TITLE: When Worlds Collide

AUTHOR: Shira

EMAIL: Shira_uma@hotmail.com

PAIRINGS: 1xRei

WARNINGS: Gundam Wing x Sailor Moon fusion fic; Angst, sap, some dealings with the metaphysical and spiritual

***********

//... and with a faintness of breath the young soldier succumbed to the darkness, letting his consciousness pass him by as his mind fell into in an eternal sleep. His body bloodied and broken, there would be pain no longer in his pitiful excuse for a life. Claimed by war, perhaps the afterlife would be gentler to him than this life had ever been. Sleep. Sleep young soldier. Your duty has been served, its time for you to sleep...//

**********

Meditating alone in the beautiful gardens of the former Shinto shrine where she used to live with her grandfather, Rei's eyes slowly opened and took in the view of her surroundings. She sat, indian-style, her legs folded and her arms spayed open, wrists resting on her knees, making peace with herself and her world. Her long silken hair glistened in the sunlight of this blissful afternoon, flecks of copper shining as her head turned and faced the entry to the gardens.

What is it? Something was speaking to her. Something wasn't right. Her inner voice was speaking to her, and she became very uneasy. She usually had premonitions of evil or bad things, but this... this feeling was different somehow. It was almost an urgency. Rei's deep brown eyes scanned the landscape before her, although she saw nothing, her eyes looking instead inside herself, searching for the meaning of this feeling that was beginning to overcome her. Until finally she could stand it no more.

Rei picked herself up off the immaculately manicured grass and lightly brushed off her robe. Then following her instincts, she purposefully walked out the garden gates, around the privacy fence and to the back of the estate. At the edge of the property she came to a barely-worn path shrouded in trees and foliage... a path that only she and a few others since gone knew was there. As a young girl, Rei used to follow this path to a small clearing in the denseness of the forest, when she needed private time, even more private than being in the gardens. When she needed to disappear for a while. She spent a lot of time there as a teen-ager, especially when she first became aware of her powers and psychic abilities. She felt safe, and close to nature there. It was here that her senses were telling her to go. The path was calling her.

Pushing a lock of dark hair behind her ear, Rei looked both ways, as if she were expecting someone to be following her. Satisfied that she was alone, she ducked under the leaf-covered branch that was growing before the entrance to the path. Barely causing a leaf to move, she disappeared into the cool mist of the sweet smelling forest, her robe soon blending with the colors of nature.

The clearing in the forest was nearly a quarter mile back. It was very secluded, but then, it wouldn't be private if it was easily found now, would it? As she made her way down the dimmed path, Rei's silken robe caught every now and then on branches and brambles. "Not the best attire to be trudging around in the woods", she thought to herself as she yanked her sleeve out of the grasp of an immature japanese maple, its purple leaves clinging to the fabric. "Too late to turn back though." she concluded. Her curiosity piqued, Rei continued on until she could see the clearing ahead of her, rays of sunlight beaming down to warm the bright green grass. Her slippers were becoming wet with the dampness of the forest floor, and the bottom edge of her robe was wet as well.

Rei looked down in disgust at her ruined slippers for an instant, and upon looking once again ahead of her she suddenly began to feel very faint, almost to the point of falling over. The green canopy of the forest created a cover over her that suddenly became so intense, she started to wobble on her feet. As each step become more unsteady than the one before, her breath became very heavy and ragged, until she finally made it to the clearing, where she burst out of the tree- lined cover of the path and allowed herself to fall to the ground. Rolling onto her back, Rei looked up into the bright sun as her head spun, and she could feel herself slipping away. A bead of sweat formed on her brow and she closed her eyes.

Waking with a startle, a hot, sweaty Rei slowly sat up and rubbed her eyes before shielding them from the bright sun in the clearing. She knew she'd passed out, but she had no way of knowing for how long, although everything seemed the same as she remembered. Then as she sat, attempting to regain her composure before getting herself up, her mind suddenly filled with all sorts of strange visions, and that feeling, the feeling she'd had in the gardens, had returned. Closing her eyes again, Rei sat once more and let the visions come to her... flashes of light, people screaming, a young child crying, . Visions that were totally new and unfamiliar, and extremely unpleasant. Sounds of gunfire and explosions echoed in her head, and the shriek of missiles caused her to raise her hands to her ears as if the noise were real. Trembling from the forces of what her head was showing her, Rei rocked forward, cradling her head practically in her lap, her hands still covering her ears, until she could stand no more. She screamed. Then suddenly the visions and deafening noise was gone. Left in sudden total silence, all that remained of the experience was a deep and rooted sorrow in her soul, which she could not explain.

Finally back to her senses, Rei stood once more, even more determined this time to find the source of this... drive, this ... force, that was calling her deep into the woods. Taking a long breath she went to the far edge of the clearing, hesitated a moment, and then continued on into the thicket, this time where there was no path. As she moved closer to whatever was drawing her in, her clothing was becoming more tattered, with little pulls of silk thread hanging and catching on everything she passed, but still she continued.

The musty smell of the forest filled her nasal passages as she forged her way through the low brush and trees, and once again she began to experience the dizzy feeling that had felled her in the clearing. Only this time she did not pass out, but rather, began to once again have visions. This time the visions were clearer, and she could picture in her mind great hulking machines made of shiny metal, in the shape of a man, shooting fireballs from their arms. There were many of them, and they were all firing upon her. Blinking her eyes tightly Rei winced as if she were getting hit herself with the onslaught, and she broke into a run. The visions continued and she was seeing faces... faces inside the machines, and the faces were all wrought with strife and sadness. She continued on more determined than ever as tears began to form in her eyes.

