By the end of the next day, it was plainly obvious that Duo was dragging behind. He'd awoken in the morning with his skin flushed and his head warm, and a slight dizziness that made him want to just stay at the campsite all day, but there were things to do, so he got up anyway. He performed his morning ritual of wading in the cold ocean to clean out his laceration and bringing up the trap and whatever bounty it held, although once again his appetite was practically non-existent. Knowing better, he did force himself to eat, and then had to fight to keep the meal down afterward. Then once again accompanying the other boy through the wood and to the stream, they both drank their fill of the sweet water, and loitered a bit in the more welcoming surroundings of trees and foliage. On the way back to the beach, they gathered armfuls of kindling for the fire, returning to the campsite by mid-day, the bulk of their chores completed.
Reaching their resting spot, Duo threw himself down on his bedroll while Heero piled more branches on the fire. He lay his one arm across his head to shield his eyes from the bright sunlight, which was exceptionally strong that day, making it warmer than it had been yet since they'd been stranded. For a long time he said nothing, his mind wandering in all sorts of directions. Would the shuttle tracking device work? He guessed that it could, but only if the owner of the civilian shuttle that they'd rented was searching for it, and hadn't just chalked it up to another insurance claim. If no one was looking, no one would find them, and that thought created a sinking feeling in the pit of Duo's stomach.
He was starting to suffer from his injury, probably from infection, and there was no way for him to deny it now. He could feel sickness coming on. Duo knew sickness; he'd been raised in it. He never did ask Heero that one afternoon what had him so concerned, the afternoon that the other boy had probed inside the deep wound, only to remove his bloody fingers and glare at him with a genuinely detectable look of concern. No, they hadn't really discussed it, because there really hadn't been a reason to - it was obvious that the wound was pretty bad. Duo guessed the problem was probably the fact that the laceration went through the body wall and layers of flat muscle that protect what lies under them. He knew this himself now, having painfully probed it on his own the day after, trying to find for himself what had caused Heero to be filled with such worry. He nearly made himself vomit doing it, too. Straight through the body wall, leaving a nice opening into the body cavity itself, which is supposed to always be nice and sealed and sterile. With no way to close up the gash, Duo was an invitation for an infection, and it was looking like the infection had accepted the offer.
The longhaired boy rolled onto his good side and sighed. Heero sat beside him and watched...the sky, the surf, the birds flying overhead.
As usual, there was no response. No response was the response, so that was becoming Duo's que that he could keep talking.
"What do you think is going to happen to us?"
Still no response. That was probably a bad thing in this case, and Heero simply continued to watch the sky as if he were expecting a shuttle or chopper to fly by any moment to get them.
For quite a while longer they sat there, Duo trying to sleep and Heero searching the skies, in total silence, until the Japanese boy stood and wiped the sand from his clothes.
"I'm going searching," Heero said, his eyes refusing to make contact with the other boy's.
"I don't know. Whatever I can find that will help."
Then before Duo could utter another word, Heero was already making his way down the beach and toward the wood.
Sighing, Duo watched him go, too exhausted to try going after him, so instead he just lay back again and slept. However, his sleep was not restful at all, and instead was plagued with thoughts of his youth, memories of his life, and nightmares of the future. Lying there on the beach, his head propped by the rolled up space suit, Duo's subconscious threw him into the darkness of his past. Suddenly he was a child again, fighting for his survival on the streets of L2, and then watching the smoke billowing high above the carnage at the Maxwell Church, the screams of dying people forever etched in his mind. Familiar voices echoed through his head, voices of the only ones he ever loved enough to call his family. Little snippets of deja vu littered his mind in no particular order, turning his dreamstate into a confusing stop-motion picture of the past, visions and voices that didn't match, pictures in still life of how things used to be.
"I'm already sick, Duo. You use it, so you can live."
That voice from his past woke the boy with a shout and a gasp, his eyes wide with bewilderment and sweat running down his face. Blinking, Duo looked around him, trying to regain his realization of where he was. His breath was coming in short, nervous breaths. Sand. Beach. The fire beside him. Right. He was still stranded with Heero. His heart rate calmed some now. It was dusk already, and Heero was sitting near him again, watching quietly. The fire was at a full roar, and from his lying position, he could just barely begin to make out the appearance of stars high in the impending night sky. Right now it was a pretty blue-violet color.
"You OK?" Heero's question surprised Duo.
"Yeah. Bad dream."
"Hmm," was the only answer. "I saved you some food." Half of the evenings catch waited for him, still skewered on its stick, the stick pushed into the sand so the meat stayed clean.
"Thanks," Duo replied, but made no move to get it.
"Found something else."
"Yeah? What's that?"
"I knew those birds had to be eating something, or they wouldn't be nesting here. There's a grove of citrus trees past the stream, on the other side of the island." Heero produced two large orange-looking fruits from beside him. "They're not the greatest, but they're edible. I think this must be the winter season here, because there was nothing blooming. Just what remained in the trees, that the birds hadn't gotten to yet."
