Disclaimers: I do not own Gundam Wing or any of its characters.

Notes: no notes.



Hope From the Past



Part Twenty-One



Quatre fidgeted a little. Now that he was alone with the man, he had no idea what to say to him. "I don't know how to say what
I need to say."

Zechs lowered his head. "Just say it. Whatever it is, I'll deal with it."

Quatre took a deep breath and blurted it all out. "Well ... the Taltheans kept Duo and me as sex toys and used us whenever they
wanted to and they did something to Duo and I so now I'm pregnant with a Human/Talthean hybrid." He panted, blushing with
the embarrassment and shame of his situation.

All in all ... Zechs handled it pretty well. He fainted.

Quatre knelt beside the tall blonde, sighing. "Zechs?" he called softly, shaking the man's shoulder. Maybe he should have been
less blunt. Or he could have softened the blow somehow. Although ... how he could have softened the blow was beyond him.
He was carrying a half-Talthean child. He wasn't too sure how he felt about that himself anymore. "Zechs ... are you all right?"

Zechs groaned and blinked his eyes open. "Oh my ancestors ... please tell me that you didn't say what I think you just said.
Please say that those monsters didn't ..."

Quatre looked down. "Believe me ... I'm not thrilled about it myself, but it's true and I don't know if it can be removed." He
sighed and looked away. "Right now, I'm not even sure I want it removed." Then he shook his head. "I mean ... it's just a baby.
It isn't as if the poor thing asked for this."

Zechs shook his head, a smile playing across his features. He grasped the smaller man's shoulders. "You are a better man than I
could ever hope to be. I have never met anyone so purely ... kind before."

The smaller blonde blushed, his eyes lowering to the floor. "I'm nothing special."

"That is not true." The man's fingers sifted through his hair, gently cupping the side of his head. "You draw hope and love
toward you like a moth to a flame. In your presence, all of my troubles fade into distant memories and all I feel in my heart is
warmth. You are special, for you are loved. You are encompassed in the light of your soul and I cannot begin to understand why
anyone would wish to dampen it."

Quatre's blush deepened, truly touched by the generous words. He smiled sadly. "Every light casts a shadow."

Zechs waved off the comment with a flippant gesture of his hand. "Nonsense. I don't care what you say to the contrary, I still
find you absolutely amazing."

Quatre giggled. He could sense the other man's honesty. The sheer warmth and light of the pure love emanating from him left
Quatre feeling a bit drunk on the sensation. It had been a long time since he'd sensed someone other than Duo so openly, so
clearly. Zechs was like an open book to him. Even Trowa had corners that Quatre couldn't quite reach, but Zechs' mind was
spread out before him.

Under the caressing emotions of love and care he felt toward Quatre there was the guilt over his own actions, the sorrow he felt
for his departed sister. Feelings of inadequacy about his own role as a leader plagued him, mixing among a sense of relief at
handing all of that responsibility over to Treize's capable hands. And beneath it all was a layer of hatred and fury toward the
Taltheans, but it was deeply buried inside that Quatre could barely brush against it with his own psyche. He was an honest man
in all things, though he hid his emotions well. He didn't normally allow his rage and hatred to bubble forth, to control him.
Instead, he sought the most reasonable solution to problems. His rashness had overtaken him most recently in the past when he
had taken Quatre from the rebels.  But there was a genuine regret for those actions so that Quatre didn't feel any sort of anger
toward the man any more. Quatre admired him now.

A flicker of something startled Quatre out of his reverie. His brow knitted together in a momentary furrow as he chased after the
elusive light darting away from his every attempt to catch it. He focused on it, snatching out to reach it whenever his mind got
close enough. Time and again it escaped him, but he continued on. With a sharp intake of breath, he drew back from Zechs,
realizing it for what it was.

He darted his eyes over Zechs' features, seeing an expression of sorrow dawning on his handsome face. "Why did you hide this
from me?"

