Author: pyrzm

Lost Souls + Chapter 22
World Falling Apart

The following morning Quatre woke early to find Heero's bed empty.

// He left without me! // Quatre pulled on his trousers and went to the tent flap. No, Heero was still here. Quatre could see him down the beach a little e way, playing with the dogs that hung around the camp, throwing a stick for them to fetch. Overcome with relief, Quatre went to join him. Their guards kept an eye on them, but let Quatre go to him.

The dogs saw him before Heero did, and ran to him, wagging their tails, jumping up to lick his face and be petted. Quatre tried to push them off, but ended up on his back in the sand under a writhing heap of slapping tails and drooling tongues.

"Yuck! Heero, call them off!" he laughed.

Heero gave a sharp whistle and the dogs flocked back to him as if on command. He ordered them to stay and they did. "You're not big on animals?" he asked, helping Quatre up.

Quatre laughed and wiped his face on his sleeve. "No, I love them!"

For the first time in days, Heero gave him a small smile. He handed him the stick he'd been throwing. "Then play with the dogs. Seems they'd rather play with you, anyway. Animals have a natural ability to sense kindness in people."

Quatre blushed, not sure this was a compliment, although that hint of a smile was still there.

"No, not while you're fighting it. But it's something you probably need the rest of the time." Heero looked around at the peaceful beach and the sea. "Right now? This isn't the time to be fighting." He crossed his arms, still looking toward the horizon. "Thank you, for what you said last night. I did listen."

And with that he walked away down the beach, an armed guard trailing along behind him.

Quatre smiled and turned back to the dogs. "You heard him. Let's play."

Their peace here was an illusion, of course. Later that morning Townsend informed them that they were to be turned over to Romefeller authorities.

"You see?" Heero said when they were alone in their tent. "His kindness lasted only as long as it did not interfere with his responsibilities."

"He doesn't like doing this, Heero. I could feel that."

"But it doesn't stop him, does it?"

Perhaps Heero was wrong, though, for their guard that night was very lax in their duties and they escaped with very little difficulty.

They found the communications tent empty just after midnight and hacked the computer there. Romefeller had discovered where Heero had hidden Wing and was sending a salvage crew after it. There were also some reports of movements against the Sanque Kingdom.

Heero frowned at that. "That's where Relena is."

"She's the last of the Peacecrafts. They are famous for their pacifism. From these reports, it looks like other countries are seeking to ally with Sanque against Romefeller. No wonder it's become a target."

"Hn."

They managed to steal a seaplane with minimal bloodshed and used it to attack the very convoy that was coming for them.

Heero was in full Soldier mode now, and Quatre, too. He managed to convince him to let the crew of the transport ship go in lifeboats, rather than killing them. At last they found themselves in possession of a ship they could not sail, but also with a selection of fully equipped mobile suits to choose from.

"Where should we head now?" Quatre asked as they stood at the rail of the derelict ship, watching the sunset.

Heero shrugged. "There's nowhere I want to go."

"There are lots of kind people here on Earth, but we'll cause trouble for anyone who takes us in. There is no place for us to go, is there?" The adrenaline of battle had worn off, leaving Quatre low and tired.

"You're forgetting the war. As long as Earth's a war zone, I fight. So will you. You have no choice, either. We're both Gundam pilots. The battlefield is the only place we're allowed to live. For us, the meaning of life lies in surviving battles."

+

The world was descending deeper into confusion. As he and Heero made their way toward Sanque, they heard reports of continuous fighting between OZ and the Trieze faction here on Earth. There was also some resistance group in space called White Fang who seemed to be opposing OZ even though all the colonies except L-5 had agreed to work with Romefeller. And through it all, intermittent reports of Gundam attack on Romefeller's OZ space forces. There was no sign of Wufei, but OZ cameras caught glimpses of Duo's new Deathscythe attacking what could only be Wing Zero in space.

"He's still fighting," Heero growled when Quatre showed it to him. "He's up there, on his own, doing what I can't, stuck down here."

"Who would you fight with, or for?" asked Quatre, shaking his head. He was too confused and depressed these days. Heero was a silent, grim companion most of the time, and seemed interested in nothing else except fighting. Quatre was tired, homesick, and without direction. He knew he could have gone to Arabia then, and tracked down the Maguanacs and Sandrock, but he stayed with Heero instead, for reasons he couldn't fully explain. It wasn't as if Heero cared if he stayed or left.

Along the way they heard a great deal about Relena Peacecraft. Last of the Peacecraft line, she had been declared the leader of that country again, and was on the news daily, preaching the gospel of peace and pacifism. Quatre found himself drawn to her message. A world without war? That would be a wonderful thing, something worth striving for.

+

Near the Sanque Kingdom border, Heero joined up with a unit of Trieze faction fighters. Hampered as he was in a clumsy Leo suit, he was still impressive and the commander welcomed him.

"It's crazy Heero!" Quatre chided him, not liking this scenario at all. "They're fighting among themselves. You're only making yourself a target. They have to have guessed who you are."

Heero gave him a dark smile and shrugged. "Just my way of letting Romefeller knowing that I'm still alive."

"It's a foolish fight."

"Do what you want to, Quatre. I'll do what I must."

