Disclaimers: This is just for fun, no money is gotten by weaving this tale, and I do not own G.W. nor its characters.

Warnings: mild language

Author's note: All great friendships have a beginning, and sometimes it doesn't begin too well. This is the first of many stories in Duo's Friendship Arch. Hereon referred to as DFA. Some of the stories are humorous, others filled with angst, some with both. They are non yaoi, and have to do with building life-long friendships under unusual and dangerous circumstances. Hope you enjoy the stories.

All For One And One For All

by Dyna Dee

Tap.Tap.Tap......the rhythm of the long, chestnut braid slapping against his black clad bottom was noticeably faster than usual. That meant, of course, that there was more bounce in his quick step, a definite indicator that he was excited. A tremor of that excitement rippled down the spine of the fifteen year old boy known as Duo Maxwell. That feeling had happened more frequently since his recent arrival on Earth. Everything here was wondrously new to him. He could never have imagined it would be so magnificent, and having prided himself of having an active imagination, that indeed was noteworthy. Sure, L2, the colony he grew up on, was an economically poor colony and not in the least attractive in its poverty ridden state, but he hadn't known until recently how utterly lacking in beauty it was. He'd grown up with the poorest of the poor, being a street orphan, always on the outside looking in through home and storefront windows to a world denied him, seeing and imagining how life should be.

During his all to brief time at the Maxwell Church Orphanage, Sister Helen had regularly held him on her lap, in the comforting embrace that radiated her warmth and the only love he could remember in his short lifetime. She would pull out her favorite book on Earth and with care, turned the pages, reverently explaining all the wonders visible on the shinny, colored pictures that took up most of the large pages. His eyes had widened in wonder then at the fairy tale world so different from his own. The pictures depicted the geography and landscape, cities and farms, and creatures he knew little to nothing of. Years later, when Dr. G told him to take the Gundam Deathscythe and go to earth, his heart almost burst with excitement. The memory of the pictures in that old book gave him a small idea what to expect, but he honestly had no concept of the grandeur of Mother Earth.

Today though, his thrill of excitement was not from the beautiful day the Earth presented as a gift to him, but from the fact that all five of the Gundam pilots had agreed to meet. He had seen the others on the COM screen while in battle and he determined that they all looked about the same age. The only actual contact he had with any of them had been with Wing's Gundam pilot, Heero Yuy, and their first meeting had not had an auspicious beginning as he had shot the other boy.....twice.

Heero......Duo shook his head. He was strangely drawn to the taciturn Japanese boy who was, in so many ways, his opposite. Heero was relatively silent, never chit chatting, a talent the braided boy excelled in, especially on a good day. He considered the other boy an enigma, a challenge, a puzzle to be put together one piece at a time.

So far, he had determined Heero to be physically and mentally the strongest person he had ever met. The jury was still out as to whether he was the bravest or just thick headed. Even with the warm sunshine shining down on his pale skin, Duo shuddered at the recollection of Heero throwing himself out of the hospital he had rescued him from and not pulling the parachute cord until it was too late to be effective. "Chh!" the sound passed the boy's lips as he shook his head in reflection. 'It wasn't every day you got to see a guy set his own leg.' he thought to himself. He recalled how angry he had been when the said pilot stole parts from Deathscythe to fix his own gundam for a mission. He took off without even a goodbye or a thank you. After he had cooled down, Duo reasoned that after shooting Heero and being responsible for his capture, he guessed he owed the other boy -and now they were even

He and Heero had fallen into each other's company and he had observed the other closely. Heero wouldn't let anyone get too close to him he determined, but he wasn't sure why. That alone was something completely foreign to the boy from L2, and having piqued his curiosity, it became a challenge for him to try and figure Heero Yuy out and eventually get him to loosen up a bit.

One thing Duo was sure about Heero was the quite apparent fact that the other pilot didn't understand him at all and only tolerated his presence. He'd already lost count on the number of times the Japanese pilot had promised to kill him. He chuckled at the thought. He'd taken each of Heero's threats and treated them as a game, a joke amongst friends. Well.....maybe they weren't friends yet, but he hoped....no,... ....he needed a friend....friends, he amended. Duo knew one of his greatest weaknesses was that he couldn't bear to be alone for long periods of time. He knew others would think this fact an absurdity based on his outward bravado and boisterous behavior. But sometimes,....he just felt so hollow,....empty, and so alone that it drove him to seek out others like a strung out junky would seek a fix. Duo. Even his name was synonymous with this weakness, he needed someone to make him feel.....not alone....whole. Part of his excitement about this meeting with the others was the hope that he would meet with potential new friends. Hopefully, at least one of them would talk back, unlike Heero.

