"I'm just happy you're ok." Drizzy's voice was filled with relief and even a small amount of exhaustion as she walked in with Leila in tow. Guilt stabbed Thia as she held her front door open and watched Drizzy enter and once again realized how much she'd put both her and Matthews through.
"Get rid of that look, Ward." Matthews' words drew her attention back to the door. "You don't have to carry the world on your shoulders or feel guilty for everything that happened. You had us all worried. However, if you go running off with the mindset to hand yourself over ever again, I'm releasing all of your most embarrassing moments to the press." Thia just raised an eyebrow at him in almost stunned shock before genuinely laughing.
"What did I ever do to deserve you two?" While her voice was filled with laughter, they all heard the sincerity, and silence settled between them. No one knew really how to break the silence as each was trying to hold back, looking like a blubbering fool. Luckily, Leila didn't have a problem and meowed loudly, pushing on the front of her traveling cage.
"Thiana, what kind of question is that?" Drizzy gave her a stern look. "We're friends. At least, I believe we are. I know we both work for you, but I don't just see you as a boss. Don't say it. I see it in your face." Thia looked back at Matthews as she shut the door seeing him just smile and shake his head.
"She needs this…" He mouthed and followed Drizzy into the living room, where she made quick work of releasing Leila while still talking. Thia just gave a small smile and nodded in understanding. She was going to have to listen to this speech from many different people over the coming weeks.
"Yes, I'm friends with Serene, and I know she was your ward, and it might be weird for people to think that I'm friends with both of you. Think about it, though. We're all so close in age, and people can suck it. They just need to mind their own business." Drizzy directed Matthews to start laying out the spread of takeout. Thiana reached out before freezing at Drizzy's hard look.
"Sit down; Leila misses you." Without saying a word, Thia obeyed, smiling as she sat down in her favorite overstuffed chair, allowing Leila to jump in her lap and head butt against her quickly. The glare she gave was short-lived before she curled up and started purring loudly. Drizzy just nodded, silently, acknowledging that she'd been correct.
"You didn't have to do anything. That's not how friendships work. It's not a 50/50. It's 100% all in investment that you rely on that when things get bad; they'll be there to protect your back. You do that for so many people; it was our turn to do it for you." Drizzy spoke with such passion and finality that Thia couldn't speak for a moment. Matthews looked star-struck as he watched Drizzy. It took but a moment before a flush crept up Drizzy's face and Thia knew she felt like she had overstepped her boundaries.
"You're right, Drizzy. I could never have done what I did over the last three months if it hadn't been for your complete trust and support. Romeo…" Thia looked over at the man that had pledged a soldier's loyalty but had become almost a brother in his friendship and protection of her. "I have asked you to do so much. You swore loyalty to me years ago, and I hope I never gave you doubt. I view you both as more than employees. If anything, you're both my family." She looked back at Drizzy, showing how sincere she was. "You both mean so much to me."
"Same to you, Ward," Matthews responded while giving Drizzy a small side hug as the younger girl looked ready to lose her control and let the tears fall. Thia hid her smile at the truth of their feelings that seemed to scream across the room. To save both of them from having to spill the truth about it right then, Thia lightened the mood.
"May I finally eat now?" Thia held up her rather thin arms. She wasn't dire, but she was thinner than Dr. San Ju would like her to be for her metabolism. She had been ordered to rest and have a high caloric intake for the next week and then start to build back her muscle mass. Her words got the reaction she desired as Drizzy gave her signature hiccup laugh before gesturing to the food spread out on the coffee table.
"Finally!" Matthews cheered as he sat on the floor. "Do you realize that I had to smell all of this as we went to all of the different restaurants? I couldn't even sneak a taste!" Drizzy smacked his hand teasingly.
"I let you get an ice cream cone!" She scolded, and Thia couldn't help the laughter that spilled out. Leila climbed up to lay across the back of the chair as she lazily watched the three of them dig into the different items. Cuban sandwiches, Loaded Poutines, grilled Zucchini, Chinese dumplings, teriyaki chicken on a stick, and Bruschetta with Mozzarella pearls. The pièce de résistance sat at the end in all of its chocolate-covered fruit and pound cake glory.
Time became insignificant as the three of them sat around eating, laughing, and simply reconnecting. When the clock chimed one in the morning, they all realized how much time had gone by. There wasn't a scrap of food left in front of them, and they all laid back, relaxing in their blissful mood. Drizzy laying down on the couch, Matthews on the floor staring up at the ceiling, and Thia curled in the chair with Leila.
"Thank you," Thia spoke so softly she feared they hadn't heard her.
"There's never a need to thank us, Ward," Matthews responded, lifting his hand towards her in a fist, and Thia responded by tapping her own fist against his.
"I need to tell you both something…"
"You're not leaving again, are you?" Drizzy's worried voice quickly responded, cutting her off.
"In a way, I am, but not how you think." They both were silent, but she knew she held their attention. "I'm stepping away from the daily running of Alpha Corporation." Drizzy moved as if to respond, but Matthews held up a hand, gently stopping the question and let Thia continue. Thia nodded her thanks before continuing.
"I was going to make it official after my month's forced to rest." She moved and sat up, showing that she was serious. "Matthews, for the next month, I ask if you could take Serene's place as Relena's guard. Serene is going to make a decision soon if she's going to continue or leave Alpha Corp. Until it's official, I don't want to hire a completely new guard. I feel a couple of things might be changing in that area in the future anyway. However, at the same time, I want to make something official that you've already been doing for a while. I'm splitting the load of leadership. I'm going to make you COO of Alpha Corp. You'll mainly be in charge of Privatised Protection Management. I'll be raising other people in the organization to better structure Alpha Corp. to last well into the future."
