His eyes fluttering open wearily, Duo awoke to new surroundings. He wasn't in his room at the Institution, he realized immediately. Blinking, he recognized the IV pump on the pole beside the bed that he lay in. Touching the inside of his arm with his other hand, a plastic tube ran the length of his forearm and disappeared under a taped bandage at the inside of his elbow. There were tubes around his face and in his nostrils. More noticeably though was the pounding pressure radiating from his head, causing everything in his body to hurt - he could feel his blood surging through his veins with every breath.
There was the sound of breathing - someone else's - and Duo rolled his head to the right. It was Heero, seated next to the hospital bed, his head buried in folded arms resting on the edge of the mattress. He was asleep. His unruly dark hair moved, ever so slightly, with each breath he took, following the rise and fall of his upper body. He had been there beside Duo ever since arriving at the hospital, after Duo had been treated and placed in the Intensive Care Unit. He wanted to be there when his friend woke up from his drug-induced sleep. Duo moved his hand to stroke his fingers through Heero's hair, causing the man to stir.
Sitting up slowly, Heero rubbed his sleepy eyes before looking up at Duo. Their eyes connected, unspoken emotions being understood by each, until finally Heero spoke, breaking the silence between them.
"Hey." Was all he said.
Duo half-smiled. In a hoarse voice he asked "W-what happened?" His hair was disheveled, and he pushed a stray few strands away from his face.
"You don't remember?" Heero's glare softened some. Duo noticed that his eyes were glassy - either from lack of sleep or how upset he was. Maybe both.
"You O.D.'ed. You tried to kill yourself again Duo." Shaking his head, Heero had to turn away for a few seconds to regain his composure. Then looking Duo hard in the eyes he asked "Why?"
It seemed like the air in the room suddenly became chilled, giving Duo goose bumps on his arms and legs. "I don't know...Because I hate me Heero, that's why!" He looked down briefly, and when his eyes returned to meet his friends, they were spilling soft tears down flushed cheeks. "Because everything hurts too much and I don't want it anymore. I'm tired Heero. I want to rest, and it won't let me...so I'd rather be dead." That was the most he'd spoken at one time since Heero had been with him. His expression changed to one of surprise, that he'd spoken so freely this time and not bottled his words up with his emotions.
That was when Heero made sure to put his own feelings out in the open for Duo to see. Enough playing around, enough beating around the bush...it was time to say what he knew would possibly turn the tide in Duo's fight for his own integrity. "Duo..." he began softly. "You know, all that time that I didn't have you, I had a lot of time to think, and to find out what I was looking for in my life. And do you know what I realized? I realized that I was an idiot for ever letting you go in the first place. I realized that I not only do I need someone, but I need YOU. I realized this Duo, and I'll be God damned if I'm going to let you go again."
Duo listened, wide-eyed, to the Japanese man as he spoke the words that he'd always wanted to hear, but never had. The words that could have helped save Duo from himself so long ago, but were never said. Sure, he realized that Heero obviously hadn't been in the 'relationship' frame of mind three years ago, but that, combined with Duo's failing emotional stability, had been a near-deadly concoction. Duo's inability to withstand Heero's coldness and carelessness had been the last straw in the framework that held together his sanity. When that was gone, all the bad feelings and smothering emotions that he'd felt his whole life were let through the gateway to attack his very soul until there was nothing left.
"Heero..." Duo choked, tears still streaming.
"Please Duo. Please stay with me. I'm going to get you home." Heero was holding Duo's hand now, squeezing it tight, looking like he too would be consumed in tears at any moment. "Promise me that you'll stay strong?"
Sniveling, Duo nodded his head. "I will Heero." He whispered. "For you, I will."
The next week flew by quickly. Dr. Westin had requested that Duo remain in the hospital during that week much to Heero's relief. At least that would be one worry off his mind, leaving him more time to worry about the court hearing. He visited Duo every day, as usual, staying as long as he could each day. By the day before the hearing, he was happy to note that just being away from the Institution had caused an improvement in Duo. He was a little bit more talkative, and since he was off all sedatives, hints of his old personality were starting to peek through. He felt safe there at Mercy Hospital, so he was beginning to let down his proverbial hair, albeit very cautiously. He was even eating regularly again.
The morning of the hearing, Heero showed up at the Hospital with Quatre and Sophia, who were there to escort Duo. He would have to be a witness on his own behalf so that his mental stability could be judged, and it could be decided whether being at the Institution was truly detrimental to him. One of the floor nurses was helping him ready himself so that he looked presentable when the three arrived. Suddenly attacked by a wave of emotion at the sight of Quatre, Duo stood motionlessly staring at the three.
"Duo!" Quatre exclaimed, striding over and giving him a big hug. "I've been so worried about you Duo! I'm glad we're going to get all this dealt with today, aren't you?" That optimism that the former Sandrock pilot always held was still there.
