Heero had a most unwelcome task, while he would have enjoyed a gentle conversation with his confused lover, he knew it would not go
that way. Almost unwillingly, he forced himself to stop and eat something before going to see Duo. He hadn't eaten recently and had
been up all night, things that never bothered him during the war, but he now found his body had acclimated almost too well to the idea of
three meals a day. Once that necessary task was complete, he also realized a fresh change of clothes might help since Duo now
remarked frequently on every detail of his appearance. Grumbling at the delay, he quickly showered and changed into an outfit Duo had
once said looked "charming" previously. With the news he had to give, he'd take any extra charm he could get.
Finally, convinced he could get through this, Heero walked to Duo's room in the medical wing, only to find it empty. "Where *is* he?"
Heero wondered aloud.
"Looking for Master Duo, sir?" asked one of the staff people who had come in to change linens and freshen the flowers.
Spinning reflexively into a fighting stance, Heero frightened the brunette woman into dropping the flowers she was carrying, ruining them.
She stared, afraid of the rage in Heero's eyes which rapidly vanished. //She is not my enemy.// This unexpected thought, a ghost from his
past, floated through the pilot's mind.
"I'm sorry, miss," he said bending down to recover the flowers . "I certainly didn't mean to frighten you. I guess I'm just a little on edge."
"Oh, my, Master Heero, that's understandable. Things have been rather tense around here, sad to say. Please, think nothing of it." She
smiled warmly holding out a trashcan for the flowers. Before tossing them in, Heero spotted an undamaged rosebud and slipped it free.
"Thank you for your kind understanding, then. Yes, I am looking for Duo. Do you know where he is at the moment?" Heero smiled
Now fully recovered from her fright, the woman smiled warmly noting the delicate flower kept aside for a certain chestnut-haired man
she herself had grown quite fond of, Duo reminded her of her little brother who had died in the war. This fact, however, she never
shared with anyone, she simply did as much as she could to take care of him whenever possible. "He's out on the patio, sir. It's a lovely
day to sit outside, don't you think?"
Heero caught her well-intentioned prodding to hurry up and go find his lover and couldn't help smiling again. "But of course. Thank you
for your help."
After he was gone, she smiled to herself. "I hope those two patch things up soon."
"So do I." Answered a voice behind her making her jump all over again.
"Master Trowa! You startled me!" The young woman glared at her employer accusingly.
Trowa smiled at this, she reminded him so much of Catherine at times. "Sorry, Anne, didn't mean to frighten you. Just came by to check
on Duo and it seems you have matters well in hand here, now don't you?" He winked, something he rarely did with any other staff
members, but the resemblance to his sister was almost unmistakable to him. As he headed back out of the room, he decided to send
Catherine a message and find out where the circus was these days. After all, he couldn't very well send her some flowers if he didn't
know where she was, now could he?
Meanwhile, on the patio, a less comfortable conversation was about to be held.
Heero straightened his dark blue silk shirt one last time as he observed Duo's new wardrobe. The luxurious chestnut braid was the only
feature immediately recognizable to Heero. The violet-eyed image of a laughing God of Death sprang to mind as he compared what he
saw now to what he had known for years. The black was completely gone, even the shoes appeared to be some brownish leather
sandals of sorts worn over off-white socks, no less. From there, Heero's gaze moved up loose-fitting khaki slacks which did nothing to
enhance their wearer's figure, something most disappointing to this particular viewer. Beyond them was the most bizarre change of all, a
pale green button-down oxford-style shirt. Luckily there was no tie present, but by the wrinkles, it appeared one had been worn with it
recently. He noticed even the sunglasses were conservative, cheap ones, nothing as stylish as Shinigami would have worn. Actually, as
he considered it, the Shinigami he knew would sooner eat his own cooking, a great sacrifice at the time, than dress like a prep school
Clearing his voice, Heero acted as if he had just stepped outside. "Hello, Duo, do you mind if we talk a bit, koi?" Heero was nervous as
he offered the rosebud to his one true love only to see it taken without regard, then laid negligently near the edge of the table.
Nervousness in Heero Yuy was something the old Duo Maxwell would never have failed to note previously, but this "new Duo" didn't
notice at all, neither did he care.
"Actually, Heero, there's something I need to talk to you about." Duo was abrupt, no longer the avid conversationalist he once was.
"Really?" Heero was afraid, but asked anyway. "What would you like to talk about?"
"Well, Heero, this is rather confusing for me, but I'm not sure how I really feel about being engaged. I mean, it's not like you haven't
done a lot of things for me, and I am grateful, but I feel uncomfortable when you call me 'koibito' or 'lover' or even 'fiancÚ', even though I
know we were engaged before my heart transplant." Heero felt his own heart begin to break into pieces hearing this. But Duo went on.
"As it is, I'm sure you're a great guy and all, I mean, that's what everybody keeps saying, but I have this nagging feeling that there's
something not right about the two of us being together."
Heero, trying not to lose the control he desperately needed, tried to answer this. "Well, Duo, I think I know why you feel the way that
you do and it is *not* because that's how you really feel."
"What?" Duo was incensed. "How dare *you* tell *me* how I feel or don't feel? What kind of idiocy is that? What makes you believe
that you understand my mind better than I do?"
Obviously, Heero had made a drastic strategic error. "Now, wait, Duo, please don't get angry, let me explain some things you don't
know about." Expecting a retort, Heero waited, but none came, only blazing violet-eyes filled with what might possibly border on hatred
stared back at him. "You see, Duo, I am very worried about you. Since I returned it has been painfully obvious to myself as well as our
friends that you aren't acting like yourself these days. Not just how you act, but how you dress, even how you think about me. Well, I
got an expert to come and help me try to figure out what's wrong, and we found it."
