"Damn, Quatre, you're blinding me!" Grinning, Duo held a hand over his eyes, peeking through his fingers to see the blonde boy blush furiously.
"You aren't exactly tan," Wufei countered, smirking when Duo pouted at the insult. He'd already taken off his wet clothing, and he was reminded again of the
benefits of being Chinese.
"Maybe, but I'm not as pale as albino-boy over there." Quatre's eyelid was twitching, and Duo choked out a laugh at the boy's angry yet embarrassed
"I should push you in," Quatre muttered, folding his pale arms over his chest. He already felt uncomfortable, especially since Dorothy was eyeing him with a
positively lascivious gaze. "Be glad I'm not the type."
"No," Trowa said softly, moving behind Duo, "but I am." The longhaired boy gave a startled yipe when he grabbed him, but it was cut off as he abruptly
dropped him over the edge of the raft. A glance showed Quatre smothering laughter, and he smirked, looking down at Duo's face when the boy resurfaced,
his bangs clinging to his eyes. "How's the water?"
"Cheap shot," Duo pouted. He was treading the water, looking up at Trowa, so he didn't see what was behind him until he felt a tug and was drawn under.
When he rose again, he spat up a mouthful of water, wheeling at the sound of laughter.
"About time you got in," Hilde grinned, backpedaling to put some distance between them. Une and Relena were a few yards away, arguing the course for their
race, but she'd left them to see what was taking the boys so long. Duo was smiling at her, so she figured he wasn't going to retaliate for the dunking. "Hey,
Dorothy, Sylvia, come on. Treize and Zechs promised to be markers, so we're going to start soon."
"I don't think I want to race," Sylvia said quickly, looking over to where Noin and Catherine were floating near the others. "I'm too slow, so there really wouldn't
be a point."
"You're too hard on yourself," Dorothy commented, giving the girl a light push on her shoulder. "We're here to have fun, isn't that what you said earlier?
Besides, the race is fixed, Une's going to win it no matter who participates."
"I heard she was on the swim team," Quatre said, sitting down on the edge of the raft so he could include Hilde. "Are you planning to make Relena look like a
"That's the plan," Dorothy smirked. She noted that Duo was beaming up at her, and she shook her hair back over a shoulder. "Not that she doesn't do that
enough on her own." The violet-eyed American's expression had changed, and she blinked, frowning as she wondered what he was thinking.
"Nice two-piece," Duo called, laughing when Dorothy's cheeks turned as red as her suit and Quatre sniggered at her. "I didn't even notice that you'd...grown
since last year."
"Duo!" Hilde's eyes were wide, and she splashed the boy, shocked at his lack of tact, although he wasn't the only one to notice. At fifteen, Dorothy had a
nicely curved figure, but Duo wasn't supposed to be looking. "I can't believe you said that."
"What? I was just complimenting her on her rack." Blinking rapidly, Duo managed to look surprised when Wufei choked and Dorothy let out an oath. Then
the girl dove in after him and he grimaced before ducking under the raft and out of the way. It was dark under the water, and he'd noticed before that it wasn't
very clear, but he could still make out the bottom of the raft. There wasn't any air under it, so he pushed deeper and didn't resurface until he was on the other
side and out of harm's way. Peeking above the water, he grinned as he could hear Dorothy cursing.
"Where did that rat go?" Dorothy growled. Her cheeks were still a bit flushed, but her eyes glinted merrily.
"Going to drag him around by his tail?" Hilde asked, laughing when the blonde girl nodded enthusiastically. "Cool, I'll help."
"If you girls are going to race, get over here!"
Turning in the water, they looked to where Noin was waving. Sylvia shook her head at Dorothy when the blonde raised an eyebrow at her. "Well," Dorothy
said, "Guess we'll have to drown the rat later."
Duo kept quiet for a few minutes, then he pushed himself up so he could see over the edge of the raft. "Is it clear?"
"That was an awful thing to do," Sylvia murmured, frowning at him.
"Dishonorable," Wufei commented, but his lips were twitching in a manner that belied his criticism.
"Ah, she'll get over it. Are you guys getting in, or what?" Quatre slid into the water and Duo swam around the raft to tread beside him. The blonde boy shook
his head at him. "You're not mad at me, too, are you?"
The boy's bottom lip was protruding slightly and Quatre couldn't help but smile at him. "No, Duo. I know you like to tease."
"That's right. Dorothy just can't take a compliment. And you look fine, you know that. After all, you'd look pretty odd with your pale hair if you had a tan." The
blonde boy blinked, and Duo grinned up to see Trowa nodding at him.
