Love's Labours Lost
By Stella and the Black Rose
This work of fiction is based on William Shakespeare's play of the same title, Love's Labours Lost. Not one of his most famous works, but one of our favorites, it is the story of the young King of Navarre and his three friends who swear an oath to remove themselves from worldly pleasures (women, alcohol and money among them), and spend three years in the chaste pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. Their plans are thwarted by a surprise visit from the Princess of France and her three beautiful handmaidens. The four men must then deal with their feelings and ultimately decide what is more important to them: pride or love. (If you ever get a chance to see the play, go and see it! If you're ever in the movie rental place and see Kenneth Branagh's version, avoid it like the plague!).
We've set our LLL in the present day using characters from our favorite anime series: Gundam Wing, Escaflowne, Trigun, and Weiss Kreuz. It sounds like quite a crossover, but this fic was inspired by our desire to get all these characters together. And the story is AU to any of the series, so if you haven't seen all four of them, you'll still be able to enjoy it! A note to Trigun fans: This is our first attempt at writing Vash, Meryl and the others. We sincerely love them and we tried our best to keep them in character. They will figure much more prominently in the rest of the story, this prologue is just setting it all up. Thanks for reading!
Every day was the same as the one before it and the one before…and the one before. When had they all turned to skies of gray and abysmal harmony? Life…used to be worth living, worth waking up to - each morning a new day and challenge, a new opponent worthy to defeat. Yet somehow…some way, he had lost his edge. Heero Yuy, President of Gundanium Limited Liability Company (G.L.L.C.), and multibillionaire at twenty-four, had lost that razor sharp sense of himself that had always been his awareness, his advantage.
He scanned the opulent ballroom that the company had rented for the party to celebrate the launch of their latest software release. The crystal chandeliers spilled gentle light onto the guests – mostly employees and business associates – as they perused the finished product on the many demo machines set up around the room, or blissfully ate their hor d'ourves around the crowded refreshment tables. The din of happy voices and light-hearted conversation buzzed around him as Heero swilled the bourbon in his glass again, turning to gaze at his reflection in the mirror behind the bar. Vacant, dark blue eyes stared back, rimmed with red and set in a stone cold expression of hatred towards all the cheerfulness around him. Compliments and boisterous applause flowed freely; laughter surged from corners of the room. All those people. They were happy…. But he had never been.
"Hey, why so glum, huh?" A low, feminine voice hissed in his ear as one slender arm snaked around his shoulder while the other found its way conveniently to his thigh. His lip curled up into a snarl as he reached down and jerked her hand away.
"I don't want company."
"Ah come on. I'm not some bar fly, Heero, I'm a society woman. I know who you are and how brilliant…"
"I said I don't want company."
"Hmph." She spun on her heel and stalked off in the direction she had come. Heero didn't even watch her go. She was the same as all the others. He had seen enough of his friends get burned by them, those gold-digging, brainless 'society women' who read only Forbes and People to find their next 'target' – the next man to use in order to keep themselves in the lifestyle to which they had become accustomed. She hadn't been gone long before a familiar black-haired man leaned over his shoulder, bringing his hand up to clap Heero on the back.
"Hey," he said in greeting before flagging the bar tender to order a jack and coke on the rocks. "You're not having any fun." He turned his attention to the man beside him.
"Van." Heero nodded at his friend and continued to swill the bourbon around in his glass. He stared at it as if it held the meaning of life, and realized that all too often these days; he had been finding himself searching for answers in the bottle that contained the deceitful liquid.
A thin smile stretched Van's lips, but didn't quite reach his deep brown eyes. "Hey, come on. After this is over, we'll take a ride in the NSX. The dealership just delivered it this afternoon."
Heero glared sharply at his friend and marketing director of their long-lived partnership. "Not another toy."
His friend's face crumbled in an instant, as if it was a house of cards easily tumbled by the breath Heero expelled in speaking those three words. "It's not a toy; it's a fine European automobile. No one builds a car like the Germans… or is it the Italians?" Van shrugged and sunk down on the barstool next to his longtime friend; he, too, seemed detached from the celebratory spirit enveloping everyone else around them.
The other man made no reply.
"What are we doing?"
Heero looked up into brown eyes as vacant as the blue ones he could see in the mirror. He raised an eyebrow at his friend's question.
