The Price of Redemption
By Midii Une
Midii felt a tiny flutter of jealousy as she heard his name called by a husky, female voice. The woman seemed no stranger and she walked up to them confidently, her expression as she studied Trowa warm and happy. She was tall and curvaceous and made the younger girl feel positively flimsy in comparison. To Midii’s relief a man, who was certainly just as gorgeous as his companion, followed her close behind. But then her own eyes widened and her skin paled.
The Lightning Count.
“Barton,” Milliardo said curtly as he nodded to Trowa as Noin continued to beam at the young couple. Then his eyes slid slowly over Midii. “Miss Une! You survived the hostilities. I’m pleased to see such a talented young lady again.”
“You’ve met Midii,” Trowa asked, his voice hiding his surprise.
“Well,” Milliardo began, wondering suddenly if 03 knew whom, exactly, he was involved with. “I don’t want to give away any secrets but we met briefly before Operation Meteor when the Alliance and OZ were still cordial.”
“We have no secrets between us,” Midii said, lifting her chin and meeting Milliardo’s gaze. “Trowa is aware of my position with the Alliance, Zechs Marquise.”
“Forgive me for being astonished, my apologies for doubting you,” Milliardo said, bowing slightly. “But one hardly expects to find a Gundam Pilot and an Alliance spy on such intimate terms. Peace creates strange bedfellows though. My sister and Yuy for instance, but they seem happy enough as do Dorothy and Winner.”
“If my rudeness can be forgiven perhaps the both of you would let me try to persuade you to join us on the Mars Terraforming project. We’ve made quite a bit of headway but a pair of young people such as yourselves with your unique talents would be valued highly,” he continued quickly, anxious to pose his request.
Trowa saw Midii’s eyes darken in consternation, he knew she had no desire to go to Mars. She was happiest on Earth, tolerated the colonies if she could be close to him and Cathy.
“Thank you, but we’re not interested,” he said tersely, feeling the warm approving squeeze of her hand in his.
The girl’s pretty eyes gave Noin an uneasy feeling. She kept glancing over to study them curiously as the pair spoke with Zechs. Such a beautiful color, not true blue but a unique and changeable shade that couldn’t really be described. Sometimes when the light was just right she had seen the ocean off the Italian coast glowing with the same amazing hue. And yet Lucrezia was certain she had seen eyes like these before. She shook herself mentally and tuned back into the conversation. Trowa had a cold look in his eyes and obviously only politeness was preventing an outburst. Noin stepped closer, putting a slender hand on each man’s arm and smiling brightly.
“Now Zechs, please relax and enjoy the day. We’re here for a month and that’s plenty of time to recruit colonists. It seems like Trowa has plans for the future already and you know it’s useless to argue with one of these boys when their decision has already been made,” she said coaxingly, her voice pleasant but her indigo eyes giving her husband ‘the look’ that had been perfected by wives over the centuries.
But Milliardo persisted.
“I’m surprised at you Noin. Don’t you think he should let Miss Une make her own decision? It’s a wonderful opportunity and she at least should give it thought. I realize more than most that the Gundam pilots are stubborn people.”
He looked at Trowa meaningfully and with a touch of humor he spoke again in a voice that was almost a whisper.
“The most persistent and annoying in the universe perhaps. But with all that said I don’t see a ring on this lovely young lady’s finger and in my book that means she should be able to make her own selfish decisions concerning her future. It would be rather chauvinistic of 03 to speak for her—
“I’ll remind you that I have a name I prefer to be called and the term 03 is obsolete since HeavyArms has been destroyed,” Trowa said icily, drawing an astonished Midii closer in a protective gesture. “Midii will always be at my side. Always. I know that she has no desire to live on Mars and you forget to mention the hardships of initial colonization. If she decide to go I would follow her even there. But we have family here and we’re staying in the Earth Sphere. It’s home.”
“Let me put your concern for my missed opportunity to rest by assuring you of my complete agreement with Trowa’s decision,” Midii said. “He understands my desires entirely.”
Trowa flushed at her choice of words and from the touch of the small hand that had slid discreetly into one of the front pockets of his pants.
“If you’ll excuse us,” he said awkwardly, between gritted teeth. “It was good to see you again Miss Noin. I wish you luck.”
As Milliardo stared after the departing couple in disappointment Noin turned her thoughts back to the mystery of Midii’s eyes. And then a memory flashed. Those same eyes in a thin and dirty boyish face.
“Mike! That’s it,” she exclaimed out loud.
“That half-starved boy who showed up as a stowaway away on the last transport that arrived,” Milliardo asked, looking at Noin curiously. “Why do you mention him now?”
