Title: January Thaw, part 3 of the Survival Arc
Ownership: Survival Arc? Yes (this fic included!). Gundam Wing and all
its characters and plot and such? Nuh-uh.
Summary: Seven years after the end of the war, the charade is abruptly
over. "Endless Waltz" never happened, so I guess it's kind of
Rating: PG-ish... nothing really worse than what we've seen before in
the Survival Arc.
Warnings: Angst. Stuff. Whatever.
THANK YOUS AND POCKY go out to Bronze Tigeress for catching the silly
miscommunications between my brain and my hands. All mistakes that you
find are my own. Mine! Mine! ::clutches them to her chest with a wicked
JANUARY THAW: The title of a chapter in the Sand County Almanac, by Leopold.
The book is basically a shrine to nature, and may be interesting in parts,
but is evil for a class assignment. Gosh, I still remember, from all those
years ago... (Side note: I live in Michigan. We kind of have a Feburary
Thaw... and then a Feburary Freeze... and then a March, May, or June thaw...
so I can't really relate, but hey, in Michigan, we don't really have seasons,
we kind of just go with the flow.)
I touch the fire, and it freezes
I look into it and it's black.
Why can't I feel?
My skin should crack and peel.
I want the fire back.
--"Once More With Feeling", Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Thaw + Part 1
Duo struggled against the urge to cry. He could feel the tears building
up behind his eyelids and blinked furiously. He finally gave in, using
his shirt sleeve to mop at his eyes. "Wu, you're heartless." He snuffled
Wufei, unperturbed, continued to chop the green peppers. "You offered."
He seemed almost amused.
"Yeah, well, you didn't have to accept." Visciously, he hacked at the
"Think of it as a character-building experience." Looking even more amused,
he scooped up the chopped peppers and carried them over to the pot.
"You think I need more character?' Duo had to grin through his onion-induced
tears. "Alright, but you're not allowed to complain later."
"More character?" Wufei smirked. "I think you need different character."
"Oy!" Duo cried, clutching at his chest dramatically with the hand not
holding the knife. "Right in the heart! Wu, you've wounded me!"
"You're making a mess of that, Maxwell," Wufei returned, but Duo could
tell he was still enjoying himself.
"How can you mess up chopping a vegetable?" Duo demanded.
Slipping up behind him, Wufei carefully put one hand over each of Duo's,
guiding the knife against the onion. His front nestled comfortably against
Duo's back. "Make slices," he murmured in Duo's ear, chin settled on the
American's shoulder. "And then you go across... and then the other way."
Duo shivered a little as Wufei's warm breath tingled on his ear and neck.
Wufei was a few inches taller than him; genetics had been kind to Wufei,
and Sally attributed Duo's lack of height to malnutrition in his early
developing years. It didn't really bother him. Duo was used to being short.
"Are you getting distracted?" Wufei whispered against Duo's neck.
"I think you'll need to teach me again," Duo replied slyly. "You know
how slow I am in the kitchen."
Wufei pulled away, shaking his head and walking back towards the stove.
"Incorrigible, that's what you are."
Duo pinched his butt. "Don't incorrige me."
Wufei yelped and sent him a dirty look, but the smirk he was struggling
to contain indicated he didn't really mean it. "Add the onions. After
that, the sauce has to simmer for 20 minutes. I'm pulling out the bread;
you mince the garlic."
"Yes sir, Captain Wu-chan." Instantly, he knew he had given himself away
in that; he'd been too casual for a cooking lesson, too--something. Wufei
was sure to pick up on it--Wufei always picked up on that kind of thing.
Duo dropped the onion chunks in the pot of spaghetti sauce and carefully
stirred it, hoping Wufei would let it be. He pulled the garlic out of
the cupboard, shelled a few cloves with a careful hand, and began to mince.
"Duo..." Wufei began hesitantly, and Duo checked to make sure he wasn't
doing something stupid, like chopping the garlic skin, that he could blame
it on. Finding nothing obvious, he raised his eyes to meet Wufei's; despite
their recent banter, Wufei had a serious air about him.
The Chinese man looked at him for a moment. "Nothing." He looked unsure
of his answer, and stirred the sauce absently.
It wasn't nothing, but Duo didn't debate it, choosing instead to start
into a story about one of his students, a girl who'd chosen to pull a
paper off the internet and pass it off as her own. "It wasn't even on
the right book," Duo concluded to the laughing Wufei. "And, of course,
her parents are furious with me. Stupid dumb rich kids. It's like dealing
with OZ again, 'cept I'm not allowed to blow 'em up this time. I mean,
the paper's grammar alone sent me into hysterics... and I'm not supposed
to laugh while handing back papers. The kids take offense and tell Marissa,
and then she has to reprimand me... it's just not pretty."
