Welcome to the end of this 1xR Gundam Wing fanfic. May the fandom live forever! It has been a pleasure writing this story. I hope you enjoy it!
Final Mission Status
When Relena finally returned home, she was entering a zombie-like state of mechanized movement and fuzzy awareness. It felt…typical, but this time Heero wouldn't be in her kitchen making dinner, not that she was hungry.
Standing on her doorstep with her key in hand, she recalled with a sick feeling the state of her home. The décor that had been altered to accommodate Heero's presence in the house would still be there. And that frightening hawk that she hated so much would glare at her with its penetrating glass eyes every time she went through her paperwork in the study. How long would it take her to change it all back? Did she even want to?
Relena took a deep breath and turned the key in the lock. She was ready for a shower at any rate, maybe a hot bath, and a cup of tea if she had the energy to brew it. Stepping through the threshold, she shut the door behind her and looked up.
There was a box in the center of her living room just beyond the entryway. In the box was that stuffed hawk from the library, staring at her upside down.
She took off her shoes and ran several steps into her living room, scanning her house for other changes. There were wires everywhere, dangling from her walls and shelves and cupboards. "Who's here?" she called. Her heart fluttered. "Heero? Duo?"
A closer inspection revealed that a second, smaller box was positioned behind the first. It was filled with dozens of some kind of mechanical devices. It took her a moment of staring at them before she realized they were tiny cameras.
"Hello?" she called again, and turned the corner into her kitchen.
A step ladder leaned against her wall beside her refrigerator. Heero stood on the top step, his thighs pressed against her countertop and his sleeves rolled up to the elbows. He was reaching up to the top of her refrigerator with a pair of pliers and a screwdriver, removing, it seemed, the cameras in her kitchen.
He turned to look over his shoulder at her when she entered the room. There was something funny about his eyes, but she couldn't decide what it was. "This is the last one," he said.
Relena's stomach was trembling. Turning away from him, she removed the teapot from its place next to the stove and filled it with water while Heero climbed down the ladder. She set the pot on the burner and turned it to high, just to have something to occupy her with him in the room.
"I don't suppose…" she began.
"Would you mind making me a cup as well?"
She blinked. "Not at all. Would you like honey?"
"No. Plain, please."
He walked passed her with the camera. She supposed he was heading back to the living room to deposit it in the box. While he was gone, Relena mechanically fetched two teacups and two saucers from the cupboard and set them both a place at the dining table where they had eaten meals together every night earlier this week. She stood staring at one of the teacups in a daze until the whining of the kettle pulled her attention back to the kitchen.
Heero returned a moment later, seating himself in his usual place at the end of the table where the teacup was waiting for him in its saucer. Relena brought the kettle to him and poured hot water from the teapot's arcing spout into the ceramic cup. She stared at the hot water swirling in the center like a tiny whirl pool as if it mesmerized her. She was willing to look at anything to avoid looking at Heero or think about how confused she felt by his proximity. Heero selected Earl Gray from her assortment of teas on the table and steeped it in silence while she poured herself a cup and sat down across from him.
He thanked her, but she couldn't respond. They drank in silence.
"I suppose you're angry with me," he said at length, and set his cup down on the saucer.
"Angry with you?" Now that they were speaking, angry didn't begin to describe the array of emotions threatening to beat her into incoherence, but she noticed a sharp edge had crept into her tone at the suggestion. She supposed he must be right. She was at the very least angry.
"I thought so," he said. His eyes were still on her, those penetrating eyes that gave her chills and warmed her heart both at once. He closed them when she looked up. She supposed he must have seen the flash in her own. "You're angry with me for ignoring you earlier, on the way back from America. I'm sorry for that."
"Why are you here?" she demanded.
"I had to remove the cameras. I trust your meeting with Une went well?"
She didn't say anything.
Heero opened his eyes. "I know we have to talk," he said, "But I don't like it when they're watching us. I wanted to wait until I could talk to you alone."
Relena set down her teacup. "Go on."
"About this week," he said. "Everything that happened is my fault."
