it Down to Learning + Chapter 11 (cont)
Clearing Things Cryptic
That wasn't amazing. He liked
He liked spending time with them.
That was a little more surprising. He'd preferred all his life to be by
himself whenever possible, probably because he'd had so little time alone.
But in the last few years, he'd discovered that, the vast majority of
the time, he would far rather be with the other former pilots than by
It was just more fun with them.
He had fun with them.
was damn amazing. 'Fun' had never been a high priority in his life, until
they'd showed him how... enjoyable it was.
He liked having sex with them.
There's something they should damn well know. He'd had sex before he was
with them, but he hadn't understood anything about what the fuss was until
them. It had been pleasant enough, but with them... it was amazing.
Heero realized that he was just staring at the screen of the computer.
His eyes strayed to the little clock on the corner of the desktop, and
he realized he'd been sitting there for more than five minutes without
moving. He shook his head, dazedly, scowling in irritation at himself.
"So you're back. I've never seen you be unproductive that long. I
was afraid you'd died and noone had noticed."
Heero jumped, startled, as the light, teasing voice broke the silence
of the room. He looked up and saw Relena standing in the open door of
his office, smiling at him.
He glared back at her, but her smile widened. She knew it wasn't an angry
glare, he was just irritated that she'd startled him.
She stepped further into the office, and closed the door behind her. She
crossed to his desk and set down a paper cup on the surface near his hand.
He picked up the cup and sniffed at it, his eyes lighting up. She smiled
indulgently at him as he picked it up and gulped the contents.
"Fruit punch," he identified after drinking half of it. He grinned
at her. "I love fruit punch."
"You have a mustache," she informed him with amused impatience.
He snorted unconcernedly, rubbing the area above his upper lip, removing
some of the red liquid.
"I still can't believe that the hero of the Gundam Wars goes crazy
for fake tropical punch," she commented, pulling one of the office
chairs around to his side of the desk and plopping down in it beside him.
He glanced at her out of the corner of his eyes. "I can't believe
that the Queen of Sanc sits like that wearing that short a skirt,"
he retorted dryly, ostentatiously observing her slumped posture and casually
She laughed. "You keep my secret, I'll keep yours," she bargained,
laughing again as he grunted and returned his attention to the computer
They sat quietly for a few moments as Heero continued working on the file
he'd just inserted into Quatre's records. He only paid partial attention
to what he was typing - the rest of him was marveling, as he frequently
did when alone with her, how much his relationship with Relena had altered.
The first six years he'd known her, he'd dreaded being near her. In fact,
three years ago he couldn't have imagined being alone with her in this
close proximity, especially voluntarily. She'd been obsessed with him.
In love with him, she'd insisted, but he'd rather doubted that. He was
not convinced that such an emotion even existed, and even if it did, she
hadn't known him at all. So how could she feel that way toward
She'd insisted as fervently that she did love him, that they were
soulmates and foreordained lovers and meant to be together forever. She
made it her mission to get him, and, one night almost a year after the
Eve Wars, she'd almost succeeded.
He'd been in that transitory, unfocused, drifting period he fell into
after the wars were all over. Sure, he didn't have to kill anymore - but
what was he supposed to do? She'd offered him a job as a security consultant
in the Sanc Kingdom, and he'd accepted it. But after working there for
almost a year, he'd pretty much ironed out the kinks in the royal security
systems. Oh, there were always quirks, but the day-to-day challenge of
the job had disappeared, and he was getting restless.
Plus, he was getting nervous. Relena had been getting more and more persistent
all the time, and he still just wasn't interested in what she was offering.
He didn't want a marriage, however politically correct and beneficial
to the peace it was. He certainly didn't want to be King or Prince Royal
of anywhere. And, frankly, he didn't want Relena.
One day, she'd asked him to come and review the files of all the changes
he'd made since he started working for her. They began reviewing the files
at three o'clock, and when she pulled out the wine at eleven-thirty, they
hadn't stopped for a minute, not even to eat. As the hour had grown later,
she'd starting moving a little closer to him, her tone had become more
suggestive, her movements more deliberate. He was getting nervous, and
the wine was a welcome distraction.
Of course, he hadn't eaten for almost twelve hours.
And he had never drank more than a single glass of wine with dinner before.
He hadn't noticed that she wasn't drinking anything, though she was diligent
in filling up his cup.
