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

Broken Warriors + Chapter 52
Smoke

There was too much information in the files Sally had sent him for Heero to cover before they left. The salient points were in her cover letter: 1. Wufei had been assigned as a bodyguard to Zechs Merquise, who was now in protective custody under his sister's auspices, 2. Wufei had developed sexual feelings for Merquise, 3. Relena had found out and blindsided him with trumped up charges and gotten him and Sally suspended 4. Wufei was back on L-4, having some kind of mental breakdown over the whole mess.

He shared this information with the others in the dining room while Duo set up a shuttle rental under an assumed name. Trowa and Quatre were still in their robes and disheveled, but wide-awake.

"Wufei is gay?" Trowa looked as shocked as anyone. "Is she sure?"

"It might explain a lot, love, if he's been in denial all this time," Quatre said quietly. "I knew he was unhappy, especially around us. It--well--" He trailed off, frowning.

"He hurt your feelings," Duo muttered, coming in to join them and giving Quatre a hug.

"I'm sure he couldn't help it. Go see if you can help him, Duo. You owe him," Quatre sighed. "I wish I could go with you."

"You and Trowa can't leave the show. Sally knows that," Heero told him. "We'll see what's going on and call in. We can make plans from there."

+

Duo was ominously quiet all the way to the launch port and Heero left him alone, concerned for now that they get away without attracting any attention.

Dressed in ordinary jeans and jackets, baseball caps and sunglasses hiding their more distinctive features, they got through the rental office and took off in their rented four-seat Starblazer. Heero left the flying to Duo while he went back to work on the medical and personnel files Sally had sent. He was aware, however, that Duo was silently fuming. He said nothing, knowing that whatever it was, it was going to come out soon enough. It did.

Duo glared out the cockpit window, concentrating on getting them out of the atmosphere, but soon he was twisting his hands on the joysticks. As soon as they were gravity free and on trajectory for L-4, he slapped down the autopilot switch, snatched his hat off and attempted to throw it against the view port in zero-G, then pounded both fists on the armrests of his seat, body puling against seat restraints.

"Fuck!"

Heero sighed and looked up from his tethered laptop.

"Fuck!" Duo exclaimed again, snatching at his floating braid, twisting it in his hands. "I do not fucking believe this!"

"Any part in particular, given how little we know?" asked Heero.

"Any of it!" Duo cried. "Is he out of his fucking mind? I mean, Zechs-fucking-Merquise? It's not bad enough that he goes to work for that psycho bitch Une. Don't even get me started on what I think of her after what she did during the war, to me and Tro and Wu-man! And you! How you could go to work for her--"

"Duo."

"Ok, Ok. Everyone's building a new, unified world, blah blah blah. Fine. Great. Whatever. But now he's got the hots for the Lightning Count? Forgive me if I don't get all wet over him banging the son of a bitch who tried to blow up my boyfriend how many times?"

"Those were duels."

"And dropping Libra?"

"He came to his senses in the end," Heero reminded him.

Duo glared at him. "And what's with that, huh, you always defending the guy?"

"He self-detonated to save the rest of us. At the final moment, he was willing to do that. And he tried to get me out, too."

"Oh, well, that just makes it all better! What if Tro hadn't shown up with your buster rifle? Think Zechs's selfless act would have made any difference? No! Earth would now be enjoying a permanent global ski season, and you'd be-You'd be-" He choked off, gripping the joysticks in a white knuckled death hold again.

"I don't defend what he did with White Fang, but before that he proved repeatedly that he was an honorable man. He had plenty of chances to kill me, Duo, but he didn't. He wouldn't. I'm sorry, but I do respect him for that. And he was an incredible pilot."

"Well, excuse me if I don't get a hard on over him!"

"Fine."

Duo fumed some more, glaring out at the stars.

"Duo?"

"And Wufei!" He slammed his fists down on the armrests again. "That fucked up, hypocritical, stick-up-the ass little closet case! You saw how he was about you and me, right?"

Heero gave him a wry look. "He was uncomfortable. But that's hardly surprising if he was fighting against such tendencies himself. And I keep thinking of how he said he was jealous." He shook his head. "You and I were able to accept our sexuality so easily, with no pressure to be anything else than what we are. You're not taking into account how he was raised."

