Set Me Free
by Ricci

Part One

Author's notes: This is a 1x2, with some 'guest appearances' of 4. Beside that it's a pretty mushy story and inconsistent with the Gundam Wing timeline. Gomen nasai!

I took some liberties with the medical stuff in this story, the treatments administered here would never happen in the real world. But, hey, they can build gundams, sooo...... ^_~

Oh, and this story is YAOI, with some citrusy parts later in the plot, so anyone who is bothered by that should stop reading now (but of course I know you aren't!).

Surprisingly - as my fav character is Heero - there'll be mostly Duo in the beginning, you'll see why! That said - have fun!

Disclaimers: Gundam Wing and all related characters belong to Sotsu Agency, Sunrise and TV Asahi. No copyright infringement is intended, no money made.

Many thanks to Chaos Angel who beta-read the story for me, arigatou gozaimasu!!

Archive: of course, if you like to!

C&C craved!


It was all happening too fast. The sky was exploding; torn by the gunfire which flashed like lightning. One moment Heero had everything under control, his senses on the battle, dancing the lethal waltz of destruction with the attacking mobile suits; the next moment his vision exploded with pain; horrid, immediate pain that set his nerves aflame.

He opened his eyes, trying to see in the darkness that surrounded him. Panic flooded his senses for a moment - am I blind?? - before he fought it down to assess the damage.

Obviously he was still in the cockpit of his gundam, though it felt cramped somehow. Something smelled funny, and there was a dead weight on his legs. Trying to move his arms, Heero screamed at the white-hot jolt of pain that tore through his body. A squeaking noise registered in his brain, and he felt the structure around him shift. In the nanosecond before something heavy crashed into his torso, when he could feel the air shift, he screamed.




Duo swallowed heavily as he stared through the glass window in the Intensive Care Unit at the prone form of his friend; lying in a sterile hospital bed, in a sterile hospital gown, surrounded by white sterile walls. A whole arsenal of machines were set up around his bed. Cables and tubes, some vanished under the white sheets covering his chest, while others attached to needles invaded his arms. With the respirator tube down his throat... Heero looked incredibly pale and fragile.

Duo knew without looking that both of Heero's legs were in casts, the appendages bulky under the thin sheets. What shocked him most though, were the cables going inside of Heero's head. He had heard the word 'brain damage' in the hallway and it had shocked him to the core. He couldn't imagine an impaired Heero who wouldn't be anything more than a vegetable.

How could this have happened to the 'perfect soldier'? Once again, Heero Yuy had proven that he indeed possessed the proverbial nine lives of a cat. Only this time, Duo had the suspicion that death would have been a mercy.

One of Heero's doctors headed for Duo; carrying some papers in his hands. Duo tore his gaze from Heero and looked anxiously at the man in the white coat.

"Konnichi wa. You must be Maxwell-san, I assume?"

Confused, Duo nodded and opened his mouth to ask how he could possibly know.

"Winner-san told me I'd find you here. My name is Kitamura, Yuy-san's doctor."

Duo nodded again in apprehension, gulping nervously as Kitamura looked down at his papers.

"I take it Yuy-san has no family. You are listed as the one to contact in case of emergency." He eyed the nervous young man with the long braid. "Is that correct?"

"Hai." answered Duo in a small voice. Kitamura regarded him again, watching how Duo squirmed under his scrutiny.

"Fine, then. I need to talk to you, in my office preferably. It's just down the hall." Duo nodded his consent and followed the doctor after glancing at Heero one last time.

They sat in Kitamura-sensei's office; the room had PURPLE plush seats, Duo noted to himself, faintly amused and yet at the same time shocked at his amusement. Kitamura cleared his throat.

"I guess you don't know much about brain injuries, so I'd like to give you a short explanation of what we are dealing with." He waited for Duo to nod before he continued. "It is not very difficult to understand. When the brain is injured, it will swell. The swelling is caused by leakage from nearby blood vessels. This wouldn't normally be life-threatening, but because it is encased within the skull, this swelling will cause parts of the brain to compress, which in turn decreases the blood flow and oxygen to parts of the brain. This causes further swelling. So we have to find a way to maintain the blood flow and oxygen to all parts of the brain in order to minimize the damage. Do you follow me so far?"

"Does that mean you have to operate on his brain?" Duo asked numbly.

"I have yet to see the results of the scans, so I can't tell yet. At the moment we have Yuy-san on very strong medications, which helps to draw fluid back out of the brain and into blood vessels. However, if this doesn't help, we'll have to remove some of the pressure surgically."

Duo looked so shocked that Kitamura wisely refrained from telling him that they would remove brain tissue that was damaged beyond recovery in order to release the pressure inside Yuy-san's brain.

"And... and how - how long..."

Kitamura sighed. "I don't know. At the moment we have to monitor him around the clock in order to avoid intra-cranial pressure. We inserted IP monitoring devices which measure the pressure within the brain and immediately alert us if it increases, and a ventricular drain to drain off excess fluids." Kitamura paused as he saw that the young man wasn't listening to him anymore, obviously in shock.

"Maxwell-san?" he called softly.

"Please... call me Duo." whispered Duo and stared at his hands. His vision was blurring with tears.

"I know this must be a shock for you, Duo-san, but it may look worse than it is. Many patients we have treated have recovered completely, so we have to wait and see. From what I see from his papers, Yuy-san is strong-willed and determined; plus he was in perfect physical condition. That will be extremely beneficial now."

At Duo's desolate expression Kitamura got up from behind his desk and patted Duo's shoulder reassuringly. "And he needs you now."

A shudder went through Duo's body. When he looked up again, a fierce determination burned in his eyes.


18 months later

Duo fumbled with the keys and unlocked the door, pushing it open as it got stuck again.

"Tadaima!" he called out to the unmoving figure by the window.

In his day-dreams Heero turned his head and scowled at him, his glare softened by the tiny smile playing around his lips as he replied "Okaeri, Duo."

In reality, however, only silence greeted him. Duo heaved a sigh and sat his backpack down at the door to the kitchen, stepping closer to Heero's bed and kicking his heavy shoes off in the process. The last rays of the evening sun cast a golden honey glow on Heero's serene face. He looked warm and alive; perhaps he was sleeping with pleasant dreams. Duo swallowed.

"I hope you have nice dreams, koi. I hope you're in a warm place where the sun always shines and there are no guns, no blood, and no pain." He cringed when he realized how corny he sounded. His voice sounded so loud in the room, as he watched the dust motes dance in the dying sunlight. Heero remained unresponsive, as usual, though his eyes were moving under their lids. Duo cleared his throat and got up; going to the kitchen to put the vegetables he'd bought that day into the fridge. "Man, I had a hard day!" he called out to Heero. "Hazegawa-san was bugging me about those reports again; I told you about this, right? He didn't even listen to one word I said. Guess it's easy to just blame the newbie." He kicked the door of the fridge shut. "God, sometimes I hate him."

Duo looked around searching the kitchen; the bowl of cereal he left on the counter that morning had to be somewhere.

"But on the other hand, I got to meet Junako again when I had to go to Hazegawa-san's office. I really wonder how she can keep her good mood when she's gotta be around him all day." His search over, Duo spotted his bowl of cereal. "Ah, found it. Eww, the milk is warm. Anyway, she's really nice. She even asked me to go out with her, but..."

Duo made his way to the living room again. He flipped the TV on and turned the volume down, so it merely chattered in the background. Anything to alleviate the heavy silence.

He sat down beside Heero on the soft blanket that covered Heero all the way up to his chest. The mattress creaked once, the only other sounds besides the mindless chatter of the TV and the slurping sounds of Duo wolfing down his cereal.

"Ya know," Duo said around the spoonfuls of cereal in his mouth, "I came really close ta telling her about ya today." He swallowed the food. "Dunno why. Maybe because she's so nice and I kinda feel lonely..." He trailed off as he realized what he'd just said. A frown creased his forehead. " But it's not your fault." he told the silent figure on the bed. The cereal had lost its appeal suddenly, and he just stirred the milk with the spoon and watched the little waves that erupted around it.

With a heavy sigh he rose once more, placing the bowl on the low table beside the bed that was littered with pills and syringes and all kinds of medical supplies. Duo knelt beside the bed and took Heero's limp arm. Raising it and draping it around his shoulders, he closed his eyes and let the warmth of Heero's arm sink in. Duo lowered his head and rested it lightly on Heero's chest, which rose and fell with each slow breath. "Dai suki da," he whispered softly.

The TV droned on and on in the background.

With a sigh Duo rose and pulled down the blanket. He listened to the TV as he methodically bent Heero's legs and arms, providing the minimum level of exertion the muscles needed in order not to degenerate.

When he was finished, he propped Heero up on a pillow that supported his spine and checked the catheter. Heero was flinched, and it appeared as if he was making a sound deep in his throat. Duo had been told that this was normal and was to be expected. However it still unnerved him sometimes, because it only heightened the impression that Heero was just sleeping, that he could simply wake him up. As it was, Heero only reacted to pain stimuli, and it was unclear if that was merely a reflex or a very low level of consciousness.


Later that evening Duo decided to go to bed early for once. After he had finished watching one of the more popular sitcoms and munching on potato chips while chuckling at the jokes, he cleaned up the mess he'd made on the sofa. Upon his satisfaction of cleanliness (as scant an inkling he has on the concept anyway) Duo went to brush his teeth, shedding his clothes on the way to the bathroom. When he emerged again, he was wearing his pajama bottoms and carrying a plastic bowl with water splashing in it.

