Mission Implausible + Part 4 (cont)

-- oOo --

The pilots were able to keep up Duo's routine of lessons for a couple more days before the necessity of preparing for the raid demanded their complete attention. Trowa left to secure their base and do the preliminary scouting, while the other pilots began the task of preparing the arms and equipment needed in the operation for transport.

This meant Duo was pretty much left to his own devices. This suited the child. Although social by nature, and enjoying his lessons, he had an agenda of his own to pursue. It was this agenda that led him to the bedroom Heero and Wufei shared.

Between the beds there was a bedside cabinet with two cupboards. One of them, Heero's, was unlocked. Duo had already investigated it. All it held were a few neatly folded socks and an extension cord for his laptop. Boring!

The other one was locked. Duo knew it wasn't by Wufei because Wufei had spent some time looking for the key. None of the other pilots had had it and so the little cupboard had remained locked.

It was not going to remain locked for much longer. Duo pulled the bits of wire he'd appropriated while Trowa hadn't been watching him out from his pocket. He'd spent some time shaping them so they made reasonable lock picking tools but it was now time to test them. After all, he had to keep his hand in somehow. There was no point in getting soft while he stayed with the pilots --

That said, he settled down to his task with all the application of a professional.

About twenty determined minutes later the cupboard fell open.

"Thank-you, thank-you!" Duo waved to an imaginary audience. "It was nothing folks!"

He pulled the cupboard open eagerly. To pause in confusion.

After all, who locks a cupboard leaving the key inside?

Duo set the key, hanging on a hook just inside the cupboard to one side carefully, and begin lifting out the contents of the cupboard. It was a regular treasure store. Chocolate bars, a couple of screw drivers and wires that Duo could tell at a glance would be perfect for bypassing all kinds of locks, and a pile of comic books. Duo flicked through those with interest but put them back as too adult to be interesting. There were some tapes and CDs stored in the cupboard as well, but what really interested Duo was a package of photos lodged at the back of the cupboard just behind a loose piece of board. He turned them over intently.

Quatre smiled at him, a paper crown lopsided on his head. He was seated in Trowa's lap, there was a cake behind them -- a birthday? Cool.

Wufei looking annoyed as he tried to avoid his photo being taken -- Duo had to snicker at that one. A strange girl he didn't know, Heero smiling -- Duo had to take another look at that one but it wasn't a trick of the light -- with his arm around another guy that --

Duo paused.

Okay, this was officially weird. He'd thought he was the only guy with a plait that long -- and woah, this guy's hair was even a similar color.

"Freaky," he murmured turning the photo over to see if there was anything written on the other side -- to hear voices coming down the hall. Duo pushed the cupboard door shut and dived under the closest bed with the stuff from the cupboard that was still out.

Split seconds later the door opened and Heero entered the room. Duo held his breath as the Japanese pilot walked over to the desk and began to set up his laptop. As he went to plug in the adapter at the wall, he passed the cupboard door -- which had ever so slightly slipped ajar.

Duo crossed his fingers -- please, please, please --

Heero plugged in the adapter, went to stand up and paused. He opened the cupboard slowly. For several long moments that was all he did.

Then he shut the cupboard and stood.

"You can come out. I won't yell at you."

What? Duo froze. Did he know -- was he tricking?

"It will be a lot less humiliating for the both of us if you come out of your hiding place of your own free will," Heero said. "I'd hate to have to try and drag you out -- "

Duo decided he didn't like that either. He crawled out from under the bed.

The Japanese pilot looked at him with his usual set expression. "You've been busy."

"I wasn't doing nothing wrong," Duo said. "I was only looking."

"I see," Heero knelt again to the cupboard. "And where did you find the key."

"That was the really weird part," Duo said, forgetting he was talking to Heero. "It was on the inside of the cupboard, on a little nail -- "

"I won't ask how you got in then," Heero said as Duo faltered. "Is this all that was in the cupboard?"

Duo gave him the things that he still had with him mutely resentful.

Heero packed them all away in the cupboard. "Do you think you could lock it again from the outside? And I don't mean with the key."

Duo hesitated. Could he really mean -- "I guess I could try. I've never done that before."

Heero put the key back on the little hook. "Why not give it a shot?"

It shouldn't be any trickier than trying to get a thing unlocked -- all you had to do was catch the little hooks inside the lock and then jiggle them till they fell in the right places --

"How come you're not mad?" Duo asked as he worked.

"Why should I be mad?" Heero asked.

"Most people wouldn't be happy to know they've taken home a kid who can get past their locks."

"We're not most people," Heero said. "You may have noticed."

"Whose stuff is this anyway?" Duo asked. "I don't think Wufei would have had us all looking for a key he had carefully stored in the cupboard."

Heero hesitated. "There used to be five of us pilots."

"The guy with the braid? Was he a pilot?"

"How did you know that?" Heero demanded.

Duo's eyes widened, that was almost yelling at him. "There were photos, in the cupboard. I didn't damage anything -- "

"I'm sorry," Heero was -- apologising? To him? "He was my best friend -- more than a best friend. I still have a hard time believing that he's gone."

Duo was interested. Heero actually sounded upset -- "So what happened? Did he abandon you?"

"No -- No, he would never do that." Heero sighed. "We don't know. He went on a mission and never came back."

"Oh," Duo said. "That's too bad." He tugged at the door to check it was really locked. "He looked cool -- and he has some neat junk." He had another thought. "Is that why you picked me? Because I look kinda like him?"

