And now, here we are at the final chapter. I never expected this fic to take so long, but it's been just over two years. Thank you all, those of you who have been with me since the beginning of this story or if you you've just now discovered it. I appreciate your time to read this.
As always, I would love to hear (well, read) any thoughts, comments or criticism anyone has toward this story. Enjoy the ending and thanks again!
Disclaimer: As it goes for all of us, I do not own Gundam Wing, Full Metal Panic, or the even the bit of rope mentioned in this chapter. Broke high school student I am. ;
Upper Class – Chapter 15
By Gundam Girl
Relena's eyes opened millimeter by millimeter to the sound of voices out in the hall. She ignored these voices at first, feeling groggy and almost separate from her body as she brushed her hair and put on a clean dress the color of rubies. She couldn't recall just why she wore the same clothes she had donned yesterday, nor why they were so dirty. She felt a faint ache in her leg and wondered at its origin. Staring in the looking-glass of her bedroom vanity, she tried to figure out just why her mind was so blank.
And in a flash she remembered it all.
Her dress had not been from yesterday but rather the day before that. She had gone to the prison with Heero and the crew of the Ivory Damsel. She had lain with Heero on the very floor of a cell. A young German had told them all of the men of the crew's impending death by rope.
And she had raced home, begging her brother to let them be spared. Milliardo had balked, finding her shameful, and Treize had took advantage her lack of focus due to anger. He had tried to force himself on her, at one point squeezing her thigh too hard…
Everything after that was gone, but none of it mattered. Frantic, Relena gave a slight shout of distress and burst out of her room, the door flying back and banging against the wall.
In the corridor outside she found Quatre and Dorothy, their expressions grave. She rushed right up to Quatre and could see her own pale face in his clear aquamarine eyes.
"Quatre!" she cried. "In God's name, what time is it?"
Quatre's lips moved as though he was going to say something, but he only managed to give a quick study to his pocketwatch and say, "Nearly three quarters past eight, Relena."
She nearly swooned, feeling Dorothy's hand on her arm to steady her. "When do they…" She had to stop and swallow before she could finish her question. "When do executions occur?" she demanded weakly.
Quatre winced, his heart feeling blacker than the devil's. "Nine. Relena, I'm—"
She did not stop to hear him but pulled away and ran down the stairs, nearly tripping on the hem of her skirt. She was out of the manor in five seconds altogether, and God smiled a little, for there was a cab just now pulling up to her brother's front door.
"The gallows!" she ordered swiftly to the drive, rapping her knuckles on the ceiling of the carriage to demonstrate her urgency. The horse cantered through the London street, and Relena wished it would gallop. She suddenly remembered that it was Sunday and there were crowds of people coming to and from their respective church services. It could take an entire twenty minute to drive four blocks down.
Wanting to weep, Relena slumped back into the plush seats of the carriage. But instead of crying, she folded her hands together so tightly that her fingers blanched, and she prayed. Prayed to God that He would not take the man she loved, nor the friends she had so recently come to cherish.
From where he sat, leaning against a cold stone wall behind a heavy oak door with iron barring a tiny window, Duo could hear the shuffling of people coming into the courtyard where the wooden platform with the trap doors stood ready to showcase the death of him and his closest companions.
"I always knew I'd die in an entertainin' way," he joked, but no smile accompanied his words.
"I never thought I would," said Wufei. "I thought for sure I'd be buried by my children somewhere. Flowers and all that fuss."
Trowa lifted his shoulders and let them drop again. "I assumed we'd get hit by a cannon eventually and I'd go down with the ship."
"Oh hell, that'd only be because you'd give Catherine the last space in the rowboat." Duo allowed the corners of his mouth to turn up. "But it seems we've all considered our deaths this far along. Eh, Captain?"
Heero was standing by the door, his shackled wrists held in front of him while he stared distractedly out the window, the bars leaving criss-crossed shadows on his face. "I didn't expect to die."
His crewmen met this declaration with awkward silence for several seconds. Each man contemplated the idea Heero spoke of with equal amounts of wishful thinking and disbelief. At last, Trowa gave a small chuckle. "Well, you wouldn't, would you, Captain?"
