AN: Yeah, well, life's been a bitch. Sorry I didn't update sooner. Too tired to break it into chapters, and you'd probably want it all at once, too. So here's Friendship and the Beginning of Something More, by -you know who this is-, a Wufei/Duo fic. Warning--there is lemon. Hot, hot lemon.

Friendship and the Beginning of Something More

Chapter One

Sitting in the lounge room in a safe house located far from the reaches of Oz, Duo allowed a puff of air to escape his lips with a little sigh. Of the other three occupants in the room, only one seemed to notice his action.

"Are you alright, Duo?" Quatre asked with quiet concern. His blue eyes lifted from the documents he was currently perusing with Trowa to focus on Duo.

"I'm bored Quat," Duo answered him in a bit of a whine, drawing out the word so that Quatre would know he meant 'bored' with a capital B. They'd had no missions for the past week, and Duo thought that if this trend continued, he'd die from boredom. Duo hated sitting around and waiting; he was the type of person who had to have action!

"Find something to do then, idiot." Heero snapped from his corner of the room even as he continued to check his gun; he was meticulously dissembling it, cleaning out its parts before reassembling it again. He was definitely exhibiting signs of being a type-A personality—'A' for anal, that is.

Duo flushed red. //Damn him, just because he's the perfect soldier doesn't mean he can look down on me!// Sometimes, Duo thought that nothing ever affected Heero; he was the same whether they were in battle or whether they were sitting around in the safe house waiting for missions to come in. He didn't get bored, and he didn't get excited. Well, to be honest, and Duo was nothing if not honest, that was one of the things he admired about Heero: the fact that he was always so level-headed.

Quatre, pretending that he hadn't heard Heero's disparaging comment, gave Duo an encouraging smile and gestured to the documents spread out before him and Trowa. "Why don't you come and have a look at the reports from our last mission?"

Duo's breath huffed out in an even bigger sigh. "Quat-re!" He emphasized, "I don't wanna do paperwork." Duo couldn't see why Quatre and Trowa always insisted on going over the flaws from previous missions; after all, the mission was over, and they were all still alive. In his opinion, it was best to leave the past in the past, where it belonged.

Quatre just looked vaguely apologetic.

"Never mind!" Duo exclaimed in mild exasperation before bringing his arms up to stretch out on the long sofa. He allowed his head to flop over the top of the sofa as he stared unseeingly at the ceiling. The trouble with hiding out in a safe house was that there was never anything interesting to do. Perhaps he could go bug Wufei. Nah, he'd leave Wufei alone for a while, bug him later when he was feeling up to it.

After a while Duo began to hum; it was some nursery rhyme Sister Helen used to sing to him at Maxwell church. He'd only been humming for a few minutes – he couldn't remember the words to the song anymore – when the click in the near silence of the room alerted Duo to the fact that Heero had just taken the safety off of his gun. //Danger?// Pausing in his humming, Duo lifted his head from the sofa – only to find that Heero had his gun pointed at Duo's head. //What the hell?!//

"Quiet." Heero grunted answering Duo's unvoiced question.

"Heero!" Quatre cried, aghast at this threat towards one of their own.

Duo ignored Quatre and stared at the gun pointing at him from the length of the room. //Heero wouldn't really shoot me, would he?// Pasting a cheerful smile on his face, Duo asked his question aloud, "You wouldn't really shoot me, would you, 'Ro?"

Heero answered nonverbally by tightening his finger on the trigger.

Duo stared at him for a moment longer in some disbelief. "Fine!" He snapped angrily before lapsing into silence. //Damn him, why does he always have to be such an insensitive jerk?!// The tense silence that followed was broken only by the sounds Heero made as he continued cleaning the rest of his guns.

Duo stared at nothing in particular as he picked at threads on the couch he was currently occupying. His brow was furrowed a bit in angry contemplation. He couldn't understand why Heero insisted on treating him like he was nothing more than a brat. He couldn't understand why Heero couldn't see that every time he spoke to Duo harshly like that, it hurt him. The pain Duo felt every time Heero sneered at him was something akin to having a rusty dagger stabbed into his gut and then twisted for good measure. To have his admiration returned with contempt was deeply upsetting, and reasonably so. In response to these heated thoughts, Duo picked even more vigorously at the innocent couch which was beginning to look rather patchy. He loved Heero, dammit, and Heero considered him little more than a nuisance! Duo lifted his eyes to take a peek at Heero and saw Quatre regarding him worriedly.

Flushing in some shame, he quickly looked down and away. Duo didn't want Quatre to feel sorry for him. When he couldn't stand the silence anymore, he lifted his head – Quatre was still looking at him with quiet concern – and gave Quatre a blinding smile. "I'm going outside." //Maybe it was time to seek out Wufei's company.//

If possible, Quatre looked even more anxious and he spoke hesitantly. "Don't disturb Wufei, okay, Duo? You know he doesn't like to be bothered when he's meditating."

//So that's how they see me.// The hurt and anger Duo had been trying to suppress flared up again. "Geez, Quatre, if that's how you see me!" And ignoring Quatre's protests, he stormed out the room, slamming the door for good measure. He knew that Quatre probably hadn't meant it like that, but the memory of Heero's insult still lingered in his mind making him more short-tempered than usual.

When the ringing in their ears had finally subsided, Quatre and Trowa looked at each other in some confusion. Duo didn't normally lose his temper so easily.

Heero just continued disassembling and reassembling his gun with meticulous care. He wasn't interested in hissy fits or the pilots who threw them.

XXX

Going out the back door of the safe house, Duo looked around for Wufei. //Now, where would he be?// Lifting his hand up to shield his eyes from the sun, he was able to make out Wufei moving through his forms in the shade of an orange tree some two hundred metres from where Duo stood. //No surprise there.// Making his way to the tree, Duo sat down under it, leaning against its trunk and settling down to watch Wufei in silence. Although Wufei tried to hide it beneath a grumpy facade, Duo knew that Wufei didn't actually mind his company.

Five minutes passed before Wufei spoke, not stopping in his movements. "A silent Maxwell? I never thought I'd see the day."

Duo didn't bother to respond. He wasn't in the mood for bantering today.

Hearing no immediate quip in return, Wufei stopped and turned to look at Duo. Duo was just sitting under the tree and staring off into the distance. Wufei raised an eyebrow and moved easily towards the base of the tree where Duo was sitting. Picking up his towel Wufei wiped the sweat off his face and body before uncapping his bottle of spring water and taking a long drink from it.

"Why so silent, Maxwell?" Wufei finally questioned once he'd quenched his thirst.

Duo shrugged, not bothering to look up at Wufei. "I don't want to be a nuisance."

Wufei raised his other eyebrow and remarked quite sardonically. "You've only just figured that out now?"

Duo didn't reply, instead he just pulled his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. Wufei stared. //Now, if this sight isn't just the epitome of vulnerability.// It was a position Wufei rarely ever saw Duo in. //I wonder what's wrong with him today?//

Wufei sighed and moved closer towards Duo. "You're not a nuisance."

Wufei wasn't sure, but he thought he saw the faintest glimmer of something in Duo's eyes before it disappeared. Duo just shrugged and continued to stare at nothing.

"Talk to me." Wufei commanded, sitting down beside Duo. He'd get to the bottom of this and then see about getting Duo back to his usual cheerful disposition.

Duo heaved a little listless sigh before mumbling. "I'm bored, 'Fei. No one wants to do anything with me. They all think I'm annoying."

Wufei glanced sideways at him quickly. //Trowa and Quatre would never say something like that, but maybe Heero did. Yes, I can definitely see that.// "Did someone actually say that?"

One delicate shoulder lifted in a half-shrug and the braid slithered off to fall to the grass. "No, but they think it."

Wufei sighed exasperated. "No one thinks it, Maxwell."

Duo ignored him.

Wufei looked at Duo meditatively. He supposed the days of inactivity were particularly trying for Duo. He was the most active person among the five pilots. "You're bored?"

Duo just shrugged.

Wufei gave a mental sigh. He just knew he was going to regret this. "Want to do something together?" He offered through gritted teeth.

The next moment Duo was looking at him with violet eyes wide with delight as they stared at him through a mess of brown fringe. "You'll do something with me, 'Fei?"

As Wufei gave a nod in response, he absently wondered whether he'd been had. Duo had certainly recovered his spirits quickly enough.

Duo grinned and stood up cheerfully tugging at Wufei's hand to get him to stand up as well. "There's a lake thingy over there somewhere." He said, pointing vaguely north. "We can go for a swim." Then, without giving Wufei a chance to protest, Duo proceeded to drag Wufei in that direction. Wufei luckily had the presence of mind to grab his towel as he was pulled along behind Duo. He fleetingly noted that it was a good thing that it was the middle of summer as he didn't think Duo would have been deterred from this proposed destination even if it had been the middle of winter. Unless, of course, the lake was frozen over, but even then Wufei didn't doubt that Duo would have found some way to make ice skates out of the things they had, or—Wufei shuddered at the ideas in his head. Perhaps his opinion of Duo's possible insanity was a bit far-fetched?

Ten minutes later with Duo babbling the whole way there, they reached the lake. Wufei was actually relieved to reach the lake, firstly because it was a hot day after all, and secondly, because Wufei didn't think Duo would be able to blab while swimming. At least, Wufei hoped Duo wouldn't be able to continue with his incessant chatter. After all, Wufei didn't know of anyone who could swim and prattle on at the same time. Although, on second thought, perhaps Duo could manage such a feat. Actually, for all of his mental groaning, Wufei didn't really mind Duo's incessant chatter. He found it very calming. Not that he'd ever admit that aloud; the other pilots would think he was insane.

"Come on, Wuffers!" Duo called, stripping off all of his clothes before diving into the lake naked.

"It's Wufei." Wufei replied absently, using the well utilised line before he too stripped off all of his clothes and dived into the lake. He wasn't too worried about bodily modesty; after all, they'd seen each other naked plenty of times. Wufei had to admit, the first time Duo had barged in on him while he was changing had been disconcerting in the extreme, but he was used to it now. No amount of ranting had managed to cure Duo of his habit of entering Wufei's bedroom without knocking, and Wufei remembered having ranted plenty of times before finally giving up on the endeavour. He had a suspicion his rants went in one of Duo's ears and right out the other.

Once in the lake, Wufei lazily scissored his arms and legs in a backstroke, enjoying the serenity and silence of it all. //So, even Duo couldn't swim and talk at the same time. That's good to know.// Suddenly, Wufei found himself with a mouthful of water as he was dragged under. Kicking out, he struggled to break free himself from Duo's grip, but the damn braided-haired idiot was too strong and he was in a bad position to wrestle free on his own. When Duo finally released him, Wufei broke to the surface and dragged in a lungful of much needed air.

"Maxwell!" He raged, spluttering and trying to wipe the water from his eyes.

"Catch me if you can!" Duo taunted before swimming off.

That was a challenge if ever Wufei had heard one, and he took off after Duo who was laughing at his efforts, swimming just out of reach.

Within minutes, Wufei had Duo in his grip, and, shoving, he pushed him underwater. It wasn't until Wufei had successfully dunked Duo several times that he finally let go. Unfortunately for Wufei, Duo used the opportunity to drag Wufei underwater again.

"Truce." Wufei finally had to call once he'd coughed up several litres of lake water.

Duo's eyes widened teasingly. "Oooh, the great Chang Wufei calling truce? You're losing your touch!"

Wufei merely sniffed, an action which unfortunately made more water go up his nose. Duo just laughed at his indignant expression.

Once they'd called a truce, they spent some time diving deep into the lake examining the shiny stones at the bottom. The rest of the afternoon was spent playing a game of water tag before the two finally just floated on the surface of the water trying to make out shapes in the clouds. This pretty much wasn't normal Wufei behaviour, but then, when he was around Duo, he didn't really act like the Wufei the other pilots knew.

It wasn't until Duo and Wufei began to resemble human prunes that they finally emerged from the water. Wufei quickly dried himself off with his towel and then tossed it to Duo before he began to pull on his clothes. When he was once again fully clothed, Wufei sat down on the grassy bank and began to finger comb his hair. Duo sat down beside him trying to wring the water from his braid with the towel.

Duo gave Wufei a sunny grin.

Wufei stared at him suspiciously. "What is it?"

Duo's grin widened. "You're the best friend a guy could ever have." Then he looked at Wufei expectantly.

Wufei smirked and replied, "That's good to hear," before he lapsed into silence. He then began to count silently in his head. Three, two, one…

"Wufei!" Duo exploded in indignation beside him.

Wufei looked at Duo innocently. "Yes?" He inquired sedately.

Duo glared at him. "Tell me I'm your best friend."

Wufei smirked and said teasingly. "You don't tell someone he's your best friend and then force him to say it back."

Duo began to pout adorably, and Wufei waited a moment longer before continuing. "Nevertheless, yes, you are – "

Wufei choked a bit on the sappy words, " – my best friend."

Duo laughed in giddy delight and threw himself at Wufei, crushing him in a bear hug; they both fell backwards onto the grass with the momentum.

Wufei patted Duo's shoulder once before pushing him off. Duo just sat up with a grin. "You wanna know something funny, 'Fei?"

Wufei grunted an acknowledgement.

"The others seem to think that you'll kill me if I disturb you." Duo chortled.

Wufei merely sniffed and raised one eyebrow in mock disdain. "I wouldn't waste my energy killing a braided haired idiot."

Duo grinned and jokingly tugged at Wufei's nose with a finger and thumb. "Aw, I know mister grumpy pants don't mean that."

Wufei snorted and stretched out on the grass. Duo followed suit, and they lay there in companionable silence for a while.

"Wufei." Duo murmured after a moment.

"Hm?" Wufei replied lazily.

Duo yawned and rolled over onto his side to look at Wufei. "Why don't we tell the others that we're actually best friends?"

Wufei opened his eyes to regard Duo before finally giving a sniff of contempt. Duo resisted the urge to laugh at this pretentious gesture. Wufei acted so pompous sometimes. "It's none of their business." Wufei answered. "They should be astute enough to work it out for themselves without our having to tell them. They're not our owners; we don't need to report everything to them."

"Yeah, I guess." Duo mused, seeing the logic in that. After all, Duo supposed they deserved some measure of privacy, and if the others weren't looking closely enough to see that Wufei and Duo didn't actually hate each other, then they obviously didn't care enough. He watched as Wufei sat up on the grassy bank.

"I get to use the shower first." Wufei told him.

Duo grinned and refuted teasingly. "Uh-uh."

Wufei glared mock-menacingly back. "Uh-huh."

Duo grinned some more. "First person to the shower gets it." And without warning he pushed Wufei backwards onto the grass again before leaping to his feet and racing to the safe house. Behind him, he heard Wufei spit out a few Chinese curses before struggling to his feet to give chase.

Duo ran laughing in glee and anticipating an easy victory. With his head start, he was definitely going to get to the shower first. The next moment, a figure in white dashed past him on nimble feet.

"Later!" Wufei called from his position in the lead as he began to draw away.

Duo decided not to curse thinking that it would be a better idea to save his air to speed up. Nevertheless, by the time he reached the safe house, he could hear that the water in the bathroom was already running. //Damn!// He'd always known that Wufei was fast, but this time he'd thought he could definitely beat him.

