Tired. If there was any single word that summed up how Heero felt at that precise moment, that would be it. Even the most enduring high-stamina individual eventually becomes exhausted - not that Heero had reached that point yet in body. In mind, however, was an entirely different story. Taking shelter from the war in a high school yet again, his partner in crimes - or war - and bothersome roommate, Duo Maxwell, had insisted they 'socialize' with the rest of the student population, in a vague attempt at blending in. Heero suspected ulterior motives, as always, but wisely kept from pursuing those suspicions. The end result of the whole ordeal was complete mental fatigue. All he desired now, was sleep. Or a mission. Nothing would please him more than picture the empty smiling faces of the more inane people he'd endured talking to during the day in attempts at conversation, as décor on the various targets a mission would offer. A Leo with a poster of the brunette that went on and on about how 'sad the fighting was', and proceeding by asking 'why everybody couldn't just get along and live in peace - nobody could be unhappy with peace, could they? Not like anyone she knew suffered...'. An Aries with the image of the spike-haired blond boy boasting of his superior math skills to all those within hearing or shouting distance, whom upon Heero's simple question of what 29458 divided by 4 was, paled, unable to compute the number in his head. Pathetic. With his mind's eye, Heero envisioned blowing both 'decorated' suits up with a single shot of Wing's buster rifle - or better yet, carve them slowly to pieces with a beam saber. Just the thought made him feel a little bit better.
Regardless, the torture was over for today. Undoubtedly, Duo would drag him along for a similar endeavor the next day, so sleep was a top priority. Dressed for rest and ready to face the Sandman, Heero slumped into his bed and rolled over to one side, closed his eyes and hoped for oblivion to take him, as it had already claimed his roommate over by the opposite wall. Unfortunately for Heero, Mother Nature dispatched someone else entirely than the Sandman this particular night.
Not before had he turned off the small lamp at his nightstand, did he hear the sound. That pesky, whining noise that only one of nature's more sinister creatures could create. A mosquito. Granted, the level of noise such an animal produces isn't the greatest, but as far as Heero was concerned, it might just as well have been a jumbo jet. Keen senses could be a curse - and of course, once you actually notice the humming of the tiny insect's wings, it is nearly impossible to tune it out again. Heero tried ignoring the little pest, but it would prove a task even he could not do. The faint, high-pitched noise cut to the very core of his being, slowly fueling enough anger to take action. Search and destroy, he thought. Simple enough plan, right?
Turning on the light again, quickly rubbing his eyes to readjust to the brightness, Heero tried to locate the mosquito. However, the minute the lights went on, the clever critter had gone in for landing, making it much more difficult to track. Surveying the dimly lit room, Heero could see no sign of his tormentor. He spent a few more minutes looking around, but in the end called the search off, went back to bed and switched off the light. Not before had his eyelids closed, did the gnat soar through the air again, humming increasing and decreasing as it moved aimlessly around the room. Again, Heero did his best trying to ignore it. Again, he failed. Once more the room lit up. And fell silent. This time Heero had no intention of being lulled back into a false sense of security, no desire to shut his eyes only to hear that unbearable, barely audible noise again.
Opting not to enlist the aid of the individual at the other end of the room currently way too clearly sawing logs, he searched out the tried-and-true anti-insect device from times yore; a flyswatter. All that was left, was to locate the mosquito and land the fatal blow. Alert eyes surveyed the room, scanning all barely lit walls and surfaces for signs of the annoying insect. Nothing. Undoubtedly, the gnat had settled somewhere in the many shadows. However, turning on the main light of the room to alleviate this problem would probably awaken Duo, and was thus not an option. It was difficult enough to deal with Duo when asleep, as opposed to awake and blabbering - not that the braided boy made any less noise when asleep, rustling and rolling in his bed and snoring not-so-vaguely as he did. Opening up one of the desk drawers, Heero sought out a flashlight, and went hunting in the shadows.
Ever the methodical mastermind, Heero searched the room section by section, all the time highly alert for the tell-tale noise that would give away the gnat's location and general heading. Having finished his half of the room, he proceeded to scan the other. However, his roommate didn't quite have his sense of tidiness - or perhaps Duo simply possessed more objects. Thus, the eerie silence was not pierced by the high-pitched flap of bug wings, but rather the yelp of a hunter stepping on a hairbrush with the pointy side skywards, followed by a string of assorted colorful curses. Despite his reputation for being a heavy sleeper, this was enough to awaken the dormant Duo.
"Heero, what the heck are you doing?" the drowsy pilot said as he sat up, trying to clear his eyes as well as his head.
"You woke me up 'cause there's a bug in the room?"
