AN: This is the first of two sequels to "Manifestations." This is the Relena/Heero portion of the story. This story picks up directly after "Manifestations" so you should probably read that one first, so you know what's going on.
Delano leaned back against the wall in the meeting room, watching Ry and Alli play a game of virtual checkers on the table's built in screen. The two were all but oblivious to Miss Relena and Agent Yuy, as the two sat at the far end of the table, hashing through paperwork from the recent ordeal.
They had approximately five hours before their supply ship arrived at the Mars Satellite again in Earth's orbit. From there, it would be a quick trip home. With most of the paperwork being handed off to the agents, the three of them were to be given a four-day vacation before they reported for general duty again on Monday.
Delano's black bangs dripped just barely into his field of vision as he pretended interest in Ry and Alli's game. In truth he scrutinized the other couple at the table.
Ever since he had figured out Heero's past… 'exploits,' he had been concerned. For most of two weeks the man had avoided most chances at alone time with the group. He would enter their cabin late and typically leave early, basically ensuring that he and Ry would be asleep for the most part.
It could honestly be that the number of requirements for his time were that extensive, as Miss Relena hadn't been available to them much either. However, Delano had his doubts.
As it were, the three officers were left together much of the time, always near the other two, but typically always in a crowd as well. As such, there were things that had never really been raised again.
Delano, Ry, and Alli had plenty of time to themselves during the course of their stay to rehash what they knew and what they'd learned of the agent's past. But Delano had largely stayed quiet, allowing the other two to decide for themselves what to make of it.
Ry and Alli were rather oblivious to what they were faced with. Ry especially knew absolutely nothing of the Gundams or their battles other than what was popularly advertised to the people—which of course was a pack of misdirection and blatant lies. Alli had spent a small time with a colony rebel organization, but even then she had still been led along primarily by the media reports.
Delano, however, had been OZ trained as a MS pilot. He had entered into the war very late and hadn't finished with official training by the time the final battle had been waged. But during that time he had been briefed time and again on the Gundams.
There were rumors that circulated nearly every week on where they were and what they were up to. Spec sheets and information reports were handed down for any man that ever climbed into an MS. It was supposed to be a guide for how to quickly identify and report back the sighting of a Gundam.
His training group dubbed those orders the same way everyone else did: ID. Identify and Die.
The idea that no one lived to tell of the Gundams was ingrained in the soldiers, young and old alike, even when it no longer rang true.
The idea that Agent Heero Yuy of the Preventer Special Forces—his superior officer and a man seven years his junior—was a Gundam pilot was not exactly unnerving, so much as it was terrifying. If that wasn't enough to completely floor him, the man was not only well known to the Preventer Commander as being a pilot, but he was also hopelessly endeared to the pacifistic Vice Foreign Minister.
But Delano had held his tongue. Agent Yuy, first and foremost, had done nothing to him personally to deserve his distrust. Then or now. If nothing else, Delano was also a pilot and a solider… the ways of war were never pretty and he knew that there were things that every solider regretted at the end. That didn't exactly settle his nerves around the younger man but it did get him to sleep in the same room at night.
As it was, Ry had managed to bring up one point that stuck with them: Miss Relena trusted him completely and whole-heartedly. And Delano would concede to the point that Heero had looked after her. The agent would have had the authority to shove the three officers into harm's way and save his own neck during their past trial, but he hadn't. Heero had chosen to leave them in relative safety and had risked only himself when confronted with a dangerous situation.
Mr. Winner had made a comment, just before the fireball came out of the colony side that had stuck with Delano. "Least chance of success." It was all that he had mumbled when Duo had asked what Heero had been thinking.
Delano wasn't sure how well the three young men knew each other. There were reference here and there that gave him a suspicion that the five pilots may not have been trained together, as he would have previously thought. But he was sure that comment revealed a great deal about Heero's typical tactics.
He vaguely watched Alli manage to take Ry's last piece off the board. The two had been far more capable of regaining their trust in Agent Yuy than Delano believed he could be. Alli had even gone so far as to be mildly thankful that the two had trusted them enough to tell them.
Delano wondered if they actually would have said something on their own if he hadn't made the first comment.
He hated to be so doubting. After all, he had spent over a month and a half with the man, respecting his authority and direction. Did he have a right to be this worried by him now? Delano, out of all of them, should be respectful of a warrior who fought for what he believed in… no matter what side he was on.
He looked over at the two again for a moment while the others started a new game in front of him. Easily one of the most lethal men in the Sphere was sitting directly across the table from one of the most peace-minded and gentle souls he could ever know.
