AN: Well it’s back again, sorry for the holiday hiatus ^_~ But at least it’s a nice long chapter! Feedback always appreciated and thanks for reading.
The Price of Redemption
by Midii Une
Heero stared at the ceiling, startled awake in the middle of the night by a soft, inconsequential sound somewhere in the house. It had been nothing of course and Relena continued to sleep peacefully beside him. But he was conditioned by his training, the slightest deviation from the norm and Heero was alert and ready for action. Now there was no way he was going to get back to sleep.
Relena intuitively snuggled closer to her husband and his arm went around her, his fingertips running over the smooth skin of her shoulder. He realized however that the ceiling overhead wasn’t going to give him any answers to his problem. Despite Sally’s pleas for him to let go a little and let the others handle some things her request totally went against his nature.
In a practiced maneuver he slid out of the king-sized bed he shared with Relena and quickly stuck a pillow in her arms. A grin touched his lips, a grin that seldom appeared outside their bedroom. He reached out and smoothed back her honey-colored hair and the adorable pout and tiny frown that had appeared on her face disappeared at his touch. She had her own instincts to follow as far as he was concerned, how well he knew that. It wouldn’t be long, Heero thought, before she started waking up when took to wandering around the house unable to sleep as he occasionally did.
The grin faded as he slipped silently out of the house, careful to lock the door behind him. A suffocating sense of impending trouble was closing over him. Would it ever end, he wondered as he slowly walked off into the darkness.
The slender, dark-clothed man’s breathing was barely quickened as he pulled himself easily inside the window of Sally Po’s office. But despite his stealth and precision he was met by the beam of a heavy-duty flashlight as he turned from silently shutting the window behind him.
“Trowa,” Heero said, his dispassionate gaze flicking over his fellow Gundam pilot and his voice showing no trace of surprise at finding him breaking into their boss’s office. In fact, Heero wasn’t surprised at all. Everything was starting to make perfect sense.
Heero’s presence in the dark office wasn’t a shock to Trowa either. It only confirmed his suspicions that Sally wasn’t telling him anywhere near the whole truth.
“I walked in on Sally having quite an emotional conversation with Wufei today,” Heero said matter-of-factly. “I heard another voice, it was familiar but I couldn’t quite place it. Seeing you makes it all click. Do you know where Midii is?”
Trowa shook his head negatively. “Earth. Possibly,” he said. “Though that doesn’t really narrow things down much. Sally backed up her story that she’d gotten a temporary job there but I sensed that she wasn’t telling me everything.”
“Hn,” Heero said in agreement, pulling a desk chair up below a video camera unobtrusively positioned in a corner of the office. “I installed the security surveillance myself, every conversation is taped. I have the feeling Sally wouldn’t have the foresight to erase or remove the tapes from the past few days.”
Trowa stood against the wall looking over Heero’s shoulder as he played back the footage from Midii’s appointment with Sally. Even on the fuzzy black and white video with the occasional dark gray lines wiggling through the picture her smile and wide-eyed beauty had power over him as they had from the day that he first met her. The power to open his heart to love and to move him to bouts of anger and feeling that no one else could. His Midii, for better or worse, his.
“Oh Sally, I just want to prove to you and to Trowa that I’m trying to change. Really trying,” he heard her say. “It’s just that sometimes I’m so afraid I’ll fall back in. It’s like the feeling you get when you look over the edge of a cliff. Do you ever wonder what it might be like to jump?”
“Brussels,” Heero said, reaching to turn off the video as Sally explained the mission to Midii.
“Wait,” Trowa said, stopping him and continuing to stare at the screen. Heero shrugged.
“Sally, I shouldn’t leave without telling Trowa something,” Midii protested. “I must confess I feel a little uncomfortable about this, without Stefan . . . after last time . . .”
Sally sighed and Trowa could see indecision on her usually placid face. “No, don’t do that,” she said softly.
“But . . .” Midii said, her voice questioning.
“I know it seems dishonest but this is for the best,” Sally explained. “I’ll think of something, you won’t be alone. But having Trowa for a partner in this might be more detrimental, don’t you see that?”
