She moved silently, all of them did, an early lesson in stealth. You learned it quickly or you were caught. Stefan came clattering in after her, the sound of his wet boots squished in the hall. Niente was good, but only when he had to be, otherwise he exhibited the normal restless energy of any young teenage boy.
Richard looked up from the book he was reading to watch her kneel by the fireplace, she held out her small hands to the flames but she didn’t relax as the heat flushed her cheeks. He was sure he saw her shivering in the jacket she wore. He didn’t recognize the affiliation but that was common. Midii always went out looking like a shivering waif and it never failed, someone always gave her the coat off their back. They just couldn’t help it and she was just that good.
Stefan came in announced by an exaggerated yawn and executed a graceful vault over the back of the couch. He looked at his partner and rolled his eyes, she had nothing to be upset about, they’d led the troops to the core of the rebel forces in record time. They’d be moved up for sure, out of this rat-trap of an old military dormitory forgotten by the world. They’d be infiltrating offices next and before you knew it right at the top, no more shivering in the cold and eating the leftover rations donated by sympathetic rebels. Even he shrank a little at taking charity from the very people they’d been sent to betray.
The device around Midii’s neck beeped softly and she lifted her hand and yanked the chain off, tossing the little game necklace into the fire.
“Yes,” Stefan cheered. “Finally you’re celebrating. We were awesome. They’ll see Midii, there’s nothing the two of us can’t do together. They’ll see we’re beyond this crap. We’re better than this, we can do so much more.”
She turned desolate eyes on the older boy and ran out of the room. Richard’s lips thinned and he glared at Stefan.
“You don’t understand her at all,” he said softly, his voice accusing.
Stefan shrugged. “I know all I need to know. She may be melodramatic and swimming in guilt but when the chips are down she never flinches. That’s all the matters to me about Midii Une.”
Richard found her in a window seat, shivering in earnest. Insulation and heating weren’t top priority in the abandoned barracks where the Alliance kept their secrets under wraps. No trick was too dirty in the battle for universal dominance.
“Midii, come back where the fire is at least,” Richard said.
She shook her head.
“I’m so tired,” she muttered, leaning her head wearily against the wall and closing her eyes briefly. “Thanks anyway, but I think I’ll go to bed.”
“How long were you out this time,” he asked, noticing she was thinner than the last time he’d seen her. But still pretty in that pitiful heart-wrenching way that had the power to disarm whole troops of soldiers. She made them think of their daughters at home, maybe even the girlfriends they’d left behind. She was growing up and her charms hadn’t gone unnoticed by him even if Stefan persisted in calling her a skinny little crybaby.
“Six weeks,” she said, her voice catching slightly. Six weeks to get to know the people she had to betray. Six weeks to learn their names, hear their stories. One man, the one who’d given her the coat had even offered to take her home as soon as he got the chance.
“As soon as I can, I’ll help you get home, Little One,” he’d said one night, stroking her hair softly as they sat by the campfire.
She’d watched him die with empty eyes that couldn’t even cry anymore.
“Six weeks,” Richard repeated thoughtfully. “Somebody’s probably stolen your blanket by now. Come on you can have my bed tonight.”
Her eyes widened and she shied away like a startled rabbit.
“I didn’t mean that. How about you just take my blanket? I’m going to stay up and read anyway,” he amended.
She nodded and followed him to the stark little room.
A nasty younger boy with sly, squinting eyes peered out his own door at them.
“Watch it Ichiban. I’ll turn you in for bringing a girl to your room,” he warned.
“Fuck you,” Richard stated, sliding an arm over Midii’s thin shoulders protectively.
The boy scowled, those two thought they were better than everyone else when they were nothing but betraying scum just like all the rest of them here.
Midii paled and pulled away.
“I better go. I can’t get in trouble. My family . . . ,” she whispered, shaking her head a bit fearfully.
He tightened his hold on her hand and pulled her into his room and yanked the blanket off the bed.
“Just take it,” he said. “That little rat won’t tell. He’s all talk.”
“Why are you being so nice to me,” Midii said, raising her eyes to look at him. “You should stay away from me. Everyone should. I’ll betray you eventually. That’s what I’m good at and it isn’t all talk.”
“They make you do those things. It isn’t your fault. You need to look at it like it’s just a job. Midii, we don’t know whether the Alliance is wrong or right. Those rebels you turn in are killing people too. They’re fighting and killing people every day. What you do saves people’s lives as well. Don’t forget that.”
She looked away again and touched the bruised spot on her neck where she’d torn away the chain.
“Is that what you really think,” she asked, there was hope in her voice that quickly became suspicious. He was starting to sound too much like them. They twisted their words to make it seem what they did was right. But she had seen too much and the memory of Nanashi wouldn’t let her take comfort from their lies.
“I like you Midii,” Richard said, replacing the arm around her shoulder and bending his face toward hers so their noses almost brushed. “I really like you. I wish we could work together.”
Midii shook her head. “I’ve always been with Stefan, since the first time . . .”
The first time, she thought. The worst time. The time she had betrayed Nanashi. She didn’t like to think of him and yet some nights she tortured herself with the memory of that first mission and the boy she’d given her heart to. He’d gone away and never given it back. How often she wished he’d just shot her. He could have saved her from this awfulness, from the horror of repeating her sin over and over again until she was almost immune to the pain of others. She knew she’d never see him again.
“Can I kiss you,” the boy beside her whispered, already his lips were brushing her cheek.
“You’re not afraid of me,” she asked.
He shook his head and took her hand. “You’re not so bad Midii,” he said, holding her eyes with his, making her listen. “Whoever told you that was wrong. We all do what we have to to stay alive. To keep the ones we love alive.”
“Is that why you’re here too,” she whispered.
He shook his head. “We lived by a military base, back home on the colony,” he said. “It was dangerous but all we could afford. They fought, my parents fought all the time and I would run away. One morning when I came back the apartment building was just gone.”
His voice grew hollow and quiet and he felt the warmth of her shining, sympathetic eyes gazing at him and he loved her for it in that minute, the admiration and interest transforming their relationship. She still cared about people, beneath it all, she felt something for what he’d lost. Sweet, beautiful Midii.
