I make no claim to any of the Gundam Wing characters. This story is written for my, and hopefully others' enjoyment and not for monetary profit. A huge thanks to Diane for the beta.
A Home in
Chapter Five of Five
Wufei could not help smiling as he pushed open the front door. He had just snatched up the last two tickets to the ice show and was feeling rather pleased with himself. Already, he could imagine Yi Jie's excited face as he told her about the acrobatic performers, the lights and the glittering costumes. Purely by chance, Wufei had gone to Fiftieth Avenue in search of puff pastry sheets for a new recipe, and he spotted the poster for the show just as he was leaving the bakery store. Since he and Yi Jie still had not decided on this weekend's excursion, Wufei bought the tickets, reasoning that the show would be a delightful variation to their usual outings.
The thought kindled the memory of another ill-fated outing and Wufei sighed as the last glimmer of his good humor faded. Hounded by his own anxieties, he had become even more of a homebody in the weeks since he had broken it off with Treize for everywhere he turned, Wufei spotted a certain stride, a certain bright head of hair that reminded him of the man he was trying to forget. He had done the right thing, so why couldn't he stop thinking of Treize?
Wufei brewed himself some tea while he waited for Yi Jie to return from her music lessons. He promised himself he would work on some sales figures, but Wufei found himself flitting restlessly from room to room. Eventually, he ended up in his garden, but even that regular comfort was not enough to soothe his conflicting emotions. He wandered back into the house, settling in front of the television with the courtroom shows and their squabbling litigants. Still, Wufei's attention strayed. The tickets lay on the table before him, emblems of his hope and his love. How empty the hours were without Yi Jie's vibrant presence! It never troubled Wufei before, so why should he be so aware of it now?
Yi Jie and Mariemeia will grow up one day...What will become of us when we've sacrificed everything to their youth?
Wufei pressed a hand to his face as the painful words rang in his head. No matter how hard he tried to deny it, the seed of doubt had been planted and it was bitter wormwood to Wufei's aching heart. A home with Yi Jie was all he had ever needed. What would happen if it was no longer enough? Worse, what would happen when it was no longer enough for Yi Jie?
Turning off the television, Wufei headed toward the staircase. Once in his room, he stripped out of his clothes and stood naked before the mirror. He saw the body of a young man--slim, but with the wiriness of his twenties replaced by the solidity of a man in his prime. Were Wufei and the dark-eyed man staring back at him really one and the same? Was the insurance man in there? Was the father?
Wufei sat on the bed, and the man in the mirror did the same. His penis lay flaccid against his thigh, soft and innocuous as though it had never known the rigidity of desire. Wufei's hand closed about the warm flesh. It had been a long time since he had known another's touch. His fingers tightened, moved, and sensation shimmered through him--the potency of need awakened. This was what Treize would have him believe he was all about. Wufei threw back his head, breath hitching as the intensity built. Color blazed behind his eyelids: red, orange, gold, but mostly blue--burning blue, searing everything away until Wufei was gasping, his climax a hot splatter against his palm.
Climax, but not release.
When Wufei opened his eyes, the man in the mirror was sprawled across the bed, but the staid plaid counterpane mocked his wantonness. Wufei's closet with its precise organization, its rows of pressed slacks and sensible shoes taunted him. On the wall above his dresser, the crayon-bright daddy and daughter a four-year old Yi Jie had drawn for Wufei seemed stunned in their places. The absurdity of the entire situation would have made him laugh if the effort were not so painful. What a funny little man he was. Who on earth did he think he was fooling with this extravagant display of passion?
Wufei rose and showered. Stepping from the warmth of the bathroom, he combed his hair and buttoned each of his shirt buttons carefully as he dressed. Outside, the sky was the uniform white that portended an early snow. It seemed the unseasonable warmth of the fall had only masked a bitter winter instead of the mild season they had imagined. Pulling on his pajama bottoms, Wufei slipped thick woollen socks over his feet against the cold. The soiled counterpane he took downstairs and buried deep in the belly of the washing machine like an old painful memory.
"Baba, I'm home!"
Wufei stuck his head around the kitchen door, listening as Yi Jie kicked off her shoes and dumped her backpack on the living room floor. "In here, Yi Jie," he called. "I'm almost finished with the soup for dinner."
