The School from Hell - Part 7
Duo's Friendship Arc 7
by Dyna Dee
By 11:00 a.m., all the students left on campus, those who had not left for the weekend, were ousted from the dorms as school personnel did a thorough search of the entire campus. They refused to explain the reason for it, just passing it off as a routine search for illegal substances. The majority of students didn't seem to mind as the buildings were becoming uncomfortably warm with the power still off and no air-conditioning available. Four of the boys on the lawn knew what was being searched for, but showed mild disinterest in the proceedings as those around them speculated as to the reason for it.
Heero caught a glimpse of Kyle and Scott standing at a distance from them, staring at him. He could tell they had come to their own conclusion as to the reason for the search. He turned away from them to face his three companions. None of them had much to say.
It was another very warm autumn day. He noticed the red flush on the faces of Trowa and Quatre, and felt a tickle of sweat on his own forehead. He used the back of his hand to brush it away as he casually glanced up, looking at the vent at the top of the red brick administration building. Only a slight draw of his eyebrows together showed his concern.
"Think he's okay? Quatre asked quietly having observed Heero glancing in that direction.
"Hai." he replied and turned his attention elsewhere.
The object of their thoughts was waking up, in a sweat. Duo's arms and legs ached from the long hours of being tied up and their pain was keenly felt as he tried to kick off the blankets tangled around him. He managed to pull himself into a sitting position and fought back the urge to growl loudly in frustration as his hair was everywhere about him in a tangled mess. He unhappily pulled a mass of it out of his face, realizing it would take forever to straighten it out.
The bright sunshine outside filtered slightly through the vents, giving him enough light to dispel some of the darkness of the attic space. He studied his surroundings, remembering the events of his early morning rescue. Despite the heat, a shudder went through him as he remembered his incarceration in the metal box. The two thugs that had dragged him into the room told him of their intentions and he had fought them tooth and nail to prevent it. They had to tear his clothes off as he refused to cooperate. He couldn't believe they had actually hog-tied him and put him in the cold metal box in his underwear. He freaked. That is the only way he could describe it. He screamed at them when the lid was shut and continued until they grew anxious that someone might hear him. They re-opened the lid and forcefully put the thick strip of material in his mouth and shut the lid again. It was a good thing he hadn't had much to eat that morning as the cotton material in his mouth caused him to gag. That stopped him from attempting to scream, even with the wad of material filling his mouth. That was when the hyperventilating began. His fear of being trapped in an small enclosed space overpowered his attempts to calm down, even after he attempted to use the techniques Wufei had patiently tried to teach him. Several times he felt himself on the verge of passing out as his breathing and heart rate accelerated as his feeling of panic grew. Maybe he did pass out, he couldn't remember. He was in the dark and couldn't tell the passing of time, though he did realize when the box became warm and remembered that it rested in front of a window. He was probably in the light of the afternoon sun and as the air in the box began to warm, it add to his illogical notion that he couldn't breath. He started hyperventilating again.
He shook off the memory of the day before as sweat dripped down the sides of his face from the rising and almost intolerable heat in the attic. Pulling his arms into his sweatshirt he jerked it up and over his head and threw it down by his feet. The pants quickly followed as well as the socks he wore.
Crawling over to this duffel bag, he unzipped it, searching for his brush. He smiled to himself as his hand lit on it. Next, he went to the other two unfamiliar duffels and unzipped them. To his delight, they were filled with food and drinks. He turned on a pen light that had been left on top of the bags and stared at the contents. He smiled broadly. Quatre is the only one who would put all the goodies in there for him. Trail mix, granola bars, apples, oranges, candy, pudding, Crackerjacks, cookies, and more, some of it nutritional. He would have to control himself and pace his eating so he didn't eat it all in one day. He had no idea how long he would be stuck up here. After he wiped the perspiration from his forehead away with the back of his hand, he took out a couple of granola bars, and a bottle of juice, and sat back to enjoy his breakfast.
By late afternoon the campus returned to a level of normalcy. Classrooms were now being searched, and the students were allowed back into the dorms. The entire building felt even more stuffy and overly warm as they returned to their rooms, the power was still off.
Wufei watched the door to Heero's room. Ms. Haversand and one of her goons had roughly grabbed hold of him on their way back to the dorm and insisted on an interview. Wufei figured Heero could handle himself, but he was going to make sure they didn't try to take him like they had Duo.
The lights in the dorms blinked, and then came on fully, as well as the air conditioning, signaling the power cables Heero destroyed last night had been repaired. He leaned his shoulder against the door frame of his room, arms folded, and waited.
