by Bronze Tigress

Rainbow Sherbet + Chapter 1

Tuesday evening : Dinner and a Proposition

When Wufei walks into the apartment he shares with Duo after work that day, his partner is already home, and starting to organize vegetables on the kitchen counter to begin making dinner. Dropping off his shoes, keys and jacket in their places near the door, he rolls up his sleeves as he heads into the kitchen to join Duo. The conversation with Dorothy is still uppermost in his mind, and he brings up the subject almost immediately, telling Duo, "I had the most interesting chat with Dorothy Catalonia this afternoon."

"Oh, don't tell me she wants us for one of her missions this weekend!" Duo nearly groans at the thought.

"No, nothing like that at all. In fact, she came looking for me; it seems she is having a little trouble behind the curtains and wanted some advice."

"What? She's asking you for bedroom tricks?" Duo is flatly incredulous at the thought, and nearly peels his thumb instead of the carrot he is working on.

Wufei quickly repeats the gist of Dorothy's babbled speech for Duo. He is a little surprised at the vehemence of Duo's reaction. "Shit. I knew it. I thought I'd have more time, dammit," are Duo's first words, and Wufei is somewhat alarmed by the self-directed anger in the words. He is perhaps even more surprised when Duo continues, "Call him, would you, 'Fei? See if he can come over for dinner?"

Wufei takes one look at the determined expression on Duo's face -something that looks eerily as if he is preparing to push THE button(1), and, putting down his knife, says, "Of course, Duo, but... I would like an explanation next, please," before he goes over to the comm unit to place the call. He manages to catch Trowa before that young man has even really made it through his door, so the offer of dinner is gladly accepted, although Trowa appears to be just as surprised at receiving the invitation as Wufei is to be making it. He does request enough time to change, setting an arrival time of half an hour hence or so.

"Half an hour? That's fine," is Duo's comment on hearing that news. "Yeah, over dinner would be good. I need to talk to him about some kinda personal stuff, and it looks like I've run out of time to sneak around it..."

Wufei looks very confused by now, not understanding what Duo is talking about. "Ah, Duo? What do you mean, 'run out of time'? Time to do what? In fact, why not start at the very beginning for me?"

"Look Wufei, you know how antsy Tro was about working with people, or opening up around them, or touching them? Especially when we first met? Remember how he was always trying to push Quatre away? Oh, no, that's right, you didn't hear endlessly about that for a month," Duo says, rolling his eyes. He pauses to finish dicing the zucchini and scoop it into the pan. "I dunno what he did when he went after you when you went chasing Khushrenada after New Edwards, but anyway - then he went to look after Heero when he blew up. I know he admired him, for one thing, but I'm betting an unconscious body isn't very threatening - nor a man so dedicated to his mission he'd rather blow himself up than fail..."

"You may have a point; he hauled Shenlong out of the ocean and basically sat suicide watch on me for three days - no, Duo, there would have been no honour in that," Wufei quickly adds at sight of Duo's shocked and worried expression, "but he did not know me well enough to know that, and I was very depressed and confused at the time. No, he never got closer to me than really needed. At the time, I dismissed it as unimportant - along with almost everything else, such was my despair and confusion - but it is true nonetheless."

The two chop and stir in quiet harmony for a while before Duo speaks again. "But - when he got that envelope back in May, remember?(2) He hugged me back," Duo says, picking up his narration where he left off. "When we first met he would have frozen, then flung me off, then bolted from the room if I'd done that. He still froze, but it was from surprise more than fear. Cathy was very good for him that way, and, well, I've been working on him some too lately.

