Title: Hear My Pain
Rating: (I hate the new system, so I'm sticking to tried and true in the story) PG-13/mild R.
Disclaimer: Not mine, don't sue. Playing with them is just for my amusement and possibly some others.
Summary: A year after the battle against Mariemaia, something begins to go terribly wrong for Duo. Will be 1+2/with a possible 1x2 further on. Background pairings of 3+4 and 5+(undecided as yet.) and one sided 1xR (for Relena as per the norm in these stories.) Relena is shrewd and cunning in this story. There will be Relena bashing, but it will be subtle...I hope.
A/N: Ugh. Almost a full month to update this thing. I was hoping for ten reviews, but well, a month is a month. This thing is all plotted out, but have any of you authors out there noticed that when you plot key points, it's difficult to fill in the gaps between? That was my problem with this and I'm sure it'll continue to do so until I finish it. I'm normally an off the cuff of my sleeve writer, so this is something fairly new for me. And so I say, Onward and Enjoy!
Duo stepped out of the stonewashed building and instantly flipped the collar of his jacket up. There was a bite to the wind blowing, matching the date as the start of winter.
Hoisting his backpack higher on his shoulder, he started off the school lot, only to pause when he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. He chanced a glance around. There wasn't anyone he knew in the area, his classes being later in the afternoon and most of his new acquaintances had morning classes. There was someone though, watching him. He didn't recognize the guy, who was rather plain. Sandy blond hair, pale skin, jeans and a sweater. An average looking student if Duo had to guess, but there was something weird...
He shrugged it off and started walking again, but because he still felt like he was being watched by the person, he took a different, longer way home, jumping fences and walking through backyards. He finally turned towards the shop when the feeling at last abated.
Duo let himself in, waving at Hilde when she looked up from the office computer, "You're awfully late today." Hilde said, glancing at the clock.
"Yeah." Duo said, shrugging, "Need anything done? I've got a few worksheets that need to be finished, but it can wait..."
"Nope. Today was a fairly slow day." Hilde said, turning back to the computer, "Why do you think I'm stuck inside."
Duo shrugged, "I'm gunna have my aid out, so try not to startle me too badly after you close up, ok?"
Hilde looked back up at Duo and frowned, "Is it bothering you that badly?"
"No, it's just a bit tender around the clip and a bit of a headache."
"All right then."
Duo grinned and blew a kiss to his friend before turning and bounding up the stairs, two at a time. He dropped his bag at the kitchen table and headed to his room, already fiddling with the aid in his ear. By the time he reached his bedside table, the aid was out and ready to be placed in its storage case.
Duo headed back to the kitchen, pausing to whistle up the loft stairs. He stared up and then laughed as a bundle of black and white fur slid along the small hallway and ran down the steps.
He knelt down and caught the bundle, tilting his head up to receive the welcoming kisses, "Hey, Cerulean!" He exclaimed, petting the dog for a moment before setting her down, "No hearing aid so it's work time."
He had received Cerulean as a gift from Hilde and Austin. He hadn't liked the thought of sleeping through alarms, calls, and the like or even missing them while awake. They talked to one of Duo's professors with out him finding out and instantly signed up for the aid dog.
Cerulean was a year old Shetland Sheepdog, completely black in color except for the white mane of fur around her neck. Duo had only had her for a month and the training after classes were excruciating for him, because he couldn't bring his aid with him. He was very glad that she had been half trained before he had gotten her though. It did make things a bit easier.
Cerulean followed him through the apartment and laid on her bed by the kitchen doorway. Duo smiled at her before turning to the fridge. Being a school night for Duo, Austin would be picking up some sort of take out on his way home. Of course, that didn't stop him from going through the reefer and pulling out a chunk of cheese and some soda.
After he prepared his snack, he sat at the table and began to work, frowning over the assignments. At least an hour had passed when he felt a cold nose snuffling at his ankle. A quick glance showed Cerulean standing there, body strung tight and tail waging slightly. During said glance he noticed the button on top of the vid-phone blinking, the sign for Duo that the phone would be ringing quite soon.
