Author's note: I do not own Gundam Wing or its characters. This is set after Endless Waltz.
Relena knew that her friend would much prefer to wear a uniform, any sort of uniform, to this party rather than the dress she was wearing. She personally thought Noin looked lovely. The sleeveless black taffeta gown clung to the older woman's curves before sweeping down into a skirt that hung just past her knees. The dress had a wide sash that tied into a bow at her left hip, and the deep v neck did an excellent job of hinting without being tacky. Combined with some light make up and black satin peep-toe pumps, Noin would be stunning and sure to attract attention.
And Relena knew that was what Noin wanted to avoid. The woman had no interest in any other man besides Zechs Marquise, and she didn't like having to deal with men who didn't seem to understand that. Often when she attended these things, Noin did so on Zechs' arm, and so the whole situation was avoided. However, Relena's brother had been sent off on a mission two weeks ago, and he wasn't scheduled to be back for another three weeks. That meant Noin was stuck attending the Valentine's Ball on her own.
With a soft sigh, Noin considered her reflection in the mirror. Then she pulled out a small grey jewelry pouch from her purse and slipped the necklace on. It was a lovely necklace, but that wasn't what interested Relena about it. It was the only necklace she had ever seen Noin wear. It was a silver heart that had a vine like pattern engraved on half of it. A cluster of four grey pearls accented it, and the whole thing was suspended on a black ribbon creating a necklace that was just a tad too long to call a choker. The necklace appeared almost every time Noin had a formal event to attend where she couldn't wear a uniform.
"Why do you always wear that?" the question slipped out before Relena realized it.
Noin smiled and touched the pendant. "It's my favorite. Besides, Zechs gave it to me years ago."
"Really?" It wasn't the type of thing Relena imagined her brother doing; of course, she didn't really know her brother all that well either.
Noin's smile widened. "Yes, really. Zechs was sixteen, and I was fifteen since Valentine's Day is three months before my birthday."
Noin sighed. Valentine's Day was not her favorite holiday. In part, she supposed that was because of the setting. A military school wasn't exactly the best environment to provide romance. It also didn't help that men out numbered women her about three to one. This was the one time of the year that her fellow students really took notice of the fact that she was female, and that meant putting up with being hit on, innuendos, and groping. Well, the later didn't happen frequently because everyone knew that she was good at hand to hand. Still, Noin would be much happier when the holiday was over.
Zechs did provide her with something of a defense. No one was going to harass her in his presence. However, that didn't mean that the other guys would leave her alone. They would just wait until Zechs wasn't around. As Zechs had never really staked a territorial claim on her, the other males at the school seemed to think she was up for grabs, and nothing Noin said would disabuse them of that notion. But while Zechs might not have publicly staked a claim on her, Noin was his, by her choice and by his.
So while Noin was quite happy with her relationship with Zechs, it didn't exactly do her any good right now. There were very good reasons that they kept the fact that they were anything more than friends quite. Noin was quite aware that she could be used to hurt Zechs if people did know. Besides, it also might require them explaining their connection, and telling people just why they had known each other from childhood was out of the question. They both had survived this long because no one knew about their connections to the Peacecraft. Noin might only have been the daughter of one of the Peacecraft's allies, but it had been enough to get her family killed.
She would survive Valentine's Day though. She always did. With another sigh, Noin settled into a quiet corner of the school's library. While she might be hiding, Noin preferred that to dealing with the idiots who attended school with her. She doubted anyone would find her here other than Zechs, and she wouldn't mind spending a few hours with a good book. It was a decent enough way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and it didn't take her long at all to lose herself in the pages of the novel.
Which was probably way she didn't hear the person approaching her until they were almost on top of her.
"Hiding are we?"
Noin looked up from her book to grin at Zechs. "Well, discretion is the better part of valor. Besides, you'd be doing the same thing if females out numbered males here. As it is, I bet just about every female in the school has tried to corner you to day."
He sighed. "Save present company. You're right."
