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!>>

Reunion + Part 1

Wufei sat down to his solitary dinner, picked up his chopsticks, and found himself staring across the table at The Picture.

What... oh. I took it down to clean the glass last night; I must have forgotten to put it back up. Dinner forgotten in its turn, he reached across to pick it up.

It was the only picture in his tiny apartment; Relena had taken it at the very beginning of Quatre's party celebrating the end of the war, before anyone had a chance to get drunk.

Before Rashid started mixing those blue things, he thought, one corner of his mouth twisting up wryly. Before I screwed up.

The five Gundam pilots each faced the camera in their own way. Heero was in the centre, not glaring; Relena had caught one of his rare smiles, but glares were definitely still an option. Trowa and Quatre were to the left of the picture, standing close together with their arms around each others' waists; Quatre was smiling one of his hundred-watt smiles, and Trowa was looking down at him with a gentle expression half-hidden behind his bangs. Wufei was at the extreme right, body language radiating disdain for this foolishness but his face surprisingly open, glancing sideways with his smiling mouth half-open as he made some comment. And Duo... Duo was between him and Heero, arms slung around their shoulders, eyes sparkling directly into the lens as he laughed.

Wufei sighed, tipping the frame for a better look at Duo's face.

It's been eight months. I'm sorry... I wish I could take back what I did. I wish you'd come back.

I'm sure you're fine. You didn't make it through the war without being a survivor. But... are you happy? Where are you?

Do you still hate me?

* * * * *

NEW YORK

A thin figure in a ragged trench coat picked his way along the street, steeping over trash and around the huddled forms of drunks and hobos. He paused and glanced upwards, shoving his hands deeper into his pockets, as a sprinkle of smog-grey snowflakes swirled down out of the overcast sky.

As he lowered his head and stepped forwards again, a scruffy girl-child bumped into him. As she mumbled an apology and moved away, he snaked out one hand and caught her by the wrist.

"That was pathetic," he said, voice hoarse and rusty with disuse. "You're way too slow, and that pocket doesn't even have my fake wallet in it. How the hell do you expect to eat if your dip's that bad?"

As she gaped at him, too startled to even think of running, he pulled something out from under his coat and shoved it into her hand. "Get some practice, for fuck's sake."

Then he just walked off.

She blinked, confused, then looked at what he'd given her.

Holy -- what kind of nut catches a pickpocket and then just GIVES them fifty cred?!

- - - - - - -

He stood in a run-down hotel room, stuffing his few clothes into a battered duffle bag. Finished, he slung it over his shoulder and stared out the window, twisting the end of his braid between his fingers.

"How ya doin', 'Fei?" Duo whispered. "Still hate me?"

* * * * *

"Chang, aren't you going to lunch?"

Wufei shrugged, not looking up from his paperwork. "I want to finish this first. I'll go later."

"You've said that every day this week," Noin said, "and every single time, you worked straight through -- "

He lifted his head slightly and glared at her.

" -- not that it's any of my business," she said, turning away. She stalked off, muttering. "I said he was a kid three years ago, and he's still a kid now. I swear, it's like trying to get a four-year-old to eat his broccoli..."

Wufei had written two lines in blessed peace when his vidphone beeped. "Chang here," he said, not looking up.

<<Yui here,>> came the response, just as curtly. He raised an eyebrow, looking up at the screen, and discovered Heero with his eyebrow quirked. They stared at each other for a second; then both smirked and said "Hn" at the same time.

A hand smacked Heero lightly on the back of the head. <<Will you two stop mirroring each other and just talk? And no, Quatre, I am not going to wear pink, I don't care how much you like it! I'm sick of pink!>>

Heero turned to glare at her.

<<Don't you give me that 'omae o korosu' look! I swear, even if you don't shoot me one day, you'll still be the death of me...>>

Wufei's smirk widened. "More wedding plans?"

Heero rolled his eyes. <<I'm beginning to regret the day I proposed.>>

"How did she pry it out of you, anyway?"

