Friendship By Red Rose Heero He was screaming again. I lay in bed, quietly flipping though the pages of an old paperback book listening to the chorus of sounds echoing down the hall. The clatter of carts rumbled now and then with the more than occasional shuffle of feet and voices from the resident staff of the institution. Then there was Duo. He wasn't the only being living in the south wing of the Romefeller Mental Facility, but he was the only one I had any particular interest in. He was also the noisiest. Three rooms down from me, the long haired boy would, predictably right after eleven o'clock, wake up in a frenzy of screams, then quiet after the frantic staff entered his room to calm him. We had been assigned here for deprogramming by a joint agreement between the Preventers and Romefeller after both Duo and I were brainwashed into attempting to assassinate Relena Darlian by a rogue Romefeller agent. The deprogramming was going rather slowly and it didn't help that both Duo and I had an assortment of psychological illnesses. Duo's was post traumatic stress syndrome. And I was a borderline sociopath. It presented an interesting problem for the staff, since Alexie, our nemesis, used our psychological weaknesses to his own ends, making whatever instabilities we had even worse. With a sigh, I closed the book and stiffly slid off the bed. My room was small and nondescript. It had the bed, a bolted down dresser and a closet. There wasn't anything left loose, save for clothing, and nothing sharp or blunt to use as a weapon against oneself or the staff. All in all, it served its purpose and I was comfortable. Though I didn't comprehend the function of the psychotherapy they were attempting, I did value the deprogramming they were following it up with. I did not like being a danger to others. It interfered with my basic function as a human being and bodyguard for Relena. My stay in the psychiatric institution was an inconvenience, but not unnecessary. I looked forward to the day of my release, but knew, with my basic psychological quirks, it would be up to debate for some time. The only advantage I currently had was the control I exhibited over my violent behavior. Without the device Alexie installed in my brain (which J promptly removed upon my arrival at the hospital a month ago), I was no longer a rampaging killer. In fact, I quite efficiently turned my drives toward continuing my education in computers and security. Duo, on the other hand, wasn't as fortunate. Unlike me, he was emotionally devastated by his conditioning and greatly disturbed by his own ghosts. The would-be holy man couldn't live with himself or his sins. After placing the book on the night stand, I stripped down to my underwear and crawled under the covers. Duo's nightmares and problems were the least of my worries. Since I seldom harped on my own, it was just as easy to dismiss his. I flicked off the reading light and settled into my blankets and pillow. It was time to rest. Screams never disturbed me. Seconds later, to the rhythm of distant sobs, I drifted away. ********** My dreams were more like memories than anything, but not the typical ones I'd usually have. Duo's cries and whimpers stuck in my mind. I found myself looking at him... Duo was sitting up on the corner of his bed, hands folded neatly on his knees. I could see his eyes were distant and glassy. His mind was elsewhere. Outside the room, a gathering was in full swing. We had just destroyed the Gundams after defeating Marmeia's army. Duo had vanished two hours ago and Quatre sent me to his room to check up on him. "Duo, you're worrying the others." I informed simply as I closed the door behind me. The room was dark, save for the amber glow of a night light in the corner. Big eyes glanced up. They were lost and uncomprehending for a moment, then cleared, as if my voice were bringing him back from some distant distraction. "Oh, Heero... The others?" Confusion wrinkled his brow as he stood clumsily. He was stoned. I was sure of it. His eyes were dilated and unfocused and he didn't even seem to recall the others being at his home, celebrating the end of the war. "Yes, they're downstairs. Quatre thought you were feeling sick. He said something about you going up to rest, but that was a few hours ago." "I'm fine." Duo leaned forward. His hand pressed into the wall behind my head, bringing his face close. "Do I look...sick?" "No..." I watched his expression. His gaze had narrowed with a mischievous spark. "Well, then," I added. "I shall tell the others." Disappointment flickered for a moment in Duo's violet eyes, but he bent closer, his nose just touching mine. "Have