The Price of Redemption
by Midii Une
“Meet me in the bar downstairs. I need a long hot bubble bath first so make it in one hour,” Midii told Wufei, closing the door in his face.
“I don’t drink,” he muttered to himself.
She cracked the door open again. “I’m sure they’ll be glad to serve you an ice water,” she pointed out, slamming the door again.
She leaned against the door and sighed. Midii thought how much she missed Stefan. She had never thought she’d feel his death so intensely and it wasn’t only the guilt about the part she’d played in causing it. It was the feeling of security she’d had when working with him. Deep down inside she’d always known that he’d watch out for her no matter what and it had been true. Now, with a new mission about to commence, worries she’d never even considered kept buzzing around in her brain. Her main concern being Chang Wufei. Sally had been so wrong to send him as her back up. She physically cringed at the faux pas. The man obviously wasn’t cut out for undercover work.
She looked in the mirror, surprising herself momentarily when she saw her reflection, the curling strawberry blonde hair that fell to just above her shoulders and the unfamiliar bright blue eyes. She was slowly getting used to it and she had to admit she liked the way her hair curled more now that it was shorter. Tonight was very important, a very delicate situation. One she didn’t want her grim shadow involved in. After a split-second of indecision Midii hastily changed clothes and slipped out the door.
This she had to do alone.
Her eyes scanned the small but crowded bar. She blended in easily with the young and well-dressed Belgian clientele that had gathered there to relax after a hard day’s work. Finally her gaze fell upon someone she recognized and adrenaline charged through her. No matter how hard she tried to change, this way of life still came as naturally to her as breathing. Midii admitted that part of her wanted to succeed even more than usual because of the last botched mission. She owed it to herself and Stefan and their previously sterling reputation. Thoughts of Trowa slid to the far back of her mind as Marguerite Doce took over.
He was just a little older than she was and he was someone who had known Midii very well, nearly as well as Stefan and in some ways they had been closer. She took a seat a few chairs down from him at the bar. She swiveled in the chair until her back was to the bartender, her elbows propped against the bar and one leg crossed nonchalantly over the other. She sent a challenging stare at the handsome young Eurasian man, daring him to get up and talk to her. Finally his eyes met hers and she forced herself to keep from smiling triumphantly as he almost choked on his drink before regaining his aplomb and returning her stare, finally getting up and walking over to her.
“What’s the matter Ichiban,” she asked. “You look as if you’ve seen a ghost and definitely as if you could use another drink.” She signaled the bartender to bring him another.
“Midii,” he breathed, downing the liquor in a quick, practiced gulp. “The rumors of your death were greatly exaggerated I see. Is Niente with you?”
“He is dead,” she said shortly, the confident mask slipping a bit.
“Mezzo put the word out that the two of you had turned traitor,” the young dark-haired man said, his hand darting out to grasp her wrist.
“He made a mistake,” Midii said, making no attempt to pull from his grip and looking unconcerned by his accusations. She stood and leaned in close, raking her nails gently over his cheek. “And he is also dead.”
Ichiban smiled, turning his face to press a kiss on the palm that ran down the side of his face.
“My heartless Midii, such tender sympathy for your fallen comrades,” he said. “Perhaps that is why you are still alive? Still only looking out for number one?”
“Yes, exactly” she said, a tiny shiver going through her at the familiar touch of his lips on her skin. “Number one.”
It had amused them long ago that both of their names could be translated to mean the number one.
“It’s good to see that some things don’t change,” he continued, his odd golden eyes
raking over her figure suggestively. “Except for the better. How have you been and more importantly where have you been? As I said, everyone believes you were killed on Corsica.”
“Perhaps that’s true in a way,” Midii said. “I’ve been laying low, Preventers caught on to me. Unfortunately, I botched the mission. Midii Une is no more, I am Marguerite Doce now.”
She smiled ruefully and touched her hair. “You see the lengths they’ve driven me to? I have had to assume a whole new identity.”
His hand slid around the curve of her waist. “Not to worry,” he reassured her. “You are still the loveliest woman in the room and unfortunately you know that only too well.”
