Chapter Twenty-Four

At Last

"Sir, you've got a call from Marcus," Sato told Zechs.

Zechs came over a flipped a button to transfer the call. He picked up the receiver. "What is it?"

"Relena knows sir. She's going to hold a press conference in an hour, I've been trying to stall her." Marcus sounded irritated.

"Great…I've got some information that needs to be shared." Over the phone he called to Sato. "Have Trowa's files been processed yet?"

"They have sir."

"Anything useful?"

Sato grinned. "Yup."

"Transfer then to my sister's account."

"Yes sir." Sato was smiling rather evilly.

Turning back to Marcus, Zechs said, "We have some very useful information for Relena." Then he stopped, "No wait, I've got a better idea."

Tai blinked.

Then he blinked again and watched his dissociated chalk-white hand clutch the gear shift. His head was killing him and he was breathing hard. And he couldn't remember the last hour at all, judging from the comlink clock.

Zero… but he hadn't written a zero….how did it get into his head…unless!

Tai pulled off his head set. His hands were trembling again. He wasn't used to this anymore. Now, more than ever, he was convinced that going to medical school had been the correct choice. He was tired of saving lives by destroying others. What was a life anyway? Was one more important than another?

Tai's mind screamed no, they were all equal. But then by that logic, his was worth just as much as others. So what gave his worthless self the right to take any life no matter the cause? Because he had, he was sure of it, even if he couldn't remember. But then again, he saved millions more by killing thousands less.

Duo was whooping behind him. "First battle I've been in and didn't get a scratch!"

"Yah…not a scratch…." Tai whispered.

"But man—you idiot! What happened?"

"I…I don't know…."

Duo came over and looked down at Tai, eyebrows knit together in a worried expression that he usually gave to his scraped up children. "How do you feel?"

"Like crap."

"Well, I don't think you killed anyone," Duo said softly.

Tai's head shot up and he immediately regretted it—it was pounding.

"Hey you guys, Miss Darlian is on TV," a technician called out to them.

"What!" They both went scrambling for the screen.

A little camera flicked on and Relena appeared standing behind a podium.

Zechs sighed in relief. Here she was again, playing her part just as she was meant to. It was a play, all over again, wasn't it? Each playing his or her role just as they should. Heero was back, Relena was speaking. The other five of them fighting as before. Dorothy was missing though.

"….I'm suffering from a severe case of deja vous," Relena began.

Tai grinned from his simulator. This was her part. This was what she was meant to do and she'd do it well. Maybe this would not save the world from war forever but it could at least stall it. Then he stifled a groan and rubbed his pounding temples.

"Ten years ago I was in this same position. Maybe not the same location, but I was in this same situation. At this exact moment the Preventors are fighting to take control of a very dangerous situation. A group of radicals are attempting to do something entirely ludicrous—to destroy Earth, and result in the deaths of billions of people. Again. I am putting forth a call for help, to cease this idiocy. As of late, people have been destroying all the safe-guards so many of us have fought for years to put into place to prevent such a horrific event to take place again.

"This is a call to all Senators, Prime Ministers, house and cabinet members, and to all government officials—please help me. Help me to fight this and to protect the people of the colonies and the earth.

"To all soldiers, please help us to maintain a pure military—uncorrupted and productive. They say that power corrupts. We have seen this time and time again. I beg of you, all of you, do not let yourself be poisoned by its influence. It is possible to gain power without oppression! You can be better than that.

"To all citizens, please remember the price of peace. I'm begging you, forget anger, and hate, and most of all, revenge. These are pointless unproductive feelings. Do not dwell on them and help us to prevent so many unnecessary deaths. There are orphans and widows left behind, bereft fathers and mothers…."

Zechs chuckled softly as Relena continued her tirade.

He turned to watch over the battle field. There were now several Preventor ships which had noticed activity in the area and come to help. Nearly twenty-four hours later, after completely abandoning anything that even remotely resembled his original plan, it was over.

