Hello everyone, I'm back! Wow, it sure has been a while since I posted anything...but we'll ignore that, shall we? Wow, I can't believe that this story is actually finished! I actually started it about a year-and-a-half ago, intending for it to be done by New Year's 2001...like that worked out. So special thanks goes to Lit Tenshi for bugging me about finishing it for the last year. Go read her stuff if you already haven't.
Anyway, if anyone actually reads this, here are a few important notes:
1. It centers around a seldom--if ever, I'm really not too sure--used couple. I personally think they could really gravitate towards each other, given how they responded to each other in the series and the logistical ease with which they could come together (meaning, no "real" people to stand in their way).
2. Now I once again remind you--just in case the banner at the top of the page isn't big enough--that this is fan fiction. That means that it is all a creation in my mind, and I've recreated the characters as best I could in the style of the original writers, but naturally I'm not them, so there will be some points at which you say, "Hey! She wouldn't act like that!" or "He would never say that!" I know. That's why it's "fan fiction," and not "creator fact."
3. This is non-yaoi (I know, I know...when am I going to write yaoi? I don't know). The couples I've used are there as background and/or support only to the main plot of the story. Please don't take offense if your favorite couple isn't getting it on. This is my head. I make no excuses (except maybe too much caffeine, which can over stimulate your brain and make it do all manner of strange things). So please, as always, read everything with a grain of salt.
Disclaimer: I don't own 'em. If I did, I wouldn't be up to my ears in debt for college. My grandchildren will still me paying off my college loans long after I'm dead and buried. Now, I ask you: does that sound like something the owner of a successful, cross-cultural television-and-manga series would have to do? I thought so.
Chapter 1: To Love
Relena has truly outdone herself this time.
Looking around the spacious ballroom, it was impossible not to gasp in awe. Rich crimson velvet drapes hung down the floor-to-ceiling windows, obscuring just enough of the clear glass to accent the midnight sky and the twinkling starlight. By one window, a small string ensemble sat upon an elevated stage, producing beautiful melodies on their instruments. The soft glow of candelabras that adorned the small, Greek-inspired columns caused the carefully polished cherry instruments to gleam under the firelight. Forming a large semicircle around the room, elegantly adorned tables sat host to approximately half of the evening's guests. Small white candles encircled the elaborate flower centerpieces, causing soft shadows to play upon each individual table.
The entire room, Lady Une noticed, was lit only by candlelight. Hanging from the center of the ceiling was an enormous gold and glass chandelier that must have held over three hundred candles. It was a concept purely from the past, and yet it seemed perfectly natural in the present time. The candles reflected off the spotless metal of their holder, creating an enchanting mix of shadows and light all over the room. The effect was a subdued, but not dark, room which made the whole, five hundred person-plus affair seem somehow more intimate than it was. But then, Relena Darlian was a master at making people feel comfortable in their surroundings.
A passing waiter offered Lady Une a glass of champagne, which she accepted. It was almost eleven o'clock after all, and one simply does not ring in the new year without a little help from an alcoholic beverage. Taking a sip, Une couldn't help but wish again that she had someone to share the lasting peace with. A tiny smile graced her lips as she thought of how much Treize would have enjoyed seeing the world they now lived in.
Treize. It didn't hurt so much anymore to think of him. In the beginning, she had been devastated. And, having formed the Preventers shortly after the war of AC 195 ended, she had not allowed herself proper time to grieve for his loss. Her inability to adequately express her grief manifested itself in her asking his advice, always to have her questions answered only with silence. Now, three years later, she had come to terms with her own sadness and guilt over her beloved's death. The grief no longer stabbed at her heart, but rather had faded to a dull throb that only panged if she poked it too hard. She was now able to think about him with out forcefully keeping herself from breaking down. It was actually quite nice to be able to reminisce without crying, and to think of the future as something more than a bleak, empty hole.
Of course, none of this changed the fact that she was twenty-two years old and without a date for New Year's Eve.
Lady Une laughed at the silly road her thoughts were heading down. For all that she had seen, all that she had done, all that she had matured, there was still that annoying stigma of being dateless on the one night when it seemed that everyone had a date. If she was a lesser woman, she wouldn't have even bothered showing her face in public that night...and while the thought had in fact crossed her mind, Lady Une was never a person who bowed down to social expectancies.
Which was exactly why she was mentally kicking herself for feeling as if she stuck out like a sore thumb. Shaking her head and taking another sip of her drink, Une tried to clear her mind of such utterly useless thoughts. Although she had made it through the last three New Year's Eve celebrations alone, she had finally begun to feel the effects of her self-imposed isolation from the world of men.
Glancing around the room, she saw Zechs Merquise and his very pregnant wife Lucrezia, both of whom had returned to Earth from Mars when they found out Lu was expecting a baby. Unconsciously smiling, Une was glad to have people who shared similar memories and experiences with her. Her eyes wandered to the dance floor, where former Gundam pilot Duo Maxwell and his wife Hilde were waltzing around the floor, their grandiose movements showing just how much they had had to drink that night. At a nearby table, Quatre Winner sat with a red haired woman Une didn't recognize, talking with fellow Preventers Chang Wufei and Sally Po. Next to them the evening's hostess Relena Darlian sat talking with her new fiancée Heero Yuy, who was quietly nursing a fresh black eye from earlier that afternoon when the couple had informed Relena's overprotective big brother of their new relationship status. Une couldn't help the soft chuckle that escaped her throat as she thought of how Zechs still had issues with the only person alive who was a better mobile suit pilot than him.
