The Price of Redemption
By Midii Une
Snowflakes drifted beyond the window and Midii admired them as they floated like delicate bits of lace against the iron-gray sky. It was a prank by some college interns, but it was someone else’s problem not really hers. She privately thought it was beautiful; the sparkling and pure blanket of white somehow transformed even the stark ugliness of this L1 colony. Operation Whiteout had everyone working overtime but so far there’d been no luck on cleaning up the virus in the colonial weather control.
“Never thought I’d see a storm like this up here,” Diarmid commented. “I’d like to be there when they bring those little smart asses in to see Lady Une. I heard they’re getting copycats on other colonies, it’s amazing how some of these kids can get the data so they can postpone school and work while at the same time the great Heero Yuy can’t find a clue.”
Midii reluctantly turned from the window to return to her computer, everyone was supposed to be engaged in tracking the weather virus but so far with no luck. Still, it was rather amusing to hear Diarmid say aloud what they were all thinking. Was the great Heero Yuy being distracted by impending fatherhood?
“Perhaps you have an idea on how to stop this yourself Agent Walker,” a cold voice asked.
Diarmid shrugged and Midii watched his chin jut out stubbornly. She was somehow impressed by his seeming lack of intimidation but as she looked at Heero in the doorway a wave of sick fear washed over her erasing all other feeling. Heero just didn’t make unannounced visits to her office. There was something wrong.
There was no clue on his face but she doubted she’d ever see Heero’s façade crack, despite all the joking among the ranks that becoming a parent was changing him. If that was indeed true then only Relena knew it. He was dressed in his formal Preventer uniform, the one both he and Trowa favored, black silk tie knotted perfectly at his throat and contrasting starkly with the crisp khaki shirt beneath. His deep forest jacket was perfectly creased and showed off his slender muscular frame in a way that drew admiring glances from female staff members.
Trowa, her mind screamed, something had happened to Trowa. Diarmid saw her hands clench into fists, balling in the fabric of the black skirt she wore. His eyes slid upward to the V of her blouse and he could see her pulse beat jumping wildly with a primitive terror that he saw mirrored in her eyes. He tore his gaze from her to the man in the doorway but there was nothing in that expressionless face as far as he could tell to make her so afraid.
“Midii? What is it,” Walker asked, daring to slide his hand over one of her trembling ones.
Heero’s eyes narrowed imperceptibly, the majority of the time Duo’s gossipy chatter went right in one ear and then out the other. But the agent’s obvious strong emotional reaction to Midii’s distress brought something back.
“Tro’s got some competition,” Duo had said. There’d been amusement in his voice but also a silent plea for Heero himself to keep an eye on the situation.
“We need to talk Midii,” he said. “I’ve heard from Trowa.”
He saw her let out her breath in a visible sigh of relief and a touch of color came back into her pale cheeks, he hadn’t really thought what she might construe from his visit.
“Alone,” he said significantly, noticing how the man at her side looked to her first before obeying his order to get out. She could be like Relena in some ways, having such a strong effect on people, even someone like Trowa who he had thought above such temptation. But then again, fairness forced him to admit that Relena had a very similar effect on him. Relena’s intentions had always been pure however, while he doubted they’d ever know everything there was to know about Midii Une’s past.
As soon as the door had shut behind the reluctant Walker, Midii attacked.
“You scared me half to death! Is Trowa alright,” she demanded, rising from her chair, her blue-gray eyes sparking angrily.
“Perfectly fine,” Heero answered, having never really considered that Trowa was in danger. He was a Gundam pilot and a soldier that had no equal, except himself of course, and perhaps the others. Women, however, were prone to unnecessary fears it seemed. “I only thought it was fair to let you know that the situation has been resolved.”
“Richard is dead,” she whispered, the ghost of the young teen-aged girl she had been flinching. He hadn’t always been someone to fear and to dread. Once, a long time ago, she had cared very much. But as with everything in her life since she had been 10 years old her feelings for Nanashi came first. They always would. She shivered though, she had betrayed Richard and now he was dead.
“When is Trowa coming back,” she asked. She had to see him, had to know if there was any chance they could get things back to the way they had been before she’d gone to Brussels.
Heero shrugged and sat down in the straight chair across from Midii’s desk. “There are a lot of loose ends to tie up with Colonial authorities. Ichiban was wanted on some matters there as well and they’re still waiting on official identification of the remains.”
