Title: Vanilla

Author: the Black Rose

Word Count: 799 (not including header info)

Pairing: Heero and Relena

AN: Alternate Universe that still has space colonies.

            It would be Heero's last glimpse of the Earth.  At least from this close-up. He glanced out the shuttle window at the familiar landscape he had come to loathe, noting that the sky, at least, mourned his leaving.

It was grey and ugly.  So were the people.  There was a dullness in their eyes, a blindness to the world around them.  Only a colonist could really appreciate, could truly see the Earth and its inhabitants for what they were.

            Ugly.

            The planet had none of the smooth lines and brilliance of the more advanced space colonies.  He missed the clean, geometric design.  The beauty of space couldn't be seen through the atmosphere.  Only the sea held any splendor.  But his job had kept him indoors all day. Just thinking about the smell of dirt and burning grease nauseated him. But he was leaving – going back to the colony he hadn't seen in more than two years.

            The fact he hadn't done what they accused him of wouldn't matter once they found out he had a record.  It was best just to move-

            "Excuse me?" 

            He turned to see a girl about sixteen or seventeen staring down at him, a large satchel on her back.  Heero glared, hoping she would get lost. 

"Is this seat taken?"

Her voice was soft and smooth and she smelled of vanilla.  She reminded him of vanilla ice cream, topped with golden hair. Plain; bland; and at the heart, nothing more substantial than sugar. Unfortunately, his scorching look hadn't melted her away. 

He snarled.  "No."

"May I…sit here?"

Heero closed his eyes and lay back against the dishrag the stewardess had called a 'pillow'. 

"I'll take that as a yes," she mumbled and slipped into the seat.  He cracked his eyelids just enough to watch her struggle out of the straps on her bag, an expensive brand, to stow it in the underseat compartment.  She buckled her seatbelt and settled into the cushions.  Her hands weren't calloused; her fingernails were perfect.  The girl had money. Or, at least, her parents did.

"What's your name?"

He didn't answer.

The smile faded from her lips. "Sorry to bother you."

"Heero." Damn, he was getting soft.

Blue eyes glanced up.  "Relena Darlian."

The name. It sounded vaguely familiar, but he was certain he'd never seen her before.  He shrugged it off, and before another word could be exchanged, the announcement came on. The craft tilted upright, and within minutes, the shuttle launched.

*************************

            Movement jolted Heero awake.  He opened his eyes to see her fighting to dislodge her bag from the compartment.  The thought occurred to him that she probably had a few things of value inside - enough for him to get his own place as soon as he got to the sector.

She retrieved a notebook and balanced it on her armrest before bending forward to wedge the bag back under the seat. In her struggle, she knocked the pad to the floor, several pages scattering beneath their feet.  A photograph landed right-side-up.

He glanced at the picture of her family in front of a Christmas tree.  They seemed happy, her parents wealthy, and the smile on Relena's face was much brighter than it appeared in person.  The void in his chest expanded as a dim recollection of his own family flit through his mind.

Then they were gone. 

He reached down to claim the photo from the floor.  Nothing in common but our age. 

Heero tapped her shoulder.  She turned, her eyes distant, her mouth poised to smile. But then her gaze traveled to the picture in his hand.  Her face crumpled beneath the burden of some heavy emotion.  A shaking hand reached out for the photograph.

He knew that look: raw pain mixed with regret and loss. Something tugged his heart from the clutch of emptiness, and he raised the armrest that divided them.

She launched herself at his chest, burying her face into his shirt as she began to cry.  His arms went around her shoulders.  It hurt so much to hold her.

"It was my fault. Father was always so busy…I didn't understand…."

His brain clicked, matching the name, finally, with the newspaper article he read a few days ago. Senator Darlian and his wife had been killed by a drunk driver, their only daughter left alone for the holidays. And for the rest of her life.

It was a story he knew too well.

Heero looked down into her eyes and felt…. 

His mouth settled over hers.  She tasted sweet like vanilla ice cream, and his fingers tangled themselves in her golden hair.

The gentle connection broke.  Relena stared up at him – hair slightly mussed, lips reddened from his kiss, light tracks in her makeup from her tears.

And she was beautiful.