Her hands felt as if she had revisited the Antarctic without gloves. Relena's long, aristocratic fingers curled around the solid, waxy grains of the carved wooden door. She remained frozen, watching as friends gathered in the hallway and made their way to random seats within the chamber. There they would bow their heads as if in prayer and murmur to each other, occasionally peeking toward the front of the room.
She didn't know what they had to pray about. Heero had already died.
He would see the irony, like she did, that he was never a religious man.
The wintry coldness was resonating from within her. Never in her life had she felt the sharp twinge of frantic butterflies within her gut. She felt as if she could gag on them and vomit the blessed little food she had consumed in the days since Heero's death. She felt as though she couldn't escape the memory of him dying in front of her eyes. Every moment, it was there, mocking and haunting every tinted thought she could manage to concentrate on beyond the grief.
She yearned for the idyllic days, months, years where Heero would pop up by her side at random intervals and save the day. A decade. She had never known exactly when the love of her life would grace her with his presence. Now she'd always know exactly where he was. He had always been a restless spirit. She could only hope he was prepared to be at rest.
The soporific music echoed through the gathering room. The dull whisper of voices grew silent, as everyone tensed, showing their respect with the set of their shoulders and the attention given to the beginning ceremony.
Relena went numb, clinging to the door for support. There was no air for her to breathe. She lowered her head, hair becoming a veil of remembrance. Respect. For life and for death. She didn't want to watch her future and her past meet in one moment of time. She didn't want the joy and pain his name brought her, or the bittersweetness of their intertwining fates.
"Are you ok?" A heavy hand alighted quietly on her shoulder. She almost jumped. Almost involuntarily moved. Was almost frightened out of her moment of self-pity.
Relena reined her emotions- her courage- and struck her brother with the brilliant blue of her willful and poignant eyes. "You're late." She grabbed his arm desperately, needing the contact with the last of her remaining family, and not caring if she wrinkled his dashing, foppish suit.
"As are you." He replied, gathering her close to him in a respiteful hug. She leaned into his strength, and Milliardo let himself be a supporting block for a moment before pulling away and tightening his grip on her arm. "We'll go in together."
She nodded crisply, glad he was able to put aside personal detestations in order to be here for her. Relena was his sister after all, and blood is thicker than De Nile. She tried to smile for him, to show that she was alright. Today, she wouldn't even be able to fool a blind stranger into thinking she had her act together.
"If you're scared, I'll stay with you tonight. You don't have to go through this alone, Relena."
She shook her head. The silk of her dress flowed against her legs like the breath of marvelous secrets. She concentrated on what she felt surrounding her, instead of the clash of feelings and wishes sloping within her heart. Lighting was dim and sparse. All eyes turned towards her, watching and waiting for her to betray her emotions. It was as if they were all waiting for her, and in the back of her mind, Relena realized that they were. Like a frightened child, she clung to her brother, wishing he could protect her from the prying eyes. "I don't understand."
"I know a good psychiatrist. She can talk you out of," he cleared his throat. "Guide you through this. I knew this was coming, and you did too. You don't have to love Heero."
But she did.
Heero's heart had stopped.
And now, she would join him.
"He's waiting for me." She whispered, tightening her grip on Milliardo's arm. The brother and sister pair halted at the front of the ceremony parlor. "My soul needs to be joined with his. Can't you understand?" Relena's crazed eyes turned upwards to meet his, blaring with determination and hope.
"No." Milliardo narrowed his eyes towards the man presented on the alter like the sacrificial lamb. The fact this would be the last time he was permitted to glare and mentally curse at his long-time foe hit him deep in the gut like lead bullet. It sickened him to know the hold this vile enemy had on his sister; even after death. He tried to appeal to her one last time- like a man about to be hanged for stealing a loaf of bread- but his frantic pleading fell on unhearing ears. "You're still so young."
Relena merely patted his hand, and took a step towards Heero.
She looked at the calm features she had watched die last week. His face looked so relaxed- almost childlike in its peace- but even when she had met him when they were practically children, he had never been innocent or serene enough to be young. Heero's strong, thick eyebrows were heavy slashes on his pale face. His eyes were closed in relief. The pallor of his skin was flawless and new. It had taken a lot of work to prepare him for this day. His body was tense and lean, as if waiting to spring and bolt, but also reminding her of the rigidness of rigor mortis.
He was still beautiful.
Relena felt tears well up in her eyes. She reached out a hand towards him, a mournful sigh tearing out of her throat before she could swallow it. What could have been, what her future almost was, weighed down on her shoulders and in the minds of everyone in the room.
Heero's eyes opened, and his fingers nudged gently against hers before he grasped her hand tightly. Quickly, he tugged her hand to his mouth and kissed their intertwining fingers. The smile he bestowed upon her was full of understanding, but it was a genuine smile.
He hardly spared one of those.
She stared at him, desperately hanging on to his hand as she looked at and reveled in what she had almost lost. The bite of her ring dug into both their flesh, uniting them. Relena almost didn't hear the start of the ceremony that easily could have been a funeral.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to share the union…"