Relena backed up, reflexively seeking to get away from the dark, blue eyes boring into her own. She stopped when the wall beside the bathroom door prevented further retreat. A brief spark of bravado came to her rescue, and she relaxed her stance, letting her gaze take on a hint of flirtatious confidence.
“Heero,” she purred, “did you want something?”
He said nothing, never letting his piercing gaze wander. After a full minute had passed, the blond thought how ridiculous this must look, them standing silently in the hallway, staring at each other. She blinked in an attempt to end their standoff.
“Well, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to the courtroom.”
Relena attempted a side-step, only to find her way suddenly blocked by a muscular arm. A glance to her other side revealed that that way was sealed off, as well. She looked back at the man bracketing her in, an incipient sneer on her carefully rouged lips.
“Heero, I hardly think this is the time or place for any sort of discussion...”
The sneer died along with her voice as the Asian man leaned in, never removing his eyes from hers. Before she could speak again, he kissed her hard, pressing his body against her, his knee slipping between her legs as the hem of her straight skirt raised to accommodate him. Despite her shock, Relena began to moan, loosing herself in the heat emanating from his skin and the hardness of his form. Her hands snuck up, grabbing his arms in an unconscious effort to pull him closer.
She'd dreamed about this moment for so long she could hardly believe it was happening, at last. Since the day she'd first laid eyes on his handsome face, from the first time she'd looked into his amazing eyes and had seen his perfect body, she'd wanted him. She'd wanted Heero for as long as she could remember. And now, she finally had him where she wanted him, pressed against her, devouring her lips.
It was as wonderful as she'd always imagine it would be. He tasted like some heady mixture of maleness and danger. Relena didn't think, couldn't think, about why, after the years of rejection, he was doing this. All thoughts, of the trial, of Duo, of her petty need for revenge, fled her mind. She could only feel the kiss that was making her body heat and her knees weak. She spread her thighs, allowing him to move closer, whimpering as his hard leg pressed against the quiver flesh at the apex of her trembling limbs.
Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the kiss ended as Heero backed away, looking at her flushed cheeks, disgust evident in his narrowed gaze. Taking one of his hands from the wall, he ran the back of it over his lips, as though trying to obliterate the taste of her. Relena found her surprise and growing desire quickly being replaced by anger. What the hell was he playing at? But the low growl issuing from his throat made the impending retort die on her lips.
“Is that what you wanted, Relena? Is that what this is all about?”
Realization of his motives dawned in her mind with painful clarity. He’d played her perfectly and she’d responded like some lust-crazed fool. Her teeth clenched in anger as she tried to push him away.
“You bastard,” she whispered. Her tongue brushed lightly over her lips, savoring the lingering tingle of his lips pressed against hers.
“You know, Relena,” he continued, unaffected by her struggles. “You really are a pathetic bitch.” He ignored her indignant gasp, not budging in the slightest as she pushed against his chest with increasing force. “What you just don’t seem to realize is that you mean nothing to me. Less than nothing.” A hand suddenly came flying towards his cheek but he caught it in mid-air, his gaze never wavering from the furious blue eyes glaring up at him.
“I know all about the insults you’ve been spreading around the office about me, about Duo,” he went on. “But I didn’t care. You know why? Because if it hadn’t been for your pitiful attempt at seduction in my office that day, if you hadn’t been such a self-centered little brat, it might have taken me a lot longer to realize the truth about myself. And I might never have found Duo. For that, I was grateful to you, and so I ignored your childish temper tantrums.”
Relena eyes widened, as much at the length of his speech as at his words. Every deliberate, low-voiced word cut into her thinning veneer of self-possession. She tried to remove her wrist from his unyielding grasp but was effective trapped, her strength no match for his. He leaned closer to her, his voice dropping even further, becoming dark and dangerous to her burning ears.
“But what you’ve done now affects not only me and my husband, but my child. And that, I can never forgive,” he growled. She shivered perversely as the animalistic sound ran over her.
“Do you know, Relena, do you truly understand what that woman, your so-called friend, has done? When we found Laura, she was half-starved, beaten, ribs broken, and about to be raped by some sick bastard her mother had set on her. Don’t you realize what that woman put her through?”
The blond squeaked helplessly as the grip on her wrist tightened viciously, grinding the delicate bones painfully together. Heero glanced towards his hand, apparently aware that he still had a hold on her. He released her wrist and she pulled it protectively to her, rubbing at the sore joint with her other hand. But that was the extent of his solicitude. No apology was forthcoming and his gaze returned to pin her against the wall once more.
“I truly hope that Delia has recovered and has managed to make something of her life, for her sake. If her childhood was anything like Duo’s, I can’t help but feel some sympathy for her. But,” he said, eyes narrowing into deep, blue slits, “I really don’t give a damn about her. My only concern is the little girl sitting in that courtroom. And if the judge grants that woman custody of Laura because of the shit you spewed on that stand, and something happens to my daughter...”