Midii hung her head, staring at the design in the carpet, her hand reaching up to push her hair out of her face.
“Please Midii,” Sally said, a pleading note in her voice. “I desperately need you to do this for me. This is the price of redemption and when it’s over I’m sure he’ll understand.”
“Sally drives a hard bargain, I didn’t realize she had it in her,” Heero commented as Trowa remained silent. The Midii on the screen nodded agreement with Sally, who went over the details of what she knew once again.
“Relena’s been invited to a diplomatic reception at the Palais d’Egmont in Brussels this weekend,” Heero said. “Quatre and Dorothy Catalonia will be there as well. And you Trowa?”
“Of course,” he answered. “I wouldn’t miss it.”
“When are you going to put Ichiban out of his misery,” Eva asked Midii as they lingered over coffee in an outdoor cafe. Midii sipped her coffee anxiously, nervous about missing Wufei’s call in to Sally but unable to cancel on Eva without raising the other woman’s suspicions.
“What do you mean by that,” Midii responded, casually scanning the crowded streets for a sign of her reluctant partner. She was wondering what Sally’s reaction would be to the information they’d uncovered. She also worried about where Trowa might be, she’d been unable to reach him since that first night.
“My meaning is that I wouldn’t mind at all if you took him back,” Eva whispered. “If that’s all that’s keeping the two of you apart please don’t let me stop you. He’s in love with you Marguerite, he’s having trouble concentrating on the important things with you playing your little games with him. This is business and I want this scheme to be a success for all our sakes.”
“I-I just don’t want to get involved with anyone right now,” Midii said, raising her hand to shade her eyes from the bright afternoon sun. “Since Stefan died I just haven’t been able to let myself get close to anyone again. Not even Ichiban.”
“Damn this sun,” she cursed, uncomfortable with Eva and increasingly anxious to get back to the hotel. “Where are my stupid sunglasses?”
In her anxiety Midii knocked her purse over spilling the contents all over the sidewalk.
“Merde, merde, merde,” she said in a low, annoyed voice. Nothing had been going right since she’d seen Trowa off on the shuttle with Cathrine. If only she could close her eyes and wish herself back to his apartment, his arms, his bed . . . she bent down to collect the things she’d dropped.
She’s as nervous as a cat, Eva thought, amused. She wondered what the real reason was that Marguerite refused to take up her relationship with Ichiban again, perhaps all she needed was a little something to loosen her inhibitions. Her remark about Stefan had stung Eva’s heart, as if Midii Une had ever really cared about her beloved Niente. Her mistakes had brought him to his death. As Midii chased after a rolling tube of lipstick and apologized curtly to the people at the next table, Eva discreetly dropped a small tablet in the other girl’s coffee. Now we’ll see how she really feels, the Hungarian spy thought, her dark Gypsy eyes glowing with anticipation.
“I’m sorry, I’m just a wreck this afternoon,” Midii apologized, trying to regain some semblance of dignity but realizing she was making a fool out of herself. “I just haven’t been sleeping well. I must confess I’m a bit nervous about this mission, after everything that happened last time.”
“I understand,” Eva said. “Drink your coffee. That should help.”
Her dark eyes narrowed as Marguerite took a large, hurried gulp of her coffee. ‘Everything that happened last time’ indeed she repeated to herself. Oh Stefan, she thought, picturing his wicked smile and feeling his hands on her body.
Midii blinked, for a moment it had seemed that Eva was looking at her like she hated her. But she had been right. The coffee was making her feel better. There was nothing like a jolt of caffeine when you were exhausted.
“Well, well. Speak of the devil,” Eva said, watching Marguerite relax a bit as the drug took effect on her system. “Here comes our dear Richard now. Ichiban is quite a handsome man, you must agree Deejii-chan.” Her voice caressed Ichiban’s pet name for Marguerite sarcastically.
“Well of course,” Midii said, focussing where the other woman pointed. “Oh God Eva, he is gorgeous isn’t he? What have I been thinking? I must have forgotten.”
