Title: It's the Pilot Part 8/18 Author: Truth Archive: The usual places. AU - Wherein the Gundam pilots have known each other for a little while, but the war is still stalled back before the pilots return to space. Meanwhile, the five mad scientists have had second thoughts about some of the pilots. Probably OC as well, but I did my best. First person stream of conciousness/POV. Rated PG-13 at least. Warning: Implied shounen ai. Disclaimer: Gundam Wing belongs to somebody else, sadly. Feedback, comments and criticisms cheerfully accepted at email@example.com ****************** I had previously found the experience of sharing a safe house with Maxwell to be annoying. Being forced to share immediate living quarters was far, far worse. Probably not for the reasons which you imagine, either. I could conceivably have handled Duo Maxwell the hyper-activity poster child, though my patience would have been strained to its uttermost limits. I might have been able to take Duo Maxwell the party animal. Rooming with Duo Maxwell the OZ Cadet Lieutenant was a nightmare. Again, probably not for any of the reasons which would spring immediately to mind. Allow me to share with you a few days in the life of Chang Lian. Please. Cadet Lieutenant Maxwell was a nasty, cold-hearted sadist. Oh, he could be charming, no question there. He could be incredibly charming, smooth as glass and twice as transparent. But he was not anyone that I would want to mess with, much less voluntarily spend any amount of time alone with. He said the most innocuous things, and you could see the hidden knives only in the wounds they left on his targets. And, of course, he was my roommate. Lovely. He has a reputation, too. A cold-hearted flirt, leaving a trail of broken hearts strewn up and down the corridors of the school. Male _and_ female, I have discovered. At least the men are discreet. The women.... But I'll get to that. He avoids physical violence, unless cornered. That's only been tried twice - to my knowledge. He's hiding things from me, or trying to. Maxwell doesn't lie, which makes his 'creative omissions' a bit difficult for him to hide. I let him keep his secrets. He's been through enough. Apparently he leveled four other boys the first time - without leaving any marks that he could get into trouble for. His word against theirs. They chose not to protest. The second time, there were six of them. He had a little more trouble, but not much. He actually dislocated someone's jaw, accidently of course. He _is_ trying to stay out of trouble. Luckily, there were witnesses to the fact that he had been jumped. Thus, he did not get into trouble and his guardian did not have to be notified. He excells in his studies.... That's the part that really bothers me. I caught myself wondering if this was all an elaborate trap. Maxwell had been done away with and I was rooming with his much more intelligent double. Not likely. He is actually in the top ten percent of our class. I suppose miracles do occasionally happen. As it was, I spent all of the time that we were out of the room avoiding him. We had decided that after the hard time he gave Chen, seeing him warm up to his very next roommate might look a bit suspicious. Therefore, I took pains to avoid him. We only saw each other in classes, where we ignored each other coldly, or at night when we were alone our room. It was difficult, seeing how totally alone and aloof he was. Charming, but oh so alone. We had one very public argument. We did a good acting job, apparently. I overheard two of the older Cadets talking of how impressive it was that even when we were shouting at the tops of our respective lungs, we were each very careful not to make the first move. It helps that I am in Maxwell's class on swordplay. I am one of the assistant instructors. The first time I attended that class, they tried to shove me in with the beginners. That lasted all of about ten minutes. They then attempted to persuade me to adopt 'a more conventional fighting style'. That lasted a little longer, say fifteen minutes. By the end of the hour I was being asked to teach some of the more promising pupils. Maxwell is not bad with a sword. He'd be better if he practiced a proper fighting style instead of that fencing garbage. There are times when he reminds me rather unpleasantly of Treize Kushrenada. He also assists the instructors. I must remember to ask him when and where he learned to fight with a sword. It is not something which I would have suspected of the Maxwell that I knew - thought I knew. We will have to wait for two to three weeks before my Ďfamilyí (thank you, Uncle Quatre) sends their request for Chen and Lian to return home for the holiday. By which time Maxwell and I will have had to make peace publicly, and we will apply for him to travel home with me. We're still working on the 'making peace' bit. We can't think of way that would