Author: Lady Arral
Rating: R for gore, death, and I think a little swearing
Spoilers: lots, several parts of the series
Disclaimer: I don’t own them and that’s probably a good thing in the end…hee hee
Category: Horror Suspense
Notes: The is my submission for the Devil with an Angel’s Face contest, which I finished JUST in time…
Quatre stood over the slowly stiffening bodies of his father and sister, the silence as loud as the explosion that had just taken them so easily from his life. His hysterical laughter finally abated, leftover sobs and giggles shaking his body and hitching in his throat. The blood that sprayed from his father’s body as the beams fell congealed in small masses and lumps on the floor and he stared in fascination as they quivered slightly from the heat in the weakening flames. Absently brushing some of the dust off his vest, he tried to look at anything but their still forms, their frozen faces already engraved in his memory, but inexorably his gaze was pulled back.
He watched them a while, as if futilely hoping for their chests to rise and their bloodied eyes to turn toward him, but as the silence stretched he could feel the horrible loss giving way to pure rage. His father had lived for peace…and now as his reward lay dead by it.
He replayed the whole scene in his mind as he numbly picked his way out of the room and down the shattered hall. They had set him up. Everyone there had set him up. Him, his sister, his father; all victims of OZ’s cruel games. Quatre was forced to pause at the disfigured remains of what might have been one of his father’s many secretaries. Stoically he put his foot against her side and pushed, expression unchanged as his foot sank into giving flesh. Giggles bubbled out again as he wiped his bloody shoe on the expensive carpet, tipping his head to the side and holding out his hands. “You asked for it, you stupid bitch,” he sneered, though tears flowed freely down his white face. “You stayed here just as he did and now look at you. I don’t think you’d make a good impression on a blind date, honey.” He tilted his head back and howled with laughter.
Suddenly, as though he’d been slapped, he staggered back against the wall and covered his face. “What am I saying?!?” he cried. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I led them here…if I had just known I could have gotten them first…” He rocked back and forth slowly as he remembered his father’s last words.
“Force of arms will not solve anything. It will only cause more problems...Quatre, remember you are the Winner heir!”
The blonde looked around the carnage, hardly noticing the sounds of crumbling walls and the occasional groan of the damaged hull. Bodies and parts of bodies lay strewn about, blood mixing with the plaster and pooling in eerie, thickening shapes. He shoved his hands in his pockets and tried to control his shivering. The Winner heir. Heir of this bloody mess. Heir to the throne of the dead, whose faces locked in wide-eyed agony would forever stare through his soul.
“Heir,” he whispered, the word sounding alien to his ears. Heir of twisted metal, a broken home filled with blissfully ignorant fools willing to throw their leader to the wolves in order to get what they wanted. The rage came back slowly, filling him with hate and making his cheeks feel hot. Oz set them up. His father’s people had set them up.
There was something in his pocket.
Instructor H and he had spent considerable time rebuilding the Wing Zero with a new program they aptly named the Zero System. A program capable of manipulating and enhancing the performance of the pilot, going so far as to predict the moves of the opponent as well. What he held in his clammy palm was the disc with the authorization codes.
Quatre Raberba Winner gripped it hard enough to crack the case and began to laugh hysterically again. Daddy, I failed you in life, I’ll fail you in death too. You thought peace was the right way, that all people must be protected. I am not so naïve. I have a new mission. They are ignorant now, OZ and the others, but not for long, my father. Not for long.
He strode with purpose to the landing docks…
“No! Not again!” Quatre wailed thickly as he jerked upright.
“Quatre?” a sleepy voice asked from somewhere in the dark. When no answer came Heero sat up, fully awake, watching the young man warily. “Quatre?” he asked again, more pointedly.
Quatre wrapped his arms around himself and wept quietly, shaking his sweat-drenched head in silent denial. “He’s dead, they’re all dead, I killed them.”
Heero sighed, becoming all too familiar with this scenario, and rose from his bed, walking toward the door. Opening it, he held up his hand. “Quatre, Trowa is asleep in there.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Quatre sniffed. “I kill him and those people every night, every time I close my eyes.”
