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A Boarding School Facade - by Jooles*

 

Chapter 5.1 - A Christmas Interlude

 

Usual Disclaimer stuff....I think we get the point that I don’t own the show or its characters already.  If I did I would not be writing fanfiction. I’d be making another series of it for G’s sake!

 

Author Notes:  Just to be difficult I’ve divided this chapter into four parts.  Part One, Two, Three and Four.  Frankie and Elana Dorlian are Relena’s foster parents.  They own a gas-station/garage and a diner (Dorlian Diner).  Rashid manages it, and Hilde works there part-time.  Frankie is still recovering from a heart attack he had earlier on in the year.

 

St. Michael’s had shut its doors for the Christmas holidays.  Classes and dormitories were emptied.  The student-teacher body all but disappeared.  And the frosty bite in the atmosphere all but hinted at an oncoming siege of snow.

 

Relena’s drive back to Treventville was uneventful to say the least.  It was her arrival however, that held the entire dramatization.  Her foster mother, Elana met her at the door of the Dorlian Diner a box of champagne flutes in hand.  “Mum?”

 

Elana relaxed immensely at the sighting of her foster daughter’s presence. “Thank god you’re here Relena.”  In a matter of moments she had somehow loosened Relena’s grip on her school satchel and suitcase and had instead put in its place the box of champagne flutes.  “I really need your help at the Winner’s Christmas party tonight.”

 

Relena eased the box in her arms onto the outline of her hipbone.  “Of course I’ll help you mother.  I always help you with Quatre’s Christmas parties.”

 

Elana handed Relena another box.  This one was filled with crisp and clean white tablecloths that had been hired from the local Laundromat.  “It’s not Quatre’s Christmas party Relena.  You know better than anyone how he dislikes those things.  It’s that wretched step-mother of his that throws them.”

 

“That so-called wretched step-mother pays us a lot of money for catering them.”  Relena chided her mother.  It was common knowledge that not many of Treventville’s townspeople cared for Quatre’s stepmother, Quatre himself especially.  Disliking a person was certainly rare for Quatre.  He always tried to see the best in people, even in people who were downright criminal.  But the new Mrs. Winner was a terrible piece of work.  She was the worst king of a snob, young enough and pretty enough to be mistaken for one of Quatre’s many sisters, and worst of all she had Quatre’s father wrapped around her perfectly manicured finger.

 

“Yes I know dear.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like her any more for it.”

 

Relena rolled her eyes, “Whatever you say mother.  What do you want me to do with these boxes?”

 

Elana led Relena back out to her car.  “Keys?”

 

“Coat pocket.  Sorry, but my arms are kind of full.”  Elana reached into the tan pea coat Quatre had given her several years ago, retrieving the subject just spoken about.  She unlocked the door, allowing Relena to relieve herself of the weight in her arms.  “Can you drive these up to the Quatre’s?  This is the last stuff to go up there.  Hilde’s setting up already.  She’ll be glad to see you and Quatre.  She’s missed having you two around.  Actually we’ve all missed having you two around.”  Relena smiled at her mother, turning to get in the driver’s seat.  “Oh how silly of me!  Relena, give your old mother a hug.”  Relena was enveloped in the warmness of her mother’s slight body.  Relena leaned into Elana’s embrace.  Elana may not have been her blood mother by birth, but the bond that had developed between the two over the years was likened to that of mother and daughter.

 

“I missed you too mum.  Even if I wasn’t gone that long.”

 

Elana brushed a sandy bang away from Relena’s forehead, “Long enough for us to miss you.”

 

Relena gave her mother’s elbow a squeeze before getting in the car, “I’ll be back in an hour.”

 

As Elana watched Relena drive off in the pink VW Frankie had fixed up for her sixteenth birthday, she couldn’t help but feel as though she’d missed a milestone point of Relena’s growth.  She’d only been away a short while, yet she looked as though she’d gained the wisdom of an old maid, and the sadness of a spinster.  Something or some things had happened to Relena while she’d been at St. Michael’s and they’d changed Relena somewhat.  And Elana wasn’t sure if the change was for the better.

 

********************

 

The Winner estate was at the best of times a sprawling mass of pasture-like green.  But in the biting chill that was Treventville’s wintertime it was something akin to a winter wonderland.  Relena had spent much of her childhood years roaming the Winner estate with Quatre in tow.  Climbing the numerous oak tees, skinny-dipping in the creek, playing hide and seek amongst the undergrowth…It was those sort of innocent memories that were important to Relena.  They were the type of memories that helped smudge out the glumness that had descended when her parents were murdered.

