Chapter 1: A vacation might be nice.
The day was slowly fading into dusk in the window behind her, the incoming light low and golden. Birds chirped occasionally, producing the only outside noise.
Relena sat at her desk, answering correspondence. The week had been slow, so she might have time to answer some of the fan letters herself. She would have liked to answer them all (they were by far more entertaining than this official correspondence between colony leaders), but she received thousands of letters a week. Still, she liked to answer some, especially from young children.
Most official correspondence were complaints of one sort or another, but this particular letter was a thank you for addressing a small colony's needs before the ESUN parliament. She decided it would be the last letter of the day-- it would be nice to leave on a high note, for once. There would still be a couple of hours of daylight left; dinner in the garden would be nice. Maybe followed by a swim.
She hid a smile at the thought, but the prospects were promising. Heero was acting less like a bodyguard today. He was sitting in front of her desk, feet propped up in the other chair, reading a book. He looked almost relaxed. The only sounds in the office were mutual page-rustling and breathing.
Relena finished the short note and signed her name in long, loping letters. There, done. Her secretary would find an envelope and mail it, so Relena let the thin paper float into the rosewood outbox on her desk.
She noticed Heero tracking her out of the corner of his eye as she capped her pen and put it away, and she smiled at him.
This was nice.
"Miss Relena?" her secretary's voice intruded in an almost painful way.
Suppressing a groan, she hit the intercom. "Yes?"
"There's a man here to see you, but he doesn't have an appointment..."
The door flew open, and a dark-skinned man stood in the doorway, taking up most of the available space. Heero had long ago snapped his book shut and planted both feet on the floor, and his gun was pointed before the door was finished opening.
The man ignored Heero and his weapon, however. "Ms. Darlian!" he gasped, and bowed a little. "My name is Abdul al-Bazhar, I am a Maganac. Quatre-sama has sent me to escort you to his home on Earth at once, for your own protection. I have a shuttle waiting."
Relena felt her lazy day slip away at once, and resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She was too used to this sort of thing to even become pale any more. Resigned, she scooped the rest of the stack of letters into her slim briefcase, snapped it shut, and stood up, ready to go. Heero was still glaring and pointing his gun.
"Come along, Heero" she said as she swept past him.
Scowling, he lowered the weapon, but kept it in his hand.
In the hallway, Heero took it upon himself to run ahead, slinking around corners and waving his gun, then skulking while he waited for them to catch up.
Relena walked quickly, but unrushed, after Abdul, swinging her briefcase. A vacation might be nice.
Quatre and Trowa were waiting on the landing strip, squinting up into the sun as the transport settled among clouds of dust. It was a camouflaged Preventer ship, and Sally Po jumped out as soon as it landed, stalking out to Quatre and Trowa. She paused long enough to greet them politely, then continued stalking into the house.
Trowa and Quatre, confused but not surprised, turned back to watch Wufei exit the ship. "What's the matter with Dr. Po?" Quatre asked when he reached them.
Wufei sniffed. "I'm sure I don't know what that woman's problem is now."
"Did you say something to her?" Quatre pressed.
"Just the truth. Those pants *do* make her look fat."
"Wufei..." Quatre groaned, and Trowa shook his head in pity.
Inside, Heero was sitting next to Relena, on the couch. Duo was sitting in a nearby chair. When Quatre and Trowa had last seen them, Relena was sandwiched between the two men, but Duo had somehow been induced to move. Quatre suspected it had something to do with Heero, and the way Duo had greeted Relena when they arrived. Heero hadn't seemed to appreciate Duo shouting "Ojousan!," grabbing her around the waist, and swinging her in a circle.
Sally was pacing in front of them, glaring and ranting. "He's self-absorbed, pigheaded, ahh! And he'll never change! I've *tried*, really I have, but I don't know what to do--" she broke off when she noticed the three men had entered the room.
"I cannot" she growled, pointing at Wufei, "work with *that* anymore!"
Wufei growled back. "Woman! What do you think you are doing! You're making a fool of yourself! Over nothing!"
"Nothing!" she shouted. Too frustrated to continue speaking, Sally rushed out of the room. Wufei stood for a moment, before leaving as well, grumbling about weak, foolish women.
"Oh yeah," said Duo, once Wufei had slammed the door behind
himself, "they want each other."
Chapter 2: "I think we're through with dinner."
Quatre and Relena managed to talk Sally and Wufei into sitting at the same table for dinner. Quatre seated them at opposite ends, afraid they would start throwing dinner rolls and couscous at each other.
Heero pulled out Relena's chair on one side of Sally. "Thank you Heero" she smiled as he pushed the chair in for her.
Duo immediately plopped down on her other side. Heero, still standing behind Relena's chair, glared at him.
"What?" the God of Death asked, blinking innocence.
"Move" Heero growled in a dangerous, low voice, one hand reaching for his gun. Duo immediately shot out of his chair and ran to the other side of the table, next to Wufei. Heero sat down in the newly vacated seat. When he wasn't looking, Duo stuck his tongue out in Heero's direction. Heero glared at Duo again, to be on the safe side, when Relena laughed lightly.
Quatre smiled at the antics of his friends as he sat at the head of the table. Wufei glared at Duo, not pleased to have to sit next to the Braided Baka for dinner. Duo was used to ignoring Wufei, however.