Relena gasped as he thrust his handsome face close to hers, so close that she could feel the warmth of his breath on her lips.
“If something happens to Laura, there is no place in space or on Earth that you will ever be safe from me.”
She was suddenly alone, Heero disappearing down the hall like a vengeful angel, beautiful and frightening in his fury. Several, long minutes passed before she was certain that her shaking knees would support her. Heero’s threat echoed in her mind. She had no doubt that he would carry it out. But, damn him, anyway. Who did he think he was, speaking to her like that?
So what if Delia wasn’t winning any mother of the year awards? She was most definitely improved from the drugged out whore she’d been nearly a year ago. Surely the girl was no longer in any danger from her.
Relena held onto that thought as she pushed herself away from the wall. She would be damned if she let Heero Yuy and his long-haired bastard of a husband get the best of her. She felt her spirits raise for all of two seconds before she tried to take a step and her trembling legs nearly gave way.
Duo gaze flitted back and forth between the courtroom door, Laura, and the group standing nearby. At first, he thought that Heero had just stepped out to use the facilities, or something, but that had been almost twenty minutes ago. Telling himself to wait a few more minutes before he started to worry in earnest, he listened with half an ear to the conversation going on just beyond where Laura sat.
“So, do you think you’ll cross-examine that Darlian woman?” Quatre asked. Dorothy shook her head.
“No. What would be the point? If she was lying before, I have no reason to think that she’ll suddenly discover the truth now. And, if she was telling the truth about her feelings towards Heero and Duo, then I feel sorry for her because she really needs help. Besides,” she said, glancing to the other side of the room, “I’m much more concerned about Delia’s testimony. That Kushrenada is a clever son-of-a-bitch and he's probably concocted some wonderful, heart-wrenching lies for her to tell. But, to be honest, I’m more worried about the possibility that she may tell the truth. Who knows what she’s going to say.”
Duo glanced at the blond attorney nervously. He felt Laura shift restlessly in her seat at Dorothy’s words, and turned to reassure her. But, at that moment, the door opened and Heero finally appeared. Duo quickly straightened, rising to his feet. The girl made to stand, as well, but he restrained her with a gentle hand on her shoulder. She looked up at him curiously.
“Just let me talk to him for a sec,” the braided man explained. “We’ll be right back.” He flashed her a smile and made his way over to his husband. Heero had apparently been seeking him out, since blue eyes suddenly fastened on his face as he approached.
Duo opened his mouth, the question of the other man’s recent whereabouts on his tongue, but something made him pause. There was a grim look about Heero’s mouth and a lingering flash of dampened rage in his eyes. But a softening in the line of his broad shoulders also spoke of a lifted burden, as though something important finally had been resolved.
“Heero, where were you?” Duo asked softly. The Asian man didn’t answer. Instead, he lifted a hand to Duo’s cheek, pulling his face closer and pressing a soft kiss to his lips. The braided man just stood blinking as a small smile crossed his lover’s face before he stepped away and moved to where Laura sat. Duo watched him walk away, not knowing whether he was more confused by the incongruous smile or the unexpected public show of affection. Heero had always been the more reticent of the pair, not usually indulging in any physical contact outside of their own home beyond hand holding.
Before he could move to join his husband and their daughter, the courtroom door opened again, and Duo saw a rather pale Relena enter the chamber. She didn’t look in his direction, though she passed no more than five feet from him. However, she threw a quick glance towards Heero, which he returned with a pointed stare. She blanched further, two burning spots on her cheeks the only color in her face.
Duo looked after her until the bailiff reappeared to announce that the session would shortly resume. He made his way back to his seat with a slight smirk on his lips. Heero might never tell him what had passed between himself and the venomous blond, but whatever had happened had apparently scared her thoroughly and he couldn’t help but feel a bit of dark glee.
Delia watched Relena approach, her gaze speculative as it passed over the other woman’s pale face. 'What had happened there?' she wondered idly. Though she was grateful to the blond for helping her get to this point, she didn’t really like her. Relena was far to fake to trust completely. But, apparently, someone had deflated her, and rather effectively. Delia saw the glance passed between Relena and the handsome, Asian man and knew him to be the culprit.
The dark-skinned woman had been amazed at the vitriol the other woman had spit out so effortlessly on the stand. While she, herself, couldn’t like the men who were trying to steal her little girl away, she wondered at the blonde’s motives. She had realized some time ago that Relena was hopeless infatuated by the blue-eyed Asian and that she was acting out the role of a woman scorned. But that still didn’t fully explain why she had gone through all of this trouble to help her get Laura back. Or, more accurately, to take the girl away from Heero and Duo. Delia knew intimately how powerful that kind of senseless hatred could be and was just glad she wasn’t on the receiving end of Relena’s ire.
