Before Heero could say anything else, Trowa stepped onto the patio and Duo smiled until he saw who was with him, a rather nervous
"What the Hell is *he* doing here, Yuy, you damned traitor?!? Don't you know I never want to see that bastard again as long as I live?
He's the one responsible for this!!!" Angrily, Duo had sprung to his feet and with forgotten strength, tore the button-down shirt open,
sending buttons flying everywhere. Fully exposed before Heero's eyes for the first time, Duo's chest looked like some frightening image
of a living human-skin road map. There were so many scars, some of which were still swollen and a darker pink from the suicide
attempt, covering his previously smooth chest and abdomen. He had, thankfully, gained some weight and the ribs were no longer as
prominent, but he had not returned to full health and it showed. Heero visibly grimaced at the horrible image before him, the defilement
of what was once so beautiful struck him like a physical blow.
The criss-crossing lines of scar tissue reflected the Hell he had experienced. Oldest were those from open-heart surgery which had
barely healed before the addition of a second set when a new heart was transplanted to replace one that had no chance of recovery.
Most recent were the gruesome reminders of his insane attempt to remove that same organ with his bare hands.
Gene cringed. He knew the history and had seen far worse, but no one told him Duo actually *blamed* him for all that had happened;
irrational though the blame was, it still hurt the young doctor.
"Yeah, *you*, asshole!!!" Duo screamed at Gene. "You're responsible for this crappy deal of a life I'm stuck with now! Are you proud
of yourself, 'Wunderkind' surgeon?"
He turned on Trowa unexpectedly, "And you, Trowa! I thought you were my friend, yet you let Yuy come here and try to convince me
I'm actually his good little slut and that I should come home and behave? Now, you bring this monster here, too?!? Hell, with friends like
you, who needs enemies?!?"
Furious, Duo got up to leave and Trowa back-handed him sharply across the mouth.
"I have heard enough!!!" Trowa seethed, his mind flashing to Quatre collapsed from a drug overdose because of worry over Duo as
well as the hard night of searching that had gone into finding the answers to what had really happened. "Duo Maxwell, as long as there is
breath in my body, you are going to sit down and shut up and listen to what we have to tell you!"
Duo, flabbergasted, collapsed back into his chair, wiping a hand across his swollen mouth brushing off the blood without thinking about
With this forceful beginning, Duo Maxwell's world that he recognized as reality was slowly destroyed brick by brick. The three men
whom he had just viciously insulted, stayed true to their own intentions of making him see the truth no matter how bad it was. The
following hours were easily some of the worst any of them experienced, but they were necessary. Duo refused to believe anything bad
about "Good Dr. Smith" as he referred to him, until he saw the recordings. They mercilessly forced him to watch himself being trained
under hypnosis not to believe anything negative about the man. He saw the man in question admit to committing fraud against Quatre
Winner by prolonging much of Duo's own suffering. Tears streamed down his face as it was proven to him beyond a shadow of a doubt
that his mind had been altered against his will and that he was now a drug addict who would need extensive help to overcome those
When his friends felt he had accepted enough of the truth, they brought Smith out and forced him to confess in person. Yet the
brainwashing was so successful, that Duo tried to convince Smith he was wrong, that everything he had ever done for him was strictly
for the best and nothing could possibly shake his faith in the physician. Smith shook his head in defeat and admitted that until he
deprogrammed him, Duo was still going to view things that way.
So, against his will, Dr. Zacariah Smith placed what had once been the greedy man's own personal "cash cow" under hypnosis. Then
with careful monitoring, as well as Heero's gun, which had magically found its way outside with him in a manner reminiscent of the war in
its ability to appear almost from nowhere, placed firmly to his temple, the psychiatrist slowly deprogrammed Duo Maxwell. Hopefully,
when he was awoken, he would no longer consider Smith his best friend and always reliable doctor, but more importantly, he would no
longer be blocked from recognizing feelings of love and even sexual desire in general and especially for his fiancÚ, Heero Yuy.
When awakened, though, Duo was clearly free of the control over his opinion of Smith, his first act, when asked his opinion of Smith,
being to lash out and smash the man in the jaw.
