School Daze - A Compliation of Short Stories
Story 5 - The Gift
Duo's Friendship Arc 14
by Dyna Dee
During the short time he'd been planet side, Heero Yuy had discovered that his education was not as complete as he had once thought. The people he'd encountered during his mission to Earth as a gundam pilot seemed to bring, along with their acquaintance, challenges to his training and, slowly, his perceptions and limited understanding of humanity was changing. He was forced to re-evaluate what he had been taught and how he interacted with those people he'd met.
The first person he'd come face to face with when he came to earth was a girl, Relena Dorilan, and she confused him. He couldn't understand at first why he didn't eliminate her when she discovered what he was. At their first meeting and those few short interludes in which they socially mingled, he'd evaluated her as being a mixture of softness and compassion, things so foreign to his life and training, and yet, she had a spark of stubborn determination that was both irritating and admirable. He was somehow drawn to her, yet at the same time, he was somewhat fearful of her. Not that she posed any danger to him physically, but she was an unknown factor that distracted him, and he couldn't afford to be distracted any further than he was.
He'd had similar conflicting emotions regarding the other gundam pilots. Duo baffled him the most with his humor, his ever-changing moods, and his general upbeat attitude. Though their personalities differed greatly, he found a need for this other boy in his life. He'd rationalized that they both needed a friend....and more than that, a connection had been made between them similar to that of brothers.
The Wing pilot felt an affinity for the other pilots as well. Friendship had grown as their acceptance and faith in each other was built from the ground up. He knew he could rely on them, and they on him. And at the moment, he was relying on two of his friends to help him through another situation for which he'd had no training whatsoever.
He looked up at the long and large brick building in front of him. His eyes narrowed as he took in the perimeter and various doors leading into the building that would provide a quick escape route if the mission went badly. He rubbed his palms against the black dress slacks, designated as part of the school uniforms they all wore as they hadn't had time to change out of them before leaving on this mission. He had been informed that the time needed to accomplish their task was limited. He also realized with a bit of a start that he was nervous, or maybe it was just apprehension. Two emotions he wasn't familiar or comfortable with. With trepidation, he'd accepted the need for the task that had been set out for him to be accomplish. He straightened his spine with determination, his fists clenched resolutely at his side, and his eyes bore into the building as if his will alone would fulfill his mission.
"Man, Heero, chill out." Duo chided as he slapped his best friend on the back. "How are ya ever gonna live to be an old man when you freak out about something like this?" he asked with incredulous amusement.
"I am not freaking out." the Wing pilot replied in a dangerous tone, his eyes shooting daggers at his best friend.
Duo Maxwell rolled his eyes in disbelief and looked to the other side of the stoic pilot to their other friend. "What do you think, Quatre?" Is he freaking?"
"Definitely freaking." the blonde answered with a humorous grin refusing to be squelched on his face.
"Listen, Heero," the braided boy placed his forearm across his friend's tense shoulder and casually leaned against him. "This is not a freakin mission, Heero. You don't have to maim or kill anyone here, self destruct, or blow up anything."
"I know that." the Japanese boy replied through gritted teeth as he gave his friend his best warning glare.
"Then why so tense?" Quatre answered. "We've got everything we need for this venture to be successful." he patted his hip pocket.
The Wing pilot hesitated a moment as he tried to think of words to explain his feelings and actions. "This is....unchartered territory for me." he admitted to the two standing close to him. Both sets of eyes widened slightly before a look of understanding passed between them.
"Wasn't exactly in the training, was it?" Duo guessed.
Heero nodded. "Only when I practiced search and destroy scenarios. Dr. J would set me loose in such a place and I had to find a particular target in order for my practice mission to succeed."
Quatre's eyes lit up with inspiration. "Can't you see, Heero, that this is exactly the same as your practice drills. We need to search and identify, not a particular person, but an item within specified perimeters."
Heero's intense eyes relaxed slightly at the Sandrock pilot's use of language in redefining his objective. He nodded his head. "Got it." His two companions smiled, showing a measure of relief at his more relaxed stance and attitude. His eyes were less intense, but still held the look of determined purpose, his hands had unclenched and now relaxed by his side.
Duo clapped him on the back once again. "Well, alllllllrighty then." he beamed. "Our objective is something meaningful, yet not extravagant; thoughtful, but not showy."
Heero tensed again. "I have no idea what that is." he admitted a look of near panic reflected in his blue eyes.
"That's why we're here, Heero. We won't let you down at a time like this." Quatre assured him with mock seriousness and a grin as he took hold of the Wing pilot's arm and Duo took hold of the other. Together the two boys moved him forward towards the large glass doors leading into the building.
