Author's Note: Written for the 2010 Church of Lemons, this actually has no lemon according to FFN's rules. The story is the same without it, however. Please enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing and am making no profit from this fan fiction.
She looked healthy. It was the first thing Heero noticed when Quatre nudged him and his eyes landed on Relena at the bottom of the shuttle steps. A strange relief accompanied the thought; Heero hadn't realized that Relena's wellbeing had been preoccupying him, but ever since the most recent battle against the Mobile Dolls, she had lingered in his mind. Shadows ringed the flesh beneath her eyes, but one of her eyebrows quirked up spiritedly as she smiled. He inhaled deeply and breathed in the air of her country. It took a second prodding from Quatre before he could proceed down the steps to meet her, growing warmer with every inch he covered between them.
The Sanq Kingdom was a fairytale land, and Heero did not entirely approve at first. He had never considered that there might be a place in the world without fighting; it was a temptation he couldn't afford to want. After all, it couldn't possibly last.
In a peaceful nation, sleeping proved difficult for him. Quatre didn't share the ailment, and Heero took to wandering the corridors of the palace alone until fatigue set in. One night, particularly early in the morning, Heero passed the school director's office and found Relena already up and steeping tea at her desk. He paused, standing in just such a way as to be unseen by the room's single occupant. Closer inspection revealed that she wasn't awake early—rather, she had not yet gone to bed. The burgundy jacket of her Sanq Academy uniform hung on the back of her chair; she had freed her hair from their usual tidy binds, the front strands wavy from hours in braids; and on the floor to the side of her desk, her white socks and loafers had been discarded.
Unkempt in the skirt and white blouse, eyes glazed as they trained on her computer screen, Relena was obviously exhausted.
Heero doubted that even Treize Khushrenada kept such hours. He remained very still, watching, until at last Relena's attention was drawn to his presence. She gave a tense jerk and blinked rapidly. "Heero."
"What are you doing?" It didn't occur to him to apologize for startling her. He wasn't even aware of when precisely he had come into her line of sight.
"I…" She reached for her tea and gulped, hard, then looked at him again, as if surprised he was really there. "Trowa. I'm…I told you I've been searching for Trowa Barton."
"How can you?" he asked, partially astonished but giving no indication.
"The Sanq Kingdom may not have much assistance, but what I do have is fairly powerful. I should be able to receive information from outer space without alerting OZ." Relena put down the mug and grasped the ribbon lying next to her keyboard. She reached up to try to manage her hair. "My resources—"
"Not that." Heero entered the office, walking right up to the desk. He caught sight the steam rising from the tea, as well as a notebook upon which her neat script had disintegrated into illegible squiggles, fresh and unrecognizable to the human eye. "It's four in the morning, Relena. Your students will be waking in a few hours. Rest."
Relena smiled wryly, let the ribbon fall into a curlicue as she abandoned her task. "You're awake, Heero."
Ignoring the rebuttal, he rounded the desk. Her computer screen showed Trowa's OZ profile. For a moment, his mind flooded with the battle between the pair of them and Quatre, the Mercurius and Vayeate helpless against the power of the Wing Zero. Quatre had not spoken of it much, but the possibility—the probability of Trowa's death had likely shattered him. Heero, too, had been unable to do anything except save the Colony and Quatre. It was still a waste. He and Trowa had their similarities, but Trowa had friends and people who cared if he died, his life had value…
"Heero?" Relena's voice forced him back to the surface, where day was about to break over the sea-lined horizon. It took him a moment to recall that he was on Earth. He realized he was leaning over her, gazing at the screen. At this proximity, he caught the scent of her soap from yesterday's shower, glimpsed the outline of her bra through her plain white blouse, felt her breath on his cheek.
She was so close. He could turn his head and her lips would brush his neck. The thought set his pulse thundering.
"Are you all right, Heero?"
"Fine." He straightened abruptly, distancing himself. "You need sleep, Relena. We both do. It's making us—"
"What?" She looked up at him, still tired but curious now. Predawn light fell on her hair from the window just behind her chair, giving it a fuller, softer quality. He wanted to touch the strands and made fists against the desire.
