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

AN: Thanks for all the reviews. Glad you're all enjoying this weird little piece of fun.

A recap of the five rules elaborated during the previous chapter, just as a reminder:
1 - Talk about any problems.
2- No more self-sacrifices, try to make it work for all three
3- Don't worry about weighing out affections mathematically
4- Make sure to get some 1+5, 2+5 time but also 1+2, and 1+2+5 time too!
5- The boys wouldnít tell me what this rule is but I think it may have something to do with sex...

Beautiful Symmetries + Chapter 6
6 Degrees Of Separation

We ended up sleeping together again. It wasn't anything sexual - I think we were several months away from needing a rule number five - but it certainly made me feel loved. I was in danger of losing my hard-won edge of cynicism and irritability, waking up two days in a row with the men I loved curled up on either side of me.

The evening before had been short. They had come back home late with some mediocre take-out - Heero had apparently never developed taste-buds during his training and Duo could eat anything - and they were tired from the more tedious aspect of the weapons-manufacture case. It was something we'd gotten used to during our time with Preventers. It occasionally made us long for the days when we could blow things up without having to fill in a form in triplicate, but we were wise enough to realize why our society now wanted to keep track of us, so we accepted it. The price of peace, I guess.

So we had a quick supper then we went for a run. We showered and ended up in sweatpants and t-shirts on my bed, talking. I think it was supposed to be about 'us', maybe elaborate a little on Duo's rules; but the conversation never got there. It started with the last time the three of us had been alone, just as a reference - locked up and handcuffed in an OZ cell on the lunar base, some reference! - but that lead us off on a tangent of war-time memories and we lingered over old friends and enemies, living and dead. We were seventeen and we were old war-horses already. It amused and saddened me in turn, but I think I was the only one to reflect on that. Neither of my two...- boyfriends, dammit! One of these days I'd get used to it. Neither of my two boyfriends were the kind to wax philosophical. We didn't talk about us but in a way that was what we were doing. Remembering who we were and how we used to work together.

We fell asleep in a pile on the covers. One of us - probably Heero - woke up and rearranged us a little better, and drew the blankets around us carefully. And we woke up that way in the morning, and I was already feeling less embarrassed and worried about this. I was apparently more adaptable than I'd thought.

We had a quick breakfast and I put on Heero's freshly pressed spare uniform, much to Duo's disapproval. But I'd had quite enough of staying at home. Duo was very stubborn but I could still give him lessons in that respect. We ended up driving to work together, with me in the backseat, studiously ignoring the old man walking his dog again, and looking at us pulling out of the garage optimistically, hoping for another show. This love thing...it was like brain-fever. But I firmly resolved - ignoring the curious googly eyes of the man and the mutt - to do nothing today at work that was remotely as foolish or revealing as I had yesterday. I had an image to maintain. Besides, there was one rule that was so fundamental that it hadn't even needed a number from Duo: this was our own private business. We would tell the privileged few of our friends when we were good and ready and the rest of the world could rot in blind ignorance for all we cared.

Good plan.

I hadn't realized how hard it would be to put into effect though. This was the first time we'd been out in public since we'd gotten together. I was sitting at a spare desk, drinking some very bad tea, and my eyes were hopelessly glued to one or the other of the two. To my utter confusion, I found myself missing all the little touches and pets we had been sharing at home (not to mention the kissing and the play-fighting and the sleeping together but that would be hard to accomplish in the middle of a busy office). I hadn't realized how much we'd been touching these last two days. Little gestures; hands on shoulders, on hips, leaning back to back, a poke in the ribs, a quick brush of hips or hands while cooking or cleaning up. It was that love thing again! Before this fever burned out my brain, I had been as tactile and affectionate as a cactus, a grouchy one at that. Now I was in an office full of strangers looking at me curiously and all I could think about was how I wanted to put my arm around Heero's waist while I was reading over his shoulder, or grab Duo by the braid and drag him away from that flirtatious field agent.

It was almost a relief when the sour-faced assistant dumped three tonnes of assorted paper-work into my temporary In tray. She looked at me over her purple-rimmed glasses and told me she had more for me as soon as I'd finished with those, and that she'd appreciate them back before she left that evening, she would be going at four because she had an appointment with her chiropractor, apparently one of her vertebrae wasn't aligned properly.

I gave her the look that would send anyone, bar Gundam pilots and Sally, running for cover.

She started, blinked a few times, and, in a voice that was considerably more polite at least, asked me if I was related to agent Yuy.

I ignored her and bent over the paperwork. The mission took priority. I geared my mind to it with the same determination I'd applied during wartime and I barely acknowledged Duo as he sat down near me to work through his files, serious eyes on his screen as he played with the end of his braid. Heero came to join us as well after an hour.

One of the middle-men had coughed up an interesting line of inquiry into a possible terrorist group they'd sold weapons to. The lead would take us most of the day and part of the night to follow through, on paper and electronically to start with. Duo and I ran through records and notes from informants, and placed calls. Then Heero looked up from his laptop.

