Home + Part 8
Heero was eyeing what he could see of the steep path ahead of them. "Many foot and handholds, brush, scrub trees...doable."
"That's what you can see," Duo shot back. "What about what we can't see?" He turned to Wu Fei, who was standing with his hands in his jacket pockets and attempting to at least appear confident. "A bar fight is a hell of a lot less dangerous than this."
Wu Fei shrugged and began to walk towards the first part of the climb. "I didn't ask you to come along, Maxwell. You two may go to your bar fight, if that's what you wish."
"Chang!" Duo protested, blocking his way. "I know you're not a stupid man."
"No, I am not," Chang replied with a raised, black, eyebrow.
Duo made an exasperated sound. "At least tell us what's up there?"
"No, I will not," Wu Fei walked around him and continued towards the darkness and the path. "If you want that information, you will have to accompany me."
"You know we'll come with you," Duo tried, "but do you really want to risk our necks too?"
Wu Fei flung over his shoulder, "Together, this climb will not be difficult."
"But alone it will be?" Duo guessed acidly.
"Very much so," Wu Fei admitted.
"You are such an arrogant son of a b-" Duo began, but Heero tugged briefly on his braid to stop him and walked past to follow Wu Fei. Duo growled, stood with his hands balled into fists, and then swore explosively at the empty air as he turned and followed them both.
"I'll go first and then pull you two up," Heero suggested as they reached the first part of the climb. Duo nodded and cupped his hands to give Heero a lift to an outcropping of rock above them.
"I have this theory," Duo grumbled and then braced himself and grunted as Heero stepped up. He continued as he motioned Wu Fei to go first. "My theory is that there is a very easy walk up this hill on the opposite side."
"Interesting theory," Wu Fei replied as he motioned Duo to proceed him.
Duo glared at him. "You don't have a good poker face, Chang."
"It's not important, is it?" Wu Fei asked him. "We won't be going that way, after all."
Duo grunted. He began to reach up for Heero's offered hand, but Wu Fei stopped him. Duo sighed. "What now? Do I have to do the climb with my hands tied behind my back?"
"In a manner of speaking," Wu Fei chuckled. "There are rules to this climb."
"Rules?" Heero echoed as he looked down at them.
"Yes, rules," Wu Fei regarded them both and then explained, "When we come to the stages of the climb where we need each others help to go upward, a person must ask a question that the other person must answer."
Duo stared. "Is this a weird L5 version of 'Truth or Dare'?"
"You don't have to agree," Wu Fei told him, "but, if you refuse, I climb alone."
Duo exchanged a look with a confused Heero. "Uh..." Duo looked back down at Wu Fei. He sighed, scrubbed a hand through his hair, and then made a surrender motion. "Sure, why not? Whatever.... uhm... Heero..." He pondered a question and then asked flippantly, "Fish or chicken?"
"Fish," Heero replied, thought for a moment, and then asked, "Glock or Colt?"
Duo rolled his eyes. "Glock." He reached up with his hands and Heero pulled him up effortlessly.
They exchanged looks again and then Duo grinned down at Wu Fei. "Your turn."
Wu Fei hadn't really thought of being part of the game that he had devised for Heero and Duo. Now he wondered if he had made a miscalculation. Cautiously, he asked, "Was it difficult leaving your gun behind?"
Duo was unhappy with the question, but he replied truthfully, "Yeah, but it's dark and nobody's out here... so, not as hard as it could have been."
Wu Fei waited, seeing Duo thinking and expecting a serious question in return, perhaps a question about what was at the top of the hill. Duo grinned in the next moment, knowing Wu Fei was waiting for it, but then asked simply, "Boxers or briefs?"
Wu Fei gave him a snort and then replied, as he held up his hands for their help, "Neither."
Duo began pulling him up and then the response registered and he froze, muscles tensing as he held Wu Fei's weight suspended. He blinked, recovered with an effort, and then said, "Uh, isn't that...," but then shut his mouth and turned away, braid swinging in an arc as he motioned for Heero to start climbing again.