"Time to get you squeaky clean!" he announced to the still figure of Heero. He sat down the bowl beside the bed and drew back the covers, careful not to disturb the IV line. A few minutes later Heero was naked and Duo set on the task to wash him.

He did it with a clinical detachment, thinking back to a time when he'd been embarrassed to see his friend nude. He smiled at the memory.

"You know, you're getting soft, Heero. I think it'd be a good time to wake up now, before all your famous stomach muscles turn to jelly." Duo said and poked said stomach with a finger. For some reason tears were suddenly stinging his eyes. He wiped them away with the back of his hand. "Damn,Yuy. Now I'm crying like a lovesick teenager." Duo's voice was a whisper and his hands trembled as he continued to wash Heero.

Duo's task at last completed, Heero's skin was chilled and clammy to the touch. The braided boy hurried to dress his love in a fresh shirt and wrap him in the warm blankets once more. Then he filled a syringe with a clear liquid from one of the many vials on the table and injected it into the IV line.

"You know," he said quietly, "sometimes I feel like just drowning all those pills with a nice burning glass of whiskey and end it all. But..." Duo's hand reached for Heero's cheek and brushed it softly. "...don't worry, I won't leave you alone." He bent down and pressed his lips to Heero's unresponsive ones. "I'll be here for you when you wake up again." Sighing Duo discarded the needle and tossed the syringe into a small basin filled with disinfectant.

The light from the street lamps filtered through the drawn curtains, silvery, silent as Duo made his last trip to the bathroom that evening to empty the contents of the catheter bag into the toilet. He kept a small amount of the liquid in a vial that he would drop off at the hospital first thing in the morning. He finally sat down on his own bed, unbound the braid and began brush his hair.

"That's another daydream I have." he told the other boy. "Where you sit behind me with your legs beside me, and run your fingers through my loose hair." Involuntarily his eyes fell on the long slender fingers of the young man in the other bed; willing them to twitch, knowing they wouldn't. "One day I'll ask you to do it for me." Duo gently put the brush on his nightstand and lay down, bringing the sheets up in one swift movement. His head rested on one bent arm as he watched Heero silently.

"Oyasumi, koi."

His eyes were liquid pools of moonlight in the darkness.



"Do you always do that?" Duo nudged the door open and motioned for Junako to enter.

"Yah. You never know, maybe he wakes up when I'm not home. But... oh well. Come in!" Junako's eyes fell on the bed near the big window and the figure of a young man lying on it. She hadn't known what to say, when Duo had told her about his... friend; she hadn't believed him at first. To think the doctors would leave a comatose patient in the hands of a nineteen, no, he must have been barely eighteen years old then. But here he was. "You want something to drink?" Duo's voice tore her from her reverie. "Not that I have much to offer! Let's see..." Junako followed him into the small kitchen and leaned against the stove. "There's orange juice, milk, tea if you like, but I don't know how old it is, and some beer." He looked at her quizzically. "I don't suppose you want beer..." She grinned and shook her head.

"No. But orange juice sounds just fine," she said. Duo rummaged in the fridge and produced a bottle of juice.

"Ta-DA!! And it's even nicely chilled!" He got two glasses out of a cupboard and poured orange juice into them, handing her one.

"Doesn't it feel strange?" asked Junako after a while, resting the cool glass against her cheek.


"Him." she nodded in the direction of Heero's bed. Duo's smile faded and his gaze was absent as he stared into his glass.

"No, it doesn't feel strange. I'm... used to it, I guess. But..." Junako's eyes were as soft as the touch of her hand when she placed it on his arm.

"We don't have to talk about that if you don't want to." Duo chuckled softly, though Junako was aware of the trace of bitterness in his voice.

"Oh, but I want to talk about it!" He put his glass aside. "Come on! I'll introduce you!" Junako smiled again at his enthusiasm and let herself be dragged along.

Heero was pretty. No, pretty seemed to be the wrong word. He was beautiful. Dark ruffled bangs spilled onto the pillow, gleaming in the sunlight that streamed in from the window. Long dark lashes rested against smooth cheeks, pale and delicate in their appearance. Heero's hands were at his sides, on the light blue blanket.

"He's beautiful when he sleeps." Duo whispered at her side. Junako shot him a quick glance, not surprised to see him stare adoringly at his lover. Her eyes swept over the low table with its load of medical stuff back to Heero again who was as still as a marble statue.

"So when will he wake up again?" she asked Duo. He sighed and shrugged.

"They... they said..." There was a short pause when Duo lowered his gaze to the floor. "They weren't even sure he will, ever." Junako felt ashamed for asking.

"I'm sorry," she said quietly. Duo gave a short laugh that sounded very false and raised one hand to rub his neck.

"Don't worry! I know for certain that he'll wake up, even if it's only to shut me up!" Junako had to smile at that.

"I'm sure he will be happy that his lover waited for him." Duo's face fell a bit.

"Ano... we're not lovers... at least not officially. I mean..." She blinked at that.

"But I thought..." There it was again, the bitter chuckle.

"He sort of went out and fell into a coma before I could tell him." Junako resisted the urge to blurt 'He doesn't even know???' in disbelief.

"You're full of surprises, Duo-san." Her gaze dropped to Heero again, noticing how shiny his hair was and how clean the sheets were. "You're taking good care of him. I imagine that it must be quite hard to take care of another person like that." Duo shrugged and went over to the kitchen.

"No big deal." He came back with their glasses, offering her the couch with a gesture. She sat down and took the glass from him.

"No, really. You have a full-time job. What will you do if he wakes up and you're not there?" Duo extracted the keys from the pocket of his black jeans and threw them to her. She caught them in surprise and looked at them.

"See this metallic tube kinda thing? There are sensors attached to him that monitor his heartbeat and blood pressure. If something's wrong, this thingie starts beeping like crazy and also calls the hospital. It's pretty neat; I got it from Kitamura-sensei, Heero's doc. You can program it to call eight different numbers, but I think the only important one is the hospital." Junako stared in wonder at the small tube. One could mistake it for some sort of laser pointer or something like that.

"But how do they get in when you're not here?" she asked.

"Oh, I gave Kitamura-sensei a key; it was part of the deal when I took Heero in." Junako nodded slowly, tossing the keys back at him.

"I've been wondering about that," she admitted, "How did they allow you to take Heero home with you? I mean, you were just eighteen, weren't you?" Duo smiled ruefully and leaned back in the soft cushions of the couch.

"Yeah. It nearly didn't happen! But for once my big mouth was good for something. You see; the people were still recovering from the constant war, and it wasn't like Heero had a good insurance willing to pay. They didn't wanna keep him in the hospital, because they couldn't do anymore for him. He would have just been transmitted to a long term facility." He paused and drank some more juice. "And those facilities are expensive as hell!" Junako nodded again understandingly, and for a short moment Duo contemplated telling her about Relena, how close he had been to begging Relena for money, but then he decided against it. "Anyway, they didn't know what to do with him, so I suggested I take care of him." When he didn't continue, Junako prompted

"And they just let you take him like that?" Duo shook his head, staring at the blank TV screen.

"Oh no! No way. They put up quite a fight, you know, all this crap about close family and blah blah blah. But Heero has no one-" Junako heard the 'except for me' hanging in the air

" So there wasn't much they could do. I was willing to take care of him and I was the legal age, - barely, but who cares - Plus they knew me from all the time I spent there with him. Kitamura-sensei had a long talk with me, 'bout all the risks and psychological stuff, then the nurses showed me what to do... Then I had to get a job and an apartment that matched their requirements; and here we are." Duo inhaled deeply and turned his violet eyes on her. Junako felt the butterflies stir in her stomach. "Why don't you tell me something about your life? We're talking about me all the time," said Duo, attempting to change the subject. She grinned.

"Not much to tell. My brother got me the job at Hajousei. He worked there for a year. Since then I've been enduring Hazegawa-san." Junako earned a sympathetic smile for that. "What else? I have a cat and an old piano and four big boxes of stuff I can't bring myself to throw away. Like I said," She sipped on her juice. "Not much to tell." There were many questions on her mind about Heero, about his condition, and also about Duo himself. She sensed that he had constructed a cheerful mask that was firmly in place for the rest of the world. Only this time she had seen the tiny cracks in it.

However, she said nothing.

The silence was heavy and oppressive. Her gaze stole to the body on the bed again, and suddenly she was anxious to get out of there, away from it: him.

Duo seemed to feel her uneasiness. He stretched, a few joints popping.

"Say, I've been wondering, would you like to go to the movies with me? They're having reruns of some old movies this weekend." Junako nodded her consent eagerly, relieved to have a chance to escape the strange atmosphere.

"Sure! If it isn't too much of an inconvenience for you..." Duo made a dismissive gesture.

"Nonsense! It's weekend! I have all the time in the world, ne?" He winked at her with those incredibly beautiful violet eyes and she felt her uneasiness melting, vanishing.

They left the glasses on the table, grabbing their coats on the way to the door. It shut with a resounding click behind them.

Silence fell on the small apartment again.


After fumbling for a while Duo finally managed to open the door and stumbled in, not bothering to turn on the lights. He staggered to the bed and collapsed in front of it.

"Can you believe it?" His words were slurred. "She tried ta kiss m'. I fuckin' told her 'm gay an' she tries ta kiss me!" He clutched Heero's arm with both hands. "Wake up. Ya hear me? Wake up!"

Heero didn't respond and the seconds ticked away.