“His eyes,” she whispered. “His eyes are just like that girl’s.”
The party was winding down and the dance floor was nearly empty. The bride and her friends sat together at the long table with their shoes off talking over the events of the day eagerly; munching on the delicious pastry and sipping the last of the champagne. Dorothy tried to catch Quatre’s eye hoping they could escape at last. She never wanted this day to end and yet she had hardly slept the last few nights and she wanted very much to be tucked into the luxurious feather bed and let him pamper her with his kisses and those hands that knew her so well.
“Did you look like that on your wedding day,” Midii asked Hilde smiling, as they looked at Dorothy’s dreamy face.
Hilde nodded blissfully but to Midii’s despair she followed the thought with a question of her own, a question that had seemed to follow the unlucky bridesmaid wherever she went today.
“When are you and Trowa going to get mar—
The little brunette’s voice was cut off by a sudden hoarse cheering from the Maganacs. “Play for us Master Quatre! Play for us!”
The orchestra leader bowed to the groom, who had been talking in a corner with the other pilots. The fair-skinned young man flushed as the rowdy troop of Arabians whistled and hooted and he slowly mounted the steps to the stage where one of the violinists offered him use of his instrument.
The violin sang out, low and sweet, a slightly melancholy air as violin music tended to be but with a hint of humor and sweetness too. Quatre smiled in satisfaction when the lovely fluid notes of Trowa’s flute sounded high above the song of his violin.
Midii sighed and leaned her chin on her hands, closing her eyes to listen to them drowsily when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
“May I have this dance?”
“Diarmid,” she smiled, holding out her hand. “I thought you’d forgotten and already left.”
“Never, my dear lady,” he said, kissing her fingertips. She drew back a little at the scent of whiskey on his breath and Hilde looked at her questioningly.
“Just one won’t hurt,” Midii mouthed to her friend as Diarmid led her out on the floor. They weren’t the only ones dancing. She fluttered her fingers at Sally and Anderson and she noticed that even Lucrezia and Milliardo were swaying together softly in a corner, looking into each other’s eyes. So Noin had finally squelched Zechs’ quest for colonists, at least for a moment, Midii thought in amusement.
“He plays a pretty tune, I’ll give him that,” Diarmid said, tilting his head toward Quatre. Midii looked toward the stage and blew Trowa a kiss, wrinkling her nose at him as he frowned at her and one of his notes caught.
“My father would sing a song to Mother sometimes, before
Sean died,” Diarmid added, anxious to reclaim her attention. “But after my brother went he never sang
again. This tune is something like it
though, I wonder if I can remember the words?”
Midii looked up at him worriedly. He wasn’t really going to sing, was he?
She felt the weight of his cheek against her hair and his arm tight around her waist. Everyone turned to look at them as he started his song.
Only for nights in Ballygrand
I would swim over the deepest ocean
The deepest ocean, my love to find
Those blue eyes bore into hers desperately as he sang about swimming the deepest ocean and she turned her face into his shoulder as she felt herself turning red. He backed off a bit, grinning down at her and singing again in a strong tenor that blended perfectly with Quatre’s violin. The music subtly echoed the Celtic undertones in the song.
Nor have I wings so I could fly
If I could find me a handsome boatman
To ferry me over, my love and I
He twirled her expertly and in the back of his head he noticed that now the violin music followed his song perfectly and a hush had fallen over the remainder of the party. He glanced at his enemy with distrust in his eyes but the other man’s eyes were closed as he sensed the music and picked up the tune from Diarmid’s singing. Trowa had put down his borrowed flute now and was giving him a very odd look and he knew his dance with Midii was almost over. He had to forget her and find someone he could love. But he tilted her chin with his finger to make her look at him and sang a bit more.
Now in Killkenny it is reported
On marble stones there as black as ink
With gold and silver I would support her
She smiled at his words and squeezed his hand and over her head he could see Trowa headed for them. He lifted her hand above her head and spun her gently, the blue satin dress belling out around her as he tried to catch her eye but she was already looking away, caught in another gaze.
A handsome rover from town to town
but I'm sick now and my days are numbered
Come all you young men and lay me down
There was a humorous lilt in his voice as he sang the last words and dropped her hand and walked away.
Midii looked after him a bit sadly as she went into Trowa’s arms, holding him tightly as they danced together and Quatre continued to play on. Incredibly she felt Trowa’s fingers smoothing over the bare skin of her left ring finger in a gentle caress and she thought that maybe a bit of jealousy was just what was needed to spur her reluctant lover to action.
He looked down at her and touched her cheek as Quatre finished his song with a flourish and the Maganacs and his sisters cheered wildly. Midii held her breath as Trowa bent his head close to hers.
