Three months earlier
In a cozy office in downtown Gracia, Dr. Isabelle Flannery stared at her two patients with apparent exasperation. In the chair on the left sat a man with dark brown hair and sharp blue eyes, dressed cannily in black and wearing an expression that was just as severe. His counterpart on the right was a vivacious woman with a raven mane and clothing in a brighter hue. They both appeared as if they were slightly anxious with the situation—and each other; the woman had her shapely legs crossed and one foot tapping in obvious impatience, and the man had his arms crossed over his chest. They sat facing her and at no point touched each other or shared any adoring glances. Isabelle pursed her lips together and made a note of this.
Over the glasses that sat on her elegant nose, Isabelle gazed at the couple with expectant slate-green eyes. They stared back as if waiting for her to say something. Isabelle quirked an eyebrow, miraculously keeping a straight face amid her growing frustration with the couple.
“So,” Isabelle began, “I suppose we ought to begin the session now.” She assessed them again then spoke. “If you don’t mind me asking, did the both of you agree to marital counseling?”
“Yes,” they answered in unison.
Isabelle folded her hands in her lap. Interesting. “Any reason why you think you would need marital counseling?”
The woman folded her hands in her lap. “We just needed to take out some time to do some fine-tuning on our marriage. After six years—”
“Five,” the man corrected succinctly.
“After five, or six, years,” the woman said smoothly, “things just need a little repair. You get into your own routine and forget that you’re in a partnership. So we’d thought this would be a good way to amend our little imperfections.”
“I see.” Isabelle looked to the man, judging him as the harder one to crack. “Well, it is my honest belief, in order to fix the problems of the present, you must go back to the beginning. Mr. Yuy, could you tell me about the first time you saw your wife?”
Hiroshi Yuy, better known as Heero, merely said, without dropping his crossed-arm stance, “We met seven years ago—”
Daniella Thomas, or the current Mrs. Heero Yuy, flicked a glance at him without breaking statute either. “It was eight.” Heero looked back at her. “It was actually eight years ago”—she added a tight smile for Isabelle’s benefit—”darling.”
Isabelle scribbled something then paused to tap her pen thoughtfully on the pad. “Do you remember where it was you met?”
Heero didn’t hesitate in answering. Isabelle figured that he wanted to quickly be done with the interrogation so that he could return to, well, whatever life—or lack thereof—he had with his wife outside of Isabelle’s office. “It was Madrid, during the spring—”
“Valladolid, actually,” Danie corrected. “And it was early fall, dear. Don’t you remember?”
Heero slanted a sideways look at his beautiful wife. Truth be told, it wasn’t exactly a nice look. “Well, it seems that your memory is much better than mine, so maybe I should let you answer the questions.”
Isabelle’s eyebrows drew together at the underlying resentment in Heero’s tone. Before she could speak, Danie responded, “No, darling, you’re much better with the stories anyway.” She looked to Isabelle. “He’s a genius with stories. The stuff he tells me, you’d swear he was some sort of spy or something.” Danie’s laugh filled the room, and Isabelle watched intently Heero for his reaction. After a small glare, he merely grunted.
“Mr. Yuy,” Isabelle said, “do you mind? With minimal”—she eyed Danie meaningfully—”interruption? I would love to hear the story.”
Valladolid (or Madrid, maybe), Spain
Seven (or maybe eight) years ago
They met on a cool day that invited leisure out from its summer (or winter) confines. Heero had been with his twin sister, eschewing all enjoyment of the cool breeze by keeping a close eye on her—and all of the guys who admired her slim body clad in jeans and long-sleeved top. Even though she was now legally an adult, Heero still kept a tight hold on Crys. She was the only family he had, and he would not stand to lose her, no matter how much she balked. For him, the stranglehold was the ultimate declaration of love.
At that moment, Crys walked beside him, rosy and content after a nice meal of lechazo with salad and fine wine. Or at least that was what Crys let her brother think; in actuality, Crys was still aglow from a text message she had received from the man she loved—but Heero would gut him if he knew about it, so Crys kept that little tidbit to herself.
“So I am still trying to figure out why you dragged me all the way out to Spain for a week,” Crys said. “As beautiful as it is, we could have stayed at home.”
