Easier to slip back inside the hospital without being seen than leaving it had been, he avoided the security cameras and nurses scurrying down hallways checking on patients, opening the door to his goal, and ghosting inside. The room was in darkness except for the muted light above the bed, and the blipping green numbers and jagged green lines on the monitor.
The privacy curtain had been drawn, preventing anyone to see much of anything beyond the doorway. He paused only a moment to take a deep breath, steady his pulse, and square his shoulder. Ready, he moved silently into the room, rounded the bed, and took his seat once more.
"What if it wasn't him?" a voice asked in whisper from a darkened corner.
His eyes closed, and he lowered his head to his clasped hands on the bed. "It was," he said just as quiet. "He confessed."
There was a shift behind him, more of displaced air than sound, and a hand landed on his shoulder. Duo tensed, but the hand only squeezed gently and lifted. "She will survive this."
"I know." He wanted to raise his head, to confirm the acceptance he was hearing in Heero's voice. Instead, he stroked the pale, bandaged hand in his.
"You were here all night," Heero said, his voice oddly calm.
"Yeah, I was," Duo agreed, his own voice cracking. His fingers continued to stroke her hand, and he lowered his lips to its back.
Heero's hand was on his shoulder again, giving it another gentle squeeze. "I'll be back at daybreak to bring you home, make sure you..."
"I can't leave her, Heero," Duo broke in. "Not-not like this."
"We'll talk about it in the morning," Heero's voice was soothing. "Try to rest, okay?"
Duo nodded, and only then turned his head to look at him. Sharp and drawn, it was the face he loved, only concern showing in his eyes without a hint of condemnation. Swallowing against a suddenly dry throat, Duo raised a hand and covered Heero's with it.
"Thanks," he croaked out.
Heero held his gaze for another minute before shifting his look to the girl on the bed. His lips thinned. "I'll be back," Heero repeated, and gave Duo's shoulder another squeeze before moving off toward the door, and slipping out in near silence.
And Duo was alone with the battered body of his best friend, tubes and lines taped and attached, making her breathe, medicating her, keeping her alive. He watched the monitor blip, beeping its steady, comforting rhythm, watched her chest rise and fall in gentle regularity, and held her hand.
Rising on suddenly unsteady feet, Duo leaned close and brushed hair from her forehead. "Oh Hilde-girl," he whispered, choking on her name. "He won't hurt you again," his voice hardened. "He won't hurt anyone ever again."
Her skin was strangely cool beneath his lips, and he lowered his head to rest beside hers on the pillow.
The dawn was still hours off.