Happy Birthday, Relena
"Please prepare for our entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. We will arrive at our destination shortly." Relena sighed and looked out the window, as she had so many times before. The view was quite familiar, but she never got over how beautiful the Earth looked from space. Her thoughts turned to another space flight, six long years ago. That had been the beginning of everything- no, don’t think of that. You’ll only depress yourself. She sighed again, and folded her hands in her lap. Another birthday in a couple weeks. Funny, how birthdays made her feel these days. Too many memories tied to them- they touched down, and Relena was jolted out of her reverie.
Soon she was walking down the stairs to her car, ignoring the throng of reporters following her. "I really understand how my father felt when he was Vice-Foreign minister." She told Pagan as they drove away from the spaceport, toward the Darlian Estate. "Yes, quite. Although it shows how popular you are with the People, Miss Relena." "Hmmm, I guess you’re right…" Nobody said much for the rest of the drive, and when they arrived Relena went straight to her rooms.
Quatre looked at the list in his hand and smiled. "Are you ready to go, Trowa?" Trowa stepped out of the trailer and nodded. The two began walking away from the circus, toward the city center and the mall. "I really hope this cheers Relena up. She’s been sounding depressed lately." Trowa nodded again, and then spoke.
"Do you think it’s smart to invite Duo and Wufei?"
"Well, I’m sure Relena will be glad to see them. We all became pretty good friends back then, and it’ll be fine, I think."
"Wufei might say something rude."
"I think he’ll be alright."
"What about Heero?"
"I emailed him at his old email address, but I don’t know if he’ll get it… Nobody else has heard from him since he left after the Mariemaia incident. Relena would be so delighted if he were there at the party…"
Trowa didn’t say anything else after that, and soon they were navigating their way through the mall. "Why don’t we split up and each take half of the list? We’ll be done faster that way." Again Trowa nodded, and Quatre tore the list in half. "Alright, I’ll meet you here in an forty-five minutes." Trowa turned and began to walk away, and Quatre soon followed.
Wufei was not in the mood to be teased. "C’mon Wufei, calm down! She was only joking." Sally Po tried to convince Wufei it wasn’t a big deal, but he wouldn’t listen. "I am not your boyfriend!!!! Why won’t anyone believe me?!!?! AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!" He usually didn’t react like this, but it had been going on all morning. First when he went to breakfast with Sally. Then when they were training in the weight room. At lunch, refitting the shuttle, and now. Now had been the last straw. A friend of Sally’s had come up and said "Hi, Sally! How’ve ya been? Oh, is that your new boyfriend? You usually have better taste than that. He’s so scrawny!" Wufei, to his credit, hadn’t strangled the woman right there. But that was only because of his resolution- "I will not fight the weak, or women." Instead he went and sliced up a whole lot of stuff with his sword in the training room.
Sally left him alone for a while, until the mail came and he got a letter from Quatre. She was surprised; Wufei usually didn’t get mail from anyone. So, she braved the training room and put the letter on the table, calling out "Wufei, there’s a letter on the table for you from Quatre- you’d better read it before you cut it up." Then she exited quickly.
For a few minutes Wufei ignored the letter and continued chopping everything in sight, but after a while he put the sword down and picked up the little white envelope, tearing it open in one deft stroke. He stood there, reading, for a second, and then laughed, throwing the invitation down. "Right, like I’d go to her party! She doesn’t even like me!" Then he started thinking, and slowly picked the letter up. "Hang on. This might be my chance to get away from here for a while…"
"Oh, hi Quatre!" Duo switched hands with the phone and continued drying dishes. "Hmmm… Oh, you’re planning a party for Relena’s birthday?" Hilde looked at him for a second, then went back to washing. "Yeah, she already invited us down then, so we’ll be there… Can we bring anything?" He put another dry dish on the rack. "Mmhmmm. Ok. We’ll seeya then. Bye." He put the phone back on the hook and picked up another dish.
"So, what did he say??" Hilde looked indignant.
"He said that they’re going to have a party for Relena-"
"I know, I know! What else?"
"We’re supposed to bring a present and maybe some flowers."
