Breaking Free - Part 4
Duo's Friendship Arc 12
by Dyna Dee
"Do all Americans talk this much?" Pierre laughed at his new friend as they finished lunch. They had spent much of the lunch hour talking in both French and English.
Dougal shrugged. "Lets just say I have a tendency to verbally overcompensate as my friends are usually the quiet type." He smiled and joked. "Guess I choose quiet friends on purpose so I can dominate the conversation."
Pierre didn't think that was the only thing Dougal dominated. It was quite obvious that he drew most of the attention of the student population in the cafeteria. During the lunch period, the quiet, unassuming boy noticed the other students' various reactions to the braided American sitting across from him at the lunch table. Their facial expressions ranged from surprise to amusing, curiosity, awe, and lust as they openly admired and gawked at the handsome boy across from him. What seemed curiously refreshing to Pierre was that Dougal seemed either totally unaware or completely unaffected by all the attention he drew to himself without any effort on his part.
"Are you aware of the affect you have on other people?" he asked curiously.
Dougal looked up in surprise and took a quick glance around the room. "You mean other than irritating the crap out of them?" he asked with a mischievous smile.
"I mean how they stop and stare at you?"
Dougal's eyes shifted again to the area around him, his eyes registering that he wasn't pleased at all about the unsolicited attention he was getting. He then turned back to Pierre to answer his question. "It's just that I'm new." he answered dismissing the rest of the room. "I'm sure they're just trying to figure out if I'm the norm or an atypical American." Then the blue/violet eyes sparkled with amusement. "Just wait, Pierre," he said quietly and he leaned forward as if to share a secret with him. "I'll have half of them ticked off at me within the first month. I have a way of rubbing people the wrong way." he smiled, but somehow the French boy detected a touch of sadness in his eyes.
Pierre found himself intrigued with this boy who was a contradiction in many ways. Life in Switzerland had certainly become more interesting.
After several days of sharing lunch together, the French boy became even more aware of the contradictions in his new friend. He could sense in this American a great loneliness, even though he was surrounded by many of the students vying for his attention. He was friendly and outgoing, but Pierre sensed a secretiveness. Dougal seemed lighthearted and carefree, but the French boy felt an inner depth and a strength of purpose within the slight boy.
With his mother's permission, he invited Dougal home for dinner on Thursday night, which the American readily accepted with a smile and a word of thanks.
Dougal walked home from school with him that day, and Pierre explained his families living arrangements. Their home was located just outside Paris. Every Sunday night he and his mother left Paris to fly to Geneva to spend the week at their second home, so Pierre could attend school here. Then, every Friday evening, they flew back to spend the weekend with his father at their home near his work.
"Why not attend school in Paris?" Dougal asked.
"My father wanted me to grow up away from the war. He's an officer in the military, you know."
"No, I didn't" Duo cringed internally at the lie. "Which military?"
"OZ." Pierre said quietly and an uncomfortable silence followed.
"It must be difficult for your father to have you and your mother gone all week." The American diverted their conversation to back to the other more comfortable topic.
The freckled-faced boy shrugged. "He's at the base a lot. But on the weekends we get to be a family." Pierre smiled. He knew a lot of people were angry at OZ for the violence and destruction in eliminating the Alliance, and their constant pursuit of the warring gundams was at times relentless and destructive to cities and civilians. He was glad the new his father was with OZ didn't seem to affect his new friend.
"Contrary to the stereo type," he continued. "my father is kind. He let me choose the school I preferred, regardless of the fact that other military officers send their sons to prestigious academies. I don't intend to study war, but life, and making it better. My father respects that."
He noticed Dougal's look of surprise, which turned to admiration. "The world needs more people like you, Pierre....determined on a course away from war. I know someone like that, a girl. She'll be a force to reckon with one day."
Pierre kicked a stray stone on the sidewalk back into a nearby shrub lining the walkway. "Do you have many friends, Dougal?" he asked.
The American smiled wistfully. "They say you can never have to many friends." he looked at Pierre as they stopped in front of a three story stone building. "I would say I have many acquaintances and a few friends I can trust with my life." he answered.
Pierre nodded. He felt the same about the people he had encountered in his life. His life had been touched with brief, fleeting friendships. The only lasting one had been the friendship of his parents and Jacques, his boyhood friend in Paris.
Turning, Pierre led his guest up the stairs and through the dark blue painted door leading into his house. After a quick introduction to Pierre's mother, they played video games for a while, until Dougal mastered them all; listened to music, for which the American had unusual tastes; and worked on their homework before being called down to dinner.
"Tell me of your family in California." Mrs. Lafaiete requested with a warm smile, the French language rolling smoothly off her tongue..
Dougal looked hesitant for a moment. "Well,.... hum... I'm an orphan." he stated quietly.
Both Pierre and his mother looked up in shock which quickly turned to compassion. "I'm sorry, dear." she said sincerely.
Dougal seemed embarrassed. "No need to be. My parents died before I could remember, so this is just life as I know it." he explained with a shrug. "I was raised in a Catholic orphanage by kind people, so there's no need for any pity."
'Pity?' Pierre thought. He felt sorry for Dougal, but was fairly certain that he could never pity a boy with such strength.
"How did you come to school in Geneva?" Mrs. Lafaiete asked.
