The Beach House
His third visit to the beach house started as a blustery early spring day, with low scudding clouds and choppy waves. But, he didn't spare a glance to the ocean, trusting Relena's security to have done their job. Instead, he hurried to the passenger side, and opened the door.
The minister barely stirred, her eyes blinked opened and closed almost immediately. Wufei leaned in, unfastened her seat belt, and slipped his arms under her blanket-wrapped figure. She murmured softly against his shirt, her hand lifted to thread fingers at his collar.
"I'll have you inside in a minute," he told her softly. "We're nearly there, and you can sleep then."
The housekeeper met them at the door, holding it open for Wufei to pass, and hurrying ahead to make the minister's bed ready. The housekeeper clucked her tongue when Wufei lowered his burden, and began to step back. The girl moaned, her hands clutching for an anchor. Wufei pulled her hand from his shirt, and set it against the coverlet on her bed.
Moving back, he shot the housekeeper a look. "A nurse is supposed to come out to check on her later this afternoon, but until she arrives, could you... " his hand lifted in Relena's general direction.
"Yes, sir," the woman answered immediately. "What happened to her?"
Wufei's mouth drew into a hard line even as he watched the girl sleep. "Overwork." He turned away as the housekeeper began straightening the bed linen, making the girl more comfortable. "I'll bring in her luggage."
He was back in five minutes, setting her two cases just inside the doorway. The housekeeper lifted the smaller case, and opened it on top the bureau without saying a word. Not that Wufei expected conversation - the woman spoke rarely other than to provide the most basic of information. But, she seemed to be devoted to the minister, was discreet, and was efficient in her duties.
His look traveled from the housekeeper to the girl, and he frowned faintly. She had been so light, too light when he carried her. Her hair, though still long, had lost its shine. During his all too short turnover briefing, Yuy had said the minister was tired, had mentioned a headache or two, but he hadn't said anything about the decline in the girl's health.
If Yuy and Maxwell hadn't been ordered to their own sequestered retreat, he would have called, demanded answers. They were the primaries in charge, and let this happen. They let her continue with that farce of a goodwill, peacekeeping tour, speeches every night, luncheons with widows, orphans and refugees, gala events to woo large corporate heads, and always in the public eye.
No wonder the girl collapsed.
Four months of daily appearances from the Anniversary of Peace ball at Christmas. The four months prior not a vacation schedule either. It had taken ten weeks to defuse the situation without force. Another ten to bring the conspiracy to light, and its architects to justice.
A touch on his arm brought him around with a start. The housekeeper was watching him.
"She will be alright, soon."
"Of course," he answered gruffly. The woman patted his arm gently, bent to lift the larger case, and carried it to the bureau. "She's too stubborn not to," he murmured under his breath.
With a last look at the bed, Wufei turned on his heels and went out to the car for his own bags.
The morning sun provided warmth the air lacked. Clouds that had threatened worst the day before had vanished during the night. Winter was receding, its chill present but waning.
Wufei dismissed it from his mind, pushed its discomfort from his body. He was starting his meditation later than usual, but then, she always seemed to disrupt his routine. A light smile crossed his lips and he let it go as quickly. Focused, his inner light shone, his breathing relaxed to an even, steady cadence.
A thin tendril of thought wove its way into the clear surface of his mind,
She needs you
it whispered. Wufei frowned ever so slightly, but instead of pushing the thought away, he opened it up, embraced it for its distraction.
It had started the morning before, after his meditation and kata on the deck. He had showered, and gone into her room to check up on her. She was awake, though her eyelids continued to drift shut. Sitting on the chair drawn to her bedside, he asked the perfunctory questions, and gave patent responses; she didn't seem to want more.
Rising to leave, to let her drift into an undisturbed sleep, he was pulled back by her request. One word murmured in a quiet whisper, and he resumed his seat.
"Until the nurse comes," she said, her hand fluttered briefly on the coverlet.
"I will," he reassured her, and allowed himself to touch her hand, to still its movement.
She fell asleep watching him, and after a nervous shift, he settled in to guard her sleep. She woke twice before the nurse arrived, and each time her eyes would open, she would give him a half smile, apologize for not staying awake, and watch him until her eyelids were too heavy to keep up any longer.
