Title: Deck The Halls
Author: Karen Hickman
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing or its characters, etc,etc.
Pairing: I included all the Boys
Warning: None Sorry no lemon this time.
It started out innocent enough I guess. I mean what could happen? What could possible go wrong? But then I forgot I'm talking about Duo Maxwell.
Oh, forgive me, I am not being very clear, am I? Duo will do that to you, make you ramble on with no focused train of thought. Let me explain as best I can.
I'm talking about Duo's idea to decorate the house for Christmas. How nice, get everyone in the Christmas spirit. In the mood for the holidays. A little Christmas cheer to brighten the season.
The notion hit Duo one morning while everyone was having breakfast. Heero sipped his coffee. Quatre, his tea. Wufei and Trowa were on their second bowl of cereal, Cheerios I think.
Duo happily munched on a large muffin, a follow up snack for the four or five powdered sugar donuts he had consumed first. The evidence of his donut indulgence still showed as white powder stuck to his upper lip and fingers.
I had arrived a bit late for the morning meal and found myself picking over the scraps left behind by five Pilots with extremely healthy appetites. Perhaps I could eek out a half a bowl of cereal. Maybe there was just enough milk left from the full gallon they had opened just that morning to wet my poor pitiful portion.
And forget about the donuts and muffins. The Great Endless Pit, who controlled Deathscythe with as little effort as breathing, had long ago seen to the sweet treat's demise.
Oh again forgive my rudeness, I have not properly introduced myself. My name is Karen and I was gracious enough to take in, at Miss Sally Po's request, five battle weary Gundam Pilots. The fact I also had a structure on my property large enough to hide the Boy's massive Mechas was probably the main reason Miss Po had asked for my help in giving the young men a safe haven from the ongoing conflict.
Well back to breakfast. Duo leaned back with a contented sigh licking the remains of donuts and the muffin from his fingers. "Hey you know what we should do?" he announce to no one in particular.
Wufie and Trowa silently leaned over their bowls not wanting, in any way, to encourage another one of Duo's wild proposals. They had learned from countless bad experiences concerning Maxwell's projects that any fostering of his sudden brilliant ideas was not in their best interest.
Heero just glared as he usually did when Duo got in one of his, "let's do something fun" moods. Heero's notion of fun, as far as it went, and Duo's seldom matched. Events like water balloon fights and duct taping Wufei to Shenlong were not high on Heero's list of amusing things to do.
Then, sweet, somewhat naive, Quatre Raberba Winner leaned over Trowa and asked the very question everyone else had been avoiding. Evidently Quatre had either not learned the same lessons or wanted to believe Duo's next plan would not end as badly as each one that had come before.
"What should we do?" he wondered then flinched and let out a surprised, "OUCH!", as Trowa kicked his shin under the table.
Now, I, not having known the Pilots but for a short period of time was not aware of the oftentimes disastrous results of Mr. Maxwell's even best laid plans. I, like Quatre, was curious about what Duo was thinking.
Heero reached behind lifting the coffee pot from the stove and, in the same silent, anticipatory, dread as Chang and Barton, poured another cup hoping to fortify himself against Duo's, most likely, overly excited and quite lengthy answer.
Duo let a wide grin grace his glowing face pleased to have at least one of his Fellow Fliers interested in his idea. "Let's decorate for Christmas." he declared running his finger around the left-over muffin crumbs on his plate.
That didn't sound like such a horrible thing. Like I had previously stated what harm could there be in adding some festive touches to my otherwise plain decor. I mean a few green garlands and lights, red and gold ribbons and bows scattered about, what better way to get us all the spirit of the holidays.
"That sounds like a nice idea." I commented hearing a trio of worn sighs escape from Heero, Wufei and Trowa's lips.
What I didn't realize was Duo's tendencies to go overboard on anything he thought was worth doing. The words "simple or moderation" did not exist in Deathscythe Master's vocabulary. I had opened a floodgate of creativity that would soon swamp my entire house.
