Ch. 2 ~ "Lunch Break"
Because they had started school on a Thursday, the weekend came quickly-- but not quickly enough in Heero's opinion.
He sent a professional but very blunt message to Lesa Notch on Friday evening, and by midnight Une had reluctantly responded to the unspoken threat of school-ground violence with a simple mission.
She still wanted them to concentrate on "integrating" into the school life, so it was an easy in-out job. At that point Heero didn't care. He needed to feel some sense of normalcy, needed to feel the familiar rush of adrenaline and the heavy weight of a gun in his hand.
Only two days of school, and his brain already felt like it was leaking out of his ears.
Heero was very bright for his age; all of the prior Gundam pilots had been, which was one reason they'd been chosen by the scientists in the first place. It was not very difficult to soak up the information being shoved down his throat in classes, and he had already astonished his mathematics teacher with the speed in which he caught on and finished his assignments, going so far as to finish his day's homework before class was even out.
It was everything else that was making him feel like he was losing his mind.
Duo had been the first person to suggest Heero was an odd boy, but since Duo wasn't exactly normal either, it had taken ordinary citizens like Relena to clue him into the fact that he did not act or think like other boys his age. And that had been when he was fifteen.
Now at eighteen, surrounded by people in his age group who knew next to nothing substantial about the war that had occurred, his own shortcomings and oddities were constantly being thrown in his face. The bizarre conversations people held, the meaningless things they obsessed or worried about, the very way they acted and lived-- as if they thought themselves immortal --was baffling to him. He shared several classes with Trowa and Wufei, and it was some small relief to see the slightly shell-shocked expressions they wore all day. Trowa was perhaps the one most protective of his alone time and personal space, and it was a visible strain on the boy to have to put up with halls full of jostling students and classrooms ringing with the loud chatter of his peers. Wufei, who had been raised in a more dignified scholarly setting and had always been coldly aloof, was unable to hide behind casual acceptance; it was easy for anyone who knew him to see how disgusted he was with the school's population as a whole. Heero was fairly certain they both felt as lost and disoriented as he did, not than any one of them would ever admit this to each other. It was a small comfort, but the mission was still a great relief.
Wufei, as soon as he'd realized what Heero was up to, had immediately and harshly demanded to be let in on a mission as well.
But Trowa, to Heero's private surprise, had not demanded one himself. He said something about getting away from the campus for the weekend, but he didn't say where he was going or what he was doing, and Heero didn't bother to ask.
Gun in hand, the sound of Wufei's steady breathing at his back, cammo paint smeared greasily across his face, Heero felt more himself than he had since Wednesday. The only thing throwing him off was the voice that occassionally interrupted his inner thoughts. A few times in the past one of the others-- usually Duo --had played 'Lookout' on a mission with him. The 'lookout' was actually the coordinator; they set themselves up close to the site of the mission and kept an eye on everything and everyone via satellite and camera, keeping those in play constantly informed on the position of the enemy or pulling up blueprints and schematics to offer a quick exit or entrance to a building.
Having a female voice in his ear was a bit disconcerting. Especially when said female had a bad habit of going off on tangents like she was doing now.
"Hold your position for a second, they've stopped to talk to each other. So, how are you boys liking school? Make any friends yet?"
From where he was crouched behind Heero, back pressed up against the side of the building, Wufei remained silent as the grave, refusing to answer such small talk.
Heero rolled his shoulder against the wall, then back again, taking a quick peek out at the grounds before ducking back. He'd caught a glimpse of the two guards, taking out cigarettes, their speech muffled against the heavy downpour. There was a bitter note to their voices; probably complaining about sloughing through the rain on their rounds.
Heero and Wufei were already soaked to the skin, and the narrow gutter on the roof's edge overhead did next to nothing to shelter them from the worst of the deluge. The rain made visibilty even worse as night approached, but Heero made no move to put on his NVGs. They would be inside soon enough, and there would be no need. His night vision was good enough by itself for now.
Lesa's voice crackled slightly in his earpiece. "Hey, are you two dead or something? I asked if you made any friends yet."
