By Midii Une
Piercing shrieks of outrage and despair shattered the silent December night and echoed off the walls of the small, cozy bedroom. Suddenly the cries were cut off with startling suddenness and peace reigned once more.
Trowa moved restlessly, burying his head further beneath the pillow and flinging his arm over a rapidly cooling warm hollow in the bed where Midii was supposed to be. Syrupy-sweet crooning noises followed him into his hiding place and initiated a familiar sequence of guilt, responsibility and resigned suffering. Dutifully he slipped out of bed to investigate, wincing as his bare feet hit the slick and icy-cold wood floor.
In the nursery Midii’s face was bent low over the small intruder who clutched a handful of her silky hair in his tiny, chubby fist. Tiny, because he was only three months old. Chubby because he ate constantly.
“Time’s it,” Trowa muttered sleepily, dragging a tired hand over his face and peering at the dim glow of the numbers on the small digital clock on the dresser.
“Oh dear! We didn’t mean to disturb darling Papa did we Sweetie? You just needed Mama that’s all,” Midii said, her voice tinged with concern and sympathy but she never lifted her eyes from the little face that captured her adoring gaze to spare a glance at ‘darling Papa.’
Trowa yawned and leaned against the wall, it seemed he spent more time there than in bed lately. He watched Midii feed the baby in the soft light of the small clown-shaped night-light that had been a gift from ‘darling Auntie Cathy.’ Midii’s hair moved softly with the motion of the rocking chair (a gift from ‘darling Uncle Quatre and Auntie Dorothy’) and her flannel nightgown was unbuttoned low and he couldn’t help but envy the greedy little boy sucking away at her breast and making soft little sounds of contentment. She yawned and leaned her head back against the chair tiredly, a blissful smile of pure happiness setting her face aglow. She peered at Trowa beneath her lashes as she felt his fingers smoothly caressing her cheek.
“Sorry he woke you up. Guess I wasn’t fast enough,” she said, a crooked little frown replacing the happy smile.
“I don’t mind,” Trowa said, it was only a small fib. Maybe once the baby was back in bed, now that they were both awake, she would have some time for him?
For awhile it seemed the little boy would never go back to sleep, he stared suspiciously at his father, favoring him with a creditable imitation of one of ‘darling’ Uncle Heero’s death glares before finally giving in and cruising off to dreamland. Midii tucked the baby in carefully, she was so tired, bed beckoned like some far off heaven and the tantalizing promise of two, possibly three, hours of uninterrupted sleep seemed like an unattainable dream.
She gasped and settled herself comfortably in Trowa’s arms as he whisked her up in the type of romantic gesture she had used to love just a few months before and she laid her head sleepily on his shoulder. Even the baby looked good to him right now, a perfectly angelic child, rosy-cheeked and sleeping peacefully as he took a final peek in the crib. Midii was still Midii, even if her face was always drawn by exhaustion and she was constantly accompanied by the smell of sour milk and baby wipes. He nuzzled the warm skin of her neck beneath her hair and laid her carefully on the bed. Trowa fumbled in the dresser drawer for a match to light some candles. He loved the shine in her eyes when she told him she loved him, when he held her close in his arms. It had been so long.
“Mmm,” Midii sighed as he crawled into bed with her, cradling her against his body and lifting her hair to kiss the back of her neck. Alone at last, Trowa thought, as she lay still and waiting as he kissed the places that never failed to get her hot and bothered. Trowa lifted his head to look into her eyes, to see the devotion and the special warmth that had always been there just for him.
But her eyes were closed and as he watched she turned sleepily over on her side, pulled the pillow close in her arms and fell quickly asleep.
Trowa pulled his own pillow over his face, he wanted to shout his frustration but he knew better than that. It would never do to wake the baby now, there would be hell to pay . . . even as the treacherous thoughts filtered through his consciousness he heard the ominous and unmistakable rustling of blankets and soft snuffles and whimpers. His son’s radar, as sensitive as the system once installed on his father’s Gundam, had detected that Mommy had been a traitor and left him alone his room to catch a few hours of sleep.
Trowa took Midii’s place in the rocking chair and held the warm little body close in his arms, the baby stared back, owl-eyed. He rubbed his little face against his father’s soft old t-shirt and opened his mouth wide for a howl, but Trowa’s smell and his soft voice humming a tuneless but strangely soothing melody were familiar and comforting. The howl became a tired yawn and he nuzzled closer.
The little guy wasn’t so bad Trowa thought, drowsily, the special magic of a sleepy baby working its spell on him. He could picture himself teaching his son how to make paper airplanes and eventually even how to fly a shuttle. He leaned down to whisper a compromise. “We’ll get along fine if you just learn to share,” he said. “You know I love Mommy a lot too.” He looked down into the tiny face expecting to see a glint of understanding in the emerald eyes that mirrored his own but like his mother before him, the baby, having gained the attention he felt he so deserved, had fallen fast asleep.
“Pretty please with warm cinnamon apple topping?”
“. . .”
Hilde plastered a pleading smile on her face and wriggled against Duo’s hard, warm body beneath the cozy fleece throw in an attempt to tempt him toward indiscretion. Her sea-blue eyes glowed in the firelight as fluffy snowflakes fell slowly and gracefully against the deep black sky beyond the window. The Christmas lights on the tree sparkled cheerfully in the dim room as she plucked the foil-wrapped package from Duo’s hand.
He groaned and grabbed for the small, slim object but she held it away from him.
“I’m serious Duo! I want a baby,” she pouted, clutching the little square to her chest protectively.
Duo grinned and shook his head.
“No glove, no love babe,” he chortled, letting his fingers trail seductively down her bare arm and suddenly snatching the contraceptive from her hand.
Her eyes shone oddly, brighter than usual in the warm glow of the cozy little living room. Her lower lip thrust out mutinously as she bolted from beneath the blanket and out of his arms permitting him a quick glimpse of her slender white body before she disappeared behind the bedroom door, which slammed behind her with an ominous thud.
Duo held out stubbornly for at least 5 minutes before he sighed deeply in resignation and lowered his feet over the edge of the sagging old sofa. The bare wood floor beneath his feet was cold and he moved fast, wrapping the blanket around his waist and covering the essentials. He tapped on the door.
“Hilde. Hiiiillldeeeeeee,” he crooned, smirking in satisfaction as he heard the sound of his wife blowing her nose loudly and the light sound of her footsteps.
He leaned forward hoping to land a kiss on her trembling lips but barely caught a glimpse of angry, red-rimmed eyes as she opened the door a crack and thrust his pillow out the door at him before slamming it shut again.
“Fine! Be that way,” Duo scolded at the locked door. “But we are not ready for children. I just wanna live a little first!”
Neither the door, nor Hilde Maxwell answered and Duo did a little uncomfortable dance as he stood there lost in indecision. This had been going on for months and as time went by Hilde was becoming more and more unreasonable.
Damn Quatre and Trowa this was all their fault, Duo thought. What could they be thinking letting Dorothy and Midii parade their adorable little cherubs around all the time and getting Hilde’s hormones all in an uproar of Mommy Envy? Duo leaned his forehead against the unsympathetic door in a wave of self-pity. He was horny and his feet were icy, the ‘romantic’ blaze in the fireplace was dying and cold, like their love, he thought melodramatically. He turned back toward the couch, resigned to spending the night there when something pulled his hair, jerking him back toward the door.
“Owwwww,” Duo whined, doing an about-face.
“Shit,” he muttered, his braid was caught in the door.
“Uh, Hilde? Hilde babe, could you, ummm, Hil . . . .
Hilde stuck her tongue out at the door and buried her head beneath the pillow, ignoring Duo’s plaintive pleas for help as callously as he squelched her dreams of motherhood.
Heero was intent on passing by the lunch table in the Preventer cafeteria without being noticed. His mission seemed a guaranteed success. Quatre and Duo were absorbed and fascinated by some story Trowa was telling, the part-time clown was waving his hands animatedly and his voice was low and urgent. Meanwhile Wufei had his face buried in a bowl of rice, his chopsticks clicking slightly as he ate lunch as fast as possible so he could go back to a particularly interesting mission report he’d been reading.
