Out of the Ashes

Prologue: The End is Only the Beginning

By: Liewe and Midii Une

Standard disclaimers apply, please don’t sue us…

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Authors’ note: This fic came from an idea both Midii and I got when reading our manga’s and watching the show, and we thought, hmmmm… And just a small note, the Quatre torture is Midii’s fault, not mine. Also be wary of flaming us for we both have very hungry muses, *eg*

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“We’re on our way up,” Midii said softly into her phone. She smiled to herself as she heard her husband whisper a soft affirmative. “It’s time to go,” Midii threw over her shoulder to her charge before she pressed the touch pad of the ornate elevator, Relena on her heels. Her long golden hair was held in a tight braid, and it swished behind her.

For two years she had been Relena’s secondary bodyguard, the position reverting to her, when Duo had decided to move to a less permanent standing on the Preventer staff.

“Any idea what this meeting’s about,” Midii asked as the doors slid closed, the bell dinging before the elevator lurched.

“Not at all, most probably the usual yearly conference on security details,” Relena chuckled. “Heero really is predictable, every year at the same time, he goes into Perfect Soldier mode deluxe, and the security system is almost reinvented.”

Midii coughed nervously and hid her treacherous smile behind her hand but her eyes sparkled at Relena. She wondered why it was harder to keep good secrets; she had never had any trouble keeping bad ones.

"You know something," Relena said suddenly, her voice teasing as she glanced at Midii, who was having a hard time keeping a straight face.

Midii widened her eyes innocently, biting her tongue to keep herself from smiling. Of course she knew what Heero was up to. All of them did. Dinner for two with a perfect starlit night as a backdrop. Pagan had made all the arrangements down to the white damask tablecloths from the palace.

Their friend the Perfect Soldier was not going to be predictable tonight. It was so gratifying to see him acting human for a change.

“Midii?”

“Yes?”

“I think something’s wrong,” Relena said softly her eyes becoming wide with worry as the once smooth gait of the elevator began to jerk.

Midii didn’t reply, nimble fingers already brushing the controls of the elevator, as she tried to discern the problem. “Relena? Contact Trowa for me, please.”

“Midii?”

“Don’t worry, it’s just a precaution,” Midii said softly, her voice trying to comfort her friend.

Relena just nodded, wide eyed. Her fingers clumsily clutching the hand held communication device. Her gaze swept nervously about the confined space, the dark, gleaming wood walls seeming to close in like a trap as she looked at the floor indicator. Shouts seemed to come through the floor, familiar, like in a dream of the past. A dream of harsh, loud voices and fire and terror.

"Death to the Aristocracy!" A harsh, drunken voice shouted and the fragile device tumbled out of Relena's hand, shattering on the hard marble floor of the elevator as the power faded with a low hiss casting them into darkness.

“What’s happening?” Relena whispered, before a scream escaped her lips as the elevator jerked and they began to fall through the shaft.

Midii fell to her knees, immediately scrambling for her charge as the elevator halted, the emergency brakes finally taking effect.

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He winced as the brakes of the elevator above him emitted a high-pitched squeak. He looked at the handful of wires he’d pulled from the box and smirked. It was working. He couldn’t believe how easy it all was.

The glass whiskey bottle he’d brought crashed against the cement floor of the elevator shaft dousing the cables and framework with the incendiary combination of chemicals and gasoline and the man backed away, amazed and slightly aghast at what he’d done. He’d actually done it. They’d told him he was all talk.

Well now they’d see, they’d see for sure. His face was lit by the eerie glow of the flames before he turned and ran from the approaching inferno.

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Duo stared at his grimacing friend, a slight smirk spreading across his lips as he twirled the end of his braid. He was having a hard time stomaching this new side he was seeing in Heero Yuy. Romance and the Perfect Soldier did not mix.

“Y’know, a nice pink tux would go well with the evening,” Duo snickered, unable to resist the opportunity to tease Heero.

“I’m sure you have one to loan me,” Heero replied his voice monotone as he continued to stare at his laptop. Just a few more of the security systems still needed to be checked. He’d started from the top and was working his way down.

Duo blinked at Heero's unexpectedly mild comeback, but that didn't stop him from sneaking a finger beneath one of the silver-topped trays and snatching some of the shrimp cocktail hidden beneath.

