The Blood of Peace
Second Movement, the Ninth Part: Allegro, or Enemies at the Gate
Relena felt her breath hitch as Heero walked towards her. She had only gotten to Earthian an hour ago but had demanded that she be allowed to see Heero at once. Dorothy eyed the prince appreciatively but silently next to her. She could understand why her usually sensible queen would fall for Heero – he was a beautiful specimen. However, his Masters were nothing to look over either. They were all there, except for one. Where could he be?
"Heero, I'm glad that you could see me on such short notice. I'm sorry I did not send more notice of my coming, but things are getting more urgent."
Heero nodded at Relena and sat on the chair across from her. His brothers settled themselves on the chaise next to his chair and then they spent a few moments assessing each other's conditions. Relena looked miserably tired but she was giving off waves of happiness. The long blond haired one with the funny eyebrows, however, was looking very fresh and assessing them right back. She had a predatory gleam in her eyes that made Quatre rather squeamish.
"Oh, I'm sorry! My mind must have shut down completely. Everyone, this is my spymaster and advisor, Dorothy Catalonia. I guess you could say that she is a Master of mine, in Earthian tradition."
Relena chastised herself for the belated introductions. Even if she was tired and light headed, that was no excuse for forgetting manners or diplomacy. At her introduction, Dorothy gracefully nodded her head and the boys went off in a flurry of intros themselves. After all the niceties were out of the way, Heero took the initiative and spoke.
"Relena, what are you doing here? We're about to go into war."
His voice was empty, devoid of any emotion. That seemed to have shocked his Masters as well as Relena. Before, Heero had been rather aloof with her. Now, he was positively distant. Duo feigned shock, but he wasn't really surprised. He had seen Heero change, had heard him lament about his loss of humanity. But it wasn't his place to let others know about Heero's plan to maintain his sanity. They would have to figure that one out on their own. Especially Relena.
Relena hesitantly reached out her hand and touched Heero's. His hand was so warm but his voice, it had sounded so cold, like the winter wind. What had happened in Oz that changed an aloof but gentle boy into this frozen being? Masking her fear and concern, Relena answered in her most gentle tone.
"Heero, I'm here because of the war. You should not be fighting this war like this. I'm here to lend you my support."
The dignity in her words touched Quatre deeply. A pacifist queen had come to Earthian to support them in a military venture. She must really love Heero. Which was why Quatre felt even worse for her. Not only had Heero become a cold emotionless person with the war
approaching, the only warm and human moments he had seemed to be saved for his brothers and Duo. Mostly for Duo. The pity coiled around Quatre's heart and made him ache for his future queen.
"Relena, your statement is not logical. You asked us to defend you against Oz before. The only difference between now and then is that it is now Earthian who is the target. The war is the same either way. We fight, you watch."
Heero's words made Relena recoil. Is that what he really thought? He was right, though. No matter who the enemy, it was always the Earthians who would have bled, not any of her people. The guilt mounted and soon, Relena was lost in a haze of tears. Heero must hold her in such contempt.
"Heero, you're being way too harsh on Relena, you know."
Relena looked up at the boy Duo defending her. He was sitting with his arms crossed at his waist, looking at Heero with mild scorn and reprimand in his violet eyes. To her surprise, Heero actually shrank back a little and mumbled an apology to her. Duo, grinning now, looked over to Relena and spoke to her in a cheerful and upbeat tone.
"You see, Relena, Heero doesn't really mean all the nasty things he says. Sometimes, his mouth just gets the better of him. (At this point, Duo pointedly ignored WuFei's sputtering.) Anyway, we know you don't fight because of your ideals, not because you're afraid. After all, we don't defend cowards, do we, guys?"
A general assent went up as everyone nodded, including Heero. Relena was amazed. This one boy, Duo, seemed to have Heero completely in his grasp. What was his power over Heero?
"I apologize again for my rudeness, Relena. I appreciate your support and will hold up my end of the treaty should the war reach Sanque. Now, we should leave you to get some rest."
Heero spoke concisely, but his voice still lacked warmth. Relena realized that they were actually leaving when the four boys stood. She hadn't had a moment with Heero yet, to explain everything. He couldn't leave until some things were said.