Well that was all very normal, Heero thought, automatically and he had more important things to do than sit around wasting time with lunch. Suddenly he stopped mid-stride, something was off after all. Trowa regaling Duo and Quatre with a story? Trowa not letting the others get a word in edgewise? This must be important! Why were they leaving him out? What did they know that he didn’t?
Heero scowled and returned unobtrusively to the lunchroom, silently grabbing a bowl of rice on the way past the counter as his stomach rumbled gently. Relena was always nagging him to stop skipping meals after all. . .
“He’s ruthless, determined to get what he wants and to hell with anyone who gets in his way. And she gives in to his every demand . . .
Heero’s eyes narrowed as he listened to Trowa’s words. Was someone planning on another Christmas Eve attack? It had been quiet last year but perhaps that had only been a fluke. Had Trowa stumbled on some megalomaniac and his accomplice? Was it possible that somewhere out there was a dangerous pair of scoundrels with a hidden cache of weapons plotting world domination?
Quatre shook his head and Duo stared in fascination, his eyes wide and tired, circled with bluish shadows.
“Now Trowa, this isn’t unusual. You’re just tired and overwhelmed. Nicolas is a wonderful little guy and I’m not just saying that because he’s my godson,” Quatre said soothingly, his own experience of being a father for almost a year making him by far the expert. “Perhaps Midii is a little over involved but she’ll get over it when he’s older! He’s only three months old.”
Nicolas? Midii? Trowa’s wife and baby son were hardly going to conquer the world, at least not this year. Heero turned on his heel and escaped back out into the hallway.
“It’s like I don’t even exist,” Trowa ranted, dragging his fingers over the unshaven stubble that seemed to always be present on his face lately, as Heero disappeared out the door unseen. “And I haven’t had a full night’s sleep for four months.”
Duo counted on his fingers. “Uh, Trowa? If the baby’s only three months how come you haven’t slept for four?”
“False alarms,” Trowa moaned, laying his head down on the table, his bangs flopping dramatically around his face. “Every little twinge and she thought she was having the baby!”
Duo renewed his conviction that he and Hilde were not ready for such a rude change in lifestyle. There was nothing like sleeping in on Sunday, or any other morning he could get away with it. His violet eyes acquired a faraway look as he thought of the inevitable conclusion of lazy mornings in bed and a tired grin formed on his lips. He stretched and yawned, rubbing his neck. He’d ended up sleeping against the door last night wrapped in the skimpy little fleece blanket, even talking about having a baby was keeping him up nights, imagine actually having one! He sure hoped Hilde got over her phase soon or he’d be as sleep-deprived as Trowa, baby or not.
“Well,” Quatre said, thinking quickly for something optimistic to say. “Maybe tonight when we all go out for dinner you two can get things back on track. Come on Trowa, no one likes dressing up and going out like Midii does. This is just what you two need.”
Trowa sighed. Last Christmas everything had been absolutely perfect, she had surprised him at work. His heart had been in his throat, finding her perched on his desk, wrapped suggestively in a soft length of red velvet. That’s when she’d told him the ‘good news’ and he’d even been happy about it. He hadn’t known she’d change so much, hadn’t known how much he loved the way she doted on him and took such special care to dress the way he liked. Maybe he had taken it all for granted. Had there actually been a time when he wished she would stay safely at home and out of trouble? Well, perhaps Quatre was right and tonight at least he could be assured Midii would comb her hair and put on a dress instead of those damn sweatpants! A little time alone together, that was all they needed.
“Can I hold him now,” Cathrine asked hopefully, making faces at her young nephew as his mother held him up to her shoulder, patting his back carefully to make him burp.
“Not right now, Cathy. If a stranger holds him after he eats he gets upset and spits up,” Midii said, her frown deepening. She lifted a hand and pushed impatiently at the long strands of hair that had fallen in her face from the ponytail she had pulled it back in about 5:30 this morning when Nicolas had arisen.
“But Midii,” Cathrine began, if she was going to babysit Nicolas tonight he should get reacquainted with her, besides Midii should start getting ready if she was going to go out tonight. Her shuttle had come in late and already her sister-in-law was behind schedule. Cathrine had an odd feeling that somehow Midii was avoiding the issue, that somehow Midii didn’t trust her.
“Uh-oh,” Midii said suddenly, her eyes widening and her lips smiling brightly. She looked for all the world like the children’s television host who had done a special at the circus last year. Cathrine shivered in remembrance. The woman had been downright scary.
“Someone has poopsies don’t they,” Midii cooed, blowing raspberries against the baby’s soft tummy before holding him close and making little soothing sounds. “We have to take care of that right away! We don’t want mama’s precious to get a rash. Nooooooo! No we don’t!”
Cathrine gulped bravely. Poopsies? If Midii didn’t get going she was going to be late! “I-I’ll take care of it Midii. You need—“
Midii ignored Cathrine and shooed her out.
“If I don’t put on the diaper rash crème just right he doesn’t like it,” Midii explained, her tone no-nonsense and professional as she shut the nursery door in Cathrine’s face. “You have to put on a thin layer, you can’t clump it.”
Cathrine stared after her sister-in-law indignantly. As if she would clump the diaper rash crème! Well, at least she didn’t think she would. She watched the door anxiously, Midii’s behavior starting to make her wonder if she was really qualified to watch the baby for the evening.
Trowa, accompanied by Duo and Hilde, came in to find Cathrine still standing uncomfortably outside the nursery door. Trowa and Duo had stopped at the tux shop to pick up their rentals and had changed there before picking up Hilde.
Cathrine smiled. “You three look wonderful! Especially you, little brother,” she said, tiptoeing to hug Trowa and feeling the sting of sentimental tears in her eyes.
Only a few years ago he hadn’t been as tall as she was and now look at him! The expensive black cloth fit perfectly over broad shoulders and a body that was perfectly toned and muscled. No one filled out a tux like her little brother, she thought, smiling a bit condescendingly at Duo, who slouched uncomfortably in his jacket and was tugging at his bow tie. Midii was very lucky. A wonderful, handsome husband and a sweet little son. Her hand flew to her mouth.
“Midii isn’t ready,” she said.
“What happened,” Trowa said, disappointment creeping into his usually stoic green eyes.
“Uh, poopsies,” Cathrine said, her face growing hot as she echoed Midii’s silly baby talk. It seemed to be catching.
“Heh heh, well poopsies happen,” Duo said, turning to see Hilde’s reaction.
She wouldn’t really want to be stuck with poopsies instead of partying would she, he wondered? Ignoring Duo’s inquisitive look, Hilde merely lifted her chin and turned her head away. She had promised herself to give him the cold shoulder until he relented. It was difficult though, he looked so good in that tux! It was so fun to get him to wear one occasionally, she loved the expression on his face when he put it on. He was like a glum little boy forced to dress up to be the ringbearer in a wedding. She was sorely tempted to turn and give him a seductive smile full of promise of what the night would bring. But at that moment the nursery door opened and Midii stepped out with little Nicolas in her arms. Hilde pounced, Cathrine joined in and Trowa and Duo stayed out of their way as they admired the baby in his new Santa jammies.
“How adorable! Oh my God, he’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” Hilde chirped.
“Oh I’ve never seen anything so sweet, he’s so darling,” Cathrine chorused, the women’s voices rising to a high pitch that everyone seemed to use around babies.
Duo stepped in to see what all the fuss was about. All he saw was a wrinkled little runt who looked ridiculously like a miniature Trowa dressed in a weird red hat.
“How ya doin’ sport,” he asked the baby, poking a finger in his tummy. “Give Uncle Duo five!” He held out his hand. Nicolas Barton looked at the big, scary hand and hid his face in his mother’s shoulder, crying loudly as Midii scowled at Duo and tried to comfort the baby.
“Duo! You scared him,” Hilde scolded, while Cathrine frowned at him disapprovingly.