The American smiled as he looked at the woman who was similar in appearance and manners to her son. She was petite, with her shoulder length wavy hair surrounding her round face, and a pair of fashionable glasses lit softly on the bridge of her nose. She was dressed casually, but well. And though she seemed to be a lady use to being in the higher social circles, there was an aura of kindness and sweetness about her not usually associated with people of that ilk.
"Foreign Exchange Student programs are available to all, and a general fund was set aside for my education, plus private donations from the parishioners."
"Well," Pierre's mother smiled sweetly. "I hope you will consider our home your home away from home while you are in Geneva." she said graciously.
The braided boy smiled broadly at the pleasure he felt from such an invitation and thanked her.
Several hours later, Pierre closed the front door after his guest and returned to the living room where his mother was reading a book. "So mama, what do you think of my new friend?" he asked as he sat in a chair adjacent to hers.
His mother put down her book and smiled warmly. "He is everything you described, dear. I liked him very much."
"I'm glad." Pierre smiled back. "I've never met anyone like him before."
"Well, you have always been very selective with your friendships." she reminded him.
Pierre nodded at his mother's observation. "Its odd, but he's the one who befriended me, and I can't help buy wonder why?"
"Why not?" his mother exclaimed, shocked at the seeming lack of self worth his question exposed. "You are a wonderful boy, and smart, too. Anyone would be privileged to call you a friend."
"You are such a mother." the boy looked embarrassed.
"Well, your father is in total agreement with me on this." she beamed.
Pierre's smile slipped as his thoughts turned to the evenings conversation. "I didn't know he was an orphan." he said with a touch of sadness in his voice. "I feel badly that he has never known a wonderful mother or father. It makes me feel guilty that I have you and father."
"In this time of war," his mother began softly. "there will be many more orphans. It is sad, but you must not feel guilty, but reach out and share your warmth with people who haven't had your privileges."
"Do you think I could invite Dougal home for a weekend?" he asked after thinking about what his mother had just said.
His mother nodded. "Next week is a three-day weekend, that would give you time to show him Paris." she replied, her eyes sparkling at the smile her answer brought to her son.
Pierre stood and moved to kiss his mother's cheek. "Thank you, mama." he whispered, then retired to his room for the night.
"Thanks for the invitation." Dougal responded to Pierre's invitation the next day. "Can I let you know?"
"Sure," Pierre shrugged easily. "Is there a problem?"
"Well, I usually call the orphanage every Monday night at eight o'clock. It's a set time so I can talk to my friends."
"Maybe we could catch the early flight home." Pierre suggested
"Or," Dougal put his finger up to his face and tapped it, thinking. "Maybe I could journey back myself so you don't have to cut short your visit with your dad."
Pierre nodded in consideration of the other boy's suggestion. "We should also get written permission from your guardians that you can cross the borders with us."
The American agreed. "I'll get it. Sounds like fun. If I can get back in time to make my call, I'd be happy to accept your invitation." A large smile gave credence to his words.
"Great!" Pierre beamed brightly. "I'll tell my parents." The two turned to walk towards their next class. "What will you do this weekend?" he asked aside to his friend.
Dougal shrugged and smiled at him. "Oh, I'll be fine. I can always find something to amuse myself. Don't worry about me." he reassured him.
By mid-Saturday afternoon, Duo realized he was bored and lonely. His mission target had surprised him by being warm and open, and he found himself with real feelings of friendship for the other boy. He supposed that, in some way, he had opened himself to Pierre to fill the emptiness he felt while away from the other pilots. Now with Pierre out of town, his feelings of loneliness seeped in again.
During their lunch hour and after school chats, Duo had spoken vaguely about his friends to Pierre. He told the French boy that they were at the orphanage and that several of them were unhappy with him about something he had done before leaving. He confided in Pierre about feeling controlled and his frustration about it.
Pierre proved to be a good listener. Even though he had referred to his friends by their nationality, and not by name, Pierre soon gained an understanding of his complicated relationship with these unseen boys. Talking about them had caused Duo to miss them more. He thought he would relish his new freedom, but he missed their companionship. 'Maybe it's a trade off.' he thought. 'The price of friendship and companionship is not a loss of self, but a compromise of giving and taking, sacrificing and receiving.' And as he made his way into bed at night, he particularly missed Heero's presence and their nightly exchange of stories and thoughts on the day or the war. He thought he would love having a bed and a room all to himself, but he had gotten use to Heero's arm holding him firmly in place, the security that brought him, of knowing someone was guarding his sleep. He missed his roommate's formidable presence, his reassurance and promise that he would always guard his back. Then, with a bit of guilt, Duo saw that his actions in the last battle had made it impossible for Heero to carry out his promise. He had deviated from the mission in a frenzy of adrenaline and battle lust. Even now, he cringed as he remembered how he had ignored his friends' pleas for him to withdraw as they took hits from the enemy to protect him as he threw himself into the battle recklessly. He knew he would never forgive himself if he were to cause any of them to be hurt because of his carelessness. 'Is my need to prove to myself that I can act independently more important than their well being?' he asked himself. He put his head in his hands. He had been wrong, and when he returned to them, he needed to apologize.
He longed for Monday, and then realized how odd that was. He had always enjoyed the freedom of the weekend and dreaded the first day of the week, especially when attending school. But Monday meant Pierre would return, and he would talk to Quatre and see how everyone was. He sighed, only 35 hours to go.