I do care

 Duo watched his reflection as he worked on his hair. He occasionally had to wipe the mirror clean of condense, for he had just gotten out of a good, hot shower. When his hair was finally brushed he divided into three equal strands it and started braiding, a handling he was so used to that he was sure he could do it neatly even if he did it asleep. His hands moved the strands automatically as he studied his face and upper body.

 He really cherished his hair. The other pilots had frequently asked him why he kept it so long and he had always given them the same reply –because it reminded him of his past. They had taken it the wrong way, though. Wufei had snorted, asking why he wanted to remember his past he wanted to forget. Trowa and Heero hadn't reacted much at all –just an acknowledgement from the unibanged boy and a silent look from the perfect soldier– and Quatre had started asking many more questions Duo didn't feel he was ready to answer yet. Sure, these pilots were his partners, but until the war ended, he could not afford to actually become friends, right?

 For a while, the braided boy's gaze shifted to the reflection of his chest. There were four scars there, one ugly, thick one and three faded. He remembered the stories behind each of them, two of the faded ones had come from oz-torture. They had a knife so thin, that every time it cut your skin, it gave the same feeling as that of a paper cut in your finger. They had given him so many cuts, drawing just a little bit of blood every time, but Duo hadn't given them the satisfaction of a sound. It wasn't until they had left that Duo had broken broke down, sobbing quietly. The two cuts that had left scars were the result of the soldier losing his patience with him.

 The other faded scar had happened when he was young and had been trying to get away. He didn't remember what he had stolen anymore, but he had run into a fence and had to climb over it. Somebody had grabbed his leg to try and pull him back so he had to make some moves to get free. The scar marked the place where his skin had been torn open because of something sharp that had stuck out of the fence.

 The ugly, thick one stood out clearly, Duo hated that. He had gotten it in a one-on-one fight with an oz-soldier when escaping. It was too close range for the other one to use his gun so he had gone for the knife instead. He had plunged it into Duo who had gone practically mad at that and had ended up killing the guy with his own knife...

 Duo sighed. Those memories were not pretty ones.

 That was why his braid was so important to him. It reminded him not only of the bad times, but the better times as well. How he used to laugh with Solo when people were looking for a girl, how sister Helen came in every morning to braid his hair, how she always patted his head after she was done, telling him to be a good boy today... It reminded him of the people who had loved him, cared for him, but most of all, it reminded him of what he was capable of.

 When the Maxwell church had burned down he had sworn that, unless he would find that person his heart belonged to, he would never, ever let anyone see him with his hair loose. And up till now he had been capable of keeping that vow.

 Duo tied a towel around his waist, knowing that was probably not necessary. Most likely, his stoic roommate who went by the code name 'Heero Yuy' would be sitting at his laptop; typing away God knew what that boy was typing.

 The braided boy sighed and put his grin in place, before he opened the door and stepped into the room he shared with mister-perfect-soldier. First thing Duo did was scan the room, just out of habit, making sure he was safe for now. Nothing seemed out of order, the door was closed, window closed, the two beds were made, Duo had a pair of clothes spread out on the bed, his priest outfit he was going to wear today. Heero Yuy was sitting at the desk –surprise, surprise– with his laptop, noticing him, acknowledging him as no threat and ignoring him further.

 Duo's grin widened. "Hiya Heero!" He said cheerful as he made his way over to the stoic boy, "What'cha doin' this time, buddy?" He glanced at the screen, or at least tried to, but the moment his hand came in contact with the other boy's shoulder, Heero hit the hand away and glared at his roommate. Duo knew that look and he knew he had to keep his distance. But that didn't mean he couldn't continue annoying the boy, right? He backed off and walked over to his bed while the perfect soldier returned his attention to the computer.

 Duo pretended to be offended by the other pilot's reaction. "Aw, c'mon Heero, you're no fun, you know. I'm only trying to make buddies with you!" Duo glanced in the direction of his roommate and was satisfied when he saw his back turned to him. He took the towel from his waste and started dressing himself. "How in the world are we gonna complete missions together successfully if I don't know who I'm working with, huh? I'm just trying to get to know you and you seem pretty interested in your laptop so I shouldn't I be as well? You don't have to..."

 At that point he was interrupted by a lout grunt. "Shut up, baka." The stoic boy said monotonously.

 Duo sighed inwardly as he put on the top of his priest outfit and tried to get the long braid out from under it safely, without messing it up too much.

 "Don't call me that, I got a name, you know, one I enjoy very much, one that is sufficient as well, besides, it's shorter than baka so if you're typing a report it would go faster to type Duo than to type baka... But then again, you probably type 02 instead of a name, don't you?" Duo started with his pants now. "Yeah, people tend to do that, doctors do that too, giving us numbers instead of names. A name should be something given to you by others, something you can cherish, something you know you are remembered by. I gave myself my own name, ya know. I already told ya before how I got my first name. Hell, knowing you, you've probably researched my whole past so you already know all the shit I'm tellin' ya. That way you don't have to listen to my ramblings."

