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.

Huge thanks to Dawna, who beta-ed this latest offering of this monster-sized fic in record time! Any remaining errors are due to my usual last-minute bouts of doubts. Thanks to Sol for giving my bunnies a hearty shove in the right direction, as well!

The Arrangement
Epilogue, Part II

"The roots of a tree that grew up in wind are strong"
Japanese proverb

---

Miranda's sales instincts were better honed than her mating ones, or her thirst for petty revenge. They left the store in possession of a bed and the required mattress, to be delivered in a couple of weeks, and some sheets and blankets. Heero began to relax as soon as they got away from the canned music and Miranda's artificial smile, though he didn't let his guard down until they were safely back at the house and the security was set.

"I think I'll go take a shower, then lie down for awhile," Wufei muttered, caught in a yawn so large he nearly dropped the evening's take-out he was carrying. "I'm still not one hundred percent, and I don't want Sally to have any doubts about my health tomorrow, when I get that final certificate off her."

"She won't," Heero assured him.

"I should bring you along, just in case she does; we can run our usual circuit on the obstacle course to change her mind. Gerrie has some new cadets over this week; we should probably go just to show them how it's done." Wufei smiled like a tiger spotting a tethered lamb.

"Yes." He'd almost said 'if you want to', but he still wasn't sure about using those potentially loaded words in a casual conversation.

"When she sees how badly I kick your ass in the training circle, Sally will sign off on that field-readiness certificate right away," Wufei continued smoothly, before opening the fridge.

"I'm sure Sally has no doubts about your physical form," Heero replied, but didn't add anything about mental condition, which would be Po's main worry.

Wufei fumbled the take-out as he was about to place it in the fridge, and Heero tensed, wondering if the omission had been obvious. But his partner put the dishes carefully away, and the little of his back and shoulders that Heero could see were not tensing with anger. Good.

"So we'll be combat ready by this time tomorrow. Are there a lot of fires brewing out there? I've been out of the loop." Wufei straightened and closed the fridge, and he reached towards a few other odds and ends he'd bought, without looking Heero's way.

"Not that I know of, but I've not been in touch with Sam for six days either, bar my mission report." Heero shrugged. The blankets and sheets he was holding crinkled against his chest in their plastic wraps. "I can contact Une and find out."

"I'm sure they'll tell us. And do you think I'm ready to take on a mission now? Won't let you down, will I?"

Heero checked his partner's stance apprehensively, but Wufei was leaning back against the counter, apparently perfectly at ease. "Of course not. I mean, of course you won't let me down, and I think you're ready." He just hoped it wouldn't be a difficult mission to start with. He was fairly certain their battlefield entente was intact; it was the first thing they'd had between them, it was still one of the most important in both their minds. Their lives and their mission depended on it. Heero didn't think that could suffer. But he needed to be sure. Maybe running that obstacle course tomorrow was a good idea-

Wufei was coming towards him, but his hands were in his pockets, his stance non-aggressive, and he was frowning thoughtfully at the sheets and blankets Heero was holding.

"I was going to put these away," Heero changed the subject with a glance at the bundle in his arms. "Where should we-"

"Were you? Allow me." Wufei reached for the sheets and blankets, and Heero handed them to him automatically.

Wufei carefully gathered the packets in his arms and then tossed them over his shoulder. Heero stiffened as if the tumbled linen were live grenades, and stared wildly at his partner. Wufei still looked quite calm. He'd put his hands back in his pocket and he was now staring at Heero, up close.

"Spill, Heero. What's wrong?"

Wrong?! Heero batted down a flash of alarm. He thought he'd been doing okay!

"Wh-what?"

Wufei sighed. "Talk to me, will you?"

Talk? Heero felt his body freeze into an unreadable chunk to avoid expressing a sudden flinch of pain. Talking as he had a few hours ago, when Wufei had come back, had been pretty unique. And pretty fucking horrible. That instant of unveiling what lay beneath his own so-far unquestioned feelings, and laying it bare for judgment, both by Wufei and, in a way, by himself...wondering if he'd just terminated, with his own words, the partnership that had been such an integral part of his life for the last year...proved himself to be fundamentally unable to give enough to another human being to keep him...Heero thought he'd rather lose three square inches of skin rather than go through that again. But if Wufei needed to hear something...

"Talk about what?" He tried to keep the reluctance from his voice.

"Why have you been walking around me all morning like you're navigating a minefield?" Wufei's voice was still so calm. In fact, he sounded a bit...Heero didn't want to read the unusual slump in his partner's shoulders; he was afraid it was disappointment.

"Look." One of Wufei's hands left his pocket to rub at the bridge of his nose. "I know I've been about as pleasant to live with these past few months as a wounded bear. Is that why you're tiptoeing around me? You just want to avoid another explosion?"