Duo shrugged, shaking off the uneasy feeling the baby’s cries started in the pit of his stomach. The cries made him want to run to find a bottle or a clean diaper or (let’s face it) just plain RUN!
“Y’see babe, kids and me just don’t mix,” he said, taking the opportunity to drive his point home.
Hilde ignored Duo and reached for the small, red-clad baby clutched tightly in his mother’s arms.
“Midii, let me hold him, you need to get ready,” Hilde said.
Midii looked startled. “Oh…Yes…Christmas Eve dinner? I totally forgot,” she said slowly, making no move to hand over the baby, kissing his teary cheeks and stroking his hair softly. After an interminable moment she finally held the baby out to Aunt Hilde.
“Give me half an hour, we’ll be fashionably late,” Midii said, smiling crookedly and trying to muster a little bit of her old joie de vivre. Truthfully the last thing she wanted was to leave home tonight, she was exhausted and she just knew the baby would cry his little heart out if she left. She felt absolutely cruel and secretly prayed for an excuse to bow out of tonight’s little party. What fun would it be without her precious?
It hadn’t taken long for the baby, endowed with the cleverness and survival instinct of infancy, to latch onto Midii’s soft spot for anyone who needed her utterly. During the war it had been her love for her young brothers that thrust her into the chaos and now her tender heart was utterly captivated by her son to the exclusion of everything else, including Trowa. Unconsciously she felt he didn’t really need her, he never really had, she was only an accessory to his survival. He was self-sufficient and always would be no matter if he loved her or not. That hurtful little thought strengthened her obsession with their child, after all Trowa had never come looking for her and would have gone on with life happily enough if she hadn’t dropped nearly literally into his lap after being hired by Preventer security two years ago. She moved slowly toward the bedroom to get dressed, anxious to put off the moment of separation as long as possible.
Nicolas, meanwhile, smiled a toothless grin of glee as he spotted Hilde’s shiny necklace. He leaned closer for a better look and caught a breath of her light perfume. The artificial scent stuck in his little throat and tickled his nose.
“choo,” the tiny boy sneezed, wrinkling his little nose adorably.
Midii raced back down the hall, her cheeks pale, her eyes distraught. She quickly snatched the baby from Hilde and carefully felt his forehead with her hand.
“Are you getting a cold, darling,” she cried. “Mama will start the humidifier right away and we’ll get the pediatrician on the phone and find out what to do. Is Mama’s poor baby sick?”
Trowa sighed. She hadn’t even said hello to him, let alone notice how he looked in his tux. When had that even mattered to him, he wondered. Before the baby she had had to beg and plead to get him in a ‘monkey suit’ as Duo called it and now she didn’t even care that he gone to all the trouble without her prompting.
“Don’t be ridiculous Midii,” he said testily. “It’s just a sneeze, he’s perfectly fine. Let Cathy take care of it and let’s get out of here, we’re late as it is.”
Midii’s eyes welled with tired, emotional tears. He really was heartless, just as she had always suspected! She had always wanted so much to love him but deep down he didn’t or couldn’t care about anything. Not even his own child.
“We’re not going tonight,” she said flatly. “Nicolas is coming down with something and I won’t leave him. Hilde, please give our apologies to everyone and wish them a happy Christmas for us.”
“Speak for yourself,” Trowa said, the words bubbling up from a place he never even knew existed. “Stay here if you want, it’s obvious you don’t want to be with me. That baby is all you care about.”
There was stunned silence, broken by a low whistle of astonishment from Duo who watched the scene with amazement. Babies were homewreckers and this was living proof, the kid had even gotten Trowa upset and that was something. He glanced at the oblivious baby with a certain respect.
“Who could blame me,” Midii finally said. “You don’t care about anyone, when are you going to stop being afraid to love something? Nicolas loves me, he needs me to be with him!”
A wave of remorse washed over Trowa. I love you, he thought. I love the baby, too, it’s just that--
He reached for her but she had turned away, hiding her face behind the long strands of her hair.
Trowa turned on Duo and Hilde impatiently.
“Well? What are we waiting for? Let’s get out of here,” Trowa muttered, giving them a look that did not invite arguments.
Duo pulled Hilde aside before helping her into the car as Trowa gunned the engine noisily.
“Do you see now Hilde? Babies are nothing but trouble. That kid’s putting Trowa through hell and Midii’s turned into a major nutcase. You can’t honestly say you wanna bring that kind of shit down on us, do ya?”
Hilde didn’t answer, she was too busy holding on for dear life as Trowa yanked the wheel and the car screeched through a U-turn nearly tossing her from her seat and almost irreparably wrinkling her scarlet taffeta skirt.
Midii rocked slowly in the chair, pulled up close to the crib so she could watch Nicolas sleep. The soft sounds of the baby’s breathing mixed with the soft hiss of the humidifier blended with the noise of Cathy puttering in the kitchen.
The tired young mother picked up small rag doll and held it close, pulling her knees up to her chest and leaning her forehead on them. Perhaps she had overreacted, but why couldn’t he understand how she felt, why couldn’t he understand the overwhelming love that was inside her for the baby?
She lifted her head and peered at him again through the smooth wooden bars of the crib. He slept just like Trowa, flat on his back with his little arms flung wide and his head turned slightly to the left. His hair was starting to grow in and already the front was getting long and brushing over his eyebrows. She had to smile tenderly in amusement as he moved a little in his sleep and the little lips curved in a faint smile of contentment that looked just like Trowa’s. She held the little doll closer but there was no answering response.
“All you care about is the baby,” she heard the echo of Trowa’s angry words.
“That’s not true,” she thought defensively, although there was a guilty twinge in her soul. The baby needed her right now, he could very well be coming down with his first cold and what if she wasn’t there to keep an eye on the situation?
“I’m right,” she whispered aloud, trying to convince herself. “Anyone would understand, anyone with a heart.”
She wondered why her husband was being so unreasonable. She always tried to put him first but sometimes she had to set priorities. He could take care of himself, she had known that from the start. Her brothers had needed her and now Nicolas. When he’d been born he’d stolen her heart from the moment he first grasped her finger in his hand and stared up at her adoringly as she fed him.
She rubbed her hand tiredly over the tight muscles in her neck and the little gold chain of her necklace scratched her skin.
“Always,” she thought, remembering the inscription, the happiness of last Christmas. She had thought she would be so much happier now. But what did always mean? He had never really needed her, why couldn’t he see that right now she was desperately needed right here.
Despite her self-righteous thoughts her heart felt heavy and her thoughts were anxious, her soul nearly as torn as the first time she’d let Trowa down so badly, the first time they’d met.
Trowa’s grim face dispelled the merriment at the big table at Dorothy’s favorite restaurant. Dorothy folded her arms in annoyance. She had long since gotten over the first flush of temporary insanity a new baby brought. She knew quite well that Felicity was safe and happy at home with Nanny and several of her doting aunts, not to mention Rasid and the Maganacs patrolling the grounds and peeking in with the little treats and playful visits the one-year-old toddler adored.
All attempts at conversation died or seemed awkward in Trowa’s frighteningly quiet presence. She had been looking forward to seeing everyone and showing off pictures of her beautiful baby. The little girl’s white-blonde hair was getting long enough to put hair bows in and she looked positively angelic in her professional holiday portrait.
Finally, unable to withstand temptation, Dorothy surreptitiously passed the picture under the table to Relena and Hilde and both girls leaned closer to inspect the picture. Soon they forgot the ominous stare of the put-out new father and were cooing and laughing over Felicity’s picture.
“Did I tell you she walked at nine months,” Dorothy bragged. “The doctor said with that type of early development she’s sure to be a genius.”
Hilde sighed, looking at the sweet little face in the picture. Felicity was adorable right down to her tiny eyebrows that were just starting to show a hint of splitting into an imitation of Dorothy’s most unique feature. She wanted her own baby so badly, motherly instincts overwhelmed her whenever she saw Nicolas or Felicity and even now she smiled dreamily, remembering the little boy’s warm weight in her arms and his sweet baby fragrance. She didn’t understand Duo, not one bit.
