Disclaimer: Don’t own Gundam Wing…
By Midii Une
~~~A candidate for my soul mate bled
Push the trigger and pull the thread
I’ve got to take it on the otherside
Take it on the otherside
MARCH, A.C. 207
He was distracted and the merest slip of concentration caused the razor to slice deeply through the skin along the curve of his jaw. Dropping the razor into the black stubble-speckled sink he examined his reflection in the small mirror. The cut stung and a small muscle clenched tautly in his cheek as he dabbed it with a cotton ball saturated with peroxide. He didn’t wince or curse. There were mistakes and there was pain and no outcry or facial expression ever made the pain seem less.
Unconsciously he rubbed his fingers over his face luxuriating in the smooth feel of his skin. Wouldn’t be shaving again for awhile, not where he was going. He pulled on tattered camo pants requisitioned from a thrift store and grabbed a drab brown jacket, it was old but at least it would be warm. The door to the small hotel room, the last stop in his trip outside civilization, slammed shut with grim finality.
Triton Bloom would go in on foot. Following a two-day trip by jeep he expected a 20-mile hike at least before he could hope to pinpoint the terrorist camp.
There was plenty to be done as he traveled. He polished his rural French accent while listening to a book on disc as he bounced along the road. He repeated the story aloud, perfecting his voice while mentally he reviewed the few known facts. A small village had been destroyed during the war and like the citizens of many other small towns its people had petitioned the new government for restitution and rebuilding funds. A corrupt official had ‘lost’ the paperwork preferring to get rich and turn the riverfront property into a lucrative technological industries park.
Once the swindle was confirmed the EarthSphere United Nation officials had publicly denounced the greedy bureaucrat and offered to rebuild the village on any site chosen by the former inhabitants. Unfortunately important research companies had already become firmly entrenched in the technology industries park and the original site was not available.
“The good of the many outweighing the desires of a few,” that was the official government line. He was sworn to uphold it.
The initial sympathy of the world government for the displaced people hit a brick wall when the sabotage and murders started. They’d managed to catch one of the erstwhile villagers after a car bomb killed Martin Kirouac, the original official who had betrayed the small community. The bomber had left certain information with a voluptuous barmaid while bragging before the incident and they had the names and general location of the ringleaders, a certain Gustave and Méridè Sauvage.
The jeep swerved minutely as he felt his heart twist a bit treacherously. Those who used violent means had to be squashed, there was no other response Preventer could take but this. Yet the man’s testimony on the vid disc haunted him.
“We will fight for our home until the last of us is dead,” he’d vowed. The bomber, a 36-year-old man with a wife and two children, was being kept under strict suicide watch.
Trowa’s footsteps were slow and heavy as his long stride carried him further and further from the jeep. He hung his head against the sharp, cold wind and hissed words through his teeth.
It gave him a sense of honor, if only a false one, to use his real name when he participated in an infiltration mission. Though officially he still used the name Trowa Barton, he was also Cathrine’s brother and had the right to the name Triton Bloom as well. Two names for a boy who had once longed so mightily to lay claim to just one.
He would get close to these people and when he knew their weaknesses they would be taken out in the quiet, efficient manner Preventer had of dealing with such situations. The bombings and killings would stop.
“The needs of the many,” he repeated to himself, trying to convince his heart that the extreme actions the Sauvages were taking in a lost cause were deserving of what was to come.
“Fight for our home,” the man’s words echoed again in his heart. Probably not the real cause at all. Gustave and his wife were known to have been key members of the former Alliance and perhaps they were using this hyped up complaint to gain sympathy while pursuing former grudges.
Dawn was breaking over the hills covered with grimy-looking snow as he came at last upon a collection of wooden shacks hidden in a small hollow. He hesitated there feeling a jolt of pity at the ugliness of the place. The little village they fought for must have once been quite beautiful. He had visited the technological park once, Winner Enterprises had medical research facility there that was making great strides in creating vaccines for the new illnesses cropping up among Martian colonists.
A circle of cold metal pressed against the back of his neck suddenly just as his reverie was interrupted by the light crunch of footsteps on the frozen earth.
“What are you doing here,” a female voice demanded huskily. He heard the deadly click of the safety as she jabbed the barrel into the base of his head as if to make him speak.
“My name is Triton-Triton Bloom,” he said, feeling an infinitesimal release of the pressure against his neck. Slowly he turned to face a thin, blonde woman, his hands raised slightly in an attitude of surrender. Her cheekbones were high and sharp, accented by her tightly pulled back hair. She wore a dark green jacket that was several sizes too large for her with the name ‘Sauvage’ embroidered in deep red thread on fabric tape attached to the pocket over her heart. An old Alliance foot soldier’s coat. She had to be Méridè Sauvage. A tired looking woman with hard eyes that looked at him coldly as she waited for an explanation.
She gave him no opening, asked no questions. She merely stood, staring at him intently, daring him to speak and say the wrong thing so she could pull that trigger. He would have to rely on the canned story they had created through careful research to gain their trust.
