6-2-2001

Author/Alias: Dark Blaze (dark_blaze@yahoo.com)

Title/Part Number: AC 729 - This is Just the Beginning 1/?

Catagory/Warnings: Shonen Ai (don't think it's past to yaoi yet)

Pairings: conventional yaoi pairings

Feedback: Yes

===============================================

Disclaimer/Preface As always, standard disclaimer apply. Gundam Wings belongs to Bandai, not me. The only things I claim owning are my musings and the story that they create. As you will immediately see, this is not set in AC 195 but some centuries afterward. Which means that the characters are not set in the typical silent-Heero, stalking-Relena, chatterbox-Duo, etc frames. For the moment, the only major spoilers are for episode 10 and episode zero; the rest are just little hints that you will probably recognize if you've seen the series but it won't really matter even if you don't. Hm.. what else? Oh, yes.

bold is emphazise

italic is flashback

~italic~ is thoughts

Pairings, eventually, will be the conventional yaoi/shonen-ai ones(if you've read some of my other fics, you know my pattern for pairings already, I'm sure. ^^). There will be (implied) yuri pairings, and maybe.. straight pairings? Don't know for sure yet.

Rating, for the moment, is PG. Thanks for Lainey who was the first reader of this fic and encouraged me to post it. Thanks to her as well for teaching me html format. Thanks for Kokitei for posting this. And thanks for anyone who reads and gives CC to let me know what they think of this.

(Hm. Does anyone even read these before-the-story parts?) Okay. On with the fic. Happy reading!

--------------------------------------------------------------

     "Ninmu ryoukai."

     *click*

     The sound of explosion echoing in his mind, accompanied by an incredible pain that was almost too real, rocked him to the core, and he was left immobile.

     "Heero?" Concerned blue eyes appeared in his line of sight. "Heero, daijoubu desu ka?"

     He blinked, trying to get a grip on reality.

     "Heero? Daijoubu?"

     The face surrounding those blue eyes came into focus, and he finally nodded. "Hai, Relena."

     "Are you sure? You look quite pale."

     "Hai, I'm sure. Come on. We'll be late."

     A hint of doubt still tainted the icy blue eyes but she didn't push any further. "Whatever you say, Heero." And with that, she followed him to their Home Room.

 

AC 729

This is Just The Beginning

     "So, what do you think of the art class today?"

     He shrugged. "It was okay."

     "You always say that."

     "That's because I always think that."

     "I give up." Relena sighed and let out a resigned chuckle. "Sometimes, Heero, I honestly wonder why I can stand being your best friend."

     "We're alike, and we click."

     "Or why you can remain so popular when you're so vain."

     "My good look, perhaps." He grinned.

     She stuck her tongue out at him. "Your vanity maybe."

     "It's part of my charm." He flashed her a smile and took a sip of his double shot coffee mocha.

     Relena couldn't help but to chuckle at that. "You're hopeless." Suddenly her brows quirked up, her eyes trained at the door. "Hey, isn't that the new transferred student?"

     "Hn?" Heero glanced over his shoulder to the door as well. Sure enough, just entering the cafe and now gazing around was the transferred student that had joined their Home Room just this morning. What was his name again? Ah, yes. "Duo Maxwell."

     "Mm." Relena pursed her lips slightly. "It seems like he's searching for someone."

     "Or maybe just trying to find an empty table." He felt more than saw Relena's questioning gaze and shrugged. "He does seem like the typical scholar, quiet and withdrawn."

     Right at that moment, the new student's eyes focused on Heero and narrowed slightly behind his golden framed glasses.

     ~Violet,~ was Heero's ridiculous thought as he found himself deeply drawn into those eyes. ~Deep pools of violet.~

     One of the delicate brows arched slightly, and the look in the amethyst orbs shifted into one of contemplation. Heero could almost hear the mind behind those eyes calculating.. those incredibly deep, endless pools of purple...

     "Heero?"

     "Hn?" He glanced at Relena then glanced back at the new student.

     The purple eyes were already trained elsewhere.

     With a hint of disappointment in the pit of his stomach, one that he couldn't understand, he turned back to Relena... and blinked at the look she was giving him. "...Nani?"

     A smug smirk. "Heero Yui, you are smitten by him, aren't you?"

     "Nani?!"

     Relena giggled. "You should have seen your face."

     "Relena, that was not funny."

     She grinned. "Who said I was joking?"

     "I'm not smitten by him."
     "You couldn't take your eyes off him, and that's a sign enough for me." She smiled. "Not that I can blame you. He is gorgeous. All that long hair... and the glasses... I wonder how he'd look without those glasses. Roguish maybe. It's not really that hard to imagine he's a gangster or a member of the Mafia or something... A rebel."

     Heero snorted. "Your imagination is over working again."

     But glancing over his shoulder at the subject of their discussion, he had to admit, however reluctantly, that there was a truth in Relena's observation. Despite the intelligence, the neat clothing, the scholar look, and the glasses, there was a wisp of danger and mystery surrounding the violet eyed teen, very faint as it was, an aura that pulsed stronger every now and then.

     The said violet eyed teen was at the moment buying a cup of mocha creme. He paid for it and then made his way... to their table?!

     "Mind if I sit here with the two of you?" He asked, his voice a husky tenor.

     Heero was too stunned to reply, and not just because of the question. The new student had been silent all the way in the Home Room and the classrooms. It was for the first time he heard that voice.

     ~..It should have been much louder and more cheerful. ...~ He frowned slightly. ~Now why did I think that? ~

     Relena too, was surprised, but she quickly gained her wits and smiled as she answered the new student's question. "No, not at all." She scooted over to give him more space.

     "Thank you." He placed his mocha creme on the table and sat down beside her before placing his stack of books beside his cup. "I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but there is no other empty table left, and this way," Heero suddenly found the violet orbs trained at him, "you don't have to crane your neck just to stare at me."

     Heero could feel blood rushing up to his face.

     Relena glanced at her friend and laughed softly. "It's all right. This place is a bit full on Tuesday afternoons." She grinned at Heero. "And I don't think Heero really minds you joining us." The Japanese immediately regarded her with a glare, one which she promptly ignored.

     The transferred student's lips quirked up very slightly as he stiffened a chuckle. His eyes sparkled faintly in amusement as they regarded the young man in front of him, who was starting to blush again. "So you are Heero." The violet eyes moved to Relena. "And you are...?"

     "Relena. Pleased to meet you. Duo, right?" She smiled. "We're in the same Home Room."

     Duo nodded. "I remember."

     "Ah." Trying to find a line, she glanced at the stack of books beside his cup. "Challenge to Logical Mind... You're into logic?"

     "It provides a challenge."

     "Ah. So you're into challenge?"

     "Aa."

     "Then I take it you're good at physics and math's and all those?"

     "Aa."

     She mock shuddered. "Ugh."

     "You don't like them?"

     "No. But Heero does. He excels in all classes." Relena mock glared at Heero.

     Heero simply stuck his tongue out at her.
     Duo's lips quirked up slightly again.
     Relena flipped her hair at Heero and turned to Duo again. "Maybe you can beat him for the first place... Hey, why don't you come and study with us? Heero here has been trying to make me understand the ways to calculus and physics and all those but has yet to succeed. Maybe with your help he will manage to get some of those confusing formulas inside my thick skull."

     "So you admit you have a thick skull," Heero fired, a revenge.

     "Hey, when I'm stupid, I'm stupid. I don't mind admitting I have a weakness, not alike some people..." She eyed Heero meaningfully.

     The Japanese merely snorted.

     Again, Duo stiffened his chuckle. He sipped his mocha creme instead and was about to open one of his books and start to read when Relena turned to him again, trying to make conversation.

     "So how do you find our school compared to your old one, Duo?" She smiled. "Not too easy or disappointing, I hope."

     He smiled faintly and replied smoothly. "I don't think one day is enough for a fair comparison, Relena-san."

     "Please, just call me Relena."

     "As you wish.. Relena."

     She nodded. "That's better."

     "What was your previous school?" Heero finally joined the conversation as well.

     "St. Michael of Rosenberg."

     Both Heero and Relena blinked.

     "St. Michael of Rosenberg?" Relena finally echoed in disbelief. "The St. Michael of Rosenberg?"

     "Aa."

     "But... That was like.. the best school in the whole Nation!" Heero exclaimed in shock.

     St. Michael, which was located at Rosenberg, was a top ranked school, one that only very few, very talented, and very smart people could get in. The graduates were usually immediately recruited by the government to work at the Institution of Science, Research, and Technology or at NASA or at other departments that were just as exclusive and important.

     And to think that this new student was a transfer from St. Michael...

     The chestnut haired teen merely shrugged slightly, his expression remained indifferent. The casualness baffled both Heero and Relena.

     "Why would you leave a top school like that for a second class school like Cambridge?" Relena finally asked.

     Again, the teen shrugged slightly.

     Relena and Heero quickly exchanged glances and silent assents. They definitely wanted to know more about this new student... this new, mysterious, smart - one had to be incredibly smart to get into St. Michael, right? - student. Maybe they could even get him to join their group.

     As the two exchanged silent messages, Duo opened one of his books and started reading. Taking it as the disappointing sign of 'leave me alone', Heero and Relena finally settled into making their own conversation.

     Heero was still in the mid of discreetly marveling at the golden honey halo the sunrays were creating on Duo's long and loose chestnut strands and how it contrasted with the teen's purple eyes when suddenly he saw those orbs tensed and hardened into amethyst stones. Heero's eyes widened in shock at the coldness in those eyes; they seemed so ruthless, so emotionless, so...

     He blinked. The eyes were not cold, just indifferent. Had it just been his imagination?

     Duo closed his book and gathered his things then stood up. "I have to leave now. Thank you for letting me sit with you."

     "Oh, no problem." Relena smiled. "You haven't responded to the offer, y'know."

     "The offer?" He searched his memory briefly. "The study group?"

     "Hai. It's tomorrow, after school, in the library."

     "I'll think about it." He nodded. "Ja." And with that, he left.

     Relena turned to Heero with a scold. "Thanks for nothing."

     Her best friend blinked. "Nani? What did I do?"

     "Nothing. Which is exactly it. I thought we agreed to get him to hang out with us so we can get to know him?"

     "Oh."

     "Exactly. Oh. Do you want to be familiar with him or not?"

     He shrugged slightly. "Maybe I don't."

     "Ha! If you hoped for even one second that I would believe it, you can kiss that hope goodbye." She smiled slyly. "I've seen the way you looked at him, Heero Yui. You want to ask him out, well, here's your chance to be his friend and do that."

     He eyed her warily. "Are you playing matchmaker again?"

     "Me?" She batted her lashes innocently. "Whatever made you think of that?"

     "Oh, I don't know... The look in you face?"

     She laughed jauntily. "Oh, come now. It's not like you're really against it. You have practically admitted that you're interested in him!"

     "I admitted nothing!"

     She grinned. "Yes, you diiiid."

     "Besides," he continued after a split second decision to ignore her reply, "we don't even know if he's interested in boys."

     "And that's the whole purpose of getting to know him better, baka."

     Heero sighed. "I give up."

     Relena snickered.

------------------------

     Duo parked his sport bike in the garage beside his black sport car and climbed up the inner stairs into the house. His long jagged bang dipped into his eyes at the crudeness of his motions. Irritatedly, he shoved them away from his face. There were no golden framed glasses there. Of course. His vision was excellent after all. The glasses were just something of a disguise, both to fool those who were pursuing him and to hide his true identity from the ones around him.

     He entered the kitchen and closed the door leading toward the stairs. His bagpack landed on the wooden floor with a thud as he tossed his jacket to the island. Well practiced fingers quickly formed his hair into a braid and tied it with the band he'd pulled out from his jeans' pocket as he walked to the cabinet to pour himself a shot of bourbon, which he immediately tossed in in a swallow. He winced slightly as the liquor burnt its way down his throat, then he poured himself some more. Another shot of bourbon warmed its way down, but it did nothing to his anxiety.

     "Damn."

     The empty shot glass landed with a loud thud on the kitchen counter, and the hand holding it trembled slightly from clutching the glass too tightly.

     "Damn it." His eyes slammed close.

     ~How did they manage to track me down so fast? I've changed the familiar pattern, leaving a confusing trail, destroying their tracking device. It's practically impossible, unless they read my mind.. Or unless...~ His eyes flung open, and his expression turned grim. ~Unless they lied and planted more than one device on my body. ~

     His hand involuntarily raised to the back of his neck, but he forcefully snapped it away before it could feel the scar left from where he had taken out the first planted tracking device.

     ~I should have checked if there were more than one device...~ He sighed and cursed softly. "Kuso."

     Slowly he filled his glass again.

     ~...They sent E-19 to pursuit me.~

     This time the trembling of his hand was from rage.

     "Damn them. He was my friend."

     ~Was is the keyword, Duo. He's no longer your friend. They have taken away his human side and changed him into a calculating machine. E-19 won't hesitate to kill you. Most likely he will toy with you first before he kills you and brings your remains back to them. ~

     He remembered the burnt that had suddenly appeared on the page of the book he was reading back in the cafe. He remembered as well the glimpse of E-19 reflected on his rearview mirror as he drove his bike out of the parking lot.

     He remembered the smirk on E-19's face.

     ~He is toying with me. He let me acknowledge his presence. And the smirk... He is taunting me.~

     "What would you do, Duo?"

     A soft snort escaped as he smiled vapidly. The scientists working on him had been disappointed when they found that he still talked to himself from time to time, a sure sign that he wasn't yet the practical, calculating machine they intended to make him be. Their control over him had never been absolute, now moreso than ever, and he intended to keep it that way.

     ~What will you do then?~

     He emptied his glass.

     ~What I will do? I will not run away again, that's what I will do. It's been five years and too many casualties. I'm tired of leading this merry chase. I'll play their game this time. I'll play his game and bid my time. And when he strikes...~

     The glass in his hand quivered, right before it exploded. Violet orbs watched dispassionately as the shards rained down to the floor without ever touching his skin, least wounding him.

     Without a change of expression, he turned on his heel and stepped out of the kitchen. Almost in an afterthought, he stretched out a hand, and his jacket floated from the island into his grasp. Without missing a beat, he continued on to the bedroom.

     He would take care of the shards later.

------------------------

     E-19's eyes flung open, and a cold smirk curved on his thin lips. D-18 had just used his power, issuing a challenge.

     This would be one Cat and Mouse game he would really enjoy.

------------------------

D-18, also known as Duo Maxwell, couldn't figure for the life of him what had made him do what he had done.

He had been half-heartedly trying to dodge E-19, knowing how much the other enjoyed this game of Cat and Mouse. Half-hearted because it wasn't as much for survival as for humoring his would-be captor. He knew that E-19, different from his predecessors, didn't like to kill as much as to hunt. In fact, E-19 despised making unnecessary casualties. Duo knew E-19 wouldn't attack him in a crowd, which was why he also didn't mind to play with E-19 for a while.

~That, and the fact that you know you don't want to eliminate him like you did the others. You're stalling the real encounter.~
That, too. Somehow he was hoping against all hope that his friend would be able to overpower the scientists' influence and regained his humanity.

"Duo, help me with number fifteen?"

Still, just in case, he didn't want to be too close with anyone or to give E-19 any reason to believe that he was close to anyone. It was too dangerous. He didn't want to cause another casualty.

~So what in the nine hells am I doing here?~ he thought as he explained to Relena about the connection of x and y in the formula she was working on.

"...Ah. I understand now." She smiled.. beamed was more like it, actually. "Thanks, Duo."

He nodded and continued with his physics. He had finished his math homework since sometime ago.

"See, Heero. Duo is smarter than you."

Duo didn't have to look up to know that one of the two was blowing raspberry at the other.

"Well, he's better at explaining things."

And the other was now blowing raspberry back to the first one.

~Kiddies.~ Duo couldn't help the thought. Or the envy. ~It's normal, I suppose, considering the worst they have to worry about is getting a D on an exam.~

The violet eyed teen glanced up, eyes focusing to a table across the room where E-19 was sitting face to face with a female student of Chinese heritage. They were studying together, much like Duo and his two companions.

"Heero Yui! Give me back my eraser!"

Duo let out an inward sigh. He hadn't meant to come to the library, really. But somehow, while dodging E-19, his mind had wondered, and his feet had brought him here, and before he knew it, Heero and Relena had dragged him to their table and made him study together with them...

"Ack! Stop it! Relena!"

...If you could call it study, that is.

~Well, at least it worths the amusement of watching E-19 acting like he used to, for once.~

Right at the moment, E-19 looked up, and Duo could read the displeasure in the normally cold dark eyes. The violet eyed teen nodded very slightly at his would-be captor in a silent salute and returned to his homework.

"Your friend?"

"Hm?" He glanced at Relena, who pointed at E-19 with her chin. "Someone I knew." His tone indicated that the topic was closed.

Relena pursed her lips but didn't push the issue, and they all returned to work.

Two hours and a half later, the three of them were finally done with their homework. Well, Duo had finished his early on but had let himself be persuaded to stay until the other two were done as well.

