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

Broken Warriors + Chapter 45
Busted

Wufei paced his room for hours after their return, trying to take in the enormity of the situation. He had meant to do the right thing, the honorable thing, but had proven once again to be too weak. Instead of resigning, he'd kissed Zechs Merquise!

In the privacy of his room he touched his lips, recalling with mounting disbelief what he had done. The heat of the man, especially once he took control; Wufei's breath quickened at the thought, and his body yearned for more. He shivered, recalling how that broad hand had explored his back under his coat with such bold authority.

The pleasure of this memory made him feel so guilty, but even that only seemed to fuel his desire. His skin burned with it and his cock had taken on a sudden demanding life of its own. Shame scorched him as he thought how he had been the one to initiate that first kiss, and the last one in the garage. But he still smiled, remembering the look of pleased surprise Zechs had given him.

The whole evening had been intense, on the edge of control. Driving the car, kissing the man. Allowing another man to touch him like that--it should have appalled him, repelled him. Instead, he ached for more.

A week! It was going to take more than meditation and poetry to get him through that, and what if, at the end of it, Zechs decided that he didn't want him after all? He'd already as much as told him he could not imagine having sex with him. As much as the fantasy inflamed him, he knew in reality that he could never go through with such a thing. It was inconceivable.

A man like that would not be content long with a few kisses and gropes. No, it was doomed, but Wufei's body still hummed with newly awakened knowledge. Right or wrong, he'd liked kissing him, and loved the way it felt to be held close like that, and to be told that he was something fine and desirable. It was weak, so weak, to melt like a girl at such words, but he had and would again, given the chance.

He brushed his teeth and took off his clothes, folding the jeans and sweater carefully into a drawer. He liked those clothes. He liked how they felt on him, especially the sweater, and he'd really liked the look on Zechs's face when he'd seen him in them. He reached for his nightclothes, then left them there and shut the drawer. Taking a hand towel from the bathroom, he turned off the lights, climbed into bed naked, and silently gave body and mind what they craved. When he was done he used the towel to clean himself and slept like a baby, still naked.

+

He overslept the next morning, but there were no training appointments to be kept. He tried to lie in bed, enjoying the extra time, but the light of day proved sobering. Doubts crept in again the longer he lay there, forcing him up and into his normal routine. He took the crusty towel in the shower and let it rinse out in the bottom of the tub as he washed. Wringing it out, he checked it for damning stains and buried it in the hamper.

As if to make up for his sins, he dressed carefully, making certain every crease of his uniform was perfect, and braided his hair back neat and tight. Looking in the mirror, he saw the person he recognized, except for the hint of a guilty smile around his eyes.

"Zechs wants me," he whispered, and watched his cheeks go red. It was a guilty secret, like his drug use, and he suddenly realized how much part of him needed something like that. Under all the discipline and philosophy and scholarship, all real enough, lurked something else, something that seemed to be fighting its way out this past year. He looked into his eyes in the mirror again; was that this entire thing with Zechs was? A need to rebel? It was the best explanation, of course, but what would that mean? He'd come to genuinely like and admire Zechs, despite the man's own flaws. /Or because of them?/ his reflection accused.

Perhaps in a week he could find an answer for that.

+

He was on his way to the dining room when he met Sally in the hall. One look at her face told him that some shit had hit some fan somewhere.

"There you are! Where have you been?" she said with poorly concealed relief.

"I overslept. What's wrong?"

"Commander Une is here."

"Une? Has something happened? Is Zechs's all right?" He checked his watch automatically, trying to gauge where in transit Zechs might be.

"He's fine. She told me that much, but wouldn't say anything else until you were there. She's in the library." She leaned close and dropped her voice, though the hallway was empty. "There are half a dozen Preventer agents I don't know in the front hall."

The room looked odd in daylight. He'd seldom come in here before evening. The heavy velvet drapes were drawn back and sunlight streamed in, gleaming harshly on the colored leather bindings on the shelves. Une stood by a long table against the wall, hands clasped behind her back as if at attention. She was not smiling.

