Open the Door, a Holiday Series - Christmas Eve
Pairings: 5x2x5, 4x3x4, 1xR, HxOC, CxOC
Warnings: shounen ai (boy x boy relationships), fluff, lots of OC's, some OOC
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing
Summary: Duo plays Santa Claus for the children at the orphanage and Wufei tags along
Due balanced the large box in one arm, freeing one hand to ring the doorbell. It wasn't the first time he'd been to Wufei's apartment, but every time he did come, he was amazed by how up-class it was. There was even a doorman downstairs. The Preventers certainly paid well. Duo had worked there for a few months after college, but the job hadn't really suited him so he left to start his own business as a mechanic. The pay wasn't nearly as good, but it was enough for him and he was doing something he loved. Tonight was also about doing something he loved to do. He was more than a little surprised when Wufei volunteered to help and on their one-month anniversary no less. His boyfriend was the greatest!
The door opened to reveal said greatest boyfriend.
"What's this?" Duo grinned and handed the box over.
"Anniversary gift!" Wufei took the box and backed into his apartment. Duo followed, closing the door behind him.
"Anniversary? Whose?" Duo's grin faltered as Wufei set the box on his coffee table. Did Wufei forget or worse – would he think celebrating a one month anniversary was stupid? Duo had been trying so hard not to screw this relationship up. Had he just made a huge mistake?
"Kidding." A quick kiss and then a medium sized box was placed in his hands. Relieved, Duo's grin returned and he bounced over to the couch. He was ripping off the paper before even sitting down.
"How could I forget with Sally reminding me every day at work this past week I had to get a separate gift, not just one for Christmas and our anniversary combined?"
"Yes. She kept ranting about a former boyfriend who had tried that stunt with her birthday and an anniversary present." Duo wasn't really listening as he had just finished unwrapping his gift. For a moment he couldn't do anything but stare. Then he squealed and leapt up from the couch. He ran over and hugged Wufei, the movie disk clinched in one hand.
"How did you find it? It's nearly extinct here on Earth."
"I wish we could sit down and watch it right now!"
"I take it you like it."
"I love it! Thank you!" Duo kissed Wufei's cheek then took his hand to lead him to the coffee table.
"Open, open!" Wufei freed his hand and proceeded to follow the command. It didn't take long as the box wasn't wrapped. Inside was a pile of loose recycled packaging material. Digging into the box, Wufei grasped hold of something hard and with his other hand on the other side of it, he pulled it out; 'it' being a wooden box measuring 10 in. x 5 in. Chinese kanji were carved into the sides and on the top was a beautifully painted dragon. This wasn't something that could be picked up in a store. Duo knew that all too well.
Duo anxiously bit his lip, waiting for Wufei to say something, anything. The other's eyes drifted over to him, then back to his gift.
"You made this didn't you?" Duo ducked his head in embarrassment. It had been a real pain to research Chinese symbols and kanji to find the design he put together. He couldn't be a hundred percent what he did choose was even correct.
"You couldn't have made this in a week, let alone a month."
"I started on it last winter. I didn't think I would ever have the guts to give it to you, but I wanted to make you something anyway."
"It's beautiful. Thank you Duo."
"I wasn't sure if you could use it for anything. I realize it looks like a jewelry box but it's not. You can use if for whatever you want.
"Even a trashcan…"
"You can stop babbling. I'll find a place for it."
"You like it then."
"It's the most meaningful gift I've ever received. Thank you." Wufei pulled Duo close and kissed him to show him just how thankful he was.
A few moments later, Duo reluctantly pulled away. "Sorry to end this, but we really need to be going."
"Let me grab my coat."
Duo drove them to the local orphanage in their city while they talked about the last few days since they hadn't seen one another. Both busy with work ever since that cup of coffee the day after Thanksgiving dinner, which had turned into an all day thing, they had only been out on a few dates in the following weeks. Perhaps that was why Wufei said he would go to the orphanage tonight; otherwise they wouldn't have seen one another until Relena's Christmas Ball.
Every Christmas Eve since the wars were over, Duo would dress up as Santa Claus and hand out gifts to the orphans. This was Wufei's first time to the orphanage. Both Heero and Hilde had come with him before. Quatre and Trowa had been to the orphanage as well but never at Christmas. That was when Quatre's family always got together and Trowa was dragged along. Poor guy. He didn't even want to think what Christmas shopping was like when you had that many nieces and nephews.
As Duo parked along the street in front of a lawyers' office building, he realized he'd never seen Wufei interact with children before. He smiled to himself. This was going to be interesting.
"Not when you smile like that. Is there something I should know before we go in?"
"Nah, they're just kids." Duo leaned over the consol and kissed his boyfriend's nose. "Come on."
Getting out, Wufei must have noticed something odd.
"Duo, this doesn't look like an orphanage."
"Because it's not. It's two blocks from here. Kaylee works here and said I could change in the bathroom. I don't want the younger kids to know it's me so I'll change here then we'll walk over.
"Another volunteer. She grew up in the orphanage here." Duo shouldered one bag and went to the side door of the office building. He knocked and immediately it was opened by a short brunette girl with brown eyes. She looked be no older than 17, but was really 19, having graduated from high school last summer. She now worked as a secretary for the lawyers here while attending night school. Smiling shyly, she gestured for them to come inside.
"Hi, Duo. I was wondering what was taking you so long."
"Had to pick up Wufei. Sorry about that." Duo kissed her cheek. "Kaylee, this is Chang Wufei. Wufei, meet Kaylee Watson."
