11-10-2005

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Gundam Wing, not its characters. I just like playing with them!

Title: Ray of Hope
Prologue - Part 10
Pairings: Eventual 1x2, 5XS, References to past pairings that are a surprise
Warnings: AU, language and possible citrus
BY: SkyLark
Beta Writing By: Deb

 

Prologue

"Oh my God."

It was the only thing that Duo could breathe to himself as he watched in horror as the small ship crashed into the shoreline. From his perch on the lighthouse, he had spotted the vessel coming in, struggling to maneuver against the high waves and strong winds. This particular storm had caught everyone off guard.

In the time that he watched the ship finally get some control when it spotted the lighthouse's rays, Duo had hoped that it would land safely. Instead, a wave that appeared suddenly from behind sent the small boat crashing into the sharp rocks of the cliff side.

The dark, ominous clouds overhead finally decided to release the rain they were holding back as the braided young man raced down the winding stairs of the tower. Panting heavily, he quickly made his way down the edge of the cliff, carefully placing his feet on the firm rocks there. All the way down, he maneuvered himself in the direction where the ship had been capsized in the side of the cliff.

Panting heavily by the time he reached the floating wreckage that remained of the vessel, Duo cupped his mouth and shouted over the fierce wind, "Can anyone hear me!" When there was no answer, he cursed to himself before searching the remains of what was once a lovely ship, pushing away the debris and beginning to wade in the surf to examine what was still floating.

As he neared what looked to he the remains of the vessel's helm, Duo gasped sharply, his eyes widening at the sight of a body hanging limply over the edge of several planks of wood. Quickly, he moved until the cold water was nearly above his hips by the time he finally reached the face-down body. With a grunt of effort, Duo lifted the traveler over his shoulder to get back to the shore line.

When he finally made it to the beach, the braided lighthouse keeper lowered his burden to lie on its back on the sand. Quickly examining a wrist for a pulse and finding little more that some bruising and cuts on the young man that he pulled out of the sea, he found that his chest was rising and falling evenly. Sighing deeply, Duo smiled, "You sure are a lucky one."

Unruly dark hell fell all around the sailor's face. At seeing the deep gash at the side of that head of dark hair, Duo winced. Carefully lifting the unconscious young man into his arms, he spoke reassuringly, not even sure if he could hear, "Just hang in there. I'm going to get you help." With those words, he began the difficult task of climbing the cliff side with the load he carried.

 

Part 1

[My, my, my
Let your bright light shine
Let your words live on
Far beyond this life]
-Lyrics to `My My My' Performed by Rob Thomas

From the windows of the hospital waiting room, Duo watched the circling beams of light from the distant lighthouse past the downpour of rain that drove furiously in the strong wind and deep darkness. He hated leaving it at night during a storm like this, even if his friend and closest neighbor, Quatre was watching after things for him in his absence.

While the young Arab knew the basics of how to keep the torch going, it was still unnerving for the braided young man to leave his post on such a night. At least he could keep an eye on things from afar, ready to head back should something happen.

The only thing that kept the Duo in his place was his ex-girlfriend's insistence. In seeing the minor injuries that he received while carrying the unconscious man he found by the steep and rocky slope, Sally ordered the lighthouse keeper to remain until she cleared him. Looking down to his tattered shirt, the braided American reconsidered whether or not that was all that grounded him. After all, his cuts were cleaned and bandaged, the worst of the gashes on his now bare right arm.

Well, Duo finally admitted to himself, Sally's insistence wasn't the only reason why he agreed to the leave his post. His genuine concern to see how the stranger was fairing was his primary reason for staying at the hospital.

Distant footsteps that grew louder as they approached the waiting room brought Duo to turn away from the window. Sally entered with a folder under her left arm and a small smirk on her face "Somehow, I had a feeling that you were still here," she commented, her amusement dripping on her voice. She tilted her braided head, "Though I must admit that I am surprised that you have strayed from your post for more than ten minutes, let alone three hours."

Duo simply shrugged, "Quat's taking care of things for the time being." Peering to the folder in his ex's possession, he asked, "So how is he?"

Her smile fading into a deep frown, Sally took up her file and replied, "Well, all things considered, he could be much worse off. Few people survive crashes such as the one he went through."

"But," the lighthouse keeper frowned in concern.

With a deep sigh, Sally looked up from her papers and ex-rays to reply, "He suffered a good bout of head trauma. Our head surgeons performed a relatively simple procedure to end his minimal swelling and bleeding. While he made it through the surgery, the true test will be when he wakes. And that could be some time, yet."

In a rare show of her weariness following a long day, the young woman sighed as she ran a hand over her hair. "No one has even had a chance to go through his belongings to learn his identity, yet," she added. "I'll have that looked into."

Rubbing the back of his neck, Duo shifted on his feet. "Sal whatever you have to do to take care of him, see that it's done. I'll help with the cost until we find his family," he stated.

A sad and endearing smile fell on the braided doctor's face. "And even after they're found, you'll insist on not being compensated. You're always willing to look after others before you'll look after yourself. I never knew anyone to be more compassionate than you," she shook her head. With a dramatic sigh, she asked, "Why did you have to come to realize that you're gay just as we started dating?"

Duo finally laughed, "Just be glad that we weren't intimate in any way before I realized that I don't swing that way." He raised an eyebrow, "Besides, I set you up with Wufei to make up for it, didn't I? You haven't complained about that arrangement."

It was Sally's turn to laugh as she replied, "Yes, yes, of course." Resting a hand on her dear friend's shoulder, she suggested, "You best return to the lighthouse. It'll most likely be well past the morning before our guest wakes. If that changes, I promise to call you."

With a warm smile, Duo kissed her cheek in a friendly manner and whispered, "You're the best, Sal. Thank you." Taking up his dark blue, hooded raincoat, the braided young man headed for the door.

As she stepped into the hallway, the braided doctor called after him, "And if you pull a stunt like that climb you made tonight again, I'll personally kick your ass." Duo's laughter echoed down the halls as he turned to wave to his ex-girlfriend before shrugging on his raincoat and stepping through the hospital doors. Sally chuckled deeply to herself, shaking her head.

One of the nurses, dressed in her light blue and green scrubs, approached from behind and spoke quietly, "Doctor Po." When the tall young woman turned to meet her gaze, the red-headed nurse held up a large plastic bag. "I gathered all of your patient's clothes and belongings that he had on him," she informed.

With a nod, Sally accepted the large bag with a sincere, "Thank you, Catherine. I'll be in my office if anyone needs me." The nurse bowed her head in acknowledgement before turning to return to her station at the front desk. Holding up the black bag, the braided nurse sighed, "Well, at least we'll finally have a name for this mysterious sailor."

* * * * * *

By the following morning, the sky had cleared to a brilliant sunrise. On the western side of the large island, the lone lighthouse was the tallest building, the first to greet the morning rays as they poured over everything. With a wide yawn, Duo stretched his arms high over his head. Sighing deeply, he sat up and rubbed the back of his neck, his back creaking back into place as he spun his body. Climbing from his bed, the braided young sighed deeply before climbing the winding stairs to the lantern room.

The glass-filled room captured the rising sunlight, capturing it and sending hundreds of tiny rainbow around the large, round space. Gazing at the beautiful scene, Duo smiled wistfully, "I'll never get tired of waking to this." In his morning ritual, the braided lighthouse keeper stepped out onto the balcony of the high gallery to overlook the majestic ocean in the wake of a new day.

As he stepped to the center of the room, Duo set about lowering the gases and fuels until the wicks of the large lantern faded out. From there, he moved into the service and watch room below to shut down the mechanics to the spinning lenses up in the lantern room. A few more of his morning chores to be seen to, he moved to his living quarters outside at the base of the tall, shimmering lighthouse to make a quick breakfast before visiting the hospital.

* * * * * *

Thanks to his being so close to one of the head doctors of Saint Peter's hospital, Duo was able to enter the visiting area well before guest hours began. Taking the stairs up to Sally's office, he knocked on the door lightly. "Come in," came the polite reply.

Peeking his head in, the braided young man smiled at his ex-girlfriend, "There's my favorite person in the whole world." As he stepped into the office, he frowned in concern, "Did you get a chance to sleep at all last night?"

Sally snorted good-naturedly, "Not in this place. Thankfully, I am finished in another hour and this was my last night shift for a while." Her smile warmed as her friend sat before her desk, "I see that your lighthouse didn't vanish while you were away last night."

His violet eyes rolling at the comment, Duo replied, "Yea, yea, yea." Rubbing the back of his neck, he asked, "So, what have you found out about out mysterious traveler?"

"Nothing," Sally frowned. At her ex-boyfriend's confused expression, the braided nurse held up a black plastic bag. "This is everything that was on him when he was brought in. I had Catherine gather everything so I could at least make a positive identification. The only thing that was in his jean pocket was a wallet that had been emptied."

Sitting up, Duo blinked in surprise, "Empty? Why would anyone carry an empty wallet on them?"

As she lowered the bag, Sally sighed deeply, "Good question. This is new to me, as well. I could understand a person being cautious in putting their money in a less obvious place, but to not have so much as a driver's license in here is more than odd."

The young woman sat back in her seat and continued, "Wufei and Treize investigated the sight of the crash at first light. The remains of our stranger's boat, and everything on it, had already washed out to sea by the time they got there. They just called from the police station."

Duo bit his lip and commented, "Well, hopefully he'll wake up soon. How has he been doing since the operation?"

"As well as can be expected, given the extent of his injuries," Sally answered. "Some minor fractures in his right arm that I've placed in a cast, bruised ribs and several scars that had to be cleaned and others stitched. His head injuries were the worst of it all, but he lasted through the night, so he'll pull through."

Finding relief in that, Duo smiled, "Well, that's good news, at least." Rising from his seat, he announced, "I might as well stop in his room to pay a visit, seeing as how there is no one he knows around here to wish him well." Turning to face his ex before leaving, he told her, "And you get some sleep when your shift ends, young lady."

With a warm grin, Sally nodded, "No arguments there. Our mysterious friend is in room 87. Should I be out when he wakes, I told the nursing staff to get a hold of me immediately."

Heading towards the door, Duo waved, "Thanks, Sal." With that, he stepped out into the hall, closing the door behind him.

* * * * * *

The steady beeping of the heart monitor was the only sound present when Duo entered. Pulling up a chair, he settled himself beside the white-sheeted bed in the center of the room. With a deep breath, his violet eyes examined the state of the young man he had pulled from the sea.

In his sleep, the patient's peaceful, handsome face sported a bandage that nearly covered the length of the right side. In recalling the long gash that had been there, the braided young man was grateful to see it covered. As Sally had mentioned, the right arm was in a cast from wrist to shoulder, bent at the elbow and lying over the sheets that had been pulled up to the unconscious man's chest.

Gently, Duo brushed back the long fall of dark bangs that nearly covered the closed eyes. "Well," he began with a sigh, "Sally always told me that talking to patients unconscious like this was always a good thing for them. I figured I would be good for the job, considering how hard it is to keep me quiet for more than a few minutes."

With a smile, the braided lighthouse keeper greeted, "Name's Duo Maxwell." He moved to take the patient's left hand in his, careful not to ajar the IV needle hooked into the slender arm. Squeezing the hand as if in a gesture for a handshake, he grinned, "And I hope you don't kill me when I have to tell you about your ship when you wake up."

* * * * * *

A whole week passed and Duo's days consisted of the same events. Waking, he would shut down the lighthouse and make a quick breakfast before visiting the stranger's bedside. By nightfall, he was back at his post to bring the lighthouse back to life and standing watch. It became a comfortable routine.

On the eighth day since the fateful storm, Duo came to the hospital just as Sally's shift was starting for the morning. Walking up to the receptionist desk, he grinned politely, "Hey, Catherine. Has Sally stepped in, yet?"

Her eyes lighting up as she looked up from her paperwork, the redheaded nurse gasped, "There you are, Duo. Sally is in room 87. The patient there just woke up."

 

Part 2

Sally gave a warm smile as her eyes met the intense cobalt that turned in her direction when she entered the room. The young man moved slowly to sit up in his propped bed as the braided doctor approached. "Good morning," she greeted in a friendly voice.

