Wow, a 5xS from me! I must confess, although it's been five years since I've been writing for Gundam Wing, I have never written a completely Wufei/Sally fic. But here it is. Do enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing, it is the property of Bandai and its assorted creators. I am making no profit from this fic.
Warning: Rated for minor language. Also, this fic contains spoilers for both the series and Wufei's Episode Zero.
Note: Sally's project is completely and entirely invented by my imagination with only a minimal amount of research. It cannot be done, as far as I know. At least not before A.C. 198. Her experiment is fiction.
The Doctor's Duty
A.C. 198 –
The Sahara Desert was not the place Preventer Sally Po might have first imagined going to on her first paid vacation while working with Preventer. Technically, it wasn't a vacation at all since she was still on duty and had been forced to take a partner with her; even if the only piece of her uniform she'd brought was her badge and her gun. While sand and plenty of sun was always in order for her idea of a good time, palm trees and lots of water were usually entered into the equation as well. And when the best you had were cactuses and several cases of bottled water, well…
It was almost enough to make Sally Po want to postpone this research project. Almost. She figured she should have at least requested a different partner. Commander Une would have been surprised and perhaps even curious if such a thing had transpired.
It wasn't that Sally didn't appreciate all the help Wufei gave her, it was just…
"Woman! It's one hundred and fifty degrees out here! Have you installed the cooling system yet!"
Sally sighed, her fingers pausing over the keyboard of her Preventer-bought laptop. It was just that Wufei complained too damn much.
"Just a minute," she called back, biting down on snapping. She wouldn't fight him, she told herself, she wouldn't be a child. She would be the bigger person, and he could act like the spoiled five-year-old he really was.
Wufei issued another grunt of discontent. He most likely thought she couldn't hear it from his place outside the large canvas tent, but oh, she could. Sally impatiently jabbed a key, and within moments a faint buzzing started up, and soon cool air was breezing through the tent.
"It's on, Wufei," she said to him, standing from her folding chair and arching her back. She tilted her head left and right and felt the sore muscles pop. As a doctor, she felt disapproval for her actions but was currently reveling in the relief of the released tension. "You'll pay for it when you get arthritis, Sally…"
Wufei pushed aside the flap of the tent's doorway and barreled in. If there was nothing else she could compliment him on, Sally thought as he began grumbling something about the program for the cooling being incompetent, she could at least appreciate how he did everything with energy.
"You did a good job," he told her, drinking from a water bottle as he checked out the statistics of the program on her laptop screen.
Sally smiled just a little to herself. Really, there was a lot to Wufei that she could appreciate.
Wufei looked at her, and his face transformed into a steely half-glare. "But you should have done it a lot faster."
She frowned. "But I'll be damned before he knows it," she assured herself. Wufei had a very easily-inflated ego to begin with. She had gotten good at avoiding helping it along. She turned to him.
"I can't believe it took eighteen hours just to finish setting up camp." Sally meant to be conversational but ended up sounding irritated instead.
Wufei shrugged. "I it will be more beneficial in the long run. The cooling system will enable you to work better than you would if suffering from the temperatures of this part of the world."
As she brought up a hand to absently play with one of her long blond plaits, Sally nearly laughed. All of the ex-Gundam pilots had a habit of looking on the bright side by bringing up practical facts that made sense. They handled struggle with science. The five of them had amused her during the war with the total unlikelihood of their professionalism. No one expected fifteen year-old boys to work with as much skill as generals, but those boys had gone above and beyond. Sally always felt a certain pride recalling those days. Heero had rescued the whole Earth Sphere, Trowa had infiltrated Libra and immobilized the Mobile Dolls after Quatre had led the defense of Peacemillion, and Duo had helped the Gundam Developers destroy Libra's main bridge.
And then there was Chang Wufei. He had been a willful, headstrong boy determined to reach new levels of his strength and to find his own sense of integrity. Today, he was still willful and headstrong, but he had plenty of strength and had found integrity within himself. He had killed Treize Khushrenada only to shed tears after.