"I'm not...no; I'm just a soldier, Ward. I can't do that." Matthews's face paled, and worry caused lines to form across his forehead.
"Matthews… Romeo, look at me. You've already been doing this. I've been giving you more and more responsibilities over the last year or two. You hardly run anything by me anymore. You haven't needed to, and the guards have been thriving. They're actually running better than when I was over them and everything else."
"Really?" He looked back up, and she nodded. "Wow… just wow… I hope I can do you proud."
"I have no fear of that." She turned and faced Drizzy. "Your turn. I'm making you CEO."
"NO!... Thia no… what...wait...What about you?" Drizzy's words tumbled out, and Thia smiled, waiting for her to finish.
"I'll still be at the head of the Board of Directors. I'll get weekly reports in the beginning, and then slowly, it will be monthly and possibly quarterly."
"There's going to be a Board of Directors?" Drizzy cut in again.
"Will you just let me finish." Thia laughed. "Yes, don't worry about that. You both are on it, and a few other silent benefactors have undergone an in-depth application process. I'll hold veto rights, but it's time to step back. There are things I feel called to right now, and it's not sitting behind a desk anymore."
"Oof… That's so much to take in." Drizzy finally responded. "Thank you… I truly mean that. I'll do my utmost to do my best.
"I know you will. I do not worry about either of you. I couldn't leave Alpha Corp. in any better hands. I'll still have my office, and I'll drop in every so often." She looked at Drizzy. "I'll still be the face of the company at charity events with you too. So you won't be alone. Mariemaia will also start to come into the fold more over the next few years if she truly wants to. I want her to learn about the business, and she's asked a lot of questions about how we help soldiers and orphans in this present age."
"I think this is an excellent thing for you. I'm happy for you. We'll do our best to make this work." Matthews finally commented. "Now, let's get this cleaned up as it's past time for us to go. Dr. San Ju and Doc would have my head if they knew how late we kept you up."
"Are you afraid of Dr. San Ju and Doc, Romeo?" Thia teased as she stood up, collecting empty wrappers before dropping them in the bags they came in.
"You're not?" Matthews playfully overreacted. "They terrify me...I've always had a thing about doctors, and they are some of the scariest." Drizzy and Thia looked at each other, and neither could hold their laughter in.
"What?" Matthews looked back and forth between them before finally joining in with the laughter. Thia's sides hurt by the time they left as she had laughed so much at Matthews' admission.
"Come on, Leila. It's time for bed. I have a feeling we've got more visitors coming tomorrow." Leila just meowed, hopping off the chair, and strolled back into her bedroom. It was good to be home.
Zechs sighed and looked out over the backyard as his children played. He couldn't understand how he deserved them most days, but he wouldn't trade them for the world. However, deep within, he realized he had to do better for them. That started by correcting his own mistakes of the past.
"You need to go." Zechs turned and saw his wife standing behind him with the same understanding on her face.
"I know what you're thinking about, or rather, who you're thinking about. I've been thinking about her as well." Noin walked towards him and looked out the window.
"Thiana?" Zechs asked, even though he knew the answer before Noin nodded.
"All those years ago, I was so jealous and wary of her. I let it blind me."
"What do you mean?"
"Thiana was so full of this charismatic energy. Even more than Treize, and we all followed. She didn't need it, but I know that everyone would have taken a bullet for her. I saw how you and she were together." She paused and took in a shaky breath. Zechs saw how hard this was for her.
"I had always loved you. Everything I did was to support you. She didn't support you; she pushed you, and you were different because of it. For a time. I feared what you were becoming because of that push, and it blinded me to who she really was." She glanced at him as he took in every detail of her words with care. He stepped forward and reached for her hand.
"I didn't handle that time period correctly towards either of you. If anyone ever treated Astrid that way, or if Apollo ever treated a female like that…" He stopped his mini-rant as it was getting off-topic. "Sorry, you were saying."
"She always gave too much." She fully faced him, as if needing him to understand what she now understood. "Treize had asked me to get close with her, but I saw something about her. She was a haunted child that had seen, done, gave and lost too much, and realized the harshest truth of all."
"What was that?"
"She was good at it. Too good." Noin finally sighed. "Thiana came to us all broken, betrayed, and she was ok with that. She fixed herself, and she knew she was stronger for it. However, she also knew that others feared that part of her, so she hid it. She covered it up by being what others needed her to be. I saw that and thought she was using you. I thought she was this evil child, manipulating stronger people to fight for her. I felt that about her for so long. But over the last few months...Over the course of this investigation..."
"You saw her differently." Noin nodded, and he could see she was thankful that he understood.
"I think I finally didn't fear losing you to her." Zechs couldn't stop himself as he wrapped Noin in his arms. The pain of her words struck him.
"I'm not going anywhere. You're stuck with me."
"I know that, but that fear held me from seeing the truth. When it went away, I saw things differently. I saw her when you guys brought her back. I saw the horror on your faces. I saw the report you filed, and I saw the video. The back-log of footage from her time there." She shuddered, and her voice broke as if remembering the sight of the tortures no human being should ever have endured.
"I saw the love of a leader from her employees. The dedication that went beyond a paycheck. The flowers, balloons, and cards that arrived from the academies. I realized that she felt she owed so much in retribution. That everything she did was somehow a penance, and she held herself off from people. Keeping people at arm's length for so long because she didn't think she deserved it." It was a feeling Zechs understood well. To an extent, it seemed all soldiers did, but with Thiana, it was far more intense.