“I remember the ash falling around me like snow. Dead people, dead pets were lying everywhere. A mobile suit had fallen in some terrorist attack. God Midii, it was like some hellish domino effect, crushing and burning . . .”
“Oh Richard,” she said, grateful deep inside, despite what it meant for her, that her father and brothers were alive somewhere. “Then why, if you have no one, why are you here?”
“I want to stop the fighting, and this is my only chance. I want it all Midii, not just to follow their orders but to someday give the orders. I wouldn’t let things like that happen,” he said.
“All I have is my family,” Midii said, tears appearing on her thin cheeks. “I’m not like you, I only do this for them. I only want to go home and have things the way they were again.”
Sympathy and shared sorrow turned to soft kisses and touches. He looked into her eyes, surprised to see the naked sorrow and disbelief clear for him to see.
“You really don’t think I’m a horrible person, for what I’ve done,” she asked again, her voice pleading. He promised and kissed her until she smiled a little.
“Thank you Richard,” she said, her face beaming as if he’d given her a wonderful gift.
~*~*~*Winter, AC 199*~*~*~*
He had been a child to think there could be a world without death and terror. What forgotten passion had possessed him to believe he could ever make a difference?
Circumstance had made Richard Ichiban everything he had always hated and nothing was as it seemed. Not the world and not Midii. How could he have known that finding her again would lead to this when he had wanted those things so much? Was it so much to ask? To have her? Was this punishment for the acts of terrorism he had condoned? He’d only done it to realize his dream of peace. His mind wouldn’t let him equate the images of the shuttle explosion he’d orchestrated with the destruction of the apartment building on L1 so long ago . . .
Watching her was like having a knife twist in his heart. She was Midii, untainted and beautiful. All the false sweetness and innocence that Midii wielded as a weapon over everyone she met was personified in this little nobody from this overlooked corner of the universe.
The little waitress was so much like Midii, even down to the man she chose to give herself to. Ultimately it was all his fault, he had turned Midii against her old friends and especially against him until instead of his beloved she became his most hated enemy.
The taste of tobacco, bitter and sharp, filled his mouth as he took a deep drag off the cigarette he held and considered his options.
If he didn’t get out of here soon he’d be trapped on this colony with Barton and he could only evade him for so long. The other day he’d nearly rounded a corner and smacked into him. But she had saved him. He’d seen her through the window of that tacky little diner, her likeness to Midii transfixing him immediately. Of course Barton had found her too, both of them drawn like moths to their favorite flame.
He could leave now and finish things between himself and Midii, with luck he’d beat the strike and be off colony before the distracted Preventer could make a move to follow.
Maybe if she knew, if Midii knew . . . his breath caught as he pictured her pleading for forgiveness, begging him to give her another chance . . . .
Damn her, why couldn’t it have been true? That night at the reception when the world was so close to being his? The same night Eva had shown him Midii’s true self.
The roar of the water from the hydropower plant nearby almost kept him from noticing the roar of an approaching motorcycle.
He slid into the shadows, blending expertly into his surroundings.
Molly peered anxiously between the thin and faded flowered curtains at the window, a happy smile brightening her face.
She flushed unconsciously as he came up the stairs and smoothed a hand over her hair.
“Troooowaaaaaaa!!” her 14-year-old brother squeaked in a high-pitched giddy voice that mimicked he own. He soon had the younger two rolling on the floor laughing.
“Shhhhhhhh,” Molly begged, her eyes wide and pleading with them to behave themselves as she opened the door.
I hope he can’t hear my heart beating, she thought, as she looked shyly up into those wonderful green eyes.
Diarmid blinked. Was this his boss? She’d seemed so nice this morning, praising his reputation and oozing confidence in his ability to solve this matter. The woman on the screen seemed an entirely different person. Were the rumors about her true? Was it dangerous to get on the wrong side of the Chief of Preventers?
“Agent Walker,” Lady Une said, her eyes narrowing in an almost frightening manner. “Perhaps I did not make myself clear this morning but this issue must be solved tonight. I entrusted this mission to you, are you saying you are not able to rise to the occasion?”
Diarmid gulped, his blue eyes glittering with embarrassment. Did she have to put it quite that way? He shook his head, his capacity for speech momentarily deserting him.
“Let me be blunt,” she said, withering his self-esteem as dignity and an air of command rang in her voice. “The Preventer Agency has high expectations. Only the finest candidates are brought to our headquarters’ facility. We have given you this chance to prove yourself and your ability to be successful on an important mission. This is no game or training mission. Such an opportunity won’t come again. I suggest in the strongest of terms you make the most of it Walker.”
“God in heaven, please say I don’t look like a beached fish gasping for air,” Walker prayed, glancing at himself in the mirror as she briskly cut the transmission. There was no room for protest, no time for explanations.
“Does she think I’m a bloody miracle worker,” Diarmid muttered, annoyed that his face was pale and blotched with the red spots that plagued redheads when they were nervous.
He knew Lady Une was right and he wanted to succeed for so many reasons. He realized very well that a shuttle pilots’ strike would be highly detrimental to the peace initiative that Preventer was sworn to uphold. And besides, he admitted deep in a secret space in his heart, if he failed how could he ever face Midii again? He wanted to impress her and he definitely wanted to remain working in the same office building. Failure might mean a one-way ticket back to Earth and far away from her.
But that wasn’t all. He had to live up to his brother’s legacy. He’d been a mobile suit pilot and engineer, a member of the OZ specials, they’d all been so proud of him. The light in his parents’ eyes had gone out permanently when Sean had been killed at the Corsica base during the war. As an added outrage it turned out his death was a highlight in the evening news. The image of his brother’s exploding Aries mobile suit played in his mind and reoccurred in his nightmares with awful clarity.
He couldn’t let down Sean’s memory. He’d been the pride of their parents, the decorated and commended underling of Lt. Zechs Merquise. How could he, Diarmid, fail where Sean had done so well? He would be as loyal to Preventer as his big brother had been to OZ. He would succeed in this.
“Shit,” he said, splashing cold water on his face to get rid of the scarlet blotches. “How the hell am I gonna pull this off?”
