The Price of Redemption
by Midii Une
how you make your face just like a wall
how you take your heart and turn it off
how I turn my head and lose it all
--Rob Thomas “Leave” (c) 2000 EMI Blackwood Music, Inc/Bidnis, Inc.
Ichiban clenched his fists in anger and soothed himself with satisfying thoughts of future revenge although his face remained a mask of cordiality. The gruff old cabinet member had gone too far with his comments about Midii’s past. And to make things worse Richard was absolutely positive she was listening on the other side of that door.
Everyone who knew her realized just what it meant to her that what she did, she did for her family. Even as the rest of them knew just what her father was; an undeserving son of a bitch. But Midii had desperately needed something to hold on to, some excuse to justify her actions and so no one had ever told her, just let her keep believing.
“I’ll kill anyone who breathes a word,” Stefan had said, fixing the rest of them with an icy glare his friends rarely saw.
“She’d just crumble,” he’d added softly turning away once his warning had been given. The two of them had always been like antagonistic siblings, Ichiban thought. It had been no surprise at all that Niente had ended up dying for her. Stefan could insult and tease Midii as much as he liked but he’d never let anyone else hurt her.
And now this pompous idiot had probably broken her heart with his careless words. Ichiban strained to hear what was going on outside the door, but he detected nothing from the hallway.
And though his smile never faded he promised himself that when he and Midii came to power the first one on the execution list would be the obnoxious Mr. Cigar Smoke himself. Once the seat of power shifted these aristocratic windbags would find the tables turned. He would no longer need them on his side and thus they would become disposable. Still no matter how he tried to ignore it and concentrate on the plans for their next move the continued silence from the other side of the door grew too worrisome and Ichiban excused himself suddenly. He was certain that his Deejii-chan needed him desperately.
Trowa carefully scooped Midii’s limp form off the floor, his eyes flicking over her intently for signs of injury. There was nothing visible but her face was white and bloodless and her breathing was shallow. A small, curious crowd gathered and Relena knelt next to him.
“What’s wrong,” she whispered, concern etched on her face as she drew a cold, wet handkerchief over Midii’s forehead. The coldness made her shiver and her lids started to flutter, to Trowa’s immense relief. He hugged her close, the delicate smell of lily of the valley surrounding him. As he buried his face in the curve of her neck he noticed faint lavender bruises on her shoulder and his eyes narrowed. What had Ichiban done to her?
Eva hovered on the fringe of the crowd, trying to control her rage at being thwarted. She was finding it difficult not to go over and strangle Marguerite. Damn her simpering, ladylike ways. Trust her to pull a trick like this just when she was making headway with the delicious Preventer. She had some sort of sixth sense it seemed that would be tough to beat. Her frown disappeared and Eva’s forehead smoothed instantly when she spied Ichiban pushing his way impatiently to the center of the small group that had gathered around poor Marguerite. It seemed Mademoiselle Doce wasn’t the only one with a sixth sense, Eva thought. An amused smile twitched her lips as she edged herself closer in anticipation of the entertainment to come.
Ichiban’s eyes acquired a ferocious gleam as he observed the situation.
“What the hell are you doing to my fiancée,” he hissed quietly, pushing through the crowd, his usual cultivated facade forgotten in an instant, as he knelt on the floor opposite Trowa. The rough, challenging tone of his voice started a murmur through the crowd like a pebble in a tranquil lake. Even aristocrats it seemed anticipated a good fight when they saw one coming.
Trowa’s eyes hardened and his fingers itched for his gun, how easy it would be. He longed for the days of the war for the first time since he had detonated HeavyArms. To destroy those who deserved it without second thought. This man had hurt Midii and one way or another Trowa vowed he was going to kill him.
His fingers trailed softly over the bruises on her shoulder as he held Ichiban’s eyes and he responded bitingly.
