A Boarding School Facade - by Jooles

Chapter Seven

It was raining. There was no mistaking the sound of a cold, hard rain pelting against the corrugated iron roof of St. Michael's gymnasium. Outside, was a bleak landscape of grays and charcoals. Inside, the harsh florescent lighting illuminated the centre of the school's gym, the basketball court. Alongside sat the bulk of St. Michael's student and teaching population. Amongst the crowd sat one exiled and presumed to be dead regent.

Just over three weeks had passed since the unanticipated events of Christmas. Relena had seen her brother for the first time in years, and much to her own assenting shock, had recognised him. Her earlier skepticism that people were aware that the Peacecraft monarchs lived had also been confirmed. Heero and Une had more or less been proof to her current suspicion. And, there had been Heero. He'd been there, silent and impenetrable in the background. No words were needed to emphasise that he knew so much more than he would ever let on. The teddy bear had been a thoughtful if somewhat childish gift, but a confirmation that something indefinable was there between them, even if a peck on the cheek was all that the two of them had to show for their obscure yet growing bond.

So time had passed, and Relena in the safety of her naiveté had returned to St. Michael's deigning all ignorance as usual. Milliardo hadn't contacted her. He'd all but dropped off the face of the planet. Pagan, her loyal grand-father like guardian had also disappeared into some metaphorical cosmic void. Relena had tried calling him everyday over the past three week without any luck. She couldn't work out if he was purposefully not answering her phone calls, or if something had happened to him. She preferred to hope that he just wasn't answering her phone calls, for reasons unknown, instead of the latter more sinister reason. Meanwhile Relena silently bade her time, waiting for a sign, any sign from her brother and her would-be guardian. Witty musings didn't stop her pondering that perhaps taking up augury, haruspicy or praying to the divinities for a sign, any sign, may have been of use.

Shaking her head while in the revenue of student-teacher body, Relena squinted, focusing her attention on the centre of the basketball court. She'd taken a seat near the back of the now filled to the brim gymnasium. There were a few empty seats around her, other students having chosen to sit nearer the action.

The St. Michael's Senior Boys' A Basketball team was well-known for its competitive success. The team's most piqued rivals were another Senior Boys' A team from St. Luke's School. Like St. Michael's, St. Luke's was well known for its high level of achievement and advanced level of snobbery and stick up one's ass attitude. Sighing, Relena wondered briefly just how well the two respective basketball teams would do if they were to face teams other than that of their own social standing. Shrugging at the thought, Relena realised that it was of little importance anyhow. Class systems existed everywhere, no matter how egalitarian a nation was known for being.

Down in the centre of the basketball court the two teams stood around a circle outlined in the middle. St. Michael's members were clothed in scarlet shorts and singlets, while St. Luke's team members were clad in green. Recognising Duo and Heero standing around the circle, with Trowa standing at the centre, preparing to take the team's jump ball, Relena brows furrowed. She vaguely recalled Duo mentioning playing basketball, but at the time hadn't realised that he'd meant that he played for the school's team. As for Heero, well Relena wasn't too surprised. Duo was playing, which meant either he'd forced Heero to join the team, kicking and struggling (he would never squirm) or he'd joined for the purely competitive nature that was a part of Heero's persona. It was of no surprise however, that Trowa was a member of the team. With his rangy height, it would have been wasteful for St. Michael's not to have him as a member of the team.

The referee blew the whistle, tossing the ball high up in the air. Relena watched fixedly as it made it's spinning descent before being knocked effortlessly by Trowa into Duo's outstretched and waiting hands. And, so the game had started, and the crowd was entertained, by yet another face- off by two schools hypothetically stuck in the recesses of another era.


"Did you see Trowa's jump shot? Did you Duo's lay-up? What about Heero's three-pointer?"

Startled, Relena looked up into her best friend's unmistakable pools of aqua-sea blues. Her nose wrinkled, "Is that what you call it, a jump shot?"

Unimpressed, Quatre sat down next to her. "Relena, you know very well what a jump shot is! Remember, we spent half the semester playing the ruddy sport for gym class last year."

Relena, recognised the figure of Dorothy Catalonia, her dorm mate. Sporting the quirk of a half-smile, Relena punched her friend lightly on the forearm, adding impishly "Of course, you're completely right Quatre. Oh how could I have forgotten?"

Quatre groaned. "Relena ..."

Indifferently: "Yes?"

