Author: Maldoror
see chap. 1 for notes, warnings, disclaimer

Beautiful Symmetries + Chapter 3
3's a crowd.

I already said I don't do 'uncertain'. Or 'confused'. I can do a very good 'depressed' but I prefer 'angry' and 'dogged' and 'bloody stubborn'.

So I didn't even think of either of them for a good month after that mission with Duo and I could have very well lived my entire life, filled with solo missions and forms in triplicate and an empty, sterile apartment, without thinking about them.

It was that blasted Une again.

"I know you prefer to work alone, Chang, but Barton is still busy, and, well, you got on so well with both of them on those last two missions it just seems perfect. I can just imagine what the three of you can get up to together!"

Three of us together. Me working with Duo and Heero, Heero and Duo. Why don't you just run me over with a Gundam a few times, then sit on the remains...

I felt that way because...because it was going to be embarrassing, being a third wheel. Right, that was why I didn't want to do this.

Unfortunately that wasn't going to carry much weight with my superior officer and I couldn't think of any other reason to refuse at that point, with my mind running around in circles and my heart feeling like it was being slowly pushed through a sieve, so twenty four hours later I was arriving at the L2 shuttle-port wondering why my ancestors had decided to hate me.

"Wufee!" Damn it if my heart didn't manage to jump a little at that, although it was probably the fact he'd shouted it a second before I saw him and two seconds before he gave me a Duo-patented flying- tackle-hug.

"Super to see you again!" He turned and tugged me towards the exit and I saw Heero waiting there, and there was a small smile on his face and in his eyes as he looked at me and my heart jumped again- and I knew exactly why my heart was jumping this time - what the hell was Maxwell doing?!

"Oops sorry!" He'd felt me stiffen in alarm as I realized he was dragging me towards the exit with an arm slipped around my waist. "I forgot you're not into heavy touching." He winked at me, though he seemed suddenly flushed.

Into heavy- no I wasn't! Well, it wasn't that I minded- no I wasn't! Particularly when his boyfriend - who could break my bones like they were made of glass - was looking at us both in surprise!

"Heero." I said, trying to keep my voice level. For some reason I didn't even think to say 'Yuy', and I didn't notice my slip until he nodded and said: "Wufei."

"How nice, we're all on first name terms now!" Duo smirked and I flushed, not knowing what to say. Heero just turned and walked in silence towards the car.

The ride back from the airport was pretty much as I expected. Heero drove in silence, mesmerizing blue eyes intent on the road, serious but radiating calm, soothing quiet. Duo twisted in the passenger seat to grin and chat with me, cheerful, friendly and witty. And I skulked in the back seat wishing Treize hadn't been such a selfish bastard who couldn't even be bothered to take a proper swing at me before kicking the bucket.

Their place was quite big so I couldn't pretend I was imposing and retreat to a hotel. I was stuck.

The house was standard, a modern, unassuming design, more than sufficient for two young men who were frequently away as it was. The furniture which had come with the house was neutral and bland. The touches of personality were few, but evocative. A huge sound system and violent-looking CDs, colourful books and magazines, sports equipment, Japanese books and unidentifiable engine parts.

"I'll get the couch ready for you!" Duo grabbed me by the hand and dragged me off to one side of the big living room and kitchenette - the only rooms on the ground floor were a bathroom and the small study where Heero's laptop reigned supreme. The couch unfolded into quite a big bed, and comfortable enough. It was pushed out of the way so I wouldn't be bothered by the others walking to and fro in the apartment. The only thing near the bed was a small dresser where I could put my clothes. On it there was a photograph of the five of us, taken aboard Peacemillion shortly before Heero left to rescue Relena. Quatre and Trowa were standing side by side, Heero was ramrod straight at the centre of the photo, Duo was leaning against his shoulder casually with a cheeky grin, I was far off to the side and turning away to leave and take care of Nataku.

"That's my room upstairs, and Heero's is the other one across the hallway."

I was so lost in the photo and the memories and the taste of past bitterness that it took a few seconds to register. Separate...bedrooms?

Well why not? They both had busy lives, and only occasionally followed the same routines. I knew married couples in the Preventers who had similar living arrangements.