"Une just contacted me." He said quietly, a finger tapping the screen. "We have information. This group could be hiding out in that old OZ base near Syowa. The place is huge, spread out over several hundred square miles, barracks, silos, MS depot, the works. Une wants me and Wufei to go down there and check it out." He was looking at Duo as he said that. So did I.

Duo's eyes widened in surprise. "Oh. How long will you be gone?"

"If we find nothing? Two days. Maybe three. If we find something, well, probably longer."

"Oh." Duo said again, then blinked as he took in our expressions. "Hey guys, don't worry." His smile looked a little damp to me though. "I mean, we all knew this would happen one day. I don't mind! Well, except if this is gonna be at the L4 tourist resort or on a beach somewhere, then I bloody will mind! Where is this Sy-place anyway?"

"Syowa? It's that big base in Antarctica."

Duo spluttered. "It's November down on Earth!"

"Yes."

Duo made an expansive and generous gesture. "They're all yours, boys. Go get 'em."

"You sure you don't mind? We'd be leaving you with a lot of the paperwork here." Heero said seriously.

"No no no, I'm very sensitive to frostbite! And I'm probably allergic to penguins." Duo smirked. "Don't mind me, you two have fun!"

"I-" Heero closed his mouth sharply, eyes distant as if a thought had struck him. Then he turned towards me slowly. "Wufei, I...maybe we should-"

"Agent Yuy?" The assistant popped up, absently dumping yet more paperwork into my In-tray. I glared at it but it failed to catch fire. "Agent Wilson wants you in interrogation room five pronto, he says one of the bosses has some info about the Antarctica thing."

"Hn." Heero looked annoyed. I caught his eyes as he stood up.

"What did you want to ask me, Heero?"

His glance flickered over the assistant. "I'll talk to you later. Nothing critical."

"Okay." I realized I was watching his confident steps as he headed out of the main office, and twitched my eyes away just as I was noting how perfectly a preventer uniform suited the fall of his hips. My eyes caught on Duo's serious face, and the way he was pouting slightly as he concentrated on his laptop, his braid sensuously caressing his lips-

I bent over the paperwork which was, as a whole, a lot safer. With the amount of work we had, and the fact that Heero and I would be gone tomorrow, we'd be stuck here until late tonight. No point letting my mind wander down fruitless avenues when it would be many hours before we got home.

I left to check what kind of supplies we had ready for our trip tomorrow, knowing that a good Preventer depot should have everything for a trip to Antarctica excluding the dog and sleigh. Reassured, I returned to my desk to discover two notes waiting for me there. One was in Heero's curt script, informing me that something had come up and he would be spending his lunch break in a meeting. That was when I realized it was nearly noon. I looked at the other note, covered in Duo's messy handwriting, with some resignation. My other boyfriend had probably been called away too. I'd end up eating lunch with the assistant and getting more information about her back problems...

But Duo's note asked me to meet him at noon in a room in Archives. I glanced at my watch and made my way to the top of the building, where Archives occupied most of the top floor. The entrance was just before the roof access to the MS and helicopter landing pad, and I saw no-one on the entire floor until I opened the door.

I gave a small nod to the girl behind the counter on the far side of the archives. She nodded back, but then stared at me as if wondering what I was doing here during my lunch break. I was rather curious about that as well.

I found the door indicated by the note at the end of a long hallway that didn't look frequently used. Though I thought I heard the archivist's hesitant footsteps at the other end of the corridor. I hoped she didn't want to follow me and have a conversation. I was not in the mood. Actually I'm never in the mood for casual chats. I reminded myself sternly that I wasn't back on Earth HQ here; people didn't know me. People didn't cross hallways, dive under their desks or knock over the water fountain in their haste to get out of my way when they recognized one of many signs of a bad mood on my face as I approached. This wasn't my home territory and my sense of etiquette and propriety told me that anything out of order would reflect badly on Heero and Duo, and I'd rather cut off my arm than do that. I'd even be polite to the secretary or the archivist if need be. They worked with Heero on a regular basis so that in itself should be a pleasant surprise for them.

Crude light barged in through a broken shade on one side of the room and hounded the dust up across its beams. Every wall was lined with metal shelves piled high with stack upon messy stack of paper folders, old computer media, and a few locked evidence boxes. Duo was sitting on a small table in a pool of artificial sunshine eating a sandwich and kicking his legs idly. He brightened up as he saw me.

"Ah, Fei! Good timing. Have a sandwich?"

"...we're here to eat?"

"Nope!" As I approached the table, Duo put down his lunch and took a long swig of water from a bottle.

"Good, because I don't think - mf!"

Duo - he really was remarkably fast - had leapt off the table, laminated himself to my body and was kissing me soundly.

"Maxwell!" I snapped, after prying us a bit apart. Bright blue eyes looked at me quizzically. "What are you doing?"

"Well it's called kissing, but if you needed me to tell you that, you're even more of an innocent than I thought."