"Chang. Po. Please be seated. A situation has arisen that involves both of you. I won't mince words. It's serious."

Wufei sank into the armchair he always used, watching as Une took the chair he'd come to think of as Zechs's. She had a manila folder under her arm, and he recognized the top-secret stamps on the front.

"As of this moment, you are both officially on suspension with pay, pending further investigation."

"On what possible charges?" Sally demanded, incredulous.

"Dereliction of duty, to begin with. You should try and keep your head, Po. I think the charges against you are unfounded." She turned to Wufei. "I'm not sure if I can help you, Chang. I need your explanation for these." She passed him the folder.

Wufei unsealed it and shook out a handful of color eight by tens. From the angles and quality, he knew at once they were surveillance photos. Of him. With Zechs.

The first two showed them dancing together at the Le Fleur club. The clothing they had on told him this was the second visit. There was one of Zechs entering one of the sordid cubicles with the dark haired boy he'd gone with that night, but thankfully, the next was of himself, leaning across the bar to speak with Joey. There was even a shot of him throwing that drink in Zechs's face. Quite a picture it made, too. The tabloids would have loved these. Their photographer appeared to have missed out on the fight. The next picture was a grainy long distance shot of them eating in the sushi restaurant. He wasn't sure what anyone could make of this. He looked sullen and Zechs was looking out the window. But the next five told the tale clearly enough; shot after shot of them kissing on the boardwalk like a couple of love struck teenagers.

The thought brought a bitter smile to his lips. Is that what he was? He certainly looked the part, with his hair down, coat open over his jeans. And Zechs wasn't too many years past his teens either? Was he really only twenty-three?

"You find this situation amusing?" Une's tone was deadly.

"No, Commander, I don't. May I ask why we were under surveillance and by whom?"

"I can't answer that, except to tell you that I received these directly from Relena Peacecraft, and that it is she who is bringing charges against you."

"Relena?"

"Apparently she has been concerned for some weeks about the effect you've had on her brother. According to her, he is a fragile, unbalanced man and you appear to be taking advantage of that fact."

"Taking advantage?" Sally snapped. "How, exactly? Wufei's been *wonderful* with him, far more patient and understanding than he deserved. The man may be damaged, but he's not fragile! Wufei's put up with a lot of shit from him, and done him more good than anything I've been able to do for him."

Une waited until she'd subsided, then pointed at the photos. The last one showed Zechs kissing him good night in the garage. Their stalker's coverage had been impressive. "I'm perfectly willing to listen to your side of things, Chang, but here are the facts as I have them from Relena. You encouraged Milliardo to take up fencing again, even after Relena, who is his guardian and your employer, voiced opposition."

"She mentioned that she wasn't pleased. She did not forbid it, and Zechs-Milliardo- he made it equally clear to her that he wished to continue with it. I tried to explain that it was simply a form of physical therapy to improve his balance and his confidence and she didn't listen. But she never ordered me not to."

"Very well. How to you answer the charge of accepting gifts from him, in direct violation of Article 23 of the Preventer Code of Ethics?" She took a list from the breast pocket of her uniform. "I have an inventory here, items ordered by and signed for personally by Peacecraft himself. They include two Le Mornai cashmere overcoats, valued at $950 each, one pair Dolchi shoes, $450, one Dolchi belt, $285, a Moira Yung silk shirt-"

"He did--provide those!" Wufei interrupted, stunned at the prices. "But I was acting undercover as his bodyguard at those places, by his request. I'd assumed that Relena had provided the clothing for the job. I didn't know until last night that they were from him. Give me your inventory and I'll see that everything is returned."

Une handed him the inventory. Some things he did not recognize, perhaps items that Zechs meant to give him later? He'd scanned it twice, appalled at the expense, before he noticed that the jade necklace did not appear anywhere on the list. After seeing how much the coat had cost, it was something of a relief. "I can account for most of these. I suggest you check with his valet about the rest."

"And your behavior in these photos, particularly the last few? Was that part of your 'cover', as well?"

