see ch. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
Warriors + Chapter 96
In the Bleak Midwinter
The laser surgery to repair
the weakness in Wufei's chest was noninvasive and he began to feel better
almost at once. He was still too weak to be released from the hospital,
however, and the thought of spending his first real Christmas here left
him depressed and prone to sudden bursts of self-pity when no one was
around. Zechs's new arm was complete and a medical team from Sanque arrived
for the fitting. This took him away from Wufei for hours at a time over
the next few days, and though it ultimately was a successful installation,
the lines around Zechs's eyes and mouth each night bore silent testimony
to the discomfort involved. He made light of it, but Wufei could tell.
Zechs would hear no more apologies from him on the matter, however. To
make matters worse, the weather had turned foul, with gusts of rain and
sleet beating against the windows.
Zechs was as loving and attentive as ever, despite his own discomforts,
but somehow, that just made Wufei feel worse. This was Zechs's first Christmas
in some ways, too, at least since he'd reclaimed his own identity. They'd
planned to spend it together in Sanque, observing the customs of that
country. Wufei felt perfectly comfortable observing the customs of another
culture, and Zechs was not religious. It was simply going to be colorful
and romantic and fun, an important first step in their life together.
Even the prospect of a "duty visit" with Relena had not dampened his enthusiasm.
To have to be here, stuck in this room he was so dreadfully sick of, still
dependent on nurses and drugs? It was as depressing as the view out his
All the same, he decided to make the best of it. He'd already borrowed
Duo's laptop and ordered gifts to be delivered here. He had the money
Kushreneda had willed him. He would show Zechs he could be generous, too.
One of the nurses who had a crush on him was hiding the packages for him
as they arrived. A few were more carefully hidden than the others and
he blushed even thinking about them, wondering if he could actually get
up the courage to give them to Zechs.
Heero was doing much better. The increased therapy was having a marked
effect. They were scheduled to be released today, the 24th. With the time
difference, they would be back in New Orleans in time to celebrate Christmas
Eve, or Earth Fall Day eve, with the others. Wufei was happy for them,
of course, and had gifts to send back with them, but self-pity welled
up again whenever he thought about them leaving. For the past two years
Quatre had begged him to join them, be part of their new tradition, and
both years he'd stubbornly stayed away. Looking back now, he realized
what a stunted, selfish person he'd been. They really had cared about
him, and he'd been too blind and self-involved, and yes, perhaps a bit
frightened of their newfound intimacy-- to appreciate it. Now he was going
to miss it again.
Heero and Duo were discharged late that afternoon. They came by Wufei's
room dressed to travel, with their coats over their arms. Sitting there
in his wheelchair in his pajamas like an invalid, Wufei did his best to
smile as they came in, but it took an effort.
"The gifts for you and the others are in that bag. Zechs just stepped
out. I know he wants to say good-bye," he told them, his voice a little
strained. Damn it, it must be the drugs they still had him on. He resolutely
told himself he was not going to cry!
"Hey, don't look like that!" Duo exclaimed, seeing through his act at
once. He came over and gave Wufei a hug. "Ya know, I think I saw him in
the solarium on the way by. Come on, we'll all say good-bye together.
And I want a peek at this new arm of his."
"No, really--" Wufei began, but Duo took command of the chair and wheeled
him out of the room.
Heero fell in beside them with the coats and the bag. "You look sad,"
he noted in his typical blunt fashion.
"I'm just tired," Wufei mumbled. This was torture! Why couldn't they just
have left him alone?
Thankfully, this floor had mostly emptied out for the holidays. They met
only a few nurses along the way. As they approached the open door of the
solarium, Wufei saw that there were lights on there. Perhaps Zechs had
found someone more cheerful to play a game of chess with.
Duo wheeled him through the door and Wufei was shocked to find not only
Zechs there, but Quatre and Trowa as well. Quatre was in a wheel chair,
too, but he was positively beaming as he waved and said, "Happy Earth
Fall Day, Wufei! You didn't think we were going to let you two spend your
first one here all alone, did you?"
