By TJ Dragonblade
see chapter 1 for warnings, dislcaimer
Feedback: Greatly appreciated, as always

Notes: I owe San thanks for prodding me along this time. After a *very* long break, for which I apologize, I am finally posting the final chapter to this tale.

This picks up at the phone call halfway through chp 8--from Duo's POV this time--before skipping back to where we left Wufei last time...

Lost & Found + Chapter 9

The hotel room's vidphone was sounding as Duo came back from a brief jaunt down to the lobby. He'd been chatting up the concierge, seeking guidance on a really nice place to take Wufei for dinner tonight, and he had a couple of good ideas to look into. He frowned at the continued ringing--none of his friends would know to reach him here, after all--and jogged over to the device, punching the 'accept call' button. "Hello?"

Wufei's face greeted him, looking slightly distracted.

"Oh, hiya 'Fei! I was wondering who on earth would be calling me here!"

<<Hello, Duo.>> The softest smile drifted into Wufei's eyes, and Duo melted at the thought that he was the reason for that.

"So what's up, huh?" he asked quickly, pulling himself together so they wouldn't spend the whole phone call grinning dopily at one another without saying anything more than 'hello'.

Wufei straightened imperceptibly. <<Things have happened this morning that have me thinking; I think it would be best if you left town tomorrow as you had planned. Better yet, leave tonight.>>

Duo felt the color drain from his face, his blood running suddenly cold at those blunt words. Where in hell had this abrupt change of heart come from? "But...but...'Fei--" He faltered, stuttering. Had Wufei's love burnt out so fast?

Wufei reached toward him, touching the screen with two fingers in the spot that Duo assumed his lips occupied on the other end; he fell silent as Wufei spoke. << It is not that I no longer wish to be with you, Duo--far from it. I want you in my life, by my side, for eternity.>> His hand dropped and his gaze fell from Duo's. <<They asked me to stay longer than two weeks. I found myself considering.>> His eyes rose again, a fierceness and near-desperation there that made Duo feel terribly small for having doubted the strength of Wufei's love. <<I do not want to stay; but I fear that if you are here with me, there will be no pressing reason to leave and my sense of duty will have me acquiescing and I will never be free of this place...>>

"Then I leave tonight," Duo said without hesitation, relief and unhappiness sweeping through him in equal measure as the full weight of Wufei's words sank in. "Just bring me your contact info so I can tell you where I end up. And--" he paused a second, steadying his voice and letting his love seep into his tone. "Will you take me to the airport, so I can say a proper goodbye?"

<<Of course, Duo. I will meet you back at the hotel when I get off.>> Wufei's voice sounded suspiciously close to the edge of tears.

Duo made certain that his face showed nothing of the wretchedness within him. This was clearly a difficult thing for Wufei to ask; he wasn't going to make it any harder on his lover by expressing his own sorrow. He would be strong, strong for the both of them. "Alright then."

But he couldn't quite control the slight tremor when he spoke.

<<Thank you, Duo.>> Wufei's voice rang with so much more that just couldn't be put into words. <<I love you...>>

Duo smiled. "I know. I love you too." He blew a kiss and reached out to press the disconnect button, then sat for a moment, staring at the blank screen, Wufei's request echoing in his ears and despondency pouring through him in waves, strangely at odds with the niggling urge to rejoice that couldn't quite be quashed.

"Leave tonight, huh?" He stirred finally, shaking his head and addressing the empty room. "I don't know whether to laugh or cry."

In truth, he wanted to do both. He wanted to shout his elation that Wufei was his, was leaving this place for him, was willing to sacrifice their time together now so that they could have the rest of their days to enjoy each other's company, was making a positive change in his life and finally leaving the mundane rut he'd been driven into. He wanted to cry at the thought of two whole weeks away from his lover, his everything, especially when they had barely found each other again. He didn't want to spend fourteen days sitting around in some other city biting his nails with the worry that something would happen to Wufei while they were apart and he'd never see the Chinese youth again. After all, that was how it had always gone. He barely remembered his parents' death, but he knew he hadn't been with them when it happened. Solo had died while he was away. The church had been attacked while he was off trying to save it. His rational mind could reassure him all it wanted; but he was always going to hear that tiny little voice of fear regardless.

The thought of losing Wufei now made him physically ill.

