Title: The Witching Hour (2/?)
Author: Imo-chan
Disclaimers: Not mine, they belong to some fat japanese billionaires who don't even know how to USE them properly... >.<
Pairings: 1x2/2x1 (not sure yet ^^;;), 4+3, 6+9... possibly others.. but we'll cross that ocean when we get to it. ^^
Warnings: Post EW, Romance, minor angst, Death (some might call it bashing... but actually, I'm indifferent >.<), drama, shounen-ai (will be eventually and primarily 1x2/2x1 yaoi), Random Hentai Scenes (TM), intrigue, mystery (i guess... ^^;;)plodding plot lines and all around stuff I usually *don't* do. o_O;;; Lemme know how it turns out.
Feedback: *points up* Ditto.
Notes: Please, please, please... pay close attention to the dates. For some reason this fic decided it wanted to be written in non-chronological order... and it's confusing the hell out of me... so god knows what it's gonna do to you peeps. >_< Lemme know if it's TOO awful and maybe I can change it. But for now, bear with me.

//..blah..// = thoughts/italics


Part 2/?


[AC 202, April 1st, 21:30 hours]

"Quatre won't be able to make it tonight."

Heero's eyes flickered upwards to glance at her through the rear-view mirror.

"No?" He asked quietly, his gaze once again focused on the dark road.

"No," Relena repeated, her fingers fidgeting with her gloves, which lay wrinkled in her white satin lap. "He's on a //visit//."

The way she uttered the words, layered humour and sadness over one another, created comprehension for Heero. He nodded and shifted his grip on the steering wheel, one hand reaching unconsciously to the back of his neck, rubbing the tense muscles and encountering a thin gold chain, cool and reassuring beneath his fingers.

"Lucky him," Relena said absently, half to herself and ducked her head in embarrassment when Heero's eyes caught hers, the glare admonishing.

"Not like //that//," she hurried to recover, "//That// part is… unfortunate… sad… you know. I meant that he's lucky… he doesn't have to attend tonight."

"He should be here," Heero half-scolded. "It's his company that's financing the project."

"Well, I'm happy for him, despite what you say," Relena stated haughtily, her mouth twitching upwards in a teasing smile - answered by a brief twinkle in Heero's glance. "You should be happy too… that he has the //chance// once and a while. Not everyone can lounge around all day like you and Duo do."

"All right," the tuxedo-clad man admitted, his gaze whisking back to the road, the smile still hiding behind his eyes. "I'm happy for him too."

"Good," Relena grinned whole-heartedly, and as they continued along the dark highway, she spoke again, her mouth moved so minimally it was almost impossible to see - but Heero, of course, heard the faint sound; watched her as she gazed out of the shadowed windows, her eyes clouded in thought. "Good," she repeated, quieter than a whisper, as if to hear her own voice in her head than anything else. "I am… very glad he's not attending tonight…for some reason… I don't think he should…"

* * * * * * * *

The limo, a sleek snake of a vehicle with dark, shiny paint and shaded windows, pulled up to the entrance of the Florence Hotel at exactly 9:30 pm. Precisely ten seconds later a tall man with a fierce, threatening face dressed in a smart tuxedo exited the car and, opening the back door of the limo, extended a hand inside to help the other occupant out.

Relena Darlian-Peacecraft emerged, looking as if she had just stepped down from the clouds. She was an Easter lily, an angel clad in satin and ivory and gold. The gown was long and pure white, clinging to her hips slightly - a hint of slender curves - before it flared outwards, floating like mist and clouds around her ankles. A modest neckline revealed pale shoulders and arms, with gold-piped satin gloves grazing her elbows. Her hair was pulled up and curled, a few tendrils of soft gold kissed the nape of her neck - the entire effect was like sunset on a bed of clouds, like the gold blushed center of a white rose. Her face was eerily calm before she stepped out into the frenzy of flashbulbs and lights, whereupon that strange, serene demeanor that she had collected around herself dissolved into a plastic smile - a close-lipped, patronizing look crafted for the cameras.