"That's what you get for teaching high schoolers," Wufei returned, slathering
the garlic butter on the loaf of bread. "At least the idiots I'm stopping
are adults. By the way, Une still wants you in the Preventers."
"Tell her the uniforms are too tacky." The continual job offers were a
running joke between Duo and Une.
"Why don't you just tell her you're not interested?" Wufei asked. "Spare
me this eternal message boy duty."
Duo winked. "And break her heart? Nah... it's more fun this way."
The front door clicked open; Duo could hear the jangle of Heero's keys
as he tossed them in the basket on the table.
Heero walked into the kitchen, heading immediately to the pot and tasting
the sauce with the stirring spoon. "Needs basil."
"No, it doesn't," Wufei replied, taking the spoon away and rapping at
"Hullo to you, too, Hee-chan," Duo said with a smirk.
"I hate Relena's groupies," Heero replied, moving so Wufei could place
the garlic bread in the oven.
"So what else is new?" Wufei asked, checking the pasta and slapping Heero's
hand away from the sauce again.
"Why don't you just quit working for her?" Duo asked, pulling out a few
Wufei smirked. "Une doesn't want to hire Heero, remember? Besides, Relena
has him wrapped around her finger."
Duo laughed as Heero growled. "She does not! And, at least I don't work
"I like kids," Duo protested, but it sent a funny ache through his chest.
Wufei flashed him another concerned look, like his stifled speech earlier,
but let it pass unchallenged.
"You are a kid," Heero returned, not noticing the exchange. Duo felt another
ache in his heart. Heero never noticed.
Seven years after the war, their arrangement hadn't changed. They lived
together, slept together, ate together, and worked separately. Sometimes
Duo wondered how long the charade could continue.
His hands were shaking, and he reached over to crank up the heat to maximum
blast. Damn it all! Stupid, stupid, stupid...
The heat was all the way up, but the car still felt cold to him. He just
needed to get home, get under a blanket, get a mug of hot chocolate, or
tea, stick some logs in the fireplace, crank up the heat...
Oh, and maybe take his medication. Yeah. That might help, too. The war
had hardened him, he'd discovered a few years after the end of the fighting.
Not as much as it had Heero or Trowa, but more than Quatre or Wufei. Death
was an end--almost a release in some cases. Way back before they had electricity
(and possibly the wheel; he taught English, damn it, not history!) this
Greek guy, Lucretius, wrote a long poem entitled "The Nature of Things".
Basically, it detailed his theory on atoms, and how they comprised the
Lucretius thought that, when a person slept, their soul loosened and escaped
the body, snapping back in place with wakefulness. Similarly, death came
when the soul never returned. Even if Duo had believed in souls--which
he didn't, because of the whole not believing in God thing--he would think
this was some kind of bullshit, simply because there were living people
wandering around out there in this fucked-up world without souls. They
*too intelligent. No one so young should be so intelligent*
but their eyes held a vacancy Duo had seen in Heero's eyes when he was
on the Zero-system. And, these people couldn't blame it on some insane
He pulled into the garage and breathed slowly, resting his head on the
steering wheel and wrapping his arms around himself. Damn.
The expression in Derrick's eyes as he'd pointed the gun at his classmates--he
was consumed by the power. That vacuous look of soulessness just consumed
It was too much, after the stress of the past few days. Luckily, Marissa,
in her infinite wisdom, had noticed the expression on Duo's face as he'd
handed the terrorists
*children with guns!*
over to the police. He'd given his statement and been immediately excused.
Marissa knew how he got sometimes, when the weakness in his body came
back with a vengance.
"Go home," she told him. "Take a few days off. Get it together."
The house was quiet and dark, and he shivered a little. He tossed his
keys in the basket, but didn't bother to remove his scarf, gloves, and
coat. The light next to the phone blinked a few times, and he stared at
it. He should call Heero and Wufei. Let them know what was going on.
Wufei's number came easily to hand, despite the clumsy large fingers of
his gloves, and as the phone rang he struggled to breathe, to relax, to
sound like he had it all together.
"Hey, Wu." He bit his lip as his voice cracked, and sat down heavily in
a kitchen chair.
"Duo?" Wufei sounded surprised and only a bit concerned; evidently, he
hadn't heard about the school yet. Surprising, actually, considering the
way reporters trumpeted high to heaven any shred of violence involving
children, packaged into a neat little sound bite. Duo felt suddenly ill.
"Hi." It was nice just to hear Wufei's voice. He breathed in again, feeling
kind of soothed and kind of stupid for feeling soothed.
There was a pause. "Duo, are you okay?"
Duo laughed, but he sounded hysterical, even to himself. "Yeah. I... there
was a shooting today at school. Don't worry," he interupted Wufei before
the other man could get out more than a syllable. He traced winding patterns
on the table top. "No one got hurt. I stopped the terrorists. I just wanted
you to know that I'm okay."