“When did all this happen,” Midii asked, suspicion edging her voice.
“A week ago tomorrow,” Heero said and Midii’s heart dropped. A week had gone by already and he hadn’t come back . . . she’d believed that as soon as he stopped Richard he would come back to her.
“There’s something else I’d like to discuss if you don’t mind,” he continued. “The shuttle pilots’ strike has been averted. All the papers were finally signed this morning.”
Midii nodded. “Agent Walker told me,” she said softly.
“What’s your professional opinion of his performance on this case, Mimi,” Heero asked.
“Ah, you knew then,” Midii said, hardly surprised.
“Mimi Dunn. It was hard not to know. If I hadn’t thought you could do it I’d have called you on it, but as it is the mission was a success,” he said. “What I don’t know is how much you’re responsible for. I need to know how far we can trust this agent’s skills.”
“He did a fine job but he still needs a guiding hand,” Midii admitted, brightening a little in light of the fact that Heero wasn’t angry about this at all. “Do you want me to work with him?”
“No,” Heero said shortly, thinking of Trowa and the stubborn look in the newcomer’s eyes when he looked at Midii. “I have something off colony in mind, he’ll be working with Duo on it.”
“That’s a good idea. He really wants this and with some work he’ll make a good addition to the agency,” Midii agreed. Yes, distance would be good. She liked Diarmid very much, his friendly open personality and obvious admiration were oddly comforting in Trowa’s absence, but there could never be anything but friendship in her heart for him or anyone else.
She returned to the window after Heero left her alone. “Trowa,” she whispered desperately, leaning her forehead against the cool glass and wrapping her arms around herself tightly. She wanted to be in his arms, feel him squeeze her until she gasped for breath.
Almost a month had gone by, a month full of paper work and red tape and frustration. Trowa looked out the window of Molly’s apartment at the falling snow. Her brothers were building a snow fort, enjoying the phenomenon of a snowstorm on the colony. The Operation Whiteout virus was spreading but aside from an increase in motor vehicle accidents and school closings it really wasn’t very harmful. People almost seemed friendlier, smiling at each other as the drifts piled higher. It made life on the colonies that much more like the Earth some of them had never even experienced.
The hydropower plant defied the beauty of the snow it seemed, it’s dirty gray hulk rising starkly above the piles of white. The weather was holding up the search for Ichiban’s body but Trowa wanted to go home now, he was tired of waiting. The suspense was turning to agony. He had to face Midii, had to see if she would forgive him for the things that had happened in Brussels. He ran his slender fingers across his face, he didn’t want to think of what he’d done or the things he’d said to her. But he knew he had to go back even if he wasn’t sure how he was going to approach her or what he was going to say. His mind fast-forwarded over that part every time, jumping ahead to a place when she would already have forgiven him, a time when he could wake up holding her close in his arms and feel her hair spread across his chest and her breath on his skin.
He felt a touch on his arm and looked down into a pair of cornflower blue eyes staring up at him full of concern. He sighed and whispered his thanks as she handed him a mug of steaming coffee. Those eyes weren’t as innocent as they had been when he’d met her. As he stared at the grim walls of the plant he was fiercely glad that Ichiban was dead. How could he ever have forgiven himself if something had happened to Molly? Already he regretted that her association with him had shown her an ugly side of the world that she hadn’t known existed.
With Midii he didn’t have to worry about things like that, she was like him; she’d seen so much and done so much. They were the same, that had been what attracted him to her in the first place. There had been a strange wonder in his soul so long ago when he brought her back to the mercenary camp. He had found someone like himself, someone lost and alone and forced to fight for their very existence.
“Oh Midii,” he thought. “I’ve been wrong about you so many times.” But that first impression had been the true one. They were the same and they needed each other.
He was going home.
Midii’s hand reached for the doorknob but she drew it back as unmistakable noises drifted from under the door. A smile that was part wistful and part amused crossed her face then disappeared again as she tiptoed back down the hallway.
As she stepped back outside, breathing deeply of the frigid January air her amusement fled only to be replaced by mild annoyance. Cathrine did have a bedroom of her own, with a lock on the door no less! You’d think those two would stop acting like a pair of horny teenagers and save their passion for behind closed doors.
