By Cassima
All disclaimers and warnings from the first part apply.

January Thaw + Part 2

Duo shivered, still feeling cold, dispite the medicine, the blanket, and his hot beverage. His hands felt numb, his fingers unresponsive. His nose was stiff, and he rubbed it against the slight warmth of his inner arm.

People, he decided, were morons.

Duo didn't understand people. He didn't understand why they did stupid things, like shooting up a school, or... other stupid things that they did. What was the point? What was...?

He sighed and stood, shedding the blanket and setting the mug of hot chocolate down on the table. His heavy coat still lay where he'd left it, puddled half on, half off a chair, and he pulled it on, struggling with his clumsy fingers to zip it up. After he had donned his fuzzy hat and gloves, as well as his sturdy boots, he grabbed the firewood carrier and set off outside for the woodpile at the edge of their property.

The first blast of cold air outside caught him by surprise, and he blinked in the bright January sunlight as it reflected off the snow-covered landscape. This house, situated on the edge of the woods, was beautiful--and he and Wufei and Heero had bought it, fair and square. A fresh chill worked its way down through the lining of his stomach, past where the hot chocolate had been keeping it insulated, and he trudged through the snow, listening to it crunch under his feet. He fell into a slight trance, walking through the snow; each step was monotonous, and the sound of his footsteps merged with his depression until he was standing infront of the woodpile, without any recollection of having walked the entire way. Opening the cloth, he spread it out on the ground and began to stack wood inside it. After he had a full load, he gathered the handles and began to carry the wood back, shaking from the cold and the strain.

The trip back seemed to take much longer with the weight of the logs pulling against his arms, and he supposed he was getting weak. Teaching, while mentally trying and moderately rewarding, did not make for firm athletic shape. Of course, he worked out with Wufei and Heero--in more ways than one, he thought with a slight hint of a smirk, and struggled not to let his grip on the handles slip--but he knew he was in less than the ultimate condition he'd been in during the war, a product of both the times and his occupation.

He stomped the snow off his boots and set the cloth carrier down in its frame before he bothered to take off his additional "outdoors" warmth. Duo took his blanket from the couch and pulled it around him, moving to get the kindling and matches.

There was nothing especially spectacular about Duo's blanket; it was grungy brown, a little worn in some places, and the stain from the time he'd passed out with a nosebleed on it--the last time he ever took that medication, Wu made sure of that--had never fully come out, no matter how many times they put it through the wash.

Wufei gave him the blanket years ago, shortly after they all started sharing a bed, to help him stay warm in his gundam during a solo mission. He thought it was ugly at the time--it was still ugly, in fact--but he'd never gotten rid of it. Even now, when he felt helpless and pathetic, he pulled the blanket out of the linen closet and draped it over his lap, remembering the power he'd felt while piloting Deathscythe, and the way Wufei had gruffly avoided looking him in the eyes while giving it to him. Duo kept the blanket in Deathscythe until the end of the war, when his gundam went to that big ol' place in the sun to roast in peace. He'd also saved the self destruct button, as a memento of the only piece of Deathscythe that never worked.

He set the kindling up in the fireplace and sat on the hearth with the matchbox. Fingers shaking, he tried to light the match.

It broke.

He lit another, but the trembling in his fingers put out the flame before it reached the wood.

He struggled to light another one, cursing as the chemically-treated head popped off, rolling across the hearth and falling to the floor.

He lit another and dropped it. It flickered out and died on the stone hearth.

He frowned. His pile of used matches was growing, and he hadn't even started the fire yet.

He lit two at once the next time, to keep them on fire as he carefully moved them towards the wood. And then promptly blew them out, realizing he had forgotten to open the flue.

The chimney open, Duo felt free to light the next match. Luck seemed to be with him, for it reached the kindling and lit with little prompting. He lit it in a few different places, hoping that he would finally--finally--find some warmth.

The front door flew open with a bang, and Duo whipped around, still wrapped in his blanket. Wufei was charging in, through the front hall, through the kitchen, and into the living room, still in full Preventor regalia. The Chinese man grabbed Duo, violently tossing him onto the carpet away from the fireplace, and quickly put out the fire.

Duo blinked, stunned, and pulled his blanket tight to his body. "Wufei?"

Reaching into the chimney, Wufei felt around, finally sticking his head in to gaze up into the inky blackness.

"Wufei?"

With a strangled curse, Wufei finally reached up and pulled something off the wall of the flue, bringing it down with shaking hands and placing it gently on the hearth.

A bomb.

Duo felt the last shreds of normality leave him as he dropped the blanket, walking over to the kitchen to fetch a pair of scissors. He was back before Wufei had more than a chance to study it, eyes grazing over it for the panel.

"Duo, get out of here." Wufei didn't even look up, fully absorbed in the problem.

"I'm the demolitions expert," Duo answered. "You get out of here." He took a seat next to Wufei and pried the side panel off to examine the interior of the bomb. "Guy knew what he was doing." He slipped two of the wires between the blades of the scissors.