Heero left the door open just enough for Trowa’s mussed hair to remain in Quatre’s line of sight and went to his friend’s side. He sat slowly when the blonde shrank away from him; the frail looking young man drew his knees to his chest and dropped his gaze to the floor. Heero’s eyes softened as he looked at Quatre’s featureless face in the dark.
“Nightmares end sometime, Quatre. Even the nightmares we nurture through our guilt. Trowa lives. We all live. The war is over. It has been several years now and we can let it go. There is no place for blood and war anymore. Though the dead lay in our memories they have to know that what we did we did to achieve-“
“Peace.” Quatre finished darkly, almost spitting out the word.
“Yes,” Heero replied, sounding puzzled. Quatre hung his head again and sighed.
“This dream was different, Heero. I saw my father this time, and my sister. They died for peace. They died having done nothing wrong, committing no crime worthy of execution. That isn’t the worst in my heart…Deep inside I knew that he wouldn’t have lifted a gun to defend himself even if it meant ending the war with a single shot and I hated him for it.”
Heero nodded. “ I know.”
“It can come back Heero, the Zero System. Once it’s in you it never really goes. I still feel it like a poison in my gut, the anticipation of someone else’s moves, motivations…the hate that makes us capable of killing anyone we deem necessary. I know that it builds in there, waiting for the right opportunity to blow.” Quatre turned tortured eyes toward the other ex-pilot. “I’m so scared.”
“I am, Heero. What if it goes and I am with Trowa? Can his kind words and whispered comforts stop me then? What about Duo or Chang, or even you?”
Heero scooted closer and looked so intently at the blonde Quatre was sure he could see sparkles of light reflected in Heero’s cobalt eyes. “You have to control it. In the end you had nearly more control than even me. Despite what happened to you, you still came through when you were needed. During the war you planned strategies and showed a heart so strong that even our enemies took notice and respected you for it. The Quatre I know would not allow such a thing to control him. You saved me from the System yourself, if you recall, and I have no problems with it.”
The blond mulled this over for a moment and nodded, though he knew half the reason was because Heero had been trained not to care. In his own case, however, every face had a name and a family. And there was more, a darkness inside him he knew could not exist in the other man.
Heero stood and regarded the other young man. “If it builds, let it go. Better to release it than to let it stay inside and eat you alive. But if the murder grows within you, you must see Trowa’s face before you act on it. Remember his face the day you let your hate go too far.” He hated to remind his dear friend of that hurtful day, especially since he had already forgiven him long ago, but something told him he needed to hear it. He saw Quatre wince and felt a pang of guilt, but he pressed on. “Do not disappoint him twice. Death had its day back then when we were pawns, but no more. None of us, even me, want to see death in our lives now. Shield him if you cannot find a reason to shield yourself.” He stepped silently across the carpeted floor and went back to bed.
You must not let Trowa see your darkness. After all, you are the angel, the dead soldier in the OZ uniform needled, mocking him. He doesn’t really know about what happened before you tried to kill him, does he?
No way, the blond thought in disbelief as he stared at the corpse. Though war had dulled his sensitivities it had indeed been several years since then and he was no longer used to it. He felt his stomach churn as he looked into its glazed eyes. Stop, he moaned in his dream voice. You’re in the past. It’s all in the past. He said I didn’t have to cry alone anymore. Even Heero said I was forgiven –
For what? the soldier asked. For what you did in their sight. But what about the rest? There are still many of us left alive out there and we know what you did, dear boy. It was the real reason we were always after you. We know what you did and soon we’ll tell them. We’ll tell them all.
No, please, they don’t need to know that part of it, what I did in front of them was bad enough…
How will you stop us?
Quatre eyed the soldier. I won’t let you tell them, he said, his dream voice suddenly steady and grim. I won’t let you tell OZ and I won’t let you tell my friends.
I’ll kill you first.
See, that’s the boy we’ve come to know and love, the soldier laughed, his hand slipping casually to the holster on his belt. You can’t even catch me now, can you? You’ve gotten soft. Some legend you turned out to be.
The soldier’s brow lifted.
Run. Try to tell them. I will silence you. If I have to kill you a thousand times to keep the hurt from Trowa’s eyes I will.
The soldier grinned. A thousand times, eh? Haven’t you killed that many of me already? Very well, then. A thousand it is. He saluted, spun and ran into the swirling darkness. I have such wonderful stories to tell them!