We had dinner right away. Duo had cooked some casserole thing which only needed reheating, and which was quite palatable, though its contents could only have been identified through forensics. I relaxed infinitesimally during dinner. I'd been around Sally and her boyfriend during their -very short- courtship and it had been rather sickening, at least as far as Sally was concerned; cooing and trying to feed him with her chopsticks - for some reason he always seemed restrained not to say nervous when I was around, but I got enough of her display to put me off my food. I'd been dreading the same exhibition from my two friends. Nothing of the sort, we sat on three separate sides of the table, and they acted, well, pretty much like friends with each other. Although it was hard to say; to my embarrassment they seemed mainly concentrated on me. Duo quickly resumed our play-sparring, and also asked me tons of questions about my last few assignments and what I'd been doing and who I'd been 'hanging with'. Heero said little but he looked interested, smiled at our verbal duelling and occasionally asked intelligent and challenging questions about my solo missions which I was pleased to answer.

Then we talked about the mission - the timelines had been revised, it was going to start the next afternoon - and I relaxed further. This was alright. This was fine! I didn't feel embarrassed or like I was intruding. They showed considerable restraint - probably Heero's influence - with each other to avoid making me feel ill at ease. And they made me feel very welcome - that would be Duo's doing - and part of the team. These were my friends. It would be fine.

As we got into the details of the mission I realized that they didn't need any open displays of affection. The way they worked and acted and thought together said more than three volumes of poetry about their relation. They complemented each others strong points perfectly, and they went together like clockwork; finishing each others sentences, communicating with a glance, splitting the work so swiftly and neatly I almost didn't realize they'd left me with hardly anything to do. They both seemed reluctant to let me take anything more than minor risks, which was strange and rather annoying. Once I put my foot down - and we determined that the perfect soldier and the god of death were no match for a stubborn dragon - the plans were redrawn more equitably.

Heero and Duo together were a formidable team. They'd done a thorough job gathering all the evidence they needed to put away the heads of a weapons factory, but they still had to bust the place itself. I was suddenly glad that Une had come up with the idea of sending me with them, even though I felt like an intruder in their harmonious partnership. The assignment was tough. There would be Preventer agents going in the front door, but to avoid loss of life, Une wanted the three of us to infiltrate the base from the back and attack their defences from the inside. Like we were taking down an OZ base, although without as many explosions (we made sure Duo understood this, and he made a show of looking pouty and disappointed but we knew he was perfectly serious about the job). It was a big base, heavily guarded, and we weren't quite ready to die for our missions anymore, so I was glad to be with them, to make sure nothing happened to either of them. With an efficient soldier like Heero and a master of stealth like Duo I might be redundant but you can never have too many friendly eyes at your back.

And it was quite the fight. Heero and Duo did their magic, infiltrating inviolable rooms, hacking systems, causing chaos and confusion. But there were a lot of guards, and they had quick trigger fingers. It got a bit messy at the end; I watched both their backs, but I had to work at it.

Duo's back was turned as he desperately tried to hack the program keeping the safety doors closed. The man who'd appeared silently behind him was aiming at the braided head at point blank range and I knew that even if I shot him his weapon would fire- I didn't hesitate, I barrelled full into him, even though I couldn't capture the gun from that angle and insure my own safety. My elbow found his throat and he choked, swinging his gun towards me - I fired at the same time, the noise like a crack in the universe as his weapon discharged very near my ear.

An explosion of blood, a lot of it getting on my uniform- I wrenched myself from the body to make sure his stray shot hadn't hit Duo who had spun around, face white as he stared at me, horrified.

"Wufei are you okay?!" His eyes flickered on me but his attention and his drawn gun remained on the still figure at my feet.

"Fine."

"You sure?" He approached me and finally looked me over carefully. I actually had some flesh-wounds from shrapnel, but I decided to say nothing; he looked...Duo didn't like it when anyone in his 'family' was hurt, I remembered. I'd always sneered and considered it a weakness before. Now I felt my heart quiver at the look in those eyes and I lied with all I was worth.

"I'm fine. The blood is his." Well, most of it was. "Is the door open? You were going to go and guide in the troops, right?"

"Yes." He hesitated, eyes searching mine. Then the smile flitted across his face. The warmth dispelled the cold of shock I'd felt seeing that gun pointing at his head. "Wait around here, right? I'll- we'll head home and shower afterwards. I'll scrub your back if you scrub mine!" He did the wink thing again, it almost made a joke of the fact that we were both splattered with blood. How does he do it...?

He vanished like a puff of smoke, silent, invisible. I went back to the computer room to wait for reinforcements and make sure Heero wasn't similarly ambushed as he hacked the enemy's system, downloaded the evidence and ran interference to let our men through.

Finally Preventers started to run through the rooms, securing them.