//No biggie.// Duo dismissed, feeling decidedly much more cheerful as he made his way to the lounge room to see what the other pilots were doing. To his complete utter shock, they were exactly as he'd left them five hours ago. Heero was now polishing his guns, and Trowa and Quatre were still perusing the documents concerning their last mission.

Seeing Duo at the door, Quatre immediately stood up and moved forward, face expressing contrition.

"Duo, I didn't mean – " He began softly, eyes full of pain.

Duo gave a careless wave. "It's fine, Quat, I was feeling out of sorts, nothing to worry about." And it was fine. Duo always felt better after spending some time with Wufei. He knew he'd overreacted before, and poor Quatre had taken the brunt of his anger.

"At least you're still in one piece. You didn't disturb Wufei, then?" Quatre asked with a hesitant smile.

Duo idly wondered how it was that the other pilots hadn't noticed that he and Wufei were actually friends and that he really wasn't about to die by Wufei's sword anytime soon. Still, he just smiled cheerfully and said, "I didn't bother him." It wasn't actually a lie, because Duo hadn't bothered Wufei. Wufei didn't think Duo was a bother. Hearing the water stop running in the bathroom, Duo gave Quatre another smile.

"I'm off to have a shower. Don't worry, Quat. I can take care of myself." And then he bounded out the door.

XXX

After dinner that night, Heero and Wufei disappeared into their respective bedrooms and Quatre and Trowa retired to the library. Duo popped his head in to see what they were doing and immediately withdrew. //Whoops, that was a private moment I shouldn't have seen.// Leering gleefully he moved to the family room and turned on the television set.

Leaning back on the sofa, he began to channel surf, wondering whether there would be anything interesting on TV. Suddenly a word made his fingers pause. "Orphanage – "

Duo stared at the scene of carnage on the screen in mute horror as the news reporter spoke. "A misdirected bomb hit the Sister Cecilia orphanage today at fifteen hundred hours. It is not known why, and a full investigation is in process. There were no survivors – "

Duo's fingers hit the off button on the remote with such force that the small mechanism creaked in plastic protest. All he could do was sit there in shock as memories of his own experience with the destruction of an orphan's home flashed through his mind's eye. //Sister Helen and Father Maxwell, all of the little ones, everyone killed.// He shook his head in remembered shock and disbelief, and he sat there shivering in relived horror. //Don't think about it.// He told himself sternly. //Don't think about it. It's over now. They've all gone on to a better place. It was an orphanage, not a church.// Yet, the similarities still made him feel sad. //So many innocents killed. And for what?//

Suddenly, Duo didn't feel like watching TV anymore. Getting up from the couch, he made his way to his bedroom. The good thing about the safe house they were currently staying in was that they all had their own bedrooms. Thus, Duo didn't have to fend off any questions about why he was looking so uncharacteristically pale. Moving to his bed, he crawled in and resolutely closed his eyes. //I won't think about it. This is a war, of course innocents will die.// Still, the thought pained him and he curled up into a fetal position, trying to make himself as small as possible, as if to hold in the pain from a past that still haunted him.

Eventually Duo drifted off into a restless sleep.

XXX

Duo shot up in bed with a gasp, the images of carnage from his dream still swirling through his mind. He shivered as a gust of cool air over his skin made him aware that he had broken out in a cold sweat. //It was a dream.// He told himself firmly. //Only a dream.// Still, he wouldn't bet on his chances of falling asleep again tonight.

Swinging his legs over the side of his bed, he padded out of his bedroom on silent feet and moved toward Wufei's bedroom. Pushing open the door, he entered quietly. Wufei was asleep in his bed, blankets pushed down revealing that he slept only in his boxers. Strips of moonlight shining through Wufei's window highlighted his caramel skin, making him look like some enchanted being.

Duo crawled onto the bed, nudging Wufei slightly to make more room for himself. Pulling the blankets up to his nose, he curled up on his side with his back to Wufei. He curled up a bit, snuggling into the soft bed and the heat generated by his companion. He sighed a bit, starting to feel a little bit better. Lying here in bed beside Wufei, the dream no longer seemed so horribly vivid in his mind.

A few seconds after he had settled in, a pair of strong arms pulled Duo back against a warm, firm, naked chest. "Nightmare?" Wufei murmured sleepily in his ear, his breath stirring the hairs which had managed to escape Duo's braid.

"Yeah." Duo replied hoarsely even as he pressed back further into Wufei's body heat.

"Want to talk about it?" Wufei asked huskily with quiet concern as he woke up a little more.

Duo shook his head briefly and merely turned in Wufei's embrace, cuddling into Wufei's shoulder and pulling Wufei's arms tighter around him. "Just hold me tight."

Wufei tightened his hold on Duo, giving him the reassuring pressure he needed while one hand moved to stroke his back. "You're safe, I'm here." Wufei murmured gently before once again dozing off himself.

//Yes.// Duo thought muzzily. //Safe.// Held in Wufei's warm embrace, Duo's last thought was that Wufei really was the best friend a guy could ever have. He had no more nightmares that night.

Friendship and the Beginning of Something More

Chapter Two

When Duo woke up the next morning, the sun was shining brightly into his eyes. //Geez, how does Wufei stand it?// He wondered in some frustration as he turned to look at his best friend. Well, it obviously didn't affect Wufei since he was still sound asleep taking the slow, deep breaths of those dead to the world. Actually, he looked adorable unguarded like that. Duo's lips turned up unconsciously in a little tender smile at the sight. He gave a little sigh of contentment and stretched carefully, not wanting to wake his friend. Duo then tried to get up and realised that he couldn't. This time, he was fully aware of the smile that stretched his lips in a delighted grin; when Wufei had promised to hold him tight, he had really meant it. Wufei's arms were still around him like steel bands, and Duo didn't think he'd be able to wriggle his way free on his own.

Grinning mischievously, Duo picked up his braid and used the end to tickle Wufei's nose. He watched with playful interest as Wufei's nose crinkled up and he shifted slightly. Duo did it again, and Wufei shifted, giving a little sneeze before opening his eyes.

"Maxwell." Wufei grumbled sleepily before shifting and stretching slightly, mercifully pulling his arms back from around Duo.

"Morning, sleepyhead." Duo teased. "You're so adorable when you sleep." He watched in amusement as Wufei flushed slightly red in embarrassment.

"I'm not adorable, idiot." Wufei muttered grumpily as he flopped back onto his pillows.

"Yes, you are." Duo refuted teasingly in a sing-song voice before swinging his legs over the side of the bed and standing up. Moving towards the door, he made one last parting comment before escaping. "Wu-chan is just too cute!" He chuckled and disappeared out the door just in time, hearing something 'thump' softly against the door as it closed behind him. //Really, Wufei is just too easy to rile!//

Duo brushed his teeth and cleaned himself up before making his way down to breakfast. Wufei was already there. //Geez, that guy's like superman.// He was still lazing in bed when Duo had left, and yet there he sat at the breakfast table looking as fresh as a morning flower. //How did he finish his toiletry so quickly?// Duo absently wondered even as he picked up a cheese croissant and began to smother it in vegemite. He saw Wufei wince at the sight, and, with a wide grin on his face, Duo proceeded to slather peanut butter on the poor croissant on top of the vegemite before taking a large bite out of the whole thing right in Wufei's face. //Hmm, cheese, peanut butter, and vegemite, not a bad combination.//

"Want some, Wuffers?" He offered teasingly, knowing full well Wufei didn't.

Wufei turned slightly green. An amazing feat for one of his complexion, come to think of it.

Chortling in glee, Duo turned back to find Quatre, Trowa, and Heero watching the interaction. Trowa and Heero looked impassive as usual, while Quatre looked concerned. //Honestly, Quatre worries too much sometimes. He really needs to lighten up.// Duo thought in some fond exasperation.

"Q-bean," Duo opened conversationally, "Any missions?"

Quatre shook his head. "None."

"None!" Duo howled in disbelief, pausing in mid-bite. "I'm gonna go stir crazy sitting around doing nothing!" And Duo wasn't exaggerating either; he really did fear he'd go stir crazy.

Wufei spoke up, not looking in Duo's direction. Duo figured he didn't want to risk losing his breakfast. "Why don't you try doing something productive, Maxwell?"

That made Duo pause in mid-chew. He supposed Wufei was right. He really shouldn't be lazing around doing nothing, and there was something he really needed to do. "You're right, 'Fei." He exclaimed with exaggerated excitement, touching a finger to his lips in affected amazement. "There is something that I need to get done. I'm gonna have to give my hair that deep conditioning I've been putting off for a while." He looked slyly out of the corner of his eye at Wufei for his reaction.

He saw Wufei open his mouth and then close it looking rather like a fish out of water. "That wasn't what I meant." Wufei finally grumbled.

Duo winked at Quatre who gave Duo an amused smile in return.

Two cheese, peanut butter, and vegemite croissants later, Duo made his way to the bathroom to begin the difficult task of washing his hair. It wasn't that he didn't wash his hair every day; it was just that every so often he treated it to a deep conditioning. After all, what was the point of having long hair if it was coarse and filled with split ends?

Humming under his breath, Duo set to work, lathering shampoo into his hair and leaving it there for a few minutes before rinsing it off. The first step done, he massaged some deep conditioner into his mane and sat back in the warm water to let the conditioner do its work. //Hm, nice and relaxing. Just what I needed.// he thought as he leaned back against the edge of the bathtub with his eyes closed. //Yes,// his breath hissed out blissfully//too good! Hmm… gotta blow-dry it later, too.//

Thus, it wasn't until a good two hours later that Duo finally emerged from the bathroom with his hair squeaky clean, blow-dried, and feeling softer than silk.

Oh, he felt good. He absently wondered where the others were. He popped his head into the lounge room and – Bingo! Heero, Trowa, and Quatre were there again. The only difference between today and yesterday was that today Heero was on his laptop looking over the documents concerning their previous mission, while Trowa was reading. Quatre was going over some files. Duo wondered where Wufei was.

"Where's Wufei?" He asked curiously.

"Wufei's outside worshipping Nataku." Trowa murmured without looking up from his book.

"Oh." Duo turned his lips up in a pout despondently. He knew that it wouldn't be a good idea to disturb Wufei while he was working on Nataku. Wufei didn't let anyone touch his Gundam, and that included Duo. Duo decided against venturing into the lounge room despite Quatre encouraging him to do so; he didn't feel being a nuisance today. Besides, wasn't there the saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder? Maybe if he kept out of Heero's way, then Heero would begin to miss his presence. //Yeah! That's a swell idea! I should've thought of that before!//

"No. I'm fine, Quate." He demurred happily to Quatre who was still trying to get Duo to join them. "I'll be in my room." And then flashing Quatre a grin Duo disappeared back up the stairs.

At the top of the stairs, Duo paused in consideration. He had nothing to do in his own bedroom. //Hmm.// He thought for a moment more before coming to a decision. Turning away from the direction of his own room, Duo made his way to Wufei's room. Pushing open the door, he walked in and looked around. Suddenly he paused mid–step and swivelled his head so quickly that it was a wonder he didn't get whiplash from the violent motion. His violet eyes widened in honest surprise. There in the far right–hand corner on his bookshelf, Wufei had a new addition to his room. It was a new addition because it hadn't been there a few days ago, and Duo wondered how he'd failed to miss it that morning. It stood out like a flashing neon light.

//A stuffed bear! Wufei?!? What the?!?!//

Disbelieving, Duo raised his knuckles to his eyes and rubbed at them, thinking to clear away the obvious visual hallucination. When he looked up again, he blinked. //Nope, the bear is still there.//

There was a sound behind him, and Duo whirled around. Turning, he saw Wufei standing at the doorway.

Wufei stared at him. "What are you doing in here, Maxwell?" Wufei sounded exasperated.

Duo put on his cutest expression, puppy-dog eyes and pouting lips. "I'm bored, Wufei."

He watched as Wufei rolled his eyes at his antics, and he nearly burst out laughing. Wufei rolling his eyes was a funny sight to see. Definitely didn't fit with the serious image Wufei portrayed ninety-nine percent of the time. "When aren't you bored?" Wufei questioned rhetorically even as he moved towards his bookshelf. Selecting a book from the large number of books on his shelf, he tossed it to Duo. "Do some reading."

Duo looked down at the book in his hand curiously. "Net Force Explorers? Huh. Can't really see you reading these sci-fi crime books, Wufei," Duo mused out loud, lifting his eyes to regard his friend curiously. Duo would have thought Wufei to be the type to read intellectual stuff, such as literature, philosophy, and classics.

Wufei shrugged in casual dismissal of the comment. "I don't read those types of books, Maxwell. I picked that one up with you in mind."

Duo grinned, pleased at the consideration from his friend. "Didn't know you cared, 'Fei." And even though he said it jokingly, he felt warm inside at this display of thoughtfulness.

"Hardly." Wufei snorted. "This'll keep you out of my hair."

"Yeah, yeah." Duo dismissed. He knew Wufei didn't mean that. Underneath his gruff exterior, Wufei was just a big cuddly teddy bear. Thinking that suddenly brought something to Duo's mind.

With violet eyes wide open, he lifted a shaking finger and pointed at the stuffed bear sitting on Wufei's bookshelf. "A stuffed bear, Wufei? Aren't you a bit old for that?" Clear in his voice was incredulous amazement.

Wufei turned to look at the bear. It was a cute violet bear with large black eyes and a black button nose. It was huge, a third the size of Wufei himself. Wufei stared at it a moment longer before shrugging. "I got it for being the one-hundredth thousandth visitor at a book store." He plucked the bear from the bookshelf and tossed it at Duo. "It seemed to be something you'd like." Wufei didn't tell Duo that the bear's violet fur had reminded Wufei of Duo's eyes, or that he'd had to push in line to be the one-hundredth thousandth visitor at the store.

Duo caught the bear as it zoomed towards his head and cuddled it happily. "Thanks, 'Fei!"

Wufei watched him. "Aren't you a bit old for that, Maxwell?" Wufei questioned sarcastically.

Duo grinned and replied with a ready retort. "Hardly! I act my age, whereas you're like a forty-year-old grump with a stick up his arse."

Wufei growled before finally muttering. "Hypocrite."

Duo looked at his bear. "I think I'll call it Justice Bear," he said looking at Wufei slyly.

Wufei gave him a mock glare before selecting a book to read himself. Together they settled down onto Wufei's bed to read companionably with Duo happily cuddling his new toy.

XXX

While the pilots were cleaning up after lunch that same day, Heero's laptop beeped.

"Yes!" Duo cried, dropping the stack of dishes he was holding quickly into the sink — miracle of all miracles, none of them broke — to rush towards the laptop. He sat down and already had the message open by the time the other pilots arrived.

Heero sat down next to Duo and leaned over him to read the message. Then he turned his head sideways to address Duo. "It's not a mission." His breath ghosted over Duo's lips, and Duo had trouble suppressing the shiver that went through his body. He wasn't any more successful in hiding his blush either. Luckily, Heero didn't notice.

"Sorry, 'Ro." He apologized awkwardly, hurriedly standing up. "I thought it would be."

Heero grunted and read the message Doctor J had sent him.

Duo forced a grin onto his face and turned to face the other pilots. "Bummer!"

Quatre gave a soft sigh of mutual disappointment. "Never mind, I'm sure we'll get one soon."

The pilots returned to the kitchen to continue cleaning up. Intent on trying to act normal, Duo missed the way Wufei's sharp eyes bore into his back, deep in thought. Wufei hadn't missed Duo's blush, neither had he failed to notice that Duo acted uncharacteristically nervous around Heero. Putting two and two together, it wasn't difficult for someone of Wufei's intelligence to come up with four.

