That Which is Not His
It was still dark when Duo woke. He rubbed the sleep from one eye with the heel of his hand then squinted at the small digital clock at his bedside.
Tossing the layer of blankets off and letting the chill air shock him into wakefulness, the slender teen swung his feet over and onto the floor. Duo cursed when his toes met the bare hardwood. He quickly pulled his legs back up and crawled to the bottom of the bed. He hung his head over the edge of the mattress and searched around in the darkness for his boots. Hair that had come loose from his braid fell into his face and he irritably pushed it out of the way.
With a bit of maneuvering an acrobat would be proud of, Duo was able to snag one of his boots and pull it on. Now that he had some protection against the ghastly cold floor, Duo executed a very ungraceful one-legged hop over to retrieve his other boot and the small pile of clothes he'd set out the night before. He hastily pulled on the second boot and scooped up his clothes to head for the showers.
The boy's dorms had a communal bathroom and unfortunately for Duo, it was all the way on the other side of the floor. He clutched his wad of clothing to his chest and trotted briskly down the dimly lit hallways; shivering every so often as his body tried to warm itself. As he neared the door to Heero's room, his steps slowed and he reached out a hand tentatively, letting his fingertips brush lightly against the wood as he passed by.
'Why did you ask me if I was in love with you, Heero?' Duo sighed softly and pushed open the door to the bathrooms. 'Was it because of the way I looked at you while you were eating? ' Even though he knew he should be concentrating on his mission, Duo couldn't help but dwell on what happened between himself and Heero the evening before.
'Was it because I told you I had been with a guy before? Did you think that meant I'd automatically be interested in you?' he chewed on the inside of his cheek thoughtfully as he set his clothes in a small cubby, stepped out of his boots and stripped off his boxers.
'What did you expect me to say? What did you want me to say?' Duo closed his eyes and loosed his hair from its braid. As he raked his fingers through the long strands and undid a few tangles, memories drifted to the surface.
.../'They want you, boy.'/
'Yeah, I can tell.'
/'You can't fend em all off, forever.'/ Light touch on his elbow.
'What are you saying?'
'/Come to my bed and none of them can touch you.'/ Breath hot on his ear.
'I'm only thirteen. They castrate people like you.'
/'Who's gonna turn me in? You? Better me than them.'/ Fingers on his cheek.
'What makes you a better alternative?'
/'I'll make sure you enjoy it.'/ Kisses in his hair.
'It's you or them...'
/'That's right...you just come with me.'/ Hands leading him into darkness.
Panting. Kissing. Grinding. Thrusting. Pain. Pleasure. Screaming. Blood. Lots and lots of blood; warm and sticky turning chestnut to maroon.
/'What the fuck did you do?'/ Outraged cries.
'Taught him a lesson.'
/'The kid's got some balls.'/ Grudging respect.
/'Unlike poor Johnny here... Hell, he aint got much of anythin left does he.'/ Crude laughter.
/'Someone toss this meat off the ship and Duo...clean yourself up.'/ Acceptance as an equal...
Duo stepped into a shower stall and let the stinging spray of hot water wash away his memories. As he worked a handful of shampoo into his scalp he wondered if it would be better if he lost and had to give his braid to Heero. Did he really want to hold on to his past? It would be so easy to take his time and he wouldn't forget what he was fighting for... right?
Heero woke at precisely a quarter till five and stared up at the ceiling for a moment as his mind cleared itself from the fog of sleep. Today was the day.
He slid his hand under his pillow and curled his fingers around his gun. As he got out of bed, he snagged his tank top from the back of the desk chair and wrapped it around the weapon. He didn't expect to encounter anyone save Duo in the halls or the showers at this hour, but if he could help it, he wouldn't leave his gun behind.
Heero ignored the cold as he grabbed the rest of his clothes and his shoes. As he slipped out into the hallway, his ears picked up the faint sound of hissing water and he was surprised that Duo had actually woken up before him. Then again, he was getting used to being surprised by Duo.
