By: Shoori

I Know Who I Want... + Part 26

As I walk down the long, carpeted hall toward our apartment, I’m conscious of a feeling of bone-deep weariness. I’m tired.

Tomorrow it will be my turn to testify, so I spent hours with the lawyers today, practicing for my testimony. Quatre had meetings all morning and for the early afternoon, and I didn’t feel like coming back here yet, so there wasn’t much to do.

However, practicing being harangued in front of an open court isn’t the most relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

So, that’s probably why I’m tired.

My hand trembles with fatigue as I unlock the door, unsteady enough to make me miss the lock with the key several times.

Even meetings with the lawyers shouldn’t have made me this tired.

After all, all I did is talk. It’s not as though I was flying missions or fighting battles or infiltrating armies.

I don’t remember being this tired back then, though. Obviously I’d be worn out after a mission or a fight. But I’d go to sleep, and wake up, and be fine.

Now it seems…it seems like I haven’t rested in weeks. Months.

I’ve been tired for so long that I can’t even remember the last time I really felt rested. Even on the island, where we had weeks and months of lounging around doing nothing, I was always a little tired, a bit sluggish.

I should probably go back to work. I’m probably bored. I miss my job with the circus. Long days of arduous rehearsals and performances, not to mention the physical labor involved in keeping the circus running, should be enough to shake me out of this idle lethargy and get me on track again.

As soon as this divorce is finalized, I can go back.

But first…

I finally manage to unlock the door, and I push it open and step inside the apartment. There’s a light on in the living room, and I hear the faint murmur of the vidscreen. They must be in there.

I suppress a sigh. I hate making entrances like this. It’s always so awkward.

I really just want to go to bed. But I have to let them know I’m here first. Otherwise, they’ll just wake me up later.

They know I’m here anyway. No way would someone entering the apartment get past either one of them.

My prediction is immediately proved true. Duo appears in the doorway of the living room, his shape a dark silhouette against the light shining out from behind him.

“Tro!” he calls, starting forward toward me. I flick on the light switch beside me, and as he approaches, I can see both the wide grin of pleasure on his face and the uncertain look in his eyes.

“Hi, Duo,” I say softly, trying to summon a return smile. I’m so tired, it probably seems a grimace.

“I didn’t know you were coming home,” he informs me, a touch sharply. “I mean…,” he backpedals swiftly, “I wasn’t sure if you’d come back tonight, or if we’d see you tomorrow…”

“Well…I’m here,” I tell him, rather idiotically.

“I’m glad,” he says softly, smiling at me.

I smile back, and this time I think the expression comes out better.

“Come on,” he urges, turning around and beckoning me to follow. “You hungry?” he calls over his shoulder. “We got pizza…we ordered yours in case you came back tonight.”

I pause in the door to the living room. Two boxes of pizza, one unopened, rest on the coffee table, surrounded by several empty bottles of beer and a few unopened ones. Canned laughter emanates from the vid, which is playing some hackneyed sitcom. Heero, dressed in boxers and a t-shirt and sprawled across the sofa, grins up at me from around the piece of pizza he’s shoving into his mouth and waves at me with the beer clenched in his other hand.

“You got my pizza?” I ask slowly, surprised, watching Duo drop to his knees beside the coffee table and fuss with the unopened box.

“Wouldn’t want you to come home to pizza you hate!” Duo answers cheerfully, standing up to hand me a plate with two slices of pepperoni on it.

I take the plate and move into the room, seating myself on the end of the sofa unoccupied by Heero’s legs. Heero uses the edge of the coffee table to pop the top off a bottle of beer, and hands it to me.

I accept with a murmur of thanks and take a deep swallow, listening to Duo yell at Heero for using the coffee table as a bottle opener.

“…doesn’t matter. It’s already scratched.”

“How do you think it got scratched in the first place?”

