That Which is Not His
Duo Maxwell was the sort of boy that everyone wanted to be friends with. He was nowhere by far a model student, but his lack of scholarly devotion was misleading; he possed a keen intellect that disguised itself behind a glib tongue and clever wit. Adding to his charm, the long-haired youth was also outgoing, generous, athletic and physically attractive. His appearance boosted his popularity with both sexes: the girls swooned over him, and to the boys, his good-looks were yet another notch on the status scale.
Heero Yuy was equally popular; if for somewhat different reasons. He had a quiet, unnerving intensity when he wasn't acting downright hostile and his secretive manner intrigued the other students. He too, was physically attractive, with angular asian features and startlingly blue eyes. Even his hair reflected his personality; the thick mass fell loosely over his forehead miraculously tangle-free as if nothing, not even the elements, could possibly hope to tame it, let alone disturb it. Unlike Duo, his admirers tended to be less forward, mostly whispering between themselves about the Japanese boy who was both intelligent and strong to the point of being intimidating.
Perhaps because they were both Gundam pilots, Heero and Duo spent most of their time together. In every school they attended since they had joined forces, the other students never quite understood why the sociable American put up with such a taciturn companion. After a particular day in their current school, when a girl stumbled into the pair whispering together in a secluded spot, rumours flew that the two were lovers.
Whatever the bond, the two teens spent a lot of time in one another's company. Duo was true to his nature and had been the one to initially pursue the friendship. Heero had found it unnerving at first, he'd been trained to work alone and the other boy brought an unfamiliar variable into the sequence of missions that was his life.
Their relationship dynamic was a competitive one, although Duo tended to try and keep things friendly. On occasion though, the God of Death had no desire to tolerate Heero's attitude.
This was one of those times.
"What do you mean? I'm just as well versed in demolitions as you," Duo growled.
"You use excessive amounts," Heero countered.
"It gets the job done, doesn't it?"
"See, you can't dispute that, can you?" Duo smirked. He leaned against the low dresser pushed up against the north wall in Heero's painfully small dorm room.
"Carrying in three times the amount of explosives isn't practical. It slows you down."
"Look," Duo lifted a hand with his palm flat, "just because I LIKE to blow up things with the biggest explosion possible, doesn't mean I don't know HOW to place smaller charges strategically."
"Does that mean you'll agree to do this my way?"
"Hell no!" Duo jumped to his feet and shook his head, ropelike braid whipping from side to side. "I can get in with twice the amount of charges I normally use and still be out in time to watch your ass getting kicked by a squad of Leos."
"Care to wager on that?" Heero smirked. He was practically daring the other boy, it was hypocritical, given that Duo would end up doing precisely what he'd complained about in the first place; executing their mission in a inefficient manner. It was illogical and irrational, and proved that despite his upbringing, Heero was still prone to the occasional fit of adolescent stupidity.
"So what am I going to get when I detonate the charges and have to sit there with my thumb up my ass until you get around to finishing off the ground forces?"
Heero leaned back in his chair, fingertips lifting away from his keyboard for the first time in hours. He reconsidered the whole situation and decided that making this bet was both dangerous and stupid and tried to think of a way to get out of it without admitting he was wrong for bringing up the idea in the first place. It took a few moments of quiet contemplation before Heero generated a possible solution. He mentally reviewed the mission profile and how many enemy mobile suits their reconnaissance had discovered, calculated the time it would take for him to destroy them all and concluded that he had significant odds to win the bet. If he was confident enough, Duo would back down and he'd win this little contest of wills.
Now, all he had to do was think up a wager valuable enough to make him appear extremely confident. He had to make Duo back down, while at the same time, offering a reward significant enough that Duo wouldn't get suspicious. Heero didn't want Duo to think he was deliberately trying to make him give up; that would give the American the impression that he actually thought the other could do what he boasted.
"If you win," Heero said slowly and reached behind his back to finger the grip of his gun. Holstered at the base of his spine, the metal was warm from his body heat. "I'll give you Annabelle."
