Heero was packed and aboard the first shuttle he could get to L2 by the next morning. After receiving Quatre's call, and then the subsequent email with all the pertaining information, he'd immediately requested an emergency leave from his job. Considering what was going on, with Duo being a former agent for the Preventers, his leave was granted right away. He could stay on salary for four weeks, but after that it was on him. During this time of quiet and peace, it was not a big deal to the organization, but in the event that he would be needed, Heero would have to report back to headquarters as soon as possible. He left, unsure of how long he would be gone, not really knowing what to expect from the information that Quatre had gathered for him.
It had been nearly three years. Three years since Duo had left the Earth to go into hiding. All this time the other ex-pilots searched, with Quatre doing most of the footwork, for any trace of him, just to know that he was at least alive. They came up with nothing. Short of putting up "Have you seen this Gundam Pilot?" pamphlets all over the Earth and the colonies, no one that they contacted remembered seeing him. He'd hidden himself very well. It was during a phone call between Sally and Quatre that the young businessman had asked her for a very large favor, a favor that would wind up making the difference. He requested Preventer authorization to access all classified Police and hospital records on Earth and all the colonies. The only reason why this was never granted prior to this time was because it was still generally held that Duo was gone because Duo 'wanted' to be gone, and it was no one's business where he'd holed himself up, unless he was up to no good. After being presented with Quatre's evidence of his long search, that had ended with virtually no leads as to where the former pilot and agent could be, the heads of the organization voted to allow Quatre free reign on whatever records he thought he needed to find the other young man.
With the availability of this new information, it only took a matter of days to track Duo down. Secretly, Quatre was kicking himself for not thinking of this sooner. But at least he'd located him...so he hoped. That was when he called Heero, who, by that time, was more upset about Duo's disappearance than he let on to anyone. Only Quatre new better.
At first Heero was very casual about the whole thing, and he was not the least bit worried, although he did wonder every now and again where Duo had gone off to. When the months started passing without word of his whereabouts, the concern started to grow. Heero kept it hidden well though, not wanting to let on the fact that he was bothered by it all. Now, nearly three years after they had parted ways, Heero was not only forlorn that he had not seen his friend in so long, but very worried as well. There had always been a special bond between the five former Gundam pilots - a bond that kept them together as friends and a sort of extended family. Even though there had been a romance between he and the other pilot, and even though they had been angry at each other when Duo left, there was this growing feeling of loss as time passed. Not just a lost lover, but also a lost brother. There was no answer to the question of what happened to Duo, and that left Heero wondering, and wishing that he could see his friend and lover again. It also left his mind open to the disturbing possibility that Duo Maxwell was dead. Time had apparently helped Heero clear his head, because in all the months and couple of years of Duo's disappearance, he still lived alone and had not been able to maintain a successful relationship with anyone else, male or female. He wanted Duo back, and now he was willing to acknowledge it.
Stepping off the shuttle at the L2 Shuttle port, Heero grabbed his carry-on bag, then went to the baggage carousel to get his suitcase. He wasn't sure how many days he'd be on the colony, so he packed with enough clothing to stay for a while. A week or two at least. Hailing a cab, he first went to find a hotel room, a reasonably priced place suggested by the cabby. They knew all the hotels in the cities. Getting out of the cab Heero put his luggage on the curb, then leaned in the passenger window of the cab, handing the driver a bill. The cabby started to make change, with a hopeful, attentive look on his face.
"Keep it." Heero said to the driver, who nodded and wished him a good day, then drove off. Entering the hotel, he booked himself a room for the week. It was a Friday afternoon.
The room was comfortable. One big bed, a dresser, a desk with an Internet connection, a TV, and a nice bathroom with a deep jet tub. Locking the door behind him, Heero placed his suitcase and carry-on bag next to the dresser, then pulled out his laptop computer from the bag. Connecting it to the net cables near the desk, he propped it open and powered the machine, watching as it went through its startup and diagnostics, until he was able to open his old emails. He opened yesterday's mail from Quatre - the one that would tell him where he would probably find Duo.
"L2 Institute for the Mentally Disabled," Heero read aloud. Grabbing a pen and a sheet from the hotel logo notepad on the desk, he jotted down the name of the place, the phone number and the street address. Signing in to his Preventers online account, Heero checked for any new messages that may have come in. Four. Spam, Spam, Quarterly stock earnings quote, new message from Quatre. The message was brief. "Contact me after you find out if it's him," was all that it said. Satisfied, Heero signed off, shut down and packed the computer back in its case. He paused to use the facilities, then was on his way.