Wearily: "Just watch the game already"

Grinning, Relena patted Quatre on the back, "That's right Quatre, back down now while you still can."

Cringing, Quatre started to respond, but changed the topic, "Relena, this is Dorothy. Dorothy this is -- "

Relena had caught Quatre's arm, mid-introductory gesture. "There's no need Quatre. Dorothy and I already know each other."

Dorothy shook her head as surprise flickered over Quatre's features. The girl's pale blonde hair thrashed lightly in her face, giving a tough edge to the aristocratic girl's features. In an almost stately tone Dorothy explained to Quatre that the two girls were dorm mates.

Relena's brow furrowed for the second time that evening, surprised at both Quatre's ignorance and forgetfulness, and Dorothy's slip in not having mentioned Relena to Quatre. It made Relena want to address an issue she'd been forcing to the back of her mind for weeks, mere months even.

She'd long been aware that her and Quatre had drifted since their shift from Treventville to St. Michael's. Quatre had gotten caught up in making new friends, attending activities he as the Winner family heir was nominally invited to, and the general St. Michael's school life. Relena meanwhile had adopted an anonymous front, making friends with few people, forming connections with a young man that had yet to drop his blank mask. She'd desperately tried to keep up her grades which in hindsight were damnably non-existent under her current alias. Anyway, would grades even matter if a) she wasn't expected to live past her eighteenth birthday, and/or b) she was to take over the maintenance of the Cinq Kingdom? The grades may not have mattered, but the knowledge gained did. And it was with this thinking that Relena had pushed on ahead of the rest of her year with a work ethic which some casual observers had stated as being frightening. It was of course no surprise then, that while Quatre had been wining and dining with other students from families not unlike the Winner family that in the feign of his ignorance the two friends had grown nominally apart. Relena, more withdrawn and driven than ever rarely visited Quatre at his dorm now. She often skipped mealtimes in favour of retreating to one of St. Michael's many unknown rooms. While her new friends questioned her withdrawal, Quatre had been busy getting to know people like Dorothy Catalonia with familial links as prestigious as his own. Which brought her to the uneasy question, as to just where Quatre's head was these days. It was indeed a lovely change to seem him relaxed and without a face lined with worry. When they had been more of an inseparable pair in the old days, in Treventville, it had not been rare for Quatre's now sparkling eyes to be wan and circled in dark from lack of sleep. He fit the bill of a more than healthy and sleep-fulfilled young man nowadays, and Relena couldn't help but be pleased for her friend. Why, was it then that she felt so unbelievably sad,? For, with the recognition that her friend was indeed happier than he had ever been, came the conclusion that by not relying on Quatre as a confidant since leaving Treventville, had in turn lifted what had been a great weight off of his slimly toned shoulders.

The intonation of laughter broke Relena's heavy-hearted thoughts. Turning, Relena was greeted with the sight of Quatre laughing audibly, upper body hunched over, gasping for breaths, as salty tear caused from laughing too hard ran down his pale cheeks. Beside him Dorothy gripped his elbow, not laughing quite so openly, but with a deign of control that made Relena a little uncomfortable.

Pasting a smile on her face, Relena listened as Quatre explained what himself and Dorothy had found quite so funny. Nodding understandingly and showing her pearly whites, Relena gave the outward impression of jovial nonchalance.

Inside she was grieving.


Relena couldn't work out who was more shocked at St. Michael's. The school body was quiet, grieving. It was only a game, yet the school and even the team seemed more than a little surprised at the unanticipated loss.

The team had held the upper hand right till the end of the game, when thing's had gone so severely wrong. Heero, as a guard had been a mountain of strength, no steel, in the defense department. However, his concentration had seemed to wane at in the last few minutes, giving St. Luke's a chance to worm a few three-pointers into the goal. And in heated frustration, Heero had practically handed the opposition a bouquet of red rose free throws. From that point, Trowa started to miss rebounds, instead catching the emptiness of air. Duo, in an almost hyperactive vehemence, continually got his footing wrong, messing up game plays the team evidently didn't have pinned down as well as they had originally thought. It was painful watching the team lose their concentration in the last few minutes of the game. Having done so, they threw their much sought-after win away.

