It was late when Heero got back to the house. After leaving the gardens he had driven around for a while, noticing again things he had grown accustomed to. He had stopped the car on one of the quiet little roads towards the house, got out and stood beside the road, looking at the sky away from the glare of the city lights.
He should visit the colonies again, he reflected. It was only recently he had noticed how much he missed space. He thought back: this had been.... He had to admit it had been an amazing evening. The rest of the day seemed like a dream. He knew something important had happened this evening - several important things. He knew that now was the time to make some important decisions.
He had realised Relena no longer needed him. As for loving him... he wasn't sure about that either. He knew he didn't love her; it seemed so ridiculous now, marrying someone he didn't love - but at the time he hadn't seen any way he could refuse. She had needed him then, in those still-unstable times; she had even loved him, she had said, and still said - but Heero didn't see how it could be true now. He had never lied to her and said he felt the same way: he suspected she thought he was just not willing - or able - to express his emotions; maybe he had thought she was right. But when he thought about it now, it seemed like he felt, and had always felt, that there was just no such emotion to express. But now...
Heero thought carefully. He knew that, lurking in his mind, there was a decision he had already made but could not quite confront yet. He turned to other, related matters. Duo had said - he let his thoughts drift over Duo for a moment - that the colonies were experiencing great hardship at the moment. He felt a small thrill run its fingers down his spine, just briefly, as he thought of the challenge. Things that really needed doing. If nothing else, he was certain that his police skills would be as necessary as anything. He felt that excitement touch him again, more forcefully: yes, that was what he would do. He could be of greater use in space than on earth. That was where he would go. As son as he...
...left Relena. The thought brought a slightly bitter dread: but he knew it was what he should do. There was no point in staying; Relena didn't need him. There might be a scandal, or at least a great deal of media interest; but it was nothing Relena's agents couldn't handle. They could always just lie.
He wondered if maybe he was being selfish. After all, it would be very awkward for Relena, even though he felt sure that if she looked deep inside herself she'd see it was no great personal loss or emotional wrench. But... he had a chance to find happiness... A way of escaping the deep-set sorrow that seemed ingrained in him recently, and not quite so recently. He had to take that chance!
As soon as he realised his decision, he felt a weight lift from him; although he would still have to face Relena with his choice, he knew he had to follow it through.
He had a little time, though. While the conference was still on, he would be needed still. That gave him time to speak to his superior officers, make enquiries into where he could be of most help to the colonies, and how to get there. He felt a sparkling thrill run through him again, a deep sense of motivation that re-ignited feelings he had thought were gone, passed away: but they came alive at his thoughts.
Pushed forward by anticipation, he drove quickly back to the house. Checking the clock: it was twenty past one. Entering the main sitting room, he found Relena, sleeping a little awkwardly on the large couch: quietly he picked her up, carrying her upstairs o softly deposit her on her bed. She half-woke, murmuring meaningless sentences she wouldn't recall in the morning; but by the time Heero drew the cover over her still-clothed body, she was asleep again.
He looked at her for a moment, like he'd never seen her before. It felt as though there was a gulf between them, a thousand unfamiliar miles. He wondered whether a normal person would regret the decision he'd made, seeing her like this, as he had for years... But, he knew and now accepted, he was not one of the normal people. He should never have tried to be.
He turned away from her form on the bed; lay down on his own for a while, but couldn't still his mind enough to sleep, or even rest. He thought again about his strange relationship with the woman who was his wife: they *had * slept together, but, he realised, only because... it was the normal thing to do. He almost wanted to laugh. He had always found it difficult, uncomfortable even, to think of Relena in a sexual way: almost like she could be defiled by something so... human. No, that wasn't right: that made it sound as though respect and sexual desire could never be reconciled. It was more that... he just couldn't see her in that way. She was so far removed from him... even after seven years. And she... She saw him in his role as a tool for peace; and - his eyes darkened briefly - as an instrument of war... He cut those thoughts off. No, not now.
He got off the bed again soundlessly, restless. He knew he would end up doing without sleep tonight; but he felt like he didn't need it. Running on nervous energy, adrenaline flooding him. He undressed and made his way to the bathroom; showered, taking his time, letting himself feel the strange kind-of excitement. He knew the feeling would fade, leaving him tired by mid-afternoon; he reflected that once, he wouldn't even have noticed such minor sleep deprivation - but he was different now.
Clean, dried, he half-dressed, leaving off his shirt so he could tell Relena, if she woke, that he had just got up, rather than trying to explain why he had been awake all night. He found himself drawn onto the bedroom balcony, the view overlooking the open country away from the city. The first faint shimmers of approaching light caught his attention, fading the dark sky; in a few hours he would have to leave for work. Until then, though, he felt entirely content to sit and look at the earth. He realised he would miss it when he left; but he could always return to visit. And space had its own beauty.
Heero leaned against the balcony rail, and watched a new day open and bloom, rubbing out the darkness.
By the time Relena awoke I was fully dressed and ready to leave. I didn't feel like eating, even though my last meal had been lunch yesterday: Duo and I never did order in the restaurant. I knew the lack of nutrition was contributing to my jittery feeling - but the other reasons for that feeling kept me from feeling hungry. I picked up an apple, thinking I might want to eat later: by lunchtime I would feel it - but I was meeting Duo for lunch, and that thought too took away my appetite and replaced it with a tension, an anticipation... That feeling again of being on the edge of something... something I couldn't quite make out, but I knew I would soon... That was the feeling I got when I thought of Duo.
