by: Kracken
Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warnings: Guys being interested in other guys. Language. Graphic. Violence. Heero remembered torture. Hm, not much else yet.

After The Rain series + Part 1
Invisible

It was raining. The object of Heero's fascination didn't like it. Cozy in the school dorm, he leaned on the window sill and glared out at the dreary day.

"So much for basketball," Duo grumbled and pushed himself away. He stretched like a cat, yawning, and then threw himself onto his single bed, disturbing the books and papers already scattered haphazardly over the blanket. He scooped them off with a swipe of one arm and then rolled onto his back and put his hands behind his head. He did all of that without managing to get his long, chestnut braid tangled underneath him.

Heero, seated cross legged on his bed, was cleaning his gun, metal parts glittering in the lamplight around him. He grunted in reply to Duo's words and didn't look up.

"That's the eleventh grunt in a row," Duo said sarcastically. "You should either work on your vocabulary or become a mime with Trowa."

Heero felt a flush. He didn't reply to that, but he didn't say 'hn' again either.

Duo watched Heero's face, his darker skin still not proof against showing a bloom of color on each cheek. He stared at it in fascination. Heero, embarrassed? It didn't fit with what he thought he knew about the pilot of Wing. Bored to tears, Duo mentally rubbed his hands together, eager to get under that blushing skin and get even more of a rise out of his silent, stone like partner.

"Wanna talk?' Duo asked as he sat up, hands loose in his lap and legs crossed. Heero looked at him, the same, unreadable look he always gave Duo. "We've done coordinated missions with the other Gundam pilots, and I've bunked with you in some safe houses, but I don't really know anything about you. That bothers me when I know I have to trust my life to you while we're doing this mission together," Duo explained. "I need to know that my trust isn't misplaced."

Heero put his gun together so fast that Duo could hardly follow his hands. Heero spun the chamber at the end of the demonstration, pointed it at Duo's heart, and then lowered it to put the bullets back into their chambers.

"I don't need to prove myself to you," Heero replied at last. "I never asked for your trust. I follow orders from Dr. J. He told me to work with you on this mission. Otherwise, I would jettison you."

Duo had swallowed, not sure how serious Heero was. The pointed gun had startled him, even though he had known that it wasn't loaded. Duo recognized it for the warning it was. 'Stay out of my way and don't bother me,' that action had said.

"Well," Duo replied dryly, "That was more words than I've ever heard from you. Maybe it was worth it."

Heero didn't acknowledge his sarcasm. He was pulling out his laptop and busily looking over the plans for the mission for the thousandth time. Secretly though, he was watching Duo surreptitiously to see what he would do next. He had found himself doing that a lot lately without really knowing why.

Duo made a face. He reached down beside the bed and dug inside of a duffel bag there. After pulling out a computer pad, he flopped down onto his stomach on the bed again. Heero had made it his business to read the journal Duo kept on the pad, to make certain that Duo wasn't undercover Oz. He had found the journal full of inane, emotional comments that didn't make sense to him. None of it pertained to anything important, as far as Heero could see.

Duo's fingers tapped out the secret code. Solo. Heero filed that information. He had hacked the pad itself and not bothered with a code the first time. He watched as Duo frowned some more and made his entry. Heero followed the movement of his fingers on the pad and was able to figure out the message easily. Heero Yuy is an asshole! That was all. Duo closed the program and put the pad away with an air of satisfaction. He then rolled onto his back, put his hands behind his head languidly and settled himself to nap. The young man was worse than a cat when it came to sleeping, Heero thought, and just as strange and temperamental.

Duo began to breathe heavily in sleep. Just like that, Heero thought, without even taking a moment to get a weapon and put it close to hand in case of a sudden attack. Heero had the sudden urge to do just that, attack Duo and see how he reacted. It was hard for Heero to understand how someone so carefree and disorganized could be the expert pilot Dr. J had made him out to be. It had to be an act, his happy go lucky, fun loving, foolish personality. Heero had known many killers in his life and all of them had shown the shadow of it in their eyes and in their attitudes. None had acted like Duo, as if he were nothing more than what he seemed, a young man in a private school with only exams and girls on his mind.