Heero's mouth twitched in the faintest hint of a frown. "This can wait until later," he said shortly, voice low, though it was doubtful the guards would be able to hear him anyway with the way the rain was coming down. He shook his head sharply to get some of the water out of his hair.
"Yeah, right. And by 'later' you mean 'never'. And by 'never' you mean 'shut the hell up, Notch', right? Okay, I guess that's a 'No' on the friends thing, then. What about girls?" Heero could hear the teasing grin in her voice. "Don't tell me you haven't been chatted up yet. Or at least gotten a few looks."
Wufei muttered something under his breath.
"I heard that, Wufei," Lesa said immediately. "And if I knew Chinese, I'd probably kick your butt for whatever you just said. Come on, you know how boring it is being Lookout? I did have other plans, you know. I hadn't planned on being stuck on a dinky mission like this with two untalkative rocks. Throw me a line here." Her voice turned casual as she tried to wheedle them into conversation. "Get any dates yet? What about Trowa?"
Heero ignored her, but despite himself, part of his thoughts were already flitting towards school.
Yes, there had been looks. He hadn't noticed them at first, but when he had, he'd become increasingly suspicious and actually made one girl cry with his sharp questioning until Wufei, with a look of long-suffering, had pulled him aside and explained that the girls were expressing subtle interest, not waiting for him to turn his back so they could put a bullet in it.
Aside from Relena, Heero could not remember ever having a girl interested in him-- and it had taken much blunt mental bludgeoning from Duo before he'd realized that Relena was female, much less interested in him. That had been a bit awkward. The only good thing about her being so disapproving of the Preventers was that it made contact between them a rare thing.
And while it had taken him awhile to notice the looks being sent his way, he had become only too aware of the many sideways glances Wufei received. He was fairly certain that Wufei was aware of them as well, but he was able to ignore them completely, which for some reason only earned him more attention. It was a bit baffling, but also inexplicably irritating. Couldn't they tell he wasn't interested? Why would you stare at someone like that so rudely when they were going out of their way to ignore you? It was idiotic. And despite Wufei's droll assurances that the girls were harmless, Heero still felt automatic distrust when he noticed yet another female student fluttering her eyelashes at a seemingly oblivious Wufei. Wufei had blown off Heero's comments on it the first two times, but the last time Heero had warned him he was under surveillance, Wufei had turned around to stare at Heero with a blank face, eyebrows up somewhere near his hairline. Heero hadn't mentioned it again.
"Geez, you guys are so boring," Lesa grumbled. Then, almost as an afterthought, she added, "Oh, they're moving on."
Heero took another quick glance around the corner. Sure enough, the two guards were squelching their way through the mud in the opposite direction to circle the perimeter again. Finally. The longer Heero and Wufei waited, the higher risk they ran of getting caught, or having someone discover the cut in the fence they'd made to let themselves in. Heero didn't need to say anything to Wufei; even as he dashed from cover, low to the ground, he heard Wufei move with him, covering his back.
Heero rapped on the door, using the same stacatto knocks he'd overheard the guards use. They waited tensely for a moment, then there was the sound of a bolt being drawn back. The door started to open, a voice already filtering out. "Christ, Williams, again? I told you not to eat that--"
Heero threw his shoulder into the door, using his weight to slam the door open, catching the door guard completely unawares. Wufei surged past him and delivered a hard chop to the guard's neck with the side of his hand. The man collapsed bonelessly to the floor with barely a gurgle of surprise.
Heero was already shutting and bolting the door behind them, glancing around the narrow hallway quickly to make sure there was no one else. Wufei, who even after so long preferred blade to gun, drew his saber with a soft hiss of steel against scabbard and went down the hall on quick silent feet. Swiftly wiping rainwater from his face, Heero followed, gun pointed at the ground, finger hovering close to the trigger guard. There was only one door-- the one at the end of the hallway. Wufei took a quick peek through the small window in the door, then stepped off to the side with a nod.
