see ch. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
Warriors + Chapter 63
Leaning against the concourse
wall, Duo kept an eye on the gate that led to the private jet gangways,
watching for Wufei and Zechs. With his hat and shades on, and braid hidden
down the back of his baggy sweatshirt, Duo was just another punk kid hanging
out at the airport, watching the planes and shuttles through the big plate
glass windows, rather than a famous, well-armed ex-terrorist here to meet
an old bud and his new squeeze.
Security for 'his highness' in New Orleans was an issue. No one wanted
a gaggle of security guards wandering around the house, attracting media
attention, so Zechs and Wufei were flying in on their own, with the understanding
that the others would be on alert during their visit.
Too many G-Boys in public together attracted too much attention, so Duo
had come to meet them at the gate while Heero was off arranging for a
rental car. No advance plans. No reservations to let anyone who might
be watching know what the next move was. Duo and Trowa had come up with
a nice little twist for protection at the show, too, back when Wufei had
written to accept Kat's invite.
No more nasty-grams had arrived for Heero since the second one but everyone
had that waiting-for-the-next-shoe-to-drop feeling. At Heero's insistence,
nothing was going to be said to Wufei about the current situation until
the day after tomorrow. Heero had been totally adamant that they let Wuffie
and Zechs settle in, see the show that night, and celebrate Wu's eighteenth
birthday the following day without all that shit overshadowing it. Duo
suspected this was also Heero's way of feeling in control. He'd bounced
back too quickly, in Duo and Quatre's estimations, from the shock of receiving
the photos, and had been in full mission mode ever since, talking about
the 'situation' almost as if it was centered on someone other than himself.
He and Duo had made love again for the first time in almost a week, too,
which was probably a good sign, even though Heero had insisted on doing
most of the "doing." But he'd done lots of it. Duo had been enjoying that
not-unpleasant "got lucky" soreness every time he sat down today. Good
sex equaled good medicine, right?
Quatre still had his feelers out, but so far it just seemed like Heero
was digging down and drawing on the inner strength that had gotten him
through everything else in his life. Whatever the case, Duo was keeping
in a sharp eye on him, and so was everyone else. Duo regretted the timing
of Wu's visit. Who knew how messed up Wu might still be, and now all Duo
wanted was to track the bastards down and go kick some ass. But first
they'd have to find the fuckers. He shrugged deeper into his sweatshirt
and kicked the heel of one jump boot restlessly at the wall behind him.
Concentrate on the mission at hand for now, like Heero had said.
Wu and Zechs were traveling incognito and Duo almost missed them when
they finally emerged from the jet way carrying a couple of duffels. Zechs
had his hair up under a cap like Duo's and neither of them was dressed
like he'd been expecting. When he did spot them coming his way, he wasn't
immediately sure if he was more relieved or confused to see Wufei looking
Well, maybe 'normal' wasn't quite the right word. In Duo's experience,
Chang Wufei didn't normally or willingly wear jeans, or designer black
cashmere sweaters or wrap-around shades that made him look like he'd just
stepped out of some fancy menswear ad. Aside from the new threads, though,
he looked a helluva lot more like his old self than he had the last few
times Duo had seen him, on L-4 or that time on TV.
Kat was all tickled pink about this new relationship, but to Duo it seemed
that falling for Zechs-and Duo was not ready to use the "L" word
just yet, even if Wuffers was-- to Duo it had had seemed like something
had been knocked out of Wufei. The drug revelation, the major fuck-over
by Relena and Une, figuring out he was gay; it was a lot to take in, both
for Wufei and the rest of them. The drugged out, weepy wreck he and Heero
had hauled back to New Orleans had scared him a little, as had the contrite
tone of that first email.
Uptight, pissed off, disapproving, 05 had always been one of Duo's Strong
Ones, a guy who'd show up at a moment's notice looking and acting exactly
the same as the last time he saw him. Duo had recognized the good, honorable
guy under that prickly exterior a long time ago, and had depended on that
comforting consistency of behavior a lot more than he liked to admit.
The idea that at least some of that attitude had been a front, a self-deluding
act to cover the fact that Wufei had been just as miserable and messed
up and lonely as Duo made him feel bad in all sorts of new and interesting
ways. Not to mention the fact that it had been Zechs, not any of the rest
of them, who'd twigged and was now, for good or ill, apparently the one
giving Wufei something he needed.
