see chap. 1 for notes, warnings, disclaimer
Symmetries + Chapter 1
1 Solitary Dragon.
It was a few months after I'd
started my new life. Things had been going very well. Or at least I thought
so. Sally tended to disagree but she can be a silly, over-protective woman
sometimes. So what if I didn't make any friends among the few people
we worked with. There are no rules or regulations in the Preventer codes
that say I have to be a party animal. I happen to prefer spending my free
time reading or catching up on my studies; I was idly working on a master's
degree in Asian literature in my spare time, and this took up most of
it, and quite happily. Especially since I could do it by correspondence,
which avoided classrooms and student gatherings and such. Sally got that
funny look in her eyes when I mentioned that, and I quickly invented something
to do to get away from her for awhile, which wasn't hard, we were very
busy. I didn't want her to go into mother hen mode again.
Sally was really the only person I needed to get along with, being my
partner, and it so happened that I did. It was a strange relation, and
it shouldn't have worked as well as it did; Sally tended to seesaw between
the over-protective big sister and the admiring junior colleague. I remained
consistent - I believe it's one of my qualities - in being a misanthropic
hard-assed ex- terrorist with a short temper and a habit of perfectionism
that Sally managed to admire instead of finding tiresome. She kept seeing
this as part of my whole 'Gundam Pilot' perfection thing, I think she
had just a little bit of hero-worship in her approach to our partnership.
But it allowed her to put up with some of my less...endearing qualities
(I'm not like Maxwell, I do lie when it suits me, but I try to be honest
with myself. Most of the times).
So we did some stellar work, cracked some serious cases, doused particularly
nasty fires and all in all I had some meaning to my existence, and whenever
Sally started clucking about 'making friends' or 'meeting people' or 'I
know this nice girl who-' I found something else to concentrate on until
she was finished. It was a good time.
And then she had to go ruin it all, stupid woman.
If you tied me to a rack and tortured me with red-hot irons I would probably
confess that I was happy for her. I liked the man. And he was no weakling;
he'd been the head of one of the better organized resistance factions
in China. He was tall, well-build, charismatic, he could handle hundred
of men with confidence, and swing up and fire a land-to-air missile launcher
Didn't stop him from wilting like a debutante at her first ball when I
caught him kissing Sally after our mission in Shanghai. Okay, granted,
I was giving him the down-the-nose you-are-lower-than-dirt- molecules
glare that had been known to douse even Maxwell's enthusiasm for all of
five minutes, and a lesser man would have fainted or ran away screaming.
We quickly got a few things straight - Sally was very surprised to get
a marriage proposal so soon, and I don't think she ever guessed why, but
I don't feel bad, he's a good and honourable man, it would have happened
sooner or later anyway. Of course I made sure this was right, and that
Sally was really happy about this. Then I pulled some strings and got
her the offer for a top job in the military hospital and research facility
I had no qualms while I reassured Sally I was fine; none when I walked
her down the aisle, or when I gave the guy a few last minute threats to
make sure he treated her right - I had no real doubts about it but I felt
it had to be said, and he was probably expecting it - and I was fine with
it while I watched them leave for their honeymoon then ran to pack my
bags and leave myself. I had a mission in the Burmese jungle, hunting
down weapon's traders. A tough assignment but I was feeling on top of
the world; Sally could and did take care of herself but she just wasn't
in my league. She knew exactly what to do, the risks to take and to avoid
and we worked well together, but this mission would have pushed her hard.
I was much better off doing it on my own. I was much better off on
If only Une had agreed.
I gripped the phone as if I could strangle the orders coming from the
"What?? A new partner? But I said-"
"Look Chang, I've been reviewing the mission parameters you outlined -
the ones you so artfully downplayed-"
"Uh? I didn't-"
"Oh please! Respect my intelligence, Chang! The first time I read through
this pile of hogwash you sent me it sounded like you were preparing a
vacation on a beach resort somewhere! I had to make sure I hadn't put
my hands on Sally's honeymoon plans by accident!"
