by Midii Une
“you were too close for comfort, you were too far out of reach”
It was still there, despite the random turns he kept making to shake the motorcycle it was still behind them. Duo was sure they were being followed. But how? He had been perfect dammit. If Heero caught up with them now he’d have to pull on all the strings that only a best friend could to get out of this one.
And Duo hated groveling. He didn’t want to run into Heero until he and Trowa had everything wrapped up. Heh, then he’d see why he should have called in Shinigami at the first hint of trouble!
He glanced back again. The biker was starting to close in.
Duo nudged Trowa and gestured toward the rearview mirror.
“See that,” he said. “Someone’s after us already, hold on I’m gonna floor this thing.”
Trowa made sure his gun was beside him then pulled Midii, who was still unconscious and leaning heavily against his shoulder, into his arms.
The tires screeched as Duo laughed and pulled a 360 degree turn before ending back up facing the startled motorcyclist, then he raced back in the direction they’d come before starting to take every turn they came to at an alarming rate of speed.
The motorcyclist cursed, spun around and revved up the bike, the eyes beneath the helmet visor narrowing in irritation and determination.
Stefan’s eyes narrowed in frustration. She was ignoring him. They were stuck together for a while and they might as well enjoy themselves, but she didn’t see it that way. Cathrine leaned against the wall, her arms folded over her chest and peered at Stefan through her reddish-brown bangs. Her violet eyes were full of suspicion and apprehension.
He’d said he wouldn’t touch her and so far he’d been true to his word. But still . . . there was something about him that made her heart pound with a mixture of fear and something else. There were times when the caress of those deep brown eyes and the obvious desire that he didn’t bother to hide made Cathrine wonder what it might be like if he did kiss her.
Trowa glanced out the back window and saw the single headlight of the motorcycle far in the distance but closing in. They were out of the city and on a dark, deserted road.
“He’s still back there,” he told Duo, picking up his gun and checking the cartridge, slamming it back in with a click. “We have to confront whoever it is. We can’t keep this up and this is as good a place as any. Looks like there’s a lake up ahead, pull in there.”
“Shit,” Duo hissed, but Trowa was right. Duo hoped to hell it was the Alliance because he’d much rather face one of them right now than Heero and he’d have a lot fewer qualms about blowing one of them away.
The tires squealed as the car pulled into a gravel lot. Trowa and Duo looked at each other, not needing any words to form a plan. Duo got out and Trowa laid Midii back on the carseat, she made a soft sound of protest when he let go of her that tugged at his heart. He reached out a hand to smooth the hair out of her face then thought better of it. He joined Duo in the parking lot.
The biker stopped a few hundred yards away, seeming to be considering the next move. Then the motorcycle screamed to life again and pulled into the lot, spinning dramatically on the gravel.
“Take off your helmet buddy,” Duo ordered aiming his gun at the rider. “You better have a damn good explanation for following us.”
The biker pulled the helmet off revealing familiar, tousled, midnight-black hair and a pair of bright blue eyes sparkling angrily.
“H-Hilde!?!?” Duo shrieked. He blinked his eyes in disbelief.
“You’re going to tell me what you’ve gotten yourself into right now Duo,” Hilde said. “And then we’re going home. How could you run off like this without telling me? What were you two up to at Preventers HQ anyway? I couldn’t get close enough without blowing your cover.”
“Hilde,” Duo said again, still trying to get the concept of her presence to penetrate his brain. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“That’s exactly what I just asked you,” she said. “Tell me right now or I swear I’ll contact Heero.”
She held up a cell phone and waved it at her wayward husband threateningly.
“Argh, no, don’t do that,” Duo protested. “It’s for a good cause. Honest. Tell her Trowa.”
Suddenly Hilde got a good look at Duo’s face in the beam of the car’s headlights. “Oh gosh Duo,” she said, rushing over to him and examining the four long scratches on the left side of his face. “What happened to your face?”
Duo put his hand up to the back of his head, looked down at the ground and sighed. “It’s a long story,” he said.
Hilde folded her arms and started to tap her foot. It looked like he’d been tangling with an angry cat. Or another woman. She frowned. “I can wait all night,” she said.
The way Duo told a story this probably would take all night, Trowa thought. He’d better leave the two of them alone and check on Midii. Until she woke up they had no idea where they were headed anyway.
He looked at her lying there, she had curled up on her left side with one hand curled under her cheek. She’d slept that way when she was a little girl he knew, he’d watched her sometimes at night from across the room. Trowa shook his head to clear the memories. She sighed softly as the cool air flowed into the car through the open door. He picked her up and she wrapped her arms around his neck and snuggled her head into his shoulder. Trowa closed his eyes and put his face in her hair, almost forgetting Cathrine for a moment. She felt so right in his arms, just like he remembered.
