author notes: well, see, ages ago, sunnie had art commissioned for Dacia for the 12th anniversary of Raygunworks and i made the mistake of mentioning that it seemed to have a story to tell, and here we are, manymany months later. so this is for sunnie and Dacia, who are both extremely awesome.
the rope to bind you
He swiped the screen of his tablet, irritated with what it was telling him. The semester had just barely begun, and he was already running late and having conflicts in schedule. This had to be the fault of the department secretary! That beastly fool hated him! Was this just because he'd forgotten the man's birthday? That was just petty!
Wu Fei stopped in his tracks, old habits kicking in. He narrowed his eyes, and examined his surroundings. Something had caught his attention, or at least his subconscious' attention. Students lying on the grass, students talking loudly, students playing music right next to each other so the sounds would clash, stupid students, annoying students...
There, in the trees... that one tree. It had a rope hanging from its lowest branch. But. Wu Fei recognized that rope.
He stuffed his tablet into his bag, and sauntered closer. Yes, this rope was unmistakable. Wu Fei could remember first encountering the person this rope was attached to, and the myriad of impressions he had then, and whole lifetimes worth of experiences they had shared, and then, like with everyone else from his 'war' days, Wu Fei let that connection slip away. Sally Po, that infuriating woman, still contacted him from time to time to tease him about how soft he'd gotten, and Winner kept sending him messages, too, but.
Wu Fei looked up into the tree, and smiled, just a tiny bit. He reached out, feeling as if the rope would slip away before he could touch it, but no, it remained just as it was, and he was able to wrap his hand around it entirely. He took just a moment to appreciate the feeling of it, the weight, the texture, everything.
And then he tugged.
+ + +
He awoke to buzzing.
He went through an entire 360° spin of thoughts, and then reality seeped in. He turned over, and rubbed his chin against his lover's - bedmate's? - shoulder. "Hey. That's your alarm."
"No, it's not," a sleepy voice returned.
Wu Fei considered. "Why not?"
Duo looked over his shoulder, a sleepy smile on his face. "Because I don't have to be awake until the afternoon."
"Oh," Wu Fei processed that information. But, he didn't have to be up, either, did he? He slipped his hand over Duo's waist. That was why they had been so... active the night before. "That's not my alarm," he countered.
"It's not mine," Duo turned back, snuggling into the bed.
It was tempting. They were both naked, and if neither of them had to be awake...
"Oh, that's the 'phone!" Wu Fei tossed the sheets aside and tried to get his feet to the floor. Shoot, he needed to cover himself...
"They'll leave a message," Duo yawned.
"Once again, your faith in humanity is impressive, but it could be important," Wu Fei chuckled. True, he wasn't a Preventer anymore. It was unlikely that someone was calling him to defend the world from imminent crisis. It was probably something about a departmental meeting.
He threw on his robe and went out to find his tablet on the coffee table. He swiped a few buttons, and then held it up. He didn't recognize the number, but he was in a hurry to answer...
"Wu Fei! I'm so glad I caught you! Oh, did I wake you?" Quatre Winner was frowning at him.
Wu Fei's heart dropped. "Winner, how are you?"
"Wu Fei, call me Quatre," the man rolled his eyes. Rather determinedly, too. "I've got great news! I finally tracked down Heero recently!"
Wu Fei just stared at his device.
"Relena and I have both been looking. She was really hoping he'd be able to come to her wedding last year, but... regardless, I found him and we've been chatting!"
"Well, that's... that's great... Quatre."
"So, you know, it's going to be ten years since the Mariemaia Incident," Wu Fei couldn't stop himself from visibly flinching and he knew it, because Quatre seemed to lose some of his thunder, but he rushed through, trying to get past it. "And Heero and I were talking and then I talked to Trowa, and anyway, we were thinking about getting together, maybe for meal or even a weekend or something sometime around Christmas."
"Oh... you know, with finals coming up and..." Wu Fei started.
"No, I mean, don't worry, we mean after all that, and as luck would have it, Trowa's circus is going to be on your colony at the time, and Heero has his own ship now, so we were thinking of coming to you! Just make it easy and all, since you must have the most hectic schedule of all of us."
"Ah... I see..." Wu Fei tried to hedge.
