by Bronze Tigress
Apr. 10, AC197; noon et.
Preventers Headquarters environs
Lunch is a pleasant event.
The news that Duo has joined the Preventers is well received, and both
Heero and Quatre confess that they are strongly leaning towards the idea
as well. Heero is further convinced by news that the new separate department
is a definite fact, and neither seems to mind the fact that they would
end up as partners. "Why not? Strategy and tactics are both required;
we balance each other there."
They are a little more surprised to hear that Duo and Wufei have agreed
to a joint apartment. Wufei smoothly cuts in before Duo has a chance to
speak, saying, "Bah, Une-san assigned us as partners because we have the
most demolitions experience, and I did not wish to be wondering what had
become of him."
Duo startles at that, then grins, and seamlessly picks up the verbal gauntlet.
"You want to keep track of me? Oh, that's a good one, Wufei.
If anything, I need to keep track of you! Who's the one
who was always showing up late for our little parties with the forces
of evil, wearing the wrong dress?"
"Oi! Maxwell..." There is a warning in Wufei's tone that is not missed
by anyone, and an amused glint in his eye that only Duo bothers to look
for. "I am not some woman to wear a dress into battle."
"Please, guys, we shouldn't be fighting amongst ourselves!"(1)
"Ah, Quatre, Wufei's just so much fun to tease, though..." Duo
doesn't look terribly repentant, and he smiles brightly, and then stretches
and slouches down into his seat. It is not by accident that his feet land
on either side of one of Wufei's, nor that he gives said foot a quick
squeeze as he adds, "Isn't he just so cute when he's all flustered?"
"Maxwell!" But Wufei brings his other foot in to return the gesture just
"Yeah, yeah, enough, I know... So, Heero, how's the missy doing? You get
her all settled down again last night, or has she still got her feathers
in a bunch over what you said?"
Glad for a safe topic, Heero launches into a mission report concerning
the dinner and after-dinner conversations of the previous evening. As
it turns out, Relena had expressed the opinion to several people that
"her Heero" would be there to rescue them all, and she had been quite
embarrassed when he had claimed his grief over Sally's "death" at that
advanced decibel level. In the end, it had been Quatre who had been able
to soothe her, and she had been fairly well recovered this morning, although
Heero hadn't seen much of her.
"So, Duo, what about you? Heero's more or less in the good books again,
Trowa's gone to settle things with Cathy. How are things with Hilde? Have
you called to tell her you're staying yet, or what?"
"Eh, I'm catching a shuttle out to L2 to break up with her. She's a big
girl, got her own business and I'm sure she'll be fine without me - for
all that I've hardly been there what with all this saving the world we've
been doing in the meantime. Who'm I kidding - she needs someone solid,
quiet, dependable even. She doesn't need me, that's for sure."
"Duo? What happened? You and Hilde, I mean, I thought you guys were a
done deal, picket fence and kids and all?" Quatre looks troubled, genuinely
concerned for his friend.
"Nah, Quatre, she's like my saintly twin sister, you know? All the light
and bright I put on like a mask every morning in the war? She's like that
for real. I... It's like looking in a mirror and seeing what I could have
been, if - and I can't deal with it any more. She's a sweet girl
- and she doesn't deserve having to live with what I've made myself into."
This time it is Wufei who squeezes Duo's foot first.
"You think she'll stay there on L2 then?" Heero sounds rather curious,
and Duo files the information away.
"Who can tell, with her? She was a cadet for OZ before she decided she
was going to help us - well, help me, I guess. She might stay there,
she might not. I'm going to tell her I'm going to be working here. Who
knows, she might decide to follow me here as well." Duo shrugs. "Not like
the Preventers couldn't use more people. I guess we'll just have to see."
"Well, she can find her own place to live if she does come chasing after
you like a puppy again. I am not putting up with two of you, Maxwell,"
Wufei grumbles, sounding thoroughly put out, although his face is carefully
expressionless. "One of you is all I need..."
