Ch. 6 ~ "The Bees and the Bees"

Heero did not find out about the mission until the last minute, and was privately a bit steamed at not being able to expend his frustration on a moving target. But perhaps Une had had a reason for teaming Wufei up with Barton, and it was too late to argue, now. Besides, the tension between himself and Wufei was still there, even if it was politely ignored for the most part. Perhaps a weekend apart would help soothe Wufei's ruffled feathers, though Heero wished he could figure out what in the hell he'd done wrong in the first place so he would know better than to make the same mistake in the future.

He had a staggering amount of homework to keep him busy over the weekend, and was grimly beginning to understand at least a little bit of the griping the other students did when it came to assignments. He had spent hours-- days --doing much more dangerous or necessary tasks, but homework in some ways was almost worse. It was not only mind-numbing, it demanded that he use a part of his brain that had not been exercised very thoroughly. Heero was smart, smarter than most, anyway, but learning how to write an essay or verbally explain the finer things involved with politics was a struggle. In some ways he enjoyed the difficulty; he saw it as a challenge, and something new to his life besides fighting and simply being alive. Sometimes he could almost understand Wufei's interest in learning, if not his passion. Other times it all seemed like a colossal waste of time, driving him close to the edge of frustration so that he found himself wishing the university would be attacked simply so he could do what he did best.

He was beginning to notice the difference between a formal education and "the school of hard knocks" as Duo had called it. It was Aubrey's group that really started to make him uncomfortably aware of how stupid he must seem to them sometimes. He would fail miserably to understand certain "simple concepts" about how people thought or acted, or would blankly inquire the meaning behind a pop culture reference. And he was only too aware of how ignorant most of them were about life outside of school and home. Wufei seemed to feel vague disdain for the student population as a whole for their sheltered way of life, but a part of Heero envied them for that just a little bit, deep inside himself where he barely even acknowleded the concept. Many of them had never known anything of the war aside from what they saw or heard on the television or from word-of-mouth. Those that had been in cities that were attacked or caught in the cross fire still had tunnel vision; all they had cared about were the lives of their families and the precarious future of their towns. Studying the politics behind the war itself was not the same as actively fighting that war. Both sides were equally important, giving a broader scope to the monster that was war, and Heero was finally beginning to understand that this may have been part of Une's intention in sending them to school in the first place.

He did not completely see where advanced mathematics played into the wide scheme of things, but it was something new to learn, at least.

"Come to dinner with us."

It was more of an order than a request, and Heero almost agreed out of habit. He turned an impassive look Aubrey's way. They were having a study session in the library for an upcoming exam, which she had bullied him into. Heero had mostly come along to avoid the dorm room, still wary about accidentally starting another fight with Wufei. Wufei did not need to go on a mission angry; it could make him careless.

Heero frowned slightly as he processed Aubrey's words again. Sometimes he joined them in the dining hall for dinner, other times he grabbed something to go from the small diner on campus.

"You said Wufei is going out of town for the weekend, so you should hang with us," Aubrey continued, lowering her voice as a librarian walked by wheeling a cart laden with books. "I'm sick to death of the dining hall. We were thinking of going to that little Mexican restaurant on the main drag. You in?"

Heero didn't really care what he ate most of the time, but the thought of Mexican food got his interest despite himself. Duo had brought over leftover Mexican once, a year ago, and he had rather liked it. It was better than the simple microwave meals or MREs Heero usually ate, anyway. "All right."

Aubrey blinked, clearly startled.

"She had a whole argument lined up and ready for you," Brianna giggled, jostling Penny a bit with her elbow. "She was sure you'd say 'no' about fifteen times."

Penny smiled weakly. She had been acting even quieter than usual lately, and after what Aubrey had said the other day, Heero was guiltily suspicious that it had to do with Wufei's abrupt avoidance of her.

"In all the years you've known me, have I ever shown any interest whatsoever in a female?"

