8-16-2000

And Never the Twain Shall Meet
Part XIX

 

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Duo lay on his side with his head propped in his hand, watching the love of his life slumber in the early morning twilight. Heero appeared so tranquil... so innocent and childlike in this state. Duo found it difficult to believe that this man, with whom he had fallen so deeply and irrevocably in love, was once a ruthless, mechanical killer. Traces of the past were being washed away with the flow of each day, leaving behind the man that should have been. He knew, however, that like water over stone, there would be scars of a brutal history left on the former pilot of Wing. It was in that moment that Duo made his vows. No matter how bad things got - no matter how indelible those scars - he would be there to help Heero smooth them over. It was something they would share.

Heero's eyes fluttered open to find Duo smiling down at him. "What are you looking at?" Heero asked with a sleepy grin of his own.

"Looking? Oh, I... I thought I was dreaming."

Heero stretched his arms and legs. "What time is it, anyway?"

"Ten after five," Duo answered.

"Why are you awake so early?"

Duo shrugged. "Early to bed, early to rise..." Duo paused. "What is this, twenty questions?"

Heero smirked. "Would you like to go for a little walk?"

"That's another question. Where to?"

Heero rolled to lie on top of his mate, pinning Duo's wrists above his head. "Oh, I don't know. I thought maybe breakfast by the lake while we watch the sunrise would be an ideal way to start the day." Heero lowered his head to nuzzle at Duo's neck.

Duo was surprised and elated by the suggestion, but his body was too busy reacting to Heero's attention to let it show. "Heero, if you don't get off of me, it's going to be breakfast in bed," came his breathy reply.

Heero snorted into Duo's neck, causing Duo to giggle. He raised his head to reveal a mischievous glint in his dark blue eyes. "That sounds like a good idea too. So, which will it be?"

Duo thought for a moment. "Well, we can do this any day. Hell, we can do this every day. But the lake thing... we might not get a chance to do that very often... so, I vote 'lake'."

Heero gave Duo a quick, firm kiss. "Good answer. Let's go."

Duo smiled to himself as Heero began buzzing about the room. My, he is... feisty... this morning.

 

 

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"Good morning, Madeline. Any messages yet?"

"Oh, good morning, Ms. Peacecraft. Yes, two 'urgent' messages from Dr. J."

Relena rolled her eyes. "When is he going to give up?"

"Ma'am... as of late, I would be inclined to agree with you, but he sounded... distraught... almost frantic this time... as if it really were an urgent matter. He even said 'please'."

Relena lifted an eyebrow. "Curious." She thought for a moment. "Get him on Vid-link for me. The sight of the man gives me the creeps, but if this is just another one of his efforts to get to Heero, I want him to be able to see just how angry I can get."

Relena's secretary wore a small, knowing smile. "Yes. Right away, ma'am."

 

 

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Quatre gazed, unbelieving, into the box which should have still held over a half-dozen breakfast sweets. "You guys didn't leave me one?!"

The five people sitting at the kitchen table stopped shoving pastries into their faces long enough to give Quatre an innocent look.

The small blonde dramatically placed his hand over his heart and looked ceilingward. "I am so deeply hurt. I am beyond words."

Trowa licked the icing from his fingers and pointed. "The other box is on top of the refrigerator." Trowa looked at the other four. "Don't let him lay the 'last-pastry' guilt trip on you."

"Too late," said Megg. "Now I'm afraid to have another."

Quatre chuckled as he opened the box of fresh goodies. "Don't be silly. Eat as many as you want."

"As long as it's not the last one," added Wufei as he went back to reading the paper.

Quatre placed a hand on his hip. "Don't you think I have better sense than to order only one box of these things with Duo around?"

Anne chuckled. "Now I know why he's so hyper."

Trowa shook his head. "Don't pin it all on Duo. Heero can have a wicked sweet tooth at times."

"Speaking of which, where are those two this morning? I find it odd that Duo is not down here with his face in the box."

Kaylin rolled his eyes. "That's the point, Wufei. They've already had their faces in the box."

Wufei looked up from his reading. "Oh..." He shook his head and folded his paper, tossing it on the table in resignation. "I am... preoccupied. I've read the same sentence four times... and I still don't know what it said."

Trowa nodded toward the counter. "The coffee was already brewed when I came down, so they must have gotten up awfully early."

Wufei snorted. "Duo full of caffeine and sugar? I'm thankful he is in Heero's company."

