The costume party was packed. If ever there was a question about the number of people who worked for the company, it was answered at this particular event. Everyone came out for it.
Relena and Dorothy stuck with Duo's suggestion to be candy canes for the night. Relena donned a red and white striped halter dress that barely covered her rear, a red choker, and red stiletto heels while Dorothy's was a tank green and white dress with a green choker with matching stilettos. They had both decided to let their hair loose, the dresses were short enough, they needed some cover.
"Chad has been admiring you all evening. Don't tell me you haven't noticed."
Chad. He was one of the I.T guys at work and not terrible to look at. Emerald eyes, jet black hair and a South African accent. They had gone on a few dates, but it hadn't materialized into anything significant. Still, she didn't want to discuss it. Not now. So instead she shook her head to Dorothy's question. She really wasn't in the mood for this party, but it might be just enough to dislodge Duo's voice from her conscience.
"What's wrong with you? For a split second, I thought you two would be a thing. Then you just mysteriously dropped him and I never…."
Dorothy's voice drifted further and further away from Relena's mind. She was still taking, Relena knew since she could hear the voice beside her, but she couldn't actually decipher what was being said. All her faculties were being used to absorb Heero as he walked in, black dress shirt tucked into black trousers, no surprise. What was a surprise was the woman on his arm.
As if sensing she was staring at him, he looked through the crowd and found her instantly. His face held no expression or feeling not from where she was standing.
Of course, that was going to be his reaction. He hadn't come to work that morning, so she hadn't spoken to him personally or professionally since she had left in the middle of the night. And while her ego wanted to believe his reasons for missing work was about her, deep down she knew better.
Dorothy reminded her of her presence with a sharp elbow into Relena's side "Smile, candy canes are supposed to be appealing."
Relena forced a half smile and followed Dorothy into the crowd.
As usual, Dorothy had been right. Chad had been admiring her. Smiling, winking, sending her drinks. It's not every day a woman is wooed by the Grinch. It didn't take much effort to ignore him at first, especially since her mind was preoccupied with a certain person, but as the night progressed and she saw less and less of Heero, Relena didn't see the need to continue. He didn't owe her anything and she didn't owe him.
At the third wink, Relena went over to the Grinch and asked him to dance. They danced and twirled for nearly two hours, littered with occasional drink runs and bathroom breaks. She had almost forgotten about what's his name and she was genuinely having fun. It made Relena question why they hadn't become a thing as Dorothy had said.
She was about to ask him when he twirled her around, unfortunately in that nanosecond, while her world was spinning her eyes managed to collide with intense blue. Then they were gone as she was captured again back into Chad's arms. That was all it took to steal her joy. The irony didn't escape her.
Relena fanned herself. "I need air."
Chad escorted her out of the dance room and out to a nearby balcony. The heat from so many bodies and all the dancing she'd done meant the cold night's air slammed into her without remorse amplified by the sheen of sweat on her body but quickly remedied by the gallantry of chad who gave her his coat.
"Why didn't things work out between us?"
Relena didn't have the mental strength for another one of these conversations. "Huh?"
"I thought we'd had fun the few times we went out. Just wasn't meant to be?"
"No, I guess—"
His lips didn't wait for permission before they landed on top of hers. Her first response was to pull away, her second was to kiss him back. Which she did. A taste of something else might be just the cure she needed to purge herself of all things Heero Yuy too bad her conscience had other ideas.
She pulled away from him. "Sorry."
"No, I'm sorry must be all this dancing."
"Guess you don't want to dance anymore."
"Sure I do."
Another hour of dancing and drinking and Relena was borderline exhausted. Her feet were sore, and her head showed all the signs of an oncoming headache.
"You ok?" Chad asked.
"Yeah," She pressed a hand to her temple. "Let's sit down." She stepped away from him, but she didn't get far before gravity started to assault her.
A strong hand held her steady. "Thanks." She turned to thank Chad for his help but when she looked up Chad was standing in front of her but the hand that held her was next to her.
"Stop looking at me like you're judging me." Relena was talking but she was somewhere between murmuring and slurring still she was sure he could still understand.
They were sitting at her breakfast table. Coffee, juice, water and an assortment of drugs laid out before her. On the other side of everything, stoic Heero.
"I had a little to drink ok? It happens."
To say she was feeling exposed would have been an understatement. Despite her obvious hangover, her memory was fully intact. Right down to him holding her hair while she retched into white porcelain.
"Were you leaving with him?"
"No, we were going to sit down."
"What?" She hadn't meant to raise her voice, but she was irritated and in pain and a whole host of feelings that didn't need to be made worse by accusations and judgement.
"That's what I thought when you went to the balcony."
"Oh," She hadn't been prepared for that. She felt suddenly queasy and while she had a valid reason to she knew it was unrelated. "I, that was an accident. I -" She halted her explanation. Why was she pandering to him? What did she really owe him? They weren't together and probably never will be. He'd eventually get bored chasing her and all this will be over.