Her running becoming near frantic, the energies that she felt were becoming stronger and stronger as she neared whatever it was that lay ahead of her. Panting and ignoring the branches and brambles that were now grabbing her skin too, she pressed on until she finally reached the side of a big foothill. Its rocky craggs jutted in all directions, and the vegetation was sparse, enabling her to finally see it. One of the machines from her vision... and it was HUGE! Stopped in her tracks and staring in complete awe, Rei merely stood and stared for many minutes at the thing in front of her, until she remembered her thought of the faces inside. "Is there someone inside that thing?" she questioned herself, and she began moving toward it.

Even though this hulking machine shaped like a man was obviously broken and shattered, it was very impressive all the same, in glistening white, with its bright blue and red accents. Concentrating hard on what she was doing, Rei approached slowly, and as she did, was hit with yet another vision, this time of a young man, probably near her own age of eighteen, with a clean look and a shock of messy dark hair. And blood. She was seeing blood, and she began to worry. The color crimson, like that of her silk robe. Then coming upon the machine laying in pieces on the hillside Rei began to search for what she finally understood she was supposed to find... the pilot that had crashed this machine in the hills. Luckily it didn't take her long to discover him, a few yards away from the mecha, lying unconscious.

Her heart sank. "He's dead" Rei said aloud for no one to hear, but instinctually she went to him anyway and knelt by his side, her `never give up' attitude unwilling to accept the idea that she had been too late. Looking into the face of the young pilot she realized that he was the one from her vision. And he was alive. Barely, but alive all the same, because he was sending her his fading energy and thoughts, or at least, he was expelling energy and thoughts and she was reading them. Leaning over the battered young man Rei looked sympathetically into his bloodied face. Not knowing why, she placed her palm over his forehead and closing her eyes, her mind was drawn into the expanse of his, and she could see his thoughts as her own. She had never done this before, channeled thoughts, but somehow she was able to do it now. Empathy had not been one of her known powers, but she was always learning more and more about her own abilities as time went on.

The thoughts were random and very fast paced, confusing Rei greatly. But as she tried to make some sense out of what she was seeing and feeling, she began to recognize things in his mind... faces that kept reappearing, like other young men in mecha just like his... presumably more pilots? Friends maybe? One with beautiful platinum hair and gentle aqua eyes. Another with a braid of chestnut hair and striking amethyst eyes... two others in addition, plus a girl, donning a regal militaristic uniform, her hair neatly done in a ponytail... another boy, older perhaps, wearing an odd mask that covered his face, speaking from inside one of the machines, shooting, and then a flash and an explosion followed by feelings of pain and lightheadedness. His own hand pressing down on a handheld device, and then an explosion. Had this boy been hurt by the one in the mask? Or by the device? Rei's arm trembled some now as she tried to maintain her contact with the pilot's forehead, trying to read more of what were probably his memories as he lay injured on the hillside.

More battles, more fighting, and with all of it, feelings of worthlessness, feelings of hopelessness, of emptiness. She struggled to see every thought as it happened, and witnessed in his mind, in bits and pieces, the rapid unfolding of his past through to the present and his demise as he once again held the device in his hand and triggered yet another explosion. Feelings of guilt overwhelmed him, and thus her, and once again the vision of an explosion as the giant white mecha crashed to the ground, landing on the hillside. Gasping with surprise Rei realized what had happened here now. The pilot had done this to himself... he had blown up his machine with him inside it on purpose! The emotions flowing through his thoughts and into Rei were so much that she was forced to take her hand away from the young mans forehead, tears streaming down her porcelain cheeks. Crumpling in a heap next to him, for a few minutes she wept slightly for the obvious emotional turmoil that this warrior had experienced.

After regaining her composure, Rei jumped up, ran to the mecha's open hatch and began climbing inside in search of any medical supplies that might be stocked in the cockpit. Finding a medical kit she grabbed it and rushed back to the fallen soldier and popped it open. Not much inside... a couple of bandages, some burn ointment, a support wrap... ah! Wonderful! Smelling salts! Grabbing the bottle Rei opened it quickly and began to wave it under the boy's nose for a few seconds. At first there was no response and her heart began to sink once more. But after a bit she noticed his eyelids fluttering gently as he came to. Blinking a few times, his focus blurred, he looked at the dark-haired girl kneeling over him and whispered "Let... me... die..." With that he passed into unconsciousness again.

**************

The sound of chirping birds registered in his throbbing head, and Heero woke to a sun-drenched room in what was probably a very nice traditional Japanese home. Opening his eyes, his head was spinning, and trying to move was a different story altogether, as every muscle in his body was stiffened and ached something terrible. Taking in awareness of his body, he figured out quickly that everything worked and all his parts were present and seemed free from major damage, save for some sprains and cuts, and the general feeling of being `one big bruise'. Also, his chest was taped, and he could see the beginning of purple-blue marks in the skin at his chest that went under the bandages, probably insinuating broken ribs at the least. He sighed and his lungs hurt. A swollen ankle throbbed. A repeat of last time. He'd failed again, no matter how badly he'd wanted to end it all. Laying silently in bed, Heero contemplated his life, and his inability to die for a while until he heard the approach of footsteps. Rei entered the room and a little smile appeared on her lips, happy to see him awake.

