in Paradise + Part 4
Wufei carefully maneuvered
Nataku into the underground cavern beneath the Winner mansion. Rashid
had met him at the door and invited him in to greet Quatre, but Wufei
had insisted on seeing his Gundam properly concealed first. Rashid had
obligingly given him directions to the cavern entrance, which Wufei had
to admit he wouldn't have found without the assistance. It was well disguised.
He walked the massive green Gundam slowly into the dimly lit bunker, unsurprised
to encounter row upon row of the sand-colored mobile suits the Maguanacs
used, each with it's own number stenciled elegantly on one ‘shoulder.'
He moved Nataku toward the deeper portion of the cavern, where he could
see the shadowy bulk of two other Gundams. As he got closer, he could
see that it was Sandrock and Deathscythe standing at attention against
the rock wall. As he moved Nataku in beside the bat-winged Gundam, he
noticed the cockpit hatch was hanging open and a few of the body panels
had been removed, apparently for repairs. He wondered if Duo had come
ahead of Heero and Trowa, or if Quatre was having the Maguanacs work on
Once he had Nataku properly situated and powered down, Wufei opened his
own hatch and had his question immediately answered. Duo's unmistakable
voice wafted from the interior of the boy's Gundam. He was singing in
English, some song unfamiliar to Wufei. But that described pretty much
everything Wufei had ever heard Duo sing. He listened with half an ear
to the lyrics as he rode the lift strap down to the floor and crossed
over to Deathscythe's massive feet.
"Crashing silent, broken down... fallen into night... who gave up and
who gave in, I'll go without a fight... cut me down or cut me dead, cut
me in or out... kiss me blind time after time, take away my doubt... fix
me now, I wish you would... bring me back to life... kiss me blind, somebody
should, from hollow into light... " Wufei frowned at the words. An odd
song. He rapped his fist sharply against Deathscythe's gundanium plating.
Duo's singing immediately stopped and he called out, "Geez, Ahmed, everybody's
a music critic, huh? Do I complain when you're singing Desert Rose?"
Wufei felt a smile forming on his face. Oddly enough, considering their
last encounter, he had missed Duo. The American's good-natured teasing
and perpetual high spirits were refreshing in the middle of a war. The
last time he'd seen Duo, that aspect of his personality had been almost
completely repressed, and Wufei had been a bit worried that the laughing
baka was gone for good.
"Maxwell!" he barked sharply upwards, interrupting a muttered tirade about
censorship and personal expression. Duo was silent a moment, then a familiar
head appeared at the edge of the cockpit hatch, and a familiar braid dangled
over the side.
"Wufei?" Duo asked incredulously. "Is that really you?"
"Who were you expecting, Khushrenada?" Wufei asked sarcastically. Duo
laughed merrily in reply, and Wufei smiled again. It seemed his worry
for the American had been groundless. "May I come up?" he called.
"Sure!" Duo yelled back, and the lift strap began descending before Wufei
could even begin to locate the ground level control. When it reached him,
he climbed on, settling his foot into the loop as the strap reversed direction.
He stepped onto the platform set into Deathscythe's chest, where he saw
Duo had most the cockpit instruments spread out in varying degrees of
assembly. He raised an eloquent eyebrow in question. Duo shrugged and
muttered, "Young Master Winner fucked up all the calibrations and then
managed to short circuit half the systems." Duo's tone was light, but
Wufei thought he detected an undercurrent of tension. He settled into
a lotus position out of range of any spare parts and studied the American
for a moment.
Duo returned his scrutiny, pulling his legs up to his chest and offering
his best wide-eyed innocent expression. The one that fooled no one who
had known the boy more than an hour.
"So, how are you?" Wufei asked without preamble. His relationship with
Duo was an odd one. They weren't exactly close, and they had nothing in
common, but they shared a certain bond. You couldn't almost die with someone
and not feel a connection to him. Duo made the reserved Chinese pilot
uneasy with his open manner, but Wufei respected Duo's honesty. In return,
he knew Duo was sometimes perturbed by his admittedly archaic sense of
honor, but appreciated his fairness.
At the same time, they both rather enjoyed seeing each other squirm. It
was a somewhat adversarial friendship.
But it was a friendship, nonetheless, which made Wufei wonder at the sudden
coldness in Duo's eyes at his simple question. The wide-eyed expression
became more closed, almost defensive. The arms wrapped around his knees
"Been talking to Quatre?" Duo asked, his voice cold. Wufei frowned. This
was an odd reaction.
"No... " he said slowly. "I haven't seen Winner yet. I am just now arrived."
