by Midii Une
There was no forgiveness for her, no way to change, Midii thought as she walked aimlessly, only wanting to get far away, someplace where she wouldn’t run into him again. Nanashi. . . Trowa. Tears of disappointment and regret blurred her vision. She was going to be trapped in a world of lies forever, she thought.
Suddenly a hand gripped her arm and yanked her back so hard that she stumbled against the person who grabbed her and she heard the shrieking sound of screeching tires and cringed as the driver berated her with a blast of obscenities.
Stefan Niente flipped the driver off as he sped off down the highway.
“Looks like I just saved your ass. Again. Some habits are hard to break, aren’t they Midii,” Niente said, his low, familiar voice echoing quietly above her head. She tried to pull away from him as she looked up and recognized the face that went with the voice. But Stefan knew her much better than Trowa did. He just laughed at her.
“Do you think I’m going to let you go out and play in traffic? That jerk just missed you,” he said.
“Stefan?” Midii said. “What are you doing here? Why don’t you just go back to whatever hole you crawled out of and leave me alone? I can take care of myself.”
“Obviously,” he said sarcastically. “I’m glad to see you too Midii.”
“Please just go away, I really don’t need this tonight,” she said, her voice cracking a little under the strain. There could only be one reason Stefan had appeared so fortuitously after so long an absence. He wanted something and right now she wasn’t in any condition to fend him off.
“Actually you do,” Stefan said. “I’ve been watching you these past weeks and it’s just not working out is it? You’re forgetting to pay the bills. And then there was tonight. What’d you do, get all sentimental and tell your boyfriend the truth about yourself? I can see that went over like a . . .”
He’d seen that tall guy go up to her apartment. He’d been up there long enough with her in the dark for Stefan to make an educated guess at what had been going on. She could be very seductive, when she wanted to be, even though he himself was not susceptible to her certain brand of charm.
Midii’s blue-gray eyes flashed angrily. “What? You were watching me?”
She pulled away from him and he let her go. He knew what would come next, hoped she’d stay true to form. He hastily hid a victorious grin as she turned back to him with tears in those big eyes of hers.
“It was him, Stefan. It was Nanashi,” she explained, tearfully. “He can’t forgive me, he won’t listen to me. You were right.”
Shit, Stefan thought, as she started to cry harder and he patted her hair awkwardly. “Shh, Midii. Please shut up, I mean stop crying, okay. I’m back and I’ll watch out for you. Just like before. We’re a team remember? Come on, you need a drink. You need it bad,” he said soothingly.
When she agreed to help him out this would all be worth it, he thought as he took his coat off and put it over her shoulders and led her to the nearest bar. “A bottle of whiskey, two glasses, no ice,” Niente told the waitress. “And make sure it’s top shelf,” he added.
He looked at her with sympathy in his eyes, eyes so dark a brown that they were nearly black. He patted her hand a little impatiently and thought a minute, then he spoke.
“I know how you feel,” he lied convincingly, still he was relieved that she wasn’t really up to par tonight or she’d pick up on his lies all too easily. “I’ve tried it too. Tried to take the straight and narrow path. They just won’t let us out of this life we’re in, will they? I understand you Midii. I’m the only one. I promise I’ll look out for you until you get it together. We’ll figure something out.”
She nodded barely listening and downed a shot of the whiskey. Midii grimaced as it burned in her throat. Was it only earlier this evening that she had opened the door to see Nanashi standing there, only a few hours ago that she’d been sitting beside him in the candlelight and everything had been like a dream? His lips on hers, his hands touching her face and she’d felt so happy, so right. Tears started falling again and she buried her face in her hands.
Stefan sighed, bored nearly to the point of crying himself. If she was stupid enough not to lie to this guy she should expect the reaction she must have gotten, he thought in annoyance. Still, it was a lucky chance for him, things had been going to well for her and he’d thought it would be harder to get to her. His eyes raked over the available females at the bar. A voluptuous brunette with startlingly pale blue eyes winked at him and he groaned under his breath. Not tonight dammit, he’d have to play Midii’s big brother, listen to her cry and hold her hand. She was really gonna owe him one now, he thought, as he poured her another drink.