"Nothing. Come on." He waited until she reluctantly stood up and walked, barefoot, out of the office in front of him. Heero turned off the light and left the tea to go cold in the dark. He thought, for a moment, that someone so devoted may actually find a road to peace in the end.
Maybe it was the distraction of the White Fang's resurgence, but Relena never saw it coming when Heero grabbed her wrist and spun her back to him before she could follow Quatre to the shuttle waiting to return her to the world that demanded her.
She did see his eyes before he pulled her too close, and the blue smoldered. His lips fell to hers, the aim slightly off with impulsiveness. It was the kiss she'd half-expected when they stood together in the hatch of Wing Zero before Heero's final battle with Milliardo. The pleasure was instant, but more lasting than that (and the confusion) was the knowledge he was real enough that she could feel his hands in hers. It only made her more selfish than ever. It made her think for a moment that he would go with her.
But he walked off without a word to explain his actions. Relena could not begin to work them out on her own. So she kept it secret, although Quatre's smile was too wide and didn't fade for an hour.
If he had a god, Heero would have thanked it when he saw Relena with a bleeding child in her arms, pale and panicked, but unharmed. It was too much effort to keep her wide-eyed form steady in his vision; she wavered and blurred, and the gun was soon too heavy. The anticipated impact with the debris-strewn floor never came, defying his prior experience with loss of consciousness. This time, Relena's arms enfolded him. Loose strands of her hair smelled sweet, adding to his dizziness. The flesh at her throat was smooth and warm as his temple pressed to it. And as she inhaled deeply to sigh, he felt her softness.
He might have been embarrassed by the decidedly erotic image that flitted past his closed eyes if he were at all closer to consciousness. Exhausted as he was, Heero could still hear her murmur his name and soothing words…and still, he wanted her as fiercely as any other sixteen-year-old boy probably wanted the Vice Foreign Minister.
Relena found herself at a war memorial charity party when he saw her the next time, nearly four years later. Quatre had extended invitations to Duo and Hilde, who danced from beginning to end. Wufei and Sally were present, on security detail and, apparently, in the middle of an argument on the subject. Noin and Zechs were with Une, serving as friends of the Preventer commander and bodyguards of the older Mariemaia; the girl was receiving glare after glare from every corner of the room, and the animosity lessened only a little after she shared a pleasant exchange with Relena. Une urged her adopted daughter to pay them no mind. Trowa watched from the sidelines, practically invisible if not for his always-catching green eyes. He nodded at her across the room, and Relena grinned, thinking if it was possible she would coax him into a dance later.
An older couple, friends of Marquis Weyridge, explained at one point that they had heard of her running for President, a claim Relena kindly and firmly denied. A visiting ESUN delegate attempted to wrangle her in for a debate on potential candidates; Quatre arrived just in time to come to her rescue, pulling her out of range of the journalists and rival politicians and taking her to the refreshment table.
And there was Heero, suit-clad and cool as anything, a glass of water in one hand. The way he held his drink made any other choice of beverage seem unsophisticated and absurd. His eyes met hers, lingered, and it felt as natural and as expected to Relena as if they had been only a day apart. He greeted her and thanked Quatre for inviting him, utilizing all of the appropriate manners. And then promptly he turned and stalked away.
Quatre turned to her in confusion. "What's going on? Why did he—"
"It's all right." Relena passed him her sparkling juice; she didn't drink at political functions, no matter how well disguised they were in forms of merriment. "Will you hold this for me?"
Though too far for a continued conversation, Relena turned back and saw that Quatre was afraid he'd done something to hurt her by bringing Heero here.
"I didn't mean to make things…hard, Relena." The Winner heir's concern was not alleviated by the quick smile she gave him.
There must be some widespread misconception going on between the four Gundam pilots who had known her and Heero for years, she decided as she went after the most elusive of the five. Some sort of imagined feeling they thought she shared with their longtime comrade. But any two people could form a bond through a childhood spent in war. After all, she was on good terms with all of those boys-turned-men. And she had known Heero longer than any of them.