"What do you mean?"
"I knew about Cole months ago. I was working with Dorothy on getting him to cede his weapons factory to her general estate. You might have been better prepared if I'd told you, but I didn't want to bring an element of political pressure to the negotiations, and you might have been legally obligated to do something if you knew about it."
"Oh." That was what he wanted to talk about? "I see."
"By the time the Preventors got involved, the situation had already escalated past the point where this situation could have been averted. Dorothy informed me that Cole was prepared to send kidnappers after you. We had to head that off. Then we discovered there was a mole in the Preventor unit—at least one—and that made it difficult to maneuver effectively. Anything could have been bugged. It wasn't my first choice to have things work out as they did, but given the circumstances, it turned out pretty well."
"Pretty well," she said. Heero had been working with Dorothy on this for months, and he had been constantly monitoring the possibility of their being watched—until now. He must have been extraordinarily on top of things to manage that kind of surveillance. To know about the moles in the Preventor outfit before the Preventors themselves, he would have needed time to test them. "You must have been keeping track of me for a long time," she concluded, "to have discovered Cole's intentions, I mean. You must have heard about his interest in me long ago."
"I've been keeping track of you for years. You know that."
She nodded. She did know that. Even though she didn't see him, she had always known he was out there. She would often look at the stars, especially when she was in Space, thinking about where he might be. Now that the subject had been broached, it was time to ask what she really wanted to know. "Heero, Dorothy said something about you today. She said that you lived your life for me. Is that true?
Judging by his facial expression, he didn't appear to find this question awkward or unexpected. His eyes remained on her face. They were clear of all doubt and deceit. "It's true," he replied.
She nodded and lowered her eyes to stare at the table. It wasn't an answer, given the possibility that living for her was merely an admittance that he worked for the peace of their world, the same as she did, and recognized that her position as a world leader was instrumental in that effort. This, she realized, was the conversation she had always wanted to have with him. She couldn't look him in the face, but she had to know.
"Is it really me?" she asked, and trusted that he understood the intention behind her question. "Or is it just what I represent?"
She looked up. His eyes hadn't changed at all. They were still clear and bright, a shade of blue like the heavens after twilight. If anything, his expression was softer.
"It's the same thing, Relena."
"I don't understand."
"Either way, it's you I am protecting. You are who you are. There is little difference between the choices a person makes and the person who makes them. We all live according to what we believe and how we feel and what we do. You are more aware of that than most. We are the same that way."
"But do you love me?"
He closed his eyes. "You can't help but love someone you work for and care for and worry about as much as I work for and care for and worry about you."
He loved her. He was saying it strangely, but she thought she understood his meaning. He didn't separate the difference between his love for her person and his love for her work. It was the same thing to him. One came with the other. If that was the truth, then he had loved her for years. Since she had met him, the choices she made had led her to recreate herself as someone who could live out what she believed. That he understood her so deeply and loved her for this reason…. She wanted to smile, but something held her back. What did it mean if, as he implied, it had always been that way?
She looked down at her hands. "But then why…?" she began, the emotion welling up from her heart seemed to cause the muscles in her face around her eyes and jaw to scrunch until they hurt. "Why have you kept so distant? And so silent? If for all these years…"
"I have responsibilities," he said. "There are things I need to do. It's been the same for you. There really hasn't been time…"
"And this past week?" she asked. "Your feelings this past week? The way you've treated me, and the things you've said. What of that? Was that just for the cameras?"
"It was never for the cameras."
"But the mission…"
"Of course the mission comes first, but in this case, I didn't have to stray far from my true feelings to do that. Loving you wasn't difficult. What was so difficult was having to scale it down."
"Scale it down?"
"Hmm." He took a sip of his tea. "Because we were being watched, propriety has been paramount."
In a flash, she knew exactly what he meant. She felt it too, had struggled against it all this time. All at once her muscles loosened. He loved her. He really loved her. He loved her more than he had acted for the camera, had felt more deeply for her than he could openly convey. If for all these years… Her insides trembled.