"Miss Watson." Wufei bowed his head. Confused Kaylee pulled back her hand which she had held out to him. She nodded her head, her cheeks turning pink.
"I…I've heard a lot about you. You're Duo's favorite subject."
Duo took a step away from them. "Ah…well I'm going to change into the costume." He didn't want to be here for this.
"The bathroom is third door on the left."
"Thanks, Kaylee." Duo dashed down the hall, hoping Wufei hadn't caught the blush in his cheeks. He had forgotten about how much he talked about his friends with the kids. Did he talk about Wufei more than the others? He hadn't noticed, but it looked like Kaylee had. He pushed open the door to the men's restroom.
As shy as Kaylee was, he was a bit surprised she would bring it up. Maybe he shouldn't leave them alone together, but it was too late now. Duo dropped his bag on the counter. No, Kaylee was a sweet girl. Duo opened the bag and took off his coat. It was the other one he was concerned about.
"So how do I look?" Duo turned in a circle as he modeled the costume for them.
"Did Santa always wear sneakers or is that a new look for him?"
"The old boots were falling apart and I couldn't find any new ones that looked right."
"Picky isn't he?"
"I'll say. Did you see his Halloween costume?"
"No, but I saw a picture Hilde took."
"Very authentic wouldn't you say?"
"I'm glad you two are friends. Now could one of you help me?" Duo pushed the bean bag in his front so it would be more belly-shaped. Kaylee stood up and moved over to help him. "I leave you two alone for ten minutes…"
"We found we have something in common," Kaylee spoke up.
"And what's that?"
"We're both dating crazy people," Wufei answered.
"Just wait until you meet Joan and you'll agree. But I'm not crazy." Wufei raised an eyebrow as he looked Duo up and down.
"Dressing up as Santa is not crazy."
"There you go. Very round." Kaylee then circled Duo and adjusted his collar and wig. "Where's your braid?"
"Under the coat. Can you see it?"
"No, but," he felt her hand on his back, "you can feel it. Be careful if you sit or you may not be able to move your head if you sit on it."
"Thank you, Kaylee. Stop snickering Wufei or you can play Santa next year."
"No, thank you."
"DUO!" A hyper young woman with red and orange hair threw herself into Duo's arms when they came in the back door of the orphanage.
"It's Santa tonight. Don't spoil it for the others," he chastised even as he returned her hug. The girl then reached out and pulled Kaylee into the hug.
"Kaylee! I thought you were coming over this afternoon."
"I'm sorry. I had to go in to work for a few hours."
"All right. You're forgiven this time." She brushed her lips over Kaylee's lips then shoved them both away.
"Everyone is in the Rec room. Sister Martha is reading the Christmas story from the Bible. And then comes Santa Claus bringing the true meaning of Christmas - presents!"
Duo set down two of the bags he carried and adjusted the red one slung over his back. Kaylee, carrying another bag, started for the kitchen, Wufei stepped forward to follow her with the box of food he carried when a hand suddenly appeared inches from his face.
"Halt. You are a stranger and can go no further."
"How much sugar have you had today?" asked Duo.
"Not enough." The girl grinned back at Duo.
Wufei glanced at Duo as the teen circled him slowly studying him. He mouthed 'Joan?' and Duo nodded. She stopped in front of him and leaned so close to his face, he took a step back to reclaim his personal space.
"Are you an elf?"
Duo came to his rescue. "Joan, this is Chang Wufei." Her eyes narrowed and she frowned. On the other hand, maybe he didn't help.
"So you're the one who stole Du-chan from me."
"Du-chan?" Duo felt his cheeks redden at the nick name and the questioning look from Wufei.
"Joan, could you help me take these to the Rec room?" The teen glared at Wufei a moment longer before turning on her heel.
"We'll talk later."
"I look forward to it." Joan humhed and threw back her head, then catching sight of Duo, she ran to his side. She picked up the other red bag and disappeared through a doorway.
Duo shrugged his shoulders and followed after her. They had warned him after all.
"So is he being good to you?" Joan asked as soon as he stepped through the doorway. "Cause if he's not, I can go right back in there and kick his ass!"
"That won't be necessary, Joan." Even if Wufei took her threats seriously, which he couldn't possibly, the teenage girl was no match for a trained Preventer officer. The gesture was appreciated though. "He's been very good to me."
The teen bounced around him. "So have you done it yet?"
Duo almost ran into a chair. "J..Joan!"
"Ah, come on. You can tell me! I won't tell the Sisters you had sex out of wedlock."
"I'm not about to discuss my sex life with you."
"Why not?" she pouted.
"You're underage! Do you want to get me thrown out of here?"
"I'll be 18 in four months. Besides I've taken Sex Ed at school. I know what happens."
"Forget it Joan."
"So who's on top?" Duo gave her a horrified look. "I bet he is! You're more feminine anyway."
Joan giggled. "You heard me. Duo is a girl!"
"Ahh. That's it!" Duo dropped his bag and ran after the teenager. He knocked her to the ground and in no time had her in a head lock.
"No! Smelly armpits!" Joan made gagging noises in-between her laughter and her attempts to free herself were rather pathetic.
A voice clearing their throat caught their attention. Startled they both glanced up from where they were wrestling on the floor. Duo let the girl go.
"Uh, hello Sister Lindsey."
"Really, what would the children think if they saw Santa Claus attacking poor Joan?"
"Poor Joan?" Duo glanced at Joan who stuck her tongue out at him. "Perhaps, thank you."