Dinner was peaceful, if silent, for fifteen minutes. Sally couldn't stand Wufei's smug face anymore, and tore a small piece of bread off, rolling it into a ball. When no one was looking, she threw the projectile across the table, pinging Wufei in the forehead.
Wufei jerked his head up and searched the table, ready to pounce on the culprit.
Trowa dropped his head, hiding behind his bangs, pretending he hadn't seen anything.
Wufei gave the appearance of relaxing, and went back to eating. This time, a piece of bread bounced off the top of his head and landed in the middle of his plate.
He looked at Sally, scowling, but she seemed absorbed in conversation with Relena. Frowning, Wufei turned to look at the Number Two suspect. 02, however, was shoveling food in his mouth without noticing anything going on around him.
Duo briefly looked up and flashed a grin at Wufei before returning to steam shovel mode.
Wufei, disgusted, turned back to his plate. He kept up a constant surveillance, however.
Duo wondered what Wufei's problem was. The Wu-man kept glaring at him. Duo snuck a piece of bread into his lap. He tore off a corner, and rolled it into a little ball. From his lap, he popped it up at Wufei.
The ball bounced off Wufei's nose and landed with a splash in his water glass.
This time, Wufei had been watching. With a snarl, he turned to Duo and delivered an upper cut to his jaw. Duo fell backwards off his chair, surprised. Quatre and Trowa leapt on Wufei to hold him down. At the other end of the table, Sally and Relena stood up to see what was going on. Heero alone remained seated, calmly continuing to eat. And maybe smiling a little.
"Wufei! What the hell was that for!?" Duo shouted, rubbing his jaw.
"You dishonorable *baka*!" Wufei cried. "You've been throwing bread at me!"
Everyone was quiet for a moment, pondering the implications. "Was some bread really worth that?" Trowa asked.
"You idiot!" Sally shouted. "That was me!"
"Injustice!" Duo shouted.
"I saw him throw them" Wufei insisted, frowning.
"I only threw one" Duo whined.
"Hmph" Wufei grumbled.
"Apologize" Sally ordered.
"To him? Never!"
"Damn you Wufei! You can never admit when you're wrong, can you?"
"*cough* Mariemeia *cough*" Duo said from the floor.
Wufei lunged, but Trowa and Quatre managed to catch him. Duo scrambled away backward.
Two Maganacs burst in. "Quatre-sama! We heard fighting! Are you all right?"
"Yes" Quatre smiled, still holding on to Wufei's arm. "I think we're through with dinner, though."
"I wasn't" Duo complained, but then groaned and clutched his jaw again.
"You won't be able to eat for a while" Heero observed. "Maybe your jaw will have to be wired shut" he sounded hopeful. Relena kicked him under the table.
Everyone wandered away after dinner. Heero and Relena snuck into her room to sleep. Trowa noticed, but being Trowa, said nothing. Wufei and Sally were put at opposite ends of the house. Quatre hoped this would work better then the table.
After everyone else had disappeared for the evening, Quatre slipped into his study. He rang up a number that was very difficult to get a hold of. He was jittery; he wasn't looking forward to making this call.
"Ms. Noin!" Quatre sighed with relief.
"Quatre!" she looked pleased to see him. "How is everything going?"
"Not bad" he smiled, feeling tired. "Everyone's here. Miss Relena's safe. All the Gundam pilots are here. 30 Maganacs are on the grounds, the rest are in strategic locations all over Earth and the Colonies. Preventers are here, as well. Tell Mr. Marquise he can sleep tonight."
Noin smiled. "Thank you, Quatre. You're a wonderful friend."
Quatre blushed. "It's less then Miss. Relena has done for us," he insisted.
"Good night, Quatre."
"Good night, Ms. Noin."
Chapter 3: If they were all insane, it wasn't his problem.
Relena lay quiet and still, listening to Heero breath next to her. She didn't know at what point it had become impossible for her to sleep without him, but it had. He had integrated himself into her heart, her soul, her life, and now even her rest. She didn't mind, though. She always felt better having him near. She thought he must feel the same way; even in hotel rooms with two beds, they always shared.
She rested a hand on his smooth, strong shoulder, watching the sunlight dancing over him. He looked younger when he slept, but so did everyone. His hair was tousled, and he looked an innocent, the little lost boy he must have once been. Except she had found him, and over the past year, he had stopped looking quite so lost.
It had started when he had first returned to her, showing up to be her bodyguard. He wouldn't leave her alone even if she demanded it, and insisted on being in her room at night. Apparently, he never slept. He had tried to sit in a chair all night, but she talked him out of it. ďItís a large bed.Ē It wasn't so hard, sharing, sort of comforting really, and finally they had given up any pretense. They went to bed more or less at the same time, together, and he slept next to her, under the covers.
Ostensibly he was there to protect her, but there had been nights when Relena woke to find his arms wrapped tight around her, his face pressed into her hair and neck. Sometimes he was breathing fast, shaking, just woken from some nightmare. She longed to comfort him more actively, but knew he couldn't allow himself that much weakness in front of her yet. She could serve him better by laying still and pretending sleep, so that was what she did, her heart breaking as he cried his tears into her pillow.
