Part 5

[Won't you come out and play with me?
Step by step ... heart to heart
Left right left ... we all fall down
Like toy soldiers]

"I feel absolutely ridiculous and overdressed!" Duo fidgeted as she tugged her dress.

"Don't call attention to yourself. You look gorgeous. What name did you give?"

Duo quirked a grin at Heero. "I gave MY name." She bit her lip. "I do NOT like the idea of walking into Releena's turf. She's
alpha here, and I'm the low wolf posing as one higher up." She tilted her head. "And you, Hee-chan? What name did YOU give?
You couldn't give your code name."

Before Heero could answer, the Master of Ceremonies spoke up. "Odin Lowe and Hope Maxwell!"

Heero gave Duo a puzzled look. "Hope?" After a second, he nodded. "It suits you."

Duo smiled gently. "Odin Lowe ... wasn't he the man who ..."

"Assassinated Heero Yuy? Yes. He was the first man who raised me. I don't remember much of my real family, and he never
named me, so I chose to name myself after him? How'd you get YOUR name?"

Duo's smile saddened and she lowered her voice as they entered the ballroom. "Solo named me. Before taking me into his group,
he saw a merchant give me a scrap of food and a pint of water. He always said, afterwards, that it gave him hope that there was
still goodness in the universe. I became his Hope for the future as well. He was in his early teens ... maybe a year younger than
we are now. He ... always said he hoped to marry me when we were older. He clung to that even as he was dying. It comforted
him a little in the end."

"Did you love him?"

Duo frowned and shook her head. "Only in the way a girl would love her brother. Much like the love I feel for Quatre. I feel
affection, but the ... ZING ... just isn't there. Know what I mean?"

Heero nodded a little. "Yes. She-wolf at 10 O'clock!"

Duo gasped. "But the house is such a mess!"

Releena bounded up to Heero. "Heero! I am SO glad you could come! Where is that American idiot?" She laughed demurely.
"Probably heard the word 'formal' and ran for the hills! Who is your ... companion?"

Duo smiled winningly. "Why ... I'm amazed you don't recognize me! You didn't honestly think Heero would come into a possibly
dangerous situation without his partner, did you?" She fingered a lock of her long hair. "Amazing what modern technology is
capable of, don't you agree?"

Releena did a double-take. "Duo?" She narrowed her eyes at the girl. 'Little Hellion thinks she can fit in, does she? Let's just see
about that.' Then she smiled a little. "Amazing! You simply MUST tell me how you managed it! As for right now, I'm in a bit of a
bind and you are JUST the person to help me, Duo-chan."

Duo felt a tinge of dread in the pit of her stomach. Releena was ACTING nice, but those eyes gave her away. A glance to Heero
confirmed that he sensed something off as well. Still ... no need to refuse a reasonable request. "Although we're here to guard
you from possible assassination, I have no problems with helping you. What do you need me for?"

Releena smiled. "The lead singer of the band I hired for entertainment just called stating she can't make it due to a twisted ankle.
Would you be so kind as to fill in for her?"

Duo blinked in surprise, then fought the urge to laugh. 'I had forgotten that the 'bot was incapable of carrying a decent tune. She
must think to embarrass me.' Instead she let one of her pleasant smiles come through. "Releena ... you flatter me. I'd be honored!"

Releena nodded and led Duo to the backstage area. "Now ... nothing too retro ... but nothing too blah either. This is a party, but
not one of the head-banger parties you must be used to."

Duo shrugged. "Never been to a party at all before tonight. Kids from the street couldn't afford fancy stuff. We were lucky to get
food at all on most days."

Releena frowned at that. She had always imagined Duo the type that went to wild parties and dance clubs. The mental image of
the vivacious girl beside her digging through a dumpster unnerved her. "Ah ... well ... here we are."

Duo nodded her head in greeting to the band. When Releena left, she faced the lead guitarist. "Listen ... there's something I've
always wanted to sing in front of an audience ..."


*****

Releena was still frowning in thought as she approached Heero. She couldn't get that mental image of Duo out of her head. She
had seen a few starving children, and had done what she could to help them ... who had been there to help Duo? From the sassy
and carefree attitude, she guessed Duo'd done a lot of her own upbringing.

Heero turned to the stage as some feedback announced that someone had turned the sound up a little too high. He let his
expression soften as Duo came onto the stage. He watched as she paused to smile at the band in what seemed to be gratitude.

Duo cleared her throat. "Ladies and gentlemen. We are here tonight because of a young woman who is rebuilding a pacifist
nation. I hope I speak for all of you when I say that she is doing a splendid job." She took a deep breath. "For her ... I'll sing
something that I promised someone I would sing in front of an audience ... in hopes that the wish for peace would reach
fulfillment." She curtsied to Releena and took the microphone in her hand. A few of the party attenders were amazed when Duo
crossed herself as the gentle music started.

"Ave Maria ... gratia plena
Dominus tecum ... benedicta tu
In mulieribus ... et benedictus
Fructus ventris tui Jesus

"Sancta maria ... sancta Maria
Maria!
Ora pro nobis ... nobis peccatoribus
Nunc et in hora ... in hora mortis nostrae

"Sancta Maria ... sancta Maria
Maria!
Ora pro nobis ... nobis peccatoribus
Nunc et in hora ... in hora mortis nostrae

"Amen ... Amen!" Duo crossed herself again and mouthed the word 'Amen' once more before pasting a bright smile on her face.
"Let's get this party started!"