“Here Tro,” Duo attempted, passing a strong whiskey and soda toward the silent pilot. “Have a little Christmas cheer to take your mind off things.”
Trowa didn’t answer, but he bolted the drink. He should have stayed home with Midii. Last year all he’d wanted was to be with her and now he had just left her behind. They needed to be a family tonight of all nights but he’d proven her right by walking out. No wonder she thought he didn’t care. He tried to gather his courage and squash his pride and just go home.
Hilde chose that moment to lean over and show Duo the picture of Felicity.
“Isn’t she precious,” she crooned, her voice a dead-on imitation of Midii’s coo. “Oh Duo, this is all I want for Christmas.”
Trowa winced, home wasn’t what it used to be. Midii would never notice if he came back or not. Like Hilde, the baby was all she wanted. He stalked over to the bar, leaving the table without a word.
Duo giggled nervously. “Maybe Quatre will let us borrow the kid sometime, on a trial basis or something?”
Quatre and Dorothy looked up in unison, their faces appalled. “Lend” their baby to the God of Death? Never!
“Err, maybe not,” Duo said, but Hilde beamed happily. Maybe Duo was relenting at last?
Quatre hastily changed the subject. Trowa’s absence was the perfect opportunity to get Duo and Hilde to tell what had happened to cast such a pall over what should have been a happy evening.
“Well,” Duo said, slurping down his own and Trowa’s portions of an Oysters Rockefeller appetizer thoughtfully. “Basically, it’s all Midii’s fault. She’s obsessed with the kid and I don’t think Trowa’s getting any. He’s pretty pissed.”
“Thank you Duo for that insightful commentary,” Dorothy said sarcastically, drawing her brows together thoughtfully.
“That’s not true at all,” Hilde said, anxious to stick up for Midii. “The baby looked like he was getting sick and Midii wanted to stay home with him. Trowa was totally unreasonable.”
“Bet he was just allergic to you, he did sneeze when you held him,” Duo said teasingly. “Maybe babies can’t be around you Hil and we’ll have to stay childless!”
The outraged Hilde started to sputter and her eyes started to spark. But before she could speak she was interrupted by an unexpected source.
“I’ve got a plan,” Heero said, in a quiet voice that nonetheless caught everyone’s attention. Relena’s eyes shone with delight. She loved when his hidden romantic side was exposed. She squeezed his hand beneath the table and leaned on his shoulder.
Dorothy, Quatre, Hilde and Duo leaned in close to Heero and Relena and the scheming began.
Special Agent Abdul, Operation Set the Trap
Cathrine smiled to herself as she set the phone gently back on its cradle. Cautiously she peered down the dark hall to the closed door where Midii was finishing up wrapping the baby’s Christmas gifts from “Santa.”
Humming to herself, Cathy leaned closer to the mirror in the hallway and fussed a bit with her hair, she reached in her pocket and pulled out a small container of peppermint lip gloss and rubbed it gently on her lips. She smacked them together and blew a kiss, a faint blush creeping up in her cheeks. She checked her watch, synchronized to match that of the other conspirators and glanced expectantly at the door.
Cathrine grinned. Right on time. With a spring in her step and a cheerful glint in her violet eyes she moved slowly toward the door, giving him time to ring the bell again.
Midii put down the roll of bright blue Christmas paper, the jolly snowmen decorating it looked up at her with vacuous smiles as she cocked her head and distinctly heard the sound of the doorbell. She frowned and pursed her lips. Couldn’t the visitor read? She’d put a sign on the door herself.
“Baby sleeping! DON’T ring the bell, knock gently.”
“My poor baby,” she muttered, rising quickly as she heard the inevitable sounds of the little one waking up and walked out into the hall to investigate.
Instinct took over and Midii pressed herself flat against the closed nursery door. She could hear the baby quieting, the sound of the doorbell had only made him restless. Now she was curious about the visitor himself. Cathrine was whispering vehemently to someone, the secretive manner in which they were talking prompted Midii to investigate. Her gray-blue eyes narrowed and she silently moved to the master bedroom and switched the house-wide baby monitor system to tune in to the front hall.
Cathrine tilted her head to indicate the tiny red light that flipped on in the small white box near the ceiling and the handsome Maganac glanced at it and nodded, drawing his face into stern lines and hiding his usual cheerful grin with difficulty.
“Oh Abdul,” Cathrine cried, her voice distressed. “Thank you for coming to check in and let us know how things are going. But to tell the truth we didn’t even know Trowa had been sent on a mission. I don’t dare tell Midii, she’ll be so upset.”
“Perhaps he didn’t want to worry you, we all thought you knew,” Abdul said, sadly, getting into his performance. “But Sally asked me to make sure you and Midii weren’t too worried. It seems he missed his last two mandatory safety check-ins and that’s not like him.”
Midii sat on the edge of the bed, clutching the receiver, her heart racing, utterly captivated by every word.
“Why doesn’t someone go after him,” Cathrine cried, her voice trembling as she held back a laugh when Abdul made a sad puppy face at her.
“I agree with you,” Abdul said as she pointed silently at the mistletoe hanging over their heads. “But Wufei’s in command tonight and he feels Trowa can handle the situation and any backup would just get in the way.”
He leaned toward Cathrine and placed his big, tanned hand tenderly on her soft, ivory cheek he pulled her close for a quick Christmas kiss under the mistletoe.
Midii trembled with rage. Wufei, that arrogant bastard!! She could picture it now, Trowa needed help and that jerk was taking chances with his life because he was enjoying his night in the spotlight. She stood up and began pacing, all that had happened between her and Trowa making her heart heavy with guilt and despair. She had taken him for granted, it was true and now she was going to lose him. He thought she didn’t care, he would take unnecessary chances.
“Oh Trowa,” she whispered, leaning closer to the receiver. There was silence, broken by the sound of gasping breaths. Cathrine must be crying, that was it, Midii assumed and dashed out to the hall.
As she suspected Midii saw Abdul, one of Quatre’s Maganacs and also a member of Preventers, holding Cathrine comfortingly in his arms. They both looked up at the sound of her running feet.
“Midii,” they said in guilty chorus, straining to keep their faces sober and sad.
“Where’s Trowa,” Midii demanded. “I heard every word you said and Chang Wufei be damned I’m going to find him!”
Cathrine and Abdul squeezed hands. Mission accomplished, Abdul thought triumphantly.
“I can’t tell you and you can’t go,” he said. “It’s much too dangerous and you have a child to consider.”
Her eyes glittered with pent-up rage.
“I outrank you Abdul. I need the details and I don’t have any time to waste,” Midii growled, barely keeping a lid on her anger.
Abdul looked confused and put a hand to his head.
“But if you’re off on maternity leave you really don’t have any clout, do you,” he asked, biting his lip to keep from laughing.
“Let’s just say you don’t want to make me angry,” Midii said, glowering.
“Please Abdul, I think she’s right, maybe you can go after him for us. Midii has to stay here with the baby,” Cathrine said, looking at the tall Maganac helplessly.
“Don’t be ridiculous Cathy,” Midii said disgustedly, unconsciously echoing Trowa’s same words to her earlier. Her voice softened. “I’ll do this myself. You can take care of Nicolas. I-I trust you with him. He’ll be fine.”
Rumors of a situation at the diplomatic office tower, Midii thought, considering Abdul’s scanty information and what she needed to do. The place had a piano bar on the ground floor, offices and an executive penthouse on top. Her thoughts raced, nice place, tight security, but she could enter through the lounge and find a way in.
She glanced at herself in the mirror, aghast at what she saw and yanked the elastic from her ponytail and ran a hand through her hair.
“Just look at yourself,” she said despondently. “How are you going to save Trowa looking like this?”
Special Agent Chang Wufei Operation Mr. Scrooge
“He’s here,” Heero said, watching Wufei stalk into the restaurant and head straight for the bar and the dejected Trowa.
Heero stood, and flanked by Duo and Quatre, they joined the other two Gundam pilots who were apparently deep in important conversation.
