A single tear slipped down Relena’s cheek. On the outside, her expression was calm, serene. A mask she wore, though if you read the emotion in her eyes, you would see in their depths a vision of hopeless sadness, longing, wishing, and of a torn soul too weary to have the ability to create more than that one tear. Inside, though, her mind used to scream, cry out, wanting to know, "Why??? Why must I live like this??? Alone?" as her soul ripped and her heart broke and her mind added wracking sobs to the question, though to the world, all showed was a smile. Now, though, she was too weary for even that.
She was better, perhaps, at bottling her emotions than the Gundam pilots, even Trowa and Heero. She had to ever be the smiling diplomat, and even her nights seldom gave her her own peace of sleep. They were filled instead with the attempts of her frenzied mind reviewing events over and over again- even sleeping pills didn’t affect her. Upon closer inspection, the shading under her eyes gave testimony to the many nights she’d endured without rest.
"So tired…" she thought wearily, turning to her mirror to study herself. For seven long years now, she’d been carrying the weight of both the world and the colonies on her small shoulders. Every day of her life was devoted to everyone except herself. Meetings were filled with the empty ideals of old men who still were trying to fight a no-longer-existing war. Most of those meetings she spent soothing egos and calming tempers of those who frustratingly saw her as merely a little girl trying to play grown-up. They would sweetly and patronizingly smile at her or pat her hand, shower her with empty flattery, and humor her for the short span of time that it took for them to come up with yet another insufferable argument that resulted in an extremely painful headache for her, along with the strong urge to go and hit her head repeatedly against a brick wall for a length of time. With probably the same result as trying to talk sense into those stubborn politicians. Empty… That was one of the words she could describe her life with right now. Empty, lonely, weary, sad, wistful, aching, painful, cold, and utterly pointless. And she was only twenty-two.
"My life has reached its potential" she thought, pulling her nightgown over her head. "There’s no more joy- nothing to live for…"
A whispering voice in the back of her mind called out to her; "What about the people? Your friends? Your family?"
"They all have lives of their own" was her response. "The people barely remember me; Duo and Hilde have eachother; Trowa has his sister and the circus; Quatre has his sisters, the Maganacs, and his company; Noin and Milliardo have eachother; Wufei and Sally have eachother and the Preventers; and Heero…"
"What about Heero?" the voice demanded. "What about him? Do you know if he’s found his place the way all the others have? Don’t you care?"
"Of course I care! I love him!" She said aloud, her tone hardly more than the sigh of the breeze. "But if he loved me too, he wouldn’t have left again" she added mentally. "They’ll all move on."
The tiny voice in the back of her mind had run out of arguments.
Relena walked over to her bed and sat down on the edge, contemplating the teddy bear that Heero had given her on her sixteenth birthday. She recalled the joy she had felt then as she picked the bear up and looked into its eyes, appalled to realize how long it had been since she had given a real laugh or smile- further saddened to note that even her bright recollection of that birthday held only the dimmest, faintest echo of happiness that did nothing to fill the hollowness she felt inside. She closed her eyes and lowered her head, hugging the bear tightly to her. She began to shake with the force of the silent sobs that abruptly broke free as her tight hold on her wall of emotions crumbled and fell.
A soundless, solitary figure that had stationed himself in the shadows of her balcony watched her through her window where he had guarded her from harm for seven years without her knowledge. He was used to seeing a few tears from her by now, used to seeing her hug the small brown bear he had given to her what seemed ages ago. He frowned- something tonight seemed different somehow. More… his mind searched for a word…final. He couldn’t hear anything through the thick glass, hadn’t heard the words she’d spoken to her mirror. He knew for certain, however, that her crying produced no sound. It tore at his heart when he saw her breaking down, but the soldier’s training had thus far kept a rigid control. His frown deepened as, instead of curling up in bed as he’d expected her to, she stood up and walked to the bathroom. Carrying the bear with her.
