by D.C. Logan
Wufei pushed his partner's office open with his only
available elbow, and shouldered his way through the heavy
door. "Coffee, Merquise?"
Empty silence was his only greeting.
"Zechs?" He set the drinks down on the desk's surface and
poked though the top three files, but found nothing to
indicate that Zechs was off tracking down one of his leads.
No note left in either of the usual, he lifted the lamp and
checked under its base, or the unusual places either. Wufei
dropped the Gundanium-shard paperweight back onto the stack
of files it was guarding and picked up the coffees to aid
him and provide sustenance in the ongoing search for his
He wasn't in the break room.
He wasn't on the range.
He wasn't answering his vid.
He hadn't told any of the team members where he had gone
There was a soft snort from Billings. "Misplaced your
partner again, Chang?"
Wufei shot him a disdainful look, but refused to give
Billings the benefit of a reply.
The floor coordinator didn't look interested at all in
satisfying Wufei's state of rare confusion, but supplied
the line again in case it helped the message sink in. "He
called in a personal day."
"But he doesn't take personal days."
"Well, he's taking one today."
"Where is he?"
The coordinator looked even less amused, if that were
possible. "Misplaced your partner, did you?"
Wufei stalked silently past her, dumping the now-cold
coffees in the trash on his way out the door.
"Merquise?" He smacked his hand over the intercom device
with unnecessary force. "Dammit, Zechs. If you're in there,
He moved closer to the speaker and thought he heard the
slight static of an open channel, so he tried again.
"Zechs? It's Chang." He paused for a moment, as that hadn't
been what he'd intended to say. The man should damn-well
recognize his voice by now.
He switched tactics and thought briefly about a working
strategy, fairly certain that his partner was in his
apartment. Smiling in a way that would have frightened both
of his ex-partners into immediate silence, he deliberately
depressed the button again. "Zechs? You have a count of ten
to hit the release on the elevator." The slow smile
continued to widen. "Or I will start singing."
It only took him counting down to eighty-seven bottles
before there was a muttered curse over the tinny little
speaker and the elevator access buzzed and turned to green.
He exited the elevator angry and righteous. "Okay Merquise,
Stavinsky tried to feed me some nonsense about you taking a
But that was as far as he got, having just noticed the
quiet from of his partner resting slack boned in his
favorite chair, a glass of whiskey swinging negligently in
his hand. Zechs stared quietly at his partner for a moment,
uttered a very soft, "You done yet?," and closed his eyes
before resting his head back along the headrest and looking
blindly at the ceiling.
Wufei stared at the glass in Zechs' hand and the more than
half empty bottle beside it. "You've been drinking."
Zechs rolled his head over to face his partner and cracked
a single eye open to squint blearily at him. "Excellent
Fueled by irritation, he snapped back uncharacteristically.
"It's nine forty-two in the morning, Merquise."
There was a slow nod, made awkward by his position on the
chair. "You noticed. Second point for you then." He shifted
position slightly and opened his eyes far enough to read
Wufei's expression. "What are you doing here, Wufei?"
He noted the use of his given name and set that aside for
later review. "You weren't at the office."
Zechs carefully swirled the glass in his hand, feeling the
shift of the liquid within. "Received some rather
unexpected news last evening." He slumped back in his chair
tilted his head at the glass. "Howard's medicine seems to
be helping though." He tried a sight nod towards the open
signal on the vidscreen, where Howard was draped across a
piece of a machine fitting and snoring loudly amid a series
of glasses and a few empty bottles. Mercifully enough, the
volume had automatically switched to mute-mode.
Wufei had to walk over to take a closer look. "You mean to
tell me that you and Howard have been drinking all night?"
He pointed at the screen incredulously. "Over the vid
Zechs raised his head and blinked drowsily at his partner.
"More or less, yeah. Though Howard had some help on his
end. Here?" He swirled the glass again. "Just me." He gave
Wufei an evaluating look that probably didn't last a third
as long as Wufei felt that it did. "And now you."
Wufei sat down uneasily on the neighboring couch. "Is this
something you can tell me about?" He glanced at the
still-active vid. "Or has this something to do with the
Zechs blinked slowly before responding. "Yes. And yes." He
tilted a curious look at his partner. "Is that all you
wished to know?"
