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

Broken Warriors + Chapter 49
Yearnings

Pain.

Gundam colors, bright as exotic birds against dull gray corridors and the blackness of space. Wing. Heavyarms, Deathscythe. Sandrock. Shenlong. He knew them all too well.

Wufei!

Bone-deep concussion of direct hits from Yuy's beam cannon, and the shudders of Libra's death throes.

A decision---a sacrifice. A futile atonement.

Run away, Wufei . . .

No. Not Wufei, Yuy. Get clear, boy, hurry!

A blinding flash, fire and shearing metal.

Pain!

Left side crushed, burning . . . Flesh burning.

"He's coming up again. Increase the titration . . ."

+

Falling. Burning. Dying.

/Get out, Yuy! Hurry!/

Pain again, but dull.

"Damn it! Watch his breathing, Sorenson!"

"Increasing oxygen . . ."

Blinding light.

/Yuy, are you out?/ Did he make it?

Pain. Stronger. Too bright to see.

"Damn it! Clamp that bleeder! Get a sponge in there."

Pain!

"Doctor, we've got eye movement."

"He's coming out of it! Nurse, across his legs!"

"Cauterize that, stat!"

Burning flesh!

/Mayday! Pilot down . . ./

"God damn it, Sorenson!"

"You're all right, Mr. Peacecraft."

/Not Peacecraft. Peacecraft/ "is dead . . ."

"Fuck, he's regaining . . ."


" . . . tachycardia! Get him under! Now!"

"Breath deeply, Milliardo. Just breath. That's right."

Fresh air. No air in space. Mayday!

Going down . . .

+

" . . . Peacecraft?"

Falling!

"Mr. Peacecraft?"

Mistah Peacecraft-- he dead.

"You're all right, Mr. Peacecraft." A woman's voice. Kind. A stranger.

Restraints. Can't move.

Captured?

"Captured?"

"No, you're in the hospital, remember? Can you open your eyes for me, Mr. Peacecraft?"

"Not. Peacecraft." His tongue was thick, mouth so dry it hurt. Throat hurt. Everything hurt.

"It's all right, Mr. Peacecraft. It's normal to be disoriented. Can you open your eyes? Come on now."

His eyelids were dry and felt so heavy. When he did manage it bright light stabbed his eyes, making them water. He squeezed them shut again. Sleep . . . Why wouldn't she let him sleep?

"You're in recovery, Mr. Peacecraft. You are under observation."

Observation? "Captured?" He was cold.

A chuckle, very close to his ear. He blinked again, squinting in the too-bright glare. A face swam into view over him. Asian. Black eyes. So lovely.

"Wufei . . ."

Another chuckle. "That's about the tenth time you've called me that, sir. I'm nurse Tanaka. Sachiko Tanaka."

Zech's blinked, fought to focus. The world swam away again. Black eyes. "Beautiful eyes."

"Why thank you! Why don't my patients ever tell me that when they're wide awake, eh?"

"He has beautiful eyes." Let me sleep, damn you! So cold.

"Ah. Well, I'm sure he does, and so do you. Let's get them open, now. We've got to sit you up."

Zechs forced his eyelids open all the way. He was shaking uncontrollably.

It was like being in Antarctica again. Cold. White walls. White blankets over him. White lights glaring down. Black eyes glaring at him. No, they'd been blue there . . . Japanese and blue . . .

No Yuy here. But still damn cold. A pretty Japanese nurse in a white smock was placing another blanket over him. "Don't worry, it's just a reaction to the anesthesia. You gave poor Dr. Sorenson a real run for his money, sir."

"Sorenson?" Why was that name familiar?

"Your anesthesiologist. You flyboys are always the worst. How's the arm?"

Zechs flexed his left shoulder and winced. "Hurts."

She raised the head of his bed and injected something into the IV line inserted in the back of his restrained right hand.

"Why'm I tied down?" Goddamn, it hurt to talk!

"SOP, sir. You've been moving around a lot."

"Water."

"You're still NPO, but I can give you some ice chips to suck on." She turned away, came back with a spoonful of ice. He accepted it gratefully and closed his eyes again.

"No, no, sir. Stay with me."

Zechs fought himself awake again and accepted more ice.

Nurse Tanaka came and went, strangers came to prod at him, then wheeled him into a private room where the light was soft and he didn't feel so cold.

He got his first look at his reconstructed left arm there. Or rather, the beginnings of it. The stump now ended about six inches below the shoulder in a silvery metal ring capped with black plastic. From his research, he knew that under that cap was a flanged locking attachment ring and a complex grid of neural connectors. The whole thing was connected to the remains of his ulna bone. In a few days, the genetically enhanced skin and muscle grafts would knit to the metal and it would be permanent, and eventually ready to accept the replacement arm.

That, of course, wasn't taking into account the painful calibration process that would follow. He couldn't say he was looking forward to that, testing each nerve ending, finding the right level of stimulation to make it work without triggering the pain response.