Yesterday, when he'd gone and asked bluntly if the other boy was in love with him, he hadn't expected such a thoughtful answer; and later, despite the wager that hovered on the outcome of the mission, Duo had no reservations about sharing his plans in detail. The American had been all business and seriousness as they went over the timing and possible snags.
Harsh fluorescent light fanned out as Heero opened the door to the bathroom. His eyes took a moment to adjust and he padded lightly across the tile to the wall of open-faced cubbies where Duo's clothes were already shelved. He set his things in the next space over, then slipped off his spandex, wadded it into a ball and shoved it in with the rest.
"That you, buddy?"
"Yes," Heero answered as he stepped into one of the three available stalls.
"Thought so. You all rested up?" Duo voice echoed off the walls.
"I got an adequate amount of sleep," Heero replied as he rolled a bar of soap between his hands. He scrubbed himself clean, was out of the shower and dried off in less than four minutes.
Heero was pulling on his socks when Duo stepped out of the shower. He glanced up as Duo left a wet trail on his way to grab a clean towel from the bin. Try as he might, Heero couldn't tear his eyes away. He'd never seen Duo with his hair loose; the wet strands clung in darkened tendrils down the American boy's back and over the gentle curve of his bottom. He managed to stop staring when Duo turned around, one towel wrapped around his waist and a second around his hair.
"Hmm?" the Deathscythe pilot squeezed the towel around his hair, spattering the floor with more water.
"I'll complete my mission swiftly," Heero said as he finished tying his shoes.
Duo simply nodded, then separated his hair into three equal sections and weaved it together with practiced ease before pulling his clothes out of the cubby.
"I won't..." Heero couldn't say it. In truth he didn't know exactly what it was that he wanted to say, but Duo understood.
"I can't..." Heero tried to express himself a second time.
Duo zipped up the front of his clerical over shirt and lay a hand on his friend's shoulder; a tender smile curved his lips, "Heero, I know. You play to win." He squeezed the Japanese boy's shoulder once before withdrawing his hand and flipping the cuff of his shirt back to roll it above his elbow. As the other pilot turned wordlessly to leave, Duo added mentally, '...and I think I aim to lose.'
Duo zipped shut a large black canvas bag and hefted it off a metal worktable. The muscles in his arms complained, but he grit his teeth and swung the strap over his shoulder. He carried the burden out to the vehicle he'd secured and shoved the duffel full of explosives into the back next to two identical bags. He slammed the gate of the truckbed shut and pulled a set of keys out of his pocket. He tossed them high into the air and caught them before jogging around to the driver's side.
"The God of Death is on his way!"
Leaves crunched beneath his feet as Heero ran with a long easy stride towards the wooded area that concealed his Gundam. He still had five miles to run and the rough terrain slowed him down. Not for the first time, he wished he hadn't needed to stash his suit so far away from town and in an area bereft of even fire access roads. The jutting tip of a broken branch tore into the flesh of his upper arm, but he ignored it and pressed on harder.
"What's in the back?"
"I dunno, I'm just a delivery boy. It probably says on the work order," Duo replied as he leaned an elbow casually on the open window. He grabbed a clipboard from the seat next to him and shoved it out the window for the man to look at.
The guard gave the papers a cursory glance. For all its careful planning during its takeover of the Alliance, OZ as a whole was rather poorly organized and Duo was confident he'd get inside without an inspection. Even with the recent coup and Gundam attacks, the earthbound forces still had an 'it'll never happen here' attitude.
"Will this take long? I've got a lot of deliveries to make today."
"Your documents look in order," the guard grunted and shoved the clipboard back at Duo; he didn't even give the truckbed a second glance. "Go on in."
"Thanks!" Duo smiled brightly and waved a hand out the window as the gate rattled open.
"Preflight systems checked."
"Fuel level maximum."
"Weapons systems operational."
