7-15-2002

Title: Interlude One: Our Thoughts
Author: Maiki-hime (maikihime@yahoo.com)
Category: Hmm... Romance?
Status: Finished one-shot fic, the first sequel to "Introducing... a not-so-new girl".
Disclaimers: You all know the drill, right? The GW characters belong to their rightful owners and I'm using them without permission. This fic is mine (not that anyone would want it...).
Labels/Warnings: OOC (^_^;;;). AU (?). TWT. Non-yaoi (sort of... can you guess why? ^_^). Angst. Sap.
Pairings: beginnings of a 5+2, one-sided 1+2.
Spoilers: To the beginning of the TV series (just a tiny bit), and to my first fic, "Introducing... a not-so-new girl". Without reading that one first, you'll get a little confused.
Archive: Sometime in the future, I'll have a webpage in which I'll put this on. In the meantime, if anyone wants this, please contact me first.
Feedback: Yes, please, criticisms and comments are welcome. You can reach me through the GWML or at maikihime@yahoo.com Author's notes: This one is the first 'interlude' between the first fic, "Introducing... a not-so-new girl", and its other long sequel, "Split Paths: Is *This* Love?" In this one, we'll see the initial consequences of the mission that revealed both Duo's secret to the other pilots and Wufei's feelings for the object of his love. It alternates all pilot's POV, but I didn't mark them (you'll just *know* who is who in here ^_^). Each pilot talks about that mission according to their own POV, and what they think of the results.

* = emphasis
/ = italics (thoughts, special words and events, etc.)
[ ] = author's in-fic notes

***

Surprising. That's the only word I can use to describe the situation.

I know Duo is full of surprises, just never thought she'd have one like this... as she pointed out herself, we don't know each other that well. However, liking someone isn't conditioned to knowing everything about them, and I like Duo. We spent quite some time together after Heero self-destructed, hiding, and in that time I saw small glimpses of Duo's character that intrigued me.

She behaved quite randomly, alternating energetic (almost unbearably) cheerful moments with periods of silence... but these silent moments happened mostly when she thought she was alone. Only once did she realize I was in the same room as she during one of her so-called 'lapses'; she scratched her head, somewhat embarrassed, gave me a grin and a wink, and started acting as her usual.

That's when I realized she might be hiding herself behind all that cheerfulness. With that in mind, I tried to deepen our friendship, talking. Duo may talk a lot, but she can be very tight-lipped when she wants to; it took me quite an effort to make her say even the smallest thing about herself.

But I could feel some of the things she didn't talk about, and I could tell she was much more than what meets the eye. And now I see she tried to give us what we didn't have. Why give us fierce determination, if Heero shows it? Why give us silence, if Trowa provides more than plenty? Why give us politeness, if I'm constantly at it? Why give us seriousness, if Wufei is more than enough? What our little group lacked was something to ease the tension... and Duo took the role, even when it meant getting someone mad at her, and lashing out with harsh words and withering looks. No matter what, Duo was always lively, urging us on.

But despite that cocky attitude, Duo has a very low self-esteem... for her, it's easier to accept and believe in harsh words and withering looks than praises or even gestures of kindness. When I said I wished I had a brother like her... I could see she was torn between hugging me in happiness and hitting me for making fun of her. Well, after finally being convinced I wasn't making fun of her, she hugged me.

Sometimes she reminds me of an overly beaten puppy... it may come when called, but at the least suspicious movement runs away.

...

No... I'm not being fair to Duo. She may seem frail, but she's also very strong. She has to be, in order to bear all this and fight in this war, just like us. I'm contradicting myself, aren't I? But that's the way Duo is, and all of us for that matter: we aren't coins, with just a good and a bad side; rather, we're like diamonds: with several facets and different degrees of purity, yet precious and unique.

Yes, I look around myself and see our differences, and at the same time, our similarities; I can't tell for sure, but I think that in terms of childhood life, Trowa and Duo have a lot in common. Trowa is very suspicious of the world around him, just like Duo was the first times I talked with her... they show it in different ways, but I think they are the most similar of us all.

I had a quite normal childhood... considering all the expectations I had weighting on my shoulders, that is. With so many people telling you what you were expected to do all the time, it couldn't be that normal. I grew up and found myself struggling to prove to them what I was capable of doing... and saw that exact same conflict in another. I don't know much about L5's tradition and what was Wufei's position in his family, but I can clearly see he passed through some of the same experiences I did. We make another similar pair.

