When Fallen Angels Fly + Part One (cont)

Setting the book in his lap, he rubbed absently at the bridge of his nose, fingers freezing there when he caught Duo's expression. There wasn't a trace of amusement on the normally animated face, and his eyes looked so world weary and wise, that Wufei felt almost guilty for having caught Duo without his mask. It was obvious he wasn't meant to see. The other pilot probably expected him to still be reading his book, his attention centered there because Duo was not talking at him.

What could cause the smile to slip? And why did it mildly disturb him?

Duo swung around suddenly, startling him.

"Hey Wu-man, I'm starved!"

The smile was firmly back in place, but there was something wild about the eyes that warned Wufei not to speak of what he had just witnessed.

They all had their secrets, their reasons for fighting, and their reasons for staying together. Perhaps they really didn't know each other in the true sense that friends did, but they understood each other, because they were, in some ways, the same. Right now, when it was five against many, they needed that understanding.

But Wufei would say this to no one.

He would cling to his isolation because he needed to remain alone to fight. Together they fought for the colonies, but alone, they fought for their own personal reasons. These reasons were his, and he would share them with no one. He was afraid that by speaking of them, they would cease to be, and everything he used as his foundation would crumble. Perhaps the others realized this too, and it was why they kept it to themselves. Even Quatre had never come right out and said his personal motives for fighting, and he was the most open of them all.

Abruptly shifting trains of thought as easily as he moved, he wondered how the script would play out today. The scene was the same. Duo would come to his room, pester him needlessly for a short time, and then complain about his hunger until Wufei broke down and made him breakfast (or lunch, depending on the hour) just to get him to shut up. It was a familiar routine that had been going on almost since they moved in here together nearly two months before. One that Wufei had actually grown used to and almost looked forward to. Almost. Even he, who could withstand much, could only take a certain dosage of Duo's inane chatter.

The look Duo was giving him now was filled with such pleading, that Wufei was forced to lift the book higher to hide the smile threatening to bloom against his will.

Keeping his expression unconcerned and his tone bored, he replied, "Then go fix yourself something to eat."

Duo had been expecting that answer, but he knew it would only require a minute amount of pestering on his part to get the other to fold. He and Wufei went this route nearly every morning, or afternoon, as the case may be. It was a bit of stability that he admitted to liking. In his life, there hadn't been much that he could count on, but he knew he could depend on Wufei to be his same, solid self. As unmoving as an oak, as closed as a locked safe, and as distant as the clouds stretching across the sky. Half the time, he was certain that the Chinese boy was his favorite person out of the remaining four of them.

For all his acerbity, however, Duo knew that Wufei had a kind streak in him. If Wufei hadn't wanted to cook for him, nothing short of killing him could have moved him from his comfortable spot against the wall, tucked in the corner of his room with a book that only he could decipher. They were all stubborn in their own separate ways, and Duo liked to think he ranked right up there with Heero, but Wufei had them all topped. Duo had seen him stand his ground before until he nearly grew roots. You had to admire a guy that had more tenacity than a leech.

"C'mon, Wu-man! You know I can't cook. Do you really want me scarring your beautiful pots and pans?"

"They aren't my pots and pans," Wufei corrected, turning the page of his book.

Duo shrugged. "You use them the most, so I figure they're yours. You mean to tell me, you don't have any feelings for them whatsoever? You don't care if they get scratched up and burnt?"

Dark eyes leveled him over the top of the book. "They are inanimate objects, Maxwell."

"Hey," Duo returned, prowling closer, "everything has feelings."

"Absurd." Wufei muttered, running a finger down the characters, lips moving in silent recital.

His stomach growled audibly.

"See that? It's crying out for nourishment."

"So go eat cereal."

Duo wrinkled up his nose in disgust. "Not only does that wheat stuff Quatre buys taste like crap, but it barely fills me up for an hour."

"I am very concerned for you," Wufei replied, turning another page. "This is me being concerned."

Duo resisted the urge to laugh. Wufei had such a dry sense of humor. You almost had to be as insane as Shinigami was to appreciate it.

"Wu, be nice an' cook for me? Please?" He added, the demands of his stomach finally overriding the enjoyment he was getting out of the wordplay.

Wufei stared directly at him. "No."

With a grin and a little wave, Duo suddenly whirled and practically skipped across the room to the door, braid swinging freely behind him.

He called out blithely as he left, "Okay, but don't blame me when the house burns down."

That did it. He could hear the unmistakable slap of a book against the wood of the floor before the door jerked open farther behind him and a displeased looking Wufei joined him in the hall. He was such a safety nut.

"Get showered and dressed while I cook," Wufei ordered, his tone clipped.

Duo grinned. "Thanks, Wu. You're the best."

He received an unintelligible grunt for his response.