"Oh," Duo said, sounding surprised, and his posture immediately relaxed,
his smile returning.
"So, how are you?" Wufei asked again. His curiosity about Duo's first
reaction was overwhelming, but he would bide his time for an answer.
Duo shrugged in reply. "I'm okay," he said offhandedly, glancing off to
the side as he spoke. "Heero and Trowa are off picking up their Gundams,"
he continued before Wufei could open his mouth. "They left three days
ago. Should be back in a couple more. Right now it's just you, me and
"And Quatre," Wufei added, watching closely for a reaction.
Duo frowned as though he'd tasted something bitter. "Yeah, Quatre," he
muttered, looking away again.
Wufei ached to ask the question. Instead he tried a different topic. "Did
Yuy get around to apologizing for his reprehensible behavior?" he asked
calmly. Wufei had been rather bewildered by the whole situation at the
time, but upon reflection, he'd decided that what the Japanese boy had
done to Duo had been unjustly cruel.
Duo blinked in surprise at the question, then a slow, more genuine smile
began to spread across his face. He lowered his legs, shifting to sit
Indian style. A far less defensive position, Wufei noted. "Yeah," Duo
said slowly, "yeah, he did. In fact, we're kind of...together now, and...
oh, hell you don't want to hear about that," he interrupted himself, a
crimson blush staining pale cheeks.
Wufei felt his eyes widen slightly, but managed to repress any further
reaction to the news. After all, he knew the two had slept together once
already. It wasn't all that surprising they'd worked out their differences,
especially with Barton there to act as the much-needed voice of reason.
He'd actually hoped Maxwell and Yuy would get together. He'd decided they
would be good for each other.
Still, one wasn't certain exactly what to say.
"Ah... well, congratulations," Wufei offered hesitantly. It seemed to
be acceptable. Duo beamed happily at him.
"Geez, Wu-man, you're being really cool about this," he declared in an
"Am I not always... cool?" Wufei asked archly, his dark eyes twinkling.
Duo laughed heartily at the remark while Wufei pretended to be offended,
sticking his nose in the air and scowling.
Finally Duo calmed down and wiped the tears of hilarity from his eyes.
He was now sprawled out on his side, looking up at Wufei from beneath
his eternally too-long bangs. "I missed you, Wu," he declared softly.
Then he sighed and rolled over onto his back, staring up at the shadowed
roof of the cavern. "Okay," he said firmly. "You can ask."
Wufei pondered this permission. There were so many questions... but first
things first, he supposed.
"Your recovery goes well?" he asked calmly.
Duo's lips tightened slightly at the question, but he simply shrugged
again and replied, "As well as can be expected. Yeah, I'm doing okay,
Wufei nodded in acknowledgment. "That is good," he declared, feeling relieved.
Duo turned his head, frowning over at the Chinese pilot. "You believe
me? Just like that?" he asked suspiciously.
Wufei frowned. "I have never known you to lie, Maxwell. Are you saying
I shouldn't believe you?"
"No! I just... " Duo turned his face back to the ceiling, frowning softly.
"I guess I'm just out of the habit of people not thinking the worst of
me," he concluded bitterly.
"What happened?" Wufei asked softly. He hated to pry, and if Maxwell refused
to answer, he would let the matter drop. But if there was something troubling
the American that Wufei could help him with, he hoped to be permitted
Wufei had been quite surprised to discover how Duo had been supporting
the group of them back in the city. He'd also been astonished to learn
of the boy's history of drug abuse. In his shock, he had hesitated to
defend Duo from Quatre's angry statements, and when he had been
spurred to protest, he had been less than enthusiastic in his arguments.
Since he'd left the group, Wufei had taken time to meditate upon what
he had seen and learned during that strange week they'd spent cooped up
together. His conclusions had left him ashamed of not sticking up more
strenuously for the American when Duo could not defend himself.
Then he had contacted Sally Po, and they had had a very long and informative
discussion about drug addiction and recovery, which had left Wufei quietly
amazed at Duo's inner strength. Considering what Sally had told him about
situations and emotions that could trigger a relapse into drug use, Wufei
thought it was frankly amazing that Duo had resisted at all. And the behavior
of his friends had been less than supportive.
No longer, though. Wufei was determined he would repay his debt to Duo.
The American had put himself at great risk for his friends, and such an
action deserved loyalty and support. He would not shirk his duty again.
All this passed through Wufei's mind while Duo stared at the ceiling and
chewed his lip, apparently contemplating the answer to Wufei's final question.