Would it be over for good—Zechs doubted it. As long as people can think for themselves, there would never be one idea of what is right and best for humanity. And as ideas gain strength and followers, the idealists gain power—and ego. Perhaps Zechs thought too much about what others think, over analyzing, like a jealous manic-depressive house-wife—eei! What a comparison.

Yet, this had kept him alive. Unfortunately, all it had taught him was that if it was physically possible, man was capable of doing it. If it could be thought of, dreamt of, it could be done.

He shook his head—he almost sounded like an optimist.

Glancing at his sister on the small screen, he was suddenly struck by how much she resembled their mother. He wondered if she remembered their mother at all.

Climbing out of his ship, he saw AL was already parked. Medics were using various saws to cut Alexi out of the ship. Louis was sitting on a stretcher with a medic hovering over his leg, pulling shrapnel out. Wufei was holding his arm, and Trowa was standing in the corner quietly, arms and legs crossed and eyes glazed over, having come back from directing a group of fighters.

And no, Relena didn't remember their mother at all. And he understood why—perhaps someday everyone would understand why.

Tai sighed and leaned back against a wall, eyes closed. It was over. It was over. Voices next to him were jabbering away—wait, it was just one. Duo.

Several operators were turned in their seats, staring at him when he opened his eyes again.

He decided to ignore them but then one finally spoke up. "I know where I've seen you before! Aren't you Miss Relena's boyfriend?" he queried unabashedly.

Tai started. And reality hit him. What on Earth was he going to do now? Then he laughed a ludicrous, insane laughter without humor—but at least Earth was still here to wonder what he should be doing on it.

It was late before Tai arrived home, exhaustion deep in his bones. He had tried to find Relena, but the press was everywhere. People seemed to have forgotten the supposed scandal that had consumed the screens only a few hours before.

"Hey man. Rough day?" Donny asked sarcastically from his position on the couch. He'd worked all day and had finally been replaced after working sixteen hours straight. He had promptly planted himself on the couch and was showing no signs of moving. He was watching an old American cartoon called "The Fox and the Hound."

Tai sighed as he opened the refrigerator. "Yah, it was pretty rough…."

"Looks like your girlfriend's going to be pretty busy for a while. Man…her own brother…."

Tai smirked at the white surface; his face, distorted to mere swaths of color, blinked back at
him. "Hn." He could not think of anything else to say.

Tai sidled into his class ten minutes late as usual which Sidra obligingly reminded him of in her usual hiss. Then he promptly answered the question his professor asked him in an attempt to embarrass him for his lateness.

"Ghonoria," he said decisively. STD's—yuck. The best birth control besides getting pregnant: total abstinence.

"Where have you been? Saving the universe?" Vince asked from his other side.

"Nah, just the Earth." He whispered back sarcastically.

Three hours later the bell rang and fifty antsy, sleep deprived students practically sprinted out of the class room for their coffee break and ten hour clincials.

"Man, and I still have clinical today. Does it ever end!" Emily whined.

"Oh sure. In another year and a half. Then you'll be a slave to society working ninety-five hours a week and paying about half what you bring in for mal-practice insurance and being accused of only doing it for the money—and all for the sake of humanity," Sidra said acidly.

Tai smiled. He was remembering the message on his answering machine.

/Tai? It's me, Relena that is. There's going to be a huge dinner in a couple weeks—you think you can make it/

"How about you Tai. You looking forward to graduation and becoming a slave to humanity?" Vince asked, grinning at Sidra who was sticking her tongue out at him.

"What, don't you think it's worth it?" Tai asked.

"Where did you disappear to the other day anyway? And what was all that with Darlian?" Vince reminded him.

Tai shrugged. "Don't you think there are more important things to worry about?"

Several Weeks Later-

The music was saccharine and oppressive and made one's stomach weak.

"You've done it again Ms. Darlian!"

"How do you do it!"