Quatre’s heart pounded in his ears. He couldn’t let that happen, not now, not when they had all worked so hard to move on and make something of their fragile lives. It must remain in the past! Panic gave way to determination. No way. It’s not gonna happen. I meant what I said, damn you!
Steeling himself, he gave chase.
Quatre felt like a zombie. He stumbled out of his room and followed the smell of coffee, smiling gratefully as Wufei poured him a cup. In the living room he could hear Duo and Heero bantering back and forth as the television blared in the background. Trying unsuccessfully to smooth his bed head, he sat at the table and ate breakfast with one eye open. He could hear the shower overhead and knew Trowa would be down soon. A flood of relief washed over him, though he couldn’t explain why.
He saw Wufei move toward the doorway then and noticed the living room had gone silent except for the somber voice coming from the monitor: “-was found early this morning with damage inflicted over much of his body. Gunshot wounds, lacerations and other wounds that look as though they may have been caused by a heavy blunt instrument made identifying the victim nearly impossible, but since the man’s wallet was found untouched at the scene, the police is using the ID to inform the next of kin. There seems to be no other evidence pointing to a suspect at this time but the investigation will continue…”
“Damn,” Duo breathed. “Somebody had it out for that guy. Gunshots and blunt trauma?” He silenced as the anchorwoman’s voice came back to them.
“Police say their only lead so far may be motive: The victim was apparently a known retired OZ officer. His neighbors, however, deny he had any current involvement in the now defunct military corporation, stating that he was actually a kind old man who had put the past behind him. We’ll follow with more updates as they occur. Brad?”
As the head anchor began the introduction to the weather Quatre backed into the kitchen and sat down slowly. Unexplained dread filled him. Why? It wasn’t like he had anything to do with it…He shook his head and stood shakily, then made his way back to his room.
Heero, who’d noticed the strange reaction, silently watched his friend and frowned.
He walked into the hangar with the disc still clutched in his hand and thumbed the switch to the doors. As the twisted moorings forced their way along the track the steel squealed in protest but the blond didn’t care. He stepped over piles of dust, twisted metal and torn pieces of flesh, making his way toward the hulking shape against the back wall. He stopped when his foot struck a stiff arm belonging to a man that had been one of his father’s trusted friends, the hand curled unnaturally and some of the fingers obviously broken. Quatre vaguely remembered that the man had also helped supply him with the necessary parts to rebuild the gundams. He had been Quatre’s friend, too, another friendly face in a world full of bureaucracy and false politics. But Quatre didn’t cry for him now. Instead he toed the arm and finally kicked it with all his strength, sending what was left of the body skidding to the side. The corpse was angled so grotesquely that it was hard to tell which was front and which was back, but Quatre swallowed his gorge and passed it by to make the climb to the cockpit of the waiting gundam.
Once inside he activated the computer and the machine hummed to life. He touched the lights gently and sighed. “I know I am not your real pilot but you’ll have to help me for a while. See, some people need to be punished. They are blind, you see. They stood outside and cheered the mobile suits that blew this place apart. They thought my father did it. I have to show them they are wrong. I need you to help me, but in return, I will give you something too.” He opened the disc and inserted it into the drive and began to type commands efficiently into the console. Then he settled back and fastened the harness.
At first he felt nothing. He and the Instructor knew that this program was going to be dangerous, especially if the pilot was not of sound mind, but he was lucid now. It was one thing to stand helpless and giggle insanely while your family’s lifeblood spread across the floor; it was another to have the ability to do something about it. He set the machine in motion and grinned widely as the world seemed to slow down a bit.
“Yes,” he whispered. “I can feel you now, Zero System. Slow the world down for me so I can see everything.”
He strode out of the hangar and looked at the rubble outside. It was unusually dark since the attack had destroyed the weather generator, but it was still bright enough to see the color of blood on the pavement outside his once beautiful house. He stared at the piles of meat and torn clothing mingled with hunks of metal and concrete. The tattered fabric floated like shredded flags in the waning wind, pathetic markers for people who would never know a proper burial. He almost admired the scope of color that dotted the ground before him, but in the end he shrugged and smirked. “You look like worms after a storm. Did they step on you? It looks like it. I wonder if its foot slid.”
