When Fallen Angels Fly - Four of nine
By Jen
Warnings:Cursing.
Random inane notes:For the record, I hate chow mein. ::shudders:: Give me a cup of egg flower soup, egg foo yung over pork fried rice, and a nice big helping of sweet and sour pork and I'm in heaven. Gah. Now I've made myself hungry for Chinese food since I've not eaten lunch... --;;; There is no justice in this world! ::gets kicked by Wufei:: If there was, I'd have enough money to go get some Chinese... food that is. ^~ Luckily, my blessedly wonderful mother is making something. But if it doesn't hurry up and get done, this entire chapter is going to reflect my preoccupation with filling my complaining stomach.


When Fallen Angels Fly + Part Four

"You're going to eat that?" Duo questioned, eyeing the steaming bowl of chow mein noodles sitting in front of Wufei dubiously.

One black eyebrow rose elegantly. "You're going to eat that?"

He leaned back. "At least mine doesn't look like-"

"Don't even say it, Maxwell."

"Fine, fine. You eat yours. I'll eat mine. We'll both be happy. The end."

Biting back exasperation and sigh in equal proportions, Wufei recalled with startling clarity the reason why he avoided Duo. The boy got on his nerves like nothing else, and proceeded to dance on them until Wufei either got away from him or snapped at him. Perhaps he could lose him in the mall and make his way back out to the motorcycle before Duo noticed...

The plan sounded very tempting.

While Duo looked right at home in the overcrowded food court, filled in equal parts with people and food, Wufei felt out of his element. He hated this much noise. It was difficult to even think over the din. Not to mention, he disliked being around this many people. Not even someone as skilled as he was at observation could keep an eye on all of them at once. How was he supposed to even enjoy his food?

"Relax, Wu. You look way too uptight."

"How can I relax with all this noise?" The Chinese pilot retorted.

Duo shrugged, picking up his enormous, greasy hamburger and biting into it. Ketchup dripped from the edge of the bun, landing in a bright crimson puddle on the tabletop. Before Duo could even react to that, let alone set his hamburger down, Wufei had plucked a napkin from the dispenser and wiped it up.

Rolling his eyes, Duo swallowed and quipped, "Wufei the Gundam pilot, Wufei the cook, and now Wufei the janitor? What don't you do?"

"Watch your mouth!" Wufei hissed, eyes darting around him.

The American sighed, drawing the sound out much longer than was necessary. "Hey, Mr. Paranoid, no one heard. So relax, and eat your disgusting noodles."

Fingers twitched convulsively as Wufei ordered them to remain where they were and not wrap themselves around Duo's neck.

The other pilot threw him an audacious grin before attacking his food; or perhaps inhaling was the better word for it.

In fascinated disgust, he watched as Duo took another bite, shoved three fries into his mouth, and washed the whole revolting mix down with chocolate shake.

"You are killing yourself slowly," he remarked with barely disguised distaste.

"Yeah, well, at least I'm not trying to grow a garden in my stomach. Besides, this actually tastes good."

Folding his arms across his chest (Wufei, the immovable wall), he stared down his nose at the boy sitting across the table from him. "Do you even know what chow mein tastes like?"

A hand stopped in mid-air, filled with fries and halfway to reaching the garbage disposal he called a mouth.

"Well..." he hesitated, admitting reluctantly, "no."

This was a revelation. Duo Maxwell had actually dismissed food without having first tried it.

"Here." Wufei said, ever a man of many words, and dipped his chopsticks into the bowl to come up with a healthy portion.

"How do you do that? It looks so hard. I tried it once, and my food ended up in my lap. It burned like hell and I had to take my pants off right there and-"

"Shut up and open your mouth," Wufei interrupted tightly, the skin around his own mouth pinched and white.

Duo blinked. Now what was bugging him?

"You know, coming from anyone else, that would have been a blatant come on," Duo mused, expression innocent enough.

Clenching his teeth, Wufei jammed the offered bite into Duo's mouth, missing because the sticks slammed against Duo's lips in his haste to get the Deathscythe pilot to be quiet. The noodles plunged from their perch, hitting Duo's lap with a decidedly sickening slap. Cobalt blue eyes widened both in surprise and pain, as he scrambled for a napkin to clean the mess up, his lips throbbing from the impact of the sticks.

Dropping the damp wad onto the table, Duo gingerly probed his swollen lips, eyeing Wufei with a half-frown. "If I didn't know better, Wu, I'd think you were trying to get me to take my pants off."