"Thiana started to believe that she was the monster I had thought she'd always been. Instead, all of you guys stood by her not because she needed it but because she didn't. She would never have asked someone to do something she wouldn't do herself. She'd never put someone in a place of harm. She'd stand on that front line first, and she did just that. She took it all. Let her name be dragged through the mud, and her assets be frozen because she couldn't let someone else get hurt."
"Soldiers dedicate themselves to a leader that would give of themselves first. We fight to protect them because they fight to protect us. If the leader isn't on the front line risking their own life in the battle, soldiers will follow, but they won't devote themselves. They don't have the heart," Zechs spoke in agreement.
"Exactly. That is Thiana." She paused again, and it gave him a second take that thought in.
"It pains her to ask people for anything because she knows the cost. But that is why so many follow. They know that when she asks, it's because she truly needs it and she's already run every scenario by herself before." Zechs' felt the truth of these words sink deep as he explained them.
"Relena is the same way. There's a passion for life that flows out to everyone around them. Zechs, we have to make this right." She paused again, and he could guess what she was going to say next. "I need to apologize."
"Noin, you have nothing to apologize for." He chuckled lightly and kissed her forehead. "Ill thoughts about someone that were never spoken aloud do not need to be apologized for."
"Maybe not, but they should be." She turned away from him, and he watched her pace away with steps full of conviction. "The passion that drove Relena I admired and respected. She valued life to the point of not being willing to sacrifice it. Instead, she gave herself." Noin paced back towards him.
"Thiana valued life to the point of letting people live it, fight for it, give it all for their own self-worth. Right after she'd given her all first." He could see the horror in her gaze as she realized that the only difference between them was one would give her life fighting for life while the other would sacrifice her life in peace for life. She'd feared Thiana's sacrifice mostly because Noin hated the loss of life, not because Thiana was actually a bad person.
"Noin, calm down." He walked up to her, lightly gripping her arms to gain her attention. "Even Thiana would tell you that there's nothing to forgive." He hugged her tight.
"Oh, Zechs, I thought she had even corrupted Quatre, Relena was acting oddly, which I now know wasn't because of Thia, and you were starting to become distant. I thought I was losing you all to her. Every interaction caused your anger to flare. I feared her so much, and yet all she was doing was trying to protect people. She hadn't corrupted Quatre or Relena; she pushed them to be better. Just like she had pushed you at one time."
"I couldn't handle it then, though," Zechs stated. His voice held a hint of realization.
"What?" Noin leaned back and looked up at him in confusion.
"I couldn't handle her pushes. I wasn't….I don't know….Centered enough?" He laughed at his own deprecation. "She always sees the truth of the humanness in everyone. The mess, the heartache, and the pain. She takes it all because she knows first hand that there can still be moments of perfect peace. Beautiful moments filled with laughter, joy, dancing, teasing, and friendships. That's what she was fighting for. She sees the darkness and knows people need to fight through it. She saw the darkness in me and didn't let me hide from it. She laid it bare before me, and I couldn't stand it."
He moved them both over to the sofa in his office. When they were both settled, he finally continued. "I tripped. I was forced to see that darkest part to try and overcome it, but instead, I took it out on other people." He clenched his fists, clearly irritated at his own perceived weakness. "She does that to people. She challenges them with a mirror of themself and asks them can they do better? If you can't, she walks away, but if you can… Well, as you said, Quatre has changed. He still stands for peace like Relena, but he's willing to fight for those weaker. He stands in the path, so others do not get hurt."
"Relena has changed too," Noin spoke in agreement. "Mostly, I believe, it's because she's older and has more experience, but I think it might also have been Thia," Noin recalled for a moment the young woman who stole the mic at the Romefeller conference to chastise the attendees. "Relena has always had her own guidance and backbone. She gave herself to save everyone in the Sanq Kingdom. She also used Duke Dermal's words against himself. Yet in the last few years, I've noticed and have heard that she goes into those meetings with delegates, The President, and Quatre as if it's a battle of words."
"She does seem to go into those meetings ready to attack if need be. She doesn't raise a weapon, but she is fighting. Quatre is the same way." Zechs remembered the meeting when this whole investigation started and the fire that filled Quatre's eyes. He also remembered the fire that filled Relena when she finally stood up for herself and got out from under Kelvin's thumb. Matthews had been a player and had been ok at gaining intel. Now he was one of the best 'spymasters' Zechs had ever seen.
"I hated her…"
"Thiana." Zechs's eyes widened for a moment, shocked by his own truth. "When she left… I hated her. I hated that she abandoned me. So much had happened. I had seen a side of her that hurt. I felt sorry for her and thought she needed fixing. I stayed, but she didn't. She saw something she disagreed with, and instead of talking it through, she just left. I didn't hold what had been done against her or what she'd done against her in a way, but she held my stance against me."
"Didn't you, though?" Zechs looked at her in confusion. "There was a moment where you started to pity her. I saw it, which confused me at the time. You took it easy on her, and she pushed you even harder." Silence settled between them, and Zechs sighed at another realization. He had treated her differently after the night she tortured and killed that man. When he saw the pictures of the young blonde girl, and when the video of the same young girl had arrived, he'd looked at Thia in a new light. Now that he realizes the girl was his sister, tears stung his eyes. So many mistakes that needed to be resolved.
"Noin, did you know I gave her the name Thiana?" He waited as she slightly shook her head in response.
"It's because when we first met, she called me Lado…" He paused, taking a deep breath. "There was only one person who had ever called me that. It was a little girl that had been killed when she was only two. Her house had been burned down, and their family van had been found on the side of the road littered with bullet holes. Yet no bodies were actually found: the mother's, her's, or her younger brother. This had been before Sanq fell, and truthfully she had probably been my best friend. I gave Thiana her name because at that moment she reminded me so much of the friend I lost."