His face suddenly became a mask of fury and he fired several bullets at the ground, spitting up chunks of gravel, flesh and bones. While the fire within was still strong enough to do away with his conscience, he fired the rockets and blasted away from the surface of his once sheltered world.
Quatre walked into the bathroom and lowered his head, not bothering to turn the light on. He ran cold water into the basin and wet his hands, smoothing them over his hot face. As he dried off he felt a soft touch on his shoulder and jumped, then flushed guiltily.
“Can’t sleep?” Trowa asked softly.
“I’ll be okay,” Quatre replied with a smile he didn’t feel, knowing it was unlikely Trowa could even see him. The hand on his shoulder squeezed.
“I am here for you. You know that.”
“I know. I just have to get over…some bad dreams.”
“It’s been a while now. I thought all our bad dreams were over.”
So did I, Quatre thought, but stayed silent. A little shudder went through him and Trowa shook his head.
“Our past will always be with us, but as you said, there is always another sunrise, and every day that passes takes us further from the darkness of those years. You do believe your own words, don’t you?”
“Yes,” Quatre whispered.
Trowa leaned closer and Quatre could smell the scent of aftershave. He closed his eyes, his lips trembling as he felt Trowa’s cool lips press against his forehead. “I said it before and I will say it again. You don’t have to cry alone.”
Quatre nearly did just that. He wanted nothing more than to bury his face in Trowa’s shoulder and scream in anguish until those memories wormed their way out of his soul, but instead he smiled as he pulled away. “Thanks. Knowing that is what keeps me sane, you know.”
“Can you sleep now?”
“I think I can,” the blond said as he moved toward his room.
“Okay then. Goodnight,” Trowa said as he closed his door with a soft click.
Quatre went to his own bed and sat down, dropping his head in his hands. “Heero’s right,” he whispered inaudibly. “I can’t disappoint him. I mustn’t let it get to me. But I mustn’t let them know, either…”
That’s right. They must never find out what you did to us.
Quatre jerked upright. When did he fall back to sleep?
Does it matter? We’re here whether you are awake or not, the soldier sneered.
No, Quatre screamed, his dream voice sucking into silence as though pulled through a vacuum. I killed you already, I silenced you. You aren’t really here! His hands curled into fists as he tried to shake this vision and come back to the safety of a world that he knew would be sane and normal…
The soldier snorted in derision. Our faces will be displayed for all to see and our curled fingers will still ultimately point out their assassin…The soldier turned to face him fully and Quatre could see that half the soldier’s head was now gone. White goo that might have been the corpse’s eye oozed down his torn and darkened cheek. There were huge bruises and caved-in places all over his face as though he’d been beaten to a bloody pulp. Only problem was, the blood had been washed away so every wound showed in horrible detail. He smiled again at the ex-pilot, teeth missing in the grinning maw.
What, surprised? You did this. Was it not bad enough that you had to blow me up, you had to beat me too?
It was no worse than what you all did to us and to the civilians, Quatre mumbled.
Ah, excuses, excuses…But I suppose we could see what the public believes on that, eh? After all, a reporter never sleeps. They were wonderful tools during the war. OZ never touched a media tower, you realize that? We knew how invaluable they could be. They said what we told them to whether they knew the truth of the matter or not. Never took much, in those days. Even now, I can use them – it tipped Quatre a horrid wink – against you.
Don’t you dare, the ex-pilot started to yell, but he had already faded into the darkness. Quatre knew if he didn’t shut him up Trowa would never understand, could never forgive him. It must not get out! It mustn’t…
Quatre was feeling a little better today, though. He felt a little more relaxed, especially after the short conversation he had with Trowa. He remembered nothing of the nightmare after that, except a constant, vague uneasiness that wouldn’t go away. He was becoming accustomed to that, though. So much better was he that he decided to go downtown for a bit.
The trip was uneventful and after getting off the bus he spent a couple hours window shopping and just enjoying the public in general. He saw a small crowd congregated near a hotel entrance and raised a feathered brow. A celebrity, perhaps? He started that way and suddenly stopped as his stomach turned. What gives? he thought. The uneasiness that usually stayed in the background of his thoughts was bubbling up in his gut. Warily he approached the hotel.
