see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
Lost Souls + Chapter 44
April 20, AC 196
Trowa smiled to himself as he caught sight of Wufei emerging from the arrivals lounge at the shuttle port, carrying a small duffel over his shoulder. The L-5 boy didn't seem to have any concept of casual clothing. He was dressed in dark slacks, a long white shirt with a Mandarin collar similar to what he'd worn during the war, and his black hair was pulled back as tightly as ever in a ponytail.
Duo would have hugged Trowa on the spot--or at least he would have if he hadn't poached Quatre-- but Wufei gave Trowa a slight bow instead, not even offering to shake hands. Trowa would have been surprised if he had. Nonetheless, the smile was genuine and Trowa could tell that Wufei was as glad to see him as Trowa was to have him here.
"It's very good to see you," Trowa told him as he led the way out to the parking lot where his bike was parked.
"Thank you for hosting me on such short notice," Wufei replied. "I was a bit overdue for a break. I haven't had any time off since I started with Preventers."
Wufei sighed. "I'd rather tell you over a beer, if you don't mind."
Trowa chuckled. "That bad, eh? Come on."
They continued across the parking lot and Wufei's eyes widened as he saw Trowa's motorcycle. "That's a beauty!"
The Harley Softail Night Train was a low slung, sinister looking bike. He'd bought it second hand and given it a new black paint job and a new black leather seat. Trowa threw a long, denim-clad leg over it and started it up. The custom tuned muffler gave her a growl that practically gave him a hard on. He put down the passenger foot pegs and Wufei climbed onto the bitch seat behind him and gripped the back of Trowa's leather jacket with one hand, and his duffel with the other.
"You better hold on tighter than that," Trowa warned. Reaching back, he grabbed Wufei's arm and wrapped it around his waist. Wufei resisted at first, and Trowa could feel how stiffly he was holding himself, but when Trowa opened up the throttle that grip tightened considerably, though Wufei still kept some space between them. Interesting. It had been a week since Trowa had gone out cruising and he was more horny than he'd realized. He'd have to be, if he was thinking this much about being touched by Wufei Chang, the straightest of the straight. Somehow he doubted that his friend would be open to cruising the bars with him, either. Not the kinds of bars Trowa favored. Looked like he was going to have to jerk off in the shower for a few more days.
Trowa sped through the crowded streets around the shuttle port, taking the corners sharply, and out onto the relatively open road between there and Solaris city, where the circus was quartered. They got to the trailer in one piece and Wufei had maintained that invisible buffer between them the whole way, except for a few times when Trowa's abrupt braking had made him slide forward a little.
Trowa showed him around the facility and introduced him to few people, then took him to say hi to Cathy. After a few minutes they ran out of small talk, though, and Trowa sensed Wufei's relief when they headed back to Trowa's trailer for the promised beer.
They settled on either end of the couch and Wufei took a long pull at his beer and let out a sigh. "Ah, that's good." He looked at the label and raised an eyebrow. "German import. You stock good beer."
Good beer; another of the little luxuries Trowa allowed himself these days, like expensive sheets, the new leather jacket, and the bike. Between the circus and his pension, he was making good money. He was seriously considering new furniture, if he could find the time to shop.
"So, Relena?" he prompted, curious.
"She's booting me off her security detail."
"You're kidding! Why?"
Wufei's mouth tilted in a tight scowl. "The woman wanted more than just security, Barton. She called for me at all hours, simpering and flirting, and practically invited me into her bed."
"Do you think she and Heero hooked up?"
"That was not my impression. In fact, I think it might have been one of the reasons he left. He didn't seem at all interested. Now she's found someone who is, a Major Chabot. I'm stepping down on Monday, with a plausible explanation that allows me to retain my honor, of course."
"Of course. Are you leaving Preventers?"
"No. In fact, I'm very happy with my new assignment. I'll be working counter terrorism with Sally Po as my partner. There's still a lot of work to be done there."
Trowa saluted him with his beer. "Congratulations. That's great!"
"Have you ever considered joining?"