“I am looking for Gustave Sauvage,” he said, looking pointedly at the name scrawled on her coat. “I know I have come to the right place. I fought with his brother during the war, Lt. Albert Sauvage of this village. I will fight with you in his place.”
The woman crossed her arms over her chest, at least she wasn’t pointing her pistol at him anymore. It was pointed at the ground, her finger still lightly touching the trigger. She stared at the ground too, seeming to ignore him. They were at a stalemate, she did not seem to know how to respond to his lies and he didn’t dare go forward or back for fear she would shoot him with the slightest provocation.
A man’s voice broke their tense silence.
“Méridè! Who is that with you,” he shouted, struggling to push an old wheelchair up the slight incline.
She turned toward the sound, spinning the little pistol almost playfully on her finger.
“Triton Bloom,” she said, watching dispassionately as the man struggled to reach the spot where they stood. “He says he fought with Albert.”
Gustave’s face split into a welcoming grin.
“I told you they would come and join our fight,” he said, looking at his wife triumphantly. “Everyone will see that they cannot do this thing to us and escape retribution. If Albert were alive he would be here by my side helping us fight.”
Méridè shrugged but her eyes, an icy shade of blue, continued to stare at Triton as if she wished to search his soul for the truth of his appearance. It seemed she held her gun lightly in her fingers but the former soldier’s trained eye knew she was still contemplating using it on him.
Then the most commonplace of events happened. His stomach, denied food on his long trek to bolster his authenticity, protested with a loud grumble.
She did not smile but her eyes softened. She sighed, a whisper of sound that had contained a hopeless tone, and gestured toward the collection of shanties with surprisingly small and delicate hand.
“Come have breakfast with us Triton,” she said, turning her back on the two men. “But I do not know why you are here. This is our fight and ours alone.
Fat, wet clumps of gray snow began falling as he dug in to the bowl of equally gray and lumpy oatmeal she had allotted him. He sat apart from the other men, his eyes on the unappetizing hot cereal and his ears tuned to the sound of argument from behind the flimsy plywood that served to divide the dining room and kitchen of the makeshift mess hall.
Madame Sauvage was loudly insisting that her husband send him packing after breakfast. Beware a woman’s intincts, his sister Cathrine had often told him. He missed Cathy, could see the sparkle of her eyes, the tilt of her head. His sister, his family, his place to return. Gustave, however, had swallowed the story and insisted that he be allowed to stay.
“In spite of your dreams of grandeur you must see that no genuine person would track us down here in order to join in your mad suicidal quest,” she said her voice carrying through the that poor excuse for a barrier between the rooms.
“We’ll all probably be dead anyway before this is over,” Gustave replied in a voice which was oddly calm for someone making such an ominous statement. “And how often have I begged you to leave Méridè? I’m ready to go, I have nothing left. But you, you could—“
“So I’m nothing now! You have me don’t you,” she retorted in that way a woman had of twisting a man’s words so that a show of genuine concern registered as a cold-hearted remark. “Besides I promised to never leave you, or were you not paying attention during our wedding vows?”
“Alright,” he conceded, his voice tired and defeated. “You will stay and Triton will stay. What difference will he make one way or another? Besides you’re not a woman to send anyone out in a storm like this.”
The snow was falling harder now Triton noticed, glancing up from his empty bowl at the window. He couldn’t see much past the pane.
“Hmmph,” the woman snorted before replying in a sarcastic tone. “Yes indeed, Méridè Sauvage the veritable source of sweetness and light. Very well then, the sainted Albert’s dear friend Triton Bloom may stay. At least until the storm is over.”
Not quite the entrance he had wished to make to inspire trust, the interloper thought to himself. Triton figured most of the men had overheard the sounds of marital discord between Gustave and Méridè as he had and that most them with any sense had probably silently sided with their leader’s wife. They eyed him suspiciously as he sat alone at the end of the long wooden trestle and spoke together in whispers.
With a rusty squeak of protesting tires, Gustave Sauvage rolled up beside him. He was a man barely past his 30th birthday but he sat wasting in the wheelchair, the victim of a particularly grisly mobile suit injury, so the story went. Red puckered skin was visible on most of his neck and disappeared beneath the crisp khaki shirt he wore beneath his Alliance officer’s jacket. The faded olive jacket was decorated with a Purple Heart, a customary award given to those injured in battle. Triton noted that the man’s face was still handsome and the coat gave him a rather dashing, rebellious air that was at odds with his ruin of a body. It was rare to see any type of military ensemble these days and the jacket even caused a moment of nostalgia in his own spirit though the Alliance had been the enemy. Then he had been the rebel and Gustave and his comrades the established power.
Sauvage noted his scrutiny and bore it without comment, he was accustomed to the looks and the pity in men’s eyes. At least he had lived, his brother Albert had not come home.
Still, he hastened to change the subject of his injury before the other man could speak.