"Daijobu ka? You have survived again, soldier." Rei whispered quietly as she sat softly on the edge of the bed, looking into Heero's tired face.

"Nani?" He asked in confusion. "Your thoughts... you were sending your thoughts and I was able to read them... to learn about you." She added.

"My... my thoughts?" He asked "Y-you read my thoughts? How?" He grunted. He was met by a startled look from Rei.

"You mean you don't know?"

"Don't know what?" He questioned warily.

"About being newtype" Rei sat straight up, surprised that he didn't know this.

"Newtype... ME?" Heero said. "No, not me. I know of someone else who is considered newtype, but that isn't me".

Rei looked Heero in the eye and insisted, "Ah, but you are newtype. Maybe you never realized it, but you are... You sent your thoughts and emotions as you lay injured in the forest... you called out to me and I found you there."

"But I didn't want to be found. I wanted to die." Heero sighed.

"Hai, I know you did...or think you did." Rei began, matter-of-factly. "I saw it in your mind that you hurt yourself in the hopes of dying."

"Hai," Heero nodded, closing his eyes as he lay back on the soft pillow. His head was spinning more.

"Why?" Rei asked, a concerned tone to her voice.

"Because I'm nothing." Came the answer. "Nothing? How can you be nothing?" the senshi asked. She twisted the end of a lock of her long hair around her finger and looked at the floor in front of her feet. Then looking up and shooting a determined glare, she blurted, "How can you be nothing if you hold such an important role in so many lives... the others like you... the girl with the uniform..."

"Relena..." Heero muttered under his breath.

"Hai. How can you be nothing then?"

Heero gingerly, stiffly began to lift himself out of the bed until he was sitting up, leaning back against the headboard. "I'm nothing because I am the war... and the wars are over. My purpose served. I have no family, no loved ones, and was raised for no other purpose than to be a concession to others... to do what I am told, and nothing more." Heero's eyes shifted their gaze away from the beautiful girl sitting before him. "...and now that I've completed my missions, there is no need for a tired soldier. No need for an emotionless warrior who has no one left to serve."

Sliding a bit closer to him on the bed, Rei placed her hand on top of his. "Nonsense." She blurted abruptly. "You have no purpose? What about the purpose of being yourself? What about the purpose of enjoying your life now that you have no need to fight. I felt it in you... your distaste for the battle. You are very saddened by war, but yet you fought anyway, because you were told to..."

"Hai..." deep blue eyes slowly raised to meet her brown ones for a split second before dropping to his lap.

"Now its time for you to live. Let the war die in your mind. Its time for you to answer to YOU!" Rei's voice was insistent.

"meh..." came the unwilling reply as Heero lifted himself slowly from the bed, wincing as he did, pushing sheets aside and making his way to the chair beside the bed where his clothes lay. He dressed as quickly as his battered body would allow.

"Where are you going?" Rei asked, concerned.

"Outside... I don't know..." Heero mumbled quietly. He began to limp his way to the door when she called out to him from her seat at the side of the bed.

"If you want to think, there is a beautiful garden in the back... I like to go there to meditate. There's a Koi pond too. You're welcome to go there Heero..."

Without reacting to the fact that he never actually told her his name, Heero passed quietly through the brightly lit house, out the back screen door and toward the gates of the Japanese garden. Taking a look around, he saw before him the grand gardens which Rei mentioned, but on the other side of the house there was what looked to be a ruin of some sort. A church or temple maybe? A shiver went down his spine as he turned away from the pile of scorched wood, stone and glistening glass shards, noting that this destruction did not look to be very old... like it had only happened in recent years. More destruction to remind him of what he was.

Entering the gardens, Heero settled himself down and sat for many minutes on a marble bench in front of a tranquil pond filled with koi, simply contemplating and trying to remember in his mind and his heart what the purpose for continuing in his poor excuse for a life was. His entire existence had been at the mercy of someone else, and he had been a good soldier, a great warrior, and let them control his very being. He had let them brainwash him and rob him of his emotions and his sense if humanity. He had allowed them to turn him into a machine... a machine made of living, breathing flesh. And he had followed out all of their wishes against his own will, but still he was the "good soldier". He had even kept his promise in the end, to Relena, that he would not die in his efforts to destroy the Libra battleship, nor in the fight against Dekim Barton, that nearly claimed him on its own accord without his help. So, why could he not die like the soldier he was? He scoffed at the girl Rei, this girl who didn't know him in the slightest, and her ideals that she already tried preaching to him. She was just like Relena. She didn't understand. He wanted to just fade away, not caring if anyone ever remembered his name.

Heero was swirling a long twig in the shallow pond, watching the koi when Rei reappeared beside him in the gardens. She was beautiful, admittedly, in a flowing red robe and with her glistening long, dark hair, but that was none of his concern. Her face was determined and she sat silently beside him on the marble bench. For a few minutes the only sounds were those of the birds chirping and the occasional sound of a koi jumping in the clear water causing a little splash. Then turning to Heero, Rei spoke to him.

"My name is Hino Rei. I live here. My grandfather used to live here with me, but now it's just me. I used to be a Shinto priestess, my grandfather was a priest as well..." Rei's voice drifted off. "Do you follow the Shinto way?"

Heero didn't answer for many minutes. "I don't follow any way," he finally replied. "Except the way of the person who instructs me, and now he is gone."

"Who is this person, Heero?" Rei questioned, genuinely curious.

