Disclaimers: The characters of Gundam Wing don't belong to me, although they were on my list to Santa. Poo, I guess I should have been good last year… Passages and ideas/characters of A Christmas Carol, also DO NOT belong to be, and I don't really want them. I was just borrowing! Don't sue!

Pairing: 2+1
Warnings: TWT, ghosts, shounen-ai, religious stuff (like you know Christmas), S-A-P up the… chimney
Spoilers: I talk about Duo's episode Zero (I do that a lot don't I?)

Author's Notes: et's get one thing straight: I hate Dickens. Ever read Great Expectations? Don't. BUT, this is … *sigh* a classic, and a good story (probably his best). Ole Dickie had some ingenious passages in there, so I borrowed some. Perhaps I shall cite them! (Have I been in school too long??) Also, I used Dickens' chapter (stave) names because they amused me. I am sure there are tons of these retellings out there, but I've never read any, so I didn't copy yours, ok? Oh, and yeah, I realize that this is completely unfeasible with the actual GW timeline (war ending on christmas and all).

Now, let's forget about my atheism for a moment as mean, grumpy Heero Yuy is visited by three ghosts…

**For Misao - a dear friend**

Granate's Gundam Wing Theater Presents:
A Christmas Carol
by Granate

Stave One: A Mysterious But Somehow Familiar Ghost

Heero Yuy sat at his computer hacking into the OZ network. He wore his usual green tank top and shiny black spandex shorts even though it was the dead of winter. External heat and cold had little influence on Heero. No warmth could warm him, no wintry weather could chill him. No wind that blew was bitter as he, no falling snow was more intent in its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul whether didn't know where to have him, the heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet could boast no advantage over him.

His keen eye caught a glimpse of a passer-by out the window. Strange, he thought. The Gundam pilots were holed up in one of Quatre's remote European estates, no one should be around for miles. Upon closer inspection, he could see that it was Maxwell, bundled up in a huge coat, huge boots, mittens, a scarf, and a red hat. Even stranger than him abandoning his usual black attire, he was dragging a tree through the snow. Yes, a large conifer from the looks of it, probably in the genus Abies.

For the last two days, the American pilot had been preparing for some religious festival, and a bizarre one from the looks of it. From snatches of overheard conversation, it involved a baby, a man and elves living at the north pole (entirely impossible), reindeer, and breaking and entering. It also required candy, presents, socks, candles, lots of baking, and now apparently a tree. A strange ritual indeed.

Duo had somehow talked the others into joining him in this custom, even Wu Fei. Well, they really didn't have anything better to do, there would be no missions for another week, but Heero still refused to participate. Yesterday, Duo had baked all day (Heero was previously unaware that this was among Duo's skills). He had asked Heero several times if he wanted to help, to which Heero had answered 'Bah, Humbug!' every time. He couldn't quite recall where he'd picked up that phrase, but he liked it. The other four had made cookies and other sweets, and started to prepare for some kind of feast that would be held tomorrow.

After some time, Heero heard a pounding on his door, as if someone were trying to put a nail through it. He yanked the door open and glared out. He found Duo with a hammer and a festive branch of evergreen tied with a red bow. Duo wore that ridiculous red hat with the white ball and a surprised expression.

"Hi Heero!" he said cheerfully, "Is this where you've been all afternoon? Man, it's cold in there!"

"What are you doing to my door?" Heero demanded.

"Just adding a little decoration! It's Christmas Eve after all!" Duo exclaimed. His eyes sparkled, and his face was still all ruddy from the cold since Heero's door was the first place he had gone with his evergreen boughs.

"Bah humbug!" Heero grunted.

"Oh, Heero! Don't be cross! Let me add some Christmas cheer to your room!" Duo insisted with a grin.

"Keep your 'Christmas' to yourself!" Heero retorted.

"But Heero, you don't keep Christmas! The point is to give it away!" Duo laughed.

"Go away," Heero told him.

"Come on, Heero, come decorate the tree with me an' the guys! It's so nice and warm by the fire!" Duo offered.

"No. Now, go away," he said again, shutting the door in Duo's face. He heard a slight rustling and opened it again. Duo had hung the branch and was attempting to sneak away.

"You forgot your 'Christmas Cheer,'" Heero said sarcastically, removing the branch and shoving it into Duo's chest.

"But it goes on your door!" Duo insisted, having no choice but to take the branch. He tried to put it back on the nail, but Heero took it down with 'Humbug!" and glared at Duo.

Duo looked like he might have finally given up. He blinked at Heero but couldn't muster a smile. He turned without a word and walked down the hall. Heero pulled the nail out of the door and went back to his computer. He sighed. If today was anything like the last two days, Duo would be back in a few hours, spirits rejuvenated, trying to convince him to join another meaningless activity.