Frowning, Relena watched as Heero, drenched in a thick coat of salty sweat, blandly shook hands with members from the St. Luke's team. Unlike his team mates, he did not look defeated. Instead it was a complete air of indifference that made Relena wonder if Heero actually even gave a damn about having lost the game. Momentarily, he looked out into the gymnasium's stands, searching for something. From her bench at the back, Relena drew in a breath, willing herself to become invisible. Her wish was to no avail.

Meeting her gaze for the space of a moment, Relena tried pasting another smile on her face. It was ineffective. She couldn't hide her bewilderment at Heero's air of indifference, and in the end she decided it wasn't worth fighting it. Frowning, Heero turned away from Relena's gaze, shaking the hands of another victor of the St. Luke's team.

Beside her, Quatre was shaking his fist in unbidden disbelief. "Did you see that Dorothy, Relena? That really was a dreadful way to end a game."

Nodding, Dorothy caught Quatre's fist with her own long, pale hands. Relena cringed as she watched Dorothy fawn over Quatre. It had been one thing to have accepted that she and Quatre had grown apart. However, it was an entirely different thing to have one of the reasons to their new- found distance rubbed unashamedly in her face.

"I've got to go." She said, standing up abruptly. She tried to move past Quatre, who grabbed her hand in his.

"You can't go Relena. We've got to go down and see the others." He gestured to Trowa, Duo and Heero.

Relena shook her head, "Right, because they really want to have their loss rubbed in their faces right now."

Taken aback, Quatre looked at Relena in momentary surprise. As realisation slowly dawned on his face, Relena tried unsuccessfully to pull her hand from his grasp.

Quatre turned to Dorothy who had grown quiet, watching the two friends in an odd way that Relena would later ponder on. "Dorothy, how about we meet you down there? There's some things Relena need to discuss."

Relena cringed at the business like way Quatre handled Dorothy's departure. Watching Dorothy make her way down the bleachers, Relena tried once again to free her hand from Quatre's grasp.

Irritated, Relena pushed her nails into the palm of Quatre's hand, "No Quatre!"

Wearied, Quatre looked at Relena in a mixture of uncertainty and stupefaction. Letting her hand go, he said quietly, "What's this really about Relena?"

Looking straight ahead, Relena noted that Dorothy was now down on the court talking animatedly with Duo, who seemed to have gotten over his team's defeat. Suddenly Dorothy pointed up to where Quatre and Relena sat in the stairs forcing Relena to face her friend.

Quatre gazed at her with an odd sort of apprehensive look about him. "Please Relena, what's really bothering you?"

"Nothing Quare. Really, it's nothing. I just wanted to get back to my dorm. There's an essay I have due for His--"

"Why do you always do that Relena?" Quatre asked, cutting off her weak attempt at a fib.

Sighing, Relena said, "I don't do it on purpose Quatre. I have to do it. It makes life easier."

Quatre frowned. "Do you want to tell me what's really going on? ("No") Why you've practically gone into hibernation since Christmas? ("No") Or why you look like you want to throttle Dorothy every time you see her? ("No, can't explain that one. Sorry.") Do you want to tell me the true reason why you don't turn up to meals? ("Nope") Or why you're suddenly burying yourself in huge amounts of study? ("No") Are you going to tell me what's really wrong, what really happened at Christmas that's gotten you so, so, apprehensive?" Quatre was frustrated, concerned, worried, irritated. His reconcile with Relena was not going well. He could hear Relena mechanically answering his rhetorical questions, and her refusal to answer his last question.

Frustrated, Quatre heaved a sigh so deep there was no way of hiding his bewilderment: "Relena please, just tell me what's going on. Please, tell me why you're so angry with me. Please, just say something, anything. I want to help you!"

Unable to hide how helpless she felt, Relena croaked out, "I don't think you can, Quatre."

"But I can try!"

Shaking her head, "I'm too far into this mess to be able to explain it logically. I don't understand half of it myself."

"Is this about Heero?"

Aghast, Relena shook her head. "Of course not!"

"Is this about your brother then?"

Puzzled, Relena squinted at him, "What do you mean about my brother?"

"Have you heard from him?"

Dejectedly Relena nodded.


"Christmas time."


Relena's eyes shuttered, as she imagined herself hammering the final nail in her imaginary coffin. "At your father's Christmas party."

She heard Quatre's sharp intake of breath, and him pause his inquisition. There was a long stretch of silence between the two of them as things fell into place.

Finally: "Relena... I'm so sorry."

Waving her hand, "It's okay Quatre. Really, it's okay. I'm dealing with it well enough."


