Notes: I planned six chapters for this story, and they were originally to be posted on Halloween...but when I started writing, the whole thing somehow became really big, and I couldn't complete it in time. So...I decided to post the first chapter now and see what everyone thinks. My efforts to make it scary failed, and it seems to me that it turned out to be *really* cheesy instead...-_-;; Oh well. Now on with the show...

~This story is strictly 1+2 and 3+4. Gundam Wing does not belong to me.

~Part One~



It had been a thirteen hour-long drive to their newest destination in the rural parts of America's Northern Dakota. Black Cedars College was tiny, with only about two thousand students, and situated in the middle of a vast expanse of forest. The nearby OaksTown was a good four hours drive away, and had a population even less then the college, not counting the various farm cows and chickens. The entire town only had one small grocery store, one miniscule diner, one tiny post office, and one radio station that brought in news from the outside world.

There wasn't even a McDonalds.

Needless to say, none of the five former pilots were particularly excited about their assignment, which was to infiltrate the college as students, and investigate the unknown deaths of twenty-seven people that had died there over the past year. Normally this wouldn't be a case that the Preventers would look into, but the fact that two of those deaths had been people Relena-sama had known couldn't be over-looked.

During their long trip to the college, each of the retired pilots had observed their rural surroundings, and wondered how the hell the Queen of the World had managed to make friends from a place like this. Their brief stop in OaksTown had lead them to believe that Black Cedars College was every bit as run down and crummy as the town had been. Boy were they wrong.

By the time Heero drove their van into the parking lot, the opinions of all five Preventers had drastically changed. Black Cedars was huge and elegant. The central building was ten stories high and complete with castle-like towers that only added to the overall mystery of the place.

Colorful flowers and tall trees were planted everywhere, filling the air with a piney, fresh scent that the five young men gladly inhaled as they scrambled out of their vehicle. This place was definitely meant for rich, wealthy people.

"We've already been registered for the fall term." Heero stated. "Orientation starts today, so it would be best to unpack our luggage as quickly as possible. We don't have much time and I'd like to get some rest before we go."

Two years had passed since the war.

The gundam pilots had all decided to join the Preventers as Commander Une's elite field agents. They were eighteen years old, with the exception of Trowa who had just turned nineteen a month ago. Every single one of them had matured for the better, not only physically, but psychologically as well.

Heero had experienced a well-due growth spurt, and now stood at a solid height of five foot eleven. His body was sleek and muscular, though a little bit on the thin side. His shoulders had broadened, and there wasn't an ounce of fat on his well-toned frame. He worked out every day for two hours in the Preventer's private training room, and the results were that his muscles were rock hard and pleasantly defined, though not hideously bulging.

His facial features hadn't changed much. The curve of his jaw had become slightly more defined, but that was the extent of the change. The same messy, spiky chocolate bangs fell into a pair of deep Prussian blues that although still intense, were not nearly quite as cold as they were before.

Heero wasn't the Perfect Soldier anymore. The moment the war had ended, his barriers had started cracking, thanks to constant companionship with his fellow ex-Gundam pilots. The new Heero smiled more often, made small jokes at times, and openly cared for his friends without regarding it as a weakness. He still had a long way to go, but no one had any doubts that one day, his barriers would come down completely to reveal the hidden young man inside.

After unlocking the trunk, Heero opened it and began to efficiently heft out a few suitcases and a bunch of duffel bags in varying colors. He easily tossed a large black duffel to Duo, who caught it with a grimace. "My gods, what in the world did I pack in here?" The braided young man groaned. Heero shrugged. " I think it was all of those snacks and cans of cola you bought in OaksTown when we stopped there earlier."

At the mention of his beloved snacks, Duo visibly brightened and grinned back cheekily. "In that case, I don't mind carrying it." He hugged his duffel to his chest protectively. "And all these snacks are mine! I paid for them so I get to eat them!" Wufei rolled his eyes and said jokingly, "You keep on eating that junk, Maxwell, and one day you won't be so thin anymore."

Duo pouted though he wasn't really offended. He knew Wufei was just playing. Besides, he wouldn't mind putting on a few more pounds. Of all of them, Duo's physical appearance had changed the least. Years of malnutrition on the destitute streets of L2 seemed to have permanently stunted his growth. He should've been as tall as Trowa, but during the past two years of freedom he had barely grown a centimeter, and was not happy to say the least. Even Quatre was taller then him now, though not by too much.

Duo's braid had grown substantially, even if his body had not. The long, thick rope of shiny chestnut now hung nearly to his knees, and was what often made him the object of attention, wanted and unwanted both. The ex- pilot of Shinigami was pale, extremely slender, and sleekly built from hours of jogging each day. He might not have looked it, but he was strong enough to take care of himself when it came to fights.

As for his face, Duo's cheekbones had become a bit more prominent, which emphasized his growing maturity. His long chestnut bangs were the same style it had been before, and they fell attractively into thick-lashed large violet eyes that often gave him the look of being an innocent, even though everyone knew Duo was far from that.

The street urchin from L2 was a changed person. Post-war life had calmed him down somewhat, and he wasn't as prone to laughing maniacally or causing as much trouble as he had before. However, his sense of humor was still a great thing to be reckoned with, and the lively young man loved making pranks and cracking jokes, even if they weren't appreciated.

Throwing the duffel over his shoulder, Duo wobbled slightly from the weight, and turned to follow his comrades as they started down the lightly forested path that lead to the living area. Each of the pilots were carrying their personal duffels. In the front of the group was Heero, who in addition to carrying his navy blue duffel was also balancing two heavy suitcases over each shoulder.

Heero was macho man. His genetically enhanced cell tissue enabled him super strength, and though the bulging suitcases looked extremely heavy, Duo knew that Heero could lift that and more without even batting an eyelash or straining his muscles.

