As night lengthened, Duo found himself faced with an age-old conundrum: Do you ask your roommate to turn off the light because you want to sleep even though he wants to read, or do you close your eyes very tightly and try to ignore it? Being true to himself, he found a third alternative and struck up a conversation instead.
"Hey, Wu," Duo asked, rolling over on the bed they had silently agreed to share, "What're you and Tro planning on doing differently now that you're a couple and all?"
"Nani?" Wufei glanced at him in confusion. "Trowa and myself? A 'couple', Duo?"
"Of course, silly!" Duo snickered at the wide eyes and slight blush. "Or are you the only one left who hasn't caught on to the fact that he's sleeping in your bed every night these days?"
"Not the last two nights," Wufei complained.
"Hmph! The nights he's gone like this don't count, Wu!" Duo grinned insistently. "Ya don't think *I* worry about all the nights Heero's gone on a mission, do ya? 'Course not!"
The American teen rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling letting a small frown cross his full lips. With a certain amount of annoyance, he admitted, "This time around, though, I gotta admit, I'm still feeling a little jumpy." He shook his head as he added, "There's just something wrong with this deal. I felt it before and I still feel it."
"So do I," Wufei admitted as well, stretching his legs out and hissing at the slight pain of pins and needles from where the circulation had been cut off for too long.
"What's wrong?" Duo asked, concerned that the pain the other was feeling might in fact be a remnant of the injuries Wufei was still recovering from.
"My foot fell asleep," the Chinese boy admitted sheepishly as he shook off the last of the tingling sensations.
A surprised laugh bubbled up in Duo's throat and he moved to pounce the pilot seated beside him on the bed, grinning and laughing as he laid his head on Wufei's stomach. As the oriental pilot was trying to decide how to cope with this over-familiarity, Duo wrapped both arms around Wufei's waist and laughed again.
"You're just too damned cute, Wu!" Duo finally pronounced, moving to lay back on his own side of the bed, regarding his friend's deeply flushed appearance with a smile. "No wonder Tro can't resist you! Who could?"
Wufei tried desperately to find a way to combat this turn of events and he gave up as the blush returned. Duo, for all of his lack of inhibitions, was busy trying to pull himself out of his laughing and it was causing him to flush as well.
Pausing in his mental efforts to find control, Wufei took a moment to assess how the slight pink tint on his friend's cheeks affected Duo's looks. As it occurred to him that the extra color highlighted Duo's unique violet-blue eyes, easily the youth's finest attribute other than the meter-long chestnut braid, he realized the other boy was staring at him, open-mouthed in apparent shock.
"Chang Wufei, ya hentai! What the *hell* are you thinking about?!?" Duo finally gasped out as he moved to sit up completely, arms crossed in mock-anger over his chest.
The Chinese boy froze both mentally and physically as he asked with none of his usual intelligence, "Nani? What are you talking about, Duo?"
The same violet eyes Wufei had just been admiring were now casting a pointed glance at his lap and the rather pronounced bulge that had formed in the blankets there. Wide-eyed, Wufei looked down and saw the same thing and then blushed as dark as either boy had seen him before he took his hand and smoothed the rumpled bedclothes back out eliminating the 'bulge' rather more easily than he had feared it might be.
"Oh," Duo snickered and shrugged. "Sorry, my mistake."
Wufei rolled his eyes even as he secretly thanked whatever gods were watching over him that Duo had missed the fact that even he had assumed the same thing. With deliberately falsified sarcasm, he remarked acidly, "Not *everyone* thinks the way that *you* do, Duo! Some of us live for more than just sex!"
"Ah, perhaps, Wu, but is that really 'living'? I think not!" Duo nodded emphatically. "No, without sex, then it's just 'existing' and Shinigami wants more out of this brief life than that!"
Now more calm and far more philosophical, Wufei glanced away and sighed. Nodding, and hoping the subject could be banished as easily as the fold in the blanket had been, he agreed, "I am sure this is true for you, Duo. You seem to have quite a fulfilling relationship with Heero."
Wufei sighed again and, in spite of himself, he added, "You are really very lucky, Duo, to enjoy what the two of you share."
Senses tuned by years of listening to others' problems alerted Duo that he had stumbled onto a critical area for his smaller friend. Becoming quite serious and focused, Duo moved to sit where he could watch Wufei's face better as he asked, "Hey, Wu, something's wrong, isn't it? And I don't just meant the whole 'we both feel there's something that stinks about this mission the guys are on' thing. What's up?"
Violet eyes observed carefully and spotted the flash of pain this brought as well as the echoes of a deeper sorrow the other was trying diligently to conceal. With a gentle hand placed onto a bronze shoulder without teasing or an attempt to push the other teen faster than he could handle, Duo asked again, "C'mon, buddy, talk to me here. Ya know you can trust me, right?"
A soft snort was as close to the usual response Wufei might have used to fend off this particular topic. The Chinese boy could barely believe that the word "sex" had left his own lips in the first place, to be forced to discus it further made him want to leave the room but he knew better than to try to escape his concerned friend now.
After a few moments of silence, though, Duo asked gently, "Are you worried about when Tro gets back, Wu? You're afraid of something, aren't you?"
"Hai," Wufei stared at the hands he held tightly folded in his lap but offered no explanation.
Duo felt a sense of danger in pursuing this line of thought but felt like he had an obligation to keep going for the sake of his two friends' blossoming relationship. Running one hand through his bangs, Duo tried again only being far more frank than he had so far.
"Tell me, Wu, are you worried about what to do when Tro asks you for sex?"
Startled, Wufei looked up and the answer, or at least part of it, was clear to see in wide black eyes. He slowly nodded, wondering, "You mean he will ask me first? Is that how it works?"
