“Redemption’s a good word. It means to buy back doesn’t it, and you want to buy back the past so that you can reshape it in a way that’ll fit your present.”—Susan Howatch, The Wheel of Fortune
The Price of Redemption
By Midii Une
She felt his hair soft beneath her chin as he clung to her slender waist and pillowed his head on her chest.
Could he really want to hear what she had to say? Was there a way to say it and still be able to meet that piercing green gaze? And could she hear what he had to say, bear the pain that he had faced in this world, because of her . . .
“OH. MY. GOD.”
Duo winced and burrowed into his pillow as Hilde’s shriek penetrated his sleep-dazed brain. Giggling and munching sounds invaded the sacred silence of the dead of night and he dared to peek from under his arm at his wife.
Hilde was curled comfortably in an old armchair and was staring avidly at the vidscreen while chomping noisily on an apple.
Duo turned one sleepy eye from the oblivious Hilde to the digital clock on the nightstand.
2:45 a.m. What the hell . . .
He raised his head to look into her eyes and she was too tired and dazed to hide herself, her true self, from him this time. Trowa could see fear and indecision in the cloudy blue-gray eyes that stared back into his. He caught her face easily in his hands as she tore her gaze from his.
“Don’t run from me Midii. Don’t be afraid . . . “
The lies and excuses her weary mind had been attempting to conjure up fled at his words and she was left with only the truth to fall back on.
Midii’s heart thumped nervously. He would see her, really see her now and the thought of it was more frightening than any danger she had faced in all the years of the war and in the turbulent time after war when peace struggled for its foothold. Once he heard it all there could be no going back.
“I—I don’t know where to begin,” she stuttered. “I don’t know what you want.”
She felt heat in her cheeks as his eyes seemed to probe down into her soul, her exhaustion leaving her defenseless.
He sighed, he wished she knew that nothing she could say tonight would change his feelings for her. He had made her afraid of him. He wanted to know because he wanted her, because he was ready for her and everything her past had made her.
“I—“ she began again but he shushed her with a kiss. Trowa could feel her holding herself stiffly, catching her breath. His fingers traced the line of her jaw and ran softly along the column of her throat until he felt her relax and breathe again.
“After what happened,” Trowa said softly, so quietly that she had to strain to hear, “I thought I hated you.”
There was no need to clarify the event he was talking about. Her betrayal, the catalyst of all that was between them.
“Before that I had never felt any strong emotion but what you did hurt so much that I froze you out. I wanted to run as far away from you as I could and after awhile I succeeded. I shut you out, everything about you, the good and the bad, the feel of your hand in mine, your smile. You were the only one who had ever smiled at me, Midii . . . I thought I had forgotten but I just closed myself off to hide the pain.”
“I drifted and joined up with another group of mercenaries. I didn’t even want to know their names or what they fought for. It was just an opportunity to work, to eat and have somewhere to sleep. And then they came . . . Ralph and Chris.”
His voice cracked and Midii felt as if her heart were breaking. This was torture, to hear him pour his pain out like this. “It’s all my fault, all my fault,” her mind whirled endlessly as she stared at him.
“Oh Midii,” he continued. “That’s when I knew that I shouldn’t have left you.”
“What,” she whispered incredulously, disbelief.
“They came and they were like us, so much like us. I saw Chris first and she looked so much like you. I probably scared her, even though I guess she was older than I was. I looked at her, glared at her in that way Heero has is more like it, and I saw you and I still hated you. She started crying and I saw Ralph smile at her and brush away the tears and it clicked.”
“Who were these people,” Midii asked, feeling his hand close around hers.
“Just two kids, just like us. Their colony was destroyed and he watched out for her, he took her with him Midii. I didn’t see it then, most of the time he teased her or ignored her but he always protected her. I was only 12 or 13. God I don’t even know how old I am,” Trowa said, rolling over to lay beside her on his back with his head cushioned on his folded arms. He stared at the ceiling as if he could see it all again.
“It ripped something open in my heart and I remembered you and suddenly I wished so hard that you were still with me,” he confessed.
“Oh Trowa,” she whispered, lifting herself on her elbow and looking down at him, her hair falling forward a little.
He took a strand between his fingers and held it to keep her face close above his. “You kept moving me Midii, like a piece on a chessboard. You took me away from the trap I was in with the Captain. We were achieving nothing, I see that now, it was inevitable that they would lose and we all would have been destroyed . . .
