Heero’s face could only be described as one of absolute and utter irritationas he leaned his head against the passenger side car window, blankly staring at the collection of trees, buildings and people rush past him. He was not happy.
“Are you really that mad?” the driver said, her voice chipper, “I had good intelligence that you had nothing planned for today.”
“How did you find me?” he asked, “and more importantly since when do you know how to drive?”
“First, Quatre told me and second, Pagan has been teaching me,” Relena said, “though technically I don’t have my license yet.”
Heero gripped the side of the seat roughly, just now noticing that Relena was going a tad fast even by his taste, and maybe not always completely staying in her lane.
“You should probably slow down a bit.”
“Yeah, I don’t want to get a ticket…though do you think they would give the Vice Foreign Minister of E.S.U.N a speeding ticket?”
Heero didn’t answer as when Relena turned her head to ask him, she had swerved the car into the next lane.
“Oops, sorry,” she said.
Heero mumbled under his breath.
“Where are we going?” he asked.
“You’ll see,” Relena said, “we’re almost there.”
Heero gulped, he had been through many terrifying situations, but this one, with Relena behind the wheel was probably the worst.
“So tell me, what brings you into town,” Relena said.
Heero said nothing, he didn’t particularly feel like telling her that the only reason he was in town…was, well her.
He was about to make a flimsy excuse when Relena interrupted him. Or more like he had to quickly grab the armrest of the car to keep himself from catapulting forward as Relena slammed the brakes and skidded into a parking space along the side of the road.
Relena jumped out of the car and rushed around to pull some bags she brought from the back seat and rushed to the edge of the sidewalk and out at the horizon. Heero put his head back trying to control himself and his breathing, which was partly due to the car ride of terror but also because…
He pushed those thoughts away and got out and took a survey of their surroundings. It was the ocean.
“Where are we?”
“You don’t remember?” she said and smiled as he shook his head no, “this is where we met.”
He looked back at the beach and stared.
“Mmmhmm,” Relena pointed down a bit, “That was where I found you lying on the beach. I thought you were dead. But you were alive and said some odd things and then stole an ambulance.”
He said nothing, so that was today; the tenth anniversary of his first arrival at Earth. He had stopped keeping track.
“It’s a bit different now,” Relena said, “it is now supposed to be quite the beach spot. See they’ve put benches and lifeguard posts all throughout.”
“Why did you bring me here?” he asked.
“You came because my birthday is coming didn’t you,” she said.
“It’s been ten years, but outside of that first year, you have been really kind to me,” she said, “you even came in person over the past few. I am kinda irritated that I can never return the favor.”
He looked at her and she smiled back.
“I know it is impossible to find out your real birthday,” she said, “but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one.”
“Everyone should have a birthday,” she said cutting him off, “a day that’s theirs. I figured you should be able to pick one. I thought today would be a good choice.”
“If it’s my day, shouldn’t we do what I want?”
“Probably, but you never had a proper birthday before, and I wanted to surprise you, now come,” She said and she beckoned him to follow her down the stairs to the beach below.
“It’s a bit cold for a day at the beach,” he said holding back, even though strangely the impulse to take her hand was strangely strong.
“It’ll be fine, now come on,” she said, “you can’t have a birthday without the birthday boy now can you?”
He follows her down but always keeps a few steps behind her. He didn’t quite know how to grapple with why she brought him out here. He watched as she set her bag on the first after the stairs bench and removed her shoes and began walking towards the shoreline. He follows her, still not quite ready to be in step with her.
He didn’t know what she was thinking. He had no need for things such as birthdays or sentiments. While it was true that reason he was on Earth was for her birthday, it was more a habit or obligation. At least that is what he told himself. That this little tradition kept going was more for her sake than his. If he didn’t come, she would worry.
And that was strange to, that now he had someone who worried after him.
He was pulled from his thoughts by small splash of water he looks up and Relena has stopped and was bent forward, hands down.