Trowa smiled. "No, I've had my fill of all that." He didn't mention the small stock of guns he kept in a hidden space under the couch they were sitting on, or the bad dreams. He wondered if Wufei was having problems. He looked pretty good. Maybe a little tired around the eyes. Those big, liquid black onyx eyes . . .
Trowa caught himself wandering and gave himself a mental shake. 'What the hell is the matter with me?'
They went out for dinner, then came back and played cards, chatting about the details of their new lives.
"Do you hear much from the others?" asked Trowa.
"Just you and Duo. Or I did, until--"
"Until?" Had there been another falling out among them?
"Well, since he's been living with Quatre."
"Oh. That." Pain and jealousy stabbed at Trowa's heart. Not that he had any right to be jealous. He'd walked away.
"I'm sorry. I understand the two of you two aren't speaking. Were you close friends?"
"You could say that." Of course Wufei didn't know. He hadn't been around them enough to pick up on it like Duo had. Trowa wondered if Heero had known. He considered telling Wufei, but didn't see the point.
After a few more rounds Wufei began to yawn.
"You've had a long day, traveling. Guess we better hit the rack," said Trowa, gathering the cards and slipping them back into their box. "I thought we'd take a ride around the colony tomorrow, if you're up for that. There are some nice parks, and a good Thai restaurant in Farside."
"That sounds pleasant."
They took turns crawling across the huge bed to the tiny bathroom. Trowa generally slept in the nude, but put on sweatpants for Wufei's sake. Wufei emerged from the bathroom in sweatpants and a long-sleeved white tee. Trowa wondered if his entire wardrobe was black and white. He'd let his hair down, too, for the first time since Trowa had known him; it hung to his shoulders, very silky and shiny. He looked younger this way--much younger, actually, and downright pretty. An image of him in clubbing clothes flashed through Trowa's mind and he quickly quelled it. No wonder Wufei kept his hair pulled back all the time.
"What is it? Do I have something on my face?" asked Wufei, catching him staring.
"Uh, no. I put some blankets and a pillow out on the couch for you. I hope you're not too uncomfortable there."
Wufei smiled. "I've slept in far worse places, Barton. Good night."
It was ridiculous, really. The couch was a back breaker, and Trowa's bed was big enough for four or five people, let alone two, but if the motorcycle rides were anything to go by, Wufei would not be comfortable sleeping with him, even with more than a yard of mattress between them. "Good night. If you need the bathroom, just crawl across. It won't bother me. I'll leave the light on."
"Thank you." Wufei disappeared into the living room and Trowa took his sleeping pill, turned off the lamp over the bed, and settled down to try and sleep, hoping for no dreams.
He wasn't so lucky. It was a bad one, one in which he was fighting, losing, watching his friends go down, then being dragged from his Gundam by grasping hands . . .
"Barton! Barton, wake up! Please!"
Trowa woke up in a cold sweat to find himself crouched in the middle of the bed with Wufei pinned under him, blood streaming from his nose and a split lip. Trowa's hands were locked around the smaller boy's throat. Wufei had him by both wrists, fighting for his life. Trowa was much bigger than Wufei, and stronger, too, thanks to his daily training.
"Barton, it's me, Chang!" Wufei gasped, spraying a fine mist of blood with the words.
Trowa lurched back against the headboard and held his hands up, hardly able to breath, his heart was pounding so hard. "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!"
Wufei had already retreated to the doorway and stood there, trying to staunch his bloody nose on the arm of his tee shirt. It was already soaked. The marks of Trowa's fingers showed red against that pale golden throat. Trowa scrambled across the bed to the bathroom and grabbed a towel and threw it across to him. "God, Wufei, I'm so sorry. What happened?"
"You were having some awful dream." Wufei told him, and his voice as a bit hoarse and muffled by the towel. "I heard you moaning and yelling. It sounded like you were in pain. I came in to wake you and you lurched up and grabbed me. My god, you're fast!"
Trowa sagged against the bathroom doorway, shaking now. "I--That's never happened before. The dreams, yes, but I've never had anyone in the trailer while I'm sleeping. I'm so sorry I hurt you."
"Stop apologizing. So, you haven't sought out counseling for it yet?"
"PTSD? You have it, too?"