"Mm..." Relena stretched and glanced at her watch. "It's six thirty already. I don't know about you boys, but my brain feels like it's on overload after working for so long, and I'm hungry. Let's go someplace to eat."

Heero snickered. "You're always hungry."

"I'm a growing girl."

"Soon you'll be growing sideways."

Relena stuck her tongue out at Heero and turned to Duo. "You don't think I'm fat, do you?"

"Not yet." Heero replied before Duo could.

"Hmpf." Relena pouted.

Duo merely hid his amusement and collected his books.

"Are you coming with us, Duo?"

"I'm going home." He stood up.

"Oh. You have to go home already? Sorry we kept you so long. Your parents must be worried, ne?"

"I don't have parents."

"Uncles? Aunts? Guardians?"

"Iie."

"No one waiting at home?"

"Iie."

Heero and Relena exchanged quick, meaningful glances: 'so Duo lives alone, eh?'

"A plan with a special someone then?" Relena pressed on.

"Iie." He lifted his bagpack.

"No girlfriend or boyfriend?"

Duo was definitely amused now. "Didn't have time to find one yet."

Another exchange of significant glances before Relena turned to him again.

"Then why won't you join us?"

"Maybe because you talk too much," Heero couldn't resist teasing her.

Relena glared and shot back. "Maybe because you're so annoying."

Heero glared right back.

Duo's lips quirked up slightly. "I'll see you two tomorrow in the Home Room."

"Wait!" Relena immediately whirled to face him again. "Come on, join us. It'll be fun!"

"I thank you for the offer, really. But..."

"I'm sure you're quite tired by now," Heero put his two cents in. "If you go home now, you'll still have to cook or heat up your dinner before you can eat. Then you'll have to wash the dishes. That's a lot of work after studying so hard. Wouldn't it be better if you had someone to cook your dinner and clean up for you afterward?"

"I'm not interested in having a maid, thank you."

Relena made an exasperated noise. "For someone so smart, you sure are very slow at times."

Duo chuckled softly, letting them know he had been just playing stupid. Then he gave them a smile, one that was more visible than any of the others he ever showed them. "You really want me to go with you, don't you?"

"Of course!" The two answered him enthusiastically.

He gave in to another chuckle. "Fine. Then I'll go."

"You're not going to suddenly change your mind later, are you?" Relena's tone warned him that he'd better answer that with a 'no'.

He shook his head.

Relena nodded, satisfied.

"I have to call Obasan first." Heero said as he collected his books.

"I've already told my parents." Relena stated, a bit triumphantly.

Heero eyed her suspiciously. "..You planned this, didn't you?"

"No. I just knew we would be going somewhere tonight."

"There's no way you could have known unless you planned it. And knowing you, I'd say you did."

"Two words, Heero. Woman intuition."

Heero rolled his eyes.

Relena smirked smugly.

The Japanese stuck his tongue out at her as he stood up and slung his bag over his shoulder. "You guys just go first. I'll catch up later."

Relena grinned and glanced conspiratorily at Duo. "He doesn't want us to hear his aunt babies him."

Heero sputtered and blushed. "That's not it!"

Duo hid his smile.

Relena merely giggled.

Heero sighed. "See you guys at the parking lot." He waved and darted out of the library.

Relena started to gather her books. "So, Duo. You don't have a maid, ne? So you do all the house-chores by yourself?"

"Aa."

"Even cooking?"

"Aa."

She eyed him curiously. "How good are you as a cook?"

He shrugged slightly. "I haven't suffered from any case of food poisoning so far."

She blinked and stared...

"..Nani?"

...and gasped. "That was a joke, wasn't it? Oh my god, you just made a joke!"

Duo shook his head slightly, lips very faintly quirking. "Baka."

Relena chuckled as she stood up and took her bag. "Come on. Let's go before Heero thinks I've done something to you."

Duo merely smiled at that, a smile that was more from amusement than from anything else.

"I hope Heero isn't going to be too long," Relena sighed as they headed for the parking lot, where the bus stop was. "We're going to have to cut it short as it is."

"Why?"

"His bike broke down this morning, so he'll have to take the bus to get home tonight, and the bus going to his place is only until nine thirty." Her tone changed doubtful. "Of course, we could go to my place, and I could ask my sister to take him home..."

Duo's brow quirked up slightly. "You sound like you don't think your sister would."

Relena chuckled. "Oh, Midi would. It's Heero that I doubt will agree." At Duo's silent question, she explained. "You see, Midi likes bishounen, doesn't matter if they're younger as long as it's only a year or two. And Heero... Well..." She grinned. "Let's just say that they both have the same taste, and Midi doesn't have a clue."

"Ah." ~Just like the old time. ... Old time? What old time?~ "It's not a problem. I can take him home. And you as well, if you don't mind, that is."

"I don't mind, but... How?"

"I have a car."

Relena stopped and blinked at him. "..What?"

"I have a car."

She gaped for a moment, jaws working with no words coming out.

Duo watched her with hidden amusement, silently counting. ~..four...three...two...~

"You have a car?!"

Right on schedule. "Aa."

"And you didn't tell us sooner?!!"

He shrugged slightly. "You didn't ask."

She tried to retort a reply but finally settled with making an exasperated noise.

Duo stiffened his chuckle.

"Why do you do that?"

"Hm?" The stiffened mirth froze and disappeared.

"That. Holding back your laughter. It's like you're not allowing yourself to show your feelings or something."

"I..." He blinked, as bewildered as anyone had ever seen him be.

~He's so kawaii when he's thrown off balance like this.~ Relena smiled, amused. "You should smile more often and let yourself laugh, y'know. You look more handsome when you smile, and I bet your laughter isn't so unpleasant to hear either. I'm sure if Heero was here, he'd say so, too."

She had been watching his face to catch any pink hue creeping up the elvin face. What she saw instead was a look of contemplation that was almost cold. Before she could be sure of what she was seeing though, Duo had glanced away, back to the direction they had come. Three seconds later, she could hear the faint pounding of her best friend's approaching footsteps.

~He must have an incredibly sharp hearing. Or a good instict.~

Heero stopped in front of them, slightly out of breath but otherwise smiling. "Kanryou. I'm free until ten. So where are we going?"

Relena threw him a sour smile and pointed at Duo with a little tossing of her head. "He has a car."

"Nani?" Heero blinked and stared at Duo with wide eyes. "You do?"

Duo sighed inwardly. "Aa."

"I thought you drove motorcycle."

~Ah. Should have known he watched yesterday.~ He shrugged slightly.

"You have both a bike and a car?"

"Aa."

"..Wait. You live alone, right?"

"Aa." He wondered where this was going. No, he could guess where this was going.

"With no parents or family."

That wasn't something he liked to ponder about. "Aa."

"And you're seventeen?"

"Eighteen." ~This guy really uses his brain.~

"Ah. Um.. Sorry if it's too personal, but... How do you manage to support yourself then? Unless you won a lottery or something like that..."

Yep. Definitely using his brain.

"Heero!" Relena scolded.

"I'm just wondering," the Japanese responded defensively.

Both turned to Duo, who simply dead-panned and said, "I robbed the bank."

Two jaws dropped, and two pairs of eyes regarded him with equally dumbfounded expressions. It was just too much, too funny.

Duo snickered.

Relena blinked and gaped. "..That was another joke, wasn't it?"

Duo chuckled silently.

Heero's chuckle was more audible. He grinned at Duo. "Wealthy benefactor?"

Duo smiled and winked at him, and in return was treated with the sight of a blushing but laughing Heero. Soon, Relena joined the laughter as well, and Duo couldn't help but to chuckle at them.

A passing bus brought them back to sanity, or at least partially. They were still smiling at one another.

"So, Duo." Relena finally broke the silence. "Where did you park your car?"

"At my place."

The two stared at him again as if he had grown another head.

"I came with my bike."

"Oh. So now what are we going to do?" Relena glanced back and forth between the two boys.

"Where do you want to go?" Duo asked back.

Relena and Heero exchanged glances before she answered. "Fridays? There's one on the 7th Street."

Duo nodded. "I'll go get my car now. Do you want to wait me here or go and meet me there?"

Again, Relena and Heero exchanged glances. Before either could say a thing though, a deep voice sounded from behind them.

"Good evening, boys. Relena."

All three turned.

"Principal Treize," Heero exclaimed.

"Treize!" Relena called out.

~Treize?~ Duo's brow quirked up.

"He dates my cousin," Relena explained to Duo.

Treize sighed. "Relena, I told you already. During the school hours, I'm the principal."

"It's not 'the school hours' anymore. So there." She stuck her tongue out at him.

Treize sighed again but smiled. Then he really looked at Duo. "You are the transferred student, if I'm not mistaken? Duo Maxwell, is it?"

"Yes, Sir."

The older man smiled. "How do you find the school so far?"

"Fine, Sir."

"Good. Good. You already hang out with this brat, I see." Treize indicated Relena. "I hope she hasn't given you a hard time yet?"

"Treize!" Relena glared at him.

Duo stiffened his mirth. "No Sir."

"Yet," Heero added.

Relena's glare immediately found its new target.

Treize chuckled. "Are you planning to go somewhere?"

"Hai," Relena answered before either of the other two could. "We want to go to Duo's place, but we only have one bike."

"Ah." Treize nodded. "I can take one of you there. Where's your place, Maxwell?"

Duo sighed inwardly. ~How did I get myself into this?~ "41 Ocean Road, Sir."

"That's on the West side of the city, isn't it?"

"Yes Sir."

Treize nodded. "I know the area. Which of you will drive with me?"

"I will," Relena replied, again, before the other two could say a thing. "See you boys later." She winked at her two friends and dragged Treize toward the parking lot.

"Anou... Relena.. My car is on the other side."

"Then why didn't you say something sooner?" Quickly she dragged him the other way.

Heero watched Relena go with Treize and cursed inwardly at his best friend. Tentatively he glanced at Duo, suddenly feeling awfully nervous and awkward.

Duo was chuckling silently, watching Relena and Treize. Then, sensing the gaze, he turned to Heero with a soft smile. "Shall we?"

"Ah.. Hai."

The brunette walked on to where he parked his bike, followed by Heero. "She is some girl, your friend."

"She is, isn't she?" He hoped his voice was steadier than he felt. Absently he wiped his damp palm on his jeans.

"Your aunt.. She was the one who drove you to school this morning?"

"Iie, that was my cousin. I have my own bike, but it broke down and just wouldn't start this morning. It was too late already to take a bus, so she drove me."

"She seems a professional."

"She is. Right now she's on a break before the next motocross championship."

"Ah." Duo nodded. "Any idea what's wrong with your bike?"

"Iie. I didn't have time to check it thoroughly yet."

"Ah. Want me to look at it with you?" Now why in the nine hells did he say that?

Heero blinked at him, obviously just as surprised. "..." ~What are you waiting for, baka?! He just offered to take you home and help you with the bike!~ "Uh.. If you want to... I mean.. If it isn't too much of a trouble..."

"It isn't."

Heero smiled. "Then sure. Arigato."

Duo nodded. "How old is she?"

"Hn?" Heero blinked again, obviously not following Duo's track of thoughts.

"Your aunt. How old is she?"

"Thirty five. Why?"

"Curious. And your cousin? How old?"

"The one who drove me is twenty three. Her sister is seventeen."

Duo shot him a curious/questioning glance.

"They are from a different aunt. Obasan was never married."

"Ah." That made sense. "And you are seventeen?"

"I'm eighteen this year." Defensive tone.

The corners of Duo's lips twitched slightly. "When?"

"Hn? When is what?"

"Your birthday."

"Why?" An impish gleam glinted in the cobalt blue eyes. "Are you planning to give me a present?"

A secretive smile. "Maybe."

Heero thought about it for a moment. "..May 31st."

Duo nodded slightly in acknowledgment. "That's my bike."

Heero stared at the motorcycle. Yesterday it had been too far away for him to make out the details, and Duo's fast driving hadn't helped either. Now he was close enough to see the thin silver line on each side of the bike's shiny, black body.

The machine was a beauty, especially for someone who loved motorcycle and speed. Its body was sleek and slender, ready to cut through the wind. The top was almost flat behind the tiny windshield, a further indication of the purpose the bike had been made for. Judging from the size and model, Heero guessed the bike could easily run up to 250-300 km/h.

"Nice bike."

"Thanks."

He glanced over and saw Duo putting on his helmet, the long hair now tied into a low ponytail. Heero put on his own helmet and climbed on behind Duo. When the bike started, his arms automatically circled around Duo's slender waist and held on firmly. The bike was no doubt built for speed, and the notion of falling while it was moving was simply too unpleasant to bear.

But Heero didn't need to worry. Despite the (hidden) fact that Duo's driver license had been more of a proof of his ability as a hacker, his driving skills were quite faultless. Besides, Duo's sense of responsibility simply wouldn't let him do anything that would endanger his passenger... too much.

After fifteen minutes of cutting through the traffic, they finally arrived at Duo's place. The violet eyed teen parked his bike in the garage then led Heero up to the kitchen.

"Relena hasn't arrived yet," Heero heard himself stating the obvious in an attempt to cover his anxiety, anything to fill in the silence.

"Aa. Do you want anything to drink?"

"No, thanks." It took a split second to realize that he'd just lost a mean to distract himself. Too late though.

Duo nodded. "I'm going to go and change. Anything you want to do while waiting?"

Heero contemplated for a moment. "Do you have a computer? I need to check my email." Good idea. He could stay in front of a computer and lost himself in it for hours.

Duo nodded. "This way." And led Heero to the master bedroom.

Bad idea.

"The computer is over there. It's already connected to the Net."

Heero nodded. "Arigato." He sat in front of the computer table and touched the mouse. Immediately the machine sprang to live and started whirling. Slowly he scanned through the files to find the Internet program while trying to ignore the noises Duo was making behind him. A heavy thud on the floor... scuffing... a drawer opened... rustling of fabrics... drawer closed...

Then he heard the sound of the bathroom door closed, followed a moment later by water running.

~Great. He's taking a shower.~ He groaned inwardly. Unbidden, his oh-ever-so-helpful hormones immediately supplied his mind with images of Duo in the shower... long chestnut strands, dark and heavy with the moisture they managed to capture, plastered down the smooth back, dangling and reaching down to the round, firm buttocks... droplets of water showering over a tilted elvin face, one or two glistening pearl caught in the long, thick lashes, the rest rolling down, wetting full, berry lips that were slightly parted... rolling down the arched neck and further down the chest.. kissing the dark nubs.. caressing the well toned torso... muscles rippling underneath the pale skin as the violet eyed teen's hands moved to spread the droplets further across his body... body that was flat and well shaped but not too muscular... droplets of water continued rolling down the narrowing lower ab, down to that triangular area of...

~K'so.~ He closed his eyes and shook his head clear. ~Bad Heero. Damn hormones.~ Now how the hell was he supposed to explain to his host why he would be stuck in the chair for a while?

Then he realized that the running water had stopped.

~Kuso!~

Making as little noise as possible, he dragged the chair closer to the table, hoping that the shadows created would be enough to hide the bulge on his lap.

The bathroom door was opened.

"Are you done checking your email?"

Heero blinked at the screen and realized that he hadn't even opened the Internet program. "I can't find the program," he lied.

There were the sounds of approaching footsteps.

~Oh shit.~

A moment later, he could feel heat radiating onto his back as Duo stood behind him and leaned over, reaching out for the mouse.

Heero froze, trying desperately not to make any signs that would give away his real problem while trying to ignore the smell of rain and apple that surrounded him and assaulted his nostrils... and the warmth he felt from Duo being so close... and the tickling sensation the slightly damp chestnut strands gave on his bare neck...

And the pants that were rapidly becoming far too tight.

"It's this one," Duo clicked on the program, bringing the window forth.

"Oh." That was all Heero could let out without betraying himself. The sound of Duo's husky tenor so close to his ear didn't help his predicament either.

Suddenly the front door's bell rang out almost impatiently.

"That must be Relena," Duo murmured as he straightened up.

Heero heard him walk out of the room - to answer the door, no doubt - and sighed in relief. Never before had he been more grateful for his friend's interruption. Now, if only he could find a way to calm his raging hormones...

He could hear the sound of people talking - of Relena talking actually - and approaching footsteps. And he knew those two would enter the room soon.

~Kuso! Now what?!~ He could just imagine how it would be if they caught him still in this chair. Relena wouldn't let him hear the end of it, and Duo...

He didn't even want to know what Duo would think.

He glanced around the room, desperate for a way out, anything to escape the incoming embarrassment.

Then his eyes caught the slightly ajar bathroom door.

~The bathroom!~

Quickly he leaped for it, locking the door behind him. Then he looked around and groaned inwardly.

The bathroom was much warmer than the bedroom and was still very slightly misted from Duo's shower. It still smelled of rain and apple too, like Duo. And worse, now that he actually saw the shower and the droplets of water still clinging on the glass door...

~Kuso! Not good. Not good at all.~

There was a knock on the door that made him jump.

"Nani?" He shouted, almost snapping, hoping whoever outside wouldn't be able to hear the racing of his heart through his voice.

