Part 1

[Won't you come out and play with me?
Step by step ... heart to heart
Left right left ... we all fall down
Like toy soldiers]

There was a pause before three voices chorused. "WHAT?"

The girl eeped and leapt away from Heero. "JEEZUS! Quatre ... what were you THINKING? You should have warned them! It
woulda saved a LOT of heartache!"

Quatre smiled apologetically. "Sorry, Duo. As I said ... the chance never came up. As soon as we got back, another mission was
waiting for us. Oh! I was going to ship this, but ..."

Heero grabbed the length of hair and glared at the girl who Quatre had called Duo. "Since I have no other name for you, I'll call
you Duo as Quatre does. That doesn't mean I believe you really ARE Duo." He glanced back as Wufei and Trowa nodded in
agreement.

Duo smirked as she chuckled. "Not a prob. You'll find it hard to keep up with your objections for very long. Let's go inside. I'm
sure you three have a gazillion questions you want me to answer. Besides ... its lunch time." Duo walked passed Trowa and gave
Wufei a quick kiss on the cheek ... seeming not at all afraid when he glared at her. "You are too cute when you glare." Then she
tilted her head and smiled a wide smile. "You are both MUCH cuter in real life than you are on the VR monitors." Duo ran into the
house before either Wufei or Heero could react to her declaration. "Catch me if you can, guys!"

Quatre laughed and ran after her. "Wait up! I don't know my way around this place!"

Heero, Wufei and Trowa remained outside to confer amongst themselves.

Wufei frowned slightly. "Her mannerisms are like Maxwell's, but any number of people can have the same speech patterns. Since
Winner knows her ... I would not be surprised if she knew about us. This could be an elaborate scheme to comfort us."

Trowa nodded. "Or a delusion they're both suffering. She might have known Duo."

"Or she could actually be telling the truth." Heero clutched the braid tightly. "If she can convince all three of us that she is who
she claims, she can have this. She wanted it. I could see it in her eyes." He entered the manor. "To be honest ... part of me hopes
she is who she claims to be. It would give us a second chance. That's not enough to convince me, though." He entered the house
following the sound of laughter.


*****

The three pilots found themselves led to a large room that was bare of everything save a few spaces on the floor that looked
mobile.

"'Bout time you guys caught up!" Duo spun in a circle. "Welcome to the puppet control center." She grinned and hopped onto a
lean bar. "So ... you guys are just bursting with the need to know just what the hell is going on. Come on ... I know you three are
not good with conversation, but this is more of a drilling session. Besides. It's the first time I get to talk to you face-to-face."

Wufei nodded. "Very well, onna. If you're Duo, then who was the boy we came to know as Duo?"

"The 'boy' was a very elaborate puppet controlled from this room and another room in G's lab identical to this one. A doll ... so to
speak. Next question." Duo started swinging her legs.

Heero's tone was neutral. "Why the deception?"

Duo blinked and shook her head. "You mean to ask why I used the puppet if I was perfectly capable of piloting myself." Duo
stopped swinging her legs and frowned. "It's a really long story that I don't wanna bore you with, so I'll give you the Cliff Notes.
One of G's assistants believed it wasn't a woman's place to pilot a Gundam. Shortly before Deathscythe was finished, I fell ill for
reasons unknown. It was way too late to find and train a new pilot, so I came up with the VR room. G agreed to send a doll in
my place and I would control it until such time as I was well enough to pilot myself. Problem was ... I never got well until Quatre
suggested I come down to Earth and stay at one of his estates. Turned out I was being poisoned in the attempt to keep me sick."

Trowa nodded. "When did Quatre find out?"

Duo didn't hesitate. "When Heero self-detonated." She shot Heero an angry glare before turning her attention back to Trowa.
"Quatre is an empath ... and he could sense a lot of the strong emotions, but he didn't sense anything from the doll. It was either
fess up or lose a valuable ally. I don't have many friends that I could afford to lose one. So I took the choice that seemed the most
beneficial. Good thing too. I might be dead for real if I hadn't left when I did. Controlling that doll via VR was more taxing than
doing the actual work."

Heero narrowed his eyes at what the girl didn't say. "The assistant wanted you."

Duo shrugged. "That's a moot point. Asshole wouldn't take no for an answer. He figured just because I was from L-2 that I was
an automatic whore. I may have done a lot of stuff to keep breathing, but I have a LITTLE dignity. My guess is he was just
waiting me to be too weak to fight him off."

Wufei growled slightly at the thought of someone forcing himself on any woman. "Cowardly curr. So all of your life's history
was made up ... it was ..."

"REAL!" Duo hopped off the bar and glared at Wufei. "I run, I hide, but I DON'T fucking lie!" Her eyes sparked. "Damn you for
even THINKING that! Solo and Sister Helen were real and I loved them both!" She sniffled. "Don't you dare tell me they didn't
exist! They were the only family I ever had! They were the only ones who ever wanted a headstrong little hellion of a tomboy."

"Wasn't the whole doll thing a deception? The whole thing was an act."

Duo reacted to the slight hurt in Heero's voice. "So because I hid behind a doll I'm a deceptive person? What makes you so
different from me? You hide behind your mask as well. You all do." She choked on a sob. "Quatre ... Quatre was supposed to
bring you guys here next week with the doll so you could watch as it was deactivated. I was only just informed that I was well
enough to go out and kick ass. I knew that plan was fucked the instant I was faced with the choice of saving you guys or
destroying the chance of you believing me." Her fists clenched as tears built up in her eyes. "You think I don't know what's going
through your minds? I know how you guys think! You're thinking that this is some backup scheme ... that I've been briefed by
Quatre on every one of you so he could bring you here and say 'Guess what, guys, this is the real so and so' regardless of
whoever got the can." She took a few deep breaths. "You have no fucking idea how much it hurts to have you look at me as if I
were a stranger."