“I love you,” she sighed softly, holding his eyes with hers expectantly.
“I love you too,” he whispered back and her heart thumped wildly with anticipation. Bouquet or no this was it, she thought giddily. Her heart fell as the next song began and he dropped her hands suddenly.
“Ummm, excuse me Midii I have to go see Duo about some parts,” he said finally, breaking her gaze and leaving her there open-mouthed on the dance floor. She huffed and stamped her small foot beneath the long full skirt before going back to sit beside Hilde.
“Pass the cream puffs,” she hissed, grabbing a swan-shaped pastry from the plate Hilde offered and biting off its head.
Alone at last.
With a deep contented sigh that was very nearly audible he held the warm, feminine form closer. His strong, sure hands traveled the soft familiar curves of her figure and his skin tingled with the memory of past encounters.
Alone at last.
It was dark in the garden and he couldn’t see her face but for a long time it had been a vision he could conjure with the mere blink of an eye. And the dark would hide his own face if her answer was not the one he wished for so desperately. Surely, surely this sweet, gentle woman would understand and he would not disappoint her. Not like that other, that fierce warrior. Meiran…
Luckily for Cathrine she could not see the scowl of concentration on her lover’s face. She smiled as she felt his hands tremble against her waist and heard the erratic heartbeat beneath the black tuxedo jacket. All the others had long since discarded their jackets, rolled up their sleeves and loosened their black ties. Duo Maxwell even had his bow tie tied in a rakish knot at the tip of his braid. Wufei still looked perfect though, as if he’d just stepped out his room freshly dressed.
He had been silent and thoughtful throughout the evening and it had been difficult for her to be patient as she waited for him to finally say the words she had been anticipating since he had almost spoken. When she caught the bouquet meant for Midii in the garden her knowing gypsy blood had quivered with certainty.
Finally she heard his voice, harsh with emotion he tried to conceal.
“Marry me Cathrine. We should be married. A relationship like this isn’t what we should have with the way I feel about you. I want something more. If you can’t say yes then I have no right to be with you at all,” he rasped, his words angry and cold.
For an instant Cathrine felt hurt. This was not the proposal she dreamed of, nor probably one that any girl dreamed of. She peered at her lover in the dim light and the tight line of his mouth showed his tension and something that could almost be fear.
Her heart melted and although she longed to tease him by making him wonder about her response she could see that this was not the time for games. She loved him, for better or worse as they said in the ceremonies. She couldn’t let him wait in agony a second longer.
“Oh! Yes, yes, yes,” she answered quickly, feeling his doubt and desperation lift. A slow smile softened the stern features that were hidden by the night and he leaned back against the tree pulling her hard against his chest and sealed their promise with a kiss as he slid the gold and diamond ring on her finger.
Duo plopped down on a chair at the table near the bar where Diarmid was downing another whiskey and soda. The red-haired man scowled at the vigilant bartender who had cheerfully refused to serve it to him straight up.
“How ya doin’ pal,” Duo asked trying to hide his genuine concern behind a casually amiable façade. “You’ve got quite the set of pipes Diarmid, who’d have guessed it.”
“I was inspired,” the young man said shortly.
“Hey, lotsa pretty girls here, find yourself another muse my friend” Duo said, frantically scanning the room for a quick victim to take his friend’s mind off Midii. No use wasting time on a relationship with no future.
He grinned to himself thinking about procuring those parts Trowa had just asked for. It wouldn’t be long at all till Trouble was safely off the marriage-go-round. He chuckled at his own joke and Diarmid raised the glass to him and toasted him half-heartedly. He liked Duo best of all the Gundam pilots. Hell, as far as he knew he at least had never murdered anyone Diarmid knew and loved nor monopolized the heart of the sweet girl he had fallen for. He turned accusing, mournful, Irish blue eyes on Quatre before looking back down at his drink.
Duo’s violet eyes lit with mischief as he caught a glimpse of Quatre’s pretty sister nearby, daintily sipping at some forbidden champagne. The wonderful day was almost over but Safira had finally escaped Yassy’s eagle eye and snuck over to the bar. She giggled prettily, she hadn’t called her sister Yassy since she was four but the liquid bubbled pleasantly inside her making her strangely relaxed and happy. She shook back her tawny curls and took a bolder sip of her champagne.
“Check it out,” Duo said, nudging his friend. “What do you think of that? Pretty and innocent as a schoolgirl, and I happen to know she’s very rich too. And in that dress….
