Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
It was Saturday morning by the time Heero and Duo could get into Z00001, deliver Mariemaia and the rigid body bag containing Gibson's remains to the appropriate authorities, stop for naps, showers and fresh clothes, then finally make their way to the English Quarter. They brought Koi along and got off the train at a station near Relena's house. Her neighborhood was mainly populated by government officials, both local and representatives from elsewhere who chose the area for its proximity to the buildings of the Colonial Office of the ESUN, and by wealthy Colonials who had made their money generations ago in aerospace industries, asteroid mining and colony construction, which were all long-standing occupations of Colonials.
They did not have separated houses; separated houses were rare in the colonies and in most cases existed in privately constructed Colonies and where older industrial buildings had been converted into residences. Even as townhouses these were some of the largest and most expensive residences in the Colonies. There were equally grand houses in other colonies and clusters, but not a large number that were more impressive.
It had been four days since the crash and Heero thought that even here things remained slow. The train cars and tubes had not been crowded. Usually Saturday, being one of those days that some large segment of the population designated their day of worship or rest, was busy with travel to religious facilities and families on outings in addition to the commuting workers. It was common that Colonial businesses and schools were in operation six days a week but that there was not one day a week when every place closed. Religious or not and as active as Colonials had learned to be, they did believe in taking at least one day to rest. Yet, no day that anyone declared designated for rest or holiday should have been so quiet.
This street should have been quieter than others, but now it had a stillness like death. The chauffeurs and doormen were not outside. There were no electric luxury cars cruising along the avenue. Hardly any well-dressed young men or women walked their pets.
On a normal day, fashionably dressed in over-dyed, boot-cut jeans and a sleeveless turtleneck and walking a pedigree dog, Heero would have blended here. Now, with Duo dressed down but still looking good all in black, Heero felt himself watched from every window. He was the only young man walking a dog.
This wasn't business as usual. That alone should have upset Relena, after the speeches she'd been making.
As they neared Relena's house Heero spotted the semi-concealed agents. "I can see them," he said simply, not turning to look at Duo.
"Those agents are assigned to be visible to those who think they know where to look. Deterrent factor. You can't see the others and they would have taken you out without revealing their positions if you moved against the others."
"If they took me out, I'd know where they were, or my partners might."
"Sure, you go on thinking that," Duo laughed.
"Let's just say that training the agents that cover this entire neighborhood in total concealment any time we're at alert was my successful command experience." Duo laughed, but Heero didn't think it funny that Duo wasn't usually good in command or that Duo could joke about that.
"Well... stealth operations are really what you know best. You seem natural at it and so I think you learned young not to be seen. As good a pilot as you are, you aren't the type of person who can pilot and also teach or command other pilots. Perhaps being stealthy is something you can teach, or you understand how to communicate how you do it."
"I shouldn't ever be in command of a sortie of any kind."
Heero shivered slightly; he thought he was sensing Duo's sadness and guilt. "Duo"
"Both of those recent missions... I am confident you did the very best you could..."
"It was good enough! Duo, you did your best, and I was going to say, it was the best anyone could have done as far as we know. You did not have the information or backup that might have made either mission more successful and no one else forced into that same role would have had that information either. We could run a bunch of sims to try to calculate how to improve if the same exact situation happened again... but as valuable as sims may be in general training... I learned that there are some things they cannot prepare you for at all! Sims did not prepare me to know how to deal with Relena, or Noventa, or Treize and nothing prepared me for everything you can make me feel or do."
"I-it just feels better in a way to blame someone, even if it's me."
"If you were in command and you let Gibson go over to the shuttle, accept responsibility for it, but don't say that you made him die. His injuries were not your doing, most directly they were his own or his attackers. The worst injuries happened because Gibson fought to take control of that shuttle and to control the crash, Duo. He made that decision as an agent, knowing the risks. He was trying to save as many lives as possible. When he died in the hospital, it was only after he was certain that you and Mariemaia were well and that he had done his best. Dying for him was a peaceful thing, like surrender after he had unfortunately had to allow himself to be severely injured in order to complete his mission. It wasn't a bad way to die. It was like dying in the line of duty, only he had a little while to say goodbye before he went."
"Your speeches do get kinda disturbing."
"But I feel better. Don't start apologizing to me." Duo laughed his nervous laugh. "We said our apologies for the past already and you haven't hurt me recently. Don't feel sorry for me."
They were just in front of Relena's house then. Heero stopped and put his free arm about Duo's waist. "I do not pity you, Duo," Heero said seriously, "I will keep trying to keep you from pitying yourself if you promise to do the same for me."
"Fair deal," Duo said with a smile. "Guess I'm lucky to have someone who's willing to deal with all my issues."
Heero smiled. "Yes. I am lucky too."
Duo walked up the steps first but then he just stood staring at Heero, so Heero pushed the bell button and felt good to have someone look at him that way. There was no horror or awe there, but Heero felt appreciated.
It seemed a long silence and Heero was thinking that if they waited much longer whoever opened the door might find them clawing at each other's clothes and generally making a scene in public. The street looked dead, but Heero was sure everyone who wasn't huddled about a source of news was keeping vigil over their street. Heero sighed slightly. He did not like the idea of making scenes. He also did not like the state of hesitation and paranoia in the Colonies. This was very much how people had felt during Alliance rule, oppressed and terrorized.
