by Dyna Dee
Walker approached Heero, standing in the center of the training mat, with a swagger in his step, confident of his skills and looking forward to taking the younger, smaller boy down. The room grew quiet as the two teens, each dressed in a white gi, bowed formally to each other and then took a battle stance. Walker made the first offensive move by leaping forward and grabbing hold of Heero with the intent to throw him over his shoulder. Heero, having anticipated such a move, immediately countered and with a swift duck and half spin his outstretched leg caught Walker unexpectedly and dropped him to the mat. The older boy's hands, which managed to gain purchase on Heero's gi, remained steadfast on the coarse white fabric and took the smaller boy down with him. There, on the training mat, the two boys, unequal in size, wrestled for dominance.
"Don't get any fresh ideas, boy lover," Walker hissed as Heero grappled with him. "You're a freak and I'm going to prove it by smashing you into the ground."
It wasn't the taunting of his relationship with Duo that bothered Heero, but the smugness of the other boy and the word "freak" that triggered something inside of him that he'd been fighting since he'd first met Duo and as a result of the information he'd discovered on his many searches regarding their pasts. He'd often fought the dark whispers within himself that repeatedly told him that he was a freak, something he desperately did not want to believe was true. When compared to the everyday person, even the other boy's in the training facility, he guessed that in some respects he and Duo were freaks, but still he fought it, hating the reality of it as defined by their very existence. He and Duo had both tried to not dwell on it, not wanting it to be true that they were so different from anyone they had ever known..
Something of what he was feeling must have been visible on his face, for Walker's eyes lit up with an unholy glee. "Freak," he snarled again with a malicious grin.
Heero brought his hand up with lightening speed and clocked the self-righteous bastard in the jaw, knocking him off of his stomach then quickly jumped to his feet to begin sparring in a proper way once again.
Walker stood, angered by the forceful hit, and faced off with the smaller boy, hand and arms raised, poised to fight.
Heero centered himself again, not wanting his anger to unbalance him. With his arms raised, he began a series of attack moves designed to test the skills of the older and bigger teenager. Walker answered them perfectly and Heero knew he would have to fight hard to be the victor of this match. Bringing his foot up with almost impossible speed, he kicked the taller boy in the stomach, then landed several stunning blows to his face and head as the slightly hunched teen tried to catch his breath. Walker partially blocked a few of the blows being rained down on him, but as his own hand and arm flew up in a defensive position to protect himself, the deflected blow was powerful enough to cause him to hit himself in the eye, a result of the force and power the deceptively smaller boy used. Blinking rapidly to recover from his blurred vision, he countered with a series of attacking blows of his own of which Heero successfully blocked all but one and that was an elbow that hit him in squarely in the chest.
Heero's eyes narrowed in concentration, studying the moves and style of the other boy. He was good, but it was obvious he'd been taught every move here at the training facility and, though he had perfected each battle form, there was no originality. Heero gave his opponent a crafty smile, grateful for his own creative sensei and for Duo teaching him a few of the "dirty tricks" he'd acquired and used in street fighting.
Seeing the look of confidence come to Heero's face, the other boy faltered for a moment, giving Heero the opening he needed to attack. A continued series of rapid foot and hand attacks caused Walker to stumble back, his guard coming down as he frantically tried to counterattack Heero's charge.
The entire sparing match took less than five minutes and ended with Walker being pushed down flat, his chest pinned on the mat with Heero holding his sparing partner's arms and hands high up and behind his back, asking him in a low voice if he conceded. All eyes in the silent, now very still room were trained on the boy laying in an uncomfortable position on the floor beneath the smaller Japanese boy. Walker's eyes were bright and hateful as he reluctantly nodded his head, conceding his defeat and that the sparing match was over.
Heero let go of his opponent's wrists and stepped back, allowing the taller boy to rise. They both faced each other and stiffly bowed as Master Lo approached and congratulated Heero on a fine match and creative battle plan. The two boys separated and went to opposite sides of the mat as there were several more sparing matches with other trainees before the class concluded and was dismissed.