Her hand moved automatically to touch her hair and she tucked a stray strand of silky red-gold behind her ear. Eva, a cat-that-swallowed-the-canary smile on her face, waved Ichiban over.
It’s such a beautiful day, Midii thought, crossing one leg over the other and raising her eyes to meet Richard’s golden ones, a practiced smile appearing instantly on her lips. Richard, it had been so long since she’d thought of him this way. He was making her feel like she was a 15-year-old with a crush again. Why not have a little fun with him, she asked herself. She could think of no reason not to. He obviously wanted her and as Eva pointed out he was so handsome and it was all for the good of the mission. She turned her face to meet his lips with her own as he bent to kiss her cheek and his eyes widened with surprise as he felt her tongue touch his lips and heard her soft little moan of encouragement as he deepened the kiss.
Marguerite had come to her senses at last it seemed. It would make what he had to ask her that much easier and a much more pleasant task as well, he thought, pulling his chair close to hers and wrapping a possessive arm around her shoulders, feeling immediately the soft touch of her hand on the top of his thigh.
“Wufei, where the hell is she? You’re supposed to know where she is, every minute, every second,” Trowa said as the clock on the night table in Midii’s room showed 9 p.m. and still there was no sign of her.
Wufei felt defensive in the face of Trowa’s accusations. Despite the deceptive calm the other man was maintaining Wufei knew that Trowa could be a dangerous when provoked, perhaps even more so than himself. There was that saying about still waters, it fit Trowa to a T. He had just gotten off the phone with Sally when suddenly he was face-to-face with the other Gundam pilot. He’d calmed him down at first with promises that the onna would be returning momentarily and now even he was a bit worried. Something must have gone wrong because she should have been back hours ago. Damn her, she had an uncanny penchant for getting herself into trouble at the worst times.
“She only went out for coffee,” Wufei protested. “I had to discuss the situation with Sally. I can’t be with her every moment of the day, she said that herself.”
“If she comes back, keep her here,” Trowa said tersely. “I’m going out.”
He slammed out of the room before Wufei could answer. He could almost admit to a sense of relief that Trowa had somehow appeared on the scene. He wasn’t enjoying this mission one bit.
“Stop it Deejii-chan,” Ichiban murmured half-heartedly, finding it difficult to unlock the door of his house with Marguerite draped all over him and her lips planting moist kisses on his neck.
“I thought you liked my kisses,” she protested, the hint of a pout in her voice. “You said they were sweeter than wine and I know you like wine, Richard cherie.”
He groaned a little and leaned back against the door, his arms pulling her closer. “Yes Marguerite, I like your kisses please just wait till we get inside.”
“Oh Richard,” she huffed. “Don’t be such a stick-in-the-mud, maybe I’ll change my mind and go home.”
Wherever that may be, she wondered, the thought made Midii laugh softly. Oh well, she had Richard. He would take care of her. Very good care, she thought, as her fingers moved to undo the buttons of his shirt and she bent her head to plant soft kisses on the warm skin of his chest.
Finally, Ichiban thought as the key finally turned in the lock. He pulled Marguerite into the hallway and shut and locked the door behind them.
“Now no changing your mind and going home,” he said. “Stay. Stay all night and all day. Stay with me forever Deejii-chan.”
“Mmmmhmmm,” she said noncommittally, wanting only to kiss him again, it felt so very good.
“Seriously Marguerite,” Ichiban said, holding her away from him a little. “We should talk first. This isn’t like last time. I’m serious about what I said the other night. I love you.”
“Oh Richard, I don’t want to be serious. Just kiss me,” she said, pulling his head down to hers again. He complied but something nagged at the back of his mind. Midii was never like this. When they’d made love in the past she’d been so shy, always letting him take the lead. She leaned heavily on him, her kisses almost making him forget his thoughts. Perhaps she had changed for the better, simply become a more aggressive lover as she matured. It could be an interesting development. He bent and placed an arm beneath her knees, scooping her slight figure into his arms and carrying her up to bed.
Ichiban flipped on the bedside light.
“Midii,” he said, holding her away from him slightly. “Talk to me. And for God’s sake take those contacts out. I want to talk to you. Not Marguerite. Not tonight. Besides we’re alone.”