Zechs closed his eyes, a breath of resignation expelling heavily from his lungs. "I was unsure of how you would react."

"No. You thought I would betray you," Quatre hissed, rising and backing away from the taller man and turning his back on him.
He wrapped his arms around himself, feeling conflicted. For so long he had hoped to meet another, someone like Duo and
himself. Wufei had a touch of something, but it was nowhere near as strong as what this tall blonde was concealing. He had
searched and searched for years before the Taltheans had taken them, for even one person like them but there had never been
anyone. He finally found someone, a member of his own family, and the man hid it from him. "You thought I would turn you
over to Treize."

Hands grasped his shoulders. They were warm, scorching his skin where they held him. "I never meant to hurt you," he
whispered. "It has become normal for those like us to hide. No, it has always been normal. Especially for those of us in our
family. We were raised listening to the stories of how you were sent away. Of how, when your father realized his mistakes it
was too late and the doctors barred his attempts to get you back. And now, those like us have new terrors to keep us hidden
away. Torture. Experimentation. Execution. Those are all things we can expect in the chance they discover us. And it is not only
Taltheans that would do this. There are human factions who would treat us as nothing more than animals, weapons for the
cause. I've seen it happen far too many times. People suspected of being different simply disappear. By the Talthean hands, or
by zealous humans, it's all the same. My own sister ..." His hands slipped away along with his voice.

Quatre turned to look at him, his heart aching at the pain he sensed. He reached out a hand, only to let it fall uselessly to his side
at a simple shake of Zechs' head.

"I don't expect your forgiveness in this either, Quatre." He turned away, his head tipped down. "But I do hope you will
understand my reasons for this secrecy. Times have changed since your era. There are any number of people who are desperate
enough to use our kind to their advantage. But honestly there is simply nothing we can do to aid them. A handful of empaths and
telepaths are still no match against warships or the marauding armies of thousands of Talthean soldiers. Their numbers are too
vast and we are few in number."

Quatre forced back his anger. He wouldn't let it darken this moment for him. It was reasonable that Zechs had hidden. He hadn't
been lying to Quatre in particular, only protecting himself as he had done for the majority of his life. He took a breath, drawing it
in and letting it out slowly. "How many of you - of us - are there?"

Zechs turned to face him again, hope in his eyes. "I can't say for certain. A few handfuls. No more than two hundred. Most
have been expunged by the Talthean forces."

"And in our family?"

"Again, I have no definite answer. But every now and then I get a fleeting sense, a feeling of similarity when I talk to someone or
brush against them in a hall. Rasid is one among them, but I do not know of the gift he possesses. Une is another, but it is buried
so deeply within her that I don't think she even knows it exists. We ... do not talk about it. It is enough to know there are others.
A bond like yours and Duo's, it is a fantasy most of us can never hope to achieve. Doing so would mean trusting another
implicitly. There is too little trust left in this dying world."

"It was an accident..." Quatre whispered, reaching a shaking hand to Zechs' sleeve, needing to hold onto something. "What I
have with Duo was out of necessity. If I hadn't, I would never have been able to survive. I needed a connection and my family
was not near me. Duo was all that I had."

Zechs nodded. "Another reason there are so few of us with any sort of true power left. Our one vulnerability. Solitude is as good
as a death sentence to people like us. Family makes the strongest link and the easiest to maintain. Left without blood kin it's a
struggle to connect to a stranger's mind and anchor yourself in reality without the other party discovering what you are. I found
that out the hard way when I abandoned my people and left my sister to lead the Nomads herself. I almost lost myself to that
terrifying darkness.  If the power within you stays dormant, it is not so troublesome, such as with Une.  But for you and I, and
Duo who have realized our gifts and use them, we are vulnerable and left with a need for physical and emotional connections."

Quatre found himself smiling despite the dark tone of the conversation. To find someone who'd shared similar experiences was
refreshing. "I was lost in the dark for too long. I don't want to go back."

