by Dev-Aki Basaa
Things were not right. She knew that. And she knew she had to say something, even if she dreaded the conversation. She had meant to say something as soon as Heero sat down in their breakfast nook. But she didn't. Then she thought she'd say something right after Marie brought Heero his coffee, fruit dish and newspaper and her tea and muffin. But she didn't and she continued to stall. She twisted her little cloth napkin around her finger so tight that her skin tingled and she nibbled on her lip. She had prepared the words the night before and then had fussed about what to wear this morning, as if somehow the right shade of pink might make this conversation a little easier. Not that they were having a conversation. Not that they ever did.
"Heero," she finally said, hoping to pull his attention away from the newspaper in his hands. He had it held up high, covering his face. She didn't look up to see anyway; she just listened for his grunt of acknowledgement. Instead, she kept her eyes focused on the crumble of sugar and spice that sat atop her blueberry muffin. It rested so precariously that she wondered how it hadn't fallen off on its journey to the table. She flicked at it with her little pink-painted nail and watched it hop off the muffin top and drop to the china plate below. Little crumbles flew off of it and scattered across the plate and onto the white doily underneath. Heero had yet to grunt.
"Heero," she began again, deciding to just to go through with her words and hope he was listening. "I think we should see counselor, a marriage therapist."
There. She'd said it. She let her napkin rest in her lap and folded her hands over it. Surely Heero would just agree. He always did.
And he did grunt then, but the sound was followed by a word. A word Relena didn't expect.
She blinked. Well, wasn't the 'why' obvious? He must realize things were not right between them. She didn't need to explain that, did she? Her fingers fidgeted against the napkin in her lap, pulling it into her grip. Her palms felt clammy.
"Well," she hesitated. The conversation suddenly seemed far too personal for the small crowd of servants that hovered over them. Couldn't they catch a hint and leave? The napkin was wrapped around her finger again and the tip that still showed looked stark white. "We don't exactly have the kind of marriage most people have." She did her best to explain. Surely he couldn't deny that statement.
The newspaper lowered a bit, dipping at the corner for Heero to peer over. He was frowning.
"We have sex," he said, as if that explained everything. Relena knew the color of her cheeks were brighter than the blouse she was wearing. She felt terribly warm. How could he speak of such things so plainly!? She glanced to Marie who stood just at the archway of the nook. She didnít seem to be paying any attention at all. Relena suspected her own wishful thinking added to that observation.
She looked back to Heero. The conversation had ended for him; he'd gone back to reading his newspaper. They had...sex, so they were normal. But there was far more to a marriage than sex. There was far more to *sex* than sex!
"Well, yes, but..." She couldnít keep from feeling like a pre-pubescent child being asked if she liked the boy across the room. "But even with that...it's *just* that. Sex." She said it easier this time, with a shrug of her shoulders. "You never make love to me."
She almost gasped aloud at what she thought she heard. She didn't, did she? It wasn't much of it, though, just a bark, a snort, but he didn't just laugh!? Did he?
"If I were going to be making love to someone, it wouldn't be you."
Dizzy. She felt dizzy. How could he say that!? She fisted the napkin and raised it up, pressing it against her breast. She'd never felt so horrified. And dizzy. Still dizzy. Wouldn't those UNES dignitaries laugh, seeing level-headed Relena Peacecraft Dorlian-Yuy leveled to little more than a babbling blonde at a personal conversation with her own husband. Oh yes, this was horrible. She didn't want to ask, not really, but it was like the twisted wreckage of an accident, sometimes you're compelled to raise your head and stare.
"Well...then, why...why did you marry me?"
Heero didn't take his eyes off the newspaper, but he let go of one side to grab his coffee mug and bring it to his lips. "You asked me to," he said. And then he sipped.
"Oh," she said. What could she say to that? It was true, well, sort of. He had proposed, but she'd told him that's what she wanted. But, that couldn't have been the only reason.
He folded his newspaper in half and scowled at her. It made the words freeze in her throat.