I resisted the urge to punch the cheerful teasing smile. His arms had tightened over mine, making it hard for me to resort to violence anyway. "I meant, Duo, this is not the time or place for-"

"What? What are you talking about? Making out in discreet corners during lunch break is a time-honoured tradition that dates back centuries!"

"I-"

"And here I though you were a traditionalist!"

"Maxwell-" I growled. The arms tightened playfully - but very firmly - over mine as I tried to break away.

"Not to mention a scholar!"

"I-"

"Didnít they teach you anything in the academ-"

With my arms pinned, I really only had the one means of gagging him at my disposal. Besides, he's right. I am a traditionalist. And for once one of the age-old customs I was asked to follow actually proved enjoyable...I felt a faint guilt at the thought of Heero, as my relinquished arms curled around Duo's waist. It was a reflex; even though I knew this was part of the deal, and that I would also have time alone with him, during the mission...I banished the thought. This was something the three of us would get used to, and in the meantime I would not let my uncertainties ruin my moment with Duo.

Besides, who needed qualms to ruin the moment when nosy archivists could do just as good a job...?

A gasp alerted us, and a clunk as she tried to back out of the door too quickly and ended up pressed awkwardly against the jamb. She was petite, Asian, and with her wide eyes, the two bright circles of colour on her cheeks and her mouth pursed in an 'oh' of shock, she looked like an exquisite porcelain doll. Duo and I stared at her for a split second then his eyes flickered to me and he winced at my air of chagrin.

- which was actually due to the mortification of a warrior realizing he'd been so engrossed in kissing his boyfriend he'd let a civilian open a door and enter a room behind him unnoticed, but embarrassment was probably close behind and Duo must have realized it.

"Dammit!" He shouted. The archivist hiccupped and bumped her head slightly as she jerked back against the doorjamb at the explosion in the quiet dusty room. "Where can a guy go to get a little peace around here?!"

"Duo-" I started, embarrassed.

"No, really!" He relinquished his hold on me and made huge sweeping gestures around us, two bright spots of anger flaring on his cheeks. "This is the dead files room, dammit! These cases are defunct, we only keep them because we worship paper! The stuff in here is so old, Noah signed most of the witness statements! No-one ever comes up here, it's less popular than the morgue!"

He was advancing on the poor archivist who had gone a pretty shade of pink rarely seen on oriental skin.

"So tell me, what's a guy got to do to have some quality time with his squeeze, huh? Go down to the flooded third sub-basement and lock himself in an empty broom-closet with a note on the door saying 'beware of the dog' - mf!"

"Don't worry." I said over Duo's shoulder as he huffed and muffed against my hand gagging him. "He doesn't bite."

The archivist made a sound like a mouse getting squished, finally found her legs and darted out of the room with one last stare. Strangely enough it was me she was staring at, not Duo. Maybe she was disappointed someone of the same descent was making out in her archives with such a gorgeous lunatic.

I glanced at the small nip marks on my fingers - so much for not biting - then up at a fuming Duo.

"Dammit!...Hah, rats. I'm sorry, Fei. You must be furious. Shit, I normally have to draw my gun to get our research staff to move their butts and come up here!"

"Duo, that was the archivist."

"Huh?"

"She works here." I clarified.

"Really?! Someone actually works here?!" Duo looked at me in amazement, then with some small sympathy at the half-opened door. "Poor slob, remind me to be nice to her someday."

"You can start by apologi-"

"But not today! Damn." He rubbed the back of his neck, sending his braid swaying, and looked at me from the corner of his eyes with a wince. "I guess that kinda spoiled the mood..."

"That's one way of seeing it."

He blinked as he noticed my own lack of ranting. "What's-whatís the other?"

"That the worst has already happened." I said resignedly and tugged him into my arms again. I wouldn't have the opportunity for several days after this, it would be a shame to waste it. I felt pretty certain the archivist wouldn't come and disturb us again. I just hoped she'd have the good taste not to tattle. Or I might let Duo bite her after all.

Despite my words we didnít stay in the archives too long. I didnít feel like giving rise to more speculation about what we were doing. We took our sandwiches - Duo had brought some for me - outside and sat on the roof and watched the buildings and streets of the colony curve over our heads like alien skies, and we talked and relaxed and enjoyed ourselves for twenty precious minutes. Then we returned to our respective desks, knowing that yet more information would have landed on them in the meantime.

To my surprise I found a mail from Sally in my inbox. 'Wufei, call me.' I normally called Sally about once a month - although I didn't readily admit to it, and it was only because otherwise she'd fuss over me, okay? - and we'd talked less than two weeks ago. I shrugged and decided to call her this weekend. Or when I got home on Monday.

+

"Agent Chang?"

"Yes?" I glared up at the assistant, daring her to dump more paperwork on me, or even mention her vertebra.

"Agent Yuy is online with Commander Une in conference room two. She asked if you could join them please."

"Be right there." I said with some relief, standing and stretching.

Une was already online and talking to Heero when I entered the darkened room. The large conference screen showed the commander somewhat larger than life, in her usual pose, hands clasped on her desk and the light shining off her glasses.