"So it's not just contact, or girls - he always was more considerate of them. No, it's gotta be specifically what Dorothy wants that kiss to lead to that he's afraid of... I know he's not worried about me or my intentions; we had a chat about that on Peacemillion, 'cause he did do the freeze and fling thing one time when I accidentally grabbed him instead of a railing and he wasn't expecting it." Duo breaks off with a small chuckle. "Although given where I grabbed him, it wasn't a big surprise he was upset. Still. I probably should have talked to him then, I guess, but there was this little problem of about four other factions out there fighting a war. So, I promised him I'd never start anything physical with him, instead - it was the best I could think of at the time, and it really wasn't the time for any of us to be distracted, especially by each other. I figured I'd have some time afterwards, you know, to help him work through it, and it could wait until later. It isn't going to wait any more, though."

He turns towards Wufei, then, evidently weighing his next words very carefully. "I think something must've happened to him - probably after he came to space, because from what he's told me, there wasn't anything that could explain it that happened while he was with his first Merc group. And it's not just the thing with that girl who betrayed him - he wouldn't have the problem with people touching him if it were just that sort of betrayal... I dunno, maybe it was just something he saw, but..." Duo's voice is uncertain, and he leaves the thought hanging for a while as he concentrates on stirring dinner.

Finally, when he continues, Duo's voice is more certain. "Whatever it was, it seems to have made him equate sex with pain - and probably a bunch of other nasty things - and it's still making him leery of being so close to people. It's the only reason for him to put Dorothy off like that without an explanation; there's ways around anything else - most of them cheaply available in any department store pharmacy aisle." He stops, thinking, then shakes his head. "Nope. Gotta be that - he's afraid of hurting her, and if he takes that next step, he must think that's what'll happen. It's damned obvious he loves her, and more to the point, wants her. You've only gotta look at how his stance changes whenever she shows up to figure that one out.

"And y'know, if she's complaining to you, Mr. Grouch," Duo notes, pausing to kiss the tip of an offended nose, "then she's feeling the same way. The way I see it, if something doesn't happen very soon to change his mind about that equation, well, it's probably not going to be pretty, and he'll probably prove himself right." Duo stops, then, looking to Wufei for a sign that his partner has followed the somewhat rambling explanation. Wufei has a contemplative look on his face as he considers Duo's assessment of the observed data, coming to much the same conclusions. He nods slowly.

"So, assuming that you are correct and that is the problem, you mentioned talking to him, but also that you have been 'working on' him somehow?" Wufei's voice has a timbre to it that Duo recognizes as 'full scholar mode' - every bit of information being dissected for all its secrets even as they are being correlated with every other bit, at a rate faster than anything Heero's laptop has ever managed.

"Well, Dotty's frustrated, but she's seeking opinions," Duo says then. "Which means there's still time to do something about it, but..." Duo trails off somewhat uncertainly, and looks almost pleadingly at his lover, "I think I know what will work, but I'm going to need your agreement, and probably your help. If Dotty's talking to you, then we really don't have time for the slow way, even if it's probably the better choice. You've heard the phrase about a picture being worth a thousand words? Well, a demonstration's worth enough still pictures to make the video, right?"

"And you intend to provide this demonstration of how his current view is incorrect, I take it?"

"Uh, huh. Talking him through it - just talking - is going to take too damned long under the circumstances. Before I got with the Sweepers, after the Church, a lot of the Walkers spent time watching over me; I got 'em stuff, they told me the good places to hide out and stuff. They talked to me, too, told me their stories. I remember a few of them, they were there 'cause they felt all they were good for was the streets; they were the real pros - did whatever it took, always worked alone, and once they were done for the night, they'd make like pieces of the shadows. Sound familiar? Substitute 'soldier' in there and you've got Tro... He's a very caring person, from everything I know and have heard about him from the rest of you. Whatever happened, it hurt him -probably physically, but definitely emotionally - and he doesn't want to be hurt again. More importantly, though, he doesn't want to be the one doing the hurting. Makes sense, right?"

"Ah..." Wufei nods, translating the euphemism by context. Deciding it's not terribly important, he asks, "so, hypothetically, you want to show him...?"

"First, that it doesn't have to hurt. Second, that he's capable of being with someone without having that mean he's going to be causing pain."

"And you wished to do this by taking him to bed?"

