Author: pyrzm
Summary: Quatre brings a wounded Heero back to Earth, and has wounds of his own. 04+01

Lost Souls + Chapter 21
Learning Heero

As Quatre made the approach to Earth's atmosphere a warning light flashed on the control console. The heat shields had been damaged during the explosions caused by Heero's rampage before their escape. The guidance system was compromised, as well. Quatre managed to get them down in once piece but they crash landed on a remote section of coastline near Monaco, hopelessly off course for an easy pick up by his Maguanacs. OZ forces occupying the area tracked their descent; they were captured within an hour of landing and delivered to the commanding officer, a man named Count Townsend.

Fortunately for them, he was a reasonable man. Former Alliance, he was collaborating with the Romefeller faction only because he had to in order to preserve public order in his country. Despite the standing execution orders against any Gundam pilot, Townsend merely kept them in protective custody and reported their capture. He was a kind-hearted man and made the mistake of seeing only their age. Quatre was happy to play up his innocent looks and good manners to gain the man's confidence and lull him into a false sense of security.

For the first few days Heero remained under close guard in an infirmary tent bed. He healed quickly, of course, but Quatre urged him to lay low and gather his strength, and to play on the sympathies of the medical staff. Even after he was on his feet a few days later, he stayed quiet, letting Quatre take the lead.

Heero said little, but Quatre was aware of 01's growing regard. That meant a great deal to Quatre, to have the trust of one so untrusting. And Heero's feeling, such as they were, seemed to get through Quatre's natural defenses rather easily these days, even more than Duo's. Heero was more like Trowa that way, out of touch with his own emotions but broadcasting them like radio waves. Quatre didn't mind. It distracted him from his own grief and guilt.

He quietly, carefully tried to learn the state of Heero's mind and emotions without reaching out too much. That would have felt like a betrayal of trust, so he relied instead on what Heero gave off, and observation. He'd hardly known Heero before they were captured together. He'd had that once brief glimpse of the warm soul behind that expressionless demeanor, then J's "conditioning" and closed Heero down again. That made Quatre's task harder, together with the fact that he had no idea what constituted "normal" behavior for someone like Heero Yuy.

He certainly wasn't talkative, that was for certain. And since there was almost always a guard or two within earshot of their tent, that was just as well. But he'd seemed quiet before, too. Despite all this, however, Quatre found that the liked him very much, and mourned the loss of personality. Sometimes he thought he caught a brief glimpse of something in Heero's blue eyes, but he couldn't be certain. It made him sad, remembering the awkward comfort Heero had offered that night before their escape, sad for Heero, to be so manipulated by J, and sad for himself. He wasn't lonely, exactly, but Heero offered none of the physical comfort he'd found with Trowa and Duo. How quickly he'd grown to need that! He missed Duo terribly, of course, but his feelings around Trowa were too painful to touch at all. Trowa was gone, probably dead, and no matter what anyone said, it was his fault. Perhaps it was that pain that finally drove him to reach out more deeply to Heero. It was late at night, three days after their capture. They'd spent the time after lights out whispering plans to escape. Afterwards they both retreated to their narrow cots. Quatre tried to sleep, but it wouldn't come. He could tell by Heero's breathing that he wasn't asleep yet, either.

Gathering his courage, Quatre crept across in the darkness to kneel beside 01's cot. "Heero, can I talk to you?"

"Yes." The voice in the darkness was colorless, neither angry nor welcoming. He almost sounded bored.

// No, // thought Quatre. // He sounds like a machine. //

"What is it you want, 04?"

Quatre took a deep breath, feeling like he was about to jump off a very big cliff. "Do you remember your conditioning session with J?"

"Of course."

"I-I felt what you were feeling. I'm an empath."

Silence.

"You were in pain. Mental pain, I mean, not physical."

More silence.

"I just wondered-that is, do you remember how you felt before the conditioning?"

"I don't understand the question."

Quatre sighed. "I don't read people on purpose, Heero, but some give off strong emotions that I pick up on. You're one of those people. I'm sorry. I don't mean to pry, but what J did to you changed you, took something away. But I think maybe it only masks who you are. At least I hope so."

"Who I am?" That sounded like confusion.

"The real Heero, not just the Perfect Soldier that J has created. Who you were before he did all those modifications on you."

"I am what he made me, Quatre. I have a purpose, and I am uniquely trained and modified to accomplish it."

"What is it?"

"To protect the colonies and fight Romefeller."

"But everything's fallen apart. The colonies have turned their back on us, Heero."

"Perhaps, but I have not turned my back on them. I still believe in the cause of freedom. Romefeller is enslaving the world. I cannot allow that to happen. I will continue to fight."