When the bailiff entered the room, she turned her thoughts away from the other woman. The time had finally come for her to take the stand and tell her story. Treize had come up with some concocted testimony and had tried to convince her that it was in her own best interest if she just blindly followed his advice. But she didn’t want to lie, not anymore. Lies and anger, they were the demons from which she’d fought so hard to distance herself. They had no place here, in this moment, when Laura was finally close to her again.
Delia had been watching her daughter, covertly, ever since stepping foot in the room. She’d smiled at the girl’s short afro, thinking how cute she looked and glad that one of her ties to Duo, however superficial it may have been, was gone. She looked upon Laura’s new appearance as a positive sign that things would work out in the end. The new judge didn’t seem to be any fonder of the girl’s would-be-fathers than she was. Though she didn’t personally share his apparent dislike of gays, she couldn’t help but be glad for his bigotry. She gathered her thoughts as the bailiff’s voice boomed through the silent chamber.
“All rise for the Honorable Judge Hervé.”
The gray-haired man swept into the room, robes billowing behind him and gavel in hand. The bang of the mallet against his desk signaled the end of the recess. At Treize’s nod, Relena stood and started towards the witness box. The judge held up a hand, arresting her steps.
“Ms. Catelonia,” he began, “do you have any questions for Ms. Darlian?”
Dorothy gritted her teeth. Hervé had guessed that any attempt at a cross-exam would be futile. Heartily wishing that it were otherwise, just to throw the old coot off track, she stood and shook her head.
“No, your honor.”
“Very well. Ms. Darlian, you may return to your seat.” He waited until Relena had sat before looking towards Treize. “Mr. Kushrenada,” he said, “please call your next witness.” The ginger-haired lawyer stood and walked to the middle of the floor before the judge’s podium.
“Your honor, I call Ms. Delia Tippen to the stand.”
Taking a deep breath to calm her sudden nerves, Delia rose and made her way to the witness stand. She glanced at Laura as she passed the girl, disappointed to see that she was staring fixedly at her hands, which she’d folded on the table before her. Trying not to feel slighted at her daughter’s refusal to meet her gaze, Delia stepped into the box.
“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
“I do,” she replied, rubbing her moist palm against her thigh as she watched the bailiff walk away. Treize came over to her, smiling in what she supposed was a reassuring manner. She thought he looked more like a handsome shark but banished the thought when he began to speak.
“Please state your full name and occupation for the record.”
“Delia,” she croaked. She cleared her throat and tried again, “Delia Tippen. I’m a waitress at the Galaxy Café.”
“And how long have you worked there?” Treize opened, following the script they’d rehearsed.
“For three months.”
“And have you had any problems or complaints during your time there?”
“No,” she replied. “My supervisor has never had anything negative to say to me.”
"So, you could say that you've been a model employee?"
Delia opened her mouth to answer but paused when her gaze drifted over her daughter’s bent head. She hated being in front of all of these strangers, trying to justify why she deserved to have Laura returned to her. But this was the price she had to pay for her sins and she was more than willing. But she decided that she didn’t want to play Treize’s game anymore.
“Your honor,” she said, turning towards the judge. “Can I just say something, please?”
Judge Hervé looked at her for a moment. Then he nodded. “Yes, Ms. Tippen. Go ahead.”
Treize sputtered, “Your honor, this is most unusual. If I could just have a word with my client...”
“Mr. Kushrenada, I’ve already given her permission. Now, let the young lady speak.”
Unable to think of another argument, the tall attorney walked back to his table, propping his hips against it rather than sitting in his chair.
Delia cleared her throat, cursing her nervousness. Trying to ignore all of the eyes locked unwaveringly upon her, she looked at the only person in the entire room who really mattered.
"Laura, baby,” she said, voice husky with emotion. “I love you, so much. You’re my little girl and I want you come home with me. Will you let me at least try to explain?”
The girl’s shoulders trembled almost imperceptibly but the woman and the men sitting behind her saw the tell-tale tremble. Duo was aching to tell her that she didn’t need to listen to anymore of Delia’s lies, but he held his counsel, allowing himself only to send a speaking glance to the man at his side. Heero’s attention was fixed on the woman and the girl.
Laura felt tears stinging behind her eyes. She was tired of listening to her mother talk. She’d grown up hearing the woman’s words, words that cosseted one minute and cut the next. She wanted to just get up and walk out, to let Delia know that she never had to listen to her ever again. But that would be a childish act. No, better to listen now and get it out of the way.
She looked up towards the woman sitting in the witness box, letting her eyes meet the light-brown gaze so similar to her own. With a nod, she indicated her reluctant permission.
Delia sighed and closed her eyes in a silent prayer of thanks. As she opened her mouth to speak, she sent up a new plea, that she wouldn't mess up this last chance at redemption.