When Fallen Angels Fly - Seven of nine
By Jen
Warnings:Duo's potty mouth and lime.
Random inane comments:I've noted that the realizations Wufei comes to in this chapter would probably change the rest of the series and Endless Waltz stuffs. (Not that I've got to see the OVA yet. ::pouts:: But I've read spoilers. ^^) I think had this really happened, he might have been different. But then, this is why it's AU! And I love AU. ^^ And I love my muse! ::gives her muse a big fat smooch::

When Fallen Angels Fly + Part Seven

Duo awoke to warm hands probing around the area of his wound. One finger pressed in a little too hard, and he jerked up, shoving it rudely away as he tried to clear his head and focus.

Strong hands pushed him back down. "Lie still, Maxwell."

Wufei.

Despite himself, Duo relaxed.

"Your knee is the size of a small melon," the Chinese boy observed, so very tactfully.

"That's nice," Duo replied, grimacing as he covered his eyes with the back of his arm.

Wufei continued to poke and prod, his hands sliding around Duo's leg just above and below his knee so as to gently straighten it. Agony shot through him like wildfire, and he was unable to hold in a hiss of pain. This injury was going to make walking a lovely venture for quite some time. But, at the moment, it was worth it to have Wufei's hands against his bare skin. He doubted he would get this chance again anytime soon.

Shifting slightly, he realized he was holding his breath. He was waiting for the lecture.

"What were you thinking?"

Here it came.

"I didn't exactly say, 'c'mon guys, shoot at me, and while your at it, why don't you bash the hell out of my knee'. Some soldier got snoopy and I couldn't con my way around him."

The Nataku pilot grunted in response.

Letting his arm slide away, Duo eyed Wufei through slits in his fingers, noting as he did that he had a horrendous headache. There was a deep expression of concentration on the other pilot's face as he probed the knee, apparently wanting to make certain it wasn't broken. Duo just wanted him to be a little more gentle.

"Ouch! Gee, Wu, why don't you see if you can break it the rest of the way?"

"I just might," Wufei murmured, earning another stare.

He closed his eyes again, but not before noticing that he was lying on the living room floor of the house they shared. Apparently, Wufei had managed to get them home without him being aware of it.

He also realized something else, as Wufei moved away from him, creating a slight draft. He wasn't wearing any pants.

Despite his pain, he chuckled. "Hey Wu, looks like you got me out of my pants after all."

"Shut up, Maxwell!" Wufei hissed, his tone so harsh, that Duo turned his head to the side so that he could open his eyes again.

"I was just joking..."

Wufei was wound tighter than a watch. Duo could see it in the short, jerky movements the Chinese pilot was making.

Releasing some of the air that was trapped painfully in his chest, Wufei settled an ice pack on Duo's knee with more care than he felt like using. All those emotions were pressing to get out again. It was a mixture of everything.. Of his fear at the thought of Duo being killed, at his guilt over having killed those scientists...

"You're hurt," Duo suddenly remarked, pulling himself to a sitting position with less speed than he normally would have been able to manage.

Wufei regarded him blankly for a moment before realization dawned and he turned to look dismissively at his arm. "It is just a scratch."

Duo leaned forward. "Still-"

Wufei's hand cut through the air. "Stay where you are."

Puzzled, Duo settled back. "Okay..."

He couldn't hold it in anymore.

"You could have been killed!" He exploded, hands bracing himself on the ground as he jerked toward the Deathscythe pilot.

Duo shrugged. "Yeah... that's the risk we take."

With a speed that both startled and stunned him, Wufei leaped on him, somehow managing to keep Duo's wounded legs between his own as he reached up to grip his shoulders and shove the American boy's face so close to his own.

Warm breath fanned across him, and Duo trembled both from it and being confronted with the fury etched in Wufei's face. He had never seen the other boy so angry before.

"No. Do not be so careless with your life," the Chinese boy bit out, his words striking Duo like physical blows.

"Wu-"

And then startling him further, Wufei pulled him into a crushing hug.

Duo was too shocked to react at first. After a few seconds, he slowly, hesitantly, brought his own arms up to wrap them around Wufei. Warmth and something else passed between them. Both stilled and tensed with the knowledge of it, neither wanting to let go of the other just yet.

But Wufei did. And when his eyes locked with Duo's, the other saw a gentleness there that softened the harsh lines of his face.

Wufei became suddenly aware of his proximity to Duo, and how the other's bare legs were pressed on the inside of his own. The sharp flash of desire caught him like a fist to the stomach and left him frantic with the need to get away before he did something he regretted, before Duo saw.