"It hurts…" she whispered to the bear. It- no, he- was her only true companion that stayed with her. He knew all her secrets, all her fears… but one silent stuffed animal wasn’t enough. He couldn’t talk her through her problems; he could only listen. Reaching into the cabinets she pulled out her razor and removed one of the blades, placing all of the rest of the pieces in the garbage. She turned the water on in the bathtub until the water was a couple of inches deep and knelt down next to it. Her gaze went between the water and the razor a few times, certain that she ought to have doubts about this, but only aware of her sense of weariness. Then her eyes shifted to her teddy bear, and she stared at him for a moment. "So if Heero couldn’t kill you, you’ve decided to do it yourself?" the whispering voice spoke again. She picked up the bear and settled him in her lap. "Yes," she whispered back.
Heero was beginning to get very agitated now, for reasons he couldn’t really explain. Just as Relena seemed to always find him in a crowded room, he seemed to be able to tell when she was in trouble. He cast another glance around, then contemplated the balcony doors, and made his decision.
Relena bit her lip, the razor blade hovering just above her right wrist. She was more coordinated with her right hand, so she though it would be easier to do that side first. She took a deep breath, held it, and started to lower the blade to sweep it across her wrist when she heard a sound and froze. Her balcony doors had just been opened.
She turned to the bathroom doorway and her eyes widened as she recognized the figure standing there. "Heero?" she whispered in shock.
He walked over to her and knelt down next to her on the floor. Gently, he took the blade from her and threw it into the garbage to join the rest of its pieces, then turned to her. "Relena, what are you doing?" he asked softly.
At those words, she broke down. She bent her head as tears ran down her cheeks, shaking.
"Relena’s always been so strong," he thought, a little shocked that she would have tried to kill herself. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her close and stroking her honey-brown hair. She stiffened for a moment, then relaxed and put her arms around him, the only stable thing in her life at the moment.
"Shhh, it’s alright, it’s going to be okay Relena, I promise you. I’ll take care of you. It’ll be fine," he told her quietly.
She raised her tear-streaked face to look at him. "Heero… are you- are you going to stay?" There was a cautious hope in her eyes, along with the desperate knowledge that he would probably be leaving again.
His heart wrenched at her expression. He set his hand on her cheek. "Do you want me to?" he responded, uncertainty in his voice. She nodded. He pulled her close again. "Then I’ll stay, Relena, for as long as you want me to." he said softly, stroking her hair again.
"How is it that even after all he’s been through, he can be so kind? So tender? I always knew he was kind, but why would he show it now? Could he actually care about me?" she wondered, letting herself be soothed. Her weariness was finally translating itself into sleepiness; something she hadn’t felt for a very long time now. She felt safe, sheltered, protected. She trusted Heero more than anyone she’d ever known. She gave a small sigh and allowed herself to drift off to sleep.
He felt more than heard her sigh, and a slight, relieved smile made its way across his face. He then blinked in surprise as he noticed that her breathing had evened out, though the grip her arms around him had didn’t relax at all. He moved slightly back to gently brush the remaining tears from her cheeks and regard her with affection. He picked her up, hear still in her lap, and carried her to her bed. She stirred slightly as he pulled back the covers and tucked her in, settling the little toy next to her. He brushed hair from her face and smiled again as she did, murmuring his name. He pulled the desk chair over next to the bed and sat down, just watching her. He had promised that he would stay, and so he would. Relena didn’t want to open her eyes the next morning, afraid of what she would find. "What if he left?" she wondered. As long as she kept her eyes closed, she could at least delude herself that maybe, just maybe, he was still there. If he was there though… she opened her eyes slowly. Her eyes widened. Sitting in the chair next to her bed was Heero, asleep. She smiled and tried not to cry with relief- he had stayed. "He looks so peaceful…" she thought happily. She put her hand on top of his, which was resting on the edge of the bed. His eyes blinked open and he looked at her. He turned his hand over, palm up, and gently squeezed her hand, giving her a shy smile. "Heero…smiling???" she thought. She smiled and squeezed his hand back. They stayed that way for awhile, then