This fic isn't going to be very much longer, although I'm not quite sure of the remaining length. So, just for confirmation's sake – we are nearing the end!

Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing, its story, or characters.

Sea of Emotion – Chapter 14

By Gundam Girl

When Heero woke, Relena wasn't beside him. He felt over the bed, running his hand along the mattress for the warmth of her, but he encountered nothing but sheet and her pillow. Startled, he opened his eyes, panic slowly seeping into him; he'd lost her once.

He saw her nearly instantly. She hadn't left. But she was standing several feet away from the bed, near the door. Her back was to him, though he could tell she was holding a sheet precariously around her; since she clenched it near her chest in the front, it drooped to the curve of her hips at the back.

From the small window on the wall beside the bed, Heero could tell without looking that they were close to the surface of the water and that it was morning. The sunray's filtering down through the calm sea floated through the window and caused the ever-shifting water to reflect, patterns splaying along her naked back.

Heero now knew the smoothness of that skin and how warm it could be beneath him. Even as slight desire sizzled in him, he extinguished the flames quickly.

"Are you okay?" he asked softly. His voice sounded like it was detached from him, as though he were dreaming. With the light and absolute quiet of the ship, nothing around him felt real. Heero wanted to go to her, to touch her and be sure she was truly there.

But when she turned around to face him, he froze. Her eyes, though not angry, clearly spoke to him: Don't come.

Relena seemed to be dreaming, too. Her eyes were dazed and soft, her lips were slightly parted with lack of focus. She was looking in his direction, but he doubted she really saw him.

In truth, Heero was wrong. At the second, her whole world had been reduced to nothing but him. The scent of him, of her, both of them together was still in the air between them. Relena felt branded by it, as though his fingers had made a physical claim on her the night before. And despite all of it, she couldn't be sure: What did Heero Yuy feel towards her?

She had nearly told him. It had begun to slip from her mouth without beckon, but he had kissed her and the short I love you had retreated back down her throat.

She was thankful for it now. Selfishly, she didn't want to be the only one with a bare soul. She had told Hero all last night. It wasn't the time for that final bit of heart to be given.

He had risen from the bed, forgoing any attempt to cover himself. Relena looked away as long as she could until he close enough to grip her chin and force her eyes up to him.

"Are you okay?" he repeated, although her defensive stance and look in her eyes more than answered in the negative. He covered the hand she was using to hold the sheet against her. It was cold, and his eyes narrowed. "Relena—"

"I'm sorry." She took a step back as the words dropped from her mouth. "I'm sorry that I'm acting like this. I'm a little worried."

"About what?" Confused, Heero made no move to touch her again. Wasn't it typically men who had morning-after nerves? But Relena was pale her fingers were trembling. "About me?" he asked.

"About me," she corrected him. "All that you know about me, Heero… How close you've gotten to me, I just…" Slowly, she raised her face to watch him. "I don't know if I'm ready to embrace all of that just yet."

But she already had. She'd embraced it and him. But for some reason, Heero couldn't say that to her. "Jesus, Relena." He plunged his hands into his mussed hair and went for his discarded pants.

"I know it sounds foolish to need time at this point," she went on as she watched him, "but I do."

Now at least half-dressed, he lowered down onto the bed. His eyes were dark as he looked at her. "Are you afraid of me, Relena?"

"Of course not! I—"

"Then are you afraid I'll betray you?"

There. He'd nailed it, or come close to doing so. Her eyes flickered pain, like last night, and Heero hated thinking he was causing it. But he wouldn't run from this. And, if he could help it, he wouldn't let her run from him.

She spoke softly. "Heero. The only thing I'm afraid of is that you'll start to think I'm not who I should be. And that you'll decide…"

"God." He dropped his heads into his hands, took a deep breath. "There's no certain way a person should be. I don't expect a thing from you."

Treize had said similar words, Relena reflected. But they had been only words. Heero looked helpless sitting on her bed, and her heart ached.