Heero raised an eyebrow at her. The truth was he was there for a job that he had to do later on that night when Crys was sleeping—but he wasn’t about to admit that. “And there is something that is more important at home, Crys?”
Crys tried not to let on that she was thinking about Quatre and instead turned up the indignation. “Is that your way of asking me if I have a boyfriend?”
Heero turned sharp eyes upon his twin. “Well, do you?”
Crys shoved him. “Stay out of my business, Heero. Even if I did, it wouldn’t matter.” Before Heero could refute that statement, Crys added, “I think we should be more worried about you.”
Crys could only laugh as they sidestepped a Spanish couple talking rapidly in clipped tones. “Heero, for God’s sake, lighten up. I had hoped this vacation you had invited me out for would show me that you’ve changed, but you’re still the same.”
“What? I can’t want to spend time with my sister?”
Crys looked at him dubiously. “You have an ulterior motive, Heero, whether you’ll admit it or not. I’d think I’d see pigs fly if you didn’t have a reason for bringing me out here.”
“Like I said,” Heero said tightly, “I wanted to spend some time with you. We haven’t seen each other that much the last few months.”
Crys sighed. “I know.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “You know, if you don’t like your job at the firm, why don’t you quit? It takes you all over the place for some stupid computers and I rarely ever see you.”
“Well, my job is very important,” Heero told her. “It keeps you safe.”
Crys frowned, not understanding what Heero meant but know it did mean something he wasn’t telling her. It came to no surprise to her that he had secrets—after all, he was Heero Yuy—but she wondered what his big secret was, and if it was honestly so weighty and important that he had to keep it from her.
“I still think you could work closer to home and still keep me safe,” Crys pointed out.
“What, so I can see you and Quatre Winner fawning all over each other?”
Crys’s Prussian blue eyes widened for a moment before they narrowed in the infamous Yuy death glare. “How did you know—?”
“I know much more than you think I do, sister.” He gestured to her purse. “Especially about that cell phone that Quatre gave you to stay in touch.”
They walked along for a few humming moments as Crys tried to ascertain how Heero felt about this and Heero himself tried to stifle his loneliness. He didn’t want Crys to know about it; he had tried for most of their lives to protect her, even to the point that he locked her away when he went off on a mission (not telling her what he was really doing of course). They had fought over it—she had even threatened at times not to talk to him ever again for keeping such a tight grip on her—but as he sunk deeper into his job, that vise-like grasp began to loosen. Crys was thankful, but she also felt a bit of sadness, for Heero was not as good at keeping his feelings secret as he thought he was.
Before Crys could say something on the subject, a tall, raven-haired woman in a cropped white racer-back tank underneath a denim jacket and a flowing skirt was walking quickly toward them. Her eyes were hid behind dark glasses, so it was not clear where she was looking, though it was very clear to Heero that she wasn’t watching where she was going.
A moment later, a group of guys came tearing around the corner toward the woman. One grabbed her arm roughly and the others crowded around menacingly. Crys’s eyes widened and her face fell into a mask of indignation. Heero knew what she was going to do before she did and tried to restrain her.
“Dammit, Heero--” Crys began.
“This isn’t your business,” Heero told her firmly, trying to steer her away. “I’m sure the girl can take care of herself.”
“Like hell!” Crys exclaimed and shook herself from his grasp. “What if they hurt her and we do nothing about it? How would you feel then?”
Before Heero could hold her back any longer, Crys swung away from him and toward the stand-off. “Hey!” she yelled loudly, shifting the guys’ attention. “Let her go right now.”
Heero cursed under his breath as one of the dark-haired guys snorted at Crys. He dimly admired his sister’s courage, but it reared its ugly head at the most inopportune moments. “Stay out of our business, chiquita,” the guy said in a heavily-accented voice. “What happens to this puta is none of your business.”
“Hey!” exclaimed the woman. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t call me vulgar names, thank you.”
“What I call you should be the least of your concerns now,” the man growled. “I’d be worried about whether or not I let you live if I were you.”
“Thank God you’re not me,” the woman shot back. “I’d hate to see you prancing around here in a pair of my Ferragamos with those alligator feet of yours.”