"Uh, yeah. Simplest way, don't you think? I mean, we could talk to him for months, and not have it sink in, but there's nothing quite like experience, y'know? And it doesn't look like he's got months any more, either."

"I see why you requested my consent..." Wufei thinks for a moment; he has recognized the hard edge of determination behind Duo's expression, and knows well what lengths his lover will go to, to do something he feels must be done, especially when it is something that his family needs. And from his tone, this is one of those things. Suddenly, Wufei is quite certain that this isn't something he wants Duo to have to face alone, for a variety of reasons. "The 'assistance' you mentioned - I assume by that, that you wished my participation in this?"

Duo looks up, a sudden hopeful note in his voice. "'Fei, everyone -and I mean everyone - always told me the first time would necessarily hurt like hell, but it'd be worth it. But when the time came, it didn't hurt. At all. It was just..." His eyes unfocus slightly and his smile softens dramatically before he continues in a softer voice, "When they write about heaven? I think I saw it there for a second." Had he been looking, he would have been privy to the rare sight of Chang Wufei blushing, but he was too busy shaking his own head to clear it. "The mechanics of how you manage that, on the other hand - those, I'm pretty fuzzy on. I'm, uh, not usually paying attention to what you're doing, just how damn good it feels. But I know you can explain the mechanics; I saw some of your research notes."

"Duo! You weren't supposed to see those..."

"Ah, ah. Once a thief, remember? And I found it incredibly sweet, anyway, that you cared enough to do that... I hadn't even really thought about it seriously until I found those notes. Never did find out why you were looking it up then, either; it sure didn't seem like you were planning anything. Just being prepared maybe?" He gets a brief, shy nod in reply. "Don't be embarrassed, 'Fei. It's one of the nicest, most caring things..." Duo abruptly shakes himself. "Tro's gonna be here in a minute. Are we gonna do this?"

For answer, Wufei wraps his arms around Duo's waist in a gentle embrace and kisses the back of his neck ever so softly before nodding silently against his shoulder. Then he turns back to stir the pan again and check the noodles. "So, is tonight to be just a straightforward discussion, or more than that? I should think a little time for thought would probably help him. And that goes for me, as well..."

"We see what happens? Probably a little of both, I guess. We talk, we offer, we let him know we care about him, we set up a date for the weekend? Then we won't have to rush things. It has to be up to him to go ahead with this, though." Duo stops, and then turns Wufei to look at him as he asks, "You know I wouldn't do this for just anyone, right?"

"I know. And that you would do this is part of why I love you."

"'Fei...?"

Duo's question is abruptly interrupted by several firm raps at the door. Wufei drops a small kiss on his love's cheek and steps back. "Why don't you put the plates out and find the nice glasses while I get the door?"

It is, indeed, Trowa at the door. "And here I didn't think I'd told anyone I finally got some records back, yet. How'd you know?" Wufei thinks he is looking quite cheerful, and rather curious about the purpose behind the dinner invitation. It being a Tuesday, after all, it's difficult to put it down to weekend entertaining!

"Ah. Well, that wasn't why we asked you here, but, this is indeed good news!" Wufei is truly pleased to hear that his friend has had more good luck in his quest for his past.

"It's not?" Trowa is now thoroughly curious as he struggles with his shoes in the doorway.

"No. It was Duo's idea, so I will let Duo explain. For now, come in, let me take that..."

So Trowa is ushered in, and they have dinner - which is better than Catharine's soup by a long shot, although it falls rather squarely into the category of "home cooking" rather than that of "haute cuisine". Trowa is still impressed, however.

Wufei is, understandably, somewhat distracted throughout dinner. Since Duo is happily chatting about work and friends and department gossip, he is able to listen with only half an ear. He can almost smell the segue waiting to happen, but is content to let Duo take his time leading up to the true topic for the evening. Instead, for the first part of dinner, he turns his attention to contemplating the problem at hand.

