Author: Maldoror
Genre: Action, Drama, Humour (some)
Pairings: 1x5x1, others tba
Rated: NC17
Warnings: Violence, language, sex, adult situations
Spoilers: Yes, quite a lot for end of series (no EW though)
Feedback: Please! Particularly what you like/don't like about the fic.
Disclaimer:Gundam Wing belongs to its owners (Bandai, Sunset, and a whole host of others, none of which are me) and I'm not making any money off of them. Not a single peanut.

AN: All praise to Dawna, again, though this chapter was subjected to so much last-minute heavy editing that there are probably many typos left (my fault! All mine! Blame me!)

The Arrangement + Chapter 39
The Distance Between Need And Want, Part II



"Force tells weak from strong for a time; truth tells right from wrong for all time."
Chinese saying.

---

Wufei missed the last shuttle by twenty-five minutes. He wandered over to the information desk, mind buzzing. After half an hour of staring blindly at advertisements for local hotels, a big man in overalls and a three-day-old beard showed up and asked him if Wufei was the guy that he was meant to pick up to take to Earth. He identified himself as Captain Jules, of the Sweeper corvette Mariah. He didn't ask for Wufei's name, nor did he seem particularly surprised when Wufei followed him without a word.

Don't think.

That was a pretty hopeless order for his mind to follow; the only way Wufei would be able to not think would be to go deep into meditation, and he wouldn't be able to do that surrounded by a rowdy Sweeper crew, or anybody for that matter.

Don't think. It's pointless.

All Heero said, all he did the last few weeks...you don't know what he meant with it, what he was thinking. As Duo had unwittingly pointed out, appearances could be deceiving. Wufei had slapped his own interpretations on Heero's behavior - out of fear, out of self-loathing for his own weaknesses. But he couldn't be sure. He thought he understood his partner - but hadn't Heero thought the same thing about him? Wufei had managed to hide a lot from him for awhile now, even as he was hiding it from himself.

Maybe there could have been another explanation to Heero's behavior. Certainly, Heero needed him, a convenient sword at his back, that was true; but as the three other pilots had apparently discovered, need didn't automatically preclude anything else, anything deeper.

If I can imagine Heero Yuy capable of that, then I'm probably on drugs again, Wufei thought savagely.

But I can't be certain until he actually tells me, he immediately countered. He glowered at the arm-rest of the flight seat he'd chosen; the internal argument was giving him a headache.

Wufei hadn't given Heero much of a chance to elaborate either way, just tore right into him, verbally flayed him, and then left before his partner had had time to catch his breath. Wufei decided, trying not to punch the bulkhead, that he couldn't have handled that worse if he'd tried. Had he been trying to break them up?!

Yeah, maybe he had been...Maybe after the tensions of the past weeks, the five days of waiting for Heero...the two years of waiting for Heero...maybe it just felt good to sever the tie, to stop the uncertainty, the ever-present temptation of his own weaknesses, his own want.

You went and asked him what he wanted...

Fool...

Heero Yuy has probably never had a 'want' in his life. He was trained right out of them at the earliest age.

...

You knew that when you hooked up with him.

...

It was as if Heero was whispering in his ear again. Why is just being partners no longer enough?

Wufei didn't know.

But he didn't think he could afford to ignore it any longer, if the blast radius of his explosion last morning was any indication. Make or break, he had to confront Heero - and himself - and figure out what each one of them wanted, if anything, and if they could live without it. Actually, if Heero was even capable of wanting anything more from their partnership, he would probably not be able to put it into words. Hell, if it came down to the bare bones of the matter, Wufei could shout and rant but he wasn't really able to formulate exactly why he was unhappy with their present arrangement either.

Wufei closed his eyes and forced himself into a light trance, as much as he could in an unsecured location. The Mariah wasn't a passenger ship, and it was small even for a corvette. Wufei had helped load the few remaining crates onto the ship, after he'd used his war-time skills to slip past customs - they were notorious for their lack of understanding of spur-of-the-moment travel. He was now in a nook off of the main storage facility, with half the crew twenty feet away, playing poker and trying not to look at him.

He was going to stop thinking. And he was going back. And, once Heero had returned the favor of that farewell punch, Wufei would do what it took, wait as long as he needed to, just stand there and stare if that was required, and get Heero to tell him - or show him - what he wanted. If anything. Then...he'd know.

And then he could march out the door.

Or...not. Depending.

No point in thinking about it until he had all the facts in hand.

Wufei's eyes opened, and he glared at the rough metal of the bulkhead, the divot of a pressure monitor, and a small scrawl that declared that Jules was an asshole who couldn't get laid in a cat-house.