Upon the students' departure, Heero noted that, off to the side, Walker and his buddies stood talking in low voices and looking conspiratorially in his direction; a definite foreshadowing of more trouble in his future.
"Mr. Yuy. A moment please," Master Lo's voice called after Heero, causing him to turn back while the other students left the room, heading for the showers.
"Yes, Sensei," Heero bowed respectfully to the older man.
"You have a unique style that combines the traditional with the uncouth," the bald man with the wispy eyebrows commented. "Where did you learn to fight like that and why do you use that technique?" The instructor folded his arms over the broad chest and waited for an answer. His appearance and voice did not chastise the boy he was addressing, but instead bore the look of curiosity that Heero had become well acquainted with since he'd met Duo.
"I've had formal training since I was a little over three years old," Heero replied. "But my friend lived on the streets and learned the necessity of street fighting. We met in a juvenile detention facility where we both had to fight, almost on a daily basis. I watched and learned from him a few tricks that were unrefined and raw but very effective. I find it helpful to have a few surprises to spring on an equally trained opponent. Nine times out of ten, dirty fighting throws off their concentration and they begin to make mistakes."
The old martial arts master chuckled, strangely amused at the boy's words. He then sobered, not sharing the source of his amusement with the boy, when he addressed Heero again. "You are a fine student, Mr. Yuy. It is a pleasure to teach someone who is teachable and adaptable. But Mr. Walker is a boy filled with pride and his own self importance. I'm afraid you have made some enemies today. You would do well to watch your back for the next few days. Avoid being caught alone or in a corner."
Heero nodded, having come to the same conclusion himself when he saw Walker talking to his friends after class. "I'll be careful," he answered.
Taking his leave of the older man, Heero turned to begin the walk back to the locker room. He entered the room and was aware of the sounds of water running and the quiet murmur of voices echoing in the large room. Several wet-haired boys, fresh from the showers with their yellow jumpsuits sticking slightly to their still moist bodies, passed by him, quietly congratulating him on his victory while averting their eyes. He realized they were uncomfortable and that the five of them seemed in an unaccustomed hurry to leave the vicinity. Their behavior made him suspicious and he mentally prepared himself for a confrontation with Walker that would probably happen sooner than later.
Glancing at the clock placed high upon the wall, Heero saw that he had only ten minutes to make it to his next class. Stripping off his gi, he picked up his towel and his toiletry bag and he made his way to the showers deciding to take a very quick one. He entered the large tiled shower area and noticed again the hasty exit of several boys, alerting his senses that there was trouble afoot.
Moving quickly but trying not to appear panicked, he took out his soap and placed it under the stream of water coming from one of the two dozen showers nozzles that ran continuously for ten minutes after the end of class. The wet, sudsy soap was then applied to his body, creating a slippery lather on his chest, arms and legs.
"Yuy!" Walker called his name sharply and his voice echoed throughout the large room, slightly startling Heero. He'd anticipated the other boy reacting sometime during that day, but he'd still been unprepared for it to happen this quickly. He turned, still lathering his shoulders, to glare at the other boy, dressed only in his boxers and surrounded by five of his close, partially dressed buddies who looked as smug as their so called leader. The Japanese boy couldn't help but notice the evidence of their earlier match on Walker's pale skin. Standing out was the beginning of discoloration around Walker's right eye and several bruises forming on other parts of his body.
"What do you want?" Heero asked, managing to sound relatively calm.
"A rematch, here and now!"
"You can't be serious?" Heero felt vulnerable in his current state of undress. He momentarily chastised himself for being caught in this position. Hadn't Master Lo just told him to not be caught alone and isolated?
"What? Are you chicken?" Walker taunted with a grin on his face. "Come on, sissy boy. Show me what you've got."
Heero quickly looked for a good position in the fifteen by fifteen foot area that comprised the showers. There wasn't much to fight with and no way to escape the situation. It seemed as if the moment to prove himself had come once again, and with the outcome of this second fight with Walker, he would set the tone as to how the other Yellows viewed him; how he handled this challenge would decide his future.
