[Sequel to: "Deadly Secrets" Book 2 of the "Secrets" Arc]
Author: Enigma
Written: September, 2000
Rating: R
Pairings: (1+2) (3+4) (5+S)
Category: Angst, AU, shonen ai
Warnings: Angst, AU, graphic depiction of surgical procedures, shonen ai, sap, OOC
DISCLAIMERS: I don't own any of the Gundam Wing Universe (but I wish I did) or any other anime characters I use here, just the parts of this story and some characters that are new are truly mine [especially the little girl, she's *my* daughter after all!]. Obviously, I also don't own Blue Oyster Cult or the rights to their lyrics. Please don't sue me, it would be like trying to get blood from a rutabaga (bet you thought I'd say 'turnip', right?).
NOTE: Timeframe---after the war has ended and the Gundams were destroyed.

No Time For Secrets
Part 7

"Ah, here he is!" Quatre turned as Heero returned to the office. The air crackled with tension as four former Gundam pilots, a Preventer doctor, and the attending emergency room physician faced the surgeon. "Heero Yuy meet Dr. Limone."

"Mr. Yuy," the doctor began speaking knowing what dreadful information it was his duty to share. "I understand that you are engaged to Mr. Maxwell, is that correct?"

"Absolutely. Why do you ask?" Suspicion and tension thrummed through Heero's body and was reflected in his return to the old cold mask of the Perfect Soldier persona. It was as if he was no longer the man who had entered the emergency room, he had become something, *not* someone, else.

The doctor thought to himself that it seemed strange for a teenager to project such an aura of strength and barely restrained power; power that could be a very dangerous thing considering the news he brought.

Clearing his throat, Dr. Limone continued, "Well, based on all of the information I have on the patient, your engagement makes you the closest thing he has to a blood relative. So, we need to discuss certain aspects of the surgical procedure. This is something I would prefer to discuss with you and Dr. Asakura alone as is customary."

"No," Heero flatly refused. "These are his friends and the closest thing to a family he and I ever had. "Anything you wish to say to me can be said to them as well. These three men all saved his life and he theirs during the war. This is Chang Wufei, Trowa Barton, and Quatre Raberba Winner; Dr. Sally Po of the Preventers has also become part of this 'family' so to speak and she can advise me on any technical issues that may arise."

Sally was surprised at how good it made her feel to those words. Wufei had assured her repeatedly that Heero held no grudge against her for the unusual manner they had first 'met'. Reflecting on it now, the fact that he was a presumed terrorist when he arrived at the military hospital that fateful day, her actions of having him physically restrained had been warranted. Also, she smiled slightly at the memory, it had been Duo who, with as much theatrical flair as possible, had rescued Heero, leaving a badly damaged building in their wake as they jumped from the tall building and made their way to freedom. Yes, perhaps it was fate that brought her into their "family", but she was glad to be there. Unconsciously, she sensed trouble and her hand sought her partner's beneath the table and Wufei took it and held it as though it was second nature.

"Ahem, well, this is very unusual, but from everything I've been told about Mr. Maxwell, his entire life has been unusual. Now, let's be seated and I'll tell you what has been done and how we are treating his condition." Dr. Limone immediately sat as though he was far more exhausted than he appeared. This raised a few eyebrows, but they all sat around the conference room table.

"Thank you," he continued; it seemed so odd that there was a heavy silence hanging over the room as if these boys already knew something was wrong. He shook that thought from his head and proceeded. "The original diagnosis of a defect in the right atrium was indeed correct. This condition is usually treated as soon as it is diagnosed, usually in childhood. However it was apparently the patient's decision over a year ago at the time of diagnosis to refuse the necessary surgical procedure. He was extremely lucky to have lived as long as he had with it, and the rigors of his line of work during the war strained it even further. Upon seeing the extent that defect had progressed, I was quite surprised it hadn't forced him to seek treatment sooner."

"That's Duo for you," Sally interjected. "He's quite dedicated to his friends and knew that they would be in greater danger without him. He would never have left his responsibilities even knowing it could mean his death at any time. These men faced death daily, so it wasn't as large a concern for him compared to that of a civilian."

"Strange. What could he have been thinking would be achieved by pushing himself to his own death to protect his teammates? I'm afraid there is much about a soldier's life that escapes my understanding." Limone was truly baffled by this and hoped to get more of an answer than the standard "it's a soldier's primary duty to remain at his post" line he heard before, usually after a patient was beyond treatment.

Trowa, usually silent, felt a deep sense of pain he did not understand. Yes, they had always risked their lives for each other, why would a medical problem be different than facing a squad of Aries mobile suits? He spoke up, "Doctor, our lives were forfeit the moment we agreed to pilot the Gundams. But our chances of surviving the war would have been greatly decreased by the loss of even one of us. It may seem strange to you, but Duo would undoubtedly have preferred to stay fighting as long as possible before death took him through this fashion the same as if it had been in battle."

Quatre looked up at his lover with a sense of awe at his eloquence. While Trowa spoke so rarely, even with him, such a statement that crystallized what the five pilots had shared once they came together as a team by choice was amazing.