"Relena, why are we having this conversation?" He finished folding his newspaper, careful with each crease until he had an even more perfect rectangle than when it had been brought to him. He then set it aside, rested his arms on the table and continued.
"When the war was over, I promised I would do whatever you wanted for you to be happy." He nodded to Relena. "You said, 'marry me', so I did - to the sacrifice of my own happiness and other's. Now you seem to be implying that marriage has not made you happy." He shook his head. "What is it that you want?"
What did she want? Well, she wanted to be happy. And she thought that being married would bring her that, but it hadn't. There was more; she knew that now. She laid her napkin next to her place-setting and leaned forward, resting her arms on the table and mimicking Heero's position.
"I want..." What did she want? "I want you to love me," she nodded even as she spoke the words. Yes, that was it.
"I do," he answered and she'd never felt such relief. Not since she knew he'd survived destroying that portion of Libra. Her heart was pounding in her chest - it was as if it had stopped! She smiled at him - maybe then things were all right between them. Maybe she was overreacting.
"In my own way," he then added.
Oh no. That's not right - that didn't sound right! She bit her lip again and held herself off from grabbing her napkin and twisting it tight enough to force away every feeling in her nervous fingers. Taking a gulp of air, she asked yet another question she was both too afraid to let go unanswered, but just as afraid to know the answer to as well.
"What do you mean, 'in your own way'?"
Heero paused, seeming to consider his words. Then with a nod, he answered her. "I love peace. You are the world's greatest asset towards peace. Therefore, I love you."
Oh yes, that sounded very bad indeed.
"But you're not in love with me," she clarified, her brow folding a little as she tried to hold off a frown. Her fingers twined together, her pretty pink-painted nails pressing against her skin. It hurt.
"No, I'm not."
This didn't make sense. She shook her head and tried to relax the tension in her face. Proper girls didn't make these feature-twisted expressions.
"But, Heero, that's why people get married."
Heero nodded in agreement and Relena found she could take the breath that allowed her face to relax. With the right question, there always seemed to be some hope. She just prayed she didn't run out of the right questions.
Then Heero cocked his head to one side. "That's not why we got married, though. We did because you said that would make you happy." He leaned forward a little more, his own brow tense with a frown. "Were you mistaken?"
"No!" She didn't even hesitate to respond. But then, she had been, hadn't she? They were having this conversation, weren't they? So, she must have been mistaken. "Well, yes..." she amended. But... "Oh, I don't know." She tossed her hands and sat back in her seat. The dizzy feeling had returned. She wanted to press her palms to her face, but proper girls didn't muss their makeup like that. She really wished her mother would stop rambling such trite things in her head at a time like this!
Heero shook his head, yet again. "I don't understand, Relena, what do you want from me?"
Ok. Valid question. She wanted to be married to him - she'd established that. She wanted him to love her - yet they hadn't gotten very far with that. But, it was her true answer, that's what she wanted.
"I want you to love me," she said, leaning forward again, resting her arms on the table. "Be IN love with me. I'm your wife." And for her, that explained it all. They were married. They were in love. That's the way it worked. And again, Heero nodded. But after the last time, she didn't allow herself that big breath of relief.
"That you are, my wife, but I don't love you the way you suggest." He paused. He'd begun to say something and then stopped. There was uncertainty on his face and Relena pressed herself forward against the table, marveling to see the expression on Heero. She'd never seen him look like that.
He then took a deep breath and caught her gaze. Her eyes widened; he was so handsome. She remembered how he used to do that during the war, before they were married. He would look at her directly into the eyes and she had thought she might melt in the pure blue-ness of them. But then he spoke and broke that spell forever.
"I love someone else that way and always will. And even still, my love for you has never been of a romantic nature and I doubt it ever would be."
No. No... She couldn't think. He didn't... He couldn't... How could he...
"You..." The words came out of her of their own free will. Her brain wasn't functioning enough to be a part of it. "You're in love with someone?"
She shook her head in disbelief. "Who?" She almost considered glancing Marie's way to see if she was reacting somehow, but, no. That's absurd. Heero and their maid!?
