Itetsuku hoshi no yami e
tsumugu inori ga
Tooi anata no sora ni 
todoku you ni...
(Towards the darkness of the frozen stars
A spinning prayer
May it reach your distant sky....)
        - Nusumenai Houseki (Radical Dreamers), Chrono Cross OST

***

Moonlight streamed in through the large windows, providing just enough illumination to turn black darkness into dim silver-gray. It fell in faint streaks of light upon the still form of a young boy who lay asleep on a bedroll on the floor, disdaining the four-poster bed in the center of the room. His eyelids twitched and fluttered rapidly, showing that the pilot known as Heero Yuy was deep into a dream.

He was in combat, as so often happened in his dreams – to be more specific, he was in a formal fencing match. It shouldn't have been so bad, considering that his battles were more usually more life-and-death, lawless, no-holds-barred fights than polite, ceremonial fencing. But, his blood still sang with the half-nervous, half-exhilarating rush he always got when he was in his most intense battles.

 At first, his opponent was that ugly blond boy from the boarding school, an odd and seemingly ludicrous enemy to face, but he was performing much better than he had in real life. However...

Analyzing the other boy's fighting style, even as he himself was kept busy dodging and weaving in a purely defensive strategy, Heero coldly, rationally concluded that the other was still quite a ways from matching him.

Heero deftly twisted around a feint made too far, a small smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth. As sometimes happened, his concentration had narrowed down to a single point of focus. It was like the fragmentary thoughts that make up the mind of any human all snapped together, to form a single, solitary, clear-edged purpose: defeat the enemy.

Heero shifted his stance to a slightly more aggressive one, preparing to ram the blade through the other boy's faceshield. Before he could repeat history, however, the outline of the blond boy rippled and wavered, like the surface of a pool disturbed by a thrown pebble.

If it weren't far out of character for the fifteen-year-old soldier boy, he would have gaped quite openly. Before his astonished eyes, the boy in front of him morphed into Wufei. The boy's white fencing gear changed into Wufei's usual blue-and-white outfit, and the slim rapier in his hand became a long, curved katana.

Needless to say, the difficulty factor of the match went up by quite a bit. Heero had to rethink his strategy, adapting to Wufei's different style and skill level. And before he could fully adapt, his opponent morphed again.

This time he changed to Duo. Then Trowa, then Treize, then Zechs. They seemed to get better and better as they changed, and he was getting weary, more and more unable to hold his own.

Then it became opponents he had never even seen before, all of whom had clothing and weapons of a style that was very unusual and somehow reminded Heero of medieval fantasy stories...

...a man with light blue hair and a violet mark under his eye, holding a sword of somewhat strange design in an obviously-prosthetic arm...

....a blond-haired leopard girl, then, a moment later, a blue-haired one who could have been the first's twin, both bare-handed but agile enough to make up for the lack of weaponry...

...a silvery-haired boy with a manic gleam in his eyes...

...a tall, blue-eyed man, blond and handsome...

And finally, a young man with dark sienna eyes and unruly, raven-black hair who smiled at him fondly.

Heero felt a strange jolt then, as if he had been expecting to meet this person. As if he'd been waiting since forever for a glimpse of him. Why? He had never met him before. But there was something familiar about him...

Heero peered closer as he used his saber to block the man's broadsword. He started, his shock almost costing him a glancing blow before he regained enough sense to jump quickly away.

The man did not seem inclined to charge at him, content to merely look at him with a calm, serious - but not grim - expression on his face.

Heero circled warily, but his sword was held low. He had no intention of attacking. He only wanted to look closer at the man's face. Now he knew why he was familiar...

...it was almost the same face he saw in the mirror every time he used it.

Then suddenly, he was no longer facing off against the swordsman, but walking through a shadowy valley. It was narrow, sheer cliffs of grayish rock rearing up on either side of the valley, making it seem like a corridor. He could tell it was night, but he couldn't see the sky for the trailing vines and tree limbs - brown with death - that branched out overhead.

His body felt peculiar, something slightly...off, for lack of a better word, about the feel of it. But it wasn't a strictly bad feeling. For some reason, he felt oddly…well, energy-filled. Not bouncy or hyper – merely a quiet, unquestioning certainty that in his limbs was the strength to do whatever he needed to do.

He realized his right hand was clenched in a tight fist; his muscles began to twinge slightly. He looked at his hand, and started in surprise. He'd completely forgotten that he was still clutching the thin-bladed sword he'd used during his fights. However, it wasn't a sword he held any longer, but rather a length of blazing, furious energy...a beam saber.

"What..?" Heero stammered. When no sound came from his mouth, he knew something was wrong. He looked down.

His first impression was that someone had put him in a suit of armor - a set of sleek, smooth metallic plates interlocking seamlessly to cover his own body. It had a strangely familiar color scheme...

Then, he realized it wasn't armor: it was Wing Gundam Zero. Had Dr. J finally completed that bioboost mecha suit he was always talking about? If he had, then he really shouldn't be surprised to see that he'd modeled it after his greatest brainchild - or that he'd use Heero as the guinea pig for it yet again.

Then, he realized that he wasn't in Wing...he WAS Wing. He was a giant fighting mecha, down to the bone/metal beam, not merely encased in a shell.