He was, Sally thought with a quiet smile, quite the enigma.
Sally watched him as he clacked away on the computer, hooking up the vidlink so that they could report in. His jaw was firmly set, his eyebrows narrowed slightly as he focused on his task.
If she was honest, Wufei was no boy anymore. Despite it being only a year and a half after the Mariemaia incident, all of the Gundam pilots were above average maturity, having known war and peace so closely. Monitoring she had performed after the final battle in 195 had showed that their brainwave patterns were close r to those of twenty-five year olds, rather than those of young men at eighteen.
Sally would never lose interest in them. They were any doctor's dream. However, Sally wasn't just any doctor. She had a healthy curiosity for the psyche of the teen soldiers, being one herself, but there were more specific aspirations she had for her field. That was why she and Wufei were camped out in the Sahara in the first place.
"This place is like a furnace," grumbled Wufei even as the breeze from the electric air conditioner sent his black hair ruffling.
"It could be worse," she shrugged. "Ask Quatre. He was the one who went onto MO-III to free the Gundams when it was only kilometers away from the sun."
"Hm." That was his only response to the amazing feat. Not taking his eyes from the computer that showed statistics on their location, he commented, "Such a dry climate. I've never heard of anything being healed by sand. It's a wasteland, after all."
Smirking at the uneducated statement, one of Sally's light eyebrows rose. "Oh? Quatre once told me that his first view of Earth was right here in the Sahara – without a cooling system. He said he remembered its beauty extraordinarily well."
Wufei did look at her now, and his face was skeptical. "You're being very vocal about Quatre today. Anything I should know about?" He grabbed his water bottle with more force than necessary and took a hard drink.
"What?" She grinned. "Don't you think we'd make a lovely pair?"
He exhaled as he swallowed the last of the liquid. "I think you'd feel lonely. The guy's busy as hell with the Winner Corporation. They've been reconstructing war-damaged Colonies for the last year."
Here Sally was suddenly careful. She actually thought about changing the subject swiftly so as to avoid possible discomfort, but she had been working with Wufei ever since Noin had gone to partner up with Zechs on Mars nearly fourteen months ago, and she still knew very little about her partner's thoughts on his war experiences.
"Starting with A0206, right? Your home Colony?"
For a total of two seconds, Wufei paused in his typing, and then continued with fervor. "It's a good use of funds, anyway," he mumbled.
She nodded and let the topic drop. Apparently Wufei had no intention of speaking to her about what was more or less the kamikaze implosion of L5 by the Long family. Sally couldn't blame him.
After all, she had been there the day the Alliance had attacked it in A.C. 194.
A blip came from the laptop, followed by Wufei's informative, "It's up." Sally leaned over his shoulder. She only had a few seconds before Une's face appeared on the screen, but she didn't need much inspection to tell that Wufei had all at once grown very tense.
She put a smile on her face. "Commander…"
"I don't get it." Wufei watched with seeming carelessness as Sally crouched on the ground, filling a slim glass container with cool sand. The light of the moon cast the desert in a pale, silvery-blue light. "This is the third time you've gotten sand. What's so special about it? It's the same all over."
"Aha." The former military doctor wagged a finger at him as she stood up and walked back into the tent. "I've been gathering data on the sand at different temperatures." She tipped the container and poured just a bit of sand beneath her microscope, peering at it eagerly. To Wufei, she added, "I've already tested it when its in an area with high points of salinity, or beach sand. I began with the Sanq Kingdom as a representative for Europe. And I've been getting samples from other parts of the world by asking coworkers to bring some back for me if they visited beaches on vacation."
Wufei's face changed to display small surprise. Obviously, he had not heard her do such a thing. He frowned to cover his state of not knowing with impatience. "But why?"
"Because." Sally straightened from the microscope, and after scribbling something down in a spiraled notebook filled with previous notes. "Research I've done shows that there is a healing factor in a certain type of sediment. Sand, as you know, is made up of many, many sediments. If I can find it…" She trailed off as she was absorbed in her notes.
