School Daze - A Compliation of Short Stories
Story 2 - My Ping
Duo's Friendship Arc 14
by Dyna Dee
With a jolt upward, Duo Maxwell raised his head from off his desk and quickly wiped away any trace of spittle from his chin. "Yes, Mam?" he replied, knowing he'd probably missed something. His wide, blinking eyes tried to focus on the aging, gray-haired English teacher standing to the side of his desk frowning down on him in disapproval.
"Are you ready to recite you selection?" she asked with a frown.
"Yes, Mam." he replied again and without any enthusiasm. He hated this class. He usually didn't mind English, in fact, it was one class that he did better in than his fellow pilots. But the subject they were currently studying was not his favorite, poetry. Definitely not his forte, and most definitely boring!
The assignment had been to select a poem and recite it in front of the class, and in the last two day, he'd heard stumbling recitals from the words of famous and obscure world and colony poets.
Of the five pilots, Heero was the first to recite his selected poem. He stood ramrod straight and unerringly, without any inflection in his voice, recited a sonnet from William Shakespeare. Trowa, other than the spark of fire in his green eyes signaling the words he spoke meant something to him, which was recognized only by the other four pilots, recited his selected poem with just as little vocal emotion when he spoke the angry words of a poet who had lived on L-3 during the Federation's occupation. Wufei quoted Tennyson adequately, and Quatre recited his poem in Arabic by a poet no one had ever heard of, then translated it for the class in English revealing to them a descriptive litany on the beauties of the desert. He told the others later that it was written by Abdul, a soldier in the corps of the Maguanacs. As he concluded his recitation, he sat in his desk next to the American teen who smirked as he leaned over and muttered with a grin, "Show off."
"We're ready when you are, Mr. Wells." Mrs Humphrey said, now tapping her foot in annoyance at the slow moving boy.
Duo Maxwell, currently known as Max Wells, reluctantly stood up and moved to the front of the class to make his oral presentation. Turning to the class with a smile breaking out on his face and a sparkle in his eyes, he began. "Good morning!" he greeted them all cheerfully with a slight dramatic bow. "Today I will be reciting the words of the ancient, but famous poet, who inspired countless children to dream, Dr. Seuss. The poem, Green Eggs and Ham."
Despite the roar of applause from his dramatic presentation, the class clown received only a B for his efforts. He could only assume Dr. Seuss wasn't Mrs. Humphrey's favorite poet.
The pilots lived in a small, unobtrusive house several blocks from the school. Their missions recently had been fairly easy and somewhat local giving the boys some time to fit into their environment more easily. They tried to keep a low profile in their neighborhood as well as at school.
School work at this public institution proved to be less than difficult for the five, and homework seemed minimal much to Heero and Wufei's displeasure. This left them with a lot of extra time on their hands, which usually meant some trouble would soon be brewing. It was decided to solve the problem before it began by keeping one particular pilot occupied. From past experience, they came to the conclusion that if Duo was bored, he would find something interesting to fill his or their time with. They'd discovered a bored Duo was a dangerous thing to contain. The four met together while their friend in question was taking his shower, and decided to split up the responsibility of keeping him busy and out of a future disaster.
Each pilot was assigned a day of the week to keep the braided bundle of mischief busy. Heero took two days to play one-on-one basketball after school with his friend. Quatre offered to take him to the park with the enticement of a paddle boat ride and ice cream. Wufei took Duo aside two nights a week to teach him some martial arts, something the agile American proved to be very adept in. Trowa, who volunteered twice a week at a local animal shelter, convinced the Deathscythe pilot the value of volunteering and into accompanying him.
The first and second week went smoothly, school was going well, the house was attended to, and Duo was exhausted enough each day to go to bed at a normal hour, seeking a much needed rest.
It was on his fourth visit to the animal shelter with Trowa that brought a change. They had gone early that Saturday morning, around 8:30 a.m., and arrived back at the safehouse around 2:00 p.m. Quatre looked up from his position on the couch where he was separating and folding freshly washed and still warm clothes from the dryer. At the sound of the door opening, he looked up and instantly saw that something wasn't right. Duo looked crestfallen and leaned against Trowa who had an arm around the American's shoulder in a manner of giving comfort.
"What's the matter? What's happened?" Quatre asked quietly alarmed.