"Pick a spot, Heero." he called back to the dark hair boy following mutely behind him. Both of them were carrying boxes that were carefully filled by Deathscythe's pilot for this momentous event.

"I know nothing of picnics." Heero replied in refusal of the simple task the other assigned to him. He felt mildly disinterested in whatever the strange braided boy had planned.

Duo went on to describe what the perfect picnic spot would consist of.....at great length.

It was nearly 11:00 a.m. as Duo snapped out the blanket he'd brought from the dorm and placed it under the dappled shade of a large maple tree. "No ants!" he declared to the pilot behind him, just one of the details he had listed for the ideal picnic spot. "Perfect!" he smiled looking pleased. He turned to look at Heero and pointed to the top right corner. "Put the box down on the edge of the blanket." he instructed and Heero complied.

"What did you bring?" Heero asked and Duo's eyebrows rose in surprise. The perfect soldier did have a touch of curiosity after all, he mused. 'There's hope for him yet.' he thought to himself..

"This box," he nodded to the box in his hands as he bent to set it down on the opposite corner of the one Heero had set down, "has food in it. And that one," he motioned to the other "has entertainment.

Heero looked dubiously at the covered box he had carried. "No explosives, right?" He knew of Duo's penchant for blowing things up from first hand experience in the science lab at school and from a couple of missions together.

"Na." Duo laughed. "An act of faith towards the others. Besides, they might not enjoy my specialty."

"Hmnnn." was Heero's only comment knowing the other boy had many "specialities". He had witnessed Duo's ability to become a shadow when needed, to open any door, and steal anyone blind, shoot a gun with expert sites, as well as talk or flirt his way out of almost any situation. Those areas of expertise didn't even come close to the kid's abilities in battle with the scythe. He would never show the American that he had already won Heero's grudging respect.

Sitting down on the not-as-soft-as-I-would-like-it-to-be blanket, the American boy lay his small, lithe and black clad body down. After a moment, he closed his eyes and sighed deeply and audibly. He breathed in the fresh air, once again enjoying the scents and freshness of it, so different from the filtered air of the colony. Sensing the stillness around him, he cracked open his left eye to see the Japanese boy still standing in the same spot he was a few minutes earlier looking a bit unsure as to what he should be doing.

"Hey Heero, take a load off." Duo patted the blanket next to him. Wing's pilot looked at him questioningly, raising an eyebrow. He was amazed at yet another strange expressions coming from this odd boy. However, his hand gesture interpreted the odd phrase for him. He sat down next to the other and leaning back on his hands, stretched his jean clad legs out in front of him.

Duo smiled, pleased. He closed his eyes and took another deep breath. "Don't you just love the Earth?" he asked, not really expecting an answer from the other. He relaxed and was just about to doze off when Heero spoke.

"There here." he announced without any inflection in his voice.

Squinting as a shaft of sunlight broke through the trees foliage, the braided haired boy glanced up as Heero stood with an attitude of defensive tenseness. Following his line of sight, Duo raised up on his elbows and watched as two boys approached them. The taller brunette with bangs that almost covered his right eye was wearing tight white jeans over long trim legs and a dark green turtleneck shirt. The look in his eyes was that of caution. Walking next to him was a small, petite boy with pale blonde hair dressed in pleated khaki pants, and a white oxford shirt opened just at the collar. But the most stunning thing about him was his big, innocent-looking blue eyes. "Unbelievable!" Duo gasped quietly amazed that anyone who claimed to be a soldier could look so....untainted.

As he studied the two, he missed the odd look Heero gave him at his quiet exclamation regarding the blonde. Duo quickly climbed to his feet as they neared. The two stopped just in front of them and all four exchanged a look of recognition having seen each other over the COM boards in their gundams. Duo was pleased to see that the blonde was his same height, as was Heero. It was nice to know he wasn't the only shrimp in the group.

The blonde stepped forward and extended his hand out to Heero. "Hello." he said in a voice that spoke in tone of his young age. Heero didn't move to take the offered hand, so Duo stepped forward to place his in the extended palm.

"Don't take offense." he nodded his head towards the Japanese boy as he firmly shook the other boy's hand. "He doesn't do social amenities. Not his thing I guess." He smiled at the startled look on the small boy's face.

Blinking in obvious confusion, the wide blue eyes turned towards the boy gripping his hand firmly in a handshake. Those eyes lit up with an honest, open look. "I'm Quatre." his smile was sincere. "I pilot Sandrock."

"Duo." The chestnut hair boy answered with a mirrored smile and tilted his head in the direction of his silent companion "and the quiet guy here is Heero."