“You can’t hang that one on me; it was your coffee table…”

I smile as I listen to them bicker. I pick my way through most of one slice of the pizza. I haven’t eaten all that much this weekend. Even informal dinners at the mansion are always elaborate and gorgeous, but somehow they’re so elaborate and gorgeous that they make me lose my appetite. It seems wrong to just eat something that someone so obviously spent so much time on. The pizza is in that unappetizing place between hot and cold, though, where the grease is still liquidy but the cheese has just started to congeal, and the sauce has a hint of warmth but is mostly cold… I like pizza either steaming hot, or cold from the refrigerator. I just don’t like it in-between. It’s nasty.

I set the plate with the remaining pizza on the scratched coffee table and lean back, nursing my still half-full beer. Heero and Duo’s half-hearted argument winds down, and they both look expectantly at me.

“So…did you…did you have a nice weekend?” Duo asks tentatively.

I nod. “Very nice,” I reply, equally tentatively. I really don’t want to get into a discussion on why I spent the weekend away. “I…I met with the lawyers today. For a long time,” I add, hoping the unspoken message of ‘so I’m tired and don’t want to talk’ gets through.

“Oh? Anything new?” Heero asks. He knows there isn’t anything new. There hasn’t been anything new in days.

“No,” I answer. “I testify tomorrow.”

That came out different than I meant it to. It was just supposed to be a comment. It came out…angry.

“I know,” Duo says softly. He’s silent for a moment. “At least it should be established by now that anything outside the separation date doesn’t really have relevance to the case…”

“Well, it should be established that I didn’t know about anything that happened before the separation date anyway, so the lawyers don’t think I’ll have to be up there long.”

Well, that definitely came out angry. Much more angry than it was supposed to. I’m not angry about it, even. I just…

Heero looks away from me uncomfortably, and Duo’s eyes cloud over.

“I guess we need to talk about that,” he says slowly.

I sigh. “No, we don’t,” I contradict him firmly. “I…I didn’t mean it like that. I know…” I shrug. “It was a long time ago,” I allow. “A lot has happened since then. It…doesn’t matter.”

“It does matter,” Duo insists. “It matters because it upset you. You don’t have to…”

“We don’t have to discuss it,” I interrupt.

“Why not?” Heero asks softly.

I glance at him. “There’s no point to it,” I say simply. “It won’t change anything, why bother to…”

“I don’t want you to just keep being mad about it!” Duo half-shouts.

“I’m not mad,” I establish firmly.

“Yes, you are,” he insists.

I shake my head. “I’m not,” I assure him.

“You are so.”

“No, I’m not.”

“I can tell when you’re…”

“I think I know when I am and am not….”

“Ok,” Heero interrupts softly. We both glare at him.

“So you aren’t mad. You sure don’t seem happy, though” he points out reasonably.

I sigh. “Well, now I am irritated,” I qualify, frowning at Duo. He scowls back at me. “But I wasn’t mad before…”

“You sounded upset about something,” Heero establishes.

I sigh loudly. “I’m tired,” I tell them. “I met with the lawyers, I have to testify tomorrow, I…”

“I’m sorry,” Duo says softly. He’s sitting on the floor, and he draws his knees up to his chest and rests his chin on them. “I’m…glad you came home,” he tells me, staring at the carpet. “I didn’t mean to irritate you right off the bat.”

I sigh again, more softly, and the indignation washes out of me as I stare at the woebegone picture he makes, huddled up within himself. I push myself off the couch and sit next to him, close but not touching.

“Look, Duo,” I say, trying to keep my weariness from my voice, “I am not mad at you. I was angry that I had to find out about Hilde there in the courtroom at the same time as all of the tabloid people, but…” I shrug. “I guess I can see why you didn’t tell me about it before.”

He looks up at me, surprised. “You can?” he asks incredulously.

I nod. “Quatre explained it to me,” I say simply. He looks away. “And anyway, it just comes down to…you and I looking at things differently.”

He looks up again, and frowns at me. “What do you mean?” he asks cautiously.

I shrug. “You and I just…see…things…differently,” I repeat lamely.

