By Jen
Warnings: More cursing and some admiration of physical assets. ^^
Random inane notes:Duo and Wufei told me to tell you all that they-hey! Wufei, you can get your sword away from my throat. Right-o... a little less pressure please. Anyhow, neither of them agreed to this story and after it's finished (I think they just want to read it, but won't admit-ow! Wufei!!) they both intend to send me to meet my maker. ::falls over::

When Fallen Angels Fly + Part Two

In the space he had cleared in the dining room, Wufei moved with abounding ease, each precise slash, thrust, and arc having a purpose. It was like an elegant dance, the sword an extention of his arm rather than a separate weapon.. His control and skill were so refined, that he never moved out of the invisible circle he had given himself as a boundary. And while he looked as if he was completely absorbed in the exercise, his senses were very in tune with the environment around him.

It was why he knew the instant he was no longer alone. Rather than interrupt the rhythm of motion he had created either by stopping or speaking, he chose to continue the form. So well did he know it, that his eyes were closed and every movement flowed into the next like a never-ending river. One arm passed under the other as the sword flashed through the air, his legs crossing and pulling pleasantly at the muscles in his calves. His breathing was regulated through sheer will alone, the act of having been exercising for the last hour without break causing him no visible strain. The slight sheen of sweat across the bare portions of skin beneath his tank top was the only noticeable effect.

Watching from the doorway, Duo was oddly silent and subdued, admittedly more than a little awed at the contained strength and effortless grace Wufei presented. Since he was never out of bed even a moment before he had to be, he hadn't been up early enough to see Wufei practice before. For some reason, it presented a side of him that Duo had already known existed, but never actually considered. While aloof and oftentimes abrupt in person, and driven and relentless in his Gundam, a gentle vein ran beneath the hardened mask he presented. It was apparent that Wufei was unaware of just how much this art proved that, or he wouldn't be letting Duo watch him now.

He had known Wufei could move. He had seen him in action before. But this was somehow different. It had a beauty to it that made Duo feel as if he were intruding on a private moment. Especially considering that Wufei was going through the entire pattern with his eyes closed, leaving him open to scrutiny that he could not return. The only time Duo had ever seen Wufei with his eyes closed was when he stole into his room one night to play a prank on him and ended up with the tip of the other boy's sword planted in his throat. That had not been one of his better ideas.

When the exercise ended, Duo found he was disappointed. Surprisingly, it had nothing to do with the fact that he was soon going to have to make good use of these hours he would rather have filled with sleeping. No, it was because he had enjoyed watching Wufei. As a sharp contrast to himself, who was always using up excess energy moving, Wufei rarely moved unless necessary, and even then, he did it with a control that never used more energy than was needed. To see him in constant, continuous motion was a rare thing that was not to be wasted.

"It is rude to lurk in doorways without announcing yourself," Wufei uttered succinctly, sheathing his sword as he lifted his head to pin Duo with his eyes.

Duo grinned in response.

The serious expression never leaving his face, Wufei ventured closer to the other pilot. Drawing his sword again in one swift motion, he settled the tip inches from Duo's throat before the other could even react.

"Who are you and what have you done with Maxwell? Not only are you up before noon, but you stood still for longer than a second."

Duo blinked, trying to decide whether or not Wufei was serious. The blade of that sword was awfully close to his neck... And here he had tried so hard to make certain he was never in this position again.

"You look worried," the Chinese boy asserted, his lips curving barely enough to equal a smile as he slowly pulled the sword away.

Wufei had the damnedest sense of humor.

"In any case, you haven't answered my question," Wufei pointed out, turning from him to lift a white cloth from the table and draw it across his forehead.

Right. Time to unscramble his marbles.

"You said to do something constructive with my time. So here I am."

Wufei was unable to keep the surprise from his expression as he swung back around to regard Duo in stunned silence. The boy had forgone five hours of sleep so that he could exercise with him? That was not the Duo Maxwell he had come to know. But then, he knew he shouldn't be all that shocked. The American pilot was constantly throwing out pieces of himself that seemed to have no relevance to the image he presented. Wufei realized, however, that he did not consider the smiling baka to be the real Duo. It was only one of the many facets that made up his personality. And the need to confound everyone around him at every turn was only one of his many charms.