"No," Heero answered honestly. At this point, he'd almost prefer a storm; he wasn't sure what this preternatural calm was leading to.

"No?" Wufei looked perplexed. "Because I'd understand that. I must have been impossible to live with since I got hit by that car. I'm surprised you put up with it."

"I don't mind," Heero affirmed quickly, because putting up with Wufei, even in a bad mood, was the opposite of what he was worrying about-

"You don't?" Wufei's mouth curled up a bit in the corners. "Amazing. I live with a guy for over a year, and I only figure out now that he's a masochist."

The remark startled him. "Masochist? I don't think so. I mean, I don't mind pain, I was trained to withstand it, but I'd still rather avoid anything extreme, and I certainly don't get off on it."

He knew, as soon as he saw the eyes widen and the dark pupils dilate, that he'd said something he shouldn't have, though he didn't know what. He forced himself not to flinch as Wufei pulled his hands from his pockets and reached for him. He wasn't sure what to expect, though at this point he was prepared for anything.

The hands didn't grab him, didn't strike or grasp his collar or shake him. One landed on his shoulder, the other brushed the hair out of his eyes, almost hesitantly. The new and completely unexpected gesture made him tense, despite his resolve not to react.

"Right," Wufei said quietly, eyes fixed on Heero's so that the latter was unable to look away. "When you start getting hyper-literal, that's when I know there's something very wrong. And I'd rather you tell me than having you try to 'fix it' again." Heero winced. "Yeah, remember that? Okay, so come on. Tell me."

Heero stayed silent and frozen in indecision. Each word he could think of was a potential deathtrap.

Wufei muttered something; it sounded like Cantonese and it sounded rather rude. He looked like he was trying very hard to keep the calm he had wrapped himself in. The hands on Heero's shoulder gave him a minute shake. "Look, Yuy, spit it out already! What's the worse I could do?"

"Leave."

Heero's muscles tightened in reproof, his jaw clenching around the word he shouldn't have let slip.

"Leave?" Wufei was not controlling himself at all; he was letting his emotions freely cross his face, his body, his eyes. That voluntary openness, and the trust it implied, which Heero knew were just as difficult for his partner as they were for himself, shamed him, but he didn't know if he dared to reciprocate, let his own feelings show.

Wufei looked worried now. "It can't be that bad- why on earth do you think I'll-"

"You did before," Heero muttered in defeat.

The hands flinched and dropped from his shoulders as Wufei crossed his arms over his chest. Heero looked away from the flash of pain that went through his friend's eyes and stance.

"Okay," Wufei muttered, turning away. "I guess I deserved that."

"It's not an accusation," Heero's usual monotone sounded completely uncaring even to his own ears; he glared at the fallen sheets a few feet away. He could hear the squeak of the spring-board floor as Wufei stepped onto the tatami and walked away. "As you said, we both screwed up the other day, we both- I didn't want to bring it back up, but every time I start to say something, I'm afraid- I'm used to your temper. It's part of you." That was probably insulting right there, but it was true. Wufei's burning intensity sometimes singed the people he let close to him, and Heero accepted this, like Wufei accepted Heero's distance, his occasional bouts of day-long silences, his killer instincts, his cold dedication to the mission.

"I just...I don't know how this is supposed to work. I still don't know how you expect me to act," Heero muttered into the silence.

"You could ask," Wufei said without looking around, in a voice that was clearly striving for calm and to keep the word 'moron' from the end of the sentence.

Ask? A novel concept. "You mean you'd tell me? You wouldn't misinterpret the question and get all defensive and-" fuck, stop talking! Heero struggled to regain the safe distance between them and realized he wasn't sure where the boundaries were any more.

Wufei had the grace not to challenge that, or even dodge it. Heero felt no vindication in the sudden slump in his partner's shoulders; it only made him feel worse. Trapped.

"I can try-...I just want you to be yourself, Yuy. To want something from me, and ask for it. How hard is that?" He sounded defeated too, though.

"Be myself?" Heero wanted to snort at the irony, but his control was too tight. "When I tried to fix things before - that was me being myself. That was a logical course of action to me. At the time." He was forcing the words out against considerable resistance; they were short and hard, he couldn't match Wufei's quiet tone, even though he wanted to. "If I had to do the same thing again, if I am in the same position again, I can't say for certain I won't make the same mistake. I know now why it wasn't right; but that's because you shouted it at me before you left. It took me awhile to figure it out even then. And now, I don't know how I'll react to other new situations. I can ask, but we both hate to talk, to- and anyway, the questions themselves are...are probably something you expect me to know already. They're already a failure. I-...talking, asking, it isn't easy." Not when you were afraid that each word, each question, might hurt the other, might be that one mistake that would finally doom their partnership for good. Silence was just safer. Always had been.

