The Beach House
It was early fall in the year AC 197, and Wufei's first trip to the beach house. If it had been left up to him, he never would have had a single one, let alone the dozens through the years. 'Glorified babysitting', he had called it, nearly insubordinate in tone and action when the duty was assigned. In the end, his protests were ignored, and he became the Primary in Charge of Safety and Security for the Vice Foreign Minister.
During the drive through the mountain pass and along the coastal road, the Vice Foreign Minister was quiet to the point of making him uncomfortable. But his deliberate glances garnered no reaction, and he let her alone. He had seen the broken look edging her eyes, and pushed his curiosity away; it had no relevance to his current assignment.
"Stay here," he instructed upon arrival. His inspection was quick and efficient, knowing that the security team had already swept the perimeter before they ever left the minister's mansion. He had to admit the beach house held a quiet, unstated elegance without being pretentious. Single story, it split into a gradual closed vee shape, its two long sides facing away from the ocean.
He opened Minister Darlian's door, his eyes scanning for movement, the potential of danger, and stood to the side, letting her out of the car.
"Thank you," she told him politely, and went to stand by the trunk.
Wufei frowned, opening the rear compartment by remote. "I can carry the luggage," he told her briskly, reaching inside to pull out his lone bag, and gather her three larger ones.
"And I can manage my own." Her tone was sharp. He gave her a look with his brow raised, and she flushed with a hand rising to rub her forehead. "I apologize. It's been... a rough week."
He nodded acknowledgement, shouldering his bag, and handing her one of her own. Her other two, he held onto, and closing the trunk, he jerked his chin toward the house. "We should head for the house."
Without another word, she led the way, and disappeared into her room until the resident caretaker was ready to serve dinner.
Though his room was more than adequate, Wufei could not sleep. He prowled through the house on silent feet, drank a glass of water still standing at the kitchen sink, and contemplated a walk to the beach. He dismissed that thought immediately; the proximity alarms had already been set, and he did not want to raise a concern at the remote security station.
In the living room, he stopped to look out the great glass windows to the shadow-shrouded ocean, quelling the resentment wanting to rise. Being assigned to this duty was a mistake. He was as a field agent, and in the middle of a pressing investigation; he left the security and guarding to others better suited for it. His suggestion to use Yuy or Maxwell had earned him a sharp rebuke.
A flit of a shadow appeared on the deck, and Wufei reached out to slide the door open quietly. He was barehanded, his weapons left back in his room, but the need to investigate was immediate. The deck was cold on his feet, but he dismissed it, hugging close to the house as he made his way around to the minister's room. His alarm waned immediately - the minister herself stood at the low deck rail with her arms crossed over her stomach, facing the sea.
The tension faded to a low twang, and Wufei lowered himself against the wall; he was a field agent, and even this aberration added to his training. He waited in shadow; watching; listening; barely breathing.
Little by little, he came to see the slump of the minister's shoulders straighten. Her hand dropped to her side, and the other rose to pull back a stray wisp of hair, to tuck it behind an ear. From where he hid, he heard the sigh, and stiffened as she turned, her head bowed - still - as she made her way back to her room.
He waited until he heard the lock click into place, until he heard the alarm beep its setting, before moving back inside the house, re-keying the alarm and returning to his room.
The sun had been up for nearly three hours, the ocean waves choppy with the night's tide. Wufei trailed after the minister, roughly five feet behind and to her left, his eyes watching the surf, scanning the dunes, and darting to the horizon in the attempt to gauge where they were going, how he'd know when they arrived.
The girl seemed unconcerned, strolling aimless over the sand, stopping to watch a large wave roll in, bending to observe a tiny crab scuttle its way back to the water. A large brimmed hat started out perched on her head, but she was soon carrying it; her feet were bare from when she left the house.
It had been two days from her nighttime vigil, and Wufei had not seen the action repeated; though, he waited and watched long into the night. By day, the minister was seemingly content to sit up on the deck under an umbrella table, reading. Her deviation caught him flatfooted as he scrambled to cache his weapon, and grab sunglasses from the inside breast pocket of his jacket hanging in his room. His half-grumbled admonishment was met with a slight smile.
He had almost passed her, stopping when he realized she had. A quick glance and he turned to see where she was looking. The bluff had grown gradually, its cliff facing the ocean in a nearly smooth drop to the beach. As arms, twin runners of solid rock angled out from the bluff to each side, the alcove its natural creation.
A dozen steps brought the minister closer to the cliff face; it was barely double her height. The agent believed that if he had a good running jump, he would be able to grasp the ledge. He weighed the thought of it against the practical; sandstone rock, and sea grass did not encourage the act.
