Author: Caroline
Rating: PG-13ish
Pairing: 5x2
Warnings: TWT, since this is my first time writing Wufei as a main character, most likely OOC, PWPish elements, lime
Spoilers: slight Wufei's and Duo's past spoilers
Comments: please
Disclaimers: don't own 'em. never will. 'nuff said.

Houseboat Haven + Part 6

The days passed by quickly, much too quickly for Duo. Ever since making love the night of the storm, each moment spent with Wufei was imprinted upon his memory like photographs in time. One memory in particular he would cherish forever.

About a week after the storm, Wufei had grounded the houseboat on a sandbar connected to one of the smaller islands. Hand in hand, they'd waded to shore. Wufei had been so proud of him for not having a panic attack at being in the knee-deep water. Duo himself was amazed that he was conquering his fear. He knew he would not have been able to do so without Wufei's help.

The day they spent on the island was the most perfect day Duo could remember. They had climbed up to the top of the small hill where Wufei had spread out a blanket among the wildflowers for them to sit on. They'd fed each other with little finger foods Wufei had prepared for them earlier. Then, as a gentle breeze danced over the island, they had made love in the warm, early autumn sunshine. Duo still grew warm just thinking about the memory.

But that hadn't been what had made the day so special. Later that afternoon, after helping each other dress, Duo had gone back down to the shore to look for little seashells while Wufei had packed up their picnic things. He'd found a beautiful fresh-water clam shell and had called up to Wufei to come and see when what he saw had stopped him mid-sentence. His heart skipped a beat. Wufei was standing half-way down the hill, watching him - and smiling. At him. Wufei was smiling at him. He'd never seen anything more breathtaking than Wufei's smile. It had been the happiest moment of his young life.

Of course, the time they spent together wasn't all fun and games. Wufei still insisted on swimming lessons. After the first few days when Duo could prove that he could stay afloat and swim short distances, he'd thought that was it. But Wufei had insisted on continuing the lessons. He wanted Duo to be able to do more than just keep his head above water. The American didn't think it was necessary, and the two had argued bitterly before Duo finally gave in. He'd do anything for Wufei - even this - but that didn't mean he had to like it.

Duo looked out through the cabin window towards the cool waters of the lake. He had to admit, he wouldn't mind being out there right about now. The weather had turned warm again and the cabin was stifling hot. The water was a little choppy. Duo groaned, betting that that breeze felt good. He shifted his position on the couch.

Damn, but it was hot.

He shifted his gaze to the forward windows and smiled as he watched Wufei cast a fishing line into the water. His lover never caught any fish, but he insisted the activity was more for relaxation than for sport. He said it made him feel more tranquil and at one with nature. Duo privately thought that was just a cover to explain why he never caught anything. Still, he couldn't help but smile as he gazed out at his lover. Wufei's hair was down, blowing in the breeze. The wind molded his loose clothing to his body, showing off every smooth, hardened plane. Duo swallowed appreciatively.

Damn, but his lover was hot.

He was tempted to wander out there, jump Wufei, and have his wicked way with him, but ugh - not in this heat. He needed to cool down, and staring at the window lusting after his partner was not helping. He wandered into the small bedroom to exchange his heavy, black shirt for something lighter. If he had anything lighter that is. For the first time in his life, he wished he owned something other than black.

A thought hit him as he was digging through his duffel bag. He paused, smirked evilly, then stuffed his clothes back into his bag. He turned to Wufei's backpack and grabbed the first thing he came to - a lightweight, white colored silk shirt. Duo smiled and brought the garment up to his nose to inhale his lover's scent. Wufei wouldn't mind if he "borrowed" his shirt for a little while. He slipped it over his head, reveling in the feel of the silk against his skin - like Wufei's fingers. His lover's unique spicy scent wafted from the cloth, causing Duo's skin to tingle. Maybe if he wore the shirt long enough, Wufei's scent might rub off on his skin. Though is he really wanted to smell Wufei on him, he could think of several nicer ways to get it.

He ambled back out into the main cabin, opening as many windows as he could. Maybe he should join Wufei outside. Even with all the windows open it was still hotter than an oven inside. But Duo still felt uncomfortable being outside the cabin, with nothing but a knee- high railing being the only thing standing between him and the water. Still... Wufei was out there. His lover would keep anything from happening to him.

