In the Arms of Another

By the Black Rose

Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing.  I am sadly making no profit on this or any of my other fanfics.  They are written purely for entertainment purposes only.

Author's Note: The more I stare at this piece, the more I realize I just can't make it any better – it's beyond hope.  But for Cheryl, Tsukiyo, and Mel, I am posting it.  If you've seen it on my mailing list, there's not a whole lot changed.  I have added an epilogue, though, at Polgara's request and numerous others insistence.  I may add a side story of the lemon variety for Cheryl and Winggirl…  So, four chapters, plus epilogue, possible future lemon.  It's just about as short as anything of mine gets.  May you find something to enjoy in it.  Thank you so much for reading.  Love, Rose

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Chapter 1

The air in the University auditorium crackled with anticipation. Unfamiliar faces, some showing signs of strain and fatigue, glowed with a sense of accomplishment as they filed across the polished wood floor of the stage.  Relena craned her neck and scanned the crowd, her eyes finally settling on the back of his head. She could pick him out even in the black cap and gown.

She took a deep breath and felt a little of the excitement burn through her skin, rippling the flesh of her arms into thousands of tiny goosebumps. There were a number of graduates still to go before they got to the one she came to see; the one she was so proud of, the one she loved.  She looked down at the graduation program in her hands and traced over his name, whispering it softly.  "Heero Yuy."

The Senior Class

Of

Colonial Tech University

Announces the

Commencement Exercises…

He had at least thought enough to invite her.  At first she had been so excited, so anxious to see him again. She had been so hopeful that maybe now they'd have a chance to start anew – to explore feelings that she had always held for him, and that she hoped he might have discovered during his extended absence.  And then cruelly, her dream world had come crashing down much in the same way he had once come crashing into her life. On the shuttle flight to the colony for the ceremony, Duo had opened his infamous big mouth.

"Hey hey, Princess, what'cha readin?"

She glanced up from her copy of And Then There Were None, to give him a smile. "Oh, just an old mystery novel.  I'm on vacation, remember?"

"A mystery novel?  Why not one of those romance things? Or are you getting enough of that from Whitling?"

"James and I are friends, Duo.  You know that."

"I know, I'm just teasin ya! Is he still bothering you? Do Trowa and I need to, ya know, take care of him for you?"

She couldn't help it.  She laughed.  "No.  He's not bothering me.  Though you'd think he'd get the hint."

"Politicians are as obtuse as they get.  Except you, Princess."

"Thanks."

Hilde shifted in her seat, swiveling around to find her missing boyfriend.  She located him with her eyes.  "Hey Duo!  We're only an hour out.  What's the plan when we get to L1?"

Duo stood up and started towards the front of the compartment. "Dunno, babe.  Heero's pickin us up, but other than that…You know how he is."

The brunette groaned loudly in response.  "Great.  Do you think he'll remember us mortals have to eat?"

"Yeah, he'll remember.  And who knows, maybe that fiancée of his will have something planned."

"Fiancée?" A trio of voices erupted as all eyes focused on Duo.  Relena gasped quietly, her heart dropping into the pit of her stomach.

"Yeah, he didn't tell you?  Man, I figured everyone knew, since I'm usually the last to be told anything around here."

Relena swallowed against the burning lump in her throat; her whole body felt numb as she listened to the nightmare continue.

"Heero's getting married?" She heard Quatre's voice by itself, sounding louder as he started to turn around in his seat.  Duo pivoted back and shot her a look. She glanced away, convinced her eyes would betray everything. 

'You should have known.  He never felt that way for you.'

"Yeah, some girl he met at school. Name's Kara, I think…."

Luckily, she had managed to bury her face in her book before the tears had started to waver.  As soon as the shuttle docked, she had donned her very dark tinted, artificial sun glasses – the same shades she wore today as part of her 'disguise'.  But really they served to mask her emotions, her pain, the bittersweet feeling of this moment when she watched the man she loved graduate into a new life, and into the arms of another woman. 

