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

Broken Warriors + Chapter 56
Swimming Against the Tide

It was just past eleven p.m. when Tomas entered the library. He was alone.

"No sign of him?"

"I'm sorry, sir, I checked every airline and shuttle company. It does not appear that Captain Chang booked a flight here today."

Zechs sighed and closed his book. "Thank you. Check again tomorrow. And be certain I'm up before you leave. The doctor and prosthesis technicians will be here at nine."

"Very good, sir."

Zechs looked around the empty room and sighed again. Abandoning his books, he walked down to the den and switched on the television to catch the day's news. His announcement had made quite a splash. The various networks had replayed outtakes of it continually, particularly the clips in which he renounced his title and outted himself. It amused him that there were people outside Sanque that gave a shit what he did or who he screwed.

The notoriety had put a crimp in the chances to do the latter. He could really use a warm body right now, but something beyond mere security concerns held him back. He turned the sound to a low murmur and lay back in the chair, idly stroking himself. It had been nearly two weeks since he and Wufei had taken that last ill-fated trip to Le Fleur. That was a long time for a man like him, a fucking eternity. Or rather, a fuckless eternity. His hand stroked harder over the growing hardness between his legs, recalling of what it had been like to have Wufei trembling against him as they'd kissed, the hard ridge of the boy's arousal pressed to Zech's thigh. A low groan escaped his lips even as he felt an aching emptiness growing in his heart.

It wasn't only wanting to touch him again, to hold him and discover once and for all what that perfect china doll little body really wanted. He missed the conversation. He missed having a sparring opponent who could challenge him. The security guard who was filling in was far too deferential. Chang would never give in to him. Not on the practice floor.

But in the bedroom?

/Come back to me, little Chang./

As if summoned, Wufei suddenly was before him on the television screen. He was being interviewed with Winner and Barton by some CNN woman, no doubt about the show. The background was dark but he could make out what appeared to be banks of black and silver seating, and the edge of a stage.

Wufei was shown in profile at the moment, and Zechs saw with a guilty pang that he looked terrible. He was worn, too pale, and clearly not pleased at the attention he was drawing. The shot showed him from the chest up. He had on a dark green silk shirt, his hair pulled back in that severe braid again. Zechs fumbled for the control and adjusted the volume, but now Winner was saying something about being glad to have his friend there with him. Had Wufei decided to stay in New Orleans? Zechs's heart sank, seeing the way Wufei hung back now, staring down at his feet. He looked beaten, broken, the way he had right before he'd confessed his feelings with that first tear-stained kiss.

The segment ended and he turned it off. Perhaps he'd overplayed his hand, after all.

If it hadn't been for his early appointment the next day, he might have gone to Le Fleur anyway, and damn the risk.

+

Wufei felt like he was caught in a bad dream. It had been impossible to book a flight to Sanque until the evening following Zechs's message, and now he had far too much time on his hands to talk himself out of going at all. Duo and Heero still weren't back yet, and Trowa had to spend the day at the circus, refitting some equipment. Quatre picked up on his panic, of course, and insisted on staying home with him.

They did their respective exercises together in a downstairs room converted to a gym. As he went through his katas, Wufei tried not to stare at Quatre at his yoga. Had he been that flexible during the war? At the moment he was lying on his shoulders, knees touching the floor behind his head. He seemed perfectly at ease in that pose, his own crotch practically in his face.

If Quatre was naked, he could have. . .

Wufei refused to finish that thought. Redoubling his own efforts, he critiqued his own form in the mirrors that lined the walls. Movement distracted him, however, and he looked over his reflection's shoulder in time to see Quatre stretch out on his back, plant hands and feet securely, and arch his body up in an inverted U, the bones of his pelvis and ribs standing out clearly through his bare skin and tight shorts. Wufei looked away again, but now in his mind's eye he was seeing Quatre and Trowa's supple bodies entwined on that stage, touching and sliding against each other's bare skin as if they were the only people in that darkened tent.