Duo sighed inwardly and continued to trudge onward. He was admittedly jealous of his friend's obvious masculinity, while he himself was often mistaken for a girl, much to his dismay.

It was a ten-minute trek through the peaceful woods before they reached the dorm area.

Having observed the magnificent Central building from the parking lot, the five of them weren't all that surprised to see that the dorms of Black Cedar were actually large three-story mansions complete with individual lawns, gates, and fountains. They were all built in a row. The first one was number one, the second was two, and so on.

Theirs was mansion number thirteen.

It took them a bit longer to find their dorm because strangely enough, mansion number thirteen wasn't built in the same row with the other mansions. In fact, it was a good five minutes away from mansion number twelve.

At the edge of the twelfth mansion, a smaller path branched out from the main road and went straight into the woods. Following this new path lead the Preventers easily to their newest home, which was situated in a small clearing completely surrounded by tall trees.

Their mansion was painted all white, and Duo couldn't help but notice that it looked much grander then the other mansions. For one thing, it was five stories tall, and decorated much nicer.

Besides the elegant fountain in the front, there were statues of cupids, gargoyles, and forest gnomes in all varying sizes situated around the huge front lawn. Of course the overall effect couldn't compete with one of Quatre's lavish homes, but it was nice all in its own right.

Whooping gleefully, Duo waited for Heero to unlock the big front door before dashing inside.

"I get to choose my room first!" He exclaimed cheerily, not even sparing the lavishly decorated ground floor a single look before dashing up the gleaming mahogany stairs. After him was Wufei, who carefully took off his shoes as was the custom in his country, before stepping through the door.

The Chinese young man whistled appreciatively when he looked around.

Everything seemed to be made out of gleaming, polished wood. The floor was a beautiful red wood, the walls looked to be cedar, and even the highly arched ceiling was wood.

The place was filled with elegant paintings and expensive antique furniture. Colorful tapestries draped over sections of the carved walls, and the floor was covered with several Persian rugs that looked to be extremely expensive.

Right above the doorway hung a beautiful chandelier that looked to be made of real crystal, and shiny brass candlebrellas jutted out gracefully from the walls in pairs, each fitted with seven new light bulbs. And this was only in the main hall.

The others slowly entered the building.

There were four rooms in total on the ground floor as they soon discovered, each with their own heavy oak door.

To the left was a large sitting room, outfitted with a set of beautiful blue velvet sofas, and a large Panasonic television. There was also a giant window with heavy golden brocade curtains that gave a good view to the front yard. A colorful painting hung above the television, and a low glass coffee table sat in front of the sofas.

Quatre looked at the television appreciatively. "There's a card here that says we've got well over a hundred channels." He exclaimed happily. "We'll be able to watch the news!"

Trowa rewarded Quatre's perkiness with a small smile. The Winner heir was still the same, cheerful innocent he had met during the war. Two years hadn't changed his bubbly personality much. In fact, it seemed to have made him happier then ever.

Physically however, Quatre grew about two inches taller, and although still slender, he was beginning to build a little more bulk thanks to daily lessons with his personal trainers. His golden hair was a little bit longer, but his angelic face hadn't changed at all. Trowa secretly thought that Quatre was like an angel without his wings.

To the right of the hall was a rather big kitchen and dining room combined.

Wufei took pleasure in exploring its many cupboards and pantries, discovering much to his delight that it was stocked well with provisions and utensils. Two big cupboard doors caught his attention, and he pulled them open, inadvertently discovering the refrigerator, which had been cleverly disguised.

The refrigerator was also stocked full of gourmet, perishable goods. Wufei smiled as he noted the frozen duck in the freezer. It had been a while since he had traditional Chinese food. He would make sure to cook it later.

Against the wall was a patterned porcelain sink, and next to it was a Pacific brand stove and oven. A microwave sat on a small tile counter next to the stove, and also on the counter was a waffle maker, an electronic can- opener, and a blender.

The dining table was a circular piece of glossy cherry oak that had six matching tall-backed chairs with plush velvet seats. It was clearly antique, and looked almost too elegant to eat from. Hanging above the table was another chandelier, this one with candles. The entire kitchen was decorated in pale blue and white, with hints of gold. It looked very grand indeed.

Heero was the one who discovered the small, almost bare room hidden behind one of the large tapestries in the hall. The only pieces of furniture inside was a narrow bed, a chair, and a small desk. Connected to it was a tiny bathroom with a toilet and a sink.. The two small rooms were painted white.

Upon seeing these rooms, Wufei's onyx eyes brightened considerably. "I'll stay here." He announced, immediately walking in and dumping his gray duffel on the nondescript bed.

Heero quirked an eyebrow. "May I ask why? There are bound to be better rooms upstairs." Wufei shook his head and began to unpack. "This entire mansion is nice, but I need a room that's not too elegant so I can meditate in peace without being distracted. This room will do just fine."

Shrugging, Heero turned and walked out of the room. The stairs were at the end of the hall, and these he started up easily with the luggage still balanced over his shoulders.

The second floor had two rooms separated by a very long hall. A large bathroom decorated in red and silver was situated between the rooms. Heero found Quatre already on the second floor, humming to himself as he unpacked his things inside the room closest to the stairs.

"Need any help?" The blonde Arabian asked pleasantly as he noticed Heero carrying the heavy luggage by his doorway. Heero shook his head and walked on.

There were four rooms on the third floor, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and an extensive library, all separated by three short hallways. Heero found Trowa unpacking in the bedroom closest to the bathroom. The former Heavyarms pilot was smiling a little as he unpacked.

Trowa was still the tallest of them all. He stood at a height of six foot one, and was very flexible and wiry because of his experience with the circus. The quiet young man wasn't as silent as he used to be, which was a good thing. His notorious bang was still there, though not as thick, and not as awkward. At times from a certain angle, one could actually see him with two emerald eyes instead of just one.

The uni-banged young man immediately wiped the smile off his face when he saw Heero watching him.

It unnerved him to have been watched without his knowing, but the sudden tension dissipated when Heero smirked and turned away. Trowa rolled his eyes exasperatedly and smiled nonetheless. Heero was a strange young man because he seemed to enjoy observing people, even when he knew his silent scrutiny often made others wary or uncomfortable of him.

But Trowa wasn't really bothered. Heero was just being Heero.

The cobalt-eyed pilot deposited his load in one of the two rooms on the fourth floor. He really didn't care which room he chose, because they were all the same. Doctor J had trained him to disregard the condition of any living quarters as long as they provided the basic essentials, which was a bed and a roof.

But it seemed like Heero was forgetting his training because he was pleased, however, to discover that unlike Trowa and Quatre's rooms, his had a private bathroom attached to it.

After unpacking the suitcases, which were filled with a bunch of hi-tech Preventers issued material, Heero flopped down on his satin bed and shut his eyes.

It had been a long drive to their destination, and Heero was tired, though he'd never admit it. He glanced at the antique clock on the wall. Five- forty pm. Now was the perfect time to catch up on some much-needed rest. He hadn't gotten any on the trip at all, since he had been the one driving.

Ten minutes passed and Heero was on the brink of sleep when...*thump thump thump.* Frowning, Heero opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling where the sound was coming from.

*Thump, thump, creak, thump, thump.*

Heero rolled off his bed and scowled. There could only be one reason for that noise. He hadn't seen Duo yet on his trip up the stairs, so that meant that the braided baka was most likely on the fifth floor.

With a disgruntled yawn, Heero walked out of his room and up the last flight of stairs.

The fifth floor only had one room. There were actually two doors, but Heero knew without having to look that one of those doors lead to the attic. The other door lead to Duo's new room.

Heero turned the doorknob on Duo's heavy door and pushed it open. His deep cobalt blue eyes widened in surprise as he surveyed the room. Duo had obviously chosen the best of the lot. His room was, to put it simply, huge. Bigger then two of Heero's room put together. It was also decorated the most lavishly.

There was a huge marble fireplace covering one entire section of the wall, a large crimson sofa was placed in front of it, and there were also three chairs of the same shade situated strategetically around the room for design purposes only. Huge paintings covered the elegantly carved walls, and antique decorations of all kinds rested on the elegant vanity on the far side of the room.

The wooden floor was covered with an intricately woven rug that nearly spanned the entire length of the room, and directly on top of this rug in the middle of the room, was a huge black bed.

If Heero thought it was strange that this place would actually have a bed in Duo's favorite color, he didn't voice his thoughts aloud. Instead, his gaze was slowly riveted to the former Shinigami himself, who was bouncing merrily up and down in the middle of his silken black sheets.

Duo's eyes were closed and he was wearing a big pair of Sony headphones over his ears. A small smile curved his soft lips upwards, and with every bounce, his long braid flew up and down like a whip. Heero had no doubt that the volume of Duo's music was turned up insanely loud. A lesser man would've gone deaf if they ever tried doing the same.

Marching up to the big black bed, Heero leaned over, grabbed the bouncing long thick braid, and pulled downward. Hard. With a startled yelp, Duo's violet eyes snapped open as he lost his balance and fell on his rump. He blinked stupidly at Heero as the headphones were ripped from his ears.

Heero couldn't help but smile at the look on Duo's face. The baka just looked too cute sometimes, even when he wasn't trying to.

Once the initial shock wore over, Duo scowled at his partner and snatched his braid back protectively. "That hurt, Heero. What didja do that for?"

"To get your attention, baka."

Duo sighed grumpily. "Alright, you've got it, so whaddya want?"

Heero let his gaze travel around the room some more. "Your room is very nice." He said offhandedly. Duo immediately grinned. "Yup! The moment I saw this room, I knew it was meant for me. Just look at this bed!" He gestured to the thing he was sitting on.

"Can you believe it? It's pure silk and in my favorite shade too! There are matching curtains for it and everything! But I still wish there was a canopy. Oh, and have you checked out my bathroom or the balcony yet? It's great! C'mon I'll show you."

Before Heero could protest, his enthusiastic, though some-what diminutive partner had latched onto his arm and was tugging him towards the left of his room.

Duo flicked on the bathroom lights and grinned. "It's huge, isn't it?" He exclaimed happily. Heero raised an eyebrow at the sight of Duo's bathroom. It was pretty big, and done all in black marble. Something only Duo would appreciate.

"Yes it is." He replied dryly, not at all interested, though there did seem to be a rather nice looking Jacuzzi near the sink. Duo frowned at his partner's obviously unenthusiastic response. "I'll show you the balcony then."

The balcony was situated directly in front of Duo's beloved bed. It was accessible through two glass doors that didn't have a lock, but Duo didn't seem to be worried about intruders. He was on the fifth floor after all, and in the middle of the woods to boot. It was highly unlikely that he would get an unwelcome visitor of any kind.

They stepped onto the balcony, which wasn't very impressive, but the view made up for that. The air outside was fresh and chilly. The red sun was just going down, and the sky was transformed into a myriad of pinks, reds, and purples that was breathtaking to look it.

Heero closed his eyes and inhaled the scent of pines, flowers, and rain deeply into his lungs. It felt strangely peaceful out here. "A storm is coming soon." He predicted softly. "I can smell the rain in the air. It will probably hit tonight." Duo rolled his eyes at Heero's expertise and shivered. "It's cold. Let's go back inside." He suggested.

The two headed back in and Duo turned to shut the balcony doors. Heero regarded him for a moment before looking away. "So I expect that you've already explored all the rooms?" He asked. Duo nodded enthusiastically. "Sure did! ...Except for the ground floor because I was too busy looking for a room. Oh, and the attic. I didn't go to the attic because the door is locked."

Heero nodded absently and looked at his watch. "Duo, it's nearly six- thirty right now. Our college orientation starts at exactly seven-fifteen tonight. The bus will pick us up on the main road at seven. I'm going to get ready now, and I suggest you do the same." He turned to leave when Duo poked him in the back.

"Oi, wait a second. You still haven't told me what you wanted when you pulled my braid!"

Heero turned around and glared. "Do not jump on your bed. My bed is beneath yours, and your noises disturb me."

Duo sniffed. "Fine, I won't jump anymore, but you do know that you didn't have to pull my braid to get my attention. It hurt! How come you're always pulling my braid anyway? There are other ways of getting my attention, you know..."

Heero smirked and looked Duo directly in the eye. "I like your braid, therefore I pull it."

He left his words hanging in the air as he quickly walked out of the room, leaving a stunned Duo to stare mutely after him.

~*~$~*~

Heero turned out to be right about the weather. At six-forty-five pm, Duo dashed down five flights of stairs wearing a loose T-shirt and baggy pants. The others were already waiting for him at the front door. "Are we all ready to go?" Wufei asked, even as he turned the doorknob and pushed open the heavy door. Immediately a gust of icy, bone-chilling wind blew into the hall, freezing everyone inside.

Wufei slammed the door shut. "Uh...I think...we should get our jackets." He announced to his friends before scurrying off to his room behind the tapestry. The remaining four shivering pilots nodded and ran up the stairs.

The time was six-fifty when Duo dashed down the stairs for the second time that night. He was the last one because his room was higher up and therefore he had more steps to climb. Everyone was wearing a thick jacket of some sort to protect themselves against the cold. "Ready?" Wufei asked again as he turned to open the door.

The five pilots nodded and the door swung open for the second time that night...and then slammed back shut again without a single person stepping foot outside.

"I can't believe the weather here!" Wufei ranted. "It wasn't raining like that five minutes ago!" He ran off to get his umbrella, and the other four had no choice but to run up the stairs again and get their own.

So the time was six-fifty-five when Duo finally scrambled down the stairs for the third time that night. "I can't find my umbrella." He said unhappily. Wufei scowled. "I distinctly remember packing it for you, Duo. It's behind the front zipper." Duo nodded and prepared to go up again when Heero grabbed his arm.

"No. There isn't enough time for you to get your umbrella. We can share mine instead." Duo breathed a sigh of relief. "Thanks man, I was kinda getting tired from running up and down the stairs so many times."

"Alright. We're ready now." Wufei muttered before pushing open the front door.

The rain was coming down much harder then before, and the sharp, icy wind pierced right through Duo's wool jacket. With teeth chattering, Duo pressed himself into Heero's side as they walked quickly through the woods. Thunderclouds had covered the moon so there wasn't any light for them to see where they were going, even with their excellent night vision.

"Shit, we should've brought a flashlight." Duo groaned as he stumbled over a rock, catching himself just in time before he fell face-first into the sticky mud. "And it's so fuckin' cold!" He complained. Heero stiffened but didn't say anything when his partner suddenly wriggled his way into Heero's large fur-lined jacket in order to steal some warmth.

Two slender arms wrapped tightly around his middle, and the cobalt-eyed young man couldn't help but feel his cheeks go slightly red. Duo was so close to him he could practically feel the braided baka's heartbeat near his own.

Swallowing hard, Heero looked at his watch to distract himself, and frowned. "It's two minutes until seven!" He shouted to the others. "We have to run or we'll miss the bus!"

They ran.

And arrived on the main road just in time to see the bus drive away.

"Shit!" Wufei cursed. "It's only six-fifty-nine! That bus is leaving early, and now we will be late for sure! This is injustice!" Duo sighed and slumped against Heero's side. "I guess we'll have to run to the orientation then, right? Do any of you know how long it'll take?"

Quatre smiled wryly from where he stood bundled next to Trowa. "The bus takes about fifteen minutes, and if we run at our top speed, I would say it'd take about...half an hour maybe." There were collective groans of dismay. They were going to be late for sure.

"Wait." Heero said. "I know how we can make it in fifteen minutes." Duo looked up at him incredulously. "And how do you think we'll be able to do that?" He asked dryly.

Heero smirked. "By cutting through the woods of course."

It took the pilots seventeen minutes and thirty seconds to reach their destination through the dense woods. Everyone had been afraid they'd get lost, but Heero Yuy, the human compass had been right about the directions. Now they were only two and a half minutes late, and covered in dirt, mud, and wet foliage.

Duo groaned as he looked at himself. "Some first impression I'm gonna make at this school." He muttered unhappily as he brushed himself off.

The five of them quietly entered the auditorium and found seats in the back row, completely disregarding the disgusted looks that many of the wealthy, high-class students threw them. Duo rolled his eyes as one girl in particular that had a startling resemblance to Relena-sama, pinched her nostrils and looked away.

The orientation lasted for an hour, and at eight-fifteen, everyone was excused to go eat dinner in the cafeteria, which of course, looked more like a five star restaurant then anything else. There were even waiters for every table.

The food was gourmet and extremely delicious. Duo ate two servings of wine- marinated steaks and artichokes before excusing himself to the restroom. It wasn't that he really had to go, but the fact that everyone in the cafeteria was watching him wolf down his food with varying degrees of distaste really got on his nerves.

With a sigh, Duo pushed open the mahogany door to the bathroom and stepped inside. The room was thankfully empty, and Duo found himself humming a happy little tune as he washed his hands, and then began the meticulous process of cleaning out bits of leaves, twigs, and mud that had stuck to his clothes during their trip through the forest.

It was a long job, but Duo eventually finished up and turned to leave...but not before winking cheekily at his own reflection in the large bathroom mirror. "Lookin' good." He assured himself confidently before stepping outside to rejoin his friends.

He didn't walk more then three steps before a large hand clamped down on his shoulder and shoved him against the wall.

"Ouch..." Duo hissed as his head connected with the hard surface behind him. He blinked rapidly to clear his vision of shiny stars, and scowled when he found himself suddenly surrounded by three outrageously giant men that had various degrees of frightening leers on their faces.

The one standing directly in front of him had the most frightening leer of all.

Mentally, Duo rolled his eyes. Something like this seemed to happen every single time he went under cover at a college or high school. He was almost used to it, which was a scary thing in itself because no one should have to get used to being sexually harassed. Normally Duo would attempt to fight off his attackers, but something told him that these men with the grotesquely huge muscles wouldn't be easy to beat. He held still.

"You guys are gonna pay for those brain cells you just killed, right?" Duo joked lamely, even as the grip on his shoulder tightened almost painfully.

The three giants looked at each other and grinned before turning back to face Duo. "Sure. We can pay you, prettyboy. How do you want it?"

Duo forced a laugh. "How about letting me go? If you do, I'll consider all debt paid and we can become best friends or something."

The guy standing to Duo's left shook his head. "No. You misunderstand, slut. We meant how do you want it? Like a nun or like an animal?" At the look of disgust on Duo's face, all three men burst out laughing. "Naw Chris," One of them said. "I'll bet he's one of those wild kinky ones. He'd probably wanna be tied to the bed and whipped."

Violet eyes flashed angrily. "Hey look here buddies, we're standing in the middle of the hall here. Behind that door is a restaurant full of people that won't hesitate to call the police if you try something. How about giving up before you get your asses expelled from this school?"

The guy named 'Chris' just threw back his head and laughed. "Us? Expelled? No way in hell that's ever gonna happen." He leaned over to look Duo right in the eye. He was so close that Duo could smell the cloves in his breath, and it made him sick. "You see," He whispered gleefully. "Mark here is the principal's son, and we're his best friends. No one can do anything about it even if they catch us in the act. If you don't cooperate, you'll be the one getting expelled, not us."

Duo opened his mouth to protest, but didn't get to utter a single syllable before Chris closed the distance between them and mashed their lips together in a bruisingly harsh kiss. The taste of those lips were awful, and Duo felt his stomach churn even as he chomped down on Chris's lower lip hard enough to draw blood.

"Why you little slut!" Chris roared furiously, wiping his bleeding lip with the back of his hand before slapping Duo hard across the cheek.

Mark and their third friend burst out laughing. "Looks like he doesn't enjoy your attention very much, Chrissy. Why don't you give me a shot?" His 'shot' turned out to be a rough grope and another kiss, which lead to a vicious kick in the balls and another hard slap against Duo's reddened cheek.

The violet eyed Preventer was seething with rage by now, and would've tried to punch every single one of their lights out if they hadn't suddenly decided to pin his limbs firmly against wall. As the third harasser drew near, Duo realized that they were probably gonna keep taking turns molesting him until they got what they wanted. And unfortunately in his current position, there was nothing he could do but stick it out or play dead.

His version of playing dead was to basically pretend he was unconscious and hope his attackers would leave him alone. Duo discovered that this ploy usually worked because it seemed that no one wanted to sexually harass an unconscious body nowadays.

Within a minute, Duo had his head hanging limply against his chest, his eyes shut and face relaxed. He let his body sag downward so that if it weren't for the thugs pinning him to the wall, he would've crumpled facedown onto the carpet.

"Hey, what are you doing...aw shit, don't tell me he just passed out! I haven't even gotten my turn yet!" The third thug complained loudly. Chris and Mark chuckled dryly and released their hold on Duo's body, letting the petite young man slump to the ground in a convincing manner. "That's ok Riley. There's always next time. In the meantime, I think I'm gonna cut me a long braided souvenir."

Duo silently cursed. He was faced with two options right now. One; he could lose the braid and avoid getting molested, or Two; he could take his attackers by surprise and possibly escape. Thankfully he didn't have to decide because just then, the door connecting the restaurant and the bathroom hall swung open.

There was a brief moment of silence, and then..."What are you doing?" Heero hissed softly as he took in the scene before him. The group had been worried when Duo hadn't returned, so Heero had taken it upon himself to investigate and to possibly drag the braided idiot back by the hair if Duo was found doing something stupid, like preening himself in front of the mirror, which was very likely.

Alas, the scene before him was not what he had been expecting, and Heero was furious. Duo lay slumped against the wall, his eyes were shut, his face was pale, and there were the beginnings of a huge nasty purple bruise covering one delicate cheekbone. Hovering over him were three giant men, and one of them was holding a pocketknife dangerously close to Duo's long braid.

This was utterly and totally unacceptable.

Without waiting for an answer, Heero leapt into action. Mark let out a startled yelp and dropped the knife when Heero slugged him hard across the face, felling him with one blow.

"Hey! That's the principal's son you just hit!" Riley yelled. "You're gonna pay for that, kid!" He lunged for Heero's stomach, but was no match for the genetically enhanced and rigorously trained Preventer. Heero easily stepped to the side and executed a series of kicks that had Riley on his back in no time.

Ignoring Chris, who was openly gaping at how easily his muscle-bound friends had been taken down, Heero swept Duo into his arms and cradled him gently against his chest. "Duo! Duo, are you alright?" He asked worriedly. One violet eye peeked open and Duo's lips curved up in a smile. "I'm fine, Hee-chan, just playin' dead. Thanks for savin' me, buddy."

Heero breathed a small sigh of relief and began to walk back, carrying his precious burden in his arms. He stopped at the door and turned around. Cobalt eyes narrowed and flashed dangerously. "If I ever see any of you harming Duo ever again, I will kill you." He growled, watching in satisfaction as the three recovering brutes paled before his threat. Giving one final glare, Heero pushed open the door and walked out.

Duo buried his face into the crook of Heero's neck, feeling his cheeks flush hotly with anger and embarrassment. He was angry for not being strong enough to get away by himself, and embarrassed because Heero had seen him in his vulnerability, and had been forced to come save him.

"Uh...you can let me down now, Heero." Duo said softly when they were a good distance away from the bathroom hall.

Heero nodded reluctantly and gently set Duo on his feet. They were standing just inside the entrance to the restaurant, and outside the rain fell in sheets against the drenched concrete. They were alone. Duo looked up to see Heero staring at his bruised cheek with a frown on his face. He grimaced and tentatively reached up to touch it himself, wincing slightly from the pain.

"It's not...too noticeable, is it?" He asked softly.

Heero nodded as his frown deepened, and Duo scowled. "Those damn bastards..." He muttered resignedly and sighed. "Oh well...I guess this is the price to pay for being so attractive." He joked half-heartedly. Heero raised an eyebrow and Duo had the grace to flush.

Their eyes locked.

"Uh...I was just joking, you know that...right?" Duo stammered. Heero said nothing but slowly raised an arm to touch Duo's wounded cheek. His hard cobalt eyes softened and he stroked the bruise with the pad of his thumb. "Duo..." He breathed almost wistfully. The violet-eyed young man swallowed hard and forced himself not to lean into Heero's caress. "...Yeah?" He asked in a hoarse voice.

Heero suddenly dropped his hand and stuffed it into the pocket of his jacket. He fumbled around for a bit and then withdrew a napkin-wrapped something that smelled faintly of...chocolate?

"Here." Heero muttered, his cheeks tinging a suspicious pink. "Take it." He ordered. Blinking in mild surprise, Duo took the offered gift and unwrapped it, to reveal..."A brownie?" He asked incredulously. Heero nodded and looked away. " You missed desert, so I thought you might like it..." He murmured.

Duo's face melted into a big grin, and he launched himself into Heero's arms for a big bear hug. "Aww, you're so nice, Hee-chan! I can't believe you actually saved me some desert!" He exclaimed happily. "That's so thoughtful of you! Did you know that you're my bestest best buddy in the whole wide world?!"

Heero couldn't stop the smile from curving his lips upward, even though this wasn't the first time he had heard those words coming from Duo's mouth.

"Aa..."

~*~$~*~

It was nearly nine-forty by the time the Preventers returned to their mansion, only to discover three well-dressed girls standing in front of their door, shivering in thin silk coats as they clung tightly to their baggage. These girls explained that they had been reassigned to Mansion number thirteen when mice were discovered in their own mansion.

Duo was skeptical. He had seen those same three girls throwing furtive, appreciative glances at his fellow co-workers and himself all day, and had immediately guessed that the entire mice scenario was a lie. Those girls just wanted to get closer to them, even though they probably didn't know that their company would not be appreciated.

Their stay would interfere with Preventers operations, but there was nothing that could be done if the pilots wanted to maintain their covers.

The first girl was called Sarah Hedwig. She was a tall brunette that seemed to have taken a strong liking to Trowa. She was shy, but apparently wasn't shy enough because the moment they stepped into the hall, she turned to Trowa with a bright gleam in her light blue eyes. "What floor is your room on?" She had asked.

Trowa had rolled his emerald eye in dissatisfaction, but had told her anyway. He had to be polite...and consequently, Sarah had unpacked her things on the third floor.

Jenni DeViola was Sarah's best friend. She had dark green eyes and long red hair pulled back in a high ponytail. She decided to imitate her friend because the same question Trowa received was directed to Duo as well. Unfortunately for her, Duo explained that his was the only room on the fifth floor, and so Jenni was forced to choose the extra room on Quatre's floor.

Rereena Darvian was the third girl, and Duo frowned when he realized that this was the same girl who had pinched her nose at him during the orientation. This girl could've been Relena's twin sister if she ever had one, except for the fact that Relena-sama's eyes were blue, and Rereena's were gray. The two looked so much alike that at first, the pilots had almost mistaken her for the Queen of the World. Even their names sounded almost the same, and like Relena, Rereena seemed to have an infatuation with Heero Yuy.

Relena's look-a-like had settled herself into the last remaining room in the house, which was on the fourth floor. The moment she finished, she had tried to talk to Heero, but Heero had muttered an unhappy 'Hn,' and had locked himself inside his chamber with a laptop. Rereena hadn't been too happy with her obvious rejection and had run down one floor to bawl her eyes out in Sarah's room.

The time was ten o'clock. Jenni was in her room already sleeping, Trowa and Wufei were sipping mugs of coffee in the kitchen, and Duo had given Quatre a tour of his room before forcing the innocent blonde into a game of Capitalism in the middle of his big black bed.

Quatre didn't know how to play at first, but after one or two games, he had quickly warmed up. The two played for half an hour, their laughter echoing off the walls of Duo's huge room. Duo had opened up a bag of Lays Salt and Vinegar potato chips, and empty cans of cola were strewn around the bed in disarray. Most of them belonged to Quatre. Duo hadn't realized how much Quatre loved to drink coke. Glancing at his dwindling supply of soda, he mentally decided to buy some more the next time they went into town.

They were in the middle of the fifth game when someone knocked on the door.

"Hold on a minute!" Duo yelled, eyes never leaving his cards as he picked out two King's and flung them onto the bed.

*Knock, knock, knock. *

Duo plucked another chip from the bag next to him. He popped the sliver into his mouth and crunched. "I said hold on a minute!" He yelled, frowning when Quatre tossed two Aces triumphantly on top of his cards. He looked at his own deck and sighed. "Pass."

*Knock, Knock, Knock, Knock, Knock!*

Duo scowled. "What part of holding on do you not understand!" He asked loudly. The person pounding on his door sure was annoying, and for that reason alone, Duo wasn't going to open the door until the game was over. Quatre raised an eyebrow as he lay down a full house. "I win." He announced cheerfully before snatching another can of coke and taking a big gulp.

*KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!*

Duo blinked and looked at Quatre. "Okay...I don't know what that was all about, but I'm gonna open the door and give that person a lecture on being patient." Quatre smiled, but looked slightly uneasy as he glanced at the door. He hadn't noticed before, but something didn't feel quite right.

Duo hopped off the bed and padded across the carpet to the door. With a sigh, he twisted the metal doorknob and pulled.

"Hey! What's the big id-" The words died in his throat as he stared into the dimly lit, empty hall.

No one was there.

Furrowing his brow in confusion, Duo shut the door and walked back to the bed. "It was probably Wufei or Trowa." He reasoned after a brief moment of silence. "They got tired of waiting and went back downstairs, I guess. Hey Quat, wanna go ask them what it was all about?"

Quatre nodded warily. "Sure thing, Duo. It's late anyway...I'm kind of tired, and I want a cup of hot milk before I go to bed."

The pair quickly cleaned up their trash, and began their trek downstairs. For reasons unknown, Quatre found himself frowning and pressing a hand to his chest. His Uchuu no Kokoro was feeling a bit strange. If Duo found his friend's actions a little strange, he didn't comment but led the way down the stairs. There weren't any lights on the staircases, so progress was slightly slower.

The mansion was eerily silent, except for the sound of their steady footsteps against the hard wood. When they reached the fourth floor, Duo smiled faintly when he saw the light on in Heero's room. The muffled sound of typing reached his ears, and he shook his head wryly. Heero was almost always on his laptop, even when Duo had told him it was bad for his eyes. Oh well. It'd be Heero's own fault if he needed glasses someday.

The third floor was cold. Duo and Quatre both shivered as they glanced around. Someone probably accidentally left their window open or something. Soft feminine laughter drifted to their ears, coming from the direction of one darkened hallway.

Quatre snorted in disgust and turned away. He was obviously upset at the fact that there was a girl infatuated with Trowa, and living so close to him. Duo grinned in the dark. He knew that the cheerful Arabian had feelings for the circus-boy, and vice-versa. What made it so funny though, was that they were too shy to approach each other because they were both afraid of rejection.

The second floor was noticeably warmer then the third. Behind one door, the sound of Jenni snoring could be heard faintly. Duo rolled his eyes but smiled. Unlike his friends, he didn't really mind having an admirer. Besides, Jenni was kinda pretty in her own way.

They found Trowa and Wufei sitting in silence in the kitchen. Trowa was reading the newspaper, and Wufei was reading an old book filled with Chinese characters. Quatre immediately went off to get his cup of milk, and Duo plopped himself into a chair next to Trowa.

"So which one of you kept knocking on my door?" He asked as he played with the end of his braid.

Trowa raised an eyebrow as he looked over at his small friend. "What do you mean?" Duo sighed. "You know what I mean....the knocking. Someone was knocking on my door really obnoxiously upstairs. Was it you or Wu- man?"

Trowa looked confused, so Duo shook his head and turned to Wufei. "It was you then, right?" Wufei looked equally confused. "I don't know what you're talking about, Maxwell. None of us have gone up to your room at all. We've been down here the entire time." Quatre chose that moment to sit down beside him, the hot glass of milk in hand.

"...It was probably someone else then." Wufei said. "Maybe it was Heero...or one of those girls." Duo frowned. "I know it's not Heero...because knocking isn't his style. It was probably one of the girl's then." He finally concluded. "Quatre and I heard them laughing on the third floor when we were coming down."

Wufei and Trowa exchanged looks. "If you're talking about Rereena and Sarah, they left about twenty minutes ago to get the rest of their luggage." Trowa told them. "And they haven't come back yet."

Both Duo and Quatre looked suddenly uncomfortable. Duo bit his lip. "But I swear to god we heard them laughing..." Quatre nodded vehemently. "Yes, we did."

The four of them sat in silence as they pondered the strange events. At length, Duo let out a loud yawn and stood up grumpily. "Well, I don't care anymore. Someone knocked on my door, and someone was laughing. Big deal. I'm going to bed now. It's...nearly eleven, and I'm tired."

The others nodded. "Goodnight then, Duo." Quatre whispered softly. Duo yawned again and smiled. "Good night to you too, Quat." The three remaining Preventers watched silently as their braided friend left the room.

~*~$~*~

*Thump, creak, thump, thump, thump, creak, thump...*

Heero rolled over in frustration and buried his head underneath the covers. No use. The continuous creaking and thumping noises coming from the ceiling never seemed to stop, and it annoyed him to no end. *Duo* Heero growled mentally. *I am going to_kill_you for this, you baka!* He remembered telling Duo that he wasn't allowed to jump on his bed, and now listen to him! His idiot of a partner had been jumping up and down for well over an hour!

Groaning, Heero sat up and rubbed his eyes. Gods he was tired...he checked his watch and sighed. It was nearly two-thirty in the morning. What the hell was Duo doing?!

