DISCLAIMER: (Borrowed in part from Jay, with her permission) The Gundam Universe of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is Sotsu Agency, Sunrise, ANB, and Bandai America, Inc. Characters, places, timeline and other elements of the Gundam Wing series are the property of said organizations, and I do not profess to own them. The original material herein is the author and not considered public domain. Please don't sue or plagiarize. I'm in a perpetually non-prosperous state and all spare change usually goes into coffee or bags of oats.

WARNINGS: Angst, sap, implied yaoi, physical/emotional abuse, suicide attempts, blood.

SUMMARY: Duo winds up in an institution due to severe depression, and Heero helps him face not only his own demons, but also the ones working at the facility who are trying to make his life a living hell.

Part Ten
by Shira

Duo walked to clear his mind, going wherever his feet took him. He did realize that, being in the middle of the desert, he should have stayed and found a private corner at the estate and sulked there, or better yet talked it out with Heero, but this time he just had to get away from everything. If he happened to get swallowed up by a dune after getting lost in the endless sea of sand, then so be it. But for now, he just walked and sulked and occasionally cried, the setting late afternoon sun of the Arabian desert beating down on him, coloring his skin a more healthy-looking bronze color.

Guilty. That was what kept repeating itself in his head - how guilty he was. He'd been over it a million times; the fact that no matter how strong, no matter how capable he was, he just couldn't do what he was "supposed to" do. He was never there for the ones who depended on him. He was never at the right place at the right time, and he was never able to protect those important to him. After all the fighting for freedom and for protection of loved ones, he's allowed his to, one-by-one, be taken from him. As silly as that all really was, he'd convinced himself of this truth and couldn't talk himself out of it.

Anja was trying to help him, but he wasn't sure if he knew how to LET her help him. Every memory brought out more sadness, and all the sadness was surely driving him back the way he came - to the nut house. It was very easy to talk about changing the way he felt about himself - doing it was a different story altogether. Also troubling the longhaired man was the fact that, although his logical mind knew that it wanted to be done with these feelings of worthlessness, his body, his internal being, reveled in them, as if the only thing in his life he could count on was for those familiar pains to be there. So, say as many times as he did that he wanted to be happy, he still couldn't let go of the 'comfort' that the feelings of blackness that lived within him brought. It was like a bad addiction - no matter how hard you want to quit, you keep going back to the lions den.

Lost in his misery, Duo walked and walked, mumbling to himself the whole time as if her were carrying on a conversation with someone. Head down against the winds, which were picking up a bit, he finally stopped to just stand there a few minutes, his mind blank, he rather enjoying the emptiness of thoughts in his head. Turning his direction to go back to the estate, Duo started walking yet again. From the looks of the setting sun compared to when he left, he estimated he'd been out for about an hour, so he'd better get back before people started worrying about him. It took a while, but eventually that possibility did occur to him - people worrying.

Eventually the wind had picked up enough to make the flying sand sting his bare skin, making his arms and face pink. Trying to hold his head even further down against the barrage of tiny assailants, Duo pressed on, thinking that he'd be to the compound shortly. The night was as black as tar, and stars shone light white diamonds in the sky above, yet there was very little natural light to help him see. When he'd wandered for close to an hour and hadn't found what he was looking for, Duo experienced the sinking feeling that he was in trouble.

"God damn it," He said aloud, wiping sand off his face for the hundredth time. "Just fucking great. Duo Maxwell...you ARE a real moron sometimes." Hoping that his disappearance had already been noticed, Duo contemplated what to do about his predicament. Really, there wasn't much that he could do, so he continued on slowly, stopping to huddle himself into a ball on the sand when the gusts got bad and he couldn't see a thing, resuming his walk when it had quieted a bit. Although it would have made sense for him to just stay in one spot, he reasoned that he'd be easier to spot if her were standing and walking. He certainly wasn't traveling at any great speed, that was for sure.

By the time dinner was served in the small dining room it became obvious that Duo was not around. Quatre had gone to his bedroom to call him, and not finding him, went after Heero to see if Duo was there. Not finding the other man with Heero, the two set out to systematically scour the expanses of the mansion to find him, coming up empty handed. The next thing that Quatre did was question the help staff, and luckily one of the maids had interacted with Duo as he was leaving the house.

"He said he was going to return in an hour or two after he had some time to himself." The girl replied with worry in her voice, realizing that Duo hadn't come back yet.

"Damn it!" Quatre blurted, jumping past Heero and heading toward the back of the house. "He should know better...He should KNOW not to go out into the desert like that!"

Heero jogged right behind Quatre, who led him outside and to a tiny shuttlecraft. "He isn't thinking, Quatre."

"Yeah... obviously." The blond man answered sarcastically. Darkness was falling, and it was a common thing for sandstorms to pick up in the evenings due to the temperature changes as the sun fell. In a sandstorm, they'd never find him, so time was of the essence. "Get in!" Quatre yelled, as he and Heero boarded the little shuttle and prepared to take off.

Quatre piloted the shuttle away from the expansive estate compound and out into the open desert, both he and Heero scanning the ground beneath them for any signs of Duo. He flew as low to the sand as he could, but the engines from the shuttle kept blowing up sand, so they were forced to look from a distance using infrared binoculars. He could be anywhere in the never-ending landscape of dunes and plains. Generally finding someone lost in the desert at night was a very difficult thing to do. During the day, the blinding sun reflecting off the dunes hampers one's vision, and at night there are either sandstorms, or a sky so black that it's hard to see beyond a few feet. They were already beginning to have problems with wind gusts and dust devils - as the little windstorms began to gain strength, the shuttle was getting tossed and bumped and blasted repeatedly. They would soon have to go back, or risk crashing the shuttle.

"I can't believe he did this," Heero began, his face pressed behind a pair of binoculars as he looked through the shuttle windows. "Especially after all the bullshit we just went through to get him here."

Shaking his head, Quatre sighed. "We've been out here almost two hours Heero - the storms are worsening. I don't think we're going to find anyone tonight, but we can come out again later if the winds subside. If we have to, I'll call on the Maguanacs to help us with their mobile suits." With sullen faces the two former Gundam pilots returned back to the Winner estate, anxiously awaiting the sandstorm's passing.

The two stayed up all night, planning a route to search for Duo, and just before dawn the winds died down. Quatre had made contact with Rashid and requested the aid of a few mobile suits, and there were four of them ready and waiting by the time Quatre and Heero emerged from the mansion ready to start. The six men discussed their plan, and soon the four Maguanacs were off, striding their way across the cool surface of the barely lit desert. Seeing them off, Quatre tugged Heero in another direction.

"We're going on foot." The blond announced confidently.

"On foot." Heero responded, not as a question, but rather as a statement.

Quatre explained. "We have radio contact with Rashid and the men, and we need to be on foot for when they find him. We'll go where they go." He was grinning at Heero's expression of amusement when a stable hand led two stunning desert-bred Arabian mares up to them, saddled and ready to go. "You DO remember how to ride, don't you?"

Preparing to leave, to catch up with the Maguanacs, Quatre adjusted the girths on both horses and made sure their water supplies were secure. Satisfied, he swung himself in to the saddle astride a beautiful chestnut whose coat shone like a copper penny. Following suit, Heero mounted his silver dapple-gray mare and adjusted himself in the Bedouin saddle. The two wrapped their upper bodies in bishts, light-colored cotton robes for protection from the hot sun when crossing the desert, and covered their heads with ghutras, and one would swear that they were a couple of native warriors to look at them.

With a nudge of the heels the two men were gone in a flash, their quick little horses springing to life and devouring the desert floor before them

on to part eleven

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