Diarmid turned on his heel suddenly and pulled on his Preventer jacket. It was time for another meeting with Mr. Bertrand and this time he wasn’t going to take no for an answer.
Andy Adams clung to his sister’s neck and peered at the tall stranger standing awkwardly in their tiny living room. He was nearly 7 years old but still very shy.
“Don’t be such a baby Andy,” his older brother hissed, embarrassed by the display of childish behavior. Tom, age 10, thought Molly’s date was totally cool. He had the most awesome leather Preventer jacket. He hadn’t even known Preventer agents came to their colony!
Andy’s lip trembled and he buried his face in his sister’s hair. Molly’s hair always smelled comfortingly of baby shampoo that came from the big, economy-sized bottle they kept in the tiny shower they all had to make do with. Molly insisted on the tear-free brand for her youngest brother although the older boys complained it made them smell like babies.
An unwilling smile twitched Trowa’s lips as Molly looked at him apologetically, her brother clinging to her like one of the little monkeys they sometimes kept at the circus. The thought gave him an idea.
He crouched down in front of the little boy, studying the childish lines of the little face that portrayed an innocence he had never seen before. A feeling of regret that had been buried deep inside of him for so long that he had nearly forgotten he’d ever felt it. His eyes blurred momentarily as memories overwhelmed him. Trowa looked at the soft childish hand tangled in Molly’s hair. When he’d been that age his hands were already rough and calloused, a child’s smaller fingers in demand for specialized mobile suit repair.
“Hi Andy,” he said, purposely keeping his voice gentle. “I’m Trowa.”
The little boy hid his face in his sister’s shoulder again, his hair was the same color as Molly’s--and Midii’s. Trowa pushed down the pain the thought brought. “Why am I here,” he wondered suddenly. “She’s not Midii.”
“Andy,” Molly whispered, starting to feel nervous that Trowa would think her brother was strange. “What’s the matter?”
“He’s scary,” the little boy murmured. The older boys, Tom and Jack, couldn’t help laughing at that remark.
“He’s very nice. He’s my friend,” Molly said, raising a finger to her lips and glaring at her two other brothers.
“I’ve seen men in those coats on TV! They’ve got guns,” Andy said, a frightened tear trickling down his little round cheek.
Trowa unobtrusively slipped off his jacket.
“I only wear that jacket sometimes,” Trowa said, wishing he’d brought another jacket. “Guess what my other job is.”
The boy peered at him with round, curious eyes and shook his head.
“I dunno,” he whispered.
“A clown,” Trowa announced, rolling forward and up into a handstand. He bounced on his hands a few times before lifting himself up and balancing on one finger for a split second before making the little boy laugh by doing a comic fall.
Molly grinned as Andy hopped off her lap and forgot his shyness as he begged for more tricks.
“Thank you,” she whispered, tiptoeing to kiss Trowa’s cheek and escaped into the kitchen to finish dinner.
“He’s so perfect,” she thought, as she lit the candles on the table, the ones she saved for special occasions.
Midii nibbled on a croissant, impatiently brushing the crumbs from her orange sweater as she tested password combinations on her laptop to break into Bertrand’s files. Her eyes widened as she saw indications of activity from the home file location.
“He’s still in the office,” she whispered. “I wonder why he wanted to get rid of me so quickly?”
She put in an earpiece and flipped a switch to tune into the bugging device she’d planted in the office before she’d left. Midii frowned but her heart pounded with a burst of adrenaline as she listened to Bertrand reveal his position to the “security guard” in his office. He sounded so confident. Too bad he didn’t know who he was up against, she thought, her lips twitching in a confident smile of her own as she propped her foot up on the desk chair and buckled a slender leather thigh holster around the top of her leg.
With speedy fingers she forwarded the information she had to Heero’s office. “Just in case,” she whispered, although fear of failure was the furthest thing from her mind. She found the thin-barrelled, inconspicuous gun tucked in a corner of her suitcase and slid it into the holster before shrugging on her jacket and locking the door behind her.
“You’re definitely Andy’s hero now,” Molly said, kicking off her shoes and settling on the sagging old sofa of indiscriminate color at the opposite end from her guest. “He was so excited I can’t believe he finally drifted off.”
“I didn’t realize I’d have to perform for my supper,” Trowa joked, unable to help admiring her when she smiled. Happiness made her eyes shine and a little dimple appeared irresistibly to dent the creamy smoothness of her cheek. She made him wonder what it would be like to just stay here on this small, unimportant colony. Would anyone care if he just disappeared? He’d wrap things up with Ichiban first of course because no matter how Midii felt about him now he’d never expose her to danger. Besides she wasn’t the only one threatened. The unwanted vision of what he’d seen in that hotel room the other night tightened his stomach and cold sweat popped out on his face. Trowa shut his eyes tightly and opened them again to find the girl had slid across the cushions to stare at him with a mixture of tenderness and concern.
“Are you okay,” she whispered. Her face so close to his that her breath warmed his cheek. Her eyes were so pretty, thick black lashes fluttered shyly to frame the bright innocent cornflower blue. And it was over with Midii. He still loved her but her eyes held only pain and cold aloofness when he looked at her now. It hurt her to see him and somehow that was the hardest thing of all to bear. She’d made him need her, her touch, the physical closeness and he realized that she was the only girl he’d ever touched, ever kissed. Oddly he remembered Duo saying once that girls were like flavors of ice cream, they all tasted good. He remembered Hilde’s wounded look too before Duo whispered to her that she was his favorite flavor.
Curiosity and the pain of his wounded heart motivated him. Molly caught her breath in disbelief. Those fascinating green eyes were on hers and she could see something in them that made her heart pound. A soft, almost soundless whimper escaped her throat as she felt his fingers close gently over a strand of her hair and his face relaxed with deep contentment as real as the look on Andy’s face when she handed him his teddy bear at night. She forgot in that second, forgot he loved someone else, forgot he wasn’t staying here and that he’d said he was going to leave. She knew he was going to kiss her.
Molly held her breath as he bent his head to hers and she felt the feather-light touch of his lips. She felt afraid to move, as if he would stop if she did. Slowly she relaxed, leaning into the kiss as his lips moved gently, wonderingly over the full, rosy lips beneath his that began to part tentatively in response.