Her gown was heavy and seemed to protest against every step she took toward the balcony that promised and warned her of the kind of shadowy alcove her old friend preferred; he had come close to shooting her from such a place once. She had no sooner stepped outside than the doors closed decisively behind her. Looking over her shoulder, she found Heero standing with his back to them, barring the way, watching her with eyes that gleamed with some inner light source.
Suddenly, in the relative quiet, the years felt like years.
Heero's hands clamped on her upper arms and he half dragged, half coaxed her close to him. His kiss was different tonight, not hesitant or clumsy as it had been that one time before. His fingertips held her shoulder blades as if he kept himself from falling a long distance that way. He ghosted his lips across her forehead with a gentleness that came across as almost adoring.
Heart pounding, her eyes shut. She didn't know what she was doing, only that this was senseless. One of his hands came to rest lightly against her neck, heedless of the bright string of diamonds falling just above the space between her breasts. Relena sighed when the kiss deepened and he tasted clean, like water. His arms folded her into an embrace, holding her tighter than ever, and the desperation there made her clench her fingers in the front of his suit jacket. She had never been needed this way.
The sound of her name, hearing him say it like that, unearthed some buried fear she couldn't articulate. She thought of her colleagues, her friends, and her brother just inside. Looking at Heero as he touched his forehead to hers, she knew he would still do anything to protect her. And she stepped back.
"Heero," she whispered, his name airy and insubstantial from her breathlessness, "I can't." With difficulty, she removed his hands and absently tucked back hairs he had tangled, suddenly glad she left it down and curled for the evening. His eyes followed her every motion, hungry to keep watching her, and it increased her fright. There were responsibilities she wasn't allowed to forget, and he could make her forget them all—she wanted to tell him, to make it clear why this was a bad idea. She wished she knew what he was thinking.
"I can't," she said again, stronger for the repeat.
And that was all her voice had strength for. She turned on her heel so suddenly that when Heero extended his fingers for her wrist, as he once had, it was out of reflex. But Relena moved too fast, and his hand closed on empty air. In her wake, Heero's continued reaching toward the figure whose silken skirt riffled as she moved, whose hair glimmered as it passed from shadows into light. Something from one of his old dreams, now retreating.
Heero was a senior, twenty-three and half, at an L1 Colony college. As one of the first secondary schools built in outer space, the campus was badly planned, technology needed updating, and the faculty consisted of either the too young or the too old. There were other, newer schools cropping up in every Colony cluster as a joint project between the Earth and the Colony delegates, headed by none other than the Winner Corporation. Quatre had offered him a full ride to any university that interested him, but Heero had declined. Crowds were once serviceable to his needs, but there was no enemy to hide from these days.
He sat at the counter of his apartment, a low-rent facility pressed nearly to the side of the Colony wall. The building was nothing special, in fact lower than the average student's abode, but at breakfast-time the Colony's rotation brought the sun-lit Earth into view of the enormous window built into the side of the residential wheel. Heero's apartment looked out onto the window. And Heero gazed at Earth over coffee, every morning at 7:40 a.m.
At exactly 7:41, Adair emerged from his bedroom, heavily burdened. At first Heero thought she was on her way to her Thursday art class, until he realized that besides her backpack and box of supplies, she carried a large duffel bag and the easel she had been keeping in the apartment. She wore her raincoat over one of her usual oversized sweaters, obscuring a lithe and fairly straight body. He studied her malcontented brown eyes, partly obscured by black, curly hair. Her hair had barely reached her chin when Heero and Adair first began dating halfway through the second semester of sophomore year. Now it hung past her shoulders, always unmanageably tangled even without his help.
At first, Heero was unsure of whether he should open the imminent discussion. Adair saved him from excessive awkwardness, as she was prone to do, by smiling weakly and saying, "It's just time, Heero."
Heero watched her under the fall of his own bangs. "Time – for what?"
She took a deep breath and readjusted her grip on the paraphernalia. Her palms were sweating, color livening her cheeks. Heero recognized the attempt to cleanly go in one, pain-free move. He rose from his seat to help with her load.
"I've got it," she protested, hiking the duffel bag higher on her shoulder. Heero's hands moved, useless, to his sides. "It's almost noon in the eastern hemisphere. The Vice Foreign Minister will be giving a speech—oh, but she's the Foreign Minister now, isn't she?" When Heero's jaw set, Adair shook her head and dropped her casual demeanor. "Come on, it's okay. I figured it out a while ago, Heero."