"I didn't do it on purpose. If you cleaned up after yourself, instead of leaving everything sprawled out all over the floor-"
"Don't change the subject - what the heck are you hunting a tiny insect for? Not like it's gonna hurt you, you know."
"It kept me awake." It was uttered with such a flat matter-of-factness that Duo couldn't help rolling his eyes and gesture in resignation with his arms.
"Sheesh. Just ignore it."
"Well, if you must continue this insanity, do it quietly. I need sleep."
Receiving a nod in confirmation, Duo rolled over to re-enter unconsciousness.
Heero waited for a few minutes before resuming the hunt. Flashlight in hand, he switched off both it and the small nightstand lamp. Complete darkness enveloped him, and surely enough it took but a few seconds before the gnat took flight. Closing his eyes, he turned towards the faint sound, prepared both the flashlight and flyswatter, waited until the noise appeared close and struck, activating both flashlight, eyes and flyswatter in one swift joint operation. Sadly, his eyes couldn't adjust to the light fast enough, causing him to miss his target, albeit barely. The beam of bright light did strike Duo flat in the face though, and disrupted dreams yet again for the braided one.
"Heero..." The grumbling anger in Duo's voice was ominous, as he raised a hand to shield himself from the beam.
"I need to see it before I can kill it."
"It? Planning to kill me again, then? As you can see, I'm not a scrawny insect."
Heero faced the flashlight upwards. "Sorry about that."
"Just turn on the light, would you? Kill the thing and go to sleep, so that I can go to sleep. If you're to hunt the critter with a flashlight, you'll end up using the whole night to develop a severe squint."
"You wouldn't mind the light?"
"Not as much as being flashed in the face with that torch."
As said and agreed upon, so done. Bathing the silent room with the near-all-reaching light of the main roof lamp, the creep would have far less dark places to hide. And the gnat was hiding. One could be excused for thinking the mosquito had higher than average survival instincts - barring the fact that it ended up in the room it did.
Many hours later, Duo awoke to the sound of soft sobbing, barely audible through the earplugs he had used - quite successfully - to gain some shuteye after the first dozen or so gnat assassination attempts. Taking out the muffling squishy pieces, he rolled over to seek out the source of the sound. Across the room Heero sat on his bed, nearly crying, eyes criss-crossed with short, red lines, trusted gun death-gripped in slightly trembling hand resting in his lap. Indeed, there was cause for concern.
"Heero, you okay?"
No answer. Time to provoke.
"If you're thinking of playing Russian roulette, you might want to get something with fewer bullets and a revolver chamber..."
Still no reaction. Not even a 'hn'.
"...So... I guess you haven't killed the mosquito yet, huh?"
Trying to hold back another muffled sob, Heero shook his head.
"I've tried everything. Everything I could use without causing too much noise or collateral damage, which has left Wing out. The damn thing is more resilient than cockroaches, polyester pants, 'vintage' music or Trowa's hair gel. Nothing works. It just won't die!"
"Are you sure you've tried everything, Heero?"
A desperate death-glare glazed with the bloodshot state of Heero's eyes faced the remark. After taking a deep, calming breath, Heero went on in summing up his actions so far.
"I used the flyswatter first. When that didn't work, I rolled up a newspaper. Still, the damn bug avoided my every blow."
"Yeah, I remember that much - was about that time I put in these earplugs - not that they were of much use when you gassed me right afterwards."
"The gnat landed right next to you - I figured a good dose of bug-spray would at least make the thing groggy."
"First of all, that wasn't bug-spray. What made you think we had such a thing here anyway? That was mace. My eyes still burn like hell, thank you very much!"
Heero slumped down a bit, voice turning uncharacteristically meek. "Sorry..."
"Sorry? Not before had I recovered from that coughing-, crying- and choking-inducing assault, did you slam the empty can on my head! 'Sorry' for that too?"
"The gnat landed on your forehead. I was just-"
Seeing anger flare in Duo's eyes, nostrils bulging, Heero wisely cut the sentence short there. However, he then proved himself the fool by speaking again.
"The flyswatter and newspaper were beyond my reach right then. I didn't think, I... Anyway, it's not like you haven't crushed empty cans with your skull before, Duo."
"Not like that, Heero!. Sheesh... It's an art, and preparation is key."
Duo calmed down a bit when he saw how Heero was drilling holes in the floorboards with his eyes.
"Okay, okay. Forget it. At least I was able to fall asleep again then. What did you do next?"
"I kept going after it with whatever I had available when I tracked it down. The flyswatter, the newspaper, my bare hands... I thought of using my laptop once, just to see if something with a greater surface area could kill the mosquito before it flew away."
