Title : The Killing Tide12/20
Author : Dalton (AngelDalton6@aol.com)
Rating : R
Category : AU only in the fact that this takes place 10 years after Endless Waltz
Warnings : Swearing, angst, violence and death.
Disclaimer : Gundam Wing is the property of Sunrise, the Sotsu Agency, and Bandai. No infringement is intended upon their rights. (4/7/2)

When Heero regained consciousness, he was lying face up on a mattress, a thin sheet covering his body. This and a distinct odor of antisepsis and cleaning products gave Heero the impression he had ended up in a hospital or some medical establishment. White sheets, white walls, linoleum floor and metal bed frames definitely spoke the bland language of health care accommodations. A cold draft stole through a gap in the sheet and licked at his bare thigh, which made Heero wonder where his clothes were.

As he sat up, the door opened emitting the dark blue shape of a Preventer in uniform. Swinging his legs out of the bed, Heero glanced up through his disheveled bangs to see Noventa enter.

Noventa politely shut the door, a paper bag hanging from one fist. "I see you are up. Would you care for something to wear besides Quinton's revealing smocks?" He shook the bag once before setting it on the bed, then stepped to the window to allow Heero a semblance of privacy.

Heero turned the bag upside down, dumping his clean uniform onto the bed.

"Your clothes were covered in blood, so I had the staff service clean them while you were asleep," Noventa offered an explanation as he listened to the shuffling of fabric behind him.

"We're in Quinton?" An affirmative nod was the reply to Heero's terse question. "And Duo?"

Noventa's smile mirrored back at him in the windowpane. "Mr. Maxwell is still in the operating room. I'm not sure how successful they will be, due to the severity of his injuries." William turned to look at Heero as he said the last sentence, but the dark-haired man showed no response to the news. "But it's out of our control now. Wouldn't you agree, Mr. Yuy?"

Heero harshly yanked his belt through the loops of his pants. "Stop calling me Mister Yuy. I'm not older and I'm no greater a man than you."

"It won't take much longer to find out, will it?"

Heero glanced up from his shirt buttons to search the blond man's face for a reason behind the odd question. He could see only a twinkling of suppressed humor within the man's eyes.

Noventa's next comment explained his odd question: "You missed a button." He grinned and gestured at the uneven hang of Heero's dress shirt. "I have to admit, I did not expect the infamous Gundam Pilot Zero One to fall victim to a fainting spell."

"I hyperventilated."

"Yes, well, that's unusual for you, too. Isn't it?"

Noventa tipped his head to the side, clasping his hands behind his back, and Heero wondered if the man might not be trying to goad him. Heero decided the light teasing nature was part of Noventa's personality and was most likely some odd way of trying to disperse the tension.

Heero wondered if he was that transparent. He had just about convinced himself that he had his emotions under control, but Noventa seemed to sense what Heero worked hard to deny. Seeing Duo lying in a pool of Hilde's blood caused a reaction in Heero that was disturbingly unfamiliar. It was so strong that it affected him physically as well as emotionally. He still felt it. It was something that bounced from disgust to sorrow to rage to fear. His mind latched onto 'fear' as a final explanation. He had discovered that everything important to him, everything that gave him purpose, could be viciously taken away. And he could be helpless to stop it.

The fear mocked him as he slid his shoes onto his feet, and he struggled to push the feeling into the dark pit of his soul, wishing Noventa would go away and leave him alone. The uninvited guest didn't seem to have the ability to read Heero's mind, remaining watchful, as if waiting for the fear to slip out from under Heero's will and finish its previous assault.

Heero's fingers slipped while trying to tie his shoes, and he wiped his moist palm on his pant leg. He had to get control of himself. If the acknowledgement of one little fear was making him shake and perspire, he wasn't going to get anything accomplished. Heero needed to regain control for the sake of those who had died or had come close to death. They were his friends, if just to a small extent, and they needed him. He needed them. He needed to find the truth behind their loss. He needed Noventa to get the hell out of the room before he ended up just as hospitalized as Duo.

Heero shot a glare at Noventa, not trusting his voice to carry his message, and the man actually seemed to get the hint.

"I'll see if there is any paperwork you'll need to sign." Noventa took the empty bag next to Heero and tossed it into the trashcan on the way to the door. He didn't say another word or look back as he left, but Heero kept his hard eyes glued to the man's back until satisfied that he was truly gone.

