Hiead woke up feeling warm. Warmer than he'd been in a long time. His left arm was numb and he shifted, but swiftly froze at the weight in his arms. It struck him that he was in bed with somebody. Slowly, he opened his eyes. The wild brown hair brought the memories flooding back to him of Zero, Azuma, and all that had happened since Zero's first nightmare. The other boy was curled up in his arms with his head resting on Hiead's chest, warm breath ghosting across his neck. Each breath was sending small shivers through Hiead's body and he knew that he had to get out of that bed.
Slowly, he slid his arms back from where they were wrapped firmly around Zero's waist. He bit his lip as his fingers skimmed the soft skin exposed where the pajama shirt had risen. Next, he carefully moved Zero's hands from where they tightly clutched his shoulders. He pried the nearly white knuckles off the fabric of his shirt, rubbing them soothingly so that Zero wouldn't startle and wake up. Then he inched back from Zero, letting the boy roll into the warm indention that he left behind. He watched as Zero snuggled into the warmth, barely stirring, before he rolled off the bed.
Zero sighed, as if sensing his loss. Hiead frowned at how small the boy looked, even in the cramped sterile bed. Without thinking, Hiead reached out and pulled the blankets up around Zero's shoulders. As he tucked the blankets in, he wondered why he'd even bothered to do so. He'd already saved the boy. His obligations to help were over now that Azuma was put safely away where he could no longer hurt anybody.
From there on Zero had a lot of healing that he needed to do, but that was easily accomplished without his help. In fact, Hiead was sure that he would only slow down that process, given that he and Zero were not the best of friends, if they could even be called friends. No, they were still rivals and as soon as Zero was back up to par, Hiead would enjoy taking the wind out of his sails and defeating him once and for all. Nodding decisively, he turned and left the medical bay.
His stomach grumbled at him, reminding that his last meal had been many hours ago. He decided that there was still had time to make it to the cafeteria for the morning meal and so swiftly headed in that direction. The halls were quiet as he trudged down them, fighting off the odd feeling that he'd left something behind. He walked towards the cafeteria listening to the light buzz of conversation. As he walked through the doors, he seemed to hit one of those lulls when all conversation stopped and suddenly found himself the center of attention.
Firmly ignoring the eyes fixed upon him, he collected a few food items before sitting down at a table. He glared at the people that looked like they were going to approach him. After all, the rumor mill had been turning and he was sure that everybody on G.O.A. knew what had taken place the night before. Unfortunately, his glare did not deter Clay and the rest of his classmates. They marched up to him and waited patiently for him to say something. He didn't.
Clay adjusted his glasses. "Well?"
"Well what?" Hiead growled as he viciously bit into a muffin.
"How is Zero?"
"He'll live." Hiead shrugged.
"Baka!" Kizna whacked him on the back of the head, causing him to choke on his muffin. His red eyes widened as he coughed to clear his airway.
"Kizna!" Ikhny exclaimed. She started patting her pilot candidate on the back until his coughing subsided.
"He's being uncooperative." Kizna grumbled.
"But if you kill him, he can't answer our questions." Roose pointed out quietly.
Hiead growled at them. Ignoring the low growl, Clay sat down beside him at the bench. "We know that you stayed with him. The adults aren't talking, we would like to know how Zero is doing."
Hiead grumbled silently. He could ignore Kizna's whining and abuse, but he felt that he owed the calm boy an answer. He looked directly at Clay, ignoring the others as he answered in a low, almost secretive tone. "He was in shock when I rescued him. Azuma had put him in a funeral pod and launched him into space."
"That's terrible!" Roose exclaimed.
Hiead glared at him and Yamagi quickly shushed the boy. Snorting, Hiead continued. "I managed to pull him back and he passed out afterwards from the trauma. His only physical wounds are some bruising and the damage he did to his hands trying to escape from the pod."
"But it's not the physical damage we have to worry about," Clay sighed.
"Let me out!"