Duo waved a hand toward the door. "He's just running extra scans."
Heero was certain Duo was referring to Pagan. Still, the wait annoyed him. Heero heard his own annoyed growl as he made it, being unable to fully mask the annoyance.
"Especially on us," Duo said. He likely thought Heero's growl indicated a more specific personal insult was felt. Or maybe Duo was nervous or worried and he needed to talk to fill the time they waited. "Think about it," he continued, "If you wanted to get Relena, I mean, if a smart bad guy did, what better way than to go through us?"
"There are things they could threaten that would make us turn on Relena."
Maybe Duo was just talking to kill time, but it was disturbing now that he was saying they could betray Relena. "No. What are you talking about?" Heero asked.
"Bring me Relena or I blow up a colony!" Duo demanded in a threatening tone. It was all role-play but Heero understood his point.
"And I believe that you have that capability?"
"Sure," Duo said and shrugged. This did feel more like a game now. "Or you can't be sure that I do not have the capability to destroy a colony."
"Negotiation with terrorists is unwise. You can't trust them, rather, you can trust them to act as motivated and determined terrorists would, to exploit every weakness you demonstrate and to use every advantage. Giving into them even once is damaging." Which was why it bothered Heero so much that the street was vacant, because it showed weakness and the effectiveness of terror attacks. Also, Heero suspected that the people in X18999 were not this guarded but angrier and determined to recover fully. Here, people were more afraid than angry. The threat of an unknown horror was always a powerful thing for some reason, however illogical. "I cannot give you Relena even if you claim it will save lives. I can only do my best to stop your efforts to destroy the colony in any way besides giving into your demands."
"Ah, I guess," Duo said softly. Maybe he was thinking that he would have been more tempted to give in, though Heero thought Duo was stronger than that. Perhaps Duo thought that Relena would surrender herself when she heard of the threat. "I don't know, what if their demands weren't really bad things then?" Duo shrugged.
"And I am playing the hypothetical role of one with actual power to grant your independence?"
"Well, if I was a smart terrorist I wouldn't make threats or demands that were unrealistic. Otherwise... I must be lying about my motivations. Like, if thieves make terrorist type threats as a diversion from their work. Or, like I read about past terrorist attacks where hijackers made some request that could not possibly be met but which would result in civilian deaths..."
"Well one in particular involved hijacking a passenger jet from Africa and taking over the cockpit and demanding to go to Australia, but then refusing to let the plane refuel anywhere."
"Classic example of a suicide style terror attack," Heero agreed. "The plane load of civilians dies when the plane crashes mid ocean and attention is drawn to the cause of the hijackers. Though, personally I feel that is a weak sort of plan. No one will support a cause after civilians were made to suffer crashing or drowning like that. Attacks on military establishments or destruction of materials associated with an unjust policy are more wise, from a terrorist's point of view."
"Sure, all Boston Tea Party like. The tea is taxed, throw the tea in the bay to show you can live without it and to deprive them of income from sales and taxes both."
"Why would a terrorist want Relena anyway?" Heero asked, thinking of their game.
Duo shrugged. "Someone always does go after her."
"She is both a legitimately influential government official as well as an influence by her example and as a symbol for the causes she and her ancestors supported."
"Right. So, I guess they'd either want to kill her or use her to send out some fake influential message. That's what Dekim had in mind. I think, otherwise, people mainly wanted to kill her to destroy her power as a symbol or to stop her from saying what she does."
Heero nodded. He had actually planned out killing Relena several times, he just had never gone through with it. First it had just been the apparently simple matter of silencing a witness and Heero had found emotional factors prevented him from carrying out that simple task, as the witness was an unarmed schoolgirl. Later she had taken the dangerous path of becoming Romefeller's figurehead and Heero had planned to kill her to stop Romefeller from using her influence. In that case he had seen that Relena used her figurehead position to become the actual ruler of that group, and so that legitimatization of power had caused Heero to put off any attempts against her in favor of attacking her brother.
"You know..." Heero started, "I think a good thing would be to destroy people's dependence on heroes and role models rather than have to go about assassinating real people to effect change."
Duo laughed. "Sure. Smear campaign?"
"More like... making the people too strong for the need of role models."
"Kinda Nietzschean, huh? Like, killing god because we don't need him anymore? I don't think you can get rid of everyone's need or use for gods or heroes," Duo said sincerely.
The door opened. Pagan stood with his head slightly bowed. With the older man's particular bushy eyebrows Heero could not see his eyes, but he felt that Pagan was eyeing him warily. Perhaps he had been listening in. "Apologies, we have the door locks..." Pagan stopped abruptly. "Come in."
Heero stood on the stoop as Duo went into the hall. The door locks would not open until... the programmed scans came back negative for known threats. That meant a computer, or at least some combination of hardware and software was involved. It was a program that could be broken and reprogrammed.
Heero wasn't sure if he should feel appreciative of Pagan's defense of Relena or insulted by Pagan's lack of trust in him. He stepped into the hall. Duo's expression said he wondered if Heero agreed with his last statement about gods and heroes.