Heero lay on his back inside Wing and ran through a set of final diagnostics before he reached back and pulled the shoulder harness around his body. Once that was securely fastened, he initiated the startup sequence. He closed his eyes as his Gundam came to life around him, the sound of each system coming online grew progressively louder until the cockpit noise filters kicked in and reduced everything to a low hum.
"Proceeding to target."
"Hey! What are you doing in here? This is a restricted area!"
Duo cursed and slowed the flatbed dolly he was moving to a stop. He put an innocent-tinged-with-fear expression on his face as he turned around slowly, "S-s-s-orry sir. I'm supposed to deliver this stuff."
"What are you delivering?" the officer narrowed his eyes and approached Duo, his eyes flickering suspiciously to the bags.
"You can look in them if you want. Here, I'll open it for you," Duo said helpfully and he knelt down, reaching with one hand for the zipper. The officer missed seeing Duo's other hand sneak into his boot and the man's eyes widened in surprise when four inches of steel buried itself just below his ribs. The officer crumpled and Duo hastened to drag the body behind a nearby stack of boxes.
"We're under attack! It's a Gundam!" shouts echoed down the stone corridor and a group of soldiers approached at a run. Duo held his breath as he watched through a slit between the crates and waited for one of them to question the unattended dolly. Luckily, none of the soldiers paid it any mind; they were too busy responding to the attack on the surface.
"Thanks, Heero," he whispered as he slipped out from his hiding spot and set the flatbed into motion again.
"Target reached. Engaging the enemy."
Heero raised his rifle and fired; the short burst of golden energy destroyed an unmanned mobile suit waiting for repairs outside a warehouse. He let the next shot build up and took aim at a fuel tank. The resulting blast sent clouds of black smoke billowing into the air and rocked the ground. If he hadn't heard the alarms, Duo would know he was here now.
'Work fast," Heero said quietly as the first enemy suits scrambled to meet him.
"Shit!" Duo tried for the third time to bypass the security lock on a door four levels underground. He had taken his time placing the explosives, dawdling just enough to give Heero a few extra seconds with each one. He wanted to lose, but he'd lose more than his hair if he didn't get out of the area in three minutes.
"How the hell did they change the codes?" It took him a good two minutes to break them on entry; to do it again would take far too long now that the charges were set and counting down. He slammed his fist in frustration against the door and whirled around. He didn't have a choice; he'd have to take an alternate route.
The base was littered with fallen suits and resistance fire had been reduced to occasional spits of gatling rounds coming from the other side of a cluster of buildings. Heero frowned, by his count there could only be three or four Leos left and there was no sign of Duo. Had he been killed? Captured?
Heero was about to do a sensor sweep when an intense green flare from an igniting beam saber flashed in his peripheral vision. He swung his suit around to meet the new threat and all thoughts about his fellow pilot's fate vanished.
Two minutes. One minute fifty-nine. One minute fifty-eight. The countdown to his death echoed in his mind as he inched his way up a maintenance hatch. There was no way he'd be able to climb up four levels fast enough...
Whoever was piloting the other suit was good and had managed to stay alive for a full minute by engaging in close quarter combat. With the vulcan cannons recessed in his Gundam's head out of ammo, Heero had no choice but to continue dueling with his beam saber.
"Only about a minute left to live," Duo tilted his head back and looked up the shaft that seemed to stretch endlessly above him. Despite his situation, he continued to climb; the will to survive was strong. His arms burned from pulling himself up the ladder and twice already he'd slipped and nearly fallen. "I'd hate to think that Heero will think I died because he was right and I was slow. Dying like this isn't my fault."
"Hey, Heero! I woulda been fast enough!" he yelled and slapped his hand on the next smooth steel rung.
Heero swung wide and finally disarmed his opponent. Left without a weapon, the enemy Leo tried to retreat, but Heero ruthlessly drove his saber through its midsection.
With the pilot of the only suit that had proven a challenge dead, Heero picked up his buster rifle and leveled it at the spot where the last two enemies had been. One massive shot took out the entire cluster of buildings and he immediately did a sensor sweep for any sign of Duo.