He could hear snippets of conversation as he passed and his foreboding grew.
“- know what hit them-”
“- I heard it was a late night interview -”
“- was an OZ officer too -”
“- just awful. Did you hear he was going to try to help the colonies? Wanted to make up for the harm done, I guess. And some asshole shoots ‘em both…”
The blond reached the front of the crowd and all the blood ran from his face. Being loaded into the coroner’s van were two sheet-covered bodies. This wasn’t what held his gaze, though. On one gurney he could see a hint of a hand with one tiny trail of blood winding down to the tip of the little finger.
…he died sitting up, but slumped a little, the blood running down his arm just because it was convenient, deaf to the outraged, fearful screams of the reporter. More shots fired…
He jerked back to reality as someone brushed past him. He caught a whiff of perfume and just like with the Zero System the world slowed and he watched in fascination as the older woman shoved her way to the police officers, crying all the while that that was her husband in there, she knew he could only talk to the reporter at night because he was still in fear for his life, it couldn’t be him, there had been guards, damn it, he had changed, he wanted to make it public before he could come out in the open and he had kissed her goodbye but it wasn’t supposed to be for real, they had their grandchildren to see the next week and …
Quatre swallowed a sob and shook his head slowly, trying to clear it. He couldn’t explain this horrible dread, but it was threatening to devour him whole here. Carefully he moved back from the scene and with legs made more for jellyfish he flagged a cab and went home.
He sat very still in his room, lights on, gripping the desk with white knuckles. He’d managed to get out of dinner with the others by truthfully complaining of an upset stomach, but now he was honestly wondering what he was doing there. It was like he was inviting trouble. Images of the soldier and his nightmares came back as soon as the sun crossed the horizon and here he was, alone, waiting for it.
He had been sure that killing the soldier would stop the dreams. After all, that was grade school psychology, wasn’t it? Confront the fear, get over it. So much for that idea. As far as he could tell they seemed to actually be getting worse. He knew very well that the ghost of an angry soldier wouldn’t be able to tell anyone of the past. Once dead, always dead, Duo always said. So why couldn’t he sleep? Why couldn’t he get past this? And why this criminal guilt?
A soft knock almost sent him clinging to the ceiling, but he quickly got a hold of himself and cleared his throat. “Come in.”
The door opened and the blond tensed, but when Duo’s head popped around the corner he relaxed. “Hey, Q, I brought some broth. Wufei says this’ll help get your stomach back on its feet again.” He stepped in and closed the door. “But I’d take little sips though. It’s one of his Chinese remedies and I remember the last time he tried one of those on me.”
Quatre smiled. He remembered too. Duo spent about four hours locked in the bathroom and when he finally came out Wufei had simply held out his hands and said, “Well, it’s not in your body anymore, is it?”
“Thanks.” He sipped as instructed and got such an interesting expression Duo laughed.
“Yep, good ol’ Chang Wufei, great doctor, lousy chef.”
Quatre swallowed audibly and set the mug down. “Takes your mind off your stomach, anyway.”
Duo grinned. “This is more like it, man.”
The blond smiled sadly. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be. We just worry. Things have been going so well for us, and well, when you started looking like the walking dead -” he stopped when he saw the blood rush from his friend’s face and winced. “- sorry, wrong phrase. What’s wrong? If this is just an upset stomach I’m Relena.”
Quatre sighed quietly but reached out and ruffled Duo’s hair gently. Duo chuckled and swatted Quatre’s hand away and the two friends sat a moment, just watching each other’s eyes. He had to feel loved. These young men who had once fought for their lives had been living in the same house for the last year because of him.
He knew each had carved his own little niche after the war, but he found that no matter what he tried he could not fight past loneliness. He hardly saw his sisters or their families and the responsibility on his shoulders would not let him have a family of his own. He began to sink and when the others saw his sad face on the televideo screens they made calls and arranged to stay nearby for a while. He cried the day they arrived, so thankful that they would drop everything to come to his aid, and it wasn’t two weeks before he was moving in with them because, as he said, he couldn’t stand his “fucking palace” anymore.