Heero supposed many people did feel better in their lives knowing of saints or leaders or gods who either had lived through similar hardships or who could be relied on to save others from hardship. But Relena was rather like a saint in famous paintings, someone extraordinary. She might be thought of as a heroine, but Heero thought it made more sense for people to make heroes out of those who were even closer to them. Why not a firefighter or a police office or a doctor rather than an ex-princess who charmed all of Earth and the space Colonies? Those people would make very suitable role models in most cases.
Heero looked at Duo and he understood. It was more romantic to idolize a princess or the armored young man that saved her life. People could appreciate those who did good in their own neighborhood and still fall to heroizing Relena, because it was more romantic to do so and many people felt a need for drama or romance in their life. This must be why rock stars with more image than musical talent sometimes had the most fans. People had some need for fantasy and romance.
They didn't need it so much as food or air or intimate human contact, but they did seem to long for it.
Heero smiled. He leaned close to Duo and whispered at his ear. "You and I do not need gods or heroes; we have each other."
The sigh Duo made then was the best sort of sound in the universe.
"It might be best if you went to Relena's door and asked for her," Pagan announced.
Duo moved away from Heero then and told Pagan they would go up. Heero took the moment to release Koi from his leash. He thought, even if he and Duo were the sort of people who found all the drama and romance they needed in each other, there were people who did not have that. Those sort of people, without meaning to, could make their role model feel pressured to live up to their expectations. Heero had felt that sort of pressure before. It felt like he was expected to save the world again.
Whatever else was wrong with Relena, the usual pressure of being idolized and the current lack of business as usual within this colony must be causing a lot of stress for her. "Pagan, do you know what happened to make Relena upset?"
"I do not know for certain. I can say that this started after we viewed the amateur video of the crash which was released to government officials. It was uncensored of course and quite graphic."
"We haven't gotten to see that yet," Duo said.
"I saw it. The video was taken from a hand held camera as the photographer was on the beach and then moving toward a shelter and finally from just within the entrance of the lower level shelter. I heard that the breach was so large that the automated systems could not seal it quickly and many people were sucked into space. I can tell you, when I saw the video I knew that was not a rumor."
Heero had not seen the video but he was not surprised either. He and Trowa had seen the early efforts to recover human remains from among the debris outside the colony. "Yes, I know it is true."
"Adin's with her?" Duo asked.
"She told me to leave," Pagan whispered regretfully.
"We will do what we can for her," Heero promised.
"I only hope that you can be of some help."
"Maybe she'll tell me what's wrong," Duo said hopefully.
Heero thought it was likely Relena would talk to Duo if she felt bad, and he wondered why it was that she had asked for him instead. Patting his leg for Koi to follow Heero climbed the front stairs. Duo jogged up until they were on the same step and then fell into pace with Heero.
"She's probably just stressed out or hormonal or something." Duo laughed.
"Hormonal?" Heero asked then thought about it. "No, I don't even want to know." He sighed quietly. "It's been several days and she hasn't come out of her room, Duo. That's not normal for anyone, is it?"
Duo shrugged, "Not normal exactly, but that depends on who you're talking about. Relena never seemed to have a mental disorder before, but this sounds like some kind of break down, don't ya think? If someone is chemically imbalanced they might just lock themselves in a room and cry for a few days."
Heero suppressed his curiosity about Duo's mental health. He wanted to know how long Duo had needed medication. He didn't believe it made much of a difference. There were all sorts of conditions that needed continued medications or therapy, not all mental conditions. It was only logical and intelligent to admit the problem and get treatment. Heero wondered if he needed therapy. He survived, right now he felt happy, but it had not been easy getting to this place. Perhaps he should have been strong enough to ask for help.
"Hey, you look entirely morbid right now, not feeling self pity are you? Do I have to remind you how lucky you are right here and now?"
It was not one of Duo's better jokes but it made Heero smile. "Luck me later, Duo."
Duo gagged to show he thought Heero's joke poor. That only made Heero smile more. Duo smiled back and then schooled his face as he made a flourish toward one door. Heero had been this far inside Relena's house before. He knew this was not the room Duo used or the bathroom.
Heero sucked in a breath and then held it as he knocked at the door. Heero listened, slowly letting out his breath without a sound. Seconds passed. A scratchy female voice called out. "Who is it?"
Heero scolded himself silently for not just announcing himself in the first place. It probably would have been most appropriate. "It's Heero... and Duo."
"Come in," Relena said, her voice still hoarse.
Heero opened the door slowly. The way it swung Heero could not see Relena at first, only a matching desk and dressing table and some other small furnishings and decorations. Some of it was pink but mainly Heero had the impression of things being cream or like the colors of earth, like beige that was tinted with green or gold here and there. As the door swung fully open Heero could see he bed. Immediately he made out two figures, one beneath the covers and another behind them laying above the covers.
Duo laughed softly, but Heero wasn't sure what amused him. They could both see now that Relena was almost entirely hidden by covers and that Adin was asleep with his arm draped over her.
"Adin!" Duo called sharply.