"Heero, please, indulge me for a bit. Could you stay and talk to me? Privately?"
As if on cue, Dorothy promptly got up from her chair and asked Quatre to show her about the castle. Quatre, who was incapable of turning down a request from a guest, complied and let Dorothy lead him out of the room. Duo chuckled slightly at Quatre's befuddled expression. He looked as if he had been drawn into a maelstrom from which he had no exit. Well, maybe Dorothy was a bit stormy. She should entertain Quatre and stop him from thinking about Trowa for a time. When Relena pointedly looked at Duo and WuFei who still remained, WuFei muttered something about having to check on a crazy girl and left quickly. But Duo did not budge.
"Excuse me, Duo, but I would like to speak to Heero alone, if you would."
Relena thought that her request was polite and direct. So it was rather surprising that Duo merely smiled as he plunked back down on the chaise. He was not leaving. And Heero was not objecting. Sensing that she could do nothing about Duo's presence, she decided to ignore him and talk to Heero as if they were alone.
"Heero, I've missed you. Have you been well? You seem.. you seem so different from the last time I saw you."
Heero looked at Relena, his future queen and wife. She was pretty, idealistic, compassionate and capable. But he did not love her. And she was the main reason that he and Duo could never be as they wished. Still, he did not hate her. After all, none of it was her fault. Right now, she was looking at him with such concern and worry in her eyes. And Heero realized that he did not want to hurt her.
"I am fine, Relena. I'm just preparing for the war. People must change to acclimate properly to new situations. That is all."
Duo could see Relena deflate at Heero's still cold tone. She must need Heero's warmth about now. After all, her peaceful ideas were crumbling around her, fed to the fires of war. With her ideals in such a horrible disarray, she must need Heero's strength to stand up to the challenge. Duo was pretty sure that Heero understood her needs as well, but just incapable of expressing them. So he would do it for Heero.
"Relena, don't look so depressed!" Relena swiveled her head towards Duo. In his eyes, she saw sympathy and compassion. In his voice, she heard encouragement and support. Duo was displaying all the things she wished that Heero would show her, but maybe, this was Heero's way of communicating things that he could not.
"You see, Relena," Duo continued, "Heero does worry about you. He admires and respects you a lot. It's just that he's really bad at showing those things. Deprived childhood and all, you know."
Relena smiled at Duo. He was trying to cheer her up with excuses about Heero's behavior and a bit of humor. He was a nice boy, so nice that she could not understand why he was the Master of Assassins. Since Heero was not talking, Relena decided to reply to Duo.
"I suppose some princes did not learn to express themselves. It took me forever to get Milliardo to say nice things to me."
Duo felt a sense of pride for his future queen. She may have been disappointed at Heero's reception, but she wasn't about to let that bring her down too much. Good girl.
"I guess it's up to the rest of us to bring out some good in them. I mean, maybe princes were all designed have that stick up their ass."
Relena burst out into shocked laughter. Duo had actually said.. Relena continued laughing, but in a more dignified manner. After all, she was a queen. She did not guffaw like a common tavern girl. Then she noticed that Heero was smiling. Not at her, not even in general. He was smiling at Duo. Relena looked from Duo to Heero and back to Duo. They were looking into each other's eyes, smiling softly. They seemed to have forgotten that she was there – their look, it was so intensely private. She felt something in her heart twinge and she gasped.
"You. You two.. You two are.. Are.."
At Relena's stammering, both Duo and Heero looked at her. Understanding dawned on her suddenly and she felt her dreams and heart shatter in an agonizing moment. Duo's eyes, they reflected sorrow for her. Heero's eyes shone with an unsaid apology. She knew. SHE KNEW. And it was too much.
"I.. I.. Oh, gods. Heero, why didn't you tell me? Why did you have to string me along like a lovesick girl? Why? Why?"
Her litany of 'why' ran through the room. Heero saw the shock, the hurt, the mortification shift the planes of her face. He felt like he had just run over some girl's puppy. No, more like he had run over the girl herself. Duo was feeling much the same. Never in any scenario he had imagined did he guess that Relena would find out so quickly. They must be so obviously in love that anyone could tell. Even girls who should have had the full rights to complete denial.
