Author: Asuka Kureru
See 4 AM for warnings.

Enters Wufei

For the next week, I stay at home, walking around in a sort of weird daze--- when I'm not napping. It's as if everything was wrapped up in cotton fluff, but at the same time nothing has ever been sharper, more intense. ...Well, when I'm awake. I'm tired as hell and aching all over, though I'm getting better. But that isn't important.

Even if I don't see him, I can feel Heero in the house, feel him with that weird spider-sense, just as sharp as I could feel a burglar sneaking in during the night or an Ozzie closing in on me in the war. It's a skill I developed early in life and it has never been wrong. And it tells me that he's here again. He's sitting on the windowsill when I water the plants and behind me when I cook and in his office when I watch TV and suddenly, the house is a home again.

Though he hardly speaks.

Since we came back from the cemetery, he hasn't said more than three words. Contrary to popular belief, Heero does talk. His talk is just concise and never without a subject, like I was prone to doing when I was younger. When he talks, he says exactly what he means, hardly a word more or less, but if the subject needs details, then he'll give them. He's not a mute. And that doesn't mean that he only talks about highly serious matters of life and death either. He's totally able to comment on the latest trend in the clothes our neighbor's children are wearing or to tell me why he considers my choice in sock colors hilarious. He talks about just as many subjects as I do; he just chooses his words more carefully.

But recently, he isn't speaking. And I've only seen him twice--- both times in the middle of the night, awakened from one of those nightmares made of loneliness and despair---leaning over me and watching me intently, making sure that I truly was okay. Then he gave me one of his tiny, barely-there smiles and faded from view again. I have the feeling that it's really difficult to him to make himself visible, and I would like to help, but I'm not sure how. I swear, as soon as I get better, I'll run to the bookshops I visited to find my ritual and I'll dig out everything I can.

For now, I'm tired and he's watching over me.

It's good to sleep soundly again.

+

I wonder how I managed not to hear the phone once during the last week. Okay, I was sleeping most of the time, but still, I would think it's loud enough to wake me up and I must have gotten lots of calls, if I believe the frantic expression on Wufei's face as I open the door to him.

"Wufei? What are you doing here?" I ask, but I'm not that surprised finally. If I'd been able to think that far, I would have been surprised NOT to hear about him. He and the rest of the gang know well not to call me for a few days after the anniversary of Heero's death, since this is a time where I need my space to find a sort of balance again; and the last time Quatre tried to mother-hen me and guilt me into letting go of my unhealthy obsession the day after I came back from the cemetery, I kind of thew him out the window ---chill out, we're on the ground floor--- but they usually don't grant me more than three or four days before I get a cautious call, usually by Trowa or Hilde since they're more level-headed about it, making sure that I'm still alive and asking how long it will be till they can come and visit.

"What am I doing here?" Wufei looks calm and composed, but that's only at the surface. Underneath he's furious and still worried as hell. Now I'm feeling guilty.

I haven't answered the phone for seven days. Of course they're worried. I wince. "... Sorry, Wufei... I think my phone doesn't work, or I must have turned the volume down without meaning to." I turn around to guide Wufei to the living room; the guy deserves a coffee at least.

'I turned the sound off. You needed the sleep.'

It's a good thing I'm turning my back on Wufei or he'd see my face, and since he hasn't reacted to the soft murmur of Heero's voice, that means he didn't hear anything special, even though Heero didn't speak THAT softly. I get control of my expression, hiding my surprise and my delight at hearing Heero talk to me, and turn to Wufei. "Sit down, man. Black, one sugar?"

He nods. I wonder why he's looking so puzzled. Bah! I'll ask later. I walk to the kitchen, seeing the coffee machine already working. "Thanks, love," I whisper softly. "But don't tire yourself out."

'Ryoukai,' Heero answers, and his presence grows less defined. I grumble; twelve years after the last skirmish and he still can't get rid of the military terminology. But I can't keep the frown on too long, and when I put the coffee cups on the plate, I'm already grinning. I missed his quirks as much as everything else. And the crisp, sharp tone he takes when pronouncing the "ryoukai", determined, nearly commanding... Okay, best not go there now, I don't want Wufei to wonder why Trowa's circus is hiding in my pants.

I put Wufei's cup of coffee down in front of him and sit down, feeling the urge to whistle cheerfully. But if I did that, I'd give the guy a heart attack. I haven't whistled once in seven years. I don't want him thinking that I've finally snapped.

"So... How've you been, Wu?"

Time, time, I need time. He's going to ask and I don't know how to tell him anything without lying. ... And I don't want anyone else knowing about Heero right now. I doubt anyone else can see him, and if it doesn't fit the definition of hallucination, I don't know what does.

"I've been fine, Maxwell. ...I see Sally Po and Trowa often." He then tells me a little bit about how they're doing.

"Work?" I ask. I know he doesn't like to talk about work, because he's still with the Preventers, like we were, Heero and I, before he got shot, and usually, I don't like to hear about it overly much either.