Heero chuckled, seeing something in Duo's _expression that was humorous. They proceeded Wu Fei to the next level. Duo cupped his hands to help Heero up and asked, "Why green and black?"
Heero looked confused, but Wu Fei understood. "He's speaking about your war time attire, Yuy."
Heero grunted and then answered simply, "Camouflage, it blends."
"Practical, as always," Duo muttered and lifted Heero up.
Heero reached back down and asked, "Why does everything I say make you angry?"
Duo stopped before grabbing Heero's hand. Wu Fei kept silent, realizing that Heero was ready to take the game seriously. He watched his friends stare at each other.
"It doesn't," Duo replied defensively.
"Almost everything," Heero corrected.
Silence. Minutes ticked by. Wu Fei waited in the dark, hands deep in the pockets of his jacket and breath smoking in the cold. "Maybe you never say what I want to hear," Duo finally replied.
"What-" Heero began, but Duo cut him off.
"Only one question."Duo grabbed Heero's hand and Heero pulled him up.
Wu Fei sighed, wishing he could bend that rule for them, but he knew the wisdom behind it. Slow, steady progress was the key, he was certain. Otherwise, they might resist, panic, retreat and refuse to play.
Wu Fei reached up towards Duo, but Heero pushed Duo aside to help him. Wu Fei braced himself for his question.
"Why are you helping us?" Heero wondered.
Wu Fei looked up at two sets of curious eyes, Heero looking intense and Duo looking sad, but curious. He could have replied any number of things, but Wu Fei knew that he couldn't dodge his questions if he wanted the others to stay honest. He did have an escape, though, at least for the moment. He replied, "You are not allowed to ask questions for which you already know the answer."
Duo shot a look at Heero, startled, but Heero clearly knew exactly what Wu Fei was saying. His jaw clenched, but then it smoothed out and he asked, "but that's changed, hasn't it?"
Wu Fei felt a chill run through his body and it didn't have anything to do with the cold. He shivered, knowing he was going pale, knowing that his thoughts were clear on his face as he replied, "Yes, it has."
Heero nodded, accepting that.
Wu Fei asked his question. "Why do you like having mission specs, planning, and gathering information before doing anything?"
Heero considered the question and took so long giving the answer that Duo exploded, "Because he's anal, that's why!"
"Maxwell," Wu Fei chided. "The question wasn't for you."
"Don't talk to me like I'm six," Duo grumbled irritably, but he backed off and Wu Fei continued to wait patiently for Heero's reply.
At last, Heero said softly, in a voice almost carried off by the light, cold breeze, " When I failed... during the war...they... Dr. J... they didn't like me to fail... I didn't like it. They... "
"Heero....," Wu Fei stopped him , sensing it was too painful. "I understand. You don't have to answer.
"I just..." Heero struggled.
"Need to be sure," Wu Fei finished and wondered what kind of consequences 'getting it wrong' had been for someone as young as Heero had been during the war. Whatever they had been, they were enough to make a strong man like Heero fear them and continue to try and avoid making mistakes even now.
Heero pulled Wu Fei up, relieved that he didn't have to answer the question fully.
"What the hell was THAT all about?" Duo wanted to know. He was agitated, his face, almost hidden in the shadows of night, was still able to convey his fear that Heero was saying something wrong, something that would make Wu Fei angry, and that they were sharing something he couldn't understand and wasn't allowed to be apart of.
Wu Fei touched Duo lightly on the arm to reassure him that he wasn't being alienated. "Think about it and I'm sure you'll come to understand," Wu Fei told him.. "We all still have scars from the war, inside and out." He hoped that Duo would understand, would realize that Heero suffered too, and that asking him to change his behavior to please anyone, including Duo, was more than asking him to make a decision to do so.
"I get that Heero has problems," Duo replied. "So do I. It makes us impossible people."