"There are still some pockets of resistance, sir." A cadet came up, saluting me -he was at least two years older than I was - before nodding towards the door. "Is agent Yuy still working in there?"

"I'll check. Guard the door."

I walked in. From the lack of tension in Heero's strong shoulders as he sat in front of the monitors I could tell he'd finished.

"Just me." I said prudently, to avoid getting shot.

"I know, I heard you through the door...watching my back." His voice was calm, but there was something in it that made my heart thrum...I dismissed it as he turned, probably my imagination.

"Are they - Wufei!?"

Heero had shot out of his chair as he caught sight of me. Duo had actually managed to make me forget that I was half covered in blood.

I glanced up from my sticky uniform and tainted skin as a strong arm grasped my shoulder, eyes and other hand quickly checked me over.

"I'm fine, I'm fine!" I snapped, with my usual charm. "Someone else's blood."

Heero glared as he found the shrapnel holes in my clothes, leading to the small rips in the skin beneath, in my left arm and down one side.

"Flesh wounds." I said, mulishly.

Heero almost smiled. "That's my line." He said gently, and I thought, he's been living with Duo too long if he can come up with a joke like that, however lame.

"Well, I'll go check the perimeter." Heero said, and suddenly glared. "And you go and get these checked out. They'll need stitches if you want them to heal properly." A slight smile indicated he wasn't suggesting I couldn't take care of myself.

"I'm fine." I repeated. And I was thinking...Duo is good for him, he never used to be able to laugh and smile like that before. Why did that thought hurt me? It was a good thing. I no longer knew what to think. I was tired, I was sore, I wanted to go home, back to my empty apartment, my solo missions, my predictable, simple life. "I'll see if I can catch a shuttle back to Earth today, it's not too late. I can swing by your place and-"

"You're leaving?" Heero stared at me. "So soon?"

"Do you need me for the report?" I asked, surprised, and a bit uneasy; I suddenly thought it would be a good idea to leave as quickly as possible, especially as part of me rather didn't want to. "Or do you need me for cleanup operations?"

"I- " He hesitated. He still had his hands on my shoulders, I noticed. "I need you for- I-"

He wrenched me forward and crushed his lips into mine.

What-

What the hell was going on??

What had come over Heero? This was wrong! I had to stop this!

That's what I was thinking, while my arms were twining around his neck, my lips were moving against his, my body clinging to the rock that was Heero.

"No!" I suddenly shouted as I pulled back, coming to my senses just as I was about to lose them entirely.

What I saw in his eyes - there are no words for that, the emotion there. I knew...he didn't say anything, he didn't need to. I knew.

I wrenched away from him and staggered to the door. I bowled over the cadet dutifully guarding it, and managed to get out into the corridor as Heero reached it.

"Wufei wait!"

I ran on. I saw people approaching, fellow Preventers, I felt more than saw one of them motion towards Heero; knew that whatever he wanted to do, say to me, whatever was in those eyes, he'd be stuck here for awhile, to finish the mission. I had to get the hell out of here before he was done.

I snagged a patrol car about to return to the city, had them drop me off at a taxi station at the edge of town, made it back to the house. I used the key they'd entrusted to me - had to remember to leave that here when I left - and staggered to the bed to get my duffel bag. I just wanted to get out of there, but the wild looks the taxi driver had given me reminded me I wouldn't get far without a shower. So I quickly rinsed off, washed my hair, changed into civvies, nearly ran back to the dresser, stuffed my things into my bag, closed it with a final sad metallic click-

"What- what are you doing?"

I spun with a horrified gasp, I'd heard nothing. Of all the people I didn't want to see right now, he was the second on my list.

"D-Duo."

Wide eyes on my bag. "You're leaving? What's wrong? You look upset."

"Nothing." My mask slipped back on so easily, and Duo looked uncertain. "I have to get back, I have something to do tomorrow on Earth."

"You do?" Duo looked intensely disappointed, he'd been chatting yesterday about all the fun things we could do on L2 once the mission was finished. "You sure you have to?"

"Very sure." I ground out. And regretted it when I saw the flash of pain in his eyes. Damn, as if I hadn't hurt him enough this evening - and how that hell had that happened.

The guilt was eating away at me. I couldn't imagine why Heero had thought - but I couldn't actually swear I hadn't led him on, hadn't caused this, since deep down I knew that I had wanted those strong arms and hard lips on me since I'd seen him again, and maybe before that too.

I found Duo barring my progress across the living room to the exit.