After what seemed like a very short time, though in retrospect it had
been time enough for him to down almost three bottles of wine on his own,
it didn't seem like such a bad thing at all that she was sitting close
She smelled good, and her hair shone in the dim light from the lamps.
When she kissed him, that had seemed like a good idea too.
Then, they were on the floor of her private office, and the carpet was
scratchy against his knees, but her body was soft and willing and warm
beneath his, and that seemed like a very good idea.
The next morning though, when he'd woken up in her bed with her curled
up in his arms, with no clear memory of how he'd gotten there, that didn't
seem like a very good idea at all.
He'd panicked. He didn't know what to do. He just knew that he hadn't
planned this, hadn't wanted it... and didn't want it again.
She'd opened her eyes then, and looked into his...
And she'd just sighed. She moved back, away from him, and pulled the sheet
up over her chest.
And she'd told him he could go.
He hadn't waited long enough for her to change her mind - he'd grabbed
his clothes, which had somehow been piled on a chair by the bed, pulled
them on, and left.
He'd hesitated in the doorway, looking back toward her...
But she hadn't been looking at him. She'd been staring at the blanket,
and though he stood and looked at her for a long time, and she'd had to
know he was still there, she never looked up.
He'd left - left the room, left the palace, left the kingdom. He'd drifted
for two years, years during which she'd never contacted him.
When he'd moved back to Sanc, she'd been thrilled. She'd resumed her pursuit
of him with all its former vigor.
Apparently, since he'd returned to her sphere, she'd interpreted that
as a sign that he might actually be interested after all.
Then, he'd moved in with the other four.
She'd flipped her lid, in Duo's words. There'd been one loud, angry scene
in the living room of their townhouse, where she'd furiously accused him
of taking advantage of her - of stealing her heart and her virginity and
That had been ugly. Quatre had been distressed, Wufei shocked, Trowa quietly
concerned... and Duo had been hysterical.
Duo still did impersonations of that encounter sometimes when he was very
drunk. Sometimes, if Quatre was very drunk too, he participated, Quatre
playing Relena and Duo playing Heero.
Duo would stand on the couch in order to be taller than Quatre, and shake
his fists down at him.
"Took your virginity?" he'd bellow. "You practically shoved
it down my throat!"
"You left!" Quatre would shriek in hideous falsetto.
"I thought you were going to rape me again!" Duo would shout,
his voice exaggeratedly deepened.
Quatre would fall to the ground and roll around on the floor, pretending
to sob hysterically. He'd manage to call Duo a cad, a rogue, a roue, a
rascal, and a debaucher of innocents before he'd break out in giggles,
at which point Duo would declare that he hadn't seen any debauchery yet,
and jump him.
Then they usually started having sex on the floor.
Their portrayal of the encounter was only exaggerated a little. Most of
the dialogue was roughly accurate. There had been no sex on the floor,
Heero grinned at the computer. He always sulked when they drug out that
particular reminiscence, but he always ended up laughing at their enthusiastic
"What's so funny?" Relena demanded, leaning forward to catch
He turned and smiled at her. That had been the low point of their relationship.
She hadn't spoken to him for six months, and then, suddenly, she'd appeared
at his office one day and apologized. She'd visited him regularly after
that, and slowly their relationship had developed, but she never again
had aggressively tried to make their relationship something it wasn't.
Oh, she suggested it frequently. But it was done lightly, without seriousness...
it was more a flirtatious gesture than anything else.
It was as if Relena, finally having had to accept that she was never going
to get what she wanted, had suddenly, because of that, grown up.
It may have been the first time in her life that she really didn't get
something she badly desired.
It had probably done her a world of good.
She had been a hell of a ruler, and in the last few years, as she grew
older and came into her own more, she'd been getting steadily better.
Heero had to admit that it was very likely only her presence and her associations
with the Preventers that had kept him part of the organization. Without
her guidance, things would probably be even more ridiculously bound by
red tape than they were.
"Huh?" she pressed leaning forward to wave her hands threateningly
over the keyboard. "Tell me or I'll screw up your code... come on,
come on... "
"Watch it!" he warned her, pushing her hands away. "Hit
too many wrong buttons and Quatre's going to jail."
She raised an eyebrow at that, but didn't drop her earlier question. "What
were you thinking about that was so funny?" she pressed.
He grinned at her, wondering whether he should admit his train of thought.
Oh well. She'd asked.
"I was remembering the time you came to my house to yell at me for
having sex with you," he told her bluntly, still grinning.