Wufei scowled at his partying comrades in arms. He’d drawn the short straw this year and was keeping an eye on things at Preventers HQ this Christmas. No real loss, besides, unbeknownst to them Sally had agreed to keep him company, claiming she had paperwork to catch up on. Heero had had to call in a few favors to embroil him in this shameful affair but now he was here he may as well enjoy himself.
“We’ve got a delicate situation and we’re going to need to call off this party of yours and go into action,” he said severely, his dark eyes judgmental and superior as he looked at them all.
“Aww, no way Wu-man. You can’t make me work Christmas,” Duo said.
“You’re unsuitable for this mission anyway,” Wufei said, enjoying the little dig at the American pilot. This charade did have a certain charm, he thought.
Trowa was strangely quiet, several drinks had strengthened his resolve to go home and try to patch things up with Midii.
“Barton’s perfect for this mission. Even better than you Yuy,” Wufei said, meeting Heero’s eyes belligerently. The Prussian blue eyes opposite his narrowed.
“I’ll take the mission,” Heero said, getting into the spirit of the situation. “Trowa’s got too much at stake, besides he’s distracted.”
“You’re right,” Trowa said. “Good luck Heero, I’ve got to get home to Midii. We have things to discuss.”
“What? You can’t leave,” Duo and Quatre said together, aghast at the unexpected failure of their plan.
“Heero can’t do the mission after all. He has to escort Miss Relena somewhere and it security around her has to be tighter on Christmas Eve, doesn’t it Heero,” Quatre said, anxiously trying to save the situation.
“Hn,” Heero said. He’d almost forgotten it was a setup; Wufei’s remark had inadvertently struck his pride. “Sorry Trowa, I guess you’re it.”
“Listen here Wufei,” Trowa said, feeling suddenly put-upon from every direction. “Do this yourself. I worked last Christmas and I have something important to do.”
“You’re a Preventer and you’re always on duty,” Wufei said coldly. “I have to be getting back to Headquarters, I’m needed there. Now listen, the suspect you have to apprehend cannot be harmed in any way. Although the security breach is highly detrimental the culprit’s life and identity must be protected. A relation of the President you see and Lady Une doesn’t want a scandal. This has to be handled with no weapons so it will be very dangerous.”
“Sounds like you want Quatre on this mission then. He never wants to hurt anyone,” Trowa said, now desperate to get out of it. The mission seemed like a no-win situation.
“Me?” Quatre squeaked. “Of course I can’t! It’s Felicity’s birthday and Dorothy and I must be getting home. Err, sorry Trowa, I’d like to help.”
Duo had already disappeared and Trowa sighed in resignation.
“Fine, just tell me where I have to go,” he said, his sense of duty overwhelming his own wishes. “Do I get overtime for this at least?”
Wufei merely sneered at such a dishonorable remark and turned on his heel to leave.
“What a bunch of nonsense,” he thought to himself. “If Barton’s having romantic troubles he should just go home and tell the onna whose boss.”
His black eyes widened and he smirked smugly as he opened the door to his dimly-lit office. He himself was having no trouble at all with his onna and his own love life was fabulous.
Sally smile seductively and let the scarlet silk kimono drop to the floor.
“You’re such a romantic at heart,” she whispered lovingly in her husband’s ear, thoroughly approving of his part in Heero’s little scheme.
“Let’s just keep that our secret,” he answered, loosening her braids and pushing her back on the couch in the corner.
And for a second straight Christmas Eve a lady in red was keeping her Preventer husband happily distracted as peace reigned securely in the EarthSphere United Nation.
Special Agent Quatre Winner: Operation Disarmament
Midii felt a much-needed burst of confidence as she heard a male bar patron whistle softly in appreciation. In some ways Nicolas had certainly done wonders for her figure, adding new curves to a figure that had tended to be too slender. It had been too long since she had gotten herself fixed up as she’d always used to. She was starting to think this might be the perfect opportunity to make things up to Trowa, if only he was safe.
Anxiously she sat on a barstool and examined the room. The kitchen seemed a likely place to gain entry to the secure levels above. Perhaps there was a dumb waiter. Her forehead puckered in a thoughtful frown and she crossed one leg, clad in clinging garnet velvet leggings, over the other and fiddled with the buttons on the tight black satin blouse nervously, hoping she hadn’t lost her touch. Her heart pounded furiously as she told herself that surely Trowa would be fine.
“For you miss, from the gentleman in the corner,” the bartender said, handing her a Kir Royale in a sparkling crystal glass.
Midii took the drink and sipped it slowly, turning on the stool to see who had sent it.
The wavy blonde hair was familiar and he looked uncomfortable as a voluptuous waitress bent close to see if he needed anything. He wiggled his fingers at her in a wave and Midii grabbed her drink and moved toward him through the crowd.
“Quatre! What are you doing here,” Midii asked, plopping down in the seat across from Trowa’s best friend.
Quatre looked sorrowful as he tried to stop from squirming, something was mercilessly tickling his ankles beneath the long white tablecloth in the dark corner of the little bar.
“I’m Trowa’s contact of course,” he sighed, pulling his feet beneath his chair and pulling it back a few more inches from the table. “Only he hasn’t checked in. I’ve been trying to decide whether it will do more harm than good to go up there.”
“I need details,” Midii said, bolting the rest of her drink for courage. “Abdul didn’t know much more than this location.”
“It should have been a quick job, just a simple case of blackmail in the higher levels but it could turn serious. A spoiled cabinet member’s daughter is trying to bribe her father but we’ll afraid if he doesn’t give in sensitive information could leak and endanger certain treaties,” Quatre explained. “The building has tight security and we don’t want to trip it or the press and local authorities will be alerted.”
“This doesn’t make sense,” Midii said, sipping her drink
“Huh? Of course it does,” Quatre said uncomfortably.
Midii shook her head. “Trowa’s too good, he should be back by now. I’d say whoever he was waiting for hadn’t shown up yet but then why didn’t he check in? He must really be in trouble.”
Quatre swallowed uneasily, for a moment he thought she’d been on to him.
“I know Trowa’s a professional but he hasn’t been himself lately. Want to talk about it,” he said gently.
“I guess I’ve been neglecting Trowa. It’s just that the baby needs so much attention right now and Trowa, well, I didn’t think Trowa needed me like that. Maybe I was wrong,” Midii said, tears starting in her eyes. She blinked them away resolutely and pushed back the chair violently.
“I’m going after him and you can’t stop me,” she said, backing away from Quatre defensively.
Wouldn’t dream of it, he thought smugly. All clear on this end, except for the most important thing, he remembered.
“Do you have a weapon,” he asked.
Midii rolled her eyes and nodded.
“Hand it over,” Quatre said sternly.
Her eyes widened.
“Are you crazy? Something’s wrong up there, I need it,” she protested, clutching her little silver pistol protectively.
Quatre shook his head. “I can’t let you go with that. I’ll call Heero Midii and between the two of us. . .
“Fine, here,” she said, thrusting the pistol at him quickly. “I don’t have time to argue with you. Trowa needs me!”
“He certainly does,” Quatre thought as he watched her head for the kitchen. Everything was going exactly as planned. His face flushed red suddenly and he slunk lower in his seat as he felt velvety-soft lips caress his leg beneath the table followed by the mischievous nip of sharp teeth.
A sharp tug followed and Quatre found himself dragged beneath the tablecloth and face to face with a very amorous Dorothy.
“What can I say,” she asked, shrugging. “With a baby in the house it’s difficult to get enough time alone together.”
She looped her arms around his neck and kissed him ardently, feeling the flush of heat from his fair cheeks as he responded.
“Here? Now,” he whispered, pulling the tablecloth more carefully over the tips of his shoes as she pulled him closer by the ends of his black silk tie.
Dorothy nodded and the little table in the dark corner began shaking rather suspiciously.
Hilde obeyed Midii’s sign and knocked gently on the Barton’s front door.
She knocked a bit less gently and finally the door was answered by a flushed Cathrine. She wore only a half-buttoned blouse, white silk panties decorated with perky red-striped candy canes and a sprig of mistletoe in her hair.
