by: Sunhawk

Tides of Change (cont)

He fell silent then and I felt an odd warmth in my chest. "I am... honored," I said quietly and gave him a grave inclination of my head, as close to a bow as I could manage sitting in a car. His face was still stained by his blush, but he nodded in return.

"I have to admit," I said after a moment, "that I was thinking about speaking to Une about it. Getting a little more information. I'm just not sure about Duo..."

Wufei cut me off with an uncomfortable little cough. "Sally has said that it would be against policy for a... couple to be partnered on the same team. Too much conflict."

I grunted and thought about that one. I could see the wisdom of it, but it made me stop and think. If Duo did decide to join with us... assuming we joined up, ourselves, who would he end up partnered with? I didn't like the idea of someone I didn't know being there to guard my lover's back. I suppose it sounds a bit conceited, but I wouldn't trust just anyone to do the job I would.

I suppose I was quiet, thinking about it, for just a bit too long because Wufei cleared his throat and broached the silence with, "There is a great deal to what Trowa and Duo where talking about this afternoon. We are, by circumstances, warriors. Soldiers of fortune, so to speak. Whether you choose to admit it or not, fitting into normal society is going to be difficult for us. We don't think the way civilians do, our lives have depended on that for far too long."

I sighed. "I just... want a little piece of 'normal', I guess," I told him softly. "I want... some of what I lost. And I want to give that to Duo." I was a little surprised I had actually said that out loud and it was my turn to do the blushing.

"I honestly think this is our way to have 'normal'," he said, and the tone of his voice told me that this idea meant a great deal to him. "Where else are we going to take our... abilities? There are going to be a lot of ex-soldiers involved in this project. We will be surrounded by people who went though at least some of what we did. And... we would be doing something that... mattered."

I chuckled at him. "You might consider becoming a used car salesman."

He quirked me one of those sardonic grins of his. "Stop the hard sell?"

"I think you've just about convinced me to test drive the idea," I agreed, "but I'd have to talk to Duo first."

He nodded. "Of course."

Then he was pulling into the mall and I raised an eyebrow. "Shopping, Wufei?"

"I need some damn clothes," he growled at me. "It's your own fault for not asking me where I was going before you decided to tag along."

I laughed at him as we got out of the car and he gave me a half-hearted glare. "You could benefit with an article or two more in your own wardrobe, Yuy," he informed me, his eyes raking over me. "You've been wearing that same pair of jeans for three days."

I snorted. "Have not. I just happen to have two pair that are just alike."

I was expecting more of the verbal sparing, but we were nearing the entrance to the mall and Wufei sudden grew quiet. I glanced over at him, as we walked, and found a grim little frown on his face. He was staring past me and I turned to follow his gaze toward the delivery entrance ramp, but saw nothing. "What is it?" I asked softly, my eyes scanning the area.

He seemed to give himself a little shake and blinked at me. "Nothing," he said, a little too fast. "Just... thinking."

I frowned at him, wondering, but let it go.

I trailed after him as he headed for the nearest department store, waiting while he quickly picked out a couple of pairs of pants, then turned to look at the dress shirts. I did no more than raise an eyebrow, but it got me banished.

"I am trying to prepare to enter the work force," he told me somewhat haughtily. "Now go find something else to do, and choose someplace to meet when we're done."

I couldn't help laughing, but informed him, on a sudden thought, to come and find me in the music store when he was done.

I shook my head at him, he shook his head at me, and we went our separate ways.

He found me there, a half an hour later with a stack of CDs in my hand, puzzling over the difference between Celtic Rock and Celtic Folk.

"What in the hell are you doing?" he asked me as he walked up.

I flushed guiltily and frowned down at the CD in my hand. "Trying to replace Duo's CD collection. Does this look familiar to you?"

"Damned if I know," he muttered, and took the case from me to look at the cover. "Heero... Duo's never owned more than four or five CDs, you must have ten of them there!"

I scowled at him, taking the CD from his fingers and defiantly adding it to the ones in my hand. "I don't care," I growled and moved to the next bin. He followed me with a sigh.

"What is this all about?" he asked gently while I busied myself looking through the rest of the Celtic Rock CDs, the more I thought about it, the more I was sure the rock ones were the right ones.

I caught myself with my lower lip between my teeth and made myself quit. "Duo is just very... off-balance. I thought this might... help." I told him lamely.

"Heero, just give him a little time..." he began and I turned a glare in his direction.

"Have you forgotten your conversation with him this morning," I snapped. "Tell me he wasn't acting... upset."