"I don't give a shit! You've only had a little taste of the famous Chang disapproval. You don't know the ration of shit he's laid on Tro and Quatre. Sure he was real quiet about it, didn't come out and say much, just that look, y'know? But he wouldn't even come to their wedding. Their wedding, Heero! The most important, special day of their lives? Bad enough you weren't there, but at least you had a decent excuse. Know what he said?"

"No, what did he say?"

"He had 'other plans.' Way to let them down easy, huh? Quatre cried, Heero. He cried! I let Wufei have it the next time I saw him, believe me, but he just went all silent and Chinese on me. It was like yelling at a brick wall. OK, so maybe that's ancient history, but how about how many times Kat tried to get an answer out of him about coming to their opening night? Are you telling me Mr. I'm-More-Fucking-Educated-Than-the-Rest-of-You-Put-Together doesn't know what RSVP means? No way, he just blew them off! Again! I was gonna ream him out for that, anyway, but now this?"

"And yet, from what I understand, he was always there if one of you had a crisis. Especially you, Duo," Heero reminded him quietly. "And I know what he did, trying to find me. He was always there for you if someone was in trouble."

"I know, I know!" Duo groaned, banging his head against the back of his seat. His floating braid writhed around his head. "I'm not saying I hate the guy, Heero. Hell, I'm worried sick about him right now! I'm just so fucking pissed off at him, too, and I need to get it out of my system before we get there, OK?"

"Do you need to be spanked?" Heero offered, concerned at the way Duo was chewing at his thumbnail. Glancing back at the shuttle compartment, he gauged how much room they had.

Duo snorted and shook his head. "Thanks, baby, but this is just good ol' Shinigami righteous indignation and frustration with the situation. I owe him a lot. I do. I just can't believe this! But I promise I won't jump on him, at least not until we see how bad off he really is. So, what else did Sally send?"

Heero pulled up the top file. "According to her off-the-record report, he's been showing increasing signs of PTS for at least the past year. Risk taking, weight loss, depression, withdrawing more than usual from social interaction."

"Like that's possible! He was never Mr. Social, and the guy turned into a damn hermit way back-" Duo paused, still gnawing at his nail. "Well, right after you took off, actually. And it's not like we didn't try to hang out with him, either. He just didn't-Jeeze, maybe we missed something with him, huh?"

Heero reached over and pulled Duo's hand away from his mouth. "There have been some other incidents, an altercation with a coworker, fights with strangers that Une was able to hush up. Sally covered for him, too. It seems you may have been right about the pot smell in Madrid. He's been experimenting with cannabis in a variety of forms since he left Relena's detail, but only recreationally, according to this. She wasn't concerned enough to report him, and didn't confront him about it until recently. He was careful, stayed clean for the periodic tests, and didn't let it affect his work."

"Wufei high? Now there's something I'd like to see," Duo muttered.

"Sally seems to think he's been using drugs the way the rest of you used sex, as a coping mechanism and stress relief."

"Hey, we all went the chemical route, too, especially Kat and me. Tro and Wufei had their hands full for a while with that. But at least we had some fun, too. Wuffie was just too up tight to party and have a good time with it. Or anything else, apparently." He shook his head again and sighed. "I gotta tell ya, I'm surprised about the drugs, but never in a million years would I have guessed he had a gay bone in his body." He blinked, and then let out a sputtering laugh. "Guess that was part of the problem. No gay boners in his body!"

"Not funny, Duo. He didn't know that he was gay, or bisexual," Heero interjected, and outlined Sally's G-factor findings.

"Well, that explains a lot. Otherwise, what are the odds that all five of us would be playing on the same team? Once you go Gundam, you never go back, I guess."

He went quiet for a while, but from the corner of his eye Heero saw how he was fiddling with the end of his braid, flicking his chin with it and nibbling at stray hairs. Again, he waited, letting Duo build up to whatever it was that was distressing him.

Duo sighed at last. "Y'know, J and the others might not have been so wrong after all, about how we'd all pair off. I mean, after the past couple of weeks, right? We're almost as good as having sex with Tro and Kat." He frowned out at the approaching moon. "You're pretty into that, right?"

Heero let the laptop float on its tether as he unhooked Duo's belt and pulled him into his lap. "Talk to me, little mermaid."

Duo blushed and hung his head. "I'm supposed to be the wild one, right? Notorious slut boy, Duo Maxwell! But, well, I do get off on what we're doing and all, really, but--"

"But you're worried about things going any further?" He pulled the abused braid from Duo's fingers and it floated around them like a living thing.

