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: Thanks again to Dawna for the beta! Any remaining errors can be blamed on my last-minute rewriting, as usual.

The Arrangement + Chapter 30
Partners, Part II

"True nature and real commitment are revealed in time of difficulty"
Chinese proverb

---

It was leaning over that was the tactical mistake. But the one-time heir to the Dragon clan did not go down on one knee like an old man to pick up a book on a shelf!

Leaning forward caused the chair he was steadying himself against to shift and tilt up on two legs. With his usual speed and reflexes, his good hand let go of the wobbling chair and caught the low bookshelf to steady him, sending its contents tumbling. That would have been alright, but the sudden movement put weight on his knee. The injured one. The cast supported the knee enough to avoid serious damage but the pain made him flinch. He shoved away from the bookshelf, trying to get back to his previous one-legged balance - and overcompensated. His shoulders jerked - his collarbone protested - he fell backwards - as a last resort he twisted to at least get his good hand under him as he-

Wufei stared down at the floor, which was at arms-length from giving him a nasty full-body slap. Three fingers were brushing the linoleum. He hovered there, thinking muzzily, oh, I didn't know I could do that. He'd jerked the IV drip of pain-killer and sedative mix from his arm half an hour ago, but he was still feeling the effects, at least as far as cognitive and reasoning abilities went.

"Weren't you supposed to stay in bed?" The familiar nasal monotone drawled above his right ear.

Wufei blinked and tried to turn his head but that hurt. So he looked down - further than his fingers barely pressing against the linoleum - to where a strong arm had caught him around the waist. Oh, well, that explained it then...

"I wanted a book."

Heero carefully maneuvered him up and around, avoiding Wufei's taped left arm. "You're supposed to call the nurse for that."

"I'm not calling a nurse to fetch a book nine feet away from my bed!"

Heero bent over and picked him up with ridiculous ease, not even bothering to respond to that last remark. Wufei was left to splutter indignantly.

"Put me down! I can walk! This is all your fault!"

His partner glanced down in mild surprise.

"You should have put my books closer to the bed!" Wufei was, it bears repeating, still under the influence of a mild sedative.

"Oooh."

Fuck, why did I ever teach him sarcasm? "Just-...put me down!"

"I will. Over there," Heero announced, jerking his head towards the bed with the kind of no-argument voice he used to say ‘omae o korosu'. "But first-" he turned them towards the fallen books. "Which one did you want?"

"All of them."

Heero's arms were barely straining in exertion beneath him. The warmth of Heero's skin was perceptible through his jacket. Wufei was wearing a long sleeved tee shirt and loose sweatpants over his cast, the closest the Ops clinic had gotten him into hospital clothes; the heat seemed to sear right through his clothing as if they weren't there, and he shivered, feeling strangely naked in his partner's arms.

"Which one do you want now?" Heero asked patiently.

"All of them!" Wufei snapped. He was cross with his helplessness, his injuries, with his cast sticking straight out ridiculously. With the remains of the sedative in his system. With Heero's warmth and strong arms. And above all with the tiny part of him that wanted to just relax into that hold and curl up into the warmth and go to sleep.

"I'll go put you down on the bed, then, and bring the books closer," Heero concluded. He still sounded remarkably patient. Wufei squinted up at him from his position. If his partner was humoring him-

"I want the analysis and biography of Xu Zhi Mo. The black book," he muttered, making a 'put me down and I'll get it already' gesture with his good hand.

Heero turned and knelt in one fluid movement. The end of Wufei's gesture ended up an inch above the designated book. The arms were tight around him, letting him know that there was no way he was going to be swinging his feet to the floor a few inches away. Wufei sulkily picked up the book, and Heero stood again as if he were carrying a damned woman who'd had a fainting fit. The recipient of his kindness had the feeling his partner was enjoying this a bit too much; being able to pick up and carry the stubborn and prideful Chang Wufei -

Heero froze so suddenly it jogged Wufei's collarbone and knee. Wufei glared, and then he realized where Heero was staring. He'd seen it.

