Somewhere [ the holiday side story continued ]

+

He had been standing in the kitchen under a mountain of presents with Millardo and Anne for the better part of the afternoon, and in his opinion, they hadn't seemed to get the pile to lessen any.

"I never remember Christmas being so exhausting!" Wufei grumbled, taping the wrapping paper around a box.

"Well, I will admit that ever year it seems to get bigger," Anne agreed, adding her finished present to the completed pile.

"Ancestors!" Wufei sighed, brushing a loose strand of hair behind his ear.

"This is nothing. There'll be three times this once the guys and my sister get here this weekend." Miri added.

Wufei's eyes widened in something akin to horror at that implication. "I thought everything was supposed to fit underneath the tree."

"It's more like a starting place." Une explained. "Too bad Sally and Lu couldn't make it this year."

"Well Sally is visiting her family in China and we will see her at New Years."

"And Lucrenzia is going to meet her boyfriend's family. They were going to try to make both but... well you know." Millardo explained.

"Wait," Wufei interjected. "They were going to go from Colorado to here and back?"

Une whistled lowly. "They would have ended up flying more than visiting anyone."

"Exactly what I said. I told her we'll see her at New Year's and to enjoy the quiet time over the Holiday." Miri replied, adding his gift to the finished pile.

"Finally!" Wufei sighed, placing the last gift on the pile as well. "The last present."

Chuckling, Anne grinned. "You sounded way too relieved about that, Wufei."

Joining her laughing, the blonde agreed. "More like joy over that fact."

"I think my fingers are numb," Wufei groused.

While Anne laughed, Wufei defended himself. "Seriously! I think I wrapped well over fifty odd some gifts!"

Chuckling, Millardo leaned on the counter next to the Asian man. "Want me to kiss them and make them all better?"

Tossing a wad of crumbled tissue paper at the older man, Wufei replied with a simple, "Baka."

His faint blush did not escape Anne's attention.

"Hey, how was shopping, Anne?" Millardo inquired, drawing the woman's attention away from the Chinese man.

"Actually, quite enjoyable," she replied.

Warming up the pot on the stove, Wufei pulled out mugs and hot coco from them all. "I heard from Mariemaia that you actually ventured into the food court."

"What? You two have never been talked into cheese fries?"

"Nope"

"Not a chance," Miri added.

"Am I missing something?" Anne inquired, looking between the two of them.

"I personally don't trust the food court," Wufei replied to her inquiring look.

"Ditto," the Sankian man agreed.

"You two have no sense of adventure," she admonished.

"Not when it comes to my stomach," Millardo agreed.

"Well aside from our lack of food court adventures, thanks again for taking her" Wufei said, pouring the water into the mugs.

"It was nothing," Anne replied. "I had a fantastic time hanging out with her. Say when are Duo and Heero getting her?"

"Hm? Oh tonight sometime," Millardo replied.

With a long stretch, Wufei glanced at the clock. "We should start moving this mountain of materialism into the family room and under the tree. Mariemaia gets home from school in a half an hour."

Slowly, they began to do just that.

"So, Noin had no problem bringing Marie here after school gets out?" Millardo asked.

"Not at all," Anne replied. "I believe she mentioned it was on her way to the airport anyways and it would give her a chance to give Mariemaia her gift."

"It'll be great to see her before she flies out," Wufei mentioned, placing his presents in the vicinity of the tree.

"Definitely," Miri agreed.

+

Marie kept a lookout from the bay window atop the main staircase.

"Are they coming?" Wufei called out to her.

"I see lights!" She hollered back.

Millardo sipped his drink and muttered, "I think I can hear the bass of Duo's stereo."

Sipping her wine, Anne nodded. "He did always like grand entrances. I suppose we should be grateful he is no longer allowed to have a gundam. Just think of that landing in the front gardens with its bass."

Millardo shuddered.

"Miri!" Wufei called from the kitchen. "Can you get the chicken out of the oven?"

Winking at Lady Anne, the blonde smirked. "Wufei beckons."

"Do you need any help?" she offered.

"No, it's quite alright, Anne."

"They're pulling into the main gates!" Marie hollered out. She shot up and bolted down the staircase, making a beeline for the front door.

Millardo meanwhile pulled the chicken out of the oven as well as the turkey. "Do you think this turkey is big enough for everyone?"

Wufei slide two pies into the oven. "Miri, it's a twenty-five pound bird."

"Two words. Duo Maxwell," the blonde replied.

"I also made a ham. I swear we will have more meat at the table than anything else!"

"What temperature should the turkey be?"

"One-eighty-five," Wufei replied, offhand.

