Slowly Bleeding

By Kashu Arashi




There are days I think I'm bleeding to death. From the inside. I can't think of any other reason for the pain that's plagued me for more years that I can count. I thought it would stop when the war ended, maybe. But even with the destruction of the Gundam, I find no peace. Not even the nightmares have gone away. All I need to do is close my eyes at night to see my fellow pilots dying before me in ways too painful to even be physically possible, and all the more horrible for their impossibility. Years of training keep my body quite as I sleep, the very nerves running through my skin aware of the potential danger, remembering the programming pain that has always accompanied any noise made while I slept. So I never cry out, reach out in my sleep, the instinct burned out of me by Dr. J. I want to though. Every night I want some one to come and wake me up, make the pain go away.

The phone rings, its harsh, electric clang jarring me from the uncomfortable nowhere between waking and sleep. Duo would have grumbled and thrown something at it, an amusing thought given that he always said I was the irritable one in the morning. I, on the other hand, don't waste the effort of finding something to throw. I simply rise, mechanically from my bed and move, obedient as ever, to answer the phone.

"Moshi, moshi."

"Heero? Is that you?" The voice is bright and strong, much like the girl on the other end of the phone. Unlike the weariness inside my own corporeal shell. How ironic then that Relena turned to me for strength during the entire war.

"Aa." My usual, eloquent response. For some reason, I can't let go of the training that taught me to never give away more information than was absolutely necessary, no more than I can let go of the nightmares.

"Oh, good." She laughs, a healthy sound, not the sort of demented noise that would come from my throat if I tried such a thing. "You sounded...different for a moment. Look, I have a speech to give tonight, and I was wondering if you could come play bodyguard." Now she sounds nervous, almost like she did during the war, as if she isn't sure she should be doing what she is, but is doing it anyway. "I realize I probably shouldn't ask you to do such a thing on such short notice, but I feel ever so much safer with you there."

"Won't you have other guards?" For some reason I don't want to go. I've attended as many of Relena's speeches as I could, watching her from the shadows, some long dormant protective instinct urging me to guard her. But not tonight. I don't want to tonight.

"Oh, of course! And if you want to say no, please, feel free. I'd just...like it if you were there."

"Aa." What can I do? She asked. Never since the war, and even once or twice during it, have I been able to refuse her. "All right then. I'll be there."

"Arigatou! Arigatou Heero!" She gives me more information; time, location, a few other things I need to know. I acknowledge it all on the same level I used to acknowledge all of my missions, a distant, detached part of my brain that serves only to store information and hold that information at all costs. You might call it the part of my brain that motivates me, reminds me what I'm doing. It doesn't need to remind me why though, I know that. Because I am Heero Yuy, the perfect soldier. That's why.


* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Konban wa, Heero! I'm so glad you could make it!" Relena's smile is brisk, almost professional. The familiarity that seeps into it to touch the vivid blue of her eyes is for me only and lacks the infatuation it once held. There is no giggling, teenage girl here. If there had ever been such a side to Relena Peacecraft, it died during the war. Her sandy blonde hair is half pulled back in a formal style and her clothes speak of the wealth and taste she is famous for. She holds out a gloved hand for me to grasp and, more out of conditioning than genuine politeness, I take it. The grip is brief, officious in its nature, and surprisingly she lets go before I do. "It's almost time to start I'm afraid, but maybe we can talk later if you have time."

"Aa."

As she turns and walks away, toward the stage that's waiting for her, my face stretches its self briefly into a smile. I'm proud of her, I think, in an odd sort of way. Somehow she found the strength to get her through the war in me. I'll never understand it. As I take my accustom place on one of the catwalks above the stage, hidden by the curtain, surrounded by the applause as Relena walks onto the stage, a memory stirs from the back of my mind where I had banished it as 'insignificant'.

"I'm telling you man, girls really go for the strong silent type," One of Duo's large, violet eyes closed in a wink. "And, much as I hate to tell you this, you are the epitome of the strong silent type. Therefore, you're doomed."

Back in the present, I look down at Relena, her form just barely visible through the super imposed image of the memory. You really thought I was strong, Duo? You really saw me as the one who could conquer anything, be it a heart or an enemy? Hn, baka. Then again, there are days I wonder how many of them thought I was the strong one. Relena did, and Sally Po. Their support and admiration were obvious, almost embarrassingly so. Duo did. Maybe that was why the braided idiot always seemed so glad to see me. I couldn't begin to guess what WuFei thought of me. For all of his apparent lack of depth, his drive for vengeance, he was very good at keeping his thoughts to himself, when he wanted to, and those thoughts were amazingly complex. I was always slightly surprised that he didn't spend more time with Trowa. Not that I was about to let that surprise show, of course. Trowa. Of all the other pilots I think he understood me the best. I never dwelled on the thought, as I can come up with absolutely no logical reason for feeling that way, but some gut level instinct tells me that Trowa, silent Trowa, knew far more than even I gave him credit for. Maybe even more than Quatre, with his empathy to tell him what the rest of us were feeling at any given time. Even me.

Relena’s speech is lost on me, caught up as I am in my own thoughts, so I leave early. Let her think I was there for the entire thing and just slipped out before she could catch me later. It's the sense of security she has around me that's important, not my actual presence.

The night outside is cold, but I don't feel it, despite the fact that I'm still wearing spandex shorts and a tank top. My uniform from the war. The last time I saw Duo he made truly exasperated faces at me and told me I needed a new fashion consultant. Perhaps he was right. After all, the ex-OZ officers don't go around in their old uniforms! But this is what I'm comfortable in; shorts that allow for maximum movement without any loose material to catch on things, and a top that, should it get caught on anything, will easily rip off, leaving my free to fight. I must have gone through a million of the things during the war. Ignoring the chill in the air, I start walking. Since the war ended I really haven't had anything to do except follow Relena around and brood. I have a bank account out there, somewhere, that I know will have a nice, sizable sum of money deposited in it tomorrow morning. Relena is very good about paying me for my little body guarding services, whether I actually go through with them all or not. And she patiently prodded at me, and any other source she could find up to and including Dr. J, until she learned approximately when my birthday was, so every September I can look forward to another large check. And again at Christmas. There are days I think she keeps an eye on the account and calls me up with a job just when she knows money's getting tight. Some would love her for it. I can't.

The circus is in town, their tents pitched among the outermost fringes of the buildings. My feet carry me there, steps unerring, seeking someone I can actually talk to. Catharine won't be happy to see me, I know. She hasn't liked me since she figured out I was one of the one's responsible for hurting 'her little brother'. Not even Quatre has managed to win her over again, or WuFei, the first of us she met, outside of Trowa. I'd be lying if I said I could blame her. There are days I don't want to be associated with me. The ticket booth is closed, no surprise given that the show is more than half over, so I sneak into the broadly stripped main tent. Dr. J would probably pitch a fit if he knew I was using my soldier's skills for something so trivial. Keeping to the fringes of the crowd, I work my way over to a clear section where I can see the rings. It's the last act of the show, Catherine's knife throwing. Trowa stands in front of the target, arms outstretched as if he were stretched upon a cross, offering his heart as the center of the bull's eye. The crowd holds it's breath as the delicate, auburn haired woman in the middle of the ring raises a knife and sends it whistling through the air, landing with a solid thud next to Trowa's neck. I close my eyes, trying not to see nightmare images of those knives actually connecting with skin, time after time, slowly whittling Trowa away to nothing as he stands there, his eyes dead, but screaming inside, screams only I can hear, every time a knife hits... A whimper escapes my throat, not loud but the man next to me is close enough to catch it.

“Are you alright, young man?”

“I’m fine.” As fine as I’ve ever been. As fine as anyone can be who was raised for the soul purpose of fighting, and suddenly finds himself with neither the war nor the will to fight, but keeps fighting anyway. Keeps fighting old battles, new emotions, old memories, new boredom, old training, new life. The man appears to believe me and turns back to the show. I don’t. I can’t look back, not until the audience around me surges to its feet in a standing ovation. Why give the nightmares more fuel?


When the rest of the crowd leaves, pushing it’s way out of the main tent, I slip ‘back stage’, or what ever you call the part of the circus where the entertainers gather to collect themselves, adjust their costumes, and get ready for or wind down from the show. I probably shouldn’t be there, but that never stopped me before. Some people approach me and I glare at them, causing them to back off. They aren’t the reason I’m here. Trowa is that reason.