Yi Jie bounded into the room, pigtails flying. When she began setting the table without being asked to, Wufei smiled. "How was music?"
"Great! I finally got my new violin today." Yi Jie replied, setting the teacups carefully in their places. "Oh, and Ms. Spooner says she'll send the receipt next week."
Wufei nodded. "What about class?"
Yi Jie made a face. "We were mostly reviewing stuff for exams so that wasn't fun, but I got all those long-division problems you showed me how to do, right," his daughter reported proudly. "I even had to go up to the board to explain it to the rest of the class."
"That is wonderful, Yi Jie. I'm quite proud of you. Only when you can teach something to others do you know you have truly mastered it."
Yi Jie grinned at the praise, continuing to chatter as they took their places at the table. Wufei only half-listened, making sure to respond at the appropriate moment. More than the words themselves, it was the sound of Yi Jie's voice, the easy exchange between them that he took joy in. Without Yi Jie's brightness, her guilelessness, her unquestioning love for him, it seemed only natural to Wufei that he should have spiraled into the dark humiliation of earlier. How could he doubt for a moment that Yi Jie was at the center of his heart, that she gave him a firm purpose and direction? Why should he need anything else?
"Baba, are you listening?"
"Pardon?" Wufei looked up, realizing he had drifted off just as he had promised himself he would not. "Sorry, Yi Jie, I did not mean to drift off. I'm a little tired," Wufei apologized. He was expecting Yi Jie to continue with her story but instead she raised a worried face to him.
"Baba, you're okay aren't you? I mean, you're not sick or anything?"
Wufei jerked his head back in surprise. "No, no, I'm fine," he said, moving quickly to reassure her. "Why would you say that?"
Yi Jie shrugged, pushing her food around on her plate. "I dunno ... these days you're different ... not like you always are. You don't smile so much and you always seem ... I dunno ... sad or something."
"Sad?" Wufei gave an uneasy laugh. Was he that obvious? Wufei thought he hid his turmoil well, but he hadn't expected his daughter to hit so close to the mark. "I'm not sad at all," Wufei murmured, patting Yi Jie's hand, but he was not sure who he was trying to convince more, his daughter or himself.
"Are you sure?"
"Positive," Wufei answered, wincing at his Yi Jie's sceptical look. What kind of man was he? How utterly self-absorbed and irresponsible of him to be moping about the house enough to cause Yi Jie to fret over him. Feeling despicable, Wufei tried to reassure her. "Things have just been a little busier at the office than expected, so I'm more exhausted in the evenings. I would hate for you to worry over nothing. What would I have to be sad about?"
Yi Jie shrugged again, eloquently.
"Exactly." Wufei's voice was gruff. "Come now, cheer up, I have a surprise for you."
"A surprise?" Yi Jie brightened.
"Mmm, hmm." Wufei rose to retrieve the tickets. "I got us the last tickets to the ice show." He described the special performers in their bright costumes, the lights and music, and Yi Jie's mouth formed a small "O", her expression rapt.
"Oh Baba, that sounds like so much fun! When is the show?"
Wufei's heart expanded. Yi Jie's reaction was just what he expected. "It starts at five, tomorrow evening."
"Tomorrow? Oh no!" Yi Jie's face fell. "Jen invited me and Mariemeia to sleep over at her house tomorrow. I was going to ask you first thing after dinner."
Wufei frowned. "Jen?"
"Jen Rutherford. We met her at Brookshire Fair, remember?"
"Yi Jie, I'm not sure about this. I'm never comfortable with these sleepovers. It is not just a matter of Jen being a good friend. I'm sure she is a sweet girl, but how do I know you will be in good hands? Who will be in charge, there?" Wufei hesitated. "Besides, isn't Saturday, our day? I went to a lot of trouble to get these tickets."
"I know, Baba," Yi Jie said pleadingly, "but it's only this once and I really really want to go to Jen's." Yi Jie ran out of the kitchen and returned with a scrap of paper. I even wrote down Mrs. Rutherford's telephone number so you could talk to her and make sure everything's all right."
"If I find someone else to take the tickets can I go to Jen's? Please, Baba?"