"It's done then," the taller man replied, lifting the bird onto the counter. "Should I start carving it?"

"Thanks. I think we can wait until it's a little cooler before carving it."

"We'll be fine on food you think?"

Giving the older man a look, Wufei sighed. "I have enough food to feed a small army. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, three different vegetables, two different types of stuffing, and I think two more dishes after that."

"I think we might be short on food," he teased the smaller man.

Glaring up at the blonde, Wufei snorted.

Wiping his hands, Millardo reached forwards and untied Wufei's apron springs. Turning around, Wufei glared up at the man, a small pout sitting on his lips.

With a mischievous grin, Millardo pulled the smaller man against him with the apron strings. "You're so cute when you glare," he teased, nuzzling his nose against the Asian man's.

"He's even cuter when you're facing down his gun barrel" a voice interrupted, grinning at the scene before him. "Heya Zechsie. Hey Wufei."

"Duo... " Wufei sighed, smiling at the violet eyed man.

"Duo," the blonde man greeted, relinquishing his hold on Wufei. "We heard you coming from a few miles away."

Chucking, Duo grinned. "Yeah, well, one does need to make an entrance."

"I'm surprised that Heero hasn't gone deaf yet," Wufei remarked.

"It isn't for his lack of trying," the said man interjected. "Quatre and Trowa were right behind us coming in."

On cue, the European man walked through the kitchen door. "It's a Doppler effect," Trowa informed them. "All the speakers were facing forward so it was a relatively quiet ride up for us."

"Hey!" Duo greeted the banged man.

"Wow, you guys certainly cooked a lot," Quatre commented, joining them.

"Wufei cooked a lot," Millardo explained.

"Marie and Anne helped," Wufei replied with a faint blush.

Marie rushed into the kitchen, latching her arms onto Duo with a big grin.

"Heya, kiddo!" he greeted her with a pat on the head.

"Can I bring out the hor'dourves?" she asked.

"May you?" Miri corrected.

Rolling her eyes, she corrected herself. "May I bring out the hor'dourves?"

"Yes you may," Wufei responded. "If there are any left after Duo has been in here."

"Is Relena settled?" Heero asked the redheaded girl.

"Yes!" Mariemaia replied.

"And right here," the woman replied for herself, entering the kitchen. "So this is where everyone has been hiding! And Wufei! There's so much food. More than thanksgiving!"

"There are more people here than there was at thanksgiving." He kissed her in greeting on the cheek. "Good to see you made it."

Chuckling, she nodded. "Didn't I just see you?"

Laughing, Wufei grinned. "Hm. Don't remember. Seems so long ago... "

"Relena," Millardo greeted his sister, kissing her on the cheek.

"Miri," she replied, and looked around. "Now I thought I heard something about appetizers?"

"We have plates out over here," Duo replied to her question.

"Does anyone need a drink?" Wufei asked, pulling out the wine glasses.

"Relena," Quatre greeted, entering the kitchen. Turning he nodded at Millardo and Wufei. "Holiday greetings to you two as well."

"Hello, Quatre," Wufei replied, "Do you want anything to drink?"

"Oh, let me help with that," the blonde man replied, pouring wine for himself and Relena.

"Thank you, Quatre," Relena replied, accepting a glass from him.

Millardo in turn poured a merlot for himself and Wufei. "Anyone else what the merlot? I think there is also a Pino Gregio opened as well."

"I'll think Duo and I will start with a beer. Trowa will have a soda," Heero replied, walking in from the dining room.

Wufei beamed internally. It felt so wonderful to be so relaxed for once in his life. There was that realization that he had friends and a family. Something he had lacked before. He had finally felt comfortable with himself to open up to them.

Grinning up at the taller blonde, Wufei's eyes twinkled. The holidays were definitely a wonderful time of year.

+

Wufei took a moment to breath after dinner, excusing himself with a collection of plates into the kitchen. He had to rescue to pies from the oven and he needed a moment to collect himself.

Quatre followed him in, holding a stack of dishes as well. "You look like you could use some help," he offered.

Wufei smiled softly. "Thanks Quatre."

"Not a problem. Dinner was magnificent by the way," the Arabian complimented.

Blushing, Wufei placed the dishes on the counter. "It was nothing."

Quietly, the blonde man replied, "No it was. It was absolutely excellent."

Wufei turned to pull the desserts from the oven. "Whatever," he replied, despondently.

Leaning on the island counter, Quatre smiled. "You've adapted well."

"Huh?" the Chinese man replied, intelligently.

Walking over to the small man, Quatre helped him unload the ovens of the goodies. "You've adapted well."

