Part Two: The War Days
"No, not for at least twenty four hours." Wufei said firmly. "I'm not putting Nataku at risk with an untried piece of equipment, and it will take me at least that long to run the necessary tests."
Heero scowled. "Can you yank it out?"
"The new circuit integrator? It's not yet installed, and I can put the present configuration back if I have to. Am I needed?"
Heero glanced down at the mission specs on his laptop. "I will analyse the parameters again and see if I can work with only two Gundams. If not, yes, I will require your presence."
"Just give me an hour's warning." Wufei sighed. It had taken him that long just to get the hatch open and the wiring ready to set the new integrator in place. But opposing OZ had priority over upgrading his beloved Nataku. In an hour his machine could be back to normal, and ready to do what it did best; battle.
"Confirmed." Heero walked along the recumbent Nataku to the edge of its shoulder and sat down with his laptop, scanning through mission specs. He was leaning against the headpiece, legs dangling and crossed. Wufei shook his head ever so slightly; for an instant he'd seen a sixteen year old boy sitting there, while at the same time, the firm hands spoke of a competent killer and the soul of a machine shone in cobalt blue eyes.
Wufei's own eyes and attention dropped back to the panel he was unscrewing. Nataku always ranked higher in his mind than the puzzle that was Heero Yuy.
"Well, you guys seem to be getting along today."
Wufei almost put the screwdriver through his hand as the good-humoured voice chirped unexpectedly near his shoulder. He heard Yuy start from his perch a dozen feet away.
"Maxwell! Don't sneak up on me!" He snarled at the smug face of the pest (who had probably just finished putting in his own new integrator in record time and come to gloat at the struggling scholar who was better with theory than mechanics, it had to be admitted).
"Ooops, sorry, Wuffers! Didn't mean to scare you! Is your little heart going pitter-patter?"
Duo made a move to put a palm on Wufei's chest and found the screwdriver hovering in front of his right eye.
"O-kay, still not in the best of moods, are we?" He grinned. Wufei had yet to find a threat, physical or verbal, that could cow the irrepressible L2 pilot. Even Heero's death-glares didn't faze him that much and that was saying a lot.
Duo perched himself on the edge of the hatch opposite Wufei, despite a fierce look from onyx eyes. The L5 pilot decided to ignore him and started taking out the next relay board.
"So, how are you getting along with Heero, Wufee?" Duo whispered, leaning over with a quick glance at Yuy over his shoulder. The perfect soldier was ignoring him with the ease of long practice.
Wufei didn't answer, though his movements with the screwdriver slowed slightly.
"You both seem barely able to be polite to each other most of the time, and occasionally you both disappear and come back covered in bruises... tell you the truth, me and the guys are starting to worry."
Wufei didn't answer as he unfastened the board and set it carefully aside. He wasn't sure what Duo meant. The... arrangement between himself and Heero had been called upon twice since the first time in the shed, over a month ago. And though Wufei had lost both times - after considerably more resistance - he'd hardly been 'covered in bruises'. As for their relations outside of their 'sparring', they were, much to Wufei's relief, the same as before. Cold, precise and to the point, two warriors acting as reluctant allies in the fight against Oz. Nothing more, nothing less. It satisfied him. And the sparring, the violent unleashing of the storm in his heart, satisfied him even more. The... conclusion to the arrangement was, well, part of the deal. In a way, a very small way, he even felt glad to be able to help the perfect soldier with something that might otherwise affect his performance.
"You know, Wufee... " Duo scooted along the edge of the hatch, closer to the Chinese pilot. "If this is just a means of dealing with stress... "
"Stress?" Wufei asked a bit sharply. Duo's violet eyes were gleaming in the reflected work light shining off Nataku's interior.
"Yeah, stress. Hm, the reason we're not all *too* worried is because, well, you've not killed each other yet, and also, you've both been in a much better mood, practically the best you've been since we started shacking up together."
"You exaggerate." Wufei growled. But it was partially true. Heero's stress levels had been growing alarmingly before the arrangement had been made, and they were now back down to merely 'homicidal terrorist' intensity. Wufei... well he had to admit that he got along a lot better with the others these days, particularly Maxwell. Well, most times.