"...makes sense..."

Heero glanced obliquely at his partner. Wufei had his back to him; he was standing in front of the sword rack, one hand back in his pocket, the other tracing the edge of his sword's hilt. He still didn't look angry. Heero wondered if he dare relax.

"Might as well get one thing clear. If you screw up that badly again, I'll probably leave."

So much for relaxing. The analytical part of Heero informed him that the cold shock of those words had felt remarkably like getting shot, without the actual concussive impact of a bullet penetrating flesh.

"As you so aptly pointed out, Yuy, I have a temper; it's part of me." I knew that would insult him, Heero thought in angry self-recrimination. "And it's more than that. I-...have a hard time dealing with my own feelings sometimes. I'm sure you sympathize with that. I sometimes need to get away from a situation. Step back, think about it, figure out exactly why I'm angry, because I can fool myself pretty well when I'm the one at the centre of the problem." Wufei's voice sounded raw. Heero guessed, from the way the strong back muscles were knotting, just what it cost him to admit this.

"So yeah, if you really fuck up, I might leave."

Wufei's fingers tightened on the hilt of his sword.

"I'll come back though. I swear it. On my honor."

He came back yesterday, too, Heero suddenly remembered. It wasn't that he'd forgotten, but he'd made so many plans to go find his partner and try to figure out what he could do, that he'd not actually stopped to contemplate the significance of the fact that Wufei had returned less than twenty four hours after that ugly episode in his room.

"I'm not saying this can work out between us," Wufei was speaking clearly, slowly, and deliberately. But he didn't sound removed from his own words. He was keeping no defenses against them and their consequences whatsoever. "We both have a lot of scars. A lot of things holding us back. You're not the only one who can fuck this up, Heero. I might be the one person in the universe who is as leery of his own emotions as you are. Which is not a promising fact. When they say couples should share common interests, I don't think they had mayhem and emotional repression in mind." Heero could feel the smile in his partner's voice, though the humor was subdued.

"But I won't leave - for real - just because I get mad. I...I would rather you ask the questions and make the mistakes, even if I blow out of here, then come back with my tail between my legs twenty four hours later. We're not at war anymore. When we're not on a mission, we're allowed to make mistakes. Both of us. I shouldn't have walked out like that yesterday; I can't promise I won't do it again, though. But once I've cooled off, I'll be back, and we can try to sort it out. You don't have to be worried about screwing up."

"...when I make mistakes, people die..." The words were reluctant, dredged up over the years yet still aching and bloody.

"Get a grip, Yuy," Wufei turned around brusquely and gave him a glare which Heero judged was far from serious. "I told you, we're not at war anymore. And you've already fucked up a few times and I'm still breathing! I'm not going to curl up and die just because you behave like a moron."

"No, you'll just run away," Heero muttered before he could stop himself. He glanced up worriedly at Wufei, whose eyebrows were making a spirited effort to reach his hairline, despite the difficulty that would represent.

"I do not run away, Yuy! I choose to remove myself from the situation and go and meditate," Wufei sniffed.

The tone was familiar; like the ugly, practical room around them, the dojo where they sparred like fiends, the guns locker that held the tools of their trade. It freed something in Heero. He inhaled slowly. It felt like an iron band had just loosened around his chest. "If you say so, Chang," he murmured. It came out more shaken than sarcastic, but it was a good effort.

"Anyway, I came back. And I probably won't be quite so quick to leave next time. I can weather your screw-ups, Yuy. I'm tougher than you are, apparently. Hah, I'm tougher than old oak. Which is a good thing because if your bone-headed mistakes can't kill me, they are sufficiently big and weird to at least inflict flesh wounds, if I wasn't so strong," Wufei continued, nodding judiciously.

"I'm not that bad," Heero growled, a strange smile trying to ruin his glare. Why was he so glad to have just been insulted in about three different ways? "I already said I was sorry for trying to spy on you in your sleep, and not talking things over from the start, but apart from that, what did I do that was so-"

"Checking up on me ten times a day? Calling me on the phone like some kid you left without a nanny? Telling me exactly where you were in the house like I was going to have a panic attack if I went to your room and didn't find you there?"

Heero winced. "I thought it might help you to feel a bit more...secure." The strategy had been to make Wufei feel 'cared for', actually, but that sounded even weirder.

"It only made me feel paranoid! That and the change of the gun locker code. Though I'll grant you that last one, I'd have done the same in your shoes" Wufei admitted in a nearly inaudible grumble

"Wufei..." the words were a bit easier now, and the first name had come off his tongue without any forethought. "For my own information, just how much - or how little - does it take to make you paranoid?"

Black eyes narrowed. "It's a survival instinct for the kind of life we lead; and someone who sleeps with a gun beneath his pillow and sensors all around the house has no room to throw stones."