“Like what?” he presses.

“Like that whole Hilde thing. You saw it as just…helping a friend. I would have seen it as something very different at the time…still would now.” I pause and look down at the floor. “But…you couldn’t really have known that then, as much, but you do now, which is why you wouldn’t do it now…”

Damn. Nothing is coming out right tonight. Instead of a statement of understanding, that came out more like a pathetic appeal for reassurance.

“I wouldn’t,” he says quietly. I glance up at him again, and he’s regarding me steadily. “I promised you, Tro,” he reminds me. “Never again.”

I nod. “Just…tell me things, Duo,” I request. “I…don’t like finding out that you’ve been keeping secrets from me. I think…that’s what I was angry at.”

He nods. “I’m sorry,” he says softly.

I nod, and smile briefly at him. “Ok, then,” I say, and lean back against the sofa, resting against Heero’s leg.

Heero reaches down and runs one hand over the top of my head. “That was remarkably smooth,” he comments softly.

Duo grins and moves over, so he’s leaning against my side. “I don’t have to do everything at top volume,” he jokes. “Though some things, I don’t like to be quiet at,” he adds suggestively, reaching out and turning my face toward his, pressing his lips to mine.

My lips move into the familiar shape, returning the caress, parting to accept his questing tongue. But when his fingers move to my shirt and start adroitly unfastening the buttons, my hands move up to stop them.

“Duo…don’t,” I manage, pulling my mouth away from his.

He pulls back slightly and stares at me, confusion and hurt mingled in his expressive eyes.

“Don’t what?” he asks guardedly.

“Don’t…not now,” I mumble awkwardly, continuing to hold his hands still in mine.

He jerks his hands from my grip and moves away from me, sitting back on his heels and staring at me.

“I thought you weren’t mad at me,” he says after a moment, his voice remote.

“I’m not,” I repeat. “I just…”

“You just what?” he asks after a moment.

“I’m tired, Duo,” I remind him. “I don’t want to right now.”

He’s silent for a long time. Heero’s hand is still on the top of my head, but I can feel the tension radiating from him.

“You’re still mad at me. And so you’re punishing me by withholding sex,” Duo says flatly.

A flare of anger sweeps through me at this stark misinterpretation of the facts.

“I am not doing any such thing,” I grind out between clenched teeth. “Just because I don’t want to…”

“Well, why don’t you?” Duo demands loudly. “If it’s not because you’re mad at me, then why…”

“Because I’m not in the mood!” I shout. He stares at me mutinously, and I sigh and pull myself to my feet.

“I am tired, Duo,” I tell him yet again. “This court battle has been going on forever, we’ve got God knows what still looming over our heads, I had to sit and listen to the whole world find out that my lover cheated on me and that I was too clueless to even know about it, I’ve spent the whole day talking to lawyers, and I AM TIRED!”

I’m shouting by the time I’m finished and Duo’s standing too, staring at me with his lips pressed tightly together.

“I knew you were still angry,” he accuses, honing in on the one part of my speech he can use to make his point. “Why can’t you just tell me that rather than refuse to say it and make me figure it out other ways?”

I groan in frustration. “I am not mad at you,” I tell him for what feels like the thousandth time. “I was mad at you. I’m still not precisely thrilled by any of this,” I admit. “But I’m not mad.”

“Then why…”

“I’ve been gone the whole weekend. Before I left we had a fight. I’ve only been back for half an hour. I’m exhausted. I don’t feel like jumping into bed to make everything better.”

His face goes white, and he stares at me silently. I stare back, unsure of what’s going on in his head.

“Is that how you see it?” he asks finally. “Jumping into bed? Is that all…”

“Oh, for God’s sake,” I mutter, closing my eyes in supplication. “Why are you determined to make everything I say sound wrong?”

“Not much fun, is it?” he shoots back.

I open my eyes and glare at him. “What’s that supposed to mean?” I demand.

