Author's note: Thanks to Swordy, my e-mail, many error finder. I couldn't do this without her. Thanks for all the reviews and comments. You are all generous and wonderful!
Disclaimer on first page of fic
By: Dyna Dee
Warnings: Yaoi (eventually) some minor violence and language, and of course, angst is a must!
"Hey Quatre!" Trowa called out to his friend entering the junior officer's recreation room as he and Wufei sat on the couch working on the black haired boy's lapdesk trying to solve an advanced calculus problem. The auburn haired boy's eyes narrowed as he realized the blond looked somewhat distracted and hadn't responded to his greeting. "What's the matter?" he asked with concern.
Quatre suddenly looked up and appeared startled, realizing his lapse. His eyes became more focused as he turned to greet his friends with a faint smile. "Ah, nothing...nothing's the matter," he answered hastily, and Trowa knew immediately that he was trying to be evasive. Both of the blond captain's lieutenants had come to know that their friend was honest to a fault and always had a hard time hiding things from them, just as they did from him. He and Wufei had often wondered at Quatre's uncanny ability to know what they and the boys under his command were feeling or needing. And as for reading their friend, it was usually quite easy as Quatre's expressive face and large blue eyes that displayed his own reactions and deeply felt emotions to anyone who cared to look close enough to see them.
"What was Heero's reaction to his advancement," Wufei asked, having missed seeing Quatre's entrance and not taking his eyes from off the screen of his lapdesk.
"He refused it."
"What?" Both boys spoke up simultaneously, wearing identical shocked expressions as they looked at the blond, astonished by his unexpected answer.
"He refused it? Can you even refuse an advancement?" Trowa asked.
"Why?" Wufei asked, looking puzzled.
"He won't be separated from Duo. He wants to stay here in Red," the young captain answered calmly.
"I just don't get those two," Wufei said as he leaned into the back of the couch and folded his arms across his chest. "They seem so opposite in almost everything yet inseparable. And what's with all the closeness and touching, that's just not something guys do. And I don't know about you, but I'm fairly certain that Heero's the one who gave Duo the black eye, but why?"
"I just saw Heero grab Duo by the hair and hurt him," Quatre said with a lingering concern about the apparent violence Heero was capable of with his best friend and still feeling uncomfortable as he recalled to his mind the recent incident. "And do you know what Duo did in response?" He directed his question to the two on the couch as he moved to sit on the edge of the low coffee table in front of them.
Both boys answered with a shake of their heads, their eyes telling Quatre of their keen interest in any information they could acquire about the two unusual boys in their unit.
Eyes filled with confusion looked back at them as Quatre answered, "He told Heero that he was the best at everything, that he was perfect. Duo actually complimented him after Heero deliberately hurt him."
"After?" Trowa asked, now looking equally confused.
"That's just not normal," Wufei answered with a scowl.
"No, but they explained a few things to me and I think I understand it better now," Quatre said distractedly, his mind obviously focused on some inner thought. "And I need to go and speak with the commander to see if we can accommodate Heero's request of advancing to Yellow while staying with Duo."
"What did they say, and what do you mean by accommodating Heero? What are you talking about?" Wufei asked, sitting forward with a deep frown marring his handsome face.
Quatre held his hand up and replied. "Don't ask me anything else because I promised I wouldn't say a word of what I learned from them." Quatre replied with a look on his fair features that showed the other boy that he meant to keep his word.
Both boys gave an incredulous look at the blond. "Do you really think the commander will bend the rules for them again?" Trowa questioned dubiously. "That's unheard of."
The blond captain shrugged. "Heero's scores demand he be advanced. Evidently no one in the training facility has ever scored as high as he has in academics or on the battle game on his lapdesk. He's more than ready to be introduced to the simulators. In fact," he looked at both boys in all seriousness, "I believe that Heero might prove to be the best soldier the Federation Training Facilities has ever produced."