And that leaves Heero. I don't think anyone had to go through what he did. Not that he told me anything, far from that... but I somehow can sense him more easily than the others. I felt his pain when he almost died, I felt his confusion when around us, and I feel his doubts regarding our situation, our now mixed objectives and personal involvement in the tide of the war. And the toll it's taking from us.

Add all this to his confusion over his feelings for Duo... For quite some time, I thought Duo would be the one to help Heero out his shell; he has feelings for her, and I'm sure at some time she'd be willing to give him a chance. But my hopes for him evaporated the moment I saw Wufei in Duo's bed. When she sought me out and explained what happened, I couldn't help feeling a bit sad for Heero, a bit disappointed at Duo, and even a bit angry at Wufei. I was so sure Duo and Heero would be perfect for each other! Why did Wufei have to get between them?

But I was being unreasonable... After all, who in their right mind would refuse what Wufei was offering in favor of what Heero had no intention of even showing?

...I just hope Heero will be able to deal with all this... and that all of us can find a light in the end of this tunnel.

***

I always knew some people hide behind masks; I'm one of those people, after all. But I never thought of Duo as one of us... it seems I need a better perception of those around me.

I must admit I never understood Duo... sometimes I thought he -- not he, she -- was a complete fool, with all those smiles, that cheerfulness, and that energy. Couldn't he -- here I am, slipping on the pronoun once more... but then again, haven't we agreed to keep treating Duo as a boy? Very well, *he*. Couldn't he grasp the gravity of the situation around us? Couldn't he understand we were fighting a war, one in which we were in great disadvantage? How could he behave like that?

But then, sometimes... I envied him. Because despite all this, through all our stress and suffering, he still had those smiles, that cheerfulness, and that energy. And if I despised him for the times I thought he was just a fool, I hated him for the ones I thought he could keep his head above all this mess, and keep himself together.

But I was wrong, and on both accounts.

Stupid that I am, I didn't realize all his cheerfulness was nothing but a mask, just like mine. It took Heero's discovery of Duo's gender to open my eyes.

If Duo was good enough to hide the physical evidence of himself, it's obvious his emotional self could also be hidden, and even better; after all, we could rip his clothes off to have the physical proof... But what would we rip to uncover his inner self?

When I realized that, I tried to look at Duo through different eyes. And tried to see deeper than the joker's mask. The fact Duo changed abruptly after returning from that mission helped me out; even before Heero's return, I had already noticed Duo was quieter than usual... but I thought it was because he was mad at Heero for sending him away from the school (Quatre is always eager to put us up-to-date in our small group's comings and goings -- not that he's a gossiper, far from that).

When Heero announced Duo was a girl, I thought he had gone mad... it simply couldn't be possible! But then Duo confirmed that, and for one moment I thought that was nothing more than a joke.

Then Duo started explaining why he posed as a boy, and I understood. I didn't live in the streets like he did, but out of the four of us, my childhood was the one most similar to his. And I understood the need to not let others think he was weak -- they wouldn't think twice before trying to bring him down. The mercenaries I lived with might have been very loyal to each other, but I knew how they behaved toward others -- and I knew what they thought about women, and did to them given the chance.

So when Duo left, to the others' surprise, I was the most vehement supporter of the 'let Duo keep pretending' idea. I knew they wanted to uncover the farce, but what good would it bring us? It'd just show the feminist that women could be good pilots -- and for all my despising and hating Duo, I did admit he was an excellent one.

To my relief, they agreed to my reasoning. So off I went in a mission of my own, leaving the four of them behind. And was quite surprised when Quatre told me all that happened while I was away.

I really need to pay more attention to those around me! I never thought Wufei'd be attracted to any of us, and certainly not Duo! He ignored the other more than I did!

But the fact remained: Wufei declared himself to Duo, who accepted it.

And that left Heero out.

Heero. Funny that out of them all, he was the one I could read more easily. Perhaps the time we spent together after the Noventa disaster gave me a better understanding of him, I don't know. What I do know, and that's what really matters, is that he may give good advice, but he's terrible at following them.

Dying hurts like hell. Yet he courts death whenever possible, almost welcoming it with open arms.

To lead a good life, one must follow his feelings. This whole fiasco with Duo proved once more Heero isn't ready for that yet. I always suspected he had strong feelings for Duo, just didn't know for sure which ones... until recently. But behaving like a bastard around Duo did nothing but drive him away... and now that Wufei entered the scene, things got even more complicated for Heero.

...I just hope things get settled and better for us... both in and out the battlefield.

***

I must admit, that was not a surprise. It was simply a bomb.

After all my self-doubting and fear, during all this time, I finally learned there was nothing to doubt or fear at all. But despite that, I'm thankful that happened... it served to make me see things under a different light.