“Ohhhh! Am I interrupting something,” Hilde asked mischievously, as Cathrine blushed. She looked into the other room to see Abdul hastily buttoning his trousers as he looked for his tie.
“Umm, it was the mistletoe, you see,” Cathrine stuttered embarrassedly. She’d known Hilde was coming, it was just that she’d kind of, forgotten . . .
“I’ll take that, thank you very much,” Hilde said, plucking the sprig of green leaves and white berries from Cathrine’s curls and dropping it in the red shopping bag she held.
“What are you up to,” Cathy asked, as Abdul lovingly draped a blanket over her shoulders and smiled in greeting to Hilde.
“The girls and I decided we should make up a little care package for the lovebirds. You know, mistletoe, champagne, a blanket,” Hilde said, smiling.
“This is sure to work,” Cathrine said, clasping her hands together tightly. “Midii keeps a very nice blanket in the little trunk in her bedroom. Help yourself.”
Hilde found the little wooden trunk, charmingly carved with a heart on the side that had been Trowa and Cathrine’s storage for their circus act paraphernalia. Midii had turned it into a hope chest with all the special things from their life together. Hilde carefully opened the lid. What she saw folded carefully on top made her gasp in surprise.
“Midii!! I should have known it was you. You little traitor. How could you,” she sniffed, grabbing the red velvet bedspread and clasping it to her chest
Midii snatched a crabmeat-stuffed mushroom from a silver tray in the kitchen and popped it in her mouth, she’d been too upset to eat dinner and the food smelled heavenly. She ducked beneath the counter as a waiter grabbed the order and carried it from the room. She pulled a drawer open and fumbled blindly until her fingers closed over cool metal. Silently she rose up on her toes and peered over the edge of the cupboards, the rest of the staff had their backs turned and she quickly ducked into the dumb waiter. She wrinkled her nose and brushed her hands off on her pants. The inside was dusty, it obviously hadn’t been used in awhile. Slowly, so the rope wouldn’t creak, Midii pulled the little wooden box up the shaft four floors before coming to a halt.
“That must be as far as it goes,” she thought, good thing, because her arms were tired and she was starting to think the security issues would be well ignored if only it meant Trowa were safe. Resolutely she forced down her feelings of dread and cracked the door open. Midii breathed a sigh of relief when she spotted the fuse box on the wall directly opposite the dumb waiter entrance. In the dark she could easily run up the stairs undetected, she was certainly not in the mood to hoist herself hand over hand up an elevator shaft or crawl through vents tonight. Despite her anxiety she stifled a huge yawn, waited for the security camera to scan the other side of the floor then bolted from the door into the hall and cut the power to the top ten floors of the building, not forgetting to pocket the fuses to prevent any quick fixes.
Trowa had been hiding behind a door in the penthouse suite for going on two hours. He yawned and rolled his shoulders. It was so hard to stay awake in the darkness like this. Wouldn’t it just be his luck if no one showed up to steal any information tonight? He glanced at the illuminated clock on the desk. 10:45 p.m. That was way past his bedtime these days. Did Wufei honestly expect him, the father of an insomniac three-month old to be able to stay awake on a boring mission like this?
He let himself slide down the wall onto the floor. The carpets in here were remarkably plushy he thought stupidly, tiredness turning his brain into something resembling the bottled mashed bananas Midii tried to tempt the baby with. He leaned his head back and rested his eyes, just for a moment . . . .
It was cold and when his eyes blinked open again he could see his breath hanging in the air. All around him thin gaunt-eyed people scurried about nervously, watching the sky as if they were mice that expected a hawk to swoop down at any moment. The sky itself was a hazy gray and the air was cold and forbidding although there was a noticeable absence of any breeze. A scrawny child wrapped in a dark, shapeless blanket stopped and looked up at him curiously before dropping a limp, artificial flower before a tall, marble monument. Suddenly he was alone in the vacuum and the tiny writing carved on the stone beckoned despite the sudden sense of panic and revulsion he felt inside.
He squinted to make it out but the words seemed to fade away until he got close enough that his nose almost touched the icy marble.
To honor those who died for peace. December 24, AC 196. Colony L3-X18999.
Names were carved below in even smaller print and he could make out the beginnings of Cathrine’s name on the list before he turned away, gasping for breath.
This was just a dream. Just like that movie with the wild-eyed man and his angelic companion trying to find the meaning of life.
“I stopped that colony from rotating,” he thought, trying to still the pounding of his heart at the sight of Cathy’s name. “It didn’t fall.”
“Wake up,” he ordered his sleeping self. “This is so stupid, this can’t be happening to you.”
The unconscious Trowa made himself more comfortable against the wall, exhaustion granting him the ability to sleep anywhere.
People surrounded him again, looking at the sky and exclaiming as rain mixed with wet snow began to fall.
“Best get out of the rain son,” a wild-haired man with a false nose strapped on his face said kindly.
“A little rain never hurt anyone,” Trowa grumbled, it was obvious that Doctor S didn’t recognize him. Did that mean he’d never existed or something?
He got caught up in the crowd of panicking people that rushed for a little stone church at the edge of the graveyard. They pushed and shoved and he could see red welts on their skin where the acidic rain had hit them. He glanced up toward the altar to see it flanked by red flags bearing huge, Mariemaia Army insignias.
He turned to leave and bumped into a slight figure dressed all in black. He was staring at a gold cross, the one he’d given Midii last Christmas. Desperately he grabbed at the necklace, feeling for the inscription with his fingers. That would be proof, proof that this was all a product of his imagination.
But the thin metal was smooth and he looked up into a pair of worried and haunted blue-gray eyes that had an unusual cast of innocence that he had never seen in them.
A black veil covered her hair but he knew it was her as she clutched the little cross tightly in her hand.
“Are you all right sir,” she asked gently.
“Midii! It’s me. Trowa,” he said, grabbing onto her arms.
She shook her head and backed away.
“Nanashi,” he said.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I don’t know you. Stay here, you must have hurt your head. I’ll get the Father.”
“Of course you know me, this is just some insane dream,” he said, leaning forward and kissing her lips.
A hand twisted in his collar and he was yanked back and flung onto the floor.
“Listen pal, I don’t know how it is where you come from but in my church no one gets all grabby with the nuns. Capisce,” the dark form stated flatly.
Trowa tried to peer through the dim light. The voice was so familiar.
The figure turned to Midii.
“Are you okay Sr. Marie or do I need to show this clown a thing or two? I’ve still got it you know,” he said, his voice oddly gentle as he spoke to the girl.
“I’m fine Fr. Maxwell,” she said softly “I think the poor man is confused. You shouldn’t hurt him.”
“Duo! You’re a real priest? And Midii’s a nun,” Trowa asked, he started to laugh hysterically, exactly as he had when Heero had revealed the amazing fact that dying hurt like hell. Was he only sleeping or had he died and gone to some hell where everything was the opposite of what it should be?
“How do you know my name,” Duo asked sharply, pushing Sr. Marie back behind him and looking warily at the obviously insane stranger. “Who the hell are you?”
“It’s me Trowa. Trowa Barton,” Trowa said.
Midii, or Sr. Marie, or whoever she was now, gasped and crossed herself.
“Listen buddy,” Duo said patiently. “Trowa Barton died years ago. His father’s the one who dropped the colony on Earth. We’re just here trying to give a little comfort to the survivors, the ones stuck on this wasteland of a planet. It’s my penance. I don’t know how you know my name but just keep it quiet. I’m a wanted man y’know. Come to think of it you better just leave. The storm’s over so get out.”
Just a dream, Trowa thought. Is this what it would be like if I never existed? I wasn’t even thinking that when I fell asleep so why is this happening? The dream Midii looked so sad and frightened as she watched him. Not like herself at all. What had happened to her? He obviously hadn’t been there to find her in the woods. Was she better off?
“Midii,” he said, pushing Duo aside. “What happened to you? What happened when you went into the woods looking for the mercenaries?”
Midii turned and ran, disappearing down the dark aisle. Trowa went to follow but Fr. Maxwell stepped between them.
