When Fallen Angels Fly - Five of nine
By Jen
Warnings:None for this chapter, well maybe angst... but not tear jerking.
Random inane chatter:My Dad's dog likes to chew on hair. O.o;;; I'm considering shaving all mine off so he'll quit it.^^ Aside from this irrelevant comment, I thought I'd say there might be some mild angst in this chapter. Nothing super depressing or tear jerking, but still a bit serious. And I did it again. ^^;; Parts five and six were supposed to be all in one, but I got carried away. But man, this chapter was a struggle. I seemed to lack energy today for some reason. (Maybe it was the staying up 'till way late chatting and reading fanfics? ^^;;;)


When Fallen Angels Fly + Part Five

When Wufei had first taken on Nataku, it had not been for the good of the colony. His reasons had been much more personal, and much more selfish. Gone, was the scholar that had held learning and peace in such high regard. What were books and intellect if one could not even protect those closest to him? He, who had been weak lived, while she, who had been strong, perished. Where was the justice in that? Why should the weak live and the strong die? It was unfair, but Wufei had learned harshly that day that nothing was fair, least of all life.

It was like being awake for the first time, as if he had merely been sleepwalking a dream. He saw everything with startling clarity, knew what it was he had to do. He would bring honor to she who had fallen by carrying out her vendetta against OZ. He would bring the justice she could not. For OZ had no right to imprison their colony. They were certainly not following any ethical, judicial code. Why should he? He would make his own justice based on his interpretation of their punishment. He would cease to be Wufei Chang the scholar and become Wufei Chang the Gundam pilot.

His focus had been narrow, and dangerous as he trained, his thoughts consumed with a burning hatred for OZ that ate at him from the inside out. Always before he had waffled, never making any firm decision. She had called him weak for that, and she was right. Now, he knew exactly which side he stood on and who his enemy was. Her enemies were his enemies and the enemies of everyone. He and Nataku, who were bonded through their mutual hatred and their goal, would destroy them all.

But then, he met up with the other four Gundam pilots, and things began to change. No longer was he fighting for only her, but for the good of all the colonies, for a goal that was bigger than he was, bigger than them put altogether and much more important.

At first, there had been enormous guilt. He had taken this task on for her, and now he was allowing these other pilots and the thought of the colonies to steal that focus. Yet, he was helpless to stop it from happening. The more time he spent with them, the harder it was to hold on to that hatred.

It was still there, just not to the degree it had been before. It no longer made up the center of him. It was hard to remain distant when they continued to show him friendship, shared some of his ideals, and were always there, like a constant source of strength. Even Trowa and Heero, who said little and seemed to value their silence and privacy as much as he did, were there if it was needed. Somehow, along the way, through their mutual goals and connections to their Gundams, they had joined up and formed an odd friendship that bordered on an absurd family.

They understood him, as he understood them, and they accepted him as he was. Except one pilot. One refused to respect his wish to be alone, and pushed at him constantly. Of them all, whether he wanted to admit it or not, Duo Maxwell had made the most impact, had left an indelible mark that would never leave him. Not even if they separated and never saw one another again. Which, after yesterday, Wufei would not blame him.

Leaning back in Nataku's cockpit, he rested his head against the black leather of the seat and closed his eyes. Sleep had been sparse the night before. He could not get that mixture of hurt and anger he had seen in Duo's eyes out of his mind. The image of it burned behind his own eyes, as if imprinted there forever, a mockery of his failure as a friend, as a decent human. Like many, he had his pride, perhaps more than most, but he would give nearly anything to have taken those words back. But it was not to be, and he could not take back what was now out and between them.

Strange, how words could hurt so much more than fists. It only served to prove the fragility of the human spirit.

He didn't know how Duo got home, or when he got in, but Wufei at least knew he did so safely. Three AM had taken him to the doorway of Duo's room to find the pilot sleeping soundlessly, his body a pale vision in a tangle of sheets, his dark hair a comfort that curved around his body like an anchor. It had been beyond difficult to tear his eyes away from that sight and leave. Oddly enough, there had been no sensuality in the act. The heavy, warm feeling that had infused through him had been something else entirely. Something akin to regret and a caring he had never felt before and did not altogether understand.

Frowning, he sat forward and reached out to tap lightly on the keypad there. It was unlike him to waste so much time thinking when there was a mission to be done. Perhaps this time, it was because it was a mission that would require Duo's help. That meant talking to the Deathscythe pilot, and that was not something Wufei was certain he was ready to do. If that made him a coward, then he would have to deal with that realization later.

