The Better Part of Valor
by Alyssa Tay Tanoko

Author's note: For GW-literate folk...okay, so I messed around with the timeline somewhat to suit my own purposes. But I had the idea before I realized it screwed with the timeline - what with Zechs in space before the G-boys - so...I kind of jammed it in anyhow. *sweatdrop* Forgiveness, onegai shimasu!

Wufei eyed his battered, much-abused parchment of calligraphy with its delicate brushwork strokes. He was surprised it hadn't fallen to pieces from his haphazard way of living, but he kept it because it was memento and reminder, all in one, of what had happened to his colony. He would never forget.

His eye traveled naturally to the corner, to the red-stamped characters that gave out the artist's name. It was nearly faded but he knew the artist's name already, branded like the stamp but on his heart. She lived on, in some small way, as he continued to fight for justice.

He pursed his lips as he eyed his few meager belongings, scattered and slung about the living room. Shoving back the strands of hair that slid silken through his fingers, he considered the dilemma at hand. Trowa and Quatre had already vacated the house for purposes unknown, probably halfway across the world by now on some mission or another. He could have taken their now-empty room. That wasn't the issue.

Heero and Duo wanted him to move all his stuff in. They wanted him to bunk with them all the time, and now that it came to that, he found himself with mixed feelings.

Was this a fleeting spark of lust that burned amongst the three of them? Or did they seek to fan the flames, and truly court a three-way romance?

Tradition would argue against it, of course. Merely the fact that two males were committed together was...uncommon...enough in the circles that Wufei had been reared in. But for three *people* - let alone three males - to nurture a relationship went against the grain of society. So he had been taught.

So he himself had believed, until Duo's soft wet mouth and Heero's knowing bold hands had changed his outlook entirely.

Was a three-way love a possible thing?

Wufei picked up a knapsack and turned it over in his hands, chewing at his lower lip. He wanted to bring the matter up, to discuss it before acting, but the words wouldn't come. There was no way to broach the subject without sounding horribly indelicate or presumptuous, and Wufei was keenly aware of his precarious position in this strange lust-triangle he had found himself caught up in.

Finally he set down the pack. He couldn't do this. There was no way he could just trot in there acting casual with his belongings, and set himself up as a genuine inhabitant of the room without knowing where things stood. He was *also* keenly aware of his pride, and it wouldn't settle for being a mere love toy.

Although, he mused with a wry expression tugging his mouth, that was precisely what his hormones urged.

Wufei set his mouth in the stubborn expression his fellow pilots recognized all-too-well, and marched up the hall. He snagged a rubber band from his pocket and tied his hair back, gathering up the strands with irritable impatient fingers. Heero might like to see it down, and Duo played with it like a fascinated child, but to Wufei it was nothing but an exasperation when it was unfettered by its severe tail.

The stereo was blasting away as he walked up the hallway and he grimaced. Heero must have flipped it on and cranked it up, from the particularly obscene song that wasn't deterred by the thin walls or flimsy door as it deluged the small house with its noisome strains. And judging by the type of song, the bed was surely rocking by now with Heero climbing on top of Duo - it wasn't hard to tell when Heero was 'in the mood'.

He hesitated by the door.

He had been scolded often enough by Duo that they didn't consider him an interruption, not even in the middle of *that* but Wufei's politeness was too deeply ingrained for him to barge into their room. Duo had even dragged him into bed a few times to forcibly prove his point. But it *was* their room, their privacy. He hadn't accepted their offer yet.

Wufei tilted his head and strained his ears to penetrate beyond the raucous music for the slightest whimper, a grunt or the bedsprings squeaking. Nothing. Just the music.

He chewed at his lip again. Just music, but it was the sound he'd come to associate with a violently amorous Heero. He lifted a hand to knock.

"Co-come in!" Duo's gasping laughter answered him.

With trepidation he opened the door.

He sighed and shook his head as he moved through the doorway, to cover up slight chagrin. "You two are forever in motion, I swear." Duo lay flopped on his belly on the bed, head dropped comfortably in the crook of his arms, wearing nothing but a pair of tattered old jeans that Wufei knew from experience hung low on his hips. Heero was draped on top of him still dressed and rocking his hips very slightly in time to the music, one hand slipped under the curve of Duo's chest, the other latched onto the rim of Duo's jeans. He gave Wufei a long, heavy-lidded look as he nuzzled and bit at Duo's neck.

"Wu-man!" Duo greeted him with a big smile, attempting to move and succeeding only in a provocative wriggle that caused Heero to mouth the back of his neck again.

"Hey, Duo," Wufei returned with an expression that was grudgingly affectionate. It was easy to admit to his lust, for both of the boys who lay entwined on the bed. It was harder to admit to any depth of feeling.

Emotions carried complications.

Wufei had no intention of being a 'complication'.

"Come join us," Duo lifted his head in lazy slow motion, a sensuous smile curling his lips as he patted the bed.

"I..." Wufei hesitated, about to demur. His entire purpose had been a discussion apart from their mutual attraction; without giving in to lust. His rational mind needed to know. But...

"Come on," Heero reinforced the command, freeing one hand to beckon him. Both flushed faces were oriented on him, each beautiful in their own still-masculine way. Gorgeous sirens, both of them.

Wufei chose to succumb to their invitation.

He approached the bed and Duo rose up onto his knees, spilling Heero off him into the comforter with an annoyed, amused snort.

"You're wearing too many clothes!" Duo accused playfully, seizing the strings of his hooded sweatshirt and drawing him close, then grabbing the bottom and heaving the thing up. The American's laugher rang in his ears as it got trapped by Wufei's half-raised arms and he was snared. Hands caressed and danced over his skin, grazing over his nipples, forcing him to step closer to the bed as they seized at the waistband of his jeans. Finally Duo took mercy on him and disentangled him, tossing the sweatshirt onto the heap of accumulated clothing that never got taken care of. Well, not often.

Wufei mock-growled at him, pouncing the surprised American and pinning him to the bed, tugging at the jeans. They slid lower down his hips, exposing a feathering of crinkled tawny hair. Duo reached up and captured him in a deep kiss as he settled on top of him.

Wufei slid his tongue inside Duo's wet willing mouth and felt warm lips pressing at the base of his spine, Heero's lips. He shivered violently, imagining something else pressing there, then Heero started to bite his rear through the fabric of his jeans.