"What...is that?" Heero was looking at him from the corner of his eye now, as if wondering what kind of drugs the hospital had given him. The expression was even more curious seen from Wufei's current angle.

"That is what will ornament Maxwell's tombstone as soon as I can walk again."

"Ah. Maxwell." A relieved smile flickered at the corner of Heero's mouth. He was almost grinning as he looked at it again. Wufei turned his head to glare too. The bright orange, stuffed dragon, two feet high, with a medallion reading 'Get Well!' around its neck, stared back from the bedside table where the nurse insisted on putting it each time Wufei threw it into the darkest corner he could find.

"Why don't you get rid of it?" Heero still wasn't moving; he was holding his partner easily and lightly, as if he were a child. Wufei wondered if you could pop a vein in sheer indignant embarrassment.

"Well...it's a gift," he muttered, concentrating on Heero's question to avoid dwelling on his position. "It's not something you can throw away." The idea of such informality and rudeness hurt him almost as much as the sight of it.

The smile disappeared from Heero's mug like water evaporating on a skillet. "You're taking it back with you?"

"Don't worry. I'll keep in the study. You won't have to look at it. I'll give it to someone's kid at Christmas next year."

"..."

"It'll be in a box. Out of sight. I know I'm a guest in your house, Yuy. Well, now it is a guest too," Wufei declared waspishly and slapped Heero's shoulder to get him moving again.

Heero stared at it for a few more bemused seconds then carried Wufei towards the bed. The injured man bit back a groan as Heero laid him down. The ligaments in his knee had been snapped in the accident. A surgeon had repaired them through keyhole surgery yesterday, once the swelling in his brain had gone down, permitting anesthesia. Ceramic alloy had been injected into his broken clavicle at the same time, repairing the bone, leaving only a few stitches as a visible sign of injury. He'd been afforded the best of modern care, and he was going to be back on his feet at a remarkable rate considering his injuries. Why then did he still feel like shit?

"Why did you rip out the drip of pain-killer?"

"I feel fine! I don't need any drugs."

Heero nodded - at least Heero understood that, one hundred percent. Sally, on the other hand, when she showed up on the next of her all-too-frequent visits, would undoubtedly have kittens.

Wufei glared grumpily at his partner who'd gone to pick up a few of the books and carry them and the low book shelf back towards the bed.

"Weren't you supposed to get me out of here today?"

Heero put down the shelf right next to the bed, concentrating on the task and not looking at Wufei. "Sally decided to keep you in ICU another day or two for observation."

"What?! And you agreed?!"

"Chang, four days ago you were run over by a car going at over sixty miles per hour. Most people would be dead." Heero glared at the book he was holding, leaving Wufei to wonder fuzzily what the poet Li Bai had ever done to the soldier. "You had a severe concussion, your collarbone-"

"- was snapped in two places, my shoulder blade was cracked, the ligaments and muscles of my right leg were torn, the cartilage mushed up...Sally gives me the total every time she comes to see me, and she comes around a lot! Anyway, this is all your fault!"

Heero gave him that patient 'now what's he come up with' look again.

"You're the one who scared that poor woman into fleeing the pool naked!"

"I didn't force her to get into her car and mow you down."

"You scared the shit out of her!"

"And I already apologized for that. Shall I do it again?" Heero asked, perfectly indifferent. He had no self-consciousness; he'd apologize every ten seconds for the next ten hours until Wufei's ears started to bleed if he thought that could get his cranky partner off his back. Wufei, the wind effectively robbed from his sails, grumbled and slouched back against the padded cushion that still managed to hurt his shoulder.

He wanted out. This place was trying his nerves. He didn't like hospitals at the best of times, and as a patient...he felt helpless. He wasn't supposed to walk, and his left arm was taped to his chest, to make sure that the compound fracture in his shoulder didn't get any worse while the ceramic alloy settled firmly into the bone. His gun arm was intact, bar a few cuts and bruises, but that didn't matter since he didn't have a weapon anyway. Heero, in an act of treason Wufei was still very angry about, had refused to return the favor from Berlin and smuggle Wufei's Luger past Sally, insisting that this was the Ops clinic and quite safe.