Duo trailed off as Diarmid peered at the girl through an alcohol haze. She looked nothing like Midii but that was a plus. The very thought of blue-gray eyes and golden hair was like a knife in the gut right now. She was out there on the dance floor with Trowa again. The tall pilot was looking awfully pleased with himself as if he knew a happy secret and as Diarmid watched he dropped a tender, possessive kiss on the blonde head that rested sleepily on his chest.
He wrenched his gaze away from the floor and looked again at the girl Duo had pointed out. She was simply gorgeous, her skin glowing warm and soft over the yellow satin and her brown hair like a pre-Raphaelite angel’s curling around her innocent, pretty face. And then she looked at them and smiled. Her beautiful smile was kindness and gentleness and sweetness all in one, and yet he felt as if he’d seen that smile before.
“Your mouth’s open,” Duo scolded, poking Diarmid in the ribs. “Just go ask her to dance.”
Having done his good deed for the day, Duo teetered back to Hilde and helped himself to the remaining cream puffs at the head table.
“Hey what happened to all the little swan ones,” he mumbled, looking over the selection as he licked cream off his teeth.
Hilde didn’t answer but she leaned in to kiss him and get a taste of the cream that lingered on his lips.
“Come dance with me before the night’s over,” she whispered, pulling him toward a dark, secluded corner.
Safira’s hand shook with surprise and a bit of champagne slopped over the edge of her glass as she felt a touch on her bare shoulder. The touch sparked an electric warmth that spread through her skin. She turned in amazement to see who had touched her and the warmth surged through her to the tips of her fingers. It was the young Preventer officer who had sung along with Quatre’s violin earlier, she had heard Midii call him Diarmid. His voice was rich and sweet and it made her feel the way she felt now his fingers had brushed her skin—hot and cold at the same time and so very alive. Those sad words he had sung had called to her, made her wish for a tender, yearning love.
She could feel his hand, strong and warm at her waist, taking her breath away as they moved to dance. She could not even remember mumbling a shy reply to his question. For the first time she found herself in a glimmering soap bubble of giddy infatuation.
Diarmid smiled down at the riot of brown curls burnished with gold from the lights that brushed against his shoulder as they danced. He admired how her rose-petal skin turned warm and golden from the color of her yellow dress. Her steps were unsure but she moved with lovely grace despite her lack of confidence on the dance floor. She peeked at him curiously, fascination in her turquoise eyes as he let his fingers brush a smooth cheek. The night was nearly over, he would never have to see Winner again if he didn’t want to. He had made it through and this girl was like a sign, a new beginning. His stomach clenched as she licked her lips nervously and glanced up at him again between her dark golden-brown lashes.
“I want him to kiss me,” she thought to herself, shocking herself a bit with her boldness. His eyes seemed to study her face hungrily and she could sense that he wanted her, that he felt the same instant pull that she felt for him. Everything was wonderful and all the small disappointments she’d suffered this very day and all during her short life seemed to fade away like nothing. She had finally found him. He was the one in this world that was her other half. All the Winners had a startling sense of empathy, some more than others. Safira just had a touch but her heart and soul were throbbing with a strange certainty and her face glowed with awe and joy as she looked at the man who held her in his arms.
“Who could resist that look,” Diarmid thought, his gaze catching the innocent mouth that seemed to beg for his kiss. Most certainly not an Irishman with an eye for a pretty girl who had already set back more than one whiskey and soda. Besides, her smile and her eyes seemed to heal the wound in his heart. For the first time that day he let Sean’s memory float away on the music until it was only himself and her. He gave in and bent his head to catch her lips in a kiss.
“My first kiss, my first kiss,” Safira repeated over and over in her mind as her head spun with champagne bubbles and the even more intoxicating tickle of his lips on hers.
The music ended and although he paused for breath for a split second she soon felt the wonderful pressure again, his kiss more sure and she felt her body sway closer to his until he held her pressed tight against him. The tent disappeared. Quatre and Dorothy and everyone else disappeared. All that was left was the enveloping darkness and the scent of the wedding flowers.
An angry, scolding voice broke the spell.
“Safira Winner! How could you behave like this at your own brother’s wedding,” Yasmina whispered vehemently, trying to avoid a scene. She pushed away a small protest from her conscience that she was perhaps overreacting, that part of her anger was really jealousy that her sister had found happiness this night instead of herself.
She felt a moment of regret as her little sister turned to look at her with stunned eyes. Yasmina softened a bit but before she could speak again Diarmid spoke first.
He closed his eyes as both women looked at him oddly.
“You little fool, can’t you see his drunk? He’s trying to take advantage of you,” she said, pulling her sister away from the man who stared at both of them oddly.