"It's a pleasure to meet you." Quatre said including both boys in his polite pleasantry. He turned to the taller boy who stepped forward, but didn't offer his hand.

"Trowa." he introduced himself in a pleasingly quiet and deeper voice. Duo nodded his head in acknowledgement.

The four stood in awkward silence for a moment before the American clapped his hands together. "Well, I brought some lunch for us, but I guess we should wait for the other pilot."

"He's here." Heero stated without flare.

Duo's head whipped around not immediately seeing the last boy to arrive, his long three-foot long braid whipping around behind him. He heard Quatre's surprised intake of breath. That was a common reaction to his seemingly unusual length of hair

Behind them, a Chinese boy stepped out from a patch of trees and cautiously advanced towards the group of four. Duo looked aside to Heero in wonder and asked himself, 'How'd he do that?'

The four watched as the black haired boy approached them, his head held high, his back proudly straight, and his ebony eyes clearly evaluating the situation before him. He wore loose fitted white pants gathered at the ankle, and a black tank top showing off to his advantage his muscular physique. He wore his shining black hair pulled tightly back in a small ponytail. He stopped at the edge of the blanket and without taking his eyes off of them, bowed at the waist. "Chang Wufei." he said in introduction.

Once again, the small blonde boy stepped forward returning the bow and then introduced himself. Turning aside slightly and with a graceful wave of his hand, he motioned to each boy behind him, gave their first names also. Duo watched the scene before him unfold with great interest. The seemingly innocent and maybe most naive of the five pilots surprised him with his casual ease in controlling the situation. He definitely had the attributes to be a unifier and possible strategist. How had someone this young and small learned to take charge of a situation he wondered? Duo decided in that moment that he liked this boy with his easy manner and charm and wondered if the others felt the same.

"Anyone hungry?" he asked as he clapped his hands together loudly and then rubbed them together. "We can become acquainted over lunch." He coaxed them all into sitting on the blanket as he moved to open the box to reveal a variety of foods inside. "I brought an assortment, not knowing what anyone's preference was." he continued as he eased down to sit next to the box. "I hope you find something you like."

Out of the box he pulled a tray of sushi covered with a clear plastic wrapping, a large plate of turkey and ham sandwiches, and another with only a couple of sandwiches. "My personal favorite," he smiled broadly holding the plate up as if it was the epitome of lunch selections . "Peanut butter and banana sandwiches on white bread with a little dollop of sweet salad dressing. Ahhh!" He sighed and smiled at the others. He always enjoyed the look on other people's faces when he announced his favorite sandwich, and he was not disappointed at the horrified look on three of the other's faces. Heero was, of course, the exception, stoic as usual.

He reached in again and pulled out a bag of chips, cookies, small carrots, and a small collapsible cooler with small cans of juice, pop, and a couple of beers.

Once it was all spread out and the box was moved aside, he urged them to help themselves.

For himself, he grabbed his favorite and took a large bite. His large violet eyes rolled heavenward as he chewed and the flavors of the sandwich on his taste bud sent the message again to his brain that this was food fit for a god. "Ummmmm. Great!" He mumbled aloud and the thick combination of bread and peanut butter muffled his speech. He noticed the others watching him curiously and he motioned for them to eat.

He watched as Heero and Wufei shared the sushi, no surprise there he thought. They both reached for a fruit drink and nibbled at the apples and carrots. Trowa reached for the ham and turkey sandwich. He lifted the top piece of bread and inspected the contents and even brought it close to his face so he could smell it. Seeming satisfied, he put the top piece of bread back on and reached into the cooler for a beer. Quatre opened the same type of sandwich and removed the ham, setting it on the edge of the paper plate neatly. He gave a sidelong glance at Trowa who nodded in silent communication whereupon Quatre smiled and proceeded to eat in small, studied bites. Trowa handed him a can of juice.

Duo watched them all as he ate another sandwich. He studied their movements, their choices and body language, making a mental note of each nuance and storing the data in his brain for dissection and interpretation later on. He happened to glance at Heero - that was becoming a habit lately, he noted to himself. He realized that Heero was obviously sizing the others up as well. Heck, they probably all were doing the same thing, he realized with a chuckle.

Over their meal, and with the help of Quatre, they each spoke vaguely about their origins and what colony they hailed from and the names of their gundams. They were each a bit sketchy in telling anything personal about themselves, not trusting each other yet. That would take time.