In the early afternoon, Wufei returned to the chair at her bedside. He held the latest spy thriller someone had left on the nightstand in his room, debated reading it, and wound up leaving it closed in favor of watching her sleep. Her cheeks were still pale and concave, but the dark smudges were beginning to fade.
"Are you going to stare at me all day?" She asked, not opening her eyes.
Wufei snorted softly and leaned back in his chair. "You could have let me know you were awake."
"And spoil the only fun I've have in weeks?" She opened her eyes then, and smiled faintly. "I'm sorry for-"
He cut her off immediately, his hand raised to halt her words. "You owe me no apology."
She made a musing noise, her eyes slipped closed. "Would it be asking too much for you to read to me?"
"Read-" Wufei fumbled, and then looked to the book held loosely in his hand. "This is tripe I found. I can locate a more suitable-"
"Tripe would be best for now," she said, and adjusted the way her covers lay. "I will most likely fall asleep before you finish a chapter."
After studying her for a long moment, Wufei nodded. "Very well," he said, and opened the book to the preface.
He began to read, stiffly, almost stilted, his eyes flicking to her face and back to the page. As the first pages melded into others, his voice took on the inflictions of each character, his tone matched mood and timbre. For the rest of that afternoon, and into the evening, he read to her when she was awake.
Waking as the light filtered through the blind-covered windows had been the last thing he wanted to happen. But the kink in his neck and the stiffness accompanying muscles held in a locked position for too long told him he had slept in the chair for several hours. His look found her watching him.
"Thank you," she murmured. "For keeping me company all day... " her eyes lowered to the book still in his hand. "and throughout the night."
When the housekeeper arrived with a small breakfast tray, he made his escape with a promise to read more.
"Will you teach me how to do that?" She asked when he paused during a reading.
He looked up at her, from across the patio table and over the rims of his glasses. "Read?" he asked carefully.
She made an annoyed noise, and moved her gaze away from him. He saw she was watching the waves, and half closed the book, his finger marking their page.
"I saw you this morning, here on the deck," she told him. "You appeared so... peaceful."
"Meditating. I was meditating." He marked the page, and set the book aside. Chaucer was getting a little too heavy. "I can show you a few techniques."
"Today?" She turned back to look at him, crossing her arms about her chest.
His brows drew together. "It can be arranged, if you feel up to it." Removing his glasses, he added them to the book. "Why are you in a hurry?"
Her cheeks colored slightly, but her gaze held his steadily. "If I had taken time during the tour for - meditation, relaxation, something, I might not have collapsed. I might have finished out the tour as planned."
"Relena," he began, leaning forward. "No one could have finished without the strains of the schedule you were on. No technique I show you would have prevented what happened." He was glaring at her now, his tone picking up a sudden harshness. "It was foolish for you to attempt what you-"
"Foolish!" she spat back at him, her mouth in a tight line. "You know as well as I how very close we came to war, how close we were from seditious acts. From losing the core of what we stand for." She struggled to sit up straight in her seat. "What I did was-"
"Noble," he interjected. He was standing, alarmed at her feeble attempts. "Your idea was honorable; your execution-" he bit back the word that threatened. "Your execution could have been planned better."
She narrowed her eyes at him, and then closed them with a wave of her hand. "Perhaps you're right." Her voice was low, defeated.
"You achieved your goal," he conceded. "Support for the Earth Sphere Unified Nations is at its strongest since overthrowing the Barton Uprising."
"Hmmm," she murmured, her hand now shielding her eyes.
Wufei hesitated, trapped between reseating himself, and testing her temper. "Would you... do you need me to take you inside?"
"No," she answered simply.
"Do you want me to begin showing you-"
"Damn it, Woman! What do you want?"
Her hand lowered at last, and stared at him. "If you wouldn't mind... " Her look took in the book, and her eyes flicked back up to his face. "Tomorrow is soon enough to begin learning techniques."
"Very well." Wufei lowered himself to his seat, watching her as she turned her face to the sun and closed her eyes. He picked up his glasses, adjusted them over his ears, and reached for the book.