Wufei looked around at the others who were all smiling at him now, and
burst into tears.
Duo had felt bad about leaving Wu and Zechs in the hospital over the holiday,
and Yuki, too, but there was no reason to remain in the hospital any longer.
They were both healing well, and Heero's emotional state was on firm ground
They visited the boy each day and he was slowly letting down his guard
and opening up. Heero talked him into agreeing to therapy to deal with
the abuse, and then made certain that a reputable therapist was brought
in. They'd already given him some presents, too, new clothes and a portable
game system. The kid had been speechless, and then he'd cried. Heero was
finding it hard to think of leaving him here alone when the time came
to go home. Adoption was out of the question; he'd already looked into
that. He and Duo were too young, and foreign, to begin with, not even
taking into account their mental health history or lack of a permanent
address. But Heero had managed to set up a trust fund in the kid's name
and meant to make certain he did not end up on the streets ever again.
He wasn't happy leaving Wufei and Zechs here for Christmas, either. Wufei
had no family and it was debatable whether Zechs did or not. He and Duo
talked it all over with Trowa and Kat by vid phone. It had been Quatre's
idea for them to come here instead.
"The kitchen isn't done yet and the garden's full of building materials.
I'd love to escape the mess for a bit."
"Are you up to the trip?" asked Heero.
"Oh yes! I'm still having trouble with my left leg, but my back is much
"I'll find us a nice hotel suite," said Trowa. "One with a king-sized
They'd felt a little guilty, keeping Wufei in the dark about their plans,
but Zechs had insisted on secrecy. "He'll only make a fuss and try to
talk you out of it."
He was probably right, but Duo still felt bad, seeing Wufei break down
like this when they sprang the surprise on him. It was probably embarrassing
the hell out of the poor guy, with Zechs holding him like that, right
there in front of everyone. He got himself under control quickly, though,
and Zechs looked oddly pleased.
"Looks like that new arm works just fine," Duo whispered to Heero.
"I told you they were good friends," Zechs said, giving Wufei his handkerchief.
"Sorry, Wu," Duo said, kneeling down by his chair. "But you're stuck with
us this year. See, we even added you both to the wreath."
"The what?" asked Wufei, and then retreated behind his handkerchief again
as he saw what Duo was talking about.
Trowa and Kat had brought the Earth Fall Day wreath with them. Trowa had
made it their first year together and Quatre had sent Wufei pictures.
The wreath was fashioned out of artificial greenery, like a regular Christmas
wreath, but the big floppy bow was silver and instead of the usual decorations,
there were six small, hand-painted Gundams. Duo had made the original
five--they'd included Wufei right from the start, even though he wasn't
there--and Trowa had made a little Tallgeese and added it next to the
Shenlong. Zechs had actually been piloting a Leo that day, but the Tallgeese
had been his suit of choice and he'd asked Trowa to use that instead.
The wreath was hung on the back of a chair by the hospital Christmas tree,
and the others had already piled their presents there. Unbeknownst to
Wufei, Duo, Heero, and Zechs had all been out shopping yesterday while
he took his afternoon nap.
When they finally got Wufei calmed down, he called in one of the nurses
and whispered to her. She went out, and came back pushing a wheelchair
loaded with brightly wrapped gifts. There looked to be nearly a dozen,
in every size and shape.
"I did some shopping of my own," Wufei confessed shyly, watching as his
offerings were added to the pile under the silver tree.
Duo had charmed the hospital administrator into giving them the use of
the room for the night. In keeping with past tradition, massive amounts
of Chinese food and beer soon arrived for the evening feast and Duo had
found an orderly who was willing to buy a bag of weed for him. Heero scowled
a bit at that.
"Hey, it's Earth Fall Day!" Duo told him, exchanging a wink with Kat.
