AN: Just a little note of clarification since I’ve been getting mail on this subject -_-; Yes, I do know that Cathrine is Trowa’s sister. However, I think that although we know this to be a fact from scenes in Episode Zero, it is unlikely that they are aware that they are truly related, although they obviously share feelings and concern for each other, and that’s how I’ve chosen to portray them in this story.
The Price of Redemption
By Midii Une
“She’ll be like that for two weeks,” Hilde whispered, turning her eyes on Sally, silently begging her to say it wasn’t true.
Sally looked around at the shocked and tired faces, it was nearly midnight now and none of them had left the hospital or slept, except Relena. She sat beside Heero now on a hard, plastic-cushioned sofa and slept heavily against his shoulder. They didn’t want to hear what she had to say and she hadn’t wanted to say it. At least the news about Quatre had been more optimistic.
“Isn’t that kind of, well . . .” Duo hesitated, glancing uneasily at Trowa, “. . . well, kinda creepy?
Yes, it was, Sally thought to herself. The tubes, the wires, the unnatural cold, that ghastly blue light. The new technology did wonders but it seemed so horrible, so impersonal, like some nightmarish, futuristic hell.
It made her glad she didn’t practice medicine for a living anymore. She didn’t think she could stand the day-to-day agony of giving people bad news about the ones they loved.
Trowa moved past her silently. His movement something of a surprise to the rest, he had stood in a corner for hours while they waited for any update on Midii and Quatre.
“Trowa,” Sally protested, her sharp eyes noting his pallor and that he still wore his bloodstained Preventer shirt. “You did go down to Emergency and have that wound taken care of?”
“Are you kidding,” Duo said, rolling his eyes expressively and launching into a full-blown Shinigami-style rant. “If looks could kill you’d be dead for suggesting it Sally.”
They all looked uncomfortable. Wufei had gotten himself into a one-sided argument on the same subject with the silent Trowa and had gone out a few hours back to cool down.
Trowa ignored Duo, as he had ignored Wufei’s argument that he wasn’t doing himself or ‘that woman’ any good by standing there and refusing medical treatment.
“Are you saying I can’t go in,” he said, speaking for the first time in hours and raising dull, emerald eyes to Sally’s face.
“No, I’m not saying that Trowa,” she said reasonably. “But you’re hurt, you’re tired and you’re upset. Seeing her now will only be more difficult. Let me take a look at your shoulder and at least take a nap first. I’m sorry, but weren’t you listening to me? It won’t make any difference to Midii if you’re there or not.”
He’d heard. He’d heard every word, but he couldn’t get past the hope that he could go in that room and touch her hand and get some type of response. If only her fingers would move or he could see her lashes flutter he would know he’d been forgiven. Sally’s words: artificial coma, respirator, completely shut down skimmed over his consciousness. She would know he was there, she had to know.
The words didn’t prepare him for what he saw.
Midii lay perfectly still in the center of the room, beneath an eerie blue light that shone down on her white skin. So much white: the sheet, the mattress, and her face. Her hair, the only spot of color, spread around her on the sheet, held back from her face with white gauze bandaging. Machinery hissed constantly in the room and monitors flashed statistics and readings.
“When the damage is so great,” Sally had said. “They shut down the patient’s body using drugs to keep them in artificial coma-like state. The machines do everything: control breathing, maintain the heartbeat and regulate body temperature in a constant environment that facilitates healing. Midii’s body can focus on healing, everything else the machines will do for her. It’s a wonderful technology in these kind of cases although it does seem a bit . . .”
Duo had cut her off with his statement that the whole thing was just creepy.
Trowa edged closer, unable to reconcile to himself that it would not be as it had last time. She would wake up, he would hold her in his arms again. He could beg her to forgive him. The words were already framed in his mind . . . but the nearer he got to the corpse-like figure on the narrow bed the farther away her forgiveness seemed.
Her face was obscured by the oxygen mask that helped her breathe and he studied the regular rise and fall of her chest beneath the thin white sheet. The eyes hidden beneath her lids were still; she dreamed no dreams, happy or otherwise. She merely existed in an unnatural state of limbo in a place he couldn’t reach her.