"Oh, Wufei," Duo breathes, in a remarkable imitation of a southern belle's
drawl, "can't ya sound a little happier when ya say mushy romantic stuff
like that ta me, honeyp- Ow! Yeesh..." Duo subsides, pulling a
foot into his lap and rubbing at it.
"If you're quite done playing, now?" Wufei's tone implies that Duo really
should be done playing now, as he is wandering into dangerous territory.
Quatre picks that moment to clear his throat and change the subject to
something other than various peoples' love lives. Shortly after
that, their lunch party breaks up, since Quatre needs to get back to the
palace in time for a conference call.
Once they are back in Wufei's jeep headed back to HQ, Wufei clears his
throat. "I am sorry about the ankle, Duo; I did not think I had..."
"'Salright, Wufei - you didn't; it just kinda tickled. No, no; wasn't
you. The painkillers are great except if I forget and try to turn
my hand over - and I did just that 'cause I was startled. Not your fault,
"Ah. I am glad to hear it. I would not like to have carelessly undone
my efforts at getting you better, after all."
"Don't think you have to worry about that; I'm causing myself enough troubles.
I think that went rather well, though, don't you?"
"The conversation?" Wufei grins. "It was intriguing, sparring like that.
I meant that, by the way - if your Hilde does come to Earth after you,
I do not intend to offer her a place to stay. You may know her well enough,
but I do not - and I have no wish to share the intimate details of my
life with someone I barely know."
"And I'm the only one for you, too, huh?" Duo grins at Wufei's startled
flush. "'Sokay, Wufei. In case you hadn't realized, I've only been chasing
ater you for the last year and change - and I've gotta say, it's been
quite a challenge. I mean, I tried to keep tabs on all four of you, but
even Heero wasn't so hard to track down as you made yourself. Even he
can't change the backup copies of the stuff he's hacked. And Quatre and
Trowa were always pretty simple to find. You, however. You I've spent
nights agonizing over, wondering where you'd gotten yourself to this time.
I don't think you could have done a better job engaging my curiosity if
you'd been trying. You weren't, were you?"
Wufei shakes his head minutely, but Duo doesn't seem to have needed the
confirmation. "You were always such a puzzle to me, Wufei. And now I'm
seeing more little pieces of you, the real you under all that anger and
confusion, and I really like the pieces I've seen. Sure, you're all puzzles.
Heero was the neatest thing -somebody else just like me, you know, when
I thought I was the only one. That boy has some issues, though, that I
couldn't begin to help him with. Honestly, Hilde might be good for him,
if she comes; best I've been able to do is make sure he didn't wander
off into trouble alone. Tro's got some funky shit to deal with too, but
again - nothing I can do. I kinda made him a promise, when we were all
on Peacemillion together, you see? Quatre's such a sweetheart; it was
always so nice to hang out with him. He's gonna be fine, I think,
if he can keep on being useful while he finishes sorting out the guilt."
Duo trails off then, gazing pensively out the window.
Wufei smiles softly, and they drive in silence for a minute before he
asks, "Then you are up to walking about? I had thought to show you around
the headquarters building this afternoon."
"I should probably check about getting a shuttle back, first, Wufei. The
longer I put off getting back to talk to Hilde the harder it'll be, after
"You will at least stay the night, though? It is a long journey, and you
do not sleep well on the shuttle."
"And you have no ulterior motives, either, hmm? Alright, I'll see about
getting a shuttle back tomorrow morning then. That fine? The sooner I
go, the sooner I get back."
Wufei smiles, then. "Of course."
There isn't a shuttle until the following morning, fairly late, in any
case - at least not a direct hop. And the only reason that one
is going non-stop is because there are some samples being transported
on it that wouldn't withstand being poked at by Customs officials on the
Moon. Duo arranges to be on it, and then the two set off to tour the rest
of the facilities.