She forced a smile as she remembered how they had seen him talking with her when he didn't know they were waiting for him.  At least Duo had warned Relena, she'd have hated to be unprepared for the sight, and to have accidentally announced her sorrow to the world.  She loved him, but she had no claim on him, and only wanted his happiness.  If this girl would make him so, then she wished them all the best…but it didn't stop her heart from aching for her loss.

Knowing she would be unable to hide her hurt from him despite the dark glasses she wore, she had rushed off to 'urgent business' before he caught sight of the friends he was picking up at the shuttleport.  She didn't think that Trowa was fooled, but it didn't really matter.  She only had to keep up her façade for another half hour or so now, and then she would leave.  More important business had 'come up' for her to attend to, and so she would make a quicker exit from the colony than she had originally planned.

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Down on the stage, the announcers were getting closer to his name.  He wasn't nervous, like most of his classmates.  He was glad school was over, although his plans for the future had not changed since he entered the institute of higher education.  He had stayed in the Preventers as a 'reserve' during his time in college, and he would return to full time active status as soon as commencement was over.  He quickly scanned the crowd looking for a certain blond woman that he had hoped would come, despite her busy schedule.

It was strange, really, how he felt about Relena.  He had never been able to figure it out on his own.  Then Kara entered his life, and as their friendship grew over time, he began to figure out the subtle differences between what he felt for this new girl and the mystery of his feelings for Relena.

He caught sight of long golden hair framing dark sunglasses and smiled inwardly.  She was here, had thought enough of him still to come to this supposedly important moment of his life.  How he had been talked into participating in this 'social' activity, he couldn't remember.  He had wanted to get to work directly and have his diploma mailed to him on earth.  Earth… Every time he thought of it, he couldn't help but think of her…Relena. 

But something was wrong.  Duo had said she had taken the same shuttle as the rest, but somehow she had disappeared by the time he had come to pick them up.  According to Quatre, approximately halfway to the colony, her mood had entirely changed and she seemed to withdraw from everyone.  He had not seen her once in the two days that everyone else had crawled all over his dorm room, his classrooms, and favorite haunts of the last four years. 

He suspected that Trowa knew what was wrong with Relena, but so far he had been unable to get his friend alone to talk about it.  Kara had been hanging around, anxious to see him as much as possible before graduation.  It was getting on his nerves…but then he found that everything about her had started grating on his nerves since the day she confessed…that she loved him.  He sighed at memory, and at his inability to reply to her professions of admiration.  He didn't love her.  It had taken some time to figure out, but his heart belonged only to Relena. And so far, it didn't look like he was ever going to be able to tell her that. 

Has she found someone else? He wondered not for the first time.  Maybe that was why she was behaving so strangely – avoiding him after accepting his invitation to the graduation ceremony.  Would she still evade him when the exercise was over?  He shook his head, and vowed that if he didn't speak with her directly, he'd corner Trowa on the trip back to Earth.

She couldn't run from him forever, and if it was another man, well he could live with that, couldn't he?  He had only wanted her happiness, even if it was in the arms of another…but then again that was how he felt four years ago.  Seeing her here, now, even though they were separated by a thousand people crammed in a crowded auditorium, he realized he wasn't ready to give her up just yet…

"Heero Yuy, magna cum laude," the announcer called out and Heero moved to take his turn to walk across the stage.

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She heard his name being called at last, "Heero Yuy, magna cum laude," and began to clap.   Relena wasn't surprised that he was graduating with honors; she knew how intelligent he was.  He could be so much more than a Preventer, she thought wistfully, but understood the reasons for his decision.  Having been a soldier, he wouldn't trust just anyone to protect the one thing that was so precious to him – peace.

According to the graduation program, only Amy Zo was left after Heero, and so Relena stood up from her seat to make her way out the door.  She knew she would eventually run into him again, he was supposed to return to Earth after all, but she wasn't prepared to see him today.  She had even entrusted Heero's graduation gift to Trowa, who asked her a thousand questions with a simple look.  Questions she didn't want to answer.

She stopped at the door and listened to the brief closing speech given by the University President, and then slipped out.  She made her way to the exit, where her car was scheduled to pick her up in, she checked her watch, "Oh no!  Three minutes.  What?  How can a blasted graduation finish early?  They always run late!" Relena thought with dismay as she searched in vain for her driver. 