"Y-yeah." Duo stammered. He hadn't seen any of the pilots in so long, he felt awkward, almost embarrassed, to have Quatre there to see him in the state that he was in. Not knowing what else to say, he simply smiled a crooked little smile, his lack of confidence evident in his eyes. Then backing down from Quatre's gaze upon him, Duo went back to the nurse's side and she began to braid his hair.
The court hearing was a relatively short one. Present for Duo's defense were Quatre's two sisters, Sophia and Anja, and Quatre and Heero. Present for the colony were the two lawyers that Heero had met at the meetings prior to the hearing, Dr. Westin, and a number of the staff members should they be called as witnesses. The orderly, John, was among them, which immediately unnerved Duo. The judge was a middle-aged man with silver hair and a stern look about him. After all parties involved had been sworn in, he began the hearing by having Sophia present her case, that Duo was not receiving adequate care at the Institution, and was in personal danger if he stayed there. Her request was for Duo to be released into the custody of Dr. Anja Winner, Psy., who would provide the necessary psychiatric care and see that he was correctly rehabilitated.
The lawyers for the colony, on the other hand, maintained that while Duo had not made great improvement during his stay at the Institution, it was largely due to his own inability to cooperate with the staff. Since he failed to take his therapy sessions seriously enough, he was unable to gain full benefit from them. Their defense to the reports of mistreatment by some of the staff members was argued as being "unfounded." The investigation done in prior weeks had uncovered a few discrepancies in hospital policy, but no evidence of abuse or mistreatment to any patients, including Duo.
Sophia presented to the argument Duo's medical record for the courts to see, pointing out some important "items of interest" to the judge. She made mention of the fact that, during his first year at the facility his care was questionable in terms of the rough treatment he received, to the point of being a considerable factor in his emotional breakdown, causing him to totally withdraw and become despondent. Raising the subject of a number of other incidents after that, she progressed all the way to the present day, bringing to light not only things that Heero had witnessed himself, but also incidents that eventually made his blood boil as he heard of them for the first time. There was nothing extreme, nothing at all life threatening, but just a path of gradual and incessant torment that rendered Duo to be emotionless, speechless and controlled by the effects of a strong narcotic.
Questioning the cigarette burns on Duo's arms, she pointed out that not only was he not a smoker, but there was a policy that there be no smoking in the rooms, or anywhere else in the facility for that matter. That was met with the defending lawyers stating that he somehow must have done it himself because there was no evidence that he was forcibly held so that eleven burns could be made in his arm. She argued that his emotional state caused him to allow it to be done to him. They scoffed at her reasoning.
The drug overdose then came into light, and once again the defending lawyers held fast that "This is an obvious indication that this young man is not well and in need of strict care." Sophia derailed that thought and brought the court's attention to how he got the medication in the first place. Since all the medications were locked in a pharmacy on a different floor, and only specific members of the staff had access to those medications, how could he have stolen them without being found out? Sophia suggested that a bottle of the sedative was left accessible, specifically with the intent that Duo would find it and, knowing his suicidal tendencies, take the pills.
After listening to all the arguments of the lawyers, the hearing continued, calling witnesses to the stand. First Heero. Then Quatre. Next Anja, and finally Duo. By that point, Duo was very intimidated and not having good feelings about the outcome of that day, and he'd locked himself away inside himself, making the task of getting answers out of him a difficult one. On the one hand, it was a good display of how nervous he'd become with the people from the Institution there in the room, but on the other hand, he was making himself look like a real basket case, leaving doubt in the mind of the judge.
When the defense was able to question its witnesses, of course they all looked golden. First the head nurse too the stand, followed by John, then Dr. Westin. John was very calm and cool, pleasant even, and looked like a kind of person who would never dream of hurting a fly. The lawyers painted a picture of a hard working staff trying to see to all their patients, and constantly having to reroute their attentions to Duo, who was unruly, and a danger to himself, the staff, and the other patients as well. He was medicated out of necessity, and his lack of psychological progress was due to the fact that he refused to pay attention during his therapy sessions. There was a cut and dry answer explained for every little injury that had been questioned.
Resuming after a break for lunch, cross-examination by the defendant lawyers, was more of the same, making Duo and his cohorts look like monkeys. The defense cross-examined first, since Sophia had elected to let them go first, utilizing the time to try to come up with whatever shred of information they'd be able to stand on to turn the case back in Duo's favor. Ultimately though, the defense was making their clients out to be the saviors and Duo to be the self-destructive, deranged lunatic that needed much more than what Dr. Winner was able to provide for him, and in need of remaining Institutionalized.
By the time the court broke for a late afternoon recess, things were not looking good for him, and Duo Maxwell was once again wishing for his own death.