"Why are you telling me this?" Noin asked.
"You said you owed her an apology, but in reality, it's really me that does." He stopped her before she could respond. "Noin, I love you. I love our life together. I love those two crazy children outside. I wouldn't change anything we have together for the world. However, at one point, I loved her too. The curiosity and joy in simple things took me back to my childhood. A time before war touched my life. That little girl might have only been two, but she was fresh air in a stale life for me growing up. When Thia arrived years later, it stirred me up, and it always will. However, instead of being the friend she needed, I took her kindness. I took it all and gave nothing back. I stored it away in stolen moments, making her fill the hole left by a friend long gone. I used you too. I'm spending the rest of my life making up for the way I took you for granted. But I need to tell her the truth."
"Tell her what?"
"I think that she actually is that girl."
"Zechs, you can't be serious?"
"Here, look." He handed his wife a folder off of a nearby table. "I created a timeline five years ago, and after the information Serene gave, and the items found at the base she was being held at, it started to fit too much." Noin took the file and sat back, and Zechs watched as she read it. She read through it once and then read through it again.
"That would make her… Zechs. How long have you known about this again?"
"Five years, give or take... as I said. I had a feeling, but I thought she'd died. You don't look for someone who you've been told is dead."
"Ok, but if you didn't have any proof, then why do you need to apologize now?"
"Because I told her I was going to meet her after the battle on Christmas Eve. The night we left for Mars."
"Oh, Zechs…" He heard her voice catch. "We both messed up with her." Noin sighed. It was in the moment he once again saw why he trusted her with his heart, why he loved her more and more each day. How she made him a better person, and he was lucky to have her in his life. He hoped he did the same for her.
"We need to fix this." She set the files aside. "I have had ill thoughts towards her for years. She didn't deserve them; they were fueled by jealousy. However, you need to see her first. Take these to her and tell her what you think."
"Yes, Ma'am." He laughed at her serious look. "How did I win you?"
"Don't be silly; I chose you. That's how these things work."
"Of course." He leaned forward and gently kissed her. "Now, how am I going to get in contact with her?"
"Well, there is this thing called a phone, but if you want a sure way in, go talk to Constance and Daniel."
"You're right. I'll go speak with them tomorrow."
"You'll go speak with them now. Remember, she's only going to be in the city for the week before they're leaving. I fear you're not going to be one of the people invited out to where they're going." Zechs had a pretty good idea where they were headed, but Noin was right. He needed to go now.
Relena posed her hand to knock at the door. It was relatively late in the afternoon, but it could not have been avoided. Her last meeting of the day had run late, and she had barely had enough time in the day to grab something to eat. Between her work, checking on her younger sister, and Heero taking off, she barely had time to think. An ache seized her heart at that last point. He had kissed her briefly before taking off to look for Thiana and Serene and then, after returning, left again with little explanation.
He had seemed agitated, shifting from one foot to the other. It was unlike Heero to be unnerved by anything, and seeing him that nervous unnerved her. He walked up to her, shoulder slumped, eyes downcast, and she knew what he had come to say long before he uttered the words.
"You're leaving again, aren't you?" She had asked, studying him closely.
"Yeah." His answer was short and direct. She had felt the breath catch in her throat. Expecting it did not make it any easier.
"I see." She lowered her eyes, feeling the tears begin to sting her eyes. "I won't keep you then."
"It's not what you think." His voice was the closest to a desperate plea she had ever heard come from him. She looked up, aqua eyes locking with Prussian blue.
"Heero, you don't have to explain anything to me." she tried to smile. "I understand that this was an unexpected occurrence."
"It was." He stated and reached out to take her hand in his. "I thought you were... " he paused and looked down at their joined hands. "I had been working on something vital when I learned what happened." He reached forward with his other hand and touched her cheek gently.
"We have a lot to talk about, and we will, but I have a few things to sort out."
"I understand." she reached up and cupped the hand on her cheek with hers.
"I will come back." He offered her the smallest of smiles. "Trust me." Relena nodded. Trying to hide the tears that threatened to fall. He leaned forward then and touched his lips once more briefly to hers. So much seemed to be said in such a short contact. He turned and left as soon as it ended. Her lips still tingled at the recollection.
That was a week ago. She hadn't heard from him since.
She allowed herself to knock and heard shuffling behind the door. It didn't take long for Thiana to answer. She looked rather cozy in her oversized wool sweater and black yoga pants. Her hair had been slung into a casual, messy bun, but she seemed well-rested, and that made Relena feel a bit more at ease. She had been anxious for her old friend, given all that had happened of late. To know that she had been given the doctor's permission to be out of the hospital was also of some comfort, though, as she understood it, Thiana was to take it easy. Judging by her appearance, she seemed to be doing just that.
"Relena!" Thiana smiled. "This is a surprise."
"I know I probably should have called first, but things have been so crazy at the office that I've barely had time to think." Thiana ushered her in and closed the door behind her. Thiana's apartment was about what Relena expected: modern and elegant but with a classical flair. If she had more time, she might have asked for a grand tour.
"Don't worry about it. I'm just glad you came." Thiana smiled again, and Relena returned it in kind.
"You look well. Are you following the doctor's orders?" Thiana rolled her eyes and heaved a sigh, and Relena could tell this was not the first time the older girl had been asked that question.
"I wish people would stop asking me that." Thiana made her way to a large comfy chair and plopped herself rather unceremoniously into it. "Yes, I'm being a good girl and taking my meds and drinking plenty of fluids and resting." Relena nearly giggled at her tone, which resembled that of a young child being scolded for misbehaving.
"It's good to hear that. I would hate to have to call Drizzie and Matthews and tell them you weren't behaving" a rather unladylike snort came from the other woman.