The pushcart creaked under the weight of the flowers, more than a hundred pure white lilies scattered through with a dozen blood-red tiger lilies producing a stunning visual display that resembled drops of scarlet blood on a field of sparkling snow.
$10,000 resided in the delivery boy’s pocket, his to keep if the flowers were delivered to a certain party. He kept on moving through the halls, the scent of the lilies and the creak of the cart announcing his presence as he continued on without seeking permission from the proper channels. For this kind of pay he’d get the flowers to the lady in question, a heroine if you judged her by the news accounts. The flowers were certainly from an admirer. Her story was tragic and her innocent beauty revealed in the pictures that constantly flashed on screens, was heartrending . . .
He felt the stinging first, from a myriad of tiny cuts caused by shattered glass and splintered stone. “We will make it,” his last thought, his first thought. Was it over? The pain was strangely dull and half his body felt totally numb. Midii was gone and he was alone . . .
“Open your eyes,” a familiar voice begged in an unfamiliar tone. A voice unaccustomed to pleading, a voice more confident in making demands than seeking favors in a hushed, wistful tone. But the voice was one he loved in all its moods and tones. He complied with its request, the signal to his brain instantaneous at her command.
Dorothy’s breath caught in her throat as Quatre’s lids fluttered slowly and he focused his gaze on her face.
And suddenly she couldn’t think what to say, what to do. Every thought fled from her burdened mind in her relief and happiness.
“Hi,” she managed. Hi, she thought, what made me say that? How totally inappropriate, and on and on her mind raced in giddy, mundane channels as she stared blissfully at Quatre. He was alive; he’d opened his eyes.
“Hi,” he croaked, his voice hoarse from disuse and the anesthetic tube they’d run down it during the difficult operation to reattach his arm. Dorothy felt a tightening in the fingers she held. A smile like a sunrise after a storm suffused her weary face that was awash in happy tears.
The ominous noises starting to erupt in the hall outside the door did not exist for her.
Quatre had opened his eyes.
The boy stared down the barrel of a gun, too terrified to move or speak, as the bizarre man with the bruised nose and the long braid hanging down his back tried to read the card attached to the flowers. He’d made it so close, made it to her floor before finding himself in his current predicament. Suddenly the money in his pocket seemed as nothing as he looked into the eyes of Death himself.
“Shit,” the violet-eyed man cursed finally, tossing the card to his partner, who sat holding a woman on a couch in the hospital waiting area. “I can’t read this Japanese crap. What does it say Heero?”
Relena startled awake and blinked sleepily as Heero moved to grab the card out of the air.
aki no hiyori o
shide no tabi 
Heero’s eyes narrowed as he shot the boy a glare. “Do you know what this says? Who sent you here,” he demanded, getting up to face the intruder.
The boy shook with fear, the steel-blue eyes even more frightening than those of the man who seemed to be taking great pleasure in leveling a gun at his forehead.
“My boss sent me,” the young man said in a quavering voice. “The order came in over the computer as well as the payment. $10,000 to whoever got these flowers to the lady, Miss Une. I volunteered. I need the money.”
“Let him go Duo,” Heero said, his eyes dropping to the ostentatious display of flowers. “He is nothing.”
The boy backed away and then ran as if the devil himself were after him.
“Okay Heero, you read the card so what does it mean,” Duo demanded, looking uneasily at the flowers. They reminded him of blood on snow.
“A bright and pleasant
autumn day to make
death’s journey,” Heero translated. “It’s a Japanese death haiku.”
“Not exactly a well-wisher then I take it,” Duo said, grimacing. Trouble had the knack, she certainly did.
Heero looked at Duo in annoyance, the remark deserved no answer. Without preamble he flipped on his communicator and started giving rapid-fire orders. “I want a bomb squad in here now,” he commanded. “I want all non-critical patients evacuated and all other patients moved from this floor except Midii and Quatre. From now on see that no one makes it up to this floor without authorization. Send someone up to take my wife and Maxwell’s out of here and track down Wufei.”