"Things are a lot calmer now. People are relaxing and getting used to the new peace. ...Being partnered with Marquise is trying, but no one else would be adequate," he adds hesitantly, unsure apparently if that's too much information.

"Zechs has always been a stuck-up prick," I answer, letting one corner of my mouth curl up faintly in a wry smirk. "But he's good at what he does. As long as you can work around his blue blood and his self-esteem problems... And as long as HE can work around your stubborn-ass self, too."

Ha! He didn't expect that one. He should have, frankly. He's gaping, not knowing whether to laugh, be offended or just stare at me. It's been too long since I teased him last.

I feel my face soften minutely. I have neglected my friends badly, secluded in my despair and ignoring the rest of the world. Sure, Heero is my heart and soul, but that doesn't mean that I should keep on taking what my friends offer me and give nothing in return. They love me too, as I love them. They deserve better.

"... I'm sorry, Wufei. Bet I've been hard to deal with lately," I murmur, eyes on my cup of coffee.

He's looking at me, his black eyes serious, vaguely melancholy.

"I wouldn't say that it's been easy to deal with you, but it was more painful than difficult. But this doesn't matter; we're here as long as you need us. Don't go feeling guilty now; you'd do the same for any of us, wouldn't you?"

I wonder if my smile reflects how shaky I feel. "Of course."

We sit face to face in silence, both pensive, both hoping for things to change for the better.

He breaks it first. "Duo, may I ask--- that is, you look..."

"Better?" I finish the sentence for him, knowing well what he means. I'm not going to pretend that I don't understand. He deserves more than that.

But I can't tell him the truth either. I hate that, but I want him to be reassured, not to send me to a madhouse for my own good. I'm going to have to do some fancy plays on words.

"I did a lot of thinking lately..." '...about how to get Heero back mostly,' "and I ...realized something." I hope my tone is meaningful enough for Wufei because I am so not going into the details. After a pause, I continue. "You have to understand that I'll never let go of Heero..." and here I smile at him, "but it doesn't hurt so bad anymore."

I hide a wince at the "but". Everything else is the truth, though certainly not the whole truth, even if it's presented to make Wufei understand something else than what I mean, but the "but" indicates an opposition between not letting go of Heero and not hurting anymore, which is a flat out lie. I'm not hurting anymore BECAUSE I won't let go of Heero, so this is technically a lie. I feel like my head needs a good shower to get rid of the ickiness.

His face went through surprise and hope, to turn to sadness and finally, relief and happiness. It makes the icky feeling left by the lie a little better. If it can make Wufei feel that sort of relief, then it's a good thing, right? A white lie, not that serious. Wufei feels better because he thinks I'm happy again, or, not devastated anymore at least, and even though I wasn't truthful about the reason why I feel better, it is nevertheless true that I do.

I'll go to a church and confess to the lie, for Father Maxwell and Sister Helen. They taught me not to lie, and I want to atone for that.

Even though I'm not sure they'd approve of what else I've done lately ---the profane rituals, and going against the natural order of the cycle of life and death--- but even their disapproval wouldn't make me change my mind. I can't live without Heero. I can't kill myself, and I don't really want to if there is another choice available. There is another choice available. I'm taking it. I'm not sorry.

"... Duo?"

"Oh, sorry. I was thinking," I answer Wufei, giving him a quick smile to reassure him. It does more than reassure him, if I judge by the way his eyes widen slightly, incredulous, then ---then mist over? Have I really worried him that much?

"... You smile true again."

It's the first time of my life that I see Wufei Chang beam.

Of course, two seconds later we're both looking elsewhere, pretending that he never said anything special and deep and meaningful or looked at me so openly, with his soul bare in his eyes, and pretending that I'm not about to cry. We're guys, what did you expect?

"... So... It's been a while since I went anywhere. Is the park still there? We could take a walk," I suggest almost casually.

Wufei winces, his expression darkening. "Um. No. Sorry."

... gone? the place where Heero and the guys and I picnicked? The place where we played Frisbee and I tackled Heero on the grass and Trowa and me threw Quatre in the pond is gone?

'Don't be silly, anata. It's just a place. The memories are safe.'

I take a deep breath and give Wufei a small, lopsided smile. "... Well then we'll go somewhere else. It was just a place. Pretty, okay, but..." I shrug, trying to convey the lack of importance of the matter.

Wufei nods slowly, not sure that he believes my casual tone. He's right, it does sting. But Heero's right, too. I still have the memories, and they're the important thing. It's too bad that we won't be able to go back there, it was a really cool place, but I'll get over it.

I finish my coffee in one big slurp and jump on my feet. "Well then, let's go."

Wufei gets up slowly, smiling in a softened way of the mocking smirk he used to use for me. I see myself in his eyes. Not quite as bouncy, my grin not quite as wide or manic. I'm not the boy I was; I'll never be again. I'm scarred.

But I don't care about the scars. I survived, and I'll keep on surviving. I'll never give up. That's who I am.

A survivor.

I could swear I can feel Heero smile.

end

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