Too distracted to continue with his workout, Wufei withdrew quietly and went out to sit in the garden. The sun was out again this afternoon, warm on his face and shoulders. He settled cross-legged on the worn brick paving at the foot of a towering palm and let his gaze settle on the sparkling cascade of the fountain. A few sparrows hopped around in the undergrowth and perched on the wrought iron table, seeking crumbs left over from lunch.

He sought the inner stillness he'd found here yesterday, but could not escape the image of the other two writhing together. If they touched each other like that in public, with an audience, what must they do in private? The thought sent a mingled jolt of embarrassment and arousal through him, and he felt himself going hard under his loose workout pants. He tried to school his thoughts again, and instead found himself picturing Heero and Duo sleeping so peacefully together on his living room couch.

Any doubts he still harbored regarding Sally's "G-factor" theory paled in comparison to the feelings he was having right now. Perhaps it was true. Perhaps homosexuality was something hardwired in his psyche that he'd simply successfully repressed until now. But if that were true, why did the thought of touching another man terrify him so? And if it did, then why didn't he simply take Zechs at his word and stay away? A few taps on a keyboard would cancel the flight to Sanque. He could return to L-4 in peace.

And then what?

He jumped slightly when Quatre sat down beside him and pulled his legs into the lotus position. He looked so at ease like that, legs crossed, feet resting on the tops of his thighs. The midday light glinted on the metallic silver nail polish and the gold ring though his nipple. That, and the tattoos on Quatre's shoulders and belly made him look wild, magical; like some strange little spirit dwelling in this sheltered place. He caught Wufei staring again and smiled. Wufei forced his gaze back to the fountain, but he could feel Quatre studying him.

"Wufei?"

"Hn."

"I think we should talk."

Wufei closed his eyes, hoping Quatre would take the hint and go away.

"Are you sure you want Zechs?"

Wufei's shoulders sagged. "I wish I knew. I want to see him again. I have to talk to him. But I don't know if--That is . . ." God, this was agonizing, and if this had been anyone else but sweet, gentle Quatre, he couldn't have pushed himself to stammer out, "How--how can you do it, you and Bart-- Trowa?"

"Love each other?"

Wufei shook his head. "No, the other. The physical." He couldn't go on. His heart felt like it was trying to climb right out of his chest through his throat.

Quatre only chuckled. "Making love and loving him are the same thing."

"Love," Wufei murmured.

"It is love, with Trowa." Quatre rubbed at the sole of one foot. "You know I've fucked a lot of strangers, Wufei, just for the sex. The acts may be the same, but it's different when you love the person you're touching. Either way, though, whether you love them or just really need the sex, you have to listen to your heart. Deep down inside, you'll know what you want, if you really do want it. And there are so many different ways--"

"Thank you," Wufei said, hastily fending off a sex ed lecture. He wasn't ready for that.

"How much do you actually know, about what men can do together?"

Wufei kept his gaze on the fountain, a renewed spike of panic leaving him unwilling and unable to carry this topic any further.

"Maybe you should call him, Wufei."

He shook his head. The look on Zechs's face as he'd asked him not to wouldn't allow him to go against the request. Damn it! Why did the man have such a hold on him?

"Quatre?"

"Yes?"

"Could you, that is-- Could you read me? See what's in my heart, the way you do with the others?"

"You want me to?

Wufei hesitated, then nodded.

Quatre didn't touch him, as he'd expected, just went very still for a moment, then let out a pained little gasp. "I'm sorry, Wufei. It's too strong. I can't be in your head right now. All I can tell you is that you have to let your heart guide you in this, and your body. I don't think you trust either very much, though."

+

Neither his heart not his body was giving Wufei any clear answers during the long, long flight from New Orleans to Paris that night. He could have rented a plane or a shuttle, but he didn't trust himself piloting in his current exhausted state of mind, and even if the others had been back to help him, he didn't think he could bear all those hours of having to keep up a front.

