Relena walked purposely down the infirmary hall, a large envelope tightly grasped in her fist. She hadn't slept well last night and had spent most of the morning in her tent going over the events of the previous day.
**I'll show him the proof! Once Heero sees it, he'll know the truth. Then he'll leave Duo Maxwell, and things will be as they should be...**
A little voice in her head contradicted her.
**Proof? You only have a couple of newspaper clippings, sketchy military reports and a few police reports. Is that really enough to base everything on? What is the truth?**
Shaking her head, she walked briskly around the corner and straight up to the guards stationed outside Duo's room, mentally wincing as she noted who they were.
"Well, well... the little princess returns," Rad growled, looking down at her. His partner sighed.
"Didn't you get enough yesterday?" Ines said, shaking her head. "We're not letting you in and that's final. Do I have to toss you into another snowbank to get it through your head?"
"They warned us you were obsessive, but this is ridiculous. I don't think Chang or Yuy thought you were this bad..."
Relena's mind reeled. **Heero and Wufei said things to them? Not Maxwell?**
Clearing her throat, she straightened haughtily. "I'd like to speak with Heero. If you would please ask him to step out here..."
"Sorry, no can do," Rad rumbled. "Mr. Yuy is probably asleep, and after yesterday's mission, we ain't disturbing him. Mr. Maxwell had a minor relapse, so he needs his rest as well. When they give us some indication that they're awake, we'll let Yuy know you want to see him."
"But... I need to see him now," Relena protested. "It's very important!"
Rad glanced at his partner. "Why do they always say 'it's important'?"
Ines muffled a chuckle. "Because, to them, it's always a life or death situation. It's a spoiled princess thing. She'll learn." She turned her attention back to Relena. "Look, little girl, we said we'd pass on the message. That's as good as it gets. Are you going to force us to introduce you to another snowbank?"
"I... I..." The blonde's shoulders slumped. "Please ask him to come and see me... when it's convenient."
Turning around, she retreated back out into the cold Transylvanian morning.
"Heero, wake up." Duo smiled as the Japanese teen next to him wrinkled his nose and rolled over, seemingly oblivious.
Duo sighed in mock irritation - he knew perfectly well that Heero was already awake! He leaned as close to his boyfriend as he could, given his injuries and slowly traced the tip of his tongue along the Japanese teen's ear, eyes sparkling with delight as the supposedly sleeping pilot shuddered when he gently sucked his earlobe between his lips. Releasing it reluctantly, Duo purred, "Open your eyes, Honeymuffin."
Heero smiled in his defeat and was greeted with the sight of a sleep-mussed Duo Maxwell. "C'mere..." He pulled the other teen closer for a kiss.
Duo hummed in appreciation as Heero cushioned him gently on his chest and deepened the kiss. He'd missed this, and now if only-
Heero's grip tightened minutely, and Duo couldn't contain a small wince of pain.
The Japanese teen released him immediately, his eyes wide with alarm. "Duo, I'm sorry, I didn't mean..."
Arching his back slightly to take some of the pressure off his ribs, Duo placed a finger over Heero's lips. "Don't. I'm not sorry - it's worth it."
Heero groaned as Duo - slowly - rolled off of him. "You're going crazy, aren't you." It wasn't a question.
Duo's laugh in reply sounded slightly strained. "Going? Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Yeah, you could say I'm going crazy."
Heero sat up and stared down into his boyfriend's stormy blue eyes. "It won't help if I say it's for your own good, will it?"
Duo shot him a sour look. "Being stuck in this room, unable to *do* anything, is helping me? Heero, I appreciate that you're all trying to help me, but I feel useless and lazy, I can already feel my muscles atrophying..."
"It's a little early for that, love," Heero interjected, trying not to grin.
"... and I'm sick of not being able to *touch* you!" Duo finished, frowning.
Heero leaned forward again to kiss the braided teen, not really knowing what to say. Duo's response was immediate and passionate, one hand tangling in Heero's hair as he drowned himself in the kiss.
The Japanese teen drew back, breathing hard. "Duo " He sighed. "Look, if I help you out, you have to promise me not to overdo it. If you go too far, I swear I will let Une baby you as she clearly wants to..."
Duo shuddered. "I don't know what's more frightening. Scary Une in psycho mode, or Mother Hen Une."
"So do we have a deal?"
The braided teen smiled brightly and gave his boyfriend a quick peck of a kiss. "Deal."