+

The ache in his arms was very nearly gone, which certainly made braiding his hair easier. But it pissed him off that he couldn't even braid his own hair now without thinking of Wufei and how his hands had felt doing that very same act. It was bad enough that the Chinese pilot had followed him into his dreams, intruding on the one place he could have completely to himself without the interruption of the outside world. Rubbing absently at the back of his neck, he tugged his hat down low over his eyes with his free hand, leaving his room behind reluctantly. He didn't want to see Wufei right now. Whether he wanted them to or not, the Chinese boy's words still hurt him. Wufei had accused him of being shallow, selfish, and free with his feelings, as if the thought of having them given to you was worth nothing when so many others could have the same. That was bullshit, pure and simple, because Duo had cared for only a select few people in his life, one of them being that damn, stiff, all knowing pilot who had given him happiness and ripped it to shreds all in the same breath.

After his anger had subsided to a point, Duo had tried to understand it from Wufei's point of view. The guy was obviously not very good with feelings. He didn't appear to have had much practice. It was apparent at least, that the other boy felt something for him. He wouldn't have gotten so upset otherwise. But that didn't excuse what he said, and Duo, while often kind and generous to a fault, was not going to forgive easily. Not something that hit as personally as that insult had.

Sometime after he left the mall and took to walking the town without really seeing anything his eyes passed over, Duo realized that he had lost the gift.. The money didn't matter. It had called out to him as he passed the shop. It looked like something Wufei would have, and so Duo had sent the other pilot off on a bogus errand in some other store while he had it engraved and wrapped. It was a moot point now, anyway. Someone else had probably picked it up and sold it.

Wandering into the kitchen, he looked around for something to eat. An orange or an apple even would have been appreciated. But with the silence and emptiness of the kitchen, he was reminded that this would be the first morning in a long time that the Chinese pilot wouldn't be cooking breakfast for him. Damn Wufei Chang to hell for that hurting him too. He didn't want the boy to have that much power. It was more dangerous than being in Deathscythe and outnumbered by the enemy.

Not finding anything of interest on the counter, he was contemplating raiding the cupboards, when something on the table in the dining room caught his eye. Walking as if in a trance, his eyes never leaving the small white bundle, he came up just short of reaching the table.

The knife. His gift. Wufei had found it. Why of all people, did Wufei have to find it? Duo was almost certain he would rather it be stolen and sold. Having Wufei see that after the way he had stripped him was like giving the other pilot a glimpse into his heart that he neither deserved nor appreciated.

Even knowing he didn't want Wufei to have it, Duo couldn't help but feel rejected at seeing it sitting there. The coward hadn't even had the decency to give it to him in person. Not that he should be surprised. That, and he had to admit to feeling a bit relieved. He didn't quite trust his temper around the Nataku pilot yet.

Sighing, he reached down to pick the box up in his fingers, delicately balancing it there, but not opening it. He didn't need to see what it looked like anyhow. It was seared into his mind.

"I do not deserve that," a quiet voice intoned from behind him, leaving Duo to spin, his braid snapping around his body.

After giving Wufei a long, measured look, he agreed bluntly, "No, you don't."

Wufei remained silent. He expected no less, and deserved no more.

Duo shifted restlessly, trying not to notice how tired and almost defeated the Nataku pilot looked. It was obvious he hadn't gotten much sleep the night before. Duo was torn between feeling for him, feeling elated at the thought that Wufei was filled with guilt, and feeling as if the pilot deserved it.

Only the length of the kitchen separated them, but it might have been miles for the cool emptiness directed his way. Duo was still angry, and beneath that anger, Wufei was certain hurt lurked. Anger he could handle, but never the hurt. He didn't want to be the cause of that. It meant that he felt something for Duo and that the Deathscythe pilot had given him the power to harm him. He didn't want, nor need that responsibility. But it was a little too late for that now.

He wanted to apologize, but the words sounded empty and worthless. Words couldn't erase words. The fact remained, he said them and he said them with the expressed intention of lashing out to cause Duo pain. Hadn't that been what he wanted? To make Duo feel the same way he had felt? Odd, how that hadn't made him feel better at all. It made him feel worse.

Fingering his braid absently for comfort without really being aware of it, Duo set the knife aside. Seeing for the first time, now that he was looking past his feelings and Wufei's emotional wall, the nasty colored bruise he had given him, he winced a little, knowing it must hurt. He hadn't exactly been gentle. Once pushed beyond relief, he rarely was. Shinigami wasn't known for his mercy.

"Nice shiner," he said after a few moments, a small smile tugging at his lips.

Wufei allowed himself a small amount of relief. Seeing Duo so serious bothered him in a way he was loathe to explore. It was he that was solemn, while Duo worked to chip away at that gravity.

Reaching up to touch it lightly with the tips of his fingers, he answered, eyes never leaving Duo, though the act was difficult when he still felt ashamed of his behavior, "The one who hit me has promise. He managed to get past my guard."

