AN: Thanks so much for responding to the last chapter, I guess there are still a few folks reading this! I was beginning to think I was babbling to myself in a corner-_-; Please be sure to read carefully so you know what’s going on. Important plot points and meaningful hints can be buried in most any paragraph! Oh yes, astute reader **A*V*A** pointed out that I typed in the wrong chapter for Duo’s biblical verse in Chapter 10. The Bible verses he was reading before Hilde came in were REV 14, 17-19. Thanks **A*V*A**
The Price of Redemption
By Midii Une
Mathematics. Architecture. An in-depth knowledge of these two sciences was not exactly mandatory for a mobile suit pilot. Even for a Gundam pilot. Of course rudimentary mathematics was a necessity, but Quatre had shown during the battle against Dekim Barton’s forces that he had an amazing ability to calculate even the most difficult equations in the space of an instant.
The ominous rumbling continued, coming closer and closer as he stood looking down at the woman that meant everything to his best friend. As much as he’d always wanted him to find happiness he’d never dreamed he’d ever see Trowa the way he’d been with Midii. He couldn’t leave here her even if she were dead. But that was beside the point, they were trapped anyway.
His usually gentle aquamarine eyes narrowed and his gaze intensified as billows of dust came up from the trembling floor and the noise outside the chapel became deafening. All of this occurring in a matter of seconds that seemed to drag as death approached. How many buildings had he seen demolished, whether in battle or while clearing space on resource satellites? What were their chances?
He raised his eyes heavenward and he glimpsed blue sky through a thick white fog. The roof was noting more than heavy plastic over the ceiling, replacing the ancient wood timbers had been removed and were going to be replaced. It was a chance. The glass of the window could be as deadly as the heavy stones but again the chances were better beneath it. The stained glass was less of a threat than shards of plate glass would have been.
“We’ll make it,” he thought, his hope bolstered as much by a spirit that never gave up as by the actual circumstances that seemed in their favor.
The force of the explosion propelled him as he jumped to cover Midii’s body with his own. He pressed his head against her chest and wrapped his arms around her limp body. Quatre thought he could make out a fading, erratic heartbeat, so very different from the strong pulse of life that had throbbed in Dorothy’s chest as he rested against her after their lovemaking just hours before.
This was like some nightmarish parody of that beautiful moment, he thought, focusing his thoughts on Dorothy as he pressed his face into the curve of Midii’s neck. I love you Dorothy. She had to know that, she had to.
A fury of sound and light swept over the two of them and carried them into blackness . . .
Orange flame and charcoal-colored smoke blasted into the air and even at his distance from the cathedral Ichiban could hear the sickening roar as thousands of years of history, worship and beauty collapsed in upon itself with a dreadful finality.
He leaned casually on the railing of a felicitously located bridge, the perfect spot to view the accomplishment of a lifetime. He had pulled it off. Richard held binoculars up to his face and watched the swirling dust cloud; he stared at the unsettling empty space in the skyline of Brussels. The awe-inspiring twin towers of the Cathedral of St. Michael’s absent for the first time in so many centuries. To the people of the city it must seem like a nightmare, an illusion that could not possibly be true. The spires had always been there and suddenly they were no more.
The fall of a great building and, he hoped, the fall of the entire world government and the Preventer organization as well. He had planned it so that a great number of important people would be inside when the place exploded. And when they finally discovered poor Midii’s body they would find the detonator in her hand. Preventer had put her in a position of trust and it would look like she’d betrayed them with the ultimate act of terrorism then gotten caught in her own trap, unable to escape before the blast caught up with her.
A feeling of intense satisfaction replaced the lingering regret that he had killed Midii. In a way she was with him in this whether that had been her intent or not. When his clique came to power and the economy was restored by the threat of international terrorism his poor dead love would not have lost her life in vain. For him it was a very good cause indeed.
Duo looked around him wildly, counting heads and coughing as dust and debris rained down on the strangely quiet circle of people that stood beyond the force of the blast. He saw Heero jump out of a car without putting it into park and the vehicle careened madly into a fire hydrant, sending up a fountain of water that sparkled in sunlight that filtered through the haze that filled the air. That was so ludicrous and so not Heero, Duo thought. But he couldn’t laugh, couldn’t even feel. Dread overwhelmed every other sense until he met a pair of vivid, sea-blue eyes wet with tears of horror and disbelief and he found what he’d been looking for.
