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Slice Of Life

After a war torn world is at rest, what becomes of the mercenaries from days past? What started out as a night of making connections ended up turning into one of the biggest eye openers of all: How to problem solve when the gundams are at rest.

I love psychology, so I'm having a lot of fun with this story. It seems light and funny for now, but it's only a matter of time before everything crumbles. I've been through young adulthood, so I'd like to share some of my stories with you, through the five gundam pilots. 3nodding

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Summary

A simple party was what it began as, but it turned into so much more. It triggered a chain of events that skewed how the world looked, to them at least. It didn't feel like they came very far, until they looked back. How was life going to be without the use of their gundams? You can't pay the rent or put food on the table with a gundam. Mature content. Squick/alcohol/drugs. 1xR

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Fanfiction.net links...

Chapter 1: A Shot

Chapter 2: Brush with Potential

Chapter 3: Bail

Chapter 4: Last Hours

Chapter 5: Two After-Parties

Chapter 6: A Day in the Life

Chapter 7: The Ropes

Chapter 8: Open

Chapter 9: Repeat

Chapter 10: Half Truth

Chapter 11: Lock Down

Chapter 12: My Locus

Chapter 13: And it Thickens

Chapter 14: Killer Night

Chapter 15: How I See

Chapter 16: Boop

Chapter 17: Moving Ahead

Chapter 18: Full Circle

I'd like it if you guys left a review, either here or there. I live for input. XD
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Chapter 1 - A Shot

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How easy was it for a semi-casual gathering to turn into a full blown nightmare? Quite easy. For a refreshing change, Heero decided to attend a function held by the Peacecraft family. Of all the times he could have chosen to be social, he ended up picking that night. Many of the current, biggest names in politics were going to be there and it seemed like a harmless get-together.

Heero had decided his current schooling was repetitive and desired to be put in an advanced class. If he were to smooth talk the right big wigs, he may receive sponsorship, possibly even a reference to add to his portfolio, for the transfer. It would only serve to speed the process, but that's all he wanted.

Remaining on his toes was a must, for Relena was trying to keep tabs on him. The girl's infatuation with him knew no bounds. "She planned it to be like this," Heero said as he eyed the dance floor for her spys. They had arrived early and not a lot of people were there, apart from Relena and her usual crowd setting up. "She knew I was looking to talk to some of these people, now here they all are."

"Why do you have to be such a stick in the mud," Duo commented, his arms slung carelessly behind his head. It was a suit occasion and the fibers of his coat needed stretching. "You're being paranoid; how could she have known you wanted to take an advanced class? It's a coincidence."

He huffed, "I've been talking about it with the school's chief of staff, it must have gotten brought up at one of their meetings." He was on a list 'somewhere' in the transfer section and he assumed Relena saw it during an audit, she was extremely involved with school issues. "Damn...I have to stay, I want this," he said with scorn for the mingling he had to do. Whether or not the party was set up to corner him especially, it was still a bother.

"At least at the end of the night, you'll be able to get out of the rat race," he snarked because that's what school life felt like to Duo. Advanced classes meant placement jobs with little to no class time needed. "Sitting in a stuffy room, listening to a fossil preach, doesn't seem to be your bag."

"Yeah, because this is so much better." Making small talk with pompous fat cats wasn't much his 'bag' either.

"It's quicker," Duo smiled.

"Small blessings," he responded. This was the perfect setting for Relena to slip her two cents in as she pleased, he hated it. Sure enough, when Heero began talking to a man in a sharp looking white suit, she showed up. "I'll get us some drinks," was the line she said before trotting off only seconds later.

"Don't worry," the suit said before the younger man could tell her not to bother. "I won't tell anyone if you have a few, you've earned it. Besides, I'd be honored to share drinks with the famous pilot of Wing Zero."

"Sure," he said with a resentful, uncertain flattery.

"You shouldn't turn down a drink from Ms. Peacecraft. You know she has plenty of connections you could benefit from; her word is pretty powerful." His best efforts to convince Heero otherwise fell short of succeeding.

This guy must have seen Relena's interest in him, her body language was rather obvious. Heero was aware Relena could act as a reference, it would have looked good on any job application, but he couldn't bare to put up with constantly being followed. He also found it ridiculous that everyone fawned over her so much. She returned with their drinks and they all continued talking over the brightly colored glasses.

Heero took his first, of many, sips. 'Not bad,' he thought as the orange and golden colors washed down his throat. The drink was a brilliant display, having two layers of color; a bright orange that bled into a deep, syrup red. Compliments of the bartender.

After a heated conversation with the guy in white, he moved on to yet another group of people. Before they were done, Heero was sure to get him to agree to sign off as a reference on his school application. He decided to report this victory to Duo, who was loving the scenery. "What are you doing?" he asked as he watched his friend prop a bored head on his fist. Heero had a feeling his good news was going to go unheard, it looked like this guy had his eye on someone.

"I'm trying to pick one of them up," he said and drew attention to a girl in a form fitting dress, "But it's hard because I don't know anybody here. How can I tell which one's got a guy? I tried to see if she met up with anyone...but it's so cluttered at that table. I'm hoping she's not attached," he said and eyed the curves she sported.

"Why not ask Relena? She knows everyone here." He didn't think that this would distress Duo so much, but it made him bolt out of his chair.

"Not a bad idea," he got up and began to leave in a hurry. For a split second he saw what Heero had in his hand. 'A drink?' He turned around, "How'd you get that?"

He pointed a finger in Relena's direction, "Same person," he said and watched Duo continue on his merry way. Heero took up a seat at the table and started scanning the room for his next target. He was looking for a woman who had been on the board since it was established thirty years ago, he wanted to wax nostalgic with the crazy old bitty.

Meanwhile Duo was weaving through a detached crowd. They all seemed to be in circles composed of six people or more who were talking passionately of their topic of choice. The whole point of the party was to gain recognition and bump elbows with people normally not within arms reach. Duo wanted recognition of another kind though. He finally isolated the young blond ambassador to get cheat notes on the 'younger less noteworthy' people on her guest list. "I have a quick question for you," he began.

"Oh, Duo. You're just the person I wanted to see. How's Heero?" she said abruptly.

This caught him off guard. "...h-he's doing good." Duo then got a devious smile on his face, "You know, I never really noticed how strongly you felt toward him. What's the deal?" He was hoping to play matchmaker for her, she'd do the same for him.

"I've been trying to tell him, but he's a hard person to get across to." She wrung her hands nervously, "I was hoping he'd have a few drinks to...have fun...talk." Which is why she bought him one in the first place.

Duo held up a hand, "I had a feeling this would happen," he said and reached into his pocket, emerging with a small syringe. It had two cc's of red liquid inside. "This is one hundred-ten proof alcohol; I can put it in his drink," he said and quickly ignited Relena's anxiety.

"No. I...well..." she battled it back and forth in her head.

"I didn't hear a 'no'. Want him to talk, or not?" Duo said convincingly(connivingly).

"Yes," she blurted, possibly a result of the wine she had earlier.

"Can do," he took the plastic device and loaded it in his coat sleeve for easy access. "First: payment. Mind telling me which one of your friends is single? I'm looking for a nice girl; someone who's fun, sense of humor, you know," he straightened his collar. Now that he would be receiving penance, he was more than willing to do some underhanded bidding on her behalf. Not that getting Heero drunk was any real crime, he contemplated how he would do it many times before. The goal was to loosen him up so he would talk, hence the small amount needed. The guy was too serious for his own good, he felt this was something he needed.

Before Duo got too close to his target, he made sure Heero wasn't talking to anyone, lest they see his drink become tainted with the 'spike'. "Hey buddy," he said and bumped into him, "Sorry 'bout that." This shook the ice in his glass, effectively masking the sound of the splash made by the syringe emptying. Duo disposed of the tool in a nearby plant and sat down.

"Good. I got the referral I needed and one extra, I'm going to head out," Heero finished his drink in one long swig. He didn't want to have to drive home and that gave him the perfect excuse. "The bottom was strong," he cringed, figuring the syrup would have had more of a sweet edge to it. He glared at it in confusion.

Duo panicked, "You don't have to go so soon! Come on, I got the run down on that girl I pointed out. Be my wing man." He didn't know if the drink was took strong to handle in one gulp, he wanted to keep him nearby to see if he'd be okay.

"Wing man? No," he completely dismissed the idea.

"You have a girl chasing you and couldn't be more bothered with her, can't you help your buddy out?" Duo tried to butter him up, "I stutter when the girls are too pretty," lies, "And there's so many of them. You can't leave me hanging, I'm helpless on my own." He began to push his friend into submission and it seemed to be working. To the dismay of Duo, Heero managed to break away from his capture when a few people wearing similar, official looking suits stopped him to talk.

Duo tapped an impatient finger against his elbow, waiting for them to finish. A ruthless tug pulled him around a pillar, one of the many throughout the hall. "The hell?" he exclaimed.

"Where's his drink?" Relena asked, sounding flustered.

"He downed it! I thought he would keep sipping the thing."

She covered her mouth, "Duo, what if he passes out?" Relena knew it would ruin his reputation to be so drunk, especially after getting such boisterous reviews.

"I don't know. I measured it factoring in how much he wouldn't drink from the glass." Duo meant that Heero wasn't going to finish the bottom of his drink, the status quo for the bourgeois at the time.

"Well...didn't you have a back up plan?" she tried to formulate an 'abort' for their current snag. Heero really dropped the bomb on them with this.

"Heero doesn't usually need a back up plan, he's predictable," at lest predictable in the sense that Duo had gotten used to. "We have to get him out of here. Make him move around outside to burn some of it off," he suggested.

"I could ask him to escort me to my car." She thought about how to make the request seem more genuine.

"Couldn't we get him to walk around here?" Duo said and watched Heero crack wise with the newly found group. Thus far, he was doing alright.

Relena shook her head, "No, too obvious." The level of impairment he was going to endure wasn't going to be easily hidden. "I have to find an excuse." After giving it some thought she walked right up to him and took his arm lightly. "Heero, pardon the intrusion, but I have some things in my car out back. I need help to take it in. Could you give me a hand?" Again, her antics were received well by others, not by the one it was intended for. "Please?" she asked so sweetly that one of the others egged Heero on. The other few looked jealous that Relena wasn't accosting them for help.

"I'll help," he said and parted from the fancy suits. He hooked his thumb in the direction of the exit, "I got a ride with Mr. Fisher," his current sociology teacher, "Let's hurry, I want to get back before he leaves." His teacher was coping out early and agreed to take him home in a few minutes.

"You don't need to worry about that," Relena began, "Phil lives in the opposite direction that you're going, I'll take you home instead. You should stay a while anyway," she said with a little laughter in her voice. "Could one of you make sure to tell Mr. Fisher I've commandeered Heero?" She took Heero by the arm, "Come on," and pulled him out of the room entirely.

Duo felt abandoned and leaned out the double doors to yell, "What about me? I'm still here!"

Relena paused, reached into her pocket and emerged with a small cluster of orange tickets. She walked over to Duo's upper half sticking out the door and handed him the bundle. "One drink per ticket, go easy, I'll be back," she said and continued to take Heero to a quieter location. Lucky for her, there were private meeting rooms available for smaller gatherings. She began searching them for an exit that would never happen. "It's in one of these."

"We could walk around the building to get to your car," he suggested.

"There's an emergency exit in one of these rooms. It leads right to the parking lot, I'm sure," she said and continued the fallacious hunt. This went on for several more minutes until Relena peered into a room that had a billiard table, balls racked and ready to go. "What's this?" It couldn't have been a more perfect distraction. "I haven't played this in a long time. Have a game with me before we head out?" She was stalling for time, letting the booze soak in.

Heero had intentionally downed his drink so he could leave sooner, this was a step in the wrong direction. "I'm not interested," he declined and tried to look down the hall to see any signs lit up with a red 'exit'. "I-" he stopped what he was saying at the sound of a loud crack.

She was already breaking the pool balls. They scattered and one of the striped balls sunk. "Play one game with me. I only need to get ice, it can wait." She held out the pool stick, "You're 'solid'."

He obliged, feeling the effects of his first few mouthfuls of alcohol, or was that flatter she just gave him? His body felt light and dizzy, kind of warm too. Heero loosened his tie and released the first button on his shirt to gain some mobility. "One game, then we walk around the building," he said. Pulling the tie over his head, he discarded it on a nearby chair. They carefully played each of their turns like a pro. Apparently Relena wasn't the only fan of the game. "Last shot," Heero said. There was only a stripe and eight ball left over.

Relena sunk the final stripe. "Now for the win," she smiled, "Do you want to make this interesting?"

Since he was feeling tipsy there was no stopping the words, "Why not?" from escaping his loosened lips. He immediately noted his own behavior shifting, 'Shouldn't have drank that so quick,' he thought, oblivious to extra surprise dropped in his glass.

"I say..." she thought for a moment, "If you win, you can go back in with everyone and I'll get the ice. If I win, I get a kiss," she said with an enchanting smile.
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Chapter 2: Brush with Potential

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A kiss was the prize she wanted for winning, this amused him. "What is your fascination with me?" he asked, leaning his chin on his hands, balancing them on his cue, "No matter if I push you away, you always come back. Why is that?" He was becoming 'chatty'.

Relena decided to keep it simple, "You saved my life on more than one occasion, I owe you so much." She leaned down and tried to play her turn after that touching sentiment, but she got interference.

"You're gonna miss," he taunted, "...not going to work," he leaned over her as she aimed at the ball, "...you tense?" he snickered lightly. "Nope...not...going...in..." He balanced against the side of the table, arched over her. He made her aim from within the empty spaces around his body.

Relena took her shot and they held their breath. The ivory ball slinked across the velvet table and missed the eight ball by a hair. "I suppose you get this win," she said with slight disappointment. The defiant eight ball would be sunk by Heero on his next turn. She wouldn't get her kiss after all.

Heero took a shot at the white ball. It aimlessly knocked off the sides of the playing area. "I'm not such a good shot. I guess that drink is getting the better of me, I guess," he laughed, "Said it twice," and trailed off. The cue ball stopped without hitting a thing.

She looked at her opponent curiously. Was he flirting, or did he really mess up the shot? "Fine," she stood next to him and aimed carefully, in silence this time. It hit the eight ball and the thing did a 'jig' by rattling off the sides of the corner pocket (instead of going in). "That's not fair," she called 'physics' on its nonsense.

With a slight of hand Heero knocked the dark ball in the pocket and shrugged, "I didn't see you miss," he said.

She looked up, her cue stick still in hand, "This means, I win?"

He watched her take a step forward. "Looks like it," he allowed the intrusion, a first for him.

"How come you aren't pushing me away now?" her face drew closer to its target, drunk or not, there was no backing out on this.

"I had a bet to uphold, I'll keep my word. You won fair n'square," finally closing the gap he got a hold of Relena's soft lips, a slight peck started them off. He followed this up by gently taking her bottom lip between his teeth. He could hear her mummer at his touch and it drove him crazy. 'Why am I doing this? ...I've been drinking, right...and still, I go on...why exactly am I doing this?' His thoughts kept running around in a circle, so he gave up on making sense of anything and continued.

Relena leaned on the pool table, causing her leg to lift off the floor slightly. Her thigh was scooped up and used to hoist her onto the edge of the velor playing surface. Their kiss did not break. She tried to get her mind to slow down, momentarily taking the time to say, "This feels so good," and went right back to kissing; her attempt to stop the roller coaster was ineffective. Initially she only wanted to get him talking, this was unexpected yet so welcomed. She could feel his hands find their way to the back hem of her shirt and disappear beneath.

"No bra, huh? Are you always this naughty?" he said and encircled one hand to the front, the other supporting him off the table. A gentle pressure came over her breasts and they succumbed to his touch. He backed up to get a good look at her face. "Huh?"

"Don't say it like that!" She blushed, "This shirt is baggy and it's warm. I...went without," she said and lost her partner in kissing. He hadn't gone far, he had leaned down to lay kisses along the exposed part of her chest.

"It gives me the impression you were planning on getting me alone. I bet you didn't think I'd be drunk. Then again, you did ge'mmy that drink," he rambled and picked up where he left off. His kisses and a hooked index finger began to take the front of her shirt down a few inches, his mouth hungry for more of her softness.

Relena felt a pang of guilt then. He wouldn't have done any of this if not for the spike Duo put in the drink she gave him. She picked his chin up to meet her face once again, sealing it with a kiss. She knew this behaviour wasn't genuine, it was wrong. "Heero, we should get you home before you can't walk." She swallowed hard, "You should have known better than to down your drink." She acted like she was scolding him. "I did enjoy my prize, thank you." Relena tugged her tube top back up all the way, fixing it's lacy ruffles.

He nodded, "True...will I remember this?" he asked, his eyes beginning to feel heavier. Heero rested his forehead on her shoulder.

"Probably not," she said with regret.

"Sorry," he said and began to remove himself from her personal space, giving her a peck first.

This action dumbfounded her. When she saw her friends with the boys from school, they weren't so easy to made listen in an altered state. But he did, right away no less. Heero was really great like that, so much more mature for someone his age, Relena wished their time wasn't over. "Can we do this again? Maybe next weekend," she asked, hoping to spend some time with a sober Heero. "I mean spend time with you, not necessairly...like this."

"Honestly...I'll say I'll go...but then I won't." He had better things to do than brown nose with more snooty guests, he assumed that's what she would be taking him to anyway.

"If I promised to buy you drinks, would you?" she joked, pretending to bribe him.

He scoffed, "Maybe." He turned and headed for the door, a noteworthy swagger in his step.

Giving up on the fake chore to get more ice, they returned to the main hall where Duo was found. Quatre sat with him at a table, a couple empty glasses littered the surface. "Hey, hey! Welcome back!" Duo was acting pretty friendly.

Heero kept it together as he observed his inebriated co-workers, they acted so differently; except for Duo, his personality was only amplified. Quatre was calm and sleepy, Trowa was the center of conversation, while Wufei was hitting up a black jack table and placing bets.

Relena made some of the same observations on the gundam pilots, except she got to point her judgment toward Heero as well. Much like the others, his personality flipped. His once stoic demeanor cracked and gave way to more basic urges; it was as though the alcohol removed his filter, the one he worked so hard at maintaining one-hundred percent of the time. She then pondered how it would effect her, possibly turn her violent, so she decided against drinking any more that night. She wanted to make sure he got home safely.

"Relena," Duo said and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, "My wing man looks like he's bailing on me, you can help me out, right?" He got closer, smelling faintly of whiskey and wine, "You owe me."

"I don't think so," she said, disturbed that he was implying they hook up.

He took a step back, "Not like that, geez. I wanted to know if you wanted to be my wing man. Well, wing woman."

Eyebrow cocked, "I'll try my best," she said in a drained voice, one that sounded like she understood she owed him.

"You know, you don't have to make it sound like it's going to be hard," he puffed his cheeks and spoke, as he now felt kind of insulted.

Relena examined Heero who was staring off into space, or at the band that was playing, "I have to take him home, let's be quick about this," she said and began taking Duo around the room looking for the girl he had his eye on before.

A few minutes of hunting helped them find her by a large running fountain. It was going well until her date came up and planted a kiss on her cheek, "Are we talking turkey, or talking politics," the second girl said.

"Isn't it all the same?" the first one responded, everyone laughed.

Relena sighed as she saw the defeat in Duo's face. She had forgotten these two were actually hooking up and not just friends anymore. Quickly diverting the conversation subject to another point of interest, she and Duo managed to make a graceful 'out' for themselves.

"This is what I get for making my search so narrow. I mean, a rack isn't everything, right?" he said to Relena who gave him an annoyed look, "Not that...you'd know...sorry. Next?"

She sighed, "Fine, you have two more strikes."

He laughed, "Three strikes, like baseball? Great! I used to play it as a kid. This'll be a breeze," he said and began scanning the room for another potential partner, carelessly pivoting from heel to heel.

"Make it quick, he's slipping," Relena pointed out that Heero's head was beginning to wobble. It even attracted the attention of Quatre sitting nearby. She could see Heero shake his head and mouth something incoherent; the expression on Quatre's face looked as though he heard something confusing.

"How about..." he rotated as he pondered, dazed from the drinks he had in Relena's absence. The party had been going on for hours and still no potential dates turned up because Duo had been too busy making his rounds. It worked out in his favour though, one of the accountants ended up writing him a cheque, remembering him in a refund she caught in an audit. He had been in a good mood binge ever since. "In this direction," he announced when finally deciding on a direction.

Relena looked in the designated direction to see, "Married, married, engaged, married and a man," she said knowingly.

Duo blushed, "A man?" He looked closer to see that the prettiest one there was actually not even female, "I meant this way." He pointed over the back of his own head.

Relena looked behind him, "That's Heero and Quatre," she said.

Again, face red, he picked another direction, "There," he said, pointing blindly.

