1-1-2003

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Title: #1 And So It Begins
Arc: Life With Heero
Author: Calic0cat <calic0cat@fastmail.fm>
Story Completed: Jan. 1, 2003
Genre: Angst, Friendship
Pairings: None yet
Rated: PG-13
Warnings: AU, OOC, Swearing
Archives: At Mediaminer.org under Calic0cat. Anyone with archive permission for my other fics can help themselves; anyone else, please ask.
Disclaimer: Duo and Heero and the rest of the GW gang aren't mine. This story is. Nuff said.

Notes: The arc begins between one and two years after Endless Waltz. Duo POV in this story.

'Thinking'
"Speaking"
************ Time passing or scene change

Author's Notes: This is the first in an arc of stories. I don't know for sure how many stories there will be or how often I'll be posting them. The length of each story in the arc will vary, anywhere from ficlet to multi-part. Warnings will vary from story to story as well, as will the genre. Pairings will probably eventually make their way in, but it will be quite a while since the first half dozen or so stories are drafted out and there's no real indication of pairings in them as of yet. Feedback is appreciated.

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"Oh man," Duo groaned, rolling over and groggily reaching for the phone. "It's 1 in the bloody morning, this better be important," he mumbled into the handset.

"Duo - I... I had a fight with Heero and said some things I probably shouldn't have."

"Relena?" Suddenly awake, Duo asked, "What was it this time - you wanted to cut back on the security or something?"

"N-no... I... I kind of got impatient and tried to press the whole relationship thing."

Sitting up in bed, Duo said, "Uh oh. What happened?"

"I kissed him but he didn't kiss back, so I told him I was sick and tired of waiting for him to get his act together. He either kissed me back like he meant it and we set a date for the wedding or he'd better get out because there wasn't a place for him here anymore," Relena said in a panicky rush.

"Shit."

"He gave me a little peck on the cheek like a damn brother, Duo!" The suddenly defensive tone of voice alerted Duo that there was worse to come.

"Relena. WHAT. DID. YOU. DO?" he demanded icily. This was sounding worse by the minute. Heero had had a terrible time finding a place for himself in a world at peace. He had drifted from place to place and job to job, never quite fitting in. People feared and disliked him, sensing danger in his cold eyes and set expression, in the very way he moved, without even knowing he was an ex-Gundam pilot. After Mariemaia, he had tried working for the Preventers, but even there, Heero had been unable to fit in. He was too blunt, too impatient of the snarls of red tape and high-ranking bureaucratic deadweight, and after the fifth time he was reprimanded for insubordination, Une had taken him aside and gently but firmly suggested another career change. She had protected him as much as she could, and the next time he would be facing formal charges, not an unofficial reprimand. The longest he had lasted anywhere was at the scrapyard with Duo, and when he had finally left there, it was due to the increasing tension between Hilde and Duo over his presence. Heero had chosen to leave rather than let his best friend be put in a difficult position because of him. It was then that he had finally accepted Relena's invitation to live with her at the palace. As her personal bodyguard, he was answerable to her alone and was not required to interact with the other staff in anything more than a minimal fashion. Relena had assured him that he had a place with her for as long as he liked. She had also admitted that she would still like to develop a relationship with him - but that had never been stated as a condition of his employment.

The very tiny whisper that came from the phone could not possibly have been what he thought it was. "I don't think I heard you correctly, Relena. I understand that you were upset and not thinking clearly. You wouldn't be calling me in the middle of the night if something hadn't gone badly wrong. You're my friend too and I will do my best to remember that. Now tell me what you did."

Louder, the same words came again. "I slapped him, Duo. I hauled off and slapped him across the face and told him to get the hell out of my sight and I never wanted to see him again. But I didn't mean it!" she wailed.

Duo clamped his hand over the phone and fought to get his temper under control. Enough hurtful words had been said in the heat of the moment already. He didn't need to add to the problem by telling Relena just how badly she'd screwed up. She already knew that or she wouldn't be on the phone with him right now, admitting that she'd just yanked his best friend's last ideal out from under him. Oh god. Heero. A mere slap on the face from someone wouldn't mean much to him, but coming from Relena, who he admired for standing by her pacifist ideals in the midst of some truly terrible situations, he would be devastated. And the words that went with that slap. Oh fuck. Shit. Dammit all to hell.

"Relena, where is he?" Duo demanded urgently, flinging himself out of bed and starting to drag clothes on.

"I don't know," she sobbed. "Once I calmed down enough to realize what I'd done, I went to his room to apologize. Duo, his laptop's gone, and his duffel bag, and the few outfits he had that weren't bought just for his job. And the couple of photos of all the pilots. He's gone."

"Okay, now calm down Relena. Tears aren't going to solve anything. We have to find Heero." Mentally, Duo added, 'And damn fast too, because if he took that half as bad as I think he did, this could be very ugly. At least he took some stuff with him, so he's probably not suicidal. Yet.' Out loud, he ordered, "Relena, get on the phone and call Wufei. He's closest to you. Tell him everything you just told me - and yes, he's going to give you a real earful over it and you deserve every last damn thing he's going to call you. Get him to start looking for Heero there. I'll contact Q and get him to let Tro know what's going on. I'll see if I can find any trace of him through the net. Oh, and call Zechs too - he's going to have to come babysit you since you're now without a bodyguard."

"Okay," Relena whispered quietly. "Duo, I really am sorry. I didn't mean all those things I said. Even if Heero never wants a relationship with me, he's still my friend. I just..."

Suddenly very weary, Duo told her gently, "I know. It hurts to give up on the dream. It's better to face the facts now, though, rather than keep holding out for something that will never happen and maybe miss something even better because you weren't open to it. 'Lena, sweetie, I have to go. If I hear anything, I'll let you know. You get busy and get your calls made too. Okay?"

"Okay. Goodbye Duo. Thank you - and good luck."

"Same to you, 'Lena." Hanging up the phone, Duo closed his eyes for a moment in pained acknowledgement of the mess he was about to try and straighten out. At least when Hilde had forced her own version of that confrontation with him, he hadn't been particularly surprised to get decked for frankly telling her that he thought of her as a sister, not a potential lover or spouse. His jaw had ached for days. Their friendship had been strained for quite a while; he had even considered selling out his share of the business. He had moved out. But in the end, Hilde had fallen head-over-heels for someone else and their friendship had recovered.

Provoking Relena to violence, on the other hand, even such minor violence as a slap... Oh Heero...

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Several hours later, Duo re-read the booking confirmation email sent to his address and shook his head in disbelief. Only Heero. Booking passage for one "Duo Maxwell" from Sanc to L2 and having the confirmation sent to his email account. 'Wanted me to know you were coming, huh buddy?' Checking the arrival time and that the passenger was confirmed to have boarded, Duo sent a quick "possible lead" message to the others, gathered up his jacket and keys and headed for the door. He had a shuttle to meet.

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