He wonders, briefly, if he is really able and willing to participate in the activities Duo has obviously got in mind - or deal with their ramifications. One thing Wufei does know is that he's not willing to simply drop this in Duo's lap to deal with; one way or another, he plans to support his partner in whatever he feels necessary - and this does seem to meet Duo's definitions of 'necessary'. Certainly, he knows, both he and Duo care deeply for Triton - as they do for all of the other ex-pilots. And he is pleasant to look at. Nor would this be a casual affair, really, for although it seems unlikely that it would be repeated, it would be neither particularly casual, nor would it fit most definitions of an 'affair'. More like... a temporary expansion of boundaries.

Feh. If Wufei is truly honest with himself, he can't deny that he has felt something more than just friendship for the green-eyed young man who is listening intently to Duo's chattering at the moment. Whether it is purely gratitude towards someone who pulled him past the worst parts of a shocking and nearly suicidal depression, or something more, he never bothered to think on, before. Whatever it is, however, he is suddenly quite certain that this is something he wants to be able to do for his brother pilot, a gift in exchange for a gift.

Ideally then, Wufei thinks, if he and Duo are to become teachers, they ought to impart some technical information and experience, and as much knowledge as he can add to that concerning a female partner. The syllabus is not in doubt. No, the problem would be two-fold. It would be fairly simple to show him that the experience could be pleasurable, provided that Triton agreed to be shown. The problem would be getting him to agree; failing that, or perhaps even given that, would be demonstrating the less tangible, emotional content.

Contemplating how best to introduce this to Tro- Triton - the new name is still a bit strange even after a few months, and despite Wufei's resolve to practice using it, it isn't yet automatic - Wufei suddenly realizes something that might be a very useful argument. So he takes the opportunity of clearing plates to whisper to Duo, somewhat cryptically, that a new name makes a new man - and that there is a first time for everything - and everyone.

Duo's eyes widen, and when Wufei returns with a tray of cookies and the pitcher of juice for refills, he leans back in his chair to tell him, "Whether it is or not." Dinner being complete, and Wufei evidently back with the conversation, Duo mentions that the most interesting thing that happened today was that Wufei had run into Dorothy, and she had actually wanted to talk to him, specifically. Seems, according to Duo's flippant observation, as if she'd been asking him for marital advice.

"Duo! That was not..."

"'Fei, that's exactly what it was, and you know it. But I'll rephrase it, if it makes you feel better..." Trowa, at this point, is starting to look distinctly pink. Duo turns and gestures to him with a cookie.

"Look, Tro - you called us your brothers, right? We - Wufei and I -take that very seriously. So, look - I know this is probably gonna be a little weird and uncomfortable, but I got the feeling there was a rush on this, so can you just remember that we're doing this for you, because we care about our brother, okay? Family is something to be looked after, and not just by feeding and housing you. And at the moment, we're worried about emotional health. You love Dorothy, right?"

Trowa nods, obviously confused and discomfited by the turn the conversation has taken, but latching onto the question as something he does understand.

"Wufei told me she had complained that you don't kiss her. I expect it's more than just that but - what's important is that she was upset enough that she told Grouchy here."

Wufei squawks, in a most undignified way, at the nickname. Trowa, meanwhile, is beginning to look rather like he has been poleaxed.

"You've gotta admit, hon, you do give off that untouchable grouch vibe... Anyway, it just, I dunno, clicked with something a few of the Walkers who looked out for me when I was alone said, about why they were there. But, Tro?" Duo sits forwards and looks intently into Trowa's eyes, making sure he has his attention before continuing, "It doesn't matter who hurt you or how, really. That was then. Right now, you need to know that it doesn't have to be that way, and that being with someone doesn't mean you're going to hurt them. I didn't really believe that part myself, about it not hurting, until 'Fei proved it to me, so I know we can prove it to you. We," he waves a hand indicating himself and Wufei, "talked a little, before dinner, and we agreed," he looks over to Wufei for a confirming nod, "that we'd like to offer you the chance to find that out for yourself, and to help however we can."