"As if they could do anything."
"I supposed not." Relena moved to take the seat across from her friend.
After sitting down, Relena felt the small furry head of Thia's rather large house cat bumping against her leg. Not waiting for an invitation, Leila jumped up onto the side of the chair and continued to study her. This being her first time meeting her friend's feline companion Relena let her move at her own pace until the cat seemed satisfied enough to invite her to pet her.
"Seems she likes you." Thia smiled. "I always knew my cat was a good judge of character." As if echoing her mistress's sentiments, Leila gave a curt meowl and butted her head against Relena.
"I'm glad." Relena scratched the cat affectionately behind her ears and under her collar. "I can't stay long, Thia, but I had to come and see you."
"I'm glad you did," Thia stated. Leila jumped down from Relena's lap and rejoined her mistress. "I understand you went to see Serene too?" Relena felt guilty for not having visited Thiana in the hospital, but everything had happened so fast. Damage control had needed to be done. She had barely had time to see her newfound sister.
"I did," Relena admitted, looking down at her hands.
"How does it feel to be a big sister, I mean?"
"You tell me." Relena began, suddenly realizing how much time she'd missed. Thiana had been there for Serene, effectively the younger girl's only family for years. "You've been her sister longer than I have." Thiana shook her head, brows knitting in a frown.
"Stop that. You didn't know."
"What do you mean?"
"Relena, You didn't know you had a sister, so you weren't looking for any resemblance or sign of her existence. Serene knows this and understands it. She holds nothing against you or your brother and never will." She paused, and Relena locked eyes with her. "So don't blame yourself."
"I… thank you, Thia." Thiana waved it off, laughing.
"Now, I can tell there is a lot on your mind. For example, I know Heero came back. How did that go? How did Kelvin take it?" Relena sighed and ran a hand through her bangs.
"I can see there is a lot to fill you in on."
"I'm all ears, but first, some wine!"
"Can you mix that with your pills?"
"Do I care?" Relena quirked a brow in a warning, and Thiana rolled her eyes. "Relax. The wine is for you. I have some juice chilled for myself. Worrywart." Relena watched as the older girl walked to the fridge and pulled out both the open bottle of wine and the juice, and poured them both their drinks before making her way back over.
Now, tell me everything." Relena spent the next few hours catching Thiana up on all she'd missed while she was gone on her secret mission. She recapped the breakup, her time with Serene, how she realized how badly she failed with Heero, and how Kelvin had made his appearance again only to be shown the door. When she was finished, Thia was in stitches.
"You did NOT! YOU Actually punched him?!" Relena could only nod, laughing now herself. "About time someone did! I'm just so happy it was you!"
"I didn't really know where it came from at the time, but now it's all so clear. His insulting Serene was just the final straw. I hit him, and I swear it was probably the most cathartic thing I've ever done."
"Well, that deserved a toast!" Thia reached her glass over, and Relena clanked hers together. "Now, you can move on to more important things." Thiana smiled, and Relena took a long sip of her wine.
"Believe me; I have enough paperwork and backlogged issues to last me for the next year, let alone the rest of this one." Relena sighed.
"I am not talking about work, Relena. I'm talking about Heero."
"There is nothing to be done about that. He left again."
"What?!" Relena recounted their last encounter, and Thiana frowned. "I'm gonna give that boy a piece of my mind." Her friend mumbled.
"It's fine, really. After what I put him through, I can't say that I blame him."
"There you go with your self-pity again."
"You both were stupid, Relena. You both made mistakes and wrong choices regarding your relationship. You were young. You still are. It happens. But don't let it continue."
"What do you mean?"
"Geeze, I'm the one on the drugs here. Let me spell it out for you." She paused for a moment and took a dramatic breath. "Go get him."
"No. No excuses. Get him. He left without telling you why. Again. That's part of what got you into this mess. Go to him."
"But what if he doesn't want me to?"
"Relena, that boy is as dense as the day is long. He definitely wants to see you." She paused, eyes suddenly saddened. "Take it from me. It's better to snap up the chance you have at happiness while you can." The regret in her voice made Relena think that Thiana must have a romantic regret of her own.
"Thank you, Thia."
"Any time, Relena." She smiled warmly and took another drink of her juice. "Now, you better run along and make your travel plans. I suspect, slipping away to the colonies for the weekend will take some planning." The teasing smile on her friend's face brought her courage and comfort. Relena finished her wine and made her way to the door. After a short goodbye, she made her way down the hall and to the door where her car and driver waited. There was much to do and thanks to her friend's support, it would finally get done.
'It's so soft.' It was the only thought she had as the world seemed to come into focus. The thing was, the view in front of her had her relaxing and confused at the same time. She was curled on her side in her overstuffed chair. An afghan was draped around her, and a book lay toppled on the floor. She knew where she was, and everything was as she remembered it except for the person sitting on the floor leaning back against her chair. A person whose hair she had been absentmindedly playing with. A person she knew couldn't actually be here. A person that she had to control herself from wanting to kiss awake. She was losing her mind.
"Quatre…?" She gently tugged on his hair and watched as his beautiful bright blue eyes opened and focused on her. The smile that formed as they made eye contact took her breath away, and she felt her chest tighten.
'Mine…' Her inner voice whispered, but it was filled with a claim.
"You're awake." He moved away, and while she understood he was turning to face her in a more comfortable position, she instinctively held tighter to his hair and watched as his eyes dilated in response.
'He's ours…' her inner voice spoke firmer this time, and Thia mentally agreed but still shushed herself. He had to say yes. He had to say he wanted her just as much first.