Oh, Heero, she sighed to herself, and transferred her head to his shoulder, and her hand to his hair. She loved him so much. She couldn't imagine not having known him, now, even though she remembered the day they met like it was yesterday. And still, they were pretending. At least now they were playing house instead of enemies, but neither were very convincing. Still sleeping, he turned his head toward her, like a flower seeking the sun. His chin grazed her forehead. She let her arm rest along the curve of his face, his neck, his chest.
He was beautiful, her prince. She closed her eyes and rested with him again.
Sally woke slowly, but aware that something was off. What was it? Oh yes. She was at Quatre's retreat. Sleeping with Wufei.
Stupid dream. She squeezed her eyes shut, then forced them open again to check. Nope. It was still happening. Damnit.
What the hell had she been thinking? They couldn't sleep together! They could barely stand to be in the same room. They were co-workers. He was that annoying kid, only capable of selfishness and arrogance and honor and bravery and brilliance and...
Last night, Sally hadn't been able to sleep. Still furious at Wufei, in the middle of the night she'd tiptoed down to his room, full of righteous anger.
He was still up, and answered her knock promptly. He was dressed only in loose white pajama pants. His hair was undone. And he was wearing glasses.
Her stomach had flip-flop at the sight, and she forgot the speech she'd been working on.
"Yes?" he said, but there hadn't been a sneer in his voice.
Sally was reminded he was only four years younger then she was, that he was an adult now. Very definitely a man.
It had all gone downhill from there-- or uphill, depending on where you were standing.
Sally wasn't sure where she was standing. His creamy skin looked dark against her pale arm. His hands didnít have many callouses on them, reminding her he had been a scholar longer then a warrior. It was possible it was his lips resting against the vertebra in her neck.
Oh God and Nataku, she thought, what have I done? She knew what she had to do now. Get the hell out. She had to leave. But what would she do when she saw him again? Pretend it never happened? There was a large part of her that was reluctant to hurt Wufei, but she was also wondering *if* it would hurt him. What had this meant to him? Did it mean anything to him?
Well, she had to ignore the part of her that wanted to stay curled up next to him and be his *onna*. Sally carefully slipped out from under his arm, leaving it stretched out across the bed. She pulled on her pajamas and eased the door open as little as possible. She pressed it closed with the quietest possible snick.
She jumped, her heart pounding *caught, caught*. Trying to breathe, she found herself face to face with Trowa, blinking calmly, although puzzled.
"I..." how could she explain this to Trowa when she couldn't explain it to herself? "Don't tell anyone" she hissed.
"Of course" he nodded.
Sally nodded back, still hesitating, then turned and ran to her room.
Trowa shrugged and continued on his way. If they
were all insane, it wasn't his problem.
Chapter 4: "That bad, huh?" "No...That *good*."
Heero surveyed the study carefully. Everyone was spread out over the room while they waited for Lady Une to ring them. Relena was tucked in a corner with Sally, who looked unhappy. Relena had her devious face on. No one would recognize it but Heero, but it was the look she wore when she was trying to talk someone into doing something, or getting information out of someone. He couldn't think of why she would be wearing the devious face with Sally Po, but there it was.
Duo was sitting in an overstuffed chair, glumly holding a heating pad to his jaw, and sucking down a smoothie through a straw. His jaw had stiffened up over night, and he had not, in fact, been able to eat this morning. Heero had been amused, and was rather surprised when Wufei hadn't taken any pleasure from the situation. It seemed he didn't even notice it, in fact, just pushing his food around his plate, unless he thought someone was looking. Then he would take a large, showy bite. And try to hide it when he gagged on it.
Quatre was sitting at the desk, fiddling with the vidphone,
and the connections to the larger screen. He kept looking around
the room, puzzled by everyone's off behavior. Trowa was leaning against
the wall, not looking surprised at anyone's behavior. It was difficult
to tell if this was just because that was how Trowa looked, or if he knew
something Heero did not.
Sally's face was buried in her hands, and she refused to look up. She was afraid she might see Wufei. She kept moaning "I can't believe I did that" over and over.
Relena sighed, yet again, and tugged at Sally's arm, yet again. "First of all" she tried again, "both of you did that. And for God's sake Sally, how *was* it?"
"Oh my God" she groaned.
Relena winced. "That bad, huh?" No wonder Sally was having such a problem with it.
"No" Sally moaned. "That *good*."
Relena's jaw hit the floor, but before she could ask anything else, the vidphone beeped, signalling Lady Une's call.
Quatre was startled, and it took a moment before he could answer. Very soon, however, Une appeared on the large screen, looking overworked. "I'm glad to see you're all there and safe" she began.
"What's going on?" Relena spoke up. Being used to this situation was one thing, but she didn't have to like it.
"I'll try to explain the situation as rapidly as possible" Une nodded in Relena's direction. "Over the past six months, Miss Relena, you have been receiving letters of a threatening nature. Unbeknownst to you, obviously."
"They were threatening how?" Duo asked.
Heero glared at him. Une looked uncomfortable, but answered. "They were of a violent and... explicit... nature."
Relena suddenly felt rather uncomfortable herself, and looked down. Sally took her hand and squeezed. Duo was chastised and resumed sucking on his straw.