The Deathscythe pilot inclined his head, slipping his hands into the pockets of his pants. "And did you deserve it?"

Duo was not going to make this easy for him. Wufei felt a flare of annoyance, but he stamped it down. Regardless of how justified he had felt yesterday, the way he went about it was wrong. It wasn't as if the other pilot was so stubborn he never listened to anyone outside of himself. Wufei couldn't help but wonder how different things would have been had he approached the situation from another angle. He might have gotten Duo's beautiful laughter instead, or just mild indignance.

But he hadn't. And now he was paying the price.

"Yes," he answered, his tone strained.

Holding back a smile, Duo couldn't help but notice what a hard time Wufei was having. It was probably killing him to push aside his pride and admit to being wrong. It wasn't often that happened. Wufei, for all his arrogance, was right more than any one person should be allowed to be. Especially one with a memory as sharp as his.

"You know, Wu," he said softly, the tone and his expression belying just how serious he was, but his eyes, having darkened to the point where they were a deep, unfathomable blue telling the other everything he needed to know, "you only had to tell me it bugged you. I would have said you were being paranoid again. I like people. I like talking to them. I've only got one life, and given my station as a pilot, it might not be that long of one. So I'm going to do whatever I damn well please with it. And that includes treating complete strangers like long lost friends. If you don't like that, then I suggest you get a new perspective."

It wasn't often something could render Wufei Chang speechless. In fact, it was probably a momentous occasion. With a mind as quick as his, retorts and repartees fell as easily from his tongue as praise did from another's. But right now, words failed him, and he could only watch as Duo came closer, his movements graceful and contained, as if he were a big cat stalking prey.

Something stirred in him. His pulse picked up pace, and it was all he could do to resist the urge to press his hand to his neck as if that act alone would still it.

He jabbed a finger out. "And don't you ever belittle what I feel for Heero again. I never talked to you about it, so I don't really think you have a right to offer up your opinion. But I did care for him. He just apparently never noticed," Duo shrugged the last comment away, as if it meant less to him than it did.

Heero. Wufei's jaw tightened, and it was as if an icy wind swept across his skin. Any and all emotion that may have been visible in his eyes fled as the shield shuttered down, taking with it whatever he had been on the verge of saying. Regardless of what Duo thought, Wufei knew that the Wing pilot cared.. It was not his place to say that, however. And he didn't give a damn how selfish or childish that seemed. If Duo was too blind to notice, then that was his fault. As far as he was now concerned, it was over. This conversation about yesterday or anything else was over. There was a mission to consider.

Duo's steps faltered. Wufei had withdrawn from him again. He could see it in the distant way he now held himself. He had been so close. So close to getting the Nataku pilot to admitting to something. He was sure of it! Damn Wufei. Sometimes he was no better than Heero.

Wufei lifted his hand, showing Duo the thin black disk he had been holding, but only now drew his attention to.

"We have a mission," he informed the other boy tonelessly.

Duo folded his arms, hip jutting to the side as he eyed Wufei with a raised eyebrow. "We?"

The Chinese pilot nodded curtly. "Our Gundams will not be necessary. Come. Let us use Heero's computer. I downloaded the necessary information from Nataku to this disk."

Without waiting for an answer, Wufei turned and began walking, leaving Duo to watch his retreating back in thought for a few moments. The way the other had said Heero... The last time Duo checked, Wufei and Heero had been getting along just fine.

"Spare me from moody men!" He muttered to himself, slapping his hand against his leg in mild impatience as he straightened his frame and strode after Wufei.

He caught him halfway up the stairs, and closed his hand over Wufei's shoulder to halt his progress. Snapping his head around, Wufei stared pointedly at Duo's hand until the other let go.

"Listen here, Chang, you've got feelings you obviously don't know what to do with, but that's not my problem. If we're supposed to work together on this mission, I suggest we put aside whatever personal differences we have and act like the soldiers the Doctors trusted the Gundams with."

Having said that, he snatched the disk from Wufei's hand and shoved past him to continue on up the stairs. Wufei stared after him, brows slamming together as he considered Duo's words, ones that should have come from him, not the carefree, reckless Deathscythe pilot. More and more, he was realizing he had not taken enough time to look closely at Duo. And what bothered him, was the way the American seemed to be able to read him...

When he reached the room Duo shared with Heero, it was to find the pilot already loading up the disk with an efficiency that would have impressed even Heero.

Duo shifted in the chair, tossing Wufei a grin over his shoulder. "I paid more attention than Heero gave me credit for while he played with this thing."

Now a smile. The boy was a chameleon. And strangely enough, it angered him.

Folding his arms across his chest and keeping his posture stiff and formal, Wufei moved to stand next to Duo. The proximity shredded his nerves. He could smell vanilla, and an underlying scent that was Duo's and Duo's alone.