She smiled superficially and smoothed out the wrinkles in her dress as an excuse to hide her eyes. Finally she made her way to a far balcony. There were hundreds of politicians here, all arguing as usual. Didn't they ever find it tiresome?

Relena sat in her cushioned chair and looked around, struggling to disguise her frustration with the inanity of some lines of logic.

"Something the matter?" Zechs asked coming up from behind. Relena saw Noin a few paces behind nodding politely to several other guests.

"He said he'd be here. But I don't see him anywhere…." Pouting, she began to draw designs on the tablecloth in front of her.

"I'm sure he's on his way. But I was wondering if you'd do me a favor. Do you remember those files I sent you earlier? Here are the hard copies…" Zechs said, passing a folder over to her.

Kiki stood quietly in a corner, gloved hands folded delicately over her small bag, remembering just exactly why she despised these types of parties. Tons of people she didn't know, chatting shallowly with each other. It made her sick. She felt awkward, and she was bored out of her gourd. Relena was here, but that didn't help too much. She was currently getting up to talk to more guests.

There were little round tables everywhere, cards next to each plate with curly and supposedly elegant writing. She thought it looked rather flowery and silly. An orchestra in one corner set the tone, and a few people danced under a blue light. But these were all politicians and military people. They didn't party too much, unless alcohol was involved, lots and lots of it. And there were too many people…just too many…and…

"Christina?" a man asked.

She jumped to look up at the man standing to her left. And felt her heart stop.

"Father?"

He was smiling down at her. "I thought that was you. How are you doing? I almost didn't recognize you! Such a pretty young woman you've grown into."

Getting over her initial shock, Kiki felt her anger rising. She pulled her self away from his hand, which was resting on her shoulder. "I'm sorry—I mistook you for someone else. I don't know you."

Her father's face firmed up. "Playing this game are we? And what do you have to be so angry for?"

Kiki nearly choked. "What do I have to be angry for, you ask? You DARE ask? Well, allow me to remind you! You made Mom's life miserable, you made my life miserable; you walked out on us, leaving us penniless mind you. You run off with some floozy, you completely ignore us, you emailed me ONCE when I got published while getting my masters—you are a worm. I wouldn't claim you as my father if I had a choice between you and a HAMSTER!"

"I brought you into this world you ungrateful snot." His lip was curled into a familiar snarl. "And how did you get here anyway? Sleep with some general? Flash for the boys at the door?"

"I was invited here! I'm on Zech Marquis' team."

"And I bet his little wife is so happy about that…"

Kiki felt her hand rise to slap him, but she grabbed it back. She couldn't strike him here in front of everyone. It was his prerogative if he wanted to be his usual jerky self, albeit in a whisper. But he was her father and a Colonel of the Preventors, the same level as Zechs Marquis. She would not shame herself for him nor shame Zechs. Her sire wasn't worth it. "For your information, I am an engineer and I do excellent work, else Col. Marquis would not have me work with him." Her voice was growing shrill and it was all she could do to keep from screaming a string of expletives at him.

"Juliano," a calm voice said from the other side of her.

"WHAT?" she snapped. She failed to notice her father's look of surprise.

"First Lieutent Chang. Nice to see you again," Colonel Juliano greeted Wufei.

Wufei nodded. "I presume your father?" he asked of Kiki.

She huffed. "I have no father."

The Colonel's eyes flashed. "She does get so worked up over little things. This is my daughter."

"She may be quick to anger, but it's never over nothing," Wufei said pointedly. "If you don't mind, I'd like to steal her away for a moment." Without waiting for a reply, Wufei took Kiki's arm and dragged her away. "Calm down. You look ready to explode," he said out of the side of his mouth.

"That pompous, two-faced…" she muttered, riffling through her small bag.

Wufei snorted. Then stopped when he noticed two damp lines working their way down Kiki's proud face.

"What happened?" he asked, backing her into a corner behind an unobtrusive pillar, blocking her from public eye as she surreptitiously swiped at her eyes with the tissue she'd pulled from her bag.