"Santa, if you please, the children are almost ready for you."
"Oh yeah." Duo jumped to his feet and reclaimed his bag.
"It's lopsided," Joan offered.
"Let me." Sister Lindsey straightened it for him. "Sister Martha is almost finished. Joan, why don't you slip into the back of the room now."
"So how are you?" Sister Lindsey asked once Joan was gone. Sister Lindsey was the youngest of the three who ran the orphanage being in her mid-thirties. Duo got along with her the best. Sister Martha, the oldest in her fifties, was a stickler for the old ways and boring. Sister Danielle was late thirties and rather quiet but great with the younger children.
"I've been great." Duo reached into his bag and pulled out a couple of Christmas cards. "This is for you. Quatre and Relena send you their best."
Three years ago the roof of the large house that served as the orphanage had been leaking. The church had been unable to raise enough money so Duo had gone to Quatre for help and Quatre had come through for the kids. Quatre had even come to the orphanage himself to see the problem before hiring a good contractor who wouldn't cheat them. While at it, he had the Rec room added on and paid for all the toys and games put inside as well.
When Relena had heard what he was doing, she jumped in as well. She sent a trusted employee to survey orphanages on Earth and the colonies. Because of the war, the orphanages were crammed full and with everyone busy with the rebuilding and the new peace, they had forgotten about the children. All orphanages received an increased state donation and millions in private donations thanks to Relena and Quatre's influence.
Quatre, being Quatre, of course went the extra step. Unlike most rich donators who only sent a check in the mail, remaining distant from their tax write-offs, Quatre made it a point of dropping a monthly check off himself and spending the entire day with the children along with Trowa. From what he had heard, the quiet man could build anything with a set of blocks. Duo never asked if they sometimes felt the way he did, that these children were orphans because of them.
"They really shouldn't have. You and your friends do so much already for the children. You've spoiled them rotten."
"Hardly. Oh and Quatre asked me to remind you Christmas dinner arrives at 11:30 am tomorrow."
Sister Lindsey only shook here head as she smiled. "How are your friends?"
"Doing well. Trowa and Quatre are with Quatre's family tonight."
"That must be a sight to see."
"The wedding was bad enough; way too many people to keep names straight. And their second oldest niece just had her firstborn this summer."
"It's nice to have large families. What about Heero and Relena? Their wedding is coming up yes?"
"It's this next June. Tonight they're visiting her brother and his wife. Her sister-in-law Noin is due the 28th so their all wound up a little tight right now, though you probably couldn't tell with Heero. And Hilde is with Peter's family, but they'll be back tomorrow for Relena's Christmas party."
"Are you going as well?"
"Yeah, boring as he…uh something really boring…" Duo fumbled with his words at a sharp look from the Sister.
"And what about the other? The Chinese descent? I can never remember his name, Chong?"
"Chang. He came with me tonight actually. He's helping Kaylee unload some more goodies in the kitchen." Duo didn't like that strange glint in her eyes.
"You never brought him before."
"Duo, are you blushing?" Self-conscious, Duo tugged on his fake beard. It didn't hide his blushes as well as that green make-up at Halloween had.
"Uh...well, before it gets out of hand from gossip, he's more than just my friend. We recently started dating."
"That explains what you and Joan were speaking about."
"….you… heard that?" Did his voice just squeak?
"Really, Duo, you're supposed to be a role model for the children."
"I'm so sorry. Joan was asking all these questions…I didn't…and then she insisted I was a girl…"
"Relax; you responded appropriately enough ...except for grabbing her in a head lock…that might have been a bit extreme."
"Just don't let Sister Martha hear you having such conversations with Joan. She would flip," Sister Lindsey laughed.
"They're probably ready for you now."
"Thank you Sister Lindsey."
"Go on. Bring Christmas to the children."
Duo made his way to the Rec room and peered inside. Sister Martha was just closing her Bible. Sister Danielle was sitting in a rocking chair with Brianna on her lap. She caught Duo's eye and nodded. Sister Martha noticed and frowned a bit. She didn't care for this activity, but her Sisters insisted it was a part of childhood. They had promised to ensure the children had as fulfilling a childhood as they could get even without a biological family. In fact they probably needed this part of childhood more. Most of these children knew how cruel the world was and needed something magical in their lives.
"Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!" The children looked behind him and then there was an uproar as the younger kids cried out 'Santa!' and rushed over to him. Seven in all, but it might as well have been all 16 of them with the force they flung themselves at Santa with. Duo grinned behind his fake beard. How he loved this!
"Have you been good girls and boys this year?" Duo asked in a low voice.
"I've been good!" Several voices shouted.
"So have I!"
"I was better!"
"Cyan. Emilio." The two boys stopped arguing and stared at Santa.
"You know our names!" Cyan cried out.
"Of course I do." Duo winked at them. "And I know if you've been good or not."
"Then why did you ask us?" A dark skinned little girl with pigtails questioned.
"Because he wanted to spot the liars so he could give them a pile of sticks," Joan said before Santa could respond.
"Don't worry, he knows you've been an absolute sweetheart Jenna," said Lucinda, a blonde 14 year-old girl.
"And how bad you've been." Joan turned to glare at the teenager sitting in one of the overstuffed chairs, a sketchpad on his lap.
"He also knows you're the one who pulled the fire alarm at school last month. Oops. Did I just say that out loud?" Joan's mouth dropped open, then clenched shut.
"You rat!" Casey glanced up from his work to glare at her.
