Fandom: Gundam Wing
Warnings: Uh... location kink? *shrug* Nothing really.
Summary: The couple is bound for the carnival and all the hijinks that entails.
Disclaimers: Doesn't belong to me. At all. If it did, I'd have hoped for better female characterization.
Notes: The characters are a little out of character, I’ll fully admit. But then, times change, people change… I try very hard to make these OOC things believable. I also apologize for the long wait. In all its many revisions, this has always been the most problematic chapter to write, mostly because it doesn’t follow the same format as the other two.
He was already standing near her car when she walked out the pair of double doors, caught in the act of undoing the tight ponytail she’d managed to put up all her multitude of hair into. Catching sight of him instantly, she smiled, waving. His hand came up automatically into a salute before he waved back, stiffly and nervously, suddenly caught by second thoughts about his seemingly flawless plan. What if things didn’t go according to plan? What if she didn’t really want to go with him and was just humoring him? What if—but she was still smiling as she approached, and he knew her well enough by now that it was her genuine smile because it made her look her age, rather than the elegant woman-child the political world required.
“You’ve gotten more punctual, I see…”
After forcefully ending a meeting on time for once, she thought wryly to herself. “Learned from the best after all, didn’t I?” she returned, smiling, as she pulled off her kid gloves. “So, after having fiendishly kept me in the dark all throughout a communal and very important vote on the Terra project’s—where are we going?”
“I though you… I mean… well, would you like to go to the carnival with me?”
She blinked, her face registering surprise, which almost dismayed him. Then it widened into a grin and she said in the most delighted tones he’d ever heard, “Do you mean it?” Which made him come very close to feeling ecstatic. God, this girl was going to drive him insane—he was better than this—he’d been better at everything else than everyone else… why was this so very different?
The truth was that he was not suave, nor polished, nor refined. He did not know the right words at exactly the right time. And that was exactly why Relena liked him so much—especially now; when that was a trait she valued most amongst those close to her. In the past, she’d been attracted to just how wrong he felt, how dangerous and exciting and perfectly romantic in the eyes of a sheltered heiress destined for marriage and quiet cocktail parties. And now… now it was because he was so very different from all the smooth-talking politicians that she dealt with daily and could not bring herself to stand—from just everyone else that she knew.
So, when he made that face, the one she saw so seldom, where his entire face softened, and he looked young and nervous, and so far from self-assured, she had to hold back the crushing urge to simply fling her arms around and hug him. She wasn’t entirely sure he’d take very kindly to that. So she opted instead for hooking an arm around his, and leaning her head just a little bit against his shoulder—which just goes to show how tall he’d grown compared to her. “I’d love to… if you’ll give me the chance to change out of this into something nicer…” she gestured at the wretched pink business suit she was wearing.
Dressing for appearances almost made her hate the color pink.
“You always look nice,” he blurted out, before he clamped his lips tightly, in order to stop any more words that bypassed the filter between his brain and his mouth. That was definitive of Duo Maxwell, not Heero Yuy.
She blinked again, a surprised giggle bubbling up her throat before she could stop it and she smiled at him, rapidly defusing his embarrassment with long-practiced skill. “Thank you. But I’m still changing. And none of your manly subtleties will get you out of waiting, my good sir. A girl must be given time to primp.”
She slipped into her rented car, which had tinted windows installed; a mercy against the barrage of reporters that almost constantly thronged her vehicle. She wondered for a moment how he would have recognized this vehicle as hers, before she immediately recalled his top-level Preventer status. He would have had no trouble getting the information, she realized as she shimmied out of the various parts of her suit. She soon found herself thanking her lucky stars as she dug out the backpack she and Hilde had packed together in preparation for a colony-wide jaunt the next day.
In a few moments, she’d slipped back out again, a white visor on her head and her hair bundled up into a ponytail again—this time a tight high ponytail that bounced as she walked. She posed dramatically, modeling the tan shorts and sleeveless black shirt as if they were the finest in designer labels.
“Now I’m done. Lead the way, Cap’n!”
“That doesn’t work under these circumstances at all,” he objected, never having developed much of a sense of humor throughout his adolescence. Poor boy hadn’t even had either Duo or Hilde around to teach him a thing or two, either.
Her eyes widened to astronomical proportions the moment she caught sight of it. Slipping her hands off his arm, she approached it like it was a shrine devoted to The Most Holy. “It’s... it’s beautiful…” she breathed.
Heero blinked. He had had no idea Relena was interested in cars, streamlined and sexy though he knew his to be. “It’s a car.” He informed her, warily. “My car.”
“I can see that. But it’s a gorgeous car.”
He looked down at it, still uncomprehending her ability to tell one car from the next. The only female with that ability he knew somewhat well was Hilde Schiebecker—and as she helped run a junkyard, it wasn’t really a matter of choice.
She ran her fingers against the metal, still gleaming as the weather systems on this colony tended to be lenient most of the time. “It’s almost the same as your eyes,” she informed him finally, grinning. “Was that what you had in mind when you bought it?”
“…You give me too little credit,” he informed her, allowing a slight smile to grace his features, “I built it.”
Her mouth made a perfect “o” of surprise before she shook her head ruefully. “I should have known—who else would upgrade the Wing Zero merely because he felt like it?”
“How’d you find out about that?” he asked, dumbfounded.
“I have my resources,” she replied smiling, before turning back to peer through the window into the interior.
He unlocked it, automatically holding open the door for Relena on the passenger’s side, which made her bite her lip to control a delighted giggle. “All the time spent with Quatre beginning to pay off, I see?”
“I actually think you might be right,” he replied. “He makes it easy to imitate him.”
There was a short silence reserved for seatbelt buckling, after which Relena pointed out, “It’s the middle of February… won’t the carnival be closed?”
He allowed a smile as he said, “Maybe on Earth… but definitely not on the colonies.” Then they were off with the engine’s voice a lovely purr, and the radio blasting per Relena’s request. Heero found himself treated to a rather childish Relena singing along at the top of her lungs and waving her arms around with the music. It made for quite a distraction all the way towards the carnival.
