Tuesday morning, after what little breakfast he could force down, Heero was back at the Institution. For the first time since he'd been visiting Duo, he'd gotten a chance to see some of the public areas of the hospital, and some other patients as well. Laura brought him to the TV room, where Heero found Duo, sitting beside a woman he'd never seen before. Although she wore plain clothing, the older woman did have the navy blue wimple hat customary for nuns to wear. A golden cross hung from her neck, its facets glistening in the bright sunlight from the nearby window. The Japanese man waited by the doorway, observing from afar since the other two hadn't seen him. Duo seemed to be comforted by the lady's presence. "Makes sense," Heero thought to himself.
Today he had to have a serious talk with Duo about what he and Quatre were planning. However, Heero was undecided about one important thing, something that could ultimately make or break the plan. While every bit of sense in his being wanted to beg Duo to quiet down and follow the staff's orders explicitly to avoid any future injury to himself, the sensible part of him disagreed. If there were no evidence that patients were being mistreated, there would be less of a chance of getting Duo released to Quatre's sister, who, at the moment, was their only hope to get him out of there. He'd been mulling it over all night and gotten very little sleep, trying to decide which would create the better outcome. Watching Duo silently interact with the nun, he made his decision, hoping for the best. At least there was some bit of quiet and peace in his routine - Heero supposed that for the next few weeks that would have to do, as it had for the past three years. Smiling an awkward but friendly smile, Heero acknowledged the nun as she approached him, apparently on her way out.
"I'll go so you can visit with him." Her gray-blue eyes shone like crystals, but there was an aura of sadness in them.
Heero stopped the woman just outside the door to the TV room. "Thank you...for being here for him," he said.
"My pleasure, young man." The sister smiled. "I come here to spend time with the patients once or twice a week. He's always been my favorite. He seems to enjoy my company more than the others do, so I'm happy to come here for him."
"He spent part of his childhood raised by a nun, here on the colony. He loved her dearly. Sister Helen."
The nun's face went pale. "Of the Maxwell Church? Is he one of the orphan's they cared for? A survivor?"
The sister crossed herself. "Father in Heaven above...they never told me that. I didn't know." Her face was writ with concern and compassion as she talked with Heero now.
"They didn't know either. I only recently found out that he was here. We were friends before he went missing." Heero glanced at his friend, slouched back in a soft armchair in front of the TV, once again unresponsive to the world, but keenly aware of the conversation that was happening behind him.
"I knew Sister Helen when she was a young woman about your age, just beginning her studies of the church. She was a wonderful girl. It was all such a shame, what happened there. I think I may have made mention of Maxwell Church in my talking with him..." she glanced in Duo's direction. "...but he never talks back. He just listens."
"I'm trying to get him out of here." Heero whispered to the woman, his gaze meeting hers. She responded with eyes full of understanding and agreement.
"I wish you the best. God will thank you later." Then excusing herself, the nun nodded and turned to disappear down the hallway and around the corner. Heero entered the TV room and went to sit beside Duo.
The next few days went by without incident. Heero filled Duo in, to the best of his ability, of what he and Quatre were doing to try to get him released from the Institution. Sophia was already progressing with the paperwork, and it would just be a matter of waiting a while before his case could be heard in court on whether it would be allowed that Duo be released as Anja Winner's responsibility. For the first time since laying eyes on the remnants of the old Duo Maxwell, Heero thought he saw a glimmer of Hope in his friend's eye.
Heero stayed in close contact with Quatre, calling him every evening after his visits with Duo. He hadn't been sleeping very well, and the more complex things got, the longer it was taking him to fall unconscious every night. His appearance was beginning to suffer, with dark circles evident under his eyes, and an obvious look of worry and exhaustion like he'd never had before. At one point, Quatre even asked him if he was feeling OK, and he admitted that he'd begun having nightmares again, like the ones he'd had after the wars. Surely it was just the stress of the situation wearing at him, but whatever the reason, war nightmares were never pretty ones.
By Friday, after a full week on L2, word came to Heero through the grapevine that Sophia had been very successful in getting the attention of officials on the colony. Actually, they had been fairly easy to deal with, and acknowledged her request to investigate Duo's case right away. No one had even realized it until they made contact with her afterward, but there had already been officials to the Institute to investigate what was going on there, and the likelihood that Sophia's stories about Duo were exaggerated. While that was a good thing, to have things moving so quickly, it was also a bad thing; now everyone at the hospital was aware that something was going on, and that Duo and his Japanese friend were the cause of it.