The problem with the Ops clinic - which, granted, was safer than a regular hospital - was that it made it easy for people to drop by and visit. Apparently the novelty of Chang Wufei getting himself laid out by a car still hadn't worn off. Sam passed by on a daily basis to poke fun at him. So did agent Louis Armand, though he was infinitely more suave about it. Every other person Wufei knew came by to say 'hi' on the way to their desks. Une had dropped by a couple of times to comment dryly about his suspect apprehension technique. Even Anthea had shown up to gloat and promise to hold his paperwork for him for when he got better. And Sally! Lucrezia Noin had resigned two months ago and disappeared off to Mars after getting a letter from a friend or something - Wufei hadn't really paid attention to the details - so Sally was now head of the clinic and worked in the anti-biochemical weapons division next door as well. She was here almost every hour. Today, she'd been by three times already; she kept laughing and chatting with him. They should check for fumes in that bloody lab of hers.

Heero was getting the fallen books. He'd only been by once so far; he'd been busy finishing the arrests they'd set up, and interrogating Hunter. Wufei was rather pissed off at his partner for not keeping him a bit better informed, or dropping by to say 'hi', even. Of course, Heero was busy. And he was going to be even busier for the next few weeks, if what agent Armand had said was true...Armand had just casually dropped the information this morning on his way to the combat course. 'Une is sending me with Heero on that mission in Minsk. Don't worry, Wufei! It's not a particularly dangerous job. I'd say that I'll take care of him, but we both know that it's more likely to be the other way around!'

Wufei's mood, not the best the past few days, had taken a definite nose-dive after that. He was sure that, later, he'd feel sorry for the way he'd treated that nurse who came in to change his dressing. Now he was just waiting for Heero to tell him. Explain why Wufei wouldn't be seeing him at all for a few weeks. Not that he'd seen Heero much these past few days, anyway.

Hell, what was that irritating partner of his doing now? Heero was slowly putting away the stacks of books, glancing at a few titles. He was ordering them alphabetically within the languages and dusting them off while he was at it.

"You'll make some lucky guy a good wife one day, Yuy," Wufei muttered, annoyed at the fussing.

"Screw you, Chang," Heero countered without much rancour.

"Just leave it-"

"Don't they ever dust in here? This can't be hygienic for the patients. Or did you scare the nurses so much that they only come in here to increase your sedative dose?"

Wufei looked at his partner out of the corner of his eye. That had been more amused than critical. Last time Heero had visited, he'd sounded almost cross with Wufei for having the gall to get himself run over, and taking both himself and a now partner-less Heero out of front-line duty. Today it appeared Heero was humoring him. Probably relieved knowing he was going to be out into the field again soon.

"Apparently I'm meant to rest to get better," Wufei growled, attempting to squish the previous thought. "And I can't do that with some damn twit fussing around cleaning things up twice a day."

"This place isn't so bad, now that Sally's in charge," Heero observed, as he slotted some more books into place. "She understands the requirements of soldiers. Security has been considerably increased since my stay here, and she's set aside small rooms on this floor for long-stay patients. With locks on the door. Allows nurses and physiotherapists to pass by, meals can be delivered, but it still gives the patient a sense of security."

Sense of security...there was only one place Wufei felt safe. Damn, his leg was aching, he'd put too much weight on it earlier...

"I heard they hired an excellent physiotherapist as well, specializes in injuries to athletes." Bloody hell, Heero was being almost as chatty as Sally had been earlier. She'd also gone on and on about improvements to the clinic, these wonderful rooms she'd set up for long-stay patients. Of course, she was allowed to be proud of her work but Wufei-...

Wufei rubbed his face with his hand, defeated; his voice was soft and muffled. "I just want to go home."

