authors: Mel & Christy

Key:
minor scene change (from person to person at the same place, someone waking up from a dream, etc): ----------
major scene change (at another place, some time later, etc): * * * * *
flashback starting or ending: ~*~*~*~
thoughts: *Tadah!*
electronics (phone, TV, intercom etc): <<Tadah!>>

Rebuilding + Chapter 1

The phone's insistent buzzing dragged Wufei out of a sound sleep, and he swore under his breath. "Zao gao(1)... why the hell did I switch the ringer back on?" he grumbled. "Ah, yes. I thought nobody was going to call. Stupid me."

As he began to consider the best way to pry himself out of Duo's grasp, the buzzing stopped.

That's better, he thought, awkwardly settling down again. If it's important, they'll leave a message.

Duo shifted slightly against him, muttering something incoherent as his grip tightened, and Wufei looked down at him in mingled disbelief and delight.

He wants to stay with me. Last night... he gave me his braid. He gave me himself. After everything that's happened, after everything he's gone through, he still doesn't hate me.

I'm not going to screw up this time. I'm not going to push him away. Whatever Duo wants, I'll give him.

As long as Duo wants me to stay with him, I will.

Wufei's right shoulder blade was reminding him -- painfully -- that it was less than 48 hours since it had been cracked, and the rest of his bruises were making themselves felt as well. But, so far as he was concerned, the fact that his last dose of painkillers had obviously worn off wasn't enough of a reason to make him get up. Getting up might disturb Duo, after all. Instead, he nuzzled gently into the soft hair on top of Duo's head and closed his eyes.

----------

About half an hour later, Wufei's semi-doze was interrupted by a loud banging on the front door.

"Nnngh... Duo? Come on, Duo, let go... I have to get up." Wufei patted gently at Duo's shoulder with his left hand, mentally planning exactly what to say if the person at the door turned out to be a salesman or evangelist. On Boxing Day, too! Not that I celebrate Christmas, of course, but they don't know that...

Duo burrowed further under Wufei's chin and got a firm grip on the bandages strapping Wufei's right arm to his chest; he bit back a yelp of pain as whoever-it-was pounded on the door again. It took a few minutes and some painful contortions before Wufei managed to get his free arm into a position from which he could reach Duo's hands and disentangle himself. By that time, the knocking had stopped.

I'll check the door anyway, he thought grumpily, wobbling to his feet and making his way out into the lounge room. If I don't, Murphy's law dictates that they'll come back as soon as I get settled down again. I'll get the painkillers, too, while I'm up.

A faint scratching noise came from the door as Wufei approached, and he stopped short, listening intently. The scratching noise repeated itself, and then a man spoke.

"I thought you said you were good at this?"

"Oh, shut up," a woman snapped back. "This is Chang's apartment, so of course it's not a normal lock. Just give me a minute."

"I could just kick it in."

"I'm sure he'd thank you for that. Be quiet and let me concentrate."

I recognise those voices, Wufei thought, and he yanked the door open.

Leah McKenzie yelped and fell forward onto her hands and knees; she'd evidently been crouched in front of the door, leaning on it as she tried to pick the lock. Beside her, Nicklaus Assink looked into Wufei's scowling face and smiled cheerfully.

"Good morning, sir. We're your lift."

"'Morning, Chang," Leah said sourly, getting to her feet.

Wufei looked at the lock pick still sticking out of the keyhole, then reached out and flipped up the cover of the small alarm box that was fixed to the wall next to the door. "...Ah. I forgot to set the alarm. That explains it," he muttered. He turned back to Nicklaus and Leah. "Now, why are you here?"

Leah yanked her pick out of the keyhole and put it away with the rest. "Major Po wants to, and I quote, 'make sure Chang hasn't tried to cripple himself by ignoring his injuries, the way he usually does,' unquote. She also wants to give Maxwell a checkup. Since Agents Zechs and Noin both have today off, we got sent to pick you up."

"That explains why you're here. It does not explain why you were trying to break in."

"Major Po tried to call you three times this morning to set up a time for your checkups." Nicklaus explained politely. "She got a trifle concerned when you didn't answer."

"I was asleep." Wufei glared.

"That's a very good effort at intimidation, sir, but I've been intimidated by the best. You'd understand what I mean if you'd ever met my grandmother. I'm sure you will, someday. May we come in?"

"If you must," Wufei growled, turning away.

"Well, we could stay out here," Leah said sarcastically as she followed him inside, eyeing his nothing-but-boxers-and-bandages attire, "but in case you haven't noticed, it's cold. We'll just wait in here while you two get ready."

"I'll make coffee," Nicklaus offered, ducking into the kitchen.