She flushed bright red and groaned, dropping her hot cheeks in her hands.
"Don't remind me," she appealed, her voice muffled by her hands.
"It was quite the show," he goaded good-naturedly. "You
called me a cad."
"I did not!" she insisted, lifting her head to glare
"And a rogue," he nodded.
"I never called anyone a 'rogue' in my life!" she denied heatedly.
He nodded, grinning. "Noone ever called me that before," he
teased. "It stuck in my mind."
She groaned again, lowering her eyes. "How about we never
discuss that again?" she suggested acerbically.
He grinned. A couple of years ago, he could never have imagined having
this conversation with Relena.
A couple of years ago, he could never have imagined that she would ever
be his friend.
But that's what they were.
You never knew.
"So... what are you working on?" she asked, determinedly changing
the subject despite the fact that her cheeks were still pink.
He turned his attention to the screen, politely allowing the subject to
drop although the grin still lingered around his mouth. "I'm making
Quatre a criminal bastard," he announced calmly, putting the finishing
touches on the faux transaction.
"Ah," she said, leaning forward to peer interestedly at the
file he had created. "For the case with the Order?"
He leaned back and frowned at her. "What do you know about that?"
he asked suspiciously.
She huffed in exasperation, glaring at him. "Who do you think rented
Une the extra building she needed for those files?" she demanded.
"I'm the one who suggested the Preventers be formed, they're headquartered
in my kingdom... do you think that I wouldn't be aware when they're working
on one of the biggest cases in their history?"
Heero sighed loudly, scowling at the screen as he clicked through a series
of windows until he found the next one he wanted to work on. "Why
don't we take out an ad in the damn paper?" he groused. "'Attention,
top secret prostitution ring, known as The Order. The Preventers are on
to you. Repeat, the Preventers are seeking to undermine your organization.
Take all necessary steps to avoid detection.'"
"Telling me is hardly alerting the news media," she reminded
He grunted again. "And your hanging around here is... "
"Not at all unusual," she finished tartly. She was silent for
a moment. "I want to help," she said softly.
Heero sighed, and turned to face her. "Relena, I don't mean any offense,
but what can you do to... "
"Not much," she agreed easily. "But my brother can. He's
with Wufei, helping him train the backup units you're bringing... "
"Your brother?" he interrupted incredulously. "You
pushed Zechs in there with Wufei? Wufei's going to have
a fit... "
"Millardo," she interrupted loudly, glaring at him as
she accented the name, "offered to help, and Wufei accepted the offer."
"Wufei accepted an offer of help from Zechs...
"Millardo is a very good instructor, and Wufei was working
with a lot of people at once. He said it would be helpful to have someone
to work with him... "
"He said it would be helpful to have someone work with him...
"Oh, stop it," she snapped. "Things change. People change.
He's not so bad, as you'd know if you'd ever talk to him...
"He's always busy running your errands," Heero snapped, then
winced, regretting his tone and his words.
Relena looked away. "I know it seems like that... " she began
"Oh, Relena, don't," Heero appealed pleadingly. "I didn't
mean it like that. It's just that he's... "
"Always running my errands," she finished ruefully. She sighed.
"I know," she conceded. "That's why I'm here, in fact -
if he was here alone a lot, someone might pick up on it. But... "
She grimaced, frustrated. "He doesn't seem to... want to do anything
on his own. If he had anything that he wanted to pursue on his own, of
course I would never ask that he stay here. But he doesn't, and I'm not
just letting him sit alone on some colony!"
For awhile after the war, Zechs had lived by himself on an abandoned colony.
He'd bought it, with some of his considerable wealth, and kept it relatively
heated and kept the atmosphere running so that it would be habitable...
but he hadn't activated any of the climate or lighting apparatuses...
He'd just lived, all alone, in constant chilly darkness.
Heero recalled that at the time, he'd been rather impressed.
Relena hadn't though, and she'd dragged her brother back to Sanc, to help
her administrate the kingdom that she insisted was both their inheritance.
He'd been doing so efficiently, stoically and austerely ever since.
Heero sighed, and reached out and touched Relena lightly on the arm. "He'll
be fine," he told her somewhat awkwardly. "He'll... work it
Personally, he wasn't sure what Zechs had to work out. He was young, handsome,
rich, he more-or-less shared the ruling of a kingdom he'd thought he'd
have to give up, and everyone adored him, despite the fact that he'd once
tried to destroy the world. Heero himself wasn't very fond of him, but
he knew he was part of a decided minority. He had really no clue what
could be keeping the man morose.
