Ch. 3 ~ "Shakespeare"
"If anyone ever needed to legally change their last name, it's the Prof," Aubrey muttered. "The man couldn't be hyper if he was downing red bull by the gallon."
Heero flicked her a curious glance. She'd nabbed a seat beside him, but was paying more attention to the doodles she was making in her notebook to what the man at the front of the room was saying. Heero looked back towards the wizened old professor and thought he might understand why the man's droning would be practically unbearable to citizens. Professor Hiper had a tendency to go off on long, meandering tangents. And even when he was actually discussing World Politics, his monotonous, mumbling words had a habit of putting students to sleep. Heero scribbled down a few key notes, lending the old man half an ear as he slanted his gaze towards the boy three seats away.
Wufei had been almost as soldieresque as Heero for the first few days of school, sitting straight, paying rapt attention, and taking dilligent notes. But either he was also feeling the pangs of boredom, or he'd come to grasp the classes with more ease than he'd expected; he was leaning back in his chair in a relaxed manner, spinning his pencil idly between his fingers, hooded eyes on the professor. He was taking a minimal amount of notes, but then, Heero knew the vast amount of information the other young man was capable of memorizing.
"So, have you changed your mind?"
Heero frowned at Aubrey, a little irritated at the constant interruptions. "About what?" he muttered.
"You know." She leaned in, eyebrows raised encouragingly. "The party."
Heero's frown deepened. "I have plans," he repeated for the umpteenth time.
"So you keep saying." She rolled her eyes. "What kind of plans? Cuz if you're going to go visit your sick grandma, I can understand. But if you're just going to go see a movie or something, don't you think it can wait? C'mon, Rachel's rumored to throw some pretty awesome parties. Freshmen usually aren't even invited."
"There's a possibility I might have to go out of town," Heero edged.
"I don't think it's possible for you to be more vague," Aubrey accused, looking exasperated and amused at the same time. "Look, the only way your friend Woofei will go is if you go, right? So can't you please just show up for an hour? Thirty minutes? Anything."
"Wufei," Heero corrected automatically, unreasonably annoyed at her inability to pronounce the man's name.
"That's what I said."
Well, he'd tried. "Why do you care if Wufei goes?"
"I don't. But Penny does." Aubrey grinned, jerking her chin in Wufei's direction. "She thinks he's cute. But she's pretty shy, in case you hadn't noticed by her amazing inability to speak in front of boys. If Wufei shows up to this party, maybe they can actually talk to each other and get to know each other a bit better."
Heero stared down at his notes blankly. He'd completely lost track of the professor's thread. Half his mind scrambled to catch up, while the other half was busy applying the brakes. Cute? That Asian girl from lunch the other day thought Wufei was-- Oh. It was like Wufei had been saying; the sideways looks from girls, the friendly greetings. One of them found him pleasing, and wished to become more closely acquainted.
He could almost hear Duo's snarky voice in his head telling him to quit processing facts like a robot. Giving himself an internal shake, he snuck another look towards Wufei. It was highly doubtful Wufei would bother to go to some silly party, even if Heero went. And if he found out a girl would be waiting for him there, he'd most definitely say no. He'd always been adverse to making friendships with females.
Or maybe this time would be different, he thought suddenly. Penny was their age. She was... well, Heero couldn't remember if she was particularly good looking, because he'd been too busy trying to keep up with the convoluted table discussion that afternoon. But she was smart and single and shy; Heero knew all this because Aubrey had been ticking off facts about the girl for the last couple days to both of them. And now he knew why.
He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. So perhaps Wufei might actually be interested. A fifteen year old boy with only war on his mind might think there was no time for girls, but what about an eighteen year old young man who had been explicitely told to make a connection with other human beings? Maybe Wufei would actually use this chance to get to know a girl. He should. He was too antisocial as it was-- not that Heero had room to talk. And who was Heero to deny him this chance at making a connection? Perhaps if there were no missions, he could convince the other boy to go to the party and speak with this Penny.
If they were lucky, the two would hit it off. Become friends. Start "hanging out". Maybe even become romantic. That was the normal, proper thing.
Aubrey was staring at his hand. "Um, Heero?"
Heero looked down at his pencil, broken in two in his fist. Strange. Brushing the broken pencil bits away, he retrieved a new pencil, ignoring Aubrey's odd look. Lifting his eyes, he caught Wufei staring back at him; he must have felt Heero's eyes boring a hole into the back of his head. Wufei arched one thin eyebrow at him in a silent "What the hell are you looking at?" query.
