Out of the Ashes
Chapter One: Souvenirs of the Past
By: Liewe and Midii Une
Standard disclaimers apply, please don’t hurt us, we’re innocent really… it’s the muses!
Life was so empty; the world was coated with silence. It had been in such a state since the murder. The murder of Relena Peacecraft-Yuy, the dove of peace. For weeks the world had feared the outbreak of another war, but so far the people only mourned.
The stirrings of war were but a faint murmur in the face of grief. Or maybe the conspirators were using the overwhelming grief as a cover. While the world mourned were they planning destruction? Or the end of the ESUN?
Preventer was flooded with flowers, and other notes of mourning. The turnout of mourners was reminiscent of the late 20th century, when England’s Princess Diana of Wales had been murdered. Relena was the fairy tale princess of the After Colony era. The world so stricken by her loss that it drifted unaware, shattered by its grief like an orphaned child.
The rain, which had begun at her funeral, had continued. Despite occasional breaks between soaking downpours the sun hadn't shone on the Cinq Kingdom in weeks, the weather matched the somber mood of the people.
The trial of her murderer had begun. A mere drunk had killed the peaceful Princess. A drunk on a dare.
The everlasting rain and gloom was taking its toll on everyone, even those who did not mourn Relena’s loss.
He leaned his head back and rolled his shoulders as he let himself relax in the depths of the expensive leather desk chair.
“Farewell Princess,” he said dismissively, sick to death of the circus of attention surrounding her assassination. His finger caressed the delete button of his laptop almost lovingly for a second before he pushed the button and the image of Relena’s smiling face and warm, happy blue eyes disappeared from the screen as neatly as she had disappeared from life.
“In conclusion,” he dictated to his mission notes, “the timely death of Vice Foreign Minister Darlian decisively eliminates the possibility that she could have signed the papers banning our research at the colonial facility. The destruction of the Preventer headquarters in the accompanying fire doubly ensures that even if the papers were signed by Madame Relena they were destroyed at the time of her death . . . .
Montgomery Sawyer sat rocking on his bed as the jeers surrounded him once again.
Even fellow inmates hated him. Why had he listened to that dare? Because of a moment of foolish bravado he had been plunged into this nightmarish world that held so many terrors.
“Pansy boy,” the taunts filtered through the bars to his huddled form and he shook. Tomorrow the trial would take place, and most likely he would be found guilty. Even his lawyer had blatantly said that he wasn’t worth defending. A lawyer known for protecting the scum of the earth, and he wasn’t worth defending?
“Pussy,” another voice taunted.
Ominous silence worse than the poisonous words of the other prisoners fell over the cell like a fog. It came out of the darkness suddenly, vengeance, a vengeance that bore a terrifying visage. Vengeance was not an idea, which could not be grasped, but a real tangible thing, alive in the grief-stricken man that punished him with vicious blows and kicks as his body hit the wall again and again with sickening, repetitious thuds.
Sawyer raised his pale eyes, daring to look into the steel-blue eyes of the man who had him at his mercy. Mercy, he thought futilely, there was no mercy in those inhuman eyes. He shut his own eyes against the horror of that cold, alien face and knew he was going to die.
The stunned man found himself suddenly and unceremoniously alone on the cold floor, the thick door of the cell slamming shut with awful finality before he could even look up.
Wufei dodged a blow as Heero continued to fight, uncaring now who he hit as his rage engulfed him.
From far away he thought he heard Relena’s name and slowly the madness dissipated and he focused on the figure that held him, the one who had interfered and stopped him from what he had to do.
Wufei almost shuddered as Heero looked at him, he had forgotten in the years of peace that a man could look like that. He gritted his teeth and repeated himself.
“You cannot kill a caged man, a prisoner. I know your anger, your very soul demands it,” Wufei whispered harshly. “Let justice run its course. It’s what she would want. You know it’s what Relena would want. Let the public see what becomes of a man like that. You’ll have your justice Heero. Let it happen.”
The words cut through the haze of despair and unthinking grief. She was truly gone then, if he could behave like this again, become a killer again.
Wufei seemed to read his thoughts.
“You are strong, you would have stopped yourself. You wouldn’t have killed him Heero. Anyone would have done it, after all you’ve been through.”
“What have. . . what have I done,” Heero muttered, unconsciously echoing the words he had spoken after killing Marshal Noventa and the other Alliance pacifists during the Eve Wars. With a surge of strength he pulled away from his former comrade and disappeared.
