"Duo..."  

Quatre could tell the boy was angry by the way he jerked the lock on the door.  "What's wrong?"

"Everything," Duo muttered, staring at the flimsy lock before glancing over to the pale boy.  "Don't mind me, I'm not happy unless I've got something to
complain about."  

He gestured to the second bed in the room and raised an eyebrow.  "Can I?"

"Oh, of course," said Quatre.

Smiling, Quatre sat on the bed across from him.  It was surprising how nice it was to have a friend in his room, and he realized he wasn't used to having people
over.  When he went away to schools, he tended to stick to himself.   

"Your roommate seems nice," he commented.

It was said in such an honest tone that Duo shoved down the vicious reaction that tried to make its way past his lips.  "Yeah, he's a real character.  Tell me,
what classes are you taking?"

"Well,” Quatre hedged, “after basketball, I'm taking regular courses."  

He didn't know what level Duo was at, and he remembered his discussion with Wufei well.   Hopefully, Duo wasn't one of those in the lower courses.  Quatre
didn't like to think that he'd made fun of what was turning out to be a friend.  

"I'll have to take a language course,” he continued carefully, “but I haven't decided which one yet."

"Kinda vague, aren't you?"  Duo smirked when the boy flushed lightly.  “Come on, Quatre, it's a simple enough question.  I just wanted to know if you're in any
of the courses I'm going to be taking.  Right now, basketball's my only gym class, so I'm taking some technical courses.  Physics, Chemistry, you know."

"Really?” asked Quatre.  “I didn't know they had a science program."  

It was obvious that Duo was in the higher classes, and Quatre felt bad that he'd doubted him.   Still, there wasn't any way he could have know better, what with
the majority of the classes he'd been in that day having been so small.  

"If I didn't already have my classes scheduled, I wouldn't mind taking some of those.  I've always been interested in science."  

Duo gave him a skeptical look, and Quatre shook his head firmly. "Really, I'm better at business courses, but I'm good at math."

"Oh, I'm not doubting you," Duo said quickly, "I'm just surprised you didn't know about the school's courses already.  Didn't you look at them before you came
here?"

"No, my father picked my classes for me."

That was a new one on him, but Duo wasn't sure if he should comment on it.  The blonde boy had dropped his eyes and he looked uncomfortable.  Deciding
to drop it, Duo shoved down his curiosity and stood suddenly, Quatre's gaze flying to him.   

"What time's your next class?" asked Duo.

Quatre blinked and shook his head quickly, sorry that the boy had to leave so soon.   He wasn't looking forward to having a room to himself.  Sure, in the past
he'd roomed alone all of the time, but he felt so out of place here that he was wary of being left alone.  

"Actually,” said Quatre, “I'm finished.  I've been scheduled for lunch last period.  That's why I came back here."

"Perfect, me too."  Duo hid his smile when the boy looked both relieved and happy, and gestured toward the door.  "Even if I hadn't been scheduled it, I was
planning to eat this period, anyway.  See, my classes were scheduled for me too, but I changed them."  

Quatre seemed surprised so Duo explained, knowing the boy would probably do likewise once he knew how.  "They put me in the most basic courses they
had, it was embarrassing.  So I talked to the counselor and he has some tests.  If you pass them, they'll let you into the upper courses without making you take
the baby ones first."

"I didn't know that, how did you find out?" Quatre asked, excitement thrilling through him.  Here was a chance to get around his father's work and to choose
classes that suited him instead.

"I've got my ways."  Giving the boy a mysterious look, Duo grinned as he unlocked the door and tossed his hand toward it.  "Come on, I'll show you the library
after we eat.  You can find out anything there...if you know how, that is."

- - -

The lunchroom was very empty when they reached it, but Duo had learned that there was a football class scheduled for that period, so he wasn't surprised.  

Unlike public schools, where lunch was mandatory and consisted of cooks who dished out slop, this kitchen resembled a restaurant.  There were menus on the
wall above the counter displaying the different things available and Quatre's eyes widened when he saw how large the selection was.  Duo didn't seem phased
though, and he enjoyed the pale boy's indecision.

"What's the matter, can't make up your mind?" Duo asked, his eyes laughing at the boy as Quatre stared up at the menus.

"I've never had most of this stuff," Quatre said quietly, glancing at the longhaired boy.  "There aren't any pictures."

"Oh, that's cool.  I have to admit, I haven't tried most of it either.  But it smells good.  Here," he said, grabbing a tray off the stand near the corner and handing
it to Quatre.  

He picked up two of the double cheeseburgers that were set out and put one on the boy's tray.  "This is easier than asking for something up there.  Just grab
whatever you see that you like."

"Right," said Quatre.