Duo's thin eyebrows shot upward, he hadn't expected Heero to offer to put his precious gun on the table. The Japanese boy must be certain he'd win. Duo narrowed his eyes as he waited for Heero to tell him what his stake would be.
"If I win," Heero said, bringing his arms forward and crossing them over his chest. "You give me your braid."
Duo's mouth opened and closed but no sound issued forth. If it wasn't for the look in his eyes, it would be a comical sight. His fist clenched and Heero prepared to duck a punch, but then he blinked and Duo's hand was relaxed again. The American closed his eyes for a moment and Heero desperately wished he knew what the other boy was thinking.
"Deal," Duo said firmly and spun around, purposefully adding an extra twist to his shoulders to make his braid swing wide. He strolled out of Heero's room with a two fingered wave and called out over his shoulder, "I'll warn you now; in two days, when she's mine, I'm going to change Annabelle's name to Winona!"
When the door clicked shut, Heero let out a muttered stream of curses. His plan had backfired. All in all, the gun wasn't as precious to him as he'd led Duo to believe; it was his favourite yes, but it was still merely a tool to him. Giving the gun a name had somehow made it sacred in Duo's eyes and prevented the American boy from casually picking it up on the occasions when he left it next to his laptop and not-so-subtly hinting that it felt much more comfortable in his hand than his own pistol.
He felt a small twinge of guilt knowing that he'd deceived Duo, but he hadn't foreseen that the boy would even consider wagering his braid. 'It's my link to the past, so I don't forget what I'm fighting for' he'd said once. Heero wondered whether if Duo were to lose and had to cut it off, would he still fight? He had an ominous feeling that the answer was no.
Heero ground his teeth together and turned back to his laptop to call up the mission profile and set about plotting tactics that would guarantee him victory.
"Heero's gonna regret this," Duo repeated over and over as he stalked down the hall to his room. As soon as he had closed the door behind him, his muscles had all tensed up and a fierce determination overwhelmed any fear he may have harbored over losing his braid.
Duo rounded the corner and literally ran into one of his schoolmates. When he peeled his face away from the older student's chest, he muttered something that sounded vaguely like an apology.
"Hey Maxwell! What's wrong? You look pissed," the tall boy asked, stopping him with a hand on his chest as he tried to push past.
"I'm just going to my room, Jason" Duo said and forced himself to shrug and act relaxed. Duo had perfected the art of sidestepping questions to avoid having to lie, or tell the truth as it was.
"Coming from Yuy's, eh? You two have a fight or something?" Jason asked and leaned against the wall, his arm in front of Duo to prevent him from moving by.
"We argued, but it was hardly a fight," Duo said and ducked under the arm. The bigger boy didn't give up so easily and spun around, wrapping an arm around high on Duo's chest and pulling him backwards. The braided boy struggled against the powerful grip and tried to squirm free. He could see the door to his room and silently screamed in frustration.
"Yeah? About what?" the older teen asked in a low tone.
"I don't want to talk about it," Duo said darkly and stopped struggling.
"Well alright, man, but don't think you can't. I'm an easygoing guy, I'll listen to your problems no matter what they are," Jason said and released Duo, ruffling the younger boy's bangs affectionately.
The Deathscythe pilot rolled his eyes and tallied another name onto his mental list of people who thought he and Heero were a couple.
"Yeah, I'll remember that," Duo said and escaped down the hall and into his room.
He flopped down onto the low twin bed that managed to be more uncomfortable than it looked, and planned out what exactly he'd need to pull off the mission succesfully. Getting past the gates would be no problem, it was the part that came after that which bothered him. Stealth was his specialty, but it was hard to be stealthy when carting around the amount of explosives he'd need to wreck the place.
Duo wrapped his mind eagerly around the challenge and spent the rest of the night concocting a strategy that would win him Heero's gun.
Duo looked at the clock for the sixth time in ten minutes. When the hands didn't miraculously jump ahead half an hour he groaned inwardly. It was terribly frustrating sitting through classes when he knew he had a mission the following day. If it were up to him, he'd take the day off and go do something to gear himself up, like visit the arcade in town or something equally stimulating. At least he'd be able to get some lunch soon.