Of course, though, Quatre took that as acceptance. "The only thing is, now that I've tracked down Heero, I can't find Duo! I contacted Hilde to try to get some way to get a message to him, but she said she hasn't talked to him in over a year!"
Wu Fei smiled tightly. "Not to worry. I... can relay the message to Duo."
"Y-you can?" Quatre looked... utterly dumbstruck.
Amused, Wu Fei just nodded. "Yes. Let me know when you have more details. Use my email. Busy time and all."
"Oh! Of course, that is..." Quatre began, but Wu Fei figured that once Quatre had him, he might not let go for hours.
"I've got to get going, Quatre. Thank you for... the update." He bowed briefly before switching the app off.
Then, he took a deep breath.
He went back to the bedroom, where Duo was still in bed, still sleeping, apparently. Did he hear Wu Fei's conversation with Quatre? And what would he think? Heero Yuy had, once again, magically surfaced from beyond the grave. Duo... would be happy, wouldn't he? To be able to see Heero again...
For a moment, Wu Fei considered not telling Duo. What if they simply didn't go to this... reunion? It had been about a year and a half since Wu Fei had... pulled Duo out of a tree, and they'd reconnected. It had been less than three months since Duo had moved into Wu Fei's modest townhouse just far enough away from campus that they weren't tripping over colleagues and classmates. It had been less than nine months since they'd started... dating, if that was what they were doing. Wu Fei had never... dated before. Mostly, they competed over games, fought over everything fictional and nonfictional they watched together, and had sex.
Really good sex, not that Wu Fei was an expert.
Duo turned a little bit, giving Wu Fei the same suspicious look he had anytime Wu Fei was caught playing with Duo's braid. "Who was on the phone?" he asked.
He did not take his braid back. He used to do that, gently. Wu Fei took a breath, looking at the braid instead of Duo's eyes. "It was Quatre. He's... made contact with Heero again. He's setting up... a little reunion, for our merry band of child soldiers."
Duo chuckled to himself, and raised an eyebrow. "Is that what we're calling ourselves? I guess it's appropriate... Heero, huh? And when is this merry reunion going to take place?"
"Right around Christmas," Wu Fei sighed, putting Duo's braid down. "Quatre wanted me to tell you since he has lost contact with you."
"It's a little bit fun, evading someone with Q's resources," Duo sleepily mused. "Christmas, huh? I was thinking the two of us would prefer to unplug and squirrel away during that time. Bad memories and all... maybe barricade the door and have a marathon of bad movies we can yell at?"
"That sounds... perfect," Wu Fei smiled.
"Well, I suppose we can fit Q and his merry band in," Duo stretched out. "But you've got finals to make and I've got finals to study for in the meanwhile. And. Neither of us has any obligations until this afternoon, right?" Duo gave Wu Fei a sexy look, and he opened Wu Fei's robe.
"I have a feeling you have something in mind," Wu Fei chuckled, leaning down. He rubbed his nose against Duo's tiny button nose, and then he kissed Duo's lips. "I'm open to suggestions," he purred.
"Opening you to something was pretty much my whole idea," Duo deadpanned, and Wu Fei laughed as Duo tossed his robe and the interfering sheets aside.
+ + +
The evening was wrapping up, but Wu Fei ordered another couple of beers for Duo and himself anyway. This was about ninety percent because Duo was at that buzzed stage of drunkenness where he was finding everything amusing and his body language was all languid and content, and Wu Fei wanted to encourage that, and about ten percent because the dinner had gone much better than Wu Fei expected, and he was actually feeling good.
Quatre had let Wu Fei choose the place, since Wu Fei lived there. He picked a Cantonese restaurant owned by a man who had immigrated to L1 from L5 about five years before the war began to be closer to his eldest son after his wife passed away. He lost his other four children when the colony self-destructed, and he knew Wu Fei had also lost his family, so he treated Wu Fei like a son. Quatre had brought his youngest child, because he was attached to the toddler, and he said his wife had her hands full with the twins.
Barton looked good, which Duo mentioned more than once, all while watching Wu Fei, and then laughing at him for not reacting. Barton and Catherine were running the circus now. Catherine had gotten married, divorced, married again, and was now separated. She had two children along the way, and Barton talked about them as if they were his own. He was tight-lipped when it came to discussing his personal life, but no one pressed him, so it wasn't an issue.