“Don’t mind what Méridè says,” he said consolingly, gesturing toward his wife with a tilt of his head as she slammed out of the mess hall, her hair wrapped in a long wool scarf against the weather. “She did some spy jobs for headquarters once or twice during the war and now she thinks she sees them everywhere. They’re after us no doubt, but you are our friend. I sense it, a friend of my brother’s will always be a friend of mine. Maybe you’ll bring us the outcome we’ve been fighting so long for.”
Gustave clapped a friendly hand on Triton’s shoulder. “Come, if you don’t mind a bit of snow I’ll give you a tour of our base and munitions and you can tell me just what you’ve been trained to do.”
“I handled munitions quite often during the war, I can certainly lend a hand there,” Triton said smoothly.
The tour showed him nothing to cause Preventer Agency to second guess its plan of attack. The Sauvage force had enough explosives to cause plenty of damage but not enough to defend against a carefully planned elimination strike. The preliminary mission specs Wufei and Heero had drawn up at Lady Une’s request would need little adjustment to achieve the desired result. Overall it was a poor operation, obviously only Gustave’s military experience and the loyalty he inspired in his men made the group as minimally successful as they had been.
Méridè was a mystery. There were no other women here, why did she stay when her husband had obviously given her leave to go? She was right, Gustave’s ideals bordered on the suicidal. It bothered him as he knew it would bother them all to have to kill a woman. Lost in thought he managed to bump right into the object of his meditation. She gave him such a look of disdain that if looks could kill her well-placed worries about him would have been over.
He noticed then that she carried two wooden buckets of water, he saw the how the weight of one of them strained and pulled at her thin arm. The other bucket was more than half empty, he’d knocked the contents all over her.
“I’m sorry,” he conceded. She backed away as he made a motion to brush the water off her jacket and the narrow wool skirt that topped a pair of worn black combat boots.
“You were fetching water to take a bath perhaps,” he asked awkwardly to fill the silence, her hate-filled gaze making him feel he had to speak.
She laughed suddenly at his remark and shook her head, blonde hair escaping the dark woolen scarf and framing her face. She looked younger when she laughed, almost pretty.
“No time or energy for that! Do you think I’d go up and down hill those 300 yards to the creek to get water to bathe?”
She set the bucket down and sighed, brushing stray hairs away from her face with the back of her hand. “I make do with a cold sponge bath like the men, or at least some of them. Did you catch the odor coming from some of those shanties?”
Méridè favored him with a tiny smile of camaraderie then. “I’m just getting this to wash up from breakfast and start on dinner. Just two meals is all you’ll get here I’m afraid.”
They stood silently in the snow. He saw her move her hand on the handle of the large, slopping bucket. It was much too heavy for her knew and she adjusted it to ease the weight a bit.
“Let me—“ he started, reaching to take it from her.
She shook her head and headed toward the kitchen. When she reached the door she turned back to look at him, setting down the water with a thud and a splash. He was still looking back at her, the snow gathering on the long brown bangs of hair that hid his eyes.
“Who are you,” she whispered to herself. “You’re not who you seem. I almost feel I’ve known you before, here in a place like this.”
She dragged the bucket into the room that was slightly warmer than the cold outdoors. It would take several more trips before she had enough to begin. Méridè thought again of Triton, he was like a boy she had known and loved very long ago. She looked at her hands red and chapped with dishwater and cold. She thought of a hot bath and perfumed soap and a real dress. And she remembered dancing with Gustave at the Festival of St. Thérèse the last time before the accident. And for the first time in a very long time hot tears melted the icy blueness of her eyes as she looked at her reflection in the bucket of water.
~~~I heard your voice through a photograph
I thought it up it brought up the past
Once you know you can never go back
I’ve got to take it on the otherside
Gustave splashed a generous portion of the sour homemade red wine one of the men had concocted into a tin cup and handed it to Triton. The men lingered on after dinner for the warmth of the main room and the fellowship
“Thank you for getting that bathwater for Méridè. I know she’s been longing for a real bath since before Christmas time,” he said. His voice was still friendly but there was a hard edge in his tone and an odd glint in the brown eyes that held a hint of apprehension.
“She works very hard. I was happy to do it,” Triton said. He’d set more than a dozen buckets of water in the little shack where Méridè slept. There’d been something in her eyes when he teased her about the bath. “I knocked over her bucket earlier and I wanted to make amends.”
“Well if you think the favor will make her like you think again. She’s a prickly one, my Méridè,” the crippled man said, some satisfaction in his voice.
“I’d like to set her fears about me to rest that’s all,” Triton remarked, noticing the tinge of irrational jealousy in the disabled man’s voice..
The red wine tasted horrible with a distinct aftertaste of anti-freeze. The newcomer shuddered as he set down his cup only to have it immediately refilled. To fit in he had to drink along with them and while the horrible crimson liquid was loosening men’s tongues he felt almost too dizzy and queasy to listen and learn their secrets.