That all jumped right up to the surface at the sight of Wufei striding
along beside Zechs. He didn't look wrecked, or like some kid in love.
Wufei looked like he was back in control, right down to the inscrutable
expression, the anal-retentive hairstyle, and the unmistakable bulge of
a gun under the left arm of his coat. It occurred to Duo that even the
surprising, prettied-up Wufei he'd seen on the news had been armed. Nope,
the smoked-up mess who'd played with himself in the tub (oh, yeah, it
had been some fun pulling those details out of Heero) and cried in their
arms and written polite thank-you notes was safely out of sight. He looked
more like Zechs's licensed-to-kill bodyguard than his--Duo grimaced inwardly--
And no, Duo didn't need Heero or Quatre or Batoosingh to point out to
him that his reaction might be just a teensy-weensy little bit selfish.
He figured that one out all by himself, thank you very much. That, and
the fact that he seemed to be the only one who hadn't let go of the Libra
It didn't help his confusion and general fucked-upedness when some other
part of his brain sat up and took notice that Merquise looked like sex
on legs today. OK, the man had looked real good in uniform back in the
day, and in the suits and dress causal he'd worn during their Sanque visit,
but none of that had triggered Duo's sensors like this ensemble.
Zechsy wore his faded jeans tight in all the right places, and that black
biker jacket had been around. Bottom line: he looked like someone Duo
would have cruised in the old days. Oh yeah! But alarm bells were going
off, too. Duo knew a dominant top when he saw one, which meant that Wufei
. . .
Duo bludgeoned that thought to pulp and filed the remains away in a mental
file marked "Do Not Go There" in big red letters. Maybe Zechs just knew
he looked good in beat up leather, right? Besides, at the moment the two
were acting like they hardly knew each other.
Wufei spotted him and gave him a slight nod. Duo pushed away from the
wall and fell in beside him, trying real damn hard not to stare at the
two of them from the corner of his eye with that last thought struggling
to break through again. Wuffers still had on that jade necklace; Duo suspected
it had the same kind of significance to him that the Duo's Shiva's Eye
did to him.
Zechs gave Duo a friendly look over the top of his own tinted glasses.
"Good to see you again."
"You, too." No lie there. It was good to see him. Knowing him?
Well, the Maxwell jury was still out on that, but for Wufei's sake, he'd
make an effort. Wufei, however, was currently giving off no signals at
all except impatience to get through the airport.
Heero was lounging in one of the plastic chairs in the Avis lounge. The
blond wig really worked as cover. With those blue eyes, he carried it
off. Jeans, black high-tops, faded green tee-shirt of Tro's that hung
loose enough to hide the hard muscle there--
// My boyfriend's hotter n' yours, Wu-Man! //
// Well, as hot, anyway. //
Duo stuck that in the Don't Go There file, too.
Heero got up and headed for the door without comment and the rest followed
in silence. They looked about two men short of a street gang. In slightly
better clothes, they could recast that old pre-colony movie Trowa liked
so much, "Reservoir Dogs."
When they were safely on the highway back into the city again, Duo took
off his sunglasses and turned around in his seat to give Wufei a grin.
"Welcome back to the Crescent City, buddy. How was the flight?"
Wufei gave Duo his customary dirty look at the nickname. "No problems.
We came down in a Zoroaster X-9. It handles well."
Yup, he looked pretty much like his old self again, but healthier. He
wasn't exactly beaming and giggling, though, and there were none of the
little tells Duo or Quatre might have given under the circumstances. He
sat on his side of the car and Zechs stayed on his. No shared glances.
No hand holding or bumping of knees. No climbing into each other's laps,
"An X-9?" Heero asked, eyes on the road and oblivious to this odd situation.
Heero and Zechs talked shuttles and bikes. Duo chimed in now and then
to be polite, and surprised to find that he and Zechs had some similar
tastes in road toys. Wufei didn't say much of anything. Not that he'd
ever been a motor mouth, but Duo kept looking at that open space between
him and Zechs, wondering if there's been an in flight spat or something.
