By TJ Dragonblade
see chapter 1 for warnings, dislcaimer

Lost & Found + Chapter 3

Duo couldn't believe it. He simply could not believe it. He'd sat down, minding his own business; the guy next to him had started staring; he looked up to confront the jerk and it was Wufei.

He blinked, and stared; and it was still Wufei.

He was really here.

Shocked, Duo couldn't help asking the very first thing that came to mind--what the hell was 'Fei doing in a bar? It was odd, after all--it didn't fit with his memories of the other. Wufei was always so proper, dignified--when he wasn't flying off the handle in a mad fit of temper or outrage. Pubs and drinking just didn't enter the picture.

So he asked.

And Wufei laughed.

God, he was still stunningly gorgeous. And that laugh--it was a beautiful sound, one that Duo couldn't remember ever really hearing before. Everything he had ever felt for this boy came crashing back to the forefront in a dizzying rush.

It was such a sharp contrast to his memories of their last conversation that he dared to hope he'd misjudged Wufei's opinion of him. The other had just said it was good to see him, after all...

He flashed his signature smile. "Yeah, same to you. I just never imagined you were the drinking type. Although it doesn't look like you've touched that one yet." He nodded in the direction of Wufei's still full glass.

Wufei's lovely smile, which Duo had seen all too little of in the old days, faded abruptly. "Yes, well, I seem to have made something of a habit of it lately." Duo could hear the underlying bitterness in that statement.

That was odd. Duo remembered Wufei as a fighter, someone angry at the world and railing against all its unfairness and injustices. But, with just that one sentence spoken, he sounded almost...defeated.

~What's happened in the last four years, 'Fei, to make you so unhappy?~ Duo wondered, choosing instead to ask, "So what've you been up to, huh?"

Wufei's mouth twisted into a mockery of his former smile and he shook his head, gesturing at Duo's nearly-empty glass.

"Let me buy you another and we can go over there," he said, cocking his head in the direction of a small table that had just been vacated and was a little more private than the crowded bar.

"Actually, I'm good with just the one," Duo said, lifting what was left of his drink. He was already feeling slightly buzzed, though how much was circumstance and how much was actually alcohol was really anybody's guess. But in the face of the miracle of finding Wufei again, that last thing he wanted to do was get drunk.

Wufei shrugged and stood, leaving his own drink still untouched on the counter. Duo stood as well; and Wufei abruptly realized how much taller the other had become. He himself had only grown another ten centimeters or so (1) before reaching what seemed to be his peak; Duo appeared to have gained fourteen or so beyond that. (2) It looked like he had finally grown into those lanky legs.

Wufei moved to the table and sat; Duo followed and took the seat across from him. "I hate my life, Maxwell," he announced with no preamble, somewhat surprised at himself for laying it out so bluntly. But Duo...Duo was still Duo; something about him put Wufei completely at ease, despite their last meeting--he was so easy to talk to, so easy to trust. And contrary to popular opinion, he did listen. And seeing the American again, when Wufei had just been dwelling on his was as though the years melted away and they were back in the heart of their developing friendship, back before he had so thoroughly fucked up.

Not to mention his unrequited love was resurfacing with a vengeance.

He shook his head. "I am tired of this place, tired of my job. Yet I have nothing better to do, so I continue in the same meaningless routine day after day."

"You were all gung ho on the Preventers last time I saw you," Duo said dryly. "Wasn't as great as you thought?"

"Times change, Maxwell. I do not fit the system anymore." He blinked and shook his head again, wanting to move on to more pleasant topics. "Enough of my complaints. What brings you to Phoenix?"

"Me? I'm just here for a couple days for the hell of it. I'm out to see the world, y'know? Do a bit of traveling before I get old."

"By yourself?" Wufei tried to quash the irrational hope that maybe Duo really was single this time.

"Yup. Just me, myself and I. All by my lonesome. I kinda thought it'd be fun, y'know, take a vacation,waste just a little more of my life." The American's tone acquired a strange bite on that last phrase.

