Everything was white and blurred.
When the boy with the ebony eyes woke up, he needed a few seconds to pierce through the veil of confusion and understand what he was seeing. Yet, it wasn't something especially hard to comprehend A white ceiling, a white sheet on him and a tube winding from his arm toward a plastic pocket full of a transparent liquid. Black bars at the windows. And two people in khakis in a corner, peacefully playing cards, with their guns laying near from them, ready to be used.
The black-haired boy tried to lift a hand to chase a lock from his face, but he realized fast that it wasn't possible, for the simple and good reason that his wrists were solidly tied down to the transversal bars along the bed's sides.
"But " he breathed, perplexed, troubled and annoyed.
The murmur had been enough to make the guards grab for their weapons and put him in their sights.
"One move and you're dead, kid," ordered one of them while the other was catching his walkie-talkie.
"Captain? Yes, he is conscious. Yes, sir."
Making the cards disappear into his pocket, he spoke to his comrade, still staring at the poor confused boy.
"General Kushrenada shouldn't be long. We should still stay careful, he doesn't look like it but he's dangerous "
"I know," sighed the other, rolling his eyes. "Do you think they didn't lecture me too on the so called capabilities of these damn pilots? Phah," he spat, "he looks like it, look at him I swear, I have a nephew his age and the kid ain't able to find his ass with both hands and a map "
Having difficulties just raising his head enough to see, the Chinese teenager stared at them, not understanding a single part of their conversation. What was happening? He remembered just in time not to move his leg. The atrocious pain which had invaded him the last time he tried was still sending warning tingles, from time to time, tickling the end of his nerves with phantom pain. He waited for what seemed hours, his eyes shifting from one of his guardians to the other, desperately trying to understand.
His leg wasn't the only thing that stung. His forehead gave off the impression of being raw, his temple was bruised to the point that even the pressure of his own hair hurt, his shoulder seemed to be prettily bruised too, and he felt strained muscles nearly everywhere.
"Please " asked the black-haired boy, trying to strengthen his voice. "Where "
But before he could ask anything, the door opened.
Treize Kushrenada entered the room. He stared at the Chinese boy and walked nearer to the bed, stopping close.
"Awake finally? I waited for three days for you "
"I know you " the black-eyed boy blurted out when he recognized the man. "I know you You were there when "
His face went tense when he remembered the pain, then he returned his attention back to the man. Treize was looking at him, distant and pensive, nearly haughty. He felt very small suddenly, and not precisely in a strong position. Young and confused, and scared even if he refused to admit it to himself.
"Could you untie me please?" asked the boy in a nearly humble voice.
"You do not remember me."
It was more of a simple observation than of a true question.
"Yes I do A little You were there when I My leg " Wufei tried to explain. "I don't really know, it's blurred But I still remember that, a little."
"But not anything from before," noticed more than asked Treize, an imperceptible sigh leaving his lips.
"We knew each other before?" asked Wufei, truly surprised.
Then his face went from expressing polite surprise to expressing total panic when he realized that, in fact, before the pain, he didn't remember anything at all.
* * * * * *
Quatre visited the small, nearly sordid flat and pushed his backpack into a corner. Two bedrooms and four beds, plus the couch. A couch that for once would stay empty; Wufei wasn't there to claim it in the name of his need for solitude.
He briefly closed his eyes, searching for the little spark in him representing the pilot. But the place it had occupied was empty. Not even the scar a death would have left in him. He wanted to see it as a consolation Wufei wasn't dead. He would have known, he was sure of that.
He cursed himself for not having taken the time and effort to train that special gift he possessed. It could have been so useful But his empathy wasn't anything more than a fluctuant thing over which he didn't have any control, nor even true understanding.
Quatre sat, as if there was an immense weight on his shoulders, on the couch, and closed his eyes, fingers interlaced in a prayer posture. He wanted to cry, but refused to. He would cry for his comrade when he had his corpse in front of him, and not before. They would find a way to pull through. They always pulled through They needed to pull through.
A small noise made him look up. Trowa was looking at him from the door. As soon as Trowa saw Quatre move and register his presence, he came into the room.
"Is the perimeter secure?"
The boy nodded, one green eye glinting under his bangs.
Which meant: security check came back clear, no micro or any other spy things anywhere in the flat. If not, he would have indicated it. Quatre had become an expert in Trowa-interpretation.
"Where are the others?"
"Heero, verifying the garage. Duo, Deathscythe."
"Oh " sighed the blond, letting his body rest against the back of the chair tiredly, his eyes closed again.
He reopened his eyes wide when Trowa's large hand landed on his shoulder, hesitant.
"You said yourself he's still alive and if he isn't suffering, it's that he's more or less safe "
"It is true, but Trowa, I do not feel him at all "
Barton briefly squeezed his shoulder before letting his hand fall. He could wish it, but he wasn't really able to understand what Quatre felt, how it was for him to live with that ability.