Wufei watched her with a curious expression. He might even have smiled at how intense she was when working. "If you can find it," he prompted.
Sally jumped a bit and smiled at him. "I could cure hundreds of diseases. It's possibly that the sediment could even be made into liquid form and inserted into guanine at birth."
"Guanine? As in DNA?"
"Right. Here, look." Sally sat down in the folding chair and began to open files on their computer. After a moment, a figure of illustrated DNA appeared. Wufei bent over slightly to watch the screen. "DNA is made up of four nitrogen nucleotides: adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine. Cystosine and thymine are pyrimidines because they are single-ringed molecules. Adenine and guanine are double-ringed molecules classified as purines."
"Woman," bit out Wufei and calmly as he could, "I'm not completely lacking in study. I know all of this."
Sally squared her shoulders, prepared to fight his arrogance. This was her domain now. "Then you will have read that adenine and guanine both have a chemical structure consisting of carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen."
"Yes," growled Wufei. "Have you no point?" He set a calloused hand on the table that held the computer.
"But it is only guanine," Sally ignored him, "that has one oxygen atom."
Wufei's frown dropped as she placed a finger over the single O in the structure for guanine. "Oh?" A note of interest entered his voice.
"It shares a double bond with a carbon atom, connecting it to the rest of the nucleotide. Oxygen is the main life-giving force to humans. Guanine, as a purine, is a double ringed base." Sally suddenly twisted in the chair, casting excited and vibrant eyes up at him. "If I can find the sediment that heals so well, it's feasible that I can use today's technology to come up with a procedure that would be performed at birth. The liquid sediment would be slipped between the rings of the guanine into the DNA and then on to the rest of the immune system. It would free people from the threat of diseases, the flu, rabies, possibly even AIDS and other STD's!"
Wufei felt somewhat shocked as he listened. As long as he had known Sally Po, he had never seen the woman so animated, so positively alive. Her cheeks had grown pink with her energy, and her soft blue eyes simply sparkled with her passion. He had to force himself to pay attention when she suddenly stopped talking.
Sally shook her head. "I'm sorry, Wufei. I'm completely and totally rambling. I just get so excited at the thought of doing something like that…being able to help people so immensely. It might even be worth a Nobel—"
"Not a Nobel," Wufei snapped. "God, Sally, if you did this…!" He looked past her onto the screen again, then turned his head to look straight into her eyes. "They'd probably name a whole new award after you."
She froze. Wufei Chang had never said something so highly-praising of her before. And she hadn't even actually done anything yet. "It's just a theory," she heard herself say. "But…do you really think that?"
Wufei halted for a moment, then grinned at her. "Of course not," he said. "The 'Po' is a really crappy name for an achievement award."
Outraged, Sally burst from the chair. "Because the 'Chang' is so much better!" she retorted immaturely.
"I don't need an award," chortled Wufei. "Hey, where are you going?"
She stopped rifling through her bag when she had a change of clothes, a towel, and a small supply of toiletries in hand. "I'm going to go wash."
"Now?" Wufei blinked at her. "We haven't even been here a day yet."
"Why do you think I ordered the water tank before we left?" she asked. "I fully mean to have a shower every night. Hygiene, Wufei." She voiced the word as though it was the most obvious thing to anyone else except him. "I'll be right outside. How about you be helpful and blow up the inflatable mattresses, okay?"
She left him scowling and walked around to the back of the tent where they had set the water tank. She thanked Preventer's ability to gain high-quality equipment. The tank was designed to be fairly small, but it was too heavy for one person to hold alone and held several gallons of water at one time. Enough, anyway, for Sally be get satisfactorily clean before they had to refill the tank again.
They had placed a large wooden tub outside by the tank, along with a lantern on a pole so she would have light to use. She flicked the lantern on and turned the knob on the tank. By the time she'd gotten all of her clothes off, water was rushing out of the faucet and into the tub. Touching it, she flicked the wet off her fingers and called toward the tent.