"Relena," Heero began, unsure of his words, "I didn't tell you because I didn't know how. But now you know, don't you, you know that I love Duo."
Relena raised her hands to her mouth and breathed hard. She knew, but to hear him say it so blatantly..
"But that changes nothing." Heero's voice was no longer emotionless but coated with bitterness and acceptance all at once. "We are still going to marry, for the good of our nations. It is a given."
Gods, is that all she was to Heero? Duty and honor? Before she had met Heero, it would have been enough. After all, she had considered Heero as a duty before she had gotten to know him. But now, it did not seem nearly enough. Not when she had spent the last five months dreaming about him, making her future with him. Not now. But she could not blame him. Love never worked the way you wanted it to.
"Heero.." Relena started, but she paused to clear her throat. Her voice sounded so rusty and old. It would not do. She tried again.
"Heero, I know you say that out of duty. We should marry because it is a political alliance that cannot be undone now. But I cannot do it so soon. Now that I know about you and Duo, I cannot make myself marry you in less than a month. You must give me more time to get used to this. More time. I need more time."
With that, Relena stood and left the room, dragging behind her the torn remnants of her dignity and dreams. Her eyes were glazed with unshed tears, but she held them until she was in her room. Then the tears came and she sobbed hard, her body shaking hard from the convulsions. Sometime during the tears, she realized that she was not crying because Heero did not love her. She was crying because she loved him and because she was standing in the way to his ultimate happiness, Duo. She was crying because there was nothing she could do about it except to delay the inevitable.
Treize stood on the battlements watching the shooting stars. In two days, the army would reach the River of the Heroes and battles would commence. Feeling a bit nostalgic, he walked slowly, keeping his eyes on the sky. When he had decided all those months ago to start a war, he had been thinking of his father who had died gloriously in the War of the Fallen. His father had died honorably at the hands of his best friend, Odin Lowe. So in this war, Treize would also die in a flame of glory. He knew he would die. It was certain. But before he did, he would pass onto Mariemeia the best lessons life had to offer, the same ones his father instilled into him. Sighing, he thought back to the dinner and allowed himself a satisfied smile. Tomorrow, a new general of Oz would take over the palace infantry, one Zechs Marquise. No one would know who he was since he had insisted upon wearing a demi-mask to hide his face. Zechs had made it clear that he would not disgrace his sister by showing his visage in battle. So Treize had allowed the little indulgence. After all, he had finally gotten his plan in motion. Soon, the fires of war would begin and he and all of humanity would feel its heat.
"Daddy? What are you doing here? I've been looking for you all over the place."
Mariemeia looked over at her father. He was looking pensive but he smiled at her. He always smiled at her. Grinning a little girl's grin, Mariemeia ran to her father and jumped into his arms. Her father held her up and then they were both looking out onto the horizon.
"Mari, let me tell you something important. I want you to remember this for as long as you live."
"Okay, daddy. I swear I won't forget anything you say."
His little girl looked at him with wide, ingenuous eyes filled with sincerity. Ruffling her short cap of red hair, Treize gravely gazed into her eyes and imparted the most important knowledge in the world. He told her of what made the world go around.
"Mari, history is much like an endless waltz. The three beats of war, peace, and revolution continue on forever. We are going to war soon, then the peace will follow. And revolution will cleanse us and all will begin again. Do you understand, Mari?"
Mariemeia enthusiastically nodded her head. Of course she understood.
"Yes, daddy, I do."
They were silent for a moment. Mariemeia thought about her father's saying. It was an endless waltz and they were just now getting to the first beat. It was exciting.
"Daddy, will you dance this waltz with me?"
Treize glanced at his daughter. She had already grown up. Sadness and pride mingled equally in his voice as he answered.
"Yes, Mari. We will dance this together."
Nodding, Mariemeia climbed down from her father's arms and headed for her room. She had to find the appropriate thing to wear. She had a dance to attend.
End of Second Movement, the Rise of the Storm