A movement from his right caught his eye. He peered through the window to get a closer look. Wufei had anchored them just off a rather large dam. What had caught Duo's attention was one of the locks on the far end of the dam rising up and a rather large shipping barge coming out of the device. The lake they'd been spending so much time on was nothing more than a very large tributary of a major river system. Companies still used cargo barges to transport goods up and down the river as it was cheaper to go by ship than by land.

One of the first things 'Fei had taught him was that if they were caught near one of those barges, it was extremely important to point the houseboat into the wake. The large waves those ships produced could easily swamp a boat, even a semi-large one like the one they were on if the waves hit the long side. Pointing the boat into the wake might cause the dishes to rattle around in the cupboards, but at least the boat would still be upright.

Duo didn't bother to call Wufei to come do it. He'd seen his lover position the boat into oncoming waves several times. He waltzed over to the wheel and gave the keys in the ignition a quick turn. Hearing the engine start up, he threw the throttle forward and jerked the wheel to the right just as the first of the large waves began to pound at the side of the boat.

+

Wufei cursed softly to himself as he impaled yet another wriggly worm onto his fishing hook. It was his fifth worm in half an hour and he still hadn't caught any fish. He knew the little bastards were out there somewhere, laughing at him. Oh but just wait. He was skilled in patience. He could wait all afternoon long if need be. And when he caught one, he and Duo would be having filet for dinner. Then he'd see who had the last laugh.

He cast his line out, then reeled in the slack. He'd thought that by anchoring near the dam, the fish would be plentiful. And judging from the number of worms he'd lost, he was right. But he still had yet to catch anything.

Suddenly he felt a sharp tug on the line. He froze, holding his breath. Had he imagined it? When he felt the rod in his hand pull again, he jerked the line up and began reeling it in as fast as he could.

Whatever was on the other end of the line was struggling. Wufei grinned in satisfaction. Nataku had granted him justice over the slimy little creatures at last. He and Duo would be eating well tonight.

A flash of silver caught his eye just below the surface of the water. The Chinese pilot laughed in triumph, bending down to retrieve a small net laying on the deck nearby. Holding the fishing pole in one hand, he leaned over the small railing in an attempt to snag the fish in the net.

Too late he heard the motor of the boat start up. The world lurched underneath him, knocking him off balance and sending him headlong into the cool waters of the lake.

He sputtered to the surface just in time to see the boat loom in front of him. A large wave picked him up and dashed him into the side of the houseboat. Pain flared through his skull before darkness swallowed him whole.

+

Duo gripped the wheel as the houseboat rode the waves. He winced as he heard a glass side around in the sink, breaking against the stainless steel side. He shut his eyes, not wanting to see the water rolling at them. For a moment, a wave of vertigo washed through him as the boat continued to bob up and down. He swallowed hard and forced himself not to be sick. He just hoped it would end soon.

Gradually the movement calmed. Duo cracked open his eyes to see the waves dying down as the barge sailed further upriver. He let go of his death grip on the wheel. That had certainly been one of the most scariest moments of his young life. He laughed at himself. Here he was, a fearsome Gundam pilot, afraid of a few waves. If Wufei found out just how scared he had been, he'd never let him live it down.

Wufei...

Duo looked out the forward window, frowning when he didn't see his lover standing where he'd been just a few moments before. He hadn't heard the other pilot come inside, and from what he could see, Wufei wasn't on the forward deck. Cautiously, Duo moved to the door.

"'Fei? You still out here?" he called through the open door.

No answer.

Taking a deep breath, he stepped outside and onto the deck, making sure he had a firm hold on the cabin's outer walls as he did so.

"'Fei?" Still no answer. "Come on, 'Fei! This isn't funny. Answer me!"

Panic began to set in as the only answer he received was the water lapping at the side of the houseboat. He moved to where Wufei had been standing to look and see if his lover had gone down the side deck to the back of the boat.

Nothing.

"'Fei!!" Duo was really starting to panic now. A clanking sound below him drew his attention. Holding on tight to the railing, Duo peered over the side and down at the water. A strangled cry escaped his throat as he saw Wufei's fishing pole floating in the water, banging against the side of the boat. He dropped to his knees on the deck, clutching the short railing so hard his knuckles turned white.