"You're sure we have to do this?" Heero asked uncertain as the feeling of dread came back to him.
"Yes!" both boys flanking him replied simultaneously.
"Very well." he acquiesced glumly. "Let's just get this over with."
"Geeze, Heero. You act like we're taking you to face a firing squad or something." Duo said with a huff. He looked up to exchange a puzzled look with Quatre as they almost literally dragged the perfect soldier through the doors of the Brussels' Megamall.
The pilot of Wing knew he was in way over his head only moments after they'd entered the building. Why he chose these two particular boys to help him caused him to question his powers of reasoning. Duo, he had rationalized, loved any kind of shopping establishment. He decided that this was most likely due to his spartan childhood. He always bought items that were unique and interesting, and brought them out to show his friends. His purchases were objects that were fascinating or sentimental. A story of those purchases always followed an explanation of why he'd purchased it and the telling always unveiled another part of Duo's past to him, helping him to understand his friend better. He didn't purchase furiously, but with practiced frugality, giving way extravagance only when need or sentiment prevailed. Heero had thought that surely his friend would be helpful to him on this assignment.
Quatre, on the other hand, had unlimited purchasing power. He was more familiar with this territory than any of the pilots and he'd estimated he would also be valuable on this mission. 'How could I have miscalculated so badly?' he asked himself.
Their objective had been to find a gift for their dates. Relena was once again in attendance at the school they'd been hiding in for the last few weeks. The school's spring social activities included an annual boxed lunch picnic. The girls prepared a special picnic lunch and invited a boy to attend the event with her. The boy, in return, was to present a small gift to his hostess. Evidently, it was a well attended and very popular school event to which Relena had promptly invited him to on the day it had been announced.
He'd had no experience in purchasing a gift for a female, which led him to his present dilemma. Without any knowledge as to what a fifteen year old girl would like to receive as a gift from a boy, he'd turned to the person he thought would be most helpful, Duo. His best friend had, in turn, gone to Quatre, and the two planned this excursion to the mall. Wufei and Trowa had declined accompanying them to the enormous shopping establishment, having managed to dodge any approaching female with a glint of hope in her eyes. He assumed the two had as little experience in this kind of purchasing as he had, so he didn't insist they participate in this torturous excursion.
His two companions had pushed and pulled his reluctant body from one store to another, looking for the perfect gift. Never had he met two people who had such opposite tastes. Duo suggested a music C.D., but no one knew what kind of music Relena liked. Quatre dragged them to a jewelry store only to have Duo's eyes threaten to pop out of his head in horror at the prices. "Too extravagant!" he insisted. Heero knew his face must have shown a blush as the two practiced shoppers led him into an expensive women's lingerie shop. Full-figured manikins were dressed in scanty silk underwear, and racks of multi-colored and printed bras and matching panties crowded the interior of the store. Duo insisted they had nice scented hand lotion there, yet no one was surprised when he didn't pass up the chance to hand Heero a silk lacy thong as a suggestion. The clerks ushered them out quickly as Heero reached forward and wrapped the tiny article of clothing around Duo's neck.
As they visited every store within the unbelievably large complex, the two accompanying him insisted he enjoy the delectable delights a mall like this provided. Within the three hours of their hunting, they eaten hot dogs on a stick with lemonade, pieces of chocolate, ice cream on a stick dipped in chocolate and rolled in roasted nuts, soft buttery pretzels, and large gooey cinnamon rolls along with milk.
"I want go back to the dorms now." Heero moaned after three grueling hours passed. His stomach was filled, miserably so, with foods he was unaccustomed to eating, his feet were sore, and his patience was spent. He looked down at the packages they all held. Duo managed to talk Quatre into buying each of them some clothes and "necessities." The Winner heir, as generous as always, was only too happy to comply. Though how CD's, a back massager, and posters were considered a "necessity" he'd never know.
"You have to make a decision before we leave here, Heero." Quatre explained calmly with seemingly infinite patience. "Tomorrow is the picnic and you need a gift."
"What are you giving your date?" he asked the blonde.
"A box of fine chocolates." Quatre answered.
"Then that's what I'll give." he said and felt like he should slap himself up along side the head for not asking sooner.
"No can do." Duo piped up, earning a glare.
For some reason unfathomable to the Wing pilot, his friend seemed even cheerier now than when they entered the mall. Heero quickly came to the conclusion that his friend was always happy when he was spending someone else's money.
"We might end up sitting with each other at the picnic and you can't give the same gift.....it'll appear....unoriginal." he explained with a shrug.