The man started to go for the woman’s throat perhaps in hopes of shutting her up, but he underestimated Crys’s indignation; Crys swung out with rather haphazardly forceful aim, and the blow caught the guy in the ribs. The others were so stunned that it took their ringleader shouting out an order to “take care of that puta” for them to jump into action.
“Goddammit Crys—” Heero groaned, and pushed her out of the way before she could get hurt. With lethal accuracy, Heero subdued two of the thugs and they fell out, unconscious. After she got over her own initial shock, the woman struck out herself, delivering an effective left jab that had her near-attacker staggering. She followed up with a right cross to his chin that made his teeth knock together. She whirled on her heel and found herself face-to-face with an incensed Heero Yuy.
They stared at each other for a long moment before Danie ducked into La Mina nearby. Calling after her, Crys tried to catch up and Heero had no choice but to follow her into the semi-busy restaurant.
They found her quickly, sitting on her own with a glass of wine. Crys walked up to her and spoke before Heero could even open his mouth. “Ohmigod!” she cried breathlessly. “You have got to show me how you did that! My brother won’t even teach me how to properly throw a punch.” She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at her other half. “I’m starting to think he doesn’t want me to know how to defend myself.”
“You don’t need to know how to fight,” Heero told her. “I’m here to protect you.”
“But you can’t be everywhere every time,” the woman pointed out. “What happens if someone attacks her and you’re not there? Let me guess,” she added when Heero started to speak, “you’ve thought of this already and are planning on locking her inside of a bulletproof room whenever she has to be out of your sight for any length of time.”
“Been there, done that,” Crys revealed. “But you forgot the motion detectors.” Heero slid a glare her way, but she just stuck out her tongue at him.
The woman laughed. “You’re just as bad as me and my sisters.” She placed the wine aside and held out her hand. “I’m Danie Thomas, by the way. And thanks for coming to my rescue.”
“The name’s Crys Yuy.” Crys jerked a thumb in her brother’s direction after shaking Danie’s hand. “And this is my twin Heero. You’ll have to forgive him. He makes it his life’s goal to act like a social pariah.”
“I wouldn’t have guessed that, not at all.” She paused for a moment. “I know I’ve only met you two a second ago, but I would appreciate it greatly if you had dinner with me. I’m all alone here, and…”
Crys flashed Danie a bright smile as she grabbed her brother’s arm. Since they were telepathically linked, she could smell his refusal even before it came out of his mouth. “Would you excuse us?”
Danie only blinked as Crys dragged Heero some feet away where Danie was out of earshot. The highlights in her dark blonde hair jumped out under the intimate lighting in La Mina and reminded Heero how different they were. He was dark, and she was blessedly, miraculously light. A part of him wanted to please her, to give in to her every request, but the other part of him knew that he could not be that indulgent. If his sister was to remain pure, he had to protect her from all evils—even ones that had not shown themselves yet. Wickedness could be like a virus, and Heero didn’t want his twin around this Danie Thomas if there was the slim chance that she could infect his sister, so to speak.
Even more, deep down inside, he wondered what sort of conversation he could have with such a beautiful woman like Danie…
“No,” Heero said, not even giving Crys a chance to ask and breaking himself from his thoughts. “We’re not staying.”
“Heero—please?” Crys begged. “We’re just keeping her company is all. And if something suspicious does happen, you can jump in, kick ass, and save the day. You’re the best at that.” Pause. Heero didn’t seem moved. Crys decided to change tactics and appeal to the soldier side of him. “I know you’re not scared, are you? Because you’re acting like you’re not capable of sitting down and—”
“Let’s get this over with,” Heero interrupted. As he walked past her, Crys did a small gesture of triumph before she turned around and followed him.
* * *
“And that’s the story of how you met,” Isabelle remarked, scrawling her impressions of the way the story was told and the story itself on her pad.
“It’s probably not the most romantic, but the story is ours,” Danie said, earning a glance from Heero.
“What happened next?” Isabelle inquired. “I’m assuming there was another connection point that led you two to the conclusion that you were attracted to each other or even could spend the rest of your lives together.”
For a spell there was nothing but silence. Then Heero commented simply, “I think you’d better tell this part, Danie.”
Danie cackled, a sound Jeff Murdoch would have dubbed a head laugh. “Oh, nonsense. You’re the storyteller, dear. Isn’t he doing a fine job so far?” She declared to Isabelle.