Wufei nodded, frowning. "Bad dreams and night sweats, mostly. Some trouble eating. I'm seeing a psychiatrist under the radar, so I don't jeopardize my position with Preventers. How about you? Anything besides the dreams?"
"Just trouble sleeping. I'm fine otherwise."
"You're not seeing anyone about it, then?"
"We have a doctor here. He's given me some pills to help me sleep."
"I meant a psychiatrist."
"I'm fine, Wufei. It will pass."
"Well, you might want to give your houseguests some warning until it does," Wufei told him.
"I'll keep that in mind." He paused, then asked, "What was I saying?"
"You weren't making much sense, but you did call out for Winner. I assumed you might be dreaming of when he blasted you."
Trowa sighed. "No. Not this time." It was a recurring theme, though. "If you don't mind my asking, what are your nightmares like?"
Wufei looked away, as if embarrassed. "I dream of many things. My wife's death. The destruction of my colony before my very eyes. Battles. Blood. My duel with Kushreneda." He hesitated and Trowa could swear he was blushing slightly. "The time at the moon base prison with you and the others."
"I never really apologized for roughing you up back then. I hated doing that. Sometimes I have nightmares about that, too."
"You did what you had to do and kept us both alive. If you hadn't been there, things might have been much worse for all of us. It was bad enough as it was."
Yes, Wufei was definitely blushing, though his expression betrayed nothing but a faint sadness. Trowa thought back, wondering what could cause such a reaction, but came up empty until he remembered the shower Duo, Wufei, and Heero had been forced to take. Heero had no modesty to worry about. Duo had been almost hysterical at the thought of anyone seeing how he'd been abused by the guards. Wufei had just seemed mortified. Seems he was modest to a fault, probably a cultural thing.
"How's your nose?"
Wufei took the towel away. The bleeding had stopped, but he had a fat lip and the beginning of some nasty bruises on his throat. It wasn't going to be much fun trying to explain all that tomorrow.
"If you'll excuse me, I'd like to clean up." But Wufei looked decided uncomfortable about approaching Trowa, who still stood in the bathroom doorway.
"Use the kitchen sink," Trowa told him. "I'll get you some ice for your face. Do you have a clean shirt to sleep in? That one's a mess." There was blood down the front of it, too.
"No, but I can wear the one I had on today."
"That won't be very comfortable. I'll find you something. It's the least I can do."
Wufei didn't argue, just turned and walked away to the kitchen. Trowa crawled across the bed to the dresser and took out a soft purple cotton pull over. At least he'd get to see what Wufei looked like wearing some color.
In the kitchen he handed Wufei the shirt. Wufei went into the bedroom to change out of sight. Trowa shook his head, smiling. He'd never known such a modest guy. He'd at least worn tank tops during the war but now he seemed determined to keep himself pretty much covered up. It made Trowa curious to see what he did look like without a shirt, but he dismissed the thought and went about making an ice pack for Wufei's face.
The shirt was several sizes too large on Wufei, making him look even younger. Trowa couldn't help smiling, but guessed that Wufei wouldn't appreciate any observations on his appearance.
Trowa handed him a bottle of asprin and a glass of water. "You'd better take a couple of these."
Wufei did, then accepted the icepack and pressed it to his face. "You should try to sleep, Barton. I promise I won't come near you again."
Trowa glanced at the kitchen clock. Four thirty five. He was usually up by six. But if he stayed up now Wufei wouldn't be able to sleep. So he went back to bed and read. He wasn't going to chance any more dreams.
Wufei was quite a sight the next morning, with bruises on his jaw and chin, and black and blue stripes left by Trowa's long fingers on his neck.
"I have some pancake makeup I use to cover up marks during performances," Trowa told him. "It's not really your shade, though. I could ask Kiki if we could use hers, but I'm not sure how I'd explain it."
"I do not wear make up!" Wufei told him firmly. He disappeared into the bathroom with his duffel and emerged in another high necked shirt--black this time-- and the black pants. Apparently he had no jeans in his wardrobe, either. The bruises hardly showed above the collar.
"If you leave your hair down, they won't show at all," Trowa pointed out as they sat down to breakfast at the tiny table between the kitchen and living room.