Her hair was smooth and so soft in his hand. It had a warm, sweet, indefinable scent that was just like her. . . . Molly. But it was the familiar texture of it that made his pulse race with memories. How he could sit for her for hours in the dark, her slight body curled into his, the happy little sounds she made when he played with her hair . . . Midii.
This was different, nice, but he felt himself ignoring the invitation of the soft lips opening beneath his. Reluctantly he dropped his hand from her hair with a last lingering caress. He felt her expel her breath in disappointment as his lips brushed her cheek and he straightened.
“It’s over,” she thought sadly, seeing something in his face that told her his mind was elsewhere, that maybe he was regretting what he’d done.
She wouldn’t have traded that moment for the world, when he was kissing her, when she felt the warmth of his hand tangled in her hair. But there had been something else too, an uncomfortable feeling that she was stealing from someone else.
“Trowa,” she said, gathering her courage in the silence that was growing thick and uncomfortable between them. “Why don’t you go back to her? I don’t know all that happened but I’m sure that if you talked it out . . .”
“I’m sorry Molly,” Trowa said.
She grinned and somehow the act of smiling made her feel better. “It was just a kiss,” she said. “A wonderful kiss. A wonderful night too. But you’re changing the subject. Go home Trowa. I can see that you want to. It’s written all over your face.”
She leaned forward and shushed him with her fingers.
“Don’t say can’t. I tell my brothers that and I’m telling you. You’re not being fair to her Trowa. Did you ever ask her how she felt? Or did you just assume,” she asked. “Maybe she’s hurt because you went away. Did you ever think of that Trowa?”
Her words were like an epiphany. Go back and try to explain how he felt. Why was it the obvious answer seemed like such a novel idea?
Velvety darkness blanketed the lovers that lay entwined in an embrace of mutual bliss on the comfortable sofa in Cathrine and Midii’s apartment. It was a moment of perfect peace as they savored the moment of wonder and contentment.
Of course as many detractors of the current political climate often stated, peace wasn’t meant to last.
The doorbell rang sending a perky, irritating dinging sound through the room that immediately sent Wufei and Cathrine scurrying for clothing that had somehow gotten scattered hopelessly around the room.
“Midii? Cathy?” a familiar voice called uncertainly. “I can’t believe it! We’re an hour late getting in because of all the confusion at the spaceport and they go out? Exactly the manners I’d expect from those two. I told you this was all a big mistake,” an aristocratic voice hissed, none too quietly.
“Winner? What the hell? Great timing. Just GREAT!!” Wufei yelled, making Cathrine snicker and lean over to peck him gently on the nose.
“I love you,” she whispered, as a faint blush crept into his tanned cheeks. “With everything that happened I forgot that Midii told me they were coming for dinner tonight.”
Her face fell.
“She’s still not back. I know that something must be wrong,” she whispered, sinking back on the couch with her blouse only halfway buttoned.
Dorothy’s voice filtered in from under the door. “I swear I heard something! They must be in there. Ring the doorbell again Quatre.”
Wufei winced as the cheerful little bell sounded again.
“Just a second! We’ll be right there,” he shouted, kneeling in front of Cathrine to finish buttoning her blouse.
“Wufei? Chang Wufei?” Dorothy and Quatre said simultaneously, looking at each other with startled eyes. It couldn’t be!
Midii pressed herself silently against the door, not even breathing as she slid the thin plastic keycard into the slot to let herself into the office as silently as possible. She bit back a startled scream as the door seemed to open of it’s own accord and a rough hand closed around her upper arm to drag her inside.
She blinked, the room was so bright compared to the darkness of the hallway.
“Let go,” she whispered, attempting to pull free of the iron grip that held her. Angrily she jammed her elbow into the man’s ribs, disheartened when his only response was a brief chuckle.
“Feisty little thing, aren’t you? Tell me who you are missy and what you’re doing here,” he said, his whisper matching hers and telling her that someone was in the inner office with Bertrand.
“I’m Mimi, Mr. Bertrand’s new secretary. I left my nail polish in my desk drawer and I’m going out tonight so if you’d get your hands off the merchandise I’ll just grab it and leave,” Midii said.
His grip tightened painfully. “Secretary? That lucky bastard doesn’t miss a trick does he?”
“Well if you’re not going to let go maybe you’d like to go barhopping with me tonight,” Midii asked, winking at her captor.
“Sorry baby, you’re not going anywhere till I clear you with the boss. We’ve got Preventer breathing down our necks and we can’t take any chances. Capisce?”
Midii giggled. “Me? A Preventer?”
The dark-haired giant laughed too. It was rather funny to think that this pretty little piece of fluff could be a Preventer agent. He let go of her arm.
“I suppose you’re no threat sweetheart. Get your stuff and hightail it out of here. And do old Johnny a favor and don’t mention this to Bertrand,” he said.
Midii pouted and rubbed her arm. “I think you left a mark,” she said, going to her desk and using the cover of the computer to retrieve the hidden gun from its holster on her thigh.
“And for that,” she said, pointing the weapon at the shocked bodyguard, “you’ll have a bit of explaining to do once I turn in my report to headquarters.”
“Why you little bitch,” he hissed, moving towards her but stopping when she clicked the safety of the gun.
“Now, now,” Midii scolded. “Let’s not have any name calling. Shall we pay a visit to the boss? He has a few things to explain.”
The night had been a revelation for Trowa. He’d always believed that if only Midii would change things would be perfect between them. But now face to face with a girl that was everything he thought he wanted he truly realized that Midii had been what he needed all along. He wanted her, just her. The goodness and selflessness that she kept inside of her was like a treasure that only he knew about.
From the minute he’d first seen her again he’d felt that love from her, the love she’d been the very first to show him. He remembered the tone of her voice when she called him Nanashi. She’d always made it sound like a name. And when she gave him the cross, there had been something in her face that reached into his heart and claimed it for her own. That was why, why it had hurt so badly when she betrayed him, but even though he left her behind she never stopped loving him. He believed that. Suddenly he wanted to be back with her so badly that his body ached with physical longing.