"Your leg will require some work," Heero absently righted the fallen stuffed-toy dragon he'd knocked over and went to pick up the rest of the books. "You probably won't be able to take active duty-....what...did you say?"

Wufei glanced at Heero's suddenly rigid back. His partner's hands were on the last stack of books but he wasn't lifting them.

"I don't care how proud Sally is of her clinic, Yuy, I want out of here now, not tomorrow," Wufei groused, trying to get comfortable on the goddamn pillow, hopefully for the last time. "I hate this place. It's loud, people drop by unexpectedly, and they're keeping that psycho bitch Hunter three doors away from here, to treat her leg while she's being interrogated! I can't get any sleep because the night nurse does rounds every other hour! I know I can't actually do any fighting for a few weeks, but I can stay at the workshop and work on some files on my laptop, write case reports, do some background checking- just do something."

"So you want to go...?" Heero still hadn't turned around; he was straightening the pile of books again, he seemed intent on getting their spines lined up exactly.

"I want to go back to the safe-house!" Wufei snapped, wondering why this was such a surprise. "I want to sleep in my own bed, not this collection of foam and lumps. Is there a problem?"

"No, no problem." Heero finally stood and turned, his arms crossed severely over his chest but his shoulders slightly hunched. He seemed confused, uneasy, as if he was confronting a situation he hadn't expected and didn't know how to deal with. Wufei frowned, not sure what had startled his partner. He just wanted to go back to his rooms in Heero's converted workshop, with its high-tech security system and a good training area. Heero had practically set fire to the clinic in Ops to get out when he had been injured, and get back to somewhere Safe, their controlled environment. He should expect Wufei to have a similar reaction.

Heero stared at the stuffed dragon for a few seconds - without actually seeing it since he wasn't making any snide remarks or wincing. Then he headed towards the door, leaving the books on the floor behind him.

"I'll go talk to Une," he threw over his shoulder.

"Uh? You mean Sally- Yuy?" Wufei stared at the closed door. What had that been about?

He glared at the ceiling for a few minutes. That had become his hobby here. Though he had his books, and he even went through some on occasion, he couldn't actually concentrate enough to work on his scholastic essays. This place wasn't his territory. And he felt cut off from active life. Like they'd shunt him into a corner, disposed of him; Yuy was out there, working, fighting, and Wufei was left here to rot, and he barely got to see his partner except in passing.

The door opened, causing him to start; he'd dozed off.

"Chang? What's this Yuy says? You want to leave?"

Wufei tried to sit up a bit straighter to nod at Une. What was she doing here? And he was leaving soon anyway, what was the big deal?

"Commander. I know Sally wants to keep me under observation for a couple more days, but I don't think that's necessary. I doubt I'll drop dead anytime soon."

Une glanced at Heero in surprise. "Didn't you tell him?"

Heero shrugged. "I don't think he'll be interested."

"So you didn't tell him."

"Tell me what?" Wufei frowned, looking from his boss to his partner in confusion.

"Sally has decided that it might be best if you stayed here for a couple of weeks," Heero explained carefully, as if picking up a live anti-personnel mine.

Which went off in his face right on cue.

"What?!"

"You're going to need intense physiotherapy for the damaged muscles and ligaments in your leg, someone has to help you with that," Une pointed out impatiently. "And you can't drive here, in your present state. You can't even -

"I'll be fine!" Wufei snapped. "I can take a taxi here for Sally's torture sessions."

"You can't walk, Chang! Not for a week at least. The ligaments in your leg have just been repaired!"

"I'm-" Maybe telling her about his little adventure to the book shelf, using the chair as a crutch, wasn't a good idea. "I'll be fine, just give me a stick and a brace-"

"You have stairs, Chang! Do you have no common sense?!" Une was doing a spectacular imitation of Sally. Giving him a foretaste of the real thing...maybe if he begged, Heero would leave Wufei a weapon after all.