"Heero!" he half-protested, pulling his mouth away from Duo's long enough to chuckle. Duo reached up and locked onto his mouth, feeding practically, and Wufei collapsed on top of Duo to let his full weight rest, pressing his burgeoning erection against the hardness trapped in Duo's jeans.

In his turn Heero climbed on top of him, biting his neck now instead of his rear. It reminded Wufei of some animal display of dominance, before Heero settled his hips firmly against Wufei's rear, pressing in a slow hard roll of his pelvis. Wufei groaned and moved on top of Duo, kissing his flushed skin, lips tracking over his throat, nibbling at the tender skin that stretched over the juncture of his collarbones. He thrust his hips and Duo gave out a sobbing whimper, meant to spur him on - and working. He captured one pink-tipped bud of a nipple in his fingers, twisting it, playing with it, moving his nibbling mouth to the other one before latching on and sucking harshly.

Heero wasn't idle behind him. His hands stroked Wufei's hips hard, pressing against the sensitive hollow points then unbuttoning his jeans. Just the first one. His waist was gathered up in iron bands as Heero pressed his body taut against the line of his back, lips still nibbling at the nape of his neck. Wufei groaned again and pressed his mouth to Duo's, who licked at him and opened his mouth for another tongue kiss, eyes closed, face flushed. It was an invitation for anything.

Heero was tugging at his jeans. "Off." He eased his body to the side, permitting Wufei enough freedom of movement to lift himself up and hands were already stripping the denim off, pulling them away and he heard the soft thump as they hit the floor somewhere.

"Mm," Duo purred up at him, lifting his hips. Wufei unbuttoned them with steady fingers and worked his jeans down to mid-thigh, freeing the swollen flesh that lay hard and flush against Duo's flat stomach. He let Heero pull Duo's jeans off the rest of the way, climbing on top of his beautiful sex-kitten again and taking his mouth, fingers plucking at rosy nipples, rubbing his freed erection against Duo's with their unfettered need. Duo moved to meet him in steady strokes, fingers reaching up and tangling in Wufei's hair, jerking the band free and breaking it again.

"Dammit--" Wufei murmured, his scold only half-serious before it was silenced by a twining tongue.

Heero paused to watch them both, his eyes half-closed as they panted and clung together, hips moving faster, one of Wufei's hands fastening on both their cocks to rub them together to the rhythm that drove them wild. He reached for the nightstand and the well-used familiar tube, pausing only to unzip his jeans and free himself, too.

"Ah--" Duo strained up, already rocking in movements that were almost violent, too close. His mouth fastened to Wufei's, hungry. Heero moved close and stroked aside his hair; felt Wufei moving to the side to give him room as he kissed the sweaty skin. He found Duo's hip and pressed it to the bed, stilling him.

"H-Heero?" Duo's eyes opened and he eyed them both in turn, nearly moaning with the need for completion. He was so sensitive, so easily aroused and Heero had always found it irresistible to drive him to a feverish pitch.

Wufei waited, regarding him with sultry half-closed dark eyes.

Heero leaned over Duo's body between them, tracing the outline of one of the American's pink nipples as he kissed Wufei, crushing the Chinese pilot's lips under his own. As the kiss deepened and their tongues locked he pushed his hard erection against Duo's thigh and heard the boy whimper.

"How do you want me?" Wufei husked, his bronze skin flushed with the first traces of sweat.

Heero pressed another kiss to his lips, and Wufei's tongue flickered over them as Heero drew back. "What do *you* want, Wufei?"

"I...?" Wufei faltered What did he want? That *was* this issue right now... Then his eyes drank in the sight deep, Duo panting and half-trapped beneath both their bodies, eyes shut tightly, a low wordless sound welling up in his throat. "I want to take - and be taken."

Heero's teeth flashed briefly in a feral grin. "By all means." He made a brief gesture towards Duo, whose languid violet eyes had opened and fixed on each of them, first one then the other, urging them to hurry and do it.

Wufei pressed a kiss to his sweet open mouth and straddled him, feeling the pulse of Duo's groin quicken against his stomach. Heero's hand reached between their bodies and clasped his cock in perfect pressure, his slick fingers pumping. Wufei flung his head back and let the moan spill from his lips, riding Duo's thighs, Heero's touch making him soar. Then Heero's hand was gone and the Japanese boy was moving, climbing around him on the bed with the red column of his erection bobbing between his legs. Wufei fixed his attentions on Duo and eased between his legs, lifting them up to press firmly against his chest. Duo flashed him a gamine grin and hooked them over his shoulders.

"Please..." he whispered, writhing against the pale sheets. "Wufei, please do it now!"

He wasn't equipped to resist such a plea. Wufei groaned and found the right place, then began to sink himself deep. A whimper fluttered past Duo's lips, trapped between clenched teeth. Duo never had a problem accommodating Heero, but every time Wufei sought to enter it was difficult. Duo couldn't take his girth, even well-lubricated, without a small amount of pain at first.

Behind him he felt the whisper-touch of Heero's hands, but the Japanese pilot waited. Duo sobbed and clung to him as Wufei slid inside, paused to shift himself and press reassuring, apologetic kisses to the violet-eyed boy's lips, and then with one slick movement he was sheathed entirely and Duo's velvet insides took him. He moaned, overwhelmed, hearing the sound echoed by his darling wet sexy boy. He pulled out slightly and settled all the way in again and Duo's pleasured cry was satisfaction to his ears.

Then it was Heero's turn and his erection tracked up Wufei's inner thigh, pressed hard against his skin. Heero wasn't always gentle and the music roared up to take Wufei's ears completely as he was mounted, rough denim scratching against the backs of his legs and a hard cock pushing against his delicate entrance that Heero had anointed with liberal fingers. With a twist of his hips Heero shoved, making Wufei yell, pushing him deepest into Duo who wriggled beneath him, mewling sounds emitting from his throat.

Heero paused for a moment, pulled halfway out, then thrust until he was buried.

That was their mutual signal and Wufei panted as he began to move, gripping at Duo as he shoved himself into the liquid tightness that took and took, even as his own body accepted the roll of Heero's hips and the hard cock that sank into him, embedded until his tight pouch snuggled under Wufei's rear. Heero's strokes were hard and rapid, making him speed up his own pace when all he wanted to do was sink himself in Duo, slow and deep. Their thrusts were somewhat disjointed, Wufei pushing himself into Duo's clench as he kissed at honey-rich lips and stroked away handfuls of sweaty hair while Heero slid nearly all the way out and back in just as Wufei began to pull out once more.