Isabelle had many fancy degrees hanging on the walls of her office, had traveled to all seven continents at least once, had even had a stint singing on Broadway (a rather over-rated experience), and still the only word she word on her pad for this was Bullshit.
“Do you mind, Mr. Yuy?” Isabelle asked, sighing.
“Not at all,” Heero replied, though his tone of voice indicated that he did mind. Isabelle pursed her lips together and listened.
Later on that night, Heero left Crys sleeping in their room at the Hotel Imperial. He turned off the TV as the credits rolled on Center Stage, knowing that Crys would sleep heavily until morning. That helped him with the thought of leaving her, even though he knew she was perfectly safe in the hotel.
He pulled the blanket up to her chin before grabbing his gun. After taking one last look at her, he slipped from the room without making so much as a creak on the floor. When he was walking through the lobby of the Imperial, he slipped and earpiece in his ear, and the encrypted phone in his pocket vibrated, signaling a new phone call. He knew who that was.
“I’m leaving now,” Heero said without preamble.
“I thought you’d be almost there by now,” came the jovial male voice on the other end. “Let me guess: Crys cornered you with another movie marathon.”
“She doesn’t know why we’re here,” Heero reminded him. “And if I have it my way, she never will. Do you have any new information on Firestar that I could possibly use?”
“Nothing yet, buddy. We’re hoping the package will have the papers our source said it would. I would have hated to send you out all the way to Spain for bullshit, you know?”
“You’re not the only one.” Heero came to his transportation for the evening: a black sporty coupe. He pushed a button and the locks unlatched with a click. He got into the car smoothly and closed the door in one swift movement. “I’ll contact you when I have the package.”
“I’ll be waiting. Just try and make sure you don’t get yourself hurt this time, okay?”
“I won’t make any promises,” Heero admitted and ended the call. He started the car then roared off into the night without a backward glance.
His destination was la Iglesia de San Pablo where he was supposed to meet the source who had claimed to have information about the ruthless assassin only known as Firestar. The assassin had supposedly killed the pacifist politician Relena Peacecraft and her brother Millardo, and, as time went by, the rumors seemed to become fact. Heero and his associates had been commissioned with the investigation and termination of the assassin known as Firestar, and the investigation had already taken eighteen months. It had felt like the longest eighteen months of his life.
Heero parked his car a block or two away from San Pablo, lucky that there weren’t that many people out this time of night. He walked the remainder of the way to the church, staying aware of his surroundings. He didn’t sense anyone dangerous, but that didn’t mean trouble wouldn’t show itself. He was smart enough to know that the mission wasn’t going to be quite complete when he walked out of San Pablo alive, but at least then a big hurdle would have been conquered.
The front door was unlocked, so he let himself inside. Candlelight flickered in the vast, beautiful emptiness, and it took a few moments for Heero’s eyes to adjust. He recalled the location of the pew where the packaged would be taped underneath, silently counted pews.
When he got to the right one, he dropped down the ground. He felt along the bottom of the aged wood until his fingertips brushed a box. He clasped the box and ripped it from the adhesive that kept it attached to the pew. It was the size of a box of Jell-O and just as light. Could it be possible that redemption came in a box this small? For all he knew, there could be a brooch hiding in there and not his precious information. It could be anything. He resisted the urge to rip the package to shreds to get what was on the inside; he wanted to burn the packaging himself when he was alone, and he wasn’t about to do that here.
With the cardboard package in his hand, he looked up at the grand figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary, transfixed for a moment by her beauty and serenity. He almost offered up a prayer, but figured it would be foolhardy. What could a prayer do at this rate?
Thinking of nothing but completing his mission, Heero took the package and walked out of the church.
On the way back to the hotel, Heero glanced in his rearview mirror and saw a car as dark as his own trailing him. It had been there for several blocks, and he decided to be cautious and assume it was a threat. He sped up a little. The other driver did the same. Setting his mouth in a firm line, put the car in a higher gear and stomped on the gas. The coupe’s engine protested slightly, but the car went from forty-two to seventy in one and a quarter second.
Heero was not able to elude the person for long; within ten seconds and a strange curve on la Plaza de San Miguel, the person was on Heero’s bumper.