With sudden clarity he remembered all the times he’d turned his back on her and left her behind. He had to go home. He loved her. Loved all the sorrows and mysteries that made her Midii, made her his.
“Trowa,” Molly ventured. “I have to get ready to go to work. You look like you’re thinking about what I said.”
He nodded and rose reluctantly to his feet. “I think I’ve overstayed my welcome,” he said.
Molly shook her head. “Of course not! You’re welcome to stay. I know Tom is still awake and if you give him the chance he’ll talk your ear off about your job with Prevnters.”
“Thanks anyway. I need to do some thinking,” he said.
She took his hand. “I know she’ll forgive you Trowa,” Molly whispered. “You just need to go back. But don’t leave without saying goodbye.”
“Of course not,” he said, leaning to kiss her cheek. “I promise.”
A light flashed on Trowa’s answering machine and he debated whether to pick it up. Probably just Heero, wanting his report, no one else knew where he was and he’d just left Molly’s. It was humiliating and frustrating to have nothing new and now his determination was stronger than ever before. He had to get back to Midii.
He sighed and pressed the message button. It was Molly.
“Trowa,” she said, her voice apologetic and hurried. “I totally forgot to thank you for the beautiful roses. Did you write that poem yourself? You must think I’m horrible. Don’t call back I’m leaving for work. I’ll be there if you can’t sleep and want to talk. I had a wonderful time tonight. I’ll never forget it. Good night.”
Trowa frowned. He hadn’t brought flowers . . .
Thomas Bertrand’s eyes widened with surprise.
“Johnny! What’s the meaning of this? I told you to stay outside while I discuss business with Mr. Walker. This isn’t the time to bring some little bimbo. . . My God is that Miss Dunn?”
“I think you’ve got something to tell me about those unsigned contracts, don’t you Mr. Betrand,” Midii said, trying to catch Diarmid’s eye. Damn, he was looking at her as if he didn’t recognize her. The room was dark, the only light came from a small lamp on Bertrand’s desk.
Bertrand thought fast. Who was Miss Dunn really working for? She couldn’t be from Preventer or Walker would recognize her.
“So Agent Walker,” he said cordially to the man in front of him. “You want to help with the negotiations? Deal with my secretary. It seems she’s the one whose been blackmailing me to stall the contract signing.”
“What,” Midii gasped, too surprised to react as Diarmid turned and knocked the gun out of her stunned hand with a quick blow.
Walker looked at Bertrand’s secretary victoriously as he slapped one end of handcuff over her slender wrist. He had the culprit. He was going to be a great success. He’d be up for a promotion. Midii would be sure to be impressed. Midii? The angry-eyed girl evading his attempt to catch her other wrist looked just like her.
“Midii? My God darlin’ what are you doing . . .
Midii cursed and fell to her knees as the shocked man dropped her wrist, scrambling for her gun and sitting back on her heels as the big dark-haired man waved it in her face.
“Looking for this sweetheart,” he teased.
“Call your buffoon off Bertrand,” Diarmid said, stepping in front of Midii, his heart racing as he hoped his voice sounded more confident than he felt. “This is my, umm, my partner.”
Bertrand raised a skeptical brow. “Suppose you let Miss Dunn explain herself, Agent Walker.”
“You should know I’ve already contacted headquarters with the bulk of my evidence against you Mr. Bertrand,” Midii said coldly, warily eying the madly grinning Johnny. He seemed awfully happy to have the tables turned on her she thought.
“I do believe you’re bluffing Mimi my dear,” he said. “I’m sorry Agent Walker but I’m afraid our negotiations are at an end. Johnny, you know what to do with our guests?”
The big man nodded, reaching out to tug on Cathrine’s star earring playfully. “We’re gonna have fun tonight after all,” he said, letting his blunt fingers brush her cheek.
Midii shuddered. This was not going as expected, not at all.
“You big brute! Don’t even think about touching her,” Walker shouted, trying to figure a way to recover from his having blown her cover.
Johnny chuckled and looked down at the fuming shorter man. “How cute. The little guy’s trying to protect the dame. Just like in the movies,” he chortled. “Did you two ever see the one where the couple gets handcuffed together and the bad guy chases them with the gun? Wanna try?”
This could work, Midii thought, catching a welcome gleam in Walker’s hip pocket. It would certainly be worth a try.
“Oh God! Oh God Diarmid! He’s going to kill us,” she cried hysterically, as Johnny snapped the other cuff on Walker’s wrist. She threw herself into his arms and cried loudly.
“Shhhh, don’t blow it,” she whispered in his ear quietly between sobs. “You have to protect me,” she cried in a louder voice as her hand closed around the cool metal handle of the pistol in his pocket.
“That’s enough. It’s time to play,” Johnny said, placing a meaty hand on her shoulder to pull her out of Walker’s embrace only to find himself nose to nose with a gun again.
“Hand your weapon to Agent Walker mate,” she said. “The game’s over.”
When both guns were in their possession it wasn’t long before Bertrand was ready to confess.
“Call a meeting of your board of executives Mr. Bertrand,” Midii said. “I think we’ve made it clear that the Preventer Agency is committed to the success of these negotiations. I hope you won’t be giving my fellow agent any more trouble?”
“No ma’am,” Bertrand said sulkily.
Diarmid followed Midii out into the hall as backup arrived to help “oversee” the negotiations and take their ‘friend’ Johnny into custody.
“What the hell happened in there,” he asked. “Who are you Midii?”
“You’ll learn that you have to get creative in this business,” she said. “And never reveal who your allies are until the right moment. I’ve been doing this nearly all my life. It does take a bit of practice and the right instincts. You’ll learn.”
“I almost got you killed,” he said, his voice filled with remorse. “If anything had happened to you . . .”
“Shhh,” Midii said, laying her fingers gently over his lips. “I’ve had closer calls. Don’t worry about me. Congratulations Agent Walker, I think Lady Une will be pleased. Just be sure to keep our secret!”
He watched her walk away down the hall.
“Midii, why?” he called.
She stopped a second to look at him over her shoulder.
“We’re friends aren’t we,” she asked.
“Yeah,” he agreed. “Friends.”