"Its a very long story" Heero answered in his usual monotone, staring out to the fish in the pond. "I wouldn't want to bore you. But to make it brief,... I was raised in a lab, and taught to fight... and only to fight. I don't know who my parents were, only the people who raised me as their weapon. I was never allowed to be emotional or weak. Never allowed to question what I was told to do. Only to put my own feelings and wishes aside, and do what I was told to do." Heero paused for a few seconds and let his eyes drop. "Complete the mission. That was all I was trained to do. And the missions are all complete now."

Rei nodded, understanding `most' of what she was hearing. "What about the people who raised you... where are they now?"

"Dead." Heero answered sharply.

"Friends? You must have friends. People who care about you?" Rei asked, brushing aside a strand of hair from her face.

"No one who can't survive without me being here." Heero's face was deadpan.

Since he wasn't going to volunteer, Rei asked "This place... it's beautiful. I was raised here, by my grandfather. I never knew my parents either. I love it here. And even after what happened, I still feel at peace being here, well...most of the time." Rei's eyes grew moist for a second, expecting a question to follow, but none ever came. Getting up to return to the house Rei turned one last time in Heero's direction.

"Are you going to leave soon then?"

Heero nodded.

"...and kill yourself, I suppose, where there is no one else to stop you?"

There was no answer.

"Well, if you should decide to put your plans on hold for a bit, you are welcome to stay here until you are better, but, I suppose if you are going to kill yourself, you don't need to get better before you leave." With that the witty girl exited the gardens, her flowing robe disappearing in a flash behind her.

For what must have been hours Heero just sat, unmoving, not feeling, not thinking, just `being'. He needed to leave, he wanted to leave, but something was preventing him from doing it. He knew what he had to do, and what he wanted to do. Or did he? Did he really want to end his days as a soldier by going out like a light, and not giving himself the chance to experience life? Did he even care? He was raised not to care... so why was he having this conversation with himself? In the dusk of a quickly falling night, Heero stood stiffly from his perch on the bench and gingerly gimped his way back to the house.

*************

Sliding the screen door closed behind him, Heero followed the scent of cooking food until he found Rei in the small kitchen of the house, just about to set sit and eat her meal. Looking up as he stood in the doorway, she rose and turned to get another plate filled with food from the countertop, a plate that was already prepared for him.

"Sit." Rei instructed, signaling to the two straw mats that were positioned on the floor in the open-air kitchen, around two dinner places. Heero obliged, and cautiously lowered his complaining form to the floor, folding his legs neatly, being careful of his sore ankle, and lowering his head. Handing him his dinner plate, Rei sat facing Heero in front of her own plate "Eat." She bossed. In silence, the two ate the meal she'd prepared- steamed fish, rice and vegetables and green tea. Then in the same silence, Rei waited until they had finished the food and removed the dishes and utensils to the dishwasher.

"I don't know how traditional you are, but I like living this way." Was the only comment Rei made. "But certain luxuries are always nice", she added with a slightly mischievous smile, referring to the modern kitchen and the dishwasher. Heero nodded, and that was about it. Heero went to rise from his seated position on the floor, and noticing his grimace, Rei bent over to help him get to his feet. He looked at her, puzzled, and shifted his gaze away.

By this time it was late evening, and night was in full bloom, its stars twinkling in the clear purple and black sky. Heero had retreated to his bedroom and was standing by the window, staring out at the moonlit night when Rei knocked on the edge of the screen doorway. She had changed her clothing, and wore this time a more western outfit... completely casual at that. A tee-shirt and jeans, her mane restrained in a long braided ponytail, bound at the bottom with a piece of floral fabric. Her petite feet were bare.

"I would suggest a hot bath for your aches and bruises... Follow me." She suggested, not really giving him any choice in the matter. Heero once again obliged her and followed her out of the bedroom, down a short hallway, and to a beautiful tile-laden bath, complete with a small traditional sunken tub, which was already filling with steamy hot water and smelled of fragrant salts.

"Let me help you..." Rei offered, beginning to remove his shirt before even awaiting his response, and he backed away slightly. Rei smirked. "It's not like I haven't seen it all already... I was the one who took care of your wounds when you got here, remember." Blushing slightly, Heero relaxed just enough to give up his shirt. Rei cut the bandages off his chest revealing his techni-color skin across his chest and broken ribs, and then turned away. "Go ahead... finish and get in. I won't look." He did so and lowered himself into the hot water gently.

After she heard him settle in the water, Rei turned and kneeled at the side of the tub behind Heero, and she began to wash his back and the places he couldn't easily reach due to his broken ribs with a bath sponge. Startled, Heero stiffened beneath her touch, and she stopped what she was doing. Without turning to face her, Heero questioned her. "Why are you doing all of this?"

"All of what?" Rei answered his question with a question of her own. There was no response. "Helping you? Is that what you mean? Taking care of you?" She could feel his discomfort in what she was doing, and that made her want to fuss over him even more.

"Hai." Came the whispered reply.

"Why shouldn't I?" Rei answered. "Because you are worthless and don't deserve all of this? Nonsense." She resumed her washing and moved onto his hair, wetting it, dropping a dollop of shampoo on his head, and then digging her fingers in good. As much as he didn't want to admit it... it felt good. No one had ever washed his hair before. He closed his eyes and let out a relaxed sigh, and a faint smile crossed her lips. "You are every bit as deserving as every one else, Heero. You need to get that through your head..." She knocked her knuckles on the top of his head lightly. "... and maybe you'll stop trying to find your end. Maybe you'll start looking for your beginning." Rei continued to scrub at his scalp as he sat in silence, letting her.