"Why didn't you wake me? I thought you were out in space." Thia thought over her words, and confusion set it again. He hadn't been there when she had fallen asleep. Relena had just left her, and she decided to read. He didn't have a key to her condo. She knew he had been in a meeting for disputes in the colonies this morning. How could he even be here right now? He reached up and gently prodded her hand to let go of his hair.
"You looked so peaceful, and Dr. San Ju told everyone you needed rest right now." Quatre finally turned after she released her hold, so he was sitting cross-legged in front of her with her hand in both of his. He slowly leaned forward, turned her palm over, and placed a gentle kiss on the inside of her wrist. A small part of her wanted to get lost in this moment, but she hadn't missed the fact that he hadn't responded to the statement that he shouldn't be here. He was meant to be in space.
"I don't think this is real…" She whispered, realizing this had to be a dream
"Why's that?" He asked in concern, and worry creased his face. She realized that even if it were a dream, she wouldn't cause more worry or issue between them right then. She wanted his eyes full of bright exuberance of dark passion. Not this cloudy worry.
"It's too good to be real." She gave a teasing smile.
"So because I'm here, it's too good to be real?"
"Yeah… It's not real if you're not here." Her heart spilled out in that one line.
"I'll always be here."
'MEOW!' Leila knocked her book off of her lap onto the floor, startling Thia awake.
"What is it?" She glared at Leila, who simply sat on the floor licking her paw, giving her best exasperated since 'must she do it all' attitude. It was only at that moment three things struck Thia: She realized her door buzzer was ringing, all the lights were off in the condo, and the shadows were growing long as the sun started it's final few moments in the sky, and lastly, it had been too good to be real.
It had all been a dream. That was the third time this week, and they were feeling more intense each time.
"Maybe I didn't want to wake up. Ever think of that?" Thia glared at her cat, who ignored her as she ran across the room after the ringing toy Thia kicked. The buzzer sounded once again, and she flipped on a light.
"I'm coming!" She spoke at herself as the annoying buzzer wouldn't stop until she pressed the return com. It made her feel better, though. That is until she saw who was waiting down at the main lobby ringing the buzzer; Zechs Marquise. What was he doing here?
"I come in peace…I also come with Donny V's Pizza…" She watched him fidget back and forth, and she wondered who he had bribed to find her actual address and know what pizza place she liked.
"Come on, Thia. I know you're just standing there watching me. I called Constance, and she told me it was about time we talked. Please, I'm not trying to start anything. I also have Italian cream soda and tiramisu that you love." She sighed, realizing Constance would ask about this, and if she turned him away, she'd have to lie. She hated lying to Constance. Also, she was famished, and it was Donny V's…
"Extra cheese, Sausage, and banana peppers?" She asked while pressing the intercom button.
"There's even some ranch to dip it in." Her answer was the welcome chime as the lower door unlocked. She could see the elderly doorman just smile and shake his head.
"What's so funny?" She asked, having known the doorman for the last five years.
"Oh, I would have held out for cannolis."
"Of course you would. No sense of taste." She shook her head as he started laughing and turned away from the intercom. She glanced down at herself and shrugged. It was too late to change, and did she really care?
"Nope." She answered and laughed as she started turning more lights on. She quickly reset her bun as hair had fallen out from her nap and gave a warning comment to Leila before the door alarm sounded, alerting her to her guest's arrival. She'd be talking with Constance later about this. At least about not giving her a heads up so she could have left before he arrived. Instead, though, she was opening the door of her own personal home and welcoming Zechs Marquise in.
"You do realize I'm opening this door for the pizza, correct?"
"Constance said it would be the only reason I'd get in." Zechs agree. "So am I actually going to be allowed in?" The temptation to grab the food and slam the door was great, but instead, she stepped back and ushered him in and directed him towards the dining room.
"Just set that on the table. I'll be right back." Thia walked into the kitchen, quickly pulled down some plates and napkins, and took a deep breath. The last time she had been alone with Zechs had been 4 years ago, and he had promised to come back after the battle. He never had, and if she was being honest-that still stung. Of course, they'd had interactions with each other since then on a few occasions, but they hadn't been under the best circumstances.
Taking a moment for herself before she turned back, she stopped and looked out at the table, catching Zech's taking in of her condo. It was different from the villa with its warm earthy tones, different textures, and multiple materials. That home was filled with her life. This condo, however, was the height of modern elegance with nods to the past.
The walls were all a muted navy at the top with white wainscoting two thirds up the wall. Furniture was a mix of creams, greys, and blacks, all coming together to form a cohesive but simple look. Even the Kitchen matched with black cabinets, brass knobs, and a white marbled top. In the corner, the baby grand piano finished the look of an upper class, well to do heiress. It fit her life here but looking at it again, she knew it wasn't her home, and she couldn't wait to get back to the villa. The office, bedroom, and gym were more of her style. She made a mental note to call about a make-over. It needed a new look. She needed a new look.
"You have a beautiful place here." Zechs finally stated as she left the kitchen and walked towards him at the table. When she stepped up onto the raised area that held the large table and piano, she set down the plates, silverware, and napkins.
"Oh, be honest. It looks like a sterile set piece. Not a home."
"Well, it doesn't seem to fit you too well… At least, not the Thiana I remember."
"You'd be right. I had this designed as much as a front as anything else. It was a design that I needed to fill." She looked back over, and ideas were already coming to her, and she smiled. She loved makeovers.
"This is my favorite piece, though, and the whole reason I took this condo." With that, she stepped forward, touching a panel on the wall that started moving the heavy drapes out of the way. They quickly slid into sections on either side of the room out of view as to not distract from the beauty outside. The wall was a twenty-nine foot long thirteen-foot high bank of windows.