"Duo, I have to-"

"Well even if you're running out now, we did put you up for a night! Right?" The jester's smile was brittle, his eyes were wide and full of pain, more than my mere departure could generate. I felt a moment of panic, did he know what had happened - ?

"Yes, yes you did, thanks for -"

"I'd say you owe me a little favour?"

"Duo, I can't stay-" I shuddered.

"All I ask is that you don't kill me in the next five minutes."

"Don't-...what?" I stared at him as he took my bag from my hands, dropped it behind him, turned towards me, stepped right up to me and caressed my lips with his own.

I should have gone rigid - with shock if nothing else - but the warm body against mine felt so...vulnerable right then; even though my mind was telling me this was a deadly killer, the god of death no less...the way he moulded his body to mine made my arms reach out and enfold him gently of their own volition, and his lips were soft and warm against mine, almost shy-

I practically screamed as I wrenched away from him and staggered back.

"Wh-" I was speechless.

"Sorry." He whispered, a small smile on his face. "I guess that wasn't fair but I thought it would be nice to know if you were straight or not before I ripped my heart out and shoved it at you."

"Heart?! Straight?! What?!" I think I said.

"I love you, Chang Wufei. Loved you since the war, practically from the minute I saw you. I...always hoped that one day you'd be able to give me a chance, that you'd get over all the horrible things they'd done to you, all that you'd lost...Maybe I was wrong." Eyes full of warmth and pain wrenched me to my soul.

"Are you both insane?!" The cry ripped itself out of me with liberating force, and Duo staggered back, eyes wide with alarm. "What's with you and Heero?! You two are together, why-"

"What? Me and Heero?" He blinked several times and that's when I knew, before he had to say another word. "Man, is that what you - oh, I can see why you're freaking out. No, Heero 'n me are just best friends."

"But you live together." The last protest before the insanity swallowed me whole.

"Er, yeah, we're room-mates. That's all." He looked puzzled, but then hope crept onto his face like dawn over the horizon. "Yeah, no stress, buddy, we're just friends. Is that why you reacted like that? Don't worry about Heero - " I winced at the name. Just friends. Oh gods. " - there's...just you." He gave me a smile, much more timid than his usual one.

I felt like I was in Nataku's cold embrace again, sinking to the bottom of the ocean after Treize had knocked all my illusions out from under me and shown me what I really was.

I spent the weeks after that trauma sulking and brooding and generally running away from the issues.

It'd worked once before, right?

I did my best not to hurt him, but when I brushed past him he still sank down to his knees as if I'd struck him full-force. I dared not look back though, I couldn't. I bolted towards the door and ran right into a solid wall of steel muscles.

"Wufei?!" Oh great, the other person I didn't want to see ever again, even in my next reincarnation.

I tried to brush past him too, as he barred the way out, but I might as well try to bowl over a Gundam. The hands on my shoulders were firm, and managed to keep me still even without hurting me. The only way I was going to get out was with a fight, and even then the odds were not in my favour.

"What are you-...Duo?!"

The hands vanished from my shoulders and he pushed past me to rush towards Duo, still sitting, hurt and - my soul twisted in me as I allowed myself one glance back- tears in his eyes.

Heero was at his side and the strong hands were on Duo's shoulders and the wide, tear-filled eyes were raised towards cobalt blue. The sight encased me in ice, cutting me to the bone. What they shared - not love, but a great friendship nonetheless - was real, and pure and I-...and I-...

I straightened and twanged like a bow and shouted at the top of my lungs:

"That's what counts! You're not supposed to - to lo-...not me! Stop being stupid and don't do this to yourselves!"

I bolted out the door as I saw them gape at me - Duo looked thunderstruck but Heero might try to catch me. I thought I heard him shout my name but I was already out the door and into the street. No footsteps followed me. Good, perfect, he was staying with Duo. Friendship would hopefully prove stronger than some silly infatuation. At least I hoped so.

I pounded randomly through the streets, though I didn't think they'd try to follow me now. They must be busy explaining things to one another. I was ready to bet neither had known of the other's feelings towards me. Which meant I'd just run out on my friends after potentially ruining their partnership. What if they didn't realize that I was nothing worth arguing over? What if this stupidity really ruined things between them? Why was I running away like a weak coward when I should have made certain that they were working things out and that they knew they didn't really love me and I didn't love them and that-

I stopped. I sat down on a stone bench at the edge of a small run- down park. Right on cue it started raining. L2 weather maintenance at its best. The rain washed over me - if you could call it that, it was more a continuous leak in the climate control systems, letting rivulets of very cold water cascade down on unprotected fools in the dead of night.