"Commander I assure you -"
"Spare me. In fact that was where you messed up. You made this jungle
hunt sound so mild that I got second thoughts; the Gundam Pilots I know
don't go for such easy missions. So I reread it more carefully - very
well done, by the way, you have a future in our PR department. Which is
where you're going to end up if you continue bitching about this. I've
assigned a partner to you."
"I don't want a new partner!"
"It's only for this mission, Chang. You are not tossing the Burmese jungle
upside down trying to find a heavily guarded weapons depot on your tod,
so get over it!"
"Your partner should arrive any minute now, and I'm sure-"
I didn't hear the rest. Une understands Gundam pilots, you see. She has
several under her orders. She knows we'll follow her directives and ace
her missions but we don't fit in the whole chain of command environment.
So I'm sure the stream of Mandarin that erupted from the phone before
I slammed down the receiver didn't faze her too much. Mandarin is a great
language to swear in. Particularly when your boss has only a small grasp
I continued swearing as I swept the phone off the nightstand, a futile
gesture. Since she'd given me a direct order, I would have to go through
with it and that's all that mattered to her. She was a wise one. Une may
be an old enemy but there's no one else I'd rather work for. Could work
for, probably, with my attitude.
I felt a flash of, well, almost guilt as the buzzer to the Preventer apartment
I was currently living in rang at that point. That would be the partner.
Soon to become a snowflake in the renown Chang Wufei temper firestorm.
None of this was his - or her, ancestors preserve me- fault, but that
wasn't going to stop me from making life excruciating for the unknown
agent on the other side of that door.
I wrenched the door open and my mouth lost the biting words I was about
to deliver in a startled hiss of surprise.
We stared at each other for a few split seconds - an eternity for men
with our reflexes and fast reaction times. I think he was a bit startled
at the violence with which I had opened the door and the glare I had given
him before I recognized the messy chocolate hair and blue eyes behind
the Preventer uniform. As for me...I hadn't spoken to Heero since that
incident. The one where I almost killed him. Yes, that one. I hadn't seen
him since. For a second there, an old set of emotions resurfaced, and
I completely forgot about Burma, partners, Preventers and missions and
just wondered if he'd finally found the time in his busy schedule to come
and kill me.
"Chang?" Well, no, not quite a question, but a greeting with a 'I'm not
here to fight but if you start something I'll damn well finish it, and
you are aware of that, right?' sort of nuance to it.
"...Yuy." I said, digging well into my reserves of 'cold, disdainful bastard'
to try not to appear too much of an idiot in front of this man for whom,
to be honest, I had very, very mixed emotions, ones I'd avoided as carefully
as I'd avoided Heero himself.
"Come in, please." I added with the politeness ingrained into me as the
heir to a now-deceased clan. That cold courtesy and the arrogance that
goes with it come easily to me. It's something I use when I'm uncertain
about things. I don't do 'uncertain'. I detest the feeling.
Heero walked in slowly, those piercing blue eyes on me as if still not
entirely sure of his welcome. I winced internally - not a twitch on my
face of course - as I realized my bloody temper had put me at fault with
someone I'd rather not offend.
"Sorry for- " I gestured abruptly at the door. "I was expecting-"
Then I finally registered the uniform, the duffel-bag, the walking boots,
the knap-sack with tent and sleeping bag on his back. As Maxwell would
I closed the door carefully while I organized my thoughts rapidly, trying
to appear calm and collected.
"I was expecting someone else. Never mind. So, you're to be my partner
for this mission?"
"Hai. Is that alright?"
I tried not to gape at the man. Is that alright? Let me think. The Preventers
are still a very new organisation; most of its recruits are fresh out
of the academy, which makes them three to five years older than I am,
which takes some adjusting to on both sides let me tell you. My mind went
back to the first and last partner that Une had assigned me when Sally
had traitorously decided to take a -pah!- holiday. Name was Anderson.