He'd taught the little blond to smoke the shit that time he'd stayed at
his desert base. It had been one of their first bonding rituals. Proper
as he'd seemed at the time, Kat had taken to it like a duck to water.
Duo also noticed that Zechs looked pretty pleased with this development.
While Duo rolled blunts with practiced ease, Trowa took five small flat
packages out from under the tree and handed them around. "Welcome to Earth
Fall Day eve," he said with mock solemnity, giving Zechs and Wufei theirs.
"One of our many ancient traditions is the Earth Fall Day Eve Dress Code.
Each year one of us chooses a theme and everyone must dress accordingly.
The first year Duo won the toss and chose the theme. Duo's choice was
'Nudity.'" With a magician's flourish, Trowa produced a handful of photos
and passed them around. These were some of the more tasteful pictures
taken that night, but Wufei blushed anyway and quickly handed them back.
Heero grinned. Zechs lingered a bit too long over them for Wufei's liking.
"I might have guessed," Wufei growled, taking the pictures from his lover
and giving them to Duo. "I'm not doing that. Not even for you."
"No, it's different every year," Duo assured him. "Of course, no one says
we can't repeat a theme now and then."
"We decided to go by ascending order after that," Trowa continued. "Last
year, I chose an island theme." The pictures were less risque this time,
grass skirts and loud shirts. Quatre had opted for a coconut shell bra.
"We all got lei'd that year," Duo quipped.
Trowa and Kat rolled their eyes.
"So it's my turn this year," Quatre continued. "Since we had two engagements
in the group, I decided we should go for something romantic. Go on, open
Duo eagerly opened his. Quatre had refused to tell him what he was up
to. It was a really small box. Duo ripped off the shiny silver paper and
lifted the lid, then grinned at the contents. Inside were a pair of black
silk boxer shorts covered in shiny red lip prints, a black 'beater' style
tee shirt and a black leather cock ring with silver heart-shaped studs.
Everyone else had gotten the same outfit, even Zechs and Wu.
Duo looked up to find Wufei eyeing the cock ring skeptically.
"Is this a bracelet of some sort?" he asked.
Kat had come prepared. He snapped a picture of him holding it just as
everyone else burst out laughing. He also caught the immediate shift to
outrage a moment later as Zechs whispered the explanation in Wufei's ear.
"OK, everyone go get changed," Quatre ordered.
"You aren't serious!" Wufei gasped.
"Come now, mei. It's tradition," Zechs said.
"You knew about this?"
"Not in detail, my love. But 'when in Rome', as they say."
"We're in Tokyo."
"Same thing," said Duo. "C'mon, Wu man. Pleeeeese? Heero's going to wear
his, aren't you baby?"
"Of course," Heero replied, already peeling off his shirt.
"You would do anything that braided menace asked you to," Wufei pointed
"True," Heero pulled the tight black shirt on and it molded itself to
his toned chest and belly. Duo's mouth watered a little and the others
smirked--except Wufei, who just stared.
"And Kat and Tro came all this way just so we could finally be all together,"
Duo wheedled, seeing Wufei still adamant. "Gee, Wufei, you wouldn't want
to hurt Kat's feelings, now, would you?"
Quatre helpfully gave Wufei a big-eyed, imploring look, complete with
Wufei lasted about ten seconds under that combined onslaught. Or maybe
it was Heero's abs under that shirt. "Very well!" he snapped. "But I get
to wear my yukata. And no pictures!"
"Dream on, 05," Duo laughed. "Go on, Zechs. Get your boyfriend changed.
We'll make do here. Hurry up, the food's getting cold."
The four of them who remained stripped and changed. They'd all been intimate
enough with each other not to be embarassed at a little nudity. Heero
did turn away, when Kat and Trowa put on each other's cock rings, but
he gamely held up his to Duo.
"God, I love you!" Duo breathed, biting his lip as a rush of lust hit.
Heero kissed him, then reached into Duo's black silk boxers and slipped
the leather band around the base of his stiffening cock behind his balls.