Quatre, who had been in another room entered and placed a hand on the girl's shoulder. "Calm down, Duo. Getting angry at them
won't help you." He handed her a box. "Here's what you asked for."

"Thanks, Q." She opened the small box and walked over to Trowa. "Heero has my braid. I'm a little miffed that the cross couldn't
be saved, but ..." She pulled out a cross on a black cord. "You hold on to this. Give it to me when you believe me." She turned to
Wufei and handed him a bracelet consisting of several yin-yangs linked together. She merely nodded to the rope of hair that Heero
was holding. "Okay! Now that I am sufficiently depressed ... let's go get something to eat! I'll drive."


*****

"Are you TRYING to get us all killed?" Wufei grabbed the door either to keep it closed or to be ready to jump out if the need arose.

"WHEE!!!!" Quatre was in the front seat and having the time of his life.

Trowa groaned. "Quatre ... you yell 'whee' on a roller coaster. You do NOT yell 'whee' in a car going 105 MPH in a 55 MPH
zone!"

Duo giggled. "Your point being?"

Trowa growled. "SLOW DOWN!"

Duo grinned at them in the rear view mirror. "Chill out, Tro-man!" She turned to Quatre. "Keep an eye out for that exit I told you
about."

"We just passed it!" Quatre pointed to the off ramp.

"SHIT! Hang on, guys!" In a pure move of craziness, Duo made a U-turn and drove the distance against traffic to the exit. "Why
didn't you tell me we were coming up to the ramp?"

"You were too busy talking to Trowa." Quatre hadn't reacted to Duo's driving although both Heero and Wufei looked as if they
were going to kill her if only to keep her from driving again.

"Sorry! Oh! SPOT!" While still going 105, she slammed onto the brakes and executed a perfect 360 ... sliding into the spot and
stopping short of hitting the car in front of her. "Here we are!" Without opening the door, she slid out the window and hopped
over the car roof.

Trowa waited until his stomach settled and held his hand out. In it was the cross. "I'll trade you the keys for this cross. Only Duo
would be skilled enough and CRAZY enough to pull that off without a hitch."

"Gotcha! Sorry, Tro!" She tossed the keys and deftly caught her cross. "Yosh! One down, two to go." She put the cross on and
walked into the restaurant.

A host sped over to the group. "Ah! The goddess who has deep pools of violet for eyes has graced us with her presence yet
again. What is your desire, fair one?"

Duo rolled her eyes. "That you quit with the 'violet-pool' crap! I swear if ONE more person refers to my eyes as 'deep violet
pools' I'm gonna yak!" She shook her head. "There are a million words to describe my eyes. I'm really sick of the violet."

"They're more like orchids anyway."

Duo spun to stare at Heero and quirked a grin at him. "You actually PICKED a color? I'm flattered!"

Heero growled a little to hide his blush as Quatre giggled.


*****

After lunch and a little shopping, Duo settled herself between Heero and Wufei.

"You didn't eat much."

"Hm?" Duo turned to Wufei and noticed the puzzled look on his face. "What was that?"

"Maxwell was a human vaccum cleaner when it came to food." Wufei kept his eyes facing front. "You didn't eat as much."

Duo shrugged. "It was easier to gain energy from burning food than to plug the 'bot into a wall socket. Less conspicuous ... and
the sugar explained the sometimes odd behavior, did it not?" Then she sighed. "Besides ... I wasn't all that hungry. I usually do eat
more than a salad and a few breadsticks." She sighed sadly. "Can you blame me for not being that hungry?"

Wufei nodded. The answer did make sense.

Heero studied the girl. "Why do you want the braid?"

Duo spun around to meet Heero's eyes. "Simple ... it's mine. I couldn't find a material that was suitable as synthetic hair. Sure it'll
grow back, but it took me years to get it that long."

Quatre spun in his seat. "I never did ask ... why the WHOLE thing?"

Duo giggled. "It seemed like a good idea at the time? I mean ... if Oz was told that one of the Gundam pilots was a possible 'bot
remote controlled from the colonies ... who would they have picked?" She tilted her head. "Probably Trowa, Heero, or Woofers.
They wouldn't look twice at the baka American with the long-ass hair." She grinned as Wufei grumbled. "Hm? What was that,
Feifei?"

"Wufei! My name is Wufei! NOT Woofers ... NOT Feifei ... WUFEI!"

Duo shrugged. "Whatever, Woofie." She reached into the bag Heero was holding and started groping around.

Heero frowned. "What are you doing?"

Duo stuck her tongue out of the corner of her mouth in an expression of concentration. "I'm thirsty ... I'm trying to get a soda."

Heero was about to reach in and get one for her when she groped him. He was about to give her a deathglare when he noticed she
was blushing.

"Ummmm ... that's not QUITE what I was looking for ..." Duo decided to get a little flirting in. "But I might want it later if you're
interested."

Heero rolled his eyes and reached into the bag to direct her hand to a soda bottle. "Baka."

Duo was still blushing. "Gomen nasai."

Heero nodded once in acceptance of her sincere apology.

Duo sipped her soda miserably. 'Great! PERFECT way to win him over. You just lost some MAJOR points there, girl. Consider
yourself lucky he didn't pull a gun out from somewhere and shoot you.' She leaned back against the seat and sighed. 'I don't stand
a chance now. It's hopeless!'