 

 

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Duo was so... relaxed. He knew that he should be bouncing around uncontrollably after such a huge dose of carbohydrates and coffee; however, combined with the effect of the view over the lake and the fact that Heero lay with his head resting on his leg, Duo was in a state of euphoria. He didn't have to worry about the war - he didn't have to worry about hiding behind a mask - he didn't have to worry about Kaylin's state of mind - he didn't have to worry about whether Heero loved him. For the first time in his life, Duo was at peace with everyone and everything. He was at peace with himself.

"Heero, this was... such a good idea."

Heero looked up to find Duo gazing dreamily across the lake and smiled. "I thought you might enjoy it."

Duo looked down and returned the smile. "Looks like you're enjoying it too."

"Duo, I'm..." Heero hesitated for a moment. "I'm happy."

Leaning down, Duo placed a tender kiss on Heero's forehead. "That is so incredible."

The two marveled in companionable silence as the fiery sphere of the sun sat silently on the glasslike surface of the lake.

"It's a new day, eh, Heero?"

Heero nodded.

"You know what today is don't you?"

The former pilot looked up. "It's Friday."

"Yes... and... "

Heero smirked. "It's card night?"

Duo rolled his eyes.

Heero smiled. He could have allowed Duo to think that he didn't know what Duo was talking about, but Heero wanted to let him know that he was paying attention. "It was a week ago today... well, tonight... that we had our argument and I started realizing how you feel about me - and how I feel about you."

Duo wrinkled his face. "I'd hate to go through life associating our anniversary with an argument."

Heero shrugged. "Our differences are what brought us together, Duo. That night will serve as a poignant reminder of that."

Duo pouted his lower lip and nodded. "You're right. Heh! We'll probably be the only couple ever to celebrate their first argument."

"Just another glaring example of our uniqueness." Heero patted his mates hand where it lay on his shoulder. "Let's head back. I want a chance to say good-bye to Kaylin's family."

Heero sat up and Duo scrambled to his feet, looking down at the mop that was Heero's hair.

Heero rose to his feet and suddenly grabbed at Duo's shoulder for support.

"Heero, what's wrong?!"

Heero shook his head and steadied himself. "Head rush. Too much sugar."

"You sure you're OK?" Duo felt silly. He was on the verge of panic over such a minor incident.

Heero smiled. "I'm fine." He jumped down from the rock and started back toward the house. "Let's go."

 

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Wufei was browsing through the mass of reading material in the house's library. Quatre always kept the latest journals on hand: agriculture, anthropology, astronomy, astrology...

"Astrology?!" Wufei smirked and pulled the small, out-of-place paperback from its hiding spot. He flipped through and found his own reading for the day.

-- You're suspicions about a relative will be confirmed; tell the people close to you what's on your mind before it's too late.

Considering I have no family, that is unlikely.

-- Forge ahead with new relationships but beware of making promises you can't keep.

Interesting... but obvious and vague.

-- The snake oil salesman has the cure.

What in blazes that is supposed to mean, I have no idea.

-- White is definitely your color.

OK... credit where credit is due.

-- Eight is your number for the day.

Whatever...

Wufei placed the small volume back on the shelf.

"You don't strike me as the type to put much faith in that sort of thing."

The Chinese man turned to find Anne standing in the doorway of the library. "I don't. That is the first time I have ever bothered to read one of those things."

Anne smiled. "It's all in the interpretation."

Wufei gave the woman an impatient look. "I suspect you are not here to discuss my future."

The older woman arched an eyebrow. "Oh, but I am, Wufei... your future with my son."

"Mrs. Braithwaite, I do not..."

"Now, wait a minute. Let me explain something. I am Kaylin's mother and his only remaining parent. My children mean more to me than anything, and I will protect them with my very life. Honestly, Wufei, I don't know you from Adam, and I need some assurance that my son is in good hands. Do you understand?"

Wufei admired her directness. "I understand."

"Good. Do you... do you love Kaylin?"

That was just a bit too direct, but Wufei couldn't see a way to avoid answering short of telling the woman to piss off. "No... I do not love him... yet... but I do care for him and I have found myself worrying over him. I'm sorry to disappoint you."

Anne chuckled. "Oh, I'm not at all disappointed. Actually, I'm quite relieved. You see, Wufei, I am of the mindset that love is not something that happens over night. I would have serious questions about your maturity if you had answered 'yes'. The fact that you said 'no', even though you thought that I would be upset, says a great deal about your honesty and integrity."