He slid his hearing aid back in with a slight wince and headed to the phone just as it hit its second ring.
The number blinking back at him was attached to a picture of Relena. He sighed and answered the phone, "Miss Relena! To what do I owe this honor?"
Relena smiled at him over the screen, but Duo could tell it was slightly forced. She had never been his biggest fan, "Ah, Duo. I'm glad I got a hold of you. I am inviting all the pilots to a one year anniversary celebration."
Duo's eyes widened fractionally, but not quite enough for Relena to pick up on it, "Anniversary?"
"It's almost been a year since peace has been implemented, Duo. I feel a little…celebration is in order." Relena said, the smile falling from her face like water. Duo noticed that so far into the conversation, Relena kept trying to peer over his shoulder, as if she was looking for something. Or was that someone?
"I suppose." Duo shrugged.
"Hilde is invited as well. The party is in two days on Christmas Eve. One of my personal bodyguards is on L2 at the moment, visiting family. He will be your escort to the palace."
Duo glanced out the window, realizing then that the odd sensation of being watched was back. He didn't notice that when he turned to look, he had slightly exposed his hearing aid to Relena. Looking back at the screen he sighed, "Would it be alright if Hilde's fiancé comes along as well?"
Relena's forced smile was back, "Of course! The more the merrier. Accommodations will be made. Please, call the palace back this evening after you talk with Hilde and her...fiance, to let us know of your attendance. If you would meet with Lathy at the shuttle port around eleven on Saturday, it would be appreciated. The flight is not until noon, but it never hurts to be early."
Duo nodded, "Of course."
With a final smile, Relena disconnected the feed.
Duo scowled and shut down the phone on his end, "What a bitch." He muttered. Pulling up the address book, he punched Quatre's picture and waited for him to pick up.
Duo smiled at his friend, seeing him, sort of face to face for the first time in months. Quatre still hadn't noticed him though, his attention on something else on the desk, "Hey, cat."
Quatre's head shot up and around as he stared at the screen, "Duo! It's so good to see you again!" He paused and narrowed his eyes, "What's wrong? Is it Heero?"
Duo raised an eyebrow, "Heero's fine, I think. I haven't gotten an email from him in a few weeks though."
"I know. Neither, have we. In fact, Relena called here the week before last, looking for him. Apparently, he left her security team without telling her. She was not happy and thought I was hiding from her when I said I hadn't the faintest as to what she was talking about."
"I'm glad Heero finally had the sense to leave. Anyway, speaking of Relena, she is actually the reason I called in the first place. Have you heard anything about a celebration that she's throwing?"
Quatre nodded and started pushing around papers on his desk, "Actually, yes. Trowa and I received the invitations yesterday. Wufei called also, wondering about it. He's not too sure he can make it, there was a botched mission that he had to take over for."
"You received an invite?" Duo asked, raising his eyebrows.
Quatre held up a rose colored envelope that had a blue ribbon dangling from it, "Yeah, why?"
"Mm, maybe because I just got off the phone with her."
"She was probably killing two birds with one stone." Quatre said with a laugh, "She called looking for Heero but needed a legitimate reason to talk to you. Hence the invite. It was a 'win-win' situation for her."
"She didn't want to talk to me, cat. That much was obvious."
Quatre shrugged, "She needed an excuse to look and see if Heero was with you. The invite gave her that excuse. That's all I'm saying."
"Are you going to go?" Quatre asked, "It would be so good to see you in person."
Duo sighed, "I don't know. Probably. Hilde will drag me there I'm sure."
"Good." Quatre said brightly, "I'll see you then. I have to get a bit more caught up to have some free time so..."
"I getcha." Duo laughed, "See you then." One final wave from each and Duo disconnected the call. He fell back onto the couch and let his head drop backwards. Staring up at the ceiling, he bit his lip as he realized that Hilde really would drag his ass there if he said he didn't want to go. She was still pretty pissed that he wouldn't tell his 'closest comrades' about his condition, but Duo didn't need the sympathy or pity that would come from them.
Scrubbing his eyes with the palm of his hand, he headed back to the kitchen to wait for his friends.