Right now however, he really didn't feel like dealing with him.
Unlike Heero, Wufei had a sense of humour. He just rarely let it rule his tongue, because it was cold and cruel as the storm that drove him, and anyway he didn't like trivialities. Sometimes though, it would have its way.
"If you think *you* need some relief from stress, Maxwell, I'm sure Heero would oblige you with a match. He'd probably like that." Wufei smiled minutely at the scowl that was directed at him over Duo's shoulder. He would pay for that barb later, especially if Maxwell actually went for it. But theirs was not an affectionate relationship, or even an amicable alliance. It was an arrangement born of necessity, and he didn't feel like pulling his punches to respect that. Heero certainly didn't.
Duo glanced over his shoulder and grimaced. "Ah, maybe I'll pass. You're the only one crazy enough to go one-on-one with the perfect soldier, buddy. Me, I bruise easily. There's something else we could consider... "
Duo leaned back, tossing his braid off his shoulder sensuously, and extended his long legs across Wufei's field of vision, one of them nudging his elbow slightly. Wufei swore wearily and silently in Mandarin. He wanted to get this done, Heero might still need him for the mission, and Maxwell was in heat again. Wonderful.
" ...as I said, Wuffers, if this is just a way of dealing with stress, there might be another solution, one that doesn't imply bruises?"
Wufei felt more than heard Heero get down from his perch on Nataku's shoulders and drop to the arm that was lying along the giant's side as it lay on the ground. The Japanese pilot was scowling. He didn't approve of distractions, of emotional involvement, of useless flirting, which meant he pretty much did not approve of Duo Maxwell. Wufei noticed cobalt eyes gleam as they briefly caught his, and read the intent in the set of Heero's shoulders before he dropped to Nataku's arm and moved along it until he was behind and below Duo. Wufei tossed the screwdriver to his other hand and grabbed Duo's legs, and pitched the youth backwards out of the hatch and headfirst down to the ground. Duo's yell of alarm and surprise was interrupted as Heero caught him by the collar in his fall to the concrete a few feet below Nataku's arm.
Wufei lifted his head and leaned out of the hatch to watch. Heero's eyes were gleaming like Wing's thermal sword as he brought Duo's face close to his own, hands twisted in his collar.
Duo's eyes were wide and his face a bit white, but he managed to scowl. Wufei felt reluctantly impressed.
"You guys are mean. Okay, keep your own sour company, if that's the way you like it. You can beat each other to a fucking pulp for all I care!" Duo tore himself from Heero's grasp and stomped towards the exit.
Heero scowled at his back then raised his eyes towards Wufei.
"We will require Shenlong for the mission."
Wufei made to turn back towards the hatch to replace the circuits.
"When will you be done with that?"
The L5 pilot glanced back down. "An hour, at least."
"There are four hours before the mission. Will you have time for... some sparring?"
Wufei's eyebrows arched. Then he shook his head. "I will want to run some tests to make sure I haven't-"
"Of course, understood." Heero nodded firmly. He didn't offer to help, to allow Wufei to finish quicker. They understood each other on that point as well; no one touched Nataku's circuits but the pilot who was the lesser part of its soul. Any kind of physical relief was inconsequential next to that.
"Will we encounter mobile dolls on the mission?" Wufei found himself asking, momentarily distracted even from Nataku as something roiled in his mind.
"We will encounter heavy resistance, which is why I require both Heavyarms and Shenlong. Mobile dolls are a very high probability."
Incipient anger ran down Wufei's skin like the crackle of static electricity before the rising storm. Dolls. And foolish weak cowardly men controlling them, trying to overwhelm them with numbers. For all his promises of a rematch, Treize remained conspicuous by his absence... The emotions brewing in his mind stained Wufei's eyes a deeper shade of black, his fist clenched on the screwdriver.
"Tomorrow." He heard himself say. "After we get back, and recuperate." Which for Wufei meant taking care of Nataku's injuries. "Tomorrow." He repeated.