As Wufei vanished into the bedroom, Leah automatically started checking out the apartment. Old habits die hard, she thought with a trace of humour, looking into the bathroom and then making a quick circuit of the lounge. Put me in a new environment and I've got to explore... hmmm! Very bare. No personal touches. Almost... sterile? Chang's always very private and closed off at work, of course, but it looks like he hasn't even tried to make his apartment look like a home! The afghan on the sofa is the only thing that doesn't look like it was bought as part of a batch lot from a furniture warehouse.

Her eyes fell on the single picture hanging on the wall, and she blinked in surprise as she realised what it showed. And then there's this. The sole indication that he has a life outside of work... or at least that he had one.

----------

In the bedroom, Wufei was trying to wake Duo up. It wasn't working.

"Come on, Duo... open your eyes. Wake up," he said softly, stroking Duo's messy bangs back from his forehead. "Sally wants to see us."

No response.

"Duo?"

Nothing.

"Coffee's ready."

The magic words failed to produce a reaction.

"Hm." Wufei considered his options. Slapping wasn't one of them. Shaking was out; Duo still had too many bruises that hadn't healed, and it could set off a nightmare. The Sleeping Beauty technique came to mind, but Wufei decided against it; he'd promised himself that he wouldn't make advances. Besides, if he bent down far enough to kiss Duo, he'd never be able to straighten up again. There was really only one choice.

"Duo. We have a mission."

"Mmmm... Whassa target?" Duo mumbled without opening his eyes.

"Sally's office," Wufei said, smiling despite himself.

"We get ta blow it up? Cool."

"We get to have a checkup. No explosives involved... I hope. Come on, Duo, up. I'll be out of the bathroom in a minute, then it's all yours."

Once the braided boy was actually sitting up, Wufei headed for the bathroom, hoping that Duo wouldn't relapse into unconsciousness before he got back. The scent of coffee was beginning to waft out of the kitchen, indicating that Nicklaus had conquered the coffee maker, and maybe it would reach Duo in time to do some good.

Five minutes later, Wufei returned from the bathroom to find that Duo had moved about a foot and then settled. Eyes still closed, he was sitting on the edge of the futon with his legs stretched out across the floor.

Wufei sighed and reached down to tug gently at Duo's shoulder. "Up. Get dressed. Sally's waiting for us."

"Uh-huh," Duo muttered, and shifted onto his hands and knees, crawling towards the chest of drawers. Wufei decided to regard that as progress, picked up a shirt and a pair of slacks and went out, heading to the kitchen.

Asking for help at the outset is vastly preferable to getting stuck halfway through and having to be rescued from my own shirt,he told himself. ...That doesn't mean I have to like it, though. "Agent Assink? Could you... lend a hand? I seem to be one short."

Hiding a smirk at the unintentional double meaning, (Nicklaus Assink: 6'6" :: Chang Wufei: 5'5") Leah walked towards the bedroom. "I'll see if Maxwell needs any help," she called back over her shoulder.

Duo was on his feet in front of the open drawers, swaying as he blearily tried to tug his borrowed sweat pants down off his hips. Leah walked in on him just as he managed it...

"Mr. Maxwell? Can I give you any--"

...revealing that he wasn't wearing anything underneath.

"--WHOA! Assink, this is your job," Leah yelped, making a smart about face. "I mean, I appreciate the male form as much as the next person, but..." She hesitated, then grinned. "And I do mean 'butt'. You go help Maxwell with his pants, and I'll get Chang into that shirt."

Wufei sighed and made a mental note to get Duo more underwear.

-----------

Even after drinking a large mug of coffee, Duo was definitely operating in zombie mode. He made it out to the car all right, but once he was settled into the back seat, he yawned hugely and slowly slumped sideways onto Wufei's lap.

"Is he always this hard to wake up, sir?" Nicklaus asked, peering back over his shoulder with a half amused, half worried expression on his face.

"Well, he's never been a morning person," Wufei replied without thinking, looking down in alarm at the tousled head, "but this is definitely not normal. He is very tired, though, and a couple of times during the war, we were sure he sleep-piloted his gundam." There was a moment's pause as he processed what he'd just said. Oh, shit...

Apparently reading his mind-- or the suddenly horrified expression on his face-- Leah snorted. "Don't worry about it, Chang. We already know."

"You-- what-- who told-- How do you know?!" Wufei sputtered.

Nicklaus grinned, facing forwards again as Leah started the car. "Remind me to give you a vid-disk before we leave HQ, sir. Trust me, it'll explain everything."

"... All right," Wufei muttered grudgingly. "I'll wait. And stop calling me 'sir'!" I'm starting to twitch every time I hear it.

Leaning back, Wufei ran his fingers slowly through Duo's fringe, feeling less worried now that he'd remembered the 'sleep-piloting' incidents. I suppose the stress of the last couple of days is catching up to him. His consciousness has just shut down. It happened that way some times, after a mission... he'd hold out until it was over, then, as soon as he could relax, he'd almost collapse.

~*~*~*~

[cont]