She ignored the suggestion and finally saw someone she could pawn Duo off on for a time, the bartender. She was new, young, pretty and a good talker(boobs). Relena had been admiring her work ethic from the dance floor and noticed her ability to multitask. It was perfect, "How about Missy? She's been bar-tending for a week now and she's really nice. I bet you could get a dance with her when she's off," she said and checked her watch, it was nearly nine, "She's done in an hour." With that under his belt, he was off to swoon the new lady at the counter. "Good," now that Duo was paid up, she went back to her focus of the evening, Heero.

Instead of getting him to walk to the back of the building, Relena took her car around front to retrieve the downed pilot. They had taken nearly an hour to get Duo situated with a suitable 'potential' and she needed to get Heero out of there before it became obvious something was up. Quatre was nice enough to help them to the car.

"I don't need help," he muttered, having already been led down the stairs by two people and propped in the front seat of a car.

"Do you think I could get a ride home later on?" Quatre asked as he shut the door for Heero.

"When," she said from the other side of the car.

He raised a hand, "No rush. I kind of want to make sure Duo's alright; I have no clue how he got all those tickets," for buying drinks. He had seen the bartender, Missy, mix and hand him a large cocktail before they took Heero out. Quatre instantly imagined the worst. He himself wasn't one for drinking, so much that he only had one glass of wine the whole night. It was the same one he toasted with at the dinner served earlier that evening. It was a simple reason he hadn't, he couldn't get past the taste of it. He tried a mouthful of beer after watching his friend Trowa throw back several; the rest of Quatre's ended up watering a plant. He needed to go back in, because the way he saw it: If he didn't stop Duo, no one would.

She hid her guilty expression, for she was the giver of the tickets, "Sounds good, see you when I get back," she said and left with the dead weight in her front seat. She couldn't help but snicker at Heero succumbing to inertia as the car turned, he would wobble ever so slightly depending on which way they went; it was best when braking, quickly. On their way back to the dorm he nearly fell asleep, she had to generate small talk(pump the air break) just to keep him around.

When they got to his dorm room door, he made an attempt to use his keys. "Damn...keys," he fumbled with them as if he were wearing oven mitts. "Here, I can't see them...s'too dark..." Classic line. His shoulder rested against the door, giving him support as he awaited the keys to fall into more capable hands. Relena undid the lock, leading to more chaos. Heero unintentionally, and forcefully, opened the door with his weight and nearly fell face first into the room. He caught himself in the nic of time.

Relena was relieved, she wasn't looking to explain any rug burn on his face. She felt for the switch on the wall and flicked it on. "You can see now."

Heero squinted, "Not really," for everything was rotating, he had the 'spins'.

"Lay down, you'll be better in the morning," she said as she guided him to his bed. They sat down together, his arm over her shoulder.

His mouth gravitated to her neck and he held on with gentle suction. It was enough to stop her in her tracks, and hard enough that it left the remnants of marking on her skin. "Stay?" he asked quietly.
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Chapter 3: Bail

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She was rather taken with Heero's action, it felt amazing. "I don't think that would be...well, not for long." She was too mesmerized and gave in to the connection. It was harmless as long as this was all he wanted. Every now and then he would make perfect circles with his tongue in the same spot, "Heero..."

"Yea~" he laughed a bit, "Let me see those lips again." He tilted her face up into his embrace and leaned them back on his bed. Their bodies laid side by side, legs mingling atop the sheets. He was beginning to get aroused and his body began to ache for her. His thoughts were few, and there was no background voice saying 'stop'. Heero's hands blindly reached for his belt and he struggled with the buckle.

She could feel his actions beneath her. He was less lucid than before but still wanted to be engaged physically, a big problem. "If you can't undo the buckle, it means we should stop," she said with an understanding tone. It was a perfect excuse not to do anything with him while he was this drunk. If he were tipsy it might have been okay, but not like this.

"Yeah. Thanks~" he sounded like he was fading fast. Before he could get across a full 'thank you for the drive', Heero was out like a light.

"...you still with me?" she asked leaning over top of him. Relena was about to feel bad for leaving him high and dry, but it seemed he was passed out before she even hopped off the bed. She headed back to the hall, hoping Heero would be alright for a few hours on his own. Deciding that checking in on him was a good idea, she set her watch for shortly after midnight. He might have sobered up by then and may want to return to the party. For now, he rested.

On her way out she passed familiar faces, Trowa and his date, the lovely Catherine. She was seeing Trowa back to his quarters, for long or short, who knew. He commented that it was cold and handed her his scarf, "Shame you couldn't stay inside, it's warmer." He snickered with Catherine as they continued to walk on by. Relena assumed the chortling was a result of beeing seen leaving together, a catalyst for gossip. Fortunately she wasn't one for spreading rumors; she had plenty of gossip, she was good at it, she just didn't care enough.

The young ambassador stepped outside and a brisk wind blew past her, it was light and refreshing. "I have no idea what he's talking about, it's beautiful out here," she unknotted the dark blue scarf and let it dangle.

As all this was happening, Duo was working his magic with the bartender; or the other way around. The big band blasted up on the stage and the glitter flew on the dance floor; Missy was a part of keeping everyone's glass wet and the counter dry. "Thank you," she said "This helps a lot," and laid another colorful drink in front of her newest admirer.

"Hey, no prob," Duo said and gently mixed the drink back and forth. "What's this one called?"

"Blue Lagoon," she said and began to mix another for someone else.

"Excellent," he commented, unsure if he was able to fit another drink in his gut. The drink was sweet and sour at the same time; and though he enjoyed the taste of it, his capacity was filling fast. He spoke with Missy for a few minutes and found out she felt she was still stale at mixing drinks. He agreed to help by ordering a few complicated drinks so she could brush up. Three drinks later, he was starting to fade.

"Duo?" Quatre asked from behind him. He had been nursing the same drink for the last hour, made obvious by the lack of ice remaining in the glass. He had moved on to something that tasted like black licorice, a gift from a passing official.

"Here, drink this for me," he said and swapped glasses with Quatre. He was fortunate the glasses were similar, and his was nearly empty.

"I can't handle these things," he said and tried to drink it, "Actually, this tastes...like candy. What is this?" He took another long sip and stirred it with a straw.

"Blue Lagoon," Duo said quickly.

"Finished?" Missy asked.

Duo shoved Quatre out of her line of vision, "Down the hatch. How about another?" he rested a dopy head on his wavering wrist. She turned around to grab another mixable liquor, giving Duo enough time to bark orders behind him. "Help!" he said, "Wing man?" The second part was said with more desperation, like a plea.

Quatre rolled his eyes and covered his face with his free hand, "I'm going to regret this," he said and downed the rest of the blue mix, hoping he didn't have the same fate as Heero. Taking his seat, he was ready and willing to help with this endeavor.

"Tequila sunrise," she plopped the drink down, "Oh, your friend," she said, "Can I mix one for you too?"

"Sounds good," were the words Quatre said but he meant 'Duo, I hate you'. She left to find the right glass. Quatre looked at the cup Duo was emptying, "...Isn't that the same one Heero was drinking? You should be careful," he said and awaited his own cocktail. The fact that the drink Duo had the same thing as Heero, yet twice the size, spoke to Quatre.

"It 'tiz. But don't worry, I put extra booze in Heero's glass, that's why he got a eff'ed," he sounded all proud of himself. "It backfired, he didn't stick around. But we got to watch him hobble to the car." He gave a thumbs up.

"I had to help him hobble into the car. What if it makes him sick? You're going to be the one stuck with a dry cleaning bill." Quatre said, annoyed that Duo was trying to pour booze down everyone's throat, not just his own.

"Pff, dummy shouldn't have slammed his drink," he said as he scoped out the bartender's hindquarters. Normally that wouldn't have been a big deal, but it was all he could see. The barrage of drinks had rendered him peripheral-visionless and more tunnle-visionful.

Missy came back and laid down a three layer drink of equal layers, coffee brown and blue that instantly faded to yellow, "It's called a 'Blue eyed Blonde'," she slid it toward Quatre and popped a neon green stir stick. "You are what you drink," she said with a chuckle. She puttered off after a well deserved compliment on her concoction and left the friends to their own devices.

"I don't think she's interested," Quatre said, knowing he had to break it to him sooner or later. He took the time to look at other people's drinks and saw the size difference, it was obvious she was serving him doubles on purpose.

"Of course she is," he protested, not wanting to give up so quickly. He had been waiting for her to be done with her shift so they could talk more personally. "She's still on the job, I'm not gonna make her get in trouble 'cause'a me. Wait for the perfect time...patience...it's key..."

"Maybe this 'perfect time' should be tomorrow. When you're sober," he commented on his fellow pilot's alertness, mainly his lack of it.

"I'm sober enough," he denied the accusation.

"Really?"

"Really."

"Then why is your head down," he asked with derision, hoping his point would be obvious.

Duo took note to the posistion of his head, laid down on the counter. "Y...y-you...you may be right. Call me a cab." He chuckled at his own disposition, to drunk to sit upright and still sucking on the wet end of a straw nearing the bottom of another cup. "Also, I'm laying in condensation, can you tuck a napkin under my face, Quatre."

He couldn't help but laugh at the poor guy, "Time to get up."

The bartender had been giving him doubles the whole time to get him hammered; it seemed she was hit on so frequently that she developed a defense mechanism. If he were too drunk, he couldn't hit on her. Logic. "Ready for more?" Missy asked as though she were speaking to seasoned drinkers, she quickly realized that they were not as they were getting up to leave.

"Sorry, we're calling it quits," Quatre said, "Come on Duo," he picked him from the stool and began to move away.

"Duo?" she said to herself. She hadn't asked his name when he sat down, only what he wanted to drink; so Missy didn't get the pleasure of knowing who exactly she was speaking with. Had she known it was one of the gundam pilots sitting at her bar, his night would have went better. "Oops..." she uttered and went to inform her boss to the mishap. Her words made him chuckle: 'I got Mr. Maxwell smashed...he won't be angry, will he?' Knowing full well he took pride in being the 'God of Death'. He told her not to worry, they'd deal with it if it came up in the furture.

They made tracks back to their first table of the night, where Wufei was curretnly counting his winnings. Quatre lowered Duo to a chair. "No more," Duo said, his head was now on par with the base of the cups he drank earlier. He hiccuped, "U'm done~"

His 'sort' was so out of sorts that it even briefly caught Wufei's attention. "No kidding," he said counting the first half of his winnings. He made a killing that night.

Relena showed up shortly after. She immediately offered to take Duo home when she laid eyes on him. He was plastered on, and to, the table. A friend was putting him up for the night, she needed to take him there as soon as possible. "Are you ready to go?" she asked.

"Yeah, yeah." His movements had to be very precise and planned, this made it visibly ridged. He stood up and stumbled back a step. Paused to regroup. Regroup completely and went forward. The way his body moved was like metal, and the table a magnet. "That last drink is kicking my a**," he complained.

"I'm sure it was the last one that did it," the hoarder added in his piece before they were out of ear shot.

Relena had to practically carry him on her back all the way down the stairs, keeping two steps in front of him the whole time. To her only good fortune of the evening was that Duo was much lighter to carry than Heero. "Almost there, stay with me," she reminded him to keep moving toward the car when they got to flat ground. She proped him against the side door, "Don't fall," she said and moved swiftly to the other side.

"Wher'id Heero go'again? Nevermine, he was tak-taken ho-me. I got this," he babbled and laid his chin on the roof of the car, eyes closing slowly. He waited for the door to be unlocked. When he heard a click, his door opened and he sat down with no trouble. The only reason it worked so well was because it was all one fluid motion. When Relena sat next to him, before the light in the cab died down, he noticed something peculiar. It stuck out from beyond Relena's scarf. "Hey~yo, here, cm'here, c'mer," he said as he was reaching out to her. He leaned over, getting much closer than he needed to be, "This'siz'twisted," because that thought was all one word for him. He fixed the scarf that had apparently 'twisted itself in her hair'.

"Thank you," she said and began the ride home, irked. How had he manage to get so smashed? She wasn't even gone that long.

Duo laid mostly silent, only responding with an "Mmm-hmm," now and then. He breathed in deep. "Tonight was a bust. First one wasn't into dudes. Second one was a dude. The bartendr'tried to poison me...stupid everything..." He threw his hands in the air and laid his head back after the outburst.

Relena tried to comfort him but heard no response. She was going to have to start applying the break if he passed out. "Duo...let me know you're still awake." A second later his hand came up and began rotating the lever to open his window. It only went down half as much as anticipated. "Wh'dsn't it open all the way..."

"We ordered it like that from the manufacturer. Would air flow keep you up?" she asked with a smile and lowered her window to generate a cross breeze. It was good to see he regret downing his drinks, however many he had. This was an especially funny scene after his earlier jab at Heero and how he should have 'slowed down'.

"That's the intention...staying con~sh'us," he said and sat back again. He began trying to catch his breath momentarily, with short, shallow breaths. This became more obvious when he was breaking into a sweat, tugging his shirt away from his skin to generate a current of air.

"Duo, should I pull over?" Relena was trying to decide what to do, they were seconds away from their destination too.

Duo squinted his eyes and concentrated on his state of mind. "Don't worry...I'll fit."

"What are you talking about?" Relena asked and looked over. Without any warning Duo rose from his seat, as far as he could, and began chucking through the narrow space the window offered. Relena went into distress and swerved closer to the shoulder of the road. "Duo!" She unlatched his seat belt so he could get further out the small space, but realized he may fall out entirely. "Don't slip," she grasped his belt loop at the back. "...should we stop?" she asked while holding his pants with one hand and the wheel of the car with the other. Eloquent. And they were only seconds away from having an event free ride.

Duo tried to answer, but couldn't stifle retching once again. "...uhh," he finally said, "-keep going." They got to his friend's house a few moments later. The ill stricken passenger then slinked his way back inside the vehicle, after everything was still. To his surprise he managed to open the door all by himself. Holding the handle for support, he leaned out, this time to fill the gutter.

"...when you're finished..." Relena said with an annoyed voice.

He stayed silent for a few seconds, spat, then nodded, "Really sorry," he said, not able to turn and face her.

"It's okay, no harm done," she rubbed his back as he sat at the edge of her car trying to catch his breath. She had been told 'everyone has a night like that', she assumed this was Duo's. Relena saw his friend come out of their house and start waving them down from the stoop. She flagged him over. "You have someone coming to get you."

Relena waited until they were inside the house before she got out to look at the damage to her car. "Oh my," was all she could muster. It was a mess. "Better out, than in," she said positively, referring to it being outside the car and not on the interior. After finding very little amusement in the double entendre, she stopped at a gas station to spray off the side of her vehicle.

When she got back her mind was dead set on making sure the rest of her guests hadn't done anything too offensive, to themselves or otherwise. Hopefully no one else put themselves out of commission.
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Chapter 4: Last Hours

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It didn't take too much longer, but Quatre was the next to go. Shaking him from his daze, Relena managed to rustle him into standing up and walking. He was rather talkative. "All of us ended up meeting tons of great people...a lot of connections," he said with a vague slur, "We decided to celebrate with all those tags Duo had. Wherever he got them," he said.

She ruthfully laughed at herself. "I'm glad you had fun tonight," Relena gave it some thought, "And, you've only thanked me once," she giggled; Quatre was delightful when he was drunk.

"Then: Thank you...and thank you again," he said while laughing. She led him to her car and Quatre flopped in the front seat, shutting his eyes momentarily. Relena's door opened and shut, loudly. "I'm up," he said suddenly when it slammed.

Relena began her second trip to the dormitory, third trip of the night, with Quatre. "Who did you get to talk to tonight? It was really busy, I didn't get a chance to see everyone there," she said, for she was too preoccupied with Heero and then Duo.

Quatre talked about the people he met up with at the ball: arms specialists, ambassadors from other countries and even some representatives from the united nations. "And those people can drink, wow," he spoke abruptly and to the point. "I was surprised Trowa could keep up with them, topic-wise and drink-wise. I tried a shot of whiskey'wit them at the end of the night-it's making me so tired." He was swimming in his own head because of it. "This is why I don't like alcohol, it takes the'good'out'a'you," his words were slowly becoming one.

Lucky for Relena, he occasionally changed the pitch of his words, so it was easier to separate them in her head. "They do like being social about it. I think it only hinders you when you consume too much." She hinted and pulled into to the driveway of the dorm. He was now living there to go to school instead of being schooled independantly. She hoisted him out of the car, as she did for Heero, but with less guidance. Quatre was still somewhat in control.

"True. I wasn't even trying to drink! Duo dropped the first one on me, some kind of beer. The second, was one from th-the governor general, she ended up not liking her drink and gave it to me. It tasted like black licorice, it was okay. I forgot, the wine from the toast...then one...th-the one that tasted like raspberry candy that Duo didn't finish, which I'm sure was a double, or a triple. The next one-" He laughed as he walked in front of Relena going up the stairs, wavering from side to side as he did, "The name of the drink I had was a pun. Missy said: You are what you drink. The mix was called a 'Blonde Hair Blue Eyes'." He poked the side of his cup where the three layers initially rested. "It had three different colors, and they all stayed separate. Oh, and Duo's tequila sunrise, I tried a sip of that one too. Gosh," he paused, "I did drink a lot...these drinks are a trap." he said as if he suddenly realized a great truth, his talking even ground to a halt.

"A trap?" Relena stepped ahead of him and held the door to leave the stairwell.

"They didn't taste like alcohol, I drank them like juice. I think that's why Trowa stuck with the wine, it had bite...and-by the way-is that Trowa's scarf?" He reached out and held up the left side of the garment in question, wondering why she was wearing something like that in this humidity. He laughed almost silently, "You should keep it on, it looks good with that outfit." He let the scarf go. "Thank you again. Heh, that's three now, isn't it?" He and Relena shared a laugh then she held out her hand to him. "What?" he said sounding confused.

"The glass," she was going to tell him about it sooner, but wanted to see if he would notice on his own. "I'll take it back to the hall for you."

A glass resided in his hand, it was from one of his drinks. It only had a bottom left. He laughed at his own folly and ended it with a snap, "Trap," he said, handed her the glass and saw her off.

Since he had drawn attention to it, it wouldn't get off her mind; the scarf was chafing her neck because it was humid. She tossed it over her arm and decided to check on Heero. She needed a sound mind if she were to return to the banquette in good spirits. She laid down her items and leaned over his bed. He was breathing heavy, but he was doing well. She figured that he wouldn't be up for returning after all. Once again, she made her way back to the hall.

The last person she hoped was doing alright, was in fact, beyond alright. Wufei sat back, with the same brand of wine from the toast, glass number unknown, counting his winnings. "You must be pleased," Relena said to him.

Wufei nodded, "Yup," he replied and didn't lose count.

"...how much did you get?" she was forcing small talk, it was quite apparent that she was on edge while doing so too. He counted a few numbers out louder, to let her know where he was at and continued on. "Nicely done...quite nice..." she said.

"Yup..." He paused to sip his drink and went back to counting.

"...you are aware that any winnings made on these grounds need to be donated to the foundation holding the event...in this case, the school," she said dryly, "I'll get the rule book if you want."

He stopped dead in his tracks, for he had been busted. "No need." Emotionless, he handed over the cash; before letting go of the bundle he said, "That mark on your neck sticks out." Wufei sat back, hands free. "Rather unsightly."

Relena panicked. In the heat of the moment she wasn't really thinking about her appearance, the thought of Heero leaving a mark didn't occur to her. He must have done it when he did that 'tongue thing'. Her face turned a beat red. "I-uh, when-I-" And she left her scarf Trowa gave her in Heero's room.

"You could use my scarf," he sported a similar scarf to Trowa's; school issue, with their emblem and initial. "I'd need it back...so, for a price, I'll be willing to rent it out to you," his swindling side didn't simmer down any. Wine washed around in his glass as he made his offer.

With a reluctant hand, she gave him half of the money back, "I need to take some of it, you gambled out in the open. Policy and such..."

"I understand," he smirked, rejoicing in the winnings he wasn't expecting to keep. Wufei was aware of the restrictions for 'winnings' made on the property, he was playing for fun (to teach humility to the suits, using suits). The fact he got to keep any money was a bonus. "Tonight didn't suck that bad after all," he said with playful derision, "Relena?" she snapped him a look. "I'd like a ride home..." he remarked in a calm tone, "...when you're ready, of course. I'd hate to force you..." Since Wufei was in good spirits, he got to stay until the end of the party.

His comment made her feel even worse for what she and Heero did. For another two hours she got to enjoy the company of her guests with her sweaty, scarf neck. They eventually dispersed and Relena got the chance to retreat back to her quarters for the evening. She was about to ask Wufei to not mention anything about her hickey on the ride to drop him off, but figured all the others knew already. Hence: Trowa offering the scarf, Duo fixing her hair, Quatre suggesting the scarf remain on; they all knew, except for the one who actually did it. Even in the stupors of drunkenness, they were still incredibly intelligent.

