author: trixie
disclaimer: i own nothing that makes me money, no matter how often i explain the basics of capitalism to my plushies.
summary: Heero and Duo survive high school. (AU, notHeero/Duo)
notes: for the lovely and magnificent Dacia, on the occasion of her birthday (because i'm lazy and it took me this long to write it), (loosely) based on a plot bunny she foisted on to me. ^_~
warnings: um, well, you got past the horribly overused title, so... um, also, Heero/Relena-ness, Heero/Hilde-ness, and again, this is not a Heero/Duo fic.

Time of Your Life

Duo Maxwell was late on the first day of school. He strolled into class in the middle of third period, smiling lopsidedly at the teacher. It was Ms. Clark, and she looked a bit put out, pursing her lips tightly so the excess layers of lipstick clumped together and cracked. He sat down in the third row, next to the windows, and spent the rest of class looking out at the sycamores lining the front walk.

Heero didn't think of him much. It was a nuisance to have class disrupted, but other than that, there was no reason to think about Duo Maxwell.

*

Heero tried out for the basketball team because his father kept nagging him about sports. Heero was athletic and strong, and his main passion was martial arts, but he had no desire to compete. Heero's father was strongly of the belief that competition was good for the soul, so Heero capitulated.

Duo showed up at tryouts on the second day, even though the first elimination had already occurred. Duo smiled and winked at the coach, who let him do the drills.

Heero understood why the coach let Duo stay after that; Duo was faster than anyone else, even Heero. And he had good reflexes. Still, the tryouts had begun the day before, and it wasn't really fair that Duo made the team when he didn't bother to show up at the right time.

Still, after a few practices, Heero didn't think about that, either. Everyone on the team was working hard, and most of the team liked Duo a lot.

Heero still didn't spend any time thinking about Duo Maxwell.

*

He started to date Relena Peacecraft after the Winter Ball. She was persistent. She got a special gleam in her eyes when she saw something she wanted, and Heero saw that gleam every time she looked at him. It was easier just to go along with it.

She wasn't really his type of girl. Her hair was long, and blonde, and she looked fragile to Heero. He was always careful when he held her hand, or gave her his arm. It was awkward dancing with her.

But she smelled nice, and she was cute, in an endearing way. She liked to be around him, even though Heero wasn't sure why, and she didn't push him to do things he didn't want to do, but let him do things he did want to do.

It was nice.

He didn't know what to get her for Christmas, though. He sat in the locker room after their last practice before break, and considered the matter seriously. They had only been going out for two weeks. He wasn't even sure he needed to get her a gift. He didn't want to spend money he didn't have to; maybe if he got her some perfume at the drug store?

"Hey." Duo kicked him gently. Duo was still getting dressed, his skinny torso bare. Heero glared up at him. He and Duo hardly ever interacted outside the court. "Stop thinking so hard; you'll give yourself an aneurism."

Duo was smiling at him, the way Duo smiled at everyone, the smile that got Duo out of any kind of trouble he was in, no matter what. Heero knew now that Duo got away with a lot more, too, because he lived with a priest and a nun at St. Bridget's. St. Bridget's had a school years ago, but the parish went under, and St. Bridget's merged with St. Michael's. St. Bridget's operated now only as a shelter for homeless children. Duo was the only permanent resident of St. Bridget's, and as everyone on staff at the school knew and adored Father Maxwell, they gave Duo too much freedom. Heero found it oddly grating, not because it affected him personally, but just because it wasn't by the rules.

He looked away from Duo's smile. "Need to get my girlfriend a Christmas present, I think."

"Oh, yeah, you're with the Peacecraft girl now," Duo mused, leaning against his locker, still shirtless. "She's nice, not snobby, like her friends. You should get her something nice. She's got a lot of admirers."

Heero sat up straighter. "I'm going to get her some perfume." He nodded to himself. At least he knew now that the gift was essential.

Duo shook his head once, and turned around to pick up his shirt. "Nope, jewelry. Perfume will get you a peck on the cheek, and then she'll throw it in a drawer and forget about it, cuz chances are, it won't be the brand she likes. Get her earrings, and she'll wear them all the time and think of you." He turned around, slipping into his threadbare coat. "Yeah, get her earrings."

Heero frowned. He didn't think he could get earrings at the drug store. "Where do I get them?"