When she was finished, she rinsed her hands in the warm bath water and stood beside the sunken tub. "Rinse that please." Rei instructed. "And then just relax in the warm water. It will do you good." She then left him to be alone in the therapy of the steaming water and bath salts, and he would not see her again until morning. Strangely though, he felt very close to her at that moment... something that he could not adequately describe, nor understand. He felt warmed by her closeness, in spite of her bossiness. He felt filled with her spirit. He'd never experienced anything like Rei before, and he went to bed after his bath, his mind full of wonder, his heart defrosting just enough to let her kindness invade it a little bit. Maybe there was hope for him yet.



****************

All of his short life Heero had been plagued with nightmares. Terror- filled dreams that left him gasping for breath and jerking in his sleep as the demons and monsters in his brain kept him prisoner throughout the night, chasing him, hurting him... calling to him in haunting voices. More nights than not he would awake in a near state of panic, in a cold sweat, wondering where he was and if he was indeed still among the living, or if he'd been swallowed up by the hell that consumed his thoughts. His own dreams had become his enemy.

As far as he could remember, the nightmares started as a young child, when he was getting just old enough to actually remember being alive. By then he was already in his `laboratory home', being fed the training and lifestyle that the scientists raising him wanted him to be exposed to. Steadily the terrors got worse as he aged, but there was never anyone to comfort him, or even to tell him that really, it was alright, and that the bad dreams were just that. Bad dreams. Instead he was left to his own accord... to tough it out. To make him stronger. To build his will and tolerance. So for most of his eighteen years, Heero suffered nightly in his subconscious world, begging internally for it to stop, but having learned that it did no good to even utter a word about it. Because no one cared.

Tonight, as he drifted into his dream state though, the usual persecution of his mind never happened. Instead his dreams were... calm. Not really `happy' per se, but calm and soothing. Instead of the normal turmoil that filled his head, he dreamt of warmth and serenity and... of all things... Rei. Somehow this girl that he'd only just met made her way into his psyche, and she filled his dream, creating a feeling of comfort that was as foreign to his dream state as it was to his conscious being. She was there, holding him, protecting him, and whispering in his ear... telling him that everything would be alright, and that he deserved to live a happy life. Her presence was so strong that he could even smell her scent and feel the soft strands of her hair and the warmth of her breath against him. And in his dream, Heero smiled.

****************

Heero awoke from his blissful rest with the same faint smile on his face that he wore in his dream. Carefully sitting up in bed he looked around the sun-drenched room and took notice that Rei had apparently been there while he slept, and there were fresh clothes laid out for him on the chair across the room. A pair of silk pants and a short wrap robe for over, both in matching florals depicting bonsai trees, lilies and orchids. Pulling himself from the warmth of the covers Heero crept over to the chair and slowly dressed himself, then head back to the gardens where he could think some more. Sliding his screen back to leave the room, he nearly tripped over the tray of breakfast that had been left for him. He wasn't very hungry. Heero stepped over the tray and continued on.

Exiting the house, Heero stood out on the open deck that wrapped around the back of the home, and took in his surroundings, breathing deep. It was a beautiful day. He surprised himself by even noticing this. He didn't see Rei anywhere, and thought perhaps she would be meditating in the gardens, like she said she did frequently. Not wanting to intrude on her privacy, Heero limped his way down the short flight of wooden steps that took him from the deck to the estate grounds, and he started to wander, avoiding the garden gates altogether. Memories of his dreams overnight left him very pensive, and he really wasn't in the mood to see or interact with anyone just yet. Yes, he was feeling completely anti-social, no big feat for Heero Yuy.

He slowly walked the grounds around the house, his feet simply following the direction that his nose was pointed and nothing more, until he came to the stone fence that enclosed what was now a pile of rubble. Catching a flash of red movement out of the corner of his eye, Heero saw Rei, her brightly colored robe glistening in the morning sunlight, kneeling inside the stone fence. Her back was to him, and she apparently had no idea that he was only fifty or so feet away. In silence, Heero watched the girl, trying to stay hidden behind some trees and bushes. She looked to be praying... praying to the pile of what used to be... whatever.

As his hard blue eyes fixed on her kneeling form before him, he was overcome with an unexplainable sorrow... a sadness from within, and it felt like it must be coming from Rei. Raising an arm to lay across his heart, Heero closed his eyes and sighed deeply, not understanding how he could be feeling her, doubting himself the whole time, but then remembering his dream. His dream in which he had also felt her presence. She had called him `newtype' when he first awoke yesterday. But that couldn't be possible, could it? Quatre was newtype, an empath... Quatre could feel the pain and misery of others that he came in contact with... but not him. He'd never felt anything before, and after all the fighting he'd done, surely he'd have felt something by now.



But as Rei rose to leave the courtyard of the destroyed shrine, Heero could see the streaks of tears on her face, and once again he was attacked with the pangs of her distress. His heart cried the song of her bleeding heart, and his eyes widened. This was new. But it was real. He was not only feeling emotion, but he was feeling her emotion. Making her way through the sparse foliage of a small wood beside the courtyard, Rei disappeared in the direction of the gardens, leaving Heero alone. He was confused. He was a little bit scared. He didn't understand this thing of "feeling others' pain", but he acknowledged that it was real and it was hers, conveying to him. It spoke to him. Weakly, but it spoke all the same. It told him of a terrible sadness that lived inside this beautiful girl, something that she kept hidden away, but never left her side. Wanting to know more, Heero entered the stone courtyard.