"I don't tan," Quatre said, moving back when Sylvia slid into the water near him. "I tried once, but I burned so bad it wasn't even funny."
"I bet it was," Duo laughed, "A blonde lobster." His joke was lost, since his friend wasn't paying him any attention. Quatre was looking past him, and he
smirked when he saw Trowa's expression. "Here we go. Too bad there isn't a diving board." Quatre glanced at him, then they watched the tall boy dive in
from the side of the raft, slicing the water quietly. "I swear, everything he does is like a gymnastic feat."
"Trowa's very athletic," Quatre nodded.
"He looks like he's been lifting weights," Duo whispered, getting close to the blonde boy. "I know he hasn't been doing it at school, but he's no where near as
scrawny as he was last summer."
"No," Wufei called, smirking when Duo's eyes widened. "But you are. Which makes absolutely no sense considering how much you eat." The longhaired boy
was staring at him, no doubt wondering how he'd managed to hear him, and he shook his head. "You're louder than you think, Duo. And sounds carry over
water." He inclined his head to where Trowa had resurfaced, and he could almost see Duo's embarrassment before the boy sank beneath the water. The
girls were gathered halfway across the lake, and he jumped in quickly. "We should move if we want to watch this."
"I don't know why they enjoy embarrassing Relena so much," Sylvia said softly, frowning in the girls' direction.
"Because she's a self-absorbed brat," Duo commented. He'd resurfaced away from Trowa, and he swam backwards as he spoke. "And it's fun."
"It doesn't bother Miss Relena," Quatre said. "She doesn't even realize they try to embarrass her. It's just their way of dealing with the way she acts. They
don't mean any real harm."
"I guess not, but it's still mean."
"You're depressing me," Duo muttered. "I'm going to watch the race, you guys can stay here if you want, but I came to have fun." Turning in the water, he
swam toward the others. He wasn't a bad swimmer, but it still took him a few minutes to reach them, and he grinned at Heero when the boy glanced at him.
"They ready to start?"
"Yes." Heero nodded to where Zechs had swum out about twenty yards. "He's the ending place. They'll start from Treize."
"Heero! You have to watch us," Relena cried, glaring at them from her place a few feet away.
The girls were separated by three feet each, and Treize was next to Une on the far end. They were waiting for his signal, but he was waiting for the others to
reach them. When Trowa waved at him from the sidelines, he turned to Une and raised an eyebrow at her. She looked pleased with herself, her smirk almost
a happy one. "You won't beat them by *that* much, will you?" he asked, his voice as low as possible. The woman smirked at him then turned her head so her
eyes locked on Zechs. Silence reigned for a few seconds as they treaded in place, then Treize raised an arm over his head. "On your mark! Go!"
Une had a lead right from the start, but Catherine wasn't far behind her. Their unmarked lines blurred a bit as Relena and Hilde drifted to their right, but no
one took the time to complain. It would have been an odd race, since most of the spectators were watching quietly, but Duo's cheers echoed as Une's lead
increased. They were bunched together as each centered on Zechs, then Dorothy dove under the water, taking Hilde down with her. Relena took a brief
second to cry out as she was knocked out of her stroke, but she recovered in time to see Une win, Catherine a few feet behind her. The brown-haired woman
nearly swam through Zechs, and he dove to the side with a wide grin.
"We have a winner!" Zechs called, his grin not the least bit diminished by Relena's gasping glare. Une swam up next to him, and he glanced down to where
Treize was, raising an eyebrow. "What happened to Noin?"
"She knew she didn't stand a chance," Une said smoothly, smirking at the dark-haired woman who waved to them from across the lake. "So she saved her
"That's-" Zechs choked, his words gargled as he was suddenly jerked under the water and Une shoved away, staring at the place where he'd been. Then
Dorothy popped up, a wide smirk curving her lips for a moment before Zechs managed to resurface beside her. "Hey!" A hand pulled it's way up from
beneath the water, and he blinked at dark blue eyes as Hilde sputtered to the surface.
"You tried to drown me, Dorothy!" Hilde's glare wasn't as effective since the blonde girl was laughing at her, but she tried to look intimidating.
"Nonsense," Dorothy laughed, coughing for a second before she could rid herself of her smile. "You weren't going fast enough so I just wanted to be sure you
made it to the finish line."
"Yeah? So why did you grab my..." Hilde's face turned red abruptly when she realized her voice was loud enough for everyone to hear and she sank down in
the water. "Uh..." Despite the cool water that covered her face up to her eyes, she could feel blood rushing to her cheeks. Dorothy had a light blush of her
own although she was obviously trying to play it off.