Adin sat up immediately, stunned and disoriented it seemed. "Relena?"
Relena was hiding again, just a sliver of dark blonde hair between pillow and covers. Adin's usually sleek blue hair was now unruly and his eyes looked shot with blood. Heero suspected Adin had fully intended not to fall asleep while Relena might possibly be awake or need help, but he must have stayed awake so long that he couldn't help but sleep.
Heero found he was unsure of what to say to either of them. He wanted to help Relena but he had never seen her so helpless. It really was shocking. Women hiding in their bedrooms crying, it had always seemed some obsolete stereotype and never something Relena Peacecraft Darlian could do.
She's human, Heero told himself silently. You had times when you were overcome, even paralyzed by emotions or memories; you have to allow that the same could happen to anyone else without faulting them, especially Relena. Heero reassured himself that this was true. Whatever was wrong with Relena, she could get better. It wasn't her fault most likely.
Duo seemed to know what to do, or he was good at pretending he was not shocked or afraid. "Stop pouting under the covers Ojosama!" Duo called. "Heero might be a little shocked to see you without your hair and face looking perfect, but I won't be and he'll get over it."
"Duo!" Adin protested.
"I think it was totally right that you watched over her, but clearly she needs more than you can give right now, huh? No offense, and I'm not saying we can help, but let me try my way, 'K? She needs to get out of bed and do anything."
Relena whispered something and Heero could honestly not make out the words soft as her voice was and being muffled by the bed clothes. Adin seemed to hear enough to understand. "You're sure?"
"She says we can come back later. She's not kicking you out, Duo, she just wants to talk to Heero alone for a little while."
"Oh," Duo said quietly. "yeah, sure, right." Heero thought Duo sounded wounded and when he looked at him he was sure of it. Duo didn't really like to hear that anyone would rather be with Heero. As much as he professed to like Heero himself now or to talk about their past teamwork in his logical moments Duo really did fear they were in competition and that he would always be viewed as second best.
"It is not a competition," Heero whispered. "I'll let you know if I need some help."
"OK," Duo said. He went toward the door again. Adin slipped from the bed and walked around it, straightening his clothes as he went.
When they had gone Relena was still under her covers. It was quiet here. Koi was watching Heero attentively. Heero felt pressured to say the right thing but he had no idea what that was. "Ee, it's pretty here," Heero said. "I have never seen your room before, in person."
Relena said nothing.
Heero scanned the room more thoroughly, as if trying to memorize the layout and contents for a mission. He saw the angel statute he had given Relena was on a shelf. Then Heero realized there were other angel statues about the room and angels in artwork and in the print fabric on the bed. "I guess you just like angels... I didn't even know."
Heero went to the bed and leaned over it. "Relena. I know you are not well. Can you tell me how I can help you?"
The covers were pushed down. Relena propped herself up against the pillows and wooden headboard. Heero detected a sort of unwashed scent about her, not very bad, but not very good either. Her hair looked messy and not nearly as sleek and straight as it usually did. Her face looked puffy. She pouted. Relena would not look at him directly.
"Relena," Heero said firmly.
"If... if I said I wanted to die could you kill me now?"
Heero didn't really think about what she said or why she would say it, he just reacted to how the words made him feel. He slapped Relena's face with a single open hand, hard.
Then Heero thought about why Relena might have said what she said and what he had done and he felt horrified. Relena was sobbing loudly. He saw the left side of her face was red. Heero looked at his hand. He had done that. She had not been armed or attacked him. He had known she was distraught and he could not use that knowledge to convince himself not to be baited by her.
He was a horrible person. It was all true. He killed innocent people. He pointed guns at little girls. He killed little girls. He hit unarmed women who were not nearly as strong as him. It was true. He was horrible. Relena believed it. She would not have asked him to kill her if she did not believe it.
She made a move toward him. Heero knew it wasn't meant as an attack. She was trying to put her arms around him, but he could not let her. He didn't know how to be with anyone. He shouldn't be with anyone. Heero raised his hands and pushed Relena away from him. She landed against the headboard. "Stay away from me," Heero growled at her.
Koi was growling then, pacing and looking from Relena to Heero. He knew that Heero was upset but Koi did not know how to behave toward Relena now. The door opened just as Relena turned and threw herself down on the bed. It was Duo. Heero knew it was Duo. He walked around the bed with that sort of limp he had now, made very noticeable on the hard faux wood flooring.
"What did you say to her?" Duo demanded from Heero's side. He petted Relena's hair as he looked over the bed to Koi and then he looked at Heero.
Heero knew Duo looked toward him, he felt it, but he did not raise his eyes; he only looked at his hands.
Heero looked up, slowly, feeling completely ashamed and horrified by himself.
"Heero?" Duo shook Relena. "Lena, what did you say to him?"
"I'm sorry!" Relena cried. "I'm sorry!"
"I didn't leave for a minute and you are both in tears, Jesus! Would you tell me what is going on? Relena!"
She sat up. Heero saw her sit up and he thought her cheek looked even worse now.
"You hit her?" Duo demanded. There was no need to answer. Heero had obviously struck Relena with his hand. He simply did not deny it, which was as good as admission. Duo glared angrily, for a second. Then there was a sort of softening that made Heero hope.