"Great!" Duo exclaimed jumping up from his seat, "Now don't worry about a thing. I'll get everything together" he announced literally bouncing around the table towards the door.
"Quatre, since you are the only one that has expressed any faith in me, maybe you would like to help me get what we need." he stated leaning between the Sandrock Pilot and the clearly annoyed Mr. Barton.
"All right, I suppose." Quatre reply with more than a hint of uncertainty in his voice.
Duo bounced once more, the last his rebound ricocheting his shoulder off the doorframe sending him sideways into the hall. Without pause Duo kept to his bouncing, straight to his room to get his coat.
Hey Quatre, you coming?" he called as he disappeared from sight.
Quatre cast a quick glance around the table receiving a quite sour frown from Trowa, a curt puff of disapproval from Wufei and a steady and unusually acidic "death glare" from Heero.
"I'm sorry." Quatre half-whispered, then in an attempt to redeem himself added, "Well at least I am going along with Duo. I can keep an eye on him and maybe dissuade him from going too far over the edge."
Trowa stuffed another spoonful of cereal into his mouth, "Good luck." he mumbled between chews, "You're going to need it." he further declared letting the spoon fall back into the bowl with a milk muted clink.
"Oh it won't be that bad." Winner retorted to Trowa's sarcastic tone, "I can handle Duo." he stated but there seemed to be a lack of conviction in his declaration.
"Want to take my gun along?" Heero asked with a thin lip smile and an attitude that told everyone he was very serious in his invitation to arm his fellow Pilot just in case Quatre required more back-up.
Poor Quatre chose to ignore Heero's heartfelt and quite sincere offer. As he passed my chair I felt I should say something, after all, I had lent some encouragement to Duo's enthusiastic desire to get everyone in the mood for Christmas.
"It will be all right." I said touching Quatre's hand, "Come here." I invited pulling Winner's already weary posture down until I could place a warm kiss on his cheek. "Want me to come, too?" I asked now a bit concerned myself for dear Quatre's ability to stem Mr. Maxwell's exuberance and remain sane in the effort.
Quatre shook his head his silky blond bangs slipping over one eye, "No thank you Miss Karen. I started this and I will see it to the end." he proclaimed with a heavy sigh.
Heero's still stony sight followed Quatre through the door, "He should have taken the gun." he said lowly to no one in particular.
"It can't be that bad." I declared hoping maybe the other Pilots were just overreacting, just a little. "It will be all right." I repeated this time trying to ease my own quickly building misgivings.
Duo came back down the hall, his springy steps still in force, with a slightly cowering Quatre in tow. "See you all later." he beamed flashing one of his brightest grins, "Look out mall here we come."
Quatre looked in at his friends gathered around the kitchen table with the same terrified gaze in his eyes as someone going off the face a firing squad, "Help!" he mouthed out the single-worded plea for assistance before Duo's hand grabbed his arm and whisked him from our sight.
Four Hours Later:
The front door flew open, but not nearly wide enough to accommodate the countless bags being forced through its limited space. We all assumed Duo and Quatre were behind the numerous bundles from a variety of stores. Something was pushing the onslaught of purchases ahead until they rested in a quite large pile in the family room's center.
With a winded effort, Duo poked the last of his acquired items to join the steady growing mound. Quatre dragged in a few moments later looking as though he had rather been in front of said firing squad.
"He hit every store." Quatre sigh flopping from pure exhaustion on the sofa. "Every store." he said once more with a strange glazed-over look in his eyes.
Trowa took pity on the almost used up shell that used to be his Gundam partner easing down beside Winner who kept repeating the same two words over and over again. "Every store."
"Let me help you out of your coat." Trowa said not completely certain poor Quatre was even in the state of mind to process his offer to help.
"I know, every store." Trowa finished the repetitive phrase recited over again in the same monotone modulation.
Duo dropped the final package on the top most layer with a totally satisfied gleam in his violet eyes and an equally beaming glow of elation in his happy statement. "Don't get to comfortable." he warned, "Come on Quatre help me get the tree off the car."