“You’re just forgetting what it’s like to have someone you feel that way about,” she told herself. A little bit of Cathy and Wufei’s happiness seemed to touch her, let her hope that maybe someday she would feel that way again.
“Oh Trowa,” she thought longingly. “When are you coming back?”
What if he never does, a small voice taunted, striking sharp pain in her heart.
Stop that, she scolded herself, he will come back. But, some of the glow of Dorothy’s encouraging words had faded in light of the fact he was in no hurry to see her again. It had been a whole month since his mission had ended and he hadn’t contacted either her or Cathy. She sighed a little and trudged off through the glaze of snow, no real destination in mind, her only desire to leave the two lovers in peace for a bit.
He watched her walk away, alone in the dark. Her actions puzzled him, why hadn’t she stayed upstairs?
In this weather the street was deserted. Didn’t she realize there could be danger in the silent darkness? Even though Ichiban was dead he feared for her, she looked so frail and vulnerable. She was like one of the snowflakes that swirled around them, he was afraid she would melt at his touch. Their long absence from each other made her seem like an illusion. A snow maiden that would disappear perhaps when the sun touched her, too wonderful to be real. He followed after her silently, his eyes never leaving the slender form that preceded him. His heart pounded but now that she was so close he didn’t know how to approach her. Would she even want to set eyes on him again, after what he’d put her through?
He wondered if Dorothy had made good on her promise to open Midii’s eyes to just what kind of person he was. A man afraid to trust, afraid to love. But that wasn’t absolutely true, his feelings for her were strong enough to draw him back, to make him long to try again. And he had always loved her, though he hadn’t always gone about showing her in just the right way. Perhaps even now he should go away, leave her in peace, let her start again. She was safe and happy enough without him he supposed.
Trowa turned away. Not yet.
Midii glanced over her shoulder, unable to shake the eerie feeling that someone was silently following her. But there was nothing behind her but darkness. She shivered, but it was more than the cold.
“This is stupid,” she told herself, speaking aloud to break the silence. “Walking around in the cold, in the dark just because Cathy and Wufei have some weird couch fetish!”
She saw a church, lights glowing through the stained glass windows but the edifice held no comfort for her. She didn’t think she’d willingly step foot inside one again and she smiled to remember that at least Quatre and Dorothy planned a garden wedding. For them too the Cathedral in Brussels held long-lasting memories they wouldn’t want resurrected on their wedding day.
She glanced over her shoulder again but only the imposing stones of the church appeared behind her. There was no one there.
Eyes followed Midii once again. Tired eyes filled with determination. Fate had given him this second chance and he would not waste it. He had a promise to keep and destiny had brought her here, alone.
Cathrine gripped at the cushions of the couch, her head tipped back and a soft smile curving her lips as the silky strands of Wufei’s midnight hair slid over her and his lips pressed unerringly to the spots that pleased her most.
He was an intense lover, committing to memory every place on her body that set her trembling when he touched it. His black eyes lit with almost savage pride as a soft moan escaped her when his teeth tugged gently at her earlobe. His woman, his Cathrine, her sweet surrender lit a fire in him that only she could put out, but it was never gone completely. She burned like a smoldering ember inside him when they were apart, an ember that flared to a conflagration when they were together like this, alone in the dark. The firelight that glowed on the walls was like their passion, hot and flickering.
He couldn’t get enough of the fire that burned him but afterward was a thing to be savored as well. The soft glow of her love wrapping around him, the feeling of protectiveness and tolerance only she could awaken in him. It was a weakness to feel this way for her and yet it took courage too, to let her into his solitary life like this, to let himself feel for her what he had felt for no one before, not even his wife Meiran. That had been a marriage made by others, Cathrine was his choice, and she was the one who had unlocked the heart he’d never known he’d had.
Wufei studied her in the firelight, the flames made her ivory body seem to glow with warmth and it burnished the edges her reddish-brown hair till it seemed tipped with gold. When she turned her violet eyes on him they burned with purple fire in the light.
A sharp knock on the door broke through his reverie.
“Oh! It must be Midii,” Cathrine said, glancing at the clock guiltily. “I lost track of time.”
A pert, teasing smile appeared on her face as she winked at her lover and pulled her clothes on.
“Just a sec,” she called out. “We’re not decent yet.”
Wufei flushed, he loved her, but sometimes he didn’t quite understand her outspoken, matter-of-fact ways. But she and Midii were like sisters now that Trowa had run off and he guessed they must talk about everything. It was a disconcerting thought, to say the least.