Wufei was right. He had never treated women with anything better than dignified patience, and at the worst, outright scorn and derision. Whenever Sally Po dropped by the office, the two of them got into lengthy arguments, usually about why or why not women were weak or some such nonsense. Heero had never really thought about it much. With the whole Penny debaucle, he had wondered if Wufei had just never found the "right" girl, or if he just had not been at an age where he took any active interest in the fairer sex.

Which was stupid, Heero thought grudgingly. He himself had never really been interested in females. Even Duo seemed to have picked up on this at some point, because he had never tried to push a girl off on him, and Wufei certainly hadn't, either. Wufei and he were alike in that way-- the job came before personal relationships. Fleetingly he wondered if it would always be that way, but it was not a thought that caused him any regret or alarm. So long as he was useful, that was good enough for him for the time being. And the longer he worked with a reliable partner like Wufei, the easier his job would be. He couldn't really imagine trying to fit a relationship with a woman who was practically a stranger into the mix. Duo could call it "trust issues" if he liked, but the thought of having to change for someone still made Heero uncomfortable. And that was what relationships did, didn't they? Hadn't Smith in Inventory stopped smoking for his fiance? And Jameson in Intelligence, she acted ridiculously soppy around her new boyfriend. Heero did not like change, he liked routine. And the idea of having to change his behavior for another person did not sit well with him. He could not see himself ever doing it.

But I have, he thought abruptly, startling himself with the sudden flash of clarity. He glanced around the table at Aubrey and her friends. True, he still mostly put on a farce in front of them, to prevent suspicion, but in subtle ways parts of his act had become reality. He was more comfortable around Aubrey than he had been, even if a stranger might not have noticed. He was finding it easier now to join or initiate conversations, even if they were short. And hadn't he already changed in other ways around his own team? In little ways, yes, but they were ones he'd made willingly. Trusting Wufei to watch his back had been hard at first, but was second nature now. Going to Duo when he had a personal problem was something he'd never have done two years ago, but the braided boy was anything if not persistant in his offer of aid. He'd even learned what lines not to cross, even on topics he thought were silly, when it came to Wufei. He knew what not to bring up unless he was looking for a fight, and he was usually careful to avoid irritating the man, holding back his own frustration. Was that a little bit like what other relationships were like? Not so much changing who you were, but willingly compromising in order to be more compatible with another person?

It had never occurred to Heero before, and for an instant he felt as if he was on the brink of understanding a depth of human relations that he hadn't before, but just then Jake waved his hand in front of Heero's face.

"Helloooo, Earth to Heero."

Heero looked at him quickly.

"You zoned out for a minute or two there," Aubrey said with a grin. "You do that sometimes." She tapped her pencil on the textbook in front of her. "Come on, we're quizzing each other. I want to get this over with so we can go get some food. I'm starving."

Heero obediently opened his textbook to the correct page, glancing at the clock on the wall. Wufei would be leaving by now with Barton and Notch. Heero wasn't sure of the details of the mission, but Wufei had said it would be a fairly quick and easy job. Heero hoped not.

Wufei needed to blow off some steam with some violence.


The restaurant was certainly a popular one, if the packed tables were anything to go off of. The Spanish guitar music from the speakers nearly drowned out individual conversations, and everywhere there were waitresses and waiters scooting between tables and people to fetch orders. Heero was disappointed when Aubrey didn't suggest going to a more peaceful place, but was grateful they managed to snag a table with individual chairs. He wasn't sure he could stand being squashed in a booth so closely with the others.

There was an enormous bowl of chips and plenty of spicy dip, so Heero avoided participating in the near-shouted conversation by methodically going through the chips.

"Don't eat so many, you'll be too full for dinner, you cheapskate," Aubrey admonished, then continued her argument with Jake without missing a beat.

Heero ignored the command and continued nibbling on chips, eyes automatically flicking around for exits and signs of danger. He recognized a few faces from his classes, mostly eating in groups like Aubrey and her friends. Somewhere a toddler was raising unholy hell at the top of its lungs. There were a few couples seated in booths or smaller tables, leaning across the table to converse in lower tones. Heero passed his eyes over the couples with detached curiosity. Most of them seemed to be in fairly happy moods, except for one; the girl was sniffling, ignoring her date, and the young man looked uncomfortable and unhappy. Some sort of tiff, evidently. There were two girls sitting at a small table laughing about some unheard joke-- friends, Heero thought dismissively. He recognized the blonde as a girl he sat behind in math. It was strange how touchy-feely females were, he thought absently, noting the way they held hands across the table.