Duo shrugged.

Heero stroked his cheek. "I don't think they need to go any further. Neither does Quatre. He says Trowa is doing much better, too. Maybe it was just the shock of getting me back, on top of the stress of launching the show? Or maybe it's enough that he knows he can show affection for me now without so much guilt. Are you not OK with that?"

"Dunno."

"You are my one love, Duo. What the four of us share together is really good, but it's not the same. I think Trowa understands it better than any of us, since he was raised that way. It's called polyamory and it's not that common. But Trowa grew up around it. He told me himself that very often not everyone in a given group has sex with every one else, even though they all consider themselves joined as partners." He held him closer. "In all honesty, if it were important to you that we have sex with them, I probably could. I think you could, too, and would have eventually if I hadn't come back. But I don't need to. I only need you. And to be honest, I don't know if I could share you that way with anyone else, not even them."

He considered telling Duo that he'd been researching the L-2 civil union laws, but this wasn't the time, not when Duo was upset about so many other things. Instead he simply said, "You are my one true love, Duo, my only beautiful mermaid."

"Yeah, you, too, 'cept for the mermaid part." Duo rubbed his head against Heero's, and then snagged the computer. "So, what else we got on the Wu-man situation?"

Heero reached around him and brought up the medical file. "He's been in good health, maintained his wartime fitness level, and hasn't seen a doctor for anything other than regular check ups and work related injuries. Apart from the weight loss, he's considered a bit undersized, but that may be natural, like Quatre."

Duo read along with him. "IQ level way up there, naturally. Hey look, here's his real birthday. December seventh. Kat's going to be disappointed. He was really getting off on being the baby of the group, especially after they found out how old Trowa really is."

Heero stared at the entry.

"What?"

"Do you notice anything about that date?"

"December seventh?"

Heero shook his head. "Not that. The year."

"AC one eighty-one?" Duo took another look. "Whoa! Eight one? But that means unless this is just some clerical error, that he's still only seventeen!"

"And barely fourteen at the start of Project Meteor."

"Holy shit! And he'd have to have known it, too, and the people who chose him." His violet eyes widened further as he counted backwards on his fingers. "Then when he and Sally were bumping uglies, he was only--Jesus, do you think she knew? And now Zechs! He's what, like fifty now?"

Heero chuckled. "Early to mid twenties, I think."

"OK, but damn! Kat's only two years younger than Tro. Think we should get that dental scan thing, find out you're really this runty middle-aged guy and I'm twelve or something?"

"I had it done when I joined Preventers. My estimated age is correct. And, according to the records I hacked in Madrid, Batoosingh ordered one on you, as well, the first time you were committed at Winner Memorial. You're on target, too."

An alert chirped, alerting them that they were approaching L-1 traffic space. Duo pulled himself back into his seat and buckled in. He seemed to have gotten most of the shock out of his system for now, but he kept muttering to himself, fidgeting and shaking his head. Heero prepared himself mentally for more fireworks upon arrival.

Still puzzling over Wufei's records, Heero tried again to imagine what 05 could be feeling. Heero's own sexuality had not been much of an issue. He sublimated it to the mission throughout the war, and then gladly accepted that he was attracted to Duo. Not to "male" or "female," just that one person. The fact that he'd responded sexually to the others probably meant he was gay, but it just wasn't an issue. He didn't care what anyone else thought, and neither did Duo or Trowa. Quatre still worried about what some of his family thought, but not enough to do anything differently except keep a lower profile about his active role in the circus. But they hadn't been raised on L-5.

Evidently Wufei had never consciously questioned his orientation; any feelings he'd had to the contrary must have been difficult to even acknowledge, must less accept. He wondered what could have happened with Zechs to change that?

+

Duo led the way from the shuttle bay, and they walked the twelve blocks to Wufei's apartment in L-4's extensive Chinatown. The buildings and streets were standard drab colony design, but bright with Asian colors, signs, and smells. The ground floor of Wufei's building housed a Chinese traditional pharmacy, with ropes of ginseng and dried mushrooms hanging in the windows. Inside the building, however, only the occasional cooking smell suggested they were anywhere in particular. L-4 was a helluva a lot nicer than L-2, but this was the same damn prefab architecture.

He and Heero took the elevator up to the tenth floor and knocked at 10-T. Duo braced to face Wufei; he'd promised himself and the others that he wouldn't go off on the guy when he was down like this, but he was still feeling pretty pissed.