<<I presented it to him as a mission: be my permanent bodyguard,>> Relena said, leaning into view. <<He accepted. Then I batted my eyelashes and said 'does this mean you'll protect me forever?' and when he said 'yes'...>> She shrugged.

"Ah," Wufei said with a straight face. "How traditionally -- and unromantically -- Japanese. At least he didn't ask you to cook for him for the rest of your life."

She chuckled. <<It would be a very short life if I was doing the cooking! In any case, Wufei, since my fiance could take hours to get around to the point of this call, I'll ask you. We want to ask Duo to be the best man; could you either give us his com code or ask him to call?>>

"What?" Wufei blinked, confused. "I haven't heard from Duo since he... left. I thought he was keeping in touch with you." A hollow feeling that had nothing to do with his missed lunch settled in his stomach.

Heero and Relena looked surprised. <<No -- we thought -- >>

Quatre pushed in on Heero's other side. <<What do you mean, you haven't heard from him?!>> he blurted out, looking incredulous. <<He had to be keeping in touch with you of all people!>>

"What do you mean by that?"

<<Damn it, Wufei, because he was in love with you, of course! Everybody knew!>>

"...what?!" Wufei choked out.

Quatre stared at him. <<You... didn't know?>>

"...what did you say?"

<<Oh, shit. You didn't know.>> Quatre ducked sideways, out of view. <<Trowa!>

"Quatre?!"

Relena leaned forwards as Trowa came into view over Heero's shoulder. <<Wufei... you honestly didn't know?>>

He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, then spoke through clenched teeth. "Relena. Could you please explain to me exactly what it is I was supposed to know? I seem to be operating without a script, here."

<<Duo was in love with you.>>

"With me."

<<Yes!>>

"And everybody knew this... except me."

<<Well... apparently, yes.>>

"Nobody thought I might like to know?!"

<<I thought you did!>>

Heero broke in. <<He was afraid to tell you. He didn't know how you would react, and thought you might hate him if you found out.>>

Wufei froze.

Oh gods.

That's exactly what he must have thought when I walked out. And then I avoided him because I was afraid he hated me...

Oh gods.

What have I done?

He scrubbed the palm of one hand over his face, then looked back at the screen. "He... hasn't contacted anyone?"

<<He called Quatre and I once, about a fortnight after he left,>> Trowa said. <<I think he said he was in Memphis. Which Memphis, I don't know.>>

"Nothing after that?" I thought he was just avoiding me! I didn't know I'd driven him away from all his friends!

<<No.>>

"We have to find him."

Quatre leaned back into view. <<How fast can you get here?>>

"Which of your properties are you at? I can be on the next plane.>>

<<New York.>>

Heero stretched out a long arm and pulled his laptop over to him; a moment later, he spoke. <<There's a flight in an hour and a half. I'll book you a seat, and pick you up from the port.>> He looked up and shot a glare at Wufei.

<<We need to talk.>>

- - - - - - -

Wufei almost ran down the corridor to Lady Une's office and slammed through the door.

"I need to take some leave, starting right now."

Lady Une looked up from the file she was reading. "Good afternoon, Chang. I'm afraid I didn't quite catch that; would you mind repeating it? Slower, this time, and without the door slamming in the middle."

He flushed slightly. "I need to take indefinite leave. Now."

"Out of the question! You know how understaffed we are, and we've only been operational for two months. Nobody is taking leave yet."

"Fine. I quit," Wufei snarled.

She raised an eyebrow adnd put the file down. "Chang... what is so important that you have to ask for leave, and quitwhen it's not granted?

"Duo Maxwell is missing."

Her eyes widened. "Ah. Oh my. We can't have that. Duo Maxwell, ex-Gundam pilot, wandering around the universe unsupervised? It's a frightening thought. So. Your resignation is not accepted; this is very definitely Preventers business, and your new assignment. Use whatever resources you need... within
reason, of course."

He nodded shortly. "I'm leaving for New York in just over an hour."

"Very well. Send me reports."

After he left, Une sat for a while, staring blindly at the wall.

"Duo Maxwell on the loose... oh my."

~*~*~*~

[cont]