Wufei tightened his fists in frustration. "No."
He sounded rather surprised, and very drunk, but seemed to
be holding onto consciousness. Wufei watched as Zechs
shifted slightly in his chair, then automatically corrected
his slight overbalance, and he decided that he wasn't
leaving without an acceptable answer to this puzzle. It
wasn't like Zechs to drink to excess. Not like Zechs at
all. He walked over and turned off the useless vid and sat
on the edge of the chair across from Zechs, and waited.
He didn't have to hold his silence for very long.
"Karen Stillstar." Zechs tilted a glance at Wufei, checking
for any recognition, finding none, then nodding slowly to
himself as if expecting that exact response. "She is...
was, a doctor of sorts within the Sweeper community." He
raised his glass and took a deep swallow with an
accompanying wince. "Saved my life. Twice. Put all the
pieces back together again." The glass was set on the arm
of the chair with complete disregard for the fine leather
upholstery. "I owed her, and I didn't get an opportunity to
replay that debt." There was a long pause, and Wufei
wondered if Zechs was done speaking, but found himself
unwilling to break the uncomfortable silence, death being
an unfamiliar topic between them. Zechs added as an
afterthought, with the heavy weight of consideration behind
it, "And she was a good friend."
Wufei processed that; let it settle in for a few minutes
and linked together a few more threads. "And Howard?"
Another slow nod. "They were... very close."
Wufei edged around the subject matter, unsure of which was
safe versus dangerous territory, and not wanting to
trespass on anything painful. "Was..." He left that with a
question on the end for Zechs to answer.
"Wrong place, wrong time." Zechs swirled his glass again.
"Cabin depressurized." He closed his eyes and leaned back.
Wufei leaned over and gently wrested the glass from Zechs'
hand. "Do you need to be awake for anything in the near
future? Or can you go to your bed and stay there?"
While Zechs processed that question, his partner collected
the bottle and glass and set them safely on the coffee
table before turning to face him. "Zechs?"
"Can you make it to bed on your own? Or do you need some
A glimmer of his usual sense of dry humour surfaced
briefly. "There's something wrong with this chair?" He
yawned deeply and looked up at Wufei. "Blanket?"
"That chair is going to make your back pray for death in
the morning, my friend." Wufei stood and rested a hand
lightly on Zechs' shoulder, uncertain why he did so at
first, but feeling the urge to offer some form of comfort
for the man's obvious grief and sense of loss. "Your bed
would make more sense than sleeping out here."
Zechs looked to position his missing glass, then shot Wufei
a pointed glare. "Moving things on me, are you?"
"You didn't seem capable at the time."
"I didn't think you drank."
"I don't. Much. Reserve the poison for special occasions:
state banquets, weddings, funerals, and impromptu surgical
Zechs gave him a weak stare, made more watery by the strain
it was taking the man to level his considerable length off
of the chair and vertical, or at least semi-vertical. He
returned the favor of resting his hand on Wufei's shoulder
for balance, and then doubled it by adding his other hand
and resting his chin heavily on top of Wufei's head. "I'm
"You are. Very." Wufei couldn't resist a chuckle. The view
was closely spectacular, and the surroundings were warm and
comforting. He wondered for a moment what type of drunk
Zechs was, and for a brief moment, he wondered how far he
might press his advantage, and how much might or might not
be remembered in the morning. Wufei would give a great deal
to simply touch the body he worked next to every day on the
force and viewed on occasion on the Preventer showers. It
was a stunning body. That it was Zechs' held great appeal
to him. The man had interested him for weeks.
He took a chance and held out both hands to gently steady
Zechs, holding his chest, smoothing around to his sides and
holding steady as his taller partner slowly regained his
"Haven't had many of those."
Wufei looked up and caught Zechs' thoughtful expression
looking down at him though the shower of blond hair.
"Ah." Wufei worried his lower lip as he thought about that,
but he didn't let go of his prize.
"Thanks." Zechs shifted, and the moment was broken.
Wufei watched as the man moved back towards the bedroom of
the apartment, shuffling slowly and deliberately and
placing his feet with care.
Leaving Wufei holding on to nothing but hope.