"Chang will be capable of limited mobility very quickly," Heero put in suddenly. "Sally underestimates his capacity to recuperate after injury. We can both work online, and I can drive Chang here for his appointments. I can also assist with any take-downs or two-day missions you can give me once Sally gives Chang a crutch. You get two agents on limited duty instead of one agent in need of a proper partner and someone on sick leave." There was a definite take-it-or-leave it in his tone. Une frowned dangerously in response.

Limited...duty...? Wufei stared at Heero, trying to figure out what the hell-

Une was scowling. "But I wanted you to go-"

"It'd be more efficient to have me help Chang get back in the field quicker, than having him waste his time here. I know a lot about treating and retraining after injury, I can help him with his physiotherapy," Heero announced crisply.

Une's widened eyes flickered towards Wufei with a look that clearly stated: 'You poor bastard, you.' Wufei rather agreed.

"Yuy..." He'd just figured out that Heero was offering to be his live-in nurse or something and the idea was making him choke.

The glare he got in return effectively silenced him. Wufei could hold his own in a fight - verbal or physical - against Heero, but that look he never argued with. Heero had made up his mind, with the kind of implacable determination with which he'd shot down Libra. Well, if Heero didn't want to waste his talents on mid-level mission with Armand, and decided instead that it would be more efficient to put his time into getting Wufei back on his feet, that made some sense, Wufei rationalized hesitantly. And at least Wufei wouldn't have to stay in the clinic. He looked away wretchedly, in unspoken assent, and Heero decreased the intensity of the glare a bit and turned it on Une instead.

Une had been looking from one to the other slowly during all this unspoken communication.

"You're sure, Heero? This is a bit above and beyond your duties as a Preventer."

"We're partners," Heero replied and crossed his arms as if there was really nothing left worth discussing.

"Partners...Yes, I've been wondering about that." Une said distantly. She glanced at Heero who was staring back at her with a complete obdurateness that Wufei would have envied. Her eyes became cold and hard, and her voice was harsh as she snapped: "Very well. Take him home, Yuy. I expect you both ready for duty ASAP."

She stepped out the door and closed it behind her sharply. The two men glanced at each other, slightly puzzled; even mildly sedated, Wufei noted that he'd not heard Une's steps move away from the room. After a few seconds of silence, there was shuffle at the door and a small knock.

"Er..." Wufei stared as the door opened.

Une didn't look angry anymore. Her face was calm, the corners of her mouth slightly down-turned. She only stuck her head and shoulders past the half-open door. Her eyes looked tired, sad and a trifle wary, and she glanced obliquely at Heero.

"Just for...just for my own information. May I know how long you two have been...partners?"

"Since you hired Chang." Heero looked completely nonplussed.

Une glanced at Wufei who dropped his gaze to the sheets covering his cast.

"...we worked together during the war, too," he muttered, noncommittally, though the look on his face probably told Une all she wanted to know.

"I see. Thank you." As the door closed behind her, they heard Une mutter: "Good, I was afraid it was because of that bloody L3 mission I sent you on-"

Wufei glared at the sheet, his face warm, then he glanced up briefly. Heero was regarding the door with a slightly puzzled frown on his face. The silence hung between them. Wufei licked his lips and stared at his injured leg again.

"Yuy...there's no reason for you to take light duty while I recover...I can stay here to convalesce. Those rooms Sally set up, that you mentioned. I can-"

"You would be more comfortable staying there," Heero interrupted. And his tone was back to a familiar one, a parody of his war-time monotone. It was the tone he used when they were baiting each other. "You'd only have one physio session a day, and they'll probably go pretty easy on you. A lot easier than I will. Yes, maybe my re-training program will be too difficult for you to bear, maybe-"

"I can take whatever you can dish out, Yuy!" Wufei snarled, extremely grateful that his partner was giving him an easy way of accepting this without being embarrassed.

"Good. There're still a lot of fires to put out. I need you back on your feet a lot quicker than Sally would allow." Heero nodded firmly and headed back towards the door. "I'll go get some bags to put your books in. We'll avoid Sally until you're ready to sign yourself out."