She deemed it necessary to check on Heero one final time before she left permanently. It was a good thing she did, he had moved and was passed out holding on to the edge of his tub. Not even lifting the seat of the toilet she hit the flusher, in case he was in there for a reason. She wasn't up for seeing any more of that in one night. Relena felt even more guilty about agreeing to drug him in the first place, it was a selfish decision that she could have prevented. She only wanted him to have a little fun, not pass out cold. "Heero," she said and nudged him gently. He moved, stirring away from the fixtures. "Can you hear me? Are you alright?"

"I think I fell asleep on the floor," he said and began to try and get up.

"It's okay, don't rush. Were you sick?" If he said yes, she was going to feel worse.

He thought for a moment, "I thought I was going to, but I fell asleep. What time is it?" Heero checked his mental and physical faculties, they seemed to be in order; with exception to his balance.

"It's late, nearly one," she said.

"What? I showed up to the party at six?!" he panicked as he remembered things slowly. It was rather sobering. "I've been out for 'four' hours?" He rubbed his face with an open palm, removing any sleep from his eyes.

"Don't worry, you're not in any trouble," she said and assured him, "you got what you needed to do 'done'." Relena scrunched her face up from fatigue and sat on the edge of his tub. "I wanted to have fun tonight too...but I ended up playing chaperone. At least our game of pool was fun," she reminded him, wondering where the beginning of his memory loss was.

"Pool?" he said with confusion, until the memory came back an instant later. "-r-right...who won?" He only remembered up until they started playing and that was it.

Relena breathed a sigh of relief, "I did," she said, rather glad she didn't have to explain things right away. For someone who was holding a banquette, she sure hadn't spent a lot of time there. The gathering wasn't for her to begin with, it was for the other students to gain recognition; she knew her presence mattered not.

"I...o-okay." He sat up on the floor and tried to balance himself. "I remember...coming in here because I was warm. I held on to the tub to cool off..." He held a hand to his chest, exposed through the unlatched buttons of his dress shirt. "I kept moving up a little, so it'd be cold again." His delivery was classic 'Heero' style, flat and to the point. It was hilarious to see him so confused by his own actions. "Yo-u-...did you end up driving anyone else home?" He started to feel bad about making her miss out on the evening.

She said with a smirk, "Everyone-but Trowa. Duo nearly destroyed my car." She was venting now but really, she was over it.

"...And we played a game of pool too?" Heero asked as he allowed himself to wake up fully, leaning against the sink and counter to do so.

Relena blushed unknowingly, "Y-yes."

He noticed her expression. "You didn't spend much time with your guests...did you?" he asked. It seemed Heero was going somewhere with the observation, the destination remained unknown for the time being.

"Not as much as I'd liked-but I had a wonderful night. Quatre was especially fun to take home, so talkative. I've never seen him like that before." Relena tried to continue the small talk but she really wanted to do something about how guilty she felt, lest she explode. Her conscience was getting the best of her. "I brought some brandy, but I only got one drink out of it. I was a taxi for a portion of the night, so I couldn't drink any." She laid a hand on her purse.

Heero noticed this, "Why not drink it now?" he suggested hoping she still had it on her.

"Now...?" she pondered. She didn't want to drink alone. Relena had secretly been carrying a little flask in her purse the whole evening, it went largely unused until then. She was planning on polishing it off throughout the night with her friends, but stopped when the drama with Heero went down. "I have a flask...I suppose I could have a n**." She went into the small evening bag and produced a long narrow flask, engraved with paisley designs and various swirls. She popped the lid and took a big mouthful, it felt like an act of contrition. "It's strong."

"I have some cans of...something." He got up from his soothing, cool floor and hunted down two carbonated beverages while still feeling groggy. They left the bathroom and sat down in the bedroom. He on the edge of the bed, she, on a fold out chair nearby. "Take a drink from the can to make room first," he said as he handed it to her. Relena dumped a sufficient amount into her pop, "Mind if I have some?" he asked while popping his own tab.

"Sure." She held it out to him to do the same. When returned to her, she dumped even more in her own can. "I got so caught up in running the party, that I wasn't thinking straight...I'm sorry," she said and took a drink, cringing from the strength, "If you don't remember who won our game, then you don't remember what we did...afterward..."

"No, I don't..." There was a lump in his throat, he wasn't sure he wanted to hear any of it. Heero knew in his own mind that something happened, he had a few brief flashes of the scenes. They were so vague it felt like they were a part of a dream, and he had no way of knowing for sure how much of it was real. Relena told him everything. She explained the pool game and the stipulations of her win. How he sat in the hall while she carted Duo around. And finally what happened when she dropped him off in his dorm room hours ago. "Is that so," he said in disbelief. "How do I know you aren't embellishing the truth?" Heero had a point. She made some heavy claims that needed to be backed up, they sounded too farfetched even for a night of booze.

In a simple motion she tugged Wufei's scarf out of the way and replaced it again. It was enough to render Heero speechless. "I-I...didn't mean for it to go so far...I-I'm sorry, Heero." She took another sip.

He admired the fact she came forward and told him everything willingly. None of it rang a bell but her honesty was well received. It may have been from the brandy she brought in, or maybe his feelings were changing, but he smiled. "I had fun, apparently." He poked the bottom of her can more upward as she took a drink. It was now his turn.

Her mind retreated to the gutter, where it so rightfully belonged. "Seems fair." Relena took an extra long n**.
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Chapter 5: Two After-Parties

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They chatted about the party and revisited some events, hoping he would remember things. Maybe sipping brandy while trying to do that wasn't so productive. He didn't even recall the time Quatre asked him if he was alright, let alone being driven home. The stories were still entertaining though.

They talked for a while until Relena decided she was getting warm. After opening a window she retreated to the washroom, only to briefly freshen up and pep talk herself silently in the mirror. "I can do this, just not too far," she said, slightly dizzy. The prospect of being with Heero like that again overshadowed her judgment, or maybe it was the brandy dazzling her. Either way, she took a spot on the bed and he instantly took a spot on her lips. Not fighting the current, this went on for a few seconds until she broke the embrace, "Are we really thinking clearly?" She had a point, this was the thing she was kicking herself for initially, not that she wanted him to stop.

"Don't think about it like that," he caught her attention, "Why do you chase me?" His head stayed close to her face so his voice didn't need to be so loud. It was low and husky that way.

"Because you're hard to catch," she laughed. Relena was beginning to feel kind of drunk, she shut her eyes to drift as she listened to him.

He nodded, "Exactly," and laid her back on the bed. "When I'm 'not so hard to catch', it turns you on."

"You don't have to say it like that." She shut her eyes, it made her more excited when he said things like that. It seemed Heero was going to tell it like it was, regardless of her protests. He spoke naughty to her earlier too, when he was really wasted; it was a pattern, one that would likely continue.

"You got me to drink so I would be vulnerable; because if I was uninhibited, I may agree to things I wouldn't do normally," he laid kisses the length of her neck as he spoke.

She heard this and got defensive, "Heero, I didn't plan it to be like that, I wasn't trying to manipulate-" she was cut off.

"-what if I liked it?" he asked and buried a kiss deep into the side of her neck, silencing her. He got the impression his comment made her think, so he continued, "I have my wits about me all the time, maybe the thought of being taken by you in a moment of weakness, turns me on." He found the reddish spot he made before and once again assaulted her with those gentle brushing circles. Had he remembered the move from before, or had this been an idea in his head for a while.

"Does it?" she asked. His tongue was wicked, it made her blush to hear it and now to feel it. Relena drew a sharp breath.

"Does it what?" he egged her on.

Catching on to his mind game she sighed, for she had fallen right into that verbal trap. "Let me get this straight: You like being vulnerable and I like taking advantage of you." She recalled the speculation from earlier, on how her personality would shift if she were drunk, she didn't expect it to be like that for her. "We switched personalities, just like the others," she said with a giggle. It was funny to her because as an advocate of peace and pacifism, forcing someone to make a decision using illicit substances went against everything she stood for; uder-aged use a bit risky too. "This is why politicians hide their sex life, isn't it," her thoughts meandered as Heero remained perched above her, listening intently. She quickly blushed, realizing she called what they had going on a 'sex life', or at least she compared it to one.

"Because, they're kinky behind closed doors?" he asked and laid a gentle bite on her shoulder.

"Must you say those things?" It didn't bother her, not in a bad way anyway, it sent a chill through some very sensitive areas.

"Yes. If I didn't say things, you wouldn't know what I was thinking." He took joy in tormenting her, it was that much better to see her in sexual distress rather than real distress.

This statement enraged her. She laughed and pinched his sides, "Me, know what you're thinking?! I never know what you're thinking because you run away!" As she said this she fought with him for dominance, and won. Relena managed to pin him to the bed. She grinned. "Now that I got you, I have some questions," she said then noticed her nail dug into his arm in their tussle, "I'm sorry, I've maimed you," her drunken exaggeration was amusing to him.

He laughed, "It didn't hurt."

She was convinced that it did sting but he was acting tough. "Fine, how about this," she said and lined her fingernails up to his collar bones. She saw him tense up. "I wouldn't actually do it."

"Go on," he said and sealed his eyes. He opened a single eye, "Not too hard." He left the shirt undone to cool off, now it served to have the opposite effect.

"Okay..." she said and gingerly pulled her nails across his skin. It was enough to leave light red marks and apparently enough for him to sigh in pleasure. "You like it?" she asked and repeated the motion, this time in a slightly different area. He arched his back and squinted his eyes the second time around. "You like it," she said with more certainty. As her hands reached the base of his bare skin, they came back in contact with his belt buckle. "...you're hard," she said and caressed him through his clothing.

"Is that a problem?" he laid back, fully open to intrusion, enjoying being pet.

"Not really," she said without a hitch and began undoing his belt. The way he squirmed beneath her made her feel powerful, she crossed her fingers that she would be able to recall these moments.

Heero tugged at the front of her shirt before she could go on, "Take this off." As instructed, she pulled it over her head and exposed her bra-less skin. Heero sat up and leaned against the headboard for this. He remained semi-exposed through his half open pants. "I thought it was a dream. You weren't wearing anything under there after all," he said as he revisited the delicate nubs, unable to remember the first time he did so. They were warm against his mouth. Each time he tried to grasp some soft tissue between his lips, it would slip away. Each attempt was fruitless, but he kept at it.

"A dream? You dream about me?" she asked and gently she reached down the back of his draped shirt. She pulled her nails upward, making him sound for more.

"Sometimes I do...like when I would be on a long mission, riding through space. I'd fly for days with nothing to do. I'd wondered what it would be like if you came along on one of those trips." He began sharing his fantasy as she lightly scratched away at his shoulders and back of neck area. "I'd thought about you riding me as flew Wing Zero. In this position too." She was sitting on his lap facing him, the perfect way to conserve space in the cab of his mobile suit, he assumed.

"I thought the throttle might get in the way, but it proved useful in some scenarios." His hands found their way behind her, feeling for that delicate string she called 'underwear' as a guide. He cradled her bottom with both hands as they sat there. "The throttle would hit right here," he said and moved his fingers along her lower lips, making her gasp. "I'd have to be careful not to let you land on it," as he spoke, his fingers found and played with the very sensitive area. "I'd hold you just like this, and if I felt the throttle on the backs of my fingers, I knew I'd gone in too far. Then I'd have to hold you up higher." His hands tightened and pressed up, stimulating her suddenly, yet again.

"This mean...you thought about going inside of me before tonight...and being Rough about it?" She said with a mile wide smirk. Now she was the one saying naughty things. "We can't go all the way right now, I don't have any protection."

"No worries, that's not quite what I had in mind," he said. The use of words quickly dropped off and the moment grew intense as Heero showed her what was on his mind. A few face-palmed moans were as close as either of them got to language from that point on. Three separate releases were shared between the two, blissfully etching itself into their memories.

When Heero finally caught his breath his eyes opened, once again seeing the spinning room. "Not bad," he said and relaxed, buzzing, satasfied.

"Agreed," she said feeling the same way. Relena quickly slinked over him, straightening their bodies on the bed. Where as most would check in or cuddle with their new partner after such an encounter, neither did. When all was said and done they passed out together and that was enough. She laid on her stomach, arms propping her head up as she snoozed the rest of the night away at his side.

The next morning happened far too soon. Heero's phone rang at eight, it was Quatre asking for coffee. Relena hunted down her clothing and said her goodbyes. She didn't try to stick around, for he had shared more than enough of his time with her. He also probably wanted to keep any personal matters to himself. "Would you be up for coming to a show with me? I'm on the mic this weekend." She was planning on going alone to do the announcements, but having him to keep her company would be nice. "It's an awards ceremony with lots of sitting and clapping."

"I've got a few papers to write, I could keep you company as I work on them." He bussied himself with finding a new shirt and pulled it over his head.

While his back was turned, Relena noticed he sported some visible red stripes. She blushed and recalled the night past. "Sounds good, I'll call you before Thursday," she said and reached for the handle.

"Hold on," he said and looped an arm around her waist, holding her close, "Don't you drive. I'll call a ride for you, go to the front." As simply as that, he let her go again. Heero was in the right, if she was still groggy from the brandy she could get in trouble if pulled over.

"Very well. Thank you for the company," she said and took her leave.

Heero rang the taxi service, all the while wondering if you were supposed to thank someone for that sort of thing. Did he regret spending the night with Relena? No. He had taken what the 'white suit' said to heart: If he were to progress, Relena's word was gold. He also took note to how detached she was, she didn't cling to him as she usually did when they got up. Maybe giving her some time now and then was all he had to do to keep her at bay. He made up his mind to dedicate himself to going with her the following weekend, without the drink this time, to see if he really had anything for her.

Quatre showed up shortly after, thankfully not passing Relena as she made her way out. "I still feel drunk," he said as he sat down in the extra chair in his room. He was fortunate that Heero agreed to make him coffee, being sober and able to comprehend conversation was essential for him to get through the day. He took a sip of his hot beverage, "Duo called me, I told him I was coming here."

"Why would you do that?" Heero asked as if he were complaining about a rain shower happening in the middle of the day. Duo was his closest friend, he was going to be able to tell something was up just by the way he was acting. He wasn't looking to talk about his encounter with Relena so soon after it happened.

"He probably isn't doing too good," Quatre defended him because he bore witness to the bartender sousing him up. Two thirds of what Duo drank was unintentional. Though he felt it served him right for admitting to spiking Heero's drink.

Pouring himself some coffee he sat at the edge of the bed, where he had been only hours earlier with his fling. "I was told by inside sources that he dropped something in my drink; and here I was blaming it on Relena."

"No, that was Duo. Relena was extremely helpful last night, she even helped you down to the car. By they way, how are you feeling this morning?" He showed general concern.

Heero knew nothing of how he got home, he only picked up when Relena shook him from his tub poised position. "Pretty good. I woke up holding on to the tub," he equivocated.

Quatre laughed, "I didn't sleep well, and when I woke up I was still like this," he said and pointed at his head. "I wasn't a big fan of alcohol and I think I have legitimate grounds to not like it now." He had taken in so much of the drink that his body didn't even have time to process all of it.

As they spoke, there was a heavy, slow knock at the door. When opened, it was a sorry sight. Poor Duo stood there leaning against it's frame, his arm not yet lowered from it's knocking position and rested atop the large tin bucked he was hugging. Eyes closed he managed to say, "Quatre said you have coffee."

Heero shrugged and let him in, distinctly remembering the nausea he too felt; he could only imagine the pain his friend was in. "Didn't the person you stay with have coffee," though he couldn't show sympathy, for he didn't want this to become a habit.

Duo moved lucidly across the room. "Hey Quatre-he did but it was instant and since I know you're a snob when it comes to hot beverages I want your coffee and your floor, excuse me." He laid his empty bucket outside the bathroom and went in to curl up.

"Insulting me isn't how you get coffee," he didn't take well to being called a snob. Duo did have a point though, he did buy good beans. 'Instant' tasted like garbage and was for missions, and missions only. "What's with the bucket?" he asked, assumed he had it because he wasn't feeling well. He watched Duo take up refuge by the tub, a familiar place.

"I got a cab and didn't want to chance messing up the car. They make you pay extra for that stuff, did you know that?" They didn't know that, but it was a piece of information worth remembering. He didn't remember Relena taking him home, nor had he been sent the bill for cleaning her car. It was in the works.

Trowa was the next to appear, fresh as a daisy(the b*****d), offering his sage like advice to a retching Duo. "You need to drink water, you'll never feel better if you try waiting it out."

Catching a breath through dry heaves, "Good...to know...cup?" he said from within the bowl. Heero took the hint and brought him a bottle of water from a quickly emptying mini fridge. "Even better, thanks," Duo said. Heero cracked the bottle for him and left to his own devices. "You even opened it for me? Aww, Heero's giving me pity."

Trowa took up residence against a book shelf, "Traveling with a circus quickly familiarizes you with the tricks of the trade. People think coffee sobers them up, no, it's drinking the water that rehydrates you." He sipped his drink of fancy, non-instant coffee.

"You've done this before then?" Quatre asked, his head still being bombarded by booze.

"A couple times, but I've had to deal with the aftermath of drinking from others a lot. I've had practice." When you were on the road, drinking was one of the few passtimes the circus folk could enjoy. "I also know how to pace myself," he said and gave note to Quatre's lack of sobriety.

"I won't be doing that again, don't worry," he rested against the nearest wall to his chair.

"Heard that," Duo said from the other room, as an acknowledgment of Quatre's true words.

"Me too," Heero said in a volume loud enough for everyone to hear, "Provided I'm allowed to stay sober."

Duo laughed ruthfully at himself, "Heh~, I had this coming, I got ya', karma." He was too exhausted to argue or lie.

"You missed a fun evening," Quatre said, being one of the few people who could remember things. He brought up all the different people at the party and how much their connections expanded in one evening. They were inturrupted by the bathroom make noises again, loud ones.

"Drink some water," Trowa said with little enthusiasm.

"What's the point?" he said in accordance to his current ability to retain things.

There was another knock at the door. This time it was Wufei who came in. He sat on an empty section of the bed and looked as though he was trying to solve a complex equation. "I have no idea what happened..." he said and looked over to Heero, the one pouring another reluctant cup of coffee.

"About what?" Quatre asked, being slightly more alert now.

Wufei reached into his pocket and emerged with a handsome sum of money, "I have no idea where this came from." He had a few too many pre-party drinks and didn't remember a single thing, "Did I rob somebody?" He looked around to see many confused faces staring back; apparently his actions were contrary to someone who was that drunk.

"You leveled everyone at cards!" Duo yelled from the bathroom, "You suck!" No one could tell if he was mad at Wufei because of the money he made, or the fact he wasn't hungover.

When the after-party was over, as piled out of the dorm room, Quatre was the last to exit. He noticed something peculiar on his travels. "Is this mine?" he said and removed an empty glass from Heero's bookshelf, it had a neon green stir stick. Quatre assumed he brought it in himself absent mindedly. "I'm still out of it this morning, sorry."

Heero froze in his tracks, unaware of the glass's presence. He didn't see Quatre holding anything when he came in, he had no clue where it came from. "No problem, talk to you later," he said and shut the door, relieved he didn't get questioned further.

When the four neared the front door of the dormitory, Quatre paused and said "Wait..." looking at the glass he had been in the bottom of the night before, "...I asked Relena to take this back after she dropped me off..." They all looked at each other, knowing full well Heero knew more than he was letting on; they walked away when they knowingly decided he would never tell.
Starla Q's avatar

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Thoughts to make you think...(you may skip this, or read it, if you like psychology)
Something I neglect to see among the fanfiction community is 'realism', most people here are young, so it's understandable. They make character's who are drunk just acting silly or saying stupid things, because they don't understand how one's 'filter' acts during a heavy night of drinking. As I mentioned in an earlier chapter that 'little voice that usually said no' not being there, that's accurate. Your 'I should just do this' mentality takes over and you end up with situations like Heero's and Relena's.

Did any of you think they tried to salvage the evening, by choosing to be together in the end? Almost as if they wanted to 'own the situation'. And what about Duo and Quatre? They drank themselves into the ground and didn't even realize it. How do you think this is going to bode for the idea of self control?

Finally, by extension, and to the fault of no one, many people position the hangover to be a very 'p***y' state of being. One that takes place in the safety of 'around the house', as if life stops when you aren't feeling well. Ha, I say. Ha! No, people, you don't know hell until you've had a 'for-real-real-hangover' while the world still turns. And sitting in class or at a job with a hangover is far different from running errands, ones you can't call off, or delay.

To those of you who have, I'll probably invoke a 'heard that' when you read this.