Too bemused to be unbelieving, he moved his hand up to his eyes/sensors, flexing it experimentally. It reacted just as his real hand would. He tried to run, then somersault. He pulled the moves off perfectly.

Before he could calm down and really reflect on the unreal aspect of this whole situation, something happened to serve its turn on the let's-surprise-Heero routine this whole dream was taking. Without any conscious thought on his part, the thin Gundamium wings on his back unfolded, the jet boosters mounted on his back flared with white-blue plasma, and quite suddenly Heero found himself soaring up into the night sky, breaking through the canopy of foliage to behold a breathtaking panorama.

Heero was a pilot, one of the best in generations, and trained in almost every sort of flight-capable machine invented. He had never, however, flown by his own power, open to the elements and entirely in control, like a bird on the wing. He had - as had any other person who was intimately involved with flying - dreamed of it, fantasized about it, but he had never thought about really experiencing it.

Now he was, and the experience was exhilarating. He abandoned himself to the elation racing through his veins, forgetting all the doubt and suspicion that otherwise colored his perception of the world. He looped, and spun, and swooped, and turned in the air, taking full advantage of his new flight capability. It is doubtful that a wilder, more joyously spirited gymnastics routine was ever performed than Heero's unthinking dance in the air.

He rose above the clouds and reveled in the thin, clear air above, where a billion stars twinkled, brighter than he'd ever seen, and the crescent moon cast a glimmering sheen on the surface of everything. He let out a long, delighted laugh, half-drunk with the beauty and glory and joy of it all.

But mecha aren't supposed to be able to laugh.

As this thought crossed his mind, Heero looked down at himself. He was back in his own body once again. Everything was normal again, right down to his jeans and green tanktop. What _weren't_ normal were the giant wings arching out of his shoulders, shining silvery-white in the moonlight.

Despite all his training, all the schooling to never show emotion, Heero couldn't help himself. He gaped. His cobalt eyes widened. His mouth dropped slightly open. Despite the strangeness of everything that had happened so far, this was the strangest, and Heero was having trouble registering it. He double-checked everything, trying to convince himself.

They were definitely wings.

They were definitely coming out from HIS body.

This was definitely way too weird for him.

One of Heero's rules was 'If you don't know it, LEARN it.' This was associated with the rule 'Ignorance is death'. He had quite a few rules like this, including 'Carelessness is death' (why he was always so thorough) 'Human affection is death' (why Relena was making very slow progress with him) and 'Dr. J's cooking is death' (learned the hard way)

So once he confirmed that, yes, he did now possess an extra pair of feathered limbs, he decided to test his new wings. He set off into the night, again taking pleasure in the flying. He flew much swifter and more agilely than in his Wing Gundam 'body', turning his body to the currents of air as knowledgeably as a sailor navigates the ocean currents, using his wings as if he'd been born knowing how.

He dove through the cloud layer, enjoying the feel of cool mist on his face. He shot through the bottom of the cloudbanks like a stone launched from a catapult, spreading his wings and braking expertly in mid-air before a vast city, glimmering with the warm yellow lights of a thousand lamps. It was in a deep valley, flanked on either side by massive cliffs of dark rock like natural walls, and in the very back, rose a huge mountain . Heero hovered in the air, gazing at the scene with oddly hungry eyes.

His reverie was broken as a lance of pain suddenly shot through his entire body. He dropped almost fifty feet before he could regain the presence of mind to stop his fall. Gritting his teeth against the pain, he tried to determine the source of it.

There was a knife embedded in his left wing.

It was amazing how pain dulled the senses of some people - and how it sharpened the awareness of others. In one moment, Heero had memorized every aspect of the knife, folding in his wing slightly to take a closer look at the weapon. It had a wide black blade, hard to see in the night. There was a large red stone, not exactly jewel-like but very smooth, set in the silver crossguard of the weapon. It seemed unlike the knives he saw everyday, like the ones Catherine had or the switchblades the everyday street toughs employed. It seemed more...elaborate than those, more like an ornamental piece, though Heero could attest that it was just as sharp as any of its counterparts.

The pain had not in any way abated, and Heero winced as a fresh wave of pain swept through him, blurring his mind. He closed his eyes, trying to regain some control. When he opened them again, panting slightly, the red stone was shining. Heero gazed at it in hypnotized wonder. There seemed to be a black glyph now visible in the center of the stone...

And then his world exploded in fire and hurt.

Heero bolted upright in his bedroll. His body felt achy all over, and his breathing was rapid and shallow. He made no effort to control it, trying just to gather his scattered thoughts.

It took him a minute to remember where he was - in his room at the safehouse. He was relieved that he'd been able to check the scream which had been hovering in the back of his throat as he awoke - if he had, the others, who slept in rooms not too far from his, might have heard it and gone to investigate.

He checked the digital numbers shining on the night table to his left: it was midnight. And there was a mission to complete tomorrow morning.

He collapsed ungracefully back onto the bedroll, hoping that no nightmares would plague him further. His eyes closed slowly in slumber, and his face relaxed as it never did while he was awake.

So he did not notice the silvery feather fluttering out of the open window, its edges tinged red with blood.

***

TBC

AN: This is the beginning of the fic series that is truly my baby, more even than Alternatives or Gundamon. I'm hoping for a good reception! ^_^