After lunch had been cleared up, Wufei followed Duo back to his bedroom. Picking his way carefully through the mess littering the ground, he finally made it to the bed. There, he pushed some dirty clothes aside and sat down on the corner of the bed he'd cleared for himself.

Duo turned around, startled, when he realised that someone had followed him back to his bedroom. He was unnerved to find Wufei sitting on his bed staring at him in assessment. //'Fei's looking particularly sharp right now.// Was his first thought. Nevertheless, he tried to act as though he hadn't noticed Wufei gazing at him in seeming measurement.

"'Fei!" He cried with a disarming grin, "You nearly gave me a heart attack."

Wufei raised an eyebrow. "You wouldn't be much of a Gundam pilot if you died that easily." Wufei remarked dryly even as his eyes pierced into Duo.

"Still!" Duo said, trying to cover his nervousness at having Wufei looking at him like that.

Finally, he burst out cheerfully, his grin stretching almost from ear to ear. "Got something to tell me, 'Fei?"

Wufei turned his lips up in a slow, easy smirk, "No. But you have something to tell me."

Duo didn't like the look of that smirk. He pretended to think before finally shaking his head in denial and saying. "Uh, nope?"

Wufei smiled again. "Something about a stony, blue-eyed pilot, perhaps?" Wufei prompted slyly.

Duo stared at Wufei for a bit and then decided it would be in his best interests to play dumb. "Don't know what you're talking about, 'Fei." He laughed cheerfully.

Wufei smirked again; sharks would've been impressed by the number of teeth showing in this particular expression. "I know you know." He murmured softly, eyes glinting as he watched Duo.

Duo quickly decided that when dealing with someone as smart as Wufei, it was better to lay all of his cards down on the table. Furthermore, after all this time of keeping his secret to himself, he was glad finally to have someone to talk to. Maybe 'Fei could even give him advice. Hell knows, he didn't know what to do about the situation. But at first, he denied, "Come on, 'Fei, what's it take for a guy to get some privacy?" Then he looked at Wufei pleadingly, hoping Wufei could give him some advice even as he changed his mind. "You won't tell him will you 'Fei?"

Wufei shrugged. "I won't, but maybe you should." Duo supposed that was advice, even if it was advice he didn't want to hear. He'd been thinking the same thing himself forever now; he just didn't know how to do it. Duo began to shake his head vigorously. "No way. No way is that going to happen, I'm not brave enough."

Wufei sighed a bit in exasperation. He caught Duo's eyes and held his gaze. "You're going to be cowardly and weak for the rest of your life?"

Duo shook his head and burst out vehemently. "Not for the rest of my life!" Then he gave a sheepish laugh. "Maybe just a few more years."

Wufei stared at him incredulously. "We might not have a few more years, Maxwell, we're Gundam pilots! We could die tomorrow! Today is all we have!"

Duo knew that, too. Desperately, he cried, "You think I don't know that, but I don't know how to tell him!"

Wufei shook his head, wondering how Duo could be so overly dramatic about something so simple. "How difficult can it be, Maxwell? Repeat after me: I love Heero."

Duo stubbornly kept his mouth firmly closed even while a red blush began to suffuse his face. //That's easy for Wufei to say. He isn't the one in love with Heero!//

"Come on, Duo." Wufei coaxed. "I love Heero, I love Heero, I love Heero," using three different inflections with each repetition.

There came a sharp gasp from the door. Startled, Wufei and Duo whirled around and saw Quatre backing away nervously.

"S-sorry." He stuttered. "I-I was just going to ask you if you-you wanted tea. I'll go now." And Quatre fled.

Wufei stared after Quatre, puzzled at first and wondering why the other pilot was acting so strangely. He replayed the conversation he and Duo had just had in his mind.

"Shit!" Duo and Wufei swore simultaneously as they both realised at exactly the same instant what Quatre had heard.

Wufei panicked. "Winner!" He roared as he leapt off the bed. "Get back here!"

He tripped over a book on the floor and stubbed his toe on a box before he even made it to the door.

"Maxwell!" He raged even as he gave chase.

Unfortunately, Quatre had too much of a head start. By the time Duo and Wufei had made it to the kitchen, Quatre had already found refuge behind his lover.

Wufei ignored Trowa and made a grab for Quatre anyway.

Quatre squeaked, and Trowa spread his hands, shielding his smaller lover, effectively preventing Wufei from getting to Quatre.

Trowa looked over his shoulder at his lover who was clutching at the taller boy's waist. "What's wrong, little one?" He questioned gently.

Quatre peered at an irritated Wufei from behind Trowa. "I… I accidentally overheard Wufei and Duo talking. I didn't mean to! I was only going to offer them tea!"

"Yes?" His lover asked calmly.

Quatre gulped loudly and addressed Wufei with a trembling voice. "I-I won't tell Heero that you l-love him."

There was a resounding 'crack,' and all four pilots turned to the kitchen doorway where the sound originated. Heero had just walked into the doorframe and was staring at Wufei with a strange expression on his face.

Wufei could feel a sensation of utter horror overtaking him. //This is not happening!// "I'm not in love with you!" He finally snapped angrily to Heero when he managed to regain use of his voice. Then he turned back to Quatre. "You didn't hear what you thought you heard."

Quatre stared at him, then rallying himself stood up tall and stated calmly, "I am not a liar." Then with eyes fixed firmly on Wufei he continued, "You've never lied in your life, Wufei. Did you or did you not say to Duo, 'I love Heero'?"

A hushed silence fell over the whole room. In that moment, it would have been possible to hear a pin drop. As it was, the pilots could hear Wufei grinding his teeth. "Yes, I did, but –"

Wufei's eyes shifted to his side, and he looked at Duo standing beside Quatre. Duo looked like he was going to faint. Wufei tried to convey to Duo with his eyes that now would be a damn good time to step in and tell Heero how he felt, but Duo just turned even whiter and bit his lip, finally resorting to looking down at the floor.

Wufei clenched his teeth together even harder. He held back a sigh of frustration. There was no way he was going to hurt Duo. "You shouldn't have been eavesdropping," he finally snapped at Quatre before pushing roughly past Heero and disappearing up the stairs. After Wufei left, there was a moment of stunned silence, and then Duo quickly made his way up the stairs after Wufei. Left in the kitchen, the other three pilots stared at each other. Heero looked stunned. Finally he too silently left the room.

XXX

Reaching his bedroom, Wufei waited until Duo had entered before locking the door. He thought to himself sourly that that's what he should have done before confronting Duo in the first place. Then they wouldn't be in this mess.

Wufei turned and glared at Duo who moved backwards under the visual force. "You might have spoken up, you know." He growled. "That would have been the perfect opportunity for you to tell him you love him."

Duo backed away even further in the face of such anger. "I couldn't, 'Fei. Not in front of everyone!" He stared at Wufei pleadingly, tears turning his beautiful violet eyes into glistening gems.

Wufei stared at Duo and then shook his head. "Now they all think I like Yuy."

Duo continued to stare at Wufei pleadingly. Wufei sighed before rubbing at his temples in a tired gesture. "Fine, we won't tell him anything until you're ready."

"Thanks, 'Fei!" Duo cried, dashing forward and giving him a hug.

"This is what I get for sticking my big beak where it doesn't belong." Wufei grumbled and felt Duo choke on laughter as he patted him gently on the back.

"Yeah, first time you're ever nosy, and it backfires big time." And then Duo dissolved into helpless laughter tinged slightly with residual hysteria from the emotional day.

Wufei growled and proceeded to ignore the idiot rolling around on his bed laughing like there was no tomorrow. Wufei knew that Duo was just letting off a little steam.

XXX

Dinner that night was awkward. The other pilots kept surreptitiously looking from Heero to Wufei. The two pilots in question both ignored each other and everyone else.

Finally, Heero put his fork down carefully and cleared his throat. Immediately all eyes were on him. Heero looked at Wufei for the first time since they'd come together to eat dinner. "I –" Heero cleared his throat again. "I like women." He finally announced curtly.

Immediately like spectators at a tennis match, Trowa and Quatre turned to stare at Wufei.

Wufei was staring back at Heero though he hadn't failed to notice the pain on Duo's face upon hearing this information.

This time it was Wufei's turn to clear his throat. Since he'd already been thrown to the wolves, he decided to try and see if there was any hope left for his best friend. Wufei looked into Heero's eyes and began hesitantly, "Some people aren't really sure of what they want, and you've never been with a man –"

Heero cut him off before he could continue. "I have."

There was a stunned silence at that unexpected admission; even Wufei was thrown for a loop. He glanced quickly at Duo and noted that his friend was having trouble controlling the trembling of his lips; any moment now and he would burst into tears.

Wufei was aware that Heero, Trowa, and Quatre were still staring at him, waiting for some kind of reaction.

"Fine." He muttered before pushing his chair back and leaving the dinner table. That would give Duo the opportunity to leave as well. Duo looked like he was ready to break down at any minute, and Wufei didn't think Duo would want anyone else to know of his pain.

Sure enough, a few seconds later Duo appeared in the doorway of Wufei's bedroom. Wufei regarded him sadly. "I'm sorry, Duo."

Duo launched himself at Wufei and began to sob. "Wufei!"

Wufei held his best friend close as he cried. "He was your first love?" Wufei questioned softly.

"The only person I've ever loved." Duo whimpered.

Wufei just held him closer.

Downstairs in the kitchen, Quatre put a hand over his heart and bent over slightly in a posture of pain.

"Quatre?" Trowa questioned worriedly, going to his lover quickly. "What's wrong?"

"So much pain." Quatre managed to choke out.

Trowa's eyes lifted and met with Heero's. They stared at each other silently.

"It's okay," he assured his lover. "Duo's gone after him." And then he led his lover over to the couch to rest.

Heero disappeared out into the night.

It wasn't long before Duo finally sobbed himself to sleep in Wufei's arms. Wufei sighed and shifted Duo slightly so that he was lying on the bed. Then he tugged off Duo's boots and clothes knowing that his friend liked to sleep in his boxers. After that, he pulled the blanket over Duo and made to move away. Duo immediately began whimpering. In a flash, Wufei was back by his side, smoothing down his hair and whispering comforting words.

Unfortunately, Wufei discovered that every time he tried to move away from the bed, Duo would begin whimpering. Thus Wufei resigned himself to spending the rest of the night awake sitting beside beside his friend, whispering calming words to Duo and stroking his hair in soothing motions. It wasn't until four o'clock in the morning that he finally fell asleep straight up in bed next to his grieving friend.

Friendship and the Beginning of Something More

Chapter Three

The next morning when Duo woke up, memories of the previous day crashed over him like a tidal wave as soon as he blinked his crusted-over eyes open. He gulped back a sob of pain with some difficulty. Duo screwed his eyes shut and swallowed a bit painfully. He resolved that he'd cried enough last night, and all over poor Wufei besides. The poor boy no doubt had been soaked through and through. Speaking of the boy, where was Wufei? Turning his head slightly, he saw Wufei slumped over asleep, leaning against the headboard. Duo winced in sympathetic pain at his position. He didn't look too comfortable. Shifting in the bed, he lifted Wufei up and deposited him so that he was lying straight down on his bed before padding across to the mirror hanging up behind the door. Duo quickly scrubbed both his hands over his face, trying to erase any lingering traces of his emotional upset. Good thing it didn't look like he'd been crying. The others would work it out in an instant if Duo emerged from his room looking like he'd sobbed the night away.

Turning, he reached down and picked up his discarded clothes, absently deciding against putting them on. He needed a shower and there was no point getting dressed if he was just going to take it all off again. He reached for the door knob and pulled open the door – only to come face to face with Quatre who had his hand raised to knock.

"Duo!" Quatre cried, startled.

"Quatre." Duo acknowledged, pasting a bright and cheery smile on his face. "Good morning."

He saw Quatre look down at the clothes he was holding in his hands.

"I'm gonna take a shower." He explained quickly as he made to move past Quatre. Peering down the hallway, he noticed that Heero and Trowa were also already up. Again Duo thanked the gods that it wasn't obvious that he'd been crying.

"You spent the night with Wufei?" Quatre asked him a trifle suspiciously.

"Yeah," Duo answered distractedly, still trying to move past. Seeing Quatre's thoughtful expression and putting two and two together, he suddenly realised what Quatre was thinking.

"It's not like that!" He cried, unwilling to let another misunderstanding unfold, "Wuffers and I are just friends. Nothing happened."

Quatre's eyes were beginning to glint in a menacing manner. "Why did you feel that it was necessary to take off your clothes to comfort him? Or is that how you comforted him?"

//Damn!// Duo thought desperately. This wasn't looking good; he was beginning to feel scared. Quatre's normally sweet, innocent eyes were beginning to take on that manic glow similar to the one that appeared in his expression in battle.

"I sleep in boxers!" He pointed out quickly, hoping to defuse the potentially explosive situation. Unfortunately, it didn't work. The next moment Quatre had grabbed his arm and pushed him forcefully against the wall. Stunned at this sudden turn in events, Duo dropped his clothes and boots. //Never knew Quatre was so strong, or quick for that matter!//

Quatre leaned into him threateningly. "You took advantage of him!"

Duo gaped. //Uh...// His numbed mind provided helpfully.

Quatre stared hard at Duo. "You took advantage of Wufei while he was hurt, and now you're trying to avoid responsibility!"

//Geez, you'd think from the way that Quat's talking, I knocked Wufei up or something!// Duo thought just a touch hysterically. Nevertheless, he tried to reason with Quatre.

"Quat –" He began.

"You had better consider your words carefully, Duo. I won't have Wufei hurt again. Don't you dare give me that friendship spiel!" Quatre growled.

They heard a sound coming from the just-exited bedroom behind them. Immediately, Quatre released Duo and took a step back so that he was standing a reasonable distance from Duo. To a casual observer, it would look like they were having a friendly chat rather than a confrontation.

Turning, they saw Wufei emerge from the bedroom. His eyes were bloodshot from comforting Duo the whole night and getting a measly three hours of sleep.

Quatre immediately gave Wufei a bright smile. "How are you feeling, Wufei?"

Wufei stared at him in some puzzlement. "Fine!" He finally muttered gruffly, ignoring the strange look Quatre was giving him. He wondered in some resignation how long it would be before the other pilots finally forgot about the fact that Wufei was supposedly heartbroken over Heero.

"I was very happy to find out about your relationship with Duo," Quatre commented with heavy emphasis, eyes flickering to Duo meaningfully.

Wufei stared at Quatre for a moment in surprise before realising that Duo must have told him that they were best friends. Wufei supposed Duo did that to take everyone's attention away from the 'fact' that Wufei supposedly loved Heero.

Wufei nodded to Quatre. "So, you worked it out." He mumbled absent-mindedly, not realising that Duo was frantically trying to clue him into the fact that he'd just made a blunder.

"I'm going to make tea. Does anyone want some?" Wufei questioned politely as he moved towards the stairs and began to descend.

"Wufei and I are not lovers!" Duo yelped loudly in exasperation, not answering Wufei's question and interrupting anyone else who might have replied to Wufei's query.

Wufei jerked in shock when he heard that alarming statement and lost his precarious footing on the third step. He did not make a sound even as he tumbled down two flights of stairs before finally coming to a stop at the bottom where he lay in an ungainly heap. //Ouch!// He thought intelligently.