Speaking of which, do you remember what happened to Duo at the party? Hehe, he doesn't. *lol*
Read the author's note at the bottom, you'll get a better view on what I mean. I want to show you something cool. smile

I'll be doing this a lot more, talking to you guys about the psychology behind the story, so get used to it. razz

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Chapter 6: A Day in Life

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Duo sat on the subway, hugging his bucket close for the ride into town. The edges of the tin monster felt like razors on his face, and when the handle clicked off the side, it sounded like a thunder clap. Heero hadn't granted him enough floor time to recuperate, but he still had things to do that day that couldn't wait. It was mid semester and he needed to pay off tuition and juice up his food card for the following months. Eating at school was expensive, he really wished he had a permanent place to cook food.

His grades were flawless and he received sponsorship because of it. It also allowed him to attend any private school of his choosing. All of that only took him so far, he was still required to pay off the remainder of his tuition on his own. To get funded to continue going, he needed to fill out the right paperwork, done once every three months. He put it off for a long time and today was one of the last days he could turn in his papers. Tomorrow was a weekend and all government buildings were closed on Saturday and Sunday; and Monday would result in a delay of money he couldn't afford. Luckily it was only a matter of passing paperwork to the right people, not a complicated process, it was more tedious than anything else. 'Of all the days it could have been,' he kicked himself(gently) for waiting so long to do it.

He traveled to and from Heero's dorm, to the school's main office in town, three different government buildings and then a post office, on foot. Tedious. No. Tormenting. Duo fought through the headache and pain. It made his two hour errand feel like a lifetime. The worst part of it was being hit with another wave of queasiness in the middle of the trip and needing to turn to a shrubbery as a reciprocal. An old lady offered her sympathies when he said it was food poisoning. It was embarrassing to get sick in public, it only added to his grief, as did the thorns on the bush.

Even still, Duo was glad he decided to abandon the large tin bin long ago, for walking while being so zombified, and glaring at receipts, was difficult enough to do by itself. He walked down the road, feeling his pulse beating in each limb. The pulsation was worse where his clothing was tighter, like his collar, belt and boot straps.

On the receipt in hand, he noticed a miscalculation on his budget. He was a few digits off, in the 'tens position'. "Thirty bucks," he grumbled to himself, "Then that's...one-twenty." A decent food budget for the month. It wasn't all that bad, he had become accustomed to buying on the cheap. Provided he went on a sale day, he could make the food money stretch.

The only other thing left that day was to go home, though calling it a 'home' was a stretch. Duo had asked around to some friends, seeing if anyone could put him up for a few days at a time for free. He would buy his own food and chip in with household upkeep as compensation. A lot of people graciously offered him a place to stay. Spacing all the offers out correctly, Duo was covered for the remainder of the year. Even though it was a heartfelt gesture on everyone else's part, he was still technically homeless.

The point of his nomadic nature was to pay off debt. Any money that would normally go toward room and board, went to paying off the bill collectors. Deathscythe's parts and repairs ran him into the ground, more so than he did to it, when he pushed that self-destruct button.

If he planned his money right, he'd pay off his bills and have a chance to save some money before summer vacation. Not that it was priority, but he wanted to take a trip that summer to somewhere fun. If he couldn't save, it was going to be a solid, mind numbing 'work-all-summer' kind of summer. It was 'live paycheque to paycheque' now or have a boring summer. He chose the first one.

Taking the subway was free, his student card offered him at least that grace. With blurry eyes he pawed through his wallet for his pass. Unfortunately slowed by the hangover, he took too long to get it together and allowed a large group of people to fill the line he was aiming for, their readied tickets in hand. "For cryin' out loud." Duo threw his hands up in the air in defeat. Unfortunately his student card didn't offer him the grace of cutting everyone in line. He waited 'patiently'.

The long line pushed him to the breaking point once again. "Drink water he said, great idea," Duo muttered as he trotted off to the subway car's bathroom, cursing Trowa's poorly implemented treatment all the way. 'Occupied', the door defiantly read. "Can you hurry up," he said and laid a few frantic fists on the door.

"These hand dryers take forever," came from the other side.

He huffed, nearly breathless and holding his stomach, "I'm sick! Get out or I'm going in front of the door!" It was at that moment he swore he wouldn't drink again, 'Like that, anyway,' he was sure to add. He made it as far as the sink and was grateful for it. He'd only braved drinking water that morning, it was only a matter of running the tap for a few minutes to wash anything away.

Picking up a handful of cold water, he drank as much as he could; his fingers grew numb from holding the freezing liquid. It was a wonderful feeling though, having that same cold hand pressed on his cheek. Dousing his face a few more times to lower its temperature, he sighed in relief. As he was leaning over the sink, he mentally kicked himself(second time that day). "There aren't any hand towels in here, are there?" He looked up through his fingers, soaking wet face and dripping bangs, "Son of a..." He forgot about why the guy before him was complaining, the blow dryer was taking forever, and it was the only thing in there to dry with, "Right." He blotted his face with the sleeve of his sweater and left to sit down, the dryer would only irritate his head more.

The usually uneventful subway car was filled with loud, first year high school students. They wore matching uniforms, with pretty skirts and boots. For once Duo didn't feel like chasing skirt; puking was very uncool and he wasn't risking any more embarrassing social encounters. Instead, he bundled his sweater near his head and tried to doze off. Numerous times the girls squawking startled him from his initial sleep like state. He figured it was for the best, they kept him up long enough to get transferred to the next car. To his dismay a chunk of them followed him, on purpose, so they could torment him all the way home. None of them did, it just really felt like it to an over sensitive Duo.

"Are you okay?" one of the many girls asked him. She laid a sympathetic hand on his back a few minutes into the trip. She had seen him on the other train going into the bathroom and kept an eye on him during the transfer.

It appeared one of the girls did follow him. "I'm sick. That's all," he said meekly.

"Do you know what is it?" she asked and examined his face. "You don't look like you have a fever."

"Nah, i-it's a hangover." He felt embarrassed even saying it, it put in such a lame position.

She nodded with concern, "I've been there. You need to drink lots of fluids." She turned behind them, "Kumi, do you still have that vitamin water? Would you be willing to part with it?" She began pointing to the seat nearest her, getting her friend to come closer.

Duo tried to be courteous, "I don't —you don't have to," he said before being handed a bottle of orange colored vitamin water by the other girl.

She took the seat right behind them, "There you go. It's got B6 and B12, you'll feel better in no time," she said and leaned over.

The first girl smiled, "That's Kumi and I'm Yumi. Yumi and Kumi, get it?" They laughed, for his sake they controlled the volume.

"Cute names. I'm Duo," he raised the bottle he'd been gifted, "Thanks a lot." He was grateful he got to drink from a bottle, having to cradle liquid awkwardly in hand or lean over a fountain while touching a sketchy looking handle, was hard on the head.

"You don't look old enough to drink. Where were you partying?" Kumi asked.

He blushed, not expecting to be grilled, "At the dinner the school had last night."

"I know what one you mean," Yumi said with a finger snap, "That was the one being held at the Peacecraft's building, on the west side, right? How'd you get in?"

"Seems odd," Kumi watched for compensation in his expressions from behind them. She didn't buy his story.

"I'm in the computer trade program and I'm a pilot; I had a special invitation," he said in a hush.

"You gotta' be kidding. You're a pilot?" She sounded skeptical.

Not wanting to reveal his identity to a bus full of girls, he quietly slipped his wallet out and flashed his picture identification card. "Just, shh~," he said weakly, "I'm not looking to talk much."

Yumi held up the picture adjacent his face and she and Kumi did a side by side comparison. "Duo..." Yumi said with regret, "You look like hell." This made Kumi snicker and fall back in her seat.

"I know that," he snipped. Snatching the wallet back he snapped it shut.

"Duo Maxwell? Hey, Kumi. Do you know who this guy is?" she said with quiet disbelief.

"Shh~" he begged with a single, tiny, quiet gesture; his finger delicately held up to his lips.

"...no," she said.

She turned around to face her friend, being sure to keep her voice low, "He's one of the gundam pilots."

"No way, you sure?" she said and gave him a better look over. "Oo~h...you do look like hell."

"Yeah, I'm not feeling well, remember," he resumed his position against the wall, feeling another 'wave' coming on. These people were stressing him out. He drank the nutritious water and tried to overcome it.

"I have something you could try, it works like a charm for me," Kumi said in a devious way.

"No way Kumi, you can't just ask if he's into that," Yumi said. Apparently she knew what her friend was talking about. "Not everyone's cool with it."

He held up a hand like the queen of England, waving it lightly, "I don't care Yumi, I'm up for anything at this point. I haven't eaten a thing all day, and if this helps, it helps," he said truthfully. His blood sugar was really low, the main reason he felt so dizzy.

"You don't have to eat anything, but..." Kumi went through her things then leaned a stealthy arm over the seat. She revealed a cigarette. "Here. It's not a cigarette though; it's pot," she said quietly.

"How's that going to help?" he wasn't saying 'no', he actually wanted a reason to say 'yes'. He felt like hell, he didn't just look the part.

"You're in pain because you haven't eaten, and you've been sick all day from the looks of it," Kumi said and pointed to his cheeks. "If you keep something down, you'll feel better."

"I'm not following you." The headache was a throbbing, he wasn't in the mood to figure out riddles.

"This gets rid of nausea. Have a few puffs, you'll be good enough to eat," Kumi said, "I don't bullshit."

They hit a rough section on the tracks, causing a loud rattle to fill the cab. Duo held his eyes, for they felt like they were being electrocuted by the sound. "Okay-okay, let's do this." He got to the point he could feel the water in his eyes shift with the turn of the track, a sign of a need for outside intervention. As was his sound reasoning; it was that or risk retching on these two.

Her friend did an eye roll, "And you're going to smoke it on the train," Yumi crouched in her seat by pulling her legs up. "I can't block you any better than this. Hurry up." It sounded like this wasn't the first time she's had to do this for her classmate.

"If we had time when stopped, I'd wait. But this is for a real life hero, he doesn't look like he'll last much longer." Kumi was obviously impressed by his status, now she knew he was for real. She brought it to her mouth and started it up.

He assumed they were rich. It was just how the rich kids in the area acted, narcissistic and manipulative. "A hero, such flattery; I wish I was in better spirits." He smiled weakly. Narcissistic or not, they were helping.

"You will be." She used a torch lighter to spark the end up, it was near silent. "Blow it out the window. Try not to cough." She slid the frame to the side, causing a slight breeze from the suction to pull her smoke out of the cab and passed it to the left.

Having been a gundam pilot for so long, he had inhaled his fair share of toxic fumes; a few intentional fumes weren't going to be a problem. He hit the joint like a trooper and blew the offending smoke away. "How long will this take to work?" He felt like he was slipping. Duo's stomach howled in pain, it made hollow sounding noises.

"A few seconds. Here, I'll do the lighter part, you position the J." They teamworked the smoke and got him a couple more puffs, until he felt something. The end went out again. "Waste not, want not. Keep that in case you need a boost later on."

"Thanks," he said and popped it in his coat pocket. They pulled in shortly after and Duo parted from his newly found contacts. He added them in his phone list and would drop them a line before the weekend. "Maybe I'll get to stay at one of their houses some day," he beamed and flipped his cell shut, pleased with the idea of a sleep over at a girls place.

Duo was amazed at how much better he felt. He got a small meal from a local deli and devoured it. Passing a small coffee shop along the way, he saw Quatre. He stopped for a drink and another bite of food with him. He was feeling light and airy the whole time, thankfully Quatre didn't notice. It was good to see him doing better too, he even expressed an interest in one of their newest employees.

Finally, he was finished with the movement portion of his day. Figuring that since he was trying to use the marijuana as a form of medicine, he best be productive while it was effective. Duo took advantage of this new found second wind; he bought some food to bring back to Wufei's, where he was staying that week. After getting an order that didn't even put a dent in his budget, he headed to the house.

It was empty. It was a mess. "Time to earn my keep," he said and got to cleaning. Since gaining enough energy in his travels, he cleaned the whole downstairs areas. Living and bathroom, kitchen and hallway. "This guy needs storage," he said and moved a stack of misfiled papers into the office, they had been misfiled on the kitchen table and behind the bread box. The office was too scary. Duo left the collected papers near the door because he feared that if he ventured in, he wouldn't come out, ever.

As he finished, so did his energy burst. He crashed on the couch, a place he would later pull out to have a semblance of a bed. Wufei may have been on top of his business, but he had no sense of organization. Duo assumed that he wasn't used to owning possessions, so his 'upkeep mechanism' wasn't something that got developed. The biggest portion of the mess was papers and receipts. It was nothing for him to handle. Nothing was thrown out that wasn't garbage, everything else was bagged and stored for sorting.

He organized everything to the point that the owner of the house thought he came into the wrong address and had to double check the number of the house. Then he thought he was robbed. A notion that quickly faded when he saw the person responsible for all of it. "Duo?" he said, hoping to hear an answer, he wasn't moving. Had the mess killed him?

"Mmm~" he said in a disconnected voice, face down in a cushion.

"It looks great, thanks. Let me guess, you cleaned up and slept most of the day?" he said and came into the living room. "Huh?"

"You have no idea," Duo said, finding it funny that people thought he had an easy life. Sure he carried on a lot, it was his escapism, but he felt it made people think he had more figured out than he did.

"What did you do all day then?" He sat across the living room from his guest, cross-legged in an arm chair, inspecting for mistakes.

Duo caught his judgmental stare out of the corner of his eye. "It started out with me running around tying loose ends with a splitting head ache and gut rot. I got sick on a sharp bush, then nearly missed the can on the first subway ride. I thendodged a mob of potential fan-girls on that same annoying subway car, only to be forced to sit with two of them when I transfered; and they wouldn't shut the hell up! Then I bought food, walked here with it and then cleaned the house of a thoughtless a**! And here we are!" His sentence was a crescendo, executed 'face down' into the sandpaper-like couch.

"Sorry...sounds rough." Wufei was at a loss for words. "...are you feeling any better now?"

"Yeah," Duo fizzled out and maneuvered his head to balance on his chin. With his arms covering most of his face he said, "I'm sleeping like this, I'll pull out the futon tomorrow." He was left to sleep, by a now humbled host, who turned the light out and tossed a blanket over top of him.

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Thoughts to make you think...

Some of you must have said 'oh, it wasn't that bad' to poor Duo. Let's take a closer look, shall we?

Public transportation while sick
Recovering on someone else's floor
Each sound being exaggerated
Can't eat, even if you wanted to because you have no money
Last minute errands
Crisis
Lack of options
Receiving help, but not enough
Self-inflicted illness guilt
Lack of transportation and many stops
Public humiliation
Self-conscious
Being pitied
Money problems
Miscalculations because of money problems
Awareness of own pain
Homelessness
Stretching the budget
Realization of fun 'lacking'
Planning on working all summer
Waiting in line to do anything or go anywhere
Dealing with inconsiderate people
Stress of being sick
Stupid mistakes(but getting little relief, the water on his face thing)
Loud people
Loud noises
Doubt and distrust from others
Annoying people trying to talk to him
Drug use(relief)
Self-conscious, again
Paranoia
Relief (stoned)
Coffee with a friend
Grocery shopping
Tidy and rest in a clean house
Ungrateful friend
Grateful friend
Sleep
(In order of them happening)

Remember Duo's smart enough to admit that all of the days events, that went wrong, could have been prevented. He's also smart enough to know that everything that happened today, was a result of his 'choice' to drink.

What he's not smart enough to notice, and no one would be, is that he started to feel better 'after' he smoked up. So, he's told his brain 'the day was bad until I did 'this' thing', where as in 'this' could be anything (chocolate, petting a puppy or wacking it in public). All his brain knows is that things got better after that 'thing' he did.

So...how was Duo's day now? sweatdrop
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Chapter 7: The Ropes

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Quatre' felt his day wasn't going to be much better than Duo's. When he left the dorm he had to be brought back to the hall to drop off the glass he forgot. He kept the stir stick as a memento of the evening. The narrow piece of green plastic reminded him of what Duo said as they left the dorm, 'we're not letting him do this'. Meaning, Heero wasn't allowed to keep his personal life to himself. And while Quatre would have liked to know if Heero and Relena were going to become a couple, he was content in waiting for them to come forward with the announcement, themselves.

After dropping the dish off, he continued on to his family's house for the long weekend. The whole trip was nearly an hour long and he was exhausted by the time he reached his bed. Flopping down face first into the plush covers, he started to regret moving into the dorm in the first place. His bed was far nicer and much bigger than the dorm room beds.

But it was for that same reason, that wanted to leave and be on his own. He felt his sheltered upbringing was more of a hindrance that a help. When he heard of his friends plight with growing up and becoming independent, Quatre wanted to have a similar experience along side of them. Eventually he was hoping to stay in town each weekend after he got used to living alone. For the first couple months he had been retreating back to his mansion each weekend to stock up on food, and sleep in a goose down bed.

"Master Quatre," said an unfamiliar voice, "Would you like some tea?" The girl that appeared in the doorway was holding a tray full of things to eat and drink.

He waved her in, "Sure, lay it on the table." He watched the new girl lay her tray down. Quatre couldn't help but notice she wasn't dressed the same exact way as the other workers. This girl had made an alteration to her uniform that caught his eye, but he kept it to himself.

"You can call me if you need anything else," she bowed and turned to leave. Normally their working staff at the house was from their home country, but since Japan was so out of the way, she was hired as an entry level employee from the school.

"What's your name, before you go," he asked, curious about the native girl they hired.

"I'm Naibun, but everyone calls me Bunni," she said.

Quatre smiled, "I get it, you switched the characters around," they chuckled.

"People from out of town don't usually get it; my friends thought it was funny." They exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes. "Would you like me to wake you up at a certain time?" She asked Quatre as he went to lay back down.

"Yes, please. Come get me at noon," he said, still looking kind of rough from the night before.

She nodded and went to leave but stopped short. "I heard," she said and turned, "That a single drink, first thing when you're feeling hungover, can perk you up again. Would you like me to get you some berry wine? We freshly bottled it this morning."

"Thanks, but I'll stick with this for now." He held up his tea cup. "I'll keep you in mind on movie night though." He was joking.

"No problem. Anytime you want to tie one on, let me know. I have a key," she said with a smile and left, swinging a ring full of keys on her finger.

He wasn't serious, but who knew, maybe he'd find a wine he liked the taste of. He shook the idea from his head, remembering what happened when he found drinks he enjoyed drinking. With that in mind, he knew he had to sleep those drinks off until the designated time, so he sipped his tea and slipped off to sleep.

Later on in the day he decided it was time to look around town more. Right away, he ran into Duo exiting the subway. He was waving to couple of his friends and he had a small, nearly empty tray of food in his hand. "I didn't expect you to up and moving so soon." Quatre approached him.

"Same here," he said with more spirit than when they last spoke. "I'm starving, want to get something to eat?" He tossed his food container away in a nearby bin. He and his newly rejuvenated friend sat at a coffee shop placed and order, for more food.

Quatre started off. "When I got home this morning, I found out we have a new housekeeper," he said as the waiter dropped off their orders.

"Does she call you 'master'?" Duo snickered.

He blushed, "All my staff call me that! And you're assuming it's a girl?"

"Is it?" he asked brightly smiling.

"...yes," Quatre sighed, "She was really helpful and was even willing to get me wine to fight this hangover with."

"Does that work?" he said with wide eyes. He had seen a flask on Heero's shelf but didn't think anything else of it. Had he but known, he may not have needed to do what he did on the subway.

He said, "I don't know," with a shrug. "But next time I want to have a drink, she said I could ask her."

Duo shook his head, "I don't think I'll be doing any drinking for a while. I'm still tender from last night." Saying that he wasn't doing too well would have been more believable, if he weren't on his third sandwich. "Maybe I'll try again next weekend."

Quatre blushed again, this time for no reason he could think of, "Is that wise? Do you even remember going home last night?" he asked him now that they weren't in a room full of people. Relena said she hadn't told Duo about the incident yet.

"No. Something happen after I left?" he asked, oblivious to what he did. Quatre laughed lightly told him to lean forward. He gave him the 'readers digest' version of what happened in a hushed voice from across the table, "No way!" Duo said.

"She had to go to a detail shop to spray her car down." He smirked, "We also found out that the bar tender was serving you larger drinks to get you really drunk. I think you should complain to the owner."

"Really?" Duo was shocked, just as he was when he first found out. Though now he was less angry with the idea of being poisoned. He laughed, "I was a totally different person, it was strange."

"Totally different? You seemed to be more outgoing and social than ever. How was it different?" Quatre asked.

"Are you kidding? I was so...all over the place. It was sloppy." He felt his usual charming attitude was hindered by the drink, at least that much of it. "I didn't handle last night well at all, poor Relena having to put up with that. Damn," he said and glanced off to the entrance of the cafe, perking up in his seat some to get a better view of something.

"What?" Quatre leaned and tried to see what he was looking at.

"Nothing. I'm all on edge now." He looked back to Quatre, "Last night could have gone a lot worse; what if I tried to walk home? What if I didn't roll that window down?" Irrational fears surfaced as his attention wandered. "You don't think Relena's cross with me?" His fingers nervously drummed the edge of the table.