Hunched by the window in coach class, dressed in the cheap clothes Duo had bought him on L-4, Foo Dogs cap pulled low over his face, he could ignore the concerned glances from the matronly woman in the seat next to him and wallow in his own misery to his heart's content.

In Paris the plane touched down in the middle of a November storm. He watched with rising dismay as the departure boards filled up with "delayed" notices, which soon turned to "indefinite delay" as the heavy rains turned to sleet.

Jet lagged, overwrought, and bone weary, he wandered the concourses all night, his little backpack dragging at his shoulder. The reflection that glanced back at him in shop windows looked like a sullen teen runaway. The gendarmes must have taken him for one, too, because he had to stop and show his ticket. He saw the man's eyebrow arch a bit as he saw the name, but it was clear from the dismissive look that followed that the man had decided that there must be more than one Chang Wufei in the world.

He bought a stale croissant at a kiosk, then slumped in the hard seat at a departure gate, watching the sleet run down the windows. He should have gone home first, and packed a proper suitcase with decent clothes, rather than arriving like a refuge with the few odds and ends Heero had packed for him. Never mind that he owned nothing of the sort of clothing Zechs preferred to see him in.

At one point he found himself standing at the end of the concourse leading to the shuttle port. It was still a simple matter to change his mind, go home, try to trick himself into believing he was the same person he'd been before he'd met Zechs Merquise. Before he knew anything of G-factors or gay clubs or what it felt like to have those long pale fingers stroke his neck, or a single strong arm tight around his waist. Such thoughts brought on a renewed rush of panic. He wanted to be the person he'd been, before Zechs Merquise had awakened that entirely unlooked for facet of himself. It would be so much easier to turn away, step back, and pretend that none of it had happened. That it didn't matter. That he didn't want it.

/How much do you actually know, about what men can do together?/

Just enough to be scared to death, he thought, disgusted with himself. The shuttle port beckoned.

But morning found him among the crowd of angry, tired travelers at the gate for the flight to Sanque. When boarding finally began just after noon, his fears welled again, dark and keen. He forced himself down the gangway. He buckled himself in and refused to even look up from his clenched hands until the cabin was sealed and they were taxiing down the runway.

Worn out by all the endlessly circling doubts, he dozed fitfully, then woke to stare out at the cloudscape below. He would rent a car at the airport. He would go to the estate and speak with Zechs. He owed him that much. After that, it was anybody's guess. But if he had a car he could escape if he needed to.

He nibbled at the in-flight meal and passed on the headphones for whatever inane movie they were showing. Glancing at the screen now and then, however, he deduced that it was some romantic comedy in which a red-haired girl with a too-wide mouth pursued a hapless young Indian man though the usual mishaps and misdirection, until they inevitably ended up in each other's arms in the middle of a rain-washed street, kissing madly.

Wufei slouched deeper into his seat and gazed out the window again. How could people watch such tripe? He'd never kissed Sally like that. His body had never told him that's what he wanted, even when they'd been in the middle of having sex.

But one unwanted touch from Zechs and his entire body caught fire.

Another moment of weakness, and he was kissing him on that windswept boardwalk, in full view of whatever cameraman had stalked them.

/But what if that had only been circumstance, the shock of the moment?/ his inner doubter fretted.

By the time he cleared customs at King Willem International, more than forty-eight hours had passed since he'd seen Zechs's message. Had he decided that Wufei wasn't coming? Would he think it was cowardice?

He straggled dully out from the customs booth and into the men's room. He used the toilet, and then stared at himself in the long mirror over the sinks. He hadn't slept properly since the night before last. He hadn't bathed or brushed his teeth since he'd left New Orleans. His hair was straggling out from the braid and his clothes smelled stale. Wandering back onto the concourse in search of a car rental agency, he wondered if he should just get a hotel room instead and go tomorrow.

He'd almost made up his mind to do exactly that when a familiar looking middle-aged man approached him. He was wearing a dark suit under his topcoat and had a newspaper under his arm.