Had I known Duo was a girl all along, perhaps I wouldn't have changed as much as I did. Thinking of myself as unworthy made my comeback that more important to me, and made me realize there was much more to the world than my antiquate concepts and, as Duo would probably say, anal attitude.

Duo... the revealing of her secret showed me I really didn't know the real her. But, as I told her, I fell for the little glimpse I had of her personality. She may have tried to hide well, but in my ignoring her and staying away, I put myself in the best tactic position available: I could see everything from afar; I could see the situation as a whole, and not only under my own perspective.

Yes, I can see everything: I see Barton is struggling with himself to try and see past his own mask; the mask he built for himself didn't reveal the true him to the outside, but it also didn't reveal the true outside to him. Realizing Duo isn't what she appeared to be made him also realize he may not have been seeing things correctly... and he wonders what else he may have missed.

Winner is behaving as always: polite and even sweet on the outside, but with a steel determination inside. I think Duo is the only one other than myself that realizes Winner's mask is the one that fools people the most: he may look almost harmless or too compassionate to keep on our fight, but I have the feeling he may be the most reckless of us all, even more than Yuy.

Yuy is a mystery to most, sometimes even to myself. His mind works differently than ours, and I gather this is because of his training; from what I can tell, his was the longest one of ours, Duo's coming in second. For a long time I thought he was nothing besides the obvious, but I knew better than that. So I watched, from afar... that gave more information on him that he would ever willingly reveal to anyone.

He wants to give the impression he doesn't feel anything, but Yuy is the one that feels the most among us. His problem is, he probably doesn't understand his feelings, and doesn't know what to do about them.

I know he has feelings for Duo, but until now he hasn't expressed any... and I couldn't simply sit back and wait to see whether he would express them or not, now could I? Perhaps it was selfish of me, but I did what had to be done, and don't regret it. If acting the way he did toward Duo was the only way of dealing with his feelings, I don't want Duo receiving them.

And that brings me back to Duo... yes, I had hoped Duo would accept my feelings, and return them, but that's not to be... yet. At least half of my hopes became true, Duo does accept my feelings... I'll just have to work on the second half from now on. Meaning I'll have to leave my watching post from afar and join in closer to them, her in particular. My times of solitary surveillance have reached an end.

...I just hope I won't immerse myself too much into my own perspective, and miss something important from the situation as a whole.

***

I think sometimes I feel too much. Had I been able to suppress all my feelings, as my trainers wanted me to, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble.

One of the worst feelings there is... is guilt. And guilt is one of the feelings I have the most. I feel guilty because of so many things... my wrongdoings in the war, my actions towards others... and mainly because I'm always lying to and deluding myself.

For I tried. I really tried.

I did everything in my power to stay away from them all, including her. But I failed.

Her... it's quite funny thinking about Duo as a female... to me, Duo is simply Duo. Have always been, will always be. I never thought of people as male or female, just people.

If so, why did it hurt when I saw Duo lying near the swimming pool, wet shirt clinging to every curve of her obvious female chest? Was it because she made us all believe she was a male? Because she lied to us?

Yes, Duo may call this 'omission of the truth', but I call it simply a lie. Half-truths can do just as much damage as a lie, and be even more dangerous. I know I'm not a very forgiving person; no one ever forgave me for my mistakes, so I never truly learned to forgive others'... until now, that is.

Because I have been forgiven once... and now I forgive Duo. For lying to us, for hurting me, for leaving me behind... although that last one isn't something I have to forgive Duo for. After all, it was my own stupidity that brought that upon myself.

I knew I liked Duo for quite some time. And that I liked Duo a lot. Her constant teasing me didn't help matters, and I felt myself drawn closer and closer to her. When I realized that, I tried distancing myself from her, and started acting differently; if ignoring didn't faze her, confronting her surely did.

But I've overdone myself... Now that some time has passed and I take a good look behind me, I can see that I deliberately made everything possible to drive Duo away from me... and, as always, I managed to do just that; she thinks of me as nothing but an unfeeling bastard. I overheard her talking to Quatre the morning I found her in bed with Wufei, and sure as hell didn't like what I heard... but I'm the only one to blame for that.

Ninmu kanryou.

The most stupid mission, the one who may have cost me more than I could possibly afford... but it was accomplished. After all, who in their right mind would want to stay near the bastard I made of myself during that time?

*Sigh*

That morning... I was quite surprised to notice upon my return that I was sharing a room with Wufei, but it was understandable; after our confrontation, I knew Duo wouldn't feel at ease around me like before.