Heero sat down and something poked him in the butt. He jumped up and searched for the culprit. He found and cane-shaped peppermint candy hooked into the waistband of his shorts. "Duo…" he swore. That little sneak must have snagged it there without his noticing while they were arguing about the branch. He put it away in his desk drawer. He decided to go out and get something to eat and then turn in early to avoid the rest of Duo's festivities

Heero snuck past the living room where Trowa and Quatre were nestled on the couch stringing cranberries and popcorn, and Wu Fei and Duo were up on ladders hanging a string of lights on the tree. Heero made his way to the kitchen. All kinds of food were simmering. Not to mention Duo had procured all varieties of fruits and nuts for the occasion, as well as plates and plates of cookies and candy. Heero had no idea how the five of them were going to eat all that. He just made himself a boring sandwich and crept back to his room.

He ate in front of his computer, hacked a while longer, and then went to brush his teeth. On his way back into his room through the dark hallway, he could have sworn his doorknob looked like Wu Fei's face. He blinked and rubbed his eyes. To his relief, it was just a brass knob again. "Pooh, pooh," he said to himself for seeing such things. He locked the door and went to shut his computer down. Wu Fei's face appeared in the screen, scowling at him.

"Humbug!" he grunted at it, completely unafraid. He would have shot it, if it hadn't been part of his beloved computer. He shut off the computer and it went away.

But when he turned around, an apparition was there in full form, arms crossed looking mad.

"Wu Fei?" Heero asked, surprised. It looked just like the Chinese pilot but was white and semi-transparent.

"Incorrect," It stated, "I am not Chang Wu Fei, I am a spirit."

"No you're not. You're not even really here," Heero decided.

"No?" asked the spirit challengingly.

"No, you're just a piece of undigested beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato!" Heero told It. "I'll prove it," he sneered, reaching for the gun on his desk. Heero shot the spirit, and the bullet went right through him into the wall.

But the specter did not disappear. It just looked smug and said, "Tsk, tsk, Quatre is not going to like that hole in the wall."

"Humbug!" Heero grunted, "Fine. What do you want?"

"I have come to warn you that you will be haunted tonight by Three Spirits," the apparition told him, "They want to give you a chance to change, to escape your own dismal fate. You, Heero Yuy have the chance to be happy."

"Me? Happy?" Heero asked doubtfully.

"Yes, but first you must make right with one Duo Maxwell," the spirit said.

"Duo?" Heero asked incredulously.

"Yes. You are mean, nasty, and cruel, and he doesn't deserve that kind of treatment after all he's done for you, or TRIED to do for you," the ghost said in a disapproving voice. He certainly had Chang's hard black eyes.

"Duo?! But I don't want anything from him! I just want to be left alone!" Heero insisted.

"Hey!" the phantom cut in sharply, "Don't punish him just because you don't want to admit your own feelings!"

"What?!" Heero exclaimed. Feelings? For Duo?!

"Yes, you push him away because you believe that by listening to your feelings, you will jeopardize your mission and both of you will be put in danger. You think that you cannot allow yourself to love," the spirit informed him, "Oh, and then there's the fact that you're just plain scared of love."

"I don't know what you're talking about!" Heero growled.

"Ugh, stupid mortals," the ghost sighed, rolling its eyes. "Anyway, be ready for these three ghosts tonight. Without their visits, you cannot hope to shun the grim path. Expect the first when the bells toll ten."

"Why don't I just have them all at once and get it over with," Heero asked, always looking for ways to be more efficient.

"No," the spirit retorted, "Expect the second when the bells toll eleven, and the third when the stroke of twelve has ceased to vibrate. You won't see me again." And with that, the spirit disappeared.

"Yeah, yeah, three ghosts, whatever," Heero yawned as he got into bed.

Stave Two: The First of the Three Spirits.

Heero awoke as the clock in the hallway chimed ten. As it finished, his door opened a crack and then shut quietly.

"Hey!" he shouted, reaching for the gun under his pillow, "Who's there!!" He took aim at the door.

A match flared in the room and a candle in a lantern was lit. Heero could now make out the first of the three excepted spirits. It looked remarkably like Quatre, very bright and cherub-like. It wore a tunic of the purest white, and around Its waist was bound a lustrous belt, the sheen of which was beautiful. It held a branch of fresh holly in its hand.

"Quatre?" Heero asked.

"Nope!" It giggled.

"Then you are the spirit I was told to expect," Heero figured, gun still aimed on the figure.

"That's right!" It answered in Quatre's kind voice.

"Well, what do you want?" Heero asked, putting the gun away. Might as well get down to business.

"I am the Ghost of Christmas Past," the spirit told him.

"So? Why are you here, interrupting my sleep?" Heero asked crossly.

"I am here for your welfare! I am going to show you the past. Hold on!" It warned as it grabbed his arm and began to levitate.

"What?" Heero frowned.