Two figures lurking in the shadows behind them watched with glee, grinning maniacally as they took in every word they could catch. The moment the car was gone from sight, they leapt to their feet, indulging in another round of a celebratory whooping and wild dancing before they raced for their own vehicle in order to resume the chase.
When Heero and Relena meandered their way into the carnival’s gates; their wrists ringed with admission bracelets, they looked around with delighted eyes. Or at least Relena twirled in circles like a little girl, dazzled by the happy carnival music rising in a cacophony all around her, and Heero’s entire visage was softened whenever he looked at that young, girlish face. Her enthusiasm was infectious; he couldn’t help the smile that appeared sluggishly on his face, rusty from frequent disuse. “What do you want to do first?”
He blinked. “You wanted to come to the carnival to eat?”
She pouted at him. “It’s,” she hastily checked her watch, “7:15, and I haven’t had anything except a sandwich since before noon and I’m famished. Aren’t you?”
“Now that you mention it…” he shrugged, “I had thought you might have preferred to have dinner at an actual restaurant—but you’re used to that, too used to that, and I thought perhaps something different…” he stopped speaking immediately, firmly closing his mouth and vowing not to open it before he had a complete sentence at the ready.
“And you thought exactly right!” she replied cheerfully, taking the liberty of holding onto his arm again, “I’d rather this than a week of fancy dinners—which, I might add, I have had for the past month. The last good meal I had was gorging with Hilde on burgers and fries.”
He eyed her in slight amusement, “You are easily satisfied.”
“Doesn’t that reassure you?” she retorted, tugging at his arm. “I’m hungry!”
They entered what amounted to a food court near the entrance of the carnival, which was fuller than the state of the grounds had led them originally to believe. After a minor scuffle where an indignant Relena demanded to know why they were showcasing baby chicks a table or two away from a stand selling buffalo wings. “It’s barbaric!” she was complaining to Heero ten minutes later, “How could they do that to the poor animals?”
“How could you eat them?” he countered.
“Well, I—” she stopped to ponder her response, “I don’t make them watch their fate before I eat them! It’s like… picking out your animal and naming it and treating it like a pet before you slaughter it!”
“There is a difference from farm girls naming their chickens before they eat them and the bad layout of this exhibit.” Heero pointed out. “Most people find little things adorable when they’re little and want to play with them. Everything just becomes obsolete when they’re older.”
“You talk as if they’re weapons, Heero.”
You sound as if you’re talking about yourself.
He frowned. “Maybe you’re right.” He shook his head. “Peacetime is too quiet—it gives me entirely too much time to think. And then I start to regret.” He shook his head, forcibly trying to change the subject. “But you’re still hungry. So we’re going to have to get something to eat.”
She eyed him soberly for a moment, that exact expression of seeming all-knowing that had made him want to run away in the past. It was like she could see in a straight line directly through all his mental and physical barriers into the heart of his soul. And as if proving this, she answered with a bright smile. “Goodie! And since I’m always greedy about the food I like to eat, it’s my treat!”
“Think again,” he countered gruffly, “I have a chance to spend money on things outside of mecha and I’m damn well going to take advantage of it.”
She paused. This had all the merits of a date date. Her heart fluttered at the realization. In retrospect, she should probably have realized it the moment he’d appeared so nervous, but years of his continued semi-attentions had made her hesitant to believe. “All… all right…” she mumbled, unable to stop the blush that rushed to her cheeks. Flustered. She was flustered.
This was new.
Promptly, they wound their way to the poster-covered counters.
Afterwards, Heero, having wrestled the third tray of food from Relena’s grasp in order to carry to their table—she insisted she could carry all three easily enough—walked behind her wondering just where all that junk she enjoyed shoveling into her system went.
She answered his unspoken question as soon as they sat down. “Ummm…” she moaned, sinking her teeth what he thought looked like a half-dead piece of cow clapped between two pieces of dubious-looking bread. “I haven’t had anything like this in ages.”
That might be why.
“You do realize that what you’re eating is disgusting, don’t you?” he asked, almost conversationally as he picked at the safest thing he could find—a salad. And even that was looking rather questionable—there were certainly too much brown to the leaves, and what exactly were those purple things? What did these people put in their salads? He shook his head, doubly glad that he’d taken the effort to learn to cook and fend for himself rather than be subject to this… stuff.
He really was at a loss for words as to what this stuff really was.
“And do you realize that you’re acting like the poster child for anorexic ballet dancer?” she retorted, taking another large bite of her half-dead cow with relish.
He thought he should take offence to that.
Close by behind Heero, chatting quietly with a seeming redhead, beneath a large hat and with a braid that had been neatly tucked into the turned-up collar of his jacket, was a figure trying his damn best not to break out into a fit of snickering. “Hilde-babe,” he murmured, tucking his chin deeper into his collar, “We are so giving him a tutu for his next birthday.”
“Sweetie, we don’t know when his birthday is.”
“Too far away.”
“Halloween, then. Thanksgiving. Freaking St. Patrick’s day.”
“Maybe we should start from a leotard and work our way up.”
“Hah, point shoes and everything! You’re a genius, babe.”
“Shhhh… Lena’s talking again.”
Relena was actually chewing on the straw of her drink; a bad habit Hilde knew she’d never been able to break herself out of, as she watched Heero continue to poke at his salad. Finally, she shoved a plate of fries towards him and, gesturing with one of her own, ordered him to “Eat.”
“Relena, that plate has nearly liquefied from all the grease that’s soaked into it from those things.”
“Which means that much less left in them for you!” she replied cheerfully, prodding the plate closer towards him.
“…Relena, I don’t think—gloup!”
She pulled back with a triumphant smile at his startled expression, after having stuffed a fry in his open mouth, the end tipping out his half-parted lips. “Now chew,” she told him, looking quite pleased with herself.
His features rearranged themselves into a resigned expression as he did as he was told, quickly ingesting the foreign object, and getting it done and over with as fast as he was able.
“It wasn’t that bad, was it?”
No. It wasn’t bad. But it was still a lump of nearly indigestible deep-fried potato. He told her as much.
She managed to give him a look that on any other girl would have been rolling her eyes. But Relena was Relena, and she was always elegant when she did not consciously think on what she was doing. “Well, at least that’s progress…”
The topic of conversation soon turned away from what Relena was managing to continue ingesting in her petite form, and
led instead to their mutual friends. Namely, Wufei and Sally’s marriage.
