Of all the places Heero considered he might seek temporary refuge while on Earth, an old salvage ship was never among them. Yet he found himself on one, accepting the offer from the strange pilot with the unbelievably long braid after the not-quite successful escape from an Alliance research hospital. Even after applying one the rejuvenating saint-stims Dr. J had sent with him, he still needed time for his leg to heal. A few days, tops, if the stim injection was effective.
In the meantime, he had Wing to repair. Again, the other pilot had proved helpful, fishing both their Gundams up from the sea floor. The pilot - Duo, he had said his name was - also extended an offer to help repair Wing. Heero had declined; it was an unthinkable proposition. His life depended on the machine; he was not about to let a gang of strangers tinker with it - especially not someone like the ones currently repairing the structural damage to the black Gundam. Deathscythe, Duo had proudly proclaimed it as. The captain of the ship, and also the one leading the repair work, looked more like a leftover hippie than anything else. And the pilot was pure noise; best left ignored.
The crew picked up on his antisocial streak soon enough, as did the captain, Howard. They left him alone. Duo was another matter. The boy was determined, Heero had to give him that much. Still, he refused to let himself be friended; it did not suit his plans - which were short-term, to say the slightest. Why form attachments that might make him want to keep living, when he could be asked to sacrifice his life at any moment?
It took quite a while before Heero's complete disregard and blatant rejection did as planned - and so, he was alone... Save for the tiny nagging voice of regret wanting to cry out for the other boy to come back, not leave. Heero clenched his teeth, and tried to ignore it as well, focusing on the repairs.
He kept working for hours, every so often casting a glance at Deathscythe. Its repairs were almost complete. Wing still needed a few spare parts - replacements for damaged components. If he humbled himself into asking, maybe... He frowned, shook the thought away. He needed time to think out how to make do with the broken parts, and he needed a break - other than to his bones.
Heero wiped his forehead with a rag, tossed it aside. He instructed Wing's onboard computer to do a complete systems diagnostics, reached for a small bundle tucked behind the seat, closed the hatch and walked off.
The corridors of the ship were nearly deserted at this late hour. This suited Heero just fine. Duo had given him a quick tour of the ship when they had gotten aboard and were heading out to sea. Duo had supported him all the while so he wouldn't have to put weight on the bad leg. Heero had resented not being able to move on his own, but mapping the layout of the ship was important - he had to know escape routes, know where everything was. There was a reason he had been trained to recognize the in- and outsides of so many Alliance buildings. The unknown was always dangerous. Familarity made safe.
He reached his destination; the communal showers. Almost entirely plastic, of course. The showerheads and pipes were metal, but the walls, drains and floor were all covered in plastic if not of it, the floor treated to prevent slipping. The changing room and the showers were as abandoned as the rest of the ship.
He quickly stripped, discarding the sweaty clothes in a bundle next to the clean on a bench in the changing room. Only the state of the clothes and the addition of a towel atop the clean bundle distinguished them.
The cool water streamed harshly against his skin, washed away sweat and grime. He didn't bother to hurry - he had time, for once. It helped loosen his muscles, relax his mind as well as his body. More than once, he reached for the wall for support; he could not yet put full weight on the bad leg, no matter how far healed it was by now. Though his mind cleared, no effective way of repairing the broken parts came to him. In the end, he decided to sleep on it - or at least nap.
Satisfied with the wash, he shuffled back to the changing room, daring for a moment to let go of the wall to ruffle through his hair, pressing water from the wild brown down the back of his neck - and froze.
The clothes were gone.
All of them; clean and dirty alike.
Momentarily confused, he looked around, thinking he might have put them elsewhere than he remembered, but sterile plastics were all that he saw. He frowned, considering possibilities. One remained; someone had stolen them. What for, he couldn't surmise. Still, it left him wet and naked, soon cold also. He could wait for the perpetrator to return - which wasn't likely, or for others to show up - which he didn't much desire, or walk back to Wing for a spare outfit and another towel. He gritted his teeth. There wasn't really much choice.
The corridors were still deserted, which he was quite grateful for now. He walked steadily - as steadily as he could, with the bad leg. If anyone saw him, he didn't want to appear to huddle in shame of his nudity; he would rather be considered a naturist than a fool who had his clothes stolen from but a room away.
He stopped halfway down the last corridor. From the corner of his eye, he saw a door set ajar, and within the darkness, an eager eye and bits of a grin. Heero struggled not to attack, much less avoid frowning. He felt ridiculed and humiliated. The thief was most definitely identified now, he remembered whose quarters those were - but there was something to the way Duo not-so secretly watched him, something more than just amusement.
It took him a little while to recognize it, but it was clearly there. Rather than trying to keep from frowning, he repressed a smirk, as well as the urge to do some quick stretches, bend to touch toes or even do jumping jacks, bad leg or no, just to gauge Duo's reactions; to leave the other unbalanced enough to maybe fall out the door and share the humiliation.
It was an odd feeling; being desired - desired for something other than his abilities as a soldier; a crafted prodigy. It was unlike anything he had ever felt - but he liked it. It opened... possibilities. Never mind friendship; there could be far more here. Yet, he felt unsure, even scared. It was not ground on which he had previously tread. To walk a minefield of fickle emotions without a map... Not a tempting idea. If there was to be something, it should be made to last, not lost early because of his inexperience. Patience was the key, patience and observations. Finally, he drooped his head, sighed, leant more heavily against the wall. The latter was a quick cover-up; pretending he was simply a little short of breath from his strenuous walk.
He hesitated for a second, seeing the boy behind the door startle a little, as if ready to spring to his aid. Heero resisted a smirk. So, he cared more for him than for a successful joke? Definitely possibilites. Then he abruptly resumed his walk. This was not the time for such confrontations. He had a Gundam to fix, battles to fight - if both of them came out of this alive, then maybe...
Still, an unidentifiable voice in the back of his head - that of pride, perhaps - let him know he could not let himself be utterly bested by someone's practical joke. Revenge was in order - though secondary to repairing his suit, and-
He smirked as he reached the repair bay. He had an idea how to get both. He'd deal with his third objective later - when things had cooled down again. And when said objective might not use that same passion he had seen to kill him on sight.