She turned and murmured words to Heero, who stood beside her, her lips moving minimally against that painted, plastered smile.

"Don't let me speak to anyone I shouldn't, Heero," and for a moment, her placating features became terse, trying desperately to hide a moment of nervousness or anger; her eyes hardened briefly, a dark flash of lightning spearing the crowd of waiting aristocrats and cameras. Heero nodded briefly, his eyes as dark as the lady's - and even as her own gaze relaxed once more into that sweet, welcoming, royal smile, his refused to relinquish the frosty hold it had on the throng.

Sliding across the red carpet into the massive glass doors, gracing the press's cries of "Miss Darlian!", "Vice-Foreign Minister!", and "Miss Darlian! Relena!" with that same smile, she turned once again to the man beside her.

"Are you going to shadow me all night, or possibly try your hand at mingling?" She asked, a hint of a real smile pulling at the words.

Heero fixed her with a stony, incredulous glare, one eyebrow twitching slightly.

Her smile widened, as it seemed she allowed herself a small bit of reality before sweeping past the guardsman and into the ballroom. "All right then, Heero, have it your way. Shadowing it is; just try not to get too suspicious of the nice, fat old men," her gloved hand tapped the air pointedly, picking out the clump of grandfatherly investors and executives.

"Hn. I never was worried about them," he admitted shortly, feeling slightly uncomfortable in the diamond-encrusted, silk-swishing atmosphere.

"Of course not," she agreed, and Heero saw her raise her eyebrows in incredulity.

"Ah, Miss Relena - you've arrived!" One of the 'nice, fat, old men' waddled quickly up to where the two of them were standing, and attempted an awkward bow towards Relena, who curtsied in return. "Thank you again for agreeing to speak tonight. We //so// appreciate your gracious support for Project RUST!"

"Oh, thank //you//, Mr. Pollin," Relena inclined her head gracefully and turning to Heero, she added. "Mr. Pollin, this is Heero Yuy - Heero, I'd like to introduce Arthur Pollin, Vice President of Finance at WEI."

Heero bowed his head respectfully, keeping his hands clasped safely behind his back and Arthur Pollin smiled. "What a handsome young man… your date for this evening, Miss Relena?" He winked.

She laughed it off. "Oh no, my bodyguard, unfortunately," she replied, her smile apologetic.

Pollin nodded understandingly. "Unfortunate indeed, but necessary, I'm afraid." Turning to Heero, he added, "Have you been in the security business long, Mr. Yuy?"

Heero was about to answer accordingly, with an abrupt 'no', but Relena jumped in, covering his social clumsiness with a sweet smile. "Actually, Heero was a vital part of attaining peace in the Eve Wars - he was a Gundam pilot."

"Re~ally?!" Pollin's face lit up with interest. "A //Gundam// pilot? Are you acquainted with Mr. Winner, then?"

Heero nodded shortly. Pollin looked a little expectant, but realizing Heero wasn't going to say more, he turned once again to Relena.

"Could Mr. Winner not make it tonight?"

"Ah, unfortunately not," Relena apologized gracefully, not letting a hint slip by, even in her eyes. She was, Heero noted - with some irritation - an accomplished liar. "He extends his deepest apologies, but he had a more pressing engagement previously planned. Something to do with family, I believe."

"Always such a thoughtful young man… it is a pity he couldn't be here," the white-haired man continued, "I was looking forward to conversing with him tonight. Not that you're unpleasant, Miss Darlian. You're quite a sight for my old eyes."