Immediately, Quatre, Trowa, and Duo rushed down the stairs after him.

"Oh, God, you okay, 'Fei?" Duo asked worriedly.

Quatre's voice was high in concern and anger. "How could you, Duo!"

Wufei pushed Trowa's hands away from their examination of his body and struggled to his feet even as Quatre's worried blue gaze turned to him.

"What in the hell?" Wufei snapped. //This is like some crazy dream, but the pain I feel means that I'm not dreaming, no matter how much I'd like to believe otherwise!//

"Oh, Wufei," Quatre whispered mournfully, his eyes filling with tears. "I'm sorry."

Wufei stared, utterly and completely confused.

Duo decided to enlighten him. "Quat thinks you and I are lovers." He informed Wufei matter-of-factly.

This explanation made Wufei turn red with anger as he began to splutter, mouth opening and closing for a few precious moments.

"Winner!" He finally roared, glaring at Quatre. The glass windows rattled under the auditory force. "I would never date that braided baka! How could you even suggest – "

Duo cut him off mid-rant addressing Quatre archly. "Told you so."

Quatre stared, obviously bewildered. "But when I said that I knew of your relationship…"

"Maxwell and I are good friends." Wufei interjected, beginning to look very huffy. "Please stop thinking perverted thoughts." And then he pushed them all aside and made his way stiffly to the kitchen.

Left behind, Quatre stared at Duo in some remorse. "I…"

"Yes?" Duo asked sedately, arching an eyebrow in affected inquiry.

"Sorry." Quatre finally apologized faintly. "I thought that maybe you'd…" He trailed off, embarrassed.

Duo watched him in some amusement. "Take advantage of Wufei? No one would want to take advantage of him. He's too prickly. You're more likely to find yourself at a disadvantage, trying to get past all the thorns."

And then with that parting remark, Duo stood up and made his way to the bathroom. He desperately needed a shower.

XXX

Later that evening, Wufei was sitting in the family room trying to get his sore muscles to work. He didn't think he'd ever be able to move properly again after having taken that tumble down the stairs. //Nataku!// He mentally bemoaned. //How is it possible that Quatre can be so completely clueless?!//

Sitting in the family room with him, Trowa, Quatre, and Heero were all working on their own respective work and watching Wufei out of the corners of their eyes. They thought they were so sly, stealing glimpses peripherally. Humph! Quatre personally thought that Wufei was only pretending to be brave and was currently feeling sorry for his fellow pilot. Trowa merely thought Wufei was unlucky in love, and Heero, Heero was wondering whether Wufei would still be able to fulfil his missions.

Wufei ignored them all and calmly read his book, hoping that some time of inactivity would make his sore muscles go away. Not that he didn't know that was wishful thinking; he knew that he'd be even sorer by the time the evening was over. Inactive muscles tended to stiffen after all, but he couldn't seem to summon the energy to move around to avoid that terrible fate.

The peaceful silence lasted for all of five minutes before it was suddenly broken by the arrival of Duo.

"How're you feeling, 'Fei?" Duo asked cheerfully as he entered the room.

Looking at that cheerful mask, Wufei thought that question would be better asked of his friend.

Nevertheless, he growled as was no doubt expected of him. "How do you think you'd feel if you'd fallen down two flights of stairs?"

Duo grinned. "You know, I think a good long soak will do your royal grumpiness some good." And then Duo grabbed Wufei under the shoulders and hauled him protesting up the stairs.

The others watched the departing figures. "Wufei seems to be okay." Quatre commented hesitantly.

"Wufei is resilient." Trowa informed his lover calmly. "He'll be fine. I'm sure he's already forgotten about Heero." He cast an apologetic glance at Heero.

Heero grunted.

XXX

In the bathroom, Wufei stripped off his clothes and with a little sigh sank into the hot water. Duo followed him in, and, sitting on the edge of the tub, he picked up the soapy cloth and began to scrub at Wufei's back.

"What's this, Maxwell?" Wufei questioned somewhat suspiciously.

"Geez." Duo pouted, mock-wounded. "Can't a guy wash his friend's back for him?"

Wufei snorted in derision, "You're not that nice."

He was silent for a moment more before continuing, amused, "You're just still feeling guilty because you didn't speak up when the others thought I was in love with Yuy, and then later when you finally did speak up, you sent me down the stairs."

Duo paused in his rubbing and looked appropriately embarrassed. Then he peered intently into Wufei's eyes and murmured with all due sincerity. "Sorry, Wufei."

Wufei shrugged in dismissal. "It doesn't matter. I don't care what the others think, and I'm hardly injured." He looked at Duo's guilty face and smirked. "But I want you to remember that you owe me big time. Now, get out, I want to soak on my own and think of proper repayment." And slightly exasperated with the whole farce, Wufei took the cloth from Duo and shooed him from the bathroom.

Duo flashed Wufei a little grin before allowing himself to be ejected from the bathroom. Making his way back to Wufei's bedroom, he sat down on the bed to wait for his friend to finish his bath.

It was not until a good half an hour later that Wufei, clad only in a towel, reappeared in his bedroom. Duo stared in some guilty shock at the bruises adorning his friend's body that were now clearly revealed under the fluorescent light. "Wufei –" He started guiltily.

"It's nothing." Wufei dismissed even as he slid between the sheets. He wanted to have an early night; the day's activities had left him feeling exhausted.

"'Fei?" Duo ventured hesitantly.

Wufei looked at him. "Hm?"

"Can I stay?" Wufei peered at Duo, arching an eyebrow in nonverbal communication of the absurdity of that statement. Lifting a corner of his blanket, he beckoned Duo over.

"Thanks." Duo murmured gratefully.

Wufei wrapped an arm around Duo, pulling him close. "You know I don't care what the others think; stop acting so guilty around me! I'm not angry, and I'm not hurt."

Duo sighed gustily. "Alright."

"Good." Wufei pronounced in satisfaction and nuzzled Duo's hair. "Now get some sleep."

Duo shifted. "Hang on."

Wufei lifted his head and watched as Duo tugged off his clothes. "Damn priest's outfit. Hard to sleep in." Duo's voice came out muffled as he tugged his shirt off his head, then moved to his boots and lastly pants.

"Done." Duo announced in satisfaction, and, cuddling up to Wufei, he closed his eyes. Within minutes they were both blissfully asleep.

XXX

Something woke Wufei up in the middle of the night. The skin on the back of his neck was prickling. Listening carefully, he heard a creak from somewhere near the centre of his room.

In that very next moment, moving faster than should be humanly possible, Wufei had his sword in his hand and was up over Duo's prone body. Sparks flared in the dark as the sword clashed with what seemed to be a dagger. Wufei shoved up and pushed the attacker back.

Wufei took another swipe at the unknown assailant, and somewhere in the room a lamp fell and smashed on the ground.

Wufei leapt forward again, clearly able to see his attacker in the moonlight. With a fake feint and then a graceful lunge, he put his sword to the assailant's neck.

Light flooded the bedroom.

Heero was there first with his gun out; not far behind him were Trowa and Quatre. They blinked in surprise to see a completely naked Wufei with his sword to the neck of a man kneeling in the centre of the room. Movement from the side of the room turned their attention there, and they saw Duo sitting up in bed sleepily staring at the attacker incredulously. "How'd he get here?" Duo asked, blankly staring.

Heero ignored him and snapped to Wufei. "Get some clothes on, Chang." He put his gun to the man's head, and Wufei caught the pair of white pants Duo tossed to him.

"Lost your towel, hey, 'Fei?" Duo teased cheekily even as he picked up his own pants and slid them on.

Wufei merely grunted.

Fully dressed, Wufei turned to stare at the man; he was looking pissed that his assassination plans had failed.

"Speak!" Heero snapped. "Who sent you?"

The man eyed Heero rebelliously. "Nothing will make me speak."

A cold gleam entered Heero's eyes. "Nothing?"

Ten minutes later the man clad in black was confessing all. A few broken bones courtesy of Heero had changed the man's mind quick-smart about remaining silent. Soon, he was telling them everything. He was an Oz scout. He'd been sent ahead to see if this was really where the Gundam pilots were residing. His job was to report back, but when he'd seen the two sleeping – here he gestured to Wufei and Duo – he'd thought that the opportunity to kill them was one too good to pass up. Glaring balefully at Wufei, he'd proceeded to inform them that if Wufei hadn't woken up at that untimely moment, he'd have managed to kill the long–haired one. That earned him a broken nose from Heero. Then Heero asked the question that was on everyone's mind.

"How did you find us?"

The man looked at Heero. "Ib wab a flube; the blonbe wub spobbed at the shobs and follobeb hebe." (Translation: It was a fluke; the blonde one was spotted at the shops and followed here.)

Quatre gasped, his eyes widening in remorseful horror. Trowa pulled him close and rubbed his back in commiseration. Since they had no more use for the man, Heero knocked him unconscious.

The pilots looked at each other.

"Allah, this is all my fault!" Quatre gasped.

"No." Heero refuted. "It could have happened to any of us. We'll just have to be more careful in the future. Plan?" He asked, looking at Quatre. It probably wasn't necessary to look to Quatre in such a simple matter, but even Heero was astute enough to realise that the other pilot needed to feel as though he wasn't a failure.

The pilots watched as Quatre rallied himself. "We won't have much time." Quatre stated plainly. "The others are probably closing in as we speak. We need to get away now. Since they want to take us by surprise, they'll probably be travelling by foot. We can fly our Gundams to my property in Randolan."

Heero nodded once in curt agreement. "Pack the bare essentials."

It only took the pilots a few minutes to do so, and just over five minutes later the pilots were making their way to the hanger. Soon, they were lifting off into the sky. Below, they could make out a platoon of soldiers creeping silently towards the safe house. It was evident to all of them that if the scout hadn't messed up, they'd all have been captured; that thought was a sobering one.

XXX

At the new safe house, Quatre led Heero to his bedroom first and then led Wufei and Duo to their bedroom. He opened a door and said, "Here is your bedroom."

Wufei and Duo stared at him, slightly puzzled. It appeared to them as though he'd addressed both of them at once.

"Mine or 'Fei's?" Duo asked grinning.

"Both." Quatre replied before moving on.

The next moment his arm was caught in a firm grip, and he found himself turned around to stare into a pair of dark, bottomless eyes.

"You seem to have your wires crossed somewhere, Winner. There is no Maxwell and I. There is only Maxwell, and there is only Chang. Two separate entities. Now, whose bedroom is this?" He inquired casually.

Quatre spluttered. "But..."

Trowa stepped in. "This one can be yours, Wufei. Come, Duo, we'll show you to your bedroom."

They waited until Wufei had disappeared into his bedroom and closed the door behind him before they showed Duo to his room.

Before Quatre allowed Duo to enter though, he stared intently into Duo's eyes and said gravely, "I hope you're not using Wufei for casual sex, Duo."

Duo gulped. Damn, Quatre'd been using that scary look on him a lot lately, though Duo knew Quatre only wanted to protect Wufei since he'd supposedly just gone through major heartbreak.

"Wuffers and I are only friends, Quat." Duo emphasized. "And if you keep insisting that we're sleeping together, I won't be held responsible when Wufei snaps and starts beating you."

Quatre stared into his eyes. "But before…"

Duo smiled. "Wufei went to sleep in his towel; he must have lost it in the bedcovers before the fight. I sleep with him sometimes when I get lonely. Only sleep, mind you. Not all of us have our own personal bed warmers." And here he looked pointedly at Trowa.

"Oh." Quatre pulled back, flustered. "I'm sorry, Duo. It's just that I don't want to see Wufei get hurt again."

Duo pulled Quatre into a hug. "I know. Wufei'll be fine. It's good that you care."

Quatre nodded, returning his hug. "I care about you, too, Duo."

Duo grinned cheekily. "I'm glad, but if you keep this up, Tro might get jealous." Duo pulled back from the hug and gave a little wave as he stepped into his bedroom.

"'Night Quat, Tro."

"Sleep tight, Duo." Quatre replied as Quatre and Trowa moved towards their own bedroom.

Once inside his bedroom, Duo took a few deep breaths before moving towards his bed. Looking at his new bed for a minute more, he suddenly realised that he didn't have a pillow. Stepping out quickly, he peered into Wufei's room. It was empty. //Huh? Where'd he go?// A quick glance at the bed showed that there was only one pillow. Turning, he made his way to Heero's room. Knocking, he waited until he heard Heero say, "Come in," before he entered.

Entering the room, he found Heero sitting on his bed.

"Heero," he said somewhat nervously as he walked closer. After all, he still loved the guy; you couldn't go around turning off your emotions like they were on a switch. "Do you have a spare pillow?"

"Hn." Heero grunted before picking an extra pillow off his bed and tossing it to Duo.

Something fell out from under it and floated to the ground. Heero dove for it, but Duo got to it first.

"What's this?" He teased as he turned the picture over and froze.

There in his hand was a picture of Relena. He could feel his heart breaking all over again. Previously he'd clung vainly to the hope that he still had a chance, but now here in his hand was evidence that Heero actually loved someone. Duo wasn't a home-wrecker; he wasn't one to get between two people in a relationship. After seeing this, he realised that he had no choice but to give up on Heero. Heero grabbed the picture from Duo's slack fingers, childishly hiding it behind his back.

Feeling as though his heart was shattering once again, Duo still somehow managed to dredge up a grin. "So that's who you love." He teased a bit shakily in a voice that trembled ever-so slightly.

Heero didn't deny it, just grunted.

Duo grinned. "Love is in the air…" He sang as he waltzed backward out the door.

The last sight he saw as he closed the door was Heero flushing bright red standing frozen in the middle of his bedroom.

As soon as Heero's bedroom door closed behind him, Duo let the smile drop from his face. //So that's it.// He shuffled slowly back to his room, clutching the pillow close to him.

He didn't even react when he bumped into someone.

"Maxwell?" Wufei questioned in concern.

Duo just walked into his bedroom. "He likes Relena." He said dully to Wufei who'd followed him.

"Maxwell," was all Wufei said even as Duo found himself being pulled into a warm embrace.

Chapter Four:

Wufei was worried about Duo. He'd been very uncharacteristically quiet of late. Of course, Wufei knew that Duo was heartbroken. It wasn't every day you found out that the only boy you ever loved actually loved another person. That particular line of thought made Wufei shudder. He couldn't understand what Heero saw in Relena. All that pink… Back to the matter at hand though, Wufei decided that as Duo's best friend, it was his duty to cheer him up.

Thus it was that Duo suddenly found Wufei attached to him rather like a limpet. They'd been close before, but now Duo couldn't turn around without finding Wufei there right beside him. In a way, it was comforting; at this particular point in his life, Duo didn't really want to be alone. Of course, if he thought about it too hard, it became rather creepy. But let's not go there…Besides, thinking too hard made his head hurt.

Wufei yawned as he lay back bonelessly on Duo's bed. Lifting one hand lazily, he tossed Justice Bear into the air, languidly watching it bounce off the ceiling before catching it in his other hand. Immediately, Duo rushed to his poor bear's rescue.

"Wufei!" Duo roared, snatching Justice Bear from its second mid-flight bounce and clutching it close protectively.

Wufei blinked at him innocently. "It wanted freedom. I was teaching it how to fly."