Heero’s eyes filled with concern and he reached out to lightly stroke her cheek. "Are you alright?" he asked quietly. She closed her eyes and pressed her cheek to his hand and nodded. "I’ll be fine" she responded softly, then opened her eyes to see his expression. She was startled at what she saw there- his eyes were filled with so many emotions that she couldn’t quite discern before he hid them away again. "Heero…I-" she swallowed hard, trying to get out the words that she longed to say, yet feared his reaction to. He looked at her. She took a deep breath and started again. "Heero, I love you." she said quickly, managing to get the words out. She closed her eyes and turned away. Heero’s eyes widened and an amazing array of emotions swirled in their Prussian blue depths. He leaned down and whispered in her ear, "Aishiteru, Relena", then kissed her softly on her cheek. Her eyes flew open and she looked at him, then smiled. He smiled back, then had to stifle a laugh as Relena sat up and put her arms around him tightly. He gladly returned the embrace. A knock on the door made them both jump. "Excuse me, Vice Foreign Minister, but you have a meeting with the other delegates in three hours, so you really should be getting up now…" "Alright, I’ll be out as soon as I’m ready, thank you" Relena called back. The click of high-heeled footsteps was heard walking away down the hall. She looked at Heero. "Here goes another tortuous meeting then…" she said wryly, shaking her head. He kissed her forehead and smoothed back her hair. "I’ll be there too, Relena; you won’t be alone, alright?" She hugged him again and nodded, then sighed. "I need to take a shower…" She got up and grabbed her robe, then started towards the bathroom, stopping in the doorway when she saw the water sitting in the bathtub, and leaned heavily against the wall. Heero stood up and walked over to her, hugging her from behind. He then went and drained the water, and turned to Relena. "It’s alright; go ahead and take your shower now." He kissed her cheek, then walked back over to the chair he’d been sitting in. She swallowed hard, then went into the bathroom and took her shower; put her robe on, then came out and went over to her closet. Heero came up behind her. She smiled, then picked out a white business skirt, blouse, and jacket set. "Umm…" she glanced over at Heero, blushing. He blinked, then blushed too. "I’ll just be out on the balcony…you can tap on the window when you’re… dressed." He cleared his throat and exited. She chuckled and got dressed and ready, then tapped on the window. She could see that he’d been looking out at the garden. He turned when he heard her, and she walked out to join him. "See anything interesting out there?" she asked as he pulled her into a hug. He nodded, and led her over to the railing. "The roses" he replied simply. She leaned on the rail and looked down at them. She smiled. Those roses, up until Heero had decided to stay, had been really the only true joy in her life. She had insisted rather forcefully that she had to have someplace for herself. In the end, though, she’d won that argument. Those were the roses that she had planted herself, cared for, and on certain occasions, talked to. The occasions were when she snuck out of her room late at night, when there was no moon. The moon was her confidante- the roses were there when the moon was gone. Always the teddy bear went with her. As far as she knew, no one had ever noticed her little late night journeys. Except perhaps Heero… That thought shook her out of her reverie, and she glanced over at Heero- to find him watching her with a slight smile on his face. She started to laugh at his expression when he realized she’d seen him looking at her. He blushed slightly, which surprised her a bit, and she shook her head in amusement. She leaned up to give him a kiss on the cheek, then happened to see the clock in her room. "Oops; I need to get going!" she exclaimed. Heero put a possessive arm around her waist and led her back in, grabbed her folder, handed it to her, and guided her out the door. She closed her eyes briefly, willing away her headache. It didn’t work- it seemed that all of her will was busy keeping both her sanity and patience in check- it couldn’t bother with something as trivial as a headache. "What a shame…" she thought wearily. She opened her eyes again, and barely managed to restrain a groan. They were still arguing. Watching her from the shadows, Heero started to understand why she didn’t enjoy her life at all. They would argue, she would intercede, they would apologize and then compliment her, it would be calm for all of two minutes, and then they would start to argue again. He hadn’t really understood before, this being the first meeting he’d actually attended. He wished he could just take her out of the meeting; he could see how