That statement brought a vivid image to Wufei's mind the Chinese pilot did not need. An interesting expletive exploding from his lips, he ducked his head to hide the flush spreading across his cheeks, and attacked his noodles with a vicious ferocity. Why did he go anywhere with Duo? Better yet, why did he even put up with Duo?

Drinking his milkshake, Duo picked at his mind, trying to figure out why Wufei was acting so out of character all of the sudden. A few innocent remarks and... A bright grin suddenly burst forth despite the pain it caused. He sat back smugly, eyeing the Chinese pilot through the slits in his bangs. So Mr.. Wufei Chang had a perverted bone in his body after all. Duo would have to be certain to make good use of this knowledge. Since he couldn't get the boy to commit to any feelings, he could at least make him suffer.

Struggling for control over his own body, Wufei continued eating his noodles mechanically, needing them more as a distraction than nourishment. One boy, one ridiculously annoying boy broke through his discipline as it were made of nothing. Wufei had been completely unaware of just how close he had let Duo get over the months that they had known one another. It was almost getting to the point where he tolerated his company without bodily removing him from the room, and it certainly had gotten to the point where he noticed him even when he wasn't.

Was it just Duo? He had never paid the slightest attention to the same sex, or the opposite sex for that matter, in this way before. No one had ever stirred such carnal needs in him. Yes, and because they were just that, carnal needs, he needed to forget and ignore them. They weren't important.

Try telling that to his body, however...

"Hey, Wu, are you going to let me try those noodles or what?"

Duo ducked as a wad of soiled napkins sailed toward his head.

+


Had anyone asked Duo if he considered what he did wrong, he would have told them he didn't look at it in terms of right and wrong. That was black and white, and the world itself was a violent slash of colors that threw you off balance and battered at you from every side. He did what he did because he believed that in the end, they could achieve freedom for the colonies. Someone had to do something. Talking wasn't producing results, and he was as tired as anyone else of living in the colonies under the control of first the Alliance and now OZ. While he disliked having the right to take lives, he did it because it was a necessary step in reaching freedom.

He fought so that someone else could do the talking. It wasn't that his smiles and his laughter meant he was a hardened bastard who didn't care.. It meant that he worked like hell to keep it from getting to him. This was his talent. It was what he was good at, and so he would let Doctor G use him. Better him than someone else. Better him than some inept soldier, or talentless kid. The thought of anyone else getting a hold of Deathscythe was not a welcome one. It produced decidedly homicidal tendencies in him.

Being a Gundam pilot took him wherever orders sent him, put him in danger of losing his life on a regular basis, and took a lot out of him, both physically and mentally. But Duo had never had what he could call a stable life, so he persevered when others might not have. He had developed a tough outer skin long ago, one that wore the smiles while he held himself together inside. He had learned that nothing was certain, people were fragile, and that you had to count on yourself before anyone else.

Joining up with these other four pilots had changed his perspective on a lot of things. For the first time, Duo found himself growing close to people who could more than fend for themselves. Like him, they controlled the destructive power of a Gundam, and like him, they had their own inner demons and dark secrets to battle and to hide. They were no more fragile than he was. Even Quatre had a vein of strength that ran as deep as a river and as sturdy as steel. Maybe that was why they fascinated him so much. They weren't like any people he had ever met.

That didn't explain his recently discovered attraction to Wufei, however.

Duo had tried nearly his entire life to keep people from meaning too much to him. Every time that he allowed it, they left him. And while he understood on an intellectual level that loss was inevitable and a part of life, on a emotional level, it was difficult. Yet, for all that he tried to keep people from worming their way into his heart, he had first found himself drawn to Heero. The introverted pilot of Wing Gundam fascinated him, with his physical and mental strength. Not to mention, he wasn't half bad looking.

Heero was an interesting puzzle that Duo had first wanted to solve, and then keep for himself. The problem was, he could never get past Heero's outer shield, and the Perfect Soldier didn't show an ounce of interest, much less any other emotion. He seemed to want to be alone. And a person could only take so much rejection, even someone like Duo, who was used to it and almost expected it from the people around him.

In the process of trying to get to Heero, Duo had noticed how Wufei kept to himself almost to the point of isolation. He seemed to prefer his books to their company, and was barely civil when you spoke to him. Duo was of the opinion that the Chinese boy needed some serious cheering up. So while he chased Heero for romantic reasons, Duo adopted Wufei as his project to transform into some semblance of a social human being. He had never expected it to be so difficult, nor had he expected to actually enjoy the grumpy pilot's company to the point where he sought it out without really even noticing it.