And just like that, he left. Disgusted, Quatre hid his own suit and ventured into the nearby village, where the panicked people were trying to evacuate as the two forces closed in on them. OZ elites were already there, rounding up locals and ordering them to fight. Military transports rumbled through the streets, and Quatre recognized the familiar outline of Aries suits under the tarps. From what he overheard, it was clear that this was the first wave of an all out offensive against the Sanque Kingdom.

"No, that's wrong. All they want is peace, and they're defenseless!" Quatre muttered.

Battle broke out before the civilians could escape, and Quatre found himself caught in the middle. With no choice but to defend himself and the town as best he could, he clambered into a downed Aries suit, wiped the previous pilot's blood from the control panel, and did his best to get to Heero.

The Leo suits all looked alike, but he could tell Heero by the way his suit moved, quicker and more aggressively than the few survivors left.

"Heero, this is madness!" he shouted, searching the com channel bands for him.

Heero's face appeared on the monitor. His eyes were dark and filled with battle lust, but what Quatre felt was determination. "I'm fighting through this longer than anyone on Earth, longer than Relena or the other pilots!" He'd reached the end of his patience, just like that day he'd self-destructed. Once again, the Perfect Soldier was ready to die.

He nearly got his chance, too, when the advanced Aries suits overwhelmed his poorly equipped force. Quatre got to him in time, standing over his downed Leo and fighting off the force that outnumbered them at least three to one. "Heero, we can't die yet. We must protect the Sanque kingdom. That's our purpose."

Just as he was about to give up hope, a beam gatling gun literally fell out of the sky at his feet. He grabbed it and began blasting away at the equally surprised Aries suits. A moment later the battle was over and a new white suit touched down and joined them.

Quatre didn't recognize the dark-haired young woman who appeared on his monitor, but he heard Heero's gasp of surprise.

"Noin? What are you doing here?" Heero growled.

"Helping you out of a tight spot, Yuy! Damn, you guys have been hard to find. Don't worry, I'm on your side this time. I'm here to take you to Relena."

Quatre and Noin helped Heero from his destroyed suit and assessed his wounds. It was bad, but not life threatening. Noin, rather than Heero, explained that they'd met in Antarctica, when Heero and Trowa had gone to fight Zechs.

"I was sorry to hear that Trowa Barton was lost," Noin said, sounding sincere. "I had a lot of respect for that young man. It might interest you to know that Miss Relena has mounted an all out search effort for him."

"Why?" asked Heero.

"Because he's a Gundam pilot, and because she knew he was Heero's friend. I do have one piece of good news for you, though. I have your Gundam, Heero."

"But I thought OZ-"

"Nope, some new friends of mine beat 'em to it. I have your suit, and some others stockpiled away. I must warn you, though. Relena doesn't know anything about this. She'd never agree to such weapons within her borders."

"She'd change her opinion if she saw all this," Heero growled, looking around at the carnage on the battlefield.

Noin shook her head. "I'm not so sure about that. She's very determined."

+

Noin brought them to the capital in Sanque by plane, and a limousine was waiting for them. A pink limousine. And Relena Peacecraft herself was waiting for them at the bottom of the gangway as Quatre helped a wounded Heero from the plane.

Quatre got another surprise as she greeted Heero. There was no doubt about it, she was in love with him, and the feeling was not at all mutual. Heero clearly held her in high regard, but he seemed completely oblivious to her feelings, which needed no empathy at all to see.

Quatre sensed a great inner strength in her, and great intelligence and compassion, but she was also very much a teenage girl in the throes of a passionate one-sided infatuation. The combination left Quatre a little queasy.

In the dark days that followed, Quatre watched the confusing interplay between those two, and the strange effect it had on Heero. Despite Quatre's efforts, Dr. J's condition seemed to be growing stronger in Heero, the more he was faced with decisions that required battle. And while he was clearly uncomfortable with any display of affection from Relena, his determination to protect her grew stronger with every threat.

For his part, Quatre admired her devotion to pacifism but quietly sided with Noin and Heero on the reality of the situation. Romefeller's forces were steadily closing in around them. Duke Dermail's crazy granddaughter, Dorothy Catalonia, was always at Relena's side now, trying to foment unrest in the school and urging Relena to fight, even as she praised her ideals.

Heero left to fight in Luxemburg, the old death wish clear in his eyes, but returned wounded but alive, grimmer than ever and in possession of a new Zero-class suit, the Epyon. Quatre could scarcely believe his ears when Heero told him it had been given to him by none other than Trieze Kushrenada.

"What was he like?" asked Quatre, staring up a the evil looking suit as Heero ran diagnostics on it. Was this some ploy by the defeated general to undermine Sanque security, a Trojan horse? One look at the Zero unit in the cockpit made Quatre's blood run cold.

Heero just shook his head. "He's a warrior."

"Can you control this suit?"

Heero shrugged and went back to his calculations. With an invasion immanent, Quatre did the only thing he could do. He flew to Arabia and retrieved Sandrock and his Maguanacs. No matter what Relena believed, or how much he wanted her to be right, Sanque would have to be protected by force a little longer. By the time he returned, full-scale war had broken out.

In the end, Relena did the unthinkable and surrendered, turning herself over to Romefeller and dissolving the nation. Heero, lost to him now in the grip of the Zero system, fought on.

"Come with me!" Quatre begged. "Noin and I are going back to space. She has allies there. Maybe we can even find the others!"

There was no reply but the sound of battle. Heero had made his choice.

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