The taunts, the beatings, they didn’t compare to facing him, Heero Yuy. His ribs ached, more than ached, they pulsated with pain. Each breath was a chore. No one had protested the beating; after their initial fear had been overcome by animalistic bloodlust they had cheered the enraged man on. Forever, as long as he managed to live, he would have nightmares about Prussian eyes glazed over with madness and grief, darkening with rage as blow after blow was rained down on his prone body.
His friends had abandoned him. They had meant it as a joke, they hadn’t meant for him to actually accept the task. They hadn’t taken into account how drunk he’d been, or how easily swayed he was. Had they known him? Had they truly known who he was?
He shook his head as he curled up into a ball ignoring the pain, which protested his movements; he needed rest, for tomorrow was his day of judgment.
“All rise, for Judge Nathaniel Nichols,” the bailiff said as the judge entered the courtroom. The courtroom was filled with an unprecedented number of grieving people and the man visibly flinched as he saw the hate and anger in their eyes. Despite a long career in dispensing justice he had never handled such a volatile case. Nichols studied the crowd. Would they look that way at him when the verdict was finally released? Or would they praise his choice?
“We have come to pass judgment on Montgomery Sawyer,” Judge Nichols began as he watched form his perch, his hand resting on the enameled handle of his gavel. “A man accused of planting the explosion that claimed three precious lives. Relena Peacecraft-Yuy, the Vice Foreign Minister of our proud nation, her bodyguard Midii Une-Barton, and the former Gundam pilot Trowa Barton.”
He paused, taking in a breath as silence filled the room, no one moved save for the accused. Guilt was etched into the drunkard’s features, guilt and fear.
“Have you members of the jury reached a verdict not clouded by the desires of your hearts,” he paused, waiting for the jury’s answer. The case itself was explosive; added to the reputations of the injured parties involved and violence was a plausible possibility. The Judge’s light eyes searched the corners of the room, catching glimpses of the extra security. His face turned pale as he saw the husband of the late Foreign Minister, he was surrounded by other former Gundam pilots. Judge Nichols gulped, glad that he was not on trial that day.
The jury nodded in agreement, the gray faces of men and woman hand picked in hopes of finding people detached from the events which had taken place mere weeks ago.
“We have sir. We have found the accused Montgomery Sawyer guilty of all charges,” the old man chosen as foreman said, sorrow lining his voice.
Clapping was heard throughout the audience and Montgomery Sawyer gulped.
“Order,” the Judge called as the gavel hit the desk repeatedly. “Order!” the Judge called again, as the old man from the jury cleared his throat.
“We members of the jury would also like to suggest a punishment, if that is acceptable.”
“The jury does not decide what punishment fits the crime, this court is adjourned until tomorrow.” The gavel hit the desk and pandemonium broke loose.
Voices were raised as people began to speculate about sentence to be passed down. Would justice be served, they asked.
Heero and Catherine went unnoticed.
Her silent tears were lost in the cacophony of noise, her head buried in the shoulder of the old Ringmaster, the closest person to family she had left.
Heero’s steely gaze remained fixed on the form of Montgomery Sawyer as he was bodily removed from the room. The dark circles under his eyes spoke of his pain.
Heero moved into the dark confines of his apartment, he couldn’t live in their home any longer. She was everywhere in their home, every piece of furniture hand picked, each carrying a hint of her perfume. Her scent.
Each item was a reminder of his failure to her. His failure to protect her.
For so long he had only wanted to be human.
Was there anyone else in the world that could make him feel that way again?
She was not vengeful. The ghost of Relena. But she was shy as the real princess had never been. She disappeared when he wanted her to stay. Whereas before he had wanted her to keep her distance so he could keep his secrets and she her purity now he wanted her to stay, if only to haunt him with her memory.
The memory of peace.
The memory of happiness.
The memory of love.
His palms burned with the memory of heat so intense that the shimmering waves of it scalded his face as he fought against it, fought to get to her.
The weary young woman fought uselessly against the twisted sheets. The jury’s verdict brought her no peace. It could not bring back Trowa. Memories like tiny flames licking at the edge of her mind constantly tormented her, making her fear the sleep her body craved. The verdict would not stop the dreams. With a defeated sigh Catherine finally freed herself from the encroaching bedding.
She brushed a hand through her soft auburn curls and studied herself in the mirror. She was a mess. Her trailer was a mess. Boxes containing Midii’s things littered the floor behind her. Trowa’s few possessions she had had stored in his old trailer. She couldn’t bear to have them around her, the memories they held were too painful.
Catherine sank down beside one of the boxes in a graceful heap. Her movements always lovely and delicate, her very life a performance now that she had lost everything worth living for it seemed.