“I’m having bad dreams again. Haven’t had them since before the war ended. Even those hadn’t been too bad but these…” he shook his head. “These are killing me.”
Duo folded his hands over his belt buckle and frowned. “What brought them on?”
“I don’t know. All I know is that they’re getting worse and I don’t know how to stop them.”
“Memory or imagination?”
The blond had to think on that. Mustn’t know… “Both, I guess.”
Duo leaned forward a little. “My nightmares were the same way. Half of it I cooked up in my mind but I tell you, even the imagined parts took place somewhere.”
“Did they ever stop?”
Quatre leaned forward too, now, and took a surprised Duo’s hands in his own. His intensity made the braided ex-pilot’s eyes widen a little. “How did you make them stop?”
Duo knew it had to be bad for him. He remembered his own sleepless nights, how he eventually knew every street within a six-mile radius because staying inside made him want to scream. “I played on their ground, but I made my own rules.”
Quatre screwed his face up. “Huh?”
“Lemme explain. I had to realize first that there wasn’t a damned thing I could do about it. Sure, I dreamed of the people I killed, but I noticed I was seeing the victims of OZ too. It wasn’t all my fault. Since I couldn’t change the past, I went with it.” He paused to collect his thoughts. “When I stopped fighting it and saw the dream through to its end I found that I didn’t have to be guilty anymore. I could make up for what I did by remembering them. These guys had families too, people who missed them. I could help heal the world OZ tried to destroy, and the souls of all those people could finally rest. Know what I mean?”
Quatre nodded. “Maybe I’ll try seeing it through too.”
“It isn’t gonna be easy. Nothing’s harder than letting a nightmare keep going. But try it. Could be that what you’re really afraid of isn’t the memories of the past at all. Might be letting them go.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Quatre mused, but after his friend left the room a worse thought occurred to him: what could be worse than the dead soldier or that horrible day all those years ago?
He looked at his bed, made with fresh sheets that morning, and began to tremble. See it through?
He slowly rose and began to undress.
I just knew you were going to show up, the ex-pilot said as the soldier shambled into view.
Couldn’t have you believing it was really over, could I?
No, I guess not, Quatre sighed. A smile twitched at the corners of his mouth and the soldier cocked his rotting head.
What’s this? Humor this time?
Run, Quatre’s dream-voice replied. I’m ready when you are.
The wrinkled face frowned, but it composed itself. Very well. Let’s see what you think when I find Tubarov.
That took Quatre a moment to digest. He’s dead.
The soldier smiled brightly. So you think, he said. He began to fade out and Quatre growled.
What a minute, you fucking lunatic, Tubarov is DEAD!
Quatre followed the soldier into the darkness and this time nothing faded out. He couldn’t feel his feet touching the ground as he ran and he didn’t really feel like he was covering any distance, but knowing the mocking thing was deliberately slowing down to allow him to catch up was infuriating. The old rage welled within him and his pace quickened. He shouted ahead, though his voice was swallowed by the night.
You could have picked a better name to bait me with, you know! Tubarov is gone, buried, and the dead stay dead!
Except me, the soldier called back as he ducked into a building.
Quatre growled and paused a moment to look around. The rage was thinking for him now. A guard nearby looked at him and rose, his hand going for the holster on his belt. Quatre was too fast, though, and he smoothly slammed his fist upwards against the guard’s nose. Blood sprayed across his shirt but before the guard even hit the floor he had grabbed the gun and was racing up the stairs.
For a moment he was lost but he heard a door slam just above him and knew where to go. He threw the door open and saw the soldier disappearing into an apartment, shouting. Tubarov, the murderer comes, I have to tell you so you can tell the world!
Oh no you don’t, Quatre snarled and he threw his shoulder against the door. Once, twice, a third time, and just as his shoulder really began to protest the abuse he gave a roar and the door gave.
Triumphant, the soldier stood at the far side of the room, and Tubarov stood quickly. What is this? The man demanded.
I got to him first, the soldier giggled. Now what will you do?
Quatre raised the muzzle of the gun and though his eyes were wild and his body shook as though he’d been in a freezer his hand was steady. I’ll do you both, he said darkly.