Heero snorted; he knew that their home was the only place Wufei slept soundly, same as Heero, and that was because of those very same sensors and security measures. He went to pick up the sheets and blankets that had fallen a few feet away. His arms were still stiff with residual tension. The rhythm of their banter was familiar, but he could feel them both skirting subjects that were a bit too new, too raw, to bring to light in any context.

But they'd get used to it. It still felt like walking through a minefield, but it wasn't. A mistake wasn't fatal here; he'd have time to get familiar with these new parameters of their partnership.

"So you promise to come back, and be patient with any questions or mistakes on my part," he concluded as he picked up the last packet, and turned towards the stairs. "And in return, I'll put up with the worst temper in Brussels."

"I do not have the worst temper in Brussels," Wufei countered with some dignity as he crossed the dojo behind Heero.

"You all but admitted it yourself," Heero pointed out logically, glancing back. "Not that I mind."

Wufei had his mouth open to shoot something back, but he paused, blinking in surprise.

Heero shrugged. "It makes life interesting." All of it. It all made his life interesting. "It certainly keeps me from getting rusty."

"I'll keep you from getting rusty," Wufei grumbled behind him as they made their way to the upper floor. "Your ass and that dojo floor have an appointment this afternoon."

"If someone does have a worst temper in this city, please point them out to me; I need to have them arrested and deported somewhere. Antarctica should be far enough."

"You should know." Wufei went to lean against the bathroom door and crossed his arms. "You never did say in any detail...how did the mission go? With Armand?"

Heero shrugged, his hand on their bedroom's doorknob. The mission was finished. He saw no reason to bring it up. Unless Wufei wanted an assessment of Armand's performance, in case they had to work with the man in the future? "It was alright. No heavy resistance. But being with Armand made it harder. He's a good man, but in the end I had to leave him in a defensive position and do most of the work myself. He..." Heero tried to express just what had been lacking. "He wanted to know what I was going to do."

"That seems like a reasonable thing to ask," Wufei hazarded, looking a bit perplexed.

"You don't ask," Heero pointed out.

There was a moment of silence, and a flash of an unusual emotion in black eyes. Heero didn't know what it was, entirely - Pride? Pleasure? - but he thought he wouldn't mind seeing it again.

"It's not hard to figure out what you'll do, Yuy," Wufei sniffed. "I look at a situation, decide what the most dangerous course of action would be, the place where a quick, brutal strike will do the most damage, and there you are."

"And you're right behind me," Heero retorted.

Their eyes met for a second before they both looked away. Heero upgraded their battle readiness in his head. Let Une throw a tough mission their way. And then she could just step back and wait for the fireworks.

"True. I should have Sally examine my head tomorrow." Wufei shook the mentioned body part with a show of resignation. "Right. I need to shower and lie down."

Heero nodded as he shifted his grip on the sheets and swung the door open.

"Coming?"

"What?" Heero glanced back, to see the bathroom door close. He thought he heard a quiet, amused snort. Coming? Wufei was just going to-

The bathroom door was open, just a crack.

Heero hesitated for a split second - how long would it take to just go and put the sheets away properly first? Too long, his instincts told him. Wufei had never extended that sort of invitation before.

Who cared about sheets anyway, Heero thought, though he still stacked them carefully in the hallway before going to investigate the slightly open door.

---

The shower was interesting. Heero, in the beleaguered parts of his mind that could still think and plan, felt hopeful that this meant that extended foreplay was going to be a regular habit from now on. He'd rather liked that. He still had a few scratch marks on his back that demonstrated that Wufei had liked it too; but considering how the whole episode had ended, Heero hadn't been sure they wouldn't be going back to 'quick and efficient' again. From the amount of water on the floor, which he forced himself to ignore, and the fact he was now clean in places which rarely saw that amount of extended attention and application of soap, he was a bit reassured on the subject.

They were still a bit damp when they tumbled onto the joined mattresses. They'd been a bit distracted while toweling off. Wufei grumbled against the skin of Heero's shoulder and shoved away the sleeping bags beneath them. The zippers had been a bit uncomfortable, though Heero only became aware of it after Wufei's hand had left his erection to move the offending blanket.

The skin beneath his fingers was alternatively sliding then sticking as it dried. It was familiar, smoother than his own, only a few scars to map with his palms. Wufei arched, panting, as Heero caressed a particularly sensitive one, on the back of one thigh. Then a mouth found his again.

This wasn't particularly erotic for him. Any more than the closed-mouth kiss they'd shared that first time, in that old shed, after their first sparring match. He'd only crushed his mouth to Wufei's then because his first partner - a young soldier whose real name he didn't even know - had done so the first time they'd jerked each other off. Heero had thought it a handy signal - 'we're going to have sex now' - and nothing more.