The afternoon passes quickly, and the pair soon head back to Wufei's quarters
to make dinner, and chat idly about the workings of the Preventers HQ
building. Duo leans against the fridge or counter, moving just enough
to keep out of Wufei's way as he pulls things from their places. He listens
avidly as Wufei explains the workings of several of the departments, and
outlines a few things he thinks likely to be put into place for the new
department. Duo visibly winces at the mention of paperwork, not having
ever had much chance to practice his handwriting, but most of it can be
filled out through computerized forms or printed and attached, which he
finds rather a relief. "Besides, I doubt Une is going to require quite
the same level of bureaucracy from us as from the rest of the crew - most
of whom were trained as soldiers. Could you rinse these for me?"
"Uh, sure, I can do that. They don't look like they need it, though."
"Perhaps not, but it is usually safer to do so. Has Hilde taught you nothing
of the domestic?"
Duo snorts. "How to sort the laundry, dust, vacuum, that sort of thing.
For some reason she didn't seem to want me in the kitchen though."
"Well, you are in here now. What say you learn a new use for a knife?"
"I think I'd like that."
"Very well. Stand there and watch, hmm? I doubt you are up to much practicing
Duo is fascinated by the way the onions actually jump in the pan when
Wufei first puts them in to cook, and has to be told more than once to
stand clear. Watching Wufei's knife work is a revelation. Watching Wufei
at work - just watching him for the pleasure of watching him, not trying
to time an action or anything else - is another one.
"All part of the training of a scholar, Duo. It is not only philosophy
and literature, but a little bit of a lot of things -music, painting,
calligraphy, the medical and martial arts... I do not believe Meilan truly
appreciated what she was getting, somehow."(2)
"Shit, I appreciate it, Wufei. I can do a lot of stuff, but most
of it just isn't so useful once you're off the streets, you know? Well,
maybe some of the bedroom tricks, I guess, but there's not much call for
a pickpocket or a cracker in respectable circles..."
"Bedroom tricks? Where would you learn such a thing?"
"I spent four years largely in the company of the street whores, Wufei.
Some of what they taught me saved my ass a few times. Literally. I'd rather
not talk about it though; not right now."(3)
"Ahaa. Very well then. I will not ask. Come, you should be able to stir
this. Slowly, and so that the spoon covers the entire bottom of the pot
so it does not stick, with smooth motions so nothing splashes."
"Mmm. Just so, yes."
After dinner, and clearing up, and yet another dose of painkillers - "tomorrow,
only one of these every four hours, Duo" - Wufei sets the vidscreen
for a news channel and beckons Duo after him to the couch. "Come on, let
us see what the world has been doing today," he says, catching Duo's hand,
and drawing him down to sit as well. When Wufei has them arranged to his
satisfaction, he is wedged into the corner of the couch, and Duo is nestled
up against him, head pillowed on Wufei's shoulder, three legs stretched
down the couch and one of Wufei's dangling off the front edge. "Comfortable?"
"Hey, Wufei? Are you sure you're not a pod person and the real
Wufei's, oh, floating in space somewhere?"
"Why do you ask such a question, Duo?"
"Oh, 'cause, well... This is not a complaint. This snuggling on
the couch thing doesn't seem much like you, though. Or at least, not a
whole lot like the angry young warrior who was so obsessed with strength
and justice I met a couple of years ago. What's happened to you? I mean,
I'm guessing some of it's because we're alone and in private so it's okay,
"That is indeed part of it. There is also the not insignificant matter
of your permission. It is also, partly, the fact that I have made a few
realizations about peace and justice - and strength - and I no longer
need to focus on those. I have worked out a large part of my anger, and
made some peace with my past." Wufei shrugs, the movement registering
against the back of Duo's head. "Mostly, because I can, and we both want
to - yes?" He waits for Duo's affirmative nod before concluding, "and
before, I could not. That is all."
"Ah." Duo wriggles just a little, snuggling in just a little closer.
"Oi, Duo. Wake up, time to go to bed."