He watched her scamper off toward the door as he buttoned his shirt rapidly, not wanting to see that amused look in Midii’s eyes or the sadness that never went away. The same sadness that he caught in Cathrine’s eyes when she thought he wasn’t looking. When would Trowa come to his senses and come back?
Love wasn’t something you should throw away. Even if your choice of lover was an annoying, unpredictable onna like Midii Une. Still, he gave a silent prayer of thanks that fate had given him someone like Cathrine. Her little peculiarities were small in comparison.
He heard her gasp and jumped to alert. With Midii and himself so closely attached to Preventers there was always a risk of sudden danger.
“Trowa,” he heard her shriek before she launched herself on the person at the door.
“Midii,” he said, his hand reaching out to grab her elbow and spin her around. “I’m back.”
“Diarmid,” she cried, reaching out and squeezing his hand. The smile on her face was genuine. “I missed you! When did you get back?”
“Just got in,” he said, grinning at the sight of her smile and the fact that she had missed him. “What are you doing out tonight . . . ahhh, don’t tell me, the apartment is doubling as a love nest again?”
Midii shrugged. “You said it, I didn’t!” Then she laughed. He thought how much he loved her laugh, it made her seem so sweet and childish.
“How went the mission,” she asked as they hurried through the snow to a small corner bar whose lights glowed warmly in the cold darkness.
“You won’t believe it,” he said as they slid into a booth. “It was a couple of 10-year-old kids hacking into the system. Thought they were playing computer games or something. They teamed me up with Duo Maxwell on L2. He scared those two boys good, but luckily they were just kids. They couldn’t do much harm at age 10 I suppose. And now we’ve got a good lead on stopping the virus everyywhere. It was fun while it lasted though, wasn’t it?”
Midii stared at him, her face pale and sad. A 10-year-old could do a lot of damage, she knew that first hand. A 10-year-old could commit crimes that would follow them their whole life and ruin any chance of happiness.
“Christ, Midii,” Diarmid said, noticing her expression, remembering rumors he’d heard about her past. “I’m such an idiot. Still, these kids were just goofing around. There was nothing sinister. We did check it out thoroughly of course.”
He cursed himself for bringing up unhappy memories. Her dismal face made his heart ache even as her nearness made desire flare in him. She was close enough to touch, he could feel the heat of her body near his and her hand rested so close beside his on the table. He’d missed her, Lord he had missed her. Her voice and the vision of her face carried in his heart the whole time he’d been away. Was she ready? He had to take a chance, he longed to kiss her and see her smile again as she had when he showed up.
Diarmid’s hand slipped over to cover her small one and she looked up, her blue-gray eyes flashing a warning which he ignored. He felt like he had been patient so long and now all he had to do was bend his head closer to hers and claim those pale pink lips.
“Midii . . . darling,” he breathed, one hand reaching to brush her cheek and pull her closer. He smiled and his nose brushed hers, she was holding her breath, he could tell and the little hand in his was cold when he rubbed his thumb over the back of it. He wanted to take her back to his apartment and cuddle up with her beneath the down comforter his mother had sent him when she heard about the snow. Christ, he could think of no better way to spend the rest of the winter than keeping her warm. Time stood still and he bent closer, already losing himself to visions of her in bed beside him under a mountain of blankets, her body curled beside his and he lost himself in those wide blue eyes. “I love you,” he whispered, letting his lips at last brush hers.
Heaven, he thought, exerting the lightest pressure on the soft lips beneath his as his hand slid into the silky mass of her hair.
“Oh Midii,” he murmured, moving his other hand around her waist to pull her against him.
“No, please,” she said, pushing at his chest and breaking off the kiss. Her blue-gray eyes shone with angry tears. “We had an agreement. You promised,” she said, her voice shaking.
“I couldn’t help it. I’m sorry,” Diarmid apologized hastily, shaken by the look in her eyes. “I love you Midii, I can’t stop how I feel. Duo told me that Ichiban is dead. But Trowa still hasn’t come back, has he?”
Midii stared at her hands and he saw a teardrop fall and land with a splash on the back of her hand, he reached over to grasp her hand but she pulled away.
“I have to leave,” she said dazedly, sliding out of the seat. “I’m sorry if I hurt you.”