"Heero? Are you okay?" Relena's voice.

"Hai!" He calmed his voice. "I'll be out in a moment."

"Okay."

Okay. So he had at least a moment to.. uh.. get his blood change its course. He started pacing to cool down while trying to make as little noise as possible. But the bathroom was too warm, and the smell... and the mist... and the images...

~K'so!~

He took a deep breath and tried to ignore the scents that drifted in along with the air. Okay. Now what would make his hormones retreat from.. there? Sports. An image of a good basketball game... a game with Duo involved... sweaty... heavy breath... nake.. Ack! Nononono! Something else. School. Homework... Studying for midterm... with Duo sitting across from him, jagged chestnut bangs falling in front of violet orbs, so focused behind the golden framed glasses...

He sighed. ~This isn't working at all.~

"Heero!!"

"In a moment!!"

~Relena... Relena's sister... Relena's sister throwing meaningful winks at... Ack! Okay. That did it.~

"Hee...!!!"

He opened the door.. and narrowly avoided Relena's knocking hand. "Impatient, are we?"

"You were in there for like.. ages!"

"Hn. Blame it to my system." He smirked and brushed pass her.

She snorted. "What did you do in there anyway?"

"You don't want to know." Seeing her mouth open, ready to fire back, he quickly changed topic. "Are we ever going to leave?"

Relena flipped her hair over her shoulder. "We were waiting for you, baka."

He decided not to reply to that and instead glanced over at Duo.

The violet eyed teen was sitting at the edge of the bed, one slender leg folded up, the other dangling down, nearly brushing the floor. One fist was raised to his lips, but it still didn't quite covered the quirking edges. The violet orbs were sparkling faintly behind their golden frame, no doubt in amusement.

~How could anyone look that good in button up, jeans, and low boots? And those damned glasses just make him look even better. It's not fair. And it doesn't help that those clothes mold to his frame so perfectly either.~

Duo suddenly looked up and met his cobalt gaze... and winked.

Heero could feel his face doing a slow burn again.

Relena glanced back and forth between the two boys. "Well? What are you two waiting for?"

Duo chuckled silently and got up. "Let's go then." His braid swung along with his steps, the end waving at Heero as Duo walked down to the garage, followed by the other two.

~Braid? He wears his hair in a braid?~ There was a pang of odd familiarity at the sight, as well as a sense of loss and disappointment that he couldn't quite fathom. ~It should've been longer...~ That thought startled him. Now what had prompted that?

"Wow! Nice car, Duo!"

Relena's voice broke through his contemplation, bringing him back to reality.

"Thank you. Who wants to sit in the front?" He could guess who would want to sit in the back.

"I'll sit in the back."

Yep. He'd guessed it right.

"But..." A look from his friend put off whatever argument Heero was about to voice out. He exhaled softly, resigned. "I'll sit in the front."

Since the car had only two doors, Relena had to get in first before Heero. Duo smiled at Heero as he walked to the door on the driver's side. Before he got in though, he raised his hands to Heero's plain of view and started forming signs.

'A handful, isn't she?'

Heero was so surprised, he almost missed what those long, slender fingers were saying. When had Duo learned Japanese Sign Language? And even more, how had he known that Heero knew the language?

He contemplated over it as he made a long suffering face and replied, 'You have no idea.'

Duo chuckled silently and got into the car, followed by Heero. The chestnut haired teen waited until everyone had fastened his/her seatbelt before he started the car and drove off to Fridays.

Heero was mostly quiet during the drive and the dinner, and Duo seemed content with giving only occasional responses, talking mostly only when asked. It was up to Relena to keep things from being awkward... or too awkward, as occasionally happened.

The girl sighed inwardly; even making Heero sit in the front with Duo hadn't done much good. She felt like giving in to the childish urge to kick the back of Heero's seat. Let the Japanese loose in a crowd of people and he would have no trouble charming them into becoming his fans, but let him face one person he liked and he would shut up like a poked clam. She supposed it was quite amusing... if only it wasn't always up to her to get her best friend acquainted with the object of his interest.

~Oh well. At least they'll have some time alone after they drop me.~ "So Duo, how about it? It's okay if we come over to your place on the weekend to study for next week's midterms, right? Promise, we'll bring our own snack and music. And we won't wreck your place... too much."

Duo's lips quirked up slightly at the last statement, his eyes remain steady on the road. "How many are you planning to invite?"

"Huh? Oh. It'll just be the three of us... and possibly one more."

"That last one won't happen to be my cousin, will it?" Heero asked in an almost dry tone.

Relena's face turned very slightly red. "What are you hinting at?"

"You don't know."

"I don't."

He snorted. "Sure you don't."

"I don't!"

"Mmhm. Sure you don't."

Relena glared at Heero, face positively crimson. And Duo had to bite his lip to stop himself from bursting out laughing. Forcefully he swallowed his mirth and turned the last corner to Relena's house.

"That's the one?"

"Hai. The one with the blue fence."

Duo pulled over in front of the blue fenced house, and Heero stepped out so that Relena could climb out of the car.

The door of the house was opened, and a young woman with a short brownish hair appeared.

"Midi!" Relena waved at her with a bright smile.

~Ah. So that's her,~ Duo mused as he nodded at the young woman. "Good evening."

The woman nodded back.

Relena turned to Duo again. "Thanks, Duo. See you tomorrow at school." She hopped out of the car and skipped away to her sister.

Heero was slightly fidgeting, impatiently waiting for Relena to clear off. As soon as she was away from the car, he nodded at her and her sister and got back inside - thankfully, Duo had straightened the seat back after Relena got out. Almost too quickly he closed the door and fastened his seatbelt.

"Let's go."

Holding back his amusement, Duo turned the car around and started heading for Heero's house. "You don't get along well with Relena's sister?"

"It's not that." Heero sighed. "She just... has ways to make me uncomfortable."

"Ah." He didn't press on.

Heero sat in silence for a moment, feeling awfully nervous and awkward again. Desperately he tried to find a line. "...Do you drive a lot?" ~Smooth, Heero. Very smooth.~

"Hm? Why did you say that?"

"It's just that you seem to know every street in this city. You don't ask for directions but know exactly which route to take to get to one place or another."

Duo simply smiled faintly. He couldn't very well tell Heero that he had memorized the city map on his first night in the city so that he would be ready in case he ever needed a quick escape route.

Sensing that Duo had given all the answer he would give, Heero fell silent again and tried to find another line. "...So... How come you know Japanese Sign Language?"

"A friend taught me."

"Ah." Something in Duo's tone made him reluctant to probe further down that direction. "How did you know I knew the language?"

"Your hands."

"Hn?"

"Your hands. They occasionally form the sign for the word you're voicing or the emotion you're trying to convey."

"Oh."

Another awkward silence.

He started to fidget again, inwardly... or at least he hoped it was only inwardly.

"Heero," Duo's voice cut through, surprisingly quiet and gentle.

It almost made him jump all the same. "Nani, Duo?"

"You don't have to talk if you don't want to." The violet eyes glanced briefly at him before they returned to the road. "You don't have to force yourself into making a conversation."

"..Ah." The problem was, he wanted to. He just couldn't find the words.

More silence.

"..I'm making you nervous, aren't I?"

Startled, he whirled at Duo. "Na.. Nani?!"

Duo's lips quirked up into a faint smile. "You like me, don't you?"

"I..." He stuttered and blushed.

The smile softened. "It's all right. I'm not offended. I'm flattered actually."

"You.. You do? I mean, you are?"

"Aa."

"I... Uh..." Crimson hue had crept up his cheeks again.

Duo smiled faintly. "Your friend, Relena.. She's playing matchmaker, isn't she?"

The crimson hue deepened.

Duo chuckled softly and smiled. "She seems to be a good friend."

Heero snorted softly. "When she's not being annoying."

"Aa," Duo agreed, faintly smiling. "But she's blunt, honest, doesn't afraid to speak her mind, and most of all, she cares. She's a good person."

"...You like her, don't you?" Now why did that notion sent a pang into the pit of his stomach, a pang that was more from betrayal than from jealousy?

Duo nodded, answering his question. "She has good qualities that only a few persons have, unfortunate as it is."

"...Ah."

There was another silence that was quickly broken by Duo's soft chuckle.

He glanced at the violet eyed teen, surprised and slightly irritated at the same time. "Nani?"

Duo smiled and regarded him with another brief glance. "I like her but not that way, Heero. I've yet to like girls that way."

"...Oh." Then the full meaning of Duo's words dawned on him. "Oh!" He blushed deep crimson.

Duo's soft laughter filled the car.

------------------------

He had driven Heero safely home, had looked for the problem on the bike with the Japanese, and had even impressed the cobalt eyed teen at the usefulness of something as trivial as a piece of cardboard in fixing an engine problem.

He had also made such a good impression on Heero's aunt that she had made him promise to drop by for lunch or dinner sometime soon.

He let himself fall into his bed and sighed. His hand jerked the glasses away from his face and tossed it aside - it landed safely on the nightstand - then started massaging the bridge of his nose.

~What in the nine hells am I doing? It's simply too dangerous to form any attachments with these people. If The Organization finds out... They won't hesitate to use these people to get to me. They have shown enough proofs of their ruthlessness in the past.~ He remembered the innocence's that had been sacrificed so far and shuddered involuntarily. ~Damn it! I can't afford another person killed because of me! I don't want another innocent blood spilled! There have been far too much as it is. But I don't want to go back either. I can't go back. I've promised... Kuso!~

His hand stopped rubbing and covered his face instead; the tips of his fingers that had touched the corners of his eyes were slightly damp.

~Why? Why won't they just leave me be?~

Because The Organization had too much pride, and he had mocked that pride by escaping from them. They couldn't.. wouldn't stop until they got him back. And since he had no intention of going back...

~One day, Duo, you won't be able to run anymore. It will be either confronting them directly or giving in.~

He wished there was another way.

There wasn't.

He could only hope he was not endangering anyone by choosing to stay instead of fleeing because, as hard as he tried not to form attachments, it was already too late. He had taken liking to the people he had met, especially the two very persistent idiots who had no idea what they had gotten themselves into.

The corners of his lips twitched slightly, right before his expression turned grim.

He swore to himself that this time he wouldn't fail anyone. He would try to protect them... No. He wouldn't try. He would protect them. This time he wouldn't flee. He would stay. And do anything and everything within his power to keep The Organization from harming them.

~So much for keeping your distance.~

He sighed.

~I tried...~

The protest sounded weak, even in his own ears. He knew he hadn't tried hard enough. Somehow he had let his guards weaken while dealing with them. And those two were simply too persistent in their own different ways, and in that persistence, they had managed to invade his privacy. Both of them had screamed trouble from the moment he met them, and yet, knowing the danger, he continued meeting them. And now they had worm their way into his heart. Relena with her carefree way and her schemes, Heero with that cobalt gaze...

~Does he even have any idea of the power those blue eyes hold?~

He doubted it.

It was strange. They had invaded his space, his privacy. He still didn't know how Relena had managed to get them into setting foot in his place despite his efforts for the otherwise. It had been uncomfortable to see them here, in his room, roaming about as they had pleased. And yet, at the same time, it had felt... right.

~Especially seeing him sitting there.~

He remembered coming out of the bathroom and seeing Heero sitting there, facing a glowing screen. It had been an oddly familiar sight, and it had struck something deep inside, something Duo couldn't name... or didn't want to name... yet.

~Someday Duo, your compassion will be your downfall. If it isn't already.~

He smirked, a sneer directed to himself.

Suddenly he could feel another presence lurking outside, trying to invade his space. He sat up, body tense, ready to face the intruder.

The doors to the balcony suddenly burst open, and an unnaturally strong current of wind stormed in, swirling in his room, followed by a slender figure who floated into the room gracefully and landed almost soundlessly, as if he had carried no more weight than a feather.

Duo's violet eyes hardened almost into amethyst stones as they narrowed slightly and darkened even more with concentration. He didn't sense any signs of an incoming confrontation from the intruder, his would-be captor, but he didn't dare to drop his guards just yet.

E-19 regarded his opponent with the same kind of concentration. The dark eyed teen showed no signs of aggressiveness, but it was more than obvious that should his opponent suddenly decided to launch an attack, he would be more than ready for it.

For a moment they simply stared at each other, silently assessing the other's power.

Finally, it was Duo who broke the silence.

"Wufei."

E-19 smirked. "D-18. Your shields seem to be low. Either you have become careless or your power has weakened."

Duo ignored both the sneer and the taunt. "Are you here to finish me off now?"

The raven eyed teen arched a brow. "And if I am?"

Duo's stance hadn't changed, but his battle aura certainly had. The violet eyes turned so deep in purple, they were almost black. "Then know that I won't give in easily." His tone grim, challenging.

E-19 smirked in cold amusement. "You seem to have as much compassion for those weaklings as you were said to have."

"I'll take it as a compliment."

"It isn't a compliment."

"To me it is. Those weaklings are humans as well, just like you and me."

For the first time, E-19 lost his composure and snarled openly. "Don't you dare to compare me with the like of you, Traitor!"

Duo was quick to use the opportunity. "The Organization is the traitor, Wufei. They're just using you."

But the raven eyed teen had calmed down again. "I have been warned that you would try to make me switch side as well."

Duo forced himself not to give in to anger. Wufei was a scholar, skilled and knowledged in battle strategies. Wufei knew his weaknesses and how to exploit those weaknesses, a knowledge that gave the raven eyed teen the upper hand, even if only for the moment. Still, it would do him no good - him and the ones he wanted to protect - if he lost his cool in the face of such a dangerous opponent.

"You haven't answered my question. Are you here to finish me off?"

E-19 smirked. "Hn. No. The game is not over yet."

"Don't you think They will not approve of your method?" He was walking a very thin line, but if he could just provoke E-19 far enough to break that control...

The raven orbs flashed briefly again but immediately the coldness returned. "They have left everything to me, as long as I complete my mission. I will complete my mission," an uncompassionate smirk appeared, "at any cost."

"We'll see."

E-19 smirked, pleased to see chips of ice entering the purple orbs. "Enjoy your time with those weaklings. But be careful not to get too attached. They're much too fragile, those puny humans. You'll lose them all too easily."

He remembered the strand of blond hair that had sneaked itself around Relena's neck earlier in the evening, a strand of hair that had been so ready to tighten and choke the girl.

His anger won.

"You will not touch them!"

The amethyst fire intensified in its focus, and suddenly a strong current of wind rushed pass E-19, blowing his long raven hair away from his face.

And revealed a red gash that no longer bled.

E-19 merely smirked at the reminder of his own foolishness to misjudge his opponent. "I admit that I had underestimated you. It will not happen again."

Duo shook his head slightly as he regained control of his temper. "What happened to your sense of honor, Wufei? Did they rob you of that as well, so much that you no longer hesitate to harm a defenseless, innocent girl?"

"You're one to talk. You killed your own comrades, those who had been like you, who had lived and had been raised together with you. You turned against those who had taken a good care of you when you'd had no one else left. You turned against the only people who cared about you."

"The Organization doesn't give a damn about us, Wufei. They're using us. And as for those so-called 'comrades', would a real comrade turn against his teammate? I don't think so. They were after my life. I was simply defending myself."

"You were the one who turned against us in the first place."

"I'm not against you. Had The Organization left me alone, I would have left them alone as well. As I said, what I did, I did simply to defend myself. All I want is to have my own life, nothing more."

The turn of conversation clearly did not please E-19. The raven eyed teen was, in fact, seemed disturbed by it.

And for the first time Duo dared to really hope.

"Wufei..."

E-19 immediately regarded him with a snarl. "Don't you try confusing me with your twisted way of thinking, D-18!"

"Am I the one confusing you, Wufei? Or are you the one confusing yourself by refusing to see the truth?"

"Dame yo!!!" As quickly as he had exploded, E-19's eyes turned cold again. "Dame yo. I will not listen to your nonsense any longer. You will not persuade me into becoming a traitor like you, D-18. And as long as you remain persistent to follow your traitorous ways..."

"I will never return to them willingly."

"Then we will forever be enemies. Remember that all is fair in war, D-18. This is a game where the winner takes all. The game will continue for now, but it will end soon enough. Until then..."

The air started to rise and swirl into and around the room again, faster and faster as it solidified into two giant cylinders that encircled and separated the two former friends. The strong current then quickly rushed out of the room, to the balcony and into the night, leaving the glass doors slamming shut again in its wake.

"All is fair in war... This is a game where the winner takes all."

Duo stared at the spot where E-19 had stood, the violet orbs hard and cold. Very slowly his hands curled into tight fists. And suddenly the air on the four corners of the room solidified into fast spinning spheres that squeezed into themselves, tighter and tighter, until the pressure within themselves were too much, and they exploded, leaving everything around in disarray. Everything.. except the violet eyed teen who was sitting on an equally undisturbed bed, unmoving.

"Until then..."

~I'll be waiting.. Wufei.~
------------------------

"Go! Go! Go!"

"Pass the ball! Pass the ball!"

"Over here!"

"Pass the ball!"

"Run! Run!"