The scream echoed through the medical bay. Quickly, the nurse on duty, rushed in to check on their only current patient, Candidate 88. She stepped forward and touched Zero on the arm as he struggled wildly with the blanket.
"No!" he cried, his voice raw and frightened. "Don't touch me!"
The nurse stepped back, afraid that the boy would hurt himself more in his struggles. She quickly retreated to call the doctor. In a matter of moments Rill strode into the medical bay.
"What's the problem here Yukine?"
"It's the patient, he's having a nightmare and he won't let me near him."
Rill nodded and approached the curtained off section where Zero's bed was. As she grabbed the curtain, G.O.A. shook. Red lights lit the room as alarms went off. "Shit, he's having an EX reaction!" Rill yelled. "Get a tranquilizer!"
"Yes ma'am!" Yukine scurried off to do as she was told.
Rill tore the curtain back and looked to where Zero was half crouched on the bed, his hair glowing as his blank eyes stared at her in terror.
"Zero! Zero it's me, Dr. Rill. Please calm down and wake up Zero." Rill approached the candidate cautiously.
"No! Get away from me!" Zero cried, shifting back from her.
"Zero, you need to wake up. You're putting everybody in danger." Rill kept inching forward.
"Stay away!" There was a flash of light and Zero's scream echoed through the room long after he disappeared.
Hiead had finally managed to escape from his pursuers. Rather than ducking into an observation room as he usually did, he slipped into the Relaxation Room. He was sitting, staring up at the artificial blue of the "sky" overhead. A cool breeze rustled through the leaves of the trees and he relaxed for a moment. The next minute he was completely alert, all his muscled tense as his eyes darted around the room. The alarms were going off all over G.O.A. His mind was screaming panic and danger. Before he had time to react, he found himself with a lapful of hysterical Zero. Zero's hair was glowing with EX. His eyes were wild and unseeing, but amazingly enough, as soon as he settled into Hiead's chest, he seemed to calm down.
"Zero?" Hiead pushed the boy back slightly to look at his face.
Zero blinked, as if waking up from a deep sleep. "Hiead?" His voice was quiet, almost as quiet as the false breezes that were ruffling his now brown hair.
"What's wrong Zero?"
"I had a nightmare," Zero looked down and began to fiddle with the edge of Hiead's shirt.
Knowing it was important to not push the boy away, Hiead let him continue tugging at his shirt. He nodded, encouraging the boy to keep talking. "I dreamed...I dreamed that he got out, and this time you weren't there to save me. Nobody saved me and I went on forever. Nobody saved me. Nobody." Zero's voice broke and Hiead watched large tears slip down Zero's face as he began to tremble.
Hiead was fully aware of how delicate the situation was. If he reacted wrong, he could set Zero's EX raging again, or worse yet, he could shatter the boy completely. Using the same caution he'd use while handling delicate glass, Hiead slowly reached out to Zero. When Zero didn't lash out at the gentle hands that Hiead slid around his waist, Hiead pulled the slighter boy into a firm hug. "I will save you Zero."
Zero's arms wrapped tightly around Hiead, as if afraid the other boy would somehow fade away. He looked up, teary blue eyes meeting serious red. "Do you mean it?"
Hiead stared into Zero's frightened lost eyes. Something was gone from them. Without it, Zero would never be whole. It was true that he and Zero were rivals, competing for the same prize, to be a Goddess Pilot, but what good was defeating a hollow broken shell? He wanted victory to have meaning, so he would help Zero find the spark that resided in his eyes.
He would save Zero. He'd save him from the shadow of Azuma. He'd save him from the nightmares. He'd even save him from himself. But in saving Zero, he'd also leave him vulnerable, he would be completely vulnerable to Hiead. And in leaving Zero so open, he was afraid, that maybe he'd open a little of himself as well. Hiead realized the gravity of the situation, but as he sank into Zero's eyes, he let his caution slip. "Yes Zero. I mean it. I will save you every time."
Next --> Remembrance