As Heero stood to go and face whatever the future held, he asked over one shoulder, "Wufei, want to plan on spending more time with us now? I think we need to make some plans for the future since the war is changing, but on the off-chance this is Dr. J, want me to insist you work with us instead of working alone?"
Simultaneously, three voices chorused: "Yes!"
The three boys who had just spoken as one then looked at one another in surprise. Duo looked at Trowa who looked at Wufei who looked at all of them with a smile. "It may have been a difficult week, but I rather like being in the company of friends. We *are* friends, right?"
"Damned right we are!" Duo beamed and climbed to his feet to embrace him, surreptitiously checking the fever as well.
"I should hope so." Trowa then added silently, //Hopefully *more* than friends, koi?//
"I'd like to try to be friends with you all again, if you'll let me," Quatre offered in a shy voice.
Letting go of Wufei to head over to read the news that was bringing a frown to Heero's face, Duo remarked, "Sure, Quatre, you can work on that. Why don't you start by paying for some carry-out? I'm hungry."
"I can do that," the blond nodded then looked at the pair on the couch who seemed a little lost in thought. "Um, Wufei? Trowa? What do you guys want for dinner?"
"I don't care," the Chinese youth answered pulling his thoughts back from wandering. "I'm not hungry," Trowa responded.
"Yes, you are," Wufei interjected. "If you want to be with me, Mr. Barton, you need to eat more, you're too skinny."
"True!" Duo commented from across the room. "I've been thinking that exact thing, Wu, good idea!"
"You're ganging up on me," Trowa pretended to be hurt but didn't bother to hide the little smile of happiness this turn of events had brought him. Wufei had specifically indicated that he wanted to be with them all and he had assumed this meant himself especially, but this remark confirmed it. He allowed his arms to tighten into a hug for the boy who sat smiling up at him, guileless black eyes glistening.
"So? Start eating properly and we won't have to 'gang up' on you, koi," Wufei commented easily. He watched with pleasure as the taller boy's brilliant emerald-green eyes went wide at the use of the endearment. As Trowa's lips pulled back in one of the broadest smiles Wufei could recall ever seeing on the cherished face, he reached up one hand to caress his cheek sweetly and nodded.
"Really?" Trowa asked softly.
"Really," Wufei promised. "Start eating right, you just might need your strength one of these days or nights."
This less than cryptic remark sent the expressive eyes wider and Trowa looked as if he had just seen his entire future shift and it had gone from dark to bright in the blink of an eye.
With a strangled choke, Quatre got up from the chair he had been slouched in and he left the room ostensibly to find a phone book to order food, but in reality he had left to go and have a good cry. He had gotten all the proof he needed that his own future did not include more from the brunette pilot he had once called "Friend Trowa" than exactly that, friendship *if* he could learn to manage the heartache he now felt at being left behind romantically.
Meanwhile, Heero and Duo were frowning at the newest instructions for the team of Gundam pilots, more specifically, for Heero and Trowa alone, and they missed the exchange entirely.
"Tro?" Duo asked in annoyance, "You still have that OZ uniform around here somewhere? You and Heero have a mission in a few days."
"Yeah," Trowa growled unhappily. "Infiltration again or simple search and destroy?"
"A little of both it seems," Heero remarked dryly. "Shouldn't take more than a couple days maximum and we have some leeway before we have to head out."
"How long until you have to leave?" Wufei asked unhappily.
"Long enough to get that fever to break," Duo answered with a half-hearted grin, "But not long enough for those stitches to come out. Sorry about that, Wu."
"I'll live," the smaller boy remarked dryly as he looked at the boy whose grasp seemed a bit tighter than necessary all of a sudden.
"Promise?" Trowa asked quietly.
"Promise," Wufei answered with a smile. "I just found out you care, don't think you can get rid of me so easily."
"I don't want to get rid of you."
"Good, because you can't. You're stuck with me," Wufei lost a bit of his confidence until he saw Trowa's smile returning. "Yes, you'll be stuck with me for as long as you like?"
"Hmm. That's an intriguing way to put it," Trowa smiled. "Can I think about it and get back to you in, um, well," he glanced out the window to note the first stars were trying to break through the storm clouds that were collapsing slowly, "a few days? Or weeks? Or months? Or whatever?"
"Don't start talking about years and you have yourself a deal," Wufei said with a bit of a sigh. "Life is uncertain enough as it is. For now, let's just agree that you aren't moving out of my room tonight, okay?"
"Fair enough," Trowa agreed and then kissed him on the top of the head.
The eternally romantic American pilot smiled at his own lover and cocked his head towards the pair on the couch. "kawaii, ne?" He asked very softly.
"hai." Heero agreed equally softly, adding, "good job, duo."
"arigatou, koi," he responded, then frowned as Heero prepared to send back the message that the mission orders had been accepted not only for himself, but for Trowa as well, but that they needed at least three days preparation time. Right before he hit the "send" key, though, Duo reached down and changed the three to a four with a smile. "Give 'em an extra day, okay?"
"Sure. Us too, right?" Heero answered, knowing that the offer wouldn't be turned down.