"We're going to see the past, come on," the spirit said. The Being began to fly out into the wintry sky and Heero found himself actually frightened for a minute. Suddenly, they were flying over a city on a space colony.

The spirit landed and let Heero free. He silently led Heero down a dark and snowy street, past several brightly lit buildings and to a church. The spirit seemed to float above the snow.

"This is Duo's fondest Christmas memory," the Spirit said softly, motioning to a window. "These are but shadows of the things that have been, and have no consciousness of us."

Heero gave him a skeptical look, but peered through the window anyway. It was the church orphanage, Maxwell's, he was sure. He heard the cheerful music and saw the bright lights and children laughing and playing by a large decorated tree, much like the one in the living room he had seen. Innumerable little stockings hung on the wall, each named. Decorations of different types filled the other walls and shelves. Little paper cut-outs of stars, trees, snowflakes, angels, sheep, and reindeer adorned the windows. Heero felt a pang in his heart, knowing what would happen to these children and this happy place. All except Duo.

He picked Duo out right away. He looked about seven years old, but so much the same. His braid was shorter, but he had messy bangs, gigantic cobalt eyes that sparkled with mischief, and an ear-to-ear grin. He was seated at a table, his legs not nearly reaching the floor. He was helping a tall blond woman cut cookies. When she was distracted a moment, he snuck a taste of the dough, and gave her watery innocent eyes when her gaze returned. Then she smiled at him and helped him put the cookie he'd just cut on the tray. They smiled and laughed and other kids joined them too. An older man in a priest collar entered the room and all the kids ran squealing to meet him. He hugged them all and let Duo lead him to the tree by the hand. Duo reached under the tree, and gave him a small box with a big green bow. Suddenly, Heero could hear them.

"Did you steal it Duo? Hmmmmm?" the Father asked jokingly as he tickled the boy.

"No, no!" Duo squealed through his laughter. Heero had no idea Duo was ticklish. Father released the giggling child and untied the bow. Duo nearly bounced up and down in excitement. Father opened the box and pulled out a little hand-made, hand-bound book. Father flipped through it.

"Duo, it's the gospel of Luke, isn't it?" Father asked, eyes shining.

"Uh huh! When the baby's born in the stable!" little Duo exclaimed.

"Yes, I see the crowded inn, and stable, and the star there, and the shepards, and the magi… And you drew all of these?" he asked with a smile.

"Yup, just for you!" Duo grinned back.

The Father poked Duo in the stomach again, teasing, "I thought you didn't believe in God!"

Duo giggled and squirmed away. "I like that part," he explained.

The Father took the boy in his arms and said, "Duo, it's beautiful!"

Duo jumped up and down when he was released and ran back to cookie making.

"With the rebels not far away and all the economic problems of this colony, you must be thinking that these people are so silly for being so joyous and cheerful," the ghost sighed, breaking Heero's spell. Heero looked at the street and didn't say anything. The spirit lead him down the road a ways, saying, "And this is Duo's next Christmas."

They stopped in an alleyway. A small boy tried to get near a fire made by two bums. He wore only a thin black coat, his braid tucked inside.

"Shoo! Go on! Get out of here, you rat!" the men said, scaring him off. The boy wandered away and huddled in a doorway and pulled his knees up to his chin. Heero saw tears streaming down his cheeks before his face was hidden against his arms. "Father, forgive me," the child sniffled. "I'm going to have to steal to live again. You'll forgive me, won't you?" the boy whispered, getting up.

Heero looked away as the little boy headed off in the other direction. He swallowed hard and looked at the spirit.

"Come, we have other times to visit," the specter said. He grabbed Heero again and they flew to a military harbor back on earth. Duo was hidden behind some crates, watching unconscious Heero be taken away to the military hospital.

"So, he's the pilot of that suit I found, huh?" Duo said to himself as he observed. "The fool! He just about destroyed BOTH our suits!" Duo growled. He watched silently for another moment as the ambulance drove away. He sighed and shook his head. "Well, they're gonna realize immediately that he's not one of theirs. That dumb girl, how stupid could she be?! Well, I guess I better get him out of there. I shot him, after all! Shooting your allies is bad manners!"

~ ~ ~

Heero saw himself, jumping from the hospital window and not pulling his parachute. He heard Duo yelling at him to pull the cord. His fall looked a lot worse than he remembered it. Duo stalked over, visibly upset. Duo supported him as they escaped to Howard's ship.

~ ~ ~

And there he was again, limping around the ship with a wrench taped to the leg he'd set. Duo approached.

"Hey, I need that wrench," he said, "Besides, you should have proper splint for that." He waved a proper splint in front of Heero and offered to help him with it. Heero snatched the splint and spitefully insisted on doing it by himself. He turned away. Duo looked concerned, but he said, "Fine, do it your way. But I want that wrench!" as if it were no big deal.