He turned to face the approaching boy and bent his knees, preparing to launch himself or dodge an attack. Thankfully, the other five Yellows stayed behind Walker, at least for the moment, to see what would happen.
Heero soaped his hands thoroughly then dropped the slick bar to the tiles below. He rubbed his hands together, making sure the sudsy lather covered his knuckles. Standing behind the spray of warm water, he watched and waited until Walker was three feet in front of him and lifted his hands as he braced his feet in the pose of a combatant.
Patience, Heero told himself. Walker had to make the first move before he could strike. He didn't know if security cameras would pick up on what was happening, but he knew he didn't want to be caught throwing the first punch even though he didn't instigate the fight and was outnumbered if the others chose to join in.
It was clear the taller and older teen viewed Heero's pause as either a weakness or fear and, as a result, a slow gloating smile grew on his face. "You're going to eat shit by the time I'm through with you, Yuy,"
"Sorry," Heero replied with a deadpan expression, "but you don't look appetizing."
Walker's smile faded at the backhanded insult and fury flashed in his eyes a moment before he launched himself at the smaller teen. Heero had been poised and ready, and as the older boy came at him, he feigned a move to his left, re-balanced, then threw his body and weight into a right punch, hitting the other boy in his left eye, the soap on his knuckles adding to the sting of the hit.
Walker then began to fight more wildly, his swinging fists were deflected by the smaller boy, but those lucky few strikes on the naked flesh of his Japanese opponent seemed to glance harmlessly off the soap lathered body. Attempting to deliver one blow after another, Walker became visibly frustrated when each aimed punch either missed the target or appeared to be completely ineffective as his hands met the slippery, soap covered skin. He paused for just a moment to wipe at the stinging soap from his bruised eyes with the palm of his hands, only to find the soap that had gathered on them from hitting the other boy was being rubbed in and intensified the burning in his eyes. That momentary distraction was taken advantage of by the smaller teen as Heero's fist connected with Walker's unprotected stomach.
Furious, the taller boy bent over slightly and dove head first into the Japanese boy's stomach, knocking them both to the tiled floor, their bare skin slapped loudly onto the cool, wet tiles just as the timer on the water system turned off the steady flow of water.
Grunts from the two fighting boys remained the only sound in the locker room as they wrestled for dominance, the sound of flesh hitting flesh and tile echoed through the room as they both struck out at each other, the sound punctuating the fact that the fight was still intense and anything but over.
The soap covering Heero's skin made it difficult for the larger and heavier boy to get a grip on the Japanese boy's body, and Heero easily slipped from his grasp time and time again.
The disadvantage to Heero was that his grip was also affected. Deciding he needed his hands to finish the fight but now lacked the water from the shower to get it off, he used the only material available. Because of their close proximity, Heero momentarily flat on his back and the older, heavier teen scrambling above him, the Japanese boy grabbed Walker by his cotton covered ass with both hands and began to wipe the slippery soap from off his palms. That action managed to startle the older boy enough to give Heero the advantage yet again.
"What the hell?" Walker shouted and pulled up at the sudden and shocking feeling of his butt being squeezed by another boy. Momentarily stunned, he failed to react when Heero flipped them over, freed himself and jumped up to stand on his feet, ready to fight again.
Snickers from the five boys on the edge of the shower brought a deeper shade of red to the older teen's face and he scrambled to his feet.
"You sick pervert!" He shouted in anger and humiliation to Heero. "It's time I show you some real pain."
Though ready, Heero was surprised when Walker seemed to calm and center himself. He then began a series of attacks that were much more controlled than they had been moments before. Heero instantly recognized the fact that the older teen's offensive strikes were no longer the ones used for sparing. His style had changed from classroom moves to those used for maiming or killing an opponent. Walker was definitely beyond reasoning and was out for blood; specifically, his blood.
Heero countered each painful and well aimed blow and, though deeply concentrating, he vaguely recognized the voices of the other boys in the background. They weren't cheering for their friend, urging him on in his fighting, but they were apparently trying to appeal to him to back off. The battle in the large shower stall had gone much further then the other boys had expected and Walker's determined face and executed moves showed that he was serious about bringing the younger student down, permanently.