Ten minutes later, the angry looking woman and her big, flunky sidekick stormed out. She turned once more to look into the just vacated room. "If I find you are in anyway responsible for this, Mr. Odin, you will rue the day you crossed me." She turned away and caught Wufei glaring at her. She returned it. "You have a problem Mr. Fei?" she asked sharply.
"No, mam." he replied trying to keep the snideness he felt from his voice. The middle aged woman smirked and turned to huff down the hall, lackey in tow.
Wufei went to the open door and looked in. The room had been ransacked, and Heero was picking up clothing and other items from off of the floor. "Want some help?" he offered.
Heero straightened. "No need, but thanks."
Wufei walked in and began to re-hang the military jackets that were thrown on the bed and turned inside out. They had left just enough of Duo's clothing behind as to look like he didn't pack up before he disappeared.
"So what happened?" Wufei asked.
"They wanted to know if I had seen Duo, what I know about him, and threatened bodily harm to me if I let on to anyone that he was missing."
"Idiots!" Wufei snorted at the thought of threatening the perfect soldier. Together they picked up the rest of the room and then swept it for any possible bugs. Trowa and Quatre entered the room and closed the door.
"We're two days behind scheduled." Heero said, displeasure in his voice. "I can't see us moving before Monday night and I want to do something about the situation here."
Wufei raised a questioning brow. "Duo quoted you as saying it wasn't our business."
"They made it my business when they mistreated him and when I saw the fear in that boy Scott's face. I told him I wouldn't let anyone hurt him again."
"So what are we going to do?" Wufei asked a slight smile on his face.
Heero smiled back at his their readiness to help. "We expose them."
It was a half hour after curfew when Heero climbed through the vent and slipped into the attic. The air outside had cooled considerably, but the attic space was still uncomfortably warm, probably due to the entire building having been without air conditioning for the majority of the day.
Turning on his pen light, he balanced on the beams moving towards the sheet of plywood. "Duo!" he called out softly. He reached the edge of the wood surface and flashed his light across the flat surface. "Duo." he hissed as the light revealed his roommate spread eagle, clad only in his boxers, his hair braided and tossed to the side, the remaining hair around his face was wet with sweat and stuck to his skin. He quickly crawled to the side of the unaware boy and felt his pulse on his wrist. It was slow and thready. He pinched his skin and observed it stayed pinched after he removed his fingers. Dehydrated, he concluded. Crawling over his body, Heero reached for the bag of food and searched for a bottle of water. Finding it, he opened it and turned back to his friend and tried to wake him by tapping his face. The American reluctantly opened his eyes, relief immediately visible on his face. "Drink." Heero told him as he helped to lift his head and tipped the lip of the bottle to allow the water to flow into his mouth. He made sure the braided boy drank most of the bottle and then splashed the rest on his hot skin.
"I see it got pretty hot up here." he said, mindful to keep his voice down.
Duo looked at him in disbelief. "Hot!" He whispered. "It was more like hell without flames."
"Not your fault," Duo shrugged. "but mine."
Heero reached over and brushed the damp hair from his friend's face. "No, I should have known you wouldn't fit in this school easily. I just had no idea it was as rigid or cruel as it turned out to be. I should have kept you out of this."
Duo shook his head at the apology, then looked up in the dim light of the flashlight into the Japanese boy's eyes. "Thanks for getting me out of there." He raised his hand and rubbed his eyes. "Man, I lost it, freaked." his voice caught as he spoke. He closed his mouth, unable to speak or his emotions would overtake him.
"Quatre sensed your fear and we acted as fast as possible without jeopardizing the mission."
"Thank the guys for me too, okay?"
Heero nodded and stood. He made his way to the attic opening and lifted the door. He listened carefully for any sounds below. Satisfied, he moved back, pulling Duo to his feet and helped him over to the opening. A rush of fresh cool air lifted up through the closed space below. Duo gasped at the chilling sensation, then sighed in pleasure.
"The power was off most of the day until they fixed the power coupling I blasted last night. I think tomorrow will be cooler up here, but if it does get warm, you can open the door here to cool off."
Duo nodded even as he started to shiver as the cool air touched his warm and sweat-dampened body.
Heero went back to the bags as Duo sat enjoying the cool air. When he returned he brought back some food. As Duo ate, he took the discarded sweatshirt and toweled off the excess moisture from his back, arms, and shoulders. They sat there quietly for a time until Heero decided the temperature of the attic was more tolerable. He made sure Duo drank another bottle of water and then closed the door to the closet below.
It was unusual for Duo to be so quiet and complacent, enough for Heero to question it. "You okay?"
"Yeah." Duo answered quietly.
Heero waited for a few moments before speaking again. "Something 's wrong." he observed. "Tell me."
"I.... I guess I'm just tired." he answered.