Duo winced a little as Heero pressed the snaps home, then gasped as a
warm hand cupped his balls and stroked up his cock. The combination of
the caress with the snug constriction of the ring made him want to go
celebrate in private. Suddenly he was very anxious for Heero to resume
he role as primary top.
"My turn," he sighed, and made a slow, teasing job of snapping the leather
band into place. Heero was trembling a little and had his eyes closed
by the time Duo was done. When Duo settled the waistband of his boxers
back into place, there was a considerable tent in the front of them. Heero
grabbed him and gave him a passionate kiss, caressing his ass through
the black silk and rocking his hips against him. Glancing over at the
others, he found them doing the same, only Kat still had his hand in Trowa's
boxers. Duo closed his eyes and happily concentrated on what Heero's tongue
was doing to his. He broke away with considerable regret.
"I don't think Wu is ready for this." He gave Heero's erection one last
stroke. "Down, boy!"
"I hope we haven't pushed Wufei too fast," Quatre said, noting how long
the others had been gone. "I really only meant it as a joke."
But Wu and Zechs were both smiling when Zechs wheeled him back in. They
were both wearing the required outfit and looked hot as hell, even if
Wufei had his ratty old blue bathrobe on over his. Zechs was robeless,
and Duo got a good look at the new arm. Like the last one, the only thing
that distinguished it from the real thing was the silver locking band.
It was several inches higher than the old one, he noted with an inward
Duo was about to ask if they were wearing the entire outfit, when Wufei
held up his right hand, showing Duo the cock ring snapped snugly around
his wrist. The heart-shaped studs twinkled in the colored lights of the
"I rather like my bracelet," he said.
Duo gave Zechs a quick once over as everyone laughed and Kat snapped more
pictures, noting the man's own smug grin. If Zechsy was wearing the cock
ring, it wasn't around his wrist.
Trowa had brought a portable radio. He found a station playing cheesy
Christmas music and they sat down in a circle on the floor and ate the
Chinese with chopsticks straight from the cartons and washed it down with
beer. Afterwards Duo lit up a couple of joints for dessert and they passed
them around. Heero discreetly passed, sticking to beer, but Wufei toked
like a pro.
"You've done this before, I see," Zechs chuckled, watching him with amusement.
Wufei held the smoke for a moment, and then exhaled and replied with a
chagrinned look, "I don't make a habit of this anymore, but yes, I have."
Trowa took the joint and Duo saw mischief in his eyes. "You've only smoked
alone, I think, judging by your technique. You're wasting half the hit."
He took a long pull, then leaned over to Quatre and blew the smoke gently
into his mouth.
Kat inhaled happily and kissed him. "Second hand smoke. I love it!"
Heero reveled in every moment of his first holiday, and felt a warm, quiet
wonder at being here with these young men, his friends. Not so very long
ago he'd had to watch from a distance, through photos and news feeds.
He'd never imagined himself in the heart of their little family.
He didn't mind Quatre's choice of theme. The room was warm and everyone
looked very sexy. Even Wufei was falling in with the spirit of the evening.
Heero caught him exchanging charged looks with Zechs and smiling that
new, secret smile of his. Heero realized that he and Wufei had been the
last to let go of their wartime selves and it had cost them both dearly.
Love had saved them both.
When they were done eating he couldn't help pulling Duo close and wrapping
his arms around him. He wasn't sure if the cock ring was helping or making
things worse. He did know he was going to make love to Duo before this
night was over. He waited until Duo had taken a puff on the joint, then
captured his lips with his own and sucked the pungent smoke from his mouth.
"Decided to be wicked after all?" Duo asked, surprised but cuddly.
"Just this once," Heero said, taking the joint from him and sucking in
a mouthful of smoke to share back with him.
"Present time!" Quatre announced when they were all pleasantly buzzed.
"We usually do it tomorrow, but since we're headed back home then, we'll
do it early this year."