“Richard,” Relena interrupted hastily, using Trowa’s shoulder to pull herself upright and placing a gentle, restraining hand on Ichiban’s arm. “It’s not what it seems. You should thank this officer. He must have noticed that Mademoiselle Doce was overcome by the heat and came to her aid. I understand this must be upsetting. But I’m positive she’ll be fine, I’m feeling a bit light-headed myself in here from the temperature and all this dancing.”
Richard swallowed his anger and nodded. It wouldn’t do at all to lose his temper in front of a Preventer officer and they certainly mustn’t suspect Marguerite. Luckily her disguise seemed to be keeping them from realizing she was on their most wanted list.
“Of course it must be as you say, Madame Yuy,” he said, lifting her gloved fingers to his lips for a respectful kiss. “You must understand that I get a bit carried away when it comes to my Deejii-chan. But you are ever the peacemaker and I will abide by your wishes in this. The worry made me lose my temper as I’m sure your husband would understand.”
His eyes met Heero’s and the other man returned his look unblinkingly.
“Of course I understand,” he agreed, but his tone was flat.
Midii kept her eyes shut, trying to think as her mind reeled from the devastating revelation about her father’s betrayal. However, the instincts that seemed to come so naturally to her worked automatically and helped her steel herself from hiding her face in Trowa’s jacket and begging him to take her out of there.
Finally she groaned a little and hesitantly opened her eyes. She let her gaze meet Trowa’s first for a brief instant, reassuringly she hoped, before turning her head to search for Richard and struggling to stand up.
“Richard,” she asked groggily. “What happened?”
“Don’t try to stand, cherie,” he said, leaning over and pulling her out of Trowa’s grip, his look smug as her arms went around his neck in a desperate embrace. “You fainted.”
Midii raised her face from Richard’s shoulder and her eyes met Eva’s black ones.
“I brought you a glass of brandy,” she said, false concern oozing in her voice. “They say it helps.”
Midii let out a strangled gasp as the other woman held the glass out to her. The black eyes bored into hers with unspoken malice. Midii struck out wildly, knocking away the glass containing the gleaming amber liquid and the heavy crystal shattered in sparkling bits on the polished wood floor.
Overwhelmed she broke into tears.
“Richard please take me home,” she begged. “Please. I want to leave.”
Eva stared at Trowa knowingly over Midii’s head as if to say, “I told you so.”
He turned on his heel grimly and stalked out of the room.
Not for the first time that evening Richard Ichiban damned the gossipy old cabinet member. He leaned against the slick black exterior of his limousine and looked up at the window of her hotel room, her figure was silhouetted against the curtain for an instant, the vision of her filling him with longing, before the light flickered out and he was left staring at a dark window.
She had begged him to leave her alone.
“I need to come to terms with what my father has done,” she’d whispered, her eyes shining with tears. “Please understand. I don’t even know who I am anymore.”
He remembered the delicate texture of her skin as he stroked her cheek comfortingly. She was so frail, she needed to be protected.
“You’re Midii Une,” he said firmly, taking the opportunity to hold her close, savoring her nearness and the faint fragrance of her perfume. “An excellent agent and the woman I love. Soon everyone will respect us and we will be on top of the world. You’ll be happy then. We deserve to be happy.”
“Perhaps,” she had muttered noncommittally, her eyes studying the floor intently, as she moved out of his arms. He had finally given in to her pleas to be left alone. He was a gentleman, how could he do less?
Richard sighed and yanked open the car door. It was always something, never her fault of course. But when were they going to get a chance to get reacquainted with each other? He wanted her beside him all night and all day.
“We’ll have the rest of our lives Richard,” she’d whispered, a faint crooked smile on her lips as she kissed him goodnight.
“Home, Stevenson,” he ordered his driver tiredly.
“No,” a sultry voice whispered and the familiar touch of a feminine hand slid softly along the inside of his thigh. “I think we should stay here Richard. Don’t you think you should keep watch over Marguerite? Like a guardian angel?”
“Eva,” he growled, snatching the offending satin-gloved hand and stopping it from further invasion of his personal space.