you ever thought about...experimenting?" Experimenting? I had no idea what he was talking about and by the tone of his question, I didn't think he did either. Curious, I studied him. He was being driven by something; probably the drug he was on. I cocked my head, peering intently at Duo's heart shaped face. His expectant expression and tense stance held the hint of a predator waiting to pounce. I let my gaze glide down his sharply muscled form and paused. The front of his pants sported a sizable bulge. As if my noticing was his cue, his fingers dropped down and began to unsnap the clasp of my trousers. Experimenting...The word began to make sense to me. Duo was aroused and looking for physical stimulation. Normally, he'd never proposition me, but I happened to be the one who walked through the door at the time, so I was fair game. I slugged him squarely in the jaw, figuring he'd get the point; not that I minded. I had my own curiosities and Duo was a fascinating possibility. It actually might be interesting. He stumbled back, but failed to fall. Once he regained his composure, his half-lidded eyes met mine and he licked at the blood trickling down his cheek. "Hhhmmm. I'm into kinky stuff. I can live with a little S&M... You have a real tight ass, Heero. Maybe I can loosen it up some, eh?" Amused, I struck him again. This time, I sent him to the floor. "You...really pack a punch." Duo groaned as he glanced over his shoulder. He was obviously not put off by my blows. "Sure do." I agreed. Experimenting, eh? I began to unbutton my shirt. "Strip, while it still amuses me." Stunned, Duo stared up at me. Slowly, he clambered to his feet. "A..amuses you? I thought it was my idea..." He needed a lesson and I was the only one who'd be able to teach it to him. I, after all, wouldn't have a conscience about it. I roughly seized him and threw him to the bed. "That's right. You started it, I'm gonna finish it." I straddled him so my hands held his wrists and my legs pressed into his knees. "You're going to regret this in the morning." Beneath me, Duo gave a surprised gasp and attempted to wrench from my iron grip. But, after a few moments of ineffective effort, his gaze glazed over, head dropping back as he panted. Apparently the pain of my rough twisting grasp excited him as well. What sort of drug was he on? As an experiment, I hit him repeatedly across the face and torso until his flesh was raw and crimson. With each strike, he spasmed and moaned, overwhelmed, but obviously aroused by the sensations. He made no move to resist me in the least. So far, Duo was all talk and no action. I turned my attention to another tactic in hope of getting some fight out of him. I crushed my lips violently to his. He response was explosive. In a frenzy of passion, his tongue met and circled mine, fingers groping furiously at my chest, squeezing at the flesh. It was the strangest sensation when he probed my nipples. A wash of heat licked my face and a tingle settled deep in my groin. I dropped my face to his neck and under his chin, suckling and nipping at the salty skin, until his fingers clutched tightly in my hair. I then dropped my weight against him, savoring his heat and struggle as our legs intertwined in a battle of lust, hips and groins pushing against each other in the only true contest he gave me up until now. We grappled against each other, our lips locked and never once parting. He kicked, thrashed and rolled, but never did he best my strength. With perfect precision, I restrained him with one hand and removed his shirt with the other, then his pants. His fingers abandoned my hair and instantly surrounded my groin. With an internal jolt, I felt myself stiffen at his caress. With unexpected delicately, he played with the member in an attempt to distract me and gain the upper hand. With little thought, I kissed down his neck to his shoulder. There, I marked him, biting him hard. Air whistled from his lips and his startled hand released my penis. I had no intention of going off just yet, and certainly not on Duo's terms. I roved my lips from the wound on his shoulder down to his belly, trailing blood over his taught stomach. Without forwarning, I took possession of his penis deep within my mouth. There I pulled with tight suction, teeth glancing against the velvet hard shaft, relishing the thrill of his astonished cry. Though I was physically inexperienced, my mind automatically replayed J's lessons on erotic practices, at the moment, recalling in particular, instructions for oral sex. As a competent spy, it was necessary to be able to act any part required by the mission. So, through J's required studies