Disclaimer: I don't own Gundam Wing or its characters.

Pairing: 1+2/2+1
Rating: PG
Warnings: Erm….not really?

A/N: *stumbles out of lurkdom* I wasn't planning to write this. I'm supposed to be working on other things *hides from Ryouga Nee-chan* but Heero-Muse is a persistent little bastard when he wants to be. I've learnt not to argue when he demands something be written. If if he is rather random with his subject choices ^_^;;

Summary: An piece of Duo's school work tugs Heero into the right direction.

by DSM - The Violet Eyed Devil

Contrary to popular belief, Duo isn't a bad student. He doesn't act out in class solely for a desire to be the centre of attention. He doesn't attack teachers with his arsenal of smart arsed comments and witty dialogue…at least not at every given opportunity. He doesn't forgo homework to attend party after party like the wild social butterfly people seem to believe he is.

I can't remember the last time Duo actually attended a party.

In fact, despite a personality that would sometimes speak differently, Duo is an outstanding student. He throws himself entirely into any and every project the teachers assign to us and though he seems to do the main bulk of his work a lot later than all the other students, Duo's assignments are always clearly thought out and exemplify just how highly intelligent he really is. It is more common to find him in my dorm room at night, sprawled on my bed and surrounded by text books than it is to find him dancing the night away at some teenage rave. He sits and studies on my bed while I type and study at my desk, a routine that began when we first found ourselves taking refuge in the same boarding school at the start of the war. Joint rooms, separate rooms it doesn't matter.

It's because of this that I see Duo in an entire different light than most of our fellow students.

Perhaps it's his sheer vibrancy that misleads people. Maybe it's his habit for allowing every seemingly inconsequential happening to capture his full attention and when Duo gives something his full attention it is quite possible to lose any contact with him until he surfaces for air. Some mistake this for carelessness, an easy going nature that paints Duo as some one with a non-existent attention span. Others see it as laziness and climb new heights to capture Duo's attention. If it wasn't for the workload Duo consistently stays on top off, teachers would consider him a disaster waiting to happen. It takes any teacher one look at his energy and they've labelled him a handful. One moment at the receiving end of a smart mouthed comment and they've decided he's a trouble maker.

It takes no longer than a handful of lessons for them to realise he can't be quite so easily classified.

It takes no longer than a week…given he has the chance to remain in the school for so long…for the teachers to realise that Duo will more than likely be one of their brightest and best students.

Which is why I am sitting here, staring at a recently slammed classroom door, and wondering what went so terribly wrong with our recently graded assignment that caused the violent exit Duo just made from the room.

Once the teacher regains her ability to speak, she continues on with the class but I pay no attention to the scratching chalk across the blackboard and continue to stare at the closed door. Her voice is a slightly annoying hum in the background as I fight the urge to chase after my partner…my friend…and find out what rattled him so thoroughly. I am well aware of the darker side to Duo's personality. It is impossible to fight a war along side another and not see deeper into their soul than others, even if that soul is safeguarded against any prying eyes. I have witnessed Duo's spectacular temper on many occasion but never in the presence of any one other than myself, our comrades and our enemies. But at the sight of his kaleidoscope eyes narrowing and burning with that eternal flame, I knew that something about the paper before him bothered Duo. The moment he slammed his hands down on the desk, screwed his graded paper in to the tightest ball I have seen and stalked out of class, pausing only to toss his paper in the wastebasket and slam the door behind him, I knew that something was horribly wrong.

I glance down at my own marked paper, the neatly printed A minus staring back at me in cheerful gold ink. Mrs McIntire insists on marking each of our papers in various bold and shiny pens rather than the usual red or black ink most of my other teachers use and I have yet to determine why. My own mark surprises me very little. I vary rarely receive below A grades in my classes with the exception of history (which I find mind numbingly boring) and art (because I am highly unskilled in the area as much as I hate admit it) and a simple English paper on a topic of ‘high importance to us as individuals' hardly requires a great deal of strenuous thinking.

I wrote on Peace.

Hardly a surprising fact I'm sure.