Duo's mouth worked soundlessly for a few minutes as he worked to string together the appropriate words in response, and then he finally howled. "I'll teach you how to fly!" And he attacked, brandishing Justice Bear like a plush and cuddly sword.

Wufei rolled halfway across the bed and snatched up a pillow to counter Duo's attacks. As Duo tried to whack at Wufei with Justice Bear, Wufei swiped at him with the pillow. Snarling in displeasure, Duo dropped Justice Bear on the bed and made a quick grab for Wufei's pillowy weapon. Together, they began growling and tugging hard at the pillow, neither one of them willing to let go; the two were rather scarily like two dogs with a single bone. Unfortunately, although the pillow was made to withstand saliva and maybe the occasional pummelling, it was not made to withstand the assault of two very powerful Gundam pilots. With a loud ripping sound, it tore straight through the middle, and both pilots fell backwards on the bed, each with his piece of mutilated pillow in hand. Feathers from both halves of the pillow swirled through the air.

"You owe me a new pillow!" Duo cried, leaping for Wufei.

Once again Wufei rolled nimbly to one side and grabbed Justice Bear.

"Stop right where you are." Wufei ordered, holding one hand in a threatening manner to the bear's throat. "Another step and I'll rip out its throat."

Duo froze in mid-lunge, and Wufei cackled in a way that any truly evil villain would duly admire. "That's right. Know your place, fool. What will you give me in return for this bear's life and freedom?"

"Nothing!" Duo snarled back sulkily.

Wufei smirked evilly. "That's just too bad." And curling his fingers into claws, he dramatically pulled back his hand, ready to rip out the bear's throat.

"Wait!" Duo cried in protest.

Wufei began to grin. "Yes?" he drawled smugly.

"What do you want?" Duo finally asked plaintively after a few moments of silence.

Wufei pretended to look thoughtful in contemplation of his extortion terms, and then he finally proposed. "Let's go out."

Duo looked shocked. "'Fei, we can't do that! Someone might see us."

Wufei shrugged in unconcern. "We'll disguise ourselves. We'll go out and do something fun."

Duo stared at him in frank disbelief. Where had his solitary dragon wandered off to? Who was this person who actually wanted to go out and have 'fun'? Then he lowered his head, suddenly looking sadly remorseful. "I sorry, 'Fei." He pronounced childishly, plopping down on his bed.

Wufei stared at Duo, taken aback by his sudden change in demeanour. "What for?" He questioned curiously.

Duo shook his head and looked at Wufei. "I haven't been very good company, have I?"

"You've been hurt." Wufei acknowledged calmly. "You're entitled to a few moments of depression."

"Yeah." Duo said glumly. "But you shouldn't have to put up with me."

Wufei shrugged dismissively. "I don't mind. If I really didn't want to be here, then nothing you could say could keep me here."

Duo nodded and perceptibly brightened. "Yeah, I guess you're right." Then he leaned in close to Wufei. Wufei leaned back slightly at this unexpected invasion of his space, but Duo just continued to move in closer. When he was scant millimetres from Wufei's face with his breath brushing across Wufei's lips, he whispered, "You're the best friend –" and suddenly Duo grabbed, "a guy could ever have!" he finished triumphantly, addressing the bear he was now holding in his arms. "Yes, you are, my little bear." He baby-talked, snuggling his possession.

Wufei blinked. "Maxwell!" He raged as he tried unsuccessfully to get the bear back.

Duo laughed. "Never drop your guard." He noted smugly.

Wufei just looked annoyed and then gave up on the whole endeavour of recapturing his hostage. He asked a bit grumpily. "Are we going out?"

Duo sat down on the bed, clutching the bear to him tightly. "I really don't feel like it." He murmured softly, avoiding Wufei's eyes.

Wufei stared at Duo. In his opinion, Duo had been stewing in his little depression long enough. It was time he got out and about and stopped being so miserable. Wufei thought a day in town would do Duo a world of good. Getting away from the other pilots for a while should cheer him up, maybe even let him forget his heartbreak for a little while.

"Alright." Wufei stated in some resignation.

Duo looked up with a little smile. "Thanks, 'Fei. I knew you'd – "

Wufei cut him off. "I really didn't want to have to say this, but you leave me with no choice." He stated a trifle grimly.

Duo stared at him.

"You remember, don't you?" Wufei asked archly. "How I took the fall for you, and now everyone thinks I'm in love with Yuy." Duo continued to stare, and he opened his mouth to respond.

Wufei held up a hand in a silencing gesture. "And then later you caused that huge misunderstanding with Winner and sent me down the stairs." Wufei paused significantly before continuing. "You know, you owe me for that."

Duo rolled his eyes and sighed in displeased comprehension. "And you want to collect on that now, right?"

Wufei looked smug. "No one ever said you were dumb, Maxwell. I want you to spend the day with me in town."

Duo sighed again, gustily. "You're ruthless, 'Fei." He whined. "Why can't you leave a guy to lick his wounds in peace?"

Wufei snorted. "I've left you to lick your wounds for a whole week. I think that's long enough for anyone."

"You've obviously never been in love before." Duo sniffed in a superior fashion. "Alright, alright." Duo said, holding up his hand when Wufei opened his mouth to retort. "How're we gonna do this?"

Wufei looked thoughtful for a moment. When he finally spoke, he spoke slowly like someone working out a plan on the spot. Actually, Wufei hadn't been sure he'd be able to persuade Duo to leave the house yet. Hence, he wasn't really prepared when Duo actually agreed to do so. "Change into jeans and a shirt." He began, then looking at Duo appraisingly, he suggested, "Oh, leave your hair underneath your jacket and put a cap on, or get a really big cap and try to put your hair into it."

"Right." Duo nodded and followed his instructions before looking at Wufei curiously. "What are you gonna wear?"

"Same as you." Wufei replied absently.

Duo whistled. "Now this I've gotta see. You even own a pair of jeans, 'Fei?"

Wufei snorted. "No. But you've got plenty." And he moved to Duo's wardrobe and began to rummage around in it. "This'll do." He stated, finally pulling out a pair of jeans and a jacket and changing into them.

Duo began to laugh. "Hot, Wufei. You look so normal, but odd too! I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing you in jeans."

Wufei ignored the sartorial commentary and grabbed his hand. "Come on!" And he hustled Duo down the stairs.

Heero, Trowa, and Quatre were in the kitchen when Wufei and Duo made their appearance.

"What?" Quatre's mouth dropped open. "What are you doing?" He asked, obviously puzzled by both their presence downstairs and their actual appearances. Who knew that Wufei had such a great butt?

"Maxwell and I are going to spend the day in town." Wufei informed him, tucking his own hair up under a cap that had also been liberated from the God of Death's wardrobe.

Heero opened his mouth to speak.

"Have fun." Quatre interjected, cutting him off before the first words could leave his mouth.

"Sure will, Q-ball!" Duo called as he was dragged out of the door.

As soon as the two pilots were gone, Heero rounded on Quatre. "Winner!"

Quatre held his gaze calmly. "Wufei's been hiding out in his room for the whole week, and poor Duo's been cooped up, too, keeping him company. It will do them both a lot of good to get out of the house."

Heero opened his mouth again, but like before Quatre interrupted him before he could speak. "And if I may be so bold, I'd like to add that Wufei's been upset because of you."

Heero frowned heavily. "They might get recognised."

Trowa spoke up. "They were disguised well. I barely recognised them, especially Wufei. They'll be fine."

Heero just grumbled. "As long as they come back in one piece."

XXX

"Ride like the wind, 'Fei!" Duo called as he climbed up behind Wufei on the motorcycle.

"Whatever, Maxwell." Wufei snorted, but nevertheless the bike took off down the driveway as though Wufei had hit a hidden turbo boost switch on the motorcycle.

Duo laughed as he felt the sharp sting of the wind hitting his face. It felt exhilarating to be on a motorbike. Slowly he felt the tension leave his body and his depression melt away. Perhaps Wufei was right. Perhaps it was time to let go. Duo was suddenly determined to enjoy his trip into town.

Even though Wufei was speeding way over the speed limit, it still took the boys half an hour to reach the nearest shopping complex because their safe house was in such a remote location.

"Let's see." Wufei muttered pensively getting off the bike and looking around. Spotting a sign he immediately stated. "First things first: food."

Duo began to grin. "Definitely!"

Making their way to the food court, the two looked around. "I'm having a burger." Duo finally decided, staring hungrily at a huge sign.

Wufei took off in the opposite direction. "I'm having a baked potato."

When they'd both bought their respective food, they made their way to a table. "Hmm." Duo murmured in satisfaction, eyes fluttering closed as he bit into his burger with relish. Opening his eyes he found Wufei watching him with a strange expression on his face. "Want some chips, 'Fei?" He asked gesturing to his plate of chips.

Wufei put a forkful of potato, ham, and creamy cheese into his mouth. "No."

"You'll eat a spud but not chips. Strange." Duo commented even as he set to work finishing his burger in record time.

Wufei shrugged and dug into his potato, too.

It was some ten minutes later before they both finished their respective meals. When they were finally done, they stretched out in their seats. "What now, 'Fei?" Duo asked.

Wufei looked around. "What do you want to do?"

Duo lapsed into a thoughtful silence. "Let's go ice skating." He said suddenly. "Let's go ice skating at Ice Mountain."

Wufei stood up. "Then ice skating it is." He walked to an information board located conveniently at the store entrance and began to run his finger along the small print.

"Ice Mountain, Ice Mountain." He murmured distractedly. "Ah here it is!" He pointed with his finger. "Level Five. Let's go." And he took off with Duo in tow.

XXX

At the ice skating rink, the two handed over their shoes and collected a pair of skates each. After having laced themselves up, they entered the rink.

"Yeah!" Duo cheered as he whizzed about on the ice. Looking around, he noticed that Wufei wasn't with him. He'd almost done a full three-hundred and sixty degree turn before he spotted Wufei standing by the edge of the wall. Wufei was deep in discussion with a boy who looked to be eighteen. The boy reached for Wufei even as Wufei growled something, his face darkening.

//Hm.// Duo thought. Wufei looked like he was in trouble. Not that he needed Duo's help. Wufei was more than capable of taking care of himself.

As Duo watched, the boy again reached for Wufei, and Wufei tried to push his arms away angrily. The next moment, Wufei started to slide, and, startled, he grabbed onto the boy in front of him. Together they fell down on the ice. Duo stared and then hurriedly skated over to Wufei who'd disappeared beneath the boy he'd been speaking to earlier.

"Get off me, idiot." He heard Wufei snarl as he got closer.

"Wu, you okay?" He questioned as he saw the other boy get gracefully to his feet before reaching out a hand to pull Wufei up.

Wufei ignored him and used the wall to clamber to his feet instead. As Duo watched him, he suddenly realised something. "You can't skate!" He burst out.

Wufei's head whipped around, and he glared at Duo.

"Why didn't you say something?" Duo asked, ignoring the glare.

Wufei looked at him defensively. "It looks easy enough. Give me a minute, Maxwell, and I'll be skating rings around you."

"Uh huh." Duo nodded sagely. "Sure you will, Wu."

"I'm Drake." The other boy spoke up. "As I was telling Wufei, I'd be more than happy to teach him the basics."

Duo glanced at Wufei. He didn't look like he wanted to accept the offer.

"Nah, that's cool." Duo demurred, flashing Drake a cheerful grin. "I can handle it. You really don't want to." He whispered in an aside, "He's kinda grumpy."

"Maxwell!" Wufei raged even as Drake gave Duo a disarming grin. "I'll take your word for it. If you change your mind though," he continued to Wufei, "I'll be around." And he took off gracefully.

"Nice person." Duo commented. "Where'd you meet him?"

"I don't know." Wufei growled. "He appeared out of nowhere."

"Yeah." Duo said, looking after the departing figure. "With that speed, it would seem that way. Hey, was he hitting on you or something?"

Wufei ignored him and attempted to push away from the wall. Duo caught him before he could fall. "How come you don't know how to skate, 'Fei?" He asked curiously.

Wufei shrugged. "It never snowed on L5. That's one weather pattern that we didn't bother having programmed into the system."

"Ah," Duo nodded. "It's pretty simple; the most important thing is to find your balance and rhythm. Once you've got that, it'll be easy. Here, start by pushing off on one leg like this," and Duo released Wufei for a moment to demonstrate. He watched as Wufei pushed off on one leg and nearly toppled. He was there in a flash and caught Wufei before he could damage his pride some more by falling. "For someone so graceful in everything you do, you sure haven't got it together on ice." He teased.

Wufei grunted and attempted to punch Duo's lights out.

"Ah huh." Duo tsked, gliding back out of reach. "Any more of that, and I'll leave you here."

Wufei glared but stopped trying to murder Duo. "I should have left you to your depression." He growled.

Duo just grinned. Actually, he'd forgotten all about his depression, and even though Wufei had mentioned it, he only felt the slightest twinge in his heart. Probably because he was having so much fun teasing Wufei, he reasoned.

"Your balance should be at the hip as you move forward." Duo tried again. "When you move, try to keep your weight on the centre of the blade. Come on, try it, 'Fei." He urged from where he was standing some two metres from Wufei.

Wufei growled and then skated forward slowly towards Duo, trying to follow his instructions.

"That's it, 'Fei!" Duo cheered.

Wufei was actually beginning to feel quite pleased with himself. He'd probably have gotten further if an enthusiastic skater hadn't skated past him at a high speed, brushing him gently from behind as he did so. Once again, Wufei lost his fragile balance, toppling into Duo's arms.

"You've got it!" Duo cheered in his ear, holding him close.

Wufei felt heat flooding through him where their bodies made contact. He quickly pulled back, confused at this involuntary physical reaction. Nevertheless, he hid his confusion with his normal arrogant attitude. "I told you it was only a matter of time." He stated pompously, and then he began to skate slowly along, merging himself in the crowd of other skaters on the ice. Duo grinned and skated beside him.

"Enjoying it?" Duo asked after four laps of slow skating.

"Hn." Wufei grunted even as he began to speed up.

Half an hour later and Wufei was skating like a pro. After all, he was a Gundam pilot, and it would have been odd if he wasn't a fast learner. Wufei was highly skilled, and that translated to everything he did.

"Let's go to the racing rink." Duo suggested breathlessly to Wufei once they'd completed ten successive rounds of the rink at relatively high speeds.

Wufei turned and grinned at him eyes flashing with excitement. "Let's."

They entered the racing rink and found most people getting off the rink. A race was starting. "Ten laps." An employee told them.

"Wufei?" Duo asked, eyes sparkling.

Wufei grinned. "Why not?"

They joined the other racers, and, when the gun signalled the start, they took off. After the first two laps, Wufei and Duo began to take the lead. By the fourth lap, most of the other competitors had fallen significantly behind. By the fifth lap, it was evident that those two were only racing each other. The race was absolutely spellbinding. First, Duo would lead, and then Wufei would lead. By the ninth lap, Duo managed to get himself half a body's-length lead, and, by the tenth lap, he managed to win by full body-length.

"How was it?" He called breathlessly to Wufei once he'd slowed and finally stopped beside a wall.

Wufei leaned over panting. "I'll beat you next time." He promised, watching as the other competitors completed their laps.

Duo slung a companionable arm over Wufei's shoulder. "There's always time to dream, hey?" He purred smugly and then ducked a mock-blow from Wufei.