"Heero Yuy," added Wufei, "man of the sea, never destroyed."
"Exactly," replied Heero, ignoring the surprised look sent his way. "I don't mean my body would continue living. The body wastes no matter how fit you are. Given any of those thing you all said, I'd want to die Trowa's way."
Duo's eyebrows were raised nearly to his hairline. "Why's that, Heero?"
"Because when your body is taken by the sea, it's as though your heart keeps beating with the pulse of the waves." Heero smiled a little at his men. "But sea or none – I'm glad to have you all as part of my crew. And I can only hope that the other parts fair well enough through the rest of their lives."
"Catherine's still known as a noble, sort of," Trowa noted. "Perhaps she'll fetch some gentleman and escape from servitude."
"Well, my Hilde won't remarry, damn her," said Duo fondly. "She'll complain about me the rest of her days and'll refuse to complain about anyone else."
"Sally won't complain," Wufei remarked. "But she is gonna to have to find someone else to argue with."
The three of them then realized at the same time that they had come back to Heero. The ship captain had reverted to staring out the window again, but this time his eyes were narrowed and sharp. His arms were folded tightly and his men felt like they could feel his dissatisfaction coming off of him like warmth from the sun. Except this feeling was anything but warm.
Finally, Heero looked at them all, his gaze fierce. "Relena," he said, "will be forced to marry that fair-faced Governor." In the next instant, his face softened and seemed to look sadder than his friends had ever seen it. "She'll be a good wife, she will. She'll do her duty well as a Governor's wife, and she'll have all these lovely children with blue eyes and light hair…" He paused, thinking of the beautiful woman. "And she'll love them each, and spoil them rotten, and they'll marry themselves and give her an expensive funeral when she dies an old, old woman."
Duo, Trowa, and Wufei could think of no words, no gestures that might soothe their friend. So each one of them kept to themselves, silently despondent in their ever shortening lives.
Before long, their door opened and two officers dressed in uniform lead them out into the mockingly bright day.
Relena finally arrived at the public execution courtyard, handing the driver her entire purse rather than bothering to count out coppers. She hastened into the courtyard, joining a group of aristocrats in the back on a rise that allowed her to see over the heads of the peasants that crowded the hanging platform.
Her despairing moan caught in her throat as she watched Wufei, Trowa, Duo, and Heero being marched out onto the horrible mimicry of a stage. Standing down by the edge of the platform were Sally, Catherine, and Hilde, watched closely by London police officers.
The officials in charge of the execution wasted no time. She felt her skin chill at the sight of the noose being slipped over Heero's head, felt her nails bite into the flesh of her palms as they tightened it on his neck. She watched his eyes rake over the crowd of people until, quite abruptly, they landed on her.
What did he see, she couldn't help but wonder. A woman practically dying herself, leaning as she was against a pillar in hope that she might stay on her feet. With his gaze so powerfully locked to hers, she could no longer hold in the well of emotion she'd been damming up inside.
Tears pooled quickly in her eyes and overflowed, dripping down her cold, pale cheeks in thin streams. She did not sob – indeed, she could make no sound at all – but she felt her lips form the only thought she could keep.
I love you.
The announcer began to shout the facts from a roll of parchment; that these were the crewmen of the pirate ship the Ivory Damsel, that they were charged with the kidnapping of Governor Quatre Raberb Winner's fiancée, along with various other crimes,and that their names were….
But he, nor any of the other people present in this disturbingly well-gardened courtyard, did not know the souls behind those names. They did not know the hearts that beat inside those sea-faring bodies. Relena did. Relena knew them to be good souls and caring hearts, each of them loving and with something to protect.
And there they were, about to die but showing no fear. Each of them held their faces perfectly masked, exuding only bravery. A few of the women around Relena had already covered their eyes, but Trowa's sister and Duo and Wufei's wives continued to watch their loved ones, and Relena would do the same.
"May God accept your souls into Heaven," concluded the announcer. "Amen."
They were beginning with Heero. One officer took hold of the string that would drop the trap door beneath Heero's feet. With only a moment's pause that held no respect, the officer's arm tightened—
At the ejaculation, all of the officers around the officers around the platform looked up and toward the aristocrats' rise. The announcer dropped his roll of parchment.