Wufei, once again, couldn't help but admire her for her insightfulness... and the flattery didn't hurt matters. "Thank you... I think."

"No, Wufei, thank you. You've put my mind at ease for the most part. There is one last thing, however."

"And that would be?"

Anne's mouth broke into a grin. "You better take damn good care of my son or..."

Wufei smirked and held up his hand. "I know... you'll put your foot were the sun don't shine."

"You got it, buddy."

 

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"Madeline, any word from Dr. J., yet?"

"No, ma'am. He called just fifteen minutes before you arrived this morning, but now I can't seem to raise him."

"Hm. Well... keep trying. I'm about to go into a conference with Treize and one of the... less than cooperative colony leaders. If you manage to contact him while I'm occupied, ask him to stay put and I'll call him back as soon as I'm done."

"Yes, Ms. Peacecraft, as you direct."

 

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"Hey, Mrs. B., I'm glad we caught you before you took off. I just wanted to say... errr... I'm sorry for thinkin' the worst of you, at first."

"Don't worry about it, Duo. It was the worst in me. If it hadn't been for this young man... " Anne moved to stand in front of Heero. "Thank you, again, Heero." She leaned in and placed a kiss on Heero's cheek. "Thank you."

Heero could only nod.

"Quatre - Trowa, thank you both for your hospitality. You've been most gracious hosts."

Quatre couldn't help but smile as Trowa issued their good-bye's. "You are welcome anytime. Megg, I suspect we will be seeing you at the school when you come to visit Kaylin."

"Oh, definitely! Now that Kaylin has a decent boyfriend, I might be more willing to share my little brother."

"Megg!" Kaylin looked at his sister then his mother.

"Megg, sweetie, what exactly do you mean by, 'now that he has a decent boyfriend'? Did he used to have an 'indecent' one that I don't know about?"

Megg gave her brother an apologetic look. "Oops."

Anne smiled. "Hmmm. It'll give us something to talk about on the trip home." She turned to face Wufei. "Wufei, you know the rules."

Wufei feigned disappointment. "Yes, ma'am. No whips and chains."

Everyone snickered at that.

Finally, mother faced son. Kaylin wrapped his huge arms around the small woman. "I love you, mom."

"I love you, too, son... with all my heart. Be good to yourself, you hear me?"

"Yes, ma'am... loud and clear." Kaylin had sworn up and down that he would not cry... but he just couldn't help himself.

Anne pulled away and wiped the tears from her own eyes. "Let's go, Megg! Rashid awaits!"

Megg gave her brother a quick hug and a peck on the cheek. "I'll see ya' in a couple of weeks."

"Bye, Megg." Kaylin felt a sudden pang of homesickness as he watched his family climb into the car.

Everyone laughed when both Anne and Megg made faces at them them through the back window of the departing vehicle.

Wufei shook his head. "That had to be your mother's idea."

Kaylin nodded. "See... you're beginning to understand her already."

 

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Today, it was Kaylin and Wufei's turn in the front porch swing. "So, where would you like to go for dinner this evening?"

Wufei shrugged. "I am not terribly finicky."

Kaylin smirked. "Somehow, I find that difficult to believe."

Wufei gave Kaylin a defensive scowl. "I'm not!"

Kaylin thought for a moment. "OK. How about... Chinese food?"

"No! I mean... "

"Ahaaaaa! Gotcha!"

"That is not fair, Kaylin. I just prefer something different. Just because I am Chinese does not mean that I have to like it... Chinese food, that is."

"Well, one way or another, I will be eating Chinese tonight."

Wufei started to protest until he saw the lewd grin Kaylin was wearing. "Kaylin!" Wufei crossed his arms. "I think your eyes are bigger than your mouth."

Kaylin blinked... twice... and started laughing.

Wufei continued as though he hadn't said anything funny. "Actually, I wouldn't mind something as simple as a pizza."

Kaylin was barely managing to bring his laughter under control. "Pizza?!"

Wufei nodded. "Yes, pizza. I have only had it three times that I can remember. All three times it was quite good."

"You're serious?"

"Yes, I am serious. We will probably need to get a half-and-half though. I do not take meat on my side."

Kaylin howled with laughter.

It took a moment for Wufei to realize what he had just said. "Meat on my half! I meant on my half!"

Kaylin was doubled over. "Oh, stop! You're just making it worse!"

Wufei pushed playfully at Kaylin's shoulder. "You have a dirty mind." Wufei tried his best to look indignant.