Duo looked up, his eyes were dry, but filled with unspoken hurt. Quatre blinked, startled at the negative emotion displayed by the usually buoyant teen. "Nothing to worry about, Quatre." Duo replied quietly. "I just need to go rest for a while. Not use to getting up so early." he said lamely.
"Duo..." Quatre's voice scolded lightly, knowing his friend was uncharacteristically lying to him.
"Go on, Duo." Trowa cut in, his voice filled with soft compassion. "We'll wake you up for dinner."
The braided boy looked away from the other two and slowly made his way upstairs to his room.
"What happened?" the blonde asked quietly after they heard the door upstairs shut.
Trowa sighed and shook his head. "I'm afraid Duo got attached to a couple of dogs on his first visit last week, and today the were put down. He's just really upset about it." he looked up the stairway where Duo had disappeared moments ago. "I'm sure he'll get over it soon." the Heavyarms' pilot added softly.
Slowly Quatre returned to his task at hand, his mind pondering the situation. "Maybe you shouldn't take him anymore." He suggested. "We can't afford for him to be emotional disturbed if we should get a mission, and you know Duo's past, he's lost almost everyone he's ever cared about."
Trowa sighed as he reached over and pick up a shirt from off the large pile of clean clothing and absently started folding it. "I think I'll leave it up to him because he really did seem to enjoy volunteering until this happened. I should have prepared him for it."
The evening meal was much quieter than usual as the normally talkative teen stared at his plate and played with the food.
Four sets of eyes surreptitiously watched him, then exchanged wondering glances with each other. Three sets of eyes landed on Heero, signaling him to take the lead. Just as he opened his mouth to speak to his friend, Duo's voice quietly spoke up as he stared at his food.
"Can I have a dog?" he asked.
Four set of eyes blinked in astonishment of the surprised request.
"I don 't see how that's possible, Duo." Heero answered and looked to Trowa to take the conversation from there.
The auburn haired boy's green eyes saddened as they observed the black clad shoulders slump at Heero's answer. "It wouldn't be practical, Duo." he added, then began to explain. "We're gone from the house so often that a dog would be lonely. Then if we're called away on a mission, we'd have to leave it behind. A battle, flight in your gundam, and infiltration are hard enough on us, they're certainly no place for a pet."
Duo shrugged his shoulders. "I know." he whispered dejectedly. "I just thought it would be nice to save at least one dog."
There was silence once more at the table and the others slowly returned to the meal when he spoke up again.
"It just doesn't seem right." Duo's voice seemed a bit strained as if he was fighting his emotions. Quatre shot a glance at Wufei and then shifted his sight to their braided friend. The Shenlong Pilot understood and putting down his fork, he leaned over to the boy on his right and put a comforting arm around his shoulder. This seemed to encourage Duo to continue with his thoughts.
"You know, they're throw-aways, just like I was on L-2. When nobody wants them, they're destroyed, just like the poor and homeless on my colony." He took a moment to swallow hard before continuing, Wufei's arm tightening around him. "I was a stray, too, just as much as those animals at the shelter. It's just not right." he whispered tightly shaking his head. "Just not right."
The others watched as Wufei gently turned Duo's slumping body towards him, and drew him more fully into his embrace, and with some initial awkwardness, gave him as much comfort and reassurance as he could.
"You're not a throw away." Wufei said quietly into the other boy's ear. "Not a stray and not unwanted."
Duo's arms encircled his friend, holding on tightly, grateful to hear the words he knew were true, but at times they were still hard to believe. This was one of those times.
"I'm sorry, Duo." Trowa spoke up as he watched Wufei comfort their friend. "I didn't know it would be so hard on you. I don't think you should go back with me again."
Duo pulled back from the Chinese boy, signaling he'd be alright. "Thanks, Wu." he whispered sincerely with a shaky smile before turning to look at Trowa.
"I actually like going." he told his other friend. "I just wasn't prepared to have that happen." He tilted his head and looked with curiosity to the other boy. "How do you do it, Trowa?" he asked. "How can you go and care for the animals knowing they're going to be killed?"