He wanted Duo to come first. This was his certainty, as he was rocked between Heero filling him from behind, and thrusting most delicious into the ardently aroused dark-haired boy beneath him.

Wufei nipped at Duo's mouth, his body weight focused in the thrust between the American's cheeks, freeing one hand to capture the throbbing erection that brushed him with each circuit. He took it in a hard grip and Duo tossed his head, crying out, crying for more as he stroked him rapidly, as fast as Heero's hard plunging jabs behind him and then faster.

No one could hold out under the onslaught forever. Certainly not Duo, already risen to his wildest pitch of passion, moaning under Wufei's touch and the hard cock that filled him deep. His moan was low but frantic as he hit that peak, his come coating Wufei's fingers and both their stomachs.

Heero's thrusts sped up behind him, denim grinding against his skin and Wufei oscillated, frantic, taking and being taken as he heard Heero's panting and then his emphatic, almost astonished-sounding, "Hn!" The warmth overtook his insides and he pushed all the way into Duo, stilling, feeling himself spasm with the almost painful intensity of the climax that rolled over him, over all of them.

Wufei collapsed. Heero's arms were encircling him, rolling him to the side so that he lay between both their bodies, still sheathed in Duo's warmth though he would slide out soon. Heero was still partly in *him* and he felt so warm and safe as both their arms reached up around him, Heero dropping kisses onto the back of his neck, Duo's lips wandering over his mouth and cheek.

There was something...something he'd wanted to ask.

It escaped as his fringed lids drifted shut. He was warm and comfortable and utterly satisfied, and the only two who made him feel this way in the world were cradled on either side of him. Wufei slept.

Low murmuring roused him and the soft tug of sheets whispering against his skin. Perhaps it had been the very hushed nature of the exchange that had woken him, too used as he was to reflexively interpreting the slightest hint of quiet smothered motion as stealth. But it *did* sound clandestine, as if both boys were trying not to wake him, and some half-aware part of him urged continuing to feign sleep as a necessity. So Wufei remained prone, his face still half-burrowed in the conforming lumps of Duo's treasured, flattened, mostly-dead feather pillow. Not a hint of tension or altered breathing seeped into his demeanor to betray his wakeful state.

"I'm not so sure we should be doing this," Duo was whispering. "I mean, Wufei--"

"Don't be ridiculous," Heero returned, his tone curt but still quiet nevertheless. "We've already discussed it, Duo, and you agreed." This said with a note of finality.

Duo fell into a subdued silence and the silken rasp of a hairbrush through masses of hair started up instead. A sick sensation burrowed into Wufei's stomach. They'd discussed? They'd agreed? What the hell was going on here, anyway?

...Perhaps it was all some kind of cruel game. That was what his deepest voice counseled, the one that had prompted him to question the situation before he had encroached on their duet-in-motion.

"I don't think..." Duo hesitated and dropped into silence again, the brush dragging through loose heavy waves of chestnut. It made Wufei want to grit his teeth. Instead, he focused on the even regulation of breathing and the mechanics of the blood that coursed through arteries and veins. Often it was a soothing exercise for him. At this moment, however, it was only agonizing in the broken weight of this unfinished silence.

A long moist near-quiet followed by the sound of lips parting strained his motionless eavesdropping. "You can't chicken out now, baka," Heero's reedy voice barely reached him. "We are doing this."

Doing *what*!?

He wanted to scream. The answer was crucial, of vital importance - to him. Were they playing trivial games with his slowly-emerging heart-strings?

Wufei slitted his eyes to catch a slice of the room, two bodies against the rumpled sheets pulling close and sharing a charged kiss, flowing line of mouths and jaws telling the intimate nature of the exchange. Heero's hand reached up to cup Duo's face in such a slow, tender gesture that it made his chest tight with that unnamed, vehemently-denied emotion that had been growing within him. Duo's throat produced a low throaty mewl, his fingers groping for a dark flesh-colored pebble, one of Heero's nipples.

Wufei's eyes slid closed. He had seen all he needed to. They were so perfect together, paired and matched to a degree of rightness he could never rival. Piercing shards of moisture burned against his shuttered lids. He had been right - justified in suspecting their offer, confirmed in the half-buried fears that they would hurt him - and now it was a struggle to remain immobile. All he wanted to do was leap up and grab armfuls of his shed clothing and bolt from the room. Disappearing from the house, disappearing from their lives and 'sparing' them the burden of tolerating him, or eventually finding a gentle way to let him down...

Nataku, I have shamed myself.

Why did every thought have to come back to her, whenever his path met with failure? Wufei's teeth ground together in anguish. He would never be able to escape Meiran's memory. It was too deeply engraved on his psyche, as her quest had become his at her death. And whenever he met with dishonor, it was her ghost that haunted him because her life had been so bound to the concept of honor, even to the point of an early death.

He had dishonored her and her memory in allowing Heero to despoil him, allowing fleeting lustful impulses to overcome the inner core of rigidity and reason that necessity dictated to fuel his actions. There was only one thing to do now. He had to leave this place at once. Plunging himself back into the war and into his own personal quest for vendetta and justice would provide the only route to redemption.

It was the only route to compensate for letting himself be so utterly duped.

A rustling noise reached him; the sound of the kiss breaking as one boy pushed the other away.

"Shower?" Duo's voice murmured, husky with languor.

"Is that an offer?" Heero countered.

Low laughter. "When isn't it?"

The mattress shifted and creaked beneath him as it emptied of the two bodies that had been so pleasurable such a short interval before. He cracked one sloe-dark eye open. They didn't even cast a glance his way as they vanished into the bathroom together and the door clicked shut oh-so-quiet behind them.

Yes, Wufei mused, his mind plunged into bitterness and self-loathing, they had been so quiet. So circumspect. He almost wouldn't have noticed.

He made sure his movements were even more noiselessly circumspect as he gathered the meager belongings he *did* have strewn about the room, and left before the noise of shower spray and smothered laughter could make him feel even worse.