"Do we even know anymore?" Van hunched over his glass as he spoke the words, almost as if he were talking to no one. "I told myself eight weeks ago: 'This car will make you happy.' I keep thinking that some… thing is going to change my life; fill up what's been missing." Van shook his head and raised a glass to his lips. He stared at its dark contents, made a face, and placed it back on the bar as he turned to Heero. "It's ridiculous, I know. I have more money than most people will see in a lifetime, and it still feels like something's so wrong. I must be crazy," he said with a laugh, picking up his drink and finishing it in one gulp.
Heero turned away and once again began searching the room. Just what he was looking for, he couldn't say. He listened as Van ordered another round for the both of them and settled back into his seat. They were friends, had been friends since childhood. If there was anyone he could trust with his truth, his always-bottled emotions, it was the man sitting beside him right now. They had been through a lot together, had worked with their other two lifelong friends to build this software company, and put it and themselves where they were today. He expelled a long breath before admitting what he had come to realize only a few hours before. "No."
"No, Van. You're not crazy."
"Then it's…it's not just me? You feel it, too, don't you?" Dark brown eyes pleaded with him – to understand, to find a resolution, Heero wasn't sure what his friend was asking of him. He held no answers.
"I can't…I can't keep on like this. There's no challenge anymore. No reason…."
Heero shook his head. "There is. We just have to find it. And we're not going to find it like this."
They were interrupted from their conversation by the arrival of their Vice- President of Quality Assurance and third partner in their software enterprise. His spiked hair and earrings marked a deep contrast between him and the other two at the bar. Van wore slacks and a polo shirt, Heero, as always, a three-piece suit.
"Hey guys! Why so glum? Geez." The two dark-haired men turned to glare at the new arrival.
"What's with the look, boss? You look like you're ready to kill someone." Always-cheerful green eyes blinked dolefully at the hostile reception.
"That's the second time tonight I've been asked that, and if you put your hand in my lap, I'll break it off."
"Dang. Someone's got a short fuse. Yikes – sorry I asked."
"We were having a serious conversation, Vash." Van admonished his more boisterous friend with a look. "Something you wouldn't understand."
The smile disappeared. "That hurts, Van. That really hurts. We've been friends our whole lives, and you still see me as…"
"Maybe we wouldn't Vash, if you didn't act like a love sick puppy all the time." Heero turned back towards the bar, but Van wasn't finished chastising their mutual friend.
"Yeah, we saw you carrying on with Tina over there. When are you going to grow out of the hormonal teenager stage and act like…?"
"Act like what?" Bright emerald green darkened as Vash's eyes narrowed. "An irresponsible jerk who throws away his money on the latest European sports car? Or perhaps I should act like the inhuman, cold-as-ice, ruthless business man who shuts out everyone except his glass of bourbon that he can be seen with morning, noon and night?"
The President of G.L.L.C. stiffened and turned abruptly, glass still in hand. He knows…How did he know?
"This used to be fun. We were excited about getting up in the morning. We couldn't wait to work on Zero, or just hang out together. What happened to friends, you guys? What happened to us?
"Weiss," Heero snarled into his glass, the grip on the crystal causing his knuckles to turn white.
Vash slowly shook his head. "No, Heero, Weiss was a wakeup call. Look around you. The reviews are in; we're back on top. We're multi-billionaires now, we have everything we could possibly want."
"Then why aren't we happy?" Van asked, the flesh around his eyes crinkling like he was years older than what he was.
"Because you've lost your drive. Nothing challenges you in this game anymore. And when that happens, there's only one thing you can do." Vash's eyes glittered as if they held a wisdom Heero had not thought possible in their often-ridiculous friend. His attire certainly didn't spark any confidence – G.L.L.C. logo boxers over bright red sweatpants, a tux jacket and smiley-face t-shirt topped off by bow tie.
The young president scowled. "And that is?"
"Play a different game."
Van scrunched up his face. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Find something outside the box that presents a new challenge, a new reason to get up every morning. Find something that makes you feel alive again - something that makes you want to be a better man."
"I've worked too hard to be where I am today. I'm not going to give it up, to just hand over…"
"You don't have to give anything up, Heero. Just delegate some of your authority for a while and find something else."
"I'm not taking up a hobby."
"It doesn't have to be a hobby. It could be learning something new, or traveling…"
"Hey, Vashy-boo. I was wondering where you'd run off to." A high-pitched feminine voice squealed from behind the spiky-haired blond. A dark blush stained his cheeks at the looks he received from his companions.
