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This is an old fic, but it was the first piece of writing I was actually proud of.  I still enjoy reading over it (and continue to tweak it, made a couple more changes today).  It just makes me feel warm and fuzzy.  Enjoy



Gifts Given
By Nova

AN:  I would like to give special thanks to TR and Reshenna for helping and supporting me.  Without them not a word would have been written or a story posted.  Thank you my friends.
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing

Gifts Given
by Nova

After two hours of struggle, Quatre finally made his way across the crowded ballroom to Relena’s side.  “Miss Relena, it’s so good to see you,” he greeted her warmly.

She gave him a welcoming smile.   Inwardly, she cringed. She should have known avoiding him wouldn’t work.  Quatre wasn’t the type to give up and go home.  Gritting her teeth, she let the pleasantries commence.

“Quatre. I’m so glad you could be here.  How have you been?”

As always, to Relena’s irritation, Quatre began to relate all the comings and goings of the other pilots.  With an effort she pushed his voice away until it was just a pleasant hum.  Given the occasional nod and smile, he was none the wiser.  Unlike him she’d been raised in politics and had become used to her public mask of interest.

She watched his animated face and felt sorrow.  I love you Quatre, really I do.  You’re the closest thing I have to a best friend, but heaven help me your never ending happiness is driving me mad.  When did your presence become so painful?  Perhaps it was sometime after Paygan died.

After the war you and the others moved on assuming semi-normal lives.  I felt a certain degree of pride that I helped make it possible. However small, I played a part in making my loved ones happy. At that time I remember truly enjoying your stories, but they made me realize how little my life had changed.  A fact I do not regret, but it can be lonely.  It’s a state I try not to dwell on, rather channeling all my energy into work.

When Paygan left me it became frighteningly obvious that he had been my only true companionship for the last few years.  I finally stopped to look around and a large gap had formed between everyone I used to know and myself.  With very little free time and no common activities, they had all slipped away from me.  I found myself very alone.

So, I buried it down deep inside and ignored the pain.  I wasn’t about to go and interrupt everyone’s lives, just because I was a little unsatisfied with my own.  Okay, maybe a lot, but it still wasn’t a good enough reason to track you guys down and beg for attention.

Relena fought the wave of jealousy and self-pity that threatened to drown her.  She had to get away before she broke down right here in the middle of the ballroom floor.

Quatre had just started in on Duo’s latest prank when she abruptly cut him off.  “I’m sorry, Quatre.  I really must go.  There are still quite a few people I must speak with, please excuse me.  Wish everyone a Merry Christmas for me.”  She beat a hasty retreat, disappearing into the crowd.

“Relena, I,” but she was already well out of earshot.  Quatre couldn’t stop a twinge of hurt.  She was almost cold.  Why did she run away from me?

“Well done, Winner,” said a voice to his left.

Time had been kind to him and Quatre had almost gained his father’s height, but was still a few inches shorter than Trowa.  So he was forced to look down at a familiar blonde haired lavender-eyed woman.

“Dorothy.”

A smirk curled her lip as she gazed in the direction Relena fled.  “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you do it on purpose.”

His brows drew together in a frown. “Do what?”

This time when he met her gaze, the smirk was still in place but her eyes reflected a hint of sadness. “Hurt her.”

“What?”  His eyes widened in shock.  How could she even think it?  “I would never do…”

She waved him into silence. “I am well aware of that, but the fact remains that you do.”

Confused, Quatre racked his brain for anything he might have done to cause his dear friend pain.

Dorothy sipped her champagne and watched the emotions flit across the ex-pilot’s face.  Well it seems other things have remained the same.  You are as innocent as ever Quatre Winner.

“Mr. Winner,” said Dorothy interrupting his thoughts.  “Christmas is next week.  How do you plan to spend it?”

Quatre blinked at the quick change in subject.  “As you probably know, we don’t celebrate Christmas in my religion.  So I always go join Trowa and sometimes the other pilots for those few days.  Why?”

“Do you know what Relena will be doing for Christmas?”

“No,” he replied slowly.

“Allow me to enlighten you. She will be at home. Alone.”

“What about Paygan, Zechs, and Ms. Noin?”

Dorothy’s look became irritatingly condescending.  “Mr. Millardo and Ms. Noin are still on Mars with no intention of returning.  Paygan would definitely have spent it with her if he could, but he passed away.”  She paused briefly for effect. “Three years ago.”