He looked after her as she disappeared, something melting inside as he remembered the brief instant she’d pressed herself up against him and the tickle of her hair against his cheek. He blushed and his face grew hot remembering the feel of her hand in his pocket.
“Just friends,” he said, turning back to the office. “I’ll try Midii. I swear I will.”
Molly tightened her coat around herself and yawned as she walked beneath the wall of the power plant and through the chilly mist that was ever present around it. She was tired but once she got to work and had a few cups of coffee she’d be fine. She hoped Trowa would be happy even if there really was no hope for them. She could always treasure that kiss, that brief look of admiration in his eyes.
She had to roll her eyes at her thoughts. She was being so melodramatic. It was only a kiss.
“Right,” she said aloud. “Only a kiss from the handsomest guy you’ve ever seen.”
Lost in her thoughts she bumped into something solid and felt a pair of arms reach out to steady her.
“You should be more careful,” a masculine voice, cultured and elegant, said.
“Oh! Excuse me,” Molly said, looking up into a pair of golden eyes that smiled down on her from beneath brown hair that was attractively tousled by the wind and the misty air.
“My pleasure I’m sure,” he said, gazing at her intently. “A lovely young lady like you is no bother at all.”
His gaze was disconcerting, almost a stare and Molly pulled away as he reached out to trace the curve of her cheek.
“Well, still, I’m sorry I bumped into you,” she repeated, backing away. “Please excuse me.”
“You look like her you know,” he said as she turned away. “Did Trowa tell you that?”
She turned to look at the stranger. He knew Trowa?
“Like who,” she asked curiously.
“Midii,” he said, his voice caressing the word with an eerie, dreamy quality that made Molly shiver inside her coat. “That’s why I sent you those flowers.”
Her heart thumped painfully in her chest as he walked toward her, primitive fear seeming to freeze her in place. Something was wrong.
“Molly,” a familiar voice called and she let her breath out in a painful gasp as Trowa came up beside her and placed an arm around her shoulders.
“Are you alright,” he asked, his eyes studying her.
“Of course,” she said, her earlier fears seeming silly now that he was here.
“Our valiant hero makes it on time for once in his life,” Ichiban snickered.
“Go home, Molly and lock the door. Call the police,” Trowa said.
She hesitated a second, staring at him. He was different from the Trowa she knew. And suddenly she felt like Andy had earlier. Frightened. Something horrible was going to happen.
“Get out of here Molly,” he said again, but his eyes were on the man. She nodded and ran.
“Pretty girl,” Ichiban said, letting his eyes follow the slender form of the retreating girl before turning back to Trowa conversationally. What would Midii think? Do you think she’d approve of your innocent little angel?”
“Let’s take this discussion elsewhere,” Richard suggested, Trowa’s cold and silent stare making him uncomfortable. “I don’t want anyone interfering.”
He turned on his heel and jumped up until his hand grasped the iron utility ladder fastened to the outside of the hydro basin.
Midii yawned and reached up to tug the elastics from her hair as she walked tiredly from the elevator to the apartment door.
Please let Cathy be out, she prayed as she ran a hand through her hair. If nothing else at least since this little escapade her hair was almost its natural color again. Perhaps she had overdone it though, she felt so tired. But it was a good, healthy tired with no sign of a headache. She just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for 12 hours. Midii was sure Cathy would never wake her up just to scold her, she’d believe sleep was more important.
She yawned again and fumbled for her key, hoping her assessment of Cathrine would be right. Midii needed time to come up with a reasonable explanation for her absence. It should have been easy but the thought of lying to her friend caused an unfamiliar anxious knot in her stomach.
I’m changing . . .
For the second time that night the door whipped open, seemingly of its own accord, when she had barely inserted the key in the hole and Midii found herself staring into two angry faces, the anger barely abated by the relief the two felt at seeing the prodigal return.
“C-Cathy! And Quatre? What a surprise,” Midii stuttered, half tempted to turn on her heel and make a dash for the elevator.
They seemed to read her mind as panic flitted across her features and the unlikely duo reached out simultaneously to drag her into the apartment.
Midii winced as the door slammed shut and she scanned the room, seeing Dorothy perched on a stool at the breakfast bar calmly filing her nails and not even favoring her with a glance. On the other side of the room Wufei stared disinterestedly out the window.
She gulped before raising guilty blue-gray eyes to Cathrine’s searching violet ones. She couldn’t expect any support from Wufei or Dorothy that was certain. Her best chance was to claim a headache with Cathy or maybe try tears on Quatre? She looked from one to another indecisively as they barraged her with questions about where she’d been and what she’d been doing and why she’d worried them so quickly she couldn’t even make out half of what they were saying. Finally she got a word in edgewise.
“Please Cathy, I’m sorry but I really need to sit down,” Midii sighed. “I’m so tired.”
Cathrine’s tirade faltered a bit as she noticed the deep purple circles ringing Midii’s eyes. Midii contained a victorious smirk and let a tear slip down her cheek as she looked pleadingly at Quatre.
Remorse filled the two of them, they really had been concerned about her and then they’d attacked her the minute she walked in.
“Oh enough already,” an irritated voice broke in as Cathrine helped Midii to the couch and Quatre started tucking an afghan around her. “Can’t you see she’s manipulating you? She’s only avoiding explaining herself!”
Quatre and Cathrine gasped and looked at Dorothy disapprovingly, Midii however blushed with shame. She was doing it again, doing it to people she truly cared about.
“She’s right. I’m sorry,” she whispered, looking down and pulling at the fuzzy fringe of the blanket Cathrine had made.
Dorothy raised a slender eyebrow in amusement and slid elegantly off the stool.
“Leave us alone,” she said. “I have a word or two for Miss Une.”
“It’s alright,” Midii said, holding up a hand to still Cathrine and Quatre’s protests. “I’ll talk to her.”
A cold misty spray of water swirled around them as they stared at each other. The thunderous scream of the turbulent water below and the cold wet fog pervaded the atmosphere, muting their confrontation as if it were a dream.
Yet it was vividly real too, the crumbling stone wall rough and uneven beneath their booted feet and the encompassing chill of the wet air. Tiny rainbows shimmered in the spotlights that surrounded the basin, the illumination doing little to cut the odd, otherworldliness that hung over the scene like a smothering blanket.