Hailing a cab in front of the hotel, Heero got in the back seat and pulled out the stationary with his scribbled notes.
"195 Independence Wa..." he started, being cut off by the driver.
"Oh... you wanna go to the Nut house?" The driver tried to conceal a little smirk.
Heero paused and cleared his throat, his face a stone. "Yes. If you don't mind." He settled back in the seat and tried to ignore the callousness of the driver.
"You have family there?" The driver was a middle-aged man, rough around the edges, unshaven, mussed hair, but with an honest face.
"A friend." The cab pulled away and Heero watched his surroundings as they passed by.
After a pause the cabby began again. "Weird place. I've heard all kinds of things about it in there." His passenger's attention was piqued.
"Like what?" came the monotone, emotionless reply.
"Well... I don't know... it could all be hearsay but... it's a government place, ya know? All I know is I wouldn't put any family member of mine in that place." The man cleared his throat and spat out the cab window. "Oh... Sorry. Anyway, like I was saying... it's not like it's a prison camp or anything. It's just that every now and then you hear on the news about things happening in there. Like some retard getting molested or something like that. I guess about a year ago one guy jumped out a third story window there and killed himself. There was this whole 'to do' about whether he really jumped, or one of the orderlies 'helped' him. They investigated the guy, the orderly, right...and found out that he used to beat up on old people at the last place he worked, but they were never able to pin anything on him."
Heero's inner self was getting concerned. "So... does he still work there?"
"Nah... they fired his ass as soon as the story hit the news. Too much bad publicity. I mean, they take care of the state cases there, but they also have people put there by their families who can't afford the ritzy private home. The place was almost shut down after that, but they 'reevaluated' their hiring and training procedures, or something like that." The cabby emphasized 'reevaluated' sarcastically. "So, the Colony let them keep it open. Eh...I'm sure your friend is fine though. Nothin's been goin' on out there in a while."
"Yeah," Heero mumbled, an anxious feeling building inside him. 'This is just great.' He thought to himself. 'Jesus, what if Duo was that guy that died there?' He pushed the thought aside. "How much longer until we get there?"
The grounds of the facility were immaculate. The tax dollars of L2 were at the least paying for good landscaping, that was for sure. The building was very clean, very "sane" looking... old Traditional Plantation style architecture with half-round whitewashed porches and column lined entryways. Three stories high in the main building; just like the driver had said. The stereotypical nut house. The type of building that looks so serene that you just know there are crazy things going on behind its doors. Stately black wrought iron fences surrounded the property, about eight feet high, with elegant gates at the driveway that were operated by remote from the main office. You had to state your business at the closed gates, speaking into a little box to be able to get in. The cab driver pulled up so that Heero could yell into the box.
After a minute or two, a female voice sounded over the little speaker on the intercom. "May I help you?" Heero noted the surveillance camera watching them from the top of the gatepost.
"I'm here to see a patient."
"Patient's name, and your relation?"
"Duo Maxwell. I'm a close friend. He has no family." There was a long pause.
"I'm sorry sir... there is no patient here by that name." He'd figured that this was going to happen.
"You have no name for him on record. He was admitted as John Doe. Three years ago. I didn't know he was here." Preplanning had definitely come in handy. Fishing around in his wallet, Heero, pulled out a picture of himself and Duo, taken during the Eve War. He held it up as close to the spy camera as he could. "There... it's a few years old, but I think you'll be able to tell me if he's here or not." There was more silence. Then suddenly a loud creaking noise erupted as the mechanism on the entrance gates activated. When the gates were fully open, the cab pulled in, and the gates closed slowly behind it.
Stopping at the grand entrance to the main building, the cabby turned to look at his passenger. "You want me to wait? I have to keep the meter running."
"No. I'll call another cab." Heero handed the man a few bills. "Keep the change. Oh, and... thanks." In a flash the young Japanese man was out of the cab and entering the lobby of the mansion.
Stopping at the front desk, Heero approached a woman, perhaps thirty or thirty-five, in a nurse's uniform. "I'm Heero Yuy, here to see Duo Maxwell."<
"Oh yes," the woman acknowledged. "The Priest." She grinned a silly little grin as she said it.
Placing a clipboard for him to sign in on the counter in front of him, the nurse repeated to Heero "The Priest. We call him the Priest. When he came here he was wearing a Priest's collar. He won't take the thing off. We can barely get it away from him long enough to wash it from time to time. He walks around here with the thing on 24/7. Under his clothes if he has to. That and that cross necklace."
