by Bronze Tigress

A Man Like Me

~Whenever I see your smiling face
I have to smile myself
Because I love you (Yes, I do)~

Wufei walks into his shared office, in a foul mood. He has just come back from a briefing, on a case that is going nowhere good fast. Une's pissed, Merquise has his hands full trying to keep the political lid from blowing right off this one, and even Winner is getting snippy with the lack of leads. Meanwhile, those damned warning notes keep coming in, through the same untraceable route that has Yui nearly pulling his hair out. He would dearly love to rip the inch-think folder of worthless paper he is carrying into so much confetti, but there has to be something in there they can use - if only they can find it. He settles for slamming it violently down onto his desk and swearing at top volume.

Duo looks up, startled, at the sudden concussion blast created when the folder meets the desktop. He stops the recording he's been listening to, pulls off the headphones, and stands up. Then he walks up behind Wufei, turns him around with one hand on a shoulder, and uses the other hand to lift his partner's chin so that, for a moment, they look into each others' eyes. And then he smiles, and says, "come listen to something I found."

Wufei blinks as he is lead over to Duo's seat, and the recording forwarded to a certain point, and a certain pair of frequency ranges are amplified while the rest of them are muted out. There, clear as miso soup, is the name they have been hearing all along, but now, so close after it that it is almost obscured by the echo, and two octaves higher, is another name -one that could be the clue they have needed. More than that, it is one that Wufei recognizes - and one that they have been desperately trying to tie into the case.

Wufei gazes up at Duo, standing over him and checking a dial, then stands up, tugs the headphones down, and kisses Duo, hard. "I knew there was a reason I loved you," Wufei says, and positively beams at his partner, before kissing him again, very thoroughly, arms locking around his back, not caring that the door is open and by now everyone in the office - most of whom came running at the initial outburst - has discovered exactly what sort of relationship the two share.

A chorus of whistles and catcalls brings the pair back to reality, and in half a second, Wufei is all business again, pulling away to turn and bellow, "Alright, people, we have a lead! Yui! Merquise! Conference room, 10 minutes. Bring everything on Saitoushi you've got, including all known female relatives, associates, and acquaintances. The rest of you, party's over, we have some work to do around here!" People scatter every which way like so many chickens before a dragon.

This time, Wufei closes the door and takes the headphones off before kissing Duo again. He's got a few minutes, after all.

 ~And when you give me that pretty little pout
It turns me inside out
There's something about you, baby (I don't know)~

"I have to go talk to her, Duo, and you know it as well as I do. There's no other way to get the information. And it has to be me; it's vaguely possible that I'm a distant cousin or from the same village, and so there's some innocent reason for her to see and talk to me. Saitoushi's too jealous to let anyone but a relative or another woman talk to her alone, or even get close to her. I don't see a whole lot of women in this department, do you?"

Duo is clearly unhappy with the entire set up. He hasn't said a word in fifteen minutes, and Wufei isn't making much headway towards making him feel any better about it. In fact, Duo seems to be on the verge of pouting, and Wufei, who has seen him like this before, knows it's time to give some.

"Alright, fine. You want me to take backup? You find a qualified female officer who's willing to shadow me into Chinatown's District and not stand out doing it - with the costume that implies - and I'll take backup. Okay? Because otherwise, there's not a hope in your hells that I'm going to be able to get close enough to Liuli to talk to her, much less get any information from her, without having Saitoushi's goons all over me."

Duo actually grins, then, and bounces once on the balls of his feet, before dropping a kiss on Wufei's cheek and turning towards the door. "I'll be right back, Wufei, I need to go find Dorothy."

"Dorothy? She's hardly qualified to be backup!"

"Nope, but I am - except for one thing - and that's where she comes in." And he is gone, leaving Wufei to stare open-mouthed at the closed door.

//Ancestors... he can't mean...//

 ~Isn't it amazing a man like me
Can feel this way~

Wufei is having a hard time. In more than one way. Duo's outfit and disguise are perfect - brassy red hair rinse, tight black leather skirt and the little zipped crop top and the same stilt-high heels all the other girls are wearing. He moves like all the other girls out there, down to the nonchalant gum-chewing. Even the too-pale colouring isn't enough to single him out as anything but what he appears. But it's not just the great curves - Dorothy outdid herself - that are attracting the attention of a lot of potential customers, it's the way that hip-shot come-hither stance accentuates them. The only real difference is that he isn't actually going off with anyone. Duo must be charging quite a lot for them to be leaving in search of a cheaper ride elsewhere. //And it really doesn't help that I know exactly what he tastes like.// The fact that he's one of the few carrying a small clutch bag makes no difference. He's probably the only one with a Preventers' badge and a Derringer in it, though.