"Of course not! Did you think I'd want bugs on my precious laptop?"
"Okay, then what happened?"
"The same, for hours. Each time I thought I had it cornered, it escaped me, leaving me to track it down again. At one point, I considered using my gun."
"...but obviously decided against it? You're a crack shot, Heero, but even with a silencer removing the noise pollution, it'd be a darn tricky shot."
"I used the butt of it. Didn't think of the silencer - Hey, perhaps-"
"Not a chance, Heero! You will not shoot the gnat!"
"Spoilsport..." Heero murmured.
The mosquito took flight. The high-pitched hum pierced the temporary silence between the two pilots. Immediately, Heero's eyes darted back and forth, switching along with his entire body to hunter mode. Seeing this, Duo felt compelled to calm his wayward friend down. He pulled out his softest counselor's voice.
"Heero... Just let it go. Just let it fly around. Here, I have a spare set of earplugs. Just use these, and-"
"No! I will kill it! I refuse to give up, refuse to be defeated by a mere insect!"
"O..kay..." Duo knew better than to interfere when Heero had set his mind so decisively. That path led only to suffering, he knew that from experience. Best way to deal with this he could think of, was to help the madness along, so that it'd come to an end.
"Did you try lighting a fire? Aren't insects sedated when they're exposed to smoke?"
Heero shook his head. "Can't set the waste basket ablaze. It would probably trigger the fire alarms. It would just produce far too much smoke."
Disgruntled with the refusal of his first nutty plan, Duo muttered "Sheesh. Just use incense and chopsticks, then..."
"No, what did you say? Incense and...?"
"Incense and chopsticks. Incense wouldn't produce as much 'dangerous' smoke, but it would probably lure the bug anyway. And since it might not land in or beside the mock fire, the flyswatter and newspaper would be near-useless. You might catch it with your palms, but-"
"Just first thing that came to mind. Two-sided closing object, swift movement. Not much surface to nab the mosquito with, though. Just forget I ever mentioned it. Now, how about using-"
"No, I think you're on to something here - didn't you buy a bottle of incense last week?"
"Yeah. One of the kids in biology class said it was great for calming nerves or unwinding. I figured I might use the fumes to relax you enough to get a near-human response now and then. No luck there..."
"Do you still have it?"
"Find it. I'll fetch the chopsticks."
"You've got to be kiddin' me - you're not planning to try that, are you?"
Heero shrugged, putting the gun on his nightstand. "Why not? I've got nothing to lose now. I've tried everything else, short of sanitizing the room with Wing's buster rifle. Want me to do that instead?"
Knowing full well it was no joke, but a statement, Duo felt the safest thing was to play along with the madness.
And so it came to be that a certain desperate Japanese pilot, sanity long since shredded by sleep deprivation and frustration, sat leaning over a slightly fuming jar, occasionally snapping the chopsticks held stiffly in his right hand in apparently thin air and smoke. His braided companion had reinserted his earplugs and returned to bed, and could thus not hear whether or not the gnat had caught the 'bait'. Shaking his head at the sorry sight, he rolled over to face the wall. Duo had almost fallen asleep again, when a sudden cry pierced through both the night and his earplugs. Roused yet again, he sat up to see what caused the sound. Noticing the ecstatic look on Heero's face, the way his wide open bloodshot eyes glared at the chopsticks in his right hand, the source was identified. The mad grin Heero wore could barely contain the beginnings of a crazed, potentially hysterical laughter.
Realizing he was being watched, the hunter turned to face his audience, enthusiastically using his left hand to point at the pinned prey in his right, gleeful like a maniac. Squinting hard, Duo could make out the tiny insect body crushed between the very tips of the thin twin sticks.
"It actually worked?" he asked quizzically.
"Yes!" came the eager answer. Duo was not convinced.
"Are you sure it's dead?"
Heero gently moved the chopsticks, squeezing the already flattened insect further. Yep, the gnat had definitely seen better days.
"So... Think you can go to sleep now?"
Putting the lid on the still fuming jar, Heero nodded, grin of madness fading to a mere disturbing smile. It went without saying the chopsticks would never be used for food again. They were, along with the crushed insect, unceremoniously discarded in the wastebasket. Heero peeked down at the diseased deceased, lined up his right fingers, and gave his victim a final short wave goodbye. As he stumbled to his bed, his smile faded further, fatigue finally catching up with him. However, as his eyes closed and his head crashed into the pillow below, he still bore an expression of joy and satisfaction. Mere seconds later, he was sound asleep.
After waiting a few minutes for conviction that Heero was in fact sleeping, Duo finally decided it was safe to resume the same action. And so he did. What felt like the grand total of five minutes worth, before the alarm clock heralded the dawn of a new day, only to be rewarded with a solid slap to implore silence, courtesy of one grumpy Duo.