After an eight-month relationship, Heero was still not a talkative person, and he had wondered throughout why she had stayed with him this long. He didn't know if it had helped or hurt, but Heero had explained, vaguely, that he had fought in the Eve Wars. Adair hadn't been too surprised as several of her friends had quit high school to join the Treize Faction in what she'd called a moment of teenage insanity.
Heero had further told her that his life had been altered, prolonged even, by a group of people his age or close to it. Adair had instantly made the connection that at least one girl was included in that group, but Heero had never gone into any more detail, and Adair had never asked.
"You always insisted on watching every one of her speeches," Adair continued, her smile more tremulous every moment. "And it took longer, but I realized all those times you went off without telling me were when she came to space. She took in soldiers during the war. And I remember the reports of her going to Libra. You could have met her anywhere."
"Adair," Heero started, "I don't want—"
"Don't, Heero. Listen to me." She waited until his Prussian blue eyes were focused on hers. "You can't be happy trying to be happy with me. And I can't be happy knowing that you'll keep trying, but you won't ever make it. So just…"
Out of habit, their bodies had drifted closer. Heero was jostled by her bag when his now ex-girlfriend went on tiptoe to brush her lips against his. He didn't budge a muscle.
"Stop trying." Finally, Adair allowed her smile to fade and left the apartment without hesitation. She didn't slam the door, but the sound was still too loud to Heero's ears in the resultant silence.
So he turned on the television. Relena, lit by flash after flash of camera lights, was just beginning to speak.
"What did you just say?"
Relena sat in the middle of a five-star restaurant in the middle of New Port City. Tonight she wore a summery, white evening dress, wheat-colored hair freely waving down her back. The evening was meant to be relaxing, and almost still was. Staring at the man across from her, the wineglass in her hand tilted from her slacked grip on the stem.
Efficiently and fluidly, her boyfriend of over a year took the glass before it could meet with a tragic end on the hardwood floor of the restaurant and draw too much attention. The former Sanq Kingdom, let alone the staff at their favorite dinner spot, was well used to their status as a couple. But that didn't mean an upset Foreign Minister wouldn't ignite a scene and likely some press.
Relena moved her hand out of the way, leaving him room to place the wineglass firmly on the table. "Xenner," she pressed, impatient.
The man named Xenner met her eyes resignedly, his green on her blue. He brushed back his overgrown, dark blonde bangs, and this was his only sign of nervousness. "I said I'm breaking up with you, Relena."
Relena was motionless, her back straight and ankles crossed, the picture of composure to any of their fellow diners. However, her eyes told a different story. Xenner was brave and never looked away, although the politician before him had prevented insurrections and armed, aristocratic disputes with her eyes alone.
She opened her mouth to speak, but he quickly moved aside the pre-meal bread basket and took both of her hands. "Relena, I swear I'm not trying to hurt you."
She hadn't been thinking that. Xenner was the son of a former Alliance leader who had been removed from power during OZ's coup d'état but who had approved of Earth's tyrannical control over the Colonies. With that knowledge between them, Xenner always behaved as though he was trying to apologize to Relena for his mother's mistakes, incessantly careful and supportive of her career. If their relationship was to end, she had imagined he would not be the one to do it.
"But why?" she murmured. Some memory jolted in her brain, and she fought to stay in the present. "Is it something that just happened? Did someone say something?"
"No one had to say anything," Xenner assured her. "It's all been the same for years, even before we…" He glanced down briefly, then back up. "Your friends are polite, but I'm not who they expect."
"They like you," Relena protested.
Xenner's eyebrows arched. "Wufei does not like me."
"You're not breaking up with me because of Wufei." Relena's tone was first challenging, then cautious; she could, when necessary, shift as effortlessly as the candle flame lighting their table. "Why, Xen? I don't understand why."
"Because I can't get past it. This wall you've got around you...I don't know what to do anymore. Everything I've tried has failed." Xenner's expression was kind and unhappy at once.
Relena's grip on his hands tightened. "What are you talking about? You think I don't trust you?"