“I had been told that they were legally married, but nothing more than that.”
“Oh… something like that… not a lot of people know. I don’t even think Duo knows. They’ve been skirting the issue ever since they came back from China… both of them are so bullheaded, you wonder how they ever get anything done at all down in the Preventers core.”
“…They have a soft spot for each other.”
“Why Heero, I never knew you’d noticed!” she was grinning at him; a look that made him acutely embarrassed, and only long training kept him from ducking his head bashfully like he had the sudden urge to do. “But I suppose you’re right… I just wonder when they’re actually going to go through with an official ceremony, and whether or not they’ll end up living together. I have every intention of teasing Wufei to no end.” Her eyes glittered, and he realized that time spent in her company must have softened Wufei as well, if he’d reached the level of comfort to be teased by the former Queen of the World.
“I tried to find a life where I’d be normal,” Heero said slowly, thinking carefully on the words he was somewhat clumsily putting together, never having expected himself to divulge his reasons for staying away. “What would happen away from the people I knew, and the… the fighting. But my life isn’t normal without…” he paused, looking slightly frustrated as only Heero Yuy could, with trying to figure out what to say. Relena found herself holding her breath. “Well I couldn’t stay away completely, either. But I’ve missed a lot.”
She let out her breath slowly, hoping it didn’t sound too much like a wistful sigh. That was… acceptably close enough, coming from the usually stoic ex-pilot. “Time you got caught up then, I think…”
And then she got to her feet, rapidly piling up the used paper plates into neat stacks on the trays. “But that will come while we’re walking. I want to play!”
He couldn’t help the smile as she cheerfully disposed of the garbage, stacking the trays into the provided slot, starting the automatic sanitizer with an idle press of the button before she was back and pulling at his arm in an attempt to get him to his feet. He noticed the solemnity that never really left her eyes was almost unnoticeable when they sparkled like that, and even he could imagine the fun-loving slip of a girl she would have been. Should have been.
There it was again, that hard, choking feeling in the back of his throat and the ache in his chest…
He decided right then and there to join the seeming alliance with Dorothy and perhaps even Milliardo to keep Relena from being crushed in the proverbial Venus flytrap that was the political world that she passed through each and every day.
“Okay… so… the games are over there… and Kiddy Land is in the opposite direction… and oh, there are the roller coasters nearer that area… and… hmm…” murmured Relena as she busied herself with the colorful map of the grounds that she’d picked up from heaven knows where. Heero was having a fair time steering her away from people by way of having one of her arms curled loosely around his, and keeping her from bumping into every stick, stone and small child that managed to pass a close distance to his golden-haired companion.
Suddenly he stopped short, because the arm around his had slipped away he looked wildly around for its owner. She was a politician, she was far from disguised… an attacker? He turned an instantly furious gaze on a chubby little lady herding her fat little grandson along, before switching to the couple sitting along the ledge limbs wholly tangled togethe—
He whirled to see her waving at him from beside a clown holding a bunch of large balloon animals, waving cheerfully at him and giggling. As he waded through the sparse crowd towards her, she pointed. “Let’s do that!” he looked up warily, following her finger, and upon sight of the flashy signs, he felt his jaw muscles slacken, though he kept his mouth from dropping open. “You… that?” he asked in something near disbelief.
She nodded again, “Yes, in fact. I do. With you.”
“With…” He shook his head. “No.”
“But… but… please, Heero?” she wheedled, tugging at his arm as she was unable to find a suitable reason to submit him to utmost embarrassment. “Humor me? Just a little?”
He looked at her. She looked back at him, although the excitement was fading and a subtle resignation was already present in the depths of her eyes. He had a sinking feeling that he was the only thing she had ever resigned herself too. To everything, everyone else, she was resolute. To him... it was almost as if she’d almost given up. And he couldn’t accept that.
He sighed, realizing his decision had already been made. “Twilight,” he said finally, “has had a very bad effect on you.”
She brightened instantly. “You mean you will?”
“Whatever you want, princess.”
The endearment slipped out before he could stop it, and though he felt his eyes widen in response to his own… his own… his own what? Audacity?
Looking over at Relena’s unabashedly shocked expression; he made no attempt to take it back. She shook her head, and murmured something along the lines of “I wish I had a recorder disc right now…”
“Let’s go now then,” he said finally, “Before I change my mind.”
“Yessir!” she slipped her hand in his, leading the way towards the time era booth.
Neither of them noticed the muffled squeal of success from behind them, nor the light reflecting off a high-focus lens, nor even the subtle clicking of the camera.
It was a place which looked like the threads of Time had gotten themselves tangled on that gigantic metaphysical spinning wheel and had just been randomly yanked off it in disgruntled impatience, crumpled up into a little ball of odds-and-ends mess, and dumping it carelessly aside. It was like a walk through a time warp. Strictly speaking, fashion these days was as varied as the stars, but everything here seemed a non-matching throwback into the distant past. Neon go-go boots warred for space with lacy platform sandals and newly-polished Mary Janes. Late Victorian-era blouses hung right up against ancient Sidonian silk dresses and large cotton poodle skirts. Wigs ringed the one dressing table they could see through the half-opened door, and what looked like dozens of makeup containers lay scattered like some haute couture version of confetti.
As if to keep up with its topsy-turvy costume offerings, multiple sets formed a large wonky oval, spaces in between peaked inwards with drawn curtains for changing rooms. A bird’s eye view gave the impression of a lopsided and inverted star. Currently, there was a petite woman dressed in what once might have been a school uniform; a black sailor blouse and short pleated skirt hiked up high on her legs, as well as knee socks and nondescript brown loafers. The man looked liked he’d stepped out of an old spaghetti Western complete with cowboy hat and he brandished an ugly-looking handgun which had Heero eyeing suspiciously before he ascertained that there wasn’t even a trigger on the prop. They were both laughing as she took advantage of her impossibly long legs to display a jaw-dropping amount of tanned, toned flesh.
Relena didn’t seem to blame Heero when his eyes locked on them automatically and widened just the slightest because she couldn’t help but stare herself. “Now why,” she muttered momentarily, “did God not give me those?”
