Author: pyrzm

Lost Souls + Chapter 19
Uneasy Partners

The OZ soldiers called a medic for Heero, but were less than gentle with Quatre. They manacled his wrists and slapped him around some, then dragged him to a small, dark cell and tossed him in, ignoring his pleas that they look for Trowa. The guard gave him a last, disbelieving glare, then left him in darkness. Curling up in a corner, Quatre sobbed helplessly, overwhelmed by his own actions. It had all seemed so clear at the time, but now he was appalled and sick with guilt. How could he have attacked Trowa like that? It made no sense! All he'd wanted for months was to see him again, but he'd attacked him.

Sometime later a captain came in to interrogate him. "We have your Gundam," he told him, standing over him. Quatre was too tired to stand or move. "We know you're pilot 04. What's your real name?"

Quatre stared dully up at him. He didn't care what happened to him, but to reveal his name would jeopardize the safety of his home colony and his family. He'd hurt them enough already. "I won't tell you that. If you want to torture me or shoot me, go ahead. You'll be doing me a favor."

To his surprise, the man knelt down and looked at him closely. He shook his head. "I've got a boy about your age. He's in a private school on the colony next to the one you just destroyed."

"I didn't want to hurt any civilians. I gave warning," Quatre whispered.

"I know you did. For what's its worth, I think that was honorable of you. Unfortunately, it doesn't change anything. On your feet, son. You and Yuy are being returned to custody at the lunar base."

The captain and two armed men led him down a short corridor to a hangar bay where a shuttle was waiting. Heero was already on board, cuffed to his seat. He was alert and looked surprisingly fit. Quatre remembered what Duo had told him, about Heero being bioengineered or something. It did appear he was a fast healer.

It was also clear that he had not forgiven Quatre for his actions. He refused to look at him and said nothing during the short flight down to the lunar base. Quatre huddled in his seat across the aisle, too ashamed and miserable care about anything anymore.

They arrived at the base and were placed in the custody of three openly hostile guards.

"So this is the hot new killer, huh?" one of them sneered, and spat in Quatre's face. "I had friends on the satellite you destroyed, you little bastard!"

"That's enough, Sims," one of the others warned, though he didn't spare Quatre any sympathy.

They entered a large bay just as the damaged mobile suits were being delivered. Zero and the red suit Heero had been using were already lying on the floor. To Quatre's amazement, the blue suit Trowa had piloted had been recovered and was being lowered down beside them.

Without thinking, he shouldered the guard closest to him out of the way and ran to it, not even knowing what he expected to see. Trowa? His body? Some sign that he'd survived? Oblivious to the gunfire that followed him, not caring if they shot him in the back or not, he stopped under the suit and stared up at the mangled cockpit. Who could have survived that? He burst into tears and fell to his knees. "Oh Trowa! I'm the one who did this to you! Please forgive me!"

The sound of a scuffle and swearing behind him made him look back. Heero had attacked the guards who'd shot at him, and was being beaten down. As Quatre watched, one of them hit Heero in the head with the butt of his gun, knocking him to the ground.

"We have permission from Tuberov to execute the two of you!" one of the men snarled, leveling his weapon at Heero. "Try that again and we can do it right here and now."

Without thinking, Quatre ran to him and shielded Heero with his own body as the other boy struggled up to his hands and knees. The murderous look in those dark blue eyes left no doubt that Heero was not done fighting.

The other two guards cocked their weapons. "So, you would prefer to die here!"

Gunfire broke out, but not from their captors. Quatre and Heero ducked, then looked up to find a dozen or more OZ soldiers overhead on a catwalk, training t their guns on the guards, rather than the two prisoners.

"Damn it, the Treize faction, here?" the man who'd clubbed Heero gasped.

//The Treize faction?// wondered Quatre, exchanging a surprised look with Heero. Had there been another defection in the ranks?

The Treize faction soldiers removed their manacles and bound the guards together with them, leaving them for their comrades to find.