“But it was me that did it Trowa,” she reminded him, lowering her lids.
“I haven’t forgotten,” he assured her. “And then you did it again. I couldn’t stand to be there anymore. Every day there was Chris and Ralph and I couldn’t stand it. All I wanted was someone to protect and I felt it so much, the fact that I had no one. They all admired me but I just wanted to be like them. I kept seeing what it would have been like if I hadn’t left you there. That’s when I left and went to space. Now I see it’s like you were always with me. If it wasn’t for the memory of you I would have stayed on Earth and forgotten about space but the ghost of what we could have had drove me there and I became a Gundam pilot.”
“You really thought of me sometimes,” Midii asked wonderingly, letting him pull her down against him. She shut her eyes tiredly as she felt his hand tangle in her hair.
“You slipped away again when I found Cathrine. She was so different than you Midii. After that I’d see blonde hair in a crowd and always look twice but I never thought I could find you again and eventually it was as if I didn’t even know what I was looking for.”
He laughed suddenly, the sound startling her.
“What,” she asked, a tentative smile touching her lips.
“I even think it was you that drew me to Quatre. Now don’t laugh, I know it’s weird, but when I first saw him stepping out of his Gundam and the sun shone off his hair I trusted him. He reminded me of you and still I trusted him, it was as if I had that day we met to do all over again and I did it the same.”
His arm tightened around her. “When I saw you in that dark little apartment everything I felt for you clashed with what I’d started feeling for Cathrine, the other pilots had become my friends and when you said you’d still been spying Midii I panicked. You wanted to talk to me then, you tried to tell me the truth but I couldn’t hear it. I’m sorry.”
Relena twirled a strand of dark gold hair between her fingers as she leaned back against a pile of satin pillows on the chaise lounge in her bedroom. She smiled at Hilde’s nearly hyperactive reaction to her news about Midii and Trowa’s reunion as she struggled to find a more comfortable position before returning her attention to the vidscreen.
“Where’s Heero,” Hilde asked.
“Running interference with Sally for Trowa,” Relena giggled. Poor Sally, she only wanted what was best and it really wasn’t nice to laugh at her.
“I know,” Hilde said suddenly, bouncing in front of the screen and mumbling with her mouth full of apple. “Let’s call Dorothy and Cathrine!!”
“Isn’t it rather late,” Relena wondered, there were time differences on all the colonies after all and even she had a difficult time keeping straight what time it was on each of them.
“It’s never too late for girl talk,” Hilde vowed loudly, as the unfortunate Duo pulled the pillow closer around his ears. “This is just too romantic for words!! This calls for chocolate and an all-hands get-together.”
“Well,” Relena hesitated. “I suppose Dorothy would like to know and Cathrine wouldn’t mind an update . . .”
“You don’t need to justify yourself Relena,” Hilde scolded. “Look I’m already setting up the four-way connection, you can blame it on me.”
Dorothy’s face contorted into a mask of disbelief as the girls filled her in on the latest dish. “No! I refuse to believe it. You are not telling me my maid of honor has a sprained ankle. What have I ever done to deserve friends like all of you,” the bride-to-be pouted. “Relena gets pregnant and now this!”
The girls heard Quatre’s voice in the background.
“Is everything all right darling?”
“Oh fine! Just fine Quatre,” she hissed sarcastically. “You don’t want to know. I’ll come back to bed in a few minutes,” she called, blowing a kiss off screen.
“OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH! Back to bed eh, did we disturb you Dorothy,” Hilde smirked.
“I won’t even dignify that remark with an answer,” Dorothy growled, lifting her chin.
“But are you sure everything’s going all right,” Cathrine asked, voicing the $64 million question on everyone’s mind. “I wish I knew what was going on. Wufei hasn’t told me anything. Why can’t men find out the really important information? That’s what I want to know!”
“Relena’s right there! She could find out,” Hilde suggested, as all three pairs of eyes turned pleadingly on the Vice Foreign Minister.
Relena shook her head slowly. “Oh Hilde, girls, I don’t think that’s a good idea . . .”
“Oh come on!! Please? Just tiptoe down the hall and listen at the door Relena. I’m dying here. I gotta know what they’re doing,” Hilde begged, an evil grin lighting her face as Duo groaned and rolled over.
“I really don’t think I—
Pagan entered Relena’s room bearing a large crystal glass of hot milk on a silver tray.