But she would not risk herself again. Although she was certain that Heero would never physically hurt her, her heart was a whole other matter. Heero was nothing like Treize with the one exception that both men were human. Human feelings, albeit twisted ones, had caused Treize to give her pain. They could cause Heero to give her more.

And she loved him. That was the biggest difference. Even if he did hurt her, she couldn't be entirely sure that she wouldn't still love him. She didn't want that kind of torture. Because in the end, Relena knew that if her heart got broken, the fault would lie with her, and it would be her own mistake.

Colonel Relena Darlian didn't make mistakes.

"I'm going to leave the ship for awhile," she began before she wholly realized what she was saying. "I've been with Zechs a long time. I need to strike out on my own a bit."

"You want to get away from me," he muttered, clearly displeased. He moved to go to her, but she stopped him with an outstretched hand.

"Please," she whispered, almost begging. "Understand. I'm not angry, Heero, and I'm not upset. But I need time to work myself out." As she talked, she put on a fresh uniform, avoiding his eyes but feeling them on her. She willed her body not to heat.

Her hand went to the knob of her door, and she paused. "We're docking in Panama City again today." She felt his surprise even though Heero didn't word it. "I'll disembark then." She looked back against her better judgement.

Heero jumped at the chance to speak. "Relena, I—" But he stopped, mouth still open. Slowly, his lips met again, and he clenched both fists so tightly they shook.

Relena didn't want to believe that tears were forming, but she recognized the long unfelt tension behind her eyes. "Don't come looking for me," she murmured. Her voice still held an edge; she was ordering him.

Her hair flashed as the ship broke the surface of the water. Heero blinked a few times in the sudden light change. When he refocused, she was gone. Light was flooding the small room, but Heero had never known a blacker dark,

o0o

"Explain this to me one more time," said Zechs in a calm, even voice. Although he looked tranquil, Relena didn't have to guess that he was troubled by her words. As of yet, she hadn't justified herself.

"Explanations aren't integral," Relena told him, "but you deserve one. I'm requesting personal leave in order to confront person issues."

Zechs leaned against the wall in the surveillance room, an eyebrow raised. "As your captain, I know you're long overdue for a break, and I've no business asking questions." His expression softened, and she cast her eyes down. "But as you're brother, I'd really like to know what the problem is."

"My own," she answered stubbornly.

"Relena." Her brother stepped toward her and set a caring palm on her shoulder. "What's wrong?"

For a second, half that even, she felt like she was fourteen again and all she wanted to do was to cry to him. But for the last five years, he'd been more boss than brother; something both of them now regretted.

"It's Yuy," he stated.

"It's me," she retorted. "He plays a part, but don't resent him, Milliardo. Don't do anything – he'd too good to get rid of and you know it."

If there was one thing the captain hated, it was when someone else was right. "I'll fill out your leave form myself. What will you do?"

"I don't know. I have enough money from the bounties, so I may just rest." She could definitely use it. Looking at Zechs' stern face, she smile a little. "Don't look so sad, Milliardo."

He was immediately defensive. "I'm only—" He stopped, then sighed with a light smile of his own. "I'm going to miss you."

For the first time in nearly three years, Relena hugged him. He wrapped his arms around her in the same protective manner he'd used years ago. "I'll keep in touch," she promised. Stepping back, she went for the door. When it opened, she found a startled Noin poised to turn the knob and enter.

"Well," said Relena, face genuinely brightening a bit, "I think I've found my stand-in." She briskly shook Noin's hand. "Congratulations. Captain Merquise will fill you in." With that, Relena walked out leaving the two alone.

Speechless, Noin stared at Zechs, groping for words. The best she came up with was, "What?"

Partly confused, partly embarrassed, both of which were his sister's doing, Zechs beckoned her into the room. "I believe you were just promoted."