“Midii at least let me drive you,” he begged, as he mentally cursed himself for blowing it all now and moving too fast when she was still hurting from Trowa’s failure to come home.
She shook her head. “I’ll walk,” she whispered.
“Like hell you will,” Diarmid said, grabbing her arm more roughly than he intended. “Don’t be stupid, let me call you a taxi at least.”
She nodded. Neither of them noticed the dark-haired man leaving the booth behind them, hands balled into fists in his pockets and a smile on his face.
He waited with her for the taxi to show up, an uncomfortable silence hanging between them.
“How about lunch tomorrow,” he ventured.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said, staring at the wet black marks on the floor left by snowy boots. The wind outside howled and snow swirled heavily in the air, transforming the night sky into a curtain of white.
She glanced out the window and saw the taxi pull up, the horn honked.
“Goodbye,” she said, pushing the door open and stepping out into the snowstorm.
“Oh Trowa, I can’t believe you’re home,” Cathrine said for the hundredth time, she clung to his arm happily as water for tea boiled noisily on top of the stove. Wufei hung back a bit, uncomfortable with Trowa’s return and his own new relationship with Cathrine. “Midii will be back soon. She’ll be so happy!”
The phone rang and Wufei volunteered to pick it up. Trowa raised an eyebrow. This was a surprise, Wufei so at home in Cathy and Midii’s apartment. He squelched the urge to smile, Cathy should have been a magician, not a knife-thrower, she had worked wonders with Wufei. But he couldn’t smile. Midii would be home soon and he wondered how she’d react to seeing him again. Was Cathy right? Could she possibly be happy to see him?
“That’s impossible,” Wufei said, his voice harsh and disbelieving. “You can’t mean he’s here on this colony? Sally, the man is dead.”
Trowa walked over to the vidscreen, the urgency of Wufei’s voice demanding his attention.
“What is it,” he asked, although part of him already knew. It was like a nightmare. He’d let down his guard and now he was out there.
“Ichiban’s alive,” Wufei said. “Heero said he was spotted on a routine surveillance tape at the spaceport. He came in on the same flight you did Trowa.”
Ichiban was out there.
And so was Midii.
The taxi driver was tall with wavy black hair. The snowflakes showed white against it as he opened the door for Midii. Diarmid watched him, his mind taking note of little except the fact that she was leaving, that she wanted nothing more to do with him. The driver shut the door behind her with a slam; she hadn’t even glanced at the man, in a hurry to get in the car and out of the snow. The tall, slender man, glanced over his shoulder, his golden eyes meeting Diarmid’s blue ones through the glass momentarily before he raced around the taxi and got in the driver’s seat.
As the bright yellow car pulled away from the curb, Diarmid turned and took a seat at the bar. “Irish whiskey,” he muttered when the bartender looked askance at him. “Just give me the whole bottle.”
He bolted down a shot, the liquor burning in his throat, as he remembered the brief sensation of her lips beneath his, the feel of her hair beneath his hands. Saw her walking away through the snow without a backward glance. Saw the eyes of the taxi driver glancing at him.
Golden eyes. Every morning before work they had briefings and he knew that face from the top of the list of the agency’s most wanted.
He got up from his seat so quickly he knocked over the bottle in front of him, the amber liquid pouring in a stream over the polished wood bar. Diarmid yanked on his coat and raced out the door, ignoring the protests of the outraged bartender.
“Midii,” he yelled at the empty street, before racing towards his own car to follow the taxi.
Relena let her fingers caress the velvet burgundy curtains that framed the dark windows as she watched for Heero to come home. She hated to admit the snow was beautiful. She missed Earth but she would never confess that to her husband. As Vice Foreign Minister it was a good example to make her home on the colonies and here she could be with Heero. In the depths of her heart she knew that was even more important to her than setting a good example.
She turned from the window and took a seat in front of the fire, its glow the only light in the darkened room. She smiled to herself as her fingers stroked the taut skin over her bulging stomach.
“Your papa wouldn’t be pleased to know that we’re admiring the snow,” she whispered, a slow maternal smile lighting her face. “It makes him very angry you know that he hasn’t stopped it yet. So it will just be our secret.”
She closed her eyes in contentment as a pair of familiar lips touched her cheek and a hand joined hers to rest on her stomach.
