COMMENTS: See, I thought "Celebrations" was the end of this branch. Then some things happened in the Rejects Arc that made me think. And the song suggested interesting things. So I took the ending from "Celebrations" (which originally ran through the 2nd of January AC207) and used it as the seed for this.

WARNINGS: yaoi, mild limeness

BGM: "Flora's Secret " from Enya's album "A Day Without Rain"

A Soldiers and Fools Story
Late April, AC 208
by LoneWolf

The breeze flitted jauntily along its appointed patrol through the small meadow. It wasn't a large responsibility in the grand scheme of things, and the breeze knew that. The meadow was big enough for the breeze, but not quite too big. In other words, the breeze though, Nature had done her job perfectly.

It was a pleasant patrol. The breeze had seen the white icescapes to the north, cold, barren and flat, and the arid deserts to the west, where there was nothing but sand and rock for miles, and the thick forests to the south with tree branches that tore at it. No wonder stronger winds were known to attack trees. But here, the breeze had tall grass to ripple and wildflowers to add their scent to it. Birds and bees and dragonflies and butterflies to play with and the occasional rabbit with fur to ruffle and a nose to pick up the scents the breeze brought. There were a couple of trees in the meadow, but they were fluffy trees and tickled rather than scratched when the breeze played in their branches.

As it moved to the tree in the northeast part of the meadow, it came across something new. Well, the breeze had seen them before, though they had only started appearing here recently. They always flattened out a small patch of the grass under the largest tree and laid there for part of the day. This annoyed the breeze because it liked playing in the grass, which it couldn't do with the strangers' flattened patch. True, it had the whole rest of the meadow it could play in, but it was the principle of the thing. They also didn't smell as nice as the wildflowers. They wouldn't play like the flying animals. About the only thing they did have going for them was fur, though not much of it, and the strange tail one had growing from the back of its head, which the breeze could sometimes flip and twist.

The breeze didn't like them. It thought of the northern ice in hopes it could chill them into leaving and never coming back.

The breeze didn't have much hope, though. That tactic had never worked before. After a few minutes, it gave up and resumed its patrol of the meadow.


" '02 January AC 207. The day'-- Damn it Heero, I can't read this if you keep putting your hand there."

Heero moved the offending hand and leaned away from Duo. "Sorry. Laying naked in the grass with you, I get carried away sometimes."

"Of course, if you'd rather put your hand there…"

Heero laughed. "I would, but I like this one. It's one of my favorites."

Duo shook his head. "You say that about all of them." He turned back to the journal before him and found his spot again. Heero leaned in close so he could see the drawings that went with the words. He put an arm around Duo, but kept it discreetly away from any especially erogenous areas.

"Okay," Duo said.


-- 02 January AC 207 --

The day after New Years. The day before we left on our next assignment -- teaching new recruits basic anti-terrorist stuff in Costa Rica, which was fun because we got to use real explosives and scare the Hell out of the kids. Listen to me. Calling them kids. Half of them are older than us.

Anyway, Heero went out to buy a stock of eggnog that might last us a week -- there are advantages to having access to a private jet if we really want it. I went to check the mail. The desk attendant handed me a package -- about the size of an average box of chocolates, wrapped in plain brown paper, no return address, Heero's name on it in neat block letters. In other words, it looked a Hell of a lot like a bomb.

Who would be trying to kill Heero? Well, probably a few people. We had both pissed off the odd lunatic terrorist here and there over the past few years. I told the attendant to get the security video copied onto something I could watch upstairs and let me know when it was ready. I took the package with me, handling it delicately.

Heero came back about a half hour later. I came out of the bathroom to find him holding the package, his pocketknife's blade sliding under the end to slice it open.


He didn't. I launched myself at him for some insane reason, as if I could save him and not get killed in the process -- or maybe dying with him was the idea. I meant it when I told Hilde I'd give him my heart if he was dying and needed one. Of course, he'd've been pissed off when he woke up and I was dead, but I'd pissed him off a lot of times before.

"Damn it, Duo. What are you doing?" he shouted.