Since he had the long-range weapon, Heero took point, easing the door open a few inches and waiting a moment to make sure there was no one just out of sight. Pulling the door open just enough for them to squeeze through, he ducked inside and immediately darted behind a stack of crates, Wufei seconds behind him. The warehouse was lightly guarded, and full of enough crates to make cover easy. The sound of voices, words indistinct, floated down from the catwalk, accompanied by the clank of boots on metal.
"The office is upstairs," Lesa murmured. "Take the left-hand staircase, and it'll be the third door on your left. Getting past the guards is up to you, but remember-- this is a no casualty mission."
Heero grunted in response. His gun was loaded with rubber bullets, but Wufei's sword sure as hell wasn't blunt, and either one of them could kill a man with their bare hands. Still, the reminder was unnecessary; Une had been quite clear in the mission brief. These were rent-a-cops, nothing more sinister than that. They probably had no idea what they were guarding. There was no need to kill them in order to complete their mission.
Heero was watching the guards up-top. The catwalk covered the sides and back wall in a squarish horseshoe, and the pair of guards seemed to be doing a circuit, going from one end to the other and checking out the ground below. They wouldn't be able to see Heero and Wufei's hiding place until they got to the right. Heero waited patiently until they'd reached the right-hand wall, then made for the left staircase in a low crouch, quick but silent. Wufei was right on his heels, keeping one eye on the guards. Several of the overhead lights had burnt out; apparently it was too much trouble to drag in a ladder tall enough to replace the bulbs. It didn't darken the warehouse by much, but it helped a bit. They practically crawled up the stairs to keep from being seen, then hugged the wall once they reached the top, scooting along it until they reached the third door.
"Coming back," Wufei murmured as the guards turned and began heading back around towards them, still talking.
Heero was already working on the lock. After a few moments there was a click, and he twisted the knob, once again opening the door just enough to let them in. They slipped inside and shut the door carefully, then froze, waiting for a shout or the sound of footsteps crashing against the metal catwalk.
Thirty seconds. One minute.
Heero allowed himself to relax a fraction and tugged his small flashlight out of his pocket, wrapping his hand around the head of it to keep the beam narrow. Wufei stayed by the door, which had no window, keeping his ears peeled.
Heero began rummaging around in the desk drawers, then moved on to the file cabinet, working as fast as possible without making any undue noise. Every second that ticked away they ran the risk of being discovered: someone might happen to notice the fence, or try to get in unsuccesfully, or run across the unconscious door guard.
"Got it," Heero said, twitching a file from the cabinet and stuffing it under his bullet-proof vest to protect it from the rain outside.
Wufei gve a sharp hiss of warning, and Heero froze, straining his ears. There was a quick rattle from just outside-- the guards were jiggling the door handles, making sure they were secure. Wufei quietly turned the lock and stood tensely. A second later the doorknob rattled as it was tested--
Then it popped open.
The locks were old, in need of repair; Heero must have made a pin stick when he'd picked it, and now the door would not lock properly.
Heero was already stepping back, melting into the shadows, but Wufei didn't have time to get undercover. He scooted sideways, flush against the wall, and then the door swung open.
"What the--" One of the guards hesitated on the threshold, face a mixture of confusion and slight suspicion. He took two steps in, seemingly reassured by what at first glance seemed to be an empty office. Then he lifted his flashlight instinctively, and the sweeping beam landed on Heero's shoulder.
Wufei was already moving. Clapping his hand over the man's mouth, he jerked him away from the door, spinning them both around to give Heero a clear shot to the other guard just outside.
There was the sound of the rubber bullet slamming into the second guard and a heavy grunt and the slam of a body hitting the floor. Wufei had his back to the wall, his arms locked in a strangle-hold around his captive's throat. Planting his feet wide apart and letting the wall take his weight, he pressed his lips hard together and applied steady pressure as the guard in his grasp choked and sputtered, flailing as he tried unsuccessfully to get away or peel the shorter boy's arms away. Slowly his struggling began to weaken until finally he slumped over bonelessly.