Heero's keen hearing registered the sound before he had even stepped all the way from the shower, reaching for a towel to wrap around his hips. He left wet footprints on the floor behind him as he opened the door, releasing a rolling outpour of steam. Duo liked his water hot enough to scald human skin.

"Nani?" Duo made an inquisitive long face at him, already rubbing a towel over shiny water-slick hair.

Heero scowled. "I heard something."

"Those voices again?" Duo gave him a beatific smile. It crinkled into sheer impishness and Heero growled, beginning to stalk him.

"Awk - Heero, not in the bathroom; I might slip and crack my head--"

"It's my opinion," Heero stated, yanking the towel out of his lover's hands and wrapping it around his hips. "That you were already dropped on your head as a baby. The damage has been done."

"HEY!" Duo stomped a foot, started to slip, and caught hastily at the shower rod. "No fair towel-stealing! Come back here, you bastard!"

Heero padded up the hallway, a concentrated frown fixed between his brows. That had sounded like the front door - not *slamming* shut, quite, but given a hard jar. But Wufei was supposed to be sleeping. One glance spared for the still-rumpled bedsheets revealed it was empty. Wufei's previously discarded clothes were gone. He tread a wet-marked path into the living room and scowled down at the empty hearth and couch.

Duo appeared in the arched hallway, fists planted on his hips - probably to keep his towel in place. "All right, jerk--"

"Wufei is gone."

The American shook his head, cascades of wet hair slithering over his smooth bare shoulders. "Huh? Come again?"

"He left, Duo," Heero said flatly, going back over in his head any reason why - his eyes widened. But Wufei had been asleep. Then he dismissed that instantly - he'd have no problems controlling his breathing, heart rate, and musculature either. And Wufei was better at it than he was.

"He was sleeping," Duo said slowly, "So why would he just get up and--" Duo clapped his hands over his mouth, violet eyes grown suddenly wide and horrified. "Masaka."

"He must have heard what we were saying, and taken it the wrong way," Heero said grimly. "Think, Duo. What did we say that might have triggered him so badly?"

"I was saying something about how we had to think of Wu--"

Heero's mouth pursed. "That's not how you said it," he corrected meticulously. "You said, 'I'm not so sure we should be doing this.' I understood what you meant, but Wufei probably thought--"

Duo's eyes trembled. "I can imagine what he thought," he whispered. "Oh, damn. Oh, Heero. We screwed up bad, didn't we?"

Cold resolve settled over him. "Not if I can help it."

By the time Wufei powered down Shenlong's thrusters a good deal away from his target, night had crept over the face of the earth. It gilded the bulk of his Gundam in a silvery fire, before he draped it with camouflage netting, and it laid a track of moon-drenched grass as he crept through the stand of woods that surrounded the complex, dressed in black and stealth.

Penetrating the complex's defenses was not easy. It required careful timing of the guards, bypassing the high-tech security system, and avoiding the host of servants and functionaries within. But Wufei was patient and very, very determined.

He had been woken brutally from his daze this morning to realize how badly astray his plans for justice had gone. And in one stroke he could claim a measure of justice and reclaim a portion of his honor - with one man's capitulation, or death.

Wufei slipped into the large study, a place where calculation and observation would place his target to be, even at this lengthening hour. For a moment the utter lack of lighting gave him pause. The room seemed quiet and empty. Until a mellifluous tenor spoke up.

"If you've come for a fight this evening, I suggest you take it up with my guards."

"So you would shirk even a direct challenge?" Wufei snapped, the sword leaping to his hand with one practiced smooth motion. His eyes darted to the heavy ornate desk in the back of the room. Sure enough, Treize was seated behind it, leaning back in his chair. As his eyes adjusted to the dark room with only a window's worth of refracted moonlight for relief, he could see that Treize's eyes were closed.

"I have no taste for death this evening, or your ridiculous quest to reclaim honor you haven't lost a whit of," Treize commented. His voice was a rich drawl of sarcastic accents.

"I will reclaim my honor even to the point of death!" Wufei asserted, his wrist steady. The sword was unwavering in its defensive stance. His black eyes snapped as he gazed steadily at the man who would not meet his eyes.

"Then you're a foolish child, and I shall not fight you."

Wufei's stance faltered. N-nani...? his mind wavered, too numb to even voice the word. Treize's tone was more dull than elegantly amused; it was the resigned voice of a man who was too battered by time and losses to put forth an effort that required less than his everything.

"Why did you come here?" Treize's voice pierced the thick cloud of his sudden puzzled introspection.

"To see justice done, and reclaim my--"


"Wh-*what*!?" This time he was able to gasp out the shocked syllables. The look on Treize's face as he turned his chair to meet Wufei's gaze head-on was terribly matter-of-fact. "How dare you--"

"Liar, I said," Treize repeated, his voice almost...conversational. It was almost laughable, and other circumstances he might have...but now Wufei drew himself up, prepared to deliver a scathing retort. "You came here because you're hurting, Chang Wufei." Treize rested his chin on flawless white gloves. "I suppose I'm in some way responsible for part of that. But for the other half of your miseries, you cannot lay the blame at my feet."

"What do you mean?" Wufei demanded in wary tones. He was half-afraid of receiving an answer.

The expression in those crystal-cut eyes was too weary, too cynical to be laughter. "I am not responsible by any stretch of concatenation for your love life, Chang Wufei, and I won't be held accountable. That's why you're here now, isn't it?"

"H-how--" The words started from his lips before he could control the involuntary reaction.

A stretch of the lips that could be interpreted as a smile flashed over Treize's features, gone quickly. "Why did you leave, if you had found a measure of content?"

His throat worked. There were many reasons. They did not want him. They were either humoring him or setting him up for a cruel fall, and he didn't want to stick around long enough to discover which. They were beautiful and sensual and he was so afraid...

...Afraid, perhaps, that they truly wanted him?

Instead of replying Wufei shook his head. "It's none of your business," he finally tossed out around the lump in his throat. The next words escaped of their own volition. "I heard something they said..." He shut up swiftly before his tongue could outrace his mind again.

Treize tilted his head, expression thoughtful. "And you think you've been rejected." Abruptly he laughed.

The silver gleam cut through the air, barely a flash of moonlight before the blade lay flush against the OZ leader's throat. "I will not be mocked," Wufei ground out between his teeth, "By the likes of you."

