Disclaimer: I own neither Aerosmith or Gundam Wing. Hey T-t-trowa . . . (grin)
3xMU songfic/lemon But just cuz it’s a lemon doesn’t mean it’s fluffy, actually this transformed itself into a very dark little fic somehow. Includes reference to and inspired by events in the Ground Zero manga (which is not to be confused with Episode Zero). Despite the title you will find lyrics from both Aerosmith’s Jaded and I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing in this fic.
By Midii Une
December, After Colony 196
Was this it? The words scrolled across the computer screen. Words vague and innocuous enough to anyone who might come across them innocently or inadvertently.
But she was not innocent and nothing she did was inadvertent.
Unbelievable that they would send their Gundams hurtling through space unattended. Unconscionable really. Could anyone be that innocent or trusting after the war they’d been through? But if the Gundam pilots believed that peace had established itself so thoroughly that mobile suits were no longer needed it was easy to see why they assumed it would be safe to casually ship a Gundam to a disposal block as if it were a birthday card or some other unimportant delivery.
They hadn’t counted on people like her.
“My God. You found one,” a masculine voice whispered, she felt hot breath on her neck as he took the opportunity to lean close to her and get a better look at the screen. She didn’t flinch as his hand ‘accidentally’ brushed against her breast although the memory of revulsion long buried squirmed in the pit of her stomach.
“Given enough time I always find what I’m looking for,” she whispered, seeming so far away from him, that it was as if they stood across the room from each other, though he could feel the soft brush of her hair against his cheek and the satiny warmth of her skin beneath his hand. There was no pride in her statement, it was matter-of-fact. She completed the assignments given to her, so jaded by life that if she died during a mission it would have merely been a welcome change of pace to her.
“There’s not much time. I’ll leave immediately,” she said, automatically making an excuse to glide away from his unwanted touch. Was it still so unwanted, he wondered, his eyes following her and as always a sense of guilty but overwhelming desire filled him. His advances were met with no more emotion than anything she did. He knew he was caught in his own revenge because now while she felt absolutely nothing, he suffered. He burned to see something in those mirror-like eyes, mirrors that reflected any emotion required. But inside she felt nothing.
For a few short years, far too few, she had been at his mercy. But Midii Une was a helpless child no longer. She was 17 going on 35 and she had long since found a method of escape deep within herself.
He followed her and stopped her at the door, turned her to face him. He studied her face, there was only impatience written on her delicate features and she made a tiny, almost indiscernible, pout of irritation as her hand lifted sensually to unbutton her blouse. But there was no desire or passion in her practiced gesture and certainly no fear. Not like the first time and since that first time what was between them could hardly even be qualified as rape.
She tipped her head to stare impatiently at the ceiling, eager for him to finish, feeling slightly curious that after all this time he should still be so deeply affected by her cold submission. His breath came heavily and his large sweaty hands clenched her pale shoulders with bruising force as she braced herself against the wall.
“Henri,” she muttered huskily, her voice urgent. He lifted his face from where it was buried in the swell of her breasts to look at her expectantly. Was she feeling something at last, did she want him?
“Condom,” she said, her eyes cold and forbidding and he paused to awkwardly don the barrier she insisted on before resuming his attack. She circled his waist with her legs to relieve the strain of her position as he pounded into her again and again.
“Jeannette, Jeannette,” he groaned as it finished all too quickly, his face buried in the silken length of moonlight-colored hair that smelled faintly, as always, of lavender. He rested against her for a moment, crushing her slight body between himself and the wall and noticed that her breathing had not even quickened. Without a word his Jeannette’s daughter slipped beneath his arm, quickly buttoning the creamy silk blouse that clung to her body with heart-stopping snugness. One perfectly-manicured hand smoothed down her skirt and lifted to tuck a stray lock of hair behind one ear.
“You will be careful,” he breathed as he watched her tuck her laptop into an Italian leather case.
She didn’t answer.
“Answer me Midii,” he demanded.
An expression of rare mirth crossed her angelic features, the girl’s amused smile lit the features of the lovely woman the Alliance officer had loved and lost so long ago. Lost to the arms of another man. But their daughter was his; he’d watched her grow from a pretty child to a stunningly beautiful woman. Her metamorphoses had turned the tables however and now it was she who had power over him, hers was the whip hand now in this decades old game of revenge. In his sick, twisted way he loved her now even more than he’d ever loved Jeannette. But he himself had turned her into what she was, a woman who did not even value her own life.
“You amuse me Henri,” she said. “I go to relieve a Gundam pilot of his Gundam and you ask me to be careful.”
Hey j-j-jaded, you got your mama's style
But you're yesterday's child to me
You think that's where it's at
You're gettin' it all over me and serrated
The soft glow of the overhead light on the space shuttle turned the Chardonnay in her glass to pale gold. She twisted the stem of the glass in her hand and took a small sip as she stared at the screen.
The Gundam 03 belonged to him. He’d found his way back to the circus, had he? She forced herself to think of him coldly, it was easy enough. It had been so long since she’d felt. Yet her eyes slid sideways to glance at the empty seat beside her, she always purchased two seats in first class whenever she traveled. She valued her space and her privacy whenever she was lucky enough to escape from Henri’s smothering and possessive affection. In the seat she could see the boy again, the messy fall of reddish-brown hair and one secretive green eye peeking from beneath it.
She could picture a Gundam shrouded in circus canvas. It would be in an isolated, lonely location. He could hardly keep it under his bed. With luck she wouldn’t even have to lay eyes on Nanashi again. Hmmph, she muttered. He can no longer be the same. She glanced back at the screen. Trowa Barton. He is only Trowa Barton. Nanashi is gone. And Trowa Barton means nothing to me.
With nimble fingers she braided her hair and tied a black scarf over it before kneeling to buckle her black combat boots, cursing slightly as one of her nails broke under the pressure.
She found it easily enough and just as she’d imagined, in the dark corner of a warehouse full of circus paraphernalia. Old animal cages were stacked high and only partially covered with drop cloths. What she was looking for towered above the rest of the stuff they kept in there.
A vision of suspicious green eyes flashed in her brain as she reached a small hand to tug at the canvas that shrouded the giant mecha.
“He probably has an alarm rigged up,” she thought. She pulled a small flashlight from her army jacket and painstakingly examined the cloth, finding nothing. Gently she pulled at the material until it cascaded down and pooled on the dark and dirty floor. She caught her breath at the sight of it. It was beautiful in a way. And it would be theirs. She never considered why anymore or the consequences of her actions. The market for a Gundam was prodigious indeed and even her small share of the profit would be an astounding sum of money. What happened after that was none of her concern.
Seeing no other way to get up to the cockpit, Midii climbed up a pile of boxes and leapt the few feet of dark space between the box and the Gundam’s shoulder with unconscious grace. She never thought what it would mean to fall. She didn’t admit that she had come here hoping to be caught. To finish what was started so long ago on that snowy field.
“I don’t deserve to live.”
She’d never changed her mind. But there was only one face she wanted to see at the other end of a pistol. Either way tonight she would win and so she feared nothing. She’d get the Gundam or Nanashi would finally kill her. She crouched on the Gundam’s shoulder trying to figure a way in and finally decided she would have to open the door first then disable the alarm quickly once she was inside.
The inside of the Gundam was more elaborately wired then she had imagined. She had to hurry she knew and she hacked away at some wires in the control panel haphazardly. So much for Nanashi’s alarm, she thought, forgetting to call him Trowa Barton in her mind.