The two junior lieutenants tried to absorb what Quatre was saying, and watched mutely as the blond stood and looked at his watch, seeing the time was two forty-five. "I'm going to talk to the commander, would you please take the unit to their martial arts class if I'm not back in time?" Both nodded their agreement and then watched their friend turn from them and quickly exited the room. Once the doors shut behind him, they looked at each other with varying degrees of confusion and curiosity over the just finished conversation. They spent the last ten minutes of their rest period talking the situation over before they stood in unison and returned to the barracks of Unit Five.
Quatre did not make it back in time for the daily martial art's class, so his two lieutenants followed his instructions and took Unit Five to their class and afterwards to the showers to prepare for their evening meal.
Quatre came back to the barracks much later and well after the Fives had returned from the mess hall and were preparing for bed. His stomach growled nosily, reminding him that he'd missed the entire evening meal while he debated at length with the commander, taking on the role of Heero's advocate. The door to Unit Five opened with a pass of his hand over the laser and as soon as he stepped into the room he was met by Trowa. The first thing he noticed on the taller boy's face as he approached was the perceptible look of relief.
"What's the matter?" Quatre asked, and by Trowa's expression, he wasn't sure he wanted to know what had gone wrong while he had been arranging things with Commander Reid.
Trowa leaned forward to speak quietly into Quatre's ear, obviously wanting to keep his words from the trainees around them. "Duo has been anxious for your return," he began to explain in a hushed voice. "He was fine during the martial arts class and the two mile run afterwards, but he's been pacing and mercilessly talking since then. He yammered constantly at Heero and pestered him throughout the shower and evening meal until Heero had obviously taken all he could and began threatening him. Wufei intervened at that point and has been trying to keep them separated, especially after Heero took off his shoe and threw it at Duo" Trowa's face took on a look of appreciation as he finished his account to the captain. "From half way down the length of the room, and regardless of his frustrated state, Heero pitched it perfectly, missing several boys in front of him and striking Duo on the head."
The blond frowned at another act of hostility from Heero towards his friend. With a grim look on his face, he nodded to Trowa and moved past the taller boy. "Let's go relieve Wufei," he said and took the lead with Trowa following closely behind as they began their walk down the length of the narrow room. With a staying motion of his hand, the other boys in the barracks were told to remain at ease on their bunks as the two silently passed them. As they approached their destination, and much to Quatre's surprise, he saw that Heero and Duo were both not only undressed in preparation for sleep, but in their own bunks and under the covers. Wufei was sitting on the edge of Duo's bed with his back to them as they approached and he was speaking to Duo in soft tones and blocking the prone boy's view of the boy across the opposite side of the room.
The braided boy appeared to be tightly tucked in under his covers, the taunt blanket looking snug enough to give the appearance that Duo had been placed in a restraint akin to a straight jacket. He lay relatively still, looking deceptively calm, with his eyes closed as he listened to the lieutenant's soft voice drone on. But his hands belied the appearance of tranquility as they moved in constant motion, clenching and unclenching the top edge of his blankets, in an apparent attempt to deal with his underlying agitation. Quatre noted, even from the distance that separated them, the red bump protruding noticeably from the left side of Duo's forehead where his hair had been pushed away, and guessed that was the unfortunate spot where Heero's shoe had met its mark.
With a quick look in the other direction, Quatre observed Heero laying in his own bed with his face turned towards Duo, his eyes fastened steadfastly on the two resting on the bed opposite his own. His deep blue eyes shifted, lifting up at sight of the two approaching and responded by immediately sitting up and tossing his covers to the side.
Coming to stand behind Wufei's shoulder and Duo's bed, Quatre could now clearly hear Wufei's voice telling the braided boy a story of his ancestors and how they came to be known as the Dragon Clan. A smile came to the jr. captain's face at the scene. Wufei was obviously keeping Duo occupied by telling him the detailed and age-old embellished tale. He deduced that Heero and Duo really must have been at odds with each other for the proud Chinese boy to condescend to such an act as telling a bedtime story.