"Not all of them are put down, Duo, only those who have been there for several weeks." Trowa explained patiently. "Some are adopted and some are found by their owners. I try to care for those injured in the hope that they will be the lucky ones. Unfortunately," he sighed deeply, "there are too many animals and the facility can't afford to feed and care for them indefinitely. So, they keep them for several weeks and if they're not adopted or found, they're put down." He noticed that Duo's eyes had turned dark while he spoke. "I know Duo, I don't like it either, but the shelter is doing the best it can, and that's why I volunteer, to help out and give the animals care, and affection while they're there." His eyes softened as he watched his friend try to come to terms with the problem. "You're very good at giving that to them, Duo. I'm just sorry it reminded you of your past."
'It was just a shock." Duo admitted now blushing with embarrassment at his display of moodiness. "I think I'd like to go back, now that I know what to expect."
Wufei had returned to his chair and he and the others listen to Trowa and Duo's exchange.
"I don't think that's a good idea." Heero interrupted, and Duo turned his head to see his friend frowning at him. "This upset you too much." he explained.
"It did." Duo conceded. "As I said, it was a shock. I wasn't prepared for it. But I think I can handle it now."
Heero's look turned skeptical.
"But you know what would really make me happy?" the braided boy raised a mischievous smile. "A puppy."
"No!" Heero answered firmly.
Duo looked around the table and was met with the others shaking their heads, denying him his wish. "Sheesh, you guys are spoil sports." he murmured and reached for his fork to take his first bite of the food in front of him. "Oh man!" he complained, his face displaying his distaste. "This food is cold!"
Duo accompanied Trowa again on Wednesday after school and again on Saturday morning. He was watched closely by the others after he came home to determine his reaction to whatever might have happened at the shelter. He came back on Saturday a bit melancholy for a short time, but not as upset as the week before. It was decided by Heero that he could continue to volunteer.
The days shortened considerably as fall eased gently towards winter. School was going well, and Duo endured a couple of stern reminders from Heero about fraternizing with the female population with his usual aplomb, and continued on. He was as popular in this school as he'd been in others.
It was dark and chilly when Duo entered the safehouse the following Wednesday as he returned from his volunteering, his black leather bomber jacket was zipped up tightly against the cooling evening breeze.
"Where's Trowa?" Wufei asked from the couch where he was watching the evening news.
"He's coming. I left a little early." Duo explained cheerfully, and ran up the stairs to his room. Wufei heard his door shut tightly and wondered, for only a moment, if everything was alright before he went back to his reading.
Trowa entered about fifteen minutes later in his usual calm, unflappable manner.
"Is Duo okay?" Wufei asked after greeting the taller boy as the other took off his jacket and moved to settle onto the other side of the couch.
"He seemed fine to me. Why?" Trowa asked as he brought his feet up to rest on the coffee table, bringing a frown to the Chinese boy's face. The house they rented was furnished, and Wufei and Quatre especially were raised not to make such a faux pas as putting your feet on the furniture. Trowa smiled a bit smugly knowing it irked his fellow pilot.
Wufei tried to ignore Trowa's intentional lack of manners and focused on the topic at hand. "He came in and ran upstairs to his room." he replied.
"He was fine when I last saw him. I think he's just worried about some homework, and mentioned he needed to call some girl tonight." Trowa answered calmly, showing he wasn't worried, and the Chinese boy relaxed having received the reassurance. He returned to his book, knowing that he would be watching the American during the evening meal.
Duo bounced into the kitchen as the others sat in their places awaiting his arrival. To all appearances he was his usual vibrant, buoyant self. He shoved his dinner down at an amazing speed and excused himself saying he had an errand to run.
He turned down Heero's offer for company saying it was kinda cold out and he wouldn't be gone long. He then flew out of the kitchen. His rapid footsteps were easily tracked as he went up the stairs, followed by the slamming of his bedroom door. A few minutes later he descended the stairs and exited out the front door, slamming it closed behind him, heralding his exit.
"He seems to be in a good mood." Heero commented and returned his attention to his plate.
"Yeah, he does." Trowa raised a curious eyebrow. "Wonder why?"
"Don't question a good thing." Wufei snorted
"Well, I'm glad for it." Quatre piped up. "For whatever reason." the other nodded in agreement.