He stared at the ceiling, calling up the memory of Wufei kissing him. He would fight through, as he'd promised himself. He would hang onto that. He wondered how he was doing. Had he decided it was all a terrible mistake? One didn't overcome a lifetime of denial with a few kisses, after all. Would he bolt? No, he'd given his word, and Chang Wufei was one of the few people left in the world whose word he believed in. For good or ill, he would be there, even if it were only to say good-bye.

The pain was increasing as the anesthesia wore off. Nurse Tanaka could probably fix that for him, but he needed his head clear. Instead, he summoned the memory of Wufei: his cheek, his hair, his warmth through soft wool. His own body was too abused at the moment to feel arousal; no, it was simply comforting to think of him. Fascinating, complex boy.

He must have dozed of again, because when the door opened, he half expected to see those dark eyes and soft black hair. Instead, it was Relena.

"Milliardo?" She came to his bedside and took his hand. "How are you? You were in surgery so much longer than they said you would be!"

"I'm fine," he rasped. "Did something go wrong?"

"Not really. They had trouble with the implants and you kept trying to come out of the anesthesia. But you're fine now. Dr. Morgenstern says everything is just as it should be."

"How soon can I return to the estate?"

Morgenstern joined them, still in his OR greens. "Back with us at last, Mr. Peacecraft?"

"And already asking to go home!" Relena smiled. "

Morgenstern nodded. "Well, that's up to you, sir. Give the arm two days to heal, and then we'll begin the neural link tests. That should only take a few days. After that you can return home to convalesce for a week or so. Then, if all goes well, we attach your new arm.

"You're certain it will be ready in time?"

"I spoke with the lab yesterday. Everything is proceeding on schedule. Someone will come see you in the next few weeks to do skin tone matches, but other than that, they have everything they need. I think you'll be very pleased, Mr. Peacecraft."

Zechs lay back and closed his eyes. Five days. It wasn't so long.

+

As the days passed, the temptation to pick up the phone grew stronger. The memory of how shaken Wufei had been that last night nagged at him. He'd been so surprised himself, and so caught up in worrying about the operation, he probably hadn't fully taken into account how overwhelming it all must have been for the boy. He really had believed he was straight, and having that mental rug pulled out from under you was a hard blow. He'd seen many young men go through that, and some did better with it than others.

All the same, this was 05, a Gundam pilot. He was made of sterner stuff, right? But that didn't prevent him from casually asking Relena to let the household know of his progress. She assured him regular reports were being sent. He half expected Wufei or Sally to send some word back, but Wufei must have interpreted their agreement as a two-way street. No word came.

Relena visited every day, and proved to be good surprisingly company. They'd had so little contact during the war. She hadn't even known he was alive until the end, and then he'd nearly left her for real. The situation with his repatriation had not helped matters, but now she seemed to be coming around.

"I know how hard it's all been for you," she told him as they sat over a game of chess in the hospital solarium. "For months you weren't conscious, and then you weren't yourself. But you're so much better now! I knew that rest and quiet were what you needed most."

"I do feel better," he admitted. The trips to Le Fleur had more to with his return to strength than she needed to know about, but that wasn't all. "Chang has been a tremendous help. As much as you disapproved of his methods, he more or less shamed me out of my funk. Not as good a chess player as you, though. I believe you have me in check."

Relena toppled his king, and then set the pieces up for another game.

"Did you know him before the peace?"

Relena glanced up. "Know who?"

"Chang."

"No, not until Heero brought him on my security detail."

"What did you think of him?"

Relena frowned over the board. "He was very competent. Bit of a cold fish, though."

Zechs chuckled. "Yes, that was my first impression, as well. More to him than I thought, though."

"Mmmm, no doubt." Relena nudged a pawn forward. "I'm so glad you decided to have the arm replaced. And the news people have picked up on it, too. There's a great deal more interest and sympathy for you than I'd hoped, this soon after your reappearance."

"Really? I suppose they're playing up the crippled warrior angle."

"Yes. It has been three years since the Libra incident, and people seem more open to Yuy's account of how, at the end, you actually tried to help stop it."

Zechs let out a dry laugh. "The times certainly have changed, if Yuy is the one springing to my defense."

"Well, he hasn't said anything lately but over the past few days the news services have been dredging up all sorts of things about you, mostly positive. You're turning into a bit of a tragic hero."

"All because I let them chop a few more inches off my arm?"

"Oh, not entirely."

"Meaning you've been helping things along, little sister?"

Relena gave him a conspiratorial wink. "It never hurts to have a little influence, does it? And it's nothing but the truth! Family murdered, raised in secret, hiding your identity to avenge your country? No lies there, Milliardo. We can't change the fact that you went wrong for a while, but there's been so much done with studies of wartime stress, especially among mobile suit pilots. Actually, Heero and the others have done you a great service, with all their problems. They were out and out terrorists, and now they're everyone's darlings. I want that for you, too, Milliardo. I want you to reclaim your place as prince of Sanque and help me build this new future.

