The raindrops were streaming down the windowpane on this dark night, as Relena kept watch on the fourth floor of the colony hospital. She touched the glass with the fingertips of her left hand, unaware of the wistful statement of the reflection that was mirrored back to her.
Any other time, she would have found the programmed weather changes of the colony to be almost unnerving in its predictability. Having lived on the Earth all of her life, she preferred the ever-changing moods of the Earth to this unnatural atmosphere. But now, she was too preoccupied to notice.
Heero stirred restlessly in his hospital bed. He had been brought here by emergency shuttle, having collapsed in Relena’s arms after bringing the Barton Foundation to its knees.
He had been unconscious ever since.
Relena brushed the shock of dark brown hair away from his forehead so she could place her cool hand on his fevered brow. Her gesture calmed him, and he slept more peacefully.
She settled into the chair that she had drawn close to the head of Heero’s bed. Soon, the varied and stressful events of the day overtook her and she fell asleep.
After a while, Heero sat bolt upright in bed and frantically called her name. Relena snapped back to consciousness.
“Heero, what’s wrong?” she asked, as she sat on the edge of his bed and put her hands on his shoulders to steady his swaying body.
Heero looked at her with an statement of complete shock. He was even paler than he had been and his eyes were wild with terror. “You’re here,” he said unbelievingly. “You’re here.” He swayed forward, so she took him in her arms and held him close. “You’re not dead,” he murmured against her shoulder, as he cuddled closer. “I didn’t… I didn’t…”
“Didn’t what, Heero?” Relena asked softly.
“Never mind,” he said somewhat irritably as he pulled away from her. “I was dreaming, that’s all.” Heero brushed the entire incident aside by changing the subject. “Where am I?”
“You’re in a colony hospital. The doctor is treating you for extreme exhaustion,” Relena answered. “Heero?”
“Did you have a nightmare?” she asked gently.
“It must have been a bad one.”
“I told you it isn’t important.”
“You’re still shaking, Heero,” Relena persisted. “I don’t believe it really was ‘nothing’. Will you please tell me about it? Maybe talking about it will help.”
He looked into her eyes, so sincere, so full of concern. And, yes—there was love, too. There was no mistaking that.
“I have a recurring nightmare when I’m very stressed,” he said, his voice so low that she had to bend forward to catch the words. “It’s about the time when you were giving a speech as Queen and I was in the balcony, ready to shoot you. And if I don’t wake up in time, I end up killing you.” He began to tremble from the traumatic memory of the nightmare that he had dreamt countless times, but he lay back down and pulled the blankets around him, pretending he was only cold. Relena didn’t believe that for a moment, but she let him believe she did because she could see that being vulnerable was uncomfortable for him.
“That seems like so long ago,” Relena mused, her thoughts a million miles away. “So long ago…”
“It doesn’t when I have that dream,” Heero said bluntly.
Relena brought herself back to the present. “Heero, do you mind telling me exactly what happened that day?”
He swallowed hard, and a look of shame fleetingly crossed his face. It was so brief that only someone who understood him would have seen it. And Relena did.
“I was convinced that your pacifist ideas were going to cause endless trouble. I was sure that you would split the unity of the people by preaching pacifism. So I decided that the only way to stop you was to kill you,” Heero began, refusing to meet her eyes. “So I discovered where you’d be giving a speech, knocked out the guard on duty and went to the balcony because it was where I could get the best shot without drawing attention to myself before I killed you.”
Heero licked his dry lips and stared at the ceiling.
“Here,” Relena said tenderly, offering him a glass of water. She supported his head with her hand as he took only a sip from the straw and laid his head back on the pillow.
“Then you saw me and I saw that you weren’t afraid of me. You never were. I never understood that.” Heero’s brows puckered with puzzlement. “You almost seemed to give me permission.” He finally looked at her.
“When I went to pull the trigger, I aimed well and closed my eyes because…” Heero’s voice trailed off. He shook his head as if to clear his mind. “Anyway,” he continued, “the audience started applauding. They were so enthusiastic about your speech that I decided that what you were doing might not be so dangerous, after all. So I left.”
“That really surprised me,” Relena admitted.
“I made my way through the building. I was upset because I had almost made a terrible mistake. You were just ONE HANDCLAP away from death, Relena.” She could tell that he was overwhelmed by that thought. “Just ONE handclap. I didn’t want those bullets with me anymore because of what I had almost used them for, so when I got to the parking lot, I fired both bullets into the ground at the base of a tree.”
“You had only two bullets with you?”
“Why just two? Were you low on ammunition?” Relena asked incredulously. “I’d have thought that if you really wanted to assassinate someone that you’d use a fully loaded weapon.”
“I’m an expert marksman, Relena,” he was looking at her now, “so I wouldn’t have needed more than two bullets. I knew I only needed one to kill you.”
“Then why did you take two, if you were so confident?” she persisted in asking. “Why didn’t you just have one?”
The veil covering the emotion in his eyes lifted and he looked deeply grieved, but his voice remained steady.
“Because you are the only person that I’ve ever loved in my entire life, Relena,” he answered honestly. “The other bullet was for me.”