by Flamika
Diclaimer: I own nothing. The song "I Will Always Love You" belongs to Whitney Houston.
Warnings: major angst
Pairings: 1+2 (implied)

Another request from ‘Lena Yuy! ^_^

Author's Note: Hmm…I don't know about this fic, for some odd reason. If it doesn't go over with you, no flames please. I know where its flaws are. ^_^

Phantom in the Office

If I should stay
I would only be in your way

My office is always so cold after hours. Who knows - maybe they turn the air conditioner up at night so that the office building will be chilled and refreshed when the dawn finally arrives and employees start to flock in the door by the hundreds, sleepily sipping their coffees as they isolate themselves in their various offices, ready to tackle the day.

Of course, I'm always in my office when they arrive. I'm rarely ever out of my office these days. Milliardo and Noin are beginning to worry about me, and I do everything, give every forced smile, every hollow word of comfort that I have in my being to ease their concerns. I know one day that it won't be enough, and they'll eventually guess what's really bothering me. But until then, it'll always be me and my cold office, inseparable companions after everyone has gone home to their spouses in their cozy warm apartments. I have become great friends with my office, with the plain gray ceiling and the cream-colored carpet and the massive mahogany desk that is always overflowing with papers and reports.

So I'll go but I know
I'll think of you
Every step of the way

There is also a ghost that haunts my office.

Whether by night or by day, he comes, if it so pleases him. After all, he never was one to conform to the demands of others. Just one of thing things that I loved - still love - about Heero Yuy. For no matter what I tell everyone and what face I put on in front of the public, I always have and always will love Heero Yuy.

I can smell him sometimes, just a faint hint of that masculine musk that is so undoubtedly his that I always turn around, expecting to see a pair of Prussian blue eyes watching me from the shadows.

But I never do. Surprise, surprise.

Yet still I remain here in my cold office, filled with the desire to be near him, close to him, even if it's just his ghost that comes to visit me. That's probably the closest I'll ever be able to get to him again. It's the closest I ever want to be to him again, actually. I was never quite myself in the presence of Heero Yuy, unless I was speaking of peace. But as far as being the real me, I'm beginning to think that no one knows who I really am. All they know is Relena Darlian the Vice Foreign Minister. No one really takes time to know Relena, the pacifist who fell in love with the Perfect Soldier.

And who is still in love with him.

And I will always love you
I will always love you
You my darling you mmm

I sigh softly, letting the melancholy sound fill my silent office to join its shadowy brethren in the corners. The walls of this place alone have been forced to bear witness to my sighs, my late night monologues, my rehearsal speeches, and, on rare occasions, the plaintive sounds of my weeping. But I'd much rather the walls hear these things than anyone or anything else. The walls do not judge me, do not harp on my weaknesses or fawn over my strengths, and for this I am eternally grateful.

Putting my scrawling signature to yet another endless paper, the words blur before my eyes. Is my vision just weary of reading paper after paper, or is this blurriness a telltale symptom of those forbidden tears whose endless flow I have to bear alone? I don't know, and I am past caring.

I put the pen down and rub my face with my hands, pressing hard as if I can plunge insubstantial fingers into my skull and tear away those memories of Heero that haunt my every night and every day like a ghost dancing in the darkness. Often I catch myself thinking that these once sweet memories are the bane of my existence and if they were only banished forever from my heart and soul, I would be able to live something resembling the life that I want.

Bittersweet memories,
That is all I'm taking with me

But although the taste of these memories on my tongue is so bittersweet - just like his name when I whisper it - I cannot even dream of life without him, as much as his ghostly presence torments me. It's quite horrible to think that without Heero Yuy, there would be no Relena Darlian. Sad, so terribly sad.

I wonder if it's true?