The next day began a string of events that brought back some concern to the other four pilots. Duo canceled his lesson with Wufei and left the safehouse with his backpack and leather jacket zipped up against the slight chill. The Shenlong pilot didn't think much about it until he later learned that Duo had also canceled a scheduled outing with Quatre to go to a movie the next day. Trowa went alone to the shelter on Saturday and Duo made a brief late-morning appearance in the kitchen before leaving the house stating he'd be gone most of the day. Armed with his backpack slung casually over the shoulder of his zipped jacket, he waved goodbye to the other three and left for the day.
"What's going on with him now?" Wufei questioned.
"I don't know." Heero shrugged. "But his actions are becoming suspicious."
Both Asian boys turned to look at their blonde friend.
"Don't ask me." Quatre raised his hands up. "I've no idea."
Sunday proved to be another day that the Deathscythe pilot made himself scarce. But as the first day of the week arrived, the five settled in their school routine with the exception that Duo had left earlier for school than they did, and was late to several classes. After school, when the five normally walked home together, their elusive friend was nowhere to be found. He came in just before dinner and with his jacket still on as he complained of the cold outside, and ran up to his room. He reappeared for the meal with a smile intact as well as his good humor.
The four questioned him in a round-about way as to what his activities were. He merely shrugged and said he'd been really busy.
Heero announced that they were going to make a pre-emptive strike against two bases in ten days time. After that, they would again relocate.
"Ten days?" Duo repeated quietly to himself. Quatre noted a slight look of dismay on the other pilot's face.
Putting two and two together, the Sandrock pilot could imagine only one possible reason for Duo's elusive behavior and his sadness at the thought of moving. He had a girlfriend. His elusiveness now made sense, because Heero repeatedly lectured the notorious girl magnet against forming any attachments. Duo had always agreed, though refusing to stay away from the female persuasion entirely, saying it was unnatural for him to do so. Quatre reasoned that someone special must have caught the American's eye and maybe his heart.
The Arabian sighed. This would be another hard lesson for his outgoing friend. Maybe next time he would follow Heero's advice.
Wufei reminded everyone of their assignment in their English class, to write a poem about something they felt strongly about. Duo's eyes lit up and he used that excuse to make a quick exit to his room.
After he left, Quatre shared his observations about Duo's behavior and his reasoning for it.
"An onna?" Wufei snorted in disgust.
"He should have listened to me." Heero interjected with a frown.
"A pity," Trowa said with a sad shake of his head. "But for Duo, it's inevitable."
Quatre looked quizzically at his friend. "Why? Because Duo's so friendly?"
"He's too good looking." Heero answered.
"An onna magnet." Wufei offered.
"His eyes and smile draw them in like flies to sugar." Trowa added.
"And he needs love." Quatre ended their train of thought on that sad note.
Together they decided to let their friend deal with his eminent departure the best he could, and without them running interference. Duo kept up his elusive routine, though surprisingly in an upbeat mood when he shared his meals with them. Battle plans and school work took up most of their evenings.
Two days before their departure, the five met in their English class. The last several days had been spent listening to some pretty lame, intensely emotional, and personal poetry written by the students of the class.
Heero had written a long, dull (in Duo's opinion) five line, twenty-eight stanza poem on Peace.
Wufei gave a succinct one-minute rhyming discourse on Justice.
Quatre smiled sweetly as he recited his humorous poem on sisters, a subject he was a definite expert on.
Trowa stood before the class, silent for a full minute before he began to speak with his quiet voice and calm manner and recited a two stanza poem on the beauty of a sharp knife.
Duo's head lay in its usual position, on his desk, his eyelids closed when the teacher called his name. Wufei kicked his desk to rouse the napping boy. The braided head shot up. "What?" he gasped.
"Mr. Wells." The teacher's voice sharply called his attention to her as she stood in front of the classroom. "Are you ready to present your poem?" she asked with one eyebrow raised in disapproval once again. It was clear to all that she expected an excuse from the boy she was addressing.
Duo stood up and adjusted his jacket, still partially zipped up against the chill he always complained about. "Yes Mam, I'm ready." he announced happily, surprising everyone in the room. Those who had been dozing at their desks just as he had been doing, sensed something was about to happen and sat up in anticipation.
The elderly woman nodded and moved to sit in her chair behind her desk as the class clown walked from the back of the classroom to the front. Every eye in the room followed the attractive boy's progress, some almost seemed mesmerized by the sway of his braid as the sauntered down the isle.