Licking his dry lips, the injured young man's voice rasped out, "W-where?" He winced in pain at the rawness in his throat in attempting to speak.

"Easy," Sally soothed with a gentle hand on his shoulder. As she turned to the small table beside the bed, she poured a glass of water and stated, "My name is Sally Po." Her smile grew when she turned to offer the glass. "Doctor Sally officially, but I prefer just Sally." With a grateful nod, the patient accepted the water with his good left hand to drink eagerly.

When he finished his drink, the braided doctor poured another cupful and took a seat beside the hospital bed. Taking much slower sips, the young man spoke quietly, "Thank you." He handed the cup back when he had emptied it again.

Folding her legs and placing her hands over her knee, Sally grinned, "This is Saint Peter's Hospital. You were sailing along the island, here, several miles off the Maryland coast. We're a pretty insignificant, tiny place that is not even charted." Raising an eyebrow, she ginned, "But, somehow, you managed to find us."

The confusion in the cobalt eyes watching her intently only clouded over in more confusion. Biting her lip in concern and hoping that her theory was wrong, the braided nurse asked, "Do you remember anything leading up to your crash?"

With a small, incoherent sound, the unruly-haired patient frowned deeply and breathed, "I… I don't remember anything."

* * * * * *

At the sound of the door opening, Duo's braided head lifted. Quickly rising from the seat in the hallway, he ran up to Sally as she stepped out. In finding the deep frown on her face and sagged shoulders, the lighthouse keeper faltered in his last steps and startling the young doctor when he stopped just before her unannounced. "What's wrong?" he asked quietly with a concerned frown of his own.

The braided doctor sighed, "Amnesia. It was one of the many symptoms that I had feared he would wake with. And even then, I had hoped that if it did arise, the memory loss would be minimal." Meeting her friend's widening violet eyes, she stated, "While the loss is not total, he lost every memory of himself, or where he's from."

Duo swallowed hard and lowered his head. It was imaginable to him what it would be like to suffer such a thing. But for the young man that he found, not only had he lost his memories, but he was in a place where no one knew him to try to help. "How is he holding up?" he finally found his voice to ask.

"He's closed himself off for the time being," Sally answered, closing her eyes. "It's quite common for patients to react that way upon learning that they lost all things familiar to them, waking to a blank slate." The doctor's eyes opened to turn to the closed door as she said, "But he did mention that he wanted to meet you."

At that, Duo's head shot up with shock-widened eyes. "You told him about me?" he nearly yelled. His voice echoing down the hall, the braided young man blushed, "Sorry. But, you really didn't have to say anything about what happened."

Raising an eyebrow, Sally smirked, "You saved his life and he deserves to know that. Besides when I explained the details of the accident and his injuries, I doubt that he would be naive enough to think that he somehow managed to get himself to the hospital in his condition." Years of knowing her good friend allowed her to sense the lighthouse keeper's unease for being recognized for his good deed.

Slowly, the braided doctor placed a gentle hand on the young man's shoulder and squeezed it. When worried violet looked up at her, Sally smiled sadly, "Duo, behind that door is a very frightened young man. If we're going to help him, he needs to know that he can trust us, and he needs a friend more than anything right now to get him through this."

Duo swallowed hard and breathed, "I don't know if I'm the right person for the job. You know that I've lived alone for years now. Aside from the occasional visits I make with you and the others, I'm not the most social of people."

Her smile warming, Sally replied, "You're the only person I know who could make friends with a pack of wild lions." Gesturing to the patient's room, she added, "For all we know, we may never find anyone who knows him. Where will that leave him, then?"

Again, Duo felt his throat constricting. In the end, his friend was right in there not being many options for the young man he found. Of anyone on the island, he realized that he was probably the only person who could relate to some of the things that he was facing. With determination on his face, he nodded firmly, "Alright. I'll try."

Squeezing his shoulder again, Sally sighed in relief, "Thank you. He's been through a lot, so I do not imaging him to stay awake much longer. I am going to contact Wufei to see how the search for anyone who might know our visitor from the mainland is going."

The braided lighthouse keeper nodded as his ex-girlfriend was just about to walk off. "Did you decide on a name for him?" he inquired quietly, his eyes staring at the closed door.

Sally paused in her departure to ace him and answered, "That was another thing that I was going to take care of before I returned." Her head tilted to the side a bit as she asked, "Why do you ask?"

* * * * * *

With a light rasp of his knuckles on the door, Duo peeked his braided head into the room. Heavy-lidded cobalt eyes opened fully at the sound and turned to the entrance. "Uh… Hi," the lighthouse keeper grinned nervously as he stepped inside, closing the door behind him.

The injured young man did his best to sit up a bit, that piercing gaze locked on his visitor. "You must be Duo," he spoke at last, his voice little more than a whisper. "Sally told me I would know you by the braid."

Laughing nervously, the American sat beside the bed, nodding, "Yea, that's me, alright. It's good to see you awake. Holding a one-sided conversation is pretty challenging after a while." His violet eyes widened in his slip. It wasn't his intention to let on to how he had paid visits during the day. Silently, he prayed that the patient hadn't caught on.

"So it was you that I kept hearing," the young man whispered, showing a flash of regret for uttering that statement. Before the lighthouse keeper could respond, he said quickly, "Thank you. Sally told me you're the one who saved my life." His frown deepened as he turned his head away, sighing, "If you can consider this a life."

Duo blinked in surprise. Forcing a reassuring smile, he replied sincerely, "Well, for whatever it's worth, you're welcome." He watched as the unruly-haired Asian fought to keep his eyes open. "You should get some rest," he urged softly. "I'll be here when you wake up."

At last, the patient's cobalt eyes drifted closed as he sunk into the bed with a deep sigh. Duo lied back in his seat, running a hand through his bangs as he frowned to himself, "What are we going to do with you?"

* * * * * *

"Heero Yuy."

Looking up, the patient's cobalt eyes betrayed a glimmer of interest. Duo tilted his head a bit and asked, "Do you like it? We could always come up with another name for you." Standing beside the American at the foot of the bed, Sally waited with her hands folded behind her back in patient observance.

It had been two days now since the stranger had woken from his coma. Enough time to give him a chance to cope with his condition before trying out a name for him, Sally and Duo had hoped. The mysterious young man had been quite detached from everything going on around him, something that the young doctor was something that could be expected in the coping process.

Over the course of those two days, the braided lighthouse keeper kept up with his daily visits, keeping up one-sided conversations. While he never responded much to what the American had to say, opting to look out the bedroom window instead, the injured sailor never ordered him to stop talking.

Finally, the patient answered, "It will do for a name."

In the acceptance, a bright smile spread on Duo's face as he cheered, "Great! So, Heero Yuy it is!" The Asian's cobalt eyes turned to the braided doctor to be silently surprised to find a hint of pain at the announcement that she quickly covered. Taking a pen in hand, she wrote down some notes in the file that she held.

Walking to the bed, Sally took one of the two chairs beside it, "Now, Heero, we need to discuss living arrangements for you. Tomorrow, I will be able to remove the stitching from your injuries and if all has healed well, then there would be no reason for me to keep you here to be monitored."

As she gestured with her head towards the braided lighthouse keeper nervously shifting his weight on his feet, the doctor announced, "Duo had offered to have you stay at his lighthouse lodge with him, if you would feel more comfortable having staying with a familiar face around."

"It's not a very large place," Duo shrugged. "But it's comfortable," he commented with a bite of his bottom lip. Heero regarded him for a moment in consideration of the offer. His expression and piercing eyes were difficult to read as he remained silent. Finally, he gave a small nod to the young woman beside him.

Relief washed over the braided doctor's face as she smiled, "Good. I'll go and update your records." With that, she rose from her seat with a glance to the lighthouse keeper before stepping out of the room.

Looking out of the window to gage where the sun was, Duo realized it was only a couple hours before sunset. Turning to face the injured young man, he grinned, "Well, I better get going. I have some things to take care of before dark." Heero's head just turned to gaze out the large window without a word.

Duo tugged uncomfortably at his black T-shirt's collar and continued, "I'll pick up some clothes for you before I stop over tomorrow." His smiled returned a bit, "I'm sure that you wouldn't want to face the world wearing a hospital gown."

There was no further response from the young man as he contented himself with staring out to the small city below the bank of hills that the hospital rested on. "Right," Duo frowned at last. With a wave, he said quietly, "See you tomorrow, then." As he turned, his braid swung from side-to-side with every step he made towards the door.

Just as the lighthouse keeper reached for the doorknob, he heard the patient spoke in little more than a whisper, "Why?"

His back straightening, Duo turned to face the young man in the bed to find that he was watching him. A deep frown fell on Heero's face as he asked, "Why are you doing all of this for me?" Swallowing hard, he turned his head away and lowered it. He peered down to his cast through his dark, unruly bangs and questioned, "Why do you care?"

Sighing deeply with concern in his violet eyes, Duo walked back towards the bed. He leaned forward, propping himself up by his hands at the edge of the mattress and answered softly, "Because… I know what it feels like to be lost."

It was evident that Heero had not expected that answer in his head turned to him with wide eyes. A small smile tugged at the American's lips and he whispered, "Get some rest. I'll see you tomorrow." He noted the patient's throat constricting in a rough swallow before he gave a small nod. With that, Duo turned and left the room.

Sinking back into his mattress, Heero stared at the closed door for a moment and whispered, "Thank you." Turning his head back, he peered back to the view from his lonely bedroom, to a world that he did not know.

 

Part 3:

Medical Definition: Global amnesia is total memory loss. This may be a defense mechanism which occurs after a traumatic event.

He was drowning.

Just then he seemed to claw his way past the water surface, another wave pushed him deeper under. His lungs ached from the lack of air. Terror-stricken, he desperately swam upward, praying to get beyond the cold hold of the sea around him.

Suddenly, from out of the abyss, a hand rested on his shoulder to give it a gentle squeeze.

At the feeling of the gentle touch, his cobalt eyes snapped open wide from the grips of his nightmare. With a sharp gasp, he sat upright in his hospital, panting heavily he would have been were he breaking through the water surface in the dream that plagued him for nights now. Had he still had the need for the IV in his left arm, he would have been cut badly in his sudden bolt to sit up. His eyes still wide, sweat ran down his face as he took in his surroundings.

Finally, just as his breathing calmed and he sat back, he could feel the hand on his shoulder as it squeezed again. Lying back into his bed, he looked up into a pair of familiar violet eyes that were filled with concern. "You alright, Heero?" the owner of that piercing gaze asked softly with a deep frown of worry.

`Heero?' he thought to himself. It took only a moment for him to recall the name that he was given just the day before. Trying desperately to recall his real name, to recall anything from his past at all, he suddenly felt as though he were drowning again. Visions of his dream returned and he could feel his lungs burning again.

The braided young man over him seemed to sense the growing panic in him as he gently rubbed his uninjured arm. "Hey, it's okay," he eased quietly with another squeeze from his hand. "It was just a nightmare. You're safe now." Suddenly, everything came rushing back, his visitor's name, the story of the accident, his head injury… everything came back and he grasped onto it.

Forcing himself to take a deep, slow breath through his nose, he closed his eyes and forced himself to relax again. After another deep breath and slow release, his pounding heart began to ease at last. Slowly opening his eyes again, he swallowed hard and looked back up to the young man watching him silently. With a deep sigh, he managed a small nod, not quite trusting his voice at that moment.

Duo. The lighthouse keeper that rescued him. That was his name. The American smiled down at him in relief. "You gave me a bit of a scare, man," he chuckled softly. "It took me a while to wake you from that one."

Heero blinked his cobalt eyes in confusion. `This one?' Thinking back, remembered how the last few mornings, Duo had been the first person to greet him in the morning ever since he woke following his accident, whether waiting for him to wake peacefully or to break him from the grasp of that nightmare that plagued him.

After a long pause, the lighthouse keeper ran a hand through his long bangs and smiled nervously, "Well, Good morning." Bending at the waist, he revealed a bag of clothes. "I picked these up for you last night. I wasn't exactly sure about what size you take, but there is enough variety here that something should fit."