Wufei had never wanted so badly to lie in his life, but honor would not allow it. "My actions at the dance club were cover, as requested by Mr. Peacecraft. His actions there were his own. He is an adult and while I did not approve, I did not think it my place to interfere."

"I see. And the kissing? Was that at his insistence, as well?"

Wufei met her disapproving glare head on. "That was personal, between Mr. Peacecraft and myself. I have nothing more to say on the subject except that it was unplanned and mutually consensual."

"And in direct violation of Article 5 of the code! And whatever the circumstances, planned or not, Relena Peacecraft is fully prepared to pursue this as if you intentionally set out to seduce her mentally incompetent brother while he was in your care! Major Po here may be indicted as an accessory."

"Oh my god!" Sally muttered. Both charges meant serious jail time if they were convicted.

"Finally, and perhaps most damning is the fact that you neglected to inform Major Po of last night's little outing, or arrange for any backup, making it an unauthorized escort-that's reckless endangerment at the very least, if Relena gets the right lawyer. Whose consensual idea was that?"

Wufei sank back in his chair. "Oh god!"

"I didn't even know you'd gone out," Sally murmured.

Wufei shook his head in disbelief, overwhelmed at his own stupidity. "I forgot. I was upset, and I forgot."

"You forgot?" This seemed to outrage Une more than any of the rest of it, and rightly so. It was the biggest, most serious glaring error he'd committed of the lot. "What the hell were you thinking, Chang!"

He dropped his face into his hands. "I meant to. I was going to. I took my sidearm and my phone. But-I was distracted and I forgot."

"I see." The temperature in the room dropped about ten degrees. "This is serious, Chang. I gave you this assignment not only because Relena asked for you two personally, because she trusted you, but also because I trusted you. You are my two best agents! What on earth went on here?"

"Nothing!" Sally told her, trying to defend him. "Apart from the last day or so, Wufei's conduct has been exemplary, as always, in the face of a very difficult situation. Milliardo Peacecraft is a bit unbalanced, it's true, and he's been lashing out at life in general, mostly at Wufei because he's here and he was a fellow pilot. Both of them have told me repeatedly that it takes a pilot to understand one and they are right. I gave what oversight I felt was necessary, but it was Wufei I became concerned about, not Peacecraft. It has been extremely stressful for him, dealing with the man, and I thought things had improved considerably. In fact, I'm convinced of it. Just as I am convinced that by no definition is Milliardo Peacecraft mentally incompetent. The regular reports I have filled will bear that out. He may not be normal, but he's as sane as most mobile suit veterans I know walking around out there. His unusual political situation and the manner in which Relena has chosen to protect him are as much a part of the problem as anything. I tried to tell her that and god knows, Milliardo did. But it's not Wufei's fault. If some sort of relationship has developed between the two of them, well, it's certainly not the first we've seen of the kind, is it, Une?"

Something in her tone made Wufei lift his head just in time to catch the warning look Une gave her.

"Be that as it may, Po, Relena Peacecraft is a very powerful young woman, with very strong views on certain things, especially when it concerns her own family. Like it or not, fair or not, she has made it clear that there can be no such 'relationship' between Chang and her brother. She will destroy both of you to prevent it and has the power to do so. However, I am authorized to offer you an out."

"An out?" Sally repeated, clearly seeing prison bars in her future.

"Yes, and it's a one-time only offer, so listen up, both of you. I was up most of the night calming her down and brokering you this deal. If you come out of this without a prison record, I'll expect children named in my honor, is that clear? Good. Here it is. Relena knows her brother is gay. Hell, anyone who went to the Academy knows it and no one but Relena gives a damn. She was aware of his little jaunts out to Le Fleur before you were, Wufei, and she was willing to turn a blind eye as long as it was just a few quick fucks here and there. But she perceives his feelings for you as some sort of threat, and let's face it, this would cause one hell of a scandal if it hits the papers like this. It's an embarrassment for her, personally and politically, and a huge black eye for the Preventers."

"So, what? A pistol and an empty room? Or are those men out front a handy firing squad?" Sally demanded angrily.

