Trowa was led to a transit car that was affixed to a small metal track. The guard let him enter vehicle first, then followed and operated the small battery operated car. Going approximately ten m.p.h., the silent, tense journey lasted a long ten minutes until the small tram was parked outside the large metal doors boldly marked H-4, section 8-12. In silence he followed the larger man to the large metal security door and watched him key in some numbers behind a partially hidden keypad next to the door, then leaned forward to peer into a retinal scan. The large metal doors slowly pulled apart.
Behind the door was a metal corridor painted tan and brown with a sign indicating which direction to follow. Section ten was to the right. They walked about one hundred fifty feet and approached another door, smaller but similar to the one they'd just passed through. A metal sign on the door stated their location as H-4, 10.
Davis, the guard, again followed the same security procedures as before, but this time he swiped a magnetic key card after the retinal scan and, once again, the door responded.
Following him in, Trowa tried to appear calm while his stomach promised a revolt
at the anxiety he felt as they entered into an office with beige painted walls with the flourescent lights overhead that seemed to shine overly bright. Several men stood behind a tall desk where work cubicles were placed against the back wall with several more doors between them.
A young man, possibly in his mid twenties and dressed in a guard's uniform of khaki green pants, white shirt, black tie and a light green jacket, looked up from a monitor to greet them. Trowa was surprised to see the younger guard's face bore a smile and he had an open manner about him. "Davis." he greeted the escort in a pleasant voice and a nod, smile still present.
"Jacobs." the other guard spoke his first words in the Preventer's presence. He turned aside to Trowa. "This is Preventer Barton and he is here to parole prisoner...." He took a paper out of his pocket and read the numbers. "H020789"
The younger man responded to the numbers immediately as he gasped, his eyes widening slightly in surprise. Without explanation he turned and moved quickly to the door behind him and opened it. With excitement in his voice he called out. "Gary, someone's come to parole the kid."
The sound of several chairs moving back was heard as well as the rushing of feet. Two uniformed men bounded out the door to look at the person in question. One of the men was older, maybe in his fifties, another in his early forties. Both looked surprised and excited.
"You've come for the kid?" the older man asked Trowa.
"I'm here for Duo Maxwell." he replied, surprised himself at the guards response.
"Thank God!" the other man whispered, looking relieved and exchanged that look with his co-workers.
The older man approached him, taking in the Preventer uniform, his age, and air of authority.
"Are you here as a law enforcement official." he asked, some of his enthusiasm dimming visibly as he approached.
"I came here first and foremost as his friend," he answered honestly. "But I've been put into an official position as it has become apparent that my friend's incarceration seems questionable, especially his placement in this section of the prison."
The man surprised him again by smiling with relief. "I'm glad." he replied, then his look sobered. "He's going to need a friend after what he's been through." He then turned to the younger man who had greeted them previously. "Seth, Get the tracker." he instructed the first man they'd met in this section. The young guard nodded and quickly left the room.
"Each prisoner has a chip embedded into his neck." he pointed to the back of his neck. "It reports the prisoner's whereabouts as well as his life signs. We've pulled the kid in quite a few times when his medical signs became erratic."
Trowa closed his eyes, each new word he'd heard about Duo became a more grim picture of the last two years of his life.
"I wasn't stationed in this section when he first came to section ten," the guard continued in a sympathetic voice. "but even in the time I've been here I've seen he's been greatly affected by his stay here."
The former soldier realized his mask must have slipped and the worry and apprehension he felt must have been visible for the guard to be speaking in such a gentled tone to him.
"I tell you this so you can prepare yourself." he explained. "He's pretty bad off." he said sadly as he continued. "The guys and I have done all we could with the constraints that bind us, but even so, I'm sure he's not the person you knew before he was sent here."
As much as he wanted to question the older guard about the exact condition of his friend, but he held his tongue, feeling such an overwhelming sense of desperation to get Duo out of there and off this colony seemed more important at the moment than the delay in time his questions would cause.
While the two men reached into a cabinet under the desk and retrieve some items, the young guard, Seth Jacobs, reappeared with a small, grey rectangle box that was labeled in bold white lettering "Chip Tracker". He stopped and started keying in numbers Trowa assumed were Duo's ID numbers.