"Why... Heero..." Duo's sight blurred with hot tears, some of them coursing slowly down his cheeks to fall on the pale blue bed sheets. "I love you." he managed without slurring the words together and cried even harder. That night he crept under the covers and pressed himself against Heero's warm body.


"So how are you doing, Duo-san?" asked Doctor Kitamura when he saw the young man picking up the amount of weekly supplies for his patient. Duo was joking with the head nurse as she gathered them for him.

"Kitamura-sensei! We're fine, thank you." Duo grinned at him broadly, flashing a V-sign at the nurse who giggled. Kitamura smiled when he noticed the 'we'. He was very fond of Duo who had taken on such a heavy burden and carried it without complaining once.

Of course that was the problem, since he suspected that Duo's cheerfulness hid underlying pain. He knew that Duo was keeping it all down, trying to ignore it so it would go away. The doctor also knew that this would break the young man in front of him if he didn't find a way to relieve him of at least some of the stress.

"Would you come to my office with me, Duo-san? I'd like to talk with you, if you have time." Duo nodded and followed him, tossing some dirty joke over his shoulder as he went which sent the head nurse into giggles again.

"What is it you want to talk to me about, Kitamura-sensei?" Duo asked once they were inside Kitamura's office.

"Sit." Duo obliged and sank down in one of the ridiculous purple plush seats. "You're taking good care of Heero-san." Duo smiled softly. Kitamura continued, "It's starting to get warm again. Why don't you take Heero-san outside sometimes? You still have the wheelchair, right?"

"Yeah, that's a good idea." Duo nodded.

"Maybe some outside stimulation helps," said the doctor, "You never know, and..." Duo looked up at the strange tone of voice. He knew that Kitamura was up to something, probably some 'psychological stuff' again. He was right. "Are you alright, Duo-san? No problems sleeping or eating?" Duo sighed mentally. Of course.

"Yeah, I'm fine, sensei, no need to worry." Kitamura eyed him.

"You know you can talk to me about everything. I'm a good listener." The young man didn't meet his eyes.

"There's... there's this girl..." Oh, Kitamura thought, female trouble. Duo seemed to debate whether to talk or leave. "She works at Hajousei, too, and she's nice..."

When Duo didn't continue for some time, Kitamura gently said "Go on." Duo sighed deeply.

"I invited her to come over last weekend. I mean, I had already told her about Heero 'n... Heero and me. But she still was kinda edgy all the time. And then... we went to the movies and to a bar after that and she..." He blushed suddenly. "She kissed me." he said quietly. Kitamura raised his eyebrows. "And now I don't know how to talk to her. I don't see her every day, only if I'm called up to Hazegawa-san's office. But still..." Kitamura waited, but Duo seemed to be finished.

"You like her?" Duo nodded once, a tiny nod.

"Yeah. That's... kind of...the problem." He looked up at Kitamura, and there was unveiled despair in his eyes. "I can trust you, Kitamura-sensei, right? I mean..." Sympathy rose in Kitamura at Duo's forlorn look.

"Yes, Duo-san."

Duo leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, bowing his head and staring at the ground.

"I-I love Heero." When he didn't hear a gasp of surprise he dared to look up again, meeting Kitamura's eyes.

"I know." answered Kitamura calmly. "It is obvious from the way you treat him. There's nothing wrong with that." Duo let out a breath that he hadn't realized he was holding.

"Really?" he sounded dubious.

"What did you think I would do?" asked Kitamura. "Take him away from you?" Again that tiny nod. Kitamura smiled. "Duo-san, I think what you are doing is very honourable. I don't know anyone your age who would be willing to take over a responsibility like that, and if your love for Heero-san only serves to deepen your devotion I can't see anything wrong with it." Duo blushed furiously.

"But you know... I told Junako, the girl, about my orientation and still..."

"Duo-san, you're a good-looking young man. It's no wonder a woman feels drawn to you."

Duo scowled. "But she kissed me! How can she kiss a guy who's gay?" His cheeks reddened further at the blunt way in which he said it.

"Perhaps she was confused," offered Kitamura. Sighing Duo leaned back again.

"I finally thought that there was someone I could talk with." He shot a glance at Kitamura and hastily continued, "I mean, someone my age, someone to hang around with." He exhaled sharply again and tousled his chestnut bangs with a hand. "I guess I have to think this over for a little while." Kitamura sensed the walls coming up again, and he was right. A ghost of Duo's enigmatic smile flickered over his features as he got up.

"Gomen nasai for monopolizing your time like that, Kitamura-sensei."

Kitamura shook his head. "You can talk to me whenever you feel like it, Duo-san. And don't brood over this too long. Remember, Heero-san's condition is stable enough to take him with you for a walk or a short trip. Why don't you go out and socialize? You don't do yourself any favors if you hole yourself up in your apartment. Well, I'll see you next week, Duo-san, right?" Duo grinned widely and tipped his forehead in a mock salute.

"You bet!"


When he got home, his answering machine was blinking, signaling that someone had left a message. Duo unpacked all the supplies and listened to the message.

"Moshi moshi, Duo-kun! It's Quatre. I'll be in town next weekend, that is the 23rd, and thought I'd drop by if you don't mind. Give me a call, you can reach me at the company. Ja ne!" Duo, smiling with surprise, paused his unpacking, and turned to Heero.

"Oi, did you hear that?? Quatre is coming! Man, it's been forever since I saw him... ne, Heero?" His thoughts went back, remembering happier times, but he shook himself mentally. "I'm thinking about the old times waaaay too much." Duo sat down on the bed and checked Heero for any small sign of consciousness, but as he had already guessed, Heero slept as peacefully as he had when Duo had left. "You know, I really wonder where you are right now, koi. I mean, can you hear me? If you can... Or maybe it's like having a real long dream, a nice one hopefully." Duo sighed and took Heero's hand between his. "You're so warm, so alive. It's like I just have to shake you and you'll wake up. Glaring at me with those blue eyes of yours. I miss them you know."

Depression lurked in a corner, ready to cloud his mind once more, and Duo cursed loudly. "Shimatta!! I won't let it... Heero, we're going out for a walk." When he went to the closet to get some clothes for his friend, a mischievous glint sparkled in his eyes. "And don't you think it won't be in spandex shorts!"

With some effort he got Heero dressed, disconnecting the IV line but leaving the hollow needle inside of Heero's hand. After all, he'd have to get him on the IV again later.

The wheelchair was under the bed, gathering dust, where it had been stored during the winter and early spring. Duo crinkled his nose in disgust at all the dust that was whirling around in the room now.

"When you wake up Yuy, I'll be the perfect housewife." He hoisted the other boy up and toted him in his arms. Once more he was shocked at how light he was, Duo lowered him into the waiting wheelchair. Another blanket from the closet, this one a heavy quilt, went around Heero's waist and legs. "Done. I think that'll be warm enough." Duo knelt in front of the wheelchair and lifted slender fingers to touch the other boy's face. There was no difference in his serene expression.

Duo set on the task to adjust the backrest, so that Heero's head wouldn't roll from one side to the other. He scrutinized his work from a distance and, satisfied with the results, pulled on his coat.

The elevator took them the short trip to the first floor, then they were finally outside. Duo inhaled the fresh air deeply. It tasted faintly like rain and he looked up at the sky to make sure there were no clouds. It was in the middle of April after all where the weather was as unpredictable as a capricious cat.

But the skies were a clear greyish blue, not a trace of any dark clouds bearing rain. "It's beautiful, ne, Heero?"

He pushed the wheelchair gently and headed to the park nearby. There were close to no people there, only a few joggers and some people taking their dogs for a walk. It was early afternoon; surely most people were either working again after their lunch break or at home, having lunch. A soft breeze came up and ruffled Heero's dark bangs.

"About time we cut your hair, man." said Duo, realizing how long those bangs were. "Or maybe we should let it grow? Hey, wouldn't it be fun if you woke up and had a braid just like me? Kawaii!" He grinned as he imagined Heero's shocked face. "But I'm afraid that's out of the question. No offense, but long hair is a bitch to maintain and just takes more time." A bitter smile crept on his face. "Mmh, maybe I should take my own advice. No can do that! Or you won't recognize me at all!"

Duo wrinkled his nose. Yeah, if -no, WHEN Heero woke up again there'd be a lot of surprises. Besides all the political stuff going on. Duo was quite tall now, having filled out nicely, with broad shoulders and lean long legs. He'd kept his braid at hip length, one time when he had been really depressed, he had considered dying it black, but thankfully he hadn't acted on that idea. His voice had deepened to a light baritone. He wondered what Heero's voice would sound like. Surely it had changed, too, hadn't it? Along with the rest of Heero's body. He didn't know for sure of course, but he guessed Heero would be about the same size as he was, though he was even more slender than he used to be as a teenaged boy. That of course would vanish with physical therapy and a proper diet.

"I bet Relena would love ta be the one taking care of you." Duo murmured as he stroked some stubborn bangs out of his eyes. On impulse he bent down and hugged Heero, the wheelchair's backrest between them.

"But I won't let her, koi." He noticed the strange looks passersby gave him and straightened again. "I won't let her."


One week later

"Quatre!!" Quatre smiled as Duo embraced him, hugging him like there was no tomorrow.

"Oi, Duo, let up, I can't breathe!" he laughed and entered Duo's apartment. Immediately his eyes fell on Heero, but he turned to Duo instead.

"I'm sorry that I can't stay the whole weekend, it's not like I didn't want to, but..."

