Comfort and Joy
Relena set down her brush, regarding the reflection of the sullen young man who sat in the middle of her bed, absently toying with a tassel on one of her ornamental pillows. He had his legs drawn up, one arm wrapped around his knees. His chin rested against the top of one knee and the expression on his face was so utterly morose, Relena could not help but sigh.
"Duo?" She turned around and stood, walking to her bed to sit next to the young man. "I take it you heard from Heero."
Duo nodded, hugging his knees tightly. "He can't get away. This will be our first Christmas apart since... well, since we met."
"I'm sorry," Relena said softly, placing her hand on Duo's. "You know he would be here if he could."
"I know. I guess I'm just feeling sorry for myself." He sighed again, reaching out to pick up a teddy bear from its honored place on Relena's pillow. He fingered the little bow around its neck for a moment. "He's cute. What's his name?"
Relena's face turned a bright shade of red. She looked away quickly, mumbling something under her breath.
"What was that?" Duo asked.
Relena sighed. "His name is Heero."
Duo stared down at the little bear, frowning. He tilted the bear first to one side, then the other. "I'm afraid I don't see the resemblance."
Relena laughed, plucking the bear from his hands, adjusting the frayed and worn ribbon around its neck. "Heero left this for me on my plane, just after the end of the first war, before he..."
"Before he disappeared the first time. Aah. I remember." Another wistful, sad expression crossed Duo's face. Relena handed the bear to him.
"He did come back," she said gently.
"I know." Duo made the bear dance along Relena's duvet. "So tell me, princess. Do you still sleep with your Heero?"
Relena's face turned red again and Duo couldn't help but grin.
"You do!" Duo crowed. "Stop the presses. The princess still sleeps with stuffed animals!"
Relena batted at his arm, trying to take the bear away from him, which he held out of reach, still grinning at her. "Oh, come on, Duo! He's comforting, like a security blanket."
"Don't tell me you still sleep with a blanket, too?" Duo asked, laughing as he dangled 'Heero' just out of Relena's reach.
Relena fell back, making a face at the young man. "You know what I mean. It's just... comforting to have him nearby when I sleep. I'm sure you had something similar when you were little."
As soon as she saw his face drop, she instantly regretted her words. She moved closer to him, to rest her head on his shoulder. "You didn't, did you?" she asked with a sigh.
Duo shook his head. "No. There wasn't enough money for frivolous things like teddy bears." He smoothed his hand over the soft fur on 'Heero's' head. "I remember though, the one Christmas I spent at the orphanage, seeing a bear in a window front of some store. It was huge, probably as big as me. I wanted it so bad. I begged Sister Helen for it, night after night."
"And you didn't get it."
Duo shook his head. "When I woke up that Christmas morning, I raced into Sister's parlor - that's where our Christmas tree was - expecting to see that bear there. But he wasn't."
"Were you sad?" Relena slipped her hand into his.
"Not really. I think, deep down, I knew I wouldn't be getting it. Instead, Sister had made me a little rag doll, from some old rags she'd found in the attic of the church that she'd cleaned and sewn into a doll-shape. She even found a piece of cord that she'd stitched into the back of its head, so it could have a braid like me."
"I bet it was cute."
"Nah, it was pretty ugly. I hated it, but... I kept it next to my bed until..." He trailed off, and Relena didn't ask him to continue. She knew the rest of the story.
They sat in silence for a long moment, before Relena straightened, tucking her hair behind her ear. "Have you put your tree up yet?"
Duo shook his head, still petting the bear.
"Why not? Christmas is next week."
"This would have been our first Christmas in our new home. Everything's still in boxes. I just... don't have the energy to go through them alone." He shrugged. "I just feel... kinda lonely there without him. There's nothing familiar about the house yet - nothing to remind me of him."
"Don't be silly, Duo. You have your things. He writes to you nearly every day, doesn't he?" At Duo's nod, she continued. "You're in the house you chose together. And yes, everything may be in boxes or in storage, but you don't need tangible things to be close to Heero. He's here." She reached between his arms and legs and placed her hand over his heart. "He'll always be here. Nothing can change that."