"Nothing like that happened, don't freak yourself out over it. And don't worry, she seemed content with it going out the car, not in the car." Quatre sipped his ginger tea, red cheeked. A suggestion by the lovely Naibun was to have something with ginger. It soothed nausea and helped heal. He snickered at his own notion, remembering what she was wearing. "The new girl suggested this."

"Hmm?" Duo asked, he seemed still out of sorts.

"I was thinking about the new girl we hired, she's nice, because..." Quatre trailed off.

"She's cute?" He slyly narrowed his eyes at the one sitting across the table.

"It's not that, that's concerning, she wears a corset with her uniform." He didn't want to say anything to her because he didn't want to embarrass her. He talked to the manager about it, afraid she'd be penalized; oddly enough he allowed it, saying it was for medical reasons. "I mean if she has trouble carrying things, shouldn't she have a different job?"

"It's not medical, it's a ploy," Duo began, "She's being erotic."

This made his friend turn a darker shade of red, "Duo! Come on, we're in public." He got quieter, "What do you mean?" sounding more intrigued he leaned in closer.

"Think about it," he said and counted on his fingers as he went, "There's no reason she can't wear it under her uniform," one finger, "Then telling offering you booze," another finger, "Then the tea," thrid finger, "It all adds up: She's flirting. I'd say make a move," he tapped a determined finger on the table.

"Adds up? It's been a day...are you sure you're alright?" He had a feeling his friend needed to lay down, he was still acting kind of drunk.

He caught himself being eccentric and dumbed it down, "I-I mean, see if she's interested. Throw a compliment her way."

"You assume I'm interested in her?" he again sipped his tea.

"Then why bring her up? Twice, I might add. Because you were interested in her. And why talk about her clothing? Because you wan-" he explained but was stopped short.

"-I get it..." he dismissed the notion. "I have a hard time expressing my interest in someone, for starters; plus, she's an employee. She'd get fired over something like that. I think it's called a conflict of interest."

"That's why you don't tell anyone. Where do you think the word 'maid' came from? 'Mistress'." He popped the last of his food in his mouth.

"There's no 'd' in that word, for that matter, an 'a'."

"Maybe it was from another language."

"Or you're blowing smoke."

He laughed at his own failed language. "Probably that one. I'm might be mixing my references, or I wanted to say the word 'mistress'. 'Mistress'." He put emphasis on the word the second time. "And on that note, I'll talk to you later, Quatre. I need to go buy sexy underwear and clean Wufei's place like a good little 'slave girl'." He chortled as he walked away.

"Cut that out," he said loudly. Now he too had to leave, for there were too many eyes on him. They went separate ways.

He escaped and ended up passing a crowded skater-park. There were people were at the back of the fenced off area doing various dance moves. Another group off to the side were sitting in a circle and texting, silently. Many other groups were here and there doing their own thing, but none drew much attention. He found funny parallels with these people and the ones from the party the night before, except he didn't feel comfortable diving in and talking up a storm. At least, not without knowing a few names first.

The remainder of the day was spent exploring the rest of town and getting to know the area. He took pictures from 'look-out' locations and walking tracks thoughout the town. He felt that meshing with others was best done at school, where the young social hierarchy wasn't as prominent. Japan was a beautiful place, unlike his homeland, he wanted every chance to take in the scenery. It proved to be a good conversation piece during family reunions.

On his way to get the bus, it's last run of the night, a familiar car drove by. Trowa and Heero were in the front seats, "Where are you heading?" Trowa asked from the driver side.

"I wanted to ride the bus home, I've never done it before," he said innocently. They mentioned they were heading over to Wufei's to see something 'amazing', as he called it. Wufei wouldn't give them the details, they just had to go and see it. "Text me when you get there, I want to know what's going on," Quatre smiled. After a few more passing words, the bus pulled in and his friends pulled away.

The bus generated a low howl from the back, where it's engine was, and it constantly buzzed the whole time. It was a far cry from the car he was chauffeured around with most of the time. He took note to a patron in the back, riding with a couple of her friends; she had taken ill in the back of the bus. There was a plastic bag in her hands and no mess, but Quatre couldn't help feel flustered. The first time he rode the bus and that was what he got to see and hear.

Quatre's heart began racing, leaving him short of breath. His face was sweating and his heart skipped every few beats. Why had such a simple act have gotten to him so badly? It wasn't like he hadn't seen anyone ill before. In fact, he heard Duo that very morning and didn't feel the slightest bit of panic. He panted for air, unintentionally alerting the bus driver.

"You okay, kid?" the elderly man asked from behind the wheel.

"I'm fine," he said, controlling his breathing. "It's a panic attack, I'll manage." He said this as if it wasn't the first time it happened, and it wasn't. Many times behind the helm of his gundam, he felt those same symptoms, the same draining, exasperated breathing and fluttering heart.

"You sure you don't need me to pull over?" he asked.

"No. But she may," he pointed at the back of the bus, it's people kept it together nicely. They were thankful that Quatre said something, they were afraid that they'd get kicked off for being sick.

Less than an hour later, he was home. As he opened the door his phone went off with a text from Trowa saying 'So clean. Hard to believe.' Quatre laughed at the 'amazing' news Wufei had for them.

Naibun was at the front to take his coat right away, "How was your outing, Master Quatre?"

Doing the same thing he'd been doing a lot that day, he blushed, "Eventful. I ran into Duo and we had coffee." He proceeded to tell her about the things he saw on his travels and showed her the pictures he had shot with his phone.

"I wish my phone took such good pictures. The ones I take are all fuzzy." Her phone was that of a commoner and not beyond three megapixels. As opposed to Quatre's eye raping fifteen megapixels. "And I know so many places to take pictures too. I should take you some day, if...that's appropriate." She needed the job, she didn't want to ask this boy on a date and losing her only source of income.

"Absolutely," he said with a smile, "I have escorts all the time." She blushed. He blushed in return, "I mean, people to escort me through town. I'd like it very much if you showed me around," he said waving his hands in front of himself.

Naibun laughed, "How about this Sunday? I'm off."

"I thought you had to be working to take me around?" This comment made her stutter and attempt a response. To avoid answering she shoved him off to his quarters for the evening. He smiled. It looked like this girl was interested in him after all. If nothing else came of it, it was the perfect setting to learn how to flirt. "Bunny," he said from the other side of his door that was being shut for him. He could still see her swoon through the crack in the door because he used her nic name. "I'm getting a shower, would you like to do me a favour?"

She turned beet red, "Y-yes, Master Quatre?"

"Could you come in, in a few minutes, and hand me a towel?" he purposefully lengthened his sentences to get a reaction.

The girl was losing oxygen as she spoke, "No problem." Naibun hopped off down the hall to look for the softest towels she could find.

He shut his door and sighed. "Guess it's not that hard," he smirked, "I can do this." Flirting with her was going to be fun.
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Chapter 8: Open

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Heero cursed his friends intrusion, they drank most of his coffee and unintentionally snooped on him. He was hoping to keep his fling with Relena quiet, until he was sure on his own feelings toward her. Quatre noticing that cup was definitely going to put a damper on his guise. When you spend over a year trying to get away from someone, it's a hard concept to grasp being 'near' them. A distraction was necessary so he began his school work.

He got a chunk of one assignment done, until it stopped functioning as a good distraction. He headed over to the school instead. It was Friday and a school holiday, so there was no one there besides a few dedicated athletes and some custodial staff. A few rounds of archery to begin with, a couple javelin throws and then several swimming laps; he hoped it would have diverted his mind away from thinking about Relena, and it did for a time. When making his way back into the change room he could hear people talking. They were chuckling as he passed by.

Escaping into the locker room was all he could do. Heero didn't understand why he felt so uneasy about the whole thing. It was more than likely those people were talking about something totally different, but his mind was trapped in the mentality of 'they all know'.

"I didn't know you'd be here," came Trowa's familiar voice from the end of the hall.

Heero looked over to him, "Yeah, I needed to get out of my room today." Getting out of his room facilitated his thought processes; he couldn't stop thinking about Relena in there.

"Understandable," Trowa took a seat on a bench, near where Heero was changing. "About that glass..."

"I have no idea how it got there," he said without a hitch.

"That was a quick answer." He made eye contact with the one in question. "I was concerned if anything bad happened last night, that's all," he said in a subversive way.

With a reassuring shake of his head, "Nothing bad."

"Then what," he continued.

"I'm not looking to talk about it."

"So, something did happen," Trowa had caught him.

"What?" Now he was getting on edge again.

"You said 'nothing bad' happened. Does that mean 'something good' happened?" He smirked, anticipating the answer he, and no one else, would get. Trowa knew more than he was letting on, but he wanted to see how far he could push Heero with the conversation.

He sighed, "I don't remember," he tried to make an 'out'. Heero turned around to see his friend with a wide smile on his face. "Why is it so important that you know what I did?"

Trowa, calm as ever, got up. "It's not," he said and reached into Heero's locker. Removing the magnetic mirror from the door he nodded in one direction. "Come here," he said and walked to the sink, where there was a wall length mirror. "The important thing is that you knew what went on. And seeing as how you do, I'm relieved."

Heero was now looking in the mirror for marks on his neck. He figured that Relena may have given him some payback for leaving a hickey on her first. "Then-?"

"Then it's important to be self aware, right?" He saw Heero nod. Continuing with the demonstration, he turned Heero's back to the large mirror. "Then know what 'sex scratches' are my friend, and you won't be grilled," he said, cool as a cucumber and positioned the mirror so Heero could see his own back.

There were random, red horizontal and vertical stripes going every which way, more were towards his shoulders. "...nothing happened," was all he could manage, slack jawed.

"Sure, Heero." He relinquished power of the mirror to it's owner. "Either way, I'm glad you're alright. Are you busy today?" Trowa was quick to drop the 'called it' tone of voice and facial expression. Not that he was overbearing about it, he just knew how sensitive Heero was to people's true intentions. Intention being: Making sure his friend wasn't assaulted.

"I'm free today..." Heero hesitated, "It...was't nothing...that..." He held the mirror, slowly lowering it in front of him as he struggled for an explanation. He didn't even bother to turn around, lest he see how red his own face had gotten.

"I'm not judging you," he said, "Don't worry about it. Come on, get dressed. I need some help today, if you don't mind."

"Sure...uh..." Heero went back to his locker, grabbed a shirt and locked up. "I'll tell you in the car," he said and slung his bag over a shoulder.

"As long as you realize you don't 'have to'," Trowa assure him. But he did tell him; he told him everything he recalled ayway. "Wow," came from Trowa's lips as they sat in the parking lot in his car, processing the story.

Heero's head was against his passenger window in defeat. His own actions boggled his mind, the thought of doing something like that now was too nerve racking. "I don't even remember doing that...neck...thing."

Trowa raised an eyebrow. "A hickey?" Heero blushed and crouched in his seat more, hiding his eyes. "S-sorry...I mean...you're really bothered by this. Why?" He began to pull away.

He sat up an composed himself, "I never thought of her like that before-"

"Never?"

"...not often," he sighed. "I don't want to set anything in stone. She's got her own agenda and so do I; we're too busy to have a relationship."

Trowa laughed, "I never thought I'd heard you say that about her."

"So much for not judging," he folded his arms and looked off into the distance.

"I'm not, I swear; I'm happy for you. You deserve to have a little fun." Trowa was pleased Heero opened up a bit.

"What about you?"

He was caught off guard, "W-what do you mean?"

"Some of the students around the school said they saw a girl leave your room last night. What's up with that?" He said in a smug, flat tone.

Trowa looked relieved, "That was my sister, Catherine."

"Alright...then why did you get all up in arms just now," he leaned closer to the driver, "Share. Remember, no judging." Trowa slowed to a stop and pulled over to the shoulder of the road. "I was kidding, you don't have-"

"-I'm writing it down," he said and grabbed a pen and scrap paper from the blinder above his head, "I'm not saying this out loud. You have your quirks, and I, mine." He scribbled a few things down and held it in front of Heero's face.

Taking the 'too close' paper in hand, he began focusing on it. He read the message and it took a second to process. He looked at the words, back to Trowa and then back to the note again, "...I can see it. It comes with working in the circus, I guess."

"I sure wasn't interested in it beforehand." He pulled back on to the road and continued on.

"How do you know if you have an interest like that? Does it happen over time, or is there one situation that determines it?" Heero was becoming more at ease.

Trowa shrugged, "Mine was gradual. And I find it funny you and Relena ended up together as you did. It was the same way my friend and I spent the night."

"Drinking?" he said with little enthusiasm.

"Yeah," he said, "I was shy about asking until I had a few. It's commonplace now, and no longer a big deal. I also don't need to dirnk to get the 'nerve' anymore."

Heero didn't recall him mentioning anything before, "When was this?"

"Shortly before the beginning of the school year. She's moved on with her circus group, but we had a good time." He reminised about the night he had with her.

"Did you sleep with her?" He hoped the meaning of 'sleep' self explanatory in this context.

"We didn't have sex, but we did everything else," he said in a calm, causal way. "She said not to look at it as a night of 'what the hell were we thinking', rather to take it as an experience to move forward with."

Heero took that that piece of information down. Even if nothing came of he and Relena, he at least had the memory of being with her. "Funny."

"How so?" Trowa took note to the warm expression on his passenger's face.

"If Relena didn't come back to check on me I wouldn't have had these scratches, then I wouldn't have ended up at the school trying to get my mind off of it. Thus, I wouldn't have gotten to talk to you about it." Heero tried to follow the events in his head.

"I'm sure we'd have talked about it eventually," he laughed.

"I mean, I wouldn't have become comfortable with it, if not for today." He was referring to his life long streak of stoic, loner-ism. "Thanks." This was going to be a good tool to take along on his next outing with Relena. Which was going to be the award ceremony.

"Glad my nosy demeanor did some good," he smirked. "By the way, did you see my scarf? I lent it to Relena last night."

"It was so warm, why?"

"Neck."

"Right. No, I haven't seen it. I'll check behind the shelf the cup was on, it probably fell behind." Heero looked at the passing scenery in silence for a few minutes, "Don't tell Duo."

He nodded, "It's not my business to tell...but why not?" He figured Heero had a change of heart when it came to being open with his friends, why would any one of them be so different?

"I want to see how long it takes him to corner me about it. His freak outs are amusing," he said with a grin. They continued on for a time until they ran across a dirt road.

Trowa pulled up the dusty street and looked around, "Did you have plans next weekend?"

"No-" he said by default and caught himself, "Well..." Trowa looked right at him, or through him, Heero couldn't tell. "I...Relena asked me to go with her to some function."

"And you're going," he said, unaware if Heero would have taken it was a question or an order. He saw a nod. "That's good. Saturday, right? Do you know what time it's over?"

"I checked online, around nine. The banquette goes on until the doors close, but I don't think she cared to go to that part." Heero was curious as to where Trowa was going until the tent came into view. "The circus is here," he said.

"It's not my circus, but I'm helping out. I told them I had experience and they wanted me to come in for a few shows. Do you think you could get my notes for me this week?" He didn't want to lose out on work because of school, or the other way around.

"No problem," he said and got out of the car with Trowa. The circus was in the throws of setting up for the evening.

"I asked what you're doing because I had some free tickets. I'm giving them away to a few people. You should come after the show on Saturday, they're doing exhibits all night." The night was going to be filled with solo acts, stations doing independent performances and selling wears. Trowa shuffled he and Heero into a tent that was devoid of people. He rummaged through some things and emerged with an eight pack of beer.

"Again?" Heero asked in disbelief, "Is that really a good idea?" He was referring to the act of drinking two nights in a row.

"This is all I have, and I plan on sharing. Wufei wanted someone else to show off this 'amazing thing' to." He looped his arm around the beer and grabbed a cigarette tin from the shelf.

"Amazing? He doesn't usually get so excited." Heero felt the whole weekend was going to be full of surprises.

After unloading the drinkables in the back of the car, they got to work for the day. Earning extra money in any way was a bonus. Especially if that money was under the table, meaning, not on record anywhere, rendering it un-taxable.

The manual labour was intense. "Just take it off," Trowa suggested to Heero, who's shirt was dripping wet.

Since the scratches were going to stay, so was his top. "I'm fine," he said and drug a forearm across his forehead. Again, Heero was faced with something that wouldn't have ever happened, had the day not played out exactly as it did.

Passing between he and Trowa was a man with scratches, scars and, from the looks of it, intentional cigarette burns littering his back. One of them looked like a fresh wound, possiblly from a few days ago. "Coming through," he said and led a few horses by.

When he was out of ear shot, "...you win," Heero said and removed his tank top to continue the day's work. By day's end, he had been complimented on his markings by the same man who unintentionally inspired him to be more open about it.

Chuck, as he called himseld, said that women got more vicious as they got older and eventually switched to equipment. "She spends hundreds on her nails. Be damned if she broke one of'em on my hide." Chuck said with a slap on Heero's back. He had been warned, but it was positioned to sound more like he should be looking forward to it.

"I can't picture Relena as a 'dom'," Trowa stroked his chin as he tried to picture it.

"Don't," was all Heero said.

"Protective much?" He chuckled.

"No...now I'm picturing it. Thanks," he said ruthfully and reached for his phone.

"Are you going to ask her to dress up," he asked with a grin, considering the statement he just made.

"I don't think she'd go for that. Hang on." He dialed her up and let it ring.

"No stress," he comforted his friend and folded his arms to wait for him to be done.

"Right..." he said and waited.

'Hello?' came Relena from the other side.

"Hey, you busy?"

'No,' she said and made some rustling noises. There was background chatter.

Now he was stressed, she had friends in the room. He assumed so because she silenced them without saying she was on the phone, likely to get him to act candidly, "After the show on Saturday, would you like to go somewhere else?"

'Certainly. Did you have something in mind?' she said with stifled giggling.

"Trowa had extra tickets to 'Circ de Soleil', he suggested we go." It wasn't often that a Canadian circus visited Japan, so it was a rare treat to go see it. Trowa held up a poster with the date, and pointed to it for Heero to take note. "It's only here until next weekend, so this'll be their last show."

'I'll have to change when I get there. Is that okay?' she asked.

"I don't see why not." He shrugged, as if she could see him.

'Sounds fun, it's a date. I'll see you in school on Monday,' she said.

"Alright," he said and flipped his phone shut.

"I heard that," Trowa said with a smile, "It's a date," he quoted her.

Heero huffed, "This is what I get for opening up to you people." He shoved the phone back in his pocket and they made their way back into town to visit Wufei.
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Chapter 9: Repeat

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Peeling one's skin from a rough surface wasn't fun, but it had to be done. Duo rose from his nap to the sound of the doorbell. It was shortly past nine and he had long since come down and was able to move again. Opening the door revealed Heero and Trowa. "What are you two doing here?"

Before anyone could answer, "Come and see," Wufei said from behind his new roommate.

They were in awe, "What happened here?" Heero asked and looked around the alien landscape. If there was one thing Wufei needed help with, it was getting his things together; apparently it was no longer the case.

"Heh, 'Duo' happened," he said and showed off the rooms, "There's a floor and a hallway; and I can see the stairs," he said, sounding as if it was something he was unaware of.

"You're right, this is amazing," Trowa laid the drinks on the table and broke the loops to serve them.

"Isn't it? Oh, thanks," Wufei said as he was handed a beer from Trowa. His guests took up residence in his tidy living room.

"When you don't own anything it's easy to tell people to clean up," Duo said with a yawn. "I'm sure my own apartment won't look like this." They cracked a few beer, even Duo, despite better judgment. "Where's Quatre tonight," he asked and took a swig of his frothy can.

"We ran into him on the way here, he had other things to do," Trowa said.

"I bet," Duo remarked, remembering the story of the 'new employee'.

"He misses home too much." Wufei was squeezing a cork screw into the top of a sake bottle.

"It's new to him, he's not used to being on his own," Trowa defended him, "I bet we can see his floor."

"Hey, my mess worked for me," he said and finally won the fight with the cork. He went for the cup, but drank from the bottle instead.

Heero held out a hand and took the bottle, "I don't think I own enough to make a mess with." As he did the previous night, he spiked his can with the other alcohol.

"Same," Duo said. "When you look at your house, think of it as 'code'. Sure, it'll work even if it's all over the place, but just imagine how good it'll look properly spaced and oragnized. You can actually say 'I know where this is' when you look at your stuff."

"I knew where my things were; they were all over the place."

"What if someone wanted to find something for you," Duo continued the otherwise pointless argument. "They wouldn't be able to find it."

Wufei continued, "What if a burglar broke in? He wouldn't be able to find anything either."

"I can't believe you're trying to justify a mess," Heero shook his head and handed the bottle back. He had filled his can past the top and needed to siphon some off with a sip.