Hilde. She was safe; she’d made it out. He’d been certain she’d left when he told her to but stranger things had happened to him in this life. Silently she went into his arms and silently he held onto her as if she was the edge of a cliff and he was hanging on for his very survival. His grip hurt but Hilde didn’t complain. Duo was alive, for a horrible minute she hadn’t known where he was.
The unnatural silence gave way to a cacophony of sound: sirens, alarms, screams and tears as shock gave way to sorrowful acknowledgment.
And on the edge of it all she stood.
Alone. Alone, even in the pressing crowd of people.
Dorothy Catalonia refused to give in to the fear that pressed down on her with claustrophobic intensity. It was chaos, people were running everywhere and there was no organization. The perimeter of the Cathedral was massive, several city blocks, and there were more than a dozen exits.
Quatre wasn’t dead.
She’d feel his touch on her arm in a second and she’d make a spectacle of herself like Hilde Maxwell. She tried to feel superior and believe she’d act in a much more dignified manner but she had to admit she was about ready to drop her pretenses and act like a complete idiot.
What was taking him so long? It wasn’t like him to be so inconsiderate and worry her like this. If only he would come.
“Hurry Quatre,” unconsciously she spoke aloud. But no one appeared. He didn’t come.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Heero talking to Duo. Hilde still had her arms wrapped around Duo’s neck like she would never let go. They all looked at her and she saw the oddest expression on Heero’s face.
Dorothy’s eyes flew to the crumbling ruins. She scanned the crowd again with a desperation in her heart she’d never felt before. She started trembling, tears were burning in her chest but she wouldn’t let them out. To cry now would be to give in, to stop believing. He had gotten out. He had.
Dorothy backed away as Heero started toward her, refusing to meet his eyes as he drew closer. If he talked to her he would break her concentration and she would lose Quatre, she was certain of that, she felt it so strongly deep within her. If only no one spoke to her she could still believe and he would never be gone. As Heero approached an emergency worker stopped him.
“Did everybody get out,” the man asked, drawn automatically to the stern looking young man was apparently in charge. He had the look of no-nonsense authority clinging to him despite his youth.
‘We’ve got two people missing,” Heero said. His mind raced with the thought that he had left with Relena; he had put Quatre in charge. He would not lose Quatre. It was unacceptable. “I believe they’re still inside. I want your best effort; get dogs in here, the best international rescue teams. But get them out of there.”
The man hesitated. The Preventer was crazy. Maybe they were his people, but didn’t he realize they had to be dead?
As if he read the man’s traitorous thoughts, Heero fisted his hand in the emergency worker’s shirt and pulled him close, there was determination in his eyes and blossoming anger too. Like Dorothy he had to believe that if he acted in a prescribed manner and if he made all the correct commands his mission would be a success. It had always been that way; it was how he had been conditioned. “Now,” he said, the single word and the tone of his voice propelling the man to action.
Dorothy stared at the rubble, Heero’s words repeating echoing through her thoughts. He meant Quatre. Quatre was missing. In there? Nothing could be alive in there, but if he were she’d dig him out with her bare hands.
“Dorothy,” Heero said, struggling to inject kindness and pity into his voice. He avoided Dorothy when he could, he didn’t like the way she had behaved toward Relena during the war. That was something he found hard to forget, even her actions with White Fang were more easily forgiven.
But this was for Quatre and basic human pity stirred in him as well. Relena was opening him up to every emotion and feeling that had been repressed. And there was guilt besides; he should have been in there, not Quatre. Maybe he would have been better equipped, he would have survived. Duo had told him Quatre was looking for Midii and if that was true then he was still in there. Heero knew Quatre would never leave if anyone he cared for were in danger. He himself would have calculated the risks and he also would have realized from the amount of blood that Relena had seen that the odds were overwhelming that Midii had been dead long before Quatre ever set foot in the building.
He suddenly wondered where the hell Trowa and Wufei were. Their absence and what was happening were connected somehow.
“Dorothy,” he said again, putting a hand on her arm and wishing Relena were here. Relena liked Dorothy, had forgiven Dorothy. She could have helped her; it was what Quatre would have wanted.
He didn’t even realize himself that he was thinking of Quatre in the past tense.
“Get away from me,” Dorothy spat, yanking her arm from Heero’s strangely gentle grasp. “I need to find Quatre.”