But now, as I glance down at my paper and the usual comments of “well written” and “a nicely constructed argument…if not a little unconventional” I can't help but look towards the wastebasket sitting innocently unaware in the corner and wonder just what Duo discussed for his topic and why whatever mark or comments the teacher has written sent Duo storming from the room and disappearing off into the bowels of the school.

McIntire's voice is progressing from mildly annoying hum to irritating drone and any attempt to take notes or pay attention is thwarted by the mere existence of a crumpled piece of paper sitting in a wastebasket just in my line of sight. I can't concentrate in the slightest and it both amuses and irritates me when I realise that even without his presence in the room, Duo is distracting.

I glance at the clock. There is far too much time left in this class for my liking and if I wasn't concerned about jeopardising my cover, I would reach into that wastebasket, retrieve the assignment and sate my curiosity.

Class is moving at a snail pace and I have learned more about the surface of that wastebasket, its dents, its stains, its slightly visible contents than I have about whatever long dead author McIntire has seen fit to ramble on about in that uninteresting tone of voice she adopts when she lecturers. She is glancing at me, every so often, from the corner of her eye with a mildly irritated glare and I pretend to listen to her while continuing my contemplation of all thing wastebasket, assignment and Duo.

The bell surprises me even though I am anticipating it and I am at the wastebasket as soon as I have retrieved more books and the last dregs of students trickle out from the classroom.

The paper, is thankfully, laying on the top of the rubbish. Although I have done my fair share of ‘dumpster diving' as Duo has so aptly named it, I have no desire to waste time digging through other people's rubbish when I don't particularly have to. Not even to satisfy a healthy dose of morbid curiosity.

Mrs McIntire casts me a irritated glance as she tidies her books and materials and looks pointedly at the now opened door.

“Mr. Yuy. If you have quite finished rummaging through the trash would you please go to your next class?”

I grunt an affirmative in her vague direction and smoothing out the crumpled pages in my hand, pocket Duo's assignment and head out into the hall. It is only when I am free from the crowded hallways and out into the open air that I dare to pull the pieces of paper from my pocket and end this bizarre little mystery.

It is the bold ‘D' staring up in me in blood red that first captures my attention. In all my time acquainted with Duo, I have never known him to receive a mark lower than a B and that in itself is rather rare. His grades remain consistently high, just as my own and to see the evidence of anything different makes my curiosity grow rather than ebb.

It is the title that next captures my attention and suddenly the picture is becoming a great deal more clearer.

Duo wrote his paper on Death.

Duo's life experiences with the Death now so intrinsically intertwined with his very being are displayed on this page in my hand for all to see. Hidden, concealed but still very real. McIntire's comments range from the benign “An interesting topic” to the downright intrusive “Perhaps you should consider seeing the school Councillor”.

In our business, I wouldn't be surprise if we were all diagnosed as certifiably insane.

I finish reading the paper and suddenly my feet are taking me to the only place I know that Duo runs and hides before my head has consciously given them the command to move. I am striding double time towards the dormitories with tendrils of concern wisping around my mind and all I know is some innate need to be certain that Duo is safe from harm…even if at the moment the harm my mind is comprehending may be himself.

Duo, like with everything he does, poured his very heart and soul into that paper. Something tugs at my heart…a heart many deny existence…at the thought of the pain of revealing your soul on paper only to have someone who's opinion shouldn't really matter grade it as lacking.

Duo's soul is far from lacking.

After returning the paper to my pocket, I enter Duo's room without knocking. It is swallowed in darkness, the curtains drawn and the lights off. I can see a huddled form cocooned within the many blankets on Duo's bed and hear the rugged breathing of someone fighting off tears.

Duo never cries…but that doesn't mean he has never wanted to.

I am at the bedside in an instant and reaching to pull the blankets from his body when his voice, muffled from within his haven, drifts up from the bed.

“Go away, Heero.”

