3-25-2006

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

Title: Ray of Hope
Parts 31-38 + Epilogue
Creative assistance from Sunhawk
Archive: http://www.mizunoamy.bravepages.com andhttp://www.gundam-wing-diaries.150m.com/gw/SkyLark/gwSkyLark.htm
Pairings: Eventual 1x2, 5XS, References to past pairings, other pairings possible
Warnings: AU, language and possible citrus
BY: SkyLark
Beta Writing By: Deb

 

Part 31

[I don't want to see the light of day
Just this once, will you make it go away
Take this burden from me- Oh, tomorrow will keep
I don't want to see the light of day]
-Lyrics to `I don't Wanna See the Light' performed by Sara Evans

Two weeks.

It was two weeks that he had been staying with Sally and Wufei following that terrible night at the fair. For the countless time during that stay, Heero found himself sitting before the computer in the living room. Reading yet another of dozens of articles on his disappearance, the young sailor sighed deeply in frustration and ran a hand through his unruly hair.

While Trowa and his other friends had been more than understanding after learning about the incident at the dance, Heero was more worried about Duo's acceptance. During their separation, the lack of communication from the lighthouse keeper made it more than obvious that he was still not ready to offer that acceptance yet.

And so, the days blurred together as functions were carried out with an emptiness and were only done for a sense of normalcy.

"I should have known that you would be here," a warm voice commented. Looking over his shoulder, the Japanese young man watched as Sally stepped into the room with a sad smile on her face. Quietly slipping into the sofa beside the computer desk, the braided doctor asked gently, "Anything helping your memory yet?"

With another small sigh, Heero turned the chair he was in to face her and shook his head, "No." Running a hand over his chin, he was reminded of the stubble there that he could not motivate himself to take care for the last couple days. "There was a time I would have given anything to know who I was and where I came from," he thought aloud. "Now I just wish that it would just fade away again."

Lightly tapping on the monitor, he frowned deeply, "While I know more about myself now, it's still not helping to bring my memories back." With a lost look, he gazed back at the image of himself in the middle of the clipping and stated softly, "It's like I'm reading about someone else's life."

Sally's mouth opened to give some kind of reassurance when the doorbell rang. Humming to herself, she thought aloud, "I wasn't expecting anyone to stop over." Hope filling his eyes, Heero watched the doctor slip from the room to answer the front door. At the sound of the door opening, he held his breath and strained his ears in anticipation.

When Sally returned, she was joined by the unexpected visitor. His cobalt eyes widening, the sailor slowly rose from his feet and sputtered, "N-Noin." The tall young woman greeted him with a warm smile, a large basket with a blain blue cloth covering the opening in her hands. With a small wink to her friend, the braided doctor made a quiet slip from the room as Duo's mother entered.

Her smile warming, Noin gently kissed a stubbly cheek of the stunned Japanese youth and greeted, "It's good to see you, Heero. I am sorry that I have not been able to stop over sooner to see how you've been."

Blinking away the surprise from his eyes, Heero finally grinned, "It's good to see you, too." Quickly turning off the computer, he led her towards the small table at the center of the room. As she took her seat across from the young sailor, Noin lowered the basket that she brought onto the table between them.

After a brief and tense silence, Sally reappeared with two steaming cups of tea. Smiling to the pair at the table, she set down a cup before them before stepping out once more with their small words of gratitude. Roughly swallowing, Heero finally spoke up and asked, "How's Duo?"

The slight tension faded at the heartfelt question and Noin's smile returned. Sighing deeply, she replied, "He's fairing as well as you, from what I can tell." Heero flushed a bit and ran a hand over his stubble self-consciously. As she removed the blue cover from the picnic basket opening, the young mother revealed a large batch of a variety of homemade cookies.

His cobalt eyes widening at the sight, Heero gave a small `thank you' when the basket was pushed closer to him. Taking up one of the chocolate chip cookies, he took a small bite and sipped at his tea. Noin took up a butter cookie for herself and started nibbling at it. As he chewed another bite, the Japanese young man commented, "I have to admit that I'm surprised that you came to see me after what I did."

Noin chuckled deeply and admitted, "Well, I was quite a bit upset with you for a while there." Taking up her tea cup, she smiled at the nervous looking young man. "But then I actually thought of your situation and I found myself understanding your choice not to mention your flashes. And in the end, were I in your place, I most likely would have done just the same."

After the last two weeks of agonizing over his decision and if it was the right thing or not, hearing from the mother of the person that he loved more than anything tell him that she understood and accepted his choice broke the barriers he put up around his emotions.

Tears welled in his cobalt eyes at her sincere words and with a small whimper, he covered his face with his hands. Unable to fight the onslaught of feelings that he had bottled up, the young sailor allowed the tears to roll down his face as he lowered his hands again. His gaze shimmering, he whispered brokenly, "Thank you. I never wanted to hurt him."

Rising from her seat, Noin walked around the table edge to hug Heero tightly with tears in her own eyes. Gently kissing the top of his head, she whispered, "I know that. You've always had his best intention at heart and I realize that now." The Japanese youth slowly raised his own arms to hold her tightly as he closed his glistening eyes.

Once he calmed, Heero pulled back and wiped his eyes as Noin did the same. Sniffing softly, he said quietly with a deep frown, "I miss him."

With a small nod, the young mother nodded and whispered, "I know and he missed you just as much. It's just…" Looking away, she sighed deeply, "He's terrified of what will happen when you do come to remember everything. As much as you say that whatever this Dorothy meant to you wouldn't change your feelings for Duo, he's frightened that maybe that won't be the case. Things are just very complicated for him right now."

Another knot forming in his throat, Heero swallowed roughly and gave a small nod. In the end, he couldn't blame Duo for his fear. Perhaps it was too early for him to make such a statement that remembering Dorothy wouldn't change him… but he couldn't help feeling that way at that moment.

Then there was another matter that was a constant source of confusion.

"Why would I have run?" the sailor heard himself asking aloud. Noin appraised him with wide eyes. Shaking his head, Heero repeated, "Why would I have run? If everything was so perfect in my past, why would I have left it all behind, including Dorothy?"

Noin tilted her head with a surprised look at being reminded of that little piece of the mystery that surrounded the young man. "You ask a very good question," she states at last. "I suppose that we'll all have to wait for the answer along with you until all of the pieces of your memories fall back into place."

Rising to her feet again, she placed a gentle hand on his shoulder and told him gently, "As for Duo, just give him a little more time." Her warm smile returned to brighten her face as she stated, "He'll come around. He loves you far too much to have you go without a fight." That said, she leaned down to kiss the teenager's cheek once more. As she straightened, she announced, "And now, I best be going but I'll be in touch." Gesturing to the basket on the table, she grinned, "Enjoy the cookies."

With a grateful smile, Heero politely ushered the young mother to the front door. As he opened the door, the Japanese young man made a point to make their gazes lock as he told her sincerely, "Thank you for everything."

Chuckling deeply, Noin winked, "My pleasure." Turning on her heels, she made her was out the front door and down the steps of the front porch.

When he closed the door after her, Heero leaned his back against the frame with a deep sigh of relief. A small smile tugged at his lips as he silently thanked Duo's mother once more for giving him the greatest gift he could have received… hope.

* * * * * *

Dorothy hummed to herself as she made her way down the hall to the main gathering hall. In the back of her mind, the thought of her quickly approaching trip to Horizon Cove lingered. White it was only days away, it simply was not coming fast enough for her liking. Now all that remained was her announcing to all interested parties of her upcoming `much needed vacation.'

It was best that she go alone, in case the person found on the remote island was in fact Odin. She held dearly the pact that they had made when Odin realized the truth of what he was. Never once had she regretted playing his loving girlfriend to protect him from his father and the media stir that it would cause.

But when an unexpected turn of events came about, she was not surprised to find that her dear friend had disappeared. Dorothy would have left well enough alone until news of a boat accident injuring a man named Odin reached her. If it did turn out to be him, his new whereabouts would die with her.

Odin ran for good reason. And she would see that he stayed hidden.

Spying the family attendant heading her way, the blonde young woman grinned, "Hello, Janice. I understand that Senator Lowe is here."

The young brunette nodded firmly, "Yes, Miss Dorothy. I was just about to advise your mother, Lady Jessica."

With a light chuckle, Dorothy replied, "Janice, you know that you do not need to use formalities with me. You're more of a sister to me than anything."

At that, Janice grinned, "Of course, Dorothy. I best be off to get your mother now." She quickly walked past the blonde young woman to continue her search.

Shaking her head in amusement, the blonde teenager headed to the main living room. Just as she was about to enter the room, she heard the Senator's familiar voice chuckling deeply. "Yes, of course I saw the latest polls," he commented, the smile evident in his voice.

Cautiously peeking into the room, Dorothy watched the tall, blonde man as he paced the room while speaking on his cell phone. Grinning widely, the Senator chuckled deeply, "My son's disappearance has been the best thing for me in increasing my popularity with the voters."

Holding up the newspaper that was in his other hand, the aging man smirked, "The grieving father holding out hope that his son would be found alive while showing grit and determination to help all those suffering. It's brilliant!"

Her blue eyes narrowing, Dorothy bit back the deep growl building in the back of her throat. "You son of a bitch," she hissed to herself. Any guilt that she had about not sharing what she learned from Officer Change vanished. He never deserved to have a son like Odin in the first place. Her friend had been right about the man all along.

With her resolve reaffirmed, the blonde young woman straightened and adjusted her orange sundress. Once her face cooled and she was certain that it led no evidence to the red hue it had taken on, Dorothy forced a wide smile and stepped into the room.

Curtsying, she greeting cheerfully, "Senator. A pleasure to see you as always."

 

Part 32

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

Odin Lowe straightened at the appearance and greeting from his son's betrothed. The lovely blonde young woman grinned warmly to him and straightened from her curtsy. Returning the smile, the Senator nodded and spoke into the phone, "I'll give you a call back soon, Johnson."

After closing the small receiver, he approached his host and told her, "You never fail to light up a room, Dorothy." He leaned in to kiss her cheek gently before straightening himself and saying, "I certainly hope that you and your mother are well."

With a small shrug, the teenage girl made sure that her smile faded as she replied, "As well as can be expected, under the circumstances." Tilting her head, Dorothy stated, "I can only imagine how much more difficult these last months must have been for you, considering that Odin was your only child."