I was running away from the truth because it was too hard for me to admit, at least while I was looking at them.

The truth was, part of me had been overjoyed to find that my two good friends were not a happy couple after all, and for a second or so I had not even cared that their friendship could be at risk over this.

The truth was, I was lonely, and I wanted someone.

And the truth, the heart of the matter, the reason why I was now trying to shove them away and get them to forget me and resume my lonely life despite this was because...there was no way in hell that I could choose between them. And that would destroy all three of us.

What a low-down, weak, cowardly rat I was. I'd consistently lied to myself for ages. I had denied my feelings towards the both of them on the excuse that they were involved, and boy had I leapt on to that statement without any attempt to verify it or talk it over with them. No, I'd assumed it, and then, instead of squashing my feelings, I had allowed myself to stupidly fall in love with both, under the cover of this supposed relation they shared and that left me safely excluded, to feed whatever sick fantasies I wanted to, knowing full well nothing could come of it.

But they weren't together...and they both loved me...and I...I loved them both. That was so wrong of me I couldn't even begin to think about it.

Damn you Treize...How come I'm always my own worst enemy in the end? Who will do me the favour of shooting me? Please?

The wail of siren and the snap of voices behind me might have been the answer to my prayers if I'd been a bit less numb with cold. I realized I had been sitting for a good amount of time in shirt- sleeves - bloodied shirt-sleeves, my wounds were bleeding again from the run- washed down with cold water like the rat I was, with my gun fully visible in its shoulder holster. That and the blood was what was eliciting a good deal of interest, not the fact that I was a miserable, dishonourable dog who ruined everything he touched, which should have been a much better reason for shooting me.

Once they relieved me of my gun - I was too numb with cold to resist, unfortunately- they asked me my name.

I suggested they go fuck themselves as creatively as their limited intellects allowed them to.

Not the best way to endear yourself to the local law enforcement agency.

They dragged me off to the station where they slapped a field dressing on my wounds before starting to ask me some serious questions. I was in a particularly bad mood, and I wasn't very helpful, and I'd left my bag, my jacket and all my ID back at- Then I began to feel dizzy, and they stopped pushing me around long enough to run my fingerprints through their database and come up with an answer from the Preventer files. I was feeling so tired and numb at that point - it was nearing three in the morning - that I didn't react as one of them called the local branch. One of the policemen thought there was some kind of major trick afoot - a young, uncooperative, bedraggled teen did not make a likely Preventer - and was giving me the first degree. I ignored him, sunk in despondency - next to OZ interrogators the man was a joke. I felt only a sense of inevitable catastrophe as Heero and Duo barged in to the room.

They stared at me and I could imagine what they saw - the proud dragon looking like a drowned rat, bloodied shirt partly cut away, almost blue with cold and swaying with fatigue that was far from physical. The cop was in the act of shaking me when they walked in, and he didn't look impressed at being faced with two more teenagers.

Until Shinigami made an appearance.

The cop manhandling me wilted like a flower under a sudden hailstorm. Heero put a practiced soothing hand on his partner's arm before he did something terminal. He'd not even had to look at Duo. It was the easy, instinctive partnership and friendship they'd shown towards one another during the war and afterwards, the one that had always excluded me. Why...why had they said they were in love with me? Right at that moment it seemed like a cruel joke, I didn't see how anybody would even want to be my friend.

Heero quickly pulled his badge and did all the official stuff. Duo smiled like a death sentence behind him, expediting matters considerably. I just sat there like an idiot, a buzzing in my ears blotting out most of the conversation.

Watching them.

It looked like the solid friendship that linked them was still intact, their partnership was still strong.

I had been wrong to run. That was a dishonourable thing. I knew what I needed to do, I needed to make things right.

And watching them, I knew how. It was pretty damn obvious.

I followed them in silence back to the car. I said nothing on the way back, even when Duo tried to draw me out. I had a lot of practice ignoring those friendly blue eyes during the war. I did not respond to either of them as I went to take a shower - I was never going to be warm again, but that didn't matter - and went to bed. Duo looked like he was about to say something but Heero shook his head, grabbed him by the hand and dragged him upstairs towards their rooms. Heero knew what a nasty creature a grumpy dragon could be. I watched them through closed lashes as I pretended to sleep without even thanking them for taking me back into their home I'd invaded. My eyes followed them as they went up the stairs hand in hand.

Perfect.

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