"Joan, we will discuss this later. Santa is here right now." Sister Martha fixed the two with a glare of her own. She wouldn't let their bickering ruin Christmas for the little ones.
Casey snorted and stood up. Sketchpad and pens in hand, he walked past Joan without further incident. He left the room just as Wufei and Kaylee entered. He ignored Kaylee's questions and barely glanced at Wufei on his way out. Duo looked to Sister Martha in worry. She shook her head. They would just leave him alone.
Casey lived on and off again with his drug addicted aunt. She must be in jail again if he was here. As soon as she was out and clean again, she would come here and beg Casey to forgive her and he always did. She could never stay away from the drugs though and wound up in a rehabilitation center or jail after only a few months time. Casey came back to orphanage and the cycle began anew, leaving Casey a very bitter teenager. The Sisters tried to coax him to just stay with him until he turned 18, but he wouldn't listen. Nor would he let them coax him to interact with the other kids. Not after Sakura left. The then nine-year-old had been the only person to ever get him to smile. However, she had been adopted almost two years ago and had moved to L4 with her new parents. And it seemed that she had forgotten about him in her new life; it had been 14 months since he had last received a letter from her according to the Sisters.
Duo felt a tug on his sleeve and glanced down at five-year-old Jenna.
"Has Casey been a bad boy? Is he going to get sticks for Christmas 'cause if he is, he can have my present Santa."
Duo kneeled down to the girl's level. "That is very generous of you Jenna, but don't you worry. I have a present for him. Why don't you take it to him for me?" Duo rummaged through his bag and pulled out two gifts. "This one is yours. Ask Casey to help you put it together okay?" Luckily neither gift was too heavy for the child to carry.
"Thank you, Santa." Jenna leaned over and kissed his cheek.
"You're welcome." Jenna carried away both brightly wrapped presents to the hall where the stairs were.
"Hey, where's my present? Why does she get hers first?" Cyan tugged on his beard. Duo grabbed his hand before he could pull it off.
"Cyan, since you are so impatient, you get to be Santa's helper." Duo then started pulling out the gifts while Cyan unhappily passed them out to the nuns, teens, and other children. During this time Duo was very aware of Wufei watching him and it made him nervous. At one point their eyes met, and Wufei offered him a small smile. Duo felt his face heat up again for the millionth time that evening, and he quickly went back to his task. A few moments later he noticed Sister Lindsey step up beside Wufei and introduce herself.
Finally Duo was down to two presents. He held one of them out to Cyan. "Thank you for your help Cyan."
"Yeah, sure. Is this one mine?" Duo nodded and the eager 7-year-old snatched it out of his hands.
"Where's your brother?"
"In his room. Where else would he be?" And Cyan ran over to the other younger boys to open his gift.
The room looked like a disaster area. Discarded wrapping paper, bows and ribbons were everywhere. Everybody was trying to talk at once with the person closest to them as the teens and children alike laughed and marveled over their Christmas presents. The Sisters had tried reminding them to thank Santa Claus, but Duo didn't care if they did or not. It was enough to see them this happy. He glimpsed down at the last gift.
"Who's that for?" Duo looked over at Wufei and Sister Lindsey who had moved over beside him.
"Chris, Cyan's twin. He's not down here though."
"I can take it to him if you like," Sister Lindsey offered.
"I'll take it to him. I want to change as well."
"All right Santa." Sister Lindsey raised her voice to get the kids' attention. "Children, Santa has to go now. He has a busy schedule tonight after all. What do you say?"
A chorus of half hearted 'thank you's' sounded though the Rec room.
"Merry Christmas, everyone." Duo lifted up his empty bag. A couple of the younger kids ran up to hug him once more. Smiling, Duo waved goodbye and slipped into the hallway. He laughed when he heard Brianna ask Wufei if he was related to Casey since they both had the same slanted dark eyes.
Sister Danielle followed him out of the room.
"Thank you Duo. The children loved seeing Santa tonight. The older ones loved it as well, but they don't want anybody to know."
"You don't have to thank me. I love doing this for them."
"Despite what you think, God has blessed us with your kindness and your friends' kindness." Sister Lindsey must have told her about the Christmas dinner. "Thank them for us when you next see them."
"Is the young man Sister Lindsey speaking to another of your friend's?"
"Yes, he is. His name is Chang, Wufei."
"What do you mean by 'ah'?" Sister Danielle smiled and bowed her head.
"Chris is waiting for you. We told him it would only be you wearing a Santa costume, but he still refused to come down." Then she left without answering his question.
Duo mumbled under his breath about nuns gossiping as bad as anybody else as he went to retrieve the satchel he'd left by the back door.
Slipping into the guest bathroom, Duo took off the Santa costume folding each piece carefully so it would fit into the satchel. He kept glancing at the unwrapped gift he'd set on the counter and worrying about the boy it was for.
The twins had come here only about five months ago under horrible circumstances. Cyan had been at school when it happened while Chris had been home sick with a fever. Sometime during the morning, a stranger had broken into their apartment. Chris had heard his mother arguing with someone and crawled out of his bed to see what was going on. He had stepped into the living room just in time to see the stranger shoot his mother and then turn the gun on himself. It had taken the police two hours to respond to the call a neighbor made since hearing gunshots alone were barely worth their time in that neighborhood. They found Chris almost comatose.