Heero turned, his gun in hand, his eyes glinting dangerously as he leveled the barrel at Duo’s head, a silent warning moving across his stony face.

"I'll just be putting that back now," Duo nervously chuckled as he placed the lone shrimp back on the platter. A smirking waiter whisked away the offending shellfish before wheeling the cart out to take it up to the roof.

“Good,” Heero said softly, placing his gun back in his pocket as he turned back to the laptop’s now blinking screen. He stared in disbelief. An intruder was showing up on the basement security grid, the last grid to go back online.

Duo saw the tension building in Heero’s shoulder, and instinct prodded him to move forward. He had barely moved from his seat more than a few steps the lights began to flicker, before they were plunged into complete darkness.

“This can’t be good,” Duo quipped, his hand moving for his trusty sidearm, as silence fell over the room. He could see the dim form of Heero shifting through the room.

The incessant ringing of the fire alarm broke the silence. The ear shattering clanging running through his teeth as he broke for the door, in hot pursuit of Heero’s lithe form. In the darkness, he could dimly glance the form of Trowa disappearing down the elevator shaft.

“It’s a firestorm down there,” Quatre yelled to the approaching forms of Duo and Heero as he frantically looked at the elevator doors and the floor indicator stuck between floors 18 and 19. The rising heat lifting his bangs, and drenching his face with sweat and soot.

“What’s going on,” Duo shouted down the hall, all joking aside as he saw smoke and flame escape the elevator doors as they slammed shut again behind Trowa.

“Midii, and Relena,” Quatre answered eyeing the approaching form of the Perfect Soldier. He knew what the man planned, and he knew what the outcome of such a rash undertaking would be. He moved to intercept the running man.

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Midii coughed, raising a smoke stained hand to brush damp bangs from her face. She was worried, Relena’s coughs were getting weaker. It had been several minutes since the fire had started, and she could hear the roaring flames as they edged closer and closer to the falling elevator.

Already they had fallen several floors from where they had originally stopped, each fall further destroying their cage. Warily Midii glanced to the gaping hole in the floor nearest the doors. An orange blaze illuminating the dark shaft.

“Wake up,” Midii hissed through clenched teeth as she shook the limp form of her friend and charge. “You’re stronger than this dammit!”

Midii turned as she heard the heavy steel cables jangle. Cursing audibly over the crackling of the flames her heart jumped into her throat for a second as she fingered her revolver, freeing it from the harness she wore.

“Don’t move,” she cautioned Relena as she moved forward, edging closer to the escape hatch. Her gloved fingers reached for the catch, and she jumped back, the tender skin already beginning to blister from the heat. Glancing around for cloth with which to protect her hands she shrugged off her jacket. The heavy canvas material would prove to be the best protection she would be able to find.

With careful movements she wrapped the canvas around her hands, the revolver resting back in its harness as she pulled the catch free. Her covered hands pushing the heated metal back, allowing her to glimpse the inferno above. She gasped as her eyes came to rest on the figure of her husband climbing down the support cables, his hands like her own covered in the canvas material of his own Preventers jacket.

“Trowa,” her voice hesitantly called, hoping against hope. The heat was making her see things, she tried to assure herself. Her situation was now painstakingly clear to her, the inferno was too large to be thwarted, and the elevator only dangled from tattered cables. They wouldn’t remain in place much longer. “Go back,” she pleaded, her voice being consumed by the flames.

For a moment the figure was silhouetted against the blaze, his emerald eyes seeking her own, and then she knew that he wouldn’t leave her. A strangled sob escaped her throat as the last cable gave way and the melting brakes collapsed. They fell and her tortured gaze watched as Trowa began to tumble through the blazing tunnel as well. Her scream echoing throughout the dark building. As she fell back, her hand grasped Relena’s, and the two women just glanced at each other.

“I guess it’s time,” Relena croaked, all signs of hysteria and worry gone from her voice as she waited for the impact.

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With a superhuman yank and a sound somewhere between a protest and a strangled sob Heero tore himself out of Quatre’s grasp and eluded Duo, who pulled himself out of his shocked reverie in time to make a futile grab at his determined friend.