"Are you sure?"

Duo cut the wires with a quick snip and set the scissors down, staring at the remnants of the bomb. "Well, it's a piece of trash now."

Wufei grabbed him suddenly, holding Duo tightly and burying his nose in his neck. "I was almost too late," he whispered after a moment.

It had been a long time since Duo had had two near-death experiences in one day. He clutched Wufei just as hard and squeezed his eyes shut. They crouched there on the cold stone hearth for a long moment, just holding each other in silence.

When he had finally calmed down enough to speak without his voice cracking, Wufei--still from his position hidden in Duo's neck--explained the situation.

"When does it end, Wu?" Duo finally asked. "When are people gonna stop trying to kill us?"

Wufei turned his head on Duo's shoulder, breathing against his neck. "Soon, I hope."

Duo felt the stress of the past week spin his mind. "I'm leaving soon."

Wufei lifted his head to meet Duo's eyes. "This isn't about the bomb," he said softly, "or the shooting."

Duo pulled away, walking over to the large window facing the back of the house and staring at the woods.

"You've been acting like this ever since you came back from your appointment with Sally," Wufei said, his voice gaining strength. "I wasn't going to push, but I changed my mind. You're going to tell me what's going on, Maxwell, and you're going to do it now."

"It's not going to happen, Wu." Duo didn't look away from the window, instead tracing the outline of one of the older, stouter trees on the edge of the woods.

Wufei prompted after a moment of silence. "What do you mean?"

Duo could see the reflection of his own bitter smile in the glass. "You remember my dream."

He could see Wufei's reflection stand. "Yes...?"

Duo sighed. "Sally says my lungs will never be strong enough to be offplanet for more than a month. That means no orphanage, Wu. No place for the street brats of L2. It means no memorial for Sister Helen and Father Maxwell." He felt Wufei's hand on his shoulder and wondered when he'd gotten so close. "All this work for nothing."

"You can build an orphanage here, on Earth--"

"Earth has tons of orphanages," Duo said bitterly, pulling away from the hand on his shoulder and taking a step back. "L2 has exactly none, that's how many, and it needs ten, twenty. L2 is forgotten. It's the scum colony. It's where all the prisoners go. I just wanted..." He looked back out the window, away from Wufei's sympathetic gaze. "I'm not going to stay here anymore.

"You guys have been wonderful to me, and I've taken advantage of your friendship for a while, but I can't--I can't stay here any longer, Wu."

"Why not?" Wufei asked, softly. Duo expected the surprise, the confusion, the hurt, but the note of desperation was something of a shock.

"Because I love you." His own voice was blessedly calm on that declaration, but he could feel his throat closing up. "I mean, I'm in love with you. Truly, madly, deeply. And I know you're in love with Heero, and he's... Both of you. I love you both. I don't want to mess up your relationship anymore. I mean, how hard has it been to have a quiet evening alone with me around? I try to leave you guys alone every once in a while, but I know I'm just everywhere you want to be. My god, I even sleep between the two of you." He turned away. "I'll have some place lined up in a week, a month, tops. You guys can have the house to yourselves; my third of it will be an anniversary present for you. God knows you deserve it."

"Duo," Wufei interrupted, turning him around and putting one hand to his cheek. "You stopped being an outsider in the relationship long ago. Heero and I both consider you a part of us." Wufei pulled him close, smoothing back the hairs that had jumped loose from his braid. "I love you, too. Truly, madly, deeply. I'm in love with you."

Duo could feel Wufei's soothing hands on his back, in his hair, smoothing back the aches and wrinkles and holding him close. Wufei was a strong presence against him, and something that had been locked down in the pit of his stomach lifted and fluttered in his chest.

"You're--in love with me? But, what about--"

"Heero is, too."

Duo lifted his arms slowly, pulling Wufei forward the last few inches. "You're not just--?"

"Duo. When have I ever said anything just for the pleasure of saying it?"

Duo chuckled despite himself. "Well, how about right after the war, when you made up the 'A-B-Cs of Justice' and recited them at the top of your lungs in a fit of drunken revelry?"

Wufei pinked a little in the cheeks and nuzzled Duo's nose. "Not drunk now, am I?"

"No," Duo murmured back, "I suppose you're not."

+

The house was still standing when Heero arrived home, which he supposed was a good thing. The call from Wufei about the defusing of the bomb had come as a relief beyond description, but Wufei had mentioned that he might want to come home as soon as possible.

And here Heero was, to find a quiet house. Wufei was in the kitchen, tidying up something.

"Where's Duo?" Heero asked.

Wufei looked at him steadily. "Sleeping. He had an adrenaline burst that counteracted the effects of the medication for a moment when we found the bomb, but he crashed soon after that."

"So, what's the big emergency?" Heero asked, heading back to the main hall to drop his keys in the key basket and hang up his coat.