Sally answered, dressed in old fatigue pants and a tee shirt. She ushered them in, holding a bulging trash bag in one hand. "I'm so glad you're here! I'm sorry I didn't call you in sooner, now that I've seen him. I finally got the super to let me in last night. Believe it or not, this is better than it was."

Looking past her, catching the smell of the place, Duo felt his resentment and anger give way to shock. Or maybe deja vu. Goddamn, how many times had the others found his little shit hole apartment looking like this, after one of his meltdowns?

The few times he'd dropped by here, Wufei's rooms had been immaculate, spare, bright, everything gracefully arranged and orderly. Now there were books, clothes, and half empty take out boxes scattered everywhere. A painted crane scroll Wu had been very proud of lay in a torn heap on the floor by the kitchen door, beyond which Duo could see pots and bowls heaped in the sink. Judging by the tangled blankets and pillows on the couch, Wufei must have been camping out there. The smell of spoiled food made him grimace.

Spoiled food, and something else, Duo thought. "Where is he?"

Sally gathered up a few more cartons and stuffed them in the bag. "Asleep in the bedroom. Physically he's not too bad, considering. I got some liquids into him."

"What's that smell?" Heero asked, wrinkling his nose.

Sally went to the cluttered table by the couch and picked up some kind of long, fancy Chinese pipe with a green stone bowl.

Heero's look of dismay darkened to a disbelieving frown. "Opium? How long as he been doing that?"

"I don't know. I'm as shocked as you are, believe me," Sally replied. "I have to hand it to him, he was really sneaky about it."

Duo stared at the pipe. "Wufei's a smoke hound?"

Sally tossed it onto the couch in disgust. "An addict? No, I think I would have picked up on that in Sanque. I knew about the pot, and the THC-38."

"He was doing thirty eights? Jesus, Sally, that's serious shit!"

"He wasn't an addict, Duo. He couldn't have stayed clean the way he did if he was. Not with that stuff. Same goes for the opium. But it looks like he's been self-medicating heavily since he got back."

"When did he last smoke?" Heero asked, sinking down on the arm of a leather armchair in the corner.

"I let him have a small dose this morning," Sally said, and then held up a warning hand before Duo could explode. "I hate to admit it, but he must have done his homework. It's a natural antidepressant, and isn't necessarily addictive when used recreationally in small doses. That's why I let him have some more, rather than check him into the hospital. I'm hoping you guys can get him through this without all the public fuss. Understand?"

"You don't think he's in any immediate danger, then?" asked Heero, starting for the bedroom.

"No. His vitals are fine, considering. It's his emotional state I'm worried about. Go have a look, if you want, and then I'll fill you in. There's a lot I didn't want to send in writing, even on a secure line."

The small bedroom wasn't in any better shape than the living room, but the bed had been freshly made and Wufei was curled up asleep in it, his hair loose in a greasy tangle on the pillow. He was paler than usual, dark under the eyes, and looked like he'd missed a few meals. But he was also smiling blissfully, and that alone was enough to set off Duo's alarm bells. Those alarms got louder when Wufei opened his eyes and gave them a sweet, totally uncharacteristic smile. "Yuy, Maxwell! What're you doin' here?"

"Hey buddy, we heard you weren't feeling so good." Duo sat down and looked more closely at him, thinking, 'Seventeen, huh? Jesus!'

Wufei's large irises were very dark, almost a true black, and looked even darker now with his pupils constricted down to pinpoints. Duo had some experience with opiates. Wufei was deep in poppy land, all right. That sense of reverse deja vu hit him again. How many times had Wufei found him or the others like this? Wufei shifted again, and Duo caught a pungent whiff of that sick, unwashed smell that just screamed "pilot down!"

"Jeeze, Wuffie, guess it was finally your turn," he said sadly.

"M'OK," Wufei mumbled, burrowing deeper under his black and red silk comforter. "How're you?"

"I'm good, Wu-man. Heero's here, too. Guess you woulda tidied up if you knew you were gonna have company, huh?"

Wufei sighed and closed his eyes, still smiling.

Duo patted his shoulder. "Sleep it off, buddy. We've got your back now."

Heero looked ready to chew glass as they went back to the living room and found Sally gathering dirty clothes into a basket.

"You let him have that drug?" Heero growled, keeping his voice low.