Midii’s eyelids blinked slowly and heavily. It was cold, she thought, and her head was pounding horribly. Close by she could hear the sound of water softly lapping at the shore and even closer the sound of a heartbeat. Then she remembered. Her eyes flew open in terror.
“Let me go,” she shrieked, pushing against the man who held her. Trowa was so surprised he dropped her.
“Oooh,” Midii said, the breath going out of her for a second from the fall. She grabbed onto the car to push herself up and her hand closed on a gun. “Thank God,” she thought swiftly. If there was only one of them she had a chance. She held the gun in front of her and looked up at the kidnapper.
“You,” she said, pulling herself up and glancing around for an escape route. But the car was at her back and he was in front of her. “Why are you doing this?”
She put her hand to her head and swayed dizzily, catching onto the car door to keep her balance. Trowa was beside her in an instant, efficiently taking the gun out of her unsteady hand. “Are you okay,” he asked.
“I’ll live,” she said as she fell forward a little, catching onto his shirt. She couldn’t help leaning her head on his chest, she felt like the horizon that was just starting to brighten in the distance was tipping ever so slightly and somehow she knew that he wouldn’t let her fall again and as if in answer to her thoughts his arms automatically tightened around her.
Hilde glanced over Duo’s shoulder. “Who’s that,” she said. “What’s going on over there?”
“I forget her name,” Duo said, glancing sharply at Trowa. “But I have a feeling we can just call her Trouble.”
Heero stared at the empty bed. He knew Trowa had to be responsible for this but he had no idea why the other pilot would attempt such an idiotic scheme now. The safest place for Midii Une was under lock and key. She wouldn’t last very long outside that was for sure, the Alliance wasn’t the type of organization to forgive a traitor. What the hell was Trowa thinking? Something crunched under his foot. Heero looked down and picked up a metal hairpin.
Well, there was his explanation for idiotic scheme, he thought. Unconsciously his lips turned up in a grim little smile. Ever since he’d first met Duo they’d been at odds over something or other. Annoying as it was there was always a certain satisfaction in matching wits with the self-proclaimed God of Death.
Heero planned to kick his intelligence network into priority alert. It wouldn’t take long for someone to spot a trio like that he was sure. Not one of the three was the type to blend into a crowd.
“Heero,” Quatre said, interrupting Yuy’s thoughts and earning himself a cold glare. “Maybe Trowa knows what he’s doing. Maybe we should just stay out of this. Those two need some time alone to work things out.”
“Trowa’s love life isn’t my concern,” Heero said. “But at least one thing good might come of this, when they discover she’s out there the Alliance is sure to make a move. And if we can catch up with them we’ll be right there when they do.”
Quatre couldn’t help but agree with Heero on that. It was too dangerous of a situation for the three of them alone to handle. Trowa really hadn’t been thinking clearly. Quatre was glad Duo was along to help him out, but he was a little hurt that Trowa hadn’t come to him. He thought suddenly of Dorothy. But then again, he’d been keeping his own secrets, hadn’t he?
The dizziness was starting to pass slowly and Midii realized to her embarrassment that her hands were fisted in Trowa’s shirt and her face was pressed up against his chest. Her lips were not an inch away from the bare skin peeking out from his open collar and his arms were holding her so tightly against him that their bodies fit snugly together. “We fit together so perfectly,” she thought. “But why, why is he doing this?”
She moved a little and her head throbbed sickeningly from the aftereffect of whatever he’d drugged her with. She remembered her terror and that she did have good cause to be afraid, especially now, out in the open like this. She’d told Quatre everything and someone would be sure to notice that the bases were being reinforced. It wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that that someone had been her.
Midii tried to pull out of Trowa’s grasp but she didn’t get very far. She looked up into those green eyes and their gazes held a moment before reality crashed in and she spoke venomously.
“What the hell possessed you to pull a stunt like this,” she asked. “You’d better take me back to your friends right now or our lives won’t be worth living.”
She tried harder to pull away and he let her go, her sharp words reminding him exactly what they were doing out here in the middle of nowhere. Midii turned away and leaned against the car with her aching head buried in her arms.
“Where is Stefan Niente,” he asked her, trying to suppress his anger.
Midii was silent a moment. She decided to play dumb, Stefan was certainly in enough trouble already. He had let her down it was true but she wouldn’t betray him for that. They had been through too much together. If Trowa believed she would double-cross her partner he was mistaken.
