Disclaimer: Still not mine

Pairings: Friendship only
Warnings: none - mild ep 8/9 spoiler

Author Note: [ djynn ] asked for a Heero / Duo canon behind the scenes story without sap (there could have been some romance, though). I hope this will fill that wish in some small way.

Maximum Distance
by Merith

As he worked his way through the crowded hallway, Heero Yuy made sure to keep his distance. None of the other students touched him and only one knew of anything about him. His steps faltered drawing near his next class; he could only watch as the couple passed.

He stood against the wall, his eyes tracked the boy and girl noting their proximity, the depth of their conversation and narrowed on the extra books he carried. Heero snorted silently and entered the classroom, ready for another unneeded lesson.

"Mister Maxwell, so good of you to join us," the instructor's voice brought him away from the opened book. Heero glanced at the errant student, his expression clear.

"Ah, you know how it is, so much to do and so little time," Duo laughed it off, grinning with his explanation.

The adjunct teacher didn't find it as amusing. "Add an hour of detention to your list of things to do this afternoon, Mister Maxwell, and see to it you have a little more time to make it to class before it begins in the future." He turned and continued to write on the chalkboard.

Heero watched the other pilot take his seat two rows over and one row up from him. The boy never looked in his direction, but that had been expected. Seeing Duo open his text book and prepare to take notes, Heero turned his attention back to the front.

His voice soft, he continued to relay the latest from his source. "Other than the projected weapon's strength, that's about all G could tell me." The two boys leaned close together against a wall in an isolated corridor. Though facing one another, their eyes were everywhere but on the one in front. "Didja hear anything?"

"No," Heero replied in the same low voice. His eyes flicked back down the hall over Duo's shoulder. "I'll send a transmission to J and see if he has more information." His gaze met that of his unwanted partner's. "Thank you for sharing. You didn't have to."

"Wasn't nothing." Duo smirked, already breaking the look. He pushed off from the wall, putting distance between them. "Just let me know if you find something out, k?" Without waiting for a reply, he sprinted down the hallway. "Hey Jacko, wait up!"

Heero heard voices responding from the connecting passage, footfalls faded, and he took a deep breath before moving from their secluded spot. He made the trek to his room, dropped his books on the desk and logged onto his laptop. In less than five minutes, the returned response contained the same information Duo had given him.

The hallways were empty and the walk to the cafeteria seemed longer than normal. Fifteen minutes into the lunch hour, and the room was packed. Heero stood with his tray, scanning the tables. He found Duo in the midst of a rowdy group and as if he knew he was watched, Deathscythe's pilot looked up. The boy gestured to Heero, calling him over. After a moment's hesitation, Heero shook his head and claimed an empty seat near the trash cans.

As he ate, Heero went over what Doctor J had been able to gather on the new weapon. If allowed to be equipped on the Aires, their firepower could match Wing's strength. The target had been determined more than a week before; the new data made taking it out more significant.

Lunch finished, he rose and disposed of the remains. He had an idea on how to increase Wing's beam canon he wanted to pass by J.

Heero was on the way to the gym when he heard his name called. Duo parted from a small group of students and jogged over, smile broad and cheerful.

"Hey, Heero. A group of us are heading out to catch a movie. Wanna come?"

His eyes narrowed slightly, and he looked from the pilot to his friends. They waited, talking amongst themselves. A loud laugh was heard and one boy stumbled back, a mock indignant cry on his lips. Heero turned studious eyes back to Duo and held his gaze until the boy lost his smile.

"I'm busy," he said softly. His eyes flicked back to the rowdy gathering as Duo was yelled at to get a move on.

"Yeah, well," Duo stalled, glancing back at his friends before facing Heero once more. "Maybe you shouldn't be so busy all the time. Come join us - have some fun." He sounded faintly hopeful.

Heero looked at the other boys once more, and brushed by Duo, continuing towards the gym. "I'll think about it."