of the many possibilities I could meet, I was, among them, also well versed in the theories and practices behind sex. From those instructions, I tickled the flesh under his member's head, appreciating the taut reactions of his straining body that set his muscles in sharp relief. I pushed my arm down against his arching thrusts and deeply surrounded the organ. I assaulted it with overwhelming and calculated force. Finally, his body bowed, pushing violently against my restraint and his head threw back, explosive cries wrenching from his throat. Warm metallic juices burst fitfully past my tongue and I held tightly to him until his convulsions stilled, his fallen sweating form panting against the sheets. Only then, did I slowly withdraw my mouth from his somewhat softening member, swallowing the bitter life's seed. Then, necessarily allowing him to rest, I roved my lips about his inner thigh... He twitched and giggled like a ticklish school girl, squirming into the touch. He was also quickly becoming just about as hard as he had been only moments before... Then it occurred to me. The drug... The drug removed all inhibition, overpowering the addict by assaulting their brain with whatever stimulus their body was receiving. When we began this, the Duo I knew slipped away completely, leaving nothing but a bundle of impulsively reacting neurons and flesh. Now, it was no longer a matter of teaching him a lesson. I was taking advantage of him... Raping him. I stopped, my gut twisting. I did have a conscience. "Duo..." Blank eyes looked up at me. Clumsily, his hands pawed at my chest, eager for me to continue. He hadn't a clue who this Duo was. The drug erased that too. I was having sex with a drug, not my comrade. Worst of all, I had gotten carried away from my original goal. I was supposed to be doing this to teach him a lesson, not to enjoy his body. The drugged out Duo wasn't the man that interested me. The Duo that interested me was rather modest, loud mouthed and only sexually interested in females. Angered by my sudden lack of control, I slugged him again and again until he stopped reaching for me. After a long beating, realization finally dawned in his eyes. He blinked as if awakening from a dream. He looked around the darkness of the room, horror and anguish spreading across his bruised face. "Christ.... Heero, what the fuck am I doing?" Still straddling him, I stared down, just capping my fury. It was time to be sympathetic, if I could only understand how. "You tell me." With a strangled sob, he closed his eyes. "I don't even remember how I got here. What's happening to me?" "What's happening?" I replied coldly. "You're destroying yourself. That's what's happening. In my opinion, you deserve what you get." Why did I say that? Perhaps I was disappointed in him. Duo had potential. I trusted him, and all he turned out to be was a damned junkie. I slid off his body and sat beside him. I didn't know why I didn't leave. I just couldn't. Duo pissed me off so much, but at the same time, I was concerned. So I observed him, wondering what he'd do or say next. Nothing. He did nothing, except sit silently and stare. After a twenty minute vigil, he passed out, leaving me with his naked, beaten form and the pitch of the night. With a sigh, I lay down on the bed next to him. We'd talk about it in the morning, if I could just figure out how to explain it to him. ********* I woke up, the dream reminiscence still vivid as sleep slipped away. I recalled that incident well and was rather disappointed that the drug Duo was on erased his memory of that night. It made it very difficult to discuss it with him in the morning, so the point I was trying to make was moot. Then again, something motivated him enough to get off the drugs. He did squirm when I mentioned it. Sitting up in bed, I put the thought in the back of my mind. The past was the past. Its data didn't pertain to this moment, so it was easily disregarded. The morning was routine. I got up, studied, then showered. Breakfast arrived approximately at eight and shortly after, the psychiatrist visited my room for a long and (what seemed to me) meaningless discussion of my childhood and reflections. Around ten, the deprogrammers worked their hypnosis, drugs and VR treatments. Around twelve, I was free to wander about the ward and stationed myself at the checkerboard in the rec room. Five minutes later, Duo joined me. He was pale and his eyes were drooped. He obviously had been drugged into submission the previous night. His past shoulder length hair was messy and unkempt, and his rumpled T-shirt wasn't neatly tucked into his torn jeans, instead lying sloppily