Author: pyrzm
see ch. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Broken Warriors + Chapter 6
Adrift

Heero woke up in a small hospital room, an IV of Ringers dripping into his arm. That explained his painfully full bladder. He sat up, looking around for the bathroom. His mouth tasted stale, with a vague chemical tang. The admitting ER physician had ordered some sedative in Spanish and Heero hadn't understood the word in time to refuse it. He wondered why they had thought it necessary.

Where the hell am I?

The bed he was in was comfortable and clean, and he had a view of a park with a lake and some monuments. It appeared to be very early in the morning. A faint pink glow lit the sky beyond the eastern horizon. There were swans on the lake, floating in pairs with their heads still under their wings. Early morning.

There were bars on his windows and an observation porthole in the door. A crucifix hung over the door, and a sign in Spanish.

Madrid. I'm in Madrid.
My name is Heero Yuy and I'm in Madrid.

He was certain that was all true, but he felt very odd, as if reality could slip its frame at any minute. Because-

Because it had, and more than once.

I've been sick. Very sick.

Someone had bathed him while he slept, and he had on clean pajamas. His cheek itched and when he reached to scratch it he discovered he had a beard. He had various patches of rash on his body, too. Some of it appeared to be ringworm. Some sort of antiseptic cream had been applied to these; there was a greasy sheen on his skin and he could smell it. Other patches looked like healed frostbite. His nails were cracked and broken and still far too dirty for his liking. Lifting one foot, he saw with distaste that it was thickly callused and stained. He was very thin. His ribs and hipbones stuck out and his muscles were wasted and slack. Yes, he must have been a vagrant for some time, one of those poor lost souls wandering the streets, eating from dumpsters, living in alleyways--- Memory began to trickle back in little flashes and glimpses. He'd been on the streets, cold and dirty. He'd walked long distances, and stolen rides on transports and been very confused, even afraid sometimes. Then he'd seen something, something that reminded him-

The newspaper. Grasping the IV pole, he wheeled it along with him to the closet next to the tiny bathroom attached to his room. A large plastic bag held his personal effects. Dumping it out, he pushed the smelly rags aside in distaste and found the scrap of newspaper.

Former Gundam Boy Duo Maxwell Hospitalized.

"Duo," he whispered, stroking the words. "Did you get my email, Duo?"

He looked around in frustration. No phone. No computer. The man at the embassy promised he'd be able to check email. He fought down a fresh spike of panic. Someone yesterday had told him Duo was alive. Yes, he was quite certain of that. Unless he'd dreamed it---

He spied a red call button over his bed and pressed it, then made his way into the bathroom. There was no door, and the mirror over the sink was a sheet of polished metal bolted to the wall.

Location confirmed. Pysch ward, he noted with rising unease.

He emptied his bladder, then went to the sink and washed his hands. Examining his face in the mirror, he didn't blame them for committing him. He hardly recognized himself. He was terribly thin, with hollows around his eyes, and under his cheekbones. His dark hair was wild and shaggy. The beard was equally unattractive, thin and patchy and several inches long. Not a military beard, but that of a madman, a vagrant. Looking into his own eyes, he tried to gauge his mental state. They were red rimmed and bloodshot, but his gaze appeared normal. It was his normal expression. Many people thought he was scowling when he looked like that, but it was just the way he looked. All the same, it would be unwise to self diagnose. Still, he felt calm, apart from the slight claustrophobia of knowing he was locked in.

But that beard? He'd been clean-shaven, last he remembered. Or so he thought. What did he remember last?

Not much. His brain felt wrapped in cotton. The sedatives, no doubt. He hated those. He rinsed his mouth with water from the tap, and then wheeled the IV back to the bed. It was bolted down, too, as was the side table. No chair. A cell, perhaps?

He got back in bed and pulled the blankets up. He hoped they'd let him shave. The beard itched and made him feel like someone else. How long would it take to grow a beard like that?