I let Relena kiss my cheek as she sat at her dressing table, then left for the city.
My free moments of the morning were spent investigating the colony situation. There was a great deal of information that the news didn't tell us: the resentment the colonies felt towards the earth because of the reparation being done here, while they had to wait and struggle. The crime rife in the worst hit areas, where the authorities were too busy trying to find people places to live, help them find missing relatives, to worry about drug dealers and street gangs.
I made up my mind to take my professional skills to such a place. I may just have been one extra person... but that was better than doing nothing. I would never know what I could achieve unless I tried.
Before I could believe it, it was half past twelve. I put on my coat and headed in the direction of the park.
It was a similar day to the one when I'd first met Duo. Grey, rainy. But today... I smiled.
Duo sat on the bench watching the rain. He smiled when he saw me. "Heero!" He seemed to like saying my name.
I sat beside me and thought I should ask. "Anything to report?"
He looked at me for a moment, then I saw realisation. He shook his head. "No. I don't know whether I should say I'm sorry or not..."
"Don't apologise for giving me good news." I trusted him. Thinking, though, of what I had found this morning... "But I think we need to be even more careful now."
He turned to look at me questioningly.
"I never realised, until today, the true state of the colonies." My home. " The poverty... The resentment towards the earth. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. But I didn't understand just how close we've been to war, or something like it, for the past seven years."
Duo gazed at me. "That's why I'm here. Things are slowly getting better... but it'll be slow progress unless something drastic happens."
"It seems even more likely to me now that something might happen. So... thank you again for your help."
Duo smiled. "Not a problem."
We were silent for a few minutes, before I finally said what I wanted to tell him. "I've decided to go back to the colony." I spared him the details. "After we were talking last night I decided I could be more use in space than down here." I turned to look at him, and once again got the feeling... he knew what I wasn't saying. He was smiling.
"That's a great idea." A short pause. Then... tentatively, almost? "You could come with me."
I didn't say anything: held his gaze and nodded. Yes. It was starting to rain more heavily, I noticed. I thought of something. "Don't you have family to go back to?"
His eyes darkened, smile faded. He looked away. "No." I thought he was going to leave it at that, and I wouldn't have pressed him - but he carried on. "I don't remember any real family. Anyone I would call that... I lost in the war."
So like me. I was silent again. Then, another thought. "What about your... partner?"
Now Duo looked back into my eyes. A quirk of his lips. "We broke up. I rang him last night..." A shrug. "Like I said, it wasn't serious. And besides -" a look directly in my eye. I couldn't look away. "- I thought it wouldn't be fair, being with him... when I was thinking of someone else..." Before I could think, he stood up. "Come on. Let's get out of the rain."
We walked, heads down, quick, to a spreading tree. Huddled to its trunk, waiting for the shower to pass.
"Come back with me." He took me by surprise. "When the conference is over. By then, I hope, things will be different. Come to the colony. L2 is one of the most deprived areas. Come, work with me. Help me."
Like he's helping me... I thought for a moment, but I'd already made up my mind. I made it up last night. I nodded, meeting his gaze. I realised again how close we were. Realised, like waking up from an unfamiliar dreamscape to surroundings you've known all your life, the sensuality Duo radiated. In everything he did. I had been fascinated, I knew it, I wouldn't fight it. I turned my head just a little, and so did he, and our lips touched... He was soft, smooth against my mouth, cold-wet from the rain and warm-wet inside. My tongue traced his lips, slipped inside, touched at his own, gentle. His hand slid up, holding me at the junction of neck and shoulder, and I held him to me with one arm, the other slowly creeping up to rest against his damp cheek...
I felt elated, light inside, like I had an answer: free... was that it? Breaking now, I caught his lip between mine, feeling the softness to remember. He rested his forehead against mine, arms round my neck as I held him still; yes.
"Yes. I'll come with you. I want to help you like you're helping me." Like you've already helped me... "Let me know what it is you want me to do."
Once more we touched lip to lip, and I felt again the same: released... The edge I'd perched on since I met Duo, I had touched it now and it was bright, open, showing me new things. I wanted to see. I wanted Duo to show me.
"Meet me tonight."
"Yes." I agreed at once.
One more kiss; fitting together like it was right: I was surprised, almost - but when I thought about it, I expected it from him. I smiled as he squeezed my hand when we parted. He smiled back to me.
A template for freedom; a plan. A map. I could follow.
As he walked back to the police station, Heero noticed that the rain that grazed him no longer seemed miserable: but, more, it cleansed, a spring shower. Fresh.
Working with renewed enthusiasm that afternoon, tying up loose ends, tidying up for his successor. He thought of researching more on the colony, but decided instead to get the information first hand, from Duo.
Walking along the corridor to the DCI's office, only to meet him halfway along.
"Heero, I was looking for you. A phone call, Duo Maxwell, said he couldn't hang on to talk to you himself, but you should go and speak to him right now. The phone operator said it sounded urgent..."
Heero was already on his way back to the office. "Trowa!" He grabbed his coat and keys.
"You ready to go?"
"We're going to the summit."