"Oh, and you don't?! Mister whips-and-chains-tickle-me-til-I-piss-my-pants Wufei?"

"That was... an illusion for the benefit of a select audience. Now, about this meat... err... pizza." Wufei had said it on purpose, but it had the desired effect.

Kaylin tumbled out of the swing, laughing so hard he was crying.

Wufei leaned forward, looking down at Kaylin with a wide grin. "Gotcha!"

 

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"Damn it!" Duo came out of the bathroom, holding the brush he had been using - a piece of it in each hand. "Heero, did you bring my other brush?"

Heero nodded. "Of course I did... but only I can use it."

Duo smiled. "You'll get no complaints from me."

Heero rummaged through his duffel bag as Duo took a seat on the edge of the bed. "Duo, are you sure you didn't borrow it already? I can't seem to find it."

"You lost my favorite brush?!"

Heero rolled his eyes. "No, I did not lose your favorite brush. I just seem to have... misplaced it." Heero stood from where he had been rooting through his belongings and moved to the chest-of-drawers. He opened the top drawer. "Oh, here it is."

"You misplaced something, Heero?! That's not at all like you."

Heero scratched his head. "I know. I think all that sugar this morning may have affected me more than I realized. My mind seems to be running around in circles."

Duo chuckled. "Yep, sugar'll definitely do that to ya'."

Heero shrugged and went about the business of untangling Duo's hair. He couldn't help but nuzzle at Duo's neck for a moment. "You smell so good," he said softly.

Duo sighed with contentment as Heero pulled the brush through the muddled mass. He couldn't believe how loving Heero was being. "So, what do you want to do today?"

"I thought we might go trailing with the bikes," Heero suggested.

"Bikes? What bikes?"

Heero chuckled as he ran his fingers through a swath of untangled hair. "Quatre has a whole fleet of mountain bikes. I thought you knew that."

Duo shook his head. "Nope. Didn't know that. Sounds like fun, though!"

"Aaaand... since it is our anniversary, I thought we could raid the wine cellar and take a bottle up to the hill this evening, since we didn't get to go the other night."

Duo gulped. Heero's voice was soft and suggestive. "Sounds like a plan."

Heero wrapped his arms around Duo from behind. "I want to make love to you under the stars, Duo."

Duo thought that that was just a bit too romantic coming from his mate. "Heero, are... are you sure you're feeling all right?"

Heero put his chin on Duo's shoulder and gave the beautiful boy a puzzled look. "I'm fine. I'm just... letting go, Duo." Heero went back to brushing. "I'm finally letting go... and enjoying every minute of it."

 

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Two hours went by. The house was so quiet when Heero had Duo's attention.

Everyone knew the other couple was back from their biking when Quatre ran into the family room, wide-eyed and out of breath. "You guys have got to come and see this!" He ran back out of the room, heading for the front of the house.

Trowa, Wufei, and Kaylin exchanged confused looks before going to see what all the fuss was about. They were not at all prepared for what they saw when they joined Quatre on the front porch.

Heero was chasing Duo around the front lawn, laughing like he had never laughed before. Duo would occasionally put a tree between himself and Heero, ducking this way and that, until he saw the opportunity to dash off with Heero chasing and laughing, not too far behind.

Trowa stood with his mouth hanging open. "Amazing."

Wufei was well beyond amazed.

Even Kaylin found it... unlikely.

Duo again ducked behind a tree. Only, this time, when he emerged, he ran right into Heero, sending them both sprawling to the ground. When they hit, Heero grunted and Duo 'oofed'. Both boys lay in the grass, laughing themselves silly.

Duo rolled onto his belly and looked toward the house. "Oh, shit! Look, Heero! We have an audience!"

Heero rolled over and waved his hand in the air.

Everyone on the porch was waving back before they realized what they were doing.

Wufei looked at his own hand and promptly dropped it to his side. "I have said it before, but I will say it again... unbelievable."

 

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After a bite to eat and a quick shower, Heero found that he could barely keep his eyes open. "Duo, I'm going to lie down for a bit. You wore me out."

Duo snickered. "Can't keep up, Heero?"

Heero smirked. "Oh, I can keep up just fine. I just need to recuperate for a bit. I suggest you do the same, if you wish to keep up with me later tonight."

Duo wrapped his arms around Heero and almost purred. "I'll do that. I think I'll go watch television for a while, though. I know that if I lay down next to you, I won't be able to keep my hands off of you."