Quatre was horrified. Could he have missed out on so much of his friend’s life?  Was he so out of touch that he hadn’t been there for her when a loved one died?  Now that he stopped to think about it, when was the last time he and Relena had spent time together?  Sure he saw her at political functions now and again, but they couldn’t really talk then.  There was the party after Zech’s and Noin’s wedding, but that was almost six years ago now.  Where had the time gone?  “Are you telling me Relena’s been alone for the past three years?”

“Closer to four.  Paygan was in the hospital quite a while before his heart gave out.  It was on the news that the Vice Foreign Minister had taken some time off for family business.  You do still watch the news, don’t you?”

“Yes, of course,” he replied, too distracted to get angry. “Dorothy, if you know she is going to be alone, why didn’t you invite her to spend the holidays with you?”

“I did, but can you really see her spending Christmas in the middle of Romafeller with me and my new husband?”

For a moment Quatre was blown off track. “You’re married?”

Dorothy grinned.  “Now I know you don’t watch TV.  Yes, I married a former OZ general some six months ago. What, did you think I was pining away for you?”

She chuckled at the blush that sprung to his cheeks.  “Despite what you and Relena may think, I have never been sexually attracted to you and in no way desperate enough to chase after a gay man.”

“Gay?” Quatre felt like a leaf in a storm, as he tried to keep up with Dorothy’s shifting conversation.  “What makes you think I’m gay?”

One forked eyebrow cocked. “Are you trying to tell me you never slept with that Heavyarms pilot?”

Quatre’s face flushed once again.

“I thought not,” she replied, a smirk tilting her lips.

“That doesn’t mean I’m gay,” said Quatre flustered, fighting his embarrassment.

“It doesn’t?” Both brows went up this time. “Well, I’m not the one you should be telling.  Relena would find that information very interesting.  As far as she knows, you are living happily ever after with your circus performing lover.”

“Why would that be of any interest to Relena?” he asked warily, afraid to assume anything.  She blended truth and sarcasm so well, he often couldn’t take her words on face value.

Dorothy gave an irritated sigh. “You’re not going to make me spell it out for you, are you?”

“But,” Quatre struggled to take in all this new information.  “Relena is in love with Heero.”  A fact so obvious that he had given up all hope of it being otherwise.

“Please, spare me,” she replied with a roll of her eyes.  “I have news for you, Mr. Winner.  You Gundam pilots may have been virtually adults when you knowingly stepped into that war, but unlike us, Relena was an incredibly normal teenager.  When you are fifteen, most girls chase after the boys they have crushes on.  She just happened to have the funds to take it to greater lengths.  That was also before she became sucked neck deep into the war and before she met you other Gundam pilots.  Now there is almost nothing of that girl left.  Relena, the woman, sees Heero as an attractive intelligent man.  Who wouldn’t? But she also sees the rest of you in the same light, five sexy handsome men who are only attracted to and sleeping with each other.  The women of the world and colonies sigh in envy.”

“You had better not be one of them,” replied a deep gravelly voice.

Quatre watched Dorothy’s eyes soften infinitesimally. “If I had really wanted one of them, don’t you think I would have had them?” she commented as an arm wrapped around her waist. “One acrobat is more than enough for me.”

The man’s blue-black hair was pulled back into a long tail at his nape.  With wide shoulders and a tapering waist, his strong form filled out the tuxedo to perfection, thought Quatre as he ran an appreciative eye over the stranger.

“Quatre, I would like you to meet my husband Richard.”

His hand was almost swallowed in Richard’s strong firm grasp.  “A pleasure.  Now if you’ll excuse me Mr. Winner, I’m going to take my wife home before she starts admiring any other men.”  Intelligent deep blue eyes gazed down at Dorothy with open affection and an easy smile.

“Merry Christmas, Quatre,” Dorothy called back as she was escorted away.

“Merry Christmas.”

/

The silver Jaguar cruised down the highway. The lines on the road would have looked like dots, if the driver had bothered to notice.  Quatre let the feel of the sleek machine soothe him.  Driving on autopilot, he let his troubled mind drift.

Relena.

Despite what Dorothy said, he had kept relatively close tabs on Relena’s life.  During the war she may have only been a naive strong willed child, but she had a passion that drew everyone around her.  The belief of total pacifism is flawed. In his brain he knew it could never work, but his heart still wanted to believe.  Relena gave people the hope for a future without war and pain, a peace where they need never live in fear again.  It was what everyone needed – a view so radical to their current lives as to inspire change.

No one could meet her and not be affected, least of all him.

Of course, when they first met, her eyes had only been for Heero.  He had also been in the midst of his first love, but he had been luckier than Relena.  Trowa, after some coaxing, had returned his affection.