Duo stopped dead in his tracks as he caught sight of their guide at the shuttle port station, holding tight to Cerulean's leash as she whined at the sudden stop. There was no mistaking that he would be the one to accompany them to L1. He was dressed in Relena's personal guards dress blues as well as holding a sign with Duo's name on it.
Duo clenched his teeth. It was the bastard that had been following him all around the colony for the past two days. Relena must have posted him on Duo to see if Heero had come to him at all, which was pretty stupid of her, Duo figured. Heero would have known what Relena was going to do and would have avoided all of the pilots.
"Mr. Maxwell, I presume?" Lathy said, bowing his head, "The shuttle is just down the way. Port 3. Ms. Relena sent one of her private shuttles for the occasion."
Duo forced a large smile, "Well, that was kind of her. Remind me to thank her tonight."
"Of course. Follow me please."
They bordered the shuttle with no problems and Duo looked around as he took his seat in a leather recliner next to one of the windows. The main room was done up in browns and light pinks, showing off Relena's favorite color, although this was subtle for her. It was tasteful and certainly wasn't hard on the eyes. Duo slipped his aid out and placed it in its case before stowing that in his carry on. Versant had warned that the aids would cause him some pain if left on in the shuttle, picking up engine and electronic noises.
He smiled at Hilde as she sat across from him and picked up the book he had grabbed for the trip. It was one of his school books, but he had craftily covered it with a book cover full of lurid comments that everyone seemed to expect from him. It would serve to protect the actual contents of the book from peeping toms. He hoped.
Duo placed a hand on Cerulean's head and prayed she stay calm during the trip. She was born to the colony and had never traveled by car, as Duo liked to walk everywhere he went, much less by shuttle. His main worry was that she would get so scared, she'd lose control of her bodily functions.
They arrived at the L1 cluster around four thirty, which Duo was quietly grateful for. Cerulean had started dancing a half an hour previous to tell him she was ready to go to the bathroom. The trip hadn't really been that bad for her. She seemed to realize she wouldn't be able to go to the bathroom until they were off the ship and had regulated her water intake on her own. It was starting to take a toll on her though and Duo was getting mighty sick of Lathy's glares towards the dog.
Relena's parties never started until seven, unless she was planning a dinner, then it was around six. According to Lathy, tonight was just a regular party. That would thankfully give him around two and half hours to relax and get ready.
Her palace was nothing short of elegant. Duo had never actually been to this one and he was in a bit of awe. It was three stories high and looked very wide as well with a wrap around veranda.
Relena had at least five palaces throughout the colonies and the Earth Sphere and she spent the bare minimum she could into the relief funds that Quatre had put into effect. He understood somewhat that she had an image to maintain and that she was a brilliant politician all things considered, but her wealth was beyond imagination.
Shaking his head, he climbed out of the limo behind Hilde and Austin. He slipped his aid back in and pasted a grin on his face as they headed up the marble encased porch to the front doors, keeping hold of Cerulean's leash.
Pagan had the door opened before any of them could knock and bowed them into the foyer, eying Cerulean with disfavor, "Miss Relena has already set aside accommodations for you. If you would kindly grab your effects, I would be honored to show you the way."
Up two flights and down a short hallway and they were standing at Hilde and Austin's rooms, "Do you make yourself comfortable. A servant will arrive promptly at seven to show you to the ballroom. Dinner will be brought up around six. Nothing large, as there will be finger foods served this evening." Pagan turned to Duo, "If you will follow me Mr. Maxwell, your room is just down the hall."
Down the hall apparently meant in another wing. The walk was fairly long and they had passed the staircase a hallway back. This wing felt pretty desolate and Duo was beginning to wonder if placing him here was on purpose or if Relena had run out of rooms by the time she reached his name. But if that was the case, why weren't Hilde and Austin in this wing as well?
They stopped in front of an unadorned oak door, "Here we are, Mr. Maxwell. There are fresh towels in the linen as well as soaps and…plenty of shampoo." Pagan turned smartly on his heal and headed back the direction they had arrived from, only to pause and look back, "There is a servants staircase just down the hall. Do use that to take the dog outside to the dog walk."