My my baby blue
Yeah I been thinkin' about you
My my baby blue
And I'm the one that jaded you
At first the beeping sound from the laptop under his bed seemed like part of a dream. She would have been amused to know that he did keep the alarm for his Gundam, if not the Gundam itself, under his bed.
Trowa came to alert quickly, the year of peace having done little to erase the quick reaction time of a lifelong soldier. Quickly he emerged from dreams of past triumphs and mistakes to sweep his arm under the bed and find the small laptop computer left over from his days as a Gundam pilot. The security he’d set up around HeavyArms as tight as that Heero had around Wing Zero. He and Duo and Quatre had managed to get their hands on it though, so it was barely within the realm of possibility for someone to get close to a Gundam. But they had meant no harm of course, they had just been curious to find out why Heero was upgrading his Gundam during peace time.
The answer had been laughable. He’d made the plans during the war and hadn’t wanted to not try them out.  Still, that day they’d all decided that there was no longer any need for their Gundams and it had been his own idea to send them to the sun.  A fitting end for their noble weapons of war. It seemed now that some organization must have intercepted his correspondence with Quatre and Duo on the subject.
Trowa tucked a gun in his jacket and headed out to the warehouse. Whoever it was had interrupted his dream and he didn’t know whether to be angry or relieved about that. It had been the dream of Midii again, no more really than a vision of incredibly sad, incredibly blue eyes. But he knew to whom those eyes belonged. He’d been too hard on her that day. He wondered what had happened to her. Now he realized he had ignored her cry for help. Had she ever changed, gone back to wherever she was from and been happy? Somehow he doubted that and felt in a way that he was to blame, though he had been no more than a child himself.
What would it have been like if he’d taken her with him, kept her always beside him? That wouldn’t have worked either. Would she have been any better off as a child mercenary fighting by his side, probably dying in battle? So much had happened since that day, the day they parted almost seven years ago. If only fate would lead him back to her, he’d find a way to make things right again.
The warehouse was silent and dark but he could see only darkness where his Gundam should be, he didn’t see the pale cloud of canvas that usually obscured the gigantic mobile suit from view. His heart pounded, could it be gone already? But as his eyes adjusted to the darkness he saw it there, the ambient light gleaming off the Gundanium alloy softly. The cockpit door hung open, looking for all the world like a shocked and surprised face that someone would dare attempt to steal his Gundam.
As the girl had done before him, Trowa silently, and with more precision and grace, leapt across the void to the open cockpit hatch. He landed quietly on the balls of his feet, gun in hand already pointed at the intruder. A pale face gleamed in the darkness of the familiar cockpit and he saw the glimmer of eyes looking at him.
“You might have made more headway if you’d turned on the lights,” he said, flipping on the power switch and expecting the familiar illumination to flood HeavyArms’ interior.
Nothing happened. It remained dark.
The dim figure attempted to bolt past him and take a flying leap out the door. He reached out and grabbed at the small form he made out in the darkness, slamming the intruder back into the cockpit and pulling the door shut behind them, efficiently blocking the only escape route.
“You’d have killed yourself if I let you go,” Trowa said, the figure still an enigma in the blackness. With the door shut it was completely dark inside. “Do you hold your life so cheaply then?”
The thief was silent but he could hear the soft sound of breathing, only slightly quickened by the near brush with death and his less-than-gentle shove.
He turned his attention to getting the lights to work but the systems seemed to have failed and suddenly he realized he had made a potential error.
“What the hell did you do,” he muttered to his silent companion, taking out his flashlight and shining it on the face opposite his in the dark . . . and wondered if he was still dreaming.
Her face was expressionless as he stared at her, his hand reaching to pull away the black scarf to reveal the color of her hair.
“Midii . . .”
“Yes. It’s me, Nanashi.”
In all it's misery
It will always be what I love and hated
And maybe take a ride to the other side
We'll slip into the velvet glove
And be jaded
The atmosphere inside the cockpit was heavy with silence but the quiet almost hummed with their thoughts.
Surprisingly he spoke first.
“The war is over Midii,” he said. “Did you think about what would happen if this mobile suit fell into the wrong hands?”
She made a small sound of disgust and he felt her hostility, real and palpable and somehow he regretted his words, although he believed in what he’d said. He was handling this all wrong and he wanted to do this right, he was suddenly desperate to find the little girl imprisoned inside the cold, uncaring woman.
“Midii?” He could think of nothing else to say. He wanted her to say something.
“You’re still so incredibly naïve Nanashi,” she finally whispered. “And I still hate you.”
“Because I left . . .
She cut him off. “Because of who you are. Only you could make something out of what you had. You had nothing Nanashi and look at you now. A hero. This peace is because of you. People like me may try to break it but that will never dim your achievement. You must be so proud.”
“You can stop now,” he protested. “Peace is for everyone . . .
“Not for me,” she said softly. “Never for me.”
He was uncomfortably close, an unavoidable situation in the tiny cockpit. The air was getting hot and stale and as Midii turned away from the direction of his voice angrily her elbow clipped his ribs and he grunted.
Tiny beads of sweat popped out on her face, her pretense of fearlessness stretching thinner and thinner in the small, airless space. Claustrophobia began to overwhelm her. “I’m trapped. Trapped in here,” she thought, fighting back panic.
She could feel him turn away from her and hear him resume his manipulation of the controls but his effort seemed wasted.
“Hurry up and open that damn door,” she said, hearing the tremor in her own voice that made her even more afraid.
My my baby blue
Yeah I'm thinkin about you
My my baby blue
Yeah I'm so jaded
“What makes you so sure that I can open it,” Trowa said, letting the wrench he held drop on the floor with a resounding clunk that echoed in the silent aftermath of his words.
“What do you mean,” she whispered, her voice breathy and thin in the humid darkness that blanketed them both. Her soul flooded with fresh hatred for the imperturbable pilot as she heard the beginnings of fear in her own voice. Why? She had nothing to be afraid of. Death was only freedom from a life that had never been hers to control despite her veneer of cold self-assurance. But now, being with him again was waking her up, waking up the sad little girl inside, the little girl who had let herself love someone once with disastrous results.
“I mean that you really did a number on the power connections and there’s no possibility of opening this hatch manually,” he said, the emotionless tone of his voice failing to hide the seriousness of the situation from her.
His warm breath grazed her cheek and he heard her breath catch and hold before she swallowed several gasping mouthfuls of air and he felt her shake her head as if in denial, soft strands of her hair from her loosening braids brushing against his arm.
“Fix it then. Can’t you fix it,” she whispered, her voice so soft that he had to lean closer to hear it. He leaned closer bracing his hands on either side of her, he inched forward till he swore he could hear or feel her heart pounding so close to his.
Midii’s hand closed tightly on the small flashlight she had set beside her and flicked it on, shining it in her companion’s face. She could read nothing, not on his face or in his silence.
Trowa stared into the glassy steel-blue eyes that tried to pierce his armor as they had so long ago. She was stronger now but so was he . . . but he turned away first.
“Maybe,” he muttered. He heard several more loud intakes of breath from the girl as he turned his back to find his discarded wrench.
“If you’re so interested in staying alive,” he continued in a louder voice, “take it easy, conserve energy and breathe normally. And hold the flashlight if you wouldn’t mind.”
He glanced back over his shoulder at her as the wavering light fixed on the shredded wires, it seemed like her cheeks were flushed with embarrassment and she refused to meet his gaze. Trowa shrugged and studied the damage, forgetting the stowaway for a moment as his attention was wholly absorbed by the challenge before him.