Duo waved his hand dismissively. "Oh, that's okay, I'm happy you came at all. So how's it going with Trowa?" Duo grinned cheekily at Quatre's blush.

'Trust him to know how to embarass me!' Quatre thought silently.

"We're fine, really. Trowa is working quite a lot with the security team of the company, so we meet quite often at work. And after the company hit the stock market, I've been wading through paper work, so there's not much free time. But I like it."

Duo smiled as they sat down on the sofa. "That's good to hear."

"What about you? I heard you work for Hajousei now," asked Quatre.

"Yeah, though it's really boring sometimes. Except for Hazegawa-san, head of department, mind you, everyone is really nice, though." Quatre nodded slowly.

"And how's Heero?" There, he had gotten it out, the dreaded question. Duo shrugged and gazed over at the prone form.

"He's okay. His vitals are where they're supposed to be and Kitamura-sensei says he's dreaming sometimes. You can see his eyes moving. I've been taking him out for walks the last couple of weeks, maybe that helped." Quatre saw through the nonchalant way that had been said.

"And what about you, Duo? How are you holding up?" Anger shimmered in Duo's eyes as he regarded Quatre.

"Why's everyone treading around me on velvet paws? I'm okay! Why shouldn't I?" His voice broke on the last word though, and to his horror he felt the familiar sting of tears.

"Oh Duo." said Quatre quietly and was suddenly right next to him, taking Duo into his arms. Duo wanted to struggle. He tried desperately to cling to the cheerfulness, but it fled through his fingers, as a hard sob wracked his body. Quatre's arms were strong and steady, and they provided a warmth Duo had been hungering for. "It's okay to cry, Duo," whispered Quatre softly right beside his ear and his embrace tightened. Duo closed his eyes and let it all go, all the anger and despair and disappointment.

His voice broke again and again as he cried those questions asking why. Why Heero didn't wake up? Why he loved him so much? Why at all? Quatre said nothing, only rocked him gently like you would a frightened child.

Finally Duo's sobs died down to sniffles and he withdrew slowly, his eyes downcast.

"Gomen nasai, Quatre."

"Iie," said Quatre firmly. "Don't feel ashamed. I suspected you'd be bottling it all down like that and... it's not healthy. Besides, I'm your friend. I can't concentrate on my work if I keep worrying about you, ne? So next time just call me if you need someone." Duo couldn't express the gratitude he felt at those words, the relief filling him. He reached for a tissue and blew his nose before answering.

"Thank you, Quatre. I guess I just didn't wanna be a bother. But I-I needed that." He paused, before grinning weakly. "Ch', just look at me, crying like a damsel in distress when you're finally here! Shall we go out and grab something to eat? There's a nice Italian restaurant at the end of the street." Quatre pointed at Heero with his chin.

"Is that alright with him?" Duo snorted.

"It's not like he will protest, right? No, don't worry, as long as I carry my beeper with me and we don't end up too far from here it's okay. And I think I need to get outta here for a while." Quatre nodded and went over to the bed while Duo vanished in the bathroom.

"You don't know how lucky you are, Heero. Better hurry and come back from wherever you are, before Duo breaks. He loves you, you know?"

He pressed Heero's hand shortly and bid his good-bye to his still friend.


"I met with Relena-san last month." said Quatre when they were seated at a table in the 'nice Italian restaurant'. Duo's eyes widened.

"You did? When? How?" Quatre shrugged and swirled the red wine in his glass with a movement of his hand.

"Yes, I saw her. There was a formal reception at the estate of one of our customers, and I was invited. She was obviously a friend of his family. And she--" Quatre looked at Duo and smiled. "--She announced her engagement to a certain Raya Torsequan." Duo's eyes were wide like saucers, and he looked so shocked that Quatre was afraid he might fall off of the chair.

"Engaged?" squeaked Duo.

"Yes." repeated Quatre, frowning a little. "You DO know who Torsequan-san is, ne Duo?" Duo managed to look shocked and embarassed at the same time.

"Uhh... you see, I avoided watching news somehow..." Quatre shook his head wonderingly.

"He belongs to a noble family who lived in the Sanq Kingdom, they kept hidden during the war. In the last year he got popular for being totally devoted to the principle of absolute non-violence and he won the Nobel Peace prize for literature for his work 'Transcending Nature'. His face was everywhere!" Duo raised his eyebrows.

"So Relena found herself a little pacifist, and from the Sanq Kingdom to top it off. Wow. Does that mean..." He trailed off meaningfully.

"I think she has overcome her infatuation with Heero-san," agreed Quatre. Duo stared into his wineglass.

"I'm not entirely sure if I'm happy or not." Quatre frowned.

"Why is that?"

"Remember when I told you about that rehabilitation center who was willing to take Heero?"

"Yes." Quatre remembered only too well. "You didn't want to accept any money from me." Duo gulped.

"That's right, because you were about to found that little company of yours, and you needed the capital." He shot Quatre a meaningful glance. "I was real close to asking Relena for money then." Quatre just stared at him.

"Relena?? But-but--"

"--Why accept her money and not yours? Well, first of all she HAS everything she could possibly need and more. And second, I figured it would fit into her plans quite well, if she could demonstrate her nobility and all by supporting one of the Gundam pilots. Of course she would've done it because of her li'l ol' 'infatuation' as you call it, so I'm absolutely sure she would've done it."

"And why didn't you ask her in the end?" They both leaned back when the waiter appeared and set down the plates with their orders in front of them. Duo reached for his napkin and unfolded it.

"Because she would have taken him away from me, I guess." Quatre never ceased to be amazed at the depth of Duo's feelings for his fellow pilot. Neither Trowa nor he himself had had a clue at how much Duo cared for Heero. It had been quite a surprise for all of them when Duo had demanded he be the one to take care of Heero. And to see all that he had sacrificed just to be with Heero, who probably would never wake... "Have you seen Wufei lately?" asked Duo, interrupting Quatre's thoughts. The blonde shook his head.

"No. The last time I saw him was last year. I hope he is fine, because he looked awful back then. I tried to keep in touch but he just vanished again."

"He can take care of himself. Always could." answered Duo and dove into his spaghetti again.

"Let's hope so." Quatre smiled again, though his smile was tinged with worry. They finished their meal talking about times long past, laughing or sharing companionable silence. Before they knew it, it was near midnight; Quatre excused himself.

"I have to go now, Duo. We have to do this more often, I feel wonderfully relaxed."

"Aw, and I was sure only Trowa got that reaction!!" Duo laughed heartily at Quatre's embarrassment. "S-sumimasen! I couldn't resist! Anyway you're right, this evening was fun. Glad you could come!"

They hugged.

"Take care of yourself, Duo." whispered Quatre into Duo's ear before he let go again. Duo nodded solemnly.

"I will. Thank you, Quatre." Quatre waved as he hailed a cab that would take him to his hotel. He would board a shuttle to L2 the next morning to go to some convention. Duo turned and shoved his hands into the pockets of his coat, heading home to his apartment and Heero.


For some reason Duo didn't feel like sleeping, so he settled on taking a long soak in the tub instead. He lit two candles in the bathroom that cast a calming, golden glow over the white porcelain. The two dark green ferns Duo liked to keep in the bathroom looked like mysterious living beings in the flickering candlelight. Duo had gone totally slack in the hot water, his hair like a shampoo covered turban on his head, resting against the tub.

One of his favorite fantasies replayed in his head, where Heero was with him in the hot water, in a large tub of Course, and sitting between Duo's legs. Duo sighed softly and imagined Heero's seductive glare when he would hold Duo's hips in the steely grip of his hands and raise them out of the water, like a worshipper offering a sacrifice to his good. Duo's length would be hot and erect and directly in front of Heero's mouth.

Duo sighed again and shifted in the tub, sinking deeper into the water as his fingers curled around his erection, pumping slowly up and down.

Heero's lips would close around the tip of his member, his tongue swirling over the little slit on top of it, teasing it. Then his fingers would dig into Duo's hips, the water splashing as Heero would move his head up and down, exerting just the right amount of pressure, and then...

'Oh yesssss...'

Duo's back arched, his mouth opened in a silent cry, as he came violently, his seed drifting like a cloud in the water. His hand continued to pump, as he eased himself back down from the heights of the orgasm. When he opened his eyes and saw the mess he wrinkled his nose in disgust.


Duo let the water out and took a quick shower; rinsing the shampoo out of his hair and applying conditioner, which got rinsed out some minutes later as well. Still naked he went into the living room again; he'd left his pajama on his bed that morning. After checking on Heero and giving him his nightly thrombosis shot, Duo curled up beside him.

"I had a lot of fun with Quatre tonight." Duo said while his hand played with a lock of Heero's hair. "I'm sorry we left you alone... and I'm also sorry you had to hear me bawl my eyes out like that. I wish you could have come with us. Maybe next time..." He stroked Heero's warm cheek. "I love you, baka. Come back to me."


Part One B


Several weeks later

"MAXWELL!!!" Duo flinched as the well-known voice thundered through the room. "Get your sorry ass in here, NOW!" Junako smiled at him in sympathy as Duo sighed and straightened himself to face Hazegawa-san.

"Guess I'm in for another round, huh..." said Duo. Just then a strange noise filled the room. It didn't sound like any of the xerox machines or phones... in fact its origin seemed to be awfully close... Junako stared at Duo with wide eyes.

"Duo... your beeper...?" she breathed.