Chang Wufei. Gundam Pilot 05. A soldier, an ally...maybe. A convenient fuck. An intriguing bundle of contradictory and repressed emotions. A surprisingly efficient killer, nonetheless. A good sword to have at his back. Someone to clash with, who would disagree but at least understand the arguments. A partner. A friend...words had given out at some point. Logic stopped working. He still couldn't understand why people thought kissing was arousing. But Wufei obviously did, and Heero found this fascinating; his hand would find its own way to the crook of Wufei's neck, feeling the pulse hammer against his palm. Each caress of his tongue would change that pulse, or the way his usually unperturbed and controlled partner moved against him; it would make Wufei arch, or shiver, or moan very, very low. Heero felt each reaction with his fingers, his skin, his lips and tongue, in his guts and in his groin. He felt no need to analyze it any further.

Heero's free hand inched its way down, over a proud, stiff back, a very hard ass, to muscled thighs and legs. He'd never had a woman, but it surely couldn't compare. After having so much power and lethal grace at your fingertips, it would be rather bland to handle soft flesh and worry about hurting the other. Like trying to work that damn Leo after controlling Wing. Heero smirked fiercely in the kiss and squeezed the thigh beneath his grasp, feeling muscles coil and harden in a response that sent arousal clawing through his mind and body. He arched into a downward thrust; Wufei tore his mouth away to gasp and go rigid for an instant.

Licking his lips where humidity and a familiar taste lingered, Heero reached over to the bedside table. Wufei was lapping at his neck, his chest. Heero opened the drawer and confidently picked out the lube by feel. Then he fumbled it when a tongue teased his nipple at the same time as clever fingers decided to check out his erection again. Heero managed to restart his breathing on the second try, and fished around for the fallen tube. He knew - he just knew - that there was a smirk hovering somewhere around his chest right now. With the slow, pleasurable pull of fingers wrapped around his cock, Heero couldn't generate enough competitiveness to mind. He wasn't particularly surprised when a hand flicked imperiously before his face. He set the tube in the demanding palm with resigned anticipation, if that was possible, and relaxed.

Fingers slowly stretched him, rubbing gently at the muscles, the flesh within, the- Heero blinked and tilted his hips up, legs shoving against the mattress, trying to give Wufei a better angle to that particular area. He closed his eyes against the brilliant flashes, and the dark pleasure of muscles stretching. The harsh panting, his own and his partner's, grew louder in the darkness, covering the sound of skin sliding on skin. The feel of fingers on his cock, others fucking him gently...the sensations fought over his attention. Couldn't decide...which was...the most interesting...

Okay, ready now. He squirmed away from the fingers. The hand left his cock and trailed up his chest sensuously to flick the bangs from his eyes. He opened them. Wufei was flushed, a stain of color on the gold of his skin. Heero reached up and gathered damp black strands of hair that fell into the face above his own, slipping them behind Wufei's ear. A slight smile in return. That smile was like the kissing. He couldn't explain why it mattered, but it did. Not as much as a successful mission or running out of ammo in a firefight, but it mattered.

Then his partner was gone. Heero could feel his movements through the mattress. Muttered words; apparently the tube of lube was getting its ancestors soundly cursed for hiding at this particular moment. Heero closed his eyes. He should look for it, too. But he'd be disturbing the pleasure leisurely slinking through his muscles like cats, the sensual way his back sunk into the mattress, Wufei's fingers wrapped around his ankle even as his partner hunted for the tube with his other hand. No. Wufei could look for the lube by himself.

A plastic sound heralded the return of the tube. Heero felt the excitement curl in his chest, and tighten the skin around his balls. After a few seconds, hands pressed his legs up, almost against his chest, and caressed his ass. Something blunt touched his skin, leaving a thin trail of lube behind it.

"...Heero?"

His eyes shot open. "Huh?"

A low whisper: "What do you want...?"

Heero twisted around to stare at his partner, but Wufei was nipping his jaw, dropping those words into his ear, breathlessly. Heero shifted against the bed.

"What?"

"Tell me what you want..."

Heero stared at what he could see of his partner, a few strands of black hair falling over cheekbone. He wanted to have sex. That had to be rather obvious. "...what...? This position is fine." Wufei's words had been low, with a slight echo of hesitation behind them- another explanation surfaced. "You're not having a black-out or something, are you?"