"Oh…nothing much…made my childhood a living HELL, cheated on my mother, ran off with some bimbo, ignored her, ignored me unless I managed to do something that gained me public recognition. Threatened to disown me if I ever did anything wrong or incorrect…nothing much…." Suddenly she buried her face in her hands to stifle a hiccupped sob. What was wrong with her! She'd never told anyone this except Relena.

He pulled her into the shadows and then put his arms around her. She stiffened with shock until he spoke quietly. "I suppose he's part of the reason you seemed so sure you were worthless and deserved everything evil and ugly in life a few months back."

Then the dam burst and Kiki sobbed into his shoulder, clinging to him. "It's not fair…it's not fair…"

"No one ever said life was fair," Wufei told her.

"Oh, thank you so much. That makes me feel so much better," she retorted sarcastically.

"The challenge now is to show the world who you really are. He cannot hurt you any longer if you are too high for him to reach."

Wufei smiled down at her as she leaned out of his arms and wiped her face and blew her nose quietly.

"Thank God for waterproof mascara…"

"Feel better?"

Kiki nodded and Wufei took her arm to lead her toward Relena, who was currently looking star-struck at Tai who'd just arrived.

"That man should burn for a thousand years in an iron maiden…" he muttered.

Kiki looked up at him in shock but covered it up quickly.

"You made it," Wufei greeted Tai.

"Naturally. I said I'd come, didn't I?" Tai said back, shortly.

"Oh don't you two dare start arguing already," Relena chided.

"I thought they were friends," Kiki said.

"Friends," Wufei scoffed.

"It looks like everyone's sitting down for dinner," Relena interrupted.

Kiki found herself seated at the round table between Wufei and a pretty dark haired woman who seemed to be with Col. Marquis—a pretty dark haired woman with a monstrous rock on her hand. This must be the little wife her father had talked about. Wufei was next to Tai and they immediately began a very slow and deliberate debate about some operating system. Relena was between Tai and Zechs and they were half-whispering about something.

The pretty woman turned to Kiki. "I'm Lucrezia, Zechs' wife. Many people just call me Noin though—my maiden name," she said, holding out a hand.

Kiki had heard about her before. She had worked with Sally and Wufei and Zechs and even Lady Une a lot. But now she mostly taught and trained the new-comers. "I'm Kiki Juliano. I worked on Col. Marquis' project," she said, shaking the woman's hand politely.

"Oh, I see," Noin said knowingly. "I thought for a minute Wufei had actually decided to admit there are admirable women in the world. Then again, I don't see any flying pigs."

Kiki covered her grin and instead returned, "I'm glad I could meet you. I've heard about you. They say you're the best teacher there is."

Noin blushed politely. "Hardly. If I was that good none of my students would ever be killed in battle." She looked very far away but then snapped back into the present.

Dinner was a very nice affair and many people got up to make little speeches about unity and how well everyone was looking. But then Relena stood up and all faces turned to her, silent. She had a way of always saying the most "shocking" things.

There was something about Relena that Kiki had never noticed before. She was absolutely fearless, quite unlike Tai who was looking acutely uncomfortable at the moment. She had a firmness of stride and a certainty of character that seemed to flow from her. The incongruity of the situation struck her as hilarious as she looked from the slouching Tai to the erect Relena.

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I just would like to say a few words and then you may go back to your superficial flattery and pompous boasting."

Everyone sat up even straighter in their chairs. Zechs looked smug, Noin looked nervous. "Not again…I don't think she has a gun this time…" she muttered. Kiki made a mental note to ask what that meant, but at a better time.

"It has just come to my attention that certain people have been manipulating the few universal laws which we all uphold. I have reports of Senator Patterson funding research of beam weaponry to a certain 'Nanashi' organization, before fighting to get several bills refuted which would have allowed beam weaponry and mobile suits. Yes, the very weapons which were used in the attempted destruction of the Earth not a month ago. I would also like to point out that Sen. Patterson was not on Earth at the time of that threat, but at his vacation home on L2. Also, Governors Rothart and Kim both provided mobile dolls which they hid from inspectors so as to not be destroyed during the ban of mobile suits nearly ten years ago. Senator Gutiez passed a bill which made legal the use of nuclear warheads in warfare. And a very well-known owner of several resource colonies, Ms. Clingam, provided premises for Nanashi."