The blond captain of Unit Five had observed over time the relationship between Wufei and Duo slowly grow and evolve since their first, rather unpleasant meeting. He found it surprising that his lieutenant was as helpful to the gregarious boy as he was, especially in light of their rocky beginning. Quatre was sure Wufei admired the other boy's spunk and thought that his more serious and studious friend was probably not as immune to the braided boy's charm as he claimed to be. He didn't doubt Wufei was probably feeling strangely drawn to the extraordinarily handsome, high-spirited boy, as that seemed to be the case with anyone who got close enough to Duo to become better acquainted him. There was just something about the long haired boy that seem so mysteriously... alluring.
Placing his hand on Wufei's shoulder to let him know he was there, the Chinese boy stopped his story abruptly. Duo's eyes opened in response and seeing Quatre had returned, he quickly scrambled up and out of his covers, despite the fact that Wufei had him pinned down by the tightly tucked blankets, and jumped around Wufei to stand in front of his captain, clad only in his boxers and a tee-shirt.
"Well, what'd they say?" Duo demanded anxiously as he searched Quatre's face for an answer.
"First of all," Quatre began, keeping his voice down, aware that all eyes and ears within the room were strained towards their direction. "I had to do a lot of quick talking in order to stop them from coming in here and dragging Heero over to Yellow." He paused for a moment when Heero approached them and came to stand at Duo's shoulder and nodded a greeting to him. Quatre then continued. "Commander Reid and the Yellow captain you are assigned to were not happy at the suggestion I made on your behalf. But, because the original order is in writing that you two are to stay together by orders of General Noventa, they reluctantly agreed."
Duo began to jump happily up and down and clapped Heero on the shoulder. Quatre continued while inwardly hoping the excited boy would calm down by lights out. "Heero will spend the morning in Red's advanced classes, but they will be accelerated. After lunch with our unit, he will go to the Yellow building. There he will log onto the simulators and begin training and classes on battle tactics, returning here for dinner. After dinner, he will return to Yellow for another class in reconnaissance and strategy, coming back to the barracks at lights out."
Duo turned his head to meet Heero's steady and dark gaze. His hand reached up to clasp hold of Heero's right upper arm. "But he'll be gone for most of the day," the braided boy whispered to no one in particular, yet to Quatre and the others it was obvious that Duo was becoming anxious again.
"Heero is ready for this advanced training, Duo." Quatre said in a tone of reasoning. "You wouldn't want to hold him back now, would you?" The blond continued, not waiting for an answer. "Besides, it was your suggestion. Heero will be here in the morning, though you won't see him much, take all his meals with us and sleep here in the barracks at night. It will be difficult enough for the Yellows to accept him when he isn't wearing their yellow jumpsuit, living or eating with them, and he'll only be training with them part time."
The captain of Red Five paused in relating what had taken hours for him to hammer out with the Commander and the Yellow captain and waited for Heero or Duo's reaction, noticing Wufei's look of exasperation as Duo continued to stare searchingly into Heero's face.
"What do you think Heero?" Quatre ventured to ask the stoic boy. "Is this acceptable?"
"Is there any other alternative?" The Japanese boy asked him, his face unreadable.
"No, there's no alternative, and you can't believe how hard I had to fight to get these concessions. It's never been requested or done before."
"Then it's acceptable," Heero said decisively. He turned his head to glance quickly at Duo, then back to Quatre. "But in my absence, I will require you to push Duo into working harder so that he will quickly advance and we can fully join the Yellows together."
Quatre stared at the serious boy with disbelief. It was unprecedented for a Red to advance to Yellow in only a few months time, but for Duo to follow quickly was nearly impossible. Duo's lack of education during his younger years was now being made up, but it would take some time, even with his astounding ability to learn quickly, to catch up with the other trainees. Also hindering the braided boy was the fact that he didn't have the same innate drive to learn as Heero did, and that was something he would need in order to accomplish a feat such as jumping quickly from Red to Yellow.
"I'll accept that responsibility," Wufei offered, taking a step forward to stand next to Duo and surprising those involved in the discussion. Heero's eyes narrowed with distrust at the Chinese boy's offer. Wufei continued speaking, clearly ignoring Heero's glare while still maintaining eye contact with him. "I'll see to it that he studies and finishes his work."