'We don't want to draw attention to ourselves,' Heero had said. This, coming from the guy who acted so darkly mysterious that practically the entire student body kept tabs on him.
"...draw attention to ourselves..." Duo mimicked under his breath. He folded his arms on the desk in front of him and rested his chin in the crook of his elbow. Duo was rather tired, he hadn't slept much the night before and his eyelids felt heavier with each passing second.
"Well students, since Duo seems to be paying such close attention, let's see if he can answer my question," the teacher's raised voice filtered in through the comfortable haze that blanketed his mind and the braided boy lifted his head up slowly.
"Huh?" he said drowsily. Stifled giggles floated around the room.
"Ahem," the teacher cleared her throat and gave the boy a scathing look for making her repeat herself. "I asked the class if anyone could define Euclidean space."
"Oh. So you want me to answer?" Duo asked, sounding a bit more alert. The teacher nodded with a tight little smile that plainly said that she thought he didn't even have the vaguest idea what she was talking about.
"Euclidean space, eh?" he gripped the front lip of his desk and tilted his chair back. To everyone else in the room it looked like he was stalling and the whispering giggles were getting louder.
"Well..." Duo let go with one hand as a wide grin spread over his face, he gestured as he answered, "Euclidean space....it's a generalization of the two and three dimensional..."
The giggling stopped and jaws dropped as the worst student in the entire class proved that he knew a theory they hadn't even studied yet.
"...function obtained by defining the distance between two points...to be the square root of..."
"That's enough," the teacher finally said and Duo dropped the front two legs of his chair back down with a loud crack. She grudgingly added a thank you before trying to salvage her pride and get back to the lesson.
"You're welcome," he said with an beatific smile.
"How did you know that?" asked more than one student clustered around his desk after the bell rang.
Duo shrugged in reply as he stood from his chair.
"You never pay attention in class and you never do your homework," a sweet-faced girl to his left said.
"Just because I don't do my homework doesn't mean I don't like to learn," he said and tucked his books under his elbow. "Why do you think I spend every evening with the smartest guy in school anyway?" Duo put a little extra emphasis on 'anyway' and more than one neck flushed red.
'Serves them right,' he smirked as he headed off towards his next class.
The cafeteria was loud. Hundreds of students talking and eating at once produced a roar that bounced and echoed around the huge room. Heero paid for his lunch and picked up his tray, moving away from the line to scan the tables for the familiar mass of chestnut hair. It didn't take long to spot Duo; he was talking animatedly, waving his arms around and laughing in the midst of a swarm of girls.
"Heero!" Duo exclaimed as he caught sight of the Japanese boy heading over. There was nothing out of the ordinary in the way he called out, no anxiety or resentment. Heero found it a little disconcerting; he had expected Duo to be distant. "Hey girls, make some room for my buddy."
The girls collectively pouted and the blonde sitting to Duo's right moved over, just enough to let Heero put his tray down on the table. The braided boy scooted to the left, eliciting a happy squeal from the girl he squished up against as Heero squeezed into the space.
"Girls, you all know Heero," Duo said, throwing an arm around Heero's shoulders easily. The little flock cooed and gushed, while a few of the girls caught eachother's eyes and exchanged speculative looks.
"Hn," Heero grunted and did his best to ignore the crowd and just eat. He wished Duo would just get rid of them all so that they could talk. Fat chance of that though, Duo simply thrived on attention. Heero took a sip from his soda and cleared his throat, "We need to study."
"What?" Duo let his arm drop from Heero's shoulders and caught the look in his friend's steely blue eyes. "Oh right, study. Hah. Guess we should."
Duo twisted around, smiling apologetically to his crowd of admirers. "Sorry everyone, but Heero's right. I'll talk to you all later, 'k?"
"I can help tutor you!" the brunette sitting across the table said as she propped her chin in her hands. The rest of the girls instantly hated her for thinking of that first when Duo shook his head.