“Mmmmmmm, Heero,” she sighed as his strong fingers traveled over her shoulders, easing out the kinks and tension from her body.
“I brought you something,” he whispered, smiling a little at her groan of disappointment as he moved away to remove his snow-covered coat.
“Ooooh? What is it,” Relena asked, her eyes lighting expectantly as she took the small plastic bag from her husband.
He grabbed the bag back and shook his finger at her.
“Close your eyes and you’ll see,” he said.
Relena smiled, she loved when Heero succumbed to light-hearted teasing.
“I’ll beat you yet Dr. J,” she thought victoriously, she was winning her love over to his own humanity and the slow revelation of the inner Heero was sweet indeed.
She could hear him doing something to the sound system and after a minute soft, lilting oriental music filled the air. “Keep your eyes closed and relax,” Heero cautioned as he noticed her lids flutter.
Relena sighed happily as she felt him sit behind her on the floor before the fire, her body curling into his as if it had been designed to fit the curves of his body. The music was so beautiful, the distant flutes driving the last of the tension from her overtaxed body and letting her relax against her husband.
“Tonight,” he whispered in her ear. “We’re going to learn to breathe . . .
Midii pulled off her cream-colored leather gloves and smoothed the fingers in her lap before tucking them in her pockets. It was warm in the taxi, but she liked it, it was so cold outside. She sighed, maybe she had overreacted to Diarmid’s kiss. She had known how he felt, maybe it had been foolish of her to believe they could only be friends. She touched her fingers softly to her lips. The kiss had been pleasant, but that was all. She cared for him only as a friend. Her heart beat only for Trowa. She knew it always would, even if he never came back.
She pulled her gloves back on again, it was only a few blocks to the apartment, they’d be there in a minute. She raised her head to look out the window, the landmarks were unfamiliar and she realized that with her time spent daydreaming they should have reached the apartment long before this. Her eyes shifted to the rearview mirror and they were met by the glance of a pair of familiar eyes.
“Ma toute douce, so you finally notice me,” he said.
“Where could she be,” Trowa asked Cathrine and Wufei frantically. He’d been with her and left her out there. This couldn’t be happening, it was a nightmare he would wake up from, it had to be. It had been more than an hour, she should be back.
“Calm down,” Wufei said. “She’s alright. There’s a bar near headquarters, she goes there sometimes, a lot of the Preventers go there after hours. I’ll call over there and they’ll keep her there till we can get over there ourselves.”
But the phone rang again before he could make the call.
“There’s been a murder,” Sally said, her face pale. “A taxi driver. The company says he was on his way to make a pickup at the bar near headquarters.”
“Trowa’s here. We’ll get right on it,” Wufei said.
“Is Midii there,” Sally asked anxiously. “Shouldn’t someone stay with her and Cathrine with Ichiban out there?”
“We don’t know where Midii is,” Wufei said tersely, terminating the connection and following Trowa out the door. He had a bad feeling that she was in that hijacked taxi and that Ichiban was the driver.
“Richard,” Midii gasped, blinking her eyes in disbelief.
“Thank you for not saying you thought I was dead,” he said, grinning. “You should have known me better than that anyway.”
Midii’s eyes hardened, anger momentarily dispelling the inevitable fear and shock. He had taken everything away from her, he was the reason Trowa had left her behind. The cause of the headaches that would probably plague her as long as she managed to live. The cause of poor Quatre’s injuries, suffered because he’d tried to save her. If he thought he was going to kill her that easily now, he was mistaken. A deep survival instinct surged inside her as she stared at him and silently weighed her options.
“Speechless Midii-chan,” he asked. “You won’t be much of a loss to the Preventers. You’ve lost your touch, you had so many people following you tonight and you didn’t notice any of us.”
She shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. Could this really be happening?
He turned to her again and she jerked back against the seat as he stroked her cheek with the tips of his black-gloved fingers.
‘It’s really me. You’re not the only lucky one Cherie. Don’t you think I felt the same when I saw your pretty face up on those screens and heard them talking about miracles? I suppose you know now how I must have felt,” he said
She let her eyes go wide and grabbed his shoulder.
“Richard,” she shrieked. “Look out.”
He instinctively stepped on the brakes and the car slid on the icy road, the tires squealing as Ichiban fought to control the spinout.
“I still know a few tricks myself, you bastard,” she said, pushing the door of the moving vehicle door open and jumping out, rolling to avoid injuring herself. She picked herself up and ran for the woods, her feet sinking deep in soft snow.