"What's so amusing?"
Lady Une gasped slightly, shocked at the intrusion into her privacy. She was even more shocked when she turned to see who had managed to catch her off guard.
"Good evening, Lady Une. It's been quite a while."
Standing beside her was a person Une had not seen since her days in OZ. "Trowa Barton," she nodded slightly, "how have you been?"
The man she was now speaking to, while most certainly the same person, was nothing like how she remembered him. No longer the young, diminutive Gundam pilot who had managed to sneak into OZ Space Force's ranks, Trowa now towered over Lady Une. By no means a short woman at five feet and eight inches, Une found herself quite surprised that she now had to look up to see the face of the best subordinate she had ever commanded. Managing to keep the flush of her cheeks to a minimum, she took note that it was not just Trowa's height that had changed. His shoulders were now a respectable width, fulfilling the promise from years before that he would become the largest of the five pilots. His hair still hung over one side of his face, obscuring one piercing green eye from view. His face had elongated ever so slightly, keeping each part of him well-proportioned with every other part. Even through the tuxedo jacket, Une could make out the faint definitions of well-toned muscles that reflected many long hours of doing strenuous work. Before she could stop it, her mind began to idly wonder exactly how well-defined he was.
"I've been alright," Trowa responded in his soft voice, which Une noticed was deeper than it had been three years earlier. "You didn't answer my question. What was so amusing?"
Taken aback, both by the strange, uninitiated conversation and her annoying, runaround thoughts, Une kept her calm reserve intact and gestured in the direction of Heero and Relena. "I was just thinking about how Heero received that lovely hallmark of battle."
A soft chuckle rose from Trowa's throat, a sound which Lady Une couldn't help but enjoy hearing. "He and Zechs still have some unresolved issues, I take it?"
"Let's just say that it's a very good thing they don't live on the same planet very often. By AC 200, Relena would either be short one brother or one lover, or possibly even both."
"Ah," was all he said. "Then perhaps it's a good thing that all mobile suits were destroyed."
Her first real laugh of the evening burst form Une's lips. "Yes, a very good thing indeed."
They fell silent for a moment, and Lady Une began a careful examination of her champagne glass in order to keep her eyes form wandering to Trowa's body. In her mind, she heard a faint clucking of the tongue sound, no doubt her brain's way of telling her that allowing these sort of thoughts about an inferior officer was not a good thing--
But he's not my subordinate anymore, is he?
Shaking her head slightly, Une found herself wishing that she had taken up Sally's offer of setting her up on dates during the past year. Her relationship sabbatical was no doubt the reason behind her none-too-proper thoughts about Trowa's physique.
But there's nothing wrong with looking, now is there?
A trained soldier at heart, Lady Une quickly assessed the best course of action to take. A subtle glance to her right confirmed that Trowa was still standing beside her, seemingly comfortable in the silence. And seeing as how she did want to have a conversation with someone, she came to the conclusion that she should try to keep up a dialogue with Trowa.
"So, how have you been using the peace time?"
Turning his body slightly to face her, Trowa studied his champagne glass a moment before answering. "I've been working in a traveling circus with my sister. It was where I hid myself during the wars, and the place came to feel as close to a home as I've ever had." He paused a moment before adding, "Besides, my sister is a very skilled knife thrower. I don't think she would have handled my leaving very well."
A short, surprised noise came from Lady Une's mouth, before it hit her that the man-boy she had remembered as being serious to a fault had just made a joke. A small laugh escaped her. "A very wise decision, it would seem." Wanting to keep the conversation going, Une asked, "What do you do in the circus?"
"Mainly I train the big cats, the lions and tigers. If I'm needed, I fill in for the clowns or acrobats. And," he added, "I'm the target for Catherine's act."
"Catherine," Une sampled the name, unconsciously hoping that the answer to her next question would be in the affirmative. "Is that your sister?"
Trowa nodded. Turning to the table where Quatre and company sat, he pointed to the red-haired girl Une had noticed before. "That's her. She and Quatre started dating recently."
The two fell into quiet again. Une noticed Sally get up and leave the table as Wufei got into what seemed to be a very heated conversation with said sister--Thank you!--and cringed as she heard even from the far distance that she was the loud "WHAT DID YOU SAY!?" that Catherine suddenly screeched.
Lady Une turned to Trowa, whom she noticed had blanched slightly. Turning her attention back to the table, she saw Catherine was reaching for her purse. "Trowa...what is she doing?"
"Excuse me." Trowa left Lady Une standing there as he hurried over to the table in order to stop his sister from reaching the knives that he knew she kept in her purse. Although he was certain that whatever Wufei had said would warrant having sharp pointy objects hurled at him with deadly accuracy, he didn't really feel like cleaning up blood that night.