I contemplate his request. I could leave, let Duo wallow in misery and wait until he feels ready to talk only I know that as much as Duo's mouth is quite happy to run away without his brain at times, the boy can be stubbornly secretive about his personal issues. The very likelihood of Duo coming to me to share his problems is the same very likelihood I'd let anyone else near my Gundam. The other option is to ignore any protest and refuse to leave his presence until I have the information I came for and risk losing the semblance of Duo's trust I have somehow managed to gain.

“Heero. I said…go away.”

I pause, fighting the urge to pull away those blankets just to reveal the boy underneath. Fighting the urge to see Duo just to satisfy my need to make sure he is safe. But logic determines that I should honor Duo's request and my feet now in tune with my brain begin to lead me toward the door.

My shirt meets some resistance.

I turn and see a pale hand, bright in this darkness, holding onto the edge of my shirt and I wonder if Duo is even aware that he has prevented my leaving when he explicitly requested it. I turn to leave again when a tug, more forceful than the first has me turning back to the figure on the bed. A dishevelled head of chestnut hair is visible now as well a two violet eyes, sparkling unnaturally in the non existent light. I cock a eyebrow in question and am met with silence.

And another tug on my shirt.

I fulfil the unspoken request and not bothering to ponder the contradictory nature of my friend, settle next to him on the bed. We stay in silence, Duo still mostly buried under the blankets, back towards me and I half falling from my perch on the bed beside him.

“Her opinion shouldn't matter.” I break the silence.

“I know.”

“Then why does it?”

“I don't know.”

I reach, with a little difficulty into my pocket and reach over him to place the assignment on the bed in the curve Duo's huddled form creates. The rustle of the pages captures his attention and he plucks them from the bed, turning towards me, placing the pages on my lap.

“Why do you have this?”

My eyes have fully adjusted to the darkness now and I can clearly see the lines of his face as he looks at me with eyes filled with emotions I'd take a lifetime to fully decipher. The look in those eyes tugs at something within my stomach and it clenches painfully in response.

My hand moves without command.

Duo's eyes widen a little at the unexpected contact and I wonder at the smoothness of his skin, the softness to the tendrils of hair escaping his braid. His own hand reaches from within the confines of the blankets to reach up and cover the one now resting over his assignment.

“Why, Heero? Why did you get this from the trash?”

“Because someone's soul is far too precious to throw away.”

The wonder, the absolute bittersweet awe I see shining on Duo's face and the lone tear that manages to escape from ironclad barriers tugs at my heart and my body reacts without thought to tug his own into my arms. He reaches up to harshly swipe the tear from his eyes and after a moment where he feels like lead in my embrace he relaxes and allows this rare moment of comfort I am offering.

And then he's letting me past the barriers he's so carefully constructed and the floodgates are wide open and pouring free. He speaks of his childhood in school and the intense desire just to prove that he wasn't the street trash people only ever saw him as. The desire to learn that burnt so brightly within him and the hurt and the frustration when all anyone ever saw was a boy from the orphanage. A boy they said smelt like a sewer.

I can hardly comprehend Duo ever smelling as distasteful as a sewer. Not when I am resting my nose against his hair and it smells so sweetly of vanilla and musk and Duo.

I understand now why Duo throws himself so completely into his schoolwork and why nothing less than top marks will suffice. I understand his thirst for knowledge and his desire to be popular and accepted when I myself haven't cared ether way what our fellow classmates have thought of me one way or the other.

No one's opinion has truly mattered to me. I do my job, I complete my mission and I follow my orders. With that I have always been content.

It's different now, I realise, staring down at Duo as he settles into silence his hand still resting over mine, the other once again holding onto my shirt. Looking at him like this, curled in my arms and out from behind that wall he's forever hiding behind, that feeling in my stomach and my heart finally tugs something in my mind and my own wall crumbles under the force of that single pull.

I understand now.

I tug on his braid, where my free hand has crept without my knowing, and I press my lips to his hair. I don't have time to worry about my actions because Duo is gazing at me with the most achingly beautiful smile I have ever had the privilege to witness and his hand has left mine to pull my face down to his.

And as his lips meet mine, I feel them tug into a smile.


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