"Release our soul brother from your web of anger. He and his mate chose each other before time was conceived; they are not yours to have. You must heal your soul, for this path of hate will lead you and your children to ruin."
The lightning in the dark sky crashed overhead, accentuating Meiran's words of warning.
Hilde was thrown violently back into her body. She sat up, gasping for air, not realizing that she had fallen asleep. The faces of Wufei and Meiran danced in her mind, their words spearing her heart.
She was shaking, from the depths of her very soul. What had just happened to her was not a nightmare; it was a vision and a warning.
It was suddenly extremely cold. She knew, in her heart of heart, they were right.
Hate was a horrible path. It killed the soul, her soul and that of her children. It was one thing to hate, it was a whole different thing to teach and encourage others to hate.
She had to let go, if not for herself, but for the love of her children.
That was the most important thing. Her children were her world. She realized that she really did need to focus on that. Duo was a guy; he could have been anyone.
Yes, Duo was just a guy, never hers and never would be. How much of her life was wasted on filling an empty dream?
Hilde sat up, tears running sown her face, she gave serious thought to her life and what she was going to do to fix it.
A firm knock at the door brought her back to the situation at hand.
"Mrs. Maxwell, the children are dressed and ready, they are waiting."
Hilde quickly stood and ran toward the bathroom. "Just a minute, I will be right there."
Turning on the water, she splashed her face and looked up at her reflection in the mirror.
It was hard; the fantasy that society ingrained into her mind was so deeply embedded. She had done so much for Duo, for a guy that she just met, even going so far as to change sides in a war.
But that wasn't love; it was the desire to cling onto him, to make him hers at any cost. He showed that he cared and she knew that he did, but that did not define what love was, Duo cared about a lot of people. He was so handsome and cute and he was strong in his beliefs, anyone would want him. Hilde knew that many did. She had thrown her own interests out the window to focus on a guy. That is the indignant cruelty inflicted upon women, if we set our sights on a man, we must do anything to keep him, even at the expense of ourselves.
Hilde looked at the open doorway, Rain stood there dressed in her precious little dress, a gift from Heero and Duo. It was a lovely purple velvet princess dress, draped with long ribbons; she looked gorgeous. Her long chestnut hair was curled daintily at the ends, giving her a look of pure innocence.
And with the sight of her perfect daughter in the doorway, she knew that she would have to change. Rain would follow in her footsteps and it was up to Hilde to set the example for doing what was right.
For her daughter and son, Hilde knew that she had to face some hard facts and come to a very difficult decision.
No matter how painful.
And through the veil, Quatre emerged.
He found himself standing in a room lit only by a television. A young man with long blonde hair sat on the couch, he head lay in his hands in a look of utter despair.
On the coffee table before him was a smorgasbord of death causing drugs, piles of colorful pills and a bottle of hard liquor to wash it all down with.
Obviously, he was pretty far along into the current bottle directly in front of him.
The young man was weeping, "Why?? Why did you leave me? You were all I had. Damn you!"
Quatre reached out to comfort him. "Please do not cry." His heart ached for the weight of sadness that permeated the room.
The beautiful young man slowly looked up, his gray eyes swollen red and full of disbelief. "Aw shit! Now I'm seeing crap!"
Quatre blinked, rather surprised by the young man's language. "I am quite real, more real that you are. You simply live on the physical plane, a bare means of existence."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just get lost!"
"I am here to offer you a chance to move on."
Scowling, the young man picked up a bottle of pills and opened them, flipping his long hair over his shoulder. "Thanks, but I have my own ride to hell. Now, go away, stupid talking mist!"
Quatre shook his head. "Before you make a decision that affects your soul, I would like to offer you a chance to start over again."
He stopped, just as the pills were about to be thrown into his mouth. With an expression of complete skepticism, he looked at Quatre. "Ok, talk…"
The ballroom looked like a living fairytale. Twinkling lights reflecting off of glittering floors and tables set a romantic mood. Vibrant warm colors washed over the room giving the crystal table settings an ethereal glow.