Cathrine waited up expectantly for Trowa to return home from Midii’s apartment. She smiled to herself. He had certainly been gone a long time, things must be working out better than she could have dreamed. They were going to make a wonderful couple. She definitely needed someone to watch out for her and Trowa was so responsible. And she would lighten her brother up a little with her carefree ways and wicked sense of humor. A perfect match, Cathrine said to herself, almost hearing wedding bells.
And why not? Every other time she had set Trowa up like this he had been back within half an hour. He never had anything to say or any explanations to make. Cathrine always told herself he was just waiting for the right girl.
She looked at the clock, it was almost 1:30 a.m. Cathrine yawned and pulled the afghan over herself. “I’ll just rest my eyes a little,” she thought and drifted off to sleep.
He’d waited for her in the dark apartment for more than an hour, but she’d never come back. If she had he wasn’t sure what he’d have said. Or done. What was she up to? What was she doing here? Why the hell was he waiting for her?
Trowa pressed the button on his watch and the numbers lit up. 1:35 a.m. It didn’t look like she was coming back. He blew out the candle he had lit and left. He didn’t lock the door behind him because he didn’t think she had a key. When he stepped outside it was so cold he could see his breath mist in the frigid air. There wasn’t anyone in sight, she had disappeared like an ice cube in a cup of hot tea.
If he found her he wondered what he’d do. Try to shake an explanation out of her or hold her close so she wouldn’t leave and tell here that what was in the past didn’t matter. But it did matter, he thought, forcing himself back to the reality of the situation and pushing away memories of earlier in the evening. The sudden appearance of Midii Une was probably not a good sign. He was in the Preventer reserves, along with Quatre and Duo. For Heero and Wufei it was a full-time job. Trowa tried to think like a Gundam pilot again and he didn’t like what he thought. Like Cathrine had been earlier, he felt that Midii Une just had to be up to something.
He told himself that was the only reason he wanted to find her.
A sickening sensation of dizziness overwhelmed Midii when she opened her eyes to the unnatural darkness of a hotel room. The darkness was broken by the glow of a digital clock that read 1:45. She prayed it was 1:45 in the morning, but a glance at the window showed a line of intensely bright light that signaled that it was indeed afternoon. She couldn’t even think about where she was or what had happened the night before because the couch seemed to sway precariously and the room itself tilted and the thin line of light at the window blinded her eyes. Was I drinking? she thought, and a brief moment of concern that she hadn’t shown up at work today passed through her mind. But she couldn’t concentrate on that. She forced herself to concentrate on making the room stop spinning. Midii sat up and immediately her head throbbed with the beginnings of a killer hangover and all that mattered was finding a bathroom. Now.
Stefan heard the sound of running steps, heard a door get flung open and then the inevitable aftermath of a night of hard drinking. At least she’d made it back to his car last night before passing out, he thought gratefully. He sighed and got up to open the bathroom door a crack and hand her a toothbrush.
What the hell was Stefan doing here, Midii wondered. How many times in the past had they gone through this little ritual of whooping it up after a completed mission, getting rid of all the tension and fears and celebrating their inevitable successes? It all came back with a mind-numbing jolt. She had found Nanashi, he was Cathrine’s brother. But when she’d told him about herself he’d hated her and pushed her away. Then she’d blown it all, run away, found Stefan and somehow ended up here. She felt like crying but for once she had no tears. She only berated herself for being stupid enough to try to change, to try to be honest. Stefan was right this time, she thought as she stepped into the shower.
In another place, at the same time, a satin cover of long, pale blonde hair covered a couple lying in a similar hotel room in the unnatural darkness provided by heavy windowcoverings. It was after all the middle of the afternoon. The young woman touched the sleeping young man’s face gently, more gently than she ever did when he was awake. She sighed and cuddled up against him and felt his arm automatically come up around her in a loving, protective gesture. Even asleep he was the sweetest, most considerate person alive, she thought as she let her fingers tangle in his wavy hair.
She sighed again heavily, then regretted it as the sound made him stir a little. She knew that if he woke up it would be time to leave. But that was her own fault. She was the one who insisted on these clandestine meetings. A love affair conducted away from the eyes of the world, without the knowledge of his family and friends. She knew he didn’t want it this way, that his values and beliefs made this very difficult for him. And yet she was even more important to him than that and she used that knowledge against him to get her own way. Told him that if they couldn’t be together her way then they wouldn’t be together at all. Of course she knew that wasn’t true. Nothing could induce her to leave him, she loved him with all her heart. A heart he had helped her to rediscover. But he believed in her threats enough to do things her way.