He was a scholar, a disciplined intellectual, a warrior of steel will, and he'd just discovered what the Zen masters had been saying all along.

Not thinking about anything was very hard to do.

---

Wufei could feel Jules and his first mate stare at him as he left. It was inquisitive, respectful, and slightly frightened. For an instant Wufei saw it from their point of view. An urgent call from 'Sweeper Two', and they obviously knew who that was, and who he had been. Asking them to pick up and smuggle to earth a dark, mysterious boy, tense as a knife, hardly speaking a word, glaring at the bulkhead the entire trip as if he were plotting an excruciating death for it. They might even have caught the way he'd squared his shoulders and scowled as his feet hit the tarmac of the runway.

They probably think I'm here on a suicide mission, Wufei reflected.

They may not be entirely wrong.

An hour later he was standing in front of the workshop's door. The code on it had not been changed.

Well, that was already a positive sign. Wartime Heero Yuy would have probably made sure that an unreliable, emotional partner couldn't come near him again.

Wufei crept inside, slipped off his boots. It was nearly four in the morning after all in Brussels. He'd not taken into account the time differences between L2 and Europe when he'd made his spontaneous decision to come back and have it out with his partner as soon as possible.

The workshop's main room was completely unchanged - he wondered why he'd expected otherwise. Only the shards of his cup had been swept up. The big room, with its different utilitarian sections, was achingly familiar, as were the faint scents of sweat, oil from the toolshop, and old cooking smells hanging in the air. His feet brushed against concrete, the springboard floor, linoleum as he made his way to the stairs.

There was a very dim light under Heero's door. Wufei felt his heart twist in his chest with tension. He'd felt this way when he'd confronted Treize, when all his battles and trials had culminated into a final moment of truth.

Still, it was late. Or early. If Heero was sleeping....Coward, Wufei thought. But the conversation - or whatever it took for Heero to be able to explain himself properly and show Wufei what he wanted - was not one Wufei wished to conduct while they were both tired. No, that would probably lead to disaster. He'd rest, and get up when Heero did. If Heero decided to show up right away and continue their discussion - or punch him - then so be it. It was his partner's call now, Wufei decided as he opened his door.

His room had been emptied.

Wufei stared around him in stunned disbelief. His first movement to turn on the light remained frozen in mid-motion. A cold sinking feeling started pulling his guts down to his boots.

The room felt alien. The familiarity of its box-like shape highlighted the absence of the furniture that had been there for over a year. Wufei found himself leaning against the doorjamb. His eyes searched the room again and again, as if normality might be hidden in one of its corners.

There was nothing left in there that belonged to him.

So...Heero had shown Wufei what he wanted.

The room wasn't actually empty. Heero's desk had been shoved against the far wall. His chair was positioned neatly in front of the laptop's docking station. There was a set of metal shelves next to it, also taken from Heero's room along with the desk, containing the gaggle of computer circuits, mother boards, chips and electrical components Heero liked to toy with in his spare time.

Wufei found himself nodding distantly.

Quatre had been right; Heero could certainly express himself quite adequately with few or no words when he wanted to.

Wufei had known - grimly, realistically - that this was a likely outcome of the discussion they were about to have. But the abruptness and finality of this, and the fact that Heero had not even waited to hear from his partner before he'd made up his mind, caught him short.

He turned numbly towards the stairs, then went back two steps to pick up the bag that had slipped from his shoulder without his realizing. Abrupt and final...but this was Heero's prerogative.

No. No, it wasn't.

The objection came, not with a wash of fury, but with a calm resolve.

No. Wufei had been wrong to leave like he had, but Heero was also wrong in kicking him out of the house- out of their house without a single word.

Wufei didn't particularly hope to change Heero's mind - that was probably the definition of an immovable object that would defeat even Archimedes's lever. But...two years. Two years of blood and battles and brotherhood between them, whatever else had happened. That deserved at least a few words. On both their parts. Two wrongs did not make anything right.

He dropped the bag in the hallway again and walked towards the thin thread of light under Heero's door. Hopefully his partner would not become violent. Wufei did not want a fight. He just wanted this confirmed, in Heero's own words, or even from an icy silence and a deadly scowl. And he wanted to tell Heero that he was sorry he'd acted so badly before, because even if it was obvious now that Wufei had been right, entirely right in the way he'd interpreted Heero's actions these past weeks, he shouldn't have left until Heero had had his say. That decided, Wufei drew himself up before the door and knocked gently.

He didn't wait for an answer, just the prudent three seconds it would take for Heero to wake up, if he'd been asleep, and put the Glock back under the pillow. Or at least, wake up enough he wouldn't shoot anyone coming into his room out of hand.