It was a fight for her to not allow her eyes to narrow during the statement. While it was spoken with a sympathetic tone, it was snide and course in her mind. Dorothy couldn't help but be all the more amused with her choice of words when the blonde man's cobalt eyes flashed with the slightest hint of panic before he managed to recover.

The tall man bowed his head and frowned deeply, "Yes, yes. It has been quite troubling for myself and Misses Lowe. It's a great pain that I suppose will never go away until we know what happened to our son."

Had she not overheard his conversation before entering the room, Dorothy would have never doubted the sincerity in the man's words. Instead, she harnessed another growl from building in her throat while keeping her smile in place. While she never was very fond of her best friend's father, her stomach churned at just being in the same room with him after seeing who he really was for herself.

Much to her relief, her step-mother stepped into the room. The slight, blonde Darlin grinned, "Odin. This is a pleasant surprise." Their hands joining, the two adults pecked cheeks.

"Jessica," the Senator nodded with a somber, "Thank you for agreeing to meet with me on such short notice. I am afraid to announce that the media is looking for another interview with those of us closest to Odin." He looked from Dorothy to her mother and back as he continued, "I know that you are both as tired of these journalists as I, and so I wished to ask you in person."

Nearly choking at his lie of tiring of the media frenzy that her friend's disappearance caused, Dorothy bit her lip. Jessica turned to her daughter's blue eyes. Placing a hand on her shoulder, she met the tall man's gaze and answered, "Well, that would be up to Dorothy. If she is up to the interview, I don't see why we would turn down a chance to help find Odin."

When the two pair of eyes fell on her, Dorothy feigned thoughtfulness before announcing, "I would need time to think about it." She sighed deeply as she forced tears into her eyes and said softly, "I am growing so tired of all of this. I just want Odin to be found safely."

Her mother frowned in concern and wrapped her tightly in her arms as she ran a hand over her long hair. "It'll be al right, dear," she reassured softly and kissed the top of her head. Dorothy clung onto her and sobbed quietly with her face buried in her step-mother's shoulder.

Looking up to the Senator, Jessica told him kindly yet firmly, "I think that her wish for some time is more than fair. We will let you know what her choice is when she makes up her mind. I'm sure that you understand."

Odin bowed his head and spoke humbly, "Of course. Thank you, again for seeing me. I will be in touch and will understand whatever decision is reached." With a quiet farewell to the two young women, he stepped quietly from the room. As he left, the teenage girl peeked her reddening eyes over her mother's shoulder to glare fiercely at his back.

Inwardly sighing in relief, Dorothy pulled from her mother's embrace and dried the tears that she learned to produce with ease. Jessica helped brush away the last wet trails on her cheeks and gently held her daughter's chin between two fingers so that their eyes met. "I know this whole ordeal has been very wearing on you, child," she sighed sadly. "I wish that there were something that I could do to help."

Forcing a small sob, Dorothy shook her head, "I need to get away from all of this for a while. It's a rare day that I can leave this house without reporters or photographers following me, asking personal questions. I'm so sick of it all."

It was time to make her announcement. Much as she hated to admit it, the Senator's request only helped her case. She swallowed hard to continue with her performance and stated, "That's why I set up a getaway for myself this weekend. I am sorry for not saying anything sooner, but I had to do something to leave this behind for even a little while before I go mad."

There was the briefest glimpses of surprise I her mother's eyes, but that quickly faded into relief. Smiling reassuringly, Jessica nodded, "I understand. And I agree that it would be best for you. You're more than capable of taking care of yourself, so I trust that you'll stay safe. I'll be sure that the media stays off your heels when it is time for you to leave."

With a glowing smile, Dorothy's shimmering eyes brightened as she whispered, "Thank you, mother." She hugged her fiercely once more and kissed her cheek.

Chuckling deeply, Jessica ran a hand over her daughter's hair once more and told her, "Now, go get cleaned up. Dinner is just about ready. Your father will be returning from his meeting with the other Vice-Foreign Ministers soon and he will be quite worried if he sees you eyes as red and puffy."

Dorothy nodded, "Yes, mother." With a wink, the slight woman moved from the room to return to the staff to offer her assistance. Once she was alone, the blonde teenager smiled in satisfaction to herself. Raising her clenched fists so they rested against her chest, she cheered quietly, "Yes. Yet another brilliant performance, if I do say so, myself."

At that, she all but ran out into the hall to clean her face of any remnants from the faux tears that she drudged up.

* * * * * *

Adjusting the wick's length to last the remainder of the night that had just begun, Duo opened the hatch to the glass housing. Satisfied with the amount of wax that he cut off, he struck a match with his free hand.

Carefully bringing the flame to catch onto the wick, he pulled his hand back and closed the hatch once again. Straightening, he stepped back to appraise the glowing lantern as the revolving mirrors swished around the round room.

The sight that normally brought him comfort and warmth did little of either as he stood there. His shoulders slumped heavily, Duo stepped out onto the gallery and into the chilly night air. The millions of stars were in plain view overhead on yet another beautiful night, but went unnoticed by the lighthouse keeper. Folding his long-sleeved arms, he moved slowly around the balcony until he faced the glowing city far below.

Resting his arms on the railing, Duo leaned forward and sighed deeply to himself as he looked over the small town. "I wonder what you're doing tonight," he thought aloud in little more than a whisper.

* * * * * *

Heero sat on the fount porch step of Wufei and Sally's home, just as he did every night. Watching the turning beams of the lighthouse far ahead, he silently wondered how his braided lover was that evening as he managed the tower.

At the return of the cool breeze that blew through his grey sweater, the young sailor shuddered lightly and wrapped his arms tighter around his torso. Behind him, the front door opened and closed as one of his hosts approached. Without looking back, Heero could tell by the heavy footsteps that it was Wufei.

There was a deep sigh and a quick bit of teeth chattering before his friend's voice said quietly, "Fall certainly is moving in fast." Finally, Heero looked back to see the Chinese officer leaning against the post of the porch beside him.

An amused smirk tugged at Wufei's lips as he looked down on the young sailor. "You really ought to stop this every night," he told him as he shook his head. At that, the raven-haired young man sat down beside Heero and stated, "You're really starting to depress me." With a small snort, the sailor gazed at him from the corner of his eye.

Lightly punching his friend's arm, Wufei reassured him, "Noin said just to give him time. And even if she didn't stop over, Sally and I know that Duo loves you too much to never let you back in again."

Shaking his head, Heero's cobalt eyes remained on the lighthouse as he replied, "I have to find a way to convince him that I would never choose Dorothy over him when my memory comes back. That's what has him more scared than anything, and I don't blame him for it."

"Well," Wufei began with a small bite of his lip as he turned to face the sailor, "I hate to break this to you, but until you do get your memory back, there really won't be any way you can prove that, even to yourself."

The sailor nodded and sighed in frustration, "I know." He covered his face with both hands and muttered through them, "Sally is at just as much loss as I am on how to make that happen." Lowering his hands again, he commented, "Every case of global amnesia is different and so what cures the problem differs from patient to patient, as well."

Quietly humming in thought, Wufei looked out to the lighthouse and asked, "When you would have your flashes, was there anything in common with where you were or what you were doing at the time?"

Heero answered with another shake of his head, "No. Sally and I thought about that, too. But when we went over all of the scenarios surrounding the flashes I have had up to now, we couldn't find anything in common between any of them."

With a sad frown, Wufei shrugged, "Well, I'm not a doctor, but what were the strongest lapses that you had? Maybe if you were put back into those situations, it might be something that could help, too."

His cobalt eyes widening at that suggestion, Heero had to admit that it was a better idea than nothing. He considered that perhaps Sally never came to that notion was to spare him from forcing himself into another strong, physical reaction.

Straightening, he looked to the tower and said quietly, "The strongest was on the lighthouse when that headache came on that took me out. But, I had been up on the gallery dozens of times and that was the only time that happened." Just as he spoke aloud his thoughts, his eyes widened once more.

Quickly jumping to his feet, the young sailor ran up the porch steps. Blinking in surprise, Wufei watched his friend and called, "Hey! What are you doing?"

A wide smile lighting his face, Heero looked over his shoulder as he opened the front door and shouted back, "To call Howard! He owes me a boat ride!"

Without further explanation, he ran inside and closed the door behind him with a slam.

 

Part 33

[Staring at the blank page before you, open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find
Reaching for something in the distance- so close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions]
-Lyrics to `Unwritten' by Natasha Bedingfield

"Are you sure you want to go through with this?" Sally asked with a concerned frown as she closely followed Heero towards the marina at the water's edge ahead of them. The chilling breeze picked up and with a shuddered, she wrapped her light, white coat tighter around her.

With a deep sigh, she muttered, "We would have to go the weekend of a cold snap." It was still early enough in the morning that the sun was not high enough to warm the air the few degrees difference that would have helped.

Looking over his shoulder to meet her gaze, Heero replied, "I'm sure. We don't have another option that might help me get my memory back. I can't wait for it to finally return, so I have to try and force it."

Quickly walking ahead of the sailor, Sally stopped before him and rested her hands on his shoulders to still him. The worry growing in her eyes, she stated quietly, "The only reason I did not suggest this is because I am afraid that if it works and your memory is forced back, you could go into shock-if not worse. I'm sure that I don't need to remind you that you collapsed once already, and you were not attempting to make yourself remember anything."

Much as he wanted his ordeal to finally end, Heero had to admit to himself that he was slightly hesitant just for that reason. Having to deal with the pain of waves of nausea that came with his slow recovery were not things that he looked on fondly. And Sally was right to be concerned as those instances were not induced in any way.

What would happen if this attempt worked and everything came flooding back at once?

After a long moment of consideration, he knew that his decision affected more than just himself. Straightening, Heero nodded firmly, "Duo's worth the risk. As much as I want the answers to my own questions, he deserves to know the answers to his."

Her eyes widening at the response, the braided doctor lowered her arms to her sides. A small, satisfied smile tugged her lips and with a small nod of her own head, she said softly, "All right." Adjusting the strap of her medical bag on her shoulder, Sally smirked, "Let's get this over with, then." She turned on her heels and lead the way to the marina.

Opening one of the large, wooden double doors to the enclosed building, the pair slipped inside. With it being a Saturday, the Sweepers were no where to be found within the large facility. Along the three long piers, however, the many ships they cared for remained as they bobbed gently on the low tide.