She darted toward the collapsed building and started scrambling over a fallen pillar to get inside, ignoring the dirt and sharp edges that tore at her expensive silk dress and cut into her hands, making them bleed. Heero and Duo dashed after her and pulled her back, their combined strength barely restraining her.
Dorothy started screaming.
Eva snarled in frustration. There was no satisfaction in her revenge. Trowa’s willingness to die without even a protest infuriated her. Who was Midii Une to inspire such devotion? That a man would die because she no longer lived? He was a soldier, a man who’d survived a horrible war. Was he just going to stand there and let her kill him? Because Midii was gone?
She couldn’t pull away even if she wanted to; she felt the small bones in her wrist crack painfully under the pressure of his grip.
And she knew then that she had never been loved like this. Never been someone’s heart and soul and reason for being. Stefan had loved her body but never her. Tears streaked her cheeks as her finger trembled nervously on the trigger.
Wufei crept silently through the hangar, glancing warily at the mobile doll. The dead green eyes still glowed. The thing was still active, meanwhile Trowa was apparently trying to stare down that partner of Ichiban’s. It was time, in his opinion, to move things along. She was a threat that had to be terminated. No more games, no more subterfuge. Things had gone too far for the type of games Midii Une and lately even Sally herself had seemed so fond of playing.
He took careful aim and fired at a spot between Eva’s shoulder blades. At the sound Trowa glanced up and his grip on her wrist loosened a bit, her body jolted as the bullet impacted her. Her arm jerked up and her fingers clenched as she fell, pressing the trigger and firing the gun she held. Her final act. She was dead before she hit the floor, tears still wet on her cheeks.
The bullet ripped up through Trowa’s collarbone, throwing him back onto the concrete floor.
Wufei glanced at the woman sprawled on the floor. No question. She was dead. He reached over and closed the lids of her staring black eyes, before turning his attention to Trowa.
The other pilot was sitting up, ignoring the blood that soaked his jacket, not even lifting a hand to put pressure on the wound.
“Is he in shock,” Wufei wondered impatiently. A soft, but unmistakable, beeping distracted him and he automatically flattened himself on the floor as the mobile doll shot a blast through the open wall and decimated a cluster of mobile suits that were part of the display.
It had adjusted to the destruction of the programmer Eva had crushed. How were they supposed to stop it? He looked at the dazed Trowa and the shattered remote on the floor. His instincts recovered quickly and a plan formed in his mind before he even picked himself up off the floor and made his way over to the other pilot.
“Its target is the other suits,” he explained. “I’ll fight it in one of the disabled suits. But Trowa you have to get up there and disarm it.”
“Trowa,” he repeated. “Can you do it?”
He looked in those green eyes and was horrified by what he saw, nothing, less than nothing. Was he hurt more seriously than he appeared? It looked like little more than a nasty flesh wound, but his expression made it appear he’d been hit in the heart. His face and eyes drained of every human emotion but intense pain. He didn’t even look human . . .
Another blast went past them, so close they could feel the blistering heat as it went by. Trowa didn’t flinch.
“What’s the matter with you,” Wufei shouted, forgetting Trowa’s wound and grabbing him by both shoulders to shake him.
The intense physical pain broke through the cloud over Trowa’s mind. His thoughts ran over and over the same lines. Why wasn’t he dead? How could she have missed?
“Trowa,” Wufei insisted, biting back his pride. He had to admit he couldn’t pull this off alone. “I can’t do this without you.”
He nodded, barely. It had to be enough, Wufei thought, leaving him there and clambering up into the first undamaged mobile suit he came upon. He strapped himself into the cockpit, a feeling of degradation washed over him momentarily at having to fight in such a suit. In a suit with no power, he could only move and defend. In a way though it was a hell of a challenge, a challenge worthy of Nataku’s spirit.
He stalked toward the mobile doll, agilely avoiding the blasts and maneuvering behind it, gripping it in a giant bear hug and holding it immobile. He wouldn’t be able to keep it up long, he could only hope the injured Trowa could manage to get up and disable the rampaging suit. There were still people out there, gawking at the scene and if he could help it there would be no civilian casualties on his watch, no matter how foolish their behavior. They had been ordered to leave after all.