“Shit,” Heero cursed under his breath. The person fell back for a moment only to give him a body-jarring bump a moment later. Eyes stormy blue, Heero pushed the car up to eighty five and skidded left onto la Calle de San Benito. His pursuer took a more precarious skid but still kept up. Heero maneuvered the rocketing car down San Benito with a little room for mistake; the road was tricky and his assailant obviously knew the road better than he did.
“You care not going to catch me,” Heero said to the car in his rearview.
Time seemed to slow at that moment, going in agonizing drips. Heero’s sight fixated upon the figure in the car behind him, recognizing a woman’s face. His mind worked to place the features amid the duress of working his way down San Benito, and he lost mental grip on his driving. The woman slammed him hard one more time, and Heero’s coupe was thrown into a skid. He felt himself losing control of the car, and time came to a jarring halt when he crashed into a tree at eighty five miles per hour.
After several moments, Heero willed himself out of entropy. He was hurt, and quite badly, but, as he assessed himself, it would have been worse. The car had been made of reinforced steel, so it was a bit more durable than consumer vehicles and had protected him from a nastier crash. Still, he knew he couldn’t stay there long. He could smell the gas and the smoke that whispered of a fire nearby. Finding some deep-down strength, Heero wrenched the car door open and fell out into the street. He dragged himself out on his elbows until his feet were freed. On his hands and knees on broken glass, Heero forced himself to stand, and gritted his teeth against the searing pain. He should be dead, he told himself, but somehow he was not.
The package was now flattened against him where it had been hiding under his black shirt, and his eyes darkened at the realization.
When the gas and the growing fire found each other, the coupe exploded in a million pieces, and Heero was sure that the fireball that rocketed up to the sky was seen from miles away. He inwardly cursed as he thought about the fact that the package was ruined and his mission was so blatantly incomplete.
And then, as if the Heavens above wanted to throw him a tall, vivacious curveball, Danie Thomas appeared out of nowhere.
“Holy fucking shit,” she breathed in awe, the firelight reflected in her eyes. A group of tourists who had been on their way back to their hotels from the various restaurants in the area fled in the direction of the fire, curious about what had happened. Danie hesitated when she saw Heero limping toward her, and confusion flitted across her pretty features before she spoke. “Hey—what the hell are you doing out here?” she demanded. “And why are you limping like that?”
“I would appreciate it if you stayed out of my business,” Heero said tersely. He suddenly wished he had prayed before leaving San Pablo.
“It’s a little hard not to notice a man limping down the street at the dead of night,” Danie shot back. “I’m gonna take a wild guess and say that was your car that turned into a two-ton firecracker back there.”
“I’m fine. Go home or wherever it is you came from.”
No sooner were the words out of his mouth did his knees buckle. Danie muttered an expletive and caught him under the armpits, surprised at his weight. He was lanky and seemed slight, but she supposed that perhaps he was made of more muscle than she could see.
“All right, where are you staying?” Danie grunted, trying to shift his weight in her grasp so that he would be easier to carry.
“Hotel Imperial,” Heero mumbled. “But I can get there by myself…”
“Yeah right,” Danie countered. “And Hanson can sing the blues.” She rose to her feet and carried him over her shoulder. She had a couple unsteady moments before walking forward.
He didn’t remember much until he found himself in his hotel room, lying on top of the freshly made bed. He could smell the lingering scent of the popcorn Crys had consumed during their movie marathon mixed with his sister’s signature perfume and another vaguely familiar smell. The tang of blood.
With a groan, Heero shifted, testing his range of motion. He found that his knee was stiff from the injury he had sustained, but he could fix that in a little while. His other senses appraised the room and felt two other people near him. His eyebrows furrowed as he remembered Danie—then his twin. Two?
He opened his eyes abruptly and found Danie standing over him with her thumbs hooked in her belt loops—and Crys assaulting him with the patented Yuy glare.
“Where were you?” Crys wanted to know, enunciating each word until they came from her lips like three verbal blows.
“I just needed some air,” Heero responded, “so I went out for a walk. You were sleeping. I didn’t want to bother you.”
