12-7-2001

Apologies for this taking to dang long. ^.^ ETA on the next part is approximately two weeks from now.

Katsu

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Pyractomena Borealis Part 15

 

Relena and I regarded each other warily across the hood of her pink monstrosity of a limousine. The grip of my gun was warm under my fingers. Relena's eyes narrowed slightly as she noticed my hand hovering oh-so-casually under my jacket. It was like a spaghetti western--all we were missing was the cheesy harmonica music and the blowing tumbleweeds.

"Duo." She said, her tone a lot more polite than I would have expected out of her. Strangely enough, the corner of her mouth quirked up, like she was trying not to laugh.

I suddenly realized that unless you knew that I had a propensity for wearing shoulder rigs, which I doubted Relena was even aware existed, I looked like I was scratching my armpit. I hastily crossed my arms over my chest, trying to look as nonchalant as possible. She had the upper hand in this one, and I really didn't like that. "Relena." I nodded politely, keeping my voice as neutral as possible.

The little smirk disappeared. "I'm glad to see you're doing well." she said stiffly.

"Yeah. Fit as a fiddle."

Pause.

After a long round of trying to stare me down, Relena finally decided that she wasn't going to win the battle of wills. "So," she said, her voice clipped, "where's Heero?"

I made a big show of looking left and right. "Apparently," I replied, mimicking her tone perfectly, "somewhere else."

"I thought he was with you."

"So did I." I muttered.

She looked at me sharply. "What was that?"

"Nothing." I gave her my most charming smile.

Pause.

"So." she said. It wasn't the lead in for a question or a sentence. It just stopped there.

"Yeah?"

Pause. Again. It was like God was playing with his freaking VCR remote. It certainly didn't help that I was feeling a little jumpy already. Relena had shown up; I had a bad feeling that it was only a matter of time before something caught on fire and I was just hoping that it wasn't going to be me.

She licked her lips, like she was nervous. "I...uh...don't suppose you'd like a ride back to the school?"

I'd had a smart retort all ready to go, and that one knocked me flat on my butt. She wasn't being rude to me or acting superior. She'd actually hesitated, and asked me something semi-nicely...plus...she sounded so awkward it was almost kind of...well...cute. So I did the only thing I could after having my worst enemy abruptly jerk the rug out from underneath me by not acting like a pissy bitch; I gaped. "What?"

"It's still a bit of a walk back to your school." she said. "I was wondering if you'd like a ride."

I blinked several times, hoping to banish what was obviously a hallucination. No such luck. It was real. Relena was being...well...nice to me. It wasn't just her kicking over my little ant hill that had me, though--it was the fact that there was no way I could refuse without looking like a rude bastard. There was no escape from this invitation. "Er...ok."

So, not five minutes later, I found myself surrounded by the beige interior of Relena's outsized Barbie car. I was pleasantly surprised by the tastefully neutral upholstery, actually; I'd been expecting something as stomach-churningly pink as the outside.

She must have noticed me looking wonderingly around; after she told the monkey boy in the front to start driving, she gave me a secret little smile. "The car was a birthday present," she said, "and I don't particularly like pink, so I had the inside re-done."

Just when I thought I'd hit the point where I couldn't get any more surprised, she had me again. I did my best large-mouth bass imitation and gaped.

She shifted in her seat, then smoothed her skirt down. "Duo," she said, after a long moment of hesitation, "may I ask you a question?"

I raked my bangs away from my eyes with my fingernails. My absolute shock was finally giving way to an odd mix of dread and morbid fascination. I had no idea who this person was and what she'd done with Relena, but I figured that as long as the question wasn't 'Do I make you horny, baby?' I'd be ok. "Er...yeah. Shoot."

"Why do you dislike me?"

If I'd had something in my hands, I would have dropped it. If I'd been able to, I would have fallen out of my seat--except there was no way I was going to do that here, since I'd end up in Relena's lap. I settled for staring at her for a minute while I waited for what was left of my wits to come limping back. I seriously considered telling her that she was wrong, that I did like her ok...but no. There was a brief war between my principles, namely being nice to girls and being honest. Honesty won out. She was in trouble, as my tact had run away screaming some time around my tenth birthday. "I dislike you because you're rude to me." I finally said. I was surprised to hear that my voice was perfectly steady.

She jerked back like someone had slapped her, which I guess is what I had done, in the metaphorical sense. I had a feeling that no one had had the utter gall to dislike her before, or at least admit to it...except for Heero. "W--what?"

"You're rude to me." I leaned forward, resting my elbows on my knees. Satisfyingly enough, as I leaned forward, she edged away. "You show up because you're chasing Heero. That's your business. But most of the time, when you show up, I'm there as well. Do you know what it's like to have someone not acknowledge your existence, or look right through you because what they want to see is behind you? Do you have any idea how frustrating it is when you're reduced to nothing more than a way to get to something?" I sat back. "If you think it's anything other than rude, you need to go have a talk with Miss Manners."