The name he had given to it was friendship. At times, the real Wufei would make appearances, and upon occasion, Duo had interesting conversations with him, all of which had succeeded in piquing his curiosity and increasing his liking of the quiet Chinese boy. It had never occurred to him that he was wasting his intentions on the wrong person, or that he liked Wufei in that manner, much less that Wufei could possibly return those feelings. But he knew now, that whatever Wufei might actually feel, and he certainly wasn't sharing, the Nataku pilot wasn't immune to him.

Mouth set into a thin line, he shifted his weight where he leaned against he wall, amid racks of men's clothing. Somehow, he wasn't sure how even now, he had convinced Wufei to try on a pair of jeans. The Chinese pilot had informed him that he had no intentions of ever wearing them, and that if Duo bought them, he was going to be wasting money. Duo thought Wufei's wardrobe could use a little variety. Wufei thought the same thing about Duo's. Neither of them were budging.

"Are you happy?" A voice demanded.

Duo lifted his head, pushing his black cap back so that he could see completely.

"Spin around, so I can see," he instructed, spinning his own finger in the air in demonstration.

Wufei eyed him balefully, but turned dutifully, arms crossed over the dark blue tank top that could usually be found beneath his tunic.

While Duo appreciated the view, he suddenly wished he hadn't asked Wufei to do that. The tight fit of the denim left nothing to the imagination. Those loose fitting pants of Wufei's, along with his long tunics covered a very nice behind and didn't even begin to show how slim his hips were. It was a very good thing Wufei was refusing to allow Duo to buy these for him, as well as refusing to wear them. Duo wasn't certain he could keep his eyes where they were supposed to be otherwise.

"You're right, Wu. Doesn't suit you," Duo voiced, grinning.

While they looked nice, that was true. Those sets of clothes that always reminded him of very expensive pajamas seemed to have been made for Wufei.

Wufei narrowed his eyes. Duo's dismissive comment almost made him want to buy the jeans and wear them anyway. Almost. Wufei wasn't overly fond of these clothes American's considered a staple in their wardrobe. He liked the loose fit of his own pants, as they allowed for easy movement while fighting. They were certainly less restricting.

"I'll wait here while you change back. Better hurry. You left your coat and other stuff all alone in there," he added, folding his arms across his chest as he slouched back against the wall.

Spinning on his heel, irritation evident in his step, Wufei wondered why he let Duo talk him into this. It probably had something to do with the fact that the Deathscythe pilot had pestered him until Wufei just wanted him to shut up. The only foreseeable way of making that happen was just to try the jeans on. For whatever reason, however, he found Duo's opinion bothered him. What did he mean they didn't suit him? That he looked bad in them, or that he looked better in his own pants? And why the hell did he care?

Grinding his teeth, Wufei clenched his fists and stalked into the dressing stall, the fact that it was a public place the only thing keeping him from slamming it. He had not, and never would, care about clothing or fashion. He was not going to start now simply because that insufferable pilot thought he needed variety. He was perfectly happy with what he was wearing. It was functional, it was comfortable, and it was a part of his own culture. The last thing he wanted was to be assimilated into another.

Scowling at his reflection, he peeled the jeans off and proceeded to dress in his own clothes.

When he was done, and the jeans had been discarded onto one of those convenient sales racks for the clerks to return them to their rightful places, he went in search of Duo. He wasn't where he had left him. A momentary search was all it took to find him, however. He was leaning over the counter, conversing with a young girl standing behind the register. She was smiling, and gesturing animatedly, her hand reaching out every so often to touch Duo in some way. Duo made no move to pull out of her way, and appeared to be enjoying himself. Duo, the social creature.

Wufei felt an odd tightening in his chest, and his eyes narrowed to dangerous slits as he maneuvered his way through clothing racks. Did Duo flirt with everyone? Was that just the way he was? Meaning that Wufei had misinterpreted the other pilot's actions toward him. Perhaps he had been wrong, and there had been nothing there at all. In which case, he had come quite close to making a fool out of himself, and that did not sit well with him. Nevermind the fact that he had chosen to ignore the strange attraction burning between them. He was of the opinion that Duo shouldn't pretend interest where there was none.

Duo felt, more than saw Wufei approach. It was that dangerous air he carried with him, as if he was just barely containing his temper. The expression on his face would have caused a lesser man to knuckle under, but Duo was not only used to such treatment, he also didn't fear it. There was something about the way Wufei held himself that set Duo on edge, and pushed Shinigami up just beneath the surface, waiting there if he was needed.

