back to the estate.

Chapter Text

There was a brief scuffle as the two men sorted out who would take a closer look at Relena's arm first. By the time they'd decided, her blouse was neatly folded on her desk and she waited patiently in her chair. For once, she was glad of the lack of visibility Duo had insisted on.

Her sudden calm had both men instantly on edge. After a brief exchanged glance, Duo took the lead. He tossed his (slightly) modified first aid kit on the antique desk without regard for the polished wood. Relena gritted her teeth, but said nothing. Duo looked over her shoulder to see that almost-amused look on Heero's face again, and almost lost track of what he was doing.

"Has anyone called about Pagan?" Relena asked quietly, drawing Duo's attention back to her.

He nodded. "Wufei says Sally's taking care of him," he reassured her. "His shoulder is a mess, but she's putting him back together."

Relena sagged in her chair, head down. Duo had the sudden urge to see her eyes. He grabbed her arm, just beneath the injuries. Her head shot up with a gasp of pain. Heero's eyes sharpened, but he made no move.

Duo struggled with his words. "How did you hide this?" he demanded, leaving the "why" for later.

She jerked her arm away and glared, her anger pushing aside the guilt in her eyes. "With great difficulty," she snapped. She reached into her skirt pocket, then slammed a pocket knife down on the desk next to the first aid kit. "You followed me everywhere. The downstairs powder room was the only place I could be alone, so I did it there. Showers were another matter entirely. You never asked why I walked into the stall fully clothed."

Duo bowed his head as guilt came crashing down. He rested two fingers on her forearm, barely brushing the skin, as if he wanted to touch more.

"Why did you stop?" Heero asked quietly.

Relena looked at him over her shoulder. She didn't answer at first, just stared. "I felt alive, worthy of being alive. I felt like me instead of some political place holder." Her eyes didn't leave Heero's as she spoke. She didn't move, as if content to have Duo hovering over her, barely touching.

Duo glanced at her sideways. "When did you stop feeling like you?" he asked roughly.

At that, Relena's eyes flew to a spot on the wall. He saw the pulse in her throat double in speed. She swallowed and her lips trembled as she answered. "In for a penny, eh? It started not long after the last time Heero threatened to kill me." Her fists clenched in her lap. She laughed, but there was no humor in the sound. "I suppose you'll have to-" she choked on the words, but pressed on, "report this. Say something to someone."

Heero snorted. Duo dropped to his knees, finally peeling the much-abused bandage from her injured arm. Small streaks of blood leaked from the scabbed over slices, proof of a rough day. That combined with the smudges of grease and dirt made Relena look tired and worn. Duo sighed and stood. "We need to get you cleaned up." He picked up Relena's pocket-knife and flipped it in his fingers. He leaned down and pressed the folded blade into her hand. "You won't use this on yourself again," he said softly. He packed up the aid kit and looked at Heero. "I'm going to run a bath. Bring her up?"

Relena stood to put her shirt back on so she could catch Duo. A shower would get her quite clean enough.

Heero's hand closed around her wrist in a gentle but unbreakable grip. She gasped in surprise, wide eyes on the Japanese man. "Heero," she started to tell him to forget everything she'd said, to make excuses.

"Stop."

"But-"

"No," he said firmly. His hand slid down to cup hers. He turned it palm up and studied the lines there. "I don't want to kill you," he said. He twisted his wrist and slid their palms together. "I don't want to you die."

While Relena gaped, Heero moved. He tossed her over one shoulder while he grabbed her shirt with a free hand. It took a few seconds for outrage to replace shock.

"Heero Yuy! Put me down right now! And give me-"

Her tirade cut off with a shriek as his hand landed in a sharp blow on her backside. He took advantage of her silence. "If you 're quiet, we can make it to your rooms without attracting attention," he said shortly.

Relena stilled, settling for glares at Heero's broad back. As she stared at the spot where shis shirt tucked into his pants, a completely inappropriate urge came over her. She debated the action all the way up the stairs and into her room. When he closed the door behind them, she gave in.

Her hand darted into the back of his pants. She gripped the top of his underwear in her fist and yanked.

Heero's yelp brought Duo running from the bathroom. Relena sat on the floor, rubbing her hip where she'd hit the carpet. Heero tried fruitlessly to fix his briefs through his slacks. Duo took it all in with wide eyes before he bent double with laughter.

"She- she gave you a wedgie!" he gasped through guffaws.

Relena covered her mouth to smother giggles. She really shouldn't be proud of herself. She looked at Heero through lowered eyeliashes. The former Gundam pilot shared a baleful glare between them. Finally, he appeared to make a decision and stalked toward Duo with dark intent. He was almost on top of the other man when Duo finally looked up through teary eyes. His jaw dropped and he took a step backward.

"Wait, Heeor, I-" his protest ceased abruptly as Heero's hand darted for his target. Both men turned bright red, frozen.

"Don't wear underwear," Duo finished weakly.

Chapter Text

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

Heero's shoulder slumped and he closed his eyes. "Baka," he muttered as he tucked his hand safely into his pocket.

A muffled choking sound gave both men a welcome distraction. Relena sat on the floor, _desperately_ trying not to laugh. Duo's eyes met Heero's in a moment of perfect understanding.

Duo turned on his heel as Heero knelt down to pick Relena back up. She squealed in surprised protest.

"Hey!" She wiggled in Heero's iron grip.

Duo grinned over his shoulder. "What? You think you're off the hook?"

Relena could only splutter, she didn't want another crash-landing. "I _don't_ need you to baby me!" she objected.

"Apparently, you do," Heero said quietly.

Relena froze, eyes fixed straight ahead. What was she supposed to say about that? What did it even mean?

Duo leaned down to turn off the taps. A deliciously relaxing scent drifted from the water. Relena felt her eyes droop as she inhaled it. Heero lowered her to the edge of the massive claw-foot tub. He tossed her much-abused blouse into a laundry hamper while Duo soaked a fluffy white wash cloth in hot water.

She flinched when Duo put the hot rag to her injury. Duo cringed, but kept gently cleaning. "You're going to have scars," he murmured. "But it looks healed enough for bathing."

She only nodded, feeling a little lost.

Duo gently turned her face toward him, seeking her eyes. "Is it so strange? Having people care about you and not your latest office?" he asked, only half mocking.

Relena swatted his hand away. "My father was the last person who saw me," she said. The matching disgruntled expressions on both men's faces startled her into laughter. Her eyes slid to the side as the smile settled onto her face.

Duo shook his head. "Okay, here's the deal," he said. "Ten years ago you were, ah, unappreciative when I tried to save you from getting shot." Relena snorted at the memory, but he pressed on. "So, I'm thinking, since this time you asked for it and I did it, you kinda owe me, right?"

She narrowed her eyes at him. "What do you want?"

"Just.. live, princess. We'll make sure you stay breathing, prop you up while you get stronger. We'll do more than just "keep you alive," we'll guard your life." No longer smiling, joking, Duo's expression was almost as somber as Heero's "A very simple thing, to love. Would you do that for me?" Duo flinched at Heero's derisive snort, but continued to hold Relena's gaze.

She knew it wasn't as simple as he tried to make it sound. She had ten years of proof to the contrary.

But they made her want to risk that pain again.

Relena stood with a nod. "All right. Now turn around, my bath is getting cold." She reached for the button of her skirt. Heero slammed out of the bathroom so fast there should have been a smoke trail.

Duo took a more leisurely pace.

Note: Yes, super-short. Next time there will be plot.