From the end of the center pier, Howard's voice called, "I was beginning to think that you changed your mind!" The white-haired man walked down the long stretch with a wide smile as his guests approached to meet in the middle of the dock.

"It's my fault we're a bit late," Sally admitted with a shrug. "I did slow him down a bit to try and talk him out of this." Looking to her Japanese friend, she shook her head, "But he's pretty determined to try this." At the old man's deep chuckle, she grinned and kissed his cheek, "It's good to see you, Howard."

Gently patting the doctor's back, the white-haired sailor rested his sunglasses atop his head and winked, "You too, Sal."

After the warm reunion, Heero stepped forward and extended his hand as he said sincerely, "I can't thank you enough for doing this, Howard. To be honest, I don't think that I would have blamed you for turning me away."

With a sharp puff of air, Howard waved off the comment before exchanging a firm hand shake with the Japanese young man. "I understand where you were coming from when it came to keeping your lip buttoned," he replied. "Much as I consider Duo family, I can't be mad at you for that. Besides, I promised that I would take you out for a sail, and I'm not about to go back on my word."

Chuckling deeply, the old man pointed a thumb to Sally and smirked, "I'm glad that you brought the good doc along. I might like `ya and your guts for going through with this, but I ain't about to give you mouth-to-mouth if you needed it out there."

The heavy tension building up to the excursion broke instantly. Both Heero and Sally laughed as Howard turned to lead them back down the pier. When they stopped before the three boats belonging to the Yuy family, the white-haired sailor gestured to the largest and stated, "I figured that you would want to take the Atlantis out, so I just finished prepping it."

At the sight of the craft, Heero swallowed hard. The innocent, white vessel bobbed lightly on the tide with its deep blur-tipped sails hanging against their posts. Taking a deep breath, he forced a wide smile and turned to his friends. To their uncertain expressions, he nodded firmly, "We'll lose the daylight if we just stand around here like this. Let's go."

* * * * * *

Bouncing over the waves, the Atlantis continued on its course with Horizon Cove fading off into the distance. Howard maneuvered the wheel with Heero and Sally sitting in the bench behind him. The wind tussled the hair that peeked out from under his baseball cap as he turned to look over his shoulder, asking, "How you doing, kid?"

Unable to hide his disappointment, Heero looked away from the horizon beside him that he had been watching with a deep frown. "Nothing yet," he called over the wind and sloshing water around them. Shaking his head, he looked back out to the endless ocean and muttered, "I just don't get it. I was sure something would happen by now."

Sally patted his shoulder gently with a small grin. "Don't worry," she reassured him. "Even if this doesn't work, your memory will come back eventually. It's probably for the best that you weren't able to force it."

Her free hand brushed back the loose wisps of her blonde hair that came free in the wind, she looked out over her side of the craft. "We've been out here for a couple hours now. Maybe we should head back," she suggested.

Another tall wave raised the boat a few inches as Heero finally sighed deeply, "Yea." As he rose from his seat, he walked down the long walkway to the bow of the ship. Behind him, he could hear the braided doctor telling Howard to turn them back.

Running a hand through his wind-blown hair, the young sailor bit his lip in thought. Considering the powerful episode he felt his first time on the Atlantis, Heero was sourly disappointed at not having so much of a hint to a memory during his first trip at sea since the accident. With nothing else to go on in recovering, he had to content himself to just allowing nature to take its course-however long it took.

When the Atlantis began to slowly turn, the distant island fell ahead of them. At the sound of an odd flapping, Heero looked up to see that the large sail overhead was not taut enough to catch the breeze, its fabric waving to and fro. Without even thinking, he moved over to the side of the boat where the rope was tied around a bolt. Pulling the slack to wrap around the metal hitch, he grunted in effort until he knew the length was right.

Once the line was tightened with just enough room to move, the sail overhead billowed to the side at catching the full draft. Blinking his eyes as he looked from the bolt to his hands to the sail, Heero's mouth fell slack in awe. He never recalled how to sail a craft before that day. Suddenly, he knew the purpose of every bolt, line and rudder on the craft.

A wide smile threatened to split the Japanese sailor's face as he ran back to the where Howard and Sally were standing at the wheel. On his way towards them, however, the sky suddenly darkened with thick clouds that released a heavy downpour amongst flashes of lightning. The sea rose and fell violently, tossing the boat with it.

His cobalt eyes widening, Heero turned back to face the bow. In the distance, he could just make out the dark a horizon. Just then, a piercing beam of light pierced the blackness, spinning overhead and followed quickly by another beam. Relief filled his gaze as he breathed, "Land." If only his small craft would hold long enough to make it to distant island that he could just make out through the storm.

Staggering in his footsteps amongst the heavy wind and wracking waves that splashed up against him, Heero made his way to the front of the ship. There wasn't much time for his vessel. The water was coming in too quickly and the wind was starting to tear at the sails. Still, the island slowly drew nearer, the light from what he was certain to belong to a lighthouse guiding the way to safety.

In the distance, he could hear someone calling a name that he did not know. `Heero?' Why did that name seem so familiar? Over the roaring sea and deafening thunder, the voices faded away once more.

With the island still approaching at what seemed a crawl, Odin couldn't help but think of how he had gotten himself into this situation to begin with. He thought about Dorothy and how he didn't even get the chance to tell her he was leaving. He thought of his father and mother, who would never know why he disappeared. In his haste to leave his life behind, he might very well have sentenced himself to death.

"Heero!" the chorus of voices shrieked over yet another crack of thunder, somehow sounding closer than the last time. Shaking his drenched head, he tried to understand why the name was so familiar.

All that was left was to steer the Seagull towards the light from the tower perched on a high cliff that was finally coming into view with the help of the lightning. Running back to the wheel over the slick surface, Heero battled two waves that poured down on him. Gripping the wheel, he turned it sharply left to avoid another hit and then right to align himself on course with the lighthouse.

Panting heavily, his eyes widened when he looked up to see that the cliff side was closer than he thought it had been. There was no time to react. He was going to hit it. With a cry, Heero gripped the wheel and braced himself for the impact. The initial sounds of wood splintering around him filled his ears and he could feel the floor beneath him giving way.

As he fell, cold and blissful darkness took him.

 

Sally cried out in panic as she held Heero as he fell back into her arms. With a grunt, Howard took up the rest of the boy's weight from her as they eased him onto the floor. Checking the unconscious sailor's pulse, the braided nurse looked up with fear in her eyes as she shouted to her friend, "Get us back as fast as this ship can take us!"

* * * * * *

That afternoon….

Raising the brim of her sunhat, Dorothy looked up when the captain of the ship grinned at her, "Welcome to Horizon Cove, ma'am."

Slowly walking to the pointed bow of the ship, the young woman gripped the railing. The approaching island was indeed not a large one, as she imagined. In the bright, clear daylight, she could spot several birds flying about the rocky cliff side.

At the top of the cliffs, Dorothy appraised the tall, white lighthouse tipped in a deep green. The majestic scene brought a smile to her face, her long hair blowing in the wind. "Quite lovely," she breathed to herself.

 

Part 34

[My right hand holds matches, my left holds my past…
I hope the wind catches, and burns it down fast
I'm gonna step into the fire with my failures and my shame
and wave good-bye to yesterday, as I dance among the flames]
-Lyrics to `From the Ashes' performed by Martina McBride

The thick darkness finally subsides with effort. As he broke through unconsciousness, Heero took a deep breath that felt like the first he had ever taken. So many things were already running through his mind, so many things that had finally come to light. Finally, bright light filled his vision when he slowly blinked his eyes open.

When he was able to focus, the young sailor found Sally sitting at his bedside. Her hair was a bit ragged, wisps still free of their braids from the wind out on the ocean. And there was a hint of dark circles under her eyes. Straightening in her seat, the braided doctor's own eyes filled with relief as she smiled warmly, "Welcome back."

Heero opened his mouth, but found his throat too dry to speak at that moment. Even as he first moved to say something, the young woman quickly reached for the pitcher of water on the small table next to her. Carefully handing over the glass that she poured, she urged softly, "Drink slowly."

Nodding in appreciation, Heero did as ordered. When the glass was empty, he handed it back over with a quiet, "Thanks." Before he could say anything more, a small flashlight shined into his eyes as the doctor went through her checks on his vitals.

Satisfied that her patient was well, Sally sat on the side of the bed with a deep sigh. "Your body went through a dangerous state of shock when that episode came on," she frowned deeply, her shoulders sagging from their tension. Shaking her head, she muttered, "You scared the hell out of us back there. I had a bad feeling about that trip-"

"I remember, Sal," Heero finally managed to get in while cutting her off.

With a sharp gasp, the braided woman stiffened once more with wide eyes. Blinking in shock, Sally leaned closer to the young sailor and whispered, "I-it worked? You really remember everything from your past now?"

A small smile tugged at Heero's lips as he replied, "I remember enough." Sitting up in his bed, he said urgently, "I have to get a hold of Duo and tell him."

Gently resting a hand on his chest, Sally urged him to lie back down as she stated, "It's too late for that at the moment. It's just after one in the morning and he's most likely asleep in the lighthouse now. Wufei is going to call him at a better hour this morning to tell him what happened." At that, she winked, "I'll tell him to leave out the part about your memory so that you can tell him."

In hearing the hour, the Japanese teenager blinked in surprise. Suddenly, the almost haggard state of his friend took on a new realization. Sally had stayed with him for hours, worked on him with everything she could to get him through his ordeal. Slowly, he reached over to squeeze her hands and whispered sincerely, "Thank you for looking after me this whole time."

Her eyes widening once more, the young woman looked down at their hands and smiled. Gently squeezing back, she raised her gaze and shrugged, "What are friends for, right?"

Sitting up, her gaze shimmered in excitement as she grinned, "So, tell me some of the things that you know. I've been anxious to learn who you are."

Lying back against the head-raised mattress, Heero smiled in his own thrill of finally having some answers. Grateful to have someone to share his story with, he began, "It's mostly broken pieces, but I do remember…."

* * * * * *

Falling onto the couch, his violet eyes wide with worry, Duo breathed into the telephone receiver, "H-he what?"

On the other end, Wufei's voice reassured him, "Heero's going to be all right. Sally told me that he's stabilized and woke up early this morning. There are still a few more tests to be run, but he'll probably be released from the hospital in the next couple hours."