Duo's mouth fell open as he fumbled frantically for his keys. The beeping noise got louder as he pulled them out of his pocket, and a red light on the small metallic tube blinked furiously.


"I'll tell Hazegawa-san!" Junako yelled as Duo made a mad dash for the door. He didn't even hear her.

When he arrived at his apartment, out of breath, the door was ajar. He had seen the ambulance on the street; he had known they'd be there before him.

His heart pounded with anticipation when he pushed the door open. Kitamura sat on the bed beside Heero whose shirt had been stripped off, revealing the sensors attached to his chest.

"How is he?" asked Duo breathlessly. Kitamura looked up at him and smiled.

"He's waking up, Duo-san. He's finally waking up!" Duo wanted to scream and dance in joy, but he could not tear his gaze from Heero. His eyes were moving under his eyelids, and there! His fingers had twitched.

'God, how often have I imagined this exact moment,' Duo thought. Just then two EMTs entered with a gurney between them. Before Duo could ask, Kitamura explained.

"They're taking him to the hospital. We have to monitor him closely. Help us with him, will you?" Duo nodded and shrugged out of his coat, tossing it to the side. Kitamura marveled at his swift movements as Duo knelt down beside Heero and disconnected the IV while brushing some strands of hair out of Heero's face at the same time. They lifted Heero onto the gurney and strapped him to it.

"Should I take some of the medication?" Duo asked, immediately feeling dumb when Kitamura shook his head no.

"But you might bring the wake-up-bag you prepared. He might need it soon."

When they had transferred Heero to Duo's apartment Duo had insisted on packing a 'wake-up-bag', as he called it, just in case Heero woke and they'd have to make a hasty exit. It did come in handy now, Kitamura had to admit.

"Oh yeah! Nearly forgot about that!" Duo said ruefully and went to get it immediately. Five minutes later he sat beside the gurney inside of the ambulance, holding Heero's hand. Kitamura sat on the other side of the gurney and watched Duo.

"Duo-san... I'm sorry, I don't want to destroy the moment, but I have to remind you that it's not like when he wakes up from a bad dream. 'Waking up' in his case just means that he reacts to external stimuli, such as calling his name or just calling out to him in general. He may move his face to the sound, or just his hands, who knows. Sometimes he might even not react at all. His reflexes are very limited." Duo stared at him dumbfounded.

"What does that mean?" Sighing Kitamura explained.

"'Waking up' is just a term we use, Duo-san. It doesn't mean his eyes snap open and he'll be the same person again." Duo looked back at Heero whose eyes were moving rapidly under closed eyelids.

"But I thought..."

"I'm sorry. But he'll get there, in time. I guess it'll be harder for you to come here after work, but I'll see to it that his therapy sessions are scheduled in late afternoon," said Kitamura.

"You mean I can stay during the therapy sessions?"

"I think it's imperative that you do! He's used to your presence, I'm sure therapy will be a whole lot more effective if you're there to help." 'And it will ensure you don't feel left out,' concluded Kitamura in his mind.

"Count on me!" blurted Duo. "I'll be there!"

He was true to his word.


Nine weeks later

"Duo-san, please calm down!" Kitamura leaned forward and offered a kleenex-box to the sobbing young man. "It's not your fault."

"Yes it is!" retorted Duo miserably, taking some tissues and blowing his nose. "I should never have yelled at him!" Kitamura leaned back again and studied him.

"You're being too hard on yourself. Did you ever hear about something called stress? No one expects you to have infinite resources, you need to take a break."

"Don't tell me what I need to do!" said Duo angrily and wiped his nose again. "How can I leave Heero alone like that?"

"But he isn't alone, Duo-san. And he needs time to relearn the basics. You can be proud that he is able to sit and walk by now, without your help he would never have gotten that far in such a short amount of time." answered Kitamura. Duo just stared at him.

"Short amount of time?" Sarcasm dripped from his voice. "It's been nine weeks!!" Kitamura nodded.

"Yes, nine weeks. And it will be maybe nine months before he recognizes you and relearns to talk. What do you expect? I told you in the very beginning that it wouldn't be like waking up from a bad dream, pretending nothing ever happened." Fresh tears welled up in Duo's eyes.

"I just want him back," he whispered brokenly, clasping the tissue in his hands. "It-it's not him I look at. He' a baby. The innocence in his eyes... sometimes I can't bear it." Kitamura's eyes softened and he took Duo's hands between his own.

"There's a pretty good chance that Heero-san will recover completely, it just takes time. It will all come back to him in time; we need to have patience. I know how hard this must for on you. I experienced this very situation with other patients and their family before. And that's why I really think you should take a break. You're no good to him if you break down in front of Heero-san." He hated to put it that bluntly, especially when he saw the despair and self-loathing in Duo's eyes, but it was a necessity.

"But-but, I have to make up for yelling at him..." Sadly Kitamura shook his head.

"He doesn't understand. That's why he was afraid of you; not because he feared you, but because backing away is the natural reaction of a child when confronted with anger, and Heero-san displays the basic emotions of a child at the moment. He won't understand if you try to explain your anger to him, because he most probably has already forgotten about it. Look Duo-san, you know it's not like I want to exclude you from the his therapy, I still think you play an important part in his recovery process. However, it's for your own and finally for Heero-san's good." Duo heaved a sigh.

"What would you suggest?" Kitamura thought for a moment.

"What about Winner-san and Barton-san? They have visited several times, why don't you go visit them for a change?" Duo seemed to consider it. "I'm talking about one or two weeks here. Nothing big will happen in two weeks, Shelley will continue working with Heero-san on his reflexes and basic motor activities. We'll take good care of him for you." said Kitamura, relieved that Duo appeared to be convinced.

"Promise?" asked Duo, with a glimmer of his usual cheerfulness in his eyes.

Kitamura smiled broadly. "Promise. Now get the hell out of here!" Duo laughed heartily and extended his hand to Kitamura.

"Thank you, Kitamura-sensei. I really, really appreciate."


Duo pushed the sunglasses higher up on his suntan lotion slick nose and stretched languidly. He could hear the waves crashing to the shore, some gulls shrieking high in the sky and beside him the soft snore of a sound asleep Trowa.

Coming to Quatre's beach house had been one of the best ideas he had ever had. It felt so good to have Quatre and Trowa with him. He turned to his side on the brightly colored bath towel and smiled at the sight of Trowa, sprawled over his own towel and slowly but surely getting a sunburn. Stretching once more he got up and walked into the house, his eyes needing a moment to adjust to the relative darkness inside.

"Quatre?" he called out.

"In the kitchen." came the reply.

"You better put some lotion on Trowa, he's getting grilled out there." said Duo grinning as he leaned against the cool doorframe and folded his hands behind his head. Quatre smiled at him.

"Will do. Would you like some iced tea?" Duo gratefully accepted the offered glass and closed his eyes as the cool liquid ran down his throat.

"Duo... are you sure you don't want to stay with us for another week? Two weeks of vacation, that's rare for Trowa and me, and we'd both be happy if you were here with us." Duo grinned.

"Nah. Don't want to disturb you two lovebirds!" He was amazed that Quatre still blushed at that. Geez.

"Besides, I really miss Heero. And Shelley, too. And Kitamura-sensei. Oh well, the whole gang at the hospital." He took another sip of his tea. Of course he didn't tell Quatre how it made his heart contract painfully everytime he saw them kiss or look at each other with that certain kind of longing in their eyes. It made him think of Heero's eyes, how happy he had been to see his eyes again... at first...only until he had realized they weren't the same eyes as before, just as if Heero wasn't the same person. Instead of sparkling with Heero's sharp intellect they were often dull and what was even worse: innocent. If the eyes were truly the windows to a man's soul then Duo wondered what was left of the Heero he once knew. It became harder and harder to trust Kitamura-sensei's words that Heero would recover eventually and remember his old life.

"Duo, are you alright? Duo?" Quatre's words broke through his reverie. The blonde boy gave him a worried look.

"Just homesick." sighed Duo.


It was late evening. The hospital hallways were empty except for the night nurse checking on patients. Kitamura sat in his office and stared at his computer screen. A new chance. But still... an experiment. His eyes fell on the folder that bore the name 'Yuy Heero' and his thoughts were with a certain young man with a cheeky grin and a chestnut braid. He rubbed his tired eyes and continued to stare at the screen. It was just a short message, with a long file attached to it that explained procedures and possible risks. As a neurosurgeon he should jump at this opportunity and let Yuy-san prepare for surgery first thing the next morning. As a friend of Duo-san he couldn't bear to think about all that could possibly go wrong. There were a lot of those.

But the chance....


When Duo entered Heero's hospital room, he saw Shelley bowed over him, bending Heero's legs.

"Oi, Shelley! Long time no see!" The therapist, Shelley, was a gentle young woman with white blonde hair that she kept tied back, and Duo had liked her on first sight. They hadn't done much in the beginning, just talking to Heero, giving him massages, listening to music, working his arms and legs, just as she was doing right now.

"Hello, Duo-san, good to have you back." She answered and smiled at him. "I think Heero-san missed you, he kept looking at the door all the time." Duo's eyes wandered immediately to Heero who was looking at him right then. Shelley sensed that Duo needed some time alone with his friend. "I'll be back later." Duo nodded and gave her a small grin that faded when the door clicked shut behind her.

"Heero." he breathed. Heero looked at him with bright blue eyes, not smiling, not flinching, but somehow still acknowledging Duo's presence.