She laughed sweetly, appreciatively, and speaking a few formal parting words, left Pollin to the punchbowl and threaded her way through the crowd with ultimate grace and cordiality - stopping here and there to spread a gracious smile or kind words among select groups - Heero trailing her a few steps behind, eyes alert as always. Since they had arrived at the entrance of the Florence, since Relena had uttered those strange, almost-silent words in the limousine, he had been convinced that there was something out-of-place. A little part of his mind, so small and underused it even now - screaming as it was - was barely noticed. A 'hunch', Duo would have called it, that there was something extremely wrong about //something// in the be-jeweled and be-gilded room. But there was nothing he could pinpoint in the whirl of silks and diamonds - nothing more than a room full of nobles and millionaires, swanky and smiling, who had no more interest in the actual RUST project than the Terrists did in the money involved.


He blinked, and looked down at Relena as she placed a gentle hand on his arm. "It's time for me to speak now. Would you mind…?" she asked, her other hand gesturing openly to the front of the ballroom, where a podium marked with the WEI insignia could be clearly seen behind a red and silver Project RUST banner, the entire display mounted on a long expanse of stairs. He nodded and followed her, step for step, towards the climb of the podium - the niggling 'hunch' at the back of his mind flared loudly for one brief second and his eyes narrowed as he surveyed the path they were to take.

The stairs, a mountain of white marble steps; a waterfall of red carpet spilling from the tall podium at the summit, were lined by guards - little tin soldiers with toy guns, merely there for impressive display; Heero doubted whether they could actually provide protection, or cause harm, of any kind - decked in ceremonial uniforms, halberds clutched in gloved hands, carved revolvers - no trigger - tucked in their gold and leather belts.

He dutifully followed Relena as she began her climb up the tower of plush-carpeted steps, her footfalls dainty and careful, her eyes trained straight ahead. Heero, however, made sure each guard caught his scrutinizing gaze, made certain each one felt uneasy under the glare, made it //absolutely// clear that he meant business.

In sequence, left then right, then left again, he surveyed each guard thoroughly. When one passed appraisal, he moved to the next. Relena was precisely three and a half steps from the podium when the Heero's eyes moved to the second last guard on the left.

There were two things that happened simultaneously.

First, the guard's eyes shifted in their sockets, pinning Heero with a look that sent the 'hunch' reeling into full-blown anxiety. And second, Heero faltered, as his eyes fell directly upon the man's belt, to the ceremonial revolver, as suddenly it was very clear that it was //not// ceremonial.


She turned and the guard's fingers twitched, as she fixed Heero with a particularly scalding glare full of confusion - partially indignant at the interruption of her graceful ascent.

"Heero, wha - "

"Relena. Move." He reached out with a hand and the world fell spiraling into slow motion. His heartbeat went lethargic and deafening in his ears as his fingers closed around her arm, pulling her backwards. Her footing slipped, her gasp disappeared, drowned, in the sudden, slow eruption of a collective voice - startled, scared, shocked - from the crowd below them as he registered more movement on the step above them.

The guard was moving, his hand moving to his belt, drawing the gun, fingers closing one by one over the hilt, index finger hooking where there //should// have been no trigger…

Relena fell past him, one hand reaching outwards, spreading her body almost spread eagle as he tried to maintain, futilely, a grip on her other arm…

Even as he tried to grasp his own gun with his left hand from the left side of his jacket - the awkward movement made all that more frantic and clumsy by the slow click-click-click of time measured by his pounding heartbeat.


The finger squeezed…


The princess fell…


A held breath, like a collective angel sigh, filled the space within his head…




Like a sudden rush of air spreading wildly, sharply, into a vacuum, time snapped - and everything sped forwards, a time warp of fear and confusion. Relena's arm was wrenched from his hand as some invisible force propelled her backwards with the power of an explosion. There was a scream, something loud and rushing filled his ears as he forced himself to move with time - not allowing his eyes to shift from the target - as he fumbled with the gun, found his hold, trained it, aligned it, fired it, watched the guard fall…

Crumple like a bloody rag against the podium, his head lolled backwards, in his neck a bloody hole - a black rose bloomed in fast forward against the light silver uniform. He still couldn't breathe, couldn't move, couldn't turn to help her, couldn't move in normal time…

There was something wrong…


Reaching forward with a hand, perhaps just in his mind, perhaps with his body, he wasn't sure; he made to move to check the body, to thoroughly eliminate… only then did he realize that his right arm was bleeding…

… and the guard's chest exploded red, orange, black, a screaming explosion into a growing rush of pure light.