Heero stood and took hold of Duo's arm. "Come on, I'll help you back."
The American stood on wobbly legs. "I can make it myself." he said stubbornly and shook off Heero's hand. It wasn't far, which is probably why Duo made it on his own. Once he reached the blanket he eased himself down onto it and curled up on his side, facing away from Heero.
The Wing pilot looked down in concern at the boy knowing something was wrong, but his friend seemed reluctant to tell him why he was upset. He was still trying to figure out this friendship thing that the others were striving to teach him. He had come tonight believing Duo would want some companionship, especially after his ordeal. Hadn't Duo told him friends looked out for each other?
"Are you angry with me?" he asked perplexed at the way Duo was behaving. "Do you want me to leave?"
Duo shook his head. "I'm not mad at you.... please stay."
"Then tell me what is wrong? Instinctively he reached out and stroked the chestnut hair.
"I'm mad at myself." he whispered. "I was so weak and I let you down." he said quietly.
"No, you let no one down." Heero assured him.
Duo spun around quickly, anger in his face. "I let those goons overpower me and I couldn't escape. Then I showed my greatest fear to my enemies and friends."
"You feel shame." Heero said as he kept analyzing the situation.
"Damn right!" Duo hissed and turned away again.
"You shouldn't." Heero said in a matter-of-fact tone. "You can't help how you feel, and everyone has some phobia. Most of the time, you control yours."
"What are you afraid of, Heero?" Duo spat sarcastically. Then with a wave of his hand he dismissed the question. "Never mind, I know you fear nothing, even death."
"That use to be true." Heero answered thoughtfully. "All fear was programmed out of me in my training, but that's not the case anymore."
Duo turned to look back at him, his anger draining away replaced by a curiousness. "What could you be afraid of?' he asked.
"If I tell you, it would be a weakness and I might have to kill you."
Duo looked at his friend not knowing if Heero meant it as a joke or if he was serious. "I trusted you with my phobia." he said with a hint of hurt in his voice. "I would never betray a friend."
The Japanese boy seemed to think about it for a few moments. "I'm not the perfect soldier anymore." he admitted quietly as if ashamed of the admission.
"No one is perfect." Duo replied.
"A perfect soldier," Heero continued, "doesn't care about anyone or anything but accomplishing the mission objective. But you....and the others....have changed me. I didn't know about friendship, caring, holding and being held for comfort. My weakness is....." he stopped.
"It's us, isn't it." Duo finished for him.
"Hai." he said so quietly that Duo didn't know if he really heard him. "I don't want to lose any of my friends....especially,,,,,,my closest friend. It makes me....hesitate when assigning missions. I've become more cautious when planning, take less chances to achieve objectives."
Duo reached over and gripped his friend's forearm. "It's not a liability or a weakness, Heero. Your caring for someone, for us, me, has become a strength, an asset to your list of abilities and attributes."
"How so?" he looked completely perplexed.
"Because you care, you plan better to survive, for all of us to survive. If something should happen to even one of us, we are weakened." He looked into his friend's eyes and asked, "Why did you come after me, when you knew it would delay the mission?"
Heero shifted. "We need you for the mission and you are an excellent pilot." he answered simply.
"You were.... distressed..."
Heero paused not knowing what the baka wanted from him. He closed his eyes examining the other reasons why they rescued him.
"You are our friend." he said before he opened his eyes and narrowed them. "and no one messes with us. If they do, they will pay."
"Damn right!" Duo said a smile growing on his face. "and....."
Heero sighed. "You would do it for me. I could do not less and remain your friend." he finished.
"Because we all feel the same." Duo said firmly. "We have become a team. Individually, we were strong and determined. But together, we are stronger, smarter, more determined. Because now, there's more to lose."
Heero nodded accepting the words of the other boy, his friend. He looked into the face filled with kindness for him. "You need to sleep."
"Can you stay, or do you need to go back.?" Duo asked as he settled himself down again.
"I can stay until an hour before sunrise."
Duo nodded. Several minutes of silence passed.
"You still feel badly." Heero observed.
"Yeah." Duo said. "I jeopardized the mission by my inability to control myself. And it's hard to come to terms that everyone knows your weaknesses."
"Trowa said she had it out for from the beginning." Heero told him. "She had her sights you, and I don't think you could have escaped what she had in store for you no matter how well you behaved. Kyle said she targets your personality type."
"So, you're not mad at me?" Duo asked dubious.
"No." Heero replied. "I am angry that a few people can control so many with fear and that they have the power to abuse those under their charge."
Even in the dim light, Heero could see Duo's eyes light up. "We're going to do something about it, aren't we?"
Heero allowed a small smile to creep across his face as he mimicked his friend's mannerisms. "Damn right!" he replied.