A flash of movement at the corner of his visual monitor caught his eye as Trowa seemingly defied gravity and flew up to the dangling mechanic’s cable of the Taurus MD pushing his perfectly-toned body into a stunning one-handed vault. Wufei strained to hold the mobile doll a little longer, the arms of his mobile suit screeching with the pressure. He gritted his teeth and unconsciously emitted a low growl of anger and frustration. It was taking too long. The mobile doll inexorably strained against the confining grasp of Wufei’s mobile suit, intent on its programmed mission. Wufei fell back, his suit clattering to the floor with a resounding boom, his head snapping forward painfully on his neck. He saw a familiar red glow as the mobile doll’s beam rifle powered to life. What dishonor to die like this, he thought, more upset by the humiliating manner of his demise than the actual thought of death itself.
The glow brightened and then faded. Wufei breathed again and caught a glimpse of Trowa landing on his feet nearby, a handful of wires dropping from his hand and landing in a colorful heap on the concrete floor.
Applause and raucous cheers rose from the crowd outside the sealed gates. They’d seen a whole lot more than they bargained for that day.
Wufei looked at Trowa and there was a rare gleam of admiration in his eyes. He was a true soldier, efficient and unflinching even as he bled. A doctor emerged from the crowd and someone let him through the gate, he started giving preliminary attention to Trowa’s wound, Trowa didn’t try to stop him or speak to him.
“Trowa,” Wufei questioned again, he couldn’t shake the idea that something more than the bullet wound was wrong with him. He hadn’t made any move to fight off that crazed, dark-haired bitch.
“Midii’s gone,” Trowa finally said, his face paling but he remained unflinching as the doctor probed the wound and announced the bullet had passed right through, knicking but not shattering the bone.
“What,” Wufei asked.
“We have to return to Brussels,” Trowa said, apparently not in the mood to explain what he’d just said. “Can you get in touch with Heero? Something’s going to happen, we have to stop it.”
Wufei looked a bit shame-faced, he had gone behind Trowa’s back on this.
“I talked to Quatre not half an hour ago,” Wufei said. “Everything was fine. I did what I thought was best. I told them to take her into custody Trowa. It was what had to be done, you weren’t thinking right . . . “
The buzz of Wufei’s phone startled both of them and deep in Trowa’s soul hope stirred. Had Quatre gotten to Midii before Ichiban? He would have protected her. Quatre knew, he was the only one who really knew what she meant to him. Not even she really knew and even if she never forgave his betrayal she had to be safe . . . she would have been safe with Quatre.
“A bomb,” Wufei gasped, clicking off the connection. A Preventer agent had finally tracked his signal and contacted them. “They blew up the Cathedral, it was supposed to go off with everyone inside . . .”
Outrage filled his deep black eyes as he looked with disgust at the dead woman on the floor.
“How many dead,” Trowa asked, the tragedy eclipsing his personal concerns momentarily.
“Maxwell got the civilians out, they had enough warning,” Wufei said uneasily, hesitating with his next words then deciding just to blurt it out. There was no good way to say these things and death was something they all had lived with for so long.
“Quatre and Midii are missing. Trowa, they’re pretty sure they got caught in the blast.”
Sally insisted on joining the rescue team, regardless of the protests of the others. Heero was already inside, climbing easily over the broken stones, heading toward the section of the cathedral where Duo had last seen Quatre. At least they had somewhere to start. Still there was danger from stones teetering precariously throughout the building, just waiting to fall. The sound of the stones falling continually punctuated the stillness with awful, bone-jarring crashes.
Duo and Hilde stayed with Dorothy in uncomfortable silence. Sally had finally threatened to sedate her and her fury had subsided to glares, her fists were tightly clenched, thin trickles of blood rolled down her palms from her nails cutting into the soft flesh. She stared unblinking at the ruined building, as if she were concentrating all her formidable will on Quatre’s survival. Duo wondered uneasily how long they could contain her.
“That goddamn phone,” she hissed suddenly, breaking free of Duo’s comforting embrace, an embrace that doubled as a restraint to keep her out of trouble. “He still has Heero’s cell phone.”
“Yeah,” Duo said, not understanding right away. “He probably does.”
His voice was patient and he talked to Dorothy as if she were a small child.
“Don’t patronize me, damn you,” Dorothy shrieked, pulling completely from his arms with almost superhuman strength. She balled her fist and punched the stunned Duo in the face, blood poured from his nose.
“Now,” she said, breathing heavily, her lavender eyes glinting with fire, “you call Heero and tell him to call his cell phone. They might be able to hear it and find Quatre. They need to find him . . . they need to . . . they have to . . .”