Then, taking a step back, Heero's foot encountered the bar of soap that he'd dropped when the fight had first begun and he slipped. Walker's open heeled punch to Heero's solar plexis at the same moment added to the momentum, causing the younger boy to fall back hard and fast, hitting his head and shoulder on the tiled wall of the shower stall just behind him before completing the fall to the wet cooling floor. With pain shooting through his skull and his vision darkening, Heero knew a moment of fear as the other boy moved forward to gloat over his fallen, semi-limp form. He watched with eyes darkening around the edge of his vision as Walker raised his fist to strike a killing blow, despite the echoing sound of his friends yelling for him to stop. Using more instinct than form, Heero waited until Walker was standing over his sprawled body, then suddenly and with effort, he swung his feet out, catching, then sweeping the larger teen's legs out from under him and knocking him backwards, bringing him down to land on his back. A hundredth of a second later a loud crack sounded as Walker's head hit the tiled floor.
Forcing himself to remain conscious, Heero used the cold tile wall to help him stand up on his uncertain feet, his head pulsing with pain as he stumbled to his attacker, as he also struggled to rise off the shower floor with one hand resting on the back of his head.
Heero knew at this point that he couldn't back off, Walker would probably come after him again as would any other bully in the training facility if he didn't give the fight a decisive ending. So despite his own training to never hit a man when he was down, he chose to fight with Duo's street ethic of, 'Hit them until they can't come at you no more.'
Walker was on his hands and knees, trying to find his feet when Heero's foot caught him in the stomach, knocking the wind from his lungs. Another well aimed kick sent the older boy flopping onto his back, pain and lingering fury on his face. Heero reached for him and Walker automatically raised his hand to block any forthcoming blow only to find his fingers were grabbed and were pushed backwards, causing him to cry out at the pain the simple hold caused.
Gasping for air and dealing with the pain, the older boy narrowed his eyes in an unspoken challenge to the boy above.
"Give?" Heero asked, willing himself to not give into the darkness that hampered his vision.
"Never, you prick! You don't have the balls to do it," Walker gasped defiantly.
A sickening cracking sound was heard as four fingers were simultaneously broken and the scream of pain that came from the boy on the floor echoed throughout the room. Heero let go of the mangled hand and watched as the wounded boy curled into a ball on the floor, cradled his broken hand and cried like a helpless child.
"What's going on here?" Master Lo's angry voice filled the room and the echoing sound of running feet followed the announcement that the sensei was in the locker room.
Heero swayed slightly on his unsteady feet as he stepped back from Walker's writhing body and struggled to focus with eyes that suddenly couldn't see anything clearly.
"Mr. Yuy, are you alright?" The older man was a dark blur to Heero's eyes, but he dimly noticed the tone of concern in his voice.
"No," Heero answered and as his knees collapsed underneath him, he fell forward into his sensei's arms, feeling for a brief moment before he passed out that he was safe.
He woke sometime later to a splitting headache as well as pain from the many blows Walker had inflicted on his body. Sensing the room was light, he opened his eyes slowly, allowing himself to adjust to the brightness. He looked around to see he was in the infirmary and to his side sat Zechs, the captain of his Yellow unit.
"How long?" Heero asked, his voice causing the older teen to look up from whatever he was reading.
"Six hours," Zechs reported and closed his book. Leaning forward he looked into his subordinate's eyes. "That wasn't the typical newbie fight, was it?" he asked.
Heero shook his head, wincing at the pain the slight action brought.
"You have a concussion," Zechs explained. "Do you remember anything that happened?"
Heero thought back, remembering the shower area and recalled he and Walker going at each other. Some of the details were sketchy, but he recollected soaping himself as a defensive move and Walker's attacks. Then his memory flashed the change in his opponent's face and style of fighting; that Walker was out for his blood and that the fight quickly became anything but harmless school yard fighting.
"It's sketchy, but I remember Walker used lethal forms that are forbidden at the facility. He was out to kill me."