Wufei is so wrapped up in his contemplations, studiously picking out peaches from the small vendor's stand and paying for them, that he is truly surprised when a high voice calls his name. He starts, then looks around, and identifies the speaker when she waves, and calls again, "Wufei! Elder cousin! It is you! I thought for certain I was wrong, no-one from the village ever comes here, but I just had to find out. I'm so glad to see you!" She bustles up and stands before him, and he lets his eyes widen in delighted surprise.

"Liuli? Is that you? It has been so long! But you are looking well. Are you terribly busy? Perhaps you have time to take some tea with me at the little shop there?"

No, she isn't very busy, and tea would be lovely, and this is her, um, employer, who has brought her downtown for the afternoon, and isn't it fortunate that she has run into someone from her old village? She is sure her cousin has lots of baby pictures to show her, what with that pretty wife of his and all... //pretty, yes; wife, no...//

Saitoushi's men never notice that the black-clad streetwalker has moved down to a new spot within an easy shot's distance of the small tea shop where they sit, politely two tables away from the two cousins who are chattering rapidly in Mandarin, and happily looking at a plastic folder of portraits of small children.

 ~Tell me how much longer
I will grow stronger every day
Oh, how much longer~

Another meeting with Liuli, this one by arrangement, at a different tea shop in a slightly nicer area of town, and all under Saitoushi's watchful eye. There is very little that she can tell Wufei, and of course names are impossible to pass along verbally, but a few kanji are drawn as she points to some more of the pictures he has to show her this time.

And absolutely no-one notices the new waitress, even when she accidentally drops a handful of napkins by the table where Wufei and Liuli sit. Liuli never does figure out just when the note in her pocket disappeared, except that whoever it was was a damned good pickpocket; she only hopes it was the right pickpocket.

In fact, Saitoushi doesn't even notice that the disc in his pocket is missing for a good twenty minutes - more than long enough to copy and decode its contents - because by the time he thinks to check that it is still in place, it has been just as skilfully returned.

 ~I thought I was in love
A couple of times before
With the girl next door~

Wufei dodges yet another attempt by Sally to mother him to death on yet another very late night spent poring over research notes, and as she slips out leaving the pair sandwiches and coffee he thanks his ancestors that he didn't let his gratitude to her and his loneliness turn into anything else. No, far better that he had let himself grieve for Meilan first, before trying to form a new relationship. Sally makes a far better elder sister than mate.

The third meeting with Liuli had gone off without a hitch. It had been a brief contact - according to the plan, Wufei claimed urgent business that had come up, but he had brought her a small present - something his wife had baked - and to not worry about it, they would be able to see each other again soon enough. The real present, of course, was supposed to be delivered to her pocket.

The only thing that had worried Wufei about it, really, had been that he never did spot Duo, and one would think that much hair would be unmistakeable. But the only person who had been anywhere near them had been a dirty street beggar of about 50 winters. He had had backup in the form of Trowa with a sniper's rifle from a rooftop vantage point this time, in fact, because Duo had claimed that, no matter how good Dorothy was, Saitoushi's men weren't stupid, and his eyes were going to give him away sooner than later.

But Duo had been grinning broadly when he reappeared at the office. Not only had the message been delivered, but Liuli had had one for them as well, which might lead to something else even more interesting. And his hair had still been damp from washing it.

 ~But that was long before I met you
Now I'm sure that I won't forget you~

It's the night before the last contact with Liuli, and Wufei is going over the plan on his screen one more time - for the fourth time. Almost all the puzzle pieces are in place, and there is only one question that remains to be asked. But this meeting has not been planned, and it must be done officially. For all that Wufei has made some minor changes to his own appearance for his meetings with his "cousin", he may very well be recognized. And as Duo pointed out, he might be as well. And both of them know, with this operation, that being recognized could well prove to be fatal.

Finally, when it becomes obvious that Wufei will stay where he is, worrying over details, until he either dozes off in the chair or the sun comes up, Duo decides to take some action. He pads out of the bedroom, and slips up behind Wufei, and taking one tawny earlobe between his teeth, he reaches for the mouse with one hand, and Wufei's buttons with the other. By the time Duo has gotten the terminal to run its shutdown procedure, Wufei's shirt is half undone, and he has dropped his head back onto Duo's chest, closed his eyes, and begun to purr like a happy kitten under the ministrations of fingers and tongue.

"Come on, D-baby, let's get you into bed," Duo whispers, sultry voice tickling Wufei's ear, "and let me make it all go away for a while, hmm? I've got tonight to love you, and I want to be sure you know how much I do..."