Midii’s hatred spread inward, she was disgusted with herself as the cockpit walls seemed to close in on her and her mind strained against her sternly imposed control. In spite of herself terror and panic built up inside as she clung to the slender metal cylinder of the flashlight with shaking fingers, clung as if it were a lifeline. Sweat trickled down her forehead in the heat and stung her eyes and she licked her lips that felt dry and cracked.
She watched Nanashi work, the skilled and sure movement of his hands like something out of a dream and her eyes misted over . . . his wrench struck discordantly against a metal fitting and she blinked. She saw his face close to her, the odd look of surprise on his face and the faint gleam of gold in her own hand.
“If you wear this God will protect you.”
Those green eyes looking at her, trying to see in her soul . . . she jerked back. “I-I don’t like you,” she muttered, her voice childish and unsure.
Trowa scowled as the meager illumination provided by the flashlight wavered crazily again as her hand shook and he heard her efforts to try to control her breathing, ignored her soft words spoken seemingly to herself. He had been close to making a connection before she started moving the light. He set down the wrench and stretched, releasing the tension in his shoulders. He lifted the edge of the cotton T-shirt he slept in to wipe the sweat from his forehead before yanking the shirt completely over his head and rubbing it roughly over his face. He couldn’t think about anything now. Couldn’t think why she was here or what he would do after. He had to concentrate on getting them out.
“He’s giving up,” Midii thought, dropping the flashlight, barely hearing the glass of the tiny bulb shatter on the Gundanium floor. So dark . . . a whimper escaped her throat. So dark and no air, she couldn’t breathe, she choked, her lungs desperate for air.
A shuddering sob filtered through Trowa’s annoyance as he searched the dark cockpit for his own flashlight. They’d never get out of here at this rate, he thought in irritation. Realistically he knew he was close but he sensed also that once he did open the door the real trouble would begin.
He found the flashlight and shone the light on her face, her eyes were shut tightly and a few tears had squeezed out from beneath her lids and glittered on her pale gray skin.
“Midii,” he said wonderingly, his hand reaching out to cup her cheek, a strange tenderness in his voice that came from an uncharted place in his heart as he sensed her fear. He caught a quick glimpse of desperate eyes as her lids flew open as quickly as a startled bird in flight. Darkness overtook them again as she lunged at him, knocking the flashlight out of his hand.
“Can’t breathe,” she gasped, her nails digging into his bare arms, her grip surprisingly strong in her panic. Automatically his arms circled her, catching her in an iron embrace.
She struggled wildly, striking out frantically until one of her blows finally met flesh solidly and he loosened his hold on her.
Midii flung herself against the implacable door and uselessly battered her slender hands against the invincible metal that kept her prisoner . . . no air . . . no light . . . she was being punished.
“Please,” she choked. “I’ll do anything . . . please, please let me out . . .
Trowa shrugged off the pain of his bruised jaw and moved it gingerly, amazingly she packed quite a punch. The strange gasps coming from the darkness were suddenly frightening, her whispered pleas making him wonder all over again what had happened to her in the time they had been apart. Made him wonder if there had been times she wished for him when his thoughts had been far from her.
The tiny space grew eerily silent and seconds ticked slowly by before he realized she was no longer breathing.
He grabbed her roughly, his voice harsh in the stillness.
“Breathe Midii. There’s air, there’s enough air. BREATHE!”
She gasped in a hesitant breath then shook her head and clutched at her throat, choking, he flashed the light on her face and her lips were tinged blue. Trowa raised his hand and slapped her across the face hard, the print of his open hand rose red and swollen on her pale cheek. She blinked a few times before her eyes rolled back in her head and she went limp in his arms.
“Sorry, I’m sorry,” he whispered, his own breathing racing along with his heart as he held her carefully, stroking her hair and listening to the soft regular sound of her breathing. He shifted her until her face rested against his and unconsciously he gently pressed his lips to the angry welt on her cheek.
Your thinking's so complicated
I've had it all up to here
But it's so overrated
Love and hated
Wouldn't trade it
Love me jaded
Her face and hands hurt and her body felt sore as if she’d run herself ragged. Midii kept her eyes carefully closed as she held her body still and kept her breathing even. She concentrated and listened, trying to discern where she was before she would give the enemy the advantage of knowing she was awake.
The bed was narrow and hard but there was a blanket tucked around her carefully, the disparity confused her. Irritation roiled in her mind as she struggled to remember where she was and why.
Trowa watched carefully as a tiny frown creased the smooth skin between Midii’s eyes. Once she’d passed out he’d had no trouble repairing HeavyArms to the point that the door could be opened. It would need a bit more work to operate at total functionality again. He was starting to regret his odd behavior of the night before, the tenderness inspired by her hysterical behavior fading away and leaving behind only his usual wary watchfulness.
“The Gundam,” Midii thought. Her sudden recollection almost jolted her from her carefully maintained masquerade of sleep. She couldn’t stop the red flush of embarrassment from coloring her face as she remembered everything with sudden, awful clarity. It was disconcerting that she couldn’t recollect how she’d gotten from the cockpit to this place, wherever it was. She peered beneath her long black lashes praying that Nanashi had left her alone and found herself staring at the barrel of an ornate silver pistol.
She wasn’t afraid of this. She had never feared this, despite her panic in the Gundam’s cockpit there was little else she actually feared. Midii ignored the gun and the green-eyed boy who was pointing it at her and sat up, sliding her legs over the side of the bed in a smooth, graceful motion.
She pushed a long silky strand of her platinum blonde hair behind her ear and looked at him over her shoulder, fixing him with a mocking stare.
“Nice weapon Nanashi. Did you steal it?”
He hadn’t. It was a souvenir of his days as an undercover OZ trainee. He had of course been the best in his class.
“Don’t move,” he said softly, rising from the chair at the foot of the bed and prowling along the side to face her.
They met face to face in the light of day for the first time in nearly seven years. The snide comment that rose to Midii’s lips died momentarily as she looked into those emerald eyes, still the same, right down to the lack of emotion. She must have dreamed the night before, the harsh rasp of feeling in his voice as he begged her to breathe. Probably just didn’t want her corpse in his precious cockpit.
Trowa studied the flurry of emotions in her stormy eyes, they had always fascinated him, so different from the eyes of the soldiers he lived with, so different from his own eyes when he saw them in infrequent glances in the mirror. She was alive in a way he had never been and the bite of envy she’d always caused in his soul flared. Her moods had always blown hot and cold sometimes her face had been so gentle and sweet and then it would harden into a mask that could rival his own, she loved, she hated, she felt. Midii . . .
She was walking away.
“Stop,” he said again. She turned and looked at him, the expression on her face almost puzzled.
“Why,” she asked curiously, as if he didn’t have a gun directed at her heart. “Why do you want me to stay?”
He was silent. Why
did he want her to stay? He
still hadn’t decided what he would do.
She had tried to steal his Gundam.
Anyone else would have been dead.
But she had always been different.
His silence hurt strangely, he was still the same, the perfect unemotional soldier, untouchable. She had patterned herself on him, tried to be like him to protect her fragile heart from the inevitable pain of war but in his presence she couldn’t do it, her well-practiced act seemed just beyond her grasp and she turned away, desperate to get away before it totally got out of her control.
Trowa aimed the engraved silver pistol at the departing figure, he had deadly aim, the result of a lifetime of honing his skill. He pulled the trigger.
His hand shook visibly although he had left plenty of room for error, meaning only to make her stop, it had never been his intention to wound her. But the sound of the pistol shot didn’t affect her and she kept walking. Suddenly the flimsy door of the trailer had slammed behind her and he was alone.
