The door to Relena’s private office swung open after a low knock, and the sight that greeted her had her speechless for a few seconds. She looked on in complete, shocked surprise.
“H-Heero!” Relena stood from behind her desk, a pen dropping from her dainty hand, hitting the letter she was signing and making an ink smear. “Oh my God... Heero... is that you?”
He had walked out of her life so suddenly. There had been the Eve war, and he’d been injured in the end trying to keep her from being killed. Thinking about that day, that fateful day when Heero Yuy once again saved the world, Relena’s stomach twisted as her eyes continued to stare at him in disbelief that he was actually standing there in front of her. He didn’t move at all, but only stared back.
He had been injured, but Sally had seen to those injuries, making him well enough again that by the time he woke up from his exhausted slumber, he’d been at least fit enough to pack up his belongings and leave. He hadn’t even stopped by to say goodbye, or let anyone know where he was going. No one had heard from him in over as year – not Sally, not the other pilots, and certainly not Relena herself. For all any of the rest of them knew, Heero was long since dead. Seeing him at her door on this afternoon was nothing short of a miracle, Relena thought, especially since she had made herself realize that he never did feel for her what she wanted him to feel for her. It had taken a while but she’d finally come to terms with his disappearance, reasoning that if he had, indeed, cared for her romantically he would never have disappeared the way he did.
But this...this changed everything. Or did it? Relena was now thoroughly confused.
She moved around to the front of the desk, her hands anxiously wringing together. “C-come in. Please... close the door Heero, and come in.”
The young man did as he was instructed, shutting the door behind him after he entered the room, placing his bag against the wall. He hesitantly approached her, then stopped when he stood about five feet before her. His face was blank, as it always was, but his eyes, those same electric blue eyes that had always mesmerized her, told a different story. Something was wrong.
“Heero?” Relena asked, searching deep inside his eyes as if she were trying to see inside his head and read his thoughts before they made it to his lips.
“H-hello Relena,” he said, and his eyes dropped to the carpet.
The voice, it was the same, still deep and sensual as always, but the inflection was all wrong. Not the confident, demanding, hard voice that she was used to. Instead, this voice was unsure. It was questioning. It was downright scared.
Relena stepped forward cautiously, then edged her way into his gaze. With invisible fingers, she lifted his chin until he looked at her. “Heero... is everything alright?”
He said nothing, but looked as though he would cry at any moment.
“Oh dear. Oh Heero,” she said as she slid her arms around his form. He felt stiff and uncomfortable against her, until he finally gave in to her comforting. Feeling his body trembling slightly, Relena thought, at first, that he was crying, but actually he was doing everything in his power not to. He carefully let his arms thread around her waist, then snuggled up to her, all the while forcing himself to remain as composed as possible even though his entire body ached to be let free. Relena became teary-eyed herself, wondering what it was that could have turned the Heero Yuy that she knew into the quivering person in her arms today. Then guiding him to the seating suite in the adjoining room, Relena sat with him, waiting quietly for Heero to regain his composure and explain himself. She held his hand tightly, her face a look of troubled concern.
Looking into Heero’s confused eyes, Relena could see that there was something very different about the young man now, something that hadn’t been there before. Or even, something that had been there that wasn’t now. His eyes were softer, more readable, and they definitely lead on that whatever it was that was bothering him, it ran deep, to his core. Before, Heero’s eyes had always been so remarkable – they were shifty and blank, with all of his emotion and feeling hidden behind them for no one to see. This time, however, everything was out in the open. Everything was clear. There was a person behind these eyes today, a person who was in grave need of comforting and care.
Heero sniffed, holding himself together. “He’s cut me loose.” He didn’t look at the girl.
Relena sat up straight. “Is that where you’ve been all this time, Heero? We were all concerned about where you went when you left. You never even left a note about where you were going. I was beginning to think the worst.”
His eyes still hidden so as not to show the guilt that he felt for doing that, for leaving without a trace a year ago, Heero explained. “I went back, because...because that’s what he told me to do. To go back. But now he doesn’t need me anymore.”
Relena smiled a weak smile. “But that’s a good thing, isn’t it? You so desperately needed for all the fighting, all your fighting to be over with. Isn't it a good thing?”
Heero looked up with a terror in his eyes that momentarily stilled her heart. “You don’t understand, Relena.”
“I can try.”
“I... he...” Heero stopped, unable to construct a coherent thought until he relaxed. “All of my life, he’s controlled me, Relena. As long as I can remember being alive. He’s always been there, telling me what to do, how he wanted it done, and what to do when I was finished.”
She sat quietly, listening as Heero unloaded his emotional baggage on her, feeling very strange to be doing just that. She always imagined having a heart to heart conversation with the former Gundam pilot, but in her mind it was always she who was doing the unloading while he was doing the listening. In a way, it made her feel important, to be Heero’s confident like that, but she was equally disturbed by his condition, something that she would never have imagined possible.
“He made me leave. He said he was through with me... with what I represented to him.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s hard for me to explain.” Heero wiped a hand across his face, breathing a deep, stress-relieving sigh. “He... all this time, Relena... Do I seem different to you?”
He caught her off guard with his question. “Different?” Of course he seemed different. She’d been trying to figure out exactly what it was that was different since she laid eyes on him standing in her doorway a little while ago. “Well, yes... I guess you seem a little different than...”