They were talking about hostages. Taking hostages to trade for their captured comrade. He needn’t have bothered coming here, he thought woozily, they were really looking for their own deaths. They were all just soldiers without a war to fight, they had found a cause and attached themselves to it for just that reason. To find a way to die. He had been that way once, before Cathy, before…
But Méridè was different. He heard her laugh, saw her blue eyes rise from the snow to look into his. Her eyes, looking into them made him feel he must not let anything happen to her. If only Gustave would force her to leave here before anything happened.
“My poor little Midii,” Gustave slurred, talking more to his cup of sour wine than to Triton now. “The prettiest girl in the village, the queen of the St. Thérèse Festival with roses in her hair. You wouldn’t think it to look at her now, but her eyes sparkled then and her skin was so soft and her hair was the color of buttercups. Living with me, that’s what’s happened to her, I’ve destroyed all that softness and beauty. When I came back from the war I told her to leave me, that I wouldn’t marry her the way I am. But she wouldn’t let go. Her father and brothers were dead and she said I was all she had left…”
Triton had stopped listening. There had been a girl once, it was so long ago, he couldn’t remember how long, but he had been a child that he knew for certain. Perhaps it had even been near this place, in this part of the world at least, where the mercenaries had done battle and camped for the night. His suit had been damaged and while he made his way through the woods he had found someone. Midii.
Who are you?
I’m Midii-Midii Une….
He stared at the scarred wooden table. Gustave was rambling on.
“You know we’re all going to die Triton? Is that why you’re here too,” he asked, not stopping to hear an answer. “Sometimes, after a war like we fought you can’t stop being a soldier. I was going to come home and sweep her off her feet and give her everything she wanted. Poor Midii, she only wanted a home and some children to love in place of her younger brothers. But look at me, I’ll be the death of her and she takes care of me like I wanted to take care of her.”
“Midii? You mean Méridè,” Triton asked, perhaps he’d heard wrong. Several cups of the strong homemade wine could be what was affecting both of them.
“Yes, Midii. She doesn’t want that name anymore, too childish, she says. But when I first fell in love with her that’s what she called herself. Don’t know if I even love her anymore really. I can’t love any woman…not now…”
Sauvage looked at him with sudden suspicion.
“If you’re going to be ill do it outside,” Gustave warned, noticing the shine of sweat on his companion’s suddenly pale face. With a small plop the former Alliance officer lay his head down heavily on his arms. Several of the other men had done likewise and the pungent air was punctuated by heavy, drunken snores.
Triton pushed himself up off the bench and stumbled into the dark coldness. He put a hand to his head to stop the world from spinning with the wine and the realization. The war was over but the ironies remained. He and Cathrine had compared notes and discovered how they almost crossed paths several times when she had traveled with the circus and he had fought with a small group of mercenaries. His sister so close, all that time and now this. Now Midii. He’d been sent to betray her exactly as she had betrayed him…
He found himself drawn to a little shack where a dim light burned dully in the grimy window. She sat in a battered tin tub, her hair twisted up loosely on top of her head. She’d leaned her head back on the edge of the tub and closed her eyes. As he watched her eyes popped open in annoyance and she rose from the water in a smooth, swift motion, the dim lantern light gleaming on her wet, naked skin. She stepped quickly to the stove and poured hot water from the kettle into the tub, her movement offering him a quick glimpse of small round breasts and a flat, almost concave stomach. He saw her smile as she cupped a precious sliver of smooth white soap in her hands and his chest tightened as she ran a soapy hand down one arm and across her prominent collarbones. Then her body disappeared beneath the dark water again. But he could see the shape of her face and the distinctive fall of her hair in the dim light. The lack of detail helped him see more clearly, erasing the changes of time and experience. The woman was Midii. Midii was Méridè Sauvage.
As he thought this, her eyes turned toward the window, widening in surprise at the face she saw peering through the glass at her.
“If you’re going to watch at least come in and pour from the kettle. The water gets cold so fast,” she called. She scowled with irritation that he had been watching her, but she was practical too and she would spare a peek at her scrawny body for the comfort of hot water in the tub. There was little enough pleasure in this life of hers and there was something in the watching green eyes that made her feel that long-forgotten thrill of heat and mutual attraction.
He stepped inside, closing the door quickly behind him. But it was almost as cold inside the small wooden shanty, the cracks between the thin boards were wide with no caulking between them to keep out the wind.
She continued scowling but closed her eyes again, drawing her knees up and crossing her thin arms over her small chest. Carefully he poured the hot water from the kettle into the tub as he’d seen her do and he saw the frown smooth out and her eyes opened.
“I know there’s something wrong about you. You don’t belong here,” she said, capturing his dark green eyes with her pale blue ones. “You’ve seen how Gustave and the others are, share a few drinks and you’re comrades forever. Do you think you can seduce me now with a hot bath and a few languishing looks. You know what my husband is, do you believe I’m so desperate? Do you think I’ll trust you if you sleep with me?”
He choked at that.
“No, no, it’s not like that at all,” he protested. “I just wanted to help you, it’s hard for a woman alone here. Your husband said so himself.”
“Did he,” she asked softly. “Poor Gustave.”