Duo had discussed things with Trowa and Quatre, and coached Heero and
Zechs on the gift buying rules. Each couple bought something nice for
each other, and a gift for the other couples to share. Wufei had been
out of the loop, but done the same anyway.
They'd were all already wearing their gifts from Trowa and Quatre. Wufei
had gotten everyone antique absinthe glasses and silver absinthe spoons.
Zechs gave them bottles of very good champagne. Duo and Heero gave each
couple nicely framed sketches Heero had done of them.
Then it was time for the couples' gifts. Heero took a small package from
the dwindling pile and handed it to Duo. "This is from me."
Duo opened it, and found a tiny, beautifully wrapped box inside. This
turned out to be a black velvet box. Heero took it from him, then rose
up on one knee and opened the box to reveal a heavy platinum band with
a gorgeous oval-shaped indigo blue stone set into it.
"I wanted to ask you more properly," he said, smiling up at Duo. "Will
you marry me, Duo Maxwell?"
"You know I will, baby. Is this an engagement ring?" Duo gasped. It was
"Yes. The man at the jewelry store said it is quite common nowadays, for
men to wear them, too. It's a Burmese sapphire, the birthstone for September,
which you've chosen as your birthday. He also claimed that according to
tradition, the stone brings health, wealth, longevity, happiness, prosperity,
and fame to the wearer. I wish all those things for you in our life together."
He took the ring from the box and slipped it onto Duo's finger. "There
is a wedding band that goes with it. You get that later."
Duo kissed him, and then retrieved a tiny package hidden in the tree.
"I think I better give this to you now. Looks like we shopped at the same
store." He knelt in front of him as Heero unwrapped an identical box.
"You never gave me a chance to ask you at all, and now you beat me to
it twice. Heero Yuy, will you marry me?"
Inside the box was a ring identical to the one now twinkling on Duo's
finger, set with the same blue stone. "The January stone is garnet, and
that just didn't look like your kind of thing. I picked this one because
it's the same blue as your eyes. And I like all that stuff you said it
was supposed to help you with, too." He slid the ring on Heero's finger
and kissed the back of his hand. "I love you, Heero, and I wanted to give
you this on this day. Now we have better memories for it."
"Damn, you two are so sweet!" Quatre exclaimed, tearing up. "And you didn't
even buy them together, but they match!"
"Well, there aren't that many guy's engagement rings to pick from," Duo
admitted. "But I guess we have kinda the same taste, too. Or maybe that
guy at the store recognized us and figured out what we were up to. He
was looking at me kinda funny! Anway, I love it, Heero. It looks really
good on both of us."
Heero couldn't think of anything better than kissing him again, by way
of an answer. He hadn't really thought about wearing one himself, but
now he couldn't imagine taking it off.
"I would like to give you your present now, Zechs," Wufei said, taking
a tiny box from the pocket of his robe. "If you would give me a hand,
I will kneel, too."
"There's no need for that, my love," Zechs told him. "We're both already
on the floor."
"Very well, then." Wufei opened the little box to reveal a platinum band
with a large round diamond set into it in a circle of gold. "It is an
old Earth custom, I believe, to give one's intended a diamond."
Zechs's pale blue eyes went wide as Wufei reached for his new left hand.
"Mei, this is--It must have--"
Wufei gave him a warning look, and then kissed his hand tenderly. "Diamonds
are said to endure forever, and the circle is endless. Such is my love
"Mei," Zechs murmured. He kissed him again, then gave him his right hand
instead. "I know it's not traditional, but I'd rather wear it on the real
Wufei smiled and slipped it onto his ring finger. "We seem to be capable
of making our own traditions."
"I need a tissue," Quatre sniffled from Trowa's arms.
"Man, talk about your G-factor. We are sooooooo gay!" laughed Duo.
"I prefer to think that great minds think alike," said Zechs, presenting
Wufei with a now very recognizable little box. This ring was masculine,
like the others, and set with a large ruby.