A twist of the knob and a shove allowed the door to swing open, though Wufei prudently didn't step into the room right away, just in case. He was going to wait until he heard some kind of signal before sticking his head through the-

For the second time that night, the contents of his chest turned to ice. This time it was in pure shock and confusion.

His dresser was standing against the opposite wall, the sight jarring in this unusual setting.

Had Heero decided to use his furniture-?

He knew that wasn't right even as it occurred to him. He took a sharp breath and walked through the door, glancing around.

He'd not had many possessions in his room; he used it for meditation, and that required few distractions. The little that had been his was now here. The mat he used to meditate on was rolled up against the wall near the door. The dresser, presumably with his clothes, was right in front of him. A few books he'd been studying were stacked on it. The bedside table was a few feet away, his reading lamp was on it and provided the pale yellow light illuminating the scene, next to his- his bed-...

The bed-frame was nowhere to be seen. But Wufei realized - after a few confused seconds of trying to understand what he was looking at - that the mattress had been taken from the frame and put on the floor in the corner where Heero's bunk used to be. Heero's small and narrow mattress had been set alongside it. Both had been laid with sheets, and a blanket - which Wufei realized was two sleeping bags zipped together, to make something big enough to cover the 'bed' - was thrown over them.

Heero was sitting up in the, well, bed, if you wanted to call it that; he was leaning back against the wall, arms crossed over his bare chest, his face set and unreadable, his shoulders hunched slightly, on the defensive. A bruise darkened the skin of his right cheek in the dim light - pretty small bruise, Wufei noted distractedly, he had been too upset to adjust the blow.

The silence had the quality of the one you found in temples.

Wufei licked his lips and tried to think of something to say, when he really didn't have a clue. Words just...

He realized that one of the corners of the zipped-up-sleeping-bags-turned-blanket was turned down on the side nearest the door. Wufei's pillow was on that side.

An invitation, a peace-offering. Or simply a visible sign of what Heero wanted, when words didn't work anymore.

The blue eyes were almost hidden by the fall of thick bangs. Wufei didn't need to see them to know they were fixed on him, scrutinizing his every move, dissecting any trace of hesitation; Heero's whole stance was watchful, waiting for his decision. Tension similar to Wufei's tightened the muscles in arms and shoulders.

Wufei glanced around, a bit helplessly. He noticed that the sweats he usually wore to bed had been removed from their drawer and were folded on the dresser.

Right. Maybe that was the answer. Go to - he glanced once more, incredulously, at the construction on the floor - go to, ah, 'bed', and sleep, and tomorrow-

He doubted things would be that simple. Sleep would probably have to wait until there were a few more explanations on both sides. But this was a start.

He felt numb as he reached for the sweats, one hand plucking at his jacket. The drop of tension behind him was like a gasp of relief.

You're relieved?! You nearly gave me a heart attack, you bastard! The words thundered through Wufei's mind as his eyes stayed fastened, almost helplessly, on the dresser that had been removed from his room. But the words stayed in his head and did not break the almost religious silence around them. They were words of anger and uncertainty, a defense, a barrier; they did not belong here.

He undressed, embarrassed at the simple gesture as it was placed under the scrutiny of Heero's eyes. He kept his tee-shirt, slipped on the sweats, put his clothes, neatly folded, on the dresser, and moved awkwardly towards the, oh, call it a bed.

Heero was on the side against the wall, leaving Wufei to sleep on the outside, nearest the door. Wufei knelt, shoving the cover further back, and slipped into bed.

He immediately realized what the bed thing was about - he'd been wondering, in that part of his stunned mind that could still deal with speculation. This was...his bed, his territory. His nerves, his self, ripped raw by the past day, unwound a bit at finding himself in this familiar setting. Heero was with him, but not pressingly so; he was in his own camp, his own side. Close, but not so close as to invade a private space that was rather twitchy right now.

Plus, on the offhand chance they'd be able to sleep, this insured that they both had enough space to do so without getting close enough for it to be hazardous. They still had enough dangerous reflexes between the two of them to create more than a few nasty accidents.

Wufei sat lotus-style and pulled the cover over his folded legs, but he didn't lie back against the pillow. It would be wise to try to rest, to sleep, and deal with this tomorrow. One fundamental question had been asked, and answered. The finer details should probably wait until they were both not so exhausted. He glanced towards the reading light, hesitating, then his eyes were drawn, helplessly, to peek at Heero's profile. Heero did not look like someone who was willing to wait to have the finer details sorted out.

Which left the awkward question of how to break the silence.

"I'm sorry." The words made Wufei start slightly. They should, by all rights, have been his. "I should have told you right away that I'd overheard what you'd said to Winner."