Triton knelt beside the tub, close beside her.
“He thinks you don’t belong here,” he said.
“He’s wrong then,” Méridè answered. “I suppose it doesn’t even matter if you’ve come to betray us as I believe you have. I’m not worth anything alive and I have nowhere to return to.”
“All these years Midii and you still believe that,” he said, reaching to brush his fingertips across her cheek, the skin was rough and windburned, and Gustave said it had once been so soft.
She started at the name, like a frightened doe disturbed in the forest by human footsteps. Her eyes bored into his until she found the answer to her silent question.
“I know you,” she cried, her swift surprised movement jostling a splash of water from the tub. “I know who you are. The mercenary boy…oh it was so many years ago. No Name. That boy is you.”
“Then you’re really not here to fight and you never knew Albert. Everything’s come full circle for us hasn’t it?” She bowed her head and pressed a weary hand to her forehead, the ends of her long blonde hair trailed into the water where they’d come loose from the hasty knot she’d pinned up.
“I am here from Preventer. They know where you are, they’re only waiting for the signal to strike,” he admitted.
“Well then,” she said, stepping from the tub and wrapping herself in a large cotton sheet. With a graceful movement she pulled her hair from the pins and sat down beside the stove to keep warm. “So this is where we’ll die. I’m truly glad that at the end no one else will go with us and I think Gustave will be too. Kirouac is dead and we must be satisfied with that.”
“Is that all you’ve got to say,” Triton said. “You could still stop me. Shoot me…”
“But they would still come, wouldn’t they No Name? Besides you know I would never shoot you. If you remember me as Midii Une can you forget my last words to you? There was a reason you didn’t die that day,” her voice caught. “I was too young, I was afraid to tell you, I couldn’t …”
She stood up and stopped talking, staring down at the floor and nervously pushing her long hair behind her ears, a habit left over from childhood.
“I loved you,” she finally whispered, heat rising up and turning her cheeks pink in the flaring lantern light. “I guess I love you still even knowing who you are and what you’ll do to us.”
When he didn’t speak she lifted her eyes from the floor to look at him. He was watching her and listening intently, studying her face as if trying to memorize it.
“Now you’re the one with nothing to say,” she said finally. “I tell you I love you and I always have and still you wear that mask. Goodbye No Name, don’t worry I won’t tell your secret. Just leave.”
But he wasn’t a shell-shocked 10-year-old this time and he knew what this feeling was that burned inside him when he looked at her. He reached out and grabbed her, feeling the rough cotton of the sheet and the fragility of slender arms that seemed they might snap in his grip if he held too tight.
She turned her head from the smell of the wine on his breath and pulled herself away. Méridè took one step towards the door before uttering a small cry and flinging herself back into his arms. He caught her and held her to him as she kissed his mouth and tangled her hands in his hair.
They kissed, the touch of lips soft and gentle. The kiss of two adults who had finally found the real meaning of true love. Carefully he slid his hand along her bare shoulders and down her arm, feeling her shiver from the cold and in reaction to the touch of his fingers on her skin.
Triton pulled Méridè closer and with the embrace their kisses became deeper, more desperate. He moved his hands roughly over her, trying to warm her skin before holding her against him so she could feel the urgency of his passion. The need to love her was all-consuming and painful, the feeling of pleasure almost lost in the terrible need to meld his body with hers and become one.
He kicked off his snowy boots and shrugged out of his jacket as she clung to his neck, her soft lips trailing a moist path along his throat as he lay her down beneath him on the narrow bed spread with rough, cold sheets. She gasped as he drew away the sheet that covered her and looked down at her nakedness. Méridè shook her head and quickly pulled him down so that his body crushed hers.
“You’ll think I’m terrible when we’re done,” she whispered, her arms twined around his neck. “Betraying my husband. But I never thought I could ever be with you. I believed you had walked away forever and you became only a memory. Perhaps even now you are only a dream Triton.”
“I don’t think that,” he paused a moment and whispered, “You’re not terrible.” His eyes lifted to look her steadily in the eye
The green eyes that gazed at her smoldered with an intense fire and Méridè became lost in them. “Midii,” he groaned softly, taking her mouth with his again, and she felt tears ooze from the corners of her own eyes and spill down her cheeks. For so long she had felt cold and empty inside and now his very nearness, the heat of his body made her tremble with happiness and anticipation.
“You are a dream,” she insisted wonderingly, moving to lie on her side so that she looked down on him. He thought she looked much like her younger self as she rested her face in her hand and smiled at him, her expression a unique mixture of sadness and hope.
Her fingers struggled with the buttons of his shirt as he pulled her down for another kiss. The touch of her hands against his skin made him feel as he never had and his body felt ready to explode with the need to be a part of her. Triton flipped her beneath him and slid a wandering hand along her inner thigh.
He closed his eyes and lay on top of her, moving his fingers now in a slow circle against the skin of her hip. Her small gasp of shocked surprised startled him and he lifted himself off her slightly, his mouth dry, his chest tight.