"I'm getting you a stress ball," Aubrey murmured, watching as he dug another pencil out of his bag. "The Prof is really getting to you."
Quatre had always been the peacemaker of the group. Duo could swing either way, both instigating and soothing fights. Trowa, who preferred to stay out of arguments whenever humanly possible, had the bad timing to drop by his partners' room that afternoon to take a bit of his share of the money that had been given to them specifically for school supplies. Wufei was in charge of the funds, and Trowa was in need of a newer edition of a school book he'd already purchased. It seemed rather pointless and ridiculous to him, but maybe it was just because he was new to the college thing.
He knocked, then opened the door automatically, mistaking a raised voice for invitation. He came to a halt just inside the doorway, feeling the tension thick in the air. Both men sent him the briefest of looks, but otherwise ignored him. He was not a stranger or a threat, and evidently they saw their current argument as more important for the time being.
"I said NO, Yuy!" Wufei was snarling angrily, shoving himself abruptly into a sitting position from where he'd been reclining on his bed. He slapped a book shut that he'd obviously been trying to read and slammed it down on his bedside table with unnecessary force. "I can't believe you're even pushing the issue. I'm not interested."
Heero's face was a stony mask, but his frustration showed in his eyes. He stood rigidly near his desk, arms crossed tightly over his chest as if he was struggling to control his temper. He looked almost uncomfortable that the conversation was even taking place, as if he would rather have avoided the subject at all, which was strange. Trowa couldn't remember ever seeing Heero hesitant. "If we don't have a mission this weekend, there's no real harm in it," he said steadily, staring hard at Wufei. "Une said--"
"Une said," Wufei repeated with a snort of derision. "If you start reciting her 'make friends' spiel one more time, I am going to choke you, Yuy. I mean it. We aren't spies. We don't have to give the impression that we like anyone, or try to get close to people we're not interested in. If you've suddenly decided it's time to be friendly with other human beings, then knock yourself out. But I am not interested in going to some petty... party," he practically spat the word out, "when I could be using my time more productively."
Trowa's eyebrows shot up to his hairline. A party? That was what the argument was about? It was almost as unbelievable as the fact that Heero was apparently trying to convince Wufei to attend one.
"Doing what?" Heero retorted. "You don't need to study. You're already making better grades than most of the other students in our classes."
It was not exactly meant as a compliment, but Wufei chose to view it as one; it was an unconscious admittal of Heero's opinion of the man's intelligence. A bit of the ire faded from his tone and glare. "If you want to go to this party so badly, I'm not going to stop you," he grumbled. "I think it's stupid, and I don't understand why you of all people would be interested, but it's none of my business. Just stop trying to talk me into it. You don't need me there to watch your back."
Trowa cleared his throat, and they both stared at him as if they'd forgotten he was there. Trowa opened his mouth to request the funds he needed, but in the end he couldn't quite strangle his curiosity. "A party?"
Heero shrugged, scowling. "Some students in our class asked us to go. This weekend."
Trowa's brow furrowed slightly. "Why are you interested?" he couldn't help but ask. He was as baffled as Wufei at the thought of Heero willingly going to a party.
"There's a girl that's going to be there--" Heero cut himself off abruptly. No, Wufei would never agree to go if he found out the real reason behind Heero's insistance that he come along. Aubrey had said things would work better and be more natural if the two met casually.
"Oh." Trowa's face cleared as if in understanding, and a rare smile twitched at the corner of his mouth. "I see. Yes, you should go, Heero."
Wufei was most definitely not smiling. If anything, he suddenly looked as irritated as when Trowa had first walked in.
Heero wanted to argue that he wasn't really interested in the party himself, but thought better of it. Wufei would demand to know why he must go if Heero didn't even want to attend.
Wufei got to his feet and stalked past Heero, snapping over his shoulder, "You should have just explained yourself instead of all this pathetic badgering. Go to the damned party already, Yuy. I have better things to do with my time."
"I need textbook money," Trowa cut in when he realized Wufei was headed for the door.
"Bedside table," Wufei said shortly, and Trowa was forced to step aside as the man practically stomped from the room, still fuming.
Heero put his hands on his hips and scowled darkly. He seemed both frustrated and perplexed at his partner's sudden renewed anger. Had they both guessed his motive? He must have said too much. Trowa seemed to have understood right away, somehow, though Heero could not figure out how. Maybe Wufei had figured it out, too. Which meant he still wasn't interested in meeting girls. A bit of the tension eased out of his frame.