An angelic face turned upwards, once bright indigo eyes, now not as lustrous or lucid, returned a somewhat blank stare. "Tree?" came the single word replacing the former duet, one word echoed again, "Tree."
"Here we go again." Trowa sighed as the singular syllable took on the same steady cadence. "I know, tree." he confirmed his hearing of Quatre's ramblings.
"I'll help you." Trowa volunteered casting a glance in my direction. I understood the silent request and took his place beside the disoriented Winner. "It's okay, I'm here Quatre darling." I said pushing tousled bangs from his half-closed eyes and putting a supporting arm about his sagging shoulders.
While Duo and Trowa untied the tree that resembled something found in a Giant Redwood forest, Mr.Yuy and a very reluctant Chang crept quietly into the room. Their stealthy demeanor was as tense as if they expected the total amassment of OZ's Mobile Forces to launch an attack from behind the stout pile of cartons and boxes and bags.
Meanwhile I had managed to calm poor Quatre enough to gain his cooperation in removing his coat and, with reassuring words, get him to stop his repetitious murmurings about "store" and "tree" and some other word I couldn't quite make out but it sounded suspiciously like gun.
Wufei finally mustered enough courage to venture a bit further into the room, but still kept a watchful eye on Duo's imposing mountain of purchases.
Heero leaned on the wall, arms folded across his chest in his "closed" body language position. His ever alert sight shifted from the purchased pile to the sofa, where I continued to console the dazed blond who had, at last, become silent as his glazed over vision was held in dumfounded wonderment at the bizarre scene unfolding around him.
I, too, had begun to experience my own disconcerting response to the madness that seemed to be erupting from everywhere at once. My senses, also, were beginning to reel from the overwhelming bombardment of Duo's Christmas campaign.
The front door burst open again. The top of a huge evergreen was thrust inside. Outside I could just make out Duo issuing instructions as he and Trowa tried to maneuver the tree through the much too narrow width. After some inventive manipulation and a lot of swearing, more aimed at Maxwell than the tree, the massive timber laid across the entire length of the room.
"Too tall." Heero declared with is usual stoic attitude shaking his head as he mentally calculated the tree's height and the room's overall dimensions.
Duo didn't seem to take notice of Yuy's computations of size versus space. He knew the tree would fit even if, by sheer willpower alone, he had to rearrange its molecules to accomplish the job.
I felt Quatre tense slightly as the topmost bowels of the fir landed within inches of his legs. "Its all right." I repeated the reassurance, "It won't come any closer, I won't let it." I promised.
Wufei drew up closer centering himself between the tree and the packages his deep ebony eyes wide in amazement. He had thought himself, after all this time, to be immune to most of the affects of Duo's manic obsessions. But, this time, Duo had definitely traversed the border of any reasonable limits.
Duo stood in the midst of his amassed holiday cheer. "Let's get to work." he sounded his call-to-arms.
"Wufei." he called turning to the still stunned Chinese Pilot.
Chang jumped at the call quickly figuring in his mind any applicable escape routes but found himself trapped in the confines of the tree, the bundles and the super excited Maxwell.
With head hung low in defeat Wufei humbly surrendered to Duo hoping his suffering would not go beyond his endurance. The beaming God Of Death stooped over the high pile eagerly dipping his hands into his newly acquired treasures. "This job will be perfect for you." he announced stacking box after box beside Chang.
"And what are these?" Wufei wondered eyeing the boxes.
"Window candles." Duo answered, "You put one in each of the windows and they look pretty from the outside."
"Oh." Wufei responded opening a box and pulling out it content. After a few moment's examination he had a sudden realization. "Each of these has its own cord." he observed, "How am I supposed to plug them in, there are not enough outlets."
"No problem!" Duo exclaimed, "Here use these." he instructed filling Chang's arms with extension cords. "And don't put them where we will trip over them." Duo added as he made his way towards the sofa.