The house was all lit up to welcome the guests. Trowa and Quatre met them
in the garden court. The lights were on there, too, and cold beer and
snacks had been set out on the table by the fountain. Trowa shook hands
with them both. Kat hugged Wufei like it was the most natural thing in
the world, then made him turn around so he could admire the new clothes.
"Wow, Wufei, you look incredible!"
Wufei smiled as he retreated to a chair. "Better than last time you saw
"Actually, last time we saw you, you were on the news," Trowa said, describing
the clip of the charity event. "We didn't recognize you at first. Very
Unless Duo's eyes deceived him, Wufei blushed at that, and stole a glance
at Zechs, who'd taken a seat across the table, Duo noted suspiciously.
"Ah, well. I can't rely on dress uniforms anymore, and L-5 clothes just
don't seem to suit me the way they used to. Zechs has been helping me
develop a new wardrobe." He raised an eyebrow at Duo. "You should be happy
at that, Maxwell. You always said I had all the fashion sense of a Gundam."
Duo cheerfully flipped him off. "Can't say I'll miss those Chinese pants,
Zechs chuckled over his beer. "He still has a few he wears for our morning
"You're still training, then?" Heero asked Wufei.
"Of course!" Wufei looked mildly offended at the idea that he would have
stopped. That was a good sign, with 05. He really was getting back to
"Wufei has been sparring with me as part of my physical therapy, as well,
Zechs added, smiling over at 05. "He's also been teaching me Wu Yi martial
arts and attempting to get me to meditate. I repay him with saber and
chess lessons. He has the easier task, of course, already being an expert
swordsman. I understand you have a gymnasium here that we could use?"
"Well, it's more of a big open room with some mats, but you're welcome
to use it," Quatre told him.
"Would any of you care to join us?"
"Quatre and I don't spar anymore; can't risk any head injuries," Trowa
replied. "If you do Tai Chi or yoga, we'd join you at that. Heero can
give you a workout, though. He'd probably enjoy having someone besides
Duo to beat up on for a change."
"I win almost as often as I lose!" Duo sputtered. The truth was, he'd
spent more of his war days avoiding hand-to-hand fighting; no one could
beat him on the target range, or out fly him. It was a probably a good
thing for him that Heero hadn't recovered his full battle capability.
He got knocked around enough as it was, but the Perfect Soldier insisted
that his boyfriend be able to defend himself unarmed.
"Dinner's almost ready," Quatre told them. "Mari, has outdone herself
tonight in your honor, but told me to tell you that it's only a 'light
supper'. That's all Tro and I can manage on show nights, but we'll take
you out afterwards if you're hungry again. Zechs, would you like to see
the house while we wait? We can take your bags up on the way."
"Yes. Wufei says it's charming. Very Old World."
"Great. Tro and I will give you the tour."
Zechs looked over at Wufei.
"Go ahead," he said, giving his---what?-a nod. "I'll sit here and enjoy
"I'll keep him company for you," Duo offered, jumping at the chance to
get Wufei alone for a minute. "Heero, you want to go check on how dinner's
Heero shot him a warning look, but took the hint.
Duo waited until the others were gone. "So, Wu-man . . . You two together,
huh?" Hey, no one ever accused him of being subtle.
Wufei arched an eyebrow at him as he sipped his beer. "Yes. I assume you
read my email?"
"Yeah. But, ah . . ." Duo picked at the label on his low alcohol beer.
"You guys ok with each other?"
The eyebrow climbed a little higher. "Of course. Why do you ask?"
So the new Wufei wasn't real big on pillow talk. "I dunno. You just don't
seem real cuddly together, that's all."
To his surprise, Wufei sighed. "I know. It's difficult, in public. I'm
not like you and the others."
"But in private?"
Wufei's sudden, ferocious blush, coupled with that frown, sent a confusing
message. "Really, Maxwell!"
"Sorry! I just, y'know, want to be sure everything's copasetic, that's
all. I care, Wufei."
Wufei glared down at his beer. "I-appreciate your concern, but it's misplaced.
Zechs and I are fine."