Beautiful ladies and dashing gentlemen danced to classic pieces only adding to the sophisticated arrangements. To see so many people dressed in the native clothing of their culture was an incredible picture, giving a real sense of the peace won.
The festivities were in full swing by the time formal introductions were made, right before the dinner was served.
They all made their entrance down the curved staircase at the far end of the ballroom, velvet runner covering the splendid marble. Their names were called out as they descended, making a grand entrance.
The entire ballroom stood respectfully as Duo and Heero appeared at the top of the staircase. Everyone knew that they were the last remaining of the Gundam Pilots, the bringers of the peace that they so preciously enjoyed.
The background music stopped playing as a moment of silence was observed for those who had died.
Both men stood proudly in their formal dress military uniforms, medals draped across their chest and lapels. Duo's overcoat was a dark purple while Heero's was a deep blue, each wore military insignia of their rank. The tight black pants were tucked into sleek knee-high boots of the same color.
The room was in awe of these two men of history. It was not lost on those present that Duo and Heero stood side by side with an obvious sense of inner strength. They had been but children when they achieved what few thought was possible. Kings and Queens, foreign dignitaries, anyone of importance were nothing compared to these two simple men.
For Duo and Heero, this moment of silence was something beyond a prayer for the dead; it was about the silence that was forced upon same gender couples. Hatred for them and their kind mocked intelligence and any sense of peace or justice that existed. What their friends went through was unspeakable, the silence a fitting reminder of this fact.
And for this moment, they faced the world and its hatred with unblinking eyes. Duo wearing Trowa and Quatre's Gundam medal pinned next to his own, showing respect for them and their love for each other. Heero wore Wufei's Gundam medal, for the respect of his soul brother.
"His Royal Highness Prince Heero, General of Earth and Space Defenses and Colonel Duo Maxwell."
Treize, Zechs, Meiran, and Wufei watched their soul brothers with love.
"They do us proud." Treize remarked as he held Zechs tighter to him.
Meiran nodded "Yes, they stand so strong against the evil forces that they face." She reached out as the four of them surrounded Duo and Heero with love.
"I feel them." Duo whispered.
Heero nodded, he felt them too. Here they were, standing at the top of a grand staircase, about to descend into the ballroom and they could feel their soul family around them.
"Never again." Duo lifted his chin, daring the world to challenge him, and they would most certainly lose. "I will fight to the death to keep our love and their love safe. Never again; in this lifetime or any other."
Heero nodded, just as determined as his mate. "Never again." They understood that it would have been inappropriate to flaunt their love; it would cheapen what they shared. But to hide and deny it was to live a lie and this was not acceptable.
As they descended, their bodies moved closer together with each step until they were almost touching. With a natural grace that only they shared, Heero put his hand behind Duo to rest on the small of his love's back.
This simple gesture was not lost on the celebrants, but not one of them dared to say a thing.
Taking a long sip, Heero watched his love from over his raised glass, his eyes rarely leaving Duo as he danced with yet another female. This one was old enough to be his grandmother, but she seemed to be as totally charmed by Duo as any of the others.
The song ended and Duo took a step back as he graciously and deeply bowed to the woman, bringing a blush to her face.
Heero fought to keep from rolling his eyes, wondering how any woman could be so silly as to believe that he was serious with his subtle flirtations. The two exchanged a few words before Duo handed the older woman a slip of paper and took her back to her seat.
Duo smirked at Heero as he made his way back to his seat, obviously pleased with himself. "This is going very well!"
Smoothing the napkin in his lap, Heero just had to ask, "And how much did you get this one to pledge to my charity?"
"Aw, now Heero, a gentleman never dances and tells." Duo giggled. Knowing that he would never keep anything from Heero, he pulled out a notepaper from his pocket and scribbled a number on it. Slowly, face down, he slid the small note toward Heero's plate.
With his fingertips, Heero took the opportunity to caress Duo's hand as he retrieved the paper. Nonchalantly, he turned the note over to see a very large number written on it.
His eyes widened considerably as his mind registered what kind of money he was looking at. "She pledged this to you?"
Duo shrugged as he pushed his fork around the plate, playing with the food rather than eating it. "It is just a pledge, but I am sure that I can get her to donate more when I talk to her later."