Peterson. Jackson? -Son something. Which was appropriate, his only accomplishment
to date had been being born, as far as I can tell. The reason I don't
remember his name -my memory is normally excellent- is because I made
him cry and call in sick two hours after we started working together.
So who would I prefer to take on this mission, a bumbling incompetent
half-witted desk-jockey of a Preventer fresh out of the academy or the
perfect soldier, the only man in the Earth Sphere and space who can match
me point for point, and maybe even outclass me on a few. Hmm let me think.
Since I am who I am, I didn't actually say all this out loud. Instead
I said: "It will have to do."
Maybe Sally is right. Maybe I should work on my people skills a bit...but
then again, this was Heero Yuy, and that's maybe the one point where I
do outclass him. Which is a scary thought, by the way. So he took what
I said at face value, nodded and sat down, sweeping books and magazines
from the coffee table to lay out maps and the ever-present laptop, to
start getting on with the mission already!
Heero Yuy was all about efficiency. I wasn't surprised to find myself
in a chopper an hour later, and on the first lap of our journey half a
day after that. It was great, I hardly had to take care of a thing. Yuy
was an even greater perfectionist than I was - I felt a momentary regret
Sally wasn't with us, so she could appreciate the fact I had shown some
restraint with her- and there was just nothing for me to correct or fix.
Soon, we found ourselves sitting in front of our tent and a small fire;
the night quickly fell over the jungle like the sun had been shot out
of the sky.
We had hardly exchanged a word in the last twenty-four hours, apart from
essential mission details. Another refreshing change. But there was something
about the humid night, the darkness of the jungle around us, the industrial-strength
insect noises echoing from the underbrush, which made the mood strangely
"I could have done this mission by myself." I said, just to establish
the fact at the outset.
"Hn." It was an agreement. He poked the fire and added: "Thank you for
letting me team up with you."
I leaned back on one hand and let the other discreetly pinch the tender
part of my sides. No, I wasn't dreaming. I was really sitting in a Burmese
jungle with Heero Yuy, the man I'd nearly killed, thanking me for 'letting'
him come with me. Maybe I was coming down with malaria...
"I should be thanking you." I muttered, the shock shaking the words loose.
"Who knows what Une would have partnered me with otherwise."
"Hn." I pinched myself again, but yes, that had been the ghost of a smile
that flashed across his firm lips. I didn't think he knew what those muscles
were for. "You don't want to know. Fortunately Une asked for my opinion
on this assignment - you write a very interesting mission outline, by
I waved away a mosquito to hide the fact I'd winced.
"I suggested to Commander Une that I partner you for the mission, once
she realized it wasn't going to be quite as easy as your outline indicated."
Heero added calmly.
My side was getting quite sore with all the pinching. Heero had wanted
to be my partner? Well, either he really had forgiven me for the Mariameia
mess or he was waiting to get further out into the jungle to better bury
the body. Probably the former.
"How about Maxwell?"
I cursed myself before the words were even fully out of my mouth. That
was the last question I wanted to ask.
Winner insisted on keeping me updated on the lives of all the Gundam pilots
and their friends. He always cc-ed Sally on those e-mails, since she was
one of those friends, so I couldn't just delete the things when I saw
them appear in my mailbox. Sally would be reviewing all the gossip with
me whether I wanted to or not and she'd go into major mother-hen mode
if she knew I wasn't really interested in Winner's little resumés.
So I knew that Heero had given up his job as Relena's protector once her
security system was up to the task, and had joined the Preventers with
Maxwell as his partner, though the later was freelance and only worked
occasionally. I also knew that he and Maxwell were living together. I'd
reread that e-mail until I could recite it in my sleep, that was how surprising
that news was. I mean there just weren't greater opposites than the perfect
soldier and the perfect charmer. I found it hard to believe they could
work together - though they'd been a formidable team during the war. I
could scarcely give credence to the mind-blowing news that they were living
together and hadn't yet killed one another. And of course, going as far
as believing what Sally read in between the lines - she laughed and joked
about it for weeks afterwards and each time I felt as if the universe
had turned upside down like a gigantic snow globe, setting the stars swirling
around me. Still, as Sally said, opposites do attract. After awhile I
had to reluctantly agree she was probably right, and that it even made
I didn't disapprove. I mean, if they could make it work then no problem.