Midii sighed in irritation but went into the bathroom to take her contacts out. She blinked at herself in the mirror. Everything was so confusing. All she really wanted was to be held right now, there was an ache deep inside that seemed like it was trying to bubble up inside her somehow.
“Midii, what’s gotten into you,” Ichiban said, watching her step out of her dress, then holding her close and running his hand softly through her hair. He lowered her down on the pillows and her arms drew him closer.
He lifted his head to look into her eyes. He liked her better without those bright blue contacts, the color made him remember someone else. And Ichiban didn’t like being reminded of failure. But after all, it was all for the best now that he’d found Midii again.
“Damn it,” he cursed suddenly, disentangling himself from her arms and turning up the light. He studied her eyes, they were glazed and the pupils were dilated making them look almost black.
“Richard? What’s the matter,” she said, her voice puzzled and, he now noticed, rather vague.
“Nothing,” he lied. “Nothing at all, my love. You just seem tired. Don’t you want to sleep? We’ll talk in the morning.”
“But don’t you want to--” she started, hurt, disappointed tears welling in her eyes.
“Of course,” he said reassuringly, “but you’re so tired.”
She yawned and snuggled against him, obviously so open to the power of suggestion in her state that his words seemed to make her instantly drowsy and amenable. The warmth of her body wrapped around his was making it difficult for him to stick to his decision. But Ichiban realized that if he took advantage of her drugged state she would never forgive him for it. There was still some feeling for him within her, there must be, all this affection couldn’t be the result of drugs. Within moments she was asleep and he drew the blanket tenderly up over her bare shoulder. When he was sure she was out he carefully reached over for the bedside phone.
“Eva,” he hissed quietly and angrily. “What the hell are you trying to pull?”
Heero sat at his desk, staring intently at the face on the screen. The face behind one of the names Sally had gotten from Midii Une. It was so hard to believe, if it was true then the trouble was much deeper than any of them had expected. He continued to stare at the face, committing it to memory. The face of his enemy.
Relena peered over Heero’s shoulder. Since the night before he had become increasingly distant.
“Richard Ichiban,” she said, instantly recognizing the face on the screen. “Do you know him Heero?”
Heero turned to his wife startled. “No. I was researching the invited guests at the reception tomorrow. You know him?”
“Of course. I know Richard very well,” she said. “He is the head of security issues for President Viertien  after all. Do you suspect something with Richard, Heero? As I remember he was a rather charming man, and almost as handsome as you. Actually, he invited me to dinner more than once, but I never accepted.”
Heero remained silent, this man was smart and charismatic enough to worm his way into the confidence of the highest officials of the Unified Nation. Danger like this was worse than mobile suits. At least a battle was straightforward. Who knew who might be involved in a conspiracy of this magnitude and who it might hurt.
He gazed at Relena’s lovely, innocent face. All he wanted to do was protect her. He wished he could hide her away from the rising storm, but it would hit, there was nothing they could do to stop it. All they could hope for was to minimize the impact.
“Heero, please say something,” Relena repeated. “You can’t suspect him of any wrong-doing. Please say you’re wrong about this. Something like that, a traitor at the top levels, that could be devastating!”
“We’ll know more when we get to that reception,” Heero said. “Until then we give nothing away.”
Terrified shrieks echoed through the house from the bedroom above.
“Kuso,” Ichiban muttered, he’d hoped to have completed his work and return to her before she woke up in a panic and frightened the staff. He clicked off his computer program and raced up the stairs, taking them two at a time, only to find his stoic butler held hostage at the end of a letter opener.
“Where am I and who the hell are you,” he heard Marguerite ask the surprised man, a slight tremble in her voice that he doubted the terrified hired help detected.
“That will be all, Stevenson,” Ichiban said calmly, dismissing his relieved butler. “Please forgive Miss Doce, she is prone to horrible nightmares.”
Midii stared at Ichiban as the butler hurried from the room. What a way to start the morning, the man thought as he walked away down the hall. He’d gone in expecting to simply make up the bed and tidy the room and instead been attacked and nearly deafened by a shrieking hellcat.