But as I sit here, recalling the time we first danced at the St. Gabriel Institute, I can almost believe it is. His hands were clammy - as I'm sure mine were - as we waltzed across the floor. Was he nervous? His steps were awkward. Was it his first dance? He caught on quickly to the rhythm emotion pulsing between us, and his moves became fluid and infinitely more confident. That was pure Perfect Soldier there: the ability to learn quickly and efficiently. Life as an assassin taught him that skill, and yet did learning to dance with me result in any bloodshed? He didn't have to always be the Soldier. Too bad he didn't realize that until too late.

I cannot help but wonder that when Heero, battered and nearly beaten, stumbled underground and tried to execute a dying Mariemaia, did his heart already belong to another? Did I hold someone else's lover in my arms and whisper so tenderly to his unconscious body that he was safe with me, that his days of killing were done with forever?

Had he already heard the same words drop from the heated lips of someone else?

Did he even need me at all?

Something hopeful in my heart tells me that yes, to some extent, Heero needed me there with him in that turning point in his life when the child assassin he was finally shed the chains of war and spread his wings for the first time. I suppose it is possible that there was something he needed at that moment that only I could give him. As our dirty and wartorn souls collided, maybe at that instant, I and only I could know his pain and therefore release him from his cage completely.

But no matter how much you love a caged bird, love to admire its eternal beauty and its indomitable will as it dreams of freedom, if you open the cage, that bird will fly away. It will leave you behind and take off to the sky.
And Heero wears his newfound freedom as beautifully and tragically as he wore the chains of war. He wears it in the form of a green Preventer jacket.

So goodbye, please don't cry
We both know I'm not what you, you need

But at the same time that I sit here listening to my heart say that Heero needed me then, there is something in my cold, overworked brain that whispers harshly that Heero Yuy has enough strength already…so why would he have any need for mine? All my strength came from Heero. How could anyone need the leech that saps their life away like the parasite that they are? How could a Soldier ever love a pacifist? No, Heero never needed me. He needed someone like…like…

"Knock, knock," a voice suddenly says, brutally pulling me from my melancholy musings.

I look up in surprise to see Duo Maxwell, dressed in full Preventer garb, standing the doorway to my office, smiling kindly at me.

"Duo," I murmur, staring dumbly at him. "What are you doing here so late at night?"

He lifts one arm, and I see that he has a manila folder clutched in his slender fingers. "I'm a delivery boy," he says with a grin. "Big bad boss Lady Une had some papers to give Milliardo, and she figured that he might be down here with you. Is he here?" He looks around my office, in all the shadowy corners, as if my brother might be hiding in one of them with the rest of my phantoms.

"Milliardo went home a long time ago," I tell Duo softly. "Everyone's gone…but me."

Duo blinks his big violet eyes at me, and something sharp seems to spear me in the chest. "Yeah," he says, sounding a little confused. "But I thought he might be here to keep you company or something?"

"I'm afraid I'm not the best of company these days," I say flatly. I want Duo to leave; I don't wish to speak with anyone.

And I will always love you
I will always love you

"I can see why!" he exclaims suddenly.

I jump, and my heart skips a beat. "You can?"

"Sure!" he exalts with a smile, striding into my cold office and pointing at the stacks of papers on my desk. "These guys are migraines waiting to happen, Relena."

I do not return his smile even though I know I probably should. He is only trying to be friendly, after all. But he lends warmth and laughter to my cold office, and I am not used to the presence of such things in this place.

Duo, however, appears unfazed by any unfriendly vibes that I may be radiating. He plops down in the chair in front of my desk as if we are old friends, absently-mindedly dropping the manila folder on my desk as he does so. He has apparently never heard of the phrase "violating personal space."

"So," Duo continues talking, his chocolate brown braid flopping over his shoulder as he leans forward and peers dubiously at the papers occupying my desk space. "You just read these things and sign them?"

"Most of them, yes," I answer, picking up my pen and pulling a packet of papers closer to me, hoping that he will get the hint.

But he doesn't, and I haven't the heart to tell him to go away. I know he's just being my friend, and he has come down here to see me when no one else has.