A tense moment passed between the two Asian boys, and Quatre wondered if Heero had picked up the changed feelings within Wufei for the braided boy and if he felt threatened by it.
Slowly, Heero nodded and leaned across Duo and closer to Wufei. When he was close enough, he whispered into the lieutenant's ear so quietly that only the Chinese boy and Duo could hear. "As long as you realize that Duo is mine," he said in a low, fiercely earnest voice.
Quatre and Trowa couldn't hear what was said, but registered the widening of Wufei's eyes and the look of shock on his face.
"You're crazy." Wufei backed away from Heero, looking angry as a result of Heero's statement and the smug sneer on the Japanese boy's face.
"As crazy as a fox," Duo replied with a slight smile on his face, relaying a clear message to his new friend that Heero's words weren't shocking or repugnant to him.
Wufei was rendered speechless, his mouth moving to say something but the words were obviously not coming as he looked at the two puzzling boys with incredulity. The tense moment was slightly broken when the lights above them flicked on and off.
"That's two minutes fellas," Trowa spoke out to the rest of the boys in the barracks. "The show's over, get into bed."
Quatre looked at the three who had captured the full attention of those in the barracks. "So it's agreed." He broke further into the tension that surrounded them. "Heero will officially be a Red/Yellow in the morning. One yellow stripe will be put on his sleeves when he reports to Captain Zechs of Yellow, Unit Ten, at twelve thirty. Wufei will oversee Duo's studies to see that he advances as fast as he possibly can."
Wufei nodded reluctantly and the small group soon disbursed. He turned away from the two and walked to his bed with thoughts of what had just transpired racing in his head. He liked Duo and wanted to understand and maybe befriend him, but Heero's claim only moments before greatly disturbed him. He'd not heard of a boy claiming another as his own. Was Heero that possessive of Duo? Did he need his friendship that much? What did it mean? Why did Duo seem to accept it? He returned to his own bunk confused and with many unanswered questions tumbling around in his brain. He hoped he wouldn't live to regret his generous offer to help the braided menace, a boy he was strangely and inexplicably drawn to. And with those disquieting thoughts he prepared himself for bed and settled into his bunk. He tossed and turned for a few moments to find a comfortable position, then tried to will himself to sleep as the lights went out.
The next morning came soon enough along with its normal routine. After lunch, Trowa escorted Heero to the Yellow building and waited for a guide to come and lead Heero to his new unit. Wufei kept an eye on Duo, noting that he had been unusually quiet and subdued during lunch, sitting as close to Heero as possible without being on his lap. Though they couldn't help but be aware of it, neither boy seemed to care that most of the Reds in the mess hall were staring at them because of their shared close proximity.
After lunch, Red Five went to their two-hour chemistry class and things seemed to be back to normal. Following a slight afternoon break, the unit collectively gathered in their martial art's class and it was immediately noticed by everyone that Duo's performance was unusually poor due to his distracted state, his head was constantly turning to the doorway as if expecting someone to come through. Almost two hours later, as the class neared its end, the entire Red Five Unit watched as Duo bolted from the room into the nearest restroom with the sounds of vomiting telling of his valid reason for not asking permission to leave. By five forty-five the braided boy was pacing the barrack's floor and had all eyes in the room watching him as he mumbled to himself while looking up frequently at the closed doorway.
Wufei's patience was spent from watching over the agitated boy and his watch showed that it was still a half an hour before dinner and the time Heero was to return to share the evening meal with them. Wufei counted four times that he'd snapped at Duo in order to return the distracted boy's attention back to his lapdesk and his studies. After the last time, he stood up and walked away, needing to calm himself and deal with his growing exasperation with the other boy's lack of attention. When he returned ten minutes later, he found Duo curled up on his bed, visibly trembling.
"Maxwell, are you ill?" he asked, concerned about the state the braided boy seemed to be in.
Duo shook his head. "How much longer?" he asked in a small, pained voice. Wufei sighed. Duo had asked that question innumerable times that afternoon. "About fifteen minutes," he replied and heard a barely audible whimper come from the small, curled figure on the bed.