Last thing I remember is---

He seemed to recall sitting in a temple or church of some sort. He closed his eyes and tried to summon visualization. There had been bells-- tinkling softly somewhere nearby, and chanting, and the smell of incense. At the front of the room was-what? A crucifix? No. Something else-a man, seated and a beautiful woman standing on a lotus, pouring something from a jar--- and he'd been holding a knife-

Japan. He'd been in Japan. He'd been in a Buddhist temple at night, holding a knife and a bottle of pills.

'Why there?' he wondered vaguely. 'I'm not religious.'

A knife and a bottle of pills.

He looked down at his wrists. Sure enough, there were long scars on both that hadn't been there before; duel white lines running parallel to the bones and tendons. It appeared he'd cut deep. But apparently not deeply enough to thwart his body's exceptional healing ability. It had been rather a foolish method to use. What had he been thinking? No clue. Move on. What had the pills been? A back up plan? A guarantee? He couldn't recall if he'd taken them or not, or what they'd been. He thought he remembered a label-a prescription? He tried to visualize that, but nothing came.

The door rattled and a woman in the plain grey habit of a nursing sister entered carrying a breakfast tray. She smiled when she saw he was awake. "Oh good, you are up already!" She spoke English, but with a thick Spanish accent. "You must be very hungry."

"Am I being held here?"

"Held? No, Capitan Yuy, you signed yourself in for treatment last night. Your care has been authorized under your Preventers HMO. We were able to find the records and your former employer vouched for you. You do not remember?"

He remembered the long, frustrating search for the embassy-he'd had no money for transportation--and how hard it had been to convince the guards at the gate to let him through. He'd been made to wait on the curb while they consulted with some superior inside. They hadn't believed him when he'd told them who he was. But something had happened to convince them, apparently, because a young man claiming to be the junior ambassador came out personally and interviewed him, relaying his answers to various questions into a mobile phone. He'd already guessed it might be Relena on the other end before the man handed him the phone.

"Heero?" She'd sounded much older than she had two years ago, and her voice trembled with emotion.

"Yes, Relena, it is me."

A gasp. "Say you will kill me."

"Omae o korosu." Heero had glanced at the armed men around him, wondering if any of them spoke Japanese, and what they would make of such a comment. No one seemed concerned.

"Heero! I'll come at once-"

"No, do not do that. The press will follow you. I'm not ready for that yet. Please instruct the people here to not alert them?"

"Oh. Yes, of course." She was disappointed but saw the wisdom in what he said. He did not want to be seen coming back from the dead looking like this.

After that things had moved very quickly. He was sick and it was an effort to stay alert. They'd wanted to take him to the hospital at once. Somehow he'd convinced them to let him send the email to Duo first. He couldn't recall the details, but he remembered shouting at someone at some point.

The nurse pulled a fold-up table out from the frame of his bed and put the tray on it. Pulling a plastic graduated urinal from under the bed, she held it out to him. "If you please, Capitan?"

"I already urinated," Heero informed her, pointing to the bathroom. "It was--a lot."

"Very good. Then you do not need this anymore." She slipped the IV needle from his arm and patted a bandage strip decorated with pandas over the little puncture. "Eat what you can and drink all the water and juice."

Heero ignored the tray. "May I use a computer in here?"

"No, that is against the rules, but perhaps this is what you are looking for?" She pulled some folded papers from the pocket of her skirt and gave them to him. "The junior ambassador himself delivered these while you were sleeping. If you wish to send a reply, arrangement will be made. Ring me if you need anything else. And remember to drink! You were very dehydrated."

"Thank you, Sister. I will. And Sister? I would very much like to shave."

She smiled again. Her face was very kind. "I will make arrangements."

He waited until she was gone, then unfolded the papers. They were email printouts. He read the first header, then had to blink and rub his eyelids before he could continue. Something had blurred the words on the page. It was probably a lingering effect of the damned sedative.

