It was 4 AM, not that time mattered much, and sleep eluded Zero. The Resistance against Neo-Arcadia was a 24 hour affair; Zero fought at night, during the day, woken at any hour without rhythm or pattern. Full recharges were rare, even with Ciel's merciful interventions; there just wasn't time. Battle melted into battle, and he was never all that sure what he was really fighting for now to begin with. Zero had always given the bulk of his strength to combatting the storms and valleys of an intense inner world; most of his life, for better and worse, was lived inside his head, behind his eyes. And that world was as dry and ruined now as the outside Earth, leaving Zero more dazed and bewildered than he ever dared let on.

Huge gaps of darkness dominated his memory, ghosts of importance darted in and out too fast to be caught and held, and a constant all-consuming grief that was dislocated from reason was always with him. He'd lost something deeply important, something critical, and he barely remembered what it was that he needed- only felt its loss resonating through him with every breath.

Terminate that copy of me... Terminate with extreme prejudice!

The Guardians saw through him, their eyes clearer than his- they saw him for what he was and mocked him relentlessly for it. The lost legend, the ghost, the dead man walking. Maybe they were right to do so. The Resistance had its ideal warrior- relentless and disengaged; uncaring of his fate and willing to do whatever was asked of him because motion was better than silence in the face of meaninglessness.

Zero twisted uneasily now, sleep still evading his grasp, his fingers digging into the thin grey pad of the recharger bed. A castoff, the pad had been cleaned ten times but still had the smell of ruin in it; they'd found the bed somewhere and thrown it into service, just like him, just like the rest of the makeshift Resistance base. Bits and pieces used to be as simple as commanding himself to shut down and sliding instantly into darkness, he remembered that. This body, this not-quite-machine that Reploids were now, behaved oddly and had to be lulled down by degrees, like a human's.

4:10 am.

That Cyber-elf that called itself X. His mind kept returning to it, like a dog worrying over an old bone, at any moment when silence had a chance to catch a hold on his heart. That blue light...He rolled onto his back and stared blankly at the cracks in the ceiling visible between the cold white lights. He found himself reaching for the light, hand lifted; when he caught himself, he sighed and let his arm fall back, push his fingers through his thin blond hair....Are...Are you what I'm missing? What is your connection to me...?

And then... there was a smile. Zero felt it before he saw it; his breath caught in his chest and froze there as the smile appeared and rapidly became a shape. Blue-robed and beautiful, with a crown of shimmering DNA data turning above his head.

X appeared at Zero's side on the edge of the bed, sitting there in ghostly splendor with his milk-white hands resting on his knees, one leg casually crossed over another. He looked at Zero tenderly.

Zero sat up on his elbows, blond hair limp against his back, weariness in every inch of his frame. He faced X's iridescent spirit with his flawless skin and eyes of liquid forgiveness and he suddenly felt so empty in the face of that brilliance that he wanted to cry. And he still didn't know why, not wholly. It was a vivid grief that swelled up from his thighs, his hands, the center of his chest, choking him.

"I've been thinking about your situation," the elf of X spoke gently. "And I'm worried about you, Zero. I didn't want to show myself fully because I was afraid it would confuse you more. You don't need to be confused about this fight. But... your pain is so overwhelming, I couldn't stand by..."

Zero felt his eyes beginning to water. Blood rushed to his face. "You're X... but who ARE you?" he demanded, and his hands reached to grab because he forgot that the spirit wasn't real. His fingers were jolted when they intersected with the elf's form; the elf felt -solid-, his hands stopped at the elf's skin, but his sensors were giving him nothing, he was alone here... He jerked his hands free and stared at them, then at X. "Why does my body react so strongly to you...?"

"Our bodies hold memories seperate of our minds, sometimes. Let your body remember." X reached out and touched Zero's cheek; the Reploid gasped quietly as a fresh wave of grieflongingNEED seared through him, circuits below his skin seeming to catch fire with light. The elf wasn't actually touching him, Zero suddenly realized. But all a Reploid's sensations came from pulses and impulses... energy traveling in channels below their skins.. and this elf X was pure, raw energy.

X stroked Zero's cheek with the back of his fingers, drawing out a small, startled moan from the red Reploid, deepening the rush of blood to his face. Zero slowly kissed X's fingers as they drifted near his mouth, tongue tingling, instinct and impulsiveness guiding him. "We were the best partners," X whispered, stroking Zero's hair. "You and I were as one. We fought for many years together, saving this world from many evils. We supported each other completely in our strengths and weaknesses. You can't remember it now, because of the long sealing. You were awakened imperfectly and in haste, so more was lost then... maybe with time, as you stay online, you'll remember more."

"I feel like... I can trust you," Zero breathed, eyes wide. "I feel like what you're saying is true." There wasn't any fear in his body, or in his mind- he might have been afraid if it were anyone else, any other situation... he could have been being used just then, but it didn't feel like a trap. Somehow, he knew... that this X would never hurt him.

X smiled tenderly. "I was afraid to awaken this in you, because I thought it might make things harder. The fight you have ahead... I don't want you to mistake that duplicate for me, or for your body to mislead you into trusting it." For a moment, the softness in X's eyes became steel. "I hope that... after this... there can be no confusion, Zero. It would make you suffer so much if you hesitated to fight him because of unresolved feelings."

Zero sank back in the bed and exhaled, looking at X. "I don't really know what you're talking about, but... whatever you're worried about, stop worrying. I don't think I could ever mistake anything else for this."The elf laughed softly, nodded with shimmering eyes, and crawled into the bed, ethereal but tangible above Zero's pelvis, hands resting on his chest. "Good."

Zero gasped again, as X began to undo his jacket. He lay quietly, letting it happen, overwhelmed by the impossibility of what was happening and the intense surges of feeling that were washing through him. He felt himself blushing harder, the thin veneer of self-control he managed to maintain cracking under butterfly-touches of X's ethereal fingertips.

Zero'd been operational for many days, but he only felt truly resurrected when X kissed him. Liquid light poured into his mouth in the form of X's tongue slipping between his lips, and the elf's energy began to infiltrate his circuits, infusing him with something more critical than power and more reviving than any sleep: love, and hope, and a reason to exist...

The red Reploid's eyes slid closed, his arms folding around the elf and drawing him in closely, greedily pulling on the strength that X was offering, filling himself up with it. The blue light deeply penetrated him, washing out the dust from his circuits, the grief from his soul; X cried out, and Zero shook, his body pulsing hot as the air crackled and sparked.

They kept kissing and stroking each other long after the raw pleasure receded, longing, greedy for every second they could get. There wasn't any need of words. X nuzzled closer into Zero's chest. His radiant warmth and the deepening silence began to lull Zero into sleep- the first peaceful sleep he'd had since awakening. Zero blinked a few times, not wanting to lose the sensation of the elf's closeness, but his eyes and body grew heavier and heavier, and soon he slid below consciousness.

When he awoke naturally after a few hours, X was gone, but the memory of him lingered on Zero's mouth and in his chest."I wonder if that was a dream... Heh. I guess it makes no difference."

Zero sat up and closed his jacket with a small smile, his eyes closed as his hands sealed the zipper up to his neck.

That's right. It doesn't matter if I remember everything, but it matters that I remember why I fight.

Zero rose, the echoes of the blue light still moving through his body.

I fight for you, X.