Then a leap of intuition seized her. "What did you say to my brother on the plane?" she asked. Heero loved her, but did that mean he would stay with her? He had always left before. Always. What had he needed to explain to Milliardo? "You left the cabin to talk to my brother. What did you need to explain to him?"
"That I think you need a vacation," Heero replied.
She blinked, reined in by this response. "What?" That wasn't what she had guessed at all.
"I think you need to get away from here, and your work, and go someplace calm."
She answered in some confusion. "I can't do that. I've been stationed here too long as it is. I have a four-week tour planned for the Colonies next week."
"Move it back a few more weeks."
"Why?" He was asking her to leave? She didn't understand. "What are you talking about, Heero?"
"You're tense," he said.
"Of course I'm tense! I just survived a terrorist trying to marry me."
"You were tense before that. I know. I've been with you all week."
"It's not my job! If I've been tense, it's because of you! " she snapped. "I've been tense because I didn't know how you felt about me. I'm tense because I love you and I'm afraid you are going to leave and I'll lose you forever." Tears threatened to flood her eyes, but she held them back angrily. "I still think you will, even now after all you've just said. I can't help but think that all these 'things you have to take care of' will take you away from me."
She stopped speaking, shutting her mouth like a trap. She hadn't meant to say all of that.
Heero's eyes were as soft as she had ever seen them. He smiled at her. "Relena, you're the only thing I have left to take care of. When I said you need a vacation, I was planning to go with you."
It took her a moment to process that.
"You should pack for hot weather."
She put a hand to her forehead. "Heero, if this is something other than what it seems to be, please stop."
"What does it seem to be?"
"It seems like you are saying that you and I…." She shook her head in disbelief. She wanted to believe it. She was afraid to believe it. Self-defense mechanisms long in place to protect her threw up roadblocks to suppress the rampant run of unbridled hope. "How would we get away?" she asked, defaulting to the practical as the romantic evaded her grasp.
"We won't go to a commercial airport. I have my own plane, more than one actually. I'll fly us. We will disappear."
He would have his own plane! "But I have a press conference on Monday. If I don't show up, and with all the rumors flying around..."
"You can still make your press conference…remotely. I can set that up for you too. Unless you would rather spend the weekend here first, then fly out after your conference. But that will be much more difficult to keep secret. We have a small window now with which to escape, if you want to come with me."
This was real. He was being serious. She leaned forward across the table. "What do I tell everyone? I can't just disappear after letting it slip that I've been married in secret. Unless.." She could reveal that there was no marriage and it was just a deserved vacation after a stressful event, or… "Wait. Was it you who tipped off the press?"
"No. That was Dorothy." He looked annoyed. "She thought—well, she saw the ring."
Relena looked down at her hand where her engagement ring—the one she had worn for the mission—sparkled on her wedding finger. "But it's a decoy," she mumbled. "It was necessary that I wear one, wasn't it? I thought it was on loan from a jewelry store. Didn't Sally pick it out?" She stared at the diamonds, sparkling brilliantly under the lamplight, and remembered suddenly that no one had told her where it had come from or who had picked it out. Heero had given it to her himself, but she had just assumed it was from one of the girls. "Oh my god!"
"I bought it," Heero said, again with that curious look on his face, the same one he had been wearing when she came in. It was almost like…anxiousness, as if he were waiting for something, something from her. "I bought it for you, ages ago. Une told me to find you a ring for the mission, but I already had this. You like it? You never said. We can take it back if you'd prefer something different."
She clutched her left hand to her chest. "I love it." It was a real ring. Did that mean the sentiment behind it was also real? Through the shimmer in her eyes, she could barely see Heero get up from the table. Instead of coming to her side, he walked away from her and into the kitchen to pour himself a second cup of tea.
"When?" she asked, pushing back her chair and following him. "When did you buy this?"
"A long time ago. I had a lot to work out before I could give it you. I was going to give it to you on your birthday, one of these years."
She stopped cold.