"Calm down, Duo," he told himself firmly aloud, breathing deeply and forcing the bile that had risen in the back of his throat to retreat. "He's giving you his number and his email. You c'n call 'im everyday." He managed a shaky grin at his dim reflection in the vidscreen. "Besides, you can't keep him with you all the time. This'll just be good practice for the rest of your time together, ne?" He nodded decisively, blew out a heavy breath, and forced his mind elsewhere. "Now." He stood and settled his hands on his hips. "Let's get packing!"

Packing was a brief affair, given the size of his baggage; he spent more time cleaning up the candles and rose petals from their love-making last night, reminiscing all the while. He picked up the pillow Wufei had slept on and brought it to his face, inhaling deeply. Ahh, yes--Wufei's scent, heady yet subtle; alluring; faintly sweet. Whoever'd invented the shampoo the boy used ought to be lauded as deity, Duo decided. That was one irresistible smell. Especially because it was Wufei's. He put the pillow back on the bed, shaking out the sheets and coverlet and picking out the few remaining rose petals, by-now wilted but still fragrant.

God, Wufei had looked so unbelievably beautiful last night, laid out among the scattered remnants of those blossoms with his hair loose on the pillow and the candlelight glowing warm along his skin--Duo shivered, remembering the trust that shone in those dark velvet eyes behind the flickering reflections of a dozen tiny flames as their bodies joined, remembering the way those slender hands touched him gently, guiding, softly urging him to move, remembering the helpless rapture that surged through him as he kissed Wufei tenderly again and again and lost himself in the purity of their union...he had never felt anything so intense in his life. Making love to Wufei was the single most incredible experience he had ever known; what Wufei had given him...it was a gift he could never hope to match.

Duo sighed, happily, and straightened the bedclothes back into their proper place. He knew that the hotel had staff that were paid to do what he was doing; but he figured there was no reason he had to leave them a huge mess just because it was their job. Seemed rude, somehow. Besides, what he & Wufei had done in this bed last night was sacred; picking up after it himself made the memory complete in Duo's mind and kept it just between the two of them, untouched by strangers' hands. Disposing of the evidence also helped him shift mentally, accepting that yes, he was leaving this place where he had truly discovered Wufei. He was leaving behind the room where they'd both confessed their love, leaving behind the couch where they'd shared their first kiss, leaving behind the bed that had borne witness to their consummation...

Duo paused in his thoughts, reflecting as he stared once more at that bed, then laughed out loud.

"I'm acting like a sentimental love-struck fool," he announced to the furniture, grinning. "Never woulda thought..." He shook his head, still smiling, and quickly finished tidying the room. He saved one of the roses to press as a keepsake--after all, there wasn't actually anything wrong with being a sentimental love-struck fool, he reasoned--and made his way down to the front desk in plenty of time to check out.

He glanced at his watch as he left the counter. Eleven-thirty--Wufei wouldn't be off work for another five hours or so. He didn't really feel like sight-seeing or shopping while he waited, so Duo headed to the gift shop and found himself something to read. He paid for the book and a souvenir key chain--after all, this city had been very good to him--and settled into a plush, comfortable chair in the lobby before glancing at his watch again. Only ten minutes had passed; he sighed and opened his book.

It was going to be a very long afternoon.

+

Wufei stood surveying the quarters he'd occupied for the past three months, packed duffel slung over his shoulder, sheathed sword in hand. Add in the clothes on his back and the motorcycle in the garage, and all his worldly possessions were accounted for.

His eyes roamed carelessly over the furniture that remained--all standard Preventers issue, of course--and the uniforms hanging in the closet, neat and orderly; he smiled.

He would never wear that uniform again.

He had stormed into his quarters not more than an hour ago, full of both fury and elation, the latter rapidly overcoming the former. He had finally snapped, said 'To hell with it all' and followed the dictates of his own heart for once in his life.

It felt deliriously wonderful.

He had stripped off his uniform and pulled on one of his three casual shirts and the newer of the two pairs of pants that he owned. The rest of his clothes, his few books and various toiletries were swiftly packed into his duffel. And that was that.

It was sad, really, how little he owned; but the life he'd led the last four years had brought it on. There was no point in owning clothes when one wore uniforms all day and rarely went out; there was no point in personalizing or decorating quarters when one was likely to be transferred again in just a few months.

And Wufei's lack of baggage would certainly serve him well now.

He had thought of calling Duo, letting him know of the abrupt change in plans; he'd decided it would be more fun to simply show up and surprise his lover.

Besides which, he had no phone in his quarters and there was no way he was going back to his office.

So now here he stood, taking one last look at the life he was leaving behind. His spirit felt light, resilient, unbound; he could feel the future stretching vast and bright before him, bathed in the sunshine of Duo's smile. This place no longer had any hold on him.

