Dedicated to: *~twilightshadow~*, cuz she writes these really good fics that are just to die for, especially "Dancing on Ice", which is still my favorite, even after I've read all her other stuff. AND also because after I finished reading "Mend These Broken Wings", I was on the verge of purring contentment after how the fic turned outif you like Relena x Heero fics, THAT is a definite recommendation. Thumbs up, you're wonderful, keep writing!
(Damn this is a long ANokay, last part, I promise) This fic assumes that Relena did not know it was her brother piloting Tallgeese III in Endless Waltz and that she never did find out what happened to them. That assumption doesn't play a major factor in the story, but still, ^_~ just to keep the confusion down to a minimum.
Genre: (Just in case) 1xR sap n' fluff
The dying light of the sun painted streaks of defiant tangerine gold and mellow crystal rose across the cloud-strewn sky in an eternal clash with the tinges of topaz and amethyst that were just now peaking through the veil of light. Nature was in an artistic mood as she wove in the silken murmurs of the sea with the playful chitter of the dolphins as they leaped by the towering ship, intrigued by the lone figure that stood at the stern, gazing at nothing in particular.
Relena sighed in contentment, trailing her fingertips over the satiny texture of the well-worn wood as the wind mussed her elegant chignon, letting long wisps of gold work themselves free to trail behind her in a banner. The salty-sweet tang of the sea air soothed her paparazzi shorn nerves and she smiled, almost afraid that her small moment of peace would be shattered once again by a hidden camera or a waving microphone. She closed her eyes, throwing her head back to let the ocean spray her face and neck with it's soothing touch.
It felt so wonderful to be free again, no matter how illusionary that belief wasor how brief.
"Lady Dorlain," A semi-awed whisper brought her out of her reverie and she stifled a smile at the look of pure hero-worship the boy beside her wore on his cherubic face. "Lady Dorlain, the Captain wants you to know that we'll be arriving at Osaka Harbor soon, and that you should prepare to disembark."
"Thank you, Jonathan." Relena touched the twelve year old boy's shining hair with a grateful smile, and turned away before she could see the blush of pleasure that made a pink flag across his face.
Relena looked back questioningly as he barged on, "And it's really been anumhonor to serve you, Lady Dorlain. Umyou and the Gundam pilots are my absolute heroes." He scuffled his ill-worn shoes in embarrassment, looking down on the deck. That was stupid, he admonished himself miserably, She'll think you're an idiot now for saying that
But he wasn't prepared to see her navy blue gown whisper across the deck as she knelt before him, long, graceful fingers lifting his chin so that he was looking into her gentle, aquamarine eyes. "Jonathan, I am only a symbol of what is in people's hearts. I have done only what any other person would if they had the given opportunity." She planted a light kiss on his forehead before she stood up, her lips quirked up a little, "It is the self sacrifice and the sweat of people like you who won peace for the ESUN. And for that, it can easily be said, that you, and people like you, are the real heroes."
"Nah" Jonathon shook his head vigorously, "All the people who died for the Earth and colonies are the heroes right? Or that's what Dad said."
"Not actually. There is more than one kind of battle in this world, one on and off the fields." Her eyes took on a faraway look as she added, more to herself than to him, "But before you dive headlong into battle, always find someone you can trustfriends, family," A love "In the end, they're what's really going to be important to you." She smiled then, a trifle sadly, "And it is them that will keep you from suffering the price of command."
"What's thatthe price of command?" Such ingenuous eyes, full of youthful courage and invincibility. She touched his cheek wonderingly, wishing she could protect that innocence from the harsher realities that the future held for him.
"Loneliness." Then she smiled wryly and added, "And too little sleep with no vacations."
She rose to her feet then, and nodded her head gracefully and turned to walk away with quick, hurried steps.