"One of these years!" she exclaimed. "You've had this ring for years?" Someday… some year, he had meant to give it to her. Some year! But Dorothy had seen it, and probably badgered him about it no doubt. No wonder she had been so confident! How deeply had Dorothy been on her side? She must remember to send the woman a gift, anonymously of course, but Dorothy would know it was from her. In the meantime, there was this impossible man to deal with. "I can't believe you, Heero!"
"I told you, I had a lot to work out," he repeated. "But maybe I was over thinking things. For the longest time, I was unsure of my own feelings, and then I didn't know how you felt. You are a reserved person, Relena. You've matured into a lovely and kind woman, but you are a little hard to approach. You're traveling constantly too. You must keep your feelings close, because no one I talked to—other than the people we know mutually—had any inclination that you had a special regard for anyone. I've asked."
He had asked about her feelings? She tried to imagine it. He probably had asked the people on her staff or in her retinue, incognito of course, masquerading as a workman or a journalist or a technical operator or who knew what. "I have to be professional," she mumbled. She didn't realize how aloof she must have seemed in doing so. "It's part of my job."
"I know. Mine too. And I love that about you. You can keep secrets, especially on private matters, and you don't use them to injure people. You have a pure heart, Relena."
"So do you," she said quietly. "Or so I always thought."
They stared at each other for a moment in silence, standing by the stove in the kitchen, Heero with his hand on the handle of the teapot, Relena thumbing the diamond on her finger. Even though neither of them had mentioned a life together, she had the distinct impression that they had just proposed to each other.
"Relena," Heero said. "If I marry you, and I want to if you want to…"
She opened her mouth to say yes, absolutely yes, but he forestalled her. He took her hands, caressing her fingers. The physical touch made Relena's world suddenly hazy. But it wasn't the white fog of confusion; this haze was golden and soft and rosy. It was like a sunrise. She stared at Heero's face through eyes that suddenly felt heavy.
"When I marry you, you can't be so reckless with your life," Heero finished. "I heard what you did, or almost did. If you have children especially…" His face took on a slightly hardened, determined look. "And you shouldn't do to me what you did earlier this week."
Relena blinked her way out of the primrose path. "What?"
"That deal you made with Zechs. The backrub and the innuendos when you knew perfectly well I couldn't act on them. In the future, if you want something, ask for it. I didn't know what to do that night."
Relena recalled it all in a rush. "Oh!" she cried, blushing bright pink. She was about to apologize, but then it came to her why she had done it. The night before he had made love to her for the first time, then confused her when she found out it was on orders—well sort of on orders, it seemed now. But even so! Her emotions careened, turned, and streamed the other way, indignation rushing back like the crash of the tide. "You want me to be more straightforward with you? I don't know how you can ask for such a thing, Heero! I really don't. After everything I've been through trying to sort out your feelings, I've just as much right or more to demand—!"
He pulled her into an embrace, his arms crushing her hair against her back. He kissed her, stifling her protests, his lips melting into hers, his eyelashes tickling her cheeks. Her protests subsided. He held her flush up against his body, his arms wrapping around her so that he could run his hands from her shoulders to the small of her back. When he released her, she was dizzy, having moved completely from infuriated to aroused to tranquil in a number of seconds. She laid her head against his chest, breathing deeply and listening to the steady pounding of his heart to orient her.
"So will you come away with me?" he whispered into her ear.
"What about the others?" she murmured. "My brother, and Noin. Duo…"
"I only told Zechs. He won't worry about you. As for the others, they are one reason I want to go away. Otherwise we'll be able to do nothing without an audience. This way they'll figure it out, and the world will talk about it, but we won't be here, and they'll get used to it. Eventually the commotion will die down. In the meantime, even after our trip, you and I can travel a lot. You'll have to anyway. We'll go to Space for your tour. I'll always be able to travel with you, Relena, unless I have somewhere particular to be."
Relena buried her face in Heero's shirt and breathed deeply. She didn't care anymore about rumors. In that moment, she didn't care about anything outside of this room. He was so warm. "When do we leave?" she asked. She was ready to go right now. "Tonight?"