She held a circle of gold in her fingers, she’d found the ring that dangled from a chain around his neck.
“You’re married,” she asked, her eyes blinking rapidly to chase away the smart of sudden tears.
“Yes,” he admitted.
She turned her head away, lifting an arm to hide her face. After a moment he slid his fingers along her arm, feeling the gooseflesh rise in the wake of his touch. Méridè peeked from behind her arm and raised it over her head. Triton bent and kissed her again and she wrapped her arms around his neck, deepening the kiss, the demanding pressure of both their lips bruising the other.
But suddenly she felt his hands clench against her skin as he lay on top of her. Triton rose up on his knees, leaving her feeling bereft and cold. He would not meet her eyes, the gold wedding band hung from the chain on his neck and lay against his skin, seeming to catch what little light there was in the dimly-lit room. His breath was coming quickly with tension and unfulfilled desire and her heart stood still as she waited for him to speak again.
“We have a daughter, Tanya. She is seven years old.”
She turned from him and he lay down beside her, placing a tentative hand on her shoulder, feeling her bed heave with silent sobs, the bed shuddering from the intensity. Her husband, his wife meant nothing, but a child …
He lay there and thought about his wife. She hadn’t wanted him to come.
“What will happen to me if you are hurt or killed,” she cried, tears trailing down her cheeks. She was pretty, a seamstress at the circus. Her name was Suzanne.
As if Méridè has read his mind she spoke at last in a choked voice.
“Your...wife. How did you meet her?”
“At the circus, one night she literally sewed my pants onto me….”
And offered to take them off again later, her wistful aquamarine eyes staring up at him with admiration and obvious desire. When he found out about the baby, little Tanya, his choice was clear life had been pleasant. With Suzanne and Cathy and Tanya he had a life like other men, a family to protect and come home to.
But now he knew that Midii—Méridè—was his soul mate. They were the same and he had found her too late. He had people he had to go home to, he was not free. Not anymore.
She didn’t push him away when he curled himself around her and drew the blanket up to cover them both. When she slept, he bent and kissed her face, tasting the tears that stained her cold, pale cheeks. He buried his face in the hollow of her neck and smelled the soft scent of the soap she had bathed with, squeezing her tightly as if that truly meant he would never have to let go.
But he had to let go, he had to go back. He couldn’t stay here with these people on the other side, no more than she could have stayed with him so long ago.
Gustave sat outside in his chair, looking at the sunrise, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. The smoke circled in gray whisps and he did not look at Triton as he left Méridè’s quarters.
“You’d better be leaving now. The snow has stopped and she won’t want to see you again. I don’t want to see you again,” he said to the sky.
Triton started walking and kept on until the rebel settlement was far away. But he knew where it was and he would return.
~~~Turn me on take me for a hard ride
Burn me out leave me on the otherside
I yell and tell it that
Its not my friend
I tear it down I tear it down
And then its born again
Maybe Sauvage’s band of ex-soldiers had at least one small advantage, Trowa thought as he hunkered down near the small campfire they’d allowed themselves and gazed into the flames.
The force sent by Preventer would be slightly outnumbered and arrive for the attack without having slept for nearly 24 hours. This was the final 20-minute rest break before they would begin their last push toward the makeshift settlement.
Do I want them to win, Trowa wondered to himself. No, that wasn’t it. And yet it made him feel better to know that there would be something of a fight. It was what Sauvage had wanted from the start.
“This waiting is intolerable,” he heard Wufei grumble as the others silently trooped over and joined him around the fire both for its light and feeble warmth. “If we hurry we can make it in before dawn and take these dishonorable curs out before breakfast.”
“Ah! I know that strategy,” Duo said, his voice tinged with the cynicism age had brought. “A good old-fashioned Chang Wufei Victoria-style attack. One click of the button and 100 freshly-trained space fighters taken out before sunrise. Well, I’m all for it this time. It’s hella cold and I’m so tired that last yawn almost cracked my jaw.”
“Trowa did the reconnaissance and we’ll follow his recommendation,” Heero said, rousing himself from the state of microsleep he’d long since perfected and feeling reasonably rested.
Trowa let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. Any small change in his carefully-laid plans could be disastrous.
“The attack will be at 0900,” he said, voice calm as usual. “I’ll go on ahead from here and make sure our approach hasn’t been discovered. Meet you on the battlefield.”
“It’ll hardly be a battle whichever way we do this,” Wufei said, frowning and kicking at the snow with his heavy, black boot. “My concern is getting this over quickly and making sure none of our men’s blood is spilled.”
Trowa rose up from his place by the fire and looked over the group of men who had accompanied the former Gundam pilots. He hoped his actions wouldn’t be the cause of any of their deaths. But he knew they were fully equipped with bullet-proof body armor, the heavy material making the hike that much more difficult.
He turned his back on them without a word of farewell and disappeared into the darkness of the trees before he started a desperate sprint toward the Sauvage settlement.
