Ch 2: "Bruised Flesh & Injured Feelings"



"Maxwell! Get out of there, you idiot!"
"Shut up, Justice Boy!" Duo wrenched the controls, wheeling his giant Gundam around to face the mobile dolls that had just sprung their ambush on him. He felt like an idiot for falling into their trap, following the single doll that had tried to 'escape', but no way he was going to admit he was wrong to Wufei. "I can handle this! Eat scythe, you stupid tinker toys!" He swept his weapon in a deadly arc, destroying two of the oncoming dolls with a deafening explosion, scrapnel flying into the trees and buildings around them. Citizens were screaming and running for cover. Duo winced, hoping no one had been hurt, and lifted his scythe hastily to counter a doll's sudden swipe at him.
"Duo," Heero's voice was a sharp warning-- too late.
Another doll sprang forward, blasting away with its cannon. Duo grunted at the impact as his Gundam was thrown off balance. The dolls quickly took advantage, barrelling into him, obviously intent on bringing him down with their weight alone. For an instant panic flooded his system.
Then Heero was there, with Heavyarms close behind. A blast from Wing's laser cannon decimated the dolls and threw Deathscythe heavily to the ground with the close impact. As soon as the Gundam stopped skidding Duo kicked the button to open the hatch, struggling with his harness. There was a fire from a destroyed doll a little too close for comfort, and he didn't plan on sticking around. Deathscythe could survive the blast; he doubted he could.
Suddenly strong hands were wrapping around his arms, hauling him effortlessly from the cockpit, and he stumbled after his savior as he was dragged down the side of Deathscythe, running towards the treeline to escape the explosion that occured moments later.
Duo stumbled to a halt, leaning over to rest his hands on his knees as he caught his breath. He caught spandexed thighs out of the corner of his eye and lifted his head with a rueful grin. "Thanks, Hee-"
CRACK!
He stumbled back, stunned by the sharp blow to his jaw, his hand flying up to touch the bruise as he stared dumbly at his partner. Heero stood glaring at him, fists by his sides. "That was a stupid stunt," he said coolly.
Duo glared meekly at him, spitting bloody spittle to the side, his temper stirring.
Shenlong landed nearby and a moment later Wufei appeared standing in the cockpit, glaring down at them. "Good going, Maxwell," he shouted angrily. "Trying to get yourself killed?"
Duo didn't bother to keep his temper in check, then. He whirled to glare up at the other boy, giving him the finger. "Fuck off, Chopsticks!"
"WHAT??"
"Shut up," Heero snarled, reaching for his walky talky. "Trowa. Are there any left?"
Trowa's voice was calm. "No. Quatre just took out the last two. Is Duo alive?"
"Unfortunately," Wufei called down. Duo ground his teeth.
Heero ignored them both. "Yes. Split up and meet up at the safehouse in an hour." He turned a hard look on Duo. "You got into this mess," he said, "you clean it up. Put out that fire and get Deathscythe undercover. Be at the safehouse in an hour."
"Yeah, yeah, I heard you," Duo grumbled, rubbing tenderly at his sore jaw. "You didn't have to hit me so hard, jerk."
Heero turned his back on the other boy and walked away to retrieve his own Gundam. Wufei watched him walk away before climbing back into his own cockpit.
Seething, Duo turned on his heel and began trying to figure out how the hell he was going to put out the fire so close to his Gundam.
"Do you want a hose?" Wufei's snide voice sounded from Shenlong's speakers.
"Fuck off," Duo shot back, and Shenlong shot off into the air.