"Jeez, Heero, where are you today?" Aubrey exclaimed, jerking his attention back to his own table. "You're zoning out more than usual." She was already glancing towards the girls' table to see what he'd been looking at. So was Jake.

"Oh snap," he said in a an excited whisper, leaning in towards the center of the table so the others could hear. "Look, it's Dinah Dyke."

Aubrey smacked him in the arm. Even Penny shot him a dirty look.

"God, that's so mean," Aubrey hissed. "How old are you, twelve??"

Jake scowled, rubbing his arm. "What? Everyone calls her that."

"That's cruel," Penny murmured.

"One day someone's going to teach you to think before you talk," Brianna observed, amused.

Heero frowned, lost. "I thought her last name was Bishop."

There was a moment of startled silence, then everyone at the table abruptly burst into laughter. Heero's frown deepened as he realized the laughter was directed at him.

"Jesus, Heero, sometimes I think you lived under a rock half your life," Aubrey tittered, leaning in close to him and lowering her voice. "Dyke, as in lesbian, genius."

"That's a mean way to say it," Penny protested quietly.

"Right," Aubrey said quickly, looking a bit abashed. "I mean, it's slang-- a bad way of calling a girl a lesbian. Kind of like, uh--"

"Fag for a guy," Jake said loudly.

This time Brianna hit him. "Keep it down, moron."

"That must be the girl Dinah's dating," Aubrey murmured thoughtfully, sneaking another peek towards the girls' table. "I don't recognize her. Maybe she doesn't go to our school."

Heero looked from her to the table in mixed confusion and surprise. "Dinah is a homosexual?" he asked.

That got him more stifled laughter. Aubrey hit him, too, though not hard enough to earn a reaction. "Oh my god, Heero, will you keep your voice down?? Yes, for pete's sake. Are you being serious? Did anyone give you the birds and bees talk?"

"More like the bees and the bees," Jake muttered. More laughter. Heero was beginning to get impatient with them. They weren't making much sense. What did animals and plants have to do with anything?

Jake seemed to be enjoying himself. He took on an officious tone, gesturing pompously. "You see, Mr. Yuy," he said in a passable immitation of their economics teacher, "when a man and man love each other very much or a woman and a woman love each other very much-- which is pretty hot --they do the horizontal tango."

"Will you stop??" Brianna gasped, trying to smother her giggles.

"I know what a homosexual is," Heero interrupted, and the hint of ice to his tone melted the grin off Jake's face for a moment. Odin had given him a very brief, clinical explanation of sex when he'd been a child, and had briefly mentioned homosexuals. Heero had never thought much about it before, but now with the topic brought up, questions that he'd not bothered to ask back then tugged at his brain distractedly. He opened his mouth to ask, then hesitated. He was not in the mood to be the center of ridicule for the evening.

"You must have grown up in some backwater part of the country," Aubrey said slowly, eyeing him with new suspicion. "You're naive about the damnedest things. But I knew a girl once who was pretty sheltered, and she didn't know much about gay people, either."

"Poor baby," Brianna tutted, still grinning.

Heero didn't realize he was going to ask the question until it was already out of his mouth. "How is that even physically possible?"

Jake put his head on the table and started laughing. But Aubrey seemed to take pity on Heero and fought back a smile with some effort. "Well, uh, if you think about it for a minute, I think you can figure out guys for yourself. Think of a different orifice--"

Jake sat bolt upright. "You are not seriously going to talk about fag sex right before I eat."

"Oh, can it, Jake," Brianna sighed.

"I'm going to the bathroom. You'd better be done when I get back." Jake scraped his chair back and beat a hasty retreat.

Aubrey rolled her eyes and continued. "Girls, ah, use other things..."