I hope life treats you kind

"Whoo!" he suddenly exclaims, whistling softly and relaxing in the chair, putting his arms over his head and stretching lazily. "We never have to do anything like that down there in the Preventer office!"

I do not ask what "we" he is referring to.

Duo stops talking, perhaps sensing that I am not in the mood for chattering at the moment. But he still does not leave. Instead he sits in his chair, singing softly under his breath and staring off into space. In other words, distracting me.

I cannot keep my attention focused on the papers in front of me, not when Duo Maxwell is sitting in front of my desk, fiddling with my paperweights and singing to himself. Though I rather enjoy listening to him sing; he has a very pretty voice, actually.

I lift my eyes and glance at him in passing, trying to communicate my message that way, but he doesn't look in my direction. He is still fiddling with my paperweights as if they are the most interesting things in the world. His eyes are like two misted amethysts as he stares off into space, and his singing has become no more than a muttering. Perhaps he has forgotten the words to his song.

He scratches his head, and the overhead lights glint mockingly off of his wedding band. My heart turns to ice.

Oh yes, and allow me to make a correction to something I said earlier. It was wrong to call him Duo Maxwell for Duo's name is now Duo Maxwell-Yuy.

They were married just this last spring. Hilde said the wedding was beautiful. I wouldn't know. I didn't go. I was in my office, signing papers and asking the silence where I had gone wrong.

I loathe looking back on that day. Not because the man I was in love with married someone I believed was only his best friend, but because I hate the arrogance that permeated my every thought that day.

How dare Heero marry Duo? I wondered that horrible day.
How dare he?! Duo's supposed to be his best friend, not his husband! What about me?! I helped build the man that now stands on that altar, marrying another man, and what's left for me?! A cold office in an empty building and memories frozen in time.

I do not like the person I was that day. I was selfish and arrogant and everything that I find so unlikable in an individual, especially one who is supposed to be a leader.

But, remember, I am only human, just like you.

And after those initial thoughts, I came to realize that maybe Duo was what was best for Heero. The God of Death and his Soldier, together forever.

And I hope you have
All you've dreamed of

As I sit looking at Duo now, I feel the river of pain running through my heart with the same fervor as it always flows. Is this what Heero needed? This jokester that always has a smile for everyone? The one who is always upbeat, and never sad? Light to his darkness, maybe? Is that what Duo is to Heero? Was there always something going on between them, and I just refused to see it?

Apparently, there was.

"Oh yeah!" Duo suddenly bursts out, looking at me suddenly. "Heero says ‘hi'."

My thoughts turn to poison suddenly. Wrong move, Duo. Heero never says "hi." It's just not what he does.

I know my eyes are now tainted with the bitterness that I try so hard to hide, and I tear them away from Duo and look down at my desk. "Really?" I say, and I am horrified to hear mockery in my voice. "Why don't you tell me next time that he says something like, ‘I'm going to kill you eventually' or something. That would be more his style, and I might actually believe you."

Duo doesn't answer, and I wish can retract my words. I am ashamed that I have leaked my darkness out to the world, but at the same time, I am relieved. Now, he knows. Now, someone knows.

He suddenly rises to his feet, and I can practically feel the emotions churning within him. I think he is going to leave, but he suddenly strides around my desk so that he is standing right beside my chair, staring down at me. My heart thunders in my chest as he begins to speak.

"I'm not going to apologize for loving him, you know," he tells me, not unkindly, but I hear iron steel in his voice. He is absolutely sincere, and he believes in what he's saying.

He continues, "I'm not going to apologize that life is unfair and you just happened to end up on what you believe is the short end of the stick. I'm not going to apologize that reality is harsh. And I am not going to apologize if the one I love just happens to love me back…"

Dorothy said that Heero cried during the vows. I didn't believe her, but now, as I hear Duo's sincere voice over the racing of my own agonized heart, I realize that what she said was probably absolutely true.

