A/N: Hi!

I AM still alive. Um…my computer, on the other hand, is back on life support. I was raised a New Yorker, and tend to talk with my hand when I'm angry; so I accidentally back handed the laptop screen, (ironically, with my wedding ring finger,) when the hubby got in trouble, and haven't had the $$$ to fix it, yet. True story. I could not even make that up. The good news is we have an RGB cable. The bad news is that I have to share the bedroom TV with his videogame, and there's been a lot more Assassin's Creed and Skyrim than fanfiction these last several months. :-P

That being said, I've also got some writer's block. (No, it's no one's fault, I swear.) I'm just busy, busy, busy. I will be adding a new chapter, further back, into the NT:HR story before I close that one, as well as rewriting the latest for that. I am also still working on CoI—I haven't given up—but I'm not promising any publishing dates, because life is too chaotic and I HATE to go back on my word.

Um...I am reading on my phone. I'm following all the 1xR, but huge shout out to Picamadar and Abysmal. Oh! And thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to Lady Rinoa for a new chapter of Soul Mates. (I've been waiting FOREVER! lol) ***Thank you!***

Most importantly, thank you, Stormy Monday for being my amazing Beta! She only read half of this in advance, so she could be surprised by the second half, so if that's sucks, it's on me. Now, ya'll might not know this, but Stormy did write a 1 + 2 (non-yaoi) story about moose stew, which I found quite funny. Feel free to swing over and show her some love. :-P She is, after all, amazing to me.

Now, for THIS story. This was intended as a oneshot, and it ended up coming out to 6,000 words. I've decided to post it as one chapter, anyway. (Sorry!) I was entertaining the thought of the emotional decisions we make when we're in mourning, and I fell into a story. I started this back at the beginning of November, and this last few weeks, I've found out that two other 1xR fan/writers are dealing with parental loss. Um…Katie Yuy and KayBeth, I almost wish—for your sake, not mine—I could understand what you're going through, and I'm sure that one day I will; but for now, please except my condolences. From the bottom of my heart, I wish you well.

-Bear


Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing

Mareen Darlian AC 154 – 202

Relena could hear the rumbling of the press's voices rolling over each other through the muting of the shaded car window. She fiddled with the black lace of her dress, questioning her own ability to face the cameras, never mind her family friends. The early death of a political socialite-widow should never have warranted so much attention; there was no scandal or mysterious circumstance, and Relena's adoptive mother had been ill for nearly a year before the Leukemia took her life. There was no reason for all the fuss.

Perplexed by the uninvited attention, Relena squeezed down on a tiny, hand stitched, black rose. It had been four days and she had not yet, cried, nor had she spoken more than necessary. There was no question that she was holding back her emotions, but that had been her job for seven years; she had to keep them in check. Though keeping those walls up was exhausting, the numbness to everything sometimes felt like a relief. She knew she couldn't hide forever, but as long as she marched on without considering the price she'd just paid, she could make it through this week.

A gentle touch on her shoulder alerted her to her guard's presence. More silent than usual—likely to show respect in her mourning—he was wordlessly asking if she was ready to face the masses. Swallowing, she nodded.

It was time.

She vaguely sensed him rise over her, opening the door and carefully clearing a way for her escape. Relena hunched forward as she climbed from the car, straightening with closed eyes once her weight rested on her feet. Not to be rushed in the moment of great feeling, she rolled her shoulder back and let out a small sigh.

The voices that had been jumbled in conversation moments earlier fell silent when she emerged. She wasn't sure if their intention was also reverence or morbid curiosity, but the persistent flashing of camera bulbs led her to believe the latter.

Slowly she opened her sky blue eyes, observing the layout of the seating before her mother's casket. Feeling a wave of pain, she closed them, again, swallowing and breathing deeply to keep her calm. When she had the torrent of sadness back under control, she lifted her chin and marched to the front of the area, looking at no one. She didn't need to take count of the crowd. What mattered was that she was there.

Her shadow passed around her, standing at the end of the row for the duration of the service.

Relena barely heard the eulogy and hardly allowed her eyes to wander to the glossy, wooden box, as though to avoid remembering the precious cargo cradled within. Her detachment from the moment muddied her thoughts. Surely someone would shake her free of the visions at any moment. This was just a terrible dream, like she'd had many times before, and someone would come to wake her.