"What am I doing? You're the idiot who opened a mail bomb." That's when I realized that (a) we were both still alive because (b) there had been no explosion. "Anoouu. Why didn't it explode?" I eyed the package he was still holding gingerly in one hand and heard that soft, dry laughter of his. It took me a minute to realize Heero was laughing at me. "Damn it, Heero. I just saved your life."

"No, baka. You just got yourself killed." Anyone could have seen that smile. "You love me too much for your own good. Get off of me and I'll show you why it didn't explode."

As I climbed up from the floor, I wondered if Heero had figured out how to miss the trip wire. I knew he was good, but I'd never guessed he was that good.

He reached into the package and pulled out one of those suncatcher things that you hang in a window. It was roughly triangular and curled slightly as if it was part of something roundish -- kinda cone shaped. A red dragonfly on a green and yellow-green background with nodules of blue and bits of orange near the top. I looked at it trying to decide which of the two dozen questions in my head I would ask first. Then he laid it over the lampshade and the light shone through it.

I sat down on the bed as if I'd been punched in the gut.

"I told Ian about you and the dragonfly lamps at Christmas. He found a broken one a couple of years ago in an old house he was renovating. This was the only whole dragonfly. He remembered it when he found it in a drawer in his study yesterday. He didn't have anywhere to put it, so he called to ask if I thought you'd like to have it." He hung the chain over the knob on top of the lamp then sat beside me, looking at it. "It *is* beautiful," he said.

"Heero… I… How can I--"

He put a hand over my mouth and said, "Look at it with me and tell me about it."

It was the same gentle tone he'd used a few days before when he'd told me gifts are free, and it reminded me of that day. I sat, thinking, wondering what I could do to thank him.

I got up and knelt beside the bed and pulled out the notebook I always carry with my sketchbook now. I handed it to him then climbed in bed beside him. He looked at me for a minute, as if waiting for a cue.

"Go ahead."

I watched as he opened it and started reading, waiting to see if he would catch it. His eyes stop moving after the first few lines. He looked up at me. "Settle down?"

"I've been thinking the past couple of weeks. We have a lot of vacation time saved up. We never did get to our vacation on the beach. … And, yeah, I'd kinda like to settle down. We've been living on the Preventer's tab for five years, so we have plenty of money saved up. And I have a bundle from the gallery I never really told you about. We could build a house and I could design the windows and you could pick out the furniture and we'll hang the dragonfly in the kitchen window and--"

He stopped me with his hand over my mouth again. "Yes." He smiled. "Tell me about the dragonfly, then we'll read your diary."

I nodded and put my arm around his shoulders and pulled him against me and laid my head against his, staring at the living thing of glass hanging over the lampshade. "Louis Comfort Tiffany made glass like no one before or since…"

Sometimes sharing a gift together is the greatest celebration there is for two people who love each other.


"Finish it."

Duo sighed. "Demanding, smug bastard." He turned the page.


After I finished my rambling, he pulled out his palm comp and tapped on the screen. I wondered what he was doing until he handed it to me and I saw the number on the screen with six zeros before the decimal point.

"Huh?" I scanned it again and realized it was an account balance. An account in his name. Apparently I wasn't the only one who'd been keeping a little stash. "And where the Hell did this come from, Perfect Bastard-san?"

"Little hacking jobs on the side." His mouth was somewhere between a smug smile and a smug smirk. Either way, it was smug and he was pleased with himself. "Testing security for companies. I thought extra money might be useful one day."

"Damn! This is almost as much as I have." I grinned at him. "We can have one Hell of a nice house, y'know. We might even be able to retire when we're done."

He was quiet for a minute, then shook his head. "It will be nice to have more time to spend with you not working, but I enjoy what we do."

I nodded. "Me too. So we'll semi-retire. Or we could work from home part of the time?"



"So, why is that your favorite?" Duo asked, wriggling so Heero's hand fell where it had been before when he'd complained.

"Because I remember your face after I showed you how much I'd saved."

"Ore no smug-bastard-koi." Duo smiled and pressed closer against Heero. "Hey, I knew we had plenty of money to settle down, I just didn't know how plenty." He kissed Heero gently. "Now, are you gonna read one of yours or do I have to torture it out of you?"

"I'll read," Heero said. "Then you can torture me."

"Good plan."


