Reunion + Chapter 18 (cont)

~*~*~*~

...huh? How did I get here?

Standing in a field of flowers, Wufei looked around him. This is where Meiran died, he realised. But... it doesn't exist any more!

Oh. Right. I must be dreaming.

"Chang Wufei, you idiot!"

A small, hard fist connected solidly with Wufei's cheekbone as he turned to look behind him, knocking him down.

"Ow! Meiran!" he complained, pressing one hand to the bruise as he looked up at the irate girl. "Now I know I'm dreaming," he grumbled, sitting up. "Trust my subconscious to manifest as you. I must be feeling masochistic today..."

"What other choices were there?" she snapped, crossing her arms and glaring at him. "Sally Po? You wouldn't listen. Yui? You'd deck him. If I appeared as Duo Maxwell, you'd be concentrating so hard on feeling unworthy that you'd never hear a word. You're stuck with Meiran. Think of it as getting in touch with your feminine side.

"Now then," she continued as he sputtered, tapping her foot, "shall we get back to the point? You're an idiot."

"I heard you the first time. Is that it?"

"Of course not. If it were, I would have appeared as Une. Pay attention! You're so wound up with guilt over hurting Duo that you're about to hurt him again."

"What-- no!" he protested, horrified. "I wouldn't--"

"Then why are you planning to push him away?"

"I'm not!"

"Maybe not consciously, but that's what would have happened. All those thoughts about looking after Duo until he's better, and then letting him go to 'find someone who deserves him'... wake up and smell the coffee, Chang! What if he doesn't want to be let go?"

"I... I'm not good enough for him," Wufei said quietly, looking away.

"And you were worried about his low self-esteem!" Meiran snorted, rolling her eyes. "You love him. He loves you. You want him. He wants you. Where is the problem here?!"

"I don't know that he still loves me. I realise now that he did, but-- gods, I'm arguing with my own subconscious," Wufei muttered. "This is pointless!"

"No it's not. Your conscious mind is too busy feeling worthless to put two and two together. That's what I'm for. Look at the facts!" she continued, starting to pace. "You're the only person he wasn't angry at when you found him. He talked to you before he would talk to anyone else. He doesn't want to let you out of his sight, but he trusts you to go and come back. He clings to you in his sleep! Your voice and your touch can soothe him out of his worst nightmares almost instantly. Worrying about you made him forget he was angry with the other pilots, even Yui; his first impulse when he found out you'd been attacked was to go punish the people who'd hurt you; and he really got angry when you spoke badly of yourself.

"This is not the picture of someone who feels grateful or guilty, Wufei," she finished seriously. "This is someone who cares. This is someone in love."

There was a long pause before Wufei answered. "Even if he is in love with me... I'm still not good enough for him."

"He might disagree. You're determined to be miserable, aren't you?! Gods! ...All right, look at it this way. You want Duo to be happy, right?"

"Of course!"

"Well, what he wants is you. Are you going to give him what he wants, or are you going to let him go and walk away... like you did eight months ago?"

"NO!"

Wufei paused, shocked by the strength of his reaction; then he swallowed hard and continued. "No. I-- I won't do that to him again, but... if he wants to leave... I won't stop him."

Meiran smirked triumphantly. "I don't think that will be a problem."

"Can I wake up now?" he said, plaintively.

"Maybe. I'm finished with you for now... but Sally was right, you know. You've got a lot of sleep to catch up on."

As the dream fragmented around Wufei, flowers floating into the air while the ground broke up and fell away beneath him, he heard Meiran's parting words.

"Remember, Chang... as long as he wants you, don't let go! Sha zi[1]," she said, almost affectionately. "Idiot!"

~*~*~*~

"I won't," Wufei muttered in his sleep, pulling Duo close. "Duo... wo xi wang ni shi xhu yu wo de[2]..."

----------

Duo was dreaming, too. His dream was much less surreal... and far more unpleasant.

~*~*~*~

"Shit. All that fuss and he ain't got nothin'!"

"I think the little prick broke my finger. Stupid bastard!" A heavy boot thudded into Duo's ribs as he lay helpless on the ground.

"Why fight so hard if he didn't have nothin' to lose? It don't make sense."

"Hey, I looked in all his pockets!"

"His wallet's empty." There was a slapping sound as it was tossed contemptuously to the ground.

"So he's got something that ain't in his pockets or his wallet."

Rough hands searched quickly, ripping Duo's clothes and probing into his boots. Finally, they tugged at his collar.

"Here's something-- aw, jeez! Don't tell me he was fighting for this. We'll be lucky to get twenty credits for it. Cheap-shit cross..."

There was a sudden yank and a stinging pain as the chain broke.

"You sure that's it?"

"Look for yourself, man. He's got nothing."

"They're right," Heero's voice said coldly from the mouth of the alley. "He hasn't got anything we want."

Everything else fell away into darkness as Duo opened his eyes, straining to see. Heero, Trowa and Quatre were walking away from him across black earth, never looking back.