"Tina." 'Vashy-boo' turned to face the voluptuous redhead, giving a shy wave. "Hi." He smiled at her with wide eyes that appreciated every curve.
"I was getting lonely over there all by myself," she cooed and batted eyelashes at her easily caught prey. Her full pink lips pouted as she glided towards him, running her fingers over his spiky hair and tracing a line to the smiley face on his chest.
A grin spread across his lips to rival the one on his shirt. "Ahhh. Well, we can't have that, now can we?"
Heero glanced at Van and rolled his eyes. His friend pantomimed looping a noose around his neck and hanging himself. Heero smirked and pushed his glass away as Vash and Tina walked arm and arm towards the door.
"He's such a sap," Van muttered and took another sip of his drink. "And he sure doesn't pull any punches."
"Hn." Heero flagged the bartender. "I'll have a coke."
"Rum or Whiskey in it, Mr. Yuy."
"Neither. Just a coke."
Van choked on his drink. "What?"
"He's right. We need a change."
Van opened his mouth to reply, but before he could say anything, they were interrupted by their fourth and lately oft-missing partner in G.L.L.C.
"Hey guys, what'd I miss?" The blond, impeccably dressed young man greeted his friends with a smile. He took the seat next to Van at the bar.
Heero finished taking a sip of his coke and nodded. "Quatre."
"How's the portfolio?" Van asked, his mouth set in a crooked grin.
The blond Chief Financial Officer smiled at his two long-time friends. "Oh good. Very good. We're up another couple of mil. All in all I'd say it was a productive day."
Heero placed his glass down carefully on the surface of the bar. If there was going to be a change made, then they were going to face it as they had always done in the past – together. "Must have been a long day. You missed the launch."
Light blue eyes glanced away at the accusation. "Yeah, I'm sorry. Maybe next time. I just had…"
Van picked up where Heero left off. "You missed the last launch, too, Quatre. And the last catastrophe! You weren't there when the press was all over our case about Weiss, either."
Quatre jumped from his seat. "I've been working! I've been increasing our profit margin and making the gains that keeps you in your precious sports cars, Vash in his women, and Heero in his booze. What do you want from me?" His eyes danced with uncharacteristic resentment.
Heero took in a deep breath, apparently his 'dysfunction' had been more apparent than he thought. His mouth tightened into a stubborn line as he watched, for the second time that evening, two of his friends and partners argue bitterly.
"We were supposed to be in this together." Van stood up from his bar stool and assumed a rigid stance. His fists shook at his sides, a rush of anger hitting his brain at the same time as the alcohol.
Red crept across Quatre's delicate features. He had always been the most sensitive of the bunch. "Well, we haven't been together in a long time."
Van advanced. "Yeah, 'cuz you're never there!"
Heero watched as Quatre took a step back. They were all well aware that Van was the most temperamental. And while Vash wore the alternating façade of saint and clown, Heero had always been their leader. Somehow, he was the one who had determined their path and set it all in motion. He was the one who needed to solve their mutual 'problem' – whatever it was.
He looked from Van to Quatre. Never had any of them been at each other's throats like this. They were friends; this was supposed to be a partnership, their ticket to everything they had always wanted, everything they had always dreamed of.
Once upon a time, four childhood friends got together and decided to go into business instead of wasting precious years in college learning about trivial details they'd never use. The two computer 'geniuses' wrote an operating system that would revolutionize the PC industry, while the other two used their talents to secure working capital and devise a marketing strategy. Packaged under the name of the Zero Operating System (Z/OS), the four created a company built on the strength of their product, and made a virtual empire – all by the time any of them had reached the age of twenty-one.
Heero stood up and closed the distance between his friends. "That's enough. We're going to have a meeting in my office tomorrow morning. Call Vash and tell him to be there 8am sharp." He met Van's still burning eyes. "Sit down, Van. This isn't the answer. We'll discuss it all tomorrow."
He waited for his friend to comply before turning to address the CFO. "Quatre, you don't have a choice. Make the meeting or prepare to sell your share of the company."
Heero stopped him with a warning look. "We all need a change. I never thought I'd say this, but Vash is right; we need a new challenge, a new game." Dark blue eyes flashed in the dim lighting of the room.
"I think I have the solution."