Wufei adds, "It is your choice, of course. But, think on this. The past cannot be changed, but the lens through which we regard it - that is another matter, is it not? Whatever this thing is that was so hurtful to you, it is something that befell Nanashi. You, however, are now Triton. You have a chance to begin again. Cookie? And we would both be most honoured to show you another way to look at this matter."

Trowa absentmindedly goes through another three cookies - mostly because Wufei puts them into his hand as soon as it becomes empty - before he manages to focus and speak. "Ah... You guys don't pull any punches, do you? You're right, I guess, Duo. I try not to think about it, you know? It's not the best set of memories, and that's by comparison to what I have told you guys already. But it sounds like I need to think about it now, and stop putting it off, hmm? What happened, what I saw, what I know - the short version is that it was all about pain and control. And I don't want to do that to Dorothy. I want..."

When he trails off, Wufei prompts gently, "What, Triton? What do you want for her?"

"To keep her safe, make her happy, I guess. Same things I'd say if you asked about Cathy, but... It's different with Dorothy. I want it to be me that makes her happy, me that makes her feel good..."

"And you're not sure how to do that, and the method she seems to be choosing doesn't make sense to you, because it's not something that you associate with good feelings." Trowa nods in reply to Duo's question, looking miserable and uncertain and vaguely inadequate, as if he has run into something that his past and training has left him completely unprepared for.

Duo's voice manages to be both briskly businesslike and compassionate at the same time. "Look, Tro - there are no guarantees here, but we can try. If you want; only if you want. Whatever you think will help -within reason - and at your pace, as much as possible. But, I have a feeling that sooner would be better; give you a chance to absorb the info and have it figured out before she gets really frustrated, y'know? Lessee, it's Tuesday now. Did you have anything planned for this weekend? Because having a couple of full days to work with might be good - this isn't really something to be rushed, if done correctly."

"Ha... Well. Yeah, you're probably right," Trowa agrees. "Before I have a chance to get nervous about it, might be best. Um... Look, you said 'show me', right? Did you mean to demonstrate on me? Or just demonstrate for me?"

"I believe the former is what Duo had in mind when he proposed this to me - not more than an hour ago, might I add - but if the latter would be helpful to you, that would probably help me," Wufei says, voice edged with something unfamiliar that neither of the other two can place. "This is not... something either of us would do for just anyone - or for anyone but you, most likely. And this is not something I had ever considered before. I believe we can arrange that, however. As you said - now, before I have a chance to become nervous. Or to doubt my sanity in agreeing to this. Did you wish to fetch some things from your place for the morning? I think it might be good to talk afterwards again, and there is a spare bed in the other room if you wish to use it..."

Trowa blinks, then nods, appearing to come to a decision. "Yeah, that might be a good idea."

"Good. Why don't you go do that, and my _qidi_(3) and I will, ah, fix up the bedroom for you." Wufei stands, then, and walks Trowa to the door. He stands in the doorway for half a minute, then, watching Trowa's back retreat down the hallway.

++

(1) that would be the self-destruct button for Deathscythe, in this case.

(2) a reference to Orange Crush, a previous fic in the timeline, wherein Trowa receives confirmation of his sibling relationship with Catharine, and hence recovers his original name. Not everyone uses it all the time yet, and for ease of reference he remains "Trowa" in the narrative text; various characters name him as they deem appropriate.

(3) _qidi_ - Chinese, literally meaning "adopted younger brother", but used to refer to the younger of a pair of permanently bonded male lovers. His _qixiong_ (literally meaning "adopted older brother") would be responsible for him in exactly the same manner as he would be for a wife, and while the ceremony involved resembles that of swearing blood brotherhood, it also contains additional elements more in common with the marriage ceremony. Related terms are _xiongdi_, and _dixiong_, both of which carry a (doubled) meaning of "brother", although the former usually refers to one related by blood, and the latter to one who is chosen and/or sworn as same.

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