"No..." Duo whimpered, struggling to rise. "Don't leave me... please... I just want to come home..."

"Shh." Wufei's voice seemed to come from nowhere. "I'm here. It's only a dream..."

...really?

'Fei wouldn't lie to me. It's just a dream.

~*~*~*~

Duo woke up nestled against rough bandages, one hand clutching a fold of Wufei's boxers at the hip, feeling a hand rubbing gently at his back. His face was tucked into the hollow between Wufei's neck and shoulder, and somehow he felt as if he was in exactly the right place... as if the exact same thing had happened before, and part of him remembered.

"Shhh," Wufei's voice said drowsily. "It's all right, Duo..." He trailed off into a mumble and fell silent, breathing heavily.

He's asleep! Duo realised incredulously. How often has he done this, if he can talk me out of a nightmare in his sleep?!

Has he been sleeping with me every night?

...no. He hasn't been sleeping. That's why he's so tired; he's been waiting until I'm asleep, and getting up early, so I won't find out. Why would he do that?! Why is he sneaking around and tiring himself out? Why didn't he just tell me what he was doing?

He sneaked out after the party, too, Duo thought miserably.

Thinking about that, however, brought up other memories, of the only time Wufei had talked about what happened at the party.

*'...I was scared. I was afraid that I'd made you hate me... so I ran away. I should never have left you like that...'*

Duo pulled back slightly to look at Wufei's face as a possible explanation occurred to him.

Maybe he's still scared?

----------

Various aches and pains made themselves felt as Wufei woke up.

Ow. I guess the painkillers wore off, he thought blearily, not yet opening his eyes. And I'm stiff... getting up is going to hurt. No wonder I dreamed that Meiran hit me!

That was a weird dream. Talking to my subconscious, manifesting as Meiran... she wasn't even in character! It was more like a combination of her and Duo, with a little Sally thrown in.

Wufei felt Duo shift slightly, pulling away, and grimaced mentally. Time to leave, before he wakes up. I'll just get stiffer if I wait, anyway... He opened his eyes and looked straight into Duo's face.

Duo's very awake, aware face.

Oh, shit, was all Wufei managed to think before his brain shut down in panic.

----------

Duo examined Wufei's face carefully; then he smiled, very slightly, and tucked his face back into Wufei's neck.

Yep, he thought, closing his eyes. He's still scared.

* * * * *

Several hours later, there was a knock at the apartment door.

By this time, Wufei was almost certain that he'd never be able to move normally again. He'd been lying awake the whole time, holding Duo close, unwilling to move even though he could feel all his bruised joints and muscles stiffening up. Getting up to take more painkillers had not been an option; if Duo was happy resting against him, Wufei was staying right where he was.

As the knock came again, Wufei groaned, shifting his weight. I'm going to have to wake Duo up. I can't sneak out like this... and now that he knows I'm here, I'd better not try!

"Duo? Duo, wake up... I have to get up. There's someone at the door."

"Mmnh?" Duo blinked sleepily at him, watching with a mildly confused expression as he struggled to get up; then there was a third knock, and Duo rolled over onto his hands and knees. "I'll get it," he yawned, crawling towards the end of the bed. "It'll be faster."

"...there is that, yes," Wufei admitted, slumping back onto the futon and wincing. "I'm a little slower than normal right now..."

Duo took a look through the security peephole and frowned. All he could see was a blur of colours with random sparkles. Shrugging, he opened the door and peered out.

"Master Duo!" Rashid exclaimed, arms full of brightly wrapped parcels. "Er... Happy Christmas! May we come in?"

"Um..."

"Abdul, be careful with that," he snapped, looking back over his shoulder as he walked in; then he returned his attention to Duo and beamed as a giant fruit basket on legs wobbled through the door after him.

Ah. That was what I saw, Duo thought as the basket went past. Fruit and cellophane...

"Master Quatre, Master Trowa, Miss Relena and Master Heero sent these," Rashid continued, carefully unloading his burden onto the coffee table. "This is from we Manguanacs," assisting the fruit basket on its way to the floor, "and these are from Mr. Assink's grandmother."

"Which Assink?" Wufei couldn't resist asking as he limped out of the bedroom. He'd managed to get a pair of sweat pants on over his boxers, and was feeling a little more presentable.

Rashid looked confused. "Ah... I'm not sure I follow you, Master Wufei," he said as Abdul popped up from behind the fruit basket, grinning cheerfully at Duo, and the third Manguanac carefully added two bulky presents to the pile. "I only know one Mr. Assink..."

"I'm sure that will change," Wufei muttered. "Sorry. Can we offer you coffee, or...?"

"Thank you, Master Wufei, but please don't trouble yourself," Rashid said, eyeing the bandages and bruises. "Abdul, make coffee. Jamal, make lunch."

"Er... that's not necessary..."

"Master Duo," Rashid swept on, "please don't disappear like that again! It was bad enough when Master Quatre used to sneak off to go into battle without us. We thought we didn't have to worry any more once the war was over! We--"

Wufei caught Rashid's eye, glaring. Do. Not. Lecture. Duo.