Heero shook his head, turning to her what only a little difficulty. “Why Miss Darlian,” he said at last, the teasing tone and words unfamiliar on his tongue, even after nearly a year of practicing. “I never thought your tastes ran up into the exotic…”
He watched for her reaction almost anxiously behind those closed-off blue eyes that never let anyone see exactly what he was thinking unless he expressly wished them to.
She couldn’t help the shocked expression that flitted across her face and caused her eyes to widen, before the laughter bubbled up in her throat and rang out without a care as to who was listening. “I,” she said finally, amidst the subsequent giggles, “will never be able to figure you out, Mr. Yuy.”
He allowed another small smile, “As I might say the same about you. Shall we?”
She looked as if she were ready to bounce her way up the stage itself. “Yes!”
Ten minutes later, she was rethinking her impulsive decision. “I don’t want to come out!” she called, not even poking her face around the curtain to her ‘dressing room’.
Heero, who’d been dubiously eyeing his own resignedly-worn ensemble, frowned at her. He recognized those tones of embarrassment. “Relena….”
“You were right! Clearly this was a mistake. And I should not have eaten that last plate of fr—eek!!”
For Heero had calmly gripped the faded red velvet of the curtain and yanked it out of her grasp, sending her tumbling forward against the jabot of satin at his throat. A quick visual sweep confirmed that she was fully dressed—and then he felt his cheeks begin to burn.
“Relena…” he said slowly, through the apparent cardiac arrest, “What… are you wearing?”
She flailed around for a moment before grasping his shoulders and pulling back to stare, giving him a thorough once-over, and then another just for good measure. “Wow,” she murmured, “I didn’t think they made pirates that sexy…”
Heero did not take well to embarrassment. Thus he had always made sure that there would be nothing to be embarrassed about—that he would always be perfect. But now he had the strange feeling that if he had not been resigned to such a comment, he might have blushed from the roots of his unruly hair down to his leather-booted feet.
“Oh you look simply lovely, dear!” chirped a voice from behind Heero, causing him to spin around, hand already at the professionally-dulled sword at his side. In a pinch, it would do.
But no, the assistant was already fluttering past him, pulling at Relena’s wrists, deftly attaching heavily-ornamented cuffs that glittered and tinkled and clinked together in a waterfall of sound that matched the ornamentation on her clothes.
He frowned, taking in the rather alien sight of the ex-Queen of the World dressed in a glittery version of the dancers he’d come across during his travels in Arabia with Quatre.
“Egyptian belly dancer,” she replied, her face still a deep red, but she sashayed her hips, to demonstrate that musical sound again to a greater volume.
“Lovely,” the assistant repeated again, forcibly reminding them both of the outside world, and Heero immediately frowned at his momentary slip. For all things considered, he was on-duty, and being caught off-guard was unacceptable. Relena was here with him without a bodyguard after all. That meant someone knew him and trusted him to keep her safe. He couldn’t afford to forget that now.
She watched his expression change, and she knew as soon as he did the moment he reverted back to his soldier-mode visage. Taking it upon herself to further her day of attempted gaiety, she took one of his gloved hands and dragged him towards the sets, “Time to play,” she told him cheerfully, and if he did not return the smile, she pretended not to notice. He was trying. The least she could do was the same.
Afterwards, Relena found herself shaking her head in wonder, tugging her shirt back into place. “When you put your mind to something,” she told him, “you really go all out.”
The look his face arranged itself in was as close to smug as she’d ever thought he’d get. “It’s a point of pride.” He replied, as he shuffled through his half of the glossy photo prints they’d purchased. “You don’t look half-bad yourself, Miss Darlian. I would almost think you’re used to posing in that thing.”
“Oh please don’t ever let anyone quote you on that. I know how much pornography already involves my name and my numerous better-endowed doubles.”
He stared thunderstruck at her nonchalant expression as she continued to flip through the photographs, wondering how on Earth she could she—
“By name too.”
He wasn’t entirely sure how to respond to that. One simply doesn’t go and have a business meeting wherein you meet the people involved in making low-budget pornography that has the illusion of being about yourself.
“They weren’t entirely that bad, some of them. Quality improved once I asked politely.”
She had allowed it?! And suggested improvements?!
She looked up then, her lips twisting with the effort not to laugh. “And then I sold myself on the black market to a man named Abu Khalim Khalesh. Lady Une had to intervene and purchase me back as her own personal love slave in order for him to relinquish me, it was fabulous.”
“You… Relena Darlian… are sometimes more insane than anyone will ever accuse me of being.”
“And I will take that as a compliment, as I’m sure it was meant as such,” she replied flippantly, her attention already turning to whatever new shiny had caught her eye. “Heero?”
He raised an eyebrow as she didn’t turn, “Did Duo pay you a visit anytime recently?”
For a horrified moment, his brain was set on she knew, she knew, she knew, Duo that complete and utter bastard, she knew, she knew, she knew before she continued, “Because doesn’t that girl over there in the funny dress look exactly like—”
The moment he craned his neck to look, he saw a flash of short dark hair on top of a too-large jacket, and long chestnut hair not too far from it.
He didn’t know if it was a testament to Relena’s sharpness or Duo’s lack of stealth.
For an ex-pilot that had been legendary in stealth, it was hard to imagine Duo’s skills dulling that much, that fast.
“I think she saw you!” hissed Hilde from her position flat on the ground in the crowd so as to avoid catching the couple’s eyes any further.
“We’ve got to hide!” Duo hissed back. Unfortunately for them, their attempts at hiding brought them more than one strange look from the people around them. So much so, that they began avoiding them by walking in a wide circle away from them, rather than simply milling about. Hastily, they crept back to their ‘Headquarters’ propelled mainly by their elbows. Upon reaching the impromptu base—the hotdog stand—they breathed a great sigh of relief… one upon which the hotdog vendor eyed them queerly for, and shuffled a few inches further away.
Not far from the point where they’d just left, Heero had steered her away from the small commotion. If the idiot wanted to make a fool of himself, he could do it on someone else’s time. “Where to next, princess?” he asked. The endearment felt foreign on his tongue, but it continued slipping out as if it were the easiest thing to say in the world. Clearly another side effect she had on him, because she looked down to study the small map thoughtfully, a smile was curling on her lips.