He twisted away to get a better look at Wufei, his mind suddenly coming back down to earth with a thump. He quickly checked his partner visually. The black eyes were very wide, but focused and showed no sign of disorientation. Surely Wufei wasn't so tired he was having a relapse! How much sleep had he gotten since- what was Sally's emergency number again-

It was the way Wufei's mouth was twitching that made Heero reassess the situation. He must have missed something-

A hand around his neck dragged him into a fierce kiss, and then a savage twist rolled them both until Heero was struggling to get his hands and knees beneath him to get his full weight off his partner. Wufei bucked, his erection hard against Heero's ass, banishing all irrelevant questions. Heero's heart started to pound. He shifted, reached for the hardness beneath him, jabbing at his skin. He positioned it and then lowered himself on it in one savage motion. Wufei groan and shudder. Heero hissed; nibbles of pain played at the edge of pleasure. Highlighting it. Darkness to make the light shine brighter. Heero reached for that again. And again. His heart thundered. Wufei's fingers were on his hip now, pulling him down. Heero threw back his head, gasping. A hand - light fingers, sensual - a contrast to the hard thrusts - caressed his throat, lingered on his chest. Heero reached for more. Wufei groaned and the clench of his other fingers on Heero's hip was frantic.

Heero let go of parts of himself, one by one, shaken loose by the punishing rhythm. No control. Just pleasure. He clenched the muscles around the hardness he was riding, and Wufei shouted, arching up into the thrusts. Heero wanted more of that. He wanted to see the pleasure scrawled across his lover's body. He wanted to drag it out, taste it on copper-colored skin, feel it in the way Wufei's fingers tightened on his thighs, pulling him down. In the throbbing, pulsing heat within him.

Wufei thrust up to meet his savage downward movements with a shout. Heero stilled and fought for breath, feeling the body beneath his clench and tremble, surrendering. He ignored the heat of his own unsatisfied cock. He leaned forward and licked at the corner of Wufei's throat. He tasted sweat and a delicious shiver as sensitive skin was teased just a bit more.

Heero pulled away, ignoring the odd sensation of Wufei's erection slipping from him, the trickle of tepid liquid down his legs. He curled up against his partner, and allowed his hand to trail down a hard chest, abs - a slight shudder in the relaxed frame followed his fingers. Wufei sighed and rolled over, shoving Heero onto his back. Heero let the triumphant smirk loose. Black eyes caught it with a mixture of exasperation and amusement. And a dark promise of their own. Heero shivered as a long-fingered hand brushed over his lips, then tickled the skin down his chest heading south.

The hand traced the skin of his abs. Heero didn't particularly need any more arousing, but he was back in control of himself now, the mental readjustment automatic. He could wait for his partner's pleasure. It would ultimately be his; Wufei's hands had become quite skilled this past year.

The mattress shifted beneath him as Wufei leaned back, and then slid down, towards-

Heero stiffened and quickly grasped his partner's shoulder. "Wait- what-"

Black eyes met his. "Hmm?"

Heero didn't need to ask what Wufei thought he was doing. His head was near Heero's cock - which didn't feel like complaining, but then it didn't get a vote. Heero ignored the way the dark hair spilled against the curve of his hip and stomach, a sensuous ripple against his skin.

"You don't have to do that." His voice was stiff, harsh.

"You're right, I don't have to." An eyebrow arched reprovingly, correcting his obviously stupid assumption that Chang Wufei could be compelled to do anything he didn't want.

"I know you don't like to-"

"How would I know if I don't like to, I've never tried it before," Wufei interrupted, in a reasonable voice. Heero was about to protest but then a tongue darted out, up his cock, and he forgot what he was about to say. Was he about to say anything? Why?

Oh, right.

"Chang-"

The tongue did its damage again. Heero managed to keep a thread of continuous thought alive though.

"You- don't have to-"

"We already established that." Warm breath against the two wet trails over his cock was sheer torture.

"I meant-"

A third trail of tongue - surely Wufei knew the mechanics of going down on someone, right? Heero had done it to him occasionally - Wufei had never reciprocated, but Heero had never pushed - never even thought of pushing -

"If you don't want to, hands are fine," Heero choked out, somehow. "You never- before-"

"I think it's a hang-up left over from my upbringing." The words tickled his cock so badly that Heero took a few seconds to figure out their meaning. "Something a man doesn't do."

"Then why-" Heero tried to keep the groan out of his voice.

"But then again, by those same sets of values, I'm not supposed to let you fuck me regularly, and we certainly don't have any problem with that." The tongue darted out as a counterpoint to the argument. Heero managed to swallow. Barely.

"While according to the shudo, the rules governing the relations between two samurai, it really shouldn't matter, and there's nothing-"

Wufei's mouth covered the tip of Heero's erection, his tongue found the slit. Just a touch, to start with, but when Heero practically convulsed with the sensation and groaned, the tongue gained confidence and teased with a few flicks. Then it stopped, just as Heero was remembering that breathing was important.

"-there's nothing, I was saying, that we shouldn't do equally, unless I am the superior in our association. Do you consider yourself inferior to me? In any way? Just so I know?"