Wufei sighed. "All right, where is Mrs. Rutherford's number?"
"Oh, thank you, Baba." Yi Jie squeezed him in a hug. "I'll find someone to take the tickets tonight, I promise."
It was a simple exchange, one which had occurred between fathers and daughters for thousands of years and which was probably being re-enacted in thousands of other households this night, but for Wufei, Yi Jie's rejection came when he most needed reassurance of his role as her father, of their love for each other, of the home they had built in common. He feared that one cancellation of their weekend trips signaled the abandonment of many, and panic rose in his chest. In time, Yi Jie would not need them at all. She was growing up, seeking female companionship and the Jens of the world could provide what he could not. Pain welled within Wufei--pain and dissatisfaction with the life he only recently had believed perfect. Wufei could not help feeling that when he walked away from Treize, he had left some vital force behind that he was now helpless to recover.
Logically, Wufei knew he should not look too much into Yi Jie's sleepover. If she had rejected him, it was with a child's sweet benevolence, but his heart was wracked by doubt. It seemed to him that everything he knew was crumbling away from him and he would be left with nothing but the rubble of the life he once built.
Across the table from him, Yi Jie was talking rapidly between spoonfuls. "Sorry for not telling you earlier but next Saturday we'll do something together for sure. When will the ice-show come again, because I really want to see it? It's just that this Saturday is bad. Plus, since you've been so tired, tomorrow you can have a good rest. I bet you won't even notice I'm gone, right Baba?"
Wufei thought of the empty house and the interminable hours ahead with only his work and his anguished thoughts for company. If Treize had taught him anything, Wufei realized with sudden painful clarity, it was his own hollowness and the depth of his loneliness. Picking up his spoon, Wufei smoothed his napkin carefully over his lap. He gave Yi Jie a pained smile. "Of course."
Wufei turned away from the table, cradling a cup of eggnog between his palms as his co-worker approached. "Ah, Peter, thank you."
"Oh no, my man, everyone knows this promotion has been a long time coming." The other man smiled. "I think this is the best Christmas party we've had in years. It was nice of the 'higher-ups' to announce the promotions here this year wasn't it? Sort of like an early Christmas present."
"Jaime got a managerial position too, didn't she? I thought I heard her name in there."
"Yes, I believe I heard that as well," Wufei answered, sipping his drink thoughtfully. "She is an honorable woman."
"Well, it means no more cramped cubes for you guys. Finally an office with a little privacy, eh?" Peter was grinning. "How does it feel?"
"Good," Wufei said simply, and he meant it. Two promotions in four years was something to be proud of. Even by his own exacting standards, Wufei could not deny this was something to celebrate. The promotion would mean more money, but most importantly, more security for him and Yi Jie. Entering the company as a young nervous father, Wufei would never have guessed he would achieve so much in so little time. No, selling insurance was not what he would have wanted to do given the choice, but he had somehow managed to find a place for himself here. He had no regrets.
"Hey, Chang, how is that wonderful daughter of yours?" Wufei was already smiling when Peter patted him on the back and scurried off to mingle. Now, his smile broadened into a grin at the mention of Yi Jie.
"Jaime, congratulations. And Yi Jie is doing well. She's at her own Christmas party, right now, actually. She'll be going to visit with her mother's family afterward."
"Is that so?" Jaime's smile was warm. "Does that mean you have to leave us to pick her up?"
Wufei shook his head. "No, I'll be here for a little while. Her aunt will take her over to her grandmother's place when the party is over."
"That's wonderful. It seems we hardly ever have a moment to talk amidst the bustle of the office. It's nice to see you here, Wufei, unwinding a bit for once."
"Thanks." Wufei coughed, a little uncomfortable. "Did I congratulate you on your promotion?"
"Yes, yes you did." Jaime beamed. "The same goes to you as well. I was telling Mariposa what a great company this is to work for. There's such a strong feeling of connection among us--almost like family. I've worked for a lot of duds, and let me tell you, we're good people, here, Wufei."