"I told you, it's an antidepressant. And believe me, he needed something. I wouldn't have chosen that route, but for now it's what I had to work with."

"What the hell did Zechs do to him?" Duo demanded, feeling another Shinigami surge coming on.

"Sit down, both of you. A lot has happened since you saw him in Spain." Sally dropped the basket and sat down in the chair. "He was already running on empty before you turned up again, Heero. He has been for a long time. Your 'death' almost put him over the edge."

"Did you know how old he really is?" Duo interrupted.

Sally sighed and shook her head. "Not at first. He'd been using the May fifth date on all his records and I assumed it was close to the truth. It was quite a surprise, to say the least. I think it helps explain a few things, though. Highly intelligent kids mature much faster intellectually than they do physically or emotionally. Wufei is exceptional, of course, like you all are, but I think knowing about the age difference just went that much further to keeping him from fitting in with the rest of you, along with everything else."

"That and the rampant homophobia," Duo added.

"And that, yes. I know it was probably hard on the rest of you at times, but it's very common in latent cases. With his damned L-5 socialization and all the emotional shit of the war on top of that, he's the most sexually repressed guy I've ever met, and I say that as someone who's been intimate with him. He really couldn't help it. That's what's working against him now, too, you see. Repressed or not, he's a healthy, physically normal young man hitting his hormonal peak. That all built up like water behind a damn, and unlike the rest of you, he didn't have any safety valves. He was too much the dutiful good son to go wild like you did, Duo. And he didn't have your unique personality or training, Heero. He just sort of hunkered down and ignored everything that was building up and festering. He was too introverted to let of steam, so he very quietly did drugs instead. I tried to help him, but obviously I wasn't what he needed."

"That must have been difficult for you," Heero murmured.

"It was. It is. And now I feel like I really let him down, too." She rubbed her hands over her face and smoothed back the strands that had escaped her braids.

"What happened with Zechs?" Duo asked again.

"I can only tell you what I saw. He won't talk about.

"When we came on the detail back in early September, Zechs had been in a coma in a tissue regeneration clinic for over a year, and then in some sort of institution. He still seemed a little unstable when we came in, at least at first.

"Relena worked damn hard to keep him from being charged, and to get him repatriated to Sanque. You're statements after Libra were a great help, Heero. But there are still death threats against him. Our security detail was the real deal, not some political cakewalk. Relena felt he'd do best in a safe, controlled environment, and set him up in one of the royal family's country houses on the coast. She meant well, but you can imagine what a man like Zechs would think of being forced into retirement like that. She had him on far too tight a leash, but was right in thinking that people like Wufei and me would be the best ones for companions, especially Wufei. She trusted him implicitly and, well, the fact that he was ostensibly straight had a lot to do with her choice."

"I bet!" Duo muttered.

"Long story short, Zechs spent the first few weeks trying to get a rise of him, and doing a pretty good job. Wufei was already fragile, and doing some THC-38 in his spare moments, as it turned out. I had a little talk with him, mostly because I was concerned at how Zechs was affecting him. Things improved after that. Wufei got his act together and ended up being just what Zechs needed. They really are a lot alike in many ways. They spent a lot of time together and it appeared they were even becoming friends. Zechs is really a very charming man when he wants to be, highly educated and cultured, with a genuine appreciation for the warrior way."

"Just like Wufei," said Heero.

"Except for the charming part," said Duo.

"Yes. That's what brought them together. But Zechs is also a man of the world, shall we say, and very much in tune with his own nature, which is highly sexualized and romantic in the most masculine sense of the word. You saw my report on the G-factor among Alliance and OZ pilots? Zechs has it in spades. I know for a fact that he started out playing with Wufei's head, and I was prepared to step in, but something happened before I could. Zechs had been sneaking off the estate at night and going to sex clubs. Apparently Wufei found out, and ended up going with him a few times as bodyguard. It was on the risky side, but all within mission parameters. I was the backup.

"Our last night there something changed. Turned out Relena had had someone tailing her brother. She had some photos of Zechs and Wufei together at a club and a restaurant and--well, there was some dancing and some kissing that didn't reflect very well on Wufei. Especially not with Relena. I got all this from Une the morning she came for us, the same day Zechs left the estate for reconstructive surgery on his arm. That was no accident, I'm sure of it."

"You said Relena threatened to bring charges against you both?"