"This is... incredible."
"Well, with all the people that I have spoken with so far, I've probably managed to come up with four times that amount. These are just promises but they should all pan out."
In all the years that Heero had been handling his charities, he had never been able to raise the kind of money that Duo seemed to be doing in just one evening. He knew that Duo would be perfect for the job, but this far exceeded any expectations that he had. "Thank you, Duo."
Leaning toward Heero slightly, Duo smirked, "You can thank me later."
"Of course." Heero stated evenly while his mind flourished with glorious visions of naked Duo pressing up into his hard thrusts.
Such thoughts were not really conducive to a formal state dinner, Heero was grateful for the napkin resting in his lap.
Duo seemed to understand Heero's predicament since he was having similar thoughts. He wanted to feel Heero thrusting into him, hard and fast. Or maybe just throw his mate onto the bed and ride him to oblivion; that sounded good.
At the same time, Duo and Heero lifted their gaze to meet the others. The sheer strength of loving lust that boiled between them was palatable. Both men felt the exquisite passion flowing from one to the other and back again. They moved, leaning into each other to share a kiss…
"Daddy!" Rain squealed and ran up to her dad's chair, her face beaming with happiness.
Both men blinked at each other with surprise, the physical world smashing into them. Then they both turned their eyes toward the vibrant little female version of Duo, bouncing up and down.
Duo scooted his seat back and pulled his daughter into his lap. "Oh Heero, look! A beautiful princess came to visit us!"
Heero smiled warmly, watching Duo's joy as he held his daughter. He would do whatever it took to ensure that Duo would get to be with his children.
Rain beamed up at her Dad as he smiled back down at her, his heart filled with pride. "Do you like the dress? Heero and I knew that you would look so pretty in it."
The little girl peeked up at Heero, "Are you a real Prince?"
Heero smiled slightly and nodded yes.
Rain's mouth fell open and her eyes widened considerably. Duo giggled and stood up with his daughter in his arms. "Hey Heero, I have been dancing with so many ladies for business, I think I am gonna take a spin with my little lady here for pleasure."
All eyes turned to watch the gorgeous Colonel dancing with his little daughter, dressed like a little princess and for all the world looking like it was her lot in life.
She watched from the side, in a dimly lit alcove looking out to the massive ballroom. Holding her sleeping son in her arms, she felt a contented sadness.
Hilde saw Duo and Heero almost come together in a kiss. Their feelings were so deep that they could forget where they were for just a moment, which belonged only to them. Something that she and Duo could never share, she knew that now. Instead of being angry and resentful about something that was really no one's fault, she just needed to move on.
Meiran and Wufei were right; he was never hers to have.
It was so hard to come to terms with acceptance. Unfortunately, it was not that easy for her. This was not a situation like Relena where she could just sever ties and not look back or realizing that your true love was under your nose the whole time. She and Duo had kids. It was why she fought so hard to have Duo removed from any custody arrangements; it was just too painful to see him on a regular basis. And now that Duo and Heero were back together, where they belonged, it was even more painful. Not just because she couldn't fill his needs, but also because she wanted what they had.
But where does a woman go from here?
Noin interrupted her thoughts as she sat on the velvet bench next to her. "You look like you need a friend." Her face was warm and sincere, filled with concern.
Lifting her chin, Hilde eyed Noin carefully. "Are you sure you want to be seen with the likes of me?
The women shifted slightly. "Look, I'll be straight up with you. What you said back there was just plain wrong. But I could tell that they were spoken out of pain more than anger. It doesn't excuse what you said, that is unforgivable, but I do understand."
Hilde scoffed. "No one understands what I have been through. I gave him everything and it still didn't work out." She stopped and took a deep breath. "And the thing is, I always knew that it wouldn't. For all the depth of his feelings for me, I could have married a stranger. He cares, but that is not love. Deep down I knew this; I just ignored my own feelings and the fact that he truly loved someone else."