I had no issues with same-sex relations. In fact, sometimes, I wondered,
well, especially when Sally was trying to set me up with one of her 'I
know this girl' friends, but mind you those occasions were pretty disastrous
so it probably didn't count, so I couldn't really say if I was - forget
I mentioned it.
I didn't mind but never in a thousand years did I want to hear any details
about any of this! I didn't want to get involved in anyone's personal
lives, particularly Heero's. Or Maxwell's. That...well, I just didn't
"He's your partner." I said, quickly, as Heero lifted an eyebrow at my
remark. "What's he doing while you're with me?" That hadn't come out right.
At all. Fortunately Heero wasn't one to pick up on things like that.
"Duo only works part-time with the Preventers." He said quietly. He's
always quiet, calm, precise. It...soothes me, in some way I can hardly
describe or admit to. "The rest of the time he spends with his friends
- he helps out Hilde a lot - or he just..." He hesitated, trying to explain
something that had to be totally foreign to him. "He just bums around,
I think he calls it."
"Sounds like him." I sniffed.
There was that minute flash of a smile again. It was...rueful and almost
tender. And it stirred such strange, unexpected and conflicting emotions
in me that I stood up abruptly, grabbing our empty bowls and muttering
something about washing up. I took two steps away - away from surprised
blue eyes, away from the moment of openness we'd unexpectedly started
to share - and then every biting, scratching, stinging thing on earth
decided to rise out of the undergrowth and find out what we tasted like.
"Do it tomorrow!" Heero barked, his old war-time manners coming back to
the fore in the face of enemy attack. "Let's get in the tent."
Inside the tent and the netting, his body was way too close to mine for
comfort, which was strange. We'd never shared a bed during the war like
he did with Maxwell - in fact I always slept alone- but we'd shared small
spaces aboard Peacemillion and in safe-houses before. It had never bothered
me before. I hadn't shot him down before either.
I could tell from his breathing that he was not asleep. He was on his
back, and I was on my side, turned away from him, almost stuffed into
the canvas of the tent to put some distance between us.
"I...never said anything, but...I'm sorr-"
A hand on my shoulder had about the same affect as a cattle-prod. He pretended
not to notice my reaction, he just said: "I know, Wufei." I noted the
use of my first name automatically. "I..."
In that hesitation, I heard how confused he himself had been by that war
which should have been so simple. How torn he was, to discover that beneath
the weapon meant for mass-destruction was a young teen who didn't want
to kill. How he himself had not been sure of what peace was or meant,
how can the ultimate instrument of war know what peace even is?
The slight pressure from his fingers on my shoulder said it. I knew he
understood why I'd done what I'd done and that forgiveness wasn't even
necessary. But that if I wanted it, it was mine.
"I know." Was all he said, repeating himself. No other words were needed.
I felt absolved and strangely humbled. Two more feelings that I do not
deal with well. But in the humid darkness of the jungle and the intimacy
of the close quarters I was able to accept them as I would not have been
able to anywhere else, under any other circumstances. I hesitated, trying
to find something to say, anything, but words were pitifully inadequate
for what needed to be expressed. Finally I simply brushed my fingers against
his as they remained lightly on my shoulder, acknowledgement and apology
and gratitude and closure all at once. The fingers squeezed my shoulder
again and left it, and I heard him shift and settle and then drop off
to sleep as if chloroformed. Lucky bastard. I sighed silently and settled
myself to try to sleep a little, a feeling of solace, of ease with this
man helping me centre myself and find a haven of calm into which I slipped
The next ten days were the best and the worst I'd had since the war. The
best because I was at the peak, I was doing what I did best with the one
man more than able to keep up with me. We hunted down those gun-runners
through the logging roads and hunting trails of that jungle like tigers
tracking deer. We found their hide-out and took them down with almost
condescending ease. Yuy was fantastic. He was so good he didn't even have
to kill any of them - I think he would have if he'd had to, but I knew
he was trying to avoid killing from now on, and I respected that. With
his show of excellence, I damn well had to! The looks on their faces when
they realized that they'd been sent down for the count by two teenagers.