After another few minutes of contemplation, the braided boy sighed heavily,
and began to speak.
"Well, in a way, I guess I brought it on myself, cuz I shoulda known better
than to kiss Trowa goodbye in Little Lord Winner's mansion... "
Wufei listened in amazement and dawning horror to Duo's account of Quatre's
attack on his character three days earlier. It didn't seem possible that
the gentle Arabian, usually the peacemaker of the group, would be so deliberately
hurtful to one of his closest friends. And Duo had been the closest to
Quatre of them all, having been the one to spend the most time with the
blond other than Heero, and Maxwell's nature being more open and sociable
than the Japanese boy's was.
Of course, Wufei reflected irritably, where Barton was involved, all bets
were off with Quatre. The blond's strange fascination with the tall, quiet
boy was really no less baffling than Relena Peacecraft's obsession with
Heero. And Trowa gave Quatre even less encouragement than Heero did that
But, infatuated or not, it was unconscionable for Quatre to treat a friend
and fellow pilot the way he had Duo. There was simply no excuse to stage
a surprise attack on a man's weak point, and then kick him when he was
Wufei sat quietly, seeking control of the simmering anger Duo's words
had kindled within him. He could tell from he American's dismissive attitude
toward the event that Duo did not wish to make an issue of it. This was
probably at least partially due to the unavoidable fact that the five
of them had to work together or they would surely fail in their mission.
Wufei admired Duo's ability to swallow his pride in order to prevent a
schism within their ranks, since Heero, and probably Trowa as well considering
some of what Duo had said, would be less than thrilled with the Arabian
if they learned of the episode.
But Wufei was also certain that Duo's motives for keeping the matter to
himself were not completely logical. He'd known Duo for a long time now,
they all had, but Wufei had perhaps had a bit more experience with a certain
aspect of the American's psyche than the others.
It was inevitable in a relationship such as theirs, where the status quo
was a semi-constant state of friendly antagonism. You learned, better
than even much closer friends, your opponent's weaknesses. You learned
which buttons you could push to produce a certain reaction. You learned
that which irritated, that which enraged...and that which truly hurt.
Duo knew these things about Wufei, and, to a lesser extent, he was certain,
Wufei knew these things about Duo. Not that they had made an involved
psychological study of one another, but such was the nature of their interactions.
Offhand comments and deliberate insults, the results of which were carefully
observed and catalogued. They knew how to get beneath each other's skin,
and by silent agreement, since they really were friends beneath it all,
they avoided topics that hit too close to their hearts.
But this accumulated knowledge, which he would never have put to such
use, allowed Wufei to realize how deeply Quatre had actually hurt Duo.
He had struck at the American's most vulnerable point, his sense of self-worth.
Wufei had some issues in that area himself, as they all did. They were
adolescents, after all. But Duo's insecurities were more deeply ingrained
than most. Wufei had known this for some time, and thus carefully avoided
any comments that could be taken as direct belittlement of Duo's worth
to the group. Considering all that he had learned of Duo recently, Wufei
could now more clearly understand where that insecurity stemmed from.
He was certain that at least part of Duo's desire not to make an issue
of Quatre's cruelty was the result of the American's doubts and fears.
Part of Duo, Wufei was grimly certain, was probably in complete agreement
with Quatre's assessment of him.
Wufei sighed, releasing his anger with his breath. His anger was useless
"The Maguanacs... they have treated you poorly as well?" Wufei finally
Duo rolled back onto his side to face Wufei, frowning slightly in obvious
confusion. "No, actually they've been really cool," Duo replied, sounding
puzzled. Wufei felt greatly relieved at this statement. At least Duo had
not been stranded alone in a completely hostile household. Duo shook his
head. "I don't get that, really. I mean, those guys worship Quatre. But
even though his Imperial Blond Majesty has been giving me the cold shoulder
for days now not that I want to talk to him anyway they haven't
been jerks or anything. And, like, they let me eat out here in the hangar
with them, and I've been hanging out in the barracks, trading war stories...
They're nice guys."
Duo still looked puzzled, but he seemed more relaxed speaking of the Maguanacs'
kindness than he had been since Wufei had arrived. Wufei bent his head
to his chest, concealing a small smile. He remembered watching Duo with
the rowdy pack of mechanics who had manned the Peacemillion. Duo had been
well liked by them all. The other pilots didn't associate with the crew
much. It didn't surprise Wufei that Duo got on well with the Maguanacs.