"We'll be back shortly." the older man said as he donned a gun-like weapon and put on an odd looking hat. The other man he'd come out of the room with followed his example.
"I'm coming with you." Trowa said, shocking the two enough that they stopped their movements to look up at him with expressions of "Are you crazy?" on their faces.
"That's not necessary." the older guard said. Trowa looked at his name tag stating he was Gary Sanders.
"I think it is." he replied. "My friend was sent to this section under false charges and background information that should never have been considered. I need to see what conditions he's been living under in case I'm called to testify."
Sanders looked shocked, but his mouth slowly curved upward. "It's about time." he mumbled. Then with a look of acceptance, he nodded. "Very well." he agreed. "Give your personal belongings to Seth to hold, and I'll get you suited up."
Five minutes later, the two duffle bags and the newly acquired documents were in the honest-looking, young man's care along with his wallet and Preventer's badge. Armed with a stun rifle and the hat which emitted a personal shield for protection surrounding his body against possible attacks by the prisoners, the two guards and one Preventer were ready to enter the section ten.
"Stay close." Sander's waned as Jacobs released the door into the corridor leading to section H-4, 10. Several security doors later, Trowa found himself standing in what appeared to be a small city. Building's that were single story with flat roof lines, were built close together and placed in sections much like city blocks. Men dressed in regular street clothes were moving freely about the sidewalks and small, manned maintenance carts moved down wide walking paths that separated the blocks that could be considered streets. All eyes turned toward the three, filled with a mixture of curiosity, hate, and animosity.
Sanders looked down at the scanner. "We're in luck today." he began. "The kid isn't too far away this time."
Trowa followed along between the two, the guard behind him was busy scanning the rear, and Trowa had an opportunity to notice his name tag labeled R. Scott.
"You see." Sanders spoke as he led then down another street. "The prison is set up in such a way that the prisoners govern themselves within limits. They are not allowed to kill or harm another prisoner. Such actions remove any chance of parole and an extension in their time, plus their purchases from the prison store doubles in price. It's a big deal to these men who have few comforts. There's also a definite hierarchy. Here in hard time, the longer your sentence is, the more chance of have of reaching the higher ranks of this society.
R. Scott chose that moment to speak up. "The kid never had a chance." he said despondently.
"Why's that?" Trowa asked.
"His age, crime, size, and good looks." he answered. "And on top of that he had only two years to parole. Most of these animals are twenty to life."
Sanders nodded his head in agreement and spoke regretfully. "Now that we're out of Davis's hearing," he looked back at the Preventer pointedly. "It was a crime to send that kid here, just as much as it would be to send a ten year old kid into a locked room of child molesters. I hope you can get the bastards who sent him here." he added vehemently. "I don't care what the kid did, he didn't do anything worth the hell he's been through here."
"Does he blame anyone in particular for his being here?" Trowa asked, wondering if Duo would hate all of them, even himself for not doing more to save him from this nightmare.
Sanders and Scott both stopped to look at him. The older guard took a deep breath and let it out slowly, obviously searching for words to something he knew he wouldn't like hearing.
"After the third time he was pulled in for his medical check, his vital signs showing trauma," Sanders began in a solemn tone, "the doctors and guards stationed here at the time stated that he had been treated for another brutal attack, and that he had stopped speaking. He hasn't spoken a word since."
Trowa's heart clenched within his chest, and his stomach churned with bitter acid, but somehow, he still managed to keep his feet moving in order to follow as the older man led him into a narrow alley between two buildings, still checking his scanner.
"When I first came to this section," he continued. "I was appalled the first few times I had to retrieve the kid. He looked wild and unkept, and the smell...." he shook his head. "I couldn't believe a person in an institution could be left in such a condition. I went back and reviewed his records. The boys mistreatment happened mainly in the first few weeks of his incarceration it seems, and it tapered off as he came upon a way to protect himself."
The man in front of him stopped and turned to look the Preventer in the eye to explain further. "He made himself as repugnant as possible, to repel any interest the other prisoners might have in him."