Catching one of the fruits that Heero tossed to him, Duo studied it, then dug his thumbnail into the thick skin to begin peeling it away, revealing a soft pulp of a pale yellow color. When the entire thing was free of its casing, he pulled off a section and tasted it, making a face.
Heero ignored the comment and ate his regardless. Then without much more complaint, Duo did the same. Yes, it was sour and no it certainly wasn't a Florida Sunkist, but it was one more item to add to their extremely limited menu, and that was always a bonus. They finished their fruit in silence. Duo never did eat the fish that had been saved for him. His stomach simply wouldn't allow it.
When morning arrived yet once more, Heero was up by dawn and sat, motionlessly watching the other boy sleep. Duo was having nightmares again, evident by his erratic breathing and the involuntary movement of his body. His eyelids rolled excitedly under closed lids, and there was a moist reflection on his skin that shimmered in the partial daylight. Every so often a little bead of sweat would form under his bangs and roll down the side of his face and under his neck. His hair was pasted around his face and neck with sweat.
Flashing quick glances between Duo and the shuttle-tracking device, Heero sighed. He was getting nervous. Duo was getting worse, and Heero was getting more nervous. So he sat by himself, rather than wake the other boy, thinking. He thought and thought, until there wasn't anything more to think about. Was there anything else he could do for Duo? Was there something in his training that he wasn't remembering? No. Duo needed medical attention - antibiotics, and for that gash to be closed up. What was going to happen now? He supposed that it could all end up all right. Maybe, one day, the location device would come through for them, and someone would find them, but he wasn't hopeful. Maybe Duo would be strong enough to withstand an infection, but that was unlikely too, since they'd both been cold, had little shelter and even less to eat. Fighting sickness requires optimum health, especially when it probably involved nasty infections like this.
Heero felt the muscles in his stomach tighten. They were going to die. He knew it - felt it in his gut. Never in his life had he ever allowed himself to feel so hopeless, but then, had the situation ever been so hopeless? How long could he go on living out in the extremities like this, without it eventually bringing him down? Sure, he was capable and strong, and could figure out what to do eventually, but how long could he go on living this way before... before he totally lost his mind? For the second time in his young life, Heero felt fear. Not the same panicked fear as he'd felt before, in the ocean, but a different one. This fear was the fear that it would be an eventuality, but sooner or later he would lose this fight with this place he'd been stranded, and he'd have plenty of time to contemplate himself as he did. More than that, he feared, of all things, losing Duo.
He snapped himself out of the thought he was having. Was he giving up? He never gave up. Never. He'd been trained to get through hardships like this. He'd lived in solitary confinement before, training his mind, should he ever be captured and become a prisoner. He knew how to control himself. He knew how to push aside his emotion to keep it from getting the better of him. If he could do it then, he could do it now, but somehow, it just wasn't the same. Somehow, that desire to survive, that drive to be invincible, it wasn't there anymore. His eyes wandered over the surroundings once more, coming to rest on the twitching form of the boy beside him.
Duo. It was him. He was the reason for Heero's sudden shortcomings. He was the cause of it. The longhaired orphan from the streets of L2, the boy who by rights had a much worse upbringing and past when you came right down to brass tacks. He was rough around the edges and he could be annoying as hell at times, but it was then that Heero realized that Duo also had a good grasp on what was important in life. Somehow, in all his strife and struggle, Duo had figured it all out. Family. Friends. It had been missing from his own life, so he never realized he was missing it, until now. Duo had extended himself, even trying to bridge the gap between them, realizing that at least while they were in this predicament, all they had was each other, and they should take advantage of it. Heero thought some more. The other boy was a total contradiction to what he was, but he admitted to himself...his biggest concern at that moment was for Duo, and it wasn't a duty call this time, either - it was honest to God care and compassion.
Duo Maxwell was turning Heero into a caring, feeling person.
A low moan broke Heero out of his trance, and he turned to find Duo whining in his sleep again. It was easily mid-morning now, as the sun was completely visible and making its way high into the sky, and Heero thought he should wake the other boy so they could get their routine started, or at least see how the other boy was feeling. He moved close to Duo to shake him lightly.
"Duo," Heero called quietly, shaking the boy's shoulder. His skin was warm and sticky to the touch. He called once more, a little louder this time, and his response was softly fluttering eyelids that tried their best to open, but rested still once more. Heero studied his friend's face. It was pale and writ with unrest. Then touching his hand to Duo's forehead, Heero's expression distorted, and his need to wake the boy became urgent.
"Duo!" Heero shook him now with both hands, the skin beneath his fingers blazing hot compared to his own, until finally Duo's eyes opened. Strange yet beautiful violet eyes stared back at Heero, but they were full of confusion and malaise.