"Nothing so dramatic. You both take an extended leave of absence for health reasons, split as a team, and return to other assignments at a time of my choosing. Po, you get a quiet, sealed reprimand from me. Chang is demoted to second lieutenant on the dereliction of duty charge, but it ends there. No trial. No jail time. Finally, and here's the real bottom line, Chang; you both agree to have no further contact with Milliardo Peacecraft. Ever. Not in any form, written, face-to-face, or otherwise. That's it. Take it or leave it. I need your answer right now. Then you have exactly thirty minutes to get your shit together and be escorted off the premises. It's the brig or L-4, kids. What's it going to be?"

"Has Milliardo been told about this?" Sally asked.

"No, and he won't be, beyond the dereliction charge. As far as he will know, Chang simply left."

Wufei went cold all over. He'd promised Zechs he would be here when he got back. He'd given his word! After his disgraceful show of weakness last night, what would Zechs think? That it had meant nothing?

"I was brought in as an expert on ex-suit pilots and post traumatic stress, right?" Sally was saying, sounding equally upset. "It's in that capacity that I'm telling you, this is a terrible thing to do to Milliardo at this point in his recovery. It's cruel. It could undo every good thing Wufei and I have managed here."

Une let out a long breath. "Between you and me? You may be right. You forget that I've known him longer than either one of you. If I'd had any idea of what was happening here, with Wufei and Zechs, I might have been able to help. But I didn't, and I can't beyond calling in every favor I could to keep the pair of you out of jail. Take the deal, please. There is no other way, other than complete and utter ruin for everyone concerned. And that won't help him either, will it?" She looked to Wufei as she said this, and he saw a plea behind the hard mask. He weighed the options just as she must have already: a trial, the media feeding frenzy, Zechs's private life dragged across news screens for months, becoming a joke in the mouths of talk show hosts and cheap pundits, all thanks to his own weakness and a stupid mistake.

He drew himself up, handed Une his gun and his badge folder, and stood at attention. "I accept your conditions, Commander. So does Major Po."

Sally shot him an angry look, but stood with him and surrendered her gun and ID. "Under protest, Commander. I formally request that it be stated clearly in my file, whatever else you say, that I think this is not in the best interests of Milliardo Peacecraft. When Zechs finally puts a bullet through his head or hangs himself, I want it on record that I warned you."

"Noted, Major. Go gather your things."

An armed Preventer was waiting outside the library to escort each of them to their room. Wufei's minder was a tall, grim looking man, former OZ by the look of him. Wufei hated him on sight, but was grateful it wasn't anyone he knew, and the he remained outside his door, giving him the privacy to pack. No doubt his bags would be searched, and his room, but he would give them nothing to find.

For now he let himself go into mission mode, as Duo used to call it, concentrating on nothing but the immediate task at hand. He quickly packed his few belongings, carefully laying aside the clothes Zechs had given him in plain view on the bed. But try as he might, he could not fend off for long the self-recrimination that had been slowly building in him. How far gone had he been, to have messed up so badly, and on such simple things? He should have been stronger, said good-bye to Zechs and left, as he'd planned. What sort of madness had driven him to this? He cast a guilty eye at the hamper, thinking of the stained towel hidden there. He supposed he should be grateful Relena's spies hadn't kept watch on him here.

But never mind that. He'd hanged himself and he'd pay the price. But what about Zechs? Sally's words haunted him. She thought Zechs would take his departure badly, and she didn't know half of what he did about the man's state of mind.

He would *not* slink away to save his own skin if it meant Zechs thinking he'd simply deserted him. It was time to stop being stupid and blind. He glanced around the room. There wasn't a lot to work with, but he was used to that. He closed his eyes for a moment, summoning the sort of inner calm that had served him so well in battle. He was a gundam pilot. Zechs had flown Epyon. They were not the sort of men to be crushed by a few petty bureaucrats and meddling women. He opened his eyes again and noted the stack of books on his night table, Zech's Eliot among them. He sat down on the bed and picked out one of the newer ones he'd ordered for his own collection, a slim volume of Japanese verse he'd been reading in translation. One poem in particular had been in his mind since last night, by a man named Fujiwara no Teika; he'd considered presenting it to Zechs as a welcome home gift.