The boys had no other family besides their mother, and their father had been the stranger who committed the crime. Nobody had wanted to adopt an emotionally damaged boy as Chris had shut himself off from the rest of world and the law forbids siblings to be separated so they both came here, a church ran orphanage. Little by little, the Sisters had managed to make some progress with Chris but he was still terrified of strangers and preferred to be alone rather than play with the other children.
Duo closed the satchel and went back into the hallway. He could hear the kids laughing and being rather noisy in general on the other side of the house. Stashing the bags on the top shelf of the hall closet so none of the smaller kids could find it took a few more moments of his time and then he was heading upstairs with the last gift.
Duo knocked on the door, the twins shared with Emilio. The door was opened seconds later by a pale version of Cyan.
"Hey, Chris, mind if I come in?" Chris stepped aside to let Duo enter. "You missed Santa Claus."
"Sister Lindsey told me it was you."
"I was doing Santa a favor. I brought up your gift from him." Duo waved the package in front of the boy. Chris hesitated. He did that a lot. On top of his fear of strangers, Chris worried about loosing anything else he held dear. When they first came here, he had clung to his brother's side, much to Cyan's annoyance. Despite how close they had been Cyan will never understand what it was like for Chris to see their mother killed right in front of him and then left alone with two corpses for hours. Duo didn't either, but he came closer than anyone else the boy knew. It hadn't been until Duo told him select parts of his own past that Chris had even opened up to him. Of course, he hadn't told him everything, only the four other former pilots knew his entire past, but enough to let Chris know he might understand a little of what had happened to him.
Duo stepped further into the room and tossed the gift onto the bottom bunk bed before sitting in the chair at Chris's desk.
"Go ahead and open it." Chris gave Duo one more cautious look and went to the bed. He picked it up and sat down on the bed. Then carefully unwrapped the gift, a far cry from the way the kids downstairs ripped it off. His heart wasn't in it, and Duo had a feeling he knew why.
Chris finally reached the gift, a book of poetry. For a 7-year-old, Chris was a voracious reader. He had to do something while hiding himself away from the world after all.
"Thank you Duo."
"Is it okay? You didn't make a list so I had to guess."
"But not what you really want."
"No." Duo sighed. Damn, he loved the kids, but… "Why? Why won't you adopt us Duo?"
"We've been over this before Chris. I'd be a horrible father."
"No, you wouldn't," Chris insisted with a shake of his head.
"I don't know how to be a father."
"I've never had a father. I won't know if you mess up."
"I'm a slob. I can barely take care of myself. I don't like making rules and we both know your brother needs them. I…"
"I'm much better at playing the role of big brother."
"I have a brother. I don't want another one." Chris's eyes were welling up with unshed tears.
"I'm afraid of ruining things, which I would. You don't need someone like me for a father."
"Yes, I do! And so does Cyan!"
Duo shook his head. "I'm not a good role model… I'm messed up."
"So am I!"
"Hey!" Duo sprung up from his seat and went to Chris's bed. The boy was crying now. "Who said you were messed up?"
"Tommy's older brother heard about what happened and told Tommy. Then Tommy told everyone at school I was a wimp because I couldn't save mom…that I just watched it happen and did nothing like a little baby."
"Oh, Chris." Duo pulled the boy onto his lap and hugged him. "You're not a wimp or a baby. You were scared and even adults freeze up in situations like that."
"Cyan wouldn't have."
"Cyan would have died had he tried to stop that man. Because you kept quiet, you still have one another."
"You wouldn't have."
Duo smiled sadly. "At your age, I would have hid."
"But you're a pilot!"
"Was a pilot. And not when I was seven."
"I still should have done something."
"What would your mom have done if you had died and she had lived?"
"…I don't know."
"She would have blamed herself for not protecting you, like you are doing now." Chris sniffed. "From what I've heard, you two boys were everything to her. She would be upset to see you blaming yourself."
"So she doesn't blame me for not saving her?"
"Of course not. She knew there was nothing you could do except live."
"Do you think she is watching us from heaven?"
"Yes, I do."
"Then she would also be sad to see us in an orphanage."
"You have nothing to be sorry for. I'm the one who's sorry for not being what you want." Chris opened his mouth to say something, but then closed it. Instead he wiped his nose with the sleeve of his shirt.
"Are you feeling up to socializing a little? It is Christmas Eve."
"Not really." Chris crawled off of Duo's lap and onto the bed. He picked up his new book of poems.
"I have a friend who would like to meet you."
For a brief second, there was a flicker of curiosity, but it was quickly squashed. Chris shook his head.
"All right then." Duo stretched out on the bed. "Let's read some poetry."
"But…downstairs. The others will want to see you."
"I'm not leaving you alone to mope on Christmas Eve."
"I'm not moping."
"Not yet. If you want, I'll ask Heero to give you lessons on the finer points of brooding, but not during the holidays." Chris pouted. "Pick out a poem or I'll make one up on the spot and just so you know calling it a poem is a wide stretch of imagination."
"Fine, but I'm reading it."
"Suit yourself." Duo closed his eyes listening to Chris flip through the pages. Was he being selfish? He loved all the kids here, but it was out of the question to actually adopt any of them…wasn't it? Duo didn't feel he was responsible enough to have somebody else's welfare placed in his care. He really was afraid of screwing up and doing permanent damage to a child.
And…and there was Wufei to consider now. He was completely in love with the other man though he hadn't had the courage to tell Wufei that to his face. They hadn't said anything to each other about it, but Duo couldn't stop himself from thinking long term. He wanted to marry Wufei. Not tomorrow, or next month, but …someday. Duo just didn't know how Wufei felt about the matter. He knew Wufei had been married before when he was no more than a kid. Maybe Wufei didn't want to marry again and raising a family was the last thing he'd ever want to do. Did Wufei even like kids? Sure he came tonight, but that didn't necessarily mean anything.