His _expression became uncomfortable and he glanced away, but continued doggedly. "I still think you're over-reacting just a little bit. It seems perfectly understandable that all of these sudden changes..."

I whirled on him and hissed, "Don't tell me I'm over-reacting. You're not the one who held him this morning while he sobbed his heart out..." I almost bit my tongue getting the words stopped. I'm not sure which one of us was blushing harder. "Forget I said that," I blurted, horrified that I had betrayed that confidence... again. What the hell was wrong with me? "Just fucking forget you heard it." I brushed past him and headed for the cashier's, feeling like I was going to spontaneously combust. Gods, what had made me tell him that?

He didn't immediately follow me, for which I was very glad, and by the time the line moved forward, making it my turn to checkout, my face felt like it was its normal color again.

I felt Wufei's familiar presence at my elbow and he suddenly reached around me to place something on the counter with the rest of my order. "Here," he said gruffly. "He's going to need something to keep all those things in." Then he walked away to wait for me by the door, his sack twisting agitatedly in his hands.

I alternated looking at the CD rack on the counter and at the back of Wufei's head. I wasn't sure if I was pleased or annoyed. I finally settled on mildly amused and flashed a grin; I knew he was watching my reflection in the front glass of the store. I paid for my purchases and went to join him.

"May we go now?" he grumbled and I refrained from laughing at him.

"I just need to stop off at a grocery and then I'm done," I appeased and got a long-suffering sigh and a roll of his eyes. We began walking out.

"You'll be buying flowers next," he groused.

"Not a bad idea," I teased, just to watch him twitch in disbelief.

"Roses," he informed me, calling my bluff. "If you feel you must carry through with this ridiculousness."

"Oh?" I questioned, giving him a sidelong glance.

"Yes," I was told with a great deal of dignity. "A single white and a single red, bound together. Flowers have meanings you know."

I frowned at him. "They do? What would that mean, then?"

"Unity," he informed me with a sly little smile and the son-of-a-bitch had me. I sighed. He laughed. Thankfully there was a florist section in the grocery. He laughed all the way back to the car.

Duo was still in the hanger when we arrived and I took my purchases straight up to the room we shared, while Wufei put the groceries away for me. I left the CDs and the storage rack in the sack and just set it on the desk, then stood with the stupid flowers in my hand trying to decide where to put them. On the desk with the gifts? On the bed? Bedside table? I suddenly heard an exasperated little sigh behind me and turned to find Wufei standing in the doorway with a small crystal vase in his hands.

"Yuy, if you don't put them in water, they'll be wilted before he even sees them," he informed me with a roll of his eyes.

"Ok Chang," I grunted, moving to take the vase from him. "Mind telling me how you know so damned much about flowers?"

I was honestly expecting him to get flustered and start sputtering indignantly, instead his face softened, but he didn't immediately speak. He relinquished the vase to me, but took the flowers from my hand, expertly pinching off the stem of the white rose so that it was just a bit shorter than the red one, then arranging them both in the crystal bud vase.

"Gardening and the art of floral arrangement was something of a hobby of my mother's," he told me gently, giving the ribbon that bound the roses together a last touch before leaving the room.

Damn.

I sat the vase on the bedside table and went down to fix dinner.

Trowa consented to give me a hand when he wandered through the kitchen and realized I was attempting liver and onions. Duo had developed a strange, almost-craving for the dish after Trowa had fixed it for him the first time, but I had yet to master the skill that made the damn stuff edible. It was far from my favorite food, but it was one of the few things I could count on Duo eating a decent portion of without being prompted. Sometimes I wondered how he managed not to waste away to nothing.

Right before it was ready to go on the table, Duo came in through the back door, adhering to the normal dinner hour we used when we were all together. I looked up to meet his eyes and was a little appalled at what a rush of relief I felt to have him in the room with me again. He offered up a strange little embarrassed grin that told me he felt the same. He came over to the counter where I was working, filching a slice of carrot from the salad as cover to whisper to me, "We are so pathetic, Yuy." Before moving off to help Wufei set the table.

Quatre even had Rashid bring him down to try eating at the table instead of in his room. Rashid and Trowa took turns hovering over him, and I think Quatre was regretting the idea fairly quickly. With the imposing Maganac sitting there at the table with us, conversation was kept to a rather dry, almost dinner-party minimum. Polite complimenting of Trowa's and my cooking efforts. Requests for this or that dish. Pass the salt, please, and other mundane pleasantries. Not uncomfortable, but not one of the more open, somewhat personal conversations we'd been having lately. I wasn't sure whether to be disappointed or relieved.

