For those of you wanting pointless humor, turn back now. There will be little humor in this fic. Please review. Any feedback is appreciated. Especially that which can help me improve my writing style. Criticism is fine, but TRUE flames will be deleted.
Walks by with protest sign Ghost should own Gundam Wing! Alas, I do not, so I cannot be sued! Hehehehehe!
Chapter 1: Shadow of Death
I heard the screams of terror and pain - perhaps though, it wasn't with my ears. Perhaps I only felt them. It had been that way since I was a child: feeling emotions, I mean. Each time I heard the cries, they tore through my heart like liquid fire, leaving behind a lingering heat - a need to fix what was wrong. And how could I not want to heal a pain that I shared in every way? Try to take their hurts as my own, healing broken hearts and broken minds.
It wasn't the same this time though. Those screams - echoes of the past - rebounded through my mind; illusory explosions rocked the world and forced it into a hell of fire and death. A distant part of my mind wept, and cried out that this wasn't me - I wouldn't do this! - But another shouted that they were enemies, forcing more destruction. And the pain continued.
Quatre awoke from the nightmare, platinum hair plastered to his forehead from the cold sweat which had formed sometime that night and was even now chilling him. Tremors wracked his body, viciously forcing movement from stiff limbs. He was not entirely sure however, if they were from the chill, or the terror which still haunted him.
By now, the nightmare was a familiar one, though knowledge did not dull his reaction at all, nor his pain. He still awoke shaking, his mind whirling frantically in all directions, unwilling to fall under anything resembling conscious control. His eyes were constantly haunted, shadows dimming his normally bright sapphire eyes with visions of what he had done when his father had been killed - while under the influence of the ZERO system. He did not consciously remember any of it, and in a way he was grateful for that small mercy - if it was that.
Even after he had 'gone whacko' as Duo put it, he had still retained his natural empathy. The emotions of others had still run freely through his heart, though unnoticed when fervor of invention had struck him. He had spent days without sleep or food, hell bent on creation. The creation of the machine his deranged mind had dreamed up, and named the ZERO system.
The machine forced itself into his brain; disrupting the pathways of all normal functions. It blocked his empathy, not allowing him to feel others. And so, when it threw him into a berserker rage, bent on the destruction of everything, he had thrown himself into it with a smile and a laugh, heedless - or perhaps just uncaring - of the cries around him.
Everything that was 'Quatre' shut down, and he became a demon, tearing into buildings and lives alike. 'They were all the same to you' his thoughts whispered quietly. 'You tried to kill Trowa, and then Heero; and it was no different to you than shooting at a piece of rock!' It cackled triumphantly as it finished, as if pleased with the way he had fallen. It had only been because of Trowa's sacrifice that he had been able to break away from the distortion of the mind caused by the ZERO system and his own madness.
And yet, he remembered none of this, save for the terrifying dreams which had come to him every night for the past two weeks. All of it was a complete blank. The ZERO system had been aptly named. A mind altering machine which gave you no emotions, no conscience. and afterward no memory of all the horrible things you had done.
'Trowa! I killed Trowa!' His first memory after that awful gap within his mind. A lurid patch of yellow, orange, and red fire, contrasting sharply against the dull grays and blacks - the muted tones of what little he did remember. The idea behind the words was false; Trowa had not died, although he had lost his memory. Even so, the emotions just barely held in check by those words were all too real, and the horror of them forced itself up his mind night after night.
It was as if he subconscious was trying to remind him of all he had done; all his misdeeds. 'I don't want to remember!' he cried silently, tears beginning to fall more freely down his cheeks, no longer constrained by the blocks he had placed in an effort for calmness. 'It hurts too much!' And it did hurt. The ZERO system may have blocked his empathy during that awful period, but in his dreams. he felt them then. All that had been denied him before was now pushed to the fore, their individual screams piercing his heart like a blade fresh from the flames.
'You caused it,' the snake like parody of his own voice hissed. 'You caused it, and you laughed; all the fighting, the war; destroying things with that huge machine. Just the name of a Gundam made them terrified, and you loved it! You enjoyed watching their screams as they died; their suffering!' Its accusing voice all the while rose to a drowning shriek in his mind.
The blond haired teen whimpered, hands reaching up to the sides of his head as if to push the voices away. "No," he whispered. "I didn't! That wasn't me! Stop saying that, and go away! Leave me be!" His words grew progressively louder in volume, and he squeezed his eyes shut. The darkness. it was overwhelming. At least the shadows that enveloped his soul were of his own making. Though terrifying, at the same time it seemed oddly comforting. 'My darkness.' Warm and welcoming, for a moment it almost seemed to block out the accusing voice in his head.