 

Relena gazed up at the daunting mansion.  Mansions…  She hated them.  They were so large.  Just big blocks of concrete with expensive art deco added to them.  But the Winner mansion Relena had always admired.  It had a sense of antiquity about it.  And it wasn’t pitched out of concrete block.  Instead old-style tapestries (akin to Medieval times), antique oak furniture and slightly controversial yet beautiful paintings gave the sprawling home a warmness and style of its own.

 

“Relena, that you?”

 

Relena turned towards where the side door leading to the mansion’s kitchen; where the voice had come from.  Hilde stood with her hands on her hips dressed in a ratty pair of overalls that were distinctly splashed with flour and maybe a now dried, but once runny egg yolk.  There was no jacket or coat shielding her from the cold; Hilde instead choosing to brave the forces of nature to greet her friend.  Perhaps a suggestion of her character…Hardworking, dedicated, caring, loyal to her loved ones, in no way superficial and above all, courageous.

 

“Hilde!”  Relena cried as she strode towards the person in question.  “You have no idea how much I’ve missed you…” Hilde shook her head as Relena went to hug her, “Uh uh, I’m covered in baking crap.  Unless you want to ruin your coat, I wouldn’t recommend it.”  Relena stepped backwards a bit, but couldn’t help but grasp Hilde around the arms, a mirror of the familiarity and warmth that was shared between the two.  Hilde smiled at her.  She’d missed her friend terribly.  Things just hadn’t been the same with both Quatre and Relena gone.  She’d had to put up with the other hick-town kids.  The majority of which would probably drop out of school before the end of the year.  In admittance, it had been quite lonely for her with her two closest friends gone.  Luckily between work at the Dorlian’s gas-station and garage and the hordes of school work Hilde set herself to knowing, she hadn’t had too much time to feel lonely or sorry for herself.

 

“So you’re back for Christmas, but not for good?”  Hilde questioned, leaning against the snow-laden doorframe.  If Quatre’s stepmother were to find the two of them at that moment she would have told Hilde off for letting so much cold air into the kitchen.  “Come on inside, unless you want me to get in trouble with you-know-who.”  Hilde told her friend, pulling Relena by the arm of her tan pea coat.

 

“But I’ve still got to bring stuff in….” she began, but Hilde silenced her as she turned to face her friend once again.  This time a definite flush stained the usually creamy complexion of her skin.  “I’ve got something to tell you,” Hilde said, getting right to the point at hand.

 

“Okay.”

 

Hilde was silent, obviously a little embarrassed about whatever it was she was going to talk to Relena about.  “Oh come on Hilde.  It can’t be all that bad.”

 

Hilde smiled.  No, it wasn’t at all bad.  Quite the opposite, really.

 

“I met someone.”

 

“Here?”  Relena asked in startled disbelief.  “In Treventville?”  That was an impossible feat in itself.  Their hometown was such a small and uninteresting place.  And all the other teenagers their age were destined to grow up like their own hick-town parents.  “Impossible…”

 

Hilde shook her head impishly.  Not so impossible!  She had that wicked gleam in her eye, a sort of determined look you could call it.  “Uh uh.”

 

‘So, who is he?  And how did you manage to meet ‘someone’ here?  In Treventville?”  Relena questioned her friend, who was now idly wiping her dough-covered hands with a towel found lying near the kitchen bench top.

 

“I think he’s staying here with Quatre, or something.  Cause I met him while coming down the hall from Quatre’s room this morning – you know I wanted to catch up with him before his stepmum got all ‘Commandant’-like on me.”

 

“I wonder who he is…” Relena said more to herself than to Hilde.  Quatre hadn’t mentioned to her that he was to have friends staying with him during Christmas.  Not that he was obligated to or anything.  An idea of who the person could possibly be flickered in the recesses of Relena’s inquisitive mind.  Perhaps Quatre had invited the others back for Christmas…. Had it slipped his mind to tell her?? 

 

“-I was coming out of Quatre’s room when he saw me.”  Hilde continued with the telling of her story.  “He teased me about paying Quatre an early morning visit.  I suppose he was suggesting that me and Quatre were doing the ‘wild thang’ or something like that…”

 

“Why would he think that?”

 

“I dunno.  I suppose it did look kind of fishy, me coming out of Quatre’s room in the wee small hours of the morning.”

 

Relena nodded in agreement.  Quatre’s friend obviously hadn’t found out about his sexual preference yet. “Okay.  Carry on.”

 

“He winked at me suggestively…like he was saying ‘someone’s been getting some’.  And you and I both know that the day we ‘get some’ from Quatre is the day Mozart rises from his grave.”

 

Relena couldn’t help but chuckle.  True – true.