Zechs's face was grave as he listened. "Commander Reid and I watched the surveillance video, then questioned the five spectators. They're lucky they didn't join in or they'd be in the same position as Walker."
"Which is?" Heero asked, closing his eyes again.
"Sent home, dishonorably discharged from the training facility."
Heero digested the information before asking the inevitable question. "Am I in trouble?"
Zechs sighed audibly. "You should be, but you were clearly acting defensively, though your action at the end are questionable. There will be no charges brought against you or punishment," he told him. Then sighing deeply, the blond continued in a manner that seemed strangely apologetic. "Listen Heero, I'm sorry I didn't do more to stop the harassment you've been experiencing. It's a traditional part of transition from Red to Yellow, for newbies to be somewhat hazed. Everyone experiences it to some degree in each level, but for some reason you seem to have gotten it to an extreme. I'll do what I can to see it doesn't continue, but I can't promise it will stop completely. I can't see everything nor be everywhere."
Heero nodded, accepting the apology and explanation. He then came to the conclusion that as long as he was capable and able to, he would stop the tradition of the harassing of newbies from happening to anyone else, especially to Duo when he was advanced to Yellow. He would not stand by and watch his friend be picked on and bullied. He'd seen enough of that in the juvenile detention center when they'd first met, and after a short amount of time of knowing the long haired and vivacious boy, he had put a stop to the persecution Duo was experiencing because of his small size and attractive appearance. He determined that he would do what was necessary to stop it here also, if the need presented itself.
Despite the pain in his head and all over his body, Heero threw back the covers, grateful for the patient gown that covered his body, and tried to move from the bed.
"Where do you think you're going?" Zechs asked in alarm, putting a hand on the injured boy's shoulder to hold him down.
Heero moaned slightly as the shoulder exploded in pain. That had been the shoulder he'd hit along with his head on the tiled shower wall before going down.
"I have to go back to Red Five," he gasped, trying to dislodge the blond's hand from his shoulder.
"The doctor says you need to stay here for the night." Zechs replied.
"No," Heero said forcefully, fully opening his eyes to glare at his captain. "The standing orders are that I return to my barracks for the night, and that's what I intend to do. They'll be worrying about me as it is because I didn't return for dinner."
Zechs's eyes narrowed and he definitely didn't look pleased at being reminded of the unusual order and that Yuy's circumstances were a mystery to him. "It's in your best interest to stay here and rest," he said in a cold tone of voice.
"No, it isn't. Now either help me or get out of my way," Heero demanded, his manner rude and abrupt.
Zechs did help him to dress in his Red jumpsuit with the Yellow stripes and, with the injured boy's arm over the back of his neck and his own arm around the boy's waist, he led the staggering teen back to Red where he was greeted at the door by a frowning Chinese boy who glared hatefully at the blond captain. It was obvious to Zechs that news of the fight had traveled fast and that the Reds had already learned of it.
"So much for protecting those under your command," Wufei snarled at the older teen.
"It wasn't my fault, Chang," Zechs protested with anger.
"You are responsible for all that happens to your trainees. Isn't that what they tell us before we even are given a command position?"
"Well my time of commanding Heero is up for the day. You take on the responsibility for him," the blond snarled. "He's gone against the doctor's order to return to your unit, so you babysit him. He needs to be awakened every two hours for the next twenty-four hours. See you later." With that, the tall blond handed the swaying boy with the pained expression on his face over to the Red lieutenant, then straightened his posture, turned, and left without a look back.
Heero was put to bed in the strangely quiet barracks while Duo hovered at his side. The braided boy eagerly volunteered to take on the responsibility of waking Heero every two hours. When the lights went out, he remained at Heero's side, cautiously taking Heero's hand in his own after making sure no one in the room could see them.
"What happened, Heero?" Duo asked, seeing Heero's eyes open in the dim lit reflection of the night lights. "No one gets the better of you in a fight."
"There was nothing to use as a weapon," Heero replied in a weary voice. "I was naked with only a bar of soap in my hands when Walker approached me."