"What did you buy?" Heero asked and Duo smiled as he opened one of the three large bags he carried and rummaged around in the bottom for a few moments. His eyes lit up as his hand found what he was looking for. He pulled out a shiny red bag and opened it, taking out a two by five inch, green velvet covered box. Flipping the lid open, he proudly displayed the contents, a gold charm bracelet with a small picnic basket attached.
"Great idea!" Quatre commented, sounding impressed. He then frowned slightly thinking his friend's gift seemed more thoughtful than a box of chocolates. But Duo had insisted that you couldn't go wrong with a box of really good chocolate. By the colonies, they'd sampled enough of the sweet confection to pick out only the best pieces to be carefully placed in the gold box.
Heero's face was neutral as he considered his friends' purchases.
"See?" Duo pointed to the item in his hand. "It's not expensive, it's personal, and something that will evoke a memory of the day she got this long after we're gone." Duo could see the wheels turning in Heero's brain. "Think of what Relena might enjoy, that might help." he offered just before his eyes widened with excitement as he looked over Heero's shoulder. "Look, chocolate chip cookies. Ya gotta have one of those with walnuts." he told his friends, and quickly handed his packages to Quatre and literally bounce off towards the aromatic shop.
Heero took a deep breath and scratched the top of his head. What did he really know about Relena? His mind turned over different descriptions of her that he'd formed over the brief time they'd known of each other. She was smart, attractive, a politician's daughter, and she seemed to want to spend time with him. Heero's mind reviewed all that he'd seen in the many stores they visited in the last three hours when suddenly, an idea came to him.
"Here." he handed his packages to an already overburdened Arabian teen. "I'll be back in a few minutes."
"Oh,... okay." Quatre answered as he struggled to hold onto the six large packages added to his own three.
Ten minutes later, Heero returned with a plastic bag carefully hidden behind him. Duo handed him a large cookie. It appeared his and Quatre's had already been consumed.
"Whadja get?' he asked, trying to catch a glimpse of the stores name on the white bag hidden carefully behind Heero's back.
"I found something." he answered with no emotion or smile. The sign that a mission was accomplished and their excursion had now officially come to an end.
"Great!" Quatre beamed. "What did you decided on?"
"It's a surprise." Heero gave them a crooked smile.
Duo blinked in confusion. "We told you what we bought." he reminded his roommate, thinking it only fair his friend do the same.
Quatre glanced at his watch. "We better get back if we're going to catch a late dinner.
Duo's eyes widened. "That's right, they're having stroganoff tonight. Let's go." He grabbed his three large bags from Quatre then turned to head towards the exit doors to the street.
Heero eyed his retreating friend with disbelief as he stumbled along. "How can you think of eating anything else after all the.......junk food we've just eaten?" he asked struggling to retrieve his shopping bags from Quatre while trying to keep hold of his cookie as both boys quickened their pace to keep up with the energetic American.
Duo looked back, his eyes radiating amazement. "But it's stroganoff, Heero. Beef stroganoff." He reached back to pull at the sleeves of the slower two behind him to hurry them along, his mouth already salivating at the thought of his favorite evening meal.
The day of the picnic dawned gloriously with a bright blue sky, warm temperatures, and an occasional wispy white cloud that slowly tracked its way across the sky. A perfect day for a picnic. Each pilot met his date at her dorm room and escorted her to the local park where the event was being held.
Heero's calm exterior belied the uneasy feeling he felt inside. He was actually feeling nervous, and on a date. An informal one but, nonetheless, a date. He almost flinched when Relena casually slipped her hand to rest on his upper arm as they strolled towards the park, unused to the feeling of pleasure it sent through him. She smiled warmly at him and carried on most of the one-sided and polite conversation. He wasn't use to talking with girls and was almost relieved when he spotted Duo amongst the crowd of students already gathered together.
Standing next to his friend, who was dressed similarly in casual clothing as he was, in jeans and a white oxford shirt, was a girl he knew had been actively pursuing Duo for the last few weeks. Annika was a petite, vivacious strawberry blonde, "perky" is how Duo described her. She was standing next to him now with her hands wrapped possessively around his arm and her eyes looking up in an adoring manner into his face. Duo, unlike everyone around them, seemed completely unaware of her blatant adoration, either that or he choose to ignore is as you'd have to be blind not to see it, was currently searching the large group of students until his eyes fell on he and Relena. His face nearly burst with a bright grin and motioned them over.
Relena followed Heero's line of sight and saw Duo's invitation. "Would you like to join them?" she asked.
Heero turned to her. "You wouldn't mind?"
She replied with a warm smile. "Not at all."
