Rose Red: Model 85001
Two weeks later, Van came to the jail to have a word with his brother. Van sat at a little desk that had nothing on it but a monitor and a camera pointed at his face. After a couple of minutes Folken's face came up on the monitor.
Folken's hair looked less slick and his face was horribly lined compared to the teenager Van remembered. His prison uniform was a grey wife-beater with blue jeans. The only thing that made it look less like what Van wore when he played grease monkey was the bracelet around his brother's wrist. Van did a double take when he saw Folken casually throw his hand on the table in front of him. It looked so much like Hitomi's, except that it wasn't pink.
"How goes it?" Folken asked, grimly reefing on his cigarette.
"Like you care," Van snorted. "It's okay if you don't. How's prison?"
Folken picked something out of his eye. "You might be surprised to hear it, but it's a Hell of a lot better than working for Allen."
"No. I believe that," Van readily agreed. A moment passed and Folken didn't elaborate, so Van asked him, "Does that mean that you meant to get caught?"
Folken shrugged his bare shoulders. "I dunno. I'm tired."
"What do they think the sentence will be?"
"I don't know that either. I've seen the list of charges. It's not that bad. I notice you didn't report any of my crimes towards Hitomi. No charges for wiping her memory. Care to explain that?"
Van rolled his eyes slowly and thought. "Of course I still can report it."
"Really?" Folken narrowed his eyes and sucked on the end of his cigarette. "Why don't you?"
"I want to ask you something first. Was I right about that box breaking?"
Van felt like he had to wait forever before Folken finally said something. "Sort of," he said dreadfully. "A box did fall at her feet during a fight, but I didn't know that it had broken. Dad told me afterwards that he found a crack it in, and then he told me when she got diagnosed." Van could tell without him saying it. He hated himself.
Van couldn't find the words to say that what happened didn't matter anymore. He felt like it did matter. The whole incident sounded so senseless and careless, but Folken probably couldn't be charged for it since it was an accident. Van swallowed whatever disgust welled up in his throat and said, "Thanks for not letting Allen murder Hitomi. I owe you one. Do you know if he's going to be charged for that?"
"I have no clue, but Van, don't be surprised if he somehow manages to get off scot-free. Marlene and her family might even help him."
"Those little…" He left that thought unanswered and took a deep breath. "I don't understand royalty."
"You don't have to."
A couple more minutes passed in unequaled silence. Van was quite uncomfortable, but Folken was even more so. Van tried to fill it with talking about what had happened to him since their standoff.
"I haven't been able to go home since we handed you over to the police. The house and hanger have been sealed off for M.T.N. testing. So far no one has been diagnosed, but we had to trace every single person who stayed there overnight this summer and have them tested. I don't know if my business will ever rise again, we've had so much press. I've been thinking that it might be time to think of a new career, but I can't think of anything other than piloting a chopper. It's all I know how to do."
Folken gave him a look. He didn't want to hear about what Van planned to do with the rest of his life. Folken's future was like a ripcord behind him.
Van tried to fix it by talking about something else. "And it turns out that all the cows in our neighborhood have M.T.N. They just have high enough doses of Ql in their system to keep the virus in check. It's pretty amazing. Once they started testing the animals more seriously, they found out the disease can only spread to a human through the circulatory system – not through spit. Hitomi helped a sick cow on the road that had a cut on its leg. Apparently, she cleaned her hand properly, because she didn't get it. Lucky girl, huh? Marlene got it from eating raw steaks."
After it seemed that the older brother had taken all that he could take, he smiled wanly and said, "I know all this. Are you done talking?"
Van shook his head.
"Anything you want to say, you'd better say it now."
"Because, after today, I never want to see your face again. You're so chipper. It makes me sick. Are you done?"
Van nodded, but he desperately wanted to tell his brother one last thing. Folken got up from his chair and the moment was slipping, and at the last moment, Van figured out what he wanted to say. "I'll forgive you."
"You'll forgive me?" Folken snorted.
"Yeah. Some day."
"Great," Folken said sarcastically over his shoulder, but just at the last moment, Van could have sworn he saw Folken wipe something out of his eye.
Hitomi laid on a bed in a hotel room. She and Van had been staying in a hotel since the police came in and took over the bed and breakfast. They had separate rooms, and nothing to do all day, but hang out with each other. Right now, she was waiting for him to get back. Where he went, she didn't know, but she had a feeling of great anticipation. He had something planned. As far as she knew, he'd already finished tying up all the loose ends he could manage.
Dryden was in charge of the M.T.N. research and even though he hardly looked through a microscope, he was enjoying the whole thing immensely. Hitomi got a message from him saying that his contract with Millerna had been replaced with one far more lenient. In short, no more electric shocks – twenty times more money. Apparently, that girl hired ten private detectives to help her solve her sister's case and the only one who came through was Dryden. The rest of them were now up for sale at Sleeping Beauty Inc. But, good news for M.T.N. sufferers. Now the scientists only needed to figure out how much Ql to inject into a person's blood stream and BOOM – the disease would be stopped in its tracks. There was no helping the pee colored saliva though – bummer.
