Author: pyrzm
see ch. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Broken Warriors + Chapter 44
Unruly Hearts

They met in the library, as always, and Zechs couldn't help smiling as Chang came in. The ordinary blue jeans and close-fitting black cashmere v-neck not only fit Chang, but suited him perfectly. He'd left his hair down without being coaxed for once, and looked more like a young college student or cafe worker now. He'd worn the necklace, too. It glowed against the golden skin of his throat, as delicate and elegant as the young man who wore it. He wondered what this boy would think if he knew it had been a gift to Zechs from Treize, back in the early days of their friendship, before a romance had ceased to be a possibility.

All the good intentions he listed for himself these past few lonely days wavered like match flames in a strong draft. He did not intend to make a display of the boy, as he had the other night. Tonight he'd wanted to show Chang his better self, or at least a shadow of the man he'd once been. But the sight of that thin black sweater clinging to that slim waist, and the way the stressed denim hugged those slender hips; the man Zechs had become, after waking from that coma--well, that man's mouth watered at the sight of him.

/Run away, little boy!/

"I'm glad the coat was recovered," Chang said, holding the long black overcoat over one arm.

"It wasn't. I replaced it," Zechs told him, reaching for his own coat. He'd forgone the leather tonight, settling instead on a burgundy chambray shirt over his jeans and an old surplus field jacket he'd found in a resale shop during his academy days.

Chang seemed embarrassed by this. "I'm sorry! It was careless of me to have lost the other one. You shouldn't have--" His fingers belied his words, unconsciously stroking the soft, expensive material.

"It's nothing," Zechs assured him, his own fingers itching to do the same with that sweater. He'd replaced the coat for purely selfish reasons; it pleased him to see Chang wearing it, and those other "gifts". He looked like an entirely different person out of drab uniforms and shapeless trousers. No doubt he had a gun on him somewhere, and Zechs knew firsthand how deadly he could be even without one, but that only made his seeming delicacy that much sweeter. It was a pity, he thought, that he'd decided to forgo dancing tonight. But he really did owe Chang that much, after everything that had happened.

"You look--that is, the clothes fit you well." He saw Chang go a darker pink, and the boy seemed to have trouble meeting his eye. "Is something wrong?"

Chang recovered quickly, and those glistening black eyes met his, but they lacked the usual mask of stern calm. "No, I'm just not used to Western clothing. But I don't dislike them. The sweater is very soft, like the coat. I've never worn cashmere before."

'You should never wear anything else,' thought Zechs, 'unless it's silk or leather or the finest Sanque linen . . .' Wonderful, now he was blushing.

"Good. Let's go." He strode for the door in the vain hope of leaving his less than pure thoughts behind. He had no business entertaining any interest in Chang Wufei, now or ever. He must not let himself forget who paid the boy's salary, after all. He tried hard to hold onto that thought as he watched Chang cross the cobbled drive, the loose black coat flowing around those slender, denim clad legs.

As they neared the car, however, an inspiration struck. "Chang, I'm a bit tired tonight. Would you mind driving?"

As he'd hoped, Chang's look of surprise was liberally mixed with delight. How could any former suit pilot not be a motor head? He slid in behind the wheel like he'd been driving such a car every day of his life and up shifted onto the highway so smoothly Zechs hardly felt the transition. His own hard won one-handed skills seemed ludicrous by comparison. How he'd loved to see this kid with his hands on the controls of his gundam, those long, graceful golden fingers wrapped around the handgrips. He fixated a moment on the way those fingers gripped and caressed the gearshift knob and his breath caught in his throat as imagination took over.

/Run away, little boy!/ that disapproving inner voice cautioned again. This was not one of his back room conquests, nor would ever be. He'd made up his mind. But he couldn't stop watching him.

Chang came alive behind the wheel. Those dark eyes narrowed as if scanning the road ahead for enemy suits, and his mouth set in a tight, almost disdainful smile. He did not take the road quite as fast or as recklessly as Zechs had, but only by a small margin. It was an exhilarating ride. Zechs switched on the radio to a hard driving rock station, rolled his window down, and let the cold night air slap him in the face.