"Who told you that you were wasting your life, Maxwell?" Wufei asked, perplexed at the notion that anything Duo could do would be considered a waste.

That violet gaze lifted and fixed squarely onto him. "You did, 'Fei," Duo answered. His tone was neutral, but he couldn't quite hided the accusation and hurt in his eyes. "Four years ago, when you took me home..."

Wufei winced. Yes, he had said something to that effect on that unfortunate shuttle trip; and while he'd done his best to forget the incident, the pain still looked terribly fresh in his friend's expression.

~Does it hurt him so much after four years yet?~ he wondered, cringing at the thought that his moment of childish weakness had haunted Duo so heavily all this time.

Well, he had vowed to make amends; this was the opportunity he'd thought never to have.

He took a deep breath, eyes solemn as they fixed on Duo's face. "I wish to apologize for my behavior the last time we met. My actions were reprehensible, and immature, and completely inexcusable."

Duo's eyebrows disappeared into his bangs. An apology--an unsolicited apology, even--from Wufei was nothing to be taken lightly. That little spot in his heart that had remained cold and hurt all this time began at last to thaw.

Wufei reached over hesitantly and touched his hand. "I am truly sorry, Duo, for the pain I know my words have caused you," he said softly, pulse quickening at just the simple feeling of Duo's skin beneath his fingertips. Almost annoyed, he tamped his libido back down where it belonged and bowed his head. "I only hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me."

Duo smiled warmly, a spark of happiness in the lilac eyes though his voice when he spoke was solemn and quiet. "Of course I forgive you, 'Fei; and thank you for the apology. I know it's never easy." He folded his arms and leaned slightly forward on them. "I'll admit to wondering if there was something wrong with you that day or if it was just me." The statement invited explanation.

Wufei's gaze dropped to the table. Here it was. He was not precisely eager to offer up his heart and have it crushed; but he had promised himself. And Duo deserved the truth. He looked back up and met those warm lilac eyes.

"I was disappointed that you had not chosen the same path as I had. And I was jealous."

Duo's face acquired an adorably quizzical look. "Jealous?"

"Yes, jealous."

"Of what?" The American was clearly mystified.

"Of you." Wufei steeled himself. "That you had a life to return to, somewhere you could belong that was completely unrelated to the war, someone to greet you there when you arrived, someone with whom you were in love..." Somehow what came out wasn't quite the whole truth. But it was awfully close.

Duo's bewildered frown deepened. "'In love'?"

Wufei's hands were carefully folded before him on the table; his grip tightened just a little more. "Yes. Hilde Schbeiker?" Was it possible he'd misjudged the nature of their relationship?

Understanding dawned in the violet eyes and Duo burst out laughing, a light airy sound that instantly warmed the other young man and sent an odd little shiver down his spine.

"Hilde?" You thought me 'n her...? Oh no, Wu, Hilde's the little sister I never had. She's a pain in the ass and a damn good friend; she had a huge crush on me once upon a time, but I was never in love with her." ~I was in love with you.~ That last sentence didn't quite make it out of his mouth; he was leaving here in a couple of days--there was no use in such a confession.

But he couldn't stop himself from thinking it.

Wufei blinked, and his perfect cheekbones acquired a slight pink tinge. "I see. Now I feel even more foolish." ~And all the misery I put myself through over her was completely unnecessary. I am truly an idiot.~

Duo laughed again and downed the last swallow of his beer. "It's alright, Wufei. You're only human; we all make mistakes."

Mistakes. There was that word again. "Perhaps; but I seem to have far surpassed the average man's quota." The pall of depression, momentarily lifted by Duo's unexpected presence, was settling back around his shoulders again. "Gods, I hate this place."

Duo wasn't sure if his old friend meant this bar or the city in general; deciding that the former would be easier to treat, he leaned forward. "Then let's get outta here, 'Fei. We're nowhere's near finished catchin' up; we can go to your place or somethin'. You live around here?"