This is the first time I’ve actively sought out one of the other pilots, and I’m not sure why I’m doing it. I guess I just want to see if I’m the only one still trapped in the war, even the smallest bit. I want to know if anyone can help me get out. Trowa is the only other pilot I haven’t seen since the war ended. I bumped into Duo once, when he was in town delivering some scraps from his junkyard on L2. He took great pleasure in rubbing my nose in the fact that he’s a half an inch taller than I am now. His, what did he call them? “People skills” were in perfectly intact and he seemed to be doing well. Every one hears of Quatre now, running his father’s business as if he’d been doing it his entire life. Relena invited him to play at a charity concert she gave once, one I attended. I spent a good hour sitting and listening to him talk about this and that, occasionally answering a question or two, and basically feeling as if he had left me behind someplace in the war. At least he stopped growing at the same height I did. WuFei didn’t even make it that far. I see him on a fairly regular basis, given that he’s a Preventer, and its quite clear he will never be taller than five foot five, two inches shorter than me. He could still take down anyone who came at him though, so I don’t think even Duo would laugh. I can’t tell if WuFei’s left the war behind or not, but I think he has. Gone on and left me behind, lost in my memories, like the others. Has Trowa done that? Something in me needs to know.

“Oh, it’s you.” A female voice, Catherine’s voice. Polite, yes, but clipped and with an edge that says she rather I wasn’t here. I turn my eyes from the corner of the tent I’ve been randomly staring at and meet her gaze. There must be something alarming about my expression that I’m not aware of, because she gasps slightly and draws back, as if she’s just witnessed some hideous crime against humanity. Then again, maybe that’s what I am. Heero Yuy, the Perfect soldier. Nothing human here. Catherine turns, looking over her shoulder. “Trowa! One of your…friends…is here to see you!”

“Oh?” He joins us, and though my face doesn’t show it, I’m amazed at how much he’s changed. And yet, he’s still the same, his face half hidden by the fall of his chestnut bangs and the painted smile of his harlequin mask. He’s grown though, far taller than any of the rest of us. At close proximity, I need to look up to meet his gaze. And even though most of his body is covered by his multicolored costume, whip chord muscle can be clearly seen beneath the skin of his forearms holding strength only hinted at during the war. It’s still the body of an acrobat. His face holds no more expression than mine, but he nods in greeting. “Ah, hello Heero.”

“Hello.”

“I think I’ll leave you two alone…” Catherine is nervous, it shows in her voice and in the way she slowly backs away. Her eyes stay on Trowa though, silently protective and offering him support, should he need it. He simply nods, dismissing her in a way that is neither dominating nor offensive. In other words, in a way that is Trowa.

Once we are alone he turns his full attention on me, his visible eye searching my expression as if looking for tell tale flaws that will tell him what he wants to know. He must find them, other wise what would prompt him to start the conversation with the words he does? “Have you found a job yet?” There is far more meaning in those words than their traditional use. They include; Are you happy? Have you found a reason to live? Do you have a purpose yet? It doesn’t really matter, the answers are all the same.

“No.” No, I am still Heero Yuy, the Perfect soldier.

“Aa.” My line, but could I ever get one syllable to speak the volumes he can get out of it? “I’m sorry.”

It’s all I need to hear to know that Trowa, like the others, has moved on. I am truly alone, lost in my past with no way to connect to this new future. The thought scares me, if I would only dare admit it to someone else. It is an effort, but I try, knowing that Trowa, of all people will recognize what I’m really saying. “I…don’t know how to find one.” Help me Trowa. I don’t want to be left here by myself.

For a moment he is silent. Then he looks off in the direction Catherine went. When he looks back, he’s smiling. “You just need to find the right person to work with. Keep looking.” I lock eyes with him, see my own face reflected in the deep forest green of his eyes. Something looks wrong. My face is too still for the confusion beneath the surface.

Wakarimasen, I don’t understand. I’ve been looking, where do I look? What do I look for? What do the rest of you have that I can’t seem to find? My nod is firm, professional, and militant. The conversation is over. After the briefest of farewells that doubles as thanks, I leave the circus. Where to now? My hotel. Time to go back to my little room and fight the war with sleep.


* * * * * * * * * * * *

The spaceport is crowded, but that’s not really surprising. All spaceports are crowded, it’s their nature. I look at the shuttle schedule and try to decide on a destination. I haven’t been in space since the war ended, maybe that’s why I haven’t found whatever it is Trowa was talking about. Only one way to find out. But where to go? Not to L1, the only thing I’ll find there is more memories, I’m sure of it. Duo is on L2 and Quatre on L4. The last thing I need is to see them going happily on about their lives, reminding me that I’ve failed to find peace. I guess that leaves L3, since L5 no longer exists. The next shuttle leaves in an hour. There are shops lining the port, and since I have nothing better to do, I shift through the over priced gifts they specialize in. Plenty Relena would like, or would have liked once upon a time. Plenty of stuffed bears and little heart shaped pillows. I briefly wonder if she still has the bear I gave her. I never did figure out why I gave her that thing. A moment’s weakness I suppose, or support. Support for the girl who was moving away from me and whatever it was I had meant to her. A shadow falls across me, turning the fur of the white bear I’m staring blankly at a blue gray color. It’s my warrior’s training more than any other aspect of my wandering mind that homes in on the fact and alerts me to the presence of another human. A tall human, with a silky, rich voice.

“Looking for a birthday present for my sister, Mr. Yuy?” Amusement. I turn, fully aware of what I’ll see, but not quite believing it. Not quite believing that Zechs Merquise is standing there, leaning slightly against a rack of t-shirts so cheesy only Duo would buy them, and smiling at me. I don’t smile back.

“No.” The answer is bordering on rude, but it’s the same sort of answer I’ve always given everyone, so I don’t really see why I should change it now. Zechs doesn’t seem to mind. Instead he tilts his head elegantly to one side and regards me from beneath one raised, white gold eyebrow.

“Really? Then tell me, what are you doing in a spaceport boutique? It’s certainly the last place on earth I’d ever think of looking for you.”

I shrug. “My shuttle doesn’t leave for another hour.”

“Ah, I see.” He nods once, graciously, a couple strands of his waist length hair drifting across his face. If anything amazes me more than running into Zechs Merquise in the last place on earth I’d think of looking for either of us, it’s how little the man has changed. Where my fellow pilots have grown and, in all cases but Quatre, gained muscle, Zechs is exactly as I remember him. It shouldn’t be surprising I suppose, given that he had been well past puberty during the war, much farther than the rest of us, but that doesn’t stop it from actually being surprising. Zechs’ smile broadens slightly and he straightens, pulling away from the t-shirt rack and closer to me. “In which case, would you care to join me for lunch? No offence to the owner of this delightful shop, but I’m sure it would be far more interesting.”

There was a time I would have flatly refused the offer. A time when Zechs was the enemy, to be fought, to be killed, to be told he was going to die. Of course, I had told him that, on at least one occasion. Omae o korosu. But I said that to a lot of people who are still walking around today. Such is life. The war is over and I am looking for something new. If nothing else, sitting down to lunch with this man instead of trying to skewer him or blow his brains out would be “something new”.


“So, how have you been keeping yourself fed since the war ended?” Zechs leans back in his seat, long fingers steepled elegantly in front of his face. I search his ice blue eyes with my darker ones, and try to determine the motive for the question.

“Work.” It’s plain to see that the rather uninformative answer isn’t going to satisfy him, so I add, “As a body guard.”

“To my sister I presume?” His mouth twists in an expression that would be a smirk if it were a touch less soft. I nod. After all, what can he do with the information, now that the war is over? “I see.”

I see too. This is to be another sparing match, just like we had in the war, except that instead of using Mobile Suits, we are going to use words. I don’t like this type of fight. I haven’t been trained for it and so I always feel as if I’m at a disadvantage. However, a counter attack to this line of questioning isn’t all that hard, even for me. “And you?”