Looking back to make sure that Rei was no where to see him, Heero crept stealthily across the courtyard of the shrine and approached the destroyed building. Circling to the right, he began a slow walk, taking in all the details of the former temple. The few remaining thick beams of wood, the cedar shingles that had once constructed the roof, all burnt and colored a deep sooty black. Most of what used to be standing there was gone, reduced to a pile of carbon and ash that looked as though it had been rained on a hundred times. He could make out where the main entrance used to be, and one wall that remained standing. In the center of the carnage a bunch of the burnt ashes and shingles that constituted merely a pile of rubbish that probably got muddy whenever it rained... that coarse black mud that smells of burnt. All the while as Heero walked the perimeter of this former building he continued to feel the sorrow that had reached his soul... and then he saw something that stopped him in his tracks.

Heero's heart began to pound in his chest and his breath became short. Suddenly he could hear his blood surging through his ears, and his stomach did a backflip. There was no way... It just couldn't be... As his face paled and his head became light, Heero blinked, stepping forward, toward what lay in front of him, half buried in a large pile of the remains of the shrine, and he thought he would surely pass out. He could almost make out, buried in the soot and burnt shingles, the letter `L'... a BIG letter `L' at that... perhaps four feet in height, were it not for the fact that the top of it was not there. Unconsciously holding his breath, Heero knelt beside his discovery, and reached a hand out to brush away the soot covering the surface of this thing and his suspicions were confirmed as he felt metal. Shaking his head he had to sit.

What he was staring at, in all unlikeliness and disbelief, was a chunk of the Libra battleship. A chunk about four feet by six feet, its light gray metal charred and rusted almost beyond recognition, its edges torn and shredded, but burned into the surface of the metal, the ghost of a white, now light brown, letter `L'. Heero sat, unmoving, eyes wide and unseeing, his mind flooding with old memories, and tears began welling into his eyes. Suddenly he was back in the cockpit of Wing Zero, shooting at the Libra battleship, preventing it from crashing to earth and destroying the planet. But THIS, no one had anticipated... that a shard of the hulking ship would actually have made it through the atmosphere and plummeted as a glowing red fireball to wreak destruction on whatever unfortunate part of the earth lay in its path. And the likelihood that he would actually come across this later in his life was so minute it was uncanny, but here it was, right in front of his own two eyes.

Here it lay, that reminder of his recent past, that part of the war that just would not, could not die within him. Here it lay amidst the burnt remains of this holy place, and somehow it brought him back to the war that he was trying so desperately to forget. Left just the way it fell, it seemed to Heero that this reminder from his past was kept untouched for these years since Libra, perhaps as a monument to the holy ground which it disturbed. Imagining the force at which the chunk of metal must have hit the ground, there was no question in his mind what had happened here any longer. The crisp remains told all. Heero sighed. Standing and rubbing his hands together to avoid getting any more soot on his clothing than he already had, Heero backed away from the ruin, but could not break his eyes from it. Then finally, his heart heavy with guilt, his mind still in a semi- state of shock and disbelief, he turned and

limped away.

*****************

Dressed in his own clothes, Heero appeared just inside the gates to the garden, where Rei still sat, feeding the koi in the pond. Feeling his approach from behind her, she turned to face him, and there was a look of pain on her face that she tried to hide with a fake smile.

"Did you eat?" She asked, concerned. There was no answer, only deep blue eyes that shone something different today than they had yesterday. Instead of the cold, unfeeling stare that she'd already grown accustomed to, today these eyes were deep and soulful, emotional and sad. "I left out a clean change of clothes for you... didn't you see them?"

"I have to leave." Heero blurted out, shifting his gaze from hers. It hurt to look into her eyes. He knew now that she had lost something dear to her in that shrine, and he could not face her with the guilt he felt.

"No... but..." Rei's eyes widened and she let her emotion show to him without meaning to. "You can't." Her gaze relaxed somewhat as she spoke. "You aren't well enough yet... you haven't eaten today." Her need to care for him, for someone, was strong, and she wasn't about to let him leave in his condition. All she wanted anymore in life was to have someone to love and care for, and to do the same for her, and to raise a family, and she wasn't about to let that possibility walk out the door if she could help it.

"I can't... stay here." He replied, and his eyes connected with her sad brown ones before they shifted in the direction of the ruin. Catching his gaze, Rei followed it, and nodded.

"The shrine... you saw the shrine..." she said in acknowledgement.

"Hai."

"Heero... sit. Please." Rei patted the stubbly green grass beside her. Grudgingly, stiffly, Heero sat next to her, making sure not to look at her. "I know why you think you have to leave. But you mustn't. Not because of that. You had no way of knowing this would happen. I don't hold any blame on you for this." Rei sighed and looked down at the grass, and plucked a few spindly blades. "I felt this in you when I first found you. And all I can guess is that there must be some higher reason why we were meant to find each other." Heero said nothing, but only stared at his hands, folded neatly and laying across his lap.

"I told you that I was raised by my grandfather, a Shinto priest, here on this land. And I suspect you have wondered why I stay here alone now. The truth of the matter is that he was lost the day that the shrine was destroyed. He, and the one who would, I suppose, eventually be my partner, my husband, had I ever acknowledged his feelings for me, and mine for him." A delicate hand rested on Heero's thigh, and he looked up into liquid brown eyes brimming over. "I was a warrior too, Heero, and I was not here to protect them when it happened. I have put the warrior behind me, but I carry that pain with me now, and I will forever... but it is no fault of yours. Please understand that." Not knowing what to say or do, Rei's sorrow flowing through him like a river, Heero felt the sudden need to be held and comforted. So he leaned forward and wrapped his arms around Rei and held her.