"I missed you, koi." whispered Duo and bowed to press soft lips on Heero's forehead. He felt something tugging at his hand and when he opened his eyes again, he saw that Heero's gaze was now focused on his hand. He had taken Duo's hand and was playing with the fingers, bending and curling them. Duo sank down on the bed and just watched him, reveling in the feeling of Heero's warm touch, even though he knew that it was born from childlike curiosity. He sighed deeply and found Heero watching him, confusion and apparent disorientation in his eyes. He swayed and sagged, and Duo caught him just in time. "Easy there. Would you like to take a walk with me?"

After weeks of physical therapy Heero had relearned the basic motor activities like sitting and walking, but he needed someone to tell him where to go, to lead him and guide him to a place to sit down. Duo had found out that Heero liked to sit near the smoker-room, beside a panorama window, where the sun would shine on him. Duo liked to think that it reminded him a little bit of their apartment.

"Here, let's put on your sneakers first." He helped Heero sit up again, so that his feet dangled from one side of the bed.

Duo slipped the sneakers on Heero's feet and tied the laces as firmly as he could, so that Heero wouldn't trip. It had already happened one time. Then he slid one arm around Heero's waist and gently pulled him to a standing position. Normally Heero would start walking on his own now, though he always waited for someone to come and take his hand. This time, however, he just turned around so that he was face to face with Duo. They were standing so close that their noses nearly touched. Duo felt his heart pound. He gazed into the blue depths of Heero's eyes, which were unreadable at the moment.

Something flickered there: curiosity maybe, before Heero suddenly lifted his right hand and touched Duo's cheek with the pads of his fingers. Duo trembled under his touch, breathing quickly, heartbeat speeding up. Heero's fingers slid over his cheek to his slightly opened lips where they hesitated.

Without pausing to look at Heero Duo pressed his lips to those fingers in a soft kiss. Heero made a small sound and withdrew his hand, staring at his fingers and moving them. Then he turned and shuffled to the door. Duo found his breath and went after him, his heart beating joyously. He caught up with him and took his hand.

No words were uttered, nor were they necessary.


Shelley found them still at the panorama window an hour later. "Hey guys!" They both looked at her, Heero with his usual non-expression, Duo with a grin.

"Hey Shelley! Time for another work out?" She nodded and took Heero's hand.

"Kitamura-sensei wants to talk to you." she informed Duo and pulled Heero to his feet. Duo frowned.

"Oh? Okay, then I'll catch up with you later." He patted Heero's shoulder.

"Be nice to her, man!"


"Shelley said you want to talk to me?" Duo nudged the door to Kitamura's office closed with an elbow.

"Yes, that's right, please take a seat." Kitamura looked up from the report he had been writing and closed the folder. "I meant to tell you this before, but I had to think it over first." Duo had flopped down on a plush seat and rested his elbows on the chair's armrests. "A fellow neurosurgeon sent me an email with a report attached to it. It included several case studies of severe brain injuries that had been treated with a relatively new method and had recovered completely in record time. We're still talking about surgery here, though, and it would be a long and risky operation." Duo digested this with wide eyes.

"Brain surgery?" The word reverberated with unknown horrors. Kitamura nodded.

"Yes, brain surgery. I'd be the one assisting, which is why I wanted to think this through first. But I have to inform you of the risks." Duo slowly shook his head.

"Wait a moment. You said they completely recovered after the operation? And you think Heero would, too?"

"The chances are fifty to fifty. The treatment hasn't been tested extensively yet, like I said, it's new. It could mean that two weeks after the surgery Heero will be completely recovered, except for the scars of course. It could also mean, and that is what I mean by risk, that he might never recover. That wouldn't be the worst that could happen." Duo swallowed.

"What-what else could go wrong?" Kitamura shrugged and opened another folder on his desk. "The parietal lobe could be damaged, which would result in the inability to discriminate between sensory stimuli or to locate and recognize parts of the body. If it is severe damage, it might lead to inability to recognize oneself. Another part that could possibly be damaged are the basal ganglia. Damage of these would result in movement disorders, that means for example tremors when Heero-san is resting and when he initiates movement, or abnormal increase in muscle tone and generally difficulties initiating movement. At worst it could result in the Parkinson's Disease." Duo needed a little time to process that and translate it into something he could understand.

"I need your permission to perform this operation, Duo-san. You're officially Heero-san's guardian." Kitamura watched Duo closely.

"Would you recommend that... method?" The young man looked calm, and there was a bright ember of hope in his eyes. Kitamura nodded solemnly.

"Yes. I would. I spent the last week acquainting myself with the necessary equipment and talking to some of my colleagues who have done this operation before. I will only assist, not actually perform it myself. If you agree, I will schedule surgery for tomorrow morning."

"So fast?" wondered Duo. Kitamura allowed himself a smile. "I was pretty sure you would agree." Duo flexed his hands several times and looked at them, remembering Heero's eyes, the touch of his fingers. He shuddered.

"I trust you, Kitamura-sensei, you know that."

"Hai." answered Kitamura quietly.


The dawn found Duo pacing restlessly in Heero's room. The anesthesiologist had already been there and explained how they were going to proceed, injecting Heero with a sedative and calming down the nervous Duo. Duo had signed the necessary papers and was now waiting for the nurse to come and take Heero down into the surgery.

"I hope I made the right decision, koi," he whispered, coming to rest on the chair beside Heero's bed. The other boy looked strange. Several areas of his head were shaven and he was dressed in a flimsy hospital gown. An IV dripped fluid into his left arm. Duo softly stroked a chilly cheek and pulled the thin sheets up higher, covering the slightly shivering boy with them. "If something goes wrong... I hope you can forgive me. I-I'd like to say that I'm doing this all for you, but to be honest... I guess I'm being selfish. Is it selfish to want you back? I don't know..." Duo paused a moment, blinking back tears. The serene expression on Heero's face reminded him so much of the time he'd been in the coma. "I love you." he whispered and sniffed, wiping away the tears before they could spill. "I'll be there when you wake up. I'll wait for you." Just then the door opened and the night nurse came in.

"Duo-san. It's time." Duo just nodded and stepped away from the bed, as she unhooked the IV and put it on the bed beside Heero, loosening the brakes and pulling the bed away from the wall. Duo helped her maneuvering the bed out of the room, holding the door. He followed them to the elevator, where he would have to leave them.

Duo's pulse quickened. This was it.

He bent down and kissed Heero gently on the lips, whispering 'ai shiteru' against the other boy's closed lips. The nurse cleared her throat.

"The elevator is here." Duo watched her push Heero inside, watched the doors close. Now all he could do was wait.


Kitamura had calculated that it would take approximately six hours and had suggested Duo should go out and busy himself instead of wearing a whole in the linoleum, but Duo had insisted on staying. Thankfully Quatre had offered to drop by around ten in the morning, hoping to distract Duo from his ceaseless worrying.

When Quatre had arrived they had sat down in the hospital's cafeteria and sipped some coffee.

"So what exactly are they doing to him now?" asked Quatre, having given up on his intention to get Duo's mind off of the operation. Might as well ask about it. Duo turned the cup in his hand.

"Actually it's pretty easy. They drill eight holes into his skull; stick eight electrodes inside and stimulate his brain with a certain amount of electricity, and hope they don't fry it in the process." Quatre gulped. That last part was just... disturbing.

"And why does that take so long?" Duo shrugged and his glance stole to the clock on the wall. Damn. Still two hours left.

"I don't know." Quatre was confused.

"You didn't ask?" Impatiently Duo sat his cup down so hard that the coffee inside nearly spilled.

"I trust Kitamura, okay??" Quatre lowered his gaze to the table. Duo sighed. "I'm sorry, I didn't want to yell at you. I really DO trust Kitamura-sensei. He explains a lot about stuff that other doctors wouldn't. And he flew in a specialist to do all that new stuff, at least he could admit that he can't handle it. It's just that..." Quatre nodded understandingly, still staring at his own mug.

"It's okay, Duo. Sometimes it's hard to imagine what you're going through... and sometimes I just don't know what I should talk about and... what not." Duo pushed his chair back suddenly.

"Let's go for a walk, I really need to get out of here or I'm going to go crazy!" They grabbed their coats and went outside into the chilly November air.


Kitamura watched as the last electrode was carefully removed from Heero-san's head and placed into the tank with disinfectant, dyeing the fluid a soft pink. The operation had gone smoothly, there had been no major setbacks. What the outcome would be... only time would tell. Especially the first days after Heero-san woke up would be critical, because there was a lot of information the brain had to process, and many patients couldn't take that and lapsed right back into a coma. However Heero-san had Duo-san, who talked to him all the time and let him be a part of the real life going on while Heero was in a coma.

Kitamura prayed it would work.

The sutures were finally done and the assistant nurses took care of the rest. Kitamura locked eyes with Doctor Garibaldi who had performed the important parts of the surgery.

"Thank you, John, I never could have done this without you. I believe there's a young man out there who'll want to thank you, too." His friend smiled at him, he could see the smile even through the surgeon's mask.

"I think this one is a survivor, Natsukawa. But I trust you to take good care of him." After they had gotten out of their scrubs Kitamura led Garibaldi down the hallway, where two young men rose as they saw them.

"Kitamura-sensei! How'd it go?" Duo's eyes were practically glued to Kitamura's face.

"It went well, there were no problems."

"YATTA!!" whooped Duo and before Kitamura could step out of the way he had two armful of Duo hanging on his neck. "Thank you, thank you, Kitamura-sensei!!" Kitamura stepped back.