Looking at Quatre again, Duo smiled. The kid could carry on a conversation. He chuckled inwardly,......he was a happy guy. The other three were as engaging as a brick wall, and conversation had to be drug from them. Yet they did manage to revealed that each one of them had their own reasons for taking up the Gundams for the colonies. Heero was fighting for peace. Wufei....for justice. Quatre for his family. Trowa, well Trowa was a bit like himself. It wasn't for a certain colony, for a person or family. Trowa fought because he was a soldier who fought against those who were stronger and dominated over the weak. Duo had a certain rage in him that was sparked at a tender age when the Alliance military terrorized his colony and took away the only family he had. He fought not just for L2, but for the lost ones, and for future lost ones. The bully wins the day cycle had to end and Duo Maxwell was there to stop the bully.

There was little to nothing to pack back into the box as they finished with their lunch. Surprisingly, Heero was the only person adventurous enough to try his favorite sandwich. His response was a nod and a "Hummph" his approval/disapproval - Duo couldn't tell which, but was more determined than ever to figure out that guy.

Abruptly, Wufei stood to leave. "Hey, where you going in such a hurry?" Duo asked hiding his annoyance. His analyzing was not finished.

"I assumed we were done." the Chinese boy answered with one haughtily raised eyebrow aimed at the braided boy.

'Man, this guy has an attitude' Duo thought to himself even as he turned his smile and charm on. "You wouldn't deprive us of your charming company so soon, would you? And just when we're getting to know each other?" he asked trying to keep the teasing sarcasm out of his voice. He noticed out of the corner of his eye that Quatre and Trowa's lips tweaked upward.

Wufei was not slow on the draw. He lowered his brows as he glared disdainfully at the speaker. "Chhh!"

"Ah, come on. I've got some entertainment." He said enticingly as he stood and moved to the box still on the corner of the blanket. Lifting it, he placed it in the center of the blanket and removed the lid. "I didn't know anything about you guys so I just threw in some things I had on hand." The heads of the four others leaned over to peer into the box. Duo sat back to see who chose what as his little study continued.

Quatre took the lead, though not without making sure that other three weren't going to make a move first. His hand lifted and shifted the items, examining a few then putting them back until he came upon a small magnetic chess game. He pulled it out and looked at the others. "Anyone want to play?" he asked.

"I will." Trowa smiled just slightly, and Quatre looked pleased.

Duo had surmised by their interactions. It was obvious that these two had already formed a friendship that he felt a bit envious of. Wufei was the next one to rifle thorough the box. He selected two items...a historical book on the life of Winston Churchill, and a pair of hand grips. He moved to the side to allow Heero access and sat on the far corner of the blanket and opened the book. As he began to read, he absently mindedly squeezed the hand grips.

Heero had selected an octagonal sphere about the size of a large grapefruit. "What does this do?" he asked without looking up.

"It's a puzzle." Duo explained brushing his long chestnut bangs only momentarily away from his forehead before they swung back. "The objective is to manipulate the sections of the sphere until all the colors on each side are the same.

Heero turned the eight edged object around in his hands noting that each side contained nearly all eight colors and that the pieces moved in a sliding fashion vertically and horizontally. "Hmm." was all he said as he turned and moved to a spot adjacent to Wufei. He immediately began to focus his attention to solving the puzzle and began to manipulate the pieces.

Seeing the others engaged in an activity, Duo reached into the box and pulled out an electronic hand held game that he had purchased only two days ago. It featured detailed graphics of a motorcycle race. The controls were the handlebars, similar but smaller in size to a real motorcycle. He activated the game, which gave a pretty damn good imitation of the sound of a hyped-up bike loudly revving in anticipation of the race. He immediately turned the sound down seeing the glares from the others. "Gomen." he smiled crookedly and pressed the start button.

One thing the others would soon learn was that Duo loved games and competition. He thoroughly enjoyed this game and threw himself into it enthusiastically. His body leaned left and right as the turns on the course dictated and vocally announced his success and failures. After a half hour, he beat the game. Throwing his arms out wide, he collapsed back onto the blanket with a smile and contented sigh. "Man that was great!" He exclaimed.

The sound of a muffled snicker brought his attention to his left. Quatre held his hand over mouth and was obviously trying to contain his laughter, but his eyes sparkled with mirth. Trowa looked like a smile might be imminent.

"What?" Duo asked not able to keep his smile from growing.

Quatre cleared his throat. "I have never seen anyone play a game so animated." He answered.

Duo shrugged. "Yea, well you should see me pilot Deathscythe. I'm Shinigami himself behind those controls. Death and hell are my right and left hands." He raised up his arms and rested his hands underneath his pillowing chestnut mass of hair.

"Shinigami?" Heero asked behind him. "The God of Death?"

"Yep, that's me. Sent here to take the enemies of the colonies down to hell." His voice was light and joking. He heard Heero grunt and Wufei snort at the absurdity of his claim. Duo closed his eyes. "You don't believe me, Wufei?" he asked.