The first read:

To: Guestuser001345@SanqueEmbassy.madrid.gov
From: ShinigamiFlyBoy@privatesky.net
01 September 198
05:17 pm L4 time


Dear Heero:

Duo here. Yes, I am OK! Message received. Sorry for the delay; I don't check my mail very often.

Stay in Madrid. Repeat. Stay in Madrid and let them take care of you. I'm going to call R and 05 right now and see how fast I can get down there. I will call you at the hospital or the embassy. I'll be there ASAP. Stay there!

Love,
Duo

____


Love, Duo. Heero blinked again, then closed his eyes and gripped the windowsill beside him as a wave of dizziness swept over him. Duo was OK. He was on his way.

Taking a deep breath, he read the second email, which, he noted, had followed less than an hour later.

To: Guestuser001345@SanqueEmbassy.madrid.gov
From: ShinigamiFlyBoy@privatesky.net
01 September 198
05:59 pm L4 time

Dear Heero:

Tried to reach you at the hospital but they won't let any calls in to that ward you're in. I have no reply from you and don't know if you'll get this, but my doc is contacting your doc to straighten things out. R is arranging transport. We leave in 1 hr. Should be there for breakfast. Order pancakes for me, ok buddy? ;-) Hang in there. We'll be there soon, I promise!

Love,
Duo
And Trowa, Quatre, and Wuffie.

_____


Heero wiped his eyes again, grinning at the mangling of 05's name. Whatever put Duo in the hospital again, he must have recovered. He sounded the same as ever.

Heero folded the emails and slipped them carefully into the breast pocket of his pajama top, then lifted the covers on the dishes the nurse had brought. No pancakes. Just toast and a bowl of grayish oatmeal. He ate both and drank all the liquids, wondering if the nurse would bring food for his friends. He glanced out the window, wishing he'd asked her what time it was. The sky was brighter now. If it was September in the northern hemisphere, it might not be all that early after all.

He took out the emails and read them again, just to be sure he hadn't missed anything. And just to be sure he hadn't hallucinated them. He had the feeling he'd done that often during the past few months, though the details eluded him.

He hoped Duo had been right about their ETA. He wondered if the nurse would be back in time to shave him before they got here. He didn't like looking this way. He looked like a crazy person. He didn't really feel crazy. He actually felt quite well, considering his physical state.

He read the emails again and decided to keep them out where he could see them.

Love, Duo.

Lots of people signed their letters that way. He tried to remember if Duo had done that when he emailed him during his time with Relena. He couldn't remember. They hadn't had all that much contact then. That was probably his fault. He'd been sick, even in the early days: paranoia, depression, anxiety, the nightmares and sleepwalking. And his body resisting medication as perfectly as it did pain or infection.

Love, Duo. The sight of those two brief words made him feel--odd. Had he ever signed a letter that way himself? He wouldn't say such a thing lightly. He wasn't even certain he was capable of feeling love.

But even as he thought this, he realized he was wrong. He'd been programmed, trained to think like that, but he'd also been programmed not to lie to himself. To say he couldn't feel love for anyone felt like a lie.

Something stirred in the back of his mind, a memory that, though hazy and unformed, made his throat go suddenly tight and his eyes sting. He had said it, or written it sometime. And he'd meant it. But it had hurt.

That didn't make any sense, but the longer he stared at Duo's words, the clearer the sensation became. He felt terribly sad, but that made no sense, either. He was glad Duo and the others were coming here. He wasn't sad now; it was a memory of sadness. The scars on his wrists caught his attention. He must have been very sad to do something like that. Of course, depression was by definition a form of extreme sadness, even if it was simply an imbalance of brain chemicals.

But if an unfocused memory of it made him feel this strongly, it must have seemed quite real at the time.

He would probably need to speak to a professional about this, he decided. He read Duo's emails again. That made him feels a little better. When the sister returned with an orderly carrying scissors and the depilatory cream, Heero even managed a smile.

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