Lately Duo was second guessing everything when it came to his new boyfriend. To be honest with himself, he was scared of doing something wrong and loosing Wufei. And adopting a kid or two was a huge decision that would affect both of them in their current relationship. If they did stay together, it wouldn't be his life alone that was changed. On the other hand, if it didn't work out, Duo would regret not adopting while he was still young and capable of keeping up with a young child. Damn, life was definitely easier during war when the hardest decision had been where to place the bomb so it could do the most damage. Morbid as the decision was.
Chris's voice broke his thoughts. His voice was shaky as he tripped over words he didn't know how to pronounce, but he plowed through the unfamiliar words as best he could. Even if he would never be a real father to Chris, Duo was still very proud of the boy.
A knock on the door interrupted Chris's reading. Duo opened his eyes and rose up on his elbows so he could look at Chris. It was his room after all. Duo could tell he didn't want to, but a look from Duo silently demanded he respond to whoever was out there.
"Come in." To both their surprise, it was Wufei who opened the door. Chris instantly tensed up and gripped his book tighter. He had never seen Wufei before.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, but Sister Martha sent me to tell you two about the hot cocoa and candy canes downstairs."
Chris bit his bottom lip and sent a pleading look to Duo. Duo jumped to his feet.
"Chris, this is who I wanted you to meet. This is a good friend of mine, Chang Wufei. Wufei this is Chris."
Wufei wisely stayed where he was in the doorway and bowed politely at the waist. Some of Chris's fear dissipated when Duo introduced Wufei as a friend, some, but not all. Replacing it was confusion. He'd probably never seen anyone bow as a way to greet someone.
Duo started to explain. "The bowing is some formal Asian tradition…"
"He's not your friend," Chris interrupted. So much for assuming.
"Why do you say that?" Duo glanced at Wufei who didn't seem too surprised by the boy's outburst. His eyes held amusement though.
"I overheard you talking to Kaylee the other day. He's your boyfriend." From the sound of it, Chris wasn't too happy with this news.
"If you'll excuse me, I've been invited to a tea party." Wufei left them.
"Is he why you won't adopt us?" Chris asked sadly. Smart kid, but Duo already knew that.
"Chris…he…Wufei is only part of the reason." Chris didn't appear content with that answer, but that was expected. Without another word, Chris slid off the bed. He laid his book on his desk before moving toward the door. 'At least he's getting out of his room for a while' Duo thought as he followed after him. He paused to turn off the light. What was he going to do?
Downstairs was a touch of chaos. The kids were too excited to sleep though at 9 pm the younger kids were usually sound asleep. Duo went back to the Rec room after seeing Chris to the kitchen for his share of cocoa. If Duo hadn't been watching him, Chris would have taken off and hidden somewhere for the remainder of the evening.
In the Rec room, the Sisters had given up on keeping the children calm. Here and there were a few who had dozed off, but most of the others ran about playing or sat somewhere attempting to put pieces together. To one side, in the play kitchen, sat Wufei, Brianna and Jenna. The girls had not only somehow convinced Wufei to join their tea party but to also to put a worn-out fancy lady's hat on his head.
Duo didn't waste time. If Wufei saw him…he pulled out his camera and took a few pictures before anybody saw what he had in his hand.
"Duo!" One of the boys had spotted him lingering in the doorway. By the time Wufei looked over at him the camera was back in his pocket. Sure Duo would tease him about it later, but for now he was happy to see Wufei being such a good sport with the kid's requests.
"Duo! Duo!" It didn't take long for him to be surrounded. Several voices at once trying to tell him about Santa and the presents they got.
"Hold up a minute. Who was here?"
"Santa Claus!" they shouted out of sync. Duo laughed.
"All right. You'll have to go one at a time or I won't hear a thing." The kids nodded and then started talking all at once. About that time Joan jumped out from the hallway.
"He's mine first!"
"No!" Two of the boys led by Cyan left Duo's side to attack Joan.
"Ahhh!" She ran off, back down the hallway, the boys trailing behind her. At least most of the noise left with them, though the Sisters wouldn't be too happy if something broke. Just then they heard a crash, a few hollers followed by Joan's "I'm okay….the table has seen better days…" Maybe Duo could hint to Quatre the kids would benefit from a gym? The blond insisted Duo tell him if the kids needed anything, so at least he no longer felt as guilty as the first time he asked Quatre for financial help.
Sister Martha went to investigate. Duo took a seat on the floor and listened patiently while the kids showed him their presents. Just as before, he felt Wufei's eyes on him, but when he looked up, the other man was speaking with the girls again. Something felt off, but an insistent voice dragged back his attention.
"Duo, pay attention or you'll never know how to use his weapons." Emilio waved his action figure in front of Duo's face.
"Sorry Emilio. So what's this do?" Duo pointed to a plastic sword strapped to the figure's back.
A half hour later most of the kids had settled down. The Sisters were beginning to herd the children upstairs and into bed. Koto had fallen asleep in Duo's lap sometime ago. Joan and Tao were playing a video game. Kaylee was cleaning up wrapping paper and collecting half-full mugs of cocoa abandoned throughout in the room. Matteo was helping her. Wufei had left about ten minutes ago to read a bedtime story to Jenna and Brianna.