"It is your stone, as we've already determined. I hope you don't mind
another, but I do so love you in red." He kissed the back of Wufei's left
ring finger. "I told you I was saving this one for something special.
Wear it always, to remember my passion and deep devotion to you, my beautiful
Quatre blew his nose loudly into his tissue. "This is the best Earth Fall
Day ever! I don't know how we'll ever top this!"
"Actually, Duo and I have one more gift to give you and Trowa," Heero
told him, and pulled an envelop with a bow stuck to it from behind the
"Hey, you're breaking the rules," Quatre told him as he opened it. "You're
only supposed to--- Oh Allah! Oh my fucking god! Heero, what the hell?"
He and Trowa both stared down at the bank draft.
"It's not a gift, exactly," Heero explained. "I'm offering to buy into
your show as an investor. I know it's nowhere near what you stand to lose
because of all the delays, but I thought it would help."
"Two hundred thousand?" Trowa gasped, finding his voice at last. "Heero,
I know you hacked money during the war, but this--You and Duo need to
think of your own future!"
"It's OK, really. I had an unexpected inheritance recently." Heero exchanged
a look with Zechs. "I have plenty of money, and I really want to do this.
I told you, it's an investment. Also, Duo and I are willing to perform
in your show until Quatre is able to return. It is one of your selling
points, is it not? Having Gundam boys on stage? I know I'm not trained
for that exactly, but I thought some of my abilities from the war could
be modified. I've very strong and agile. I could--well, I'm sure you could
think of something?" He trailed off, not sure of their response. Quatre
looked stunned. Trowa was giving him a blatantly appraising look.
"You are very strong," he murmured.
"People will go nuts!" Quatre exclaimed. He wiggled over to them and threw
his arms around them both. "It won't even matter what the act is. It's
enough that it's you! And Duo. God, you're so gorgeous we just
have to paint you silver or something and have you stand in the spot light!"
"Ah c'mon, Kat! There's gotta be something fun I could do. I'm pretty
"He is," Heero agreed. "And supple."
"I don't suppose you want in on this, Zechsy?" Duo laughed. "You'd cause
quite a stir."
"I already have, thank you," Zechs laughed. "The Sanque Parliament will
soon be debating whether a potential heir to the throne can have a spouse
of the same gender."
"What if they say no?"
Zechs hugged Wufei. "Then Relena better keep up her claim and have a few
heirs of her own. I have no interest in ruling anyway, and certainly not
without 'the man I love' at my side."
Duo laughed. "You are such a G-boy, Zechsy!"
"Thank you, Duo. So, what other traditions must be observed?"
"Ummmm, well--" Quatre suddenly looked a bit uncomfortable.
"We generally get really stoned and make out," Trowa finished for him.
"All of you?" asked Heero.
"Just messing around," Duo put in hastily. "Strip poker, spin the bottle,
that kind of thing, until we pass out."
"Strip poker would be a very short game in these outfits," Zechs chuckled.
Wufei just looked scared.
"That first year we started naked and had to put clothes back on every
time someone lost a hand," Trowa mused, grinning.
"Yeah, well, most of us aren't up to major drugging this year, and Wu,
you've been a good sport. Don't worry, we're not going to embarrass you
any more--this year, anyway," Duo told him.
"I'm sorry, it's just that I am not used to such---pastimes." Wufei had
turned almost as red as the stone in his ring.
"We know that. It's quite all right," Heero assured him. "No one would
expect you to---"
"I've never played this 'spin the bottle', but I do understand the concept,"
Wufei went on before Heero could finish. "If--if the rest of you wished
to keep up that tradition, well--I suppose I could try. That is, if you
don't mind, Zechs."
Zechs stared at him a moment, then grinned. "Not at all."
Argh! Total sap, I know! I never intended to go the whole "Christmas"
route. It just worked out that way, time-wise. Sorry. Blech! Back to good
honest lemons, lust, and angst soon, I promise! Feedback appreciated.
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