The problem." Gage said thoughtfully. "Is that we stand out."
"No. Really?" Shan asked, his side still hurting. He and Gage were standing in a doorway, their backs toward the street. He had no idea what city they were even in; Gage had just picked the first public transporter code he'd found.
"One of us, alone, isn't going to attract much attention. But the pair of us, well... we're bound to find someone around here who is current on the local news."
"So what? You just want to give up?" Shan asked.
"Hardly, dearest one." Gage moved closer. "I'm perfectly happy throwing trash receptacles at every waitress on Dera if it means keeping you by my side."
"Careful. You're going to turn my head with romantic talk like that." Shan smiled. "But what do we do?"
"Well." Gage rubbed his chin. "I have an idea, but you'll have to pull it off. Between the two of us, you stand out less." He handed Shan his account card. "There's a clothing store down the street. I think a good temporary disguise can be accomplished with a couple of hats. And a pair of dark glasses to hide those beautiful eyes of yours. Pick up a pair for me as well, just to be safe."
"That'll work for now, but not on a job."
"True, Shanny Boy. True. I'll think of something. This will at least allow us to go out looking for work." He gave the other boy a fast kiss on the forehead. "Pick out some nice hats; we may be wearing them for the next three years."
Shan nodded, and slipped off toward the clothing store, and Gage immediately felt uneasy. Given their precarious situation, he didn't like having his eyes off of Shan for even a moment.
And even if they hadn't been in danger, he wouldn't have liked it. He realized that such a co-dependency was probably not very healthy, and that there was a fine line between love and obsession. And that the fastest way to destroy love was through obsession.
So he had to fight it; he had to be willing to let Shan go off by himself when the need arose, he had to force himself to stop worrying about him, to stop thinking about him every single second.
Of course, Shan was far more pleasant to think about than other subjects at the moment.
Like his miserable excuse for a father/uncle.
He had to be angry with Zechs, because just waiting behind it was another feeling, a sense of almost overpowering loss. His love for his supposed uncle had always been the backbone of his life. That someone loved him, believed in him. Milliardo had cared enough to scold him for getting into trouble, had often berated him for wasting his talents on mischief, and although he'd argued back, it had felt good. Someone wanted him to grow into a good man for his own sake, not the sake of their career. And even if he'd spurned the advice, he knew that he still needed to hear it.
Shan, wonderful, sweet Shan, had not brought up the subject at all. He looked as though he wanted to, wanted to talk to Gage about it, but he wasn't going to press. That was another nice thing about dating a guy, Gage thought suddenly. They weren't always pestering you to talk about your feelings. Or asking you if you thought they looked fat, or crying if you teased them. Not all girls were like that; Shan's sister most certainly was not and would do him grievous harm if he'd ever suggested she was. But there were some fundament differences in how one treated one's significant other based on gender.
Most girls, he had found, were not overly enthused about the idea of anal sex.
Fewer still were interested in figuring out a way to perform it on him, although he'd most generously offered to pay for any accessories needed.
"Hey, spare some change?" Someone asked him gruffly.
"No, sorry." He barely glanced at the figure, still lost in own thoughts. The fact that Derans didn't carry change didn't even register in his mind.
"Spare a blow-job?" the stranger asked.
"Look creep..." Gage turned around and stopped. "Shan?"
The other boy laughed in delight. He was wearing a large brimmed hat that shadowed his face, with a pair of sunglasses clipped on to his own prescription ones.
He handed Gage a bag. "Here, put these on quick. We need to get out of here."
Gage slipped on his own shades, and pulled down a baseball-style cap over his hair.
"I didn't want to use up all our money. So I used my father's account number. Not sure when he'll notice but... "
Gage picked up something else out of the bag as they walked, and raised an eyebrow at Shan. "They sell this at clothing stores?
"Well, no, I used a public transporter for that. Shan grinned. "Charged it to Baba, though. I couldn't resist. Got some food that won't go bad fast, and those blankets you wanted. If nothing else, we can hole up for a while and have some fun until the heat dies down.
Besides the disguises and staples, Wufei had thoughtfully purchased them a tube of lube.