Wufei hesitated, then pulled the tie from his damp hair.
"You should wear it down more often," Trowa told him. "It looks good on you."
And there was that hint of color in Wufei's cheeks again. He pushed some strands back behind his right ear. "It gets in the way if I do that. And it wouldn't be very professional at work."
Wufei certainly didn't seem to be holding a grudge for the bruises. They got away from the circus grounds without having to explain his face to anyone, and picked up a picnic lunch at Penucci's Deli. They ate it in Roswell Park, the largest of the terra formed parks among all the colonies except for Winner Park on L-4. There were tall trees, a manmade waterfall, and a small lake here. There should have been ducks or geese or something on the water, but they had been deemed unsanitary for a colony environment. Instead, there were piped in nature sounds. Sitting on the grass beside the lake, Trowa could close his eyes and almost imagine himself back on Earth. He wasn't colony-bred, and he missed being Earthside quite a lot if he let himself think about it. But this was where the circus was based and the circus was his life now.
"We had parks much like this around my home town," Wufei told him, sitting cross legged beside him, ignoring the curious stares he was getting from some passersby. "Actually, most of L-5 was terra formed. It was--quite beautiful, with the Chinese architecture and all . . . " He trailed off and looked out over the lake, but not before Trowa saw how he was blinking back sudden tears.
"I can't imagine what it's like to lose your home like that," Trowa said softly, giving him a chance to talk about it if he wanted to. "I never had one to lose." Losing loved ones, though? Brothers in arms? That's something he knew a little too much about.
But Wufei just nodded and ate his lunch.
They moved on to Starlight Park, with its huge clear dome that let in the stars, went for a long ride, and had supper at the Thai place. Trowa ordered plum wine with the meal and was surprised at how much of it Wufei drank. By the end of his second glass he was quite talkative.
Trowa decided this was as good a time as any to bring up Heero; Wufei hadn't mentioned him once in two days. "So, where do you think 01 went?"
Wufei shook his head. "I have no idea. He just--left. Not a word to anyone, except Relena, I suppose. Yuy did turn in a formal resignation, effective immediately."
"You sound a bit angry about that."
"I suppose I am. I felt that he and I had become friends. And then he just disappears?" He shrugged. "Still, I don't think he was doing very well. I could tell he wasn't sleeping well, and I heard from several people that he'd been seen walking around at night in some kind of trance."
"It must have been. And then there were the drawings."
"Yes, and very well. But he obviously didn't want anyone to see these. I went into his room one day when he wasn't there--I'd forgotten my hat there--and I saw a few of them. I'm no judge of art, but they were disturbing. Very violent imagery. Most of it was explosions in battle, but there were two of people." He paused. "It's not really dinner table conversation."
"Please, go on," Trowa urged, amazed at how unsettled Wufei was. "What were the pictures?"
"One was of Zechs Merquise, disemboweled. The other was of Maxwell, shot in the face."
"Duo?" Trowa suddenly felt cold all over. Merquise he could understand, but a fellow pilot? And Duo, of all people? Then again, there had been a weird vibe between the two of them on Peacemillion, something that had made Duo miserable, but even Quatre wasn't sure what that was all about, except for the conditioning J had done to Heero. But that was supposed to get rid of emotion. These drawings didn't sound like that at all.
"Maybe he had the worst PTSD of all of us," he said. "He certainly took the most hits. And he had a few bad kills, too."
"That's true. Something was certainly wrong."
"Did you try to talk to him about it?"
"Once. But when I tried to bring up the subject, he just gave me one of those looks of his and walked away. By the end of his stay, we were hardly speaking, though we weren't angry with each other. Or at least I wasn't. I thought it was just the added strain of working with Relena. She wouldn't leave him alone."
"And he definitely wasn't interested in her, for the sound of it."
"Not in the least. But given Yuy's unique personality, perhaps he's not capable of that kind of attachment."
Trowa thought back to Heero's journey of atonement across Europe. "J must have done a real number on him, because the Heero I knew had feelings, and felt for others very deeply."
