Disclaimer: I don't own GW nor profit from my storytelling.

Warnings: a bit sappy

Breaking Free - Part 3
Duo's Friendship Arc 12
by Dyna Dee

Five days after Duo's departure, Quatre sat in his gundam at the appointed hour and received the news that Duo had, indeed, made it to Howard's floating repair barge. The braided boy reported that Deathscythe was repaired and ready to go. They were too far away from each other to have visual contact, so they had to be satisfied by typing the messages into their computers, reporting to each other that all was well. Duo had received new orders and would contact him next week at the same time to check in.

Their contact was brief and not too satisfying for either, but it was all they could do in order to keep from being detected by any enemy surveillance.

The following week the two met again, visually this time, both faces lighting up as they viewed each other.

"04, how's it going?" Duo asked exuberantly, careful to keep to the number code as to keep their identities from any possible intercept of their message.

The blonde boy's smile radiated his happiness in seeing his friend again. "Fine, 02. How are you, and where are you?" he asked.

"Hey, I'm fine. Don't worry about me." Duo smiled with confidence. "I'm not sure how secure the line is, so I can't disclose where I am exactly, just close enough to have visual." Which meant he was in Europe. "I'm assigned to the last place I ever wanted to be in again, but at least this one is public." Which cryptically meant he was in a school setting, but a public school this time.

"How about you guys? Anything exciting happen?" he asked

Quatre shrugged. "Not much, just the typical hit and run jobs. We've moved to a new safehouse though."

"Oh." Duo's face fell slightly, but then recovered. "How is everyone?"

"Fine, but quiet." the blonde answered.

Duo's crooked smile appeared. "Yeah, sorry about that, leaving you with the verbally challenged. But if you short-sheet 05's bed, or put powder sugar in 03's sheets, you'll get someone talking." he chuckled.

Quatre smiled. "I'll try it. But, what about 01?"

"You gotta be careful with him." Duo warned and he raised an eyebrow in thought. "You could try putting starch in his laundry because short sheeting drives him crazy and he'll just make you fix it. Don't be surprised if all he voices is a curt promise to kill you."

Both boys laughed and talked lightly for the next ten minutes. Quatre wiped the tears from his eyes, brought on by long bouts of laughter. "Ah.., 02. I miss you. Will you come home soon?"

The Deathscythe pilot's heart ached at the word. "Home?" He asked the other. "I can't remember ever having a home other than the orphanage, and look what happened to it." he continued as his humor dissipated.

Studying his friend and seeing the change in his emotions, the Arabian wanted to somehow ease the sorrows Duo always tried to hide from them. "There's an old saying that home is where the heart is." He smiles warmly over the COM screen. "I hope you feel as strongly for us as we do about you." He could tell the other's mind was struggling with the concept. "We are your home." Quatre said softly but with conviction. "No matter where you go, or what you do, we will always be here for you. That's a home."

The braided boy blinked as he let Quatre's words sink in. He knew his friend spoke truthfully and he suddenly felt even more bereft of the companionship and camaraderie he had shared with the other pilots. He knew he needed them and wanted to return, but he still hadn't worked out in his mind how to deal with the feelings of being constrained by the rules and the others. He knew he needed to figure it out soon, as he was feeling the old ache of loneliness, and the desperate hollowness that being alone too long always brought, and this time it was becoming overwhelming. Yes, he needed the others, and realized he most likely needed them more than they needed him. He recognized then, with a jolt of surprise, that he was feeling homesick, a feeling he would never before would have believed possible.

"Thanks, Quatre." he smiled at the blonde on the screen. "I still haven't figured things out yet, but I'll work on it. But, I'm not so sure the guys will want me back when I do."

Quatre's eyes widened with indignation. "How can you think that? No one forced you to go, that was your decision and we, individually, decided to support your decision.

"Even 01?" Duo asked hesitantly.

"Of course." Quatre smiled, his anger at the Wing pilot was long gone. "He may not know how to show or tell you, but I know you're his closest friend and that he misses you."

"He told you that?" Duo looked dubious.

"Of course not." Quatre answered with a soft snort and a roll of his eyes. Heero seldom discussed his feelings openly. He looked back into the screen at Duo visage, then put his hand on his heart. "But, I can feel it." he said. "He's sad and lonely."

A few moments of silence passed before Quatre began again. "We were all touched by your gifts. Thank you, Duo. They're very thoughtful and evoked wonderful memories."

Duo smiled again, but not so brightly. "I'm glad. I want everyone to remember something pleasant about me, not just the negative.

"By the way," Quatre lifted a questioning eyebrow. "What's the significance of the M&Ms?"