“Well, there’s always my inheritance. Even if Relena is now the heir to the throne of Sank, I’ll always be the Prince, after all.” His expression shifts slightly, so slightly that at first I’m not sure I see it correctly. The smirk is still there, but it seems a touch…self- depreciative? Why would Zechs Merquise, Millard Peacecraft, the Prince of Sank, best fighter in OZ wear such an expression? Especially so openly in front of me, a former Gundam pilot? Zechs isn’t finished though, so I don’t even think about how to voice my questions. “However, since even a Prince’s inheritance has to run out eventually, I think a large part of my income comes from a … similar source as yours, checks deposited in my account on my birthday and Christmas. Admittedly you probably get more for being Relena’s body guard than I do for being her brother.”

So, Relena is giving him money too, whether he needs it or not. This time I’m not surprised. No matter how mature she may become, Relena has a soft spot for those she cares for, even remotely, and will aid them however she feels necessary. Besides, how much inheritance could Zechs really be getting from a kingdom that was essentially destroyed? He has given me more information than I counted on, now it’s his turn to ask a question while I sit and try and puzzle through his line of reasoning.

“I was mildly surprised, upon reaching the planet, to learn that the two of you weren’t engaged or some such.” The question is not in his words, but in his eyes, searching my face. Why haven’t you proposed to her? I thought you loved her.

No Zechs, I don’t love her. I can’t. I don’t have enough feelings left to feel love. The words don’t leave my lips, however. Instead I shrug and parry with a question of my own. “Why did you come back? I thought you and Noin went into space together.”

“Ah.” There is the briefest flicker of pain on his face, quickly hidden. So there are still things he’s hiding from me. I find that strangely reassuring. “We did. It…didn’t work out.” The smile is genuine this time, not even remotely comparable to a smirk, but sad. Ice blue eyes turn out the window, to where the shuttles take off and land, forever moving people from one place to another. “She was finally convinced that whatever she needed, I wasn’t it.”

“So you came back.”

“Yes, so I came back.” His eyes drop to the table for a second before returning to my face. He’s searching again, for what? “You and Relena wouldn’t have worked out either, would you?”

“No.” I’m growing tired of this game, but I sense that we’re about to come to the point, so I continue to play instead of standing up and walking away as my instincts are urging me.

“And so you are going into space.” No answer is required, but I nod anyway, waiting for him to say more. “What are you looking for?”

This time I can’t stop both surprise and a small amount of wary hostility from entering my expression. Somehow, Zechs has learned more from this game than I have, far more. It’s disturbing to be read so well by anyone, let alone a former enemy. Zechs smiles again and raises one gloved hand elegantly as the waiter finally appears to place our food in front of us.

“There is no need to answer that, Heero.” Zechs draws a cigarette from his pocket, regards it for a moment, then pitches it into the garbage receptacle behind him with an expression of resigned disgust. Maybe his time with Noin changed him more than I realized. He gestures for me to start eating, while he continues to talk. “I have a proposition for you, Mr. Yuy. I am considering making a tour of Europe and I’d like some…company.” He shifts his position and stares off at nothing, as if trying to find a better way to phrase or explain his request. “I’ve grown rather accustom to having someone around and the tour could take, no, will take months. At least three, maybe more. Loneliness, while something I can handle, is not something I’d like to actively court.”

I haven’t touched my food and make no motion to. Something is not right here. “Why me?” This time when our eyes meet, I sense pain beneath his, and fear. He has been doing a very good job of hiding them from me all this time…

“Because,” He won’t meet my gaze now, but stares instead at my untouched food. “You have already made your judgements about me. They were formed through our constant rivalry and testing of each other. I don’t think you’d condemn me for what I was during the war, would you? And I pray to god you wouldn’t idolize me.” My brief snort of laughter seems to reassure him, tell him that his assessment of me is at least partially correct. “I’d just feel better with another warrior around, someone who had fought during the war, if not along side me then at least with me. You’re the only person I know who fits that description who’s…available.” Finally, he looks up and for one, crazy second, his eyes remind me of his sister’s.

I’d just…like it if you were there. Less than twenty four hours since Relena actually said those words. For a long moment, I don’t say anything. I look at my hands, my food, out the window, anywhere but into those eyes, those almost pleading ice blue eyes. I’m beginning to think that Dr. J secretly conditioned me to protect any helpless Peacecraft in the area, even if that ‘helpless’ Peacecraft came close to killing me several times. What reason is there to help him? The part of my mind that analyzes every sticky situation that presents its self asks, its tone cold. What reason do you have to think he’d help you find what it is you’re looking for?

What reason do you have to doubt he would? This voice is different. It’s from the part of my mind Dr. J had sought to destroy completely, the one that harbors emotions such as tenderness, the one that aches continually as if trying to tell me I need something, but can’t tell me what. The part that is sending me into space. Really, what reason is there to go into space if you have something to do? You don’t know what you’re looking for, how do you know you won’t find it helping Zechs? How do you know? Finally I sigh and turn back to my one time opponent. I’m going to regret this, I know I am.

“All right.”


* * * * * * * * * * * *

It’s raining. The rain slides in cool sheets down the window of our hotel, obscuring my view of the river. It doesn’t really matter, I’m not looking for anything. Just looking. It’s dark enough I wouldn’t be able to see the river anyway. Behind me Zechs coughs, not a pleasant sound, but better than the hacking noise that’s been coming from him for weeks. A sign that his cold is nearly gone. Now if only we could find a way to keep his stress level down there wouldn’t be a problem. The teakettle starts to whistle. I can hear it before anyone else would be able to and have it off the stove before it can reach that point. Grabbing several packages of tea from the cupboard, I turn to Zechs.

“What kind?” I wait patiently as he goes through another bout of coughing, slightly worse than the last one. No fear of the cold coming back though, he won’t let it, if only because he doesn’t want to go through another week of bed rest.

“Pick one.” He smiles ruefully when the coughing stops. “By now they all taste the same.”

“Hn.” I look at the packages. We have more mint than anything else, so I choose that. Popping the tea bag into a cup and pouring the steaming water over it, I mentally set about figuring out how long to let it steep. My first attempts had not, apparently, been that great.

Zechs pulled back with a grimace and looked at me as if I was trying to poison him. “Kill or cure is it?

“What’s wrong?” I frowned, feeling somehow slighted by his criticism.

“Well, when a spoon can stand on it’s own in the cup, that’s generally a bad sign.” He took another sip and winced. “Some sugar wouldn’t hurt matters either.”

I shrugged. “I’m not Quatre.”

memory almost makes me smile. Almost. I wait a minute more and remove the bag from the hotel mug. After dumping the required heaping spoon full of sugar into the liquid, I decide to add another spoon full just to be on the safe side. Why shouldn’t the training that made me the Perfect soldier transfer over to make me the Perfect tea maker? Because that would make me Quatre, that’s why.

Leaving the little kitchen space, I move back out into the main room to hand the cup to Zechs. He looks better than he has for a good while now, but he still looks tired. We shouldn’t have gone out earlier. Strike that, I shouldn’t have let him come with me to get groceries. We were half mobbed by a group of people asking for interviews with the famous “Prince of Sank”. The same sort of thing that’s been happening everywhere since we started this trip. I swear the reporters didn’t even notice I was there until I forcibly took Zechs’ arm and told him we were leaving. Then again, why should they notice one, scruffy, dark haired eighteen-year-old when they have Zechs to look at? The entire flock of vultures would probably kill to get pictures of him the way he is now, relaxed in one of the hotel’s over stuffed blue chairs, long fingers wrapped around a mug of tea, staring out at the rain. His hair fans out over the back of the chair like long strands of sunlight on the water and I unconsciously find myself tracing the web work they form with my eyes.

“Heero?” His voice startles me and I look up, expecting to find him looking at me. He isn’t, however, he’s still staring out the window blankly.

“Aa?” My favorite syllable. Now he turns, regarding me solemnly for an instant before allowing himself to smile.

“When I’m done with this,” He raises the mug. “Could you get out the wine I bought this afternoon? I know I bought it to go with dinner tomorrow, but I’d like a glass now and we can always re-cork it.”