"Where are you, baka?" he hissed. His sensors had picked up the detonator signal. Detonation in forty-five seconds meant Duo had succeeded in placing the charges more than two minutes ago... So where was he?
"This is it..." he could hear the first of the charges going off down in the depths of the facility.
Duo closed his eyes. There was no use going any further. There was still a good ten meters left above him and even if he could miraculously make it in time, it would be near impossible for him to open the hatch from the inside with his arms as tired as they were.
The explosions began on the third level and the maintenance shaft quaked. The metal rungs were beginning to heat up and Duo heard a rumble echo up from below. Charges on the second level detonated and the metal of the ladder began to groan and shudder.
Duo squinted his eyes tight when he felt a sensation of weightlessness as the ladder peeled away from the wall. Gravity kicked in not long after and pulled him down towards the flames.
"Duo!" Heero's cry was lost in the roar of the blast surging up from the depths. "I've got you."
He tightened his grasp around Duo's wrist and flipped the directional switch on his grappling line with his other hand. The motor reversed direction instantly and the resulting jerk nearly tore Heero's arm out of his socket, but he managed to keep hold of his partner as the line zipped them upwards.
Heero pulled Duo onto the open cockpit hatch of his Gundam a split second before the flames reached them. The narrow maintenance shaft had acted as a funnel and propelled a gout of flame high into the air, but it vanished as swiftly as it had come. The resulting vacuum filled with a deafening pop and Heero looked down to inspect his burden.
The American had fallen unconscious, his pupils were dilated and a small trickle of blood ran down his forehead. Heero heard a familiar cough, and then the air was filled with screams.
Heero struggled to drag Duo into the cramped cockpit of Wing as a second hail of bullets screamed past. He held the other boy close and slammed his fist on the panel that would close the hatch and bring the viewscreens online. It was a tight fit and the Japanese pilot had a hard time arranging himself so that he could reach all the essential controls with an unconscious body slumped in his lap. With one arm wrapped around Duo's chest, he was severely handicapped, but all Heero needed was a single clear shot.
He hit his thrusters, shooting forward and up, and trusted that the g-forces would keep him and Duo from being thrown around unsecured as they were.
Far below, a pair of mobile suits were tracking his ascent and raising their beam rifles. Heero locked on to his target and fired. The shot missed both Leos and struck a refueling station directly behind them. A massive fireball engulfed the two enemy suits and Heero scanned the area for any other threats.
Duo opened his eyes and the world slowly came into focus. If he was dead, Hell looked an awful lot like the interior of a cheap motel room.
"You're awake," Heero said. He was sitting in a chair that demonstrated the overall quality of the room's furnishings: it was padded and proved marginally comfortable, but wobbled on one weak leg and was long overdue for new upholstery. In any case, it really didn't matter to Heero; he had paid for privacy, not comfort.
"What happened?" Duo croaked and struggled to sit up. His entire body ached and the top of his head felt sore. The digital clock next to him read 2:00 and by the neon glow clearly visible through the drawn curtains of the room's small window, Duo knew that it wasn't two in the afternoon.
"You tell me," Heero rose from his seat and headed for the bathroom. He unwrapped one of the cheap complimentary plastic cups and turned on the tap to fill it.
"Somehow they changed the codes," Duo smiled weakly as Heero returned and handed him the cup. He took a small sip and continued, "I had to go up a maintenance shaft, it was the only alternate route."
Heero nodded and stood at Duo's bedside. He studied the American's speech carefully for any slurring and paid attention to the dilation of the boy's pupils.
"Long story short, the charges blew and I fell off the ladder, so how did I end up here?"
"I brought you here."
"Yeah I kinda figured that."
"I seem to be making a habit of saving you."
"Seriously, Heero..." Duo rolled his eyes and took another sip of water. Heero always picked the worst times to let his sense of humor show.
"I pinpointed your location and forced open the hatch just in time to see the ladder pull away from the wall. I manually overrode the speed settings on the cockpit drop line and managed to catch you."
