Disclaimer: I do not own nor profit from these characters nor my stories.

Warnings: mild language

Synopsis: Duo gets into trouble in a highly regimented school and it's up to the other pilots to rescue him.

The School from Hell - Part 1
Duo's Friendship Arc 7
by Dyna Dee

Heero reached out to grab hold of the long brown braid that belonged to the boy in front of him. He growled in frustration as he missed by a fraction of an inch as Duo took two giant leaps ahead in preparation of launching himself up and off the linoleum covered floor to tap the metal light fixture with his finger tips, sending it swinging in the air. This one was the third in a row down the long school corridor now filled with military-style uniformed male students shuffling to their next class.

There was something definitely disturbing about the atmosphere in this private school, Heero thought, and not for the first time. Of all the schools he'd been in, this was the only one in which the transfer between classes was eerily quiet. The shuffle of bodies seemed to be the main source of any sound and an occasional low murmur of whispering.

Duo turned to give him a silly grin at his latest accomplishment. Shooting him a warning look that was, as usual, ignored, the American turned to leap for the next hanging light, not content with the three swinging in an off rhythm behind them.

This time, Heero was successful in gabbing hold of the braid. "Stop it." he hissed as he drew the unhappy boy forcefully back to his side.

"Geeze Heero, let go." Duo complained reaching both hands back to hold the top of the braid to ease the pain his friend was inflicting. "Why do you have to spoil my fun?" he asked with a frown as Heero let up a bit on his grip, yet kept the braid in hand.

"You're drawing attention to yourself, baka." Heero replied in a low monotone voice.

"I am what I am, and that's all that I am." Duo snickered at the old cartoon saying. He sobered for a moment and kept his voice low. "Man Heero, this is the dullest place I've ever been. These guys," he motioned to the silent students passing them by with expressions of curiosity and fear on their faces, "are like zombies."

"Something's not right here." Heero murmured cautiously as they began walking again.

"You've got that right, Mr. Obvious." the other replied rolling his eyes. He grunted as Heero elbowed him in the side. "Ow!" he complained rubbing at it the sore spot, but followed Heero's head gesture and looked ahead. Not ten feet away was Ms. Haversand, the school's director. She stood glaring at the both of them through her thick, round glasses. Just looking at her, his memory was refreshed. Duo remembered that he'd disliked her from the moment he'd met her. Yesterday, when he had first entered the school, he'd had to stand at attention for a full half hour as she sternly lectured him on the rules and regulations at Briddlewood Academy, and in no uncertain terms, spoke her negative opinions about the unusual length of his hair. Today, just the same as yesterday, she wore a female version of the school uniform. A black, military-style jacket, complete with epaulets, white collar button-down shirt with a black tie, black shoes and stockings, and she wore a straight fitted skirt in deference to the black, pleated pants the boys and male teachers wore.

As they neared the stern, staring woman, she called out in a sharp voice that echoed in the near silent hallway. "Mr. Wells."

Both boys stopped short, having heard the pseudo name Duo was using.

"Consider this a warning for inappropriate behavior."

"Mam?" he asked puzzled.

"The lights." her eyes looked up and behind him, down the corridor.

Duo followed her gaze to see the lights behind him still in motion. "I'm sorry mam." he tried to look and sound contrite.

"The rules of conduct are strictly enforced here at Briddlewood." She began in her superior, nasal tone. "If you have difficulty obeying our rules, you will, indeed, have a hard time here. Discipline must be maintained."

"Yes, mam." he lowered his eyes and hoped his tone was properly humble.

She lowered her head and peered at him from over the top rim of her glasses. "I can tell you are a trouble maker, Mr. Wells. But never fear, we will train you, forge you into a man of honor and principle. That's what your parents sent you here for, is it not?"

Duo looked up at her through the long strands of hair that covered his forehead and raised his eyebrows dubiously, but in seeing the stern look on her face, he merely nodded.

She snorted through her nose. "Go to class now, but remember, I will be watching you."

Duo felt his arm being pulled by Heero down the corridor towards their next class. Once they were a safe distance away, he turned to make sure she still stood in the same spot. She was, and her piercing eyes were still watching him. Duo turned to his companion and whispered. "What a battle axe."

"Humph." the other replied as they reached Duo's class.

"Behave." Heero commanded in a low tone.

Without a doubt the Deathscythe pilot knew that it was an order. He nodded in reply.

"Keep an eye our for Wufei." Heero drew close to whisper quietly to him. "He should arrive today."

"Hurry Max, you'll be late." a boy said as he hurriedly brushed by the two as he entered the classroom.

"Thanks Kyle." Duo nodded to the friendly boy he had met yesterday in class. They'd only had the opportunity to exchange a few words, but Kyle seemed like a nice guy.

"Go!" Heero gave him a shove inside the door.

"Okay, okay." Duo said unhappily as he entered the brightly lit room and moved to his assigned desk in the front row. He really hated this school and this was only his second day.