He signed off, expecting his orders to be followed without question. Over his tenure at Preventer he had unconsciously assumed the status of a commander and there was gossip around the Agency as to whose orders would be followed in the event Heero’s ever conflicted with Lady Une’s or Sally Po’s.
“You think there’s another bomb,” Duo squeaked.
“No, it’s unlikely,” Heero admitted. “But it’s best to check it out.”
He turned to Relena, expecting her to protest his order for her to leave but she was quietly gathering her things and preparing to go.
“May I stop in to check on Dorothy first Heero? I’m afraid she won’t be willing to leave,” she questioned, something new and unfathomable in her bright blue eyes. He suspected she was keeping something from him, but he didn’t have time to find out what right now.
“I won’t ask that of her,” Heero said gruffly. “But you and Hilde should go back and rest, I don’t believe there’s much chance of anything happening but there’s also nothing more you can do here right now.”
“I see,” Relena said, baffling Heero still more with her unexpected compliance. “But hurry back to me when you can Heero. I must speak with you.”
Maybe it was the feeling of helplessness and the endless futility of hoping for a peaceful existence. No matter how hard she tried to protect Trowa she always seemed powerless to shield him from hurt. She felt again like the child sitting by the side of the road amongst the smoking ruins of a circus wagon, the still figures of her parents seeming to accuse her. Her mother’s dying voice choked with tears. “Triton . . . my baby . . .”
She hadn’t been able to protect Triton and she couldn’t protect Trowa. She couldn’t stop the cycle of pain. War and hate were stronger than her love. She knew she was drawn to the young pilot because he reminded her of her brother. But it had been a long time since she had started loving him for himself instead of as a chance for her own redemption.
Cathrine took a deep breath, striving to be reasonable one last time.
“I need to get in,” she said in a clipped voice that belied the emotion seething beneath the surface of her quietly controlled request.
“Sorry miss,” the uncomfortable Preventer repeated, squirming a bit under her cold, steady gaze. “Listen, one of the patients has been getting death threats and Heero Yuy himself said nobody gets in. Nobody.”
The young woman raised her violet eyes to the guard’s slowly, staring at him in disbelief for a second. He wasn’t going to let her go in to be by Trowa’s side? He needed her, she knew it.
“You can tell your Heero Yuy to go screw himself,” she shouted, a sharp crack resounding through the chaos as her hand made contact with his cheek in a stinging slap.
The officer looked at her in mute surprise as she continued staring at him, her chest heaving in frustration and rage, her violet eyes flashing angrily.
“The only place you’re going is to jail to cool off,” he glared, attempting to imitate his maligned idol Heero Yuy. Nobody hit a Preventer and nobody insulted Heero Yuy. Period.
Cathrine squirmed as he grasped her arm and wrenched herself out of his grip.
“Don’t you dare touch me,” she shouted, wishing she could have just one chance to have this man pinned against her target board. Her eyes glinted as she imagined the look on his face as her knives whizzed past him. How dare he try to stop her?
Was there no quiet place left in this city where a person could find peace, Wufei wondered as his path led him back toward the hospital. The vidscreens displayed prominently throughout the city continually flashed the horrors over and over. He’d even looked up once to see a home video taken by a visitor to that ridiculous museum. The last thing he’d wanted to look up and see was himself flat on his back in a disabled mobile suit about to get blown away by a mobile doll, the video of one of his most embarrassing moments as a warrior being viewed by millions. It had been the icing on the cake of a wonderful day.
As he approached the hospital the flash of emergency lights and the squeal of sirens seemed out of place. Voices bawled over loud speakers and he could even see one of the less important officers engaging in a loud argument with a woman. Now what was going on, he thought in irritation? Would this hellacious day ever end?
He glanced at the irate woman again and his dark eyes widened in recognition and he pushed his way through the crowd towards the scene.
“What’s going on here,” he said, his voice deceptively calm, his tone hiding the outrage that had filled his stoic heart when he saw her in trouble.