"They were kids, Wufei." They were the same age the boys had been when
they piloted their giant Machines of Death. When Duo had been Shinigami.
These kids would be branded as insane killers for the rest of their lives,
without having killed anyone--thanks to Duo's quick reflexes--while their
teacher, who had killed thousands
*more? God only knew how many*
was hailed as a hero. It boggled his mind.
"Duo..." Wufei's breath whispered over the line, and Duo knew it was time
to end the call.
"Marissa sent me home for the rest of the week. I just wanted you to know,
in case you heard. I'm fine."
"You want me to call Yuy and let him know?" Wufei asked gently. Duo wondered
how he could call his lover by his last name, then wondered what Wufei
called him behind his back.
"Yeah, that would be great." Suddenly, all Duo was was tired. "I think
this phone is dying. See you tonight."
"Take care, Duo," Wufei said. Duo could hear the hidden meaning behind
the words. I know you're not doing well, and we will discuss this later.
"Yeah, Wu. Think I'm gonna take a nap."
"I'll see if I can come home early."
"Don't worry about it."
The phone fizzled and died in his hand, and he stared at it blankly for
a few moments before taking it over to the cradle and letting it fall
in. Some days, he thought, it just didn't pay to get out of bed.
Medicine, he remembered suddenly. It was a new prescription, still fresh
in the white pharmacy bag, stashed under the sink in a hurry when he'd
gotten it. Sally had prescribed it at his last appointment; she knew a
colleague who was working on developing medication for the survivors of
the latest L2 plague, and so he always got the improved version. No more
injections for him, just some gel tablets and an inhalor.
He pulled the bag open, reading the list of side effects, directions,
and precautions stapled to the outside of the bag.
The last appointment had not gone well.
He held the bottle in his hand, looking at it without really seeing it.
His lungs were permanently damaged, which meant...
He popped the safety cap and swallowed two of the blue pills, washing
them down with a glass of warm milk. The pills would stop the shivering,
stop the coughing, stop the ache in his lungs, stop the dizziness--that
was what Sally said, anyway. It took them a while to work, but it was
okay; Duo was miserable, but not that miserable. He wished the blue pills
could take away the pain in his heart, but there was no such thing. If
A million completions ran through his head at that thought. If only the
little blue pills could make him stop loving. If only Sally could wave
a magic wand and fix his lungs. If only children could stop picking up
guns, and leave the adults to fight amongst themselves. If only he could
make a difference. If only Wufei and Heero weren't together. If only they
would love him like they loved each other. If only Wufei was here to hold
him, and stop his hands from shaking, and his eyes from watering. If only
he had an onion to blame his tears on this time.
He hiccoughed, suddenly, and shivered. His favorite brown blanket. He
needed his blanket.
"What's wrong?" Heero tensed, hearing the tone in Wufei's voice.
"There was a shooting at the school. No one got hurt, but Duo went home."
"Who was it?"
A sigh came over the telephone line. "Children, Duo says. Students, I'm
assuming. The Preventers haven't been called in. It's police jurisdiction."
"Right." Heero clicked his pen a few times. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.
In. Out. Realizing what he was doing, he set it down and glared at it.
"I'm going to see if I can leave early."
"I'll see you at home then."
They hung up. Heero frowned, looking at his calendar. He could maybe clear
that last meeting with Relena from his schedule and make it out a few
hours early... they could watch old movies and eat popcorn.
Yuy smirked a little. It was a good plan. He'd surprise his lovers. He
didn't get a chance to surprise Wufei and Duo very often. His hours were
longer; Wufei and Duo usually collaborated on the dinner effort, which
left him little opportunity there, and his taste in movies was entirely
different than his eclectic lovers', so surprising them with entertainment
was difficult as well.
He folded his arms on his desk and considered. It was almost spartan in
appearance, without Wufei's odd talent for picking up knick-knacks, or
Duo's continual clutter that just seemed to follow in a large, congealed
clump wherever he went. There was an inbox, an outbox, a pen, a picture,
and his laptop; the rest was all in the drawers--including his spare guns,
of course. Heero lived by a creed that included the phrase, "and you can
never have too many pieces of automatic weaponry, although a letter-opener
will do in a pinch." He kept his letter opener in the top drawer, with
His eyes came to rest on the picture, and he picked it up from the corner
of his desk and brought it closer. It had been taken at the celebration
they'd had when Duo'd landed his teaching position. He'd been estatic,
and Heero and Wufei had been fairly pleased to have at least one person
out of the dangerous, gun-weilding business of protection. Not that Duo
wouldn't jump if Une had a mission that required his services, but on
the whole, he seemed to be pleased with his lot in life.