Startled by her abrupt departure, Jonathan began, "But-"
"Remember that." Relena called as she left, "Always find someone to love and be loved in return. Then, and only then, are you truly invincible." Jonathon stared after her, watching the way she carried herself proudly, head tilted up and hands swinging gracefully at her sides. The sun made runnels of silver highlights in her long hair and a haze seemed to frame her slender form. She looked like the stuff of which fantasies were made ofor legends.
Impulsively, Jonathan called after her, "You're still my hero, you know! I'm gonna grow up to be just like you! I'm gonna protect the innocent and stuff like that!" Leaning farther over the railing, he yelled, "I'm gonna believe in people and I'm gonna take care of my family too! I'm gonna be strong, just like you!"
He couldn't quite hear what she said as the crying gulls and whispering sea enveloped her voice in obscurity, but as she paused and looked back, hand upheld in an answering wave, it sounded like she said something like "Go for it."
Half an hour later, Relena stepped off the boat, swathed in a sleeveless sheath of white silk that came about mid-thigh. Her tumbledown locks of gold had finally been gathered and twisted into a neat knot at her nape and a pair of large sunglasses perched on her nose to hide her expressive and well known cerulean eyes and she held a suitcase of cured white leather lightly in her hand. In short, the picture of a wealthy tourist.
She smiled softly to herself, reveling in her temporary obscurity, to be, not Relena Peacecraft-Dorlain, Foreign Minister and symbol of the people, but just Relena, nineteen year old girl that was having the first vacation ever in the course of four years.
It was a wonderful feeling
With a breathless laugh of barely-leashed excitement, Relena walked forward, hailing a yellow taxicab. "Hinata Inn please," She murmured, and for once, without dozens of security guards checking for assassins or arsonists, without thousands of microphones waving in her face, and camera flashes blinding her, the driver simply nodded and started up the car. She felt free to peek out the window, looking at the flashing scenery with glowing interest.
Osaka was a mixture of the old and the new. Modern skyscrapers reached out their steel tiers to defy the heavens with their awesome size, windowpanes reflecting the sun of their silver faces in arcs and refracted rainbows. It was a place of Toyotas and Hondas, of steam-gouting factories and their dozens of busy workers calling greetings to those they knew and impatient lawyers and businessmen, all in a hurry to go somewhere, do something.
But as city faded into country, the sweet trills of crickets and songbirds replaced the harsh clang of machinery. Long grasses waved their gilt tassels in a gentle display of defiance against the steel abomination that suffocated the once verdant plains and silenced the shrill cries of the mating pelican. In the cattail rushes, a badger family yapped playfully, cubs bowled over by the gentle paw of their mother while a thrush took flight, flapping its dusty brown wings in a withering scold. The gentle purring of the brook seemed to murmur We are herein spite of you. We live
"De gozaru, we have arrived at Hinata Inn. Would you like me to drop you off here?"
"Hm?" Almost disappointed, Relena realized that her trip had come to an end.
"Would you like me to drop you off here?" Unlike her bodyguards, who usually rushed her into a secure area, the taxi driver patiently awaited her orders and she smiled apologetically at the delay.
"Ummgomen ne," She replied, then having exhausted her limited supply of Japanese vocabulary, she quirked her lips helplessly and in laughter-tinged English, continued, "Yes, here is fine. Arigato, it was an enjoyable trip." Slipping the man a few yen note, she stepped out of the cab, luggage in tow as she stared at the simple wooden beamed structure with quiet contentment. It was no Sheraton, that was for sure; but then again, she had not come to stay at a Sheraton.
The manager, a stout little woman about five feet three, hurried out to great her guest, her wizened face wreathed in a smile of unreserved welcome as she exclaimed, "Dorlain-sama!" Relena winced and immediately noting that, the other woman amended, "Relena-sama, it is a great honor for Hinata Inn to cater to you. Akagi Kikyo is my name. Please come with me."
As the two made their way through the wooden planked halls, Kikyo continued, "If you need anything, please call me."