"On the contrary, I am not mocking; I sympathize." Treize pushed his chair back from his desk, rocking casually away from the razor-sharp edge as if it were no more threatening than the ornate letter-opener that lay on the blotter. He paced over the Persian carpets to the weight of dark velvet curtains brushed with feathery-light accents of the moon. "You heard, I suppose, of the defection of Zechs Marquise?"

Wufei's brow contracted in puzzlement. Was he changing the subject? Then he remembered the tall slender figure from his briefings and video exposure, the poised man in the iron mask with crystal-bright platinum hair that fell to his hips. Treize and...Zechs...? "Oh..." he exhaled in abstract astonishment. The thought of Treize and sex was an alien one. Treize was the impersonal sterility of his enemy.

Treize and Zechs. Perhaps that was the reason the young commander sounded so tired, defeated even though he hadn't lifted a finger let alone his rapier against Wufei this evening. Iya, it was a certainty. But he did not need this man's pity or commiseration.

Wufei spared a moment to wonder how the hell Treize knew he *had* a love life. Or perhaps the man was so adept at reading a person by mere facial expression and body language that he had divined his...symptoms. That thought provoked a thin, bitter smile.

"Yes, 'oh'," Treize repeated in careful, considering tones. "I did not have the luxury - or perhaps the curse - of hearing what he said of me when I gave the orders that would amount to his death. In spite of me, he survived. But - tell me, did you hear everything that was said?"

Wufei blinked at this abrupt change of subject. "I-no, I..." He trailed off, disgust filling him at the notion of imparting such a scene to his enemy, himself curled up in sheets still scented with a three-way tumble, his lovers discussing the 'issue' of him with hushed words, thinking he was asleep yet from their earlier exertions.

"In time, you will learn discretion is the better part of valor. Pretend you heard nothing, and eventually you will get to the heart of the matter."

Wufei scowled at him, his face dark. He already knew exactly what had happened. They didn't want - his breath caught. Nothing either Heero or Duo had actually said indicated anything of the sort, when he examined the words closely. If he sorted the quiet exchange from his tangled feelings of wounded pride and desperate recoil from being hurt, he was objective to admit that what they had said was ambiguous at best.

"I do not feel like dying this evening, Chang Wufei. And I am sick at heart, even unto the point that I might slip enough for you to enact your will."

Treize did not even turn from his position at the window, gloved hands clasped behind his back. His face was lifted to the stars and with keen insight Wufei realized that was where he would be going, Zechs, as the rest of them might. This was a fight for the colonies, after all. A fight for space.

Wufei sheathed his sword and turned to go. It would be...dishonorable...for him to press the issue, this evening.

"Young dragon..."

It took a moment for the title to register, another to realize it in connection with himself. Wufei's cheeks flared. Did he refer to his dead clan...?

"Love is a commodity like our lives, precious and irreplaceable. And vastly undervalued, even by someone like myself, until it is too late. Make sure within yourself that you are not doing the same." A faint smile quirked Treize's lips as he turned to favor Wufei with a heavy, oblique look. "You are too young to throw such a commodity away untried."

That was how they left matters, with moonlight pooling in the unlit office, Treize standing beside the shadowed recess of a velvet drape of fabric. Wufei knew somehow he would not be troubled by guards or security on his exit from the complex. Treize, too, knew something of honor.

Discretion, was it? A wry humorless smile curved his lips. How many times did it take to play the part of the fool, before the role assumed reality?

It was still nighttime when he trudged up to the door, weariness pulling down every part of his body. He felt as heavy as the sky that laid its thick blanket over the mountains, until all he wanted to do was curl up and... Wufei sighed, pulling at his ponytail. He wanted to curl up in Duo's arms with Heero pressed to his backside, a solid comforting cradle of limbs. If it was weak, he was too tired to care. If it was absurdly ephemeral against the backdrop of war, then, well--

"I'm sorry, Meiran," Wufei whispered, lifting his head. Bright pinpricks scattered over his upturned face, each star burning its cycle in deep space. Perhaps her soul skirted the heavens in its unrelenting dance. Perhaps part of her remained.

Yet it was time to let go.

He unlocked the door and pushed it open, his movements quiet but not overtly stealthy. The latter would alert Heero and Duo more certainly than a gunshot. As he slipped inside, he tugged the hairband free of his dark locks, letting the jetsilk torrent cascade around his face, just barely brushing his shoulders. Thinking as he did so how Heero had remarked it made him look less severe, and Duo would gather it up in his hands, a fascinated expression fixed to his face as he toyed with it.

The peculiar exchange with Treize had stirred up a host of thoughts in his head, most of them uncomfortable. Some of them revolving around long-term questions he couldn't put an answer to. The most striking image that lingered in his mind was the lone figure by the window, one slim gloved hand poised beside the curtains. The expression of regret etched on Treize's features, and the bitterness in his voice. He wondered if Treize had ever told the young blond pilot how much he meant to him. He supposed it didn't matter. The only thing that remained was Treize's face regarding the vast stretches of blackness the window offered, and the certainty that Zechs was in space - and would not return to Treize, not ever.

..Vastly undervalued, even by someone like myself, until it is too late...

Wufei paused in the living room, dropping his knapsack onto the couch. Duo and Heero went so far as to offer him a piece of a haven and all he had in return was questions and suspicions. And yet, he'd thought... He pressed his hands to his face and moved on. It was only natural to have questions but he suspected his own motives sprang from a deeper source than mere caution. He was...afraid.

That was it. It had the piercing razor feel of truth to it. He was so deeply afraid of exposing his innermost self, something beyond the surface evaluation others drew from for their impressions. It was a frightening thing, opening up - because there were equal parts of pain and pleasure and oh, the chance to be hurt was so dreadfully, invidiously personal. He didn't think he could lose much more of what he loved before nothing, not even honor or justice, could bridge the gap.

He came to a halt in the doorway of Heero and Duo's bedroom, carelessly flung open - no one was here, after all. A strange expression crept over his face, something soft and awkward because it didn't get much use. Duo was spooned in Heero's arms, his head tilted at a funny angle, delicate snores bubbling up from his open mouth. His braid trailed over one shoulder, disappeared under his hip, and emerged near one boxer-clad thigh to be gripped in Heero's hand.

They *were* right for each other.