"I'm Lieutenant Maxim," a tall, green-eyed man told them. "Come with me, both of you. Some people have been anxious for your arrival."

They were hustled away down a long series of corridors, eventually entering a disused warren of darkened facilities.

"What's going on? Who are you?" Heero growled as they paused for breath.

"The Romefeller Foundation has declared war on Earth," Maxim told him. "Tuberov's mobile dolls are being sent earthside to quell any descent. It's called Operation Nova. Colonel Treize opposed this and he's been arrested and detained." He gave Heero and Quatre a warning look. "I'm not saying you and I are on the same side, but I think we both agree that this is a bad development. Now come one, they're waiting."

"Hold on," Heero said, still not moving. "What about the other two Gundam pilots that were being held on this base?"

"They escaped when Commander Une attacked the base from Barge."

Even Heero looked surprised. "You people really are fighting among yourselves."

Maxim grabbed him by the arm and propelled him down the corridor. Another soldier shoved Quatre into motion.

A few twists and turns later they entered a huge underground research lab. Quatre let out a shocked cry as he recognized Master H, who'd built Sandrock and trained him. The weird looking longhaired scientist named J was there to, and three other odd looking men in white lab coats.

"Quatre, my boy!" H said, coming to take his hands. "We've been worried about you, especially once we knew you'd completed the Zero Gundam. It was never meant to be built. Really, you shouldn't have messed about with things you didn't understand!"

Quatre hung his head. "I realize that now. I'm sorry."

"There's no time for whining," a short, sharp-nosed scientist snapped. "Get him over here and hook him up, H. We must see if there's any long term effect."

Quatre didn't resist as they seated him in a chair near an array of machines and attached sensors to his head. The soldiers gathered around, watching intently. Heero stood by J, arms crossed, taking it all in with his usual grim intensity.

The sharp-nosed one, Dr. G, watched a monitor for a long time, and then nodded. "Good, his brain waves haven't been affected."

"What's this test supposed to determine?" Quatre asked.

"We're checking how the cockpit system of Wing Zero influences the pilot's brain waves," the tall bald one, O, replied.

A gray haired man with a false nose, called S, checked another read out. "There's no problem with the equipment. That system is flawless."

"So, what's your take on the current situation?" Heero asked quietly.

"A decision was made by the Romefeller Foundation to confine Kushreneda," J told him. "As you already know, OZ's forces have split into two factions."

"Lady Une has been shot," G added. "It hasn't been confirmed it she's dead or alive, but Romefeller considers her a traitor."

"Duo and Wufei escaped in the revolt, but their new Gundams are only eighty percent complete. They should be able to make the final adjustments on their own, though."

"How about Trowa Barton?" asked Heero.

Quatre looked up at him as J removed the electrodes from his forehead. Heero sounded so controlled, almost disinterested, but Quatre suddenly picked up on a strong current of emotion. Heero cared about Trowa, too."

J shrugged. "Still MIA since the Vayeate was destroyed. Probably dead. Now, as for the Treize faction on this base--"

Quatre leaped to his feet, appalled to hear Trowa dismissed so coldly. "No, please. You have to look for Trowa! There are lots of colonies in that area. And there are Sweeper ships, too. There's a good chance he could have survived and been found. He is alive! I just know it!"

"I told you this one didn't have the personality for our mission, H," G sneered, shaking his head at Quatre.

"Yes, he's certainly questionable as a soldier," J agreed.

They all closed in around Quatre.

"That's why the Zero system had ended up in enemy hands," said S.

"What?" Quatre looked to H, shocked and hurt.

"The Zero system amplifies and controls brain waves associated with aggression and achieves results greater than the pilot could achieve unenhanced," his mentor explained.

S nodded. "It would have been different if you'd been able to perceive OZ completely as your enemy, but the mind warping side effects interacted with your own doubts and soft heartedness, cause a dangerous error in fighting ability.