Duo shrugged. "The mall, I guess."

The mall? Heero paled.

Duo laughed. "You know what, there's this place near where I live, but it's... you know, it's not fancy. But the girl makes the jewelry herself, so... it's kinda cool."

Heero straightened up. He didn't want to get friendly with Duo, but he did need help.

Duo's neighborhood wasn't like Heero expected. He always imagined the "bad" part of town to be something obviously sinister, or something. He hadn't really considered it. But Duo just walked ahead of him, his hands stuffed in his coat and his body tense with cold, cheerfully pointing out the "sights." The store Duo was taking Heero to was small, and full of silver and black jewelry, stuff that Heero couldn't imagine Relena liking, but there was other stuff, with crystals. The girl behind the glass cabinet showed Heero a few different things, and he picked a cluster of pink crystals connected with thin gold chains. The girl seemed pleased, and Duo didn't really care, and they weren't that expensive. The girl even wrapped it up for him for no charge, so he didn't have to think about it.

Duo was smiling at him as they left the store, but it wasn't like his usual smile. It was like Duo was really happy.

"You must really like this girl, huh?" There was something leading in Duo's question, but Heero just shrugged.

"She's my girlfriend." That seemed to be all Heero needed to say.

Duo laughed, and then looked at Heero quizzically. "Are you following me home?"

Heero stopped in his tracks. He hadn't thought about getting home from here at all. For some reason, the idea of Duo telling him to go back the way they came frightened him.

Duo shrugged. "It's ok. Sister Helen can prolly give you a ride home, if she isn't busy."

So Heero went to St. Bridget's with Duo. As soon as Duo entered, he went to work, straightening up and making himself busy with the kids, introducing Heero. Heero felt out of place here, like he was conspicuously wealthy and that was a bad thing. He also hadn't expected the residents of St. Bridget's to be so young. It made him sad.

Sister Helen was younger than he expected, too. He always thought of nuns as being old. Sister Helen's hair was out of place, and she laughed readily, and she agreed to drive Heero home jovially as long as Duo took over afternoon reading for her. This seemed to please the kids a lot. He only saw Father Maxwell in passing, a tall man with salt and pepper hair and bags under his eyes. He looked fondly at Duo, and seemed very pleased that Duo had brought a "friend" home.

The car was a beaten old van that was painted red rather badly. Sister Helen was so terribly cheerfully, cooing over Heero's gift to Relena. Somehow, though, spending nearly twenty-five dollars on earrings seemed extravagant now.

Relena liked them, though. And she thought it was sweet that Heero got them with Duo. Relena seemed to be of the opinion that Duo was a very admirable person.

Heero thought about it.

*

Their team went to the playoffs. Duo played remarkably well, but with just Duo and Heero really playing to the fullest, they couldn't go too far. Still, it was fun, and the varsity team didn't even get to go to playoffs. It was fun, and everyone got excited about it.

Heero didn't spend much more time with Duo than before, although they sometimes did their homework together after practice. Duo didn't normally do homework, because he was always doing other stuff at home, so his grades improved. Heero didn't really like or dislike Duo, but it was easy to be around him.

A rumor started in May, about the time Duo turned down Hilde Schbeiker for the Sadie's dance. Everyone said Duo was dating an older woman, that he was sleeping with her.

Duo didn't say anything about it, but it gave him a mystique. Heero didn't think it was true, but he never asked Duo about it specifically, so it might have been.

*

The summer came. Heero missed school. He didn't get out much, except to see Relena every so often. She was traveling a lot, though, so that took off some of the pressure. He played around on his computer a lot. He spent three days straight playing a multi-player online game, but then his father made him get out of his room.

There was basketball camp, at the end of the summer. Duo was there, laughing and goofing off, but looking scrawnier and skinnier in his short and tank. After camp was over, Duo didn't stick around to hang out, like he often did during school. Someone was waiting for him.

Heero didn't see the guy, just from the back really. He had put his arm around Duo, and mussed up his hair. The way they acted, Heero thought maybe he was a brother or something.

It was fun, though, just hanging with the guys again. Somehow, Heero thought that Duo treated him differently than the rest of the team. There was a special camaraderie between them. Heero decided it was probably because Heero had been to St. Bridget's.

