Author: Caroline
Rating: this part - PG-13ish
Pairing: 1x2
Warnings: AU, OOC, murder, angst, slight bastardization of some characters
Spoilers: none
Comments: please
Disclaimers: don't own 'em. never will. 'nuff said.

Afterimage + epilogue

Heero stood outside the hospital room door, looking in through the small pane of glass at the sleeping figure of his lover. Duo looked so small and pale against those stark white sheets. It pained Heero to see him like this - frail and helpless... and there wasn't anything Heero could do to help except wait, watch, and hope.

"Detective Yuy?"

Heero turned to see a blonde woman, hair twisted into two pigtails, standing a few feet away. She wore a white lab coat and held a chart in her hand. He hadn't spoken to her before, but had seen her tending to Duo after he'd been brought in to the hospital two days earlier.

"Doctor," he said in greeting. He turned his attention back to Duo. "How is he?"

"You... know what happened to him." It was more of a statement than a question.

"Aa. I was there."

"I see," she replied softly. "He has a concussion, and we'd like to keep him here for a few days for observation to make sure there are no lasting effects due to the drug he was given." She moved closer to peer sadly into the room over Heero's shoulder. "There... was evidence of forced penetration but... no tearing and minimal bruising. I think you stopped it before... too much harm was done."

"How much is too much?" he murmured, his heart aching as he watched Duo's brow crease in his sleep.

The lady doctor was silent for a long moment before she continued. "There may be a small blessing. Duo doesn't remember much about the incident. The blow to his head, the drug... it's erased his short term memory. In time he may regain those memories but for now, it's a blessing in disguise. He can recover from his physical injuries before he starts working on his mental ones."

"Can I go in and see him?"

"Yes. We've given him a mild sedative, but it should be wearing off soon. It would be good for him to wake up to a familiar face."

"Thanks," he mumbled without looking at her, then pushed open the door and stepped quietly into the room.

He approached the bed and sat down in a chair someone had placed nearby. He reached out and took Duo's hand, folding it in his own, never wanting to let go.

The boy on the bed stirred. Heero held his breath as violet eyes slowly opened to regard him.

"H...Heero?" Duo's voice was cracked and dry.

"I'm here Duo. You're safe."

Duo turned his gaze to the ceiling. Heero squeezed his lover's hand tightly, half afraid Duo was going to shy away from him. Instead, the young man sighed and whispered, "I'm thirsty."

Heero noticed a Tupperware pitcher and a cup sitting on the night stand next to the bed. Reluctantly removing his hand from Duo's, he helped his young lover prop himself up before pouring him some water. Duo drank it down quickly, then handed the cup back to Heero, smiling gratefully at him as he leaned back against the pillows.

"How do you feel, Duo?" Heero asked gently.

"My head feels like a herd of elephants have decided to use it as a soccer field," Duo replied ruefully.

"That would be the concussion." Heero squirmed uncomfortably in his seat before broaching the subject he dreaded to face. "Did the doctors... tell you what happened?"

Duo's smiled faded, his face becoming a stone mask as he looked away. "Yes."

"Do you... remember any of it?"

Liquid violet eyes blinked away tears. "I... remember parts. Not all." A sob burst from his lips as he tried to curl in on himself, away from Heero.

The Japanese detective left his chair to sit on the edge of the bed. As gingerly as possible he gathered Duo's trembling form into his arms, slowly rocking him back and forth, rubbing soothing circles along his back with one hand.

"I'm sorry, Heero. I'm so sorry."

"Shh, Duo. There's nothing to be sorry for."

"But I didn't trust you! I found that knife. I thought... I thought you'd killed her. I ran straight to him. I... let him do things to me. I let him and I... I..."

"Duo, no! You did not let him do anything. He drugged you!" He drew Duo away far enough to look into the boy's eyes. "Don't ever think that you let him do those things to you. He manipulated you. He manipulated both of us. None of this is your fault." He leaned down and kissed Duo on the lips. Hard. "I will never ever blame you for what happened. And you must never blame yourself. Please Duo."

The long-haired teen sniffed and rubbed his eyes. "Do you... do you really mean that?"

"Of course I do." He kissed Duo again. "I love you."

"I love you, too, Heero." He snuggled deeper into Heero's embrace. "Is it really over this time? No more surprises?"