"Go Heero! Go Heero! Go Heero!"

The girls screamed and cheered loudly as their champion ran for it. They squealed in delight when he managed to dodge the other team's two guards but groaned when his way to the basket was blocked.

"Duo!"

The girls squealed again as the ball was successfully passed.

Relena rolled her eyes at the squealing girls but couldn't stop her own laughter. The game today had been really interesting so far.

Who would have thought that Duo could be so good at basketball, especially with all that scholarly look of his?

Superstitiously she patted her pocket, where she put the glasses Duo had asked her to keep for him before the game'd started. Then, laughing louder, she joined the cheering.

"Go Duo!"

The chestnut haired teen did a series of dodging and made his shot.

"Two points. One hundred one - one hundred."

"Nice, Maxwell-kun." One of his teammates tapped his shoulder with a grin.

He nodded and wiped the sweat off his forehead as he took his position. As soon as the ball was on play, he seized opportunity and stole the ball then quickly ran for the opponent's basket.

Suddenly he sensed something moving on his blind spot...

~Shimatta!~

...a split second before the hard impact sent him skidding on the floor.

"Foul!!"

Vaguely he heard voices calling his name, one stronger than the others, breaking through the pounding of approaching footsteps.

"Duo!"

~..Heero...?~

"Maxwell? Can you hear me?" The teacher's voice.

"H..Hai." He blinked dazedly and forced the room to stop spinning.

"Good. Can you stand up?"

"I..think so." Slowly he got up and managed to get back to his feet though a bit unsteadily.

"You okay?"

"Aa." More of an automatic response than a conscious lie.

"That was a nasty hit you took, Maxwell." The teacher eyed him with evident concern. "Maybe you should go to the nurse, just to be safe."

Duo nodded and immediately had to force the stars out of his vision again.

"Yui, you go with him. Just in case."

"Hai Sensei."

Relena watched her friends go then turned her gaze back to the boy who had crashed into Duo.

"Gomen Sensei. It was an accident."

~Accident my ass.~

Relena snorted. She had seen it all, the way the raven haired boy had run to Duo then 'crashed' into him. She had also managed to capture the gleam in the cold, dark eyes when Duo fell.

"Well next time be more careful."

Relena couldn't watch it anymore. She was too disgusted.

"I'm going to check on Duo," she told no one in particular as she stood up.

No one stopped her.

She skipped down the hallway and to the health center. Almost as an afterthought, she knocked before she opened the door. The only one she could see was the nurse, who was busy writing something.

"Sumimasen. Is Duo...?"

The nurse pointed at the bunk behind the curtain at the back of the room.

"Arigato."

She went there and found Heero sitting on a chair beside the bed where Duo was lying down. The chestnut haired boy seemed to be asleep, so she quietly tiptoed to her best friend and whispered, "how is he?"

"I'm fine," Duo answered, apparently not asleep yet. His eyes cracked open. "Just need some rest."

"Are you sure? You don't look too good."

"The nurse said I'd be fine."

"Okay then." She paused for a moment then blurted out. "I saw everything. It wasn't an accident."

"Nani?" Heero stared at her, surprise, and a hint of anger, evident in his eyes.

Duo, strangely, didn't respond.

"It wasn't an accident. He did it on purpose." She turned to Duo. "Duo, you've got to report him to the teacher."

"No."

"Then I will."

"No." The voice was still calm.

"But why? Why are you protecting him? I know he's your friend and all that, but what kind of a friend is he when he tries to hurt you?"

"I never said he was a friend." He ignored the pang that statement sent deep inside as well as the taunt of 'liar' that echoed in his head. Wufei would always be his friend. It was not the raven eyed teen's fault that he had been brainwashed into believing that Duo was the bad guy. But of course, he couldn't tell that to these two, not without having to explain the whole affair, which he couldn't and wouldn't do.

"If he isn't a friend, then why are you protecting him?!"

The bewildered, persistent question brought him back to here and now. "I'm not."

"Then..."

"Relena, you have no solid proof. It would only be your word against his, and to what end? Even if you told Sensei, the most he would do would be giving Chang a warning, and you'd end up with a new enemy."

Relena was not satisfied, not in the slightest. But...

"Just forget it, Relena. Please. It's not worth it." ~It's safer for you to let it go.~

She sighed. "Fine."

"Thank you. You better go back to class now. You too, Heero."

"But..."

He smiled. "Don't worry. I'll be fine alone."

Reluctantly Relena nodded. "Are you coming, Heero?"

"Iie." To the look Duo gave him, he shook his head. "Forget it. I'm not leaving. Besides, the nurse said not to leave you alone."

"She said you could stay if you wanted to," Duo corrected.

"Well, I want to." The tone was defensive but stubborn.

A slow smile spreaded on Relena's lips. She recognized that tone.

It seemed that Duo did, too. Either that or he simply was not in the mood to argue because all he said was, "Fine."

Relena's smile widened. "I'll see you guys later then."

Heero nodded.

Duo's eyes were already closed.

With a wink at Heero, Relena tiptoed away. He could hear her talking briefly with the nurse before she left but couldn't quite make out the words. It was okay. He didn't particularly care to know.

"Heero."

Duo's voice was so quiet, he almost missed it. "Nani?"

"Arigato."

He stared, stunned, then stuttered for a reply. And realized that Duo had fallen asleep.

"...Ah." ~Thank you for letting me stay.~

He watched the violet eyed teen sleeping, the elvin face relax and unguarded, the expression calm and peaceful, the chestnut mane, now free from the confinement of the low ponytail, clouding on the pillow like a halo.

It was another oddly familiar sight, a deja vu. Somewhere, somehow, they had been in this situation before.

~Except that I've never met him until three days ago.~

There were rustles of papers from the other side of the room, but they were so soft, he could tone those sounds out and pretend that Duo and him were the only persons in the room.

The idea sent strange sensations in him, and after a while he decided what he felt was the contentment of being with a loved one...

He blinked.

~A loved one?!~

It was impossible! He just met Duo three days ago, and he knew practically nothing about the violet eyed teen. He didn't believe in love at first sight. Attraction, yes, that was possible. But love?

And yet...

He stared at the elvin face, cobalt gaze caressing every line and contour.

~What are you doing to me,~ he wondered silently as he traced the sleeping face with his eyes and committed it to memory. The way the long, thick lashes rested lightly on the high cheekbones, the way the soft lines curved to form the nose, the way the full berry lips always seemed to part so very slightly, tempting... His hand itched to smooth those long, jagged bangs away from that face. His finger twitched at the thought of touching the smooth cheek.

~I barely know you, and yet.. I feel like I've known you for my entire life.~

It was the strange attraction, the odd familiarity he felt from the moment he first saw those deep pools of violet and drowned in them.

It was like they were connected somehow.

~Unmei?~

"Do you believe in destiny, Heero?"

~Na.. Nani?~

"Do you? Heero?"

"Yui-san."

Startled, he turned around to the nurse.

"I have to go and run some errands. If Maxwell-san feels better when he wakes up, he may return to class."

"Hai Sensei."

The nurse smiled and left.

He turned back to the sleeping teen.

~Alone again with him. Just the two of us.~ Another deja vu.

He frowned slightly.

...No. He didn't feel nervous or awkward. The thought of being alone with Duo was comforting, not unsettling.

~Why?~

He pondered over it for a while then finally decided to just accept that it simply was.

He settled back into watching Duo.

------------------------

Several class periods had passed when Duo finally stirred. And suddenly Heero found his heart racing fast. He wanted, very much, to call out the teen's name, to touch Duo's hand, to...

The thick lashes fluttered against the smooth cheeks, and he stopped breathing. He could only watch, immobile, as the lids slowly opened to reveal slightly disoriented violet orbs.

His stomach started doing a flip-flop dance. His heart was pounding so loud in its ribcage, he wondered if Duo could hear it, too.

"This is how I want to wake up each morning."

Another odd thought that somehow felt right. He started to ponder over it, but then the violet orbs started to gain focus, and he forgot everything else. Nearly trembling with anticipation, he waited for those purple eyes to acknowledge him.

And when they did, his mouth went dry.

"..Heero...?"

Just one word, but it was his name, said in a voice huskier than normal, in a tone that was slightly confused and wondering, changing that word into something sexy and intimate.

~Stop thinking with your hormones!~

He forced his throat to work out a reply. "Hn?" His heart was beating too fast too loud.

"How long have you been watching me sleeping?"

"Not long enough."

"How..." Duo started to sit up. "How long did I sleep?"

His throat was too dry. He swallowed hard and started to reply, but the bell reacted faster than him and rang three times, signaling the end of school for the day.

Duo smiled. "I suppose that answered my question."

Heero could only make a tiny nod. Inside, he was berating himself. ~What's wrong with me? This is even worse than when he took me home. I can't even speak! What is he doing to me?~

He looked up and saw that Duo had maneuvered himself to the edge of the bunk. And suddenly his vocal cords started to function again.

"Duo, are you sure you should get up?"

The violet eyed teen smiled reassuringly. "Aa. I'm feeling fine now. Really."

"..Ah." His mouth went dry again, and he found himself unable to look away from those purple orbs. It was for the first time he really looked at them without the barrier of golden framed glasses. He had been too distracted earlier to really notice, but now he could see the various shades in those eyes, from the dark center, to the lighter violet shade that was one step going to deep blue, to the dark rings that were the outer border of the pupils.

~Beautiful.~

That was all he could think of as he drowned in those eyes.

Duo gazed right back into his eyes, either unable or didn't want to look away...

The sudden sound of someone opening the door, which made the running footsteps and shoutings in the hallway all the louder, broke the spell.

"There you are," Relena showed up, grinning. "I thought you guys would still be here." She turned to Duo. "And you look better, too. Did you rest well?"

"Aa. Thank you."

"Good. Good." A gleam entered her eyes. "Y'know..." An impish gleam. "It is said that a person sleeps better when his guardian angel is watching." She eyed them meaningfully.

Heero was trying hard - and rather vainly - not to blush.

Duo simply smiled that usual faint smile.

Neither said a thing.

When it was obvious that she wouldn't get anymore reaction from the two, Relena broke the silence. "Well? Are you two planning to just sit there all day long?"

"Hn. Iie." Heero got up.

Duo got to his feet as well, steadily this time. "Relena, my glasses..."

"Oh, right." She took them out of her pocket and gave them to him. "You know.. I think you look better without the glasses."

"Oh?" He put them on.

"Mmhm. Don't you agree, Heero?" She grinned and answered herself before the Japanese could. "Nah. I'm sure he thinks you look good either way."

Heero sputtered. "Relena!"

Relena giggled. "Lighten up, Yui."

"That was not funny."

She merely grinned.

Heero sighed. "One day, Relena, your pranks and jokes will catch up to you."

"Sure." She flipped her hair over her shoulder.

He eyed her evilly. "Just so long as you remember, payback is a real bitch."

She stuck her tongue out at him. "Your stuffs are still in the locker room. You have to get them yourselves. Oh, and you might want to shower and change, too." She wrinkled her nose in mock distaste at them, teasing. "You guys stink."

Heero glanced at Duo in mock ruefulness. "I guess we do, ne?"

The violet eyed teen chuckled silently.

Heero turned to Relena. "Are you going to wait for us?"

She snorted. "Like I have any other choices. He," she pointed at Duo, "is our ride, remember?"

"You can always take the bus." Heero grinned.

She blew him another raspberry. "I'll wait in the cafe." And with that she sauntered out, nose high in the air.

Both the boys chuckled at her then caught each other's eyes, and Heero's mirth caught in his throat.

Duo smiled faintly. "Shall we?"

"H..Hai."

It wasn't until they were in the locker room that the real situation - or maybe more accurately problem - dawned on him. Two words: communal shower.

~What have I gotten myself into?~

Not that it was such an unpleasant notion. After all, it would be a fantasy coming to reality, right?

Like hell.

"Heero?"

He glanced at Duo. Bad idea. Quickly but as casually as he could manage, he averted his gaze. But it was too late, and now he couldn't get the image of Duo, topless, out of his head.

"Daijoubu?"

He nodded, not trusting his voice.

~Just don't look at him, and you'll be fine.~

He snorted inwardly, not believing even in the slightest what the voice told him. He wondered if he should just skip shower then decided that it would bring too many questions from Duo, questions that he didn't know how to answer without letting the violet eyed teen know the truth. And to be truthful, he wanted to take shower with Duo, had even imagined it a couple of times. Except that the situation in those images was nothing like this.

~Someone up there sure has a bad sense of humor.~

Resigned to his fate, he started to strip... slowly.

Self conscious? What self conscious? Surely the thought of being seen naked as the day he had been born by the object of his fantasies and wet dreams these last few days wouldn't make him self conscious, would it? Of course it would!

~Actually.. Obasan said you looked incredibly cute as a baby.~

He shoved the sniggering voice aside and stepped into the shower stall after Duo while consciously averting his eyes. It didn't help much considering the noises were enough to fuel his imagination.

Of course, the fact that his eyes had a will of their own and kept on glancing at the other side of the stall didn't make things easier for him either.

He sighed in frustration. Then his eyes caught the sight of Duo washing the suds away from those long chestnut strands, and the world froze. All he could see was the tilted face, thick lashes against smooth cheeks, slightly parted berry lips, the arched neck, waterfall of dark chestnut.. glistening droplets spraying like diamonds, rolling down nicely toned body.. dense muscles that rippled underneath sleek skin...

Idly he wondered at how accurate the images of Duo that his mind had created all this time had been.

~Uh oh. He's going to look this way. Turn around! Turn around!~

Quickly he turned around, heat filling his face.

~Heart racing, blood rush.. This is getting old.~

A bit awkwardly he ran his fingers through his hair.

It took a moment to realize that he was presenting a perfect rearview to the other teen. Of course, compared to the full view of his anatomy on the other side... complete with a hard-on that just wouldn't quit...

~Just start working on cleaning yourself. And for heaven's sake, think of something else aside that!~

Feeling utterly self-conscious, he started working the suds on himself while his mind racing for a distraction. ~Basketball.. karate.. homework.. midterm.. riding bike..Aagh!~

The last thought was screamed out loud as the warm spray on his back suddenly turned icy cold. Teeth chattering, he spun around just in time to catch a glimpse of chestnut waving jauntily at him.

He sputtered and cursed then yelled out loud. "DUO!!!"

The chestnut haired teen's soft laughter rang out in reply.

"I'll get you for that!!"

Duo merely chuckled and shouted back. "Hurry up!"

Heero grumbled and sighed. Then realized that his.. problem had gone. He glanced at the direction Duo had gone to and silently wondered. ~Did he do it on purpose? Baka, of course he did. But.. did he know.. that.. I...?~

For the second time his face did a fast burn, one that still wasn't quite gone when he finally walked out of the stall and into the locker room.

Duo was already dressed and was busy trying to work his brush through the tangles in his hair.. with 'trying' being the cooperative word. It didn't help that his shoulder was still a bit sore from the fall earlier. ~Long hair is a real bitch sometimes.~ He sighed inwardly in frustration. ~If only I was ambidextrous...~

His right hand took over the brush and awkwardly ran it through his hair, but it just wouldn't work. He was about to give up when he felt a tentative hand stopping the brush.

"..Let me...?"

He hesitated for a split second then nodded. Inwardly he frowned at himself as he let the brush taken from him. Then the brush started working through the tangles, and his frown deepened as he caught himself almost purring at the feeling of someone else brushing his hair.

~What's wrong with me?! I never let anyone touch my hair before, nevermind that my shoulder is now too sore for the task. I'm actually enjoying him doing this that much. Why? I shouldn't have...~ But it felt so.. right.

Oblivious to the thoughts running inside the violet eyed teen's head, Heero continued working on the chestnut strands and patiently brushed all the tangles out. And kept on brushing afterward. The strands started to dry, and he could make out their different colors: golden honey, red brown, light brown, dark brown, dark blond...

He couldn't resist the urge to touch them, and when he did, his eyes automatically fluttered close, and he almost sighed out loud. The strands looked like silk, and they felt even silkier under his touch.

There was another sudden urge to lift the strands and rub them to his cheek, but he didn't dare. He was pushing his luck far enough as it was, and he was half expecting half dreading Duo to tell him to stop and ask him what the hell he was doing at anytime now.

A flash of a teasing grin. "Never thought you to be the type with hair fetish, Heero."

"Hn. Baka."

His eyes flung open, and he frowned slightly. Another deja vu?

"Heero?"

He looked back up and realized that both the comb and his hand had stopped. There was no more reason to continue now. The spell had been broken. Reluctantly he let go of the hair and gave the comb back to Duo.

"Done?"

"Hai." If he hadn't known better, he'd have said that it was a hint of disappointment that he heard in Duo's voice. But there was no reason for Duo to be disappointed, right?

"Ah. Arigato." Duo reached for the brush.

"Keep the brush, Hee-koi. I think you'll use it more than I will from now on."

They both froze, Heero mid-handing the comb back to Duo, Duo mid-taking the comb from Heero. Neither could move. Neither dared to move.

A teasing grin. "Heeee-chaaan..."