"Heero?" Relena rasped.
Duo was stroking Relena's cheek with his fingers. "You were supposed to let me know if you needed help." Heero knew that Duo spoke to him even if he looked at Relena. "Lena, I think you know Heero didn't want to do this. It was wrong, but you said something that hurt him too."
Relena nodded and pressed her face to Duo's shirt. One blue eye peered out from beneath her bangs and looked at Heero. "I didn't think... I didn't know. Believe me. Heero, I didn't know I could hurt you like that."
"You didn't think it would hurt me?" Heero shouted. He was beyond being hurt. Relena, who was supposed to be his heroine, who was supposed to see good in him, who had caught his body as he swore not to kill again and then collapsed... she had asked him to kill her! If he was only a weapon to Relena... then...?
"Goddamnit Relena, what did you say to him?"
"I asked him to kill me."
Silence, except for Koi's whine.
"Man I can understand someone thinking it romantic to be killed by Heero, but only if they were really disturbed and Heero had taken it upon himself to claim their otherwise worthless life."
If that was supposed to be a joke Heero did not think it was funny.
"Honey, I don't think you're the one Heero's been claiming recently, if you want to go doing something as stupid and selfish and cowardly as off yourself in peacetime when your death won't buy any lives you're gonna have to do it yourself. I have to let you know, I'd take it really hard if I lost another friend and then I'd be asking Heero to kill me and then he'd have to kill himself after he'd taken my life. That'd just be a big mess for Pagan to have to clean up, don't you think? I mean, we'd probably have to kill the dog too while we're at it and that might make Heero blow his brains out before he can do me, then I'd really be screwed in the head! You really want to do that to me, Lena?"
"Duo," she sobbed.
Duo sighed. He leaned the walking stick against the bed and put both his arms around Relena. He turned his head and looked at Heero. "It's OK."
"It's OK, Heero. You trust me, right? We struck a deal on that pity thing, right? I know. Seriously. You think a weapon would cry if someone asked it to be used to kill?"
"I am not crying."
Relena laughed against Duo's chest.
"You don't look adorable with wet lashes either I suppose?"
Heero wiped his eyes with his fingers and growled.
"No, embarrassing will be when I start wiping your tears with my tongue, Baby." Heero wanted Duo to try it and at the same time he was angry at Duo for saying such a thing in front of Relena. He was also confused by Duo's now obvious recent campaign to give meanings of his choice to every wordless response Heero made. Heero raised his eyes to glare, but then he saw Duo's coyness was as forced as his humor and that he was desperate to make Heero and Relena feel better. If they did not feel all right soon then Duo would end up crying with them.
"I just meant being teary is not the same as crying," Heero said quietly.
"A weapon wouldn't get teary either, Heero. Relena made a mistake, but it won't help to beat her up about it. I meant, figuratively."
Heero climbed up onto the bed and folded his legs in front of him. At a gesture Koi leapt up onto the bed and put his head in Heero's lap. Koi made him feel better. Duo did not believe he was a weapon, but overall Heero still felt very bad. He wanted to curl up with Koi and not have to know that Duo or Relena could see him.
Heero wiped his eyes again. "The point of claiming your life, Duo is to force anyone who wishes to threaten your life to deal with both of us and to never take your life myself either, because I want you to live. And we would not 'kill the dog while we are at it.' If I was going to be involved in any suicide pact, hypothetically, I would be the sort to put my life in order first and make sure Koi had a new home."
"Ah, good, I'd have time to notice you giving away your antique game machines and your kitchen utensils and stop you from going through with your plan."
"Why would you think that I think utensils are special?" Heero asked.
"Don't you own a bento with a wooden handle and hashi, oshiwaku and shamoji all made out of real wood? Wood items are pretty valuable and it's some kind of statistic that people who are planning to kill themselves give away their valuable things. One of those 'cry for help' things."
"It is just that they are items I have had since I was younger and not that the items are for preparing food."
"Geez! Multitask with me, Heero! You're obsessing on this utensil thing. I was just trying to say I'd stop you if you tried to kill yourself. If you can be all analytical again maybe you can help me with Relena."
"I am not obsessing about utensils," Heero whispered.
There was some part of Heero that was glad she could laugh, but mostly he still felt hurt, though he knew Duo had tried to take the pain away by distracting him. "How can you laugh?" he asked coldly. "You wished to die and you asked me to do it. You hurt me. With both of those things you hurt me. What happened to you that you could do that... to me?"
"I didn't think of you at all. I am sorry. I only thought about how I felt."
"It's been over two days, Relena," Duo said softly, "You need to tell us what is going on. You need to."
"I don't mean to be selfish..."
"Sometimes you have to be selfish for a while just to survive," Duo said, "Tell us; we want to help you."
Relena just sobbed for a while and then she started talking. It was hard to understand, the way she cried and sniffled and spoke in fractured sentences. There was something about families being torn apart and a fire. Then Relena insisted her father was leaving her mother and Heero didn't understand that at first, because he was sure she only had one mother surviving and no father.