However, when asked how he felt about Heero, Duo's eyes became rather unfocused and he fumbled for words. What finally came out
after a tense discussion was a clear understanding that he was still confused. While he could remember loving Heero in the past more
clearly now, he was totally confused as to what his current feelings for the cobalt-eyed man were and had no desires for him of a sexual
nature. It hurt Heero when he said it, but Duo was simply giving them the truth as he saw it at that point.
"No, I don't have any desire to sleep with him *or* have sex with him, but why would I? That was then, this is now, you know? I don't
know what to think, but I do know jumping in the sack with somebody isn't a good idea." Heero felt more of his world crumble but then
received a glimmer of hope. "After all, Heero, if you love me and everything like you said this morning, then give me time, okay? You
said you'd never force your attentions on me, so I'm going to hold you to that. It sounds like I'm more than a little screwed-up right now
from those drugs and it would probably be best to keep some distance while everything settles, okay?"
"Sure, Duo," Heero smiled tiredly, there was more hope in that last statement than he was expecting after the vehement proclamation
about why would Duo even want him at all. "No problem, Duo. You call the shots. I'll be staying here anyway, and maybe we can talk
or whatever whenever *you* feel ready, okay?" Duo also seemed to find a small smile for that statement. Uncharacteristically, Heero
even ended with a joke, "The only time I'd really appreciate an answer is if I ask you to pass the pepper at dinner, okay? Remember
how much I love freshly cracked pepper!"
Duo laughed briefly before the same tenuous smile returned, "Sure thing, Heero. I can at least be sociable, right?"
From there the group broke up. Rasid drug Smith off to telephone the police all the while the idiotic doctor continued to whimper he
was a victim, too. Trowa left to check on Quatre and unintentionally fell asleep when he laid down next to his lover ostensibly to check
his pulse. Gene, now way past five full days without sleep, deliberately left Heero and Duo alone to go sleep "until forever if not longer"
as he put it.
Stubborn as Gene was, though, he couldn't go to bed without seeing Akheem first. The Arabian doctor had been fully debriefed on the
outrageous drug situation Smith had placed Duo in right under the other man's nose, so to speak, and wanted to make sure Akheem
knew that Duo, who was now officially Akheem's patient, was to be monitored closely. Starwind, young though he was, had seen too
many cases similar to Duo's where a large amount of bad news pushed certain individuals over the edge. Akheem, having never truly
forgiven himself for the bloody suicide attempt, had promised that Duo would be actively monitored at all times. Good to his word, there
was always a living shadow within a reasonable distance of Duo seeing how Rasid had already sent out word for volunteers again.
The discomfort Duo felt at simply sitting alone with Heero was so intense that Heero did what he thought was appropriate.
"I'm very sorry to leave you alone like this, Duo, but" He yawned hugely, "I'm afraid I haven't slept recently either, I'm sure Trowa will
be back soon. Mind if I go in for awhile?" Heero wanted to make sure Duo knew he was going to stick to his promise not to force his
presence on him.
"Huh?" Duo looked up, his eyes glazed over and somewhat lost. "I thought you left earlier. Sure, go on in, I think I need to think about
some stuff for awhile. G'night, Heero." It was only mid-afternoon, why a "good night"? Was the exhaustion that obvious?
"If you need someone to talk to later, feel free to wake me up," Heero noticed a hesitant, almost frightened, look cross Duo's face. "I
mean, get one of the staff to come kick my carcass out of bed, I'd be glad to talk or just hang around. You've had a lot of bad news
dumped on you today, and I'm sorry about that. But, you take whatever time you need to think it over. I'll be around if you want to talk,
Again the darkness seemed to cover the amethyst, making his lover's eyes appear a royal purple hue, "I'll wait and see, Heero. I'm not
sure if or when I'll be up to talking to you anytime soon, but," and finally a true smile crept past the defenses. "I *will* remember to pass
you the pepper at dinner!"
Accepting with a simple nod of thanks, Heero made his way slowly to his room with every intention of sleeping briefly, then checking on
Duo. But by the time he actually lay down, Heero's eyes had filled with unwanted tears as he reflected, //He said *if* and then *when*,
not the other way around. Can fate truly be cruel enough to take way the one thing I have given so much to protect? The warmth of my
lover beside me is all I want now, is that really too much to ask?// Sobbing in his exhaustion, Heero Yuy fell into a deep sleep.