Swallowing hard, the lighthouse keeper asked quietly, "He tried to force his memory back, didn't he? That's why he went out there to begin with."

"Yes," the officer answered simply. "These last couple of weeks, getting his memory back was the only thing that he concerned himself with. He thought that it was the only way you wouldn't have doubts about him. Taking that trip out to sea seemed like the only thing that would work, even though Sally strongly advised him against it."

At that, Duo wrapped his free arm around his waist against the wave of nausea that hit him. "Heero did that for me," he breathed. With tears filling his eyes, he whispered, "Thank you, Wufei. I'll be at the hospital soon." That said, he lowered the receiver and slowly rose from the couch.

Noin stepped into the living room with a concerned frown. "Is everything all right?" she asked gently, resting a hand on her son's shoulder.

Wiping at his eyes, Duo sniffled and met her gaze. "Heero's in the hospital after pulling a stunt to get his memory back," he answered. "It never should have come to this," he thought aloud, shaking his head. "I have to get to the hospital and talk to him. I can't keep waiting for some kind of proof that he'll stick around, when he's willing to go to this extreme for my sake. I should have just trusted him when he said that he wouldn't leave me."

Quickly, he walked across the room to the small closet to remove a black vest. As he shoved his arms through the holes, the braided young man looked to his mother and told her, "We'll be back soon."

In hearing the word `we,' Noin smiled brilliantly and nodded, "All right. I'll start a nice lunch for when you both return, then." With a grateful grin, Duo stepped from the living room and through the front door while closing it quietly behind him.

 

Chuckling deeply to himself as he hung up his own phone, Wufei smirked to himself, "Plant a seed and watch it grow." A quick look to the clock showed that it was almost ten o'clock. With thick dark clouds coming in to cover the sun, it was difficult to tell just from looking outside that it was midmorning.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the front door. Raising an eyebrow, the Chinese officer muttered, "Who would be stopping over here for a visit?" Walking through the living room, he reached the door and pulled it open.

It was not difficult to recognize the blonde-haired woman standing on his porch from the newspaper articles that had been recovered. The pale blue eyes looking back at him belonged to none other than Dorothy Catalonia- the grieving fiancée of Odin Lowe Jr. His dark eyes widening, Wufei sputtered, "You.. um.. I…"

The side of her mouth tugging up in an amused smile, Dorothy unclasped her folded hands to removed her pale green sunhat that matched her short-sleeved shirt paired with white slacks. With a small nod, she greeted evenly, "Very nice to meet you in person, Officer Chang. Thankfully, this is a small enough island that it is not hard to find anyone living here."

Finally finding his footing, Wufei straightened and cleared his throat. With a nod of his own head, he replied, "Forgive me for my rudeness, Miss Catalonia. This is just quite unexpected." As he stepped aside, he told her, "Please, come inside so we can talk."

"Actually, I am just going to cut right to the chase," the blonde girl insisted, the evenness in her tone giving weigh to one of more command than warmth. When he looked back with wide eyes, Wufei found grounded determination in the eyes watching him. "This has been a very difficult few months and I intend on getting the answers that I want," Dorothy stated clearly.

Her hands gripping the brim of her sunhat, the wealthy girl continued, "Now, I want to meet the young man that was involved in that boating accident earlier this year. Obviously, there was enough of a connection for the police in my district to send Odin's information over in hopes for a match."

Tilting her head, Dorothy warned, "Now, we could do this the easy way, and have you simply take me to where this young man is, or I will have no choice but to do this the hard way. I am certain that things would be quite troubling for you if the proper authorities were informed that the missing son of Senator Odin Lowe could very well be here, but the investigating officer is withholding information."

Wufei attempted to swallow a few times before he was successful. He was trapped. Even if he refused and lost everything, would find a way to get what she wanted and there would be no way of protecting his friends then. There was no question in seeing the look on the young woman's face that she would make good on her threat.

He certainly had painted himself into a corner. Silently, he cursed himself for ever taking that name from Sally's private records.

Finally, his hand tightening around the doorknob that it had never left, the Chinese officer nodded and told her quietly, "All right. He's at a nearby hospital. I'll fill you in on the details of his condition on the way there."

Relief flooded Dorothy's eyes and face, but she remained firm in her resolve and posture as she replied, "Lead the way, then."

* * * * * *

Heero sighed deeply as he threw on his deep green T-shirt. After a long night and several tests that morning, he was finally deemed healthy for release. All that he wanted was looking forward to was getting to the cabin at the island's ridge so that he could talk to Duo and put his fears to rest at last.

Out in the halls, Duo quickly walked down the corridor with a fresh bouquet of roses that he had stopped to get as a token of apology for his stubbornness. Just as he rounded another corner, the lighthouse keeper froze stiff when he spotted Wufei walking past with familiar blonde girl.

As they passed, unaware of his presence, the American's heart stopped in recognizing the stranger with his friend. "It can't be," was all that he managed to whisper, his violet eyes wide in fear. Wrapping around the corner, Duo kept a safe distance between the two as he followed them to his lover's room.

There was a light knock on the door just when Heero finished tying his sneakers. Rising to his feet, he looked up and called, "Come in." He smiled when a familiar face peeked in. "Hi, Wufei," he greeted. His grin quickly faded when he saw how pale his friend looked. "What's wrong?" he managed softly.

Swallowing roughly, Wufei said quietly, "Heero, I… have someone here who wanted to see you." He stepped forward and held the door open.

When the young woman behind him stepped into the room, she raised her head so that her face could be seen from under the wide brim of her sunhat. Tears were running down the girls face, but she smiled brilliantly with a mix of joy and relief when their gazes met.

His cobalt eyes widening with a sharp gasp, Heero breathed, "Dorothy."

"Hello, Odin," was all that his dear friend could manage.

A sharp laugh exploded from the young sailor before he sprang forward and closed the distance between them to wrap his arms around her thin waist. Lifting Dorothy from the floor, he spun her around until her hat flew off as they laughed. When he lowered her to the floor, Heero had tears in his own eyes. Placing a soft kiss on her lips and several quick kisses on her cheeks and head while they continued to hold each other, he exclaimed, "God, it's so good to see you!"

Just outside of the room, Duo peered in through half-drawn curtain blades with tears streaming down his own face. Whimpering softly, he dropped the flowers in his hand and stepped back from the room. "Goodbye, Heero," he whispered with a last peek on the happy reunion taking place.

Turning on his heels, he did the only thing that he could. He ran.

 

Part 35

[Oh, but at often times, those words get tangled up in lines
And the bright light turns tonight
Oh, until the dawn it brings
Another day to sing about the magic that was you and me]
-Lyrics to "You and I Both' performed by Jason Mrza

Smiling from ear-to-ear, Dorothy cupped Heero's face in her hands and sighed deeply, "I've been worried to death over you these last few months." Her smile faded a bit as confusion filled her pale blue eyes. "But Officer Chang was just telling me on the way here that you had amnesia. How do you recognize me?"

"I tried something that helped me get a good share of my memory back just yesterday," Heero answered nonchalantly, too excited to be with his friend once more. He grinned widely, "We have quite a bit of catching up to do. I met someone here."

With a sharp gasp, Dorothy's eyes widened and she smacked his arm. "You didn't!" she exclaimed. Taking his hands in hers, she practically bounced on her feet and inquired quickly, "Well, who is he? What is his name? Will I get to meet him soon?"

Nodding, the young sailor replied, "Soon enough. His name is Duo and he runs the lighthouse tower that you probably saw when you came in. And it turns out that he and I have a lot more in common than we realized. I planned on heading out to see him." A proud smile tugged his lips as he stated, "You're going to love him."

The nearly forgotten and still-stunned Wufei remained at the doorway when he raised his hand to get the pair's attention. "Okay, I am confused as all hell here. I thought that the two of you were engaged."

Both laughing, the two teenagers turned to meet his baffled gaze. Wrapping an arm around the blonde's shoulders, he held his free hand out and introduced, "Dorothy, this is Wufei Chang, one of the best law enforcers here on the island. Wufei, this is Dorothy Catalonia- my best friend."

Wufei's eyes widened as he sputtered, "F-friend!? Then, you're not-"

Shaking her head, Dorothy smirked, "No. I couldn't say anything before in case Odin was trying to keep up with the story that we were to be married. I had no way of knowing that he didn't remember his past, and I didn't know who I could trust before I found him."

While it all made sense, the Chinese officer still could not help but shake his head with a dumbfounded look plastered to his face. "So your engagement was a cover then," Wufei stated at last.

"My father was the reason for that," Heero explained, his eyes narrowing at the mention of the Senator. "If he knew that his only son was gay, I would have been out on my own. And I would have been worse off if word of my preference leaked out to the press, devastating his chances of election to Presidency."

Letting out a low whistle, Wufei rubbed the back of his neck and muttered, "You and Duo certainly did have a bad shake when it came to your fathers." All of the tension and worries that had built up to his bringing Dorothy to the hospital dissipated into relief as he grinned widely, "Speaking of Duo, this is going to be wonderful news for him when he gets here."

His cobalt eyes widening, Heero stepped forward. "He's on his way?" he questioned and held his breath.

With a firm nod, the Chinese officer answered, "I called him just before Dorothy and I headed here. He said that he was going to be showing up soon." Tilting his head with confusion in his dark eyes, Wufei turned to the blonde young woman and asked, "So what brought you here after I told you in our telephone conversation that Odin wasn't here?"

At that, Dorothy couldn't help but chuckle, "Well, no offense, but you're a terrible liar." She laughed all the more at the undignified look that Wufei gave her. Heero covered his mouth and fought the urge to burst out into laughter, himself, but snickered in his attempt.

There was another knock on the door before Sally stepped into the room with a bouquet of flowers in her hand. Freezing at the sight of the familiar blonde standing beside Heero, the braided doctor's eyes widened and her mouth fell open. Quickly raising his hand, the young sailor grinned, "Surprise."

Grinning warmly, the slight blonde teenager stepped forward with an extended hand. "Very nice to meet you," she began. "Dorothy Catalonia. You must be the doctor that's taken such wonderful care of my friend, here. I am in your debt."