He was free.

He turned, flipped off the light switch, and strode out, hardly caring if the door swung shut or not. Misery lay behind him. Life with Duo lay ahead.

Wufei checked his watch as he entered the garage behind the main building. It was only just past noon; Duo would not be expecting him for hours yet. And while he planned to show up early, there were a few things he needed to do first. He strapped his blade and his duffel to his back, tossed the helmet into place, swung onto his bike, and roared out into the midday heat.

The clerks at the jewelry store looked at him strangely when he came in wearing a sword; their mistrustful stares quickly turned to smiles, though, when he pulled out his credit card.

The staff at the motorcycle shop seemed completely unfazed by his blade and were only too happy to give his bike a thorough tuning-up and sell him a second helmet and a rear-fender cargo rack...

+

It was one-thirty when Wufei pulled his bike into a parking space in front of the hotel, killed the engine, and dismounted. He pulled his helmet off and dropped it alongside the other on top of the duffel strapped to his bike, shaking his hair free and running a hand back through it just for good measure. He wasn't accustomed to wearing it down, but Duo had expressed a definite preference that way and it felt distinctly liberating besides. Striding toward the gilded entranceway, he carefully schooled the happy smile from his face. It wouldn't do to make Duo think he was up to something right away, after all...never mind the fact that he was quite early as it was...

He stood a moment just inside the doors, letting his eyes adjust from the brightness outside before glancing about and spotting his lover in the lobby. Duo was slouched into a cushy armchair facing the front windows off to one side of the entry, feet propped on his duffel and crossed at the ankles, attention buried in the book he held. Pulse quickening just at the sight of the American, Wufei navigated silently behind him and slipped both hands quickly over his eyes.

Duo started with a quiet yelp, his own hands flying up to clamp defensively on Wufei's, tugging, the book tumbling to the floor.

"Guess who," Wufei purred, dropping a quick kiss to the top of that chestnut head and allowing Duo to pull his hands down, gratified that the tension seeped instantly from the other boy at the sound of his voice even before Duo twisted up to see his face. "Fei!" Duo's eyes flicked to his watch and back in less than a second. "You're early, Babe--what's up? Not that I'm complaining or anything..." Duo's grin was huge, happy, and all for him--Wufei couldn't think of anything more beautiful in the entire world. He stepped around the chair and crouched in front of Duo, who sat up and leaned forward.

"I saw no reason to postpone our departure until this evening," he said simply.

"The sooner I leave, the sooner you can follow, eh?" Duo's expression registered sadness, understanding and worry all in the same flash, even as he kept up his cheery smile. His eyes shifted, and he leaned a little to the side, peering behind Wufei. "Man, airport security is not gonna let you through with that."

Wufei glanced upward reflexively, as if by doing so he could actually see the blade still strapped to his back. He'd forgotten he was wearing it, truthfully; but it had provided the perfect lead-in for his announcement. He caught Duo's eyes again before replying.

"We are not going to the airport."

One eyebrow lifted; hope sparked somewhere behind that steady lilac gaze. "We're not?"

Wufei shook his head solemnly. "No."

"Soooo..." Duo was very carefully not jumping to any conclusions. "Where are we going, then?"

"Las Vegas."

The eyebrow rose further; the spark of hope blossomed. "Don'tcha have to be at work in the morning?"

"No." Wufei could hold his smile back no longer. "I walked off the job this morning, Duo. You are far more important than any misplaced sense of loyalty I may have felt to the idiots who run that office."

"Alright!" Elation and joy lit Duo's face; he grabbed Wufei around the shoulders and crushed him close in a quick, fierce hug of victory. "Way ta go 'Fei!" He laughed and sat back, eyes sparkling, hands closing over one of Wufei's in defiance of the space that separated them. "You don't know how happy that makes me! You are way too good for that place, and I wish I could've gotten you out sooner."

Wufei couldn't remember when smiling had ever felt so natural, so good, so right; he returned the warm clasp of Duo's hands and let his expression turn coy. "So the fact that I am leaving town with you now has no bearing on your happiness?" He tilted his head the slightest bit to one side, the flick of his eyelashes lending him a distinctly sultry air as he gazed up innocently into Duo's face.

"Oh, it has bearing all right. I can't even begin to measure; but if I unleashed the full force of my exuberance I'd be makin' a real scene and we'd probably get kicked out of the hotel." Duo shrugged, grinning. "Not that we weren't leaving already anyway." He stood, pulling Wufei up after him. "So--we're Vegas-bound!"

