by Bronze Tigress
Sherbet + Chapter 1
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
"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
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
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,
"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
"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."
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
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
"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
"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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