Today was terrible and perfect.

It was terrible because we got angry at each other and argued.

It was perfect because we apologized and I held you all night.

Building this house… I never realized it would be so complex, so difficult or so stressful. I know why we're paying Ian's company so much money to manage the project for us. It seems like every step encounters an obstacle that I didn't anticipate. Fortunately, Dana has a sense for when something is going to go wrong and adjusts the plans or had already built in extra time so everything stays close to schedule.

Still, the changes jar me. I can adjust plans when I have to, but it seems this process is one continuous adjustment. I guess it's a good thing I have you around to keep me "mellow" as you like to say. And Dana to keep the plan on track. We need to give her a nice thank you gift when the house is finished.

But, today.

The windows you designed that are shot through with those stylized dragonflies you dreamed up after I gave you the one from Ian. I've learned to see them as dragonflies now, instead of just a set of triangles and lines. Today I helped Eddie and Steve install those windows. (Building this house has also been a learning experience. I've learned to respect the effort that goes into something as "simple" as laying out the lines for a foundation or putting in a window.)

They had gone downstairs to work on some framing or something. It was on their list, though, I admit, I'm not sure exactly what they were doing. I have given up on keeping track of the plan. I was staining the frame around the windows. You walked up and I heard you stop, so I turned, expecting to see you smiling.

But you weren't. You were standing there with your mouth open and your eyebrows pulling together and your eyes already that darker shade they get when you're angry.

"Damn it, Heero. You put them in wrong."


"And after I gave you the damn drawing and everything." You shouted, stomping your foot. "Shit! I have to do everything myself. I thought for sure *you* could get it right. Aaargh!" Then you turned and stomped down the stairs before I could say anything.

I was hurt. I was angry. I had just spent six hours checking and triple checking everything to be sure it was per your drawing. I was tired from helping Eddie and Steve wrestle those monsters around -- you would insist on real lead leading. I'd crushed a finger slipping them into place and had discretely set another finger that broke when one of the windows slipped and I "cushioned" it to save it. Right then, I wanted nothing more than to take the hammer laying on the floor and break every piece of glass in the frames.

Fortunately, Dana chose that instant to check on me. "I heard Duo storming out the front door. If we hadn't used solid oak, the frame would have cracked he slammed it so hard."

I looked up at her and nodded. "You designed it well." I stared at the windows. I still wanted to shatter them, but the need to maintain my composure in Dana's presence forced me to find another course. So I picked up the drawing you had given me showing the proper placement of the windows.

Dana walked to where I stood and looked over my shoulder. "Is there something wrong?"

"You tell me." I handed the page to her.

She looked for four minutes. That's another thing I like about Dana. She's willing to humor us. Well, mostly you with all your little details. But I was picky about the bedroom furniture, and I think she was right -- the cherry looks better than oak would have. Then she said, "I know Duo has a better eye for detail than I do, but I can't find it."

"Here," I said, pointing to the leftmost window. "This one is obviously in the right place. None of the others have green dragonflies." Sometimes talking through a problem helps. This time, it didn't. I went through every identifying detail I could remember, all the things you had arrowed on the drawing. I couldn't find what was wrong.

That made me angrier because it made me feel… stupid. I don't miss details. Missing details is lethal in our business. I didn't survive the war by missing details. Except that you were in love with me, but I think you missed that one too.

As Dana and I stood there, close to the glass, trying to find the error, I saw you, distorted, walking back across the driveway towards the door. "Why don't you let me ask him alone?" I suggested. She nodded and headed downstairs. I didn't hear what she said to you when she passed you. I stood by the window with the drawing in hand, waiting.

"Can you tell me what's wrong?" I asked as you walked in and closed the door. I have put aside most of my pride with you, but it was still hard to make myself ask you that question.


I wanted to hit you, then I saw your face as you realized…

"Not you. Me." You took the drawing from me and looked at it and then turned it upside down and held it up for me to see. "When I was showing this to you, I was working upside down and… uh… I remembered it wrong. I'm sorry."

I thought about that for seventeen seconds then nodded. "I can see how you could make that mistake."

