The Beach House
From the driveway, the beach house appeared to be the same though it had been nearly two years from his last visit. His glance at his passenger showed the minister still to be engrossed in paperwork, and his lips twitched in a partial smile. He reached out to touch her hand clutching the latest communiquÃ© received before their departure.
"We're here," he told her quietly, and opened his door. Automatically, he scanned the shoreline, the dunes and sky; though, this trip he wasn't officially the minister's security, his was a dual role, and he intended to live up to both.
The minister was still shuffling through her papers when he opened her door. "I just don't get it!" she nearly screamed, and began cramming loose pages into folders and folders haphazardly into the case at her feet.
"You're not supposed to 'get' it," Wufei reminded her. "If you had, then you would be at their level, and that's what we're here to avoid."
She looked up at him, frowning. "Don't patronize me, Wufei, please." From her case, she pulled free a fabric covered elastic, and wound her hair up around it, balling it at the nape of her neck. "I don't have time for the distraction."
Helping her from the car, he held his tongue. She lifted her case and walked to the house without looking back. Wufei watched her greet the housekeeper, the meeting brief before she disappeared inside. He turned back to the car, opened the trunk, and shouldered the two slim bags. Their stay wouldn't be long this round.
Without preamble, Wufei shoved his chair away from the table and stood abruptly. Five hours with barely a break, dinner eaten while still reading through documents, scouring database archives, and debating the meaning on the finer points of a law. The minister barely acknowledged his grunted excuse; she did not watch as he left the room.
From the living room doors, he could see the deck furniture had been replaced. The temptation to sit for a moment in the late evening summer had his hand on the door handle. He didn't have the time - they didn't have the time. They had two days, and if the minister had her way, sleep wouldn't be an option; eating would barely be tolerated. He almost smiled; her dedication rivaled his own. The hardships she posed were well within his acceptable parameters.
He needed to get back to work, to rejoin the minister in her search. But first, he took a moment to stretch an arm above his head, pulling the muscle taut. He repeated the action with his other arm that melded into a quick session of shoulder and neck rolls, ending with a deep inhale of air, and a long, slow exhale. It wasn't mediation on his mat, but it brought some clarity of mind.
The minister was still bent over the spread of pages laid out before her; one hand flat on a document, a finger marking a line, while her other hand flipped through the pages of one of the few physical books present. Her eyes flicked his way and back, registering his return. He pulled his seat closer, sat, and took up his task once again.
When this assignment had been handed down, he didn't even murmur a protest. His primary duty was to provide Preventer input, insight, and resources at the minister's disposal. He had been in his field agent capacity when he had first heard the rumors. The hint of what was to come was from an unreliable source and the mention a brief blurb in his write up for a completely separate operation.
Mariemeia had one thing right - peace and war danced in an endless waltz.
"I just don't understand!"
Wufei glanced up, peering over the tops of his glasses to witness the minister's head slowly sink to rest on the table. He knew the remark to be rhetorical, and refrained from replying. If he'd been keeping count, it would have been the fifth such outburst. But, he wasn't keeping count, not of the number but the frequency.
"You should take a nap," he said, picking up another list of potentials. "Two hours will help bring clarity, and -"
"No time, and you know it." The minister didn't raise her head, her voice distorted.
Again, Wufei refrained from commenting. She would give herself a minute, at most five, and then continue with her search through histories and documents, correspondence and speech transcripts. Wufei made a note to cross check a corporate name against known weapons runners, and moved onto the next on the list.
At least ten minutes had passed, and the minister hadn't raised her head. Wufei glanced at her over the top of his monitor, and almost smiled. She slept despite her protests; he didn't envy the neck stiffness she was sure to get from the angle she laid.
Rising quietly, Wufei rounded the table, lifting his discarded jacket on his way. With gentle care, he laid it over her shoulders and back. He took a moment to slip the ink pen from her fingers, debated on shifting the way she laid, and decided against it. She wouldn't sleep long, and any movement would surely end her much needed nap.
It was with a silent sigh he turned from their makeshift workspace, went through a side door to the kitchen beyond, and made himself a fresh cup of tea. The clock ticked, and another twelve hours were gone; twenty-four remained, or war was imminent.
The secession of even one nation was detrimental, but without proof that the atrocities touted were fabricated, nearly a dozen countries would secede from the Earth Sphere Unified Nations. With the loss of a dozen, the fabric of peace was tenuous at best. The pacifists making up the governing body were to meet in a day's time to vote on declaring martial law, deciding sanctions against dissenters, and potentially terminating the United Nations.
His tea ready, Wufei carried it back to the dining room. Relena slept on, and Wufei spared her a glance before resuming his search.
Nearly ten hours later, he found it. Not daring to breathe, Wufei read through the lines on his screen once again, compared it to the note the minister had scribbled for him hours before, and exhaled slowly.
"Find the Remissieran treaty for me, please," he asked, finally raising his eyes to meet the Vice Foreign Minister's look. "I should confirm what you discovered before we declare our search finished."
Across the table, eyes rimmed red and outlined in dark smudges looked with weary regard. A minute tremor, and the minister rose, her hand reaching for a stack of documents cast to the side. "Are you... certain?" Her voice soft, afraid to be hopeful.
"I will be as soon as you bring me that treaty." His eyebrows rose, but he was able to keep his tone less terse than his words dictated.
She rifled through the folder, found the document he needed and held it out over the cluttered table. He read, and she watched; his eyes skimmed through passages and addenda until he read the article the minister's note was taken from.
Wufei's eyes rose to hers, his mouth formed a bare smile. "We've got them."
"Let me see!" And the girl was on his side of the table in a moment. She was leaning over the back of his chair, and he pointed to the conspiratorial link. "You did it," she breathed, her hand clutched his shoulder.
"No," he told her, turning his head to look at her. "We did it." She was facing him, her eyes bright with all traces of fatigue erased. Her lips curved up in a smile he hadn't seen in weeks.
"We did, didn't we?" she said softly, squeezing his shoulder.
In an instant, he lost what else she said, watching her, seeing how her face shone with expression. His hand was rising to touch. In an instant, she was suddenly too close, and he stiffened in surprise, aborting his action.
Looking away, he slid out of his chair and tossed his glasses down on his own discarded pile of papers. "We have twelve hours before we have to present our findings," he stated gruffly. "It would be best if we slept for some of that time - here. Four hours should be sufficient." He was gathering his notes and folders as he spoke.
"No, I think we should-" Whatever the minister's argument had been was lost in a yawn.
"Sleep," Wufei commanded. "Then breakfast-" He glanced at his watch. "Lunch," he amended. "The drive back will take less than two hours, and that will leave at least two to create a presentation."
She gave him a short nod. "I'll speak with the housekeeper to have a meal ready, and send off word to Commander Une, letting her know what has been found. She'll need the head start with preparations."
The minister was already exiting the room, and Wufei stilled his clean-up motions to stare at the space she'd just occupied a moment before.
"Relena," he tested her name in a whisper and closed his eyes.