"That you are Shinigami? That's ridiculous." The Chinese boy replied snidely.

"Ahh." Duo turned lazily on his side to look up at Wufei with a feral grin. "But have you seen my Deathscythe in action?"

Only from a distance." He replied.

"Then I would withhold your judgement until you witness it up close and personal." There was an evil and wicked gleam to the strange violet eyes.

The other pilot studied the braided boy's face. "You are either crazy, or quite serious." he replied his tone and face frowning.

Duo smiled. "I would say both! How about you Heero? Am I crazy or serious about being Shinigami?" he turned his chin up to look upward and amused at the Japanese boy who glanced up momentarily from his puzzle.

"Your as crazy as I am." He answered and tossed the octagonal sphere to Duo who caught it.

"Man, that's a scary thought, especially after the hospital incident when you pulled the ripcord for the parachute when it was too late to help. And you have to be crazy to set your own broken leg!" he shuddered just thinking about it. "I know I can't do that."

"Of course not. Your training was inept." Heero answered calmly.

"Hey! No need to get nasty." Duo gave his best mocked hurt expression. He looked straight into the other boy's stoic and impassive eyes. He promised himself then and there that he would see a real smile on that face one day, no doubt it would be at his expense.

He heard a twitter of nervous laughter again to his left.

"Laugh it up blondie." he turned a chastising look at the smaller boy.

"Gomen!" Quatre apologized looking only slightly abashed and the others grew quiet.

"Oh lighten up everyone. I was only kidding." Duo assured him as he saw a thunderous look on Trowa's face. Duo was pleased to see Quatre smile shyly again.

Absentmindedly, Duo picked up the puzzle Heero had tossed to him moments before. Turning it, he was amazed to see it finished. All eight colors were in their proper place. "That's impossible." he whispered staring at it in disbelief. "How'd you do that Heero?" He looked up puzzled to the other boy. The day before, he had taken the puzzle apart and deliberately placed the pieces back in such a way that he felt it impossible to manipulate it back to it's original state. He'd tried and found it so.

"I took it apart and put it back the way you described it." Duo sat up to look Heero in the eye, a slow smile of growing appreciation lit his heart shaped face.

"You knew didn't you....that I had rigged it?" he asked amused.

Heero nodded. "After the first few minutes."

Duo threw his head up and laughed a carefree, joyous sound, and then flopped back down to the blanket. "Congratulations Heero, you've managed to go up another notch in my estimation of you."

"And you, down one in mine." Heero answered straight faced. But as Duo looked up at him from his place below him on the blanket, he saw the corners of Heero's mouth turn up slightly, almost a smile.

"That's my goal Heero" he replied keeping his eyes on the cobalt blue ones. "One notch at a time, straight down to hell." It was interesting to him to see the expression on Heero's face go from a blank to mildly perplexed.

Duo scanned the others and saw that they had watched the verbal exchange between he and Heero with curiosity and slight amusement.

Trowa and Quatre's game was apparently over, the smaller of the two quietly and humbly won. Duo liked his style. Trowa immediately turned to Duo. "Mind if I have a go at it?" he motioned to the Motorcycle game. Duo nodded and handed it to him, noticing for the first time the stunning green eyes nearly hidden by the long bangs. "Something must have happened to him in his life to make him want to hide" Duo decided and hoped that one day he would understand the other quiet boy.

As if aware of the other's eyes on him, Trowa kept his posture straight and still as he manipulated the controls and steering on the handle bars of the game. Yet after a few minutes, the game entrapped him and he too was leaning to the left and right as he made the turns in the game, and slight sounds escaped his lips as the game progresses. Duo exchanged a smile with Quatre who was enjoying the moment.

"How's the book Wu?" Duo glanced at the boy sitting on the corner of the blanket, his head bowed over the book.

"Informative." he answered and then raised his head to glare menacingly at the American "and it's Wufei, not Wu." There seemed to be a threat in his voice.

"Gomen" Duo smiled innocently. "I'm terrible with names." he said as a legitimate excuse for mispronouncing his name.

"Chh." the sound came from Heero who obviously had his own explanation for the faux pas.

Sitting up, Duo reached into the box and pulled out a foam type football. "Hey, anyone want to play catch or touch football?" he asked holding up the ball. He looked at their perplexed expressions. "You don't know about football?" he asked incredulous. They each shook their head. "Man, it's a good thing you guys met me, I can see you need to learn something about relaxation and playing."he teased.

"Playing is for children." Wufei said snidely.

Duo felt his hackles rise. "Well how old are you Mr. I Got a Pompous Stick Shoved Up My Ass?" He almost regretted his words at the sudden change in Wufei's face. He was livid. From the corner of his eye he say Heero tense.