“Heero, stop,” Quatre yelled as the smell of burning flesh filled the smoky air. He was pulling the elevator doors open with his bare hands, the metal so hot it nearly glowed red.

A scream, muted by the crackle of the flames, stopped their hearts and adrenaline surged through Heero as he succeeded in opening the doors with his burned and raw hands. The shaft erupted in flame and explosion that threw all of them back into the opposite wall.

Wufei and Sally dropped into the hallway from a roof skylight as the black smoke started to fill the deadly quiet corridor. Sally felt cold fear course through her. It was so horribly quiet. She screamed and threw herself back as an office door in front of them exploded outward in a burst of flame. Her eyes met her partner’s and they silently agreed they had to continue. Those on the roof had assured them that they were all still inside . . . all their friends.

They could hear voices now, in the distance, arguing and they picked up their pace, adjusting the oxygen masks they wore to protect them from the fumes over their faces. In the darkness they could barely make out Duo and Quatre trying to restrain Heero, they were slowly dragging him away from gaping elevator doors that belched smoke and flame.

Sally shone her flashlight at Heero and her sharp eyes noted shock in the wide Prussian blue eyes, shock and determination. His look told her everything, as well as the notable absence of Relena.

“Wufei,” she whispered, nodding toward Heero. She saw her husband hesitate indecisively a little but his jaw jutted out and he approached the other man, delivering a well-controlled blow to the side of the other man’s neck. Wufei caught Heero as he slumped unconscious and placed him over his shoulder.

“Let’s go,” he said, between clenched teeth.

They reached the roof and Sally bent over Heero’s prone form, reaching for his hand. She gasped at the burn damage to the palm, so severe she doubted he’d ever feel anything again. She raised her eyes and met Quatre’s, the aqua eyes distorted by shock and tears. A dark bruise accentuated by a cut swelled his cheek.

“What happened in there,” Sally begged, choking back tears. “What happened to you?”

She reached out to touch his cheek and Quatre pulled back, raising his own fingers to the wound. He closed his eyes.

“I couldn’t stop him,” he groaned. He could feel the material of Trowa’s jacket beneath his fingers as he pulled him away.

“It’s no use! You know that Trowa. Please, I’m sorry. Cathy needs you. I need you. You can’t do anything,” he could hear his own voice begging.

He’d see those eyes glaring at him for the rest of his life in dreams.

“I’d follow her straight into hell, Quatre,” Trowa’s voice whispered.

“NOO,” Quatre shouted, his attention distracted by the approach of Duo and Heero.

“Let go of me,” Trowa shouted, back-handing Quatre with his left hand, the heavy metal of his wedding ring cutting into the taut flesh over the shorter man’s cheekbone.

“Quatre,” Sally persisted, trying to find answers in his distant eyes.

“They’re gone, all gone,” Quatre whispered finally, shutting his eyes against the horrible reality. “Miss Relena. Midii and, and Trowa . . .”

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Heero stood stoically, his eyes fixed on the dark horizon, the approaching storm clouds mirroring his eyes. He was seemingly ignorant to the glare leveled in his direction by the once feared Lightning Count. He seemed equally untouched by the silent tears of Noin and Pagan. He winced as he tried to form a fist, his hands ensconced in layers of gauze, from his own reckless behavior. He could feel Sally watching him intently, waiting for him to break.

He cursed the emotions, which had led him to such turmoil. During the war he had reminded himself again and again that emotions were a weakness, and that was true. He had grown weak by falling in love with Relena, and it had only caused him unnecessary pain. His emotions had also caused him to go soft, if he had been more vigilant, maybe she would still be alive.

Black umbrellas popped open as fat raindrops started to fall. Heero kept his in his hand, unopened as he watched the crystal droplets splatter on the shining wood of her coffin.

"We are gathered here today, to bid our goodbyes," the Priest intoned, his soft and solemn voice carrying through the quiet old cemetery, the soft twitter of birds in the background the only other sound.

The sun was warm and it glinted off the shining wood of the twin coffins. But the light and the beauty of the place was no comfort to Catherine and Quatre as they stared straight ahead, both of them avoiding the gaping holes in the Earth before them.