"Wufei, thanks for joining us." Une said crisply. "We need to review a few of the points for your upcoming mission. First of all, has medical cleared you? I heard you were injured-"

"Minor." I said briskly with an annoyed wave of my hand.

"Very well." Once again, Une didn't make a fuss over my curtness. She was used to dealing with Heero and I. "Well, we'll have a look at the mission specs. Oh, you mentioned in an email that there might be a problem, Heero?"

I glanced at Heero in surprise. He had started to say something earlier. But we'd crossed in the middle of the busy office a couple of times after he finished the interrogation and he'd not mentioned anything then so it'd slipped my mind.

He was shifting in his seat and that made all my senses prickle. Heero does not do 'nervous gestures' any more than I do 'uncertain' or Une does 'helpless airhead'.

"I...it occurred to me..." His eyes darted towards mine. "Could I have a moment to discuss this with Wufei first, ma'am? I've not had the opportunity to-"

Une looked curious and nodded. "I can't see what there is to discuss but go ahead. Quickly though."

"I meant in private, ma'am."

Une's elegant eyebrows arched over the firm nose. "Private? I'm certain any issue regarding this mission can be discussed in my presence, and I'd appreciate promptness, agent Yuy. These calls are expensive, I have a meeting soon, and this mission is urgent. What is the problem?"

Heero leaned back into the seat and his face took that dangerous sombre mask that I recognized from war-time. Apparently Une did so too, she started to frown. "Spit it out, Yuy. If this is serious I want to know now. What is it, do you foresee a problem with the mission?"

"No." Heero replied promptly, though he was still frowning defensively.

"So what?" Suddenly Une's frown was turned in my direction as if remembering some particulars about my character. "Is there a problem with Chang being your partner?"

I gave Une my best 'arrogant dragon' look...before the nasty little silence besides me brought my head around so fast I nearly misaligned my own vertebra. Heero was rigid in the chair, his face set in hard lines. His eyes as they caught mine looked pained. I opened my mouth but Une beat me to it.

"Chang!" Une is no longer prone to psychotic episodes; we now call them 'mood swings' and dodge them like bullets. Both Heero and I stiffened as 'war-time' Une made a small reappearance. "I can't believe it. Can't you bring that foul temper of yours under control just this once? I know you're about as easy to partner as a porcupine but I thought that surely you would make an effort with Yuy! Even a stubborn ass like yourself was willing to admit he's one of the best! If you can't partner him, who on earth are you going to-"

"Just a minute!" I barked, finally recuperating, just as Heero leaned forward and said, sharply: "Ma'am, you misunderstand."

"Look, Yuy, I know he's hard to get along with sometimes, but whatever he's done, can't you overlook it?"

"Ma'am." Heero said firmly. "He's not done anything. I would gladly go with Wufei through hell itself if I had to."

My own rumpled emotions were soothed at the sincerity and shiver of feeling in his voice. It got through to Une as well.

"Oh. So what's the problem? Look, if he told you that he doesn't want to partner you, please, just ignore him. It's what I do. I go through this with him every time I assign him a new -"

"I never said anything!" I snapped, ignoring a machine-gun stare from behind the glass panes. "I'm ready to go! Heero..." I turned to see him lean stiffly back in the chair, his eyes disappearing behind his bangs. I resisted the urge to brush them out of the way. "What's wrong?"

"That's what I'd like to know." Une grumbled. Her words covered Heero's mutter.

"What?" I leaned towards him and he repeated them. I caught a glimpse of his eyes at that point. He was visibly torn and worried, and I could now understand why.

I turned towards Heero's commander. Oh, she was mine as well, on paper. In practice, I consider Une and the rest of the Preventers to be my, shall we say, my staff, working for me to help me keep the peace. It sounds arrogant but I have always been very independent, and am now wary of organisations that might try to use me. Consider my history...

Heero was different. He'd either work alone or, once the Preventers had the incredible honour and good fortune of convincing him to join them, he'd work all out for them. He'd obey them the same way he'd obeyed Doctor J. Maybe not entirely without question - we had all grown up a lot during the war and its aftermath and we no longer followed orders blindly - but thoroughly, and he'd obey all the rules imposed on him like the excellent soldier he was.

Even this rule.

Damn.

From the way he couldn't raise his voice above a whisper, he must have been torn. It hurt me to see him like that. He was thinking I wouldn't understand, that I'd be upset he'd rather obey a rule that really didn't apply to people like us, rather than partner me. He also knew how I'd feel about admitting that this rule applied to us in the first place. His eyes held a mixture of firm resolve and pain as he shifted under my gaze, waiting for my biting comment.

I turned back to Une.

"We will need special dispensation from you, Commander."

Une's eyebrows shot up. "What? You're saying I'm the problem here?"

"Well-"

"Damn it, I want you both to go!"

"Yes but-"

"I want you to go, he wants to go, you want to go-...if there's anyone here who doesn't want you to go, can you please tell him to step forward now so I can have him dragged out and shot!"