"Prudent." Wufei tried to grin. "Yuy...are you sure-"

He was talking to the door.

----

Heero laid Wufei gently on the bed then stood up and stared down at him. Wufei looked back, uncertain and embarrassed; he didn't like being carried around like an invalid, but now he had to resign himself to the fact he would need it. It was the price he'd paid for getting out of the clinic.

Blue eyes wandered to Wufei's window then centered on him again. Wufei found himself scrunching down against the pillow, bracing himself. Heero looked like he wanted to say something very serious and Wufei just hoped it wasn't criticism regarding the necessities Wufei was imposing on him.

"We'll start on your injured leg after we see the specialist and decide on a reeducation program, but we can work on your abs this afternoon, and your other leg as well," Heero announced, turning abruptly.

Wufei felt relieved. A slight disappointment was quickly squashed. After all, if Heero had said something like 'welcome back', or 'it's nice to have you around again', Wufei would probably have had a heart attack to add to his other physical ailments.

Heero was looking around Wufei's room as if he'd never seen it before. That slightly confused dip had returned to the lines of his shoulders. As if he were looking for something, and not even sure what. Wufei watched him, puzzled. There wasn't anything left to say anyway, was there? Oh, maybe there was.

"I don't have much stuff, as you can see," Wufei supplied. "It shouldn't be too hard to move it all out."

Heero started and turned to stare at him. "What?"

"When we move. Have you found a new place yet?" Apparently that had not been what Heero had been thinking about. But he had his partner's full attention now.

"New place?"

"Yes. You were talking about selling this house. Getting a new place somewhere."

Heero was silent. He undid the zip on the big bag he'd brought and started piling books near Wufei's bed. He lifted the toy dragon out too, looked at it blankly and then dropped it back in the bag again and stood up, slipping the strap over his shoulder.

"Yuy?"

"What?" Heero glanced at him.

"New house? You were talking about it that time you stopped by the clinic. We need to move out of here, the Syndicate know this address."

"Only some of the upper echelons. They kept all their sources of information very close to their chest, to avoid a leak that could tell us how deeply Ops had been compromised. Take Hunter; she didn't know where we lived, and she was one of their top assassins."

Wufei distinctly felt his jaw hit his taped collarbone. "Maybe only a few people know this address, but that's all it'd take!"

"My security system has been improved; it is now inviolable," Heero replied matter-of-factly. "And we really don't have much to fear from a few goons bursting through the door waving guns-"

"They could just leave a car-bomb outside the workshop instead!"

"I'll put a proximity sensor on the perimeter if you're worried about that. No one else drives up around here. Personally I don't think they'll dare move against us; they know who we are." Heero was clearly dismissing the discussion as he turned towards the door. "Have you taken your medicine? Do you need anything?"

"No-yes, I took my medicine, no, I don't need anything, but about the-"

"This place is satisfactory. It is efficient for us. I'm not moving." Heero's voice was firm as it echoed from the hallway outside. "Call me if you need anything, I'll be in my room."

Wufei stared at the half-open door. What had all that been about? When had Heero changed his mind?

The irritation of the half-open door was distracting him from speculation, like an itch he couldn't scratch or, in this instance, get up and close. He hated leaving his door open, but Heero would point out that Wufei needed to be able to call his partner without moving from the bed. Sally had been quite explicit - and fairly threatening - about the level of care Wufei would need for at least a week, before he could even use a crutch. Wufei winced at the thought of what Heero would have to do until Wufei regained some of his independence. But...he'd do the same for Heero, they both knew that, and that thought placated Wufei a bit. Granted, Heero hadn't ever actually required it. He'd been mobile when he had left the clinic with his back injury.

Wufei could feel himself falling asleep - the ache in his shoulder and leg had faded a bit. After days of sleeping with one eye open, his body was galloping towards rest, knowing he was somewhere safe. Someone was watching over him...His mind drifted. There'd been a time he'd had to sacrifice something important to him to look after his partner. During the war. When Heero had been exhausted but refused to admit it, when he couldn't sleep, on an adrenaline high and a mission the next day...Wufei had-...ahh, helped him with that. Huh, why be coy, Chang: he'd jerked Heero off. That had been a considerable gesture for him to make, at the time...now it appeared so little...