Returning the smile, Heero led Relena towards the two and noticed the unmistakable blonde hair on top of Quatre's head as he made his way through the crowd towards the same direction. "Just remember we're on a mission and to use our school names." he reminded her.
"Got it." she smiled. It was exciting to be the only person in school to know that the infamous Gundam pilots were right under their noses, and that they were her friends. "Odin, Parish, and Rocky, right?" she repeated their aliases.
"But why Rocky?" Relena asked quietly so that no one would hear but her date. "It seems so unlike Quatre. More like the name of a sports jock." she smiled with amusement.
Heero nodded returning the grin. "He wanted to try something new." he replied, sharing her amusement at the name so unlike the blonde Arabian.
Quatre and his date had met up with Duo and his girl just moments before Heero and Relena arrived. They had only a moment to greet each other and their dates before the Principle's voice cut loudly through the crowd with his use of a cheap sound system that squawked and buzzed as he spoke. He gave a short speech to officially start the annual picnic by welcoming the students and announcing that soft drinks could be found at the tables set up by the pond.
After his speech, the six agreed to picnic together and chose a spot far away from the inner circle of students that crowded together in clumps on the green.
They sat with their dates on separate table cloths the girls provided and ate their lunch together, the boys making sure to flatter their hostess with praises for the wonderful meal they'd prepared. Duo was wiping off the remnants of his most delicious fried chicken on a napkin and watched Quatre, who had finished ahead of him and was pulling out the bag he'd carried and presented the box to his date, Jessica. The brunet gushed over the fine chocolates and after opening the box, shared a piece with each of them.
Duo brought forward his red bag that he'd been carrying. Annika squealed with delight as she opened the box and discovered what was inside. "Oh Parish, it's perfect." she gushed and held it up for everyone to see, then asked "Parish" to help her put it on. She admired it on her wrist for a moment then threw herself at the braided boy, knocking him back into the lush grass and landing on top of him in a lip lock, trying her best to find his tonsils.
Seeing that the boy on the ground didn't seem to mind the demonstrative act of gratitude, Heero brought forward the white paper bag that held his wrapped gift. He shyly handed it to his date.
Relena took out the light blue foil wrapped gift from the bag and verbally admired the beautiful paper and painstakingly loosened the tape as to not rip it. Setting the perfectly in-tact piece of wrapping paper aside, she held in her hand a wooden box with a checkerboard design on the top and bottom of it, the sides were hinged. She exchanged a curious look with Heero who leaned forward showing her a clasp on the other side. Opening it, she saw a variety or carved wooden pieces and instantly recognized them. "It's a chess set." she looked up slightly puzzled, but offered a gracious smile. "Thank you, Odin. It's very nice."
"Do you know how to play?" he asked.
Relena shook her head as she gazed down at the pieces within the box that she now realized opened up into a chess board. "My father tried to teach me once while we were on a shuttle trip to one of the colonies." she sighed deeply at the memory. "He was interrupted by a phone call and never finished." She picked up the white king and caressed it thoughtfully. "He loved the game," she said more quietly. "just never had time to play it."
Duo, hearing the change of tone in the conversation, sat up, though Annika was still doing her best to distract him. He gently pushed her to the side and put his arm around her shoulder to hold her in place to better observe what was going on between Heero and Relena.
"It's a game of strategy," Heero explained as he looked into her eyes to see the pain the memory had brought her. "and I thought that maybe I could teach you."
Relena's eyes lifted up from the box on her lap, her eyes were bright and her smile dazzling. "Really? You'd take the time to teach me?" she asked almost breathless.
Heero nodded and the two spent a few moments staring into each other's eyes, oblivious of their surroundings or companions.
"Good job with the gift, Odin." Duo's voice called out to end the gazing fest. "He picked that out all by himself Relena." he was happy to inform her.
"It's a wonderful, thoughtful gift." she answered sincerely, her eyes never straying from Heero's face.
The scratchy sound system was turned on once again, and the principal's voice announced the sack race that would begin shortly. Both boy and girl would climb into a large burlap sack and jump together to the finish line. The first couple to pass the line would win tickets to the local movie theater.
Duo's date jumped to her feet and grabbing hold of his hands and pulled him up. "Come on Parish. I know we can win." her green eyes glistened with mischief.
"Yeah right." the long haired boy laughed with his usual good nature as he brushed the grass from off his pants. "I know you just can't wait to get me in the sack."
The air around them froze for a moment at that statement, just before they all burst out into laughter. The girls and boys both blushing as memories were being forged in each of their minds of this day with friends, food, and a few moments when the war seemed to be another world away.