"My father had the house build for my mother."
Pulled from his calculations and possibilities to scale the bluff, Wufei turned to the girl. She wasn't looking his way, but instead, was staring at the smoothed edge of stone, her eyes distant.
"He was gone so often for state affairs, he gave her a place of her own." She lowered her head, gripping her hat tightly, and toed the sand at her feet. "She would bring me here, sometimes." A wistful smile fluttered and held for a brief moment, and she turned her head to glance back at him. "We would have bonfires, here, and dinner would be a fish and potato bake." A wave of her arm encompassed the sheltered alcove. "With the firelight dancing shadows against the cliff wall, she would tell me stories of far away kingdoms filled with knights performing valiant deeds, rescuing princesses in need, and happily ever afters." Her smile faltered, and she looked away from him.
Wufei came to stand closer, looking down at the rock her foot had uncovered. The impression of the ring of rock was clear, though time and climate had nearly eliminated its existence.
"Do you believe in love, Agent Chang?" She asked suddenly.
"Love is a wasted emotion," he stated immediately. "Love is for the weak."
Her look was sad, of a sudden, her eyes drawn the cliff face once again. "Perhaps you're right." A minute passed, and she exhaled sharply. "We leave tomorrow," she announced, jamming her hat back on her head. "I have work to do."
And without a backward glance, she marched across the sand toward the beach house, leaving Wufei to scramble in her wake.
Since their arrival at the beach house, it had been the minister's custom to sit out on the deck after dinner until the chill of night drove her inside. The agent was never sure if she did so to watch the ocean and contemplate the tides, regret important decisions that turned out badly, or if she simply redecorated her bedroom in her own mind; he didn't really care. His duty was to watch over her, keep her safe from outside harm. But, each night, he found himself watching her, wondering what went on behind those blue eyes.
The last night of the beach house visit was no different. Wufei stayed out of her way, scanning the horizon, listening for sounds that hinted possible danger. She sat in her chair wrapped in an oversized sweater, mid-thigh length shorts, and bare feet. Within hand's reach, her cup of tea grew cold and the slight breeze ruffled the pages of her neglected book.
Wufei studiously avoided looking in her direction, bringing the night-oculars up to scan the dunes. He was frowning, wishing she would shut that damned book up. But, he wasn't prepared for her to rise and head for the house. It was barely sundown, and too early for her normal routine to retire for the night. She must have caught his surprised look, for she paused at the doors to her room.
"I'll be back in a minute," she told him, and disappeared inside.
A moment passed, and he heard her voice if not words. An answering male voice grabbed at his attention, and he listened without thought.
"... tomorrow afternoon. We will have to ramp up the scheduling for the L3 tour, but I suspect you've already completed the list?" The minister's voice was clear if not so loud.
"Duo finished the report this afternoon, and it will be in your in-box when you're ready." Recognizing the voice, Wufei glanced through the open door. The minister's back was to him, blocking part of the videophone screen. But, he would know his former comrade and one-time partner from that angle.
"How-" Her voice wavered a moment, and Wufei's eyes were drawn to her. "How is Duo?"
"Well." There was a wealth of information behind that one word, and Wufei nearly turned away, not comfortable with invading their privacy any longer.
"Tell him... no," the minister straightened, her tone strengthening. "Please, let me tell him."
Wufei caught Heero's profile a moment before the vidscreen split, and both Heero and Duo appeared.
"Duo," the minister said softly.
"Hey, 'Lena." Duo smiled but turned to glance to the side; Heero was still in profile. "You staying out of trouble up there?" Duo teased, looking back to the screen.
"Oh you know me, never a dull moment." There was warmth in her tone, and Wufei almost snorted at her answer. Duo did laugh, though it was short lived.
"No!" Her response was immediate, her tone sharp. "Do not belittle what you have, and do not underestimate me." Wufei was watching the girl again. She sighed, and shook her head slowly. "I'm okay, Duo, truly. It will be better now, for all of us."
Duo's face disappeared from the screen leaving only the top of his head in sight. Heero's hand appeared from the side, resting on Duo's shoulder.
"I expect to see you both Monday morning sharp." Dual acceptances sounded, and with a quick goodbye, Duo's screen winked out. "And Heero," the minister said, "help Duo understand. Tell him... tell him about what we discussed. Please."
Heero was in profile again, but he nodded, turning back to face the camera. "I will, Relena."
"Good. Until Monday then."
Wufei faded back away from the doorway; pieces of the puzzle only partly shown, now revealed. He longed for his field agent status back; longed for a shootout or a good old fashion explosion. Anything but personal intrigue between friends.