"I, uh, I thought I should apologize and make it up to you," you said, moving close to me. "They didn't get the blue right in the living room windows again. It's the…" I knew they'd never get the blue the same shade as my eyes. Not to your satisfaction. "Sorry. I don't know why I get so stressed out about these things." Then I felt your fingers under the fly of my jeans, moving to the zipper and I realized how sorry you were, and how you were planning to apologize.

But that wasn't the apology I wanted. I caught your hand. You misunderstood. "Uh… look, I really am sorry, Heero."

"Baka. I don't want that kind of making up." I kissed you and smelled the cinnamon of you. "I'd rather have a nice, slow making love this evening. I get stressed out too, and that always makes me feel better."

That made you smile. I looked into your eyes and felt my breath catch like it always does.


"Mmm. I remember that." Duo said, leaning close against Heero. "It was a very nice, slow making love."

"Aa." Heero nodded, remembering. "What did Dana say to you?"

"Huh? Oh. Just that she'd put a lot of effort into designing the door frame and if I broke it, she'd have my ass in a sling."

Heero laughed, squeezing gently with the hand that had drawn complaints earlier. "I remember the time we borrowed that sling from Duane, just to try it."

"Oh, God." Duo groaned. "Now there was a truly bad idea. Please don't make me read that one."

"Aa." Heero adjusted his hand into an even more errant position, drawing a soft sigh from Duo. "You said would torture me."

"Ohhh." Duo sighed softly. "But do that … oh … again. Mmm. Why don't you torture me… aah… instead?"

"Good plan," Heero said, smirking.


The breeze was rather surprised when its unwanted visitors began moving around. Usually they just laid on the ground next to each other and made noises so they couldn't hear it whispering to them. It hurried over to see if they were finally leaving, ignoring the butterflies it scattered in its wake. When it arrived, it was a bit disappointed to discover that they were sitting there, not leaving, until it noticed that the one with the tail, the one sitting on top of the other… That the tail was bound up fur. Quite a bit of fur when it was untied. The breeze tugged it gently and stroked it. It was rather pleasant fur. Not as soft as a rabbit's, but it was long and would whip and ripple like the grass. For the first time, the breeze noticed a pleasant scent about it unlike anything it had carried before.

The breeze became so preoccupied playing with the long fur, swirling it around these two strange animals and dancing between them, even playing in the other's short fur, that it didn't notice the sun moving across the sky until the long-furred one pulled them back down to the ground. Apparently they were done with whatever they were doing. Still, the breeze stayed, playing with its new discoveries. It knew it should move on with its patrol, but it had decided that maybe, just maybe, these two weren't so bad after all.


"Mmm." Duo sighed as he curled up against Heero. "I don't know how you do it, Heero Yuy, but just keep doing it."

Heero smiled. "I enjoyed it too, koi." He pulled Duo close against him and waited. It had taken him almost a year to discover that Duo needed them to lay holding each other for at least twenty minutes after love making. Duo had never told him that. He was fairly certain Duo couldn't tell him that without… violating it somehow. He didn't really understand exactly what it meant to Duo, but he knew Duo was never truly satisfied without this post-orgasmic intimacy. Shou ga nai. And even if he didn't need it like Duo did, he had learned that he enjoyed it.

Forty-two minutes later, he said, "It's getting late. We need to go back."

Duo nodded against him, but made no other move. Heero waited again. Twenty seconds later, Duo pushed up from him and said. "I'm ready now. Should we get dressed first or just walk back like this?"

"I have to get dressed. I have to go out on an assignment this evening."

"Okay, but I'll want to change before we leave."

"Duo, I need you to stay home tonight. This is a top secret case."

"But… but…" Duo stared at him. "You can't tell me about it? My security clearance is the same as yours."

"Need to know only. I can't tell you. I'm sorry."

Duo nodded, not happy, but accepting. "Okay. But you'll be back tomorrow, right?"

"I'll see you tomorrow at noon," Heero said, smiling.


Duo woke at the leisurely hour of 07:30. At least, it was leisurely by Heero's standards. He was surprised that Heero hadn't actually called him this morning to wake up him at 06:00. Whatever he was working on must have him busy. Or maybe, Duo thought, he's just giving me a break this morning. He realized he wasn't going to get to see his favorite blue this morning for the first time in a long time. With a sigh, he forced himself out of bed and into the bathroom.