After his tryst
he too may be looking up
on his way back home -
while for me a night of waiting
ends with the dawn moon


He'd been afraid it might be too sappy or forward, and had set it aside, but now it would have to do. He quietly tore out the page, x'd out the meaningless poem on the back of it, folded the sheet over several times to look like a scrap paper bookmark and scrawled the Chinese character from the necklace, 'beauty', at the top of it, hoping it would appear as nothing more than an idle doodle to the casual observer, instead of a flare being sent up. Knowing he was in direct violation of his plea bargain with Une, he slipped it between the pages of the volume of Emily Dickinson that had been gathering dust on the nightstand with the edge of it just showing, then found another scrap of paper and scribbled what appeared to be a hasty note: "Sorry to keep this so long. You were right. Dickinson is brilliant, most worthy of perusal. Didn't care much for the Eliot. Agree with you that his verse is 'halting, overly sentimental, and didactic.'" He left it undated and unsigned, praying Zechs remembered and understood the signal he was sending. Assuming he ever saw it. He left this note hanging out of the book in plain sight, and placed both books and the Japanese verse collection back on the nightstand with the Dickinson uppermost. That done, he squared his shoulders and left the room, aware of the slight weight of the jade pendant against his throat under his uniform. He'd forgotten to take it off again, and it hadn't been on Relena's comprehensive manifest. Presumably her spies had fucked up at least a little and didn't know that this had been one of the damn gifts, too.

Fuck Relena and her lists and spies and lawyers! his newfound voice of rebellion crowed. Maybe its absence would serve as a signal to Zechs, too. Gods, he hoped so.

+

Several long black sedans were waiting outside. He went quietly, maintaining his dignity as the servants stared and whispered. He was allowed to ride with Sally and Une. His bags were taken to a different vehicle of course, to be searched. They were welcome to his dirty underwear and socks. He hoped they'd be gentle with his computer and the copy of the Tao Winner had given him. He valued those, and his sword. They could have the rest, for all he cared.

Mission mode served him well, keeping him numb and proud long enough to get through the hour-long ride to the launch port, and aboard the Preventer Shuttle. He had a cabin to himself for the trip and no one seemed interested in controlling his movements or Sally's now that they were safely off Earth. He pulled off his tie and belt, kicked off the ugly, serviceable black dress shoes he'd gone dancing in for the first time in his life, and sat down on the narrow bunk. There was no port in the cabin, or any vid monitors. He unzipped his bag and pulled out the Tao. It was undamaged. He wondered if the people who'd searched his room at the estate had noticed the books there, or the notes in them? That thought, and the fact that he was totally powerless to control the situation, or even know if Zechs would find them if they were there, began to chip away at his thin veneer of control. He turned the pages of the Tao, seeking some solace, but his hands were shaking.

Sally slipped in with two mugs of tea and settled on the bunk beside him. He tried to drink, but his stomach was knotted too tight to swallow much.

"How are you doing?" Sally asked, noting how unsteady his hand was, holding the cup. She took it from him and set it aside. "Talk to me, Wufei."

"I fucked up. I've wrecked both our careers. I'm very sorry."

"That's not what I'm asking for and you know it. Do you love him?"

"I don't know. That's pathetic, I know, but it's the truth. I certainly feel *something* for the man, strong enough to make me throw away all good judgment, but whether or not it's love? I can't say. As you so recently pointed out, I'm not very good at recognizing that particular emotion in myself or others."

Sally smiled and shook her head. "You say that, but I think you just might. I've thought so for a few weeks now."

"Indeed." He swallowed hard and took a deep breath. What was there to say? His gaze fell on the book lying open on the bed beside him. "When a mission goes bad but you can still walk away from it, there's always the chance to fight again. That's what Winner used to tell us, when things went sour."

"He was right."