"Dammit Maxwell, pull yourself together," Wufei spat in frustration. "What's the matter with you? You're a future pilot for the Federation, you can't just fall apart because you're separated from your friend for a few hours. For pity's sake, stand up and act like a man."
Duo turned his head and looked up at the angry Chinese teen with liquid, imploring eyes, then shook his head.
Wufei was completely baffled. He'd seen Duo's bravado and stubbornness, his crassness and spunk, but this vulnerable and hurt side was something he was completely at a loss to understand or know how to handle. Coming to a quick conclusion, he did the only thing he could think of. Turning around, he loudly called out over his shoulder, "Quatre!"
The blond captain was just putting away his lapdesk when he heard his name called anxiously and looked up to see an unusual expression of urgency on Wufei's face. Down at the far end of the barracks, he could see his lieutenant signaling with a frantic wave of his hand for him to come to Duo's bunk. Moving quickly off his bed and down the aisle, Quatre's eyes widened as they fell on Duo's suffering form.
"I don't know what's the matter with him," Wufei began to explain the situation in a low voice while looking worried. "He's become more agitated and difficult as the day has progressed. I don't understand this."
Quatre's eyes softened and he looked with understanding and sympathy at the Chinese boy. "It's alright Wufei, just let me talk to him." Turning to Duo, the blond captain knelt next to the boy's bed and began to speak to him in a soft, soothing voice, his hand began to stroke Duo's back in an effort to give him comfort. After a moment, Quatre turned back to his lieutenant. "Wufei, I want you to take the others to the mess hall and send Trowa to meet Heero and bring him here."
Wufei nodded, but paused as he looked at Duo's curled up body. "Is he alright?" he asked, frowning with concern.
Quatre gave him a weak smile. "I think so. We'll join you in the mess hall as soon as things have settled here."
Wufei wondered what needed to be settled other than Duo getting a grip on himself. He bit his lip to keep himself from saying so, knowing Quatre wouldn't appreciate it, and for that simple fact that he was worried about the boy tightly curled up on the bed. He found himself feeling both disappointed and disgusted that Duo, who had been toughened up by a life on the streets, fell apart so easily when his friend was away for a few hours. He turned away from the two and quickly moved to carry out Quatre's instructions.
As ordered, Trowa promptly led Heero to the barracks where they found Quatre still kneeling next to Duo's bed, continuing in talking in soothing tones to the curled up boy and gently rubbing his back with his hand. When he looked up, the blond could see Heero's face was slightly pinched as if he too was experiencing some internal pain. He came to his feet and faced Heero. "He's had a difficult afternoon," he told him simply, then walked past him towards the door where Trowa waited with a questioning expression on his face. "Let's give them some time together," Quatre said as he grabbed Trowa's elbow and propelled him out of the barracks. As the door began to shut softly behind them, Trowa spied over his shoulder, Heero collapsing at Duo's bedside and pulling the other boy into his arms.
Twenty minutes later, the two peculiar boys entered the cafeteria together, side by side, as usual, though both were looking more than a little pale and worn. After going through the food line, they carried their filled trays over and joined Red Five at their usual table. Wufei, along with all the other boys in close proximity to the two noticed that Duo's eyes were red rimmed but dry as he managed to give them a weak smile as he sat in his usual place, next to and very closely set against Heero's side. He remained very quiet and subdued throughout the meal while Heero acted no differently than he had before. Despite the distraction their changed behavior brought that evening, all in the room took immediate notice of the yellow stripes on the upper right arm of Heero's red jumpsuit.
As on most days and other than Duo, only Quatre, Wufei and Trowa had dared to begin a conversation with the stern looking Japanese boy, and tonight was no exception. The only thing that did vary was the fact that Duo did not once contribute to the conversation but listened intently along with the others as Heero answered their questions and related to them an outline of his time spent with Yellow Unit Ten and what he'd learned that day. There was the barest hint of excitement in his eyes as he spoke of Captain Zechs and how he pushed his unit to do better than their best. It was difficult, he reported, and not what he would call pleasant, but the feeling of satisfaction at acquiring new knowledge and skills was reward enough. His longer than normal speech and the glint in his eyes showed that Heero was obviously excited about his advancement.