"What I need," Relena laughed softly, "is a good night's rest without a boat rocking under me to throw me to the floor!"
Kikyo smiled back, amusement written in her obsidian eyes, "Ah, I see you have taken a ship to Japan. Beautiful yes, comfortable no! If you wish, you may bathe in the hot springs in the back of the hotel, particularly good for washing the salt from one's skin and soothing to the muscles. If you wish, we can have sake brought to the springs for you as we press and clean your clothes. Also, a kimono if you wish."
"I think I'll take you up on that offer," Relena said wryly, mentally grimacing at the state of her outfit, "Give me a bath, and I'll almost feel human after this"
"Oh my" Sulphurous clouds of steam billowed about her face, bringing a clamshell pink tinge to cheeks. She sighed, letting her body go limp in the embrace of the pleasurably hot water. "Any more of this, and I won't want to go back to work"
"That would be unfortunate."
Relena muffled a shriek, plunging into the water as all her dissolved tension came back in a knot of nerves and adrenaline-tightened muscles, "Heero!" Embarrassed and furious, Relena searched for and found a pair of brooding Prussian eyes gazing back at her with unemotional candorand felt a heat of color pass through her face that had nothing to do with the steam. Scandalized, she hissed, "This is a woman's bath, Heero! Close your eyes!"
If he had rolled his eyes, his disdain couldn't be any clearer as he turned his back to gaze into the all-encompassing shadows of nightfall. "Hn."
As soon as his back was to her, she scrambled out of the bath, wrapping herself in a towel. Then, unsatisfied with the minimum of skin it covered, yanked on the loose-fitting robe to go with it. "Whatareyoudoinghere!?"
As if she didn't know the answer even as it passed from between his lips, Relena thought furiously. And his next words confirmed it. "Protecting you."
Resisting the urge to brain him with a pumice stone, Relena frowned, her good mood evaporated by his invading presence into what was supposed to be a vacation. Already, she could imagine the Yuy Deathglares he would level on the staff as they brought her food in. The poison checks on the food they brought in. The weapon checks on the staff that brought her food inRelena groaned. "What are you going to protect me against Heero? A mosquito bite? I am in the middle of no where! Please, can you please just leave and let me enjoy my vacation?"
Flat refusal. Of course. She had expected it, anticipated it, and even resigned herself to that fact. But he didn't have to rub it in with a soft, monotonous, "Lady Une is frantic."
"I told her where I was going!"
Relena flinched as a flicker of anger stole into his normally impassive eyes at the half-lie, and Heero caught her gaze, raising an eyebrow coldly, "A letter on your desk saying 'I'll be back in five days' does not constitute a formal declaration of intent."
Feeling irrationally like a child that has done something wrong, Relena grabbed her basket, saying furiously, "Well maybe I didn't want everyone and their mother tailing me with their walkie talkies and cameras. Maybe I didn't want you here, toting a gun, and eyeing people like you're glaring at me now. Maybe I just wanted a peaceful stay somewhere remote, where people couldn't find me and badger me over paperwork and meetings!" Maybe I just wanted some time so I could sort out my feelings for one unemotional Perfect Soldier before I accidentally destroy our working relationshipbut now you're here making it difficult for me to breathe much less think!
He didn't respond, merely gestured for her to proceed him out of the bathing area and she sighed, knowing it was useless to continue this conversation with him. On the way out, they almost collided with Kikyo, who slapped a hand over her mouth in shock as her eyes riveted on a tall, imposing gentleman that had not been with Dorlain-sama when she had first walked in.
Knowing it was starting already, and that she was helpless to stop the inevitable 'scaring-of-the-staff', Relena sighed, murmuring, "Heero Yuy, my bodyguard."
Interrupting the manager's stammering, Relena continued soothingly, "He is here to protect me, Akagi-sanas is his sworn mission to. I apologize if it inconveniences you-?"