Wufei carefully lowered the unconscious man to the ground and stepped over him, adrenaline singing in his veins. Heero had darted past him during the struggle to further incapacitate the second guard, and was waiting for him on the catwalk. Once Wufei slipped out, Heero seized the senseless guard by the collar and dragged him bodily into the office with very little visible effort. Shutting the two guards inside, he followed Wufei swiftly down the stairs.
They waited for Lesa to give the all-clear, and within minutes they were out of the warehouse, across the grounds, and shoving their way through the cut in the fence.
"Ninmu kanryou," Heero muttered, more out of habit than any attempt to clue Lesa in.
"Excellent work, boys," Lesa complimented, obviously relieved to have it over with.
Heero barely heard her. He'd glanced over at Wufei, whose mouth was spreading in a tight little smile of grim satisfaction.
For the first time since Wednesday, Heero felt normal again.
School was not any easier when it resumed on Monday, but the mission had helped sate both boys, and they felt ready to face the daunting student body and grueling classes. Trowa also seemed slightly more balanced, though he didn't offer any explanation as to his whereabouts during the weekend, and neither boy bothered to ask.
While several classes were what Une had referred to as "basic courses"-- Advanced Trig and Literature, for instance --the bulk of their classes were both interesting and incredibly dull at the same time, depending when and who you asked. Une had settled on Political Science being the best road to take, and Heero personally found most of it somewhat fascinating. He'd never understood the nuances in the politics behind the war, or politics in general, for that matter. Relena had tried to impress them on him in her own way, but to hear actual lectures about it was quite a bit more informative. Trowa didn't seem to care one way or the other, but Wufei seemed to find the majority of the lectures boring, pouring most of his interest into Literature. Whether or not it simply appealed to him or was somewhat similar to what he'd studied in his youth, he never said, and it never occurred to Heero to ask. He didn't even notice Wufei's interest in proper grammar and the written word until he began to notice the boy with his nose buried in a book almost every afternoon. Sometimes it was something he'd procured from the library, othertimes it was a textbook. He had a stack of books he kept on his desk, and went through them at an alarming pace. Heero, who had never had any need to read anything other than instruction manuals, could not understand the allure, but learned quickly not to bother his roommate when he was curled up on his bed with a book.
None of them had made any effort to get to know their fellow students, despite being approached in a friendly manner by several peers, but near the end of their second week Heero decided to view it as a neccessity to his education, rather than a luxury. Lesa and Une had been pretty insistant that he expand his social circle, and besides, perhaps making acquaintances would help his cover. It was true that they were thought odd more because of their lack of friends than their stand-offish personalities.
So on Thursday when a girl casually asked if he would join her friends at lunch time, Heero agreed. Wufei turned in his seat to look at Heero in mild surprise, and was instantly included in the invitation. When Heero took him aside and attempted to logically explain his actions, Wufei told him to shut up and stop being a robot, but he went with Heero at lunch time.
There were two dining facilities on-campus, one at either end, and most students preferred the variety of the fare as well as the socialization that went on there, as opposed to going off-campus for lunch or bringing their own. Heero himself had eaten there several times, sometimes by himself, sometimes with Trowa. He was never sure where Wufei went for lunch, but perhaps he simply slipped back to the dormitory to read. Again, Heero had never asked. It was none of his business.
The girl-- Aubrey --met them just outside the Nancy Green dining area, all welcoming smiles. "Hey, I was afraid you would get lost or something. I almost never see you here. Come on, I'll show you our table."
Heero and Wufei quickly loaded their trays with the closest thing that passed for nutrition on the menu and followed the redhead to a table crowded with other students. Heero almost balked at the sight of so many of them. The tables could fit four comfortably, and there were already five there, chattering loudly and stealing food from each other like a pack of apes.
"Come on, pull up some chairs," Aubrey invited, squeezing in beside a giggling blond. She waved her hand around at the smiling faces, rattling off quick introductions. "This is Susan, Brianna, Tom, Jake, and Penny. Guys, this is Heero and Wufei-- did I say that right?"