She sat in the sickly green glow of a laptop computer, her silk robe slipping unheeded over one shoulder and her head resting tiredly in her hand. She hadn’t even heard him come in and he could watch her in the semi-darkness. He could move with stealth and silence, in that he was as practiced as she was. Now he could watch her and wonder. Wonder who she was and what she was really doing. He had to trust her on this, everyone else trusted her. He’d started to mention his doubts to Quatre after the reception but he had cut him off with reassuring words and when she heard the doubt in his voice Sally had come over and talked to him.
“I know her Trowa,” she said soothingly. “Over these months when we’ve been meeting I’ve really gotten to know who Midii is. She is with us on this 100 percent. I’m sure of it.”
But he was the only one who really knew her. What if it happened again, he thought, the soft click of her fingers racing over the keyboard fading as his mind wandered back in time as she stared at her in the dim room.
“Can’t you cry Nanashi,” she’d asked curiously, her blue-gray eyes tried to pierce through to his soul and her little girl’s tremulous voice was soft and questioning.
He hadn’t answered; he had merely torn his eyes from hers and looked at the ground as she filled his plate with stew.
“You betrayed the ones who raised you,” she persisted and there had been a strange tone in her voice that made him look at her again.
He tried to look into her eyes. What did she care? What did she want? But her eyes, usually so open and innocent had a closed-off look in them and she gazed back at him nervously as he stared at her, a little, lop-sided smile curving her lips half-heartedly.
He’d shrugged, “I used up all my tears when I was a baby.” But his mind had been racing. Something was wrong. The Alliance had been finding them more and more easily. It had been getting worse for months. More attacks, more battles, their comrades defecting as their defeat seemed more and more certain.
All since Midii came. He looked over his shoulder at her and she was still smiling uncertainly at him, her hand clutched around her game necklace. A gesture she habitually turned to when upset or nervous.
Certainty flashed through his brain.
“So, it’s that,” he’d thought.
He wanted nothing more than to go to her now. The girl who had always held this strange attraction for him. Push the robe further off her shoulder and worship her skin with his hands and lips, carry her to the bed and get rid of his doubts. She had to talk to him. She had to look him in the eye and tell him that she could be trusted. Those months ago in Provence she had been so right.
If he couldn’t trust her they couldn’t be together. No, his heart protested. Without her life wouldn’t be worth living. He watched her reach shakily for a glass of some dark liquid and bolt down a gulp as she stared at the screen. Whiskey? He saw her shudder as the liquor hit her stomach and then she resumed typing.
Midii gazed at the screen, her eyes burning. She had truly meant to begin her work of matching the faces she’d seen in that conference room, but first she had to know. She’d had to find out.
The words wavered in front of her. They’d said he died of his illness.
They had lied.
The words told her the truth. She wondered why she had never bothered to doubt before. Had a part of her known what she would find?
Philippe Une, age 42, killed in a street fight. September 10, AC 194. Monte Carlo.
Monte Carlo. The gambler’s haven.
She gasped and brought her trembling hand to her mouth.
“Midii” Trowa said softly and he watched as her shoulders tensed and she hastily slammed down the lid of her laptop. “What are you doing?’
“Trowa! What are you doing here? How did you get in here,” she asked, her chest moving up and down rapidly as if she were frightened, her eyes not meeting his.
He covered the space between them in a few steps, reaching out to turn on the lamp on the desk.
“What are you doing Midii,” he asked, his voice harsher than he intended as he desperately wished for her to reassure him, to hear her say the right words.
His heart plummeted, as she raised her eyes to meet his then dropped them before they ever connected. She turned away, pulling at her robe till it covered her shoulder and wrapping her arms around herself.
“I was confirming the names of the men I saw in that room,” she said slowly, her hands nervously rearranging the items on the desk as she continued to refuse to meet his eyes.
Trowa’s throat felt tight and dry and his eyes burned.
“Who are they? What did you find,” he asked.
“Nothing,” she said quickly. “Nothing yet. It’ll take a bit longer.”
She was lying.
Midii swallowed and turned away. She couldn’t tell him about her father. What if he didn’t understand? What if he hated her all over again for what she’d done so long ago? She glanced at him over her shoulder, then looked away again. What if he found out and he wouldn’t forgive her? Her heart pounded nervously.