Duo looked annoyed. "Well? Are you planning to tell me what is 'wrong' with me or am I supposed to guess?" He asked sarcastically.
Heero felt his own control slipping away. //How can I tell him that a man who programmed him to not believe a word of what I'm about
to say has poisoned both his body and his mind? How can I convince this surly, arrogant man that he *isn't* really like this and that he is
actually someone else that we all hold dear and want back?//
Finally, Heero just tried to get it out. "Okay, koi," the hatred in the face across from his intensified. "Sorry, I meant to say 'Duo', I'll tell
you what we found, but let me ask you a couple questions first, okay?"
Wary, Duo nodded his assent, but looked highly suspicious.
"First, do you remember how we met?" Heero wanted to see if his memories had been corrupted as well.
"Of course I do," Duo snorted. "I tried to 'convince' you to back-off when you were threatening Relena. Why I didn't just put a bullet
between your eyes the way I was trained to do is beyond me, but I do recall shooting you that day---twice!"
The facts were there, but the world-view was distorted. Heero nodded, "Well, that's true. You shot me in the leg and the arm, you were
a damned good sharpshooter, so I assume those were your intended targets." Heero watched for a response and saw a small smug
smirk on his fiancÚ's lips, it was devastating, but he continued. "All right, can you tell me why we fell in love in the first place?"
"Easy, and it wasn't 'we', there, bub, it was 'you'." The arrogant smirk had gotten larger. "Basically, as I recall, you really enjoyed
pounding your disgusting Japanese cock up my ass every chance you got."
Snorting, he twisted the emotional knife now piercing Heero's very soul. "Yeah, that's basically what it amounted to, 'lover', you got to
make me into a nice little submissive 'uke', as you called me, and it made you feel all *manly*! Shit! That's not 'love', Heero, that's 'lust',
and you only wanted an engagement to make sure I stayed in my proper place, under your sweaty, smelly body anytime you felt like
ripping into me." Heero wished he could die rather than hear these words.
Surprisingly, the smirk suddenly fell away and Duo's eyes shifted unevenly as if trying to focus on something and failing to grab hold.
"No, Heero, that's not right!" The voice was pleading, almost warm in spite of the desperate quality it carried. "Why did I just *say*
that? I can't mean that, can I? Oh, God, what is happening to me?!? I *do* remember falling in love and it wasn't about lust, it was
something more, something much more." His eyes frantically searched Heero's giving the first hope Heero had felt since sitting down.
Duo was clearly mentally tormented by the conflicting thoughts, the brainwashing of the hypnotism and the effects of too many of the
wrong drugs for so long, however, were making things very hard for him.
"Help me, Heero!" He pleaded, his voice sounding like he had all the time Heero had known him before. "I don't understand. What's
going on here? I *do* remember loving you, but I don't feel it now, but I think I *want* to feel it!" The voice raised in panic, amplifying
the turmoil inside both of them. "I'm so confused, which is it, Heero? Do I hate you or do I love you?!?" Duo's head fell forward into his
hands as tears forced their way out between long lashes.
"Duo," Heero spoke very gently, not wanting to push Duo out of his open state of mind and back into the programmed state. "There's
someone who can explain this better than I can. But, first, I need to tell you something." Taking a deep breath, Heero cautiously held out
his hands to Duo who equally cautiously took them in his own. Happy with that one breakthrough, Heero proceeded. "Duo, listen to me
carefully, I know you are confused and that's actually good, but believe this one thing if nothing else. Duo, I love you. I love you with
every fiber of my being and that has not changed. Things may get rough, but I will *always* love you, understand?"
Confused even more, shimmering frightened violet eyes searched for understanding from warm cobalt-blue eyes filled with love. "But,
I'm not sure if I love you back. Doesn't that matter, Heero?"
In an act of the purest unconditional love, Heero smiled and answered, "No, Duo, it doesn't really matter. *I* shall love *you* even if
you feel you no longer love me, and I will never force my attentions on you if you don't want them. But if you decide, after everything
else is dealt with, that you truly no longer love me at all, I will step aside and hope that you will some day find the person *you* truly
love. Either way, I will do my best to support you in whatever way I can while you work on deciding." Duo's stunned look and silence
frightened Heero that he'd gone too far. "Duo? Are you all right, Duo?"
In the last moment of openness, Duo lifted their intertwined hands to his lips and kissed them. "No, Heero, I am as far from 'all right' as I
have been for quite awhile. Now I'm scared shitless of whatever this stuff to deal with is, but right now, I know part of me is screaming
to grab you and make love to you while another part is screaming not to let you even speak another word. I'm scared, Heero, I'm
terrified!" He took an unsteady breath. "But who is the expert you have that has figured out what's wrong with me. After all, I already
have Dr. Smith and he has done wonders for me."
Heero's head drooped. That one feather light kiss from Duo had been worth all of the pain that had occurred up to this point and he
didn't want to break the spell. He pressed a call button on a pager set to Trowa's frequency knowing he would bring Gene as well as
Smith and Rasid within moments as planned. "Duo, before they get here, tell me, what do you feel right now?"
"Confused." Duo was honest and before the last vestiges of the old Duo fell away he added one last spark of hope to the dwindling fires
Heero'd kept burning, waiting to be reunited with the love that had seen him through Hell and back. "Heero, I really think I did, and
maybe I still do but I'm not sure, well, I *did* love you. What I said before makes little sense, why would I have *loved* you if it was
only your own sexual gratification involved? There must have been more, but I just can't grasp it. I'm just too confused." This last
apology was the last time Duo was himself for a very long time.