"It's not me you should thank, Garibaldi-sensei here did all the real work." He watched amused as Duo shook Garibaldi's hand vigorously, pouring his joy out in a waterfall of words.

"I'd like to thank you, too, Kitamura-sensei." Winner-san bowed formally before him.

"Don't set your hopes too high." warned Garibaldi before Kitamura could answer. "We don't know if the operation was successful until Yuy-san wakes up AND takes the first few days well. I really don't want to spoil your happiness, but... keep that in mind."Duo was bobbing his head up and down, but obviously he didn't really listen.

"When can I see him?" he asked pleadingly.

"He should wake up in the evening, he's in the ICU at the moment, so you can only see him through the window." Garibaldi turned to Kitamura. "I have to catch the plane back, Natsukawa, I'm on a very tight schedule. It was great to work with you again." They shook hands while Duo and Quatre respectfully retreated.

"I'll let you know about Yuy-san's progress," said Kitamura.

"Yes, if you need any help just call me. You know how to reach me."

Some meters away Duo hugged Quatre. "I can't believe it, they did it, they really did it, and he's alive!" Quatre smiled.

"Yes! I'm very happy for both of you, Duo. Let's call Trowa, ne? I bet he's on the edge of his seat." They both looked at each other.


When Quatre went to call Trowa, Duo met up with Kitamura again. "Is he really alright?" he asked, this time very serious. Kitamura nodded gravely.

"Physically speaking, yes. Whether his brain can manage the flood of information will be revealed in the next couple of days. Are you going to be here?"

"Not all the time."

"Well, if you can, take some time off. I'm sure you can help Heero-san a great deal." There were tears in Duo's eyes, a strange mixture of relief, joy, doubt and anticipation.

"I'll be back at six."


Pain... pain?



"Heero, can you hear us?"

Where...? Duo...?

"Heero-san, if you can hear us, try to blink."

Pain... head hurts...

"He doesn't move," whispered Duo anxiously, his voice muffled by the surgeon's mask he had to wear.

Kitamura concentrated on the monitors. "Give him some time. And keep your voice down, Duo-san." The room was only dimly lit, the curtains drawn shut, so that Heero wouldn't be blinded. Duo knelt down beside the bed and took Heero's hand into his gloved one.

"Heero... I'm here." Heero's fingers twitched and a low moan reverberated through the room. Duo and Kitamura looked up just in time to see one eyelid crack open to reveal a dull blue eye. It fluttered shut again, only to be opened again, along with the other one. There was confusion in these eyes, disorientation and pain. Kitamura's eyes were fixed on the monitors. He prayed that it would work...

"Heero?" Duo's voice sounded small. There was a moan again, and suddenly Heero started to cough and gag. Kitamura cursed mentally.

"Get the sedative ready."

The nurse in the background complied immediately, grabbing the already prepared syringe. When she was about to inject it, Duo's voice stopped her.

"No! Don't!"

"Duo-san!" Whatever Kitamura had meant to say died on his lips when he watched Duo bend further down, so that his head was next to Heero's.

"Calm down, Heero, relax. There's a tube down your throat to help you breathe, don't fight it or you'll tear your stitches! Relax, I'm here with you." Kitamura was sure it wouldn't work, but Heero proved him wrong. Duo kept whispering soothing words into his ear, stroking his cheek with a hand and pressing Heero's hand reassuringly. Beneath his gentle caress Heero gradually relaxed, coughing weakly several times. Kitamura was once more touched by the understanding Duo had for the pale boy on the bed.

Heero did his best to follow Duo's advice; he clung to Duo's voice with
rapidly dwindling consciousness, fighting the gagging reflex and trying
accept the alien element in his throat. His mind was reeling, trying to remember where he was and what had gotten him into this situation. There were glimpses of Duo, a flood of images that invaded his thoughts, but the last thing he clearly recalled was his gundam collapsing on top of him. He just couldn't connect all those different images, the pain in his head was becoming unbearable. He moaned again and tried to move his head to Duo's voice, but that movement was obviously too much.

He tumbled back into blackness.

"Kitamura-sensei! What's happening??" hissed Duo, panic in his voice. Heero's eyes had fluttered shut again, and he didn't move. Kitamura observed the monitors with a frown. "I'm not entirely sure... It's too early to draw conclusions. Maybe he's still affected by the narcotic, who knows..." Duo clutched Heero's hand almost painfully.

"You should know; you're the doctor!" Kitamura fought down his own nervousness. "Duo-san, would you please calm down! I won't make any hasty diagnosis, we have to be patient and wait." Duo closed his eyes and swallowed.

"Gomen nasai, Kitamura-sensei. I-I didn't mean to be rude..." Kitamura laid a hand on his shoulder and gently led him outside. They got out of the scrubs and the masks and went into Kitamura's office. Duo sank down into one seat and rubbed his eyes with the knuckles of his hands.

"Would you like some coffee?" offered Kitamura and cleaned his overused coffeepot.

"Yeah." answered Duo and stifled a yawn. He exhaled sharply and focused his tired eyes on Kitamura's face. "I'm really sorry I overreacted back there, it was just that... he was there. I mean, the real Heero, the one I remember. I could feel it!" Kitamura poured water into the machine and flipped it on, returning to his seat behind the desk.

"I think Heero-san was simply too tired. It's been an awful long operation after all, and that's very stressful for the patient, too. The sensors didn't pick up anything out of the ordinary. I was worried about what his coughing would do to the sutures, but you did a good job calming him down. We'll watch him closely throughout the night, but my guess is that he will just sleep off the effects of the narcotic. Why don't you--"

"If you suggest I go home and take a little nap, you can forget it!" growled Duo.

"Do you want me to sedate you? I'll do it if you don't take a break." answered Kitamura, and from the way his eyes glittered Duo could tell that he was quite serious. He threw his hands up in resignation.

"Okay, okay, I'll go home. BUT." He eyed Kitamura. "As soon as there's any change in Heero's condition you call me. And be it fifteen minutes after I left!"

Kitamura chuckled softly. "I promise. And now get out of here!"


A day later

There it was again.

A spark of...

He tried to retreat into the warm and fuzzy blackness again, it just felt so comfortable there. But the spark exploded to a supernova of red glowing pain and it wouldn't leave him alone! He was overcome by panic and tried to flee, to hide, but there was nowhere he could go, and so it just swept over him and carried him away to the edge of consciousness.

The noises registered first in his brain.

Something was beeping, and there was the rustle of clothes.

"Duo?" he asked, or at least wanted to, because in reality he didn't even open his mouth. He moaned in pain.


There! Duo! Heero wanted to open his eyes, wanted to see him... He moaned again.

"Heero, it's okay to open your eyes, we killed the light. Come on, you can do it, koi..."

His mind just froze at that whispered word, broke over that syllable, as memories rushed into his brain, of a voice whispering to him, Duo talking to him, all those words, it was just too much!! Tears sprang to his closed eyes and rolled down to his ears, he could feel the wet traces they left, cold in the air.

"Oi Heero! Please, please open your eyes, please try!"

'But I do!' he wanted to yell, growing impatient, and then suddenly he could see him in all his glory, Duo, so close, different somehow...


A small drop of wetness fell on his cheek, and he realized that Duo was crying. Crying? He opened his mouth and found that he could do it, there was no strange tube going down his throat. He inhaled sweet air, wincing when the movement only served to increase the pain in his head.

"Welcome back." Duo's smile was so warm that the warmth managed to seep into Heero's bones and make him all fuzzy inside. His eyelids started to droop again.

"Heero, mattei! Don't go back to sleep, you slept for a whole day and a half now. Look at me..."

There was some whispering going on that Heero didn't understand, before
Duo's face was back. It was oddly distorted somehow, and Heero strained
eyes to get a better view, but even though the dizziness receded and Duo's face was sharp again, he looked strange. His face was... longer, no, thinner, and his features were just so-so strong somehow... but that might be an illusion caused by the surgeon's mask he was wearing. Heero's mind clumsily tried to come up with explanations, noticing for the first time that Duo's voice was different, too, deeper.

'Maybe it's not Duo at all!' his confused mind inserted. Heero let his eyes wander through the dimly lit room, without moving his head, since he had learned that it would only be painful. His reflexes were so rusty that he concluded he must have been out of it for quite some time. Never in his life had he felt so weak, so helpless. Heero's lips parted.


God, his voice sounded horrible! And why was it so hard to formulate the words when they were so clear in his mind? There again, whispering. Then Duo, this strange version of Duo talking to him.

"Kitamura-sensei, your doctor, thinks it's a good idea to fill you in on what's going on. This is what's been happening. You took a hit in your gundam and plummeted to earth. Something went wrong and the thing just collapsed on top of you." There was a sigh, as if Duo needed to bring up courage. "That was one and a half years ago. Because of the head injury you went into a coma. Last week Kitamura-sensei got information on a new treatment for patients with brain damage, a new kinda surgery. That surgery was performed on you yesterday morning, you've just slept off the effect of the narcotic. Yeah, that's basically it." Another, deeper voice joined in.

"Heero-san, we need to do some tests with you, nothing big, just some basics. First I need to have a look at your eyes, I'll have to use a penlight for that, so be warned. It's not bright, but the moment it hurts you, just close your eyes." Heero wanted to nod but found he couldn't, even the intention to move his head hurt. So he just swallowed once, numbly, his thoughts jumbled.

"Alright, now please open your eyes." Huh? He hadn't even realized they had drifted shut again. There was something... someone holding his hand, he could feel it, the warmth...