"How?" Trowa was afraid to ask, realizing the guard was working up to the point of actually describing his friend.
"He began to smear excrements on his body. Feces, urine, vomit.....whatever he could find or produce himself he spread on his body. Now I know that sounds pretty repugnant," Sanders responded to the look of revulsion on the Preventer's face. "but it worked. The rapes almost completely stopped. He was in the most danger when we hauled him in weekly and cleaned him up, fed him, and dressed his wounds. A couple of times he was jumped as we released him, clean and tidy, so we learned to hold him in the medical unit until the dark cycle came round, and led him out under the cover of darkness to a place of relative safety."
The older man turned again studying the grey box and began to move forward. "The guys and I tried to see he had some clothing and food with him. He wasn't able to work in the factories or other jobs as he was always targeted and hurt when he tried. The same with the housing he was assigned. So for these two years he's been living in the shadows, hiding from friend and foe alike in his silence."
The heaviness in Trowa's heart felt like lead as he fought back tears he rarely ever shed. 'We failed him so completely.' he thought in despair. 'I don't know how he'll ever forgive us or even be the same vibrant light he's always been to us.' With these dark thoughts kept to himself, they rounded a corner into another long alleyway. A dumpster sat in the middle of the long lane with cardboard and scraps of litter surrounding it.
"Here." Saunders said, turning off the tracker and putting it in his pocket. He then pointed to the half collapsed box resting against the building. Moving forward, he knelt down on one knee and lifted the upper edge. "Key Kiddo, it's me, Gary." he spoke gently and Trowa was grateful that at least someone had apparently been kind and compassionate to the young prisoner.
"Come on out kid, I've got a friend of yours here that wants to take you out of here. Are you ready to go home?"
Sanders brought his hand up to cover his nose, indicating an unpleasant smell was coming from the dirty box.
No movement was made to indicate that someone was truly inside and could hear them. Sanders handed his stun rifle to R. Scott, and with a touch to the under brim of his hat, he powered down his personal shield. Leaning down, he peered deeper into the box and reached his hand in and began to search.
Suddenly, activity sprung within the confines of the box. The other two standing behind Sanders stood ready to assist if he needed them.
Sanders arm jerked back and forth within the box as a slight struggle of resistance was put up, but finally the guard made some progress and, as his hand withdrew from the box, it was with a grimy bare foot in his grip.
"Come on, Kiddo. Time to get cleaned up for good this time." Sanders said in a reassuring voice. The struggle ceased, and using both hands to firmly grasp his catch, the older guard pulled the prisoner out.
Trowa smelled him before his eyes fell on the boy he hadn't seen in two years. It was the smell similar to that of a sewer. Slowly out of the box came two thin and barely kicking bare legs covered in grime and dried feces. As Sanders pulled his body out further, he saw Duo wore only the tattered remains of his boxers and a very large, long sleeved t-shirt.
"Hey Kiddo, I've got a nice hot shower and some food waiting for you, just like always." The guard continued to talk in a soft, soothing tone to the frightened prisoner.
The struggle stopped as it seemed the young man recognized the voice and the promise of a bath. As his small body was revealed and pulled completely out, Trowa failed to recognize the boy he'd known as the Deathscythe pilot. His once long, beautiful hair that he'd taken such pride in had obviously been hacked off. Now his dull, dirty, and lifeless hair fell in a wild matted disarray around his head, face, and shoulders. The once bright and vibrant violet-hued eyes that had no equal, were dull and sparked only with apprehension. The beautiful heart-shaped face and mischievous smile had been replaced with a frown of worry on a dirty and gaunt face that looked like it had never had a reason to smile.
Despite the horrendous odor that acted as a shield for the boy, Trowa released his force shield and fell to his knees next to him, causing Duo to shrink away in fear.
"Oh God, Duo." he whispered, horrified at the transformed person in front of him. He reached out to brush a filthy piece of hair away from his friend's cracked lips, even as the creature before him flinched. "It's me, Duo. Trowa. Do you remember me?" a hint of desperation was in his voice.
Dull eyes watched him warily, then turned to Sanders, obviously trusting the man more than the person in front of him.