"Ooh wow, we get to go shopping!" She grinned, and Duo sighed, thinking of the last time that Hilde had dragged him along shopping with her. They must have gone into every store in the mall- "What do you think we should get her???" She was like that for the rest of the evening, babbling on about what to get Relena and what to wear and what kind of flowers and if she should make a cake just in case. Duo sighed a lot that evening.
It was raining, but he didn’t have a jacket on. For some reason he didn’t mind the rain. Maybe it was because before, during the missions, he didn’t have time to mind the rain. Or maybe it was just that he didn’t care about being cold and wet. Anyway, it wasn’t on his mind. It was that girl again. He couldn’t get himself to stop thinking of her. Whenever he wasn’t doing something she’d pop up in his head and wouldn’t go away. It made him sad to think of her. She reminded him of what could have been, if he hadn’t become a killer. The perfect soldier, they’d called him. Maybe he had been. The problem was what does a perfect soldier do when the war is over? They were all back to their normal lives, but what about him? Where did he fit in? He’d wandered for four long years and still hadn’t found the answer.
At long length it got dark and he stopped, parking his motorcycle under a tree and sitting down. After a while he dug out his trusty laptop and started surfing the net. On a whim he decided to check his email, just to see if anyone had figured out how to contact him. The was one, from a certain Q. R. Winner. His pulse quickened as he opened it, although he couldn’t tell if it was from having contact with one of the only people that he’d ever really call a friend, or the possibility of a new mission. Reading hastily he got to the end and sat back, thinking. What was he going to do? He’d known it was her birthday in a few weeks, but he’d never guessed they’d invite him to the party. He wasn’t sure he wanted to go, anyway. Although she might like it if he delivered the annual teddy bear in person. Part of him wanted so much to be with people who really cared about him, and part of him was afraid to get involved again, afraid he’d screw up her life because of what he’d done in the past. So he stayed under the tree all night, until dawn came, and he finally made his decision. Carefully stowing the computer back in its pack, he got on the motorcycle and rode away, glad to be sure about something.
Relena put the pen down, looked up at Quatre, and smiled. "Relena, stop working and come outside with us. Duo’s got a Frisbee and everyone’s playing catch with it…" She sighed, and stood up. "Alright, alright. I suppose I should take a break…"
They played Frisbee until it got dark, laughing and talking. After that Duo, Quatre, Trowa, and Hilde went into the living room to play cards, but Relena didn’t feel like joining them. She headed up to her room and sat down, thinking about a box under her bed. After a second she knelt down and dug it out, blowing dust off the top. Slowly she lifted the lid and looked inside. Five teddy bears were packed carefully inside, each a birthday gift from Heero. Each one had been left where she would find it, with a card and a bow. He never stayed around to see her, though, and that made her confused and sad. She couldn’t understand why he’d go to the trouble of getting her a birthday present and then leave before she could see him, or at least say thank you. Gently she lifted out the first, hugging it tightly and trying to hold back the tears that were threatening, as they always did when she thought of him. As usual she tried to push the depressed thoughts out of her head, but she found herself remembering that last time she saw him before he left. It was at the end of the Mariemaia nightmare, when he’d passed out and she’d caught him… She’d held him until he woke up and then he’d stood, pulling her up with him, leaning against her with one arm delicately around her shoulders until the others got there. How sweet he’d been, but later, when everyone went to her house to stay the night, he’d disappeared. In the morning he was gone without a trace.
A knock at the door brought her out of her sad preoccupation, and she called "Come in!" stuffing the teddy bear back in the box. Trowa opened the door quietly and stood just inside, saying softly "Because tomorrow is your birthday, we thought we’d take you somewhere extraordinary to celebrate. I thought it was essential to tell you so you’d be able to work out your schedule." "Oh, Trowa, thank you, but you guys don’t have to do anything special for me. I’ll be fine. Really." He gazed at her silently for a minute, and then said "We want to do this for you; we don’t feel obligated. Also, it will be fun." Relena smiled, and nodded. "Thank you. That will be fun." At that he left Relena alone again. She sighed a little, and smiled sadly at the box-full of sad mementos. "Apparently Heero’s not the only one who remembers my birthday."