Taking a large salad that was beneath the plastic roof of the counter, he placed it beside the silver wrapped burger and sent Duo a quick smile.  "I guess we'll
find out what that stuff is eventually, right?"

"If I'm here long enough," Duo muttered under his breath.  He quickly smiled when Quatre looked at him.  "Hey, they have a cappuccino machine."  

Quatre blinked in surprise when Duo moved away from him and he frowned at what he was sure he'd heard the boy say.  But he hadn't been brought up to pry
and he knew it wasn't his place to ask.  

He was about to follow the boy when he heard someone move behind him and he gave a tentative smile when he saw it was Wufei.  "Hi, so this is your lunch
period too?"

Nodding, Wufei glanced from the blonde boy to Duo, who was standing some feet away, his dark eyes glinting.  He decided to ignore him and looked to the
blonde boy again.   

"Most of the students have this period as a practice period," Wufei said, his eyes moving over the thinly populated room.  "Then, there's football and that's a
large percent right there since there are two teams."

"That's what Duo said," Quatre nodded, trying not to follow the boy's black eyes as they shifted over his shoulder again.  

He was fairly sure Wufei was looking at Duo, but he didn't think it would be a good idea to let on how obvious Wufei was being.   "Well, would you like to sit with
us?"  

The boy recoiled and if Quatre hadn't been bothered by the thought of him and Duo being angry with each other, he might have laughed.

"No," Wufei said quickly, turning back to the counter.  "I'm eating with some friends."

"Oh, okay."  

Quatre managed a slight smile as he nodded to the boy.  Then he turned and walked to where Duo waited, not missing the way those violet eyes were
narrowed right before being replaced by a blank expression.  

"You really like him?" Duo asked slowly, watching as the blonde boy filled one of the disposable cups with coffee.  

"Duo, I know you two don't like each other."  Quatre nodded when the boy raised an eyebrow and turned to face him.  "But he hasn't been anything but polite
to me."

"Let's talk about it at a table," Duo said, his voice low as he could see the boy in question moving towards them.  The blonde nodded and they paid for their
food before choosing a small booth along the wall.  

"Okay."  Setting down his food, Duo unwrapped the burger and took a bite, not speaking until he'd swallowed.   "You and me are friends, right?  I mean sure,
we just met but I like you."

"I'd like to be your friend," Quatre smiled, his eyes wide as he nodded quickly.

"Great.  Then I guess it won't hurt anything to tell you why I'm not happy with my roommate right now.  Not that you can't like him, I'm not trying to say
something stupid like that, I just figure you can hear my side first."

Duo looked a bit uncomfortable, but Quatre was more focused on the straightforward way his eyes met him.  

"Alright," he said, taking a sip of his coffee as he waited for the boy to continue.  

While Quatre was accustomed to his father's straightforward way of speaking, it was interesting to find it in someone his own age.

"Well,” said Duo, “I'll be the first to admit that I can be odd at times, but I'm usually told it's easy to get along with me.  Wufei, though, he hated me from the
moment he saw me."  

Remembering the way the boy had glared at him, Duo shook his head and took another bite before continuing.  "I thought I'd smoothed over whatever was
wrong with him, but then this morning he just..."

Quatre's eyes widened and he leaned forward, certain he was about to hear that the Chinese boy had done something truly awful.  Although he liked the boy
from what he'd seen of him, he did remember how intimidating his glare had been when he'd first answered the door.  

"...he told me to shut up."

"That's all?!"  Sitting back in his chair, Quatre scowled at the boy in front of him.  "That's why you're mad at him?"

"You don't get it," Duo said, glaring as he stared at the boy, "I wasn't talking."  

The blonde looked completely confused and Duo sighed, shaking his head.  "I know, it beats the hell out of me, too.  I mean, I've been told I talk too much, and
being told to shut up is nothing new to me, but...he didn't even have a reason to say it."  

Having finished off his food, he wadded up the silver foil before taking a long drink from the tall cup in front of him.  

"I actually thought we were getting along pretty good,” he continued.  “I mean, sure, he didn't say much, but I only saw him last night and this morning.  Then,
he goes out for about fifteen minutes and when he gets back he glares at me and tells me to shut up.”

“Actually," said Duo, his eyes narrow as he glared at the table, "his exact words were to shut up and leave him alone."

"And you hadn't said anything?" Quatre asked softly.  

He couldn't tie Duo's story to the quiet boy he'd met earlier, and he fought the urge to seek the black-haired boy out as if a second glance would reveal a
different person.  

"Hell no,” Duo muttered.  “I was just sitting on my bed, tying my shoes and in he comes, all angry at me.  All I did was look up."

"Maybe you should talk to him.  It might clear up whatever's bothering him."   The boy across from him didn't seem too happy with his suggestion, and Quatre
sighed.  "Well, maybe there's some sort of misunderstanding."

