Lies - Between Friends and Lovers
by Dyna Dee
Relena felt as if she were clawing her way out of a deep and dreamless abyss, heeding some internal warning that something was amiss. Her eyelids felt as if they were weighted down and wondered why it was so difficult to wake up. Then a feeling of de'ja vu flowed into her dulled mind. She had felt this way before, when she... The memory of waking up in a grungy apartment on L2 jerked her awake faster than a cold bucket of water could have. Forcing her eyes open, it took several moments and a lot of blinking for her vision to clear. She found herself lying on an honest to goodness bed in a relatively dark room. There was just enough light from the curtained window for her to confirm that she was definitely not in the room she shared with her four L2 roommates. Taking a deep breath she found, to her delight, the air was clean and sweet, and the pillow beneath her head held the faint floral scent. Never in her life had she thought the smell of detergent so wonderful.
She had no memory of where she was or how she'd gotten there, but was almost certain she was no longer on L2.
She turned her head at a slight sound behind her. Looking over her shoulder she was startled to find she was not alone. Cautiously moving to get a better view, she peered a bit closer at the unmoving person and realized the man resting next to her was none other than former gundam pilot, Wufei Chang.
She blinked, not believing what she was seeing, and spent several stupefied moments just staring at the man, desperately trying to recall how the both of them came to not only be in the same room, but also sharing a bed together. No matter how hard she searched her memory, there was simply no accounting for her current situation. Taking a deep breath, she willed her racing heart to calm down.
Needing another moment to herself, she decided not to disturb Mr. Chang just yet. She studied his face, which was unusually quite tranquil in sleep. She had always wondered why the former Shenlong pilot often wore a stern, disapproving expression on his face. Perhaps it was his way to discourage others from trying to get to know him better. He certainly was handsome, she decided, especially with that shiny black hair free from the ponytail that always held it back. Why had she never realized how handsome he was before? She considered that question for a moment and came to the conclusion that his eyebrows might be the reason why. He had a way of lowering them to show his displeasure or disdain, expressions she thought most effective in keeping others at bay. And when he lifted one eyebrow, well, he could make even the Queen of England feel small and inconsequential.
Though she'd been told the former gundam pilots were about the same age as herself, save Trowa Barton who, apparently, was a year or two older than the others, they had always seemed older to her. There was something in the eyes of those five that hinted of a maturity that came from having grown up much too quickly. Without a doubt the wars had taken a toll on the boys who had fought for a common goal: freedom for the space colonies. And now gazing thoughtfully at the Chinese man, Relena didn't think she'd ever seen him smile and wondered what it would take to accomplish such a feat.
Realizing that she was wool gathering, she slowly eased herself into a sitting position and waited until the initial dizziness passed. Taking another deep breath, she once again relished the sweetness of clean air. With her head clearing quickly now, her curiosity was kicking into gear. Where was she?
Taking a closer look at the space around her, she came to the conclusion that she was in a hotel room. With the curtains closed, there was no indication as to her location or even if she was in space or on Earth. Putting her feet on the carpeted floor, she struggled for a moment to stand without wavering. Her legs felt like rubber when she put her full weight on them, but she stubbornly persevered by carefully moving towards the small table to the left of the bed, determined to solve at least one piece of the puzzle.
Reaching the table, she felt quite accomplished as she gripped its edges. Leaning towards the phone, she glanced at the notepad and pen next to it. Printed on the top edge of the paper was the name of the hotel, Los Arboles. The address below indicated they were in Los Cruses, Mexico. She paused, feeling stunned at finding herself in yet another unexpected location. She held onto the furniture as she moved the short distance towards the window and lifted the edged of heavy curtains open, squinting as bright sunlight spilled into the room. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the bright light, and when they did she gazed out onto the street below. People with brown skin and dark hair were casually walking by, dressed in clean clothing and having enough weight on their bones to signify they had regular meals. Her smiled couldn't be contained after the realization sunk in that she truly was back on Earth, and apparently in Mexico.
Turning, she returned to the phone on the table but hesitated before picking up the receiver. Who should she call? For a moment she worried about her inability to speak Spanish. What if the hotel clerk was able to understand her request because she couldn't speak more than a word or two of Spanish?