`I don't even remember what size clothes I wear,' he thought bitterly to himself. How long would it be before his memories returned? Would they ever return? Suddenly, he just felt very tired again.

The door opened as a smiling Doctor Po entered. Walking over to her patient, she greeted kindly, "How are you feeling this morning, Heero?"

It took nearly every ounce of strength in him not to snort resentfully at the question. He just wanted to be angry at everything. There was nothing of his own twenty-some years of life that he had for himself any longer. Despite his frustration, he managed to reply flatly, "Fine."

At that, Sally's smile grew all the more and she went about examining the chart at the end of the bed. Turning the couple of pages there, she lowered the clipboard and announced, "Well, everything is as it should be. Once I remove the stitches from the wounds that healed, you'll be a free man."

Raising his hands in the air, Duo replied, "I'll be in the hallway when you're finished with that job, Sal. You know I have a weak stomach for that kind of stuff." With that, he turned on his heels and headed for the door.

As she sat on the edge of the bed, Sally laughed and called after her ex-boyfriend, "I do have smelling salts in case you change your mind, lovie." With a deep chuckle, Duo shook his head and closed the door behind him.

His eyes widening slightly, Heero looked from the door to the doctor and back to the door. "I didn't realize that the two of you were dating," he heard himself commenting before he realized he thought the notion aloud.

Looking up from where she had begun to remove a large bandage from her patient's right let, Sally blinked in confusion. Looking to the door and back to the young man watching her, she laughed good-naturedly, "Oh, no, Duo's my ex."

In hearing her own comment, she chuckled deeply, "If you could even call us exes, considering we only dated for a couple months and even then, we only kissed maybe three times. We just call each other `lovie' in a platonic way." She removed a small pair of medical scissors and tweezers from her pocket and set to her work.

Something in knowing that the only two people he had known since waking to his new life was surprising to Heero. In many ways, he could see that their personalities would make them a good pair in some way. Even if their courting did not continue, it only seemed right that the two of them would remain friends rather than be apart. Little by little, he was having a better understanding of the two people that had become so influential in his existence.

As the braided doctor worked carefully and efficiently, her steady hands removing every stitch without causing any discomfort, an almost companionable silence fell between them. Sitting up in his bed, Heero gazed out his window, silently wondering what waited for him in that world beyond the glass.

Swallowing hard past the lump that was building in his throat, the Japanese young man asked quietly, "Doctor Po?" He turned his head just as she raised her own to meet his gaze. "Will I ever get my memory back?" he questioned softly, silently amazed at how steady his voice was despite his inner turmoil.

The braided doctor finished replacing the last bandage with a small sigh. Straightening herself, she smiled sadly, "I wish that I could give you a straight answer to that, Heero. Global amnesia has been known to be both permanent and temporary, depending on the damage."

Folding her arms and slowly taking a deep breath, Sally continued, "As much research as there is on your condition, amnesia of this kind is also one of the most unpredictable. It takes a great deal of stress-whether that stress be physical, mental or a combination of the two- to cause a complete loss of memory such of yours."

She bit her lip in silent consideration before stating, "Now, I am not an expert in such matters as memory loss, but I have been researching the last few days. Looking to your head injuries endured from the accident, I don't believe that there was enough damage to say that your condition was cause from only physical stress."

Heero lowered his head in a slight nod as he considered the doctor's words. He honestly wasn't sure how to react to such news. If there was any kind of emotional stress that helped lead to his state, perhaps it was best not to remember. Still, the overwhelming sense of loss in not knowing anything about himself or the life he led threatened to tear him apart at times.

A gentle hand fell on his shoulder, bringing his gaze back up to meet the sad smiling eyes of his care taker. "Like I said, I am not an expert," she spoke reassuringly. "However, I will continue to look into any and all research that will help you get through this."

His bitterness and anger subsiding at the sincerity in the young woman's eyes, Heero gave another small nod and replied quietly, "Thank you, Doctor Po."

Snorting, she replied, "That's the other thing, just call me Sally like all of my other friends, ok?" She finished her request with a wink before rising from her perch on the side of the bed. Unable to help himself, the Japanese young man gave a small smirk back. He was silently grateful in noting that the doctor was not expecting a response from him.

Friend. At least he had a friend in this new life. No, two, Heero corrected himself. Somehow, Duo had managed to slip into the title of a friend as well. The lighthouse keeper had saved his life and opened his home to him, after all. It was still going to take time to get adjusted to everything.

Looking to the bag of clothes that her ex-boyfriend had left for her patient, Sally smiled, "Well, I shall leave you to get dressed so that Duo can get you settled in." Gesturing to the right arm, she stated, "That cast should come off in a little over a month. Most of the worst fractures were set, but they need to heal. I'll make an appointment to remove it as the time gets closer."

With a nod, Heero watched as Sally headed for the door. Looking over her shoulder, she said quietly, "Try to go easy on Duo. No one expects you to accept everything right away. There will be good days and bad days ahead for you, and understand that as well. But while Duo and I may only be the best of friends, I still love him dearly. He's a good guy who just wants to help people."

Their eyes locked, Heero finally replied quietly, "I promise to try." In all honesty, it was the best response he could make. There was no way of knowing how he would handle coping with his condition from one moment to the next. Still, he meant every word of his vow to the young doctor.

At that, Sally smiled and nodded, "That's all I ask." Satisfied with that, she turned and stepped out of the room, closing the door behind her.

Giving himself a moment longer in his hospital bed, one last view through the windows of the room, Heero pushed himself up and turned so that his feet hung off the side. At retrieving the bag of clothing, he set about shedding his hospital gown.

Several minutes later, finding that most of the clothing that Duo had picked up fit rather well, Heero was pleasantly surprised to find that he had a few articles to choose from. When he was finished, he chose a simple, light blue T-shirt and a pair of black jean shorts for that afternoon. His sneakers, the only part of his outfit that he had been washed up shore in that remained in tact, were slipped on to finish his dressing.

Looking to the door, the Japanese young man silently contemplated if he was truly ready to leave the security of his hospital room. With a deep breath that he held for a moment, he told himself quietly, "One foot in front of the other."

Slowly, he approached he door to open it… and stepped into the unknown.

* * * * * *

The car ride to Duo's residence was made in silence. With the wind blowing through his opened passenger seat window to ruffle his hair, Heero avoided looking at himself in the mirror. During his hospital stay, he had refused any offer from Sally in having the use of a mirror. That was something that he was still not quite ready to cope with-gazing on his own face and not recognizing it.

Lost in his own thoughts at the turn of events that had happened over the last few days, Heero did not even recognize the car slowing to a stop, nor the engine shutting down. Duo's gentle voice brought him back to the present as he called, "We're here."

Blinking his unfocused eyes, the Japanese young man shook his head. Silently, he reached up to unlock his door and step out to the sea-scented air. Having to shield his eyes from the high sun, Heero peered up to the tall lighthouse that stood only a few feet ahead of them. Just to the side of the tall building was a comfortable looking log home.

In the silence, Duo moved to stand beside the young stranger and smiled, "Welcome to my humble abode."

 

Part 4:

[But I'm down to my last
Well I'm ready but I'm wrong,
And I'm scared of it all]
-Lyrics from `Down to My Last' performed by Altar Bridge

As he took up the small bag of clothing that he had gathered for his guest, Duo gave his friendly smile and gestured to the log cabin. "Let's get you settled in," he suggested after Heero took in their surroundings. Breaking from his spell of overlooking their view of the ocean, the other young man followed his host up to the front porch of the cozy lodge.

With his free hand, the braided lighthouse keeper opened the front door. Making enough room for the Japanese stranger to walk past him, he bit his lip and commented, "It's not much, but I normally don't have guests all that often."

Heero nodded to himself, gazing around the living room. The large space was set with meager but tasteful furniture-two plain couches at opposite sides of the room and one recliner sitting by the fireplace at the furthest wall.

In considering how friendly and easygoing the American was, it was a surprise to the young sailor to hear that he lived as a recluse. He kept his questions silent, however, not wishing to test the limits of the other young man's hospitality.

Deciding to end the uncomfortable silence and put his host at ease, Heero meet his gaze and shrugged, "This is fine." Given his circumstances, he was lucky that anyone was willing to take stranger like him into their home the way the strange lighthouse keeper had. The fact that he had a roof over his head, let alone having an actual home attached to that roof, was more than what he could have hoped for.

Visibly relaxing at that, Duo's shoulders fell at ease as he sighed, "Good." Running a hand through his long bangs, he chuckled deeply, "I have my own bed inside the lighthouse, so I rarely stay here. The clean up work that this place needed before I went to pick you up from the hospital was brutal."

His cobalt eyes widening, Heero found himself at a loss. Not only had this braided young man opened his home to him, but he went beyond even that to make him comfortable. Unable to look into those violet eyes, he said quietly, "You didn't have to bother with all of that." The sincerity that he heard in his own voice surprised him. Just moments ago, wasn't he angry at the world and everything in it?

The softly spoken words seemed to have taken aback Duo as well, as he blinked his widened eyes. Recovering from his momentary shock, the lighthouse keeper grinned anew, "Aw, don't worry about it. This place needed a good dusting, anyway. Your staying here just gave me an excuse to do so."

Several frames of different shapes and sizes sat on the mantle over the fireplace. Drawn to them, Heero took up one of the largest of the pictures. In the image, his braided companion sat amongst a group of smiling faces, Sally's being the only other familiar one. The group was standing along the shoreline with their arms all around each others' shoulders as they posed in a tight line for the shot.

As he approached, Duo smiled, "This here is my family. We all more or less grew up together on this island out in the middle of nowhere, so we're a pretty tight-knit group." Pointing to the person furthest on the left and moving down the line, he `introduced', "That's Trowa, Wufei and you know Catherine, Sally and me, then there is Hilde and Quatre."

"Do they all still live here on the island?" Heero felt compelled to ask as he set the frame back in its place amongst the other images of the band of friends. Lowering the image again, he noticed what looked to be the hook for a wall frame that was left barren over the mantle. Somehow finding that odd, he shook his head to clear his thoughts and his suddenly throbbing head.

Unaware of the gesture the braided American snorted, "Yep. And just to warn you, you'll probably be meeting all of them pretty soon. News of a stranger washing up on our shoreline is about the most exciting news in a small place like this. One of the nurses on duty the night I brought you went telling everyone she knew what happened."

Rolling his violet eyes, Duo sighed deeply, "Knowing my friends, they'll all just happen to be in the area one night with food and drinks once they figure out that you're staying here with me. But, I'll take care of that when we get to that bridge." With a gesture of his braided head, he announced, "Come on. I'll give you a quick tour of the place."

Following his walk through the kitchen, dining room and back deck, Heero was shown around the second level of the cabin. When they got to the top of the stairs, Duo gestured to the first closed door and stated, "This is the master bedroom, so this is where I set up your bed."

At seeing the confusion in the unruly-haired stranger's eyes when he peered over his shoulder, the braided lighthouse keeper shrugged, "I usually sleep in the lighthouse, remember." The other young man just nodded in response, recalling that his host had mentioned that earlier.

Opening the door and flipping the light switch on, Duo stepped aside again to allow his guest to enter before him. Before stepping inside, Heero thought that he noted another look of concern on the lighthouse keeper's face. The moment that he looked to his surroundings, he realized the reason for that unease.

In the center of the room was a large bed with all of the coverings and pillows needed for comfort. There was a large, wooden dresser at the right side of the space and two large windows that looked to open out to a balcony. But what drew Heero's attention instantly was that there was a large frame beside the dresser that was covered from the top of the frame to the base. He did not even need to ask what was beneath the black sheet.

Rubbing the back of his neck, Duo cleared his throat and commented, "Sally had mentioned that you haven't been ready to look at yourself yet, so I covered all of the mirrors in here and the bathroom that's attached until you're ready to take them down." Quickly, he apologized, "I didn't mean to offend you by covering them before asking you if it was all right. It just seemed like the right thing to do, you know."

His head nodding without his realizing that it was, the young sailor ended the American's ramblings. "You did right," Heero heard himself whisper. Stepping deeper into the pale blue painted room, he ran a hand over the bed's brass foot rail as he lost himself in his swarming thoughts again.