"--er... we missed you," he finished lamely, visibly deflating.

----------

After the Manguanacs left, the presents had been moved to under the miniature Christmas tree while Wufei and Duo ate; now, Duo was sitting on the couch looking at them out of the corner of his eye.

"Do you want to open them now?"

"...I didn't get you anything," Duo said softly.

"You don't need to," Wufei said, carefully easing himself down onto the floor next to the pile so he could sort them out. "The only Christmas present I need is you... Here and getting better!" he added quickly, blushing. "Besides, that first Christmas during the war, you got everyone presents. None of the rest of us did..."

"I don't give presents just to get something back," Duo protested.

"Exactly," Wufei said firmly, dropping the first parcel into Duo's lap. "Neither do we. Don't worry about it; just enjoy them."

'Keeping Duo warm' seemed to be a theme for several of his presents: a heavy wool coat from Relena and Heero, a knitted afghan blanket and cookies from Ninke's grandmother Matilde, and gloves, scarf and sweater from Trowa and Quatre. Une had brought him a novelty coffee mug full of chocolates; it had a picture on it of a snowman dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, sitting on a beach, and Wufei was relieved to see that it hadn't even been chipped in the fight with Anders and his friends.

Duo didn't say anything when he opened his present from Wufei -- a portable CD player and a stack of disks -- and Wufei pretended not to notice when Duo wiped at his eyes and sniffed.

Wufei only got two presents -- silk shirts from Relena and Heero, and a leather-bound set of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's mysteries from Trowa and Quatre -- but he certainly didn't care. He spent most of his time watching Duo.

"I think that's it-- no, there's one more little one," he said, handing it to Duo.

"Who's it from?" Duo asked, turning the small brown parcel over in his hands.

"Doesn't it say?"

"No... just a sticker with 'Duo' printed on it," he reported, puzzled.

Wufei shrugged. "I don't know, then. Maybe there's a note inside?"

"Maybe it's from Ninke," Duo said, pulling at the tape. "I mean, there was one from his grandmother--"

The tape pulled off, ripping the paper, and something silver tumbled into Duo's lap with a chain trailing after it.

"...my cross," he whispered, picking it up in shaking hands. "'Fei, it's my cross!"

"Are you sure?" Wufei asked incredulously, leaning in for a closer look. "Maybe someone got you a new one?"

"No, it's mine!" Duo insisted. "Look... I scratched my initials into the back, years ago. The chain's been fixed... who did this?!"

"I honestly have no idea, Duo," Wufei whispered, eyes wide.

"I got it back..." Tears started to trickle down Duo's face and he sobbed, burying his face in Wufei's good shoulder. "I got something back. I get to keep something..."

* * * * *

The afternoon and evening passed very quietly. Duo and Wufei spent most of the time on the sofa under Duo's new afghan; Wufei sat and pretended to read his new books, while Duo leaned against him and fiddled silently with his cross. Christmas dinner was a couple of microwaved TV dinners, since neither of them was willing to trust the other with the stove in their current unsteady conditions.

I hope Duo's all right, Wufei thought anxiously, turning a page without having read a word on it. He's hardly said a word since he stopped crying. I know he was crying over something good, but I wish he'd talk! And he hasn't said anything about waking up with me next to him...

"'Fei?"

Wufei jumped. "Yes?"

"...I'm tired."

"Then you should go to bed and go to sleep."

No answer. Duo didn't move.

"...Duo?"

"I don't want to go alone," Duo said quietly.

Wufei sat frozen for an instant; then he carefully set the book aside and stood up, holding his hand out to Duo.

"All right, then. Let's go to bed."

----------

Duo scooted over to the far side of the futon and lay down, waiting for Wufei. The Chinese boy took his time settling down, mind racing.

Now what do I do?! Saying 'let's go to bed' was simple enough, but... does he just want me near him? Does he want me to hold him? I've held him every night so far, but he was asleep--

Duo propped himself up on one elbow, anxious eyes searching Wufei's face; then he reached out and took hold of Wufei's free hand, pulling it forward to lie on the futon between them, palm up.

...what? What's he doing?

Then he took the end of his braid and pressed it into Wufei's hand, folding the fingers over it.

Wufei couldn't speak.

He... he's not just handing me his braid, he thought, looking back at Duo's serious eyes. His braid means too much... it's so important to him...

Duo's giving me himself.

*'The only Christmas present I need is you...'*

Apparently satisfied with whatever he saw, Duo relaxed and moved closer, carefully settling down next to Wufei and draping one wrist over Wufei's hip. Tipping his face up for a second, he pressed a gentle kiss to Wufei's cheek, then settled in against his shoulder with a sigh.

"Merry Christmas, 'Fei."

----------

For the first night in a long time, both of them slept peacefully.

----------

owari!

[1] 'sha zi' = 'idiot'. Meiran repeated herself multilingually. Talented girl!
[2] 'wo xi wang ni shi xhu yu wo de' = 'I wish you were mine'

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