"I saw her," Relena said, "I never remembered before but I am sure that I saw her... bleeding... and we left her there!"
Heero realized that Relena was talking about the day Mr. Darlian had secreted her away from her family's palace during the attack on the Sank Kingdom.
Relena then started talking about Lady Une. Between cries she seemed to be describing something about the bombing that mortally injured her adopted father and how she had witnessed it all and had known Lady had done it. And then she was in Moscow shooting a gun and after that back with her dying father. It was hard to follow, but Heero understood that Relena had somehow registered most of these events in her mind without really feeling the emotional effects of them fully. Heero understood, because he had done that with many things, just pushed the feelings down, filed them away in his mind.
"I forgave her," Relena cried, "I said I forgave her and she's supposed to be my friend and it was the perfectly diplomatic thing to do but SHE KILLED MY FATHER!"
"I know," Duo said, "We'll figure this out. Tell us everything. I promise, you'll feel better if you tell it."
Heero didn't feel better. He felt sick actually. He felt a rage and pain inside him that he hadn't felt so intensely since he'd been hiding out in New York. When Duo had hurt him, that had been very bad, but not like this sort of pain.
Relena hated that she'd done the politically correct thing and forgiven Lady. She wanted to be the good person who could forgive anything, but she felt so hurt when she recalled that explosion.
She was talking about school and something about Lady wanting to kill her. "Heero ripped up my invitation!"
Heero growled and then closed his eyes and leaned forward, fearing he might actually be sick.
"Heero and my brother were fighting and Libra and Peacemillion collided and we thought you were dead on Tuesday!" Relena cried, mixing separate events together into one horrible experience.
This was not his pain at all.. He was feeling Relena's pain. How did Quatre stand this? It hurt.
Someone lifted Heero's hand from his lap. I am loved? It was Duo. I am not horrible and dangerous and worthless? Heero did not feel the pain anymore, though he thought he was aware of it existing. He felt that Duo loved him. It was the best feeling.
Relena was whispering between sniffles. "I don't want everyone to love me or hate me. Why can't people just understand? I just wanted us to have terraforming and mobile suits and more travel throughout the Sphere. Aren't those good things? I didn't think anyone would hurt innocent people because of me. I don't want anyone to be hurt. I can't do anything. I just end up causing pain."
"It will be OK," Duo said. "Somehow it will."
For a while Relena continued to cry as Duo held her. Heero didn't want to let go of Duo, but he saw that Duo could maintain his own balance better if he had his hand closer to his body.
Heero lay down on his back and with a gesture invited Koi to put forepaws and head across his chest. Heero looked at the ceiling and scratched Koi's head. He felt so many things he wasn't sure what he felt. Actions did seem to have more volume than words. Whatever they had said in the past, Relena had believed he could kill, but Duo had believed Heero could take care of a dog even better than he could. Duo had always trusted Heero to protect him, even if he didn't trust that Heero would always take care of himself. Duo had shown he was willing to take care of Heero.
Relena had good qualities and Heero understood exactly what she was going through, he could forgive her for doubting him with some time, but there was no way Heero could help her now without Duo.
The door opened. Adin stepped in, showered and changed. Duo said, "Go with Adin, let him take you to the bathroom and make sure you find what you need then get a bath or something. You'll feel better. If you feel up to it, we can all talk some more after that, or maybe get you some food."
Relena left with a nod and some sniffles. Adin put an arm around her, led her from the room and closed the door.
"Heero!" Duo hissed. "Heero please, be OK now. I need you!"
"I am here."
Duo climbed onto the bed and sat somewhat sprawled near Heero. He was talking with his hands. "It is going to be OK. She'll get better. I believe it. I have to believe it. I didn't want to lie to her. But Heero, how is it going to be OK? What are we going to do?"
"Duo, it wouldn't have been like a lie anyway. You were just stating your hopes or intentions. Things can't be very much worse, so it stands to reason they will get better eventually. I mean, I suppose we all agree no one needs to kill themselves, so things will not just end before they can improve."
"But what can I say to her? Heero I feel so bad. I mean, my life wasn't exactly happy, but I just had no idea that Relena was just as bad off. I guess I knew some of that stuff happened, but not all of it. Do you think she really saw her real mother die?"
"I don't know. Certainly Queen Katerina Peacecraft was murdered in the coup, but Relena was very young then. Memory is... not yet well understood by science. Some people do repress memories of traumatic events and then regain them, but then some people remember that a car was red when it was blue or that they were five when they took a certain vacation and not eight. People can be confused or mistaken about what they remember."
"Helen was like my mother. I saw her lying in rubble, bleeding. But... do you think it's true? Darlian left the queen alive?"
"It is possible that Relena told the truth entirely. It is also possible that she put together pieces of her own memory and what Pagan and Milliard told her with books and movies and games and invented a horrible false memory. But, that's not really important. Relena believes it is true. She feels pain because of it. True or not, she has to deal with that pain, no matter what caused it."
"Why would he have left her?"