Duo stood up, cradling the eight-year-old in his arms. He carried her into the hallway, making a detour to the small library. Just as he thought, there was Chris fast asleep in the window seat, a book lying on his chest. Duo nudged him with his elbow.
"Hey buddy, wake up. Your bed will be a lot warmer than this seat."
Chris yawned and blinked. Half awake, he managed to drag himself to his feet, leaving the book on the seat. Glancing at the title Duo shook his head and smiled. It was 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' by L. Frank Baum. Duo guided the boy back into the hallway and then upstairs.
In his shared room, Sister Lindsey was struggling with an angry Cyan who refused to change clothes for bed. Emilio was already in bed and watched with interest, probably taking notes on how to aggravate the nuns.
"I'll handle him Sister Lindsey, if you can take Kato."
"Deal." Sister Lindsey took the sleeping girl from his arms and left the room. Cyan immediately cheered and ran around the room in circles. Duo shut the door to muffle some of the noise he was creating.
"Cyan." Cyan ignored him and kept running and yelling.
"Cyan shut up!" His twin yelled. Cyan only paused long enough to stick his tongue at Chris who was changing his clothes for bed. Duo took advantage of the pause to grab him around the waist and flip him upside down.
"Cyan, why do you have to give the Sisters such a hard time?" Cyan laughed and stretched his arms to the ground trying to touch the floor.
"Me next!" Emilio jumped out of his bed. Duo lowered Cyan to the ground slowly until he was lying on his back. Emilio got his turn. Chris didn't even ask for a turn, but went to the door and left, Duo hoped to go brush his teeth.
"Duo, can you read me a story?" Emilio turned puppy-dog eyes to him.
"Stories are for babies and girls," Cyan retorted. Duo raised an eyebrow.
"Strange, last Saturday somebody named Cyan asked me to read him a story." Cyan blushed.
"Well that was last week. I'm older now."
"If you say so. Emilio do you have one picked out?" The six-year-old ran to his desk where a pile of books lay. He picked one at random and raced to his bed where Duo in the meantime had sat down. Despite what he said, Cyan came over as well. He began to crawl into the bed, but Duo stopped him.
"Cyan, bedtime stories are for when you're in bed. You haven't even changed clothes yet." Cyan pouted a moment, but then stomped over to his discarded pajamas and changed.
"Have either of you brushed your teeth?" Emilio opened his mouth for inspection. Duo nodded his approval. Cyan sulked. "We'll wait for you Cyan, so hurry up."
Cyan moved toward the door, but not in any hurry. All the Sisters were saints to put up with all these children on a daily basis. Duo only spent a few hours at a time with them and they could wear out his patience in only that short amount of time. Duo could always go home for some peace and quiet but the Sisters couldn't….the beginning of an idea came to him.
"Are we really going to wait for Cyan?"
"Yes." Emilio made a face but then handed the book to Duo and took a seat in Duo's lap.
"Can you do different voices for each person? Sister Martha refused to last night."
"I'll try." An instant later Cyan raced back into the room. He made a running leap onto the bed.
"That was fast. Open up." Cyan opened his mouth wide. At least this time he used toothpaste, Duo thought as he smelled the mint. "Chris coming?"
"Yeah, he's being too slow. Go ahead and start, he won't mind."
"We waited for you, the least you could do is wait for your brother."
"Fine." Cyan flopped onto his back and stared at the ceiling. At long last Chris came back.
"We waited for you," Cyan proclaimed. Chris shrugged, but joined them on the bed. Cyan moved closer to Duo, leaning against his side so he could see the illustrations in the book. Chris lay down at the foot of the bed, staring at the ceiling just as his twin had a few seconds earlier.
"Once upon a time there was a little boy…" Ten minutes or so later, all three boys were fast asleep. Duo hadn't noticed though and continued to read out loud, changing his voice for each character. It wasn't until he heard a chuckle that Duo paused. Glancing up he saw Wufei leaning against the door frame, watching him.
"You do an excellent impersonation of an old lady, but I think you lost your audience a while ago."
"Hey, why'd you interrupt me? I was just getting to the good part."
"It's the part where the boy, the goat, and the talking milk pail meet the handsome turnip farmer."
"What are you reading?"
"I don't know. Emilio picked it out." Duo closed the book and set it down beside him. He was rather warm, now that his attention was drawn from the book, with two bodies laying on him.
"Want to help me up? Cyan is on the top bunk." Duo gently pushed Cyan off his arm so Wufei could pick him up. Once free of one burden, Duo lifted Emilio from his lap and tucked him into the bed they had been sitting on. Standing up to stretch, he heard some popping sounds. He'd been sitting still too long. Next Duo picked up Chris and put him in the bottom bed of the bunk bed.
Wufei flipped through the book Duo had left on the other bed while waiting for him.
"Mine didn't make any sense either; talking squirrels and mice all wearing clothes."
"They're not supposed to make sense. They're children's stories, fables and fairy tales to teach lessons."
"And what was the lesson of yours?" Wufei placed the book on one of the desks.
"The boy and his turnip farmer lived happily ever after…after saving the day of course."
"That's not a lesson and shouldn't there be a prince in there somewhere?"
"Who needs a prince when you can have all the turnips you can ever eat." Wufei shook his head, but he was smiling. He flipped off the room's light after Duo had turned on the nightlight.
"Only you Duo." Duo grabbed his hand and led him out into the now quiet hallway. "So I shouldn't be surprised when you leave me for a turnip farmer?"