“If I can’t sleep I may as well go through this stuff and see if it can be of use to anyone,” she thought half-heartedly, her naturally generous nature making her brave enough to brave a peek at a few souvenirs of the past.
She found herself smiling a little in remembrance of her little family as she took a moment to indulge her loneliness as she went through the pictures from Midii’s home office that were heaped in the container haphazardly. Too soon however she remembered that she was alone again and fought back tears as she hastily put the pictures back in the box along with an uninteresting looking folder with a rather official seal that had been tossed in the box with them by whoever had packed it.
Catherine lingered over the last picture, Trowa and Midii on their wedding day, they gazed into each other’s eyes as if there was no one else in the world but the two of them. And now it almost seemed true, she thought, hot tears spilling from her eyes as her fragile control broke. They had left her behind and now she was so horribly alone. Her grief overwhelmed her and her grip on the shining photograph loosening until it fluttered to the floor beside her, the happy faces in the picture so at odds with the sorrow her own face personified.
“No, no, I won’t do this,” she thought, her mind protesting, fighting against the despair that threatened to take her over. Hastily she stood and dashed away the tears and ran through the darkness to the softly illuminated circus tent. Her grief had been replaced by unreasoning anger. They had left her, they had left her, her mind repeated. Her fingers closed over one of the throwing knives in the holder and she let it fly from her hand out of long habit.
Her heartbeat fast with sudden joy, it was like light had burst through the clouds and the sun shone on her again. Trowa!
His face wavered on the wooden target board as Catherine stared hard, stared until tears sprang into her eyes. The familiar face wavered again and he smiled.
"You'd look a whole lot better if you smiled Trowa."
With a grunt Catherine reared her arm back and flung the knives she held at the board. She watched with desolate eyes as one blade quivered in the center of the target.
"Trowaaaaaaaaaa," she wailed, dropping to her knees. She couldn't throw anymore, couldn't do anything without her beloved brother.
He'd left her behind, just like Mama and Papa . . .
She stumbled back to her trailer and angrily swallowed one of the Valium Sally had prescribed.
The pills let her sleep but they didn't stop the dreams, the horrible dreams. All she'd ever wished for him to find someone, wished so hard for him to be happy. And it killed him.
Midii appeared, as if she looked at her through water, she seemed happy, more like radiant. Radiant. The word echoed in her brain. She smiled at Catherine, but the smile didn't comfort her.
Her sister-in-law held a thick candle, she smiled at Cathy again as she passed her hand slowly through the high scarlet flame. Catherine wanted her to stop it, but she couldn't speak, the words wouldn't come.
"Fire purifies," she said, her smile growing eerie and sensual. "It cleanses the soul."
The apparition dropped the candle and the sheer white dress that floated around her burst into flame. Midii burned, still smiling, the transparent fire engulfing her finally before Catherine was finally able to turn from the horrible sight and run.
Firelight shone hot on her small pale face as she covered her ears against the screaming of horses, the dying horses. She thought she saw Triton's face, saw curious green eyes examining the fire with interest. She had to get to him but she was afraid. An explosion shattered the sky, the aftershock and the noise throwing her to the ground. Catherine pulled herself back up and looked around. She couldn't see him anymore. Triton was gone. She began to scream.
“Heero, thank you for coming. She threw Quatre out and I couldn’t reach anyone else,” Sally said softly as she glanced through the glass at Catherine’s pale form. She had hated calling the battered soldier from his home, but he had been her only choice.
“She had a nightmare, right?”
“She wouldn’t stop screaming, we had to sedate her. The ringmaster called the police after the first fifteen minutes; they thought she was being murdered.
They found her huddled in the corner of her room screaming, she was clutching an old photograph. I would keep her here, but I don’t think it’s the best environment for her,” Sally said softly as she handed the photograph over to Heero.
The photo contained a younger version of Catherine and what had to be a baby Trowa; the edges were singed and crumpled. But still the colors were bright. “I don’t think my apartment is a good place for her as well, call Quatre.”
Heero said handing the photograph back to Sally, his lightly bandaged hands brushing against hers.
“I can’t, she kicked him out, she made it clear she didn’t want to see him. I think she blames him for Trowa’s death.”
Heero moved to the glass a hand raised to touch the cool glass; he frowned, as still there was no feeling. His hands, no longer incased in the thick bandages into which they had first been placed, still did not feel the littlest thing. The damage was permanent. A tribute.
“How long would it be for?”
“A few weeks,” Sally said with a shrug. “It depends.”
“I owe that to Trowa, at least.”
To Be Continued in Chapter Two...