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 Twelve
by Shira

Seated in the library of the Winner Estate, Anja Winner and Duo were having one of what had turned into his bi-weekly sessions, making some headway. He was getting a crash course in psychological healing, in efforts to get him back on track, emotionally and mentally. They each sat in a comfortable armchair, a coffee table between them. The room was handsome - filled with all sorts of books in every size and description, and conservative leather furniture conducive to giving a comfortable place to read. An exquisite Turkish rug covered most of the floor, its hues adding to the serene nature of the room. Anja had picked this room to meet with Duo because it was quiet, and gave a feeling of calm. It was a good place to reflect on ones self.

She was a good psychiatrist. Very good. Her likable and trustable personality made it very easy for Duo to open up his thoughts to her, once he figured out how to express himself. She asked enough questions to keep him talking, yet not enough to bore him with lecture. She was very quickly able to pinpoint Duo's problems, and gradually they began working toward a resolution, a realization of why he was feeling the way he felt, and what he had to do to change it. With her short blonde hair and warm smile, Duo was beginning to look forward to his sessions with Anja, even though many times he still left her company feeling worse than when he'd gone. She was giving him lots of things to ponder, and after the initial sadness that was always uprooted with every session, he spent a lot of time thinking, and coming up with his own reasoning for things. Today they were delving even deeper into the depths of Duo's being.

"OK Duo... did you do what I asked last time?" Anja thought very highly of releasing one's emotions through art or writing, so her "homework assignment" for him was to create something - anything - that explained his feelings, whatever they were. Standing, he pulled a folded sheet of paper out of his pocket and handed it to her.

"It's a poem." He said. Stopping for a few minutes, she read the poem to herself.

This Thing That Lives Inside Me

There is this thing that lives
Inside me...
I'm not really sure where
Or what it is.
But it's black.
Inside me I can feel
Its blackness

There is this thing that lives
Inside me...
Maybe in my psyche
Or in my soul
And it devours me from within
Ripping into my being
With claws and teeth

There is this thing that lives
Inside me...
And it has a chokehold
On my mind
Creating chaos and discord
Every time it makes
Its presence known

There is this thing that lives
Inside me...
Wreaking havoc on
What is me
Speaking in tongues,
I hear its voice leave
My own lips

There is this thing that lives
Inside me...
It's started to take control
Of my thoughts
Turning them black
The same blackness
As itself.

There is this thing that lives
Inside me...
And it holds my heart
As its prisoner
Weighing it down with
The heaviness of hopelessness
And despair

There is this thing that lives
Inside me...
It's determined to claim me
As its prize
Taking me to the edge
Of my own existence
To see if I'll jump.

There is this thing that lives
Inside me...
Now standing in the path
Between me and you
Between me and life
Laughing at me

Because this thing that lives
Inside me...
Has made me weak and
Too tired to fight
Through its relentless
And unyielding attack
And it knows it.

But this thing that lives
Inside me...
Even in my weakened state
I will still fight to stand against
Because you asked me
Not to leave you

After a long pause Anja asked "Is that other person Heero?". Duo nodded silently. She spoke again. "Tell me why you think you're such a bad person, Duo." Her sapphire-blue eyes connected with his deep violets.

He hesitated to collect his thoughts before he spoke. "Because...I don't know why...because badness follows me."

"What do you mean 'badness'?"

"I don't know if it's bad luck or bad Karma or what, but it just follows me, and it hurts me." Duo answered, letting his head droop.

Anja continued. "How does it hurt you?"

"It takes things from me. Important things."

"Like your parents?" Anja's gaze was still on Duo, even though he would not bring his eyes to meet hers.

After a pause, Duo started again. "My parents, my friends, the people who took care of me while I was little. Everyone who has ever meant anything to me. So... sometimes I think that's why I am the way I am - because this follows me, and that's what fated me to be who I am. A killer. Heh... friend, enemy, what does it matter, right? It got to a point where I was so hardened by it all that I didn't get sad anymore." Duo looked up again and into Anja's eyes. "Not being sad... that really scared me. That I could take a life and keep right on going like nothing had happened. Pull out my sword for the next one before the blood had even dried."