But, that seemed to be the right answer, and Relena visibly cheered up.
They chatted for a few minutes about the case, and he showed her some
more of the files he'd created on Quatre.
"And what's the purpose of all these shadow companies?" she
asked, her brow creased attentively.
"We want to make it look like he has some... unsavory habits,"
Heero explained. "He's moving personal and corporate funds to what
are essentially untraceable accounts. Who knows what he's been doing with
that money? But if it were legitimate, he wouldn't have to hide it like
"So... you're making it look like drugs?"
"Drugs," he agreed. "Gambling, prostitutes... any number
He trailed off, staring at the surface of the desk. Any number of things
noone would expect of Quatre... These records weren't real, of course.
But it was disconcerting to realize that they very well could be, and
noone who knew Quatre would ever guess it. Heero hated the thought that
there was a lot more going on with most people than there appeared to
be on the surface.
"Heero?" He looked up as Relena rested a hand on his shoulder,
and met her concerned blue gaze. "Do you want to tell me what's going
He stared at her, and she continued delicately. "Une told me that
Duo has... disappeared, and that the four of you don't seem to know where
he's gone. She said she's concerned about him, and about all of you...
Heero snorted in derision. "She's concerned about her damn mission,"
he corrected acidly. "She could give a flying fuck about any one
of us personally; all that matters is that we're all clear to do her damn
work for her... "
"I don't think you're being quite fair to her," Relena disagreed
soberly. "I know you all... well, you don't always see eye-to-eye,"
she amended diplomatically, "but I could tell that she's genuinely
concerned." She was silent for a moment. "Is Duo all right,
The simplicity of that question destroyed Heero's determination to remain
silent on the topic. Because that was the one question he didn't at all
know the answer to, and the one fear that was destroying him.
Duo might well be very... not all right. And he didn't know.
Heero pushed the keyboard away and braced his elbows on the desk. He lowered
his head into his hands, and just sat there, while Relena gently rested
her hand on his back, silently encouraging him to talk and offering him
She'd really changed a lot from the pushy, demanding girl she'd once been.
He poured the whole story out, not looking at her, detailing the facts
in a long, toneless stream of information. He didn't leave anything out
- the encounter in the conference room, Duo's revelation, his reaction,
Duo's disappearance, Trowa's anger and subsequent revelation, the strain
that they'd all been living under since then... He let it all pour out,
confessed everything that he hadn't been able to talk about with anyone
He stopped, and there was silence for a long moment. She'd moved her hand
away while he was talking, and there was no contact between them. The
quiet stretched out until he could no longer bear the tension. He looked
over at her, and saw that her soft blue eyes were filled with tears.
"Relena?" he asked, concerned.
"Poor Duo," she breathed. She shook her head. "Poor Trowa."
She looked up at him. "God, Heero," she whispered. "I never
knew. I... "
"I didn't either," he told her, acknowledging her shock.
She shook her head again, and suddenly she was glaring at him. "How
could you run away?" she demanded.
Heero scowled. She was supposed to side with him. "I didn't know...
I'd like to see what you'd have done!" he flared.
"I don't think I'd have gone running off down the hall," she
Heero growled. "Everyone keeps telling me how much better they'd
have reacted. Let me just tell you, it's really helping a lot. I would
have no idea that I'd screwed up without all of you pointing it
out to me in detail... "
"I'm sorry," Relena interrupted, sounding genuinely contrite.
Heero glared suspiciously at her, but she continued. "I know you
didn't mean to be a jerk. You really can't help it. But... "
"Hey!" he protested, offended. "I'm not a... "
"But you need to stop running away whenever things you don't expect
happen," she continued, lecturing over his protest.
He glared at her again. "I don't run away whenever... "
"You ran away from me," she pointed out calmly.
"That... that was different!" he sputtered. "I didn't...
"You didn't expect it, I got you drunk, I'm the bad one," she
agreed wearily. "But I was still an eighteen-year-old girl. You could
have been a little... more sensitive," she finished softly.
He stared at her, not speaking until she looked up at him, her eyes, for
once, a bit shadowed and uncertain. Heero sighed when he saw the lingering
hurt in them. For the first time, he realized how much his abrupt departure
must have injured her.