But no one came.

After the crowd trickled away, Relena stood, turning her gaze onto the closed coffin. She tightened her jaw, walking slowly toward it. She felt as though she was wading in water, scarcely able to move. Her feet were like ice. Cold fingers dragged gently over the polished oak.

"Mother?" She whispered, unable to speak further as her mind rushed with panicked thoughts. Deep inside her, a little girl cried out in horror, hoping, wishing that there would be an answer. Relena had never been a believer in mysticism or spiritualism, but at that moment, she felt she'd convert to anything that would allow her to hear her late mother's voice, just once more. She stood waiting for an answer, in spite of the logic, for several minutes, until a cold, November breeze sent a shiver down her small frame.

It was time to leave.

Shaking off the chill, Relena offered once last goodbye kiss to the crimson rose in her hand, laying it gently on the casket. "Goodbye, Mother," she said, turning abruptly to leave. Out of the corner of her eye, Relena noted that her guardian was waiting at the end of the aisle, giving her space to mourn her last. He led her to the waiting car, allowing her first entry, before lowering himself in and sitting opposite her. A soft knock at the dividing glass gave the driver signal to leave.

Relena's cold eyes lingered on the passing scenery as her thoughts ran, again and again, through the memories of recent years, months, and hours. There was an uncomfortable frustration—guilt over the time she hadn't spent with her mother. The doctors assured her that her mother was in remission. Surely, surely she had time to complete just one more task, to face just one more debate. There's always more time.

The dam broke, momentarily, at the thought. Relena stifled an inhuman cry, hiccuping to rein it in. There was no more time. There never would be.

The single tear that escaped in her weakness cooled as it rolled down her cheek. Relena caught the salty drop with trembling fingertips. Her eyes widened in surprise. One would have thought it was blood she found on her silk gloved hand by the way she began to scrub the liquid from her face.

Just as suddenly as she began to react to her own show of mourning, a strong arm reached across and stilled her frantic motion. Finally, Relena looked up into his eyes. In the midnight pools she found a flicker of concern, quickly dimmed as he mechanically turned his attention onto the reddened area of her face.

"Heero?" She whispered through trembling lips.

His gazed met hers, again, momentarily, before returning to their work. Relena straightened as he moved his weight forward on the seat, leaning close enough for her to feel his breath on her jaw. A callused thumb slowly, but firmly dragged across her skin, removing the makeup where the eyeliner ran out of form. Expressionless as ever, he silently reached for her purse, rifling through it without hesitation, and pulled out a small tube of concealer. Relena sat, statuesque as he dabbed a coat of color onto her cheek bone with his ring finger, blending it gently with his thumb. Heero's Prussian blue eyes finally met hers, again when he was satisfied with the result. "That should hide it from the cameras," he commented, referring to her previous smear.

With quivering lips, Relena only stared, unable to speak the dozens of emotionally charged questions that were bombarding her thoughts. "How long—?" She mumbled, barely above a whisper.

Heero's brows creased slightly, but he said nothing, turning his attention to the glove, stained with foundation and blush. He carefully pulled them away, revealing her dry hands, bitten and chapped by the turning weather. He peeled the matching cover from her second hand and tucked them away in his heavy, winter trench.

Relena felt herself want to whimper as he finally pulled his warmth away from her, straightening himself in his seat. Peering out, into the streets, his voice rumbled. "I've been with you for three days."

Relena blinked, folding her hands in her lap. The comment sounded as though it was out of nowhere, but she knew that he was simply answering her question. How long have you been here? Her eyes closed as she seethed in frustration. Three days he'd shadowed her, in plain sight, and she was too distracted by her turmoil to even notice his presence. How could one person's death have this effect on her? Surely, she told herself, she should be strong enough to handle it more gracefully, by now. It certainly wasn't the first time—.

"I suggest you make your visit to the reception brief," Heero said, pulling her from her thoughts.

Relena looked up, surprised.

He opened his mouth, as though to explain, but swallowed back whatever he was going to say as the car pulled to a stop.

There was no rush between them at the arrival. Once Relena felt she'd regained her composure, she opened her compact, double checking her guardian's work. Satisfied, she gave only a small nod when she was ready for the next task.