"Nah, thanks anyway. Besides, how could we concentrate with all the pretty girls around? Right Heero?" he nudged the other boy playfully and stole his soda, taking a long swallow as the girls dispersed slowly.
"Are they gone?" Heero asked, not wanting to crane his neck around.
"Yeah, all gone," Duo sighed melodramatically, then broke down into laughter. "The coast is clear. We all set for our big day tomorrow?"
The Japanese pilot took a bite of his salad and nodded. Duo swung a leg over the bench seat and straddled it while he reached under the table to pick up his textbooks. He dropped the stack on the bench between his knees and flipped open the topmost book to a random page. He hunched forward pretending to read. The position conveniently brought his forehead near Heero's shoulder so he could speak discreetly.
"I thought about the particulars you were worried about and I'll let you know my take on things when we go over exactly how I'm going to get myself in there," Duo said, thumbing the edge of a page.
"I assume you've secured the appropriate-" Heero began, but Duo cut him off with an irritated snort.
"Of course! I've got everything taken care of."
Heero made a low noise that Duo had learned meant 'Satisfactory' and said, "Then come to my room at eleven."
"Sounds good," Duo clapped his book shut and maneuvered himself so that he was sitting with his back to the table. He stretched his legs out and leaned back, resting his head on the table and watched Heero as he finished eating.
Heero ate in the same manner he did everything else, precise and methodical; this time though, Mr. Perfect had a bit of salad dressing on his face. Duo snaked a hand out and scraped it off the side of Heero's mouth, then sucked the blue cheese off his fingertip. Heero gave him a peculiar look that was halfway between a glare and a gape.
Duo gave himself a furious mental asskicking. What had he done that for? Heero barely tolerated an arm around his shoulders, wiping food off his face and eating it was definitely past the borders of friendship and deep within the realms of...well something that wasn't friendship.
As evidenced by a sudden surge of excited murmuring from nearby tables, the gesture didn't go unnoticed by the other students either. Duo wished he could just melt off the bench and die. He wrestled with the dilemma of whether or not to apologize, but couldn't think of anything to say. A variety of stupid apologies flittered through his head: ...Sorry for eating that dressing off your face, Heero... ...Didn't want you to waste that on a napkin... ...Sure I could've told you it was there, but where would be the fun in that... ...You looked good enough to eat, so I settled for the next best thing... Duo's mind ground to a halt. Had he just thought that? Did he actually mean it? Or was it just the other students' gossiping that made it spring to mind?
He started rambling about something unimportant and took the time to study his friend out of the corner of his eye. He traced the line of Heero's features and narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. He's really quite handsome, I can see why he's got a fair share of girls after him; it's a combination of those deep blue eyes, that thick mass of tousled hair, the strong curving jawline and his come hither glare. Duo lost track of the anecdote he was rattling off and burst into laughter at the result of his own mental dialogue.
Heero narrowed his eyes; the braided idiot was acting more odd than usual. Perhaps he was wrong when he assumed that the bet wasn't weighing on the other boy's mind. He'd noticed the way Duo had been eyeing him while pretending to tell some stupid story. He knew Duo wasn't putting the full force of his concentration behind his chatter. When he was multitasking, Duo didn't move his arms around to emphasize this or that. Heero wondered what thoughts were churning behind those oddly colored eyes, but forced away the urge to ask. Even if it was related to their wager, it was highly unlikely that something Duo found humorous had any bearing on successfully completing the mission and was therefore irrelevant...and irritating.
Duo finally stopped laughing and flashed a grin at Heero. The glare he got in return summoned forth a fresh fit and he decided it'd be best to get going before he did or said anything else stupid.
"Eleven," he said to confirm.
Heero nodded and watched the Deathscythe pilot stroll away. Duo's braid swung heavily as he walked and Heero couldn't imagine what he would look like without it.
Despite trying to not think about it, Heero still wanted to know what had made Duo laugh so hard. 'Not more food on my face,' he hoped and lifted his hand, rubbing the edge of his mouth with his fingers just in case. He lingered for a moment at the spot where Duo had touched, then shook his head and gathered his books off the bench.