"Of course not," Kikyo pulled herself straight, and to her credit, her voice only trembled a little as she smiled dutifully at the unexpected guest, "Sirit is an honor to welcome you to the Hinata Inn. If I may serve you in any way, it will be my pleasure to do so." Bobbing hastily in a curtsy, she turned to Relena, saying, "Your udon and sashimi is in your room, Relena-sama."
"Thank you." Relena replied, then watched as Kikyo left with hurried steps. Without saying a word to the sleek shadow that glided behind her, she slipped into her room, resisting the urge to flounce into her futon, instead sitting carefully on the cushion. Only then, did she raise composed eyes to Heero's and ignoring the food, say calmly between clenched teeth, "Please explain exactly how you found me and what Lady Une told you to do upon finding my location."
Heero folded himself against a wall, the slender muscles of his broad shoulders rippling with controlled power as he said quietly, "I simply traced your bank withdrawals with which you used to pay off the captain of your ship, then traced the ship's destination and arrival date. Then it was only a matter of asking the Lady to use the Preventer Lear jet to pilot here and find you."
"So simple." Relena repeated hollowly, thinking of all the careful plans that it had taken to actually make those withdrawals covertly and cover her trail. Three months of work had taken him less than a day to figure out. Closing her eyes, she dropped her head into her hands and then sighed, raising defeated azure eyes to ask, "And once you got here?"
"It is my mission to contact the Preventer office and see that you return to the Sanq Kingdom safely."
Contact Preventor HQ. Well, there went all her plans. Soon, Hinata Inn might very well become a fortress as an elite team of special forces swarmed around the place to ensure the safety and 'peace' of their precious diplomat. Brown-jacketed ferrets would probably dig up all the background files of anyone living within twenty miles of her location and more agents would personally meet with any 'suspicious' individual in a massive area sweep. Feeling years of weariness rush back into her veins, she rose to her feet, and walked to the window so that he couldn't see the unhappiness that darkened her eyes to a bruised sapphire. "Wonderful."
"" For a moment, Heero was silent, then, "Do you wish I had never found you?"
A single tear traced down her cheek. "In some ways." But then some little voice tells me how much you cared to actually come all this way to look for me, and then I melt. What am I going to do with you...Heero Yuy?
Sometime later, Heero knocked softly on the door of Relena's room, listening closely for any betraying sound of her activity in the darkened room. Nothing. A slight frown marred his forehead and he knocked again, this time louder. "Relena."
Quietly, he pushed the wooden door to one side, then abruptly slammed it open as his eyes narrowed dangerously. She was not in her room; her sleeping mat was still neatly folded with the blanket piled, untouched, on top of it. Immediately, he turned to instigate an inn-wide search for the missing Princess until he heard the slight shift of soft fabric against wood. In a flash, he was by the open window, peering into the chilly night's air for a glimpse of her, mouth open to reprimand her for endangering herself. And she was there; chin propped on knees as she stared into the sleepy scene before her.
For a second, his breath caught as a purely male appreciation jolted through him as he stared at her loosely garbed form. She was wearing a white, cambric sleeping robe that did nothing to hide the feminine curve of her breast and hip. Her unbound hair flittered and billowed at the wind's command in a sea of moon-streaked honey that contrasted with the shadowed cream of her complexion. In the darkness her eyes were almost sable with a woman's hidden strength and beautyand she had the most dejected expression on her face.
Before he could climb onto the roof after her, she raised her eyes to the covered sky, almost accusingly, as she stared blindly into the quietly rumbling storm clouds. "Why are You doing this to me? Can't You give me a break? Haven't I given everything for this job? My life? My dedication? Haven't I had all the tabloids splash my face across every single edition of their magazines? Haven't I paid the ultimate price of command? You've taken everything from me, my brother, my innocenceeveryone that could have possibly been close to me, I have never been allowed to trust fully because of who I am, what I am. Why can't something just go right for mefor once?"