"Half an hour," he suggested, reaching for the door and ignoring the cross look he received as a response.

Relena straightened her dress when she was on her feet, quietly leading him into a large Victorian home, fully decorated in black and silver trimmings and filled with flowers sent from rich patrons all over the Earth Sphere. The host, an old friend of the Darlian family, greeted Relena at the door, offering condolences. Relena wandered the building aimlessly, accepting similar wishes from dozens of faces, offering them soft "Thank you's" and warm, sad smiles in return.

After some time had passed, Relena was halted by a firm grip at her elbow. Turning, she found herself looking into the green eyes of an only vaguely familiar strawberry blonde woman. "Foreign Minister," the woman said in a soft, but urgent voice. "My name is Perry Lansbury. I work for the Manchester Tribune. It's a shame we've never had the pleasure."

"Yes," Relena said, instantly on guard against a reporter. She offered a more intentional smile than any of the earlier meetings had warranted. "It's nice to meet you—"

"Too bad we haven't met before," Lansbury went on, cutting Relena off. "And under such sad circumstances." The woman shook her head, frowning, then look Relena pointedly in the eye. "Tell me," Lansbury said in a sharp tone. "How does it feel to lose your mother? I mean, she wasn't your real mother, but I understand she was part of your life, just the same. Were you with her in her last moments? Or were you too busy to really make peace after she'd lied to you about your birthright all those years?"

Relena stood silently, slack jawed, unsure how to answer. All of her training told her not to, but as her emotions rushed to the surface, millions of feeling rose to defend her mother's honor. Of the lot, she found anger the easiest to grip as a weapon.

As Relena rolled her shoulders back, preparing to tear the aggressor apart, Heero simultaneously mumbled a sort of affirmation into his earpiece, and pressed his body between them. Pulling Relena solidly to his frame, he spoke in a rushed tone. "We're leaving."

Relena, still off balance from the verbal assault, found the world around her suddenly reeling, as Heero extracted her. A few hurried moments later, he was guiding her head into the car and pulling himself in behind her. A knock at the separation glass was all it took, and the car was on its way.

Steadying herself, Relena looked up to him. "Heero, what happened?"

He turned his eyes away from her, giving no explanation.

Being the person who knew Heero best, it only took a few quiet seconds before she understood. With a glance at her watch, fury wrote itself across her cheeks. "Twenty-two minutes? Heero, you said half an hour!"

He sat back, folding his arms as he closed his eyes in silence.

Relena huffed, mimicking his stance as she brooded. "You could have trusted me," she commented.

Heero gave her a look, similar to hurt, though significantly harder to read. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Resigning the argument, he retreated back to his resting position

When they arrived at her home, he followed her inside without a word. With each step, she could feel her shadow at her back, just a pace behind. She stopped at her bedroom door, looking distantly through the oiled wood. "Heero," she rasped in an emotionally charged whisper. "Perhaps it would be best if you don't interfere."

"Relena, I—"

"You what?" She snapped, spinning on her heel and glaring up at him.

He swallowed.

"Nothing." Relena spoke slowly, each syllable dripping with anger. "You nothing. You have no idea how I feel, and you can't help—so don't interfere."

The only response she received was a nearly unperceived tightening of his jaw.

Relena nodded solidly and swept herself into her room. Closing him out, she pressed both hands to the door and laid her forehead against it. The blonde choked back a sob, shaking her head.

How could he pull her away like that? Did he really think she was that weak?

Her hand came quickly to her mouth, to quiet herself as she entertained a new thought. Was she as weak in this moment as he seemed to believe?

She shook the insecurity off and turned to her bed. It was not how she had left it, before breakfast. Neatly made, yes, but there was a small, familiar box lying in the bed, waiting. Relena didn't know whether to be frustrated and angry, or to be impressed with the thoughtfulness of the gift.

Pulling the offering Heero had put there to her side, trembling hands pulled the lid away, and her mother's happy teal eyes looking up at her. Relena rifled through the box of hair ribbons and time-tattered pictures, and allowed her tears to flow freely. She saw herself, again, as a child, tucked into her adoptive father's arms, by a Christmas tree. There was a candid shot of her crying at an unsuccessful photo shoot, worry marring her mother's face as she comforted her. Relena smiled bitter-sweetly when she saw her baby photos, having never before noticed the lack of presence of her parents in any of the few shots of her. As she slowly peeled through the memories, she felt a great burden building in her breast. She wanted to let her mother go, but it seemed harder now than it had before.