"I think," said Xenner contemplatively, "that you deliberately keep from trusting me completely. I'm beyond grateful for what you have trusted me with. Don't think I didn't enjoy and cherish every moment, Relena, because I did—I do."
"Then what?" she persisted, confused. Hurt suddenly flared in Relena's chest and stayed there as she took in the face of the man she had tried to give everything she could. "Xenner, I love you."
"I know." He ran his thumbs over her knuckles in soothing circles, wishing the words meant as much to him as they used to. "I know that. Relena, you love everyone, the whole Earth and the Colonies. But you won't let me love you back. I'm obviously not what you need."
Relena pulled away. Confronted with the notion that she was unreachable even to someone she could reach out to was making her miserable. Out of a girlhood habit, she pressed her fist to her chest. "How do you know? How do I know?"
"You don't always know what's good for you, that's true. But when you've got the right person, Relena, you won't have to ask that question." Xenner pushed back his chair and came to her side of the table. "Finish your wine. I'll take a cab home."
He absorbed the sight of her: the Foreign Minister, keeper of peace. Her dress's neckline was wide and accentuated her slim neck and squared shoulders. She wore no jewelry but for a pair of golden earrings shaped like Celtic knots. Unable to help it, Xenner remembered too many mornings and afternoons and evenings when she had been more beautiful wearing less. Bending, he pressed a long, chaste kiss to her forehead. "You'll be fine," he said lowly, so only she could hear.
Relena felt like she was floundering as she watched him go, her emotions in turmoil. Suddenly, Xenner turned back, and she wondered if he would reconsider leaving.
"Also," he added, "because you really don't know what's good for you sometimes… Get out of the palace, Relena. You hate that palace."
And he went to call a cab.
Relena sat by herself in the middle of the restaurant in the middle of New Port City. She finished her wine.
Heero rarely did anything without reason. Buying a shuttle ticket, flying down, and generally being on Earth were all activities for which he had no explanation. The Sanq Kingdom even less so. The short straps of his backpack dug into the flesh of his shoulders, seeming to restrain him. He could go, part of his mind told him. He could purchase a second ticket and go right back to the Colony. The Earth orbited close to the first Lagrange point, it would take no time. Or he could go to L2 and assure Duo and Hilde that he was alive, finally damming the stream of his braided friend's daily e-mails….
Through all of this reasoning, Heero didn't realize that he had disembarked, walked down the gate, passed the ticketing station, and was nearly out of the shuttle port entirely, already smelling sea air. He clenched the backpack straps and pulled them away from his shoulders. All of this second-guessing was pointless. It used to be easier, he thought, acting on my emotions.
Nearing the sliding glass doors that led to the port's parking lot, Heero suddenly stopped in his tracks. On the other side of the transparent pane was Relena, who, seeing him, had likewise frozen in place.
In black Capri's and a fitted, purple shirt, her hair knotted up, she was clearly and casually dressed for travel, so inconspicuous no one would think to peg her as the Foreign Minister. She looked like him, a college student on a day trip. Her many years in office had made her an expert of deceptive dressing. To Heero, she had never been a princess, queen, or politician. No disguise would help her elude him. But she carried no baggage other than her purse, and he couldn't fathom what brought her here, now.
Barely noticing his own movement, Heero took one step forward, landing on the detection pad. The door suddenly slid open.
"Heero," breathed Relena. He realized just then that the three summers they hadn't spoken was too much time for him to go without hearing his name said that way. Adair's voice was husky, naturally seductive. Relena's was lighter but also more forceful, as if each word she spoke was in response to a matter of importance.
Recovering from her surprise, "What are you doing here?" she asked.
Heero needed longer to adjust to the shock of being right in front of her, instead of a crowd away like at all of her outer space speeches. The last time they had stood so close hadn't turned out so well.
Relena seemed to accept that he didn't have a concrete answer for her. He watched her eyes carefully, and in them he witnessed a decision being quickly made. Relena turned to the side and invited him to follow her. Though this wasn't how he'd planned it – however minimally that planning was – he had come to see this woman. Obediently, he fell into stride beside her, eventually finding himself in the passenger seat of her car.