She pronounced it "Woof-ay", but Wufei merely grunted in response, paying more attention to his food than the other students.
"Pleased to meet you," Heero remembered to say.
His flat tones didn't seem to bother any of them, though for a fleeting instant he wished he found it as easy as Duo did to be so openly friendly.
"So they can talk," the blonde-- Brianna? --giggled, twirling a lock of hair around and around on her finger. She was staring at Heero intently, which was a bit discomforting. "I've seen you two around. We share some classes together. I never see you hanging out with anyone, though."
"I didn't know you two knew each other," one of the boys added.
"We're roommates," Wufei put in flatly, still not bothering to look at any of them as he squirted a little package of dressing onto his salad.
"So what's with the antisocial thing you got goin' on?" the other boy asked, waving a fry idly. "You only stick with your own kind or something? Hey, Penny, maybe they'll be nice to you."
"Shut up, Jake," Aubrey snapped. "That's rude."
Wufei's eyes flickered up briefly to take in Penny, the only Asian girl at the table. His jaw tightened for a moment, but other than that he didn't let his offense at Jake's assumption show.
"How is that rude?" Jake demanded, gnawing on his fry.
"That's the same thing as saying they're racist," Brianna huffed.
"It is saying they're racist," Aubrey said, still glaring at Jake. "Jeez, don't be a douche."
"I was just playin'," Jake muttered, stuffing a fistful of fries into his mouth.
"Don't mind Jake," Aubrey said in a lower tone, leaning in towards Heero to smile apologetically. "He doesn't always think before he talks. So, you two dating?"
Wufei inhaled a cherry tomato.
Heero pounded him on the back helpfully until Wufei managed to breathe again. Most of them were laughing, except for Heero, who was mildly irritated at their callousness to Wufei's plight.
"Oh, god, that's not what I meant," Audrey tittered, flapping her hands by her face in an odd manner as she attempted to stop her giggling. "Sorry, Wufei. I meant are you dating anyone?"
Still confused by the reaction of the table at large, Heero shook his head. What on earth was she asking something like that for, anyway? It was no one's business. And why was she apologizing to Wufei?
Wufei had regained his composure. He set the offending tomato aside and returned to his meal as if nothing had happened. "We're here to learn," he said simply.
"Oh, come off it," Jake scoffed.
"And make friends," Heero added dutifully, as if he could feel Une's threatening stare on his back.
Wufei sent him a sideways look of what might have been amusement or scorn.... it was hard to tell with Wufei. The two were usually closely linked.
Susan had been wolfing down her food at an alarming rate, evidently in some kind of eating contest with Tom. She finally spoke around a mouthful of cake as she reached for her soda. "Well, look, you're always welcome to hang out with us, you know. You're pretty weird, and so are we, so it works out okay."
"Weird?? Speak for yourself," Aubrey laughed, flicking a pea at her friend.
"Hey, all they need is to loosen up, that's all," Jake declared. "I got it-- come to Rachel's party this weekend."
Heero quickly overrode Wufei's flat "NO" with, "I have plans this weekend."
Aubrey deflated a bit. "Oh, okay. We are kinda springing this on you last minute. Well, what about you, Wufei? A little party would do you good. And you could meet lots of--"
"I'm not interested in parties," Wufei said shortly.
There was an awkward pause. Heero sent his partner a brief frown. He'd seen Wufei flaunt his impeccable manners on occassion-- usually only when it suited him --and could not understand why the other boy was insisting on being so rude to people who were obviously trying to befriend them. They needed these people to help their cover; why didn't he understand that?
Conversation resumed, but Wufei kept out of it for the most part, only responding when someone addressed him directly. Heero, baffled or uninterested by most of what was being discussed, ended up listening more than talking, and was privately relieved when lunch was over.
Author's Notes: Three-fourths of the way through this chapter, I realized my knowledge on 'normal' college is spotty, so HUGE THANKS to Ken, who gave me a run-down on a lot of things that were incredibly helpful <33
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