over his thighs giving him a disheveled appearance. Predictably, he shuffled pass the pool table and television, taking no notice of the fellow patients milling about the room. He dropped down in the seat across from me, Glazed violet eyes peered at me, then down to the table. "I'm too zoned to play." He murmured, then tapped his head with a finger. "Real fuzzy today. They gave me shock therapy last night. They said it would improve my mood." "Another bad night?" I pushed a black checker two places. He looked away and shrugged. "Another straitjacket night, yeah." "You really have to stop beating on the interns. They don't like it." I replied coolly, knowing damn well Duo's defensive tendencies when he was upset. "What did they do this time to piss you off?" "Touched me." He nudged a red checker in front of mine without looking at the black and red board. "You don't touch me when I have a bad dream. I have the habit of decking who ever does. They should have learned that by now." "They're slow in that department, I've noticed." I said, offering him a thin smile. "Most kids who are in these places just want attention." "Most kids aren't serial killers and sociopaths." He leaned forward, bowing his head so the mass of hair slipped into his face. Duo squeezed his fists, frustration creasing his lips. "My brain shrunk. Did you know that?" The despair in his voice was deep as one eye pierced me though the tangled honey brown silk." I nodded, knowing the effects of post-traumatic stress syndrome. Apparently, extreme negative stress made the hypothalamus shrink in some, causing nightmares and delusions. Duo's problem wasn't entirely psychological. I was content to think I didn't have tendency for such phenomena. I pushed another piece on the board, then brushed my hair from my own eyes. "Happens to veterans, you know." "Man, I'm fucked up." "I could have told you that a long time ago, Shinigami." We were often very honest with each other and never very gentle with the truth. Duo was crazy. We both knew it. There was no need to cushion the obvious. Wordlessly, he nodded, his lost gaze shifting from the game board and straying to the other people moving about the room. Most here were soldiers like us and post traumatic stress syndrome was a common illness among them. "Guess I'm in good company." He uttered finally. "Doc says it started when I was a kid... The shrinking, I mean." "Had a tough life." I replied, realizing he had lost any interest in playing the game. Then again, he did announce his inability to play earlier so I should have expected it. I leaned forward, arms on the board. "Hey, you're a fighter. You can beat this, just like the drugs." For a moment he blinked, confused, then dropped his attention to the floor shamefully. Duo didn't like to mention his drug habit. Apparently it was Angel's Breath, one of his many drug abuses, that made him seduce me the way he did that fateful night. Sweating it out nearly killed him. Perhaps my dream did have a purpose. "This is different. I got myself on drugs." He said, depression casting his voice down. "They were just a symptom of this." I tapped his head with a finger, then flicked it beneath his chin, lifting his face so our eyes met. "Duo, you can't run or hide or even lie to yourself in here. Once you start facing that, then you'll get the strength to fight it." "I'm not hiding." He snapped. "No one here can help me." "No one?" I said, lifting a curious brow. It was obvious my attempt to empathize and assist Duo was an utter failure. It didn't help I had no concept about how to deal with or even communicate emotions with others. So I tried another tactic. "So, did they have you talk about what happened when you were a kid?" Dawning sparkled in his dull eyes. Duo's face suddenly lit up and a faint smile flickered over his lips. He shook his head, one hand brushing the mass of hair from his face. "Well, god damned. You're trying to help, aren't you?" Then he reached forward and touched my forehead with the back of his hand. "You've got to be sick. The Heero Yuy I know is a real bastard." His brow wrinkled, then he removed his hand and waved a finger in the air. "Ahh, no fever. Either you're Heero's evil clone Skippy, I'm hallucinating again, or you really do care." "Don't flatter yourself. You're no good to me in a straitjacket, especially if we're going to hunt Alexie down when we get out of here." Disappointed, Duo shrugged. "Alas, I knew there was a catch." He dropped his head and shook it. "This guy, he's never that nice. Why do I even bother calling him friend? He'd just as well stab me in my back to make a point." It was nice he knew me so