~ ~ ~

Heero now saw himself in a bunk on that ship. There was a knock on the door.

"Go away," he said gruffly.

Duo entered. "Hey, I brought you some food!" he said cheerfully. "You should eat more, you'll get better faster!"

"Leave it. Go away," Heero growled.

Duo cocked his eyebrow and laughed. "Ok!" he chuckled, putting the plate on the table and leaving.

~ ~ ~

Then Heero saw something miraculous. Duo watched late at night as Heero removed parts from the Deathscythe and used them to fix Wing. Duo had been there! He had seen it all and allowed Heero to steal the parts! Heero blinked in disbelief before the scene changed.

~ ~ ~

Now they were at boarding school. Heero thought about the exchanges he'd seen on the boat. That hadn't even been half of them, but a decent representative sample of the way he'd treated Duo. At the school, Duo was knocking on his door. Heero answered and told him to go away.

"Hey, wanna catch a movie with me and some kids?" Duo asked brightly.

"No. Leave," Heero said, closing the door.

"Ok, catch ya later!" Duo called to closed door as he went off.

Heero saw the same scene over and over. 'Heero, want to go to a party?' 'Hey, Heero, how about going to the orchestra concert, I hear they're good!' 'Hey, I'm going into town, do you need anything?' 'Wanna play a little one-on-one?' Over and over, he shoved Duo out and demanded to be left alone. Heero felt his stomach turning into knots.

~ ~ ~

"No!! Oh, god, Heero, NO!"

Duo's angry shouting was the first thing Heero heard. He was now seeing Duo in Deathscythe's cockpit. Duo was watching the screen as he stepped out of Wing's cockpit with the detonation device. Duo went silent as Wing blew up. He'd never seen such an agonized expression come over the American pilot. "Oh, Heero," Duo whispered, squeezing his eyes shut.

~ ~ ~

Duo was in a dim room. He knelt and put his hands together.

"Uh, God? I don't usually do this, because I don't even believe in you," he started to say out loud. "But something happened yesterday, and it's so bad that only you could possibly fix it. In other words, I'm desperate. I know I've done a lot of bad things, and I'm a terrible, wretched person, and I don't even deserve for you to hear me, but this isn't for me, it's for a friend of mine. Someone I really like. Although I seriously doubt there is an entity in existence strong enough to undo a self-detonating Gundam (no offense), I thought I'd ask. Please let Heero be ok. Please? We need him here. Besides, he's too damn stubborn to die isn't he? Even though that seems to be all he wants sometimes... But please let him live. I… I don't know why, but I really care about him. It's like, someone's got to, you know? Sometimes I wonder if maybe this is some kind of punishment for all the things awful I've done, that I should care so much about someone who hates me and himself. It's ok, I'll take that burden, but please please let him be ok…"

"Take me home!" Heero begged softly, not sure he could bear to hear more.

"But there's more!" the little sprite told him.

"I know! I know there's more! We haven't even gotten to when we were in the Oz prison together yet…." Heero nearly sighed thinking about how Duo had taken care of him, "But just let me go home. I get the point, ok? I'm a total asshole."

"Now, you're not giving yourself enough credit. There is one more you must see," the Quatre-ghost insisted.

Heero saw himself sitting - no, sleeping, in a chair. Duo was in the bed next to it, looking like tenderized meat. Duo started to cry out in his sleep. The Heero in the chair awoke instantly and turned to him. He gently touched Duo's shoulders and comforted him.

Then Heero was changing bandages on the same battered Duo. A tiny TINY smile appeared on Heero's face as he saw himself concentrate so intently on combing Duo's long hair and putting it back in a braid. He had not forgotten how much he'd enjoyed doing that. He even fed Duo, refusing to let him do it himself, even though Duo insisted that he could, broken fingers and all. Duo looked just as pouty and insolent as Heero remembered as he spooned soup into the boy's mouth. He then helped Duo to bed again, watching over him as he fell asleep.

"Oh, and don't forget this one!!" the spirit cut in cheerfully as the scene changed to Heero helping Duo in the bath. Heero gave the spirit a death-glare. Duo's wet bangs mostly covered his eyes, but he was obviously embarrassed to be helped at taking a bath. However, they both knew his broken ribs didn't allow for much movement. Heero looked embarrassed too, as he scrubbed Duo's arm as gently as he knew how.

"Why were you so embarrassed? Hmmmmm??" the spirit asked, butting in again, "He's just another boy. Like when you shower with your gym class, right??" The sprite batted his eyes and grinned.

"That's it! You are taking me back NOW," Heero demanded, looking away as he began washing Duo's legs. It had been tough enough to actually DO it at the time, much less have to watch himself struggle through it all over again.

"All right," the spirit relented. He grabbed Heero, and they flew back to his room at the estate. Heero felt exhausted.