Brianna grinned and raised two fingers, flexing them and wagging her tongue in her open mouth. Penny gaped at her, turning beet red, before looking around quickly as if to see if other customers were looking at their table. Heero stared at Brianna blankly, but Aubrey was already continuing.

"Sometimes there are guys who only like other guys, or girls that only like girls. Like... romantically. And sexually. They'd never be interested in having sex with someone of the opposite gender. Do you understand?" She was beginning to look a little uncomfortable under Heero's intense stare.

Heero frowned slightly. "Why not?"

"Uhh..." Aubrey sent Brianna a 'help me out here' look.

Brianna popped a chip in her mouth and shrugged. "Dunno. There have been studies and shit, but nothing concrete so far as I know. I don't see what it matters. It's like asking a guy why he prefers brunettes, isn't it? Some people say it's hormonal; you're just born liking your own gender. Other people say it's psychological. Like a girl who was raped may not ever be attracted to guys after that. I think sometimes it's possible just to like someone for who they are without worrying about what damn gender they are, but I don't know, I like the cock."

Aubrey burst into laughter, but that was the end of the lesson, because just then the waitress arrived, asking for their order. Shortly afterwards Jake returned, and the rest of the evening was spent talking about other things, but Heero found it difficult to keep his mind on the conversation. His gaze kept wandering towards Dinah and her girlfriend, and his mind kept picking at the information Aubrey and Brianna had given him. Something about it kept burning at him, as if he'd missed something important there, but it was hard to concentrate with all the noise. Eventually he shoved it aside wearily and let the current conversation filter in. It didn't matter, anyhow. It was new knowledge to add to his database, nothing more. It didn't affect him.


The room was quiet without Wufei.

Which was silly, Heero thought, because Wufei was usually silently curled up reading a book. Perhaps it was more that the room felt a bit empty. Heero was vaguely surprised that he'd noticed, and equally surprised when a rush of relief didn't accompany this realization. He was used to living on his own. Had he really gotten so accustomed to a room mate? He'd shared close quarters with Wufei plenty of times before, though, on missions, so perhaps that was it.

Restlessly, he checked his watch. They had dawdled in the restaurant, but it was only eight-- too early to go to bed. His eyes landed on the small stack of books on his desk. Well, it would help pass the time, if nothing else.

He sat down and opened a book to a random page. It was another Japanese history book. Within minutes he was lost in the pages.

He could not, however, stay interested for hours on end as Wufei could. By nine-thirty, he was pushing the book aside. He paced the room, oddly restless, eyes straying towards Wufei's empty bed. For a moment he resented Barton for being tagged for the mission. Heero could certainly use some stealth and violence. Finally he stripped to his boxers and went to bed, mind a jumbled mess that he didn't feel up to untangling.

He jolted awake hours later. His eyes flicked automatically towards his alarm clock-- nearly five in the morning -- before darting towards the door. It was closing silently, and he could make out a dim human shape in the weak light coming from the hallway before the door closed fully, plunging the room into darkness once more.

Keeping his breaths deep and slow to feign sleep, Heero slowly reached for the gun he kept stuffed just under the edge of his mattress. Tugging it free, he thumbed the safety off and tensed up, waiting until the intruder was halfway across the room.

Rolling out of bed, Heero reached out and yanked the lamp cord with one hand, aiming with the other. He was squinting to help avoid the harsh glare, but the other man wasn't. With a florid curse, the young man stumbled back a step, hand thrown up to protect his eyes.

"CHRIST, YUY! Are you trying to blind me??"

Heero lowered his gun quickly, rising to his feet in surprise. "Chang?" A quick and simple mission, indeed. Heero hadn't expected to see his partner for another day...

Then he noticed the bloodstained bandage wrapped tightly around Wufei's upper left arm, and the way he kept the arm pressed to his side. "You're injured."