Trowa was digging the envelope out of the drawer of the bedside table. He plucked out a few bills and tucked them in his back pocket, watching Heero out of the corner of his eye. So Heero was finally showing interest in girls. What a late bloomer. "You should call Duo," he said impulsively as he headed for the door. This was probably something Heero needed to talk about-- the man was horrible with people on a regular basis, and Trowa could easily envision Heero unintentionally causing a girl to cry just by being himself. And if it was a girl he was actually interested in, that would be horrible for both of them. Trowa was no relationship guru, but perhaps Duo could help.
"Why would I want to talk to Duo about this?" Heero demanded.
Trowa shrugged slightly. "He understands things like this better than we do." He left, closing the door quietly behind himself to give the other boy privacy.
Heero frowned, then glanced towards the phone on his desk pensively. Trowa had a point. Duo had always seemed to be pretty good at figuring out how people ticked, and usually knew what to do to smooth things over or get a desired response from someone. Maybe he would have a plan to shake some sense into Wufei, or at least convince him to go to the party.
But Wufei didn't want to go. He wasn't interested in seeing the girl. Heero was quite willing to just let it go at that.
Unless Wufei hadn't actually figured out what Heero's angle was. Maybe he was just still irritated over the party thing in general. And didn't he owe it to the man to give him a chance? Reluctantly, Heero picked up the phone and dialed Duo's number by heart.
Duo of course had a thousand and one questions about his school life, which Heero answered in as little detail as possible before stubbornly steering the conversation the way he wanted it to go.
"Duo. Shut up. I need to ask you something."
Duo didn't seem to hear. "I heard Wufei's your roommate. You two getting along okay?" There was an oddly smug tone to his voice.
Heero chose to use the question to his advantage. "Not today. Trowa said you could help. Do you think you could be serious for five minutes?"
"Uh oh." He did sound serious now, Heero thought with relief. "What did you do now?"
Heero opened his mouth and closed it again, a little stung at his friend's automatic shift of blame. "Why do you assume it's my fault?" he demanded.
"Because you're calling me for advice. And because it's you. What's up? Let the love doctor solve all your problems, man. Lay it on me."
Heero frowned in confusion. How on earth had Duo guessed what he wanted to talk about? It wasn't until he was about to explain the situation to his friend that he realized how ridiculous it sounded coming from him, so he laid the story out as briefly and unemotionally as possible. "Une has made it clear she expects us to make 'friends'. We've been invited to a party this weekend. One of the girls there is apparently interested in Wufei, and I've been asked to convince him to come without telling him why. He won't cooperate, but for some reason Trowa seems to think you can help."
There was a startled silence for a long moment. "Wait. Let me get this straight," Duo said slowly. "You want to drag Wufei to a party to... hook him up with a chick?"
Heero did a hasty Duo-to-Heero translation in his head. "Yes. There is a young woman who would like to get to know him better. But if Wufei realizes this is the reason behind his invitation, he won't go. But you've forced me into social situations in the past 'for my own good'. So--"
"Yeah, but-- I mean..." Duo stopped for a moment, as if trying to gather his thoughts together. He sounded a bit flabberghasted-- and almost disappointed. "Er, has Wufei shown any interest in any girls there whatsoever?"
Heero frowned thoughtfully. "No," he admitted. "But he seems to understand them better. He gets a lot of attention, especially when he continues to ignore them. He explained it to me, and it doesn't seem to bother him any." He scowled slightly, remembering the boy's frustration at Heero's naivety. "He got irritated after awhile when I kept pointing it out; said it was normal."
"Oh." Duo sounded deflated, but there was still an undertone of surprise to his voice. "That's.. um. Huh. Well, he's kind of a hard man to read, but I guess I can see how that might be his way of..." He stopped, and Heero could almost see him shrug. "Okay." Now he sounded defeated. "If you want to encourage it, I guess I should help. Okay, first of all, forget the party."
"Forget the party, Heero. The only way you'll get him there is with a bomb threat or something. Anyway, in the end, the results will be the same: Wufei will be pretty pissed with you, and he'll probably take it out on everyone else like he always does. Including this chick... what's her name?"
"Cute. Anyway, ix-nay on the party, dude. It'll just blow up in your face."
Heero felt a moment of unexplainable relief. It was because it meant he wouldn't have to go either, he rationalized.