"What did you call me you...... long haired freak?" Wufei glowered as he almost stammered with getting the words out past his fury.

Aware of the others looking at him nervously, Duo gave in insouciant shrug. "Is that the best you can do in calling me a name? Hell, I've heard priests call me worse than that." he chuckled in recollection. "Want to hear a few?" Without waiting for a reply, he began a soliloquy of curse words and phrases worthy of a soldier or a construction worker. He continued on until three of the four boys blushed red and he felt Heero's hand clasp firmly onto his shoulder.

"Enough." His voice was not harsh, but commanding. Duo laughed in reply.

"But that's only half of them." he complained mildly. "The best ones are yet to come." he tried to pout, but couldn't achieve it because of the smile he couldn't sem to wipe off his face. He was having a great time. He noticed that Wufei had resumed his seat, looking quite shocked.

Wiping tears from his eyes from his over abundance of mirth, Duo looked back to Heero to see a smirk, another almost smile back on his face. Yes, this was a good day!

"Where did you ever learn such language?" Quatre asked, his cheeks still quite pink from embarrassment. Duo shrugged. He guessed he could tell them a little about himself, maybe starting a trend for them all to loosen up a bit.

"Well Quatre, you see, I'm an orphan. I was on my own in the streets of L2 at a very young age with a lot of other throw away kids. Thank heavens I was taken under the protection of a kind older kid who protected me from the worst part of the streets. We were all pretty wild, a pack of thieves out of necessity." he paused as he reflected on the past and began to feel the sense of loneliness and longing start to spread through him starting in his chest. He tried to push it down so he could continue. "He, Solo, died from the plague." he said sadly, then shook himself mentally away from the picture his mind had conjured up. "But living on the streets teaches you a lot about the baser side of life." he explained. "Hence the colorful language."

"I, too, am an orphan" Trowa spoke up "and a throw away used for other peoples purposes, a tool." He adjusted his gaze so that his green eyes met violet. "I was also raised with such language being the form of communication, but I've learned to shove it aside, seeing it as not a clear way to express myself and only embarrassing others." he gave a quick glance to Quatre.

Duo nodded understanding his message. "I use it mainly as a shock factor, unless I'm fighting or really pissed off, then I'm afraid it comes off in a torrent. But, I'll try to keep it in check when you guys are around O.K.?" He stopped short of an insincere apology because his expletives had the desired affect he wanted - Wufei looked as if the wind had been blown out of his sails as he now sat on the blanket looking stupefied. .

Trowa nodded, pleased that the other boy who had a similar background had understood him so well. He gave Duo a nod of appreciation for his consideration to the others.

Duo managed to get Quatre to agree to a little game of catch. He showed him how to hold and launch a football. Walking just far enough away as to not bother the others, the two boys paced off from each and began to throw the ball. Trowa resumed his paused game, Wufei absently mindedly picked up the book, though not opening it, and Heero watched the two throwing the ball.

Slowly coming to his feet, Heero looked down to see Wufei studying the American in an intense manner. "Don't mind him" he told the other "it's just his way. He does like to tease though, and you've given him a lot today with which to mentally torture you."

Wufei's head shot up to gape at the boy above him. "What did I give him?" He demanded.

"Your sensitivity to your name, your pride and haughtiness. You've made it a challenge to him to tear those barriers down." Duo would have been surprised to hear Heero chuckle at that moment. "Believe me, I know. He had been working on my defenses since he met me."

"You've been working together then?" the Chinese boy asked, curious about the seeming partnership of these two opposites.

"Off and on." Heero replied. "It has proven to be beneficial to us both to have a back up on some missions."

A loud whoop sounded from the direction of the two boys playing catch. Duo had evidently caught a long pass in his fingertips as he flew in the air. Quatre cheered him on as the American bowed, and dropping the ball performed a decent cartwheel.

The Arabian smiled at his antics, but turned with a knowing smile to Trowa and called out to him. "Did you see Duo's cartwheel, Trowa?" Trowa, too had looked up at Duo's loud celebration. He nodded. "Show Duo how you celebrate." Quatre urged.

Trowa smiled at him shyly, looking hesitant, but regardless, stood as his friend requested. He exchanged a quick look with the small boy whose aquamarine eyes were bright with anticipation. Trowa nodded and put the game down. He paused to judge the distance between himself and the two boys about seventy feet from him. With two long steps, he leapt impossibly high into the air, spinning and jack knifed into a flip to land on his feed. He then proceeded to do a series of hand springs and round offs, ending with a high flip then landing on two steady feed in front of the amazed and startled American.