“Releeeeeeeeena! Are you paying attention,” Hilde questioned impatiently.
“Err, sorry. Pagan just came in,” Relena apologized.
“Ha! Pagan! That’s it,” Dorothy said.
The elderly butler winced at the sound of Dorothy’s voice. His memories of Miss Catalonia’s time in the Cinq Kingdom were none too pleasant. No wonder Mr. Heero made it his business to stay clear of the bedroom when Miss Relena was occupied on the video communicator. A quick glance at the machine showed him the three anxious faces of Miss Relena’s friends gazing at him thoughtfully.
“What do you mean Dorothy,” Relena asked, reaching for her hot milk and thanking Pagan graciously as she slowly sipped the calming beverage. Pagan had the feeling he should beat a hasty retreat from Miss Relena’s boudoir and started backing slowly from the room.
“Why Miss Relena,” Dorothy said. “Don’t play the innocent! You can send Pagan on our little mission of espionage. Midii won’t be angry! How could she get mad? It would be like the pot calling the kettle black!”
“I don’t know what they could be doing any way,” Relena protested, but she signaled Pagan to stay with an elegant hand gesture. “Midii’s hurt her ankle and she must be exhausted . . .”
“I’d like to see the day I was too exhausted to get it on with a hot guy like Trowa Barton,” Hilde giggled unthinkingly. “Have I ever told you guys I could fall for that clown?”
“Several times,” the others chorused tiredly, wondering exactly what Hilde was on tonight.
“Don’t change the subject Relena,” Dorothy glared. “Just send Pagan along to see what’s happening, he could just say he’s checking or something.”
“Miss Relena,” Pagan said, his eyebrows rising in startled surprise. “I don’t think . . .
“You know,” Dorothy said contemplatively. “Rasid never hesitates when Quatre asks him to do something. Loyalty like that is certainly hard to find.”
She stared at Pagan from the vidscreen and the faithful Peacecraft servant bristled angrily.
Was Miss Dorothy saying that that wild-haired barbarian was more loyal than he? It was inconceivable!! Hadn’t he served the Peacecraft family for more than 50 years? Hadn’t he brought Queen Katerina hot milk just like this every night when she was expecting Prince Milliardo and Princess Relena?
“Injustice,” Pagan thought angrily to himself. Out loud he said, “Miss Relena, I’ll just go check and see if Mr. Trowa and Miss Midii need anything.”
As the elderly man left the room the four girls giggled uncontrollably.
“Oooooooooh! I wonder what he’ll find out,” Hilde gasped.
Midii rolled off Trowa’s shoulder and lay back tiredly on the feather pillows. She frowned, the damn bed was so soft she could hardly move in it. Hadn’t Heero and Relena ever heard the wisdom about firm mattresses? Still, it was reather heavenly to be here in this room where everything was so warm and safe after the icy cold terror. It all seemed so far away. All she needed now was Trowa’s forgiveness. But he hadn’t really forgiven her yet. He hadn’t heard her confession.
Trowa wondered what was going on in Midii’s head. She looked like she was just going to curl up and go back to sleep.
She peered at him beneath her lashes and saw him watching her expectantly but she kept her eyes closed. Of course what he had told her had been a story without reproach in her eyes. She had deserved to be left behind after what she’d done, she had even wanted to die. She remembered the terrible anxiety and indecision until suddenly the attack was on them and there was nothing she could do to stop it. But at least Nanashi was safe, he had the cross, the cross meant to protect her . . .
Trowa shook his head in disbelief as he noticed Midii shiver beneath the pile of blankets. It was almost as hot as a sauna in here, how could she still be cold? Women were certainly a mystery. He unbuttoned his shirt and tossed it aside before pulling the snug white T-shirt over his head and brushing his hair back into place. She made a little contented sound as he crawled under the blankets and pulled her against him, rubbing her cheek against the smooth skin of his chest, tight over hard muscles.
“Go to sleep Midii,” he whispered. “I shouldn’t have started this tonight . . .
Her eyes fluttered open. “No, I have to tell you, or I might never be brave enough again,” she said. She moved against him and he felt her arms tighten convulsively around his waist.
“I love you,” he said, suddenly certain of that elusive fact. “No matter what Midii.”
She shook her head. “Not yet,” she said, terrified that her story of lost hope and abandoned virtue might still be enough to close his heart against her again.
