Part 2

[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]

Wufei roused himself when a sense of something wrong nudged him. He went through all the possibilities one by one. It wasn't
danger, so he knew he didn't have to rush into action. As he dressed, he glanced at the clock ... 4:37 AM. It was either really late
at night or really early in the morning depending upon how one looked at it. He frowned as he walked out of his room. It slowly
occured to him that the whole scenario seemed familiar and he headed to the hangar where the Gundams were stored. When he
reached the hangar, he looked up. Although he somehow knew what to expect, seeing two feet dangling so high above him
unnerved him a little bit. He shook his head and quickly climbed up the scaffolding.

When he reached the top and looked over, he saw what he expected. The girl who claimed to be Duo was sitting astride one of
the new suit's fingers staring out at nothing. It actually gave credence to her claim. He had caught the Deathscythe pilot in that
exact pose once or twice. It usually meant that something was troubling the American. "Aren't you worried that you'll fall?"

Duo turned to Wufei and grinned. "Hey, Wu-man! Pull up a finger and take a load off!" She let the smile fall. "I was just thinkin'
... nuthin' important. Just that this whole war sucks."

Wufei sat so he could study the girl. "Explain."

Duo sighed as she let herself gaze out at nothing. "I hate this. Look at all of us. Not one of us is old enough, by American
standards, to drive a car. We're not old enough to drink. Hell ... we aren't even old enough to be drafted. Yet here we are ...
piloting the deadliest machines ever to appear on Earth." She looked down and sighed. "I should be worried about what I'm going
to wear on Friday when I go out to a club with my friends. But do I get that? No! Instead, I have to worry that I'll be splattered
against the concrete during the next mission. The only friends I have are a bunch of guys who are just as fucked in the head as I
am." She wiggled her toes. "We're just kids, Wufei. We're kids who never got a chance to really be kids. Heero was raised by an
assassin and then by Dr. J. I was a street mouse who was befriended by a street rat until a plague wiped half of us out ... then I
was stuck in a church for about a year - being adopted and returned like a three-day rental - Until the Feds destroyed it. Trowa
was a mercenary ... raised on the battlefield and piloting Mobile Suits since he was old enough to reach the controls. Quatre prolly
had a fairly decent upbringing, but he's the only son out of 30 ... and the youngest to boot. Then there's you."

Duo rested her head against the finger and met Wufei's eyes. "You were taught from early on to fight with honor. It's part of
your heritage. That's not bad, but the Feds come along and your wife got killed and your whole colony got blasted to bits. We're
just kids, Wufei. Adolescence is hard enough without having to deal with all this shit, too." Duo turned to bury her face in her
arms. "We're kids ... who never got a chance to learn what it meant to be kids."

Wufei frowned at the sense the girl made. He blinked as she climbed onto the top of the finger and stood on the dubious surface
with her arms outstretched as if in invitation.

"To tell the truth ... I come out here when I'm the most depressed. I think one of these days, I'll get so fed up with life that I'll
just step off." She sighed and hopped back into the palm of the Gundam's hand. "Yes I am fucked in the head, Feifei. I have to be
to be able to deal with all the garbage the mads dish out. To be totally honest, you and Heero aren't making things any easier."

"What do you mean?" His breath caught as her anguished eyes met his.

"I mean that I used to be able to kid around with you two and flirt to my heart's content. Sure I meant it, but you were
comfortable with me because you thought I was a guy, but now the whole deal takes on a new light." She sank into a sitting
position and pulled her knees against her chest. "Heero avoids me like I have the plague, and this is the first time you've even
acknowledged me." She sniffled miserably. "It HURTS, Wufei."

Wufei knelt beside her. "Surely you can talk to Quatre ..."

"That's not the POINT!" She choked a little. "I used to sleep in the VR suit ... just so I could hear Heero breathing. It soothed me
... even that annoying typing soothed me. And whenever I was almost completely aslep and felt the impression of something
covering the doll ... it made me believe that someone gave a damn whether I lived or died." She shook her head. "And watching
you going through your daily workout routine was just captivating. I could watch you for hours." She shook her head sadly.
"That's gone ... it's gone and I'm scared that it'll never come back."