A scold hiding the quirking lips. "Duo no baka."

"Hai. But yours, ne?"

"Aa." A possessive hold. "Mine."

"Heero?"

He looked back up and realized that both the comb and his hand had stopped. There was no more reason to continue now. The spell had been broken. Reluctantly he let go of the hair and gave the comb back to Duo.

"Done?"

"Hai." If he didn't know better, he'd have said that it had been a hint of disappointment that he'd heard in Duo's voice. But there was no reason for Duo to be disappointed, right?

"Ah. Arigato." He reached for the brush.

"Keep the brush, Hee-koi. I think you'll use it more than I will from now on."

They both froze, Heero mid-handing the comb back to Duo, Duo mid-taking the comb from Heero. Neither could move. Neither dared to move.

A teasing grin. "Heeee-chaaan..."

A scold hiding the quirking lips. "Duo no baka."

"Hai. But yours, ne?"

"Aa." A possessive hold. "Mine."

 

Heero blinked.

Duo's eyes flickered out of their entranced state. He took the brush fully and turned to slip it inside his bagpack.

Biting back a wave of disappointment that he wasn't even sure why he felt, Heero finished stuffing his bagpack as well then slung it over his shoulder. "I guess we should go now. Relena is waiting for us."

A mischievous gleam. "Let her wait..."

"Aa." Duo lifted his bagpack with his right hand and stepped out.

Again, there was a wave of disappointment washing him. ~Why? And where do those odd images come from? It's like getting to see someone else's memory. They must be someone else's, right? After all, they're not mine, and even if they are about Duo, it's a different Duo...~

There was another pang at the last thought, one that made him feel like crying. But he wouldn't.

"Because boys don't cry."

He wished those flashes of images would stop coming.

------------------------

E-19 watched the black car go with an expression of disinterest. Inside though, he felt everything but uninterested. He knew where D-18 was heading: the loudmouthed female's house first, then the blue eyed male's, then back to D-18's safe house. But E-19 had no intention to follow the car or confront the owner today. Or more accurately, he didn't feel like doing it today.

"Don't you think They will not approve of your method?"

He frowned slightly but not at the thought of Them disapproving him.

"All I want is to have my own life, nothing more."

D-18 had made it sound as if They had owned their lives. Perhaps They did. But D-18 made it sound so wrong. E-19 didn't know how that could be wrong, but he couldn't explain to his own satisfactory how it could be right either.

"Have you ever stopped and wondered why we should continue doing this, Wufei?"

D-18 was a rebel, had always been, even from early on.

"Have you? Wufei?"

He frowned.

But D-18 had never asked him that. So where did it come from? And if D-18 hadn't been the one ensuing it, why did it ring in his mind in D-18's voice?

~He's a danger. He makes me question too many things that I shouldn't have. He makes me question Them when I should be following Their orders without questions.~

That was true. D-18 didn't even have to open his mouth to do it. Just by watching his prey, E-19 was disturbed. Especially just now, as he watched D-18 go to his car and drive away. Somehow the sight of D-18 very slightly favoring his left leg and arm had awakened something inside him, something akin to what he had felt watching D-18 fall after purposefully ramming D-18 from the right, only now it was worse.

He shook his head mentally. D-18 was an enemy. One could not betray an enemy! One could not afford showing sympathy or having mercy for an enemy! He had to... No. He would complete his mission, and he would win in the final confrontation with D-18. After all, his energy level was higher than D-18. He would defeat the traitor.

Yet, somehow the thought of beating and defeating D-18 didn't sit well with him.

"Chang Wufei."

That angry, Chinese accented voice. Sharply breaking through his thoughts, commanding his attention. He knew who the voice belonged to. Calmly he turned around.

"Chen Meiran."

The young woman was clearly pissed, as clearly as the fact that her anger was directed at him.

He managed to look bored. "What do you want, Onna?"

"You, dishonorable bastard," she finally spat out. "You said you had a high sense of justice, but you're a liar. You are nothing more than a scum."

That sent a pang deep inside. He frowned at it. Why should the opinion of this woman, whom he just met only days ago and whom he barely even knew, matter that much? It shouldn't. He decided to ignore it.

"What are you babbling about, Onna?"

"Don't pretend with me, Chang. I know what you did. You claimed it an accident, but you did it on purpose."

"Ah." So back to that 'accident' in the gym again.

"How can you be so calm? Have you nothing to say? Have you no conscience?"

"Perhaps." He didn't see the need to deny it to this woman. After all, if reported, it would be her word against his. There was no solid proof, and he knew D-18 wouldn't testify against him.

The look of pain and betrayal in the woman's face sent another pang deep inside of him. Forcefully he quelched the urge to apologize and comfort her. D-18's compassion had been his downfall. He, E-19, would not fall into committing the same mistake.

Putting on a dispassionate mask, he sent the woman a cold gaze then walked away.

------------------------

"..And then she's like, 'but I know he loves me', and kept on and on with how he didn't mean it and how he would return to her and how she couldn't not forgive him, and... I mean, how much more pathetic can she be? And like..."

Duo had stopped listening since some time ago and had stopped trying to make sense out of what they were talking about since longer than that. Right now he was trying to block the noises out and ease his building headache... with trying being the real cooperative word. He glanced in distaste at the clock and blinked. Four hours had passed, and he hadn't even gone through... five pages?!

"Exactly. I mean, sure the whole purpose is to show this unconditional and unbreakable love and all that, but those girls are always just too blind and pathetic, and..."

He gazed at the other side of the room where Heero was sitting and studying as easily as if the room had been blessedly quiet.

As if on cue, the Japanese looked up and met his gaze.

He frowned slightly and started forming signs with his hands. 'How do you manage to study over these noises?!'

'You just get used to it and learn to ignore it.'

He scowled. 'Thanks a lot. That really helps.'

Heero chuckled silently.

"I know. I mean, of course the man is usually a hunk and rich, but he's usually also a total jerk. I can't understand how those girls can stand them. And even love them? Jeez."

He pointed at the girls before forming the next sentence. 'Are they always this loud when studying together?'

'Sometimes they're worse.'

"Yeah. If I were that girl, I'd have decked him and kissed him goodbye. With all the personalities they give her, she can get someone better if she stops being such a blind whiny ninny."

Duo groaned silently.

'If you can stand loud music, cd-player and a headphone might help.' Heero lifted the book on his lap and showed Duo the cd-player underneath; attached to it was a cable that sneaked up to the Japanese's ears.

Duo sighed. 'Thanks, but I'll use another way.'

'What's that?'

In answer, he closed his book and got up. "If anyone needs me, I'll be in my room." And with that he walked out of the living room, followed by three pairs of eyes, two surprised, one slightly amused.

Hilde and Relena stared at each other.

"Something we said?"

Relena shrugged slightly in response.

Heero snorted softly as he got up.

Both girls stared at him. "What?"

"Nothing." He followed Duo into the master bedroom.

The girls watched him go then smirked at each others.

"Aren't we the best schemers?"

Relena giggled. "And people say blond girls are idiots."

Hilde chuckled. "I'm not a natural blonde, you know."

"I know." Relena smiled. "Like your hair purple better."

Hilde shrugged slightly. "You might just get your wish. I'm getting tired of this blond. Planning to get it back to its original color soon." She took the study guide's list of questions. "Okay. History, question number 15."

Relena glanced at her own questionnaires. "Oh, that's just too easy. Martin Luther King Jr."

------------------------

Duo was sitting Indian style at the foot of his twin bed when Heero walked in. There was a soft music playing on the background, too soft for him to recognize the song. It was played just enough to fill the silence in the background.

"Can't stand the noise?" The chestnut haired teen didn't even look up from the book on his lap.

"As if you need to ask." The Japanese sat on the floor across the room and opened his own book.

Duo glanced up briefly, lips quirking very faintly, then returned to his book.

Three hours later, Heero heard the soft rustle of clothes that indicated some significant movements happening on the other side of the room for the first time. He looked up just in time to see Duo got up and stretched.

"Done already?"

"Need a break." The violet eyed teen took off his glasses and massaged the bridge of his nose. "It's seven already anyway."

"Hn. Wonder how the girls are doing." Heero closed his own book and got up, stretching his stiff muscles.

They both slipped out of the room and quietly headed for the living room.

"Stolen Child."

"Yeats, Celtic Revival. Or Romantic." She grinned. "Whichever you prefer."

Heero and Duo glanced at each other with quirked brows; the girls were actually studying?

"Yeah. We are sooo ready, girlfriend." Hilde grinned.

"Uh-huh." Relena chuckled. "Hm. Wonder how the boys are doing."

"Still studying probably."

"Or busy stealing glances at each other?"

Hilde laughed. "I don't know, Lina. Heero's too much of a tight-ass sometimes. And Duo seems so, too."

"Probably those glasses. But he's okay. He jokes a couple of times, y'know. Besides, he's a hunk."

"Both of them are. Nice ass, too. Both of them."

Heero could feel heat creeping up to his face. ~What was that saying again, 'eavesdroppers usually don't like what they hear'?~ He glanced at Duo.

The violet eyed teen was frowning slightly. Then silently he retreated down the hall to the bedroom door.

Heero watched him, a bit surprised, more than slightly curious. What was the brunette planning to do?

Duo opened the bedroom door and closed it loud enough to be heard from the living room. Immediately the discussion about the boys' anatomy stopped, a split second before another discussion on a different topic started.

~Ah. So that's what.~ He waited until Duo had passed him before he started walking again, following the violet eyed teen to the living room.

Relena and Hilde looked up when they entered, a slightly guilty look on their faces. Heero glanced over at Duo and realized that although the elvin face was carefully neutral, the violet orbs were slightly harder than usual, a change that was made even clearer since Duo hadn't bothered to put his glasses back on.

"I'm going to order dinner." The husky tenor was completely neutral, without even a bit of emotion indicator in it. "What do you girls want?"

"Um..." Relena glanced at Hilde. "Pizza?"

Hilde nodded.

Both the girls turned at Duo. "Pizza."

"What kind?"

"Pepperoni."

"And cheese."

"And pineapple."

Duo nodded and disappeared into the kitchen.

Heero glanced at the girls and, his decision made, went after the chestnut haired teen. He waited until Duo was done ordering the pizzas, and then, to his surprise, he watched as the violet eyed teen opened one of the kitchen cabinets, took out a bottle of liquor, poured himself a small glass, and drank. He jumped when the brunette suddenly spoke up without even bothering to turn around.

"Are you spying on me too, Yui?" Again, the tone was carefully but completely neutral.

The accusation stung, and it hurt, for reasons unknown to him, to hear that tone used to address him. It hurt even worse, for the same unknown reasons, to hear Duo addressing him with his last name. "Iie." And that hurt was evident in that one word reply.

Duo's denim clad shoulders sagged visibly, followed by an almost inaudible sigh. "..Gomen Heero." The fatigue in the quiet voice surprised him, but the old-age reflected in those violet eyes when Duo finally turned to him shocked him even more.

"Gomen. I'm just.. I had too many people talking about me like I had been nothing but a display, incapable of emotions, even when I was within hearing range. I received too many calculating gaze observing everything I did like I had been just some experiment. It's wearing."

~Was that why you moved from St. Michael?~ "Is that why you drink?"

Duo smiled, but the smile was vapid. "It doesn't really help much, but it's better than the alternative."

Duo didn't say what the alternative was, but Heero could guess. Still... ~He's avoiding the real problem. He's running to alcohol, might become an alcoholic. He's destroying himself.~

"I know."

The soft whisper, a reply to his thoughts, brought his eyes back to the violet eyed teen, who looked like nothing more but a child now, sitting on the floor like that, curled up, knees pressing to chest, head buried between the knees. A child. A lonely child.

~Lonely.~

All other thoughts deserted him. Following his instincts, he crossed the kitchen floor and sat next to Duo, then, awkwardly, he circled an arm around the denim clad shoulders. To his relief, Duo didn't shrug him off, didn't even look up. To his surprise, the chestnut haired teen leaned over and hid his face on his cotton clad shoulder.

~He trusts me? Or is it... Iie. Why does it matter? I don't care. It feels right. He doesn't mind. That's enough for now.~

He wasn't sure how long they sat like that, and he didn't particularly cared. It felt nice. He was almost disappointed when Duo finally stirred and pulled away slightly.

His arm around the denim clad shoulders loosened. "Feeling better?"

Duo looked up, and his voice died in his throat. He could only stare at the look in those violet eyes, the expression in the elvin face... A face that seemed to close up on him.

~Na...ni..?!~

Warm lips touched his, and he froze.

The warm, berry sweet lips started moving, and his lids involuntarily fluttered close.

How many times had he dreamt of this? Hundreds of times. Thousands. Too many to count. And all the fantasies weren't even close to the real feeling of Duo's lips against his.

Except that there was something terribly wrong in the kiss.

Duo pulled away and frowned slightly. "What's wrong? I thought you wanted me."

And he knew what was wrong. "I do. But Duo, do you want me?"

The surprise in those lovely violet eyes was all the answer he needed. There was a pang inside. And there was anger, directed at the bastard that had wronged this beautiful boy in his arm, so much that the concept of doing.. it because he wanted to and not because it was expected from him could surprise him so much.

Gently he kissed the boy's cheek. "Only if you want to Duo," he said softly, a quiet reply to a silent question. "Only if you want to."

The violet orbs regarded him for a moment with an unreadable gaze. Then, once again, the warm berry lips touched his. A friendly kiss. But this time it felt right.

"Arigato, Heero." The eyes were soft this time, sincere. And there was a genuine smile tugging on those lips, faint as it was.

"..Ah." He smiled back at the soft eyes and let Duo help him get back to his feet then walked with him out of the kitchen.

Both knew the gratitude wasn't just for the shared comfort.

------------------------

"Riiiii..."

~That noise.. What is it? Somebody stop it.~

"Riiiii..."

~..An alarm..? ... Shimatta!~

He jerked up, immediately fully awake and on alert. But the sight greeting him was not of the smoke and heat he had expected.

~...Oh. Right.~

He sighed and reached over to the nightstand to shut off the offending alarm clock then lay back down, silently groaning. ~One of these days, I'm going to get a new alarm, one that doesn't sound so much like that damned fire alarm.~

He glanced over to the other side of the bed and saw Heero's sleeping face.

And he remembered.

Somehow, the girls had convinced him to alter the 'come over and study together' plan into a sleepover. It was just one unexpected turn of events. There was another one; Heero's Obasan had suddenly been called to take care of a friend in need. And since Heero preferred not to stay at one of his girl-cousins' houses, and since Obasan seemed to take a strong liking on Duo, for the moment Heero stayed with the brunette.

A problem? Not really. Except that there was only one extra bedroom in the house, a room in which the girls were currently sleeping.

Duo exhaled inaudibly and, as he watched the sleeping face, a faint smile involuntarily spreaded across his own lips.

~He looks so peaceful sleeping like this.~

Peaceful. And beautiful. There was absolutely nothing reflected in the Japanese's face. No smile, no frown, nothing.

Heero turned in his sleep, now fully facing him, a hand reaching out... And Duo remembered his break down yesterday. He had known it would come sooner or later, had known ever since the weakening of the battered shields around his heart sometime ago. And he was glad it had been Heero who had been there with him when it'd happened. He was also glad that Heero had accepted his words without asking for further explanations.

He also remembered the shared kiss.

~Kisses,~ his mind corrected.

Kisses, he agreed. And glad that Heero had stopped him. Glad that the Japanese hadn't been disgusted by a shattered fantasy, had even reacted like he really cared.

~And he may very well do. That anger in his eyes... Surely that couldn't be faked. Besides, he's a terrible actor and a terrible liar.~

No, he was sure that Heero had meant them, both the words said and the words unsaid. And it felt good.

~Protected,~ his mind supplied the word.

Protected, he agreed. And safe. That alone had felt really nice. But coming from Heero...

He frowned slightly. ~Why? Why does it matter that much? Just because it's him and not someone else...~

The next thought brought dread.

~Am I falling for him?~

No, it couldn't be! He couldn't!

The peaceful moment was shattered. Too much swirling thoughts and emotions... He slipped out of the bed, careful not to awake the other teen, and got up. A soft rustle of sheets made him glance back. And the sight of Heero reaching toward the warm space he had just left, the lips moving in an incoherent mumble... It twisted something inside him.

It was too much.

He left the bedroom and went to the kitchen.

~What am I doing? What in the nine hells am I thinking? Forming attachments is bad enough. But falling in love?!~

The coffee machine beeped, and he automatically poured himself a mug.

~I have to go. If They find out...~

But he didn't want to go.

~It's for his safety.~

Was it? Or was he just trying to run away again?

~You know it is for him.~

Did he, really?

There was a sudden flash of image. Heero, a lone figure standing, a pained expression on his face, a look of betrayal in the blue eyes.

~Because I left.. without saying goodbye...?~

There was a stab to his heart at the look in those blue eyes. And he knew he couldn't.. wouldn't do it to the blue eyed teen. He wouldn't leave. Not without saying goodbye. Not without leaving a promise to return, one that he would keep.