"'FEI!"

Out of the corner of his eye he saw a movement off to the side. His stomach dropped out from underneath him as he saw the body of his lover... floating face down... several yards away... and not moving.

"Oh sweet Jesus," he muttered, scrambling to his feet. In a flash he'd kicked off his shoes and thrown open the little gate at the front end of the boat. Swallowing hard, he backed down the ladder and into the cold water. His foot slipped on the bottom rung and he went sprawling into the lake. Stretching his foot down as far as he could, he felt around for the bottom. But the water here must have been deep. His head slipped under the surface and he still couldn't feel the slimy bottom of the lake.

Desperately he clawed his way to the surface. Forcing himself to calm down, the American started swimming as fast as he could in Wufei's direction. Wufei wasn't very far away, but the effort of keeping himself above water while trying not to panic was exhausting.

Duo almost slipped under the water again when his hand brushed cloth. He lunged for his lover, nearly dragging him beneath the surface as he grabbed for him. Somehow he managed to turn Wufei over while keeping both their heads above water. Without even checking to see if the Chinese pilot was breathing, he struck out for the houseboat. He could barely keep his own head above water, let alone both of them. Water rescue was not something Wufei had covered with him. He sobbed in frustration. How they were ever going to make it back, he did not know.

He wasn't sure how long it took. To Duo, time seemed to slow indefinitely. He was taking too much time, and he didn't think Wufei was breathing. He had Wufei under one arm, the other straining to move them through the water. He swallowed more of the briny lake water than he cared to think about, and all the splashing he was making was blinding his eyes. He could feel the icy cold fingers of terror beginning to cloud his mind. Memories of nearly drowning at the Church began to surface. He was fast losing his grip on reality. If he couldn't keep it together, they'd both drown. With one last, desperate movement he lunged for the boat...

...to have his fingers graze the ladder. With a startled cry, he grabbed at one of the rungs, pulling both him and Wufei up. He didn't know how he managed, but somehow he got them both out of the water and onto the deck. Flipping his sodden braid over his shoulder and out of the way, he quickly rolled Wufei onto his back.

"Pleasebeokay, pleasebeokay, pleasebeokay," he chanted as he leaned down to listen for Wufei's breathing. A cold grip clutched at his heart as he realized the Chinese boy wasn't drawing breath. He shoved his panic aside. He'd had first aid training. He just had to remain calm enough to remember it.

He felt for a pulse, relieved to feel one although very faint. He tilted Wufei's head back, pinched the nose, and breathed into his mouth. He repeated this several times, each time drawing back to see if his lover had started breathing on his own. Tears trickled down his face as each time he was disappointed.

"Come on, 'Fei. Don't do this to me. Don't let me kill you, too," Duo pleaded as he rolled Wufei onto his side. He pounded on the other boy's back, trying to dislodge some of the water from his lungs. Laying him flat on his back again, he breathed into Wufei's mouth once, twice more.

The inhalation of breath followed by choked coughing as the dark- haired pilot spewed water out of his mouth was the sweetest sound Duo had ever heard. He wrapped his arms around his lover, pulling him into a fierce embrace, and sobbed into his chest.

"Oh God, oh thank you, you're not dead, I didn't kill you, oh thank you," the braided boy chanted over and over as he clutched his lover tight.

Wufei's arms came up to embrace Duo. "Shhh. I'm here. I'm okay," he breathed. "What happened?"

"There was a barge... I turned the boat like you told me. I don't know what happened but you fell overboard." Duo sniffled and pulled back to look into Wufei's eyes. "Are you sure you're okay?"

Wufei lifted a hand to his forehead where Duo could see a nasty knot forming. "I've got a bitch of a headache and my lungs feel like they're on fire," he rasped, "but yes. I'm all right." The Chinese pilot took in the wet state of their clothes with widened eyes. "Duo, did you... jump in to save me?"

Duo nodded. "I didn't know what else to do! You were just floating there, face down. I've never been so scared in all my life!"

"Why didn't you just steer the boat to where I was and pull me out of the water?"

Duo's mouth opened, then closed. His eyes grew impossibly large before his face crumpled. Wufei, sensing a breakdown was imminent, drew Duo to him again.