Relena interrupted him, "No. Really it's okay Quatre. I've just felt a little 'on edge' is all."

Relena watched stagnantly as Quatre took her hand in his once again. "I've been such a useless friend Relena. Please forgive me?"

"There's nothing to forgive you for Quatre. You can't help the fact that you've made new friends here."

"Yes, but I should have known to remember my old friends at the same time. Please accept my apology Relena. Please."

It was unlike Quatre to be so adamant. "I accept, although I still think that there's nothing to forgive."

Quatre let go of her hand, as they watched as the rest of the student and teaching body trickled their way out of the gymnasium.

"What is it that you don't like about Dorothy?" Quatre asked suddenly. So suddenly that Relena's gaze flickered down to where Duo stood with Dorothy. Duo was spinning a basketball on his index finger, while Dorothy looked on in a haughty way that once again made Relena thoroughly uncomfortable.

Deciding that a feeling wasn't a good enough reason Relena told Quatre that it was nothing. Instead opting for the excuse, "Oh, she's just a really irritating dorm mate. She leaves her clothes lying around everywhere, and constantly uses my hairbrush. Have you gotten a look at how long her hair is Quatre? I mean she's ruined two of my hairbrushes in the last two weeks."

Chuckling, Quatre believed Relena's excuse at complete face-value. "Well, if that's the only reason, than I suggest we make our way down to the court before Dorothy pulls Duo into a headlock."

"She wouldn't?!"

Quatre shrugged, "Who knows. She's not all that bad, really Relena. She has some how should I say it, 'interesting' thoughts on the Cinq Kingdom. You should ask her about it someday. I think you'd be rather impressed, if not challenged."

Relena nodded noncommittally, "Right Quatre. Thanks all the same for the conversation starter, but really, I do prefer being outside of Dorothy Catalonia's stratosphere."

"Okay. Whatever Relena. It was, only a suggestion really."

"Good then. Friends again," She paused at the last step leading down to the court.

Quatre smiled, "I can't recall a time when we weren't."

Sniffing, Relena began, "Well...."

Quatre frowned, as they made their way over to their friends. "Don't rehash the past Relena." He glanced at her, "Do try and remember that I'm here for you. Always."

Wrinkling her nose, Relena grimaced, "Please Quatre, quit with the mush already. I'm going to need a tissue box soon, and crying is an event I'm more than happy to put off."

"Uh huh. Whatever you want."


When they'd reached their friends, Relena realised up close that they were in fact, jaded. Duo, it seemed, had given up entertaining Dorothy. The ice-blonde in question had an air of disapproval about her that grew more defined at the unhidden look of relief she had on her face at Quatre's appearance. Relena's gaze flickered to Trowa, wondering just what he made of all of this. She felt herself to be on a similar wavelength to Trowa for the second time since she'd met him. Like herself, he had the keen eye of an observer, if not more so. He too, seemed more than a little miffed by Dorothy. It would have been difficult to have assessed this if Relena had not stood with Trowa at the dance so long ago. Relena still firmly believed that Quatre was genuinely interested in Dorothy who he continually affirmed was an 'intriguing' character. Relena was yet to find where the intrigue lay within Dorothy's character.

"Hi guys," Quatre grinned, "Sorry about the game."

"Yeah, we are too. We almost won it." Duo said, not bothering to hide his disappointment. He glared at Heero.

Heero ignored Duo's glare.

Dorothy chimed in attempting to dissolve the air of discomfort, "There are always other games."

Duo scowled at Dorothy. Looking more than a little defeated he grabbed a nearby water bottle and bade them all good night. Evidently, he was quite pissed.

Evidently so was Trowa when he left shortly after Duo.

Quatre shrugged, "Well, I suppose I should go get started on that maths homework I've been putting off all week."

"How timely." Relena muttered as she herself followed behind Quatre and Dorothy.

Slowing down, Relena realised just how thoroughly empty and how inertly quiet the gymnasium had all of a sudden gotten.

As if on cue, Heero's voice interrupted her exit. "Relena, have you got a moment?"

Relena cringed as she thought of completely uncharacteristic responses, I've got more than a moment for you Heero. Any day! Shaking her head, Relena went with the mere nodding of her head, and a simple one worded syllable: "Yes."