An hour and a half later, he wandered out in a revealing pair of mesh boxer shorts. Might as well give Heero something pleasant to come home to, he thought as he braided his still-damp hair.

He walked down the stairs to the kitchen, where he poured a bowl of corn flakes for breakfast. He knew he should probably be working on, well, work, but it was only three hours until Heero came back. He didn't want to get too involved in anything. They hadn't slept apart since… nearly a year ago. Even when Duo had been in the hospital for his appendectomy last year, he'd insisted that Heero sleep in the hospital bed with him. They hadn't "done" anything, of course, but… Now, he was in serious need of a good, long holding.

Still, after a few minutes, conscience and boredom got to him and he shuffled into the office and pulled up a report he was supposed to read -- something about changes to the urban tactics course they sometimes taught. He found it hard to stay focused, but it killed time.

He looked at the clock. 10:22. Just under two--

He heard the front door opening. "It isn't like him to be early," Duo mumbled to himself, but rushed out of the office anyway to find…

"Hey, 'bro." Duane's eyes scanned, widened with surprise, and fixed on Duo's face.

"What the Hell are you doing here?" Duo asked, incredulous.

"I'm glad to see you too. You said we should drop by sometime."

"Nice appendix scar," Hiroshi said.

"Damn it, Hiroshi," Duane snapped. "Get your eyes up above his waist."

With a perfectly straight face, Hiroshi said, "The appendix scar *is* above his waist. I've never seen one before."

"Uh, guys," Duo said.

"Would you go get dressed, 'bro, so Hiroshi'll quit looking at you?"

Duo blinked. "Oh, shit. Sorry. I forgot." He turned and hurried up the stairs to the bedroom. "I'll be down in a minute," he called.

He hadn't made it to the dresser on the other side of the bedroom before the door opened behind him and Duane slipped in. "Sorry we surprised you like that."

"It's okay," Duo said, selecting a pair of jeans from the dresser. He turned as he pulled them on, to find Duane rifling through the T-shirt section of the closet. "I'm sure you've both seen what I look like naked before."

Duane laughed. "Yeah, every time we see me, huh? But I guess we're a little different now. Maybe I should ask them to take my appendix out so we'll be the same again."

"We were never really the same, and you know it."

"Yeah." Duane pulled out a shirt. "You should wear this one. Still, I have a right to be jealous."

Duo looked at the shirt. It was his half of the pair of angel shirts he'd painted years ago. "It's a little ratty," he said. It had seen better days. So had Heero's. He needed to paint a new pair. That would be a good project for the next long weekend. It would certainly be more fun than grubbing in a flower bed, and he could probably get messy enough that he'd need a shower, and with a little care, he could time it to match Heero's return from grubbing in the flower bed…

"Who cares? I like it. I bet Heero does too."

The tone was familiar. He'd heard it from himself often enough. Duane was going to be stubborn. He looked at the shirt and shrugged. "Whatever," he said and took it, pulling it over his head.

"Mm." Duane nodded. "Perfect. Saaaay… Those are the windows you were telling me abo-- Oh, wow. Look at the colors on the ceiling. I could spend all day up here."

"No," Duo said. "You can't. Heero is due back at noon." His sense of being a good host made him hesitate for a second before he added, "And we'll want a couple of hours of privacy when he does."

"Ah. Well, I'm sure Hiroshi and I can find something to keep us occupied." He grinned. "We can, um, explore the grounds."

"Hmph. You can explore the guesthouse. Heero and I lived there while we were building the house. It's very nice."

Duane chuckled and opened the bedroom door, waving Duo out. "And it's far enough away to be discrete?"

"Aa." Duo nodded, grinning. "For all concerned."


"Duo." Hiroshi held out a small box wrapped in brown paper as they reached the bottom of the stairs. "This came for you."

Duo took the box and examined it. The return address was the local Preventers office. The label was neatly typed and included all the security features that told him it was a real Preventers label. He ran his fingernail along the tape between the flaps and opened it. Digging through the packing, he found… "A palm comp?" He frowned. "I keep telling them I don't need one of these." He handed it to Hiroshi. "You want it?"