“Aa.” I randomly wonder how many uses there are for that word. Enough. I could have an entire conversation with someone and never say more. I watch him drink, his sips deliberate, delicate almost. In a way he reminds me of Trowa, every move planned, perfected, and executed with an unconscious grace that even I have to appreciate, though my world has never held room for such things. He finishes the tea and I take the empty cup back into the kitchen, dropping it almost carelessly into the sink. Even though I lack their grace, my movements are as deliberate as either Zechs or Trowa. The wine is in the left-hand cupboard. I pull it out, then shift through drawers until I find a bottle opener. I quickly uncork the bottle and carefully pour its contents into a wineglass, procured from the right-hand cupboard. The liquid is dark, reminding me of nothing so much as the jacket Zechs wore when he worked for OZ. I’m about to shove the cork back into the bottle when his voice stops me.

“While you’re at it, why don’t you pour yourself a glass?”

I hesitate. I’ve never had wine and the thought of drinking something that so closely resembles blood makes me unexpectedly…disturbed. However, given the number of people who drink the stuff, I figure that it must not be too bad and pour myself a glass, for politeness sake. Five months with Zechs is beginning to effect me. Returning to the main room, I hand him the glass. He smiles gratefully and sips at it, the same way he sipped the tea. I watch him, look at my glass, then carefully take a sip of my own. The taste is acidic, almost bitter, half-stinging at my taste buds, and I make a small, involuntary face of distaste.

“Never had wine before?” Zechs is watching me now, his expression bemused. He takes another sip as I shake my head. “In many cases it’s an acquired taste. Take a few more sips before you decide whether or not you like it.”

I shrug. I know I’ll drink the entire glass. It’s certainly not as bad as some of the things Dr. J had me drink while I was training. I return to the window, staring silently out at the rain. Given that it’s January, I’m slightly surprised it’s not snow. The second sip of wine is better than the first.

“You’d think I’d handle the press’ attention better.” Zechs sighs. I turn to find him gazing absently at his glass, as if the wine could give him the answers he’s looking for. “After all, I was trained to be the king of Sank. It wouldn’t do to have a monarch who’s so stressed by the media that he gets sick.” Another of the self-depreciating smiles I’ve grown so used to flickers across his face. “Funny though, I don’t remember Father getting this much…personal attention.” He transfers his gaze to the wall and trails off into his own thoughts again. For some reason the silence bothers me. It’s not the natural stillness I’m used to. Instead it’s like the pause right after you’ve heard a noise in the dark and you’re trying to figure out whether or not there’s actually someone there. Zechs is sitting there, sipping his wine, isn’t he? It’s not my imagination, is it? Suddenly the entire situation feels very surreal, as if the world outside is gone and we’re the only things left. Not a pleasant feeling. I switch my attention to what he just said, about the press vultures that follow us as if we were dying meat.

“Different type of attention.” For a moment it seems as if my voice didn’t reach him, just left my lips and landed at my feet. Then he turns, his eyes still distant, but clearly focused on me.

“What do you mean?”

“You aren’t the king.” I shrug. I don’t know what makes me so certain my words are right, but I am. Follow your feelings. “You’re an ex-soldier. You go out, you’re accessible. You’re famous.”

“Or infamous,” There is no humor in his laugh and the sound dies quickly. “One or the other.” His eyes refocus on the wineglass. “Who would have thought that Zechs Merquise would be so much more…note worthy, than Millard Peacecraft.” He takes another sip. By now the glass is half-empty. “And who’d have guessed that Zechs didn’t want the attention.”

“Change your name. Become Millard again.” Perhaps it’s too simple a solution, but to me it seems obvious. If a criminal becomes a monk, people lose interest in him quickly. If OZ’s best pilot became a pacifist, wouldn’t they lose interest in him too?

“I can’t,” White gold strands of hair shift like the curtains of rain outside as he shakes his head. “Millard Peacecraft is dead and every day I become more convinced I’ll never be able to resurrect him.” He smiles at me. I finally figure out what it is about that particular smile that bothers me. It doesn’t reach his eyes. Duo’s always did, even if he wasn’t smiling because he was happy. When Zechs isn’t happy, his eyes look dead, like a sheet of ice, no matter what his face is doing. Too much like my eyes for comfort. “Tell me Heero,” He twirls the glass slowly by its stem, his words slow and well selected. “Who were you before you were Heero Yuy? Do you think you could go back?”

Before? I blink, trying to remember a time when I haven’t been Heero Yuy, the Perfect soldier. Odin Lowe Junior. That’s what I was called…before. But the name is the only thing that changed. I haven’t. “I’ve always been Heero Yuy.”

“Always?” Zechs tilts his head to the side in that elegant manner of his. “There was never anything else?”

I shake my head. Suddenly it feels like I was left out of something. There should have been something else, once. A child hood beyond the training. But there isn’t, just learning how to kill for as long as I can remember. The hollow place inside me throbs, shooting pain through my entire body, trying to force tears out of me. I won’t cry, not here, not in front of Zechs. Another sip of wine and the pain subsides. I think I like wine.

“Can you tell me what it was like, growing up?” His tone is subdued, almost as if he hates to ask.

I stare at him blankly for a few moments, trying to form a response. I’ve never actually told anyone about my childhood before. Duo told me a little about his once, about how he got his name, but I didn’t give any information back. Didn’t want the information he was giving me. I turn my head back out the window and, slowly, begin talking. I watch my past in the shapes of the rain, entire scenes replaying themselves for me to report to my rather captive audience. My voice is the same flat monotone that used to report that I had accomplished a mission, what the damage had been, any information I had gathered. Bones ache, remembering what it felt like to be broken apart. The rest of my wine vanishes quickly down my throat, both to clear the imaginary taste of toxic liquids forced down my throat so I’d be able to recognize them before ingesting fatal quantities, and to quiet the churning of my stomach as it recalls what it felt like to rid its self of those toxins. The alcohol helps, but I still feel slightly queasy. My body still wants to cry. I lean up against the window, suddenly needing some sort of support. I don’t know why, I’ve gone without it for most of my life.

Zechs doesn’t say anything. As I talk, the only sound I can hear outside of my own voice and the rain is his breathing. There isn’t even the rustle of cloth that would indicate he’s shifting position. It’s eerie in a way. He might as well not be there, I could just be reciting my life to myself and the downpour. I follow my life up to the night five months earlier when I last saw Trowa, leaving nothing out, not even the smallest detail. After all, he did ask. Why hasn’t anyone ever asked before? What would I have done if they did? I don’t bother tying the narrative up in a nice little package, just let it drift off into silence. Why did I tell him? I can hear him now as he stands up, the faint rustle of the bathrobe he’s wearing against his skin, the soft creak of a loose floor board as he puts his weight on it. I don’t turn though, clinging to the cold rudeness that I grew up on, even when the now empty wineglass in my hand is gently pulled away.

“Heero?” Zechs’ long, thin fingers gingerly press against my cheek, turning my face around and tilting my head upward so that I’m looking him straight in the face. I don’t recognize the expression he’s wearing. It’s part compassion, part worry, maybe a little part pity, and then there’s that something else that I’ve never seen before.

Understanding? Is that it?

“Heero, I’m sorry. No one should have to live like that.” Before the words even really have a chance to work their way into my mind, he bends forward and presses his lips against mine. They don’t stay there very long, more they touch down, tease my mouth for a second and leave, but the gentle caress burns itself quickly into my mind, leaving me hungry. I don’t know why, but I want him to do that again. “I’m going to bed now.” His voice is soft as he turns and walks toward the kitchen. All I can do is stare after him.

“You just need to find the right person to work with.”

Trowa’s words echo out from the back of my mind and suddenly, something clicks into place, like a vertebra falling back into line with the rest of the spine. I’ve been with Zechs for five months. Of my own volition. I’ve never done that before, with anyone. Perfect soldier might as well be a synonym for lone wolf. WuFei used to be that way too, even going as far as to miss an assignment, but that changed when the war ended, didn’t it? Suddenly he had the Preventers. I guess even during the war he had Sally. Duo and Trowa were like that. Duo had Hilde and Trowa had Catharine. I never looked at the girls as partners before. Quatre had the Maganacs during the war, his own personal army who was always with him. Now he has a wife, and if the news is right, they’ll have a child within a month or two. And I’m still alone. Even with Zechs, now crossing from the kitchen to the bedroom, I’m alone. I keep myself alone. Don’t get near. Don’t touch. That’s what I’ve said to everyone I’ve met since the war started. Funny, it used to make me feel secure, like no one could come close enough to hurt me. Now it just makes me ache, inside and out.