I was pretty sure she was kidding. She had mood-swings but she'd left most of her wartime persona behind her. I hoped.

"We need dispensation to get around the fraternisation protocol, ma'am." I said evenly. I felt Heero shift besides me.

"Frater- what?" Une stared at me as if I'd turned inside out. "Why on earth- how would that apply to you?"

Oh great, I was going to have to spell it out. "Agent Yuy and myself are a -" I strangled the word 'couple' before it came out, I didn't want to lie to Une and I didn't want to go there either. "...involved." I concluded.

Une's eyes widened and widened again and started darting from me to Heero and back again. They looked like a pair of fish in two bowls. "This is a joke, right?" She said hopefully, then remembered who she was talking to. She reached blindly for her glasses, missed by an inch, tried again, took them off, started cleaning them mechanically. Her eyes continued to roam between Heero and myself. "Oh." She finally said. A faint flush appeared on her cheek.

I glanced at Heero who'd disappeared behind his bangs again, his hands white-knuckled on the arm-rests of his chair. I hated this, to see the hardened warrior so defensive. But this was all very new to him, and daunting too. He'd fought so hard against forming friendships with the rest of us because of this, because of the day he might be torn between his duty and his feelings for us. Now the internal conflict had escalated dramatically against a backdrop of a very new and strange relationship. He knew that I didn't respect all the nitty gritty rules and regulations of Preventers if they interfered with my job, and he also knew I'd not wanted to let our relationship be known. He thought I was angry with him and, with the sudden closeness between us removing all his barriers, he didn't know how to deal with that fact.

I dropped my hand to his as it crushed the innocent arm-rest, pried his fingers away before he broke it. We could discuss this later when Une wasn't furiously cleaning her glasses at us, but I didn't want to leave him like that, I couldn't. My pride, my reserve, they didn't even have a chance to object; I interlaced our fingers and brought the back of his hand gently to my lips.

I was rewarded with a startled glance, a look of relief, and a crunching sound from the viewer. Une had put her thumb through one of the lenses in her glasses.

"Well!" She said, trying to regain the self-assured composure that characterised her now. It was ruined by the fact she instinctively shoved her glasses back onto her nose. She blinked at us through one glass lens and one empty frame before ripping the glasses from her nose again. I was relieved Duo wasn't here, he'd laugh up a lung. Heero and I were made of sterner stuff, dropping our eyes and giving a slight cough to cover the moment. The fact we did it at exactly the same time somewhat ruined the serious effect. I could feel Une's glare from the viewer, it was like a flame-thrower.

"Well, thanks for sharing, agents. For your information this does rather complicate things. I can give dispensation but the rules state I have to have you reviewed by a counsellor first, to make sure this won't interfere- yes, I know." she said abruptly as both Heero and myself glared at her. "I know you are perfectly capable of putting your emotions aside to do the job, and you would not let this interfere, but the rules state that this cannot be my judgement call alone. I'm sure we can get this...technicality out of the way and get you partnered in the future, but we won't have time for this mission. Damn." Une rubbed the wear spot on the bridge of her nose left by her glasses and glared at the folder before her. "Well, thanks for your candour, agents. I am going to have to see what I can do about this. I'll get in touch with you later. Goodbye." Her voice was tart as she leaned over and flicked off the viewer.

There was silence in the room for a few seconds. We sat side by side, our hands still clasped. Then Heero shifted, standing slowly, trying to loosen my grip.

"I'm sorry, I wanted to talk to you first but we were never alone. I realize-"

I stood up as well, tugged him forward by the hand I was still holding, and grabbed his chin with the other. "I would never ask you to compromise your values, Heero. You should know that."

"I know you don't really regard these regulations as important." He corrected with his usual precision, face hard, eyes distant. I recognized the mask he was wearing and rolled my eyes. "I can understand if - " he gasped as I closed his mouth with my own. He went rigid for two seconds then leaned back. "What are you doing?"

"Following an age-old tradition, I understand. Oh, just a minute." I went and locked the door. I hoped that would be enough, I didn't have any sign saying 'beware of the dog' handy.

+

There was a new mail from Sally in my inbox when I left the conference room and returned to my desk, ten interesting minutes later.

'Wufei I'm at work, you know the number, call me!'

I frowned. Now what? I hesitated but dismissed it. We were too busy. I'd call her tonight, if I could borrow Heero and Duo's phone. I'd treat them to dinner - at some point, when we got back from the mission, assuming we were going - to compensate them.

The afternoon was getting intense. More and more information came out from the interrogations, sending Duo to contact some L2 informants, and Heero into more meetings. And buried me in more paperwork.

The next email in my inbox was abrupt and had an exclamation mark attached to it. 'Wufei, call me NOW. I'm still at work and will be so for another hour.'

I hesitated. What was this...problems with her husband? Yeah, right, I'd make a prime marriage councillor. Even Sally, who somehow managed to like me, wasn't blind to my shortcomings. Besides she could always call Noin. So what...maybe she was pregnant. I winced. Great, that's all I needed...