Heero ended up sitting on Duo's other side. At first, Wu Fei had... less than totally happy thoughts on that subject, but those concerns melted away. Duo was wearing a tight, black, shimmery undershirt, one of Wu Fei's Nehru collar jackets, unbuttoned, and black jeans. Heero seemed glad to see him, but he made no overtures to touch Duo or flirt with him.
And then they would all learn that Heero had a crush on his yoga instructor.
Heero Yuy, suicidal maniac, master assassin, perfect soldier, had a damned crush on his yoga instructor. This information, imparted with a faint blush and an embarrassed duck of his chin, blotted out all previously acquired information about Heero's current life, and prevented any information provided afterward to be assimilated. Heero had a crush on his yoga instructor.
Wu Fei felt a great deal more relaxed after that, and even put his arm around Duo after a while. Quatre seemed most surprised by their relationship, but oddly, none of them seemed actually surprised. It was both a relief and a disappointment, and had started Wu Fei drinking. Once Wu Fei ordered, Duo and Trowa did, too.
And they'd proceeded to have a damned pleasant evening, especially given that they'd all met in war due to being chosen to pilot weapons of mass destruction in a doomsday plan. And especially given that ten years ago, Wu Fei had been actively betraying all of them by participating in further aggressions.
Quatre had to go first. His daughter was just fussing too much, only happy if she could fall asleep in his arms. He made sure to pay their entire bill, and insist that they meet up again soon. Before he left, he kissed Duo's cheek, and chastised him for playing a trick on me by not letting him know he was living with Wu Fei. Duo didn't appear chastised, though. The other four only lingered for a bit without Quatre. They finished their drinks, and Heero finished the sai mai lo that Quatre had ordered but barely touched. They got up to leave almost in unison, and Duo made jokes that got even Heero grinning. They separated just outside. Heero and Trowa were heading for the transport station, and Duo and Wu Fei were walking home. Promises of future meetings were made, and Wu Fei thought it might really happen.
Duo walked ahead of him and Wu Fei followed, even when Duo didn't take the turn to head to their townhouse. Duo kept looking over his shoulder, making sure Wu Fei was behind him.
Where else would he be?
+ + +
Duo whistled as he walked ahead. His gait might even have been described as jaunty. Wu Fei was smiling to himself as he walked behind, his hands in his pockets. Duo's braid swung back and forth, right over his ass.
It was a nice view.
Duo stopped just as they were about to enter campus. "Trowa really did look good, huh? I think he must still be as flexible as he was back in the day. It's impressive, don't you think?"
"Yes, you have impressed upon me your admiration for Barton's flexibility. I am fully aware of how deeply you admire Barton's flexibility," Wu Fei refused to be baited, and anyway, Duo was grinning. He was up to something.
"Mm, it's true. I do admire Trowa's... dedication to his physical fitness." Duo smiled dreamily, and started to turn to continue walking. And yet, he was watching Wu Fei. "But... it wasn't Trowa that made you hesitant to go tonight. And cranky on the way over. And my admiration for Trowa's physique wasn't what made you order all that alcohol."
No, that was all true. Wu Fei waited, though. Duo was not, as yet, demanding a response.
"You were afraid of letting me meet up with Heero again," Duo stated softly, but it still stung Wu Fei.
He licked his lips, his stride shortening. Yes, afraid was the right word, but...
"Just what did you imagine would happen?" Duo laughed. "I would see Heero and we'd cuddle right up to each other... I'd offer to see him home and then never come back? Is that what you were thinking?"
"I wasn't..." Wu Fei started, but he couldn't bring himself to look at Duo. Not when he felt so guilty. He needed to clear the air, since Duo had already started it, anyway. "I don't know what I was afraid of, but I was trying not to be." He looked Duo straight in the eye, unsurprised by the amusement in Duo's expression. "What was your relationship with him, anyway?"
"Ohho, you want to have that conversation?" Wu Fei raised an eyebrow, and Duo smirked. "The whole... how old were you when you had your first time, talk about your first love, how many partners have you had? conversation. Because... I think it's sort of silly. And very little of it will mean anything at all like what you think it'll mean. But, if you're ready to talk about her, I'm willing to listen."