“Zechs?” At first I’m not quite aware that I said his name out loud, but then he stops in the doorway to the bedroom and looks back at me. I swallow compulsively and my eyes dart to the couch I’ve been sleeping on since we arrived here. “Can I sleep with you tonight?”

“Of course.” His response is barely audible, his expression soft. I wish I could read peaceful intentions as well as I can read malicious ones.

“Thank you.” I feel like someone just picked me up by the scruff of my neck and shook me, disoriented and unsteady. Zechs disappears into the bedroom, the door clicking shut behind him, and I truly am alone, in the dimly lit room, cut off from the rest of the world, with only the rain for company. I stand there for a minute, listening to the rain and trying, rather ineffectually, to put my thoughts back in order. It’s not cold, but I find myself shivering and wrap my arms around my shoulders to keep warm. With careful deliberation, I push off from the windowsill, shakily making my way across the room. The light switch is right next to the bedroom door, saving a walk through the dark. I flick it off and for one, sickening moment, I get the feeling that when I open the door, the room beyond it will be empty. You’re losing it Heero. You’re losing any shred of sanity you had left. My hand closes firmly on the knob. Am I? Taking a deep breath I turn the door knob and push.

Zechs is sitting on the edge of the room’s double bed. The bathrobe is gone and in its place he wears the silk pajamas Relena sent him for Christmas. She sent me a pair too, only mine are forest green where his are a dark, almost black indigo. Don’t ask me how she managed to track us down, we certainly didn’t advertise our presence. She must have gotten her hands on the hotel reservations or something. I avoid looking at him. Instead I cross to the little five by six area that passes for a bathroom and start brushing my teeth. When I’m finished, I stand staring into the mirror. I don’t look any different than I did the last time I looked. My short, brown hair is still standing up in deceptively messy spikes, never mind that there’s not a stray hair to be found. No emotion shows in the deep blue irises of my eyes. My face is an expressionless mask. It doesn’t matter what way I tilt my head, or how I screw my features up, I’m still the perfect soldier. So why do I feel like something should be different?

By the time I return to the bedroom, Zechs is in bed and the only light is coming from a little lamp on the nightstand next to him. I wander over to my side, pull my shoes off, and slide under the covers, still wearing my tank top and the jeans I’ve donned as a concession to the cold weather. After a moment’s thought, I shuck the jeans like oyster shells. I never actually wear my pajamas. Now that I’m in bed, the light clicks off. Lying there in the dark, neither of us actually says anything. No “Good night” or “Sweet dreams”. Just silence. Inside, I feel like I’m bleeding again.

“Heero?” He’s not whispering, but his voice is so soft I’m not instantly sure I heard the words.

“Aa?”

“Are you all right?” When I don’t respond he sets one hand gingerly against my shoulder blades. “You’re shivering.”

Am I? Yes, I am. How did that happen? My throat feels like it’s closing in on its self, but somehow a pathetic little mewling sound squeaks past. I mentally curse. I should never sound that… helpless. The war may be over, but I’m not that weak! Not weak enough to cry in front of my one time enemy! But the noise has made its way out, and Zechs heard it.

“Heero, come here.” He tugs lightly at my shoulder and I turn reluctantly to face him. I find myself held firmly in his arms and pulled solidly against his silk wrapped body. I blink, trying to figure out how I got here. Damn it, why can’t I think straight? Maybe it has to do with the fragile sent filling my nostrils. Part lemon, part mint, and part warm, musky scent that I long ago identified as Zechs. There’s the slightest undercurrent of wine too, although I know he’s brushed his teeth. When we first started this trip it seemed every room we had quickly took on the smell of him. After the third or fourth stop, I became more or less immune. Now it’s almost as if I’ve never smelled him before. One of his hands gently massages the back of my neck, the other working at my lower back and side. The touch has the strange dual effect of making the ache inside of me both subside and increase to the point I think I may scream. It’s by far the oddest sensation I’ve ever had. Even odder than the time Duo and I were stuck sharing a bed and the idiot kissed me in his sleep. Rather sloppily. I nearly put him through a wall. Instead of protesting to Zechs’ touch, however, I press closer to him, my cheek involuntarily rubbing against the silk of his pajamas. “It’s alright Heero. Relax.”

Relax. The command runs down his fingers and through my skin as his caresses slowly turn into light strokes of his fingers, running over my neck and ears, up into my hair and along the very edge of my jaw. The sensation makes me shiver more than I already am, but in a completely different manner. Pleasant, not a word I can attach to many experiences I’ve had during my life. This is pleasant. I unconsciously tilt my head slightly to expose more of my neck. He takes instant advantage of the fact, his fingers playing all the way down to my collar bone and back, gently tugging my tank top down over one shoulder and teasing the skin beneath it. I whimper slightly, idly wrapping my fingers into the loose silk of his top.

“Feel better?” Zechs’ breath tickles my ear as the hand petting my neck runs up under my chin, tilting my head back so that I’m looking at him. His expression is almost serene, but with slight undercurrents of amusement and something else I can’t quite identify. I manage an inarticulate sound of affirmation. “Good.” He leans over and our mouths meet again. This time it’s not just a gently brush of the lips. Instead he slowly works my mouth open and slips his tongue inside, exploring. I can’t quite figure out what he tastes like, but it’s not unpleasant. I run my tongue along the roof and sides of his mouth, trying to memorize that strange, subtle flavor. After a minute or two, he pulls away, and even though I realize I needed to breathe, I’m disappointed. Something about holding him, having him touch me, is very comfortable. Unused to comfort as I am, I find myself craving it. Another whimper escapes my throat. “Shh.” His lips drop to my neck. I hadn’t realized that I was hot before, but his mouth seems very cool as it glides down the column of my throat. Long fingers pull at the loose fabric of my tank top, pulling it up and over my chest. He sits up slightly. “Can we get rid of this?”

Without really thinking about it I jerk the top off and throw it halfway across the room. As soon as it leaves my fingers, I realize what I’ve just done. I always think before I act. Why didn’t I, just then? What’s happening to me? From a more objective viewpoint than mine, the answer is rather obvious. Zechs is kissing my chest and running strong fingers down my sides, that’s what’s happening to me. In response, I’m twitching slightly, my entire body feeling as if it’s being pulled toward his touch. I’m not thinking, and I can’t control this. The realization nearly makes me panic. No! Don’t panic! Panic is the ultimate loss of control. You can’t panic! Zechs’ hands run up the inside of my thighs, caressing me gently. I nearly scream when one of those hands reaches the juncture of my legs and rubs at the sensitive area beneath my underwear. It doesn’t hurt, there’s no reason to scream, and yet I can feel the air in my lungs begging to be released. His fingers move to the waistband of my underwear and suddenly I’m aware of exactly how little clothing I have on. “Zechs?”

“Mm?” He raises his head from where he’s been dropping light kisses along my abdomen. His hair brushes over the highly sensitized skin, making me gasp.

“Zechs I…please, I…” I shake my head, trying to clear it. What am I trying to say?

“Heero, relax.” He shifts upward, resting his cheek on my chest, one finger sliding down the side of my rib cage. “Don’t fight this, just let it happen. It won’t work if you fight. Shh, it’s all right. Relax.” Smooth, supple lips close over one nipple, teasing it lightly. My body automatically goes stiff at the touch.

Relax, don’t fight it. Hn, don’t fight. Typical Peacecraft advice. The tension refuses to leave my muscles, so I force myself to think of something, anything except what’s happening, anyone except Zechs. For some reason Duo’s the first person who comes to mind. Probably has something to do with his hair. Long, like Zechs’. Of course, if Duo were here, he’d probably be enjoying this. Either screaming like a banshee on the bed, or, if he were watching me, laughing his head off at my lack of expertise. He’d probably know exactly what’s going on. I only have a vague notion. I don’t realize that I’ve actually managed to relax until I feel my underwear brush my toes on it’s way off my body and, presumably, onto the floor. Zechs’ mouth brushes against that same, sensitive area his hands were not much earlier, and I nearly panic again. Air is forced in and out of my lungs in great, gasping breaths and I reach out, looking for something to hold, to steady myself. My fingers encounter Zechs’ hair, long, golden strands that are falling down to tickle my thighs. I latch onto it, feeling it slip in silken ropes between my finger, over my wrists. Have I ever felt anything this soft? I wrack my brain, trying to think of something I’ve encountered that might possibly be this smooth and soft. Duo’s hair, maybe, or WuFei’s, but I’ve never actually felt their hair, so I can’t know for sure if this is how it would feel. Despite the distracted state of my mind, I’m still acutely aware of my body, now burning hot and being assaulted by strange, new sensations, all caused by my old enemy’s lips and tongue. I squirm, torn between wanting to escape this, whatever this is, and wanting him somehow closer to me. Then it does stop as he raises his mouth from my skin.