“How about… oh, how about the games?”
“You do realize that most of them are rigged in a place like this, don’t you?”
She pouted. “But it’s all in the name of fun. And besides, if you win, we can always watch them squirm in undiluted shock.”
Passing by the colorful stalls and the loud caterwauling coming from each on large megaphones, he caught sight of a large purple teddy bear hanging from one of the booths and smiled to himself, the memory of a random chibi-Relena and a teddy several times her size. But the large plush dolls hanging over another booth distracted Relena, and she pointed excitedly to them, tugging at his arm. “Could you get one of those for me?” she asked, as if it were a redundant question.
It obviously was.
He couldn’t help the grin that spread over his face. Her mood was infectious. He’d done more smiling on this day than he had in the previous six months. “Whatever you want.”
They approached the booth, and she plunked down the coins before he could stop her, which the girl behind the counter snatched up gleefully, almost faster than the eye could see. “My turn to pay to see you watch yourself show off,” was all she said as she motioned him forward.
“What do I have to do to get one of the big ones?” he asked. The girl behind the booth looked as if she’d aged prematurely and was doing her best to hide it under several cakes of makeup. “This is a shooting range, junior. That means if you shoot ‘em all, you get one of the big ones. You in?”
He raised an eyebrow, but nodded shortly. “Already been paid for, after all.”
She handed him the rifle. “Good luck, kitten.”
He didn’t answer, but his lip tightened as he hoisted it up and took careful aim.
That was when Relena realized it was in the bag. He was Heero Yuy. He was a former Gundam pilot. He could do anything.
It took several moments for the girl to realize he’d done it, so busy was she scouting for more players that he had to take aim at one of the thin strings holding up a small plush toy right over her head, snapping it and letting the toy plop down on her with a soft ‘fwoomp’. “I won.”
Her head swiveled instantly to the boards, where there were neat precision holes in each of the targets, before she looked back at him with something close to admiration. After all, she rationalized, this youth couldn’t be that much younger than herself…
Relena, impatient with the older woman’s obvious attempts to flirt, leaned over and pointed. “I want that one!” she told her firmly, and though the woman attempted to glare her down, Relena had stood up to much worse and returned it with her own look of cool amusement. As the prize was handed to her, Heero was quite pleased to note that it was a large Wing Zero Custom plush doll that she’d chosen, nearly two feet tall, and none of the others. Nice to know the wings were appreciated—he’d received more than he thought his fair share of teasing because of them.
They ploughed their way through the games, eventually acquiring several necklaces, a large sombrero for Heero’s head, and a stuffed monkey which Relena hung gleefully around her Wing Zero’s neck. Stopping in the darkness and neon flashing lights of the arcade, they challenged each other to random Street Fighter matches on what looked like an ancient salvaged hulk of a machine, virtual car racing, as well as the odd dancing game. Heero excelled at all of these, except for the last, in which Relena had beat him soundly.
“I thought you were good at dancing,” she’d accused him, after they walked out, gasping for breath as she fumbled for her water.
“Well I certainly don’t call that dancing,” he protested, frowning at his latest defeat.
“Tsk. Just for that, we’re going to Kiddy Land!”
“Relena, I do not balk.”
“Yes you are! You’ve got that frown on your face, and if you were a puppy, you’d be digging your heels into the dirt and yanking at the leash!”
“You… are comparing me to a puppy…”
He didn’t know if he should be offended about that.
“Yes! You do that little scrunchy eyebrows thing that my puppy does. Well. If she had eyebrows, anyhow.”
“…This isn’t going to do anything to keep me out of Kiddy Land, is it?”
“Nope. I’m entertained that you thought to try, however.”
As the entered the realm of the shrieking children and the overabundance of luridly-colored clowns with animal balloons, Heero wondered if his ears would ever be the same again. Surely his career as a sometimes field spy was over, after this. But Relena, unperturbed, went straight for the train ride, where she promptly began bouncing up and down to be able to see past the shoulders of the parents and their children. The line was long, as most families tend to avoid family outings to carnivals on Valentine’s Day.
Heero found the girl having seemingly the time of her life when she was faced with several large brass bells which she proceeded to ding with pleasure and watch all the passing sculptures the little ride passed by in a creaking, groaning fashion. He found himself worrying less about the suspicious creaking that the ride was making beneath the ugly—and sticky—vinyl seat and more at the sights around him… even if from a cheesy children’s ride. He was relaxing because he was having a good time, he realized with a jolt. A boy who’d been born and bred as a soldier rarely found himself relaxing, and rarely found the company of a weaker female entertaining unless it was about sex. Heero realized anew that he very much liked being around Relena, with or with the appeal of sex.
It was only afterwards, when they sat down on a vacant bench and Relena had purchased them two snow cones that trouble hit them, in the form of two rather unfriendly-looking ex-soldiers. They slouched in their large, baggy, standard-issue cargo pants that should have long been tossed into the trash or tacked up to the wall as a memorial. The large bulge in one of the side pockets, previously well-covered by a large jacket he’d now had slung back by swaggering over with his hands in his pants’ pockets, was more indicative of a firearm than a firearm, to Heero’s keen eye.
He looked coolly up at them, mentally calculating just how quickly he shove Relena behind the bench for some temporary cover if he needed to protect and defend. Relena’s face had gone stony that he knew so well—it was a look he had once seen every time he’d looked into a mirror. It was disconcerting how easily the emotion could drain from her face, and see her face set in that distant, somewhat bemused look. He didn’t think a girl’s eyes could go that empty on command. The wars and their outcome had certainly done more damage than she had ever let on.
Although he could see that through her calm, she was already scanning her immediate area, most likely for a decent spot to get out of danger and leave him to do his job. He liked that, liked knowing she knew when to depend on him if she had to.
But whatever grudge they had was not against the Vice Foreign Minister, but rather against himself.
“Hey you!” called the one. Immediately sensing trouble, the previously buzzing crowd silenced, and the adults present quickly began ushering their children towards the exit as quietly and unnoticeably as possible. People were watching them carefully now, mainly the guys working the rides, some of them already with hands on the security phone receivers.