Only, he hadn't brought his books with him. They were in his locker. Heero held the books to his chest with one arm, then grabbed his empty tray off the table.
"Maxwell..." he cursed quietly and closed his eyes to take a calming breath. How could someone possibly be so competent at times and at others be so careless? Heero wondered if he'd ever understand what made Duo tick.
Heero turned around, his hand automatically reaching for his gun when he heard the rattle of his doorknob. He relaxed marginally when Duo furtively slipped into his room. The American peered down both directions of hallway before shutting the door and breathing a deep sigh of relief.
"You're four hours early."
"They won't leave me alone!" he groaned miserably and turned to Heero. "Have you heard what they're saying about us? I got glomped by three girls who said that after I forgot my stuff at the lunch table you 'hugged my books to your chest and sighed my name' and that 'it was soooo cute and they wish they had such a romantic boyfriend'." Duo dropped down onto the edge of Heero's bed and draped his arms limply over his knees.
"They think you're my boyfriend, Heero!" Duo stared at the other pilot. Didn't he care? "Doesn't that bother you?"
Heero turned back to his laptop with a shrug, "Should it? It doesn't affect the mission."
"Well it bothers me. It affects my lovelife," Duo muttered. "How am I supposed to get laid if every girl in the school thinks I'm gay? " He fell back on the bed and covered his face in his hands.
"You shouldn't be thinking about sex anyway," Heero said flatly. "We have a mission."
"You're right, I shouldn't be thinking about it, but I can't help it. I'm a teenager if you hadn't noticed," Duo retorted and rolled onto his side, propping himself up on elbow. "I tried my best line on a girl today and you know what she said? She said, 'If you really can do that with your tongue, Heero is one lucky guy'."
"What can you do with your tongue?" Heero glanced over his shoulder with no visible expression of curiosity.
"Uh...this," after a moment of hesitation Duo opened his mouth and let his tongue loll out a bit, then moved it in such a way that it looked like it was rippling from back to front.
"Interesting," Heero observed and Duo had the decency to blush. Heero turned back to his screen and secretly tried to mimic the movement with his tongue. He failed and found it terribly bothersome that Duo could do something he couldn't.
"That impresses girls enough to let you sleep with them?" he asked.
"Well not yet," Duo admitted reluctantly and was relieved that Heero couldn't see that his blush had crept all the way to his ears.
"So for all your talk, you're still a virgin?"
"What's with the third degree about my sexlife, Heero?"
"I need to revise a part of my mission plan, but I can't do that until I receive a set of satellite data. The satellite won't be in range for another two hours, which is why I told you to come here at eleven. If you'd rather I just ignore you and do my homework then so be it."
"No, I like talking with you Heero. I'm just used to being the one doing all the talking," Duo sat up and crossed his legs indian style. "To answer your question, yes I've never slept with a girl."
The way the other pilot phrased his response set off a red flag in Heero's mind. Is that why he's upset about the rumors? Heero continued typing his homework assignment and asked casually, "So you've never slept with a girl. Have you slept with a boy?"
Duo felt his blush vanish instantly. He should've known Heero would catch on to the way he answered things. He plucked at a loose thread in the hem of his pants and confessed. "I messed around with my best friend when I was younger and then I went to bed with a guy when I was working as a Sweeper."
"Hn," Heero made a neutral sound. Was Duo homosexual and covering it up by always talking about girls, was he heterosexual and had merely experimented, or was he bisexual? Heero considered the prospect for a moment, then mentally filed the information away to analyze later.
"What about you? How about that girl Relena, from the docks who kee-"
"I've never kissed her, let alone anything else," Heero said. "I really don't want to talk about her."
"Sure. Well then, anyone else?"
"Nothing beyond the sexual identity and preference tests that were administered during my training."
"Sex tests? What sort of training did you go through anyway?"
"I don't want to talk about that either."
Duo grumbled to himself. Some conversation.