"Wufei was really rattled that night. Whatever was going on, it was enough to make him forget to set up backup when he and Zechs went to another town to have supper. I didn't even know they were gone. Relena's watchdog caught them out and gave her the full report. So he got the d.o.d."

"But other than that, they were just dancing and kissing?" asked Duo.

"As far as I know. But it was enough. Wufei had been a wreck for a couple of days and having Une slap those photos down in front of both of us like that was devastating. I wish you could have seen his face. I thought he was going to faint on the spot. Given his personality, I can only imagine how guilty and conflicted he was already feeling. Then she hit him with the dereliction charge. And apparently Zechs had also given him some clothes. Wufei assumed they'd been provided by Relena as cover for the off site work, but that wasn't the case and she's choosing to see it as another serious breach of the ethics code. Wufei was in hell by the time Une finished with him. The bottom line is that we're both suspended and threatened with formal charges if we have any contact whatsoever with Zechs."

Heero frowned. "But only if you do that?"

"That's right. As long as we stay away from her brother, no charges."

"Blackmailing you, in other words?" sneered Duo. "Poor Wufei falls hard for a guy, gets his world flattened even more by Relena, and now he can't even see the guy he's lost everything over?"

"Psychologically, a worst case scenario."

"Which accounts for his current condition," Heero finished for her.

"I'm still not too clear on whether or not Zechs was just playing with him," Duo said.

"Neither am I," Sally admitted.

Duo growled and twisted his braid in both hands. "There is just so much Peacecraft ass I wanna kick right now."

"Affirmative," Heero growled. "Where are they now?"

"At the hospital until yesterday. I saw on the news that he was back at the estate. Relena is there with him, as far as I know."

"I see. My last conversation with Relena was rather tense. She was upset that I was in love with Duo, rather than with her. Do think she would be upset with Wufei in the same way, over her brother?"

"Sure sounds like it."

"Then that would be a complicating factor, regardless of Zechs's actions toward Wufei."

"Yeah."

Heero stared down at his hands for a moment, then looked to Sally. "I should go and talk to her."

"I don't think that's a very good idea right now, Heero."

"Then what should we do?" Duo demanded. "We can't keep Wufei smoked forever, can we? This will all still be waiting to kick him in the teeth when he comes down."

"Yes it will, and I haven't been able to make much headway with Une, trying to get him out from under those ridiculous charges. As it stands, I probably shouldn't even be talking about any of this with you two. But he needs you. Can you stay with him for a while? I'll do anything for him I can, but I'm neck deep in it, too. He needs good friends right now, until he can work some things out in his own mind."

Heero stood and went into the kitchen, pulling out his cell phone as he went. Duo heard him speaking low to someone for a few minutes, and then he was back.

"Quatre says to bring him down to New Orleans. Did Une place any restriction on his travel?"

"I don't think so, as long as she can reach him. He has a cell, and a Preventer email account."

"Good. Sally, would you please gather up any documents and equipment he might need? We'll spend the night here and let him detox, then make plans from there."

"Sure but you'll have to wait until I do some laundry. He doesn't have many clothes and most of what he does have is dirty."

Duo exchanged a look with Heero. "Last I knew, all he has are uniforms and those baggy Chinese pants and coats. I'll go buy him some normal clothes, to keep us under the radar while we travel."

"Good idea, 02. Sally, go home and get some rest. Do what you can here and keep us informed."

"I should show you how to administer the opium, in case he needs it."

"No. No more drugs," Heero warned. "If things get bad we'll call a doctor we know, but I don't think 05 will need that."

"What about withdrawal?" asked Duo.

Sally shrugged. "I don't think he's had time to do himself too much damage. He was clean for over a month in Sanque, and Une said he was lucid enough when she talked to him the other day, just run down and volatile. That doesn't sound like opium and I don't think he's experimented with stimulants. He might have some sweats and chills, though. Maybe some diarrhea."

"Charming."

"He may just be sluggish, but I'd look out for serious mood swings, too, and not just because of the drug."

"Don't suppose you'd like to come see Tro and Kat's new house in New Orleans?" Duo wheedled.

"No, I think maybe I can do more good staying here and seeing what else I can get out of Une. Call me if you need me, though."

"I'll go down with you," said Duo. "You can point me at some places to get clothes. I won't go far, Heero, and I've got my phone. Maybe you could get him cleaned up a little while I'm gone. He's pretty ripe."

"Hn." Heero sighed and nodded. "Copy that."