Wu Fei stopped dead in his tracks. Of course, Duo would... Wu Fei looked up at the artificial sky, and then sighed. "And then are you going to tell me something real about him? The Solo that made you a Duo?"
Duo's laughter brought Wu Fei back to the moment. "I can tell you about Solo, all sorts of things. But I have no idea what's real and what's not. I was young when he died, like you were young, too. When you look back... doesn't it all seem larger than life and epic and just... like it wasn't a different time, it was a whole different world?"
"You run and you hide," Wu Fei shook his head. He walked to get closer to Duo, but Duo was still keeping ahead of him. "Did you sleep with Heero during the war?"
"You mean, like, he braided my hair and we talked about boys and had a pillow fight and ate ice cream after Howard went to bed and fell asleep whispering secrets to each other?" Duo laughed. "I love euphemisms. The more you think about them, the stupider they are. You want to know if we had sex. During the war. Like, in between Heero blowing himself up, and me getting blown up, and both of us being prisoners, and just... during the war, Fei?"
"So, that's a no," Wu Fei hedged.
"We could have had mad monkey sex in a compartment of my Gundam while laying low," Duo suggested saucily, "and then when I woke up, still dewey from post-coital bliss, I'll discover that he's taken half my Gundam's parts and left in the night. You know I read an erotic story like that off the Oz mainframe... they didn't have our names, but still. Pilot 1 and Pilot 2 were dirty little sociopaths."
Wu Fei shook his head, not even wanting to know if Duo's laughter was because his little story was so amusing or because it had actually happened and it was actually hilarious. "The fact that you don't want to answer me makes me think that you have, but that it was a long time ago and that I'm being an idiot."
"Or that I didn't and you're still being an idiot!" Duo suggested, laughing. And then he backed right into a tree.
No, not a tree. The tree.
Duo leaned against the low branch that had, apparently, been super comfortable for napping. "Do you believe in coincidence, Fei? Really?"
Wu Fei blinked, and tilted his head to the side.
"Do you know why I decided to go to college?" Duo asked, but knowing that Wu Fei would have no way to answer, he continued without much pause. "I discovered that, while being normal had its advantages, it could also be deadly dull. I started reading all sorts of things that I could find online. I ran across something you wrote back when you were a kid scholar on L5."
Wu Fei started, but Duo just grinned and continued.
"I think you wrote it when you seven or eight, but I couldn't really understand half of it. It was all just... way beyond me, and I'd been reading a lot on similar topics. Even though I couldn't really follow your points, I could feel your passion, your... anger in what you were writing. And I became... fascinated. I decided that if you wrote it when you were a punk kid, there was no really good reason why I couldn't understand it. So, I started to study up, and when I felt like I could actually grasp it, I decided to take a shot, and I tried to contact you. Only, I found out you'd left the Preventers. You'd gone back to being a scholar.
"I was blown away. It was like... finally, after all this time, you'd finally gone to become the man you were always supposed to be. I was... just really happy and proud of you, as stupid as that sounds. And it got me thinking. I have no idea... who I was supposed to be in life. But, maybe this whole normal thing could be more interesting if I spent more time thinking about it. And I had this... idea..."
Duo Maxwell was looking shy. It was a miracle.
"That if you were teaching in college, and I was in college, maybe someday I could be in your class. And I could surprise you by knowing the right answers to questions. And I could be a pain in your ass, muttering shit like That's not what you said when you were captured by Oz or something." Wu Fei chuckled, perfectly able to imagine it. "And I just... wanted to see you. Though, I didn't expect you to just pull me out of a tree while I was innocently napping," Duo pouted. "Problem was, I couldn't find you.
"It was the proper spelling of your name. I didn't know how to find you if you were listed in Chinese. So, I needed help. Can you guess who I went to so I could track you down?"
Wu Fei's heart sank. It wasn't possible he'd been that stupid, was it?
"Heero had no problem locating you. Took him less than five minutes. And, he helped, erm, smooth over my admission," Duo laughed. "Yanno, since I hadn't really ever graduated high school. Although, I'd been to high school, and I always thought it was highly overrated."