“I’ve had it with you mister,” he said. “She’s been hurt enough and this is where I draw the line.”
He pulled back his fist and Trowa felt himself falling back, in the penthouse he tilted sideways in his sleep and fell over, his head hitting the door.
His eyes flew open, his hand touched the carpet. He was exactly where he should be. Trowa stared through the transparent ceiling, the penthouse office a room of windows, scowling up at whatever God or angel or other deity had sent him the dream.
“I already planned on going back to her, if you’re so omniscient you already knew that,” he complained, detesting the sick feeling of despair in his gut when he closed his eyes and saw the dream Midii’s face burned on the inside of his eyelids.
He peered at the clock again. 11:30 p.m. The numbers on the digital clock suddenly blinked and the meager lights disappeared. Trowa tensed, finally something was happening. After a moment he could see a bit, the room was completely walled with windows, even the ceiling was a thick, transparent plexiglass material and it was as if he was surrounded by stars. The night was cold and crystal clear.
There was an ache and an empty, hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach and it wasn’t just because he’d skipped dinner. He missed Midii, he missed the way things used to be and the way they had expected them to be once the baby was born. The dream, stupid as it was, had driven it all home. He loved her and if that meant putting up with her temporary insanity so be it. He had always longed for someone to fight for and protect and he’d found her that long ago day in the woods. This wasn’t the type of battle he was used to but he knew he could fight it for her.
A soft creak announced that the door was being pushed slowly open and Trowa held his breath. Time to end this thing and get home to straighten things out.
Midii took a deep breath, adrenaline pulsing through her veins, and stepped cautiously into the dark room. It was difficult to control her breathing after dashing up ten flights of stairs but she managed. Suddenly she stopped and stood perfectly still, trying to blend into the shadows. There was someone in the room, she could feel it. With her peripheral vision she saw movement in the black space behind the door.
She smiled a little as she noticed the faint gleam of a single eye in the darkness, letting her gauge her prey’s height.
Suddenly she twisted her waist lunging into a roundhouse kick learned in one of Wufei’s mandatory martial arts seminars. Thank goodness for in-house training she thought rather smugly as she spun right on target before landing in shocked surprise flat on her back.
Trowa grunted a little, his hand smarted from catching that kick and knocking his attacker over. The room was silent again and he wondered where she’d gone. It was a woman, he knew, she used the same perfume as Midii had worn before the baby was born. He moved cautiously in the direction he thought she’d landed.
Midii blinked angrily, she thought she’d had him but he’d made a good countermove. Of course he’s good, you idiot, he stopped Trowa she scolded herself. Why had Quatre taken her gun? To her mind there was no one she wouldn’t threaten to find out where Trowa was, she longed for the days when politics had not been a concern. Increased anger flared in her and she saw the dark figure moving toward her again. She rose up on hands and knees and thrust her leg out tangling his steps and sweeping his feet out from under him, smiling as she heard him go down. She launched herself onto his back and pressed her emergency weapon into his ribs.
She breathed heavily from the exertion but before she could find breath to speak she found herself flipped onto her back and the tables turned.
Trowa pinned his assailant’s wrists over her head with one hand and dug for his flashlight with the other, relieved that whatever object she’d been holding on him apparently hadn’t been a gun. He’d reacted automatically to being pinned although he should have been more cautious. The imprint of the warm soft body seemed to filter through his shirt with a familiar feeling of content and desire. He shook it off, this was the enemy and he loved Midii despite their recent argument.
He shone the light down on her hands first, one of his slender eyebrows raising in wry amusement as he saw what she held in her tightly clenched fist. The young woman struggled beneath him wildly as he straddled her and tried to keep her still.
“Get off me you big brute or I’ll find a way to kill you. My partner is right behind me and he’ll . . .
She shut her eyes and turned her face violently from the blinding light.
She opened her eyes a crack and peered up at him.
“Trowa! Oh my God, I was so worried why didn’t you check in? I was frantic, I thought you needed me,” Midii said, blinking at him in disbelief.
His emerald eyes narrowed as he looked at the rather harmless ice cream scoop in her hand.
“You came up here against an unknown enemy with an ice cream scoop? What the hell’s the matter with you? You can’t do this anymore. What about Nicolas,” he said, tightening his grip on her wrists angrily.
“I’m not stupid,” Midii protested. “I brought my gun but Quatre took it. He said it was orders from the top. I was hoping I could trick them with that scoop. You still haven’t told me why you didn’t check in with your contact and why you made a sudden move when you were pinned by someone who may have had a gun. Trowa you could have been killed.”
“Well you never actually had me down, the play was still in motion,” he said, wheels of suspicion beginning to turn in his head.
“This isn’t football and this isn’t funny,” Midii said.
“It is a game I think and the situation is rather funny,” Trowa said, sudden realization dewing. He smiled down on her, leaning forward to touch his nose softly to hers.
“Midii, I do need you.”
“Oh Trowa,” she cried, pulling him close to her and letting his familiar weight crush her into the thick plush carpet. “I’m so sorry. I’ve been horrible. I still love you. I love you more than ever. It felt so wrong being home without you tonight and as soon as I overheard Abdul talking to Cathy I was so afraid.”
He nuzzled her neck as she pressed kisses all over his face, stroking his hair and whispering little French love words in his ear until he closed his lips over hers in a long, passionate kiss.
“It feels like we’re on top of the world here,” Midii whispered, looking up at the sky as Trowa studied the constellations reflected in her eyes. “What did you mean when you said this was a game though? If you’re only security testing this building I can tell you right now it’s certainly not up to par!”
“I mean that certain parties noticed that everything was perhaps not quite as it should be between us and took matters into their own hands,” Trowa explained. “I was never in danger or supposed to check in.”
“You mean that Abdul, Cathy and even Quatre set us up,” Midii guessed, wrapping her arms around Trowa’s neck again and pulling him down on top of her. She sighed as his familiar weight settled on top of her, crushing her into the plush carpet.
“A bigger conspiracy than that,” Trowa said. “Even Heero and Wufei I’d guess.”
A gentle tapping was heard at the door when Trowa mentioned Heero’s name and reluctantly Trowa got off Midii and pulled her up off the floor to answer it.
A slender bottle of champagne sat in the hallway and the restored lights gleamed down on two delicate crystal glasses. A note attached to the bottle read:
The handwriting had the familiar, delicate and graceful practiced penmanship of a certain Vice Foreign Minister.
Curious, Midii ducked beneath Trowa’s arm and sprinted off down the hall, just in time to see a busboy from the lounge below step into the elevator. She thought she saw the triumphant gleam of Prussian blue eyes beneath a mop of unruly brown hair as the metal doors slammed shut behind him.
She looked back down the hall at Trowa standing in the doorway in his tux, holding he champagne in one hand and the glasses in the other. Why hadn’t she noticed how wonderful he looked earlier, she wondered as little shivers of expectation raced up and down her spine.
He took her hand and led her back into the penthouse.
“You look amazing,” Midii purred. “I love a man in a tux.” Her hands explored the smooth faric, feeling the warmth of his skin from the exertion of their earlier battle.
“And you look good enough to eat,” Trowa responded, lifting her up and letting her wrap her legs around his waist as they kissed, his fingers stroking the the velvet that clung to her like a second skin. The room was beautiful; the night and the stars surrounded them. She relaxed and loosened his bowtie, letting her fingers caress his throat. It seemed so long since she’d touched him like this and yet so natural.
Gently he lowered her back down on the floor, his fingers working the buttons of her black satin blouse with excruciating slowness. As he kissed her he noticed her trying to peer unnoticed at the time on the clock.
“Maybe we should go home,” Trowa suggested. “I think a certain someone is missing his mother by now.”
Midii shook her head, determined to make up for her recent neglect. “It’ll be alright, for a little while at least,” she said bravely. “Cathy can handle it.”
“I always wanted a home and a family,” Trowa said, rapidly rebuttoning Midii’s blouse and watching her smile grow bigger. “That includes both of you. Besides after we get him settled maybe we can dig a certain piece of red velvet out of it’s box and see how it looks on you this year.”
