The Raven 4

Missed

by Spencer

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"I've got it!" Duo's excited outburst shattered the tense silence, drawing three pairs of eyes sharp with expectation and hesitant hope.

"What've you got?" Trowa's voice was quiet, tightly controlled, doggedly refusing to crumble in the echoing stillness.

"His homing beacon." Slim fingers danced across the console, narrowing in on the source. "There." Small holographic cross-hairs flipped to life and Heero shot toward the target, racing a time he knew was already long past. Duo bit his lip nervously and glanced between Trowa and Wufei. An orphan from the L2 colony, Duo grew up as a mercenary thief, running guns, technology and supplies between colonies. His partner, Howard, owned a large above-board transport company and was their primary financial backer, not to mention his donation of their primary ship, the Falcon. Duo had been Heero's first partner, and his limitless enthusiasm and undying loyalty held the team together. He had been the first to get Quatre to open up, as much as the blonde shared his guarded heart with anyone, and Heero knew beyond doubt that Duo would never give up on his friend, no matter how bleak the outlook.

What Heero found truly startling, however, was that his own resolve to find their teammate was just as solid.

'"He asked us not to leave him, Heero."'

Yet, when Wufei's harsh gasp directed his attention from dodging debris to the approaching figure, even Heero's determined heart fell. A body floated in the sea of darkness before them, a tiny form among the piecemeal factory carcass, death's horror expressed in a fragile frozen figure. As they drew closer the first of the burns became clear. Large splotches of black charred plastic covered most of the suit. Melted daubs of blackened metal and plastic hung in the place of circuitry. Though not incinerated, their friend had not escaped the explosion.

Heero held his breath as his eyes shut, steeling himself for the task at hand before facing the others. When he finally turned, Duo was stone-faced, and Wufei was gazing with concern at Trowa. The brunette was posed much as Heero had been, still and silent, but none could mistake the single tear that leaked from beneath pinched lashes. Heero waited as Wufei placed a comforting hand on Trowa's shoulder, and the tall boy quickly reclaimed his composure.

"Go to the airlock and get him on-board. I'll join you once we're clear of the debris." Duo responded with a curt nod and abrupt spin, striding purposefully off the bridge with Wufei and Trowa close behind.

By the time Heero finally made it back to the airlock, Quatre's space suit had been peeled off and tossed aside in a crumpled heap. All attention was focused on the body splayed flat across the floor, every gaze watching and willing the CPR to work. Yet, despite Duo's desperate enthusiasm, the figure below remained still, silent and unresponsive. The familiar features were pale blue and icy to the touch, a perfect porcelain doll.

The seconds ticked away as Duo continued to work on the corpse, refusing to accept that his friend was already lost beyond his reach. With a heavy glance to Trowa, Wufei finally laid a restraining hand on Duo's shoulder. The brunette sat back, tears dripping down pale cheeks as he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out the desolate scene.

"What are you doing?" Heero's icy voice sliced into the silence, startling his three grieving companions. "Don't stop." Anguished violet eyes gazed up at him, too hurt to respond.

"Heero . . ." Wufei moved toward him, offering the same steady consolation that he'd given Duo, but the blue eyed boy twisted away from his touch, crossing to quickly kneel on the opposite side of the cold body, resuming the steady cycle of CPR.

"Heero, stop," Duo pleaded, expressive eyes now boring into his friend.

"No."

"He's dead." Trowa's voice, rough with tears, was a loud bark in the echoing chamber. "Leave him alone."

Heero ignored their protests, blocking their voices from his mind. His world narrowed to the pale face before him, his pounding hands and steady breaths. Quatre couldn't be dead. He just couldn't. Heero was sure. He had seen the ruined clothes, the destroyed shuttles and pods. There was no possible way Quatre could have survived all that, yet be killed now. He was sure. He was desperate.

He was terrified.

Duo glanced worriedly up at Wufei. He and Trowa were watching their leader with equal trepidation. It was not like the stoic man to act irrationally, and this was going beyond all bounds. Quatre had been dead long before they'd reached him. Duo had tried to revive him due to blind hope, but it was clear now that their efforts were in vain. Heero's actions were pointless and painful and Trowa was about to wrestle him away when a strangled gasp froze them all in their tracks.

Quatre jerked upright with a choked cry, eyes wide as he took in the startled faces around him. Utter silence reigned as blue eyes met blue, comprehension passing from one mind to another. Then the taboo was violently broken as Quatre leapt to his feet and bolted out of the room, leaving his four bewildered friends to stare at one another in confusion.

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