“What’s going on here,” Midii asked, her voice steady and exuding false outrage and self-confidence, but her eyes belying her fright and confusion. “How did I get here and what is this place?”
Ichiban approached Marguerite cautiously but she held the letter opener in front of her threateningly and he raised his hands in an attitude of surrender.
“Alright Marguerite, I won’t come any closer. Just let me explain,” he said. It was difficult to restrain the urge to chuckle at her in amusement, she was hardly threatening, despite the weapon. In fact he was much more distracted by the revealing camisole she wore, one strap falling tantalizingly over her slender shoulder, than by the danger she posed with a letter opener.
“It seems our friend Eva played a mischievous trick on you Deejii-chan,” he explained carefully. “She confessed to me last night that she slipped some Rohypnol in your coffee yesterday afternoon. Are you feeling quite alright now? Your obvious feelings of paranoia are just aftereffects of the drug Marguerite. I’m sorry I wasn’t here when you woke up. I lost track of time.”
“I-I slept here,” Midii croaked, lowering the letter opener, trying to wrap her mind around the information he was giving her. Terror engulfed her as she noticed her state of undress and the rumpled bed that had obviously held two the night before. “And what else?”
“That’s all of course,” Ichiban said, congratulating himself that he’d abstained the night before. “I would never take advantage of you. I truly care for you Marguerite and I think my admirable self-control in spite of your best attempts at seduction last night proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt.”
What had she done, Midii wondered, her natural feelings of discomfort magnified by the lingering effects of Eva’s drugged coffee. She could remember nothing of the day before, it was a complete blank in her mind. She might have done anything. Anything. She had almost betrayed Trowa, would have betrayed Trowa . . .
She collapsed to her knees in a corner of the luxuriously-appointed room and sobbed heartbrokenly.
Ichiban sighed in annoyance. He much preferred the Midii of the night before to this sobbing wreck, but he knelt beside her and patted her shoulder. “It wasn’t your fault, Marguerite, calm down now so we can talk,” he said comfortingly.
She raised her tear-stained face to his. “Talk about what,” she asked, desperately trying to pull herself together.
“The mission, of course and your part in it,” he said.
“Richard,” she whispered, looking around the huge room, noting the expensive furniture. “What is this place? Who are you?”
“This is my house and I am a very important man. A very important man who has gained the utmost trust of the most influential people in the new government. There is only one thing I lack, a partner to share it all with. When the new world is created I will be at the top and I want you with me Marguerite,” he said, reaching into his pocket for something.
Midii looked down as she felt something cool and heavy slip over her left ring finger.
“Marry me Marguerite, Midii,” he whispered. “Play this game with me. Be at my side at the diplomatic reception tomorrow night. Know all that I know and together we will take the world by storm, or force as need be.”
“This is a game,” she said, her voice faltering. “You must be joking. You don’t really want to marry me.”
“If that’s how you want to play it,” he said, his voice hardening. What was wrong with her, why wasn’t she kissing him and saying yes as he had imagined he would? The night before had proved that she still had a physical attraction for him. Perhaps it was just too soon.
“Either way you will wear the ring and go to that reception as my fiancée,” he said. “You will be lovely and dignified and charm everyone you see. You will add to my credibility and we will be the perfect couple. Above suspicion in every way. As soon as you say the word the engagement will become genuine, the sooner the better. Give me a chance, please.”
Midii looked at the ring. It was huge and gorgeous, eerily like Dorothy Catalonia’s. She saw Trowa’s face in her mind. She couldn’t do this, it was too much to ask. She was afraid of where it would lead. But she didn’t dare say no, now. The girl she had been would have leaped at this chance and Ichiban knew that very well.
“I have to think,” she said softly, making herself look at the ring with admiration, after all it was lovely, although it made her feel as if she were wearing a shackle. “Please give me more time Richard.”
“As much as you need, my love,” he said, kissing her forehead softly.
“I have to leave,” she said hastily. “I can’t think here, I need to be alone. This is all such a surprise and as you said Richard I’m not feeling at all myself right now.”