If they'd met in a different time, a different world, what then?

The restaurant in question was in Saroni, a small waterfront resort just beyond Le Fleur. He'd had an out-of-the way-table reserved and seated himself with his empty sleeve to the wall. He ordered miso, pickled vegetables, and Japanese beer to start, then let Chang chose the rest. The boy avoided the shellfish, but did not waste time with the more mundane, touristy combination rolls, either. He was a purist, and they ended up with a pleasing mix of yellow tail, salmon, several roes, and smoked eel.

Chang subsided back into his abstracted mood once the beer arrived. He sipped at it and picked at the label, staring out the window at the lights in the harbor. Every now and then his hand rose to toy with the jade at his throat. Zechs waited quietly, devouring him with his eyes.

Chang noticed at last, blushed, gulped some beer. "This surgery? How long is the recovery?"

"If I don't develop any serious infections, then I should heal quite quickly. They'll use the same sort of regeneration technology they did before, in a limited application. The major concern is the neural translation. They're using an alloy of gold, titanium and gundanium now. I won't actually have feeling in the hand, but something close to it."

"What about the weight?"

"They will match my other arm."

Chang nodded. "Your balance is already improving. That should bring you back to normal."

"And improve my driving?"

Chang smiled. "There is little need for improvement there."

"And my fighting ability? Tell me, Chang, can you teach me your style of self defense?"

"Wu Yi?"

"Yes. I've been thinking, since you so ably defended me, that a system that relies so heavily on kicking might be of use to someone like me. Can you instruct me? I'll see that you are compensated for your time."

Chang hesitated, blushing again, and looking down at his empty plate. "I--I will think about it." He fiddled nervously with his chopsticks.

Zechs was surprised; he'd assumed Chang would approve of his plan. More than that, though, the hesitation stung his pride. "You think me an unworthy pupil?"

"No! Not at all! I just--I don't know if I am a worthy teacher."

"False modesty, Chang? You've had no problem challenging my ability as a swordsman."

Chang looked up as if to respond, but said nothing, just stared at him a moment with such uncertainty that Zechs let the subject drop. Something was bothering the boy deeply, making him look sad and vulnerable. His lower nature stirred toward the perceived opportunity, but he held back, letting concern override it. "Something wrong, Wufei? You've been distracted all evening."

"A personal matter. I would rather not discuss it, if you don't mind."

"I see." And why should he? He'd allowed himself to think of Chang as something of a friend, but the boy had not lost sight of the reality of their situation. He would not make a fool of himself. "If you're finished, perhaps we could walk along the waterfront. I could use some air."

A winter storm was blowing in off the sea. A cold damp wind blew Chang's dark hair around his face as they strolled along the boardwalk above the harbor. The awkward discomfort between them increased with silence.

"I'm becoming a creature of the night," Zechs sighed.

"It's safer for now."

"Perhaps I should consider plastic surgery to change my face," he replied, meaning it as a joke.

"That would be a great shame," Chang muttered, more to himself than to Zechs.

"What makes you say that, little Chang?" he couldn't help asking.

He turned to answer, then stumbled over a loose board in the walkway. Zechs caught him under the arm before he could fall. Chang pulled away and righted himself, but not before Zechs had both savored the feeling of that lithe young body under the cashmere coat, and the fact that Chang was trembling.

"Wufei, what's wrong with you tonight?"

"What do you mean?"

"You're distressed. Have I offended you?"

Chang shook his head, eyes downcast. Gods, he looked so vulnerable like that! Zechs could not resist the urge to slip his hand under that chin and tilt his face up, trying to see his eyes in the faint light of the streetlamps. Yes, he was trembling. And not pulling away from his touch for once, either. But he looked perfectly miserable.

Zechs let his hand slip away. "Perhaps we should head back?"