Long and thin, Heero thought. Duo didn't look as if he had one muscle to his name. Little, long fingered hands, A pixie like face, pale skin that looked too soft for someone on the verge of being a full blown man. Even his feet were small, Heero thought, and that ridiculous, chestnut braid. What was the point of that? It seemed an insane conceit considering what they did, climbing in and out of Gundams, doing repairs on grinding machinery, squeezing in and out of space and flight suits, running out of fire fights, and a hundred other things that made a braid that long a deadly hazard. Why did he risk it? Did he want to look like a woman so badly?

Heero frowned as he closed his laptop softly. He corrected himself. Duo, as small and as delicate as he looked, even with a long braid, didn't look like a woman. He certainly didn't act like one either. His shoulders were rather broad for someone so thin and his face had a faint curve to it that tipped the scale to male more than female. He also had a dominant, take charge personality, and Heero had found himself being led by the boy more than once, to his intense irritation. It couldn't be, Heero thought, that Duo wanted to look like a woman. The braid had some significance, he felt, as if it were a prize or some cultural tradition, though Heero couldn't recall that the melting pot of L2, Duo's home, had any traditions at all. It was a mystery and Heero wasn't comfortable with mysteries. Missions shouldn't have blind spots, even ones as small as why a young man sported an over three foot braid.

Duo stirred and one of his hands slid down his body and rubbed at his crotch unconsciously, maybe relieving an itch or an uncomfortable position in his pants. He sighed and went deeper into sleep. Heero, silent witness, felt a prickling heat start somewhere in his groin. That delicate hand, pale against Duo's black pants, was cupped ever so slightly inward over what Heero knew to be underneath that fabric.

Pain, it coursed through every nerve of Heero's body. He stiffened with a jerk of muscles, his jaw tightening. The pain bloomed until he saw white, hot light and then, it was gone, leaving Heero cold and angry. He glared at Duo, any reaction to what the boy was doing in his sleep, crushed and swept away. He stood and felt a need to hurt the one who had just, even unknowingly, hurt him. Heero controlled himself with an effort. He would settle for dislike instead, and maybe hate if it happened again, but he knew he couldn't compromise the mission by taking his revenge in any physical manner.

Heero stood over the sleeping young man and thought of a hundred different ways to kill him in under a second. It satisfied some inner demon within Heero and he felt a flush of comfort and a sense of contentment as his reward.

"Baka!" Heero said to the sleeping Duo derisively and then turned away to check his mission plan yet again.

+

Duo held out a comb to Heero. "Come on. Just run it through once. "

Duo was dressed neatly in his school uniform, hair brushed until it was shinning and braided in a long tail down his back. His books were tucked under one arm and his slim body was blocking the doorway. Heero's compliance was the toll for passage.

Heero blinked at the other pilot. He narrowed his blue eyes dangerously, but Duo continued to grin at him and hold out the comb. He had a gleam in his purple eyes that let Heero know that he was ready for a fight and ready to enjoy it.

Heero considered violence, but then also considered the noise and attention that would bring them. With a jerk, he took the comb out of Duo's hand, leaving marks. As Duo hissed and flapped his damaged hand, Heero ran the comb through his wild thatch of hair.

Finished, Heero tossed the comb back at Duo. Duo caught it neatly, eyes never leaving Heero's. With a flourish, he stood aside. "After you Yuy."

Heero remained where he stood. He didn't let anyone get at his back. After a long pause, Duo gave an exaggerated sigh and went first, his long braid swinging back and forth jauntily over the backside of his school issue burgundy pants. They seemed far too tight for even someone as slim as Duo.

"Why?" Heero asked.

Duo didn't turn as they took a corridor out of the dorms and crossed the small open park towards the classrooms.

"Why did I make you comb your hair?" Duo clarified with a long suffering air. "Maybe you're trying to immolate some sort of spoiled, rich kid, bad boy look, but I get embarrassed being seen with you. "

Heero's brain worked on that and then spit it out again as unacceptable. "Your own appearance doesn't embarrass you?"

"Ha, ha, Heero made a joke," Duo retorted, adding, "There's a big difference between being stylish and being a slob."