Stave Three: The Second of the Three Spirits.

"You're late," a cool voice said when Heero arrived back in his room with the First Spirit. The new spirit looked startlingly like Trowa. He was leaning against the bedpost, arms crossed. He wore a deep green robe, with the hood up.

"Sorry!" the first spirit apologized, "But you know we had a lot to get through, he's been a real jerk!" Heero glared at him.

"Well, that is true," the Second Spirit nodded. He was silent a moment and then asked, "So, did you get to the bath scene?"

"Oh yes!" the first spirit said with a bright smile.

"Good," he nodded with a knowing smile. The blond spirit giggled again and Heero glared at them both. He was tempted to use his gun, but he didn't want to waste the bullets.

"Well, I'll take it from here," the bigger one said, smiling at the littler one.

"Ok, see you later," the first spirit said, disappearing.

Heero sat tiredly on his bed. "Let me guess," he said wearily, "The Ghost of Christmas Present?"

"Good guess," the tall ghost breathed, "I'm here to show you the things you haven't seen the last few days. Just touch my robe."

Heero obediently got up and did as he was told, suddenly, they were in the kitchen two days ago. Duo was alone agonizing over a menu plan. "Okeeeeee," he muttered to himself, rubbing his nose with the end of the pen, "No red meat for Quatre… wanted to do the roast… hmmmmm guess not. Uhhhhh fish? Yes, Heero likes fish too… wonder if I can get any," he scribbled something down, "…hey, how 'bout Maxwell's Soup? I could probably make that! Nothing offensive about potatoes, carrots, onions, celery and chicken! I can even have the chicken on the side in case Quatre doesn't want it. Why didn't I think of this before!" He gleefully scribbled more things down. "Heh, kind of reminds me of the time…." he started to turn a little red, "I still think I could have eaten it on my own…."

~ ~ ~

Heero looked on as the four Gundam pilots sat around the kitchen table with yarn, cloth and a few accessories.

"Now, what are we supposed to make again?" Wu Fei snorted, leaning back in his chair.

"Stockings, Chang. Like this," Duo said, holding a pattern up for observation.

"No one could actually wear that, Maxwell," Wu Fei said disapprovingly.

"Ah, see, that's not the point, Wu Fei!" Duo reminded him, "The point is to get presents in them! And the bigger the better, trust me! And trust me that if you make one, you will get a present!"

"Is this the part where that guy comes down the chimney?" Quatre asked, trying to clarify the myth. He still didn't get how this Claus guy related to the birth of the baby, but oh well.

"You got it, Quat!" Duo nodded. "Santa Claus comes down the chimney on Christmas Eve and leaves presents for all the good boys and girls."

"All of them in one night?" Wu Fei scoffed, tracing the stocking pattern on some green fabric, "Entirely impossible."

"Well, YEAH, but kids don't know that!" Duo laughed, "So you hang these by the fireplace, and Santa leaves presents in them. You know, I think I'll go ask Heero if he wants to join us." Duo got up and left, but was back in a minute.

"He didn't want to. Looks like he's busy with Oz stuff," Duo shrugged, "So, I'll make his for him."

"Trowa?" Quatre asked, turning very lightly pink, "May I… may I make yours for you?"

Trowa's green eyes shifted over to the blond boy next to him and blinked. Then he nodded and smiled a little. "I'll make yours," he said softly.

The boys got to work. Wu Fei made a stink about not being allowed to hang one for Nataku. He made one for her anyway, vowing to hang it in the garage. They all sat around waiting for Duo to finish Heero's. Quatre made them all hot chocolate.

"Maxwell, are you done yet?" Wu Fei asked impatiently.

"Almost," he said, cutting out the last felt letter. "Wait. Do you think he prefers it spelled with an 'ee' or an 'i'? Or maybe 'ii'? Hmmmm…."

"Duo, I don't think he cares," Quatre yawned.

Duo left if with an 'ee' because it was closer to the English spelling of 'hero,' and he thought it was fitting. He looked the stocking over. It was red, with green fuzz at the top. The heel and toe were glittered with gold, and Heero's name was in white letters going diagonal down it. "Oh wait, I didn't do mine," he laughed after he announced he was done.

"You spent all that time on Yuy's?" Wu Fei asked, making a face.

"Yeah, well, I had to get it right. You know, the stocking must be the embodiment of the person," Duo poked fun at himself. He quickly threw one together for himself. "Hold on, maybe he wants to hang them with us," Duo suggested, disappearing again.

~ ~ ~

The boys hung the stockings without Heero.

The scene was always the same. The others doing some kind of activity, Duo leaving to get Heero and coming back without him. Baking cookies, decorating cookies, hanging lights, making the evergreen boughs, hanging the evergreen boughs, making other decorations, putting the tree up, making the ornaments, decorating the tree, starting the soup. No one else ever suggested they go get Heero, no one else ever went to get him. Sometimes, when Duo was gone, the others looked at one another with concerned glances.