When a series of pictures flashed on the screen, with seconds between them leaving only long enough to get the basic details in, Wufei waited until a blue map appeared to lean over and point at the screen.

"This is a research facility not far from here. It is in a civilian sector of the city, which make usage of the Gundams not an option. The facility itself is surrounded by seven foot tall stone walls with barbed wire at the top. The facility is working to develop the latest Mobile Suits for warfare."

Here, he paused, waiting for Duo's nod to see that the other was getting what he was saying and so that may continue.

"Somehow, the three engineers in charge of the project, Professors Niles Macray, Gerard Witmann, and Fujistu Taichi, have gotten a hold of the plans on at least two of our five Gundams."

"Shit!" Duo exploded, frowning intently at the screen.

"In any event," Wufei continued, as if Duo had not spoken at all, "the fault lies with the Doctors, not us. They wish for us to infiltrate the facility, assassinate the engineers, erase the files and sweep the system to ensure they were not sent elsewhere, and then set explosives so that the building collapses in on itself, harming no innocents."

Duo leaned back in the chair. Wufei said it all so matter-of-fact, so without emotion. This was not going to be easy. Most all of their missions had required the use of their Gundams. He and Wufei weren't exactly trained in guerrilla warfare. That was Heero and Trowa's area expertise. And killing someone in cold blood, someone whose face and more importantly whose eyes you could see before you did... His hands tightened involuntarily on the hand rests. Damn careless doctors...

"I will assassinate the engineers and sweep the system. You will set the explosives."

Duo looked up sharply, trying to read Wufei's feelings on this decision. He was met with a blank, carefully guarded stare. Those black eyes were telling him nothing.

"You don't have to do that, Wu. I can-"

"I am a better hand to hand fighter than you," the Chinese boy interrupted, managing not to sound arrogant, but rather as if he were simply stating a fact.

"Yes, but we're talking about killing... we're talking about cold blooded murder! This isn't like when we're in our Gundams."

"I know that," Wufei retorted sharply. "But this is necessary."

Duo wondered which of them Wufei was trying to convince more.

"But why assassinate them? We're going to blow the building up anyway..."

If it was at all possible, Wufei's features hardened more.

"To make certain they are dead," he replied impassively.

So cold, such a lack of regard for human life... But what Duo had accepted when he took this job on.

"Fine. You're the boss. I'll set the explosives."

Wufei nodded. "Study that map. Figure out where you want to set them, calculate the amount needed, and run through how long it will take you. We want no mistakes. We want to get in and out as quickly as possible. We have two hours before we leave."

He frowned. "Two hours... That isn't a lot of time to prepare."

Wufei's gaze was cutting. "In precisely two and a half hours, Professor Fujitsu will be leaving for Tokyo. We need to dispose of him before that happens.."

Duo's face wrinkled up. Dispose... What a word. Like they were doing something as simple as taking out the trash.

"Approximately how many guards?" Duo asked, eyes on the screen.

"It is estimated to be at least fifty OZ soldiers stationed throughout."

Fifty? Christ...

"The building is two stories. As you can see, doing this as silently as possible is imperative."

No kidding...

"What about you?" Duo asked, turning to look at him.

"I am ready." Wufei replied simply, and Duo wondered. Was he really prepared to kill three men just like that? Three men who he could see, who could talk back to him before he ended their lives?

"Also," Wufei added, "we will need enough explosives to blow our way into the back wall, but not enough to draw attention to us."

Duo frowned. This was going to take some serious math. Good thing he liked the stuff.

"Two guards will be stationed where we enter for certain. We'll take their uniforms to make moving through the facility easier."

Duo raised an eyebrow. "And they're gonna be short enough?"

Wufei didn't smile, but he wanted to. "We'll make do."

"How thick is the wall?" Duo asked, changing subjects. Wufei tapped the screen. "The wall is made of eight inch thick cinder block."

The Deathscythe pilot nodded, his mind already whirling. He turned his attention to the screen, eyes reading the blueprint as easily as another would the letters on a page.

"Definitely an inside job. They'll have to be placed on all the structural supports. Here..." he mused, tapping the screen. "And here... one just over here..."

While he was reading the measurements and dimensions, Wufei slipped from the room, expelling the breath he had been holding. No matter what he told Duo, he was not ready to assassinate three men as easily as he killed in Nataku. But Duo was better with the explosives. It was almost as if he had a sixth sense about the things. He rarely made mistakes. And Wufei... he was the better fighter. So he would take the other job, because for some reason, he didn't want Duo to have that responsibility.

Two hours was not long enough to prepare. Not nearly long enough...

[part 4] [part 6] [back to Singles a - k]