Things You Should Know:
Uh, yeah... Well, this is odd. I love Duo. I really do. So why do I feel the need to make him miserable? I don't know. Anyway...
Other than that, there is... hmm... only shonen ai, really, plus a horking load of OOC, in my opinion, but I like it this way. Sort of. The last part is the best, but doesn't make a damn bit of sense without the first two parts. So you must suffer. Oh yeah, and angst, angst, ANGST all over the place. But no death, I promise. Just a very close call.
And without further ado (cuz really, how much ado do you need?), on with the fanfic!
by: Aoe

(Pendulum)
Nadir

As soon as Duo bolted from the room, Heero abandoned the pretense of calmly eating and instead pressed his face into his hands wearily, resting his elbows on the table.

"I can't take much more of this," he intoned flatly into the uncomfortable silence.

"Heero... " Sally said hesitantly. Heero dropped his hands to the table and turned a baleful glare on the rebel doctor who was sharing their hideout for a few days. Sally blinked in surprise at the dirty look, then countered it with a glower of her own. "Any particular reason you were so harsh with him, Heero?" she asked coldly.

"Let it rest, onna," Wufei snapped, shooting an irritated glance at the woman. "You have no idea how infuriating he's been lately. Personally, I think he was long overdue for -- "

"You didn't have to be so hard on him, though," Trowa cut in, his smooth voice sharpened with a hint of anger. Heero turned his glare on Trowa, but the taller boy merely frowned, crossing his arms stubbornly over his chest. Distantly, the sound of a door repeatedly slamming was heard and ignored by the group.

"You think I should encourage his shallow infatuation?" Heero demanded, reopening a private debate that had engaged the two of them for months.

Trowa's frown deepened as he replied sharply, "I think you're an idiot."

Heero blinked in surprise at this statement, awaiting an explanation that did not seem to be forthcoming. Finally, he was forced to ask. "Why am I an idiot?"

Trowa ignored Quatre's attempt to soothe him, jerking away from the nervous blonde's gentle touch while continuing to glare at Heero. "I don't know, why are you?" he shot back irritably. Then he heaved an exasperated sigh and continued, "Look, Heero, say what you like, but we both know you wouldn't have spent a quarter of the time you have thinking about this situation if you didn't care about him in some way. Deny it all you want, but you've gone months without actively trying to discourage this 'shallow infatuation'. Which, I might add, has been going on a little too long for me to believe it is as shallow as you like to think."

Quatre stared in mild surprise at his very irritated lover, while Wufei merely snorted in disgust and continued eating. Sally looked back and forth between Heero and Trowa with interest.

Heero's scowl deepened at Trowa's accusation. "Well, if I've seemed to be encouraging him, I guess I'm partially at fault, but -- "

"Oh, give it up, Heero," Trowa advised, spearing a carrot on his fork with a bit more than necessary force. "You like him and you know it," he concluded flatly, popping the vegetable into his mouth, ignoring Heero's infuriated and embarrassed glare.

"I... " Heero began, then trailed off into silence, not sure what to say. He wanted to refute Trowa's statement, but... he had to admit, there might be some truth to it.

"Maybe I... don't hate him," Heero admitted after a moment's contemplation. Then he frowned again. "But my feelings are irrelevant. It's become painfully clear over the last two weeks that this little obsession of his is interfering with his ability to fight. And I can't allow that."

"Has it occurred to you that perhaps if you gave him just a bit of the attention he's craving, he might not be in such an agitated state?" Trowa asked calmly, having regained his usual composure. His emerald eyes still held a hint of angry fire when he glanced over at Heero, though.

"Agitated?" Sally interjected with a slight frown.

"Agitated isn't the word for it," Wufei muttered, shooting a dark glance at the hallway Duo had run down after leaving the table. "Infuriating. Psychotic. Manic. Any of those might be a better choice," he commented irritably.

Sally's frown deepened. "That's... interesting. I'll admit I don't know Duo all that well, but he always seemed to me to be a very easygoing person, maybe a little hyper, but not to the point of being irritating. Whenever I've spent time with him, he's been very friendly and energetic, but... "

Quatre sighed, rubbing at his forehead. "Yes, normally I would agree with you, Sally. Duo and I spent a month cooped up together once, and I actually think I might have gone crazy with impatience and cabin fever if it hadn't been for him. He always had an idea for something to do when I was bored, but he was just as willing to sit and talk quietly for hours, or even to leave me alone and just amuse himself when I wasn't in a sociable mood. It's just lately that he's been... so... " Quatre sighed again, shaking his head in weary confusion.

"And it's just lately that he's suddenly increased his interest in me," Heero cut in coldly. "Therefore, these two variables are likely related, and eliminating one should remove the other. He'll be upset for a little while, and then he'll go back to normal." Feeling secure and vindicated in his conclusions, Heero nodded his head sharply and began eating again.