As she gathered her courage to speak a soft knock on the door startled both of them. It seemed like they were alone in the world instead of in a house inhabited by their friends.
The door opened and Relena’s faithful servant poked his head in.
“I came to inquire if Miss Midii needs anything,” Pagan said, studying the floor and wondering how he’d let Miss Dorothy provoke him into this. The awkwardness of the situation was thick enough to cut with a knife. The two young people were obviously having an important heart-to-heart talk. He smiled benevolently at the pale young girl on the bed. It was good to see that the horrors of that terrible war, everything that had started with the horrible assassination of Miss Relena’s parents was finally being erased and people were finding happiness with each other again. Still, he couldn’t help thinking to himself that Miss Midii looked definitely in need of a glass of hot milk. The little girl was definitely too thin and pale and she had been out in that cold so long Mr. Heero had said.
Midii gave the glass of hot milk a questionable look but she was determined to drink it. That nice old Pagan had been sweet to want to bring it to her and it helped stall the moment when she would have to tell Trowa everything. She couldn’t help thinking though that a generous glass of brandy would have been more fortifying on this occasion.
“They were in bed drinking hot milk??!?!? Bleah!”
Hilde wrinkled her cute little nose in disappointment at the uninteresting results of Pagan’s spy mission. Her facial contortions made the other girls start laughing at her silly antics. Even Dorothy was somewhat amused.
“I think you’re overtired,” Cathrine said finally, as their laughter died down. “What time is it there anyway?”
Hilde looked towards the clock but a dark figure blocked the way. The slender, dark-haired girl gulped.
“Heh, heh,” she laughed weakly as her cornflower blue eyes met a sparking pair of violet ones. “I gotta go girls. Keep me updated on the lovebirds, okay?”
Before Relena could promise, Hilde’s connection blanked out.
“How rude,” Dorothy said as she caught a sleepy-eyed Quatre yawning in the doorway and looking at his watch. “But, actually, look at the time . . . Relena now you make sure Midii does NOT walk on that ankle! She has to be up and around in time for my wedding! Ciao ladies.”
Cathrine promised Relena she would stop by in the morning and bring Midii some soup.
“Poor Midii,” Relena laughed to herself as she rose from the lounge and headed to the bathroom to brush her teeth.
“I could fall for that clown,” Duo said in a squeaky voice. “Sheesh Hilde, it’s 3:30 in the morning and I have to hear you squealing over Trowa?”
“Awww Duo,” Hilde protested, stepping out of her jeans and searching for her nightshirt. “Just cause I think Trowa’s cute doesn’t mean anything!! You’re my special guy, aren’t you?”
“Damn straight,” Duo pouted. “What’s going on out there anyway? I take it from all you girls’ squealing that Trouble finally nabbed her man.”
“We can only hope,” Hilde said. “Oh Duo, Relena told me all about it. It was sooo romantic. He kidnapped her from the hospital . . .”
“Whoa! Hospital? Is everybody all right,” Duo asked.
“Sure,” said Hilde disinterestedly getting back to the heart of the story. “Trowa’s so sweet, he just swept her off to Heero and Relena’s mansion and now I just bet they’re kissing and making up.”
She sighed heavily before climbing into bed and stared at the ceiling dreamily.
A wicked gleam lit Duo’s deep violet eyes. He slid out of bed and crept to the foot of the mattress.
“Grarrrrr,” Duo yelled, leaping up and pouncing on his petite wife like a cat on a mouse. He grabbed her slender wrists in one hand and pulled them up over her head.
“Duo, no!! I wanna go to sleep,” Hilde protested weakly, struggling against his iron grip.
“I wanted to go to sleep around midnight,” he said ominously. “But someone was on the phone claiming it was ‘never too late’ for girl-talk.”
“Eep,” Hilde said.
“Mwahahahahahaha,” Duo chortled. “Shinigami says it’s ‘never too late’ for tickle torture.”
“DUOOOOOO,” Hilde shrieked as he tickled her mercilessly until she was breathless.
He collapsed on top of her, nuzzling his face in her neck and nibbling her earlobe.
“Mmmm Duo,” she groaned. “You’re so romantic . . .”
“Damn straight Babe,” he said as his hand slipped beneath the soft, well-worn cotton T-shirt she wore to bed. “Trowa’s got nothing on me.”
Next time on The Price of Redemption . . . Diarmid mopes and Midii tells all.