"That's right, doctor," Heero stated flatly. "Now, stop your obvious stalling and tell us what else we need to know." Now awakened, the Perfect Soldier had reasserted itself completely and it easily detected the man's hesitancy and was irritated by it. He wanted facts and options so that the best tactical decisions could be made; it was as though returning Duo to health had become a mission in and of itself, one with specific objectives that required planning and execution. Ninmu ryoukai. Ninmu kanryou. These were the words the Soldier lived by and he would not be deterred.

"Hmm, I wasn't intentionally stalling; understanding the motivations and methods by which you as a group function aids in making decisions at this point. Now, there is never an easy way to say these things and I can sense you want the truth laid bare. I regret to inform you that Mr. Maxwell is dying." The doctor waited for the reactions that were certain to come, but was surprised by what he saw.

Hushed gasps filled the room. Dr. Asakura simply shook his head in sorrow, then looked away, unable to face Heero and the others he had unwittingly come to consider friends.

Quatre's face seemed to cloud with the same pain he had felt earlier, now knowing that his uchuu no kokoro had not been wrong, no matter how much he wished it was. Sally tightened her grip on Wufei's hand stealing a glance at him, but his face was rigid and determined. Trowa reassured Quatre with a touch of his hand, but his eyes as well were filled with solemnity. Most terrifying, was the deadly silence from the one he expected the greatest reaction from, Heero Yuy; his face was frozen in the determined look he held earlier but his eyes had gone cold, deadly cold.

"Just what, precisely, do you mean, Dr. Limone?" he asked, the lethal power coming through in his voice as well. To say the surgeon was not afraid would have been a lie, even if he wished it were true.

"Mr. Yuy, please understand, this is going to take some explaining, but I intend to give you the details of what was discovered and what steps have been taken." Nervously, that doctor forced himself to retain eye contact with those now narrowed and dangerous blue eyes.

"We were repairing the defect in the atrium successfully when an unexpected complication was discovered. Mr. Maxwell's heart has a rare condition, RPAI, which is usually identified and repaired in early childhood. This disorder constitutes a slow but steady failure to regenerate the muscle tissue of the heart, thereby causing holes to form on the outside of the heart reducing its ability to function as well as causing internal bleeding. All of this would have been greatly increased by the rigors of being a Gundam pilot. Generally, if untreated it results in death by the age of five; do you know why his parents left this dangerous situation untreated? Having a better knowledge of his medical care in the past may help us now."

The doctor wisely forestalled any complaints of irrelevancy regarding this issue. Indeed, he needed any information he could get if there was even a remote chance of saving the violet-eyed teen.

"His parents were killed when he was very young. He lived on the streets of L2 and barely survived the plague that wiped out most of the population before the war." Heero sounded like he was reciting a grocery list, not giving the details of the early life of the person who had become the center of his very being. "After the plague, he was taken in by an orphanage for a short time before it was destroyed in a Federation bombing. It was some time after that when he was selected as a pilot and I have no details on his health history during that time. It most likely went untreated for the simple reason that there was never anyone with enough money or an opportunity to do anything about it. Why it was ignored during his training is unknown."

Recalling Dr. G's unpleasant features, Heero strongly doubted the man had ever done anything to delve deeply enough into Duo's physical health to have identified this. If he had, then Duo would most certainly have been sent back to the streets he grew up on and another would have replaced him. Suddenly, Heero was surprised to realize he was glad Dr. G never knew about it or the two of them would never have met. The Soldier, however, pushed this thought away and retrained his focus on the mission objective. "Does this information change the prognosis?"

"Unfortunately, no, it doesn't. It only adds to my surprise that he has survived this long. Based on that type of life-history, any other person would most likely have been dead years ago; I suspect he has some kind of fierce will to live which drove him to have survived this long." Limone rubbed his eyes with a hand then continued. "At the point we realized the distended tissues indicating RPAI was present, we assessed its size and determined we could not reasonably hope to repair the heart as it was. I immediately went to confer with the leading authorities in the field, a group in New Geneva, but they too had no useful suggestions. This left us with a choice of simply putting place some synthetic smooth muscle tissue to reinforce the weakened area and closing the chest cavity in the hopes of finding a solution as soon as possible versus simply allowing him to die then and there painlessly. I refused to even consider the second option."

Heero's eyes were tiny slits of raging blue flame now and those beside him knew better than to utter words of reassurance to him. Battle rage seethed behind those slits, something the people who knew him best recognized and respected as well as feared.

"So," Dr. Asakura broke the silence, "are you trying to say there is no hope of repairing his heart regardless of the use of synthetics and tissue transplants?"

At almost the same moment these words were spoken, a tall raven haired woman entered the room. Carrying a hand-held computer, she elegantly sat down with the group without so much as a word of greeting.

"Yes, Joe, I'm afraid that's exactly what I'm saying. That's why I've asked Ms. Suzuka, our organ donation coordinator, to join us."

Leaping to his feet, Heero slammed a fist onto the table, splitting the wood without even knowing it. "Kisama! How *dare* you even bring up the suggestion of planning on carving him up like a piece of meat when he is still alive and may have a chance to survive no matter how slim?!?"

on to part 8

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