"Wow! Trowa!" Duo said almost breathless with admiration. "That was fantastic! Can you teach me how to do that? Where'd ya learn to do something like that?"

Trowa smiled down indulgently as the smaller boy asked question after question leaving no room for an answer. Quatre finally intervened, slipping between the two. "Maybe Trowa could teach you one thing today and something else the next time we meet. O.K.?" he asked silencing the excited boy....for a second.

"That would be great! Duo exclaimed happy at the prospect that Quatre thought there would be another time they could get together. "That is.....if Trowa wants to...." he added looking hopeful.

The taller boy smiled slightly as he nodded.

Duo tilted his head to the side as he looked up into the green eyes above him. "You don't talk much to you Trowa?" he asked, all silliness gone.

Trowa shrugged. "I was brought up to not talk unless specifically asked to, and then, only as little as necessary."

Duo gave him a crooked smile and a wicked glint was in his eye. "Well, I was kinda told that was the way kids were suppose to be, too. Lucky for me, I didn't believe it."

Quatre's eyes danced with suppressed laughter. He couldn't imagine the braided boy following many rules. He would be interesting to get to know. In fact, the Arabian found himself enjoying the boy's company, even though he was crude at times.

He watched as Duo took hold of Trowa's upper arms and looked up into his face, all levity gone. "You're all grown up now, Trowa. You're a soldier. You can do what you want and be who you want to be. You don't need it, but I give you permission to talk anytime you feel like it, especially to me and Quatre. Right Quatre?" he turned his head to get the blonde's agreement.

Quatre nodded. Yes, he liked the American.

Trowa looked down into the heart shaped face and the clear amethyst eyes. He didn't know whether to be amused, insulted, or grateful. Here this strange kid was telling to speak up whenever he wanted. It was still hard to believe he could do so without repercussions. "Some things are hard to change, Duo." he replied. He was pleased to see the braided boy nod in return, again understanding him at a deeper level. He found himself smiling at the handsome, upturned face. He was rewarded with a dazzling smile. He could feel the stirring of a feeling he had felt only once, a short time back when he first met Quatre. He finally named the feeling friendship. Now, here was another that had brought that feeling to him. 'Imagine having more than one friend.' he thought and realized that he needed to learn more about friendships and maybe these two were the ones that could teach him.

"Wanna play catch with us?" Duo broke the momentary silence. His whole demeanor was friendly and inviting. Trowa nodded his assent. The American then turned to the two still on the blanket. "Hey! Heero, Wu-man, come join us. It's too nice a day to just sit in the shade." he shouted.

Wufei flinched slightly at the improper use of his name.

"See what I mean?" Heero's voice brought his angry gaze to look up at his cobalt blue eyes showing the barest glint of amusement.

"I think I may end up killing that guy," the Chinese boy stated without any humor "and it may not be dishonorable to do so."

"That may be." Heero answered calmly. "I've certainly threatened it a few times myself. However, he is a good pilot and has many abilities that make him an asset to our fight. I know nothing of the friendship he talks of, but I do believe that he would make as formidable a friend as he would be an enemy. I suppose that one day we will have to make that choice. It seems the others have." He motioned with a nod to the three playing catch and enjoying themselves.

"So you don't consider him your friend?" Wufei asked still trying to understand the partnership.

Heero looked at the other irritatingly patient. "As I said before, I know nothing about friendship. But I would protect him on a mission or if we fight side by side. I guess it's camaraderie I feel, though that is new to me also."

"Heads up!" Duo shouted to get their attention to the ball soaring high in their direction. Heero took a couple of steps to the right and caught the foam ball with ease.

Wufei rose to his feet. "Guess we better join them, or that ball will be flying over here every few minutes until we give in." In silent agreement, the two Asian boys walked towards the other three. Duo's face nearly split in half with his beaming smile as they approached.


It had been a half hour since the lights had been turned out, and Heero knew by the restless movements, the yawns, and sighs, that the boy in the bed across the room from him was not in the deep sleep as was his usual habit. Once Duo Maxwell's head hit the pillow, he was out cold until he was forcefully awakened in the morning. He knew that the braided boy was probably going over the events of the afternoon just as he was. Duo's boxes had indeed given both of them insights to the other pilots. Heero had to admit that Duo was more clever than he had first believed, and knew that there were still many layers hidden by the boy yet to be discovered. Heero was surprised that the other boy wasn't talking, especially when he had been so worked up all day. He decided to take matters in his hands as he knew he wouldn't fall asleep until the other had done so. It was one of his own quirks of nature, to be the last one asleep.

"So what conclusions have you come to from your experiment today, Duo?" he asked turning onto his side to see the figure on the bed opposite him turn towards him.