“I’ll be right back, I need to go get something.” His voice slides over me as smoothly as his hair was a moment ago. My fingers tighten convulsively. He can’t leave now! “Heero,” He slowly pries my fingers loose. “Heero, I promise I’ll be right back.” He’s gone. I can hear him move across the room, to the bathroom.

Nonononono! I can feel hot liquid running down my face. Oh god, I’m crying! I said I wouldn’t cry! I curl up on my side, naked, vulnerable, and sob. There’s no way to deny it now, I’m scared.

Are you lost? A small, female voice asks from the back of my memory. I can see the girl, her wide innocent eyes, the yellow flower in her hand. Was I ever innocent enough that I would have asked a stranger that?

Yes. All these years, and my answer hasn’t changed. Yes, I’m lost. I curl into a tighter ball as my thoughts start a tight, inward spiral. Lost, confused, scared…who am I? I don’t even know who I am, or what I should do, how can I know where I am? What’s going on? What’s happening to me?

“Heero?” I somehow missed the sound of his footsteps, returning over the short piled carpet, but Zechs’ voice cuts cleanly through my mental screaming, like one of the Gundams’ thermal blades slicing through a Leo. There’s a soft click as he sets something down on the light stand next to the bed, then his hand is on my shoulder, gently trying to coax me out of my fetal position. “Heero, what’s wrong? Come here, please, tell me what’s wrong.” I feel his body press against my back, curling around me, arms wrapping over mine. Soft, soothing words murmur past my ear. Slowly I manage to straighten out, twisting as I do until my face is pressed firmly against his shoulder. I don’t hold him though. My arms are crossed over my chest, fingers digging into my skin. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“You didn’t.” My chest hurts and for a moment I’m not sure I’ll be able to get all the words out. “You didn’t hurt me it just…I just…” The words are gone again, crushed to death by the pressure building in my throat. It’s hard to breathe.

“Easy, calm down. Calm down. It’s alright.” Zechs’ fingers ruffle the short hair at the base of my skull. He cranes his neck so he can kiss away the tears from one side of my face. My nose is running, but he doesn’t seem worried about that, and I manage to sniffle enough that it doesn’t make much of a mess. Thank God for small favors. Eventually I relax slightly, my sobs subsiding to the point I can keep them choked back, and he does reach behind him to pull a tissue from the supply on the nightstand. He waits patiently while I blow my nose, then reaches out to lightly stroke my cheek. “Now, do you want to tell me what that was all about?”

“Zechs? What’s happening to me? I mean…what were we just doing?” My voice sounds very small and fragile.

“What’s happening to you? I’m afraid I’m not sure.” Concern is reflected in his ice blue eyes. “What were we just doing? We were making love.”

“Why did you stop?”

“I thought I’d take it a bit further.” He pulls me closer, although no where near as close as I was earlier. “In order to do that, I needed to get something. Otherwise it would have hurt like hell, and I truly don’t wish to hurt you. At all.” His fingers smooth my hair back away from my cheek, which feels horridly flushed. “Now I’m not so sure we should do anything more tonight.”

“I...Zechs…please!” There are no words in my vocabulary for what I’m trying to say. No one’s taught them to me and if I’ve ever heard anyone else use them, then I discarded them as useless. Why would the Perfect soldier need to ask for comfort? Strong arms pull me tightly against him, and I can feel him kissing the top of my head lightly. It’s like putting wrapped ice on a burn wound, the relief is instant.

“Heero, can you even start to tell me what’s wrong? Can you give me the slightest idea?”

“I’m losing control.” The words alone make me shiver. “All my life I’ve been trained to master my emotions. Pain, sorrow, anger, I felt them but they never controlled me. But this, the way I feel when you touch me…” Tears threaten to choke me again, but I fight them down. I fell apart once, I won’t do it again. “I don’t understand it, I can’t control it. I don’t even know why I told you about my past earlier.”

“Because I asked you to?” Strong fingers caress the back of my neck, trying to loosen tense muscles. “Heero, you said you were tired of being a soldier. If you’re going to stop being a soldier, you need to learn how to respond to other people. That means you need to feel.”

“I used to think I couldn’t feel.” A quiet, almost numbness enters my voice.

“Everyone feels, it’s part of what makes us human.”

“Maybe I’m not human.”

Soft laughter fills the little space around the bed. Zechs pulls back and tilts my head so our eyes meet. “Ah Heero, how can you even think that? You’ve already said that you feel. You feel when I do this…” He leans over and kisses me again, on the cheek this time, another barely there brush of his lips. “Don’t you?”

“Aa.” The word comes out half gasp, half whimper. Damn it, how does he get me to do that?

“You need to learn to identify what you’re feeling and determine whether control is necessary or not.” He smiles down at me, one hand running almost absently through my hair. “Can you tell me what you’re feeling now?”

Introspection has always been one of my specialties, thankfully. I tumble my feelings over in my head, searching for words to attach to them. “Scared, vulnerable.” I can’t find words for the third emotion, which causes the fear to flare. My voice nearly dies out completely, a hopelessly pathetic sound. “Hold me, please. Hold me.”

A soft sigh and he complies. I don’t know what’s so comforting about being pressed up against him, breathing in that combination of scents that is Zechs, and maybe I never will. All I need to know is that the world feels marginally safer here.

“Is there anything I can do to help, Heero?” He has his face pressed in my hair, so the words are muffled. “Anything at all?”

I think about it a moment. The part of me that was a soldier for so many years is screaming that he has the advantage and that I should even the odds. Since this seems to make some sense, I set about trying to figure out how to do so. I concentrate on the feeling of vulnerability coursing through me. Why do I feel this way? Somewhere during the previous activities the comforter, and most of the other covers, wound up at the foot of the bed. I shift position, trying to take maximum advantage of Zechs’ body heat, my legs rubbing slightly against his pants. I blink. Silk. Pajamas. The answer. “Zechs?” I push myself up on one elbow, giving myself the higher ground.

“Mm?”

“Take off your clothes.”

“What?” The look on his face suggests that he’s about to burst out laughing, but somehow he doesn’t. “Why?”

“Because,” My tone is calm now, I’m back in control. “You took mine off.”

“Ah, of course.” A brief smile touches his lips, lighting his eyes, as he sits up and deftly unbuttons his top. Not long after, both it and the pants go sailing off the side of the bed. As he turns back to me, I make a swift mental note that he doesn’t wear underwear to bed, just in case that information should ever be useful. “Is this better?”

“Aa.” I lay down again. I’m not even that surprised when he follows suit, wrapping his arms back around me the way we had been earlier. Instead I simply snuggle closer, internalizing the feel of his skin against mine. Very smooth, very warm. I think I could comfortably sleep with him like this. That’s a vaguely disturbing thought. It means I trust him. When did that start? I can’t pin it down, no more than I can pin down the exact moment Duo stopped being an irritation and started being a welcome relief from the struggle of the war. No more than I could say when the other four pilots stopped being people I occasionally bumped into and became comrades. I hate not being able to pin these things down. I guess that’s part of being human. If it is, then maybe being human isn’t as great as I always thought it was. Maybe I don’t really want to be human. Then again, being human means I can be here, safe and warm, with Zechs working his hands in long, steady sweeps down my back, releasing the tension in my muscles.

