Author: Maldoror
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

//THIS// is Heero's entries on his laptop.

Trial and Error + Chapter 4

//Operation 'Equations'

Mission duration: 5 day 22 hour

Operation Preferences

Next Step: Find out sexual orientation of all subjects. Somehow.//



Heero sipped his orange juice quietly and motioned to Duo that the braided man could finish off his pie if he wanted it. Duo grinned and grabbed Heero's plate but said nothing.

When he'd come home from Hilde's, Duo had taken one look at Heero and dragged him off to their favorite coffee shop. Heero was surprised, he hadn't thought his confusion and annoyance at another hindrance to his mission were visible on his face, but Duo had apparently picked up on it. Duo had been first his partner and then his best friend since the start of the war. He could still not read Heero very well; the latter wore the soldier's mask as an old, unbreakable habit and it was nearly impenetrable. But Duo instinctively knew when to chatter and distract, when to talk little and seriously, and when to be completely silent and let Heero think.

He watched Duo demolish the pie and felt a bit better. Well, at least Duo was sorted and happy. If not, he would have been the first on Heero's agenda. He owed Duo a great deal, more than he could really fully express. It would definitely have been his duty to make sure the gregarious man found his soul mate. But as soon as he'd started his mission and thought about it, he'd put two and two together and realized Duo didn't need his help.

Duo's visits to Hilde's had been rare to start with, even when she'd moved to Sanq to open a junkyard here. But recently the stay-overs and the evenings out had gotten more and more frequent. Duo often seemed a bit depressed when he left the house, and he always returned in better spirits. Hilde was good for him, as a friend and, obvious even to Heero now, as a lover. Heero hadn't been sure about that relationship to start with, Hilde was a bit...tiresome. Always running and shouting and carrying on. Duo did some of that too but it was the froth on the pool of deep reflection and complete focus he was also capable of. Still, if it worked...Heero had made a note in his mission planner to persuade Duo to move in with the girl at some point, just to consolidate things, but that was far down his list of priorities now. He had other worries.

"Wufei is angry with me." Heero said abruptly. Maybe Duo could help him, even if Heero couldn't divulge any information about the mission.

"Oh yeah? Still mad about the stroll you strong-armed him into taking?" Duo looked curious as he gathered up the last bit of the pie in one big mouthful.

"He may still be a bit angry about that. And he seemed resentful when I asked him about his sexual orientation. Duo, you eat too fast! One day you'll choke!"

"Y- !" cough "You- " splutter "Y-?!"

"Here, have a sip of my-"

"You asked him what?!" wheeze.

"I asked him if he was gay. Why is that-...was I supposed to use the term 'homosexual'?"

"You-..." Duo's voice was a squeak. "My god, did he hurt you?"

"No."

"Did-did you have to hurt him?"

"No!"

"Did someone slip him a full tube of happy pills when you weren't looking?"

"What?"

"Never mind. Why on earth did you ask him that?"

"I wanted to know." Heero snapped. "Why is it such a big deal?"

"Heero..." Duo tugged his braid as if trying to anchor himself to the situation. "That's only one of the most personal and delicate questions you can ask a guy. Especially a straight arrow like Wu!"

"Straight? You mean he's not gay?"

"What on earth made you think he was?!"

"Nothing, I wanted to find out, that's why I asked!" Heero barked back.

"Well watch who you ask, 'Ro." Duo said seriously, eyes still wide. "You're lucky he's trying to stay on your good side or he'd have cut you a new one."

"I don't see why this is such a difficult question." Heero grumbled.

"Well some people are okay with it. Hell I don't give a damn who finds out I'm gay, though I won't shout it from the rooftops."

"So Chang is-...wh-..."

"Straight."

"What?!"

"If you swung him by the pony-tail you could use him to draw a plumb line, Yuy."

"You-..." Heero's orange juice cup crunched in his hand. Since it was non-disposable toughened plastic instead of styrofoam, and still contained a lot of liquid, this made him fairly unpopular with the waitress.