Walking down the hallway behind the trainees of Red Five as they returned to the barracks after the evening meal, the three officers in charge of them followed at a slight distance and spoke together in quiet, hushed voices. They discussed the day's events and how unusual it was that Heero and Duo seemed to trade personalities that evening; Heero became the talkative one as Duo sat quiet and withdrawn beside him, almost non-responsive. For some reason, the change in their social interaction worried the three jr. officers.
Wufei couldn't help but track with his eyes the two ahead of him, observing them from a slight distance while Heero had walked Duo back to the barracks and led the subdued boy to the far end of the narrow room and directed the unusually obedient boy to sit down on his own bed. The Chinese lieutenant kept a curious eye on the both of them, watching as Heero bent forward and cupped Duo's face in both of his hands as he spoke to him with only inches separating their faces. He couldn't hear what was said from the distance that separated them, but he observed Duo nodding his head in reply and smiling warmly up at Heero. Wufei felt a sudden stab of envy and simultaneously gasped at the sheer beauty of that bright smile. It was the same smile Wufei had covertly observed on a daily basis as he continued to study the two boys. Somehow, this particular smile was different from the practiced and seemingly easy smile the boy gave to others all day long. The smile he'd just observed was a true, warm and loving smile that Duo apparently reserved only for Heero. The sudden well of jealousy that sprung up within him surprised the Chinese teen, and he silently scolded himself for it and mentally pushed it back down.
The Japanese boy must have finished with whatever he'd said to his friend, for he suddenly straightened his back and turned away from Duo. Without a look back at the braided boy, he walked confidently down the middle of the barracks and came to a stop in front of Wufei's bunk. The Chinese teen looked up into Heero's face and felt a little surprised and uneasy by the steady gaze focused on him. He wondered if Heero had seen him watching them and had come to chastise him for it. Heero stood before him for a moment, not saying anything as his eyes bore intently into Wufei's. Then, to the Chines boy's surprise, Heero did something unexpected and something so completely out of character; he asked Wufei for a favor.
"Could you please tell Duo another story? It seems to soothe him."
Wufei nodded dumbly in response, but the surprises weren't over yet.
"Thank you for trying to help him today," Heero continued, looking slightly uncomfortable. "I realize it was difficult for both of you, but I'm sure it will get better with time. If not, I'll quit the Yellows."
Wufei's eyes widened. "Quit the Yellows?" he asked in disbelief. "Can you do such a thing?" He realized he must have had a shocked expression on his face as Heero replied to his questions with a knowing smirk, then without any further word, he turned and left the room.
Several of the other boys in the barracks waited for several minutes after Heero departure, then approached Duo and tried to engage him in conversation, something they would not have attempted to do in Heero's presence. Wufei stayed back and observed from a distance for a while, noting Duo seemed to be a dulled reflection of his usual lively and rambunctious self, regardless of Heero's efforts at cheering him up. After a while, the other Fives gave up trying to cheer up the unusually quite teen and left him and returned to their own bunks. Wufei then approached Duo's bunk and gave the braided boy specific instructions for getting ready for bed and completing his studies. Duo complied, much calmer now than he had been before dinner. Half an hour later he checked his work on the lapdesk, finding only minimal mistakes which were quickly explained and corrected. With Duo undressed and lying on top of his bed, Wufei positioned himself on the edge of the mattress next to him and began to finish the story he'd left uncompleted the day before, telling the tall tale the origins of the Dragon Clan. It was a story he had memorized quite proudly in his youth, a tradition that had been passed down to him as it had been for untold generations, from father to son.