He turned to go, but Wufei stayed where he was, hands shoved deep in the pockets of his coat. "I'm considering asking for a transfer. Off your security detail."

"I see." Zechs felt like he'd been kicked in the gut. He'd over estimated Chang's patience, reformed his actions too late. But he still found himself asking, in a voice far more clipped and terse than he'd intended, "May I ask why?"

"I am losing--I have lost the necessary objectivity. You saw it that night in the parking lot. You could have been badly hurt."

"And it would have been my own damn fault. You reacted perfectly. I was tremendously impressed."

But Chang just stood there, staring at the rough boards under their feet. Zechs thought again how different he looked from his usual stern, controlled self, but this time he felt nothing but shame, as if he'd broken something precious. He had. Chang had seen him at his worst, his most base, and reacted as any honorable man ought to.

Self-disgust rose in his throat like bile, and all his old bitterness came flooding back. "Come then," he snapped. "Let's go."

He'd taken several steps before he realized that Chang was still not following. He'd turned away, head down, shoulders hunched. He looked lost, beaten. Concern warred with pride, but Zechs went to him, put a hand on his shoulder and turned him, unresisting. The lamplight glistened on one smooth cheek, caught in the track of a single tear.

"My god, Wufei, what is it? Are you ill?"

"I think I must be," he whispered, and the look in those glistening black eyes was like that of a cornered animal. A fresh tear fell, streaking his other cheek. He wiped it away absently. "Please, forgive my weakness! I don't know what to say."

Zechs cupped his cheek, feeling for fever, and Wufei shuddered, inclining his head to his touch. Zechs felt warmth under his hand, but it was not fever, though Wufei was trembling more now. Zechs let his fingers slide back into the soft black hair. Wufei let out a wounded little sound and stepped closer, bringing his right hand up to Zech's chest. He did not push him away, just let it rest there, a shy, light touch of trembling fingers. Zechs stroked down through Wufei's hair to the back of his neck. He could feel the clasp of the necklace under his little finger and the fuzzy edge of the sweater, and the heat of that golden skin through it all. When Wufei did not fight that touch, either, things began to come clear.

"Wufei," he said, softly as if he were speaking to a frightened child. "What is it you need to tell me?"

"I--I can't be like those men in the club." It was a whisper so soft he had to lean down to hear it. "The ones you--you took to the back. I can't do that."

"I would never ask you to! You thought I expected that?"

Wufei shook his head.

"I see." Zechs gently caressed the tense muscles under his hand. "Are you saying you find yourself attracted to me?"

Wufei lowered his face with a guilty nod.

"Look at me, please." But he wouldn't, or couldn't. "Then just listen. You've seen me at my worst all these weeks, my very lowest point. I won't apologize for what you saw in that club; I needed that to convince myself I was still alive. And those boys? They got just what they wanted, believe me. But I would never treat someone as fine as you that way. I would give you nothing but my best." Slowly, carefully, he drew Wufei closer and the boy let him, until he was leaning into him, face against the faded front of Zech's coat. Zechs stroked his hair, marveling at this sudden change, baffled to guess the cause.

Wufei shuddered against him, then pulled back a little, wiping his eyes again. "You are seeing me at my worst, as well. I've never--I am ashamed."

"You have nothing to apologize for, Wufei!"

"You're wrong." Wufei took Zechs's face between his hands and pressed his lips to his in an awkward, tight-lipped kiss.

Zechs had never missed his other arm more than now, but he pulled Wufei against him with the one he had as lust and a strange sense of freedom rushed through him. Wufei allowed it for a moment, then broke away.

"I can't! I don't understand what's happening to me! I'm not--I'm not--" His voice dropped to a whisper again. "I'm not gay!"

Zechs had a dizzying moment of deja vu. It was that night with Treize all over again. "Then why did you just kiss me?" he asked as the old hurt resurfaced. "All this just now? Do you really expect me to believe you feel nothing?"