"We felt there was little real threat involved" Une continued. "Relena is hardly the first person to have a stalker. When the writer began giving specific details of the Peacecraft Mansion and ESUN parliament house, however, we began to monitor the situation more closely.
"We discovered the source of these threats-- a man on a small L5 colony. Right when we found him, however, he disappeared.
"Mr. Winner's Maganacs regularly patrol the landing pads on Earth, and matched his description when he disembarked from a shuttle in Europe. That's when Miss Relena was removed to your present location, until the Preventers can pick him up."
Relena had gone steadily paler through Lady Une's report, and she was still and quiet through the remainder of the conversation with Lady Une. It was to be expected, she supposed. She was widely known throughout Earth and the Colonies. There was nothing to worry about. The Preventers would pick him up, she would never even have to see him.
After Une hung up, Relena slipped to Heero's side. "I want to read some of these letters." He looked very stern.
"No, you do not."
"Yes, I do. You've read them!"
"Yes, I have. And you will not read them. I forbid it."
"Forbid it? Who the hell do you think you are, Heero?"
He grabbed her arms. "Relena, you don't want to read them. Trust me on this, if nothing else. I will find him and kill him. There is no need for you to get any more involved in this then you already are."
She closed her eyes. "I do trust you Heero, you know that. Promise me you'll leave this to the Preventers." He opened his mouth to object. "And I won't try to read any letters, okay?"
He shut his mouth, and nodded after a moment. He let her go, rubbing his hands up and down her arms gently, to make up for grabbing her so roughly.
The Preventers were laughable. The simple disguise
got him by easily, and he was off. To find his destiny, where ever
Chapter 5: "Duo. I'm going to kill you."
An hour and a half after Lady Une hung up, Zeches and Noin called back. Quatre and Relena answered, Heero hiding behind them.
Quatre explained the situation to Zeches. Relena was still feeling ill at the thought. It wouldn't have worried her so much, except that everyone else was so worried. She knew they had a tendency to overprotect her, but this all seemed too extensive unless there was a serious threat.
Quatre and Relena spent several moments calming Zeches down and convincing him Relena was all right. Noin left to get him some water, while Quatre continued trying to reassure Marquise.
Heero was pacing in the back, out of Zeches's sight. He came forward now, leaning over Relena's chair.
Zeches stopped listening and grit his teeth.
They glared at each other through the screen for a few minutes, then Heero let a smug smile twist his lips. He rested his hand on Relena's shoulder...
"The Preventers have already sent men out," Quatre was saying.
...Then lifted his hand and ran it along the side of Relena's face, gently tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear...
"Lady Une will let us know the second--"
...trailing his fingers through the long, soft lock, wrapping it around his finger, angling it in such a way that Zeches couldn't miss the action.
Zeches jumped out of his chair. "Get your hands off her, Yuy!" he shouted, looking like he was trying to get through the screen to strangle Heero, or at least break his hands off.
Heero only continued smirking, his hands back on her shoulders.
Relena and Quatre had jumped at Zeches's outburst. Relena frowned and smacked Heero's leg. "Stop antagonizing him!" she hissed.
She turned back to the screen and smiled at her brother, trying to placate Millardo, who was still seething. On the other side, a confused Noin was back, trying to calm down her husband. Again.
Duo was highly suspicious. Wufei and Sally were acting even stranger then usual, and there was something odd going on between Heero and Relena. At the moment, he was listening to Trowa talking to Catherine over the vidphone. He wasn't getting anything good, though; Catherine was doing most of the talking.
"That's the most horrible thing I ever heard" she said decisively. "Poor Relena. I hope this creep is caught soon."
Trowa said nothing that Duo could hear.
"Will you come home soon?" she asked.
"As soon as possible" Trowa said in his quiet voice.
They said their goodbyes, and Duo jumped up to run away. His jaw ached as he jumped around, but if Heero could run with a broken leg, Duo could run with a busted jaw.
He scooted down an adjacent hall and ducked into an empty bathroom as he waited for Trowa to walk to past.
Duo wasn't getting anything good. He wandered off to look out the window at the end of the hall. Relena and Heero were in the garden. Relena had a book she was swatting at Heero, who seemed to be getting in her sun. Heero was glowering at her. Situation normal.
Duo had an idea.
He slunk down to the end of the hallway and looked rapidly back and forth. Coast was clear. Duo shot off for Heero's room.
He knew it would be empty, but he was cautious when he poked his head in. He wouldn't put it past Heero Yuy to have booby-trapped it some way. The room was meticulously neat, but Duo had expected nothing less. It made it difficult for a search to go undetected. Of course, the maid had probably been here already, but Duo bet she hadn't found much to clean up.
Unfortunately, it eliminated anything that could have been evidence for...anything. The bed was tightly made, all the sheet corners tucked in. The bureau and desktop were empty...Heero must have hidden his laptop somewhere. Duo pulled open all the dresser drawers, then the closet. Nothing. Nothing under the bed, either.
Duo stood in the middle of the room, considering. And then it hit him. Heero's room was *completely* empty. Heero and Relena had taken the time to pack a small bag each; he'd seen them when they arrived. So where was Heero's stuff?
With a wicked smile, he took one more glance around the room, to make sure everything was in place.