Safira gasped. There were angry tears in the bright blue eyes that looked at her. There was no admiration in the sparkling depths now, but something altogether different. Disgust, maybe even hate. She drew closer to her sister, but couldn’t resist trying to reach him. She had to know what she had done wrong. There had truly been something between them and she knew he had felt it too.
“What’s wrong? I don’t care what Yassy says, you’re not just drunk are you? What’s wrong?”
She smiled at him pleadingly and he knew now where he’d seen that smile before. It was the same smile he had seen on Sean’s killer’s face as he got married, as he started a life for himself that his brother would never have.
“What’s wrong,” he spat, mimicking Safira’s timid question. “You’re a Winner. You’re his sister. He’s a bloody, cold-hearted killer. He killed my brother. He fucking killed him right on television. He killed Sean. Now my father doesn’t sing to my mother anymore and they’ll never be happy and I’ll live my life trying to forget that awful vision. And Sean’s rotting, rotting in a grave!”
Diarmid looked around and saw everyone staring at him.
“That’s right,” he shouted. “The golden boy is nothing more than a killer. You’re all killers, dancing on the graves of the dead. Dancing on the graves of good men that died!”
Safira stared, her face streaked with tears and Yasmina was speechless.
“Holy shit,” Duo muttered, meeting Midii’s eyes over the dessert display. “Our boy Diarmid’s really lost it. We gotta get him out of here before he ruins Quatre’s party.”
Midii followed Duo, pushing past him to reach Diarmid. His words hurt, she could feel the pain that was coming through.
“Diarmid,” she said, grasping his hands gently. “Come outside with Duo and I. Please, please don’t do this.”
She gasped as he grasped her by the shoulders and shook her.
“You’re as bad as the rest of them. You never cared about me, you don’t give a fuck about anyone but him and you never, ever will. Leave me the hell alone,” he growled, pushing her away forcefully.
Duo deftly caught Midii before she lost her footing and fell. Diarmid paused and blinked a bit. He hadn’t meant to say that, to ever hurt her. She was his friend, it wasn’t her fault, oh Christ, oh Midii…he started to walk toward her, to tell her he was sorry.
A hand clenched his shoulder with a grip like iron and he spun on his feet so fast that he couldn’t react. Trowa’s fist sent him flying into a table on which the used china had been stacked and he crashed into it with a loud bang as the table cracked and the glass shattered noisily.
Trowa walked slowly toward the downed man, eyes blazing. He had never liked him, he hated how Diarmid hovered around Midii just waiting to see him make a mistake and lose her. Diarmid had no idea what the two of them had been through to be together. Diarmid had no idea what Quatre had been through with guilt over the war and his role in it.
Milliardo Peacecraft stopped Trowa’s advance. He placed a hand on his chest and stared calmly into the outraged green eyes that sparked with impatience.
“Leave him alone,” Peacecraft said. “I’ll talk with him. I’ll take full responsibility for him. I knew his brother you see, I knew him very well.”
The lines of his face were sad and tortured as he remembered Walker and his death. Noin felt silent tears slip down her face as she saw her tall husband help the fallen man up and lead him outside.
Trowa buried his fists in his pockets and returned to Midii’s side. He put his arms around her as she hurled herself against his chest. He barely had time to control his racing heartbeat and catch his breath before the moment he dreaded arrived.
Quatre appeared with Dorothy at his side and stared at the smashed table, and at Yasmina’s pale face and Noin and Safira’s tears.
“Trowa? Duo? What’s going on,” he asked, slowly, realizing that the knowledge was going to be a black mark on the happiest day of his life.
Dorothy frowned and tugged on his arm.
“Quatre we’re leaving now, you promised,” she said. “We can all discuss this after the honeymoon. Please my darling…”
It was Safira who finally broke the awkward silence as they all stared at each other unsure of what to say next.
She turned on her brother, her turquoise eyes that matched his sparking with anger and frustration.
“You! Always you, Quatre,” she said coldly. “We’ve always had to sacrifice everything for you. Father’s precious heir, our only brother. You ruin everything!!! You always have. That man hates me. He hates me because I’m your sister and you killed his brother. How can you say you love peace when you killed so many people? He was right, he was right about everything. You killed so many people and even Mother!”
Yasmina tugged her sister’s arm sharply.
“Don’t say that Safira, it isn’t true. Not true at all and we promised Father…”
Safira pulled away from her sister’s grip.
“Oh yes it is true! And I never promised, I was only a baby just like he was. But Father didn’t keep me, he sent me away. But Quatre was the one that killed Mother. Quatre, the only one of us who ever felt sorry for himself because he was created in a test tube. How ironic that he’s the only one of us naturally born. You’re Mother’s own child Quatre. Her only real child. And having you killed her!”