Several days later, Duo found himself enrolled in a public school in Switzerland. Professor G had done all the paper work for him and Duo was entering the school as a foreign exchange student from California. His mission was to befriend the son of an particular OZ General, who was an information specialist, with the purpose of gaining access to the family's home and computer, thereby obtaining possible correspondence and information relating to OZ's plans for the colonies, attacks on the Alliance's broken factions, as well as their collected information on the gundams. It seems the General was a devoted family man and often worked at home, making him an easier target than those who worked strictly at a base or OZ headquarters.

Having rented a small studio apartment, Duo hired an Arabic couple to go to school with him as his "host family". He had counted on the fact that no one in the Office of Admissions could speak Arabic, and posed as a translator, telling the couple in his rough and limited Arabic to smile and sign the dotted line in order to get their promised fee.

It took him several days to locate the General's son. He was not exactly what the Deathscythe pilot had pictured in his mind as a high ranking military official's offspring. Most of the upper-crust military kids he'd met at the prep schools had been pompous, arrogant, and tended to be bullies--he thoroughly disliked them. But when he finally located the boy, Pierre Lafaiete, he was struck by how ordinary the boy seemed. The light brown haired boy looked like an average teenager, taller than Duo, but not by much, with average looks and build. His hair was cut short and flattened on top, giving his round face a little bit of relief and variation.

The boy wore small round glasses, and his clothes were similar to Duo's own; jeans and a tee-shirt, but he wore a blue plaid button-down shirt over it, something the braided boy would never get caught dead in. All in all, though, he looked like an average kid, a bit on the quiet side, with a tendency to be a loner.

Duo's eyes brightened. 'This will be easy' he thought. 'I can make friends with anyone, and this kid looks like he needs one. And quiet types, well, they've always been a good challenge to me.' His mind flashed a picture of three of his friends who had a tendency to be the same quiet loners as this Pierre kid appeared to be.

Discretely following the General's son for a few days, he noted his few friends, shyness, and a distracted look on his face, his mind was obviously elsewhere.

Taking advantage of that distraction one morning, Duo managed to move quickly forward and step out in front of the boy, easily allowing himself to be knocked down when their bodies collided.

"Hey!" Duo looked up from the ground at the stunned boy above him. "Pick on someone your own size." he complained lightly in English.

"I'm sorry." Pierre gasped in English, accented with a heavy French accent, his fair and liberally freckled cheeks blushing. He scrambled to set his books on his left hip and offered the boy on the ground his right hand.

As the American stood, the French boy's eyes blinked in surprise. He had never seen any one with eyes quite like this stranger. Not only were they an unusual color, but there was such depth to them, more than he had ever seen on any kid he'd ever known.

"Hi!" Duo shook the hand that helped him up. "Dougal Maxum."

Pierre nodded his head. "Pierre." His voice cracked a bit, so he tried again. "Pierre Lafaiete." he finished, still shaking hands. He realized the other boy's hand was strong, and rough with callouses. Suddenly, by mutual, silent agreement, they both released their clasp.

"Nice to meet you, Pierre." Duo said smiling warmly. "But next time, let's skip the collision and just say hello, okay?"

Pierre smiled back. "You're an American?"

"Yeah, from a small town in California." Duo replied. "You're French," he replied. "And your English is very good."

"Ah, I still speak with ze heavy French accent." Pierre shrugged and gave a small smile. He realized the American's good humor was rather contagious.

"Yeah, accents are hard to lose." The American sympathized with a carefree shrug. "You know," he continued. "I'm new here and haven't met many people. Do you think I could eat lunch with you today?"

Pierre had to fight to keep his mouth from dropping open, unable to believe what was happening. Here in front of him was probably the best looking guy he'd ever seen, and he would, most likely, become very popular in school and, unbelievably, he was asking him to eat lunch with him. His eyebrows drew together slightly as he wondered to himself why? He wasn't popular, he had nothing to offer but friendship.

Duo saw the facial expression and sensed the pause. "Hey! Its no big deal if you don't want to. I just don't like to eat in the cafeteria alone."

"Why me?" Pierre asked, curiosity going full blast.

Duo looked up through his bangs. "We'll, I guess I'd have to say that it's because I won't get a neck ache looking up at you."

Pierre smiled in return. He was just coming to terms with the fact that he would never be tall and this boy before him was even a bit shorter and probably shared the same insecurities about his lack of height. Although, after speaking with him, he just couldn't imagine this American having any insecurities at all. He nodded, adjusting his glasses again. "Alright. I'll meet you in front of the library and we'll go to the cafeteria together."

"Great!" the new boy smiled brightly. "See ya then." He turned and waved as he proceeded down the corridor in the opposite direction. It was then that Pierre got his first glimpse of the long braid gently swaying against the slender back as Dougal walked away.

"Americans!" he smiled at the uniqueness of the new boy. This could prove to be an interesting day indeed.

on to part 4

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