"Yes." Wufei stepped back, allowing Duo room to retrieve his duffel from the ground at their feet.

"What madeja pick Vegas, anyway? Proximity?"

Wufei's pulse was suddenly throbbing in his ears. "That, and I am told that there are a great many wedding chapels readily available at all hours of the night and day..."

"Why 'Fei, you sly sexy devil--was that a proposal?"

He had planned his response to be flip, casual, in keeping with the conversation that led to it; faced with the love shining behind Duo's teasing grin and those mesmerizing eyes, though, Wufei found himself completely unable to muster up the necessary rakishness and his reply was quiet, heartfelt, utterly serious as he pulled a small black box from his pocket.

"Only if you want it to be..."

Duo's breath stilled as he saw what Wufei was holding. Carefully, he took the box from Wufei's hand--Wufei's trembling hand, he noticed--and opened it reverently.

Two matching rings sat nestled within, white gold with three round diamonds set diagonally across each of their faces, simple, beautiful, perfect. Duo's eyes rose to Wufei's, searching reflexively for any hint of insincerity; finding none, as he had known beforehand that he would not, he stepped closer to Wufei, shutting the box and pressing it back into Wufei's hands so that his own were free to cradle his lover's face.

"There is nothing I want more than to be your husband and for you to be mine," he said softly, sincerely, lost in the deep warmth of Wufei's eyes gazing up at him. "If you want to marry me, Chang Wufei, the answer is yes. Unhesitatingly, whole-heartedly, for-time-and-all-eternity yes."

"Then it is good I bought the rings, no?" Wufei's voice shook, his words meaningless and swallowed up by Duo's mouth as they came together in a kiss that swept away all regard for time and place, that sealed their union more fully than any ceremony could, a kiss slow and tender and aching with endless possibilities of forever.

There was a low wolf-whistle off to one side; they pulled apart, realizing too late that they'd gone ahead and made a scene anyway. Glancing quickly around the lobby in a brief second of surreal detachment, Wufei saw that most eyes were either on them or averted with expressions varying between amusement, self-consciousness, or discomfort. One man waiting for the elevator looked thoroughly disgusted even as he stared. Wufei caught his eye boldly over Duo's shoulder, staring back; the man flushed, gestured with his middle finger, and ducked into the arriving elevator before its occupants had a chance to disembark.

Screw him anyway. Wufei was too happy to care--Duo had just agreed to marry him. One rude homophobe could not spoil this moment, not when Duo was wearing that warm, sweet smile that was all for him, was still cupping his face, was leaning down to kiss him softly again regardless of the spectators.

"May as well make it a memorable spectacle, huh?" Duo murmured against Wufei's lips, then spun to face the majority of the lobby's population, grabbing his hand--the one that still held the ring box--and lifting it high.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we're engaged!"

Wufei flushed as applause broke out following Duo's announcement, some enthusiastic, some merely polite. Even still, he couldn't help smiling brightly--he was simply too happy. He found it utterly impossible to truly care that all attention in the room was on them. The girl behind the desk was grinning like the Cheshire cat, and a little old dark-skinned lady with grandson in tow dabbed at her eyes, congratulated them, and tottered off mumbling something wistful about young love.

Duo laughed out loud, the sound of sheer delight as the applause trickled off. "I love you, 'Fei!" he exclaimed, lifting Wufei in a quick embrace and spinning him around to the general amusement of the onlookers.

"Duo! Put me down!" But Wufei was laughing as well, even as he was set back on his feet. He pulled Duo to him and kissed him enthusiastically, heedless of the renewed applause. "I love you, too, Duo," he murmured at last, drawing away.

Duo's smile in that moment almost made the last four years of hell worth it.

Duo picked up his duffel again, took firm hold of Wufei's hand, and flashed one more grin to their scattered audience; then turned his full attention back to his fiancé. "Shall we be on our way, then?"

"Yes." Wufei was beginning to wonder if he would ever be able to stop smiling. "If we leave now, and exercise a careful disregard for posted speed limits, we should reach our destination by sundown."

"I like the way you think, Babe." Duo tugged him toward the door. "You wanna drive the first couple hours or you want me to take it?"

"What makes you believe I will let you drive at all, Duo?" Wufei's tone was innocent, teasing.

"'Cause you love me. And you'll get tired if you drive that long without a break." Duo batted his eyelashes, oozing infectious charm. "B'sides, I'm askin' real nice--how can you possibly say no to me?"