“Who,” she asked innocently.
Trowa clenched his fists and forced himself to maintain some kind of control. “Just tell the truth for once in your life Midii,” he said, his voice tense. “This is important. He has my sister.”
She turned to look at him.
“Cathrine,” she said weakly, cursing the headache that made her feel so stupid. And now the pain in her head seemed to increase. Damn Stefan, why had he brought Cathrine into this? Didn’t he know the Alliance was going to hunt them down? Then she realized that he couldn’t know that she’d told. He would have trusted her to keep quiet.
“Say something,” Trowa insisted. “You keep showing up in my life trying to destroy everything I ever cared about. You at least owe me an answer, don’t you think?”
Midii tried to concentrate on where Stefan could be hiding out and then it came to her. There was a place. A safe place where they’d always met up when they got separated during the war. Stefan’s family was there and had welcomed them both always, without fail, no questions asked. She could see the cliffs rising from the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean and always the vision brought a measure of peace with it. The island of Corsica. Stefan would be there she was sure waiting to meet her, that must be his plan.
“Earth,” she said at last, as Trowa leaned closer to catch her faint words. “We have to get to Earth.”
“It’s so beautiful,” Cathrine said. She couldn’t help but admire the view as the sailboat Stefan had “borrowed” entered the harbor of Bonaficio, a tranquil city on the southern tip of Corsica. Stony cliffs rose up sharply from the aqua-blue water. She trailed her fingers in the sea that was as warm as bath water.
“Makes you feel romantic, doesn’t it Gorgeous,” Stefan said, sliding his fingers up her bare arm.
“Behave yourself Stefan,” she said flipping sea water at him with her fingers, but her eyes danced with a bit of amusement as he dropped his hand and looked at her with the eyes of a sad puppy dog. He was quite hard to resist. She had never experienced something like this, sailing on a lovely calm sea with the sun bright and white-hot overhead.
“This is where I grew up,” Stefan said, skillfully navigating the boat into the dock. “I couldn’t wait to leave and find some action. But still there’s something about coming home.”
“Why do you do these things,” Cathrine asked suddenly. “Why won’t you leave Midii alone? I know her, I know she wants to start her life over again. You could do it too you know.”
Stefan laughed until tears appeared at the edges of his long black lashes.
“Midii probably believes that little story herself. But this is what she was born to do. It’s what I was born to do. Everybody has a purpose in this life and this is what we’re good at. I do these things because I’m good at it Gorgeous. It’s exciting and I make a splash in the big scheme of things. I didn’t want to waste my life on this island when so much was going on in the world,” Stefan explained. “I wouldn’t take your so-called normal life on a bet. I’ll live this sort of life until I die. Hell, I’ll probably die doing it.”
Cathrine shook her head. He was unreachable. Stefan Niente saw nothing wrong with a life of lies, betrayal and being constantly on the run. He enjoyed it.
He jumped out onto the dock and pulled Cathrine up next to him. He pulled a little harder than necessary so she stumbled up against him.
“Besides,” he purred softly, “in this line of work I’m forced to spend my time with lovely ladies like you.”
Stefan bent his head to hers. He knew she was starting to be attracted to him, but she turned her head away at the last second. He sighed and took her firmly by the hand. If only he had more time with her, he should have told Nanashi three weeks, not three days, but he couldn’t leave Midii in the hands of Preventers that long. She was like an annoying younger sister, they didn’t always get along but when things got bad he’d be there for her without fail.
“Come on Gorgeous,” he said to Cathrine. “We’ve got special plans for tomorrow night and I’m gonna buy you the sexiest, most expensive dress we can find.”
“Corsica,” Trowa thought, there had been an Alliance base there years ago, he and Quatre had destroyed it during the war. He certainly hadn’t taken the time to look at the scenery. Hilde wasn’t hiding her excitement about traveling. It was her first time on Earth. She was practically jumping up and down as Midii pointed out the landmarks to her as the approached the island on a ferry boat from France.
“Gosh, it’s just gorgeous,” Hilde squealed, clasping her hands together. “What’s that island back there in the distance?”
“That’s Sardinia,” Midii answered. “On a clear day you can see it from Bonaficio. That’s where we’re headed.”
“I’m not worried about the weather,” Trowa said. “I’m more worried about Niente and Cathrine.”
“It’s not Stefan we should be worried about,” Midii insisted. “He wouldn’t hurt her, I’m sure of it. But the Alliance is sure to hold him responsible for the failure of our mission, he’s a target. That’s where the danger lies.”