Were they right for him? Wufei discovered he didn't much care, not right now. He wriggled out of his white pants and kicked them near the pile of clothing, then climbed into the bed with as much consideration as possible for the other two sleeping pilots. He nestled himself against Duo and planted his nose against the hollow of the American's throat, inhaling his scent. Duo invariably smelled good.

Warm strong arms were wrapping around him. Duo's throaty murmur reached his ears. "Wu-man...?" He broke on a hesitant, querying note.

"Not now..." Wufei sighed against his skin. "Not now. In the morning, okay?"

"Sure," Duo agreed in the drowsy tones of the half-aware.

"Aa." That soft laconic reply belonged to Heero.

Wufei closed his eyes and for once, did not care about tangled hair sweeping across his face. He meant to begin framing the basis of what he would say; how to approach them and unburden himself of the things that had driven him away - and forced him to come back. Instead, sleep dragged him down with its heavy chains bare moments after his lids had drifted shut. Such a long day...

"Heero..." The ghostly whisper was accompanied with a light jab to the ribs.

"Kisama--" Heero began to growl, started out of the beginnings of a pleasant dream that prominently featured a beam saber and Zechs Marquise. He blinked.

Duo was grinning. He was triumphant. He had been insisting for weeks that it was true, and Wufei had vehemently denied the remote possibility for just as long.

"Whaddya know? He *does* snore!"

Scattered threads of sunlight pitched through the clear beveled windows and struck the floor in slanting shafts of radiance. The wooden floorboards gleamed dully underfoot, soft honey-rich tones that were soothing like the mug of chamomile he clutched in one hand. Wufei took small sips, regarding Heero with dispassion as the Japanese boy bustled about the kitchen with efficient movements. The meals he prepared were invariably simple - quick but still nourishing - and better by far than any of Duo's attempts to date.

Wufei realized even as he did so that by concentrating on these mundane details it was another means of avoidance. Waking this morning, he'd been the last still drowsing in the warmth of the nest of sheets. It had been shameful relief to wake by himself, shower and get ready and marshal his thoughts without interruption. Even Duo - lacking in basic tact, normally - had been conspicuous in his absence.

"You want them up or over?" Heero asked, referring to the eggs in the skillet as he fixed him with a brief flash of cobalt.

"Up," Wufei replied. They regarded each other for a long moment.

Silence stretched.

Sooner or later, he would have to say something. Just not yet - and the quiet exchange between he and Heero had been the first words spoken this morning. Soon Duo would come bouncing in all violet-bright eyes and inquisitive mien. They hadn't asked yet where he'd been last night, or why he had left. But the smothering blanket of silence wouldn't last forever.

Wufei tugged at a few locks of his loose hair, still half-damp from his shower, then tucked it behind his ear. Unbound hair was not a warrior's way, but there was no one here to fight. He was in the one place of any in the solar system that might lay claim to the title of 'home'. He watched Heero scrape eggs from the skillet onto the toast that waited on plates, and the gears of his mind continued to churn. What did they expect of him? Did not a third person disrupt the ideal picture of partnership?

What *was* he to them? How long? Where could these feelings lead?

The questions turned endlessly inside his head and all of them sought answers he could not provide, imprisoned as he was in the trap of circular thought. Ouroborous-like he swallowed his own tail chasing the answers that led back to his questions, and fostered a fresh set that demanded attention. And so only Duo and Heero would have the final key to his troubled state of mind.

"Ohayo," Duo drawled out, walking into the room with a spring in his step, tossing the long braid of hair over his shoulder. "It's a beautiful day outside, and I haven't seen a single patrol, suit, or carrier. We should go have some fun in the fresh air!"

Heero gave him an irritated glance. "We're not here to have fun."

"Oh?" Duo pulled an astonished glance, skipping over the floorboards to snake an arm around Heero's waist, giving Wufei a confident wink. "Then what am I, huh? You hear that, Wu-man? We're not FUN!" He pulled away before Heero could shake him off and planted his fists firmly on bony hips. "Jerk."

"You're creative, unsanctioned stress relief," Heero replied tonelessly.

Duo's jaw dropped. "That has GOT to be the worst, most unromantic way I've heard it described," he mourned. "Heero, man, you need some polish. Maybe a few lessons. Read a self-help text. Until then, no sex for you!! You're cut off! Right, Wu?"

Wufei blinked, distracted at Duo's attempt to reel him into the conversation. He was trying not to snort. Or chuckle. "Cut off," he echoed.

Heero's lips twitched. He turned back to the eggs. "Anyone want bacon?"

Duo stuck his tongue out. "Only if you're frying yourself up. Misanthropic pig."

The spatula was slammed to the counter so hard the frying pan bounced on its burner. "That's it," Heero stated, turning with black death in his eyes.

Duo promptly hid behind Wufei. "Ahhhh~h! You'll never take me! You'll have to go through--" He pointed to Wufei and scrunched further down behind the Chinese boy's chair. "HIM first! Right, Wu? You'll protect me, right?"

"Maxwell, fight your own battles," he snorted. Heero stalked closer. His eyes were burning like twin blue gas-flames and they were fixed on *him*. "Oi, Heero. You *do* know that Maxwell is the guilty party here, right...?"

Heero dove.

Wufei's mind had a frantic instant to process he was being attacked before he was sprawled out on the floorboards, Duo's arms locked under his in an inexorable hold as he was hauled into the long-haired American's lap. Heero sat on his stomach and he yelped as the Japanese pilot placed the flat of one hand on his chest, the other hand hard beneath his chin. "Well," Heero said in a conversational, almost pleasant tone belied by the manic glint in his eyes. "Duo and I have a few questions."

His stomach was bobbing and fluttering, stuck somewhere near that hand on his chin. Trust these two to pick the most unconventional route of going about things. Or perhaps Heero had speculated he might make another strategic retreat, and this was his way of forestalling it.

"Have we got your full attention now?" Duo breathed into his ear, lips almost touching the lobe. Wufei closed his eyes and nodded.

"You've been moping," Heero began without preamble, cutting to the heart of matters in his typical direct fashion. "Is this because we asked you to move in?"

His eyelids burned. He didn't *want* to open them. A frown puckered his brow as he fought with himself - speak his piece against the comforting darkness, or look Heero straight in the face and see his reactions as Wufei laid bare his doubts and misgivings? Slowly, ever-so-slow, his lashes fluttered up until Heero's burnished indigo eyes reflected his own indecisive expression.