Her knee brushed his leg for the third time; Wufei exhaled slowly and opened his eyelids a crack, peeking through his eyelashes at her. Her eyes were closed, her posture composed and as he had instructed. She seemed in deep meditation except-
"Let go of the thought that's bothering you," he directed in a low tone.
Relena twitched, but made no other movement. "That isn't so easy," she said after a moment's silence. "I have been trying, but... " One shoulder lifted slightly.
Wufei relaxed his pose, frowning at her. "Then tell me what this thought is. It will no longer be a burden, and we can move on with the lesson." It was that simple.
The crease in her brow deepened, but her eyes stayed closed. Two breaths were taken before she answered. "What if I don't want to share this burden? If I don't want you to know?"
Snorting softly, Wufei shook his head at her. "You know any thought concerning affairs of state that you might have, you can trust me. That isn't the issue. However, if you are worrying about petty crushes or romantic interests, then we are finished with the lessons." He made as if to rise.
"No!" Relena's eyes flew open, and she was staring aghast at Wufei, her hand lay on his thigh as if to hold him in place. "It's not about-" her lips grimaced as in distaste "romance interests. I'm worried about Duo."
"Duo?" That was the last thing Wufei believed she would say. "What about Duo?"
At his question, Relena drew back from him, biting her lip. Wufei waited, letting the sudden tension in his muscles ease out. Relena looked away, her fingers entwined resting in her lap; Wufei narrowed his eyes. She bowed her head, and her hair pulled back into a ponytail swung over her shoulder, almost at a length to touch her hands.
"He wants to leave, to move onto something else." Her voice was low, a near whisper.
"Then you should allow him to go." It was as easy as that.
"But," Relena raised her head, her eyes crinkled. "He doesn't want to leave Heero on his own, and Heero refuses to leave me, the security force without an "adequate replacement"." Her mouth twisted even as her fingers made quotation marks in the air.
Wufei nodded, understanding Heero's reasoning. "And no one seems to meet Heero's standards?" Already he was running a list of possibilities through his mind, examining them, dismissing a few immediately, and adding names to a very short list of probable candidates. If said subjects would agree to change professions. Or work with the Prime Minister. Another two names were stricken from his list.
"No," Relena's voice was small. "Every suggestion made he dismisses, and one," Relena half smiled, "I never seen him laugh so hard-or long."
"Duo's plans include Heero?" Wufei asked, his curiosity mild on what his friend had in mind.
"He's been talking non-stop about a program the university on L2 is putting together, and the professor there has requested Duo to join his group."
Wufei nodded again. "Duo made it clear he wanted to return to space several times."
"But he doesn't want to leave Heero. Heero initially planned to work as part of the security team for a year, two at the most, and it's been five. He really wants to go back to school, but -"
"He will not leave you without adequate protection."
"In that case, if it meets with your approval, I will approach Heero upon our return," Wufei stated. It was as simple as that.
"Are you sure this is what you want, Agent Chang?" Relena asked, leaning forward, exuding a subtle delight.
"Quite sure," his voice was firm. He resumed his mediation position, and gestured to Relena. "Now that the question has been resolved, let us continue." And he waited until she was in pose, with her eyes closed before beginning his breathing into trace.
Becoming Relena's head of security, her primary guard on a permanent basis wasn't a hardship. He had the qualifications; his background in the Preventers, his history as one of Relena's advisors, added with his duties as a community liaison - that Heero trusted him with the Minister's safety had never been questioned. His infrequent but prolonged exposure to the Minister made him the perfect candidate. There would be no more lengthy tours and over-extended schedules. He knew the Minister; Heero, and by proxy, Duo, were wrapped around her finger. He wouldn't fall for her-
Wufei's eyes flew open and he stared at Relena, his mouth worked but no words would come. His sputtering brought Relena from her meditation, and she stared at him in turn, a serene smile played about her lips.
"You-me-" Wufei clamped his mouth closed and inhaled deeply. "If you wanted me as your head of security, you should have come out and asked," he finally told her stiffly.
Relena's smile sweetened. "But what would the fun in that be?"
Danger, Wufei knew, didn't only come from a field assignment.