“Sir,” the officer gasped, backing down. Not many of them really admired Wufei as they did Heero. His manner was even more intimidating and his holier-than-thou attitude did not endear him to the peons.
Cathrine was past caring who had stepped in on her behalf. There was not one person she wanted to see right now besides Trowa. The wave of anger was fading and fresh tears of frustration and sadness overwhelmed her.
“Cathrine,” Wufei said softly, unaccustomed gentleness characterizing his movements as he touched her shoulders carefully, turning her to face him.
“He wouldn’t let me go in to see Trowa,” Cathrine said, her voice puzzled as if she couldn’t understand why someone would stop her from being with him, now, when he needed her. “Someone said he was hurt, and somebody else said he was just fine. I don’t know anything and it’s driving me crazy! And Midii . . . no one is saying anything.”
Her voice changed again, the continual hindrances in her quest squelching her attempts to regain control of her emotions.
“Why does this keep happening,” she shouted at Wufei. “Why do all of you people keep dragging Trowa into this? We just want to be left alone. The war is over. OVER!!! Do you understand? I hate you; I hate all of you, anyone that fights. It has to stop.”
She sank to her knees as he watched her with a strange anguish in his heart. The sight of her as she sobbed into her hands on the harsh, cold pavement stirring emotions in him he’d never felt before.
It was weak, what she was doing was weak. But she was also right. They had fought so hard in order for it to end. Trowa and all the rest of them just kept on sacrificing but it never seemed to be over. He found himself beside her, holding her tightly in his arms. His lips whispered comforting sounds into her hair and as she curled against him trustingly. Something melted, the glacier that had always protected his heart from the encroachments of loving another. This sobbing, needy, wonderful, sweet, beautiful girl was doing something to him, he didn’t understand.
It was something he couldn’t fight, something for which there was no defense.
Cathrine felt the soft touch of fingers on her face and her senses focused on the touch. Never had anyone touched her so gently, as if she were a glass ornament threatened by a strong breeze.
“Don’t cry anymore,” a low voice promised in her ear. “You’re strong, you are. And I am here. I’ll help you.”
A warm pair of lips pressed against her forehead and she sobbed again and tightened her grip on the steady rock that held her. She felt that something wonderful and unique was happening, even in her sorrow the edges of her lips curved with an anticipatory thrill as she felt his hands move of their own volition to pull her closer in a possessive embrace.
She looked up and was lost in black pools that seemed to hold her very future within them.
She closed her eyes and felt the heavenly sensation of his lips brushing lightly and reverently against hers, heard his promise in her heart that everything would be all right now.
Duo blinked, the picture he saw framed between the silently gliding elevator doors had to be a figment of his imagination. Had Dorothy knocked something loose in his brain when she’d hit him?
He gaped as he saw the card-carrying President of the Eternal Bachelors’ Club carefully drying Cathrine Bloom’s tears, saw his fingers linger on the curve of her cheek, saw him place a supporting arm tenderly around her shoulder.
Saw Wufei, Chang Wufei, doing all these things. And doing them very well indeed. Cathrine rewarded his efforts with a brief, watery smile.
As Cathrine disappeared into Midii’s room with a quick, grateful glance at the handsome, Chinese pilot Duo ducked his head. He knew that despite the situation he’d bust out laughing if he met Wufei’s self-righteous gaze right now. It seemed that a certain someone’s invincible heart had been conquered at last.
“Midii,” Quatre whispered, looking anxiously at Dorothy, unshed tears making his aqua-blue eyes shimmer in the dim light of the room.
Dorothy bit back her words. She didn’t know and she didn’t care. She knew it was wrong. Quatre had cared enough to risk his own life but it was that very fact that embittered her even more against a young woman she’d always found herself hard-pressed to even be civil to. With friends like Midii and Trowa did Quatre really need enemies?
“I don’t know. I haven’t heard anything yet, but they brought her here after the explosion,” Dorothy said soothingly, averting her eyes from Quatre’s wounded arm. Trust her beloved to ask about Midii before wondering about himself.
“How’s Trowa? Is he alright,” a concerned frown creased Quatre’s forehead as he concentrated his precious energy on his friends.