By now much whispering had broken out and Relena had to practically yell to be heard over it all.

"If such back-stabbing behavior is to continue, I cannot foresee any peaceful future for us. We must keep this from happening! We must fight this and make certain that this—DOES-NOT-HAPPEN-EVER-AGAIN!"

Zechs turned and nodded at several uniformed men in the corner. Kiki had a very sneaky suspicion that the people just named who were not in the room were being arrested. Someone in the audience was sitting flabbergasted as two uniformed people grabbed him by the arms.

Then Relena walked off the podium, a fierce look of determination on her face as she glared at everyone around her.

"So much for dinner, eh?" Duo whispered, pulling on Noin's sleeve from the table behind them. Noin heaved a breath as if suppressing her rolling eyes.

"Hey, when did you get here?" Kiki asked suddenly.

Tai held onto Relena's arm as she marched through the airport. Yet again this petite woman had managed to turn the government into complete chaos. And then she'd put it back together as she saw fit, AGAIN.

His other hand was nervously clenching and unclenching in his pocket. And there was still that nervous twitch of his—the one that automatically reached for a trigger when no one was present.

He grinned as he glanced behind him to see Kiki and Wufei still arm in arm. The other three pilots had managed to disappear completely unnoticed. It was amazing to Tai that the Gundam Pilot conspiracy was still a conspiracy. And Duo with Hilde—that was dangerous.

It made him nervous—what else could Zechs and Une manage to hide if they could hide this?

The guards let the plane door descend and Tai gave Relena a slight push putting her in front of him. She sat down in a seat and sighed heavily.

"How're your feet doing?" Tai asked her.

"They're killing me, but not as much as my head. Got any Excedrin per chance?"

"Sorry. Fresh out."

Relena sighed and grabbed his hand. "This'll be good enough for me," she whispered, smiling up at him.

"Hm."

Relena made an odd face and Tai tried to suppress a smirk as she looked down at their hands. "What is that?" she asked pointedly.

"Oh this?" Tai asked, looking casually down at the little diamond ring on his pinky. "I found it. You want it?"

"That depends. Does it come with strings attached?"

"Ever the politician. Alas, it does."

Relena grinned. "Hmmm…I don't know. Can I get it in writing?"

"Most likely."

"Is it a lifelong contract?"

"I hope so."

"Okay."

Tai jumped. "Okay?"

"Yes, I said okay!" Relena told him, laughing.

Tai grinned.

"So are you going to keep wearing my ring?" Relena asked, cocking an eyebrow and holding out her left hand.

Still grinning, Tai pulled off the ring and slid it on Relena's left ring finger as her other arm came around his neck to pull him down for a kiss.

Tai mumbled something in her ear between kisses.

"Sorry, what was that?"

"I said I love you," he stuttered. His face was bright red.

Relena grinned up at him. "I love you too."

"Iwasato, might I remind you that you are making out with my sister in public?" Zechs said menacingly, his figure looming above them.

A/N I'm finished! What do you think? Sorry for the bad spacing--this chapter probably seems to randomly jump from subject to subject but that's because this silly program won't let me fix that! I'm going to work on revising that but I just anted to get it out for you as soon as possible. Sorry this last little bit has been taking me soooooooooooooooooooooooooo terribly long. But I'm done now! Aren't you proud? I hope it was all worth it. Thank you so much for all your reviews and help along the way. Thank you for reading!

I don't know if another story will be coming out soon or not. I need time to recover—and I'm currently in Japan for eight weeks so that could be difficult.

But please tell me what you think of this. I really hope this was a satisfactory ending for you.

Toodles for now, Tygerlilee