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Heero crossed the stage and received his diploma, shook the hand of the University President, and then went back to his seat.  He looked back at where Relena was sitting and noticed she was no longer in her chair.  Instead, she was moving toward the door in anticipation of the ceremony being over.  She is going to continue to avoid me, he thought and felt somewhat hurt by the realization.  He noticed she stopped in the doorway for a moment, and appeared to be listening to the closing speech.  He quickly decided on his next course of action.  As soon as the University President ended his oration, Heero leapt from his chair, running to beat the other grads out the door and to try and catch her before she got away.    

She stood on the sidewalk in front of the entrance hall, waiting for her car. Heero slowed his step, wondering how best to approach the situation when she beat him to it by speaking first.

"Congratulations, Heero," Relena said quietly and turned to face him, those dark sunglasses still hiding her eyes.

"You were leaving."

"I have busin…" she stopped as he reached up and took off her glasses.

"I can't talk to you when you're wearing these," he growled and handed them to her.  He watched her timidly pluck the lenses from his grasp. "You were saying," he pressed.

She looked down at the ground, avoiding his gaze.  "I have business, I'm sorry."

"Don't lie, Relena, you've been avoiding me, and I want to know why," he demanded.   

"I…I haven't, I've just…" He reached out and forced her chin up to where she had to look him straight in the eye. 

"You have.  Why?"

She blinked and pulled away from him.  "I apologize if it seemed that way, Heero.  I just had some unexpected business come up.  But it was important to me that I be here.  I want you to know that I'm happy for you, and I wish you all the best."

"That sounds like a good-bye.  I'm coming back to Earth, remember?" He said, frowning at her dismissal.  She was putting up an emotional wall between them that had never existed before. She was shutting him out, and it hurt.  He wanted to ask her if there was someone else, but the words stuck in his throat; he didn't really want to know if there was.

            A limousine pulled up alongside the pair. "I'm sorry, I have to go. Perhaps I can meet your fiancée when you bring her with you to Earth," she said and started towards the car.  Her driver held open the door to the back passenger seat as she climbed in.  

Fiancée?  His mind raced, trying to catch up with his shock. Kara, she has to mean Kara, but… He finally snapped out of his daze when the black limousine pulled away from the curb, wondering if her misconception had something to do with the hasty exit and general avoidance of him.  He watched the car grow further away as he heard more people emerge from the auditorium behind him.  When it was out of sight, he turned to go back inside.  It was time to corner Trowa.

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The two silent young men just stood and stared at one another for a moment, once they had finally managed to get away from the others.  Trowa handed him a package, neatly gift-wrapped in navy blue paper that was appropriately conservative for the occasion.  Heero knew immediately whom it was from as he took it from his comrade's hands.

He neatly pulled the tape off the sides of the package and removed the top.  Inside was, just as the box had indicated, a bible.  He looked up at Trowa, but those emerald eyes gave him no answers, instead they just stared at the card that was resting, unopened, on top of the expensive, leather-bound volume with his name engraved in elegant silver ink on the cover.  Heero placed the box down so that he could open the card.  Inside, there was a hand-written note in a familiar, delicate hand.

            Dear Heero,

           

I am hoping this finds you well.  I couldn't be more proud of you and all that you have done with your life to this point.  You have accomplished a great deal, and from all accounts, have taken important steps toward making a life for yourself that I hope will bring you all the happiness you deserve. 

            Your friend,

            Relena

Heero blinked at the contents of the card and re-read it.  Friend?  Did she mean… He looked back up at Trowa.  "Why?"

"Many soldiers believe in God, Heero.  I can't promise you'll find all the answers in that book, but you might find someone who has them."

            Heero glared at him.  "You know what I'm asking."  

Trowa returned the look. "It's not my place..."

"The hell it is!  Who told her I was engaged to Kara?"

A smile tugged at the acrobat's lips.  "The only one who mentioned Kara was Duo.  I don't know what he told her, only that it seemed to coincide with the time that Quatre observed a change in Relena's mood."