"Do you see?" asked the phantom, "He wants to include you. Don't ask me why, but he likes you."

"Yes, I see," Heero responded almost sadly.

"Now I will show you the actual present," the ghost promised. Suddenly, they were standing in the living room. All the lights were off except those on the tree, and a fire snapped in the fireplace. They could see Duo, sleeping in front of the tree. The stockings were full, and there were wrapped gifts under the tree now that hadn't been there before.

"He fell asleep putting them out," the ghost smiled at Duo, "The last few days must have been exhausting."

Heero looked away from the sleeping figure. "I am I done yet?" he asked miserably. The ghost gave him a little smile too, and he found himself back in his room. He felt doubly exhausted and crawled into bed.

Stave Four: The Last of the Spirits.

Heero awoke from a deep sleep to the feeling of being watched. He opened his eyes to see Duo lying on his side next to him in the bed, watching him with fond, amethyst eyes.

"Duo?!" he cried, bolting upright.

The figure rolled onto his back and stretched out, lacing his hands behind his head and closing his eyes. "Nope, wrong guy," he said easily. Heero now noticed that this being was much bigger than Duo, although looking almost just like him. Perhaps the way Duo would look in five or six years with proper nutrition and exercise.

A thick mist had blanketed the room; Heero couldn't even see the floor. He reasoned that this must be the last spirit. "Uhhh, so where are you taking me?" he asked, looking down at the reclined figure. He noticed It was dressed all in black leather, boots, pants, and jacket.

The specter peeled one cobalt eye open. "Oh, are you ready then?" he asked, propping up on one elbow, "Cause, you know, it was kind of nice just lying here. Sometimes, I forget just how damn cute you were at fifteen. Just wait till you grow up!"

"What?" Heero said, utterly confused.

"Oh nothing," the ghost coughed. Although his face was older, he had Duo's small, upturned nose.

Heero didn't really know what to make of that statement. "Aren't you going to show me my future or something?"

The ghost chuckled and stood up. "You guessed it! Sorry, I can be soooo bad with the intros!" the spirit laughed, "I am the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come!" As he stood, Heero got a good look at the very-familiar chestnut braid dangling down his back. It reached down to the middle of his butt, drawing Heero's attention there.

"I fear you more than any specter I have seen," Heero uttered out loud, his face set with worry. He knew his future was probably an ugly thing. At least such a beautiful creature would be showing it to him.

"Hey, don't worry, man," It tried to comfort him, "I'm only here to do you good, so just pay attention and everything will turn out fine. Well, some things will be WAY better than fine, but I'll let you discover that for yourself!" the specter winked.

Heero had no idea what he was talking about.

He followed the spirit out into the hallway, and the mist seemed to follow him. He led Heero down a hall that Heero didn't remember being there. They stopped before the first door.

"Ok, we're going to do the bad first," the spirit said, looking a little concerned himself, "And to make this easier on you, I'm putting you in a setting that will be familiar to you. This will show you what will happen if you come away from this experience unchanged. I'll pull you out when you get overwhelmed."

He opened the door to the room, and suddenly Heero was strapping himself into the cockpit of the Epyon. He knew immediately this would not be pleasant. He obediently put the helmet on and the images started after a minute or so.

Pain. Suffering. More pain. Loneliness. Cold. Self-hatred. Fear. The pain he felt in his heart was so real, and it built and compounded until his heart literally tore and then his death flashed before him. Thousands of possible deaths assailed him one after another, each more terrible than the last until he was screaming out loud.

Heero found himself shaking and clinging to the Future Ghost. He opened his eyes and let go embarrassedly, but the ghost held him tightly. He realized that the ghost was quite a bit bigger than he was. His strong arms felt very comforting.

"Hmmm, I take it you won't be choosing that path, eh little one?" It said gently as it released him. "Ok, are you ready for the good future?" It asked with a roguish Duo-like grin.

"I am," Heero answered, taking a deep breath.

"Heero Yuy, this can be your future if you take the lessons we have shown you to heart!" the ghost promised, opening the next door with a flourish.

Inside, he saw Duo, buck-naked on a bed, wrists tied to the headboard with a big red bow, a green velvet band covering his eyes, and a huge smile on his face. Heero entered, also naked, also smiling. He walked over and ran a palm up the long-haired boy's stomach. Duo squirmed under him. Heero had one of those cane-shaped peppermints. He traced it along Duo's lips and the boy caught it with his tongue and sucked on it gratefully. Heero moved to get on the bed -

Blood spurted out of Heero's nose and he collapsed to his knees.

"Oops!" the ghost exclaimed, slamming the door shut, "Wrong one! Wasn't supposed to show you that!" The specter offered Heero a hanky and helped him up.