Crys’s face contorted with fury. “A walk? At midnight? Hiroshi Yuy, I oughta—”
Sensing the heightened emotions from both of them, Danie placed an arm on Crys’s vibrating shoulder. “Crys—I would yell at him later, preferably when it’s daylight and everyone else around you is awake. And make it good. But you both need sleep now.”
Heero braced himself. There was no telling what Crys would do in her enraged state. He knew that he had a bad temper, but there were moments that his sister simply outgunned him. She could be downright terrifying sometimes. He knew she could say the same of him sometimes, but it was a part of their bond.
And perhaps, because of that, Crys took one, long considering look at her brother and stood down. “In the morning then,” Crys promised, the heat in her voice rapidly cooling. “But you’ve got some explaining to do!”
“Then I’ll leave you two,” Danie said with a nod. Her gaze lingered on Heero a moment before she patted Crys’s shoulder. There was a bit of curiosity there along with something else Heero couldn’t read. “Good night.”
“Good night, Danie. And thank you.”
“Anytime.” With that, Danie showed herself out, leaving her fiery presence and freesia scent in her wake.
Once Danie had closed the door behind her, Crys crashed onto the bed next to her brother. For a while, they just stared at the ceiling silently, trying to figure out what exactly what to say to each other. As anger faded, and the duo became wrapped up in their togetherness, Crys exhaled.
“Are you going to shower in the morning?” Crys asked.
“We’re burning those clothes. They reek to high heaven.”
“Oh yeah, and another thing. If you ever leave me like that ever again, I’m gonna make you wish you were never born to wreak this kind of havoc on my nerves, capice?”
Heero closed his eyes as fatigue washed over him again. “Duly noted.”
After Heero finished, Isabelle sat for a moment, taking it in. She took off her glasses and set them aside before speaking.
“Very interesting circumstances,” Isabelle remarked idly. “Did you see each other again?”
“Crys and I kept in touch, and it turned out that my cousin Jennifer lived near them,” Danie explained. “So Crys asked me to come over and visit. And one day, I suppose…” Danie looked sidelong at her husband, something inexplicable in her eyes. Isabelle noted this. “We got used to each other.”
“So it seems to me that your sister was instrumental in bringing you two together, Mr. Yuy,” Isabelle observed. “Tell me, what does she think of the current state of things?”
A few days ago, present day.
“That damned Danie!” Crys exclaimed angrily. “I’m going to kick her ass for making you unhappy.”
Oh yeah. Right. He had almost forgotten about her temper.
“Calm down, Crys,” Heero cautioned firmly. He had a horrifying vision of his sister suddenly telling him her water was broken. He wasn’t ready for that yet. “You’re in a delicate state.”
“I’ll show you delicate state, Heero Yuy! And that wife of yours!” Heero sighed, shaking his head in disbelief. “Have you even attempted to tell her how you feel about things? Maybe she doesn’t realize that something’s wrong. Though, that wouldn’t seem to be a surprise to me since you two fell into this way too fast.”
Heero eyed her unwaveringly. “What are you trying to say? Are you trying to say I made a mistake?”
Crys paused, her fingertips over the wooden spoon. “Do you really want to know what I think?”
“Even if I don’t, you’re going to tell me anyway.”
Crys’s eyes narrowed at that little jab but dismissed it—for now. She picked up the spoon and beat at the brownie mix again. There were a few lumps she hadn’t quite eradicated yet, and she needed the exertion. “In my opinion, she’s your total opposite. She speaks when you don’t, she is hot where you’re cold, she’s flashy where you are quite minimal. She is definitely not the woman I would have imagined you spending the rest of your life with.”
“No,” Heero murmured, thinking of a blond woman—and the elusive assassin who had ended her life. “She’s not what I imagined either.”
“But you picked her for a reason. It may not be totally clear now, but I’m sure that you had one. Heero Yuy never does anything without a reason.” Crys shifted to grab the brownie pan. “And I hope that reason is something you can live with. If not, you’ve been living a lie for five years.”
“Or six,” Heero said automatically. Crys gave him a look. “What?”
“You don’t now how utterly awful it is that you can’t remember how long it is you’ve been married, Heero.”
Heero raised an eyebrow at her. “Can you?”
“Six years, eight months, fifteen days, eleven hours, and thirteen minutes.” She beamed triumphantly at her glowering brother. “So ha.”
Heero merely said, “Showoff.”