Duo reached out for him as he was pulling back, curling his hand around the back of Wufei's neck. He wasn't getting away. Not this time.

Wufei allowed himself to be drawn only so close. He couldn't allow this to happen. Somehow, he knew that if they touched this way, there would be no going back. He couldn't chance that yet. He wasn't ready for it.

"Wu?"

He shook his head.

Duo's eyes clouded with both confusion and hurt, though he tried to fight it.. It wasn't just his imagination. He was sure Wufei felt as he did...

"This is just a result... of battle," Wufei forced himself to say stiffly. "We are just feeling relieved to be alive."

Temper snapped in Duo's eyes instantly. "Oh, really? Let me tell you something. You may not be comfortable with, or even realize your feelings, but I know what mine are."

The face that had been flushed with beautiful desire only moments before closed off and Duo averted his gaze before Wufei saw just how much his words ate at him.

"Please leave, since I can't get up myself."

Wufei seemed about to say something, but moved back and pushed to his feet, staring down at Duo.

"Leave."

And he didn't watch him as he walked away, because right now, that hurt more than this blasted injury.

+

Wufei rested his arms on the railing, clasping his hands together as he stared out into the darkness. From here, he could see only the faint outlines of the trees in the light provided from the moon and the spattering of stars in the inky black sky. The cool air caught the perspiration covering his bare skin and was a welcome relief from the stifling heat of the indoors. His mind was a whirl of thought and confusion, the feelings Duo had stirred in him awake and hungry, with no signs of quieting anytime soon. He had never felt this before, not even with Meiran.

Allowing himself a rare sigh, he felt some of the pressure release from the tension in his chest at the act. It was time to stop running. It was time to remember. Because if he could not let go of the past, then he would never be free to give himself to Duo without question. He knew that was what he wanted. For the first time in as long as he could remember, Wufei Chang wanted to forget caution and give himself completely to something. No, to someone.

He had never had that in his marriage to Meiran. Theirs had been a union between two children, not ready to commit to their complete personalities, much less each other for all eternity. But it was tradition, the way things had been done for generations, and so they both accepted it. It had been a marriage in name only, however, because neither of them had been willing to share a bed when they could not even share their hearts.

They were very different. Their notions about how life should be lived and the ideals one should carry brought them frequent conflict. While Wufei sought refuge from their constant arguments in the comfort of his personal library, Meiran took her frustrations out in the practice fields. Her family was a family of warriors, as his was, and though she had been born a woman in a long line of men, she was no exception.

Their marriage had not lasted long, and it had not been a pleasant coupling. Neither had made a great deal of effort to try to understand the other, and most of the words they had exchanged had been terse and hurtful. It had gotten so that living together was too much of an effort. It was much easier to live near separate lives rather than having her encroach the sanctuary of his library to extend an invitation to practice with her when she well knew he had no desire to have her criticize his form and offer him tips. Wufei had only made the mistake of accepting that offer once.

When she had died a death fitting of a warrior like her, he had only felt enormous guilt. They had never loved one another, not in the true sense of the word, but he had not hated her. He felt too, that he had failed her as a husband and as a man. He had not been there for her when she needed it. He had clung to his ideals of pacifism and she had died for her ideals of fighting

"Forgive me, Nataku... I cannot bring you the justice you deserve, and for that, I am weak. Every time I kill, the ache grows more and I feel emptier. It can't bring you back. It can't bring you justice. I am not the warrior you were. I never can be, no matter how I pretend. And I no longer have a purpose for fighting... or the right to be a pilot. No one who is weak and confused has a right."

"That's not weakness."

Tension snapping through him like a whip, Wufei spun around and crouched into a defensive position. A lean, lithe form unfolded itself from the shadows and emerged slowly, arms crossed over a narrow chest. Duo Maxwell was not smiling, and as he limped over to stand next to Wufei, the other could feel the anger radiating from him in great, engulfing waves. But somehow, Wufei knew that this had more to do with his words now than his words earlier.

Easing some of the tension from his coiled muscles, he straightened and replied quietly, "I do not know what you mean."

"Bullshit." Duo bit out. "You're intelligent, so why haven't you figured it out yet? Strength is admitting to weakness. We're all weak, Wufei. We all have bodies capable of failing us, and moments where we feel we can't fight and we wonder why we're even alive. Can't you see that our personal reasons for fighting aren't worth shit? We fight for the colonies, so the colonies don't have to fight. We fight so Relena can preach peace. That's what we do. That's why we're alive. So you have your purpose, not this ridiculous justice."