Her voice trailed off and the energy borne of her fury and desperation gave out. She broke down into sobs finally, a dam burst of tears. This had to work; this had to be the key. Please, she begged, supplicating the souls of her father, grandfather and even her cousin Treize to help her in her most painful hour. Please . . . .
Tears of sympathy and her own pent-up sorrow rolled down Hilde’s pale cheek and she pulled Dorothy to her in a close embrace, crooning softly and wordlessly as she rocked the other girl and cried into her hair. She glanced up at Duo who stared at the both of them and tried to staunch the flow of blood that streamed from his nose.
“Do what she said, Duo,” Hilde whispered. “Do it now.”
Duo tipped back his head to stop the bleeding and pressed the button to connect with Heero inside.
The rescue team looked at each other in wonder as a soft trilling sound emanated faintly from behind a wall of fallen stone. Heero pushed himself up, placing his foot on a smoothly polished stone carved with the word Redemption, there was a space in the rubble higher up and he struggled to reach it, dreading to look beyond to where the cell phone buzzed incessantly. Dreading what he’d see.
Sunlight streamed through the broken walls, pouring radiantly through the tiny spaces in the stone as if they were heavy black clouds. Broken glass was strewn everywhere, the colors like jewels glittering in the tiny sunbeams. It was somehow so beautiful, like a dark cave full of soft light and sparkling treasure and in the center he saw them. Quatre was sprawled over Midii, the stained glass shimmering over both of them. There was no movement but he couldn’t see much in the dim light, only that they were there.
“Get this wall down,” he said, his voice controlled. “They’re in there.”
Sally met his eyes, afraid to speak. “I don’t know. I couldn’t tell. It’s possible,” he said in answer to her unasked question.
“We’ve got an opening,” the rescue supervisor shouted, pulling their attention back to the wall. It was small, but Heero had always been a bit smaller than average, his muscles thin and wiry. It was enough space for him to slip through and he left Sally with a look that spoke volumes.
After he slipped through they continued widening the opening enough so the others could gain access. Heero hesitated and knelt beside Quatre, this close he could see the dark, spreading bloodstain on the floor that seemed to be coming from Midii. He reached out to brush off some of the glass, transformed by the blast into pieces as small as sand, from Quatre’s back, he let his fingers settle on the ripped, blood-speckled shirt that covered him.
“Get in here,” he yelled. “Quatre’s still alive. Call back to Duo.”
He moved away, afraid to feel much confidence, he didn’t know how bad the damage was. His foot kicked a small cylindrical object and he bent to pick it up and found his fingers touching Midii’s. He couldn’t see much of her, but her skin was cold and deathly pale. What happened, he wondered, his analytical soldier’s mind could not make sense of the fact that she was here and Trowa had done nothing to stop it? Automatically his hand slid up to her wrist.
Nothing. Had she been alive when the explosion occurred? Quatre had thought so; he’d tried to protect her, sacrificed himself. Heero’s eyes narrowed and he pressed her wrist harder. It was faint and irregular, but there was something there, a spark of life that seemed to be ebbing fast.
He heard Sally’s frightened sob behind him as the rest of them poured through the opening the rescue team had managed create. She came and knelt beside him, taking Midii’s hand in hers.
“I thought I felt something,” Heero said, looking at Sally’s hopeless tear-stained face.
“She’s not going to make it,” Sally said, after a moment. “There’s a faint pulse but she won’t last till we get her out of here.”
“That’s not true,” Heero insisted. “Quatre didn’t go through this for nothing.”
“Midii,” Sally whispered, squeezing the hand she held as Heero helped move Quatre. “Please.”
“We’ve got a bleeder,” a voice exclaimed. “We need you here Sally!”
Sally sprang up, dropping Midii’s hand and rushing to Quatre’s side. “More light,” Sally ordered and she saw that when they’d lifted a beam off his arm the limb had started bleeding, the beam had been acting as a tourniquet. Quatre’s left arm had been nearly severed. Carefully they lifted him off Midii and onto a stretcher.
“There are doctors out there,” Sally said, pulling her belt off and strapping it on Quatre’s arm as a makeshift tourniquet. “He’ll be alright. I’ll stay here until they get her out. You go with him Heero.”
Heero nodded and Sally rushed back to Midii her eyes meeting the paramedics. One was counting, the other performing CPR in a desperate attempt to regain the pulse beat they’d been picking up.
He stopped as Sally approached.
“I’m sorry, we lost her,” he said, looking sadly down at the girl on the floor, even the tiny flicker of heartbeat had stopped. She had been so young.
