The rain flooded against the window, drowning it, as if it were baptising the aged house. Clouds hung grey and heavy in the sky, obscuring the view of the gardens or the river on the other side of them. The world, it seemed, had succumbed to those clouds, bathed in melancholy and bleeding into that still, silent grey. Except for the rain on the window--rhythmic, solid, almost soothing.
It was the rain that Heero had been staring at for the past two hours, as he contemplated the most difficult decision of his life.
No--that wasn't right. It wasn't the decision that was hard, but rather the acting on it. Heero Yuy, who in his entire life had never shied away from a mission, no matter how difficult, was balking at what should have been such a simple act.
Just walk away.
But he couldn't do it. Once, perhaps he could have--packed his things and vanished into the night, leaving Relena to wonder where he had gone and if he would come back. But that was a younger Heero, and a less human one.
He wasn't fighting a war, now. There was no-one left to battle but himself.
He'd stayed with her, when it was over. She seemed to expect it, and it was clear she loved him. He'd imagined that in time he'd grow to love her as well, and the part of him that had been deprived of childhood fairy tales had hoped for true love and happily-ever-after. So he stayed, and protected her, and sometimes shared a bed with her. If he was discontent, it was only because he couldn't force the emotions he was trying so desperately to feel--until now.
Until now, when he was clutching a crumpled-up piece of notebook paper in his fingers like it was a treasured heirloom, every short while unfolding it to read it again through the smudges and drops of rain that had smeared the writing.
The message, itself, was so simple. I'm sorry. I need you. Five words, and it was as if the message had breathed new life into him. He could love so hard it hurt. There was no longer any doubt that he was capable of feeling what he had attempted so long to invoke. He'd felt it all along--he'd only been quelling it, keeping it locked within his heart in a subconscious attempt to deny it.
Oh, if only....
"Heero." He wasn't sure how long Relena had been standing there, in the doorway, watching him. Her face was pensive, her blue eyes sad. The fact that he hadn't noticed her was only another sign of the turmoil in his heart. "Talk to me."
He didn't. He couldn't. He held out his hand, instead, offering her the crumpled note with all its poignant meaning. Questions in her eyes, she reached for it, unfolded it carefully, nodded slowly as she read.
"Then you should go to him, Heero," she said.
Hope rose in his chest as he finally met her eyes. They were sad, yes, but not as young as he remembered. He had underestimated her once again, it seemed. "Relena...are you sure?"
She smiled gently, re-folding the note and pressing it into his hand. "I'm not blind, Heero. I've watched you. You've tried, and I love you even more for it--but none of us can change a heart once it's decided. You need him too. Or do you really think so little of me, that I would try to make you stay, when you belong somewhere else?"
Somewhere else. With someone else. The part she didn't say.
"I'm sorry," said Heero softly. "For everything."
Relena shook her head, resting her hand on his shoulder for a moment. Even among the year they'd been together, that one gesture was full of more intimacy than any other. "Don't be. Just go, Heero."
He looked at her, nervous, searching for words for what frightened him so. And as she always did, she understood. "You're always welcome here, Heero. Both of you. In fact, if you don't come back to see me, I'll be hurt."
More than she was already? Heero wondered, but he didn't spoil the moment by saying it. Sometimes silence was not to be fought. He stood, embracing her hard, resting for a moment as he buried his face in her shoulder and breathed in the scent of her hair. He'd wanted to love her as a woman. She deserved everything he could--and couldn't--give her. And she was proving that again, by loving him as a friend.
"Act on your emotions, Heero," she whispered to him gently before she let him go.
"Thank you," he said, turning to leave. He reached for her hand, suddenly, and pressed the damp, torn note into her palm. He left, then, hurriedly. Afraid to turn and look back.
She watched him from the window--a single bag slung over his shoulder, venturing out into the rain to meet the one he did love. And every few seconds her eyes returned to the smeared words scrawled onto the scrap of torn notebook paper in her hand.
I'm sorry. I need you.