Heero watched the men walking towards them with a keen eye. Young, mid to late twenties, if that much. Telltale scarring, several bullet scars—old but not that old. War vendetta, he decided, his lips tightening at his conclusion. That meant they could be professionals.
The long-forgotten sombrero he was still wearing came in handy as he slowly removed it, setting it aside and blocking anyone’s view of the position of his hand, ready to snatch the gun hidden at the small of his back.
“What do you want?” he asked finally, his voice dropping down into his old monotone that betrayed as much as the cold glass of his eyes.
“You’re the gundam pilot, aren’t you?” It wasn’t a question.
“I was one of several, yeah.”
“You and I have a deal to settle, you bastard.”
Heero looked him over slowly, tauntingly, from the tips of his scuffed boots, to the top of his greasy spiked hair that hung flatly into his eyes. “Who are you again?” he asked coolly, in a tone that implied the man wasn’t worth remembering even if he had met him—which he couldn’t readily recall.
“You don’t know ‘im,” the other guy spoke up, glancing warily at his surroundings.
Heero refrained from saying something suitably scathing or insulting—prudent, he thought, in the face of armed men in front of a woman he needed to protect.
“You don’t even know what you did, do you? Shit, little punk like you and you just go ahead and—”
His friend nudged him, “Get to the point, would ya?” he muttered, “Someone’s gonna come and ask what’s going on pretty soon and then they’re going to start asking questions.”
Heero took that with some relief. If they were so worried about getting caught, they hopefully wouldn’t try something in full public view. Although one could never be sure. People were dangerous and volatile.
“I had a brother, damn it. You killed him.”
Oh. So he was one of those.
This would be a bit more difficult to work around. Guys like this were irrational, more so than most, and prone to emotional outbursts. Heero didn’t want an emotional outburst at this time because in his experience, this was often accompanied with wildly inaccurately-aimed gunfire. He could accept the man bursting into tears, but it didn’t seem likely.
“What do you want me to do about it?”
He grimaced internally at the slip. That would just make him angrier. He couldn’t afford to make this man angrier.
“You can’t do anything about it, you little shit! He’s gone and you… you’re…”
“I had a brother,” spoke up Relena, and Heero nearly jerked in surprise at the sound of her voice. He shot a warning glance at her, silently ordering her not to gain the men’s attention. She didn’t even look at him, her body was still and in control, and she looked as if she knew what she was doing. His frown deepened as he turned back to the men in wary apprehension. “He was killed in the war; no one ever found his body.”
Well no, they wouldn’t when he’s currently skulking around in the L1 cluster… Heero thought unhelpfully, wondering what on Earth she was going at.
“I had a father too,” she continued, her eyes flinty, but her voice was low and sweet—what one would use with a skittish colt, “he was assassinated. And I knew who did it. I tried to kill her.”
The man was looking dubiously at her, possibly wondering why on Earth she was butting in on his somewhat incoherent ranting, and how anyone of her stature could contemplate assassinating anyone.
“I failed, though. Not hard to believe, she was a seasoned soldier and I was a spoiled little rich girl. Do you want to know who she is now?” she asked him, pinning him with those eyes of hers.
“I… don’t think I care,” he replied with only a hint of his former bluster. This girl and her total control was both staggering and confusing, and he wasn’t quite sure what tangent he should go on from here.
“Hey,” the other man was saying insistently now as he stared at Relena, “hey isn’t she…?”
“She’s Lady Une, leader of the entire Preventers division. I granted her that position, to be the top brass in the strongest military force we’ve constructed since the Eve wars.”
“You’re that girl,” the other guy was still saying, “You’re the one we all listened to, the one we all fought for…” He had something of a horror-stricken look on his face, as if by saying it, she’d immediately reassure him otherwise.
“I did what I wanted everyone else to do,” she continued, “and I tried to forgive and move on. Your brother is not coming back. You won’t feel justified if you attack Yuy, if you land yourself in prison and continue hating him all your days because it doesn’t make anything better.”
The man was silent, as if he was physically trying to ignore what she was saying, to tell himself that she was just messing with him. But those eyes never blinked, never let up their stony truth, and he couldn’t find whatever words he wanted to say.
“Join the Preventers.”
Everyone turned to look at Heero, who had finally spoken up, with all his typical bluntness. “You want to make things better? Find a woman, have children you care about, and protect them. Keep the wars from ever happening again. That will do more than fighting me ever would.”
He stood, dragging Relena to her feet. She somehow managed to make the sudden jerk to her arm look graceful; a product of hours of dance class and sometimes sub-par partners.
Keeping her in front of him, they strode very quickly into the sparsely-encompassing crowd make very sure that they didn’t break out into a run until they were sure the two men weren’t going to follow.
“Well that was… eventful…” Relena remarked as soon as they’d disappeared far enough into the crowds for him to reluctantly slow his pace down. “I suppose that was our cue to leave?”
Even with her face so carefully blank, Heero couldn’t miss the note of wistfulness in her voice. He frowned thoughtfully. Logically, after a confrontation like that, the best thing to do was to leave immediately, as well as contacting her head of security. The incident may not have been directly caused because of her appearance at the carnival, but her involvement was enough to warn him not to take any chances.
“It depends,” he replied finally, adjusting the large hat he’d readjusted back onto his head and flipping open his phone to key in a number.
Duo was not far from them, still keeping a keen eye on the two ex-soldiers milling about in apparent confusion as to what to do next. He wasn’t surprised when he heard his phone ring and answered immediately. “Hell of a show you put up out there,” he said without preamble, “I think I’m impressed.”
“You see them?” was the curt reply. Most of it was just normal Heero bluntness, but Duo suspected it was also because he was still standing right next to Relena. Always liked his mystery, that one.
“Yeah. Pricks look more confused than anything. One of them was considering going after you at first, but the friend grabbed him, started talking a whole spiel about Relena being who she is, calmed him down some. I think you’re safe for now; Hilde’s going to keep an eye on them but I’m going to keep shadowing you ‘cause I can and you’d be lost without me.”