 Duo sat down and started working on his footgear. His voice was still overly cheery as he continued his talking, even though he didn't feel like that at all.

 "It's not completely true, though, that I chose my whole name. When I lived at the Maxwell orphanage, father Maxwell once made me a big wooden nametag, carved my name in it with a knife, said I could hang above my bed. I couldn't read well at that time and father Maxwell refused to say what it said. He just said that the sooner I learned how to read, the sooner I would know. Yeah, that man knew what to do to get me stimulated for such things as studying. I was really surprised when I could read and I read 'Duo Maxwell'. No one had ever bothered giving me a last name before. Called myself just that ever since!" Completely dressed now, Duo got off the bed and walked back to the boy who was staring at his computer, typing something now and than. "Sooo, Hee-chan, I'm just gonna have to punish you now. For every time you call me 'baka' I get to call you Hee-chan twice! Agreed Hee-chan?"

 The other pilot just went on ignoring Duo and the braided boy finally decided he had enough. He walked out of the room and closed the door behind him, only to fall back and lean against it. "Who am I kidding," he murmured, "He doesn't listen anyway, it's not like he cares." He sighed deeply before he pushed himself away from the door and started down the hall.


 Duo pushed in the security code before he entered the safe house. He was glad to be back, the mission had taken a lot from him. Though he was not hurt that badly this time, he was dead tired and all he really wanted to do was go to sleep. He didn't even think he would make it to bed if he were to take a shower before going to sleep. He couldn't go to bed yet, though, he had to inform Heero and Wufei of 'mission completed' first.

 Trowa and Quatre were in another safe house. All five of them together only made them like cattle. Oz was pretty dangerous these days and they couldn't risk all of them being captured at once. At least this way, if they somehow managed to catch onto them, some would survive to continue fighting.

 Wufei sat on the couch with a book in his lap. He was staring at it, though Duo noticed he wasn't reading anything. He probably expected the braided pilot to burst into chatter and make him loose his concentration anyway. No luck for the Chinese boy tonight, though.

 Duo leaned against the doorframe and when he didn't speak up immediately, Wufei did it for him. "Status?"

 "Mission accomplished." Duo grinned as he tiredly stuck a thumb up. Wufei made a sound of acknowledgement, but never lifted his head to actually look at his fellow pilot. "Where's Heero?" Duo asked finally.

 "Left on a mission yesterday."

 "Really?" The braided one wondered. "Haven't heard him say anything about it."

 "Came in right after you left." Was the only explanation Wufei offered.

 "Hmm." Duo pushed himself from the doorframe and started heading for the stairs. "Well, I'm off to bed. Man, those newby Ozzies sure can run, ya know. One almost managed to match my speed."

 Wufei didn't comment on that, but Duo didn't really mind. He shuddered at the memory of the mission. The shinigami in him had wanted to kill them all there and then, but his common sense had told him there were too many on his trail. He'd had to loose a couple if he'd wanted to have a chance of making it out of there alive. Luckily for him those soldiers had just been transferred there and they hadn't had a chance to get to know that city all that well yet. It had given Duo the advantage since he had purposely left early to explore the city for possible hideouts. He still couldn't avoid killing some of those bastards, though, and he had to leave that same night before Oz was organised enough to comb out the city in order to find him.

 Tired but content Duo retreated into the room he shared with Heero. At least now he didn't have to worry about that boy keeping him from his much needed sleep with the noise his fingers made on the laptop.

 Duo turned on the light and started taking off his blue coat, dropping it to the floor right where he stood. He would wash his clothes tomorrow or something, he didn't feel up to it now.

 The pilot turned over to his bed but then he stopped moving. He squinted his eyes as he concentrated them on the object on his pillow. Slowly he made his way over there and picked the rectangle piece of wood up. It was about as big as his stretched-out hand and seemed to once have been part of a plank or a board. Something was carved in it, but his shadow was blocking the light so he couldn't read it. He turned on the lamp on his bedside and used the light source to read the neatly carved letters. He gasped as he realised it read his own name.

 He stood there for a moment, staring at the objects as if he saw burning water, but when he moved his fingers he felt some grooves on the other side as well. He turned the object over to read what was carved into the other side and his eyes went wide as he made out the three words.

 I do care

 Duo couldn't help but smile at the wonderful gift he had been given. The other pilot had no idea just how much this meant to him. He placed the object under his pillow, next to the knife he kept there, determined to keep this peace of treasure with him for a long, long time.

 Duo smiled at the object once more before he placed his pillow back. Then he sighed and headed for the bathroom. He wasn't going to sleep anytime soon anyway. Despite his determination not to, he felt like for the first time in a long while he had a friend again, however stoic the boy was.  

And he loved that feeling.

~ The End~