Relena melted, sobbing as the clung to the most recent picture of the two of them, together; a shot taken by Pagan on Relena's fifteenth birthday. There she stood, in her blue, silk cocktail dress, with her mother and father flanking each side of her. Her heart broke to see herself, again, in that moment, one of the last they'd have, together, and her thoughts were clearly elsewhere.

Feeling the depth of reality that these two people were no longer at her side, and never would be, Relena's heart, again, longed for the man who'd stolen her thoughts that night.

Throughout the slow, quiet walk to the kitchen, Relena battled within herself to find her composure. Certainly, loss of a parent was more than enough reason to be emotional—she choked on a sob, pausing to calm herself and clear her eyes—but Heero had always been a peculiar case. There weren't many times he'd seen her cry, but his occupation seemed to be with stopping her, rather than hearing her. Her mind wandered back to that night at the rose garden, how upon seeing her at the point of fever, her tears made him question her strength. She doubted she could hide the pain, now, but she'd rather face his misjudgment of her mourning than be alone any longer.

She hesitated at the doorway, watching his back as he worked over the sink, apparently washing a cup he'd used for tea. He'd removed both the winter coat and the suit jacket, and she was able to enjoy, for the moment, how the white cotton of his collared shirt clung to the panels of muscle in his back, and how powerful his forearms looked with his cuffs pushed up. When he turned off the water, he waited before facing her. He knew she was there, and he was allowing her the opportunity to lead the conversation, but truth be told, she didn't know what to say.

Heero's eyes were strikingly soft when they met hers. There was no residual response to her previous outburst or even a hint that he might be looking for an apology. For a moment, she entertained the thought, but his grace soothed her.

Seconds dragged by, and there they stood, with an unspoken question hanging in the empty air, between them.

At length, Relena swallowed, shaking her head. There were no words. She shrugged, with tears in her eyes. She simply didn't know why she'd come.

Heero lifted his chin, opening his mouth, as though to speak, but again nothing came. He simply frowned, barely holding his arm out, in a subtle gesture of invitation. Relena nearly rushed to his side, burying her face in his shoulder.

"Heero, I—" Her words trailed off as she melted in a new wave of sobs.

Before he knew what had happened, Heero was holding her entire weight, so he eased himself to the floor, where he could cradle her more comfortably. Running his hands gently through her golden locks, he cupped her head to him, tucking her close as he buried his face into her hair. And so he held her, protecting and consoling her as her emotions quieted and she eventually drifted off to sleep.

Relena woke rather suddenly, sometime later, jumping just enough to bump her head lightly against Heero's lip. Her body tensed, noting she was tangled in someone's arm, and she was still in just enough sleepy shock to forget who she was with, where she was or when it was. It took only a moment, though, to recognize his scent—a smell she'd long since associated with safety and comfort. Once that thought was intact, the others slowly followed, each painful memory falling back into place.

His shirt was still slightly damp from where she'd been crying.

Relena straightened, looking up at him with wide eyes, as she came down from the adrenaline spike. Deep in his dark irises, she could still see the lingering question and concern. She tried to reassure him with a smile, but as always, the forced show of optimism fell impotent before him. Relena's shoulders dropped as she sighed in defeat.

Heero studied her, quietly, brushing some stray locks from her face as he openly stared. When she refused to look back up, he lowered himself closer, pressing his forehead to hers. She closed her eyes in the proximity, though he partly suspected it was a continuation of her protest.

"Relena," he whispered, his breath tickling her cheek.

Her neck barely gave as she tried to shake her head, refusing to face him.

He pressed closer, silently urging her to communicate with him.

Relena's entire body seemed to tremble as she took a deep breath. Releasing it in a long sigh, she turned her face to him, until her nose bumped his. Her eyes blinked open, hesitantly, as she took stock of her situation. With their new proximity, she couldn't focus on him. She was so close—

She closed her eyes, again, lifting her chin until her lips brushed his.

Time seemed to come to a stop, as she waited for a response. Her chest was so tight, she thought it would smother the heart it was made to protect. Stillness enveloped them for what felt like hours, but she was afraid to look at his reaction. His question had been answered with an even more urgent and risky one.