"Not impossible," Wu Fei replied, quickly correcting him, "You just have to find your way."
"Way?" Duo echoed, confused.
"Like this path in the dark," Wu Fei replied, grateful for the opening. "It's not going to change to please us or make our way easier. Nature and other men made it what it is. We can give up, turn back, and refuse to learn it's secrets, but, I think, our lives will be lesser if we do. Once you learn it's ways, perhaps we will find that it isn't so hard to navigate."
"Deep," Duo sighed and adjusted his pack as he said sourly, "Guess that's a fancy way of saying 'like it or lump it'?"
Heero growled, recovering, "I think I like Wu Fei's version."
Duo glared, but then he asked, "And what about the first question? What was that? What's changed? You're helping us for some other reason now, Fei?"
"Is that your next question?" Heero wanted to know as he began climbing again. Duo snorted as he followed, close on his heels.
"I have better ones," Duo replied.
Wu Fei began to follow, but then suddenly slipped and slid back down a few feet. Both Heero and Duo reacted as one, dropping back and grabbing onto him. They braced Wu Fei on either side until he was able to find his footing again.
"Okay?" Duo asked anxiously.
Wu Fei felt an ankle twinge painfully, but it held his weight. He ignored it and nodded. "Proceed."
"Liar," Duo retorted."Left leg, Heero."
"Yes," Heero agreed. He felt down Wu Fei's leg, but Wu Fei pushed him off.
"I'm not an invalid, Yuy! I can still climb and I intend to," He snarled, feeling acute embarrassment.
"Okay, tough man," Duo grunted. "But we go slow. If you fall and die, I'll have to blame Heero for it for the rest of our lives."
Wu Fei wasn't so sure that he was joking. Heero didn't seem to think that he was. Heero tried to take hold of Wu Fei's elbow to help him. "I am not an old woman either, Yuy!" Wu Fei shook him off again. "We must reach the top at a certain time."
Duo was exasperated. "Wu Fei? What's so damned important?"
You are! Wu Fei wanted to shoot back, but he took a calming breath and replied, "You will see."He stepped past them and took the lead, refusing to limp.
Order reversed, it was Heero's turn again to ask Wu Fei a question. It was one that completely shocked Wu Fei. "Are you attracted to Duo?"
Wu Fei had though that he had successfully skirted it the first time, that Heero had accepted his dance around the subject. Why would he want Duo to know about his attraction? Was this yet another attempt to undermine his own relationship to Duo? By letting Duo know, without any doubt, how Wu Fei felt about him?
"I don't want to answer that," Wu Fei replied.
"Then we stop climbing, " Heero told him firmly.
Heero was standing at Wu Fei's back and Wu Fei was finding it hard to turn and face either of them. Heero's solid body was warm and Wu Fei had a sudden urge to lean back and let those strong arms enfold him once more, like they had in the kitchen. Heero had the ability to offer safety with just his presence and he seemed to be offering it now, even moving forward so that their bodies touched, as if he wanted to break down Wu Fei's resolve, as if he knew Wu Fei's longing to do just that.
"Heero?" Duo was shocked. "What are you getting at? If this is some sort of jealous macho shit, I'm not some freakin girl, okay? I don't need you pulling 'Mr. Your Mine' on me! I stay or go because I want to, and if I want to go screw half the planet and outer space, that's my fucking prerogative, got that? As far as Fei's concerned, of course he doesn't freakin' like me that way. I-"
"I am," Wu Fei admitted. Heero let him save face for the moment by lifting him up to the next level. There was silence down in the darkness where they stood.
"You...." Duo tried again, his mind trying to grasp what he had just heard. "You mean... I get it." His voice went flat. "You were 'helping' because you wanted my ass, is that it? Why didn't you just say so?" He laughed bitterly."We could have fucked at HQ and me and Heero could have taken our shit out here by ourselves."