The picture had Wufei sitting in a wooden chair, arm resting on the back
of it. Duo was leaning on the table behind him, arm slung over the ex-Shenlong
pilot's shoulder and along his chest, grinning wildly at both the camera
and Wufei's wry look of reluctant amusement. Heero stood a bit behind
Duo and to the side, looking--well, he wasn't smiling, but he was
His fingers traced the image of his lovers, and he allowed a half-smile
to creep upon him. They were special, those two; he wished he had what
they had. It was special, whatever it was. It wasn't something that could
be learned, or manufactured, or brought to life--whatever it was, it was
simply there between them. It was a closeness, an understanding. It was
something that he knew he could never have with either of them alone.
Occasionally, listening to them banter in the kitchen, or during a movie,
or over Une or just anything, he would feel a small hint of jealousy manifest.
It was easy for them, something they had that he could never have.
He wasn't used to talking, or joking, and he knew that Wufei got a bit
morbid whenever Duo left them alone for some "bonding time", as Duo termed
it. Heero wondered what Duo thought they did in that time; Wufei wasn't
a great starter of discourse, and Heero could hardly be called a wonderful
conversationalist in his best moments.
It hurt, to see the light that flickered between them and not be able
to grasp it. He couldn't even understand it.
He was so deeply entrenched in his thoughts that he almost didn't notice
when the mailboy came by. An odd look of smug satisfaction was on the
boy's face, and Heero set the picture down, warning bells ringing with
full intensity. He studied the boy, frowning.
Fifteen minutes later had the boy pressed up against a wall, scared--literally--shitless
and pouring his pathetic disgruntled heart out. Why was it always the
boys from the mail room? Pathetic losers. With a sneer, he clocked the
kid across the head. It was like fighting OZ again, except the terrorists
were stupid terror-happy brats. Relinquishing the smelly moron to Security--well,
the Security guards with lesser paychecks, actually--he walked over to
Relena's office and walked in, ignoring the protesting secretary. As usual,
he didn't bother to knock.
And, as usual, he caught Relena at a particularly bad time. "Um, Heero!"
she squeaked, pushing Dorothy away from her neck. "Is there something
wrong with Julie's intercom?"
"Johnson from the Mail room put a bomb in my house. I'm going home to
defuse it." He glared at her and Dorothy, who shot a nasty look back and
hooked her arm around her girlfriend. "I wish you'd just formally announce
your relationship already. Morons are still trying to blow me up for 'leaving
you for another man'."
"I'm working on her," Dorothy replied wickedly. "If you don't mind leaving
Relena pushed her away, a worried look on her face. "A bomb? Really? Do
you need back up? I can formally request Preventor support from Une--not
that Wufei couldn't round up some people if needed--"
"Don't worry," Heero said, a tad smugly. "It's on a timer. It's going
off in a month. I have plenty of time to get rid of it."
"You know I'll let you go right away to get rid of it, right?" Relena
asked, relieved. "Are you sure he was telling the truth?"
Heero snorted. "That boy talked so much I practically know his life story.
He's a bomb expert, and a horrible liar."
"Where'd he put it?" Dorothy asked, perching on the corner of Relena's
"The chimney, of all places." Heero chuckled. "Who puts a bomb in a chimney?"
"Who puts a bomb in a chimney?" Wufei asked incredulously. "Are you sure
he wasn't just messing with your head, Yuy?"
"Positive," Yuy replied.
"The chimney!" Wufei said, shaking his head. Then, realization struck
from behind. "Oh, the chimney..."
"Duo had another attack." Wufei shoved his papers aside, pulling his jacket
off the back of his chair and stuffing his arms in the sleeves. "I'm leaving
Heero cursed. "Me, too. I'll be home as soon as I can."
"Right. Chang out."
Wufei hung up and dashed out of his cubicle, pausing only long enough
to give his excuses to Une. She protested, he growled about protecting
his family, and she let him leave. Standard Operating Proceedure. They
only went through the routine because it suited their strange friendship.
Wufei still wasn't sure how it was that he came to be working for his
former enemy. That part of his life was a little hazy... but it involved
fast talking on Une's part and the offer of a large salary. Wufei thought
he remembered swearing, too, but... He hopped in his car, loosening his
tie with one hand as he pulled out his cell phone and dialed their home
After a few rings, a calm voice informed him that, "the number you have
dialed is not responding, or temporarily out of service. Please try again
at a different time."
He swore, jamming his keys in the ignition and putting on his seatbelt
before calling Duo's cell. It rang for a while, and he eventually just
gave up, pulling out of the parking lot of Preventor Headquarters, straight
a traffic jam.
He could feel himself slipping into battle mode.
[part 2] [back Cassima's