“Midii! Wait . . .” unconsciously he echoed her words to him from so long ago. He had walked away and never looked back, hadn’t looked back until it was too late.
The hollow echo of the slamming door activated his response. He caught up to her easily and spun her to face him. She avoided his eyes and instead reached a small hand to caress the cold silver of the barrel of his pistol.
“You missed. Why? I don’t deserve to live,” she said, raising her eyes to his. They were empty, devoid of emotion and totally unafraid.
He felt her fingers close around his and felt the increasing pressure on the sensitive trigger of the pistol. He understood.
“I won’t be your self-destruct button,” he said, loosening his grip and letting the gun fall between them in the dust.
She saw a familiar look in his eyes, their faces were close and she felt his hand tighten convulsively on her wrist. He leaned closer and she could hear his breathing slow as if he meant to kiss her. So, Nanashi was like other men after all it seemed. The thought both disappointed and excited her.
“Come to the circus this afternoon,” he heard himself say. He saw Midii’s brows lift in surprise confirming that he had indeed said the words out loud.
“So it was more than nostalgia,” she said softly, a remembering look shadowing her face for a second before she tried again to loosen his hold on her wrist.
“No thanks,” she said, tugging harder. “If you won’t shoot me then you have no way to make me stay here do you Nanashi?”
“You’re afraid to stay,” he said, attacking her pride since he was unwilling to hurt her physically.
“I’m not afraid of anything! Especially not you Nanashi,” she sputtered angrily.
“Except for small, dark spaces, of course,” he answered cuttingly, knowing he hadn’t missed his target this time when she paled visibly.
“Fine, I’ll stay,” she huffed. It was only slightly past noon. “What do you expect me to do until show time,” she asked, scowling. “Are you going to stand here and hold my hand all afternoon?”
He dropped her wrist and reached out to touch a finger to a dark smudge of grease on the curve of her cheek.
“You could get cleaned up,” he offered.
Her stomach rumbled and Midii decided that the tempting offer of a hot shower could wait until more immediate matters had been settled.
“Can I have something to eat first or are you planning to starve me into submission,” she asked, slightly aghast when her words seemed to spark devilish inspiration in the green depths that stared down at her.
“I could probably microwave you something,” he said thoughtfully. “But first you’ll have to tell me why you came here.”
“I can’t believe you’re trying to bribe me with ‘something’ from the microwave,” she said disdainfully. “You’ll have to do better than that.”
She looked around and caught sight of a few food stands just opening up on the fringe of the deserted circus grounds.
“So?” Trowa prodded impatiently as he watched Midii delicately lick bright red ketchup from the tips of her slender fingers. She ignored him and reached for the last French fry in the grease-stained paper basket. He scowled and surprised her by exercising his quicker reflexes and snatching the French fry himself and swiping it through the ketchup. He popped it into his mouth whole.
“Talk,” he mumbled.
Midii shrugged and pouted. “Fine. I didn’t come here for any particular reason really. I was doing a routine transmissions scan to see if I could come up with any leads for a job. I came across some interesting shipping instructions and voila it turned out the message was for a certain pilot 03 and the instructions were concerning a Gundam mobile suit.”
“What did you plan to do with it,” Trowa asked.
She looked at him as if he were stupid.
“Sell it of course. Don’t tell me you haven’t had any offers?”
He thought of Ralph Kurt. Of course he had had offers, which proved his point that the Gundams should be destroyed. They were a danger to peace now where as a year ago they had been used to bring peace about.
But if someone had sent Midii after HeavyArms . . .
“Who sent you,” he asked urgently.
“It was my own idea. I needed the money,” she said candidly. “There’s definitely a market but I wasn’t working for any particular buyer. Henri would have had no trouble selling it I assure you.”
“Henri?” he asked.
She wondered why she had mentioned his name and now that she had she knew he would come after her when she did not return. He did not like having her out of his reach for long, he became almost frantic.
“I don’t want to go back,” she thought and a little of the suffocating feeling she had experienced while trapped in the cockpit came back to her and she shook her head trying to forget. She shivered, feeling as if the sun had gone behind a cloud
“Midii tell me who he is. Don’t be afraid. I told you that the war is over, it’s a new world for everyone. Including you,” Trowa said, the tender feelings from the night before seeping back into his heart when he saw the hopelessness written on her face. He believed her assurance that she had been acting alone. There was nothing to worry about then, not really. They could go ahead and dispose of the Gundams as planned.
She merely shook her head in disbelief and walked ahead of him toward the trailer.
Cathrine jerked her trailer door open when she heard Trowa’s knock. She’d seen him walking outside with the strange girl and wondered where she’d come from. She had an awful suspicion.
“Trowa,” she cried. “What’s going on? Who is that you were with earlier?”
She looked around and felt relief that the girl seemed to be gone. The sudden appearance of strangers frightened Cathrine. It always seemed to foreshadow Trowa going away again.
“Her name is Midii,” Trowa said slowly, wondering exactly what to say about her. “I knew her during the war.”
He kept glancing back at his own trailer. She had ordered him out while she took a shower.
“Oh no! No Trowa, I don’t like this,” Cathrine protested. “She’s still here isn’t she? Tell her to leave, I don’t want any more trouble. I don’t want you to go!”
Trowa shook his head.
“I’m not leaving Cathy. I promise. Could I please just borrow a clean shirt for Midii,” Trowa said, trying to be soothing but anxious to get back, afraid she’d be gone if he stayed away too long.
“Be careful,” Cathrine begged, handing Trowa a thin pink sweater that had grown too small for her. “I don’t want to lose you.”
“Don’t worry,” Trowa said, surprising the older girl by smiling and leaning in to give her a quick peck on the cheek.
“I can’t help it,” she whispered agonizingly as he turned and hurried back to his own trailer. He had changed somehow since that other friend of his had come here. Since then he’d seemed to be forgetting about the war and now that Midii had come he seemed actually happy. He had smiled and kissed her.
“Why can’t I be happy about this too,” Cathrine wondered, clasping her hands over her heart.
Midii tugged uncomfortably on the low-cut sweater that clung tightly to her slender figure leaving nothing to the imagination. The girl she had borrowed it from had very questionable taste in clothes. Clothes should tease a man, not show him everything in the first glance, Midii thought. She crossed her arms over her chest and sat in a dark, lonely corner of the stands.
The matinee was crowded because it was the final performance before the circus moved to another colony. Still she felt strangely isolated and so different from the happy people watching the show. They all seemed so carefree and adjusted to the new world. For her there seemed to be no peace. Would she always go on as she was? Would she be Henri’s little plaything forever simply because he had supported her family during the war? He had trapped her in this life with him until she believed it was all there was left to her.
That was the truth, that was how her life had to be wasn’t it? She buried her head in her hands then lifted it quickly, the darkness sparking a distant, almost-forgotten memory, a threat and a promise.
“I’ll do anything. Oh please . . .”
She took a few deep breaths and slid over on the bench toward an area of the tent that had better lighting.
Trowa caught movement out of the corner of his eye. He felt strangely nervous and suddenly helpless with his hands attached to Cathrine’s board. Then he relaxed, he saw her there sitting under a soft yellow beam of light, the light made her hair shine like gold satin. His fingers flexed, he ached to touch it. The rest of the performance went by as if in a dream.
“Trowa! Pay attention,” Cathrine hissed as she watched him twirl the little paper flower absently between his fingers. “You’re on!”