"He won't be comfortable there; he'll be tense and irritable, and will just drive off the girl. There are other ways to get them talking to each other, you know. Find a place they both tend to go, and get him to go there when you know she's there, too. Get them together somehow in a place they're both comfortable, but for god's sake, Heero, don't be obvious about it. Then find some excuse to leave them alone for awhile. Give them openings to talk to each other when there are other people around, too, so the conversation will be more relaxed."
Heero listened attentively, making mental notes, but it did strike him as a tad ironic. "For someone who seems an expert in suggestions about subtlety, you're not so good at following your own advice," he pointed out dryly, thinking of the way Duo had practically forced his friendship upon Heero during the war.
"Shut up," Duo retorted with a grin in his voice. "The only way to your heart is with a sledgehammer or years of constant picking, and I didn't think I'd live long enough to do the latter. That's why I kind of assumed..." he cut himself off. "Never mind," he said brusquely. "I was obviously wrong. But Heero, don't keep pushing it with these two, or Wufei might smell a rat and back off. And you don't even know if she's his type."
Ah, this was slang he knew. He'd heard it often enough, both from Duo and the people at school. "Does he have a 'type'?" he asked dubiously. Wufei had never shown any interest in women, if you didn't count his grudging respect for Sally Po.
"Er... I had a theory, but it looks like it's blown out of the water."
"I'll tell you if she fits," Heero suggested, glancing at his watch. He had another class in fifteen minutes. He needed to get as much advice and information as he could quickly so he could leave in time.
"Okay... Is she stubborn? Naive? Strong? Smart? Good looking? Does she have a fifteen foot wall of concrete around her emotions?"
Heero blinked. "I don't know. I haven't even spoken to her. She seemed pretty quiet. Shy," he added, remembering Aubrey's description.
"Seriously? Huh. I don't know, man. Some guys like shy girls. Anyway, if they hit it off, you'll know. If he starts bitching about how annoying she is, let it drop. If he talks about her the same way he does me, back the hell off and let him find someone else."
Heero rolled his eyes. "I have to go. I'll take your words into consideration."
Heero hung up, snatched up his backpack, and headed in long strides for his Economics class.
Heero paid a lot more attention to Penny after that.
He only shared one class with her, but it didn't take long for Aubrey to notice and figure out what he was up to. When he chose a seat close to the quiet girl to better observe her, Aubrey cheerily stole the seat across from him so she could help. Wufei sat near the front and ignored all three of them. Trowa, in the back, could not help but send the occassional odd glance Heero's way, but didn't interfere.
Aubrey kept inviting them to lunch, and even on days Wufei disappeared mysteriously to avoid it, Heero stubbornly went along so that he could get a closer look at the girl's habits. With Aubrey's information to fill in the blanks, he soon had a rough picture of who Penny was.
He had not paid enough attention to her before to pin down her nationality, but upon closer inspection he realized she wasn't of Chinese descent; she was Korean. She was small, quiet, and fairly attractive as girls went, though Heero was no great judge of beauty. When she smiled, it was a tentative closed-mouth expression, and she kept her hair long so that she could hide behind it when she was embarrassed-- which was often. Jake especially seemed to enjoy teasing her to make her blush.
And when he found out her favorite haunting spot, he decided to put Duo's plan into action.
On Friday when Wufei collected his stack of books to return them, Heero went along. Wufei didn't argue, perhaps assuming he needed a book for an assignment, and led the way in silence to the campus library.
Heero himself had never been in the library, and was a bit impressed. He had never seen so many books in one place. It was three stories tall, filled with shelves and shelves of books about history, people, places, fiction, and everything under the sun. After Wufei had dumped his books in the return slot, he made a beeline for the history section, and Heero went with him, keeping a sharp eye open for his quarry. Wufei ignored him, predicatably settling most of his attention on the Asian History section. Heero didn't pay much attention at first, still busy glancing around for the blue blouse he'd seen Penny wearing in class, but as his eyes skimmed the books to keep up the pretense of interest, a few caught his eye. Impulsively, he tugged a book on Japanese history away from its mates and flipped it open to a two-page colored picture of an ancient painting of a battlefield, where men with odd bladed weapons fought grimly. The colorful armor was just as intriguing as the weapons, and Heero flipped through a few pages in vague curiosity. He had never taken much interest in the history of his ancestors; for the most part race had become a mostly obsolete thing in their day and age. Add that to over a century of interracial marriage and breeding, and it was rare to find people like Wufei who were of pure blood of any nationality from the old world. Even Heero had mixed bloodlines in him; his blue eyes were set at odds with his faintly Asian features, but it was not uncommon to find obvious signs of mixed race in people. He had simply never thought about it, or cared. Wufei seemed to be fiercely proud of his own heritage and the history of his people, and Heero's curiosity was piqued despite himself.