"What about you?" he said at last. Greetings were something they had never taken to when it came to each other. Every time Heero and Relena reunited was like a mere continuation of a previous encounter. Part of him felt as though they had never really left each other since that first day on the beach.
But they had left. Many times.
"I was…oh!" Surprise overtook Relena's features as she drove. "Trowa! I was meeting with Trowa, he was supposed to be my bodyguard for the trip."
Heero exhaled a snort-like breath. Trowa would only act as more of a friend to her than a protector. He had once made the mistake of explaining to the former pilot of Heavyarms that Relena had taken it on herself to search for him during the war. Although Duo had found him first, Trowa was unused to kindness and had felt he owed Relena a debt ever since.
"I need to tell him," she continued, groping for her cell phone with her eyes on the road.
"I'll do it," said Heero, already typing a message into his handheld computer. He finished and put it away, the following silence deep and thick between them. Sunset was glaring off the windshield, and Relena frowned into it. She turned onto an unfamiliar stretch of road, a suburb, and pulled into the parking garage of a distinctively average apartment complex.
Heero eyed her as they got out of the car. "The palace?" he queried, thinking there had been some unreported attack on the Peacecraft castle and he would have to murder Une for neglecting to call on him.
Relena's expression turned wistful. "I hate that palace," she said quietly, the words managing to echo in the deserted garage.
At least he couldn't qualify that as a disaster.
As they took the elevator up just as wordlessly as they had taken the car, Relena thought it miraculous how calm she was. Maybe she was just accustomed to their serendipitous encounters, because her ability to recognize an opportunity remained intact. Despite the vicious self-questioning she had experienced in the month since Xenner's gentle announcement at the restaurant, she was very sure about the impulsive decision to bring Heero back with her.
Once she let them into her new condominium, she felt renewed gratitude that Noin, Sally, and even Dorothy had helped her move in last week. She was almost entirely unpacked, and though she was still adjusting to the smaller size (she had grown up in a mansion bigger than the entire complex, then moved into the Peacecraft castle) Relena found she enjoyed being able to walk from her bedroom to her kitchen in less than five minutes. As Heero surveyed the condo, she surveyed Heero. He wore plain khakis and a long sleeved T-shirt in a shade of green nearly identical to the tank top she so well remembered him living in during the war.
Having taken stock of the minimal furniture, kitchen area and cardboard boxes still sitting around, Heero pivoted and looked back at her. He hadn't so much as glanced in the direction of her bedroom.
"Why were you and Trowa going to space?" he asked, as she was stepping out of her flat sandals. "You didn't have a speech scheduled."
"No, not until this fall, before the Council meeting." Relena meandered past him and gestured for him to sit in the high-backed, armless desk chair she had borrowed from her office until she had time to shop for a couch and more chairs. She pulled a leather-topped stool over from the marble island and perched across from him.
Heero's eyes followed her steadily the whole time. "And?"
Relena twisted her fingers together in her lap. "The truth is…I was coming to see you. On L1."
Heero was silent for a moment and then said, haltingly, "I read in the news that you broke up with that guy, the Breaking Borders chairman."
"My publicist spun in that way. Actually, he dumped me." Heero's expression didn't change. She stilled her hands by clenching them, one on top of the other. "But it's fine. It ended well, and I had so much work anyway. Xenner's still at Breaking Borders and making sure the Earth Sphere Unified Nation stays…well." Relena shrugged. "Unified." Part of her realized how surreal it was to be discussing her ex with Heero Yuy, of all people.
"And that's why he dumped you? For work?"
"No, he dumped me for me." As she said it, Relena realized how absurd it sounded. Heero stood up, and she craned her neck to keep sight of his face.
"Is that the reason?" he asked softly. His bangs hung low, partially shading his eyes. "Back then?"
"What, my reason?" Just as abruptly, Relena went to her feet so she could look at him properly. "You mean at that party? The night you—"
"You kissed me too," he reminded her, tense and terse.
She pursed her lips, considering. "I reacted badly, Heero. I know that. I just… That night, I couldn't figure out what we were doing or who we were to each other. And what I did know was that you once went to a battle you planned never to come back from and said it was to protect me. And once you came speeding down the road, hanging out the window and shooting at people—to protect me. But you know something strange?"