A warm salty tear fell down the side of his face, reaching his chin and trembling a moment before falling off into the shadows to land on one knee. The wetness quickly soaked into the black silk of his pajama pants, and for a moment he almost fancied it as blood. A morbid thought, which he immediately tried to chase out of his head. Stubbornly, it sunk its claws in.
'I'm covered in blood,' was the single thought of his dream-fogged mind. With a cry, he dived down onto his bed and buried his face in the pillow, sobbing. "It really is my fault they all died," he choked out between sobs. "I'm always trying to help them - heal them - and I ended up killing them!" So much blood, and it was all on his hands - all over the walls, the sticky red fluid crawling languidly downwards, the moonlight making it gleam in several spots.
He shuddered and buried himself deeper under the covers as a whimper escaped him. 'Your fault. Your fault. Your fault!' "No," he mumbled, the pillow drowning out most of his contradictions against the hissing voice in his head. "It wasn't my fault! Stop saying that!"
At his last words, the door to his room opened, causing a path of light to spill in through the crack. The sudden change of atmosphere caused the vision of the blood soaked walls to vanish; the red stains fading away as if they had never been.
"Quat? Are you okay man?" Grateful that the shadows his reddened eyes from viewed, Quatre allowed himself to somewhat hesitantly look at the silhouette outlined in the doorway. A slender but well muscled frame, with a braid ending at the hips; obviously Duo.
The blond gazed blankly forwards, recognizing, but not acknowledging Duo's presence. His mind still half caught in the grip of the dream, Quatre's eyes were glazed with the knowledge of not only the terror he had caused, but his own fear, and the self-hatred that filled him. He hardly noticed when his friend waved a hand in front of his eyes.
"My fault. All the screams - so loud. I can't stop them. Stop screaming. Stop; Stop!" He continued, chanting the same phrases over and over. A litany of anguished murmuring.
Duo frowned, and in a dim corner of his mind, Quatre recognized that he was worried, even though he couldn't find the strength of will to reassure him. Grabbing Quatre's shoulders, Duo shook the smaller teen back and forth. "Come on Q-man! Snap out of it! It's just a dream!"
'But it's not a dream.' he thought, another scream biting it's way through his memories and drowning out Duo's voice. 'This did happen - it is happening - right now. Why can't Duo hear them? Can't he see the blood that's still on my hands? It's on him now too. Surely he can see it now?'
A stinging pain brought him back to reality, and he found himself looking into Duo's troubled violet eyes. His hand reached up to his cheek where he realized his friend had slapped him.
Quatre blinked; blinked again. "Duo? What - " he gazed around his dark bedroom, the small trail of light from the hallway just enough to illumine their faces and show Quatre's confusion.
"Jeeze Quatre! That musta been some nightmare you were having," he sat down on the bed beside his friend, causing the mattress to sink and Quatre to lean into him slightly. "At least you weren't mumbling too loudly. Heero probably woulda ran in here and shot you, thinking you were an intruder or something."
"Y - Yeah," Quatre whispered, lowering his eyes to the bedcovers, which his hands were gripping spasmodically; claw like from the previous terror. "A nightmare." A small tremor shook his body, and then vanished.
"You gonna be okay Q-man? We got a meeting with the Preventors tomorrow. It's supposed to be really important. You're not sick or anything are ya?" Duo made as if to feel his forehead for signs of a fever, and Quatre jerked back reflexively, not wanting to feel the stronger emotions that his friend's touch would bring.
"I'm fine Duo." He sighed, running a hand through blond hair darkened by sweat. "It was just a nightmare. I'll be fine in the morning; so you can go back to sleep now." He gave Duo a small weak smile that didn't quite reach his eyes, and the braided Gundam pilot turned to go reluctantly. He was obviously disbelieving, in spite of the Arabian's words to the contrary. Duo had been too long a child living on the street to be unable to read others almost as well as Quatre could.
As soon as Duo left him, Quatre fell back onto his pillow with a sigh. "Why must I keep getting these nightmares?" He whispered. "Am I actually remembering what happened after father died? Is this some sort of punishment?" Closing his eyes, he began some of the relaxing meditations he had learned as a child, in an attempt to bring sleep. At first it seemed a futile exercise. The visions had been so extreme; they seemed indelibly stamped on his memory. His body's demands soon overwhelmed those of the mind however, and he fell into a restless sleep.