"Brilliant deduction, Watson," Wufei grumbled sourly, heading towards his bed. He was limping just slightly. He looked like hell, hair half undone, clothes rumpled and stained from grass and mud. "Things got a little hairy. But we completed the mission." He sat down on the edge of his bed and began rummaging through his bedside bureau. Tugging out the first aid kit, he quickly began unwrapping the ruined bandage from his arm.

Heero hastily shoved his gun back under his mattress, eyes flicking towards the door. "Barton?"

"He's fine," Wufei grunted, tossing the bloodied wrap into the wastebin. Fishing out the antiseptic cream, he squirted it on a wad of cotton and began clumsily swiping at what looked like a nasty gash on his arm.

Heero watched for a moment, then stepped over and plucked the cotton away. "You're making a mess of it," he said shortly, ignoring Wufei's irritable protests as he began cleaning the wound efficiently. Wufei finally subsided, holding still and keeping his face blank as he watched Heero work.

"This will need stitches," Heero declared once he could see the wound properly.

Wufei grunted in acknowledgement, then arched a brow when Heero reached for the local anesthetic. "Don't waste it," he admonished.

Heero shrugged and instead reached for the tiny medical sewing supplies. Cleaning the needle with alcohol, he threaded it quickly and set to work, going as quickly as possible. Wufei's breath hitched, and his free hand tightened into a fist, but otherwise he made no protest, and his face remained unreadable, if slightly paler.

"Got into a tussle with some jerk-off who thought he was a gladiator," Wufei muttered through his teeth, watching the needle sink in and out of his flesh. "Knocked me into some busted-up metal. ...Steady hands," he noted with gruff admiration as Heero finished the job, using the narrow scissors to cut the translucent thread.

"I've patched myself up as often as you have," Heero reminded him. Tearing open a pack of wetwipes, he scrubbed his hands and handed one to Wufei. When Wufei only frowned blankly, Heero gestured towards his own face. "Mud." He rose from his kneeling position.

Wufei wiped his face off with his right hand while Heero deftly wound fresh bandages around the wound, then repacked the kit and slid it into the drawer once more. "I thought it was supposed to be a simple mission." The faint note of accusation was unintended, but Wufei still caught it.

He scowled up at the other boy. "It was. I'm still alive, aren't I?" He paused, eyes flicking up and down, taking Heero in with an expressionless face. Heero glanced down at himself, remembering belatedly that he had gone to bed only in his boxers.

Wufei toed off his shoes and flopped onto his back, throwing his good arm over his eyes. "Thank god it's the weekend," he grumbled. "I'm going to sleep, and if you wake me up before noon, I will murder you."

Heero snorted quietly, a fleeting smile tugging at his lips. He checked the clock again, then shrugged to himself. No point in going back to bed now. It was already after six. Besides, Wufei would sleep better without Heero in the room. He tugged on a pair of jeans and a loose t-shirt and seated himself at his desk to pull on shoes and socks.

"You actually read them?"

Heero glanced up, puzzled. Wufei had lifted his arm slightly and was looking pointedly at the open book on Heero's desk.

"...Some of them." Heero slapped the book shut. He might as well return them to the library while he was out. "I still don't understand how you can spend so much time reading."

Wufei grumbled something that sounded suspiciously like "Barbarian", then fell silent as sleep tugged him under. Heero hesitated in the act of rising, looking towards Wufei in faint surprise. The other boy must be even more exhausted than he'd seemed, falling asleep that quickly-- and with the light on and Heero still moving about, no less.

On silent feet Heero returned to the bedside to switch off the lamp, then crept out of the room.

Someone was lying to him, he thought with a flicker of dark irritation. Une should have sent Heero in Barton's place. When was the last time Wufei got hit on a "simple" mission? Either it had been more difficult than Une had said it would be and Wufei was insisting it had been, or something had gone wrong. There was no point in interrogating Wufei; he would probably get an answer somewhere along the lines of "fuck off".

Pushing aside his annoyance, Heero aimed his feet in the direction of the library. What did it matter? he asked himself impatiently. Chang was alive. So was Barton. The mission had been a success. One little scrape was not the end of the world.


He was pretty sure it never would have happened if he'd been there to watch the idiot's back.

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