Heero's focus on her was so concentrated she could practically feel it touching her skin. Even with more than two feet between them, he seemed very close. And by comparison to the majority of the time they had known each other, he was.
Relena swallowed and went on. "What's strange is Xenner couldn't understand those parts, when I told him about you. He could never let go of all the times you tried to do the opposite. Tried to kill me." Heero's eyes narrowed as she spoke, and she rushed with more. "Honestly, it was all so long ago now I can't really remember being afraid, but I'm sure I was. It got to the point where I thought being alive meant you'd come back, some day, just to finish the job. But after Dekim—"
"I wouldn't have killed you," Heero interrupted swiftly, unwilling to let her go on. "Except for the time at the port, when Duo stopped me, I wouldn't have been able to hurt you. Not even when I went to Romefeller, and you were my mission."
Relena stared. They had never talked about the past so openly. Not just for them, but for the rest of the Gundam pilots, those days were stepping stones that led to now, to here.
"You became my mission," Heero clarified.
She took a deep breath. "I knew that, Heero. That's why…when we kissed at that party and you just seemed to want to stay with me so badly…I could only think of what you might do to keep me safe. I was worried you'd let yourself be hurt before I ever was." Relena felt her eyes suddenly heat, and the image of him there in front of her grew blurry. "And I don't want that. Not ever. Not after everything we…."
"Relena." Heero's finger rested on her cheekbone and smoothly brushed the tears from her eyes before they had the chance to fall, just as if they were still fifteen and the torn halves of an invitation lay at their feet. But they were eight years older and a lifetime more mature from events they had barely been able to control since that day.
"So I guess," she managed to tell him, "that I dumped you for you."
"Relena, I would want you safe even if I never wanted you in any other way." His hands moved to her shoulders. "That time, at least, didn't make any sense," he said. Relena didn't understand what he meant, but she was too distracted by the warmth of his skin through the thin material of her shirt.
"Heero," she murmured, "I'm about to do something else that won't make any sense." Rising on her toes, she firmly pulled his head down and caught his mouth with hers.
His reaction lacked the instantaneousness of their last kiss. He seemed to have expected this from her and slowly slid his hands from her shoulders to her back. Relena stepped in closer, her hands locking behind his neck. His moan rumbled briefly in her throat as she tasted his tongue with hers. It wasn't enough to satisfy her, and she knew, right away, where they would be before the end of the night.
He tore away with a jerk, and the pressure of his touch was halfway between resting and seizing. "This," he said with all the appearance of bodily restraining himself. "Relena, is this something you want?"
That had once been the big question. Smiling, Relena wondered how the big things got to be so small. "Yes. I used to think I did all of my work for you – for my friends. I think it's time I let myself have something for a change."
Relena collapsed atop him, her chin on his shoulder. They panted in time, chests heaving together and apart, hands stroking aimlessly.
"God." His lips pressed to her forehead. Adair had never made him say that no matter how good they had been together. Relena was beyond words. She always had been.
Relena didn't move until he felt her heartbeat regain a more or less normal pace. She pulled away just enough to look him in the eye. "Heero? Why…did you come to Earth?"
He found the strength to carefully lift her off him, then let her rest her back against his chest. Her hand came up to encircle the back of his neck. He folded his hands across her stomach. "To see you. To talk."
He smirked, unable to help it. "Yes. And tomorrow."
"I think we've had enough of the past, Relena." She twisted around to face him. "I think tomorrow is…"
She blinked, glowing still, and he realized this wasn't the time. His smile grew. Fine—it would wait.
"I think tomorrow is a good time to get you some furniture."
Relena grinned. "That's generous. But I already have a bed, you know."
Heero got to his feet and lifted her up from the chair she had trapped him in. She clung tightly as he began for the bedroom. "We better make sure it doesn't need replacing."
She laughed, leaving light kisses on his cheekbones. Vaguely, she remembered a time when they had never once joked with each other. Perhaps they had adapted in some ways – improved themselves by the process of getting to know each other. "I really wouldn't mind." Her laughter continued into the darkened bedroom, where they didn't bother with lights.
They left the door open.