"I don't know what you think we're doing, but this," she waved her hand back and forth between them, "Is nothing, we are nothing and I don't owe you an explanation."
"How was the rest of the party?" Relena asked.
She and Dorothy had gone to the break room to start their day the usual way. Coffee and bagels. She hadn't called or texted Dorothy or anyone over the weekend opting instead to lie in bed and wallow as well as recover.
"Pretty uneventful," Dorothy tapped her spoon to the rim on her glass and Relena knew she had more to add. "Unless you count the hours I spent with Duo."
"The candy cane worked?"
"Like a charm. Head to toe Relena, head to toe." She hummed merrily back to her seat.
Relena was anxious all day. After her self-imposed withdrawal from life, lots of thinking, reflecting and lifetime movies, Relena was finally ready to admit her wrongdoing. And she needed to apologise before she lost the nerve she took all weekend to muster.
She ran to the bathroom since her bladder was always the first to give way in these situations and headed to the unmarked office. It didn't make any sense putting a name on the door since it was used by whichever exec came to check on the office. She knocked and waited until she was given the go-ahead to enter.
Leaving nothing to chance and not trusting her nerves Relena started to blurt out her apology before she was fully inside. "Heero, before you say anything I just want to apologize—"
"You let your staff call you by your first name?"
Relena turned in the direction of the reprimand. A slightly older woman with auburn hair and thin-rimmed circular glasses leaned against the wall. Her clothing, burgundy single-breasted jacket and matching skirt were crisp, almost military-like.
Relena felt compelled to stand straighter. "Sorry I didn't mean to interrupt."
"If you're finished with your apology—"
Whoever she was she had no patience or manners.
Relena looked at Heero but he showed no sign of wanting to hear what she had to say. This time she could admit she thoroughly deserved it.
Stupid bosses, and their stupid offices and stupid soldier women. Relena mumbled into the muffin stuffed into her mouth while she searched her bag for the keys to her car. If she was going to survive this she would need food much sweeter than what the break room had in stock. She needed the good stuff, even if she had to drive through lunchtime traffic to get it. She rummaged around some more before her fingers finally found the familiar locket keychain and hoisted the key from the rest of the contents, but life was never that easy. They slid from her fingertips right under the car.
"Talking to yourself again?"
Relena jumped to her feet her key tightly gripped in hand but in her haste, she forgot to grab her purse which was now on the floor. She stared at Heero for a split second before kneeling, yet again to pick up her belongings. Only this time she had help, another set of hands reached for the strewn items.
Once fully collected they both stood.
"She's an auditor, not the most agreeable but efficient."
Relena was about to ask him what he was talking about when she realised he meant the woman from earlier. "I don't care who she is."
He shrugged and turned to leave.
"Wait," She caught him by the arm. "I'm really sorry. You didn't deserve that any of it. Not just now and definitely not last weekend. I…. was embarrassed and ashamed and you were judging me and, confession? I just lashed out to make you feel what I was feeling. I had no intention of leaving with him and I…. only kissed him because I thought it would help me forget you."
"I wasn't judging you."
"Yes, you were."
Heero shook his head. "Confession? I was jealous, and my reaction was to make you feel what I was feeling."
"You're messed up."
Heero laughed so deep and throaty she felt it reverberate in her own chest.
He leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead before he walking to his own car.
"That explains everything."
As soon as Relena returned to the office she dropped two bags of snacks onto the desk, sunk into the chair and face planted.
Dorothy opened the bag and pulled out a box of chocolates. "What's wrong."
"Relena I'm your friend you can talk to me."
Relena looked up at Dorothy just as Chad walked by, the look on his face this time was anything but admiration.
Which of course Dorothy noticed. "Problem?"
"This about you and Heero?"
Without warning, Relena jumped out of her seat, grabbed Dorothy by the arm and dragged her to the bathroom. In true spy fashion, Relena checked every stall to ensure they were alone.
"How did you know?"
"Pillow talk, my dear."
"Duo? But you slept with him once."
Dorothy folded her arms and pursed her lips.
"How did I not know this?" Relena asked incredulously."
"Says the pot to the kettle."
"So, all this time you were pretending you didn't know him you guys were—"
"I'm sorry," Dorothy interjected. "Are you telling your story or mine?"
Relena took a deep breath. "You're right. I'm sorry. Ok. Chad saw us hugging in the parking garage."
"So now he knows, and he might tell people."
"And? It's no one's business."
"If that's true why are you keeping your relationship with Duo a secret."
"Not my choice. Apparently, Duo doesn't want to rub it in his dear cousin's face considering everything you're putting him through."
"Me? You're the one who said they were off limits."
"Knowing the truth now, do you think I really meant that. Besides, I didn't know about you and Heero then. Bro code and all."
Relena perched on the counter while she processed this additional information. "How do you find this so easy?"