"Hn. You have a mild concussion and a shallow wound on your scalp that looks worse than it is."
Duo set the flimsy plastic cup aside and ran his fingers around the swath of bandage wrapped around his head. He explored a tender bump at the peak of his skull, then moved his left hand down to grip the base of his braid. After a moment, he closed his eyes, took a deep breath, held out his right hand, and said firmly, "Give me your knife."
Heero didn't reach for the utility knife hidden in his shoe, he drew his gun instead. Reversing it in one smooth motion he slapped it into Duo's waiting palm.
"I gotta admit, Heero, I wanted to los-," Duo's eyes flew open and he stared blankly at the pistol in his hand.
"You didn't lose."
"I failed to dispatch two enemy suits," the Japanese pilot said calmly.
"You didn't leave them on purpose did you?"
"Of course not," Heero scoffed. "It was a tactical error. I neglected to note that they had altered position while I engaged an enemy in hand-to-hand combat. I fired on their last known location, but didn't confirm that they had been destroyed before I went to extract you."
"So you're saying you missed them because you were busy saving my ass?"
Heero shrugged, "The fact remains I did not successfully dispatch all mobile ground forces before you got out."
"I can't accept this," Duo thrust the gun back at Heero.
"I didn't win her fairly."
"If you wanted to lose, then I wouldn't have won your braid fairly either," Heero replied, curling Duo's fingers around the gun and pushing his hand back. "Keep it. "
"I don't know what to say, Heero..." Duo's voice was choked with emotion.
"You don't have to say anything," Heero said in a low tone and finally took a seat on the bed next to his friend. "Can I ask you why, Duo?"
"Why what? Why I wanted to lose?"
"There are so many things I want to forget about my past...about myself..." the braided boy whispered. He cradled the gun in his lap and traced his fingertips over the grooves in the smooth metal. Heero had never seen him look so vulnerable before.
"Did you really think that cutting your braid would erase those memories?"
"I-," Duo began, then expelled a defeated sigh. "I suppose not," he confessed. He pulled his braid over his shoulder to study the woven strands.
"It's only a reminder of the bad things if you let it be..." Heero wished he could better express what he meant.
"Surprise, surprise. Who would've thought that hidden under that exterior there really is a human being," Duo laughed and tried to disguise the unease he felt at appearing so weak in front of his partner. His smile faded and he touched the other boy lightly on the arm. When he spoke next, it was in all seriousness, "Thank you, Heero."
"Hey!" Duo sat up straighter and blinked away a wave dizziness. "Can I ask you something?"
"Why'd you name her Annabelle?" Duo raised his new gun and sighted down the barrel at the battered television in the corner.
"You don't want to know," Heero said, his lips twitching as he tried not to smile.
"I sure as hell do, now tell me."
Duo tilted his head and peered at Heero, "Is it something personal? If it is, you don't have to tell me."
"No matter what I don't have to tell you, but no, it isn't something personal," a smirk found its way onto Heero's face. "I'll tell you later, I promise."
"Alright," Duo agreed and set his new gun down on the battered surface of the endtable. His eyes lingered on it for a moment as if he couldn't believe that it really belonged to him now.
"Get some rest. We're booked here for the weekend."
"Good idea," Duo yawned hugely and wriggled back down.
"You should be sufficiently recovered by Monday that we can return to school without blowing our cover," Heero said as he helped Duo pull the thin blankets up to his chin.
"What about you, Heero? Aren't you tired?"
"Yes," the fatigue was evident in his voice.
"Then come to bed."
"I was going to sleep in the chair."
"It's your choice," Duo said softly.
Heero hesitated; he wasn't entirely sure of Duo's motives and a nervous sensation he'd never felt before crawled around in his stomach. Was fear a part of love? Was he falling in love? He ignored the unfamiliar feelings that rose up just as they had the day before, and told himself firmly that Duo's offer was what it looked like; a practical solution for sleeping arrangements.
