Rebuilding + Chapter 7 (cont)

Strolling down the midway with Duo's right hand tucked into his pocket again, Wufei glanced sideways, checking for any sign that Duo was getting tired or cold. The American ex-pilot had the dragon and Nataku plushies in the crook of his left arm, with the Deathscythe dangling from his fist by one leg. The same hand held a medium sized cone of cotton candy, which he was happily reducing in size.

He seems all right, Wufei thought, absent-mindedly licking at the sugar left on his lips from when Duo had offered him a taste, but if he's going to be staying up past midnight to watch the fireworks, I should get him home to rest... "Duo," he said tentatively, "if there aren't any rides you really want to go on, maybe--"

"'Fei," Duo muttered behind his candy, staring straight ahead, "what was that you were saying earlier, about Zechs...?"

"I want to tell him about that game," Wufei replied, confused by the sudden change of subject until he looked ahead and saw what Duo was staring at. "Ahhh, yes," he said, grinning again. "Showing is so much better than telling!"

Further down the midway, Noin glanced around and did a double take, then tapped Zechs's shoulder to get him to turn around.

"Good afternoon, Zechs, Noin," Wufei said calmly as they came up to the two Preventers. "On duty?" he asked, raising an eyebrow at their uniforms. Duo just nodded to them, having conveniently taken a huge mouthful of candy.

"It's called 'supporting the local law enforcement presence at a possible terrorist target'," Noin said, a little sourly. "Afternoon, Maxwell."

"It's not considered a high probability target, or we'd be in our suits," Zechs explained, nodding back at Duo. "In fact, the probability of any attack is so low that we wouldn't be here at all if the police hadn't requested some sort of Preventers presence." "The mayor's twitchy," Noin sighed. "Since we're here on duty, we can't even play for plushies... though I see being in uniform hasn't stopped you, Chang. Nice haul!"

"I may still be in uniform, but I'm definitely off duty. Actually," Wufei said casually, mouth starting to twitch upwards, "Duo and I saw something back this way we think you'd be interested in..."

----------

"'Whack-A-Leo'?" Zechs asked, bemused.

"Back to clean me out, are you?" the booth operator asked, grinning. "Did you decide to go for a full set?"

"No," Duo told him, unceremoniously unloading his plushies into Zechs's arms. "I thought I'd win Noin one of those white Tauruses, since she's not allowed to play right now."

"They have white ones?" Noin exclaimed, stepping forward for a closer look. "They do
! And all the Gundams... Look Zechs, there's Tallgeese!"

Duo snickered, passing his cotton candy to Wufei. "Oh, there's Tallgeese, all right. How many points do I need to get the Taurus?"

The operator told him, and he smirked, adjusting his grip on the mallet. "Easy; that's just two whacks at Tallgeese and half a dozen Leos. Batter up!"

"Two whacks at Tallgeese? What-- hey!" Zechs yelped as the first Tallgeese plushie popped up among the Leos and Duo slapped it back down with excessive force.

"Bonus points," Wufei explained, absent-mindedly taking a bite of Duo's candy as he watched the braided teen slaughter the mobile suit plushies.

"Maxwell," Zechs said in a pained voice as Duo passed the mallet back and Noin collected her plushie, "you seemed to be having far too much fun whacking my Tallgeese."

"Well, I never got to in real life," Duo muttered, taking his plushies back. "You always went after Wing. I felt slightly insulted."

"Officially, I didn't hear any of that," the booth operator muttered under his breath as he watched them walk away. "Un officially, however... it's not every day I get to meet three Gundam pilots."

* * * * *

"Hang on, 'Fei, I need to sweep the snow off of the balcony first," Duo protested as Wufei bent to tug at the futon.

"Oh, of course," Wufei said, looking up as Duo hurried by with the broom. "You've already done a lot, Duo, I can... er... stand back and applaud while you do that," he trailed off sheepishly, looking down at his strapped up arm.

"You're going to applaud?" Duo asked, pausing at the door. "I always wondered... what is the sound of one hand clapping?"

"Swish, swish," Wufei replied, deadpan.

About to step onto the balcony, Duo faltered and glanced back, wide- eyed with surprise for a moment; then a slow smile spread across his face, and he went out to sweep.

Wufei watched him quietly. It's amazing what little things will do. A date at the carnival, holding hands, and sitting up to watch fireworks makes him so happy! It's good to see him smiling...

This may not last. He's slid back before... but it's a good sign, and I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Duo bounced back in, red-cheeked from the cold. "Done!" he said cheerfully, propping the broom against the wall and reaching for one end of the futon. Between them, they manhandled it outside and arranged it like a very low sofa, one end propped against the wall to protect their backs from the cold bricks. Pillows, quilts and finger food followed, and the balcony started to look quite cozy.