Then light was stabbing at his eyes, cutting through his head like a laser, and he gasped in pain, clenching the hand that was holding his.


The light flickered once and was gone, leaving only dark splotches of red in his vision.

The voice, Kitamura-sensei, said, "His eyes look fine. Physically he's alright, the wounds are healing nicely, and the CAT scan showed no swelling. It's up to him to get his head clear now." Heero dared to open his eyes again and blinked at Duo. He heard the clacking of a door shutting, then Duo was looking at him with the warmest smile he had ever seen. It sent a delicious shiver down his spine. He allowed his own lips to curve into a tentative smile.

Duo was helplessly fascinated. Heero had spoken, had actually pronounced WORDS that made sense; had looked at him with recognition in his eyes, and now... now, he was smiling at him. A small and slowly spreading smile that made his heart ache with longing, bursting with love.

But he knew that he couldn't reveal his feelings for the Japanese boy yet, even as the word 'koi' had slipped from his lips Kitamura had shot him a warning glance.

It was too early for that.

But even though Heero knew nothing of his growing love and devotion, they were friends, and friends helped each other out. Duo watched as Heero's eyes blinked and wandered around the room. His head was held firmly in place in order to protect the sutures, but his fingers were twitching, scraping over the thin sheets. The dullness in his eyes had left to be replaced by the glitter that Duo remembered so well, cobalt blue metal chips set in the chiseled face of a young man far too beautiful for a simple soldier.

"Heero?" Duo prompted softly. Those eyes focused on him immediately and Duo's heart leapt into his throat. During that incident three days ago, when he had kissed Heero's fingertips, these blue orbs had remained uncomprehending, hadn't really seen and recognized him. Now Heero's piercing gaze seemed to penetrate him to the core, unveiling his deepest emotions.

"D-duo?" Yes, the voice had indeed changed. Though it was rough and hoarse from the abuse by the respirator tube, it was deeper and held rich and warm, rumbling tones.

'Bet he'd have a real bedroom voice if he'd want to seduce you.' supplied his mind gleefully. Duo blushed thirty different shades of red. The frown was not visible on Heero's forehead, but Duo could see it in his eyes.

"Duo... I f-feel... strange..." croaked Heero, his voice cracking on the last word.

"I know." answered Duo and smiled, stroking Heero's hand with his gloved thumb. "You were sleeping a whole year. It's not like you can simply shrug that off. Do you want something to drink? I mean, I can get you some ice chips, if you like." Heero refrained from shaking his head.

"No. Just-just stay..." Though he didn't like to admit it, Heero was actually scared. At first it had seemed unreal, like a dream, but he remembered so many things that must have happened not too long ago, that he could not deny it. There were pictures of a young woman with white-blonde hair, she was important somehow, though he couldn't tell why. And Duo, kissing his fingers... kissing...

Heero's eyes widened.


"Duo..." he gasped.

"Heero! Are you alright? Are you in pain?" Heero clenched his eyes shut and pressed Duo's hand that was still clasped in his.

"I'm fine," he whispered feebly.

'What the hell is going on here??' his mind demanded to know angrily. He clung to the anger, it was familiar, useful, and burned away the uncertainty that warred with a strange feeling of hollowness in his chest. He heard the door open and realized that Duo must have called for a nurse.

"He cramped up all of a sudden," said Duo with his worry-tinged baritone. His fingers were still intertwined with Heero's. Heero felt a different set of cool fingers feel for his pulse.

"Hm, at least it's not a seizure. Don't worry, Duo-san, maybe it's just 'TMI'." Duo smiled at the old joke he shared with the nurses, but Heero didn't understand.

"W-what's 'TMI'?" he croaked and cracked his eyes open.

"Too much information." answered the nurse and gave him a smile, before she headed for the door. Heero looked at Duo, confused, then decided to let it drop.

"So... I w-was in a ... coma for h-how long?" Duo's grin vanished. "Exactly nineteen months and two weeks. Then you kind of woke up." Heero was confused.

"Yesterday?" he dared. Duo shook his head. "No, not yesterday. You were coming out of the coma for eleven weeks before yesterday. Yesterday you had surgery." Heero's mind tried to process that.

"But... w-why did I have...yesterday...?"

"It's a new kind of surgery," explained Duo patiently. "Normally you would have had surgery right after you got the head wound, but it's only done to relieve your brain of pressure. And there was no need to do that, since they had you on medications to avoid brain swelling. Two weeks ago Kitamura-sensei, your doc, heard of a new way to treat patients with brain injuries, and thought about trying that with you. We were sure you'd make it." It was all so confusing, so much time he'd lost...

"But you said...I woke up eleven w-weeks ago..."

Duo hesitated for a moment. "How much do you remember from that time?"

"I... not m-much..." Heero flinched, as he tried to frown. "There's... this woman... and you..." It was all blurry and clear at the same time. His mind went back to the disaster with his gundam, clinging to the last really clear information it had. Then it occured to him that two years had passed. Two years! Surely something had happened during that time. "M-my gundam..." Duo hung his head.

"I'm sorry, Heero, it's gone. Hell, *you* barely survived the crash..." Heero flinched again. He had to stop trying to frown.

"Yeah... how did I surv-vive?"

"You have to thank Wufei for that, he saved the day, and you," answered Duo. It wasn't quite the truth, but he couldn't tell Heero that he had saved him in a suicidal dive right through the crossfire. It was true that Wufei had saved the day, but Duo recalled all too well how he landed Deathscythe near the wreck that was barely recognizable as Gundam Wing Zero, digging through metal junk before he finally saw a bloodied hand. The world had rocked to a halt at that sight, and hadn't Quatre appeared at that point with a medical team, Heero would never have survived. Duo tried to swallow past the lump that had suddenly formed in his throat and averted his eyes. No need for Heero to see them glittering with tears. But Heero was lost in his own memories. He remembered the short moment of helplessness that had lengthened to an eternity of morbid fascination when he had heard the ringing creaking of metal, knowing that his life was going to end.

He remembered that his last conscious thoughts had circled around a certain loudmouthed baka with a ridiculous long braid.

"You sure you don't want those ice chips?" interrupted Duo his thoughts.

"W-what?" managed Heero. Duo got up to leave, but Heero refused to let go of his fingers, holding them in a steel grip, despite his weakened state.

"Duo... I... h-how come you are still here?" Duo frowned at that and tried to pry Heero's fingers off.

"Heero..." He didn't want to answer that question now, didn't even want to think about it.

"Y-you called me... koi..." Duo was frozen like a deer in the headlight of a truck, despite the strange ring to Heero's voice, where uncertainty waged a war with anger. Suddenly Heero's fingers went limp though and fell lifelessly on the bed.

"Heero??" The Japanese's eyes were closed and his features strained, as if he was in severe pain.



It was shortly past midnight. Duo sat on one of the plastic seats in the hallway of the ICU and stared at his boots. To come so close to victory and then fail...

Tears blurred his eyes and he let them fall silently. They dripped onto his black T-shirt and left dark spots there. He heard footsteps approaching, but he didn't look up. A warm hand rested on his shoulder.

"Duo-san..." Kitamura was at a loss. There were no words to express the grief Duo must be feeling right now, no 'I'm sorry's' that wouldn't sound bitter. Hell, he was a neurosurgeon and no psychologist, so he decided to simply stick to the truth. "It could have been a lot worse." Duo gave a choked, bitter laugh.

"Don't you think this is bad enough?" Kitamura let himself sink into the chair beside Duo.

"Duo-san, you know as well as I that he could have died several times already, during the operation, after waking up from the narcotic... you knew the operation would be risky, and you decided to take the risk." Duo finally looked at him, and Kitamura mentally shrank back from the pain this violet eyes held.

"But this!! This... this is even worse..."

"Worse than death?" Kitamura sounded incredulous.

"You must be kidding me, Duo-san! You'd rather bury him than deal with this new situation?? I guess your love can't be that honest then!" Duo jumped up and turned hateful eyes on the doctor, his fists balled at his sides.

"Don't. You. Ever. Question. My love for him!! I didn't say I'll leave him now, did I?" Kitamura leaned back in the chair and massaged his temples with tired fingers.

"I didn't say that. I'm sorry, I'm just as tired as you are," he answered softly. "I did all I could, I called Garibaldi and followed his advice... but there's nothing more I can do for him, Duo-san. Don't think I like that thought." Duo's eyes overflowed with tears, then he crumbled to the floor suddenly and started to sob, squatting on the floor and hugging his knees to his chest, while he rocked back and forth.

"I-I j-just can't t-take it anymore!" he sobbed. "I d-did everything I c-could, there's -- there's nothing left t-to give!!" Kitamura drew the shivering youth into a tight embrace. To hell with keeping a neutral distance to his patients, Duo needed him, needed a friend. The young man continued to sob heartbrokenly, surrendering to the embrace. They stood like this for several minutes in the dimly lit hallway. Duo's hot tears seeped through the white cloth of Kitamura's lab coat and soaked it, as he broke completely down. Kitamura didn't say anything, too bone-weary to come up with comfort and consolation other than just physical.

When Kitamura sensed that Duo was calming down he led the young man to his office and pushed him gently down on the small, worn couch in the back. Wordlessly he went and came back with a glass of water and a white little pill. He offered it to Duo who took it without hesitation and lay back down. Some minutes later his soft snore filled the room. Kitamura sighed and covered the still shivering boy with a spare blanket.

"Sleep well," he whispered to the still form. "You're going to need it."

End first part


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