"Is that why you grow your hair so long?" Heero asked, taking advantage of the opening to glean more information about the pilot of Deathscythe. "You wish to be stylish?"

"Not wish, am!" Duo chuckled, and then more seriously. "No, it's not about that at all. It's something personal, so butt out." He paused and then said, retreating back to the original subject, "You stick out like a sore thumb, you know, trying to look so dangerous and mysterious. I thought combing your hair would help reduce some of that." Duo glanced back at Heero over his shoulder and made a face. "Didn't help much. There's something about you that just screams 'dangerous'. People look at me and just think I'm a fag or I'm fun loving and eccentric. They look at you and they wonder what you're up to."

Heero digested that and couldn't deny the conclusion. It made him angry. He didn't like flaws. Duo was telling him that his very nature might jeopardize a mission and invite discovery. His appearance, which he had never given a second thought to, was a sudden liability.

As they entered the general school populace, the hustle and bustle of other students and teachers going to their classes, Heero took note of the way people reacted to him. They moved out of his way, averted their eyes, looked nervous and sometimes scared, or followed him with their eyes with open curiosity. In sharp contrast, his partner, Duo, was greeted with friendly smiles, loud calls, and an effusive good will. Only a few passed with an ugly speculation about Duo's sexuality or an uncomfortable glare. None of the looks were suspicious or curious. Duo was accepted for what he was, a student and a young man with nothing to hide.

As they moved through the day, sometimes in the same class, sometimes not, Heero continued to study Duo. Always the center of attention, yet not; Heero found it hard to explain the phenomenon that was Duo Maxwell. He was intelligent, yet he pretended not to be. He answered question wrong, apologized with a smile, and was forgiven by a smiling teacher. He joked and played the fool with the other students, but he also had an indefinable demeanor that stopped them short of actually getting close to him. He was everyone's friend, yet no one's friend. In short, he was the perfect undercover operative.

In a crowded cafeteria, Duo walked up to where Heero was sitting and plopped down across the table from him. No one else had dared to get so close. Heero had been eating alone, a dark, morose, shadow among the thronging, chattering and laughing teenagers.

Duo had his tray filled to capacity with every food on the menu and then some. There were three candy bars from the vending machine, a soda, and a bag of potato chips besides his more nutritious meal.

Heero eyed Duo's small frame and frowned. His brain measured stomach capacity, fat storage ratios, and the time they were allotted to finish their meals. None of it computed into a digested meal.

"You're going to vomit," Heero pronounced.

Duo grinned as he began to eat. "You shouldn't underestimate the stretching capacity of an L2 street orphan's stomach," Duo whispered as he took a bite.

Heero gave the room a quick glance out of the corners of his eyes. He saw some faces turn his way, but most of them were admiring looks given to Duo and the disturbingly curious looks thrown his way.

"We shouldn't sit together," Heero said. "We-"

Duo smirked as he swallowed. He licked his lips and then said, "We're in the same dorm room and we're new. People will expect us to stick together even if we don't look socially compatible. In another week, they'll think I'm having sex with you and they won't look twice when we go off campus together. " Duo winked broadly. "We'll have to do a little kissing and hugging, but I'm sure you can-"

Heero felt a sharp pain as his body flushed red. He had formed a sudden, mental image of Duo kissing him. Before he could fully register it, and know how he felt about that image, the pain shattered it and brought him back to his training. He frowned and that frown had a deadly look to it. Duo's eyes took notice of that with a slight twitch that told Heero he had expected Heero to be angry and had, perhaps, been baiting him for just such a reaction.

"Speechless!" Duo teased. "Well, at least you didn't punch me. I was only kidding Heero."

Heero felt a new sensation at those words. He flushed red again and it wasn't in anger or embarrassment. This was something else. Heero hated it at once, but he couldn't dispel it with that hate. He found himself staring at Duo's widening grin and then looking down at his food. He began shoving his fork through it as if he needed to hide behind that action.

"It's okay to be shy," Duo said softly. "Is that why you never say much?"