Thinking about all that brought Hitomi's brain to the subject of Allen. No one had to tell her what was going on. She didn't need inside information. It was all on T.V. and a couple weeks hanging out in a hotel room allowed for plenty of unbridled celebrity gossip. Once Marlene found out that Allen was not responsible for her M.T.N. infection – she took him back – forgave him everything – wrote him back into her will – and helped him cover his past indiscretions so that he only had to pay fines for his crimes. They were even saying that the incident when he pushed Hitomi off a cliff was an 'accident'. Bastards! Hitomi's righteous indignation burned like Hell fire, but she couldn't do anything about it, so she turned off the T.V.
Two minutes later, Van's swift knock came at the door and shortly after, his body came in the room.
Hitomi kissed him instead of saying hello and made room for him on the bed.
He touched her bare wrist. "We're going to have to do something about that."
"Why?" Hitomi balked. "I'm not going to run away and things are much more comfortable with it off."
"I know, but according to enslavement regulations, you have to wear a wristband to verify your identity, owner, and location. I don't make up the rules. Since we're in the city anyway, let's go get it fixed."
Hitomi got up off the bed and put on her slip-on shoes.
"Are we going like that?" Van asked, looking her over.
"Is there something wrong with the way I look? This is how I always look. I thought you liked me just the way I am."
"I do. It's just that where we're going, you might want to dress up just a little bit."
Hitomi glared at him evilly.
Van laughed. "It's not for me. I'm thinking only of you."
Actually, Hitomi had been on the verge of complying before he laughed. Now she wasn't going to no matter what he said. "I thought you still thought I was pretty with paint smeared across my cheek?"
"You're especially pretty with paint smeared across your cheek," he said, right before he laid a peck on her cheek. "And you look pretty with paint on your nose." He planted a kiss on her nose. "And on your forehead." He kissed her there too. "And on your neck."
She pushed him off. "That tickles!"
He fought her and pulled her into a hug. "Okay, you can come how you are, but really, you might be mad at me later for not insisting."
"No. I don't want to go back to Sleeping Beauty Inc. lacquered up like a whore. I want to go looking like a work horse. What do you think?" she asked brandishing her blue jeans and grey T-shirt.
Van did a double take. "You know, that's almost exactly what Folken's prison uniform looks like."
"What?" Hitomi started. He could say anything – except that.
"I'm not joking. He was wearing a wife-beater and his jeans weren't capris, but really – that's what he was wearing."
"Then I gotta change."
Van caught her hand. "Actually, maybe it's better that you don't. I'll take you shopping afterwards and let you buy anything you want."
"Anything? Are you crazy? Where would we get the money? Are you planning to take me for a shopping spree on credit?"
"No. I recently received a refund."
"Plenty. Enough to take you shopping. Enough to finish the tower. Enough to redo my room. Even enough to add another wing onto the house if you want. So, how about it?" he asked, leading her out of the room.
Hitomi went with him. Was he always this nice?
They held hands as they went out of the hotel and got into a taxi. Once inside, Van said, "The courthouse please."
The driver changed lanes and got into the flow of traffic.
"The courthouse? I thought we were going to Sleeping Beauty Inc.?"
"Nah. They terminated their contract with me to get Allen off their back, but that doesn't mean that you're a free women. Well, actually, I guess it does. It means you were a free woman – for me."
"So, that's where you got the money. They refunded the money you paid for me?"
Van nodded. "Gallant of them, wasn't it? A little inconsiderate of them though, since we can't go back to them about your arm band."
"Whatever. What's so special about the courthouse that I had to dress up? I'm sure that place is even less dressy than Sleeping Beauty Inc."
Van shrugged his shoulders. "Don't be so sure."
The taxi let them off out front and Hitomi and Van walked in the mirror faced front doors. They came onto the polished marble floor, Hitomi took one look around and clutched Van's arm. The place was vibrating with the sounds of high heels on stone. It wasn't just female lawyers crossing the lobby, but brides; their trains billowing like there was wind. There were men too – scads of them – and they were all in suits or tuxedos.
Van was wearing dark blue jeans and a sweater. He looked better than her. She felt like a gooseberry in a berry patch full of blackberries.
But Van didn't seem startled and instead crossed over to the reception desk. He said his name and mentioned the appointment he'd made.
"Yes," the woman said through the tiny holes in the glass. Then, glancing at the monitor built into the desk in front of her, she said, "You're a couple minutes late, Mr. Fanel. They're waiting for you in meeting room C. I'll send them a message to let them know that you're coming now."