Heero almost forgot about his goal, engrossed in the book in his hands. He'd heard of samurai before, but knew next to nothing about them, and of all the information in the book, the section on the ancient warriors caught and held his attention the most. Feeling eyes on him, he finally dragged his gaze away from the book and caught Wufei watching him with the faintest hint of a smile on his face.
"I've never seen you read for leisure," Wufei drawled. He had come to the obvious conclusion already that Heero was not here for school, but seemed to assume it was curiosity itself that had caused him to follow Wufei. He reached up and selected a couple more Japanese history books, handing them over. "It's always a good idea to know where you come from. It won't kill you to read in your spare time, Yuy."
Heero took the books automatically, but his response was forgotten. He'd glimpsed a familiar flash of blue in the aisle, headed their way. Luck was with him, it seemed. Penny didn't seem to have noticed them, yet. Her arms were loaded with books, and her eyes were on shelves as she scanned the Asian history section.
Wufei slipped another book free from the shelf and tucked it under his arm with the one already there. He seemed oddly pleased at Heero's sudden interest in history. "There are some more over--" he turned, gesturing, and nearly slammed into Penny. She'd noticed them belatedly and tried to edge around them, but Wufei's sudden turn caught her off guard.
His outstretched arm jarred her shoulder, and she jumped in surprise, then squeaked in dismay as she lost her grip on her books and they spilled to the floor noisily. Blushing furiously, she quickly got on her knees and began scooping them up again.
Wufei blinked, startled, then frowned in what Heero recognized as his charinged look, and dropped to a crouch to help, muttering a reluctant apology for his carelessness. It wasn't until he was handing over one of the books that he actually bothered to glance up and get a good look at the girl's face. "You're that girl," he blurted.
"Penny," Heero corrected pointedly.
Penny blushed again, ducking her head as she accepted the book back. "Um, I'm friends with Aubrey. We have a few classes together. You're Wufei, right? And Heero."
Wufei nodded absently, reaching for another book. He hesitated before handing it back, looking at the cover. "Shakespeare?" He arched a brow as he held it out. "I didn't think anyone read him anymore unless they were forced to."
A smile flickered on her lips briefly, then was gone again as she practically snatched the book away and added it to the pile she was balancing precariously on her knee. "I love him. I mean-- I love his words," she stammered. "They're just so beautiful, and, well..."
"No one talks like that anymore," Wufei finished with another of his brief smiles.
Heero hovered in the background, wishing he could think of a reason to slip away and give them a few minutes alone. Duo's plan had worked better than he'd hoped. And he suddenly really didn't want to be around to see its results. He had not really expected them to connect so quickly. He felt a tightness to his face that meant he was frowning, and quickly smoothed out his expression.
Not that it mattered; they both seemed to have forgotten he was there.
"No," Penny was murmuring in agreement. "And I think it's fascinating that one man created so many words that we still use." She was starting to pick up a bit of speed and confidence as she spoke. "Like 'rant' and 'generous' and 'unreal'--" she stopped herself suddenly, as if embarrassed to be rambling, or perhaps wondering if she was coming across as snooty. She ducked her head again, allowing her hair to fall around her face like a curtain.
"And 'assassination'," Wufei added with a wry note. His countenance had softened just the slightest, though. He reached out and took the books from her knee, rising to his feet. She scrambled upright, and muttered a thanks as he handed them back.
"Um, I guess I'll see you in class," she said shyly, barely able to look at his face as she edged around him.
Wufei nodded, and watched her as she hurried off. He snorted quietly. "If I'd known there was someone of actual interest and intellect in that group of fools you eat lunch with, I might have gone with you to the dining hall a few more times." He finally looked at Heero and arched a brow. "What's with the face, Yuy?"
Heero stared at him, wondering what expression he could have been making. "What? Nothing," he said quickly. "I was thinking about something. I don't think I've ever seen you talk civil to a girl," he added, getting the other boy back for his earlier snarky comment.
Wufei made a face at him and turned away, leading the way to the front desk to check out their books. "Shut your trap, Yuy. It's not my fault most of the women here are brainless twits."
A girl they were passing looked up to glare, but Wufei ignored her. Heero followed his friend in silence, deep in his own dark thoughts. His satisfaction at the flawless execution of his plan had quickly been crushed under annoyance and a bit of alarm, and he could not for the life of him understand why.
Back to GW fics