Releena felt humbled. She had expected Duo to start singing an old late 20th century song called Bitch. The last thing she ever
expected out of Duo was a religious song ... and one that the L-2 girl had sung with such reverence. She blinked and shook her
head to keep the tears that were building from falling.

Heero nodded in approval. Although he knew that few of the people attending had taken the song to heart, he had noticed that
Releena had not been unmoved. He turned to the princess of the Sanc Kingdom and waited as she walked up to him.

"DO you love her, Heero?"

Heero frowned in thought. "Yeah. I'm not IN love with her, though ... not yet at least. Although ... I don't think that's very far
away. She's a sweet girl with a kind nature. She's very open about being affectionate, but she knows enough to back off when
the time is right. The only thing keeping me from falling in love is my training."

Releena nodded. "I envy her."

"That, Releena, is most of your problem right there." He paused for a moment. "There was no threat to you, was there?"

Releena shook her head. "I never thought you'd bring Duo."

Heero gave Releena a pitying look as he pushed himself away from his position on the wall. He walked over to the stage to get a
better view of the girl who was singing her heart out. Waiting until she spotted him, he made a quick slicing movement across his
neck to indicate that they were finished.

Duo sighed and hopped off the stage. "Red herring, huh? She finally get a clue?"

Heero nodded. "Yeah. Let's go. We aren't needed here."

Releena watched the pair leave with a heavy heart. Heero wasn't hers ... never was hers, never would be hers.


*****

Quatre looked up as the pair walked in. Heero was pissed and Duo looked unhappy. "What happened?"

"There was no threat to her royal whine-ness. It was a badly designed plot to get Heero to go to her party. Heero's pissed at J for
not double checking. Any new missions come in?" Duo had pulled the long ribbons from her hair and was unweaving the
intricate braid.

"As a matter of fact, yeah. There's an OZ MS storage facility about 35 miles south by southwest from here." Quatre watched as
the girl started weaving her hair into the usual braid.

"Huh ... so the creeps are getting bold, huh? The only building 35 miles south southwest of here is an old lab that was
condemned about 20 years ago due to toxic substances in the ground and piss poor construction. Lemme see the map." She
wrapped an elastic band around the end of her braid and stroked the length just once almost reverently.

Quatre brought the map up on the computer and pointed. "This is the location. Is this where the building you mentioned is?"

Duo nodded. "Odd, though ... this place is too hard to defend. Too many places for us to pop outta nowhere and perform a
sneak attack." She started typing away at the keyboard and frowned. "Quat ... ummm ..."

Quatre smiled and held out a small black case. "Here! You always forget!"

Duo made a face and reached into the case to retrieve a pair of glasses with purple tinted lenses. She put them on and resumed
her typing.

Wufei entered the room and did a double take when he spotted Duo. "You wear glasses for reading, too?"

Duo met Wufei's eyes and smiled before she turned back to what she was working on. "There are WAY too many places for us
to hide! And if there are mobile suits there ... why haven't I picked up on them? My radar includes metal detectors and their
range is a 100-mile radius around my estate. Even Gundanium is detectable."

Heero stood behind Duo and looked at the specs over her shoulder. "This feels off, but orders are orders. Maybe they're just
setting up. I don't feel we should take the risk."

Duo took her glasses off and nodded. "When do we move?"

Heero turned away. "You have 10 minutes to get suited up! We move out in 15." He walked out the door. "Mission ... accepted."


*****

Seven minutes later found four of the pilots waiting anxiously for the fifth. This would be the first time that the pilot of
Deathscythe fought beside them for real.

The sound of footsteps on concrete made all four boys look towards the door. When Duo stepped into the light, Heero felt all the
blood rush from his head.

If they had expected the only female member of the team to dress in a short skirt and a tube top, they were sorely mistaken.
Quite the opposite was the case. As a matter of fact ... had the events of the past few days not transpired, they would never have
known the difference between the male 'bot and the female pilot. She was garbed in the usual black priest's outfit with a cap on
her head and her long chestnut hair in a tight braid. She grinned at their reactions and flashed them a "V".

Heero nodded his approval. "Welcome back, Duo." With that, he climbed into Wing.

Duo sweat-dropped. "Oi, Heero! That all ya gotta say? MAN! We REALLY hafta work on your communication skills!"

Heero's mouth twitched. "Later. We have a mission!"

"Yeah yeah ... what-EVER!" Duo climbed into Deathscythe and smiled as she started up the diagnostic scan. "Hey, buddy! It's
about time you got your chance to fly. Are you ready to kick ass? I hope so ... 'cause if you're not, I might hafta do it without
your help."

Heero chuckled as he heard the monologue going on in the black Gundam. He had honestly missed the banter. "Ready?" He got a
series of affirmatives. "Let's move!" With a small surge of satisfaction, Heero directed his Gundam into motion.


END OF PART 5

"Ave Maria" as done by Jewel. I just love that version. It usually has a harp as the background melody with the flute and/or a
person singing in the foreground.