"Huh?" Now it was Duo's turn to be startled as he sat back and regarded his friend closely, trying to sort out the confusion he sensed.
Did Wufei mean he had been coerced into sex in the past and thought that was how it was always done or did he mean that he simply didn't know the etiquette of the situation? One answer terrified Duo and the other amused him, but for now, he was afraid to find out which it would be even though every instinct he possessed told him he already knew the answer.
Leaning back and letting his eyes slide shut, Duo regretfully abandoned his decision to try to confront whatever issue was upsetting his friend. If there were indeed dark secrets hiding in Wufei's past that included being taken against his will, Duo knew he would be better able to deal with it, as well as help the suddenly fragile boy, if his own strong lover was there for backup. He assumed it would also help if Trowa was there since this would directly impact him, too.
Silently praying once more that the two pilots would return as scheduled the following day, Duo commented easily, "Yeah, of course that's how it's done, unless you're the one who asks first." He shrugged as he kept his eyes shut fearing the reaction he might have seen in the dark eyes to this suggestion, "Granted, as long as Heero and me have been together, well, neither one of us 'asks' anymore, it seems! More like 'demands' most of the time!" He chuckled as the image of Heero munching on carrots while waiting for him one night in the previous safehouse came to mind.
Wufei let out a breath as he relaxed, believing the painful truth had been kept hidden one more night at least. His near legendary abilities to conceal things seemed to have faded away recently and he felt this to have been a near miss with his darkest secret.
"So for you two, then, sex is just a matter of course, Duo?" Wufei asked in genuine curiosity. "Where do you find the energy to keep chasing each other night and day, anyway?"
"'Find the energy' for sex, Wu?" Duo glanced at him out of the corners of his eyes. He bit back a remark that might have darkened the boy's spirit again and he commented, "Good nutrition does have its side benefits, ya know!"
"Speaking of nutrition," Wufei remarked with a worried look on his face as he changed the subject, "Any ideas on why Trowa is so thin? I am becoming quite concerned about that."
Duo rolled over onto his side to regard him and answered softly, "Wish I did, Wu, really I do. But, no, I have no idea at all why, but he's been like that the whole time I've known him. It may seem like we four should know each other a lot better than we do, but that's a secret I don't know the answer to."
"Ah, I was afraid of that." Wufei nodded and then asked, "That being the case, instead of wondering why he is that way, how about some thoughts on how to change it? No matter what the future brings, Trowa needs to take better care of himself."
"Maybe, Wu," Duo said thoughtfully, "you and me need to come up with a plan for that, huh? If the two of us bug him to eat, you can bet he'll do it."
Wufei snorted softly, "Either that or he will run away from us and the only time we will see him again is during a battle." Shaking his head as Wufei realized there was still so much to learn about the attractive HeavyArms pilot, he turned back to smile at the boy laying beside him. "Coming up with a strategy would be excellent, Duo. What do you suggest?"
"Let's see," Duo flipped over to lay on his back and he contemplated the ceiling as he talked about some ideas he had on the matter, never once noticing that Wufei had sunk down to lay nestled in the blankets on his side of the bed. After going on at length about various recipes and tricks to use on the unsuspecting teen, he glanced over to see the other boy was drifting off to sleep. With a gentle smile, he asked, "Am I boring you, Wu?"
"Gomen, Duo," Wufei yawned, embarrassed without realizing that the depression was pulling him back into slumber again. "I have been rather more sleepy than usual lately. Those are good ideas for Trowa, though, thank you."
"Ah, 's okay, pal," Duo smiled as he crawled under the covers. He leaned up on one elbow and reached across Wufei to turn out the reading lamp, dropping a brief kiss to the other boy's forehead before laying back down.
"Yuy's gonna be jealous," Wufei mumbled around a yawn and a smile as he let himself slide fully into sleep.
"Sh'yeah, right!" Duo chuckled softly at that idea. Realizing his companion was once more dreaming peacefully, the worried American teen slid closer and took the Chinese boy into his arms, stroking his back gently as he contemplated this newest set of implications.
//Dear god, Wu! What're you hiding from us? If it's what I think it is, then it's a damned good thing the guys will be back tomorrow. You're usually so freakin' strong all the time. If I hadn't seen the pain in your eyes myself, I never woulda' believed it could be true. Who coulda' hurt a sweet guy like you that way, huh?//
He sighed and tried to stop the thoughts from chasing themselves in his mind but couldn't. Giving in to the anger that welled up from deep in his heart, Duo added silently,
//One thing's for sure, though. If someone really *did* rape you, when I find out who did it, they're as good as dead, count on it! Even if it wasn't rape, between Tro, Heero, and me, whoever the hell messed with you is gonna pay!!!//
Plans for vengeance firmly in mind, Duo was finally able to allow himself to settle into sleep, but as he did so, his arms tightened protectively around his sleeping friend. Wufei sighed happily, never once awakening yet somehow reassured that he was not being abandoned.
Full Author's Notes to Run at Conclusion.
End Notes for Parts 15 and 16:
Dedications: This posting run's "Hall of Fame" list was destroyed by the evil
minions that control the weather over Central North Carolina's skies.
However, knowing that there are those who deserve thanks even when I can't
get to my inbox, here's a modified list that includes some people I'm sure
deserve thanks no matter what!
Danielle (Who stays up late to bring a smile to the llama-boy's face! Thank
you, my darling yume!!!!), Azzie, dan, Naz, Jana, SteelSong, Zan, Kayo, Shea,
Rubious, SkyLark, StarLight, and... and...
and... of course, Ryoko and Kimmie!