Wufei was silent. He hated to leave Heero out on his own like this, but he hadn't a clue what to say. He - both of them - were men of action. They didn't have the vocabulary for what really needed to be said here.

Heero continued on gamely though. "I thought I could fix it. Without having to actually..." Heero stared at the opposite wall, and then continued slowly, "I didn't think you wanted to tell me there was a problem, and I didn't want to hear it."

Yeah, that made sense. A little kernel of pain and anger he'd been unaware of made its presence felt as it slowly disappeared. He wondered if Heero was as afraid of change as he was. Maybe Heero had been striving for 'back to normal' as well, with a patched-together field dressing stuck over the festering 'Wufei' problem. Ignore it and it will go away. Sound familiar, Chang?

"I went on that mission without you - and we had sex when I got back, but I don't think you're my-" the word strangled in Heero's throat, and he looked like he'd bitten into something rotten.

"I know. I was angry." Suddenly, it wasn't so daunting to talk. Words were just words. If they used the ones they knew, they could still say what needed to be said. Wufei knew that the way he'd suddenly gripped the cover over his legs would tell Heero all he wanted to know. I was angry, yes, and I was hurt. I lashed out. I'm sorry.

Well, no, that last deserved to be said out loud. Wufei drew a breath but Heero had moved on.

"I went on that mission with Armand because I didn't think you were ready."

Wufei stiffened.

"You were still off balance. I felt it. It seemed the more I tried to fix things, the worse it got." No shit, Wufei thought. "I thought if I just left you to rest, alone, without- without trying-..." Heero looked abruptly away.

He was afraid of making it even worse, Wufei realized. It was simpler not to confront it at all. Besides, Heero was probably comfortable thinking about Wufei's problems as some sort of injury. Rest always makes those better. Being left alone, useless, to stew in his own conflicting emotions for five days had nearly broken Wufei all over again, but he thought he understood Heero's straight-forward reasoning now. When you were conversant with Heero's way of thinking it made a sort of sense.

His attention was brought back to Heero as the latter crossed his arms over his chest in a gesture of tension and anger. "If you'd told me there was a problem, or how to fix it, this wouldn't have happened."

Okay, my turn, Wufei thought, and took a deep breath.

"Yes. I'm...sorry." Man, that burned. He batted down the immediate anger that blossomed as a reflex reaction. "But I..." Shit, he had no idea how to continue this conversation. He could debate with philosophers until the sun set, but this...

"I didn't want to have a problem, like you said," he finally pursued slowly. "I wanted to resolve this on my own. I mean, I was working to overcome it." If that had ever been possible. "I wasn't going to tell anybody because it would soon no longer be-"

"You told Winner!"

That had come out quick, raw and loud. Heero shifted, glaring at his legs beneath the blanket, looking uneasy at his own outburst.

Wufei felt a flash of cold annoyance, a reaction to an attack.

"Yuy, I wasn't in my right mind. I-" I had been broken. He couldn't say it. He was ashamed of it and it stuck in his throat. "I would have told a potted plant if it had asked me nicely enough!" he growled.

"Would you have told me?" Heero ignored the warning of the cold sarcasm and put his finger right on the wound.

No.

"Can you tell me now?" Heero whispered.

No.

Because I want you to be the last person on Earth and in Space to know how weak I am.

Goddamn it, Chang! Get a grip! Wufei rubbed his face and gritted his teeth. When he spoke his voice was cold, clear, the distance recovered. "We have some similarities in the way we were raised. I was taught that a warrior stands alone, can only depend on himself. My life was all mapped out. Honor, pride, duty. An arranged marriage. I was brought up to never require anything else. But..." An amalgam of memories and pain made him hesitate. "But during the war...I met people, I had to learn from them, depend on them. And there were so many sides and none of them were entirely wrong...I saw so much that didn't fit into the rigid lines of what I was raised for. The war...damaged me."

He struggled. It wasn't that he was trying to find the words to explain this to Heero. He was trying to figure it out himself. He'd spent so long running away from the canker in his soul that he could no longer trace its boundaries.

Heero was silent and motionless beside him. Wufei glanced at him reluctantly. But there was no impatience or expectation there. No threat to drag out what he wasn't yet ready to admit to. For once, Heero waited with the patience of a rock.

"I think I know now what you were trying to do these past weeks. But I don't need your protection, or your concern. I don't need your...I don't need you to fix me. I need..." Wufei took a deep breath. "I want someone who will spar with me, be my equal, my foil. Make me a better warrior. I never want that to change. But I'm not perfect."

"I'm not perfect," the grumble was automatic. "And why did you think I wanted you to be-"

He stopped talking at Wufei's curt gesture.