She moved a bit away from his touch. “You told me you were no longer interested, Ichiban,” purposely adding a bitter tone to her voice.
“It’s been nearly four years Midii, and I must admit that I suddenly find you intriguing again,” he admitted, moving closer.
“That is too bad,” she said. “Because now I find that I am no longer interested in you. Enough with the flattery Ichiban, I know something is up and I want in. When Stefan came back into my life a few months ago I had nothing and in these months of hiding I’ve come very close to spending all that he had left just to survive. I do not like being desperate. Can you use me or not? Be assured I will find someone who can.”
“How do I know if I can trust you,” he asked, his eyes narrowing. “You admit yourself you botched a mission. I am not a fool *Marguerite*. Do not play me for one.”
Midii shrugged and slipped off the barstool as if his rejection of her offer meant nothing to her whatsoever. Her eyes, tinted bright blue with contact lenses, flicked over him conveying a sense of missed opportunities--on his part.
“Sayonara then,” she whispered, nudging herself past him in the crowded bar.
A tall, dark-haired woman across the room watched as the man got off the bar stool in a swift fluid motion and grabbed at the girl who was walking away from him. She could see the anger on other woman’s face as he spun her to face him and kissed her possessively on the lips.
Midii let the tension out of her body and returned the kiss, feeling his tongue slip past her lips and explore her mouth.
“What will you do, my flower, my Marguerite, to make me trust you,” Ichiban said, pulling away but holding her eyes with his. Part of him realized that he really should let her walk away but his own self-confidence and memories of the past overwhelmed his common sense. Besides he could use her help.
Midii opted for a non-emotional response to his less than subtle gesture. She reached past him and picked up a cocktail napkin, deliberately wiping her mouth and then slowly, painstakingly reapplying her lipstick while looking in a compact mirror.
“I won’t sleep with you, if that’s what you’re thinking,” she said coolly, turning her eyes on him and snapping the compact shut. “I never make the same mistake twice. If you are not interested in my services I’ll take them elsewhere. I didn’t come here to hold your hand and make you feel good about me. Either you trust me or you don’t. Either you want me on your side or you want me to be your enemy. We had something in the past, therefore I’m giving you a choice. So choose.”
Just as she thought she had played the wrong card and he would turn her down he finally spoke.
“Meet me here again tomorrow night and I’ll fill you in on the details,” he said. “It goes without saying that if you betray me I will kill you. Take care Marguerite, I don’t play games like Mezzo I simply strike at your heart when you least expect it.”
She merely nodded and moved away. He watched her disappear quickly into the crowd in that way she had. There one minute and gone the next.
Cathrine looked at Trowa and sighed. He might as well have stayed back on the colony with Midii as much good as his company was doing her. It was like he was in a silent bubble in the middle of all the backstage noise and hubbub. She missed Midii too, she was so used to seeing her sitting on the edge of the makeup table, swinging her legs and smiling adoringly at Trowa. Even better had been seeing him actually smile back, that had been something she thought she’d never see when she had first met the emotionally-restrained, quiet young man.
Cathrine stretched a slender arm over her head and touched her hand to the middle of her back, then she bent and touched her toes. She frowned, he was still staring into space.
Trowa was lost in thought, wondering why she hadn’t called and why he had gotten no answer at either of their apartments.
He knew that it hurt her feelings when he did anything that reminded her that he didn’t trust her. But usually she was very careful not to let those feelings surface inside him, for the past four months she’d always been so close, close enough to touch if he so much as reached out his hand. Now he was already certain that going away without her had been a mistake. He felt as if he’d always been alone, never found her again. As if the past four months had been only a hazy dream of happiness that the two of them really hadn’t been entitled to in the first place.
Trowa jumped a bit when the vidphone buzzed softly. The screen remained a fuzzy grey with lines wavering in and out when he pressed the on button, but he heard her voice on the other end.
“What’s wrong with the video on your end,” he asked her, she could sense the frustration and tension in his voice.
“I don’t have a clue, you know technical things like broken vidphones and I don’t mix,” she said sadly, wanting desperately to see him as well. But if he saw her new look he’d know she was up to something, luckily her tampering with the output and input wires on the phone had done the trick.