"He'd never hurt her." Ry had said that more than once during their conversations. And Delano was starting to believe it. Something had passed through the two out here. There were no major differences that he could notice, but the quiet affection that they held each other in before seemed to have been expanded on.
Relena knew him during the war. If they honestly met at her school before her father's death, then she would have known him almost from the very beginning. And that would mean that she knew what he was capable of.
Probably better than Delano did.
That was mildly comforting. Mildly. But more than mildly confusing. Shouldn't a pacifistic leader have been terrified by the war-minded soldier? She obviously knew him better than he did. …And still trusted him.
The doors opened and Agent Po stood in the doorway, holding a data pad. The room looked up at her as she picked Heero out and motioned him to come with her, casting a smile at the rest of them. He seemed to be expecting the interruption and handed over a stack of sheets to Relena before wordlessly rising and following her out.
The door slid shut again, and Relena turned back to her work. Ry and Alli shrugged at each other before he muttered, "The guy's not much of conversationalist, is he?"
The three heard Relena chuckle to herself, not bothering to look up.
Yes, Miss Relena obviously knew him quite well. In fact, she may know a few things that Delano had decided that he was not going to ask Heero himself about….
"Miss Relena?" She pushed a stack of papers away from her and looked up at him. He met her eyes a moment, feeling slightly ashamed of what he was about to do. "May I ask you a question?"
Relena blinked at him, but then seemed to understand what sort of 'question' he referred to. Leaning back in her seat, she left her work. "Of course."
Delano left his place at the far wall and the other two watched him curiously as he paced over closer to her. "Miss Relena, I'll admit to you that I'm still… a bit uncomfortable with the situation."
Relena looked up at him, nodding slightly with a touch of worry entering her eyes. "I think I can understand that."
He crossed his arms over his chest, still standing beside the table. "You've known him since the war started?"
She nodded patiently, "Since he arrived on Earth anyway."
Delano sucked in a breath before asking the one thing that he knew Heero would never answer. "Do you know the number distinctions that the Alliance gave to the Gundams?"
He watched Relena swallow, and he figured out that she knew what he was talking about.
"Miss Relena," he started again. "Do you know which pilot he was?"
She lost his focus for a moment as she mulled over the question. From behind him, Ry and Alli shifted. "What distinctions?" Ry finally asked.
Delano turned back towards him. "When they were first sighted, the Alliance gave each of the five Gundams a number to represent them, since they had no other way of identifying the new type of suits." Turning back down to her, he tried to get her started. "I know that Duo Maxwell was the pilot of 02. I watched his suit get blown to bits on a colony vid-screen when I was on leave from training."
Relena looked up and blinked at him, possibly not realizing he knew this much.
"I'm taking a guess that Mr. Winner is pilot 04. The crew that he had with him would easily fit the description of a secondary group of soldiers who tended to back him up. Am I right?"
Relena nodded quietly. "The Maguanac Corp."
"You mean the guys with the hats?" Ry asked.
Relena smiled at the comment and then folded her hands and laid them on the table. "Yes. Quatre and his group were part of the forces that tried to protect me when OZ attempted to take over the Sanc Kingdom."
"Wait—I thought OZ rescued you," Alli added.
Relena shook her head sadly. "No, that was Duke Dermail's way of rallying the people to his side again after I surrendered." She forced a smile for them again. "Quatre and Heero did their best to defend the ideal of Total Pacifism… even if they may not have believed it entirely themselves."
She gave them a quick glance and then looked back up at Delano. He simply waited, hoping she would allow him the last piece of the puzzle.
She closed her eyes a moment and then reopened them. "01."
And Delano's heart stopped in his chest. That wasn't possible….
"And that means what exactly?" Alli asked.
"01 was destroyed," Delano whispered to her. "That pilot died." That was no secret, everyone knew it. It was the only 'victory' that OZ seemed to be able to get over them. The Gundam itself may have been rebuilt, but the pilot had died in the self-destruct….
Relena looked back down at her folded hands. "The pilot disappeared," she corrected. "That was when I started researching the situation. With Sanc's resources I managed to get all the information that I could on the Gundams, mostly from the OZ sources. But none of them exactly counted on Heero."
Delano swallowed. "And afterwards?" he asked. "01 was finally put out of commission. You're telling me that he was the one that took over Wing ZERO?"