"He's your friend." the older guard told him gently. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a pair of plastic gloves and put them on. Trowa noticed R. Scott did this also. "His name is Trowa Barton, and he's come to take you out of here." Do you understand, kiddo?" he asked, his eyes filed with compassion for the sorry looking person laying on his side, still on the ground in front of them.
The large eyes slowly returned to Trowa and studied every detail of his person for a moment as Duo slowly eased himself up into a sitting position.
"I've come to take you home with me, Duo." he forced himself to smile, even as he felt a tear coursing down his cheeks. "Will you come to Earth with me?" he asked.
With grubby hands, Duo swept the messy hair away from his face and eyes, and suddenly, a spark of recognition lit on his face. /Trowa?/ his lips silently formed the others name, his face gave form to the word as a question.
"Yes Duo, Trowa." the Preventer smiled in reassurance as the moisture in his eyes began to spill over. Then suddenly he had an armful of Duo Maxwell. He was a mess and smelled worse then almost anything Trowa could have imagined, but he wrapped his arms around the slight form and clung to him nevertheless, feeling his friend's frail body trembling with emotion, expressing what his voice couldn't. Relief and redemption.
"Here." Saunders knelt next to the two of them, his arms out. "I'll carry him back." said offered.
Trowa looked up and could see that neither guard was unaffected by the scene of the two friends reunited, their eyes were also filled with suspicious moisture.
Duo's arms wrapped more firmly around him at the words, letting him know he didn't want to be removed from the safety of his arms.
Trowa held him tightly in return. "Its okay, Duo. I'll never let anyone ever hurt you again." he whispered into Duo's ear the promise to his friend and to himself as well.
"I'll carry him." he told the guard, and with the other man's help he managed to stand with his armful. Once standing, Duo shifted his position and brought his boney legs up to wrap them around his tall friend's hips, his arms still crossed tightly behind his neck in a hold that demonstrated that he would rather die than let go. Following the older man, R. Scott taking the area behind the Preventer and his armful, they made their way back out of the alleyway. The news of their presence seemed to have spread as other prisoners gathered to watch their progress. Trowa held Duo's trembling body against him as the vilest of criminals in all the colonies jeered and cat-called to him, causing the three to wisely quicken their steps toward safety.
Trowa whispered reassurances to his friend in order to distract him from the taunts aimed at him. "It's okay, Duo. I've got you. They'll never, ever hurt you agin, I swear it." he told him in a confident voice.
It seemed a much longer walk back, but they finally reached the door they'd exited from and went directly to the infirmary.
Standing in the center of the sterile and antiseptic-smelling room with Duo's frail and filthy body clinging to him, Trowa waited for instructions from the guards as he was at a complete loss as to what he should do next.
With Sander's help, it took roughly five minutes for the two of them to talk Duo into letting go his death grip enough for the two guards to pry him off the Preventer's body. As they held Duo away from him, Trowa was once again confronted with his good friend's despicable condition as the overly large blue/violet eyes pleaded with him to......save him.
"Shower." Sanders announced and pointed to a door to the right.
"I brought clothes for him, but left it at the front desk with Jacobs." Trowa told the older guard, even as he watched as Duo tried to lunge out of the other's arms. Sander's firm grip around the incredibly thin waist held Duo a good foot away from his target, and his actions all but broke Trowa's heart as two thin arms reached out in his direction, seeking security and comfort. He resisted the urge to give Duo what he wanted, knowing it was imperative that they get him cleaned up in order to take him away from his living nightmare.
"Rand." Sanders called out to the other guard and Trowa now knew what the R on his name tag stood for. "Have Preventer Barton's bags sent here, and send for the doctor to see to the kid."
Sanders then began to move towards the door where he indicated earlier the shower was to be found. Duo suddenly went limp, a dead weight in the older man's arms. "Get the door will ya?" he asked Trowa.
The auburn haired young man hesitated, a look of concern on his face as he gazed at his friend.
"Oh, this is what he does every week." Sanders replied in a dismissive tone to the look. "I think he really enjoys the shower, but he needs to protest it as it takes away his defenses. Doesn't it kid?" he spoke in an affectionate manner to the smelly boy. "Passive aggression." Sanders smiled up at the other.