Farley rushed into the mess tent, brushed the snow off his shoulders and moved quickly to the huge urn of coffee. It had been a busy morning and this had been his first chance to take a break. Mug in hand, he turned and scanned the tent's occupants, sighing as he saw the dejected figure of Relena, slumped over a table. Shaking his head, he made his way to her table and sat down.
"Well, Princess, you don't exactly look happy at the moment. More problems?"
Relena raised her head and looked at the young man, really *looked* at him. Not just a superficial inspection of his features, which were pleasing in themselves - brown curly hair, tall and well-built, strong nose and chin - but the whole man. His eyes drew her. They were a deep brown, flecked with gold - quite beautiful actually - but it was the compassion, humour, and honesty she could read in their depths that decided her.
"Mr. Farley... I... Do you think I'm spoiled? That I'm a liar? That I'm the bad one? Selfish? Delusional? Stuck-up? A bitch?" she blurted out, wringing her hands on top of the table.
Farley blinked, then laughed softly. "Whoa, bringing out the big guns..."
"This was a bad idea," Relena snapped, starting to rise. Farley placed a hand over hers gently.
"Sit down, Princess. I wasn't laughing at you. I was laughing at the situation, that's all," he said calmly, then continued as she settled back down. "Are you spoiled? I believe so, yes, but that's not an insurmountable problem, nor is it specifically your fault. It's how you were raised, so the fault there lies more with your parents, than yourself. Are you a liar? I don't think so. You're misinformed and jumping to conclusions, but that doesn't necessarily make you a liar. A bad person? Definitely not. I think you're *handling things* very badly, but that doesn't make you a *bad* person. Selfish? Hmmm... right now, I'd have to say yes. You're thinking only of yourself, your wants, your needs, and not seeing that there are other people with wants and needs, as important, or even more so, than your own."
Farley patted her hand, thinking for a moment, and went on. "Delusional? Again, right now, yes. You refuse to see or accept certain truths that are sitting right in front of you. You've taken some basic facts, put them together and created your own image of how things are and how they should be, without taking into account that you don't have any details... any motives. You don't have the whole picture, but you're still acting as if it is undeniable truth, and nothing anyone can show or tell you will move you from that."
"But..." Relena tried to cut in.
"No 'buts' until I finish. Then we can discuss, in detail, what I'm saying and how you feel, okay?" Farley smiled again. "Besides, interrupting is very rude, and even if it wasn't on your list of questions, I'd have to say 'yes'."
Relena nodded sheepishly. "I'm sorry, please continue."
"Thank you. Now, what were we up to?" Farley thought for a moment, still patting her hand comfortingly. "Right. Are you stuck up? Well, I'd have to go with a 'yes' answer on that one. But again, that's not wholly your fault. It's how you were raised, more than what you are... and it's changeable. You automatically assume that anyone less privileged than you is beneath you. Remember, Princess, assumptions can be dangerous things. And finally, are you a bitch? Well, you have been. You have been criticising everyone and everything that doesn't conform with how you think it *should* be. You've insulted nearly everyone on this base. Your words and actions have alienated even the people that were trying to be objective, to give you a chance, to *help* you. You've continuously complained about how things are, without trying to understand *why*. You're trying to have everything *your* way, and that doesn't work... not here, not now..."
He paused a moment. "You've definitely got some serious problems, Princess. I could even add some adjectives you skipped over, but I won't. I believe you have enough to think about right now. Take some time, think about your words, actions, and opinions. Think about what I've said... then, if you want, we can talk some more. I won't lie to you, Relena, nor will I sugar-coat things for you. I *will* tell you exactly what I think, and why. It's up to you to decide whether I'm wrong or I'm right, and what you'll do about it. Now, is there anything else you need from me? I do have a man to jab with a needle, but he can wait. He's a marine, he can handle the anticipation."
Relena twisted the corners of the envelope in her fingers. "I think I'll... I think I have some thinking to do... but..."
"Spit it out, Princess. Bluntness is slightly different than being rude," Farley said with a smile. "I have a thick skin. I can take it."
"No, no, nothing like that! I just, um, would you look at these," she pushed the envelope across the table, "and maybe tell me what you think?"
Farley opened the envelope and took out the few sheets of paper, reading slowly. When he finished, he sighed.
"Relena, please tell me you based your opinions of Duo Maxwell on something more solid than this! Sketchy news reports, Alliance reports... *These* are the source of your prejudice? All because you're jealous and want Heero for yourself?"