***

Duo lay on his back, head turned to regard the sunlight trickling through the window of the shabby room he and Quatre were sharing.
He reached up almost unconsciously to touch his jaw where Heero had struck him just four days ago after that near-deadly mission. Once he had had time to cool off, he had begun to wonder if it had simply been Heero's way of showing his worry.. After all, that was just the way Heero was. He had to learn the hard way how to feel. Violence was all he knew.
Wufei, however, had just been acting like a brat.
'I like Chang Wufei.'
He remembered last night's events with a sudden chill, sitting up quickly.
He glanced around the room. Quatre was already up. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Had it all been a dream? He didn't remember coming back to bed. He shook his head as if to clear the uneasy thoughts. Was it a dream... or was it real?
He turned and let his feet touch the floor, reaching for his towel.
Dirt.
There was dirt on the floor by his shoes.
He took in a shuddery breath. So it hadn't been a dream, after all.
He pulled his legs back onto the bed, hugging them to his chest protectively. Resting his chin on his knees, he forced himself to remain calm and think it through.
When he raised his right hand, his reflection raised its right, as well. When he said he liked Heero, his reflection said he liked Wufei.
But that was ridiculous! Sometimes he couldn't stand the hard-faced pilot. It was..
It was the opposite of how he really felt.
He frowned, reaching up to finger a lock of hair.
Opposites. Exactly. The mirror did the opposite of what it was supposed to do. Mirrors were supposed to be opposite, though. Your left equaled their right. This mirror showed things how they really were- if he nodded, it nodded, if he raised his right hand, it raised its right.
No, that couldn't be right. Then his reflection wouldn't have said something as stupid as 'I like Chang Wufei'. He curled his lip at the thought. Stupid mirror. Maybe he'd been seeing things after all. Why would his reflection think he liked Wufei? Wufei was a hard-ass, someone who cared only about himself and his stupid justice. What drove the boy to seek for justice, anyway? What a stupid reason to fight. He himself had fought for some semblence of revenge, but it wasn't the same.
What makes Chang Wufei tick?
The door swung open. "Maxwell, aren't you up yet?" Wufei poked his head inside, looking irritable.
Duo straightened quickly, letting his feet drop to the floor once more and releasing the lock of hair he'd started nibbling on. "I'm up," he said defensively. He blinked, then squinted suspiciously at the other pilot. "What are you staring at?" he demanded.
Wufei seemed to realize he was staring at Duo with an almost startled look on his face, and scowled. "Breakfast," he said shortly, and left.
"What the hell was that all about?" Duo grumbled as he rose to his feet. "Retard." He reached up to scratch his head, fingers slipping through his loose hair. "Oh." He pulled a fistful of hair over his shoulder to regard it almost ruefully. Only Quatre had seen him with his hair down before, since they shared the same room. He remembered Quatre's almost girl-like fascination with his hair, how he had begged to brush it the first night Duo had taken it down.
"It's so pretty, and so long," Quatre had breathed, eyes shining as he ran his hands gently through the long tresses, still wavy from being held in a braid. "It doesn't look that long when it's all tied up."
That's what had startled Wufei. He'd never seen his partner with his hair loose. A sudden happy thought came to Duo. If Wufei were that surprised, how would *Heero* react? Grinning happily, he snatched up some pants, tugged them on, and rushed downstairs. This was going to be great. He would catch Heero completely by surprise at breakfast.
He bounded into the kitchen, grinning impishly. "Ohayo~!"
"Ohay-- Oh, Duo, your hair's down again," Quatre exclaimed happily from where he was making bacon at the stove.
Trowa barely glanced at him. Wufei turned his back on him stubbornly, opening the cooler and reaching for the juice.
Heero looked up from his toast and juice and looked at Duo dispassionately for a long moment. "No wonder you wear it up," he grunted finally, lowering his eyes once more to his plate. "It will only get in your way during missions. Tie it back up before you catch it on fire by the stove."
Duo deflated. He stared numbly at Heero for a while before realizing that was as
good a reaction as he was going to get and stepped slowly away from the stove. He hadn't felt such crushing personal disappointment in a long time. Heero's eyes had been calculating, but dispassionate as ever. Did EVERYTHING come down to the mission with him? Jesus, even stick-up-the-ass Wufei had reacted more favorably than THAT.
His pride pricked, Duo silently dug a hairband from his pocket and began to braid his hair, fingers flying expertly through the long tresses until it was in a loose braid that would serve until he showered. He seated himself at the table across from Heero, deaf to Quatre's cheerful morning chatter as he stared at the boy sitting calmly not four feet away. Didn't *anything* affect him? He was like a damn statue. He reached up to trace the fading bruise on his jaw as if to remind himself of the recent reaction he *had* gotten out of his stone-faced partner. He winced. It still hurt to touch it, and he'd been rubbing it a lot lately. It was getting sore again. Dammit.
Something wet and cold landed in his lap, and he jumped. "Wha-"
"Stop touching it, idiot."
Duo looked up blankly at Wufei, who was closing the lid to the cooler. He lowered his eyes to his lap and opened the wad of paper towel. It was filled with a handful of ice. He looked up quickly, staring incredulously at the other boy, who had already turned his back on him. "Wow, thoughtfulness- there's a trait you don't expect from a Chang," he said without thinking.
Wufei gave him a dirty look and strode from the room with his juice.
"Ah- Wufei!" Quatre called after him, holding his frying pan of bacon. "Don't you want breakfast?"
"I'm not hungry," Wufei snapped over his shoulder, and walked outside.
Duo instantly felt like a jerk. He raised the improvised ice pack to his jaw, flicked Heero a glance, and stood up hastily. "Be back in a minute," he muttered, and hurried outside.
He caught up to Wufei as the other boy was heading towards the woods for his workout. "Wufei-! Wait!"
Wufei didn't even slow down. Duo ran to intercept him, and Wufei halted, glaring at him. "What?"
"Um... Thanks," Duo mumbled, unable to meet him in the eye, still holding the ice pack to his cheek. "Sorry."
"Are you always this articulate?"
Duo glared up at him. "Hey, I'm trying to thank you here," he snapped.
"I didn't ask for your thanks."
"Then I'm trying to apologize, happy? Ooh, you're impossible!" Duo threw up his arms in exasperation. "Forget it!" He marched back towards the house.
Wufei didn't bother to respond.