Duo followed the departing figure with his eyes. “What’s his big hurry,” he wondered, blowing on his hands and rubbing them together to warm them.
Heero didn’t answer, but he stood and stomped his booted feet on the frozen ground to get the blood circulating.
“We follow in 10 minutes. Get those men organized,” he said, but he also looked toward the woods, a speculative look in his steel blue eyes. “Contact Quatre at headquarters and tell him we’ll observe radio silence until this mission concludes.”
Was she a creature of habit, did she always follow a morning routine? Everything rested on that. Thoughts raced through Trowa’s mind as he tried to pick up speed and get farther ahead of the unit that followed his trail. He had known her again for less than 24 hours, but the feelings for her in his heart that she had reawakened had been lying dormant for 17 years. Yes, he loved her with a force of feeling he had never before experienced, and yet he did not really know her at all.
Men were moving about between the shacks and the mess hall and the sun was fully up as he stood again at the top of the small hollow. Quickly he dropped down to perform his surveillance and get his breathing under control, his chest heaved and his lungs burned from his panicked run through the woods. It was quite obvious she hadn’t told Gustave who he really was, there was no sign of special preparation, no one guarding the small building that served as munitions bunker. The few men that lingered outside stood together with heads down trying to keep warm around a rusted old barrel that blazed with a trash fire.
Keeping low, he skirted the hills that encircled the small cluster of dilapidated shelters and moved toward the creek. It was windier and colder here, outside the meager shelter of the hollow. But inside he felt infused with a feeling of peace and the warmth of sunlight. He had guessed correctly. She was there at the edge of the creek, far from the coming battle, fetching the water to clean up the breakfast dishes. The wind tugged at the ends of her scarf and pulled on the hem of the dark wool skirt. As he approached she suddenly set down her water buckets and knelt, apparently to examine something buried in the snow. When Trowa got close he saw that she touched the pale lavender petals of a delicate crocus bloom. The tips of her fingers peeked out from the holes of a rather old pair of woolen mittens.
He knelt in the snow opposite her and she looked up from the small flower.
“Spring has returned, as it always does,” she said. “I didn’t want to believe I’d ever see a flower again.”
Trowa reached out to push away the scarf that covered her hair. His hands cupped her cold cheeks as he pulled her toward him and gently kissed her chapped and tender lips. She leaned into him and returned the kiss, reaching up to cover his hands with hers and keep him close.
The first sounds of shouts and the report of artillery filtered through the cold air and reached the edge of the creek bed. Méridè cried out and tried to pull away from his embrace.
“Let go of me! I have to go to Gustave, I won’t stay here like a coward,” she begged, her blue eyes frantic and pleading. “I was supposed to die with him.”
He shook his head, pulling her back close against him. Words from his marriage ceremony to Suzanne echoed in his mind like a scene from a dream. Why had they meant so little then and everything now?
“God took a rib from the man’s side to make woman. This is so he will keep her under his arm to protect her and against his heart because he loves her,” the old minister had repeated monotonously, the words having lost their meaning from being repeated so often. Yes, the words had been trite and meaningless then and he had felt strangely embarrassed and uncomfortable under his pregnant bride’s beaming gaze and the sound of his sister’s joyful tears.
He held the woman in his arms tightly and wordlessly as she struggled to free herself. Her small fists pummeled his chest uselessly when the sound of gunfire and screams intensified. At last she exhausted herself and she was still. He felt her arms wrap around his waist as she hid her face in his jacket and he rested cheek on her hair.
The unholy din of battle and men dying faded away leaving behind only an ominous silence, even the faint gurgle of the creek behind them seemed hushed.
“Trowa?? Oi, Trowa where the hell are you, I wanna get outta here,” Duo’s voice sounded, echoing through the surrounding trees.
“Trowa,” Méridè repeated, her voice a hollow whisper.
“A name I use, I am called Trowa Barton. But my real name is Triton Bloom,” he said, feeling her fingertips brush softly over his lips.
“I prefer Triton,” she said. “What happens now? Your friends will be here soon.”
Slowly, and rather stiffly, he rose from the snow and she looked up at him.
“You’ll leave me behind again, won’t you,” she said, her voice cracking hysterically and rising in volume as she noticed the golden gleam of the wedding ring he had replaced on his finger. “Then why? Why did you keep me alive to be alone in this world with nowhere to go.”
He took her hands in his and pulled her up. “Take these credits,” he said, pressing a small plastic card in her hand. “You have the strength to start over again. I know it, I know you. We’re the same.”
“I don’t want your charity Triton, or anything from you but yourself,” she said, refusing to close her fingers over the card.
“It’s the equivalent of the hazard bonus from this mission,” he said uncomfortably, looking at the ground and unable to meet her eyes. He tried forcing the card into her hand, physically closing her fingers over it. She let it drop.
“Blood money,” she said. “You think I took it once as a child and I’ll so easily fall into those old habits and take it again. Now I know why I hated you then too as well as loved you.”
She yanked the woolen mitten from her hand and slapped him hard across the face, blue eyes blazing with hurt and anguish.