Wufei watched as the girl ran as quickly as she could from him. When he saw her below he called out to her. "Duo!" When she
paused and looked up, he nodded. "Wait a moment!"

Duo tilted her head and studied Wufei as he approached. "What's the deal?"

Wufei gave the girl a steady look. "I thought you would like to watch me while I went through my routine. It would give me a
chance to verify your story."

Duo's eyes brightened. "I'd love to! Matter of fact, I've been practicing, and I'd like to join you! I wanna know if I'm doing it
right."


*****

Quatre frowned as he noticed the two empty places. "Does anyone know where Wufei and Duo are?"

Heero sipped his coffee. "Wufei's probably finishing up his morning exercises and if that girl really is Duo, she's probably
watching him." He met Quatre's eyes and was a little surprised when the blonde nodded.

Not two minutes later, the girl who claimed to be Duo burst into the room. "Good MORNING, everyone!" She practically skipped
to an empty seat and started wolfing down her breakfast.

Quatre smiled at her obviously good mood and sipped some orange juice. "Did you sleep well?"

Duo frowned and then shrugged. "Didn't sleep at all, actually. I was up all night thinking."

Trowa couldn't resist. "Oh ... I was wondering what that smell was."

Duo tossed a blueberry at him in retaliation. "Trowa ... if you're going to insult me, at least come up with something more
original! That has to be one of the oldest intelligence put-downs on the planet!" Her smile told him she wasn't insulted in the least.

A flash on the girl's wrist caught Heero's eyes and he scowled when he noticed she was wearing the Yin-yang bracelet she had
told Wufei to hold onto until he believed her.

Wufei chose that moment to walk in. He sat down beside Heero and gave him a look that said 'I'll tell you about it later.' He picked
up his glass and sipped the water while he watched Duo chattering away with Quatre and Trowa. He blinked when he realized
that she had spoken to him. "What was that?"

Duo made a face. "Where WERE you just now? I said that I think you'd be a great teacher. I learned just by watching you. Of
course, you tended to explain whenever I asked what you were doing."

"Maxwell ... you never ASKED. You pestered until I couldn't ignore you anymore." His lips quirked and his face softened briefly
to take the sting away.

"Ask ... pester ... same difference." She smiled brilliantly. "ANYWAY ... what's on the agenda for our perfect soldier today?
Laptop until noon, tweaking things on Wing from one until five, cleaning your guns from six until nine?" She rolled her eyes when
he blinked in surprise. "Be serious, Heero! You've been avoiding me in the most obvious ways." Her smile fell into a saddened
expression. "Still ... with some of the training you received, it's amazing you even have a variety at all."

"I have not been avoiding you." Heero finished his coffee and stood to leave the room.

"Bullshit! Every time I walk into a room, you either leave right away or finish whatever you're doing THEN leave. How much
tightening does that bolt on Wing's left ankle need anyway?" She stood up and walked over to him. "How am I gonna convince
you if you won't let me near you? I don't wanna follow you around like a lost puppy, Heero. That's Releena's job."

Heero turned his attention from the girl to Wufei and waited as Wufei approached. "A moment."

Duo bit her lip as the two boys left the room. 'Two down ... one to go. Just my luck that the last one is going to be a pain in the
ass!'


*****

"Well?"

Wufei leaned against the wall. "We were talking earlier. Have you ever known Duo to carry out a conversation without cracking a
joke?"

Heero shook his head. "Never."

Wufei nodded. "I asked her about that after we had a serious talk. I seem to be the only one Maxwell could ever carry out a
serious conversation with. I asked her why that was. She told me I was the only one who never told her that she wasn't like that.
Apparantly, her method of stress relief is taken as who she really is."

Heero blinked. "Duo was capable of serious conversations?"

Wufei scowled at Heero's incredulous tone. "That's the exact attitude that makes her keep the clown mask on." He frowned in
thought. "She's not an actress ... she's too open with her answers and too genuine in her emotions. And she's not crazy ... her
eyes are those of a sane person's. Your problem, Yuy, is that you don't really WANT to accept the truth. Spend some time with
her. She's right. You have been avoiding her."

"Hn! I'll see you at lunch."


