"Duo, what are you doing?"

If Duo had to pinpoint the exact moment when it all began to spiral down, this would be it. Heero had paused what he was doing and turned his sharp glare towards the camera phone Duo had been holding up in front of his face, taking a picture of the ex-Wing ZERO pilot while he browsed through a small clothes store. Heero's grim expression and dark good looks were in a stark contrast to the colorful and bright surrounding, which enticed the hidden artist in him to commemorate the moment by snapping a quick picture before Heero noticed. Which he had.

Duo grinned behind his smartphone. "Documenting history," he had replied jokingly, smiling proudly like he had just told the wittiest joke. It was kind of clever, actually, considering that only a month ago they had ended what could have developed into another war between Earth and the Colonies – a remarkable historical event indeed, but not quite as noteworthy as taking Heero out shopping for new clothes.

"Ch," Heero had uttered dismissively and returned his attention to the white T-shirt he was holding up with both hands. He eyed the cartoon image at its center with obvious dismay before folding it back neatly and placing it on the shelf in front of him. He turned to examine another brand of T-shirts. Duo kept recording the whole thing, which made Heero visibly self-conscious. His rigid posture seemed unusually calcified, if slightly wary – far from the graceful, almost feline way in which Heero usually carried himself. He moved slowly from shelf to shelf and kept sending quick side-glances at the camera. Duo didn't care. The two of them were finally doing something normal, and by God he was going to document the whole damn thing!

However, Normal, as he would soon find out, was the greatest enemy of all. They had scouted a whole line of shops in a bustling Brussels boulevard before Heero finally found a few articles of clothing he deemed acceptable. And when they passed by a hair salon on their way back to the hotel, Duo suddenly suggested they should go in and get Heero a proper haircut.

"No," Heero had said, firmly. But Duo wouldn't take "no" for an answer, flipping Heero's long bangs out of his eyes to make his point. Heero needed a haircut. A normal one, and not just some hasty self-administered snipping in-between mission. And in they went.

And that was when shit had hit the fan. Their trip to the barbershop had ended with a severe PTSD episode on Heero's part, an injured barber and a police escort to the nearest psych-ward. Heero was admitted, sedated and restrained to a bed due to his violent assault. Duo stayed by his side, trying to offer some reassurance. When Heero was lucid again, he told him what happened, how he ad flipped out in the salon and assaulted the barber with his own pair of scissors. "It was quite a spectacle," he joked miserably.

Heero took in the news quietly, his gaze cast down in shame. "I'm sorry," he whispered, ashamed. "I tried."

"I know you did," Duo sighed softly. "I was pushing you too hard. I'm sorry."

Heero looked up, uncertainty shining in his eyes. "What happens now?" He asked slowly, testing the soft medical cuffs chaining his hands to the bed.

"The dude pressed charges," Duo sighed, tired. "I'mma get you a lawyer, don't worry. We'll sort this thing out quickly. I promise."

Heero nodded slowly, turning to face the other way. His fists clenched inside the cuffs.

"They, uh... they want to have a doctor examine you... a shrink," Duo told him carefully. Heero's head snapped back in his direction, eyes wide. "No," he let out, alarmed. "No doctors. No shrinks."

"It's just a quick check up," Duo hurried to assure him. "It might even help your case."

Heero opened his mouth to protest, but Duo cut in before he did: "It's gonna be okay, Heero. I promise. I'll take care of it. Just hang on a little longer. I'll get you outta here."

Heero hesitated, but then nodded. His hands twitched in the bonds. He was in distress, Duo could tell, but he was trying to contain it.

"I'm so sorry things turned out this way..." He apologized, heaving the word out with a troubled sigh. He reached to brush a lock of long hair out of Heero's eyes. Heero visibly flinched at his touch. Duo jerked his hand back, bowing his head sadly. "Sorry," he mumbled. "I, uh... I'm sorry."