After having dinner in a fancy resteraunt, everyone went back to Relena’s house, which Quatre, Hilde, and Dorothy had decorated earlier, when Relena was out. Duo beat Relena to the door and opened it for her, motioning and speaking in a French accent. "Thees way, mademoiselle. Eet ees time for thee, how do you say, cake and pressants?" She giggled a little and followed him inside, gasping at the spectacle before her. The whole dining room was covered in streamers and balloons, and there were cake and presents on the table. Quatre came around and steered her toward a chair that Trowa had pulled out for her. Dorothy grinned and said "Oh, Miss Relena, isn’t this fun?!" Hilde was pushing the cake toward Relena holding a box of matches, while Duo was saying "C’mon, light ‘em already, I want some cake!" That was when someone knocked on the door. Dorothy started over to open it, but Relena got up, saying, "I’ll get it, it’s ok." She opened the door and stood there, staring at the person standing in front of her.
He was taller, and there was a tiny shadow of a beard on his face, but there was no mistaking the young man standing on her doorstep. "Heero." she breathed, and he shifted a little, uncomfortably, holding a bouquet of roses and another teddy bear.
"Relena… Happy Birthday."
"Oh, Heero! Where have you been all these years? You disappeared, and we all worried…"
"I’m sorry, Heero, it’s just a shock to see you again after so long…" She smiled a little, sadly, and put her fist over her heart like she used to. "It’s good to see you. Would you like to come in? We were just about to have cake…"
He looked down at the ground, and she stepped over to him, slowly reaching out to touch his shoulder. "Come in, please? I’m sure everyone would be glad to see you." After a moment, he gave a murmur of assent, and she led him into the house.
Everyone was standing around the table, waiting for Relena. They looked up when she came back in, and then stared at her follower. Duo was the first to recover from the shock, and said joyfully "Heero, buddy! You’re back!" Then everybody was talking, asking him where he’d been, why he’d left, greeting him, etc. Relena sat back down, and Heero came and stood behind her, with everyone else, the tiniest smile beginning to show on his usually expressionless features. Hilde lit the candles, but Relena and the rest were too busy talking with Heero to notice. Finally, Duo got fed up with waiting and went to blow the candles out for Relena. Dorothy noticed and yelled "Duo, no!" And Relena turned around and Duo did blow out the candles and everyone started laughing.
Later that night, when no one but he was awake, Heero snuck out of his room. He stopped outside another room and opened the door silently, creeping over to the bed. The bear, the newest one, was wrapped tightly in her arms. He watched her sleeping peacefully for a long time, finally turning away. At the door he stopped, speaking quietly. "Goodbye, Relena." Then he was gone.
Something woke Relena just as the dream ended. She thought she heard someone whispering, but no one was there. Closing her eyes again, her thoughts still focused on the mysterious whispering. Suddenly her eyes popped open again, and she sat up strait. "Heero! It was Heero whispering!" Soon she was jumping out of bed, grabbing a robe, and flying down the stairs to the garage, where Heero’d parked his motorcycle. The Harley was gone, and he wasn’t there. Without thinking she jumped in her car and drove out of the garage, not quite sure where she was going but knowing she couldn’t just let him leave again.
It was almost dawn when he arrived at the beach. After leaving Relena’s house he’d driven around for hours trying to decide which way to go. A little voice inside kept saying he should go back to Relena and the others, but he knew that he could never do that. He didn’t know why he was at the beach. Maybe it was just him being a little reminiscent; this is where it all began type of thing. That was funny, because he’d never really let himself be reminiscent before. Or have fun, like at the party. The missions had always been the main thing; nothing could detract from them. Not even his own humanity. That had probably been what he’d been searching for all these years after the war, what it meant to be human. He picked up a stone and hurled it into the water angrily. And now, when he was finally starting to learn what it meant, he had to leave, because of his past. Because of the missions. After that he just stood there for a long time, staring at the waves and trying to block the feeling that something was going horribly wrong. Eventually his thoughts drifted to that day so long ago.