Heero paused again and then sat back, breaking eye contact. He picked up his mug and brought it to his lips. "It's not relevant," he said. And then he sipped. Just as before.
Relena drew a slow, long steady breath, eyes still wide as she continued to stare at him. She sat up straight in her chair, feeling the scratchy contact of the wicker against her back.
How dare he be so casual about this!
She pounded her fist on the table, her face screwed up in anger. Decorum be damned!
"Yes it is!" she spat, leaning deep against the table again. "My husband has just told me he's in love with another woman!"
Heero took another sip of his coffee. "I did not."
She gasped, her fingers pressed against her breastbone. Was this some kind of game to him? Of course he said that. She heard him!
"Yes you did," she said. She could hear the venom in her own voice. "You just said..."
Heero shook his head, cutting her off. "I made no reference to the gender of my love."
And at that Relena paused and blinked. What a strange statement. Why in the world would Heero say something like that unless... Unless...
Her eyes widened again. "You don't mean..." She spoke in a whisper.
"I'm in love with a man."
Oh yes. Very dizzy. The feeling returned with a vengeance. Her stomach had dropped down past her knees. Surely, she'd never be able to eat again. She glanced up to see Heero sip some more of his coffee. He looked so fuzzy now, distorted. In fact, she couldn't see him that well anymore and she wasn't feeling right at all. Oh, he's getting up, out of his chair. Did he just call her name?
Oh, doesn't matter...
She felt warm. A pleasant warmth, something like waking up in bed snuggled next to Heero. But...that can't be it. He never laid this close to her. She frowned and tried to open her eyes, blinking as she did.
Heero. She opened her eyes to see him leaning over her, her head resting against his chest. She turned her head a little and looked around. They were sitting on the dais across the room from the nook. Hadn't they started over there? Her legs dangled over the edge next to his.
"What happened?" She felt groggy, mushy-headed. They'd been talking, hadn't they?
Oh yes, that's right. She remembered now. Everything had gone fuzzy and then black. Why, though? She'd felt dizzy. A lot. Because.
'I'm in love with a man.' She heard the words as plainly in her head as when he'd said them aloud. How dare he!
"I... I want a divorce," she said as she tried to sit up. This whole day had gone so wrong. She had expected to spend it looking for marriage therapists, not divorce lawyers. But Heero wouldn't let her get up, his arms held her curled in his lap.
"Would that make you happy?" he asked her.
What? How absurd!
"No!" she snapped, struggling more now to sit up, yelling more as she tried. "That would NOT make me happy. What would make me happy is if you loved ME and not some..." She waved her free hand, searching desperately for the right word, one that matched all the hurt she felt in her chest right now. "Some... some..."
But the strength of Heero's renewed grip caused her to gasp and stop. She looked up to see anger in his eyes. He'd never looked at her like that before. Never.
"Don't you dare insult that which you do not know." There was so much force in his voice. "I WILL not tolerate it."
She stopped struggling. She still felt too dizzy to sit up without his help and he seemed inclined to keep her where she was. At least, for now.
How did her pretty pink hand basket make its way to Hell? It wasn't supposed to be like this. Not their conversation, not their marriage, not her life. But, no matter how much she didn't want it to be happening, it was and nothing would be the same again. She just wished she understood HOW it had happened. Slipping her arms around his waist, she laid her head against his chest, feeling the warmth of him radiate into her body.
"You're not in love with me," she ventured, "and you never will be, right?"
She could feel Heero nod. "That's correct," he said.
"You've just been doing what I ask of you."
He nodded again.
She sighed, feeling defeated. "Why didn't you mention any of this before?"
"You never asked," he answered.
"Oh." That made sense, she supposed. But why would she have asked. Should she have asked? She shook her head a little and pressed it against Heero's chest even more. The cotton of his shirt smelled a little like him, a little like coffee and a touch like the floral detergent she'd requested the laundry service use. Maybe she never asked the right questions. "I'm so confused," she admitted.