"I'm not." He was only being difficult. "I'm grateful, thanks again, Duo. Change is hard, I guess." And here he had bashed Quatre's complex, when he had plenty of his own to contend with. It seemed he was able to point his judgment at everybody but himself. But Wufei was 'dipping in' before anyone even showed up, so his brain function was down from the get-go.

"Damn right," Duo said and quickly moved the topic elsewhere.

Wherever 'elsewhere' was, it was after midnight before any of them questioned the time. "Are there any beer left?" Duo asked, leaning over the end of the couch, his arm trailing to the floor at it's side.

"There's one," Trowa said from the kitchen.

"Did you try it with sake?" Heero asked. He looked like he was enjoying himself, which was rare. "Get three glasses," he said and stood up, wobbly.

"You mean four?" Trowa looked back in the living room to see Heero stealthily pulling the large sake bottle form Wufei's cold, dead, unconsciousness. "I see," he said and brought in the three cups.

"It's like first year chemistry all over again." Feeling nostaligic, Heero smiled and began pouring equal parts of beer in all three cups. He topped them off with a few shots of the rice wine each. "Bottom's up," he said and had a cheers with his friends. It was good, the bitterness of both canceled eachother out.

Halfway done the drink Duo smiled wide, "Drunk dialing," and held his phone up in the air.

"N-no," Heero tried to take it from him and failed, for Duo had shimmied to the side. Apparently three dimensional movement was impossible for him to navigate with a bunch of beer and sake. Heero gave up trying to stop him after that first valiant attempt.

"Oh, don't worry. I'm'a'callin' Quatre," he said and attempted to dial, several times, failing. This went on until Duo remember he had him in his phone book, "And...speed dial." He said, calling his number. It rang. "I got this."

"He's in bed," Heero said, still half slouched over on his side.

"And what could you possibly want to talk about right now?" Trowa only had two drinks, so he was fairing the best out of all of them. Pacing was a learned behaviour.

"Nothing I-" he began when someone picked up.

'Hello?' a girls voice came over the line.

"...Hellooo~," Duo said with a smile that measured a mile, "Hey sweetie, do you know where Quatre is?" He said it in such a way that the other two knew that it wasn't Quatre who picked up. Though Heero was chortling because for a second, he thought Duo just called Quatre a pet name.

'He's busy at the moment, is there a message?' she sounded so sweet.

"Busy? It's the middle of the night, isn't he asleep?" Duo was confused.

'Y-yes, asleep,' she said.

"...who is this?" he asked.

'I'm Naibun, one of his housekeepers. Can I ask who's calling?' she said, getting flustered.

"This is Duo, come on, put him on," he was getting whiny, noted by Trowa, lowering a hand palm down to stabilize him.

'Duo? You're one of his friends, right? Could you just...come over here?' she said suddenly.

"Oh, what's going on?" His countenance faded into something more serious, drawing the attention of the other two, "Something up?"

'No...not really...is it possible for you to make it over? If not...I'm going to have to call my boss for help,' she said with regret, almost on the verge of tears.

Now Duo could hear tears from miles away, even through the phone, so he knew something was wrong. "Naibun, hun, are you safe?" he was good at sweet talking the ladies.

'I am.'

"Is Quatre safe?"

'He is,' she said with doubt.

These questions went on for a few more minutes until they agreed to go out and see him. The last thing they wanted to do was walk into an ambush. Their years as mercenaries hadn't left them without certain idiosyncrasies, it was best to know everything before diving into any situation.

"We're not going to do him any good," Heero was attempting to get his coat on, but the sleeve kept evading him. He slowly ended up going in a circle once, until Trowa helped held his coat for him.

"I can't look the other way with a girl in distress. Especially one who's wearing a uniform and a corset!" They wondered how he heard that from over the phone. Duo pointed a finger at Trowa and lost his momentum, "You can't drive, dammit. We walk!" he pointed that same finger in the air.

"That'll take all night. I called a cab," Trowa said and put his phone away, for he was done dialing.

"That's good too, let's go wait outside. Wufei?" he said loudly. "...Yo! Wufei!" He shook him, with no luck. "I know," he wandered into the kitchen and began to fold a piece of loose paper into something. It looked like he was going to leave him a note but instead, popped out with a 'popper'. He took the small folded triangle and held it above his head, "Wufei!" and he swiped it downward. The air got caught within the folds of the paper and made it open up with a really loud 'pop' noise. "Nothing? I've done all I can do here, let's go."

Heero scribbled a note on Duo's paper and left it on Wufei's head, as a hat. "I'm sure he'll see it," he said and left his message to balance, carefully adjusting it a few times to make sure it stayed. He remained straight faced the whole time; his dead-pan made it even funnier. The other two couldn't help but laugh.

Trowa took a picture with his phone, "He'll enjoy that." As they stood outside Duo realized that he left his drink inside and wanted to go back for it, "You don't need it," Trowa said and extended a cigarette to him, "Keep your hands busy."

"Why the hell not," he said and lit up, holding it differently than Trowa.

"What are you doing?" Trowa asked.

"Smoking?" he said, unsure if that was the right answer anymore.

"...that's not how you hold it," he said with a snicker.

"What's the difference?" He looked at the burning stick pinched between his thumb and index finger.

Heero shook his head as he caught a glimpse of Duo's hand, "You're holding it like a joint."

They were expecting Duo to be all up in arms, but he took the information in stride. "The things you learn," he said and placed the smoke between the index and middle fingers. "..." He took a drag on it with the new position and exhaled saying, "Doesn't feel right," and immediately switched back to 'his way'.

When they got to Quatre's it was dead quiet, all but for a single television on in his bedroom. "I texted Naibun, she'll be here any second," Trowa put his phone away.

"Thank the heavens," Naibun said as she appeared. A brief introduction ensued. "Maybe you guys can talk to him," she said and lead them to where Quatre was. He wasn't in his room, he was in the washroom nearest the wine cellar. "I got him out of the bar," that was in the house, "but then he locked himself in the bathroom. I got the door open, but I couldn't pull the bottle away..." The girl in the corset, which didn't go unnoticed, opened the door to reveal Quatre hugging the bowl, barely awake, bottle wedged in the crook of his arm, in a similar way to Wufei's sake.

"Is there a curse following us or something?" Duo's eyes went wide, "I guess you didn't want to say anything because of this," he said and knelt next to his downed comrade.

She poked her index fingers together lightly, "This isn't what I needed help with...I need help cleaning."

"Clean? It's the middle of the night," Heero remarked, annoyed with this girls inability to function at a normal time of the day.

"Normally, that's the case," she inhaled as she spoke. She looked up to Trowa, "You seem sober enough," she could tell they had all been 'into it' that night, "Could you help me?"

"Sure, with what?" Trowa asked.

Naibun nodded, "I need to flip the mattress. Could you two stay here and keep him company?" She looked to Duo and Heero.

"You do what you have to," Duo said and scooched closer to rub Quatre's back.

"Thank you so much. This way," she said and left with Trowa.

"Did you spill your wine?" Duo said with a snicker.

"Mmm-no," said the blond one, "Sick."

"In bed? That's rough. Don't you have another bed to sleep on?" Heero was slowly sliding to the floor near the tub, for there was no seating in the bathroom. He could have sat on the edge of the tub, but he didn't trust his balance at the moment.

"I did...got sick there too. Naibun must be so angry. I'm sorry guys...wasn't thinking," he was sounding regretful.

"Didn't look mad to me, she was worried," Duo assured him, "You didn't know she goes to school with us, did you?" He saw Quatre slowly shake his head. "I knew I recognized the name, Naibun. She's on the swim team. I bet she got a job here so she could get to know you."

"A lot of good that's doing. I wouldn't blame her if she quit tomorrow," he said and closed the lid to rest his head on it.

Heero chimed in, "I doubt it. She seems like the type to like the whole 'hurt-comfort' aspect of this situation." For someone who was intoxicated, he was quite affluent with his diagnosis. "She probably feels really powerful and in charge right now. She was so meek when she answered the door, I bet being in charge must be a good feeling." Not an ounce of transference from Relena, he swore, in his head.

"Yeah," Duo said, "Imagine how she'll feel if you give her that bottle?"

Quatre looked at the neck of the bottle he refused to let go of, and sighed. "Yeah~" he handed the bottle to the one closest to him. "I'm sorry."

"No prob buddy," Duo went to take a drink, but paused, "I'm...not in the mood to drink right now. Odd, thought I was."

"I'm sorry," Quatre repeated himself.

"No, no, it's not you. It's just, right now kind of feels like looking into a freaky, accurate, mirror of last night." He heard a cough from behind him, "Please don't make it a two way mirror," Duo squinted, hoping not to get hit with anything undesirable.

"I'm good," Heero said and turned the tub's tap on.

"I believe you," Duo said sarcastically. "How come you drank so much?"

"I didn't drink that much," he denied it.

"Really?" he said, mimicking him from the night before.

"Yeah, I just drank it too quickly. I have no clue why," Quatre was thinking about the girl he saw on the bus when he picked up the bottle. He briefly remembered the confusion toward his panic attack. Had he been so sheltered he couldn't deal with the basic stresses of real life, or so he thought.

"You going to be okay Heero?" Duo asked, hearing more coughing from behind him.

When he was sure he knew what they were dealing with, he got up and left the room, sure to give Heero a pat on the back too. "You put up with my a**, it's the least I can do. Be right back," he said and left. He quickly located Trowa and Naibun who were placing the final sheet on the now tidied bed. "Guess what?" he said and laid the wine bottle down, with no less missing from it since they last saw it. "We've got two of 'em now. On on the toilet, one in the tub."

Naibun let out a frustrated growl, showing her true colors, "******** my life!" Effectively, stunning her two helpers.

Not wanting to chance having to do more work than necessary, she stuck them both in Quatre's room. The argument that ensued for who got the left side of the bed was annoying. "I want the left." Quatre began.

"I want the left."

"My house."

"I'm your guest."

"I didn't invite you."

"Damned if I come over to help again."

"Bah, like you're the one helping."

"Sleep head-toe," Duo said, getting the drunken palaver out of one of his ears. Naibun was in the center and Trowa and Duo were on either end. They relocated their friends under the arms to another room. Sleeping head-toe, bucket in either corner, they brushed their hands clean for the evening. The three of them split the last of the wine and went to bed before the sun came up.
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Chapter 10: Half Truth

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Relena was used to being toted around in a fancy car, this was much different. Her hybrid and limousine service put together didn't make as much noise as the Lincoln Continental the cabby had. She was feeling refreshed that morning as she left the dorm; even if she was out some money because of the 'great destroyer'. Duo's antics ended up costing her twenty-five dollars; she was contemplating adding it to his account at the school, as a lesson, but decided against it in the end.

When she was carrying him down the stairs she took note to his weight in comparison to Heero and Quatre, who were both heavier. Duo was so slender she could have mounted him on her shoulders and carried him out fireman style. She made a quick call to the dormitory to see if there were any vacancies, but they were full up. She then called Wufei, knowing Duo was going to be there all week, to ask if he could stay longer.

'What's in it for me?' he asked.

"Couldn't you just help your friend out?" she was getting annoyed at his selfish attitude. This, along with the previous night, was another strike against him. She knew they all had debt, but this was plain cold.

Wufei chuckled, 'It's not that, I just know you can pull some strings. Ask and you shall receive; that's government policy, right?'

Relena sighed, "If he were paying you board, how much would you charge?" She took a notebook from her evening bag and flipped it open to scribble the figures down.

'For a living room couch? I'd say a hundred a month,' he sounded like he sincerely considered the value of his floor space.

"Alright. I'll credit it to you once every-"

'All at once.' Wufei interrupted her.

"...do I have a choice?" she said with annoyance.

'Of course you do,' he sounded in control of the situation, 'And so does Duo.'

"...all at once, then." She reluctantly wrote that down.

'If you're willing to make it one-fifty per month, I'll give him my office.' He was bartering with his friend's livelihood; Wufei had every intention of letting Duo stay free of charge for as long as he wanted, but she didn't need to know that. He wanted freebies.

"Done. You really do love to haggle. Anything else, your majesty?" His attitude was totally uncalled for, and she was dealing with a mild headache now. The headache's name being: 'Wufei'.

'You can drop off my scarf,' he said with a smirk that could be heard.

"For what I paid? I'm keeping it for the week!" She ended the call, angrily pressing the the hang up button; a far cry from slamming it down, but it would have to do. It was a rage that quickly faded when the car hit a bump. She discovered that the vehicle didn't have decent shock absorbers. Relena's sensitive side was feeling tender against the hardened seat of the cab. Her mind wandered back to Heero. What would become of them on the following weekend? It was all that went through her head for the remainder of the drive.

When she arrived back home a few of her friends were there waiting for her. Relena had forgotten about the plans she made with them for that Friday. They didn't look to be in the best of spirits, most likely still tired from the party the night before. "You girls seem down." Relena noted and made her way to them.

Delicately tucking a strand of short blond hair behind her ear, one friend gave a worried look toward the others. "Relena, I want to start of by saying that 'none' of us believe this, we would never think badly of you."

She raised an eyebrow, it was quite the strange greeting. "What do you mean?"

"We thought you should know...there was a rumor that got started last night and it grew since then. We know it can't be true, but we really wanted to talk to you ourselves." They moved out on the veranda, giving them some privacy away from her mother. "You left with Heero last night, right?"

"Yes," she said. Relena assumed that they were talking about the hickey on her neck, now covered by her hair. She kept it in a 'do' on top of her head for the banquette, but let it down in the cab. Had they noticed it when she briefly lost her cover after dropping Quatre off?

"And Duo?" she continued.

Relena began feeling uneasy, "That's right. I took him to a friend's house."

"And then Quatre?" She was wringing her hands nervously as she saw her friend nod. "And then you left with Wufei at the end of the night."

"I don't understand the implication," she was trying to make sense of this supposed 'rumor'.

"It went around that you 'got with' four out of the five gundam pilots." This made Relena gasp. "Like I said, we know it's not true." The friends had already defaced the graffito in the hall's bathroom saying Rx4/5, and didn't even bother to tell her about it.

"Then why bring it up?" she was baffled by this new turn of events. She actually did spend the night with one of them, and only one. Now she was unsure if she should say anything about her evening.

"We knew it was going to get mentioned on Monday and figured it best to prepare you for that. Plus, a few people say they saw you leaving the dormitory this morning...so..." She began to go through her phone for a message, dancing around the 'meat' of the rumor.

"I was making sure Heero was doing alright," she said and tried to think of who would have said such a thing.

The other girls nodded. One chimed in, "He was looking pretty dozy at the party. We assumed you were taking him home and didn't think anything else of it."

Finally locating the tidbit of information on her phone, she said, "I believe it got cemented a short while ago. Here," she said. Pressing a final button, she handed it off to Relena.

The text in question read 'Think she's so straight edge? Just saw her leaving Yuy's room!', this was followed by a winking smiley emoticon. "Well then..." Relena was furious because she even made a point to check the hallway before she left. It gave the impression someone was snooping on her.

"This came from Ted. We don't usually talk, so it was weird for me hear that from him." she said.

Relena didn't want to lie to her friends. "I took Heero, Duo and Quatre home because they had a significantly too much to drink. After the party was done, I took Wufei home. I went back to check on Heero...and he was awake. So I stuck around." It looked like if she were to clear her name, she would have to be honest about it.

The girls began to crowd closer, they leaned in, "What?" a few said in a hush.

"Is that were you were earlier?" the girl with the freckles asked, glossy eyed with anticipation.

She could no longer fight the smirk, it was quite noticeable. "Yes." She told them about how Heror's drink got spiked and that he was fine a few hours later. "When I dropped Quatre off, I went to see how he was doing. We talked for a time, he was really..." she twirled a strand of her hair around a finger, unable to bring herself to say anything. "I-I don't see why I'm not allowed to have an intimate relationship with anyone."

"You can," she said, "Just not for money."

"Excuse me?" she said.

"Yeah, they also said you bedded all four of them for cash," the meat of the rumor, "When you spoke with Wufei, someone saw him hand you money for it," another friend said.

"Why would I need money? That's absurd!" She threw her hands in the air, astounded that people would believe anything. "This is why I go to private school, to avoid drama like this." She folded her arms in frustration, one hand lightly brushing her purse. She reached in briefly to grab her flask so she could take an angry shot from it, but it was gone. It occurred to her that she may have left it on Heero's shelf. Though now she was debating if going back for it was a good idea, what with the rumors flying. Whoever it was, really went out of their way to be elaborate. She laughed, sitting back in her wicker chair.

"I guess this is what we get for inviting students from other schools," the blond girl said. The function that went on was only for their school, but people could bring a significant other, even if they attended a different school. Common students mixing with the high rollers seemed to breed jealousy and start nonsense.

"They're making it up," Relena said. It was true, she did leave the dorm that morning, but they had no way of knowing unless they had access to the school's security camera's or saw her going in at one in the morning. Again, she was sure to stay out of sight then too. 'Could they have heard anything through the walls,' she thought.

"We thought you should know because it may come up on Monday. You should prepare a verbal lashing for anyone who tries to say different." Her friends smiled at her, they were some of the best supports she could ask for.

A butler in passing dropped tea off for all of them. "Thank you. I must confess," she said and drew them closer, avoiding prying ears, "I know that whoever sent that is lying, because no one saw me leave Heero's room this morning...I checked the hall before I left," Relena said and sipped her tea.

They gasped, "No way. You actually spent the night?"

"You're pulling our leg," the one with the freckles held a hand over her mouth in shock.

"I'm serious. In fact he's coming with me to the awards next weekend. We're even going to Circ de Soleil afterward." She sounded proud that she finally roped him in to going somewhere with her.

"We thought you two might have kissed but..." the blond friend said.

"Are you two going steady?" said another.

"More importantly, did you go all the way with him?" said two.

Another friend held her hands up at chest height, "Even more important than that!" Palms facing in, she began sizing something up, "How big?" asked freckles.

They laughed. "I don't kiss and tell. Let's just say, I'm looking forward to next weekend." She took a long drink of her tea, "-and spending all that time in the announcer's box with him...alone." This made her friends giggle uncontrollably.

Relena let them in on some of the lesser details of her night, but it was still enough to get one of the girls to fan herself with her hand. Showing off the trophy on her neck earned some overzealous applause, too.

"Are you going to sleep with him?" freckles asked.

"You should think of your reputation. Is that such a good idea?" the blond friend said.

"You say that as if Heero's the kind to brag," Relena defended him.

"True. But what if the rubber breaks?" a fourth friend added.

Relena halted her thought process, "I hadn't considered that."

"Don't worry," said the fifth friend, "If you use it properly, it won't break."

"What if I don't know how to use one at all?" Relena was hoping to leave the mechanics of the contraceptive to Heero. It was then she figured, he may know as little as she did. The friends spent the rest of the morning plotting a course of action for Relena to follow. The final chunk of the day was spent trying to discover who started the rumor; they needed to be dealt with.

With no success, only finding the 'he said-she said' people of the rumor, they gave up until Monday. Whoever it was definitely didn't go to their school. The girls chalked it up to one of the students from another acadamy trying to make waves. They all decided it would blow over and let it go.

At least, they tried to let it go. When Relena arrived at school on Monday, she received some odd greetings. It wasn't too long before her same friends came running down the hall. "Relena, you need to get in here!" Her tall blond friend shut them in the conference room to talk.

She saw one of her friends crying into a small tissue in the corner, "What's wrong?" she immediately thought her friend was in danger and went to comfort her.

"Relena, I can't believe someone would do this to you," she said while wiping her face dry. "I'm so angry, I don't know what to do with myself."

"Is that why you're crying?" she said with a smile. She figure the rumor they tried to stifle, remained un-stifled. "I'll manage. Is it that rumor again?" Relena was hoping it hadn't grow again, overnight.

"You don't understand how bad it's gotten," she said and reached to the table beside her. There was a slim, independently bound book beneath a cloth; it was too much to see the cover of. "Here," she said and held it up.

"What? Did they release it in the school paper or something?" She took the comic and glared at the front. It was a sketch, painted over with basic watercolors. The two people on the front looked strikingly familiar. "..." She opened the book and looked at the first few pages. "This is the ball, from last night..." she went on, her friends trying to make sense of it all. "The pool game...and...that part didn't happen." It followed her night up until she played pool with Heero, and then it spiraled into a lusty 'forbidden love' scenario.

Finally getting through the whole thing, with haste, her jaw fell open. "Who made this?" Whoever it was, they had access to the billiard room security camera, not just the dorm. They got all of the motions correct, right up until Heero sat her on the pool table. After that, it was purely a work of fiction, very graphic fiction. There was even a scene with Heero doing something unspeakable with a pool cue.

"We have no idea! No one we know draws like this, it must have come from another school." Her blond friend took the book and flipped it to the back. "We can tell it was done out of malice, no one's taking credit for it." She showed that there was no signature or date.

