After several weeks under Smith's care, Duo had become a changed man. Quieter and more reticent, he often spent the days alone
either reading or writing in a computer journal which he erased each night. No one realized, not even Duo himself, that Smith relied too
heavily on medication for treatment, placing Duo under the control of several powerful anti-depressants as well as increased use of other
psychoactive medications and tranquilizers.
He was deemed no longer a threat to himself and allowed to leave the medical wing and move into a guest suite like he had during the
war. This encouraged even more hermit-like behavior patterns as he secluded himself for hours. Trowa would try to draw him into
conversation from time to time, but Duo seemed disinterested. The most overt changes were in wardrobe and how he behaved around
His clothing used to be cutting edge styles when not in his preferred "priest's garb" but his color had always been black; now he wore
loose fitting slacks and rather tedious shirts, occasionally with ties for no apparent reason. The shirts were especially telling, button-down
oxford shirts were never Duo's style and a soft pastel pink, green, yellow, or blue one was all he ever wore now. Quatre once laughingly
asked if he was making a joke of his own rather repetitive business attire and Duo looked at him strangely, wondering aloud why he
would wish to insult his host? Again, the word choice bothered Quatre to the core. "Host" not "friend"? When everything that had
happened to assist Duo was being done out of that brotherly love of friendship in the first place? It rankled him, but he tried to accept
that Duo was still changing and to give it time.
Duo's behavior around people, however, was distinctly disquieting. Trowa had arranged several outings for the two of them, yet Duo
always found an excuse to get out of going. This was bothersome since Duo had always been the first to complain that things were
boring if he didn't get out on a regular basis. Once, Trowa went to a great deal of expense and trouble to get tickets for a sold-out
sporting event that he was certain anyone would love to attend. He'd gotten three tickets hoping that if he and Quatre could get Duo all
to themselves for awhile, perhaps they'd understand better what was wrong with him and could help more. But even though his initial
reaction had been subdued yet positive, closer to the evening out, he cancelled. He claimed he had never been interested in sports his
entire life and saw no reason to develop a taste for them now.
Obviously, this was *not* the same person who once teasingly tried to get the scientists to approve a request for a gundanium
basketball hoop for a hidden compartment on Deathscythe. Duo's reasoning at the time had been that they needed to maintain high
physical fitness levels and why not carry their own little exercise facility with them on their Gundams? He even convinced several of the
scientists this was a legitimately good idea until Dr. G found out and squashed the whole idea. The mushroom-headed scientist never did
have a sense of humor, but Duo always did.
One evening, Duo had been quietly reading a biography of a statesman from ancient history, Abraham Lincoln, when several of the
off-duty household staff members came in. Since Duo had chosen to hide in the staff living quarters that evening to avoid another
confrontation of any kind, he was in no position to complain when they turned on a viewer and played an old video.
They were watching a centuries old comedy by Monty Python which had once been Duo's favorite. He'd watched it so often that Wufei
routinely "misplaced" the disk if they were sharing living quarters at the time. Unfortunately for Wufei, however, he had memorized the
lines and when the disk was "missing" Duo would pop up out of nowhere at the oddest moments spouting bits of dialogue or re-enacting
"What's your favorite color?" "Red, no---Blue! Aaaahhhhhh….." and then fall on the floor laughing at his own antics.
Another dialogue piece he would act out by being first one character than another, changing voices in between of course, was the scene
from Castle Anthrax:
Sir Lancelot: Come! You were in grave peril!
Sir Gallehad: I was not.
Sir Lancelot: Yes you were! Terrible Peril!
Sir Gallehad: Oh, can I have just a little more peril!
Sir Lancelot: No!!
Sir Gallehad: I bet you're gay!
Sir Lancelot: I am *not*...
If this wasn't enough for the disk to "reappear", he would get more extreme and recite things about the "Knights That Say NI!" or
something about some strange deadly rabbit and wouldn't it be great to watch Heero in Wing Zero fighting said vicious rabbit. Sooner
rather than later, the disk would reappear always accompanied with headphones as a less than subtle reminder to watch and listen
quietly and leave the others, especially Wufei, alone.
That night, however, Duo found it "disgusting, puerile, and childish" as he clearly informed the staff members before storming off.
Granted, Trowa would never have known except that, since he was more heavily involved in running the mansion, the staff members had
approached him about it. They were curious why one of Master Quatre's friends, a VIP treatment guest, no less, was even *in* their
living area in the first place. Furthermore, they were curious at the strange lack of sense of humor they'd seen when he had given his
undesired critical opinion of the piece. Most of the staff had been there for years and remembered how much Duo had loved the film
and that's why they chose it. They thought if he felt like coming to their area it was probably because he was bored and needed
something silly to do or watch. They apologized to Trowa for upsetting Duo, but Trowa surprised them when he apologized instead.
Duo was still undergoing medical treatment and behaved oddly at times, he assured them. There was certainly no reason to apologize for
trying to make an old friend feel at home.
After they left, though, Trowa just sighed; one more piece of unexpected behavior without explanation.
This incident had been the last straw. No one sought Duo's company for pleasure any longer.