Lunchtime was his favorite time of day. Well, it tied with the other meals and bedtime for that honor. He moved quickly through the busy corridor to the cafeteria. Hunger was a great motivator, plus, he always looked forward to being with his friends. The line was still short, so before long he had his food and turned to take the filled tray to the table where the other three pilots sat.

Greeting the others, he sat down next to Heero and across from Quatre and Trowa. After taking a few bits of the main dish, some kind of beef and gravy over mashed potatoes, he looked up questioningly at the blonde across from him. Something was definitely up with the small Arabian. Quatre was bothered by something. He had been quiet and withdrawn since his arrival yesterday, and his eyebrows were drawn together.

"Something the matter Q-man?" he asked simply and looked directly into the blue/green eyes that were shrouded with concern.

Quatre leaned forward and whispered so only the other three could hear. "Something is very wrong here." he began. "This room is full of suppressed......." he paused to come up with the right word for the feeling he was receiving from the other students. "fear." he finished.

Duo nodded. Something wasn't right, and Quatre voicing his concern validated what he and Heero had felt earlier. The blonde, whose uncanny ability to sense emotions and pain from others had been a valuable asset to the team, and they'd all learned to trust it. "Have you been able to talk to anyone yet, find out why?"

"I have tried," Quatre answered. "but no one will talk openly with me. This is the most suppressed school environment I have ever been in." He and Duo both let their eyes wander over the full and eerily quiet cafeteria. The principle sound in the room was that of metal forks tapping on the metal trays. A few whispered voices added to the sound, but only slightly.

Heero leaned closer to them having listened to their quiet comments. "Don't concern yourselves with it. We can't be distracted away from why we're here." He whispered as his eyes scanned the area around the, to make sure no one could over hear him. "Our mission is the destruction of the base, not the atmosphere of a school."

"How long do we have to stay here?" Duo asked quietly, his face reflected his concern. He was finding the rules of the school and oppressive atmosphere too constricting for his high level of energy and buoyant personality.

"Hopefully, no more than two weeks." Heero answered.

Just then, the American felt the hair rise on the back of his neck and he turned to see Ms. Haversand staring at him again from across the room.

"Man, she must have radar." he complained unhappily. "She zeros in on me every time." He turned around and absently took another bite of his food.

"Maybe Ms. Haversand is related to Relena." Quatre said with a crooked smile.

Heero snorted in reply, then turned to Duo. "You make yourself a target by your actions and inability to become compatible with your environment."

"And you're impossible to miss." Trowa put in his two cents. "You stand out in a crowd."

"I am not cutting my hair, so lets not get into that argument again." Duo replied hotly defensive, his voice rising slightly. The group had approached him several times suggesting he would blend in with a crowd better if he cut his hair. It made him too unique and identifiable they argued. He stood firm. His braid was his past, his memorial to those lost, and a reminder of why he fought for the colonies. He would not cut it. Period!

Trowa held up his hands. "Okay, I'm sorry! I was just saying you stand out, not insinuating anything."

Duo huffed, looking unhappy and pulled his braid over his shoulder to stroke it comfortingly.

Heero rolled his eyes. As he looked up, he caught sight of the last member of the team. "He's here." The other three at the table turned to look in the same direction. Wufei had arrived. He was in his uniform and being led by the school secretary to Ms. Haversand. She looked him up and down cooly, and motioned for him to get into the line for lunch.

"He must have had the rules lecture already." Duo commented as a shiver of distaste rippled through him as he was reminded of his own experience. He'd never heard so many restricting rules.

"Each of you appear to casually meet and befriend him. Standard procedure." Heero directed. "We'll have a meeting in our room at 1200 hours tomorrow."

"What about lunch?" Duo asked and quieted at Heero's glare.

Heero continued, softening his features slightly. "Duo, is there anyone you might be able to get to open up to you? How about that kid that warned you about being late?"

Duo's eyes widened. "Kyle?" he asked, remembering the incident. "He seems cool, I guess I can try to get him to open up and talk." He looked curiously up at Heero. "What do you want me to ask him?"

"About what is going on here." Heero answered. "We need to be aware of anything that might interfere with the mission."

Quatre cleared his throat loudly, signaling the others to be alert and lowered his head to concentrate on the food on his tray. The others all followed his direction as they found the food on their trays very interesting. Ms. Haversand came up from behind. Without addressing them immediately, they knew she was there by the complete silence that followed in her wake. Her chilly presence was felt deeply as she paused to stand at the head of their table.

Heero alone looked up to meet her cold stare. "Mam?" He questioned.

"A little less noise at this table." she demanded, her voice reverberating through the cafeteria and everyone's attention turned to them. They all nodded, not looking up, and collectively sighed as she moved away.

After she was out of hearing distance, Duo looked to his side at his roommate and whispered earnestly, "Can we not do schools for a while?

A grunt was his only answer, but Heero did look up through his unruly bangs and stared after the "battle axe".

on to part 2

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