"The other interesting thing is this-I'm sorry...I have to open the book." Freckles took the book in hand and showed her two of the pages in question. "These two," she flipped to another page toward the back, one with a particularly naughty pose on it. She blushed, "This one. And finally, this one," she said and turned to the back pages. "The style shifts every few pages."

Relena lowered her stare, deep in thought. "That means there's more than one person who was working on this." She had dealt with rumors many times before, having the kind of connections she did made it really easy to get to the bottom of things. This was different. If this person, or people, went to a different school, it was going to put a crimp in her investigation. It would also be putting a 'crimp' in Heero's day. She knew how he felt about the whole 'affection' thing and hoped he was faring better than she was.

Heero was out front, only just showing up, as Relena was being told all this. A girl from their school ran up to him, "Excuese me?" she said. "Are these yours?" Her arms extended a large brown paper bag to him.

"Hmm?" he opened the bag with Duo staring over his shoulder. "I think so." It was his tie and coat from the party. "Thank you. Where'd you find this?"

"Someone told me to give it to you, sorry, I don't know who they were." And she was off.

Upon closer inspection there was a note in the bottom of the bag, typed, not written. "...I see." The note taunted him and told him not to leave his clothes in the billiard room.

What made it worse was when he found out about the homemade book from a passing teacher; who was meerly confused and expressing his concern. Heero was done with the nonsense; an invasion of privacy of that caliber wasn't going to be without punishment.

"Want me to hack into the system and check emails? I might be able to track them down," Duo suggested. He was having a hard time keeping up with Heero's enraged stride.

"I've got something else in mind. I do need your help though." He had a feeling the day wasn't going to end well for someone; as soon as he got his hands on them, that is.
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Chapter 11: Lock Down

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What was supposed to be a bright and clean Monday morning, turned out to be too turbulent to traverse. Not even five minutes at the school and he was bombarded with drama; the weekend headache had metamorphosized, blossoming into a pain in his a**. Without a moment's hesitation, he went straight to the office. "I know there's nothing you can do," Heero spoke to the principal, Duo at his side, "Allow me to deal with it."

"Mr. Yuy, you know I can't give you the authority to do anything drastic." The stout, older woman looked regretful. "Couldn't you wait until it blows over?"

He refused the notion. "Not even. An invasion of privacy at this level isn't something I'm willing to let slide." He had to choose his words carefully. "I have a reputation that's being hindered, I'll have to transfer if it's not taken care of." He knew this was a sensitive subject for the woman in charge, and Heero's credentials were nothing to stick her nose up at.

"And hey! If you leave, I can take your place in the dorm," Duo sounded like he was playing along nicely.

"That's true," Heero said with a smirk, "How's that sound? You want a hacker of his level in your midst, twenty-four-seven?"

She shut her eyes, glasses slipping down the to the tip of her nose, "I can't allow anything to endanger my students," she said and looked at him over the rims of her bifocals.

"I understand," he said as though his antics had gotten him what he needed. He was correct.

She began shuffling through her desk, eventually palming an item to her lap. "That's good. I'm sure you two will be fine on your own," she said and got up to leave her office. Something hit the floor behind the desk, she chose to ignore it. "If you'll excuse me," the old one said and left them standing there.

Scooping up the 'lost' set of keys, they made their way to necessary room. Their goal was the server, powerhouse of the school. "You're evil. I hope you know that," Duo commented on Heero's manipulative behaviour as he shouldered the heavy door open.

"And here I thought you knew me." His smile was wiry as they went in and got to work.

It took under an hour for Duo to hack through the security grid and take full control of the school. From the locks on the front doors, to the temperature of the heat lamps in the cafeteria, he had it all at his fingertips. "We should wait until more people get here."

Heero nodded, "Right. Turn off the bell, too."

Duo clicked away at the keyboard. Ten minutes past bell time was when he flipped the switch to lock every door in the building. "Aaaaaand there," he said and hit one final button to set the plan in motion. Be it a door to a classroom or the outside world, no one was getting anywhere until this issue was laid to rest. "The fear of god doesn't work on everyone. Are you sure this is going to have any effect?"

"Don't worry," he smirked, "Get me the mic." He was going to put an end to it.

A few more keystrokes and he was on the air. "Do you need me to mask your voice?" Duo asked as he passed the microphone off.

"Oh no, they're going to know who it is." As he turned the device on, a high pitch shrill filled the building for a few fleeting seconds. "Attention, students and staff. This is Heero Yuy," was how he chose to begin.

Relena sat in the front row of her classroom as this went on. "Please Heero," she said to herself, "Don't say anything you'll regret."

His announcement went on, "When I arrived this morning, I discovered someone had gone out of their way to create a slanderous art piece. I'm not going into details, if you're involved you know what I'm referring to." He could see Duo trying to stifle his laughter as he typed; Heero's language was so proper it sounded hilarious to him. "Though I dislike terrorism, I have no problem fighting fire with fire. This school will remain sealed until someone comes forward. Use the intercom in your class to contact the principal's office because, as of right now, you can no longer leave the room you're in. That is all." And he cut the mic.

Duo nodded, his bottom lip curled slightly, "Evil."

"Only slightly," he said and lounged back in a chair.

When a half hour was reached, Duo came out with another mode of incentive. "Try this," and held up a note for his partner to read, "This might get their attention."

Heero read the whole note and got back on the mic. "Nothing yet? I'll give you people another half hour to decide what's more important, your drama or your notes." He gave Duo the cue; with pleasure, he hit a single button and a split second later, the same button. This caused every sprinkler in the whole school to release a quick burst of water. They could hear the collective screams of the students through the walls. The hacker gave a victory spin in his chair as he did his best not to burst out laughing.

An hour had passed since it all began and so far, no one said a thing. The student body was in an uproar over the whole ordeal. Slightly dampened, they furiously texted one another, trying to track down the perpetrator. No one was willing to waste any of their work. Fortunately for them, the principal was on their side and monitored the duo's every move. She did nothing to hinder the two; the 'finer details' of the rumor led her to make such a choice.

"Alright," Heero's voice came over the intercom a third time. "Time to up the ante one final time. If I haven't received penance, I'll start bringing the collective average of the school down, student by student. Don't worry though, I won't give anyone a failing grade. This change will be so small, you won't even notice the points missing...I bet college might though..." he paused, letting that cold fact sink in, "...Consider this your ten minute warning." When it came to the top of the class, every point mattered, it could be the difference between community college, and a seat at an ivy league level university.

Duo nodded his head, "Pure evil," he said and accessed the school registry. "Did you ever think that no one knows anything?"

"If that were the case, it wouldn't have circulated in less than two days. Remember, Relena's a politician, these kind of smear campaigns happen all the time." Heero refused to back down. He didn't feel like it was a personal attack on his part, he only found it relatively annoying, it was Relena's involvement got his blood boiling.

"Let me guess, we're the ones who'll 'swoop in' and 'crack down'?" he motioned his fists as if to slowly demonstrate punches.

"Simply put." As if it were magic, someone came forward at the last possible moment. They met in the main office, principal absent.

She confessed, "They paid me a lot of money to do the watercolors, but I didn't draw it. There weren't even words in the speech bubbles when they gave it to me! I'm sorry," she said though forming tears, "Please don't touch anyone's marks."

The softer of the two sighed, "Come on, you gotta' let her go." He couldn't stand the sight of her crying. He could also relate to her; money was hard to come by for anyone, he assumed was her reason.

"She isn't the one who did anything wrong. So long as you tell me who paid you, you're free to go," was Heero's only stipulation.

"I don't know exactly. The group that did the line art went through someone else to commission me." She was then adding all the interactions she had with the commissionaire togethe; looking back, she knew it was fishy from the start. If only the money hadn't been so tempting. "I know they go to the high school at west side academy. That's all I know." She was holding her elbows and shaking, for she knew who she was talking to.

"Thank you," he said and turned to his accomplice, "Want to help me do some hunting?" He turned around to see his friend leading the girl out of the room, offering words of comfort, an arm around her shoulder.

Duo waved at him over his shoulder, "How about after lunchtime?" they heard a hand gun c**k and froze in their tracks, "Or not."

The girl took off, "Another time I guess," she said and hurried away.

Heero lowered his empty firearm and nodded, "I thought so."

Duo lowered his empty arm and huffed. "I help out, and this is the thanks I get?" he said and shoved his hands in the pockets of his uniform, "Lame."

They rustled Quatre from class and caught him up on the initial plan. They followed Heero out of the school. He was shocked to say the least. "I can't believe someone would do that," Quatre walked with them in the direction of the accused school.

Undistinguishable face features left them to believe he was somwhere between worry and deep seeded thought. "I doubt it was meant for me." Heero walked with a contemplative expression on his face.

"Makes sense. Your reputation right now doesn't effect your career," Quatre had been informed on the content of the comic and seemed to be on the same page as Heero. This attack wasn't meant to harm him. "I wonder if Relena knows how far you're going out of the way for her?"

Duo smirked. "Me too," he said with sly eyes, "Kind of makes you wonder how much of that comic is true. What did happen after you two left?"

"Duo, the point of this mission is to keep people out of my personal life." Heero was annoyed that he had to deal with this kind of questioning at school. Trowa was bad enough, he wasn't expecting that, but he didn't need it from these two.

Reaching his hands in between his braid and the back of his neck, Duo laced his fingers and let them rest there. "When are you going to let people in? You're no fun."

"Not true. I'm taking you to a public school facility, to infiltrate their security and potentially maim a few of their pupils. I'd like to think I'm at least 'entertaining'," he scoffed at the idea that he was 'un-fun'.

"Fair enough," Duo submitted, "But I meant after hours, or gossip; you never talk or gossip."

"That's not true either." Quatre pointed out, "Heero did tell me about how you nearly destroyed Relena's car."

"That's it!" He threw his hands to the sky in frustration, "Was I the last to know about this?"

Heero shook his head, "No. I believe either Trowa or Wufei know."

"Wait," Quatre said and tried to recall Thursday night, "If neither of them know, how did you find out?"

"Quatre," Heero's voice was quick to scold him.

"What?" Duo said, confused as to why he was snapping.

"Never mind," Quatre said, dropping the topic. Poor Duo had to be left in the dark. Quatre had stumbled on yet another loophole in Heero's story, one that put him in the same room as Relena at some point that evening, after dropping Wufei off.

They walked silently for a few moments until Duo piped up again, "Maybe if you did open up more, we wouldn't be left to speculate."

"Did you ever think there was nothing to tell?" Heero asked.

"Says the guy who held a school at gun point," Duo comically pointed out, "I say that if it was 'nothing', you wouldn't have gone through all of that."

"Finally, truth." Heero gave him a victory.

"He's looking out for Relena's well being," Quatre made another unintentional stab at Heero.

"Not entirely true." Fed up with their antics, as innocent as they were, he decided to give them what they wanted. "I'm concerned about the accuracy of the story," this silenced his friends, "I wasn't the one who won that pool game."

Duo exchanged glances with Quatre and they mouthed a few notions back and forth. The two were unable to distinguish whether or not Heero's line was a 'come hither' to continue guessing, or a 'that's all you get' statement.

They would have to wait for an answer because they were closer to their destination than anticipated. Their interrogation ground to a halt when the three walked straight up the stairs of the school and went right in. Having met the principal of the school the night of the banquette, Heero was able to curry her favour in enough time to completely diffuse any further questions from his friends. They quickly got to work.

Again, a blind eye was turned toward Heero's antics as he raided the school. If nothing else, they made some progress. Shaking down a few of the students, involved in the arts program, revealed a deeper seeded conspiracy. The ones who did the line art, weren't the ones who originally conceived the idea. A fact that became quite obvious.

"I was only one of the inkers! I swear," the student revealed all that he knew. His two arms were let go of and he was permitted to fall to his knees, holding his stomach in pain. It hurt badly enough that the guy gasped for air, choking to get oxygen.

Quatre polished his right fist, for it had been a long time since it was used in such a way. He stealthily concealed the panic attack he had after punching the guy. "A lot of good that did us," he commented because he disliked resorting to violence as soon as they did.

"At least we know where we're supposed to be looking," Heero said and let them into a 'staff only' section of the school, compliments of the school's principal. Wasting no time, they began sifting through the school's server. They were looking for scans, or uncompleted versions of the 'art piece'.

"If they did it by hand..." Duo had his feet up on the desk and was leaning back, tired of going through file after fruitless file. He was thinking about pieceing all the logic of this book together and it wasn't working well.

"They're gone," Quatre followed up before Duo could finish. This pulled the attention of the others. "There seems to be a bunch of students who transferred out. Take a look," he said and showed the screen to Heero.

He had a feeling the person responsible for the act may have very well fled. It would seem he was right. Duo checked the school transfer transcript over his shoulder and noticed the request occurred the day after the banquette. "They put in the request during the banquette. Looks like someone knew that their plan was flawed." He could tell these people were intentionally running now.

"That, or it was intended to be a 'swan song'. Where did they transfer," Heero asked, unfinished with their collective a**.

"Different places," Quatre said and pointed to some dates.

"Hold that thought," Duo intervened and worked through the computer's operating system, manipulating it's availability of information. "...these people were smart. They created false profiles." He drew attention to the creation date of the 'student information'. "There's about five different cases that transferred on the same day. We've got no idea who's real or not, we could be chasing a ghost." He sat back and let out a heavy sigh. "Whoever they are, they aren't just an artist." Implying that they had extensive computer knowledge as well as a keen eye with the pen.

"Showing up here's probably rattled a few heads," Quatre mentioned, "What's the chance of them doing this again?" He had a point. If their presence made any sort of impact(and it did), it would be reflected in the rumors of tomorrow.

"Okay," Heero said, "I'd like to say this is wrapped up...but I guess we'll have to wait and see." They left the school, minimal casualties, with little to no information on the perpetrator.

"This sucks," Duo summed their travels up in two words. "If we made enough noise, they'll back off, right?"

"If we're lucky," Heero said, he sounded let down. Roughing up a few students wasn't his intention, roughing up the right student was his goal; he fell short, in a personal opinion.

"The truth is out there," Duo referenced an old television show of the time, "Or is it?" He turned his disjointed attention back to Heero, who was trying to avoid the whole conversation they had on the way there.

"All that you need to know, is out there already," Heero deflected.

"I doubt that. I think we have a right to know how freaky you are. For our own safety. What if one of us stumbles on you in a moment of rapture? We could be scarred for life if we didn't know how to handle it," Duo reasoned with him, with minimal success.

"I'm not that bad," he said with a chuckle. Heero was assuming they had seen the comic and defended himself as necessary. He would never have thought to use a cue stick in such a way, it was laughable. Interesting, too.

"Here's hoping," Duo laughed.

Quatre only laughed half-heartldly, "Yeah."

"How would someone even come up with something like that?" Duo continued, "It had to have literally happened in real life, for them to have that idea," he said as he referred to the 'pool cue' incident in the middle of the booklet. His comment unknowingly made both Heero and Quatre cringe at their own individual thoughts, for their own separate reasons.

The comic that was released the very next day would show them how little they knew about the situation. It also showed them how close the creator had gotten, undetected. Not only were there two new 'leads' in the newest edition, it sported new art yet again.
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Chapter 12: My Locus

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Monday was a bust. Quatre dropped his bag off at the front door and the strap brushed against a raw knuckle, he cringed. After school, to get his mind away from the day, he stopped off at the photo development shop to get the pictures he and Naibun took on Sunday's outing. He wanted to show her the shots they took, but when he got home she was nowhere to be found. "Is she off today?" he asked another housekeeper.

"She's on. I think she's in the cellar," she said and continued on.

A brief search ensued. He passed by the den and saw her outside, clapping cushions together over the second story balcony. Quatre decided it was best to leave her to the chores, she 'was' at work after all.

Before leaving the doorway, he saw a brisk wind blow some dust back at her, making her cough. His heart skipped a beat. For some reason, his body was telling him that something was really wrong; normally he wouldn't panic so easily. 'Is she okay?' he asked himself as he watched her catch her breath. She had to be in some sort of danger, each time she coughed the fear spread. He went outside to talk to her, "Are you alright?"

"Qua-" she coughed, "-tra. Hang-" cough, "-on. Be right with you," she said and tried to clear her throat. When she finally got her barrings, she saw Quatre crumpled in one of the bistro chairs. He too was trying to catch a breath. "What's wrong?"

He was trying to steady his breathing; it was the same kind of panic he felt on the bus the day he went out, and when he was in the fight earlier. "I thought you were in danger, or 'I thought' I thought you were in danger-" he said as he raised a shaky hand to his face, covering his eyes; he wasn't making sense, even to himself.*

"It was dust in the air, I'm okay," she assure him. It did no good, he still couldn't calm down. "Did you want me to call for somebody?"

He waved a hand at her, "I'll be alright."

"If you're sure," she said. Naibun coughed lightly into her hand so she could continue the rest of the conversation, but it caused another pang of fear to spread over Quatre. She witnessed his whole body tense up. "I'm not helping much, am I? Do you want me to leave?" Naibun could tell her coughing fit had upset him somehow.

"Would you mind? I'm sorry to be so rude," he said.

"Think nothing of it," she pointed to the door that led back into the den, "I'll wait right there for you."

Cooling down was easier when she wasn't around. His heart slowed and returned to it's normal state. He liked Naibun, but not enough to fly into a panic attack over her. Quatre never had a girlfriend before, could this be a result of the crush he was developing for her? "Even still..." he said and paused; all things considered, it was a strange occurrence however he looked at it. He went back inside.

"How are you now?" she asked in a quiet voice, sure not to tickle her throat again.

"I'm good," he held a hand over his chest, "Today took a lot out of me, I guess." Earlier that day was when he got into a physical altercation; it was the first time in a while he had raised his fists in anger. The last time he took a shot at anyone, it was from behind the helm of Sandrock. This was probably his nerves settling.

"Did you have a hard day?" she was hoping it was 'test anxiety' making him sensitive, and not her.

"You could say that," he said. After a quick run down of what happened, he explained why he was at the neighbouring school 'kicking a**'. He didn't word it as harsh, "We tried to get them to come clean in a civil manner, but they refused." A brief flash of his hand revealed a couple of skinned knuckles. The one on the end was rather red from being brushed with the book bag strap.

"I never took you to be a fighter," she said and took his hand to get a better look. She noticed the beginnings of a bruise.

Quatre agreed, "I'm not," he said, blushing from the hand to hand contact. "Normally, I dislike violence, but I knew Heero's fists would have fallen with much more force than mine did." He said that because Heero was the one being targeted, therefore, making it personal. Simply remembering the encounter at the other school caused another panic attack to rear it's ugly head.

Naibun saw this and let his hand go, figuring she caused it from her touch. "Heero? The boy who was here on the weekend?" she tried to change the topic.

"Yes," he said, keeping the swell of his pulse under wraps with some slow breathing.

"How was everyone the morning your friends stayed over?" She had left early that day, so she didn't get a chance to ask how they were feeling.

"Oh, just fine; apart from today's disturbance." He was calming down again. When he finally did come down all the way, he showed off the pictures they took together. They were so crisp, even for a cell phone camera. Naibun wanted to send them to her family overseas. Quatre gave her the disk with the picture copies and trotted off to his room for the night.

If he'd have stayed home Tuesday, everything would have been fine. But he had to get up, as he did every other day, and went to school.

Quatre would wake up at six. Eat breakfast. Brush teeth. Get dressed. Wait for the chauffeur to finish his morning cigarette. Ride with said driver to the side door of the school. It had to be the side door, it was the farthest from his locker. Sitting in class all day was draining, and getting dropped off where he did, it allowed him to get some morning exercise. He'd walk to the other end of the building, swap shoes, as was the local custom, and locate his friends. Each day; every day. Clockwork.

Unlike Heero who was graced with bad news the moment he arrived, Quatre didn't catch wind until noon; ruining an otherwise perfect day. There was another book created, this time it was Quatre and another pupil at the school who had been targeted.

To to misfortune of the poor student caught carrying the only copy, the original, Quatre wasted no time taking it from him, post haste. He was forced to be fierce to get to it too. Two days in a row, violence, he wasn't pleased. His knuckles hadn't even healed from yesterday. His mind didn't care, it had a goal, and Quatre was going to go out of the way to make his mind's way known.

This time there was no panic, it was pure rage. After washing his hands, Quatre grabbed him. "Where did you get this?" he bellowed at the smaller student, a full octave lower than he normally spoke with. Quatre had him pinned against a now dented bathroom stall by his neck, no feet on the floor anymore. It was only by chance he got caught too; Quatre walked in on the guy making a call, talking to the creator of the comic on his cell in the stall.

The guy was being over-dramatic, "I'll die before I say anything!" He pulled at the hand holding him fast, knowing not how serious a hand it was.

Quatre's free fist found it's way to the face of the boy declining his request, "Don't try me!" He left marks on the other student's neck, blisters of bright red skin bulged out from between his finger spaces. The arms that once tried to pull Quatre's hand away, fell limp and lifeless at his sides.