Quietly lowering the bag of clothes that he had been carrying around, Duo broke in quietly, "I'll give you some time alone to get more acquainted with the place. If you need anything, just call, `k?" His only response was a firm nod from the back of his guest's head. Closing the door after him, the braided lighthouse keeper slipped out with a concerned glance over his shoulder.

Slowly walking around the foot of the bed, Heero sat at the edge of the soft mattress and sat in silence for a time. Looking up to the covered mirror, he sighed deeply. "You can't go on hiding forever," he told himself at last. With a deep breath, he pushed himself up from the bed.

Once he reached the black sheet, the young sailor reached up to the top of the frame with his uninjured arm. His hand rested on the fabric for a time in his hesitance, only to begin to shake almost violently.

Suddenly pulling his hand back as if it had been burnt with a small cry, Heero panted heavily. As sweat ran down his face, he turned to stare in shock at the digital clock on the table beside his bed. While he thought that he was only by the mirror for a few minutes, he found that nearly an hour had passed.

Looking back up to the covered frame, Heero told himself, "Maybe tomorrow."

* * * * * *

That evening…

At the sound of the front door closing, Sally looked up from the newspaper that she was reading. She smiled at the young man entering with his own little grin in greeting. Bending at the waist, the uniformed young man kissed her lips softly before pulling back.

Humming at the gesture, the doctor asked, "How was work, love?"

With a snort, Wufei undid his pistol holder from his waist and answered, "As exciting as law enforcement for a population of less than a thousand people can get."

All but collapsing onto the couch beside his girlfriend, the Chinese officer sighed deeply, "Looking into any leads on the John Doe that Duo pulled from the drink is about all the excitement we have to look forward to right now."

"Then I take it that means there are still no leads on what his identity may be?" Sally frowned deeply as she rested her head on her boyfriend's shoulder.

As he rested his own head atop hers, Wufei replied, "Knowing how slow the authorities are back stateside, not to mention the possibility that he could be from a different continent, our request for any missing person reports fitting his description will take quite some time to come in. A remote island like this is not exactly the first place that one would think to look for someone that just disappears."

Sitting up, the Chinese young man sighed deeply, "We have some two strikes against us in this search. The fact that he was traveling without any form of identification on him in his wallet is one thing. But then, we couldn't recover even a splinted of his ship before it was pulled out to sea. It's going to be an uphill climb."

"Well, if anything, that just means that Duo will have someone to keep him company for a while," Sally commented as she closed her eyes.

Nearly jumping from the couch as he rose to his feet, Wufei's eyes widened as he shouted, "He's living with Duo?"

Rolling her eyes, Sally smirked, "I hardly think that Duo is in any sort of danger in having someone with global amnesia staying with him. Besides just that, he insisted of having him move in."

Her smile faded as she glared up to her lover, "The chance of finding where he's from is pretty slim as it stands. And with no telling if he'll ever get his memory back, I am not about to order his being sent to an institution when he has the chance of maybe starting over to live a normal life."

Quietly considering her words, Wufei finally sat back down on the sofa. "All right," he relented. "I suppose that I can't argue with you on that." Raising an eyebrow, he warned, "Just don't tell Hilde or Quatre yet."

At that, Sally snorted, "I'm not that naïve. Heero needs some time to settle into his new lifestyle before he'll be ready to socialize comfortably." At the surprise in her partner's dark eyes in hearing the name of her patient, the braided nurse shrugged, "The name was Duo's suggestion as well."

Wufei mulled over that for a moment before nodding in acceptance. "I shouldn't be so surprised by that," he said at last. "It would be only fitting."

Smiling warmly, Sally kissed his cheek and reassured, "Stop worrying so much about your little `brother.' He can take care of himself. This will be the best thing for the both of them. I'm convinced of that."

Through the window behind them, the rays of the lighthouse came to life as the last rays of daylight faded from the sky. Gazing through the opened shades, the pair looked to the tall, white tower rising over the edge of the city.

"For both of their sakes," Wufei's voice spoke softly as he kept his eyes on the lighthouse, "I hope that you're right."

 

Part 5:

[The more you see the less you know
The less you find out as you grow
I knew much more then than I do now]
-Lyrics to `City of Blinding Lights' Performed by U2

The first two weeks were… challenging to say the least.

Since coming to the large cabin that now served as his home, Heero's days ranged from rough to ones that he wished he never got out of bed. As patient as his braided host had been with his condition, like everything else, it was starting to get under the sailor's skin.

For Heero, between silent treatments and his preference to be on his own, he was waiting for Duo to finally snap and scream at him. But that never happened. In fact, it seemed the more difficult the Japanese young man became towards the lighthouse keeper, the more tolerant and kind the American became.

It was becoming quite irksome to Heero.

Every day, it was the same routine; Duo would have breakfast cooking when Heero finished his morning shower. The braided host would take care of cleaning the glass in the lighthouse observation tower and the outer walls for the better part of the day before returning to start dinner. From there, he would return to the lighthouse before dark to stay there until first light the following morning.

There would always be the occasional day when the lighthouse would not need any cleaning and Duo would spend those days either reading a book in the living room by the fireplace or running other errands in town. Despite that break in the routine, life as a whole was beginning to drive the sailor slowly insane.

While he knew that he only had himself to blame for the usual silence between them, Heero desperately wanted to see something other than the usual peaceful, cheerful side of the lighthouse keeper.

If his own life had fallen apart, what right was it of anyone else to be able to continue their own without disruption? Every day that past, Heero's resentment began to swell and overcome him as he pondered the question to himself every day that Duo was able to go on with his life as though everything was fine.

Sighing deeply as he raised his good arm to run a hand through his wet hair, Heero stepped from the bathroom after his morning shower to greet another painfully habitual day. The smell of pancakes and bacon greeted him as he stepped downstairs.

"I had you in mind through all of this," Duo's voice reassured from the living room. "You know that I would never do anything to hurt you, right?" The voice of a woman that Heero could not make out replied. Unable to make the words, the young sailor quickly moved to stand just beyond the living room entrance to listen.

The lighthouse keeper's deep frown could be heard in his voice as he stated, "Your opinion means more to me than anything." The slight crack Duo's voice caused the sailor's eyes to widen.

Heero strained his ears to hear the young woman on the vidphone that was turned away from him reply, but he was too far to hear the exact words. However, whatever she was saying, it was in an encouraging tone. A small sniffle filled the air before Duo replied sincerely, "Thank you. I love you, too. I miss you."

Blinking his wide eyes, Heero pulled back from the doorway as the conversation ended. When he heard Duo close the laptop, the Japanese sailor stepped into the room with his indifferent expression as not to give away to his eavesdropping. When he found the lighthouse keeper, the young man had done an effective job of regaining his composure.

When their eyes met, Duo smile brightly, "Good morning, Heero. I have breakfast in the oven to keep it warm." His guest just nodded and followed him into the kitchen to take a seat at the small table there.

As he removed the large plate of food and took his own seat across from the sailor, the American grinned, "It's a beautiful day outside." Inwardly, Heero sighed deeply. Seemed every day was a beautiful one for the last two weeks. He just grunted in response.

Like every other morning, breakfast was eaten in silence. Desperate to break the same-old-same old routine, Heero chose to dig at his host. "I thought I heard the phone ring this morning," he began.

Raising his head, Duo finished chewing his food and nodded, "Just someone that I know checking in. It had been some time since I got the chance to hear from them."

"Another old flame?" Heero inquired. At the surprise in his host's widened violet eyes, he inwardly smirked at finally starting to get through his usual carefree demeanor. With a shrug, the sailor commented, "Sally had mentioned that the two of you used to date."

Duo reached for his glass of orange juice to calm his sudden couching spell. Swallowing roughly, he shook his braided head and replied, "No, Sally was the only person that I ever went out with, as short-lived as it was."

Quietly taking that in, Heero chewed at his own plate before asking, "Then what exactly happened between the two of you? Sally seems like a nice person. With the little I have to go on in regards to the two of you, I would have assumed that you'd be perfect for each other."

For a moment, several emotions flashed over lighthouse keeper's face. The first was almost pleasant surprise in what must have been on account of the sudden interest from his normally quiet guest. Then there was concern and almost panic as Duo bit his lip. Lowering his head, he finally answered with a deep frown, "Well, under normal circumstances, it would have worked out between us."

Normal circumstances. The surprising realization of it all helped Heero finally fit a piece of the puzzle that was Duo Maxwell. Finally, he had something that could stir some kind of reaction from the lighthouse keeper; he could give him some kind of pain at life as what he was enduring every day.

Lowering his form, Heero smirked, "So you're a queer."

The silverware in Duo's hands fell to clatter loudly on the floor as he looked up with wide violet eyes. His skin paling, he whispered, "W-what did you day?"

Heero folded his arms, enjoying this little game. Leaning forward, his cobalt eyes narrowed as he stated, "Under normal circumstances, if you were straight, then it would have worked out. So, based on what you just said, that would make you a queer."

A pain unlike any that the sailor had ever seen in another person filled those widened violet eyes at his words. Heero silently congratulated himself in finally being able to see his own rage and resentment at life in Duo for a change. He held his breath in anticipation of the stunned lighthouse keeper's reaction.

Slowly taking a deep breath, Duo bent down to collect his silverware. When he straightened, his face was unreadable, though there certainly was not any anger or hate there. "Life has a funny way of taking us all by surprise at times, Heero," he spoke in a quiet, calm voice. "The trick is not letting it get the best of you when it does." With those words, he took his half-eaten breakfast and rose from his seat.

Flabbergasted, Heero fell back in his seat with wide cobalt eyes. Watching the back of the braided young man as he set about clearing his plate to start the dishes, he wondered how Duo could remain so reserved ever following his personal attack. Even his harsh words were not enough to elicit a response.

Why didn't Duo yell at him? Why didn't he throw something at him? Why didn't he kick him out of the cabin to fend for himself? How in the hell had he won the upper-hand in the game? So many questions rang through Heero's mind as Duo continued to go about the task of cleaning the kitchen.

In the end, the answer to those questions was in Duo's words before he left the table. His heart sinking with guilt at what he had attempted, Heero swallowed roughly. The very person who had saved his life, who had opened his home to him had become the target of his own bitterness at life. When had he allowed life to get the best of him that he would go to the extent of hurting the last person that deserved it?

When he finally broke through his thoughts, Heero found himself alone in the kitchen. Running his good hand through his hair, he sighed deeply and rose from his seat. His appetite gone, he cleared his own plate and set to cleaning it.

Almost hesitantly, the Japanese sailor made his way into the living room. Sitting at his recliner beside the fireplace with another book in hand, Duo looked up and smiled warmly in greeting before returning his attention to his reading. Biting his lip, Heero sat at the sofa across from his host. With his head bowed, he said quietly, "Duo, I-" At the lump that had formed in his throat suddenly, he paused to clear it and lift his head before whispering sincerely, "I'm sorry for what I said back there."

With a deep sigh, Duo lowered the book into his lap and gave a small grin as he shrugged, "It's ok, Heero. I know that you're having a rough time right now."

Shaking his head, the stranger insisted, "That doesn't make it right for me to take that out on someone else, least of all you after everything that you've done for me. I'm tired of letting myself be a victim to circumstance, but…" Another small lump formed in his throat as he lowered his head again. Rubbing his hand over his cast, in little more than a breath, he admitted aloud, "I'm scared."

His smile fading, the braided lighthouse keeper nodded, "I know. I would be, too. Just remember that you don't have to go through this alone. You have me and Sally, and our friends whenever you're up to meeting them."

With a small, lopsided smile of relief at that, Heero nodded. Raising his head, he looked up to the large, covered mirror that was placed to hang over the fireplace. Underneath that large mirror remained the smaller outline of what must have been a picture frame that had been removed, a picture that he had yet to feel comfortable enough to inquire about.

Very slowly, Heero rose from his seat and approached the mirror. Biting his lip, Duo frowned nervously, "You want me to give you some time on your own?"

After considering, the sailor shook his head, unable to trust his voice as he reached up to take a handful of cloth. His eyes closed tight, he tugged the sheet away. With a deep, shuddered breath, Heero slowly opened his eyes to meet his reflection. Blinking at the cobalt eyes staring widely back at him, he reached up to touch the long scar that was healing at the side of his face. His eyes and hand moved to take in the unruly, dark hair that framed his finely etched face.