Time slowed to a standstill…

Sped to warp…


And the wave of white hit him full in the chest, full in the face - his eyes open, horrified, confused, startled beyond comprehension, everything melted into pale from the edges outward… stillness collapsed hard against the back of his head and every sense went fading sharply into white.

* * * * * *

//[AC 199, December 17th, 7:46 hours]

Scattered articles of clothes lead in a random, weaving, obscure path from the small living room into the hall and stopped, rather abruptly, at the entrance to the closed bathroom door through which the muffled sound of running water and low voices could be heard. There was a lull in the speech and suddenly there came a loud splash, accompanied by a sharp yelp of indignation, followed precisely three seconds later by another splash and triumphant laugh.

"Wa-HAH!! Betcha didn't see that comin'!" A voice, belonging to a very wet and still-partially clothed Duo Maxwell, crowed victoriously to the man that lay sprawled across him in the bathtub, whose glaring face was dripping with sparkling beads of water, his dark, sopping bangs falling in his narrowed eyes.

"Ah-hah-hah… hah… ha…" Duo's laughter faltered into nervous chuckles as the dark blue gaze above him refused to waver. "… I'm a dead man, aren't I?"

"Oh, yes."

Duo tried desperately to hide the mischievous grin threatening to split his somber face. "But… but… that's really not very fair, Heero…" he bargained, as the eyes above him darkened in a way that he knew foreboded something deliciously dangerous. "You started it…" he wheedled, one hand plucking at the damp tank-top that was plastered against Heero's chest.

"Well, it was your fault," Heero swatted the hand away, grabbing the wrist and pinning it firmly over Duo's head against the porcelain curve of the tub.

"Oh, my god. Heero Yuy's turning schoolyard. And how, exactly, was this my fault?"

"You bent over."

A dark blush crept rapidly across Duo's cheeks like a fever. "I WAS TESTING THE WATER!!!" He sputtered, trying desperately to free his arm in mock indignation.

But Heero held fast, and despite Duo's thrashing - which managed to make him even more thoroughly soaked than he already was - he was able to still his lover's face long enough to steal the kiss he wanted.

At the first touch of Heero's lips against his, Duo decided struggling was definitely the wrong idea. Melting into the half embrace of Heero's arm and chest, he slipped his tongue inside Heero's mouth, running cool fingers inside the wet tank top and up Heero's spine, eliciting a sharp shiver as Heero's lips demanded fierce response from his own. The passion in the contact flared briefly, a sudden shock to Duo's groin as Heero shifted position over top of him, his fingers threading with Duo's trapped hand, their hips connecting with a jolt, the heat of each other's bodies making them tremble. The kiss became slow, sultry; a long heat wave that traveled from the tips of Heero's bare toes to the end of Duo's fingers. Breaking off slowly, breath coming fast and uneven, Duo couldn't attempt to hold back the grin any longer.

"Man, if only ALL my school fights had ended like this…" he chuckled, rolling his hips upwards - making Heero's eyes shutter closed, a soft moan threading from between his swollen lips.

"Now," Duo exclaimed briskly after a few second of watching Heero melt in desire - loving every minute he teased him, "Are we going to take that bath or not?"//

* * * * * * * *

[AC 202, April 1st, 22:11 hours]

As he and Manada strolled down the poorly lit hallway leading to the staff room, Duo prayed to any God that was listening that the final accounting they had just finished would be the last thing he'd have to take care of. Sure, he loved his crew - they were all good guys, and most of them were technical geniuses - but when it came to the simpler things, like signing papers and organizing accounts, it seemed like it was all they could do to keep their heads out of their asses.

Especially Manada.

