Author's note: I have a Zero/fem!X version of this on my dA, but here's the yaoi version for non-genderbending fans! It's a post-X2 fic, and it supports shounen-ai!

Gentle, everything about him was gentle. His eyes, his smile, his touch...

And every part of Zero just wanted to hold X close and protect the gentle angel he knew the brunette was. But being gentle didn't make him delicate, not at all. X was strong, tenacious and sure as hell didn't need protection. Didn't need him.

Scores flashed on the nearby monitor and a quick glance at it only emphasized such a thought more. Zero's attention shifted, however, to the gentle sigh that escaped X's lips. His eyes returned to see the smaller Hunter turn his back on the simulator, X lifting his helmet off before smiling.

His smile was soft, sweet and so gentle. And it was directed at him.

Zero stepped forward and away from the wall he'd lent on, eyes curiously focused on the smaller male that stepped towards him, that wondrous smile still persistent as he stopped in front of him.

"It's almost nostalgic to turn around and see you, but its nice." X paused a moment, his affectionate eyes entrancing Zero's own. "While you were gone I guess I got use to the solitude more than I thought."

The mentioning of his absence - what had technically been a death - made Zero want to wince. He did what he had to, to help X, but the brunette was far stronger now. No enemy had brought him to his limit. He'd even taken out Sigma, twice now. All on his own.

"So..." A playful tone broke the blonde's thoughts once more, X tilting his head almost flirtatiously with a widening smile. "How did I do? You're my teacher again, you're meant to criticize."

"Criticize?" Zero raised a brow, returning some affection with the slightest smile, indicating to the score on screen with a slight tilt of the head. X turned, beaming a little more at the result that came into view, looking back at Zero as he spoke.

"You were perfect, X." But he was always perfect.

He smiled a little more, ruffling X's russet hair and earning a giggle. "I think you're more than done with training for the day, too."

Zero took X's helmet from him, tucking it under an arm. He intended to be polite, waiting for him to walk out of the training room first, but X grinned, stepped forward and hooked his free arm around Zero's.

"Then lets go." The mix of mischief and affection came through in his voice as much as it did his expression. He earned another smile for it; Zero found it too hard not to smile at him. He let X lead him along and out of the room, not even bothering to question what he seemed so keen to go off and do for the rest of the day. He couldn't really say anything, not with that gentle smile still so evident on X's face. Zero simply let X lead him along, returning a smile happily any moment he glanced at him.

X wasn't the weak, fragile rookie he felt was in need of his protection. No, through his struggles X ended up being the one that saved him, and for no other reason than wanting him back at his side.

Zero smiled fondly as X rested his head against the blonde's arm, still hugging it tightly.

So maybe X didn't need him, need anyone. But X wanted him to be at his side. And that was an elating thought.