"I masturbate," Heero offered.
"Every night before a mission."
"Yeah well I jerk off every night to-," Duo bit off the rest of his sentence. "Wait did you say, 'every night before a mission?'"
An awkward silence overtook the pair and when Duo couldn't take it anymore, he sprung up from the bed and grabbed Heero's jacket. "Come on," he said, tossing the navy blue windbreaker to the other pilot and gesturing towards the door.
Heero didn't move, he just lifted an eyebrow and waited for an explanation.
"We're going out. I can't stay cooped up here one more minute and you've still got one and a half hours before that data comes in, right?"
"I have a paper to write."
"You realize we're here in school voluntarily? Neither of us are going to have parents bitching at us if we get poor grades. Besides, missing one night of homework isn't going to kill you."
Heero pressed his lips together. Analytically he knew that Duo was right, but the deep-rooted feeling that he had to complete every task assigned to him made him hesitate.
"Look, in case you've forgotten, tomorrow's also a Saturday and even so, we wouldn't be in school anyway. If it's that important, just write the damn paper after our mission!" Duo said exasperatedly. Somehow he managed not to laugh when he imagined the Japanese boy doing homework in Wing's cockpit while waiting for his buster rifle to recharge.
"Where did you have in mind?"
"I dunno, but I'll think of something," Duo poked his head out into the hall. "Seems clear. Let's go!"
"Maxwell! Yuy!" came a familiar voice.
Duo groaned and did an abrupt 180. Heero stared at the hand that was clutching his jacket and trying desperately to pull him in the opposite direction.
"Heero, come on. Quick!" Duo hissed, but it was too late; Jason reached the stair landing where they stood and there was no use trying to avoid the nosy senior. Duo whirled around again and said with a false smile, "Hey, Jason. We're kinda busy."
"Yeah so I heard," he leaned down conspiratorially and clapped a hand on each of the pilot's shoulders. "You guys have big plans for tomorr-"
Heero struck without warning. He clamped a hand around the older student's neck and forced him back against the rail that ran around the edge of the walkway. He pushed forcefully until the taller youth was bent back precariously over the railing.
"You're going to attract attention," Duo said and tried to pull Heero away, but his partner merely tightened his fingers.
"What do you know?" Heero growled and shifted his grip from throat to shirtfront.
"Some of the girls heard what you said at lunch! It's all over school!" Jason gasped out, his eyes were white with fear and the balcony rail was digging painfully in to his lower back.
Heero's eyes narrowed to slits and he called up from his memory every word he and Duo had spoken during lunch. Duo did the same and they both realized how easily their conversation could've been misinterpreted.
"He's just trying to be nice. Leave him alone," Duo slipped an arm around Heero's waist and tugged gently. "Let's just go get something to eat."
Heero obviously didn't want to let up, but Duo managed to wedge himself halfway between the other two boys. He slid an arm around his partner's neck and put his mouth to the Japanese pilot's ear, whispering none-too-quietly, "We do need to keep up our energy. I don't want you exhausted halfway through tomorrow. Our first time should be perfect, right sexy?"
"Hn," Heero's fingers slowly uncurled themselves from the neckline of Jason's shirt. The older boy mumbled something resembling an apology and fled.
"Whew," Duo breathed a sigh of relief and stepped back.
"This is your fault."
"It's not entirely my fault, dammit. What's wrong with you anyway? Can't you just... Oh, forget it."
Heero snorted derisively and glanced over his shoulder along the walkway to the boy's dorms. He looked back at the braided boy with an intense unreadable expression, "I'm going back to my room. You do what you want, just be there at eleven."
"Yeah, I'll be there," Duo muttered and shoved his fingers into the tight pockets of his jeans. He stared at Heero's retreating back for a moment and considered going to apologize; yet, it wasn't entirely his fault and Heero was so damn stubborn. He shook his head and set off down the steps. 'Just when I thought we were actually starting to connect at some level. '
Heero stood in the center of his small dorm room. His fists were clenched and he hung his head.