Dorothy’s comment had taken him by surprise.  His and Trowa’s relationship could not be classified so simply by a word.  He loved Trowa not because he was male, but because of the man he was.  Theirs was a love built on deep abiding friendship, shared pain, and joy.  A partnership that slowly spread to include the other Gundam pilots.  What they had experienced during the war drew them together.  How could you explain what they had to an outsider? Brothers? Lovers? Friends?  None of them truly defined the freedom and security they only felt with one another.

What would his life be like without them? How empty that would be.

Yet that is the life Relena led.

“Relena, you fought so hard for everyone else’s happiness, but you forgot to fight for your own.  One word and we would have been there for you.”

His voice died away and only the gentle hum of the engine filled the interior, a look of troubled concentration on his face.

Relena had grown into an elegant striking young woman, who by right should have had her pick of companions.  So, why could she not find someone to share her life with? What held her back?  What was she waiting for?

Dorothy’s words came back to him “Five sexy handsome men who are only attracted to and sleeping with each other. The women of the world and colonies sigh in envy.”

Only… each other… envy.

Could she not find happiness because what she wanted already passed her by?

A smile spread across Quatre’s face, and he lit up like the proverbial light.  “I know what to do.”  Get ready Relena, everything is about to change.

Quatre punched one button on his car phone and waited for a familiar voice to come on the line.   “Hello.”

“Trowa.”

“Quatre.”  A calm spread through him at the sound of that monotone voice.

“Where are you?”

“L2, between acts. You?”

“Driving through the countryside on Earth.”

“You only drive when you need to think.  What’s going on, Quatre?”

“How would you like to spend Christmas at Relena’s home here on Earth?”

“Whatever you want.  What about the others?”

“Well, I am hoping to have everyone there.  I want to make Relena feel a part of the whole group, but I needed to get your feelings first.”

“Quatre, I’ve never lied to you.  You know how I feel.”

“Yes, I know.  That’s why I think it is going to work.  When can you come to Earth?”

“Two. Three days.”

“Good.  Bring Duo and Heero.  I’ll talk to Wufei. See you soon.”

“Goodbye.”

/

Trowa allowed himself the smallest of smiles.  Quatre was finally going to do something about the attraction that had been eating at him for the last six years.  This holiday was going to be interesting.

/

Relena tried not to think about how much her feet hurt as she followed Dorothy into another store.  What had she been thinking when she accepted Dorothy’s invitation to join her for a little last minute Christmas shopping?  Stupid question.  She didn’t want to be alone in that huge house any more than she had to.

The stores were crowded, tempers were short, and these damn shoes were pinching her toes.  A quick glance around told her it was just another clothing store.  Disinterested, she gazed out the display window and watched the other mall shoppers scurry about.  Though everyone seemed hurried, there were lots of smiles and laughter.  Jingle Bells could barely be heard above the commotion, and the Santa had a line of kids circling the mall square twice.

Relena laughed as a two-year-old with curly blonde locks screamed when her mother attempted to place her in Santa’s lap.  Looks like she wasn’t the only one not enjoying the holidays.

“What do you think of this one, Miss Relena?”

Turning from the window, she gave her attention to the item Dorothy held in her hand.  It was a blue infant jumper with, of all things, a fencing foil sewn above the heart. “Where in the world did you find that?”

“I had it custom made.”

“Isn’t it a little small for you?” she joked.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Miss Relena.  It’s for my son.”

Relena’s mind ground to a stop as she stared in shock.  Dorothy pregnant?  The leader of Romafeller settling down and having kids? What was the world coming to?

“Congratulations.” Impulsively, she threw her arms around her sometimes-standoffish friend.

After a brief pause, Dorothy returned the embrace.  “Thank you, Relena.”

“Does Richard know?” Relena asked, pulling back to see her friends face.

“No.  I just received the test results yesterday.”  A rare and sincere smile touched Dorothy’s lips. “I’m going to tell him tomorrow morning. Dick adores children.  He’s going to be thrilled.”

“What a wonderful Christmas gift.  I’m so happy for you.”

Dorothy has truly changed, thought Relena.  Trieze’s death was the catalyst, but Richard’s proposal broke something free inside her.  She is more sensitive and willing to open up to those that care for her, she still had the sarcastic mask, but we all have our masks don’t we?  Relena reflected with irony.  She had high hopes that Richard would one day banish the pain and anger of the past.  Dorothy was well on the way to have the happiness Relena so longed for.

“Relena, won’t you reconsider spending Christmas with me?” Dorothy asked as they made their way back into the flood of shoppers.  “You know Richard greatly admires you, and we would love to have you.”