"Heero..." the distance had crumbled, despite his efforts to maintain it. "Before you ask that kind of question...what would you have done if we'd have had this conversation during the war?"

Silence.

Then, quietly: "I would have left. We had our cause, and we were about to die; we could not have afforded this kind of- of messy distraction during the war. But that was during the war!" the addition was quick and forceful. "We do not have the same constraints now!"

...'we don't have the same constraints'...Heero, get a vocabulary. You mean we've changed. But have we?

"Don't we still have those constraints?" Wufei felt numb. "We still have missions, we still need to fight for peace. We still do a job only a few others can do, that needs all our strength and focus. I...lost everything during the war, it warped and destroyed a lot of my beliefs. Some days, the fact that I'm still needed, that I can challenge myself as a warrior and push myself to the very edge of my abilities, is the only thing that's keeping me going."

The waves of confusion from Heero were almost palpable. "I don't understand. You're saying you don't want-"

"I don't want to lose that. I can't lose that. I just don't know if it's enough any more. Between what I need, to survive...and what I want, what makes me want to- to have a future, to-..."

Wufei's voice was unsteady, despite all his efforts; this was the heart of the wild storm that had been slowly tearing him apart since the war had stopped and he'd laid his revenge to rest.

He watched surreptitiously as Heero's face relaxed, and eyes turned inward. Wufei could imagine Heero mentally poking this statement from all angles. Would he be able to recognize himself in those words? Did Heero have the same dichotomy, two people inside, one who merely needed a cause and a partner, and the other who wanted...more?

"What do you want, Heero?" Wufei asked softly.

Heero didn't react, he was staring blankly at nothing, slumped like a puppet with the strings abruptly cut.

"You see...if this-" Wufei gestured at the conjoined beds. "If our partnership, if us, it's not a lie...then it can't be one-sided. I don't want you to be my fucking martyr, Yuy. I certainly refuse to be yours. I can't be just another part of your mission. My feelings can't be used like that. And I'm not-..." Dragging this out into the open felt like wrenching the bones from his body. Wufei reached for his centre. This had to be said. Only once, if his ancestors had any mercy on him. The two ex-soldiers should never have to go through this soul-searing conversation ever again, because either this was the end of their arrangement, or else their understanding would be reestablished and their silent, instinctive feel for each other would return. But for that to have a chance of happening...time to walk through the fire, Chang.

Time to take that leap of faith into darkness.

"I can't be as strong, cold and detached as you need me to be, all the time." Strange, after all the denial, the hiding, the pain, the words had come out so simple and straightforward. He thought he felt Heero twitch, but Wufei was staring at his hands in his lap and didn't look up. "And when I falter, I want someone at my side who will not scorn me for it, who can be my strength when I am weak; not because I'm needed for a mission, or out of obligation, but because he wants to be with me. Someone who might like the same comfort from me some day-"

Heero stood abruptly, shoving the covers back, strode towards the center of the room. His back was rigid with tension and anger.

Wufei waited, not adding anything more. He'd probably said more than enough, he thought, his heart sinking with resignation as he watched Heero shake his head savagely. He'd dropped all his defenses and Heero could now hurt him as he'd not been hurt in a long time. But after the weeks - months - of slow suffocation, he was almost looking forward to the pain; might as well get it over with, and then he could move on.

"Weak?! When are you weak?!"

Wufei took Heero's first words like a bullet, and then realized they had not been entirely what he expected.

Heero hadn't turned around. He was squeezing his arms across his chest, his shoulder blades leaping into sharp definition through the pads of muscles across his back as he curled up around himself. He looked as if he'd taken a shot to the stomach. Wufei stared at him, stunned, not even sure if that had been a question or just-

"Do you know..." Heero made a visible effort to control his voice. "Do you know what I felt? When I heard you tell that stuff to Winner? That you were tired? That you didn't think you could keep up with me any more?"

Confusion? Pain? Pity? Annoyance? ...Disgust? Wufei's mind provided the alternatives with a wince, but his voice was completely lost.

Heero didn't need an answer. "I was relieved," he whispered, jaw working painfully, as if the words were being dragged from him with meat-hooks.

"It's why I didn't come forward," he added, as if Wufei had said one of the thousands of splintered thoughts going through his dazed mind. "I wanted to hear what you were saying. I had to hear it. I knew it wasn't the drugs. I-...I saw this coming for awhile now. I just didn't know what it was until you said it."

Why relieved...?

"I'm a weapon." Heero's voice was its usual monotone again, just like that. Wufei wondered, dazed, at the kind of control it took to detach yourself so completely from such powerful emotions. For the first time, he found himself thinking it might not be entirely the admirable quality he'd always believed it to be.