Gazing over her shoulder at the man sleeping on the bed, she decided it was time to find out what Mr. Chang was doing there. With any luck Mr. Preventer would know what to do. Returning to the bed, she leaned over and gently cupped Wufei's shoulder and gave it a tenuous shake.
"Agent Chang," she called out softly. The man didn't respond immediately, causing her to wonder if he'd been drugged as well. "Wake up!" she called out a bit louder, her shake becoming a bit more forceful.
Thankfully, the black eyelashes began to flutter as the Preventer's eyes struggled to open. When at last he managed the monumental feat, his dark eyes appeared unfocused as they turned to her. At first there was no sign of recognition on his face, but then those impossibly dark eyes widened and Wufei quickly sat up, his head turning as he performed a quick visual search of the room. "Relena?" he asked, finally acknowledging her but still obviously confused. "Where are we and what the hell is going on?" His question sounded more like a demand for answers.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, Relena answered, "From what I can tell, we're back on Earth. In Mexico, actually,"
Wufei seemed better able to focus with every minute that passed. "Mexico?" He gave her a quick assessing glance, from head to toe, before asking, "Are you all right?"
"Frankly, I'm starving, but otherwise I'm well enough, thank you. What about you, Agent Chang? Are you well? And what, if I may ask, are you doing here?"
Wufei frowned as he replied, "I'm feeling a bit disoriented, but generally unharmed. I've no answer yet for how you and I happen to find ourselves in each other's company." Rubbing his temples in an attempt to clear his mind, he added, "The last thing I recall was leaving L3 to do some surveillance work on a case. I was outside quadrant three shipping lanes when an alarm sounded with some kind of system failure, and the shields were falling. After that my memory is kind of a blur."
Those dark eyes began studying the room once more, and after a moment he asked in a small voice, "Are we being observed?"
Relena stiffened. She hadn't thought of that. "I don't know," she whispered back and looked around the room warily. "I only woke up moments before you did and didn't think to check for surveillance equipment."
With a hand held up to silence her from speaking further, Wufei rose to his feet. He wobbled a moment before getting his balance. Then moving cautiously and in a methodical manner, he searched every inch of the room, checking for any listening devices or hidden cameras. He then disappeared into the bathroom, turning on the light and fan with one flip of a switch before closing the door behind him. He remained in there for several long minutes, and just as she was beginning to wonder what he was doing and if he was all right, she heard the toilet flushing followed by the running of tap water. Wufei exited the room and asked her if she needed to use the facilities. With a blush of embarrassment, she nodded, then sidestepped around him in order to slip into the bathroom and close the door.
Exiting the bathroom several a short time later, she felt much better now that she'd relieved her bladder and washed up a bit. She'd give anything to be free of the old and smelly clothes she's worn since the morning she work up for the first time on L2. Wufei was sitting at the small table next to the open window and turned his head as she approached him. Those intimidating dark eyebrows were drawn down once more as the Preventer began to evaluate their situation. "Where have you been during the last couple of weeks, Ms. Peacecraft? Did you leave Sanq on your own, or were you abducted?"
"Are you asking in an official capacity, Mr. Chang?" If he was going to be so formal, she would return the favor.
He nodded. "Heero was assigned as the lead investigator on your case, with me, your brother and his wife as backup. While I was in space investigating the marauders, he kept me apprized of any progress, which was very little. You basically disappeared with no clue as to who took you or the reason for the abduction. I assume that because the both of us woke up here together, we were taken and delivered back to Earth by the same group or individual. Because I have little to no memory about what happened to me, I might learn more by hearing your story."
Relena thought that made sense, but she had to clear something up before she told her story. "I didn't run away," she stated firmly, looking directly into the eyes of the man across from her. She was a bit hurt that Milliardo had even entertained the idea that she would do something more callous and heartless. "And both Heero and my brother should have known I would never do something like that. I was abducted. I never saw my kidnaper, nor the means by which I was transported. My last memory was of being accosted from behind on the streets of Sanq. I woke up in an apartment on L2. At least two of the people I met there knew who I was, but I was told I would be treated like everyone else, without any preferential treatment. True to their word, I lived like every other citizen of L2."