He was truly the friendliest of the group. Quatre the Maguanacs adored
and followed, for some strange reason Wufei had never quite learned, but
Duo just had a way with people. Quatre held himself apart, he was Master
Quatre to these men, despite being a boy of fifteen. But Duo mingled cheerfully
with anyone and everyone. No one was below, or above him, for that matter.
Which, Wufei suspected, was an aspect of Duo's personality that rubbed
Winner wrong on some level. The blond had been raised believing himself
better than most people, and being considered an equal by a street kid
from L2 probably didn't strike Quatre as the honor it had come to be to
A loud voice interrupted Wufei's musings. "You okay up there, Duo?"
Duo grinned and hung his head over the side of the platform. "Yeah, I'm
cool, Kalid. Why?"
"Well, when the caterwauling stopped, we started to worry you passed out
from lack of oxygen up there or something," the voice called back sarcastically.
"Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't realize you liked my singing so much that you'd
miss it! I'll start singing again, I promise and I'll be loud this time!"
An agonized groan issued from floor level, and Wufei chuckled softly at
the exchange. Yes, the Maguanacs had obviously remained friendly with
Duo, and were apparently keeping a concerned eye on the boy as well. Some
of his guilt over having put off travelling to the mansion was assuaged.
He still wished he had been here to defend Duo from Quatre, or at least
to comfort and reassure him afterwards, but at least Duo hadn't been completely
would have been a situation with potential for disaster.
Duo finished his exchange of insults with the Maguanac below, and was
informed that dinner was ready, if he cared to join them. Duo glanced
over his shoulder, raising a brow at Wufei. Wufei nodded in return. He
felt no desire to go into the mansion and eat with Quatre.
"Okay if Wu comes, too?" Duo yelled down.
"The more the merrier," Kalid replied affably.
"All right! Let's eat!" Duo declared happily, jumping to his feet and
beginning to scramble down his Gundam, not bothering with the lift strap.
"Maxwell! Are you crazy? You could fall to your death!" Wufei yelled irritably
down at the boy as Duo swung himself down from Deathscythe's hip to its
leg. Duo just laughed in reply, sliding down to the floor.
Wufei shook his head. "Yuy's bad influence," he grumbled to himself.
Quatre pushed his mu shu pork
around his plate with his fork, frowning slightly. From the corner of
his eye, he could see Rashid, standing silently against the wall, wincing
as the sharp tines of the fork scraped against the expensive china. Ignoring
Rashid's discomfort, Quatre turned his gaze to the untouched plate congealing
"Do you think he got lost?" Quatre asked, a wistful note creeping into
his voice. Duo hadn't shown up for meals with Quatre since their... disagreement.
This had troubled Quatre, reinforcing his theory that Duo was still in
denial about the extent of his problems. Quatre knew he'd been a bit harsh
with the boy, but... it was all for Duo's own good. Tough love. Upon reviewing
the scene he'd observed from the hallway, Quatre had finally remembered
that Trowa hadn't responded to Duo's advances, but had simply turned and
left. Obviously, the tall pilot hadn't wanted to upset Duo by yelling
or pushing him away, but just as obviously, Trowa hadn't really fallen
prey to Duo's manipulations.
Once he realized this, much of Quatre's initial anger had dissipated,
allowing his concern for Duo's health and well-being to occupy his thought
again. He'd expressed some of his concerns to Rashid when a day and a
half had passed with no sign of Duo. Rashid had given Quatre a rather
strange look, hesitating a moment, then informed him that Duo was out
in the hangar, working on Deathscythe. The Maguanacs were watching over
him. Rashid had also pointed out to Quatre that the mansion was fairly
well isolated, so there really wasn't any danger of Duo using heroin at
the moment. There wasn't any around.
Quatre had been somewhat skeptical of that idea. True, he was pretty certain
Duo hadn't been using the drug before their time in the city, but then,
one never really knew. They all spent a lot of time alone, on solo missions.
Who knew what Duo did for recreation? And it was always possible the American
kept an emergency stash in his Gundam, although Quatre had checked everywhere
he could think of in Deathscythe's cockpit.
Rashid had refrained from replying to any of these comments. He had simply
given Quatre another odd look, his lips pressed together in a thin line.
They hadn't discussed the situation further.
Quatre had been quite busy for the past few days with Winner Enterprises
business, but he still occasionally found time to worry about Duo, or
Heero, or, most often, Trowa...
But today he had finished up his paperwork for a while, and then Wufei
had arrived. Quatre had been thrilled. Finally, a rational human being
he could talk to. Wufei, he was certain, would share his concerns about
Duo, and perhaps between them they could figure out how to make the American
face up to reality. Quatre had sent special instructions to the chef,
and had been looking forward to sharing a nice, friendly dinner with the
But Wufei had never arrived. According to Rashid and the servants, the
Chinese boy hadn't come back to the house after asking for directions
to the underground hangar.