Numbly reaching out to shake hands with the lovely girl, Sally finally managed a bright smile of her own. "Just doing my job, Dorothy. Heero stayed up for most the early morning with me telling me about what a wonderful friend you have been to him. This certainly is a pleasant surprise to have you here." Looking over her shoulder to Wufei, she smirked, "Told you that you were a bad liar."

Both Heero and Dorothy broke out into hysterics at the mock glare that the Chinese officer gave the doctor. When they regained their composure, the Senator's son gestured to the flowers in Sally's hand and asked, "Who gave you those?"

Blinking in surprise at the question, the doctor looked down to the roses that she had nearly forgotten about. "I found these out in the hallway, actually," she answered. "Someone must have dropped them on the way to visiting..." her voice trailed off as her eyes widened in concern. Quickly looking over to her boyfriend, she asked, "You did call Duo, didn't you?"

Realization and panic soon filled Wufei's widening eyes as he nodded, "Just before Dorothy showed up. I thought that he would have been here by the time we showed up." Heero was already putting the pieces together as his skin pale. Swallowing hard, the officer said quietly, "He must have seen Dorothy here."

Heero was moving instantly for the door, stating, "We have to get to the cabin. Hopefully, he headed back there." As he opened the door, he looked over his shoulder to Sally and suggested, "Call Noin and make sure that Duo already left. If he did, tell her to keep him there with her if he does show back up."

"Right," the braided young woman nodded firmly as she quickly followed with Dorothy and Wufei right behind.

 

All but throwing open the front door to the cabin, Heero ran inside and called, "Duo! Noin!" Sally, Wufei and Dorothy followed after him, all to be stopped when Zechs and Solo stepped into the hallway with concerned faces.

From behind the two blonde young men, Noin stepped forward with a deep frown. "He hasn't come back yet. And he never carries a phone on him, so there is no way of getting a hold of him now."

Running a hand through his unruly hair, Heero hissed, "Damn it. Where would he have run to?" He moved past Duo's family and into the living room as he announced, "I'm going to call Trowa and Hilde to be on the lookout for him."

"I'll call Quatre and Catherine from the other line," Noin nodded before running off to the kitchen.

With her sunhat in her two hands, Dorothy nervously fiddled with the brim. Biting her lip, she looked guiltily up to the blonde men before her. Solo was the first to step forward while clearing his throat. With a slight blush on his cheeks, he spoke quietly, "I'm Solo, Duo's brother." At that, he held out a hand.

Feeling her own cheeks burning a bit, the blonde young woman smiled warmly and shook his hand. "Dorothy," she replied softly. "Heero's friend." Both Zechs and Solo blinked in shock at her `title'. Chuckling softly, Dorothy told them, "We'll explain in a bit, once we know where Duo is." She bit her lip once more and muttered, "I fear that I am the reason he ran off."

Heero sighed deeply as he stepped back into the hallway. Noin returned with a shake of her head when he turned to her. "He couldn't have gone far," the young sailor said at last. "Maybe we should just split up and start looking for him."

At that, Zechs grinned, "He'll have to come back eventually, Heero. Whatever misunderstanding there was at the hospital, you can explain once he comes back home." The others all nodded their heads in agreement.

Something wasn't right. Heero just felt it. But unable to think of where his lover would have run to, he did not know where to start looking-even if they were on an island. Perhaps giving Duo some time was the best thing to do for the time being. Rubbing the back of his neck uneasily, he closed his eyes and sighed deeply, "All right."

Wrapping her arms around the sailor's shoulders, Noin smiled, "Now, why don't you and your lovely friend have a seat. I'll start some tea and we can all get acquainted." Unable able to keep from grinning at the offer, Heero nodded to her.

* * * * * *

Wiping at his shimmer eyes, Duo made his way down the paved path to the large marina. Using the access key given to all of the boat owners that used the facility, he opened one of the large double doors. His feet moving on their own accord, the lighthouse keeper made his way down the middle pier.

Reaching the three boats that his father gave over to him, Duo looked up to the Atlantis. Carefully unhitching the craft from its post, he climbed aboard and navigated it through the doors that always remained open to the sea.

After reaching about a mile out from the island, the lighthouse keeper turned off the propellers of the vessel and lowered anchor. Bobbing lightly on the waves, Duo wrapped his arms around his waist and looked back to Horizon Cove.

Satisfied that he was a safe distance from everything as he wanted for the time being, he walked down to the lower deck to lie on the cot down there. Wrapping a light blanket around him, the braided young man sighed deeply as another tear rolled down his cheek. Silently willing the world away for just a moment, he closed his violet eyes and fell into a light slumber.

Back at the marina, Howard and one of his young Sweepers stepped inside. "Good thing you got a hold of me when you did," the old man said as he stepped to the control panel by the main doors. "I was pretty busy this morning and never had a chance to check the weather."

"Well, as bad as they were calling this storm to be, I didn't think you'd be thrilled if the bay doors were left opened," the brunette young man commented while watching his boss punch the commands into the control panel.

At the last key punch, the bay doors slowly closed away the open sea. When they clicked shut, the hum of the motors working them hissed as they shut down. Wiping his hands, Howard grinned to his student, "Simple as that. Now you know what to do in case you can't reach me at a time like this. I'll leave a sign on the front doors, here, to announce to the owners that we're looking out for them by keeping their boats locked in."

The Sweeper shrugged, "I doubt that anyone will be stopping down to go for a sail with the weather we're expected to get, but that's a good idea." Looking to his watch, he smirked, "Well, what do you say I treat you to lunch, old man."

His stomach grumbling at the mention of food, Howard chuckled deeply, "You know, I always did like you, kid." Sign in hand, he led the way back out of the marina. Looking over his shoulder before stepping out, he called, "Good night, Pretties." That said, he turned out the lights that normally always stayed on and closed the large door behind him.

 

Part 36:

[I've got my hope set high
And like a star at night
Out of the deepest dark
It shines the purest light]
-Lyrics to `Hope Set High' performed by Amy Grant

A strong wind picked up as heavy, thick clouds moved in to blanket the sky and mid-day was soon turned into night. From the living room of the log cabin by the light house, Heero watched out the large window with worry.

"Something's wrong," the sailor commented quietly. Looking over to the others gathered at the couches and chairs, he frowned deeply, "Duo's been missing for almost two hours. He would have been back to start up the light house if he saw this storm moving in."

With a reassuring grin, Solo threw a windbreaker over himself and shrugged, "He's probably on the way back now. I'll get the lantern going for him." As he turned to leave, he gave a quick glance to Dorothy. Her own lips turning up at the look, the blonde girl giggled to herself. At either side of her on the couch, both Noin and Zechs shared a knowing smile of their own without her noticing.

Back on the opposite couch, Sally and Wufei sat with their hands joined as they sat anxiously. Up until then, they had been fairly sure that their braided friend would have returned at the sight of the dark clouds arriving. Biting her lip, the braided doctor turned to her boyfriend for some kind of reassurance. Gently rubbing his thumb over the back of her hand, he looked up to her with the same concern in his own eyes.

His cobalt eyes narrowing in thought, Heero continued to look out to the darkening sky and as he asked, "Did anyone try calling Howard?" He turned back to face the others and stated, "We tried everyone else that we know."

At that, Noin shook her head, "No, I didn't think to check with him." Quickly moving into action, Wufei removed his cell phone from his pocket and stepped from the room while dialing his old friend's line. Running her hands together nervously, the young mother muttered, "I should have thought to call him before." Zechs reached behind Dorothy's head to squeeze his fiancé's shoulder.

Moments later, Wufei returned to announce, "Howard hasn't seen any sign of him, but he'll be on the lookout for him. He closed the marina a couple of hours ago on account of the weather that's on the way here."

Chewing the inside of his cheek in thought, Heero turned back to gaze out the window as the wind continued to pick up. With a deep sigh, he rested his forehead against the glass and whispered, "Where are you, Duo?"

Just then, a flash of lightning pierced through the thick clouds and the air shuddered with the vibration of the thunder that quickly followed. Nearly jumping from her seat at the rumble, Dorothy placed a hand over her chest. Catching her breath, she moved to stand beside Heero for a look outside.

The tops of the few trees around the cliff side began to bend under the now forceful wind. Rain began to pelt down like millions of little daggers to quickly soak the ground. And what was once a calm sea stretched out before the dark slope was beginning to stir and rise, each white-tipped wave rolling in faster and higher.

Another bolt of lightning jutted through the sky, joining with another with the thunder to answer on its heels. Dorothy shuddered with a deep frown and rubbed her arms. "I'm certainly glad that I arrived yesterday," she commented quietly. "I wouldn't want to think what it must be like having to sail in weather like this." In sensing her dear friend tensing as he continued to watch the storm that arrived, the blonde girl squeezed his arm.

Just at the edge of their view, the lantern of the lighthouse was lit and its wide beams began spinning to pierce through the ominous sky. With a deep breath, Heero looked up to the tower as he silently willed for some word on his missing lover to come soon.

* * * * * *

Sighing deeply, Duo blinked his red-rimmed, violet eyes open after his rest. Pulling the light blanket draped over him off, he slowly rose from the cot to stretch his legs. Disoriented, he fought to keep upright when he rose to his feet while the boat rose and fell over the waves. Suddenly, another loud rumble that he thought he had imagined before waking reverberated through the cabin.

The boat was suddenly lifted with a jolt, causing the lighthouse keeper to stumble forward until he caught himself with both hands slamming into the wall. The haze from his waking quickly lifted and his eyes widened. The waves had not been nearly that choppy, or high, when he set it to anchor.

Duo struggled to make his way to the steps of the cabin as the Atlantis continued to bob up and down. Beneath him, he could hear the metal from the anchor chain moaning in its straining to keep the craft in place. At the sudden rise of the ship, he gripped the railing for support. When the boat quickly fell from the sky, a large spray of water fell through the opening and upon him. Crying out at the bitter sensation and at the sheer force of the water, he was knocked back-first into the cot.

Swallowing hard, the braided young man bent down to gather the emergency kit that had slid to his feet after being knocked from the wall. With his hands shaking, Duo removed the flares inside the kit and stuffed them into his pockets to keep them as dry as possible. He zipped up his vest until it reached the neck line before slipping across the floor to reach one of the life jackets hanging there.

Once the jacket was thrown on and tied in place, the lighthouse keeper made his way back to the stairs. Holding onto the railing tightly, Duo struggled to make his way up the stairs. Shielding his eyes from the stinging rain that pelted him, he waded carefully to the steering wheel. "Damn it," he hissed to himself as he recoiled from two waves crashing onto the deck.