 

“Anyway for some reason I explained to him that me and Quatre were friends and nothing more.  He got to asking me why we were just that, and I said as plainly as possible that we were almost like brother and sister.  Oh!  That reminds me, when I said that he muttered something like ‘Another one just like Lena.’  Did he mean you Relena?”  Hilde asked her friend, wanting to know more about the violet-eyed, braided boy she’d met earlier on in the day.

 

Relena had her suspicions of who of their friends from St. Michael’s Hilde had met that morning.  “What did he look like?”

 

Hilde flushed.  His looks were certainly striking, but they weren’t the most important thing.  For some reason it had been his charm and the wicked gleam in his eye that had won her over – although he didn’t even know he’d been won.  “Quite tall, kind of lanky looking.  He’s got these huge violet eyes that look kind of lazy, but you can tell are taking in everything around him.  And I suppose the most distinctive thing about him is his long hair.  It’s kind of a chestnut brown colour and is pulled back in a braid that runs all the way down his back….”

 

Relena didn’t even have to think hard to pinpoint which of her new friends had captured Hilde’s attention.  “Duo.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“His name’s Duo Maxwell.  He goes to school with us at St. Michael’s.”  Relena explained.  She crossed her fingers that Hilde wouldn’t go all girly on her and insist on hearing every singly minute detail about Duo.  Some things were left better unsaid.

 

“Duo Maxwell.”  Hilde tried the name out on her tongue, liking the sound of it.  Now she had a name to go with the face.  “I like him.”

 

Relena nodded.  “I like him too.  He’s a good friend.”

 

“Only a friend though, right?”  Hilde looked at her worriedly.  It was rare for her to look worried.  She’d always been too carefree and uninterested when it came to matters of the heart.

 

Relena nodded.  “You didn’t tell me the rest of your story.”

 

Hilde had begun flattening the contents of the dough she’d made into a square on the bench.  Relena wrinkled her nose.  Her own attempts at baking had never been that profound.  She preferred to stick with serving the food up.  Hilde however was quite talented in that she could cook, waitress, succeed in school and fix a car.  At the best of times Relena could ably change the tyre of a car.  And although she couldn’t cook she made up with her smooth moves when it came to waitressing.  And her schoolwork wasn’t too bad either.

 

Hilde talked as she flattened the dough even more so with a marble rolling pin.  “It’s nothing really.  We kind of got to talking about silly things like Christmas and reindeer and how Quatre’s always trying to do the right thing.  Trivial things really.  I guess you could say that the way he talked charmed me in a way.”  She’d begun to plunge Star-like cookie cutters into the dough.  “Funny eh?  I never thought I’d be the type to fall for a guy after talking with him for just a couple of minutes.  Weird…”

 

Relena shrugged.  She wasn’t one to talk.  The guy she liked was as unfriendly as people came.  He had a major attitude problem.  He didn’t like talking much, if anything at all.  And the most common word you could get out of him was ‘hn’, and Relena didn’t count the sound caused from gritting one’s teeth together as a word.  But the way Heero made the sound so often, one could almost mistake it as one. …. ‘part of his vocabulary’…..Relena mused.

 

“Hey Hilde, did Quatre bring anybody else back with him?”  Relena asked suddenly interested at the prospect that their other friends from St. Michael’s might also be spending Christmas with the Winner family and friends.

 

Hilde tilted her head to one side, a raven bang flopping onto her forehead.  “Not sure…though Quatre’s wing of the house did look kind of occupied more than usual this morning.”

 

That was confirmation enough for Relena.  She wondered if Heero was amongst the others staying with Quatre.

 

“Hey, what’s the time?” 

 

Hilde pointed to the clock near the door.  Relena’s hour was almost up.  She needed to get back to the Diner to change for the evening.  “I’ve got to go.  Are you working tonight?”

 

Hilde shook her head.  “No way…I’m an invited guest you know!”

 

Relena smiled. She’d been invited also.  But Elana needed her help more.  And Mrs. Winner’s Christmas party was after all just that – another Christmas party.  Waving at her friend, Relena called out as she made her way out the door, “It’s good that you’re a guest.  You can blow Duo away with those dance moves we learnt over summer.”

 

Hilde shook her head at her friend.  Relena was only teasing.  She didn’t however deny the fact that she was planning to ‘blow Duo away’.  She’d wear a dress – nothing fancy of course, and boogie the night away.  She didn’t plan on making a dramatic appearance or hang off Duo’s every word. She did however plan to catch up with him and even ask him for a dance or two.  If they clicked they clicked.  Hilde couldn’t help but silently pray that they did. 