She stiffened when he put his hands on the soft material that covered her shoulders, then she relaxed, the familiar warmth of his touch comforting her as always and she leaned back against him, shutting her eyes.
“Oh Trowa,” she murmured. “Please hold me.”
His arms wrapped around her willingly, tightening as she pressed herself against him. He buried his nose in her hair. She had taken a bath and smelled like lavender again, all the feelings of love and desire that they shared started to build in him, to replace Eva’s ugly words.
This was Midii. They loved each other. She loved him. It was true.
“Look at me,” he whispered gently, turning her face toward him carefully. “What happened tonight?”
She looked at him but her eyes were shuttered, she smiled hesitantly, a crooked little twist of the lips, so unlike her usual bright smile.
“It was nothing. Only the heat like Relena said. I’m sorry I worried you,” she whispered. Her soft cool hands caressed his face and she gazed at him pleadingly.
Believe me, her look said. But he knew she was lying. He couldn’t shake it.
That smile, that smile so like before. Like the one from his memory.
And what would she say this time? What would she say when everyone he cared about was dead?
“I’m sorry,” she whispered again, tiptoeing to plant soft kisses on his face.
This time he couldn’t let Midii destroy the lives of the people he cared about. He disentangled himself from her embrace and pushed open the balcony doors stepping outside and looked at the stars.
After a time she came out and wrapped her arms around his waist, pressing her face against his back.
“Trowa,” she ventured. “What’s wrong?”
“I-I can’t stay,” he said, pulling away again. He couldn’t look at her hurt face, he couldn’t let himself be tempted to hold her and believe that she could be trusted as the others did. He needed distance, he needed time to think.
He had been warned, he knew better.
Eva’s sharp nails dug through the thin material of Ichiban’s shirt and she struggled to control the triumphant smile that kept threatening to appear on her face. He’d been silent as they listened to Marguerite’s conversation through the device she had planted, but she could feel the tension growing in his shoulders. And when the Preventer stepped out on her balcony only Eva’s hand on his arm had kept him from bursting from the car gun in hand.
Of course moments after Midii predictably followed, rubbing herself against her lover in a provocative, kittenish way that sealed her fate with Ichiban. She was betraying him. She was sleeping with the enemy.
“It’s him,” Ichiban muttered, recognizing the form of the Preventer officer he’d confronted at the reception earlier. He didn’t even feel the pain as blood oozed from the cuts caused by Eva’s grip on his shoulder.
“Let go of me,” he hissed. “I promised I’d rip her heart out if she betrayed me and I intend to make good on that. Then we have to move on. Who knows what damage she’s caused. I have to get it under control.”
“Wait Richard,” Eva said, her grip tightening as their eyes locked. “I have been working on my own revenge. You are not the only one she has betrayed. She killed Stefan as well. I will not let her go unpunished for that.”
“You see,” she continued, gesturing eloquently at the balcony as Trowa left Midii alone, “he no longer trusts her either. We can use this situation to our advantage and bring the entire Preventer agency down. We’ll place the blame for the next incident on their little operative. She’ll be dead and they’ll be discredited and we’ll have everything just the way we planned.”
“Excuse me,” Trowa mumbled as he bumped into a figure in the lobby. He tried to forget the look on her face when he left. She had looked almost desperate. But until he was sure, he couldn’t stay with her, no matter how much he wanted to. Everything was different this time.
He cared so much more for her now, the instinctive protective feelings he’d had for her as a child so much stronger, multiplied by a thousand it seemed. But the responsibility he had to others had grown just as much. These were people he couldn’t let her betray, no matter what his personal feelings were. He’d willingly risk his own life to believe her. But not his friends’ lives, not innocent bystanders. His heart felt like it had gone through the paper shredder in Heero’s office.
And always nagging in the back of his mind. “What if I’m wrong? Will she ever forgive me?”