While seeing himself for the first time did nothing to return any memories, Heero found an overwhelming surge of relief in finally being able to pt a face with himself since he woke after his accident. He wasn't sure how long he had been standing there, staring at himself, but he was certain it had been a while.

Duo approached from behind with a wide smile as he commented, "Not that I'm hitting on you or anything, but you're not hard to look at." following the emotional rollercoaster that he had been through, the comment was enough to make Heero laugh loudly, his head falling back, his first laugh that he could remember ever having.

"So shall I set about taking down the other sheets from the mirrors around here?" the lighthouse keeper asked.

Finally turning away from his reflection, Heero gave a lopsided grin and nodded, "I'll help with that." Ready to move on in his recovery, he decided to take another large step. "I think I'm ready to meet your friends, too," he stated in a steady voice.

His violet eyes widening, Duo's smile grew widely as he replied, "I'll give them a call, then. Maybe we can have a little get together tonight." Running from the room to set to the task, his braid swung to-and-fro behind him. With a deep chuckle, Heero walked over to the large windows to peer out to the clear sky over the open sea beyond the cliffs.

It really was going to be a beautiful day, after all.

 

Part 6:

[When you're standing on the edge of nowhere
And there's a little love way up, so your heart's gotta go there
through the darkest night, see the light shine bright.
When heroes fall, in love or war, they live forever]
Lyrics to `This Is a Song For the Lonely' performed by Cher

Once the cabin was tidied and the last call to his friends had been made, Duo took up his large pail of oils and gear as he called to the living room, "I have some inspections to make up at the lighthouse, Heero. I'll be back in a couple hours."

Wiping the last bit of dust from the last table in the preparation for that evening's guests, Heero straightened at the announcement. Quickly making his way into the hall, he saw the back of the braided lighthouse keeper as he reached the front door. "Is it all right if I come along?" he asked quietly.

His hand frozen in its grip on the doorknob, Duo's violet eyes widened. Turning to meet the cobalt eyes watching him in anticipation, he smiled warmly and nodded, "Sure thing." Gesturing with his head, he turned back and stepped out into the beautiful afternoon air with Heero right behind.

It certainly was shaping to be a day of many steps in the right direction for the young sailor and Duo couldn't help but smile to himself in his excitement. Despite the rough start to the day, it was a monumental in chiseling through the walls that Heero had built around himself. The brief pain that it had caused the braided lighthouse keeper had been more than worth it to him in seeing the changes that it helped spur.

Leaving the shelter of the shadow from the front porch as he followed his host, Heero shielded his eyes from the bright sunlight for his sight to adjust. Ever since he had arrived at the cabin, it was his first time outside.

The first thing that overwhelmed him was the sea air, how clean and vibrant it was as it filled his lungs. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath, allowing himself a moment to enjoy the scent and feel of it all to indulge in what he closed himself off from before that moment.

Slowly lowering his hand, the young sailor blinked his cobalt eyes a few times and was soon able to gaze around without discomfort. To his right, he found the stretch of cliffs that surrounded the cabin on the rose of rock. A shudder ran up Heero's spine at the realization that he had crashed up against those same cliffs the night of that fateful crash.

As if sensing the tension in the air, Duo turned his braided back to watch him and smiled, "There's my baby." Silently grateful for the well-timed distraction, Heero looked forward to where the American pointed ahead of them, then began to look upward.

The pristine, white tower stretched up to the heavens from its perch near the edge of the cliffs. At the top of the lighthouse, two balconies of deep green metal- one directly atop the other- wrapped around the structure. What looked to be the highest housing of the tower was encased in the same deep green metal, shimmering brilliantly in the sunlight. The entire image was one of grandeur and majesty as it overlooked the sea.

When they wrapped around the side of the lighthouse, there was a small extension that looked like the start of a tiny house used to secure only the door of the structure. Opening the door and allowing the sailor to enter first, Duo told him, "It's a bit of a hike up, so if you need to rest, just let me know."

Peering around the white interior of the wide base, Heero noted the winding stairwell and handrails were made of the same, deep green metal that was used for the balconies outside. As he cast his gaze up, he could get a better idea for the impressive height and nodded, "I should be all right. I can see how you stay in shape."

A small smile fell on his lips when he was rewarded with a fit of laughter from the lighthouse keep as he closed the door behind them. "It took me a while, but I eventually got used to the climb," he commented. Duo took hold of one of the railings with his free hand as he began an easy pace up the stairs.

Heero followed in tow, his good hand braced on the railing as he was silently grateful once more for his host's thoughtfulness at taking the stairs at a slower rate than what he was sure he could manage in his experience. The climb up the winding stairwell was made in a companionable silence as the Japanese stranger took in his surroundings.

As they neared the end of their climb, Duo announced, "This room up here is called the watch room of the lighthouse. It's where all of the mechanics and wicks are held, as well as the station where the keeper of this place takes perch to watch the ocean." (1)

Only slightly winded from the hike upwards, Heero stepped up to the room and peered around. His cobalt eyes blinking in surprise, he took in the layout of the round space.

In the center of the room was a good-sized bed with a bookcase at one side and a small table with a battery-operated lamp on the other. Surrounding that were gears and tanks varying in sizes and shapes. Through the clean glass that protected the room around, the first balcony watched over everything around the lighthouse.

Lowering the pail that he had been carrying, Duo went right to his work, looking over every spring coil, gear tooth, tank of oils and other flammables. Quietly muttering to himself, the braided young man set about greasing some of the gears and filling some of the nearly empty tanks.

Content to give the lighthouse keeper some time to work in peace, Heero moved to the bookcase to scan over the book spines to the titles. "You have quite a collection here," he commented in a low voice.

Duo looked up from his work of restocking some of the wicks. With a shrug, he smirked, "Well, they give me something to do to pass the time up here at night. If you see anything you want to read, help yourself." With that, he returned to his work.

With a thoughtful look, Heero peered up to the last stairwell that led to the top level. "What is the room up there called?" he asked.

"That's called the lantern room," the braided young man answered. Seeing the look on interest in his guest's face, he grinned, "You can go up to look around, if you want. I should be finished here in a little bit. Feel free to step out on the gallery for a look if you want, too."

When the young man gave him a confused look, Duo smiled sheepishly, "Sorry, I forget you don't know the terms. The gallery is a fancy way of referring to the balcony. You san see the entire island from up there."

Slowly nodding, the young sailor climbed the last stairs into the top of the tower. When he stepped into the lantern room, his cobalt eyes widened at the awe of it all. Directly in the center of the room, encased in ribbed glass, was the large structure that shielded what would be the bright flame that would be lit every night.

As the sun beamed through the glass encasing the room and then the glass that made up the lantern that acted as a prism, countless little rainbows danced around the room.

With a small smile of wonder on his face, Heero walked around the lantern to step through the door and onto the gallery and into the steady breeze. Taking a hold of the support railing, he gazed out to the city that was protected around a rise of rock all around.

From where he stood, the wandering sailor could make out the cozy community of houses, stores, churches and other buildings miles off. The whole picture that it made would have served as a perfect image on a postcard.

"Ideal for a getaway place," Heero heard himself breathe to himself, blinking in surprise when he heard himself make such a comment without knowing why he was saying it. Shaking his breeze-blown head of hair, he just allowed himself to enjoy the view. After standing there for a time, the young sailor walked around the remainder of the balcony to the front.

Instead of feeling uncomfortable at gazing out to the open sea, as he had expected, Heero found himself breathless at the beauty of it all. For as far as his eyes could see, the ocean stretched to the horizon and rolled up to slap against the rugged edges of the cliffs below.

Closing cobalt his eyes, he took another deep, refreshing breath of the salty air as the wind continued to rustle his hair. Slowly opening his eyes again, he couldn't help but smile to himself at being able to gaze on such a wondrous sight.

The sound of footsteps approaching was not enough to beak the spell that had taken hold of the sailor and he breathed, "It's beautiful." As simple a statement as it was, it spoke a million things on his mind at that moment. Somehow, he had the impression that the lighthouse keeper understood.

A wide grin on his face, Duo leaned on the railing as he peered to the ocean with a nodded, "Yea." His braid occasional lifting on the breeze, he commented, "As lonely as it can be at times being out here, I have the best view on the entire island."

Heero smirked, "You certainly do." There was a peaceful silence between them for a moment before he stated, "I imaging that it's just as nice at night, when the stars are out. I'd like to see that one of these times."

His young host turned to faced him as he nodded his braided head, "Any time you want, you're more than welcome up here. And if you'd like, I could always show you more about caring for the lantern and what makes this place tick. Quatre's one of my best friends that's coming tonight and he's the only other person that I taught all of those things to."

"It would be more interesting than staying inside and staring at the same walls," Heero replied. In realizing how sacred it must be to the lighthouse keeper to share his trade so to speak, he felt inclined to ask, "So is Quatre someone that you…" He could feel his face burning and he was unable to continue.

Thankfully, Duo was already laughing, his head falling back as he shook his head, "You mean someone I'm interested in?" When the young sailor only blushed an even deeper read, he pulled his laughter back into a deep chuckle and shook his head, "Quatre is straight as an arrow. Actually, he's dating our friend, Trowa's, sister. I'm the only gay person in the circle of friends I have."

At that, Heero couldn't help but feel… was it relief at that news? His thoughts were broken when Duo gently slapped him on the shoulder and announced, "The sun's going to be setting pretty soon, and I have a few more things at the cabin that I need to take care of before the others arrive."

In hearing how much time had passed while he was admiring the breathtaking view, Heero's cobalt eyes widened. "I didn't realize how long I was out here," he thought aloud.

Smiling warmly, Duo took up his pail of tools and said quietly, "You looked like you needed some time alone, so I waited until we had to get going."

Surprised yet again by his host's innate ability to read him, the Japanese sailor blinked his slightly widened eyes before managing a grinned, "Thanks."

"No thanks needed," was the flippant response with a wink as the American turned to lead the way back into the lantern room. "Knowing Hilde and how anxious she's been to meet who's become such a stir amongst the town, she'll be arriving early with Trowa to get to talk with you before the others get here."

As he continued on his way, Duo's voice grew more and more distant as Heero turned back for one last look out to the ocean and took one last deep breath. Content to store his experience in his mind until his next time up, he turned to catch up with the braided lighthouse keeper and follow him back down to the earth.

(1) All terms and explanations to the lighthouse stations have been researched and verified. I did my homework for this. *Smiles*

 

Part 7:

[That's where you shine
When you're sinking you swim
When you see your way out instead of in
That's where you shine]
-Lyrics to `Shine' Performed by Meredith Brooks

At the sound of the doorbell, Duo sighed in relief to himself at having finished all of his preparations in time for the arrivals. After quickly cleaning his hands at the kitchen sink, he made his way down the hall. Finding Heero pacing in the living room on his way to the door, the lighthouse keeper stopped to smile reassuringly, "You sure you're ready for this?"

The dark-haired sailor froze in his next step and turned to face the braided American. Clearing his throat and hiding his embarrassment in being caught, Heero nodded, "Yea." With a deep breath, he frowned deeply and admitted, "At least I think so."

"Don't worry," Duo just grinned. "If you feel at all uncomfortable, Sally and I will be around. Just stick by us if you have to." A small, relieved smile tugged the corners of Heero's lips and he nodded firmly in silent appreciation.

With that, the braided young man reached the door to open it. "How did I know that you two would be showing up early?" he smirked.

Carrying a large tray of different cheeses and crackers, the short-haired young woman on the porch smirked back, "Because you know that I've been on pins and needles waiting to be invited over to meet the stranger that's the talk of the whole island."

Under his long bangs that fell forward, the young man beside her rolled his green eyes, "And you know that she was going to drag me along with her." The short tomboy mock glared at him over his shoulder, only to be repaid with a deep chuckle.

Duo stepped aside as he laughed, "Come on in. I just finished setting up the dining room table, so we can start setting up there." As he led the way, he took the large tray from the young woman.