For a moment Relena’s resolve wavered.  Did she really want to wake tomorrow morning to that dark and silent house?  No tree or decorations, just her, a fire, and a cup of tea.

“No.  This is your first Christmas together.  You don’t need a third wheel in the way.  I’ll be just fine, don’t you worry.”

“Really, I wish you would…” Dorothy stopped and cocked her head to one side.  “Do you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“Someone is calling your name.”

They turned back the way they came.  Sure enough, there was a tall man with a long braid waving and making his way toward them.

“Duo?”  When had he grown so much?  Last time she saw him he hadn’t been but a few inches taller than her.  Now he towered over everyone around him.  He was probably taller than Quatre.  His face had lost its childish curves and his eyes no longer appeared so large, but they still contained the boyishness of youth. Lush kissable lips were drawn back in a welcoming grin.

“There’s my princess.”

Relena found herself wrapped in a bear hug and lifted off her feet.  He spun her about a couple times before setting her down and placing an enthusiastic kiss on her shocked lips.

“Thanks for inviting us down.  Hilde’s spending Christmas with her disapproving grandparents; I thought I would be stuck all alone with chatterbox Yuy.” Duo’s word flowed so fast Relena was having trouble keeping up.  “We arrived this morning and Heero just insisted we do some shopping.  Can’t arrive empty handed. Can we, Heero?”

Standing just behind Duo, loaded down with boxes and bags, was Heero Yuy.  Where Duo had grown like a weed, Heero had thickened and filled out.  He only reached Duo’s shoulder, but his same intense gaze made him appear larger and equal the braided prankster.  The two incredibly handsome men appeared completely oblivious to the lust filled gazes directed their way.  Relena couldn’t help but feel a little smug.  None of those women, or her for that matter, had any chance of catching them, but at least she could claim them as friends.

“Heero.”

“Relena.”

“See what I mean? The guy just doesn’t shut up. Looking good, Doro.  Married life agreein’ with ya?”  Duo paused a second to give Dorothy a leer before turning back to Relena.  “We have to dash, Lena. See ya later. Don’t eat all the sugar cookies before we get there.  You don’t want to see Yuy if he doesn’t get his daily dose of sugar.”  Before anyone could respond Duo was making his way through the crowd.   “Come on, Heero. Don’t stand there gawking at my princess.  We have a lot to get done; do I have to do all the work?”

With a nod Heero followed and was quickly swallowed in the mass of holiday shoppers.

“Well, Miss Relena,” Dorothy drawled, “I can see why you turned me down.”

“But,” Relena pulled her stunned gaze back to the blonde, “I didn’t invite them.”

“Oh? Are you going to turn them away?”

Spend Christmas with Duo and Heero or alone with a cup of tea?  The choice was obvious. “No.”

Dorothy gave a wicked smile. “Smart girl.”

/

Relena wasn’t sure what to expect when she approached her home.  The exterior looked the same.  Maybe they hadn’t arrived yet.  She released a shaky breath.  Why was she so nervous?  It was her own home damn it.  Like a soldier going into battle, she stiffened her shoulders and marched up the steps.  Quickly she punched in the security code and pushed the door defiantly open.

The room was empty.

Get a grip, Relena.  What did you expect to find?  Duo and Heero putting up decorations and blasting Christmas music?  Inwardly, she chastised herself for being foolish and for the tug of disappointment.

“Merry Christmas Eve.”

Relena spun at the sound of the voice behind her.

Quatre stood in the open doorway.  His expressive blue eyes were filled with cheer and good humor.  The smile he gave her was gentle and almost apologetic.  From his fingers dangled a small green and white plant.  He brought it up over her head and leaned in very close, till his caring face filled her vision.  As he spoke, his sweet breath puffed against her cheek.  “No door is complete without mistletoe.”

He closed the couple inches to caress her lips with his own.  It was light and innocent, but Relena’s blood pounded in her ears as her heart attempted to beat its way out of her chest.

Unable to think clearly, she let Quatre maneuver her out of the doorway to make room for Trowa and Wufei.  Loaded down with bags, they headed for the kitchen.

“Wufei is a wonderful cook.  Just wait until you see what he whips up for Christmas dinner tomorrow.”  Quatre finally seemed to comprehend the dazed look on her face.  “I’m sorry, Relena. I hope you don’t mind that I invited everyone down here for Christmas.  None of us really have any place special to go for the holidays.”  He reached out and clasped her hands.  “When Dorothy told me you would be alone, I thought it would be a perfect time for all of us to spend some time together.”  His thumb rubbed slowly over her knuckles.  “We can go if you like.”