***

"You have a mission."
Duo looked up quickly from his instant ramen, lowering his chopsticks. "Eh? Me?"
Heero closed his laptop with a quiet click, glancing from Duo to Wufei, who was making a sandwich for lunch. "Both of you."
"Whaaat??" Duo exclaimed, slamming down his ramen and spraying himself with the hot broth. "I have to go on a mission with just HIM?"
Wufei turned to level a Look at Duo. "Quit your screeching, Maxwell," he snapped, taking a bite of his sandwich.
Heero's jaw twitched with the first signs of temper, and Duo realized he'd pushed the other soldier a little too far. Heero had made it clear that he wanted the bickering between him and Wufei to come to an end, and now it was always Duo who initiated the petty arguments. For the most part, Wufei had left him alone today. "Duo," he said in a dangerous voice, ready to either launch into a lecture of the mission or- even simpler -deck him right then and there. Duo flinched instinctively. He caught Wufei's eyes narrowing and turned his back on him angrily. Great, so now Wufei thought he was weak for backing down in front of a guy who could bend steel bars with his bare hands.
Jackass.
"Heero." Trowa appeared behind Heero as if from nowhere, his face its usual calm mask. He laid his hand lightly but insistantly on the shorter boy's shoulder.
Heero seemed to regain his temper with an effort and turned flinty eyes from Duo to Wufei. "You two are going on this mission as a pair tomorrow at 1300. If you bicker or fight it's only going to put the mission and your lives in jeapordy, so this had better stop NOW."
Quatre was watching all this from the doorway with wide, fretful eyes, but managed to hold his tongue.
Wufei and Duo exchanged an annoyed glance before Wufei gave a half-shrug. "Ch'. Fine."
"Just don't start anything," Duo snapped.
"ME?"
"That's enough," Trowa said quietly but firmly just as Heero took a threatening step towards Duo. The tall acrobat levelled them each with a steady gaze. After a while Duo glanced away a little sheepishly, and even Wufei's eyes darted to the side with a scowl. Quatre looked relieved as slowly the tension ebbed from the room.
Heero pulled out of Trowa's grasp and picked up his laptop, heading for his room. After a moment Trowa followed him- probably to discuss the childish animosity between the two pilots.
Duo decided to simply ignore Wufei and wolfed down his ramen. He had a sudden urge to look at the mirror again. Dumping his chopsticks in the sink and his empty ramen cup in the trashcan, he hurried outside to the shed.
He trotted down the cellar stairs and approached the mirror slowly, watching his reflection almost curiously. After a moment of hesitation he settled on the floor before the reflective surface, staring at the braided pilot gazing back at him.
"I have a mission with turnip-head tomorrow," he said almost conversationally. It seemed almost natural that he talk to this warped reflection of himself. After all, he talked to himself often enough as it was, why not talk to an image of himself where no one could hear or see him? "I hope you're happy."