The next moment they became aware of clapping. The employee commentating had grabbed Duo's hand and held it high in the air. "That's right!" The employee called. "Let's have a round of applause for this young man." There came an even louder round of applause along with a few cat-calls and whistles. Duo blushed and Wufei smirked.

XXX

When the two finally managed to get away from the crowd and the over-enthusiastic employee, who was incidentally trying to hit on Duo, they staggered to a table.

"I'm pooped." Duo sighed, leaning back and taking a long drink from the bottle of water the employee had given him.

Wufei reached over and stole his bottle. "Me, too." Taking a long drink as well, he handed the water bottle back to Duo who took a few more gulps.

"What else do we have planned today, Wu?" Duo asked once he'd finished the bottle and tossed it into a recycling bin.

"After that all that exertion, why don't we do something quiet?" Wufei proposed.

Duo nodded. "Hm. That would be nice. Do you wanna watch a movie? I haven't watched one on the big screen for a while."

"Right." Wufei agreed, standing up. "A movie it is."

He suddenly found his hand caught in a tight grip. Looking down, he found Duo staring up at him with uncertainty evident in his gaze. "Do you wanna do that, 'Fei? Or do you wanna do something else? 'Cause, I don't mind if you do."

Wufei gave his signature smirk. "A movie is fine, Maxwell. Now, come on!"

They returned their skates and collected their shoes, and then they made their way down to the cinema complex on level three – malls are such useful places, everything can be found in one building.

"An action movie." Duo decided, looking around at the posters. "You'll like this one, 'Fei!" He said, pointing to one which was rated R for high levels of violence. Before he could drag Wufei off to buy tickets for that movie Wufei tightened his grip on Duo's hand and stopped him.

"Let's watch that one instead." Wufei said pointing to a family comedy.

Duo looked surprised. "But Wufei." He started. "You'd like – "

Wufei interrupted him. "We'll both like the comedy."

Duo stared at Wufei for a minute more and then gave him a huge grin. Then he whirled around and dragged Wufei off to buy popcorn and drinks before leading him into the cinema.

XXX

Three hours later the two emerged, stretching and blinking their eyes to adjust to the light.

"That's almost as tiring as skating." Wufei remarked as Duo gave a full body stretch.

"Tell me about it." Duo replied even as his stomach simultaneously rumbled.

Hearing Duo's stomach give a gurgle, Wufei looked down at his watch. "It's almost dinner time, let's get something to eat." He said before turning and striding towards the entrance with an eager Duo hot on his heels.

Because it was now evening, most of the stores in the food court had closed. Wufei and Duo instead cruised the streets and finally Wufei pull up outside a restaurant which was still open. It had nice decor, and romantic music was playing softly over the audio system. Wufei barely had a chance to read the handwritten sign posted outside the window before Duo walked in. 'Romantic night for couples.'

//Uh oh.// He thought.

"We'd like a table for two." Duo was saying to the waiter.

"And would you and your lover like a table by the window, or somewhere more private?" The waiter questioned. Wufei saw Duo begin to look puzzled. Moving quickly, he slid an arm around Duo's waist. "Somewhere private." He murmured, giving the waiter a smile.

The waiter smiled back. "Certainly. If you'd follow me, sirs."

They followed the waiter to a secluded table where the waiter handed them their menus before disappearing. "'Fei?" Duo questioned.

Wufei shrugged. "You were so busy listening to your stomach you didn't see the sign out front. It's a romantic night for couples. I thought we'd be better off here in this dark corner. Less chance of someone seeing and recognising us." He smirked.

Duo grinned back. "If I'd known that I could've had some fun…" He trailed off because the waiter had returned. They placed their orders and waited for their food.

"How about we give them food for thought?" Duo murmured suggestively, leaning forward with a little grin and wriggling his eyebrows lecherously.

"Not likely, Maxwell." Wufei retorted. Duo just grinned and started playing footsies with Wufei which made a light flush spread across Wufei's cheekbones.

Wufei was more than happy for the interruption when the waiter returned with their food. Luckily for Wufei, Duo was distracted from his game by the food. The two dug into their meal hungrily.

"This is great!" Duo declared in pleasure, waving his fork around. Wufei had to agree with him even as he ducked to avoid a flying piece of pasta. "Hn."

They ate dinner slowly, talking about any topic that came to mind. Duo asked Wufei about his sword, about his books, about his bike and in return Wufei asked Duo where he'd learned to skate so well.

Duo leaned back in his seat and grinned at Wufei. "On L2 those who skated well always managed to get away from the authorities."

Wufei raised his eyebrows and Duo winked at him. Wufei shook his head and continued eating.

Once they'd finished dinner and Duo his monstrous triple decker ice cream dessert, Wufei signalled for the check. "I'll pay." Duo quickly cut in. Wufei ignored him.

"Keep the change." Wufei said to the waiter.

The waiter looked at the notes in his hand and suddenly broke into a wide grin. "Thanks."

"You deserve it." Wufei replied. The waiter's reaction to a gay couple was a hell of a lot better than most, and his service was good too. If he had noticed that they were merely teenage boys, it hadn't showed it.

"Have a good night." He called to them cheerfully as Duo latched onto Wufei and followed him out of the hotel.

"You too." Duo called back.

"Wu." Duo whined when they were outside. "You shoulda let me pay for dinner. You've paid for everything today."

Wufei snorted. "Since I blackmailed you into coming, it's only fair I pay."

Duo stopped and grabbed Wufei. "It wasn't blackmail."

Wufei raised an eyebrow.

"Okay." Duo amended. "It was blackmail. But I enjoyed it."

"I'm glad." Wufei said, climbing onto his bike.

Duo climbed up behind him and caught Wufei's waist in a tight squeeze. "Thank you." He whispered.

"What are you talking about Maxwell?" Wufei mock-growled. "You taught me how to ice skate!"

And he started the bike. Though the wind cut off Duo's laughter, Wufei could feel Duo's body shaking against him as he chuckled.

All in all, it had been a great day, Wufei decided firmly. Unbeknownst to him, Duo was thinking the exact same thoughts.

Chapter Five:

After that day in town, Duo once again began to resemble his old self. The sparkle had returned to his eyes, and he no longer walked as though he had lead feet. It appeared to Wufei as though Duo had at long last gotten over his heartbreak. When Duo finally stopped hiding in his room, Wufei judged him to be better and decided that he could return to his normal routine. Thus, Wufei could once more be found practicing his forms out in the garden or spending long hours meditating in any room which happened to be empty.

"It's good to see Wufei happy again." Quatre remarked one day as he sat on the sofa and watched Wufei move gracefully through his exercises.

Duo choked on his orange juice and began to cough and hack, sounding very much like a donkey hyperventilating.

"Are you okay, Duo?" Quatre asked in concern, turning away from the window to eye Duo worriedly.

Duo nodded and hastily wiped at his watering eyes. "Juice just went down the wrong way. I'm fine now." He wheezed.

Quatre gave him a sympathetic nod before continuing with what he was saying before. "That day you took him out really did him some good." He beamed happily at Duo. "He's lucky to have you as a friend."

Duo didn't say anything, merely gave Quatre a blinding, albeit watery, grin. There was no way Duo was going to admit that it was really the other way around. That in fact, it was actually Duo who was lucky to have Wufei as a friend, because even though Duo was feeling better, Wufei hadn't deserted him. That was to say, although Wufei had gone back to his old routine, he still spent time with Duo. They walked in the gardens, swam in the lake, spent time reading together, and generally had a good time all in all. Actually, because of Wufei's efforts, Duo could now look at Heero without feeling a stabbing pain in his heart.

Beep! Beep! Beep!

Jolted abruptly from his thoughts, it took Duo a full minute before the sound really registered in his mind.

"Mission!" He cheered, darting over to where Heero already opened the email message.

"Hn." Heero grunted. "Call Chang. The two of you have a mission."

"Tell me what it is first." Duo demanded enthusiastically, bouncing on the balls of his feet.

"Call Chang." Heero merely repeated.

"Fine." Duo groused, realising that if he didn't call Wufei, he'd never find out what the mission was. Honestly, Heero was as immovable as a brick wall. Hurrying to the back door of the safe house, he stuck his head out and called, "'Fei, you'd better get your ass in here! We have a mission." Wufei ignored him and continued with his exercise. "Wufei!" Duo howled. He saw Wufei finally slow down before stopping altogether.

"Physical exercise always needs to be ended properly." Wufei informed Duo sternly. Not that Duo could really hear him anyway, separated as they were by two hundred feet at the moment.

Duo continued bouncing impatiently on the balls of his feet. At the rate they were going, Duo wasn't going to find out what the mission was until nightfall. With a sigh of exasperation, he watched as Wufei collected his towel and bottle of water and finally began to walk towards the safe house. "Hurry!" He yelled, but Wufei didn't bother to pick up his pace. Duo sighed again. Wufei might be his best friend, but that didn't mean he couldn't be downright annoying at times. //Geez! He's being a slowpoke on purpose!//

Once Duo and Wufei were finally both gathered in the lounge room, Heero briefed them on their mission. "Oz has been running tests and collecting data about the Mobile Suits' weak points, so you two need to get that data."

Duo blinked twice and then remarked. "What do we need to do that for? We can destroy them without that type of data. Stupid mission." And he kicked morosely at the bottom of the couch.

Everyone else stared, a bit stunned by the inanity of the mission. Duo was absolutely right. Why would they need data on the weak points of their enemies' suits when their Gundams already consistently outmatched those same suits? No one really had much to say after Duo's observation, but Quatre, always kind and caring, had to at least try to insert some cheer and enthusiasm into the whole thing. "Look on the bright side," he said, hating to see Duo look so disappointed, "at least you even have a mission."

That thought perked Duo up. "Yeah." He hummed, looking thoughtful. "Even a crummy mission's better than nothing." Spirits revived once more, he stood up and moved towards the stairs. "I'm gonna go pack. You'd better hurry, 'Fei. You don't want to be left behind." He called teasingly as he climbed up the stairs. And then he was gone.

Wufei growled. "Idiot." Then he turned to Heero. "This mission seems almost too simplistic."

Heero shrugged nonchalantly. "That's what it says in the mission outline."

Wufei sighed. "Pointless, but better than nothing, I suppose." He concurred with Duo and Quatre's assessment of the situation. Then he stood up and followed Duo upstairs to pack; he had no intention of being left behind, no matter how unlikely that scenario actually was.

XXX

Standing outside the Oz facility they were supposed to infiltrate, Duo looked inquiringly at Wufei. "How do you wanna do this?" He asked. "You wanna shoot our way in and have some fun, or do you wanna do it the boring way and sneak in?"

Duo rolled his eyes at Wufei's droll look. "Why do I even bother asking?" He huffed, slightly disappointed.

Wufei shrugged dismissively and pried open the ventilation shaft located at the southern side of the building. "We're here to get the job done."

As he climbed in, Wufei thought he heard Duo mutter 'spoilsport' but he ignored it.

XXX

"Damn!" Duo exclaimed as he dropped out of the ventilation shaft after Wufei. "For a moment, I thought I was gonna get stuck in there."

"You've been eating too much." Wufei commented blandly as he moved to a computer.

Duo childishly stuck his tongue out at Wufei's back and stepped over the bodies of the two dead soldiers. Wufei had shot them before dropping from the ventilation shaft, and they'd died without making a single sound. Duo moved to the other computer and began to run a search.

"Got it!" He crowed, smug that even though Wufei had gotten to a computer first, Duo was the one to find what they were looking for. He deliberately ignored the fact that Wufei had only reached the computer a few seconds before he did. Wufei left his own computer and came to stand behind Duo.

"Hurry and download it." Wufei urged.

"I know that." Duo replied even as his fingers moved nimbly over the keyboard.

"Done." He declared in smug satisfaction three minutes later and pocketed the disc.

"Hn." Wufei grunted in acknowledgement, hoisting himself back up the ventilation shaft. Duo was not far behind. Emerging from the eastern side of the building, the two dropped silently to the ground and raced towards the fence.

"Shit." Duo swore suddenly. "Stop, Wufei!"

Wufei stopped and turned around. "What?"

"Too late." Duo said glumly. "You've already tripped the sensor."

The next moment alarms sounded all over the base. Less than five seconds later, Wufei and Duo were running away as fast as they could with bullets whizzing through the air pelting like deadly rain.

"Split up!" Wufei yelled, veering left once the two had reached the thick cover of the trees. Duo didn't bother to reply, instead he turned right. He ran deeper into copse of trees, and soon the sounds of gunfire faded away. Finally stopping, Duo leaned against a convenient tree and panted quietly for air while listening carefully for sounds of pursuers.

He was just about to contact Wufei and tell him that he had made it to safety when he heard the snap of a twig from somewhere behind him. Slowly Duo straightened before looking around. There was nothing around him apart from a lot of trees, but instincts honed in a childhood spent on the streets told him he was in danger. Silent as a wraith, he climbed up the tree he had been leaning against, and within seconds he was expertly hidden by its thick leaves.

A full minute passed before a man walked into his field of vision and stood directly underneath the tree. He was probably only twenty years old by Duo's estimate. The man was holding a machine gun and was looking around nervously; he jumped when a bird chirped up ahead. //An amateur.// Duo realised.

Silently Duo dropped to the ground behind him and put his gun to the man's head. "Drop your weapon." He ordered calmly.

The man tensed for a minute and then slowly began to follow Duo's orders. Duo watched the man carefully. Something wasn't right; instinct was telling him to move. Listening to his instincts for the second time that day, Duo prepared to lunge to the left. Unfortunately, before he could complete his lunge, he was knocked down hard on the head from behind. Falling to his knees, Duo struggled to remain conscious.

"That fool was only the bait." Duo managed to make out through the annoying buzzing in his ears.

The man Duo had cornered made an angry sound.

The woman who'd nearly rendered Duo unconscious continued to gloat. "I knew we'd have problems getting you; that's why I laid this trap, and poor stupid you never realised that there were two people following you." When Duo's head cleared up enough for him to look up, he saw the unfortunate sight of a woman maliciously sneering at him. Her pretty face was twisted into an ugly expression, making her look downright grotesque.

"But then again, stealth is my speciality." She mused in satisfaction as she aimed a gun at Duo's head.

"We know how slippery you Gundam pilots are, so we're going to make this easier – on ourselves, that is." She chuckled darkly. "I'm going to kill you and carry your head back to base. What do you say? Easier, no?"

Duo could see sunlight beginning to lighten up the sky. He wondered if he could use that to his advantage. Perhaps when it reached the point that it would shine in the woman's eyes, then he could…

The woman took the safety off her gun. "Sayonara."

But then again, Duo probably wouldn't be alive long enough to take advantage of the brightening sky.

Duo twisted to the right as two gunshots broke the previously silent dawn. He was about to dive behind a tree when something made him pause. Actually, make that two somethings. The first was that he wasn't injured. At such a close range, even with Duo's amazing speed, he should still have been wounded at the very least, and secondly, his two would be murderers were toppling towards the ground. Duo stared in some shock, wondering whether he was dreaming.

"Maxwell!" Wufei barked.

//Nope. No dream.// Duo was smart enough to realise that if he was dreaming, dream Wufei would at least be worried that Duo had nearly died.

"Are you alright?" Wufei asked, sounding infinitely concerned, as he strode forward.

//Maybe a dream after all?// Duo pinched himself.

"Ow!"

Immediately Wufei's hands were all over him. "Where are you injured?"