She did it because she was afraid. Afraid that if the people who loved him knew who he was spending his time with they would turn him against her somehow. There were times when she realized this was foolish. She believed in his love but fear was stronger than that belief. Just as the loss of her father had made her develop a strange obsession with war, the cause of his death, the fear of losing Quatre had made Dorothy obsessed with keeping their relationship a secret. But she wasn’t happy, she wanted everyone to know that he loved her as much as he did and she knew that what they were doing was making him unhappy with himself, although he would never think to pin the blame on her. She wanted to get married in a big, expensive ceremony like every girl did. He didn’t know she knew, but she’d found the engagement ring he carried around in his coat pocket for her, waiting until she was ready. It was huge and gorgeous and brilliant, but something inside wouldn’t let her accept it.
“Trowa,” Cathrine called, knocking on his door.
There was no answer so she peaked in and saw that he hadn’t slept in his bed last night. Well, maybe he had, but he hadn’t bothered to pull back the covers and she hadn’t seen him leave this morning because she had slept in after waiting up so late. She slipped inside to take a closer look and saw that he probably had been home and maybe laid down for a little while on top of the bedspread. She saw the shirt he’d worn the day before laid carefully on top of his dresser. Cathrine couldn’t help snooping a little, besides she was beginning to worry. Midii’s boss had just called and asked if something was wrong because she hadn’t come in to work today or even called in. Cathrine had called her apartment but the phone just rang and rang. She examined Trowa’s shirt and as soon as she picked it up she smelled the familiar smell of Midii’s lavender soap and noticed the lipstick stains on the collar in just the shade of pale pink that Midii always wore when she wasn’t at the salon.
Where was Trowa? Where was Midii? And what the hell was going on, Cathrine thought, cursing a little softly, an unusual occurrence for her. Why wasn’t anyone telling her anything?
Midii curled up in a big chair in Stefan’s room and sipped some black coffee, slowly coming back to herself. She looked down at the hotel bathrobe and picked at one of the loops of terry cloth as he did his best to sell her on this new mission.
Why wasn’t she surprised that this was what he wanted? She was barely surprised to find out that there was an underground faction of the Alliance still in operation. And now they were ready to make a move. But where to strike first and how? Well that would be up to her and Stefan to find out.
“They’ve got money to burn Midii,” Stefan said. “This will be first class all the way. Just the type of job you like. I’ll get you the background papers and watch out for you, you infiltrate the database and get the information. No one gets hurt and we get paid ridiculously exorbitant amounts of money. These guys are nobility after all and they’re willing to pay top dollar for the top people. And that’s you and me.”
“I’ll let you know,” she said. “There are some things I need to take care of first.”
Stefan narrowed his eyes and considered. Was now the time to get tough and force her into this? Or did he still have a chance she’d come around on her own? If he forced her it would be a bad situation and she could so easily double cross him. If at all possible he had to do this her way, there was always a back up plan.
“Go ahead,” he said softly, watching her with his dark eyes. “I won’t stop you from doing what you want to do.”
She looked at him suspiciously but she went in the other room and came out looking much different.
“Hey,” he called. “You are going to bring those clothes back aren’t you?? That jacket was expensive.”
Stefan was incorrigible, Midii thought. Why couldn’t she be like him and just accept what she was? It was what she was good at, what she had always done. Stefan always enjoyed himself immensely, but she was actually the better spy. She used her experiences and her sadness to draw people to her and get what she wanted. But of course she did need Stefan, he looked out for her, got her out of bad situations when they came up and did all the really nasty work.
Yes, she decided, she was going to leave this colony and she admitted she would probably end up leaving with Stefan. He did understand her and he’d always watched out for her. But first she had to say good-bye to Cathrine. Her one real friend. She owed her an explanation for whatever her brother must have said about her.
Midii glanced at herself in the mirrored elevator door. Her hair was in two braids and she’d pulled one of Stefan’s baseball caps down over her eyes. Lost in his huge leather jacket she looked like a little girl who had borrowed her big brother’s clothes to go to the circus at night without her parents’ permission.