"Do you have any idea how silly that sounds?"
"Ai... Still. Up."(4)
"Okay, okay... Oooh. Okay, no more napping in these pants, ouch..."
"Pajamas or a towel?"
"What?" Duo blinks confusedly at Wufei.
"Never mind, I'll find you some pajamas..."
Duo stares after Wufei's retreating form until he disappears into the
bedroom, then mumbles "Towel... towel? Oh! Oh, I get it... yeesh," and
shakes his head before following.
"I was right, before, Wufei. You, my friend, are strange... Towel, indeed.
And thank you, these are nice," Duo says, gesturing towards the loose
pants he now wears. The bright blue colour is nearly a match for his eyes,
although at the moment it is hard to see that behind the downturned gaze
"A little short, though," Wufei remarks, standing back and making a critical
"Won't matter," Duo smiles back. "Bed now?"
"Bed now." There is a bit of rustling, as Duo slips beneath the covers.
Wufei snaps off the lights, then pads quietly over to the bed, where there
is a little more rustling as he, too, slips under the covers, and then
says, "Goodnight, Duo." A moment later, there is a warm chest pressed
closely up against Wufei's back, and an arm wraps itself firmly around
his chest. "Oof! Duo? What are you doing?" Wufei doesn't sound upset,
so much as confused, and a little grumpy at being confused.
"My turn to hold you, right? Good night, Wufei; sleep well."
"Ah." //Well, this is different... nice, though... warm...//Wufei wriggles
a little, into a more comfortable position, and tries to let himself drift
off. //But not working...// He loosens Duo's grasp enough to squirm over
onto his back, earning himself a sleepy grumble of protest, before tucking
Duo's head onto his chest and wrapping his arms around Duo's shoulders.
In the morning, they are still curled around each other like a pair of
kittens, legs tangled together and arms around each other. It is the slight
tickle of warm breath against his collarbone that wakes Wufei. Once again,
he notices how light the room has become, with a small start of surprise.
//So, why am I awake? No dreams, no alarm... Huh.// He lets his
head fall back onto the pillow and his eyes fall closed again, just enjoying
the feeling of Duo's warm, wiry body in his arms, and unable to resist
the chance to lightly run his fingers across Duo's back, tracing the lines
of ribs and spine and shoulder blade, idly seeking the scar he knows is
"Mmmnn. Whatcha doin', W'fei?" Duo's sleepy voice questions, somewhat
muffled by the fact that his chin is nestled into the crook of Wufei's
"Hmm? Trying to find your scar - the one on your shoulder that I woke
up to yesterday. There..."
"Oh. Tha's a real old one... mmm..." and Duo snuggles back in close, hugging
Wufei's ribs a little and then relaxing again. "'Znice, W'fei..."
Wufei smiles, and resumes tracing the ridges across Duo's back. //I think
I could quite happily do this all day... Although we don't have
all day... In fact, we should probably get up... Much as I don't want
to...// "Duo? We really do need to get out of bed at some point. I do
not think Hilde would be impressed to learn you had delayed your journey
to spend the day in bed with me," Wufei says, with a slight chuckle.
"Oi! True," Duo says, all traces of sleepiness melting very quickly out
of his voice as he braces his arms over Wufei's chest and begins to push
himself up, then winces, having forgotten about his wrist brace and tried
to put his weight on it. "Efff... I have got to stop doing that."
He turns sideways, then, and pushes up with only his left arm to sit.
Wufei, now that Duo is no longer in his line of sight to the alarm clock,
glances over at it. "Ah, no great hurry, Duo. Your shuttle is not until
"Mmhmm. But if it's okay with you, I'd really like to wash this hair -
which is going to take a while with this wrist all by itself - and it
takes a while to dry, too. If I braid it while it's still wet, it'll stay
wet and still be damp when I reach L2. Not so good. So, if you need the
bathroom, best go..." He tugs at Wufei's shoulder a little awkwardly with
his left hand, trying to get him into motion.