He pulled back the blankets with a shaky hand and sat down on the edge of the mattress. Duo scooted over as he kicked off his shoes and Heero turned off the lamp before slipping under the covers.
"You know, when they ask... and you know they will... I'll be able to tell all the nosy gossips that I spent an unforgettable night in bed with you," Duo murmured and turned on his side facing Heero.
Heero chuckled low in his throat and laced his fingers behind his head. He closed his eyes and listened as Duo's breathing slowed. Heero was drifting into dreaming when the other boy nestled close to his side and threw an arm over his chest.
"I think I could..."
Heero wasn't sure if he imagined Duo say that or not; and if he had, did it mean what he thought it did? Exhaustion refused to let him focus and the Japanese pilot pulled a hand out from under his head to rub his eyes sleepily. Without thinking, he wrapped his arm around Duo, who mumbled something unintelligible and burrowed even closer to him.
'Love is dangerous,' Heero thought absently, just before sleep claimed him.
Heero's eyes snapped open and it took him a moment before he remembered the circumstances with which he had fallen asleep and then another moment to assess his current predicament. Duo was practically lying on top of him. The American was sleeping halfway on his stomach with an arm firmly wrapped around Heero's body and one leg sprawled between his. Heero made a few unsuccessful attempts at extracting himself without waking Duo then gave up and just pushed the other boy off of him.
"Wha? Gah! There are nicer ways to wake a person up, Heero," Duo grumbled sleepily and cuddled a pile of blankets to his chest.
"What did you want, a kiss?" Heero said sarcastically as he headed immediately for the bathroom and coped with the routine of waking up. With no mission or immediate need for wakefulness, Heero was not a morning person. He'd been drilled into the habit of waking up early, but that didn't mean he enjoyed it.
"You can kiss this, Yuy," Duo rolled onto his side, smacked himself on the butt, pulled the covers over his head and promptly went back to sleep.
When Duo woke again, it was to an empty room.
He wondered where Heero was, and then vaguely remembered the other pilot getting out of bed in the morning and saying something about kissing him. That probably wasn't right, just a leftover bit from a dream or something. Duo yawned and found that his legs were tangled in the sheets; he kicked them off impatiently so he could stretch properly. His skull ached only a little and Duo thought he was fine until he tried to stand up. Dizziness overwhelmed him and he hung his head between his knees. He stayed that way until a few minutes later when he heard the door rattle. It was probably Heero, but his new gun was in his hand instantly.
"Duo," the Wing pilot acknowledged. He was unfazed by the weapon as he walked in carrying a brown paper bag in his arms.
"You came back! I expected you to be the type to just sleep with me and leave before the morning after," Duo said batting his lashes as he set the gun back on the end table.
"I bought us some food."
"Breakfast in bed, how romantic," Duo clutched his hands to his chest and kept up the simpering act.
"It's more like dinner."
Duo expelled a quick breath, blowing air up at his bangs, then muttered, "I try and I try, but he refuses to laugh at my jokes."
"I'll laugh when you're funny," Heero said and emptied the contents of the paper bag onto a small round table set near the window.
"My body is wounded, do you really need to strike a blow at my pride?" Duo said as he forced himself to stand. It was a bad idea; he wavered and lost his balance, but Heero was there to catch him. Again. Talk about a blow to his pride.
"Duo," Heero scolded and held the slender boy in his arms. "Bed or chair?"
"Chair," Duo answered quietly. As Heero steadied him, he noticed that his skin felt hot and he hoped he wasn't getting a fever on top of everything. Or was it just that the Japanese boy was touching him? Was Heero really starting to have that sort of effect on him? He reminded himself firmly that he couldn't afford to have such feelings.
Heero helped Duo walk over to one of the flat cushioned chairs and bent his knees to let the other pilot slide into the seat. "You're surprisingly heavy," he remarked and took the other chair, the one with the wobbly leg.