Heero hesitated. "There will be a trial. You may have to testify. But it's over. He won't be able to hurt you anymore. I promise."

Duo sniffed again. "I can't believe Zechs... he was always so nice to me... why, Heero?"

"He fooled us all, Duo. Dammit, I should have suspected something. The night Mueller came to your apartment... Trowa said he'd mentioned knocking one cop downstairs unconscious. We found Zechs's partner knocked out in the patrol car. I found Zechs on the stairs, supposedly unconscious. I even checked his pulse. It was beating fast. Your heart doesn't beat fast when you're unconscious. That should have clued me in. But it didn't. Dammit, if I had just realized that..." It was Heero's turn to turn away, guilty.

"No! Don't Heero!" Duo forced Heero's head around to look at him. "If I'm not allowed to feel guilty, neither are you! Do you understand me?"

Heero gave his lover a small smile. "I don't know if I can but... I'll try."

"Good." Duo laid his head back on Heero's chest and yawned. "I'm still tired. Can I go home yet?"

"Not yet. The doctors want to keep you here for a little while, just to be safe." He half-expected Duo to protest.

"Okay." He reached up and brushed his fingers lightly over the fading bruise on Heero's face. "What about you? You're not hurt are you?"

"No. It's just superficial." Duo yawned again. "Why don't you get some sleep, koi."

"Okay." Duo let Heero help him to lie back on the pillows. Before Heero could slip off the bed, Duo grabbed his hand. "Stay with me?"

"Of course, Duo-love. I'll stay forever."

+

Weeks passed. Fall gave away into a dreary, unusually cold winter. Christmas was fast approaching, and with it, the trial of Milliardo Peacecraft III. Senator Peacecraft called in some favors to get the ball rolling on the trial. No one wanted it to be drawn out for months in court.

Duo became increasingly apprehensive and nervous as the trial date approached, but with Heero's support and the help of a good therapist, he managed to stay mostly calm through the whole thing. Quatre helped too. The young doctor had shown up at their apartment the day after Duo was released from the hospital, crying and begging Duo to forgive him for the angry words he'd said the day Duo moved out. Duo had hugged his friend and told him that there was nothing to forgive. The two made up, which was a relief for Heero. Duo needed all the support he could get.

Father Maxwell and Sister Helen were also there to lend a hand. Duo's guardians took an immediate liking to Heero, which was somewhat of a shock to the Japanese cop. He'd thought for sure the priest and the nun would not approve of his relationship to Duo. But Father Maxwell had taken him aside one day to reassure him that not only did they approve, they were overjoyed Duo had finally found someone that made him happy.

"Love is love," the old man had said. "God made you in His image. And since He does not make mistakes, who and how you love should not be challenged by any man, lest they wish to question the will of God."

Duo was happy to see the two people who had acted as Mother and Father to him for most of his young life. He was overjoyed at their approval, though a little sad when Sister Helen told Duo to stop coming to the orphanage on Saturdays to help, at least until the trial was over. Quatre had said something similar about Duo's job at the clinic. No one wanted to put any extra strain on the young man. Duo pouted for a few days, feeling like he was being treated like a child, but when Heero mentioned that by being given this time off they could spend more time together, Duo's mood brightened considerably.

But things weren't as great as they could have been. Duo had been absolutely skittish about making love since that night on the Epyon. He couldn't remember exactly what had happened, but he remembered enough to make him nervous about sex. Again with both Heero's and the therapist's help, he was getting better, but it was taking a long time. Though Heero knew he could wait forever if needed, Duo blamed himself, and became moody and sullen whenever the topic was brought up.

Thankfully, Duo's visions seemed to have let up as well. He could still tell who was on the phone or at the door, but he'd had no more gut wrenching visions since finding the knife in Heero's desk. Father Maxwell had concluded that the reason Duo had had the first vision of Relena's death was so he could meet Heero. Duo had laughed that theory off, but Heero was grateful to whatever gods had given Duo his gift that it had led to him. He loved the younger man so completely... he wondered how he had lived life without Duo in the first place.

The first day of the trial finally arrived. Zechs pled not guilty to all charges, but Heero assured Duo there was enough evidence to not only convict him, but put him away for a long, long time. They'd found a domestic servant in Senator Peacecraft's home who turned state's evidence in exchange for testifying that Zechs had hired him to poison the old man's food a little each day so that when he died, it would appear to have been by natural causes. But the smoking gun was the minute traces of Relena's blood found in Zechs's car. There was no way Zechs could possible explain that away.