Duo swallowed, blinking rapidly, stretching out his legs. "I know that. I'm being a baby, I guess. Christmas is... hard for us both, but we've always had each other." He shrugged and placed the teddy bear back on Relena's pillow. "I'll be fine, princess. But he was supposed to be home for Christmas. I'm entitled to a pout."
"No, you're not," Relena said, standing up.
Duo blinked owlishly at her. "Huh?"
"There will be no pouting in my house at Christmas. Tonight, we will stay up late, watch some really bad movies, and eat junk food until we throw up. We will laugh. We will cry at how bad the movies are. And we will have a good time. There will be no sadness, no depressed sighs, and above all, no pouting. Is that understood?"
"Good." She held out her arm. "Now come. I believe there's half a chocolate cake in the kitchen calling my name."
Duo stared at her arm for a moment, before giving her a little smile and climbing off the bed to take her arm. "Thanks, princess."
She patted his arm reassuringly. "I am ever here to serve."
Duo grinned at her as he led them from her room. "Speaking of serving, I believe you said something about chocolate cake?"
Duo tugged at the bow tie, frowning at his reflection in the foyer mirror. He never could tie them straight. He always depended on Heero to do it for him, which more often than not led to them being late to whatever function they were supposed to be attending. He warmed at the memory of being late to Relena's party last Christmas, then dropped his hands in defeat as the tie refused to straighten.
"Guess you'll just have to go crooked, ol' chap," he muttered at his reflection in the mirror, frowning.
The young man turned, smiling as Relena descended the last few steps into the foyer, careful not to step on the hem of her blue and white evening dress that shimmered in the low light. Duo let out a soft whistle.
"Damn, princess. You clean up good."
Relena chuckled, crossing the tiled floor to her escort. "You're no slouch yourself, Maxwell. But your tie is crooked."
Duo sighed. "I know. I should have just bought a clip-on. I can never get these things straight."
Relena made a sound of what sounded suspiciously like a snort as she reached up and undid his tie. "Nonsense. I insist that all my gentlemen callers wear real, honest-to-goodness ties." Her deft fingers quickly worked the knot until his tie was straight. She tugged on it a little to make sure it would hold. "There. Perfect."
Duo turned to look in the mirror. "You're just as good as Heero."
Relena gave him a little curtsy. "Why thank you, sir."
"Are you ready to go?"
"Almost. Do you remember what your mission is tonight?"
Duo blinked. "Um... watch the entrances, stop anyone who looks suspicious and rescue you if the ambassador from L3 starts monopolizing your time?"
"Duo! Absolutely not!" Relena said with a small stamp of her foot. "This is Christmas Eve, and you are off duty! You are to relax, have a good time, drink a little champagne, dance and rescue me if the ambassador from L3 starts monopolizing my time."
Duo made a face. "Do I really have to dance?"
"You're my escort. Of course you do." She moved away from him, across the room. "Before we go, I have something I want to give you." She picked up a box, wrapped in shiny red paper, off a table next to the staircase and handed it to him. "Merry Christmas Eve, Duo."
Duo took it from her hesitantly. "Aw, princess. You didn't have to get me anything."
"Just open it."
Duo smiled at her and pulled the lid off the box. He stared down at what was inside in shock. "Relena, I... this is... I can't accept this."
Duo pulled the teddy bear out, setting the box aside. The frayed red ribbon had been replaced by a pink one, but the bear still had the well-loved look about it. Duo clutched at the bear, unwilling to accept, unable to let go. "Heero gave this to you. I can't take it."
"Heero's given me lots of things over the years, even other teddy bears. I wish to give this one to you."
"But..." Duo squeezed the bear in his hands, digging his fingers in the soft fur. "This was the first. This is special."
Relena stepped closer to him. "Which is why I'm giving it to you. I don't need to hold on to Heero any longer. That task fell you you long ago." She reached up and pressed the bear to Duo's chest. "Little 'Heero' was a great comfort to me when I needed it. And now I think you need it." When Duo looked like he was about to protest again, Relena placed a finger on his lips. "Don't say no. Please take him."