"You want to practice with me? You don't even know how to use a sword properly," he added in evident dismissal.

He had not expected Duo to take him this seriously. Leave it to the braided menace to be frustratingly selective.

"So teach me! I learn quickly."

Duo had him there. The boy was a quick study, and you generally only had to show him or tell him something once before he picked it up and began working like a professional. That adaptability was part of what made him such an excellent pilot.

His entire manner seemed to suggest he considered this a pleasant way to spend a few hours, and get on Wufei's nerves all in one shot. Admittedly, Duo was far better at annoying Wufei than the latter would ever voice. There was nothing that said Wufei had to make it easy for him this time, however. Duo found himself so amusing. By the time Wufei was done with him here, he would be far from laughter.

The Deathscythe pilot had to admit that the best part about this already was Wufei's loss of composure after having been informed of his reason for being up at the ungodly hour of 7am. It would be well worth whatever hell the Chinese pilot would put him through here. Though Duo really couldn't see how hard it could be to wield a sword. Sure, he wasn't going to have all that much skill yet, but he didn't feel like he needed to compete with Wufei on that score. He would probably only have to swing a hunk of metal around for a few hours to please the other boy. Wufei was patient, but Duo seriously doubted he was patient enough to keep at this until he had taught the him some semblance of grace with the blade.

"Fine, then. Take your pick," the black-haired boy answered after a few moments of contemplative silence, indicating to the display of sheathed swords resting on the table.

Swallowing a yawn, Duo trudged past Wufei and began admiring the extensive collection his friend had cultivated. Some were longer than others, some were curved, and some were straight. While he could plainly see that they were all different in small ways, he didn't have the first clue about deciding which of them was better to suited to him.

Preservation won out over pride. If he was going to be doing this, then he might as well be doing it right.

Flashing Wufei a smile, he said, "Are you sure you want me picking the best one? I mean... they're your swords and I wouldn't want anyth-"

He was abruptly cut off as Wufei strode up to the table, eyes passing over the swords and Duo without having really seemed to do so at all, and promptly shoved one into his hands.

"It is better for beginners."

Duo bristled at the way Wufei said beginners.

"Hey, I bet I'll have moved on to a higher level or whatever the hell you call it with swords in no time at all. This'll be a piece of cake."

He was wrong. On both accounts.

+

Three sweat filled, back breaking hours later, they were still going at it. Wufei proved to be a stern taskmaster with a wicked sense of humor that made Duo's want to run and hide. It was painfully (in Duo's case) obvious that despite his fatigue at having been exercising for over four hours now, Wufei was highly enjoying himself. Yet, despite all of the mishandling of the sword and mishaps that went on in the first hour of training, (one such incident nearly rendering Duo braidless) Wufei was a surprisingly patient, effective teacher.

Duo's arms felt like two pieces of limp, overcooked spaghetti noodles. Every movement he made with the sword pulled on what he was certain was every available muscle in his upper body. The last he could remember being this tired was when he got grand total of three hours sleep in two days time. He was convinced that if Wufei kept him working like this his arms were going to fall off altogether. Which, at the moment, wouldn't be an entirely unwelcome event so long as it kept him from having to wave this sword around any longer.

"No, not like that. You are letting your impatience get the better of you," Wufei instructed, cutting through Duo's guard as if it were made of nothing, and tapping the flat of his blade lightly against the other's cheek.

Duo stepped back. "That isn't impatience, Wu, that's fatigue. I'm dying here! You're a slavedriver."

Wufei relaxed his stance. "I'm trying to make these the most constructive three hours you have ever spent."

Allowing his shoulders to droop momentarily from the horrendous posture Wufei insisted he keep while learning (if he heard "quit slouching, Maxwell" one more time he was going to let Shinigami out on a rampage and wouldn't be responsible for the damages), he quipped, "You know Wu, just when I think you're the most boring guy in all the colonies, you let your sense of humor out and it knocks me on my figurative ass."