Heero could just hear the grin and wink through the receiver, and frowned. “With as much discretion as always.” He said before he hung up, somewhere right before Duo’s cheerfully-ignorable reply.
“I think we’re all right for a little while longer,” he said as he pocketed his phone. “Might want to keep to the other side, though.”
He hadn’t ever thought a simple flashing of teeth could glow like that as he made a good attempt at returning it as she promptly consorted her guide map for suggestions.
“The Ferris wheel!” she said at last, pointing at the ride looming up in the distance, a colorful glitter against the white-silver of the colony’s upper dome.
“Sounds good to me.”
They ran towards the revolving structure as if they were naughty children, running away from the hands of a scolding adult. Actually, thought Relena ruefully and with some amazement, that’s almost exactly what we’re doing. One quick phone call—not even a report—and he’d shrugged the incident off—albeit hesitantly—and just suggested they stay. That was certainly an improvement. In fact, it was positively… touching.
She chanced a glance at his face as they ran. His face was set—serious. His lips weren’t frowning exactly but.. yes. Serious.
She felt her heart skip a beat. He was doing this for her. He was trying so hard for her sake.
Well she’d better not make him regret it then!
The line was short, as they’d expected from the look of the sparse crowd, so it didn’t take long before they were handing over their tickets and scrambling into one of the carriages.
“You know… I’ve never been to one of these,” Relena remarked in the subsequent silence, broken only by the cheery music outside and the murmur of voices below as they slowly rose higher and higher.
“A carnival?” Heero replied, raising an eyebrow. “I don’t believe you.”
“No, not a carnival… I mean… this thing. The Ferris Wheel. I guess I mean on one of these, then.”
“Why not?” It seemed like a very Relena-like ride… on Earth, you had the impression of being able to touch the sky.
“I don’t know… I just… never got around to it.” She grinned cheekily at him, “I needed to share some of my firsts with you, after all. You’ve more than met your quota today already.”
“So glad you noticed.”
“And…” she hesitated for a moment, looking almost wistful, “How is University life?”
Ah. That was a bit of a sore subject with the princess… occupied with her political achievements as she was, the academic life in a school environment was far in the past. It wasn’t hard to see that she wished it were otherwise.
“It… wasn’t what I expected.” He frowned, unsure of exactly how to phrase his words.
She leaned forward, intrigued. “Go on.”
“It’s—” He stopped and Relena saw his expression change instantly. The mouth thinned, the eyes hardened, and she froze.
“What is it?” she asked softly, barely moving her lips.
“There’s no one else on this ride.”
It had taken a little time to notice, since the crowd lining up had been sparse… but there was literally no one else on the ride, except for the two of them.
Relena had just enough time to blink before the shrill shriek of grinding machinery rent the air and shattered the cheery music—the ride wrenched to a stop, leaving the basket swinging jerkily.
“What the hell…?” Heero was on his feet in an instant, down in a low crouch. Relena hunched forward, prudently keeping her head out of sight from the basket’s windows.
Heero peered down through the clear dirty plastic that was the basket’s window, trying to discern who it was that had trapped them up here.
The shrill shrieking of a loudspeaker microphone squalling to life seemed to respond immediately, as Duo’s voice bellowed up at them. “Congratulations my friends… you are now stuck. We will proceed to keep you up there for a grand total of forty-five (45) minutes in which you both are required to make up for lost time.”
The two of them swore that if he weren’t more than a that of long brown hair on the ground, they’d see him waggling his eyebrows suggestively.
Relena’s head popped up, and she leaned her head out the center of the basket where there were no windows. Heero was treated once again to the startling realization that Relena Peacecraft Darlian truly had an impressive set of lungs.
“Duo! When I get my hands on you…!”
“Have fun, ma’am.”
She sat back down with her arms crossed, swearing she could literally hear the cheerful wink he was obviously giving the mic in place of her face.
“’Have fun’ indeed…” she muttered. “Now you’re just going to start frowning and blaming yourself for not watching out properly and just try harder by staring out the window for the whole time limit, and never try anything on me.”
He blinked. “You… actually wanted me to…?” He blinked again, utterly unable to process this. “Who are you, and what have you done with my date?”
He then felt his mouth slam shut, but not fast enough to catch that last word before it was out of his mouth. Date. Date. He’d said it. He felt his cheeks burning, and he turned away, hiding his eyes beneath his bangs in attempt to hide it from her. “I mean…” he chanced a glance at her face.
And felt transfixed. He could’ve sworn she was actually glowing, the way she was smiling with utmost delight at him, as if he’d just offered the moon in all its former fantasy glory instead of the hulk of a space station that it was in reality.
“Date… so this is a date…”
“…Yeah.” There. He’d said it.
It hadn’t been so hard to admit.
It was suddenly that much easier when she leaned forward, took his face between her hands, and kissed him.
He couldn’t move for a moment, and sat stunned as she pulled away to take in the look of his face, her lips curling into smile before she was back and her lips were on his again and she wasn’t pulling away and…
Hesitantly, he reached for her, running his hands along her bare shoulders, pulling her closer—she was soon curled sideways on his lap without either of them having once broken the kiss. She was soon running her fingertips along the smooth contours of his face and neck, and he was running his fingers through her honey-gold hair. He couldn’t hold back a deep-throated groan when she parted her lips, and began sucking delicately on his lower lip, her tongue massaging circles against it.
Then they could both feel a change in the atmosphere. The kisses were faster now, open-mouthed and heated; their tongues tangling together as Heero tilted her back, bracing her with one arm and his body halfway on top of her. Her arms came up, one sliding around to hold onto the back of his neck, her fingers toying with the hairs at his nape while the other slid delicately up beneath the thin material of his shirt, making his breath catch in his throat as she ran her hand up that lightly-muscled torso.
He turned his attention away from her reddened lips, down along the line of her neck; his tongue flicking out to taste her skin, the delicate butterfly kisses he lavished and set his teeth gently into her flesh, which had her mewling quietly into his ear and scrabbling at him, trying to draw him closer.
The loudspeaker shrilled again, causing them both to jerk apart in surprise as Duo’s voice sounded once again, “Actually our deal with the wonderful operator has been cut short because… well… apparently this place doesn’t allow public fornication on its equipment. Safety and health hazard issues and all that… So you actually have just… well… not time left at all, actually. Put your clothes back on, you’re coming back down.”