Dawn found Quatre sitting at the large kitchen table with a cup of tea in front of him, staring absently out the window while the sun painted the sky a rainbow of golds. The silence of the early morning, which was usually relaxing for him, now seemed oppressive when combined with the terrors of the night.
Picking up the warm mug, he noticed how his hand shook slightly from exhaustion. 'Even when my body forces it on me, I get so little sleep' he thought with a grimace. Unbidden, memories of his dreams came back to him. Even after Duo had come, his sleep had been anything but peaceful. He still remembered a particularly vivid dream where the ghosts of people came to his, shouting and screaming accusingly of all the crimes he had committed.
Even if he couldn't help it, Quatre knew he would come to regret the lack of rest when it came time for the meeting that day. It wasn't as if they had been out of the sleeping pills that Duo frequently took to help his sleep. Still, he hated the thought that he might have to resort to any kind of drugs to calm down his rebellious mind.
"Winner." the quiet greeting caused Quatre to look up in surprise. He realized that the sun had by now fully risen. Even so, it was quite early, though Wufei often did get up with the dawn like Heero. The Chinese pilot had pulled several eggs from the fridge by the time he had finished with his thoughts, and was now busily frying them on one of the large cast iron skillets Quatre kept in the kitchen for whoever's turn it was to cook.
"Do you need any help with that Wufei?" He got up from his place at the table, and moved to gather the ingredients fro the meal. Wufei nodded thankfully, and for a few minutes they worked in a comfortable silence, Wufei not commenting on, or not seeing Quatre's still shaking hands.
"You do not look very well Quatre." Wufei's voice floated over suddenly, breaking the stillness of the room. The Arabian turned from his bowl of pancake batter to add some sugar; making them sweeter the way Duo liked them. He silently added the white granules, ignoring Wufei's disapproving comment. "Quatre." Sighing, he looked up to see Wufei paused in his cooking, and frowning at him.
"It doesn't matter Wufei." He snapped. "It's just some bad dream's I've been having lately. Nothing to worry about." He tried to put sincerity into his voice, though Wufei still watched him dubiously.
"I'll say it again Quatre. You don't look well. Are you able to work, or do you need to call in sick?"
Quatre flushed angrily. Wufei was treating him like a child who wouldn't admit he needed a nap. "I told you Wufei; I'm fine." He glared at his friend, whose eyes widened faintly in surprise, and Quatre realized he might have been a bit too vehement in his protestations.
He took a small step backwards, intending to apologized and make up some excuse for his short temper. His steps ended up carrying him right into Trowa, who had just stepped silently into the kitchen.
The platinum haired teen gave a small gasp, and stiffened as if struck. A small image - a group of scowling men surrounding him - now a blond haired man in a red flight suit being shot, the blood pooling beneath him - standing on a thin rope, high above cheering crowds in a dimly lit tent - Everything passed through his mind in moments; causing him to cringe, his brain feeling as though a live current had flown through it.
Suddenly the contact was broken as Trowa stepped back from him, Quatre leaping forward and away at the same time. He turned around to face Trowa, his eyes wide in shock, and a slightly glazed look to them. Without another word, he ran out of the room and upstairs to the bathroom adjoining his room, where he was violently sick.
"Something is wrong with Quatre," Trowa noted simply, when the two pilots were left alone. Wufei nodded in agreement, still silently wondering about the abrupt change in attitude for his normally gentle friend.
Quatre knelt on the cool washroom floor tiles, coughing as his stomach at last stopped spasming. "What is happening to me? Trowa - were those memories?" Reaching out blindly, he grabbed a piece of tissue to wipe his mouth off, and then stood up shakily, pouring himself a glass of water to wash away the sour taste in his mouth.
"Allah, what is happening? My space heart - my empathy - Is it growing stronger? Is that why just by touching Trowa - ?" He broke off that stream of thoughts and words as he left the washroom. Heero would be awake by now, and he didn't want to alert anyone else to his problems.
He began to slowly, quietly descend the stairs toward the front door, where hopefully he could leave for the Preventors office before Wufei or Trowa could confront him. Halfway downstairs, he found himself having to clutch the banister tightly as a dizzy spell hit him, causing his vision to blur. As soon as it passed, he hurried down the remaining steps and stumbled out the door before his body could betray him any further.
Chapter Song: Weathered, by Creed
Ghost Whisper: Well what did you think? That is definitely not the end. I'm already planning out the next chapter. Please review and let me know what you think. Any comments about things to do differently (as long as they don't disrupt my plot) are greatly appreciated.