"My partner." Jaime explained, pointing to a slim, dark-haired woman who was talking to the head of their department. "Jesus, they're still going at it? Every time we have the chief over, he tries to recruit her. I knew if I brought her to the party it would be the same." Jamie laughed. "Mar's a financial analyst at Billington. I think the chief's... Wufei, is something wrong?"
"No ... I'm fine. Just a little indigestion." Wufei grimaced, rubbing at his chest. The pain expanded, threatening to overwhelm him. "The Director ... he's ... he's ... met your partner?" he asked in a strangled voice. Wufei's head was pounding with his racing thoughts.
"Yes," Jaime replied slowly, her expression still concerned as she studied Wufei. "I've met his wife as well--lovely woman. My son and his daughter, Sally go to the same high school. "You sure you okay? Those h'or d'oeuvres were pretty spicy."
If only the source of his pain was so simple. "Yes ... yes ... perhaps ... perhaps I should excuse myself." Wufei's voice was strained. He shuffled backwards, moving away from Jaime as quickly as possible. On all sides folly confronted him. How could he have been so blind--so damned foolish? Wufei had agreed with Jaime about the connection the employees shared with each other, but in truth, Wufei had never felt it, too focused on his own world with Yi Jie as he was. How many times a week did he eat lunch at his desk? How often did he avoid the after work get-togethers and happy hours so he could speed through his assignments and return home early to Yi Jie? How often had he told himself that love--any love--would be stifled by discrimination and contempt?
Yet, here was a room of well-wishers ready to buoy him up at a moment's notice, even though Wufei had never bothered to give them anything of himself. Here was their Director sharing a cigarette with a woman whose life mirrored Wufei's own, but there was no discrimination and certainly no contempt from any side. Only Wufei suffered in a world of delusions. Only Wufei chased love away when he found it, choosing instead to live in fear of his own needs. Had he truly believed any of those things he told himself? Surely if was he thinking clearly--no feeling honestly--he would have seen the error of his ways. Wufei told himself he would lose his job if he ever allowed himself to openly express his affection for Treize, but everyone knew the discrimination he anticipated was illegal in Sunville, even if he and Treize had shared a thousand kisses that day in the park. Worse, even with Duo and Quatre as examples of the happiness possible for an unconventional couple, Wufei had clapped his hands over his ears--deaf to reason, deaf to his friends, deaf to his own heart.
The horror-movie town of narrow-minded cronies ready with pitchforks and knives to oust anyone different was imagined. What Wufei saw for the first time was that the only one with tunnel vision was himself. Sacrifice, denial and restraint were his guide-words but sacrifice for whom, denial and restraint for what reason? Now all Wufei saw was a young man terrified to open himself to love again. His charade was so suddenly and violently ripped away that the pain of its exposure left Wufei reeling like a man physically injured. He limped to the door, aged more in half an hour than in the seven years since Meiran's death.
Standing outside in the icy-cold, snowflakes fell wetly onto Wufei's head and jacket, tangling in his lashes and blurring his vision, but he did not move. There, amidst the winking Christmas lights and bright store-fronts, Wufei was waiting for something. He knew he would recognize it when it came to him. His hands were numb as he dialed Duo's number. After three rings, Duo's vibrant voice sounded on the other end.
"Seasons Greetings! Duo here."
After the turmoil of the evening, Duo's simple good cheer was too much. Wufei slumped onto a nearby bench, shuddering. "Duo ... Duo I am a fool!" he cried brokenly.
"Wu? Wu-man, are you okay?"
"No, I..." Wufei's words twisted into a sob.
"Jesus, where are you, Fei?" Duo's voice was urgent. There was a rapid exchange between him and Quatre and Wufei could hear the banging of a door as Duo threw open the closet and fumbled for his coat. Behind him, Quatre's voice rose, high-pitched with worry. "Don't move, Fei, Quatre and I are coming to get you. Just tell me where you are, okay man? Fei, Fei are you still there!"
Wufei's head was pounding. What was he doing? This was not what he was looking for. "No... no ... I made a mistake. I shouldn't have called. This isn't what I ... I'm sorry Duo."
"Fei? Fei, if you just tell me..."