Heero stared at the ceiling, every nerve in his body thrumming. What the fuck was his partner talking about...? After a few stunned seconds, he managed to prop himself up on his elbows and stare. Wufei was looking back up at him languidly, curled up against his legs like a golden lion, black mane sleek and falling onto Heero's aching skin. His mouth was near Heero's cock. That...captured most of Heero's attention...he struggled to understand-

"Did you know that in certain cultures, the seed of a powerful man is supposed to transfer some of his vitality to-"

"Are you teasing me?!"

Almond eyes blinked slowly. "Me?" Wufei asked, voice innocent. Then his eyes scrunched up a bit. "Hmm, that's a glare I've not seen before. Number twenty two if my count is right; I think I'll categorize it as 'sexually frustrated and about to reach for the gun under his pillow'."

"What?! What the hell are you- uhn...."

Heero's head thumped back against the mattress as every muscle in his shoulders, arms and neck turned to mush. Wufei's lips and tongue were-...ohhhhh...Heero made sure, in the part of himself that was dedicated to control, that he didn't obey his instincts by thrusting up wildly into the mouth slowly taking him in. Didn't want to choke Wufei. That could be unpleasant for his partner, on his first time, it could be off-putting, and Heero really...

...really...

...really wanted this to happen again...at some point...uhn...in his life...

His heart was thumping wildly in his chest, his breath thundering in his lungs, drowning him-

Suction around his cock, unique feeling, like nothing else...hadn't had a blow job for-...ages-...heat, and- and tongue, mouth, lips, an edge of fingers, all swirling and tingling-

The squirming, throbbing pulse in his chest spiraled down, setting his insides on fire, and erupted from his cock-

Heero panted, eyes shut. Thoughts and feelings crept back, as if blown away by the surge of pleasure and now cautiously returning. He realized - after a few seconds - that he'd forgotten to warn Wufei that he was about to come. But his partner had no problems reading him. The last thing Heero could remember was the mouth leaving him and the firm tug of fingers-...Heero shivered and started to regulate his breathing a bit.

"You scowl when you come, too," a voice informed him, somewhere nearer his ear this time.

Heero's brow scrunched up even further. He cracked his eyes open-

He'd been about to inquire if they were going to always talk this much during sex from now on, but he caught the tail end of an expression just before it disappeared behind the arrogant smirk. It was...Heero wasn't good at analyzing these things, but that didn't mean he didn't understand them at gut level. That darting, vulnerable look required him to be careful about what he said at this point, he knew that much.

"...that was good," he said instead, wondering if Wufei needed to be reassured on that point - and anything that might ensure that this happened again needed to be said. And repeated if need be.

"So I gathered..." Wufei was caressing his lower lip with his thumb, a gesture that looked introspective. Heero stared at it and found himself wishing life were simpler again, and then immediately concluding that, no, he didn't, not really.

Wufei shook himself minutely, rolled over and reached towards the bedside table, with its convenient cupboard beneath the small drawer. He fished out one of the small towels they kept there, and rolled back again. Heero stirred, to take it from him, but Wufei didn't even glance at him, and started to pass the cloth over Heero's abs instead, wiping carefully. Heero felt the skin on his abdomen shiver as the traces of humidity left cooled. They'd done this before - very rarely, and only when the other was nearer the towels, at least it was understood that that was the only reason, even though it sometimes trembled on the edge of something else. Heero tried to pin down what was different this time. A bit less brusque? A bit more a caress than a rough wipe? Or was it just in his head?

The towel was carelessly tossed over a shoulder, and Heero scowled at it as it lay, crumpled and soiled, on the floor.

"Do you do that because you're too lazy to put it in the laundry basket, or because you know it annoys me?" he growled.

"Bit of both," Wufei admitted languorously, rearranging blankets and pillows and stretching against Heero's side. "What's this afternoon's plan? Do we have anything else we can do, house-wise, while we have this...day off?" Wufei was still speaking as if the concept was a strange, foreign object he was trying to dismantle for further analysis.

"We could call in the cleaners," Heero suggested, speaking softly - Wufei was curled up against his chest, a shoulder and an arm thrown across it while black hair fell over Heero's own shoulder; he didn't want to dislodge his partner by breathing too hard or talking too loudly. He knew they were both trying to pretend this was perfectly normal, that they were used to touching each other like this for awhile after sex, as if the steel barriers that had been around their arrangement for over two years had never existed. Heero wondered if Wufei was having any more success than he was. It felt...weird. Not quite right. Not entirely wrong either. And it didn't feel like such a big deal, when he thought about it, and maybe that was what was troubling him.