The Chinese youth made a face. "I have claustrophobic quarters on site at the office. It keeps me close by and on call."

"That's gotta put a major cramp in your style."

"I have no life."

"Ouch." Duo felt a pang of sympathy. "If you'd rather, then, we can go back to the hotel. I got a big suite--living room and everything."

"For only yourself?"

"Yeah; half the fun of travelin' is doin' it in style."

"Very well. That would be far preferable to returning 'home.'" The way his upper lip twisted into a sneer as he said the word made it clear that the raven-haired ex-pilot considered his living quarters no such place. But then, he had nowhere else that would qualify as home, either.

Duo was saddened and somewhat unsettled by the changes he saw in his friend. The Wufei he remembered certainly hadn't been all that happy-go-lucky; but neither had he been so bitter, so...again, defeated. And so hopeless and hurt underneath...

This new 'Fei was only making Duo's resurfaced feelings all the stronger; he just wanted to gather the beautiful boy into his arms and cover him in kisses and assure him that everything would work out alright...

~Whoa there, Duo.~ He fought down the surge of arousal that followed in the wake of that thought. ~Let's not go there, shall we? You know you're still in love with him, and there's still no use in telling him. You won't be here long--let's just leave it at that.~

Duo blinked away his thoughts and hopped up from his seat. "Cool, then. My place it is." He stretched a kink out of his back. "I came on foot. How 'bout you?"

"I also walked." Wufei stood as well, envying the other's height again. "Where are you staying?"

"The Scottsdale Hilton."

Wufei's eyes widened. "And you walked? Good lord, Maxwell, that is at least ten miles from here! I'm amazed you do not have heatstroke!"

Duo flashed his old impudent grin. "Naah, Shinigami's made of stronger stuff than that! Although your weather does leave something to be desired," he amended.

Wufei frowned. "Agreed. We will take my bike. It's at the office."

"Oh?" Duo perked up though his expression was wary. "You do mean bike as in motorcycle, right, not bicycle?"

Wufei flashed a brief, tiny smile. "Yes. Motorcycle. Come, let's go." He headed for the exit.

Duo fell into step behind him. "Cool. 'Cause I was so not looking forward to walking back in this heat." He grimaced as they passed through the door. "Ugh. How can you stand it, 'Fei? Ya gotta be dyin' in that uniform."

"It is somewhat uncomfortable," Wufei conceded, removing his jacket and slinging it over his shoulder.

Unconsciously, Duo found himself lagging slightly behind the other youth, admiring him under the light of the street lamps. His hair was longer than Duo remembered, the sleek black tail falling easily between his shoulder blades and casting back reflections of pink and blue and green from neon storefronts as they passed. The careless graceful arc of his jacket as it settled behind him, swinging easily from two of the boy's fingers, drew Duo's eye to the lines of his back, the way the thin white low-necked shirt clung to his muscular frame, outlining the breadth of his shoulders and the way his torso tapered down to his slender waist. Duo's gaze drifted lower, and he whistled silently, eyes widening appreciatively. Those loose white pants Wufei had always worn in the past did not do him justice, Duo decided. But the blue-green trousers of his uniform, now--they showed off the slim contours of his hips and the tight, shapely curve of his ass, barely managing to stretch over the bulky muscles of his thighs, confirming Duo's long-standing suspicions that his fellow ex-pilot did indeed have gorgeous legs to match the rest of his god-like body.

Distracted as he was, Duo nearly walked smack into a lamp post and decided that maybe he'd better pay attention to where he was going. He quickened his pace to match Wufei's and walked beside him in comfortable silence until they reached the Preventers office he'd visited a short time earlier.


(1) Should put Wufei at 166 cm, or just over 5'5"
(2) Should be a total growth of 24 cm, putting Duo at 180 cm, or just shy of 5'11"

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