“Ok,” Heero interrupts again. He’s still sitting on the couch, but he looks tensed to spring at any second. “We’re not getting anywhere.”

“Tell him,” Duo mutters, turning his back on me and striding across the room to stare out the window.

I rub my hand against my forehead. Now I have a raging headache to go with my general sense of malaise.

I address my next remarks to Heero. “Tell him that just because I don’t want to use sex to fix every problem doesn’t mean that…”

Duo whirls around. He’s still pale except for two red spots high on his cheeks. “Use sex?” he repeats incredulously. “Just because I…I love you and I want to be with you you think that…Forget it,” he spits angrily, turning his back on me again. “Just forget it.”

Now I feel like a jerk. I saw the expression behind the fury in his eyes as he glared at me.

Hurt. Rejection.

I hurt Duo.

Fuck. I should have just stayed at Quatre’s. But I wanted to come home…to them. And I’ve just…made them angry. Hurt Duo’s feelings.

“Duo…” I look at Heero, but he just stares steadily back at me, his eyes unreadable.

“I…didn’t mean to upset you,” I say lamely.

He says nothing, just continues to stare out at the city, his shoulders tight with tension.

“I didn’t mean…what I said.”

Nothing. I sigh.

“Look, just because I’m not in the mood now doesn’t mean…doesn’t mean I don’t like it. Or you.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want to use it to sway your mind,” Duo snaps icily.

I close my eyes. “I’m still a little upset over the other day, I’m tired and I’m worried about tomorrow,” I manage with great difficulty. I don’t like this, and I don’t like that he’s pushed it to this point. But that doesn’t seem to matter right now. “That’s why I’m not in the mood,” I continue. “I wouldn’t…be able to concentrate, wouldn’t be able to enjoy it like usual. And I don’t want to be with you and not…be focused on being with you. That’s all,” I finish, stressing the last word.

Still, silence. I feel my shoulders slump. That’s as honest as I know how to be, and it didn’t work. I open my eyes, planning just to leave the room and go to bed, to find Duo standing directly in front of me.

“That’s all?” he asks quietly.

He nods.

“It’s not that you…don’t want…me?” he asks softly, his uncertainty apparent on his face.

I reach down and touch his cheek gently. “I…love you,” I tell him. That’s the only way I know to express everything I’m trying to express.

He smiles up at me. “Tro-chan,” he murmurs. He reaches up and places his hand over mine where it still rests against his face. “That’s all I need to hear.”

We stand there for a minute. I’m not sure what to say, what to do. After a brief pause, Duo steps back, letting go of my hand. I let my arm fall to my side.

“You’re tired,” he reminds me. “Do you want to go to sleep?”

I nod gratefully. I feel like I could drop where I stand.

“Do you…” He pauses hesitantly. “Do you want to go alone? Or do you want us to come with you?”

I stare at him for a moment, then look over at Heero, who’s now standing beside the sofa.

“I’d rather…have you with me,” I say slowly, glancing from Heero to Duo and back again. “If…you’re ready to go to sleep.”

“Big day tomorrow!” Duo reminds me cheerfully. “We could use the extra shut-eye.”

They accompany me back to the bedroom, where we all quickly get ready for bed. Heero just has to pull off his t-shirt and Duo unselfconsciously divests himself of all his clothes. I strip down to my boxers, but I have the most to remove, so they’re both ready before I am. Duo’s already in the bed, but Heero stands to the side, waiting for me to get in.

I climb in slowly, and Duo pulls me against him. Heero shuts out the light and settles himself on my other side, his arms moving around us both.

I lay there in their embrace, willing away the tension that still fills me from our earlier argument. But the silence seems very loud, somehow, and though they’re both holding me close, I feel…nervous? Like they’re somehow far away?

“It’s ok, Tro,” Duo whispers suddenly, his chin coming to rest on the top of my head.

“You’re as stiff as a board,” Heero comments, pulling back slightly to allow himself more access as he begins to knead the tight muscles of my back and shoulders.