As if his real ass hadn't taken enough of beating...

Studiously ignoring Duo's comment, Wufei pulled himself up a bit tighter, acknowledging that even he was growing tired. This was beyond what he normally pushed himself, and then some, but the opportunity to put Duo in his place had been simply too good to pass up. As he had expected, Duo showed a natural aptitude for it. He had the lean grace and quick mind necessary to both manipulate the blade and make split-second decisions in the midst of battle. Both were skills that had been honed to near perfection, he knew, from being a Gundam pilot.

To be perfectly honest, he hadn't thought Duo would make it this far. It was clear the boy was holding up now by sheer will and tenacity alone. He lacked the upper body strength that came with many years of training, and though he was by no means weak, it was apparent three hours had made liquid of his muscles. But Duo's perseverance was one of the many things Wufei admired about him, even if it was sometimes an unnecessary by-product of pride. Duo was doing his best to keep up with him and learn something in the process and Wufei respected that by not being lenient. No matter what Duo may say, Wufei knew it wouldn't have been appreciated.

Duo had a whole new respect for Wufei. Not that he hadn't had one before, but it had become increasingly clear over the last three hours that Wufei was stronger than he had given him credit for. And he wasn't just talking about physical strength.

It took a great deal of mental control to effectively use a sword, and far more skill than it did to just pick up a gun and start firing. He had come to the conclusion that Wufei was the embodiment of reserve. Not just anyone could spend three hours sweating and putting up with him, and still look so composed. It also occurred to him that Wufei had to like him just a little bit.. The black-haired pilot couldn't possibly be putting himself through this only to teach him a lesson.

"Quit slouching, Maxwell."

Then again...

Letting a long suffering sigh escape, he asked, "Aren't we done yet?"

"You wanted to do this," Wufei reminded him. "Now, move into position."

"Blah, that sounds like assume the position. Gonna strip search me, Wu?" Duo teased, wiggling his eyebrows.

Duo was more than a little stunned when color rode high in Wufei's cheeks, leaving the other boy's eyes snapping a sharp, hot black.

"Your manners leave some to be desired!" He retorted scathingly.

It was actually possible to embarrass Mr. Wufei 'made of stone' Chang?

Feeling more than just a bite being taken out of him at Wufei's tone, Duo fell back on his heels, a small part of him wondering if the thought of seeing him without his clothing was that detestable. But why did he even care? After all, the one he was most interested in seeing him without his clothes seemed to think he rated right up there with dust; somewhere below missions, Gundams, and laptop computers. Though... he hadn't thought of the Wing Gundam pilot overly much in the last day or so.

A distinguished pall had been thrown over the entire proceeding, and Duo was beginning to feel distinctly uncomfortable. He hadn't meant it any way other than a joke, but Wufei had taken such offense to it. Having Wufei use that tone on you, and lecture you about your manners was actually serious business. It was probably as close as the Nataku pilot got to saying 'fuck you'. Usually, when Duo teased him, the most he got out of Wufei was an unamused stare and a dismissal of some sort, whether it be verbal or otherwise. To have Wufei get so upset over this one comment told him he had stepped over the invisible boundaries of friendship. For the most part, Duo plowed right through boundaries. But for some reason not quite clear to him, Wufei's reaction had hurt him. He had the overwhelming urge to be alone right now, so he could lick his wounds in private.

Smiling brightly, the act feeling as if it had been painted on, he said, "Hey, sorry man! I was just teasing. Guess I was a bit out of line."

Wufei stood stock still, an odd sort of pressure pushing at his chest from the inside out. He hadn't meant to react so severely. It was just that Duo's careless words had brought his newfound awareness of the Deathscythe pilot back in a violent rush. It was both confusing and unwelcome, because Wufei had already linked Duo with Heero in his mind, whether the two were actually together or not, and he had strong suspicions that this attraction of his was one sided. Besides, there was nothing productive about forming relationships between each other when they needed to be concentrating on what they were here for...

Why was that realization only half-hearted?

[cont]