*

Sophomore year began, and somehow, Heero had forgotten that Relena had gotten him elected to the student council. It was boring meeting after stupid task after boring meeting. He was less interested in spending time with Relena, too. She was just too demanding.

He ate lunch most days with Duo and Hilde, who had become good friends, somehow. Also, Trowa Barton, too, because Hilde started to drag him to the lunch table with them. Trowa was quiet, but not really. He spoke more often than Heero did, but he was sparse with his words, and his wit was acerbic, to say the least. He and Duo got along really well, so much so that Duo convinced him to try out for the basketball team. Trowa was taller than Heero or Duo, and graceful.

Heero wasn't sure why Hilde kept dragging Trowa to lunch, but it bothered him. Trowa seemed to ingratiate himself so quickly, without even trying. Heero was also noticing how vivacious Hilde was, and how she wasn't demanding at all, not like Relena, and how her eyes were really pretty, plus, she loved video games.

It required thought.

*

The new season started, and they were stronger than ever. Basketball was more fun than ever before. Duo, Trowa, and Heero were the triple threat. This year, they were going to go to state.

Practices ran later than last year, and Heero spent more time just hanging out with friends. He even went to St. Bridget's a few times with Duo. He got to know some of the kids, although Duo warned him that they never stayed at St. Bridget's for very long. Trowa came with them once. He stayed back, his arms crossed over his chest, just looking at the kids.

After the game against Loyola Prep, Heero had Duo spend the night at his house. They played video games, and Heero watched as Duo learned how to use the controller, his eyes wide, taking it all in. They ate pizza and watched dvds, lying across Heero's bed. It was late, but they were still excited from the win.

Duo tossed his braid aside, and yawned. Heero watched him, watched his hair. He rolled over and stared at the ceiling. He wondered if maybe Duo really did have some older girlfriend that he slept with.

"Does Hilde like Trowa?"

Duo laughed. It must have been funny, because Duo was really amused. "I... really don't think so. Why? Hey!" Duo leaned up on his elbow. "Do you like Hilde?"

Heero blushed. He turned away. "Shut up."

Duo didn't say anything, and he wasn't making any noise at all, so Heero turned to look at him. There was an _expression on his face that Heero couldn't quite interpret. "You like her, huh? And Relena. You're really..."

"What?" Heero scowled. He couldn't help how he felt. It wasn't like he wanted to feel stuff.

Duo shrugged, smiling. He got up, scratching the back of his head, heading to the bathroom. "Nothing. Forget it. For what it's worth, she'd prolly give you a chance."

Heero watched Duo, curious about things he didn't understand. "Do you have a girlfriend?"

Duo shook his head, and Heero suddenly realized that there were many things he didn't understand going on. "Nope. Be right back." Duo disappeared, and, after a minute, Heero decided it was time to get ready for bed.

He wouldn't sleep well with too much to think about.

*

Christmas passed, and he and Relena had a fight. Relena cried, and Heero held her. Her tears twisted his guts. He stayed with her for a bit longer. He started inviting Duo along with them when they went places. Relena asked too many questions about things he didn't have opinions on, and it was easier when he wasn't alone with her. Duo looked nervous, but Relena was always happy to have him around. She liked Duo more than Heero did, probably.

They were at Relena's house, in her basement. It was finished, all bright and white looking. There was a huge entertainment center, and even a pinball machine. After a while, there were voices upstairs. Relena watched the stairs, nervous. Heero ignored it, and Duo made a few light jokes. The door to the basement opened, and was slammed shut. A tall man with white-blonde hair flowing behind him stormed down the stairs. He saw Relena, and blushed, lowering his head. He muttered something about needed to get something.

Duo was gaping. The blonde man riffled through a dresser in the guest bedroom down there, and then he stormed off again, apologizing under his breath to Relena. Relena smiled encouragingly at him.

Relena blushed, and looked at Heero. "Sorry, that was my brother. I would have introduced him, but..."

Heero nodded, hoping she understood. Usually, she liked to talk things out. Duo was still gaping. "That's your brother? The Merquise is your brother?"

Relena turned bright red, and glared at Duo. "His name is Milliardo! What do you know about it?"

Duo paled. "I'm sorry, Relena, really, I didn't mean... it's ok, you know, really... I'm... the same way. It's ok."

Her expression changed. "Oh." She smiled weakly. "I'm sorry, it's just..."