"It's hard to see under the water," Dorothy said slowly. For some reason, she was more embarrassed by Hilde's reaction than by the disgusted look Relena
was giving her. Pinning the blonde girl with a dangerous look, she raised her chin. "Stop looking at me like that."
Relena blinked, her expression clearing, then she laughed suddenly. "Oh, you two are funny. Hilde, your face is so red!"
"Maybe," Catherine said, smiling at Hilde as she swam to them. "But the race is over. Let's go join the others and we can celebrate Une's victory." Relena's
face grew pinched, and she gave the girl a quick smile before swimming off.
"Cathy! Wait up." With a splash in Dorothy's direction, Hilde dove beneath the water to swim after her friend. This wasn't the first time the blonde had flirted
with her, but she wasn't ready to try anything. Besides, she already had a crush on someone besides Dorothy. That meant she wasn't mature enough for a
relationship, especially one that would cause trouble amongst her closest friends. She could see Dorothy swimming nearby when she resurfaced, and she
was relieved to see that familiar smirk on the girl's face. Looking once more to where the guys were grouped near Treize, she took a breath and dived again.
As far as her swimming abilities went, she moved much faster beneath the water.
Relena was going after the two girls, and Zechs looked at Une for a minute, searching her face. The woman didn't often show what she was thinking, but he
knew from the look in her eyes that she'd seen something interesting. "You aren't interested in one of them, are you?" Bright brown eyes flicked to him, and
he had a glimpse of teeth before Une's smile disappeared.
"We'll see," Une murmured, looking across the lake to the others. "Let's join them. Suddenly this forced excursion has promise."
* * *
Since she had no interest in seeing the race, Sylvia was swimming near the edge of the lake. The others were closer to the raft, and she kept an eye on them
so she'd know when they decided to take a break. Until then, she could at least do what Heero'd suggested and try to swim a little. She wasn't horrible, but
she'd only recently graduated from the doggy-paddle to a stroke similar to the ones the girls were using. It wasn't her fault, there hadn't been pools at any of
her previous schools, so she'd never really had the opportunity to swim. Glancing to the others again, she stopped and floated for a moment when she saw
that Relena was swimming to the raft. Quatre waved at her, and she smiled and turned toward them.
A splash sounded not too far from her, and Sylvia turned, looking at the trees and grass that were growing out of the shallow part. At first she couldn't see
anything, then she gasped and ducked when something flew over her head in a rush of feathers. Turning, she followed the large bird, recognizing it as some
sort of duck. The cry was more of an odd honking, and she floated back a few feet as feathers drifted on the water. Then her eyes were caught by something
* * *
"If you don't hurry, I'll just have to eat without you," Relena threatened, frowning when Duo and Hilde cowered in mock fear. "I'm serious, I'm hungry." Heero
pushed himself onto the raft, and she smiled at him. "I guess they don't have to eat now, if they don't want to."
"No way!" Duo cried, shoving onto the raft quickly and tilting it in the process. "There's enough for everyone, right?" The blonde girl scowled at him and he
stuck his tongue out at her. Turning, he pulled Hilde up before waving to Treize and Zechs who were talking a few feet away. "Guys! Let's eat, now, eh?"
Trowa had climbed onto the raft, and Quatre gave him a smile when the tall boy helped him up. Turning, the blonde glanced at Relena who was still glaring at
Duo, then he looked back to the water. He was the first to notice that Sylvia was missing, and he waved to the girl, spotting her near the edge of the lake. She
turned, and he started to sit down but hesitated, his eyes going back to her again. The girl's back was to him now, and he blinked, squinting at something just
beyond her. "What's that?"
Following the boy's pointing finger, Trowa frowned. "It looks like...an oil patch or something. I'm not sure. There's no reason for this small lake to be polluted."
"Sylvia!" Quatre called, frowning when the girl didn't move. "Hey!"
"What's wrong?" Heero asked, stepping near them. His eyes moved to where they were looking and he blinked at the thing. It was small from so far away, but
it looked to be circular. Black, it had a glossy sheen and it seemed to be riding the surface of the water. As he watched, it moved a few inches toward the girl
and he glanced at Quatre. "What's she doing? She doesn't plan to touch it, does she? That looks like oil."
Eyes wide, Sylvia stared at the stuff, her mouth falling open. The sheen was so bright, colors swirling with indigo and jade, patterns captivating and she
couldn't blink. Somewhere in the back of her mind she heard someone calling her name, but that didn't matter. Her fingers trembled, her legs barely moving
to keep her afloat, and she reached out to it. "So...beautiful..."
* * *