Keeping his voice low, Wufei recited the highly unlikely tale and watched as Duo's hands slowly began to relax, his arms going limp and his breathing slowed. Nearly finished with the story, he sensed his listener had gone the way of dreams and looked down to see that it was true. Smiling, Wufei didn't know if he should be pleased with himself or insulted at Duo's falling asleep during his storytelling. On one hand, he had completed the assignment Yuy had given him, of calming Duo down. On the other hand, Duo was sound asleep at the climax of the ancient tale. The braided, energetic boy never fell asleep before lights out, and the fact that he did tonight showed the Chinese lieutenant just how exhausted Duo had made himself with his anxiousness over Heero that day.
Looking down at the boy, Wufei studied Duo's face, now relaxed and so peaceful looking in his sleep, so beautiful. He blinked, startled as that thought popped into his mind. 'Boys are not beautiful,' he scoffed at his own foolish thought. Yet looking again at the fair features of Duo's face, he admitted to himself that the long haired boy was as close to beautiful as any male could get. In response to his thoughts, Wufei's eyes and heart softened towards the boy who had been more than a handful that day. Brushing a long strand of Duo's hair back from his face, Wufei sighed and hoped that tomorrow would prove to be a better day for the both of them. Standing, he removed himself from Duo's side and returned to his own bunk in order to prepare himself for lights out.
Heero returned to the barracks of Red Five two minutes before lights out and went directly to Duo's bedside. Wufei watched from a distance as the Japanese teen stood next to his friend and silently looked down on the sleeping boy, not speaking or touching him. He then turned to walk to his own bed and began to undress and prepare for retiring for the night.
For some reason, sleep eluded the black haired lieutenant long after the lights had gone out. He supposed he was the only one awake as the room was unnaturally still. Then he became aware of a sound in the barracks that resembled the faint sounds of someone sniffing at the far end of the room; a sound often heard in a barracks filled with newly conscripted boy's who missed their homes and family. Wufei decided that because of the area the sound came from, that it must be Duo making the faint sounds and that he was either getting sick or trying to cry silently, after all, he was the only one in Unit Five who had suffered through a bad day.
The Chinese boy moved to lay on his side and peered through the darkness towards the beds at the end of the long room. The dim lights on the bottom of each bunk lit the room just enough for safety in case one of the boys needed to get up during the night and use the facilities. They now provided enough light for Wufei to see Heero, just a dark shadow in the dark room, rise from his bed and silently move to Duo's bunk. The movement of covers being pulled back was barely perceptible a moment before Heero crawled into bed with Duo. After a short time of hearing continued sniffling, the room became silent with only the minute sounds made by the young sleeping trainees.
Moving to lay on his back once again, Wufei brought his arm to rest over his eyes and forehead. Another broken rule, he lamented silently to himself. Trainees were forbidden from sharing beds. It seemed these two were hell-bent on breaking or bending all the rules the training facility had followed for several generations. He decided he would speak in confidence with Quatre in the morning. As his lieutenant, it was his duty to report to the blond captain what he'd observed. He sighed deeply. He just didn't understand those two at the end of the room.
The next day began with the routine they usually followed and, after Heero left for his afternoon classes, Duo continued with his studies, seeming to tolerate the separation somewhat better than he had the day before. At least it seemed like it until four o'clock when he finally lost his lunch to the porcelain goddess. The pattern remained relatively the same as the days progressed and, as Heero predicted, Duo did adjust to the separation over a period of time and managed to keep his mid-day meals in his stomach.
Wufei reported to Quatre in private what he'd observed the first night of Heero and Duo's separation and was surprised when the blond dismissed it outright. In the past, Quatre had usually proven to be a stickler for the rules, following them to the letter. "He's just reassuring Duo, that's all," Quatre had replied to Wufei's report with a dismissive shrug. He then asked that his lieutenant keep the incident between the two of them. "No sense stirring up trouble over one boy harmlessly comforting another," he'd said, shocking Wufei even further.
As Duo's separation anxiety lessened and with Heero's absence, the three junior officers noticed that he became more like the boy he had been before Heero's advancement, before the black eye incident. His lively, vibrant personality drew friends as well as a few opponents. He was the type of person others either really liked or disliked. It didn't seem possible for anyone who came in close proximity to the boy to be indifferent about him. Fortunately, enough of the boys in Red were fond of the gregarious boy and rallied around him whenever those who didn't take to him posed any kind of intimidation or threat.
