x x x

Heero left Quatre's room reluctantly. His friend should be in bed, not typing reports to the very men who were trying their best to kill him.

Heero snorted angrily as he turned a corner into the kitchen. None of it made any sense! Why kill Quatre? He was as strong a pilot as any of them, and very possibly the best tactician and leader. Heero had no doubt that the blond Arabian would be the one to bring them together to finally defeat OZ. As of now, the five were all living under one roof, but only out of sheer necessity. Wufei complained constantly, Trowa and Heero were nearly silent, and Duo was driving them all insane. They would have to learn to get along, or at least work as a team before they could win this war, and Quatre was the only one who could make that happen. He was the first to create any alliance among the pilots when he stopped fighting Trowa and came out of his Gundam with his hands raised. That was a move not even Heero was brave enough to make, and he had the bullet scar in his leg to prove it. Next, the blond had taken Duo under his wing in the desert, and the two had been fighting side by side ever since.

What was it about this golden boy that could unite the most unlikely people? And why would the scientists want to kill our most probable chance for victory? Without Quatre, Heero felt sure the five pilots would remain at odds, and if we can't even fight together, how can we unite two forces at war?

The dark-haired pilot snorted again in frustration as he opened the refrigerator. Despite his refusal of food, Heero was determined to get something into his friend's stomach. Anything with sugar, he's lost way too much blood. Quatre had cleaned most of the sticky substance from Sandrock's screen before Heero's arrival, but the size of the remaining smear, the color of the water, and the extreme pallor of the normally pale boy's skin all told him that Quatre was in fairly poor shape, and would probably be in bed for days.

That's good, he needs the rest, but he'll need an excuse. Heero poured a glass of juice and began to walk back to Quatre's room.

Trowa was waiting for him in the hall, his deep emerald eyes asking all the questions his expression, or lack thereof, would not reveal.

Rather than prolong this conversation by making Trowa ask, Heero decided to give the taller boy all the information he could. "He's been shot in the arm, deep, and lost a lot of blood. He passed out over the desert on the way here, but woke up and made it back. He's typing his report now. He's about to drop. We shouldn't have any trouble keeping him in bed for a few days, but he needs an excuse for Professor H."

"No weaknesses." Trowa nodded in understanding and looked down the hall. "Merci. Go on. If he is as exhausted as you say, he should not be alone."

Heero turned, then paused and turned back. "Arigatou." Trowa cocked one delicate eyebrow in question. "For the med kit." The brunet smiled ever so slightly and dropped his eyes. He cared about Quatre as well.

Heero nodded his thanks and continued down the hall, juice in hand. Upon reaching Quatre's door he knocked lightly, but receiving no answer, he pushed it open to find its occupant asleep on the desk. Heero crossed to the computer and read over his exhausted friend's shoulder, finding out how much Quatre had been able to complete before falling asleep. To his surprise and admiration, Heero found the report to be completely finished, it's contents only needing to be sent.

He placed his hand on Quatre's shoulder. The small pilot's head was resting on his wrist on the desk, and the position could not be comfortable, not that Quatre was in any condition to notice or care. The blond head stirred, slightly, but did not rise. Heero softly spoke his friend's name, and was relieved when Quatre slowly sat up. Heero could feel him sway slightly in the chair, and saw his fingers press tightly to the desk for support. After a long moment Quatre turned slightly so he could see Heero over his shoulder.

"Come on," the pilot of Wing said quietly, as he helped Quatre to stand and supported him over to the bed. He left for a moment to allow Quatre to change into his pajamas, and returned to find the blond boy sitting on the edge of his bed, obviously waiting for Heero to return. As he approached, Quatre turned confused blue eyes up to meet him. When he didn't speak, Heero simply nodded toward the leg that was hanging gingerly over the edge of the bed. Quatre returned the nod and Heero knelt on the floor, sitting the first aid kit next to him on the carpet. The thin blue cloth of the pajamas was looser than Quatre's usual khakis, and Heero gently rolled the soft material up above the bandaged knee. Heero could feel Quatre's eyes on him as he worked, but refused to take his gaze from the confident movement of his own hands. He carefully unwrapped the bandage to reveal darkly bruised skin. Deep purple and greenish-yellow patches mottled the pale surface of Quatre's knee, and Heero almost winced remembering Quatre's leap from Sandrock's cockpit. He had twisted his knee in battle several days ago, but simply wrapped it and continued. This was the first time he'd let anyone look at it, and was testament both to his total exhaustion and Heero's persistence.

"Heero?" The dark-eyed pilot looked up into Quatre's troubled expression.

"Hn?"

"How is Duo?" Heero blinked, the apparent randomness of the question catching him off guard.

"Duo is fine." He could sense Quatre wanted to hear more, so he added, "No injuries. As much of a nuisance as always."

"Has anyone been listening to him?"

"Hn?"

"Has anyone been listening to him talk?"

"Well, I suppose Wufei's been subjected to the most chatter, but you know how-"

"No, I mean really listening. Duo doesn't just talk to get a rise out of everyone. He needs someone to listen to him and I..." Quatre had become more and more distressed as he spoke, but all that emotion suddenly fell away, leaving the empty expression Heero so hated in the mirror. As he closed the first aid kit, he heard a soft emotionless voice. "The only person in the entire world who actually needs me and I abandoned him."

The simple statement cut straight to Heero's heart. Until the past few weeks, he never would have believed such a thing to come from the lips of his friend, but the last weeks had taught him a lot about Quatre that he never would have believed.