"Yes," sighed J. "The fact that the pilot--you Quatre--are incomplete as a soldier resulted in you attacking your own allies. Extremely regrettable. "

"Yes," said G. "Trowa had it all figured out. The combined strength of the Vayeate, Mercurius and your Zero would have been sufficient to wipe out the lunar base, as planned."

"Because of the training you five have undergone, together with your natural abilities, your physical abilities and tactical imagination in the art of war are superb. However, as soldiers, all of you except perhaps Barton are far from perfect. This latest incident has made that very clear," said O. "Chang sulks. And Maxwell is a loose cannon!"

"But a fearless one," G snapped.

"And how many times has that fearlessness got him captured so far?" asked O. "If it wasn't for Yuy here, he'd have been dead months ago."

"Yes, Heero, has disappointed me on several occasions, thinking with his emotions instead of his head," J said ominously. "I'm afraid some further conditioning is going to be necessary.

Quatre was almost certain he saw a flicker of dread in Heero's eyes at the mention of 'conditioning'. What did the man do to him?

"But you, Quatre, are the weakest, for all your intelligence," said G, capturing Quatre's full attention before he could figure Heero out. "You're far too soft-hearted. Really, H, I'm not sure what you saw in him. There were other candidates, and better ones, in my opinion."

"That's unfair, G, and you know it!" H shot back. "Whatever he may lack in ruthlessness, Quatre has shown remarkable tactical thinking, just as I knew he would. That's worth far more in the long run in my opinion."

"Be that as it may, you all must become the perfect soldiers, otherwise you either won't survive, or you'll go insane," J told Heero and Quatre. "That's what wars do to people. Really, H, if you had followed my lead with Heero here as far as screening and training went, it might not have come to this."

"Just because your methods work doesn't make them the best," muttered H, giving Quatre a sympathetic look. "They are somewhat less than humane."

Quatre stared down at the floor, wishing it would just open up and swallow him. It was just as he'd always suspected, just as his father had implied. He was weak and soft. He'd screwed up again. He clenched his fists, fighting back tears.

"I think you're underestimating him."

Quatre looked up in amazement. It was Heero who'd spoken up for him!

"I've seen him fight. I've fought against him. He didn't know about the Zero system. He might have done better with it if he had. But he did use the full offensive capabilities of the suit very well."

"And destroyed a colony in the process!" G sniffed.

Quatre could almost ignore the barb, and the truth behind it. Heero had spoken up for him!

+

Heero stayed in the lab that night, running data on the new suit and the current political situation. Quatre stayed with him; since Heero was the closest to a friend he had here. But it was clear that Heero had not forgiven him, despite what he'd said earlier.

Heero studied schematics of Wing Zero. "So, what did you think of the Zero's cockpit system?"

"I had no idea," Quatre admitted. "I was concentrating on the beam cannons. I didn't understand how the cockpit system worked."

"The cannon hasn't been retrieved yet. The main weapons remaining are the beam saber and the vulcan guns on its shoulders."

"Are you going to fight?"

"I'm not going to leave Wing Zero in the hands of the enemy."

"Heero, I'm so confused!" said Quatre sadly. "I'm not sure who our enemies are, anymore!"

"The ones trying to kill you, Quatre. Those are your enemies." Heero growled.

"But what if you make a mistake, like I did?"

Heero sighed. "It does seem like the world's gone crazy, I admit." He was quiet for a moment. "The way Trowa spoke to you--he really did think of you as a friend."

Quatre swallowed hard and blinked back tears. "I only wish he knew how I really felt for him."

"I think he did."

"How?" Quatre demanded, voice shaking. "I attacked him!"

"Trowa knew about the Zero system. The scientists tried to warn him how it could affect you. So did I. I think he understood at the end, the way he spoke to you. And--" Heero shook his head, an odd, confused expression on his face. "Duo was brought in as a prisoner a couple of days before we fought you. He as upset, finding Trowa in an OZ uniform. He told Trowa you were 'crazy about him.'"

Quatre felt his face go scarlet.