Astonished, Noin pressed a hand to her stomach. "She wasn't joking?" Zechs shook his head, and she could only stare at him. "Well then…is everything alright?"

"That remains to be seen. The colonel is on temporary leave and has apparently seen fir for you to take her place."

"But why?"

Zechs frowned. If he had detected a stir between her and Heero, then Relena had surely noticed something between himself and Noin as well. "She's very perceptive."

Noin smirked a little. "Oh."

"This may be unfair of me," the captain went on, "especially since I'm technically your employer." He went to her and set a hand on her upper arm. "But I'm attracted to you. And I don't think I'd be going too far from the mark if I said that you're attracted to me also."

Noin looked him in the eye and tried not to think of how her skin tingled under the uniform of sleeve where his hand rested. "Right on it," she murmured uncomfortably. "But I can't hope for a positive outcome of the attracted, sir, and neither, I'm sure, can you."

Zechs' eyebrow lifted interrogatively. "Can't I?"

"I think it would be to both of our best interests if we—" The Italian woman's rationalizing was cut on by her superior's mouth hard on hers. Her fingers jumped reflexively to his shoulders, neither pulling him closer nor pushing him away. Her eyes drifted closed, succumbing.

When he released her, Noin watched with a stupefied expression as he smiled.

"You're the best interest I've ever had," he told her. He brushed by, deliberately touching his body to hers. "I'll see you later, Colonel Noin."

As he left to go file the necessary paperwork resulted from this morning, Noin wrapped her arms around herself, warm all over.

"Damn it," she muttered, irritated by his obviously responsive effect on her. "Damn it, damn it."

o0o

Heero's stomach refused to unclench. They had surfaced nearly forty-five minutes ago and docked exactly fifty-five seconds ago. He was lying on his bed, gripping the coverlet beneath him, his knuckled blanched with the strain.

"Don't come looking for me."

Her voice and those words echoed relentlessly though his mind, repeating mercilessly. Every part of his wanted to race to the main deck and stop her before she could leave the ship.

He couldn't fathom the irony of the situation; they were in Panama City again, the place she'd found him in, and it was to be the place he lost her in. Despite being chilly to him at first, she was what kept his focused and excited about being on The Golden Wave. Without her, it was just a useless, cold submarine.

There was suddenly a single knock on his door, and two enveloped were slid into the room between it and the floor, courtesy of the ship's mail distributor. Welcoming a possible distraction, Heero rolled off the bed and picked up his mail.

The first letter was from his old apartment landlord, confirming that he'd paid his final rest. The second was from his old boss.

He had completely forgotten he'd written the old man. Heero ripped open the envelope and scanned the brief script:

This girl sounds special. So what are you waiting for, then?

-Dr. J

Heero blinked at the test for a good five seconds. The letter both dropped to the floor, then, as he bolted from the room.

"What the hell am I waiting for?" he demanded of himself. He skidded down corridors and stomped up stairs until he burst onto the main deck and raced to the dock outside in the Florida sun.

"Relena!" His voice was desperate and his eyes were frantic as he searched for her among the crowd disembarking. He nearly pushed Dorothy Catalonia off the dock. "RELENA!"

There – he caught a glimpse of her just as she was climbing into a taxi at the end of the dock.

"Shit!" Ducking under a trunk that two people were carrying over their heads, he weaved around bodies until he came to the dock's end – just as the cab had cleared the width of it.

"Relena!" She didn't hear, or possibly even ignored, his yell, and Heero watched the car zoom into tourist traffic and out of eyesight. After a few seconds, an animalistic growl rumbled from between his snarling lips and he swung back with intention to hit an adjacent telephone pole.

Instead, he hit the trunk he'd ducked beneath mere seconds before. The two men carrying it gasped as it hit the ground and flung open, articles of undoubtedly dirty laundry shooting out everywhere. Curses and insults were thrown, and Heero sighed deeply.

He was, without any trace of uncertainty, the most unhappy man in the world right then.

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