I groan against Duo’s chest as Heero’s hands continue to move against my back, hurting, yet relieving unacknowledged pain and pressure at the same time.

Duo’s free hand moves to my head and his fingers run through my hair as he starts talking. He isn’t saying anything important, just filling me on some news and gossip he’s gleaned from the time we were away. But the tenor of his voice is soothing, its familiar cadences forming a comforting counterpart to Heero’s warm hands massaging the tightness out of my shoulders, and under the influence of both I feel myself finally start to relax, be lulled into the waiting darkness, and allow sleep to claim me.

+

I glance over at the softly glowing red numbers of the clock on the bedside table. 12:06 am. My eyes move to the face of the man sleeping in my arms. He’s been asleep for forty-five minutes now.

It’s been a struggle to stay awake. But I didn’t want to get up too soon - didn’t want to wake him.

He should be soundly asleep by now, though.

Carefully I pull my arm out from beneath him, moving slowly so as not to jar him and wake him up. Moving with the same slow, stealthy motions, I push the blankets away and carefully step out of my side of the bed.

I pause before I leave the room, carefully pulling the covers back up over him. Unable to resist, I bend and lightly ghost my lips across his cheek, my fingers stroking one lock of smooth black hair.

Wufei makes a soft noise deep in his throat, but otherwise is still. Quietly, I slide my feet into my slippers, grab my bathrobe from where it rests over a chair, and creep out of the room, silently closing the door behind me.

Back in our private study I sigh as I tie the belt of my robe around my waist and settle into the soft leather of my desk chair.

Determinedly, I boot the computer up, flicking on the desk lamp as I pull a huge stack of papers closer to me, arranging two legal pads at convenient angles.

Ever since Zechs’ return a few weeks ago, and Wufei’s subsequent revelations to me, I’ve been more determined than ever to show my lover the support he needs. After that first night, when he revealed to me that shame that has been torturing him for years, Wufei seemed to revert to normal, taking up his duties and responsibilities as usual, changing the subject whenever I brought up the issue. Now that I’m aware of the turmoil raging within him, however, closer to the surface than anyone observing him would imagine, I’m more aware of small signs of distress from my seemingly placid lover.

He stands a touch closer to me than usual. He looks away whenever anyone mentions Zechs, or the war. He’s spent a little more time than usual in his shrine. He won’t talk to me about it.

I don’t want to push. But I won’t just step away and ignore the issue, figuring that it will disappear if I don’t acknowledge it. I learned that much from Duo and Trowa.

I can’t force Wufei to talk to me, though. I doubt he’s ready to. But I can be there for him, be available if he wants to talk, show him through my actions that I love him and want to be near him, assure him without words that I believe him worthy.

It’s meant canceling a few meetings, being a little less involved with the trial than I would have liked, making a few decisions based on reports from people I’ve delegated tasks to rather than seeing the tasks through myself.

But that doesn’t matter. In fact, though it hasn’t been very long, everything seems to be working just fine so far. Maybe I don’t need to be as intensely involved in every aspect of my business as I had thought I had to be.

I’ve put time with Wufei as my first priority - when he’s awake and available, I’m with him. We’ve gone to bed together every night, at a reasonable hour, without him having to drag me away from my work, and we’ve lain there, talking, holding one another, being silent together. Every night, for over a week, he’s fallen asleep in my arms.

There are still some business-related tasks, though, that I do have to accomplish myself. And since there just hasn’t been time to accomplish them during the day, every night after Wufei has gone to sleep, I’ve crept out of our bed, gone back to the study, and tried to catch up on the work I’ve neglected during the day.

Resolutely, I click to the computer screen I need, pull the first paper off the stack, and get back to work. The sooner I finish this, the sooner I’ll be able to go back to bed, and the warm body waiting for me in it.

What seems like only a few minutes later, I’m badly startled when a voice booms out behind me.

“What in the name of the Gods are you doing?”