Hiroshi took it and tapped the screen, then frowned. He handed it back to Duo. "It's for you."

"Huh?" Duo looked at the screen. "Duo. I need your help on this mission. It is critical that you follow these instructions including the times… Hey, this is from Heero. … Start in… and then it's counting down. About a minute and a half to go. What the--?"

"Sounds like you need to put your shoes on," Duane said.

"I need to change."

"No time," Hiroshi said, shaking his head. "At least you have your clothes on now."


Duo missed the rest of the conversation as he raced up the stairs to get his shoes. He glanced at the palm comp. Damn. Barely a minute to go.


Heero sat relaxing in a tree contemplating the mission before him.

At least, he was trying to relax. He had controlled as many of the variables as he could, but there were still one -- the most critical -- that he was less than certain about. Seven minutes of frustration later, he gave up and decided that thinking about his plan wasn't going to help him relax. He focused on climbing trees instead.

Duo hadn't taught him how to climb trees, but Duo had taught him how to climb trees for the sheer enjoyment of climbing trees. Heero remembered the day they'd been out enjoying the meadow when Duo had suddenly clambered into the low hanging branches of the Big Tree, as they called it. Duo had hung there upside down, making faces at Heero, then had swung up and begun climbing. Heero had been convinced his lover had gone crazy, though not for the first or last time. He had debated whether he should climb after Duo to steady him or stay on the ground to catch him when he fell.

Then Duo had called him up. "You gotta see this," he'd insisted.

Heero remembered picking his way quickly up through the branches, focusing on handholds and footholds and balance until he found there were no more. Duo was sitting on the last branch that looked strong enough to hold him, leaning against the trunk, staring out across the meadow and the rolling hills. Heero looked, but all he saw was the grass, the hills receding in the distance and the faint, dark blur that might be the mountains. He had been ready to ask Duo what he was supposed to be seeing when the wind blew, swaying the top of the tree. Duo's legs dropped and locked around the branch beneath him for balance. Heero kept one hand on the trunk, relying on his superior sense of balance to stay upright.

And suddenly he'd seen it. The grass, the hills receding in the distance, the faint dark blur that was the mountains. He stood there, riding the branch in the wind, smiling. "Aa."

Duo had chuckled then. "I knew you'd get it. The best part about climbing a tree is being able to see everything."

"Like floating outside a colony watching the sun rise over the earth."

"Exactly. So, should we go back down? Climbing makes me hungry."

"In a minute."

He found himself smiling again with the memory. It was one of the good ones. Heero had learned to stick with the good memories, especially when he was waiting. It was too easy to sabotage himself by remembering the bad things.

He heard a sound beneath him and saw… his target. He waited as it moved past him, then quietly descended to the last layer of branches. Dropping to the ground with a soft thud, he closed on it.


"Stop," Duo muttered, reading the screen. "You're here." He looked around, but didn't see anything. Well, there were trees and last years leaves rotting sweetly on the ground and the usual forest plants. And a ring of mushrooms. But he didn't see what any of that had to do with a mission, or how it distinguished "here" from any of the other areas of the forest.

He turned as he heard a soft thud behind him. It was Heero. "Hey, Hee-koi, what's this mission?" He waited as Heero walked to stand two paces in front of him.

"Something you wrote once." Heero paused and beckoned Duo closer. Duo read the two wrinkles between his eyebrows that meant "serious worry". Before he could ask, Heero continued. "It isn't Sleuth Wood, but I hope… I hope you're still interested." Heero paused again. Waiting.

Duo looked around again. Trees. Heero was wearing the shirt that matched his. Leaves. Jeans. Mushrooms in a… ring… around them… Duo's eyes widened. "Are you…"

Heero nodded. "Duo Maxwell, I love you. I told you that eight years ago and I've done my best to show you that I do. I promise you, no matter what happens… Aishiteru. Shinyou shiteru. I hope that, when I die, if there's anything after, that I'll find you again."