"Something like that," Heero said. "You're a lot like him in other ways too -- personality, inventiveness -- you remind me a lot of him. I was angry when you first arrived because you were so much like him I was worried you would replace him -- but you're different too. I see that now -- "

"What's his name?"

Heero paused a moment then answered. "Maxwell."

"Ya think maybe we might be related? I mean, we look kind of alike, and it'd be neat to have actual family -- not that you guys aren't cool and everything -- "

"It's a possibility, I'm sure," Heero said. "Now you'd better get going. And if you'd like I'll forget I ever saw the cupboard open."

So he now had two good hiding places and some tools that would seriously come in handy. He'd also noticed the pilot's toolbox while hiding under the bed.

Knowing about Maxwell explained a lot of other things too. Why Quatre knew what kind of sandwiches he liked without asking, why occasionally the pilots looked sad around him, why there were five beds.

Duo was quiet the rest of the day; he had a lot to think about.

Quatre was concerned; he fussed over Duo whenever he had a free minute. "Do you think he's coming down with something?" he asked Wufei and Heero as the pilots finished lunch, Duo pursuing his own devices elsewhere. "He hasn't been this quiet since he first arrived. Do you think he's lonely? What if he's homesick?"

"He's fine Quatre," Wufei said. "He's a tough little kid, a couple of hours on his own isn't going to kill him."

"I told him about Duo," Heero announced.

Wufei and Quatre turned to look at him.

"You disobeyed a mission parameter?"

Strangely Quatre didn't sound angry, just . . . speculative. Heero nodded. "He found a photo of Duo, remarked upon the similarities -- I told him he was a pilot, our friend, who was missing -- he asked me if the reason the scientists had chosen him was because they looked so similar and I said that it was partly that."

"Neatly handled, Yuy," Wufei said. "The name similarity would have caused problems though."

Heero smirked. "Not at all. I introduced him as Maxwell."

"Clever," Wufei conceded, pausing as the door opened and Duo came in with a video.

Heero was surprised as both Wufei and Quatre flinched. Duo sat down at the table, the video in front of him. "I want to watch my video. Can one of you put it on for me?"

"But you've seen it a million times already!"

"Don't you want to watch something different? Like -- uh -- cartoons or something?"

Heero had a different question. "Why can't he put it on himself? I mean, a video player is not that hard to operate."

"I promise I won't try and take it apart again," Duo said. "Really."

"We had a collective agreement," Quatre explained to Heero. "Duo's not allowed to use electronic equipment by himself for a month and promises not to take things apart without asking permission first. If he keeps his promise then we'll let him use things like the video player and the microwave again -- "

Heero looked over to the microwave. Come to think of it, it was a slightly newer model than the one that had used to be there previously. "What happened to the microwave?"

"You know how the always tell you that you can't put metal stuff in microwaves but never tell you why?" Duo said enthusiastically.

"Now we know why," Wufei said dryly.

"Hey!" Duo protested. "It was an experiment."

"No more experiments, please," Quatre said with a groan.

"So can I watch my video?"

"Sure," Heero said, collecting some very nasty looks from Wufei and Quatre as he stood. "I'll put it on for you." As Duo took his video into the lounge, Heero faced the other pilots. "What is so bad about 'The Sound of Music?'"

"Wait until the ninth time you've watched it," Wufei said darkly as he followed Quatre out to the hangar.

Heero shrugged and went into the lounge. Duo was putting the video into the slot.

"See? I'm touching the video, not the video player," he said. "That's allowed."

"I see," Heero said. He turned the video on and fastforwarded through the previews. "What happened to the microwave?"

"It blew up," Duo grinned. "It was really cool. Trowa had to come in with the fire extinguisher."

The movie started then, Duo staring at the screen in rapt attention. Heero settled back to watch, bemused about what the child could find so intriguing in it -- there were no mobile suits, no humorous cartoon animals --

Duo knew every line of dialogue, Heero soon discovered, and every song too. It was rather endearing, the way his lips moved as the characters talked, and the fact that he seemed to have forgotten he considered Heero the enemy --

Duo sighed happily as the Von Trapp family made their escape into safety. "Can I watch it again?"

"But -- it only just finished," Heero said.

"I want to see it again," Duo said. "Just the start? Please?"

Heero could see what Wufei and Quatre was concerned about. "What is it about the movie you like so much?" he asked.

Duo shrugged.

Heero sighed and again the nuns wondered how do you solve a problem like Maria? He really didn't see the attraction. Sure it was a nice enough story, but parts of it were cloying and he didn't quite see why they had to sing all the time --

Like now. If you have a problem with someone, you didn't sing a song about it. If people did, well, Heero would be out a job for one thing, and people would have lost their voices years ago -- Heero shot a glance at the child totally absorbed in the film, twisting his braid as he watched. At least he was enjoying it --

Wait a minute.

Duo -- his Duo -- played with his braid only when upset. Heero took a closer look at the child and saw that his face was clouded.

"What's wrong?"

Duo blinked at him. "I was just thinking," he said. "Sister Helen used to fuss like that when I did anything."

"You miss her?" Heero asked, a sinking feeling curling in the pit of his stomach.

"I worry about her," Duo said tugging at his braid. "Sometimes the younger kids act up and she has a hard time if I'm not there to help her out." The kid looked at him suddenly. "Hey, you think I'll get to see them again?"

Heero looked at him. In his mind was the newspaper report of the Maxwell Church massacre.

"I have to go check on Wing."

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