Duo reached the front and turned, giving the entire classroom a mischievous smile and a wink. The other four pilots sat up, coming to full attention knowing that smile usually got them into trouble.
The grinning boy reached into his jacket pocket and drew out a folded piece of paper. He carefully unfolded it and placed it on the music stand on his right side that was put there for the purpose of leaving the student-poet's hands free. The other pilots in the back of the room nervously glanced at each other and returned their focus to the boy standing confidently in the front of the class.
The braided teen turned his head to the left to nod at Mrs. Humphrey, signaling he was ready, then faced forward.
"My poem is titled My Ping." The announced, then in a dramatic movement, he raised his hands and arms out in supplication to the classroom and began with a flourish.
"Fellow students, dear friends,
All lend me your ears
And I'll tell you of something I've discovered
most wondrous and dear."
He put his hands on his hips, his chest jutting out slightly in a haughty pose.
"Now I've always been told
size doesn't matter at all."
He smiled crookedly.
"Well that's damn good
cause my Ping's kinda small."
All eyes and ears were acutely attuned to the braided boy's words at this point, and a few gasps sounded at the insinuation just made. The reaction caused the American to smile broadly, and he continued on.
"You may ask yourself
what is a Ping?
I'll tell you straight
My Ping's the most wondrous of things.
Under cotton or leather
It's safe from prying eyes.
For the sight of my Ping
Most assuredly would elicit envious sighs."
The soft thudding sound brought Duo's eyes to the back of the room. Wufei had lowered his head down to his desk and covered his head with his arms. Trowa had his face buried in his upraised hands. Heero glared, gripping the edges of his desk until his knuckles were white, and Quatre bore the look of disbelief with wide eyes and a slack jaw.
Undaunted, even seeming pleased, Duo kept going.
"I could have called it
Bong or Gong,
But such big words
Well, it just seemed wrong.
My Ping sits neatly
On my lap,
And when it's calm
It takes a nap.
Yet it doesn't like
To feel neglect
With a gentle stroke
It comes erect."
Another dull thump signaled the teacher had just passed out.
"Under layers of clothing
Ping's dormant in sleep
But because you're my friends
I'll give you a peek."
Heero slumped forward, his head in his hands looking as if he would like to disappear as Duo reached for the zipper of his leather jacket, a knowing smirk on his face, as he teasingly pulled it down in an agonizingly slow manner. The entire class, well those conscious anyway, held their breaths, and the room was silent except for the sound of the slow release of every single tooth of the metal zipper as it was opened.
Duo's voice took on a sultry tone as he ended.
"So come, everyone of you
Raise your voice and sing
As I unzip my clothing
And reveal to you.... my wonderful Ping."
Some of the students covered their eyes, some groaned and peeked through their fingers. Some girls giggled and carefully watched the zipper lower in anticipation of what the handsome, outrageous boy would do next.
Heero's head had joined Wufei's position, face down on his desk. Trowa's hair was the only thing visible at desk level as he slumped down. Quatre was still frozen in dumbfounded disbelief. His face an unhealthy shade of pink, nearing red.
A slight gasp from the female persuasion was followed by a long sigh and multiple surprised gasps.
"He is sooo dead." Heero mumbled, not lifting his head from his desktop
Suddenly one single voice sounded in a bark of laughter. Heero, Wufei, and Trowa recognized it as Quatre's laugh. They cautiously rose up and turned their heads to look at their blonde friend as twitters, giggles, and other sounds of laughter began to erupt through the classroom.
Uncharacteristically, the Sandrock Pilot laughed loudly, holding his aching sides, tears forming in is eyes from his mirth.
The other three nervously, but curiously followed the blonds line of vision to the boy at the front of the class.
Duo stood grinning, his head lowered to look down at his mid-section. Out of the lower unzipped opening of his jacket poked a tiny, bony head with a small snout ending with a brown, wet nose.
"What the hell is that?" Heero asked tilting his head thinking it looked like a large rat, but different somehow.
"It's a dog." Trowa answered, a smile growing as the words of the poem's double meaning became obvious to him. "A Chihuahua, to be exact." he added as he began to chuckle.