“How did it go,” Relena asked, standing up from her seat on the velvet couch in the suite below the penthouse.
“Mission accomplished,” Heero said, as he unbuttoned the white busboy jacket he’d borrowed from downstairs. Amazing what a little $10,000 tip for a $500 bottle of champagne could buy you. Including this particular room, nearly as nice as the one above it, the full wall of windows revealing the crisp, starry night and the city lights far below.
“That was a wonderful thing for you to do Heero,” Relena said, smiling. “You can be so sweet sometimes.”
A dark flush tinted Heero’s cheeks and he lowered his head, letting his unruly locks hide his face. “Don’t give me too much credit,” he said gruffly. “I had my motives. Midii’s been off too long and I needed her to test this building’s security. Lady Une’s considering its acquisition to expand our office space.”
Relena shook her head understandingly. He just didn’t want to admit that he was a romantic at heart. She understood him perfectly.
“There’s just one thing I don’t understand,” she said, changing the subject and pouting a little as Heero walked purposefully toward her.
“What’s that,” he asked, reaching down to pull a small white lace cap from her honey-gold waves.
“Why did I need to wear this horrible French maid outfit?”
Heero didn’t answer, but the evil expression on his face told Relena all she needed to know.
“Oh! Heero,” she said, laying back on the couch flirtatiously and kicking off her high-heeled black patent leather shoes. This was definitely worth missing a diplomatic reception for.
“Hilde,” Duo called into the dark house, his voice edged with concern. They had been supposed to rendezvous with the other conspirators back at the restaurant for a celebratory toast. Heero and Relena hadn’t shown up either and only Quatre had been considerate enough to leave word that due to unexpected circumstances he and Dorothy were calling it a night.
As he stepped into the small living room the tree suddenly burst into a flare of glorious light. Hilde lay on her side on the floor beneath the tree, the white radiance making her pale skin shimmer, she had a lot of skin showing too because she wore nothing besides an artfully draped length of rich red velvet. She directed a sexy, heavy-lidded look at her husband and popped the end of a large candy cane between her lush red lips, cradling the hooked end gracefully in her hand.
“Mmmmmmmmm,” she said, withdrawing it slowly and releasing the sweet candy-scent of peppermint into the air.
“Does this mean we have a Christmas Eve cease-fire,” Duo asked, taking off his jacket, swinging it around on his finger a few times and tossing it on the couch. He winced at the unmistakable sound of breaking glass as some small holiday treasure crashed to the floor and Hilde dropped her seductive pose for an instant and gasped before carefully resuming her nonchalant look.
“Oh no, I’m not waiting for you at all,” Hilde said huskily. “I’m waiting for someone who’ll give me what I want this Christmas. I’ve been very, very good.”
“I can see that,” Duo said, eyeing her lustfully. “So who are you waiting for?”
“Santa,” Hilde said sweetly, moving a little to reveal more of herself to him as the velvet cloth slipped as if by accident.
Duo frowned and looked around the room, spotting a discarded red hat with white trim in a corner near the boxes that contained their Christmas knick-knacks. Hell, if Barton’s kid could get away with the hat, certainly he could. He pulled the bright red chapeau over his chestnut locks and stalked over to Hilde.
“Ho ho ho, what have we here? Have you been a good girl this year,” he bellowed, as Hilde snickered at a Santa she could never have imagined as a child. She definitely preferred this incarnation of Good Saint Nick, complete with silly red hat, long brown braid, disheveled tuxedo and the most enchanting violet eyes she had ever seen.
Santa Duo sat down in the rocker near the tree and Hilde clambered up on his lap, carefully maintaining her hold on the red velvet covering.
“What do you want for Christmas this year, little girl,” Duo said, getting into his part as his hands tried to loosen her grip on the red velvet sheathe.
She whispered in his ear, letting her teeth nip playfully at his earlobe. Santa felt about ready to grant her every wish as she squirmed teasingly on his lap.
“Well Santa,” she persisted. “You know I have been very, very good this year and if you say no I’ll be very, very naughty!”
“Okay you got me,” Duo said. “Let the babymaking commence!”
“Hurrah,” Hilde shouted, pulling Cathrine’s sprig of mistletoe from behind her back and holding it over Santa Duo’s head.
“Just promise me one thing,” he whispered softly as she leaned close to kiss him.
“What’s that love,” Hilde whispered back gently.
“You won’t make me take care of the poopsies,” he said, grinning evilly. Tonight was the definitely the night for hard bargaining.
Despite a frantic but fruitless search for the cherished blanket and a few minor interruptions by young Master Barton, Trowa and Midii had finally spent a blissful evening of rediscovery.
Midii lay drowsily in the darkness, her head pillowed on Trowa’s lap. The achingly sweet notes of his softly-played flute seemed to hang in the air above them as if they were delicate spun-glass ornaments that she could touch.
Greensleeves, so old, yet timeless, the beauty of it made her heart ache with a longing to capture this moment in a brightly wrapped package forever. The lyrics floated just outside her consciousness as she let the music caress her. The tune faltered momentarily as Trowa smiled in anticipation of her inevitable reaction, picking up on secret codes and hidden messages being her second nature.
Alas my love you do me wrong to cast me out discourteously and I have lovéd you so long delighting in your company . . .
Time-worn words of despairing and all-consuming love surfaced in her memory and she pulled herself from the edges of sleep and sat up.
“Oh Trowa! I’m so sorry about the past few months. I love you so much but I don’t know how you can love me. No matter how hard I always try I end up hurting you some how.”
“That is a good question,” he said teasingly as she took the flute from his hand and snuggled against his back. “You were rather obnoxious when I first met you.”
“Trowaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” Midii protested. “I was never obnoxious!”
He peered over his shoulder at her and she relaxed, sensing he was only teasing. “You were pretty hard on me, always keeping me on edge, being so sweet one moment then telling me you didn’t like me the next. What a cute little thing you were.”
She let her hands rub his back comfortingly as she kissed his neck. “I always loved you, you know that,” she whispered.
“It’s hard to get used to, having a home, loving you and Cathy and Nicolas,” he admitted, pulling on her arms gently until she was sitting cuddled in his lap. “I keep thinking you might change your mind.”
“Never,” Midii said, holding on tight. “You’re stuck with me and Nicolas too. Always.”
He held her close stroking her hair, feeling her arms tight around him in the darkness. Far away and at first almost too softly to be heard, lonely, unhappy whimpers broke the silence, quickly becoming louder and more irritated with amazing speed.
“Hmm, I think ‘What Child Is This?’ would have been the more appropriate lyrics for this occasion, but you always go for the more obscure reference,” Trowa said softly.
“Not appropriate,” Midii groaned in resignation, preparing to leave the comfort of warm husband, warm covers and cozy bed. “When does our child ever ‘lay to rest?’”
Trowa pushed her back with a wry smile. “I’ll get him,” he offered, quickly returning with a wide-awake Nicolas, who gurgled happily at the sight of his mother when Midii turned on the dim bedside light.
She held her son close and looked at Trowa over the top of the baby’s soft strawberry blonde hair.
“I never want Nicolas to be poor and hungry or lost and alone, like we were,” she said, her eyes sparkling with tears. “I think that’s why I love him like I do, I don’t want those things to happen to him. I want to always be there when he needs me.” She snuggled in the comforting strength of Trowa’s arms as he held her until the baby let out a squeal of protest at being squeezed.
They laughed at his little outraged face despite the serious mood. Nicolas, happy with the attention and wanting more, lunged forward with the carefree bravery of the very young and grabbed handfuls of his father’s bangs in both hands and yelled victoriously.
“I think it won’t be long until he can take care of himself,” Trowa said, painfully trying to disentangle himself from the baby’s grip. “We just have to worry about the rest of the world. Two years of peace already. It’s something to be proud of but we have to keep protecting it for him.”
“And for us,” Midii said, before they drifted off to sleep.
AN: Luckily I only get sappy once a year -_-; Merry Xmas ^_^