"Jeez, Heero!" Duo yelled. "Can't you think of anything else to say?!"
"Hn. Baka," Heero repeated, glaring at Duo over the top of his laptop's screen. Behind him, Quatre got up and walked out onto the balcony.
"And just what makes you think I'm an idiot? All I said was that it gets pretty boring between missions."
"There's plenty to do."
"I know. And it's all boring and unnecessary, except the stuff I've already done! Maybe Quatre can think of something fun," Duo groused, stomping out.
"Hey Q-man, you out here?" he called, walking around the corner of the house. "Quatre-- huh?!"
The blond Arabian was leaning on the balcony railing, one hand clamped firmly over his mouth, shoulders shaking with suppressed... giggles?
"Wanna share the joke? I could use a laugh," Duo said hopefully.
"It-- it was what Heero said!" Quatre gasped, snickering. "Baka!"
"What's so damn funny about Heero Stick-up-the-ass Yui calling me an idiot?" Duo snapped, feeling rather hurt.
"But that's not what it means!"
"Huh? Sure it is!"
"Not in Arabic," Quatre grinned, eyes sparkling with mischief. "Come on; this has given me an idea. Let's go to the mall, and I'll explain on the way."
"Hi honey, we're ho~ome! Didja miss us?" Duo carolled, slamming the front door behind him. In the lounge room, Wufei glanced up from his book, raising an eyebrow; Heero snorted, still working on his laptop.
Duo stuck his head in the door, waving a paper sack enticingly. "We got junk food! Plenty for everybody. Want some?"
"Baka. Of course not," the Japanese boy grunted.
"Why Hee-chan, you say that as if it's an insult! You'll hurt my poor baka's feelings," Duo pouted, clutching something protectively to his chest with the hand not holding the bag.
"Maxwell... what is that?" Wufei asked cautiously.
"My baka!" Duo said proudly, holding out...
"...it's a camel," Wufei said flatly.
"A plushie camel."
"Uh-huh! Isn't he cool?" Duo held the small black fuzzy thing up to his nose. "I'm thinking of calling him 'Shi-chan'. Or maybe just 'Dude'."
"Baka," came the growled comment from behind the computer.
"Heero, you really shouldn't say that as if it's a bad thing," Quatre chided, walking in behind Duo with a gold plushie camel cradled in the crook of one arm. "Sandy might be offended."
Startled blue eyes slowly rose above the laptop's screen, staring at Quatre. Wufei blinked in surprise, then rose to leave, shaking his head.
"I knew it," he muttered, walking out. "Maxwell's catching. We're all going to end up like him..."
Quatre and Duo carried their plushies with them wherever they went for the next two days, cheerfully including them in conversations, asking their opinions... and telling Heero not to speak so sharply to 'our bakas' whenever he uttered the B-word. Wufei and Trowa watched in silent bewilderment for a while -- apart from a couple of caustic comments about 'Maxwell Disease' -- but eventually the Chinese pilot couldn't take it any more, and cornered them alone in the kitchen.
"What are you two up to?" he asked, keeping his voice down. "I can see that you're driving Yui slowly insane, and I have some sympathy for your project, but I want to know why you chose this method."
"Sympathy?" Duo asked, eyebrows heading for his hairline. "Why, Wuffie, you surprise me! I woulda thought you'd be on his side."
Wufei scowled, looking slightly uncomfortable. "You are occasionally juvenile, and frequently irritating, but you are a fellow Gundam pilot. You deserve to be respected for your skills, not insulted every time you express an opinion that differs from his. ...Besides, your humour is sometimes welcome."
"Thank you for that glowing praise," Duo said wryly, then glanced at his partner in crime. "Well, Q-man? Do we tell him? He did ask nicely..."
They told him.
When Wufei stopped laughing, he grinned at them. "Where did you get those? I want one."
"C'mon, Wuffie. It's time for a trip to the mall!"
The next morning, Heero stamped into the lounge room and slammed the door behind him. "Quatre was feeding that thing cornflakes!" he snarled, turning towards Wufei's chair; then he froze, staring in disbelief.
"Do you mind, Yui?" Wufei snapped, pushing his glasses further up his nose. "We're trying to read."
Perched on the back of his chair, a small white plushie camel was 'reading' the book over his shoulder.
Wufei was a little less obvious about being part of the Camel Brigade, but Shen turned up wherever he went, perched on some nearby piece of furniture and quietly observing whatever he was doing. In some ways, Heero found this harder to deal with than Quatre and Duo's conversations with theirs.
Trowa observed this new development with interest. The next evening, after Heero had stalked out of the lounge room when Duo and Quatre started discussing the movie with their plushies, he asked a very simple question.
The other three glanced at each other and smirked.
Turning a corner, Heero nearly bumped into Trowa coming the other way. "Oh good, it's you," he grumbled. "I thought it was one of... the... bakas..." He trailed off, looking fixedly at Trowa's left shoulder.
A small red-brown plushie camel stared solemnly back at him.
"What have you got against bakas?" Trowa asked quietly.
"I don't believe this," Heero muttered, slowly reaching forward and picking it up. "I do not believe this. They got you, too?" He dropped the camel on the floor, shaking his head; Trowa frowned slightly and picked it up, dusting it carefully before replacing it on his shoulder.
"Be careful. You'll get Legs dirty."
"You've all been infected! Wufei was right, before it got him. It's Maxwell Disease!"
Trowa raised an eyebrow.
"WHAT IS GOING ON?!" Heero yelled, clenching his fists.
"You really should be careful what you call people," Quatre said calmly, coming around the corner behind Heero with the other two pilots. "Sometimes words have two meanings."
"And sometimes it's just plain annoying," Duo put in; Wufei nodded.
"Take 'baka', for example," Quatre continued, unruffled. "In Japanese, it means 'idiot'. But in Arabic..."
"...it means 'young camel'."
All four pilots waved their camels at Heero.
"You... this... because..." Heero sputtered.
"Yes, Hee-chan?" Duo asked innocently.
"...because I called that baka a baka?!"
"We wanted to stop you insulting Duo," Quatre explained.
"It was getting on our nerves," Duo grumbled.
Trowa nodded, absent-mindedly patting Legs. "So we got on yours."
Wufei sneered. "Overuse of one insult shows a lack of creativity, anyway."
"It was my idea!" Quatre said brightly.
"KISAMA!" Heero roared, lunging for him.
Half an hour later, when Heero finally stopped swearing -- and stopped trying to get out of the ropes tying him to a chair -- Quatre finally got to use the line he'd been saving for days.
"Really, Heero," he said in a disappointed voice, holding Sandy against his heart. "You should try to have a little more kisama with people."
Heero gaped; Quatre smiled sweetly.
"It's Sanskrit for 'patience'."
Main Gundam Wing
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