This was hard for Duo, the very idea that a woman was left to die. Duo seemed to have been instilled with a special respect for females. Heero tried to treat men and women equally, but he knew that some believed in making exceptions in this equality, some intending to show added kindness and others to repress. "Duo, in those situations, in war, you save who you can. Whatever Relena remembers, she was young. There must have been many things she did not know or understand. Maybe she caught a glimpse of her mother bleeding and calling for help, but maybe what she did not know was that going to help the Queen would mean that Mr. Darlian would reveal himself and not be able to save the Princess. Everyone in the palace had to save who they were able to, even if it was only themselves. We might contact Weridge or Mrs. Darlian. They might know some things about the coup that they were told and which they did not reveal to Relena."
"We should talk to Zechs, huh?"
"You can talk to him."
"Fine by me. I'd rather not talk to the family."
"Actually, we could ask Pagan to contact them. He feels bad that he has been unable to help Relena. She must have been placing blame for what she believes happened to her mother on everyone who was connected to the family. That's why Relena did not call Mrs. Darlian herself."
"That sounds reasonable," Duo said. "What about the other stuff?"
"One of us should talk to Lady and explain what Relena is going through. I think that Lady understands very well that she was given a second chance at life and I trust that she has changed, still, I think we all agree that she has some responsibility for her past actions. Even if we must arrange for Lady and Relena to be apart for a while, we should explain to Lady our reasons. It might be healthy for Relena to talk to her, even to scream at her. I hope Lady could understand that."
"That's messed up. This is all messed up."
"Yes, well, you shot me and I love you. It must be possible for Relena to like the woman who killed her father. She did it before, only now a lot of emotions have surfaced. Do you think we should contact a professional? A therapist or someone?"
"I guess we should ask Relena."
"Duo, did you ever go to a therapist?"
"No. I went to a psychiatrist."
"Are you ill?"
"Kinda." He shrugged. "I guess I can tell ya. It's not a big deal or anything. You know what affective disorders are?"
"Mental illnesses that affect the mood, thought to be caused by imbalance of neurotransmitters and sometimes triggered by stressful or traumatic events, though they can develop on their own, particularly in people with a familial history of such illnesses. Symptoms of some are similar to certain hormonal imbalances."
"Right. They think I pretty much started out with dysthmea, but so many traumatic and stressful events happened to me that every doctor has had a hard time sorting out what symptoms go where and all, but they tried some meds to try to see if the symptoms lessened and it basically worked. Some of the meds just made me feel weird, so now I'm on this herbal stuff and it seems to work pretty well I think. I don't really mind having to take it all the time, because I remember what I felt like before. It's not like I felt bad all the time, it was like, bouts at the worst times. I mean seriously, I wanted to just give up in the middle of the war. I wasn't acting very much like myself. The meds are kinda preventative as well as curative I guess. There doesn't seem to be any danger or side effect in taking this one continually."
"Do you sometimes get ill now?"
"No, that's the point of staying on meds, Heero. I mean, if something bad happens I have a natural reaction to it. I feel sad or angry or whatever. You've seen that. I just don't have an unnaturally intense reaction to events."
"I probably have PTSD."
"Yeah, at least. You were always into self diagnosis."
"I do not like doctors very much."
"Has to do with J?"
"No. It's medical doctors. I can tolerate them, but I just do not like doing so. Duo, do you think I need therapy?"
"You seem OK now. It's not for everyone, or medicines. If I saw you couldn't deal with something and I couldn't help you, I think I would just tell you to get help."
"Of course. You're all over logic, right? That's logical."
"Yes. A weapon should be kept in good working order."
"I was joking. Really. I feel better. It did hurt that Relena could believe I might kill her."
"That was totally wrong of her, but you know she said it because she isn't acting like herself now. She needs help. If we can't help her, then we'll have to find someone who can."
"I agree. Don't leave me alone with her. Duo, I think I felt her pain. I don't know how not to do it."
"I thought you talked to Quatre."
"I did. But, everyone has to figure it out in their own way, or rather, figure out their way of control."
"Did I tell you about when I talked to Quatre?" Duo was laughing softly.
Duo smiled. "You know how Trowa can get all superior about how he understands Quatre better than I do?"
Duo flicked him off. "Quatre said that he could sense us..."
"What? He did?"
"Yeah, yeah, but that's not the funny thing. Quatre said he could hear us and sense some of what we felt but that wasn't what made him toss about in bed. He's used to it. He's was around his father and some of his sisters when he was young and he spent time with the Maganac and with us and all, he's used to having a whole lot of people around that have strong emotions, so he's used to it. You see?"
"Oh. So, maybe I was not often around a large number of emotional people or close to them? That's why I didn't know before and can't control it?"
"I guess." Duo grinned. "It was totally Trowa's longing and frustration that kept Quatre from sleeping. Isn't that funny? Trowa telling me that I kept Quatre up all night when it was him all along? Quatre says Trowa's done it before, you know, without knowing of course."
"Aa. Apparently you do know more about them than I do. They really both are interested in each other? I though maybe they were, but I don't know if I trust my opinion alone in love matters."
Duo smiled and nodded enthusiastically. "Totally interested. It's just how I said before, Trowa's got some issues and fears or whatever, so he won't tell Quatre how he feels. And Quatre's so overly sensitive he's afraid he'll scare Trowa if he tells him precisely what he's feeling. They're mental for each other."