 ~And I thank my lucky stars
That you are who you are
And not just another lovely lady
Sent down to break my heart~

Agent Shadow arrived at Saitoushi's main office building with a very official-looking summons in hand for one Tong Liuli. It seems her distant cousin has been involved in some unsavoury business and the Preventers have a few questions to ask her. The guard calls upstairs. Anything to comply with the Preventers, and had they known there was a problem with the cousin they would never have allowed her to speak with him!

On the other side of the foyer, the second security guard is checking the credentials of the efficient-looking young woman who has come in clutching a temporary services booklet. Everything seems to be in order, and she is directed to the elevator and given instructions on how to get to the mailroom, where her assignment for the day is.

Agent Shadow is escorted up to the penthouse floor by the security guard, after a replacement has been called to help man the front desk, and in to a cushy waiting room. He settles himself on one of the chairs beside a small table, and nervously adjusts his tie, then squirms a bit uncomfortably in his seat. Liuli enters a short wait later, and he stands to greet her. "I am sorry, Miss Tong, to be the bearer of bad tidings, but it appears that I need to ask you a few questions regarding your recent conversations with your cousin."

Things are going well - until Saitoushi Hiideru himself appears in the same doorway from whence Liuli appeared, and takes one good look at Agent Shadow, and produces a small handgun. A shot rings out, and Liuli collapses to the floor. "You! You will not be the one who betrays me, my little doll. And you, cousin Wufei, you are next." The gun swivels to aim at Wufei.

The door of the waiting room slams open, and a voice from the hallway barks, "drop it, Saitoushi!" A dishevelled figure in a nondescript grey dress levels a gun at the crime lord.

"Or what, girl? You'll join them on the floor to die!" For Wufei has, indeed, slipped down to the floor to cradle the dying woman in his arms, leaning close to hear, and record, the words she is still struggling to gasp out. Then, her head lolls back, and Wufei cradles her closer and bows his head over the still form.

"Nobody else is going to die here today, Saitoushi," Duo says, and fires. Saitoushi drops his gun from suddenly nerveless fingers, and raises the other hand to clutch at his shoulder before slumping to the floor. "Don't move, Saitoushi; I don't want to have to kneecap you. Chang, you got what we need?" A curt nod from Shadow, and a look at Saitoushi where he sits, and then Duo is calling for backup, cleanup, and two medical teams, on the small televid operator's headset slipped over one ear.

It is only when he looks up at the call for two medical teams that Wufei realizes that Duo had some trouble getting upstairs - his hair is falling out of its prissy bun, there's a long rip in the back of the sensible grey skirt and a bloody slash to his left arm, and his pumps have gone missing somewhere as well. Dorothy won't be pleased. But he's alive, and smiling brightly.

Wufei doesn't think he's ever seen a more beautiful sight.

 ~Isn't it amazing a man like me
Can feel this way~

"No, husband, you... were always... the strongest one..." Nataku's voice fades into the silence of the grave.

"Don't you think it's time to forget about her, Wufei?" Master O's voice echoes in the hangar.

Wufei's fist connects with his Master's solar plexus with a sickening thud. "Say that again! I dare you!" He screams his defiance into the darkness.

"Shh, Wufei, it's alright, we remember her, love, come on, wake up for me sweetheart, Dragon of mine," the soft low voice murmurs, and he is drawn into warm arms, pulled close against a strong shoulder. Wufei sobs, all the anguish of losing Meilan again ripping free in jagged shards that melt like ice in the sunlight, while he is held safe in Duo's arms.

As he gently rocks his lover, Duo thinks about the young woman, whose voice on a tape led them to a killer, and who died in Wufei's arms that morning. She had been a sweet young girl, whose only crime had been bad timing, and even with her last breath she had spoken the words that, when played back for the judge, would put her owner away for a very long time. He knows, had it been him who had reached her first, that he would most likely be the one grieving tonight, for the long-dead woman who died in his arms. So he does what he can, murmurs soft words of reassurance and holds Wufei close until the tears ease and the broken sobs gradually come to a stop.

With one final sniffle, Wufei brings a hand up to wipe his face, and then swipe ineffectively at Duo's bare chest, until a small towel is pressed into his hand. "Ha... pretty stupid, crying over her still, no?"

"No, Wufei, never. Let me tell you a story..."

 ~Tell me how much longer
I can grow stronger every day
How much longer~

The court room is crowded with reporters, all trying to get a look at the agents responsible for the most sensational arrests - for the most sensational crimes - since the Sanq Kingdom was nearly blown up almost a year before. They seem almost disappointed when a small unassuming Chinese man, dressed in white coat and pants and carrying a large file of papers and some small audio discs, mounts the stand. It doesn't improve their mood at all when he pulls out a pair of glasses and puts them on. Their disgruntled murmuring dies out almost immediately, however, when the judge bangs her gavel and the bailiff addresses the witness.