He could play his part even if he were unconscious it seemed. The roar of the audience was nothing, he only looked for one face. She was in the crowd, but not a part of it. She sat all alone. He raised himself on one hand as the lion circled the ring, he felt the play of muscles beneath the shaggy fur, felt the animal’s heart beating beneath his hand. He pushed off on cue and flipped landing on his feet in the center of the circle, taking his customary bow. Cathrine watched and let her breath out. She was surprised he’d made it through this afternoon, his mind so obviously somewhere else.
She sighed again in relief and turned to make her own curtsies to the audience, her full tulle skirt floating around her like drifting flower petals. When she turned back toward Trowa, all she saw was his mask discarded in the circle of sawdust.
Midii pushed through the crowd. What was she doing here? She had to go back, back to what had become her normal life. Back where she felt nothing and could hide her emotions just as well as Nanashi ever had. The crowd thinned and she started to run, she ran until she was out of breath, until she was sure she had left him behind. She sank to her knees and tried to catch her breath, jumping when a hand landed softly on her shoulder. She looked over her shoulder and saw the little yellow paper flower he held out to her.
She smiled uncertainly, she couldn’t help it, those shoes and those big green pants. For some strange reason she suddenly remembered the little clown face he’d painted on his mobile suit when they’d been with the mercenaries but instead of laughing, she found herself crying instead.
“Midii,” he whispered, leaning to kiss her finally. “Don’t go.”
There ain't no baby please
When I'm shootin the breeze with her
And ectasy's what you prefer
“Hmmm,” Trowa responded, glancing down at her as he completed the repairs to HeavyArms power systems. She still called him Nanashi. He didn’t correct her. He really wasn’t Trowa Barton, he didn’t know who he was. It simply didn’t bother him that she made no effort to call him anything else. It was like a warm secret that bound the two of them together. She knew exactly who he was and she had stayed . . .
“Why are you fixing that thing if you’re going to send it to the sun,” she asked, leaning back against the wall and keeping him in her vision. She wanted to look at him forever. She couldn’t believe this was happening, that she was here beside him, that she never had to leave. It was just like it had been, except this time she only had to please herself and she would never betray him again.
He shrugged at her question. It was a strange thing to do he supposed, rather like Heero adding those fantastic wings to Wing Zero even though he never planned to use it again. He and the others had all confessed to making the occasional upgrade to their Gundams in the year since the war had ended. It was like a hobby, he just liked working with his hands, fixing things.
“I’m all done up here,” he said, looking out of the cockpit and down at the tiny figure of Midii so far below. He still wondered why she had been so frightened the day before, wondered what had made her tough façade crack under the smallest pressure.
“Why don’t you come up,” he said.
She shook her head and started edging along the wall of the storage building. He grabbed onto the cable and lowered himself lightly to the ground, reaching over and pulling her close.
“I don’t want to,” she whispered leaning her head on his shoulder and reveling in the feel of his arm around her as he held her close.
“You need to,” he said. “I never want you to be afraid of anything again.”
“No!” she yelled in protest, but his arm tightened around her waist and the cable rose carrying them up to the open hatch.
“The door works perfectly and I’ll be with you,” he promised. “Please? Trust me?”
He felt relieved as a ghost of her usual confidence returned and she nodded, stepping in after him.
“Hn,” she muttered crankily, looking around the cramped space. “I’m glad you’re getting rid of this heap tomorrow.”
“I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t sure about peace. It’s here Midii it really is,” he said, cupping her face in his hands.
The war had taken so much from her. It had given people power over her and she had lost herself. But now the war was over, Nanashi said so and he never exaggerated.
“Is that why you’re so different,” she asked, her eyes seeking an answer in his, wanting so much to believe in him.
There was still a tremor in her voice and he knew she wasn’t yet convinced. If only he could turn out the lights and show her there was nothing to be afraid of anymore, he wanted that so much, it would heal her, he could feel it and she would be that girl again, she’d drop her mask like he’d dropped his and finally he could look into her face and tell her.
“I love you.”
“Ready for lights out,” he asked.
“Not really,” she said shakily, the impatient and unhappy quality returning as fear shadowed her ocean-colored eyes like an approaching storm over the water.
“Trust me,” he repeated, tightening his embrace and switching off the power.
he fixed the door . . . .he fixed the door . . . . he fixed the door
She repeated the words like a mantra over and over trying to keep herself calm in the face of her baffling fear. There was nothing to be afraid of—then why, why she wondered.
“You’re doing fine,” he said, she felt his hands tracing her features in the darkness.
“Breathe,” he reminded her. She tried to obey but the walls closed in. It was so dark and she couldn’t feel him near her, couldn’t find the door and she couldn’t breathe.
Oh please, oh please, somebody please, her small voice begged, whisper-soft in the thick and smothering darkness.
They hadn’t come for her this time as he had promised they would. Something had gone wrong. A shell burst mere yards from the young girl reducing her terrified screams to dumb terror.
It’s safer outside.
She knew that and yet she couldn’t stay there anymore. They were falling everywhere. A bomb was going to fall right on her.
You deserve to die. She believed it but the bombs frightened her, she saw a man running towards her and he was hit, his body exploded in bloody scarlet fragments. No she didn’t want to die like this. She was a coward. She ran to the small building with the shattered roof and ducked inside. Midii stumbled over an iron ring in the floor and looked down.
Another explosion rocked the ground and lit the small room with bright light. She fell to the floor her eyes on the cold dark ring. Without another thought she lifted the trapdoor and slid into the quiet darkness as another volley hit the abandoned mercenary camp. The little outbuilding exploded and collapsed on itself, the shock throwing Midii down the rickety wooden stairs and onto the cold dirt floor below. The heavy debris settled down on the floor above her covering the little door to the cellar as if it had never been there.
At first the cellar was a haven, cool and dark and quiet after the nightmare of fire, light and sound and the girl, who’d barely passed her 13th birthday huddled on the ground crying out her exhaustion and fear.
She awoke, surprised by the total blackness around her, the complete silence was like death, a limbo from which she couldn’t escape. She crept to the stairs and climbed up carefully.
It must be over, she thought. The attacks were deadly but they didn’t last long, and now, surely now, someone would come for her. Midii pushed against the door but it was as solid and unyielding as the floor had been. She screamed for help again and again but her own voice mocked her, echoing in the utter darkness. She remembered a story she had heard once about outer space, if you got lost and used up your air you would suffocate, you couldn’t breathe . . . .
“HELP ME!!” she screamed, her struggles even more intense than the night before.
Trowa cursed, his anger directed mostly at himself, what was he thinking playing amateur psychologist? He flipped on the power, the lights filling the cockpit with softly diffused white light. She had pulled from his embrace and was crouched tightly against the door, crying, her eyes squeezed shut. He knelt beside her and he felt her body sag against his as he pulled her close in the cramped space. The light seemed to revive her and she blinked at him.
“I remember,” she whispered, turning and hiding her face in the soft old fabric of his shirt, the well-worn material as comforting as a blanket.
“What did you remember,” he asked, almost dreading to hear the secret he had been so curious about.
“The cellar,” she whispered. “Bombs everywhere and I was trapped, I couldn’t breathe.”
Her mind let the horror go as she spoke the words. It was only a memory, it wasn’t now. She wasn’t alone in the dark, not anymore. She lifted her face to look at him, finding the reassurance she so desperately needed in his eyes.
“The war is over,” she repeated tremulously. “It really is? You promise me Nanashi?”
“I promise Midii,” he whispered, pulling her back against him. She closed her eyes and rested her head on his shoulder as he rocked her and she felt him humming tunelessly in his throat as he held her.