"Watch this." She walked forward and unlocked a lever on the floor. Suddenly, the two middle panels started to slide away from each other, leaving a ten foot opening in the middle out onto the balcony and overlooked the cityscape. As the sun was finally setting, the city was coming alive.
"I know." A cool evening breeze traveled through the open doors, and they both just stood there and watched the world change. "Come on; I'm starving." She finally stated, turning back towards the food. Thia smiled as she finally saw that there were two pizza boxes and much more than just tiramisu.
"Fried green beans and jalapeno poppers?" She asked, taking in the aroma before she began opening the other boxes from the bag.
"You know you'll have to share." Zechs quipped while setting the plates apart and opening the pizza boxes. Both oozing with sausage, banana peppers, and cheese.
"Fine, you can have some too." Thia noticed a file set off to the side, and while she was curious, she also knew it was probably the reason Zechs came in the first place, so she'd find out about it sooner or later. It didn't take long for them to settle into eating, but there was a tense silence between them. One that kept grating on her nerves as time went by. She normally could wait anyone out, but it was ruining her dinner, so she finally broke.
"Please know that I am grateful for the food but just spill."
"Zechs, why did you come over here tonight?" She didn't look at him, instead of focusing on her meal and giving him the time to compose himself.
"You mean, I can't just come over here and check in on an old friend?"
"Oh please, don't give me that." She glared at him while she took a bite of her pizza. "Yes, we were friends, but if I remember correctly, the last time we talked ended with someone getting punched, and that someone was you. What changed?"
"I was wrong." She let the silence linger longer, this time, knowing it would prompt him to keep speaking.
"I messed up so much." Zechs sat back in his chair and shook his head. "How did we get it so wrong?"
"What do you mean 'how did we get it wrong?" Thia was confused. "Zechs, it wasn't a right or wrong thing. You choose her, multiple times, I might add, and I moved on. End of story."
"Do you regret that?"
"Then what happened happened." She waved her hand casually and dismissively. "Was it done well? No, but it still happened." Thia went back to eating another slice of pizza while dipping the fried green beans into the ranch and enjoying their crispy snap.
"I did wrong by you. So many times and I let other people's opinions cloud my view of you." Zechs looked off around the room, and she wished for just a second she could read his thoughts.
"I believed the front and claimed it a lie because of our past. I feared the hidden part of you, and I couldn't reconcile the truth."
"That you would become the monster herself to save or revenge the innocents around you…" He paused, and she could see something flash through his pale eyes. "But you weren't actually a monster." Thia knew her eyes had to show her shock at his statement. Quickly schooling her features, she worked to try and figure out where he was going with this.
"I know some of what you're capable of, and I know a part of your past. I always pitied you. I needed to rescue you from that past. But you didn't need me to rescue you. You needed me to trust you. You didn't need my pity. You needed my support, my faith that you wouldn't cross the line and lose yourself to that bloodlust." He ran his hands through his hair, and she realized she'd stopped eating.
"Then, all of these rumors were flying, and they all fit so perfectly. It was like my biggest concern had come true. You had gone too far, and that lust had taken control. The thirst for power was causing you to harm the innocent instead of protecting them. Yet people I trusted or thought had a sound head was fighting me. They kept saying you were innocent, which I knew was the truth but didn't believe at the time. I got so angry." He slammed his fist down on the table, yet she realized he wasn't angry at her he was angry at himself.
"No, Thia, don't try and make me feel better about this." She simply nodded and remained silent.
"I had been trying to make you fit an ideal. I saw you as this broken girl that needed protecting from herself. But you didn't. You were stronger than all of us. You walked away, and that was the first time I was hit with the idea that you weren't going to fit into the box I had you in." He paused again, and she wondered where his thoughts were. "Then you argued with me; said you'd fight me if need be, and suddenly we were enemies. Suddenly. I knew you saw me as a monster." There was a relief in hearing his side of things, but Thia had to be truthful: she was even more confused.
"You never came back after the battle?" She softly spoke as the silence settled. "Why didn't you come back like you said would?"
"Noin…" Thia sighed. She had known that, but she wanted to know why. She had already realized that he had chosen Noin, but his word should have still held.
"So, Noin talked you out of coming back?" She felt her fingers curl into fists and then relax to smooth the surface around her.
"No…" He groaned. "I'm not explaining this well."
"Well, some things make sense, but your word is your word. You said you would come back, and you never did. I don't think even Noin would make you break your word just because it's me."
"Wait, what do you mean 'I don't think even Noin would' and 'Because it's me'?"
"It's no secret she doesn't like me." Thia stated matter of factly. "I've known that since before I left at sixteen."
"We both messed up. It also wasn't that she didn't like you. It's more she feared you because of me."
"She thought I was going to manipulate you and steal you away, didn't she?" Suddenly, so much made sense to her about her interactions with Noin. Thia was also able to let so much go at that moment. She still was annoyed, but now she realized it wasn't really her that Noin disliked; it was this illusion of who she was that Noin disliked.
"Something like that, and it just got away from us." Zechs finally agreed. "However, that wasn't the reason why I didn't go back." He stood and turned away from her for a moment as if searching for the words. "I feared how I would react. I was still confused at the time. I still saw you as the broken girl that needed someone to put her back together. I knew I loved Noin, and I wanted to give us a chance, but you pull people in." He turned to her and grabbed his cup, taking a sip of his drink, and she could tell he was in thought.
"We weren't good for each other. I wanted to put you in a glass box and take away all the hurt. I wanted to set you apart. I wanted to keep you pure. I remember you screaming into the storm after that night instead of seeing it for what it was. I saw a cry for help. I realize now that it wasn't."
"What was it then?"