"Objection!" Quatre repeated, this time more quietly. "My name is Governor Quatre Raberba Winner, and I demand that this hanging cease immediately."
Relena could scarcely believe what she was hearing; but then the thought came to her like the crashing of a wave.
What made more sense in attempting to get men freed than to ask help from Quatre?
The announcer stared, wide-eyed, as he bent to retrieve his paper. "Governor Winner, surely you jest. These men—"
"Are innocent as far as I am concerned." Quatre stepped forward, in front of anyone else on the rise. Relena saw his back as well as Dorothy, who stood fairly close to him. "The only specific crime you have in your list, Officer, is that which claims that these pirates kidnapped my fiancée, Relena Peacecraft. Thus, their crime is against me.
"Being both the man wronged and the Governor of England, it is my decision as to what their fate will be. Also, the specific crime in your list is recorded incorrectly. Relena Peacecraft—"
Relena tensed upon hearing herself being spoken of. Numerous pairs of eyes turned to her.
"—is not my fiancée. We shall not be married at any time, and she is a very eligible woman." At this, Quatre turned his head just enough to meet Relena's startled eyes. "I do hope she finds a good man." He turned back to the announcing officer. "So you see, Officer, I declare these men innocent. You may release them from their binds and set them free, along with the rest of Captain Yuy's crew. Am I quite understood?"
The announcing officer's voice cracked. "Quite, Governor!"
At once the officer who had been about to drop Heero to his death let go of the horrible rope and jumped up to the platform to instead free him. Three other officers hastened to do the same for Trowa, Wufei, and Duo. In an instant the latter three had leapt from the platform to hold their sister and wives, but Heero stayed on the elevated space, his expression revealing nothing. But he stared at Relena as though she had been the one to face death, had gone, and was now returned to life. Relena could only stand and return the look, feeling her heart pound and her breath tremble out from between her dry lips.
"I imagine you're pleased then."
Relena drew her eyes from the man she loved to see Quatre. Seeing his humble smile, she knew he wasn't referring to the pirates' spared lives, rather the development of their broken engagement. "Oh, Quatre," was all she could manage.
"I'll thank you not to pity me," the Governor replied, setting his hand on her slender shoulder. "For I've discovered for myself that I do love you very deeply, Relena. But not," he continued at her aggrieved expression, "as a possible husband. I love you as a very dear friend."
Overwhelmed, Relena's eyes watered again and she seized his hands. "Quatre, you are my dearest friend!" she exclaimed. "I shall thank God for you every moment for the rest of my life."
"Oh, posh. Not every moment, surely," Quatre said jokingly. "What time then will you have for Captain Yuy?" His eyes left hers to look over her shoulder, and Relena followed his gaze to see Heero standing right behind her.
She pulled away from the Governor and threw herself into the pirate's arms. "Heero," she murmured. "Heero, I was so frightened that…"
"Hush," he interposed, pressing his lips firmly to the top of her head. "It's all right. It's all right now." But he fingers shook slightly as he pressed her to him.
"Well," said another voice. Dorothy slid up next to them. "This has been an exciting day, hasn't it? Now I can understand why everyone wants to see all these public hangings."
"I'm afraid this is a rare occasion," Catherine told her as she, Trowa, Duo, Hilde, Wufei, and Sally joined them all.
"What will you do now, Miss Relena?" asked Dorothy, her smile sincere.
Relena looked up into Heero's eyes. "I want to be with you," she told him softly.
Heero stepped back from her just enough to grip her by the shoulders. "Relena…. You tasted a bit of the life we lead on the Ivory Damsel. Could you stand to live like that, day after day, with very little certainty about what the next turn will be?"
Everyone could detect worry in his voice, but Relena only smiled. "When I was on the ship with you – all of you," she said, looking at the rest of the crew, "it was the first time I think I was ever truly happy." She took his hands from her shoulders and held them in her own. "Take me with you, Heero. I could never be happier anywhere else." Gently she cupped his cheek. "My love."