Anguish and loneliness marked her face as she fisted her hands into balls; a girl not even a woman, who searched for answers that were not there. "I am trying my best! What more could You possibly want from me?" Silver glistened on her cheeks as she repeated fiercely, "I am trying, da-damnit" But I can't do this alone anymore
Then she dropped her head back onto her knees, her shoulders shaking almost imperceptibly with silent tears that no one knew of. Behind her confident smile and serene façade, she was like any other person: fragile as glass.
Uncertain for the first time on how to deal with this new facet of her, Heero slowly straightened to his feet, his mouth unconsciously forming the whispered syllables of her name.
Her response was no more than he expected as she began to furiously rub the tears from her eyes and face with immediately vigor. "Go away, Heero."
A simple 'no' didn't seem to be the answer to her demand under the circumstances, but his refusal was evident anyway as he stood over her like a mantling hawk, fiercely protective, yet at the same time, hesitant, cautious, as his nature dictated. Then, not knowing what else to do, he sat down by her side, not holding her but not leaving either as he let her turn her face from him and compose herself. For all her gentleness and diplomacy, she was still proudand she hated showing weakness in front of others, even him.
After a few moments, she looked at him with a whimsical smile painted on her lips that did not quite reach her over-bright azure eyes. "I'm fine, so you can leave now." At his flat, unconvinced expression, she persisted, "Reallyyou really don't need to worry about me. I was just a little tiredthat's all."
Instead of calling on her obvious lie, Heero turned wintry, teal eyes towards the weaving reeds and the plethora of life that sheltered in their thin, hollow stalks. "You were crying."
Relena shifted slightly, folding her thin robe more securely into her body, "Women do that sometimes." Taking refuge behind her well-used mask of serene confidence, she added, "It's a normal, healthy reaction to stress-"
"Why were you crying?"
Relena stiffened, a thousand and one responses flooding through her head and almost immediately, she rejected them all. She wanted to laugh hysterically at such a ridiculous questionbut first, she wanted to kick him.
"Let me think." Her voice was calm, thoughtful in response to the edge of annoyance at her continued silence, but at the moment, she was feeling neither calm, nor thoughtful.
What am I supposed to say? She thought a little wildly. Well Heero, I ran away and you found me crying because one stupid Japanese soldier has absolutely no idea that he has been causing me countless sleepless nights and makes me feel like I'm fifteen again. And he also doesn't know that if he could actually learn to love me, I wouldn't give a damn about the paparazzi and past midnight work hours because there would be someone to share my life with. Oh yes, Heero, guess what? I, dumb blonde that I am, fell in love with you!
She could say thatbut it would be the biggest gamble of her life. The risks of failure would be more than she could bear; it would make her life a living hell. But the rewards
She smiled sadly to herself. The rewards would be more than she could imagine. Paradise served on a golden dish, an end to this infernal loneliness that made her cry into her pillow night after night, a confidante, a loversomeone that could soothe the ache in her heart when she looked into the heavens and found that the clouds had covered her glittering stars with ominous darkness.
"I came out to stargaze," She blurted, mentally slapping herself for her cowardice. "ItI find it soothing."
"There are no stars out tonight, Relena."
"Exactly." She said, desperately trying to make him understand. How could one so used to thinking on his feet, so used to grasping a concept within a split-second, be soso completely dense? "When I look at the stars, I can feel somehow, that Miss Nointhat my brother is still alive somewhere out there, that he has a reason for not contacting me in so many years. I feel that if I can see the brightness of the stars, I can almost touch the people of the colonies and the Earth with my words and thatthat somehow they can love me the same way I cherish them." She took a deep breath and her next words were so soft, that Heero had to lean close to hear them, as she whispered, "And when the clouds cover the starsthen I know that all my dreams are a lie. That Milliardo is dead and the people see me as but a face on the telescreen. And that because I allowed myself to hopeI'll be more alone than ever."