Before the door closed on its automatic hinges, Heero caught the movement of a familiar petite form in the outer corridor. His eyes widened and his fist tightened on the bed rail. He didn't know what she was doing here and hoped she had not seen him. He wouldn't be able to endure an assault from those deeply expressive eyes, nor the powerful presence of their gentle owner. She would understand, within seconds, everything that Heero could not understand about himself, and he would see the meaning rise to greet him in her caring gaze. Heero wasn't ready for that kind of truth. He had too many things to do, too many puzzles to solve, and his personal problems would have to take the last place in line.

It seemed as though Relena had seen him after all, or Noventa had told her he was there, for she was standing just inside the door when he glanced up from the cradle of his hands. There was a confused and worried look on her face, as if she were surprised to find him there. She took a hesitant step forward, then tilted her head as if assessing his emotions and asking for admittance.

Heero's disapproving frown faltered as he struggled to maintain the irritation Noventa had spurred. Relena shouldn't have been there. Like a drowning man grasping for a life preserver, Heero made a final lunge for control. "I don't need..."

"Heero." Her single, soft whisper of his name told him that she knew, just like he thought she would, all the pain he tried to hide. She knew and was letting him know that it was okay to let it go.

He turned his head away from her, directing his focus to the crack beneath the bathroom door, refusing to meet those eyes. A soft rustle and a glimpse of beige fabric were the only things that warned him she had moved closer, but a small glance to the side told him she'd only moved to the little bedside table. After scribbling upon a piece of note paper, Relena straightened and looked at Heero sitting stiffly at the edge of the bed, her brow creasing in concern.

She looked back at the information she had written, running a hand along the indented surface. "I wrote down some numbers..." She stopped mid-sentence, squeezing her palms together as she struggled to find the right words to say. "I came to see Sally--to help, if I could; but I discovered so much more, so much more than I would have ever expected. Pargan and I arrived shortly after they brought Duo here, and a very nice gentleman from the Preventers explained things to me once he recognized who I was. But it was... It's more than I... Sally, I knew about; Quatre, I heard a little about; but I wasn't prepared for... I..." She took a shaky breath, returning to the surety of simple facts, and began again, "I've written some numbers where you can contact me if you need me..."

Heero reached out for Relena, and tugged her roughly toward the bed, tightly clasping his hands behind her back. She stood stiffly, unsure of what to do as he buried his head in the slight curve above her stomach and beneath her breasts. Heero's breath traveled through the light weave of her sweater, warming her skin, but he felt as cold as the approaching winter outside. He didn't understand the mixture of emotions tearing through him, so he clung to someone who could understand, hoping she would be able to stop the fear.

Heero could feel Relena's stalled breathing resume as her arms wrapped comfortingly around him to support their perilous position--both physical and emotional. His grip tightened, pressing her closer, and his body began to shake within her embrace, as a new fear possessed him. No matter how much he had professed to following his emotions, Heero had never given in to them, and he was afraid--afraid that his bottomless pit of buried emotions was going to boil forth in an overwhelming torrent. Control was vital, and to lose it could be devastating. Giving in to his emotions was not an option. It was impossible. It was inexcusable.

It was needed.

Heero's tremors intensified and his hands clutched at Relena's back and waist enough to bruise the tender flesh, but he uttered no sound as grief replaced fear. Relena clung to him, using the strength in her legs to keep the pressure from driving them to the floor. He decided to stop fighting and let the grief come, but it wasn't working. Something was missing. As one of Relena's tears slipped from her chin and introduced itself to the exposed skin at his neckline, Heero realized what wasn't right. Beneath the stretched weave of her sweater, where waves of labored breath heated her skin, Heero felt no dampness. He shed no tears. All the shaking, all the pressure, and all the clutching were not harbingers of a much-needed storm. They were casualties in the never-ending fight for control. With nearly all the people he dared call "friend" dead, Heero still refused to cry.

A sob finally tore itself from his tight throat, rumbling into Relena's body, but it did not bring the tears he wanted. Grief made an impressive show, racking his body with mute sobs, and Heero expected it to release him from the pain. Heero listened to the sorrow coming without hindrance from the woman holding him, and as he listened, he understood his error.

Heero had not refused his emotions; they had refused him; and as he emptied his stunted sorrow onto Relena's chest, she shed the tears that he could not.