“I’ll drive you to your hotel or better yet you can be alone right here,” Ichiban said. “I have plenty of work to do downstairs.”
“I think I’d rather go home,” Midii whispered.
The change of seasons was already making itself known. While the September days were still warm and sunny the night’s chill cast a fog on the antiquated brick streets of Old Town Brussels, the part of the city left over from before the construction of the colonies. It’s buildings and landmarks carefully preserved to give future generations a glimpse of the past.
Midii had let Ichiban drop her off at a random hotel. She wanted to keep her true whereabouts a secret, she needed a safe place he didn’t know about. She walked along the old, quiet streets. It was still quite early in the morning. She dreaded going back to the hotel, Wufei would be understandably furious at her long absence.
The place was gloomy in the misty air but Midii walked aimlessly. I’m so messed up I don’t even know where I’m going, she thought. It was frustrating and frightening having no recollection of how she had ended up in this part of town. Ichiban’s revelations had her on edge as well. But not as much as what had almost happened, she had almost betrayed Trowa. Her heart thumped sickeningly in her chest. It was too much, it was too awful. She wanted to quit. To hell with Sally Po and Preventers, to hell with the world, it wasn’t her responsibility. It wasn’t, she repeated mentally, trying to convince herself. She only cared about one person. Just Trowa.
She looked at the heavy ring, glinting in the rays of sunlight that pierced the mist. She twisted at it and finally it came off and she stashed it deep inside her purse. She couldn’t look at it now, didn’t want to feel it on her hand.
Trowa sat frustrated at the base of one of the famous guild statues that surrounded the little square. He glanced up at the sound of footsteps and saw a figure a little ways off in the lifting mist. His breath caught in recognition but the sunlight gleamed on red-gold curls. It wasn’t Midii, just a girl enough like her to make his heart thump painfully. Where was she? He got up and walked in the opposite direction of the girl he’d seen, there was still a chance she’d returned to the hotel since the last time he’d checked in.
As he turned a corner he saw her again and looked closer. The walk, her height, the lines of her body, so familiar, so very much like Midii. His throat constricted and he saw her many faces. How she looked when she woke up in the morning, her face clean and bare of makeup. That was the face he loved most. How she looked when they’d danced at Il Ritmo de la Mare, her face so beautiful, a mask of perfection, but always love in her eyes. That night the first time he’d seen it, believed in it. The girl he followed lifted her hand to push the fine, silky hair back from her face as she walked, her steps quickening. Midii’s gesture. He quickened his own steps and his hand reached out of it’s own accord to grab at her arm.
You’re feeling paranoid, it’s just the drug, she told herself, a twinge of fear twisting inside as she heard the footsteps behind her quicken in time with her own. She winced as she felt again Mezzo’s hands on her arms, his awful voice purring maliciously in her ear. A nightmare she could never forget.
Trowa heard the girl’s gasp of terror as he touched her arm and his fingers closed around it, the feel of her skin so familiar. What the hell was he thinking, he thought as he tried to calm her down, she couldn’t be Midii. Midii would recognize him, she would never be afraid of him.
“Miss, please I’m sorry,” he said softly, she was so upset he didn’t want to let her go without explaining. “I made a mistake . . .”
At the sound of his voice she raised her face to his and he glimpsed her desperately frightened blue-grey eyes.
“Trowa? How did you . . .” she cut off her words and flung herself in his arms, wrapping her own around his waist and hiding her face against his chest as she cried, nuzzling her face against the dark blue turtleneck he always wore when she wasn’t around to nag him to wear something else for a change.
He held her against him, his mind in a whirl. He had been so angry, he’d wanted to give her hell for doing this again. But, he’d never seen her so upset before and now all he could do was hold her. He knew that despite everything he would forgive her again, feelings of concern and protectiveness overwhelming everything else as she shook in his arms. Where had she been all this time and what had happened to her?
Next time on The Price of Redemption . . . Midii and Trowa are missing . . . disaster strikes . . . Relena comes face to face with an old admirer and Trowa acquires a new one.
=Viertien is 14 in Dutch, yes I love those GundamWing numbered names ^_~