She wanted to say good-bye to Cathrine, but she also wanted to see Trowa just one more time.
Cathrine could hardly believe the things that Trowa had told her about Midii. She had to believe him, but even if it all were true she believed the girl she had befriended was a different person than that.
“Trowa,” she ventured. “Don’t you think you can give her another chance? The war is over now and she was just a girl. She probably didn’t have much choice in the matter. I didn’t choose to lose my parents and brother. But it happened. The war made so many bad things happen to people and they didn’t have a choice. I was just lucky to be found by this circus, I could have turned out the same as Midii did. Think about it Trowa!!”
Trowa thought about what Cathrine was saying. It was true to some extent but he knew she never would have resorted to what Midii had done, was maybe still doing. Just because the war was over didn’t mean that there weren’t going to be threats. And he hadn’t done all the terrible things he had done, killed so many people just to let peace go down so easily. He wished he could forgive her, believe that Midii Une had been able to change. If only she had then he could be with her and love her. Love her? Where had that come from?
Still, he hadn’t told anyone else his suspicions. Hadn’t called Sally Po at Preventers Headquarters or even discussed it with Heero or Wufei. Part of him still did want to believe in her. The part of him that kept the shirt he’d worn last night pushed back in his drawer because it smelled like her and had the imprint of her lips on it.
She gasped and covered her eyes as Cathrine flung a barrage of knives at Trowa’s head in a frightening display of control and finesse. At the sound of applause, Midii dared to peek through her fingers and the pounding of her heart slowed after awhile. When the performance was over she found a spot in the shadows where she could watch him. He’d taken off his shirt and was scratching one of the tigers under the chin. It was a beautiful, terrifying animal, Midii thought. And Trowa was beautiful too. She’d noticed all the young girls screaming his name as he did a high-wire act, which she hadn’t been able to watch because of the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach that he would fall. When had she gotten so paranoid that she couldn’t even watch a practiced circus act?
“Because I love him,” she thought to herself. “I always will, no matter what he thinks about me now.”
She stared at him from the shadowed corner as long as she dared, memorizing his face and the play of the muscles under his skin as he moved. Remembering the night before when he had been hers for awhile. But that was all it could ever be, their worlds could never be the same one and now she had to go back where she belonged.
“Good-bye Nanashi. Good-bye Trowa,” she whispered and turned to leave.
Trowa felt something, somebody was watching him. He turned quickly, but only saw a girl who must have sneaked in to see the lions and tigers. She had turned away and was leaving now. He turned away and continued to scratch the tiger under the chin. It had beautiful eyes, wide and blue and feline. Almost like hers. Midii.
“Cath?” Midii whispered urgently. “Cathrine?”
She pulled off the hat and took off the jacket when Cathrine turned away from her mirror where she was removing her performance makeup.
“Oh Midii,” Cathrine exclaimed. “I’m so glad you came. I was so worried. Are you alright?”
Midii nodded. “I’m sorry. So sorry. I just came to say good-bye to you. To apologize for everything. Your brother must have told you about me and I’m sure everything he told you was true. I never meant to trick you, I really was trying to start again. But I can’t do it. I’m leaving here. But I wanted to thank you Cathrine. Thank you for helping me.”
She heard footsteps.
“I’m sorry. I have to go,” she said again, giving the older girl a quick hug and running out again.
Cathrine blinked. She had come and gone so fast she hadn’t been able to say anything to make her stay. Midii had looked so different and so sad. This was just terrible she thought. Trowa was obviously upset and Midii’s heart was broken. What awful things had happened to her to make her this way, Cathrine wondered. Maybe there wasn’t enough healing power left in the universe to make up for the horrors of that awful war. She put her head down on her arms and cried for all of them, herself, her lost parents and brother, Midii and Trowa.
The elegant woman in the creamy silk dress and the large hat with a small black net veil sipped her tea in the lobby of an expensive, discreet hotel on a colony in the L4 cluster. She watched the couple that came in every afternoon without fail. She watched and part of her envied them. They were so obviously in love and wanted each other so badly. As for herself, the one she wanted couldn’t have cared less about her, or so she thought.