"Yeah." Duo shrugged. "I get it. I'm sorry. Milliardo. That's a... nice name."

Relena smiled at him.

Heero glared at both of them.

*

Heero actually volunteered to spend time alone with Relena a week later. He still wanted to know just what the hell Duo and Relena had been talking about, but he wasn't sure how to breach it.

Relena was bouncy and excited. She was clinging to Heero's arm. She smelled good, really good. Good enough for Heero to forget that she could be annoying and dependent, and thought about maybe taking her back to his house, and up to his bedroom. Maybe. His father wouldn't get home, so.

They didn't get back there, but they did go to a movie, and they sat in the last row. Relena seemed tense, and she blushed a lot, because she probably assumed that there was only one reason to sit in the last row of a movie theater. Heero slid his hand up her skirt. After the movie, he'd forgotten that he'd wanted to ask her about Duo. Relena clung closer to him, and her cheeks were pink, her lips full.

She was really beautiful.

He forgot completely about not liking her for weeks.

*

He finally got a chance to ask her about Duo and her brother when he was in her room a month later. They were alone in the house, and Relena was really nervous. Heero realized that he could have sex with her, that she wouldn't resist, but he could also tell she didn't really want to. He looked around, trying to distract himself, because he didn't really want her to hate him.

There was a picture of Relena as a child with her brother behind a picture of Relena and Heero at Winter Ball.

He asked her about it. She blushed, and shrugged, pulling away from him.

Her parents were angry with her brother, she explained, so she had to hide her pictures of him. There had been a scandal. He had gone to college, but he'd taken a trip with a friend of his, and he was seen.

Relena wasn't making much sense, but Heero just let her talk. Her confusion was calming him down.

She leaned against the wall, looking sad. Her brother was just in love, she said. She didn't understand why her parents were so closed-minded. Mil was a good person, a noble person. But now, he'd quit school, and changed his name.

She spontaneously pulled an album off the shelf, and showed him a picture, flipping through scraps of memories as she found it. It was a picture of a slightly younger Milliardo than Heero had seen the other day, and another man, with brownish hair, weird eyebrows, and regal smile.

It took a moment to realize what this meant. That the person Milliardo loved was this other man. And that Duo had said he was the same.

Relena was crying softly against him. There was no danger he would do something she would regret.

*

Heero distanced himself from Duo, just a bit. It wasn't entirely conscious, at least, he never thought about it directly. He just wanted some space.

He thought about Duo kissing a boy. He thought about Duo kissing Trowa. It made him physically ill. He thought about Relena's brother kissing that man in the picture, and he wondered why Relena couldn't see her parents' point of view. It wasn't natural.

He didn't want Duo to be like that. Duo lived with a priest and a nun. He was on the basketball team. He couldn't be...

*

They lost to Central in the playoffs, and were out of it. The whole team went to Kenzie's house afterward. There was drinking... Heero didn't partake much, but it was ok. Duo did shots. Trowa sat in the corner and scowled. He'd missed two free throws. It wouldn't have changed the course of the game necessarily, but it was a personal blow.

Heero followed Duo home, from a distance. He wasn't sure why. But he knew that Duo wasn't going home almost right away, since he was going the wrong way. He went to a bar. Heero slipped in and watched. Duo went straight for a guy at the bar, a tall guy, wearing a loose hoodie and cargo pants. He put his arm around Duo, mussed up his hair, and ordered him some drinks.

He remembered that guy. He met Duo after summer camp. He wondered if he was Duo's lover. The thought made him sick, and he left.

*

Hilde came to talk to him in the library. He was studying, or pretending to. Heero felt tongue-tied. He'd forgotten how pretty her eyes were. He'd been spending more time with Relena, getting closer to being able to be with her without her regretting it later. But with Hilde right in front of him, he forgot entirely about how good Relena smelled.

She was worried about Duo. She wanted to know if Heero was mad at him. Heero didn't know what to say.

She reached out and took his hand. He blushed a little. Her hands were small and soft. He wanted to kiss her.

He promised to be at lunch the next day.

*

It was awkward. He kept wondering about Duo. And now he was confused about Relena, and Hilde, too, so spending more time with Hilde wasn't helping.

He had missed Duo, though. It was weird. He didn't know what he felt about Duo, and his maybe deviance, but it was probably all right.