Heero closed his eyes and shook his head weakly. "It's all right," he mumbled, turning to face the wall again. "Don't worry about it." He flexed his fists inside the padded cuffs, clenching and unclenching his hand agitatedly. Duo noted the anxious movement. Heero could tear through those bonds if he wanted, but he knew that he wouldn't. He would bear the distress silently.

"Promise me you won't do anything rash," he implored Heero nonetheless. "We're gonna do this the normal way, okay? I'mma get you outta here in no time, but we gotta do it the right... legal... way."

Heero nodded dismissively, his eyes closed.

"I'll see you tomorrow, okay? Talk to the doctor. Explain your side of things. Then they'll set the bail and I'll get you out, okay?"

Heero remained silent, eyes closed. His fists were clenched tightly.

Duo hesitated, eyeing Heero worriedly, before leaving the room.

He arrived the next day, hoping to get Heero out, but then the doctors told him that Heero had a bad episode during the night and totally lost it. They had to sedate him. Duo rushed in to see him and found Heero tied to the bed, his ankles also restrained this time. His face was haggard, his hair wild. He looked like a madman - his eyes glazed over, drugged.

"Oh, Heero..." Duo whispered mournfully and walked over to the bed, taking Heero's restrained hand in his gently. He studied the padded cuffs around Heero's wrist and his gut twisted painfully. It was the restraints. Heero was having a bad reaction to the restraints, which triggered another acute PTSD episode.

How the hell did this happen? He wondered. All he wanted to do was take Heero out to get some clothes and a haircut... totally normal. And now this.

Heero turned his head sluggishly towards Duo. He blinked, like he was trying to see him better. "D-Duo..?" he asked weakly, his voice childlike and confused.

Duo did his best to smile, but it came out too sad. "Yeah, buddy. It's me."

"I... I... I screwed up... again..." Heero murmured miserably, almost wailing the words out. "I... I... I got... confused..."

"I know, Heero. It's okay." Duo tried to reassure him, brushing the hair out of Heero's eyes. All he wanted was for Heero to get a haircut...

"They... they gave me... something. I... I can't... tell..." His voice trailed off tiredly. He closed his puffy eyes and licked his chapped lips slowly. "They're... confusing... me..."

Duo grimaced at the pain in Heero's voice. He never heard him so... broken. "They just wanna make sure you're okay. They wanna help, get you better, so you can get out of here."

Heero opened his eyes and turned to look at Duo with big blues. "...When?"

Duo tried not to wince as he told a lie: "Soon. I'mma get you out of here, Heero. I promise. Just a while longer."

"I want out... now."

"I know, Heero. But it's... it's complicated, you see. Things are different now. We... we gotta follow the rules, okay? But don't worry. I'll get you out. I have a lawyer and everything. We can do this. Just... just hold on a bit longer."

Heero closed his eyes again and turned to other way, nodding his head helplessly.

Duo stayed with him for a while, holding his hand while he slept.

He wanted to stay the night. He wanted to stay with Heero, to keep him safe. Keep him sane. But the doctors wouldn't let him. They promised to update him if anything happened. He slept in his car out in the parking lot, ready to run inside in case they called. The call came in at 4:30 in the morning. Heero was having another episode. He got violent, tore away from his cuffs and broke out of the room. He was holding a nurse hostage with a knife to her throat, demanding that they let him out.

In the end, Heero was locked up in the looney bin, drugged and restrained. It was the last straw. Duo decided to break him out. Fuck the rules.

"D-Duo..?" Heero whispered in the dark when he came for him, straining to see under the faint moonlight. "Are you... real?"

"Sure am," he smiled at Heero. "And I'm getting you outta here. This time, we're doing this my way." He helped Heero up to his feet. The sedation made him sluggish and slow.

"N-no more... haircuts..?" Heero turned to him, confused.

Duo chuckled. "No, Heero. No more haircuts. You can grow your hair as long as you like. I'll even braid it for you."

Heero scoffed in amusement, smiling weakly. Duo smiled back and they slipped out into the night, never to be seen again.