"You're gay?" Heero hissed once she'd removed her mop and her scowl.

Duo's face had settled into the joker's mask, with the small who-gives-a-damn grin. His eyes looked defensive though. "I wondered if you knew. I mean, if you though Wufee was gay you probably think the pope is too, but you'd miss me by a mile."

"I didn't know! Why didn't you tell me?!"

"Well, I thought I'd climb up on the podium at Relena's Peace party and declare it in front of national television but then I thought, nah, let's just-"

"Duo be serious!" Heero glared. "You're with Hilde."

Duo gave him a long stare. "Is that what you thought?" He finally asked quietly.

"You two are constantly-"

"Yeah, Hilde's like a little sister to me."

Heero sunk his head in his hand with a groan. "Big sisters, little sisters, or else they have girlfriends!" he muttered.

"Heero, the pie was fine so I have to ask," Duo's eyes were like saucers, "what did they put in your orange juice?"

"And Hilde?" Heero snapped. "What does she think?" If Hilde wasn't hopelessly in love with Duo...Hilde and Quatre? Hilde and Trowa? Hilde and Wufei?

"Hilde thinks her boyfriend of six months is the best thing that ever wore socks."

"Of course." Heero sighed in defeat. "And how about Trowa? Quatre?"

"What about -"

"Are they gay?"

Duo looked at him in silence for a few seconds. "You don't know?"

"No. They didn't tell me." Heero ground out.

"Well...then it's not really up to me to say." Duo scratched his head and looked baffled. "Heero, I have the feeling you're not going to tell me what's going on, and I guess I respect that, even though curiosity will probably kill me before the week is out, but seriously, you know, if you have anything you want to talk about...any, er, personal questions...or problems..."

I have a problem and you're now part of it! Heero fumed, but kept his feelings well hidden. At least he knew where Duo - and Wufei - stood. That was already some progress.

"Er...are you going to ask them? Tro and Q? About-..."

Heero grunted.

"Okay...they probably won't mind...but you might want to, I don't know, try to be subtle?"

There was a short moment of silence.

"Subtle?" Heero asked grudgingly. "Me?"

Duo was still laughing - and Heero smiling gently - as they left the cross waitress to clean up their table.


//Mission duration: 6 days 5 hours

Project 2: Opposites attract.//



Heero looked at his whiteboard carefully. It had suffered considerable reworking.

There was an urgent red question mark next to Duo's name now. Heero had been hurt to discover that his best friend wasn't as happy as he'd thought, and that he'd not known about it. It was probably quite obvious to someone who hadn't been trained as a weapon instead of as a friend.

Now that he thought of it, Duo had seemed fairly depressed for awhile now. Oh he was his usual relaxed self around others, but Heero knew that Duo was prone to occasional bouts of moodiness. He'd had them ever since Heero had known him, though they had been very infrequent during the war. They'd gotten steadily worse since Duo had moved in with the others. He always relieved them by going over to Hilde's. Heero felt a bit put out by that, though he acknowledged that he probably wouldn't be good at cheering Duo up. Actually it seemed that his strong suit was getting into a fight with Duo in those times, which would send the braided man storming out of the house to stay with Hilde, or with Howard or any other of his Sweeper friends for that matter. It wasn't that Heero was trying to provoke his volatile friend, but whenever Duo was in one of those moods he'd be hyper-sensitive to anything anybody said to him, particularly, it seemed, when it was Heero.

So now Heero had a chance to make up for it. He'd find Duo a good match. But there weren't that many options. He stared at the two names that might connect to Duo's.

The question of sexual preference was now paramount. Heero thought about it seriously but couldn't figure it out.

He'd have to ask. Yes, he'd go ask Quatre. At least he wasn't as excitable as Wufei.