"Ah, but I do understand." Noin replied gently. "When I was young, there was this hot looking guy, Zechs. He had the most beautiful eyes and stunning hair; he was so perfect. I immediately started fantasizing about a love and life with him. We were great friends and challenged each other. He was good, but I was better. In the end, I held myself back so that he could have the top rank in our academy class. I could have been the top rank; I earned it! But I gave it all up for a man! It was a stupid and immature thing to do to myself. It changed nothing; he loved someone else. Treize's last words were of Zechs, the whole world heard, they loved each other so much."
Suddenly, Hilde did not feel so alone. Perhaps her story was not that uncommon. "I'm sorry."
Noin shrugged having put that into the past where it belonged. "I'm not. As painful as it was, it would have been so much worse to live a lie with him. Women are taught to give up everything, that this expresses some sort of love for a male. But when we do this, we give up a part of ourselves. This causes us to be less than whole, and then our search for completion becomes more desperate and needy, blinding us to the reality before us. And in the end, we only hurt ourselves."
"What is your point?" Hilde wanted to know, finding the conversation rather tedious. She could see all of this now.
"What happened with Duo was just wrong. Not only for you, but for everyone involved. What about your true love and the things that you want out of life? How is that ever supposed to happen when your focus revolves around Duo, good or bad? And now there are children involved, a son and a daughter. Give them a chance at a decent life, teach them that gender is about breeding, and not love. Show your daughter about being a real woman; to step beyond societies demeaning expectations of women."
They sat there for a moment in silence before Noin pulled out a card. "Look, I'm not trying to run your life, just to offer some experienced advice. Do something for yourself. Contact these people, it is a women's retreat. It is a great place to get away and find what you need."
Hilde stared at the lettering on the card. She really liked the sound of getting away, to hide, and maybe an opportunity to start her life over again.
"Oh," Relena huffed. "This is so awkward."
Heero nodded in agreement as he lead them gracefully around the ballroom floor. Neither of them was pleased to be dancing together, but protocol called for it. They kept each other at arms length. This was, after all, just for show.
Relena cringed every time she heard some idiot gushing over them. "Why don't these people get a life?"
He had a million different psychological reasons and could state them clearly as well as the studies that would back up these theories. But there was no point to it. Choosing to keep his comment to himself, Heero eyed the only other couple on the dance floor carefully. He really did not like how close Duo and Dorothy were.
Duo could feel Heero's eyes on him and knew that he was not pleased. "Um, Dorothy, we really should not dance this close. It is dangerous to your health."
Dorothy deliberately shifted even closer. "We need to make this look convincing, so please smile. And quit moving away from me, it looks like we you're struggling."
"Relena and Heero are dancing with plenty of space between them. You are not trying to make her jealous using me, right?"
Before Duo could point out any more bits of logic, Heero left go of Relena and stalked purposely across the dance floor. He stepped behind Duo and put his hands on Duo's hips. Heero pulled Duo back, away from Dorothy and into his own body forcefully. None too gently, he growled and graced Dorothy with his deadly glare, enough was enough.
Duo rolled his eyes as Heero walked back to the stunned Relena. "You did not have to push his buttons like that! He does not like other people touching me or thinking about touching me. I am so his!" He groused at Dorothy as they continued, but at a more reasonable distance.
She was completely unphased. "I probably just did you a big favor. Knowing Yuy, he will spend the entire night reclaiming his territory."
"Oh yes, I assure you that he will, but it has nothing to do with what you just did."
Hilde struggled for internal strength, fighting off the tears that threatened to spill over. She was just so driven, almost desperate in her plans to make her life right again.
She shook violently, but she had to do this. There was no way that she could live with everything that she now faced. She was strong, but it was too much to handle at once. "Meet me at your office in fifteen minutes and do not tell me that it is too late! This is my life we are talking about!"
Hilde slammed down the receiver. She had to be quick, before anyone could stop her, throwing all of her belongings and those of her children into to the bags.
Rain silently watched in childlike curiosity, her Mother's actions frantic and hurried. Sky lay snuggled in the baby carrier, oblivious to the world around him.
Making a quick scan of the room, Hilde threw the bags over her shoulder, picked up the baby carrier and took her daughters hand.
Without looking back, Hilde left the castle, hoping that people understood that what she was doing was in the best interest of her children.