She burst into angry tears and ran out of the tent.
Yasmina tore her eyes from the sister she had raised from a young child. She had never taken Safira’s unhappiness seriously but the girl’s hurt at being constantly overlooked by everyone, including father had obviously been a wound that festered deep in her soul. Yet even now, despite her concern for Safira she still felt obligated to stay here where Quatre had need of her.
His wide blue eyes stared over everyone’s heads as if he looked at something they couldn’t see. His skin was chalk-white and she could see his hands trembling with emotion and disbelief.
Yasmina saw the Maganacs edge a bit closer, as if they sensed Quatre’s distress. Yet they kept their distance, like everyone else they were unsure of how to react. It didn’t matter to them that Master Quatre was not a test tube baby like themselves. They would love him and be loyal to him till the day they were laid in their graves. They were simply at a loss as to how to protect the young man in the face of his sister’s revelation.
Finally Quatre’s eyes met his sister’s and he shrugged roughly out of Dorothy’s compassionate embrace and walked slowly toward Yasmina. He looked deep into her eyes as if searching her soul for endless moments and then he spoke.
“Is it true?”
Yasmina stammered, unable to finally voice the horrible secret that all of them had sworn to Father they would keep always.
She gasped as he grabbed her furiously, she felt his fingers digging into the soft flesh of her upper arms with a force she could hardly comprehend as being her brother’s true strength. The reality of his career as a Gundam pilot struck her and she knew he was so much more than she had ever really understood.
“Tell me,” he said, his voice odd but commanding.
Unable to speak, she merely nodded.
He released his grip on her so quickly that she nearly fell. Rasid was beside her, supporting her weight on his strong arm. She hadn’t even noticed him approaching so quickly had he come to her side. Yasmina let herself crumple into his arms, grateful for the powerful embrace that seemed the only solid thing in a world suddenly gone mad.
Quatre knew the secret. Quatre knew the secret he must never know.
From the shelter of the Maganac captain’s comforting arms she watched her little brother walk out into the night, pushing past his friends with a rudeness she wouldn’t have believed possible and ignoring Dorothy’s voice calling him back. A second later Dorothy flew after him, so quickly she seemed but a swirl of pale hair, lace and satin.
Dorothy stared at the door that had been slammed and locked in her face. She thought how she would love to take Quatre’s spoiled sister by that curly hair of hers and pull it until she screamed and the whole time she’d tell her just what she thought of her. There was no room for sympathy for Safira in her heart, although she certainly would have been unable to stand the same family situation herself. Woe be unto any would-be Catalonia brother that might have tried to steal Miss Dorothy’s limelight! Luckily however, she’d been an only child.
Right now she could not forget the hurt the selfish, silly girl had caused. Especially since Quatre was the one who had been hurt. Dorothy would rather have been called to task in front of everyone for her career with the White Fang than see Quatre put through the emotional wringer.
She wished for the physical strength to kick down the door and go to him. The silence behind the solid oak door frightened her. She could not lose him, without him she knew she could not live.
But of course there were other ways to open doors, she thought sensibly, summoning a servant.
In seconds a butler appeared with the skeleton key and opened the door for the bride with a flourish.
Yasmina shook her head as Rasid tried to take her arm and lead her to a chair. The air in the tent was suddenly warm and sticky and if she didn’t get out into the cool night breeze she felt she would collapse. No sooner did the wind begin to blow back some semblance of normalcy than she was confronted by Safira, her sister’s face red and splotched with tearstains.
“I want to leave this family! I don’t want to be a Winner anymore,” Safira said, her voice shaking with the strain of facing up to her sister at last.
“But you always will be,” Yasmina said. “I’m sorry Safira. We failed you. Father and I especially. Right now though I can’t forgive what you’ve done to Quatre. Causing someone else pain is never the answer to healing our own hurts. But I do understand and I do love you as I always have. None of us can ever stop being Winners no matter how much we sometimes wish we could.”
“You won’t let me go then,” Safira said, uncertain how to proceed. She had no money of her own, she lived on the interest of the Winner Family Trust set up by her father as they all did. She had never really been on her own.
“I didn’t say that,” Yasmina said, touching her sister’s flushed cheek briefly. “I had a request today from Milliardo Peacecraft. He asked me to send a representative of the Winner family to Mars.”
Mars, Safira thought, raising her wet eyes to the starry sky. It was far enough away, as far away as someone could get. On Mars she could finally become her own person.
Diarmid raised blurred blue eyes to the tall man who stood over him. He felt an odd sense of déjà vu as he looked up at the strangely familiar face.