*****

Heero scowled as he tightened a bolt on Wing's ankle. 'I have NOT been avoiding the girl! I have things to do!'

A voice startled him from his thoughts. "How long you gonna tighten that bolt? You've been at it for twenty minutes now. It must
be stripped."

Heero scowled as the girl examined the bolt. "How did you manage to sneak up on me?"

Duo smiled sadly as she removed the stripped bolt. "Yup! It's useless now, Heero." She turned that smile onto him. "As good as
the 'bot was ... I had to be better. That VR suit is a pain." She fished another bolt out of the spare parts box and tossed it to
Heero. "You thirsty? There's a fridge over there with water and protein drinks."

"Hn!" Heero secured the bolt quickly and stood to leave, only to meet with the girl's angry eyes.

"Listen up, Yuy. Stop acting like a prick and stay put for a while. I know you're a smart person and have more words in your
vocabulary than 'hn', 'aa', 'I'll kill you', 'idiot', 'mission accepted' and 'mission complete.' USE some of them and talk to me." She
blocked Heero's exit and met his stare evenly. She was not going to back down this time. "Please talk to me ... fight with me. Tell
me I'm an irrational moron who's a danger to the mission. ANYTHING, Heero, would be better than you avoiding me or ignoring
me altogether."

Heero nodded once and jerked his head back to the break area in the hangar. He scowled as he contemplated the questions he'd
ask. He studied the mock-casual pose of the girl as he sat. "How long do I get to drill you?"

Duo smiled sadly. "Until you get tired of asking me questions." She sat down and rested her chin on her arms, which she had put
on the table.

Heero nodded. "What's your real name?"

Duo blinked. "You mean the one I was born with or the one I got from Solo?"

Heero shrugged at that. "Either one will do, but both would be good."

"I don't remember my real name. Solo found me wandering the streets about twelve years ago. As to the name HE gave me ..."
She smiled sweetly. "I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours."

"So your name isn't Duo Maxwell?"

Duo shrugged in an offhand way. "Duo is a codename ... like Heero Yuy is YOURS. My taken last name is Maxwell in honor of
Father Francis Maxwell. Duo was a sort of joke ... I was in two places at the same time."

"How'd we first meet?"

"Oooo! Going to basics? We met on a pier when you were about to blast Releena's head to bits. I saved her by shooting you
twice. Biggest mistake of my life, I think. The girl treats me like I'm worth less than the dirt she walks on just because I had the
misfortune of not being born into money." Duo shook her head. "And she follows you around everywhere. At least whenever I
met up with you, it was a genuine accident. Releena deliberately follows you. The girl's mental." She paused frowning. "And you
never did apologize for stripping my buddy down for spare parts."

"It was necessary for a mission." Heero didn't even realize what was happening

"Pfft!" Duo blew her bangs out of her face. "Man, Heero, you really need to lighten up about those missions. You stand out more
due to the way you try to be inconspicouos than I do by being boisterous. We're SUPPOSED to be hormonal teenagers." She held
up her fingers. "You eat health food instead of burgers and the like, you don't even acknowledge people who say 'hi' to you, You
work at being a straight 'A' student and I swear you score perfect on every test, you go out of your way to stay away from
normal kids, etcetera etcetera etcetera."

"Still ... there's a difference between acting normal and attracting attention."

Duo rolled her eyes. "Like YOU would know? Why don't you tell this to the airhead? SHE needs the lecture more than I do. I
spotted that Oz officer with Releena. If Oz ever found out that she was dogging you, they would follow HER."

Heero sighed, caught up in the discussion. "Duo ... we've had this conversation how many times?"

Duo frowned a second. "Ummm ... four hundred and ... thirteen times including this one. Can't you just tell her to piss up a rope?"

Heero let out a bark of laughter. "She might just do it if she thought that's what I really wanted."

Duo giggled at the mental image. "Hey Heero?"

Heero smirked and closed his eyes ... tempted to try it out just once. "Hm?"

"Can I have my braid back now?" She smiled impishly as Heero gave her a shocked look.


END OF PART 2

Father Francis Maxwell - Heh. I named him after the patron saint of animals (I don't remember how it's spelled, but I believe it
was something like Assissi or Assisi?)