"I just don't get you, man." Duo's voice carried to him even as the distance lengthened between them.

A quick tap on his shoulder, and Heero glared at the girl behind him. Her face a scarlet hue, she handed him a slip of paper folded into a small square. His eyebrows shot upwards and he gave her a questioning look. She nodded to the long-haired boy oblivious to the attention given him. Studying the paper, Heero noticed the name in tiny script.

After making sure the instructor's attention was diverted, Heero leaned forward, and tossed the girl's note with unerring accuracy. It landed with a soft plop on top of his book. Duo started, his head whipped around quickly even as his hand covered the note. Heero tilted his head, indicating the girl behind him. At the boy's grin, Heero turned his attention back to the assignment, dismissing the event.

A few minutes passed, and a small square landed on his notebook. He glared at it before shifting his look to the pilot. Duo's head was cocked to the side, giving the impression his focus was entirely on the instructor's lecture, while Heero knew he watched what was happening behind him.

His lips thinned as he pinched the note. He dropped it swiftly over the back of his shoulder, not caring if the girl received it.

"Miss Kinsey," the teacher's voice spoke from behind her podium. "Please join me at the front of the room, and bring your note with you." Heero looked around with the rest of the class as the girl behind him rose.

She walked unsteadily between the desk rows, and stood before the instructor with her head bowed. "I'm sorry Missus Mattews."

Heero watched as the room's interest became more riveted on the scene being played, he glanced at the long-haired pilot, even as the teacher spoke again.

"Passing notes to other students in class is in violation of school policy." Her arm straight out, she held her palm up. "Hand it over and return to your seat."

As she passed Duo's desk, Heero saw her look at him intently. His hand slipped off the desk, barely brushed her fingers. If he hadn't been watching closely, Heero doubted he would have seen it. Hearing the instructor tisk, he glanced up at her. She held the opened note between her hands, and even from his seat, Heero could see the doodled hearts and flowers edging its border. He closed his eyes for a moment. Opening them once more, he turned to a fresh page and began a new problem.

He ran lightly through the rain, occasionally raising his hand to wipe the water from his face and clear the hair from his eyes. The rain hadn't been expected, but wasn't entirely unwelcome. The weather almost insured no other students would be out on the grounds, and none would know he'd been off school property.

His sneakers were soaked, his clothing plastered to his skin and water ran from drenched strands of hair. Just inside the dorm entryway, Heero paused and gave himself a brief shake, trying to remove as much water as possible before heading down the tiled corridors. He plucked at his tank top, thought of removing it, but decided against it. A wet shirt would be more accepted.

Up two flights of stairs and halfway down the hall, he marched, ignoring the looks he received and attempted to minimize the squelching from his shoes. Being a Sunday, along with the rain, students crowded the hallways, drifted from room to room or down to the common lounge between the girls and boys dormitories. Heero's step faltered hearing a known laugh. He paused long enough to peer inside an open door.

Duo sat with his back against one of the beds, his expression relaxed and happy. A board game was set up at his feet, and other classmates were gathered around, some sprawled on the floor, or sat on the bed. In a glance, Heero saw that they'd been playing for some time. A crumpled cookie bag was thrown, and the floor was littered with empty soda cans, popcorn and candy wrappers. Just before he started to move on, Heero's eyes locked with Duo's look.

"Hey Heero!" he called out, beginning to rise. "We're about to start a new game. Come join us."

A tall, blond haired boy Heero recognized from one of his morning classes frowned and leaned over the bed. "What gives, Maxwell. You know he's not going to play. He never does." Though his voice was pitched low, Heero still heard him.

Standing straight, he held Duo's gaze. "I need to finish an assignment." His eyes darted between the boys spread around the room. All faces turned to look at him, watching what would happen next.

"See," the blond snorted, scooting back on the mattress and picking up a discarded comic book.

"Come on, Heero. It'll be fun. Change your clothes and come back - meet some of the guys," Duo's voice entreated. "I'll even let you win." He winked, and Heero knew it for a challenge.