"I'm sorry, 'Fei. I didn't think! All I could think about was getting to you!"

"Duo, I'm not upset with you! Don't you see? You conquered your fear! You got in the water to save me." He tilted the American's face up to deliver a gentle kiss on his lips. "By facing your fears, you saved my life, Duo Maxwell. Thank you."

"I just couldn't lose you, too, 'Fei. Everyone I've ever loved has died. I... I couldn't lose you too."

"You won't. Even when we're apart, I'll always be with you." He kissed Duo again. "Now why don't you help me up and we can get out of these wet clothes and find something for my head."

"Are you sure you're okay?" Duo worried as he helped his lover stand.

"Yes. I will be. Although we're going to have to find something else to make for dinner. I think I've given up on fishing." He looked at Duo up and down, frowning. "Duo... why are you wearing my shirt?"

+

True to his word, Wufei suffered nothing more than a severe headache from where the houseboat had collided with his head. Duo had worried that he needed to see a doctor, but the Chinese boy refused.

"I don't want to blow our cover," he'd said. "Besides, I'm fine."

When Duo still didn't look convinced, Wufei kissed his forehead and led him to the bedroom to show him just how fine he was actually feeling.

Duo spent the two days after the accident pampering his lover. During the day he kept Wufei bundled up on the couch as his sojourn in the lake had given him a slight chill. Duo cooked, cleaned, and waited on him hand and foot. Wufei tried to protest, but Duo wouldn't hear of it.

"You took care of me when I was afraid. Let me take care of you this time," he said, putting his foot down firmly.

Wufei grumbled but settled back against the cushions and let Duo have his way.

When night fell, Duo would join his lover on the couch, snuggling together while watching old vid programs on Wufei's laptop. At least they started out that way, but inevitably snuggling led touching, which led to groping, which led to their clothes ending up all over the floor. Not that Duo mind picking them up afterwards. Nope, he didn't mind one little bit.

On the third evening since Wufei's unexpected little swim, the two lovers were once again ensconced in each others arms, watching Duo's favorite program, when the laptop began to emit a familiar beeping sound. Both pilots froze, each knowing what that particular signal meant.

Wufei gave Duo a long look, then extracted himself from his lover's arms to answer the call. Closing the vid program, he opened his mail and quickly read the contents of the message.

Duo saw his lover's shoulder slump in defeat as the dark-haired boy closed the message.

"Mission?"

"Yes."

Duo looked down at his hands, plucking invisible threads off the blanket they had been sharing. "When?"

"Tomorrow. And you've been ordered to report back to your contact."

"So... tonight's our last night together," Duo said, his voice suddenly gone soft.

Wufei shut down the laptop, then moved back over to pull Duo off the couch. "Remember what I said? I'll always be with you, Duo. Even when I'm not with you."

The American stared at his lover for a long moment before wrapping his arms around him. "I know. I just didn't want this to end."

"I don't either," Wufei replied, bringing his own arms up to hold Duo close.

Duo brushed his lips across Wufei's, then stepped back, taking his lover's hands in his own.

"Since this is our last night together, what say we make it something to remember?"

Wufei smiled. "I think you read my mind."

The Chinese pilot allowed his lover to lead him to the bedroom. Tenderly, he laid Duo down on the bed, sinking down into his lover's embrace, and drinking of his lips. He removed each article of clothing slowly, taking care to worship every inch of skin bared as he went along. He was in no rush. They had all night to love each other before their parting. He worshipped Duo's body with hands, mouth and body, stoking the fires within and bringing them both higher and higher with every kiss, every taste, every touch. When at last he finally joined his body to Duo's, he felt his soul sing. He lost himself in violet eyes, but went willingly to his fate. He felt like he was coming home. As he and Duo tumbled over the precipice together, that was the one thought that lingered in his mind. No matter where they were, Duo would always be home to him.

He gathered his sated lover into his arms, holding him tight. Duo snuggled happily in his embrace, murmuring words of love as he drifted to sleep. Wufei on the other hand didn't close his eyes the entire night. This was their last night together. He wanted to watch Duo sleep.

He didn't know when he'd get a chance to do it again.

+

The next morning the two awoke to the gentle pitter-patter of rain dancing on the roof. They stayed in bed as long as they could before reluctantly leaving the warm cocoon of blankets to get ready to leave.