Wufei hung up, silencing Duo's pleas. He looked upward, turning his face to the white sky. What did he really want? He thought of Meiran, so fearless and determined to take life by the horns, and the old wound of loss ached within him. She would never have settled for anything less than living each day to the full. He remembered how they would sit together on the porch after Yi Jie finished her bottle and they had put her to bed. They would talk about everything: work, friends--their dreams for the future. How could they know they would never spend that future with each other? On their last evening together, the sky was impossibly clear, the stars so bright, so vivid, it seemed to Wufei he only had to stretch his fingers out to touch them. They sat a long time in the darkness, listening to the chirping crickets. Wufei, looking up at the brilliant sky, had mused, "If you had one wish you could make true what would it be?"
Meiran smiled. Her answer had been immediate. "To always be with the people I love," she said simply. Even in the darkness, Wufei could see the fierceness of her expression. "In fact, I won't let it be a wish. I don't know what will happen tomorrow but as long as I can help it, I won't let any chance to be with them slip by."
Wufei closed his eyes. Meiran had always been the brave one; maybe he could rely on her strength to see him through. Wufei hesitated. After a moment, he pulled out his cell phone again, searching through his contact list until he found the number he was looking for--little used, no, not-dialed in too long.
Wufei gripped the phone, white-knuckled as his courage abruptly deserted him. He could hear the rising irritation in the voice on the other end. What if he was too late? This was not some romantic fairy tale where lovers pined for each other over time and across distances. Besides, they had never been lovers anyway. Wufei had effectively prevented that with his cowardice. Two months had passed. Maybe Treize had moved on without him but what if, Wufei couldn't help thinking, what if he hadn't? What if he could still make things right? Wufei did not want to wait anymore for happiness to come to him. He wondered ... he wondered...
He wondered what would happen if he went out to greet happiness instead.
"Hello?" The voice on the other end came again, this time more insistent. "I'm sorry but if you don't speak up, I'm going to have to hang up."
Wufei closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He was trembling so badly the phone rattled against his palm. "He...hello, Treize? This is Wufei..."
Treize tightened his arms around Wufei as they cuddled together on the older man's couch. They were alone; Mariemeia, like Yi Jie, was away visiting with family. "I feared I would never be able to hold you like this," Treize breathed, his lips ghosting over Wufei's cheek.
Wufei felt as though he were floating in a dream. Though he was a fool, Treize had not spurned him. Instead, after that first tortured silence on the phone, Treize had greeted him joyously, demanding that Wufei stay put while he rushed over to meet him. Now, here he was in Treize's arms. He could hardly believe it. Wufei stared at Treize's face with wonder. The older man was as handsome as ever, but there were lines of strain around his mouth--evidence of the suffering Wufei had caused. Ashamed of the part he had played, Wufei traced an apology over each one with his lips.
"Forgive me, I was an idiot ... confused ..." Wufei trailed off finding all his explanations insufficient. "Thank you for not giving up on me," he finished quietly.
"Never." Treize shook his head. "I told you I wouldn't give up and I meant it. I didn't know if you would ever change your mind, but I never gave up hope that you would return to me. Some days I doubted but well ... when you called ... it made all those lonely weeks worthwhile. There was something in your eyes that day, Wufei. Even after everything you said, I knew that even if your head was conflicted, your heart had listened to mine." As he spoke, Treize's palm moved upward, settling against Wufei's chest.
Treize's palm over his heart was like a brand. Wufei shuddered, letting his forehead rest against Treize. There was no shame in the desire that coursed through him in that instant. "Treize..." Wufei sighed, "I ... I want to make love with you."
Treize's Adam's apple bobbed and Wufei could see the trembling in his fingers as he cupped Wufei's face between his palms. Still, Treize's gaze was steady as he said, "I would like that very much, Wufei."
Overcome, Wufei stilled for a moment, but the fire in his veins did not allow him to remain immobile for long. Taking off his shirt he settled over Treize's lap, and buried his face in the crook of the other man's neck, savoring Treize's vital heat before Wufei began kissing his jaw and the stubble-roughened skin there. Wufei had yearned so long for this, he was determined not to leave any part of Treize unworshipped. As he rubbed his cheek against that scratchy stubble, even the small abrasion seemed pleasurable to Wufei. He moved downwards again, stopping at the hollow of Treize's collarbones. Wufei suckled him there, feeling the rapid rise and fall of the other man's chest, matching his own labored breathing. When he tried to unbutton Treize's shirt though, he fumbled, his knuckles scraping against Treize's belt buckle.