"Chang Wufei, Preventer Agent Shadow, do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?"

"I do so swear, by my Ancestors, by my name, and on the grave of my wife."

"Please be seated."

"Mr. Chang, is there a reason you are appearing before the court out of uniform?"

"A brave woman died to provide this evidence, your honour. I wear mourning to honour her, since she has no other kin."

"Very well, Mr. Chang, you may begin."

"If it please your honour, I would like to have the following audio recordings entered into evidence as People's Exhibits A through F, and the following document prepared by Agent Maxwell as People's Exhibit G. Discs A and B are the recording of a conversation between one Saitoushi Hiideru and his buyer, and an audio-enhanced version of the same conversation, in which Saitoushi can be heard being identified by Tong Liuli; discs C through F contain recordings of four conversations between Tong Liuli and myself, including her final statement. The document contains a precise description of the method of audio enhancement used by Agent Maxwell, should the court wish to recreate his work; this is followed by complete transcripts of all five conversations."

"Thank you, Mr. Chang. Let the exhibits be so entered into the record. I presume you wish to play the recordings now?"

"If it so please the Court."

 ~No one can tell me that I'm doing it wrong today
Whenever I see you smile at me~

Outside the courtroom the mood is jubilant. The final verdict has been handed down, and Saitoushi will, indeed, be going away for the rest of his natural life, and then a few more years after that before anyone will even consider releasing him. Further, he is to be held incommunicado for the first three years, so that he cannot, in any way, direct the remaining members of his organization for that time.

The front steps of the courthouse are packed with reporters, eager to ask questions of the young officer of the Preventers, but they are being held back by a group of four uniformed Agents, all of whom look just as young as the surprisingly competent Agent Chang. They form up around their white-clad fellow as he emerges, the taller of the two blond officers taking the lead and opening a path by sheer physical presence, and the rest managing to keep the crowd from converging upon him after the fact. The rearguard, the darkest of the lot, is even more frightening than the point guard, for all that he is nearly as small as Chang.

The small group forges quickly down the stairs and across the wide patch of sidewalk to a waiting car, where a fifth officer is waiting for them, an impossibly long braid draped over his shoulder. He smiles a dazzling smile as the group approaches. Agent Chang smiles a matching smile, and when they are within a couple of metres of the vehicle, he taps the man in front of him, who steps aside enough for Chang to arrive at the car first. The reporters are astounded to see the staid, sober, and restrained Chang give a whoop of joy, leap forward to catch the braided Agent in a spinning hug, and then kiss him soundly.

This time, not even the whistles and catcalls of the crowd penetrate, and finally, the shorter blond agent checks his wrist, then reaches out to tap one of the smooching Agents on the nearest shoulder. The two separate, and the blond gestures towards the cheering crowd. Agent Chang grins suddenly, then pulls open the door to the back seat, and hauls his partner in after him. The tallest of their guardians slips into the back behind them, while the remaining three slide into the front seats, and the car pulls away.

~No one can tell me that I'm doing it wrong today
Whenever I see you smile and face my way~

The debriefing on the court's verdict is nearly as gruelling as the case itself was, and Wufei is nearly ready to drop by the time all the questions have been answered. Just as he is about to go, someone knocks, and brings in a copy of the early edition - which has, splashed across the National News section on the second page, a very nice 2-column-wide photo captioned "Preventer Agent Chang celebrates after stunning win in Saitoushi case." In the photo, perfectly backdropped by the dark vehicle, the white-clad figure of Chang Wufei is wrapped in a soul-deep kiss with an unnamed and mostly unidentifiable officer, while four slightly blurry uniformed figures stand guard over the happy moment. Une passes the paper over, and raises an eyebrow at Wufei. "The 'human touch' is always nice, Chang, but you don't think you could have avoided creating such a wonderful photo op, do you?"

"I suppose we could always introduce the stunning Agent Maxwell, without whose assistance the case would still be nowhere at all, to the press? No?"

Duo chooses that moment to knock before bouncing into the room, waving his own copy of the paper. "Dragon! Didja see? We're national news, isn't it cool?"

In the face of that reaction, there's only one thing Wufei can do. He smiles, and, with a small bow to Une, wraps an arm around his love's waist and accompanies him out to the party that's just waiting on their presence to start.
~No one can tell me that I'm doing it wrong today
No one can tell me that I'm doing it wrong today~


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