“Barton,” a familiar voice called and he felt a restraining hand on his shoulder. “What’s the matter with you?”
He thought he could detect a note of concern buried deep beneath the arrogant overtones of the voice.
Wufei would know. He could shed some light on the time they had spent here in Brussels before the rest of them had arrived. Maybe, Trowa thought, he could disprove the things the other woman had said about Midii. He had no real reason to believe her, except that she seemed to know so much about them. It had added a note of credulity to her story.
“Can we talk,” he said, his voice unemotional. But Wufei raised a narrow eyebrow. There was emotion in those green eyes. They had never been close but it wasn’t difficult to sense something was wrong. He cast his black eyes up at the ceiling. That woman. What had she done now, he wondered irritably.
“I could stand a cup of coffee,” he said, by way of agreeing to a conversation.
“I would have won you know. If we hadn’t been interrupted,” Duo said in the darkness as Hilde snuggled against his side making contented sounds.
“Mmmmhmmm, whatever Duo,” she muttered, wanting only to sleep in the aftermath of their lovemaking. “If it makes you happy to think so. After all it always ends up the same way, both of us always lose all our clothes in the end.”
“Ah-ha! So you admit it, I would’ve won,” he answered, his hand sleepily caressing her delicate shoulder. She could feel rather than see the triumphant grin on his face. Duo enjoyed victory and that was a fact. Even if it were only a strip poker game with his own wife.
“You’re impossible, you know that,” she said, but she emphasized her derisive words with a soft kiss that grazed his earlobe.
“You’re thinking that she dishonored you,” Wufei exclaimed, barely containing his outrage and keeping his voice at a normal volume.
“No,” Trowa hissed. “I don’t think that. I just want to know everything that happened before I got here.”
Wufei closed his eyes in thought, his face so still, for what seemed such a long period of time to his anxious friend that Trowa thought he’d fallen asleep.
“Wufei,” he said, startled when the eyes popped open immediately as he reached out to shake him.
“What exactly do you want to know,” the Chinese pilot asked testily. The suspicions he’d had early in the mission about Midii Une returning upon his careful thought.
“Well . . . was she ever alone with the enemy? Or were you always with her,” Trowa said, his eyes on the floor.
“Of course I was with her,” Wufei said defensively, not liking how Trowa seemed ready to blame him for any irregularities in her conduct. “Except the first night.”
Trowa raised a brow. This was like pulling teeth.
“Why not,” he prodded.
“She tricked me and went off alone,” Wufei said, a slight flush of embarrassment tinting his face at the memory.
“How long was she gone,” Trowa questioned.
“I don’t know,” Wufei admitted. “I went out to look for her and when I got back here it was past 2 am and she was asleep. In your underwear.”
It was Trowa’s turn to flush, so that had been where his favorite boxers disappeared to, his face grew warm thinking how much better they looked on her than on him.
“You looked,” he said, his voice loud enough to garner some odd glances from the rest of the early-morning crowd at the coffee bar.
“Oh please,” Wufei said. “As if I’d be interested in a back-stabbing, dishonorable, skinny little—“
He stopped as Trowa’s hand fisted in his shirt and his green eyes glowed with warning. “Just go on, then what happened,” Trowa said, releasing Wufei’s shirt.
“By the next night she had everything under control and it looked like they had accepted her back easily enough. It was all smooth sailing until the afternoon she disappeared and that’s where you came in,” Wufei said.
“So what are you thinking,” Wufei asked, after examining Trowa’s faraway look for several seconds.
He was thinking that Wufei’s story meshed with that of the woman’s at the reception. Nothing he said could prove Midii’s innocence, it only showed that she’d had plenty of opportunity to reacquaint herself with Ichiban that first night. Why hadn’t she taken Wufei along, if her intentions had been good, Trowa wondered.
Next time on The Price of Redemption (this feature back by popular demand ^_~) . . . in Trowa’s mind the evidence is stacked against Midii . . . Midii’s distracted behavior works against her . . . Ichiban and Eva perfect their plan for revenge . . . Duo’s priestly garb comes in handy.