But the very perfection of the partnership only reminded me that this
was a temporary thing. Heero never said anything but I knew very well
that he would be leaving to go back to the L2 branch of the Preventers,
back to Duo, when this was over. In a way I was glad - I am a solitary
dragon by nature, and work just as well by myself as with others, even
with this monument of perfection and efficiency. I knew that. So I was
hard put to explain why I felt so...hollow at the thought of being on
my own again soon. Not on my own, that wasn't the problem. Without Heero
"It's just a bruise." Calm voice, so...restful, but strong. A rampart,
a fort against the tempests of life. His hands on my back made my skin
tingle - the adrenaline from the battle was still making me twitchy I
thought to myself defensively.
"I was careless." I bit out, reaching for my shirt, trying to distract
myself with self-directed anger.
"I hardly call that careless. You took all five of them down without unnecessary
bloodshed or using your gun, that was very impressive."
I snorted, not wanting to let go of my self-flagellation. Especially since
he was pressing my bare shoulders with his hands, as if trying to reassure
me that- when was that bloody chopper coming to get us out of here already!
Maybe Sally was right. Maybe I needed to get out more. Yes, right after
I needed a major frontal lobotomy. No, what I needed was to get laid,
to put it crudely. I was really in need of that if I was starting to entertain
thoughts I could barely begin to admit to about Heero Yuy. Sally was a
smart woman, and a good doctor. She probably knew what effect abstinence
could have on someone my age in my dangerous profession. It was obvious
a mental breakdown was just around the corner. Maybe that was why she
was always trying to set me up. I'd never been interested before, really.
Women...anything weak just made me want to cringe, as if avoiding contamination.
Sally kept assuring me it was just a case of 'finding the right girl',
and who knows, maybe she was right. One thing I was pretty damn sure of,
the 'right girl' was not Heero Yuy.
I was almost glad the mission was ending, even if our partnership had
been the most stimulating thing that had happened to me in awhile. Because
I was horrified beyond words that he might guess some of the insane notions
that were flitting through my mind. Heero wasn't an empath like Quatre,
but he could read body language to perfection. Not that I was drooling
or anything, actually I avoided all forms of physical contact as much
as possible. But when I did so I still caught the occasional look, eye
contact that went on a fraction longer than was normal, that I could just
not explain...if he guessed the kind of thoughts going through my mind
-at a dead run and without daring to linger lest I shoot them on sight-
I would have had no other option than suicide. I kept that firmly in mind
during the days of sharing a tent, bathing in leech-infested waters, treating
each others mosquito bites and scratches.
The chopper finally arrived, we evacuated, the partnership ended. I drove
him to the shuttle-port, we shook hands without a word, two warriors content
in the success of our mission. I thought I was doing well until I caught
the look again, just as he was turning away.
I swung around, breaking the eye contact before he could see the feelings
I was trying to deny. I didn't need a partner. Sure Heero was perfect.
Sure he brought out the best in me. Sure he made me feel strong, invulnerable,
safe by his side. But I could manage just as well on my own. I didn't
need him. Didn't need a friend. Didn't need...
I caught a last glimpse of him in the reflection of a window as he boarded
the shuttle behind me. Straight, walking slowly but surely, as if nothing
in the world could make him hesitate, or doubt, or fear. Everybody else
faded to pale shadows next to him.
I found myself thinking, 'Duo Maxwell is a lucky man'.
I spent the whole afternoon punching my way through as many katas as I
could manage before collapsing in a near coma to erase the existence of
that thought from the universe.
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