Maybe Heero had thought of that when he'd offered to take care of Wufei now.

No. That wasn't it. Wufei always kept a healthy ring of skepticism around his feelings for the arrangement between them, but Heero's simple, straightforward words cleaved right through it. His partner still thought in straight lines, and meant what he said.

We're partners.

I need you back on your feet.

It had all been there in Heero's words, his stance, his stubborn scowl at Une. Heero considered Wufei an indispensable part of his operational efficiency. That had already been the case when Wufei had first joined Ops, but now things were different: Heero could now work with other people who hadn't been Gundam pilots. Yuy had changed in that respect - possibly under Wufei's influence; the partners had joined other units during previous operations, and working with the highest quality personnel like Armand, Sanji and others had proven to be no problem. But from what Heero had said - and everything in his stance and stubborn glare had confirmed his words - he felt himself to be more efficient with Wufei than with anybody else.

Wufei appreciated this as a warrior would.

He stared at the ceiling - comfortingly familiar compared to the one in the Ops clinic. Une had sure been surprised. Her assessment of Heero had been similar to Hunter's: Everything for the mission. And that was true; Wufei knew it to the depth of his soul. But what Une - and Wufei himself - had not appreciated was the fact that Wufei was now part of the mission.

Hunter. Une. Partners. He'd been doing a lot of thinking these past few days in the clinic. There was a whole history there, one he had only glimpsed. He didn't want a closer look either.

He could understand Hunter, and that rather frightened him. He knew how it felt to have your beliefs shattered and swept aside by real life and history, not once but several times. Meiran's death, Treize defeating him, the changing allegiances of war, his colony's destruction...Unlike Hunter, he'd survived the experience, and let it teach him a cold wisdom. Fight for Justice but don't expect the universe to play fair in return.

And, unlike Hunter, Wufei was not going to expect more out of Heero than the latter could give him.

Do you think he'll come rescue you?

No, I don't, Hunter. I don't need him to, and he doesn't expect me to need his help, and that is my pride and my fulfillment.

But Heero wouldn't betray Wufei either, simply because Wufei never expected anything more from Heero than to follow his own steel convictions to their logical conclusion. When Wufei's beliefs crumbled once more, when he felt weak and directionless, he knew he could always rely on that. He needed Heero's single-minded pursuit of what mattered: peace, the mission, perfection. He needed that too much to ever wish for something else.

You were the fool, Hunter. You decided to fasten yourself on a part of Une that didn't exist, that was a mirage. If you, like Treize, had dug deeper and found the true heart of her convictions...well, it wouldn't have been for you, but it wouldn't have betrayed you either, it would have always been there.

If you'd understood that, then you would truly have been her partner.

He remembered Une's face when she'd told them to terminate Hunter if they had no other choice. Yeah, going down that avenue was messy.

The light in Heero's eyes burned only for the mission to which his entire life had been dedicated; he had never had anything else, he knew of nothing else. He needed Wufei's clear, cold and detached support at his back while he walked that road. And Wufei needed Heero to be the solid, reliable foundation upon which to build himself into the best man he could be. The best warrior. The kind that really didn't need rescuing at all. It was the perfect partnership, and he'd only just realized how deeply it went both ways.

Yes, they understood each other perfectly.

...well, except the bit about the house...it was unlike Yuy to be stubborn about something like this. Sure, the place was efficient, but expediency and safety indicated they should move...

...must be the springboard floor of the dojo...Heero had put a lot of work into that...it'd be hard to find anything half as good as this place, that was for sure...Wufei's eyes were shut, and he was drifting.

...pity...he'd have liked the opportunity of paying his half of the house this time...but he did like his room here. He felt safe...

Wufei heard keys clicking two doors down. He fell asleep soon afterwards.

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