"You mean I'm becoming more like Fei?" Wufei replied, mostly keeping the bitterness of the comparison out of his tone.

Quatre however seemed to catch it. He was an empath, he hated to remind people. "No. It's true that we hung out with Fei more than we do with you. But, truthfully, other than his initial breakdown with Duo and Millardo, he was fairly closed off to us still.

"I think because we saw so much of him, we ended up thinking that we knew him."

"You can't think that you know me any better? I mean I barely do half of the events Fei seemed to frequent and I know I have not fully adapted to this place or universe, or whatever you want to call it," Wufei replied.

With a knowing smirk, the blonde man easily replied to the boy, "But I know more about you than I did him. And I'm sure," he added after a moment, "that it holds the same for Heero, Trowa, even and Anne and Mariemaia."

"Look, I've seen the photographs... " he interjected.

"Wufei," Quatre interceded. "Look, I know you don't want to become Fei. Hell, we all know that. But, well, now that I know you, I am beginning to see how much I didn't know Fei."

Wufei was silent for a while, letting that sink in. Letting the fears seep into his thoughts as well. "Quatre?" he whispered. "What happens when or if I go back? I try to only act like him. I don't want to become him."

"Is his life that bad?" the blonde boy questioned.

"No!" Wufei hissed quietly, followed by a long pause. "And that's the problem. It's not bad. It's a hundred, a thousand times better than my life was or would have ever been!

"I know I'm changing. And... And I kind of like the changes. But you have to understand that there is a looming... fear." Wufei looked into the Arab's eyes for a long moment. Oh, how he hated and loathed to admit he was afraid, but he needed to tell someone. And he didn't want to burden Millardo with his problems.

"A fear that one day I'll wake up back in my time and... And... Quatre, I wouldn't know what to do. I wouldn't have anyone to go to. I would be alone and in full realization of how alone I was."

"Wufei... " Quatre breathed out the man's name.

"I've never been on the cusp of fear like that," he admitted to the blonde. "I feel guilt and fear. I mean I took another man's entire perfect life-"

"Fei was far from perfect," Quatre interjected. "Look, I know we built him up into a certain kind of iconic image, especially upon meeting you. But honestly, that was our own fault in the matter. We need to recognize that that Fei was far from perfect, just like you.

"I know the fear will never go away Wufei, honestly I do. But you can't live your life in fear. It will then only heighten with time. And you deserve better than that." He finished and leaned in close to hug the Chinese man.

"Thanks, Quatre," he whispered. He took a moment to collect himself. "So I guess we should get the desserts out, huh?"

Grinning, Quatre agreed, "Preferably before there is a riot on our hands."

Placing the pies and desserts onto trays, Wufei paused to look at his pale friend. "And Quatre?"

"Yes, Wufei?"

"Thank you."

With a warm smile, the blonde nodded. "Always, Wufei. Always."

+

She sat on the edge of the top step, anxious and excited to the core. Mariemaia knew she would really be considered too old to be wound up over Christmas presents, but somehow she could not find it in herself not to be. So eager that she had not slept at all that night. Well, not really, anyways.

She had been so caught up in the fact that there were presents awaiting her and others downstairs that she had not heard the American sneaking up beside her.

"Hey Marie!" he greeted her.

Jumping slightly, she turned and glared at him. "Duo! Don't sneak up on me like that!" Pausing, she glanced around. "Anyone else up yet?"

Shaking his head, Duo replied, "Nope. But I think we can arrange for it to otherwise, ne?"

Nodding vigorously, the redheaded girl stood up. "I'll get Anne, Miss Relena, Quatre, and Trowa up."

"I've got Hee-chan and Wufei and Miri," he nodded back, sharing a conspiring grin with her.

"Five minutes?" she asked.

"Synching the watches," he agreed, standing up and heading towards Wufei and Miri's room. He watched her disappear around the hall's corner heading towards the other's rooms.

Grinning, the American man tapped lightly on their door. `I wonder how this sleeping thing is working out?' he pondered, waiting for a response. Not receiving one, he cautiously opened the door and was shocked at the sight that greeted him.

Heero silently walked up behind his lover. Whispering into the smaller man's ear, Heero asked, "What?"

Sneaking a look at the Japanese man, Duo nodded his head in Wufei and Millardo's direction.

Heero gave his love a pondering look before turning to see what had shocked the American.

The sight of Wufei and Millardo cuddled in bed was not something the Japanese man was anticipating. Watching them entangled in each other's arms, Millardo shifted and Wufei went with him, snuggling closer. His features were so open and relaxed, not the usual tightness he desperately tried to hide.