Heero gently unwound Duo's arms from around his torso. "Go, or it will be you who is fighting me off."

Duo smiled and watched as Heero lay down. Once he saw that the other man was comfortable, he turned and headed for the door.

"Duo," Heero called sleepily.

"Yeah?"

"I love you." Heero quickly drifted off.

Duo leaned against the door frame and smiled as he watched Heero fall into a deep slumber. "I love you, too, Heero."

 

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Duo walked into the room two hours later to find Heero still sound asleep. He moved to the edge of the bed and sat down, placing his hand against Heero's forehead to check for a fever. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. He gave Heero a gentle shake. "Heero, you gonna sleep all afternoon?"

Heero did not respond.

Duo's heart leapt into his throat. "Heero, wake up!"

The former pilot of Wing still refused to open his eyes.

Duo placed his ear against Heero's chest. His heart was beating strong and he was breathing deeply and evenly. "Heero! If this is some sort of joke, it isn't funny anymore! Now, open your eyes!"

No response.

"Heero, open your God damned eyes, please!!" Now, Duo was panicking.

"Heero! Heero!" One final shake. "HEERO!" Duo threw his head back and cried at the top of his lungs. "SOMEBODY, HELP ME!"

 

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Relena had had an exhausting if somewhat productive day. "I'm going home, Madeline. I suggest you finish up early and do the same."

"Thank you, Ms. Peacecraft. I just have a few more things to file and I will be finished."

"I will see you on Monday. Have a good weekend."

"You do the same, ma'am. Thank you."

Relena was not out the door more than three seconds before she walked back in, tossing her handbag onto the reception area sofa.

Madeline looked up from her work. "Forget something?" Her boss looked quite agitated.

"Dr. J. just got off of the elevator."

"Oh? Well, I guess that explains why I couldn't get hold of him. Should I... make some more coffee... or something?"

Relena actually managed a groan. "No. I intend to make this meeting as brief as possible." Relena headed toward her office. "Send him in, please." Relena tossed a grin over her shoulder. "At your discretion, of course."

Madeline smiled. "As you wish." She went back to her paperwork just as Dr. J. came in. She deliberately made him wait at least a full minute before acknowledging his presence. "Good afternoon. How may I help you?"

"Dr. J. to see Relena Peacecraft."

"Oh. Just one moment. I'll see if she is in. You may have a seat."

The Doctor impatiently did as the receptionist suggested.

Madeline picked up the intra-office phone and dialed Relena's extension. As soon as Relena picked up the line, Madeline started talking. "Ma'am, with all due respect, 'the creeps' sadly understates my own reaction." Madeline hung up the phone, but she could barely hear Relena's laughter floating down the hallway. She stood and inclined her head politely toward Dr. J. "Right this way, sir."

 

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Relena stood as the Doctor was let into her office. "Dr. J. what brings you from your colony on this glorious Friday afternoon?"

"Actually, I am working on a project right here on terra firma at the moment. However, another matter of grave importance has diverted my attention for the time being."

"Does this matter concern me?" Relena's diplomacy had gotten of work about... oh... fifteen minutes ago.

"Not directly, but it does involve someone you should be concerned about... Heero Yuy."

Relena immediately started moving towards the door. "I'm sorry, doctor. You are wasting your time. I will ask you to leave, now."

"I wouldn't be so hasty. His very life depends on my locating him as quickly as possible."

"Is that a threat, doctor."

Dr. J. managed a chuckle. "Hardly. My days of threats ended with the war."

Relena crossed her arms. "Then why, exactly, are you so desperate to find Heero? And... I do mean exactly, doctor."

And so, Dr. J. spent the next fifteen minutes explaining exactly why he was searching for Heero.

Relena sat with her mouth hanging open. "What alerted you to this... potential problem?"

"Seeing him at the peace talks. He was already acting... uncharacteristically moody. I used what I saw as the basis for extrapolating further data and..."

Relena held up her hand. "I've heard quite enough, doctor. Let's go."

"Let's go? Go where?"

"To the airport, of course. I am coming with you."

 

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Within moments, four out of breath men burst through the bedroom door to find Duo desperately trying to rouse his lover. Everyone clamored to the bedside.

Trowa was immediately checking pulse and respiration. "Duo, what happened?"

"I don't know. I... I don't know! I can't get 'im to wake up. He just stretched out to take a nap a couple of hours ago and... and now I can't wake 'im up!"

Trowa pulled one of Heero's eyelids open. "He's in REM sleep."