"There's a pretty good temperature to the water after being in the sun all day!"
No reply came and Sally shrugged to herself. She couldn't really see Wufei having a conversation from inside a tent; especially if the person outside was a naked woman.
Fine by Sally. She would take a little while to forget about Wufei's bullheadedness and cruel teasing and just relax. Tomorrow her real work would begin. She had hopes of even digging up a cactus in the day to see what properties she could find in sand that was wet from the water inside a cactus.
She scooped water out from the tub first, crouching beside it to wet herself with it the best she could and washing herself and her hair. When she actually sat down in the tub, she allowed herself to take it the atmosphere around her.
Here she was, Sally Po; former Alliance major and military doctor, former guerilla of central Asia, and previous loyalist of the Gundam pilots on Peacemillion. She added current doctor and Agent Water of Preventer to that list. She was only twenty-one, but she'd gotten a few titles under her belt in a short amount of time. Anne Une, Luchrezia Noin, and Zechs Merquise were the same as her; also the Gundam pilots. Relena Darlian was the only one who trumped them all with her royalty, political achievements, and candidacy for president.
They were, in reality, adults that were waiting to be out of kids' bodies.
Sally sighed. She really did worry too much. Making herself smile, she appreciated the full moon shining on the white sand below, and took her razor in hand, preparing to shave her legs. After a good night's rest her melancholy would surely ebb away and she would feel energetic and ready to work her dream.
Later, she entered the tent, expecting to see Wufei working on his own paperwork that he had brought with him or perhaps even be sleeping. Instead of either of those, he was lying on his mattress, wearing loose, white combat pants like the ones he had favored during the war. Otherwise he was shirtless, and that admittedly caught Sally's attention first. Second was that fact that he had one glasses, and he was reading.
He must have felt her stare, because he lowered the hardback novel between his hands and sent her a look. He said nothing at first, only looking at her, and Sally felt unwanted heat creep up her neck to her cheeks. Defensive, she narrowed her eyes at him. "What?"
Wufei sat up. "Your hair's down." He said it with quiet observation.
She only managed a befuddled expression. Part of her was wary, thinking he might make a comment that was going to infuriate her. "Is that a problem?"
"No." Disregarding her again, he took up the book.
Sally wanted to scream and he hadn't even been offensive. He was a confusing, moody man who had only minutes before been scowling at her about bathing. Rolling her eyes, she went to the small stand-up mirror on one of their tables and reached back with intent to tie her damp tresses back into their usual style.
"You should leave it like that. It suits you."
Sally twisted her head back to stare at him. Wufei had never once commented on her looks, whether he liked or disliked them, and this was a turn of events for her. Obediently, her hands fell away from her hair, although she didn't know why. It would get wavy and tangled in the course of the night and it would bother her tomorrow, but for some reason she felt compelled to do as her partner suggested.
Saying nothing, she walked over and sat down on her mattress with a comb. She would at least smooth it out again if she was going to leave it down.
Wufei, whose mattress was a decent distance away from hers, cast a sideways glance at her. She caught it and saw him look away again quickly. But it seemed he didn't want to appear as though trying to hide something, he gave her a firm gaze.
"Why are you dressed like that?" he demanded.
Sally blinked. Looking down at herself, she shrugged at the short cotton shorts and low-necked tank top she wore. "I'm sorry?"
"Why did you choose those clothes?"
Jeez, Sally thought, he asked the question like there was every sensibility in it when the answer should have been obvious. "It's conducive to the temperature," she responded. "What's wrong, Wufei? You're book not entertaining?"
"It's Chaucer," he said condescendingly. "Of course it's entertaining."
"I didn't even think you might be the reading sort," she told him at length. "You're usually only so interested in work."
"It's my duty," he said automatically. Wufei didn't move his eyes from the book, but he wasn't reading it. "I was assigned to pilot Nataku, and I did. I'm assigned to do my best for the Preventer unit, and I will. Reading is not a duty. It is a pleasure of mine. I do not indulge frequently, but I have time on my hands."