Between the strong wind and the wet floor beneath him, it was about all he could do to finally reach the wheel. When he did reach it, Duo gripped the slippery metal to try and see if he could manage controlling the boat with the waves as strong as they were. After three attempts, he cried in agony at the strain he forced on his arms and back and all but collapsed from his effort. Yet another wave splashed onto the deck to try and knock him from the vessel.

Shielding his eyes once more from the stinging rain, Duo peered through the darkness to where he knew the island sat miles away from him. His panic only grew when he realized that somehow, he managed to be drug back out to sea. The Atlantis was not built to weather a storm such as this, and so the anchor must be close to snapping in its strain to keep the ship from drifting further.

Through the fog that thickened out ahead of him, a wide beam of light broke through and spun away. The next beam followed soon after. Land, however, was impossible to see through the mist.

The wind picked up once more and the braided teenager had to grip the rail at the side of the boat to carefully make his way back to the stairs. After another couple waves knocked into him, Duo was all but knocked back down into the cabin. As he fell down the stairs he managed to grip the railing with his right arm.

His violet eyes squeezing shut at the pain that shot through his sockets at the sudden jolt and labor to keep the rest of him from falling, the lighthouse keeper screamed when something in his arm snapped. Still, he didn't dare let go of the railing lest he fall the rest of the way down and break his neck.

Finally able to get his footing when the wave passed, Duo made his way down the rest of the stairs while nursing his right arm. Using his left when he reached the radio and radar equipment in the driest corner of the room, he quickly turned it on and took up the receiver.

At the hum of the signal coming through the radio's speaker, he called into the microphone, "Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! This is the Atlantis! I am anchored several miles out from Horizon Cove and I cannot attempt to sail back in on my own! If I lift anchor, I'll be pulled out to sea! I am initializing my radar frequency now in the hopes that someone hears this before my anchor gives way! If anyone is out there, I am in need of help…"

* * * * * *

Howard opened the one of the large double doors to the marina, grunting as he closed the door against the wind. Once the door latched closed, he sighed deeply and flipped the light switches to bath the empty building in light. Wiping off the rain off his poncho, he lowered its hood and removed his rain-spotted sunglasses.

Ever since that call from Wufei, the old sailor had been on edge. With the clouds that had rolled in by the time the officer contacted him, he would never have imagined the lighthouse keeper to be far from his tower. It just wasn't like Duo to leave his post like that at all.

What also had him on edge was the fact that before locking the marina, Howard remembered that he never did run a check to make sure that all of the boats were tied as they should have been and accounted for. It was a routine of his that he simply forgot, being under the assumption that everyone on the island knew what was headed.

Quickly walking down the middle pier, Howard held his breath when he neared the end of the long stretch. Pausing where there should have been three boats tied at the end, he gasped sharply as he felt the bottom of his stomach drop at the empty space where he had tied the Atlantis the day before. "Oh, God," was all he could manage in a choked whisper before running back to the front of the marina.

Throwing his office door open, he went straight for his radio. As soon as the transmitter was turned on, the sound of static filled the air before a familiar voice called, "If anyone can hear me, this is the Atlantis! Please use your radar equipment to find my signal!"

Howard fumbled to keep his grip on his receiver before he shouted into it, "Duo! Hang in there, kid! I'll be there as quick as I can!" Turning on his radar scanner, he announced, "I'll be picking up on your signal in a moment here!"

Elation was dripping from the lighthouse keeper's voice when he cried back, "Howard! Tell… Heero…" The connection was breaking up by thick static that drowned out the rest of what Duo was trying to say.

"Goddamn it!" the old man yelled as he threw the receiver at the radio. As the scanner started up, he removed the cell phone from his jean pocket and hit the redial button. Whatever he said to the person that answered, he didn't know. All that he focused on was the blip that appeared on his screen that was slowly pulling away from the island.

Paling, Wufei's arm slowly lowered the cell phone from his ear. His eyes wide, he slowly tuned to his friend's anxious lover and parents as they watched him. "Duo's out on the Atlantis. He's drifting out into the thick of this storm," he announced softly while Sally stiffened beside him in shock.

With a sharp cry, Noin covered her mouth as tears filled her eyes. Immediately by her side, Zechs wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into a tight embrace that she all but fell into. Dorothy gasped as her own eyes widened at the news, the grip of her hand on Heero's arm tightening.

His cobalt eyes widening, the young sailor looked out to the storm once more before determination filled his gaze. Without a word, Heero moved to the closet to remove a deep blue windbreaker. Throwing it over him, he frowned deeply when Dorothy untied the white shawl around her waist to cover her shoulders. "You're staying here," he demanded softly enough, but in a way that it allowed no room for argument.

Glaring at her old friend, Dorothy's voice matched his own as she replied, "I think not. Duo's running off is partially my responsibility and I have every intention on helping to bring him back. Arguing over the matter with me will only delay us." With a small sigh, Heero relented with a fierce nod before turning on his heals to lead them outside.

Sally sat stunned, but rose from her chair without much thought and gathered her own brown raincoat. Zippering the front up, she gestured to the couple on the couch and told her boyfriend, "Look after them."

Wufei met her gaze and swallowed hard. Nodding, he whispered, "Be careful." After quickly pressing her lips to his, the braided doctor ran after the others. When the door was blown shut with a slam, the officer's eyes closed.

And for the first time in years, he prayed.

 

Part 37:

[How soft this light of grace
Shines through my sorrow
From some amazing place
You reach for me]
-Lyrics to `Godspeed' performed by Beth Nielsen Chapman

One of the large double doors of the marina slammed open just as Heero, Dorothy and Sally ran inside. Drenched after their dart from the car to the building, the trio worked together to push the door closed against the wind. The braided doctor cradled her medical bag close and sighed deeply in relief along with her friends when they heard the latch click into place.

Throwing off the hood to his windbreaker, Heero looked around the large facility and called, "Howard!" Much to his relief, the sound of an engine starting filled the air. Silently thankful that they had not missed the old man, the sailor charged off down the last pier towards the sound. Dorothy and Sally both remained close behind all the while.

When they reached the end of the dock, they looked up to the large, metal, boat meant for crabbing that was just beginning to pull back from port. Looking over the edge of the craft, Howard's eyes widened. "Better hurry onboard!" he shouted over the whoosh of the propellers while pulling the boat close once more.

Quickly, the three boarded the craft. Panting heavily, they climbed into the enclosed captain quarters. As the two young women took a seat at one of the two benches at either side of the room, Heero moved headed towards the white-haired man at the wheel and asked, "Have you been able to get a hold of Duo?"

With a somber look, Howard remained focused on pulling out of the marina but shook his head, "Just briefly after I found that the Atlantis was gone. He was sending out a distress call at the time. I managed to get very little from him before his radio lost signal." He swallowed hard to himself, unable to mention that the last thing the lighthouse keeper tried to get a message across to the young sailor.

His eyes still focused ahead, the old man lightly tapped on the scanner just to his right as he commented, "The signal that his boat is giving off is the only one that I'm concerned about. He'll be impossible to find if this baby's radar loses him. So far, he hasn't moved since I started tracking him. Whatever the reason, he's not attempting to come back in."

Swallowing hard, Heero watched the green, blinking screen and the small dot that represented his lover's ship. Now that a good portion of his memory was back, he recognized the equipment used to track the lost craft. Judging by the reading, Duo was almost three miles from the island. The fact that he wasn't trying to sail back home was a concern, considering it would have been a better risk that riding out the storm and he would have to know that.

Dorothy rose from her seat and inquired, "Do you have storage of blankets and a stove anywhere on this boat? Medical kits only have so many syringes in them and so sterilization may be needed. As cold as it is, even if Duo manages to stay afloat, hypothermia would be a concern."

Beside the teenager, Sally blinked in shock. "You know emergency sterilization procedures?" she questioned. Along with the surprise of that discovery, she was caught off guard in finding that her worry over Duo was affecting her own thinking. Any other time, she would have asked about those supplies right away.

With a slight blush, Dorothy looked back at her and shrugged sheepishly, "I never did get to mention that I am studying to be a doctor, since I never planned to live off of my political parents' wealth." A relieved smile tugged the braided doctor's lips and she gave a small nod of appreciation at the understanding in the girl's blue eyes that watched her.

"In the lower deck," Howard answered with a nod of his own head. Gesturing to the door behind him, he suggested, "If you want to head down there to start setting up, you best hurry and get down there if you don't want to get wet." Carefully, he steered the boat around the last fishing boat in the way of the bay doors that were opened to the violent storm. "We're just about to pull out of the marina now," he announced.

At that, Sally gripped her medical kit and rose from the bench. Together, she and Dorothy quickly left the room and closed the door after them. Numbly, Heero moved over to the bench just beside the steering wheel. His cobalt eyes looking out to the rising waves and bright lightning, Heero gripped the arm rest tightly.

Slowly looking up to the white-haired man at the wheel, the Japanese teenager commented softly, "You've cared for the Atlantis for years." When Howard turned his head to meet his gaze, Heero swallowed roughly before asking, "Do you think that it'll ride out the storm in one piece long enough for us to get there?"

Taking a deep breath, Howard glanced at the radar monitor between them. "I'll be honest with you, kid," he started softly with a deep frown, "That boat was not made to be out in the middle of weather like this. The Dobson, here, is the quickest ship that I own and it'll get us out before long, but it's too close of a call to make right now."

While he wished to have a more reassuring answer, Heero was appreciative to be given the truth. Unable to look into his old friend's eyes, he lowered his head and nodded slightly. Wrapping his arms around his torso, he turned to gaze ahead once more. Finally, the large boat pulled from the shelter of the marina and out into the strong wind and wrestling waves.

* * * * * *

Huddled in the corner of the Atlantis's lower deck, Duo cradled his broken right arm to him as he shivered from the dampness setting in. Sitting atop the raised cot with the water ankle-deep on the floor, he rocked himself to try and keep warm. All around, the wooden room creaked and moaned with every sway.

Looking up, the braided lighthouse keeper bit his lip and silently wondered how he had been so careless as to put himself into such a predicament. All that he wanted was some time away from everything to cope with the loss of the only person that he had given his heart to. Now, he could not recall a time when he felt more alone or frightened and would have given anything to take back his actions.