badly she needed a break. She stood to make herself more visible as she struggled to control her temper. She took a deep breath. "Excuse me, gentlemen, but if we could possibly get back to the original topic…?" And there they went again with the apologies and compliments as she sat back down. She stifled a sigh. "I can’t take any more of this" she thought as the argument started up again. She stood. Again. "Gentlemen! If you cannot end this circular bickering, then this meeting is adjourned!" She picked up her folder and walked out of the meeting, leaving the delegates staring after her in shock. Heero stifled a chuckle and also made his exit, catching up to her and putting a comforting hand on her shoulder. She leaned against him and sighed. "It’s like this, everyday. It’s always the same." She murmured. He moved his arm so it was around her instead and gave her a hug. She smiled faintly, the blinked. "Heero… where are we going?" she asked curiously. She felt him laugh. He leaned down. "There’s somewhere that I want to show you," he whispered in her ear. "Where would that be?" His smile widened. "You’ll see when we get there; but first…" He steered her to her room. "You’ll want to wear something more casual." He kissed her cheek and went out on the balcony. Her headache was gone now, replaced with an intense curiosity. She quickly changed into a pair of blue-jeans and a blue hooded sweatshirt, putting her hair in a ponytail. She walked out onto the balcony, and he turned to face her. She raised an eyebrow. Will this do?" She asked as she gave a little spin, her voice tinged with humor. He nodded, then grinned at her. "Come on!" He took her hand and led her outside to his car and opened the door for her, and closed it after she got in. He entered in the driver side and started up the car. Knowing she wouldn’t get any answers, she stayed silent, though she kept throwing questioning glances at him. She also noted with amusement the way his eyes were sparkling. He said nothing though either. They drove for a half an hour or so before they reached a deserted gravel road lined with tall trees that had seen the ages. He turned into it, until they came to a dead end, where he stopped. There was a part of the forest in front of them now, too. He got out and came around to open her door for her, offering her a hand. She took it, and he led her into the trees in front of them. "Where-" she began, but was cut off by his finger on her lips, and then he pointed over to the right. She looked, and a delighted smile danced across her face and in her eyes. There, no more than five feet away, was a mother doe and her spotted fawn. She watched them, and squeezed Heero’s hand, and he squeezed back. The deer were so beautiful… The two suddenly saw them and walked away; they seemed to realize the humans weren’t a threat, but that didn’t mean they wanted to have so much company. Only when they were removed from both sight and hearing did Heero and Relena let out the breaths they had each been holding, though neither had realized it. Then they smiled at eachother, and Heero led her further into the forest. "Well," she thought, "at least now I know why he insisted on casual clothes." After twenty minutes and three more animal sightings, they stopped in front of an age-twisted willow tree; the trunk looked as if someone had turned it around and around until it stayed. The wispy branches swept gracefully to the ground to form a sort of natural curtain. He pushed them to the side, and they found themselves in what was almost a canopied tent; but he brought her directly over to the other side and the curtain there. "Close your eyes" he whispered, his first words in nearly an hour. When he was certain she had done so, he pulled back those branches as well, and put his other arm around her waist and gave her a slight hug. "Alright; look." Relena opened her eyes and gasped slightly at what she saw. It was beautiful. There were only two feet or so of rocky ledge till it dropped down to another ledge, and another, forming a slightly precarious set of stairs; but that wasn’t what had caught her attention. Where the rocks ended, a white-sand beach began, then ended at a Prussian blue ocean, spread out to blanket the earth as far out as she could see, until it met the clear blue sky. "The same shade as Heero’s eyes," she thought. "This is beautiful, Heero," she whispered in awe. He smiled. "This is where I go to get away, when I need a chance to relax or think." He hesitated briefly. "As far as I know, we’re the only ones who’ve seen this place." She leaned up and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you for bringing me Heero; it’s lovely." They stood for awhile, watching the waves rush up to meet the beach, then swish back again. After a time they made their way down to the beach and waded into the water, where Relena