"But what about Zechs? Does he get to walk away, or are we leaving him trapped in the wreckage?" His voice was shaking now, too, not just his damn hands. Mission mode was leaving him, taking the adrenaline with it, leaving him with the sick, cold let down. "Sally, I told him I'd be there when he got back!" Tears again. He should just put on a dress and be done with it!

Sally put an arm around him and he let her pull his head down on her shoulder. He let himself put his arms around her and he let himself cry. "I screwed up badly, and I'm taking you all down with me! And for what? Because Relena thinks I'm gay? That I'm going to-to-" He couldn't go on for some moments, wracked by silent, choked back sobs. Sally held him and stroked his hair. Zechs had done the same; how could the same action from two people feel so completely and utterly different? Sally's touch was soothing, nothing more. It had never been much more than that even during sex, he realized now, not compared to what Zechs lightest touch did to him. "Oh fuck, Sally, I think I'm going over the edge! How can I love him? I'm not gay. I've never-"

Sally let him cry it out, then sat him up and wiped his face, stroking his hair back where a few strands had stuck to his cheek. Again he felt the immeasurable difference between her touch and the other, the one he still craved, even now in the middle of this unbelievable mess.

"There's something I have to tell you, Wufei. I realize now maybe I should have told you sooner. Who knows? It might have helped you. But I don't think you were ready to hear it until now."

Wufei wiped his nose on the corner of the bunk sheet. "Tell me what?"

"Well, it's sort of a long story. I don't know if they'll let me stay in her with you for long, so just let me get it out, OK?"

"You know I've been fascinated with you gundam pilots ever since I first met Heero. I gathered what data I could from you all over the years, during the war and since, with your knowledge. But I wasn't the only one doing it, and you weren't the only suit pilots studied. The Academy had its own studies, and included people like Zechs and Noin, among others, anyone who stood out. The scientists who designed and implemented Project Meteor did, as well, for the early days of the program. Some of their notes were recovered during and after Libra, and some of those files have come into my hands through channels I'm not going to talk about. Here's what I know. Heero Yuy and Quatre Winner were the first gundam pilots selected. They had to pass a huge battery of tests-aptitude, personality, intelligence, physical stress, the works. The files on them are massive, and they were only children at the time. It was thought at firs that each of the five scientists, Dr. J and the rest, worked independently, but of course that was only a myth, for security reasons. Heero was considered the perfect prototype, but he was so unusual that he could not be readily replicated. Quatre, when he passed, came as a surprise, since they seem like such polar opposites. The test results were compared and very few correlations came up, beyond their intelligence, exceptional reflexes, and high level of innate creativity. However, there was one other thing. Both showed strong signs of latent homosexuality. This was considered an aberration, a coincidence, until the third pilot to qualify showed the same results."

"Maxwell?"

"No, Wufei, it was you. You were the third point that confirmed the trend. Two other L-5 candidates washed out before they got to you, and both of them lacked that characteristic. The researchers on the project were already calling it the 'G factor' and the joke was it stood for both 'gundam' and 'gay.'"

"Sally, how can that be? I loved Meirin. You and I, we had sex. I liked it! And I did care for you, as much as--"

"I know, as much as you were able to. But you didn't love me, or the sex, and you weren't passionate. Those pictures Une had of you two? They were a revelation, Wufei. Did you really look at them? That was passion."

"And you knew all this, even when we were involved? What were you doing, testing me? Checking out the theories for your research?" he demanded angrily.

"Keep your voice down!" she hissed. "Of course I wasn't! I'd gotten to know you during the war and I cared for you. As I said, with you first three the homosexuality presented as latent. That's not uncommon in any population. And all three of you turned out to be late bloomers, sexually. Quatre probably would have stayed a virgin for the entire war, maybe longer, if not for Trowa."

"Winner? You haven't been following the news these past few years, have you?"

"I know all about that, but that was after Trowa accelerated the process, and a lot of what you saw as promiscuity after the war, during his wildest days, was a predictable PTS behavior. He, Trowa, and Duo have all seem to have suffered that particular reaction to one degree or another. Not everyone does. You and Heero didn't, though Heero may have been showing the other side of the same coin, which also occurs. But with Heero, it's hard to say for sure. He's never been in the normal range on much, when it comes to human interaction. Still, it appears he got over it on his own, with Duo."