“No,” she replied hurriedly, “please stay.  There is plenty of room for everyone. I may have to dust out a few rooms, but…”

“Don’t worry about it,” cut in Quatre cheerfully, stopping her nervous chatter.  “Come on, let’s help with those bags.”

With bags tucked under each arm she and Quatre entered the kitchen.  Relena bit back a laugh.  Wufei stood in the middle of the large stainless steel room issuing commands and swinging a wooden spoon.

“No, Trowa,” Wufei corrected, his voice filled with long suffering patience, “that goes in the refrigerator.  It will preserve the flavor better.”

A gentle tug on her wrist had Relena following Quatre out of the kitchen.

When they were out of earshot, he grinned back at her. “Let’s leave Trowa to the work, and we’ll hang up your wreath.”

And so it went all afternoon.  Quatre seemed to have a never-ending supply of decorations, interior and exterior.  Trowa eventually escaped the kitchen and helped them hang the outdoor lights.

Trowa actually spoke much more than she realized.  She had plenty of opportunity to watch Quatre and Trowa together.  They were so close and in tune with each other they almost finished sentences for one another.  The looks and touches communicated more about their relationship than words ever could have.  She thought she would have felt out of place and jealous, but it wasn’t like that at all.

She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt so relaxed.  Everytime she turned around one of them would be there to hand her something or get her assistance.  She was never more than arms length from one or the other.  Relena felt herself flush when Trowa lifted her on to his shoulders so she could attach some lights to the porch eve.

It was almost as if they were going out of their way to touch me, she found herself thinking.  She shrugged that ridiculous thought away.  I’ve been spending too much time around Dorothy and forgotten how much human contact goes on between friends.  This is all perfectly normal.

She just kept repeating that silently when she found herself pressed between them.

One little light decided to make trouble, refusing to stay on. Stretching on tiptoe, she could just get two fingers around it.  The darn thing refused to tighten.  Trowa came in from behind, Quatre from the front, they both reached up to assist her, and she became a Relena sandwich.  Fighting to breathe properly, she kept reminding herself – they are my friends.  They don’t know what they’re doing to me.  I shouldn’t be thinking of being trapped between their bare naked chests.  They are my friends….

“Hey, guys!”

I could kiss you Duo.

“Stop groping Lena and help us with the tree.”

Duo, I’m going to kick you.

The tree was massive.  It took all four pilots to get it in the door.  Well, more like three, Duo did more instructing than helping.

“Duo,” she asked as they positioned the tree, “why did you pick one so large? It isn’t going to fit.”

“Hey, babe, don’t look at me. Yuy is the one who picked it out.”

“It will fit,” came the monotone reply.

“Heero, are you sure?  You’ve only been in my house twice, and that was over 6 years ago.”

“It will fit.”

“Give it up, Lena,” said Duo, flinging an arm around her shoulders.  “If he breaks something, I’ll dock his pay.”

Relena couldn’t help but hold her breath as Heero calmly cut the bindings freeing the branches.  She could almost hear the tinkling of shattered glass as the wooden arms of the pine rushed out to destroy her living room.  The breath was released in an awed sigh.  It was wide, full, a rich beautiful green, and fit perfectly.  Placed in front of the bay windows and just out of reach of the fireplace, it changed the whole look of the room.  It finally felt like Christmas.

/

“Achoo!”

Relena waved away the dust cloud as she peered into the newly exposed box.  Children’s clothes.  She plopped the lid back on and moved to the next box stirring another cloud of dust.

A half sneeze made her jump and look over one shoulder.  Trowa stood in the doorway watching.

“What are you doing, Relena?”

“Looking for decorations,” she replied, opening the new box.  “Knowing Quatre and Duo, they probably bought tons of lights and new plastic ornaments.”  Another box was moved aside.  “But my mother told me once a tree was more than another adornment.  It was the real symbol of the season. The tree should tell the story of this Christmas and the ones that came before.  This has always been my mother’s favorite time of year.  I know the boxes of tree trimmings are up here somewhere.”

Trowa gazed around the dust-covered room.  The attic, like the rest of the expansive home was extremely large, running the complete length and width of the house.  The unique thing about an attic was, no matter how large, it always managed to become filled to capacity.  There were pieces of furniture covered in sheets scattered about, some recognizable as couches and chairs, others in complete obscurity or buried under a mountain of boxes.  How many memories of past lives did the dust bunnies stand guard over?

“Need help?”