well. I smiled. "Isn't there always a catch?" With a sigh, Duo nodded. "Life's a bitch, then you die." I couldn't have said it better myself. At least he was smiling again and I was noticing sparks of the old Duo hidden in his disturbed eyes. Footfalls entered the room. I turned my attention from Duo to the door. It was one of the staff, a Doctor Rowelands. He was the head psychiatrist and in charge of both Duo's and my cases. Curious as to why he was here, I watched the balding man cross the room to Duo and me. In his hands was a small white cup. A medication cup. Every morning when I woke up, I received a little cup, similar to the one in Rowelands's hand, with one small white pill. It was a drug designed by J and his cohorts to stabilize both Duo's and my brain chemistry. It was necessary because Alexie's process (the Flanagan process for creating artificial Newtypes) was unstable. Without the medication, both Duo and I would loose our minds due to chemical brain imbalances and eventually die. Unfortunately, the drug also completely negated whatever Newtype abilities the process created in us. Rowelands carefully placed the cup and pill down in front of Duo, a smile cheerfully forming on his face. "Well Mr. Maxwell, you are feeling much better I see." Duo shrugged, then glared at the pill distastefully. "I guess. I'm still cloudy from that little zap you gave me last night. You can take your little pills. I have no intention of getting stoned." "The shock we gave you acts as a short term sedative. It should be wearing off by now. It's hardly like you've undergone full electro-shock therapy. You won't stay fogged for long. It's time for you to take this." Rowelands continued patiently. From the sound of his voice, Duo had been making a habit of avoiding his pills. Duo's eyes flickered with anger and frustration. I detected he was about to object and object rather vehemently. Sure enough, he nudged the pill away and folded his arms. "They're addictive. I don't want them. You tell the mad five to whip up some other miracle to shut me down." I leaned forward, eyes scanning the doctor. His body stiffened slightly and a second of worry flashed across his outwardly calm brow. He feared Duo, and not because he was the run of the mill loon. Those pills kept whatever Newtype or psionic abilities the process gave us under control. Without them, we could become deadly weapons or, from Dr. Rowelands's eyes, walking time bombs. I smiled fondly, recalling how Duo, under the influence of Alexie's mind control, gutted me with a plasma beam scythe generated by his brain. The boy had promise as a good killer. We would have made a good team. "I've been taking mine, Duo." I said truthfully. I was having enough psychological problems and had no need for a chemical imbalance to slowly deteriorate my brain. "Without the pills, you'll go crazy and die." "Yeah, right, and with them, you get addicted and eventually burn yourself out or OD, whatever comes first." He retorted, coming abruptly to his feet. "Sorry Doc. I was an addict once. I won't be one again." The doctor sympathetically dropped a hand on Duo's shoulder. "I understand your..." Wildly, Duo spun and struck at the hand, his gaze filled with rage. "Stay the fucking hell away from me! I don't want your drugs, I don't want your sympathy and I don't need your help!" The boy tapped his head. "I know what you're thinking. You're afraid of me! You don't want me going crazy and becoming that thing I became!" Shaken, the doctor stepped back, hand nursing his spreading bruise. "Mr. Maxwell, It's best you control yourself. I am trying to help you." "Yeah. Into becoming a junkie again." He snapped and turned away, arms wrapping about his torso. "I don't ever want to be an addict again. No! Never..." Dispassionately, I leaned over onto my elbows and caught Duo's attention with a disapproving gaze. If he wanted to be free of the institution, he needed to feign cooperation, as I did. Unfortunately, Duo was far more emotional than I and had a habit of indulging his feelings. Especially his temper. "Duo, stop being a stubborn idiot." "Shut the fuck up!" I shrugged. He was digging his own grave and I wasn't one to interfere with other people's business. If Duo wanted a fight with the hospital staff, I'd be content to watch. It made the day interesting and I never had the opportunity to see one of his tantrums before. Predictably, three interns entered the room, one bearing a white straitjacket and the others, stun guns. "You guys call yourselves doctors? Why is it you always insist on beating the crap out of me when I start to vent?" Duo shook and scratched the back of his