~I met him only less than a week ago. When did he start to mean so much to me? How did he manage it?~

He wasn't sure. All he knew was that he didn't want any harm to ever come to the blue eyed teen. He didn't want that hurt, betrayed look to ever appear in those eyes again.

~Again?~

Again meant it had happened before. But.. when? And how did he know it?

He pondered over it for a moment then dismissed it. If it had never happened before, he would make sure it never would. If it had happened, he would make sure it never would again. It was that simple.

~I can protect him better if I stay.~

It was an excuse, but it gave him a reason for his decision to stay. That made it good enough.

He added a bit of sugar and milk to his coffee and emptied his mug.

------------------------

"So you think everything's going just fine between those two?"

"I won't exactly call it 'fine'." She sighed. "Really. Seeing them tip-toeing around each other... It's just so irritating sometimes."

"Feels like giving them a little more push, ne?"

"Mm." She pursed her lips slightly. "You'd think that with them practically living together now, they'd be more at ease around each other."

"Probably they are behind us."

"Doubt it."

"...You're right." She shrugged slightly. "Well, that's life for you."

"No, that's bashful for you."

"..True. Can't believe how shy Heero can be sometimes. You'd think that after all these years, you'd have rubbed on him a bit, Lina."

"Mm. Still can't get him to open up when around someone he's attracted to. I feel like smacking him across the head sometimes."

She chuckled. "That's Heero, all right. Always shy around the person he has crush on, whom, in this case, is Duo."

"Mmhm." She sucked on her Smoothie through her straw.

Her companion, Hilde, also nursed her Smoothie for a moment in silence. "..You know.. What I still don't understand is, how could you be so sure that Duo would return his feelings?"

"Oh, come now. You've seen them together. Haven't you noticed the chemistry between them?"

"Yes, but..."

"Besides, Duo hasn't complained so far, has he?"

"Lina!" She couldn't help the chuckle.

Relena giggled. "Seriously though. Haven't you noticed how protective Duo seems to be toward Heero lately? It's been that way practically since that sleepover almost two months ago. And Heero acts the same way toward Duo, too. Something must have happened that day."

"I noticed. But you've been plotting practically since day one. What made you so sure Duo wouldn't be against it?"

She grinned. "Women intuition?"

Hilde laughed. "You're hopeless."

"So I have been told." She chuckled. "But really. There's just.. something about those two. Makes you feel like they belong together."

Hilde grinned. "You, Girl, are a hopeless romantic. But I think you're right about those two."

"Mm." She sighed. "If only they would stop that tip-toeing around. Sometimes I wonder if they ever will say it to each other."

"Maybe they have."

"They'd have acted differently if they had."

"True."

"Mm." She stared across the park, slightly pouting. "... Gah! Those two just frustrates me."

"Impatient, are we?"

She eyed the now-purple haired girl for a moment. "You know how much like Heero you just sounded?"

Hilde shrugged slightly. "We're cousins. What can I say?" She fell silent again and just eyed the blond for a moment as she sipped on her Smoothie.

"..What?"

"You're still attracted to him, aren't you?"

"No, not really."

"You used to be."

"Child crush. Beside, we know he's not attracted to girls that way, and I'm leaning more toward girls myself."

"Mm." She sucked on her Smoothie again.

Relena glanced at the dark eyed girl and grinned. "Jealous?"

Hilde choked on her drink, sputtered and coughed for two seconds, then voiced her denial out loud with a red face. "I'm so not jealous!"

Relena giggled.

"I'm not!"

"Could have fooled me."

The purple haired teen growled and, abandoning her Smoothie, pounced on the blond and proceeded to tickle her into a laughing mass of nerves screaming for mercy.

Across the park, sitting on the grass near the duck pond with a book on his lap and a certain chestnut haired teen lying on the grass by his side, Heero stared at the bundle of red, blue, purple, and blond that were his cousin and his best friend rolling on the grass.

"..I wonder what those two are up to now."

Duo didn't even bother to open his eyes. "I think it's better if we don't know. Don't you?"

"..You're probably right."

------------------------

He was getting careless, maybe even a bit too careless.

It had been two months since he had this game of Cat and Mouse started. He always enjoyed leaving his prey in tension. He enjoyed watching his prey wondering if he would ever make that final strike... and making that strike when his prey was least prepared.

Only this time he didn't know for sure if his prey really had dropped his guard or not. All he knew was that D-18 was forming too much attachments, almost as if he had no plan ever to leave, one way or another. The question was, was D-18 being overly confident or had he really grown more powerful over the years?

~That's impossible. Even if he had grown more powerful, he couldn't be strong enough to defeat me. The doctors assured me that he couldn't have grown that much stronger over the years. After all, his power level is only 18.~

Almost absently he looked up at the two teens sitting across the room. He lifted one brow slightly, testing. Almost immediately D-18 glanced up, the violet orbs sharp. A nano second later, the invisible knife hit his thin shield. A half-hearted counter attack in return for a half-hearted attack. It seemed that D-18 still followed some code of honor.

It confused him to no end. D-18 didn't behave like a dangerous weapon on the loose. He had kept track on his prey all the time during these past two months, and never, not even once, had D-18 initiated an attack. So far, his prey's behavior contradicted everything They had told him.

Had They lied to him?

"Always remember that he may try to confuse you to get you to his side."

But D-18's behavior didn't seem to be an illusion. Quite the opposite, in fact. D-18 seemed sincere and true to his words. It made E-19 even more doubtful about what he had believed as the truth.

He frowned slightly.

He had found out D-18's greatest weakness two months ago: the blue eyed boy. It wasn't so hard to find out. After all, D-18's reactions were always stronger and faster when the tests were directed at that boy compared to when they were directed at the two girls that occasionally accompanied D-18 and the blue eyed boy. Somehow though, E-19 was truly reluctant to use this knowledge against D-18.

~I'm getting careless. I shouldn't have felt this way. It shouldn't have mattered what method I use as long as my mission is completed.~

But it did.

~I cannot harbor compassion for an enemy. D-18 is my enemy.~

Except that D-18 never really acted like an enemy. D-18 was never hostile except to protect himself and those around him.

He stared at the two across the room again, more openly this time, silently wondering...

A figure in dark blue passed by, momentarily blocking his line of vision. And involuntarily he looked up.

~That onna.~

Chen Meiran, another proof of how careless he had become.

In the two months since their first confrontation, the Chen woman had issued a challenge several times, one that he had always ignored, until half a week ago. It had been almost too easy. With the energy level of only seven, even though she was stronger than the average people, she still didn't stand a chance against him. He had left then with a clear and quick victory on his side. The sight of her coming to school on the next day with a bandaged arm and a slight limp, though...

It had made him almost go to her and apologize.

He frowned.

~How do they manage to do this to me? Am I really that weak?~

It was becoming more difficult to stay in focus. He had to finish his mission soon, however reluctant.. or doubtful.. he was to do it.

~I will finish it. Soon.~

------------------------

Duo glanced over at E-19, knowing that his half-hearted counter attack never reached its target, just like the raven haired teen's half-hearted attack never reached its target. He knew what the other teen was doing, but he couldn't tell for sure if it was Wufei stalling their final encounter or E-19 bidding his time. What Duo knew though, was that the raven eyed teen was taking too long to finish the assignment. And while it gave him hope at the weakening of The Organization's control over his friend, he knew that They were getting impatient and would force E-19 into making the final move soon. Very soon.

Perhaps too soon.

He could only hope for Wufei to have won by then because by now he had realized that on a fair ground, one-on-one encounter, he wouldn't be able to gravely harm the raven eyed teen, much less kill him.

------------------------

     He had made up his mind. He would do it tonight. No more chickening out, no more stalling.

     ~Hai. Ninmu ryoukai.~

     He finished getting dressed and spent the next ten minutes trying but with little success, as always, to tame his unruly hair with a comb. Finally giving up, he went to Duo's room and, in his nervousness, opened the door without knocking. "Duo, I..."

     His voice died in his throat at the sight of the chestnut haired teen mid-dressed, the lithe form bare except for the briefs; one of his legs was already in his jeans, the other mid-entering the fabric's leg.

     The violet eyed teen glanced over one shoulder at him, chestnut strands sliding down the smooth back and off the other shoulder.

     He could only swallow hard... and stare.

     "Heero?"

     His eyes snapped up to meet the questioning violet orbs, and he realized that Duo had asked him something. "Uh.. Um..." But what? "Uh.. Excuse me..?"

     "I said, 'what is it?'"

     "I.. Uh..." He suddenly realized that 'at a loss of words' was not his only problem. "I... Later." Quickly he slammed the door close again and went to the sanctuary of his room, the door closing just as loudly behind him. His face was beet red. The image of Duo's black silk clad butt wiggling in the air as the teen tried to get into a pair of curve hugging jeans flashed in his mind.

     His already tight pants became even tighter.

     He almost didn't make it to the sink in the bathroom.

     As he washed away the red dots from the white porcelain, he couldn't help thinking again how nice and tight those silk clad ass had looked.

     ~Aagh! What's wrong with me? It's not like I haven't seen him naked befor... Gah!~ He groaned as he washed away the crimson stains again.

     There was a knock on his door.

     ~That's what I should have done before entering his room. Knock.~ He cleared his throat and shouted. "Come in!"

     The door was opened. "Heero?"

     "In the bathroom."

     A moment later Duo appeared. "Heero..." The rest of his sentence was gone as the violet eyes stared at him in surprise and concern. "What happened? Are you okay?"

     "Huh?" He washed away the last traces of red on his face. "Oh, hai. Daijoubu." Except that he felt like he couldn't look at the chestnut haired teen without the image of those bottom flashing in his mind again. ~Aagh! Stop thinking about his ass!~

     "You don't look too hot."

     On the contrary, he felt hot enough to fry an egg with a touch. "I'm okay. What is it?"

     "That's what I wanted to ask you. You seem.. different lately. Is something bothering you?"

     "Uh.. I... Iie. Nothing is wrong." Except that he was in love with a friend whom he just met two months ago, and he kept on chickening out from admitting it to the one person that mattered.

     "Oh." Duo's tone was doubtful, but thankfully he didn't push it. "So what was it you wanted to tell me?"

     "I... I don't remember anymore," he lied.

     "Oh." The chestnut haired teen sounded disappointed. "I'll just... go and make dinner then." He left.

     Heero frowned at the mirror. ~He didn't just sound disappointed. He sounded... hurt. The kind of hurt you feel when you think your friend lied to you...~ He groaned inwardly. ~I did lie to him!~ If he could kick himself, he would. He was such an idiot sometimes. Quickly he went to the kitchen. And stopped again.

     Duo's black cotton clad back was facing him, the chestnut braid - it still struck him as too short everytime he saw it - waving slightly with every move. The slender legs, hugged by the dark blue jeans, moved with ease around the kitchen. To other onlookers, nothing would seem out of place. Still, it was all too easy for Heero to recognize the stiffness of the back and the slight tense lines of the shoulders. Duo had recognized his presence and perhaps had also sensed an incoming confrontation. Somehow though, he didn't think Duo would be the first to break the silence. Which meant that it was up to him to do it. Problem was, he didn't know what to say.

     A moment passed, and Duo turned slightly, glancing over one shoulder at him. The face was neutral, the violet orbs slightly breaking - he still couldn't find another way to explain that look. He knew this expression, had dubbed it as Duo's 'upset and hiding it' face. He didn't like that face, hated what it told him. This time though, Duo wasn't just upset. He was really hurt, and it was Heero's fault.

     "Duo, I... Anything I can do to help?" Damn him and his cowardice.

     The chestnut haired teen nodded. "If you want to, you can take care of the rice and put it in the rice cooker." His voice was quiet and neutral, he turned back to preparing the stew.

     Berating himself, Heero did as told. Then he waited until Duo was done working with the pressure cooker.

     The chestnut haired teen finished putting everything in the cooker then set the heat on. That done, he leaned against the counter, the violet orbs carefully trained at the stove, away from Heero. It wasn't a conscious effort not to look at Heero... Okay, maybe it was. But Heero knew it wasn't because Duo was angry. It was just one of those unconscious things Duo did when he was deeply affected by something. In this case, that something was a lie.

     Heero cleared his throat and called out. "Duo."

     Silence, then... "Nani Heero?"

     He could only see half of Duo's face and the one violet eye gazing at him, but the expression in that face, the look in that eye, and the tone in Duo's voice told him that the chestnut haired teen would not make this easier for him. And really, why should Duo?

     "...Nothing." Him and his cowardice. He cursed himself.

     Duo looked away again, and the room fell into an awkward silence that was even worse than before.

     ~Heero no baka! Open your mouth and speak up! Talk to him now! Say something, anything! And for heaven's sake, tell him the truth!~

     He was so busy berating himself, he almost jumped when Duo suddenly spoke out.

     "Your aunt called while you were in the shower."

     "Oh?" His heart was racing fast. Too fast.

     "Aa. She said her friend didn't need 24 hours assistance anymore, so she could come home soon." One violet orb regarded him briefly. "..You must be really glad."

     The unusually quiet statement couldn't have surprised him more if it had been shouted out loud. "Na..Nani? Why did you say that?" Sure he would be glad to see Obasan again. And it would be nice, probably, to return to the familiar surrounding of Obasan's house. But... ~But Duo won't be there. I won't be able to see him everyday anymore.~ He stared at the lithe figure who, at the moment, seemed so very distant. The figure who was quiet for so long, he was starting to think that he would never answer the question.

     "... You don't seem to be happy here." The violet orbs peeked through the long jagged bangs at him, their expression unreadable.

     "What makes you think that?"

     "You distance yourself from me these past few weeks. You refuse to talk to me. You avoid me whenever it's possible. I ask you what's wrong, and you always say it's nothing when clearly there's something."

     Did he really do all those? He did. His heart fell as he realized that this was the first time in nearly three weeks that he had seeked for Duo and not the other way around. This was the first time he had initiated a conversation. He felt even more guilty by the minute. If this had been a court room, the judge could have proclaimed 'guilty as charged' without even going through the trial, and he wouldn't have protested.

     He swallowed hard and forced his jaws to work. "..Duo..."

     "You lied to me Heero, and you keep doing it." The voice was so soft, it was barely audible. But the hurt rang out all too clearly. "I don't know what I did that..." He stopped abruptly. The violet orbs were hidden by swaying long jagged bangs. "I'm tired. I'll be in my room." The voice was already back to that quiet, neutral tone.

     Heero frowned slightly as he watched the other leave. The frown was directed at himself though, not at Duo.

     The pressure cooker beeped, signing that the stew inside was done.

     He turned the heat off and left the kitchen. The rice cooker could take care of itself.

     In front of Duo's door, again Heero hesitated briefly. Then he pushed the door open; he had had enough of his own cowardice. Quietly he entered the room and closed the door again.

     Duo was lying in bed under the cover, his back at the door. The twin bed seemed awfully big with him curling like that.

     Again, Heero hesitated for a moment but then forced himself to approach the bed. Obviously, he had hurt Duo more than he had thought. It was time to clean up his mess.

     He felt more than saw the shoulders under the bedcover stiffened. Again, the chestnut haired teen had acknowledged his presence before he even started to speak.

     A length of silence, then Duo's voice broke out.

     "Nani?"

     Heero was stunned. The voice was really quiet, but the thickness, the roughness was still audible. Duo was crying!

     He had never, not even once, saw - or heard, as was the case now - Duo cry before.

     ~Enough of this!~ He forced himself to speak. "Duo, I... I'm..." He bit his lip in frustration and blurted out. "Gomen nasai. I didn't mean to lie to you."

     Duo's silence seemed to mock his words. And he couldn't say a thing to defend himself because he had lied. He had deliberately avoided to tell Duo the truth.

     "Duo, I.. I'm sorry."

     Again, silence was the only reply he got.

     Heero felt like grinding his teeth in frustration. What else did Duo want him to say?

     "I thought I was your friend, Heero."

     He felt relieved despite the hurt and tears in that voice. It took a second to realize that it was because Duo had still called him with his first name and not with his surname.

     "You were my first, real friend. I trusted you." Simply that. 'I trusted you', not 'I trusted you more than anyone else.' Because he was the only one Duo ever really trusted.

     He felt like a real shit now. "Duo... I.. I had no idea..."

     The chestnut haired teen snapped then and whirled to a seat, facing him, so quickly, Heero instinctively took a step back. The violet eyes stared at him, the orbs glowing with anger. And though the room was too dark for him to really see, Heero knew there were tracks of tears underneath those lovely eyes.

     "You had no idea?! Heero, you were the only one who ever saw the real me! You are the only one who knows my secrets, things that I've never told anyone else! How could you have no idea...?" The voice trailed off, the violet orbs now dim again. Then his head dropped, hidden between his knees, as he curled up, legs pressing against his chest. "Just.. leave me alone, Heero. Please." The voice was totally broken now, vulnerable and out of control.

     Heero hesitated then started toward the door but then changed his mind and returned to the bed.

     "Heero, leave. Please."

     "Iie." He sat down beside Duo, not too close to be a threat but close enough for Duo to feel his presence. "I can't... I won't leave."