She glanced over at him. The bright sun that seemed ever-present in the Mediterranean picked out reddish highlights in his hair, the breeze coming off the sea fluttered his hair back giving her a good look at those emerald eyes. They’d kept their distance from each other as best they could since leaving the colony. She sighed unconsciously as Duo came up behind Hilde and wrapped her in his arms, nuzzling at her neck until she giggled and told him to behave himself. Midii glanced at Trowa again and flushed red. She looked back down at the deck of the ferry, he’d been looking at her too.
“What’s with those two,” Duo whispered in Hilde’s ear. “He has a thing for her I know it. But they’re acting like they hate each other. Totally weird!”
Pagan, the elderly butler who had served the Peacecraft family for countless years, waited patiently at the pick-up counter at the Southern European Spaceport. Some important documents were arriving for Miss Relena to sign.
Pagan sighed. Poor Miss Relena had seemed unhappy lately. Her 18th birthday had come and gone and with no notice by Heero Yuy. Pagan knew that that was the one time Miss Relena could always count on being contacted by the Gundam pilot. But this year there had been nothing. No teddy bear, no bouquet of daisies, no terse note. Nothing at all.
Suddenly the old man’s head swerved as a group of young men in uniform passed through the spaceport. He noticed they were headed for the terminal with flight connections to Corsica. He also noticed that one of them was Heero Yuy.
Being a spy, disguising one’s self, it couldn’t be that difficult. Probably anyone could do it. This Isabela Niente or Midii Une or whomever was certainly no one special. . There was nothing to it really, Dorothy thought as she patted her long, pale hair twisted into a bun removed her dark sunglasses.
There was no way she was going to stay up on the colonies while Quatre went to Earth. He was her only reason for being on the colonies anyway, Earth was her personal choice. And it was home. She congratulated herself that although she’d always been on the same shuttle and now on the same flight as her beloved he’d never noticed her.
Of course she was traveling first class while the Preventers settled for business. She delicately accepted a glass of champagne from the flight attendant. “Grazie,” she said in fluent Italian as she took a sip.
A dark-haired boy, about 12 years old, carefully watched the passengers disembark the ferry from the mainland. There she was, Signorina Midii. The sun was shining on her beautiful golden hair. It had been years since she’d been to Corsica but he’d never forgotten her. Even though he’d only been nine he knew that Signorina Midii was the loveliest and the most exciting woman in the world. His cousin Stefan didn’t think so, but then, he was a fool. Anton Niente jumped lightly off the roof of the low building and dashed toward the dock.
“Signorina Midii,” he said, grabbing her hand and kissing it with a dramatic flourish, the way he’d always seen his cousin do with the ladies. “Welcome back to Corsica.”
The boy quickly handed her a bouquet of wildflowers and a note. He took off running before she could even speak. Anton shouted at her over his shoulder. “The note is from Stefan. But the flowers, they are from me.” He disappeared easily into the crowd before Trowa or Duo could even think of chasing after him.
Midii couldn’t help but smile at the warm welcome. Anton had always been an adorable child, but too much like his cousin. Stefan was a bad influence.
Trowa noticed her smile. He realized that she didn’t smile very often, but when she did it was like the sun breaking through the clouds. He frowned. She was probably happy she was going to see Stefan Niente again. What exactly was their relationship anyway, he wondered.
Duo looked after the boy, who had so easily disappeared. He reminded him a little of himself at that age. He sighed, there wasn’t any point in trying to go after him now. A kid like that could hide himself forever on these crowded streets jammed with people. They could have used the lead on Niente too. It was always better to make the first move, he didn’t like waiting for the enemy to tell them what to do.
Hilde had the only sensible idea in the whole group.
“Midii,” she said, bursting with curiosity. “Open the note and see what it says.”
“Heh,” Duo said. “Good one Hilde. At least one of us is thinking around here.”
Midii looked at the note. It contained just the barest information. “Tomorrow. Il Ritmo de la Mare.”
Anton Niente wasn’t the only one expecting Midii’s arrival on Corsica.
“There she is. I’ve got a clear shot,” the gunman said, watching her through the sights of his rifle on a nearby rooftop.
“Where,” Mezzo asked trying to spot her with a pair of binoculars. “And is Niente with her?”
“I don’t see him down there. She’s wide open Mezzo, I’m taking that little turncoat out,” he said, pulling the trigger.
Mezzo kicked at the rifle so the shot went harmlessly into the air.
“Not yet,” he said, narrowing his eyes furiously. “If we take her out now Niente will go so far underground we’ll never track him down. She’s not going anywhere, we can wait. Besides I want to talk to her first and shooting is too easy of a death for a traitor like her.”