It occurred to Quatre that Rashid had never answered his question. He
turned to the large man with a frown, but just as he did so, a familiar
slender figure in white stepped into the dining room.
Quatre smiled brightly in greeting at Wufei, not put off by the Chinese
boy's dour expression. Wufei was as bad as Heero when it came to dark
"Wufei! It's so good to see you! Did you get Nataku put away?" Quatre
asked, deciding he wouldn't make an issue about Wufei's rudeness in not
coming in for dinner. The plate of cold food made an eloquent enough statement
on its own.
Wufei stared flatly at Quatre for a moment, then answered shortly, "Yes."
Quatre's smile faltered slightly at the brief reply, but he recovered
quickly. Wufei was not terribly sociable, and they'd never really been
very close. None of the others were outgoing really, except... Quatre's
smile faltered again, and again he forced it back to its original brightness.
Wufei stared at him flatly for a while, then announced, "I've been speaking
Quatre decided the smile wasn't worth the effort. He let it fade, an expression
of mild interest taking its place. "Oh?" he murmured inquiringly.
Wufei's dark eyes narrowed, his hand twitching near the hilt of his katana.
"I would like to hear your reasons for attacking him, Winner," Wufei said
Quatre blinked in surprise. "Attacking him?" he asked. "Is that what he
told you? Really, Wufei, would I treat a friend and teammate like that?
I just said some things to him that he needed to hear, but he doesn't
want to acknowledge the truth, so "
"Some things he needed to hear?" Wufei repeated incredulously.
His eyes widened again in amazement. "He needed to be told he was
using sex to manipulate Heero? That you, one of the few people whose opinion
matters to him, have no faith in his recovery? That in your eyes
he's... what was it exactly? A fucking junkie and a whore?" Wufei glared
challengingly at Quatre, who felt his stomach twist painfully at hearing
his words thrown back at him. Somehow... somehow he'd blocked out how
very... cruel he'd actually been. He'd just been so angry...
"This was what he needed to hear?" Wufei demanded in a tone
of quiet menace.
Quatre's mouth opened and closed several times, but no sound came out.
He wasn't sure what he was trying to say. Considering Wufei's angry misinterpretation
of events, he wasn't sure what he could say.
But is it really a misinterpretation?
some small part
of his mind whispered. He's only repeating the things you said. You
know you said them. You were there.
But they had to be said!
Quatre argued with himself.
Quatre dropped his gaze from
Wufei's scowling face, baffled by that faint internal question. Why
had he said all those things? It had been out of concern for Duo... hadn't
Was it? Or was it...
his mind dredged up a flash of memory, Duo's lips pressed gently to Trowa's...
Quatre denied sharply. "No!"
Wufei blinked in surprise, and Quatre realized that he'd voiced his vehement
denial aloud. He flushed slightly. He wasn't jealous, damn it! But he
could hardly explain the train of thought that had produced his statement
"I... perhaps I was a bit... harsher than I should have been," he murmured
reluctantly. He wasn't certain at all that that was true, but the statement
seemed to placate Wufei a bit.
"Perhaps you were," the Chinese boy snapped irritably. "Perhaps you ought
Quatre stifled a frown. Why did no one else see... But of course, they
were all taken in by Duo. The American was obviously a highly skilled
manipulator, to convince people who'd seen him in the midst if his drug-induced
frenzy that he didn't have a problem.
It would do no good to argue with everyone.
"Perhaps I ought to," he replied slowly.
Wufei relaxed visibly at that, a small, pleased smile appearing on his
face. "I think he would like that. I think it would be a great help,"
Wufei declared, nodding firmly. He waited for Quatre's nod of reply, then
turned and walked silently from the chamber.
"Master Quatre," Rashid rumbled behind him, a note of approval in his
voice that Quatre abruptly realized had been lacking for a few days. "It
takes a strong person to admit when he has been wrong."
Quatre made a murmured noise of assent to the platitude, and dismissed
Rashid for the evening.
He sat there for a while longer, playing with the congealing food.
It did take a strong person to admit when he was wrong.
Precisely why Duo couldn't do it.
And while Quatre acknowledged that he had been sharper than he'd intended
with Duo, he wasn't convinced that that was a bad thing. Still, it was
possible that he ought to apologize.
But that didn't mean he would.
[part 3] [part
5] [back to Aoe's fic]