Trowa opened the door to reveal a bathroom complete with a toilet, and a shower stall and sink. He moved to turn on the water and put a hand under the stream unit it reached the desired temperature. When he turned back around, Duo had been efficiently stripped of his ill-fitting clothing and Sanders was putting the foul smelling garments into the garbage can.
Looking at the fairly emaciated body with streaks of brown matter dried on it, a thought came to him. "Do you have an evidence camera?"
"Sure." Sanders answered with a questioning look.
"I want to document his condition for evidence and possible legal recourse."
The guard nodded and moved towards Duo. With both hands on the naked boy's shoulders, he guided him over to the toilet and sat him down on it. He went to the sink, removed his latex gloves, and washed his hands before moved towards the door. "Be right back." he said upon exiting.
The quiet in the restroom was intense for the few moments Sanders was gone. He felt uncomfortable alone in the room with his friend naked and sitting on the throne, with Duo staring down at the floor. To ease that feeling of discomfort, he followed Sanders example and moved to the sink to thoroughly wash his hands. He then looked down at his clothing and knew they would have to be changed also before he boarded a shuttle, or he would quickly find himself kicked off.
Sanders quickly returned and handed the camera to him, then went to Duo and took up a handful of toilet paper and handed it to him. When Duo was finished tending to himself, he stood and Sanders flushed the toilet. Trowa placed the docile prisoner against the wall and took pictures of his dirty, emaciated body and the dead look in his eyes. He noticed that Duo held his left arm close to his body as if it was hurt and his right leg was not completely straight. He took pictures of those obviously damaged appendages.
"He goes through a shirt a week." Sanders began speaking, and he guessed it was to break up the awkward silence even as the other man pushed Duo towards the shower.
Trowa moved quickly to hold open the shower door and watched as the Sanders literally pushed the dirty prisoner into the direct spray of warm water.
"Don't let him out." he firmly instructed Trowa as he moved to the cabinet under the sink.
He nodded and turned to see his friend had moved into the corner as far away from the stream of water as possible and crouched down on his heels.
Sanders returned with a bar of soap, a wash cloth and shampoo. He leaned over and placed all three items next to the unmoving boy.
"Come on Kiddo, you know the routine." Sanders spoke in a friendly way to Duo. "Don't make me get my clothes wet today, okay?"
Slowly, Duo's hands moved to take hold of the soap and wash cloth and he began to cleanse himself.
"He's fine now." Sanders assured Trowa as he closed the door. "Regulations state someone has to be in the room with him at all times." he continued. "If you'll stay here, I'll get some food for him while he's busy here. I usually let him have twenty minutes, and the doctor ought to be here by then."
"Alright." Trowa agreed and moved to take the one chair in the room, noticing it was bolted to the floor as a safety precaution.
Sanders moved back to the door and pointed to the sink cabinet. "There are towels in there." he directed, then suddenly stopped and looked directly into the Preventer's eyes as if trying to judge his worth. "I'm glad you came, for his sake." he said in all seriousness, then turned and left the room.
"Me too." Trowa whispered in reply, his eyes straying back to the blurred figure behind the frosted glass door. Duo was now crouched under the spray of the water, His hands were up in his tangle of hair, obviously shampooing it. He leaned back against the chair and let his head tilt back to rest against the wall. This was not at all what he'd expected. He had anticipated finding his friend somewhat angry, vindictive, hurt, or belligerent. But never in his worst imaginings did had envisioned a frightened, cowered, and silent Duo, hurt beyond reasoning. He took in a deep, shaky breath and knew he would have to alter some of his plans in order to care for Duo. Mrs. Lunderson said he could bring Duo back home with him on his return. Over the last two years he had spoken often to the elderly woman about his friend, and she had said several times that she felt she knew him from their many conversations. She had been kindness itself to him, but didn't know if it was fair to bring his traumatized friend into her home.
He sighed as the sound of water splashing on the walls of the shower continued to fill the background noise in the room. He could go to Catherine with Duo, but sensed that his friend wasn't quite ready to be around so many strangers and constant travel. There was always Quatre, but his mind immediately dismissed that option. He knew he loved the blonde, heart and soul, but vowed to never allow himself or Duo to enter his homes again, or be put into a position of being set up like Duo was two years ago. Never again, he vowed. At least not until they found out who the real guilty party was.