Duo did have to testify, but since he still couldn't remember a lot of what happened that night, the evidence was presented mostly by eyewitness (Heero) and doctor's reports on the young man's injuries. Heero was proud of his little lover. Duo kept his eyes glued on him, never once looking at Zechs. After his testimony was over, he managed to walk calmly out of the courtroom before collapsing into a trembling heap in Heero's arms.

The last day of the proceedings was rainy and gray. Duo sat nervously in the courtroom clutching Heero's hand in a death grip. The jury was out for only two hours. Both young men waited with breathless anticipation as the jury foreman read the verdict. Milliardo Peacecraft, a.k.a. Zechs Merquise was convicted on all charges. The sentencing would take place the following day, but for Heero and Duo, the ordeal was finally over.

Neither Heero nor Duo went to the sentencing. With Senator Peacecraft loudly condemning his grandson, they knew Zechs would receive the maximum sentence - life without parole.

A week after the sentencing, Heero left Duo sleeping in their bed. Treize had called him in early, wanting to talk to him. Heero hoped it wasn't to put him on another case. He'd spent the last few weeks working with prosecutors putting evidence together for the trial. He'd hoped to get some time off, take Duo away from the city for a little while to give them both time to forget what had happened.

His meeting with the Captain didn't last long. Treize informed him that they'd finally found the leak. A secretary thought she could make a few extra dollars by selling details of certain cases to the press. While Heero was glad that little annoyance had been taken care of, he'd been indignant about being called away from his sleeping lover just to hear the news - until Treize told him the real reason he'd wanted Heero to come in.

He left the precinct with a light heart and a smile on his face. He made two stops before rushing home to tell his lover the good news. He was practically bouncing in the elevator as he rode up to the loft apartment. This was just the thing he and Duo needed... and just in time for Christmas.

He opened the door to the loft, his breath catching in his throat as he saw the vision in front of him. Duo stood at one of the picture windows, looking down at the sidewalk, hair unbound and flowing behind him, wearing only one of Heero's long shirts. He didn't think his lover had ever looked more beautiful than he did at that moment. Duo must have heard Heero come in. He turned and gave Heero a sad smile as his lover shut the door behind him.

"Good morning, Heero."

"O...ohayo," the dark-haired man stammered. "I mean, good morning." He lifted the bag in his hand. "I brought breakfast."

"Thanks." Duo wandered over to the kitchen bar, perching delicately on one of the stools. "You weren't here when I woke up."

"Aa. Sorry. Treize called me in."

Duo sighed. "I figured. He's going to put you on another assignment isn't he?"

"No. He gave me two weeks vacation."

Duo's eyes shot up, a hopeful grin spreading across his features. "Really?"

"Yes. And I have another surprise for you." He took an envelope out of the bag and handed it to Duo. "Merry Christmas."

Duo raised an eyebrow and opened the envelope. Opening it, he nearly fell off his stool in shock. "Plane tickets? To Cairns, Australia?" He looked back up at Heero. "Is this... are we really..."

Heero laughed. "Yes, baka. It's summer there. Sun, sand, beaches, ocean." He wrapped his arms around his lover and leaned in for a kiss. "That is... if you want to go."

"Yes! I most definitely want to go!" He kissed Heero in return. "But I don't have a passport."

"Not to worry. Treize knows someone. They'll be ready for us in plenty of time before we leave tomorrow."

Another kiss, this time longer and deeper.

"Tomorrow?"

A kiss, followed by a moan.

"Yes. Is that too soon?"

Duo pressed himself against his lover. "No but," he was interrupted by another kiss. "Do we... oooh... do we have to wait until we get there... to start our vacation?"

Heero pulled away, a questioning look on his face. "Duo, you don't have to..."

"What if I want to?" He took one of Heero's hands and guided it around his waist.

Heero suppressed a groan. "Duo, I..."

"Make love to me, Heero."

Heero swallowed and tried to resist. But one look at those pleading violet eyes and he lost all resolve. "Duo, if you're sure..."

"I'm sure." He stepped out of Heero's embrace and took him by the hand, leading him towards the bed. "Now come on, Heero. Let's celebrate."

~owari

[part 13] [back to Caroline's fic]