"You're no lightweight yourself, pal," Duo snorted and poked through the assortment of takeout boxes. "Remember, I'm the one who hauled you off the sand. Alright! Sweet and sour chicken!"
It was amazing how swiftly Duo shifted from righteous indignation to boyish enthusiasm. Heero unwrapped a pair of chopsticks and stuck them in the open box that Duo was digging his fingers into.
"What? No forks? You don't seriously expect me to eat with sticks, do you?"
"I didn't get any forks."
Duo popped a piece of chicken into his mouth and sucked the reddish sauce off his fingertips. Yet another bad idea. "ECH!" Duo made a face and examined his hand; it was still filthy from the day before.
"Uh, hey Heero, mind helping me up again?" Not only did he need to wash his hands, but also Duo's bladder had been busy fighting with his stomach for priority. Heero stood without a word and gripped his elbow as he rose. "Momma always said wash up before eating."
"I thought you didn't have a mother," Heero said as Duo made his way to the bathroom without incident. He stood guard, leaning against the wall next to the open doorway.
"I didn't spring into being, Heero," Duo called over his shoulder as he unzipped his fly. He hadn't bothered to close the door; he didn't want to fall victim to a bad step or another dizzy spell and die in the bathroom. That would be more humiliating than if he had been burnt to a crisp back in that maintenance shaft. "Haven't you taken sex-ed at one of these schools yet? I mean, a kid your age should know about these things. Well, I guess it's up to me... You see, Heero, when two people love each other..."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah."
Heero heard Duo zip up and hit the handle on the toilet. He was glad that the other boy couldn't see the small smile that had stolen onto his face. It would only encourage him.
"So you want to know about my mother, huh? Well I don't remember anything. Kinda sad isn't it," Duo said as he washed his hands thoroughly. It took a while for the soap to rinse away clear, but when it did, he cupped his palms under the faucet and splashed water on his face. The cool liquid cleared his head and helped rid him of the prickly feeling of having slept in his clothes.
"Nothing I can do about that though," Duo's voice was muffled as he dried his face with a threadbare towel. When he walked back out it was with relatively steady steps and Heero made a low sound of approval. Duo returned to his chair without assistance. That one one of the things he appreciated about his friend, Heero only helped him when he really needed help and he didn't hesitate when times like that occured.
"Sticks!" Duo complained and plucked the chopsticks out of the carton. He held one in each hand and tapped them together while looking across the small table. "You speak Japanese right?" Heero nodded and Duo set to wrestling the chopsticks into his hand, "So, what are these things called in Japanese?"
"Hashi," Heero answered as he held his own pair easily and reached for one of the boxes.
"Arigatou, Heero," the braided youth said as he gave up trying to use the chopsticks to pick up a piece of pineapple and lifted the carton up so he could just shovel the food in his mouth.
"You know a bit?"
"Mm hmm," Duo nodded and waited until he swallowed before continuing, "the important stuff."
"Important stuff?" Heero lifted the tab on a can of soda and took a drink.
"Yeah you know, like... arigatou, gomen, shimatta, kuso, hamete choudai-"
"I get the point," Heero managed to say in a reasonably calm voice although carbonation was burning its way up his nose.
Duo hid a grin behind his food carton. Heero was acting surprisingly tolerant. He wondered why, but he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. "So, what are we doing tonight?"
"You're going to rest."
"I've been sleeping all day. I need to go out and do something."
Duo set the near empty box of chinese food down and sucked on the end of his chopsticks as he leaned back in his chair. "I really don't want to spent the night listening to you type."
"Fine. What do you want to do, Duo?" Heero caved. He felt a little uneasy at the prospect of spending an entire evening alone with the other boy anyway. After spending the day agonizing over it, he had admitted to himself that he was becoming increasingly...fond...of his friend.
Duo blinked. He hadn't expected Heero to agree to do something so swiftly, let alone allow him to choose the activity. Heero was definitely acting weird.
"Well... what do you say to a movie then?"