They were friends, maybe.

*

He came home late from Relena's. His fingers and toes were all tingling from what they almost did. He wanted to just get it over with already. He was thinking that maybe he should break up with her if she didn't want to have sex soon. He could start dating Hilde maybe, then.

There were police cars in front of his house. It was surreal. They were flashing. There were people there.

There was an ambulance. And a gurney. He pushed past the scavengers gawking at the pain, and told the cop he lived there. The cop's face fell.

There was a body on a gurney. Covered in something. Heero felt sick.

It was a body. From his house. He pushed closer, ignoring everyone. He looked at the body, pulling back the cover.

It wasn't a body. It was his father. There was blood.

He didn't understand. This didn't make sense.

He looked around. There were lots of cops. He wanted to know if the person who did was caught.

That's when he saw the other gurney. And Duo, talking to cops. He looked right at Duo, and Duo looked right at him, and then he turned away.

Heero didn't understand.

*

He went to school the next day. He didn't have a mother, not anymore. His uncle came up to take care of him, but he really didn't want to sit around at home all day. Relena's eyes were puffy and red. It had been in the papers. Everyone knew.

Relena clung to him and tried to convince him to go home, but he didn't want to. He went to class.

Duo wasn't in school.

He went to class after class, until he got tired of the whispers and the stares. Everyone thought they knew what had happened. Everyone thought they knew what he was feeling.

Trowa and Hilde were at lunch, not talking. Hilde showed him the paper. He hadn't looked before school. Details were sparse. A break in set off an alarm, the perpetrator was caught in the act by the resident, a government employee, who shot the perp. Unfortunately, the perp managed to get a lucky shot in, and got the man in the chest. Heero read the article. It was rather matter-of-fact, rather bland. Heero gave it back to Hilde.

Hilde didn't suggest he go home. She reached out and took his hand. Her small hand, her short fingers, covering his clenched fist.

He left school after lunch. He wandered around a bit. He thought of going to St. Bridget's, but he didn't, because he knew.

Duo was under the bleachers of the football field, just sitting in the mud. He was smoking. Heero sat down next to him, not looking at him.

It was cold out, maybe. Heero couldn't tell. His skin was crawling. Duo looked cold.

Duo coughed. "I never had parents, not that I remember. I don't know. I kinda remember my mom... something... I don't know. Maybe it was just a dream. Anyway. I went from home to home, and stuff. I was in these orphanages. I met Solo when I was ten. He was... like a brother to me, right away. He took care of me. Even after we got split up, and he went to his home, and I went to mine... We kept in touch."

Heero glared, and pulled out a rock from the mud.

Duo sighed. "I was with this family... the wife was drunk all the time. The husband... He like little boys a little too much. One night, the wife was passed out, and he came... I... grabbed the phone and hid in the closet. I called Solo." Duo smiled, and lowered his gaze. "He came. He was... 15. No, 16. He brought a baseball bat. The husband, he had gotten me out of the closet... but... Solo stopped him. They. Didn't really listen to us, but. We tried to tell them. Solo went to juvie. He met... bad people there. Got bad habits. He. Still looked after me, but... Things had changed. I went to St. Bridget's, Father Maxwell and Sister Helen took care of me, but... I lost Solo."

Heero glared at Duo. It wasn't that he didn't care about what Duo was saying... It just wasn't the time.

"It was my fault, Heero," Duo put his head down on his knees. "I told Solo about my friend, told him all about you, and spending the night with you... About how cool your house was. I was talking... We took a walk, I... walked him past your house. He's like my brother, Heero. I didn't think..."

It made sense now. Heero should have been angry, at Duo, should have hated him. But it made sense now. And Duo was crying, but it was different than when Relena cried. Heero took the cigarette from Duo's fingers.

They sat under the benches, even after it started to rain. Duo scooted over and put his head on Heero's shoulder, and apologized, at least twenty times. Heero rested his head on Duo's, and sighed.

*

Heero drifted through life for a while. He stayed close to Duo, Hilde, and Trowa. They didn't pressure him. Relena was hysterical a lot. He couldn't take it. He didn't exactly break up with her, but he did start ignoring her. It was easier.

He went to live with his uncle, in an apartment. It was actually nice, although his uncle was kind of nutty, and kept trying to invent things like the automatic shoe lacer.