"I was built like this." Heero's words were curt and matter-of-fact. "I do not regret it. If I could do it over again, I would only change my mistakes. It was necessary for me to be like this. It started with Odin, and J reinforced it. You were wrong, I wasn't taught to deny anything; I never had any wants in the first place. A weapon doesn't need them. I did what I had to. I had no satisfaction in doing it. No pride. No honor. No fear, either. I can't say I was perfect. A gun isn't perfect. It just is.

"But I was needed." Heero's voice dropped and softened slightly. "Because other people were not weapons. And their dreams could change the world in a way a weapon never could. I was needed to defend that. I couldn't fully believe in Relena's hopes for the future. But I could kill for her and die for her and do what was needed to make her life and my death meaningful."

The tension was suddenly back. With a vengeance.

"I had to become the best weapon I could be for that. Stronger, harder, better. Do the job that justified the fact that I hadn't been destroyed along with the Gundams, the job only a weapon could do.

"And every time I turned around...you were right behind me!"

Wufei pressed back against the wall as if Heero had shoved him, fight/flight reflexes surging through his body. The look of desperate fury in Heero's stance was something no one had ever seen before.

"You told me what you lost, but you still have so much! You are not a weapon!"

The way Heero was clenching his fists, turned and taken a half step towards the bed, Wufei found himself wishing he had a weapon, at least.

"You read! You- you enter worlds someone like me cannot comprehend! You can talk with people, understand the way they think and feel, not just preempt the way they fight! You-...you think, you act, you live for yourself, in yourself, you - you're confused and torn but you still follow me step by step, you're still as strong as I am!

"When you came back, last year, from university, I was useless! I couldn't adapt to this new world. They still need weapons but they have to be so careful with them now. You were my guard, the one who would make sure I didn't turn on what had been built. And you were just as good as I am, you became my- my right hand! I couldn't function without you any more. But you were not a weapon! It-"

Suddenly the cold fury guttered out. What was left was a man that Wufei realized he might have never met before. Heero's voice was so low, it sounded defeated.

"We worked together, and we did great things, but living with you, watching you...that's what damaged me. It showed me something that I shouldn't have seen. I...the only thing I should ever want is to live and die for my mission, but I realized, at some point, that I had started to want something else. It's hard to define...I think I wanted to be more like you."

Wufei, shocked into helpless silence, felt the world spin like a penny and tip on its edge, tumbling to land on a side he'd never seen before, never even imagined.

"I was starting to feel things. That were not mission related, I mean. It would creep up on me, like those feelings I had during the war, when I suddenly found I couldn't kill Relena, even though all my training said I should. But these feelings weren't that- that meaningful. It was just...curiosity, when we were on L3. What it would be like to pretend to be normal, to be more like you. Or when you were injured and said you wanted to go home...I didn't even react for a few seconds, it just seemed so natural for you to say that. It was your home - our home. But a weapon doesn't have a home. I thought you just meant this place, because we'd lived here for awhile, but...that reasoning didn't feel right."

Wufei blinked at the far wall, as if it contained a vid screen where he could rewind his life and pay a bit more attention this time around. When had he said that?

"I should not have indulged in those urges, of course," Heero grumbled, half-turned away and glaring at nothing again. "It goes counter to most of my training. But Odin had told me...he said, that if you follow your feelings, then at least you will be making your mistakes for your own reasons. And these feelings seemed pretty harmless.

"But then you talked to Quatre, trusted him more than me...and that hurt. It shouldn't have. As for what you said, it was exactly what I'd feared might happen during the war, before I really got to know you, before I realized you were just as dedicated to your cause as I was to mine. When I heard what you said, I should have felt contempt, and I should have begun to sever our connection. But I was relieved, because I had begun to doubt myself, my training. But your words were proof that my upbringing, my life, were justified; I had to be nothing more than a weapon to do the job I had to do. You appeared to be weaker than me simply for being more human.

"That's what I should have felt. But the relief died almost immediately. You're...not weak. I've had too much proof of that." Wufei felt a moment of bewilderment for the brutal honesty that characterized Heero Yuy since he'd known him. The temptation to deny that must have been so strong. Wufei knew, with sick certainty, what conclusions he'd have drawn if the positions had been reversed. Heero didn't even sound resentful as he continued, speaking so softly now.

"What you were saying should have had nothing to do with me, it shouldn't have affected me. But it did; I just felt sick that I had hurt you that much. That I had brought someone so strong to break down. Whatever it justified, whatever it proved, it just felt wrong. I thought I could fix it. I...had to fix it.