If he felt sociable, which seemed to occur more frequently since he began treatment, Duo would simply materialize wherever the others
were, whether it was the music room, the library, or even star gazing on the patio. One such night, as Trowa and Quatre, who felt much
better after dark, sat looking at the stars, Duo had surprised them by joining them then recalling another night there long ago.
"Do you remember that night we waited out here for the lunar eclipse?" He asked rather lightheartedly.
The other two looked at each other startled at the sudden show of cheer. "No," Quatre actually didn't know what he was talking about,
a slight memory lapse which Trowa mistook for encouragement of Duo's sudden mood shift. "Tell me about it, Duo."
"Well, let's see." Duo slouched down in his chair, something else he hadn't done for weeks, and got comfortable. "As I remember it, you
two, Wufei and I were here between missions since Sandrock and Deathscythe Hell both got torn up pretty bad in a battle and they
needed extensive repairs. So, we were hanging around out here with not much to do and you guys absolutely refused to play another
game of 'I never---' with me!" He laughed. "So, to get even with you, I made up some cock and bull story about thinking it might be the
night of a full lunar eclipse but I didn't know what time it would happen. So we all stayed out here. Good thing you live where it's hot,
Q-man, or we'd have frozen since I refused to admit that I'd made it up to get even. We all fell asleep out here and in the morning we all
hurt like Hell from sleeping in lawn chairs!" He laughed loud and long and Trowa chuckled a bit as well.
Amazingly, Duo was finally acting more like himself to Trowa's and Quatre's relief. He was laughing, called Quatre by his old nick-name
and seemed happier than he had been in weeks. The three sat outside and reminisced for awhile, then Duo got up to head in and go to
On his way to the door, he stopped and turned around and added, "You two be careful not to fall asleep in these chairs! Remember,
just like dying, it 'hurts like Hell' the next morning!" Laughing he went in and closed the door behind him.
Trowa turned to speak when he suddenly had a lapfull of fiancé instead. "Did you hear that, Trowa?" Quatre beamed even in the
darkness. "Duo laughed! He actually laughed! For the first time is so long I think there may be hope after all!" Trowa, however, never
stated an opinion thinking the change seemed too good to be true. The following morning, however, Duo was still more chipper than he
had been if not quite as bouncy as the night before.
This behavior pattern of moderately subdued yet still more normal reactions seemed to maintain itself for awhile, and even the wary
Trowa became accustomed to the "new Duo".
It had been five weeks since Duo's heart transplant. Easily, the worst five weeks in most of the pilots lives.
Quatre, now inundated with the corporate concerns he'd allowed to languish, had been surly and not terribly kind to anyone. Trowa had
approached Dr. Akheem regarding the growing problem of the extensive use of painkillers, but there wasn't much either man could do
about it. Quatre was in pain, yet would not stop his efforts regarding Heero's freedom or getting the business back to speed to take the
time off he desperately needed.
In the brief moments he allowed his mind to wander, he wondered how Laurel was. The adoption application remained with Ms. Sakura
Kinomoto, but there was nothing more to do there but allow the system to run its course. He had gotten several disturbing calls from the
orphanage about how much her personality had changed since the school bus incident. Of course, the people who ran the facility had no
idea about the intensity of what she had experienced in dreaming of the prison rape, and this was most likely the source of her problems.
Laurel seemed "emotionally disturbed" they had said repeatedly, yet seemed unable to do much about it.
During one call in particular, Quatre's uchuu no kokoro had tightened within him as he tuned in to the girl's particular essence; she was
suffering terribly. Immediately, he had offered to send a doctor or counselor for her, but his offer was denied. There were simply too
many children there who also needed the same services and it would be too difficult. When he had asked to speak with her, the little girl
had refused, but he could hear her crying in the background and they were both miserable. In exasperation at being unable to help
directly, especially since she refused to even speak to him, Quatre finally got them to agree to a donation of a video phone, something
unheard of in the lower-class area they were located in. He would arrange for a full year of service prepaid and have technicians
scheduled to install it within a week to ten days.
Forcing himself to close off the connection he had opened to her, he sadly abandoned hopes of retrieving his missing "daughter", as he
still considered the child. Then he returned to some plant expansion plans he was supposed to have had completely reviewed the day
before, though he had little interest in the project to begin with. His head pounding, he gave up entirely, took some painkillers and went
to his room to be alone.
Duo had also changed radically. There was no longer any indication of suicidal intentions nor any other overt efforts to harm himself and
seemed surprised that he had ever felt that way, despite the evidence on his own chest. He was eating well, had filled back out after
being so gaunt for too long, but had changed fundamentally within. The drugs had taken hold deeply and they had integrated so fully it
would have been impossible to tell where their effects ended, if they did, and where Duo's new personality began.
No longer tending to joke or talk at length over inconsequential matters, he preferred to sit quietly enjoying classical music and reading
literature. Lately, he had focused on the romantic period of the of the old calendar, reading the Brontes and others; yet was also
fascinated by the conflicting theories of philosophy through the ages. He had even engaged Trowa one evening in a discussion on the
merits of Aristotle versus Nietzsche. A pair Trowa had never considered comparing previously and it created an interesting topic.
It wasn't until after Duo had politely excused himself for the night that it actually disturbed the other young man to realize how very much
he had changed. Had they saved the Duo Maxwell they had known or had he been replaced by a doppelganger due to stress and
medication? He dreaded the answer.