Relena felt herself flying backwards into the opposite seat as the both of them automatically smoothed down their clothes and Relena swiftly re-tied her hair smoothly, while they endured their faces turning a mutual shade of tomato red, unable to meet each other’s eyes.
By the time the machinery shrieked and the ride jerked forward and began moving again, they were both neatly seated on either side of the basket, their hands folded in their respective laps.
“Well…” Relena mumbled, in an attempt to rescue the conversation they’d managed to have before Duo’s interference, “That was… um…” wonderful… perfect… unbelievable… teasing… “…nice…” she looked up hesitantly in an attempt to meet his eyes.
And then she blinked.
Surely that wasn’t Heero Yuy.
No. It couldn’t be.
Heero Yuy did not smile like that. Grin like that. Broadly, even!
And then he began to laugh. Hard.
And it wasn’t maniacal, or accompanied by large explosions. He was just… laughing!
That was when she felt a smile began to creep onto her face as the hilarity of the situation hit her. Then, inexplicably, a laugh bubbled up in her throat, and she burst out laughing right along with him. Maybe because she had never, not even in her dreams, thought she would wake up this morning and be asked out by the infamous Heero Yuy, then find herself kissing him—in a carnival ride no less!
They barely noticed when the ride came to a complete stop, and the carnival employee hastily unlocked the door to the ride.
Duo and Hilde were standing there, watching as the employee lifted the door, ready to bolt if either Relena or Heero decided that they would attempt to commit homicide and come after them. Neither of them had a death wish, thank you very much.
They were sadly disappointed however, if they had expected to find something suitably embarrassing worth gossiping about, or, in Duo’s case, filming. It was a strange picture to see, the former Gundam pilot and the politician laughing till tears came to their eyes, but there was nothing suitably sexual about the two of them to invoke even the slightest of rumors. Disappointing, to say the least after all their planning.
However, Duo, having sharper eyes than Hilde, noticed the blush that still stained Relena’s cheeks, and Heero’s slightly reddened lips and grinned—widely. Then, grabbing his girlfriend’s arm and hauling her away before either of them had a chance to be recognized, dashed off to their ‘Headquarters’. By this time, the hot dog vendor was muttering, "Damned kids these days…"
It took a lot of explaining to the carnival manager that they had had absolutely nothing to do with the ride being halted, and in fact they had been the innocent victims of a prank. It helped of course, that Relena was a well-known politician, and Heero had his reputation around L1.
They left that ride, Relena taking her place at Heero’s arm, which, surprisingly, already seemed comfortable. He looked down at her, smiled, and then asked, "Anywhere else you want to go?"
She grinned cheekily back at him, "I can only think of one place… do you have any interest in dancing?"
Neither of them took the words at face value.
Heero’s mouth slowly curled itself into some semblance of a smile, "Yeah… yeah I would," he told her softly, catching her lips with his in one feather-light kiss before leading her out of the park, towards his car. There was still no sign of either Duo or Hilde around, not even in the rearview mirror when they were on the road again.
Still at ‘Headquarters’, Duo and Hilde were busy discussing the events that had transpired. "Kinky make out scene. Had to be." Hilde told him confidently.
"That would make the two of them start laughing like there’s no tomorrow?"
She shrugged, "They’re strange people. I wouldn’t know."
"Never knew Yuy had it in him…" he looked downcast. "And we missed it!" he looked down mournfully at his video camera.
"Well… you know, we always have the security tape… it’s not that good, but…" she grinned, "I made sure one was installed in the ride just the other day…"
Duo stared at her openmouthed. He then proceeded to go down on his knees and began to worship her. "Hilde, you are amazing… I am not worthy of your love… I worship thee goddess…"
Hilde laughed outright, grabbed him by his hair and hauled him up. "Now, now, a few nicely furnished temples would have been good enough…" she teased.
"Anything, princess…" he picked her up in one quick swoop, and she kissed him while she was still in his arms. They quite nearly forgot about both Heero and Relena.
They’d also forgotten that Heero never did things by half. The security camera, when they went to check it, was dismantled, though when Heero had had the time, was impossible to tell.
February 14 AC 197
It’s late at night, I’m on L1, and I’m sitting up in bed in my hotel room. And the most amazing part of this, Diary? Heero Yuy, yes the man who has been my guardian angel for the past few years of my life is right here with me, still sleeping beside me. I’ve learned a lot about him, Diary… and I have more than a sneaking suspicion that he knows a lot more about my secrets than he lets on. For instance, it just might be coincidence, but Whitefield, (you remember Whitefield don’t you Diary? He’s the man who tried to attack me in my own house…) went officially missing for about an hour, and then reappeared from nowhere, babbling about never touching Relena again. I saw it on the news—talk about a phone call from a man and a woman who seemed more spider than human coming to call. Strange? Yes. I suspect something, Diary.
But that doesn’t change anything that’s happened tonight. I was with Heero, and that was all that mattered to me. He took me to the carnival, and I loved it. It was the sweetest thing he could do for me, because it would be something I wanted to do, not any other girl. He didn’t come piled down with several bouquets of red roses and drag me off to dinner and dancing. He did something new, and I love him for that. I love him, I love him, I love him… and he told me he’s staying, Diary. He’s staying with me.
I’ve always known he’ll be there for me when I need him, just like he’s always known I’ll be there for him when he needs me. But I never, never thought he would actually brave the spotlight to be with me… especially because that is what my life is… permanently in the spotlight. He’s willing to do that for me, Diary. And I’m perfectly willing to be content with what he has to give, and nothing more than that. He’s not ‘Perfect’ like everyone else says, and which he just might almost believe himself, but he’s Heero. And that’s enough for me.
Finally, it ends! I thought it wouldn’t take too long to get this last chapter out… and then look at me go! A month? Two months? I lost a good lot of motivation in between, I’m telling you.
And now… now I don’t know. I still have the first chapter of Dorothy’s saga in what I’d once wanted to be my Dear Diary series, but I’ve had it for years now and I don’t know if I have it in me to continue it. I’ll consider it, at any rate, I suppose.