"I thought you saw through my ploy." the other answered with slight amusement in his voice.

"Yes," Heero replied. "It was very........creative." that was as close to a compliment he had ever said to the American.

The rustling of the blankets and sheets were heard as Duo sat up to peer through the near darkness tat his roommate. "Was that a compliment?" he asked in surprised disbelief.


Duo's snicker was heard as he lowered himself back down to place his head on his pillow. "That just topped off a great day?" he sighed. "Thanks, Heero."

"So........?" Heero waited for an answer to his question.

"Well," Duo drawled thoughtfully, "I liked them. Who couldn't like Quatre though. He seems to have had a sheltered life and is a pacifist at heart. I think there must be some inward struggle on the dichotomy of being a person who cares for the welfare of others, and piloting a killing machine. He fights for his colony to be free of the Alliance's stranglehold, just like us. He is a natural leader, a unifier, but I sense he is not yet willing, or hesitant to take on that responsibility. And I do believe he is quite the strategist."

Sensing Duo was finished listing his observation of Quatre's traits, Heero decided to urge his roommate on, finding his insight into the other pilots running along the conclusions he had come to. But to Duo's credit, they were a bit more thorough, probably for all the interaction he'd had with them. "And Trowa and Wufei?" He urged.

"Trowa," Duo's voice lowered as he thought "He's cautious, analytical and practical. He follows his instincts and reason, not his feelings. I sense a great need in him. Something has happened in his life to make him feel......" Duo paused to search for the right word "....unworthy. I think he fights because its what he knows. He seems the type of person that could almost be invisible in a group of people. He would be a great infiltrator. Quatre let it slip that Trowa hides out in a traveling circus and has a great affinity with animals. That must mean he is kind and caring under all that quiet. You can't fake that with animals, and you only have to see how he interacts with Quatre to know that he wants to protect him. I think he has a good heart."

"Then there's Wufei." he continued not needing Heero's prompting. "Man, is he stiff and self-righteous? I've got a lot of work to do on him, but I do think under all that pompous air that he is honorable, a scholar or historian type. In just talking to him, I can see that he thinks in black and white; things are right or wrong, good or bad, loved or hated. With him there is no middle ground, no grey areas. In that respect, he is like you Heero, though you have large middle ground, an attitude of indifference towards things that don't pertain to the mission." Duo paused wondering for a moment if he had said too much. He sighed, knowing he was one of those indifferent things to the Japanese boy. "One thing for sure though, Wu is way too much fun to tease."

"He doesn't take teasing well." Heero warned him. "He told me he might end up killing you."

Duo laughed lightly. "Sound familiar?" he asked. "Thanks for the warning, though. I'm not stupid, contrary to your belief. I've seen his type of fighting as he pilots, and his body is more fluid than the movements of his gundam. It's easy to see that he's had extensive martial arts training. I know the streets smarts I have and the few self-defense courses G made me take are not going to do me much good if he decided to beat the crap out of me."

Duo turned his head in the direction of the other boy, wondering if he had put him to sleep. "What about you, Heero?. What did you think?" he asked quietly.

"Pretty much the same as you." he replied simply.

The American looked up that the dark ceiling above. He was disappointed with Heero's lack of response, but he was learning not to take it personally. Heero was a guy of few words.

"You know," Duo began again. "All five of us are quite different from each other in our abilities, strengths and talents. Yet we all are similar in our goal to protect the colonies. We all deviated from the original mission of Operation Meteor. With our different strengths combined, we could be a major opposition to the Alliance, that is if we joined together - fought together covertly or on the battlefield.....in a coordinated effort. Quatre and Trowa seem to work well together. And you and I...

"What about you and I?" Heero interrupted.

Duo swallowed nervously. Well, at least he knew the other was awake. "Well..., we haven't killed each other yet."


Duo decided to continue. "Wufei seems like a bit of a loner, but he could be a valuable asset to the team.

"Team?" Heero asked.

"Yea......a team" Duo shot back. "You know, all for one and one for all kinda thing. All five of us working together to achieve the same goal with more of an impact than each of us working on our own." The room was quiet and Duo felt talked out. "Well, it was just an idea." He yawned and turned onto his side facing the wall. Pulling his thick braid over his shoulder and holding on to it with one hand while his other circled around the pillow

He was just about to doze off when Heero spoke again. "Your idea has merit, to be a team." If Wing's pilot could have seen the face of the other boy, he would have seen a smile of contentment and hope flit across the boys lips just moments before he rested in Morpheus's arms. Hope was a wonderful bedfellow.


On to story Two in Duo's Friendship Arch., A Tough Row to Hoe