The Winner heir was sitting in an overstuffed armchair reading a book. Heero paused at the living-room door, then went to sit on the couch opposite his friend, and pretended to flip through the latest Guns&Ammo while he covertly watched him. Quatre's laptop, briefcase and papers were beside him but his phone was turned off, the computer was shut down and he was obviously enjoying the last few moments of peace before he left on another business trip tomorrow. Heero didn't feel guilty about disturbing him - a mission was paramount - but it made him hesitate, try to formulate the question so it would be as quick and efficient as possible.

Quatre, are you- no, a vision of Wufei flashed through his mind, and Quatre was drinking tea. Heero didn't have that many spare shirts. Winner, do you like women?...No...Quatre, for my own information, what are your sexual preferences...?

He turned the question in his head this way and that and however he tried to formulate it, his mind ran it against those gentle blue eyes and innocent expression so prone to blush, and winced. Now that Duo had pointed out to him how delicate the question could be, he was acutely aware of it.

This was Quatre, he reminded himself. He might look soft and sweet but that was only an appearance. Behind it was a competent fighter, a brilliant tactician and a hardened businessman.

Quatre delicately reached down to the side table and picked up his cup of tea with two fingers gently clasping the handle without losing his place in his book.

The words seemed stuck in Heero's throat. He frowned at the magazine. He could feel Quatre's curious eyes on him but neither of them said anything.

Think Zero, Heero reminded himself abruptly. That should put the rather deceiving image of 'innocent' Quatre from his mind. He forced himself to remember the way Quatre had beaten him in Mercurius, almost killed him, very nearly killed Trowa, and blown up two colonies, all with a gentle, absent smile on his face.

Heero thought about Quatre, the Zero system and his question, then went and talked to Trowa instead.

The acrobat was warming up for his show in the backyard, doing pushups effortlessly.

"Barton?" Trowa's movements were smooth and steady, the early afternoon sunshine spearing through the leaves of the trees dappling the bare skin of his back. His muscles flexed and played as he bent and straightened his arms. One, two.

"Yes?" Three, four.

"Are you gay?" Five, six.

"Yes." Seven, eight.

"Good." Nine, ten. "And how about Quatre?"

Eleven, twelve. Thirteen. "What about him?"

"Is he gay?"

Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen.

"You should ask him that yourself." Eighteen, nineteen, twenty.

"Hn."

Heero climbed the stairs to his room, deep in thought. That was important and promising information regarding Trowa. Quatre was still a question mark though.

He was surprised Trowa didn't know Quatre's orientation. After all, he was Winner's best friend, they spent even more time together than Heero spent with Duo. They would go out in the evenings occasionally, or Quatre would go with Trowa to the circus, or they'd disappear for hours on end in one or the other of their rooms to read manga or play video games. Well, presumably; that's what Heero and Duo did when they ended up in Duo's room on a rainy afternoon. Surely in all that time alone together the question must have - but then again Heero had never asked Duo, and the latter had never mentioned the subject, so maybe it wasn't that surprising. Hmmm. On the balance of probability, and considering the incidence of homosexuality in their age group, chances were great that Quatre was straight. He'd work on that assumption until it was proven wrong or until he worked up the nerve to ask Quatre directly. At least he had one person to work with now. But was Trowa right for Duo?

He stared at the whiteboard for awhile, trying to imagine them together. It was hard for some reason. He'd probably gotten so use to the idea of Duo being with Hilde that anything else just seemed wrong...should he consider this a warning from his intuition? Odin had said to follow your feelings...

Then again the man had been single all his life and forced to adopt an emotionally crippled war orphan as his 'son', what the hell did he know.

If only he could be sure...He flipped open his laptop, always source of comfort and certitude. And this reminded him of the name of his current project. Opposites attract.

Well they were certainly quite different! Heero started typing furiously, laying out his plans. He didn't pay any attention to the quick rap on his door.

Someone slammed on the wood and a growl sent a bucket of ice water down his spine: "Yuy get out here! Relena's disappeared!!"

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