That one hug was the beginning of the rest of Heero Yuy's life.

***************

A number of months passed, and Heero remained at the estate with Rei, their friendship growing, and gradually turning into a deep love. At some point over that time a crew was sent to get the remains of Wing Zero in the foothills, and he stayed out of sight the entire time, preferring it be thought that he were dead or gone, or nowhere to be found. To his relief, the search party was short lived, although he suspected that Quatre would know that he was alive and well. Heero would contact the other pilots on his own if he had the desire to, but until now, he hadn't. He was starting to put the wars behind him, and was becoming a living, breathing, emotional being the way he'd been denied his entire life. And he loved it. He loved being loved, and he loved loving. He loved Rei very much, and in his heart, he knew that it was she who broke him out of his catatonic existence and showed him that he could actually have a real life. In spite of the coincidence of the situation, he knew now that he was meant to find her.

The closer Heero and Rei grew, the stronger his metaphysical bond became with her, and it was advancing to the point that he would feel her within him no matter where she was and what she was feeling. She too grew very close to him spiritually, and she was always by his side in an instant to comfort him whenever he experienced his still occasional night terrors. Stroking his dark hair she would whisper to him in his sleep until his breathing finally calmed at her touch, his body would relax and his eyes would flutter open, the wild thoughts gradually leaving him as he recognized her laying with him. They needed each other, Heero and Rei. This they now understood.

As time passed the two learned all there was to learn about each other. Rei was told of as many details of Heero's past and childhood as he could remember, and they would have long discussions about his time as a gundam pilot, and what all that fighting meant to the universe now. Equally, Rei explained herself to Heero. Her upbringing and her time as a sailor senshi. She revealed to him that she had the powers of not only psychic ability and empathy, but also she was able to perform exorcisms of evil spirits, and had the ability to see into the future at times. Normally a very confident and outgoing person, Rei explained as well how the death of her grandfather had changed her, both spiritually and emotionally, and how she could feel herself slipping away into her own despair. It was Heero's arrival that had picked her back up somewhat, many months ago, but still, she admitted to him, she was nothing like her former self, when she was still a senshi and a priestess.

However, in all his days of improvement and emotional growth, Heero was noticing that Rei's emotional state began to deteriorate. She was spending more and more time kneeling in front of the ruin of the shrine, the same way he'd found her that morning, no matter sun, rain, or snow, and it was worrying him. More often than not her normally fiery and persistent personality was being replaced with that of a beaten animal that has conceded to its own death. The sparkle left her beautiful eyes, and she was taking on the expression of... him. The way he used to be. The soldier that had nearly killed him was now after Rei.

Came the day that the roles had nearly reversed, and Heero was doting on poor Rei the way she had cared for him when he first arrived, Heero sat alone in the meditating garden, pondering about what to do for his love. His arrival had made her happy, he knew, but it was getting to the point that he also knew it pained her to be reminded so much of what he thought he represented to her. He was thinking that as much as it hurt for him to do it, he would need to leave her, and let her mind forget him for a while so that she could heal herself. Making up his mind, Heero stood and went back to the house, his purpose to gather his things and break it to Rei that he was going to leave.

"Heero, NO!" She screamed at him. "You CAN'T leave." Her voice was desperate as tears streamed down her milky-white cheeks.

"Rei... I have to." Heero hid his emotion as only the best soldier could. "You're dying inside, and I'm part of the reason. If it means that you will heal, then I'll sacrifice my own feelings for yours. I need you to live, Rei. I need you to make yourself well again, and I don't know what to do to help you any more. This is what I can do for you right now."

Choking back his own tears Heero left the room, a large duffel filled with his belongings slung over his left shoulder, and head for the door. As he left the house, all he could hear were her muffled cries. Her pain shot through him like a knife, but in his heart he felt he was doing the right thing. After a little while the pain would subside as she cried herself to sleep, but tomorrow would be another day. She would be sad, but hopefully his being gone would allow her to clear her own head and decide what it was that she had to do to come to terms with her own past. If it ever felt right, he wanted to return to her, someday. He had to return to her someday, for without her, he felt like an empty shell. He needed her love and touch and smell to fill him up and help him to be the loving, caring person that he had become.

"Get well, my princess. Please take care of yourself." Heero whispered under his breath as he left the confines of the estate. He wouldn't allow himself to admit just how afraid he was of losing her forever.



****************

Gone only three days, Heero could not get thoughts of Rei out of his head. He had nowhere to go really, so he wandered the closest city, not wanting to pass too far from Rei, even though he thought he'd convinced himself that she needed to be alone for a while. He could feel her tugging at his mind, pleading within her subconscious for him to come home, but for the time being, he held fast and managed to stay away. He knew it would be hard. He was prepared. The hardened soldier that he used to be had come back to keep him away.

It was his fourth day gone from the estate that Heero was having an evening meal at a local eatery when he suddenly became very uneasy, and his appetite disappeared before he even had a chance to dig into his food. Staring straight ahead and through the people at the table in front of him, he was immediately overcome with an urgency like he'd never felt before, and he got up to leave. As the other patrons in restaurant observed his odd behavior, Heero reached in his pocket and pulled out a few bills, which he left on his table. Without touching his food, he grabbed his bag and was gone in a flash.