Suddenly, she fell back, under his weight, as his lips sealed over hers. Pounds of worry and pain rose off of her soul, as his hands wrapped around her, trapping her in. Opening her mouth to tighten the bond, she matched his interest with a new fervor. With his hand bracing her, between her shoulder blades, Relena's fingers began to wander, skimming over his shoulders and chest, and reaching his arms as she unconsciously dropped her weight just enough to feel his biceps flex.

His strength aroused her, still more, allowing her to push her worries further from her mind and she pressed herself closer into him. Her tongue danced gently over his lip, crossing the unspoken barrier as she tested the sharpness of his teeth. Her body tensed in his hold when his tongue met hers. Several minutes of the silent serenade played between them, as they became accustomed to the new sensation of each other's silky mouths.

Regaining his thought process, Heero slowly slid his feet under him, drawing himself and his companion into a standing position against the counter, sliding his hands down to her hips, where he was able to hold her firmly in place. He could feel the tension rising in his back as he made an effort to separate the kisses, shortening them and pulling further away with each break.

"Relena," he mumbled, but her lips cut him off, again.

On her feet and suddenly missing his warmth, Relena pushed closer to him, but found herself restrained by the bruising grip of his thumbs. Not to be dissuaded, but pressed her upper body forward, deepening her kisses, still more.

"Relena," he said, again, in a hushed tone.

Determined to feel herself flush against him, again, she wiggled free of his hands, but before she could close the distance between them, he'd side stepped, twisting her so her back met the ledge he'd been pressed against. At that, she was offered one long, deep kiss, and then his heat was gone, retreated across the room.

Blinking, she found herself watching him leave.

"Heero," she called, suddenly, biting back the panic.

He stopped, but did not turn to face her.

"Heero, I—" Her thoughts raced as she suddenly questioned her decisions, knowing that she was behaving emotionally out of her rawness. Certainly his closeness was the first thing that had felt real in days, but she hadn't given time to weigh the decision of pouring all of her passion out to him, at once. She should have known she was pushing things too far. "—I—I'm sorry. I—I won't do it, again."

He stood, like a statue, unmoving at her plea.

"I'm sorry," she repeated. "Please. Don't leave."

Heero dropped his head slightly, closing his eyes in thought.

:::

"Odin Lowe," the young man said in a voice so deep—so commanding—it hardly seemed fitting to be coming from a seventeen year old.

The old man grinned ironically, refusing to face his interrogator as he fiddled with the claw mechanism at the end of his arm. "I knew him."

"So I've found. That's why I'm here."

The old man frowned. "Odin Lowe was an assassin—a hand of OZ—"

"Don't patronize me," the teen warned.

"What do you want to know, Heero Yuy?"

"Did you work with him?"

"At times."

"And?"

"He was a good man."

Heero ground his teeth in an uncharacteristic show of anger.

The old man suddenly spun his chair to face the boy. "Don't suppose you're going to come here to ask my motives without hearing the whole story."

"He killed Heero Yuy," he answered, referring to the late leader of the colonies, after whom he'd been named.

"And did that make you respect him any less?"

Heero's eyes shifted, but he refused to answer with uncertainty.

The old man shook his head in disappointment. "He was as good a man as you knew. You may not have understood it, then, but he truly was a man of honor. He spent those last years looking to avenge Heero Yuy's death."

Heero turned his eyes down to his open hand in thought. "What about me?"

"What about you?"

His glare was razor sharp when it found the man in the darkness, again. He had been just a child when he'd changed hands. He had to know the truth. "You owed him a favor—?"

"Ha," the old Doctor scoffed. "Don't fool yourself. Odin Lowe and I were not colleagues who dealt in empty favors, ensuring our security from each other through IOU's. Your father was my friend."

Father.

Heero tensed only slightly at the surprising wording, but it was enough for his trainer to see.

"Yes. That's what you're here for, isn't it? To know about him. Well, there's not much to tell. No one knew him like you did, save your own mother. She died protecting you. He died a few years after." The old man turned his back, again. "I found you intentionally. You were not an accident. You were not a coincidence. You were—perhaps you would use the term, 'target'? You were chosen."