"You've been in contact with Yuy all along. Of course," Wu Fei sighed.
"More like, Heero's always kept in contact with me," Duo shrugged. "He's a damned good hacker, so it's hard to keep tabs on him, but he'll always track me down and we'll message each other..." Duo's shoulders shook. "I know you think you trapped me. You got my braid and pulled me out of the tree, and kept nagging me about proper penmanship and not skipping classes. But this has all been part of my master plan to get you in my trap."
"Is that so?" Wu Fei smirked, feeling... hungry. He had a craving hit him all at once...
"Oh yes. It's an ancient Chinese proverb, right? Any game can be caught with the right rope?" Duo taunted him, tilting his head so his braid jiggled.
"I've never heard any such phrase. But I think the sentiment is... more or less true..." Wu Fei stalked closer. "I gather, then, you're trying to say that your entire falsified academic career has been an elaborate ruse... to tie me down?" He put his hands on either side of Duo, pushing him back against the tree.
"I am... very dedicated to the hunt," Duo sighed, running his finger up Wu Fei's chest.
"Maxwell, you are... infuriating," Wu Fei purred, and then he grabbed Duo by the back of his thighs, lifted him up and pressed him back, and kissed him, wildly.
Duo clung to him and laughed as they kissed. He wound his fingers in Wu Fei's hair to keep from slipping. "You are so screwed up in the head. Getting off on being annoyed... Now I'm starting to believe that erotic fantasy on the Oz mainframe about Pilot 5 and His Excellency..."
"Don't even think about finishing that sentence," Wu Fei grumbled, but Duo just laughed, so to stop him from taunting any further, Wu Fei joined their mouths, their tongues again. Duo got into the spirit of it soon enough.
Still, it was impossible, Wu Fei had learned, to ever fully occupy Duo Maxwell's tongue. While Wu Fei was getting his hands under Duo's tight undershirt and attempting to get his teeth into Duo's neck, Duo whispered, "Hey, Fei, are we gonna do it up against a tree in the middle of the quad?"
Wu Fei moved up, running his lips and tongue and teeth over the line of Duo's jaw. "I'm seriously considering it," he growled.
"Well, let's get to it, before you really seriously consider it," Duo beamed.
Wu Fei was trapped.
+ + +
He gave the rope of hair a good, solid tug, and Duo came spilling out of the tree with a yelp. He landed in a messy heap on the ground, and frowned up at Wu Fei.
"How many times have I gotta tell you, Fei? My hair is a not a leash to pull me around with! That hurts, you know," he huffed. He did not, though, pull his braid out of Wu Fei's hands.
Wu Fei smiled affectionately. "I know, and I'm sorry, but I thought you might be interested to know that your first class is about to begin, and unfortunately, it cannot start without you."
"I know," Duo yawned. "I wanted to show up five minutes late, see how many of the little shits took off, and fail all of 'em that did. Since I'm the professor now, I can do that, right?"
"Technically, you're the instructor, you need a few more years before you can call yourself professor, and just because you can do a thing, does not mean you should," Wu Fei teased Duo, holding out his hand to help Duo up.
Duo took it, grinning. "You're going to start teaching Political Science of Star Trek after all, aren't you?"
"You've got your dirty fingerprints all over me," Wu Fei helped Duo to his feet, and even brushed him off. "There's a whole fresh batch of little engineering shits for you to warp and dement."
"I like the sound of that," Duo smiled dreamily. "I really should have gotten into this whole teaching thing earlier. Can I call my students my minions?"
"Sure, until someone hears you," Wu Fei agreed amicably. He walked with Duo toward his building. Wu Fei didn't have class for a while, so he might as well see his husband off.
"You're trying to put a damper on this for me, but I'm not letting you. I'm going to build an army and we are going to become chaos."
"Don't worry, I'm legitimately concerned that you're serious."
"Of course I am! Everyone else gets an army! I could have had an army during the war. I was too young back then, idealistic. I didn't realize the value of it. I will lead my army well."
"Just try not to make anyone cry the first day. Wait until you're past the drop period and then start making them cry."
"Oh, that's good advice. Thanks, Fei."
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