“No,” Sally said. “No!”
She pushed the paramedic aside and started pounding on Midii’s chest. “You can’t die now. Not now. Midii, you made it this far. Do you hear me? Help me out, just breathe. We’ll help you, but you have to help us. Breathe, damnit.”
She glared at the men surrounding her. “I’m, not going to give up. I can’t,” she said. One paramedic nodded and started pumping the manual oxygen mask he’d placed over Midii’s face.
“C’mon sweetheart you can do it,” he whispered. “Listen to Sally.” He pressed the bag rhythmically while Sally pounded, sweat beading on her face.
The stunned crowd dispersed only slightly as a helicopter touched down outside the disaster scene. Trowa and Wufei, jumped out. The sight left them speechless; the total destruction of the huge building was almost incomprehensible. The two years since the end of the war had made them forget that such things were possible and the memories came back as hard-hitting as a blind punch to the gut.
Dorothy turned at the sound of the helicopter, lifting her tear-streaked face from Hilde’s shoulder.
This was all Trowa’s fault. Where had he been? This was because of him somehow; she could read it on his pale, stricken face.
She rose unsteadily to her feet, a trembling hand reaching to push the tangled strands of her hair away from her damp face. She wanted to hurt him; she wanted to kill him . . .
“Dorothy,” Duo yelled back from the entrance. “Quatre’s alive. They’re bringing him out.
She whirled, forgetting Trowa and ran toward the entrance.
“Oh God, Oh God,” she whispered, her relief and happiness shattered by what she saw. He was unconscious and there was so much blood.
“Quatre! Please, please, don’t leave me,” she whispered, her face hardening and her voice changing, the tone of command she’d used on Libra returning as she gave her orders to the medical team. “You will do everything possible. He has to be alright.”
Heero put a hand on her arm to help her into the back of the ambulance.
“They think he’ll be fine Dorothy,” he said.
“He’d better be,” she said bitterly. “It shouldn’t have been Quatre. You know that Heero.” She looked over Heero’s shoulder and met Trowa’s stunned eyes. “You know it too.”
The ambulance pulled away and Heero turned to Trowa. He had so many questions he didn’t even know where to start and he was sure Trowa had questions for him. Questions he didn’t want to answer. His com unit beeped and he snapped it open in irritation, holding Trowa’s eyes with his, asking him silently to wait.
“Yuy,” he said, his tone indicating this had better be important.
“This is Anderson inside the site,” the speaker said, his voice cracking with sadness. “Can you get in here? Preventer Water’s breaking down. We lost that girl, hell she was barely alive in the first place, but Sally won’t stop. She . . .anyway, we just want to get them both out of here. It’s dangerous, there’s still a lot of falling debris. But Sally won’t quit. We need you in here.”
“I read you,” Heero said, glancing at Trowa, who stared at him trying to decipher the conversation. “I’ll be right in.”
“Is it Midii,” Trowa asked, reading the answer in Heero’s eyes.
“I’m sorry Trowa,” Heero said. “Quatre tried. Sally tried. There was nothing they could do . . . I’m going in to get Sally. She’s taking it badly.”
He eyed Trowa suspiciously but he was oddly calm.
“Can I come with you,” he asked and Heero nodded.
They disappeared inside the building.
Sally continued pounding on Midii’s chest; she grimaced as she felt one of her desperate blows crack a rib.
“Please, Midii. Please,” she repeated over and over. It couldn’t end this way, but she was getting so tired, she was getting sloppy. She slammed down once more with both hands and collapsed sobbing on Midii’s chest.
She was really dead.
Sally heard a commotion near the opening and glanced up.
“Trowa,” she whispered, lifting her sad blue eyes to meet his questioning gaze.
She put a hand up suddenly, stopping him from speaking, pressing her head closer to Midii’s chest. It came again; she heard a thump, then silence, and then faintly another struggling heartbeat. Her eyes widened and her strength renewed.
“We’ve got her back,” she cried.
“She’s not breathing,” Anderson said, looking at her with growing concern. She was taking this case so personally. “Sally, give it up.”
“Listen to this,” Sally growled, pulling Anderson’s head down on Midii’s chest and glaring at him.
He smiled slowly. “By God, you did get her going after all,” he said, looking at Sally in awe, he put his hands on either side of her face and kissed her fiercely on the lips before he started shouting orders.