+

Heero distrusted drugs on principal, having had very few good experiences with even the legal medications. It was shocking to see someone like Wufei under the influence like this. It did make it somewhat easier, however, to get him out of the stained sweats he was wearing and into the bathtub, but it was like handling a stranger. He already wished he'd thought to ask Sally to do this; they had been lovers at one time, after all, and he'd been naked with her. But Sally and Duo were already gone.

Wufei lay back in the tub, still smiling that inane drugged smile. Heero shook his head. He liked Wufei and he respected him. This was like seeing Trowa cry.

Wufei was wearing a necklace on a leather cord around his neck, a small lotus shaped pendant made of what looked like white jade. Concerned for the leather, Heero felt behind his neck for the clasp or knot to remove it.

Wufei jerked and reached unsteadily for Heero's wrist. "Noooo!" he whined. "Leave it 'lone."

Heero did as he asked. He started with Wufei's hair. Perhaps it was because of his own fixation with Duo's hair, but it felt too intimate, doing this for someone else. Wufei's hair was much longer than it used to be, and floated out around his head when Heero leaned him back in the water. It was very straight and fine, and soft, too, once it was clean. Wufei didn't own conditioner, but the shampoo with its unreadable Chinese label left it soft, with a light, pleasant scent. It was nothing like sandalwood, more like flowers.

Wufei was quiet and unresisting as Heero washed his face, back and chest, but when it was time to move lower he pulled away and gave Heero a dazed look, mumbling, "What're you doing, Yuy?"

"Just washing you, Chang, that's all. Would you rather do it yourself?"

The look of confusion deepened in those dark eyes. He really did look young, like this, Heero thought sadly. Instead of answering him, Wufei lay back again and closed his eyes. Heero washed his feet and legs, and then approached the more personal area again. Wufei lay back and let him, even arching up a bit under the washcloth. His penis remained limp in the small nest of fine, jet black hair between his thighs, but his breathing deepened. Heero hoping this was only the drug, making him act in such a manner.

"You touch Maxwell," Wufei whispered, reaching to stroke his cock under the water. Color tinged his cheeks and the gentle smile returned. "You touch Maxwell and he touches you."

"Yes," Heero sat back on his heels, trying not to watch as Wufei touched himself.

"S'good?" Wufei whispered.

"Yes. We love each other."

"Love." Wufei opened his eyes and gazed up at Heero, pupils still tiny, eyes vague. "S'good, love?"

"Very good, Wufei. I'm going to help you out of the tub now. Can you sit up?"

Wufei closed his eyes again, lost in his own smile and the feeling of his hand stroking his limp cock. "Nice, touching."

Heero gently pulled his hand away and got him on his feet long enough to wrap a towel around him, and then swung him up in his arms. Wufei was smaller than Duo, and seemed even smaller as he curled up against Heero's shoulder with a sleepy, contented sigh. Heero prayed 05 wouldn't remember any of this later.

Wufei's wet hair soaked through the shoulder of his tee shirt, and Heero thought again of that day he'd washed a concussed, confused Duo in that lake in Finland. This was very different. This was embarrassing and weird, but sad, too. He got him dried off and into the clean boxer briefs and tee shirt Sally had left on the bed, then went to work toweling and combing his hair.

Combing out Wufei's hair wasn't like it was with Duo, just a task to be done for a friend. He was secretly relieved that it didn't turn him on the way brushing Duo's hair did. Perhaps he didn't have a hair fetish, just a Duo fetish. All the same, he gave a guilty little start at the sound of Duo banging back into the apartment.

"Sorry Wuffie. You don't exactly live in the heart of the fashion district here," Duo apologized as he pulled out a pair of cheap blue jeans, a long sleeved white tee shirt with red dragons printed in a line down both arms, and a black hooded zip up sweatshirt with "Skytown Foo Dogs" stitched in red silk across the front. Cheap white tennis shoes and a blue Foo Dogs cap completed the outfit. "Not exactly a designer ensemble, but he'll look sorta cute, don't you think?" Duo grinned.

Heero nodded. It was better than thinking about how 05 had looked, touching himself and smiling like that in the tub.

"Damn, he really does look young, doesn't he?" Duo's grin faded to a sad look as he sat down on the other side of the bed. "I swear to god, Heero, if I find out Zechs did anything to him, Shinigami's going to put a serious hurt on him!"

"I'll help you."

[chap. 51] [chap. 53] [back to pyrzm's fic]