The taller blonde's hand cupped the side of his head. "You never will. Our voices might be muted in your mind, frayed remnants
of your sisters' strength, but we are your family. If you need us, we will help you. We learned long ago to never abandon family
again. We simply could not bear the grief if we were to lose you once more."

A strange flutter settled in Quatre's stomach as he smiled up at Zechs, but he gave the sensation no mind, thinking it was merely
a side effect of the emotions pouring through him. When that flutter turned into a deeply set ache, he frowned. The time to
worry about what it could be wasn't given to him as it rapidly turned into a piercing pain that buckled his knees.

Zechs caught him, gently lowering him to the floor where he curled in on himself. With his hands around his belly and his knees
drawn up close, he wept in fear and pain. "Something's wrong," Quatre gasped, a cold sweat breaking out across his forehead.
"The baby. Something ... it's not right."

He didn't hear as Zechs called for help. He didn't see as a flood of people rushed into the room to help him. Trowa's frightened
pleas never reached his ears, nor did Sally's orders to the medical staff. At some point he was taken off of the floor and set back
in a bed. But he wasn't aware that they'd been forced to strap him down to the surface to keep him from fighting them away
whenever someone tried to touch his stomach. He couldn't even hear Duo's terrified mental voice begging to be acknowledged.

No, all that he knew was the all-consuming pain ripping away at the core of his being. His soul was being shredded, his body
torn apart from the inside out. And through it all, a voice grew in strength, welling up from somewhere deep within.

"I'm sorry," it coaxed, soft and gentle among the torrent of pain surrounding it. "It's nearly over." And then moments, or perhaps
hours later, it spoke again, repeating the same thing in a gentle litany. "I'm sorry." The words drifted away, following the swiftly
fading pain.

When he opened his eyes, the room was dark. The lights were just barely lit. Quatre didn't understand. It had been the middle of
the day, hadn't it? Why would the lights be so dim?

He smacked his dry lips, grimacing at the way they clung together. He was thirsty and his head was aching terribly. He raised a
hand, or rather he tried to, but frowned when something stopped him. A glance down made his eyes widen, his heart skipping as
a frail wisp of air rushed past his cracked lips. He was restrained, his wrists in cuffs and strapped down to the bed. But his eyes
only landed on those padded restraints for a fraction before his gaze drifted to his stomach.

His body began to tremble as he stared, not sure if he was ready to believe this. He moved his hands as far as he could to touch
it, shaking fingers pressing against the sides of his obviously distended stomach. Why the hell was he so big? Sally had said he
was only a few months pregnant. This wasn't possible. He looked like he'd swallowed a basketball. He shook his head, his
fingers clenching in the blankets. If he had to guess, he had to be at least six months along now. But he was only judging by
what he remembered from his childhood, when one of the maids had been expecting.

He fell back to the bed with a whimper, licking at his lips again. He could feel the tears, but held them back. This was no time to
cry. He couldn't be dying. If he were, there would be people here watching over him. Instead it was dark and empty in the
infirmary. He was stable. He wasn't about to explode or anything. He'd just have to get used to this. A bitter laugh erupted from
his throat at the thought. That was near to impossible. How could anyone get used to suddenly waking up with an alien parasite
growing inside of them?

A movement in the shadows made him turn his head. If it could have, his heart would have melted at the sight. Sitting in a chair
and sleeping rather uncomfortably was Trowa. He was slouched down with his feet propped up on another chair, but it still
couldn't be doing his back or neck any good.

"Trowa?" Quatre called out, frowning at the rasp his voice was.

The brunette jumped awake, the sharp movement jarring him enough to send him crashing to the floor. Quatre jerked forward,
but the straps around his wrists and the unfamiliar weight of his enlarged stomach stopped his effort. With a frustrated groan he
dropped back to the bed, his hands clenching uselessly at his sides.