Heero pushed himself up onto the bed and took Quatre into his arms. He was careful of his injuries as he gently drew the smaller boy against him, turning so that Quatre's back rested against his own chest and he could wrap his arms around the other, smaller boy without looking into his face. Heero couldn't bare to see the terrible blankness on his friend's angelic features. Quatre was the one among them who could feel, not just for himself, but for them all. When any one of the pilots was hurt, Quatre shared their pain, and their joy, and their sorrow. This ability drew them together more than any other, and for the first time, led even Heero to admit that he needed another human being. Heero needed to know that someone felt his emotions; it absolved the guilt of not being able to express them himself. Without Quatre, Heero somehow knew he would simply fade from existence, a soulless monster that would disappear as soon as the war ended, never to be remembered, or missed. The emptiness of this future ached in the cobalt-eyed pilot, yet Quatre eased that raw void, filled it with a presence, and a confidence that maybe he would not have to remain emotionless forever, that one day the perfect soldier might be able to feel again. Quatre gave him something to fight for, something more than orders, and despite the perfect soldier's complete dedication to duty, orders meant nothing without a reason to carry them out.

Heero folded Quatre gently into his embrace, trying to express in action what became so difficult with words. He knew he had no right to hold the beautiful boy like this, but right now that didn't matter. He could not let Quatre go on believing such lies, and had to show him otherwise.

"I've betrayed another of my friends, first Trowa, and you, now Duo. I should be crying." The blond boy spoke softly, evenly, as though he were reading from a book, rather than revealing his soul. The tone was utterly expressionless, and Heero shivered as he listened. Quatre lifted one pale hand to his own face, to brush wonderingly at his equally white cheek. "But I'm not. I haven't shed a single tear since . . ." He laughed, a cold sound. "I can't remember when. Isn't that funny, Heero? Quatre, the crybaby, can't remember the last time he cried. Maybe I'm learning from the perfect soldier after all."

That hurt. Heero knew Quatre hadn't meant the remark as a jibe, but the aching emptiness inside him echoed the words like a cavern, bouncing the sting around his heart. No one should ever be emotionless. He had told Trowa to follow his emotions. How can one follow emotions if he doesn't feel? No one should be as stoic as himself, ever, but especially not Quatre.

Heero spun the smaller boy roughly around to face him, ignoring the tiny hiss of pain as this jarred several wounds. The lifeless eyes met his own steady gaze and he growled. "Stop it. Stop it now. You are not like me, and you will never be like me. No one will. You are better than that. You have emotions, and feel them more strongly than the rest of us combined. Never forget or lose that. I know that means you feel the pain of war more acutely, but that is why you must be the strongest. You are the strongest. You are the compassion that keeps us from becoming the monsters OZ says we are. We will not lose you, Quatre." Heero punctuated every statement with a small shake, and Quatre cringed downward, his eyes falling to the bedspread. When his light eyes again met Heero's dark gaze, the mask had fallen away and the turmoil was written clearly in their cerulean depths.

His next words were so soft their whispered message barely reached Heero's ears, "I think you already have."

"No. I refuse to believe that, and I know you don't, either. If you were lost, you wouldn't still care about Duo, or Trowa." Heero caught the slow nod of assent and continued. "I did not drag you back up that cliff to have you disappear behind a mask."

Quatre's head was bowed, and Heero again drew him close, until his forehead was resting on his shoulder.

"As for Duo." Heero paused to think a moment. "I think Wufei may be listening more than we think. At least he hasn't done that baka any serious harm yet." He felt Quatre draw closer, listening, and nearly smiled when the blond head nestled against his neck. "Duo is a Gundam pilot. He can handle himself. You can't spend so much time worrying about the rest of us, or the rest of the world. You are in no position to be worrying about anyone but yourself right now." Heero could tell by the even breaths against his chest that Quatre was almost asleep, and finished quietly, "Everyone asks you for help, but you need to ask for help from others as well. I can't read your mind or your heart, Quatre. You have to ask."

"But you've already done so much," came the softly mumbled argument.

"And so have you. You have given me more than you know. Don't ever be afraid to ask anything of me."

"Arigatou, Heero."

Heero gently helped the smaller boy slide beneath the covers, being careful of his injuries. He flicked off the bedroom light, and the moon shone through the tall window, illuminating his form, sitting once again on the side of the bed.

"Is there anything else I can do before I leave?" he asked, quietly, only half expecting an answer.

"Y-yes." Quatre's small form was nearly lost beneath the thick blankets, but the soft moonlight danced on his pale hair like water, making the silken strands glow and sparkle. "Could you stay... with me... just until I go to sleep?" The request was hesitant, still unsure despite Heero's conviction.

"Of course." Heero laid down on top of the blankets next to Quatre, turning to face the other boy and admire the moonlight's handiwork. Quatre was turned partly away from him, trying to keep all his wounds at ease, but Heero could still see the slight smile that touched the pale lips.

"Arigatou, Heero."

Within moments, Quatre was sleeping soundly, finally giving in to the exhaustion, blood loss, and pain, but Heero did not leave. He remained at his friend's side, simply watching him sleep, and admiring the innocence that returned to the angelic face in slumber. He did not even notice, hours later, when the moon finally set behind the trees.

x x x

Notes: If anyone was confused, go read Blind Anger! That'll clear everything up, I promise, and if you've still got any questions, just email them to me and I'll let you know anything you want. Maybe even why the scientists are doing this in the first place... or at least my theory.

On that note, I've tried to get in touch with Cugami Michiru about posting this fic, but thus far have failed miserably. If anyone knows her, or a better way to get in contact than the message service, could you let her know that this exists? I hope she likes it, but will be more than happy to take it down if she doesn't approve. It is her original idea, after all. I'm just doing the fan fiction thing!