With a short, curt nod he felt the gusting exhalation of Duo's sigh behind him, and the slight tightening of the skin at the corners of Heero's eyes.

"I told you, Heero," Duo was saying earnestly as Wufei still tried to process what those reactions might have spelled. "I told you before I'm not so sure we should do this."

A little spasm through his body betrayed him. He willed himself so hard not to display the slightest bit of emotion, of hurt or anger - but hearing it said nearly to his face was even worse than the first time. Duo had counseled that they *not* invite him to be part of their relationship, and now...

"I told you," Duo was continuing, even as his heart iced over, dark eyes turning to frosty chips of obsidian as he stared at Heero, "We should think of how Wufei might feel." The arms that had him pinioned relaxed, then wrapped around him for a quick, firm hug. "I wasn't sure you'd be ready for this step, Wu." Duo spoke the last sentence into his ear, still loosely embracing him.

Wufei squirmed and Heero rocked back on his heels, letting up some of the pressure. " mean you actually *want* me to--"

"Of course we want you," Heero informed him with calm eyes too serious to be joking. Heero Yuy didn't joke. "We wouldn't have asked if we didn't. We discussed it in detail before we decided to extend the offer - the only thing lacking is *your* answer."

He was trembling but it couldn't be helped. Duo's arms tugged him close and Heero eased off his stomach, pulling Wufei's legs into his lap instead. He had built himself up to expect rejection, casual carelessness, perhaps indifference to any of his questions but this simple and utter acceptance was something he hadn't expected. He had resolutely ignored the very possibility - that they might actually want *him*. The beginnings of a sob worked its way up his throat and stuck. Chang Wufei did not cry.

"Ore wa - ore wa..." Wufei trailed off, at a loss for words. His mouth firmed. There was one *very* important question that needed to be asked. He didn't know himself how permanent he wanted things to be - whether this moving in was to be taken as an implicit agreement for a long-term relationship, or if it was only temporary convenience.

"Uh-oh," Duo remarked, rubbing his cheek against Wufei's in an affectionate gesture. "Wu's got that determined look in his eye. What is it now?"

Wufei closed his eyes again, to avoid meeting either one of their clear gazes, the looks that burned. His throat worked for a few soundless syllables before he finally got his mouth to function. "How long?"

Duo and Heero exchanged a measured glance, and Wufei discovered all over again how silence could stretch.

"Yuy..." he said slowly, and Heero's eyes lit on him with a kind of surprise. "Is that breakfast burning?"

"K'so!" Heero leapt up and tore across the kitchen, swearing.

Wufei pushed himself away from Duo's encircling arms and stood without a backward glance. He grabbed his mug of tea and stalked out of the kitchen. That was it. He wasn't hungry any longer; his stomach had heaved up and roiled the longer their silence drew out until the smell of burning eggs revolted him. He had seen the answer in their eyes; he didn't want to hear the rest and be gently let down. The only thing to calm him now was some disciplined exercise, some meditation to center himself and soothe the ruffled psyche.

"Wu - hey, Wufei! Wait!"

He palmed open the screen door and it banged shut behind him.

"Wufei, wait UP!" Duo sounded frustrated. Well, let him.

"Heero's got a panful of eggs and dead-on accuracy," Duo warned. "Just wait before making a snap judgment, man!"

Wufei hesitated. Heero wouldn't...would he...? Then he remembered Heero threatening a spanking once, and the dire look in his eyes...then Duo's yelps resounding through the air when he hadn't listened and pressed his point.

Besides, Duo was likely to pounce on him out of the sheer joy of it in any case.

In that split second of hesitation, the long-legged American swept around him and planted himself squarely in front of Wufei, hands fisted on his hips. "Wu-man, you get your exercise by jumping at conclusions, I swear."

Wufei's mouth quirked.

Hard fingers dug into his arm and he refused to flinch as Heero turned him, cool eyes boring into his. "What's it going to take, a notarized term contract?" Heero raised one dark brow. "What do *you* want, Wufei?"

Again with the questions. Wufei looked away, befuddled. Heero had asked him that earlier - just yesterday. What he wanted. So he supposed it was a guarantee that his opinion did matter. "I-I want...I don't know what I want," he confessed finally.

Duo stepped closer, radiant skin-warmth touching him more intimately than his hands. "Wufei. Is it so wrong to take the happiness we have now for what it's worth?"

The moment dragged on, leaden in his veins. Say yes. Say that you'll take any crumb offered. He bit his lip and willed his rebellious mind to school itself to acceptance. "I..." Deepest inside of him, a tiny part had counseled all along that what they offered between the two of them might not be enough. Until now he hadn't realized where his *true* hesitation lay. In himself. Wufei bowed his head. "It's enough...for now."

"For now," Heero echoed, his eyes cool and assessing. Abruptly he nodded, fingers uncurling from Wufei's bronze arm and he rubbed ginger fingers over the red marks left behind. Heero turned on his heel and marched back to the kitchen. "Breakfast is ready."

"Wufei--" Duo began, lifting a hand, moving to touch his face.

"Don't," Wufei pushed his hand away with a testy look. "I want to be alone right now, Duo." He looked up and caught the tight-lipped non-expression on the American's face that meant he was holding back hurt, and his obsidian eyes softened. "Onegai."

"All right," Duo's shoulders lifted then slumped in a brief shrug. It was too early in the morning, and Duo too young, for him to act like an old man. But that was what they all were, stuffed into child-men's bodies with weighted minds older than the doctors who had built Gundam. A whisper followed him as he trod over the rampant grass that was still dotted with sun-spangled dew. "Just...come back, okay?"


With a flirt of his braid Duo turned, pausing for a moment in a pose that was unbearably sexy and unconscious all at once, sun clinging to the long line of his legs, bared to mid-thigh by his shorts, his arms held up behind his head. It made the cutoff tee bunch up and expose the kissable navel. Wufei managed to tear his eyes away and make for the drafty gutted hulk of the old barn they had rigged as an impromptu hangar. He snagged a tool kit and paused before the dully glinting bulk of Shenlong, black gaze traveling up its length.

Automatically his mind was running through a series of diagnostic checks to perform. He had noticed the reaction time of the Dragon Fist had been somewhat slow during the last fight, and the flamethrower nozzle wasn't up to specs - its plume of flame had been broad and short, instead of the narrow long sheaf it was supposed to discharge. And the hydraulics in the left leg were functioning slower than the right, possibly the result of a two-pronged Leo attack.