Shy? Heero had heard people use the term. What did it mean? He had thought it was the same as being afraid, but Heero wasn't afraid, especially not of Duo. What was it then? He couldn't lift his eyes or reply to Duo and he felt helpless in this new emotion's grip. He found himself wishing for the pain to come and bring his mind back into order. Where was it? Why didn't it strike? Why was this emotion different from the other emotions that he had been taught were so undesirable?

Duo put a candy bar on Heero's plate. "I think you're right, my eyes were bigger than my stomach. Why don't you help me eat some of this? You can't grow on rice and chicken... that is chicken, isn't it? Why doesn't cafeteria food ever look like it's supposed to?"

"Sugar is a poison," Heero grated, trying to being himself to order by pumping himself full of irritation.

"And too many rice starches aren't?" Duo short back and then chuckled. "Loosen up, Heero."

Heero stood up, forgetting his meal. "That gets a man killed," he replied stonily and then left his meal, and an open mouthed Duo, behind him to go to his next class early.

Heero found his steps slowing as he reached the hallway and the quieter parts of the school. Duo had managed to get under his skin and rattle him. That could get a man killed too, he thought grimly. As long as Duo could get to him, throw him off balance, and make him feel strange emotions he had never felt before, the young man was a danger to him.

Heero finished his classes, worked out at the gym, and then returned to the dorm room. He felt reluctant, knowing Duo would be there, and again that strange emotion surfaced. Why did Duo Maxwell make him feel shy, as if he were inferior somehow or afraid that Duo would find yet another flaw in him? Perhaps that was all it was, Heero thought, a reluctant fear of having Duo find yet another crack in the shell of his perfection.

When Heero entered the dorm room, he found Duo lying on his belly on his bed, pencil stuck between his teeth and a paper half filled with writing on one side of an open book. He was wearing a loose, white cotton shirt and a very thin pair of shorts, his long, slim legs showing two tattoos and an ugly scar along their backs. One tattoo was crude, as if done by a child. It said Solo's. The other was more sophisticated. It was a circle of numbers and it looked as if it had been burned on. Heero recognized it. Some Oz supply depots used brands on shipping boxes. Each brand seared a tracking number identifying the contents and the owner, be it a base or a person. Heero memorized the numbers to check on later.

Duo looked up and smiled at Heero. His shorts rose up on one hip as he propped himself up on his elbows. He wasn't wearing any underwear, Heero realized, and the hip that was revealed was rounded and smooth.

"Took you long enough to get back," Duo said. "Stop at the gym?"

Heero put a hand to his head as the welcoming pain blinded him. That motion was his only outward indication. The pain rose and washed away all thoughts of Duo's rounded ass as Heero concentrated on breathing and keeping his pulse steady. Returning to a controlled state was the only thing that stopped the pain. When he finally achieved it, and the pain receded, it was like a cord snapping. Heero went into motion, going into the bathroom and closing the door.

Heero turned on the shower so that Duo would not become suspicious and ask questions. He undressed and composed himself on the bathroom floor, cross legged and eyes closed. Very quickly, Heero checked his control over every part of his body. Everything checked out. He was still in perfect control. Why then, had looking at Duo brought the pain? Heero was confused and that confusion was maddening to him. He had to know what was happening to him and why. Mysteries were unacceptable to him.

Heero showered and dried off. He dressed carefully, taking a deliberate amount of time to compose himself and to use every technique in his impressive arsenal to make himself proof against any more reactions to Duo Maxwell. When he felt that he was ready, he opened the bathroom door, steam rolling out into the main dorm room, and turned towards Duo's bed as if he were bracing for a full, enemy assault.

Duo was gone, only the impression of his body was left on the bed and a closed book with the chewed pencil marking a page. There was a note on the small table by the door.

'Gym was a good idea', the note read, 'Think I'll go work out and do some flirting with some student bodies. Have to have some fun before the real work begins.'

Heero went at once to Duo's journal. He used the password, found that it had been changed, and hacked into it in mere moments. The last entry Duo had made was alone on that day's page. Heero felt the prickle of nerves and sharp shock as he read the entry.

'You only have to ask'

[part 2] [back to Kracken's fic]