Tubarov backed away at first, looking first at the window, then back to the blond and Quatre almost paused. His face was that of Tubarov, but somehow it was wrong. This face belonged to a man weighing at least sixty pounds more than the skinny wretch who’d single-handedly made the war even worse for the pilots and all those fighting for peace. Was he sure this time? Would it be over if he saw this to the end? He pictured the hurt and disappointment in Trowa’s eyes and decided.
As he moved the gun into position and relaxed as finally the old feeling of the Zero System took him over. It took control, absolving him of this debt he planned to collect.
The man’s face wasn’t innocent anymore.
It mocked him, laughing and gibbering about how they had taken pictures and it was saved in the hard drives of every surviving OZ base and that every OZ soldier knew where to find the pictures of the death left behind by the little boy everyone had called hero and all it would take was one touch on the console and every image would be sent to every communicator from here to the Earth Sphere…
Quatre giggled, the insanity in his dream voice rocking Tubarov back on his heels. It’s okay, this is just a dream and if I do this it will finally be over…He cocked the gun and grinned. Duo would be proud of this. Hell, they all would. Had always thought he couldn’t kill a fly. Well…
Tubarov backed away, his hands up, and though Quatre could see that this bloated body couldn’t possibly be that of Tubarov he advanced, anger and grief pushing his conscience into a tiny place where it could not be heard.
“I could kill you a hundred times,” he whispered out loud and sighed with unexpected pleasure as the System slowed the world down for him. He could see the sweat showing on Tubarov’s temple. He could feel the charge in the air as he advanced. He could see Tubarov’s mouth moving but heard no sound. He didn’t even hear the pop as the gun fired, hitting the other man perfectly between the eyes.
It’s over, it’s done, the nightmare is over now…
Quatre ululated as the body fell and fell to his knees, thankful that finally he had destroyed his tormentor, when he heard a soft chuckle from behind. Slowly turning, he screamed again and again as the soldier bore down on him…the blond squeezed off as many shots as he could as he hit the floor and the soldier’s head seemed to explode like an overripe melon. His body flew back and ricocheted off the far wall, then slid down to land near the other man’s corpse.
Shakily Quatre sat up, and screamed when he saw part of the soldier’s upper jaw tangled in his shirt button. He plucked it off and threw it, then frantically wiped his hand off, then rose and backed out of the room. But even as he ran down the stairs, he could swear he could hear the soldier dragging his body across the floor, coming after him…
This time when he woke his throat wouldn’t work and all he could do was clutch his sheets to his chest, his eyes bulging, shrieking soundlessly into the void of his room.
“Look, another one,” Duo said as he plopped onto the couch. He lifted the remote and turned up the sound. The other ex-pilots gathered behind him as they watched four policemen pull a rather large body bag from a building and carefully set it onto a coroner’s gurney. The voice spoke in a near monotone:
“Today another two bodies were found. Neighbors called the police when gunshots were heard at about four thirty this morning. When they reported to the scene of the crime they found the body of a guard believed to be about forty years of age, in the hall lounge near the vending machines. Another body was located in an apartment on the fifth floor. These same neighbors said so many shots had been fired they lost count, and felt that there may have been more than one suspect involved. Too full of fear even to peek out their doors to get descriptions of the suspect, police report unfortunately that there is no tangible evidence at the scene so far. Investigations continue-“
They jumped as they heard the bathroom door slam and exchanged glances as they heard Quatre throwing up.
Heero pulled Trowa to the side later that day and leveled with him. “I think Quatre is in trouble,” he said.
Trowa frowned. “Does this have to do with his nightmares? I saw him the other night washing his face and tried to comfort him a little. It seemed to work.”
“I know, but there’s more. Over the last week I have heard him doing laundry, washing things in the bathroom…and all after he’s had nightmares so bad I’ve wondered more than once if he is wetting the bed. When I ask him about it he acts as though he doesn’t even remember it.”
Trowa folded his arms and shook his head. “Sleepwalking? I didn’t know they were that bad. How did I miss it?”
Heero started to shrug, then froze as a thought occurred to him. “Oh God,” he whispered, so shocked by his revelation that his eyes filled with unshed tears.
Trowa grew alarmed. “What? What is it?”
“We need to stay up tonight. Please, I think I know now…” Heero leaned toward Trowa and began to speak quietly.
