Linger
By: Missfortune
Disclaimer: I don't own the series, I mean, if I did you could see how the whole thing would go!
Warnings: A/U, references to not nice things, Angst, and OOC due to the situations.
Notes: Again I apologize for the length of time it took to churn out this chapter. But hopefully the results are satisfactory. I wasn't sure about the characterization...but they are under quite some stress so...let's hope it fits. Anyway, to whoever was whining for more Zero and Hiead, hush, they're back now ok.


"Now Zero, today I will teach you discipline."

Zero shot up as the words echoed through his head. He panted heavily as he looked around for any sign of Azuma. The only person with him was Hiead, who was staring at him with those curious red eyes of his.

"Nightmare?"

Zero nodded and shivered, trying to block out the waves of memory. That had been the first time. He'd fought. He'd fought so hard, but he was no match for a full-grown man. Azuma had used him. After beating him around for disobedience he'd bent him across the desk and taken his innocence. Afterwards he'd escorted Zero to the infirmary and blamed all of the obvious injuries on Hiead. That night he'd barely managed to run his punishment laps, but Azuma's hard gaze boring into his back pushed him on.

"Zero?"

Zero looked up. Hiead was leaning towards him. Come to think of it, Hiead was awfully close. So close they were pressed together. Zero blinked. He was in Hiead's lap. How had that happened?

"Zero!"

"What?" Zero's head snapped up to stare at Hiead.

"I asked if you were all right. You keep spacing out."

"Sorry," he mumbled trying to nonchalantly untangle himself from the other boy, without success.

"We've been here for a while. Dinner is soon. But you weren't really cleared from the infirmary."

Zero blinked. "What do you mean?" What did he mean? How did he get here and in this position?

"You had an EX reaction. Probably to a nightmare. I was sitting here and there you were, right in my lap."

Zero blushed a deep red, turning away from Hiead's gaze. Hiead was his enemy, why was he feeling all fuzzy suddenly? Why was he running to Hiead for help? He was showing him all of his weaknesses. He couldn't do that, it would come back to haunt him, he was sure of it.

"Maybe I should bring you back to the infirmary."

"No!" Zero looked up. "I don't want to go back there!"

Hiead raised an eyebrow and looked down at him. Zero fought back a blush. He felt like a small child under Hiead's gaze. The other boy's red eyes were boring into him and taking notes on what they found. It was unsettling. It was dangerous...so why wasn't he moving? Why was he trusting himself to Hiead?

"We should go back at least to get you released. Then we can go to dinner and your friends will stop hounding me."

Zero blinked. "Why are they hounding you?"

"Because I saved you. I was the only one that they could weasel information out of. Why else?"

Yes, why else? Zero felt lost. He was having strange EX reactions and ending up in, of all places, Hiead's lap and his friends were hounding the red eyed boy to pump him for information....what was the world coming to? He put a hand to his head as he felt a throb behind his eyes.

"Are you all right?"

"No." Zero snapped back. "No, I don't think I am." He shoved himself out of Hiead's lap and turned away, wrapping his arms around himself. He could feel Hiead's eyes boring into the back of his head, but at this point he didn't care. "Leave me alone."

"I don't think that's such a good idea." Hiead stated flatly.

"Who cares what you think? Just leave me alone! I don't need you. I don't need anybody." Zero yelled, not turning. For a moment there was silence, then a low chuckle. Zero turned and glared at Hiead. "You're laughing at me!"

Hiead looked at the boy in front of him, a degrading smile on his lips. "Of course I am. You're acting like a child. You don't need anybody? Since when? You're just going to stop trusting people? Is that it? You were hurt and now you're going to close everybody off?"

"Close everybody off..." Zero echoed softly.

"Yes, close everybody off. You're trying to do it. In your way you're trying."

"I'm not.."

"Yes you are. I already told you Zero. I will save you. Every time." Hiead's eyes drilled into Zero's skull leaving the impression of red eyes seared into his brain.

"I....Why? Why would you do that? You hate me! Why are you saving me? Why won't you leave me alone?!"

"Because, that's not really what you want. What you need."

"How would you know what I need? All you ever do is make my life harder and then you think you know what I need?" Zero lashed out.

Hiead didn't even blink. "I do. The only reason I make your life harder is because I have a goal and between that goal and me there is only you. And I know what you need because I have dealt with it before. There was life before G.O.A. and mine involved saving people like you. From the world, from themselves, from everything."

Zero stared at the red-eyed boy. Of all the candidates in his group, Hiead was always the most mysterious. He was quiet and calculating and the perfect rival. But he never spoke about anything, not really, aside from what was necessary. "But why? Why would you do that?"

Hiead shrugged. "Somebody has to, it might as well be me. Would you really ask one of your friends to do it? To watch you cry and breakdown when the memories come back to haunt you? Do you want them to think less of you? It might as well be me, I can't think much less of you." Hiead smirked, even though he knew he'd just made a mistake in his handling of the other boy.

Zero growled. "You jerk!" For a minute there he had almost been taken in. For just a second he'd thought that Hiead was being honest and offering him something like friendship, to comfort him when he needed. But now he knew. It was just another scheme to get one up on him. "Don't play with me like that! Why would I need you screwing with my head anyway? Aren't I screwed up enough? Huh?! Isn't that what you think? There's poor stupid Zero. He's afraid of space. He lets the instructors beat him and use him. Then when they get tired they launch him into space in a funeral pod. Used! I'm used! Dirty and filthy and dumb! Don't pretend you care! Don't even pretend! Just hate me and leave me alone!" Zero yelled as tears began to roll down his cheeks.

Zero's breathing hitched and suddenly he felt the familiar vertigo of space. It was closing in around him and he couldn't breathe. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't scream. Where Hiead had sat in front of him, now was a smooth metal wall. He was back in the pod! He looked wildly at the tiny view port. G.O.A. and the small round pearl of Zion were moving away from him. They were so small and he reached for them. He reached and tore at the glass as they faded and all around him was stars. They went on forever and there was nobody there to save him. There was nobody there. No! Not again! No! He wheezed, reaching out to the cold stars. "Somebody save me!"

Warm arms wrapped around him and Zero struggled. "No!" He cried. "Please don't. Don't hurt me again. Please!"

"Zero. I don't hate you. I'll save you." A voice whispered in his ear. "Let me save you."

The walls he was enclosed in faded away, leaving the green vibrant colors of the relaxation room. Zero sagged in the arms that held him. He felt himself being shifted and his face was pressed into a strong shoulder. He could smell Hiead. He could feel the other boy's heart beating a strong pulse just under his skin. Was it safe to trust him? Did he have a choice? All he needed was a shoulder and Hiead offered him that. Unable to hold it all back any longer he accepted, pouring his grief out on Hiead's shoulder as he clung to the other boy.

Hiead sighed as he rubbed Zero's back. What had he gotten himself into? What had he promised Zero? He promised him shelter and safety, but he was having trouble lowering his own defenses to help. He had stupidly triggered a panic attack in the boy. Was he really someone that could help Zero? Could he hold back the lingering memories that haunted the boy? All he could say for sure was that he was not a quitter. He would try. He would hold Zero up so that when they finally became top-level candidates, the best of them would win. He had made a promise and he was going to keep it he pledged as he rocked the smaller boy in his arms.


Sorry, at present this is the last chapter. There could be more. If you're interested, please email me. I'm hesitant to devote my time to something nobody wants to read.