"I ... it's been a long time," Wufei stuttered, trying to steady his hands.
"Shh, it's all right." Treize bent to capture Wufei's mouth and at the first touch of their lips, Wufei cried out as though he had been singed. There was such tenderness in Treize's kiss, such acceptance after his years of self-denial, that the dam protecting his emotions suddenly crumbled. A sob tore free of his throat but he stifled it, pressing his mouth against Treize's with all the intensity of his accumulated pain. Wufei's fingers brushed Treize's belt buckle again and this time he undid it, unzipping the older man's jeans to seek Treize's underwear beneath. Freeing Treize's penis, Wufei found him only half-aroused from their shared kisses.
"Sorry." Treize flushed as Wufei caressed him. "I'm a little nervous. It's been a long time for me too."
"That's okay." Wufei echoed, marveling at Treize's beauty. He wrapped an arm around the older man's neck and pulled him down for another kiss. Treize tasted of peppermint and brandy and Wufei was drunk on every part of him. "It's okay, it's okay," Wufei repeated. "It's my fault, I ... Treize, I can't wait anymore." Wufei felt vulnerable, naked in the most primal sense--utterly stripped of every self-delusion. It both exhilarated him and frightened him. He wanted to be cradled in a safe place. He wanted to stay in the protection of Treize's arms. He wanted to crawl right inside of Treize and never let him go.
So Treize let him.
"I'm sorry ... sorry ... sorry..." Wufei's nose was running and his throat was tight with tears. He knew he looked a terrible mess but he couldn't stop sobbing even as he thrust deeply into Treize and climaxed. The more he tried to stifle his cries, the harder the rain of tears came and Wufei was forced to give in. The flood gates had been opened and there would be no stopping the torrent held within. All the tears Wufei had never allowed himself to cry poured forth then. He wept for Meiran, wept for Yi Jie who was left motherless, wept for his grief, for all the time he had wasted and finally, Wufei wept for himself, for the life he lost, for the father who had buried his grief in his duties, for the frightened young man who had almost thrown away the chance to love. Pain and pleasure mingled until Wufei could no longer move for the sobs wracking him. He clutched at Treize, impossibly lost, yet sure for the first time in his life that he was exactly where he should be.
And through it all, Treize never let him go. Reversing their positions, he made love to Wufei until the pleasure was no longer tainted and there was no pain, only shimmering ecstasy. When they were spent, Treize murmured soothingly to him. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, thank you--for everything."
"No," Treize protested. "I'm only happy you came back to me."
Wufei let out a shaky breath. He felt free, all his horizons exploded wide open. "Treize ... is this love?"
"Maybe..." Treize's arms tightened about Wufei. "I think so. Do we have to know?"
Wufei considered that. "No, I guess not," he said after a moment. He smiled, thinking of Meiran. "But I think ... I think I want it to be."
"Me too." Treize vowed, kissing Wufei's temple. "I want that very much, too."
There would be hard work ahead of them--awkwardness, frustration and no doubt pain as they tried to bring their families together. So far, Marie only knew Wufei as Yi Jie's father, but what if this tentative beginning between him and Treize changed into something more? Would she accept him? Most importantly, what about Yi Jie? Eventually, he would have to explain all of this to her and Wufei could not think how to begin. He only knew that their relationship was changing rapidly again, except this time, he was the one growing, blooming, opening up to the possibilities of life.
For now, however, he and Treize had the afternoon to themselves. There would be time enough for weightier matters later. If this was a new beginning, Wufei wanted to make the best of it. He was young, he was happy, he was a lover and a father and the two no longer inspired any conflict in him. Wufei turned to Treize with a smile.
"Treize, how do you feel about dinner and dancing on the town later this evening?"
Treize threw his head back with a joyous shout. He grinned, dipping Wufei for another kiss. "I thought you'd never ask."
Outside, it had stopped snowing and clear winter sunlight poured through the windows as they rose and dressed. Taking each other's hands, they opened the front door and stepped into its bright circle together.