Glancing at the man out of the corner of his eye, Duo grimaced gently. Manada had been exactly what he was looking for when he hired him three years ago. He had come striding confidently into Duo's stifling little trailer that had been passing as an office with that cocky grin, chiseled face and twinkling green eyes beneath dark red hair, and he had presented himself as a person who obviously knew what he was doing. The man had proved himself to be as brilliant as Heero, in terms of tweaking wires and welding metal and his leadership skills put Duo himself to shame. He was a tall person, with a rough work person's voice - deep and grating stuck behind a permanent chuckle - and a body and face to match. Everything about him demanded respect, but he never failed to show some to Duo - all of the boys at The Yard knew about the braided man's previous line of work. Duo had hired him almost immediately and made him a mechanical engineer. However, as The Yard expanded and more departments were needed, Duo made him Supervisor of the small scrap yard - ten or so men that worked with the lesser metals like iron, steel, gold and small devices. This would have worked perfectly, and it did - at first, if it hadn't required so much work outside of the actual yard. Computers and paper seemed to be Manada's weak spot. Well, his computer skills weren't that awful, as long as they involved machinery of some sort. But give him a pile of paperwork and he just sort of wilted. You could almost see his brain turn to mush.

Duo sighed inwardly. He just didn't have the heart to fire anyone. Beside, Manada was too good in other areas to let him go just because he couldn't add two apples together, even if his life depended on it.

"So Boss, I'll see ya tomorrow, I guess," Manada said and extended his arm as they stopped outside the staff room. From inside, behind a partially open door, the TV was blaring blue and white light, the words incoherent.

Duo took Manada's outstretched hand. "Yup. Try not to tire yourself out now," he grinned in response, jerking a thumb in the direction of the couches and chairs of the staff room.

The tall man laughed and, placing a large hand on the doorknob, swung the door open; bathing both their faces in neon blue as the TV flicked back from commercials. "Hey, you wanna join us for a while?" he asked, making his way over to the fridge.

"Weeeell…" Duo scrutinized his watch as he leaned against the doorway.

//Almost a quarter past ten… Heero's still at that function, I guess…//

"Hey, c'mon Boss," another voice exploded from the half-darkness, a scruffy head rising from behind the cushions of the couch.

"Yeah, c'mon!" Yet another voice rose above the TV's blare.

"Heh, why not?" Duo shrugged and caught the can Manada tossed him deftly with one hand as he kicked the door closed with the toe of his foot. "So, what's on?" He asked as his flicked the tab of his beer can open, leaning against the back of the couch as he took a drink.

"Eh, was Thorton's cartoon's - "


" - Heh heh… but now it switched to some newscast. Special report, I think."

"Oh yeah? Sounds positively excit - " Duo took another swig from the can and was about to join in the relaxed, joking, nonchalant atmosphere of the room when something jarring caught the corner of his eye and his voice died in his throat.

" - are not being specific about the details. The most recent reports we have coming in at this moment only confirm what many are fearing the most: that one of the Earth Sphere's most revered and respected spokesperson for pacifism has been targeted by a terrorist attack. To update, once again, the celebration to commemorate the launch of the Mars Colonization Project, which was being attended by the Vice-Foreign Minister Relena Darlian, has been attacked. The Florence Hotel in New Angeles was bombed at approximately 10:00 pm tonight, but no more details have been released by either the police or spokespersons. The whereabouts of the Vice-Foreign Minister are, as of yet, unknown, but we will continue to keep you updated. This is Julia Hill for SphereNews24. Now, back to John at the front desk."

Duo's head began to swim.



//Mars Project…//

//…"Relena… speaking at the Project RUST … Florence Hotel."…//





//… "You going out tonight?"


//Terrorist… Attack…//


//… " - Florence Hotel" …//

//Attacked... //

// … "You going out tonight?"//


//… "Yes." …//

//… Bombed…//

//… "Yes." …//

//…Oh dear lord…//



* * * * * * * *