"Oh, ho, so that is the way of things this morning? Very well," Wufei
grins and gets up then.
Duo enjoys the view of Wufei's retreating back side for as long as it
lasts, then pulls the band off his hair and begins unwinding the strands
of his braid.
It is only forty minutes later that the two are seated at breakfast in
the cafe. Duo's hair has been combed out and loosely braided for the occasion,
with the promise that it can come down and be allowed to dry properly
after they have done eating, but Duo does need to take his medicine on
schedule. This morning's breakfast conversation is much less an exercise
in soul searching than the previous day's. Instead, Wufei has been retelling
the legend of Nataku, as part of explaining why his wife, and subsequently
his Gundam, had also borne that name. The legend itself, he spins out
with all the skill of a master storyteller, but his conclusion is very
brief, and toneless. "Because women were not considered able to become
warriors, she declared herself to be Nataku - who was neither male nor
female - and no longer a woman. She died protecting that Gundam, and so
her spirit dwelt within it." He shrugs, then, and asks if Duo needs more
coffee or if he is ready to go.
Duo has very little to pack; his tools have already been replaced in his
duffle bag, and only the hairbrush remains, pending a final use. Duo decides
against replacing most of the paraphernalia in his hair, although the
lock pick and torsion bar are left out of the bag to be slipped back in
once it has been rebraided. Wufei undoes Duo's loose braid and fans the
hair out, running a comb through it as it finishes drying, just for the
pleasure of running his hands through it. Duo practically radiates a contented
All too soon, however, it is time for the pair to find their official
jackets and head for the shuttle dock. Duo arrives in plenty of time to
board, although, he notes, it will be weird to not be piloting. He introduces
himself to the Agent in the cockpit as a new recruit with a lot of piloting
under his belt, just in case, and the fact that Wufei, behind him, nods
solemnly in agreement is duly noted by said Agent.
Wufei hefts Duo's bag down to a storage locker in the small seating area,
and then produces a book of Chinese legends from an inside pocket of his
jacket. "It's a fairly good translation, although many of the puns and
inferences are of necessity left out. Still - it is a long trip back to
L2, and you probably do not want to spend all of it worrying about what
to tell her."
"Thanks, Wufei! Wow..." Duo grins brightly, and very nearly hugs Wufei,
but stops himself in time, clasping one of Wufei's hands instead.
"Go on, get yourself seated. You will be taking off soon, and I must disembark
before that happens. I do not think Une will be terribly impressed if
I am a day late for work because I ran away to L2 with you," he smirks,
then gives Duo a rather deep bow, and turns to go, leaving Duo to chuckle
as he wedges his way into one of the window seats and straps in for the
ride, book clutched in careful fingers. He is already engrossed in the
first legend by the time the shuttle taxis for takeoff five minutes later.
Wufei, left alone on the tarmac, stares after the rapidly-dwindling shuttle
until it disappears, before turning to go inside.
(1) References suggest that a Chinese Scholar was expected to be the equivalent
of a Renaissance Man - skilled in a broad area of subjects, and reasonably
competent in all of them. Since food, medicine, philosophy, and the martial
arts are all interrelated, the Scholar was expected to master all of these
branches of knowledge, as well as music, calligraphy, visual arts, and
so forth. There are references to the Scholar's preferred musical instrument
and preferred sword (which, oddly enough, is not the heavy, curved,
single-edged _niu wei dao_ Wufei is shown to use, but a straight double-edged
_jian_ that has more in common with Treize's rapier than anything else),
and even to the use of a scholar's writing brushes as potential weapons,
with a distinct art form all their own. Wufei is quite a catch, no?
(2) The author speculates, based on the usual fate of 10- and 12-yr-old
street children and the probability that life was better in a slum the
size of a Colony.
(3) No, it's not the same 'ai'; it's just an affirmative.
[back to Bronze Tigress' fic]