Zechs sat back and looked at her with new regard. Her eyes were shining, her face resolute. She was looking at him, but he suspected she was envisioning the future, a bright future. "I want Sanque strong and prosperous, too, Relena. I want it to remain the shining beacon of peace you and our family have striven for it to be. I'm just not sure I can help you."

"People will forget your past in time, Milliardo. They'll forgive."

"Perhaps, but I won't ever get all the blood off my hands. You and the press and our government can put any gloss on me you like, but I'll know it's there. Can you understand that?"

"Give it time. It will be all right. You'll see."

He knew she meant well. He knew she believed what she was telling him, and given the fickleness of human nature, public opinion probably would absolve him, sooner or later. But he couldn't and he knew, looking into his sister's pure, loving, optimistic blue eyes that he could never make her or anyone like her understand what that meant. There were damn few who could.

Wufei did.

+

The hospital had no proper library, but he spent the last few days of his stay on a borrowed laptop, trying to learn a bit about Chinese poetry. Much to his surprise, he discovered that quite a few of the old emperors in pre-colony times had taken male lovers, ten in the Han dynasty alone. And they'd not been shy about having it known either. There were an astonishing number of poems celebrated that sort of love. A seventh century poem by Emperor Jianwen to "his beloved boy" was listed among the classic poetry of that period.

Charming boy - You look so handsome!
You surpass Dong Xian and Mizi Xia.

Our feather curtains are filled with morning fragrance,
Within pearl blinds I hear the distant drips of an evening water clock.
Kingfisher quilts bear the hues of mandarin ducks,
Our curtained bed is inlaid with ivory.

You are as youthful as Zhou Xiaoshi,
Your face is more beautiful than rosy red dawn clouds.
Sleeves made of regal jade brocade,
Tunic of delicate flowery cloth.

When you touch your pants, I lightly blush.
As you tilt your head, two curls fall out of place.
Your coy glances now and then cause me to smile.
Jade-like hands grasp flowers.

Deep in your heart you probably suspect you're not my latest catch,
But your intimate love for me is still like that of the "former carriage".
You're enough to make the girls of Yan envious,
And cause even Zheng women to sigh.


The mix of delicacy and sensuality, the implied shyness of the young lover, all reminded him of Wufei. He wondered if the emperor's coy youth, with his rosy cheeks and jade-like hands, could kick a man's teeth in like his Chang?

The founders of L-5 had apparently chosen to leave such choice bits of literature and history behind on Earth. Homosexuality had not been legally outlawed there; it was simply treated as if it did not exist. Family and honor were everything. One did not go against that.

But that was all gone now. The only survivors of L-5 besides Wufei were a handful of people who'd been off-colony at the time of the self-detonation. As far as Zechs knew, Wufei had no ties there. He was as much an orphan as one could be. Zechs had experienced such tragedy first hand; it was another bond between them.

He shook his head. When had he started being human again? In the beginning he'd tried to hate Wufei, only to find himself intrigued. In the end it seemed he'd snared himself in his own half-hearted, teasing seductions.

Did he love Wufei? Perhaps it was too soon to ask that, but he felt more for him than he had for anyone in years, and that was a start. Their shared understanding still staggered him. He used to wonder what it would be like to have a real conversation with Yuy, away from battle and distrust. Instead, this other golden-skinned pilot, this high strung bundle of contradictions had appeared out of nowhere, unbidden and unwanted, and given him back a piece of his soul.

Smiling, he searched for more poetry, building up a stock for later. Wufei, with his cold little verses about dead wives and lonely nights, had professed to know of no erotic Chinese poetry. Yet there was a wealth of it, left behind here on Earth. In the third century, the poet Ruan Ji had written:

In days of old there were many blossom boys --
An Ling and Long Yang.
Young peach and plum blossoms,
Dazzling with glorious brightness.
Joyful as nine springtimes;
Pliant as if bowed by autumn frost.

Roving glances gave rise to beautiful seductions;
Speech and laughter expelled fragrance.
Hand in hand they shared love's rapture,
Sharing coverlets and bedclothes.

Couples of birds in flight,
Paired wings soaring.
Cinnabar and green pigments record a vow:
"I'll never forget you for all eternity."


There it was, in black and white, with no room to equivocate over gender. Perhaps those poems were a bit much to spring on the poor boy right away, but Zechs looked forward to quoting them to him someday, perhaps after he'd discovered whether or not Wufei was agreeable to "sharing coverlets and bedclothes."

"Paired wings soaring." He closed his eyes, imagining Tallgeese or the Epyon, paired with Shenlong. What a fearful combination that would have been!

He smiled again, noting how such thoughts got his blood up. He really was on the mend. He glanced at the telephone on the bedside table. No. He'd keep his word, and trusted Wufei to do the same. It was a matter of honor. But oh, how he ached to see him "joyful as nine springtimes," and be the cause of it.

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