“I’ll tell ya’ something Heero.” Duo leaned back in the prison we’d been shoved in with WuFei, who was asleep at the moment. “Life hurts, and hurting’s a bitch. But if you don’t hurt, then man there’s no way you’re ever going to feel better”

I slip one arm over Zechs’ side and for a moment his hands are still, simply holding me. Forget sleeping, I could die like this. A far better fate than having the tall, graceful man holding me hack me to pieces on a battle field. Better than me doing the same to him. One hand works it’s way up my neck and starts tracing small, concise circles behind one ear. It almost tickles, but not quite. I smile anyway.

“Are you going to be alright?”

“I think so. My right arm is falling asleep though.” If I’m not going to be a soldier, then I’m going to do everything within my power to avoid the little pains I stoically bore for the entire damn war.

“Here.” The bulk beside me shifts as Zechs pushes himself up on one elbow. I rearrange myself, scooting upward so I can wrap my arms around his shoulder, my right one resting under his neck. This has the odd effect of tucking his head under my chin, which is a bit disconcerting giving our normal height difference, but is every bit as comfortable as being pressed up against him. A reversal of roles in all ways but one. He still has more experience in this sort of thing than I do. He probably wouldn’t find anything at all unusual in the way his breath flowing over my collarbone makes my nerves tingle. I gasp involuntarily as the tip of his nose presses into the hollow of my throat. Pleasant. Beyond pleasant. “Heero?”

“Aa?”

“If I do anything you don’t want me to, just tell me, alright? I promise I’ll stop.”

It takes me a moment to answer, my mouth suddenly too dry. I finally manage to whimper out some sort of affirmative response, although as his lips press barely there kisses up my throat, along my jaw, and back down the side of my neck, I’m not sure if he’s capable of doing something I don’t want him to do. Something I’m not comfortable with, perhaps, but it seems like I’m uncomfortable with a lot of things, and a lot of my discomforts are rapidly dying. They’re being killed by Zechs lips, teeth, and hands, as his mouth works it’s way down my shoulder, over my chest, and his fingers brush against my hips. Without my even fully realizing it, I wrap my hands tightly in the sheets, feeling his fingers work their way under my thighs, methodically spreading my legs a little at a time. Eventually he gets them far enough apart that he can slide his body between them, his torso pressing against that oh-so-sensitive area he was teasing earlier, causing me to arch my back, gasping for air. He keeps his attention on other things, however. My lowest rib, which he nips at, then sooths with his tongue, the space just behind my knees, which he rubs, making my legs twitch. I moan, pressing my hips forward against him demandingly. I want to be where we were last time, just before he left. That’s what he’s working towards so steadily, I know it. But he’s taking his time, seeming to ignore what it is I truly want. Or maybe he knows my wants better than I do. Maybe he knows how to make this all that much more enjoyable. I can’t be sure though, and it’s a risk I just can’t take right now.

“Zechs…” I add vocals to my movements, hoping that will make him see my desperation and respond to it. At first, it doesn’t seem to work. However, his mouth gradually works its way down my abdomen to my hips, his hair trailing between my legs, tickling. Then the hair is gone and his mouth working at me instead, hungrily. I can’t breathe properly, my breath coming in little hitches and cries, but it feels good. Nearly perfect. So strange to think that I could feel like this, that I could have become this human, when I was raised as a machine, a weapon. No control. And yet, he said he’d stop if I asked him to. One little word and I could end this all. I gasp and try to follow his mouth with my hips, but he presses them back against the bed.

“Patience.” The murmur barely reaches my ears over the sound of my blood. I don’t want to be patient. I was patient for the entire war, waiting for orders, waiting for the right moment to strike. Even after the war I’ve been patiently waiting for the key to being human, to fitting in. I have that now, and I want to use it. I hiss and one hand finds its way back to his hair, pulling his head in closer to me. The low chuckle in the back of his throat sends vibrations through my skin, little ripples that are quickly swallowed by the tremors running through my entire nervous system, making my every limb tingle. He pulls away from me and the scream building in the back of my throat nearly escapes.

Not again! He’s not going to stop again is he?

“Heero? Can you reach my night stand?” Between words his tongue dances along the inside of my legs.

Through a tremendous exertion of will I unfold my fingers from the sheets and stretch them out. “Aa.”

“Could you get the little jar sitting there?” Warm breath plays along my damp skin making my muscles jump and twitch. Whimpering through the sensation I manage to get my fingers to wrap themselves around the small, glass container. This is what he got earlier, isn’t it? That means something new is going to happen. I almost put the jar down again, but for some reason I can’t, so I reach down and let his delicate fingers relieve me of it.

Now what? I close my eyes, tense with anticipation. Am I ready, whatever it is? My ears dimly pick up the sound of metal against glass as Zechs unscrews the container’s lid. Relax. I can always stop this. He told me I could stop it. My hips are gently pulled off the bed and something is pushing inside me. I blink as the sensation registers. It’s a finger. I know this.

“The enemy isn’t going to trust you. Ever. You understand this, don’t you Heero?” Dr. J stood in front of me, his mechanical eyes glued on me as one of his assistants padded along my legs, searching for concealed weapons.

“Aa.”

“Good. Now, do you think the enemy is going to stop searching when they know there’s nothing in your clothing?” The question was clearly a test, so the answer was obvious.

“No.”

“Very good.” Dr. J nodded and the assistant started rather roughly removing my clothing. Mentally I ran over my knowledge of the human anatomy, trying to figure out where one could hide a weapon, and how the enemy would check that location. Finally the assistant managed to remove all of my clothing, no easy task since I wasn’t cooperating. “Now, stand in front of that wall and bend over with your hands palm down against the surface.”

The memory is from a different time, a different world. There is no war here. Zechs is no longer the enemy. And yet, I know what I’m feeling. Confusion starts running an obstacle course through my mind. “Zechs? What are you looking for?”

The motion inside me stops and I can sense Zechs straighten slightly. “What?” He sounds as confused as I feel.

“You’re giving me a bodily cavity search. What are you looking for?” For a moment there is silence. Then, inexplicably, Zechs pulls out of me and bursts into laughter. I blink a couple of times, then prop myself up on one elbow to make sure that the rich, warm sound really is coming from Zechs and I’m not just hallucinating. I don’t get a very good look, however, because at about the same time he topples over backwards, landing on the floor with a very solid thump. The laughter diminishes for a moment, but doesn’t really stop. I frown. “Zechs? Are you all right? What’s so funny?”

“I’m fine.” He drags himself back up onto the bed, collapsing next to me, still chuckling slightly. “I’m perfectly all right. And nothing’s funny, really, I just didn’t see that coming. Although given your background I really should have.” He sits up again, pulling me against him and kissing me, repeatedly. I’m still confused and am beginning to wonder if that state is going to end any time soon. “I’m not searching you, Heero. What I’m doing has nothing to do with that. But when I find what I’m looking for, you’ll know it.” Gently he presses me back down onto the bed, his fingers drifting back between my legs and pressing gently. “I promise.”

Any response I could give is cut off as another finger joins the first, reducing my vocal ability to that of whimpering once again. I’m tensing slightly in anticipation of learning the difference between what’s happening now and what I’ve learned in the past. My focus turns inward, toward my breathing and heart beat, trying to remember one of the relaxation exercises WuFei always used. This may not be a search like I’m used to, but I’m betting the rule about it hurting less if your muscles are relaxed holds true. The soft, calming stream of encouragement flowing from Zechs’ mouth seems to support this theory, so I redouble my efforts, willing every muscle in my body to go completely limp. I’m rather irritated when they all stay at least slightly taunt, some more so than others, but Zechs seems satisfied with the progress. He removes his fingers, moving upward to nibble at my left ear, wrapping one of my legs around his waist in the process.

“Ready?”

“Aa.” Ready or dying of curiosity, I’m not sure there’s much of a difference at this point. Slowly he slides his hips forward, pressing them against mine. I gasp loudly, my back arching well off the bed, as he pushes into me again. The gasp is followed by a whimper and he pauses, clearly waiting for the discomfort to go away before pressing further forward.

“Shh, trust me.” A series of kisses along my neck accompany the words. “I know what I’m doing.”

