Title: Noel : Christmas Eve 195
Author : Dalton
Disclaimers: GW and its characters are not mine by right, but I thank the owners for the opportunity to play with them in my mind.
Warnings : Bah, humbug. Oh, this is most likely an alternate time line because the guys were fighting in space at this certain date in the series. (meep!)
Pairings : For the first time, Dalton introduces a slight 2+1 inuendo! (very small)
Dedicated to : Whimsy (who asked for a continuation of the Thanksgiving fic....this isn't what either of us expected, but she liked it and that's all that mattered!) and Lilias (who prodded Whimsy's prodding of me for a Christmas fic!).
Special thanks: To my beta readers. Thanks you two!
Notes: This fic is connected to "For These, Thy Gifts" (my Thanksgiving fic) and was inspired by one of my favorite Christmas songs (I put the lyrics at the end of the fic). The song was sung by John Denver from his Christmas special called : John Denver and the Muppets, A Christmas Together. They don't show the tv special anymore and it's not found in video stores, but the music tape is still out there. John and Kermit the Frog are now singing with the angels....

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The ground crunched and crackled beneath his heavy step as he plodded up the forested hillside. He didn't have a chosen destination, but the high, jutting peak seemed just as good a goal as any. His breath came out in warm, pillowed puffs that were quickly swallowed by the cold, winter air. Duo clamped his mouth shut to keep from seeing the clouds of breath that resembled the columns of smoke twisting to oblivion in the town below.

He had left the ruined town; left the warm car and its silent occupants. After staring at the burned remains of a grocery store for several unbelieving minutes, Duo had simply opened the car door and walked away. He had turned his back on the shattered town; but now, reaching the crest of the high hill, Duo found himself faced with a more encompassing view of the destruction below.

His eyes closed, wanting to shut out the truth.

They had been visitors here only weeks ago, inviting themselves into the protective care of Sally Po while they licked their wounds from a tough run-in with Oz. She took them in with out question and even managed to coerce a friend into accepting them over for Thanksgiving dinner. The memory brought a smile back to the drooping line of his mouth. He had a roaring good time that day provoking warning looks from the man of the house while playing footsie with his wife beneath the dinner table. Heero had jabbed him in the side with a soupspoon, which only caused Duo to shift the wrong way and slip his stockinged foot up the wrong leg. As a result, Trowa would no longer sit across from Duo without first checking under the table for wandering toes. The little Arabian seemed to get a kick out of this ritual, everytime.

The cheerful memory prompted his eyes open and he found himself faced once more with the jarring fact that this holiday would not be like the last. He and the other gundam pilots had gathered together to return to the little town in the hopes of recapturing the rare peace they found at Thanksgiving. Quatre had wanted to find the rest of the kitchen knife set for Wufei who stubbornly insisted that the one gift was already too much of a debt to repay. Trowa slyly suggested that he might like to have the coveted set, which, once in his possession, Duo was sure, would soon become lost among Wufei's gear. Slightly surprising, Heero seemed interested in returning to the store; though Duo never would have pegged the grim boy as a habitual shopper.

Their plans were shoved rudely and painfully back into their faces when they reached the little town and discovered the war had decided Christmas wasn't going to be held there this year.

They had driven to Sally's apartment but found it had long been abandoned. Apparently, she had learned of the danger beforehand and left without pause. Even their generous Thanksgiving hostess and her watchful husband were mercifully absent from their home. It seemed many of the townspeople had been warned prior to the event and managed to relocate to safety. Heero hadn't been too trusting in that assumption. He had angrily flicked a blackened store nametag at Quatre's optimistic words and shut himself up in that gundanium shell of his.

Duo's watery gaze followed the distant curl of smoke as it wound its way toward the heavens. The night sky, all studded with the brilliance of stars, accepted the escaping clouds without judgement or reprisal. Spreading on for an amazing eternity, the stars blanketed the hills and valley in a comfort that was so sorely needed.

Duo searched and searched the heavens for the star that Father Maxwell had told him would come with this night. Christmas Eve was supposed to hold the beacon that called the wise men and shepherds to a wondrous event. Duo wondered where that star was now when he so desperately needed to find what was lost.