"Tomorrow then." Heero nodded slowly, his eyes lingering, and not in a friendly way. He was probably thinking of the way Wufei had tried to scrape Duo off on him. There was a promise of violence and humiliation in those eyes. Wufei's heart tightened with anticipation; the fight wouldn't be nearly so fulfilling if there wasn't a risk of either at the end. It was what made it a battle and not a game. As such he would always accept the consequences of losing. As much as he searched for the means to avoid it, and return that violence -and the humiliation of defeat- to his opponent.
The maelstrom was licking the inside of his skin, purging him entirely. So much more than the katas...
Swing, bend, kick.
Blocked again, but this time a flicker of discomfort in deep blue eyes.
Dodge, swing, punch-punch.
He was one focus, one reason, one aim... to find the key to those tight, punishing movements before they beat him again.
There it was!
Slide fist down leg, sweep, turn, *kick*.
Heero fell back a step, then another under the sudden blows that seemed to pierce his guard to tatters, leaving him bruised and entirely on the defensive. Wufei felt himself ignite. His movements were hurricane winds buffeting his enemy, driving him back. He could feel life screaming through his veins as if his blows were dragging it out of Heero. Who was helpless. Wufei had the key. This time there would be no explosion of vicious, unbeatable blows that would pin Wufei to the floor and leave him helpless-...
Wufei forced himself to fall back a step, but still his legs twitched, his body unwilling to obey like a hound being called off its prey after tasting blood. Wufei snarled. He might not have the machine-like control of Heero Yuy but neither was he some bloodthirsty cur who was excited by weakness. He forced his body to obey him.
Straighten, fists pulled back in to sides. Breathe out. Fists down. Stop.
Blue eyes stared at him, measuring him up, placing the bar a little higher than before, yet again. Body poised for defence.
Wufei dropped his stance and took a step back, waiting to see if that was true in more than just the sense that Heero had previously used it.
Heero felt the change in pose, and mirrored his movement, taking a step back, rubbing his arm. He glared at Nataku's pilot, his face a blank but his body uncoiling. Ready to listen.
Heero wasn't the enemy, they were allies. Partners, maybe. Wufei looked straight into the cold eyes. "You fight like you're in your Gundam."
Blue eyes widened. As he thought, Heero hadn't realized it. He'd probably had some formal training in the past, but it had been subsumed by the incessant practice meant to weld him to Wing. It had affected his fighting style. This made for a tight, instinctive ability to control his mecha, but...
"You have a weakness towards kicks, particularly high ones." Wufei bent at the waist and stretched the back of his straightened legs, and surreptitiously rubbed his knee slightly. 'Weakness' wasn't quite the right word. He felt like he'd tried to kick a Taurus across the shed they were sparring in. But he'd had Heero at a definite disadvantage.
"Hn." Heero looked thoughtful, eyes turned inward. It wasn't much of a fault; he was needed as a Gundam pilot, not an assassin anymore. But Wufei knew instinctively that Heero Yuy would not be content with leaving it at that. No way would the perfect soldier accept a flaw. Now what would he do about it...
Blue eyes measured Wufei thoughtfully. Black eyes gazed back, waiting. Watching the internal struggle.
"You will show me." Heero said, voice hard and devoid of feeling. It sounded like an order but it was a request.
Wufei nodded curtly and took up a stance, mind playing over new parameters, recalling his training sessions with his master. How to pick apart the weakness while leaving Heero's unique style intact? And above all, not perturb any of the instincts he needed to fight in Wing? Wufei felt a small cold smile pass over his face, this was also an interesting challenge. And once Heero was better-
(Once Heero was better, Wufei would once more not have a chance in hell of fighting him off the next time the... arrangement was requested)
- then their sparring sessions would become all the more interesting and challenging for Wufei.
Wufei saw the cobalt eyes follow every step of his reasoning through the slight shift in his stance, and a humourless smile acknowledged the conclusion. The arrangement momentarily put on hold, the two warriors faced off, movements slowing as the cleansing fight became a more mundane training session. Wufei hoped Heero was a quick learner. Now that he'd had a taste of real battle, the katas would be a pale substitute indeed.
End Part 2
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