Relena looked up at him again, obviously surprised that he knew this much. She nodded to him and Delano had to pull out a chair and sit down next to her. He had expected 03, possibly 05… but not the pilot of ZERO.
"Isn't ZERO the one that blasted the last chunk of Libra to kingdom-come?" Alli asked, confused.
Relena stared at her hands again. "Yes."
The room turned deathly quiet for a few beats until Delano finally found his voice again. "ZERO was also the one that put three shots into the Presidential safe house you were standing in less than four months ago," he stated in a quiet monotone.
Relena didn't flinch. "Yes."
This time no one moved to break the silence, and it continued as all three kept their eyes glued onto Relena's passive form. Finally she seemed to realize the oppressive silence and looked up at the group.
"He could have killed you," Ry whispered to her.
Relena still didn't flinch. "He could have. But he didn't." She gave them each a look in turn. "If there is anything that I can impress upon you, it's that there is a very large difference between what Heero could do, and what he does." She swallowed hard and focused back on her laced fingers. "I should never have told you this," she whispered. "I don't want any reason for you fear him or his intentions."
That was too late in coming. Delano had suddenly lost all faith in the idea that Heero, "would never hurt her," or that he was entirely all that stable.
"But… he could have killed you," Ry repeated, disbelievingly.
Relena looked back at him, her expression soft. "Do you remember when I told you that I trusted him completely? I told you that I trusted him with much more than my life." The group started, but Relena gazed at each of them in turn. "Heero knows me better than anyone else ever has. And he knew that I would have easily given my life to prevent a military take over."
"He knew you were there though, right?" Alli asked quietly.
She nodded. "Yes. I don't know if I was any influence on why that third shot missed, but I do know that if Heero wanted that place in a pile of ash, it would be."
"What do you mean 'missed'?" he asked.
She smiled lightly. "Missed. I was standing in the command center. I heard the soldiers state that his first two shots were so precise that the shields were collapsing. They said that one more direct hit and it would be over. That third shot was close, but not enough to completely blow the whole shelter."
"The ZERO was half destroyed by that time—how can you be sure that he didn't just miscalculate," he accused.
Relena gave him a slightly surprised expression, and then settled back into that patient look. "Because Heero never miscalculates," she stated with a nearly reverent tone. "You've said it yourselves; he was the one that hit a shot to blow up that last block of the Libra. A shot that only a tiny handful of us actually believed could be hit. …With or without a half destroyed suit."
Once again the room plunged into quiet reflection, and Relena let them think on it. She waited patiently for any other question or comment. It seemed like an eternity ticked by before Delano felt bad enough for his actions to bring the words up. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
Relena turned to him, but he didn't meet her eyes. Instead, she placed a hand on his arm. "I know this a lot to try to take in. I'm sure the images you have of all of them are not good. But… well, you've been around three of them now. Honestly, I want you each to take a look at their actions in the past two weeks before you try remembering back to what you think might have happened during the war."
Delano finally met her eyes as she turned back to him.
"Believe in him."
"You shouldn't have told them."
"I realize that now."
Heero wasn't angry…. Alright, he was angry—but not at Relena. He should have known to warn her about giving out their specific identities. Delano must have known that he wouldn't have told him, and so he'd approached Relena instead.
Taking a glance at the door to the cockpit in the small space plane, he forced down the reaction. He wouldn't have been any different if the situations were reversed.
That didn't help the gnawing concern though. The three had seemed rather… accepting of the information. Of course, that was before they figured out that he'd been up to his old tactics of trying to kill her not that long ago.
He bit down the sigh, shaking out the old guilt, and tried to have a little faith in Relena's reasoning skills. If she'd confided the information to them, that also meant that she'd tried to talk them out of thinking….
Out of thinking that he was a homicidal weapon of mass-destruction.
He closed his eyes on that description and begged his own brain not to go back to those thoughts.
"I'm sorry," came the whisper from beside him and Heero looked over at her.
Relena sat beside him in the otherwise empty cabin, clad in the white skirt and the yellow sweater that she had started this trip in. Her eyes were closed, and her hands were folded in her lap, a nervous habit of hers when they were shaking.
Heero didn't want her to blame herself, but he wasn't exactly sure what to say to her. Instead he found himself staring at her folded hands in her lap, watching closely enough that he began to make out the slight tremble.
That finally got him to blink and look back to her face. She hadn't moved. Really, she hadn't moved since she told him what happened today after he left with Sally. She didn't need any guilt on her, not with the amount of work and worry she had waiting for her once they landed And certainly not over him.