"I do feel! I feel very strongly for you, but I don't know *why*-- No, that's not true. I am powerfully attracted to you, and I admire you as well. It is myself I hate in this, my lack of control and understanding. I see already that I've hurt you, and I had no wish to do that. You see why I must--" His voice broke and another tear betrayed him. "Why I must leave."

The sight of tears on that proud, anguished face swept away Zechs's own petty hurt before it could take root. He closed the distance Wufei had put between them, closed his hand over the collar of Wufei's coat and brought their lips together again, showing the little fool what a kiss could be between them. Wufei moaned against his mouth, tried to back away, then seemed to collapse all at once, wrapping his arms around him like a drowning man. He moaned again, more softly, trembling in Zechs embrace but making no move to get away.

'You're wrong, little Chang,' Zechs thought in triumph. 'Your head may tell you that you're straight, but your body is much wiser.' He stroked his hand firmly down Wufei's back, pulling him closer, and felt the boy's arms tighten around him. Yes, this little body was much wiser, and knew what it needed, just as Zechs's did. But even as his heart leaped, he did not forget what he'd said. Wufei did deserve better than a quick fuck. There would be no joy in that, and no future. The joy would be in handling him with the delicacy he inspired. A boy like this should be pampered and savored, perhaps even loved. And it must be done slowly, for his fears would not be lightly overcome.

"I can't be like those others," Wufei said again, pressing his face into Zechs's chest. "I don't know what I can give you, but not that!"

"No, not that. You have my word," Zechs agreed, stroking his cheek. "But just so you know, I've always been careful, even in clubs like that." When Wufei's brows drew down in a look of confusion, he chuckled softly. "I always use protection, no matter how much of a hurry I'm in."

Even in this light he could see the boy blushing. It was hard not to ravish him, looking like that, but Zechs restrained himself.

"Why?" Wufei asked. "Why would you care?"

"For myself? I didn't. But I'd never want to be responsible for another's misery."

Wufei nodded slowly, and gave the hint of a smile. "You are not without honor, no matter what you think."

"Honor? Conscience, perhaps. Enough not to drive you off a cliff, anyway. And enough to take you home and let you sleep on this. Alone," he added quickly, lest there be any misunderstanding. "I'm leaving early tomorrow, as I said. You won't see me again for a week. Leave things as they are for now, please. Make yourself comfortable there, meditate, or whatever else you need. I won't disturb you. When I come back we will talk about this calmly. But I really do need you to be there when I get back. Will you do that for me? If you decide that this has all been a mistake, then I will accept that and send you on your way with a glowing reference. That's all I ask. One week."

"All right. I'll be there. But I can't promise--"

"I'm not asking for anything more than that. Agreed?"

"Yes. You have my word. I will stay."

"Thank you. One last kiss then, for luck tomorrow?"

Wufei sighed and nodded, allowing Zechs to slip his hand inside the open front of his coat and finally satisfy himself as to how that slender body felt under thin black cashmere. Moving his hand slowly, making a caress off it, he found the jut of a shoulder blade, the ripple of muscle, and curve of a hip. All this, and a mind as fine and cultured as any he had ever encountered, with a warrior's soul and a maiden's modesty. Yes, he could fight his way through for this, against himself, the surgery, and against Wufei's fears. 'If you were straight,' he thought, as their lips met again, 'you would not kiss me like this, or feel like this pressed against me.' Wufei's lips did not open for him, but they were soft and yielding now. His hands clutched at the back of Zechs's coat and he could feel the hard length of the boy's erection against his thigh.

Wufei must have been right about his honor, for Zechs let him go and steered them both back to the car.

He insisted that Wufei drive back to keep the boy's mind occupied, and was pleasantly amazed when he was allowed one last shy kiss in the shadows of the garage.

"A week," he said, holding Wufei's hand to his heart. "Please try not to worry yourself sick over this. You are not obligated in any way."

"I know that."

"Good." He allowed himself to caress that soft cheek one last time. "I hope you'll have some new poems to cheer me with, at least. I've missed that lately."

Wufei gave him a soft little smile. "So have I."

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