Author: BleedtoBlue
Genre: Gundam Wing FanFiction, AU
Pairings: 6x2, 1xR, 3x4, hints of 5x2,
Warnings: m/m, possibly OoC Wufei.

A/N: Thank you to Marasmine for beta-ing, for encouraging me, and for all the other stuff, too.

The Entropy of Memory + Chapter 7

Zechs' bed was empty when Duo woke up in the morning, empty and neatly made-up. It was like he'd never been there. Duo blinked but the scent of coffee was wafting upstairs from the kitchen along with other sounds and odors that said, ‘breakfast.' Duo hurried into the bathroom to take a shower.

He showered, too quickly again, wishing he weren't too hungry to spend more time just standing under the hot water and letting the pulsating shower wipe away all his aching, knotted muscles. Like all of Quatre's homes this one was well appointed and luxurious. Finishing reluctantly, Duo wrapped a towel loosely around his hips, and rubbed his hair with another towel before he combed it out. Tangles and snarls removed along with most of the water Duo walked out of the bathroom thinking about breakfast.

Stepping into the bedroom wearing nothing but a towel, his still damp hair falling loosely over one shoulder and down his back, and Duo was pretty sure a deer-in-the-headlights stare as he found Zechs draped decoratively over a chair by the small corner table; neatly dressed, long legs crossed, sipping coffee if the odor wafting across the room was any indication.

Zechs didn't look in the least startled or bothered by Duo's state of undress. In fact his eyes swept over Duo in a bold appraising glance. An appreciative glance Duo thought as to his dismay he felt himself flush from head to toe in a response that was not entirely due to embarrassment. Duo's hormones were doing a sudden unexpected dance that embarrassed and confused him even more. He cursed the space-baby paleness that made the total body blush even more evident. And he thought, I'm standing there like an idiot, caught completely off guard and in danger of losing the towel as he blinked at Zechs who was wearing a pleased smile.

Zechs had the good grace to at least pretend he hadn't noticed the blush and switched his gaze to the table, picking up a cup and a thermos and offering, "Coffee?" in his pleasantly deep voice. Duo's mind, completely of its own volition supplied the rest, ‘or tea, or me.' Duo's body responded with a wave of heat as he scrambled to think without an adequate blood supply to his brain. His usual knack for snappy retorts seemed to have vanished.

"Yeah, thanks," Duo finally dredged up from the depths of confusion as he tried to regain some sort of control.

"Are you getting dressed or will you be having breakfast in your…towel?" Zechs inquired politely, one pale eyebrow arched wryly. "Although I must say you look quite…charming that way." To Duo's horror the man positively leered, running his eyes over him, head to toe. The little voice in Duo's head pointed out that he obviously liked what he saw, too.

Shocked out of his frozen state and taking a firm grip on the towel, Duo regained enough control to snatch his clothes off the bed and make a dignified retreat to the bathroom to dress; it might have looked like he ran to the uninformed observer but honest, he thought to himself, it was a dignified, albeit very fast, walk. It didn't help that he heard Zechs laughing in the bedroom.

Safely in the bathroom Duo glared at his reflection in the vanity mirror and sternly instructed his hormones to go back to whatever dark corner they'd leaped out of, and informed them haughtily that They. Were. Not. Needed. Hormones resolutely stomped, clothes firmly in place, hair brushed and braided, and a measure of dignity regained Duo opened the door and stepped back into the room.

The smell of breakfast greeted him, a nice, solid, reassuring smell. Zechs was apparently back to normal, no hot glances, no leering; he was sipping coffee and reading some official looking papers. He picked the thermos back up and filled a coffe cup gesturing with the papers in his hand to the other chair. A small cart filled with covered dishes had made its appearance while Duo was in the bathroom, that's where the wonderful smells were coming from.

Zechs treated Duo to a calculating gaze that swept completely over him and covered him with a wash of heat. "Quatre thought you might prefer breakfast in quieter surroundings," was all he said. Duo had hoped they were going to pretend he hadn't just walked out practically naked a few minutes earlier, then run, blushing like a virgin bride on her wedding night.

Duo was used to locker room situations and wasn't particularly modest but something about standing there in nothing but a towel and his hair down in front of Zechs had caught him off guard. He'd shared the Preventors locker room with Zechs, changed, showered and never felt so vulnerable before. Of course if Zechs had stared at him, looked at him that way in the locker room Duo would have punched his lights out. You don't look at someone like that in the locker room, not that Duo hadn't looked, he was just circumspect about it. Duo was pretty sure you didn't look at your partner that way either but he was very sure he didn't want to have that discussion with Zechs.