She got up and left as the couple entered the elevator. She had seen enough. She knew enough about him to get what she wanted. Appreciative male eyes followed the sway of her slender hips beneath the expensive silk as she walked out and she let a tiny smile appear under the net veil as a man with hazel-green eyes opened the door for her and called her ma’am.
“Hit me Stefan,” Midii announced when she entered their room, tossing her veiled hat onto a table.
“What?” he asked, then shrugged and agreed. “Whatever turns you on.”
He raised his arm and smacked her across the face hard with his open hand. She fell to her knees and raised her hand to the spot which was raising up in a massive bruise as tears of pain smarted in her eyes.
“Christ!” Stefan exclaimed. “Why the hell didn’t you move? I thought you were going to show me some trick. I’ll get you some ice. Are you crazy?”
“No ice, not yet, it’ll bring down the swelling too much,” she said, allowing him to help her up.
“Okay, you’re certifiably insane. You have that interview tomorrow. You have to get hired for that position. And I went to all that trouble to get you that security clearance from Preventers. You stupid bitch!” Stefan ranted.
Midii calmly looked in the mirror. “You’re wrong,” she said simply. “Don’t underestimate me, I know what I’m doing. Calm down, I’ll look absolutely perfect.”
Stefan shrugged and did as she said. She always did know what she was doing and who was he to argue? She’d been taking this all much better than he had hoped and there had been no crying over her beloved Nanashi. Thank God for that. He flopped on the couch as Midii continue to examine her bruise in the mirror, calculating at what point she should finally put ice on it for the best effect. Then she started experimenting with her hair to find a style that would make it look like she was attempting to hide the mark and yet failing to do so.
Actually he had enjoyed getting her security clearance papers for her. There had been a pretty Preventers security assistant to seduce and by the end of the night she had been willing to do anything for Stefan, including forging security papers for his poor unemployed sister. Isabela Niente.
Quatre Raberba Winner looked over the interview list. One more to go he thought, glancing at the final name on the paper, Isabela Niente. He needed to hire someone fast, his former secretary had quite suddenly decided not to return from her maternity leave. He didn’t blame her but now he was in a pinch and his office was a disaster. He needed someone yesterday, but the nature of his business included his work for Preventers and finding someone with a top-level security clearance wasn’t easy. You could practically be denied such a clearance merely for having too many speeding tickets.
“Mr. Winner?” a soft voice asked, interrupting his thoughts. He looked up and saw a very pretty girl. She was petite and slender and she was very conservatively dressed in a gray skirt and a soft pink sweater. She had her hair pulled back a little on one side with a pearl barrette and she wore a little pearl teardrop necklace to match. The rest of her long, silky golden hair fell over her face covering one side of it.
“I’m Isabela Niente,” she said, offering him her perfectly-manicured hand.
A waiter came up. “Something to drink miss?” he asked.
“A cup of hot tea please,” she said sweetly. “I never drink.”
Everything about her impressed Quatre. Her background, her sweet, quiet personality and her obvious knowledge of computers and filing and organization skills. And to top it off she had top-level security clearance from her former position.
“Why did you leave your last job,” he asked, it was a standard question and he had almost definitely decided that Isabela Niente was the one already.
She flushed a little and looked uncertain and a little nervous. Her hand reached up and she tugged at the hair hanging over her face and he noticed something he hadn’t before. Her carefully applied makeup unsuccessfully hid an ugly bruise that appeared to be some days old.
“It was something personal. I felt like I had to get away,” she said quietly.
Quatre reached over and gently placed his hand over hers.
“Can you start with some overtime this weekend,” he asked. “I really need your help Miss Niente.”
“Oh thank you! Thank you so much,” she said, her blue-gray eyes brightening up and a genuine smile lighting up her face. “I can’t tell you how wonderful this is. Please call me Isabela.”
After Quatre left, Stefan came over from where he’d been waiting at the bar. “Impressive Miss Niente,” he said, handing her a drink. “Shall we celebrate?”
Midii nodded and took a sip of her drink, a triple shot of Chambord with soda on the rocks. “You remembered,” she said.
TO BE CONTINUED . . . next time on Alone/Together . . . Quatre can’t do without Isabela . . . Trowa decides to visit Quatre and get his advice about Midii . . . Dorothy and Quatre’s sister suspect Isabela is too good to be true.