He thought back, trying to recall better memories of Christmases past, but there really was only one: the brief time he had spent with Father Maxwell and Sister Helen. It was then he had learned the tale of Christmas day and began to believe there was something worthwhile to hope for after all. All the fighting, all the running, all was done to achieve the same peace that reigned in the night sky above; but the caustic proof of their feeble efforts mocked the pensive boy with the image of a broken town.

There would be no peace. Not even on Christmas Eve. Duo forced his gaze to remain on the multitude of stars above as he tried to recapture the past. His thoughts traveled to a time in oft forgotten tales when the world was very different. A gift had been sent from the heavens to give the people hope, to renew their love; and the news of this gift was spread by angel's voices traveling forth in joyous song. Sister Helen would sometimes embellish Father's Christmas tales with a carol or two, and Duo had always thought she could be one of the angels. Well, she was one now. Duo lifted his head in the hope of catching a hint of the phantom music of the past.

Instead, he heard the crunching of footsteps behind him, but he refused to tear his bloodshot eyes from the sky.

"Duo..." Wufei's gruff rebuke ended with that name. Even he had been affected by the scene below and felt drained of the emotion needed to sufficiently scold the stray pilot.

Trowa turned off his flashlight as the intensity of the stars and the still form of the dreamer begged not to be tainted by the garishness of artificial light.

Duo's fists closed tightly in his jacket pockets and he wished that things could have been better for them. He wished that they could have arrived sooner and saved the town from its pitiful fate. Because they had enjoyed Thanksgiving so much, Duo brought them here; but he had made a mistake. Duo had thought he could give them the same joy of Christmas that he had felt once upon a time, but it wouldn't happen now. There would be no warm home, no cheerful talk, no hot meal, no hopeful peace. His friends would never know the peace the holiday promised; and Duo doubted he would believe in ancient tales again.

A soft sigh came from someone in the silent group behind him and its echo carried over the crest and into the stars above. It played among the looming hills and traveled back to them with a lilt that was almost melodic. The note expanded into what seemed to be a soft whisper of song. Duo tilted his head to the side, giving into the recollected dreams of angelic music, as the tender voices grew bolder and more vibrant.

A sharp intake of breath was cut off by its owner.

Duo mistakenly thought his dream was coming to an end as he heard one of the four step next to him. He tore his eyes away from the twinkling canopy to see the upturned cheek of the Wing pilot. Heero's blue gaze bore into the heavens and a ripple of confused emotion swept over his face. Duo felt a comfortable warmth emanate from the enraptured boy, and prompted by a feeling even he could not explain, he slipped his hand into Heero's. Resting in the callused palm, Duo felt the hard, round surface of a marble.

It was then that Duo realized his dream music had not stopped and that the others heard it, too.

"The stars...," Quatre's soft voice was low and full of emotion as he stared up into the bright sea above. "The stars... are singing."

Duo looked at his friend's tilted countenances and felt something lost return. Echoes of laughter, words of cheer, and stories of old rushed back to reclaim the orphan who had tucked them in the safety of memory. He did not need to bring Christmas to his new friends; it had come of its own accord and pulled them into its comforting embrace. The starry music surrounded them, winding its way into their hearts and filling the void with the greatest gifts given that day: peace, love and hope. Feeling the fullness of the lives around him, Duo turned back to smile at the heavens, and he softly listened as he stood upon the hill.

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Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913
Music by Lee Holdridge, words by Robert Bridges

A frosty Christmas Eve When the stars were shining
I traveled forth alone
Where westward falls the hill
And from many, many a village
In the darkness of the valley
Distant music reached me
Peals of bells were ringing
Then sped my thoughts to olden times
To that first of Christmases
When shepherds who were watching
Heard music in the fields
And they sat there and they marveled
And they knew they could not tell
Whether it were angels
Or the bright starts a-singing
But to me heard afar
It was starry music
The singing of the angels
The comfort of our Lord
Words of old that come a-traveling
By the riches of the times
And I softly listened
As I stood upon the hill
And I softly listened
As I stood upon the hill