Heero, on the other hand, dove into his studies. He found the new classes in Yellow to be both challenging and stimulating. However, his new environment was not as pleasant a learning environment as he had hoped. News had spread throughout the ranks of Yellow of his unusual advancement, his juvenile detention background and his close relationship with a long haired boy in Red. For the most part he ignored any teasing or jibes sent his way. It wasn't as if he hadn't endured teasing and taunting before; the juvenile detention facility had been hell at times both before and especially after his acquaintance with Duo.
"Hey Red, watch where you're walking," a larger, older teen addressed him after purposely slamming into him and causing Heero to crash into the wall and drop his lapdesk. Heero gave the other Yellow a steely glare as he bent cautiously and picked it without a word, choosing not to engage in any male ego verbal banter that some of the self-doubting and immature trainees seemed to want to trade along with insults. He couldn't waste his time on superfluous antics from insecure adolescents.
"What's the matter little Red? Need your boyfriend to lead you through the hallways? I hear he's a pretty boy and that you're reeaaally close. How close are you, Yuy?" Such were the taunts that followed him daily and he was getting tired of it. Boys closer to his age and lower in rank would try to taunt him, repeating what had happened to them on their arrival in Yellow, but they at least sensed the building irritation and danger within him and gave Heero a wide path. But the few older boys with cocky attitudes and something to prove didn't show the same good judgement as their lower-ranked counter parts and continued their relentless taunting of the Red/Yellow.
Even within the company of Unit Ten, some of the older boys seemed to take some sadistic pleasure in targeting and baiting him. Heero frequently found his feet tangled up and tripping over objects that hadn't been there a moment before he stumbled over them. He was shoved from behind into countless walls and found himself the object of scorn and derision. Like all newbies, he had been informed by other boys who had gone through similar rough treatment at the odd sort of hazing, that it was wise to keep his mouth shut and just take whatever was dished out to him. The pressure would only ease when other Reds advanced to Yellow and they would then become the targets of some of the older Yellows.
His captain, Zechs, had properly reprimanded the entire unit after Heero showed up to class with a bruised cheek, not knowing exactly who the perpetrators were in instigating the pranks against the boy designated a Red/Yellow. Heero's only relief from the torment was when he returned to the Red building and to Duo. He not only connected with his friend, but felt a sense of acceptance in the lower ranks of the training facility that he'd never experienced before, and because of his new appreciation of it, his attitude softened towards the boys in Red who treated him with the respect he'd earned within their ranks. He knew, without having to be informed, that he would have to earn the respect of the Yellows in order to truly become one of them and be accepted.
He watched and observed his fellow trainees, waiting for the right moment when he would show the Yellows what he was capable of. It was several weeks until that opportunity presented itself in the form of a boy named Tye Walker. The older trainee had been one of the worst of Heero's antagonists. He was tall, blond, and an over-confident teen who walked around with his head held high in a pose of pride and who comfortably wore a haughty attitude that seemed to declare he had some inalienable right to judge others, who would always, in his eyes, be found to be far less than himself. Fueling Walker's over inflated ego was the fact that he was one of the top five in the Yellows for academics and number three in Sim scores. He also ranked at the top amongst the best in the continued training of martial arts.
Heero had never faced Walker in a sparing match in his martial arts class, a course that doubled as a strategy course for the AMS that they would fly one day into battle. Their sensei was a Chinese man, Master Lo. He was, surprisingly, small and rotund, but unbelievably agile and light on his feet. His skills in fighting belied his appearance of being physically unfit. Heero's acknowledged to himself that his own techniques had improved under the tutelage of the skillful master, and he was grateful for it. For one day, when Heero's name appeared alongside Walker's on the list for sparing in the class that day, the Japanese boy knew his time had come to prove himself within the ranks of Yellow. He vowed to himself that the near relentless taunting he'd experienced would end that very day by showing his opponent and those watching what he was truly capable of.
On to Chapter five
Back to Chapter three