"Forget it,” said Duo.  “I'm not speaking to him.  Even if I end up rooming with him for the entire year."

Again, Quatre frowned at the words and decided that as Duo's 'friend', prying wouldn't be uncalled for.  "Do you plan to leave the school before then?"

"Probably," Duo nodded.

His anger evaporating at the desolate look on Quatre's face.  "But maybe not.  I mean, this school isn't that bad, right?"

"Then you aren't thinking of leaving because of Wufei?" asked Quatre.

"Him?!"  

Duo laughed suddenly, his eyes sparkling as he leaned back and shook his head, folding his arms over his chest.  "No way!  I wouldn't run away just because
one person makes me mad.  No, I just figure something will probably happen and I'll end up leaving, that's all.  This is the first school like this I've gone to, and
so far, aside from you, I don't like anyone here."

It felt good to be the exception, and Quatre was a bit reassured.  He had been surprised to think Duo might leave over such a small fight, and while he still
didn't know what exactly made Duo think he'd end up changing schools, at least it wasn't because of that.  

"I know how you feel,” said Quatre.  “This isn't my type of school either."

- - -

There was a curfew of ten at the school, but it wasn't enforced and no one patrolled the halls to regulate the official lights-out policy.  For this reason, Wufei
was awake when the sound came.  

Duo had shown up a few minutes before nine and the boy fell asleep with seeming ease, obviously not bothered by the lamp Wufei had on over his desk.  
Although he'd looked at the boy when he came in, he'd been ignored, so he decided to work off his frustrated emotions by doing homework.  It didn't really
help any, but it did get his mind off other things.  

When he heard the knocking, he looked up for a second before continuing with what he was doing.  There was no reason for him to concern himself since it
hadn't come from his door.  It wasn't until he heard the bed creak that he realized he wasn't the only one who'd heard the soft sound.

Duo was wide-awake in seconds, sitting up sharply.  He didn't sleep deeply as a rule and his ears strained as he listened to the silence, a quick glance at
Wufei revealing that the sound hadn't come from him.  Then the tapping sounded and he knew what had woken him.   

Wufei's eyes widened a bit when the longhaired boy glared and swung his legs over the bed, moving with surprising grace to the door.  His bare feet didn't
make a sound and Wufei had to admire the way he moved.  Then he was startled as Duo suddenly cursed and unlocked the door, disappearing through it
without so much as a glance towards him.  

Getting to his feet, Wufei wasn't sure what to do, and he looked at the closed door with uncertainty.

Duo had known what was going on as soon as he'd heard the knocking coming from his right. His and Quatre's rooms were the last two on that side of the hall.
Having inspected the locks the school provided, he'd been disgusted by how simple they were and while he doubted there were many in the school who could
pick them, they would be easy to break.  

As soon as he left his room, his suspicions were confirmed and his eyes narrowed when the dark-haired boy turned in surprise.  Duo had his arms folded over
his chest so his hands were hidden, and he knew he didn't look threatening at all.   Raising an eyebrow at the boy, he leaned against the wall beside Quatre's
door.   

He'd been startled when the boy's door had opened, but Donald relaxed again when he saw who it was, recognizing the boy easily.  

"Well hi, didn't mean to wake you up," he said, his voice rather high pitched for his age.  

"What are you doing?" Duo asked, his expression carefully done so he looked curious.  "It's late."  

He knew what the tall boy was doing, but if there was a way to keep from resorting to violence, he was determined to try it.  The boy didn't look especially
bright.

"Don't you worry about me," said Donald.  

He smiled as he looked over the longhaired boy, his brown eyes glinting and his lips moving to reveal a broken smile as one of his teeth had obviously been
knocked out somehow.  "You just go on back to bed."

"I can't do that," said Duo.

The boy didn't seem to get it, and Duo fought his irritation as he waited for him to make some sort of move.  He could well imagine how Quatre was reacting
right now and he hated the thought of the sweet boy being worried.   He was just grateful he hadn't opened his door.  While the pathetic lock couldn't have
stopped the boy from entering, it seemed he was trying more passive methods at the moment.  

"See,” Duo continued, “that's my friend's room, and I'm sure he's too tired for visitors right now."

"Is he?"  Donald let out a high pitched laugh that was surprisingly quiet in the deserted hall and raked a large hand through his black hair, making the short
strands stand upright.  "Well that's too bad, I was wanting to talk to him."

"Yeah," Duo nodded, "It's a real shame."  

His teeth hurt from clenching them together and he wished more than anything the boy would just try to break down the door.  Anything that would give him an
excuse to hurt him.  