"Captain Chang, sir! So glad to see you've arrived at last. Mr. Peacecraft sent me to meet you."

"Tomas, isn't it?" It was Zechs's valet.

"Yes, sir. Allow me to take your bag. The parking garage is just out this way. "

Despite all his recent resolve, he found himself following the man without protest.

"I trust you had a good journey, sir?"

"Not really," Wufei replied. "How did he know what flight I was coming in on?"

The man gave him a slight, polite smile. "He didn't, sir. He had me watch for you."

Wufei let this sink in as Tomas ushered into the back seat of a vintage Rolls Royce and drove him to the estate. Slumped back against the soft leather seat, he felt a strange little ache in his chest as familiar landmarks swept past. The sun was setting over the storm washed sea. It would be dark soon.

The strange feeling grew stronger, the closer they got to the estate. By the time they drove in through the ornate gates his heart was pounding again, worse than when Quatre had tried to discuss sex with him. What had Quatre said? Trust his heart and his body? He'd have to unravel the wildly divergent signals he was getting from both to even begin to take direction.

The gray weather seemed to have tracked him from France. Cold rain pelted down as he crossed the drive and climbed the marble stairs.

Tomas checked his watch. "Mr. Peacecraft is probably in the library at this hour. Perhaps you would like to go say hello, while I put your things in your room. Shall I order dinner for you, Captain?"

Wufei shook his head. "No thank you. I ate on the plane." The truth was he was so tense he didn't think he could swallow a raisin.

He walked down the familiar corridors, his steps silenced by the thick carpets underfoot. That, coupled with exhaustion, made the whole situation feel unreal, as if he were going to wake up at any moment and find himself somewhere else. It was strange; he hadn't dreamt of the house the whole time he was gone.

The library door stood open. He paused, almost surprised to find Zechs sitting in his usual chair, intent on a sheaf of papers balanced on his knee. He looked very serious, perhaps even sad, chin propped on his hand. He had on jeans tonight, and a dark cable knit sweater. It looked like he'd been out riding, thought Wufei. He felt like a ghost, an invisible presence granted a fleeting moment to visit a place he'd once existed. There had been moments when he'd actually even felt happy here.

The feeling lasted only an instant. Zechs looked up and gave him a brilliant smile. The papers scattered across the carpet as he stood to welcome him.

"Wufei! I'm so glad you're back."

The husky timbre of that voice, and the joy of that colored it propelled Wufei across the room to meet him half way, and to allow himself to be gathered into outstretched arms.

Arms!

He pulled back a little and looked down at the left arm wrapped around his waist. Except for the leather glove covering the hand, it looked exactly like the real arm.

Zechs grinned. "You couldn't have picked a better day to return. I have two arms again, but it seemed rather pointless, without you here to hold."

The ridiculously romantic declaration nearly unmanned Wufei. His throat went tight and he let his head fall forward to rest against Zechs's chest and sighed as those arms tightened around him again. His hands were trapped between them, pressed to Zechs's chest, but not to push him away. Wufei stifled a groan against the back of one hand as he felt Zechs pull the tie from his braid and comb his hair free with his fingers. He wanted to melt into the soft wool under his cheek, lose himself in the familiar good scent of the man holding him.

The completeness of that surrender shocked him and he forced himself to pull back, only to have his face gently cupped between Zech's strong hands, one warm and bare against his skin, the other cooler and sheathed in the softest leather he'd ever felt. Beautiful brilliant blue eyes searched his, alive with nothing but friendly concern. Zechs's right hand stole down to Wufei's chest to touch the white jade pendant that still hung there around his neck under the cheap white shirt. He stroked Wufei's throat and smiled again as he felt him tremble under the caress.

"You're worn out, Wufei. These past few weeks have been so difficult for you. I'm very sorry."

Wufei looked away and shrugged, not trusting his wildly veering emotions. "It was a long flight. There was a storm, in Paris. I couldn't sleep. I . . ." He trailed off again, not knowing what he wanted to say or do, now that he was here, only that those fingers felt as good as he'd remembered against his skin. "I'm very tired."