“I trust you.” My lips curl back into a smile as I wrap my arms around his shoulders. “I trust…” The rest of the sentence is lost in a strange sound that’s half gasp, half cry. I don’t know what he just brushed against, but it felt good. He pulls back slightly and I franticly draw air into my lungs, only to have it forced out when he moves forward, brushing that spot again. I’m vaguely inclined to try and figure out what that is he’s hitting, but my mind is refusing to work. This isn’t the sense of unreality and fuzziness from earlier. Instead it’s as if every signal being sent from one synapse to another is bouncing off each other mid stream. The signals are increasing in their speed and number, just as Zechs slowly speeding up his movements. I can no longer get a full breath and, in a brief moment of clarity, I wonder if I’m going to hyperventilate. My fingers are clamped down on Zechs’ shoulders like vices, and yet with every movement I seem to tighten my grip. On some level I’m aware of a tension growing inside me, a tension that will need release, soon. I bury my face in the crook of Zechs’ neck, literally sobbing for breath, and press the entire length of my body as close against his as possible. I hurt. I feel wonderful. Which way is up? I can’t tell anymore and my eyes are clenched shut, so I can’t see. All I know is I want this to be over, but I don’t want it to stop. Nothing makes sense anymore. Zechs, don’t let go of me. Whatever you do, don’t let go! Something gives, inside of me. I don’t know what it is, but suddenly the tension is flowing out of me. Even the sounds that have been building in my throat, escaping a little bit at a time, wrench themselves out, leaving me empty and exhausted. I feel myself collapse. Now I am relaxed.

There’s a sharp gasp as Zechs pushes into me again. My hands are still weakly clutching at his shoulders, so I can feel him arch, every muscle tensed. Something’s filling me, replacing the empty feeling inside. After a span of time, which seems to encompass both a mere second and several years, he relaxes. Slowly he pulls away and lowers himself to the bed beside me. I roll over on my side and press against him, unwilling to completely break the contact that has been near constant since we came to bed. Something about the warm, wet sensation covering part of my skin tells me the sheets are going to be a complete mess in the morning, especially if we go to sleep like this, but at the moment I really don’t care. All I care about is the fact that I’m warm, pleasantly tired, and Zechs is petting my hair again.

“Are you alright?” The words are a cautious inquiry as opposed to active concern.

“Aa.”

“Good.” He pauses, letting his fingers trace the chords of muscle in the back of my neck. “And did you enjoy that?”

I cuddle closer, shoving my nose against his neck. “Very much.” Two words. Duo would be proud. “There is one thing though…my teeth tingle.”

“My, I never knew I was that good!” He laughs, curling the fingers of one hand between my shoulders and sliding one leg over mine. With a sigh, he buries his face in my hair. “You know, I wonder exactly how many people would be extremely jealous if they could see us right now.”

“Jealous of me? Probably a lot.” I smirk wryly. “Half the people who’ve seen you seem to have developed instant crushes. I doubt anyone would be jealous of you.”

“Don’t be so certain.” A tsking sound accompanies the words. “I know for certain that at least one of your fellow pilots would be quite green.”

“What?” I blink, trying to figure out which of the others would possibly be interested in me. “Who? How?”

“Duo Maxwell for one.” His voice is almost a purr as he sits up and retrieves the covers before they fall completely off the end of the bed.

“Duo?”

“Yes, Duo.”

It’s becoming second nature to have him instantly slip his arms around me upon laying down, which should scare me given it’s been happening for less than a night. At the moment, however, I’m too busy trying to imagine Duo Maxwell being attracted to me. Admittedly, the fool was always remarkably happy when I showed up, but he was happy to see anyone. Except the scientists. He was even happy to see enemy troops, because it meant he could destroy things! The only thing he’d ever done to make me think he might be attracted to me was that kiss, and he had definitely been asleep at the time. I pull back, my eyes meeting Zechs’. “How do you know that?”

“I didn’t come straight to Earth after I left Noin.” He absently starts rubbing my shoulders as he talks. If I weren’t paying such close attention to his words, I’d probably be falling asleep right now. “During an impromptu tour of the L2 colony, I ran into Duo. Since we were both trying to decide where to eat lunch, and eating with someone else is infinitely preferable to eating alone, we decided to visit one of his favorite restaurants and spend a couple of hours talking.”

“Was lunch hot dogs or hamburgers?” For some reason I can’t imagine Zechs eating either of Duo’s staple foods.

“Actually, this particular establishment had a fairly large menu, so for me lunch was a French dip sandwich and a green salad.” He chuckles slightly. “Mr. Maxwell had a, let’s see if I can remember this, double bacon cheese burger with croutons and extra mayonnaise. He assured me that it was quite good.”

“Hn. It would probably give you indigestion.” After attending several schools with Duo I’ve come to the conclusion that if someone were to poison his food he’d simply add more salt and go right on living.

“I’d be willing to believe that.” The shoulder rub has by this point metamorphocised into a one handed back massage. “However, he did manage to consume it rather rapidly, which was amazing given that he was doing well over half the talking. I somehow managed to steer the conversation away from the junkyard business, the sights of L2, and the crummy weather, and onto the topic of you and the other pilots, since I at least knew something about that. After filling me in on the time and lives of Quatre, Trowa, and WuFei, he admitted, fairly unhappily, that he had fallen out of touch with you. After which he was actually silent for a full minute.”

“I don’t believe it.” Duo’s not even quiet for that long in his sleep, I can’t imagine him managing such a state while awake.

“I was actually contemplating calling an ambulance and having them check to see if the hamburger had given him food poisoning when he suddenly confessed, rather randomly, that, and I quote ‘You know, my one regret about the war is not managing to get down Heero’s spandex.’ End quote.”

I pulled back and stared at Zechs in shock. Admittedly, it’s the sort of thing Duo would say, but about me?

“Immediately there after he found himself nearly covered in one well chewed mouthful of bread, roast beef, and au juice.”

“I can imagine.” My brain is still refusing to wrap its self around the concept of Duo being attracted to me. To complicate matters, it suddenly hits me that Zechs and I just had sex, which would tend to indicate that Zechs is attracted to me. “Why me?” The words slip out before I have the slightest chance to stop them.

“Why you what? Why is he attracted to you?”

“Why is anyone attracted to me?” I lift my eyes to his face, searching desperately for some hint of an answer to this suddenly very important question. “Why is it me you chose? Why not Noin?”

“I don’t know why Duo finds you attractive Heero. I don’t know how he thinks.” A smile flickers across Zechs’ face, then vanishes, leaving him with a haunted look in his eyes. “As for me, I was raised to become the leader of a peaceful nation. I became a warrior. You were raised to be the perfect warrior, and yet you sought peace.” I’m amazed to find that he’s shaking now, not as badly as I was earlier, but noticeably. Hesitantly, I press forward and worm my arms around him. He rewards me by tightening his grip and practically clinging to me. It’s an odd sensation to be the one giving comfort. Nearly as odd as asking for it. “We are two sides of the same coin. Now that the war is over, we’re both lost, with no place to fit in with this new world.” He brings one arm up, reaching around to grasp one of my hands, pulling it back in front of us and, gingerly, interlocking fingers. “Maybe, just maybe, we could find our place together.” The next breath he takes is extremely shaky. “I’ve wanted to know all about you since we first met, during the war. Now that I do know you I…I think I love you, Heero. Will you stay with me? Please?”

Silence, broken only by the harsh sound of Zechs breathing. My mind feels frozen. The sense of unreality is back. He didn’t just say that, didn’t just ask that. Did he? No, he did. I feel the gentle pressure of his fingers laced with mine. He wants an answer. I’m unused to dealing with people. As far as I know, I could wake up in the morning and discover the comfort I feel now has vanished completely. And yet, I know I feel this. I know I like this. Surely these feelings can’t disappear that rapidly. But others do. Anger and sorrow can dissipate at a moment’s notice, banished by a joke, or self control. Why can’t love? Affection? My thoughts are chasing each other in circles. What can I say to this beautiful man, a man I’ve respected for years even though we were enemies, who’s not only put up with my company for five months, but has just willingly given me the most incredible experience of my life and admitted to caring about me? I pull my head back just far enough to look up at him. What little light is coming in from outside is catching in his eyes, causing them to almost glow as they search my face. As I watch, several strands of hair slide down to shadow part of his face. Unlinking my fingers from his, I reach up and brush them away, allowing a smile to stretch my mouth. There’s only one thing to say, really.

“Aa.”

***

~Owari~