Somewhere along the way, Relena's shocked expression had disappeared, leaving a dry, bitter little smile in its wake. "Actually," she said softly, "I know exactly how that feels."

Well, there went my fit of righteous pique. "What?"

She smoothed her skirt down again, almost reflexively. "I guess I owe you an apology."

I stared at her in absolute shock. It was a very weird, twilight-zone-esque feeling to suddenly discover that I actually had something in common with the person I'd most like to drop off the edge of a really tall cliff.

"Uh...thanks." I said. We sat in uncomfortable silence for several minutes before I'd managed to get the little hamster powering my brain to start running in the right direction again. "Mind if I ask you a question?"

She regarded me warily. "I suppose not."

"Good, 'cause you owe me one." I sighed and rubbed my right wrist, feeling oddly comforted by the thin line of scar tissue under my fingertips. Nervous habits are hard to break. "How come you keep following us around?"

"I'm not 'following' anyone." she informed me stiffly, "I'm simply looking for Heero. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to find him."

I had a feeling that now, like last time, the moment of camaraderie was pretty much over. "You show up every time he's in one location for more than three or four days, and you somehow always manage to do it when I'm around. I can practically set my watch by it. Lady, you are either following him like a dog waiting to be kicked, or you're stalking me because I have a wonderful butt. Which is it?"

Her eyes narrowed dangerously, and her cheeks started getting red. Uh oh. I had the feeling that I'd made her mad. "I am in love with Heero." she said coldly. "Of course I want to be with him. Do you have a problem with that?"

"Yeah, I do." I wasn't going to let her intimidate me. I was bigger than her, stronger than her, and, I hoped, smarter. Oh yeah, and I had a gun too. Almost forgot. "You're endangering all of us every time you show up. You think there aren't people watching you? Are you TRYING to get us killed?"

"I--"

I cut her off. "And beyond that, you're not even really in love with Heero." I stabbed a finger at her. In a private corner of my mind, I was shocked at what I was saying. It was like all of my frustrations were pouring our of me at once. "You're infatuated with him. Obsessed with him. He's a person, not some toy you can acquire, for God's sake!"

She stared at me for a long moment, eyes wide with shock. Then all of her anger came flooding back. "How dare you! You're trying to keep us apart!"

"I'm trying," I snarled, "to grind some sense into your head!"

I caught her wrist just as she was pulling her hand back to slap me. It didn't stop her from saying what she wanted, though. "Heero is my knight in shining armor. He always protects me, because he loves me. You have no right to say those things to me, and you have no right to force us apart!"

I'd had enough. The car was stopping for a red light, so I let go of Relena's wrist. "Keep deluding yourself, Relena, that's none of my business. The fact that you're endangering my life is another matter. Grow up." With that, I flung the car door open and jumped out. I picked a random direction and stalked away, realizing with growing dismay that I had no idea where the hell I was. Relena's driver must have been taking the real scenic route; I was familiar with the area around the school, and I could tell that this definitely wasn't it.

The streets were nearly deserted; the only sign of life there was at all was a guy in a business suit, sitting at a bus stop and reading a newspaper by the light of the street lamp above him. He had long, red-highlighted hair; I could see it trailing down past his shoulder--pretty unusual for a businessman. As I went slouching past he didn't glance up from his paper.

There were running footsteps behind me, and then Relena grabbed my shoulder, stopping me in my tracks. "This discussion is not over." she bit out angrily.

I turned slowly to face her, trying to control my anger and only half succeeding. "This isn't a discussion. To be a discussion, you'd actually have to be listening to me." I jerked my shoulder back, dislodging her hand.

"Heero isn't yours." she said, doing her best imitation of a Yuy death glare, and getting surprisingly close to the right effect, "you have no idea how he feels."

"He's not yours either." My left hand was clenched into a fist, seemingly of its own accord, and it was all I could do to keep from punching the little bitch in the nose like she so richly deserved. "You have no clue how he feels either, because you've never even bothered to ask! You just assume that he must love you because you're obsessing over him."

"He--"

Cold, electric energy from the direction we'd come from rolled over me in a sharp wave, and my eyes widened. Every square centimeter of skin on my body tightened. It was all I could do not to shiver. "Shut up." I said. "Right now." Oh fuck. I'd felt this before, too many times to mistake it.

"How--" she began, her voice rising to an outraged shriek. Another wave of energy struck me with almost physical force. It made my teeth hurt, but I had the feel of it now. I knew what was coming. There were three of them, and they were on the hunt.

I grabbed her by the upper arm and jerked her toward me, covering her mouth with my other hand. She immediately sank her teeth in, hard enough to draw blood. I grimaced, but didn't let go. There were more important things to worry about right now--I'd just have to get my rabies shots later. "Listen to me very carefully," I whispered, "the argument is over for now. In a moment, I'm going to let you go, and then we're going to run. No questions, no arguing. If you want to live past the next five minutes, you have to run."