Gundam Zero landed smack dab in the middle of his father’s colony and advanced on the enemy mobile suits. A heavy battle ensued as cannons blew up surrounding buildings and bullets streaked across busy streets. People ran for cover, but how could one hide when the very places they chose to hide in collapsed around them?
Quatre made short work of the OZ suits and as the dust settled the tiny humans began to emerge. Quatre looked down at them and flipped the switch to activate the speakers. “I am Quatre Raberba Winner,” he said softly. Some people cheered, others looked at each other in surprise. Hadn’t the Winner patriarch been a pacifist?
Quatre leaned forward. “I am the Winner heir. My father and sister were just killed by the suits you saw destroyed here today. While you were outside my father’s gates, whining about the wrongs he inflicted on you, he was inside trying to convince me you were all worth saving.”
The people were silent now, looking with growing concern at the gundam towering above them. “You want military control. OZ offers you weapons and you take them so easily, not caring about the pilots who have to take them out there and win peace for you. Weapons breed madness. Space is full of madness. It’s my job to eradicate that. Since you and the other colonies have already chosen to cling to OZ’s skirts I have no choice.” He aimed his buster rifle at the growing crowd. “You chose madness over the peace my father tried to offer you. Now you have to pay for it.”
The crowd tried to scatter and several held their arms up in supplication but Quatre felt the Zero System all through him, whispering that what he was doing was right for the ultimate good. He nodded calmly and fired…
Trowa and Heero watched as Quatre staggered out the door and followed him. They watched him weave his way unsteadily through streets illuminated by broken streetlamps and kept pace. When he stopped for a moment as if to get his bearings Trowa and Heero looked at each other. “Is he even awake?” Trowa asked.
Heero shrugged. “I don’t know, but I wonder who he’s speaking to.”
They listened carefully and could just hear his voice, cracked and broken, mumbling and ranting incessantly.
Heero suddenly spun and drew his gun as he heard approaching footsteps. “Relax, Heero, it’s us,” Duo said softly as he and Wufei joined them.
Trowa closed his eyes as Quatre again began to walk. Heero looked at the others. “We can’t let him do it again, guys.”
“Again?” Duo asked, puzzled, then it dawned on him. The conversation he’d had, the reactions to the murders on the news. “Oh shit…”
Wufei’s lips tightened but he said nothing, and Trowa nearly groaned. “Why?” he asked instead as they moved toward their friend.
“Zero,” Heero replied, wanting to explain, but he never had the chance. A gurgling scream sounded from around the corner and they gave chase, pounding ahead, drawing weapons they carried even in times of peace because they just couldn’t stand to go too long without them…and saw their sweet Quatre with a murderous grin on his face, leaning over a sinking body.
“Quatre, NO!” Trowa yelled as he raced over, but he was too late. It was obvious the man’s throat had been cut beyond any hope of repair, and as the life left those eyes the blond turned to Trowa and beamed.
“What did you do?” Duo moaned as he ran to check the victim, then swore soundly as he lifted a hand drenched in blood.
“I killed him,” Quatre smiled, his eyes over bright. “I killed the soldier. I know I got him this time. Got Tubarov too. They said he was dead, but he wasn’t, Trowa, he wasn’t. He gained weight. No wonder no one knew him! But the soldier is gone. The other ways didn’t work, but I know this one did. Duo was right, have to see this to the end…I had to, Trowa, I had to let it out so it wouldn’t find you but it wouldn’t leave me alone either…the soldier was gonna tell…”
Trowa slapped Quatre hard enough to send him sprawling and Wufei smoothly interjected between them, holding Trowa back while Quatre raised a hand to his reddening cheek. “Trowa, what did you do that for?”
They all turned to look at him and he blinked back at them, then shook his head roughly. Though his eyes were sunken and dark, the sense seemed to return to them and he shuddered once, hard enough to shake the knife from his hand. “What the…what am I doing out here…ouch!” He rubbed his cheek gingerly. “Hey, what are you guys looking at…”
His voice faded when he saw Trowa’s expression and followed the others’ gaze to the body not more than five feet from him.
“But I was home,” he said weakly. “It was just a nightmare.”
Sirens approached and as they regarded him with expressions of horror and sorrow, he began to cry.