"I need to do some work for Sam; he needs more details on the Antarctica base. Plans, layout, estimation of the tensile strength of any remaining underground bunkers..." he was listing things automatically, starting to write the report verbally. He detailed it aloud, concentrating on the familiar. But in the back of his mind...

"-I need to call Armand; there were a couple of spots he checked out by himself. I need to make sure there were no changes to the infrastructure on that side - I hoped he noted them if there were. Yes. I'm sure Armand would know to- he used to be a soldier though, a commando. Not an investigator, or a demolition expert either. I don't know if he- " damn, he hoped he didn't have to go back to Antarctica to check. "If I go back, do you want to come with me? It won't be very interesting; the forces should have cleaned out the place. Now we just have to demolish it, get rid of it once and for all. You could stay here and rest."

"Huh," Wufei huffed. He inched away and turned to lie on his stomach; he did leave an arm draped over Heero's chest though. The mutter had almost been a growl. Yeah, okay, that question didn't deserve an answer; Wufei had made it quite clear what being left behind had felt like.

"I'll check with Armand, and write that report." Sam wanted it by this evening; he'd not taken the notion of Heero having a day off any more seriously than the existence of dragons. "If Armand's report is inconclusive, there might be a flight tomorrow afternoon. I'll check. Cha- Wufei...why is physical contact something that's...something important?"

The question had been bubbling beneath the surface, in the tiny area that Heero no longer tried to control quite so thoroughly.

"We have sex together, we live in the same house - same room now." That was different. And somehow significant. "I just don't know why it makes a difference?"

He hadn't wanted to ask the question. That very reluctance had prompted him to do so anyway. He wanted to avoid it because he thought Wufei might misinterpret it as doubt about their new arrangement - was it new? It didn't feel all that different. Not asking the question would have been safer. But Wufei had said they were allowed to make mistakes now, say stuff like this, hurt each other accidentally and get over it. A part of Heero still didn't quite believe that. Perversely, it wanted to test the truth of it.

Wufei said nothing. Heero couldn't see his expression, with his partner's face turned away. He tried to read the tension in the arm across his chest, and wondered what the silence meant.

"Why this?" He meant to poke the golden skin contrasting with his own, paler, scar-ridden one, and found himself caressing the arm with his thumb instead, a tiny, tentative gesture. "What does physical contact at the end of sex bring? I'm not saying I don't like it. But it doesn't change anything." Did it? Had anything changed at all, in fact? They'd agreed to give each other some leeway. But wasn't that something that friends did anyway? They'd decided to try to be a bit more open about their feelings, but Heero, assessing himself and Wufei with his usual brutal honestly, was ready to bet that would happen just about as often as Une insisting they take a holiday to go out and have fun.

"We're still the same people. We still fight. We will until one of us dies." He didn't know what would happen to the survivor. That would depend on who it was. He...would rather it not be him. He wasn't sure he was up to the choices that would imply. Wufei was probably better equipped for that.

"I'd still die for the mission. If there was no other choice. Though I'm not suicidal any more." The skin beneath his thumb felt smooth, warm, alive. "And if I have to, I will leave you to die, or trust you to do something dangerous that will ensure we succeed even if one or both of us won't make it. You know that." Fortunately there was no question of that in Heero's mind. It wasn't a hindrance to their arrangement. It was an integral part of it.

"It just feels like something should be different. More different. And something does feel different. I just can't figure out what. Introspection has never been something I bother with. Without Zero," he added with a small flinch. Wufei's arm tightened around his chest, comforting. Why was it comforting? No idea. Heero had never been taught to think of that as comfort. Had never had someone do this to him before. Why was it making him feel better? Just from pressure across his rib cage? The warmth of a body nearby?

"I don't know," Heero concluded. "What do you think?" This was Wufei's thing. He was the one who actually thought about this stuff.

No answer.

"Wufei?" Heero twisted to get a better look at his partner, see if he was angry, or hurt, or just thoughtful. The arm around his ribcage tightened, and Wufei rolled a bit after a few seconds, turning his face on the pillow again so that Heero could see the closed eyes and relaxed features.

"Just how long have you been asleep?" Heero whispered, rhetorically. "And how do you manage to drop off while I'm actually touching you? And talking..."

The arm slipped from his chest and curled up, hand fisting near Wufei's chin. "...m'awake.........j's restin...m'eyes..."

"Right." Heero very gently lifted Wufei's arm and placed it over his chest again. The eyelids fluttered but didn't actually open, and Wufei snored a couple of times before sniffing once and burying his face further into the pillow, hair falling gently forward, exposing his cheekbone.

"...j's...restin..." The fists slowly uncurled and relaxed, opening fully.

"I know," Heero whispered. He closed his eyes and started composing his report to Sam while listening to his partner's gentle breathing next to his ear.

OWARI

[epilogue, part i] [back to Maldoror's fic]