head, frustrated. "It's gonna be another one of those days, I see." Yes it was. "You know, you could just take the pills and deal with the addiction later." I advised. The glare he shot me could kill an entire population of Oz solders. In all honesty, I didn't think the drug thing would bother him that much. The guy was an addict. He'd go back to it eventually. Why not live with it? G and J's little drug ensured one thing; Duo Maxwell wouldn't take anything else again. He should see it as a blessing. Then again, if he did have a problem with it, he could easily sweat it out when he got out of the hospital, without the fuss. That was, if he didn't mind going insane. Then again, the guy was madder than a hatter, so it didn't make any difference whether he was on the drug or not. "Mr. Maxwell, this kind of behavior concerns me." The doctor declared calmly. "It seems you should be confined to quarters until you get some sort of control over yourself." "Control?!" Duo stomped a foot and pulled at his hair, exasperated. "Are you guys blind or stupid? I have no control over myself! You have control and that's what pissing me off!! Leave me the fuck alone and give me back my life! Then I'll start to be a little civil!" "You tell him kid!" shouted one of the patients standing near the pool table. He was in his forties, grizzled and apparently pleased to see some dissension among the ranks of loons in the room. The other patients stopped what they were doing to watch as well. Some grunted in agreement with Duo while others shouted defensively back at the staff. Doctor Rowelands paled, his gaze shifting back from the patients to his staff. Beads of sweat dotted his forehead. Apparently things were getting out of hand, even for him. "Now, go away and let me brood." Duo gestured to the door. "I have a checker game to finish." I looked down at the pieces. There would be no game. If I was right, they'd drug the hell out of Duo and lock him away until he decided to come around to their way of thinking. Poor Duo. He obviously believed they were actually there to help him. I almost laughed bitterly. He deluded himself yet again. These people didn't care about him. They were paid to do a job and that job was to make us fit for control; their control or society's. If we were compliant to their ideals, then we could go. If we weren't, or if we became a threat to any of the powers involved in the new regime (good or bad), then we'd have to be restrained. This had nothing to do with our mental health. It was politics. Even though we had allies in the outside world (and at the moment, their hands were tied), we had even more enemies. If it were up to them, we'd stay locked up all our lives. Life is a bitch. Unfortunately, Duo thought the best of people and was too noble to truly see it. "You're wasting your breath, Duo." I said flatly, hoping he'd get the point. "We can't just let you stop your medication, Mr. Maxwell." Unfortunately, that damned doctor kept interfering with my subtle attempts to advise Duo. The doctor approached the boy, mock worry lining his brow. "You'll start to get head pains and it will be very uncomfortable. It's for the best. Now, just take the pills and I'll go away..." With a flashing sweep of a hand, the former Death Scythe pilot sent the cup and pill flying. "No Drugs!!" The interns closed in. I marveled at Duo's agile, well trained body as he swung his fist about, landing it pointedly in the gut of one man, then pivoting to the side to avoid the shock of a stun gun from another. A quick jab from his elbow sent the device across the room to clatter against a wall. The room erupted with cheers and shouts as the unruly bunch of patients began to take bets, drinking in the short lived excitement. I didn't blame them. Duo turned a normally bland day into one charged with violence. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied the doctor scrambling for the stun gun. It amused me to no end to see the panic in his deep-set eyes. He had lost control of the situation and was now forced to deal with the consequences by getting physically involved. Duo was a skilled killer, not some skinny untrained street orphan. He'd intimidate me if I were the merely academically trained Rowelands. The battle was becoming more and more interesting. Swiftly, Duo dodged two more blows before decking a second intern in the face. The man snapped back and collided into the checker table, scattering pieces all over the floor. But Duo failed to notice the doctor closing in with the stun gun. I could have warned Duo, but if I said something, I'd doom myself to a straitjacket and isolation. Not that I minded