"I don't have a problem with men."
"And I do?"
"You know you do. Maybe it's time to face it."
Relena slammed the pillow over her head, sure that her body's survival instincts would stop her from suffocating herself. Any inkling to test the theory was short-lived thanks to the phone.
"What would you say if I said I wanted to see you."
It was getting harder and harder to pretend not to be happy to hear or see Heero Yuy. "I would say no."
"What if I said there was an emergency at the office and I needed to meet with you to resolve it."
"I'd call you a liar." She could hear the smug smile on his face if that was even a thing to hear. "And then I'd ask you what time."
"You forget who you're talking to."
He gave a small chuckle through the receiver and she almost wished she was there to see it.
"How was the dinner?"
The last event on the company calendar, the awards dinner. It was elegant as usual and expensive if the champagne was anything to go by. They highlighted good events, awarded employees and staff, presented trophies and vacations. If there was one thing her company understood was motivation.
"It was good. Was surprised not to see you there?"
In reality, she'd been disappointed. She had gotten used to him being around. She looked for him everywhere not that she was going to admit it.
"I noticed your absence. Not the same thing."
"I was working."
"That's what they all say."
"Meet with me."
She'd thought this was a bad idea when she'd agreed. But now standing in the doorway of his apartment while he looked down at her with smoldering eyes, devious smile and intoxicating smell she was positive it was. 'If you don't want him, leave him alone.' Those words had stung, but she was far too indecisive where Heero Yuy was concerned. She either had to step in or step out.
Heero held the door open for her, dressed in nothing but black pajama bottoms. He remained quiet while she stood at the door, half ogling him, half trying to decide whether she was in or out.
She gave him another quick once over then stepped inside. "Why are you pursuing this?"
"Why are you running?" His counter was automatic as if the question had been on his mind the entire night.
"I'm not, I just, I don't know." Relena looked at the floor. She could hear Dorothy's words pushing her to face her fears. The two of them, Duo and Dorothy, were ganging up on her in her head.
"My mother died when I was five, two months later my father put me up for adoption. Not the worst decision maybe he just couldn't cope, guess I can't hate him for it. When I was ten they asked my brother, who would've been twenty-five at the time if he wanted to take me in and he said no. Which I can't blame him for either I mean what twenty-five-year-old wants to take care of a kid? But my therapist, Dorothy, says I have a problem with men that I need to face.
Relena smiled weakly. "Pathetic right? I'm not mad at them, I'm not, and I really should be over it and I shouldn't have said anything. It's stupid. But I can't help it. I can't help but wonder why—you want me?"
The minute the last word left her mouth Relena regretted instantly. Why was she telling him this? She felt stupid and exposed. She turned back to the door. "I should leave."
Relena paused. Trinity was the first time she had officially met Heero Yuy. A rival agency they had outperformed was taking aim at one of their biggest clients. If they had lost, it would've cost them millions in revenue.
"We negotiated for ten million dollars, in a room of seasoned analyst accountants and auditors and the only one who knew I was lying was you."
She smiled remembering the situation. She had laughed and called him a liar while they walked back to the company car. She had thought that her job was gone, thought that she had crossed a line that she wouldn't be able to recover from, but she'd been wrong. He had given her a curt smile made a remark about a ten million dollar lie and left.
She turned fully to face him now. Desir was the club they had chosen to hide from the world after they left the party.
You'd told me I looked sad while even though we were drinking in a nightclub.
And he had, when she had made the remark she had been part serious, but she wasn't expecting him to confide in her. Initially, he hadn't but alcohol has a way of loosening tongues. Later that night he had told her about his mother being ill.
"You understand me Relena, I don't know how you do but you just do."
"Is that enough? You're impressed now because maybe its new for you but that might wane. Then what's left?
"You're looking for something I can't give you. Nothing is forever. People get divorced after 20 years of marriage. People die. Life has no guarantee."
He was right, and she knew it. But she wasn't ready to let go and trust him. She felt at war with herself. One side of her wanted to risk it, the other part wanted to hide. "What will people say?"
"Why do you care what people think."
"Everyone cares what people think, people who swear not to care, care what people think, even if it's just one person. A parent, a priest, the little old lady that lives two doors down the hall who thinks you're still a virgin."
Heero smiled but said nothing.
"What would your father think?"
He bristled, only just slightly but she saw it. "I don't care."
"Tell me what you think Relena."
"I think, I'm scared."
"I get that, and as much as I'd like for you to stay, I can't force you. You are free to leave if you want to."
"What happens if I leave?"
"I might go on a tirade and fire half the people in your office while I nurse my wounded ego and mend my broken heart. But after that, I won't bother you again."
Relena gaped. "Ever?"
Heero didn't respond.
"What happens if I stay?"
"You've given me every possible reason why this can't work. If you stay I'll give you every reason why it will."
Relena walked over to where he was standing, looking him dead in the eye. "I'm listening."