Duo snuck into Relena's room, relieved to find it was still vacant. The bed was made, but he pulled the covers back and the pillows looked slept-on. And...both Heero and Relena's bags were in the closet. Chortling with glee, Duo carefully replaced everything. He was about to open the door when he heard Relena's voice in the hall.
Panicky, Duo slipped into the closet and shut the door after himself. He couldn't believe he'd gotten caught-- he, Duo Maxwell! On the other hand, he might get to hear all sorts of good stuff.
Relena was complaining about Heero making her come in. "It can't be that much safer inside," she protested. "And it's so beautiful out!"
Heero grunted in response.
Duo struggled to see out the slats on the door. Relena had thrown her towel down on the floor and was digging through some drawers. Heero bent down and folded the towel, then placed it next to the door for the maid to pick up and launder. Relena, with a bunch of clothes in her hand, stepped into the bathroom and shut the door.
Burn! Duo thought, grinning. He was amusing himself so thoroughly, he failed to notice Heero approaching the closet until he jerked the door open. Duo tumbled onto his best friend's feet and looked up at him, still grinning.
"Duo. I'm going to kill you."
"I know." With that, Duo scrambled upright, stomping on
Heero's feet, hoping it would delay Heero somewhat. Duo fled.
Chapter 6: He hit the ground again, unconscious this time.
"Where are Heero and Duo?" Quatre asked, puzzled, as everyone else took seats at the table.
"Is he still chasing Maxwell around the garden?" Wufei asked, not sounding very surprised.
"Yes." Trowa answered. "I just checked on them. Heero has Duo treed. He says he won't leave."
Relena sighed and stood up. "All right, who wants to come with me?"
"I'll go" Sally said immediately.
The two girls found Heero and Duo in a corner of the garden. "Don't you think it's time to come in, boys?" Sally called. "Dinner's ready!"
"And I really, really have to go to the bathroom!" Duo wailed.
"Then come down" Heero suggested coldly.
"It's not worth dying over!"
"For crying out loud" Relena groaned. "Heero...please come inside. Leave Duo alone. What ever he did couldn't have been this bad."
"He snuck into your room." Heero announced, eyes glinting.
"What!" Relena and Sally shrieked.
"Ah, er..." Duo shifted uncomfortably on the branch.
"Duo! What were you doing!" Relena called.
"You and Heero are sleeping together!" he shouted in self-defense.
Heero began to climb the tree.
"You never told me!" Sally turned to Relena, sounding hurt. "And after what I told you!"
"It's not that like!" Relena protested. "We sleep together, but...that's *it*! Just sleep!"
Heero and Duo, in the tree, exchanged a glance. "That's great" Heero grumbled. "Tell the whole world, why don't you!"
Duo grinned at him. "So...what, Heero?" he said so only the other boy could hear him. "You two cuddle all night?"
Heero lunged. Duo backed up, but fell backwards and out of the tree.
He wailed on the ground.
Heero laughed to himself. Relena and Sally glared at Duo, who was slowly pulling himself off the ground, rubbing various parts of his body.
With a large puppy face, he wandered off to call Hilde. Relena, Heero, and Sally, sworn to silence, went back up to dinner.
He could see it, feel it, glinting across at him like an oasis. An oasis in the desert of his misery. He grinned. Victory was near, he could taste it on the wind. No time at all, now, and She would be his. They would be together, She would be with him, where She belonged.
"What did Sally tell you?" Heero hissed, as they walked back to their room after dinner.
"I'm still not telling you, Heero. That was said to me in confidence."
"I might need to know, for your safety--"
"Heero, believe me, it has *nothing* to do with me, or you, or anything except Sally and Wufei."
"So it has something to do with Wufei as well?"
"Er--, ah, sort of. Not that it's any of your business."
"And it is yours?"
"I don't see how."
Relena scowled and crossed her arms as they walked. "Sally told me, not you. So yes, Heero, it is different."
They had reached the bedroom now. "Go ahead" Heero opened the door for her. "There's something I want to discuss with Quatre first."
"All right. See you in a few minutes?"
Relena went in and changed into cotton pajamas, then sat on top of the bed to wait for Heero.
Heero found Quatre and Trowa in Quatre's study. Heero stayed only a few minutes, to see if any new information from the Preventers had come in.
"Some one's been hacking into Preventer communications." Quatre announced grimly.
Heero frowned. "Does he know where she is?"
"How long ago?"
"We need to know how much time we have until he gets here."
"It's been 24 hours" Trowa said.
"He could be here already."
Heero turned and headed off for Relena's room at once. He had only reached the corner, however, when everything went dark.
Sally entered one end of the long hallway, only to see Wufei at the other end. She turned quickly, hoping to escape before he noticed her. But the hallway went black.
Duo frowned and smacked his monitor. The vidphone in his room had suddenly gone out, right in the middle of telling Hilde about the tree. He got up to go find another one, but stumbled over his shoe in the dark. Scowling, he reached out and hit the lightplate on the wall. Nothing happened.
"What the hell?" he muttered. Duo reached for the
door, but a loud bang came from behind it. Duo used the door to block
his body, and carefully pulled the door open. It was pitch black
in the hallway too. Cursing, Duo moved to slip out the door, only
to find there was a steel wall where the doorway should have been.
He hit the ground again, unconscious this time.
Chapter 7: He laughed, and began.