Heero blinked, digesting the information.  He looked down at the card in his hands, then back up at his friend.  "Is there someone?"

Trowa's mouth curved up into a smile.  "To the best of my knowledge, there isn't."

Heero closed his eyes.  She had waited, but how could she not have known his intentions?  Didn't she realize why he was returning to Earth; why he was re-joining the Preventers?  He frowned; it had been a long time, and his heart ached at just seeing her again.  He wanted to talk to her, no needed to talk to her – the feeling rising within his chest and threatening to suffocate him.  His eyes opened again and he looked at Trowa, positive his comrade could still read him like a book. 

Trowa shook his head.  "The shuttle leaves tomorrow my friend.  She will still be on Earth when you get there.  If you must talk with her before then, there is such a thing as a video-comm," he suggested with a touch of humor in his voice. 

Heero was not amused.  "Fine, but where's that idiot, Maxwell?"

"You can't kill him."

"I won't.  But he'll wish he was dead when I get through with him."

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            There was a tap on his shoulder. Duo turned around with his usual grin, expecting to see a familiar face or perhaps meet someone new on the lawn outside Heero's soon-to-be former dormitory.  Instead, he met with the angry, very solid fist of his recently graduated friend.  He staggered back a couple of steps with the blow.  "What the hell?" He yelled at Heero.  "What the hell was that for?"

            "You know exactly what it's for.  Why the fuck did you tell Relena I was engaged to Kara?" Heero growled and drew back, ready to strike again if he didn't like the answer.

            Duo looked at the floor.  "I was just trying to get under her skin a little – to get her to admit her feelings.  The girl's been, well, lonely far too long, you know.  She always claims she's too busy, but I know her and that look in her eye whenever your name is mentioned.  It's the same look that Kara was giving you that day I talked to you about coming up to your graduation.  She was there, in your dorm room. You introduced us then, remember?"

            Heero lowered his fist and nodded.  His body was still tense as Duo continued.

"It was obvious the way Kara felt about you, but since you'd never admit to anyone if you were in a relationship, I didn't know what you felt for her.  I was pretty sure you didn't love her, but I wanted to maybe warn Relena, just in case."

            Heero just glared at him, anger burning in his dark blue eyes.

            "I'm sorry if messed things up.  I didn't know how she would react, or how you really felt about her. No one knew for sure, not even Relena.  What did she say when you told her you weren't engaged?" Duo asked and looked up from the floor.

            "She left too quickly for me to tell her," Heero growled.

            Duo smacked his forehead with the palm of his right hand.  "Shit!  Man, I'm sorry.  I'll call her and set it all straight, I promise."

            "No, I think you've done enough already.  I'll talk to her when I get back to earth."  He turned around and started to leave, but stopped only a few steps away.  "Duo, is there...has there been…anyone?"

            "I've been on guard duty most of the last four years.  She's never let anyone get close to her," Duo replied, studying his friend's rigid form.  "What about you?"

            There was a short pause, then the former Zero pilot's head lowered.  "I've never met anyone like her."

            "Then you need to tell her that."

            Heero glanced back over his shoulder.  "And you need to put some ice on that eye.  I'll see you in the morning."

As he made his way back to his dorm to pack, his thoughts were elsewhere.  Tomorrow, I return to Earth.   

He remembered the deep blue of the ocean where he crash-landed and met Relena.  He had never seen such beauty on the colonies – the dangerous but spectacular waters that reflected the orange hues of his first sunset, and the kind compassionate eyes that revealed such concern for his sake.  Earth…Relena…  They were the same, they were his future, they were his home.  He had been anxious the first time he made the trip to Earth. Anxious to accomplish his mission and defeat the enemy; just as anxious as he was now to return.  He hadn't known then what to expect, or what would be waiting for him there, except the promise of his death.  Now it held a different promise.

It's finally time…I'm going back. Back to Earth…Relena.

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Quick AN: Look for chapter 8 of Love's Labours Lost to appear soon.  ^___^  Thanks for reading!  Love, Rose