     "Why?" The voice was muffled, but the bitterness in it was still audible. "So you can watch me breaking down again and act as if you were my friend?" He had expected it, both the tone and the accusation, but it still stung.

     "Iie," he replied carefully, ignoring the ache. It was his own fault after all. "Gomen nasai, Duo."

     A soft snort came out. "You say that a lot tonight."

     "Because I have a lot to apologize for." He sighed. "Gomen, Duo. I never meant to hurt you." That was true. "And I never meant to make you think I was just toying with you either." Had he known how much it would hurt Duo... "You are my friend, Duo. My dear friend. And I'm sorry I made you think I wasn't happy here." Because the fact was, he really liked it there. Iie, more than like, he enjoyed being with Duo.

     "..Doushite...?" The question was barely audible.

     "Huh?"

     "If that's how you feel, why did you avoid me?" Duo still hadn't looked up, the voice still slightly muffled by the bedcover, and he couldn't tell for sure if the chestnut haired teen believed him or not.

     "I..."

     "Tell me, Heero. What did I do?"

     "..Nothing. It's not you. I mean, it is about you, but it's not... I mean... I... It was..." He sighed. "K'so. This is harder than I thought."

     There was a soft, muffled sound coming from Duo.

     "And you're not helping!" He glared at the chestnut head, the elvin face still hidden between the knees.

     There was another soft, muffled sound, clearer this time. And it sounded like the beginning of a chuckle.

     Heero blinked and stared suspiciously at the slightly shaking shoulders. "...Duo.. Are you laughing at me?"

     The black clad shoulders shook a bit more visibly.

     Heero frowned and peeked over at the hidden face.

     As if on cue, Duo glanced up, and a pair of violet orbs, faintly gleaming with mirth, gazed back at Heero's blue eyes.

     "Duo..." He growled playfully, glad that the violet eyes were laughing again.

     Duo flashed him a slight grin.

     "Why you..." He pounced on the chestnut haired teen and proceeded to tickle him.

     Duo tried half-heartedly to get away from those tickling hands but managed only to laugh harder. "Stop! Stop!" He finally cried out between his laughter. "I give up!"

     Heero stopped and grinned down at his captive. "Good. That should teach you a lesson."

     Duo chuckled breathlessly, his eyes bright with mirth and soft with joy as they stared at Heero. Ragged breathing escaped from the gap between his lips. The warm caress of that drifting air on his face made Heero realize suddenly just how... peculiar their positions were. Duo, lying underneath him, facing him. Him, sitting on Duo's hips, hovering on top of Duo, facing Duo... In a dark room... In a bed...

     Idly he wondered why he hadn't suffered a massive nosebleed. Idly he felt glad he hadn't.

     Duo had stopped laughing though he was still breathing somewhat hard through his mouth. The violet orbs were staring into Heero's eyes now, silently questioning.

     It was too much, more than any coherent mind could handle.

     Without thinking, he blurted out. "Duo, suki da." And without waiting for a response, he leaned down and captured the slightly parted lips with his own.

     The feel of those lips, immobile under his own, returned his sanity.

     "Only if you want to, Duo."

     What had he done?

     Abruptly he got up and backed away toward the door. "Gomen, I..." He what? He had told Duo... and now he had just forcefully... He shook his head slightly. "Gomen nasai." His hand felt the door behind him. Quickly he opened it and bolted out.

     Duo stared at the still opened door, totally stunned. Heero... loved him? All those dodging around was because Heero loved him?

     Oh, now that he knew how Heero felt, he had no doubt that that had been the reason of Heero's odd behavior lately. The problem was, what would he do about it?

     ~What is there to do? Or to decide, for that matter? You love him, he loves you back. He has confessed to you, now it's your turn to say it to him.~

     But The Organization...

     ~What can they do about it? You've already decided they can't control your life, remember? So why should you care what they think of this?~

     If they found and took Heero hostage...

     ~Duo, you've already decided that staying might endanger everyone around you. You have decided to stay anyway and fight for their lives. You've also decided that you're in love with Heero, and, whether he knows it or not, he has become your weakness. What difference will it make now if you tell him or not?~

     But if he suddenly had to go away without saying goodbye...

     ~You have already decided you don't want to leave, ever. Remember? You have also decided that if you are going to leave, you will tell him and leave with a promise to return. Remember that?~

     If he died...

     ~Are you planning to die?~

     Of course not! He didn't want to die.

     ~Then what's the problem?~

     ... None.

     ~Exactly.~ His inner voice snickered. ~You're just chickening out, Duo Maxwell.~

     An involuntary smile curved on his lips at that. He was a coward when it came to feelings.

     ~So do you want to stay being a coward, Coward?~

     No, he didn't.

     ~Then what are you waiting for? Go and tell him!~

     ~Ryoukai.~

     He got up and headed for the other bedroom, knocked, and waited for a moment before he opened the door.

     The room was empty.

      He frowned slightly; where could Heero be?

     He thought for a moment then went to the balcony. It was also deserted, and discreetly he was relieved. Heero would have sat on the railing if he had been out here, and Duo shuddered at the thought of saying something that could surprise the Japanese and cause him to lose his balance and...

     Leaving the unpleasant thought unfinished, he headed for the attic. Here he found Heero sitting on the bay window and staring out at the night sky. It was truly a sight, the play of silver moonlight and dark shadow across the Japanese's features. The darkness of the room, broken only by what little rays managed to get in through the windows, only added up to the surrealism of it all. It was an art, a masterpiece.

     ~Beautiful.~

     It would've been perfect, if only Heero's thin lips weren't curved down at the edges, and the blue orbs weren't dim with moodiness.

     "Heero," he called out. His voice was quiet, but it made Heero whirled around in surprise to face him all the same. Slowly he stepped forward and covered the distance between them. "Suki da."

     "Na.. Nani?!"

     "I love you, too." He leaned down and captured the surprised lips with his own.

     Heero was completely stunned at the confession. But the feel of Duo's lips against his own, kissing him, snapped him out of his trance. And he returned the kiss full-heartedly.

     The moment was ruined when their stomach's suddenly growled almost simultaneously. They broke the kiss and stared at each other, amused and embarrassed at the same time.

     "Seems like we need to go downstairs and eat after all, itooshi." Duo smiled.

     Itooshi. He liked the way the word sounded in Duo's voice. He liked it even more that it was directed at him and was meant for him. "Too bad. The moon is beautiful tonight."

     "No one says we can't have dinner out in the balcony."

     Heero smiled at that.

     "Shall we?" Duo offered his hand.

     Heero took it and let Duo help him to his feet and, hand in hand, lead the way out of the attic and down the stairs. He walked in silence for a moment then finally called out. "..Duo?"

     "Hm?"

     "Remind me to call Obasan tomorrow...?"

     The violet orb glanced at him, silently questioning.

     "I need to tell her not to worry about me and to come home only after she's absolutely certain that her friend has completely recovered."

     "...Ah." Duo smiled, the violet orbs soft. His hand was warm against Heero's.

------------------------

     "So your aunt isn't going to come back after all, even after all the arrangements have been made?"

     "Mmhm. Quite a change of plan, ne?"

     "Uh-huh. I wonder why..."

     "Oh my... Lina, look." Hilde pointed at one of the outdoor tables of the cafe across the street, where two teens were sitting and talking.

     "Hm?" She looked at the pointed direction, and her brow went high. "Heero and Duo?" She stared a moment longer, and her eyes widened even more. "Without even a single book with them? What are they doing?"

     "Beats me."

     "...Think we should go and say hello to them?"

     Hilde shrugged slightly.

     Right at the moment the two teens across the street got up. The girls blinked and stared as Heero took Duo's hand and kissed him on the cheek. Then, hand in hand, they left the cafe and disappeared in the crowd.

     "...I think we better leave them alone." Hilde grinned.

     Relena grinned back. "Hai. Let's just go watch a movie or something."

     Together they went back the way they had come from and headed for the theater at the corner of the street.

------------------------

     "What do you mean you haven't done a thing! You have been there for nearly three months now, and you still haven't shown any progress?!"

     "I was under the impression I could follow my own method."

     "You are taking too long as it is!"

     "I'm doing what I can."

     "That's not good enough!" A sudden suspicious look. "Has he talked you into turning against us? Are you betraying us now?"

     "No."

     "Then get your mission done and bring D-18 back!"

     The monitor flickered off.

     The man leaned back on his chair, anger evident in his face along with a hint of worry. Behind him, a long haired figure emerged from the shadows.

     "He is going along nicely."

     The man scowled. "No need to be all sarcastic, C-18. And don't even think of saying 'I warned you'."

     The figure smirked.

     "There is still a chance of him to follow orders. He, after all, is not a rebel by nature, unlike D-18."

     "True. But he is a scholar. And D-18 is more than capable to reason with him."

     "Our control on E-19 is not gone yet. The device is still on. As long as it isn't destroyed, we know that D-18 has yet to succeed on turning him against us."

     "Mm." The figure in the shadow smiled. "D-18 sure proves to be too much of a trouble since the start, isn't he? We have wasted a lot of money and resources on him. Not to mention our hunters. Is it really worth it, I wonder."

     The man's eyes narrowed. "We'll see."

     Several hundred feet above them, the wind blew across the lonely Saharan desert.

------------------------

     He didn't think it was the right time, but They were getting too impatient. They had kept on pressing him this last week. They had even started to doubt his sincerity and loyalty. He wasn't a traitor. He would show them. And so tonight would be it.

     He went to D-18's hiding place and burst in through the balcony. He landed before D-18... and the boy.

     D-18, as predicted, immediately took a protective stance in front of the boy and created a shield surrounding the two of them, protecting them from the pieces of the ruined French door flying toward them. The fool, it seemed, really had taken a deep affinity toward the boy although - E-19 glanced at the wide blue orbs briefly - it also seemed that D-18 had forgotten to mention that tiny bit of information about their true nature and their powers to the boy. Well, it wouldn't matter now whether the boy would accept it or not. The time was up.

     "What do you want?" D-18's voice was not exactly hostile, more cautious.

     "It's time to end the game."

     "Fine. When?"

     "Now. Construction. Portland Street."

     "I'll be there."

     "I'll be waiting."

------------------------

     Duo watched the raven eyed teen leave. The moment he dreaded had finally come. He knew this wasn't exactly the way E-19 worked. E-19 usually ended up the game when the prey was alone but without telling the prey. Which meant that the end of this game was upon The Organization's request.

     He glanced over his shoulder at Heero. The blue eyed teen was clearly still in shock. And suddenly Duo wished he had the power of hypnotize. But perhaps it was just as well. Heero deserved to know the truth, in case...

     "Heero."

     The blue eyes regarded him with a gaze of shock and disbelief, the jaws working but without any words coming out.

     "I'm sorry you have to find it out like this."

     "Who... What.. are you?"

     "Just like you, he and I are humans. Only, we have more power than an average human does."

     "More power..."

     He nodded. "It makes us able to do things like this." He lifted a hand and concentrated, and a ball of swirling wind formed there, so fast and tight, it was all too visible for an average human's eyes. His hand slowly closed into a fist, and the ball unraveled and disappeared.

     The blue eyes stared at him, wide with disbelief. Only disbelief, no rejection. Thank gods.

     "An average person has the power level of five or six. Our power level can reach up to twenty. Or at least it could according to the scientists the last time I checked with them, more than five years ago."

     "Scientists?"

     "The people I'm running from."

     "Running..."

     "Aa. They collected us when we were still very young and made us the object of their experiments. I couldn't stand their control so I escaped. I've been running from their hunters ever since."

     "And he.. is the hunter sent for you?"

     "Wufei is different from all the others. He doesn't want unnecessary casualties. He wants me and me alone. That's why he came here to call me out."

     "How can you be so sure..."

     "Because I know him."

     "But..." A pause, then softly, "...He's going to kill you, isn't he?"

     "No, he... Heero, he isn't the bad guy. He's just.. very confused. They've brainwashed him, like all the others."

     "Demo..." ~He will still fight you. And somehow I don't think you'll fight back. Duo, you're going to let yourself get killed!~

     "I have to go. He can't stop until he has either destroyed me, or he has me. They won't allow him to stop. If I refuse to encounter him on one-on-one battle, he might decide to use you or one of the others to force me into facing him. It will endanger your lives, and I don't want that. Do you understand me? That's why I have to go now."

     "..."

     "Promise me you'll stay behind."

     "I..."

     "Promise me. Please. If you go, I'll be worried about you, and I won't be able to concentrate where I have to. Promise you won't follow me."

     "I.. promise." The blue eyes were afraid but determined. "But you have to promise me as well. Promise me you'll return."

     Duo smiled.

     "Duo, promise me!" The voice was panicked.

     "..Do you believe in destiny, Heero?"

     "Na.. Nani?!"

     The smile softened. "I do." Quickly he leaned forward and captured those slightly parted lips with his own. A brief kiss, followed by a soft whisper. "Suki da. I'll see you again. That's a promise."

     When Heero snapped out of the shock, he was already alone in the room, facing an opened balcony with flapping curtains.

------------------------

     It didn't take too long to find the appointed place. Or to find his opponent. He knew almost every place and site in the city, after all. And he could detect the other's location by the energy he radiated. Silently he levitated up to the third floor of the construction and landed in front of his opponent.

     "You're late."

     "I'm here now."

     "Did you tell your fuck toy about us?"

     He had to forcefully restrain the rage that flared up at the insult. "He is not my fuck toy."

     E-19 merely snorted at that. "Last chance, D-18."

     "I will not return to them willingly."

     "Then we'll do this the hard way. Let's find out how much power you have."

     And with that, E-19 opened attack, showering the chestnut haired teen with balls of air that exploded within contact.

     Duo levitated in retreat, creating more space between him and the first wave of explosions, and quickly formed a shield. A ball of strong, swirling wind surrounded him and protected him. His hand made a shoving motion, and under his command, some of the wind immediately turned into invisible knives that sliced through the air toward E-19. They were stopped short by E-19's shield, just as he had predicted.

     The raven eyed teen smirked. "Not bad. But still not good enough to defeat me." Balls of fire suddenly appeared around him. "I told you once, D-18, I would not make the same mistake of underestimating you. Now give me all you've got!" The fireballs sliced through the air.

     Duo closed his eyes and concentrated. And quickly balls of water formed around him, each countering the attack of one fireball until there was none left.

     "Nice. Let's see how much you can handle."

     E-19's attacks intensified, creating destruction and explosions. Debris and dust filled the air, making it difficult to see. Yet, both of them had no trouble tracking each other through the energy the other radiated. But while E-19 didn't hesitate to release blow after blow, Duo did no more than shielding himself and countering the attacks. Never, not even once, his attacks were meant to really harm the other teen.

     "What are you holding back for?! Fight me!!"

     But the violet eyed teen merely leaped away, dodging the invisible explosives E-19 sent after him.

     ~Kisama! Why? Why won't he fight? Why does he insist on simply being defensive?~ He knew this was tiring D-18 fast, really fast. Soon the violet eyed teen would have to either give up or drain himself to death. ~Come on, you fool! Fight me!~

     Duo kept on going with merely dodging and countering the other's attacks. A few times already he had almost released a real attack, one that would be directed straight at E-19, but always, at the last second something held him back. He knew his energy was draining and fast. He wouldn't be able to keep this up much longer.

     "Duo, promise me you'll return."

     "I promise."

     His shield started to break.

     An image of blue orbs that were all too bright, filled with anger, pain, and betrayal, flashed in his mind.

     "Duo, you promised..."

     He clenched his jaws tight as an invisible sword shredded his shield and cut him. ~Heero, please understand. While I won't just give up, I can't harm him either. Underneath that surface is my friend, and I can't...~

     An explosion caught him.

     ~I'm sorry...~

     He was thrown out of the plane of concrete and into the ground several feet underneath. Quickly he shielded himself, but there wasn't enough energy left in him, and he felt the air knocked out of him as he landed hard.

     ~I'll be black and blue all over tomorrow,~ was his ridiculous thought as he slowly tried to get up. A soft pained cry escaped involuntarily at the intense agony that immediately shot up through his strained muscles, and he realized that bruises and small cuts were not all he'd gotten from the fall. A gash on his arm and a twisted ankle made two of his limbs practically useless.

     He felt more than saw E-19 land gracefully several feet before him, and he grimaced, not only at the pain.

     He had lost.

     "Give it up, D-18."

     He forced himself to focus again, and a shield started to form around him. It was thin, and it quivered. It would break at the slightest force. But it was the sign of his rebellion.

     "Give it up, or I will have to kill you."

     "Then kill me."

     E-19 frowned. Something inside made him unwilling to kill the chestnut haired teen and complete his mission. But...

     "They will destroy me anyway, Wufei. I'm not going to return to them willingly."

     "As you wish." E-19 started to gather his energy for the final blow.

     Duo closed his eyes and steeled himself. ~I'm sorry, Heero. I'll see you in another lifetime. Kitto.~

     E-19 took aim, ready to release a bolt of energy.

     "Matte!!!"