Once more Quatre drew up at Duo's direct assault run. I tightened up my protective embrace ready to come to Winner's defense.
"Trowa." Duo called.
Knowing nothing short of self-destruction would not save him, like Wufei, the Heavyarms Pilot slowly made his way to join Duo by the sofa.
"I want you and Quatre to hang up the garlands and bows. You can use the ladder in the garage. I will get them for you while you get the ladder." he proclaimed returning to the rapidly depleting pile.
Trowa leaned over placing his hand on Quatre's silky hair. "You think you could help me?" he asked reaching to take his arm.
Quatre stared for a moment then cast a sideways glance at me. "Go on, you can do it." I encouraged hoping his strained mental faculties had not been pushed beyond their ability to cope. Timidly he took Trowa's hand allowing Trowa to extract him from the somewhat secure sanctuary of the furniture and my arms.
"You stay with Heero." Trowa said reluctantly leaving Quatre behind as he headed for the back door. "Take care of him." he begged for Yuy's protective intervention from Maxwell's onslaught.
You would have thought, by Barton's fretted composure, that they were surrounded by the enemy, almost out of ammunition and Trowa was riding out to bring back reinforcements before it was too late. And that Heero was his only hope of saving Quatre from the vile horde waiting to attack from just over the package pile hill.
Heero only nodded seeming not at all amused by, what he considered, the quick deterioration of the whole Christmas decorating plan. Duo's entire scheme to squeeze every bit of holiday bliss from the stubborn Heero was running blindly and quite headlong into a disastrous outcome.
Still Duo proceeded at his manic rate seemingly oblivious to anything but his plans and they swift completion. Yes, Operation: "Decking The Halls", with Duo Maxwell at the helm, had begun.
Just as Trowa snaked the ladder through the maze of boxes and bodies, Duo's wildly gleaming eyes attached themselves to Heero. "You can help me put up the tree." he ordered separating the last of the boxes to find the ornaments and lights and tinsel.
"Too tall." Heero repeated his pervious assessment. Again Duo ignored his misgivings. "It will fit." he stated with more than a bit of annoyance at Heero's lack of faith.
Trowa had guided the more responsive Winner to one corner to begin the garland hanging. He set up the ladder and, with Quatre's aide, began to unpack yard after yard of artificial greenery and large crimson velveteen bows.
He paused in his task long enough to help Heero and Duo set the stout and very heavy tree in the stand in front of the picture window and assisted Heero to hold it in place while Duo tightened the ring around the bottom. There he and Zero Master stood, up to their elbows in fluffy fir needles, as Duo tried to straighten the lopsided conifer. Duo would stand back for an appraisal of the vertical alignment then return to wobbly and shake then stand back again.
He finally decided the problem in obtaining a perfect upright position was that the tree's pointed top was bending over on the ceiling. "You know it is a little tall." he admitted raising up on his tiptoes to better see the top.
Heero let out a curt puff shooting his most concentrated "death glare" at Duo. Duo was put on immediate notice that, if looks could kill, he would be sprawl out on the floor at that very moment.
"No problem." Duo smiled. The borrowed Trowa's ladder, climbed to the last step and broke off the offensive protrusion. "We have to have room for the angel on top anyway." he stated justifying his actions.
"Now let it go." he ordered as everyone held their breathes. Miraculously the tree stood firm without so much as a jiggle. "Perfect!" Duo proclaimed.
As Trowa retuned to his job, I knew I had put off becoming involved as long as I could. Sooner or later my absence in the mayhem would become apparent and, whether or not I so desired, I would be conscripted into service so it seemed only practical to volunteer.
I suggested Heero find another ladder to reach the tree's uppermost heights granting him a temporary reprieve from his, in his opinion, torturous assignment. Sometimes being the Perfect Soldier and all the attention to details it requires can be a heavy load to bear.
I knew, even though this "decorating thing" was not high on Heero's favorite things to do list, his mission to insure that the holiday spirit ran rampant in my home, would be carried out efficiently and without complaint.