"I meant this," the phantom said as he opened the next door.

All the pilots except Duo sat around a nicely decorated table. Duo entered the dining room with a big pot of soup and placed it on the table. He followed that with bowls of steamed vegetables to add as they desired. Duo served everyone and then happily sat down next to Heero. Everyone looked happy and content, and great compliments were made about the soup. Then the scene vanished.

"Well, what do you think?" the phantom asked, kneeling down next to Heero, who's nose hadn't stopped bleeding yet.

"I… I think I know what I should do," Heero said, still pinching his nose shut.

"Good," the ghost winked, "But don't try that one right away, you might scare him!"

"Huh?" Heero asked in confusion, dabbing the last of the blood away.

"Heh, never mind!" the ghost grinned. "I guess I'll send you back then!" It exclaimed.

Heero was about to ask how that would be done when the spirit grabbed him by the shoulders and kissed him full on the mouth. Heero struggled, then relaxed and everything went black.

Stave Five: The End of It.

Heero jerked awake to find himself back in bed. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the time before him was his own to make amends in!

"I will live in the Past, Present, and the Future!" Heero cried as he scrambled out of bed in the dark room, "The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me!"[1]

As he reached for a light, he found something in his hand. The light on, he could see that it was the handkerchief, blood now gone. He wondered how long he'd been asleep. His clock said it was only 12:30am! He still had plenty of time to fix things! And it was Christmas Day! He was going to make things right, and he knew just where to start.

Heero slunk out to the living room, where Duo was still sound asleep. The fire had died down some, though. Heero grabbed a pillow and a throw blanket from the couch and knelt by the sleeping boy. He gently lifted Duo's head and rested it on the pillow and then spread the blanket over him. Duo sighed and made a few noises in his sleep but his eyes never opened. Heero couldn't help smiling at him.

He rose and stood by the mantle. "First, I'm going to fix this," he said, removing Duo's shoddy stocking. "After all," he whispered to his sleeping friend, "I owe you one!"

Heero found where Duo had put the craft materials and took them to his room. On the way, Heero found the bough meant for his door and hung it with the nail he got from his desk. Then he set to work making Duo's new stocking. He cut it out of black felt, and decorated the edge of it with white fuzz, just like Duo had done on his. Then he glittered the heel and toe silver, and cut Duo's name out of tin foil for the front. He wanted to put Shinigami, Duo's moniker, but it wouldn't fit and he got the feeling that The God of Death wasn't really in the 'Christmas Spirit.' D-U-O would just have to do. He sewed the faces together and replaced the old stocking. Realizing it was empty, he decided to tuck the hanky and the candy-cane inside.

He wondered what he could give his friends. He didn't have much money and it was too late to buy anything anyway. He didn't know how to make any crafts, and he didn't really know how to cook or bake anything. He wandered into the dining room and had an epiphany. He decided to set the table for five, in exactly the beautiful way he'd seen it in his vision. Heero was not very creative when it came to crafts, but he found the table linens in the closet and some of the left over decorations the others had made.

Finally, the table was set with plenty of red and green, as those seemed to be the colors of choice. Evergreen boughs and candles were spread out along the table, and the good china was set perfectly in the pattern he'd memorized staring at his plate during Relena's boring dinners in the Sank Kingdom. Then he tied a big red bow around the back of each of the five chairs.

On the way back to his room, Heero passed Duo still asleep on the floor. The vision of Duo naked on the bed flashed in his mind. Luckily, his nose didn't start to bleed again, but he was tempted to crawl under that blanket, curl up around Duo, and hold him for a little while. So, that's exactly what he did. It felt very nice to hold Duo. Duo sighed in his sleep and nestled back into him. Heero tightened his arms, and Duo woke up. The long-haired boy instantly turned around to see who was lying next to him.

"He - Heero?" he asked in disbelief and scuttled away a few feet. Heero sat up, still in the blanket, and tried not to be embarrassed.

"You looked cold," he said lamely.

"Oh," Duo said, blinking at him in confusion. "Oh, did I fall asleep out here?"

Heero nodded.

"But I thought you went to bed hours ago," Duo said cocking his head.

"I did," Heero confirmed, "But I got up to make a few Christmas surprises." He tried to look stern and crossed his arms, but a tiny smile crept onto his lips.

"You made Christmas surprises?" Duo asked dubiously, arching an eyebrow. "You, Mr. Humbug?"

"Yes, I did. I had a little… uhhh change of heart tonight…" Heero tried to explain. "But I can't let you see them, so I will have to blindfold you and lead you to your room," Heero said very seriously.

Duo was dumb-founded. "Um, ok I guess," he agreed. He wondered if maybe this was a strange dream or something. While the idea of being blindfolded by Heero appealed to him, it was still pretty strange.