Heero swallowed, running back over his memories in his mind. The earliest he knew was with Odin Lowe. They traveled illegally, mucking his hands at a frighteningly early age with the blood of war. It was no surprise, really, how easy it became for him to kill. It was all he ever knew. And then, when Lowe died—

Heero shook away the memory, still fresh in his mind, of his father's last words to him. Follow your emotions.

"Is that what you're here for, Yuy? And I so hoped you'd come to tie up loose ends, this time?" The old man turned and faced him, again, with a smile on his face.

"Yuy," he repeated. "Also chosen. Not for your destiny. But you always knew I had a sense of irony, didn't you?"

Heero looked away, his face unreadable.

"What are you waiting for, Zero One?"

Silence answered the loony old man.

"Go," he insisted.

:::

Heero opened his eyes, slowly rethinking the memory. He turned and approached Relena with a purpose driven stride. He nearly knocked the wind out of her with the suddenness of his movements, cornering her against the counter and looking deeply into her eyes. "I only wanted you," he whispered cryptically.

The statement seemed to hang alone in the space between them, but she could see his urgency. "Heero," she whispered, unsure whether she was consoling him or herself.

"What do you want, Relena?"

She shook her head, trying to answer, but she didn't have strength to say the words.

"I don't want to hurt you," he urged. One of his hands fell gently around her waist, as the other feathered, suggestively, across her belly, effectively driving the wind out of her. "Is this what you want?"

Utterly unable to come up with a verbal response, Relena's eyes met his, pleading, as she gave a slight nod.

He pressed his weight fully against her, inciting a whimper. He leaned in, where his lips brushed against her, leaving barely-there kisses as he made his way up to her ear. He sighed softly, his breath blowing over her, so her skin pebbled and she shivered under him.

"Just say the word," he assured her. "And it all stops. I will protect you."

With that, her eyes met his, followed quickly by her lips.

:::

Relena awoke warm, safe, but more anxious than she could ever remember being, before. She was lying in her bed, in Heero Yuy's hold. Their bare skin touched nearly the entire way down, with his body spooned behind her and his arms clinging to her tightly. She remembered how she broke down, crying, after they'd shared themselves, having been stripped of all of her barriers, and how gently he'd held her, again, as she mourned. She looked up to his serene face, feeling a warm bubble swell inside of her at the sight; but when the memories of their lovemaking flooded her mind, she was suddenly caught with a wave of apprehension. The foreign look of passion in his eyes, which had intensified the moments and sensations only hours before, was suddenly frightening.

Entirely overcome with panic that she'd made a mistake, Relena held a shaky breath and pried herself free from him. She needed air. She needed to think.

She hadn't been in the dark library long before she heard the door open, again. Her heart lurched into her throat, knowing he would see right through her. What on earth was she supposed to say?

Before he was forced to ask anything, she turned and smiled at him, in an attempt to disarm him. Instead, the gesture brought up his defenses and she watched, helplessly, as the emotion fled from his eyes.

"How do you feel?" He asked in a voice on edge.

Relena looked away with a sigh, as she tried to lie to the one person she already knew would never buy it. "I'm fine. I just—couldn't sleep." Before he could respond she hurriedly continued, turning her grin on him, again. "I apologize. I'll come back to bed. I'm sure I can—"

Relena felt her mistake as she made it. When she went to brush past him and make for the door, his hands locked onto her waist, again, with a solidity of steel. He turned her with a firm hand, his eyes bearing down into her own.

"You can't keep doing this," Heero said, coldly, unveiling his worry, again, before her. "I've spent a good part of the last week at your side, waiting for you to open up—to say something. Anything. Now that you've finally let me in, however in an unexpected way, I'm not going to let you push me away, again."

Relena swallowed. She felt herself beginning to shake. Had it suddenly gotten cold in the house, or were her emotions getting the better of her?

"Relena, anyone can see when you're upset, no matter how you try to hide it, but no one—myself included—is privy to what you're thinking unless you tell us. I only want to take care of you, but you have to say something in order for me to understand."

She clinched her jaw, fighting to sort through the emotions for some semblance of clear thought.

"I'm not letting you leave until you talk to me," he demanded softly.

Relena close here eyes, shaking her head as she fought back tears.

Heero stepped closer, softening his touch. "Have I overstepped my bounds?"

She gave no answer.

"Did I hurt you?"