The girl had the grace to blush.
Farley sighed again. "Okay, let's go over these together. Now, this first clipping says nothing more than some rebels had taken over the church, and that in the ensuing fight with Alliance soldiers, the church was destroyed with an unfortunately heavy civilian casualty count, including Father Maxwell, his assistant Sister Helen and an unknown number of local orphans. The second only mentions that the young boy known as Maxwell's Demon survived, but his whereabouts are unknown. And that an abandoned mobile suit and carrier were found on the scene."
He picked up another sheet of paper. "This is nothing more than a report from the Alliance base that a boy, approximate age of 8 or 9, long brown hair in a braid, dressed in what appeared to be religious clothing, broke onto the base, stealing a mobile suit. If you look at the time on it, and then *when* the Church was attacked by the Alliance in the paper clipping, the church was destroyed *before* Duo ever even got to the base."
That sheet joined the first two, and the last two were addressed. "As for these police reports, one indicates that a boy matching a young Duo's appearance was *accused* of stealing bread and fruit from a vendor, but was never apprehended, nor was the accusation proved. The other states that *Duo* was caught stealing vegetables from the same vendor, however, due to extenuating circumstances, he was released into the custody of Father Maxwell of the Maxwell Church. And I quote from the vendor 'I won't press charges. If I had known the boy was stealing to feed children younger than himself, I would have given it to them. I'm just glad they will have a safe place...'."
Farley put all the papers back into the envelope. "Relena... where on earth did you get the ideas that you've been spouting and spreading around? You can't have *so* misinterpreted these reports... The only mention of stealing was for food. There's nothing in there about any of the other things you've accused him of. You just *assumed* that because he was an orphan, a street child..."
He shook his head. "Never mind, what's done is done. That can't be changed. Now you have to use that brain, which I know you have, and figure out what you want to do. You can continue on the way you've been going, living in your own idea of your perfect reality, alienating everyone around you... basically alone. Or, you can re-evaluate the situation, change your thinking, and move forward in the *real* world. You might just end up a lot happier here with the rest of us, you know," he finished with a grin.
With a final pat to her hands, Farley stood and picked up his empty mug. "Gotta run now, Princess. If you need to talk some more, come and find me."
Relena nodded, not looking up from her clenched hands.
Quatre carefully balanced a thermos of coffee as he knocked on Duo and Heero's door, Trowa just steps behind him. They had a lot to accomplish...
Only Trowa's reflexes rescued the thermos as Quatre got the door open and promptly dropped everything in his hands. "Heero! What the hell do you think you're doing?!"
Heero looked up as soon as he finished pulling the navy blue sweat shirt he'd found over Duo's head. "Dressing my boyfriend."
Quatre stared. The braided boy was almost fully dressed, wearing a pair of grey sweatpants that were a couple of sizes too large for him, and a warm pair of socks on his feet. "Why?"
Duo looked up. "To keep me warm. I'm getting out of this room today."
Trowa set the coffee down and walked over, stopping on Duo's other side. He watched silently as Heero gently helped Duo into his sneakers, and silently began tying the left one while Heero tied the right. "Are you sure this is smart?"
Heero looked up into Trowa's serene green eyes. "I will watch him very carefully."
Trowa studied Heero carefully, then nodded and looked down into Duo's eyes, "I'm glad you're feeling up to getting out a bit. I was afraid you'd get weak in here."
Duo grinned up at his friend. "Weak? Me? Are you nuts?"
Quatre approached and gave Duo a concerned look. "Are you sure, Duo?"
The braided teen nodded. "I promised, Q. No overdoing it. I've been in here for days."
Quatre considered for a long moment, then smiled slowly. "There's a free conference room down the hallway. I think we can arrange for breakfast out today. Any special requests?"
Duo grinned at Heero. "Pancakes sound good?"
"Pancakes sound wonderful."
Duo yelped as Heero scooped him up into his arms and headed for the door. "Heero, what the hell?"
Heero and Trowa shared a grin. "I said you could go out. I didn't say you were walking anywhere."
Duo laughed. "I get to leave *and* I get carried around by the man I love? Can this day get any better?"
Quatre and Trowa followed, smiling.
Une frowned as she saw that the guards were missing from outside Duo's room. Stalking to the door and opening it, she cursed under her breath and hurried down the hall towards Sally's office.
"Sally!" she exclaimed, rushing inside, "where's Duo? He's not in his room! The guards are gone, Heero's gone..."