Duo wanted to go back to the cool, professional relationship they'd had since Une forced them to work together. He didn't want this… whatever it was… that he'd become aware of, a change in Zechs since that lunch with Quatre to become a problem. Thinking back he wasn't sure that it hadn't begun before the lunch. Duo wasn't sure when he'd first noticed; when might, or might not be important. But what was important was ignoring it, what ever it was. He was going to ignore all of it, including the towel incident.

"Thanks for breakfast." Duo said, reaching for the cup of coffee Zechs had set down in front of him.

"You're welcome but I can't take credit, it was Quatre's idea." Zechs admitted.

"Nice of Quatre, I'm sure. What's he hiding downstairs that I'm not supposed to see?" Duo said. Zechs gave him a quick glance but didn't answer.

Quatre was probably being thoughtful but sometimes he got a bit overprotective. Duo's gut suddenly clenched, maybe Heero and Relena had decided to come after all and Quatre wanted to break it to him gently. He'd have to lock me up to keep me here, Duo said to himself and was making escape plans in his head when he realized Zechs was speaking.

"Duo, smoke is starting to come out your ears," he drawled in that uppercrust, aristocratic voice that belonged to Milliardo and not Zechs Merquise. Duo didn't like that voice much but it got his attention. Duo narrowed his eyes and looked at Zechs, frowning.

"Whatever you think is happening downstairs, it's nothing bad." Zechs usual crisp tones were back in place and Duo almost relaxed until he realized how easily Zechs had read him.

Zechs continued, "Quatre's security people are coordinating things with the agents Lady Une sent, they've taken over the dining room. She's making too much of it, but you know how Une can be." He smiled in a way that he might have meant to be reassuring but somehow made Duo uneasy. Or maybe it was the way his clear blue eyes were fixed on Duo, as if he were waiting, as if he were looking for something.

"What did you think Quatre was hiding from you?" He tilted his head, his eyes never leaving Duo's face, "Or was it someone you were thinking about?" Duo knew he must have gaped like a fish but quickly snapped his mouth shut and glared as he reached for the coffee. Duo ignored Zechs while he poured more coffee and took a sip.

"Cat is overprotective. Ever since he got taller than me he thinks of me as his younger brother, and he gets a bit carried away with his role sometimes." Duo wasn't going to lie but wasn't going to answer him either.

Zechs didn't seem annoyed by the evasiveness. The man actually smiled like Duo had said exactly what he'd expected. Zechs was getting on Duo's nerves, he decided. Duo was about to say something rude when there was a sharp knock on the door. Before Duo could shout come in, Zechs was on his feet, and headed towards the door. He wasn't quite there when it opened and Wufei stepped into the room. The two men eyed each other warily.

"Fei!" Duo shouted as he jumped up from the chair and moved across the room. He hadn't seen Chang in weeks, he'd been off on an assignment. Duo was delighted to see his friend and pleased to have his conversation with Zechs interrupted.

Duo quickly stepped around Zechs to embrace Wufei. "Oh, Fei, it's good to see you. When did you get back? Quatre didn't tell me you were coming!"

Duo was babbling to cover his discomfort with Zechs but he was glad to see Wufei, he'd missed 'Fei. Chang Wufei was someone he could talk to and, unlike Quatre, 'Fei didn't try to baby him or get all-overprotective; well, not as much as Quatre and never on assignments. While Wufei was always willing to help Duo, he didn't try to ‘fix' things for him.

Wufei hugged back with enthusiasm -- he'd changed, a lot, since the war. "Quatre didn't know I was coming. My shuttle arrived late yesterday, you were already on your way here."

Then he held Duo at arms length and looked at him critically. "Duo, you look terrible. You are too thin and you have circles under your eyes." Wufei glanced over at Zechs as if he were looking for someone to blame.

"Gee, thanks Fei. You know how to make a guy feel good." Duo grumped and tried to pull away but Wufei held on. Wearing a crisp Preventor's uniform, his hair sleeked back in the usual tail, Wufei looked like the Preventor poster boy, deadly, dangerous, and exotic. His black eyes were filled with amusement and concern.

"Quatre said you weren't taking care of yourself." And honest to god, Chang Wufei glared at Zechs and added, "You don't seem to be doing a very good job, Merquise."

Duo's mouth dropped open, he was going to have to work on that, he thought. "Fei, I'm standing right here and it's not Zechs' job, and besides, I'm fine!" He rushed the words out, puzzled and rather horrified by the accusation 'Fei had aimed at Zechs.