She only stared at the floor, a thousand insecurities clouding her mind.

"Relena," he whispered, the desperation and regret in his voice just a trace, but more than enough for her to recognize. "If you feel like I took advantage of you, I—"

"No," she said, suddenly. When her wide eyes met his her lashes were wet with unshed tears, fighting to brim over. "No, Heero. You—you've done nothing wrong. I—" She looked away, again. "This is my fault. I—I shouldn't have done this. I—this was a mistake. Don't you see?" She looked up to him, pleadingly.

Again, his expression became like brass, a cold reflection of the softness he would only show to her.

"Don't be angry," she begged, laying her hand on his arm. "I'm just—I think—" Relena gave up finding words with a frustrated sigh.

"You think what?" Heero asked after several seconds.

Her cheeks flushed with a mix of self-aimed anger and embarrassment.

"What did you mean?" She asked suddenly. "In the kitchen—what you said about 'wanting me'? What did you mean?"

Heero's face softened slightly, and he looked into the darkness. "I found out what had become of my father and I felt—empty," he forced himself to say. He looked down at her, again. "In that moment, I just wanted to be near you."

"Did you come home?"

He shook his head. "I was afraid," he confessed.

"Of me?"

Heero shrugged, looking away, again. "It was a long time ago. I thought you wouldn't understand."

Relena stepped closer to him, tightening her grip on his arm. "Heero, I would never turn you away."

He looked at her with confusion. "Then what is it you're doing, now?"

Ice ran down the inside of her bones. "That's different," she insisted, turning from him.

Heero caught her arm, stilling her movement. "Yes," he answered. "It was different, then."

She squeezed her eyes shut, wishing the moment away.

"I know you're going through hell, Relena, and I know it sucks more than I can fully understand, but if you're going to turn me away, now, then I damn well deserve an explanation."

Again he received no response.

"If you don't love me, then what just happened between us?"

Relena stomach was like an ice cold rock within her, when she turned to face him, again. "Love—? Heero. Of course I love you. I've always loved you. When you held me in your arms did you not find me untouched? But what assurance do I have from you?"

Heero blinked, at a loss for words.

"Heero," she continued, rushing through her thoughts. "You are my bestfriend, and I have always respected your quiet nature and your privacy. I've never eventhought—well, I've thought—but I've never even asked about your lovers, and honestly, I'm not sure I want to; but every time I think of that moment, every time I see your face in my mind, I just—I just wish I was the only person you could have every touched like that. I wish—I want to be the one you love. I want to be the one who comforts you. And I want to know that, beyond the shadow of a doubt, you will always be here to comfort me—and only me. But—but that's too much to ask of you and I can't—"

His grip seized her wrist, suddenly, stilling her ramblings as he level her with an intense stare. "You can," he answered, where he had cut her off. "You can ask that of me, and you always could. I have no lovers. I have no desire for such. You are the only person I must have in my life, the only person I miss, and you can ask me to be here for you. I will not leave you alone, Relena Peacecraft, as long as you need me. And I will not leave you in a cold home when you need comfort. I love you, and I'm not going anywhere—even if you beg me to."

Before she could respond, he gathered her up, into his arm and claimed her lips with a bruising kiss. "I you ask me to keep things as they were, I'll do it, though less than willingly. If you ask me to pretend tonight never happened, I will comply. But damn it, Relena. Don't ask me to leave you. I can't—and I don't care if that is selfish. I won't. I'm not going anywhere."

Relena found herself looking up at him in awe. The tempest of raging emotions in his eyes were frightening, demanding reverence from the viewer. She knew instantly that this was something only she had ever—and would ever—see, and it was not to be taken lightly. "Heero," she whispered, soothing the fire of his soul with a loving kiss. "I'm so sorry, I—" She laid her head against his chest, suddenly completely aware that there was nothing left to say.

In the silence of the night, he held her until she stopped shivering in his arms. "Heero," she said softly.

"Hn?"

A playful smiled danced on her lips when her eyes met his, again. "Take me to bed?"

His dark blue eyes sparked with something very new to her, but easy to read, nonetheless.

"I'm cold," she pouted. "Comfort me?"

His kiss would ward off the pain of reality, if just for the night, but as he took her up in his arms, she knew, his comfort would always be there when the mourning came.