Trowa scrambled to his feet and came to Quatre's bedside. "Quatre? You're awake! Are you okay? Do you need anything? I
should call Sally."

When Quatre smiled, it was halfheartedly at best. Still, he did find Trowa's flustered state endearing. It was sweet really.
"Shouldn't I be the one panicking?"

Trowa reached to the table at the side and picked up a cup. "I'm sure you have a lot of questions."

Quatre caught the straw with his lips and greedily drank all the water he could. When there was nothing left, he replied to
Trowa. "You're damn right I have questions! The last thing I remember I'm thin. I wake up and I'm the size of a hot air balloon.
What's going on? Just how long was I out?"

The young soldier's fingers reached for the call button as his other hand clasped Quatre's hand. "You haven't been unconscious
all that long. Only two days."

"What?!" He unconsciously tightened his grip on Trowa's hand. "That's impossible." He shook his head. This couldn't be
happening. He'd hardly had the time to get used to the fact that he was pregnant in the first place and now this had happened.

"Ah, I see my patient is awake," Sally announced, smiling as she entered the room and came to Quatre's bedside. "How are you
feeling?"

Quatre narrowed his eyes at the woman. "Is that supposed to be a joke? What the hell happened to me?"

She didn't answer immediately, much to Quatre's chagrin. Instead, she checked his pulse and a few other vitals. It wasn't until
she'd pressed her hands to his rounded belly that she opened her mouth. "We don't know. Something caused the fetus to
accelerate its growth. You passed out shortly after it began, but we hadn't been able to wake you since it stopped more than a
day ago." She removed her hands from his stomach. "This is an alien pregnancy. For all we know this could be considered
normal for Taltheans. As of right now, I'd have to say you are roughly six months pregnant."

"Will it speed up like this again?"

Sally shook her head. "I honestly can't say. For now, it seems to have stopped, but it could accelerate again. You could go into
labor at any moment if that does happen."

He jerked his hands in the cuffs, annoyed that he was still confined. "Why am I restrained?"

Trowa's hand smoothed along the side his face, gaining his attention. "You were hurting yourself, clawing at your stomach and
fighting off everyone who tried to help you." Even as he spoke, his fingers worked to deftly unfasten the bindings. "It was a
struggle to get these on you."

"I didn't hurt anyone, did I?"

"There was nothing severe. A few bumps and bruises is all. But you may want to apologize to General Treize anyway. Rumors
are flying all over the base to explain why he showed up to roll call with a black eye yesterday morning. There's even a betting
pool."

Quatre winced. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt anyone. I don't even remember-"

Trowa's fingers brushed his lips, easily silencing the blonde. "Don't worry. I don't think anyone blames you. Now, do you need
anything?"

At that moment, his stomach decided to announce itself, growling loudly. Quatre pressed his hands to it, a blush quickly
spreading across his face. "W-Well, I suppose I am a bit hungry," he replied sheepishly. He rubbed his eyes. "And I'm still tired."

"If you're up to it, I'd be happy to escort you to the cafeteria. Then maybe you'd like to sleep someplace other than the infirmary
for a change?"

Quatre brightened up at that. "That would be wonderful." He glanced to his stomach, the sight of it leaving him uneasy. "But
what if something happens again?"

Sally rejoined the conversation. "That's why you'll be wearing this," she said, pulling a metallic band from the pocket of her lab
coat. It was a slim silver cuff, nothing all that impressive in Quatre's opinion. She secured it around his left wrist with a soft
click, then pressed something on it that caused a faint green light to blink on it. When it turned into a steady green glow, Quatre
looked up at her.

"What is it?"

"Just a standard monitoring device. It'll keep track of your vital signs for me and download the information directly to my
computers here and in my quarters. If something goes wrong or if you do go into labor, it'll set off an alarm system in this." She
raised her hand and shoved up her sleeve, showing off a similar band on her own wrist. "My entire staff is wearing one. No
matter where you are, someone will be there to help you within a matter of seconds."