Before Duo could dig any deeper behind that none answer, the others came
back and they went in to dinner. Zechs presented Quatre and Trowa with
a small antique oil painting and a bottle of expensive champagne as a
housewarming, and gave Heero and Duo a bottle of their own for their help
Marie had indeed outdone herself. Sitting around the candlelit table,
they dined on oyster bisque, green salad, crawfish etouffee, and poached
pears. Unsatisfied with his interrogation so far, Duo kept an eye on Wufei
as they ate. He didn't seem unhappy, but he wasn't 'glowing' as Kat had
put it, either. He just looked like-well, like himself. Not so grumpy,
just quiet. Zechs either didn't mind or didn't notice. Duo wasn't sure
which. Small talk ebbed and flowed--more motor head stuff, voodoo in New
Orleans, the house, the show, jazz theory. Zechs and Kat really hit it
off over music. Turned out Zechs used to play the guitar and violin before
He held up his new left hand, encased in a thin leather glove. "The doctors
claim I can play again if I'm willing to put in the practice and let them
tinker with the circuits. It seems I'm their favorite guinea pig, since
the cybernetic technology in this arm is still so new. And Wufei's been
after me to try." He smiled warmly across at Wufei, and Duo finally caught
a flicker of warmth in his friend's face.
"His progress at fencing and Wu-Yi has been remarkable," Wufei said proudly,
as if Zechs was his student or something. "However, they don't require
the fine motor coordination that playing an instrument would. Quatre,
perhaps you could tempt him into giving it a try while we're here?"
That steered the conversation to music again, and Duo settled back and
kept watching. Wufei watched Zechs as he chatted adagios and improvisations
with Kat. Jesus, the man was like a statue, not giving away anything!
Zechs, on the other hand, was Mr. Charm. Those blue eyes were killer when
he smiled, and he smiled a lot, especially when talking to Quatre. He
didn't forget about Heero and Tro, either. They were not the world's greatest
conversationalists outside their own little circle, but Zechs started
pumping Trowa about his creative process and suddenly 03 was telling him
about the mechanics of the stage, using silverware and breadsticks as
visual aides. Heero got into that, and before Duo knew it, the three of
them were coming up with a new winch design. Turned out Zechs had gotten
a degree in mechanical engineering at the OZ Academy, along with his officer
training. Hot, charming, and brilliant. Duo sulked a little, watching
Heero light up over the topic of cantilevered balance arms.
"I'm glad we've met again under better circumstances, Zechs," Trowa said
"So am I," Zechs replied. "I admired you boys so much during the war,
even in that last battle. Actually, especially then. You were all so brave,
so driven. You knew what you stood for. And now look at you!" He shook
his head, smiling. "You know, it occurs to me I never saw all five of
you in the same place before, except on Libra, and then you were in suits.
But I saw photos. You've all grown up so much."
Quatre dimpled up, looking about twelve. "You sound like one of my uncles!"
Zechs chuckled. "I suppose so. But you were still children back then,
and now you're young men. Young men in love." He raised his wineglass
to them. "Allow me to offer my belated congratulations."
"And to you and Wufei," Heero replied, raising his glass. "To love."
Duo goggled. Had Heero, his Heero, just proposed a toast?
"Wufei's been raving about your show," Zechs went on. "I can't wait to
see it, but I hope my presence won't be disruptive."
"We've got that covered," Duo told him around a mouthful of dessert. "Whaddya
say, guys? Can I give Wufei his birthday present now?"
"That's not necessary!" Wufei exclaimed, blushing for sure now. "Being
here, and seeing the show again is--"
"Just wait. You'll see," Duo said, giving him a wink.
It was good to be back with the others in New Orleans like this, but excruciating
as well. He was "with" Zechs, as they said, and everyone knew it. It made
him feel naked, exposed, uncomfortable in a way that none of their other
more public experiences had. These people knew him better than anyone,
knew him as 05, a warrior and fellow soldier, not as someone's-boyfriend!
And just as he'd feared, the others seemed to expect him to sit on Zechs
lap or paint his toenails or something, as if he'd suddenly turned into
someone else-Quatre, perhaps. Duo was the most obvious about it. He'd
been staring at them since they met in the airport.
He wasn't ashamed to be in love, any more than he was ashamed of anything
they did behind closed doors at night. Sure, he was still a bit backwards
there, but that wasn't shame. He couldn't explain adequately what it was,
but Zechs still claimed to find his shyness charming. He tried not to
think about that too much outside the bedroom; who he was there and who
he was in public remained separate entities. That's just how it had to
be, for now. Zechs understood and loved him anyway, probably more than
he deserved. Whatever the case, what they had worked just fine so far.