Wufei's frown deepened. "L2," he said thoughtfully. "Of course we never thought to look there." For a moment Wufei looked distracted, as if he were trying to figure out a puzzle. There was obviously something else going on in the Preventer's mind, but when he looked up, he was once again focused. "Trowa and I visited L2 not long ago."
Relena's eyes widened. "I saw him," she announced. "I overheard there were Preventers coming and escaped the apartment only to be recaptured again, but not until I caught a glimpse of Mr. Barton."
That little bit of information didn't seem to make the Preventer any happier. "Did you speak with him?"
"No, I was caught and prevented from pursuing him any further." Curious, she asked, "Obviously, I don't know what happened while I was gone. Was there a ransom paid, or some kind of an agreement reached that released me?"
"I was told there were no demands made for a ransom as a requirement for your return, though something could have happened while I was out of contact with headquarters. We didn't know whether or not you'd left on your own and something had happened, or if you had been abducted."
Relena shook her head, an unhappy frown on her pretty face. "Heero and Milliardo warned me about taking off on my own," she said with no small amount of disgust aimed at herself. Then with a frustrated huff she added, "I know it sounds pathetically whiney, but there are times when I can't take the protective isolation that is necessary because of my official duties and social station. Sometimes I just want shuck all my responsibilities and be like everyone else, free to go walk to the store on my own and purchase something as simple as a candy bar, or go to a movie or stroll in the park with a friend without having to disguise myself or have a bodyguard shadowing me or having to duck behind a bush to avoid a camera."
Wufei didn't appear overly sympathetic as he replied, "You could have disappeared from the public eye after the wars, but you freely chose to take a prominent position in the government. You must have known the consequences."
Though Wufei's comment seemed blunt, Relena detected no judgment in his voice. "I never thought about the public attention I would receive when I took on the role of peacekeeper during the war, hunting down those who killed my father and then trying to keep my brother from being a mass murderer. I really don't think I truly influenced anyone back then, like Heero did. He was so brave." She paused to chuckle, "And he was relentless in accomplishing what he set out to do. His actions and dogged determination changed me, my brother and who knows how many other people. I wanted to be like him and, like my biological and adopted fathers, make a difference in the lives of others. That's the reason I became involved in politics."
"All success comes at a price."
She sighed, knowing it was true. "I suppose a lack of privacy and personal freedom is a small price to pay for any good I might accomplish," she acknowledged. "But now I've found a cause and a group of people who are desperately depending on me to draw on all my abilities and influence to rectify an unjust wrong."
She stepped close enough to the Preventer to place her hand on his arm, her sincerity shining clearly in her blue eyes. "I lived with them, Wufei. Suffered hunger and thirst and depravation just as they did. The colony isn't populated with just criminals, thugs or gang members as we were led to believe, though I'm sure there are still a few of those here and there. The majority of the people I saw were men, women and children who are merely fighting to stay alive. It sickens me to think what would have happened to them if some unnamed group of good Samaritans hadn't jumped the blockade to feed them."
Wufei's eyebrows rose questioningly. "You know of the marauders? Did they speak of them?"
Relena frowned as she tried to recall what she'd learned about the Guardians while on L2. "I was told a group called The Guardians visits the colony at least once a week, supplying the majority of the colony's food and necessities because the UEC's provisions for emergency relief were deplorably insufficient. Without the outside help, the people of L2 would have perished long ago. If these Guardians are indeed the marauders, which I suspect they are, they should be commended for their actions despite defying the UEC's sanctions."
"Perhaps," Wufei replied. "But that's not my judgment to make. If they are ever found and apprehended, it will be up to the courts to decide whether or not they broke any laws and if such actions were justified." Then turning to face the young woman he added in a softer manner, "I also saw the suffering on L2 during the fact-finding assignment that took me there a few weeks ago. The report I gave to Director Une outlined in detail the atrocious conditions there and included photographs I took of the emaciated citizens. I don't know if the evidence was passed onto government officials by Une or not, but I doubt anything has changed because of it."
"So that's why you were on L2? And Trowa Barton was with you?" she asked.
"Yes, we were there together looking for evidence on the marauders, suspecting that L2 was the reason for the raids on space freighters for the past several years."