"I'm sorry I never got to see that side of him. But he was a pleasant companion. We passed our high school equivalency together, sparred, played chess. We were quite competitive with each other, I suppose, but it was a friendly rivalry, and he always complimented me when I bested him at something." He took another sip of wine and chuckled "Which wasn't often."
"You really like him."
Wufei looked up in surprise. "Certainly. Like and admire, both. Don't you?"
"Very much, on both accounts. I'm worried about him, just taking off like that, especially if he's having some kind of break down. Have you tried to trace him?"
"I didn't feel that it was appropriate," Wufei told him. "After all, he may have gone somewhere for help, and clearly he didn't want anyone to know about it. It's less than two months since he disappeared. If he'd wanted our help, he would have asked for it."
"I'm not so sure. I'll give him a few more weeks to surface, then I'm going to see about tracking him down."
"Good luck with that," Wufei said, reaching for the last spring roll.
April 27, 196
Slumped on the couch, bare feet propped on the fruit crate coffee table, Trowa stared down at the email on his laptop. In the distance Starwalker trumpeted as Sasha put her through her paces with Stomper. The musky, earthy smell of the lion pens wafted in at the window across the living room. The familiar elements helped as he tried to gather his whirling thoughts.
Cc: Wing@privatesky, GreenEyz@privatesky, Shenlong@privatesky
27 April AC 196
09:18 am local time
Just wanted to let you all know that Shinigami's still alive and back online, thanks to one Quatre Winner, who is insanely generous. I'm heading back to L-2 today. Miss you all. Email me! See you soon!
If Duo had been sleeping with Quatre--images of that had tormented Trowa's dreams for weeks now as pictures continued to show up in the papers for the two of them out partying. But that just didn't jive with the cheery tone of the e-mail. Duo wasn't crass or heartless. He wouldn't contact Trowa and rub it in his face. But that's what Trowa had made of Duo's silence since he'd gone to Quatre's. It hadn't occurred to him that Duo didn't have a computer. Which was pretty stupid, since there hadn't been one among the pitiful belongings Trowa had raked out of Hilde's dumpster. But he'd sort of assumed that Duo would have bought one in the meantime.
But that would have assumed that Duo had money. Unlike the rest of them, all Duo had was his pension.
'That's what I get for letting jealousy get the best of me,' he thought, rubbing a hand over his face in exasperation.
Quatre had taken care of Duo. And bought him a computer, apparently.
'I could have done that. I could have done more.'
With a sigh, he hit Reply.
27 April AC 196
11:23 pm local time
I miss you. May I come and visit you soon? The circus is going Earthside in a few weeks and I'd really like to see you before I go. Please let me know when would be good for you.
He sent the message and waited a few minutes, tapping his fingers impatiently on the arm of the couch, but there was no immediate response. With a sigh, he shut off the lights, carried the laptop into the bedroom and got ready for bed. As he reached to shut out the light, his gaze strayed as it always did to the small bare place where the photograph had hung, then to the drawer where it had been since the first night he'd gone out cruising.
Just then he heard the ping of an incoming message. Opening the laptop on the bed beside him, he found a message from Duo.
28 April AC 196
12:16 am local time
I miss you, too, buddy! Come anytime! Come tomorrow and help me get this shithole of an apartment into shape. I could use your housekeeping talents, believe me. Seriously, come see me.
Oh, and guess what? I heard from Heero!!!! Weird message, though. "Mission ongoing. Hope you are well" and all his email is disabled or blocked. Can't even hack it. Did you get it, too? None of the others did and Wu claims he doesn't know anything about a secret mission. But then it wouldn't be a secret, right? Maybe that's why Heero left, right? Whatever, it was great to hear something from the guy at least!!!! Once the mission is done, whatever the hell it is, maybe he'll come back!!
YOU come see me SOON!
Trowa blinked in surprise at the 'love', then shook his head, smiling. Duo had already told him he loved him, and Trowa knew how, and not to read anything into it, no matter how lonely he was. All those exclamation points about Heero told the real story.
As Trowa emailed back that'd he could would come the day after tomorrow, he couldn't help feeling some of Duo's hope that Heero was OK and would be back soon.
[ch. 43] [ch. 45] [back to Pyrzm's fic]