Heero brought his hand to the back of her head and let it sweep down the fall of her hair. How strange. Their relationship was falling apart, yet this was the most affectionate she'd ever known him to be.
"Think about this, Relena. Perhaps I'm not in love with you, but I have loved you enough to try and see that you're happy. You have done and asked things of me that would also make YOU happy, yet that has failed and now youíre not happy. So, tell me, what would make you happy, truly happy?"
Relena blinked. That was it, wasn't it. Heero had done these things to make her happy, but did she ever once wonder about his own happiness? She just assumed that if she was happy, so was he. Those were the questions she had not asked. Heero wasn't happy and knowing that made her sad.
"I do love you, Heero. And it would make me happy..." She swallowed hard and rubbed her cheek against his chest one last time. "It would make me very happy to see YOU happy."
Heero didn't answer for a long time. His hand slipped down her hair again and she enjoyed the silent comfort of his presence.
"Are you sure, Relena?" he finally said.
She nodded against him. "Yes. Maybe not today or tomorrow or even the day after. But I won't deny you your own happiness, not anymore. I was being selfish to have never asked what would make you happy. So, I guess that only means one thing, Heero..." She pushed herself up now and he let her. She crawled off his lap and leaned against the wall, her legs tucked under her. She felt so cold after the warmth of Heero. "Go to him," she said, with a wave of her hand. "Give me that divorce. Be happy. And promise me you'll call everyday so I can know how happy you are and know I had a part in that." She could feel the tears stinging her eyes.
Heero stood. "Thank you, Relena," he said, nodding. "I promise."
Then she thought of one of those type questions she should have been asking. She reached out to catch his attention just as he began to turn away from her.
"Who...who is he?"
His lips curled into a smile, just a slight one, but more than she'd ever seen of him before. If she had thought he looked handsome before, she had no idea. She could see the love he felt, there in his eyes.
"Death," he answered, with such a matter-of-fact tone.
She gasped. "Duo?"
Heero nodded. "I'm sorry, Relena. I didn't realize I loved him until after we married. I've been true to my vows, but he knows how I feel and I know, though I told him not to, that he's waiting for me."
"Oh Heero." She sniffed, the knot in her throat was so huge. She swallowed and smiled, nevertheless. Yes, she was losing her love, but sheíd never seen him look so happy. "That's so sweet," she said, and she meant it. It made her happy to see him like this, even if perhaps her smile stung bittersweet. Then she shook her head, the lump in her throat returning, so painful that it made her shake. She swallowed hard and a sob broke free; the tears slipped down her cheeks. She waved him off again, looking away. "Go, go be with him. I'll have the papers drawn up and sent to you."
She brought her hands to her face and pressed her palms against her tear-streaked cheeks, her concerns about trivial things like makeup long gone. So this is love - wanting to see them happy beyond your own needs and wants. She'd never done anything like that. And, beyond Heero, she didn't think anyone had ever done that for her. Then a thought occurred to her and she called after Heero before she had really formed the question. She didn't mean to accuse, but she had to understand.
Heero stood at the archway of the nook, waiting with patience.
Relena swiped her arm across her wet eyes and sniffed and asked. "You're going to live with Duo because that will make you happy, but I thought..."
But Heero was already shaking his head, halting her words.
"Yes, I love Duo and yes being with him will make me happy, but that's not why I'm going to live with him."
She cocked her head to one side. "It's not?"
"No. I'm going because I know that it would make him very happy to have me there. That's what makes us the right couple, because I am happy making him happy."
That she understood. Yes Heero could make her happy, but she couldn't make him happy, Duo could do that with all the joy that equaled Heero's own. They were lucky, she realized and she only hoped there was someone out there like that for her.
"You're a good person, Heero," she said. It was her absolution.
Heero smiled. "You are as well, Relena."
And she watched him leave. He didn't even take any material items, but then, they don't really matter, do they. Not when it meant reaching your love that much sooner. She crumpled on the dais, burying her face in her arms and cried. She'd done the right thing, she knew, but it was hard. She did love him.
She just wanted him to be happy.