Disclaimer: Gundam Wing and all its characters © Sotsu Agency, Sunrise, and TV Asahi. All fics are not for profit.
A/N: A submission to this year's darfic exchange at gw_dark, written for Omnicat.
Prompt for this is: "Something exploring Relena's feelings about/relationship with Zechs, her birth family, or her adopted family."
by Schizoid Sprite
"The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people you might never even introduce yourself to, had life not done it for you."- Kendall Hailey
The inch-thick bulletproof window of her limo separates her from the lackluster atmosphere of that April afternoon, but only physically.
She felt like she really belongs to the feeble scene outside. Pressing her fingers to the glass, Relena noted the banks of gray clouds sitting low overhead, the weak yellow shine of the sun basking the streets in an eerie glow that made the cars reminiscent of bugs beneath fluorescents. It somewhat suited her mood at the moment.
Glancing down, she ironed out the crumpled paper on her lap and stared hard at it like she always had, as if she would decode something from it if she would just look behind the reckless lines and kindergarten cacography. She ran her fingers over the halfhearted doodles of stick figures, her thumb drifting at the heavy prints of the first figure's label that is her first name, and stumbled to a stop at her last name.
She had no memory of making this drawing. In fact, she could barely remember anything about Peacecraft childhood. After she learned her real identity from her adoptive father, she struggled to know everything about her biological family. The war and the predicaments she shouldered at that time didn't deter her from doing this. Books and computer databases only gave her what she already know—the ideals, the rise-and-fall life cycle of the Kingdom, some biographical pieces and old articles. She delved into the palace's secret rooms and found this family drawing, mysteriously in good condition while juxtaposed with the remnants of the most recent tragedy the Kingdom underwent. The old people whom she recognized as supporters of her father's beliefs were consulted too, but what they just blithered about were sickening flattery, accounts reworded from one mouth to another.
She almost gave up. Putting up the lost fragments of her family's past all by herself is always like building matchstick towers; they all suffer the same fate at one point or another. They fall apart. No matter how much mental glue she put on them, no matter how much time she spend compressing every information together, she would always arrive at an abstract picture, if not nothing at all.
Her finger scraped over to the next figure, the one with a crown on his oval head.
"What does my father look like?" She remembered asking Pagan once, and in answer he showed her a couple of portraits that he claimed as the most persuasive.
'They're the closest,' he'd said, 'but they will do no justice to the real King.'
Her thirst wasn't quenched one bit; they were just portraits and that's all. All she could see was a row of drawings, each of which shared very little similarities except for the avalanche of beard that dominated the frames. She saw nothing in their eyes. That meant she saw no portraits at all.
"I want to know him."
Sometimes she thinks that imagining him would feel better. When she pictures him in her mind, she requires herself to mold a 'King Peacecraft' into a generic father image. Generic, because she couldn't think of him too specifically, because she couldn't make out how a leader of a kingdom would treat a daughter without him being compared to the father she had known. It was more difficult than she figured it would be; when she imagined hard, the king's face would twist into the ex-vice foreign minister's. That would trigger a string of sleepless nights.
It took her quite some time to tell it to herself….In truth, King Peacecraft sounded just like a one-dimensional character pulled from a fairytale to her, and she had long thrown her belief that her life was one. His teachings, his tenets of peace to which she subscribed and pledged to spread, couldn't inflate the picture with flesh…
"King Leonard Peacecraft," Pagan had stated slowly, "is simply a father."
"That tells everything about him, Miss Relena."
Sighing, she shook the memories off and went on to the next figure, depicted the largest because of its scraggly balloon gown.
Maybe she was just being selfish; maybe she was just refusing to open her mind. Either way, it was a conscious thought that she didn't want to recognize any mother other than the one she grew up with. Even if technically she came from Katherine Peacecraft's womb, in senseful actuality she was born from the heart of another woman.
Mother. In her dictionary, the only definition of that word would be Marybeth Darlian.
If her job as the vice foreign minister were put into a scale and Marybeth's full-time work in the other, her political career would be surely thrown off the beam. She knew there was no harder job than being a mother to her, and she was making sure that Marybeth receives her salary everyday: her pure love and trust.
That connection never faltered even though both of them were aware that not a drop of blood in their veins was the same.
Still, Relena respects and acknowledges her real roots. She might have chosen to wear her adoptive family's surname, but the path she took bears the road sign 'Peacecraft'.
Does the walker choose the path, or the path decides who the walker should be? She never quite answered that but thought to herself that she was in a world with two truths.
The walker chooses the path.
Perhaps that was the truth for his part. She was astonished to see him standing there when she got off her car, and for once she knew it was his choice to be there. She stuffed the folded paper back into her pocket and paced towards the solemn figure.
"The last time I saw this old man," the man said stolidly without looking at her when she stopped beside him, "he's completely happy. He intentionally flashed me that toothy smile to brag for flooring the best lineup of colonial dentists about the healthiness of his teeth."
Relena chuckled even if the corners of her mouth drooped a little. "Yes. Do you know that he outlived those dentists and some of the nurses at the Home? The last time I saw him…he's still happy. Right, Pagan?"
The path chooses the walker.
That was her truth. Both of them stared down at their long-time friend and second guardian, adoring how the last lights of the day bounce off his epitaph. She was about to bring another moment with her late butler when she suddenly felt warmth swaddling her. She smiled slightly at the strong arms around her and looked up.
"Milliardo," she muttered, then coiled her own arms around his broad waist.
What was this about him? Relena couldn't quite think of what to make of this man. Chance meetings with him were hardly repeated, but he has been a frequent visitor in her dreams. In them, he was a stranger: a foreigner who happened to hold the title of being her brother and share the same blood with her. He didn't know her and she didn't know him…yet when he do this, when he would establish this symbolic protection around her, an almost psychometric sensation would give her the thoughts that she had indeed known this man all her life…like he was an extension of her own soul. He had done the same thing on Libra before, and it still has the same effect.
He released her after some minutes and she watched with a furrowed brow as he fumbled in his pants pocket. He pulled out a creased photograph and handed it to her.
She smiled at it, at the little Milliardo there and at the bundle in his arms that was her. The sides of the picture were curling in as if to protect the innocence such an image could preserve for years. Instinctively she tugged out the wrinkled family drawing from her pocket and showed it to him.
There are two truths.
As they shared their treasures with each other, Relena slowly realized that even if she would be able to turn her history inside out, there wouldn't be only one family to which she really belongs. Names don't have anything to do with it; they are just tags to distinguish one person from another anyway. Nor do blood ties, for putting them in grave consideration would forge the essence of having family at a high cost, starkly contrasting with the certainty that true kinship is determined by the priceless judgment of the heart.
She glanced at the gravestone again. "He's family, isn't he?"
He cocked his head in assertion. "Both a Darlian and a Peacecraft."
"Both a Darlian and a Peacraft," she repeated with a knowing smile.
She looked up. The dark clouds had rolled away and the sinking sun glowed like a live ember in the west, spilling an array of gold and scarlet shades over the canvas of the sky. Stars came into sight, and twice that day the ambience the sky set complemented her mood.