“How? How do I seem different?”
“How?” She repeated his question, not knowing how to explain what it was that she was noticing.
“Yes... I need to know, Relena. How do I seem different than before? How?”
His antagonization startled her. “You uh... you seem... you seem scared, Heero. And your eyes are different. They aren’t cold the way they used to be.”
“What else?” His gaze was right on her, and still his eyes were much softer than they would have been before.
“Well, I’d say it’s pretty strange of you that you obviously need help of some kind and you decided to come to me. That and, you relaxed some when I hugged you. You would never have done that before.” Relena looked on, confused, wondering just what Heero was getting at.
He sat for a few moments thinking before speaking up again. “J was controlling my mind. The whole time during both wars, and during all my training before that. For years and years, he’s been controlling me, Relena.”
“Controlling? How?” Her face looked worried now.
“A device. Implanted at the base of my brain stem.”
Relena’s expression went blank. “Oh now Heero, I seriously doubt...”
“Look.” He took her hand and leaned toward her so he could guide it to the back of his head, to the place where J had removed the tiny chip and placed three nylon sutures in his skin. She recoiled with surprise, yanking her hand back as if something had hurt it.
“To train me.”
“To train you? That’s absurd.”
“Is it really?” Heero paused. “Is it really that absurd? Look at the facts, Relena. I didn’t know the chip was there – it’s apparently been there since before I can remember it being put in. Hell, for all that I’ve just found out about myself, he probably placed it in there at some point after knocking me out with gas or something. He isn’t beyond those tactics, you know.”
“That’s inhumane!” Relena cried.
“I lived a very inhumane life. That is, until I allowed myself to be trained.”
“I don’t understand what you mean by trained.”
“What I mean is this. I remember, as a boy, suffering from excruciating headaches. Headaches so bad, that I couldn’t function. They would blind me, make me unable to hear. I would just crumble in the corner of my bedroom or wherever I was with my head wrapped in my arms and wish to every God in the heavens that they would go away before I went insane from the pain. It got to the point where I was having headaches so often, I wanted to die.”
“Oh my God...”
“I didn’t want to do the things he made me do. I tried to rebel. I wanted to do...you know...normal kid things, but I wasn’t allowed to. I had to study and work out. I had to train in the martial arts until my body was so exhausted that sometimes I was carried back to my bed. I had to learn how to pick pockets and hack computers.”
“And here I thought Duo was the only pick-pocket among the five of you,” Relena said, smirking, trying to lighten the mood somewhat. She sighed and flopped herself back on the love seat, preparing for the rest of Heero’s speech.
“I wasn’t allowed to listen to music, watch TV or have any friends. Everything was strictly by J’s order, and nothing was ordered that wouldn’t further my training. No one else even knew I existed, because I was a ‘secret project.’ If anyone else knew about what he was doing with me, I would have been taken away from him for sure.” He paused. “I did all of this against my will, Relena, until J put me in Wing. By that time, I was perfectly trained to follow every order, so I did it without question. I was too afraid of the punishment.”
“But... what about your parents? Couldn’t they have stopped this if you were unhappy?”
“I don’t remember anyone other than J and one other person, and I know he wasn’t my father. I’ve asked, but J won’t tell me anything. I can’t be certain, but I think my parents may have been killed in the early days of the wars. I don’t know how I came to be under his care but...”
“What, exactly, was the punishment?”
“I don’t understand. He was controlling your headaches?”
Heero nodded. “I figured it out a while ago, but I just couldn’t understand how out how he was doing it. I didn’t know about the chip. It was placed on top of nerves that would trigger the headaches. All that time growing up that I suffered from those headaches, it was J controlling them. If I went against his wishes, he caused a headache. He made them stronger and stronger until I...” Heero stopped and swallowed hard, looking at Relena. “Until I honestly thought my head would explode. H-he did this until I stopped fighting him. Until I didn’t care any more, and just did what he wanted. He did this until I understood that my reward was no headache, and I sought that reward.”
Relena looked on, astonished. “He trained you like an animal. He broke your will.”
“He trained me until I knew better than to question. That’s how I could risk my life so easily in battle, Relena. Because no death would be as bad as having to live through another one of J’s headaches.”
For many minutes, neither of them spoke, both contemplating Heero’s revelation and its implications.
“But Heero... how does... why are you different? Your eyes, your expression. You would never have let someone see you scared before. What happened?”
“It was the training, Relena. He conditioned me, I think, to be that way. No emotions, no fear, no regrets. He trained it all out of me. I wasn’t allowed to be scared before. It would be a liability to the mission.”
Relena then came to a sudden realization, and she understood better. “He programmed everything out of you, but he didn’t reprogram you, now that he doesn’t need you, did he?” Her tone was solemn.
Heero shook his head. He wasn’t really sure what “reprogramming” entailed, but he was at least confident that it was a little more than simply removing a chip from his head.
“He just threw you to the wolves all by yourself.” She was overtaken by an overwhelming feeling of pity and sorrow now.
“I...” Heero could only look at her, his eyes portraying his deep and justified fear. “I have no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going now, Relena.” It came out as a barely audible whisper, and he leaned close to her, needing to feel the warmth of her body next to his. “I’ve never been so scared in all my life.”
Wrapping her arms around Heero once more to comfort him, Relena realized just how true his last statement probably was.