Sure, the boy was big, but Duo had been aching for a fight since gym that morning when he'd seen the way Donald and his friends had stared at Quatre.  He
knew the type.  

"I don't know, I would say he's probably awake now."  

Duo's left eye twitched, but he kept his movement slow as he turned his head to look at the boy who walked towards them.  

Also tall, he had reddish blonde hair that curled over his forehead and pale blue eyes.  Duo recognized him immediately, and his body tensed as he was
suddenly on the watch for any more of them.  One he could handle without a weapon, maybe two, but if the entire gang showed up, he knew there'd be
trouble.  

"Just leave him alone," Duo warned, his voice low as he glared at the tall boy who came to stand beside his friend.  

"Me?"  The boy's mouth curved as he smirked and he shook his head slowly, eyes glinting.  "Oh, I'm not interested in him at all.”

“My name's Travis," he said, his tone smooth as he extended his hand to Duo.  "And you're Duo, is that right?"

Duo didn't answer.  He was waiting for the boy to lay one finger on him, just one.  That would be enough for him and then he could finish what the black-haired
boy, Donald, had started.   

"You aren't very polite," Travis said lightly, still smirking as he glanced at the boy beside him.  "Donald here has been looking forward to speaking with your
friend.  It would be rude to interfere, and not wise either."

"I'm not wise," Duo said, his voice still low.  "And I'm going to interfere."  

The boy stepped towards him and it was all he could do not to smile in relief, his muscles tensed as he continued to wait.  

Travis let his eyes fall over the thin black shirt and pants Duo had been sleeping in, and he smirked as he leaned his hands on the wall to either side of Duo's
head.   "You're a regular spit-fire, aren't you..."

"Why don't you try something and find out," Duo murmured, his eyes daring the boy to move.  

"Hmm."  

Staring into the blazing violet eyes inches from his, Travis smiled slowly.  He glanced at his friend from the corner of his eye when Donald laughed, then he
moved a hand to touch the boy's hair.

It wasn't much, but it was enough.  Duo buried a fist in the boy's stomach, catching him completely off guard.  He shoved Travis back when the taller boy
threatened to crumple on top of him.  His violet eyes glinted and he turned on Donald just as the black-haired boy stepped toward his fallen comrade in
surprise.  

It was a simple thing to knock him down.  He punched the tall boy in the neck, those brown eyes widening as he struggled to breathe.   

Travis had begun to recover, and Duo knelt by him as the boy rose to his knees.  He used his elbow to knock him down again, the blow to the back of his head
making him sag back to the floor.

Stepping back, Duo couldn't help but grin at the two boys lying on the floor, Donald's eyes wide as he gasped in hoarse breaths.  He caught the stunned boy's
gaze and gestured to where the other boy lay.  His grin disappeared.  

"Get him out of here before someone comes and I'll stop now.  Otherwise," Duo drawled, smiling darkly down at the boy and knowing how humiliating it must be
to accept threats from someone half his size, "I won't be held responsible for my actions."

- - -

Wufei nearly stood up again when Duo came back into the room.  He'd heard muffled voices from the hall, but since none had been raised he hadn't felt the
need to investigate.  He was sure the American wouldn't have wanted him too since he obviously hated him now.  

But the smile on Duo's face when he came back into the room caught him by surprise and he stared.  Even when Duo looked at him, the violet-eyed boy didn't
lose that smile.  Wufei blinked in surprise when he was given a nod.

Rubbing his elbow absentmindedly, Duo moved to his desk.  It had been wonderful to fight again and as quickly as Donald had removed his friend, he was
sure there wouldn't be repercussions, at least not from the school.  As in the old days, he scrawled a note on a piece of paper and ripped it from his
notebook.  

He pulled off the small ribbon he tied his hair with and smiled again.  It didn't take long to roll the paper into a tube and he tied the black cloth around it, leaving
the room again so he could slip it under Quatre's door.  

He was sure the boy would know it was him, but there was pleasure to be found in the gesture.  When he returned to his room, he locked the door and smiled
at Wufei again, knowing the Chinese boy was probably confused.  But he wasn't angry anymore, and he slept very well.

- - -

..- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -..

Quatre,
    
No worries.  I've got your back.

Shinigami

..- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -..

Quatre reread the small note at least five times before he hid it away in the small box beneath his bed.  It fit well on top of the pictures of his mother.  

He hadn't known what to do when he'd heard the quiet knocking, but opening the door hadn't been an option.  

Sitting on his bed, he rubbed the black ribbon between his fingers and smiled as he imagined Duo standing up for him.  While he wasn't sure what had
happened, he felt warm in the knowledge that he had a friend, a good one.  

As he fell asleep, he reminded himself to ask the American what Shinigami meant.

.-.

PART 3

.-.

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