Catherine sighed heavily, tears raking her slight body as she tried to listen to the Priest's words. Her once healthy pink skin, dull and gray, her vibrant violet eyes haunted, and her once lustrous auburn hair, hanging in limp clumps. She was not the exotic woman of the circus, anymore; she was the personification of sorrow. She had only just found her dear brother, and he had cruelly been ripped from her hands.

From the corner of her eye, she could see the grieving form of Quatre Winner. He had reached out to her, tried to help her. But she didn't want his help, not now, maybe not ever.

She shivered despite the warmth of the sun. Would she ever feel warm again? Without Trowa beside her?

"To one of the bravest souls, with which we were graced, a soul who worked hard to give us the peace which we now enjoy…"

The sky cracked with brilliant lightning, he could see her face beside his on the pillow as she burrowed closer to him. She'd always hated storms. How could he leave her here, in the storm? "Relena," Heero thought.

Peace, what is peace, Heero’s mind continued to ramble as the Bishop’s words hit home. We fought for peace, but some idiot killed her, some drunken idiot killed her all for the sake of a dare. A drunken fool, his mind raged, as he ignored the pain from his tattered flesh, the pain only a phantom his mind created. His nerves had been all but destroyed; Sally had said he would never again feel anything with his hands again.

"… in this silent city of the dead, we commit this body to the ground…"

She felt the soft, comforting touch of Quatre's fingers as he tried to take her hand in his but Catherine pulled away from his touch, gracefully evading his loving gesture to pull a handkerchief from her purse. From the corner of her eye, she could see the grief it was all causing him, her sudden coldness, Trowa's loss. She glanced at him beneath her lashes and the spark of compassion that flickered in her lacerated heart went out again. She couldn't look at him without thinking of Trowa.

The ground, Cathy thought. Home, her fragile mind supplied, as she remembered the cries of a terrified child as bombs exploded around the retreating carriage. She could still see his emerald eyes, wide with terror. Her brother, her dear brother, lost to her.

"… into your keeping, praying that you will deal graciously and mercifully with each of us, until we too shall come to our final resting place, through the riches of grace…"

I was meant to protect her, Heero thought, she was my responsibility, no one else's. His mind whispered through clenched teeth, condemning his failure. Voicing whispers of thought he had been trying to deny for years.

"To Trowa Barton, and his wife Midii Une-Barton, we say good bye," the Priest said gravely, as he bowed his head in silent prayer. To see people die so young was a tragedy he had too often faced. He had watched them as they began their journey through life together, his heart ached performing the sermon which offered goodbyes to their kind souls.

Catherine moved forward, in her hands she now held Trowa's clown mask and a bouquet of lilies and periwinkle, and kneeling down between the two caskets she placed each item lovingly upon the polished mahogany. Her vision blurred by the tears, which continued to freely flow, she whispered a soft goodbye.

"The world bids goodbye to our Queen, and dove of Peace, Relena Dorlain-Peacecraft-Yuy," the bejeweled Bishop said, his voice heavy with sorrow as he raised his arms to the dark sky, his eyes closed as drops of rain began to fall in earnest.

Heero ignored the Bishop's display of emotion as he stalked toward the golden hued casket in which rested his world. Words had become stuck in his throat, only his will kept the tears from falling. The thorns on the roses ripped at the gauze as he gripped the stems tightly in his unfeeling hands, drawing blood as the rain steadily soaked his ebony suit. With a last penetrating gaze, he gently tossed the ivory, and burgundy roses into the grave, the gentle petals brushing against Relena’s coffin.

"Thank you for coming, Quatre," Catherine said. "But you should have gone to Relena Peacecraft's funeral. You weren't needed here."

Quatre looked at her, the sweet, gentle woman he was so fond of. "Catherine! How can you say that? Trowa was my best friend. There was something special between us. I had to be here. And I wanted to be here for you as well. I thought you realized how I felt?"

"His friend," Catherine repeated, her anger finally working it's way to the surface. "You only pretended to be his friend. How many times did you hurt Trowa? Just go away now Quatre. He's dead and you can't hurt him anymore."

“Cathy,” Quatre said softly, sighing when she refused to meet his eyes. “Do you remember the wedding? How happy they were? How happy we were? You’re not alone.”