Trowa's hair clung to his face in wet, auburn strands and his eyes gleamed in the sparkling wet light. He looked like he'd just risen from a mythical ocean, a vengeful god, cold-hearted and single-minded in his purpose . The evidence of his watery domain trickling in jeweled rivulets down his face and garments.
Richard was unimpressed as befitted a dark demon facing a god of light without fear, secure in his own skill and power. Golden eyes glittered in anticipation between unruly strands of sleek, heavy hair that clung to the sculpted contours of his face.
The words when they came, originated with Trowa. They were mundane words meant to spark the action rather than from any actual hope or desire that they would be obeyed.
“You’re under arrest.”
Ichiban tilted his head and searched Trowa’s face for signs of a sense of humor he could somehow have overlooked.
He didn’t find it. The sensuous lips curved into an amused smile. It was like dueling, all the finer points of protocol and etiquette had to be observed it seemed.
“Arrest? Do you think if you take me in and question me that you’ll finally understand her? Understand what was between the two of us? You never could. You’re not like her and I. You’re engaged in a neverending struggle to capture something you can never have. Something that doesn’t exist,” Richard said, watching the silent tension build in the cords of muscle in his opponent’s neck and the shift in his posture.
His voice continued the verbal attack.
“You’re thinking that I tried to kill her, almost killed her. But I love her . . .
Trowa took a step forward, he wanted to stop this conversation.
“You’re under arrest,” he repeated.
“For what? You’ve wanted it too. You know just how I feel about her. Has she ever betrayed you? Ever made you want to kill her? I thought I could do it, thought I could hate her but when it happened and her blood was on my hands . . .” the voice faltered and grew stronger again. “She’s like a siren. She’ll kill everything you care about, destroy all you’ve worked for and yet when she holds out her arms to you, you can’t resist. I’ve dreamed. Such vivid dreams . . . love . . . hate . . . blood. . .
“Stop it,” Trowa said, his voice ragged, the words too close to the truth as he saw how close he had come to killing her so long ago, the memory of moving the barrel of the gun so slightly at the last minute. “I couldn’t do it . . .”
“You are like me,” Richard whispered, triumph momentarily lighting his slanting golden eyes as he stepped silently, cat-like toward the other man. First blood was his. The ledge was narrow and the stones shone slippery in the sparse light at the edge of the spotlight circles.
He lunged as the other man digested his poisonous words, burying his shoulder into Trowa’s stomach, the momentum taking them both over the side of the ledge and hurtling toward the maelstrom below.
Midii felt at a disadvantage as Dorothy stared down at her, her arms folded. The other girl was elegant as usual and Midii pulled self-consciously at the short yellow skirt she still wore and reached up to pull off Cathrine’s earring.
Dorothy’s silent scrutiny increased her nervousness and Midii thought what a tough enemy the other girl could make. Her intentions were well-masked and if Dorothy didn’t speak soon Midii was sure she would scream from all the tension.
“Nice outfit,” Dorothy said finally, the corner of her lip turning up in a smirk. Sarcasm was one of her favorite weapons. It could be even more useful than a sword and it was always at hand. Miss Relena had been a fine opponent when she’d drawn her weapon on her, always coming up with the proper response to foil her attempts to shake her composure.
She doubted Midii would be as adept. She looked guilty and nervous and tired. Right where Dorothy wanted her. Dorothy was tired of competing with the traitorous little addition to their group. She was nothing but a troublemaker who didn’t seem happy unless she was putting herself and others in danger. Dorothy would never forget the suffocating fear and loss of her self-control when Quatre had gotten himself trapped in that cathedral. Because of Midii. And tonight he’d been all set to rush out to look for her. Luckily she’d come home right when he’d been trying to talk the stoic Chinese pilot into accompanying him. At least someone else around here had some sense about that girl.
“What’s the matter Midii? Did you come back because no one came after you? Couldn’t you find any trouble to get into? I’m sure you’re happy that Cathrine and Quatre fell right into your little scheme to get attention. They were very worried. You should be pleased with yourself. I hate to inform you that no one told Trowa though so your little plan to get him to come back and rescue you from the big, bad, unknown danger was a complete failure,” Dorothy hissed.
An unfamiliar feeling of remorse crept in through an unguarded entrance to Dorothy’s heart as Midii’s face paled and she raised a shaking hand to rub her eyes wearily. She wasn’t as satisfying an opponent as Miss Relena. There was nothing enjoyable about it at all. It was like kicking a wounded puppy and she suddenly and fervently hoped Quatre hadn’t just overheard what she said.
“That’s not what I wanted,” Midii ventured, trying desperately to control her voice and match Dorothy’s confident tone. Dorothy had plenty of reasons to be angry with her. “I was only trying to help.”
Midii’s response fired Dorothy’s anger again. Trying to help? Ha! Now would be the perfect time to tell her the things that she’d promised Trowa that day at the hospital. The day he’d run away from his responsibilities to Quatre. Of course Quatre never said a thing, but Dorothy knew he was hurt by Trowa’s continued absence.
“I’ll tell her you can’t love anyone. That you don’t know how. I’ll tell her to find someone else . . . .
As Midii watched, Dorothy’s face grew thoughtful, remembering.
“Tell her,” he’d said. “Quatre was right, you are kind.”
She felt again the shock in her heart when she felt his lips on her hand, the kiss of forgiveness. She looked back at Midii and words she never meant to say came out of her mouth instead of the ones she’d planned.
“Just be patient. Trowa will come back. Understand how hard it was for him, all that happened in Brussels. He blames himself for what happened to you and Quatre,” Dorothy said, surprising herself.
Tears streamed down Midii’s face.
“Dorothy. I--” she said wonderingly.
“Hmmph,” Dorothy said. “Don’t get all weepy. I can’t believe you think he’d never come back. Remember he did promise to be Quatre’s best man. And there’s a reason we came to visit, even though you were so rudely not here although we had plans for dinner.”
“I’m sorry I wasn’t here,” Midii apologized, wiping her face with the back of her hand. “What was it you wanted?”