"Did you shove it in his mouth?" Duo asked in all seriousness. He'd discovered when he was quite young that you made a weapon out of whatever you had at hand and had taught that principle to Heero when they'd trained together. He'd also learned a long time ago, in one of his many foster homes, that bars of soap in the mouth was something to be avoidable at all costs.
"I lathered myself up to make it hard to connect a punch, then got some in his eyes with my first strike."
"That's good," Duo nodded, approving of the tactic he might have used. "But how'd you get hurt?"
"I stepped on the bar of soap,"
"Brought down by soap?" Duo snickered, but stopped when Heero painfully pinched his hand. "He's gone, sent home." Heero continued with a yawn, suddenly feeling sleepy beyond his ability to ignore it.
"I heard," Duo replied more soberly. "Good riddance to stinky garbage." Then feeling the grip on his hand slacken, Duo looked down at Heero's fingers as his friend's thumb gently stroked his palm.
"I won't let them harass you when you join the Yellows," Heero said softly, almost inaudibly. "No one will ever hurt you like this."
Duo smiled warmly at his friend and he felt his heart swell at the caring words Heero so rarely spoke. Deep down, Duo knew Heero cared, despite the times he'd been hurt by him. He knew Heero didn't really mean it when he struck out to punish him; his fists seemed to move impulsively, without forethought. Duo figured he and Heero just didn't understand each other very well, seeing that they were almost dead opposites in personality. He always forgave him because when it came down to it, it felt so unbelievably good to have someone who genuinely cared for him, who would watch his back to see nothing bad could sneak up and hurt him, and knowing that Heero would always be there for him meant everything in the world to him. He knew, deep inside himself, that finding Heero had saved him and that he would never be alone again to fight and scrape his way through the dark labyrinth that had been his life on the streets. Just knowing that Heero would be there for him had given him more comfort than he'd ever experienced before in his life. "Thanks, Heero. I appreciate that."
Moments later, Heero was asleep. Duo left him only to go to his own bed and retrieve his pillow and blanket, which he carried back to the injured teen's bed and carefully settled his own body beside him. He set his wrist watch for two hours and then dozed off, hoping to at least get a little rest that night.
Within three days, Heero had recovered enough for life in barracks of Red Five to return back to normal with talk of the incident in the Yellow's shower going on for a much longer period of time. Heero's concussion and it's effects slowly wore off and he resumed his split schedule between the Reds and the Yellows.
Days filled with busy schedules turned quickly into weeks that seemed to blur as they rapidly passed into months. Heero quickly advanced with unprecedented speed from one level to another in his classes within the ranks of Yellow. He also shot up to the top of the scores and maintained a ranking in the top three on the simulator. Because of his advanced capabilities, Captain Zechs, who was finishing his stint as a captain in Yellow, requested that Heero be promoted once again, this time to Green, stating that Heero had learned all that the Yellow level had to teach him. It had been just a little over a year since his arrival to the training facility and Heero's aptitude for learning and achieving proved to be unmatched.
After hearing of Zechs's recommendation, Heero returned to the Red's cafeteria for the evening meal feeling unaccountably irritated. Upon entering, his eyes scanned the room for one particular person. At first he didn't see Duo and he frowned with dissatisfaction. Then, at the far end of the room, he heard the familiar sound of Duo's laughter.
A group of eight boys were clustered around the far end of a distant table. From the sounds of it, Heero determined that there was a simulated battle going on, one that was being played on the lapdesk. The game was most likely hooked up to another lapdesk in order for two boys to compete against each other. It was evidently proving to be a very competitive battle, judging from the excitement of the boys clustered around the two opponents, cheering their favorite on. After winning the game several times and having no one but Duo willing to go up against him, Heero had never bothered with playing the battle game again, finding it too simplistic, especially when compared to the Simulator
Now the real, full-sized simulator had proven to be a great challenge and of great interest to him, one in which he had quickly established himself to be the best in his class. The Simulator was actually an enclosed metal space, the actual size and copy of an AMS that maintained the realistic feel of the cockpit, with an actual pilot's seat and full control board at the Sim pilot's fingertips. The battles, presented on the visual screens, located on three sides of the pilot seat, simulated varying and challenging battle scenarios that changed constantly to challenge the pilot and his abilities. But what Heero found so intriguing was when his instructor had told him that the sounds and the movements of the Simulator booth were as close as possible to being what he would one day experience in a real mobile suit. He was quickly hooked on the visual reality game and found himself drawn to the rush of adrenaline he felt while attacking, planning, and taking down the enemy. He wondered what it would feel like in a real battle, having the actual armed and powerful mobile suit reacting to his every command. If he advanced to Green, he would be eligible for training in a real AMS on the central practice field, and the prospect of that happening was like a dangling carrot for him; one that he wanted more than just about anything.