"It's true, isn't it?"

Quatre nodded. "I'm glad Duo got away, at least. How is he?"

"Worried about you, and what you'd think if you knew Trowa was working with OZ. But he really was undercover. He hadn't really turned."

"Of course not! He'd never do anything like that." That won him a look of grudging approval.

"Duo was with you for a long time on Earth, wasn't he?" Heero asked, and Quatre caught a flash of deep, confused emotion. Heero was strange, hard to read, but there was no mistaking what lay behind that confusion.

"Yes. He's a really good friend. And--well, I think he really cares deeply for you, too."

Heero's only reply was to blush and look away, focusing on the computer screen again.

+

They slept on opposite sides of a small, cell-like room that night. Or Quatre tried to sleep. But the scientists' doubts and slighting comments about his abilities haunted him, knotting his stomach and making his heart pound. Weak. Too soft. He'd fooled himself for a while, thinking he'd made a place for himself as a Gundam pilot, found his strength. But as usual, he'd been wrong and exposed in the worst possible way. And this time his faults had probably cost Trowa his life. Try as he might, he couldn't push the guilt away, or stop the tears that followed. Curling up miserably on the narrow cot, he buried his face in the thin, stale smelling pillow and pulled the blankets over his head, vainly trying to muffle the sobs that shook him. He was weak. He was a failure and a disappointment. He'd lost Zero. He'd killed Trowa. And now, with Heero Yuy just a few feet away, proably listening in disgust, he was too weak to keep from crying. As usual. The more he tried to stop, the worse it got. His whole body was shaking now. "Oh Trowa! Trowa, I'm so sorry!" he gasped.

A touch on his shoulder startled him badly. Looking around, he was mortified to find Heero sitting on the edge of his cot, staring down at him with that dark, hard to read look in his eyes.

"I--I--I'm s--sorry!" Quatre whimpered, dying by inches to be seen like this. "I d-didn't mean to w-wake you."

"You loved him." Heero's voice was so flat and toneless it was impossible to tell if it had been meant as a question, statement or accusation.

"Y--yes!" Quatre buried his face in his pillow again, wishing he could just die now.

"I heard how he spoke to you. He called you something, like a nickname."

//Meli. He called me meli, even at the end when I was firing on him!// He was crying so hard now it hurt his chest.

He jumped again as he felt the pressure of a hand between his shoulder blades. What was Heero doing? Getting ready to beat him up or maybe smother him in his pillow? Quatre didn't much care which right now.

But instead, that hand began to move in hesitant, gentle circles on his back. Shocked, Quatre unthinkingly opened himself to Heero and was overwhelmed by the storm of emotions there: //anger, sorrow, sympathy, loneliness, fear, embarrassment, guilt, a strange emotional emptiness that was somehow associated with J . . . // It was so strong and painful and confusing that Quatre had to shut down, shut him out, concentrating instead on the slow caress of that hand against his back. Heero had no idea how to comfort anyone, having never been comforted himself, but he was trying to, all the same.

Still sobbing uncontrollably, Quatre sat up and put his arms around Heero. The other boy froze, stiff and tense, but Quatre held on anyway and he gradually relaxed and put his arms around him, awkwardly patting Quatre's back. Heero didn't cry but his voice was hoarse and tight with emotion when he said at last, "Trowa was my friend. And-and he was crazy about you, too."

Quatre thrilled at those words. "He could still be alive, Heero! I just feel it! He could be."

Heero's arms tightened around him, but he said nothing.

Quatre calmed a little in that embrace. He hardly knew Heero, had no reason to count on him as a friend, but he was picking up something new from him now, something faint, but comforting. "We'll get out of here somehow, Heero, and we'll find him. That is-" His heart turned to lead in his chest. "Well, maybe you'd be better off going on your own. I'm no good-"

"Don't listen to them, 04," Heero murmured. "I've seen you fight. You're a good pilot."

"Thanks," Quatre whispered, wishing he could believe him.

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