by D.C. Logan
Duo's been watching me. He probably thinks he's being stealthy about it - but I've been keeping an eye on him as well. I haven't decided what I think of him yet. I've got a few opinions started, but he's a puzzle: shoots me, rescues me, and now he's following me from school to school. That competitive aspect is easy to understand, it's a common trait in all soldiers and pilots - and part of what makes us the fighters we are.
I'm better than he is, that goes without saying, but he has a certain talent with that suit he pilots. Together they are an interesting combination - it's difficult for me to tell where the specifications of the suit and the combat skills of the pilot match and overtake or compensate for each other. That's interesting, and makes me want to know more about how he learned to handle his suit, who developed it, and who trained him in its use. And that's enough of a reason to not work too hard at losing him when I transfer to the next mission location. Better to know where he is, rather than have him turn up unexpectedly. I've no doubt he would, he has a talent for that as well.
...Then there is the other puzzle that is Duo Maxwell - why does he feel the need to touch me? - on the basketball court, when walking to class... And why don't I discourage him? That last part bothers me more than the rest in some ways, and it's a question more for myself. I've never known someone my own age before - not that had so much in common with me anyway; weapons, terrorism, piloting a suit - and a Gundam no less. Perhaps it's as simple as that... but then there was that time I saw him in the dorm shower at that last school... and I didn't react as I would have suspected, or even as I should have, or had in the past. Which still troubles me.
I'd seen my classmates unclothed and showering before. It was difficult to avoid really - the bathroom had individual cubicles for each showering station, but it was inconvenient to have toweling and clothes within reach of these stalls as they were doorless and the spray reached out into the walkway. Towels remained in the locker area, and students walked unselfconsciously from locker to shower and back again. And nobody else does comfortable nudity like Duo; he must have trained for it - the ease he has in walking around in skin as if fully and decently clothed.
He was always there when I was, almost as if he waited for me to make my daily trek to the end of the hall before dashing to use the same facilities. I believe that he was looking at me, and looking for opportunities to view more than I usually left exposed.
There was one time, when I saw him, and him unaware of me. Showering under the hot water - hot enough to steam in the cool room - and enough steam to conceal my presence from him. It was fascinating. My first view of him with his hair down - shampooed and rinsed, he had it slicked back from his face and hanging in wet strands down his back. He looked years younger with his hair missing from his face, and I wondered how young he could possibly be and still be capable of the tactics and skills he possessed. That thought drifted, to be replaced by something completely unexpected - he was lovely. Nearly beautiful. And I felt instant shame at the thought. What the *hell* was I thinking - directing such thoughts at a fellow pilot? But neither could I take my eyes off of him.
And then there was that night. The one after we destroyed the OZ suit factory, and arrived back at the dorm at the same time, something that hadn't happened before in the raids and attacks we'd run together. We showered in the same room, at the same time, and I'd become quite expert at ignoring all the little sounds and splashes he made; struggled to not imagine what he must have done to make that noise - and fought the strong urge to match each sound or splash with every possible action.
But this time, the regular sounds of Duo showering were broken by a new addition to the pattern - his voice. It came over the solid partition, more tired than I'd ever heard it, and echoed strangely in the confines of the wet tile room, "Heero?"
I thought carefully before answering, but there was no sense in ignoring him. One thing about Duo that I'd learned the hard way - he was damned persistent. "Yes?"
"Can you help me check something?" Gone was the usual teasing tone and mocking attitude, which told me he was, for once, serious.
"The water's not running clear, but I can't see where I'm bleeding. Can you come check?"
I didn't answer, but ducked my head under the stream of water one last time to clear my head, and shut the taps after shaking the water free from my hair. Then I braced myself, and schooled my mind to safe, neutral, non-Duo thoughts and ducked around the divider to where he stood, standing wetly under the shower, facing me. He looked tired, and the change in his demeanor affected me strangely, but I couldn't categorize the emotion I felt. I looked down at his feet, and the water was tinged pink with blood between them before filtering down the communal drain.
"Turn around," I said.
That he did so without complaint or shift of expression concerned me. That's what it was, just concern over a fellow pilot's well-being and combat readiness. That's what I told myself, and my body and mind listened, mostly. Duo turned, and swept his long expanse of hair to the side as he did so.
Along his spine, where the nerves weren't as sensitive, he had a long, narrow cut. It was bleeding sluggishly and didn't look even marginally serious, but I needed to take a closer look. I touched his shoulder, shifting his responsive body to take advantage of the available light. The touch, and his immediate response, wakened something in me better left undisturbed - and I tamped my reaction down with force and resolve. Later. I could deal with that later.