She was calling for him. No, she was screaming for him, desperately, and he had to get to her, for he'd just experienced the meanest, blackest, most unnerving feeling of his life. His head was throbbing and tears fell from his own eyes as he experienced the anguish within her. He had to get to her and save her, but this time from herself. Maybe he was wrong... maybe he shouldn't have left after all. But her cry of pain and hurt was unmistakable in his heart, and he needed to get there. Try as he might, her darkness was completely overpowering his thoughts to calm herself, and he was becoming more frantic as the moments passed. Heero ran out to the street and jumped in the path of a moving cab, which screeched to a stop in front of him. Getting inside he yelled directions to the driver and in a few seconds they were off.

Twenty minutes later Heero ran up the path to the estate as a drizzle began to fall. It was dusk, and the house was dark. Throwing open the screen on the back deck of the house he exploded indoors, calling out for her the whole way.

"Rei!!" He called out. "Rei, where are you?! His voice was trembling and getting louder. "Damnit! REI! Answer me!" Running from room to room, he saw that she was not in the house, so he head out to the place he knew he'd find her. In the courtyard of the shrine ruin.

The drizzle was becoming more of a rain now, and there was a moderate wind, making everything chilly and miserable. Running out of the house, off the deck and through the sparse wood, Heero burst out into the stone courtyard, his clothing and hair becoming saturated as he ran. He found her, kneeling in the center of the courtyard, wearing her best ceremonial robe and with a blazing fire burning before her. There were icons and other small items placed purposely in front of her. He could see her crying as he approached, and her emotions ripped through him like a serrated blade.

She was speaking out loud, but making no sense to him at all, mumbling something about guilty spirits and demons coming to take her soul, and Heero became so completely freaked that he had to stop himself to think before he could even react. "Oh dear God," He said under his breath, in realization of what she was trying to do. She was trying to summons her former powers to exorcise herself, to rid herself of the guilt that still weighed so heavily upon her that it was tearing her in two.

"Rei!!" Heero screamed out to her. He ran to her side and knelt beside her, wrapping his arms around her wet shivering form. The fire, despite the rain, kept burning. "Rei... snap out of it... it's me! Rei!!" Heero shook her in front of him until finally he elicited a response from her. Empty brown eyes looked into his full blue ones.

"Leave me alone Heero... I know what I'm doing." Her words were confident, albeit strained.

"No! Rei, you can't DO this! You're going to kill yourself!" He yelled at her.

"So be it. If the demons want me that bad, then so be it Heero... because I can't live with this pain in my heart any longer, don't you see love?" Tears streamed down her face as she tried to push him off her, but he would not let go.

"Rei.. no.. Please! I'm begging Rei... please don't do this. I need you. I was nothing before I found you, and you breathed the life back into me. Let me save you the way you saved me." Heero cried with her now, his face red and hot as the rain continued to come down on them. "Rei?!"

"Heero... please..." her purposeful stare was beginning to soften some, but her tears fell faster now. "Please... you don't understand. Nobody understands. I can't keep carrying this pain, this remorse. I should have been here, Heero, and I wasn't. I should be the one dead, not THEM!" Collapsing into uncontrollable sobs, Rei fell to her hands, and Heero immediately wrapped himself around her, trying to comfort her. She was wet to the bone and shivering, and he held her tight as they cried together, kneeling in front of the ever-burning fire, until he stood and picked her up in his arms to carry her back to the house. Looking back over his shoulder, the flame died in a hiss of steam and gray smoke as he carried Rei away.

Getting Rei inside and to her bed, Heero peeled her cold and wet clothing from her shivering form. Grabbing a towel from the bath, he dried her clammy skin and soaked hair, then put her in the bed and covered her up. Then stripping himself he dried off quickly and got in the bed with her, holding her still sobbing, still shivering self as close to him as he could, until she finally succumbed to a fitful slumber. Lying in the warm bed with Rei in his arms, Heero lay his head on her pillow and kissed the top of her wet hair, thinking about how much she'd changed him. That he was able to do any of this was a miracle. She was a miracle worker, and he owed his life to her. He wasn't going to ever let her go again, no matter what happened between them. Pensive, Heero remained awake for a little while longer, until sleep finally took him as well.



*************

Waking to the sounds of birds singing, Rei blinked at the wash of sunlight that spread across the room. She turned her head toward Heero, who still slept quietly, and snuggled closer into the crook of his arm. Feeling her movement, he kissed her head without opening his eyes, and she smiled, closing hers. Breathing a sigh, Rei drifted for a few more minutes into blissful slumber until...

"Mooooooooooooom!" She sighed, hearing the sounds of childish banter escaping from the other end of the house. No rest for the weary, and especially for the parents of a four and five year old. Nudging Heero a bit with her elbow, Rei looked at him and smiled her tired motherly smile.

"Hungry, love?" her response was a smirk and a nibble on the neck.

"For you, always..." Heero chided.

"No, I mean for pancakes and sausage." Rei poked at him, making him jump up in the bed.

"Tell you what..." Heero began. "How about we get the kids fed, and then come back to bed for a while? They can amuse themselves for a bit while old mom and dad get a few more winks, ne?" Smiling, Rei pulled herself out of bed and leaned over to kiss Heero softly on the lips.

"Sounds good to me." Putting on her best worst robe as he dressed as well, they head out together to battle the war of the hungry kids.

~Owari