But he'd have withstood torture more willingly than he could have answered
Duo's worried question in the garden.
Well, mostly fine, aside from the massive guilt he felt, not being able
to be more physically demonstrative with his lover in public. Not that
he wasn't trying. He'd gone dancing, and that had been pleasant. Zechs
instinctively knew how far he could go without making Wufei uncomfortable.
They'd danced in the Le Fleur club, and been the toast of the night. Among
those strangers, Wufei had been able to dance close and enjoy the touch
of Zechs's hand on his arm or lower back as they stood at the bar with
Joey. He just knew Zechs would have liked more from him, then and the
night they went to the gallery, but he gave no sign of disappointment,
but claimed that restraint made him all the more anxious to get Wufei
into bed later. Wufei, for his part, did his best to make it up to him
there. It helped that he hungered for his lover's touch, and when they
were alone, that core of ice he seemed to carry around inside melted away,
leaving him yielding and open to pleasure. They hadn't made love last
night, but Wufei had slipped into bed naked anyway and Zechs's appreciation
had been clear as he took him in his arms and held him all night long.
If they hadn't had to get to the shuttle port so early, Wufei would have
been very tempted to see what morning sex was like. They'd both woken
up ready enough for it. As it was, he'd almost invited Zechs into the
bathroom with him to share his shower, but a call had come in for Zechs
and Wufei had lost his nerve. He hoped they gave him the same room he'd
had before; it had a bath attached, and a large old fashioned tub.
Dinner went well, and his friends made every effort to be pleasant to
Zechs. Well, most of them. Duo was still wary, and watching Wufei like
he expected him to break. That only made Wufei more self conscious and
that as always, only made him act stiff and quiet. In his discomfort,
he'd taken a seat across the table from Zechs, and simply couldn't summon
the nerve to put on the show of reaching across the table to touch his
hand or anything of that sort. There was wine with supper and he let Trowa
fill his glass twice. That and the beer should have taken off the edge,
but didn't. By the end of the meal, he was exhausted from the stress and
felt more like going to lie down in a quiet room than going out, much
as he wanted to see the circus again. But the others were too excited
about it and had gone to too much trouble to beg off.
He almost dropped his water glass when Duo said something about a birthday
present. They'd never exchanged gifts! No one had ever said anything about
Duo returned with two small flat boxes wrapped up in red ribbon. "These
are from all of us." He handed one to Wufei, and one to Zechs.
Inside, they found a pair of beautiful handcrafted masks, similar to the
ones some of the cast wore in the show. They were the kind that covered
only the upper part of the face. Wufei's was a stylized dragon, painted
in metallic red, white and gold, with slanted golden eyeholes and flaring
wings on either side of the face. Zechs's was a dangerous looking silvery
wolf's face with a mane of curled leather tendrils.
"They're-they're beautiful!" Wufei exclaimed. "You made these, didn't
you, Duo?" His reminded him of Shenlong, and he suspected that that was
"Yeah, but everyone was in on the designs," Duo said, grinning happily
at Wufei's baffled expression.
"And they're quite practical, too. It's Masquerade Night at the Circus
Della Notte," said Trowa. "Anyone who shows up in a mask gets their name
in a drawing to win a Duo Maxwell original. You'll see it tonight."
"Neat ploy, huh?" grinned Quatre. "It was Heero's idea, so you two could
attend without attracting attention. I'm guessing ninety percent of the
crowd tonight will come in masks. You'll blend right in."
Zechs held his up to his face and gave Duo a wolfish grin. "I think this
one was your idea."
Duo shrugged. "It suits you."
Wufei picked up on the sparring going on between those two, but was also
distracted by the way his lover looked, blue eyes bright behind that silvery
mask. He looked very wolfish, indeed, and in quite a beguiling way. He
saw Duo's eyes widen a little at the sight, and grinned to himself, wondering
if Maxwell had intended that? Somehow, he doubted it, but there was no
question that the mask was beautiful, a masterpiece, and that Zechs looked
damn sexy in it. Suddenly he found himself not feeling quite so tired,
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