Relena’s face appeared over Dorothy’s shoulder and she placed her hand gently over her friend and Quatre’s clasped hands, giving them both a soft squeeze.
“Don’t worry, Trowa is fine and Midii just got out of surgery. Sally expects a full recovery; she’ll need to stay here a few weeks though. Trowa’s in with her now,” Relena said, a reassuring smile brightening her face. Her words almost convincing herself as well as her two friends that all would really be well.
“You look tired,” Quatre told Relena. “You and Dorothy should both go and get some rest.”
As Relena had warned Heero, Dorothy immediately protested.
“I think you’re stuck with Dorothy for the duration,” Relena smiled again, the expression a bit forced. She was tired, horribly tired and she’d barely had time to think about the life-changing news she’d had earlier in the day. Tears stung her eyes. She should be so happy. So very happy. But doubts assailed her from every side. Doubts about everything in her own life and the very world she lived in.
“I’ll bring you some things tomorrow morning Dorothy,” she said, hastily cloaking her emotions. Luckily Dorothy was in no temper to pry or notice that Relena was rather subdued. She barely said goodbye before she focused all her attention on Quatre again.
Cathrine raised a trembling hand to her mouth to stifle her gasp of horror. She’d had no preparation for what she was about to see, not like the others had.
Trowa kept his eyes on Midii’s heart monitor, the only proof that there was someone still alive in the cold, still body on the narrow bed. He’d stared at her immobile face for so long that his eyes were dry and burning but there was nothing and time moved so slowly in here. The minutes he’d spent at her side seemed like hours, hours without hope. He’d dared once to brush his fingers against hers and the cold touch of them felt branded on his skin.
He startled visibly, a tremor quaking through his body, as Cathrine reached out silently to tug on his sleeve.
“Oh Trowa,” she whispered, gazing down at Midii with sorrow in her pale violet eyes. “How did this happen?”
How did it happen? He hadn’t believed. Hadn’t believed that someone like Midii could really love him, that anyone could love him. He wasn’t like other people, someone who loved and was loved in return. It was Midii, always Midii that got under his skin and made him believe he could be like that. And it always ended in disaster.
Cathrine was speaking but he didn’t hear her words, only her question repeated itself in his mind. How did it happen? Her voice came to him as if through a fog, she whispered softly to Midii, held her hand. All the things he should be doing but wasn’t.
His heart protested. He could love. He did love. He loved Midii.
But maybe that wasn’t enough. They were like two people that were meant to be together but had been changed so much by the war they had lived through that now they didn’t fit together anymore. It had changed them so they could never be whole again.
Who had he been so long ago, before he’d become Nanashi?
“By the time we met it was already too late for us, wasn’t it Trowa?”
Midii’s words from the past echoed in his mind. He hadn’t really listened to her then, in his happiness at finding her, his eagerness to be with her at last. He’d been ready to cast aside every doubt in the overwhelming bliss that loving her made him feel.
It had all been a dream. Too good to be true. He was a soldier and that was all, all he ever had been.
Cathy loved Midii, just as she loved him, with her generous heart that knew how to love. She’d be there for her as he couldn’t be.
The three ex-Gundam Pilots stared at the pile of evidence mounded on the table in front of them. It went without saying that Ichiban had to be found. The flowers had been traced back to him, as if there had ever been any doubt. They filled the waiting area with their sweet, heady fragrance, giving the small room the aura of a funeral home.
He’d been headed to the Moon. It seemed Ichiban knew what he was doing and he would make a formidable enemy. From the Moon you could get a shuttle anywhere, it was the biggest spaceport either on Earth or in space and flights were available even to the burgeoning Mars colony.
Now it all came down to who would go after him. It was a difficult, time-consuming project and though all of Preventer would be on alert someone needed to head up the investigation. And it would have to be one of the three of them.
Quatre and Trowa were obviously not going to be available this time.