I leaned in to examine the cut. Another error on my part. The hot water intensified the scent of him, the wet heat of him. This was more than comrade-to-comrade respect. No other person - of either sex - had ever made me react like this. My senses went into immediate overload, skin, scent, sight - and I ached to taste. But now was definitely NOT the time to deal with those emotions, those that my physical reaction could no longer hide.
"It needs stitching, at least at the top of the cut where it's wider - five maybe." Duo shrugged in answer, and I watched the wound gape and upped my estimation to six. "Come to my room after you get dressed and I'll suture it."
He had turned his head then, curious and a bit surprised I think - both that I had the skill and that I was willing to doctor him when I hadn't offered any favors, no matter how small, that weren't a repayment for an existing debt. He nodded and turned away, reaching down for his soap and shampoo. But I noticed him. Even under these circumstances, in this space, after what we'd been through over the past few hours, my simple touch had had elicited the same reaction in him as me. I left him to his shower and rushed through the toweling and dressing, needing however many or few extra minutes I could muster to regain my senses before my patient arrived.
The knock on the door came sooner than expected, no, not really - just sooner than I was prepared to deal with. Duo stood wrapped in a tattered robe and a sodden towel in the hall, dripping on the institutional tile floor. Pink drips. I sighed to myself; Duo was apparently beyond noticing.
I waved him into my room, and sat him at my desk-and took the towel from his shoulders. Which earned me a puzzled look. "You left a blood trail from the shower to my room," I had to explain.
I looked at him again. He looked tired. He hadn't lost *that* much blood - unless he was bleeding internally. But he looked fine otherwise. Deciding that I'd rather have him passed out on my bed instead of the floor by my desk, I told him where to lie down and left the room. The need to cover the evidence in the hall was too strong to be ignored.
By the time I returned (he'd left a trail of pale pink droplets along his entire path, and a few red ones in the locker room as well), he seemed to be feeling better. But he hadn't followed my order to lie facedown on my bed - instead he was sitting on the edge and looking at the louvers on the closet door. At my look, he turned a wondering expression my way, "Never saw it from this side before." And then, after that cryptic comment, he stripped off his robe, and stretched out on my bed, burying his face deeply in my pillow. My first concern was that he wouldn't be able to breathe that way. Which was quickly replaced by my second, and more significant concern.
He hadn't bothered to get dressed, other than the robe anyway, which he wasn't wearing any longer... And he was stretched out on my bed. And all those strange emotions and questionable ethics swirled around in my head at the sight of him.
Later. I could think about that later. Just pretend it's someone else. Right.
I moved the light on the end table to the corner of the stand and directed its light onto Duo's back. No, the 'patient's back', yes, that was better. Sutures were a better choice than staples I determined, and readied my tools. Duo turned to look at me as I picked up the first suture needle. "No anesthetic?" he said, with some reservation.
"Didn't think you needed one for six stitches." At which he shrugged and turned his head back into the center of my pillow and inhaled deeply before relaxing the muscles in his back. Even through the dry plastic insulation of my gloves I could feel the supple heat of Duo's body. No, my patient. There was a twitch as the needle pierced the skin once, twice, then I drew the edges together and tied a blood knot and cut the line, and repeated the process again, and five more times. I moved in to inspect my work and determine if another stitch was necessary, but Duo raised himself onto his elbows, disturbing my inspection - in more ways than one.
"That's seven, when you promised six." He sounded frustrated and tired. "I need to get some sleep if I'm going to make it to classes tomorrow."
I didn't respond to that. He was right and the remark didn't require an answer. I got awkwardly to my feet and moved away from his disturbing presence. But I couldn't hide my arousal. But if he noticed, for once he was polite enough not to comment.
He got off the other side of the bed and snagged his robe from the floor, tossing it over his shoulders - not even reacting when it rested against his new needlework. Impressive. And then I saw the erection he was trying to hide from my view. Very impressive indeed.
But now was certainly not the time to explore such emotions and reactions. That could wait.
Duo half turned to me on his way to the door, awkwardly holding the edges of his robe together. "Thanks Heero. I owe you one."
And then he was gone, and I was at last alone with my thoughts. Very complex thoughts, very illogical thoughts. Complex and illogical.
Well, that was as good a description of Duo as any I suppose...