Une watched him briskly walk away, and before she could catch herself she found herself appreciating the way his muscles moved under the fabric of his tuxedo; of the way his long, lean legs carried him with a purposeful stride; of the way the light danced off of his obviously toned back...
"See anything you like, or are you just browsing?"
Snapped out of her inner reverie for the second time that night, Une turned to find Sally Po standing next to her, a knowing, evil smile on her face. Mustering what composure she could, Une replied coolly, "I have no idea what you're talking about."
Sally burst out laughing. "Oh, please. Don't give me that! It's been very amusing to watch you try to not watch Trowa for the past five minutes. Celibacy finally getting to you?"
"Sally!" Une admonished, shocked at her friend's blunt--although, admittedly, accurate--observation. "I'll thank you to not make such crude remarks to your superior!"
A wry look crossed the blonde's face. "The only time you have ever pulled rank on me was when I started talking about that very interesting night out at O'Leary's Karaoke Bar six months ago--"
"Would you kindly stop talking?!" Une hissed. She apologized a moment later. "I'm sorry. Perhaps I've just had too much to drink tonight."
"Three glasses of champagne does not a drunk Une make," Sally laughed. Her expression sobered. "So why not tell me why you're really acting so evasive and snappish to me?"
Sighing, Une replied, "I really don't know. Maybe seeing Trowa stirred up old memories of OZ..."
"You work with former OZ officers everyday," Sally said. "I know that you're not telling me something. Just know that whenever you need to talk, I'm willing to listen, okay?"
Une smiled. "Thank you." She turned her attention to the table that Sally had vacated. "Now, what was Wufei saying to Trowa's sister?"
Instead of responding, Sally had to control her laughter as she watched Heero hold a spluttering Wufei in a shoulder lock while Trowa held his hand out to Catherine, who hung her head in defeat and handed her brother two gleaming knives that had been pulled from her purse.
"You really don't want to know."
"I honestly don't know, Sally," Lady Une said over a cup of tea during a break at work a few days later. "I don't know why I reacted the way I did when I saw him again, and I don't know why I'm still thinking about him."
Sally pursed her lips in thought. "You know, Une, I'm the resident expert on feeling attracted to younger men," she said, referring to her recently developed relationship with Wufei, four years her junior. "I don't think there's anything wrong with liking Trowa. Goodness knows that it's time you started dating again."
"Sally," Une replied pointedly.
Sally held her hands up in mock defense. "It's the truth and you know it. You've said it yourself, you're over your grief. What would be so bad about finding love again?"
Putting her tea cup down, Une leaned her head into her hands, shaking it. "I don't know...nothing, really." Resting her arms on the table, she looked up at her friend, a weary smile on her face. "But we only spoke for a few minutes; there's no way anything will happen.
Before Sally could respond, the intercom on Lady Une's desk buzzed. "Miss Une?" her secretary, Evelyn, spoke. "There's a call for you, a mister Trowa Barton."
Shocked brown eyes met jolly blue ones. "Nothing will happen, huh?" Sally smirked. "Go ahead, take the call." She leaned back in her seat, making no move to leave the room and give Une any privacy.
Deciding it would be better not to respond to Sally's less than mature antics, Une just sighed and turned on her phone. "Send him through, please."
A moment later, Trowa's handsome--All right, I admit it--face appeared on the screen. "Good afternoon, Lady Une."
"Trowa, hello. To what do I owe the call?" Une was suddenly wishing that Sally had been out on assignment that day, because she wouldn't have had to put up with the look of utter disbelief that was pasted upon her friend's face.
Trowa, for his part, seemed unfazed by the formality of Lady Une's words. "I felt bad that our conversation the other night had to be cut short. I was hoping to see you some time to continue it."
If Sally had been a lesser woman, she would have jumped out of her seat and begun chanting "I told you so!" But, being the mature woman that she was, she just kept her amusement limited to a gleeful smirk. 'I told you so' she mouthed silently.
Unable to keep a small amount of shock from filtering into her expression, Lady Une faltered slightly. "E-excuse me?"
Trowa's expression remained as neutral as ever. "I was hoping to talk with you again sometime. The circus is off for the season, and my sister and I are staying in Brussels to be near friends. I'd like to see you while I'm here."
He said that, Une noticed, without a hint of question in his voice. He wasn't asking her to go somewhere with him, he was telling her that she would.
"That...that would be very nice. Any particular time you had in mind?"
"Are you free tonight?"
Trowa nodded. "All right, then. I'll pick you up at seven for dinner. Good day." He severed the connection before Lady Une could respond.
Une stared at the now-blank screen, before pulling her head up to look at Sally, who was still grinning wildly. "What...what just happened?"
Sally couldn't take it anymore, and burst out laughing. "You, my dear girl, have a date tonight!"
So...how's I do? The whole story is written, so expect the next two chapters to be posted this week. Or, if this sucked and you want me to burn every copy I have, let me know that too. But either way, see that nifty little "Review" button below this note? Click that, and leave me your thoughts. Thanks!