"So will I, Heero. I'll do all I can to help you, but that's not what I was talking about. I'm trained to fight, too, just like all the others, but I have a mind and a soul and desires of my own, too. I don't care what J and those other scientists think. Those didn't' stop me from fighting--"

"Not yet."

"What?" Quatre felt an odd stirring of emotion from Heero, one of the strongest since they'd come to Earth.

"Your emotions have not yet adversely affected your will to fight, or so you believe. But they can and they may."

"How do you know that, Heero?" Quatre asked. Heero was speaking of him, but he was thinking of something in his own past.

But Heero would not answer. Quatre almost gave up then, but the memory of Heero's kindness to him made him try one last time to get through to him. "Heero, would you let me touch your mind? I'm worried that J's conditioning is doing harm to your higher mental faculties." That was a bit of a lie, but Heero didn't know that.

"You wish to do some sort of diagnostic test?"

"Sort of. As I said, I'm an empath. I'm not a mind reader or a psychologist, but if you are damaged, I might be able to feel it, maybe even figure out some way to heal you. May I?"

"How will you do this?"

"It's best if I can touch you. Will you give me your hand?"

He'd expected a rejection at that point, but instead he heard Heero stir and a rough, callused hand found his and gripped it. "Go ahead."

Now that he had permission, Quatre wasn't quite sure what to do. Finally, he just relaxed and opened his mind to Heero's.

It was very much like the first time he got a flash from Trowa. He caught a glimpse of himself through Heero's eyes, felt Heero's feelings toward him. It was muted, like someone had turned the volume knob way down, but all that he'd felt from Heero that night he'd comforted him was still there! Quatre's heart leaped and he unconsciously tightened his grip on Heero's hand. The real Heero, the boy with genuine feelings and a kind heart, he was still there, but he was trapped under all the layers of conditioning J had imposed. Gently, afraid to disrupt anything fragile, Quatre silently reached out to that other Heero, letting him know he was there and felt him. He was rewarded with a vibrant flash of emotion and knew in that instant that Heero liked and respected him, and was grateful for his help.

// It's all right, Heero. I know you're there. I'm glad we're friends. You can count on me. //

Heero's grip tightened painfully as he let out a startled grunt, then he pulled his hand away. "What--what are you doing?"

"Nothing, just--just--Trying to help you--" Quatre broke off in embarrassment.

That strong hand found his again and squeezed it more gently. The voice was still colorless, but Quatre felt an echo of warmth as Heero whispered, "Thank you. I am glad you are here, too. You should sleep now."

Quatre returned to his cot and curled up beneath the blankets. His fingers still tingled from Heero's grip.

After a moment he heard a hesitant intake of breath, then Heero said quietly, "I think even now, I understand how you must feel about what happened with Trowa. You feel things very deeply and--" There was a pregnant pause. "Duo said you cared deeply for him. That he was your friend. The Zero system, it is very strong. I'm--I'm sorry that I blamed you for what it did to you."

A rush of hot tears stung Quatre's eyes. "Thank you for saying that, but it doesn't excuse it. I'll never-never forgive myself for causing his death!"

"Then you must learn to accept it. You cannot change what happened, and you are a good person. You mustn't give up living over one mistake, no matter how large. I haven't, and I have done far worse things than you."

"Like what?" Quatre asked miserably.

"I have made mistakes that caused the death of innocent civilians, even children. You saw one of those times, at New Edwards. That was not the first time I committed a fatal error, or the last, Quatre. That's why I submit to J's conditioning. It improves me, so that I will not make such mistakes again."

"I know you believe that, Heero, but I'm not so certain. You'd already been conditioned, before the New Edwards attack, hadn't you? J's conditioning isn't infallible. You shouldn't expect to be, either."

"My only purpose is to fight, Quatre. My life only has meaning on the battlefield."

"No, Heero. I know you're wrong about that. I won't argue with you, but you're worth more than that, much more. And I tell you that as a fellow warrior, and as a friend. Duo would tell you the same, if he was here."

There was another long pause, and Quatre could feel Heero warring with some deeply repressed emotion. "Why do you say that?" he asked at last.

"I told you before, Heero, I spent a lot of time with him, and he's easy to read. He cares deeply for you."

"No, you must be mistaken."

"I'm not wrong, Heero. In fact, I'm pretty sure he loves you."

"He couldn't."

"Well, he does!" He waited for a reply to that, but heard only the sound of Heero turning on his cot. Evidently this conversation was over.

Quatre lay there miserably in the dark and, as happened every night since the last battle in space, silently wept himself to sleep. How could it hurt this much, he wondered, when he'd known Trowa so briefly? Alone in the dark with his guilt, he'd have given anything to feel those strong arms around him, and those lips giving him one more kiss.

[ch. 20] [ch. 22] [back to Pyrzm's fic]