“That’s for sure,” he said and Cathrine finally noticed a smile on Trowa’s face. She smiled with relief herself, Midii wasn’t really someone you could ever feel comfortable about. No matter how close she got to the younger girl she always felt there was so much more inside that she knew nothing about. That perhaps she was better off not knowing.
Cathrine looked at the clock. Strange time for Midii to finally call, she should have known very well that she and Trowa would be going on in a few minutes and that the two of them would hardly have time to talk.
“Where have you been,” Trowa asked, cursing the stupid video connection. He ached to see her, to trace the lines of her face with his fingertips. He heard the music on the other side of the wall, in just a minute they’d be calling them out.
“I got a job,” Midii said, trying to inject excitement into her voice, praying to hear Cathrine’s voice calling Trowa away before she had to go into detail. She had hoped to time her call just right.
“That’s good. I think,” Trowa said. “Where are you?”
“Earth,” she said. “Can you believe it? Now don’t get upset, it’s just a temporary position but it could lead to something better and I really need the experience.”
“Midii,” Trowa protested. “How long is temporary and exactly where are you?”
“Trowa! It’s time,” Cathrine interrupted, and Midii closed her eyes in relief as they quickly exchanged good nights and I love yous and he had to terminate the connection.
Ichiban looked up from his drink as a woman’s hand crept possessively over his shoulder. His emerald-flecked golden eyes met a pair of angry black ones.
“Who was that woman,” she asked, her Hungarian accent made more obvious by her fury.
“Eva! Control yourself,” he said, wishing for the millionth time that Eva Ketto had the subtlety and finesse of Midii Une.
“She is an old friend, someone you would do well to watch. One of the best agents I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with *and* having in my bed. Her name is Marguerite Doce, she’ll be joining us on this little scheme,” he said, deliberately goading his fiery lover with hints of his past exploits.
“Damn you Ichiban,” she hissed, then stared at him aghast as realization struck her. “Doce? Doce? My God, that arrogant little bitch. You told me that Midii Une was dead.”
“And so she is,” Ichiban said, with a wink at Eva. “Although I’m sure we will find that our little blossom Marguerite is just as skilled as her predecessor.”
“What about Stefan? Is he also alive,” she asked eagerly, her heart pounding with renewed hope. Eva had loved Stefan Niente with every scrap of her passionate nature, although to him she had been no more than a casual affair.
Ichiban shook his head. “La Signorina Doce says not and I believe her. I could see the grief in her eyes although she tried to hide it.”
Eva looked at the door Midii had exited from, tears sparkling in her black eyes. Stefan had been correct in the things he said about her. “She is like a cat. Midii has nine lives and always finds a way to survive. I know she’s out there and I’ll find her. I need her for this mission, Eva. I need you for other things.” Her heart ached remembering his skillful lovemaking, the wonderful things he had made her feel, only to leave her behind.
Midii lay alone in the unfamiliar bed, absently pulling her fingers through her hair. She put her imagination to work, trying to feel Trowa beside her, his arms around her holding her tightly.
Already there was suspicion in his voice and she was glad she had chosen a time to call when they couldn’t really talk. She had never been with anyone who loved her before or anyone who knew her so well. Apparently it was going to be harder to keep this from Trowa than she had originally thought.
She tried to remember Sally’s words. She had promised her that doing this would wipe away the past. After this Midii would be just like everyone else Trowa knew and cared about. He would trust her, and he would be proud of her. And that would make everything she was doing worth the risk. She could put her skills to use to aid the cause of the Preventers. Surely, she told herself, that was what Trowa would want her to do. The life she had been leading, working in the salon and watching Trowa perform at night had been driving her crazy with boredom. She needed to be doing something with the skills she had honed to perfection over the years. As long as she was doing it for the right side there was no way he could be angry with her. They would both be happy after all this was over and she wouldn’t have to be afraid of losing his love anymore.
She could pull this off, she had to pull this off. And she had to keep Trowa from finding her at the same time. The challenge of a lifetime, she thought.
She had to keep him away. “I will simply strike at your heart without warning.” Ichiban’s threat echoed in her mind as she finally drifted off to sleep. Trowa was her heart.