Heero told Duo to close his eyes and Duo did as he was instructed. Heero jumped up and returned in a second with a scarf. He gently tied the scarf around Duo's eyes and then helped him up. He steered Duo around each obstacle and got him safely to his room. The vision of Duo blindfolded on the bed entered his head again, and he licked his lips. Instead of removing the blindfold, he gave Duo a quick kiss.

"There's one surprise," he whispered, and bolted out the door to the safety of his own room.

Shocked, Duo pulled the scarf off, but Heero was already gone. "Now I'm sure this is just a dream!" he said to himself in disbelief.

Duo woke up Christmas morning and remembered his weird dream. He was sure it was a dream… until he went to go brush his teeth and saw the cheery evergreen bough on Heero's door. He dismissed it readily, maybe one of the other guys had put it back up. But no one else was up yet…

Duo entered the kitchen and found Heero searching through all the cupboards.

"Heero!" Duo exclaimed.

"Duo!" Heero growled, "You're peeking at one of my surprises!"

"I am?" Duo asked.

"Yes, but now that you're here, I could use your help," Heero admitted, "I wanted to make breakfast for everyone, but… ummmm I don't know how to make anything…" Heero said helplessly.

"That's what I was going to do too!" Duo smiled, "We could make cinnamon rolls, I bought all the ingredients."

"Ok," Heero agreed.

"Duo, why do you like Christmas so much?" Heero asked as he greased the pan the rolls would go in. He was under the impression Duo was no longer religious.

Duo emptied a teaspoon of baking soda into his flour and shrugged. "Fond memories, I guess. I don't really believe in all that stuff, but any excuse to give and get presents is fine by me! You know, a little warmth in the middle of the coldest time of year. It's a nice thought, really."

Duo mixed the dry ingredients and paused in a rather uncharacteristic way. "Do you know the stories, Heero? The baby born in the stable?" he asked.

"I suppose I've heard it somewhere," Heero answered, getting the eggs from the fridge.

"I guess I just like that story," Duo admitted quietly, "That a poor boy born in a stable with the animals could… could be the savior of mankind. That if God had a son, he wouldn't have to be rich or special, he could just be a normal kid, you know?" Duo blew his bangs out of his eyes and laughed a little. "It's silly I guess," he smiled sheepishly at his batter.

Heero didn't think it was silly, not at all, but he didn't say anything. He didn't know the myths that well, but he liked the way Duo told them. Both boys were silent as Duo finished the dough.

"Heero?" Duo asked, breaking the silence but not looking up from kneading the dough, "Did you make me that black stocking out there? Is that why you were creeping around the living room at one in the morning?"

"Yes," Heero nodded, "You made me one, so I figured I should reciprocate."

"Why are you being so nice suddenly? It's kind of creeping me out…" Duo said wearily.

"Like I said, I had a little… epiphany last night about what a jerk I've been," Heero answered as he mixed the caramel topping. "Especially to you," he added.

"Oh," Duo said thoughtfully. Suddenly, Heero was standing next to him, so close it was unnerving.

"Here, taste this to see if it's right," Heero insisted, holding a spoon rather threateningly in front of Duo's lips. Surprised, Duo felt himself backing up against the counter until Heero had him pinned against it. Obligingly, Duo opened his mouth and let the other pilot place the sweet-covered spoon on his tongue. He closed his lips and Heero pulled the spoon out. Slowly.

Duo blinked at Heero, mere inches away, and some how remembered to give an answer.

"Uhm… good," he said, smacking his tongue a little, "Perfect, I think."

A tiny smile appeared in Heero's face as he turned back to his glaze. Duo was glad Heero wasn't looking at him, because he was blushing fuscia at the moment. Being fed by Heero was becoming a little too enjoyable.

They finished the rolls and put them in the oven to bake. While they waited for the smell to wake the others, Duo suggested they continue soup preparation.

"Will this be messy?" Heero asked, going to the pantry for something he had spotted earlier.

Duo gave him a funny look. "Well, it shouldn't be," he answered, puzzled. Heero approached with something in his hand.

"Here, I think you should wear this," Heero said and slipped an apron over Duo's head before he could answer. It was a cheesy 'Kiss the Cook' apron. Heero crossed the strings behind the other boy's back and used them to pull Duo against him.

"Heero?" Duo questioned him softly as Heero bent to kiss him on the mouth. His eyes fluttered shut and he passionately returned Heero's kiss. The warmth of Heero's lips was unlike anything he'd ever experienced. He thanked what ever gods or devils were behind Heero's turn around

Heero also thanked the spirits that he had been directed towards happiness. He encircled Duo's waist with his arms, and he felt like he'd been given a most wondrous gift.

[1] Cheesy line straight from the book, ya'll. I mean, you *know* I'm cheesy, but not THAT cheesy Yeesh..

And the genus Abies would be fir trees. Except for Douglas firs, cause they aren't true firs.


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