"You weren't hurt last night?" Wufei went on, ignoring Duo's protests and Zechs growing scowl.

"NO! I'm fine, we over reacted." Duo was more than horrified by Wufei's suggestion and the expression on Zechs face that was part anger, part chagrin, and something else Duo couldn't quite pin down. The air was suddenly charged and he wanted things to calm down. Duo tried to smooth things over not completely understanding what had created the need for smoothing.

Duo added, "It was nothing, Fei. Une is blowing it out of proportion." Wufei just smiled at him, a scary sort of smile that was aimed at Zechs, too, and didn't answer.

"Fei, have you had breakfast? Quatre sent food up to keep me busy and all the nice Preventor agents safe from me." Duo joked as he wrapped an arm around 'Fei's waist and grinned up at him.

Yes, up. That was such a sore point with Duo. He'd managed to grow a bit but either genetic make up or the early years of being perpetually underfed kept him at a slightly below average 5'8", shorter than everyone but Heero.

Wufei wasn't as tall as Zechs but he was no longer the delicately built boy he'd been when the war first began. Years of katas and martial arts training, not to mention piloting a Gundam had built muscle. He was all lean muscles, hard and rippling even through the uniform, not bulky but no slender reed, either. Duo was still in his stocking feet and both Zechs and Wufei were wearing boots, giving them extra height.

"Come on guys, let's sit down. I'm getting a kink in my neck," Duo laughed and pulled Wufei towards the table, he resisted for a moment. Duo glanced around to see that he and Zechs were staring at each other, eyes locked.

"Wufei?" Duo said, a bit unsure about what was happening. Wufei looked away first, his smile returning as his eyes met Duo's.

"I've eaten already but I have orders form Quatre to be sure you eat." He allowed Duo to finish pulling him to the table as he realized there were only two chairs.

"Pull up an armchair 'Fei or I'll have to sit on your lap and you can feed me." For just a moment, Duo thought, Wufei actually looked like he was considering the joking remark. Duo thought he heard Zechs make a choking sound. Of course, Duo thought, he was probably horrified at his behavior and had no clue that Duo was only teasing Wufei or that 'Fei was only teasing back. Fei winked as he pushed Duo down in the chair.

"You are a messy eater, Maxwell. You'd have your breakfast all over me." He retorted before moving an upholstered chair from the other side of the room and placing it next to Duo's chair. "Now eat before it gets cold."

Fei's ease with touching and affection and his sense of humor was something that happened after the war, too. After the Mariemaia uprising, Fei's part in it had threatened to separate them all. They'd tried to show Wufei that they understood, that he was one of them, always. Somehow that, or something, had broken down whatever barriers Wufei had built up over the years.

Someone who must be the real Wufei had appeared; still honorable, still fighting for justice but able to let the others in and be human. Wufei and Duo had become closer than ever since Heero left but recently Wufei's job had forced him to be away a lot. He'd expressed his unhappiness about that and worked hard to keep in touch. He called Duo frequently and came to see him often. Duo had appreciated Wufei's steadfast friendship, especially after the wedding.

Zechs had said not a word during the exchange with Wufei but had returned to his own chair and poured more coffee for both himself and Duo before remarking, "I'm afraid there's not another cup, Chang." The tone of his voice said he was not really sorry at all and was rather tense. Duo wasn't sure what was going on but realized those were the first words Zechs had spoken since Wufei had stepped into the room.

"No problem, Merquise. I only came in to say hello to Duo and make sure he was well. He doesn't take care of himself; his friends have to watch out for him." They were locking eyes again. Duo tried to distract them, joking and talking as he ate.

"Fei, don't be such a mother hen, I'm fine." His expression said he'd be the judge of that, and he didn't take his eyes off Zechs. The tension was interesting, Duo wasn't sure exactly what was going on but kept talking, not waiting for answers.

"When did you get back? Une didn't make you come up here before you had a chance to rest? You should have some time off. How was your assignment? You were gone a long time. Trowa finished his case up." Duo rattled inanities and joked until the atmosphere seemed less tense. At least Wufei and Zechs stopped whatever it was they were doing and quit looking at each other.

Wufei joked with Duo and talked about his last assignment while Zechs studied his papers and ignored them. When Duo finished eating they went downstairs together to speak to Quatre. Wufei with his arm over Duo's shoulders and Zechs following behind with an enigmatic expression on his face.

[ch. 6] [ch. 8] [back to BleedToBlues' fic]