"And they should have sex?"
"Oh yeah! They're such freaks the way they idolize each other. It's love. But they don't know how to express it except to do lame stuff like play music together or gaze at each other secretly. Do you know how many times I've caught them staring at each other's reflection? When we had training courses Quatre would always sit in front of Trowa and just stare at his reflection in his monitor and Trowa's big on pretending he's staring vigilantly out a window."
That was a funny image in Heero's mind. "But you don't think if they had sex it would ruin things?"
"God no! Picture it." Duo giggled so he was picturing it. "Quatre's passionate. Worshipful. He's got a nice body, huh?"
"It wasn't a trick question. Quatre does have a nice body now, I think. You look better of course."
"Of course," Heero said, smirked.
"And you know how they say 'watch out for the quiet ones'? Trowa looks all quiet and reserved, but I bet, with the right person, he'd be pretty wild!"
"Do you imagine what all your friends would be like when they have sex?"
"Sure. It's probably normal. Did you read about that statistic? How often would I have sexual thoughts if I was normal and average?"
"Very frequently. I do not think I am normal, or I was not for a long time."
"I know you want me all the time, that's what's important!" Duo said confidently.
"Hey! I wonder if you can do it on purpose! I wonder if Quatre can!"
"Do what...?" Heero understood even as he was asking. "No. Don't you think that would be wrong? Like peeping?"
Duo shrugged. "You watch porn! You watched it with Trowa!"
"For research! I was trying to get him to admit something."
Duo laughed. "Yeah, whatever. You probably do subscribe to all the men's online zines just for their articles! Still, maybe I'd like to watch porn with you."
"Maybe," Duo said, eyes wandering, "I've mostly seen it up on monitors over bars and shit like that. I might like it. I don't know."
"Would that be like a date, or what we do with each other at home?" Heero asked.
There was a knock at the door.
"It's kewl, Adin," Duo called. As the door opened Duo leaned over and spoke quietly to Heero. "That's right, no reason to stop dating is there."
"She all right?"
"She wasn't happy about the missing items," Adin reported.
"Well, I trust she would have put me on suicide watch if I acted the way she did."
"You removed potentially dangerous materials from her bathroom?" Heero asked.
"Hairdryer, pills, razors, stuff like that," Duo said casually.
"I would not have done that. How will she trust herself again if we do not show her trust?"
Duo sighed. "I trust a desperate person to do desperate things. You can start building up her self esteem after lunch."
Heero said nothing. Sometimes they were just going to disagree. Heero no longer saw any purpose in arguing. If the issue was life or death important he would just do things his way and explain to Duo later and expected Duo would act in a similar fashion.
"How are you?" Duo asked as Adin lay down on the bed.
"Yeah. I don't want to be melodramatic."
"You are always melodramatic," Adin laughed.
"Yeah, Yeah. Listen, I don't know how this will turn out. She may be fine today now she's gotten the words out. She may be shaky and sad for a while. I don't know."
"I can stay with her any time she needs me. Do you think she can go to school? Are you coming back?"
"Yeah, I got to talk to the Director again, so Monday I can go back. It'll be a bitch making up all this past week so close to graduation. I guess Relena will need help to."
"Earlier in the week a bunch of the diplo-brats were kept home by their families, Yasmin's father let her stay though and she said from the beginning she'd keep track of the tests and assignments Relena needed to make up."
"You did mine?"
"Don't I always."
"You are the best, you know!"
"Sssh, not in front of Heero, Baby."
Duo laughed at Adin's joke. If Duo did still have other sex partners Adin was not one of them.
"School was actually closed early Tuesday and we had assemblies some of the other days and classes were slow. You didn't miss so much. You'll have to make up a few quizzes. They usually understand about your homework assignments, right? Wish I worked in the interest of national security and didn't have to make up all my homework."
"Adin, you never miss assignments to begin with," Duo laughed.
"You are both... perfect," Heero laughed.
"I'm perfect?" Adin asked.
"You are going about business as usual. Duo was in the collision and broke his leg and you've been keeping suicide watch over our Vice-Minister and you are just... talking about school like nothing happened. It's... wonderful!"
"Just trying to do my part for the Nation," Duo said.
Adin laughed. "Duo! Let's take Relena shopping! You know, put money into the economy so it will circulate around and fund restoration and defense!"
"Brilliant! What should we buy?"
"Shoes? No! A Prom dress!"
"Yes! Does she want someone to ask her?"
"I thought maybe she wouldn't be mad if I did."
"Right. She might suspect it's pity now... but it wouldn't be."
"Of course not, it's Relena!"
"You should ask her and we should take her to buy a dress."
"Oh! I don't believe I almost forgot to tell you! I heard Yasmin say she wants to invite Dorothy to Prom when she's back in town. She's going to try the 'just friends' plan."
Duo cackled a laugh. "I just thought since neither of us is seeing anyone right now and all our friends are going that you might come to Prom with me?" Duo said, apparently attempting to impersonate Yasmin's voice.
Heero scratched Koi's head and smiled. Their conversation seemed so silly to him, but it sounded perfectly normal. Normal sounded good right now.