Heero sat silently by her for a second, then abruptly stood up, causing Relena to look up at him with startled aquamarine eyes. "Come with me."
Without waiting for her consent, he turned away and slid back into Relena's room. She hesitated apprehensively over his mercurial change of mood, but sighed and carefully balancing on the fragile wooden shingles, followed him back inside. He didn't stop to weld the window shut as she half expected, nor did he order her to confine herself into her room. Instead, he walked downstairs and straight out the inn, and sighing in frustrated bewilderment, Relena followed.
He walked along for a moment, then abruptly left the main road, carefully helping her as she stumbled on the small stones at the water's edge. "Heerowhere are we going?"
She looked around skeptically. 'Here' was at the bank of the river that she had been staring as the taxi had wound it's way up to the inn. Beautiful, serene, romanticunfortunately, she also knew by now that Heero was none of these things. "Oh." She said unenthusiastically but still with a diplomatic smile, " It's lovely."
Something that might have been amusement curved his lips into a slight smile and lightened the brooding darkness in his Prussian eyes as he leaned against a weeping willow, pulling out his gun. "I didn't come here to show you water."
"Oh?" Relena asked, confused. She eyed his gun warily, but knew him well enough to know that the gun was not meant for her. "I see. Why exactly did you ask me to come out here, Heero?"
Relena flinched as a loud gunshot echoed and reechoed through the chilled night air, inducing an abrupt silence in the normal chitters of the nightlife. Then
The air in around her burst into light, brushing against her eyelids and cheeks in thousands of unsaid promises as a drove of fireflies swirled into the air on the wind's breeze. They danced madly against her skin, motes of flashing lights that dimmed, brightened, swirling madly in a dance of hectic color.
"Oh" She breathed. The riverbank lit up in flickering streams of dark and light, shadow and day, and she stared in rapt fascination at the unfolding scene, almost as if it the dim clearing before her was an unfinished tapestry that needed but a few more threads to complete a masterpiece, as if they were trying to tell her that she but needed to twist a few loose threads to make her own tapestry, her own life, complete. "This is lovely" Too soon, darkness once again drenched the woods in shadows and a veil of sable silk, and it was then that Relena remembered to let out her caught breath. "Beautiful"
"Fireflies." Relena glanced at the Japanese Gundam pilot as he came to stand beside her, his gun held loosely at his side. His eyes, pensive but somehow kind, turned to her as he added deliberately, "One should never forget one's dreams or hopes. It is all one has in these uncertain times. If there are no stars out, light your own way."
Relena gave him a sideway smile, tipping her head up slightly, "I'll remember that."
Battle-roughened hands, callused from piloting mobile suits and fighting, caught hers, gently forcing her fingers open and deposited something in them.
He walked away, leaving her alone with her hand still outstretched and fingers still locked in a loose fist. Something fluttered urgently against her palm in a light but nonetheless insistent touch, and she looked down, lifting her fingers one by one.
A single sparkle winked up at her, laying on her palm, wings pumping slowly. When her hand's occupant finally realized that it was free, it shot off in a dizzying arc, whirling up in a stream of light, before abruptly melding back into darkness. For a few minutes, Relena stood there, hand open, before a smile, slow and sweet, crossed her face, then silently, so as not to disturb the rush's resting fireflies, she made her way back to the side of the road where Heero was waiting with a thicker coat than her nightdress.
As they walked back to Hinata Inn, Relena couldn't resist looking back and fancied that she saw a tiny glitter winking back at hera promise, if you will, made by fireflies in Japan.
Ending Author's Note:
*sigh* well, we're at that point where the story endsand I guess that I feel like expounding more on stuffso just remember to never give up hope and keep the ones close to your heart, close, and keep your heart open, cuz there's no telling when love'll just drop right into your arms. ^_~ When the time comes, don't fight it, just accept it for what it is.