promptly splashed him. Laughing, and with a hint of challenge on his face, he splashed her back. They went back and forth that way for awhile, until Heero tackled her and began tickling her. Gasping for breath in between her giggles, she managed to get out, "Tickling… isn’t… fair… Heero… Yuy!" He laughed, but stopped tickling her and helped her up. She caught her breath and gave him a mock glare, putting her hands on her hips and facing him. Heero regarded her with amusement. "You’re soaked" was all he said; not exactly the response she’d expected; and started to laugh. "So are you!" she replied. That was about the time when she noticed that the sun was beginning to set and that the first dark shades of twilight would soon be setting in. Heero noticed too, and started to lead her back up the rocks. She was about to protest, wanting to watch the sunset with him, when they stopped at the top of the rocks in front of the willow tree, which Heero sat down in front of, pulling her down with him. She ended up in his lap, half curled up, and his arms warm around her. They watched the sunset together, and watched as the first sparkling stars appeared in the night sky. They stood then, and made the walk back to the car; Relena was hard pressed to keep from shivering since the sun had gone down, and Heero kept his arm close around her. When they finally reached the car, the first thing Heero did was to retrieve a blanket from the trunk and wrap it around Relena before ushering her into the car, which soon had the heat turned up. It wasn’t long before Relena fell asleep while Heero drove. When she awoke, it was to bright sunlight streaming through, the balcony windows onto her face. She blinked her eyes opened, and wondered, "was it al a dream?" She got up, and two somethings tumbled down the pillows from next to where her head had been. She regarded them with a growing smile on her face. One of the somethings was the little brown bear Heero had given her for her sixteenth birthday. And the other… The other was a matching white teddy bear with a Prussian blue ribbon around its- no, her, she decided- neck. A small note was tucked into the ribbon, .and she took it out to read. She unfolded the piece of paper with trembling fingers and read. Relena, I think maybe the brown bear has been alone for too long; now he has company. Love, Heero Relena’s eyes lit up and she laughed softly. She picked up both bears and hugged them, then went out onto the balcony, still carrying them. She leaned on the rail and looked out at the roses. It was a beautiful, sunny, spring day and the only sound was the birds singing in the fresh clean air. She knew she had a meeting later on that day, but in this moment everything seemed somehow… right. From the shadows just to the side of the balcony door, Heero watched her with a smile. She had changed him, allowed him to be who he truly was instead of the perfect soldier he had been trained and designed as. He uncrossed his arms and walked silently to her and put his arms around her waist from behind. Relena jumped, a bit startled, then turned to face him with a warm smile and an even warmer hug. He held her close, remembering. Remembering the day she found him at the beach, the St. Gabriel’s Institute and the class party there, the military base the day of her birthday, the Sanc Kingdom, Libra, leaving her the teddy bear on the plane, when MarieMeia was defeated…two nights ago when he found her on the bathroom floor about to slit her wrists, yesterday at the beach… "I’m so lucky" he thought with wonder. He was so glad that he stopped her that night, all too aware of how close he’d come to losing something so precious to him. His arms around her tightened. Relena felt his arms tighten around her and closed her eyes, treasuring this moment. "We’re not alone anymore" she thought gratefully. "Heero…" she began in a whisper. He looked down at her questioningly. "Heero, thank you." she said. She closed her eyes and put her face to his chest then, holding him close, so she didn’t see his eyes widen in surprise, or the tears that suddenly appeared in them. He felt a dampness on his chest then, and realized she was crying too. He leaned down and whispered in her ear, "Aishiteru Relena, and don’t ever doubt it." She gave him a tearful smile, like the sun coming out through the rain. He nearly had the impression that he’d see a rainbow. I’ll never doubt it on one condition." He gave her another questioning look and she leaned up to whisper in his ear. "I won’t doubt it so long as you never doubt how very much I love you, Heero Yuy." "Never." He kissed her, and the rest of the world fell away from their perfect moment. The two teddy bears, brown and white, sat next to eachother on the balcony rail, watching the roses bloom. "Peace is the soul of all things; what we must all do is find our souls."