look, well, normal. Maxwell is a block of unforgiving granite. It just doesn't look right, whatever scenario we come up with. This is going to take forever. Living with Lieutenant Maxwell is going to drive me insane. Maxwell will sometimes revert back to the boy I knew when we are alone, but very rarely. He is very unhappy, I think, but is afraid to let go of his hard - won disguise. I do not believe that he would be able to fall back into it so completely. Not that I wouldn't rejoice to see the last of him. It's very strange to see our rooms so neat. Not that mine weren't always that way, but any room inhabited by Maxwell in the past tended to be a bit - cluttered. He also very rarely relaxes enough to so much as put his feet up. It disturbs me to see him sitting ramrod straight at his desk, studying. The whole picture is just - unnatural. I am accustomed to seeing him sprawled out across the couch like a giant black doily, his feet either in the air or on the furniture, his braid coiled around his head and shoulders like a rope. He looks very strange with that military haircut. I've caught myself staring at him more than once. He looks like a complete stranger. Not that the lack of his accustomed braid makes him look hideous, which he apparently believes. He still looks attractive. Just different. Very, very different. The uniform also creates a disturbing sort of, well, contrast. I was more used to the old Maxwell than I knew. More fool me. I did ask him again about his hair that first night, once he'd calmed down. "All the Cadets get a haircut," he told me. And that's all he would say. I've seen him reach for his missing braid, though. I've also seen him put up one hand to run it through the hair that's no longer there. Bastards. They could have enrolled him as a regular student. They didn't have to make him a Cadet. That haircut was cruel. And deliberate. What were they hoping to accomplish by humiliating him like that? Other than to make him homicidal, that is. Chen is impressed by the way that Maxwell cannot intimidate me. It is unbelievably tempting to tell him all about the original Maxwell, however, it is a temptation that I can easily resist. But the worst part is the women. Hmph. The blasted creatures are at our door day and night. They leave love notes, cards and little dolls. They will even accost me in the corridors and press the stupid things on me to give to Maxwell. Iíd dispose of the damn things, but Maxwell keeps them. He puts them up on the shelves in the main room of our suite so that everyone who stops by can see them. He says that way none of the girls feels overly encouraged or rejected. ďI canít stand to see them cry,Ē he told me, looking uncomfortable. Itís enough to make a man sick. I canít wait to get out of here. At least Maxwell isnít asking me for help with his homework the way he used to. And thankfully, I donít have to ask him for his help with mine. I donít think I would be able to handle that. The classes here are very advanced, but nothing we canít handle. We. As in Maxwell and myself. Now thatís a strange concept. Iíve always believed that this would be a solitary fight. Even during the few times that I have fought alongside the others, I have always felt alone. If I had ever imagined myself forming a friendship, a partnership with one of the other pilots, it would not have been Maxwell that I would have chosen. Not in a million years. But heís changed. A lot. He no longer wears the laughing mask, or plays the fool. Much as he would deny it, I do believe that Lieutenant Maxwell is much closer to the real Duo Maxwell than the one that I knew. Donít misunderstand me, the jester is very real. But that smiling fool is only a part of the whole. Before this episode, I thought I knew who he was. Now I know that he is a stranger. And as long as I am rooming with Lieutenant Maxwell, I will probably never meet the real Duo. I'm beginning to think that there are more masks, more layers than I had thought. And heís still tugging on that invisible braid. Itís been almost six weeks since they cut his hair. I wonder how much longer that little mannerism will last? I almost find myself wishing that heíd talk to me about it. I must be coming down with something. ********** Truth: Tsk tsk, Wufei. Lighten up. It'll all turn out all right in the end. Trust me! Wufei: I'd have to be insane to trust you, woman. Look what you did to Maxwell? Where's the justice in that? Truth: But you're about to rescue him, right? Wufei: See previous answer. Truth: Hmph. Quatre was more polite. Wufei: You let him stay on Earth! Quatre: Which reminds me, I'm next! Wufei: I thought Duo was next? Duo: Nope, I'm after Quatre. Heero: I though I was after Quatre? Quatre: Nope, it's Duo and then Trowa. Trowa: Me? *looks uncomfortable* Why me? Truth: Look, everyone go home. I have to go to bed. Really. Right now. All: Uh-huh... Riiiiight.