His reflection looked about as happy as he felt about the prospect, which wasn't very. Duo sighed, rubbing his temple, noting how the Mirror Duo rose the same hand. "He's a jerk. So stuck up on this justice thing... Though.." He squirmed a bit uncomfortably, "He was actually kinda nice to me this morning. Gave me an ice pack for..this..." He reached up to place his fingertips against the bruise, which was fading into a sickly yellow color. He gazed into the reflection of solemn violet eyes and finally gave a gusty sigh, rolling his eyes, "OK, so I pick on him a lot, but he's just TOO easy to tease. And if he wouldn't act so snide we might actually get along every other blue moon. I can't help it if we're not exactly compatible. Like that mission. The jerk. He had no reason to get mad at me-- what does HE care if I do dangerous stunts?"
He scowled at his reflection. "Wufei yelled at me after the wreck because he was mad that I took the glory from him."
There it was again.
Mirror Duo's lips.. moving differently from his.
He blinked and leaned closer, almost hesitant to repeat himself. Finally he did, slowly, watching the lips move, tracing the silent words with his eyes.
'Wufei yelled at me after the wreck because he was worried about me.'
"BULLSHIT!" he hollered without even thinking. "Heero was worried about me! He- He does care for me, he just doesn't know how to--"
Again.
Duo stopped, taking a wavering breath. Suddenly he didn't want to know what his reflection was saying. All he had to do, he realized, was get up, walk away, and never come back to this stupid mirror. He'd never have to listen to it tell him things that couldn't possibly be true.
But sick curiosity won out in the end, and almost tremulously he murmrued, "Heero cares for me."
The lips that spelled out the wrong words made Duo's heart freeze inside his chest.
'Heero cares for another.'
"Sh..shut up," Duo whispered harshly, rising suddenly to his feet. "You stupid mirror... What do you know?!" He aimed a kick at the mirror's surface.
"Maxwell? What the hell are you doing down there?"
Duo froze at the familiar voice, foot still raised for a blow. He heard footsteps on the stairs and turned quickly as a dark head popped around the doorframe, exotic face pulled in a puzzled frown. "Who the hell are you yelling at, Maxwell?" Wufei's eyes darted around the room.
"N-nobody," Duo said quickly, the hair on his arms still standing on end. "Just.. talking to myself." Literally.
Wufei gave him a pitying look, as if he was sorely tempted to tell Duo just how crazy he thought he was. But he managed to keep his comments to himself and instead only said, slowly and haltingly, "I need to pick up more food and I need a second person." He scowled a little. "Do you want to come?"
Duo stared at him incredulously. "This was Quatre's idea, wasn't it?" he demanded finally.
Wufei glared at him. "No. But never mind," he snapped, and turned to go.
Jerk, Duo's conscience hissed. "Uh, wait!" he called, stepping forward. "Um, sorry. Yeah, I'll go with you. I don't care."
Wufei regarded him over his shoulder for a moment before grunting and walking back upstairs. Duo watched him go for a moment before glancing back towards the mirror.
The things the mirror was saying were too ludicrous to be true. But still.. it did almost make him want to know get the other pilot a little better. Just to see why his reflection would have such a stupid idea. Besides, the fighting *was* getting a little old, and they needed to be able to work as a cooperative team on tomorrow's mission. Sighing, and determined to bury his reflection's words in the back of his subconscious, he hurried to catch up with the aloof dragon warrior.





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Author's Notes: Just as a forwarning, this fic is not going to be very long. I'm thinking 5 chapters at the most. Hope you enjoy. ^_^


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