Another round of darting glances, and Heero shook his head. "Not today."

He backed away, and ignored Duo's call. His sneakers squelched as his ears roared. He drew a deep breath and blew it out slowly. Wing's alterations were complete. The mission would take place the following day and he had to make sure his plans were ready. He had to focus on the target, review J's latest updates and be ready when the time came. At his room, his hand on the knob, he stopped for a moment and glanced back down the hall. He could hear taunting barbs being tossed in good-humor and answering laughter. His fingers tightened and he entered his room only to close the door behind him, shutting out the rest of the school.

The light wind from the bay ruffled his bangs, the sun shone brightly overhead, making him believe it couldn't have rained as it had the day before. He continued to stare out across the water at the target, the basketball still tucked under an arm. Duo's declaration hadn't changed his plans; it'd served to solidify his resolve even further.

"So, you like Relena or something?" Duo voice broke through his intense observation.

Turning his head slightly, Heero studied the other pilot's profile. "I don't know her." He turned his back to the target, and noted the pink limousine was still parked at the administration building curb. "Do you like that Tina?" he asked, partly curious, part in retaliation.

Duo chuckled, his elbows still resting on the concrete wall. "She's cute and fun."

"She sounds like you," Heero said, watching Duo from the corner of his eyes. "Relena's cute," he added as almost an afterthought.

"Yuy, toss the ball, would ya?" one of the boys they'd played a game against demanded. Heero hurled the ball, nodded as it was caught.

"Yeah, but is she fun?" the long-haired boy turned sideways, half leaning on the wall.

Heero frowned and looked at the Darlian's vehicle again. When he spoke, his voice was low, serious. "She's intense. Driven."

"Sounds like you," Duo laughed softly.

He turned to look back at the target and Heero joined him. The silence stretched between them; the distant ball game behind them, the cry of a gull overhead and the low beat of the surf against the break-wall below were the only sounds heard.

"You know, a lot of students have family that work out there," Duo said quietly, his voice almost too low for Heero to catch.

After giving a quick nod, his eyes slanted sideways to watch the other pilot, Heero confirmed, "Seventy-four percent of the school is made up of students who have direct connections to the base."

Duo's sigh was a melancholy thing. "I wish..." He broke off with another sigh; this one more resigned. "There are going to be some very unhappy kids here tomorrow."

Heero nodded without looking at him. "If it bothers you, leave it to me."

"What?" Duo's cry indignant. "No way! Deathscythe and I can handle it. Not letting you have all the fun!" For all his protests, Heero noted the tense lines through his shoulders, the stiffness of his back.

"The factory runs in two shifts, most civilian workers will have left prior to ten PM. The major force will be in quarters," Heero intoned. "My main objectives are the factory, the communications center, the mobile suit stock and the munitions dump. The estimated loss of life is minimal."

The other pilot's head dropped to his forearms. "This sucks, you know."

"I know," Heero agreed. He turned back to watch the ball game in progress, absently noting that the limousine was gone. "Not much about being a soldier is fun," he added softly.

Duo released another sigh and turned away from the target. Heero watched him as his eyes tracked his friends chasing one another over the court before he turning away.

"You don't have to like it." Heero touched Duo's arm. "Come on. Let's go get changed, and I'll buy you dinner." He took a step away from the wall, out of the sun and into the shade cast by the dormitory building.

"All right!" Duo exclaimed, a broad smile spreading once more. "You're on." He slung an arm over Heero's shoulders. They'd taken two steps before he stopped, pulling Heero up short. "Hey wait a minute!" He glared. "Food here is free."

"I know." Heero's lips twitched. He moved forward, opened the dormitory door, and entered with Duo trailing a half step behind.

"Bastard," Duo laughed, his arm pulling Heero closer, almost in a headlock.

"I know," Heero answered, a small smile on his lips. The door closed, shutting out the sound of the teenage laughter that trailed.


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