"Silly Fei. You are my turnip farmer." Duo pulled Wufei close enough to kiss him.
Just when things were getting interesting, "Eww! Get a room!"
The two jumped apart having momentarily forgotten where they were. Joan was standing at the end of the hallway a few meters away.
"On second thought, don't. My room is the only empty bedroom right now and there will be no boy sex in my sanctuary. For shame Du-chan, what would the Sisters say about premarital sex," said Joan shaking her head.
"Hehe. Just kidding. I told you I won't tell them and that includes you humping your boy-toy in the hallway with sweet innocent children only a door away…" She turned with a wink and went down the stairs.
"You have no idea."
"So Du-chan, are you ready to go?"
"Don't you start too." Wufei smirked at him and captured Duo's hand in his.
Once downstairs Duo took them to the kitchen where Kaylee was finishing the dishes. Joan was sitting on the counter talking to her.
Kaylee looked up when they came in.
"Can you give me a lift home?"
"Sure Kaylee." He ignored Joan's questioning look.
"We're almost done here."
"You don't have to rush. We're not in any hurry. Shut up Joan." Joan closed her mouth just as Duo glanced at her. "You need a hobby other than prying into my sex life."
"I wasn't going to say anything pertaining to you or your sex life."
"You sure about that?" asked Wufei. Duo and Kaylee burst into laughter at Joan's surprised face.
"I'm not even going to ask."
"Duo, thank you for this evening. The children were delighted."
"I must thank you as well Mr. Chang." They shook hands then Sister Lindsey turned back to Duo. "I'm glad I caught you before you left." Sister Lindsey stepped over to one of the cupboards and pulled out a basket of homemade sweets and breads.
"Merry Christmas Duo." She presented the basket to him.
"You didn't have to get me anything," Duo said even as his mouth began to water over his favorites.
"Sister Danielle made these?" Sister Danielle was the best cook in the universe or at least Duo thought so.
"She did with some help."
"As long as it wasn't Joan."
"Hey! I'm getting better."
"Really? You don't burn milk any more?"
"That was only one time."
Duo snickered. "Almost as bad as Heero…"
"It couldn't be worse than our Thanksgiving," Wufei spoke up. Duo stared at him in horror.
"Please don't bring that up."
"Oh, the turkey incident. I heard about that," said Kaylee.
"One of your friends was here earlier this month. Um…Trowa and his sister Cathy. Cathy told me."
"Oh god." Duo inched closer to the doorway. He was never going to live that day down was he?
"The turkey was fine actually. They just wanted to see how fast Duo came running in."
"And how fast was that?" Joan inquired.
"Pretty fast, once he pried himself away from me, but it wasn't until Quatre hollered something about Heero and the mashed potatoes. Those by the way were ruined."
"Pried? My God Duo is that all you and your boyfriend do? Not just…" Duo slapped his hand over Joan's mouth.
"Enough of that Joan. You know the Sisters don't approve of you taking God's name in vain."
Joan pulled his hand away. "That's not the only thing they don't approve of."
"You're one to talk." Duo pointedly looked from Joan to Kaylee. Kaylee turned bright red and was about to mumble something when Sister Lindsey raised her hand.
"I don't want to know, especially anything involving Joan. You, young lady, are not yet 18. As far as I'm concerned all of you are pure and waiting until after you are married."
'Did she just look at me longer than the others?' Duo panicked.
"I'm retiring for the evening. I expect all of you to do the same…in your own individual bed." The warning not lost on any of them. Sister Lindsey said 'goodnight' and left the kitchen.
The four were left looking at one another in silence.
Joan was the first to speak up. "Right then. I'm off to bed." Joan hopped off the counter. "See you tomorrow Kaylee." She only kissed her girlfriend's cheek just in case they were being watched, then dashed out of the kitchen.
"I'm sorry for putting you on the spot Kaylee." Duo hugged the young woman against his side as they moved to the front closet to retrieve their coats.
"It's all right. Joan has some dirt on you if I ever need to use it."
"Just what were you doing in the hallway upstairs?" Kaylee laughed and jumped away from Duo.
After dropping Kaylee off at her apartment, Duo turned the car to Wufei's. The idea he'd had earlier was brought up and he discussed it with Wufei. Duo would have to talk to Quatre tomorrow and see if the blond would want to help out.
It wasn't long before Duo pulled up in front of Wufei's apartment building. For all of Joan's teasing, she didn't know the truth; they hadn't done anything more than kiss since they started dating a month ago.
"I really appreciate you coming with me tonight. You didn't have to, but I'm glad you did. I wasn't sure how you would take to the kids."
"They're an important part of your life. I'll admit I was skeptical of why you would spend so much of your free time at an orphanage, but watching you with the kids, I'm beginning to understand more about you."
"I haven't scared you away yet have I?"
"I'm still here aren't I?" Duo smiled in relief, he couldn't help himself. Wufei leaned over and kissed him.
"For what it's worth, I think you'll be a wonderful father."
"Someday," Duo added. Wufei gave him that infuriating smile of his, the one meaning he knew something, but wasn't talking.
"What?" Wufei shook his head.
"Goodnight Du-chan. I'll see you tomorrow at six."
"Wufei?" Ignoring him, Wufei got out of the car and shut the door.
"Oh shinigami!" 'He must have overheard me and Chris talking,' Duo thought as he watched the doorman open the door for Wufei.
It was a long while before Duo pulled back on the street. 'Just what was Wufei getting at?'