The very air was different here, more rarified, more pure. It was Her presence, he knew it. To think, She might have put Her foot *here*! Her hand might have touched this doorknob! He was almost giddy with Her nearness. But he had to keep focused. It was time. If everything went as planned, he would have Her tonight.
Two Maganacs down, 28 more, plus 6 Preventers, to go.
He laughed, and began.
Trowa and Quatre pounded on the fire door, but it was no use. Quatre sighed and leaned his back against it. "This is terrible" he sighed. "I don't know why it's malfunctioning."
Trowa leaned next to him and folded his arms. "How do these systems work?"
Quatre frowned. "I don't use this place much" he admitted. "But I think they're pretty standard fire-suppression systems. When the alarm is triggered, a claxon sounds, and water or foam, depending on the room, is released from the ceiling. After 15 minutes, the fire doors slam down to prevent the further spread of the fire."
"But there was no alarm, no water, and I'd bet there's no fire" Trowa concluded. "Someone must have hacked into the fire door system separately. And cut the power."
"But who would do such a thing?" Quatre cried. He fell silent, though, since it was apparent to both of them who would do this. Relena's stalker.
"Heero couldn't have reached her in time" Trowa said after a moment.
"We've got to get out of here" Quatre moaned.
Sally was relieved when Wufei sounded as uncertain as she felt. Before she could think of something else to say, there was a breeze and a whooshing sound. Sally jumped back from the wall, and heavy thuds rattled the floor at various places around the hallway.
"Woman?" Sally was pleased by the concern in his voice.
"I'm all right, Wufei, how about you?"
"I am fine."
"What was that?" she asked.
"There are steel doors over the doorways" Wufei reported, his voice moving closer.
Sally took several hesitant steps toward him. "Where did those doors come from?"
"I think--" Wufei was interrupted when something grabbed Sally's arm and she shrieked. Her arm was released, and she jumped back, grabbing in front of her. She grabbed a fistful of cloth.
They laughed nervously, and Sally quickly let him go.
"What were you saying?" she asked, after a moment.
"Ah--" he paused, trying to collect his thoughts. "Yes. I think it's part of the fire suppression system. But I don't know why only the doors went off. Or why the power went off, for that matter."
They both sighed, and sank down to the floor, sitting close, but not touching.
Relena was sitting on her bed, trying not to fall asleep after the large meal. She tried to open her eyes, but they wouldn't open. It took her a moment to realize the power was out. A dull thud sounded from outside her door.
"Heero?" she called uncertainly.
It was dark in her room, and there wasn't much light coming in from the window, since it was a new moon. Her eyes were starting to adjust, however, and Relena moved slowly across the room to open the door. The faint starlight caught a glistening where the hallway should be, and when she reached out her hand she touched cold metal.
"What the..." The metal went all the way to the floor, and was impossible to move. Relena tried banging her hand on the door and screaming, but all it got her was a sore hand.
With a sigh, and cradling her bruised hand, she sat back down on the bed to wait.
Heero was furious. He paced back and forth in the
small hallway between Quatre's study and the intersection with the main
hallway. This stalker, who ever he was, had obviously infiltrated
security. Relena was all alone and defenseless-- Heero had the only
gun with him. He had to get to Relena. He began casting around
for a way out.
Chapter 8: "We're destined to be together!"
It was beautiful. All that remained was to find out where She was. Easy enough from the roof, with this bio detector. It could pick up Her DNA. Then it would be in the window alone, but out with a Princess. His Princess.
He paced back and forth across the roof. This house was long, but it had only one storey, so this shouldn't be too difficult. There was a sign...but it wasn't Her.
Ah, a match at last. And She was alone. This was wonderful.
Relena was sitting in the middle of the bed, her arms wrapped around her legs. What was going on, why was it taking so long to get the power back up? It had been nearly an hour, by her estimation. Was *everyone* trapped behind a door like this?
She shifted, a little restless, a little uncomfortable. She shivered, although it wasn't particularly cold. It felt like someone was watching her. She looked over her shoulder, but of course she was alone in the room.
She blinked. Had a shadow crossed the window? It could be her mind playing tricks on her.
Relena carefully backed off the bed. Her first impulse was to run to the other side of the room, but then she would be trapped against the metal door. She hovered by the foot of the bed, watching the window.
There was definitely a shadow. Relena gasped and took a step back. The window shattered as something large crashed through, and Relena screamed and ducked to avoid the flying glass and wood.
The large object swung out of the window again, but it was replaced by another shadow. This was definitely climbing in. Relena gasped and ran towards the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind her. She locked the door, but it wasn't a very strong lock.
She held her breath, listening through the door. There was a grunt and a thud, softer then when the metal door had come down.
Biting back a scream, Relena searched for anything to put in front of the door. She moved a hamper, but that was very light. She tried to wedge it under the doorknob. There was nothing else to use.
She searched under the sink to find her battery-operated travel curling iron. If he was held off by the door for long enough, it would be hot enough to burn him when she swung it. In the meantime, she lifted the cover of the toilet tank off. It was heavy, but she had enough of an adrenaline rush going to use it.
By now, the bathroom door was shaking. "I know you're in there, Princess" he called. "Don't be afraid! Can't you see, we're destined to be together!"
Relena raised the lid higher, and checked the light on the curling iron.