"Heero said he'd launch a deeper search later on," he said, opting for another approach to cheer up the boy.
"Really?" asked Sandrock's pilot, surprised.
Only a short time before, if someone had asked Heero what he should do with a comrade made prisoner, he would have answered with a quote right out of the perfect little terrorist manual: eliminate him to be sure he kept silent. Because freeing him would be taking too much of a risk for nothing if you didn't need him and his capabilities specifically, plus he could have been warped by torture or something, and letting them into enemy hands gave them too many occasions to find out things about them Even if the captive bore the interrogations, or at least died before he could say anything useful to them. The littlest clue could prove fatal.
Heero had changed so much in so little time Quatre had never really understood him, but at least he had been used to him Now, he didn't know what to expect anymore. It was confusing
But he had to admit that he appreciated the new Heero much more than the old one.
"Perhaps he is unconscious, or even in a coma " suggested Trowa, sitting beside Quatre on the couch. "Which would explain why you don't feel a thing "
Quatre was biting at his nails and fingertips, and his comrade caught his wrists and kept them immobilized to prevent him from hurting himself.
"But I should at least perceive his presence unless Oh, no ."
"Unless what?" asked Trowa, worried by the size of the whites around his friend's blue-green eyes.
"Unless he is in too deep a coma You know "
"Brain dead?" whispered Trowa, his eyes widening slightly.
Quatre could feel all color drain from his cheeks.
* * * * * * * * *
Treize Kushrenada opened the hospital room's door and stared for a long time at the still shape on the bed. After a long contemplation, he silently closed the door behind him and stepped closer to the bed, where long black hair spilled on the pillow. The features of that young face were calm, placatory, without particular expression; his regular breath made the shorter ebony locks dance over his face, falling on his closed eyes. The wound on his forehead had closed fast enough, but a dark scar was still there, and apparently was there to stay. He had been there for six days already and had already lost a great deal of that unnatural, deathly pallor that had been due to his blood loss.
The man hadn't taken more than two steps when the boy jerked awake and jumped up into the only combat posture his leg let him take, ready to defend himself. The General went unmoving, waiting for Wufei to recognize him.
Wufei slowly lowered his arms when he realized that his visitor was none other than the man from his very first memory, the man the others called 'general', and who had come everyday since his awakening to keep him entertained and chat with him. He straightened up and gave him a nervous smile as an excuse for his violent reaction.
"Excuse me " he added, shrugging sheepishly. "You surprised me "
Treize stared pensively at him before answering. The boy he had in front of him didn't stop surprising him He seemed shy and calm, not at all like the pilot he had fought, the proud and courageous solitary dragon It was to a point he wondered if they really were the same person.
"It's nothing to concern you about, I should have knocked I should have known it was stupid to hope not to wake you up."
From under his messy bangs, Wufei blinked confusedly at him, not understanding the sentence's subtext.
"It's nothing," smiled Kushrenada.
'He looks like a kitten The other, the one he was before, was more of a tiger, fierce and untouchable. He grew up too fast '
"Do you feel better?"
"Yes, thank you."
"You can come with me then. The doctor said that you had the right to go outside for a short time if your fever had lowered."
"Really?" asked the Chinese teenager, a shy little smile slowly blossoming on his face. "I feel good for the moment "
They had noticed that his fever had a tendency to appear by night mostly, or when he pushed himself too far emotionally speaking, searched too hard to remember; but they hadn't found the cause. Even with all his wounds, the pilot didn't present any sign of any infection or illness.
Well, if the boy said he was feeling well, he was responsible enough that Treize trusted him The man only gave him a warm smile and told him to put some clothes on.
As he was waiting in front of the door for the young boy to finish, he laughed little surprised laugh. Yes The young boy. It had become impossible to think of him as a pilot, even less as a terrorist. He was Completely different. Calm, Treize supposed he had been like that before, but shy, he would never have guessed. Soft-spoken and gentle, even less so. He was supposed to be a terrorist after all
He was showing signs of a high intelligence and of great culture and his pride hadn't disappeared, but The boy with whom the General had spent the last days was a scholar, not a warrior. He would certainly have laughed incredulously if someone told him he had been used to fight and kill on a more than regular basis.
"I am ready, Treize-dono "
"Well. We're going to the gardens, does it suit you?"
"Yes I thank you, Treize-dono," he added, bowing lightly.
"My pleasure, young man, I assure you. If you knew to which point all those reunions and political complications are boring What were you reading?" he asked, referring to the book on the bedside table.
Wufei answered him as he was grabbing for his crutches, and he and Treize walked away to the gardens, the general amiably discussing philosophy with the young man who had been his greatest challenger.