He gave no verbal answer, but surged against her and fused his mouth to her own. That was response enough, for the rest of the crew cheered, and Quatre and Dorothy smiled appreciatively.
Heero pulled back and turned her around. In her haste to arrive, Relena had completely overlooked the gorgeous view of the sea, sparkling crystal blue in the afternoon sun. "To the sea then?" he said.
Relena shook her head, then set it on his shoulder. "To home."
It was just a little more than five years later that Milliardo Peacecraft, Baron of London died of tuberculosis. Upon the discovery of the disease's presence, the baron had begun to keep a record of his life so that his children might have something to know him by. Preserved by his loving wife, this entry was discovered by his daughter on her eighteenth birthday. It was the last passage he ever wrote.
Despite this troubling concern of my health which they are calling the "black lung," I continue to find joy in my life through my daughter Agatha, who is soon to turn six years old, and my son Christopher, just turned four. Both children are beautiful, and I could not have wished for any better.
Luchrezia spoils them, of course. I suppose one of us has to and, being the darling she is, I'm not at all surprised. They deserve something a little extra considering how oft I am away at court these days. It appears the older aristocrats get the more work they have to do, rather than the other way around. Were I the smallest bit kindly toward the scoundrel, I would say that Treize was fortunate to pass it by, though he is passing it by in the London prison.
Concerning the latest news, Quatre has been happily married a year tomorrow. I still find it quite amusing that he wedded Dorothy Catalonia; I have never known a woman to go from high status, to lowest, to highest once more. Her tale I hope will be recorded by her hand so that she may inspire women everywhere – however, I do not hope my daughter is among that group. At any rate, it seems my friend is much better off with a former piratess than with my sister.
These days my mind has often turned to the subject of Relena. Since the day she sailed off without a goodbye, she has always been in some distant corner of my mind somewhere. I do not blame her, of course, for going without word that time; for I do believe I brought that upon myself as a result of earlier actions. In a slightly sad way, I have seen her no more than three times this past half-decade. But each time she reassures me through more than just words that she is impeccably happy. Her husband, the pirate Heero Yuy whom captains the debatably successful ship the Ivory Damsel, is a better man than I ever imagined to find Relena married to, despite his profession and view to the everyday Londoner's eye. Their latest visit was to let Luchrezia and I see her newborn son, my nephew Odin. He is a gorgeous baby. His eyes are much like Heero's, but his hair is Relena's soft gold. And while I hope the boy grows with his mother's charming personality, something tells me he will be just as wild as his father (which, I have come to see over the years, is not a bad thing).
Her happiness is secure, and that is all I can hope for and probably all that God will grant me. I am perfectly fine with this illness as well, as long as my family and those I care for remain safe and satisfied.
To my wife, son and daughter – you have the love from the very bottom of my heart. Luchrezia, my sweetest, the time I have had with you proves that a man can most definitely live to the fullest. I never once have told you, and I do not believe I ever shall. Please do not think this was because I did not feel so strongly for you. In fact you, more than anyone, have helped me make sense of my haphazard life. My most precious wife…I love you.
To Quatre and Dorothy – may the world shine brightly and may God smile warmly for you. I have never had dearer friends.
To Heero and Relena – you are both very close parts of my own self. Without either of you, I am sure I would be a man incomplete. Thank you for showing me that there is indeed more to life than titles and society. And please, Heero, take care of my sister as you would your own life; for she is the blessing I have had longest, and she is the one I have always been willing to touch the very stars for.
God bless you and the Queen,
Milliardo F. Peacecraft, Baron
I'm sure a lot of you are wondering at my different-y ending, and how Milliardo's character seemed to develop all at once, but I've honestly had this planned since chapter one. I wanted to try something bold and unique, and I look forward to the feedback, whether it agrees or disagrees.
Any reviews anyone cares to leave are much appreciated. Please feel free to check out my other fics; I have many Gundam Wing ones. Currently running is my Cowboy Bebop fic, "Kites Without Strings" and very very soon I shall premiere my first Harry Potter fic, "Secrets Untold" here on FFN.
I'd love to hear from you all at any of these review inboxes. Thanks again for reading!