"That's not..." Wu Fei was watching his carefully laid plans crumbling. How else could it have ended? He had been arrogant, imagining himself a great sage, the one who would save them... but how could he do that when he was everything that Duo was accusing him of? It had started as a desire to 'have Duo's ass' even if he had decided to leave that desire unfulfilled. He couldn't ask for truth and healing when he was the liar, just as Duo had accused him of being, and the rot at their roots.
"Let him climb," Duo snarled. "I'm going back home."
"No," Heero told him, "Not until he asks his question."
"What's it matter?!" Duo shouted at Heero, at Wu Fei, at the night around them.
What did it matter? Why was Heero insisting? If this was what he wanted, for Wu Fei to be exposed, then he had it. Wu Fei remembered the kitchen incident. Heero's sadness, his words, 'I don't mind.', his warmth just now against his back, and his offer of strength. Wu Fei saw it then and he felt... it was impossible to describe it. He saw a door opening. He wasn't certain what was on the other side, but Heero was offering him the chance to find out.
"Heero," Wu Fei asked, choking out the question. "Are you attracted to me?"
Heero answered promptly, "Yes, I am."
When Wu Fei reached down and Heero took his hand, the touch was electric, warm, and welcoming. He pulled Heero up and their eyes met. Heero was asking, almost begging for him to stand strong with him. Wu Fei nodded once, shaky inside and out, knowing the next moments were crucial.
Duo was still down in the darkness, silent, and then he asked, "Can I ask both of you a question?"
"Yes," Wu Fei agreed anxiously.
Time passed. Wu Fei listened hard, so afraid that he was going to hear the sounds of Duo leaving them. Then, in a tone that told Wu Fei just how afraid Duo was, he asked, "Do you both... Do you want me, both of you?"
"Yes!" Heero and Wu Fei replied and it was an answer that shuddered in the air with the strength of their emotions as they both reached down and pulled Duo up.
They crouched together, just able to see each other, not sure what to say or do next. Wu Fei broke the tension.
"A little more climbing. We're almost at the top."
They needed to think, all of them. They agreed, without words, to forget questions and answers. They scrambled and climbed, grunting and swearing, as they struggled the last few feet to the rounded top of the hill.
"Just as I thought!" Duo swore as a small lamp on a post and a flat, well worn camping spot greeted them. An easy trail, wide enough for vehicles, wound down the other side of the hill.
"Baby," Heero jibed, but it lacked enthusiasm.
Duo glared and that lacked heat.
"The light," Wu Fei pointed out. "It needs to be turned off."
Both Heero and Duo looked at him oddly and then Duo nodded. He picked up a rock and, before Wu Fei could protest, he threw it with pinpoint accuracy and smashed the light. They were plunged into darkness, so it seemed, but then their eyes adjusted and they realized that they were being bathed in moonlight. A full moon, pale and large, was sailing up from the horizon. It looked close enough to touch.
"Is that--?" Duo began and then fell silent when Wu Fei smiled wanly and nodded.
Heero spread out the blanket and they sat down together on it.
Time passed. The cold grew.
"Should have brought something warmer," Duo complained suddenly.
Heero tentatively reached out and drew him against his warm, under his jacket. Duo leaned back and allowed it.
After a few more moments, Duo said, "You must be freezing, Fei... I mean, not having any underwear on and all." He reached out hesitantly and pulled Wu Fei until Wu Fei was almost in his lap. Heero shifted and brought himself closer, bringing them both under his coat and the spread of his arms.
"We're going to figure this out, right?" Duo asked quietly.
"Yes," Heero reassured him.
Wu Fei wished that he were that confident. He was at a loss, unable to see where this sudden change was going to take any of them. Heero had said that he didn't mind. Duo had repeated those words. Wu Fei had thought that they were offering each other, thinking that they were lacking in what their lover needed. The last thing that Wu Fei had considered, was that they had been offering him a place... with them both.
[part 7] [part 9] [back to Kracken's fic]