She glanced back at him and blinked a few times before a welcoming grin split her lips.

“Sure.”

He wondered if she knew how attractive she appeared at that moment?  Those so often guarded blue eyes open and cheerful, dust smudged over a nose and cheek, a very kissable picture.  Inwardly he chuckled, one Quatre would have been unable to resist.

“Start anywhere, I have no idea where they could be.  Just look for the hand prints to see which ones I’ve checked.”

They worked in companionable silence.  Trowa was pleased to notice Relena was comfortable enough to not need meaningless chatter.  The only sounds were that of shifting boxes, snapping lids, and the occasional sneeze.  The sounds developed a rhythm, so he immediately noticed when Relena stopped moving.

He peered at her through the dust filled air.  She sat on the floor gazing into an open box.  If she had found the ornaments, he was sure she would have said something.  When she continued to sit unmoving, he made his way to her side.  She was so absorbed that she didn’t appear to hear his approach, but she didn’t jump when he laid a hand on her shoulder.

“What is it, Relena?”

She seemed to lean into the gentle pressure.

“It’s my father’s, the things from his study.  I had forgotten we packed them all away and hid them in the attic.  At the time we just couldn’t face he was gone, so I ran away to a new school and mother to her first job.  We just tried not to think about it and now I feel like I abandoned him.  There were so many wonderful memories of him and that study.  I could describe in detail every item on his desk, the maps on the wall, even the books lining all those shelves.  To think I was such a coward that I ran from all the love he gave me because it hurt when it was gone.”  She looked up at him, tears streaking down her cheeks. “He loved me so much and I forgot him.”

Gently, Trowa used the pad of his thumb to wipe the tears from her face.  “You didn’t forget him, Vice Foreign Minister.  You just never mourned him.”

With a strangled sob, she buried her face in his chest and cried.  Trowa wrapped his arms around her.  Gently stroking her back he offered her the comfort and peace she needed.  He didn’t know how long they stayed like that, but when she pulled back to give him a shaky smile, he was reluctant to let her go.

“Feel better?”

This time her smile was a bit firmer. “Yes, thank you.  I’m sorry, Trowa.  I didn’t mean to break down and drench your shirt.”

“It’s all right, Relena,” he said reaching out to tuck a stray hair behind her ear.  “That’s what friends do.”  He gazed into those tear washed eyes so close to his own and sent up a silent apology to Quatre.  He knew his lover wanted to give Relena her first real kiss, but sometimes you just had to follow your emotions.

When Trowa’s lips fitted over her own, Relena released her held breath in a relieved sigh.  Freed of her guilt as his thoughts reflected her own.  The gentle pressure of his firm lips was at once arousing and comforting.  His tongue glided across her lower lip requesting access.  She opened eagerly for his invasion.  They twined together in a silent dance as old as time.  Again she was awash with excitement and ease, arousal and reassurance.

She had just kissed her best friend’s lover, but felt no awkwardness when they separated to look at one another.  Only understanding and friendship passed between them without any feeling of guilt.  No words were needed as they went back to work.

/

“What, were you born on the side of a hill? It’s straight.”

“Maxwell, you must be looking at it with one eye closed.  It’s crooked.”

“Why don’t you go back in the kitchen, Wufei, and do what you do best.  Make me something to eat.”

“Sticking things in your face is Heero’s job.  Not mine.”

“Oh yeah?  We all know where you like to stick it.”

“Is that a complaint?”

Quatre sighed.  It never failed.  Every time Duo and Wufei fought, it degenerated down to sex.  He just hoped they had enough self-restraint to not jump each other in Relena’s living room.  Speaking of Relena, where did she wander off?

Duo and Wufei continued to bicker and Quatre flushed as a few more daring positions were mentioned.  Heero finally crawled out from under the tree to examine for himself.  Looking at it briefly, he shifted it an eight of an inch north.

“Shut up, bakas,” he said and marched out of the room.

Duo gave the Chinaman a wink. “Later.”

As Wufei headed back into the kitchen, Relena and Trowa came down the stairs, dusty boxes in tow.  Quatre knew immediately something had happened.  Relena had been friendly if a little unsure of how to act toward Trowa all afternoon, but now she seemed completely at ease.

The boxes were placed in front of the couch, and Duo immediately plopped down next to Relena to look through them.  Quatre allowed a pleased smile. Everyone seemed to be happy and having a good time.  His smile widened as he felt strong arms slide around his waist from behind. Instinctively, he leaned back into that comforting embrace.

“She looks happy, doesn’t she?”