Duo looked at the bear, then back at Relena. Slowly, he nodded. "All right. Th-thank you. I've... never had a teddy bear before."
Relena smiled. "He'll be good for you, I think. Though be careful, he hogs the covers."
Duo laughed. "Takes after his namesake then."
Relena blushed a little. Duo laughed again.
"I just have to ask one thing, princess."
"Why the pink ribbon?"
Relena winced, looking sheepish. "Sorry about that. The other one was too frayed. And pink was the only color of ribbon I had. You can change it."
Duo shook his head, too amused. "I don't know. I think 'Heero' looks good in pink."
Relena laughed. "I wonder what Heero would say if he heard you say that." She picked her purse off the table. "Shall we go?"
Duo tucked the bear under his arm, sweeping his other toward the door. "Age before beauty."
Relena rolled her eyes as she swept passed him.
Duo sighed as he tossed his crumpled bow tie on the dresser before taking off the jacket of his tuxedo, draping it carefully over the back of a chair. 'Heero' watched his every move from atop the dresser as he took off the trappings of the evening, finding an old set of Heero's flannels to crawl into. He carefully unwound his braid, taking a well-worn brush to his hair as he regarded the bear.
Relena's gift had startled him more than he wanted to admit. When he'd seen the bear, nestled in its pretty box, the child he'd once been had shrieked with joy, while the adult had been reluctant to accept. He knew the bear was special to Relena. He'd made her tell him the whole story of Heero's gift to her while watching the movie a week earlier.
And yet... he'd envied Relena the bear. He'd never had anything a simple and childish as a stuffed animal in all the years of his life. After listening to Relena's story, the old longing had come back. He longed to know if something as simple as fur and stuffing could really bring comfort. Perhaps to a child it would. But would it work for a lonely young man?
He picked up the bear and took it with him to the bed - mattress really. The bed frame was still in storage from the move. He set the animal on Heero's pillow and was looking for a tie to hold his hair back while he slept when the 'phone rang.
Heero was on the other end, looking tired but pleased to see him.
"Hey, you," Duo replied, drinking in the sight of his lover, noticing the dark circles under his eyes. "Been sleeping?"
"Not much." Heero shrugged. "It's hard, without you next to me."
Duo snorted. "I only snuggle because you steal the covers."
Duo sighed. "God, I miss you."
"I miss you, too. And I have a question to ask you."
"Do you have any plans for tomorrow?"
"For Christmas?" Duo gave him a half-hearted shrug. "Relena will probably haul my ass to her place sometime tomorrow morning. But no, not really."
"Good. Because I could use a ride home."
Duo's heart skipped a beat. "You mean..."
"I'll be arriving a little after 9. Think you could come pick me up?"
"Hell yes!" He laughed out loud. "What did you do, Yuy? Hijack a shuttle?"
"Something like that. I have to have it back by the 27th though."
Only two days, but Duo didn't care. Heero would be home for Christmas! "I'll be there." He paused, glancing around the half-set-up room. "I don't have any decorations up or anything."
"Doesn't matter. I just want to be with you."
"That's what I want, too." Duo lifted his hand to place his fingers on the screen. "I'll be there, waiting for you tomorrow."
"I'll see you tomorrow, then. Good night, love."
"Good night." Duo shut off the 'phone, feeling warm inside. Heero was coming home!
He turned to the bed, picking up the bear, the joy evident on his face as he grinned down at the animal. "Sorry, 'Heero.' Looks like all you and me will have is a one-night stand." The bear just stared at him. Duo frowned a moment, before untying the bow around his neck. "Pink really isn't your color." He looked around for a moment before spotting one of Heero's ties hanging partly out of a box in the corner. Duo hurried over, dragging it out. He slipped the tie around the bear's neck, adjusting until it fit.
"It's a little big, but it suits you better than the bow," he said as he carried the bear back to bed.
He slid between the sheets, holding the bear close. It felt good to have something to hold onto. And the tie smelled faintly of Heero's aftershave. Relena was right. It was ... comforting.
He closed his eyes, tired, but joyful. Heero would be home for Christmas. As he drifted off to sleep, he wondered what Heero would think of their new bedmate.