Zechs pulled him close again, stroking his hair, his back, his shoulders. Wufei trembled harder against him, and his face grew warm. "Poor little Chang. Go take a hot shower and get into some clean nightclothes. I'll come and check on you in a while, and then you must sleep."

Wufei nodded, and reluctantly left those sheltering arms. He could feel his body tingling all the way back to his room.

His room.

It was looked just as it had when he'd occupied it as Zechs's bodyguard; it was a guest room, he realized, not servants' quarters. He hadn't appreciated that fact before. He opened a dresser drawer, looking for his sweats and a shirt, and discovered that the clothing Zechs had bought for him was all neatly folded away there, together with a few other pairs of pants and some sweaters and shirts he did not recognize. He lifted out the black sweater and held it a moment, stroking the silky wool, remembering Zechs touching him through it. He went to the closet and found the black cashmere coat hanging there, with the Chinese silk shirt he'd gone dancing in that night. It was all there, as if this really was his room and he did belong here.

He stood under the hot water in the shower for a long time. He was so tired he could let himself remember all the desperate washing and jerking off he'd done in here with hardly a twinge of guilt. Is that what Quatre had meant, that his body knew what it needed?

He dried his hair and pulled on sweats and a black tee shirt, then wandered back out into the bedroom, half expecting to find Zechs there. He wasn't.

Wufei sprawled across the bed, and all the stress and strain of the past weeks seemed to crash in on him, leaving him limp and numb. He'd survived it all and here he was, right back where it all began. The room was chilly but he was too tired to get under the covers. Closing his eyes, he told himself he would rest just for a little while, then go and talk to Zechs.

The feeling of the mattress shifting woke him sometime later. The room was dark except for the glow of several thick white candles someone had put on the dresser. Zechs was sitting on the edge of the bed beside him, stroking the hair back from Wufei's face. He sleepily turned his face into that touch and gazed up at the man. His fear was still there, lurking just below the surface of his thoughts, but so was the knowledge that he could not have made any other decision than the one that had brought him here. Zechs had on pajama pants under his open robe. The fair skin of his bare chest caught the candle light like ivory, the lean muscle accented with shadow. Wufei had never seen anyone more handsome in his life.

"You're cold, Wufei," Zechs whispered, and helped him under the sheets and down coverlet. When Wufei was settled back against the pillows he stroked his cheek again, the fingers finding their way once again to the jade pendant. "I saw you on television today. You were being interviewed with Winner, and you were wearing this. I was very glad to see it on you still. Why, Wufei? Why did you keep it?"

Wufei blinked, trying hard to stay awake. "It was a gift. From you." Beyond that he couldn't explain, only that he hadn't been able to part with it. He heard Zechs chuckle softly, then the bed shifted again as he stood to go. Without thinking, Wufei reached out for him.

/You can sleep with us if you like./

"Sleep here, if you want." Had he really said that out loud?

He must have, because Zechs lifted the covers and slid in beside him. Wufei's fuddled brain hadn't really gotten beyond the offer; perhaps he'd only been echoing what Trowa had said to him. He wasn't even certain what Zechs thought he was being offered. Before he could panic, however, he felt those arms go around him again, settling his head on Zech's broad chest, and Zechs softly stroked his back, nothing more. Lost on the pleasure of that touch, Wufei curled closer against him, hand tucked under his cheek. He could feel Zechs's heart beating under his fingertips, and the easy rise and fall of his breathing.

It felt so good to be held like this!

His eyes drifted shut again and he felt Zechs press a chaste kiss to his forehead, and another to his lips. "Good night, little Chang. And welcome home."

Home. Somewhere in the back of his mind, alarm bells went off, but he was too tired to do anything but surrender to the warmth enveloping him and go to sleep in the arms of the man who probably wanted to be his lover.

[chap. 55] [chap. 57] [back to pyrzm's fic]