Eva reached for a silk robe and went to look out the window, casting a glance back over her shoulder at her lover, asleep in bed. Ichiban was a poor substitute for Stefan. He was as cool and collected as the infamous Midii Une. A consummate actor, never losing control even when he made love to her. Whereas she and Stefan had both been so passionate and full of life. They had been perfect together. And yet even he had preferred Midii to her in matters of business.
A tear streaked down her cheek as she looked out the window unseeing. She remembered everything about Stefan. The warm feel of his skin beneath her hands, the lustful glitter in his eyes when he looked at her. The way he had refused to use her on his last mission, preferring to find his old partner instead. Eva’s eyes narrowed. And now he was dead. Dead because of Midii Une.
“I will find a way to hurt you,” she vowed, her eyes glittering both with tears and malice. “I will hurt you as you have hurt me.”
Midii tossed and turned, her heart pounding rapidly. In her dreams Trowa came into the bar and blew her cover while she was talking to Ichiban. The horrible look in his eyes, he hated her again, he thought he was betraying him and she couldn’t convince him otherwise, he grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her. “I should never have trusted you,” he said, as tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Wake up,” Wufei whispered vehemently, shaking Midii’s shoulders. “I should never have trusted you.”
Her eyes fluttered and she looked at him, not recognizing him immediately.
“Huh,” she muttered, trying to calm down. It had only been a dream after all. “What’s the matter?”
“You left me behind,” he said, flipping on the light.
“Ugh,” Midii said, putting a hand up to shield her eyes. “You could say that you couldn’t keep up. I met up with someone tonight who can get me the information in a hurry. I don’t want this to take any longer than necessary.”
“That makes two of us,” Wufei answered. He had a bad feeling about this, he didn’t like the way she operated. He averted his eyes as she groaned and slipped out from under the sheets dressed only in a pair of Trowa’s boxers and a T-shirt. “What are you doing,” he asked.
“You woke me up,” she said, yawning. “Now I’ll never get back to sleep. We may as well talk or something.”
“I don’t want to talk to you,” he said. “We have nothing to say to each other.”
“Oh I’m sure we can find something to chat about,” she said, eager not to be alone with her doubts. Besides there had been something she had been wondering about. Cathrine had taken her into her confidence but with this guy’s attitude he needed something to kick start him into action.
“What do you think about my friend Cathy,” she asked him point blank.
“Trowa’s sister,” he said, and Midii thought she heard his voice change a bit, but she couldn’t be sure. “That’s none of your business.”
He stalked out of the room slamming the door.
“Well Cathy,” Midii said, looking after the irritated Chinese pilot and thinking about her friend. “I think there may actually be hope. Although I have no idea what you see in that arrogant jerk.”
Trowa rubbed his eyes. He could swear someone was pounding vigorously on his door. He sat up and the pounding came again, along with a familiar-sounding voice calling his name.
What the hell was Duo doing here and at 6 in the morning no less? It had taken Trowa hours to get to sleep without Midii beside him and he felt like he had just closed his eyes.
“Hey buddy,” Duo crowed when the other pilot finally let him in, his bright and cheerful mood grating on Trowa’s last nerve. “I just found out you were in town while I was picking up my morning coffee and donuts so I tracked you down. I’m here too, obviously, big salvage job on this colony.”
“Wonderful,” Trowa muttered, although he had to admit the coffee smelled good.
“Oh hey,” Duo said looking around the room and realizing he may have made a social error. “I’m not interrupting anything am I?”
He nudged Trowa in the ribs and winked suggestively as his friend’s green eyes narrowed to a glare.
“Midii isn’t here, she got a temporary job on Earth while this tour is going on,” Trowa said in a dejected voice.
Duo looked concerned and placed a hand on Trowa’s forehead beneath the bangs just to see if he was feeling quite alright.
“Trowa! What were you thinking? You know that if there’s trouble out there she’s gonna find it,” he said, shaking his head as Trowa shoved off his hand.
To be continued . . . Heero suspects Sally is hiding something . . . Eva tries to befriend Midii.