I didn't call her though. Whatever her news, Sally would never hang up without inquiring about me, and teasing me about my love-life - with a good long look to make me understand that this was more a hint than a joke. She was still trying to set me up with some girls, though being at a distance hampered her style.

Now, once the universe stopped spinning around me like a merry-go-round, I'd certainly tell her about the change in my life. I knew Sally would be - well, she'd be surprised, and yes, probably shocked, but she wouldn't be condemning. She knew too much about Gundam pilots and the hardships we'd gone through together to be judgmental about anything that could help us bear it. No, I thought Sally would be happy for me, once she'd reattached her jaw and put her eyes back in their sockets. So yes, I was quite looking forward to calling her eventually. When she started badgering me about finding a mate, I would have the come-back of the century, and I was not above using it.

The reason I didn't want to call her now though-...three days ago I was her solitary, grumpy dragon who refused to give a girlfriend a chance. Now I was a highly confused dragon with two boyfriends. Once I got used to the shock - in a month or two - I'd enjoy passing it on to Sally. In the meantime, I'd just concentrate on dealing with it.

+

I spent several hours in an interrogation room myself, wringing as much information about the alleged terrorist cell from our captives that I could, before taking a break.

Heero cornered me by the coffee machine where I was emptying out the drawers searching for tea that didn't taste like it came out of the wrong end of a cat.

"Une says she can't get us dispensation in time for Antarctica." He said quietly, eyes downcast.

"So...what about the mission?" I asked, trying not to sound disappointed.

Heero shrugged. "She's still thinking about it. She said she wants me at the shuttle port tomorrow morning early though, so-"

"You're not going alone!"

"I doubt it. It's not a solo mission. I-" Someone put their head through the door and dragged Heero off for one more 'important interrogation', leaving me fuming and worried and still lacking anything like decent tea.

The assistant approached me as I returned to my desk with some watery coffee, her face stiff and eyes a bit defensive.

"What?" I snapped.

"Erm..." She licked her lips and looked down at her notepad. "Someone tried to reach you a couple of times and left a message two hours ago. Er...a Sally Po, from the Beijing Institute of-"

"I know her." Sally had tried to call? Damn! I'd assumed that if it were really urgent she'd have left me a more detailed explanation in her mails, something that would justify me calling Earth from the office. "What's the message?"

"Well..." The assistant licked her lips again. "She, er, what she meant to say was-"

"Meant? What are you talking about!" I snapped, temper flaring as I tried to imagine what could be serious enough for an Earth to L2 call. "Give me her message word for word!"

The assistant flinched and then, with a slightly resentful look and in a monotone, said: "Tell him I'm at home, and tell him, Wufei, you little rat, if you don't call me this minute and tell me absolutely everything I will never speak to you again."

She turned on her heels and left me open-mouthed in the middle of the office.

It took me a minute to get my composure back. I had my hand on the phone when I glanced at the time and cursed. It was two in the morning in Beijing. Sally would probably not want to be bothered at this time, and her husband certainly not. From the sound of the message - I flushed - I doubted it was urgent. I'd call her later. And chew her out thoroughly!

+

It was eleven at night when we drove through the quiet streets, the artificial light of the colony long extinguished. Heero and Duo were bickering aimlessly about which take-out to have that night, before concluding tiredly that there was only one open nearby at this time anyway.

I recognized the street Duo had turned into. "Are we near your place?"

"Yes. Tim's All-Night Deep-Fried Delights is two blocks from the house."

"Could you drop me off? And may I use your phone for an Earth call? I'll reimburse the expense."

"Feiiii." Duo muttered, tired eyes catching mine in the rear-view mirror. "You don't have to- oh, I'm not going to argue." He must be really exhausted, I mused. "Go ahead. What should we order for you?"

"Anything that has less than fifty percent saturated fats is fine by me. Vitamins optional."

"Picky..."

"We normally eat better than this." Heero said dully. "But we're-"

"Too busy, I know." I made the same excuse myself on many a mission. Our lifestyles were active enough where it wouldn't harm us right away, and we'd never been good at thinking about the distant future of our mid-thirties where hardened arteries would become a factor. Suddenly I was thinking about those things though. One more side-effect of this brain-fever called love. We might break up next month yet I was worrying about our state of health when we were old men together. Maybe, when I called Sally, she could recommend a good nutritionist. Or possibly a psychiatrist, I corrected myself as Duo dropped me off.

I put my borrowed keys in the jam jar near the door and switched on the lights, making my way across to the study. And whipped out my gun as I registered a figure sitting on my bed.

He waited quietly while I stared, and waited some more until I jerked the gun away and re-holstered it.

"Quatre!" I said, finally finding my voice. "What are you doing here?"

He was sitting poised on the edge of my bed as if it were an executive chair. He looked at me, and smiled slightly.

"I don't know, Chang, you tell me."

"What?" I said weakly. This was turning out to be the second longest day of my life, and the longest had only been seventy two hours ago.