"I'm calling a doctor." Quatre informed.

"Did anything unusual happen today, Duo?" asked Wufei.

"No... Yes!! He had a... a dizzy spell at the lake this morning... and he's been really sweet all day... and..."

"Sweet?!" Wufei knew Heero was changing, but he couldn't fathom Heero qualifying as 'sweet'... ever.

"Yeah, you know... romantic. Oh! And he said his head felt foggy or sumthin', like his mind was running around in little circles."

Trowa looked up at that. "His mind?"

"Yeah. He said he was havin' trouble thinkin' straight. We thought it was all the sugar he ate this morning."

Trowa looked at Wufei. "Blood-sugar?"

Wufei shook his head. "Not with normal pulse and respiration levels. He wouldn't be sleeping. He would be comatose."

"The doctor is on his way," announced Quatre.

"Tell 'im to hurry!" Duo pleaded.

"Duo, I've already hung up. He will be here within a few minutes. His office is well out of the city."

Kaylin put his hand on Duo's shoulder. "Duo, I'm no medic, but I think it's safe to say he's not in any immediate danger."

Trowa confirmed it with a nod. "What ever is wrong with him, I don't see any physical signs of it."

Wufei's eyes went wide. "That's it!!!"

"What's it?!" Duo asked, his eyes pleading for an answer.

Wufei was stammering. "I ahhh... I've had a suspicion for quite a while now that... that something wasn't quite right with Heero. His mannerisms... they changed too dramatically... too quickly. I know I vocalized that to all of you on more than one occasion. Duo, I asked you just... just yesterday morning about his behavior."

Everyone looked at Duo. "Yeah, you did."

"And look at the way he was acting today! I don't know what exactly may be wrong with him, but I would wager my eye teeth that a physician is not going to be of any use to us."

 

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Twenty minutes later, the physician stood next to Heero's bed, shrugging. "I can't do anything for him here. I can't find anything physically wrong with him. Blood pressure, reflexes... everything checks out. I suggest you take him to the hospital where we can do some scans. I will have these blood samples run, but my suspicion is that we won't find much."

"Expedite that, please, doctor." That was definitely Quatre's money talking.

"Of course, Mr. Winner."

Duo was slipping into a state of shock himself.

The physician nodded his head toward Duo. "I would keep a close watch on him, too. He doesn't appear to be handling this too well."

"Thank you, doctor. Please, contact us with the blood work results as soon as they become available. Rashid!" Quatre was starting to snap.

Rashid went in circles for just a moment. Someone was at the front door and Quatre had barked his name - something he very rarely did. He decided it prudent to find out what his employer wanted first. "Yes, Master Quatre."

"Show Doctor Humphries to the front door. Thank you for coming out, doctor."

"I really wish I could do more, Quatre." He placed a sympathetic hand on the blonde's shoulder.

Quatre suddenly recognized the haze of anger that had settled over him without him realizing it. He closed his eyes for a moment and pushed it away. "I know, Matthew. I'm sorry."

"Couple of hours on the blood work, OK?"

Quatre nodded. "Thank you."

Everyone stood staring at Heero's prone form except for Duo, who sat, gently rubbing Heero's fingers between his own.

The phone on the bedside stand broke the unbearable silence. "Winner residence," Quatre answered. "Oh, Rashid." Quatre listened for a moment. "Relena and who?!"

Wufei and Trowa immediately headed for the stairs.

 

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"So, that's all you can tell us?" Duo didn't sound too convinced.

"Until we transport him so I can do some more tests to confirm my hypothesis, yes."

Relena was looking skeptical again. She moved to talk privately with the doctor for a moment. "Dr. J., you gave me more information than that. Why are you not telling them everything you told me."

"Because, dear girl, I do not have to convince them that something is terribly wrong with Heero. That much is obvious. I will tell them everything, once I've confirmed it."

Relena nodded. "Good point. Oh, and, doctor... don't every call me 'dear girl' again. It's Relena or Ms. Peacecraft, whichever you prefer."

 

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It was almost seven before they reached their destination. Dr. J. spent the better part of an hour running his battery of tests and doing his scans. Once the computer digested all of the information, he asked everyone into one of the examination rooms, where he had access to a display unit that everyone could see.

