HUGE thanks to belladonnalin and emmytie for the betas/encouragement!
The Preventers had jurisdiction--or what passed as such--over the three major Alliances that made up Earth, the three original and two rebuilt colonies, and a smattering of other stations and holdings throughout the known galaxy. It was a slightly more diverse power base than Oz's had been, although not by much. The difference, really, was in the way relations were handled.
Une had been raised bilingual. Her father, a General, had insisted. By the time she'd finished seconday school and taken up her orders, she could speak three languages. As Treize's aid, she'd expanded to four.
Being head of the Preventers required more. She felt, consistently, as though she was speaking the wrong language, that people could not understand. That if people could, they were not listening. Unable to change that, Une did what she did best: buried herself in a book and learned another language.
Trowa Barton wasn't on Une's payroll, but if she needed a favor, he was generally willing to come through. Granted, at first this had been because she always sent Wufei or Heero to do the asking, but he was slowly warming to the idea, that really, whatever he was doing, it was at her request on some level. She sent a message to him on one of the secure channels she knew Wufei used to reach him and waited.
It was a few days before her phone rang. She picked it up and he asked. "You want me to help you with your French?"
He sounded perplexed, inasmuch as he ever sounded anything. She said, "Not as a favor, or anything. I'll pay."
There was a long silence before he asked, "You realize most people on L3 speak either Japanese or English."
It wasn't exactly a question. She said, "And use the fact of it being their second or third language as an excuse to not understand when they so please."
"There are translators for that."
"Have one that I could fully trust in mind? Off the top of your head?" Une kept her voice even. She wasn't looking for a fight.
"You have issues," Trowa told her. She couldn't tell if it was a joke or not. She needed to see him for that. Sometimes, even then, it wasn't precisely clear.
"I hadn't noticed," she said. Trowa made a sound that might have been a laugh, maybe.
"Your accent makes it sound like a monkey trying to speak human," Trowa told her. She had come to him, or, well, she'd been in the same country, so it had seemed only pertinent to take a side trip.
"Your level-headed encouragment makes me feel as though I'm progressing."
He smiled a little, small and hard to read, but more than she was used to seeing from him. She thought maybe the circus was a good influence.
"Why are you so nervous about trusting a translator?" he asked, as though they hadn't had this same conversation at least four times by that point.
"Why does it bother you so much?"
Trowa paused. "Because even Heero will use translators if need be."
"She doesn't need to, not really. She speaks English, Japanese and Arabic. Heero speaks all five colonial languages and two Earthian ones that I know of. If she needs to understand something, she can ask him."
"She wouldn't even if she couldn't," Une said. There was no proof of this, but she knew in her heart that it was true.
Trowa tilted his head, but didn't say anything, inviting her to continue. Une had been trained to withstand all sorts of questioning techniques, what she'd never quite learned was when she should talk. She took a chance and said, "It's hard enough, getting men to look at your face, listen to your words. Hard enough without extra disadvantages. There are few enough of us, few enough women who have to do it, must. There are some things that are just...facts."
Trowa straightened his head slowly and told her, "Your accent really is terrible."
"Let's start there, then."
"Heero says you think I'm afraid of interpreters," Relena said, toward the end of Une's weekly phone call to her--a courtesy, to let her know the state of peace-keeping from the Preventer's standpoint.
"Does he?" Une asked calmly. She doubted it. The cadence wasn't Heero's at all.
"Well, he said that Trowa said that you used me in some kind of explanation as to why you won't use them."
Une paused for a second. "Out of curiosity--"
"They gossip worse than proverbial thirteen year old girls."
"Ah." Une couldn't tell if she was surprised or not. A lot of the men in Oz had as well, but she'd never really been invited to join.
"Aren't you going to ask me what I said in response?"
Une hadn't been aware that that was the expected response, but her father hadn't really been concerned with socializing her all that well. "What would that have been?"
"That not all of us had the option of a fair fight when we were in enemy territory."
Une sucked in her breath. "And, um--"
"Oh, we made it up to each other with sex."
Une really, really wasn't a blushing virgin, but she started at that. "That's...good."
Relena laughed. "Wanna teach me Chinese some day when you have the time?"
It took a second, but Une laughed too.
Trowa called. Une picked up the phone. "Ça va?"
"Oui, et toi?" he said and talked for a bit, not long, Trowa never spoke for all that long.
It took her a second to realize it had been entirely in French. It wouldn't have taken her long, except that she'd understood all of it. She smiled to herself and opened her mouth to respond.