The door buckled in the middle, and a boot came crashing through. Relena resisted the urge to break his ankle. It would be better to break his head.
He was pulling at the door now, calling her name. She shuddered, but her determination did not waver.
A gunshot rang out, and the man slumped in front of the door. Relena nearly dropped the lid on top of her foot, but she caught herself in time.
Her ears were ringing, but she carefully set the lid down.
"Relena?" his voice sounded a little shaky.
"I'm in here, Heero" she called, her voice a lot shaky. "I'm fine."
She heard Heero grunting as he struggled to move the body from in front of the door. She pulled the hamper back, unlocked the door, and turned off her curling iron. Heero removed the side of the door with the knob, and Relena squeezed through and into his arms.
He held her tightly for a moment, then tilted her head back to look at her in the starlight. "You're bleeding."
"I am?" she reached up to touch her cheek and it came away sticky and wet. "It must have been when he broke the window."
Heero grunted and released her. He crouched next to the body.
"Did you kill him?" She didn't want to ask the question, but she had to.
"No. I shot him in the shoulder." Relena sighed with relief, but it ended in a gasp when the attacker groaned.
Heero went into the closet for a moment, and came out with rope. He jerked the man's arms behind him to tie them together. The man screamed before passing out with the pain. Heero tied his feet together, then dragged the man, none too gently, over to the closet. He shut the man in, and pushed the dresser in front of it.
"Do you always carry rope with you?" she asked.
"I carry many things with me."
Relena shook her head, bemused, but groaned as the cuts on her face made their presence felt.
"You're sure you're all right?" Heero asked.
"Yes. These are minor cuts."
He nodded. Heero opened one of the drawers and took out a shirt. "Then let's get out of here." Relena put on shoes, while Heero wrapped the shirt around his fist. He went over to the window, and used the shirt-covered hand to knock the remaining glass and bits of wood out. He was also careful to sweep everything off the window sill. The window was the type made with many small squares of glass, held together by wooden panes.
"Come on." Heero jumped out the window first. "Watch your head" he called back. Relena climbed on the window and saw something large suspended from the roof, right outside the window. "It's a battering ram of some sort" Heero said.
"It's how he broke the window" Relena said. Heero caught her when she jumped down. "How did you get in?" she asked.
"Ducts" he replied. "We have to restart the power, then get the fire doors up."
They started to walk to the front of the house, but were stopped by pounding on a window they passed. Heero and Relena pressed their faces against the glass, and found Quatre and Trowa inside. They waved frantically.
The glass was too thick to talk through, so Heero mimed flipping a switch, and Quatre gestured to the back of the house. Heero nodded and took Relena's hand to lead her back there.
They made their way to the back of the house. Inside a small shed against the wall, Heero tripped the circuit breakers. The house lit up at once. Heero searched a nearby computer, and found the fire suppression system. There was a schematic of the house with red dots showing the location of everyone inside. It was impossible to tell who was who; there were 36 people inside. One dot, however, seemed to be running in circles inside his room. "Duo" Heero remarked. He pushed a few buttons, and they waited. Nothing happened; fire doors remained in place outside.
"Oops" Heero said, smiling slightly. "That was the sprinklers."
"If I didn't know better, Heero, I'd say you did that on purpose." Relena shook her head. She did know better, and she was convinced by Heero's smirk that he had done it on purpose.
Sally smiled up at Wufei in the dark, then tightened her grip and flipped him over. Now it was *she* who slammed *his* wrists over his head, *she* who pinned *him* to the floor. Underneath her, he growled and struggled to free himself.
"Oh, I don't think so" she purred and leaned down.
The lights went on, and they were momentarily blinded. Sally sat up and released Wufei, who sat up as much as possible with Sally still sitting on top of him. They looked around, blinking hard against the sudden light. They were still alone, and the fire doors were still in place in front of all the bedrooms, and at both ends of the hall.
"What's going on now?" Sally muttered, when the ceiling opened up and poured water on them.
"Argh!" Wufei shouted, and they scrambled upright. Wufei took it as a personal insult, and looked around for someone to attack. They were both soaked before the sprinklers suddenly shut off, however.
A few minutes later, the fire doors all slid back into hiding in the ceiling.
Duo stumbled out into the hall immediately, grinning, and covered in white foam. "Hey!" he waved and ran over to join Wufei and Sally.
He had made a foam hat, a foam goatee, and had collected a ball of foam at the end of his braid. He looked Wufei and Sally over. "Well," he laughed. "You're all washed up!"
Both Wufei and Sally growled, but Duo's life was saved
when Trowa and Quatre came running around the corner, wiping foam off themselves.
Chapter 9: "I know that man!"
Power and fire systems restored, Heero and Relena exited the shed to the glare of bright lights.
"Freeze! Put your hands up!" There was a large crowd of Preventers gathered outside. Heero glared at them and stepped in front of Relena.
"It's the Vice Foreign Minister!" some one shouted. The Preventers all pointed guns at Heero.
Relena groaned. Heero always reacted the same when guns were pointed at him. He became even more reckless.
Heero was reaching for his gun, and it did not go unnoticed by the Preventers. She could hear their weapons clicking as they cocked them.
"Wait!" Relena shouted, and jumped in front of Heero. He was startled, and took a step back.