After Zechs mentioned to him that he had requested Heero be advanced yet again, this time to Green, the Japanese teen had found himself suddenly frustrated and angry that Duo hadn't passed from Red to Yellow yet. He tried to fight back those feeling even as he stood in line with his tray and accepted the food slopped onto it by the mess hall workers.
Sitting at the nearly empty table that Red Five traditionally occupied and after exchanging a nod at the few boys that remained seated, he proceeded to eat his dinner. Looking up every once in a while Heero checked on Duo, who was one of the two fierce competitors sitting at the other table with his eyes and full attention focused deeply on that game on his lapdesk. It took a few shifts of those boys standing around for him to see that it was Wufei who was Duo's opponent. He continued to eat, his eyes boring into Duo, who appeared unaware of Heero's dark and critical scrutiny.
A sudden shout of surprise and excitement burst from the group. One of the boys turned around and shouted to the room, "Duo just beat Wufei!" Everyone in the room knew Wufei was the best on the lapdesk game, and his record for being victorious was the best in the training facility, as touted by his proud former teachers. Heero felt a momentary sense of pride that Duo bested the Chinese lieutenant, but he was not pleased by what he observed. As the cheering boys wandered back to their tables and abandoned food trays, he could see that Wufei and Duo had come to their feet. Wufei closed his lapdesk then turned to shake Duo's hand in an act of good sportsmanship. Duo's eyes sparkled as he spoke softly to the other boy, his smile warm and friendly. In response to whatever his friend said, Wufei reached up and ruffled Duo's shaggy bangs in a playful manner.
Inside Heero was teeming with unaccountable resentment. He forced his eyes back to his plate and focused on finishing his meal as his body required the nutrients in order to function properly in his last class of the day.
Several moments later, Duo turned around to look back at Red Five's table and saw Heero sitting there eating his meal. The long haired boy all but skipped his way to his friend's side with Wufei trailing behind. With his eyes still brimming with excitement by his recent victory, he virtually plopped himself down next to Heero, close enough for their shoulders to touch. Duo looked at Heero with bright eyes and said excitedly, "Did you hear, Heero? I beat Wufei on the lapdesk battle game."
"Good job," Heero replied, feeling a bit better now that Duo's attention was once again focused on him. "How are your studies going?"
Duo shrugged and looked at Wufei a bit sheepishly. "Okay I guess. I can't seem to score higher than Trenton and a couple of really smart guys, but with Wufei's help I'm getting closer."
Heero's eyes settled uncomfortably on the Chinese boy who sat across from him and returned his stare in a cool manner. Duo noticed the silent exchange and looked back and forth between his friends, his curiosity turning to worry the longer they glared at each other. "What?" he asked, confused about what was going on between the two.
Heero's eyes turned to the large, questioning violet ones. "I'll stay here tonight and help you study," he said.
"Really?" Duo's whole face lit up as if he'd just received the most wonderful gift.
Heero nodded, then went on to explain. "They want to advance me again, so it's important that you do well and advance also."
"To Green?" Wufei asked, obviously shocked at the idea of Heero's impossibly rapid advancement. "Already?" When Heero nodded, the look of disbelief on the other Asian boy's face changed to a look of awe. "That's unheard of, advancing from Red to Yellow and then to Green in just a little over a year," he whispered.
"Heero can do anything," Duo said proudly, his smile beaming brightly on his friend's behalf.