"You do think of everything. Gage grinned. "Thought of a place for us to go?
Shan paused. "Sort of. But I don't know how we'd pull it off. It'll be risky. And expensive. That's why I used Baba's card for the junk. It'll take a good chunk out of what we have if it works.
"Where do you have in mind?
"Seta. No one would think to look for us there, because no one would expect us to be able to get there. It's supposed to be impossible for kids to run off to Seta. My mom tried it when she was a kid and got busted big time.
"Impossible? My favorite word! Gage slapped Shan on the back. "We'll be on Seta before nightfall.
"Not a clue. But we'll think of something. Gage put his arm around Shan's shoulders and hugged him. "You and me, Shanny Boy. We're a force to be reckoned with.
"I trust you. Shan shook his head. "If anyone can get us to Seta, you can.
"Then shall we go to the Shuttle Terminal?
CW: So that's the story up until now. My son could be anywhere on Dera. Anything could be happening to him. I haven't felt this helpless since...
SP: Since your colony?
CW: Since the colony.
SP: (sigh) Do you want me to come to Dera?
CW: What could you possibly do?
SP: Give you a shoulder to cry on.
CW: I'm not crying.
SP: You never could lie to me, Chang Wufei. Don't even start trying now.
CW: I'm not even sure what to say to Shan when I do find him. I want to repair the damage, but where do I begin?
SP: Shan has to meet you half way. He has to be willing to try, because if he's not, then there's not much you can do.
CW: He thinks he's a man; he thinks he knows everything. He's exactly like I was at his age.
SP: And that, my old friend, is exactly where you are wrong.
CW: What do you mean?
SP: When you were fifteen years old, looking at you was enough to break my heart. And I knew that the last thing you wanted from me or anyone was pity, but there was so much going on in that thick head of yours. You did not think you knew everything; and that scared you.
CW: I was not afraid!
SP: Like hell you weren't. You were terrified, and you were ashamed of that, because no one had ever told you that fear was normal and fear was okay. You wanted so badly to do the right thing, but there was no one left to tell you what the right thing was. You had no self-confidence at all, and second-guessed every single decision you made.
CW: Assuming that you're right, what does that have to do with Shan?
SP: Shan accepts that he is afraid. He doesn't even try and hide it or fight it; he's told me more than once that he's a coward. He doesn't know that you were afraid yourself, or that you had doubts. All he sees is that you are brave and he is not. And he tells himself that even if you love him, you'll never love him the way you would a son with courage. He feels weak, and unsure of himself.
CW: You're getting senile. First you say that Shan's nothing like me, and then you make a statement like that.
SP: Shan is not like you because of one fundamental difference.
CW: And what would that be?
SP: Gage. You had to face down your fears alone. You never let anyone help you, not even me, not really. And you were probably closer to me than anyone. There was no one you could lean on, no one that you would lean on. And Shan was prepared to do the exact same thing, and then suddenly, there was Gage. Gage accepted him as he was, no questions asked. He didn't turn away from Shan because of his fears; he never asked him to be stronger than he could be. Can you imagine what that must have felt like to you son? Can you imagine how you would have felt as his age, if suddenly all of your fears and worries only weighed half as much? How addictive that could be? My god, man, I'm nearly sixty and I've still never found anyone like that.
CW: But Gage...
SP: Yes, Gage. I remember, when he was about ten or so. I went to his school to do a lecture, and all of the other students just sat there like statues when I asked if anyone had any questions. But Gage had dozens; he wanted to know every single thing I could tell him. There was a hunger in his eyes, as corny as that might sound. And loneliness. That wasn't the first time I'd met him, but I never forgot it.
CW: Loneliness? He was never alone! He was too busy sleeping with everyone!
SP: Not at all uncommon in children who have been sexually abused.
SP: This stays between us, Chang. If I wasn't sure this channel was secure, I won't even tell you.
CW: What happened?
SP: About a year after I spoke at Gage's school, he started selling himself to a man named Chester. For toys, comic books, junk little boys love. He traded his innocence for garbage, and this Chester convinced him that there was nothing wrong with that.
SP: She wasn't able to help him, Wufei. No one was. Well, almost no one...