Before he can do anything, she swung her hands and splashed him again.
“What was that for?”
“For fun,” she said and continued this time kicking the water up with her feet.
“Stop that,” he said.
“Make me,” she said and before he could do anything else she gave a big kick and took off running.
He didn’t hesitate and following her lead he took after her. She was quick and every time he almost had her she would turn around and duck out of his way. She kept splashing him, and he began to meet her move for move.
They continued for a while, and Heero lost track of his thoughts and for once, he found he was having fun. Finally, after what seemed like a minute he finally was able to grasp her. He caught her hand, and without a thought pulled her in and held her close as she struggled to escape.
She was laughing, and before he knew it, his laugh was mixing with her own. He swung her out and deftly pushed up water in your face.
“Ha, here’s a taste of your own medicine,” he said and laughed at her sopping wet face. He laughed a good solid minute. Not the cocky ones that he was used to but a real laugh. He suddenly stopped when he noticed she was just standing there.
“What is it?” he asked, suddenly worried he had done something wrong.
“It’s nothing,” she said, “it’s just this is the first time I’ve heard you laugh.”
He stood and looked at her. Surely he must have laughed in front of her before, but thinking back he couldn’t recall.
She stepped forward, and without missing a beat she reached up and brushed a stray hair to the side of his face. The touch, ever so light, caused his heartbeat to race just a bit. He looked to the side and tried to calm him. Something about the way she looked, it was getting to him
“It’s nice, you should it more often.”
“What?” he replied.
“Laugh,” she said.
Before he can formulate a response, she walked over and took his hand, and lead him back towards the bench where she had left the bag she brought. Her hand was warm and his heart began racing again. He couldn’t figure out why, it was just Relena.
When they got to the bench she let go of his hand rummaged through the bag. She gave him a towel while she dried her own face.
“Now time for the real birthday celebration. She pulls out a folded up beach blanket and white box out of the bag and steps out and hands him the blanket.
“Here lay this out for me.”
It’s a simple command and he followed it easily. They sat across from each other and under the dimming light of the sky Relena opened the box to reveal small white cake with a single strawberry and whipped cream on top. Relena pulls out one loan candle and sticks it in and lights it.
She pushes the cake towards him.
“Now close your eyes, and make a wish,” she said.
He looked at her and thought really hard. What did he really want.
She puts her hand to his mouth and he freezes, his mind now reeling from the contact.
“No, don’t say it out loud. If you tell me it won’t come true.”
He looked at her, it wouldn’t matter if he had told her, he thought, it could never come true. He would never…
He stopped his line of thinking there and closed his eyes again, thought his wish and with a slight puff blew out the candle.
“Yay!” Relena said, her face open and bright. She looked even happier than she ever had at her own birthday.
She took out the candle and handed him the strawberry and began to cut through the cake. He savored it. Up until after the war he had never really had the occasion to have sweet things, and now that he could he found he sought them out whenever he could.
They ate the cake quietly as they faced the horizon and watched the sun start to make its descent.
“Next year,” she said, “you tell me what you wan to do and we’ll do it.”
He nodded and didn’t say anything.
“Hey can I ask you something?”
Heero turned to Relena, her voice have gone oddly quiet.
“When you’re away, do you…” she paused and for some reason he noticed a twinge of red on her cheeks.”
“Do you think of me?”
He stopped, of all the questions he thought that she would ever ask him, that was not one he had to think of.
“You’re kind of everywhere,” he said. This was true, he saw her on the giant vid screens in the colonies, on newspapers and magazine covers, in his dreams…
“No, I mean not as the Vice Foreign Minister, or the former Princess of Sanq, or Queen of the World. Do you think of me as a,” she gulped, “do you think of me as a friend?”
He didn’t answer her. He didn’t know how. The truth was…
“I think about you a lot,” she said, “I wonder how you’re doing. I worry.”
She smiled at him.