 

He’d had such a charming smile.

 

********************

 

Relena trekked back to her car, her boots making a mushy sound as her feet pushed themselves into the flaky bits of snow laden on the ground.  Relena wondered what it would be like to have a Christmas without snow.  It seemed somewhat criminal to her; no snow at Christmas time.

 

Opening the door Relena forgot that the reason she’d driven to the Winner estate in the first place was so that she could deliver the boxes of champagne flutes and tablecloths.

 

Kicking at the ground, as though snow was actually laden on the ground, Relena couldn’t help but moan a little in frustration.  “Nice one.” She muttered.

 

Picking up the two boxes that she somehow managed to awkwardly balance in her arms, she turned to make her way back to the kitchen where Hilde was surely to tease her relentlessly about her featherbrain traits.  Not that she really was one.  She just tended to get a tad carried away sometimes.

 

“Ahh!”  She almost dropped the two boxes in her arms.  Upon turning around she’d promptly met the stature of the person she’d been pondering on while Hilde had chatted about Duo. 

 

Heero.

 

He stood no more than three feet from her, standing in a casual stance, dressed in jeans and what looked to be his own version of a suede pea coat.  His dark hair looked just as tousled as it always did, and his ingrained smirk was in place.  His eyes however, suggested his own surprise at seeing her.  If she hadn’t met his own piercing gaze with her own inquiring one, she would be in question at his reaction to seeing her.

 

You could never tell a lie when it came to eyes.  Even with cold, distant and merciless ones.  Heero’s eyes were no different.  Relena knew that if she weren’t careful she’d lose herself in the midst of his Prussian blue eyes.  No matter how cold callous and unrelenting his stare was.

 

“Heero?”

 

He nodded at her.  Okay – well at least he’d acknowledged her presence.

 

“What are you doing here?”  She asked while struggling with the box of tablecloths.  Her balancing act had been jilted when she’d flinched in the surprise she’d felt when she’d first seen Heero.

 

“Staying with Quatre.”

 

“Uh huh.”  Her small hands attempted to push the box back on top. “For Christmas?”

 

He nodded once more.

 

“Are you going to the party tonight?”  She tried a new topic of conversation.

 

He shrugged.

 

Relena gritted her teeth in irritation.  She couldn’t help but sarcastically think about how he was such the conversationalist!  He had wonderful talking skills.  In fact he could probably run for conversationalist of the year with the skills of diplomacy he had.

 

She started to walk towards the kitchen, wanting to leave Heero standing by himself, the way he’d left her by herself numerous times that term.

 

But he stopped her.

 

He was always doing that sort of thing to her.  Stopping her mid-stride.  With a word, a gesture, the glint in his eye.  It was disturbing this power he held over her.

 

And yet, she got an alarmingly strange sort of buzz out of it.  If he was capable of doing strange things to her, did that mean that she did the same to him??

 

Heero stepped in her path, pulling the top box she was carrying into his own arms.  “I’ll help you.”

 

He didn’t have to say much.  Words weren’t always needed between them.  Even though Relena sometimes wished he’d say more.  But she was smart enough to be content with his gesture of citizenship.

 

It was funny.  There were so many quirks to their relationship.  They could have been boyfriend and girlfriend.  But Relena wasn’t even sure if they were friends. 

 

And she wasn’t sure that she wanted to be friends.

 

She’d always had bigger plans for Heero.

 

As they trekked their way towards the kitchen, Relena studied his profile.  He probably knew she was staring at him.  Just as she knew when he was watching her.  Before he turned to meet her own gaze, she turned her head. 

 

It was like a game for her.  And for him.

 

But with him here, in her hometown, amongst her friends and family for Christmas, she had the upper hand.  She stood an awfully favourable chance of winning the game this time ‘round.  She turned this time to meet his own gaze.  There was a hidden longing in those eyes, masked by sheer determination not to give in.  Not to be weak.  Not to let desire – longing – and dear she say it, love get in the way of his mission.  Whatever the personal mission he had actually was….

 

“Thanks.”  Relena hummed as he gruffly handed the box back to her.  “I’ll see you at the party tonight.”

 

“You’re going?”

 

She chose her next words carefully.  “Well, I was invited.  But my mum needs me to waitress instead.”

 

“You’re working?”

 

She nodded.  They didn’t say any parting words.  They only ever said what was in fact needed to be said.  She mused that he didn’t often say what he really – deep in his heart wanted to say.

 

Maybe someday he would.  When he finally could face it.

 

Until then, Relena would wait.

 

Oh…he had such beautiful eyes.

 

*********************

 

End Part One of Chapter Five….tbc