"Which does nothing about addressing your feelings for him, but that's your business, I suppose," Trowa commented blandly, spearing another carrot. Heero shot him an angry look.

Quatre was chewing his lip, brows drawn in thought. "Actually, Heero, I don't know if I can agree with your reasoning," he said almost hesitantly. Heero glowered at the Arabian, but Quatre refused to be intimidated by that silent stare. "Emotions are rarely that clear cut. Saying that it's Duo's feelings for you that are making him act oddly is one thing. It's likely that his attraction to you is at least a factor of his behavior. But to say that by ending that infatuation, which, by the way, isn't likely to happen just because you told him to, will return him to 'normal'... well, I don't think it's plausible," Quatre concluded worriedly.

Sally had set her fork down now, and was staring raptly at Quatre as he spoke. "Quatre," she said when he fell silent, "you seem to be the best person to describe how Duo's behavior has changed recently. You obviously have spent enough time with him to know him well, but you seem able to be pretty objective, too. Something about this is bothering me, and I'd like it if you could explain just how he's been acting."

Quatre frowned at Sally's intense scrutiny, but shrugged his shoulders in acquiescence.

"I'll try. I'm not sure when it started, really, because when we all showed up here two weeks ago, he was already acting a bit oddly. He'd been on a few solo missions for the weeks previous. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe something was off way back then, because I asked him about the missions, and, well, he was a little hard to follow, but... Well, he seemed even more impressed with his own performance than he usually is, but at the same time, from what I could understand, he almost ran into trouble several times because he was getting sidetracked... Or that may just have been the impression I got because of the way he told the stories. He keep going off on tangents, confusing me, but I couldn't really seem to get a word in edgewise." Quatre paused frowning.

Wufei snorted and complained, "Like that's anything new with Maxwell. He never shuts up."

Heero shot the Chinese boy a brief glare, much to Trowa's amusement, and snapped, "That's not fair. He talks a lot, but he's always willing to listen, too." Wufei just snorted again. Trowa raised an eyebrow at Heero, who dropped his eyes to glower down at his plate.

"That's just it, though," Quatre said, frowning thoughtfully at Heero. "Lately, he hasn't been listening very well. He's been louder, and almost...well, obnoxious," he admitted, ignoring Wufei's snicker.

"Hard to follow sometimes, too," Trowa offered. "It's been like he has too many things on his mind at once, and is trying to talk about all of them at the same time. It's kind of confusing."

"It's not just his conversation, either," Wufei informed them, shaking his knife to emphasize his point. "The other day, we were both out working on Nataku and Deathscythe, and when I went over to see if he was coming in for lunch, he had the comm system completely disassembled, had a diagnostic program running on his ECMs, and was in the middle of adjusting the placement of the safety harness. He kept flitting back and forth between all three, as if he couldn't stay focused on any one task for more than a few minutes." Wufei shook his head, frowning in disapproval. "Flighty, weak-minded idiot," he muttered, earning yet another glare from Heero. Sally scowled at him, too. He ignored both of them.

"Anything else unusual?" Sally asked. Quatre frowned curiously at her. Trowa stared at his plate, seeming to contemplate the question. Heero tapped his fork against the table.

"It's been a lot easier to make him mad," the Japanese boy finally offered in a flat voice. Sally nodded slowly, frowning in thought. "And he hasn't been sleeping," Heero added quietly after a moment. At this, Sally looked over at him, an intent expression on her face.

"Not sleeping at all?" she asked.

Heero frowned at her sudden sharp interest, then shrugged. "Not much. An hour or two, now and then. Not a whole night through in over a week now. I don't think he slept at all last night, and if he did the night before, it wasn't much."

"How do you know, Heero?" Quatre asked curiously.

Heero shrugged again. "Part of my training was biorhythm and metabolism regulation. I don't really need to sleep like normal people. I retain an awareness of my surroundings so that I can't be taken by surprise. It's more than enough awareness to know when Duo is awake and restless compared to sleeping," he concluded in a slightly weary tone. Quatre smiled ruefully, having spent a few nights sharing a room with a wakeful Duo Maxwell.

Sally was staring at her plate thoughtfully. "Sally?" Quatre asked after a moment. She jumped slightly, as though startled out of her thoughts, and looked up at him. "Do you think... is there something actually wrong with Duo?" Quatre asked nervously.

"You mean besides the usual?" Wufei muttered sarcastically. Everyone ignored him.

Sally stared at Quatre for a moment, then dropped her gaze slightly with a pensive frown. "He's very young," she commented, apparently talking to herself more than her companions. "But it tends to show up early in life. And...the symptoms...it really sounds classic. A textbook case, almost."