"That's what you get for being handsome and mysterious."
"Thanks for the sympathy."
She swung her legs out of the window sill she was occupying, so he'd have some place to sit. "You have far less to complain about than I do. And no one is going to try and grope you. I haven't broken anyone's bones yet, but it could still happen."
"Would you mind giving me names?" He settled next to her in the window seat and tugged her over a little, so she was leaning against him.
"As I would prefer you to stay out of trouble, yes." Zechs did have an overprotective streak.
He let out a sigh. "Very well, but the offer still stands. I suppose I should thank you. I assume you are the one responsible for the book on my dresser this morning. If not, then I think I have a problem with people sneaking into my room."
Noin laughed. "Yes, that was me. Do you like it?"
She had found a first edition copy of Holes, and that had been her Valentine's Day present for him. It was not perhaps deathless prose, but Noin could still remember Zechs' mother reading it aloud to the two of them before bed one of the summers Noin had spent at the Sanc Kingdom's Summer Palace. So the story was rather special to both of them.
"Very much. Here. Happy Valentine's Day." Zechs dropped a small package into her lap.
Setting aside her book, Noin retrieved the little package. It was clumsily wrapped, but she didn't really care.
"You didn't have to get me anything, you know."
Zechs smiled at her. "And you didn't have to get me anything. I'd say we were even."
Noin shrugged as she started pulling apart the paper. "Fair enough."
It didn't take her more than a few moments to get the wrapping paper off and the box open. Noin couldn't help the little gasp that escaped when she pulled out the necklace. It was probably the nicest thing she had been given in years. Zechs reached out to take it from her hands and fasten around her neck.
"There." He touched the heart pendant with a single finger. "I thought it fit you."
She leaned in and kissed his cheek. "Thank you, Zechs."
Relena let out a soft sigh. "That's so sweet. He gave you his heart. Well, you probably had it already at that point, but still. No wonder you ignored every one who thought you were wasting your time pursuing a relationship with my brother. "
Noin just smiled, her fingers resting over her pendant. "Our friendship had really just started to turn into something romantic that year. But it was a sweet gesture, and the necklace is probably my favorite piece of jewelry. Besides, it's easy to ignore them. It's not like any one else really knows the full extent of our relationship. Most people just assumed I was taken with his reputation."
Heero popped his head into the room. "Are you ready?"
Noin made a face, and Relena couldn't help giggling.
"We'll be there in a minute, Heero."
The two women collected their purses and wraps before heading out to join Heero and make their way to the party. Relena took Heero's arm, and the three of them made their entrance. Relena couldn't help but thinking that while Noin might be without an escort for the party tonight, but she at least knew that she had her heart's desire, even if he wasn't here at the moment. Relena doubted that Noin was far from her brother's thoughts tonight.
Relena tried to keep an eye out for Noin as she circulated around the room. She was more than willing to provide an escape for the older woman if she got caught in a conversation with one of the men who pursued her. One of the politician's wives realized what she was doing and clucked and shook her head.
"I wish that girl would stop running after that brother of yours. No offense, dear, but it's such a pity to see her wasting her life trailing after that man like a puppy."
Relena glanced over at Noin who now had a cell phone pressed to her ear and soft smile on her face.
"You're wrong, you know. My brother might not be very good at expressing his feelings, but he does love Noin."
Noin closed her phone and slipped out of the room. Relena assumed that she had gotten called in to the office.
The politician's wife smiled patronizingly. "It's sweet that you think that. I wish I was still young enough to believe that sort of thing, but-"
Relena's laughter cut her off. Noin had reappeared in the ballroom. With Zechs at her side. Relena didn't know how her brother had managed to swing this, but the happiness on Noin's face was definitely worth it. The two shared a brief kiss before heading towards the refreshment table, Zechs' arm wrapped around Noin's waist. Relena smiled at the other woman.
"You were saying? I would say her faith is well placed. But then again, what do I know?"