The boat took a deep tilt forward, nearly knocking Duo from the cot at how sudden the lunge came on. Gripping the edge of the bed with his good hand, he managed to keep from rolling into the water gathering beneath him. When the boat rolled back to level out more, the American breathed a deep sigh of relief

A couple times, he had feared that the boat would tip over. He'd been fortunate so far, but Duo was not about to convince himself that the possibility was out of the question. The Atlantic was not structured to handle the beating that the wind and the ocean were giving it. Another round of thunder reverberated through the craft to make it shake nearly as bad as the lighthouse keeper was.

Just as soon as the air stilled, there was another violent gust soon followed by a deafening slam just above Duo's head. Jumping at the terrifying and unexpected crash, his violet eyes widened with a sharp gasp. Hesitantly, the braided teenager edged off of the bed and into the water that was now past his ankles. Hissing at the intense chill that was seeping into his shoes and black pants, he quickly made his way to the stairs.

His broken arm cradled by his good one against his chest, Duo very carefully made his way upward. When he managed to peer over the hatch, his eyes widened anew at the sight of the sail masts lying against the deck. The splintered posts that remained jutted like spears as the tattered ribbons left of the sails blew all around.

Paling at the sight, the lighthouse keeper slowly backed down into the lower deck again. Unable to feel the cold water at his feet, he moved across the room and back onto the cot. Pulling his legs against his chest and folded arms, Duo let out a small sob as tears filled his eyes as chilling reality sank in.

It was no longer a matter of `if' the Atlantis would break apart on him, but `when.' The collapsing of the masts only proved how unfit the ship was to hold out in the storm. If he hadn't been injured, sailing back might have been a risk, but it might have worked. Instead, the young man was left to sit and wait for his haven to collapse around him.

Over the roar of the ocean, the creaking of the planks and the whistle of the wind, Duo could have almost sworn that he heard a motor approaching. Shaking his head, he wiped the tears from his eyes and convinced himself that he must have been only hearing what he wanted to hear. He knew that he had to be realistic and come to grips that he was not going to come out of this night in one piece.

Another moment passed and the sound of the motor only grew a bit. His breath hitched in his throat, Duo moved from the bed towards the stairs once again. Just as he reached the handrail, however, the boat took another hard plummet forward. Crying out when he was thrown against the steps, the young man looked up in horror as the ocean rushed up towards him, spilling through the opening and thrusting him into cold darkness.

* * * * * *

The beeping on the monitor stopped. Cobalt eye widened in terror as Heero quickly rose from his seat. Howard bent at the waist with a wide-eyed gaze of his own focused on the same screen that the young sailor had been watching during their entire sail.

For the whole ten minutes that they had been traveling, the monitor beeped in confirmation that the other craft was still out there. The dot that represented the craft that they were getting so close to was suddenly gone from the screen. "Oh God," Heero breathed. Looking up to his old friend, he shouted frantically, "How much further?"

Shaking his head, Howard gripped the wheel in his hands as he tried to calm his own rising panic. Finally, he answered, "Ten, fifteen minutes out yet I'd say." Tapping the notepad at his control panel, he reassured the young man, "I have the coordinates down, here."

Those minutes drug on for what seemed like hours. All the while, Heero paced anxiously behind the white-haired captain. At last, Howard straightened. With the control panel, he operated the two large searchlights to turn ahead, shining down on the rough water before the boat. Stretched and scattered about the high waves was a variety of floating debris.

With a small cry, Heero threw open the door to the room and ran down the short stairway. Ignoring the rain that pelted him, he made his way to the edge of the boat. Not far behind, Howard quickly reached the other side as they searched the ocean for any sign of life. The searchlights slowly moved to skim the waves.

Shielding the eyes from the sharp raindrops, Heero straightened with disbelief in his widening eyes. A few feet out, Duo floated in his lifejacket lifelessly. "Howard!" the Japanese teenager yelled back to his friend just as he climbed the edge of the ship. Once he made eye contact with the old man, he jumped into the freezing water and swam out to his lover.

After a battle with the rising waves and floating debris, Heero managed to reach his pale, blue-lipped partner. Gripping the unconscious boy's shoulders, he cried, "Duo! Can you hear me!?" He rested a hand against a white cheek and hissed as the chill of it. "Hang on, love," he whispered desperately before pulling his lover towards the ship with him.

Pushing the debris out of their way, Heero finally reached the side of the ship once more. From the captain's room, Howard watched and waited until his friend gripped the cargo net that he had dropped with his free hand before using the controls to pull them in. Gripping the net with one hand and carefully holding onto his lover with the other, the young man was hauled back over the edge of the boat.

Dorothy and Sally were already on the deck to carefully assist Heero and his charge onto the floor. Sensing the panic in the braided doctor, Dorothy took charge. Her voice commanding as to break through the shock that had taken hold of her friends, she ordered, "Let's get him downstairs so we can start getting him warm."

Together, the three of them gingerly lifted the lighthouse keeper up and fought the elements to take him down to safety.

 

Part 38:

[No more lonely nights
You're my guiding light
Day or night I'm always there
May I never miss the thrill of being near you]
-Lyrics to `No More Lonely Nights' performed by Paul McCartney

Alive.

Duo was shocked to realize that he was still alive as he clawed through his haze of unconsciousness. A sharp pain in his chest with every breath was the first things that he noticed before opening his eyes. Thankful to be feeling anything but cold water around him after his boat was shattered around him, he slowly opened his violet eyes.

Wincing at the bright light that assaulted him when his eyelids lifted, Duo attempted to raise his right arm to shield his vision, only to realize quickly that it would not move. Slowly, against the stiffness in his neck, he looked down to find his arm bent at the elbow and in a cast.

Instantly recalling some of the last moments on the ship, the lighthouse keeper remembered hearing and feeling the snap of bones breaking. The heaviness of cloth wrappings over his chest and the sharp pain he had when breathing deeply were clear signs of injured ribs.

Despite the aches, the bandages and the cast, Duo couldn't have been happier. Somehow, he'd managed to survive his ordeal. Lying against the head-raised bed, the braided teenager closed his eyes with a heavy sigh of relief.

When the American opened his eyes once more, they widened as a sharp breath hitched in his throat. Sitting beside his bed, arms crossed and head lowered and closed in sleep, Heero was slouched in the visitor chair.

With a soft moan, the young sailor's own eyes blinked open, widening when he looked up to find his lover awake. Throwing off the blanket that was draped around his shoulders, he quickly closed the distance between them and covered Duo's opening mouth with a finger. "Before you say anything," he began in a rough voice, "I need to explain something."

Blinking in suprise, the braided lighthouse keeper hesitated before nodding. His shoulders sagging in relief, Heero sighed deeply, "Thank you." Slowly, he removed his hand and pulled his chair closer to the bed. When their eyes locked once more, he stated, "I know what you think you saw before you left the hospital. At that, tears filled his partner's violet gaze as he opened his mouth to say something. Raising his hand quickly, the Japanese sailor told him, "Let me finish."

Duo bit his lip and swallowed hard, but nodded and remained silent. Just then, the door to the hospital room opened and Dorothy stepped inside. In finding the young man in the bed awake, she grinned widely, "Well, good morning. You know, you gave us all quite a scare. I thought I might have to sedate Heero as frantic as he was after pulling you into Howard's boat."

As the blonde young woman sat beside Heero, Duo's face was one of confusion and surprise looking from one face to the other. Chuckling deeply at the expression, the unruly-haired teenager grinned to his lover, "Like I said, things are not as you assumed." With a smirk to his childhood friend, he asked, "Shall we finally clear all this up?" Her own smile warming, Dorothy gave him a firm nod.

When he turned back to face his injured boyfriend, Heero said softly, "We'll start from the beginning…"

 

"You mean that for two years you just pretended to be He-" shaking his head, Duo continued, "I mean, Odin's fiancée? And it never bothered you?"

Shrugging, Dorothy answered, "Odin was my closest friend since kindergarten. I was the only person who knew his secret and was well aware of the trouble he would have been in if his father ever found out. So, it only seemed natural to look out for him." She chuckled deeply and nudged the sailor beside her. "I gave him a time of it, though, just for fun. I'd tease him if we could hold hands or have a quick peck when we were in public." Heero mumbled something under his breath that caused her to laugh.

Quickly sobering once more, the long-haired blonde frowned deeply, "I wasn't aware how convincing we were until I got wind that Odin's parents were planning a surprise wedding for us. I wasn't surprised to find that he had disappeared a few days after I told him."

Heero met her gaze and said quietly, "I couldn't put you through a false marriage. And I couldn't come forward with what I was, either."

Patting his arm, Dorothy grinned, "I know. And here for a long time I was pissed that I never got a call from you to know that you were all right, not having a clue about your accident." Heero chuckled deeply and shook his head in amusement.

The lighthouse keeper sighed deeply and lied back in his bed. "I was so convinced that I had the story straight," Duo frowned deeply, shaking his head. "I should have known better than to just jump to conclusions and run off like that, but..." His voice trailed off as tears began to fill his gaze once more. "God, I was so sure that I lost you," he breathed as he turned to face his lover.

At that, Dorothy smiled and rose to her feet. "I'll leave you two alone for a bit and get Sally," she announced quietly. Reaching out, she lightly wiped away the couple stray tears that were rolling down her new friend's face. "We simply must get to know each other better later."

With a sincere smile of gratitude, Duo nodded and whispered, "I'd like that. Thank you, Dorothy." He winced, "And thank you for taking care of me after my stunt back there." The blonde girl winked at him and squeezed her childhood friend's shoulder before slipping out of the room.

Just as the door closed after her, Heero leaned forward and kissed his partner soundly. Gasping against his mouth, Duo's eyes widened before closing while he returned the exchange. When he pulled back, the young sailor's own eyes were shimmering as he breathed, "God, I was so scared for you. When Howard found that the Atlantis was gone and you were out in that storm..." Unable to continue with his thoughts, he just bit his lip and lowered his head.

Whimpering softly, Duo moaned quietly, "I'm sorry. I know how stupid that was."

Once again, Heero raised his hand and shook his head. "It's all right," he reassured him. "It doesn't matter." He took his lover's left hand and squeezed it tightly. "You're safe now. That's all that matters," he stated before he looked hopeful. "And we're all right?" Having trouble finding his voice, Duo's brilliant smile returned and he nodded excitedly through his tears. That said, they leaned in for another kiss.