He yawned and stretched, yet as most mornings refused to leave the confines of the warm, comfortable blankets in favor of a mock school day. Maintaining a deception of normalcy could be boring, but Duo guessed it was as close to normalcy he could ever come. Who knew, this might be the one day when something happened at school that made it all worthwhile - don't laugh, it could happen. Miracles occur, from time to time.
It was about now he realized his morning ponderings had not been intervened by his pillow yanked out from under him, the blanket torn away from over him, or pillows, water or other objects ranging from soft to hard impacting his face to force alertness. Indeed, Heero, who was far better at getting him up than the alarm clock, was still asleep. Never relying on a mechanical or electronic contraption to awaken him, Heero's internal clock must have been soundly reset by the night's escapades.
In fact, the dormant hunter was snoring. Not loudly, but still...
Reluctantly, Duo let his feet touch the cold floor and tip-toed over to his resting friend. Amazed that his proximity didn't set off Heero's hair-trigger reflexes, he dared further his investigation. Brushing away tousled bangs - a move that should normally cause great pain due to startling the killer touched - Duo noticed eyes darting frantically from one point to another beneath the thin veil of eyelids. Heero was still in deep REM sleep, it would seem. Satisfied with this, Duo gently let go of the hair, not wanting to risk waking Heero up. He had a feeling doing so would cause him to follow the path of the bug - flight, hiding and ultimate death in a most untraditional way - all depending on the hunter's determination and imagination.
Duo went ahead and prepared for another boring school day; going to the bathroom, locating clean clothes, finding the books he needed, gulping down a hasty pre-breakfast of half a can of non-fizzing lemonade and candy bars miraculously surviving being in his presence ever since the day before, all the while wary of waking Heero. Tempting death might sound like fun, until you're cornered, left without any possible escape route. Then the fun stops, rather permanently.
Before leaving the room, he wrote two notes. One, meant for Heero, he placed on the exhausted pilot's nightstand. The other he used Scotch tape to stick to the outside of their door. In big, bold letters it read 'Do NOT disturb!'. Despite their attempts of blending in with the general student body, both students, faculty and administrative staff had learned it was best not to anger either of the two boys. The note was sure to keep most nosy people away, possibly barring suicidals. And it would be suicide for anyone to enter, should they awaken Heero in the process. Duo might get away with it, for no other reason that he could at times be fast and agile enough to dodge Heero's anger-induced kicks, blows and bullets.
As he walked jauntily down the hallway, he made sure he'd brought along the object intended to cause mischief at first available opportunity, most likely the very next night. Satisfied the flat square box was indeed securely placed in his backpack, content safe and sound, Duo considered with a broadening grin how far he'd dare go in its use before sanity took control and truth were told. He attached a set of headphones to the tiny tape recorder, put one of the minuscule speaker-spheres into his ear, pressed rewind, and then play. Yep, he had definitely recorded the flight of the intruder from last night. With a few quick edits of the soundclip, there were no bounds of how he might use this to frustrate Heero tonight. Okay, perhaps he wouldn't use it. It'd be kind of cruel, wouldn't it? Then again, it'd be worth just running at least once, just to see Heero's reaction. Few things fazed the Wing pilot, but Duo was certain this sound might do the trick. At least until he revealed the joke.
His movements caused the fast forward button to be pressed against the side of the backpack. Duo reached down and fixed the problem, pushing the play button in. The sound of Heero's soft snoring danced in his ear. The braided incarnation of mischief and mayhem smiled, stopped the recording and put away the earpiece. Coming to a conclusion of what to do with the first recording, and beginning to brainstorm on ways to exploit the second, his mind crossed the note he had left on Heero's nightstand. When the nocturnal hunter awoke some untold number of hours later, he'd hopefully read Duo's note and not panic over losing something as 'precious' as a school day. The message had been simple enough. In Duo's messy handwriting, it read; 'You slayer of beasts, you bloodsucker's bane - sleep in today, dodge headmaster's cane.' - No worries, Heero - I'll cover for you today. And he would. And then, he might seek payment in torment.
AN: I wish to thank all the little ones who made this story possible - in particular the pesky little insect that after causing three nights of insomnia provided the inspiration for this little piece of text. This little critter truly gave all for allowing me to write this, including, but not limited to, keeping me awake thinking of potential ways to kill it and make a rough idea draft, and in the end, at 03:55 local time one morning, giving its life so that I could at last get enough rest and stamina to type this up. May the bug rest in pieces in the trash can where its feeble squashed remains are now housed.