He closed his eyes and let the tool kit fall from his hand. There was only so long he could take refuge in the tedium of necessary tasks. The simple fact of being here with this Gundam was enough reminder to bring a tight ache to his throat. Wufei stepped forward and placed a hand to the cool metal. "Meiran, I *am* sorry."

Because her memory faded every day. Because the precepts he had taken for his own were no longer so clearly cut. Because his fight for justice had always been *hers*; it had been the seed of a guilt-riven quest for redemption, assuming one more duty piled atop the yoke on his shoulders. The only survivor of the Dragon Clan. He had told her he did not believe in justice, and his fight to preserve it had been in her name. It was a commitment.

Wufei set his back against the giant gleaming leg over twice his height, and slid down it until he was seated on the dusty, molding straw-littered floor of the ancient barn. Now he came to the core of his dilemma as he perceived it, beyond the almost virginal-twitters at being asked to co-habitate, beyond even the fear of rejection that he thought had fueled him. If the soul were laid bare, it was a certainty that Chang Wufei could never give any endeavor less than his entire and unswerving commitment.

He wasn't like Duo; he couldn't exist on a pure moment's pleasure. He wasn't Heero, who endured the mission and lived for the touch of Duo's hands in between. If Meiran had lived... But she hadn't. Wufei flicked away the thought; banished the lump in his throat. What he needed most was to find that one whom he loved more than anything this world had yet produced. And it was possible he never would. And it was possible he already had.

Slowly-dawning realization welled over his face, creeping at the pace of the sunlight that cast velvety golden bars on the fusty floor with the aid of weathered slats. He cared for Heero and Duo. He wanted them intensely; held growing respect and affection for each of them. But neither, as a package or taken separately, were enough to fill the deepest ache that knotted up the unraveled nascent emotions inside. He cared, but he did not love them. Not *that* way.

Wufei traced patterns in the dust. His thoughts were at an impasse. Now that matters had been laid out openly, all cards cast to the table and their earnest faces confronting him, he hesitated. No amount of reading could prepare, no theorizing could neatly solve matters of the heart. They were too messy, like a close-range bullet wound. He smirked. He was too close to this, himself, to be objective with his decision.

It was past noon and hunger swelling from a dull roar to an insistent growl when Wufei finally roused himself from the trancelike state he had slipped into. Meditation might be soothing for the spirit, he thought with a rueful smile, but it did no good at all for mental processing. His thoughts still tracked the well-worn groove, searching for a solution. Accept their offer, under false pretenses - not theirs, but his? Be a hypocrite, and play Moliere's Tartuffe? Or reject it, and lose the close warmth and affection - and a healthy helping of lust - he was growing used to?

He blinked, his damnably perfect memory reminding him that it was his turn to make lunch. Duo was probably raiding the cupboard, or whining to Heero and risking some esoteric punishment of Yuy's devising. "Che," he sniffed, not without affection, as he lengthened his strides and hurried into the house.

"Hm-hm-hm-HMM..." Duo was standing behind the kitchen counter brandishing a wooden spoon like a conductor's baton as he vigorously hummed the opening bars to one of his favorite musical pieces. He looked rumpled and adorably domestic with his volumes of dark tawny hair fanning out around his slender figure, an apron blazoned with the legend, 'I Break Mobile Suits' tied around his waist. Wufei stared in shock.

"You're COOKING?" he blustered, stomach dropping with a thud into the heels of his shoes.

Duo looked up, a smirk flitting over his lips. "Well, yeah! Gotta eat sometime, huh?"

"In other words, Heero told you to shut up, stop pestering him, and do it yourself if you wanted it so bad," Wufei guessed.

Duo nodded vigorously, then looked puzzled, putting one index finger to the corner of his mouth. "...Or is that what he told me last time I was horny...? Ah~h, I'm not sure." He leveled a disarming grin at Wufei. "Now, I have a cooking question."

"If it involves boiling water, you're handing that apron over to me," Wufei growled.

Duo put on a hurt expression. "Wu-chaaaan!"

"I told you to stop calling me that," Wufei reminded him with hard obsidian eyes.

Duo stuck out his lower lip. "Yarou."

"What were you planning on fixing?"

"Peanut butter and banana-tofu sandwiches," Duo beamed, "With tuna casserole and ramen."

Wufei gagged. "Give me the apron."

He deftly inserted himself into Duo's place, taking the apron away from the pouting American and surveying the available food supply. Automatically he began to juggle various tasks at once as he started the fixings for beef-with-broccoli, wontons, and egg-drop soup. With a Chinese chicken salad on the side to placate Duo's insatiable appetite.

Heero wandered into the kitchen as soon as the smell of food became strong enough to overpower even *his* disciplined regimen. "Did you offer him the sexual favors to tempt him into staying?" Heero inquired with a lift of one thick brow.

"I did but he wanted *food* first," Duo sulked. "I think he's getting tired of my used goods, anyhow. Anytime a guy can turn down *my* bod for food..."

"You turn me down for food on a regular basis," Heero reminded him mercilessly. "Don't be a hypocrite."

"Speaking of hypocrites..." Duo turned flashing violet eyes on him.

Wufei choked while tasting a bite of beef-with-broccoli. Duo could *not* have read his earlier train of thought!

"You snore!" Duo stabbed an accusing finger at him. "You've been telling me I snore, but MAN! You're a pileful of logs! A chipper-shredder!"

"I do not!" Wufei bristled. "You snore, Maxwell, loud enough to wake the dead. Or Yuy."

Heero glared. "See if *you* get lucky tonight," he snorted. He did not *quite* sulk. Heero never sulked. Just...threatened. And glowered.

Wufei lapsed back into his food preparations, bemused.

Duo's smiles and bright light; Heero's touch and mouth and dark angles could change the shape of the day for him, right here and now, and suddenly 'how long' lost its urgency. Duo was laughing and joking with Heero, receiving dark looks in return. Happy. Is it so wrong to take the happiness we have now for what it's worth? They were all...contented, made somehow more whole now...and that was because of all three, not any one part. Yes, he would take any crumb offered.

It *was* enough...for now.

The End

Find more of Alyssa Tay Tanoko at Firedancer's Universe of Chaos.