"Textbook what?" Quatre pressed. Heero was staring at Sally with an utter lack of expression on his face. Trowa frowned worriedly at the doctor, gripping Quatre's hand comfortingly. Even Wufei shot the woman a sidelong glance of almost reluctant attention.

"Well, I'll admit I've only seen it once, but from what I've heard tonight, Duo's case sounds quite similar... " Sally crossed her arms over her chest, obviously reluctant to voice her concern.

"If there's something wrong with him that will endanger our missions," Heero began coldly.

"He's our friend," Quatre interrupted forcefully, shooting Heero a mildly reproachful look. "If he has some kind of problem, he'll need our help. Please, Sally... " He turned his earnest sea-blue gaze on her.

She sighed, but gave in to his unspoken request. "Understand, I'm not a psychologist by any stretch of the imagination... but I have encountered something like this before, and from what you've described... Well, I think Duo may be having a manic episode," she concluded grimly.

Wufei sniffed disgustedly. "I thought we'd already established that," he declared. Sally frowned at him.

"This is serious, Wufei. I don't mean that he's just more hyper than usual. A manic episode can be very dangerous. If that's what he's suffering from, there's the possibility of delusions or even hallucinations... he really ought to be hospitalized for observation, and his own safety," she concluded unhappily. She shook her head. "I know that's not an option, but... "

Heero's grip on his fork had tightened to the point that the stem was bent nearly in half. He didn't seem to have noticed this. "This is a dangerous condition?" he asked quietly.

Sally nodded. "It's possible it may be only a hypomanic episode, which is less severe and not as dangerous, but from the description you've given me, I think the situation may be a bit more extreme."

"What is causing this?" Heero demanded.

Sally frowned. "Well, as with most psychological illnesses, that's still up for debate, but the prevalent theory is that the manic cycle is a result of an excess of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine," she explained patiently.

"So then it's treatable," Heero concluded flatly.

Sally nodded slowly, but she was frowning.

"Sally? What else?" Quatre asked softly.

Sally sighed. "Well, the thing is, manic behavior... an episode like this one... is not usually an isolated thing. Because eventually, the body will use up all the excess norepinephrine, but then there will be too little instead of too much, and -- "

"And the lack results in a depressive episode of similar proportion," Wufei concluded quietly. Everyone looked at him in surprise, but he just stared grimly at Sally, his earlier dismissive attitude forgotten. "You think he's bipolar," Wufei stated flatly. Sally returned his intense stare, and simply nodded slowly. Wufei swore softly to himself in Chinese.

"Wufei?" Quatre asked hesitantly. "Do you know something about this?"

Wufei scowled, pushing the remains of his dinner around with his fork. "The workings of the mind, both the chemical and psychological, intrigued me for many years," he finally commented. "I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I've certainly read a great deal about bipolar disorder." He shot a dark glance at Sally, but the woman thought she detected the beginnings of worry in the depths of his eyes. "I should have seen it sooner. Now that I'm thinking about it, the symptoms have been quite clear. I just dismissed them as Maxwell being more annoying than usual. But this is... " Wufei shook his head, sighing wearily.

"So you're saying that sooner or later he'll snap out of his current mood and shift into depression?" Heero demanded, absently discarding the mangled fork. Quatre was too preoccupied with concern for Duo to wince at the damage. At Sally and Wufei's nods, the Japanese boy frowned. "So what happens then?"

"Well, depressive behavior can take many forms... " Sally began reluctantly.

"It won't be good," Wufei predicted unhappily. "Considering the intensity of his symptoms right now, I'll be damned surprised if he doesn't swing just as far in the other direction." Sally turned wide, shocked eyes on the Chinese boy.

"You don't think he'd really... " she protested nervously.

Wufei shot her a look that was a wan shadow of his usual condescending sneer. "Think about it, onna. We try to kill ourselves all the time when we're not depressed," he muttered.

Heero, who had picked up his knife, bent the hapless utensil into a neat U shape.

"He'll be... suicidal?" Quatre whispered, his eyes shimmering with tears of worry.

Sally frowned. "It may not be that bad -- " she protested.

"It's Maxwell. It'll be that bad," Wufei pronounced gloomily.

Heero abruptly rose from his chair so quickly that it toppled over, clattering loudly against the floor. He had disappeared down the hallway to the room he shared with Duo before the chair had settled against the hardwood floor.

"So... what should we -- " Trowa began in the sudden silence, but he was immediately interrupted by Heero's loud shouting for help from down the hall. The four at the table spared a moment in shock to stare at one another as they each caught the unmistakable note of panic in that usually cold and unemotional voice. Wufei's comment of "I told you so" as they all jumped from their chairs to go to Heero's aid was oddly subdued.

Almost mournful.

[descending] [ascending] [back to Aoe's fic]