“Bag her, let’s go, her heart’s going but she’s still not getting any air,” he said, his words terse but given with an air of authority and confidence that inspired his team. “Stabilize her and move her now. We don’t want to waste Sally’s miracle.”
Trowa tried to push through, he had to see, had to see the rise of her chest. Over and over they’d said she was dead, but now had she forgiven him? Had she made a conscious decision to stay? Her heart had started beating again when Sally said his name. Had that really been what brought her back or was it his own conceit that Midii would love him always, no matter what?
It was his fault this had happened to her. There had still been anger buried in his soul because of what she’d done so long ago. But now he knew what it was like to want someone’s forgiveness and love so badly that it eclipsed all other feeling. She had felt this way for him but he hadn’t been able to truly love and forgive her past. Until now. And now, if she woke up, he wasn’t sure if she’d ever want to see his face again.
How had she stood it? His distrust, his constant suspicion and his refusal to ever totally give in to the love he couldn’t help but feel for her. Love he admitted he’d been ashamed to feel, as if she hadn’t been worthy. He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to take it if she opened her eyes and looked at him. If when he met those eyes again they were cold and devoid of emotion.
Everything died. Even the strongest love, and she had put up with so much from him. Did he even dare to hope for another chance?
He shouldered past the tightly clustered rescue workers, drawn inexorably toward her still form. Sally had said she was alive but the atmosphere still seemed electric with urgency. Finally he squeezed himself in through a small gap and his heart seemed to stop beating as he saw her there. He knew then that even if she forgave him he would never forgive himself for this. Midii lay there frail and broken, they’d already started an emergency transfusion because she’d lost so much blood, it stained the floor red around her and the thick gauze pad they’d taped to the side of her face was already splotched with crimson. She was wearing a white dress, a dress he loved seeing her in, she looked like an angel in it. He’d told her that, hadn’t he, how he thought she was like an angel? He couldn’t remember.
“Midii,” he croaked, taking a step closer, a metallic clang sounding as something skittered across the floor as it made contact with his foot. He dragged his eyes away from the pitiful sight of the woman he loved and he tracked the object that made the sound. It was a bricklayer’s trowel, sharp and heavy, its edge stained dark red with dry blood. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from it.
“Buddy,” an annoyed voice yelled, breaking through his thoughts. “Get your ass out of the way, we’ve got to get this girl to the hospital. She’ll die if we don’t and we’re not gonna lose her cause you’re standing around sightseeing!”
Heero stepped over and pulled Trowa out of their path and Sally approached him, concern in her tired sapphire eyes.
“Trowa? You’re hurt. What happened,” Sally asked, her eyes flicking over his injury in a quick, professional assessment.
She gasped aloud when he raised his eyes to hers; she had never seen such naked hurt and guilt in anyone’s face.
“You’re not blaming yourself, Trowa,” she said, grabbing his uninjured arm.
He swallowed and looked at the floor, she followed his gaze to the bloodstained tool on the floor. Tears filled her eyes.
“Trowa,” Heero said, his voice harsher than he intended, but it wasn’t safe here. Everything was still so unstable. “I’ll take you to the hospital. Midii needs you. Quatre needs you.”
He went with Heero without protest, only too glad to leave that horrible bloodstained room behind.
They were calling it a miracle. It wasn’t by chance. Lady Une had released the information they had about the explosion to the media herself. And she had learned from the best how to put the proper spin on what the public saw. Her organization would survive this tragedy, become even stronger and more indispensable to the public because of it.
The Miracle of St. Michael’s. She smiled to herself. Mr. Treize would have approved her choice of words. He had invoked the deity often, made it seem as if God were on his side and the people had believed him, inspired more by Treize’s charisma than belief in a faraway God.
The unhesitating sacrifice of the two Preventer agents sent in to find the detonator and their amazing survival in the face of certain death would inspire the people of the United Earth Nation far better than anything she could have planned. And the perpetrator Richard Ichiban would be a hunted man. The people that had supported him, their names supplied by one of the injured agents, had already been arrested and made full confessions.
For who would dare question the word of a young woman who had almost become a martyr for peace? No need to tell the whole story, the sordid tale of Midii’s past sexual involvement with Ichiban and his vengeful attempt to murder her and pin the blame on Preventer. That would cause doubts in the mind of the people. Lady Une’s story would become unquestionable fact.
