The sound of crashing waves brought Heero back into consciousness. It was morning already. Stretching and yawning, he cracked his back, then rubbed his eyes, coming fully awake. Turing to see how Duo was doing, lying beside him, his heart sank. The other boy looked bad. His complexion had gone from pink to bright red, and he was sweating profusely, even at this early hour of the morning. After the conversation they'd had the previous night, after the things that they'd both said and the things he finally came to truth with, Heero panicked, and he panicked in a way that he'd never before panicked in his life.
"Duo!" He was up, sitting beside the boy, tapping his face and roughly shaking his shoulder. "DUO!" Except for heavy, fast breathing, he got no response, furthering his panic. "Shit!"
Heero stood and paced a few times, thinking of what else he could do to help poor Duo, but he drew a blank. No food, no medicine, no way to keep him well hydrated - really, it was not a good situation at all. The fevers were obviously worsening, and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it. Back to the original plan, that being to cool the boy off in the ocean, at least long enough to keep the fevers from cooking his brain.
"Please, Duo... hang on. Gonna put you back in the water, OK?" Heero spoke to his friend as if the boy could hear every word.
There was no way Duo was going to be any help with this today, so Heero was forced to carry him to the water. Mustering up every bit of strength he had, which was considerable for a boy his age, he knelt, scooping Duo into his arms, then struggled to get to his feet. Gritting his teeth, Heero forced himself to carry the boy, nearly dropping him a few times and grunting the whole way to the water's edge. His body was smeared with sweat, blood and sand by the time he reached the water. Trudging his way to the waves, Heero waded in a few feet, then dropped the load of Duo's body into the oncoming surf, where he was immediately converged upon by foamy white waves, wetting both of them completely in one sweep. Heero lay in the cold water holding Duo's head up, his heart pumping double time and adrenaline rushing through his veins.
"Duo... please wake up!" Another wave rolled in, covering them, it's chilly water raising goose bumps on Heero's skin, and his tears began mixing with the salt water of the ocean. "Don't do this, Duo! Please don't do this!"
Heero stayed in the shallows with Duo laid out in the surf, keeping him from taking in water as the healing ocean worked on his feverish body once more, cooling him. Every so often his eyes would flutter open, then close again, but it was a sign that all was not lost yet, which gave Heero hope. Duo recognized Heero hovering over him, and could feel the soothing waters rush over him, but he was so utterly exhausted and sick that a reply was beyond his means. Everything hurt - his wound, his chest, his head, his limbs...they were all complaining, threatening a mutiny. He forced himself to keep opening his eyes, communicating to the Japanese boy that yes, he was still with him, that he hadn't given up the fight yet. Somewhere back in his psyche though, he was cool and safe, and being held by Heero, making everything all right, and in between opening his eyes, this was the place that Duo stayed while sickness ran rampant through his body.
After spending an undetermined amount of time soaking in the ocean with Duo, his ears deafened by the noise of the crashing waves around him, Heero saw it before he heard it. Coming in from the east, high in the sky. A helicopter! There was a helicopter passing over the island! It was quite a ways off in the distance, but it was headed their way for sure. Watching it from below, Heero leapt to his feet and out of the water, practically dragging the other boy with him as he scrambled to get Duo onto the beach.
"The flare!" Heero yelled out to no one, then raced up the beach to their campsite, tripping along the way and winding up with a face full of sand. Getting up and brushing himself off, he ran as fast as two legs could carry him until he reached the blazing camp fire, then started flinging things around as he searched quickly for the one, final flare that they had left.
"SHIT!" Heero cursed as he fumbled, tossing branches and clothing and boots around, desperately trying to find the thing, then sighing with relief when it finally appeared, half buried in the sand, under one of Duo's boots. He unwrapped end of the flare as fast as he could, dropping it twice, and having to use his teeth to pull one part of the protective wrapping off, the whole while watching the helicopter as it circled the island. Surely they'd seen the fire burning, hadn't they? And they had to be able to see Duo lying out on the beach, and Heero as he sprinted to get the flame.
With a strike of the flare, Heero set the one end in the sand then jogged back a few steps, praying that it worked the way it was supposed to. His prayers were shortly answered as a ball of glowing red light streaked skyward, leaving a smokey gray trail behind it. The helicopter was still circling the island, but there was no way they could have missed that. They couldn't possibly not have seen that flare go off the way it did.
As the chopper prepared to land on the beach, a lump grew in Heero's throat. Rescued. They were actually rescued. There was a powerful thumping in his chest, but it wasn't his heart - it was the rotars on the helicopter spinning in the air above him, proving to Heero that this was no dream, they had really been found. It was an Earth Sphere Coast Guard chopper. Heero could only guess whether they were on routine patrol and just happened to see the fire, or if the shuttle location device had actually worked, but at this point, it no longer mattered - all that did matter was that they were going home. The helicopter touched down on the beach causing a sandstorm around it, and Heero took off back to water's edge to get Duo.
"Duo!" Heero called excitedly to the barely conscious boy. "We're going home, Duo! They've come to get us and we're going home!" Duo blinked a few times incoherently, then a weak, thin smile appeared on his lips before he closed his eyes once more to rest his throbbing head.
Adrenaline once more pulsing through his body, Heero scraped Duo up in his arms and was headed toward the chopper in no time, anxious to get help for the boy. Three people jumped out of the helicopter to help, two of them rushing toward Heero to take Duo from him and get him quickly inside. Then once Heero had a moment to catch his breath, he looked up and straight into the eyes of one of their comrades, one who had come to his aide once before, none other than Trowa Barton. The concern of his expression was obvious as he helped Heero to the chopper.
"We thought we'd lost you two," Trowa said emotionlessly, in that caring, concerned kind of way that only Heero could completely understand.
It was a beautiful, sunny day, that day that Heero and Duo were picked up on the island after crashing their shuttle into the ocean. Birds flew high in the crisp cerulean sky and the southern waters never looked so enticing and blue. The two gundam pilots, now two friends, had been stranded for almost ten days without the benefit of medical supplies, good shelter or enough to eat, and it was definitely time for them to go home. Heero gazed at Trowa, his vision partly blinded by the sunlight, and suddenly the events of the past ten days came crashing down on him, his body suddenly feeling worn out and tired as he rejoiced their being rescued in his mind. Duo would be OK. He would be OK. Everything was going to be OK.
"So did I."
As the words left his lips, Heero felt a shroud of blackness converge on him, and he welcomed it.