Wufei looked up at the clock just as the doctor came into the room. It was eight after eight... and, if he counted Heero in the adjoining examination room, there were eight people gathered here. He arched an eyebrow and abruptly looked down at himself just to be certain. Yep, he was wearing white, as usual. He would be unable to keep his promise to Kaylin for a date this evening. He had, indeed, had his suspicions confirmed about a 'relative'. After all, these people were the closest thing to family that he had. So, now, he sat, hoping above all else, that the 'snake oil salesman' did indeed have the cure.

Dr. J. took his place next to the oversized display and cleared his throat.

Everyone fell silent.

The doctor pushed a button on the keyboard and began lecturing without preamble. "This is a three-dimensional model of Heero's brain. It is stored in this computer's database down to the cellular level. It was a prerequisite for predicting how certain modifications to a human's brain - in this case, Heero's brain - would affect his behavior. Heero was essentially programmed very much like a computer. He was giving a set of instructions, called a behavior matrix, and a way to process those instructions, called a behavioral diffraction grating.

"This... " The view zoomed in on a section of Heero's gray matter. "... is the area where Heero's behavior matrix was programmed. It contains all the possible behaviors that were deemed appropriate for him to fulfill his purpose. It cannot be removed, but it is malleable and can be subconsciously reconfigured by Heero, himself. This is how he adjusts to unforeseen situations to take appropriate action. Now, this... " The view split to show a second, nearby area. "... is the behavioral diffraction grating which was chemically induced in his neural pathways. All of the possible behaviors from the matrix pass through this grating yielding behavioral probabilities." The doctor hit another button and a small graph popped up. "As you can see, it results in a simple behavioral wave function."

Duo creased his brow. "This sounds exactly like what we are learning in my physics class. Quantum probability."

The doctor looked elated. "Heh! Yes, yes, my boy! That is exactly what is going on here!"

"OK... so, now explain what's wrong with 'im."

"Well, it appears that someone has tampered with his behavior matrix... or, more accurately, induced a new one to form... here." The view again changed to show an area adjacent to the original matrix. "Until today, this new area was bypassing the diffraction grating altogether, projecting the new instructions directly onto his behavior. The grating, however, is self modifying... a fail-safe of sorts. Now, the new behaviors are also passing through the grating to yield this behavioral wave function." Once again, a small window popped up to show the new wave.

Duo looked from one behavioral wave to the other... and then it hit him. "They... they cancel each other out."

Dr. J. leaned back against the examination table, quite impressed with the braided boy's grasp of the situation. "Do you understand the implications of this?"

"He... his... oh, dear God." Duo buried his face in his hands and began to cry.

Quatre moved to Duo's side to offer comfort.

Wufei crossed his arms. "Perhaps the good doctor could clarify... for those of us less educated."

"Certainly. Heero has no behavior. His mind has shut down. He has essentially... crashed... just as a computer receiving conflicting instructions would crash."

Relena cleared her throat. "I am reluctant to even ask this question, but what caused this?"

The doctor looked thoughtful for a few moments. "Somehow, someone has managed to bring Heero's more... positive... emotions to the surface."

Duo's head flew up upon hearing those words. His eyes were red and swollen. "Are you... are you saying that things like... happiness... love... those things are what caused this?"

"Heh! If Heero was feeling either of those things, I'm very surprised he didn't collapse sooner."

Duo began shaking his head and his face twisted in emotional agony as tears poured from his eyes. He suddenly jumped from his seat and made a dash for the door.

Fortunately, Wufei saw it coming and immediately grabbed Duo from behind, pinning his arms to his sides.

"Let me go! God, please, let me go! I have to get out of here! Please, let me go... let me go... let me go." Duo's struggle was short lived as he was now sobbing uncontrollably.

Wufei looked over his shoulder. "Doctor, I think a mild sedative may be in order."

It took some effort for Dr. J. to recover from the surprise of Duo's reaction. "Yes, of course."

Wufei placed his chin on Duo's shoulder as he maintained his hold on the grief stricken boy. "I am sorry about this, Duo. It is for your own good. I have a feeling Heero is going to need you in one piece."

Duo did not hear his friends words, nor did he feel the prick of the needle as the doctor administered the sedative. All he could feel right now was the anguish of loosing the only thing he cared about. "Heero... why, Heero? This isn't real. Please, God, tell me this isn't real."

The next thing Wufei knew, Duo was deadweight in his arms. "I said a mild sedative, doctor!"

"It's the mildest I keep on hand. He'll sleep for a couple of hours and won't be in any shape to move around for a few hours after that."

Everyone glared at the doctor.

"He'll be fine!" Dr. J. defended.

"Help me get him on the examination table." Wufei and Kaylin made the unconscious boy as comfortable as possible.