Hilde took care of him. She was comforting. Heero kissed her in the middle of a movie night, in her room, her brothers making a bunch of noise in the next room. She let him touch under her shirt. She was nice, simple. She didn't complicate things.

*

Summer came, and Heero spent most of his time with Duo and Hilde. Apparently, Hilde had been trying to set up Duo with Trowa. She knew that Duo was gay. Heero didn't think it mattered anymore.

At least, not until Duo told him that he had a crush on Heero. It was just an offhand comment. Duo was laughing when he said it. It was another way for Duo to apologize to Heero. He did that a lot.

Heero didn't think about it. And he decided not to think about it. It didn't matter.

They became better friends, somehow. It just worked.

*

Relena had spent the summer in Saudi Arabia with her father. Her father was a diplomat, who was working for peace in the Middle East. He brought Relena with him because he thought it would be good for her.

He was killed in a bombing. Heero didn't know the details because he didn't often pay attention to international news. But Relena came back with a new boyfriend, a Quatre Raberba Winner. He was fair and blonde, and musical. Relena blushed as she told Heero all about it in a rush of details that made no sense. Quatre's family had, apparently, taken care of Relena after the bombing, and she had fallen in love with him.

Heero was fine with it. He even liked Quatre. He was glad Relena had someone.

He took Hilde to homecoming. She looked beautiful in her dress, and Heero fumbled with the corsage. Duo took their picture a lot, and danced with both of them. Hilde pinched his butt.

Two weeks later, they had sex in the apartment, while Heero's uncle was off at some nanotech convention. She spent the night with him, and made him pancakes in the morning. It was nice.

*

They were varsity this year, and the team once again had big hopes. Heero threw himself into it. He was growing, and so was Duo. Trowa was nearly 6'. They were going places.

Practices ran later than ever, and they were working harder. He loved it, really. It was something for Heero to really devote himself to. His father would have been pleased.

Duo was working harder, too, but he was having trouble with some of his classes. Heero helped out some, but Duo really didn't want to study.

Solo's death, and how he died, still weighed heavily on Duo, Heero could tell. He asked Hilde about it, but Hilde told him to leave it be. Duo was a survivor.

Duo asked Heero if he wished they had never been friends. It was true, of course, that his dad would still be alive. But life just doesn't work backwards. Heero was glad he had a friend that understood.

*

Duo's grades got better, and they won state. It was a good year. Hilde hosted a party for Heero's birthday, and Duo came with his tutor. Father Maxwell had arranged it with a local university. He was a Chinese boy, with small glasses and hair to his shoulders. He was particular and irritable and picked debates with people constantly. Duo was damned near glowing.

Heero watched his best friend, and he imagined him with this Chang person, imagined them kissing, or doing the things that he and Hilde did, and the only thing he felt was happy for Duo. And some mild revulsion.

Duo met up with him in the kitchen, so they could talk, just the two of them. He was bouncing on his feet. Heero poured out glasses of whiskey, and they toasted each other.

Duo apologized again. Heero told him to stop. Duo asked him what he thought of Wu Fei. Heero made a face, and then asked Duo if he was happy. Duo looked into the living room, watching Chang annoy Hilde. His smile faded gently, but he didn't look unhappy. He said that things were more complicated than that. Heero asked if it was a good thing. Duo grinned, and winked.

Heero punched Duo in the shoulder, and teased him, asking him if he still had a crush on him.

Duo looked at Heero oddly, and finished his drink. He leaned in, and kissed Heero's cheek, whispering, "You're always gonna be my first love, Yuy."

Heero watched Duo go back out to join Chang. He stayed in the kitchen until Hilde came to get him. He watched Duo and Chang together. He leaned close to Hilde, and asked her quietly, "Is it ok, the two of them?"

She smiled at him, and kissed him. "You never listen to me, Heero. Just leave him be. He's a survivor."

Heero nodded. "Well, you should tell him, if Chang hurts him, I'll kick his ass."

Hilde laughed. "Tell him yourself."

"He'll feel guilty if I say it." Heero shrugged.

Hilde laughed. "You really get him, huh?"

"I guess," Heero sighed.

Hilde kissed him. "Stop thinking so much. This is a party. You're supposed to be having fun."

"I am," Heero assured, seriously.

Hilde laughed, and dragged him back into the party.

~*~

end