"When I overheard something about Preventers being on the colony I had hoped to find them and identify myself. I saw Trowa just before he entered the shuttle terminal and called out to him just as I was overtaken by a guardian. He looked my way, but didn't seem to recognize me, and I can hardly blame him." She motioned to her second-hand, poor fitting clothing. "I hardly looked like the Princess of Sanq."
Wufei was frowning. "You're sure he saw you?"
"He turned my way when I called out, but as I said, I'm fairly certain he didn't recognize me. I'm sure L2 was the last place anyone thought I'd be."
The disturbed look on the man's face faded as he regarded her once more. "Do you intend to do something about the blockade, to help the people of L2?"
"Yes," she answered in a firm, decisive manner. "I'm going to do everything I can to lift the embargo and see that humanitarian aide, enough food and drink for everyone, is delivered as soon as possible. And then I'll call for a full investigation into why there has been no follow up and why the colony was given so little to exist on and then left to die."
Their conversation lulled for a moment before Relena glanced out the window and said, "I suppose we should find out if we're being held prisoner here or if we've truly been freed. And if that's the case, we need to contact someone to tell there where we are. I don't have an ID or passport, so leaving this country might be a bit difficult to achieve on our own."
Wufei promptly reached for the phone, picked it up and dialed 0, obviously hoping to reach the front desk. Relena listened as he spoke English to someone on the other line and asked for a call to be placed to Preventers Headquarters in Sanq.
Feeling much better after having showered, despite having to put the shabby clothing back on, Relena pushed away the remainder of the breakfast that had been delivered to their room. She was surprised to see how little she'd eaten and how full she felt. Having been half starved for nearly a month had obviously caused her stomach to shrink. Her companion, however, had no such problem and devoured his breakfast to the last crumb. After determining that they were indeed free of their captors, they'd been advised by Director Une, more than an hour ago, to stay in the hotel room until help arrived. Since then, no one other than room service had knocked on their door.
At the two hour mark the anticipated knock came, and two uniformed Preventers entered the room after Wufei opened the door. A tall, strikingly handsome yet serious man in his forties, with dark eyes and black hair, introduced himself in a strong Spanish accent as Captain Estrada. He introduced his partner as Lieutenant Otero, a younger man with a light complexion, brown hair and a more pleasant demeanor. Together, the two officers promptly escorted the recovered missing persons to the local airport where a helicopter was waiting to deliver them to Preventer headquarters in Mexico City.
Milliardo had been alerted earlier that both Relena and Wufei had been found, unharmed and relatively healthy. When at last the brother and sister were able to speak with each other, Milliardo was unusually emotional as he expressed his relief at her being safe, then promptly scolded his little sister for breaking security and putting herself at risk. He and Lucretia listened over the speaker phone as Relena and then Wufei each gave their own account of what had happened to them during the time they had been missing. Wufei was charged with returning to Sanq with Relena, where a full account of their experiences would be recorded and used as evidence in the event the culprits were arrested and brought to justice.
The flight back to Sanq was achieved in a private jet arranged by her brother. Despite the luxury of their conveyance, the journey proved to be long and tedious. Relena spent the majority of the time jotting down her memories of L2 in a notebook, as well as ideas for the speech she intended to deliver to the press and UEC, demanding they lift the blockade. Wufei sat silently, keeping his thoughts to himself while gazing out the window at large white clouds they passed over the ocean far below. Every so often, she would glance up and ask him if he were all right. The Chinese man would pause from his contemplations to look at her, offer a brief smile and nod his head in answer to her query. There was something about that small, infinitesimal smile that appealed to her, and even though it was a rare and fleeting thing, it left her feeling pleased each time he gave it to her.
He has a pleasant smile, she thought, and its appearance made him all the more attractive to her. She'd like to see it again. Though she'd never had much of an opportunity to become acquainted with the Chinese man, and would have enjoyed conversing with him in order to get to know him better, she sensed that he wished to be alone with his thoughts. What was he thinking? Maybe one day in the future, if she were lucky, she would ask him, and maybe he would tell her. With that in mind she returned to the task ahead of her, which meant going over her notes and composing the speech she would give once she returned to Sanq. And then a thought came to her. "Wufei?" She waited until she had his attention once more. "Those pictures you took while on L2, do you happen to have any copies you can get your hands on once we land?"