'I shouldn't have blamed him,' he scolded himself. He lifted his gaze to the window and watched as the distant figure of the boy in question trudged across the campus square. 'Why is it that he makes me want to kill him one minute, then the next...'
With the push of a button his laptop blinked to life and he typed in the sequence of codes that bypassed its multi-layered security system.
::_:: the cursor blinked, awaiting his command.
::Request information. Yuy, Heero. Psychological profile results.::
::Denied. Security authorization level B1 required. Access attempt has been logged from....:: data scrolled up on the screen and Heero tapped his fingers thoughtfully on his keyboard. He hadn't really expected to have the clearance to read his own psych reports. If he had been onsite, he might have been able to hack into the desired files; but remotely, he didn't have a chance. There were no easy answers to summon up through a series of simple keystrokes. He'd have to puzzle this one out on his own.
Heero reinitiated his laptop's innocent top-level files and went to stand at the window. He raised his forearm and clutched the top edge of the thin wooden frame as he searched for any sign of Duo down below.
"What is it that you make me feel, Duo?" he whispered into the silence of the room.
"Sometimes I don't even know why I bother," Duo grumbled to himself. "I wonder if he'll ever stop acting like anything other than an anti-social, stubborn, inhuman, pain in the ass."
"He takes everything so deadly serious, it's just not healthy," Duo sighed and dropped himself down on a low stone bench and fixed his eyes on the crimson flare that announced the sun's retreat.
"Why do you act like that, Heero?"
"Why do you care?" the Wing pilot's dry husky voice asked from behind him.
"What are you doing here? I thought you were going to your room," Duo didn't bother to turn around.
"I did go to my room," Heero replied and moved to stand near Duo's knee. "Can I sit?"
"I can't stop you."
"Why do you care?" the Japanese boy asked again as he sat down on the cool stone seat.
"Why do you think I care?" Duo snapped.
"Are you in love with me?"
"What?!" Duo's eyebrows shot up. His immediate reaction was to fire off some smart-ass remark, but Heero had come to him and was making an effort, albeit an awkward one, to talk to him. "Love is a pretty big word to be throwing around, don't you think? I've only known you, what, two months?"
"Is that a yes?"
Heero felt a pang of rejection and regretted leaving his room. He stood up stiffly and turned to leave, but Duo grabbed his hand.
"Heero..." the American's voice was soft and hesitant. "Wait, listen to me."
Eyes the same color as the nighttime blue that was swallowing the sunset, locked themselves on Duo and for a moment he had a hard time speaking. "Hee- Heero, you said yourself I shouldn't be thinking about sex. Love is a thousand times more serious than just a quick fuck. I can't afford to fall in love. My only love should be for the colonies.
"You're my friend, Heero. Do I care about you? Yes...But do I love you? No. Could I? I don't know," his voice trailed off and Duo searched Heero's eyes for any sign of understanding; any sign of anything.
"You're right," Heero admitted. 'Why didn't I see that? Love is dangerous, it could get in the way of successfully completing my missions.' He analyzed the reality of the situation and forcibly buried the thoughts and feelings that had brought him out here in the first place.
Duo realized he was still holding on to Heero's hand and let it slip from his grasp as he stood up, "Did you want to go grab some food?"
"Sandwiches from the coffee place? We can take them back to your room. Your data's coming in soon right?"
"That'll be fine and yes, in approximately half an hour."
"Are you buying?"
"Are you broke?"
"How about last one there has to foot the bill?"
"Acceptable," Heero said as he launched himself into a run.
"You were supposed to wait for a countdown!" Duo cried and set off after him.
They ran at top speed until they skidded to a breathless stop in front of the small campus cafe. Duo had a huge grin on his face and even Heero was smiling slightly. There was something about running without running from something, it was exhilarating.
"What'd I tell you? I'm faster than you," Duo gulped for air as he jerked open the door and held it open for Heero. Heero didn't dignify his crack with a response and as the thrill of the impromptu race wore off, Duo's thoughts turned serious, 'Will I be fast enough tomorrow?'