“I know I’m foolish,” she said, “maybe me telling you this will just be a burden but when Quatre told me you left University I got worried that something happened.”
Was that what this was about? He had hoped that she wouldn’t have found out until he told her but he guess that would have been to big to keep from her.
“What happened? I thought it was going so well.”
Heero couldn’t tell her. He couldn’t tell her that even though he knew it was unreasonable it was still hard for him to stay in one place, a voice still telling him that it was dangerous to get too comfortable.
“I just felt that I had to move on,” he said.
She looked away.
Why was she apologizing?
“10 years seems like a long time but I guess it isn’t, I was hoping you could rest just a little bit,” she said, “can you tell me is it a little better?”
“You don’t need to tell me,” she said, “I just don’t want you to run away.
He looked at her, the sun had almost completely disappeared into the horizon and Relena was lighting candles.
“I still need to,” he said, “but you don’t need to worry. Every year, I’ll be here.”
And it was the truth, he maybe still couldn’t stay long but now sat this time of year in this place, because of her he had a place to come to. A constant.
He looked at her and she smiled a glint of a tear at the corner of her eyes. He leans over and brushes the tear from her eye.
“And to answer your question…”
“What question?” she asked.
“I do,” he said.
“You do what?” her voice breathless and he realized that he was leaning in close to her.
“Think of you,” he said.
“Can I ask you something?” he asked.
“Why did you pick today?” he asked, “why today for my birthday.”
“Because today,” she said, “was the day you changed my life. I thought there might be a chance, even in a small way, that it meant the same to you. But maybe it was silly. Like you said every year you’ll be here, I want a day where I can celebrate with you.”
She looked down and for the first time Heero realized that he could read her emotions. He had never been good at it, and she always surprised him. But he could see the embarrassment, as if she had revealed to much.
He couldn’t say anything, so he did the one thing that he always told others to do. He followed his emotions and without thinking with realizing just exactly what he was doing he leaned over and puller into his arms against him.
She froze for a bit, but he kept his hold firm but gentle and eventually she relaxed.
“It was,” he said, “I didn’t realize it then, but that day, it was the same for me.”
“I’m glad,” she said, and wrapped her arms around him in return.
They stayed and Heero imprinted this on his memory. Somehow this would be a start to something. He didn’t know, but somehow he knew sometime in the future when he could finally stay and settle, and be in one place.
He knew it would be wherever she was. That maybe, back then, all those visions of Relena and how she was the key to the future was not about how important Relena was to the world.
But how important she was to him.
He pulled away and met her eyes.
“I have something for you,” she said, “a birthday gift.”
He allows her to move away as she reached into the pocket of her jacket and handed him a small but perfectly gift wrapped box.
He unwrapped the small box and opened it to find a simple silver wrist band, but when he looked closer he realized that it wasn’t quite what it seemed.
“When they cleaned up the capitol after Mariemeia, I had them save just a bit from Wing Zero,” she said, “I thought maybe that something new, something better could be made out of it.”
He looked at her.
“It is okay not to forget the past,” she said, “but don’t forget to try to look to the future as well.”
Heero doesn’t know how to tell her that he was looking to that future right now. That he did whenever he saw her face.
“Thank you,” he said.
They are quiet just staring at the stars for just a few moments.
“We should go,” Relena said, “I imagine my Chief of Staff is not so happy with me right now.”
They pack up in relative silence, with Relena taking up most of the work of bringing things back to the car. He watched her load the bag back into the car.
And again, he let himself go. She had said that this would be his day, and if she was not going to let him skip the whole thing then he realized that he was going to take advantage.
With her back turned, he wrapped his arms around her and buried his face into her shoulder.
“Heero?” she asked.
“Just a moment.”
He felt her nod and soon her hand covered his.
And there they stayed and Heero, silently in his head, thought his wish again, because unlike before, suddenly it had become possible.
I wish that someday you will let me stay with you.