Wufei stiffened. But he listened without comment, because he was incapable of forming one. He had never heard Duo sound this terse, nor was it often that the other pilot said his full name. Shinigami usually only came out in Deathscythe.

"Don't get all mad about it. Life is shit, Wufei. It's confusing, and you aren't ever going to figure it all out. Not even a super brain like you. I'm not the smartest guy around, but I've learned something. Death is inevitable. It's going to happen no matter what. So you have to cling to life, and you have to form connections and love. Caring doesn't make us weaker, it makes us stronger. It gives us purpose. I love the colonies, so I fight for them."

At his silence, Duo continued. "The enemies aren't always the same faces, but I know they're the ones that want to take away the right for freedom. The colonies deserve that as much as Earth does. So yeah, maybe it's really simple among all the complexity. I don't really fucking know. All I know is that I'll continue fighting. I'll continue fighting until this war has ended. We do what we can on our battle field, Wufei, and Relena does what she can on hers. And somehow, they'll all come together one day."

Duo laughed suddenly, harshly. "See? I'm not even making sense now. So don't think you're the only one who's fucked up."

"You're making sense," came the quiet reply. "It's simple if we make it simple."

The night wound its spell around them, trying to offer comfort in the cool serenity of the dark. But comfort was something both of them were beyond at this moment. There was still much that needed to be worked out inside.

Rubbing at the back of his neck, Duo regarded Wufei's profile in silence, never having felt so old as he did now. They had both dropped their masks completely. The God of Death and the Solitary Dragon. They had revealed themselves to be nothing more than what they were, two confused boys whose maturity made them soldiers and whose confusion made them human. The strain of the responsibility put on them had made them weary, and their loneliness in the midst of battle had made them hungry for affection. And they were both learning that answers only led to more questions, that only together could they find the strength they needed to continue.

But it was more than that.

Duo cared for Wufei because of everything that Wufei was, not what he represented, or what he tried to be. Behind the mask, Wufei was kind, generous, and cared deeply. He was stronger than he gave himself credit for, smart in ways Duo never could be, and far too honorable for his own good. He also made him feel things he had never felt before. Intense desire, that left his knees weak, and his skin humming and burning for just the light touch of the Chinese pilot's fingers. What Duo saw in Wufei, was a different kind of completion from the one he shared with Deathscythe. And he was not about to give that up.

Not to the war, and not to the ghosts of Wufei's past.

Unused to such seriousness from Duo, Wufei wasn't able to form a suitable reply just yet. Duo's words to him reverberated around inside mind, clashing and twisting and forming new ideas.

Meiranís death had hit him hard, wounded him deeply, not because he had loved her deeply, but because he had been unable to prevent it, and because someone as strong as her had died, while someone as weak as he had lived. If that were possible, then what did it say for the rest of them? Where was the justice in letting someone as strong as she, someone who could have made a difference die? Meiran had her ideals, and she had accepted that fighting for them could bring her death. And so Wufei had adopted those ideals for her, because he wanted to honor her, and to bring the justice she had never been given the chance to achieve.

Meiran had called him weak because he had refused to use his skills for fighting. She had told him often that inside him was the potential for the warrior, he was just too weak to allow him out. She has asked him how his books could protect him when OZ came to attack his colony? How could adopting peace, and then sitting back and doing nothing save them? Perhaps, in some ways she had been right. But at the time, Wufei had been too blinded to see what was really behind her words. He had been young, and hurt, and her words threw him off balance. His wife was stronger than he was. That was all he had been able to think. That, and he was weak for allowing her to fight while he remained behind.

Now, he could see that in her own way, Meiran had been scared. She had not understood Wufei any more than he did her, and that had lent itself to having her lash out at him, to deal with it the only way she knew how. They had both made their choices, and he could have no more stopped her than she him. For the first time then, it occurred to him that it might have been she who was wrong in her notions of strength, weakness, and justice. What Duo said, made sense, because in his heart, where it mattered, Wufei felt it.

Strength was not physical strength, it was not the complete removal of fear. It was fighting for what you believed in, even when you were afraid. Strength was acknowledging your weaknesses, and compensating for them in any way that you could. It was admitting that you needed someone, that you could not do it all alone, and then accepting that, no matter how confused it made you. Everyone was strong in their own way. Heero's solid strength, Quatre's gentle strength, Trowa's silent strength, and Duo's boisterous strength.

[cont]