Heero hesitated on the verge of volunteering. He was the best person for the job, with his knowledge of computers and his basic instinct for this type of mission. But it would mean leaving Relena behind for an undetermined amount of time and that was an issue. There had been something in her eyes tonight that called to him and he had noticed the odd tiredness that plagued her lately. He admitted, if only to himself, that maybe he shouldn’t be the one to go.
“Uh, Tro,” Duo said, looking up to find a pair of green eyes staring at them almost accusingly.
Trowa’s eyes scanned the table: Midii’s laptop, a man’s white shirt splotched with gruesome bloodstains that someone had found at the spaceport and the small, pale blue card with tiny, Japanese characters, starkly black against the fragile paper.
He held the card, peering at the writing, the meaning of the words like steel in his soul.
“Where is he,” he asked, raising his eyes to look at all of them.
“We’ll find him Trowa,” Heero said, making his decision. He was the only one who could handle this. “In fact I’ll be leaving to take care of it right after I stop back at the hotel to pack.”
“A bright and pleasant
autumn day to make
death’s journey,” Trowa whispered. “I will be the one to send him on that journey. I’ll find him.”
Trowa ignored Duo and Heero’s protests as if he’d never heard them. Wufei silently agreed with Trowa on this one. It was a matter of honor after all and no one had more motivation to find and terminate this threat than Trowa.
The tall Preventer walked slowly down the hall. Midii was not the only one he had failed or the only one for whom he wanted to seek vengeance. Carefully he pushed open the door to Quatre’s room.
Dorothy’s eyes popped open; she had finally started to doze off, her eyes narrowed as she caught a glimpse of Trowa’s pale, unhappy face in the doorway. She looked at Quatre; he was out again, the result of the drugs and the aftereffect of the anesthesia from the operation. Only for this would she leave his side. She had a few choice words for Trowa Barton and nothing would stop her from saying them.
She put a slender finger to her lips and shook her head warningly and Trowa stepped back from the door. Dorothy silently rose from the chair she’d been sitting in for hours. She longed to stretch her cramped and tired limbs but her anger drove her immediately out of the room after Quatre’s best friend.
“Did you come to apologize,” Dorothy said in a low, angry voice that caught Trowa like a knife in the heart. He turned back towards her slowly.
“Don’t worry, he’ll forgive you. You already know that,” she said, but there was nothing comforting or kind in her words, only a thinly suppressed rage.
“Yes, I came to apologize and to say goodbye,” Trowa said, trying to keep his voice steady under the weight of Dorothy’s wrath. He had been wrong about her too. She really did love Quatre; she cared more for his well being than even he did. He should have trusted Quatre’s feelings for this fiery woman; he had been in no position to judge her.
“Leaving! Why am I not surprised? Did you come to ask Quatre to watch over Midii while you’re off playing the clown somewhere,” Dorothy spat. “If you have any courage at all you’ll stay here. I don’t care if I ever see your face or hers again but Quatre cares for you, both of you and it will hurt him if you leave now.”
“I have to do this, please understand,” Trowa said softly. “I’m going to find the man responsible for this. I have to protect Midii and Quatre too . . .”
“You’d do them a hell of a lot more good if you stayed here where you’re needed,” Dorothy shot back. “If you leave now you’re abandoning everyone who ever cared about you. I don’t give a damn about your little Midii Une. She’s nothing but trouble. But if you leave I’ll tell her to wash her hands of you. You don’t even know how to love someone, do you? You’re afraid to even try, that’s why you’re going on this mission. If you leave don’t even bother coming back Trowa.”
She blinked at him disbelievingly as a half-smile curved his lips and he reached out to bring her hand to his lips and kissed it gently.
“Quatre was right about you Dorothy,” he said, looking into her eyes. “You are kind. You should tell her that. I don’t know how to love her. I never did. She should find someone else.”
He turned and walked away, leaving the angry Dorothy with a strangely dissatisfied feeling and an odd urge to cry. But her tears would not be for Quatre. She knew that he would be all right. She wanted to cry for Trowa.
Next time on The Price of Redemption: Relena has a talk with Heero . . . Midii wakes up and decides what to do with her future.
 Ichiban’s Japanese Death Haiku found at the following site: