To Aphrael, my proofreader: Everything old is new again. Right?

Note: I don't own the GW boys, I only play god with their factitious lives as a way to fill in my few and far in-between moments of spare time.

A Grudging Seduction

Author: Bane's Desire

Warnings: yaoi, some violence and mild language.

Chapter One: Mission Accepted.


The loud, shocked voice of the boy sitting in the cockpit of his gundam bounced back off the tightly insulated metal walls that encased him. "Are you out of your twisted, perverted, pea-size friggen minds?"

With eyes wide and an expression of disbelief on his handsome face, he stared at the two faces displayed on the split screen of his communication board. The man addressing him was the person he'd worked and trained with, Professor G. The other man sharing the split screen was known to him only as Dr. J. He recognized the odd looking man from frequent vid calls G had with him during the time Operation Meteor was being readied.

Suddenly an explanation come to him and humor lit the boy's eyes. He threw his head back and laughed out loud, unconstrained.

"Duo!" G sharply rebuked his pupil, not knowing if he was being heard or not over the loud guffaws. After a few moments it was easily determined that the boy obviously hadn't heard him as he continued laughing, causing the man to call out sharply several more times before he caught the boy's attention once again.

"Ah shit, G, that was a good one. You almost had me there, old man," the fifteen year old said, catching his breath and wiping away the excess moisture that was leaking from the corners of his eyes.

"It's not a joke, Duo," the man replied sternly. "This is a serious, long-term mission you are being asked to accept."

All humor displayed on the boy's face suddenly vanished, leaving as abruptly as it had begun as he glared into the camera capturing his image, knowing exactly how menacing it would look on the other end of the feed as he snarled, "You better be pulling my leg old man or you're dead the next time I can get my hands around your scrawny neck."

"There's no need to resort to useless threats of violence," G said calmly, trying to placate the boy.

"But why? Why me?" the boy demanded, his anger still apparent on his flushed, unhappy face and from the steely glint in his eyes. "Is it just because of my looks? My braid? Or is it because I'm from that shit-hole L-2? Do you think that just because I come from that gutter that I'll do anything you ask? Even this? Well you're wrong, old man, if you thought that. Go find yourself a hooker and then take a flying leap out of an air lock. I don't sell my body to no one. Got it!"

"You're not selling your body to anyone." The man known simply as Dr. J spoke up for the first time during the bizarre conversation, his voice was as calm and even as Professor G's had been, but a bit too patronizing for the boy's liking. "But in answer to your question, you are essential to this mission. In fact, I personally believe you are the only one who can accomplish it."

"I'll ask you again," the boy seethed, pulling his long brown braid over his shoulder and gripping it with both hands while barely controlling his anger and another outburst. "Why? Why him? Why me?"

"You tell him," G said to his counterpart, running almost skeletal thin fingers through his mop of thick, bowl-cut styled hair, displaying his barely veiled discomfort with the conversation.

"From Heero's reports we know you've met and even worked with my protégée." The man with the weird mechanical eye and metal prostheses doubling as an arm waited until the boy, currently located on earth, acknowledged with a sharp nod of his head that what he said was true, then continued. "He has mentioned you in his reports more than any other person he's met since leaving for Earth in his gundam."

"He didn't even know my name for a while. How could he have mentioned me?" Duo argued petulantly.

"He didn't need a name to describe you in detail or ask questions about you," the half metal man replied. "You have definitely piqued his interest and curiosity."

"How about that girl that chases him all over the place? Relena whatever her name is now. I'm sure she'd be glad to accept this assignment."

J shook his head. "He's only mentioned her briefly in three of his reports. You appear in his notes a total of ninety-six times, she's named eight times and the other pilots are mentioned slightly more than that."

"Ninety six?" The boy's voice jumped an octave on the word six, causing him to blush with embarrassment. He shook his head, adamantly. "I can't. I just can't do what you're asking."

"You can and you will," his own mentor said firmly. "Remember, Duo, you promised me when I took you in and trained you that you would do anything that was required of you to win this war? You vowed to put down the oppressors of L-2 and those who destroyed your happiness."

"Yeah, I did." Duo eyes sparked with anger and all the bad memories rushed back to remind him of his hatred for his enemy. "But what does any of that have to do with Heero Frigid Yuy?"

"Because, my boy," J spoke up again, his mechanical arm making a clicking noise as he adjusted his strange eyepiece. "I've trained Heero from a very young age to be the perfect soldier, to put aside his emotions and personal doubts in order to focus on his missions. He WILL win this war, you can count on that," he said with conviction laced with pride. Then his graying eyebrows lowered, his voice became slightly contrite. "But shortly after he left here in his gundam, I came to believe that I erred in my method of training him. His lack of emotions, of not being attached to anyone or anything other than his mission objective, has given him little to no reason to live. He has already attempted several times to take his life for the integrity of the mission, with the first attempt being no more than an hour after putting his feet on Earth's soil. His interest in you has been the only indication I've detected that he still has some feelings and emotions normal to a young man his age, though he's not truly cognizant of what they mean at this time. He expresses curiosity and, in my opinion, a slight obsession about who you are and why you act the way you do."

"I don't see why you think I have to seduce him. Can't I just be his friend?"

"Of course," J answered with an ambiguous Mona Lisa grin on his otherwise unattractive face. "Friendship, especially in a romantic relationship, is necessary and most effective. But the original order still stands." His face sobered as he looked directly into the camera, stating the original orders again. "You are to gain his affections and attachment, and if he shows a sexual interest in you, you are to encourage it and yield to him. Bind him to you with your affections and with your friendship, give him something to live for. If he succeeds in killing himself before the war is over, even for something as justifiable as avoiding capture, our chances for success are almost nil."

"Well thanks for the vote of confidence," Duo replied, sarcasm dripping from his words. "The rest of us aren't exactly chopped liver, you know. My Deathscythe is superior to Wing in many respects. Heero might have super human strength and reaction time, but he's no Superman or the only one that's determined to keep fighting until we win this damn war."

"That's not what he meant, Duo." G could see his student becoming riled again, and an angry Duo was not always a rational thinker. "We're not questioning you or your abilities or determination. Heero was trained to do the impossible. His body has been enhanced to the point that he can bend steel and iron with his bare hands. You've seen how he works. Who else could jump out of a high rise building and survive after not pulling his parachute until the last moment? You were impressed enough to write several pages in your report about that incident and about his setting his own broken bones."

Duo shuddered, remembering the moment that had given him nightmares for several nights after the incident happened. "Don't remind me."

"Listen son," Dr. J began again.

"I'm not your son," Duo corrected him sharply with a warning glare.

"Sorry," the man said in a tighter voice, clearly becoming irritated with the ill tempered youth. "But your orders stand. You are to befriend Heero Yuy, be supportive, show affection, and give him whatever he needs from you in order for you to anchor him to life, including your body, if that's what he requires. Give him something worth enduring the battles and hardships for." A steely look entered J's eye. "And he must survive, Mr. Maxwell, in order to do what must be done for us to win this war."

The boy in the pilot's chair was shaking with frustration and anger. "Don't you care what this will do to me?" He asked through gritted teeth. "Don't you care that I'm not gay, that I like girls. What about me? Are you willing to undermine and sacrifice who I am for Heero's sake?"

"You are the strongest person I know, Duo," G said in a soft, affectionate tone that was somewhat sympathetic. "And because of his expressed interest in you, I don't believe there is another who could pull this off. Just be yourself. By nature you're both friendly and affectionate. You've made friends with the roughest and toughest of the Sweepers, surely you can win over one boy. Just pretend he's a female if he needs affection or even something more from you." The man's eyes softened as he added, "You've survived L-2's worst, my boy, and you can most assuredly survive giving a bit of yourself to a boy who desperately needs it, can't you? I've given you a superior killing machine to fight this war, to revenge your dead, and with it comes taking the lives of your fellow man. You're now being given an opportunity to not only save 01's life, but the lives of countless innocent people who will one day enjoy the peace that Heero, along with the rest of the gundam pilots, will help to bring them."

Duo thought of every curse word he could think of and mentally threw them at G's image on the screen. "I hate you," he hissed, realizing he couldn't turn the man down when he gave such a convincing argument; suggesting the idea that world and colony peace would be the end result of the mission he was being given was a low blow. He wanted the more than his own petty revenge. Then there was the fact that he owed the old geezer more than he could ever repay. He'd been plucked off the streets after the massacre at the orphanage and saved by this not unkind man who had educated him far beyond what he would have learned in the charity schools on his colony and then trained him to pilot Deathscythe, giving him a chance to seek retribution for all the ills and injustices that had befallen the L-2 colony. He owed G big time, and knew in his heart he could never disappoint his benefactor even though at times like this, he fiercely detested the man.

"And I'm proud of you, Duo," the older man said, sincerity ringing in his voice.

"Mission accepted," the unhappy boy choked out and slammed his fist on the console, cutting off the image of the two men. "But I'll never forgive you for this, you son of a bitch."

Three hours later, feeling more calm and collected, Duo left the cockpit of his gundam and, after securing Deathscythe's hatch, he looked up to the impressive white gundam standing like a sentinel next to his own suit. "Damn you," he snarled up at the passionless, frozen face of the fighting machine, thinking it bore a similar appearance to its pilot, both deadly, cold and lacking emotion. He then turned towards the safehouse where Heero and Wufei had been all afternoon, feeling a growing sense of dread increasing with each step he took towards the cabin as well as a grudging resignation. He had accepted the mission and he would somehow accomplish it, regardless of the consequences to himself. Was that decision really any different than how he approached any other mission or target he had been given? Not really, but this was just much more... personal.

With slow plodding footsteps so unlike him, he climbed the wooden steps to the porch that Wufei had repaired that morning to stand before the front door of the old cabin that served as their hideout from OZ. He paused with his hand on the door knob, steeling himself for the task ahead and willing himself not to show the other two that anything out of the ordinary was going on. Stepping over the threshold, he was greeted by two pairs of dark, observant eyes.

"Is something wrong?" Heero asked, having glanced up from his laptop that was running on batteries since there was no electricity in the abandoned cabin.

"Nah," Duo waved off any concern. "I just had to make some modifications to Deathscythe that G wanted to boost the power to the thrusters. It's going to take some work and better tools than what we have here." Lie number one, Duo reprimanded himself, wondering how many would have to pass through his lips before his 'long-term mission' was over.

He made his way over to the rough and rotting wood, closet-sized room called a kitchenette and shuffled through the bags of dwindling supplies, looking for something to eat. At a slight sound behind him, he turned to see Wufei standing in the doorway, regarding him with his dark, almond shaped eyes.

"You seem troubled," he observed.

Duo shrugged. "I'm just hungry and a little tired." He pulled out the last two protein bars and a bottle of juice. The variety of their rations was greatly limited due to the lack of electricity and refrigeration. For the most part, they found themselves eating by necessity such boring food as vitamin packed protein bars, canned soup, Ramen noodles, beans and other such bland foods for their dinner that were cooked in an old pot over a fire in the fireplace.

"You were in your gundam a long time." Wufei's voice came from behind him.

"What's this? Twenty questions?" Duo asked, his irritation coming through loud and clear.

"I didn't ask a question."

Duo turned and looked at the other pilot, annoyed, realizing the other boy was right. "I'm cranky today, okay? Just ignore me."

Wufei studied him for another moment before turning and silently returning to whatever he was doing in the main room.

"Get it together, Duo boy." The Deathscythe pilot began his self talk just under his breath to psyche himself up. "Showtime is about to begin and it had better well be damn convincing."

Taking up his snack and squaring his shoulders, he returned to the front room, purposely putting a little bounce into his step as he moved to position himself on the worn-out carpet just in front of the couch and inches from Heero's leg. In front of him stood the sturdy but ugly, used and abused coffee table that Heero had set his lap top on to work from.

The Wing pilot paused in his typing to look at him, clearly disapproving of his close proximity, invading his personal space. He purposely turned his laptop so the screen was not visible to the braided teen and then deliberately ignored him.

Duo mentally shrugged. If Dr. J was right and Heero liked him so much, he sure had a funny way of showing it. Turning his thoughts to his food, he slowly opened the wrapper of his first protein bar. "Um... peanut butter." He hummed his pleasure at the treat. "This is by far the best of all the protein bars," he stated, not expecting nor getting any comment from the other two pilots. "The Decadent Chocolate just isn't decadent enough, it doesn't even taste like chocolate. And the Coconut and Cookies and Cream versions are only passable at best. The other varieties, man, they're just plain nasty. Remember to always get the peanut butter, will ya Heero? It's the best."

Heero pulled his eyes from the screen and looked at the speaker as if he'd sprouted a second head, horns and a tail. "Why are you telling me this?" he asked with a frown.

Duo grinned. "Just in case you're out buying supplies for us. It would make me supremely happy if you bought the peanut butter flavor." Duo then performed the simplest of flirting tactics that he'd observed girls using but never dreamed he try it with another boy; he gave to Heero his most charming smile and batted his long eyelashes at him.

Heero's frown deepened as he leaned closer, his eyes bore into Duo's own, causing the braided youth to hold his breath while his smile faltered under the intense scrutiny. "Is there something wrong with your eyes?" Heero asked. "Why are you blinking like that?"

Feeling foolish and the heat rising to his cheeks, Duo made a show of rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands to cover up his first attempt at flirting with the other pilot. "Yeah, they feel kind of gritty, but I'm sure they'll be better after a good night's sleep."

Heero sat back on the poor excuse for a couch and returned his eyes to his laptop. "You could wash them out with the bottled water if it bothers you so much,"

he advised.

"Yeah, um... thanks for the suggestion," Duo murmured, returning to his snack and finishing the both of them off without a thinking or enjoy them. It was only when he reached for his drink that he realized he'd eaten his food in less than a minute and that the fast rate of consumption left him feeling completely unsatisfied. "Well, damn," he swore under his breath. He looked up to see Wufei studying him again from over the top of his thick, geeky book. Giving him a what-are-you-looking-at glare, Duo felt somewhat satisfied when the Chinese pilot lowered his eyes back to the written pages.

What next? he thought to himself. How could he make any move towards showing Heero he had an interest in him or even attempt any type of flirting with Wufei surreptitiously watching every move he made? Well, like Sister Helen used to say, 'If there's a will, there's a way.' He'd just have to be subtle. Not his usual approach to anything, but hey, he'd give it a try. With a big yawn and a dramatic stretch of his arms, the braided boy leaned back against the couch and wiggled his body until he felt somewhat comfortable, then proceeded to doze off, or at least appeared to do so.

After ten minutes of remaining still, giving the appearance of having fallen asleep, he shifted slightly to lay his head against Heero's bare knee. The tapping sounds coming from the lone keyboard in the room stopped abruptly and Duo could almost feel Heero glaring at his head and trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

"What's he doing?" Heero's unhappy, monotone voice quietly asked.

"He appears to be sleeping," Wufei replied, equally quiet. "He told me he was tired when he first came in."

"Is he doing this on purpose?"

"He's sleeping, Heero." Wufei's voice sounded impatient at the other boy's denseness. "He must trust you and feel comfortable enough in your presence to lean against you."

Listening to the conversation, Duo decided that if he were gay, he would have kissed Wufei for inadvertently helping his plan along. He kept himself still, however, while listening to the conversation and somewhat expecting Heero to suddenly push him away or smack him in the head in order to wake him up.

"Duo?" Heero's voice called out rather sharply, but the braided boy maintained his slow and steady rhythm of breathing to maintain the appearance of sleeping.

"Let him sleep, Yuy," Wufei chimed in. "He's not harming you or keeping you from your laptop."

"It bothers me."

"Then get over it and let him rest. You never know when a mission will come and he could be your back up. You don't want him performing at less than full capacity because you woke him up from a much needed nap, do you?"

Wufei's logical reasoning seemed to placate the Wing pilot for the tapping of the keys on his keyboard began again, this time lulling the faking boy into a real state of sleep.

"Duo. Wake up. It's time to eat," Wufei's voice called to the braided boy, waking him instantly from his surprisingly deep sleep.

Sitting up abruptly, Duo looked around the room quickly to get his bearings of where he was and why he was there. The look of panic in his eyes paled as remembrance came to his mind. Cabin. Safehouse. Secure. Food? That's all he needed to know. He looked up to see the Chinese pilot gazing down at him with a smirk on his face that Duo managed to return.

"Man, I was dead out, wasn't I?"

"Let's eat." The other boy turned away from him, ignoring the question and returning to the pot set on a hook over the burning fire in the fireplace.

Rubbing his hands together, Duo looked expectantly at the pot. "What culinary delights are you cooking up for us tonight, Wufei? Some sort of hodgepodge stew? Hamburger Helper without the meat?" The meals of late had been rather grim.


Duo's face fell into a stricken expression. "Not oatmeal," he groaned. "Don't we have anything else? Please," his voice took on the dramatic tone, "tell me there's something else in the kitchen."

"We've eaten all the canned food and need the Ramen for lunch and dinner tomorrow. I'm afraid this is all we have left."

"Without milk?" Duo swallowed hard at the thought.

"I'm afraid so. Why? Don't you like it?"

Duo shook his head. "Sometimes, at the orphanage, it was all we had until another supply shipment came from Earth. Once we had to eat it for a full week for every meal with only powdered milk on it." His face screwed up with revulsion of that vivid memory. "But at least we had brown sugar to go on it, making it somewhat edible. I..I don't think I can swallow it down now without getting sick."

Wufei gave him a long-suffering look that was touched with the barest amount of sympathy. "I think have a little granulated sugar left, will that help?"

The braided boy shook his head.

"You can look in the bag again. There are some odds and ends left. You might be something left you could eat."

Duo fervently hoped that was true as he stood and went to the small kitchen area and searched through the bags once again. Thankfully, he was able to come up with a small, almost empty jar of peanut butter and some leftover broken crackers. It wasn't a lot, and he would have preferred graham crackers to go with his peanut butter, but he had a small and frequently empty stomach that was complaining at the moment, so it would have to do. Though it would be a small-scale meal, he was determined that he would savor every bite of it in order to avoid the dreaded grain currently cooking in the one pot they possessed.

Taking his treasured sustenance and a plastic knife with him, he went back into the front room, noticing for the first time that Heero wasn't present, though his laptop lay closed on top of the coffee table. "Where's Heero?" he asked the other pilot.

Wufei was spooning the mush out of the pot and into two bowls when he replied. "He got a message to go out to Wing and download some mission site plans. He should be back any minute."

"A mission came in?" Duo asked, opening the small jar and scooping out a small portion of the thick, chunky peanut butter and spread it as thinly as possible on a jagged piece of a once round, wheat grained cracker.

"Yes, we'll move out tomorrow night," Wufei replied. "You and Heero are to report to a private school located near one of Oz's supply depots. You're to stake it out and then destroy it. I'm to head north to a space port and put it out of commission. I'll join Quatre and Trowa after that for a couple of joint missions."

"So Heero and I will be partners for a while yet," Duo said, not surprised that J and G had probably set things up so that he could attempt to get closer to Heero in order to accomplish his mission. "Heero's kind of a hard guy to be wing man to. Thinks he's fighting the whole damn war by himself," he grumbled.

"Well, we know better than that, don't we?" The Chinese teen said, bringing the two full bowls of the vile cooked grain to the table and sitting down on the floor across from Duo.

"Damn right," Duo replied with a mouth full of cracker and peanut butter.

Wufei was halfway through his bowl of tasteless cereal when Heero returned. He moved to the table and silently sat next to Wufei and then began to eat what had been prepared without comment.

"Do you like oatmeal, Heero?" Duo asked, attempting to draw the other boy out into some conversation.

"It has some nutritional value," he replied, not looking up. "Not as good as rice, but it's better than nothing."

That was a start, Duo thought, but he was going to have to find something that Heero, the tight lipped wonder, would want to talk a bit more freely about if he was going to have any conversation with him that evening. "So how's Wing holding up?"

Heero glanced up at the questioning boy, his eyes meeting interested blue-violet orbs. "It's at ninety-five percent of its performance capacity. If we can get to Howard's barge in the next month, I'm sure I can have it up to one hundred percent within an hour or two."

The room fell silent again and Duo struggled for his next move or even for something to say. He remembered that flattery usually did well for awkward silences. "Wing's a pretty cool machine. To bad it doesn't have stealth capabilities."

Heero paused, his spoon half way to his mouth and gave the other pilot a withering glare, then suddenly toned it down. "Evidently your trainer didn't inform Dr. J of the last minute upgrades he was working on and he definitely didn't share the specs on the stealth enabler he developed. It's unfortunate he was selfish with his invention. Such a system would be beneficial to all the gundams."

Duo silently bristled at Heero's criticism of a man he didn't know. "He fine tuned the system two months before we left the colonies and it was still in the trial phase. There wasn't enough time to pass on the information to the other gundam engineers and it was too risky to try to hand off the plans and specifications in case our enemy intercepted them. Can you imagine what would happen if the Alliance or Oz ever got their hands on a device that would enable them to have cloaking capabilities? The odds for winning the war would definitely be in their favor if they did."

Heero shrugged his shoulders as if the information didn't alter his perceptions of Deathscythe's brilliant designer.

"If you'd like, I could show you the system."

That got the braided boy Heero's full attention, Wufei's too.

"You would really let us see it?" Wing's pilot asked in a dubious tone of voice. Yet as Duo looked closer he was surprised to observe that Heero had an almost unrecognizable gleam of anticipation in his eyes. It was pretty much accepted by the five that each one of them prided himself on his gundam, its individual design, characteristics, weapons and systems. Each one of them jealously guarded their machine's secrets and design as a matter of pride.

It took all that Duo had in him to smile and nod his head, fighting the instinct to possessively guard his war buddy. "Sure, for my good friends I'll gladly let you have a peek, but no touching, okay?" There was a look of warning in his eyes directed to the other pilot. Heero had stolen parts from Deathscythe before and he'd be damned if he'd let him do it again.

Heero looked perplexed at both the warning glare and the offer, but nodded his head in agreement. "After we clean up from dinner. There should be enough light outside to find our way there again and back if we don't stay too long."

Wufei almost immediately stood up and headed towards the kitchen to clean up his bowl, snagging the empty pot next to the fireplace on the way. He was obviously as anxious to see the inside of Deathscythe and study its much envied stealth system as Heero was. Popping another peanut butter laced cracker into his mouth and chewing it, Duo looked to Heero who was staring at him questioningly.

"Why are you doing this?" The blue-eyed boy asked quietly, looking slightly bewildered.

"Because we're friends, aren't we? We fight together, share food and supplies as well as a roof. And sometimes we even patch each other up. I don't know what else friends do that's as important as that." He shrugged one shoulder forward as he spoke. "I guess this is just my way to prove my friendship to you."

"You don't need friends in a time of war," Heero stated, returning his attention to his cold porridge.

"That's what you think, buddy." Duo snorted. "But that's exactly when you need them more than ever before." That statement hung in the air between the two boys until Wufei came out from the so-called kitchen and sat, waiting patiently for them to finish eating so they could walk out to Duo's gundam.

It was much later, dark and cooler when the three of them bedded down on the hardwood plank floor in their sleeping bags. Wufei was sound asleep as Duo continued to field Heero's questions about his gundam. He didn't want to give away all of G's design, but he gave the inquisitive pilot laying next to him enough to keep Heero engaged in conversation. Heero's questions and comments were intelligent and to the point, leading the braided boy to conclude that Heero was indeed smarter than the average teenager, and then he supposed that all five of them were anything but average teenagers.

The two teens remained awake as they lay in their sleeping bags, placed inches apart and parallel to each other while they spoke in quiet voices, not wanting to disturb their other companion. While Heero asked yet another technical question about the power source for the stealth shield, Duo saw his chance to demonstrate something more to the other boy. With the faint light of the moon giving the room enough light to see by, he reached out with his fingers and gently pushed a long strand of dark hair away from Heero's deep blue eyes.

"What are you doing?" Heero's eyes narrowed, a warning after having his personal space breeched.

"I couldn't see your eyes," Duo answered, hoping he wasn't going to get hit in the face for being forward. "You really do have nice eyes, Heero. They're the deepest blue I've ever seen. You're not full Japanese, are you?"

"It doesn't appear that I am, but I know nothing of my parents. I was raised by a man who told me he wasn't my father, and after he was killed I was taken in and trained by Dr. J."

Duo looked into Heero's eyes. "I don't remember my parents either. My first memories are of being cold, hungry and alone on the streets of L-2. Then Solo found me and protected me along with the other little ones he'd gathered to protect. Guess we're kind of alike, both being orphans," he concluded, hoping to establish some common ground with Heero, to find something they could connect to with each other.

"You have purple eyes," Heero stated suddenly, then mimicking Duo's earlier move, reached out and pushed the fringe of hair from off the American's forehead, returning the friendly gesture a bit stiffly. The Deathscythe pilot had to force himself not to flinch. He didn't allow just anyone to touch his hair in any manner for a long, long time now, but he knew he needed to let Heero be the exception to passing his strict, personal space barriers if his mission was going to be carried out.

"Not really purple," Duo answered, his voice low. "But I've been told that when the light is just right they take on that shade. They're kind of a bluish-violet, especially when I wear black, am really happy or extremely mad, or so I'm told."

"Nothing in between?"

"Guess you'll have to tell me. I'm not in the habit of staring at myself in a mirror," he chuckled.

Heero gave off a disbelieving snort as he settled his head onto the small pillow that came with the sleeping bags. "You spend forever in the bathroom every morning. We figured you were admiring yourself in the mirror, preening."

He suddenly found himself being pummeled with Duo's pillow. In a low voice, Duo answered, playfully indignant. "I'll have you know that hair this long takes a lot of care. I do not stand in front of a mirror in the bathroom every morning admiring myself."

"If you say so," Heero snorted sarcastically with smiling at the playfulness of the other pilot while ducking blow after blow from the small, harmless pillow. It finally took his snagging the offending article away from the attacking boy in order to bring the one-sided pillow fight to a halt. He handed the abused pillow back after Duo had finally settled back down into his sleeping bag once again.

The braided boy lay quiet for a few moments, contemplating how much of himself he really wanted to expose to the other boy. "If you must know," he said quietly, "I stay in the bathroom and do some self-talk in the mornings. You know, psyche myself up to face another day or another battle, to remind myself why I'm doing this."

"Why are you doing this, Duo?" Heero's eyes studied the boy in front of him, looking for some understanding him.

Duo observed the other boy for a moment, seeing and returning Heero's full, uncomfortably scrutinizing attention. "Believe me, Heero, I've got my reasons," he replied, then grabbed his pillow and turned his back to the other boy. "The death of all those who ever cared about me will haunt me until they've been avenged. Goodnight, Heero," he whispered in a tense voice. The silence that filled the cabin afterwards seemed heavy all of a sudden


A few moments of quiet passed before Heero quietly replied in kind. "Goodnight, Duo." In the room lit only by the full moon, its golden beams streaming through the dusty window panes, the Wing pilot's eyes lowered to fix his sight on the thick braid that gently fell from the nape of Duo's neck to lay on the floor beside him. Reaching out a tentative finger, he cautiously brushed the dark, unfettered end of it, his eyes shifting regularly to see if Duo sensed his actions. But as the boy across from him remained still, seemingly unaware, Heero picked up the thick rope of hair and held it in his hand and spent a long while thinking about the day that had just ended and contemplating the enigmatic boy resting only inches away.

Continued soon