Heero's cobalt eyes flashed angrily. Right now, he was going to march upstairs, grab the baka, and slowly strangle the life out of him until he couldn't even flop around. Of course...this was all wishful thinking. Heero knew that he wouldn't dare hurt Duo like that. Hell, he had promised never to physically harm Duo ever. It was no secret to himself that he had a soft spot for his braided partner.

Duo was so small, so fragile looking that Heero was often filled with a sense of fierce protectiveness whenever he was around the boy. He hated seeing Duo get hurt, especially in their line of work. Only little more then two months ago, Duo had been shot in the chest by a stray bullet during a mission. He had almost died...and Heero had been devastated with fear that his partner wouldn't make it. Thankfully, Duo did pull through in the end, but Heero had never forgotten that taste of fear.

So he had promised himself that no matter what, he would keep Duo from harm, even if it meant risking his own life.

But...at times like these, it was really hard trying to remember his promise since the baka was being so annoying.

*Thud, bump, thump, thump, thump, creak, thud, thump...*

Heaving a great sigh, Heero was about to swing himself out of bed when the sounds suddenly stopped.

Heero felt himself instantly relax. "Finally..." He breathed in relief. Now he could get the sleep that he longed for so much. Slowly, cobalt eyes drifted closed...

*knock, knock, knock.*

Heero jerked awake and glared angrily at his door. Now what the hell was it?!

"Duo, is that you?!" Heero called out angrily. "If it is, I want you to go back to sleep. No more jumping on the bed, is that understood?"

No answer.

*knock, knock, knock, knock.*

Heero narrowed his eyes, but didn't get up to unlock the door. It was late, he was tired. This was not the time to be having any visitors. Lying back down in bed, Heero covered his head with a pillow, and shut his eyes.

~Upstairs...

Duo jerked awake with a gasp. He had been having another nightmare about the war. Even though two years had passed since then, he still had nightmares, though not as regularly as before. The nightmares freaked him out because they were often extremely vivid, and he always found that he couldn't sleep after waking from one of them. Right now was one of those times.

Taking a deep breath, Duo attempted to slow the pounding of his heart. He succeeded after a few minutes, and then simply lay there on his bed, staring at the ceiling silently. Hm...strange...there seemed to be a dark round spot on the part of the ceiling right above his head. It was probably dirt or something.

Duo checked his watch. It was two-twenty-five in the morning. He sighed, blinked, and froze. Was it just him, or did he see the silhouette of someone standing by his doorway when he blinked? Never mind that it was in his peripheral vision...that silhouette had been unmistakable.

Duo had been trained to catch notice of even the smallest of details. He knew he was almost never wrong when it came to things like that. With eyes wide, Duo quickly scanned his room searchingly.

There were nothing but shadows.

Curling into a small ball, Duo sighed and mentally berated himself. He was being stupid. His door was locked, and he would've heard it if someone had opened his balcony doors. But...still...Duo couldn't shake the uncomfortable ness away. Mumbling to himself, he swung his legs off the side of the bed and sat up. He'd go ask Heero about it...Heero always seemed to know the answers to everything.

~Downstairs

Heero was going to kill whoever it was on the other side of his door.

The knocking hadn't stopped. It had, in fact, gotten louder. Heero had asked several times who it was, but he had never gotten an answer, only the loud knocks that drove him insane. This had been going on for nearly five minutes. Heero checked his watch. It was almost three in the morning.

*KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK!*

Ok. This was it. Heero was going to open the door and shoot whoever it was on the other side of it. He had had enough.

With a scowl pasted firmly to his handsome features, Heero stomped towards his door and flung it open...to reveal a frazzled looking Duo Maxwell dressed in an overly large black T-shirt, and long pajamas pants that were printed with little bouncing sheep.

"Duo, I'm going to kill you!" Heero hissed loudly as he dragged his partner into his room.

Large violet eyes stared up at him in confusion. "...Did I do something wrong already?" He asked. Heero rolled his eyes. "Duo, you know what you did. You were jumping on your bed upstairs when I explicitly told you not to. I couldn't sleep because of you!"

Duo scowled. "For your information, I was *not* jumping on the bed at all!. I was sleeping in my room when I woke up from a nightmare...and thought I saw someone standing by my door!"

Heero watched him with narrowed cobalt-eyes. "Someone standing by your door?" He repeated slowly. Duo nodded and looked uncomfortable. "Yeah...I wanted to know if you knew anything about that..."

Heero shook his head. "Are you sure, Duo? Because if you are, this is a major security breach that must be fixed." Duo yawned. "Actually...I'm not too sure that there was really anyone there, but why don't you check my room tomorrow?"

Heero nodded. "Alright. Go to bed now. It's late." He watched silently as Duo shrugged and turned to leave.

"Wait." Duo stopped and turned around. "If it wasn't you thumping on my ceiling, then I am to believe you weren't knocking on my door for five minutes either, right?" Heero didn't doubt Duo's words. If his companion said that he didn't do something, then it was true. Duo Maxwell never lied.

At the look of confusion in Duo's violet eyes, Heero shook his head. "Never mind, Duo. Just go back to sleep." When he was alone, Heero lay down on his bed and stared silently at his ceiling. Something strange was going on, and he was going to get to the bottom of it no matter what.

Duo walked up the stairs and yawned as he opened the door to his room. Gods...it was freezing inside. Why the hell was it so cold? With a scowl, Duo noticed that his balcony doors were wide open. Outside, it was still raining and the wind was blowing right into his room.

Duo quickly closed the balcony doors before diving back into bed. The wind probably blew the doors open, he mused. He reminded himself to ask Heero for a lock tomorrow.

Snuggling under his covers, Duo was asleep in less then a minute.



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