"You know, we could just about live out here," Duo puffed, carrying out the coffee maker. "All the comforts of home."

"No bathroom," Wufei pointed out, bringing out the bottle of champagne, "and the weather forecast predicts more snow tomorrow."

"Walls and a bathroom are luxuries, 'Fei. We've got all the essentials here. Food--" he patted the bowls of cheese, fruit and biscuits, "--shelter--" bouncing onto the futon, he tugged the quilts over his legs, "--and caffeine." One decisive poke turned the coffeemaker on, and he smiled sideways at Wufei. "What more do we need?"

Wufei chuckled, settling onto the other side of the futon. "A loaf of bread, a jug of coffee, and thou," he (mis)quoted. "You're right; I could live like this."

As the first fireworks burst over the lake, they settled back against each other and pulled the quilts up, both blushing faintly and determinedly pretending that they weren't doing any such thing. Some time passed in silence before either spoke again.

"They're putting on a good display," Duo said softly as a particularly colourful grouping flared and died. "Better than I managed when I shot up Une's base last year."

"Well, you did have to keep most of your shells concentrated on bang not flash," Wufei reminded him. "Even you can only modify explosives so far before they lose their effectiveness." He watched for a while longer, then sighed, unconsciously pulling Duo closer. "The big display is a sign of hope, I think," he whispered. "The first New Year's celebration since the war ended... people are hoping it'll be a year of peace."

"I hope so, too," Duo sighed, wriggling around a little to slide his arm behind Wufei's back. "There were fireworks celebrating the end of the war the night of Quatre's party, too... remember?"

Wufei grimaced. "Some of that night may have been blotted out of my memory by alcohol, but I still remember most of it. Including all of the things I did wrong."

The braided teen shrugged, hugging him gently. "It started out just fine..."

"Well," Wufei said, a little nervously, "we have fireworks again. We have a balcony. And Quatre is miles away, and won't come staggering out to startle me into doubting the wisdom of my actions. So... shall we begin again?"

Without giving himself time for second thoughts, he leaned down to Duo's upturned face and kissed him.

----------

Three balconies away, Casimir Ptaschinski stretched and craned his neck sideways, working out the kinks caused by staring attentively in one direction for so long. Something over to his right caught his eye, and he leaned out for a better look.

"Well," he said happily, grinning and nudging his wife, "looks like that young Preventer's finally found himself a girlfriend."

"Really?" Gwennol leaned around him, then sat back in her chair, chuckling. "Dear, that's no girlfriend. That's Mister Maxwell."

"With hair like that?!" Casimir patted at his wool cap, thinking of the bald spot underneath it. "I think I'm jealous. ...Nice young man?"

"Definitely
, dear."

"More power to them, then. They've definitely got the right idea about what to do on a romantic night like this!"

Grinning, he edged his chair closer to hers and leaned over for a kiss.

----------

Duo's hands slid up underneath Wufei's sweater and t-shirt, stroking gently at the bare skin below his bandages. They twitched and clenched when Wufei nuzzled in under his chin, mouthing the soft skin on his neck, and he shivered.

"Cold?" Wufei whispered, sliding up to kiss under Duo's ear.

"No..." Anything else Duo might have been going to say was lost as he turned his head and caught Wufei's mouth with his own; a tentative flicker of tongue eliciting a soft groan. Wufei pressed closer, hand sliding along the upper curve of Duo's flank then cupping firmly to pull him forward.

Midnight struck and a massive series of fireworks began exploding over the lake, joined by car horns, sirens, yells and cheers.

"HAPPY NEW YEAR!"

In the distance, somebody began singing 'Auld Lang Syne', sounding thoroughly and happily drunk.

"Happy New Year, 'Fei," Duo said breathlessly, pulling back slowly.

"Happy New Year, Duo," Wufei whispered, hand sliding reluctantly back up to the braided teen's waist. Well, that definitely broke the mood, he thought ruefully as Duo turned to grab the champagne and glasses. Perhaps it's just as well... I don't know if we would have stopped. I certainly didn't want to! And I think it's still too soon for us to take things that far. I'm sure this is what I want... but I have to be certain that it's what Duo really wants, too.

With a loud 'POP', the champagne cork went flying over the balcony railing.

"Here," Duo said, passing Wufei a glass. "Here's to... what? To a peaceful year?"

"To a peaceful year," Wufei agreed, clinking glasses. Together.

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