"Alright, it's a date!" Duo coughed and his cheeks flushed crimson. "I mean, not a date really. It's a- oh man. Nevermind," he slunk down in his chair and busied himself with the urgent task of picking a piece of dried something off his pant leg.
"Sit up," Heero said and Duo looked up to find the Japanese boy standing at his side.
"What for?" he asked, already pushing himself up.
"As long as you didn't scratch it, the wound on your scalp should've closed up," Heero replied as he unwrapped the length of bandage from Duo's head. "Tilt your head," he said and pushed back Duo's bangs to examine the shallow cut right above his temple.
"How's it look, doc?"
"You'll survive. Your hair could use a wash, but I'd wait another day for that cut to heal more," Heero picked a few flakes of dried blood from Duo's bangs and withdrew his hand.
"I can live with that. We going to take a cab or did you acquire some sort of vehicle?"
"We have a motorcycle at our disposal."
"Somehow I don't think you'll let me drive," Duo said with a sigh.
"Duo!" a crowd of girls descended on the braided boy the moment he stepped foot out of the headmaster's office. "Is it true? You're leaving?"
"Yep, got a call from the old man who controls my life. I'm headed for a new school."
"Your father is cruel to take you away from us," a redhead pouted.
"And from Heero!" a blonde piped in.
"Heh. I guess you all heard about my big weekend, huh?" Duo started towards the main entrance.
"So it's true? You and Heero did spend the weekend together?" came the anxious reply.
"Yup. Heero bought me dinner, took me to the movies and let's just say we spent the rest of our time in a motel room," Duo said, grinning wickedly. Heero would be staying behind for a while and the rumors would be buzzing around him. Maybe getting the gossips in an uproar was a little cruel, but Heero needed to lighten up a little...and it was a small bit of payback for the gun.
'Tell me, Heero. I want to know!'
/'Are you sure?'/ Sidelong glance.
'Yeah! Why'd you name your gun Annabelle?'
/'To get you to stop touching it.'/ Arms crossed.
/'I'd leave my weapon out and you were always all over it.'/ Smug look.
'You mean that's the only reason? I risked my braid over a gun that had no sentimental value to you whatsoever?!'
/'Yes.'/ Affirming nod.
'I can't believe you! Argh! Remind me to kick your ass when I'm all healed up.'
/'If it's any consolation, the name itself does have significance to me.'/ Peace offering.
'I don't think I want to hear why.'
/'Your choice.'/ Slight shrug.
"Well ladies, this is it," Duo waved at the cab that was waiting for him and turned to give his final goodbyes.
"Bye Duo! We'll miss you! Don't forget us! Have fun at your new school! Bye!" the girls wished him well as he tossed his bags in the backseat of the cab and slid in.
"Is this seat taken?" came a monotonous voice from his left and Duo twisted around.
"It isn't if you're planning to share that bagel," Duo looked up over the top of his sunglasses and grinned impishly.
"Well in that case..."
"But I did buy one for you."
"Great! Then be my guest," Duo pushed the chair opposite him out with his foot. He pulled his glasses off and tucked them into his shirt pocket. "Nice to see you again, Heero." Very nice, said a little voice in the back of his mind that he was trying to ignore.
"I've taken care of our enrollment. We begin classes tomorrow," Heero informed his fellow pilot as he took his seat and pushed a bagel wrapped in wax paper across the glass surface of the patio table.
"Not even a 'nice to see you too' before you launch into business, eh?" Duo chuckled as he grabbed the offered food and debriefed Heero on what he'd learned in the past two weeks.
"The school we'll be attending is for elite students. Which means, you'll need to appear attentive and complete all class assignments," Heero said fixing an eye on his partner. After two weeks of relatively easy reconnaissance and information gathering, the pilot of Deathscythe looked healthy and rejuvenated. He was also wearing something other than black for once and Heero found himself noticing the smooth tan that the lightness of Duo's shirt called attention to.
"Damn. I guess it can't be helped. So we start tomorrow huh?"