Diarmid shut his eyes tightly. He could remember visiting Sean years ago at the Corsica Air Base. His brother had even let him climb up into the cockpit of his Aries, the one he’d died in. Diarmid could remember the feel of Sean’s protective goggles clinging loosely to his face and his brother’s hand on his arm with sudden urgency.
“Look Diarmid! See that man out there? Look closely, he’s the best soldier I’ve ever seen. He’s taught me everything and I admire him more than anyone. You’ll see, Diarmid, someday everyone will know the name of Lt. Zechs Marquise,” Sean had said as he pointed at an officer out the view port of the mobile suit. Even now his voice played perfectly in Diarmid’s memory.
“Lt. Zechs,” he whispered, echoing his dead brother’s words while shame made him break out in a cold sweat. Christ, Christ, what had he done? On top of everything else he had embarrassed his brother’s memory in front of the one man Sean had admired most.
“Yes, I’m Zechs Marquise,” the tall, fair-haired man said after a moment in which Diarmid felt his very soul was being weighed and judged. “I’m happy to meet you at last Diarmid Walker. Your brother was a stellar soldier. He died because he came up against an enemy that had the stronger mobile suit and because right up to the end his love for mobile suits made him curious about that Gundam. He died doing what he loved, but I’m extremely sorry for your family’s loss. It was a grave loss to me as well. He gave me something you see, before he died. He gave me Tallgeese.”
Diarmid was silent but Milliardo continued. “In your brother’s memory I’d like to help you find a fresh start. Come back with Noin and I to Mars. I know that anyone named Walker could only be of the greatest help to us there.”
The younger man nodded. He never wanted to face Lady Une again, she had trusted him with this mission and he had failed miserably. He had burnt his bridges here in the EarthSphere. On Mars it would be a chance to start fresh and live up to the example his brother had set for him.
Dorothy’s righteous anger fled leaving behind nothing but a sudden sharp pain that was so overwhelming she had to sit down. She dropped into a brocade armchair and her fingers dug into the upholstery as she finally was able to lift her head and look at Quatre again.
It was truly as if he was gone from her, from everyone that loved him. He stood at the window staring at his own reflection in the dark glass as if he hadn’t heard her enter the room. The look on his face was that of a very different man, as if his very self had been drained by the terrible revelation of his sister’s words.
“His pain is my pain,” Dorothy thought, the situation and the remedy suddenly clear
in her mind. “This is how he felt when I stabbed him on Libra, when I hated myself so much that I wanted to destroy the only one who could save me.”
She pulled herself up from the chair and willed her legs to stop trembling.
Quatre felt the warmth of Dorothy’s embrace as if from far off. He wanted so much to turn and lose himself in the comfort of her arms but the guilt and disbelief that his whole life had been a lie were too strong.
As she held the silent, rigid form in her arms Dorothy lost her patience quickly. She wasn’t one to sit by and wait, she knew she couldn’t let him fall so deeply into the abyss that she would never find him again. No enemy could punish him as he would punish himself if she let him.
“Don’t you dare ignore me Quatre Raberba Winner,” she said, her voice furious and commanding. “Don’t go away from me after you’ve promised that we’ll be together always. There is nothing so horrible that we can’t face it together.”
She felt a moment of triumph and the nearness of victory as she felt him shudder slightly in her embrace. At last a response, his stillness had come very near to frightening her.
“I’ve ruined so many lives,” he said, in a voice she could barely hear. “Everything would have been so different for so many people. My sisters were happy, my father and mother were happy. If you could have heard his voice Dorothy when he spoke of her, he was a different man… And there are so many others, I heard what that man said to my sister. I ruined his life, his family’s lives and I don’t even know how or when I killed his brother. I’m certain I must have but during the war I killed so many soldiers…so many…”
Dorothy’s voice was sharp and urgent. “Weren’t you listening to Miss Relena’s speech this afternoon? Didn’t you hear the words of Mrs. Noventa? Heero Yuy killed her husband but she understood that it had to be, if there was ever going to be peace in this world. You did not start that war but you finished it Quatre! You finished it! Your mother’s death is very sad, I’ve lost both my parents, but it’s not your fault she died or that your father couldn’t get past his self-pity. You had to exist, you had to! Was there anyone else who could have met me on Libra and showed me my life and mistakes so clearly? I would be lost without you, the world would be lost without you. Don’t do this, don’t leave me now for some prison of your own making. You deserve to be in this world and I deserve to have back the man I married this morning.”
She took his face in her hands and kissed his mouth softly, her fingers stroking his cheeks and the soft wisps of blonde hair that fell across them as tenderly as a mother would. She felt her own eyes fill with scalding hot tears as he finally wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her neck.