isolation, but I didn't want to make myself look bad for Relena's sake. She was the primary factor letting me walk around the facility and possibly leaving it when the doctors deemed I was ready. In the end, self-preservation and the prospect of freedom won out. I held my tongue. Duo got himself into this situation, therefor he got what he deserved. I'd discuss it with him later, when he was subdued and rational. The remaining intern jumped Duo, grabbing one arm before he could duck out of the way. Predictably, the pilot pivoted around in a full roundhouse kick. Rowelands descended on the boy, stun gun connecting squarely with his back. There was a sharp bang, then a flash. The doctor, Duo and the intern crashed to the floor in a heap of limbs. Laughter broke out in the room as the escapade came to an abrupt end. I couldn't help but join in. At least Duo was keeping the staff on their toes and perhaps now he'd get it in his head to keep his big mouth shut. ************ Two hours later, I managed to talk the staff into allowing me to visit Duo. It wasn't easy. Hospital policy didn't allow visitors to those in isolation, but I had pull. All I needed to do was speak with Relena about the ineffective psychological care Rowelands and his staff provided to my close friend Mr. Maxwell. Relena spoke to Dorothy, and Dorothy gave the staff hell. Sure enough, there were few objections to me seeing Duo, which is what I planned. When I entered the room, Duo lay in bed, eyes half lidded. From what I understood, they used a more potent modified shock therapy to keep his moods under control. The effects, I was told, were to last roughly two weeks and would keep him docile (lifeless in my perspective); drugged, without the chemicals. Damn it, Duo. Why did you insist on escaping this way? Why couldn't he face life? We were both the same thing; genetically engineered weapons designed to kill. I could deal with it. Why couldn't Duo accept it? I swallowed my thoughts and strolled across the room, my own anger rising as I studied the figure before me. He lay curled in a half fetal position, his attention partly on the wall and partly on the tangle of hair hanging in his eyes. Silent tears spilled down his face, making him look unusually pathetic. I almost called him a crybaby and berated him for acting like a girl. But I held my tongue, knowing Duo Maxwell well enough to know, when he cried, he had good reason. "You brought it on yourself." I said as I sat down in the chair beside his bed. "You're a goddamned idiot." "And you're an asshole." He slurred weakly. "But then again, you're being as sympathetic as your cold little heart will let you..." I brushed hair from his face and half smiled fondly. "I'm pleased you noticed. Being nice isn't in my programming, but I'm trying." He turned his face against the pillow to wipe away his tears and gave a throaty, "Hmph! And you think I should be impressed by this?" I looked down at my knees, noting the bitterness in his voice. He was usually more patient with me, but not today. The doctors must have gotten to him at last. "I feel like shit." Duo announced truthfully. "Have you ever been strapped down and zapped to hell?" He was referring to the electroshock therapy they used to subdue him after the fight. "You look like shit. And no, I don't plan to." I lifted my head, trying to look anything but threatening. "It hurt, didn't it?" "Yeah, it hurt." He made no effort to sit up and his voice faded a little, like it was a strain for him to speak. The Duo I remembered moved constantly and spoke with his hands as much as he spoke with his mouth. If they continued to treat him like this, a part of me feared they'd destroy him. "Duo, you're not helping Relena, Sally and Lady Anne to get us out of here if you keep acting like a stubborn loon." I continued, jumping to the chase while I had him lucid. Silent, he stared off, lost in thought. I wasn't even sure he heard me. More tears filled his eyes to trickle down his cheeks. With a deep breath, I reached over to wipe the tears. "I know you're pissed they're being dicks. I don't like it either. But I, for one, don't look forward to killing you if you become Death Angel again. You need to be deprogrammed." "I know, I know..." He took a troubled breath. "It's just those damned drugs. I fought addiction once. I thought I was past it." "Live with it." I replied coldly. I myself never wished to see Duo addicted to Breath again, even if it did once give me the opportunity to experiment with him. At that moment, I realized why I had continued with Duo that night. In a way, our comradeship attracted me to him. We were warriors, connected by