So, investigations initiated, petition filed, the next thing was the court hearing. The courts understood that there was an urgency in getting the case heard, so that Duo could be released before any more harm could come to him however, their definition of urgency was a little different. The investigator apparently agreed that there were possibly some unorthodox practices going on behind the walls of the Institution, but saw no need to plow this case ahead of already scheduled cases. The court hearing would not be for another two weeks. Knowing this, Heero went for his daily visit on Saturday morning expecting the worst. His fears would eventually be realized.
By the end of the weekend, word had spread throughout the entire staff that something was wrong. Heero was beginning to notice changes in the attitudes of most of the employees that he came in contact with, including Nurse Laura. While she was still sympathetic, Heero thought, she'd also expressed to him that what he was doing was going to hurt a lot of people. He responded to her, curtly enough to render her speechless, that at this venture he had no remorse what so ever for anything that would ultimately happen there, as long as he got his friend released from the facility.
Daily visits with Duo hadn't changed much. There was always that unspoken bond between the two, revealing that the longhaired young man was grateful to have Heero there, but he continued to live in his world of silence. An occasional gesture or twinkle in his eye was the only clue that Heero had that his friend was still coherent and understanding everything that was being said to him. By this time though, Heero started to understand what it was that was probably paining Duo so deeply all this time. He was not demented, he was not "sick in the head"...he was severely, severely depressed, just as Dr. Westin had said. Depressed to the point of giving up on himself. Depression masks itself as many different things, but in the end, if the cause isn't uncovered, nothing ever changes. Duo was either unaware or in denial of whatever it was that caused him this emotional distress, and rather than fight it, he'd simply decided to just give up.
Tuesday was a bad day. On Tuesday, Heero met with Quatre, Sophia and Anja at the offices of the Courthouse on L2. Meetings with the Superintendent of Health Care and two lawyers for the colony. As most bureaucratic meetings go, everything took twice as long as it should have, Lunch was late, the copy machine kept jamming, and the discussions had to be halted for an hour while one of the lawyers conference-called with a more important client in another room.
He was never able to visit Duo, so he phoned the Institution anyway, asking that a message be forwarded. To no surprise of his, it wasn't. He was at the black gates waiting for entry the minute visiting hours started on Wednesday. Pacing quickly through the halls of the ground floor of the building Heero rushed to get to Duo even one minute quicker, feeling the guilt of missing his prior day's visit. Opening the door to the small room, he found Duo in the same position he'd found him that first day - curled up and under the blankets.
"Duo..." Heero huffed, trying to catch his breath. "Duo, please. I'm here...I had to go to plead your case to lawyers yesterday." He pulled away the blanket to expose a distraught and recumbent Duo, sloppily dressed in an old pair of sweat clothes and his priest collar, his hair mussed and out of its braid. Grabbing him by his wrist, Heero pulled him upright, making him sit at the foot of the bed where he looked at him with forlorn and guilt on his face. Duo would not look at him straight on. "Back to square one." Heero sighed, mumbling to himself.
Making the decision to proceed with what had become a daily routine for the pair, Heero grabbed the brush off the dresser and started stroking Duo's long strands, smoothing them out until they shone a glistening copper. He braided the hair neatly - he was getting better at it - and then knelt in front of his friend to peek under the bangs that concealed his face. Before the intended apology could escape his lips, Heero noticed a small, angry red welt on the inside of Duo's arm. Pulling his arm out from his body and turning the soft, pink under skin up, Heero found more of the little welts. There were yet more on the other arm. Eleven of them to be exact, all perfectly round and all the same size.
"Duo... what is this? Did you do this to yourself?" Heero questioned, eyeing him with a stern yet concerned look.
Duo answered him. "No." He looked at his two arms, then at Heero, then looked away.
"Then who did?" He already suspected who did, but he asked anyway. There was no answer, and that was the end of Duo's verbal interaction for the day.
This was it. This was the beginning of the end, Heero thought to himself. The next week and a half would prove to be the toughest of Duo's stay at the Institution, as he became the subject of God knows what types of retaliatory actions. Each one would be carefully executed so that it didn't cause serious injury, and better yet, would leave the actual patient as suspect of causing that harm to himself. And even though Heero was on to them, there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it, except pray for the court hearing date to arrive as quickly as possible without being postponed.
Leaving the premises that day Heero passed 'the thug', standing outside the main entryway to the building, enjoying a smoking break.