"As for you and me, you may well be bisexual, or you were simply acculturated to be straight. Both you and Quatre were raised in cultures that frowned on, even condemned, same sex love. You and Heero were both taught to suppress your own desires to achieve a higher purpose. He was dangerously emotionally repressed when I first met him. It accounts for a lot of the problems he's had since. Duo Maxwell is the best thing that could have happened to him.

"You, on the other hand, were sexually repressed and still are. It's tearing you up now because you've finally met someone you really respond to on that level and you aren't mentally prepared for it. You'd better get a grip on it fast, Wufei, or you are in for some hard times. But I don't have to tell you that, do I? That's what happened, these past few days. It all came crashing through and you overloaded."

"Sexually repressed?" Wufei snorted, caught on that assessment.

"I hate to be the one to break it to you, my friend, but speaking as someone who's slept with you, oh yes! I hope you get over that. You'll have to if you want Zechs. I've seen his file, too. He has no such qualms. He, Duo Maxwell, and Trowa Barton fall squarely into the 'overt' category. Duo and Trowa were both last minute acquisitions to the project, but during the vetting process it came out that both had been sexually active on some level with men already and were comfortable with their orientation. There were other candidates in both cases, but they were singled out, in part because of that."

"But Zechs couldn't have been part of that vetting process, not back then."

"He wasn't, but OZ had come to similar conclusions already. Remember the Academy sex scandal, right before the war? That was no accident. Zechs was having affairs with classmates from the time he was fourteen, and slept his way through half the men at the Academy, both as a student and an instructor. Oddly enough, his test scores show him to be a romantic at heart. Hard to imagine, with that track record, but that's what his file says."

"I believe it," Wufei murmured, remembering what Zechs had said to him last night. "But what about Treize?"

"He tested borderline, and seems to have made the same sort of choices you have. And that's not to say there weren't excellent pilots who didn't have that factor. But many did, and all of you gundam boys. As the project progressed, it was even assumed that it might be a bonding factor."

"How so?"

"I saw some projections. It was estimated, based on your scores and personality types, that certain boys might pair bond, as close friends or lovers."

"Did they say who?"

Sally smiled. "Yes, and that's where their theories really broke down. Quatre wasn't expected to survive more than a few months, even with the Maguanaq support troops. You and Heero were considered compatible, as were Trowa and Duo. If Quatre didn't die, he was expected to be drawn to Trowa or Heero. So they got most of the pairings wrong, but they probably weren't wrong about the rest of it. Trowa kept Quatre alive in a variety of ways, and it would appear that Heero's unspoken attraction to Duo improved his chances of survival, as well, and vice versa."

"And me?" Wufei smiled bitterly.

"You were repressed, stubborn, arrogant, insecure, and even less of a team player than Heero. If you'd been more in tune with that aspect of yourself, you might have found one of them interested. My money would be on Heero, but you'd probably have had to fight Duo for him. However, if I may say so, I don't think your soul mate was in that group at all. To my knowledge, I'm the only researcher so far who's thought to cross match you five outside the gundam sample. Your admiration for Treize was no accident, Wufei, and neither is the way you've been drawn to Zechs. Of those two, I think you have the better man, too."

"I don't 'have' him at all!" Wufei snapped, still not quite ready to buy into all this. "And if I did, then I've done a damn fine job of making sure I'll never see him again. Relena will make certain of that."

"I'm not so sure about that."

"And why might that be?"

"Because Relena Peacecraft had never understood pilots at all, not Heero, not her brother or Duo, and not you." Putting her lips to his ear, she whispered, just loud enough for him to hear, "But I do, better than most, and based on that, I'm guessing you've already taken action. I'm not going to say more than that and you're not going to even acknowledge the question, if you know what's good for you. I'm just saying, don't give up hope. And don't forget; Zechs is a pilot, too."

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