"What?" Sally replied, jumping out of her chair. "He's supposed to be there. I haven't cleared him to get out of bed yet, much less leave the room!"
Both women left the office and stood outside.
"I'll check the mess tent, Une. You head for the..."
"I'll see what I can find, Duo," Quatre's voice said from down another hall, followed by laughter. "Don't go anywhere!"
Sally and Une looked at each other, then stepped into the middle of the hallway, just as Quatre turned the corner. His eyes widened as he met their gaze.
"Ummm... I can explain," he said sheepishly, coming to a halt in front of them. "Honest..."
"Oh, I'm sure you can, Mr. Winner," Sally purred. She turned him around and gave a little push. "I think you all have a little explaining to do. Then, I'm going to sedate both of them. Duo for pulling this, and Heero for going along with it! Now march!"
Marianne wiped her hands nervously on her apron as she walked to the door. This *had* to be Wessex arriving. **And his 'experiment,' whatever that means ** She opened the door and fixed a smile on her face.
Wessex was just stepping from the car Dermail had sent to greet him at the airport, and jumping out of the other side -
The figure that stepped from the car was rail thin, but looked to be strong, nonetheless. Its hair - for Marianne couldn't tell the sex from behind - was buzz cut short, and might have been brown, had it been long enough to see. It turned.
Marianne gasped. She - she could just make out that the figure had breasts - had cold, dark eyes that dominated a pale, delicate face, lips compressed into a dark, uncompromising line. Emotionless. She was wearing a black body suit and heavy, black boots that laced up to her knees, and she looked
She looked as though she'd just as soon rip a person's head off his shoulders as talk to him. **Who the hell is this chick? A bodyguard?**
Wessex smiled at her and spoke, pulling her attention back to him. "Ah, Marianne! How pleasant to see you! Have rooms been prepared for my Experiment and myself?"
**Experiment? Dear God, I'm going to be sick ** "Of course, sir! Please come in " She bobbed him a quick curtsy, her eyes involuntarily swinging back to the woman in black.
As the Experiment looked at Wessex, a shadow of emotion crossed her eyes, almost as though
**She's scared of him. What could he have possibly done to her?**
"Come along, Bravo." She sprang into motion and followed after Wessex, her expression blank once again.
Marianne followed them in, her mind reeling. **It isn't an experiment, it looks more like torture!** Anger grew, and she fought to hide it and maintain her carefully-constructed appearance. **That bastard deserves what he has coming.**
Agent Athena's eyes glinted darkly as she smiled at Wessex and turned to lead him down the hallway. She was going to enjoy bringing Wessex down.
Rad threw the conference room door open and jumped back out of the way, startling the three pilots inside. Heero pulled out his gun and stepped in front of his seated, blanket-covered lover, while Trowa stepped to his side.
Sally stalked in, followed by a sheepish Quatre and a furious-looking Une. Heero holstered his gun, but neither he nor Trowa relaxed or moved away from Duo.
"What the hell is going on here?" Sally snapped. "Duo Maxwell, what are you doing out of bed, much less in here?! And Heero, you should know better! He is not up to this yet! I want him back in his bed immediately!"
"Sally, calm down," Trowa cut in, taking a step forward. "He was going stir crazy. We're not going to let him overdo it. We know he's still ill and injured. We're not going to take any chances with him."
"I carried him in here, Sally," Heero added, "and I'll carry him back as soon as he shows any signs of being tired or not feeling all right."
"Sally, I had to get out of there, just for a little while!" Duo piped up from behind his human 'wall'.
"Heero, take him back now!" Une snapped, bits of the old *Colonel Une* clearly audible in her tone.
"No!" Duo snapped back. "You can make me go back to bed, but you can't make me stay. The minute I get the chance, I'll be out the window! Which do you prefer? Me here, covered and looked after, or me wandering around outside by myself?"
"I can always sedate you all," Sally muttered under her breath. "All right. One hour, Duo, that's it. I want you back in bed then. I'll do another check on you, and if there are no adverse effects, I'll let you out of bed again later this afternoon. We'll see how it goes from there. Does this satisfy your need for escape, at least for now?"
Duo tapped Heero's hip and the Japanese pilot took a step to the side. The braided teen nodded to Sally. "That'll do for now. But remember, the terms are negotiable!"
Une threw up her hands, turned and headed out the door. "Fine! We'll just see what Treize has to say about this!"