Duo packed their stuff while Wufei cleaned the boat, making sure everything was where they'd found it when they first arrived on board. While Wufei wasn't looking, Duo stuffed the white silk shirt he had "borrowed" from his lover the day of the accident into his own pack. He wanted something of 'Fei's to take with him, something he could hold onto at night that carried his scent.

When they were done, Wufei steered them back to the boat dock where they had been given the houseboat. Wufei told him that Master O had again made arrangements for transportation for both of them when they arrived. Duo watched the dock approach with a sinking heart. Every meter brought them closer and closer to separation. He turned his head to stare at his lover. He didn't want to leave, but the war was still going on. They had to part ways - at least for now.

The man who had gotten rid of their stolen truck when they'd first arrived was waiting for them on shore. Wufei docked the boat and secured it to the dock with security ropes. Then, taking Duo's hand in his own and squeezing it tightly, he led Duo to up the ramp and onto shore.

"Howdy," the man said, taking the keys to the houseboat from Wufei and handing him two different sets of keys. "I trust everything went okay out there?" He gestured to the two vehicles, not waiting for an answer. "The motorcycle's for you," he told Wufei, "and the little jeep is for your friend."

"Thanks," Wufei said, handing Duo the keys to the jeep. "Any orders?"

"None that you haven't got already. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be taking the boat down river some to dispose of it and cover your tracks."

Wufei nodded his thanks, then drew Duo over to the jeep. He threw the American's gear into the back, then turned to face his lover.

Duo chewed on his bottom lip and looked at the ground. "I... I guess this is good-bye."

Wufei took hold of Duo's chin and tipped his face upward. "Not good- bye. Just good-bye for now." He reached up and took the hair tie out of his hair, letting his black locks fall free around his face. Taking hold of Duo's braid, he tied the tie around the end, then placed Duo's hand on top of it. "Keep that with you. To remember me by... when you can't wear my shirt."

Duo felt his face burn. "I didn't think you noticed." He stared at his lover for a long moment before reaching up and unclasping the chain around his neck. Before Wufei could say anything, he fastened it around the other boy's neck.

Wufei clasped the cross dangling at the end in his fist and looked at Duo incredulously. "Your cross? But I cannot take this."

"Yes you can. To remember me by." He placed a small kiss on Wufei's mouth. "Just keep it safe for me. You can return it after this war is over."

Wufei's eyes were bright with unshed tears as he tucked Duo's cross securely in his shirt. "I'll take good care of it, Duo." He drew the American into his arms. Gravitating towards one another, their lips met in one final, passion-filled kiss. Wufei wanted to memorize the taste of Duo, the feel of his lover's lips beneath his own, in order to have something to relive on their lonely nights apart. But he also poured a promise into the kiss - a promise that should they make it out of this hellish war alive, he would find Duo and never leave his side again.

Regretfully he pulled away. Pressing one last kiss onto Duo's forehead, he opened the jeep door and helped his lover inside. He shut the door and leaned against it, sticking his head in the open window.

Duo wiped an errant tear from his face and gifted Wufei with a smile. "I'll see you around, okay?"

Wufei answered with a smile of his own. "I promise." He tenderly swept a stray lock of hair away from Duo's face, then stepped away. "Take care of yourself, Maxwell," he said with a smirk, then turned and walked to the waiting motorcycle.

Duo sat in the jeep and watched Wufei stuff his pack into the storage compartment, climb onto the bike, and start the engine. The Chinese pilot gave Duo one last, longing look before putting on his helmet and zooming out of the parking area.

Duo sighed and fingered the tie around the end of his braid. He missed Wufei already. Sweeping his braid over his shoulder, he started the jeep. He threw one last glance at the lake. The water held no fear for him now. He'd always be apprehensive about being in it, but looking at the beautiful blue-green waters no longer caused his stomach to clench in fear. He'd replaced his horrible memories with something beautiful.

Smiling wistfully as he watched their houseboat sail across the lake, he wondered if after the war he and Wufei could come back here. He'd have to ask him the next time they saw each other. But for now they had a war to fight. He put the jeep in gear and drove away, hoping that the war would end soon so he and Wufei could return and build some new beautiful memories.

~owari

[part 5] [back to Caroline's fic]