“It won’t happen again,” she told herself, banishing the dark memories, pushing them down deeper than before where they could never see daylight. She tightened her arms around Trowa’s waist, remembering the sound of another voice answering her.
“You’re alright now my precious,” he whispered, holding her close, his hands lingering on her as he stared at her as if he couldn’t have stood to lose her. The touch of warm, wet lips on her cheek and her neck making her squirm and jerk away. The voice grew colder, the gentle hands tightening painfully around her.
“No, don’t,” she whispered, fear cracking her voice.
“Don’t say no ma petite Jeannette,” he whispered, kissing her mouth and stifling her shocked protest. The tip of his tongue pushed against her lips and she twisted her head but he held her immobile his hands tangled in her silky hair. Desperately she bit down, hard. Henri pulled back, wiping his mouth and tasting blood.
“You bit me,” he said, his voice deceptively soft. “I saved you from the dark little one and remember I can put you back there.”
The child flung herself back into the man’s comforting arms her fear of the dark overriding her disgust and he stroked her hair gently, soothing her tears before kissing her tentatively again, this time she didn’t fight back . . .
This was why, why she’d given in all these years. She felt so dirty and used. Far away she could still hear Trowa whispering to her as he held her.
“It’s over Midii and I’ll always be with you,” he repeated.
“Kiss me,” she begged and he touched his lips gently to hers. This was different, so different from the memory. She wanted Nanashi to erase it all; every touch, every kiss he had forced from her. She kissed him back, her soft lips parting beneath his. She felt his surprise at her initiative as she leaned forward deepening the kiss. She knew how it was done, he had taught her so well . . . but this made her feel things she never had. All the tiny nerves beneath her skin tingled with aching need and her heart beat rapidly from the mere touch of his fingers on her arms.
Midii pressed closer and she could feel his heart beating as fast as hers was. Carefully she took his hand and pressed it against her own heart, moving it with her own hand until he cupped her breast. She felt his quick intake of breath and peeked beneath her lashes to see the red flush creep up his cheeks. He watched her as she moved away a little, her slim fingers unbuttoning the tight pink sweater in a slow, tantalizing fashion that made part of him want to beg her to hurry and part of him wish to watch her do it forever.
Her fingers moved so slowly, his mouth felt dry as she caressed each little round pearl with her fingertips and the material parted ever so slightly to reveal the flushed rosy skin beneath. His hand reached out to help her and his fingers felt clumsy and nervous as he chased after that last little button, finally reaching it and pushing it through the hole. The sweater slid off her shoulders, her hair waving down and resting in long loose curls over her small breasts pushed up by the white lace bra she wore.
“Midii,” he whispered, looking in her eyes for permission as he reached to test the softness of her skin. She moaned softly when his fingers stroked the skin above the white lace and she smiled encouragingly when he figured out the clasp that held the front together.
He looked but didn’t touch yet, so sweet, so shy. He loved her, this was what love was supposed to be like, she thought as he leaned forward and kissed her, more purposefully than before. She slid her hands beneath his shirt, feeling the smooth warm skin beneath it. She broke the kiss, cherishing the little disappointed sound he made before lifting the shirt over his head.
Things were happening so fast, Trowa thought, she had been upset, they should slow down. He looked at her, a bewitching little frown on her face as she tried to finish tugging his shirt over his head. He loved her and his body was sending signals, urgent signals he couldn’t ignore. He reached up and fished the shirt out of his hair and tossed it aside.
She looked at him and reached out a hand, placing it softly on his chest. She sighed and smiled, the smile started an ache in the pit of his stomach that drifted lower until reason and common sense seemed very far away.
“I think we should get out of here,” he whispered half-heartedly.
She shook her head, the silky strands brushing against his chest as she leaned against him. He felt a shockwave as their bare skin made contact and he wrapped her tight in his arms, squeezing her tight to feel her closer against him. The idea of leaving drifted to the back of his mind. She was straddling his lap now, her arms twined around his neck. She was doing things with her tongue and teeth and blowing in his ear all at once, driving him mad, replacing every thought he’d ever had with thoughts of her. Her hips moved slowly as she rubbed against him in a pleasantly agonizing friction until he was whispering her name incoherently.
“Nanashi, I need you, I need you so much,” she groaned in his ear. New emotions swept over him and he crushed her mouth beneath his, sliding his tongue between her parted pink lips and kissing her, holding her close as if he could meld them into one person.
She wriggled from his grasp again, breathing hard, but her cheeks were flushed and her eyes shining. This was something she had never experienced, the desperate need, an overwhelming desire to feel him inside of her.
Midii giggled as she touched the button closing the top of his jeans, Trowa’s hand covered hers and the button loosened. She moved behind him, he could feel the warm softness of her breasts crushed against his back and he hurried to remove his pants in the cramped space. His movements grew clumsier the quicker he tried to be and she smiled against his skin, kissing the smooth flesh and running her hands over his chest and down below his navel.
“Need help,” she whispered, stopping to slide a leg out of her own jeans in a move a contortionist would have envied.
“No, yes, oh shit,” Trowa groaned. “I forgot to take off my boots.”
He glared at her as she burst out laughing, his jeans stuck on the heavy combat boots he wore. Of course it would be nearly impossible for him to remove his pants now.
“Poor Nanashi,’’ she said, mock sympathy dripping from her voice.
“Are you going to help me or not,” he growled, lunging at her and knocking his head against an overhanging instrument panel.
“Are you okay,” she asked, eyes wide with concern as she moved closer to examine him.
“Gotcha,” he smirked victoriously, grasping her around the waist and pinning her beneath him in a jumble of arms and legs.
His eyes grew dark and serious and Midii let herself get lost in them as he covered her with his body. He was paying her back, his lips were everywhere at once, tasting her and she felt the gentle motion of his hand between her legs, his fingers teasing the velvety skin of her inner thighs.
Oh yes, she told herself this was love. Love was laughter and aching desire and desperate need. But most of all love was the trust between them. He promised her that it was all over. There would be no more wars and she believed him. She arched against him as she felt him poised above her.
“I love you. I love you so much,” she whispered over and over as he pushed inside her and she clung to him as time stopped and her life began again in a sparkling explosion of bliss that shuddered through her body for endless moments.
Watch you smile while you are sleeping
While you're far away and dreaming
I could spend my life in this sweet surrender
I could stay lost in this moment...forever
Every moment spent with you
Is a moment I treasure
Her gentle breathing as she slept reassured him that he hadn’t done the wrong thing by surrendering to her sudden onslaught of passion. He had been powerless to resist her desperate need for release anyway. But it was all right now, the foolish experiment in the dark cockpit had worked in spite of himself.
She smiled in his arms and although his body cramped from the awkward position they lay in in the confined space he never wanted to move. He finally knew what peace was really about. It set people free to find their happiness without being afraid of losing it all. Everything seemed worthwhile and personal at last as if he had fought for himself and Midii instead of for the nameless, faceless population of the universe that was busy enjoying their new freedom.
He didn’t have to be afraid this would end or that she would betray him. There was nothing left to make that happen, this was a world where the two of them could be together without hurting each other.
The cool air kissed Midii’s face and she blinked in surprise, then smiled up at Trowa.
“Ready to get out of here,” he whispered.
She nodded and they both laughed, trying to figure out how to disentangle themselves in the small space. Midii was on top and freed herself first, quickly finding her sweater and jeans and putting them on again while Trowa resumed the continuing struggle between man, combat boots and jeans, made more difficult by the fact that his left arm had fallen asleep and was tingling painfully.