He would try another route first.

"Hey Wu, ready?" He asked cheerfully, grinning.

Wufei ignored him and fixed his stare on the girl. Duo watched her attempt to stand up under the onslaught and then wilt. She was just a store clerk, not a fighter, and certainly not capable of fending off someone as forceful as Wufei.

What the hell was wrong with him?

"Sir, can I help you?" The girl managed to ask, her tone timid, quite different from the animated voice she had been speaking in to him only moments earlier.

"We are finished here," Wufei replied icily, dismissing the girl and walking past Duo to grab his arm.

Duo let him pull him only until they were out of the girl's sight and then he jerked away, rounding on Wufei with blazing eyes, the corners of his mouth turned down in a fit of temper that was a rarity for him outside of Deathscythe.

"What the hell was that all about?" Duo demanded, his voice cracking through the air like a whip; low, forceful, and stinging.

Wufei's expression remained, but Duo thought he saw a flicker of doubt pass through the other's eyes. Good. Wufei was being a total bastard for no apparent reason, so he could deal with Shinigami. If he didn't like that, then he should have used his spectacular brain to tell him that his behavior was way out of line.

Drawing himself up stiffly, he responded with equal verve, "You may find it perfectly acceptable to flirt with anyone you come into contact with, but where I come from-"

Duo's hand sliced through the air. "Wait just a goddamned minute. Who the fuck do you think you are? You don't tell me how to do anything. If I want to flirt with half the world, I don't think it's any of your damn business. But for the record, Chang, I was being friendly. The same way I am with everyone. Where I come from, that's considered good manners."

Wufei had never been faced with Shinigami before. He had never given Duo a reason to bring him out. Duo had also never called him by his last name only before, a fact which spoke volumes about just how furious he was. But despite knowing all that, Wufei couldn't let go. For reasons unknown to him quite yet, he didn't want to be just another of those people Duo was friendly to.

"I see." He replied coolly, surprised at how much effort it was to remain so calm and distant beneath Duo's glare. He had severely underestimated the strength of this boy. "So you treat everyone with equal regard. Does that mean you felt the same way for Heero as you do for this girl?"

He didn't even see it coming.

Pain exploded just beneath his left eye, leaving him seeing bright flashes of light as he struggled to regain his senses. Vaguely, from his uninjured eye, he could see Duo lowering his fist.

"That was low, Wufei Chang, even for you. And that was twice, in a total of two days, you've managed to treat me like dirt. You go ahead and have fun shopping. Because I'm going to find my own way home," having said that, he turned and stalked off, not noticing that a package had worked its way out of his back pocket and fallen to the floor.

Wufei watched him walk away, the swelling in his face momentarily forgotten as Duo's words echoed in his head. The mask was firmly in place, but the eyes, the eyes were alive with a mixture of feelings clawing and tearing at his insides. He had hurt Duo. Really hurt him. All because he was jealous of a complete stranger. Not only had he never felt more ashamed in his whole life, but he also had never felt so alone. Had he just managed to drive away the only person who had ever tried to get beyond his shields to find the person he kept hidden away? God, it hurt to think he might have. He hadn't hurt this much since... since... Clenching his fist, he shoved those thoughts violently away and bent over to pick the package up. It appeared to be a fairly good sized box, wrapped in tissue paper. It would be wrong of him to open it, he knew, but he had already managed to ruin a perfectly nice day, probably one of the few he had the pleasure of experiencing in a long time, and somehow he knew that he needed to.

Eyes never leaving the package, he tore the paper off with more gentleness than he felt. When he got down to the box itself, he hesitated. Whatever this was, it had been Duo's. Opening it would be like another insult against the American pilot. But even still, he found himself lifting the edge and reaching into more tissue paper to reveal the contents.

What he saw lying there stole his breath as if Duo had been here, and punched him in the stomach this time instead of the face. With fingers that shook slightly, he lifted the beautiful knife lying there and looked closely at the ivory handle. There was an inscription on it: To Wu-man, From Maxwell.

The knife fell from his fingers as they lost their strength. His eyes swept shut against the sharp pain that shredded his heart, left him feeling base, and cruel, and a bigger monster than the entire OZ faction put together. No one had ever bought him a gift before, and Duo never did things lightly, never without purpose, never without meaning. And he had destroyed that. He could feel his chance with Duo slipping through his fingers as easily as water. And all because he had been foolishly jealous.

"Duo..."

You shouldn't try so hard. I am not worth the effort.

[part 3] [part 5] [back to Singles a - k]