Evidently the conversation was overheard and soon the mess hall was filled with whispers and varying looks of admiration and jealousy were sent towards the Japanese boy.
The evening in the barracks started out well, the boy's in the barracks either visited quietly while most of the others studies off of their lapdesks. Then just before eight p.m. a chime sounded from the barracks door, indicating someone from outside of Red Five wanted to enter the room. Trowa moved to the doorway and activated the beam that opened the sliding door. No sooner had it opened, a tall, blond young man wearing a yellow jumpsuit and a captain's stripes came storming in, his eyes scanning the barracks.
"Where's Yuy?" he demanded, loud enough for those nearby to hear.
Quatre came to his feet from off his bed and approached his former classmate.
"What's the matter Zechs?" he asked, frowning at the intrusion.
The taller and older captain in the Yellow jumpsuit turned to look down on the smaller blond captain with a touch of scorn on his face. "Yuy is AWOL from class this evening. The sensor indicated that he's in here and he damn well better have a very good reason for not returning to Yellow."
Wufei approached the three standing by the doorway. Having heard the last part of the conversation he answered on Heero's behalf. "He's helping Duo with his class assignments."
The tall blond's eyes narrowed as he looked down the long room. "Where is he?" he demanded.
"I'll take you to him," Quatre offered unhappily. He turned and began the walk down to the end of the barracks, well aware that Zechs, Wufei and Trowa were following him as well as all the eyes of the boys he walked past. He stopped a few feet from Heero's bunk where the two boys in question sat side by side engrossed in the material presented on Duo's lapdesk, Heero's concentration was focused on explaining a concept to the attentive pupil at his side.
"Yuy!" Zech's voice rang out sharply through the barracks making everyone in the room flinch, including the two sitting on the bed. "What are you doing?" the livid captain demanded.
"Tutoring," was Heero's reply and explanation
Zechs looked apoplectic, his face was red and his hands were clenched tightly by his side as he tried to temper his anger in front of the Red unit. "And who gave you permission to miss class this evening?" he ground out through tightly clenched teeth.
Cool headed and calm, Heero looked up through his unruly mop of hair and replied, "I did. It was necessary."
"Why, if I may ask, was it necessary?" Zechs didn't look or sound pleased with the answer Heero gave him.
"Duo needs to advance," Heero began, speaking calmly as he continued to explain. "You spoke today of advancing me to Green and I can't do that unless Duo advances also. I'm helping him with his studies in order for him to do that."
"I hate to burst your little bubble and tell you this Yuy," Zechs moved closer and bent over so that his eyes bored into Heero's, his rigid face mere inches away from the younger boy in order to make a point. Duo responded to the intimidating tactic by clutching Heero's arm, unbeknownst to the others watching that he was silently reminding Heero not to strike the person standing in a threatening manner before him knowing the trouble he would be in for striking an officer. "But we aren't promoted and advanced in rank with our boyfriends," Zechs added with a derisive sneer.
Heero sprung off the bed with cat-like agility, easily dislodging Duo's grip on him and once on his feet, he turned to square off with the Yellow Captain who had wisely stepped back.
Quatre chose that moment to intervene between the two bristling teens. "Zechs, there are extenuating circumstances here that you know nothing about," he began, but was cut off with a warning glare.
"Come with me," Zechs commanded Heero with a piercing look that warned him not to disobey."
"Where are you going?" Duo asked, still sitting on the bed and looking nervous and alarmed by the situation.
"That's none of your concern, Red," Zechs snapped. "Yuy is under my command and he will follow my orders or be sent to the brig."
"He's under my command also," Quatre stepped forward between the tall blond captain and Heero.
No one who saw it liked the smug smile on the tall captain's face. "Not until lights out," he snidely reminded the other, then looked to Heero once more. "Come!" he barked out, then turned to walk down the length of the barracks, his actions indicating he expected Heero to follow.
With a quick look of reassurance to Duo, who was worrying his braid nervously between his fingers, Heero followed the order and quickly followed behind the angry captain who led him out of the barracks.