Midii looked around for a reflective surface so she could do something with her hair. She looked at herself in the blank communications screen and stared. She looked so different, young and happy, like the people in the circus crowd today. She shrugged and ran a hand through her hair, not caring suddenly who saw her like this or what they thought. A black marking pen sat in the top tray of Trowa’s tool box and she picked it up, looking at it thoughtfully before popping off the lid.
“Hey! What are you doing,” Trowa asked, coming behind her with his jeans finally firmly re-established around his slender waist.
“It’s called graffiti,” Midii said.
He peered at her artwork on the wall beside his pilot’s chair. Make Love not War, she’d written, surrounding the words with little hearts and old-fashioned peace signs.
“Cute Midii,” he groaned.
“What? You’re getting rid of it tomorrow before we take the shuttle to X-18999 remember! Besides,” she murmured, tipping back her head for a kiss. “It’s how I feel.”
Lying close to you
Feeling your heart beating
And I'm wondering what you're dreaming
Wondering if it's me you're seeing
Then I kiss your eyes and thank God we're together
I just wanna stay with you
In this moment forever, forever and ever
The narrow little bed didn’t offer much more space than the Gundam’s cockpit and Midii smiled to herself remembering how they had abandoned the mattress for the floor. She savored the pleasant soreness that lingered inside her, too tired to sleep and a little lonely to be awake without Nanashi. She was jealous of his dreams until he muttered her name sleepily.
So he was dreaming of her.
She relaxed and snuggled her face against the smooth, warm skin of his chest, her fingers caressing his muscled arms lightly. He was so strong, she knew he’d never let anything or anyone hurt her again. And there were countless days and nights ahead of them. Days she could spend looking at his face and nights she could lie in his bed, wrapped in his arms like this, where the only sound would be their breathing and the synchronized beating of their hearts. Forever.
She raised her head and looked at him again. So amazing the transformation from boy to man. He still had the face and eyes she remembered, but all the baby softness had gone away leaving only the handsome, chiseled essence of the boy she had loved and hated. They boy who was her salvation and always seemed to be there to save her when she needed him most.
Except for once, a fearful voice whispered deep inside.
She needed him again. Needed to hear his promise that from now on he would always be with her. She slid her body over his, moving smoothly as her skin seemed to glide against his. Midii looked down on his sleeping face and touched his cheeks and lips gently with her fingertips, watching him stir. She bent to touch her lips carefully to the delicately-veined lids that hid his green eyes from her, his silky black lashes tickling her mouth.
My my baby blue
Yeah I've been thinkin' about you
My my baby blue
Yeah you're so jaded
You're so jaded
'Cause I'm the one that jaded you
A spattering of applause echoed through the half-empty circus tent. It had been this way every night since they’d come to X-18999. Maybe she could take over some of the manager’s duties and schedule the bookings from now on, Midii thought idly as she leaned back lazily against the empty bench behind her. She needed something to do and it wouldn’t be difficult to track down better venues than this dreary place. This colony was too new and unfinished, she supposed it was only at this point that the godforsaken place was even starting to attract any touring companies at all.
She saw Trowa talking to Cathrine behind the curtain and waved at him, he waved back before the other girl dragged him farther backstage so they could finish getting ready to perform.
It was almost Christmas, not that it was apparent from the atmosphere here. Still her heart swelled with giddy excitement. Christmas would correspond with their one-week anniversary of being together. It was a silly thing to celebrate probably but of course there was that old saying that only fools fell in love. It felt so good to be in love, to be foolish, to be free of all her responsibilities like any normal young girl.
She slipped out of the tent before the show was over, even with the small crowd it was always a hassle getting out in the mad rush to beat the traffic at the end of the evening.
Trowa saw Midii leave, anxious for the evening to end so he could follow her. He tensed as a man detached himself from a little knot of people and approached her but he relaxed as he saw her point her finger toward one of the lesser-used exits. It was only someone asking directions. He felt so on edge since they had come here. Maybe it was the newness of the place, it seemed so unwelcoming and cold somehow with all the partially-constructed buildings and so few people. Or maybe it was just getting used to the fact that his Gundam was gone, more than halfway to the sun by now. That and the strange coincidence that this colony was where HeavyArms had been constructed in the first place. Second thoughts were normal he supposed, but the anxiousness wouldn’t go away. He scanned the audience again, just to prove to himself that he was overreacting to the situation.
Cathrine was commenting on the depressingly low turnout again that night. It took away a lot of the excitement to work in front of such a small crowd. Their little troupe had a rather excellent reputation and there weren’t many other entertainment opportunities on the barren colony after all. He tried to think of something to say to reassure her. She seemed to take it so personally that the crowd was so small.
A pair of men in dark suits glowered down at the sparse crowd, as if begrudging the people the enjoyment they took from such a simple pleasure. Trowa’s eyes lingered on them, he was trained to notice anything out of place and suit coats at a circus certainly clashed with the norm. The anxiousness bloomed into sick certainty that everything about this place was only a cover for something else.
He remembered Dekim Barton. Surely after the Eve Wars even he had given up, he wouldn’t dream of pursuing his insane quest for world domination in the face of the widely-popular peace movement that had taken hold since the monumental battle in space between Heero and Zechs. A battle that had illustrated so well the futility of war.
Trowa’s hands tightened into fists. It wasn’t over and suddenly he had to be sure of what he suspected, if it were true then he had lied to Midii and all of them had made a possibly fatal error in sending their Gundams to the sun.
If Dekim Barton’s hand were in this then he dreaded to think of the possibilities. The man commanded enough money and resources to construct his own personal army and there remained nothing in the EarthSphere to fight him with but a few surveillance suits owned by the Preventer Agency.
Smoldering rage overrode his usual calm and deadly demeanor and in an instant the two men were down and he went through the pockets of the first man. His ID confirmed Trowa’s suspicions. Barton was up to something. He forgot everything else, Cathy and Midii, everything but but making up for that fatal mistake, their idealistic belief that a world without the Gundams would be safer for everyone.
He averted his eyes from the ruffian brawling like a common thug in the deserted space behind the main tent. They boy had no finesse, nothing but brute strength and a handsome face. Henri wandered toward the trailers that housed the performers. Why was he continually choosing the wrong woman to love, the older man wondered disconsolately. He had done everything to keep her his, been father and lover and protector for almost half of her life. He had loved her and been so proud of her skill and beauty and given her anything she could want. But in the end she ran from him. Just like her mother had, just like Jeannette.
The door to the ramshackle little trailer opened and he saw her standing there backlit by the warm yellow light inside. The desolate breezes that seemed so pervasive on this colony teased back the simple cotton robe she wore and she made a desperate grab for the edges but not before he glimpsed the gentle curves he knew so well.
Such a stupid girl, to give up everything he offered her for a tawdry little fling with a circus clown. Even her mother had had better taste than that. She would have to be punished of course, that went without saying, but he would not be too harsh with his petite Jeannette. She was so young and so very stupid and perhaps this would be a lesson well learned.
Midii tightened her arm around herself to keep the robe closed, her eyes scanning the quiet darkness for Nanashi. It didn’t usually take him this long to come back after a performance. She shrugged, he had probably taken an extra minute to spend with the lions, he spoiled them but she had to admit they made the perfect pets for him. He was just like the wild things with his incredible eyes and hidden potential for danger.
She stepped into the bedroom, the only change since her intrusion into Nanashi’s life the appearance of a much larger bed. It dominated the little room leaving very little space to walk or even to open the dresser drawers. She crawled over the bed, across the pale blue sheets and fumbled in the drawer for a match to light the creamy little votives she kept on the nightstand. She stared into the flickering yellow flames as she waited for him to come . . .