Reaching over he brushed the hair away from her face, and she looked up at him at his touch. "It's alright." The sad worry in her eyes eased a little as she moved into his touch farther.
Over him. It just didn't seem right to have her worried over him.
"Relena…." He had no idea what he wanted to say, but she locked her eyes with his and he faltered. Instead he lightly caressed her cheek, reminding himself firmly that no matter what, she accepted him for something more than a weapon.
It was a near deafening silence as the group gathered their effects and moved off the shuttle towards the Preventer spaceport operations building once again. If their timing hadn't been completely off before, it was now that they landed. The sun was dipping low on the horizon, the reddish cast hanging like a fog around the area.
Checking through the security gate, they all made their way to the front doors. Heero carried his and Relena's bag slung over one shoulder as they made their way to the front, the security detail in the building giving them a wide berth.
It wasn't until the glass doors came into view that Relena broke the silence. She stopped, staring at the doors in front of her and muttered, "Not now."
The rest of the group looked up to see a throng of media reporters and camera crews four rows deep, ready to pounce the second she left the safety of the controlled environment. She was in no shape to take questions, and she already had a media event penciled in for tomorrow morning.
Taking a quick look from the doors to her, he watched her resign herself and straighten her shoulders again. No. She'd been through enough already.
Turning back around he found Delano and handed over the two bags he was carrying. "Bring the car around, we'll wait for you." Turning back to her he found her eyes. "There's no reason you have to talk to them now."
Relena nodded, and gave them a sigh. "That'd be nice."
Delano gave them a nod before taking off for the side door nearest the parking area at a jog. Relena put a hand to the back of her neck and rubbed at it absently. Heero ignored the weight of the other two's eyes and quietly slipped his jacket off. Placing it around her, he left his hands on her shoulders.
She turned a grateful smile back to him before she moved her hand from her neck to cover one of his, squeezing it tightly. The group watched the front doors and waited for the black car to make its way through the crowd and into a parked position.
Turning to look up at Ry, he nodded. "Make some room."
The other blinked and then nodded, starting off first and taking point in their formation. Alli stepped up to Relena's other side, giving her a quick pat before the three started off behind Ry. Heero let her go, but kept a hand at the small of her back, guiding her through the doors, close enough to be a shield. They pushed through the crowd, the questions flying in from all sides. Relena returned a tired smile, but tried to yell out that she would have comments for them tomorrow.
Always the politician, he mused. Getting her to the car, he opened the back door for her, sliding her into the middle of the seat. He slipped in beside her, Alli taking the passenger seat, and Ry slid around the other side.
Clearing the parking lot was an effort in itself, but Relena just sighed and slumped down in her seat, still holding his jacket around her. "Honestly, I have to thank you all for this. I'm really sorry that I got you all stuck in this mess to begin with."
Ry patted her shoulder. "Nah, what else are we good for?"
Alli chuckled from the front, turning to look back at her. "Really. Think how boring our lives would be without you."
Relena genuinely laughed at them as they continued back to the Preventer's headquarters. "Well, I certainly don't get bored often," she muttered.
Ry yawned and then leaned in, laying his head on top of hers for a pillow. Heero vaguely stared out the window at the passing district.
The car from house command was already waiting for them by the time they pulled up in front of the Preventer building. Heero switched Relena to the other car quickly, getting his jacket back along with a last look from her before he closed her door. He watched the car drive away before he pulled his badge off the pocket, not bothering to put it back on.
Walking through the security check, they were waved through to gather whatever they needed before they each went their separate ways home. Heero slid his badge through the check gate, a sinking feeling making him wonder how long he'd be able to keep the cushy lifestyle of a security clearance.
Mentally he berated himself for dwelling on it. Heading for the stairs up to his office, he let the others head towards the common areas and their individual lockers to gather their things. It would be up to them. He'd handed them his fate.
He made it halfway up the first floor's open stairway before Delano called up to him from the hallway they stood in below. Turning over the rail he met the man's eyes. "We're back here Monday morning, correct?"
"Hn," he nodded to him.
Delano nodded. "Have a good evening, Sir," he stated quietly before turning and walking off down the hall. The other two took a look and then likewise said the same before following after.
Blinking, Heero forced himself to spit out, "You too," after them. Continuing up the stairs and then into the stairwell towards the top floor, he realized that the group had just given him a peace offering….
Somehow, he didn't figure that he'd earned that all on his own.
"People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built." - Eleanor Roosevelt
Chapter edited by: Miss Mooney