Sally couldn't help but regard him with surprise. "That's the most you've ever told me about yourself, Wufei. At least not since…" She paused. It really was rather sad how little she knew about him.
"Speak up, woman!" he barked.
She jumped and proceeded, "Well, not since we met. You told me you had no right to fight with Nataku, ah…Shenlong." She thought it best not to use the same name he had used for his Gundam. Women's intuition said it wasn't her place. "Just forget it," she said at last, feeling foolish. She lied down upon the covers of her mattress, not bothering to pull them over her. It was too hot, anyway. "Goodnight, Wufei."
No reply came, and Sally shut her eyes. She would get up early, she thought, eat a simple breakfast for health and then…
The light shut off and plunged them into darkness. Sally felt herself drifting into unconsciousness, but—
"Nataku was the only thing left of my home."
Her eyes burst open, but she remained silent. While her mind unclouded, she had no reason for words.
"My home Colony committed honorable suicide during the war," he continued. He was only a voice in the darkness, but Sally could feel herself latching onto it. Were it a tangible thing, she'd have grabbed it. "The Changs were a family branched off from the ruling house of Long. The Longs were the reason our family was exiled from Earth in the first place. It was Master Long who pressed the detonator. It was the rightful decision by the patriarch."
"Did you lose family?" she asked, unable to stop herself. She couldn't fathom why Wufei had decided to talk to her, but she wasn't about to let him stop.
"Yes and no." He paused for a moment before going on. "My parents died when I was twelve. I cared for myself for two years. Despite the fact that most students were pupils of combat, I did not like fighting. I wanted to be a scholar. I read much then." His tone changed with the next words. "I turned fourteen. I was a man. It was then that I was married to Meilan Long."
Sally gasped. It mortified her that she did, and she clapped a hand over her mouth, but the sound could not be revoked. "M-married?" she stuttered, thinking herself a fool. Her mind raced.
"Meilan Long was the only child left of the Long family. Both of her parents had passed away when the immigration to the Colonies was made. They did not adapt well to the change of environment. We were both alone, but we had been betrothed before either of our births. Marriage was a duty for us. We did not understand each other at the time of our wedding. We didn't even know each other. But she was a beautiful woman."
The Preventer known as Water felt a lump form in her throat. "I'm sure," she murmured. She felt a twinge upon hearing him speak like that, even knowing that Meilan would have been no more than a child.
"But she was quite the ambitious woman as well. She was the strongest warrior in her clan. Since there were no sons within her family to continue the name, she and I became one by tradition.
She disliked me greatly. I had attended boarding school until just before then. I believe she called me a clever brat and accused me of not bearing a right to succeed the Longs. Perhaps she was correct in her belief. I told her to go to hell immediately following the ceremony." His breath hitched slightly. "That was the mistake of a child."
He stopped speaking for several minutes. Sally thought he might not continue, but he proved her wrong, as he usually did.
"She called herself Nataku after the god. How well do you know your native mythology?"
"The warrior god," replied Sally, nodding in the darkness. "It's sometimes said he was a hermit, yes?"
"Meilan may have been worthy of that name before we fought. She challenged me shortly after we were wed. I could do nothing but accept, and also a part of me wanted to curb her arrogance. I defeated her swiftly and left her in the rain. I was not a particularly kind husband. Neither of us knew what it meant to be husband and wife yet."
"You were fourteen," Sally protested. "You were children."
"Perhaps. But later, when I saw Master O, whom had taught me to fight, I found that he had been building a Gundam; something he had told me about. But I didn't really think he would do it. He spoke of justice – Meilan too spoke of justice – and I ignored their words. On the day of the attack…"
Sally felt herself tense up. Guilt flowed through her like poison, weakening her body. "Wufei—"
"When that day came, the Alliance's General Septum gave the order for a biological weapon to be set off in the Colony, but it didn't happen. Oz got there first and went on the offensive before the Alliance did. Meiran, with her ideals of justice, took off in the Gundam Shenlong and fought against them."