Quatre had talked her into this, but if left with a choice of one of his sisters, who were all either extremely flighty and silly like the youngest Safira or grim and stern like Yasmina, the oldest, she’d take the only other option available. She had so few women friends, or friends at all for that matter. Relena was the one she counted as her best friend but she had had to go and get pregnant.
“I can’t believe she was so inconsiderate,” Dorothy bewailed internally.
Here goes nothing, she thought, at least she could count on Midii to look good when the occasion warranted it although she looked rather trashy at the moment and smelled oddly of cotton candy lip gloss that shimmered on her lips.
“I was going to ask you to be in my wedding,” Dorothy said. “As Trowa’s partner.”
“Maid of honor,” Midii asked, surprise evident in her voice. “Dorothy, I don’t know what to say.”
Dorothy frowned. Was she going to say no? Suddenly she felt unsure of herself and a wave of loneliness washed over her suddenly.
“Before you say no you should consider that you’ll hurt Quatre’s feelings if you do,” Dorothy said tartly, trying to guard herself against possible rejection.
Midii smiled softly, realizing suddenly the meaning behind Dorothy’s words. She had given her a gift. The gift of hope. For some reason the fact that Dorothy felt Trowa would come back meant a lot to her. She knew the other girl wouldn’t say something like that just to soothe her feelings.
Could she want to be her friend? They really should get along since Quatre and Trowa were so close. Her eyes grew shadowed . . . if he ever came back, if he even wanted her back. But he would come home eventually, he’d definitely come back for Quatre’s wedding. She had to believe that.
She chose her words carefully, Dorothy had a lot of pride and it was hard to decide just what to say.
“I’d love to Dorothy. Quatre’s my friend as well as Trowa’s and I’d never want to disappoint him. He’s always been so kind to me. But I’ll only do this if it’s what you want as well. It’s such a special time for you. You shouldn’t have to make do with someone you don’t want,” Midii said, looking at Dorothy hopefully from beneath her lashes.
“Well,” Dorothy said. “You did help me out that time on Corsica, although it was your fault in the first place.”
Midii had the grace to blush.
“And besides with Trowa gone at least I know you won’t go and get pregnant like Relena,” Dorothy said.
The two girls looked at each other and the tension broke, both of them were suddenly overwhelmed with relieved laughter.
Meanwhile in the kitchen, Quatre and Cathrine were pressed against the door, listening anxiously to the conversation in the other room.
“I can’t believe it,” Cathrine said wonderingly. “They made friends!”
“Of course,” Quatre said, hiding his own surprise. He had hoped for this but still it came as rather a shock when it actually happened.
Wufei merely shrugged.
“Actually they were more interesting when they didn’t get along,” he said, surprising the other two with his words. “I guess that means you’ve finally tamed that onna of yours Quatre. Her words don’t cut like swords anymore.”
Ichiban grunted as his right hand caught on an outcrop of rock, the sharp stone cutting into his palm and coating it with silty grit. He swung his other hand up and grabbed onto the top ledge of the wall and hauled himself up, laying back on the solid stone and breathing in deep gasping breaths, opening his mouth to catch the mist of water on his tongue as his heartbeat slowed.
He’d pushed too hard, his anger overriding caution, if not for that lucky grab he’d be drowning in that swirling nightmare of cold, roaring water. He could hear sounds below the wall, sirens, shouts. Richard sat up, intent on flight when his gaze fell on a figure that seemed to be hovering some distance out over the hydro-basin. Trowa stood in the beam of one of the spotlights, hands stuffed unconcernedly in his jacket pockets, surrounded by the mist that obscured the wires that criss-crossed the water. Casually he started to walk in toward the wall, keeping his eyes on Richard, never even looking at the wire beneath his feet.
As Ichiban, stared disbelieving at the seemingly miraculous display Trowa disappeared again, landing on silent feet behind his prey.
Richard heard the sound of labored breathing behind him and whirled, arms up in defense against whatever apparition was there in the darkness. Green eyes, like a tiger’s in the jungle, tracked him in the darkness.
“How,” he muttered as a hard fist came flying out of the shrouded dimness. As he blocked the blow another hit followed, catching him in the jaw and knocking him back, the unforgiving stone of the ledge jolting his spine painfully and he tasted blood in his mouth.
Trowa reached down to fist his hand in the wet fabric of Ichiban’s trenchcoat, drawing him close.
“I’m taking you in,” he said.
“It’s not over yet,” Richard answered, raising his fingers in an upwards swooping motion in an attempt at a pressure point attack.
Trowa sidestepped and the hand slid past him, the air whooshing a bit from the missed blow. He dropped his hand from Ichiban’s coat curled his other hand into a fist, ramming it into the other man’s gut.
Richard felt the sensation of flying backward, felt the sickening certainty that there was nothing beneath his feet as he lost his footing and teetered over the edge of the crumbling wall for a second before Trowa grabbed his coat again and hauled him back. Trowa tossed him down onto his stomach, the fall knocking the air out of him as he felt the snap of a steel handcuff on his wrist.
“Do you ever think that your dear Vice Foreign Minister and your upstanding agency may not have all the answers,” Ichiban said as Trowa groped for his other hand in the darkness. “I regret the people who died on that shuttle but without nations and national armies the economic crisis will continue. It’s inevitable. You can’t stop it. Do you think Midii will admire you so much when she sees your side doesn’t have all the answers? She believed in what I was doing, she knows what it’s like to be poor, to starve, to see death. Those are the things that make people like me and like Midii. Everyone will lose their faith in what you’ve done when they find out that peace does not equate Utopia. I wanted peace once too, but it’s a childish, impossible dream . . . it isn’t the answer.”
Richard blinked back hot, angry tears of frustration. He wouldn’t be taken. Death was preferable to humiliation and their self-righteous lectures on peace. As Trowa’s hand finally closed over his free wrist he twisted himself, sweeping his legs around and knocking the Preventer off balance. Before Trowa could scramble back to him, Ichiban disappeared over the side of the wall.
Next time on The Price of Redemption . . . Will Trowa finally come home?. . Diarmid can’t resist temptation . . . Heero and Relena learn to breathe.
Allusion to Triton, god of the sea