"Works for me!" Duo agreed with a grin.
Almost a half-hour later, a slightly red-eyed blond returned to inform them there was some pizza being delivered and that he hoped everyone still ate the same kinds as usual.
Duo snickered and turned it into a comedy routine about pepperoni versus ground beef and why was it he was the only one who liked anchovies and how life was unfair. Trowa commented he'd never touch another pizza if there were fish on them. Wufei looked slightly ill at the whole discussion, he was doing well to handle the mocha drink he was discovering he really couldn't stand but would never complain about. Heero simply insisted that as long as the pizza was hot he didn't care what was on it. Quatre just looked at them all with a curious expression, how could these be the same people who were considered the world's most dangerous terrorists if their biggest issue of the moment was pizza toppings?
This, however, brought the blond up short and he had to rethink his entire view of not only the others but also himself.
//We're supposed to save the world and just this morning I nearly ruined the whole thing? Heero got us all in one place so we could try to become friends with Wufei and I tried to kill him for something I had no right to think was mine in the first place. But when it came right down to it, Wufei insisted on forgiving me twice. Trowa doesn't seem to hate me outright. Duo is still angry with me, but I don't blame him. And Heero seems satisfied with things as they are. Maybe we are a team after all. We don't always agree with each other, but what group does? We might still have a chance to pull it together after all.//
Within the hour, pizza was being consumed noisily in the safehouse. Four out of the five boys were debating why their particular choice was better than the others' and the fifth boy was left to referee and quietly find amusement in counting the number of times Duo would harass him about the fever which remained low.
"Friends don't let friends eat pizza with fish on it," Heero intoned in all seriousness at one point when the anchovy debate flared up again and Trowa simply stuck his tongue out at Duo in a very uncharacteristically humorous gesture.
"Friends don't stick their tongues out at each other, Tro," Wufei quietly reprimanded. His new found love, only "love", it would be some time before they became lovers if at all, just turned to him and stuck his tongue out again then smirked sweetly.
"Really?" The tall boy asked with a smile.
"Really." Wufei answered with a smile of his own.
Quatre sighed, "Are you two *always* going to speak to each other in single word sentences?"
"Maybe," Trowa shrugged.
"Probably," Wufei agreed.
"Definitely," Trowa added with a grin.
"Absolutely," Wufei nodded, the seriousness of the word in sharp contrast to the near chuckle that accompanied it.
"Allah!" Quatre groused and sank his teeth into another slice of plain cheese pizza making everyone else laugh, chuckle, or smile as they deemed fit.
These five were in fact friends of the most definitive sort. They would trust each other with their lives as well as their hearts throughout a conflict they had no way of stopping until others wanted it stopped as well.
Duo Maxwell had realized they needed to offer the gift of friendship to Chang Wufei and through Heero Yuy's efforts, that gift had been offered and accepted. Trowa Barton offered a far more astounding gift in the form of devotion and even Quatre Raberba Winner had inadvertently offered a gift which arrived in pain, yet had borne fruit just the same.
Friendship and love were now the Chinese boy's and these gifts were indeed priceless. But in the future, some of these gifts might become hidden and the bonds of their circle would be tested yet again.
1. "Hidden Gifts", Book 2 of the "Gifts" arc, is coming soon if Wufei keeps me inspired! Then again, with as much material as he gave me here, it should be an easy task for the ShenLong pilot, ne? Future books in the arc will answer a few key questions raised here: Will Quatre be able to earn their trust again and does he even want to? Why did Wufei react that way when they played Risk? How far is Trowa willing to go to keep the promises he is making? Will Heero be able to mold the Gundam pilots into a solid team before it is too late? Will Duo be able to put aside his anger in a moment of crisis yet to come?
2. DEDICATION: While I have enjoyed doing dedications for each of the six posting runs it took to get this fic to the mailing lists initially, there is one final grand dedication to be made. I dedicate this fic to the bright spirits that visit Sweet&Sweet, the Wufei-Trowa shrine run by my sweet kitten-girl Ryoko who also receives dedication kisses here. It is such a pleasure to have a nice spot to go to on the web for everything from angst to lemon featuring these marvelous bishounen.
3. Muse Alert! My angst muse, Melpomene, is clearly the one to blame for starting this, but one of my quietest muses, Calliope, muse of sagas, whispered that she wanted this to be the start of a new story arc and so it is! Thalia, muse of humor, is thrilled with the on-going coffee humor. She's been so quiet for so long that I really missed her and if having Duo go to Starbucks makes her happy, then I'm all for it! Sadly, Erato, muse of lemons, was asked to keep this only lightly citrus-scented, but she has plans for the future!
4. There's an alert system set up to notify folks when something new of mine is available at GW Addiction and Sweet&Sweet. If this appeals to you, please feel free to sign up at EnigmaFanficUpdatesfirstname.lastname@example.org! Special thanks to the 80 people on the mailing list so far, it is a kick to know you enjoy my things!
5. And if you read all the way to the bottom here, special thanks! You put up with "E-sama the Llama" rambling on and on and that deserves a cookie! Arigatou!