"Thanks," Van said,
Together, they crossed the lobby and ducked down a quieter hallway and down about seven steps before stopping in front of meeting room C. Just before they went in, Van stopped and kissed her hand. "I love you."
Then before she could answer, he threw open the door and hauled her in so fast she almost lost her balance.
Inside, there were three men in suits sitting on one side of a boardroom table. In front of every single chair there was a monitor built into the table. Van pulled out a chair for her and let her sit down.
"Good to see you again, Mr. Fanel," the man in the middle said, rising to shake Van's hand. Then he turned to Hitomi and shook hers too. "I'm Amano Billington. This is Graham Yukari, and this is Miguel Frost. We're very pleased with your decision, Mr. Fanel. An occasion like this doesn't happen every day."
"Purchased women don't get their bracelets replaced every day?" Hitomi asked – completely confused.
Amano looked at Van. It seemed he was also perplexed.
Van shrugged his shoulders and sat down with a smile.
"I'm afraid there has been some mistake. We're not here to replace your arm band, Miss Kanzaki. Mr. Fanel has signed the approval forms to have you released. You're now a free woman."
Hitomi stared at Van. He set her free? Hitomi's brain didn't even know how to compute that. "What does this mean?" she asked, looking directly into Van's eyes and forgetting there were other people in the room.
"It means that I want you to marry me, but I don't want you to be a prisoner. You can decide. If what you really want is to leave and try out life on your own again, I'll give you the money to start again. But … I still want you to marry me. Will you?"
Hitomi had already been through this in her own head. She knew what she wanted. "Of course I'll marry you."
"Wonderful!" Amano said on the other side of the table. "We have those forms ready too. If you'll just sign these forms first, Miss Kanzaki, we can bring up the marriage certificate ones right away."
Hitomi didn't even realize she was holding Van's forearms so tightly within her hands that she was putting lines in his sweater. "Okay," she said as she let go of him. "I just need to sign these forms." She took the pen within her sweaty fingertips and wrote her name in a neat diagonal line across the screen.
"Mr. Fanel has already signed those, so we can move right onto the marriage certificate. Do you have vows prepared?"
Hitomi stared. "Uh, I didn't know I was getting married today, so I don't have any."
"I do," Van said. Hitomi expected him to pull a piece of paper out of his pocket or have Amano read them out for Van to repeat, but Van didn't do either of those things. Instead, he looked straight into her eyes and said without reservation. "I swear that I'll do everything in my power to make you happy. I'll listen to you and protect you and care for you. And if you ever contract M.T.N. I'll hold your hand in the hospital and get it too. You'll be the only one for me. I'll love you forever."
Hitomi had to squeak to stop her lip from shriveling up. "I don't have anything ready."
Van kissed her on the temple. He whispered. "It's okay. The standard one will do. I have to repeat the standard one anyway."
Hitomi nodded. "Okay."
Hitomi's vow was told to her out loud by Amano and she repeated it as follows. "I, Hitomi, take you, Van, to be my lawfully wedded husband, my constant friend, my faithful partner, and my love from this day forward."
Van said his. "I, Van, take you, Hitomi, to be my lawfully wedded wife, my constant friend, my faithful partner, and my love from this day forward."
Some other things were said as Hitomi crushed her hands into Van's in her lap, but the end of the talking came with, "You may now kiss the bride."
Van drew Hitomi into his arms and kissed her.
Weeks later, Van was wandering around the house when the doorbell rang. He padded over in his socks and answered it.
"Package for you," Dilandau said with a grin.
"Are you delivering the mail now?" Van asked, moving aside to let Dilly in the house.
"Gotta take the work I can do, now that Celena's expecting. The money has got to come in somehow."
Van took the box Dilandau offered him and signed on the dotted line. "Congratulations. Wanna come in for some water or something?"
"Nope. Gotta get on to the next house. Later, Van."
Van chuckled and closed the door. That was one of the more miraculous developments in town … and in life in general. Celena pregnant? Sheesh.
Van opened the box and inside was another box, wrapped in pretty wedding-style wrapping paper. Who on Earth could be sending them a wedding present? Van opened the card. "To Van. May our years together be bright and … smooth. Love, Hitomi."
It was from Hitomi? What was she talking about? Smooth?
He ripped off the wrapping paper.
It was a power sander. This time it was blue.
Author's Notes: That brings us to the end of Rose Red: Model 85001. Thank you to everyone who read and especially everyone who reviewed. You brighten my day and make me feel important. Now, listen up everyone. Mark of the Dragon is now available on fictionpress. (dot com). I put it in the romance section so click on romance and then scroll down until you find it. And if you go - PLEASE REVIEW. For the love of all that's holy - REVIEW. Fictionpress is much harder to get review at than here, but I don't know it I'll ever be coming back to write Escaflowne fanfiction again. So, if you want to continue following me - you'll have to go there. Loads of Love, Sapphirefly. See you there! P.S. my name is Sapphirefly there too.