"No," he said. "Not tonight, but before your conference." She felt his hands slip to her hips, which he tugged against his own. "Tonight, I'm taking you to bed, and loving you properly." She hugged him tighter. He chuckled. "Be gentle with me. I'm still wounded."
Her eyes flew open. "I almost forgot," she said. She had not been thinking of being gentle at all. She could be gentle, though. In fact, she wanted to be. She would be very sweet to him. The more she thought on it, the more she felt her cheeks and ears redden, but she smiled against his collarbone. She felt Heero's breath in her ear.
"I was thinking," he whispered, almost as a distraction, she thought, "that we would go to a secluded island somewhere. Maybe in the South Pacific, some place with a private villa on a beach that we could rent out. We could lie out under the stars, walk along the shore, go dancing, and…"—he kissed her neck—"other things like that."
Her fingers knotted in his shirt, but she pulled back slightly, still cuddled against his chest, but with enough room to look up into his face. "Dancing?"
He leaned over her, his hands holding her about the waist, a smile softening his features. She had never seen his eyes so kind. "I think I owe you a dance."
Duo couldn't believe the papers.
Every journalist in the country was in a state of frenzy. The paparazzi from every tabloid were going ballistic. The news reported that Relena Darilan had vanished from her home sometime between Friday morning and Sunday afternoon. No one seemed to know where the Vice Foreign Minister had gone, but her staff assured them all she was in communication and had reported that she was safe and would address the world Monday.
Rumors were flying in the meantime.
There were eye witnesses that said a branch of the government's defense division (some little outfit called the Preventors) had been seen escorting her away from the premises early Friday morning because of some threat to her person. Other sources said the threat had been abroad and she was called in to mediate.
Most seemed to think the trouble had been some kind of ruse. Miss Relena was secretly engaged, the tabloids reported with certainty. No, she was married. No, she had been married, but was now separated. Some articles focused on the strange man she had been living with the past week. He was referred to as her new husband, her boyfriend, her bodyguard, or the guy she hired to remodel her house. No one really seemed to be sure. Only one paper suggested he was Gundam Pilot 01, and an answering editorial barked that that guy had died years ago.
Duo was still laughing. He couldn't believe it, but he pored over every update gleefully over breakfast.
"They got married!" he crowed to Trowa and Wufei and anyone who would listen. "I know they got married!"
Wufei smirked at him. Trowa hid a smile. Noin disavowed all knowledge, which confirmed the truth to Duo. He assumed Noin heard it from Zechs who must have been informed by either Heero or Relena before the couple escaped. Duo knew that Zechs knew something because the man was the only one with a stake in the affair who wasn't going ballistic. He seemed rather content, in fact, and if Relena had actually disappeared he would have been tearing the world apart looking for her.
Duo missed Relena's Monday morning announcement in transit from Earth to Space, but his suspicions were confirmed when he arrived back at his home in the Colonies. The minute he walked through his front door, Hilde wanted to know who on Earth had shipped them a giant stuffed hawk. The postcard that came with it was addressed to him.
Thanks for your efforts, but we decided we don't need this. We'll probably visit you and Quatre when we return to Space later next month. The best to you and Hilde. Give everyone our love.
1 & R
Thank you to everyone who has reviewed this story!! I love it, of course (and I was very excited to see comments in my inbox weighing 3K) There is nothing that warms a writer's heart like communal over a work.
Sadly, I probably won't write anymore 1xR for awhile. I am going to focus on one fic at a time as that seems to work better for me in terms of updating. It is easier because I don't have to "switch gears" to write different stories. Having completed this, my next focus-project is the Naruto fanfic White Rain. Also, in November 2008 I will be writing NO fics at all because I will be working on my novel for NanoWrimo (fantasy, not romance).
Please feel free to friend me on my Zapenstap livejournal (Zapenstap DOT livejournal DOT com).
Thanks to everyone!! It has REALLY been a lot of fun. Please be kind and review. Details are especially appreciated!