CW: What happened?
SP: Zechs found out. I have a confession of my own to make; I knew that he was Gage's father. I'm the one who tended Laura Landagren when she gave birth to him. Zechs didn't trust anyone else to keep it secret. But back to Gage... Zechs discovered what had been going on, and he went berserk. He did more than that: he killed Chester.
CW: What happened to Gage? Did his parents know? Relena and Gerry, I mean.
SP: Yes. Zechs told them everything. They put Gage in therapy immediately, but they never told him WHY they were sending him to therapy. They thought that he'd eventually get around to talking about it, but if he did... the sessions were private. He may have told someone, or he may not have.
CW: Therapy? THEY should have talked to him. They should have let him know that he'd been taken advantage of!
SP: I'm not arguing with you; but they said it would damage him more if the truth came out.
CW: Him? They were afraid of damaging themselves!
SP: I tried to talk to him about it myself, but he always changed the subject on me. I remember once I pressed a bit too hard and he turned. He was still a little boy at the time, but I'll never forget the look on his face. "Have you ever had a bad dream? he asked me. "And even when you wake up, you can still smell it?
I told him that I had.
"If you stop and think too long about that dream, pretty soon you stop thinking that it was a dream. You start thinking that maybe it was real. And you know that if it was real, if it wasn't just a dream, the maybe the only choice you've got is to go to sleep again, and this time never wake back up. His chin was quivering, but his words never failed. "So it's better, when you have bad dreams, to try not to think about them. Or talk about them.
CW: That poor child...
SP: I was scared to press any more. He was on the edge; I was afraid of pushing him over it. I guess I thought that since he was already in counseling there was nothing I could do for him.
CW: How old was he?
SP: Eleven. Only eleven. Eleven year old boys should be riding bicycles and skateboards, and worrying about math tests. Not the kind of things that were on his mind.
CW: I never knew any of this.
SP: Like I said, no one does. No one can know; Zechs did exactly what you would have done to protect his son. But they'd still put him in prison for it. So think of it as just another dirty little secret of the Peacecraft/Drummond families.
CW: That's not acceptable. He needs to confide in someone...
SP: (laughs) He has. I'm willing to bet you that Shan knows everything about Chester. That need that Gage filled in Shan, Shan probably filled in him as well. They've been better for each other than years of therapy. You son is maybe the only one alive who can turn Gage's life around.
CW: I understand the boy better now, but that doesn't make me like him!
SP: No one says that you have to. But if my gut instinct is correct, then you're going to have to learn to at least get used to him. Because he and Shan are going to be together for a long time to come.
CW: Oh joy.
SP: Poor Wufei. You're definitely in for a rough ride, my friend. But I'll tell you something else, too. Those clowns are headed for Seta.
CW: How do you know that?
SP: Because it's the last thing anyone would expect. No one would think they'd be able to do it. So between them, they'll figure out a way.
CW: It's not possible; their DNA will be scanned as they board, no what what Shuttle Terminal they use. Shan knows this; his mother's told him the story numerous times.
SP: I didn't say it would be easy, but I've known Gage a lot longer than you have. He thrives on a good challenge. Speaking of challenges, I've got to run. I'll log back on later tonight. Keep me updated.
CW: I will. Thank you for listening.
SP: That's what I'm here for.
SP has Logged Off.
"Hey, Wufei? Heero looked up from his own laptop, biting his lip. "We've got a ding. Someone accessed your account a few minutes ago. He'd put monitors on all of their accounts, just in case.
"A clothing store in Aikia. And a public transporter. You were charged for two pairs of dark glasses, a couple of hats, some blankets, some food, and..." Heero closed the laptop. "Let's go check it out."
"What ELSE was I charged for?" Wufei said in a dangerous tone.
Heero sighed. "A tube of lube."
Duo burst out in hysterical laughing. "Lube... oh my god, they made you pay for their lube..."
"I don't find it funny! Wufei huffed as they headed for their own transporter. "They KNEW I'd see that charge. They're mocking me!"
"I'll say." Heero admitted. "They bought the expensive stuff."
In spite of himself, Wufei was suddenly glad that wherever Shan was, he was not alone.