Knowing what was coming, Sally clenched her fists.
"She was injured badly. She took the battle to outer space to protect a flower field that I'd favored. She had never fought in outer space before, let alone a mobile suit. Inexperience like that gets a person killed."
Sally wished desperately that she could see the face of the pilot known as 05. He so rarely showed any real, deep emotion. She wondered what it would look like on him, as he spoke of the one he had been married to.
"And so she was killed. I took her back to that meadow upon her request. I think it might have been then that she realized she truly was a woman. She found the flowers beautiful. She… She knew, at least, that she was the stronger in my eyes and worthy of being my wife. Yet I…"
Wufei barreled on quickly. "I was still somewhat insensitive to her, even then. Even as she died leaning upon me, with a smile on her face. I never proved by worth as her husband in her life, but I accepted her spirit into Nataku, and I trust that her soul was what guided me during the war. And I hope it was during that war that she declared me worthy even in her death."
There were tears in Sally's eyes. "Wufei…I didn't know…" Her heart pounded so hard.
"No one does, except now for you." He sat up in the dark, and she could barely make out his silhouette, muscular and melancholy with a slight bend in the spine. "I never gave that much history to Une, so you wouldn't have found it in the Preventer file on me."
"I have to confess something, Wufei." She felt so desolate, so hopeless as the memory of that day came rushing back to her. "Wufei, I was—"
"You were there. I know." A click was heard and then the lantern came on and light rushed over them to allow Sally to see him. There was a hard gleam in his black eyes. "Have you forgotten, Sally? I researched Oz and all of its history, including what happened on A0206. Treize's operation failed because of Meilan, but the Alliance's operation 'succeeded' because of Sanitation Squad Commander/Major Sally Po of Eurasia." Some of the toughness went out of Wufei's eyes, but he did not smile. "Sally, you saved hundreds of lives that day."
"Septum was insane. Even when Une killed him, it was possibly a salvation for the world." Her words were cruel, Sally reflected, but true. She broke eye contact with her fellow Chinese Preventer. "And a bio explosive would have done nothing but further pollute outer space. I couldn't—"
"Take credit where credit is due. You saved my life, Sally."
Sally's eyes flashed back to his, and her breath caught. Now Wufei was smiling. For a moment, neither of them said anything, but then Sally sat up with a sigh. "The Wufei I know would never have admitted being saved by a woman, you know."
"That day should have no lies surrounding it." He cast his gaze down. "It was a day of honorable women. Something rarely found during these times. Yet I seem to be surrounded by most of them."
Sally shook her head. "You've surprised me, Wufei. At any rate, all our debts are paid. Even if I did save your life that day, you were there to save mine on Earth a year later." And she remembered his triumphant victory in Nataku. She also remembered walking forward before him toward an armed Leo while he called and called to her. He had finally spurred into action and they had saved each other again.
They were like a cure for each other's lives, it seemed.
Running a hand through her hair, she laughed. She laughed long and hard until Wufei finally looked up to scowl at her.
"What the hell are you so amused by, woman?"
"That's the Wufei I know," she thought. Grinning at him, she said, "You talk too much, Wufei."
He looked a little stunned at that, and suddenly he smiled again. "Sometimes," he relented.
Leaning over, she took his hand. "Will you help me tomorrow? Or do you want to finish your book?" The last question was a tease, and, as she had expected, Wufei responded well to challenges.
"Of course I'm helping you. A woman cannot be expected to finish the work entirely by herself, else nothing will get done and we'll run out of time."
Chuckling, she pulled away and lay down again. "I'll just say thank you. Go to sleep, Wufei. I'll be working you hard tomorrow."
"Very well." The light was clicked off again. Sally turned on her side, facing him. "Sally?"
Sally opened her eyes. Wufei's were so black she thought she could see his gaze even in the darkness. "Yes?"
At first there was just the sound of wind blowing across the dunes outside. Then her partner spoke in his quiet, calm manner. The one she didn't hear often.
"Just a doctor's duty, Wufei."