Sometime later, after the dishes had been washed, (Duo drying, Wufei washing, as the Chinese pilot was such a perfectionist the American was certain he had to see his face reflected in the glass before it was clean enough) Wufei left the stifling confines of the house and relaxed with his book on the small balcony facing the back yard. If Duo left him alone for any length of time longer than a minute, he might actually be able to get through the remainder of this book.

He had long ago shed his tunic and slippers, opting to walk barefoot and remain in his dark tank top and loose fitting, white pants. It was not ordinarily something he did while indoors, or when not training, but even the intractable Wufei Chang had to bow to the weather.

From behind him, somewhere in the house, there was a sudden blaring of loud music with screaming guitars and a base that hit so hard, it was a wonder the speakers didn't blow and the house didn't crumble beneath their feet. Shaking his head, Wufei turned his attention back to his book, wondering how Duo could consider that music. But he didn't make an issue of it, as he was relatively safe from losing his hearing while sitting out here. That, and he could count on one hand the amount of times Duo had been given the opportunity to play that music. Apparently, Heero was no more fond of it than he was.

Even music such as that had to be taken out and dusted off now and then.

Duo padded silently through the house, resisting the urge to time his movements with the beat of the music. Since he was balancing a glass of lemonade in each hand, both nearly filled to the brim and topped off with shards of ice, he didn't want to spill either. Wufei would never let him hear the end of it if there was a sticky spot on the floor and the Chinese boy somehow happened across it. Which he probably would, considering he had radar for this kind of stuff.

Passing through the sliding door that led off the upstairs hall, he smiled at the sight of Wufei sitting cross-legged in a chair, intently reading the same book he had been so engrossed in this morning.

"Hey Wu, got some lemonade for you."

Wufei looked up, placing a dark red ribbon between the pages to mark his place, and reaching one hand out to accept the proffered glass.

"Thank you."

Duo waved the courtesy away, drinking down half his glass in seconds, having to reach up to wipe the back of his hand across his chin before replying, "No problem. Man, sure wish Quatre could have gotten us a place with air conditioning."

"This was the only place with a secure enough area to camouflage our Gundams," he reminded Duo.

Duo made a face, spinning away from Wufei to practically hang himself over the edge of the balcony. "Yeah, yeah, I know. Don't worry. Nothing's going to happen to your precious Nataku."

Biting back a sharp retort along the lines of informing Duo of Deathscythe's importance to him, Wufei suddenly found his eyes unwillingly drawn to what the other was wearing. Somewhere between now and the end of breakfast, Duo had shed his usual dark clothing and slipped into a tank top and a pair of spandex shorts that lovingly hugged the curves of his backside. For someone so small, he had unusually long legs. Unusually long, well formed legs.

Mentally giving himself a slap, Wufei's brows slammed together in a look that probably would have sent Duo over the edge of the balcony and scrambling for safety.

Since when had Duo's physical appearance mattered to him? Better yet, when had he begun to notice how pleasing Duo's physical appearance was? Whatever the case, his admiration of it ended here. Duo had made it more than plain, and on more than one occasion, that he cared for Heero. And whether the American knew it or not, Heero felt something in return.

Besides, it was probably just the heat.

"Heero will not be pleased to find you were in his closet."

Spinning around, Duo winked, and Wufei was shocked to find that wink, which he had seen and been on the receiving end of many times before, produce a little thrill in him.

Being cooped up in this house with the braided menace of a pilot was starting to get to him.

"Heero'll never know unless you tell him. And you won't do that, will you Wu?"

Wufei ignored that.

"You going to drink that? Or are you afraid I did something to it?"

Glancing down at the glass in his hand with some surprise, Wufei realized he had nearly forgotten about it. It was all Duo's fault.

Forgoing his usual manners, the inside of his mouth suddenly very dry, he tilted his head back and downed the glass in a fashion and with a speed that would have made Duo proud.

Duo stared at him, mouth opened in undisguised shock.

Wufei didn't dignify the stare with a comment.

In all the time that he had known him, Duo had never once seen Wufei act in any way other than proper. His manners even surpassed Quatre's, who was the Winner family heir and a very gracious host to boot. He was tempted to feel Wufei's forehead and ask him if he was feeling all right. Something about the way the other pilot looked, however, warned him that his joking would not be appreciated.

Shrugging the odd display aside, tucking it into the corner of his mind to take out and ponder later, Duo asked, "What're we going to do all day?"

Rising to his feet in one fluid motion, Wufei replied bluntly, "I don't know what you are going to do, but I'm going to read."

Duo groaned. "All day? How can you read all day? What am I supposed to do with myself?"

Wufei grit his teeth. Suddenly, he needed very much to get away from Duo.

"Something constructive," the Chinese pilot bit out, stalking past him and into the house.

Scratching his head, Duo stared after him, wondering what had bitten his fellow Gundam pilot's ass today.

He wanted constructive, did he? Well Duo would show him constructive. And wipe the smirk right from his face while doing it.

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