Hi everybody.  I know I haven't posted in a while and I haven't even been a very good review bunny the way I used to be.  Most of you know things have been sort of rough for me for the past few months.  Since November actually.  But I am getting back into things slowly.  Including writing.

However, being especially fond of 1x4, I have had this fic in the works for over a year now, but had not the time or the proper motivation to start it.  It is huge people… for me anyway.  I have no idea how long it could turn out to be.  It's very sci-fi and action packed (I hope) and will eventually have Heero and Quatre together as well as other pairings.  As if you couldn't guess that.

I'm calling it the "Strength of Heart" ARC, sort of playing off the theme of my very first 1x4 fic "Symbiosis".  The theme of the chapter names in volume one come from a wonderful play called "The Fantasticks."  This was the longest running off Broadway musical in New York.  It finally ended its original run a year or two ago at 43 years I believe.  If you ever have the chance to see it, it's quite charming. 

I hope you like the fic.  It's good to be writing again.

No real warnings for this one besides some language.  Thanks to Kasra who is my official beta for this Arc.  And thanks to all the friends who gave me support when I was down.  You've no idea what it means to me.

STRENGTH OF HEART

Volume 1- "This Plum is too Ripe"

Prologue

After Colony year 197. The people have regained their peace. In the history that followed, weapons called Mobile Suits...including Gundams, never appeared again.

Ending of Gundam Wing – Endless Waltz

Their moon was cardboard, fragile, it was very apt to fray. And what was last night's scenic, may seem cynic by today. The play's not done--oh no--not quite, for life never ends in the moonlight night. And despite what pretty poets say, the night is only half the day. So we would like to truly finish what was foolishly begun, for the story is not ended and the play is never done until we've all of us been burned a bit and burnished by the sun.

The Fantastics – Intro to the second act.

~~~~~~

AC -199

On a little dirt road in Hurricane Utah, the mosquito-like drone of a dirt bike could be heard echoing through the night air.  It remained unheard by all but a few drunken teenagers and the night wildlife of the dimly colored desert.

Tires spun in the dirt as the bike climbed the tiny path.  The rider expertly maneuvered the machine adeptly around fallen trees and washouts as he rode further into the hills.  He finally came to a stop where the hills flattened out and the stars could once again be seen.  With the engine quieted, the sound of crickets could once again be heard as well as the night rustling of the wind and an occasional coyote call.  The rider's keen ears picked up even the sounds of the prowling night life.  A few bats flitted almost silently past his face.  In any other situation, his reflexes would have been so fast, he would have been able to catch one of the elusive little rodents. 

Tonight however, was different.   The difference was made by about three quarters of a bottle of vodka.  The remaining liquid was waiting in his hand for a happy journey down his inebriated gullet.  He got off the bike relatively steadily for his condition, but fell gracelessly onto his posterior, once he no longer had the heavy metal mass to hold him up.  He sat perplexed for a minute.  He hadn't felt drunk as he drove up the hill.  He supposed that the memory of having gone up and down that hill so many times made the alcohol moot.  Of course, now that he looked, there were quite a few scratches on his arms as well as some new dents in the bike that seemed to tower above him.  Great.  Mission accomplished.  He nearly choked on his soft laughter.  He set out to get blind drunk and hell if he wasn't nearly there.  To celebrate, he took another drink.

Now why was he drunk?  There must have been a terribly important reason for it since he almost never drank.  Oh yes.  He remembered.  He remembered almost everything.  He remembered the eloquent speech she had delivered to the delegates as she declared her resignation, opting to finish college before returning to the front line.  He remembered the relaxed happy smile on her face as she left the Trade Center.   He remembered the new shoulder length haircut she sported 30 minutes later.  It made her look older somehow, more mature.  He remembered the hat she bought a bit later to add to the new look.

Oh, and he remember the look of serene contentment as she found shelter and love in the arms of another man.

Not that she'd ever been his to begin with.

He also remembered the reason he had come up here.  It definitely wasn't to look at the stars.

Idiot.  It wasn't like him to forget his mission like that.  Then again, he didn't often carry out missions with a quart of hard liquor running through his veins.  He reached up and tried to pull himself up, but the bike ended up falling on him instead.  Damn it.  He wiggled out from under it, ignoring the burn on his leg where the still-hot engine had bitten him.  He stood up shakily and picked the little bike up.   Feeling like he was doing all of this underwater, he swung his leg up over the seat.That took a few tries before the foot had gotten high enough to clear the seat.   He leaned unsteadily forward as his foot found its hold and he started the engine.

He looked unhappily around for his precious bottle, but when he found it still on the ground a few feet away, he decided against getting it.  He was pretty close to passing out now and if that happened, his mission would surely fail.

He revved the engine a few times to get himself ready before tearing out, the dirt flying from underneath his tires before he released the clutch and flew off.  Heading for the sky ahead, there were just a couple of seconds for final thoughts before the rider found himself in midair, with no ground to speak of underneath him.  As the ravine got closer, he closed his weary eyes.

Mission Complete.

~~~~

"Master Quatre."

A soft sigh escaped his slightly dry lips and his eyelids slowly rose as he came out of his deep state of meditation.  He now realized that his name had been uttered more than once before it had reached him.  He took a few seconds to resituate himself in the real world.  The sun was almost gone now, leaving on the desert sand only a carpet of orange and red in its wake.   Finally, he swiveled his head to answer the call.

"Rashid." He smiled. "What is it?"

The large Arabian's staid look softened as Quatre's smile melted it, and he smiled back at the smaller younger man.

"A call for you, Master Quatre.  It is on a Preventor channel."

Quatre sobered and stood, brushing the coarse sand off of his pants.  Though he had felt no urgency or alarm from Rashid, the Preventors rarely contacted him unless there was a serious need.

"Is it Wufei?"

Rashid nodded, prompting the same gesture from the blond.

"We had better hurry then."  He started forward, then cried out, clutching his chest and falling forward at the same time.  Rashid caught him, having seen the glassy look cover his master's bright green eyes right before the attack.  Though this did not happen often, the large man was accustomed to these spells.  He was only glad that he could be there for the boy, to keep him safe when he had these seizures.

Quatre took a few sharp breaths and his eyes seemed to clear.  He realized he was resting in the hardened arms of his companion and dear friend.  Rashid was looking at him with his usual fatherly concern.  The blond responsibly took a few deep breaths and stood up shakily, trying to look past the blinding pain he had just felt.

"I'm okay."  He took another shaking breath and looked into his concerned friend's eyes.  "I'm okay," he asserted firmly. "We need to talk to Wufei." 

"Let me help you Master."

Quatre nodded and leaned gratefully on his friend as they made their way back to the compound.  The blond stared at his feet, making sure they would move one in front of the other without tripping over any obstacles as his mind and heart raced.

Heero… What's wrong?