Quatre stood up in a fluid movement. He was wearing a suit, though his tie was loosened and he was looking slightly rumpled. He still had the assured bearing of a diplomat. Except for the smile. It wasn't his usual warm expression. His lips were slightly curved upward and his blue eyes were focused on a point three inches behind the back of my head. I felt myself tense up instinctively. Something was wrong.

"I said, you tell me what I'm doing here. Please." He said, with that same strange calm that seemed to spread around him like quicksand.

"I...how the hell am I supposed to know- how did you get into this house?"

"Oh that? Heero gave me a key months ago, in case something happened to either him or Duo. I think I'm entitled to use it in these circumstances. And to sit down, seeing that I've been rushed from pillar to post today on a factory visit, before receiving a couple of interesting phone calls that made me miss my shuttle back to L4, lose Rashid and his men and hitch a ride on a freighter to this colony instead, spending three hours in a greasy cabin with a very nice gentleman named, if I'm not mistaken, Crusher."

I stared at him as if he'd gone -...suddenly I remembered the way Heero and Trowa had described their meeting with Quatre after he'd been exposed to the zero system. I thought I knew what they meant now. Quatre was someone I respected as my one-time tactical leader, a brilliant mind and a fierce, if compassionate warrior. I had no particular wish to get on his wrong side. But now I had a feeling I was so far on his wrong side I was about to fall off the edge of the solar system.

"Let's get to the heart of the matter, shall we?" He said with that same dreamy voice. "The phone calls. One was from Sally, who is very mad at you."

"Sally?" I growled. "She called you?! What's gotten into the woman!"

Quatre tsk-ed. His eyes never left mine. "She's always taken a close interest in your life and your friends, Chang. She didn't appreciate not knowing anything about either when getting a phone call from an old acquaintance of hers earlier today. This lady used to work in the Chinese resistance, but she's now an archivist for the L2 Preventers. She said she recognized you today as the nice young man who saved her resistance cell back then, but unfortunately when she'd tried to approach you to thank you, she interrupted you while you were with Duo Maxwell." Quatre's intelligent eye noticed the flinch that nearly knocked me off my feet.

"Actually I think she used the words 'passionate clench'." Quatre added with a small smile, revealing a streak of sadism that I had not known existed in his nature.

"Ah..." I said, stopping the flush from engulfing me by sheer strength of will.

"Yes, ah indeed. Sally wants to drag you over red-hot coals until you give her all the details. Since she couldn't get a hold of you, she called me to see if I knew anything about this."

My lips formed a silent snarl. Discreet, woman! Quatre was the one every one went to for news, who kept us all aware of what the others were doing. At this rate, was there anyone in the Earth Sphere who didn't know about this?

"Now we get to the interesting part. The second phone call." Quatre's eyes became dreamy and he took two slow steps in my direction and all my warrior instincts warned me to take two steps back.

"It arrived ten minutes after that one. Trowa called. He said he had the most surprising news. I said I had too. He said he'd go first because he doubted I could top his. He said Une had yanked him from his leave on L4 to assign him to partner Heero in Antarctica. Une complained to him that she had wanted to send you with Heero, but regulations said she couldnít send an involved couple. I think she assumed Trowa already knew."

I tried to say something but the words stuck in my throat.

"Trowa was certainly not disappointed by the amount of surprise I displayed at the news!" Quatre informed me cheerfully. While taking another step forward. "I hung up on him rather abruptly at that point, I'm afraid. And I came here, to the home of two of my very best friends - two very strong, resilient but emotionally vulnerable friends who I happen to know like you a lot - to see just what is going on!

"So tell me, Chang, what am I doing here? Am I here to congratulate you for finally removing your blinders and going out with one of my best friends, or am I here to kick your ass for toying with two of them?"

He said it with that small half-smile and dreamy eyes. I knew I could take Quatre down bare-handed in a straightforward fight. I knew that a fight with Quatre when he had something dear to his heart to protect would not be straightforward at all.

At that point the door banged open behind me, aging me about ten years.

"We're ho-...Quatre?! What a surprise!" Duo dropped take-out carelessly on the side table and ran towards Quatre.

I reacted entirely on instinct. Of course on reflection I would know that Quatre would never harm Duo - he was only mad at me, after all - but my body reacted for me. My arms shot out and I yanked Duo back into them. No way was I going to let him go near that dangerous half smile.

Duo squawked and caught himself on my shoulders, then stared at me, at Quatre - whose eyebrow had shot up - and then at Heero who took a half step that placed him between me and pilot 04. He'd picked up on the tension in the room.

"So...you're with Duo, I take it?" Quatre said, noting our various poses. "Did Trowa get it wrong?"

"Erm." I said.

Quatre was an empath. He took a second look at Heero's defensive pose and the protective feelings he was probably emanating towards both Duo and myself and his second eyebrow shot up as well.

"What's going on here?!"

Heero frowned and crossed his arms. I fished around for my voice, then gave up. Duo grinned uncertainly and said: "Well...we sorta agreed to-...a threesome?"