For a few moments, neither said anything. Anja was thinking about Duo's words before she replied. Adjusting in her chair she said to him "So, if I'm understanding you, what you are really feeling is that, for whatever the reason, you are the cause of the deaths of all these people. And you feel guilty because you feel no remorse."

Duo nodded. "Yeah, I guess."

"You know, after learning all that you've told me about your past, it seems to me that the main problem lies in this guilt, this anger with yourself. But quite honestly, you have nothing to feel guilty about."

"Don't I though?"

Anja smiled. "No. Not really. Because the events in your life just simply happened. You had the unfortunate 'luck', if you will, to be born during a time of hardship and war. Whether you were there or not, it all would have happened anyway. But I feel that what you've allowed to happen is this guilt to dictate to you that you have lost important parts of your life because of something that YOU did...and all you did is live."

With a quizzical look on his face Duo replied "I don't understand."

This guilt... this pain in you, telling you that you are a monster. I think you've convinced yourself that you're a bad person, thus, that you are deserving of everything that happens to you that is bad. In a vicious circle, the bad feeds the guilt and the guilt feed the bad. So you are miserable all the time."

"But what about the hate and the sadness?" Duo straightened in his seat, surprised by the fact that what Anja was saying was actually making sense in his head.

"Depression and emotional beatings will eventually do that. Make you not care. Make it so that it doesn't hurt anymore, so that you wind up feeling nothing. I think that's why you came out of that Institution in such bad shape. Because on top of what you had already been dealing with, you were faced with the mistreatment, and there is only so much abuse that the human mind can take before it shuts itself off from any stimuli that could potentially cause more it pain. The trouble with that is that it cuts off the good feelings too."

Duo sat silently, repeating Anja's words in his mind. Could it be that simple? It all felt so much more complex, so heavy. Everything that Anja was saying made perfect sense...on paper, at least. But even so, the big evil, the guilt, still remained, promising to continue to haunt him eternally. He must have had a look of question on his face at that moment, because Anja spoke again with some more suggestion about how to remedy his feelings.

"You have to start by relieving yourself of guilt, Duo. Learn to like yourself. Let Heero help you - he cares a lot about you."

The rest of that day Duo spent quietly considering his session with Anja, and how it all affected him. This time though, he went to the stables and sat in one of the stalls with a pretty flaxen filly when he wanted to hide. Patting the horse on the nose whenever she came over to sniff at his face, Duo thought about his childhood, and all the people he'd known who had passed on, and then about the wars and his gundam. In a different light - the light that most other people saw him in - he could be considered a hero for what he did, enabling the peace that was enjoyed by everyone today. It would take a while, but he thought that perhaps he could eventually sway his way of thinking enough to influence his emotions in a more positive way. Heero wanting to get back together was a big part of that too, and this time, Duo could tell that he was serious. Having the love and acceptance of the person that, right now, was the most important in his life would definitely help. After everything that Heero had done to ensure his safety through this entire incident in his life, Duo was sure that he was that person.

That night, as he was preparing for bed, Heero popped his head in to say goodnight "Come in." Duo said, wanting his company. Entering the room, Heero turned to close the door behind him, then sat next to Duo on the bed. For the first time since he'd been found in the Institution, Duo gladly took notice of Heero's body, and the fact that he looked absolutely beautiful wearing nothing but a pair of gym shorts.

Feeling Duo's eyes roaming over him, Heero cleared his throat. "Umm...How're you feeling?" Leaning forward, Duo placed a tiny peck on the tip of Heero's nose, and for the first time in his life, he saw the Japanese man blush. Just a little bit, but it was a blush all the same.

"Thank you, Heero." Duo whispered. He was fiddling with the long end of his braid, a little bit nervous.

Smiling slightly, Heero questioned "For what?"

Grabbing his hand and holding it, Duo's eyes lit up to a sparkling amethyst. "For finding me, not once, but twice; for wanting to help me, for figuring out that you needed me...all of that, Heero. For making me realize that there is at least one person out there who loves me enough to put up with all that crap so that I'm not alone." Heero didn't respond. He didn't know what to say. As he was getting up to leave, Duo asked "Please stay? I don't want to be without you." Then turning off the light, the two got into bed together, Heero wrapping himself protectively around his braided love, squeezing him tightly.

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