Kaylin had been silent through this entire ordeal. It all seemed so difficult to believe. He had no idea such things went on during war time. It turned his stomach to think that the government... or this doctor... or anyone for that matter... could do something so inhuman - especially to a child. He was becoming angry, and the sight of Duo laying passed out on the examination table did nothing to quell that anger. "What is your... prognosis... doctor?" Kaylin's voice was dangerously quiet.

The doctor took a deep breath. "Well, there are actually two treatments. The first one would be to administer psychotropic drugs. The effect would be immediate. It would essentially modify one of the matrices so they no longer interfered with one another. He would have to take them for an extended period of time - until one of the matrices collapsed.. The danger is, of course, that he runs the risk of addiction, and possibly, irreversibly damaging side effects. In addition, there would be no way to predict which matrix would collapse or to guarantee that another one wouldn't form at a later time."

"You don't sound too confident about that treatment," Relena observed. "What is the other option."

"The other option is to chemically remove the diffraction grating. Not, by any measure, a difficult or dangerous process."

"What's the catch?" asked Quatre.

"The catch is that we would be removing the filtering mechanism. His behavior would become... chaotic... until the predominant behaviors took hold. Now, don't misunderstand. His behavior will not become extreme... well, not any more extreme than it has been in the past... but it will be... unpredictably jumbled."

Wufei arched an eyebrow. "I see. And what, exactly, would determine which of those behaviors are predominant?"

The doctor pointed a mechanical claw in the direction of the examination table. "Somehow, I get the distinct impression that our answer is lying right there."

 

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Four hours later, Duo awakened with a hangover of the highest degree. Fortunately, someone had had the good sense to lower the lights in the room. It wasn't until he made a move to sit up that he realized that he had been restrained. "What the fuck? Hey! Somebody?! Anybody?!"

Kaylin, Wufei, and Relena came running into the room. The first thing they did was turn on the lights.

"Ahhh! No, no! Off, off! Turn 'em off!"

Wufei dimmed them to their lowest setting. "Duo, stay calm. You're all right."

"All right?! Why the hell am I tied down?!"

"Because we were all worried that you would run off and do something... foolish."

That's when the memories of recent events clawed their way back into Duo's mind. "Heero..." Duo squeezed his eyes shut. It hadn't been a nightmare after all.

Wufei turned to the other two and motioned with a nod of his head for them to wait outside.

"HEERO!"

"Shhhhhh! Duo! You must stay calm and listen to me!"

Duo began fighting against his restraints. "It doesn't matter anymore! Heero's dead and I've got no reason to live! It's my fault! Let me go! I just wanna die! Please, I just wanna die!" Duo was crying again.

Wufei took Duo's face in his hands, forcing Duo to focus on him for a moment. "Heero is not dead, Duo, but he will be, if you don't come to your senses!"

Duo seemed to do just that. "Not... not dead?"

"No! Where did you get that idea?!"

"Doc said his... his brain shut down. I thought he meant... "

"Well, that's not what he meant. Duo, I'm going to release your bindings, now. Are you going to control yourself long enough to hear me out?"

Duo took a shuddering breath and nodded. "So, what did he mean?"

"Heero's mind has shut down. The doctor said he could revive him with little effort, but when he does, his old and new behaviors will be... intermingled." Wufei unfastened the final strap and helped Duo sit up on the edge of the table. "Duo... Heero is going to need you now more than ever."

"Heero is in this mess because of me!"

"That is nonsense, Duo, and you know it! Heero is in this mess because of what that bastard did to him... did to his mind!"

"My feelings for him almost killed him, Wufei... although, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised by that."

Wufei grabbed Duo by the shoulders and shook him hard. "Damn it, Duo, you are not Shinigami anymore! The war is over and it's time to break the pattern! Do you hear me?! If you care one bit about Heero, you will use your feelings for him to save him!"

Duo was shaking his head. "I... I don't know... if I can."

Wufei stood with his mouth hanging open. "I do not believe what I am hearing! I was under the impression that you loved him! What happened to all that compassion, Duo?! Where is your faith?!"

That hit home. "I'm scared! OK?! Don't you understand?!" Duo lowered his head and let the tears start falling again. "I am so... scared, Wufei."

Wufei sat on the table next to the other man and put his arm around Duo's shoulders. He allowed Duo to rest his head against his shoulder and just cry. "We are all scared right now, Duo. You are not alone, my friend. You are not alone."