With a warm smile, she commented, "Ever the perfect gentleman." Heero could not help but think the same thing from where he peeked out from the living room doorway. The trio disappeared as they moved into the dinging room, the tomboy's voice carrying on a conversation until it faded away.

Taking a deep breath, the young sailor went to the large mirror over the fireplace to assess himself for the hundredth time that late afternoon. With a run of his hand through his unruly hair with his free hand, Heero muttered to the stranger staring back at him, "Can't hide away from the world forever." His resolve restored, he turned and put one foot in front of the other.

When he entered the dining room, the three friends were in the midst of setting out the food and drinks, the two guests with their back to the door. Looking up from his task of removing the plastic wrap from the large tray, Duo smiled brightly, "Hey, Heero."

Instantly, the pair of newcomers turned to meet the young man with wide eyes. "Heero," Duo began with an arm out in introduction, "These are my friends, Trowa and Hilde. Trowa and Hilde, this is Heero."

The short-haired girl was the first to get over her surprise and walked towards the stranger. Extending her hand, she greeted kindly, "It's very nice to meet you, finally." With a nervous smile and a firm nod, Heero took her hand in his for a friendly shake.

After the exchange, Trowa stepped forward for his own handshake as he said simply, "I'm sorry about your accident. If there's anything that we can do to help, don't hesitate to ask any of us."

His nerves fading at the sincere offer, Heero couldn't help but smile in kind, "Thank you." With a gesture of his head to the braided lighthouse keeper, he stated, "Duo's told me a great deal about all of you since I've come here, so I have been looking forward to meeting all of you."

With a smirk, Trowa peered over his shoulder to Hilde and remarked, "Good. Then he's warned about my girlfriend, here. She can be quite nosy, but she means well."

Duo laughed loudly at the statement while the young woman slapped her boyfriend on the arm with another mock glare. Returning to his work of setting up a variety of sodas, the tall young man chuckled deeply, "Come on, Hil. Everyone in our group knows how you've been chomping at the bit to meet him."

His eyes narrowed at her lover, Hilde threw her arms in the air and exclaimed, "I can't help it! This has been the most exciting thing to happen on this tiny rock in the ocean in ages!" She smiled sheepishly at the surprised young sailor and blushed, "Sorry, but when you're on an island with less than a thousand people, word spreads pretty quickly."

Blinking his widened cobalt eyes, Heero recovered from his startle at hearing that he was such a `popular' person and shrugged, "I think I'm a pretty boring person, myself. I don't want to disappoint anyone with so much excitement over me."

Hilde helped Trowa set up the last bottles of soda and grinned, "Heero, keep up that modest personality, coupled with the fact that you're a nice looking guy, and you'll have all of the single girls on this island banging down your door."

As if on cue, the doorbell rang as the tomboy giggled, "See, they're already starting!" Heero couldn't help but laugh along with the others as Duo stepped out of the room to answer the door.

In his passing the young sailor, the lighthouse keeper winked and gave a firm pat on the shoulder with a whispered, "See? You're doing great." Heero nodded in appreciation as he stepped further into the dining room to sit at the table across from the young couple.

"Well, Heero," Trowa grinned as he wrapped an arm around his lover, "You've accomplished something than none of us have with Duo."

Raising his eyebrow, the Japanese young man laughed nervously, "Really? And what would that be?"

Hilde began pouring herself a plastic cup of soda as she answered, "You've managed to get him away from his lighthouse after sunset. And not just for one night, but for two. Catherine about fell out of her seat the night he brought you to the hospital. And now this party tonight." Raising her filled cup, she toasted, "To great miracles, however they come about." With that, she took a long sip.

Before Heero could respond, a blonde young man entered the room with a large, covered pot. "Quatre," Trowa smirked. "You're fashionably early for a change."

The young man smiled, "This is a special occasion, so I closed down early to make my famous beef stew." Behind him, a rare familiar face for Heero entered. Catherine- the nurse who assisted Sally with the sailor's care- smiled warmly at him. Quatre nodded with the same grin and nodded, "You must be Heero."

Rising from his seat, the dark-hared young man extended his hand for a firm shake and replied, "You're Duo's oldest friend."

His smile growing, the blonde young man replied, "So he has told you about all of us." Placing a hand on the redheaded nurse's shoulder the love in his eyes was evident when he faced her and announced, "And you already know Catherine."

There was something in the way that the young lover looked at each other that almost made Heero envious. Being so open with their emotions as they were, with how much they obviously cared for each other, made him wonder if he ever had that once.

Forcing the dark thoughts away, Heero smiled and moved around the table. Placing a soft kiss on the young woman's cheek, he said quietly, "It's good to see you again, Catherine. I never had a chance to thank you for looking after me while I was at the hospital."

Her eyes widening at the expected gesture and the kind words, Catherine beamed, "My pleasure, Heero. It's great to see that you're doing so well."

"Yes it is," a familiar voice commented from the hallway. When everyone turned to the entrance, Sally entered alone with a dark-haired young man. Lowering the large, covered trays that they brought in, the pair approached the sailor.

With a relieved smile in seeing another familiar face, Heero pecked the braided doctor's cheek as she retuned the gesture. "You're certainly coming a long way compared to how you were when I first met you."

His cobalt eyes lighting along with his grin, the Japanese stranger commented, "Thanks to you." Turning to the dark eyes watching him, Heero couldn't help but feel as though he were being scrutinized. "You must be Wufei," he said as he extended his hand. "You're a very lucky man to have found such a remarkable woman." With a chuckled giggle, Sally blushed.

Those words in introduction seemed to disarm the Chinese officer as he shook hands firmly and smirked, "That I am. Welcome to Cape Windsor, Heero." While there was a fair amount of sincerity in that welcome, Heero couldn't help but feel something cold in Wufei's gaze as it watched him.

Ever his hero, Duo entered at just the right time as he announced, "I am starving! I have a good hour before I have to at least turn the lighthouse lamp on, so let's start digging in." As he turned towards the kitchen, he announced, "The turkey and stuffing I've been cooking should be just about finished, so get started on the stew." With that, he disappeared.

"I'll help you bring the food out," Heero quickly called after him as he followed the braided American. Even with his back to the Chinese police officer, he could feel those dark eyes following him.

As he rounded the table and the band of friends took their places, there was a great deal of friendly banter. But underneath the friendly reunion, Heero's eared picked up on Quatre's concerned whisper directed to one of his comrades, "So have you heard?"

Hilde's voice whispered back as the rest of their group talked amongst themselves, "Yea, He only has a bout a month left. As sick as he has been for the last couple of years, it hasn't come as a complete surprise. Just looking at him, you would never know. He's already started looking for someone to carry on his work once he's gone."

His cobalt eyes widening, Heero stopped just outside the doorway and strained his ears to hear for the rest of the conversation. Quatre's soft voice sighed deeply, "For Duo's sake, we can't show any signs that we're upset. He'd want it this way."

"He told me a long time ago that when this time came, that this is how he wanted us to handle it," Sally's emotional voice breathed in response to what she managed to get from the discussion. "I just couldn't imagine what it would be like to be in his shows right now."

Biting his lip, Heero moved away from his perch and made his way to assist Duo, his head replaying the conversation and his concern building. Duo was sick? He never mentioned anything about it. But then again, Hilde had mentioned that he did not want it made into a big focal point in their group.

For whatever reason, the thought of losing the lighthouse keeper was almost unbearable. But who was he to be so distraught over Duo's impending passing? Heero hardly knew the young man, after all, even if he had rescued him that stormy night.

…But that was just it. Duo had saved Heero's life and there was nothing that Heero could do to save him in return. The braided young man had opened his home, and more, to him when he had nowhere else to turn and Heero had nothing to open to him in return.

Just when his life seemed to be coming back together, cruel fate had taken another turn to take all of that away once more.

 

Part 8:

[Shine your light down on me
Lift me up so I can see
Shine your light when you're gone
Give me the faith to carry on]
-Lyrics to `Shine Your Light' performed by Robbie Williams [1]

The sound of the oven timer ringing snapped Heero from his thoughts and he stepped into the kitchen. When he entered the large room, he found Duo removing the large turkey he had been working on for the evening's gathering. As he silently watched, the Japanese sailor couldn't help but recall the conversation that he had just overheard. Duo just seemed such a lively, energetic being. And here, he was concealing an illness that was killing him quickly.

Suddenly, having global amnesia no longer seemed such a devastating thing.

Looking up form his efforts as he lowered the pan onto the stove burners, the braided lighthouse keeper grinned, "Hey, Heero. Did you need something?" Shaken from his train of thought once more, the Japanese young man blinked his widened eyes. Once more, Duo never thought of anything more than to look after someone other than himself-even in his condition.

Quickly masking his surprise and embarrassment at being caught staring, Heero gave a small, reassuring smile of his own. Shaking his head, he answered, "I just wanted to see if you needed any help in here."

The tables certainly turned as it was then Duo's turn to look shocked as his violet eyes widened and mouth fell slack. At the expression, Heero's felt a sharp stab of hurt of realization of how little effort he- himself- had made in seeing if there was anything that he could do to help the lighthouse keeper in any of his chores.

Given the depth of surprise that he saw, Heero wouldn't have been surprised if it was the first time anyone had expressed their concern for Duo and his needs.

His smile quickly returning and growing, the American gestured to the drawers beside the sink as he replied, "Actually, if you could find a carving knife, that'd be a huge help while I take care of the stuffing here."

With a firm nod, Heero made his way to the drawer. "You know, you're handling yourself really well out there. They really seem to like you," Duo commented as he began removing the wire stitching at the back of the large turkey to begin removing the stuffing into a large bowl that he had sitting out. "We may make a dysfunctional family," he chuckled deeply, "But we're a family nonetheless."

Heero's small smile returned at the last statement. For a group consisting of so many different personalities, Duo and his friends certainly did make a tight-knit group. He couldn't help but wonder if at another time, he had such a band of `brothers' and `sisters' that looked after him in such a way.

For a reason he couldn't explain, there was a nagging feeling that told him he never had.

After a long pause, Duo looked up from his work, his smile faded as he swallowed hard. His voice soft, he stated, "If anything were to happen to me, I know any one of them would be more than willing to take care of you in my place."

With a sharp gasp at that, Heero dropped the large knife that he had recovered. As the long blade fell, its sharp edge cut down the middle of his slackened palm. With a sharp cry, the sailor hissed, "Damn it!

Before the knife could even hit and clang off the floor, Duo was already at Heero's side with a small towel. As the blade clamored off the tile, the lighthouse keeper gently urged the sailor's bloodied hand to open with a gentle, "Let me see."

Opening his clenched-closed eyes, Heero watched as the other young man made quick, careful work of cleaning away the blood to inspect the long cut. With a relieved sigh, Duo moved into the hall and quickly reappeared with a bandage and an antibacterial solvent. "Sorry," was all that the Japanese sailor could mutter as he watched his host clean the wound.

Focused on his task, Duo grinned, "Nothing to be sorry about. I'm just glad that I used to date a doctor to know something about taking care of cuts like these." Once the wide bandage was in place, he straightened and met the other young man's gaze and smirked, "That's your only good hand, there. You'll have a hard time if you end up losing that, too."

With the wave of emotions that were overwhelming him, drowning him, Heero couldn't help but laugh. When he regained his composure, he found himself lost in smiling violet and his breath was caught in his throat. Gesturing to the injured hand, Duo asked in concern, "Are you all right?"

His throat dry, Heero swallowed hard before nodding a quiet, "Yea. Thanks." Quickly retrieving the fallen knife, he cleaned the blood off before removing a clean carving knife from the drawer. He could feel his face burning from another, unexpected turn of emotions that he had not been prepared for.

As Duo moved back to preparing the main course, the usually quiet young man hesitated before saying quietly, "About that comment earlier, I hope that you weren't suggesting you might be leaving anytime soon."

Those vibrant, violet eyes looked back at him filled with surprise once more as the braided lighthouse keeper turned to meet his gaze. Taking a deep breath, Heero summoned all the courage he had and admitted in little more than a whisper, "I'm starting to like it here… with you." He felt naked, exposed, standing there with his feelings opened up for scrutiny.