While awaiting Yuy's return and hoping he wouldn't go AWOL on me, I helped Duo ready all the varied adornments. I had to confess Duo had done a excellent job in picking out the most beautiful embellishments. There were shimmering golden glass balls in three assorted sizes. Glittery stars all sparkling and radiant as they reflected the overhead light. Silky satin bows of the some golden tone and string upon string of small white lights.
And finally for the treetop an angel adorned in gold lame' with feathery wings spread out the form a perfect background for the halo ring resting above her flowing hair.
"Duo, all this is beautiful." I praised his good taste and the purity of the carefully considered collection. "But," I continued a bit hesitant to find any fault, "why so much gold?"
Duo lifted his glowing violet eyes locking them with mind. He took a deep breath redirecting his sight to the gilded assortment laid all around our feet. "I pick gold because after all the destruction and darkness the other Pilots and I have experienced I wanted something as close to a redeeming light I could find. Something completely opposite of the blackness that has become a part of our hearts and souls." he half-whispered a slight quiver accenting the last of his words.
"Something, anything, that would help us forget, if only for a short time, the war and all its miseries."
I took the now trembling and not nearly as imposing God Of Death in my arms and held him as he let the soft sobs of release cleanse his burdened heart.
As Heero walked in Duo pulled back wiping his tear blurry eyes with the back of his hand. "But we are not going to dwell on those things, not today." he proclaimed gathering up a handful of lights. "Not today."
Everyone settled into their jobs and soon we all had become engrossed in the simple and wonderful joy of the season. Even Heero let himself relax and take pleasure in the festivities.
Wufei, Trowa and Quatre, who was now more like his old happy self, finished up their tasks and joined Heero, Duo and I in the tree trimming. We found ourselves laughing and talking and glowing in the simple delight and cheer of sharing each other's company. For the first time, in a long time, all the Pilots forgot their pasts, their war induced isolation and loneliness.
I was so very grateful I had been included in their circle. Each Pilot had a special gift. An unique talent that went far beyond their disciplined training. Even Heero's hardness, Trowa's impassiveness and Wufei guarded nature melted away as they felt secure enough to let down their guard.
Quatre's warmth and kind "space heart" shone as brightly as the lights and tinsel. Duo put aside his jester mask, like the trio of stone willed brother-in-arms and let his true goodness and gentle nature shine through the pain and loss. And, if only for this season, the Gundam Pilots could know the true meaning of peace on earth, all the hassle and hard work would be worth the effort.
Finished At Last:
As a reward for orchestrating and actually succeeding in the successful completion of his mission, Duo was given the honor of placing the Golden Angel on the treetop. As he climbed down the ladder we all gave him a round of applause for a job well done.
"Ninmu Kanryou." Duo grinned borrowing one of Heero's favorite sayings.
"I have to admit it all looks great." Trowa complimented his friend.
Quatre stood by the tree, the golden adornments matching his silky blond tresses, "It is beautiful." he sighed gazing up at the angel shining strangely as if it was giving off its own eternal light.
Wufei put his arm around Duo's shoulders and smiled viewing the sometimes annoying baka in a different way. "Great job."
Even Heero had to confess, at least this time, he was impressed with Duo's determination to have everything just right. "Yeah, not a bad job." he praised turning his sight upwards to lock his eyes on the angel's glowing face.
Duo walked proudly over to the outlet where the main cord connecting the entire circuit of lights laid on the floor. "Well, let's see what it look like with all the lights on." he said taking a firm hold of the cord, "Ready?"
We all nodded in anxious anticipation to see the fruits of our labor in all their Christmas glory.
Duo centered the plug, and with some overdone fanfare, pushed it in.
There was a dull pop, a few sparks and in the basement circuit box the main break flipped on plunging the entire house into total darkness.
From the murky gloom four deep male voices and one higher-pitched female voice sounded in unison. "MAXWELL!"
Deck The Halls--Karen Hickman--December 2000