It didn't take long for Quatre to tire, or for Trowa to move in to take him back to his room when he did. Rashid went with them. Wufei rose when he finished and informed us that it was our turn to clean up, since he'd done the breakfast dishes.

It was actually something of a relief to find myself alone with Duo even if we were stuck with the dreaded kitchen duty.

Duo moved in quickly to claim the spot by the sink, taking the washing portion of this chore without question. He knew I hated washing. I nudged him in the ribs as I passed, carrying a stack of dirty plates, to let him know I noticed. He grinned at me.

"So," I ventured after the water was run, "looks like all your knuckles are intact; you skip the Gundam repairs?"

He snorted softly and ducked his head. "I ended up dozing off in the cock-pit," he murmured, voice chagrined.

I glanced at him while I took the first hand-full of clean silverware from him to dry and put away. "You fell asleep?" I said intelligently, thinking about how long he had slept the night before.

He nodded, looking embarrassed. "I started a data dump from 'Scythe's system to my laptop and it took a little while."

"A backup?" I questioned, wondering what had prompted him to do that. There wasn't much in a Gundam's systems that would be usable anywhere but in a Gundam.

"I had some... personal stuff on the system," he said, his face flaring hotly, making me wonder. But I decided not to push, he was obviously uncomfortable with something and I didn't want to make it worse right now.

"What made you decide to back stuff off now?" I asked instead, thinking it was a completely neutral question. Expecting him to make some joke about it being easier than repairing stabilizers.

His _expression went a little pensive, and his hands slowed in their scrubbing. "You realize they won't let us keep the Gundams, don't you?"

"What?" I murmured, not sure how we had arrived at this conversational point. "They?"

"The Government," he explained, handing me another clean plate. "The people. Society in general. The Gundams were the most feared things during the war. People won't be comfortable until they're destroyed."

I mulled that over, my hands drying and stacking without needing my conscious brain for help. He was right. And it probably wouldn't take long before it came up. It was quite probably a very hot issue on the table at the peace talks right now. I wasn't at all sure how I felt about that. Relieved? Apprehensive? I think I was leaning towards relieved, but a glance at Duo told me he was more firmly on the apprehensive side.

Duo thought of his Gundam as something of a sanctuary. Almost a... friendly presence. I had heard him talk to the thing before. Hell... I had talked to his damn Gundam before.

"We'll deal with it when it becomes an issue," I soothed, knowing he would do what needed to be done, but knowing it wouldn't be easy for him.

He snorted softly and glanced sideways at me with a crooked grin. "Never had you pegged for the Scarlet O'Hara type."

I blinked at him, realizing that this was another of his strange references that I didn't understand. His grin spread and he put a soapy hand to his forehead in an exaggerated gesture of distress, "I'll think about it... tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day."

I still didn't get the reference, but I could appreciate the ridiculous southern accent, and leaned over to lightly kiss the side of his neck. "That's kind of... sexy," I grinned at him and won a sharp laugh.

We dropped the subject then and I told him a little bit of what Wufei had told me about the Preventers, not actually telling him yet that our partner had asked me to join with him. Just carefully feeling my way, trying to judge how Duo felt about the whole thing. It didn't appear as though he had thought about it all that much, seeming to only have a faint, lingering distrust of the idea in general.

We finished the dishes and though it was still a little early, I gave his arm a tug, getting him to follow me upstairs. He looked at me quizzically, but didn't question, just following me lead. I let him go into the room first, shutting the door behind us, and by the time I turned, he had found the roses. I waited expectantly, feeling the heat begin to creep up my neck as he just stood there and stared at the vase. His _expression was dancing around between so many emotions I couldn't half figure out what was going on in his head. I started to feel the utter fool.

"Heero," he breathed after a moment. "This is... this is..." a grin finally burst across his face. "This is so cheesy!"

The blush did a full frontal assault and succeeded in taking over my entire face, but I didn't really care; he was smiling. "I know," I chuckled. "You can blame Wufei."

He raised an eyebrow in total disbelief. "Wufei?" he asked skeptically.

I stepped toward him, taking the roses from his hand. "Yes, Wufei," I confirmed. "He says that flowers have a language, and when he started talking about it... I couldn't resist."

He bent and inhaled the scent of the flowers in my hand. "So... what are these saying?" he teased lightly, as he straightened.

I brought the roses around and brushed them lightly along the line of his jaw and watched him shiver, his eyes widening slightly. "They feel like... velvet," he exclaimed and brought his hand up to reverently touch the soft petals.