Duo shook his head. "Speak to me." Wufei muttered worriedly, even as he began tugging at Duo's clothes trying to find the source of his pain.

"I'm okay, Wu." Duo said, finally pushing Wufei's hands away from their examination of his body. "A minute later though, and you'd have been picking up my corpse." He teased, trying to make light of the situation even as he began to feel a lump of ice settle in his stomach. //I nearly died.//

"Don't say that!" Wufei snapped, but the effect was somewhat marred by the fact that his voice was trembling, and when Duo looked up, he saw that Wufei's face was whiter than chalk. Ignoring Duo's shocked stare, Wufei reached forward and pulled Duo into a hard hug. "I don't know what I'd have done if you'd…" His voice trailed off, and his arms tightened convulsively around Duo.

Duo swallowed and patted Wufei's back. "It's okay." He murmured.

Wufei held him for a long time, and Duo soaked up his body heat, feeling the cold inside slowly begin to ebb away. For some reason, Duo felt invincible when he had Wufei's arms around him. He knew that it was an idiotic thought that could get him killed. They had to start moving soon, otherwise regardless of whether Wufei's arms were around him or not, they'd definitely get killed. Still, Duo sat there, determined to soak up the rest of Wufei's heat, unwilling to move.

Eventually Wufei pulled back. "I should be the one comforting you." He murmured wryly. Then he stood up, brushing off his pants and holding a hand out to Duo. "Come on. Let's get away from this place."

Duo slowly looked up from where he was still sitting on the ground. In that split second, and Duo didn't know how it happened, sitting there staring up at his best friend, he felt an indescribable rush of emotions fill him. Perhaps it was because Wufei had just rescued him and his emotions were still in turmoil, perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the sun shining on Wufei made him look ethereal, perhaps it was because Wufei was holding out his hand to Duo in a symbol of… what?... but at that moment in time, Duo fell in love for the second time in his short life.

//What the hell?// He thought as his breath hitched in his throat. He knew what the feeling was, he had felt it every time he had looked at Heero in the past, but to have Wufei invoke it? Duo continued to sit there and stare at Wufei. //Love?//

It was as though he was suddenly seeing Wufei for the very first time. //Were his eyes always such a deep, chocolate brown, were his lips always so full – //

"Come on." Wufei urged, waving his hand in front of Duo's face when his friend didn't immediately respond.

Broken from his deep contemplation of Wufei's face, Duo shook himself from his ill-timed reverie, reached forward, and took Wufei's hand. To Duo, it seemed as though time had stopped. Suddenly all of Duo's senses were being overwhelmed by Wufei. All he could smell was Wufei's intoxicating scent of male musk with a hint of spice and sweat. All Duo could feel was the intense heat radiating from Wufei's hand…

With a sudden start, Duo abruptly realised that Wufei was saying something to him. " – of here now."

Quickly everything changed focus again. From a state of suspended time, suddenly everything was new and vivid and intense. It was as though Duo had suddenly been reborn. His senses seemed so much sharper, so much clearer. He could hear the crickets chirping around him, could hear Wufei's breathing as they hurried back to the safe house, could see the muscles rippling beneath Wufei's top as they walked quickly towards their destination. Duo gulped down a rising knot of hysteria. He'd just fallen in love with his best friend. //What about Heero?// He asked himself in bewilderment, and in his mind he conjured a picture of Heero. //Nothing.// He felt nothing, not even a twinge in his loins, let alone his heart. Then again, Duo had been so busy with Wufei lately that the ache had lifted a long time ago. But it wasn't only that, Duo realised, even when he'd been in love with Heero, time had never stopped, life had never suddenly been so sharp.

//I'm in love with my best friend… Damn!//

XXX

The two managed to steal a motorbike, but because they had to take many detours to avoid revealing their location to any pursuers, it wasn't until evening that they finally arrived at the safe house. Wufei had noticed that Duo had been uncharacteristically quiet since their mission, and he had attributed it to the fact that Duo must have received quite a fright. Hell, Wufei still felt cold inside in the aftermath of the mission, and he wasn't even the one who'd nearly died.

"How was the mission?" "Did you get the information?" Quatre and Heero asked simultaneously when Wufei and Duo finally pulled up the driveway on the motorcycle.

Duo pulled a disc from his pocket and tossed it to Heero, next he turned to Quatre. "Fine." He said shortly before racing into the house.

Quatre looked at Trowa and then turned to stare at Wufei in some honest confusion. "Did something happen?" He questioned worriedly.

Wufei ran a hand over his face distractedly. "Maxwell nearly died." He got out hoarsely.

Quatre gasped, and Trowa and Heero tensed up.

"Duo…" Quatre whispered in pained sympathy, even as Trowa put a comforting arm around him in an instinctive move to comfort.

"He's fine now." Wufei said, "But he probably wants to be alone."

Quatre still looked worried. "How did it happen?" He asked.

Wufei shook his head. "It was my fault. I tripped a sensor. We were chased. He was followed. If I hadn't gone to him…" Wufei trailed off.

The other pilots assimilated this information, imaginations working overtime as they finished the picture Wufei had begun painting. Quatre was the first to react, moving from the shelter of Trowa's arms and giving Wufei a hard hug. "It wasn't your fault, Wufei, it could have happened to anyone."

Wufei nodded in acknowledgement, but he didn't look at all convinced by Quatre's reassuring words.

Hoping to distract him from Wufei's obviously negative thoughts, Quatre made a suggestion. "Maybe you should go and comfort Duo. I don't think it's good for him to be alone right now."

Wufei looked unsure. "Do you think so?"

Trowa nodded in agreement even as Quatre gave Wufei a little push of encouragement. "Go on."

Wufei followed the momentum and entered the house. He moved slowly up the stairs and paused outside of Duo's bedroom door. He reached out to knock and then paused again, feeling uncharacteristically undecided. //What if Duo wanted to be alone?// He quickly shook his head in frustration at his own hesitation. //Stop being cowardly!// He berated himself. //You're just making excuses.// Wufei took a deep breath to fortify himself and then knocked twice purposefully on the door.

"I'm asleep." He heard Duo call.

Wufei ignored that quite blatant lie (what happened to Duo's motto of constant honesty?) and entered the bedroom anyway. Entering the room, Wufei promptly stepped on a spanner. He bit back a curse and looked up to find Duo watching him.

"How are you feeling?" Wufei asked in concern, taking a few steps closer to the bed.

Duo forced a grin. "Fine, Wufei. I'm just tired."

Wufei looked Duo over carefully; the boy was acting strangely. Remembering what Quatre had told him, Wufei offered. "Do you want me to sleep with you tonight?" He saw Duo's eyes widen in surprise, and he wondered at that reaction. It wasn't an unusual question to ask considering that they slept together all the time.

"Nah, I'll be fine." Duo eventually replied in dismissal.

"Oh." Wufei said quite intelligently and paused in yet another moment of atypical indecision, standing in the centre of the room suddenly feeling awkward.

Duo just lay down and pulled his blankets up to his nose. "I just wanna get some sleep." It was obvious to Wufei that Duo wanted him to leave the room. Wufei nodded in response to both the words and the unspoken request to leave; Duo evidently needed some time alone, and Wufei for one wasn't going to crowd him.

"Alright." He told Duo. "If you need anything, just call me."

"Sure, 'Fei." Duo replied.

Wufei left Duo's bedroom, closing the door behind him, and moved back to his own bedroom deep in thought. When he'd seen the woman standing over Duo ready to kill him, Wufei'd felt so frightened that he'd forgotten how to breathe. He'd reacted without thinking and had shot the two in the head. At that moment, he knew that if Duo had died, Wufei would have lost some part of himself, an extremely vital part. Duo was his best friend. His offer to sleep with Duo had actually been to comfort himself more than it had been to comfort Duo. He'd wanted to hold Duo close to reassure himself that Duo was fine, that he hadn't died, that he was alive and well. Wufei gave a little sigh as he made his way into his bedroom. Duo evidently needed some time alone after his near death experience.

XXX

Lying in his bed, Duo winced at his behaviour. He knew he'd acted out of character. It was just that suddenly he felt embarrassed around Wufei. He didn't know how to deal with his newfound emotions. He definitely didn't know how to act around Wufei, so on the trip back he'd made the decision to avoid Wufei. "I run and I hide…" He murmured sarcastically to himself. He gave a little sigh and rolled over in his bed. //Damn.//

XXX

A week later, Wufei sat at the kitchen table feeling extremely confused and more than a little upset. Ever since the nearly-botched mission, Duo had been avoiding him. It had been a week now, and Wufei had been unable to get Duo alone to talk to him. He always slipped away before Wufei could even approach him, and on the rare occasion that Wufei had managed to corner him, he'd have some convenient excuse that he'd mouth and then taken off as if his pants were on fire.

//I don't blame him.// Wufei thought sadly to himself. //My carelessness nearly got him killed. If the situation had been reversed, I'd be upset too.// Wufei gave a little sigh. He missed Duo's presence. He'd become so used to always having him around that now that he was never there, Wufei felt lonely.

Wufei suddenly felt fed up with his own behaviour. //Idiot.// He told himself. //You don't need anyone else, you're solitary by nature. This way, you won't have to put up with his never-ending chatter.// Somehow though, that thought didn't make him feel any better.

XXX

Two days later, Wufei'd had enough. Had enough of trying to convince himself that he enjoyed being alone, and he'd certainly had enough of Duo's behaviour. The long and short of it was that Wufei missed Duo. Wufei stared blindly at the book he held in his hand and came to a decision: he would go apologise. They were friends; surely they could sort this out.

Padding on silent feet to Duo's bedroom door, he reached out a hand, ready to knock, but held back just that last bit. The door was opened a crack, and a smidgen of light shone beside Wufei's feet. He looked down at the light, deep in thought. If Duo was angry at him, what right did Wufei have to force his presence onto Duo?

Hesitating in indecision, he was surprised to hear Duo speak within the room.

"I never meant for this to happen."

Wufei's stared at the door in some surprise. //Whom is Duo talking to?//

In his bedroom, Duo was lying on his bed, cuddling the stuffed bear Wufei had given him. He lifted one slim hand and stroked it down the bear's soft, downy fur.

"What do I do, Justice Bear?" Duo continued sadly.

Wufei lifted his head, startled. Duo was speaking to the bear? At this point, Wufei realised that the honourable thing to do was either announce his presence or leave, but he did neither. For the first time in his life, Wufei did something he'd never done before – he eavesdropped. Trying to justify it to himself, he told himself that it was necessary to eavesdrop to find out if he was right about why Duo had suddenly begun avoiding him. If it was true that Duo really was angry at him because of the mission, Wufei wouldn't force his presence onto Duo, but if it turned out that Duo was having trouble trying to recover from his near-death experience, then Wufei was going to do everything a supportive friend should do to make damn sure that Duo did recover his cheerful spirits.

Inside the room, Duo continued to speak, oblivious to the fact that he now had an audience besides his ever-attentive stuffed friend.

"I mean, he's my best friend and all, and I'm supposed to be in love with Heero, but Wu's the best friend a guy can have. He sees beneath my masks, cheers me up, looks out for me – hell, he even gave me you."

Wufei peered into the room through the crack and saw Duo hugging Justice Bear.

"However, he said he'd never in a million years love a braided idiot. Why do I always fall for the guys I can't have?" Duo sighed in dejection before burying his face into the bear's tummy.

Wufei's mouth dropped open. //Duo's in love with me?// After a moment of stunned shock, he backed away from Duo's bedroom on silent feet. Reaching his bedroom, he closed the door quietly and as an afterthought locked it. He needed time to think, and he didn't want to be interrupted. He'd learned the hard way to keep the door lock if he didn't want any intrusions. He also didn't want anyone to see the emotions on his face which he was having trouble keeping blank.

Wufei was shocked all the way through. //Duo's in love with me.// Wufei now knew the reason why Duo had been avoiding him. Wufei frowned. They were best friends; Wufei had never thought of Duo in that way.

//So think about it now.// His mind urged him.

Still frowning deep in thought, Wufei sat down on his bed. He didn't like Duo, did he? He thought back to the times he'd spent with Duo, and he suddenly flushed as the memory of his falling into Duo's arms at the ice skating rink surfaced in his mind.

//So, my body's attracted to his.// Wufei concluded. //That still doesn't mean I want him as a boyfriend.//

Pensively he thought some more. He thought about how much he had missed Duo the past week. Missed seeing his smile, missed his constant teasing. He had just missed his friend's presence so much that it had become almost a physical ache. //But is that love?// He asked himself seriously. // Or do I just miss his companionship?// He stared thoughtfully at his hands and then came to a decision. Closing his eyes, he tried to imagine how he'd feel if Heero suddenly told Duo that he'd made a mistake and loved Duo after all, and then Duo and Heero got together as a couple.

Wufei let out a gasp of unexpected pain when he felt his heart clench painfully at the thought and accompanying image of Heero and Duo kissing. Eyes widening, Wufei fell backwards onto his bed, and from there stared blankly at the ceiling. //I love Duo.// He thought, stunned. //I actually love that braided idiot!//

He swallowed nervously and licked suddenly dry lips, but then a hint of a smile began to form on his lips. //And he loves me back.//

Wufei sat up and thought about it some more. Actually, now that he did give it some thought, it wasn't hard to imagine. After all, the two did have a close friendship, so it wasn't hard to envision it evolving into something more.

//Will I tell him? Should I tell him?// He questioned himself.

Wufei crossed his legs as he sat on his bed remembering a time which seemed so long ago when he'd told Duo to tell Heero how he felt. 'Coward' he'd called Duo when his friend had refused to do so. //Well.// Wufei thought, standing up. "I'm not a coward. It is just a simple matter of telling Duo how I feel."

Then Wufei abruptly sat down on his bed again. //But how do I tell him? I can't just walk up to him and say 'I love you Duo.'//

//I don't see a problem.// The part of his mind that decided to play devil's advocate refuted.

Wufei blinked and tugged a pillow to his chest. //This is embarrassing.//

//It's not embarrassing when you're saying it to the person you love.// That little mental devil pointed out.

//Shut up.// He ordered.

//No, you shut up.// Was the devilish reply he received.

//You!// He howled mentally.

//I'm you anyway, idiot!// His mind proceeded to inform him before that little voice lapsed into silence.

Happy with the silence, Wufei sat on his bed to think about the situation some more. "I'm not a coward." He told himself.

//Good. Now say it like you mean it.// A new voice this time. Hmm. Odd. It sounded like a girl.

XXX

An hour later Wufei had finally gathered the courage to begin the long trek to Duo's bedroom. He swallowed, trying to calm the butterflies that fluttered anxiously in his stomach, but they refused to be calmed.

Stopping outside Duo's bedroom door, Wufei took a fortifying deep breath of air and then knocked. He waited and waited, but there was no answer. Wufei knocked again – still no answer. Puzzled, Wufei pushed Duo's door open and popped his head in.

He stared in wonder at the sight. Duo was asleep on his bed, arms wrapped tightly around Justice Bear. To Wufei, he looked just like an angel. It wasn't until Wufei moved in closer that he noticed that Duo had been crying. His cheeks were streaked with tear tracks, and his eyelashes were still a bit damp and spiky.

Wufei sat down beside Duo on the bed and reached out one hand to gently stroke Duo's hair. //Were you crying because of me?// He wondered in some empathetic pain.