Heero sighed. No mistaking it. That would be Duo all right. Pushing the clipboard back across the counter he started fishing for whatever information he could get from the nurse, since she seemed willing to talk. "I just found out he was here. He has no family, you know."
"That's what we were figuring, after all this time. Surely somebody would have come looking for him if he did have family. Well... since you say you know him pretty well, mind if I get you to fill out some information for his file?" She pulled some papers out of a manila folder and slid them over to Heero with a pen. The label on the folder said 'John Doe, aka "The Priest."
With bated breath Heero asked the dreaded question. "How is he?" He started filling out the form to the best of his knowledge... things that would be harmless for anyone else to know. Date of birth (as much as Duo knew at least), place of birth, parental information (what little there was), etc...
"Oh..." the nurse began. "He's fine. Well... as fine as anyone in this place can be considered. I mean... he's nowhere near 'right'. But he gets along OK most of the time."
"MmmHmm... What do you mean 'most of the time'?" He didn't look up from the paperwork, but just kept writing.
"He's quite a strong young man." She continued. "And he has quite a temper. When he first came here he was very difficult with the staff. Wouldn't do anything that they told him to, wouldn't abide by hospital policies...he even attacked one of the male assistants. Hurt him pretty good, from what I remember. Broke his nose and knocked him for a loop. He's tried a number of times to kill himself - that's what landed him here in the first place. Since he keeps trying, they had to start getting a little more restrictive with him, but he's lots better now."
Heero raised an eyebrow at nurse Laura, as her name badge read. She had pretty, wavy, shoulder-length hair and a reasonably pleasant look about her. "What do you mean 'restrictive'?"
"The doctor was forced to put him on sedatives, pretty strong ones at that. They got tired of having to wrestle him into a straight jacket and put him in solitary confinement. He was becoming a threat to not only us and himself, but to the other patients as well."
"I see." Cold eyes bore down on nurse Laura, making her a little bit uncomfortable.
"Umm... you know... he nearly stabbed one of the orderlies with a pair of scissors when he tried to give him a haircut when he first got here."
Heero smirked somewhat, envisioning the scene. "Someone tried to cut his hair?" he barely chuckled.
"It was a birds nest. But we couldn't get it cut, so...lets just say that I'm sure his hair has been better kept before."
Finishing the paperwork, Heero slid it back in the woman's direction. She looked it over and stuffed it back inside the manila folder while her interrogation continued. "What about therapy sessions? Is he getting therapy?"
"Oh yes... he gets therapy. But it doesn't do much good."
"What do you mean?" Heero asked.
"He doesn't respond to anyone. He just stares off into space. Hasn't said a word for close to two years. Its like he went from being a raving lunatic to being totally silent overnight." Heero listened intently. "Doctor Westin says its because he's shut himself off from everything and he doesn't want to get better. So, he figures, at least he isn't making trouble around here anymore. It's better for him that way, to not make trouble." There was a note of despair on Laura's voice as she finished. "Would you like to see him?" She changed the subject quickly.
"Please." Heero responded. Just as he did, an orderly, perhaps in his mid twenties, a tall, hefty young man, waltzed into the lobby from one of the adjoining halls complaining loudly, not aware that there was a visitor standing at the desk.
"Rounds are done." He blurted out. "And so help me... one of these days... I'm gonna let that 'pretty boy' have it. Bastard wouldn't swallow his pills again. He never learns. I swear..." He was interrupted by Laura clearing her throat loudly and throwing a glance in Heero's direction. The young man blushed when he realized that he was being overheard.
Blushing herself as well, Laura ushered Heero down the left hallway, unable to look him in the eye, the orderly had embarrassed her so. "This way, Mr. Yuy." He followed silently, not mentioning the little display that he'd just witnessed. He didn't need to. It was all starting to fit into place. The only question that remained now was just who nurse Laura was leading him too. Or maybe the better question was 'what'. They walked through halls and around corners without speaking until they came to room number 26. The woman turned the knob and opened the door. Announcing that "The Priest has a visitor," she entered the room, Heero on her heels anticipating what would happen next.
Duo was curled up in bed, where he usually could be found, staring at the wall, and did his best to ignore the intruders. He pulled the blanket further over his head so that he couldn't see anything, hoping that whoever was there would simply go away. Nurse Laura went to grab for the blanket to pull it off him, but Heero's hand stopped her.
"Leave him be." Heero said to the nurse. In recognition of a voice from his past... a special voice from his past, Duo's eyes flew open under the blanket and he whimpered just barely loud enough for the others to hear him.