I jump, crying out, and almost dump myself out of my chair as I whirl around to face the source of the voice.

Wufei, his hair mussed, clad in one of those pairs of red silk pajama bottoms I find so incredibly attractive, is standing only a few feet behind me, glaring at me.

“Allah, Wufei, you scared me,” I gasp, righting myself in the chair.

He doesn’t respond to my complaint, just continues glaring at me. “Do you know what time it is?” he demands.

I turn slightly, glancing at the clock on the corner of my computer screen. Allah! It’s 4:18. I’ve been out here over four hours. I move my gaze to the pile of papers, and can’t stop a grin from tugging at the corner of my mouth. They’re almost all gone. There’s only three or four documents left in the stack.

I’m back on schedule. That’s amazing.

“What are you doing out here?” he presses, and I turn back to him.

“I…couldn’t sleep,” I tell him. “And I didn’t want to wake you up tossing and turning, so I came out here to get a little work done…”

“You couldn’t sleep,” he repeats. He doesn’t sound convinced.

“I’m not tired,” I assure him. My traitorous body immediately gives lie to that statement as I yawn, so widely my jaws ache.

He glares at me for a moment, then abruptly turns his back and stalks back into the bedroom, slamming the door loudly behind him.

I sigh. I turn back to the computer, carefully saving and closing the files I’d been working on before shutting the computer down. Slowly, I stand up, and return to the bedroom.

I don’t like dealing with angry people. I have to do it a lot, in the course of my work, and I never like it. It’s even worse, though, when the anger is personal.

I push the door open and step into the bedroom. Wufei is back in our bed, lying on his side with his back turned toward the middle of the bed.

“Wufei,” I call softly, and sit down on my side of the bed. I turn on the small bedside light, and stare uncertainly at his unyielding back. “What’s wrong?”

I’m met with stony silence. The silence stretches into minutes and he doesn’t reply.

“Wufei?” I try again.

“Go to sleep, Quatre,” he tells me, his voice cold and clipped with irritation. “We have to be awake in less than two hours for court.”

“I can’t sleep until I know why you’re angry with me,” I tell him softly.

Silence again.

“Wufei, I…”

“Go to sleep, Quatre,” he interrupts angrily.

I start to feel a little annoyed myself. “I don’t think I deserve you being this angry with me,” I assert firmly. “At least tell me what exactly you’re angry at.”

He rolls over and glares at me. “Why were you out there?” he demands.

“I told you,” I remind him. “I had a few things to catch up on and…”

“And you couldn’t sleep?” he finishes, his tone disbelieving. “I don’t like to be lied to, Quatre.”

“What do you…”

“You’ve been tired for days,” he accuses. “You’ve yawned at meetings. You’re exhausted. But you stay awake until four in the morning working?”

“I…” I flounder for an explanation, trying not to lie outright to him.

“Why didn’t you do this work before?” he demands.

“Before?” I frown.

He scowls again, pushing himself up into a sitting position, his arms crossing over his bare chest. “Before,” he snaps. “Earlier in the day. Before dinner, or after dinner, or before you went to bed…”

“I was busy then,” I say simply.

He glares at me. “You were not,” he accuses. “You ate with me, and we watched the vid and we went to bed early.”

“Like I said. I was busy,” I reply quietly.

His eyes flash furiously. “You were not!” he almost shouts. “You had no meetings, no calls…You weren’t doing anything important! You could have done your work then and slept tonight.”

“I was doing something important,” I snap back. “I was with you. That’s more important than anything else…”

“I knew it!” he accuses. “You’re babysitting me. As though I’m some child that needs to be watched…”

“I was not,” I shoot back. “You’re someone I love and I was spending time with you because I wanted to.”

“You think I need to be watched,” he repeats heavily. “You think I’m weak. That I’m…”

“Damn it, Wufei, shut up!” I shout.

He jumps back slightly, startled. He’s not used to me talking to him like that.