He’d fought his way out of the Gundam while it was still falling toward the bottom of the sea. Soon after that he’d lost consciousness, but the air in his suit must have buoyed him up to the surface, where the waves washed him onto the beach. Then he remembered someone taking off his helmet, cool fingers brushing the side of his face, and them talking, surprised. After that he must have fainted again, because the next thing he remembered was someone beside him again, saying they’d called an ambulance. It had been a girl’s voice, Relena’s voice, but he didn’t know that then. That was when he realized what she was saying, probably when he’d really regained full consciousness, because then it was all about the mission, protect your identity for the mission… He didn’t really even look at the girl until he was standing, and then that was only because of his training-
Remember every person you meet because they might be important later on. But later, when he was driving away in the ambulance, he’d thought of her; thought how pretty she was, and then wondered why he was thinking that, and then banished the thought because it might detract from the missions.
And later, how shocked he’d been to discover that the girl was at his own school, shocked and sad because he knew he’d have to kill her. No one who sees me shall live. He’d told her he would kill her because he’d been hoping she would run away somewhere safe, where he couldn’t find her. At first, that’s what he thought she’d do, but no, Relena could see through all his bravado, all his acting, to the person buried inside. And she knew he couldn’t kill her; she trusted that enough to follow him, even on his missions. She’d saved him from Duo. She’d even saved him from himself a couple of times, when he’d thought the only way out of it all was to kill himself. Before he’d left, he’d wished he could have told her how he felt. So many times she’d been the only reason for him to live, he’d stayed alive because he’d been hoping to see her one last time. Of course, there were the others, Duo and Quatre and Trowa and Wufei. He owed Duo a lot, too. Almost as much as Relena. And Quatre had always been kind to him, even when he’d been mean or rude because he wasn’t sure how to react. Trowa had understood him better than the others had, and he’d appreciated that. Wufei was someone he’d pictured much like himself, confused and angry about the conditions he’d had to live with. They had all helped him, just by being there as friends and comrades. How could he leave the only people he’d ever loved?
The beach was the last place Relena looked, more on a whim than anything. Somehow, though, she hadn’t been surprised when she’d gotten to the steps and saw him standing there, alone. The sun was beginning to come up now, she’d searched so long. He was facing the waves, arms folded, standing silently, in a way that made her put her fist over her heart again, and whisper "Heero." This was how he’d always been to her- alone, confused, and in need of a friend. Maybe that was why she loved him. But something about him had always pulled a heartstring, enough that she’d braved death, even at his own hands, to be with him. It was something she’d never understood, but always cherished.
After a second she called softly "Heero. Why are you leaving again?" He turned quickly, startled out of his calm reminiscence. Relena was standing at the top of the steps, silhouetted against the brilliant, golden dawn, dressed in a nightgown and slippers. His heart started joyfully at the sight of her, but he also felt dread, knowing how hard it would be to say goodbye. For a moment he wondered why she was still in her pajamas, but then she came down the steps quickly, stopping about five feet away.
"Relena. You followed me…"
"I… couldn’t let you go… Heero, I don’t think I could stand it if you left again…"
Words came out of his mouth he didn’t know he had the guts to say. "You love me that much?"
She looked surprised, then nodded, folding her arms and closing her eyes. "Heero, you mean more to me than anything. Why else do you think I would brave death so many times just to see you?"
"I have to leave, Relena. I can’t stay." There was no reply. "I couldn’t stay, Relena. Knowing what I’ve done? I’d just ruin your life."
"No, Heero. I don’t think you would. Look at Quatre, and Trowa, Duo, Wufei. Noin, Zechs, all of them. They’re not ruining my life."
"Heero, don’t leave now. You’d be leaving the only people who would ever understand what you’re going through. If you stay, it’s the only way you’d find what you’ve been searching for. Please, don’t go."
Walking toward her, he watched as a single tear trickled down her face. Reaching out, he stopped it, gently, and she opened her eyes. His voice was low as he said "Maybe I will stay." She reached up and touched his hand, covering it with her own. Then she stepped forward and hugged him tightly, leaning her head against his shoulder. He stood there for a minute, not sure what to do, and then slowly put his arms around her. She was right, he thought. I think I did find what I was searching for.