She turned back around. And there he stood. He was still thoroughly drenched in a slick coat of sweat, however it seemingly suited him. Her cheeks turned a warm rosy red as she thought of how not many people looked so good in sweat! There was no debating it; Heero looked good in sweat!

"A challenge, perhaps?" He asked her.

Interested, Relena quirked an eyebrow. "What sort of challenge?"

Confusion unfolded into intrigue which unfolded into genuine acceptance. With the basketball held in his spread hand Heero inquired once again, "Up for a game, a challenge?"

Finding that she couldn't decline Heero's challenge Relena raised her arms in pleasantly, "Why not? I'm probably going to lose against you, but why not?"

Nodding Heero threw her the basketball.

And a game of one on one that was much like the tango began. It was fast. It was unyielding. It was brilliant. It was theirs.


"Come on Relena, you can do better than that!" Heero called as the ball rebounded off the edge of the hoop's rim for the umpteenth time since they'd started playing.

From the other side of the keyhole Relena flushed. She stood aside as Heero dribbled the ball towards the hoop before pushing the ball up with his left hand, completing a perfectly timed lay-up.

When Heero passed the basketball to Relena for her turn at the goal she shoved it back at him. He reeled backwards at the sheer forcefulness of the pass.

"What?" He asked, not pissed but puzzled as always by her behaviour.

He could hear muttering as Relena stalked away from the keyhole.

"You didn't strike me as the type of person to give up so easily, Relena" Heero declared.

Relena stopped in her tracks. She crouched down on the ground, tying up a shoe-lace that had come loose. "There," she said once she'd risen from the ground. "You should know by now that I never give up Heero. Never. My shoelace had come loose, that's all." She pointed to her now tightly laced red sneakers. They reminded Heero of a movie he'd seen when he was a child.

"Like the shoes, Dorothy." Heero uttered.

Relena flushed once again before retorting. "Like the hair Yuy. Looks spiffy."

A grunt was Heero's method of response.

Leaving all rationale at the three-point line the two began their contention once again. Heero had height, build, speed, skill and strength that outclassed Relena in the extremist sense possible. He could free- throw, lay-up, hook-shot, jump-shot, cross-over dribble and slam-dunk so precisely it was headachy to look at. "I told you I'd lose," She muttered as he once again made a successful and effortless jump shot.

"You're not even trying." He verbally shot back at her before pushing back sweaty mussed hair from his forehead.

"Very well then."

Relena bent slightly down while readying the basketball for a shot at the hoop. Extending her arms she flicked the ball upwards and towards the goal. Before the ball fell through the hoop's net, Relena knew with complete certainty that she'd finally gotten a goal. The shot had been clean and correct and most importantly concentrated.

A dull thud as the basketball fell through the hoop's net marked her feat. Heero caught the ball as it rebounded off the court's surface. He started to aim for another shot but Relena stopped him before he flicked the ball upwards. "That's enough Heero."

Wordlessly, Heero dropped the ball. Relena started for the gymnasium's entrance.

"Good game Relena."

Relena turned back to face Heero. "It was, wasn't it," she half-smiled. "Why didn't you play like that before?"

Heero pushed his sweat-drenched dark hair off of his face, for once not hiding his face, but still shading his emotions. "Because I didn't want to."

She refrained from asking him why, and instead collectively heaved, hunched over and attempting to catch her breath. Looking up she beamed one of her more relaxed smiles at him, "And now you know why I skip gym class all the time."

Heero half-grinned. Smiling at such a lame crack was beyond him, but acknowledging the joviality of the situation wasn't. "You should come to class more often. The class has been split into volleyball teams. There's going to be a playoff next week."

"No way." Relena moaned. "Don't get me started. Volleyball's a bigger nightmare than basketball!"

Heero nodded, grabbing his sweater from the court side bench before pulling it on, much to Relena's disdain.

Walking in a comfortable silence out of the gym, Relena silently appreciated the quietness of their stroll. There were only ever so many words spoken between herself and Heero and there had never been the pressure to speak for a long extensive period of time. He seemed to enjoy the stillness while she anticipated the quiet. Before heading in separate directions for their own dorms, Relena called to him, "You make the quiet comfortable Heero."

Walking away Relena completely missed the stunned look on Heero's face.


*Augury was a form of bird-watching in the time of Ancient Rome. It was used as a means of interpreting signs from the gods.

**Haruspicy is the inspection of an animal's entrails. This was another way of interpreting signs from the gods in Ancient times.

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