"Wufei says that the two of them together, the white and the red... mean unity," I told him softly and watched while his grin faded to something warm and tender.

The roses went back on the table and I was suddenly being kissed quite thoroughly.

When he drew back, he couldn't resist another chuckle. "My poet," he murmured.

I snorted softly. "My heart," I murmured in return and kissed him again.

"Is that what you brought me up here to show me?" he asked.

"No," I informed him with a hint of mock defensiveness in my voice. "That was just the... trimmings." I took his hand, reflecting on the fact that we couldn't seem to keep our hands off each other today, and led him to the desk. Picking up the sack from the music store, I held it out to him.

"What's this for?" he asked, managing to sound suspicious.

"Because I felt like it," I said and waited while he took it from my hands, holding it for a moment with an air of... embarrassment? Uncertainty? I wasn't sure. "I just wanted to give you something," I told him, trying to ease his discomfort.

"A gift?" he teased, still seeming unsettled about it. "Nice wrapping job, Yuy."

I put my hand over his, where he held the sack. "I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable, love," I told him gently. "I want... I just want to be able to give you so much."

He blinked at me, eyes a little wide. "Heero, I don't need..." he began, but I didn't let him finish.

"Shhh," I chided. "It isn't about needs any more. The war is over and we're allowed to have wants now. This is just something that I've seen make you smile. That's all I want in the world... is to see your smile... to know you're happy."

His eyes took on a suspicious gleam but his fingers finally moved to unroll the top of the sack. "Heero!" he gasped, as he pulled out a handful of CDs. "You must have spent a fortune! I can't..."

"You can," I said firmly, taking the sack and pulling out all the purchases. "I won't argue about this. Duo, love... this is such a small thing. Not a drop in the ocean of things I want to give to you someday. Please... can't you just accept that it's ok to want? It's ok to enjoy?"

He opened his mouth to speak, then seemed to think better of it. His fingers moved to ghost over the jewel cases scattered across the desk, as though he couldn't quite believe in their reality. I turned to throw the now empty sack into the trashcan and when I looked again, Duo had the CD rack in his hands, turning it about and frowning slightly.

If nothing else can be said for Chang Wufei, it should be noted that he has discriminating taste. The rack was a lovely thing, and had been as expensive as hell. Solid wood, stained and buffed to a rich hue, it had an elegant Celtic design carved into the end pieces.

"What is this thing?" Duo asked, puzzling over it and I grinned, moving to take it from him. I set it down on the desk and stacked his little budding music collection in it.

"Wufei said you were going to need someplace to keep your CDs," I explained.

I wasn't really prepared for the strange... pole axed _expression that came over him then. "K...keep?" he whispered softly, looking up at me and I saw his fingers lift to touch the little gold cross under his shirt.

I understood in that moment that Wufei might ride me about the way I cared for Duo, might tease me about over reacting, but deep-down inside, he understood a lot more than he would ever admit to. Saw some things more clearly than I could.

"Yes, love... keep," I told him gently and just watched him turning it over and over in his head, trying to come to grips with a concept that seemed very foreign to him. His eyes had that feverish look to them again and he seemed to want to speak, but didn't quite trust his voice. "I..." he tried, but stopped, looking from me to the rack on the desk. Gods... it was such a small little thing to have been the catalyst for this moment.

With a strange, frustrated gasp, he suddenly had me in a bear hug. "Thank you," he finally managed and I wrapped my arms around him in return.

"You're welcome," I breathed next to his ear, listening to the sound of something I had never quite identified, slide away from between us. His body shivered next to mine.

"Believe in it, Duo," I told him fiercely. "No more fighting. No more running. No more hiding. There is no one to hand us orders to do things we never wanted to do in the first place. We're free, love. We're finally free!"

His arms were tight around me and I felt him draw a shuddering breath. I thought for a moment that he was crying again and I drew back to look at him with concern. He met my gaze unflinchingly.

"It's all right, Heero," he told me softly. "I think I'm done with the tears." Then he gifted me with one of his rare, true smiles and I felt all my concerns melting away.

"That's the smile I want to wake up to every morning for the rest of my life," I breathed, and felt the truth of it clear down in my bones.

He lay his head back down on my shoulder, but his embrace didn't hold the desperation that had been fueling it all day. It felt comforting and filling me with tenderness instead of worry. "I can believe in you," he told me, his breath washing warm across my cheek. "You lead me... and I'll follow."

"We'll do this together," I scolded gently, holding him close. "From now on... we stop breaking the rules, and start making our own."

End

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