"Vice Foreign Minister?" some of them called.
"He's my bodyguard!" she shouted. "The man you're looking for has been apprehended! We'll take you there!"
The Preventers had no choice but to put up their weapons, although they continued to regard Heero with suspicion. The sentiment was returned, and Heero kept a firm grip on her hand as they reentered the building.
They were met immediately by around 20 Maganacs, grievously insulted at the breech in security that had taken place. Ignoring the Preventers, they formed an escort around Heero and Relena, who went back to the main hallway to meet up with Quatre, Trowa, Wufei, Sally, and several more Maganacs.
"How did you know to come?" Quatre asked the Preventers, puzzled.
"Some one called us" their leader replied. "A--" he consulted his comrades, "a Miss Shoebacker."
Duo grinned. "That's my girl! We were on the phone when the power was cut" he explained.
"I'm surprised she didn't just think you'd broken it, Maxwell" Wufei, who was in a bad mood now, sneered.
Duo opened his mouth to point out he was a mechanic, but shut it when he remembered that he had, in fact, accidentally unplugged a phone just last week.
"The suspect is still in the closet" Heero pointed out. Wufei and Sally, as Preventers, marched in front. There were exclamations when they saw the devastation in Relena's room. There was glass and wood all over the floor from the window and bathroom door, half of which was laying on the bed. The ventilation grill was laying on the floor where Heero had thrown it when he climbed out of the ductwork. There was blood on the carpeting and sprayed on the wall.
"It looks much worse when you can see it" Relena sighed. "Sorry about the window, Quatre" she added.
"We didn't break most of it" Heero pointed out. He helped move the dresser, then pulled the stalker out of the closet, still unconscious. A large puddle of blood was left behind.
"Sorry about the carpet" Heero said, then looked at Relena to see if she was pleased he was being unselfish.
But Relena looked pale and her eyes were wide. "I know that man!" she gasped, pointing at the attacker. "He-- he used to fill in for Pagan. He left about a year ago, before you came" she said to Heero, when she saw he looked annoyed that he didn't know the man as well.
"Only got him in the shoulder, huh?" Duo said, pulling out a gun and aiming it. "Wouldn't it be bad if my gun slipped when it was pointed at his head."
"Of course there's no capital punishment in the Earth-Sphere Unified Nation," Wufei said, "but if it was an accident..."
"Now, now" Sally pushed Duo's gun up. "Of course, there's not much we can do if he bleeds to death, can we?"
"Don't you think we should question him first?" a woman's voice interrupted. They turned to look at the doorway to find Lady Une stepping through. "Someone finally notified me the call had been made for this address" she explained. "I thought I should come down personally. Is everyone all right?" she looked pointedly at Relena.
"Oh" Relena brought a hand up to touch her face. "I'd forgotten about that. It's just from flying glass."
Une smiled slightly. "Just a typical day with the Gundam pilots..." she murmured.
The Preventers removed the still unconscious and bound man from the premises.
Relena agreed to let Sally treat her face while she talked on the vidphone to Hilde.
Hilde was beaming. "I'm glad everyone's all right" she eyed the foam still clinging to Duo warily. "I'm glad I could help."
"That was great babe!" Duo chattered enthusiastically. "Everyone's very impressed."
Hilde scowled. "Why is everyone so surprised when I do something right?" she shouted. "I was a solider too, ya know!"
Everyone else immediately left Duo and Hilde alone, Hilde shouting about Peacemillion.
"That reminds me-- do you want to call your brother?" Quatre asked as they left.
"I will in the morning" she yawned.
"It is the morning" Trowa remarked.
It was already six am, and daylight was coming through the windows.
"Well *I'm* going to sleep" Relena announced. "And I'll call Millardo when I get up."
As everyone began to move away, however, Relena cornered Sally. "I couldn't help but notice what a difference a day--or night-- makes" she said.
Sally blushed. "Well, we had some time to talk, when we were stuck in the hallway."
"And did you?"
"It depends on what you mean by 'talk.'" They both giggled, Sally blushing. "But we did come to an understanding."
All of Heero and Relena's things were moved into Heero's room. Relena sat on the bed, watching as he wordlessly placed clothing in drawers. Something had been different about him, ever since they had first run into the Preventers.
"Is something wrong, Heero?" she asked.
He didn't answer, but that could go either way. "I *know* something's wrong" she pressed. "What is it? Please tell me, Heero."
He pushed the drawer in and straightened up, but didn't turn to look at her.
She frowned. Was it something she had done? But what had happened? "Are you upset because I said you were my bodyguard?" she wanted to laugh, but didn't dare. Who said Heero Yuy didn't have feelings?
He still wouldn't look at her, but Relena knew she was right. "Oh Heero," she sighed. "You know you're not just my bodyguard! I only said that because I thought it would impress them more then..." she halted. What *was* he to her, exactly? Friend? Boyfriend? "...then, anything else" she finished lamely.
She stood up and walked over to him, curling herself against his back and wrapping her arms around his waist, her cheek resting between his shoulder blades.
"It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks" she reminded him softly. "Although this is an important stage in your emotional development." She giggled.
He turned in her arms and frowned down at her. He put his arms around her waist, however, and Relena squeezed her arms. Maybe it was time to end the ambiguity. "Come to bed, Heero."