For a moment, Duo just stood frozen, as if not sure how to react to such a heartfelt confession. Blinking away his surprise, a smile that reached his brilliant eyes slowly spread on his face. In that moment, Heero couldn't recall seeing anything more beautiful. As alarming as that realization was, it was something that he couldn't deny either.

Slowly approaching the sailor, the braided lighthouse keeper placed a hand on his good shoulder, squeezing it gently. "That means a lot to me, Heero," he whispered sincerely. "And I promise not to go anywhere as long as I can help it."

A small lump grew in Heero's throat at that, knowing that there was no telling how long he would be able to keep that word. Still, it was enough for that moment and he gave a nod with a relieved smile. Clearing his throat, Duo was quick to turn away and the sailor noticed him reaching a hand to his face. "We better get this food out before it gets cold," the American suggested.

Swallowing away the last of the lump that had formed, Heero assisted him by taking up the large bowl of stuffing. As he followed the braided young man out, he thought of how turbulent their connection had been over the last few weeks. Now more than ever, he knew that he had a real friend that would have his best interest at heart. He had someone that he could talk to that would understand and really listen… And his time with him was limited.

He began to wonder if life would ever just give him a break from the seemingly endless rollercoaster that he was on.

When they returned to the dining room, their chattering `family' looked up from their conversation. Grinning brightly, Duo announced, "Dinner's served." Another lively discussion broke out as the meat was cut and passed around along with the other fixings that had been brought to the party.

Clearing her throat, Sally elbowed her lover with an expectant look. Wufei gave her a brief mock glare before sighing deeply and looking across the table to the Japanese stranger. Begrudgingly at first, he began, "I want to apologize if I made you uncomfortable, Heero."

"As an officer, I tend to be suspicious of those I don't know. I didn't mean it if I came off poorly in our first meeting earlier. It was brought to my attention just now that I may have given the wrong impression." The Chinese policeman's tone had taken a calm, sincere warmth to it in the end and he peered a dark eye out the corner of his eye to the braided young woman as if asking that he did right. Sally gave him a proud smile in response.

Taken aback for a moment, Heero smiled back and shrugged, "It's understandable that you would be suspicious of someone new coming into your group. Had you easily welcomed me in, it would speak poorly of your conviction to protect those you care about, so it speaks worlds of how much everyone here means to you." With a firm nod, he concluded, "I would have expected no less from a professional upholder of the law."

Everyone around the table blinked in shock at the tact and reserved calm that the young sailor had displayed in light of what could have been a very uncomfortable moment. Recovering from his own dumbfounded state, Wufei smiled and rose from his feet. Stretching his hand to the sailor, he replied, "I am glad that no harm was done, then. So let's start on a new foot, then."

Gladly taking the hand in his bandaged palm, Heero shook it firmly. With that, the group fell back into a comfortable conversation as they continued to enjoy their meal.

`Dysfunctional, but a family nonetheless,' Duo's words rang through the Japanese young man's mind again. Smiling to himself, he appraised the group around him with a newfound sense of belonging that he once feared he would never know.

Almost an hour later, Duo looked to his watch and excused himself for enough time to light the tower. Upon his return and for the remainder of the night, the band of `brothers' and `sisters' moved to the living room to continue their pleasant discussions.

In the late hours, the guests began shuffling out. With a quiet `good night' to his friend, the lighthouse keeper made his way back to his ever present perch over the cliffs.

When he climbed into his own bed, Heero was smiling to himself in recalling the evening's events. Falling into an easy slumber, his dreams were not tortured with demons that they normally were. Instead, he was surrounded by smiles and warm embraces.

* * * * * *

Two days later, Heero woke not long after the sunrise and stretched as he made his way from his room and down the stairs. As he neared the bottom, he heard the voice of his braided friend, "Well, it seems that there is a bit of a reprieve. The last tests from the blood work came back and I've been told six months now, instead of one."

His cobalt eyes widening at the news, the young sailor moved to the doorway of the living room, straining his ears. There was an excited response from the person on the other end of the vid phone call.

Recognizing the voice as that of the young woman that Duo had spoken to in the wee hours of the morning about almost week before, Heero tried to understand what she was saying to his friend. While he could not make out her words, the relief and joy in her tone were clear as broad day light.

With a snort, Duo's tired voice replied, "I'm fine. I wish that everyone would stop worrying about me. Besides, there is a new lease on life now. Sally said that there is an off chance that since the white cells are suddenly kicking in again, that six months could become six years, and from there even more."

Overwhelmed with relief, Heero sighed deeply, sagging against the doorway. There was a chance… an off chance but a chance. And there was certainly more time than he had first thought. It was the best new that he could have ever been given.

Struck with a thought, a small smile tugged at his lips. His mind set, he made his way to the kitchen to start breakfast before the other young man had the chance. With all that Duo had done for him, if all that he had was six months, he was going to make them the best six months that the lighthouse keeper ever had.

And with any luck… maybe… maybe he would have something worth sticking around for.

 

Part 9

[That fire t'was led me on
and shone more bright than of the midday sun
To where he waited still
it was a place where no one else could come]
-Lyrics to `The Dark Night of My Soul' performed by Loreena McKennitt

Sally sighed deeply as she fell back in her chair. Rubbing her tired eyes, she moaned quietly in frustration. A glance to the clock on the living room wall announced that it was three minutes past eleven that evening. Her eyes widened at finding how time had crept up on her in her work. Reluctantly, she closed her research files on her computer and turned the machine off for the evening.

Entering the room with a steaming cup of green tea, Wufei commented, "Finally decided to call it a night after five hours, I see." As he sat beside the braided young woman at the long work desk, he carefully handed over the cup.

With a small, grateful smile, Sally took a tentative sip from the steaming water. Her smile fading, she sighed, "I just can't seem to find enough on global amnesia to assist Heero any more than I have."

The young doctor shook her head and gestured to the dark screen, stating, "Everything that I've been able to find for the last few weeks are nothing more than scientific guesses. There have been patients that suffered from it that never get their memories back, some that get only a few pieces of their past back and those who make a full recovery from the memory loss."

Running a hand over her blonde head, Sally frowned deeply, "And there is not a damned thing that can be done to help ensure those full recoveries. There are too many possibilities of what could happen to give a fair assessment to whether his amnesia will be permanent or not at this point."

After a few long sips of her green tea, the braided young woman lowered the cup onto a round coaster and smirk, "I have to say that I am proud of you, though."

To the black eyebrow that was raised in silent question she received, she chuckled deeply, "As naturally suspicious as you can be, you have been quite civil towards Heero over these last couple of weeks ever since you met him. I know that it's taking a great effort on your part whenever we meet up with him and Duo."

Wufei shrugged, "I suppose that he is harmless, considering his condition." Folding his arms behind his head, he added, "Though the fact that you mentioned great stress, in addition to the blow to the head that he suffered in his accident, most likely led to his amnesia still has me on edge. Along with that, who travels to a lone island like this without any identification on them?

"It all just seems to make it look as though he was running from something and didn't want to be found. And if I'm right, what if that something comes here and causes everyone trouble? Amnesia or not, Heero could very well be someone to worry about if his presence brings any possible danger here."

There was a long pause as Sally swallowed hard in contemplating her lover's words. Lowering her head, she admitted, "I never looked at it that way." Quickly, she raised her head and stated, "But I still don't believe that we should be so quick to judge when it's very likely that there is nothing to worry about."

"And I agree with you," Wufei smiled as he nodded reassuringly. "Until there is any proof that there is something to worry about, I will keep an open mind and remain civil. Given my line of work, however, I can't help but have some reserve of concern."

Giving a smile of relief, Sally replied, "I can live with that." With a yawn, she collected the small stack of pages that she had printed in her readings. "I was able to find one bit of consistency in all of my hard work tonight," she announced quietly.

Wufei tilted his head, the interest clear on his face in anticipation. Holding up the stack of papers, the braided nurse stated, "Most research shows that if the person suffering from global amnesia experiences dreams or flashes of feelings, locations or people that elicit strong feelings within them, chances are good that eventually they will recover fully. There is just no way if knowing when-or if- those flashes will ever come about."

Silently mulling over the notion for a moment, Wufei shrugged, "Well, you have an appointment with Heero tomorrow. You could always ask him if he ever experienced anything like what you're describing."

Nodding, Sally yawned, "That's the plan." Against her will, eye lids began to droop the slightest bit as she began to sink deeper in her chair, the exhaustion that she had been fighting off finally catching up.

His head shaking in amusement, Wufei aided his lover to her feet. Chuckling deeply as he wrapped an arm around the young woman's waist to assist her, he said quietly, "And now, my dear, you are past due for bed." Sally hummed her affirmative with a smile, her head resting on his shoulder as they walked out of the living room.

As they walked past the windows on the other side of the large space, Wufei took note of the rain beating against the glass. The streetlights provided a better visual to how heavy the thick beads were falling. With a deep frown, he said to himself, "Looks like Duo's going to have himself a long night keeping watch."

* * * * * *

The following morning, Duo was awake long after sunrise. Sitting up quickly in his bed within the watch room of the lighthouse and peered through the large windows around him. With a deep sigh, he rubbed his red-rimmed violet eyes. The prior night had been a long one, what with the storm that went through, but he did not like sleeping in too late. He enjoyed having as much of the day to enjoy as he could, while he could.

Rising from the bed, the braided lighthouse keeper threw on the pale green, long-sleeved shirt waiting beside the bed and readjusted his gray sweatpants. With his brown sneakers slipped onto his already-socked feet, he made a quick assessment of the wicks and gears before rising to the lantern room to douse the large lamp.

When he finally entered the log cabin after a long descent from the tower, Duo's nose was filled with the pleasant smells of breakfast cooking. Making his way into the kitchen, he smiled at the back of the young man standing by the oven as he managed to flip pancakes with one good arm. "Morning," the American greeted in a cheery voice.

Looking over his shoulder, Heero grinned, "Morning." Appraising the red-eyed and disheveled lighthouse keeper, he frowned, "Did you get any sleep at all?"

"Enough to function," Duo yawned as he walked over to the stove. "Luckily, the storm passed long enough for the last of the cargo ships coming in to bank safely." His smile faded a bit when he reached his guest's side and commented, "You really don't have to go out of your way to make breakfast every morning, you know."

With a shrug, Heero met his gaze and said honestly, "I don't mind, gives me something to do." Turning back to the frying pan, he added, "Besides, I figured that you would have a rough night with the front that went through."

At that, Duo smiled sincerely, "Thank, Heero."

In silence, the two companions worked together with the last of the preparations. Once they were sitting across from each other at the small kitchen table, Duo gestured to his friend's right arm cast and smirked, "Big day today."

Filling his plate with eggs and breakfast meats, the young sailor sighed deeply in relief, "And not a day too soon. If I had to live with this thing on for much longer, I would have found a way to get it off myself." Duo chuckled deeply as he chewed on mouthful of pancake.

With a smile on his own face, Heero took a forkful of food. Now that the gash at the right side of his head was healed into a thin scar, the only physical evidence of the crash he lived through was the piece of plaster that covered his right arm. He looked forward to feeling like a normal person again when that was finally removed.

The pair ate in companionable silence for a time, as they usually did. As they were about to finish their meal, Heero regarded his friend. There were still so many mysteries surrounding the American enigma that he had come to find an appreciation for. After coming to the conclusion that he wanted to understand the lighthouse keeper more, the Japanese young man decided that it was time to start making the effort.

Swallowing hard, Heero asked, "Duo, is it all right if I ask a personal question?"

As he finished the last bit of his breakfast, Duo nodded, "Sure." His disarming smile returned as he shrugged, "We are friends, after all, right?"

Unable to help himself, Heero returned the smile. While he did finally consider the lighthouse keeper a friend, it was good to hear that Duo saw them as friends as well. His grin faded at the unease of the question he was about to ask. Clearing his throat and pushing aside his plate, he met the violet eyes watching him and finally inquired, "How did you know that you were…" He gestured vaguely, unable to say the words.

Instead of finding discomfort or anger from the other young man, the sailor was surprised when Duo's smile grew as he finished for him, "Gay?" Blinking his widened cobalt eyes, Heero nodded. The braided American sat back in his seat in quiet thought. The Japanese young man remained still as he allowed his friend time to sort his answer out.