Heero's eyes widened slightly at the site. `Who would have guessed?' he thought, slightly bewildered. He never really saw Fei cuddle Millardo like that...

"Well, I do have to wake them. Marie's orders. Pity, though. They really are very picturesque right now." Duo mused, quietly.

Sneaking in, the American sauntered over to the side of the sleeping men's bed. Leaning over, he whispered, "Hey. Wu-kun." Leaning closer he pecked the boy on the cheek. "Hey sleepyheads... "

Blinking his eyes, Wufei focused on the bright violet hued eyes above him. "Maxwell!" He blurted out, sitting up rapidly.

Duo had by then fell onto the floor, laughing hysterically.

Heero leaned against their doorframe chuckling.

Wufei glared down at the hysterical American and scrubbed at his cheek.

Sitting up beside the disgruntled man, Millardo pushed his hair out of his eyes. "Why are we getting up?" He asked, glancing at the time. "At six am for that matter."

Still pouting, the Chinese man glowered at the American. "I thought we agreed to do presents at ten."

"You were vetoed. Time to get up, Wufei." Duo replied, getting up and crossing over to where his lover was leaning.

Wufei pouted angrily at the two of them.

"Well, I could always just toss you over my shoulder and carry you downstairs," Duo replied, with a sultry wink.

Flushing, Wufei hissed, "Duo!"

Grinning, Millardo shook his head. "Give us a minute and we'll be right out, Duo. We'll meet everyone in the hallway."

"Gotcha!" Duo agreed, following his lover out the door and shutting it with a firm click.

+

Wufei was amazed at how much joy could be had by simply watching other's open up presents. There were a lot of presents, so much that he wondered if he would ever see the base of the tree again.

But the laughter and sharing and general feel good attitude surrounding him was something that warmed him all over. A year ago he had been involved in a war. A year and a half ago he almost killed the people he was now giving presents to.

Life certainly had odd turns for him.

Still, the smile on Mariemaia's face was all worth it to him. He decided that the first second he had seen the smile illuminated on her face when he exited his room with Miri.

There had been something that blindsided him in that moment. That he really could change. And willingly, if just to keep her happy.

Protecting her this way was infinitely better than what he had tried in the war. She wanted his guidance, his love, his support in a way a father would give to his child. She hadn't needed a protector, a guardian, a slayer. She needed a family.

He was not going to fail her now.

Sighing happily, he never really even felt Millardo's arm slip around his shoulder, pulling him back against that powerful chest. Laying there, their hands intertwined, he basked in the sight he had never dreamed he witnessed.

His family enjoying a holiday.

His Christmas wish had finally come true.

+

Duo watched as Wufei leaned against the blonde European man. He seemed not to notice, almost caught up in his thoughts. Happy ones, if Duo was guessing correctly.

He found it comforting that for all appearances, whether Wufei knew it or not, he seemed very relaxed in another man's arms.

`I mean they look natural together. But that is also what I believed about Fei and Zechs. But Wufei seems, if it is even possible, more relaxed in Zechs' arms.'

It was a puzzle he had often discussed with the other three former pilots. Trowa and Heero had no enlightened points on the matter, just that gradually Wufei had to adjust, he was a survivor after all, and that he need not worry so much.

Quatre had enlightened him on the progress of his friend while he went on long trips with Heero and Relena.

The boy seemed to hover between the stages of his world and Fei's world. They were both so startling different from one another that Duo could see how Wufei had a lingering fear.

He akined it to trying to find the middle ground between the two extremes. That becoming completely how Fei was, was not going to help Wufei in the long run. There were just many things Wufei had to discover for himself.

On the other hand, Wufei couldn't linger in his old mannerisms either. They were ill suited for this place and he had built walls that were no longer needed.

Yet, somehow seeing Zechs and Wufei together made everything seem good. True, he knew there would never be a perfection that everyone believed there once was. But for Wufei's sake, Duo knew that the boy was happy with the changes. They were faster than they seemed at times.

Duo often forgot that Wufei had just really arrived less than a half a year ago.

"What are you thinking about?" Heero whispered into his lover's ear, eyeing the pair in Duo's gaze's direction.

"Just about how cute they look together. That's all. Well, that and how long it will take to notice that they are sitting beneath the mistletoe." Duo replied.

Heero's eyes widened at that thought. "Really? Hm."

"My thoughts exactly. I say we wait until the presents are open then we might have to enlighten them."

"Of course." Heero agreed, sharing his lover's conspiring grin.

"After all, it would hardly be in the spirit of Christmas not to." Duo replied with a soft chuckle and turned his attention back to the gift giving. He really hoped he had remembered to bring the camera down.

Fin.

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