Home. His mind conjured up the picture of Mrs. Lunderson's house with it's back yard filled with shrubs and flower beds. It was a peaceful haven in which he had spent many a contented hours embraced by the peace he'd unexpectedly found there. His aging landlady had become somewhat of a surrogate mother to him, even causing Quatre, Wufei, and Catherine to voice their envy over her gently, unobtrusive care for him. He knew that he'd chosen well when he'd agreed to her invitation to board with her. Now, with luck and kindness, that same care and peace would be transferred to Duo. Mrs Lunderson's maternal nature would surely help his friend to heal from his horrible ordeal.
The sudden opening of the bathroom door caused his musings to come to an abrupt halt. Sanders came into the room announcing, "Time's up."
Looking back at the shower, he could see Duo's form collapse in a ball, back into the corner of the shower stall.
The older guard went to the cabinet and took out several towels, then moved to lay one on the floor next to the shower door. He handed Trowa the remaining folded towel.
"Now comes the hard part." he warned. "The kid is clean now, but he feels unprotected and vulnerable. I always have a struggle getting him out to be examined."
Rolling up his uniform's long sleeves, Sanders opened the shower door and immediately shut off the water. "Come on kid, the doctor's here and so is a tray of hot food." he cajoled softly. "You know we won't hurt you, and your friend is going to take you out of here, right Mr. Barton?" he asked without taking his eyes off of the small, wet figure in the corner.
"That's right," he'd picked up on what Sanders was doing, talking to distract and comfort Duo. "We need to do this in order to get on the shuttle for Earth." he told the shivering ball of skin and bones. 'Come on, Duo. I have a nice, quiet place for us to live. It's not showy, but my landlady is kind and said she looks forward to meeting you. I'm sure you'll like her."
Duo's trembling eased noticeably, and his head tilted as if to signal he was listening, so Trowa continued speaking as Sanders reached for him.
"It's a house I've lived in for two years," he continued. "Mrs. Lunderson is like a grandmother, white hair and all. She is a wonderful cook and gardener. You'll love her garden, Duo, flowers are always in boom, and there's a wooden swing you can sit in and listen to the birds singing from the trees that surround the yard and the crickets chirp and frogs croak as the sun sets."
Sanders literally pulled Duo's unprotesting yet limp body up as the Preventer readied the towel, and he continued.
"You'll be staying with me, Duo, for as long as you like." he spoke softly as he wrapped the large rough towel around the skinny body and began patting off the beads of water from off his skin. His clean skin was so white, almost translucent. Yet it's surface bore signs of his two years in hell. Faint lines puckered from where stitches had been used to close wounds, bruises in various stages dotted his body and sores from the waste products he'd smeared all over his body as a repellant was the price he paid for his unique form of protection.
For his part, Duo stood immobile as he was toweled off and listened impassively to the words of a better life with his friend without any response. When he was dry, Trowa stood back as he watched Sanders secured a towel around the small waist by tucking in the corner. "Looks like we're ready." the older guard kept his tone light as he led Duo from the room.
The infirmary seemed harshly bright as they reentered it, but Trowa immediately noticed another middle-aged man with dull, brown hair and a large nose set between two closely placed eyes and wearing a white lab coat. On the table were two trays that were covered with plastic lids, and he assumed they contained the promised food.
The doctor motioned Sanders to the scale standing against the wall and Duo obediently followed the pull on his arm as he was led to step up on it.
He knew his friend hadn't grown much, but he was shocked to see he still stood at the same height of five feet, four inches tall and weighed ninety pounds. He stared at the near naked form on the scale and he could make out the vertebrae on his spine and the outline of his rib cage. Trowa had seen many things in his life, but realizing that his friend had nearly starved to death caused his blood to boil within him for revenge.
Finding himself unable to speak even if he could find something appropriate to say, he watched as Duo was led by the two men to the exam table where Sanders lifted him up and set him on it with seemingly no effort at all.