Looking off through the large window overlooking the back enclosed porch, Duo's violet eyes lost their focus and he shrugged, "Back in high school, I realized that I was more attracted to boys than girls and it scared the shit out of me. I waited until after I graduated to try dating girls in hopes that maybe I could teach myself to be drawn to them more. Sally and I had been childhood friends, so I thought that she would be the perfect person to ask out."

With a deep sigh, Duo continued, "We went out to the movies and out to dinner a few times and did no more than peck each other on the lips a few times. Then I started getting the feeling that maybe Sally might want more than just that. With that realization, I started to panic when I realized that I didn't want that with her, or any other woman."

His violet eyes regaining their focus, the lighthouse owner turned to his friend and grinned, "Luckily for me, Sally's a great gal, and she understood and supported me when I confided in her. She helped me come to terms with who I am and accepted me without any reserve, so she'll always be very special to me."

Heero swallowed hard and could only manage to nod his appreciation for the answer to his question. Rising from his seat, Duo smiled, "Well, I'll clean up since you made breakfast." With that, he began gathering the plates and utensils from the table.

As he remained at the table, Heero remained lost in his own thoughts and his eyes drifted closed. The feeling of a hand on his shoulder almost made him jump and when he looked up, he gazed into a pair of blue eyes surrounded by a fog. "Can we at least hold hands this time?" a young woman's voice asked. His cobalt eyes widening, the young sailor stiffened in fear.

The hand on his shoulder tightened as Duo's voice broke through the haze, calling, "Heero!" Where the blue eyes had been watching him, violet remained as the lighthouse keeper's concerned face filled his vision. "You alright there, man?" the American asked. "You just seemed to phase out for a few minutes there."

Calming his breathing after his startle, Heero ran a hand through his hair and nodded, "Yea. Just got lost in my thinking, is all." To his surprise, he found that the table was completely cleared and the dishes washed. Time lost to him, he gazed to the clock to see that he had been out of sorts for almost ten minutes with that strange haze.

When he looked to the clock, himself, Duo grinned, "Well, we better get ready for your appointment. No sense in keeping that cast on a minute longer than needed." That said, he stepped from the kitchen. His legs trembling at rising onto his feet, Heero followed closely behind.

Part 10

[And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow
Let it be]
-Lyrics to `Let It Be' performed by Sir Paul McCartney

Stepping into the waiting room to her office, Sally smiled warmly at the two young men sitting by Catherine's desk. "Hi, lovie," Duo grinned brightly as she approached. Heero gave a small smile of his own in greeting.

"Good to see you both this beautiful morning," the blonde doctor replied in a cheery voice. Her smile faded at the sight of the dark circles and pale skin of her ex-boyfriend. With a concerned frown, she commented, "You look like hell. Did you get any sleep at all last night?" Lowering her voice, she warned, "You should be taking better care of yourself."

His violet eyes widening, Duo gestured to Heero as if to remind the young woman that they were not alone. "Don't worry," he chided with a weak glare, "I managed a couple of hours once the storm finally died down."

Straightening at the acknowledgement of another person present, Sally forced a wide grin and replied, "Well, just make sure to get some more rest once we're finished here, okay? No sense getting yourself sick." Her emphasis on the word `sick' was not lost to the young sailor and he swallowed hard.

With a deep sigh, the lighthouse keeper rolled his eyes and nodded, "Yes, mother." Shaking his head, he added, "No, you're even worse than that. I swear I can't so much as sneeze in your presence without you getting on my case about my health." He stopped himself from continuing on his rant and just sagged tiredly in his seat.

Once he was finally silent, Sally chuckled deeply, "It's only because I care." Turning to her patient, she grinned, "Well, I imagine you're anxious to be rid of that cast." She stepped aside so that there was a clear path to her opened office and asked, "Shall we?" At that, Heero brightened and nodded, rising to his feet.

Duo remained in the waiting room, and waved to his friend, "I'll just be here getting a few winks in." With that, he folded his arms and lowered his head with his eyes closed.

As he walked into the office, Heero bit his lip. In witnessing that exchange, it was clear that whatever it was that Duo was ailing from, he didn't want the sailor to know about it. The fact that he only learned of the lighthouse keeper's illness through eavesdropping on conversations left him with a knot of guilt. Even now that Heero did know that something was wrong, he certainly couldn't bring the issue up lest he have to explain how he learned of it to begin with.

Besides just that being on his mind, Heero thought back to the vision that he had back at the cabin that morning. That voice and those blue eyes haunted him the whole trip to the hospital. There was something… sad related to the vision. If it was anything that was related to his past, there was as much of a longing to know more of what it meant as there was a wish to leave it in the deep recess of his mind.

The sound of the door closing behind him snapped the young sailor from his thoughts. Patting the long, padded table in the center of the room, Sally told him, "Have a seat." The young man walked over and did as he was asked, looking over to the cutting tools that were waiting on a nearby table.

Pulling over a chair to sit before her patient, Sally placed her hands on the cast and said quietly, "And let me see what I have to work with here."

A quick assessment and the braided doctor picked up the round cutter from the table. Turning the tiny saw on, she cut the thin, spinning blade down the cast from the top of the arm. With practiced precision, she moved the blade down the arm, around the bent elbow and down to the end of the cast by the exposed fingers.

The single, long cut was deep enough that once the saw was turned off and put away, Sally was able to open the two halves of the cast apart. His arm now free, Heero marveled at how pale his recovering arm was to the rest of his body, and how almost foreign it felt to be able to move the appendage once more.

As the young man tested his weakened arm muscles in flexing and lowering it, Sally grinned, "Give it a few days, starting with some light weights, and it'll be back as new. Just to be sure, that all is looking well, I'm going to take a quick ex-ray."

Without argument, Heero nodded as he walked over to the flat ex-ray board at the further end of the room. Protective robes in place and lights turned out, Sally lowered her patient's arm on the table and turned on the machine, projecting its findings on the white wall.

Appraising the bone structure of the healing arm, the braided young woman asked quietly, "If you could bend your arm now." As Heero moved the arm into the requested position, the doctor watched closely how the bones reacted.

Satisfied with the results, Sally nodded, "Very good." Turning the lights back on and the ex-ray machine off, she removed her white protective coat and announced, "Everything has healed as it should have. I'm going to wrap it in a long bandage that can get wet. You'll be able to use your arm with it and not strain the muscles more than they're ready. You can lose that bandage after about a week."

With a firm nod, Heero walked back to the examining table to take a seat as the doctor took out the brown, rolled up bandaging. As she set about her work of wrapping the pale arm, Sally frowned in concern, "Are you all right, Heero? You're quieter than normal today."

Blinking his surprised eyes, the sailor turned to face her and replied quickly, "Oh, I'm fine. I was just had some things on my mind."

Her work finished, Sally clasped the end of the bandage with two butterfly clips. With that, she sat back in her seat and looked up to the young man, offering, "Do you want to talk about it? You know I'm always willing to be a friend when you need one."

Smiling gratefully at that, Heero nodded and said quietly, "I know. Thank you." With a deep sigh, he ran his good hand through his unruly hair and shared, "This morning, I had some kind of a vision, or something."

Before he even finished his sentence, Sally was up so quickly from her chair, it fell back. With wide eyes, she asked urgently, "A vision? Did you have some kind of familiarity to it? Do you know what brought it on?" Heero stiffened, his own eyes wide from surprise at the sudden barrage of questions.

At the look on the young man's face, Sally blushed brightly and sat back down. With an embarrassed smile, she said quietly, "Sorry. It's just that last night, when I was looking more into your condition, I found that if someone suffering from global amnesia experiences flashes-or visions- from their past, then chances are good for eventual recovery."

The news struck Heero the same a blow to the chest would have, the air leaving his lungs. "I… I might get my memory back?" An overwhelming wave of emotions ranging from a wide spectrum of feelings flooded him. In the end, the strongest of those emotions was loss. Frowning at the doctor, he requested quietly, "Please don't tell Duo."

It was then Sally's time to gape in shock as she sputtered, "W-What! Why not? This is wonderful news!"

"Sally," the Japanese young youth began, "The vision I had was of a girl. I only saw the eyes and heard her voice and when it was over, I just had this sad feeling that went with it all. And I know that as a law enforcer, Wufei would look at my traveling here with no identification would lead him to suspect that I was running from something. His early suspicions of me when we first met makes that pretty evident."

Her eyes widening, Sally shifted uncomfortable in her seat and asked, "What makes you think that? He would never-" She stopped when the sailor raised a dark eyebrow with an amused smirk that asked her to challenge him. With a deep sigh, her shoulders slumped as she frowned, "He did mention something along the lines of what you said."

Swallowing hard, Heero responded quietly, "After this vision that I had, I think that he may be right. While part of my wants to have my memories back, I'm starting to hope that I won't after this morning.

"There was no fear related to what I heard and saw in that dream, but the pain that came with it is something that I'm not even sure that I'm ready to deal with." Looking off, he whispered, "Maybe I was never ready to deal with it before the accident."

The prospect of the stranger running from something not out of fear, but out of a terrible loss was something that Sally had not thought of. She sat in her chair, watching her patient with a concerned frown. "What happens when I get memories of a past that I don't want to know anymore?" he asked quietly.

Slowly rising from her chair, Sally rested her hands on Heero's shoulders. When he looked up into her gaze, she smiled, "You turn to the people who care about you now. If you find that the life left behind has not one you want to go back to, you have me, Duo and all of our family." She winked, "Even Wufei."

At that, Heero couldn't help but grin. "This place kind of has been growing on me over the last month," he commented sincerely. "Maybe there was a reason for all of this mess. Maybe I was supposed to end up here for some reason."

With her smile growing, Sally cupped his face in her hands and replied quietly, "Well, whatever the reason, I'm glad for it." Unable to trust his voice at that moment, Heero's own smile grew. Lowering her hands, the braided doctor reassured, "I promise not to mention anything to Duo about your vision. Though, when you are ready to talk about it, know that you'll never have a better person that you can talk to than him."

The relief clear in his eyes, Heero nodded, "I know. Thanks, Sal." The two exchanged a brief hug before the sailor stepped from the office.

* * * * *

Later that evening, as the sun began to set over the horizon on the other side of the island, Heero had taken refuge at his favorite place on the cliffs before the cabin. Sitting on the edge of the jagged stones, his hair moved gently on the sea breeze. While he could not remember his times out on the ocean, watching it always gave him a sense of comfort.

The waves, capped with white foam, rolled in one by one with an easy rhythm in the calm dusk. With every one of their slaps against the rocks below, another gust of air rose. Overhead, the clear, multi-colored sky was beginning to show a few stars peeking through the darker shades. With a deep breath of the salty air, the young sailor closed his eyes and just enjoyed the serenity of it all.

When he opened his cobalt eyes again, unsure of how long he had allowed himself to drift off, Heero noted that the sky was growing darker. Without the cover of city lights or air pollution to block them, thousands more stars twinkled above.

The conversation that he had shared with Sally earlier that day still weighed on the sailor's mind. So it was evident that sooner or later, he would have the pieces of his lost life put together again. Another chill at the thought ran up his spine, making him shudder. Funny how up until that morning, all he wanted was to know who he was and where he came from. Life certainly had a way of playing jokes on a person's mind.

As the last rays of sunlight began to disperse, the lighthouse several feet behind him came to life, its long beams turning through the darkness. Turning to look up at the tall tower, the lone young man managed to see Duo peering over the gallery railing, keeping a vigil as he gazed out to the sea.

As he watched the lighthouse keeper, his braid floating on the wind, Heero couldn't help but note how… beautiful he looked. That realization would have surprised him more if he didn't already know that he had begun to recognize his own growing attraction for him.

From high on the perch that he made for himself every night, Duo looked down and spotted his friend. With a wide smile, he waved to the Japanese young man at the cliffs. Returning the wave, Heero gave a small smile of his own. After the exchange, the lighthouse keeper went back inside the lighthouse to look over things.

Gazing back out to the sea, Heero's smile remained as he found comfort. With the sea no longer visible, that comfort came from the light shining through the bleakness.