The smiling faces of Quatre and Midii flashed on every video screen, on every city on Earth and the colonies. Lady Une couldn’t have asked for a more perfect blonde and blue-eyed poster couple. And the name Preventer was synonymous with hero again, even as the title Gundam pilot had been revered after the Eve Wars.
Ichiban stared at the huge vidscreen in the central atrium of the spaceport.
A miracle? It was impossible. She had been dead. He thought of how he’d left Midii and his stomach twisted queasily. So much blood and the gaping wound the trowel had left at the side of her head, she had to be dead! When the giddy, vacuous newscasters stopped chattering about their precious miracle he saw his own face and Eva’s appear on the screen, the two of them looking dark and conniving after all the wholesome shots some public relations’ genius had planted of the Preventers heroes. Someone had twisted everything. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. They’d all been arrested, every man who’d been in that room the night of the reception. Darling Midii had obviously been taking attendance despite her heartache over her treacherous Papa.
He learned that Eva was not only late for their rendezvous; she was permanently “late.” She had failed, even as he had. The excited news reporters gushed over how thousands had been saved by the fortuitous appearance of two Preventer agents that morning at the museum in Blankenberge.
“This Sunday has truly been a day for miracles,” the reporters gloated. A good day for news too, their ratings would go through the roof.
So he would have to disappear, Richard thought, his quick brain continuing to plan even as his hopes and dreams seemed to be shattered around him. He so wished he could stop by the hospital to pay his respects but time did not allow. He’d send flowers instead and he would never, never forget.
Ichiban ducked into the men’s room and pulled off his jacket, discarding the bloodstained shirt deep in a trash container. He slicked back his dark hair with water and adjusted his sunglasses. They were probably all at the hospital waiting for word on their friends. The perfect Preventers would be paralyzed for the moment. He had time to escape, time to regroup, before planning his next move.
Perhaps Stefan had been right and Midii did have nine lives like a cat, but eventually she’d run out of luck. He only prayed that he stayed alive till that day came.
Cathrine sat in the comfortably cushioned seat of an earth-bound shuttle, unaware as her fingernails tore at the fabric of the chair until tiny pieces of the foam padding were balled in her fists.
War again, or at least the threat of it; coming to torment her and the ones she loved. She had no idea what had actually happened. News headlines focused on heroism and the miraculous nature of Midii and Quatre’s survival. But there was no actual mention of their condition and she had heard nothing from or about Trowa.
She would have a few choice words for the people who had done this to him. Why now, when he had finally found happiness at last, she wondered sadly, her sadness tinged with anger at the injustice of it all.
He and Midii had suffered enough and so had she. She had had enough of seeing the ones she loved torn apart and almost killed for the sake of keeping the peace. With much difficulty she kept her temper, but woe to the first person she met that she held responsible for this. Trowa’s so-called friends. Did they care nothing about his newfound happiness? Her usually cheerful temperament could burst into hot fury when Trowa was threatened. He had taken the place of the helpless baby brother she had loved so dearly and part of her would always see Trowa that way. She could remember him trembling in her arms when she’d found him in the rain on that colony during the war. His memory shattered, his body wracked with pain.
For the moment, Cathrine held her peace, but anyone who would dare to look in those burning violet eyes would have hastened away from the oncoming storm.
“Madame Yuy,” a young nurse said, hesitating to interrupt the Vice Foreign Minister as she sat beside her friend, holding her hand and whispering to her reassuringly.
“What is it,” Relena said, standing at once and swaying slightly from the rapid movement. What an awful day. “Do you have news? Has something happened to Heero?”
“We’ve heard the ambulance will be here shortly with the young lady,” the nurse said; glad to have some type of news to impart.
“Then she’s alright,” Relena said, sinking back down thankfully. She was anxious to have Heero beside her, she needed his strength, she always had.
“The doctors here are some of the best in the world,” the young nurse said, looking at Relena admiringly. “Mr. Winner and Miss Une will have the best care possible, I assure you. But I needed to discuss something else with you. I think you’ll be pleased.”
The girl beamed at Relena.
Relena nodded a bit impatiently, she needed to give her full attention to Dorothy. They’d had no news about Quatre since they’d rushed him into surgery.
“Your test results are in! Congratulations, you’re going to have a baby,” the girl said proudly as Relena’s face turned white with shock.
Next time on The Price of Redemption . . . Cathrine’s anger leads to a passionate admission from the man of her dreams . . . Dorothy finally confronts Trowa . . Trowa volunteers for a difficult mission.