The doctor was quick and efficient as he examined the slight body before him for any other damage that might have occurred since his last visit. He then quickly applied an antibiotic ointment to the open sores liberally spread across his skin.
"Well," the doctor stood back to appraise his patient one last time. "I'm glad to see you go." he said, not unkindly. "I hope the rest of your life will be kinder than what you've had to face here." he added.
Duo sat motionless, his eyes on the floor. The doctor then turned to Trowa. "I'll give you enough antibiotic ointment to last two weeks. He told him. "If they prove to be persistent, you'll probably have to have a personal physician called, in any case. He's had bones that were repeatedly broken that may need to be surgically repaired. His left arm is almost useless and he limps severely on his right leg, but other than that, it's his mind that's been the most adversely affected. He stopped speaking after his third week here. That's also the time his braid was cut off by some inmate as a trophy. That seemed to mark the end of his defiance, he was broken. He became timid, frightened and resorted to hiding and being filthy to protect himself. His mental healing will take time and great patience if he is to return to some semblance of normalcy."
Trowa closed his eye, trying to calm himself from what the doctor had said, and nodded his head that he'd understood. He had to remind himself that it wasn't the messenger he wanted to kill, but those who caused this to happen, so he reigned in his need to lash out in anger. Then taking a deep breath, he began to speak to the two men who'd obviously cared for Duo, needing to get some of the grief he felt out of his system.
"He used to be so happy, outgoing, and fun loving. He was mischievous, but has a heart of gold. He was beautiful inside and out."
"He might never be that person again." the doctor warned with a look of pity in his eyes.
With a sigh, he nodded that he understood.
"Get him some good psychiatric help." the Doctor advised. "Maybe in time, he'll be able to assume a normal life again."
Trowa's eyes moved again to look at the pitiful, silent figure sitting obediently on the examination table. He knew in his heart that the exuberant, gregarious and confident boy he'd know in the war was most likely gone forever, destroyed by one betrayal after another.
"Come on kid," Sanders took hold of Duo and lifted him off the table. "Time to eat, then we'll get you dress for the long ride home."
He took Duo to the table and sat him in the chair, then uncovered the first tray of food. There was a hint of reluctance as Duo looked up with his wide questioning eyes to the older guard.
"Go ahead, it's alright." Saunders smiled at him in a reassuring way, then picked up the fork on the tray and gently placed it in Duo's slack hand.
Seeming to need the permission, Duo then dug into the food like a starving man. He ate without manners, quickly and barely chewing before he swallowed and shoved in more.
"Slow down, Duo." Trowa cautioned, worried that he'd choke.
"He always starts out fast." Sanders told him, keeping a sharp eye on the hungry eater. "He'll slow down when he realized I'm not going to take it away."
Another morsel of information that helped guilt on his heavy heart. Putting his head in his hand to hide his sorrow and fighting to compose himself, he felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see the doctor had approached him from behind, his eyes were filled with worry and sympathy.
"You'll need to be strong for him." he said quietly. "He'll need you to keep him safe and show him the world isn't out to hurt him at every turn." His dark eyes bore into his own. "It will take a lot of strength, but I can sense you care enough to give what it will take to help him."
"He was framed, you know." he told them. "He was sent here by betrayal from personal enemies and by the negligence of friends. He went through all this hell for something he didn't even do. It will be hard for both of us to forgive them." He had felt, once again, the need to exonerate Duo in these men's eyes, needed someone else to share his anger and frustration at what had happed to the shattered person in front of them.
Looking at Duo, he could see that Sander's prediction was true, Duo did slow down the pace of food being shoveled into his mouth. His hair, though clean was a mass of matted wet balls, impossibly tangled by two years of neglect.
Sanders lifted the lid of the second tray to reveal another plate filled with food, and pushed it in front of Duo, removing the other empty tray.
The doctor began to address him again. "You should know that he is frightened of groups of men, maybe of all people in general now. Loud voices and shouting causes him to cower and become incontinent."
Another thought came to the Preventer, the shuttle ride could pose a problem. "How will he deal with being in a shuttle and in busy terminals?" he asked, becoming more concerned about the impending trip.