Duo snorted as Pagan disappeared from view. That guy was such a prick. He opened his door and stepped inside, frowning slightly as he looked around. It was like a hotel room. Plain and, well, boring. The bathroom was small, just a shower stall and toilet, with the sink in the main room across from the linen closet that was stocked as promised.
The only good thing that Duo could figure this room had were the very large picture windows that opened to a small, private balcony. He opened the doors and stepped outside, taking in the surprisingly warm, damp air that was being filtered through the ducts. The weather controllers were probably going for fog and hit the mist instead, and it was odd to be standing outside in sixty-degree weather when just five hours ago it was borderline forties on L2.
He sighed and stepped back inside, leaving the window open to get some circulation going in the room. He unpacked quickly, hanging up his suit in the standing wardrobe and tossing his regular clothes in the chest of drawers that held a small radio.
Cerulean would sleep on the bed with him, so he hadn't bothered to bring her bed, but he did have a separate bag filled with her food, dishes, treats and some toys that he set by the window. He took care of her needs, planning to run her outside before he had to dress for the party.
Frowning, he headed to the bathroom, hoping the hot water would last long enough to both shampoo and condition his hair.
Sitting down on the bench set next to the entrance of the dog walk, Duo looked back towards the palace. He had yet to see any of his friends or anyone else, in fact, in the wing he was staying in and he had left his door cracked for such a reason. He was definitely beginning to suspect Relena had secluded him, but he wished he knew why. Granted, she didn't like him much but secluding him from everyone else wasn't going to earn her brownie points from Heero or anything. If he even found out, that is. There was a pretty damned good chance that he wouldn't even show up.
Sighing, he turned his attention back to Cerulean and watched her romp through a small obstacle course. He was just about ready to gather her up and head inside when his aid picked up someone calling his name. Cerulean picked it up as well and raced back to his side, ready to do her job if needed.
Turning his head, he grinned as he caught sight of Quatre, "Hey cat!"
He stood up and met the blond at the entrance to the fence, allowing himself to be swept into a hug. He pulled back slightly, shocked that his face had met with a shoulder, "Cat? You grew!"
Quatre laughed and released Duo, "Yeah, still shorter then Trowa, though, so I still have that horrible nickname he bestowed upon me."
Duo gazed at his friend's 5'9" frame in awe. He, himself, hadn't hit a growth spurt yet and so was still wallowing around 5'5" inches. If Trowa was taller than Quatre..., "Holy crap, I'm going to look like a midget next to him."
"You and Wufei can commiserate about it together. He's growled about it enough that Trowa's immune to it." Quatre kneeled down and petted Cerulean on the head, "Who's this?"
"This is Cerulean." Duo said, with a proud grin, "She's my baby. I couldn't leave her home."
"Of course not." Quatre grinned and stood back up, "Relena must have thrown a fit." He looked down at the Shetland, "Cerulean, huh? Any special connotations behind that?"
Duo blushed, "I really don't want to answer that, cat, but I'm sure you already know." Then he shrugged, "And I dunno if Pagan told Relena or not but he certainly wasn't happy. He all but told me to keep her out of sight. I plan on bringing her with to the party tonight." Not to mention that she was needed in case someone called for him from across the room.
"We should head back in if you're ready too." Quatre said, glancing at his watch, "It's close to six and I'm getting a bit hungry."
"Okay." They started up the slopping lawn, Duo walking on the side of Quatre opposite his aid. It dimmed Quatre's voice some, but it was better then him finding out about it.
"Where are you staying?"
Duo knew he was at the back of the house, so he gazed up at the third floor, finding his open window and balcony easily, "There." He pointed.
Quatre followed his finger and then frowned, "Trowa, Wufei, and I are no where near you. Wufei's on the third floor across from Hilde and Trowa and I are on the second floor. All the rooms are at the opposite ends of the palace than yours."
Duo sighed as they reached the kitchen entrance, "Yeah, I kinda figured."
A/N: Hope you enjoyed it. Relena seems to be fairly obvious in her dislike of Duo, eh? I was trying to avoid that a bit, but...well...it's needed. Anyway, please read and review!