Much to their regret, the door opened once more. Stepping into the room, Sally made her way right to the monitors and went through the motions of checking her best friend's vitals without a word. As soon as she was finished jotting the results down on the tablet in her hands, the braided doctor's right hand flew to hit the lighthouse keeper upside his head. "Ow!" Duo cried, rubbing his head and glaring at his ex-girlfriend. His anger quickly faded and he lowered his good arm. "All right, I deserved that," he pouted.

"Glad we agree," Sally nodded firmly. Bending at the waist, she kissed her patient's braided head and told him, "Your family is on the way now. I'll go wait for them in the lobby to bring them right in." Smiling in silent appreciation that needed to words, Duo took her hand in his and squeezed it before she left the room.

Heero rose to his own feet before slipping into the left side of the bed to pull Duo close. Humming in content, the lighthouse keeper rested his head against his partner's chest and closed his eyes. For a moment, the pair remained silent as they just held onto one another for the first time in what felt like an eternity. Resting his chin on his love's braided head, the young sailor closed his own eyes.

After a long, companionable silence, Duo suddenly started laughing. Pulling his head back, Heero raised an eyebrow in question. "Just thinking of how ironic it is much we have in common after all, considering how we started off," the braided teenager grinned.

"Indeed," Heero chuckled deeply before kissing the top of his love's head once more. "When I was a child, my parents brought me to this island and I never forgot about it. It was the first place I thought to run to when it came time. So, I reached my destination, just not quite the way that I had planned." They both laughed at the last sentiment. "Still," the sailor shrugged, "it all turned out for the best."

His violet eyes widening at a thought, Duo looked up to his lover and asked, "So what do we do about your parents? Even if Dorothy paid off the officer that contacted her about Wufei's search, I'm sure that your mother and other relatives will do whatever they can to get answers for your disappearance regardless of your father."

A smile tugging at his lips, Heero replied, "Don't worry. I already thought of how to handle that."

* * * * * *

Despite the fact that it was his idea, Heero still couldn't help but cringe at seeing the deep blue urn with his birth name engraved in the side. "Well," he nodded, "at least it'll work to end the search and keep the press off your back."

Gently lowering the urn into a marble box set aside along with her bags, Dorothy smiled, "That it will. A tragic end to the missing son of a Senator. Killed on his first boating trip alone, his remains unidentified until his fiancée happened to vacation on the same island he washed up on."

Straightening, the blonde girl wiped a stray tear that she managed to drudge up as a practice for her act to come when she reached the States. "And the hopes that his father had of Presidency are about to be devastated by an anonymous tip to the journalists." Her blue eyes narrowing, she smirked, "Too bad your father is such a friend to my parents. I've been able to dig up quite a bit of dirt over the years."

Both Heero and Duo grinned at the thought of the old man getting what he deserved. Frowning deeply at the sight of the ship nearing the dock, the lighthouse keeper stepped forward and kissed the young woman's cheek. "I'm sorry that you have to go," he told her sincerely. "It's been great having you stay these last few days."

Tightly hugging him, Dorothy smiled warmly, "It's simply been lovely meeting you, Duo." Pulling back, she rubbed the braided teenager's cast and winked, "Now I can rest assured knowing that my dear friend is in good hands." She raised a long eyebrow and commented, "And, I certainly don't plan on being a stranger."

"You're more than welcome back anytime," the American reassured her before they pecked each other's cheeks again. Stepping forward at the end of the embrace, Heero wrapped his own arms around his childhood friend.

When he lowered her to the ground again, Dorothy cupped his cheek and smiled, "Take care of yourself, Heero." At her using his new name, the sailor's cobalt eyes widened. Gesturing to the marble box, the blonde girl stated, "Odin Lowe is no more. Besides, I must say that I quite like Heero better for you."

Chuckling deeply, the Japanese teenager kissed her cheek and whispered, "All the best, Dorothy. We'll look forward to seeing you again soon."

That said, the boat pulled in and the travelers gathered at the dock picked up their belongings. With her friends' assistance, Dorothy boarded the craft. As the boat pulled away, she stood at the edge and waved farewell to the couple. Waving her off until the boat faded from sight, Heero and Duo wrapped their arms around each other's waist and headed back towards the parking lot.

Before they reached the car, the lighthouse keeper suddenly turned and his good arm around his lover's waist. Leaning in quickly, he kissed him excitedly. As he pulled back, he smiled to the wide cobalt eyes watching him, "Well, Heero Yuy, welcome to the first official day of your new life."

"I couldn't think of anyone I'd rather spend it with," Heero whispered as he brushed back his partner's bangs. Straightening, he grinned, "Let's celebrate somehow, just the two of us. We still have a few hours before sunset before we have to be back at the lighthouse."

His smile widening, Duo nodded, "You're on." Taking his lover's hand with his own good one, he pulled him to their car.

Off in the distance, the tall tower of the lighthouse that witnessed all shimmered under the bright sunlight as a flock of white seagulls floated around it on the gentle breeze.

 

Epilogue:

[Stranded alone on a sea of emotion, you found me
Your love was a light that shown in the dark so profoundly
Say that you'll stay; Do not be afraid
I will go with you. I'll go where you lead me forever true]
-Lyrics to `I Will Go With You (Con Te Partiro)' performed by Donna Summer

"To the bride and groom," Duo and Solo announced together, their glasses raised as they smiled to the reception attendees. The guests lifted their own glasses and repeated the sentiment with a cheer before sipping from their campaign.

Noin and Zechs kissed to the whoots and hollers of their closest friends and family at the head table. Sharing the role of Best Man, Duo and Solo grinned to their parents before the blonde brother shouted, "Now let's party!" Everyone laughed and shouted in agreement as they finished their meals.

Having the first dance of the evening, the beaming couple moved across the floor gracefully to their song of choice. Finally managing to reach his lover after the busy day, Heero wrapped his arms around the lighthouse keeper's waist from behind and kissed his cheek. With a deep sigh of relief, Duo fell back against the firm chest and grinned up at him, "Hey." He raised his own arms to fall over those holding him and hummed in content as the sailor rested his head on his shoulder.

Dorothy lifted the long skirt of her light blue dress as she made her way to her friends. "One could not ask for a more perfect day on their wedding," she commented with a wistful smile. When Solo approached, her cool blue eyes widened and she stared down at her feet.

Nervously rubbing the back of his neck, Solo cleared his throat and said quietly, "Um, Dorothy, I was wondering, well…" With a smirk, Duo nudged his brother in the arm. Taking a deep breath, the blonde young man sputtered, "Would you have the next dance with me?"

Her eyes widening, Dorothy looked up and grinned widely. "I certainly would," she nodded firmly. The relief lighting Solo's face, he smiled widely and gently took her arm in his own to lead her towards the dance floor at the center of the room.

"'Bout time those two stopped tip-towing around each other," Heero chuckled deeply. "It's been almost eight months of visiting, calling and emailing each other before they finally made a move."

In his arms, Duo shrugged, "Well, now that Solo moved back here to Horizon Cove, I have a feeling that Dorothy will be right behind." His violet eyes falling back on his parents, he said quietly, "I'm glad that they decided to have their wedding here." Against his shoulder, Heero nodded.

At the next dance, the other couples attending the reception moved onto the dance floor. Arm-in-arm, Sally and Wufei, Trowa and Hilde and Quatre and Catherine joined the newest couple starting off in their tight-knit group. Taking his partner's hand, Heero raised it to kiss it gently and asked softly, "Shall we?" With a bright smile, Duo nodded and followed the sailor onto the dance floor.

* * * * * *

Before the sun began to set, Duo and Heero politely excused themselves from the party, much to the understanding of the newlyweds and their friends. As they climbed the winding stairway up the tower, the pair laughed and talked quietly between themselves regarding the day's events.

When they reached the lantern room, the braided teenager shed his tuxedo coat and kicked off his dress shoes with a sigh of relief. Striking one of the long matches, Heero chuckled deeply, "Better?"

`Um hm,' his lover hummed as he began to unbutton his lilac blouse while he finished lighting the wick. Closing the glass door to the lantern, Heero blew out the match in his hand before taking off his own suit coat and loosening his tie.

Barefoot, Duo stepped out onto the balcony and watched the multi-colored sky of a lovely late spring day. Closing his violet eyes, he took a deep breath and released it slowly. Quietly, Heero stepped out to join him. Slowly turning him to face him, the lighthouse keeper frowned deeply, "Do you ever regret any of this?"

His eyes widening at the sudden question, the sailor asked quietly, "What makes you think that I would?"

Rubbing his arms nervously, Duo bit his lip and shrugged, "I don't know. It's just that I sometimes wonder how different things would be if you hadn't run. Even if your father never approved of who you were, you still could have done something with your life other than being stuck on this tiny little island in the middle of nowhere with me."

A small smile tugging his lips, Heero closed the distance between them and wrapped his lover tightly in his arms. "Duo, I consider the day of that accident the luckiest day of my life," he cupped the smaller teenager's face and whispered reassuringly. "There hasn't been a day that's gone by that I haven't been grateful for finding this place and you..." Gently rubbing the side of the American's face with his thumb, he recalled an earlier conversation that he had with Noin and concluded gently, "…my ray of hope."

Duo gasped softly at the last sentiment. Ever since he was pushed away by his father, he only wanted to do something with his life that would prove the old man wrong that no good would come from him. To hear someone call him something full of meaning and purpose left him breathless. Finally, there was someone in his life who really understood him and wanted to be with him, flaws and all.

Blinking away the tears that filled his eyes, Duo breathed, "Thank you." Heero leaned in and kissed him soundly. Slowly wrapping his arms around the sailor's neck, he returned and deepened the kiss.

When they finally parted for air, Heero grinned and began to undo the remaining buttons of his lover's blouse. "Now," he began huskily, "If you'll let me, I would like to continue with spending the rest of my days proving just how much I appreciate you."

Chuckling deeply, the braided lighthouse keeper kissed his partner once more. "Permission granted," he managed. As Heero scooped him into his arms, Duo told him quietly, "Love you."

"Love you. Always," Heero whispered back as he led them back inside the lighthouse.

As the sun continued to set and the sky steadily darkened, several ships at sea turned for safe guidance towards the brilliant beams spinning against the heavens.

 

The End