“Wufei, you were hurt,” I tell him directly. No use beating around the bush. “You hid it for years, then finally let it out. Then you hid it again.” I shake my head. “That’s not really a good thing, Wufei. I can’t make you talk about it, but I can’t pretend you never told me about it. I want to be here for you…”

“Do you think it helps me to know that you deprive yourself of sleep to watch over me?” he demands. “Should it make me feel better to know that you think me so weak that…”

“YOU ARE NOT WEAK!” I bellow. I struggle to control my temper, but something in me has snapped at the umpteenth millionth repetition of that statement. “Damn it, Wufei, why do you insist on that?” I demand. “You struck out at fifteen to save the world. You’ve fought in more battles than most people have ever read about. You’ve gone without food, with sleep, without shelter…You are NOT weak. Why do you keep insisting you are?”

“Quatre,” he begins, but I stop him.

“Because you lost that duel to Treize?” I press, unconcerned at my interruption. “He was ten years older than you. He’d been trained to battle his whole life. He had one hell of a reach advantage. Losing a fight doesn’t make you weak.”

He flushes red. “That’s not…”

“What is it then?” I demand. “That you fought with Dekim during the Eve Wars?” I shake my head. “Again, you fought to protect those you felt were defenseless. You risked your personal safety, disregarded popular prejudice to do what you thought was right. That doesn’t make you weak.”

“Quatre, stop. I…”

“Do you think yourself weak because your colony was destroyed?” I speculate, forcing myself to ignore the flash of pain that appears in his eyes. “The choice to destroy the colony wasn’t yours, Wufei. It had more to do with the actions of OZ than with you anyway. Ultimately, it was the colonists’ decision, and their fault, not yours.”

“Stop it! Just…”

“Is it because of what Treize and Zechs did to you?” I ask harshly, striking the cruelest - and most necessary - blow of all. “The way they treated you? The way they touched you, used you to…”

“Gods, Quatre, stop!” he shouts, naked pain visible on his face. “I don’t want to…”

“Don’t want to hear it?” I finish for him. “You don’t want to hear that it wasn’t your fault? They raped you, Wufei, and…”

“BE QUIET!” he rages, lunging at me. “You have no right…”

I grab his arms and swing him around, pushing him back to the bed. “I have every right,” I tell him firmly, holding him firmly by the wrists as I stare directly into his eyes, my heart aching at the turmoil I see within them. “I love you, and I care about you, and I will not sit by and let you torture yourself because of something that other people did. It wasn’t your fault, Wufei.”

“You don’t know what you’re saying,” he seethes. “You weren’t there. You don’t…”

“You’re right, I wasn’t there,” I concede smoothly. “But I was there when Trowa was hurt in the same way you were. I heard what we said to him, and of him. You told him he wasn’t unworthy because of what Barton did. Why are you unworthy because of Treize?”

His struggles stop abruptly, and the rage vanishes from his eyes, replaced with a stricken expression that almost break my resolve to continue this. “Trowa never went to Barton on his own…” he says haltingly.

“He did this last time,” I point out.

Wufei shakes his head impatiently. “It was to save us,” he says dismissively. “It is different.”

“You didn’t…”

“And he didn’t…enjoy it,” Wufei chokes out, his voice heavy with guilt.

Ah. This is the crucial point, the one issue Wufei cannot get past, cannot forgive himself for. I let go of Wufei’s wrists and sit up, staring down at him. Though I’ve released him, he makes no attempt to move. This conversation is more and more difficult and distasteful every instant, but I can’t stop now. I must continue, for Wufei. I steel myself, and speak.

“Barton never wanted him to,” I point out gently. “He tried to control Trowa by giving him pain. Treize tried to control you by giving you physical pleasure.”

“He…”

“You said you enjoyed it,” I interrupt again trying a different approach. “What do you mean?”

He flushes, and his eyes close in shame. “Do you want a detailed accounting?” he asks in a strangled voice. “Gods, Quatre…”

“Let me be more specific,” I correct myself. “Did you come?”