“Fuck,” Ichiban cursed, as the car continued to slide the harder he stepped on the brakes, he spun the wheel in the direction Midii had disappeared and let the car slam into a tree at the side of the road. He pulled the gun out of his coat and took aim at the disappearing trail of blond hair that was quickly lost in the dense stand of trees at the side of the highway.
He smiled a bit as he ran after her, hearing the crunch of her boots on the icy path cut through the trees. This was much more satisfying after all than shooting her like a sitting duck in that taxi. It was cold out here and he’d last much longer than she would, especially if she’d injured herself at all jumping out of the car. He knew cold, he could stand anything. This wasn’t nearly as bad as when that hydroplant worker had pulled him from that icy water, the cold then had been all-encompassing. He picked up his pace and was rewarded with a sight of her running form ahead of him in the distance. He took aim at a tree next to her and pulled the trigger, laughing to see her startle and try to put on speed.
Diarmid’s car screeched and spun on the icy pavement as he caught sight of the abandoned taxi on the side of the road. He pulled to the side and jumped out, landing mid-calf deep in snow; the storm was already erasing the footprints he picked up in the beam of his flashlight. The sharp report of a gunshot spurred him to action as he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. He had to reach Sally; he had to reach somebody . . .
“Yes,” Trowa said punching the car’s speakerphone button, his hands clenched painfully, as memories of the dead prostitute’s hair spread over the dried brown rose petals haunted him.
“Agent Walker called in,” Sally said. “She was in the taxi. I’m sorry Trowa. He found it abandoned at Mile marker 16 on the eastern highway. He’s pursuing on foot. He’ll do his best . . .but . . .”
Trowa hung up, he knew what she was thinking.
That it was already too late.
Midii’s side burned with a cramp as she forced herself to keep running. “He’s playing with me,” she thought as he kept a measured distance from her, firing his gun at the objects around her and laughing as she tried to run faster. The cold air burned in her lungs and stung her face. She wondered if there was any way to reason with him, but if he hadn’t used his second chance at life to simply disappear but instead had chosen to come after her she knew that idea was hopeless.
Midii stumbled as her legs tired but she pushed herself back up and kept running almost mindlessly as a shot rushed by her head in whoosh of air. She could feel the tiny amount of heat from the speeding bullet going by. The report of the gun hung in the frozen, silent woods. It was like being alone in a nightmare, all she could do was run and run but the deep snow held her back and made it so hard to run.
“I can’t keep it up. It’s no use,” she thought desperately, gasping for breath as she turned a corner in the path, the twist obscuring her from his view momentarily. She darted her eyes from side to side and noticed a break in the trees. Another, less-used path she thought, desperate hope motivating her. She had no choice but to try it, she thought as she made a sharp sudden turn. Ice-glazed branches hit her in the face as she ran through the bushes and tripped over a tree root that jutted up from the floor of the woods. A frantic shriek escaped her lips as she fell forward into a dark emptiness, there seemed to be nothing beneath her feet and she fell finally hitting the wall of a ravine and tumbling down the little hill, trying desperately to catch herself with her hands and failing.
“Where are you, you little bitch,” Ichiban shouted, shining his flashlight over the snow and through the trees, she’d disappeared around a corner and when he’d followed she was nowhere in sight. He looked at the path ahead of him and it was covered with pure drifts of snow, no footprints to show that Midii had passed.
“You can’t hide, Midii,” he called into the silent woods. He’d had enough, it was cold and his breath rasped painfully in and out of his lungs from running. But the snowy woods were momentarily silent.
Then he heard it, a terrified little scream some yards behind him. He smiled in a predatory way and turned slowly. It was all over now.
Diarmid heard the distant scream and picked up his pace although his heart was already pounding from running through the deepening snow.
Ichiban heard the sound of running feet and took aim at where the figure’s shoulder would be. He wanted to kill her slowly, look into those frightened eyes and see the expression there when he took her life. She had been so much trouble, ruining his chances at power and wealth and then being the cause of his being stalked by that madman Preventer of hers for endless months. It only made it worse that she was someone that he had once loved.
The bullet burned through Diarmid’s shoulder, striking him as he turned the corner.