The doctor blew out a puff of air as he thought. "Not well, I'm afraid. I could sedate him, but it will only last about six hours. Do you know how to give an injection?" he asked him.
He nodded. "I became somewhat of an expert on it during the wars."
"Good." the doctor seemed pleased. "I'll give you a syringe with the tranquilizer to make it to Earth. You might arrange for someone to make special arrangements for picking you up and avoiding the crowds generally associated with space terminals.
"Alright." he said, even as he began to frantically think of who he should call. Quatre and Heero were definitely out. He hadn't spoken more than a few words to the former Wing pilot since the day he left Duo for Relena. The memory was still fresh of he and Quatre rushing to L-2 and to Duo's side, at Heero's request, to offer their support and a shoulder to lean on. Heero had always been Duo's anchor during the wars. It had been plainly seen by the rest of them that he loved Heero with all his being, and had nearly been destroyed when his "soul mate" had left him for Relena. Trowa had turned his back on Heero that day as Duo's life hung by a thread, and had only spoken to him when his job made it necessary. Oh, Heero had made some faint overtures to reconciling their friendship, but he curtly told the former Wing Gundam pilot he wouldn't work with he or Relena and he wasn't accepting any social invitations from them either.
Quatre had been forced to deal with them in his position of the head of Winner Inc., but he'd wisely kept his interactions with them to himself.
Quatre. He could turn to him for help, but Duo had ended up here because of someone in Quatre's home. Until that person was found and punished, neither he nor Duo would set foot on any property owned by any member of the Winner family, including Quatre. That left Lady Une, Mrs. Lunderson, or Wufei.
Duo finished his meal and looked about nervously.
"Okay kid." Sanders took charge again. "Lets get you dressed."
Trowa looked around the room and saw the two bags he'd carried with him for earth sitting on the floor next to the examination table. Must have been put there while he was deep in thought, he mused, and vowed not to let himself get that distracted again.
Taking the initiative, he moved to the black duffel, similar to Duo's bag during the war, and hoisted it up onto the table. Unzipping it, he withdrew a pair of black jeans and a red, long-sleeved t-shirt, socks, shoes, and underwear, all in the size Duo had worn at the time of his arrest. When he'd bought them, he was afraid they'd be too small for him two years later, now he feared that they would be too big.
Sanders came to his side. "I'll dress him if you'd like to make any arrangements for your flight and arrival." he offered as he picked up the neatly folded stack of clothing. "You can use either the computer or the vid phone in my office, collect charges, of course." he added with a slight smile, as the price for a vid call from the colonies to Earth were obscenely expensive.
"Alright." he agreed and looked to Duo who sat, clothed only in a towel and staring at the empty tray in front of him.
"I'll be right back, Duo." he called out and moved to leave the room. As he reached the door, he heard the chair fall and turned in time to catch Duo as he threw himself onto him. It was apparent Duo thought he was leaving him. Thin wiry arms held him in a strangle hold, Duo's cheek pressed desperately into his chest.
"It's okay, Duo." he brought his trapped arms up to stroke the bare back, trembling with some strong emotion. "I'd never leave without you. I just have to make a phone call, change my clothes, and then we'll leave this place for good."
Duo didn't respond other than to tighten his grip.
"Please, Duo."he tried again and softly. "I need to make some arrangements for when we land on Earth. I'll come right back, I promise. I've never lied to you, have I?"
No response. He looked over the mass of tangled hair to see the doctor hold up a filled syringe and looked at him questioningly. Trowa nodded his head in agreement and returned the firm embrace. Holding him as the doctor approached, Duo's only movement was a slight flinch as the needle was inserted into his upper arm. The head beneath his chin turned up, wide frightened eyes sought his. "I promise to take you with me, Duo. I'll keep you safe." he told him as the blue/violet eyes shut and the frail body went limp in his arms.
Captain Sanders caught him up and carried his small, diminutive friend back
to the exam table. "He'll be dressed when you come back." he told
the worried looking Preventer, and then set to work placing the clothes on
the still form. The doctor quickly moved to help him as Trowa turned and reluctantly
left the room to make his vid call.
Back to Chapter two