His eyes fly open in shock, and he sits up to glare at me. “Gods, Quatre, what kind of question is…”

“Did you?” I demand forcefully.

His skin darkens even more, and his eyes close again. “Yes,” he acknowledges flatly. He looks ill, physically nauseated by this admission of what he sees as his own great sin.

I nod. “And when you were done? Did you want to hold him? Be held by him? Lie near him?”

He opens his eyes and stares incredulously at me. “What?”

“Well?” I press.

He shakes his head, confused. “No,” he assures me vehemently.

“Did you eagerly anticipate the next time? Daydream about it? Smile when you thought of him?”

“No!” he asserts, shaking his head in furious denial.

“Then you didn’t enjoy it,” I tell him, softly but decisively.

“But I…”

“Your nervous system responded to outward stimuli,” I explain calmly. “If you apply a certain form of stimulus to a person, they feel pain. Another type brings what we call pleasure.” I stop and shake my head. “To enjoy something means more than to feel pleasure.”

He stares blankly at me. “I don’t…understand,” he admits finally.

I smile at him. “I enjoy being with you,” I tell him softly. “I feel physical pleasure, of course. But that’s not enough, Wufei. You are enough, though, because I feel more for you than physical attraction. I want to be with you. I like being near you. I like feeling you close to me. I like being with you all the time. Every time my thoughts wander, they wander to you.” I stop, and reach out very slowly, and take his hand. “I like to hold your hand, like this. I like to share inside jokes with you. I like you.”

He stares at me, silently, a kind of desperation in his dark eyes as he listens to what I’m saying.

“Without at least some of that, on both sides, you don’t have something you enjoy,” I tell him earnestly. “You have the exact same thing that was between Barton and Trowa, with just a different means to the end.”

“Quatre…” Wufei manages thickly, his fingers tightening convulsively around mine.

“I swear to you, Wufei,” I vow seriously, “on the soul of my father, that you are not weak, or unworthy, or dishonorable. You were hurt, by someone evil. It was not, is not, your fault. The only weakness would be to continue to allow him to control your life, by allowing him to make you feel these things he wanted you to feel.”

We stare at each other for several long moments. Finally, “I will think on what you have said,” Wufei tells me slowly.

I nod. “Please do,” I say gently.

“I don’t want you to deprive yourself of sleep anymore,” he tells me soberly, staring into my eyes. “You’ll…get sick. I don’t want you to be sick because of me.”

I nod. “I don’t want you to hurt yourself to spare me and my feelings. I would like you to talk to me when you need to, rather than repressing everything,” I request. “If I know you’ll do that, I won’t have to try to always be around, just in case.”

He looks away for a moment, then nods slowly.

“And maybe, when we drop the Council seats…” I trail off, a little nervous about what I’m going to suggest.

“What?” he prompts after a moment.

“Maybe…if you want…I could…teach you some of the business,” I manage. “We could…work together. I don’t like to trust things to other people, but I know I would trust you to…”

I stop again, but this time not out of uncertainty, but in surprise at the rare, wide smile that crosses Wufei’s face.

“You want me to work with you on Winner business?” he clarifies.

I nod.

“I…would be honored,” he replies after a moment. “I would have…I’ve wanted to help you, but…”

I smile back at him. “It’s not very interesting, some of it,” I warn him.

He smiles at me. “It matters to you,” he says simply.

“It does,” I agree. “And so do you,” I add, leaning forward, and pushing him down on the mattress. Before he can move I lay beside him, curling up against his chest. He puts his arm around me and we lie together, neither of us inclined to move to turn off the lamp.

Despite the magnitude of what has just happened, and a vague feeling that I should somehow say something to bring definite closure to the conversation, I feel my exhaustion taking over me, and can’t resist as I’m swept toward sleep.

Just as I pass the precipice between wakefulness and unconsciousness, I hear Wufei’s whisper.

“Thank you, Quatre.”

[part 25] [part 27] [back to Shoori's fic]