Quatre stared at us for ten long seconds. Then he rubbed his face slowly. "Threesome. Of course." He muttered sardonically. "Now why didn't I think of that."

He lifted his head to glare at us, but it was a normal look now. "You really had to make things complicated, didn't you? Well, I must say, this is quite a relief."

"Relief?" Duo started.

"Allah knows what I would have done with whoever Wufei left out if he'd chosen one of you. That was the other reason I showed up in person." Quatre said, with a sudden tired smile. "Right. Well now that that's settled, I'll wish you guys good luck - you'll need it - and take my leave."

"You can stay here tonight." Heero offered quietly, not particularly surprised or off-balance by any of this. I rather envied him at that point.

"I'd love to, trust me." Quatre leered in a way I'd not thought him capable of. Duo chortled and I blushed, to my infinite shame. "But I have a board meeting tomorrow - no, scratch that, I have something else to do tomorrow. But either way I have to get back to earth tonight. If I hurry, I will catch Crusher before his freighter leaves on his planet-side run." He started to saunter out the door, an amused smile on his face.

"There are earth shuttles departing all night, Winner." I said, finally finding my voice again. "You don't have to, er-"

"Oh, well, I get tired of being pestered by stewards pressing me with champagne and shuttle food every hour in business class, and Mr Crusher's conversation is so much more interesting than the average fortune 500 who normally share the cabin with me. Besides, Crusher can drop me off at the Antarctica base if I get Une to wave formalities with earth customs-"

"Antarctica?" I stared into blue eyes as he glanced back.

"I'm due a break from the running of WEI, and Trowa needs a partner for the mission. It'll be a kick." The way he was grinning indicated he meant that. Once a Gundam pilot...

This meant that Heero didnít have to leave. I was sure Quatre would remember to call Une and get her to agree to this and cancel his orders. I gave Quatre a look of gratitude which he shrugged off. I think this was in the nature of an apology to me, for assuming I was toying with two people we both loved and respected.

Duo and Heero both tried to say something but Quatre blithely ignored them. He gave us one last look, rolled his eyes upward in mock exasperation, and left, muttering something about 'three lucky bastards'.

+

I waited until Heero and Duo fell asleep before extricating myself from the tangle of limbs. We'd not even considered sleeping in separate beds that night. I was beginning to worry about going back to earth on Monday, and trying to sleep without the gentle harmony of their breathing and their warmth by my side.

I crept into the study and got Une out of bed to confirm, rather grumpily, that she no longer needed Heero in Antarctica. Then I placed the other call I owed, before I could finally call this never-ending day complete.

"(It's six in the bloody morning this better be important.) Hello?"

"Sally?"

The vid screen switched on to reveal a rumpled doctor.

"Wufei! Finally! What the hell is this I hear, is it true, how long has this been going on and why didn't you tell me, you little bastard?"

"I-"

"For that matter you never told me you liked guys! I'd have had a better chance at matching you up with someone if you'd told me that little detail, Chang!"

"Sal-"

"But Duo! That's quite a catch! Wow, congratulations! It's true, right?"

"Ye-"

"Knew it! Oh I'm so happy for you! And so mad too, by the way! Why didn't you tell me? You didn't tell anybody, even Quatre didn't know!"

"About that-" I growled.

"You really should tell him, you know. There's some confusion there. He called me back thirty minutes after I called him, he was asking me - get this - he was asking me if I hadn't gotten the wrong guy! He asked me if it wasn't Heero you were going out with!" Sally laughed in her pleasant, gentle way. "As if anyone could confuse Heero and Duo! My friend works with them both, she knew exactly who you were - ah, entertaining, let's say, in her Archives."

"Sally."

"Anyway, the idea of you and Heero-...he's a nice boy, but so single-minded, stubborn and humourless. You'd have better luck dating his Gundam. Er..." Sally stared at the hand I'd lifted admonishingly.

"Sally, I am with Heero, please don't talk about my boyfriend like that."

Sally's jaw dropped. "Oh! Oh?...Oh...did Jing-La get it wrong then? Man, I'll strangle the little- Sorry, Wufei." Sally looked more teasing and maternal than apologetic, though. "You know I like Heero. He saved us all from war and destruction, twice, you can't get much better as a reference. He is very serious, and his death-scowls are just about as efficient as his bullets but he's a wonderful young man - Come to think of it, you two do have a lot in common." Sally smirked. "Yes, I think you two will be great together. Duo...well Duo's relentless cheerfulness would be trying for you after awhile, and he - er..." Sally stared again at my raised hand.

"Sally, I am also with Duo, so the same thing goes, please be nice about him."

Sally cocked her head, then turned away and the image on the vid jumped as she fiddled with something.

"Sorry Wufei, this stupid thing is acting up again. Earth-colony communication isn't very clear at the best of times. What was that you said about Duo?"

"Sally?"

"Hmm?"

I leaned back in the chair, clasped my hands and suppressed my smirk.

"Are you sitting down?"

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