That did relieve Quatre a little. He still wasn't thrilled about the whole “going into labor" thing, but at least he had a medical staff
keeping an eye on him. He was almost tempted to ask how the baby was supposed to get out, but thought better of it. He didn't
think he really wanted to know that. It might be better for his lunch if he didn't try to think about it much. "Thanks."

He pressed his hands to the bed and struggled to push himself upright. Trowa's arm came around his shoulders to help him and
he smiled. The feel of Trowa's hands was a comfort he didn't think he would ever tire of. When he was finally upright with his
legs dangling over the edge of the bed, Trowa was patient. He got a pair of slippers and eased them onto Quatre's feet for him.
He got a robe and helped Quatre into it, always smiling at the pregnant blonde. It was all Quatre could do not to sigh at the
caressing waves of love and compassion coming from the handsome brunette.

"Ready?"

Quatre nodded, reaching forward to brace his hands on Trowa's shoulders as his hands came around his back to guide him
lightly to his feet. He wobbled a bit when he was standing, unused to the foreign weight and the dreadful ache in his lower back.
Pressing a hand to the ache, he took up Trowa's offered arm and slowly hobbled his way out of the infirmary and down the hall.

How the hell did women do this all the time?



*****



Commander Cexar slammed his four fists down on the console before him, furious at the lack of progress. Not one of his
patrols had turned up any sign of the two human pets. It had long since become an irritation to him. He had hoped to at least get
the small fair-haired one back before First Growth occurred. But his computer readouts were telling him that he was too late.

"Where are the Enforcers?! Bring them here!" he demanded.

He scrolled through the data again, heedless of the low-ranking soldier who scrambled out to follow his order. Time was running
out. His experiment was a success, but it was in the hands of those human beasts. If gestation completed before he could get
the boy back he might as well write it off as a complete failure.

The two creatures known only as Enforcers stepped before his desk and stood at attention. Humans who had betrayed their own
people for the sake of their own survival. They were valuable tools in the downfall of this pitiful planet. Soon enough all of the
resources would be consumed and then the Talthean race would move on to the next world, leaving the survivors to linger and
die, including the Enforcers.

From head to toe the two of them were covered, not a shred of skin or hair showing. The fact that they only had two arms
would have been enough to assure even the lowest ranking Talthean that these were humans though. Even their eyes were
obscured behind dark goggles, their mouths and noses covered by a filtered breathing apparatus.

"You summoned us, sir?" the slightly taller one spoke, its voice an unnatural warble of electronics from the mouthpiece of its
mask. But it was the only way to be understandable. With everything covering them their voices would have been muffled at
best, at worst completely unintelligible. And there was no way that he would tolerate them removing the constricting coverings.
Their appearances were too hideous. At least those test subjects had been attractive in a strangely alien way, and quite a delight
to take pleasure in.

He threw an image screen to the taller, sneering as the object was caught and flicked on with a single easy motion. He knew
what they were looking at, even if he could not see it himself. It was the same thing he had been looking at for days on end. The
hand-sized screen he had given them contained every file that he had on those two humans, including detailed pictures.

"Find them and return them to me."

The taller one switched the device off and slipped it into the folds of its clothing. "Dead?" it asked, cocking its head to one side.

"Alive. The blonde contains an important experiment that must be retrieved. I will not tolerate failure."

They bowed, identical mechanical voices echoing each other. "Yes, Commander Cexar."

And then they were gone and Cexar had only time on his four hands. He sat in annoyed silence, his eyes scanning over every
little bit of data his implants sent him. He wasn't surprised the humans hadn't found the devices. Their technology was
ridiculously ancient.

He steepled his fingers, narrowing his eyes at the images of those two humans. He supposed he had been too kind to them in the
past. But no longer. Soon he would have them back and then they would understand the true meaning of torture.



To Be Continued ...