blood. To me, it was only reasonable we'd express that physically. I was acting on instinct. I wanted to enjoy him, and be close to him. Dumbstruck, I looked away, combating my confusion. Was that why I was so revolted by his behavior that night? Even more so, was that why I was driven to remind him of what he was? I did care for him. It was foreign to me, caring. I didn't understand it. Yes, I cared for Relena. She was my stability in an unpredictable world. My heart and gut drove me to her and her body drew all my physical desires. I needed Relena. She was my queen, my mate. But Duo, he was something human words couldn't describe. We shared battle, we shared death. We were comrades at arms... I struggled to find the proper description for Duo, but couldn't. I didn't love him, not the way I loved Relena, yet there was a pull. I shook my head, aware Duo was staring at me inquisitively. "Hello, Heero... This is Earth calling Heero Yuy. Come in Heero Yuy..." Duo tapped my arm with a finger, then dropped his hand back to the bed when he saw he had my attention again. "We were talking about my drug problem. I believe you were telling me to live with it." He reminded flatly. I pushed my bangs from my eyes and nodded awkwardly. "Live with it. Besides, this is different. You're not giving it to yourself because you're an addict. It's like insulin. It will keep you alive." I continued on the same thought. "Yeah, right. How can you lie to yourself?" He retorted angrily. "I can't do that." "I'm doing it for Relena." I replied, not needing much thought. "If I'm not out of here and alive, then no one will be able to protect her from people like Alexie." For a moment, I was convinced he wouldn't understand my reasons. Relena was a primary drive in my mind. I couldn't escape my need to please her, not anymore. Duo had no such obligations. But, to my surprise, he nodded. I supposed Hilde and the baby made him feel the same in the end. "Relena, she's a good woman. A bit of a pain, but she's growing up." There was a note of fondness in his voice and, if I thought about it, I realized it was more than just fondness. Duo really liked Relena, though he'd never admit it. "Do it for Hilde and Carrie." Duo swallowed. "You got me." "I know your buttons." I said honestly. "I think Hilde can forgive you for being an addict and won't see it that way." "Yeah." Duo rolled over onto his back and pulled his knees up. "Hilde, she's quite a gal. I don't deserve her. I'm a real pain to have around, you know." "Yes, you are. But she still loves you and from what I've seen, love makes people do asinine and illogical things." "Can say that again." With an effort, he lifted his hands over his head and examined his fingers, then bunched them into fists. "I'll take the drug. Ok?" "Smart move." I answered, about to stand. My conversation with Duo was over. I had done my part and helped him heal... A hell of a lot better than the hospital staff. Something made me pause. Duo was looking back at me, affection sparkling in his gaze. "You know Heero, I'm glad you're with her. She loves you very much and I think you deserve her. You're not as bad as you think." "Think so?" I asked, curious as to why he said what he did. "I always thought I'd kill her." Duo shrugged. "Every person you've threatened to kill, you failed to. It's the poor slobs you don't threaten that die." With that, he turned to face me, expression flashing with a flicker mischievous delight. "Na, you're not that bad." I was rather disappointed. I believed my own press. I heaved my shoulders up, rationalizing Duo's conjectures were based solely on the fact he was crazy... maybe even crazier than I. Nonetheless, I patted his shoulder, accepting whatever outlandish reasoning came out of his mouth. I liked Duo. I liked him the way he was and wanted him to get well. It was a start back to my own humanity. "Ok Duo, you win. Rest well." "Of course I win." He replied dryly. "I don't lie." He'd have babbled on forever, but I noticed his drooped eyelids beginning to close. Rowelands and his staff did a real number on the poor guy. "For now." I said, reminding him I was only being mushy on him for the time being. "Later on, I'll change my mind." Comrades, yes, Duo Maxwell. From this day on, I'd gladly kill anyone who wants to harm you. With a tiny smile I stepped back from him, thinking about Rowelands and his people. That's right, I thought fondly to Duo. "Tell me if they shock you again. If they do, some heads will roll." After saying my piece, I stepped out the door. My stay at the Romefeller institution just got a little better. Hopefully it would stay that way. *********** Fin