"Heero, we need to have a talk." Wufei left his sponge on the counter and moved to sit at the table. "I know that you love Duo. I do, too. We've never officially had that disscussion, though. Duo... he needs to hear the words."

"I thought he knew," Heero said, frowning. "It's obvious."

"Nevertheless, Heero... I want to marry you."

Heero blinked.

"Both of you," Wufei continued, looking at his hands. "I--I'm in love with you and Duo. I want everyone to know. I want Duo to know."

"Is that even possible?" Heero asked after a moment.

Wufei laughed, the bitterness showing on his face. "Of course not. Polygamy is still illegal. But that doesn't stop me from wanting it."

Heero paused before reaching one hand to rest it on Wufei's shoulder. "If that's what you want, we'll figure something out."

Wufei smiled, but it was a little dull. "I love you."

"Go take a nap." Heero pulled Wufei out of the chair and nudged him towards the stairs. "Duo would love the company."

"You're right. I'll just rest for a bit. Are you coming?"

Heero shook his head. "I... I'm feeling hungry. I'll make dinner."

Wufei looked at him sadly. "We still have lots to talk about, Heero. Duo's appointment with Sally last week has revealed some upsetting information."

"He's better," Heero said. "The attacks are almost completely gone."

Wufei shook his head slightly. "We'll talk about it later. Are you sure you don't want to come up now?"

Heero nodded, mind already whirling. "Go on and nap."

"Right." He trudged up the stairs wearily, holding onto the railing.

When Heero heard the door swing shut upstairs, he was still staring at the kitchen. The questions in his mind seemed to just tumble around and around, jostling each other and running together in a harsh cocaphony of unknown.

What was wrong with Duo's lungs? Could Sally keep him healthy? How could Duo not know about their feelings? Why would Wufei want to marry them? What would happen if they did get married? At what point did one order flowers for a wedding? What kind of flowers were put in weddings? What if Wufei didn't like the flowers? What if Duo didn't want to get married?

He shook his head and moved around the living room, gathering coats and hats and scarves to hang up in the hall closet. Afterwards, he opened the fridge and removed some peppers and scallions. The washing and preparation of the vegetables left him a rhythm to think to.

Back before he and Wufei had first invited Duo to join them, in that rickety old cabin, his relationship with Wufei was stilted. They would not have lasted much longer as a couple; Heero was so emotionally cut off, Wufei so angry and troubled, that the only real comfort they drew from the relationship was physical. Duo's joining started the healing. Heero once held a conversation with Quatre--well, Quatre did most of the talking--about love. "It's simple," Quatre had said, smiling at Trowa through the window. "The more you give, the more you recieve. That's what makes it all worthwhile. You can only love someone more if they love you back just as much."

He didn't understand love, but he knew he didn't love Duo and Wufei as much as they loved each other. Perhaps it was left over from his emotional death during the war, perhaps it was just that they were soulmates. He loved them anyway, and they, him...

He could deal with that.

+

Duo woke settled into the comfort of Wufei's strong arms. He could feel the heat of the late-afternoon sun pouring through the curtains, bathing his face and the bed. Wufei lay behind him on his side of the bed, snuggled up close, like they always slept. Wufei's top hand was gently smoothing the hair on Duo's arm, almost absently; by the rhythm, Duo could tell Wufei had also fallen prey to the stress of the day and the warmth of the sun. He buried his nose in the pillow, letting Wufei's gentle scent warm his heart.

"Hey," Wufei said softly after a moment.

"Hey," Duo responded, turning over to face him.

"How are you feeling?" Wufei asked, brushing a wisp of hair away from Duo's forehead.

"Better," Duo said, and slid his hand up to Wufei's waist. "Not so cold."

"Good," Wufei murmured, letting his eyes drift shut as they lay together, just resting.

"Where's Heero?" Duo asked after another moment had passed.

"Downstairs, making dinner." Wufei rubbed his nose against Duo's. "He was more upset about the bomb than he let on."

"He only cooks when he's upset." Duo kissed Wufei once, longingly, and pulled the other boy close. "Maybe he doesn't love me."

"Don't be ridiculous," Wufei said, nipping him. "He loves both of us. He just has difficulty expressing it." He pulled back a little, a warm smile on his face. "I have the day off tomorrow, and I'm willing to bet Heero does, too. We'll spend the day together. Put a fire in the fireplace, watch movies, play games, nap... it'll be fun."

"I love you," Duo murmured. "But I won't play chess. Heero always cheats."

"Twister, maybe?" Wufei wiggled his eyebrows.

"Mmmm... has... possibilities..."

"Come along, Lazybones," Wufei whispered after one last kiss. "Let's go downstairs and explain things to Heero."

"And eat." Duo smiled, and Wufei caught the tension beginning to unwind from Duo's eyes. "How can I help loving two men who can cook?"

"Move over," Wufei mock-grumbled, pushing him towards the other side of the bed, nearer to the door. "You're hogging all the room."

--------el fin--------

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