“Shit,” Ichiban shouted, frustration cracking his voice. “Who the fuck are you? This is getting goddamned ridiculous. It shouldn’t be that difficult to kill one woman.”
Diarmid was silent, his hand searching in the snow for his dropped weapon as Ichiban stalked toward him. The other man’s words told him Midii wasn’t dead and if she was running ahead of them this would improve her chances.
“Ah,” Richard said, peering down at the fallen man with vague recognition. “The idiot from the bar. You let her walk all over her you know. Midii would never want anyone like you, she likes them tall and quiet and above all green eyes, like Preventer Barton’s. You wanted to be her hero, hmm? I almost feel sorry for you. We’re in the same boat you and I. I loved her once, maybe I still do. At least I’ll be doing you a favor, putting you out of your misery.”
He lifted the gun and pointed at Diarmid’s chest. Diarmid raised his hands in an attitude of surrender, he’d failed and there was no use arguing the point. He shut his eyes and a shot rang out.
“Christ,” Diarmid shouted as Ichiban fell forward onto him, painfully knocking into his wounded shoulder.
“Where’s Midii,” Trowa shouted, yanking Ichiban up by the back of the coat and shaking his limp body. “Where is she?”
Wufei helped Diarmid up. “Do you know where she is,” Wufei asked eyeing Trowa’s outburst warily.
Diarmid shook his head. “He hadn’t caught up with her yet though, she’s still alive, she must be. I heard her scream before I got to him.”
He looked at Trowa and his bright blue eyes locked with the other man’s emerald ones. “Did you finally kill the motherfucker this time?”
Trowa dropped the body and fired two more shots into it for good measure. He looked back at Diarmid and nodded.
The sound of gunfire woke Midii up and she tried to get to her feet, crying out softly in pain as her ankle collapsed beneath her. She reached up and touched her forehead with her gloved hand, feeling it smear through wetness. She peered at her fingers in the darkness but though she couldn’t see, she knew it was blood. Her teeth chattered from cold and fear. Richard was up there, he was shooting into the woods like a crazy person looking for her and she had no way to run anymore. She huddled next to the rock and sat as silently as she could, praying he wouldn’t find her.
So, this was Trowa Barton, the infamous Gundam pilot/circus clown/Midii’s true love. True to form he had come dashing in to save the day, hell he’d even saved his sorry hide, Diarmid thought bitterly. He cut a hell of a figure in his Preventer uniform too, guaranteed to make the girls swoon, he thought sarcastically. Maybe he could have even liked him as he liked Duo and even Wufei here to some degree. But Midii loved him and so Diarmid hated him. She loved him and he treated her love like it was garbage he was too good to pick up. What wouldn’t he give to have the chances this man had had with her?
He shook himself. Now was not the time to ponder his feelings for Trowa Barton. They had to find Midii, she could be hurt and it was so cold and she had been out here longer than any of them . . . all because he’d been stupid and tried to kiss her.
Trowa trudged off ahead on the path without a word to Wufei or Diarmid. “Midii,” he called, shining his flashlight carefully on both sides of the path, but the heavily falling snow had already obscured any footprints she and Ichiban had left.
“Midii! Please answer me,” he called again.
Shit, Diarmid thought. The desperation even in the high and mighty Trowa’s voice struck fear in his heart. Maybe Ichiban had hit her without realizing it. Why wouldn’t she answer?
“I’m alright,” he said, shaking Wufei off and ignoring the burning pain in his shoulder. “We’ve got to split up and find her fast. Can you get more people in here?”
Wufei nodded and got on the phone to Sally as Diarmid went in the opposite direction of Trowa and shone his light on both sides of the path as the other man was doing. Ichiban had believed she was back here, that was why he had thought he was her . . .
Midii cowered near a boulder, shivering violently. She heard the sound of her name, but it was a trick, it had to be a trick. He wanted to find her, to kill her. The moon shone eerily on the glimmering, ice-coated branches of the trees and she shut her eyes tightly.
How ironic, she thought, beginning to sob, he sounds just like Trowa. She covered her mouth with her gloved hands to keep him from hearing her cry.
Next time on The Price of Redemption . . . will Trowa or Diarmid find Midii before it’s too late?
PS Sorry to those who thought it was cheesy that Ichiban survived -_-; it was necessary to the plot, I know it wasn’t very original, it’s such a handy plot contrivance, guess that’s why it happens so often. Gomen!