"Pretty pouting has never been enough to sway me, Maxwell." Wufei grinned broadly, still teasing, and let a note of challenge slip into his voice. "Handling a motorcycle is not for everyone, after all. It takes a certain amount of skill..."

Duo snorted and waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. "I can handle anything you wanna throw at me, Baby. You’d be surprised at all the things I’ve managed to pick up here & there, motorcycle riding among them. There’s nothin’ Shinigami can’t do. " He grinned complacently.

"But you look so delicate, so effeminate..." Wufei trailed off, a wicked light in his eye as they came up to his bike in the parking lot.

Duo snorted again, indignantly, and cuffed him lightly on the shoulder. "Effeminate my ass." He dropped his duffel and lifted his shirt enough to show off the hard contours of his lean abdomen. "Does this look delicate to you?" he demanded, running the tips of his fingers across the flat expanse of skin and muscle.

"Oh no." Wufei stepped closer, lifting his own fingertips to follow the path of Duo's. "Far from it." He let his hands drift up beneath the back of Duo's shirt, his expression disarmingly contrite. "I stand corrected. And having seen the rest of you, I would be forced to admit to your complete and utter lack of effemininity."

Duo wrinkled his nose. "Is that even a word?"

Wufei shrugged, smiling. "Truthfully? I don't know. I merely wanted an excuse to touch you."

Duo grinned rakishly in return, shivering minutely as Wufei's fingernails grazed lightly back down between his shoulder blades. "Aw, 'Fei, you can touch me anytime you want, excuse or no."

"Thank you." Wufei leaned up to nip quickly at his bottom lip. "But excuses make it more fun."

Duo buried his hands in the thick black silk at the nape of Wufei's neck and pulled him back for a deeper kiss. "I love this side of you, 'Fei," he murmured softly at last. "And I'm going to spend the rest of my life finding out how many more facets of your gorgeous self you've kept hidden away from everyone..."

"My secrets are all yours to explore," Wufei promised, ghosting one last caress over Duo's spine before stepping back and lifting Duo's duffel. "Help me strap this down, and we can be on our way."

"Ryoukai." Still grinning, Duo snapped a quick salute and secured his baggage while Wufei held it in place atop his own. Finished, he tossed Wufei the old helmet and held up the new one. "For me?"

"Of course. If we are to travel the world--or even just a part of it--by motorcycle, you need to be properly equipped."

"So we're traveling the world now, are we?"

"Why not? First Vegas, then...wherever we choose." Wufei gestured expansively, his expression unexpectedly soft. "After all, that is what you had first set out to do, is it not?"

"Indeed." Duo nodded decisively. "And now I get to chase my dreams alongside you, and marry you to boot! " He whooped a laugh of unrestrainable joy. "Life can't possibly get any better!"

"Yes it can, Beautiful." Wufei smiled brightly, the expression never really having left his face since it first cracked in the lobby, and swung up onto his bike.

"How? Tell me, how can it possibly get better than this?" Duo spun in a circle, face tilted up to the blazing sky, arms outstretched, soaking in the lingering radiance of that smile, unable to help matching it with his own as he came around to face Wufei again.

Wufei shrugged. "Come with me, and together we can try to find out." He threw yet another smile over his shoulder as he started the engine, eyelashes at half-mast, beckoning.

"I'd be a fool to refuse an invitation like that!" Duo plunked the helmet onto his head and vaulted easily up behind Wufei before adjusting his braid beneath the rim a little more comfortably.

Wufei donned his own helmet as Duo's arms wound comfortably about his waist, settling in for the ride; he revved the engine, nudged the kickstand up with his heel, and steered them quickly out onto the street.

They were off, the future bright and alluring before them, wide-open and bursting with endless possibilities. And as they hit the on-ramp to the freeway that would eventually take them out of the city, Wufei could faintly hear Duo singing over the roar of the traffic around them and the wind against their helmets:

"We got our motor runnin', we're headin' out on the highway! Lookin' for adventure, or whatever comes our way..."(1)

And Wufei laughed, pure happiness bubbling up from deep within him, and surprised himself by joining in a moment later when Duo hit the chorus:

"Born to be wi-i-i-ild!"

Duo's arms squeezed him briefly as their voices joined; the city sped by and bled into the past, shrinking behind them and taking all the misery and despair they had ever known with it, swallowed and forgotten by the desert sands as the winds of promise sped them onward to the horizon...

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(1) The band is Steppenwolf, right? Though Duo's adapting the lyrics to encompass the both of them as he pleases...^_^
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[chap. 8] [epilogue] [back to TJ Dragonblade's fic]