"It was a battle cry—a warrior challenging the world to cross her. Yes, there was pain, but you knew pain and accepted it. You looked at the world and took it for what it was and then tried to make it better." He finally looked at her. "I couldn't stand up to your intensity as a partner. I couldn't give you what you needed, and I needed someone else. I would never see you the way you needed a partner to see you because I kept trying to make you be someone else."
"What do you mean 'make me be someone else'?" She saw him glance over at the file.
"I gave you the name Thiana. Did you know that?" She shook her head no but remained silent. "I gave it because the night you came in ready to assassinate Treize, you called me Lado. There was only one person who had ever called me Lado, and she was a girl from my past." He reached over and held out the file to her.
"Her name was Thiana Yuy, daughter of Aio Yuy, Granddaughter of the original Heero Yuy." She wiped her hands off before taking the file from him. "On her second birthday, her family was attacked. No bodies were ever found, but her mother, brother, and herself were all declared dead. I attended the funeral."
"Zechs, I am sorry about that loss." She looked down at the file and thought about the flashes she had from her past. Babbling nonsense with a male baby, the laughter-filled play that was full of warmth, and a woman telling her never to let them win.
"I started looking at the timeline you gave when we were younger. Then after Serene told her side and some pictures were found about the cold case, I couldn't overlook it anymore. I was going to tell you my guess, but I chose to start my life with Noin and realized I was probably wrong." He paused again. Why did he keep doing that? It made her feel a little uneasy. "But those pictures... It was like I was looking at you. Yes, there are differences, but there were too many similarities." Thia just looked at the unopened file before setting it to the side.
"Thia, aren't you going to look at it?"
"No...Not right now, at least."
"Thia, don't you get what I'm telling you?" She felt his voice rise, and it struck her core, but she kept her temper down. "I believe you are the real Thiana Yuy. I really believe that your mother was Aoi Yuy."
"Yes, I understand what you're saying." She sighed and looked back at him. "I thank you for this file, and I even accept your apology for everything. Zechs, we were so young. I know you were older in a sense but everything we've been through... None of us were really ready. You're happy now, Noin's happy, and you have two beautiful children. I'm glad you both found what you were looking for. I was hurt when you never came, but now-in a-way, I'm ok with that." She glanced back down at the file before sighing.
"Now, please hear this. I'm not going to open this file. At least not right now. I probably might never open this file. Thank you for giving me this precious child's name. If she made an impact on you when she was only two, I'm sure she was something special." Silence settled, and Thia paused in surprise at the dull pain of loss that suddenly filled her chest. Its weight settled on her shoulder, but she also knew a hard truth, and it filled her voice.
"I might actually be this Thiana Yuy by blood, but I'm not that two-year-old girl anymore. The girl you knew died. If not literally; figuratively. Maybe I give flashes of her character, but the person I am now, who I really am inside, is the girl that was trained to be the perfect soldier. I am the girl that played with the Zero system for fun." She saw the sadness start to fill his eyes. "I have killed people one moment and the next been playing with Serene and Heero through the hardest moments of our lives."
"I can't be that little girl for you." She saw the strike of her statement hit him, and it broke her heart. She really did understand. He had been trying to make her be that innocent little girl. "I don't hold it against you either that you tried."
"Thia… I'm so sorry." Zechs hung his head, and understanding settled in Thia, and every hard feeling she had towards Zechs vanished.
"I know, and I accept it." She smiled at him and pushed the pizza box back towards him as she ate another slice. He sighed and nodded as he took a piece, and they finished off the rest of the food in silence.
As time passed, stories started to be shared. Tales of jokes, mishaps, and pictures of babies were given as peace offerings. He asked for advice on Serene and told her that Noin felt horrible for how she'd treated Thia when they were younger. It wasn't until Leila came out and made a slight hissing noise at Zechs that they both agreed it was time for him to leave.
"Thank you again for dinner."
"No, thank you for allowing me to try and make amends."
"Zechs, please know that I don't really hold any of this against you."
"I know." He responded as they took the trash into the kitchen and sent it all down to the disposal room through the condo shoot.
"I also want to thank you. I read the report you filed after rescuing me from Klementz. You could have put many different items in that report, but you didn't."
"I'd like to think we're at least friendly now, right?"
"I'd like us to be friends." Zechs countered. "We might not have worked as a couple, but we were good as friends. I miss that." He gestured around the room. "I miss conversations like this. If I'm honest. I don't have a lot of friends. Not anymore."
"I'd like that." She ushered him to the door and held it open for him. "Please, tell Noin I'm ok and that she doesn't have to come and apologize. Also, keep texting Serene. I know it doesn't seem like much, but it will help you two get to know each other better."
"Now, goodnight, and let me know you arrived back safely." They looked at each other, and Thia just knew they were going to be ok. They weren't going to be the same, but they were going to be something new, and it was going to be good. She quickly leaned forward and kissed his cheek.
"Until next time." She smiled, and Zechs wrapped her in a hug before kissing the top of her head.
"I promise I'll keep in touch more."
"Good." With that, he walked away, and a hole that had been in her life filled itself back in. Zechs had been so many things to her that it had hurt when they had shut each other out. She shut the door and walked back out onto her balcony, curling up with a fluffy blanket on a lounge chair, and watched the stars move overhead. Leila jumped up onto her lap and quickly settled, purring into the dark night.
The file on her table lingered in the back of her mind, but she let it go as the minutes ticked by. She had a friend back in her life, and when her phone gave a chirp acknowledging a new message, she let herself finally doze. She was leaving for the Villa tomorrow with Daniel, Tommy, and Amy. Constance would arrive in a day or two after with Serene. If this night taught her anything, it was that she couldn't wait to reset her life and move forward.