     Both Duo and E-19 snapped at the sharp cry. And in surprise, the raven haired teen released the bolt of energy. It slashed through the air, cutting through a metal rope before it ricochet and hit the construction building.

     "Wufei! Watch out!"

     He felt himself tackled away. A second later, bars of steel hit the ground where he had been standing. But he wasn't complete out of harm's way yet. And neither was the person who had tackled him.

     Duo could only watch in horror as the metal rope holding the bars was cut and the steel fell. The sight of the tackle snapped him out of it, though. And when he saw the debris and big chunks of concrete rained down at the two still dazed teens, without thinking he released his whole energy into a bolt that would destroy the rubbles into dust. Then he knew no more.

     Wufei felt the energy coming but knew by instinct that it was not directed at him. He looked up and saw the concrete raining down; his eyes widened in horror. And suddenly, there were flashes of memory. Of a Mobile Suit firing at him. Of another Mobile Suit, white, taking the shot for him.

     Of a woman dying in his arms in a field of flowers.

     ~Meiran!!~

     When the rain of dust and small pieces of concrete finally stopped, he opened his eyes and realized that during his black out, he had instinctively raised a thick shield that had protected him and the other teen, the one who had saved him from the steel bars. She was still not moving though.

     Gently, almost afraid, he touched her shoulder. "Meiran..."

     There was a soft groan.

     Relieved, he started to shake her more firmly. "Meiran."

     Another groan then she stirred and looked up. "..Wufei..?"

     "Aa. Are you all right?"

     "..Aa. I'm fine."

     He smiled, totally relieved, and hugged her tight.

     "Wu..fei...?" She froze, stunned.

     "Don't ever do that again, Meiran. Never leave me again."

     "I.. Husband.. You remember..?"

     He looked into her eyes and smiled.

     "Ai ren. You do remember." She smiled back.

     "Aa. I remember everything now." His expression turned slightly grim. "And I'm no longer under their control."

     "They?"

     "The people who sent me to kill him. I'll explain later." He got up and helped her to her feet before locking gaze with her again. "Meiran... I want to apologize. About the other day..."

     She shook her head. "It's all right. I'm just glad it's all over now."

     "Perhaps." He felt the pain on his upper arm and reached to the cut there. When his fist retreated, there were pieces of a computer chip in it. Now that the device was destroyed, he was finally free from their control. "Perhaps it is," he repeated. "For me." ~But not yet for Duo.~

     He glanced across the ground to where the chestnut haired teen had fallen unconscious.

------------------------

     In the dim room under the Saharan desert, in a building which existence was more secretive than NASA's projects and which security far preceeded that of the parlement building, a man watched with cold eyes as the red light on a small device before him suddenly stopped blinking and turned white, right before it went off completely.

     "So D-18 managed to destroy him after all."

     "Who would have thought..." The man frowned.

     The figure in the shadow smirked. "He is growing more powerful each time. Are you sure it still worths the effort and losses to continue pursuing him?"

     "If we can capture him, he will be the most powerful weapon yet."

     "If."

     The man deliberately ignored the emphasize. "We have to capture him, at any cost."

     "As you wish then. But may I offer a suggestion?"

     "Do you have any plan on how to do it?"

     "Perhaps."

     "Very well. I'll leave everything to you, C-18. Make sure this time there will be no failures."

     "As you wish, Sir."

------------------------

     "Meiran... I want to apologize. About the other day..."

     She shook her head. "It's all right. I'm just glad it's all over now."

     "Perhaps." He felt the pain on his upper arm and reached to the cut there. When his fist retreated, there were pieces of a computer chip in it. Now that the device was destroyed, he was finally free from their control. "Perhaps it is," he repeated. "For me." ~But not yet for Duo.~

     He glanced across the ground to where the chestnut haired teen had fallen unconscious.

------------------------

     "Itai! Damn it, Heero! That stings!"

     "Of course it stings, baka! It contains alcohol! It's supposed to sting!"

     "Well, you could have been gentler..." He hissed when the antiseptic soaked cotton dabbed yet another cut on his back.

     "Baka. It's your own fault that you got so many wounds anyway. I don't think I even want to know how you got each one of them." The scolding voice quivered slightly toward the end.

     "Heero..." Stunned, he glanced over his shoulder at the Japanese.

     The blue orbs, a bit too bright, refused to return his gaze.

     "Heero..." He turned to face the dark haired teen fully and gently pulled him close. Heero didn't resist, but he didn't exactly lean onto Duo either. "Heero, I know you're upset..."

     "Upset?" The Japanese repeated quietly.

     "And I'm sorry I made you worry..."

     "Worry?!" Heero snapped. "Worry?!!"

     "Heero..."

     "Worry doesn't even begin to cover it, Duo! And don't you 'Heero' me! Do you have any idea how I feel?! Do you have any idea what it's like to watch you leave, knowing what you were about to do, but unable to stop you?! Do you know how I feel right now, seeing you like this, knowing you almost died back there, but also knowing that I couldn't have done a single thing if it really had happened?! Do you?!"

     "Heero no baka! Why do you have to keep pulling stunts like that?! Do you have a death wish or something, baka?! Oi! Are you even listening to me?! Heero! Come back here, you...! Damn you, Heero!"

     Duo blinked. "I..."

     He knew. He didn't know when or how, but he knew that feeling, that sense of betrayal and helplessness. That pain of knowing someone you love more than life itself will die but unable to do anything to prevent it.

     "I love you too much, Duo." Heero leaned onto him and buried his face on his shoulder. "And it scares me. It scares me even more when I start thinking just how easily I might lose you."

     "I'm here now."

     "But they will send someone else after you. And if.. When that happens... I... I can't..."

     "Heero, you won't lose me. Not now, not ever."

     "Never?

     "Never."

     "Promise?"

     "Forever. I promise."

     "Don't make a promise you can't keep, Duo."

     "I don't. This is one promise I'll always keep. I'll always be yours, koi. Forever. I promise."

     Heero closed his eyes and let his fears fade away for the moment.

     "No need to worry. Duo Maxwell never lies."

------------------------

     He was in the warm haze of sleep, surrounded by a familiar presence that made him feel belonged and protected. He didn't want to wake up, but there were voices talking, too loud, and they robbed him off his sleep.

     "...device...special...organization...hunter..."

     "...taking out..."

     "...on the south...friends..."

     He was waking up and fast.

     "...suggest you to leave as soon as possible. Up to you."

     He blinked, fully awake now. In his line of vision was Duo's face, full of contemplation. Neither the face nor the violet eyes were trained at him though. They were fixed at a point across the room. He glanced over to that direction as well and saw the raven haired teen who had brought Duo's battered form back to him. The same teen who had issued the challenge to Duo.

     He looked back at Duo. Those violet eyes returned his gaze this time, the orbs soft. There was a quiet sound from across the room as Wufei, undertanding his cue, left the room. Neither of the other two broke their eye contact to glance at his direction.

     It was Heero who finally broke the silence.

     "Duo... you're going to leave?"

     The violet orbs frowned slightly, and, as he continued staring into the deep purple pools, Heero idly wondered why he had never noticed before how expressive those eyes were.

------------------------

     "Duo... you're going to leave?"

     He gazed down at the blue eyes and saw a hint of fear in them that matched the faint panic in the nasal voice. And he found himself unable to answer.

     Heero had insisted for him to rest after taking care of his wounds. He had agreed and, seeing the fatigue in the blue eyes, had asked for Heero to sleep with him. They had cuddled and slept for some hours before he sensed Wufei's energy outside his door. He had let the raven haired teen in then, and they had discussed many things, including the device left in Duo's body and how to get it out.

     Then Heero had awakened. And now he didn't know how to answer his question.

     "Duo," the quiet nasal voice, now filled with dread, broke through his thoughts. "Are you going to leave me?"

     "No!" His voice answered even before his mind was done registering the question. "No. Heero, I'm not going to leave you."

     "..But you're going to leave...?"

     "It's just for a while. Remember I told you about the device that they used to track me down?"

     Heero nodded.

     "There's another one in me. It seems that they planted more than one because they anticipated I would try to escape. I have to get it out before someone comes looking for me. There are friends on the south who can help me with it. When it's done, I'll be back, and this time I'll stay for good. But first I have to go. Do you understand?"

     "..." Slowly Heero gave a slight nod. "When," he asked softly.

     "I have to wait until I have healed completely. So probably not until the first day of Summer Break."

     Which meant May 31st. "Oh." He tried not to be too disappointed. "Are you going to go alone?"

     "No. Wufei will go with me."

     "Are you.. sure you can trust him?"

     Duo nodded. "Their hold on him has been broken." He smiled faintly. "He's... one of the good guys now, so to speak."

     "As long as you're absolutely sure..."

     "I am." His smile softened. "Don't worry too much. Everything will be just fine."

     Heero didn't answer and simply leaned closer to him. For a moment they stay in silent, then the blue eyed teen spoke again, softly. "I'll miss you."

     He smiled faintly and tightened his hold slightly around the Japanese.

     "I'll miss you, too."

------------------------

     Isn't it amazing that time always seems to crawl ever so slowly when you're waiting for a good thing to happen but it always seems to fly real fast when the waiting is for something you dread?

     It seemed to Heero that the month of May had just started when suddenly it was the middle of the month already and Obasan had returned. And then, before he realized it, the Final week had past, and the 31st was already here.

     Duo would leave today.

     "You look like you're facing your own funeral," Hilde teased him.

     "Urusai." He wasn't even in mood enough to fix her with a full force glare. If only she knew the truth about Duo... But she didn't, so she couldn't understand why he felt so gloomy.

     "Cheer up, Yui. Not like he's not going to return."

     He snorted softly and returned his stare out the window. From the corner of his eyes, he could see Relena shaking her head before dragging Hilde out of the room. Good. He preferred to be alone anyway.

     "Heero-chan! Duo-kun is here!"

     Almost too quickly he hopped down from the windowsill, skidded out of the room, and skipped down the stairs. In less than five seconds, he was already out in the foyer. Obasan watched him entering with an amused gleam in her eyes. Duo just smiled.

     "Oi." He knew he was practically grinning like a love sick puppy but he couldn't care less.

     Duo's eyes softened slightly. "Hey yourself."

     "I... thought you were leaving today."

     "I will but not until tonight."

     "Oh."

     "I'm free right now. Want to go somewhere?"

     The grin was returning. A quick glance at Obasan for an assent, and he immediately grabbed his jacket. "Okay. Let's go."

     Obasan watched them leave then closed the door. "Teenagers in love. Always the same, no matter what generation they are." Shaking her head slightly with an amused smile, she went inside.

------------------------

     They spent the day as normal teenagers, having fun at a carnival that was in the city. It was a new experience for Duo since he had never been to any amusement parks, carnivals, or fairs before. And Heero simply enjoyed going to one very much. Not to mention, of course, that he liked watching Duo had fun. They got on most of the rides, ate the different kinds of food sold by the street vendors, watched most of the shows, tried their hands on the game booths, and fed the animals. All in all, it was a good day for both Heero and Duo.

     It was already eight thirty at night when Duo finally took Heero home. They drove in silence, each wishing to stall their parting a bit longer. Each knew they could only delay it for so long.

     Finally the car stopped. They had arrived. Heero's heart sank when Duo didn't turn the engine off. He knew the brunette would probably drive away as soon as he stepped out of the car.

     "..I guess this is it, ne?" He forced a smile.

     Duo gave back a faint smile. "Arigato, Heero. I had fun today."

     "Me too." The smile became more genuine. "What with the shows and the crowd..."

     "And the rides..."

     "Hai." He chuckled. "I still can't believe you got us ride the roller coaster twelve times!"

     Duo's smile grew more visible. "And you got us through the Ghost Castle eight times?"

     Heero laughed. "It was fun!"

     "It was." Duo chuckled, agreeing. "Though I never figured you to be an adrenaline junkie."

     "Neither did I you." Heero smiled and eyed the things Duo had won for him on the game booths: a mug, a plushy, a small Japanese ornament from wood, and a teddy bear. "I still can't believe you only missed one shot on those booths."

     Duo chuckled softly. "We probably took away most of their profit today, ne?"

     "We?" Heero mock glared him. "As I remember it, you were the only one who played back there." The effect was ruined by his laughter though. "Are you sure you didn't use your power?"

     Duo smiled. "Probably I was just lucky."

     "Doubt it." Heero grinned. "But it was nice watching you making a perfect aim everytime anyway. And I'm sure those kids are really happy to get free plushies and balloons from you."

     Duo smiled faintly. "Want to do it again some time?"

     Heero nodded. "Hai. Let's do it again some time."

     Duo merely smiled and gazed at him.

     "So..." Heero's mirth quivered and faded. "I... I'll see you..."

     "Heero."

     "Nani?" He glanced back at Duo... and blinked at the small, nicely wrapped box offered to him.

     "Otanjobi omedeto gozaimasu." Duo smiled. "Itooshi."

     Heero's eyes widened in near disbelief. "..You.. remember..?"

     "Aa." The smile softened. "Open it."

     His hands shaking slightly, he took the box and stared at it for a moment before carefully unwrapping it.

     It was a jewelry box.

     He glanced at Duo, uncertain, then opened the box.

     Inside, lying among black velvet... It was a circle, small and plain, pale in color, a contrast to the dark background.

     His eyes snapped back immediately at Duo, his jaw working without any sound coming out.

     The violet orbs were incredibly soft. "I hope you don't mind."

     "I... Duo..." He honestly didn't know whether to laugh or cry. "We've known each other for only three months!"

     "Almost four."

     "Still..."

     "Long enough to know I'm destined to be with you."

     Heero shook his head slightly, but even he himself wasn't sure what the denial - if it was a denial - was for, or to whom it was directed.

     "Heero, I know it sounds ridiculous and corny, but I feel like I've known you for even longer than I've lived. From that first moment our gaze met back at the cafe, I feel connected to you. Don't you feel it, too?"

     "..Hai." He couldn't deny it. He did feel it. There was a bond connecting them, and it grew stronger everyday, binding them together closer and tighter, making him wonder from time to time if he and Duo weren't really soulmates. Maybe they were. But... Still... "But we are only eighteen..."

     Duo smiled faintly. "Romeo and Juliet got married when they were only fourteen."

     Heero couldn't help the chuckle. "It's just a fiction." Something in his tone told Duo that his doubts had gone though.

     The violet eyed teen smiled and reached for the box. "May I..?"

     Heero knew what he was asking and nodded. "..Isn't it too small?"

     "No." He took the small, thin circle out of the box and put it on Heero's left little finger. It fit perfectly, just as he had known it would. "It's the right size."

     "I never knew anyone who wore a ring on that finger before." Heero smiled, slightly amused.

     "Ah." Duo smiled faintly. "Remember that Red Thread story you told me?" He took the ringed hand with his own. Heero noticed then that there was an identical ring on Duo's left little finger. When their left hands joined, both the pale bands glowed softly, and slowly their color changed from gold to blood red.

     Heero's blue eyes widened.

     "See?" Duo smiled. "The red thread on my finger is connected to the one on yours."

     "Duo..." He felt like crying. Instead, he kissed the brunnette. "You're a romantic, you know that?"

     "Only for you." The smile softened.

     "Oh really?" He smiled back, lightly teasing.

     "Aa." A long kiss. "If you'd like to, we can get real engagement rings when I return." And another one, a bit more briefly this time.

     "Mm... I'd like that." More kisses. "Mm..." Before he reluctantly let go. "I.. guess you have to go now, ne?"

     "Aa." He liked it no more than Heero did, but he had to.

     "Ah. Well.. I'll see you then." He gathered his jacket and the things from the carnival and started to get out.

     "Heero?"

     "Hn?" He glanced back just in time to see Duo taking off his glasses to then give them to him. "Na.. Nani?"

     "I'm not giving them to you. I'm asking you to keep them for me. Don't lose them." Duo smiled, lightly teasing. "I'll be back and ask you to return them to me, so you better take a good care of them."

     Heero grinned. "Ryoukai."

     The violet orbs softened, and Heero kissed him one last time before letting him go. He watched and waited until the car was out of sight before he went inside the house.

     A bit tired, Duo drove back in silence to his place where Wufei was waiting.

     "Done?" The raven haired teen asked.

     He simply nodded and helped Wufei load the trunk with their duffel bags and the back seat with the food and drink enough for the two of them during the thirty nine hours drive.

     "I'll take the first eight hours." Wufei closed the trunk and went to the driver's side.

     Duo didn't object and simply took the front seat beside Wufei. As the car started, heading South, he lowered the back of his seat, lay down, and closed his eyes. He had eight hours to sleep before it was his turn to sit behind the wheel.

     Back at his house, Heero stared out of his window, already in his dark green pajamas, and wished to a falling star that Duo and Wufei would return safely soon. After a moment he yawned and went to his bed. Sliding underneath the bedcover, he glanced at Duo's glasses on the nightstand and smiled then closed his eyes. Hugging his teddy bear, soon he fell asleep.

     Up in the sky, a night plane was fast approaching the airport at the northern border of the city, carrying with it a certain passenger with long hair.

------------------------
 

~OWARI~ (?)