Catherine’s eyes misted with fresh tears, hearing Midii’s laughter as Trowa sheltered her from the rice bombs Duo had tossed at them as they ran out of the church. Right here on this very spot. They’d been so happy, so alive.

Quatre had taken her hand again, he was speaking but she was lost in memories until finally his words filtered through her grief and she raised her violet eyes to stare at him incredulously.

“Marry me.”

“No,” she said starkly. His shocked face demanded an explanation so she continued.

“There never was anything real between us Quatre and I don’t want to be tied to you for the rest of my life. It was different when Trowa was still here, we were both drawn together then because in a way when he found Midii he left us both behind. It was a temporary solution. I can’t ever forget all the times you took him away from me,” she said in a voice that did not invite discussion.

“Catherine! You don’t mean that,” Quatre said.

“He was my brother. My real brother,” Catherine wailed, losing her control. “You let him die Quatre. You just let him go. I can never forget. I can never forgive.”

“Still, I just can’t leave you here,” Quatre said, trying to hide his own hurt but realizing there was truth in her words. It had been Trowa that bound them together and now he was gone.

Catherine turned away, her eyes turned to the bright blue sky of Provence, something she would always remember. After awhile she heard Quatre walk away, his footsteps muted by the soft grass. Without Midii and Trowa, she thought, I am truly alone, I have no one left.

Heero stood in the rain in the isolated cemetery, marked for members of the Peacecraft family. Noin was speaking to him but her words were unimportant. He just wanted to be left alone. He had to face what he had done, how he had failed her. He could hear Milliardo and Duo arguing, their voices hot and angry notes in the cool rain. So much for peace, he couldn’t help thinking. How dare they battle, here in this place, before the ground even covered her?

“Leave him alone Noin,” Milliardo said. “If he thinks he can atone for his sins by staying here in the rain then let him. He should know that it makes no difference to Relena if he’s with her now or not.”

“Zechs,” Noin said reprovingly as her husband continued to direct his ice-blue gaze at his brother-in-law. He was under so much pressure and it was starting to show. How was he going to continue his family’s legacy of peace now Relena was dead? He thought himself unworthy and yet without some symbol the world was in grave danger of falling back on its warlike ways. So much more than Relena had been lost in that horrible freak tragedy, she thought.

“I’m tellin’ ya you better just leave Heero alone Zechs,” Duo cut in, his sore feelings urging him to hit someone and Zechs was a very tempting target.

Hilde shook her head and approached Heero.

“Please come back and stay with us,” she pleaded. “We’re your friends. We want you with us.”

Duo stopped arguing with Relena’s brother long enough to add his voice to his wife’s. “Yeah buddy, it’s time to go. Besides Sally will have our heads if we leave you out here in the rain.”

Heero’s gaze lifted from the coffin finally to stare at Duo.

“You can’t stop me from being with her this time. She always hated storms and I won’t leave her till it’s over. And you’re not my friend. No one is my friend,” he said, returning his watchful gaze to the coffin that held his wife’s broken body.

Duo lost it.

“You’re crazy! What do you mean? No one’s your friend? Were me and Quatre supposed to let you fucking kill yourself like Trowa? Do you think Midii was happy to see him coming down that tunnel so he could burn up beside her? Is that what you think Relena would have wanted? I wouldn’t change a thing about that day except for wishing I’d been able to pull Trowa back the way we did you. I’m not going to apologize for what Quatre and I did. You couldn’t save her Heero. You’re not perfect, you never were. None of us are.”

“That’s enough,” Heero said. “You are not my friend Duo. You never were. You were only an annoying bastard that’s been getting in my way since the day I met you. Now leave me alone. You’ve done enough.”

Hilde pulled Duo away. She knew if she let this go on their relationship would be permanently destroyed if it wasn’t already. She’d never seen such hurt in Duo’s eyes. Heero was behaving inexcusably, no matter how hurt he was over losing Relena he shouldn’t be speaking to Duo that way.

In the distance he could see the hordes of people, milling around the golden gates. Heero turned away from the disappearing crowd, turning his face towards the falling raindrops, and his mind returned to coherent thought. Without Relena, I am truly alone.

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to be continued . . .