They stood that way for a long time until Dorothy wondered how long her strength would hold out and she could support him as he leaned on her heavily. She steeled herself and clung to him, knowing that she would hold him forever if she had to.
A choked sound came from the direction of the doorway and they looked up to see Yasmina poised there hesitantly as if she couldn’t decide whether to enter.
Finally she spoke.
“May I come in?”
“Please Yasmina, we need to talk. I need to hear about Mother,” Quatre said, pulling Dorothy down
onto a nearby love seat that flanked the fireplace in the elegant bedroom. She leaned gratefully against him, exhausted
by their emotional struggle. Hope
filled her as she saw him calmly gesture to his sister to take the seat across
Although the truth was painful, Quatre finally felt at peace. He believed Yasmina’s reassurance about Mother’s feelings, her bravery and her love. To fall into despair and to blame himself would defeat the purpose of her sacrifice. He was no child now, to behave as he had the day he met the Maganacs. No spoiled child filled with hurt rage but a man who had the support of two strong women to help him past this new sorrow.
Now he truly knew what father meant when he told him that Mother had been the strongest and noblest person he knew. And he felt for Yasmina now what he had once felt for Iria, love and a sense of family that he hadn’t even known he was missing. Now she was truly his sister, not just a woman with the same last name who worked for the same corporation. With Yasmina and Dorothy at his side he could do anything.
“I was wrong about you,” Yasmina told Dorothy, a tentative smile of offered friendship lighting her face. She reached up and took off the delicate platinum necklace with its brilliant pastel stones.
“You see Quatre, you really do deserve to give this to your bride on your wedding day. Mother wouldn’t want her sacrifice to be in vain. She loved you so much and she wanted you to be happy.”
She pressed the necklace into her brother’s hand and watched with a wistful smile as he fastened the delicate piece of family jewelry carefully around Dorothy’s neck. They forgot Yasmina then as they lost themselves in each other’s eyes and she left the room on silent feet, shutting the door quietly to let the honeymoon begin.
Trowa and Midii searched the halls of the palace hand in hand. Midii had a hard time keeping up with Trowa’s swift pace as they hurried along looking for answers. She could feel his worry about Quatre. The two Gundam pilots had a special bond that was undeniable and a sense of each other’s need that touched her deeply.
Finally they came to a small, lighted parlor. Quatre’s sister Yasmina sat there in a small rocker holding a cup of hot tea in one hand. Rasid sat on the floor at her feet cradling her other slender hand in his two big ones and talking to her in low, serious tones.
Trowa cleared his throat and after a moment the two looked up at him.
“How is Quatre,” he asked, stepping into the room with Midii on his arm.
Yasmina stood, handing her teacup to Rasid. Midii noticed a tender look in the older woman’s eyes that truly surprised her. She had never really thought of the stern Yasmina as simply another woman and a small smile played on her lips as she realized what had been happening in this secluded little room. Another love story was beginning.
“Thank you so much for your friendship to my brother,” Yasmina said, her voice that of a different woman. A woman whose protective armor had been smashed, a woman who was ready to greet life at last. “I’m so pleased he has friends like the two of you. Dorothy has taken care of everything, he’s going to be just fine. She is an amazing woman.”
“In fact,” and here Yasmina blushed a pretty pale pink color, “I believe the honeymoon may already have begun.”
Midii felt Trowa’s arm relax beneath her fingers as he nodded to Yasmina and the pair of them retreated silently to leave Yasmina and Rasid to their conversation.
In the hallway Trowa leaned against the wall beneath a sconce holding a pair of softly-glowing candles. He held Midii tight against him and the world felt perfect once again with her in his arms and the knowledge that Quatre was going to get through this latest crisis as he always did. It would be easier this time, with Dorothy by his side. Like Yasmina he had been wrong about her from the start.
After a moment he tilted Midii’s chin so she looked directly into his eyes.
“What do you want to do now,” he asked softly.
“I want to go home,” she answered tiredly, leaning against him again and letting him support her weight.
It was a good four-hour drive over dark country roads but he understood her wish. Suddenly he wanted to be there with her more than anything. Alone together in the old stone house surrounded by abandoned gardens that still bloomed despite everything. And tomorrow after the sun rose he could push her in the time-worn swing that sat on the hill, the hill where you could see the blue of the ocean in the distance.
Next time on POR 26: Epilogue—several months have passed since the wedding and a new member of the Yuy family has arrived; Midii is curious about a secret project that keeps Trowa away at night; Cathy tries to teach Midii to knit. Meanwhile on Mars will a pair of star-crossed lovers meet again?