"But I understand what you meant before you left, when you said that what I wanted was also important. You don't want to live with a weapon. And maybe you were right; maybe I only want to put you back together again because I need you for my mission. Just because I follow my feelings doesn't mean that I fully understand them. I've never had to quantify them before, explain them to someone else before. The only thing I've ever had to do is judge if they would interfere with my duty, and choose to follow them or not.

"I do need you for my mission. That's obvious. And I guess I can understand why that's not enough anymore. The very thing I need you for is driving you away. I'm sure those dead philosophers you read about would find that very amusing." Heero was scowling at the books on the dresser and Wufei could imagine a few ancient sages cringing beyond the grave.

"Yes...they do enjoy the little ironies of life..." Wufei's head was spinning. 'I wanted to be more like you'.

He rubbed an eye with the palm of his hand. He was resisting the urge to reach over, grab the bedside lamp and smash it against the wall; the yellow light was too mellow for the raw, red wounded words that had been laid bare here tonight. The tiger within Wufei was appalled at the revelations, his own and Yuy's. He'd made Heero doubt himself, doubt the strength that Wufei had always admired. His weakness had spread like an infection! But...the war was over. Neither of them had to be that strong any more. Right? Not if they could lean against each other. If...that was possible. But was it?

Wufei realized he was gripping the cover hard enough to rip the seams of the sleeping bags. He frowned at it, suddenly puzzled, and unclenched his fingers.

"Heero...what is this?" Wufei waved at the bed.

Heero glanced back, suddenly hesitant, unsure, and massively defensive as a result. "I liked it," he muttered.

"Er...what did you-"

"When you went to sleep. With me. After we had sex yesterday." Heero's words were brittle and clipped. "You trusted me. I watched you relax. You're always tense; even around me. Always ready to fight. Me or anyone. But you trusted me enough to sleep, even though I was close enough to harm you. A part of you trusted me to watch out for you. I don't mean, watching each other's backs, like we've been doing for a year. To sleep like that...it felt like you were trusting me with something more. I never felt closer to you." His lips tightened. Probably remembering how that particular episode had ended. But that had been because of the nightmare, because of everything that followed. Wufei remembered a gentle hand cleaning him, resting lightly on his hip, and the warmth of Heero's skin along his back. He'd rarely slept better. He'd felt safe, in a fundamental way that went far beyond security concerns.

"You asked me what I wanted. I don't-...I'm not able to..." Heero rolled his eyes, visibly annoyed by his own inability to put what he was feeling into words. "I wanted that. You asked." The words were harsh, thrown like a gauntlet. That was maybe all he had. But he was giving it to Wufei.

Wufei was silent. So many preconceptions - partly born from his own voluntary blindness and fears - shattered. But this was still Heero. There was still a lot of the young man - the weapon - that Wufei had known during the war.

"Well?"

He glanced at up at his partner. Who was looking as defensive yet as vulnerable as he'd ever seen him, standing with his arms crossed but his head lowered, braced for a blow.

"What do you want?" Heero asked. He was staring at the bed, as if thinking it was a pitiful offering.

And it was, on the surface of it. The step he'd taken was small, and, more importantly, it was perhaps all he was capable of, and there would be nothing else forthcoming. But it was the tiny flick that tipped a penny on its edge to fall on one side instead of the other. To Wufei, who hadn't wanted all that much to begin with, it changed everything.

"I want..." Wufei felt like a hollow bamboo, and suddenly very, very tired. "I want us to stop talking now."

Heero blinked, visibly confused and hurt. Then he focused on the hand Wufei held out to him. He moved forward tentatively, not sure of what was required of him.

Wufei grabbed the hand reaching hesitantly out in response. A flicker of melancholy memory; of the many times he'd refused similar gestures from Heero. The time Heero had stretched out his hand to help Wufei up from the floor, after their very first fight, their very first - hell, it could hardly be called sex. So many times Heero had offered him a hand up that he'd always refused. Wufei had wanted to stand by himself.

He tugged gently, and Heero finally lay on his side, and Wufei slipped his arms around him.

There was a moment of fumbling; Heero just lay there, stiff and uncertain, and Wufei wasn't familiar with this either. But it wasn't nearly as hard to figure out as he'd thought. Wufei laid his head in the crook of Heero's shoulder, and, after a few seconds, he felt strong arms circle him. Wufei crushed the rebellious warrior within who was still trying to despise this. It went against both their trainings, but they'd conquered two armies and all the odds, they could surely conquer this too. He needed this, and Heero wanted to give it to him. Or was that the other way around; the 'need' and the 'want'...? It probably didn't matter. They bled into each other and swirled in his mind like yin and yang, perpetually chasing each other yet always in balance.