Midii looked back over her shoulder, she could have sworn she heard a gunshot, but it was hard to tell over the noise of the crowd at the dock.
“Il Ritmo de la Mare,” Hilde repeated dreamily. This adventure was so romantic. She was glad she’d followed Duo. He hadn’t been thrilled to have her come along. He thought it was too dangerous. But they were partners weren’t they? Together forever, for better or worse. She squeezed his hand in excitement, this was like the honeymoon they’d never bothered to take. This place was so beautiful and thrilling.
“The Rhythm of the Sea,” Midii and Trowa translated, speaking at the same time. They glanced at each other and then away again.
Duo rolled his eyes. What was with those two, he wondered. He definitely had to have a talk with Trowa. Couldn’t he see that Miss Trouble liked him? Really liked him. Duo grinned, maybe old Trowa didn’t understand about the birds and the bees yet. After all it didn’t really matter which side a girl was on, if you cared about her. Look at him and Hilde for instance. Who would have ever matched up a Gundam pilot and an OZ recruit? But they were perfect for each other. He’d known it from the moment he first saw her in that tight little uniform of hers.
“Pagan are you positive it was Heero,” Relena asked for the thousandth time.
“Yes, Miss Relena. It was definitely Mr. Yuy and I also believe Mr. Winner and Mr. Chang were accompanying him. They were taking a flight to the Island of Corsica,” Pagan explained patiently in return.
Relena leaned her chin in her hand and looked out over the Mediterranean Sea. The breathtaking expanse of blue water that often remained unnoticed beyond the huge picture window behind her desk. She was often too busy to even look. She smiled a little as she remembered how she had often scolded her foster father, Vice Foreign Minister Dorlian for being too busy to spend time with her. Well she was Vice Foreign Minister Dorlian now and she was twice as busy as her beloved father had ever been. The business of peace was much more time-consuming than war. Discussions took so much time and patience it had been so much quicker just to blast something when factions disagreed.
But now Heero was out there somewhere, just out of sight in the distance. Corsica wasn’t far, it was one of the Cinq Kingdom’s closest neighbors.
Relena made a decision. She was tired of the bizarre courting rituals of the Gundam pilot. It was time to take matters into her own hands. She was going to Corsica. She was finally going to confront Heero.
The next afternoon Midii and Hilde sat on the balcony of the hotel room soaking up the sun and sipping the local red wine Midii had insisted they pick up at one of the little shops they had passed. That and a big bar of handmade lavender soap. She sighed, closed her eyes and turned her face up to the sun. It felt like she was herself again. A long, hot shower and a good night’s sleep did wonders for your mood, she thought.. Suddenly she sat up and frowned, looking down at the now-grungy blue cotton dress she wore and biting her lip.
“What’s wrong Midii,” Hilde asked, glancing at the other girl. “You look like you just thought of something.”
“I did,” Midii admitted. “This is probably going to sound amazingly stupid, but I need to get out of here. Are you with me?”
Hilde stared at her and glanced through the closed French doors at Duo and Trowa who were engrossed in playing with their weapons and only occasionally taking time out to look up and see if the girls were still there. Where would they go after all?
“What do you mean,” Hilde asked, wondering if she should call Duo, Midii seemed to definitely be up to something, she was so nice and fun to be with that she almost had forgotten she was the enemy.
“We have to go shopping,” Midii said significantly. “They won’t let us in Il Ritmo de la Mare dressed like this.”
“Shopping,” Hilde repeated slowly and thoughtfully, her resolve to call Duo suddenly weakening. There were few temptations that Hilde couldn’t resist, but shopping was unfortunately one of them.
Midii looked at Hilde appraisingly. “I think you should wear something in silver or maybe gray, with your coloring. We have to look fabulous tonight,” she said, seeing the spark of interest in Hilde’s eyes. “Ooooh, wait till Duo sees you. I’ll give you a makeover Hilde guaranteed to make his eyes pop out of his head.”
Hilde’s eyes widened and Midii suppressed a grin. She had her. Hilde’s blue eyes sparkled with mischief. She and Midii looked at each other and nodded. Luckily the balcony was only on the second floor and there was a convenient awning placed beneath it.
The next time Duo and Trowa glanced out the window the balcony was empty.
TO BE CONTINUED . . . Next time on Alone/Together . . . everybody shows up for a night of romance at El Ritmo de La Mare . . . what does the Alliance have hidden at the ruins of the old Corsica base . . . what does Mezzo plan to do to Midii . . . and Duo’s romantic speech finally shows up, delayed from this chapter ^_~ gomen, but it was running too long!!