++Ch. 4++
"Duo's Hair"

This never would have happened if they hadn't gotten that call from Dr. J at the last second ordering them to leave their gundams behind and ride back discreetly while the 'good doctor' had some men take the mechs away on trucks. He was being paranoid about this whole thing with the kid; he'd even told Heero to go back and retrieve the boy.
"What do you mean impossible?" J's voice, scratchy over the cell phone, sounded irritated. "We need that boy!"
Heero knew better than to question the old man, but his voice was hard, driving the facts home, overriding the other's words. "I checked his records before we left; he's gone. He isn't a member of the school anymore. It's as if he never was."
"Never mind, then. Just get back to the rendezvous point with 02. I will give you further instructions there."

Now as Heero stared dumbly at the single bed in the dingy hotel he had chosen for the night, he cursed Dr. J out in his mind as thoroughly as he knew how. He flicked a quick glance towards Duo at the other boy's false-cheerful words.
He grunted, reaching out and seizing the comforter. He pulled it from the bed with a savage yank, unmaking the bed and scattering the pillows, the sheets wrenched loose from the violent action. Bending over, he plucked up a pillow, looking upwards through his dark bangs at Duo with burning eyes and a tone that brooked no arguement.
"I'll sleep on the floor."
"A-aa," Duo agreed quickly. Too quickly. He turned and hurried into the bathroom with another tight smile, shutting the door quietly behind him.
Heero spread the comforter on the ground and dropped the pillow near the end. He paused. Something on the floor glittered faintly from the streetlight outside seeping through the blinds. He bent over, scooping up the complimentary mint and tossing it at Duo as he came out of the bathroom, yawning hugely.
Duo squeaked, fumbling and managing to catch the foil-wrapped mint, giving a quirky grin as he recognized it. He'd unwrapped it and popped it in his mouth before Heero could blink. "Thanks, man." He rolled up the foil wrapper and flicked it towards the wastebin. It bounced off the rim, but he ignored it, too tired to care as he stumbled towards the bed. Heero didn't look at him, lying down on the comforter and pulling half of it up around him like a sleeping bag.
Duo sat on the bed, reaching for the sheets, before pausing, as if remembering something. He cursed colorfully, dragging his braid over his shoulder and tugging futiley at the band around the tip of it, cursing more floridly as it got tangled horribly, his hair having already been made a mess out of by the wind during the bike ride. "Umm... Heero?"
Heero grunted in reply, his back to the other pilot.
"Can you help me with my braid?"
Heero was too surprised by the meek request at first to say anything. He rolled over, propping himself up on his elbows and staring at the fidgeting boy seated on the edge of the bed, one long leg tucked under himself, the other dangling off the bed.
Duo made a hopeless gesture with the long rope-like braid, blinking sleepily. "If I sleep in it like this it might choke me."
"That's stupid," Heero managed to say.
"Is not," Duo said, faintly indignant. "I've always been afraid of that. ...Please?"
Heero found his body rising of its own will, the word "no" refusing to pass his lips, as if his throat had frozen up.
Take down Duo's braid?
He had never seen Duo with his hair down before...
He seated himself crosslegged behind the slender boy, surprised to find that his fingers were trembling just the slightest as he raised them to the task. With a firm appliance of will he stilled his minute shaking, taking the braid in his hand and lifting it to his mouth.
Duo half-turned, his voice a little nervous. "Heero..?"
Heero bit deftly through the band at the tip of the braid, saving them both the trouble of untangling it, twitching it free from the hair and tossing it aside.
"Good idea," Duo quipped, facing forward once more and yawning loudly.
Heero declined to reply, his calloused hands moving in quick, defined movements, untwisting the locks of hair, watching in some kind of half-aware fascination as slowly the twined hair became a thick mass lying against his partner's back. His tugs became instinctively gentler as he encountered tangles and sensed Duo wincing, carefully pulling out the rat's nests and then running his fingers through the curtain of hair to make sure he'd gotten them all. He didn't realize he was still running his hands through the soft wave, entranced by the feel of it running through his fingertips, until Duo shifted, his foot having gone to sleep.
Duo glanced swiftly over his shoulder at the other boy, almost afraid to breathe for fear that Heero would stop his ministrations. It felt so good, and it had been so long since anyone had done this... He closed his eyes, his head tilting back slightly as a hum of pleasure escaped his throat.
Heero froze at Duo's actions, fingers still buried in the chestnut locks, blinking as he mentally shook himself back into awareness.
What was he *doing*?
He dropped his suddenly-numb hands into his lap, a troubled frown clouding his face. "Go to sleep, Duo," he said at last, sliding to the edge and rising mechanically to his feet.
A surprisingly strong hand reached out, snagging him by the wrist, and he glanced unwillingly over his shoulder at the luminous violet orbs peering at him through ragged bangs.
He looked so different with his hair falling around his shoulders like that. It almost took Heero's breath away. He was almost...feminine. But the firmness of his strong torso and his masculine though attractive face proved he was anything but. Something in Heero twisted hotly, and his mouth went suddenly dry. He couldn't seem to take his eyes away from the appiration on the bed, his wrist limp in Duo's grasp.
It took him several moments to put a name to the strange feeling that had flooded through him at the touch and sight of his partner.
A pulse of something akin to fear surged through him, pushing aside the lust that had risen in him, and he snatched his hand away, swallowing hard to get rid of the dryness of his throat, offering his best stony glare. "I said go to sleep," he said, sharper than he'd intended.
Duo's eyes flashed with some swiftly-smothered emotion, the Deathscythe pilot turning his head aside quickly to hide his expression as he muttered a cursory thanks and wriggled under the sheets.
Heero let out a silent breath he hadn't been aware he'd been holding, pulling his gun from where it was pressed against his back, thrust in his shorts, and laid it on the ground as he stretched out on the blanket, close to his head where he could grab it quickly if he needed to. Duo had teased him about it a couple of times when they were at safehouses, calling him paranoid, but he refused to change his ways. His training had drilled into him the cautious instincts of the perfect soldier he was supposed to become, and it had become habit by now, anyway. Rolling onto his side so he was facing the wall, the troubled pilot fell into a dreamless sleep.