It was completely dark when she opened her eyes and moved her seeking fingers across the smooth, cool sheets. The candles had burned out so she must have been sleeping for several hours. The unmistakable sound of the trailer door opening alerted her and she silently slid her hand between the mattress and box spring to feel for the silver OZ-issue pistol Trowa kept there. Why hadn’t she thought to ask him why he did that if he believed in peace so firmly, she wondered, her confidence in him wavering momentarily. He was gone and she was alone here in the dark.
She could feel someone approach silently, it was almost as if she sensed the displaced air than actually hearing someone. Fear prickled the back of her neck as the door opened a crack, pushed carefully so it wouldn’t make a sound.
“Nanashi!” she cried, dropping the gun on the mattress and encircling his neck with her arms and kneeling on the bed to hold him close. She felt her heart beat slow to normal.
Almost reluctantly Trowa’s arms lifted to close around her and her easy relief at his return started eroding as he remained silent and made no move to come to bed.
“What is it,” she asked.
He didn’t answer. Couldn’t answer. How could he tell her that he had been wrong, wrong about everything? How could he ask her to stay here and wait for him when he had to break every promise he had made her? How could he tell her that he had had a choice to make and he hadn’t chosen her?
“I don’t have much time,” he said, letting go of her and pulling drawers open.
“Why,” Midii asked, his cold tone making her uneasy.
His silence spoke volumes.
“Something’s wrong here isn’t there,” she whispered.
“I don’t know,” he said finally, “but I have to check it out.”
“Tell me,” she begged.
He told her about Dekim Barton, his history, his money, his factories and their capabilities for mobile suit construction. She had seen the atmosphere on this colony for herself, the solemn, work-worn populace.
“You think there’ll be another war,” she said accusingly.
The hurt apparent in her voice forced him to look at her, it was almost as if he could see her change before his eyes. She stared at him with betrayal etched on her face before turning away, scrambling over the bed in search of her own clothes.
Trowa’s throat tightened as she dropped the robe, exposing her graceful back to him, the waves of her platinum hair swinging as she snapped on her bra and pulled a shirt over her head. He wanted to stop her, to make her stay but he had no right. He couldn’t keep his promises. He had been wrong.
The man inside the soldier, the man who loved her, protested. She could wait, maybe she could forgive him. He had to try, his voice burst out of the soldier’s mouth.
“Midii, please understand,” he asked. “I do love you, but I have to do this.”
She turned, something in his voice compelling her attention. But as she looked she saw that the man who spoke had perhaps never even existed.
“Understand?” she repeated, bitterness and disappointment crashing over her, replacing the hurt with stubborn pride. “I understand Nanashi. I understand you’ve been a soldier ever since you were born. I understand you’re a hero on a universal scale and that my little concerns mean nothing to you. I understand that the war will never be over. You can save the world but you can’t save me.”
He wanted to tell her she was wrong, but there was nothing he could say. His actions proved her right.
He picked up the gun she’d dropped and pressed it into her hand. “Keep this with you,” he said.
Midii closed her fingers over the cold metal and accepted it but she couldn’t speak. She wanted to scream that she hated him, but the words wouldn’t come. She sat on the edge of the bed tracing the elaborate engraving in the metal with her eyes. When she looked up Nanashi was gone.
She laced her boots with sure, steady fingers. She knew she had to leave, the war was coming and she wanted to be far away when it happened.
As the artificial daylight lightened the sky a troop of Dekim Barton’s soldiers formed outside the circus grounds. It was time for the revolution to begin and everyone on X-18999 would be involved as participant or hostage to fate.
Midii crouched in the shadow of the trailer, watching them approach. She knew then that she would never understand Nanashi, he had abandoned all of them, not only her. He had a gift for seeing the big picture, a talent for discovering the most direct route to the best final outcome for the majority. And he would sacrifice everything, himself, his friends, the girl who was like his sister and even her if it meant a victory in the fight for peace.
“But what about us,” Midii wondered, knowing suddenly that she could never have changed her life to be like him. Never have let her father and brothers do without simply to do the right thing. She and Nanashi were fundamentally different, cursed to love in a world where they would always be at odds.
A rough hand grabbed her from the shadows and suddenly she was pinned to the ground. She struggled to get up but Henri straddled her and grabbed her slender wrists in one hand, clamping his other over her mouth to keep her from screaming. Trowa’s pistol dug painfully into her back, far out of her reach, as he pressed her into the ground with his superior strength.
“Listen! And be quiet ma petite imbecile,” he ordered in a fierce whisper. “You betrayed me, but this is not the time for our personal quarrels. I will deal with you after we get out of this. Do you understand me Midii?”
She nodded. She had to get away. Already the soldiers were dragging the circus manager sleepily from his trailer, ordering him to round everyone up as hostages to the new regime. She would not be one of them.
He nodded his approval. All would be well, she would see reason and things would be as they were. But first he must save her from these madmen, the world was turning upside down, the hard-won peace shattered in an instant.
Midii took the offered hand he held out to her and they ran, keeping to the shadows until they were out of sight.
They paused for breath, the girl recovering more quickly than the man, an advantage of age. He reached a hand to push away the disheveled locks of hair that had fallen into her face and felt her recoil.
This was a change, for so long she had submitted with cold silence.
“I saved you my precious,” he growled, fisting his hand in her hair. “Are you not grateful?”
She shook her head. “It ends here. Let go of me now Henri,” she said, surprising herself, surprising him.
“Is this insolent behavior because of that boy,” he sneered derisively, pulling her face close to his. “Do you believe he cares for you after all?”
“No,” Midii admitted. “He doesn’t care. Not enough. This is because of me, because it is time for this to end. I am not my mother. And I am not yours.”
She had never dared to say such things before. Anger suffused his face, turning his pale skin deep outraged scarlet and he dropped his hand from her hair to slap her but she dodged the blow and pulled out the pistol.
“You can’t hurt me anymore,” she said, pulling the trigger, killing him and finding her freedom, her own brand of peace.
For a moment she knew that Nanashi had loved her after all. He had taught her not to be afraid and he had protected her. She held the warm barrel of the gun between her breasts but it was no substitute for him, for the security of those arms around her.
From now on she would have to find her own way. She disappeared, her determination would get her out of this and she would build her walls again so that no one would ever touch her.
It was over, as quickly as it began, and now everyone said peace was finally here to stay. They would have to wait and see.
Trowa stood with Duo and Quatre on the hillside and pressed the self-destruct button. He still believed the universe was a safer place without the Gundams in it.
“I’m back to being nameless,” he heard himself say. The others looked at him, he was the last one they would have expected to break the awkward silence in the aftermath of the explosions.
Duo mumbled some words obviously meant to cheer him. But he wasn’t mourning the loss of the name Trowa Barton, he’d probably just keep it. He knew now that peace would never stay won and there would always be a battle to fight. He had always been a soldier. He would always be a soldier. And he would never be Midii’s.
“Trowa sounds fine to me,” Quatre said softly, not understanding but wanting to help.
“You’re right,” Trowa said. She was out there somewhere and maybe she would find some happiness after all while peace lasted. He hoped at least he could give her that much.
 “No reason. You see, I just had this great idea for an upgrade of the Wing and I wanted to see it through.”—Heero Yuy, Ground Zero manga, Issue 3
 “We could just send them into the sun.”—Trowa Barton, Ground Zero manga, Issue 3