Heero held him very lightly to start with, and then gradually increased the pressure until it matched the strength with which Wufei was holding him. His skin felt abnormally warm beneath Wufei's cheek, the scent of flesh and soap was soothing. The hand on Wufei's back began brushing back and forth, lightly to start with. Then it grew bolder as Wufei found himself relaxing. He was being petted like a puppy; he should mind, Wufei thought drowsily. Somehow he couldn't muster up the energy to do anything but enjoy the sensation.

Had Heero's forgotten mother, assuming he had one, done this for him? Or was the age-old gesture of comfort hotwired into the human psyche?

It felt good. Too good.

"What is it?" Heero's whisper was tentative, almost nervous, against Wufei's skin. "You're tensing up again." It sounded like he thought he wasn't doing it right. This had probably not been in his training manual.

Wufei shook his head minutely, knowing Heero would catch the movement against his shoulder. "It...just reminds me of a nightmare I had."

The hand stilled, and the arms jerked away a fraction.

"Not a bad nightmare," Wufei mumbled, wanting to recapture that momentary warmth, despite his growing tension. "Just a dream. We...we would be like this."

"And?" Heero's voice was tense in expectation of some horrible revelation.

"And then I'd wake up. The drug...it was making me face what I wanted. And couldn't have."

Heero relaxed in sudden comprehension. "And now you're not sure if you're awake or dreaming."

"Hm. I could never tell until I woke up. The drug..."

There was a moment of silence. Wufei began to relax again. Susan Wu no longer had her little chemical fingers in his head, he could tell the difference between dream and reality now, and this was too complex, fragile and messy to be anything but real; from the cringing thought of all they still had to work through, tomorrow and eventually, to the small detail of the way his arm beneath his body was going to sleep, or the fact that the skin of his back that Heero had been rubbing was now itching a bit and he wanted to scratch it.

"If you are dreaming...and you wake up..." Heero's whisper ruffled his hair, making him feel prickly. "If you wake up and we're both in our separate beds...don't just lock it all away again. March into my room, kick me out of bed, shout at me until we straighten it out, and then we can set the mattresses up like this again and we'll be set." Heero sounded very reasonable.

"At which point of that explanation do you think you're likely to shoot me?"

Heero made a sound in his throat. "Probably when you drag me out of bed to give me that confusing lecture about want and need."

"That's what I thought."

"But if I listen, and it makes sense, then I'll agree," Heero declared firmly. Ahh, the joys of thinking in beautifully straight lines, Wufei thought dryly, his eyes drifting shut.

But he couldn't help asking: "And if you still don't-"

"Then you won't be leaving behind anything important," Heero whispered almost inaudibly.

They stayed like that for ten minutes or so. More like brothers frightened by the night than lovers. The darkness of the room around the globe of yellow light became washed with gray. It was five o'clock in the morning. The time when Wufei usually woke from a nightmare.

But since it wasn't a nightmare, and they both had to sleep, they finally separated by silent, mutual agreement; Heero rubbing his arms with obvious pins and needles from the pressure of Wufei's head. Wufei scrunched to one side, almost ready to topple off the mattress, leaving Heero as much room as possible. He still wasn't sure his trigger-happy partner would be able to sleep so close to someone. He himself would have no problems, he thought, blinking sleepily.

Wufei settled back against the pillow. He knew blue eyes were watching him - warily? Curiously? Searchingly? He didn’t want to look. He had to sleep, and he didn’t feel like starting a staring contest. Or having that awkward flinch away of eyes meeting when neither was sure-

That awkwardness and uncertainty might be around for awhile, he reminded himself dryly. It appeared that he and Heero were embarking on a bona fide relationship. Wufei was a prickly, arrogant and occasionally insecure warrior who had a hard time expressing his desires because he’d been taught to despise them from the earliest age. And Heero was a damaged soldier who was quite willing to try to meet Wufei's desires but unfamiliarity with relationships meant he needed them clearly delineated and defined, and fear of failure was making him hesitant, almost aggressive, and prone to retreating into silence or worse, mission mentality.

Logic says we’re fucked before we even begin, Wufei thought, a bit testily.

Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time they’d given logic, the odds and even fate a run for its money.

They had to hold on to what they already had, Wufei reminded himself, the bit that he'd been afraid of losing all along. The strength, power and the battle-field understanding that defined them. It would help them build more. Their original arrangement had already evolved, all by itself and almost against their will, far beyond the strict limitations they'd tried to impose on it at first, like a very unruly bonsai. They had to acknowledge that, help it grow, towards something that met both needs and wants and let them both mature, structured yet also free- Yeah, okay, so they were probably fucked.

Their arrangement - their lives - would never be perfect.

As he fell asleep, Wufei wondered if that was really such a bad thing after all.

[chap. 38] [epilogue] [back to Maldoror's fic]