“No,” he said taking her hand and pressing it to his cheek. “Now I only understand your pain completely. I have a home I have to return to and all I want is to stay by your side. I have a wife, a sister, a daughter. They all need me, depend on me. But what I really want is just to stay with you, to love you. Always. Just take the card please so I know you have that much. I beg you Midii.”
“I found you too soon, you found me too late. I don’t think fate will give us a third chance Triton,” she said, lifting her chin and letting the cold air hit her full in the face.
He picked up the little card and dusted off the snow, placing it in the jacket pocket over her heart. He ripped off the identification tape on her coat that read ‘Sauvage’ and dropped it to the ground, watching the wind carry it off. She stood silent and defeated, tears sliding down from the corner of each eye. The stunned, empty look in her eyes shredding his heart.
“He’s down here,” they heard a voice call just beyond them.
She turned on her heel and ran away from him and toward the voice, combat boots crunching on the icy snow.
“Let her go, she’s unarmed,” Trowa managed to yell, finding his voice as she sped past his surprised comrades.
They found her among the destruction of the little encampment, standing beside Gustave’s fallen body, her tearless gaze composed and her hands clasped in front of her. Her thoughts were her own.
“Méridè Sauvage, isn’t it,” Heero said to the quiet Preventer at his side. “She found you out and kept your secret, cooperated with the infiltration? Is that why you’re protecting her?”
A cool green calculating gaze swept over Heero’s face, as if Trowa was deciding just how much to say.
“No, Madame Sauvage was not here when I arrived. The woman is called Midii Une, she only took this job cooking for the men to survive. We should just let her go,” he said.
“I see,” Heero said, accepting but not believing Trowa’s explanation. “Well, we suffered no casualties. Sally will be here soon to see to the minor injuries. Mademoiselle Une can get a ride with her back to the nearest town.”
For the first time his footsteps dragged as he walked up the gravel path to the circus enclosure. They had set up for the show in a small attractive meadow, the festive appearance of the familiar tents adding to the happy atmosphere the circus promised visitors.
A small, thin child with long legs that seemed to grow too fast for her little body sat in the warm grass weaving a chain of the first spring dandelions. She already had several of them stuck in the elastics holding the two long brown ponytails that framed her face.
Seeing the child, the man’s step became a little lighter and it felt as if his heart started beating again. It had sat in his chest heavy, cold and unmoving when the woman had climbed out of Sally’s truck and disappeared into the small town at the edge of the vast woods. He knew he might never see her again yet the blank expression on his face never changed, never betrayed his inner turmoil.
Wait, please wait, I’m coming with you, he’d wanted to scream the words. But she had not looked back and the Preventer convoy had continued down the road, headed for home.
The childish voice was filled with such joy that he finally smiled the small, wistful smile he always did when home came into view. She jumped to her feet and ran at him like a small whirlwind, knowing his strong arms would hug her to him, that his sure hands would toss her in the air and catch her again. She was as sure of his love as she was certain spring would always come again.
“I knew you’d come back Papa,” she said, curling her small hand into his larger one as they walked together toward the tents. “Mama and Aunt Cathy cried and cried but I knew you’d come back to me.”
“You’re so tired love,” Suzanne whispered in his ear, her tone both sympathetic and scolding. He had married a woman much like his own sister, a girl who had grown up in the protective, extended family that personified the circus. She sat behind him on the bed, holding him in her arms as he rested. He was tired. Too tired to sleep. “I never want you to go away again. What would happen to me? What would happen to Tanya? We need you here Trowa! And don’t you know if anything happened to you it would break your sister’s heart?”
“I know that,” he said. He also knew that his next words would please her immensely. “I’m not going to take any more missions. It’s been enough.”
She fell on him, planting butterfly kisses on his face and neck. He heard her happy laughter, felt it tickling his chest and he automatically put an arm around her.
“Now I know you really love me,” she said, her eyes soft and possessive.
“I can’t fight anymore,” he said, his eye focused on the soft golden gleam of his wedding ring and the matching one on the small hand that rested familiarly on his arm.
“We’ll be so happy now,” she smiled brightly. “And I have wonderful news for you! We’re going to have another baby! That makes you happy doesn’t it? Look how much you love our Tanya. You really have to stay home with us now. Always.”
His hands brushed against her stomach. He had been gone so many weeks that already it swelled with the new life they had started.
She fussed over him, exclaiming over his thinness, the circles under his eyes.
“You were hurt,” she cried suddenly. Her fingers rested gently on the curve of his jaw. There was a thin red scar just beginning to fade to white as it slowly healed.
“It’s alright Suzanne,” he said, his voice calm and patient. “Just cut myself shaving. It’ll fade.”
The most painful scars can’t be seen and they will never fade, he thought, remembering the feeling of Midii in his arms once more.
But it was over and he was home. Home to stay.
Author’s Notes: This story inspired by Gundam Wing Episode Zero and the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s song Otherside. Song lyrics used without permission…