* * * * * * * * *
Fuck it, he wasn't coming with anything! No one seemed to know a thing on the disappearance or the capture of a Gundam pilot. As if Wufei had disappeared into thin air. Leaving his laptop with an angry and frustrated sigh, Heero walked once again in front of the window facing the road, and grabbed a fistful of curtain, his eyes following a passing car.
He didn't like this place, too many people went by here. And he had become used to the woods behind their old safehouse. But they couldn't go anywhere else Or they would have had to go their separate ways for a while, and that wasn't even a possible suggestion. He had already lost one member of his pack, it would be a cold day in Hell before anyone forced him to leave alone for a second, the three he still had!!
He never stopped screaming at himself inwardly for Wufei's capture. He knew that it wasn't really his fault, but still, he couldn't stop thinking up ways he could have prevented it. If he had gone instead of one of them, he could have tried preventing it But they couldn't do anything, not even go back there to search for clues. And the Wolf didn't make things easier. He was always howling inside, furious and frustrated. If Heero had let him do what he wanted, he would have gone into a killing spree against the bases he knew of, but he knew that it wasn't the best way to help Wufei
If he learned of his death If he received proof that his comrade was dead, he Yes, he would let the Wolf do as he pleased. A vengeance; an appropriate way of giving Wufei a last homage. But for the moment, he was still hoping and couldn't just go rampaging.
And the fifth pilot's disappearance wasn't his only problem, gods no Heero was even more stressed out by his comrades' reactions.
He had tried to retreat again behind the Soldier's mask, but it didn't work anymore. He couldn't make himself not care about them all. Only to do as if barely, and not that well anymore. It was as if the Wolf was gnawing at the Soldier, slowly making him disappear.
Quatre was visibly suffering; he gave off the impression of having had a limb amputated, and not yet having absorbed the shock of the loss. Sometimes the lively boy just fell silent in the middle of a sentence, and his eyes became distant and moist. Trowa had closed off deeper in his silence, as worried for his missing comrade as he was for the blond boy that was his best friend. And Duo Duo was losing himself in his Gundam's repairs, working from dawn to late into the night with a barely contained rage, nearly as wild as his own Wolf, trying to exhaust himself so that sleep wouldn't escape him once he went to lie down.
Once in passing in the corridor en route to the bathroom, Heero had heard him praying in the room they were supposed to share He hadn't even know that Duo believed in anything. That same night he had had a nightmare, even worse than any he had had when it had only been the two of them in various schools, before they met with the others.
Yuy hadn't known what to do any more than before, and finally hadn't done anything, gnawed by remorse.
Heero's dreams too were full of ebony-eyed cadavers. When he let himself sleep, that is.
He could only get some shut-eye for short periods, two to three hours at most, and was always entirely awakened with the slightest creaking of the old wood in the house. He tried to force himself to sleep, but his worry didn't want to let him. The Wolf was terrified with the idea that if he closed his eyes too long and fell asleep too deeply, he would wake up to find the house empty. Each time he woke up from a nap, that he had taken on the couch so as to stay near his laptop while it conducted its searches, he couldn't even hope to fall back asleep before having toured house and verified conscientiously that his friends were all here and well and that no one had entered the perimeter. It was becoming taxing.
Nearly a week already Six days that he didn't sleep more than three hours per day, and he forced himself to tell and repeat until he admitted it that if they found Wufei no, WHEN they found Wufei, he would have to be in top form to help him. And that meant sleep. A whole night of sleep. But he couldn't as long as he was griped by the irrational fear that someone would come after his other comrades
He did another perimeter check, by habit.
* * *
Heero's left eyebrow shot up when he saw Trowa leaning against the door to his room. The European gave him a very expressive glance in return. 'You're still not sleeping?' It was five in the morning.
Heero answered with a shrug that was as expressive as the rest of their silent conversation. 'can't'.
Trowa looked at him then lowered his eyes to look at the floor, pensive, then looked up again, decision taken.
"I'll stay awake. I'll take care of Quatre. Go to bed."
Yuy took his measure with one glance, then nodded. The Wolf trusted Trowa to accomplish this task. If he was taking care of that for him, he could sleep. He directed his steps toward the door of the room he was supposed to share with Duo and where he hadn't even put one foot yet, always working in the living room and napping on the couch in between searches. He couldn't wait to sleep at last
but wouldn't Duo be in danger even only a few meters away from him?
It was too far. If the American slid out of the room to go he didn't know, to the kitchen, or to the hangar to work on his Gundam, or something like that, and something happened to him once outside, out of reach from his senses? How to prevent Duo from sneaking out of his surveillance zone?
The Wolf had a very simple solution; to which the tired Boy wasn't adverse.