Trowa’s nose nuzzled through the hairs at the nape of his neck. “Yes.”

Quatre tipped his head to the side to allow more access to the wandering lips. “You two were gone awhile. Did anything happen?”

He could feel Trowa’s smile against his skin. “Jealous?”

“Should I be?” he asked, looking playfully over his shoulder.

Wordlessly, Trowa cupped his face and kissed him possessively.  Quatre turned, wrapping his arms around his lover and deepened the embrace.

Relena watched from the couch, unsure of what to think of the striking couple.

“You’re okay with that, aren’t you, Lena?”

She turned back to an oddly serious Duo.

“Of course,” she answered automatically, “they are a beautiful couple.”  Surprisingly, it was true.  She did feel fine.  How could she feel any ill will toward two people who obviously loved each other so much?  “They are very lucky,” she said a little wistfully.

The wicked gleam was back in Duo’s eye.  “Well, if you’re feeling left out.”  He reached over and pulled her across his lap.

“Duo!?”

He started placing peck kisses across her neck and collarbone.

“Duo!”

This time his name came out in a shriek as his fingers edged under her shirt to tickle her sides.  She was soon gasping and writhing under Duo’s persistent hands.

The ringing of the doorbell caused everyone to pause.  Relena jumped up and making good her escape dashed for the door.  Still flushed and out of breath, she opened the door for Heero Yuy.  He was again loaded down with boxes and glaring at the door.  He stepped through and gave Relena a hard look.  She didn’t know what it meant but couldn’t suppress the smile on her lips.

Then, much to the surprise of everyone in the room, Relena found herself pressed against the door jam as Heero gave her a hard kiss on the lips.  There was complete silence as Heero marched over to the tree and began to string lights.  Relena touched her tingling lips wondering what just happened.

“What the hell was that, Heero?” Duo sputtered.

Heero didn’t deign to answer.

Unsure of what to do, Relena escaped to the kitchen for a soothing cup of tea.  A wave of heat hit her as she opened the door, quickly followed by the delicious smell of cooking food.

Wufei stood in front of the stove stirring one of the four cooking pots.  A quick peek in the oven and he moved back to the island where he had been chopping vegetables.  She quickly smothered a snicker as she caught a glimpse of his apron.  It was large and serviceable, but it had written in big red letters, “Kiss me I’m the Chef.”

“How is everything going, Wufei?”

“Good, but don’t touch anything,” he said sternly not looking up from his work.  His tone was brusque, but she didn’t feel put off at all.

“I just thought I would have a little tea.”

He used the knife to point to a steaming pot on the counter.  “Help yourself.”

Getting her tea, she settled on one of the stools lining the counter and watched the ex-pilot work.  He moved with a grace and economy of movement.  There was no unwanted mess; he cleaned as he went from one item to the next.  He must have a wonderful internal clock because she heard no egg timers or alarms, but he seemed to know exactly when each item should be done.  If he gave this kind of concentration and precision to everything he did, it was no wonder he had been such a good pilot.

Relena just sat there enjoying the silent companionship when her mouth started to water.  Wufei was finally working on something she recognized.  Chocolate mousse.  If she allowed herself one sinful thing in her life, it was chocolate.  A secret obsession that rarely reared its head.

Wufei turned from the bowl to tend the stove, and she couldn’t stop herself from sneaking over and taking a dollop on her finger.  She was about to place the lush sweet treasure on her tongue when a bronze hand gripped her wrist.  She looked up to meet glittering dark orbs.  “You’re new at this, Darlian, but no one touches anything until it’s done.”

“I’m sorry. It won’t happen again,” she apologized, thinking she was going to get away with her prize.

The air froze in her chest as Wufei didn’t release her, but pulled her hand closer to place her chocolate tipped finger in his own mouth.  His tongue wrapped around the digit stripping it of the sweet essence.  Her heart picked up speed as he sucked on the trapped appendage determined to get every bit.

“Mmmm,” he said, releasing her, “needs more vanilla.”

Wufei calmly went back to work as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.  Relena had yet to move, trying to resist the insane urge to steal more chocolate, even if she never tasted a bite.  Suddenly, dealing with Heero seemed much safer.  The attraction to Heero was something she had dealt with before and was pretty sure she could handle again, but this was completely new.  Of all the pilots, he was the only one she never really thought of on a sexual level, but now it was tough to think of anything else.  As casually as possible, she rinsed her teacup and headed for the living room.