The girls in the room quickly left their seats to swarm around the boy who looked tenderly down upon the tiny dog. The male population in the room exchanged relieved glances and nervous chuckles that Max Wells didn't expose what they thought he was outrageously hinting at in his poem.
"Wh... what's going on here?" Mrs. Humphrey's shaking voice was heard as her head rose up from her desk, her eyes dazed, and the glasses on her face were tilted at a sharp angle. Instantly the room silenced for a moment, then became a flurry of activity as all the girls scattered to rush back to their desks. Duo turned to look at the elderly woman, feeling momentarily sympathy for causing her to faint. He watched as she shook the confusion from her mind and straightened her black rimmed glasses.
"I just finished my poem, Mrs. Humphrey." He reminded her. "Did I put you to sleep?" he asked, putting on him most innocent face hoping he wouldn't be sent to the office.
It took a moment for the woman's memory to come back, and she gave herself a moment to run her fingers through her short, salt and pepper colored hair in an irritated manner. "As I recall, Mr. Well," she looked up sharply at the boy at the side of her desk "You poem was highly inappropriate."
"I was just talking about my Ping." he replied with a insouciant shrug.
"Exactly!" she answered sharply, taking out a notepad and pen to write a note for the boy to take to the office with him.
Duo turned to face her. "Mrs. Humphrey," he called her name softly to get her attention "this is Ping." He pulled the golden brown furred, unusually small and fragile looking dog out from his jacket to show her.
The woman's eyes widened and her mouth formed an "O". She blinked several times and then managed a slight smile. "Oh, I see." she paused, blushing a bit at her misinterpretation of the poem. "She's a lovely little dog." she said sincerely, her smile grew and her eyes softened.
"And she's so good, well behaved, and loving." Duo said, his voice full of affection as he brought the little dog up to his face to rub his cheek against the bony head. The dog replied by wagging it's small tail and licking his cheek. The girls in the classroom ate it up and sighed. "I got her at the animal shelter." He continued, then a look of sadness crossed his features. "I can't keep her, though. Do you know anyone who would like such a wonderful pet?" He asked his teacher with a look of hope in his eyes. "Someone who will take really good care of her?"
Mrs. Humphrey seemed to have forgotten her lesson and class as her eyes wandered from the tiny dog to the boy who held her tenderly. "I think I could give her a home." she smiled gently. "I'm retiring at the end of this semester and could use a little companion."
Duo's eyes lit up. "She'll be a great companion!" he exclaimed and smiled broadly. "You won't regret it, I promise."
"May I?" the woman's open hands reached forward and, almost regretfully, Duo nodded. He kissed the dogs knobby head and rubbed his cheek against the soft fur before he carefully placed his former hidden treasure into the woman's waiting hands. She brought Ping close to her body and gently pressed the slightly shaking animal against her chest and cuddled the dog lovingly.
Any regret the boy had in giving up the dog vanished when he saw the teacher visibly soften at the comfort the little creature offered. He'd felt the same way when he'd first picked her up at the shelter and couldn't bear to put her down. He even defied his friends' refusal to have an animal in order to keep that comfort for a little while longer. With a sigh, he returned to his desk. The other pilots stared at him as he approached, only Quatre and Trowa held any hint of a soft smile. Wufei and Heero frowned at him and he knew he was in for another lecture when he got home. He mentally shrugged. It was worth it. He didn't regret keeping Ping even if he had to stay away from his friends in order to take care of her and keep his secret. Now the poem, that shouldn't have been too much of a surprise to them, had a two fold effect, he'd completed an assignment in his normal off-colored way, and succeeded in getting Ping a new home. He'd thought Mrs. Humphrey looked lonely, and he'd gambled that she would melt at the sight of the little dog. His instincts paid off again.
"Thank you, Mr. Wells." Mrs. Humphrey stood from her desk smiling, Ping comfortably nestled in her arms. "Now, whose next?" she asked more cheerfully than any of the her students had witnessed before.
Max Wells was the most popular person on campus that day as rumor of his poem spread throughout the student population. Guys clapped him on the back at the news of his suggestive poem and making a teacher faint, and insisting he repeat it to them. The girls gushed at his sensitivity and kindness to the elderly teacher. All in all, he was the hero of the day, having brought a little life to another dull day of school.