* * *
Duo was asleep when the door opened in silence. His sharp instinct warned him at once of the change in the air movements, even if there hadn't been a sound to break the silence. In not even one second, he had gone from deep sleep, sprawled on his bed like a run aground medusa, to combat position, his gun drawn on the black and unmoving silhouette in the door.
"It's me," whispered the silhouette, closing the door behind itself.
"Heero?" DeathScythe's pilot asked with incredulity. The boy was still more than half asleep and was only functioning thanks to his training.
Duo slowly lowered his gun and stared at the nearly indiscernible presence of his comrade. He sat on the edge of the mattress and scratched his skull with the gun's barrel.
"But what are you do "
"Shut up," grunted Heero, walking up to him.
Duo froze. He had to still be half asleep, because he couldn't catch in the least what the Were wanted with him. When Heero carefully took his gun out of his hand to put it beside the bed, he didn't even react. Not even when he put a hand on his shoulder and pushed. He didn't understand his intention
He was already on his back on the bed when he thought about vocalizing his surprise But he couldn't even make the words leave his mouth. Heero had just, with a simplicity that left him speechless, laid down at his side. He slid an arm around the braided pilot's shoulders and drew him against his body. Putting his head on his own bent elbow, he guided Duo's face into the hollow of his shoulder.
"He-Hee--ro?" stammered the braided pilot.
The dry answer wasn't as harsh as it should have been as it was usually There was a note of not condescending amusement no comprehension ? Duo didn't dare to say tenderness.
Maxwell, contrary to his habit, preferred silence. He didn't know what was going on in his friend's head, but whatever it was he didn't want to risk seeing him change his mind. It was nice And if it was a dream he wanted to take advantage of it at the fullest.
Duo fell asleep again with his arms shyly closing around Heero's shoulders, as if he was afraid he would evaporate in the morning.
* * * * * *
"Duo, it's time. Wake up."
"Hnn, 'five m'nutes more "
The warm presence at his side disappeared suddenly and the American shivered. Two hands with rough palms landed on his shoulders to shake him gently.
"No, wake up. Duo, wake up "
"Mmmm Naah, Heero, dun leave, 'm cold "
The significance of his words woke him up with a start. Heero?! Heero, in his bed?! But.. it hadn't been a fucked up dream then? He sat up in a leap, his heart beating hard with surprise, unbelieving.
Heero was staring at him, visibly puzzled by his reaction.
"Oh, err Well Err Hi, Heero "
"Baka " muttered the Japanese boy, shaking his head, visibly shocked by his behavior. "Come on, it's time for breakfast."
"Sir, yes, sir!"
He followed in silence to the corridor, then his tongue evaded his brain's control, pushed by the thousands of questions bubbling under his skull.
"Heero Why? I mean, not that it bothers me, but Why did you ?"
The boy glanced at him, and lowered his eyes, hiding behind his bangs.
"Don't know "
"I didn't want you to sleep alone I cannot protect your sleep if I am not near enough, and the area isn't that secure The Wolf was worried," he added vaguely.
He had discovered that the Wolf was a very good excuse for every strange thing he did. It permitted him to explain his reactions without admitting that they came from him. He still had trouble admitting that they really were one and the same being. It was easier to talk about it as if it was another persona entirely.
"He's worried for me?" asked Duo with a surprised smile, choosing to be happy with that proof of friendship, rather than hurt that the interest hadn't been of another nature, as he could have believed.
"For you and for the others," rectified Heero, frowning. "He I Wolves are gregarious, Duo. They're not made to live in solitude. Think about that."
"Oh " breathed the American, understanding suddenly the extent of the recent happenings' impact on his usually stoic comrade.
"You are You are my pack from now on," continued Heero, his cheeks warm, struggling to make the words come out. "I don't want to lose you too I couldn't stand it. I already lost one one of mine, and I "
Duo turned to face him and stared, stupefied. Heero cared about them!! He had said so!!
The Japanese pilot got flustered at his astonished look and went to leave for the kitchen, but Duo held him back by grabbing the lower part of his tanktop.
"Nani?" the brown-haired boy blurted out, taken by surprise.
He took a raspy breath when he felt a torso press against his back and arms wind around his waist, and his mouth half-opened under the shock; as if he was going to speak, except that he couldn't for the life of him find his words.
"We are not going to let you down, Heero " Duo whispered in his ear, with a soft, reassuring voice, as if he knew exactly how to speak to him to calm him down. "We are all friends, right? You are not going to lose any of us. Not me, nor Trowa, nor Quatre Nor Wufei. Ok?"
"Ok " he answered softly.
Feeling bothered, he didn't quite know why, he disengaged from his comrade's arms and began to walk again. An immense smile on his lips, Duo followed.
His steps had found again that particular bounce that had disappeared with the fifth pilot. He was already wondering which practical jokes he could invent to reestablish a little bit of normalcy in the atmosphere.