In his restless sleep, Duo felt the hand brushing through his hair and slowly woke up. Opening his eyes, he sat up with a start when he discovered Wufei sitting close and stroking the hair away from his face. He quickly shifted back out of Wufei's reach.

Duo thought he saw something like hurt flash through Wufei's eyes, but then dismissed the thought when Wufei asked. "Are you okay?"

"Stop asking me that!" Duo snapped. "I said I'm fine, and I mean it!"

He saw Wufei staring at him in a measuring glance. His expression seemed very, very familiar. Uh-oh. That was the same expression Wufei had given him before he'd told him that he knew that Duo liked Heero.

Wufei's sharp eyes seemed to pierce into Duo's very core for another minute. Duo watched, bewildered, as Wufei opened and closed his mouth twice before finally murmuring. "You don't seem okay. You're acting out of character."

Duo stared at Wufei in some frustration. He just wanted Wufei to leave his bedroom, he needed some time alone. He resorted to anger to achieve his goals. "Geez, Wufei! If you'd just had a near-death experience, you'd be acting a little odd, too!" He yelled, exasperated.

Wufei merely stared back evenly, his eyes glinting strangely. "Is that really the reason? Or is there another?" He questioned calmly, not at all perturbed by Duo's anger.

Duo stared, beginning to feel the first stirrings of fear touch him. He felt like a rabbit being mesmerized by the hypnotic stare of a cobra.

"I know you know to what I'm referring." Wufei told him when Duo continued to remain silent.

Duo was feeling a strange sense of deja vu. Staring into those eyes that glinted with some emotion that he couldn't readily identify but could damn well guess at, Duo began to feel slightly sick inside. //Don't tell me he heard?!? Oh God! He heard, and now he's going to tell me that he's only ever seen me as a friend. Oh God!// Duo mentally choked on his rising hysteria, feeling unutterably anguished. //Please don't let him hate me, I'll be happy just to be his friend for the rest of my life if you'll just make him not hate me, if he just doesn't send me away in disgust! We'll be friends! We can pretend I never said anything and he never heard anything!//

Somehow he managed to hide the pain he could feel tearing up his insides. Instead he lowered his head and stared at the bear in his arms. "I understand." He mumbled.

Wufei stared at Duo. Good, he wouldn't have to give some embarrassing speech after all. He'd been dreading it. Yet… "You do?" He asked anyway, wanting to make sure they didn't have their wires crossed.

Duo nodded stiffly. "I know, we're just friends, and that's what we're going to stay."

Wufei let out his breath in a rush. It was a good thing he'd wanted to clarify what Duo meant. They did have their wires crossed after all. Still, Wufei couldn't help but feel a little amusement at their situation.

"Really?" He asked Duo playfully.

Duo didn't look at him, but when he spoke, he sounded sad. "I guess you want to take Justice Bear back, too, huh?"

Wufei looked at the bear nearly being killed by the tight grip Duo had on it. He reached forward and took it from Duo's suddenly unresisting grip. Feeling stupid, he nonetheless began to speak to it.

"What am I going to do, Justice Bear?" He asked it severely. "I want to tell Maxwell that I love him, but he just gave me the 'we're good friends and that's how we'll stay' speech. Is there no hope for me?" He stopped speaking as his face turned hot from embarrassment.

There was a stunned silence.

When Wufei dared to look at Duo, he found Duo staring at him with shimmering eyes.

"Don't mess with my head, Wufei." Duo croaked.

Wufei raised an eyebrow. "When have I ever messed with your head?" He demanded.

The next moment Duo had thrown himself into Wufei's arms and clutched desperately at his shoulders. "Do you mean it? You love me?" He asked feverishly, staring with wide eyes at Wufei.

Wufei winced a bit, feeling even more embarrassed as the seconds passed, but he somehow managed to croak out. "Yes." It had been embarrassing enough saying it the first time; he didn't think it could get much worse saying it a second time.

"I'm so happy!" Duo cried in joy and then kissed Wufei passionately. "I love you, too."

Wufei smiled gently.

"I never thought you'd be able to accept it, you know?" Duo continued speaking, voice slightly hushed and awed.

Wufei shrugged in some lingering embarrassment. "You grew on me. I suppose it's easy for friendship to become something more."

Duo nodded happily. "Yeah, I suppose so." Then he grinned mischievously, and his eyelids lowered slightly, hooding his eyes even as he slid a teasing hand up Wufei's chest. "So…" He murmured, cocking his head inquisitively to the side, "we gonna do something about our newfound revelations?"

"Mmn." Wufei smiled and leaned forward, lips brushing gently against Duo's, and then he pulled back and looked at Duo carefully. Eyes having closed from the beauty of the gentle kiss, Duo looked breathtaking and absolutely lovely. Wufei leaned forward and brushed another gentle kiss across Duo's mouth. Then he pulled back again.

Duo made a frustrated sound at the second withdrawal, and his eyes fluttered open. "Come here." He ordered, and his hands slid up and around Wufei's shoulders, tugging Wufei closer for another kiss.

He pressed his mouth hard against Wufei's, and after a full minute felt the other boy's tongue brush along the seam of his lips. He parted his lips, willingly allowing the access nonverbally being asked for, and he groaned when Wufei's tongue slid slickly into his mouth, smoothly gliding along his own before darting away to explore the rest of his mouth. Then Wufei's tongue was withdrawing and Duo's was following it. His breath puffed out of his nose when Wufei began to suck demandingly on his tongue.

In love as they were and never wanting it to end, they were still eventually forced to pull back to breathe. "Wow!" Duo whispered in awe, trying to catch his breath even as Wufei moved to nuzzle under his chin.

"Delicious." Wufei growled and began to nip at Duo's neck.

WARNING! LEMON FOLLOWING! IF YOU WANT TO JUMP PAST THE LEMON, HIT CTRL PLUS F AND ENTER 'CHEESEPUFF'

Pausing just to the right of Duo's Adam's apple, he began to suck hard.

"Nnn." Duo moaned incoherently and slid backwards onto the bed, taking Wufei down with him. His hands, which until then had been wrapped around Wufei's shoulders, began explorations of their own. They slid down to cup Wufei's ass, and he felt Wufei jerk in surprised response before he slid his hands up Wufei's shirt, running his hands along bare skin, loving the feel of Wufei's hard muscles and satiny soft skin – it was such a contradiction and terribly arousing.

Wufei continued to lap at Duo's neck, moving down only briefly to nibble at his collarbone.

Duo slid his hands up beneath Wufei's shirt, taking the shirt up with the upward movement. Duo suddenly pushed Wufei into a sitting position. "Take it off." He ordered huskily even as he began to work on the buttons of his own shirt. To Duo, overeager in his excitement, it seemed as though the holes for his shirt's buttons had grown too small, making the task take longer than usual, but he persevered and eventually he had his shirt off. Looking up, he saw Wufei staring at him.

"Beautiful." Wufei murmured throatily in praise before he pushed Duo back to the bed and took a rosy-pink nipple in his mouth. The resulting sensation caused Duo to cry out and arch up into Wufei's mouth, even as his hands slid into Wufei's hair and forced Wufei's mouth harder against his chest. Wufei bathed that nipple before shifting sightly to give the other one the same treatment. Then, letting the hard nub slide from his mouth, scraping across teeth as he let go of his tantalizing treat, Wufei moved lower and nipped his way down Duo's belly before finally sliding back up again to capture Duo's mouth in a rough kiss.

The kiss broke abruptly when Wufei felt a hand cup him though his pants. He opened his eyes to find Duo watching him, amused and aroused in equal parts at his reaction. "Max-well." He got out in a hitching breath, and then he lost all coherence as Duo squeezed him briefly before sliding his hands into Wufei's pants.

"Aah!" He choked out and buried his face into the juncture of Duo's neck and shoulder, biting down hard. He felt the hand on him tighten its grip in reaction to the bite, and he groaned, shuddering in escalating arousal. Shifting slightly, he pulled back and caught Duo's wrist to stop his busy hand.

Duo gazed at Wufei with heavily lidded eyes. "What is it?" He purred seductively, and Wufei marvelled at his ability to still form coherent sentences. It took Wufei a few tries but eventually he managed to get out. "I… I want to be inside you when I come."

He saw Duo's eyes widen, and he wondered whether he'd been too hasty. Perhaps Duo wanted it to be the other way around. Wufei had no problems with that either. "If you –" He started to say.

"Yeah." Duo breathed. "I want that, too."

They stared at each other. "You wouldn't happen to have…" Wufei trailed off, slightly embarrassed.

Duo looked just as embarrassed. "Actually, I don't keep lubricant lying around, you know."

Wufei could feel himself flushing even more, though not really in arousal at the moment. He wondered how they were going to do this without lubricant. He had no intention of hurting Duo. He watched as Duo's face scrunched up in thought and idly mused that Duo looked unbearably cute like that.

Eventually Duo's face cleared, and he grinned at Wufei. "Hand cream will have to do." He gently pushed Wufei off him and moved to his dresser. When he returned to the bed, he found Wufei sitting on it looking like he wanted to laugh.

"What's so funny?" He questioned suspiciously.

Wufei looked amused. "I was thinking that your hands were soft and now I know why – hand cream." And he trailed off into a soft chuckle.

Duo stared. "Be grateful for it." He growled mock-sullenly before lunging at Wufei, capturing his mouth in a heated kiss and effectively cutting off his chuckles. He pushed the cream into Wufei's hands and continued with his kisses. Sliding his hands to the waist band of Wufei's pants, he eagerly pushed the unneeded garment down off his lover's hips. He felt Wufei shift above him to kick off his pants, and his eyes widened when Wufei's groin pressed into his.

"Wufei!" He whined. Wufei wasted no time, his hands moving to the buttons on Duo's jeans. Once he had them undone, and it felt like the task had taken hours to Duo, Duo lifted his hips and Wufei pushed them down off his legs. The jeans landed somewhere on the bedroom floor, the buttons clinking together.

"Now." He murmured urgently to Wufei, and he heard the tube of cream being squeezed. The familiar smell of jasmine suddenly filled his senses.

Wufei slid a knee between Duo's thighs and spread his legs, and then he slid one hand carefully down and pressed his index finger gently at Duo's entrance. The muscle was tense, keeping his finger out, not allowing him entrance. Wufei gently rubbed his fingers over the muscle, coaxing it and Duo to relax, and he gradually felt Duo's muscles loosen enough for him to begin sliding one finger in. Duo's hands on his shoulders tightened at the intrusion into a place nothing had entered before, and Wufei paused in his movements.

"Okay?" He got out in concern, unable to form full sentences.

"Yeah." Duo muttered distractedly, apparently experiencing the same problem that Wufei was.

Wufei continued to move that slick finger inside Duo until he was sure Duo was loose enough. Then he pulled it out, added some more cream and slid two fingers in.

Duo's eyes widened. While the first finger had merely felt strange, with the addition of another finger, he could feel a slight uncomfortable sensation. It was a strangely full feeling. Not necessarily bad, but definitely it was an unaccustomed feeling. Wufei continued to work him gently but it was some time before Wufei slid the third finger in. Duo felt a slight burning sensation accompany the addition of the third finger, and a little gasp left his throat in response. Immediately Wufei stopped moving, and it wasn't until Duo whispered breathlessly, "Keep going," that Wufei continued.

Duo lay with his eyes closed, slowly starting to enjoy the sensation of having three fingers in him.

"Ah!" He gasped suddenly, and his eyes flew open even as his fingernails dug into Wufei's shoulders. It felt as though someone had suddenly flicked a switch and a major current had traversed through his body in reaction.

"Wu-fei…" He stammered. Wufei lifted his head to look at Duo. Duo's eyes were wide in shocked pleasure, and he was panting, his throat working as he struggled to swallow. A bead of sweat was trickling into his eyes. Wufei leaned down and licked it off.

"Hm?" Wufei asked, even though he knew very well what Duo was asking for.

"Again." Duo whispered urgently. And Wufei complied, pressing his fingers against the spot which had caused such an intense response. He watched in pleasure as Duo shuddered in his arms for a few more minutes, watched as Duo's eyes closed as he lost himself in the sensation. //Beautiful.//

Then Wufei pulled his fingers out. As much as he didn't want the moment to end, he also desperately needed to feel himself buried in Duo. He saw Duo's eyes fly open.

"Huh?" Duo asked inarticulately, cutely confused as he looked around. His confusion disappeared when he saw Wufei spreading cream onto himself.

Anticipating the next move, Duo shifted his legs apart wider and saw Wufei look up. Wufei's cheekbones were flushed a dusty pink in passion, and Duo found the sight adorable and arousing in equal parts.

"Okay?" Wufei asked as he settled himself firmly between Duo's legs.

Duo nodded.

He kept his eyes on Wufei's face as he felt a blunt pressure at his entrance. He watched, enthralled at the change on Wufei's face as he pushed in. There was a slight stinging sensation, and then Wufei was lodged firmly within him.

"Ah!" Duo gasped. He was filled beyond anything he'd ever imagined. Wufei was a lot bigger than his three fingers, and he went deeper than his fingers had gone. Duo closed his eyes and adjusted to the sensation. It wasn't bad at all. It felt kind of comforting. He could feel the muscles on Wufei's shoulders straining as he waited for Duo to adjust.

"Ready." Duo finally got out huskily, and Wufei began moving, slowly at first and then speeding up as they both became more familiar with the motions.

"Yes." Duo breathed as he felt Wufei pushing into him more forcefully, his length pulsing strangely against Duo's inner muscles. Then Wufei brushed against the spot inside Duo that made him go wild, and he clung tighter to Wufei, frantically crying. "More!"

He lifted his legs and wrapped them around Wufei's waist, holding on for dear life as he was ridden hard and fast. His whole body shook with the pleasure of it all. When Wufei finally moved one hand and wrapped it around Duo's length, pumping and squeezing in time to his thrusts, Duo screamed and clamped down hard on the hot piece of flesh inside him, leg muscles tightening as he trembled as pulse after pulse of pleasure poured through and out of him. He heard Wufei give a cry and shudder in corresponding pleasure, and he felt wet warmth deep inside.

"Nnmph!" Wufei uttered as he pulled Duo towards him, pressing him as close to his body as possible. When the shivers finally died down, Wufei sank heavily on top of Duo, sweaty and panting. He kissed Duo gently on the mouth, the gentle kiss at odds with his heavy weight pressing Duo into the mattress.

CHEESEPUFF (CODE FOR THE LEMON IS OVER)

"Wow!" Wufei murmured reverently into the kiss, and Duo chucked soundlessly against his mouth.

They lay together, sated, and eventually Wufei had the presence of mind to move off Duo to avoid crushing him, although their limbs remained entwined. Panting and trying to recover, it was some minutes before Duo voiced a question a bit breathlessly. "What are we going to tell the others?"

Wufei did that cute haughty sniff that Duo loved so much. "We don't have to tell them anything. They should be able to work it out on their own. Besides, it's our own business, not theirs."

Duo grinned and leaned in for another kiss. "Yeah."

When he pulled back from the kiss, Duo looked at Wufei with shining eyes, his head resting on Wufei's shoulder. "I'm really happy, 'Fei."

Wufei smiled back. "So am I, Duo."

Duo's mouth dropped open, and he shifted in Wufei's arms to stare incredulously at Wufei. "That's the first time you've –"

He was abruptly cut off as Wufei's mouth descended over his. "And it won't be the last." Wufei murmured.

The End