When Duo punched me, it didn't hurt, just surprised me. What hurt me were her words, and the bitterness underlying them. I proved to her, in my own way, that I still thought of her as before, but once more my actions brought up the wrong results. Wufei's righteous anger on her behalf was unexpected, but fully understood later.

Then Duo started explaining why she pretended to be a boy, and I was quite shocked. From her easy-going behavior, I had assumed she'd led a simple, easy life. Once more I had been wrong. When Trowa proposed we keep her secret among us, part of me agreed wholeheartedly, but the other part screamed in protest. What about our superiors? We couldn't simply hide that kind of info from them!

We settled on telling the doctors, and no one else, and I went to bed. When Duo spent the whole next day avoiding us, I felt guilty, and didn't give any thought to Wufei's absence from our room during all night, so immersed I was in my own thoughts.

I decided to do something I never thought I'd do: apologize to her. Mind made up, I went to her room, not even bothering to knock; I'd already seen her naked, what else would be there to see?

Bad mistake. Again.

She woke up the moment I opened the door, and sat up on the bed. The blanket slipped from her body, and I saw her naked once more.

Naked, and in bed with another.

It took me a moment to realize who was sharing her bed. Wufei!!! That's why he hadn't slept in his own! I slammed her door, absurdly hoping to wake him up, and left. Quatre soon came running, red from embarrassment; he probably saw the same scene I did.

If I had been jealous of the boy she befriended in that school, seeing her in bed with another became simply too much! I avoided the new couple until Wufei managed to corner me outside the house; he then told me he had declared himself to Duo, and she had asked him to spend the night with her! I came into the house almost running (away from Wufei's words)... and there I overheard Duo's talk with Quatre.

Ever since that, I fight the urge to wring Wufei's neck whenever he's within reaching distance.

I don't think there is much else I can do; the only thing I really didn't want was Duo thinking of me as the unfeeling bastard she said I was. So I did something I had meant to do all along: I gave her the report that stated clearly that the civilian from school wasn't responsible for the damage in the base's network. I may have been jealous of that guy's son, but I'd never compromise him as I'd hinted I would.

...I just hope that is enough for the moment.

***

I'm still confused. These last few days have been so weird! Quatre is the only one still treating me the same way as before, I can see Trowa paying more attention to me lately, Wufei is being very close, and Heero isn't snapping back at me anymore.

I think Trowa's finally realized I'm not the laughing fool he thought I was. I've always been able to tell he hid himself behind a mask of silence, but until now he hadn't realized I wore a mask of my own. I'm not saying the guy's stupid, far from that... I'd rather think I was good at pretending. But now that he realized that, he's trying to understand what there is under all my hair ^_^!

Well, I think it's time I showed them a bit more of the real me; Lara's talk about giving others the part of me they need may be noble and all that, but it sure as hell is tiring! I'm not going to play the genki-genki one 24/7 for them anymore!

...But then again, showing all of myself is out of the question too... I don't want to scare the poor boys!

Wufei is being closer than ever, to all of us in general, and to myself in particular. He never tried to bed me again, and we didn't sleep together anymore (sleep, you hentais! As in close your eyes and rest, not the other kind of sleep together! -_-;;;)

I never really thought any of this would happen... Wufei's love confession caught me completely off-guard! I was so sure no one would ever be interested in someone like me that it's hard to believe Wufei does.

And what about Heero? He's quieted down, I'm even a bit suspicious... that guy is simply unpredictable!

Yeah, I couldn't help teasing the guy around... at first he simply ignored me, then he started melting a bit... I even thought he was starting to like me! But all of a sudden Heero started making those smart-ass remarks, getting all bothered by anything I said and being downright mean to me! And this last mission... he was a complete bastard!

He gives me so many mixed signals... he sounded somewhat jealous when he first learned about Hikaru, he practically ogled me when he saw me naked the first time, then he came all self-righteous, demanding explanations and pissing me off. He practically forced me to tell the others about me, then made sure I knew Hikaru's father was in no danger... What the hell am I supposed to think?!

I'm confused...

...I just hope I can understand all of this with time. But then I remember I don't know what may happen tomorrow, and hope I can have enough time to understand anything at all.

 

Owari! (for now...)

 

Okay! This wasn't so bad, now was it? Keep tuned for the next installment!

Some of you may be wondering... If Duo is with Wufei, why the hell is she thinking so much about Heero? Remember, they aren't officially together (they are starting just as close friends and going with the flow), and Duo is quite confused with everything in general. But don't worry! Things will get settled soon!