The sound of water dripping slowly from the rocks above was beginning to wear thin on his nerves.
The slightly-built boy shifted position, tucking his long legs underneath himself to sit cross-legged, hands resting against his knees in a false posture of ease. Dark eyes flickered left and right nervously, and one slender finger tapped against his kneecap in a nerve-induced twitch from his inner tension.
It was so dark...
And colder than he'd thought it would be.
He frowned, wriggling a little as the hard ground began to take its toll on his bottom. How long had he been sitting here? Hours? Days? Time had lost all meaning, and he had no watch.
His thoughts drifted back to the one he secretly pretended was his friend. What was he doing right now? He knew he wasn't supposed to associate with one of *those* boys.
Those pilots. They were... a danger to him.
And yet...
Duo's easy laughter and kind smile seemed to be etched permanently into his mind. The way he strove to protect a boy he didn't even know... and then letting him in on his awesome secret, even if by accident. The braided boy's trust in him had caught him completely off guard, making him feel small and pathetic, like Brutus caught with the knife raised.(1) How could this boy with the power over such a destructive weapon be so kind? How *dare* he act so friendly towards the one who could ruin him! Didn't he know he should have killed him the moment he laid eyes on the monstrous gundam and its pilot? His friend, the one with the eyes of ice, was right to reach for his gun. The other's move to stop him had rocked him to his core.
was alien to him.

The steady dripping was interrupted by the sound of boots striking the hard ground in a firm stacatto beat that grew steadily louder as the wearer approached the slim boy with the bowed head.
"Get up, Atreusio. We're going."
The boy rose after only a moment's hesitation at the clipped command, still gazing listlessly down at his feet. He followed the owner of the heavy boots out of the darkness and towards a waiting vehicle outside.

Author's Notes:
(1) Ceaser
Please excuse the long waits between chapters.. i'm going thru a rough time with my koi right now, and then there's work.. i'll try to get the next chap. up asap, and the next full moon chap. should be up soon. domo for your patience. ^_^ ja~

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