He suddenly leans down and places both of his large hands on the arm of my chair, his braid brushing my arm. His voice is soft when he says, "But I am sorry, Relena, that you are in pain right now."

And I wish for you joy
And happiness

"I am happy for you, Duo," I suddenly whisper, oblivious to the tears welling up in my eyes. "I am happy for, Heero, too. I just…I just…"

I just do not know what to do with this phantom in my office.

He reaches out and brushes away a portion of my bangs that have snaked into my eyes. "I know I'm probably not the person you want to hear this from, Relena," he says softly. "But I know you love him, and that's okay. He loves you too."

I do not say anything; I only look up at him in surprise. I had hoped, wished, longed, pined to hear that, but I always convince myself that it's a lie - that Heero could never love me when he's in love with Duo. But now, as I hear the words dropping from Duo's lips, I want to believe them so badly it hurts.

The light in his violet eyes is gentle as he lays his hand on my shoulder. "You took care of him during the war," he says softly. "You were his constant, his inspiration."

"Inspiration…" I whisper.

"You were his friend," Duo says firmly, looking into my eyes earnestly. "You taught him what friendship was. You helped teach him what it meant to be a human and not a machine. From the bottom of my heart, Relena Darlian Peacecraft, I thank you."

He kisses me gently on the cheek, heedless of the single tear that rolls down my face. I feel my heart breaking, but it is a good kind of breaking. Sort of like the cracking of an icy lake after a long, long winter.

Duo pulls back and smiles at me softly, and when I see all the love, gentleness and sincerity in those kind violet eyes, I can see why Heero decided to make this man the one he is going to spend the rest of his life with.

"You know that all I just said to you is true, don't you?" Duo asks me.

But above all this, I wish you love

"Yes," I whisper, smiling a little. "I know."

"Good!" Duo enthuses, and suddenly reaches up and tousles my hair affectionately, making a huge mess of it.

He laughs and steps back as I glare at him from underneath the bangs that are now hanging directly in my eyes.

"Mr. Maxwell-Yuy," I threaten, and it doesn't hurt to say his last name. "For your own sake, you'd better keep that braid out of my reach."

Duo suddenly stands ramrod straight and salutes me. "Yes, ma'am!"

I laugh for the first time in months, and now I truly realize why Heero loves Duo so much. For him, Duo is love, plain and simple. And there is no living without love. A strange thing, because for the longest time I have thought that Duo was lucky to have Heero, but for the first time, I think that Heero is lucky to have Duo.

And I will always love you
I will always love you

"Well," Duo says with a grin as he walks to the door and looks back at me. "If you'll permit me, my braid and I will leave you to your work."

"Goodbye, Duo," I say softly.

He waves and is just about to leave when he suddenly pokes his head back in. "And if I come back tomorrow and see all those papers on your desk, I swear by the blood of my father that I'm going to burn them all!" With a grin, he vanishes from the doorway.

"I'd like to see you try!" I call after him, smiling.

"I just might!" he laughs, voice faint. Seconds later, I hear a door shut softly.

For a moment, I just sit here in my cold office, maybe feeling my own peace settling in my heart, burning away the darkness that has been hovering over my shoulder for what seems like an eternity.

"Heero," I whisper to my office. "I'll always love you."

I, I will always love you
You, darling I love you
I'll always, I'll always love you

His scent suddenly surrounds me, and it's suddenly as if I feel a ghostly presence behind my chair, watching over me, beckoning to me, asking that I turn around and pay heed to it

But, for once, I don't.

Yet, I know the phantom will always be there, and I am happy.

  ~~FIN~~

"I had a dream, had a drowning dream I was in a river of pain. Only difference is this time I wasn't calling out your name…"
--
Natalie Imbruglia
"City"

"In the darkest hour, the soul is replenished and given strength to continue and endure."
--
Heart Warrior Chosa

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