Heero intervened, "Quatre," and loosened his friend's grip using a moderate amount of force. The other guy hit the floor and began breathing again, gasping to do so. "You don't need to get expelled," he said and passed him the hand drawn comic off the counter. Heero swiped the guy's phone and took the number he had just been speaking to.

He took the book in hand and looked at the crumpled mass in front of him, on the floor, begging for more oxygen. A swift kick to the rib cage and Quatre's anger was curbed. "You best pass the message along. No more of this," he flipped the comic in the air, waving it at the guy on his way out of the rest room.

Heero and Duo were both there the whole time, but Duo remained flat against the back wall, wide eyed and in silent shock. There were only a handful of times he got a glimpse of Quatre's temper, each one more horrifying than the last. This time it was only a few meters away. "Maybe it's because we don't get to see it that often, but dammit Quatre, you're temper is scary."

When Quatre heard this, as if it were a reflex, his fist swung again, fast. It landed on the last locker of the hallway they were in, dead center of the aluminum door. He hit it so hard it bent, buckled off it's hinges, swung open and fell off, hitting the floor with several metallic 'clangs'. The noise echoed down the desolate corridor. "I'm going to the roof." And it was where he planned to stay for the rest of the day. He propped the door with a broom handle and took up refuge in a shady spot, hopefully cooling his head off so didn't have to rip anyone's head off.

His forehead rested on his knees as he calmed down.

With morbid curiosity, he laid the book on the ground and opened it, to see what kind of destruction it was attempting to wrought. Who had they paired him off with? "Of course," he said, seeing Naibun's name on the first page. She looked different. Quatre couldn't help but notice Naibun's proportions were 'off'. Way off. She was far curvier in the book than in real life. He didn't bother to go past the first few pages, it pissed him off too much.

Quatre let his blood pressure return to normal and managed to make it to his final class of the day. The class was shared with Duo, who did his best to assure him that no copies had surfaced. "I wonder if I'll get one of me?" he said with glee as the day ended.

"I'm glad you find it amusing," Quatre sighed, "I'm worried."

"Don't be," Duo brushed it off.

"Why not? Someone's following me-no, us; Heero too. Doesn't that bother you?" He was really put off by the whole thing. It had a certain level of creep to it, reserved only for bad harlequin novels.

"No way," Duo brushed it off.

"...you can change your name and move, right?" Quatre guessed as to why he was so lax about it; being a hacker gave you certain advantages in the modern world.

"Nope. I'd copyright myself and sue them. There's more money in it that way."

"Come again?" He gave him a sideways glance.

"I'd get a patent on my image, geez," he exaggerated, snickering.

"You didn't invent the 'braid-look', Duo," he laughed with him. They shook off the earlier shake down and turned their attention to the new book. "See, the art keeps changing." He showed off some of the less explicit pages.

"Woah," Duo exclaimed and ripped the book from his hand. "Holy hell..." he was awestruck at the bust size the artist decided to go with.

Quatre snatched the book back, "Cut that out, it's a drawing," he enclosed the comic in one of his text books, keeping it safe and flat. "Like the first one, the truth is embellished somewhat."

"I wonder if it is..." he placed his thumb and index finger along his jaw line to think.

"You've seen her, Bunni isn't that...voluptuous." He tried to get that image from his head.

"Bunny?"

"Naibun, I mean," he accidentally called her by her nic name.

Duo picked up on the error and smirked, pleased his friend was showing interest in this new girl they hired. "Who knows how many curves that girl has, she's got a corset on all the time."

"That's for medical reasons," he defended her.

"And with jugs like this," he held up the page in question, "I bet it's scoliosis," a condition that gave one an irregular curvature of the spine, like an 's'.

Quatre checked his text book and noticed the comic was missing. He grabbed the thinly bound, thirty page, monstrosity from Duo's dangling hand. "How did you get that?" He put it back.

"I know a way we can find out the truth about 'the bust'," he said with cunning.

"Whatever it is, I'm not interested," Quatre replied, sounding fatigued, and continued on past the school gates. He knew full well this plan was going to involve them sneaking in somewhere, and he wasn't up for creating more drama for himself.

"Why not? There's a swim meet tomorrow, she's on the team. Are you telling me you have a problem with swimming? If so, we're going to have some 'words' my friend," he was kidding.

Quatre shook his head, "Not...what I thought you had in mind."

"What-oh, you thought I was going to get you to sneak into the locker room to watch her change?" He made his friend turn red, "Nah, it hasn't gotten to that point yet. I can put that offer on the table though," he said, now aware of all the security flaws the school had. He could set a timer to diffuse the locks, if he wanted.

"On the table?"

"If you want to." He smirked.

"...no."

"You hesitated," Duo called him on it.

"I didn't," his tone of voice wasn't convincing.

"If we got in there," he said and held up the comic a second time, "We could hold a betting pool, to see how many people guess the correct number of sizes they put her up. There's money in this. What do you say?"

"Give that back!" he yelled and proceeded to chase Duo to the parking lot. He laid a few punches on him, fair warning given beforehand, and took the book back saying, "Touch it again, I knock you out."

"You hit like a truck," Duo said as he got up and brushed himself off, not being able to stifle his laughter any, bruised or not. "So...swim team tomorrow?"

"Yes," he said and tucked the offensive material in the middle of his large text book.

"That's what I'm talkin' about," he said with pride; there was no hesitation in Quatre that time. On the drive home they talked more about the nasty artist who was going to great lengths to make waves. "I got it," Duo's brilliant idea, "Maybe it's a conspiracy against us and not Relena, like we originally thought."

Quatre sat across from Duo in his stretch limousine; it allowed for lots of leg room. "Because of our past?" he said.

"Exactly! They're bitter about all the stuff we did with our gundams, now they're trying to shame us into hiding, out of spite." He was quite proud of himself for that breakdown.

"Maybe it's because you're past is riskay and you guys are attractive," came a female voice from the front seat. The driver window lowered completely. "Did that ever occur to you?" It was Missy, the bartender from the banquette.

It took a few seconds to register, but Duo pointed an accusing finger at the girl, "Judas!"

She held a hand up off the steering wheel to calm him, "I know, I know; I'm sorry."

"When did you start working for us?" Quatre was referring to his family's company. He also took note her lack of uniform; even their drivers had uniforms, Missy did not.

"I thought you were a bartender?" Duo said; he was sour, arms folded, unimpressed with the half-assed apology he received.

She looked to be caught off guard by the question, "I'm covering for Jeff; I do a little bit of everything. My point though: I saw you two at my sister's school yesterday." She could see Duo's narrowed blue eyes bitterly glaring at her.

"We were there on business," the less annoyed one said, trying not to give too much away.

"I heard the whole story from sis-and you two were talking kind of loud a second ago-did you find the artist?" she asked quickly.

"No," Quatre was going to continue, but hesitated; he didn't feel like talking about the book any more.

"Hmm," she saw this, "Is something else wrong?"

"Yes," Duo cut them off, "You owe me, dammit!" First Relena bailed on him, which he wasn't letting go of and now this one was doing the same thing.

She rolled her eyes, warmly smiling, "I'll mix you a 'for real-real' drink when we get to the house," she looked in the rear view mirror to see a response, "If I'm permitted inside."

"Well, yeah but...you know, we aren't really old enough," Quatre admitted. Duo shushed him with a low hiss.

"Pff," she chuckled lightly, "As if that's stopped anyone before," she chuckled louder, "Heh, not even a little."

"Fine." Duo was the one who permitted her entrance. "You have to wear the uniform...with the corset!" His folded arms remained as such. He wasn't going to unfold them until he was sure this 'Missy' was going to keep good on her word.

"Deal. But, to backtrack some," her eyes locked with Quatre, "I think I have some information you may need; about a certain comic."

Duo's arms were now uncrossed and he was holding up the offending booklet through the driver's window, "You mean this?" He then got punched in the face and lost the pilfered comic.

It happened so quickly, Missy went wide eyed. "Yes, that one a-and the other one too." she said, wondering if her second passenger was conscious, she couldn't see him anymore. Missy owed him a drink, but figured an icepack would be the better choice now.

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Thoughts to make you think...

Did any of you notice the shift in language when Quatre was freaking out? XP

When I said the line "After washing his hands, Quatre grabbed him." What did I mean?

Did Quatre wash his hands before he attacked the guy? Or did I mean, Quatre waited until the other guy finished washing his hands before he grabbed him? (I'll let you know on my next update razz )
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Question: "After washing his hands, Quatre grabbed him." What did I mean?

Answer: It was a trick question. There really is no answer to who washed their hands first; either line of reasoning would be crazy. The point of the line was to display the lack of rational Quatre had; that's all. dramallama

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Chapter 13: And it Thickens

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They took up refuge at Quatre's house, sitting around a table in the bar room. Missy began, "My sister collects independent doujinshi's. I think she's hoping they'll make it famous so she can auction them off online; eventually. I snagged this when I noticed the names." She brought out a torn page from the first comic, wedged in a store bought manga. "I got this volume last week, so it was fresh in my mind," she showed them a page of the book along side the amateur one. They sported the exact same, non-explicit, pose. "They copied the art. Probably for both books." Which is the reason her sister gave it up willingly, it was worthless if plagiarized. "I don't think it's a conspiracy, I think someone's just good with the 'point and click' of it all."

"That explains how they did it so quickly." Duo snapped a finger, "I knew someone was good with computers. It can also explain how they altered the school registry; they've got experience." He prayed it wasn't another hacker, he wasn't looking for any sort of 'code' face off.

"Or they could have authority at the school," Quatre suggested, "Maybe a student counsel member, or event coordinator; they'd have access to the registry and all the student information." There were a lot of students who had 'pull' around the school, this seemed to be at a level one of them could handle. That in mind, it also meant a lot of students needed to be stepped on to get answers.

"So are we abandoning the idea that it's more than one person?" Duo asked, "Because we've found a lot of people involved; painters, inkers, people who said they went through someone else."

"Maybe it's one person, pretending to be many people," Naibun suggested, aloof as to how insightful it was. She was tidying a nearby shelf with an elongated duster and needed to give it lots of attention; there was no sitting down 'on the clock'. "Kind of, to throw you off."

"That's twisted," Duo commented.

"You said you got a number?" Missy asked.

"I wonder if it'll match anyone's number on the registry," Duo popped his laptop open and began digging. He didn't want to chance missing it and magnified the screen to maximum.

"Did you save a text document?" Quatre looked over his friend's shoulder, wondering how much of the student's information was leaked onto his hard drive.

"Nope; I left a back door open," he said, referencing the conversation they had earlier about the locker room. He peeked over top of his screen, "How about that drink?" he said to the dolled up miss, Missy.

She had agreed to it because she legitimately felt bad, thus the follow through. Naibun was even nice enough to lend her a spare. "Anything in mind?" she asked as she went behind the counter.

"Something with milk," Duo requested. He was unsure if such a thing existed.

"Something I won't like the taste of," Quatre made an odd request.

"Good choices," she said with a laugh. Upon opening the cupboard she was left speechless. The array of fancy liquors was more lush than the garden of Eden. It went to the ceiling. Her jaw fell open and she took a step back in awe, not wanting to strain her neck.

"Why not something good?" Duo was curious.

Missy answered for him, "The last time you had tasty drinks, it didn't end well." She ran her finger along the long line of liquor, landing on name after foreign name. "Let's go with something different. Do you have tomato juice?"

"Yes. There should be some in the fridge." Quatre directed her to the small fridge below the counter; his family's personal bar was stacked better than most pubs. Not that he was granted access, formally, but he was never told to stay out either.

"So, can we party here sometime?" she asked as she grabbed the bottle of red juice and white milk. Missy began mixing properly measured drinks for them, humming a song by some country singer; 'still to young to care' was the only part that was near audible.

"Not sure. I'll have to ask one of my sisters." The one left in charge, that is.

They paused their speech as the line of concentration shifted, Missy at the counter, Duo at the keyboard, slaving away. Duo broke the silence saying, "Your outfit looks good," without looking up. He was playing coy. "How did you have a spare one of those?" he asked Naibun as she passed by.

"You'd be surprised, these things snap after a while." She wasn't paying attention as she spoke, so she didn't see the fluster in Quatre when Duo elbowed him and mutter the words 'wonder why'.

"I don't think I could work like this everyday," Missy tugged the device upward, shifting how it sat on her rib cage. "I'm sure I'd rake in the tips though," she laughed.

"Nada," Duo said as he finished scanning the student directory. "It doesn't even start the same way as the numbers around here; I think it's from out of town."

"It's probably a pay as you go phone, too. If theses guys were covering their tracks, they did a good job of it." Quatre tried to make connections in his mind, but was interrupted with the two glasses being laid out for them. "Thank you."

To Quatre's, "Yours is a Bloody Mary." She pointed to Duo's, "Yours is a White Russian."

He gave it a try. "Not bad." The idea of drinking milk with his alcohol made him not want to drink too much. Milk coming back on you was awful, so it served as a decent 'control'.

"Yup," Quatre said after he tried a sip from his salt rimmed glass, his face said it all.

"Won't be drinkin' too many of those, will ya?" Missy smirked as she watched him try to take another mouthful.

"I could get used to it," he said, not sure if he could live up to that expectation.

"I'll add tobasco sauce if you want another, that should spice it up," she took a seat, now that she knew her patrons were satisfied with their beverages. Her blood ran cold when her eyes landed on something horrifying, she said nothing right then, "And I can make you a Black Russian next, if you like," she said to Duo instead.

"Black?" he said and looked in his glass, figuring it out right away, "Does that mean I'll get chocolate milk?" He saw her nod, "Sweet," and sipped from his straw.

"Where do we go from here?" Quatre asked.

"Depends," Duo said, "Did you let the guy hang up before you wailed on him?"

Quatre couldn't remember. "I'm not sure."

"Then we're not calling the number ourselves. I could go...nah," he thought about it some more, "I could get into the provider's system to triangulate a location it was used at, but it wouldn't be accurate enough to be useful. Plus they'd notice; I can't risk that." Getting caught for hacking the phone company would be jail time for sure, people's credit information was on the line. He was seventeen and didn't want a criminal record.

"Master Quatre," Naibun said, holding folded blankets. "Why not do a reverse look-up of the number online and call the provider pretending to be them?"

They all shared a quiet moment of contemplation, "Sounds good to me. Duo?" Quatre prompted him.

"All over it," Duo said and began the search.

Naibun continued to tend to her chores, glad she gave them a little spirit boost in the process. "Good luck," she said and left.

Waiting until the housekeeper was out of the room, Missy couldn't hold the question any longer, "So, Quatre, what's going on with your hand?" she asked, looking at his right hand, "You need ice?"

He looked to where she was pointing; his first two knuckles drew the attention, being all bruised and swollen. "How did I miss that for so long?" It took time to swell to capacity, was all. He got up and went to the bar's sink to run some water on it. It finally started hurting, now that he was paying attention to it.

Quatre decided to stay at his own house that week, due to all of Monday's commotion. More so because of the day after. It was too much for his head to handle. He had only acquired the dorm room a few weeks ago so the adjustment wasn't much of a strain on his routine to go back home for a while.

He assumed the fight yesterday did more damage than anticipated. "I must have hit it on the way in here."

"No way, that was from when you hit the locker," Duo scoffed at Quatre trying to act nonchalant about it.

"What locker?" he looked confused.

"Sorry man; did you not want me to bring it up?" he asked, figuring Quatre wasn't ready to talk about how aggressively he behaved. That changed when he could see the confusion in his friend's face. "Don't you remember?"

"I remember being on the roof...wait..." he tried to scan his memory banks. "How did I get there? I was sitting...with the book in my hand...I don't remember how I got it. I must have picked it up...in..." He was seriously looking for the images that led him to have the book in his possession. His control was slipping, he could feel his heart race. Why couldn't he remember?

"What, exactly, happened today?" Missy was intrigued and sat down with them again, holding out some ice in a bag for Quatre. She laid it on top of his hand and wrapped a cloth around it, "Hold it if you can." He could, but only with a couple fingers. She bunched the rest of the cloth in his palm, so he didn't need to close his hand so tightly.

"Heero and I were there watching. Do you mind if I tell her?" he asked Quatre.

"Not at all," he nodded.

Duo began to retell the whole scene. He also included the phone conversation, and how they could tell the student on the cell was talking to the creator. "At the end, Heero had to pry you off his neck; that's when he handed you the comic. You kicked 'buddy' in the ribs once and we left down the hall. You punched a locker so hard, it came off it's hinges. That's when you went to the roof until last class."

Quatre tried to imagine the scene in his head, "..."

Missy was stuck for words. How had this sweet looking guy possibly do something like that? The look on his face suggested that he wasn't lying, he seriously couldn't remember. Which is when it clicked with her, "You blacked out."

"I wasn't drinking," he said, hoping to find the answer within himself.

"You don't have to drink to black out. It's just, you really don't..." she tried to find words that wouldn't sound too abrasive, "...you don't strike me as someone who's very pushy."

"...I'm usually not," he said with a discouraged tone. He began to think there was something wrong with his head the moment he destroyed the space colony, years ago; why would it be coming back to haunt him now? It had to be something else, it happened too suddenly. "I think..." he pondered as he watched what Duo was doing. He was texting. "What's that?"

Duo didn't look up from what he was doing, "I thought Heero should know."

"Why?!" he got defensive.

"We don't need you losing your marbles again; I want to know what he thinks of this," he said and continued on.

"Nice. Tactful," Missy commented on Duo's words, they should have been picked more gracefully. If his friend was seriously going through any mental illness, coupled with the ordeal at school that day, he was feeling vulnerable. "He's concerned...and from the looks of it, scared."

Duo only lifted his eyes to look at her, "You weren't there," he said and went right back to the text. In his head, he compared Quatre's rage to a fire; if it were a flame, the school would have been in cinders. "What if that happens when someone isn't there to pull you away?" He closed his phone, finished with the message.

"You've got a point," Quatre was calmer now because the alternative was much worse, especially when said out loud. He truly had a passion for control, in any aspect; like, the drink in his hand, which he had emptied most of.

A phone buzzed and got flipped open. Duo spoke, "...Heero says: Make an appointment with your doctor," he flipped it shut again, "Or he'll do it for you."

It was good to see he had supportive friends around him, but Missy was starting to regret offering the drink in the first place. If she knew even half of what they were going through, she'd have kept quiet in the front seat of the limo and apologized to Duo one on one. At the same time she was glad to be there, she wanted to help out in any way she could. "That in mind, do you think you should be throwing drinks back; it is a school night."

"One more," Quatre asked, knowing Duo was getting another.

"Could you wait ten minutes?" she said as she watched him down another mouthful. "And I'm putting lots of hot sauce in the next one."

"That's fine," he said and turned his attention back to Duo. "Any luck?"

He nodded, "I found the number...but their name isn't listed. I did, however, find what phone company they're with."

"Ring em' up," Missy said.

"Let's see," Duo said while dialing the customer service line. The others only got half of the conversation, it had a strange introduction. "Hey there...you sure can. The number of the employe is," he rattled it off, "...No, I don't know the name on the account...or mine...yes, it's my number." The rep was giving him grief. "...or my birthday...or address...or activation date...I've got Lyme disease, okay! Stop making me feel stupid...thank you."

There was a long pause, one of Duo's eyebrows were cocked as he eagerly anticipated the success of his ruse. "...really? Is there only one name on the account?" He squinted his eyes, "That doesn't sound right; have I reached Sym Co.?" he made up a name, "...oh, that's why none of it's lining up. Didn't I tell you it was for an employe? Quit wasting my time." He hung up. Duo's acting was spot on, it seemed like he had done this before.

"What was all that?" Quatre asked.

"Customer service is fun to mess with," he said with a ruthful smile. "Apparently, the account holder is female. I can't get access." Duo looked bummed as he stuffed the cell back in his sweater's right pocket. He felt something else in there, but didn't bother with it. He quickly recalled Heero vowing to pummel whoever it was that made the comic; would his vow change now that they knew it was a girl behind it all?

Quatre was also taken aback by this new discovery. "It'd be a lie if I said I didn't see that coming. I was really hoping it wasn't going to be a girl." He definitely wasn't going to hit a female, rendering 'a beating' totally out of the question.

"Me too," Duo looked drained.

"I could scrap with her," Missy suggested, hoping she didn't really have to.

"As much as I'd love to see you mud wrestle some chick, no, we'll think of something else. We can always hope the phone number was under a false name." Duo passed the halfway mark on his cup.

Missy raised an eyebrow, "...why mud?" she asked to Quatre, who was probably the only one who could answer the question, for Duo was too deep in thought. Quatre could only shrug.

"We should have got you to call," Duo said to Missy. Looking contemplative, he went silent to think, "You're right, pudding would be way better."

She shook her head, "You've put too much thought into this," Missy replied, now wondering why she was serving alcohol to minors.

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