/

Duo must have found the stereo because Christmas music filled the room.  Trowa, arms draped around Heero from behind, his chin resting in those uncontrollable dark locks, stood silently and watched Duo drag a laughing Quatre in an impromptu dance.  As the song came to an end, Duo dropped his partner into a dip giving him a thorough kiss.  Many seconds later when they came up for air, Quatre was still laughing.

“Next time, Duo, I get to lead.”

“Anywhere you like, o-fearless-leader.”

He gave Duo’s braid an affectionate tug, heading back toward the tree.

“Lena,” called Duo spotting her in the doorway.  Coming over, he wrapped a long arm about her waist, pulling her to his side.  She returned the gesture.  She could really get used to this touchable atmosphere.  “What have you been doing?  Stop slacking off and help us get this tree decorated.  We’ll be up till midnight at this rate and if we don’t sleep, Santa will never come.”

“Santa Claus?”

Duo gasped in mock shock, “Don’t tell me you’re a non-believer?”

“Well…”

“Say no more.  We will just have to reconvert you.  Prof G and I did the calculations and if using a time and space disrupter, it is technically possible to visit all the Earth and Colony children in a night.  Now the distribution of presents would require a matter transfer unit with multiple relay satellites.  That is where the elves come in.  They man all the different transfer buffers in all the major cities.  Sure none of those things have been invented yet, but hey he’s Santa Claus.  He just doesn’t like to flaunt his technological advancements.”

“I see.  Well, I guess I’ll have to dig out my stocking.”

“That’s my girl.”

Duo and Quatre quickly had her settled on the couch and delegated her to handing out ornaments.  Each decoration had a little story related to it, and she found herself telling Christmas tales as they went.  The wooden reindeer with uneven legs that a distant grandfather had carved, the crystal ball given to her mother on the first Christmas of her marriage.  Getting displayed front and center, Duo insisted, was the macaroni snowflake she made in Kindergarten.

The next couple hours flew by:  Duo cracking jokes and playing pranks, Quatre asking questions and telling a few stories of his own.  Heero spent most of his time following Duo and correcting his ornament placing.  Wufei finally came out and joined them bearing eggnog and cookies.  He didn’t join in the decorating but very vocally gave his opinion of their efforts.

She almost choked on her nog when Heero walked by a stretching Quatre and casually smacked him on the ass.  Relena did burst into laughter when she got a good look at Quatre’s behind.  Heero had stuck a “Do not open till Christmas” sticker on his butt.  Duo sported an array of ornaments dangling from his braid courtesy of Trowa.

Finally the last plastic ball was placed strategically on the tree.  They all stood back to admire their work.  It was a blend of old and new, traditional and unconventional.  Relena couldn’t remember a more beautiful tree or more pleasant company.  She just sat back and let the camaraderie and joy swirl around her.  To think she almost spent this holiday alone.  This was exactly how Christmas should be.

/

Feeling warm and content, Relena slowly opened her eyes.  She must have dozed off.  As the room came into focus, the first thing she noticed was the fire had died down.  Duo lay sprawled on the fur rug in front of it, a half empty bowl of popcorn nearby.  Someone had draped a blanket over him, and she watched as his gentle snoring stirred the long bangs hanging about his face.

The lights on the tree winked merrily and cast a warm colorful glow on the other sleeping occupants.  Wufei still sat in the armchair perfectly straight, his head barely tipped to one side.  His right hand lay tangled in Heero’s chocolate brown locks.  Heero’s cheek lay pillowed on Wufei’s thigh.  Their faces totally relaxed in peaceful slumber.

If she turned her head she could see Trowa stretched across the couch.  One leg was tossed over the back while she could feel the other tucked between her and the cushion.  A blanket had also been tucked around him, but was now bunched around his waist and chest.

She couldn’t stop the smile that pulled at her lips.  Contentment washed through her.  This night had been so special she didn’t want it to end.  She didn’t really want to think about it.  Just enjoy the moment, Relena. It will be over too soon, then you can think of other things.

The heartbeat under her ear and the arms wrapped around her waist told her where Quatre lay.  She tilted her head back to look at the man responsible for this moment of joy, only to see him looking down at her with eyes so full of love and caring she thought she might cry.

“Good morning, Relena.”

“Good morning.”

“How are you feeling?”

How could she describe all the emotions running through her?  When was the last time she had been this happy? Before the war? Farther?

“Wonderful.”

“I’m glad because this is my gift to you. We’re your friends, we’ll always be here for you, and you’ll never have reason to be lonely again.”

This time tears did glitter on her lashes. “Thank you.”

The arms around her tightened as she tucked her head under his chin.  Suddenly, the morning looked much brighter and full of promise.

“Merry Christmas.”

 

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