Duo frowned, thinking. He hadn't had time to think about what to say. Not that it would have helped. He looked at Heero and just let the words come. "Heero Yuy, I know you love me. I love you too. And I need you. And I swear by Shinigami's scythe that, when we die, I'll find you again. You're a bigger fool than I am if you think you can get away from me that easily. So there. Aishiteru. Shinyou shiteru. Utterly and completely though I'll probably forget that sometimes." He grinned and grabbed Heero and pulled him close. "Do I get to kiss the bride now?"

"Nn. Who said I'm the bride?" Heero asked as he pushed up on his toes to reach Duo's lips. When he felt Duo's hand slipping between his legs, he gently moved it away. "Cameras," he whispered.

"Huh?" Duo looked around.

"I set up three cameras so everyone could see us."


"At the house. Duane and Hiroshi. Une, Noin, probably Zechs, Takanawa, Relena, Wufei, Quatre, Trowa, and Catharine. Sadako and Kawase are supposed to come too. Takanawa helped me set up a secure line for Hajime and Michie, but they won't be seeing anything for about three hours. Hilde couldn't make it, but she wants a copy of the video." He kissed Duo gently. "We need to leave for the party in two minutes. Duane and Hiroshi were in charge of setting it up after you left."

Duo pulled away and stared at him, his eyes wide with surprise. "You arranged this whole thing under my nose and I didn't have a clue?"

"Relena helped."

"Damn," Duo muttered. "The sheer effort you go to for me. You even planned it to be eight years to the day."

Heero smiled. "I hoped you'd notice that."

"Of course I did, Hee-koi," Duo said, pulling Heero close again. "Why do you think I was so disappointed when you left yesterday? I guess you have a honeymoon planned too?"



The breeze felt… lonely. The strange ones had spent four days and nights in the meadow and it had grown accustomed to their presence. Now they were gone. It sighed softly through the grass, giving vent to its sudden solitude.

They were strange, but their fur was fun to play with. And they had learned to listen to it. Or maybe they had known how all along. There had been hours when they had sat together listening, watching, paws touching, so still that the breeze had thought they'd become stone except for the occasional soft smile as it touched them.

It floated along until it came to the tree where their nest had been. Strange nest materials, but they were strange creatures. The scent of them still lingered and the breeze picked it up and juggled it, evaluating it. The sharp, sweet scent of the long-furred one. The sharp, acrid scent of the short-furred one, which should have been unpleasant, but somehow seemed right. They blended well.

The meadow grass stood unmoving before it. Reluctantly, the breeze returned to its patrol of the meadow, which somehow seemed less perfect now. As it stumbled along, stirring the butterflies, it had a thought. Maybe they would come back soon.

The meadow seemed a little brighter. As the breeze considered its thought and decided that they would. Maybe not tomorrow or the next day, but it knew they would be back.

And when they did, the breeze would be sure the meadow was waiting for them.

Heero relaxing in a tree -- The kanji for "plan" is composed of elements that could be seen as "relaxing in a tree". Of course, the word "plan" immediately calls to mind Heero, so I remember how to write it as, "Heero relaxing in a tree, contemplating his plan." Hence this scene.

Hajime and Michie won't be seeing anything for three hours -- Because that's how long it will take for the signal to reach Mars. I haven't mapped out precisely where Mars is in relation to Earth in AC 208, but three hours is within the range of acceptable values for radio traffic to Mars.

Parts I decided to leave out -- I could have spent pages on the party and then the honeymoon but: (a) there were really only two interesting incidents at the party. First, Hiroshi sang "Sea of Love" for the first dance (no, Duo didn't request it, but he and Heero got a chuckle out of it). Second, Duane pulled Heero aside and, quite seriously, told him to take good care of Duo or, "I'll damn well see you hanged." Of course, Duo snuck up behind him as this was going on and said, "I told you before, bro', he's *damn* well hung already." Heero and Duo started laughing. Duane was momentarily miffed that his serious statement had become a joke, but got over it and joined them (as did Hiroshi when Duane told him), though before long the rest of the guests were sure they were nuts; (b) If you think I'm going to intrude on the honeymoon tent you're out of your mind. (In case the last little bit wasn't clear, they camped in the meadow for a few days. Duane and Hiroshi oversaw the cleanup at the house and enjoyed the hot tub and the guesthouse until Heero and Duo returned.); (c) none of those things really advances the story or develops the characters.


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