Chapter 16
"Frustration and Longing"

    While the rest of Colony 0167 slept in peaceful ignorance, the ex-terrorist, pilot of Gundam 01, sat by his window, oiling his guns as he gazed out blankly at the empty streets.
    Every spare second he got, Heero took the time to make sure his equipment was clean and ready for immediate use. But now that the war was over, he did it more out of nervous habit than any real need. It was almost two o' clock in the morning, but the young soldier couldn't sleep. He hadn't had a set "bedtime" since he'd been very small. Traveling with Odin, sleep had come on the way to destinations-- catching a few hours of sleep on the shuttle or train, sometimes crashing in a wrecked building while his mentor kept watch. During Operation Meteor, sleep had been scarce for all of them. He had slept only when he knew he was in a secure location and there would be no immediate danger or missions.
    But the war was over. People slept at night and moved about in the daytime. It was going to take Heero awhile to adjust his internal clock to this schedule. His companions were also having trouble with it, but they seemed to have adjusted a little quicker than he. He put his cleaning rag and tools down as quietly as possible. They may have started to get used to sleeping at night, but they slept lighter than cats. Wufei had stepped on a creaky floorboard the other night and Trowa had been awake in the blink of an eye, snatching his gun from the floor beside his mattress.
    So Heero was very quiet as he put his gun back together and checked the chamber. He wasn't in the mood to feel cold steel against the back of his head. All was quiet outside, so he turned his attention away from the window to stare across the small room at the other two occupants.
    He still wasn't sure what to think of Trowa's plan and the current arrangement. Trowa had gotten used to sleeping in the same place with someone else during his time with Catherine. But Heero was edgy about sleeping so near another person, as no doubt Wufei was as well. Trowa and Wufei had tracked down a few mattresses from a used furniture store for dirt cheap almost two weeks ago, but hadn't gotten the frames yet. The three "beds" were spaced as far apart as was possible in the tiny one-bedroom apartment. Trowa's was against the far wall, Wufei's was close to the window, and Heero had set up his own next to the door. It helped a little.
    Heero cast a dispassionate eye over the two sleeping figures, checking to make sure they were sleeping soundly. Trowa was curled in a fetal position, one hand shoved under the pillow, the other hanging off the side of the mattress, fingers lying on the handgrip of his gun on the floor. Wufei slept on his back, face turned towards the wall as if unconsciously seeking some privacy, even in slumber. One hand lay by his side, a quick grab away from the sheathed sword poking out from under the mattress. His other hand was thrown over his head, fingers twitching occasionally. Dreaming, no doubt.
    Belatedly Heero felt the small twitch of his mouth as he studied his partners, and turned his attention back to the window. He hadn't watched anybody sleep since... Odin, wasn't it? That night the tough soldier had nodded off in the middle of his watch. Heero had watched him sleep for a little while, until Odin woke up on his own.
    Heero fished in his vest pocket for the scrap of paper he knew was there. It took him a moment's patting to actually locate the pocket. He was still unused to wearing clothes other than the outfit he'd worn during the war. When Trowa had pointed out the possibility of someone recognizing them by their clothes, Heero had immediately visited the closest flea market and procured a few items of clothing. They were old and worn, and still strange, but Heero felt more at ease with that possible danger of being recognized taken care of.
    Of course, to be completely safe, Wufei had pointed out drolly, they'd have to invest in some extreme plastic surgery. Heero had actually taken him seriously for a minute until Trowa had reminded him-- looking as if he was trying not to smile --that such a procedure was extravagantly expensive. They would just have to watch their backs; there was always the very real danger of passing an ex-OZ soldier in the streets and being recognized.
    Heero found the folded paper and pulled it out, unfolding it quietly. He held it up so that the yellowish light of the streetlight outside made the words visible. He'd read it several times, puzzling over its significance, and he read it again now, mouth set in a straight line. It was from Relena-- another invitation/borderline plea for him to join her on earth and become her personal bodyguard. She could even make him Captain of the Guards, if he wished. She would protect him from any still holding a grudge against the Gundam pilots, and he would in turn watch her back and prevent any assassination attempts from those that still disagreed with her ideal of pacifism. A part of him knew that this was a reasonable enough request, and might even be good for him. It would be a good use for his skills as a soldier, and he would even get paid. As it was, none of them were doing too well financially at the moment. The scientists had provided them with something like a paycheck every so often for supplies-- weapons, food, etc. But they had died in the last battle, and now the three of them were scraping the bottom of the barrel as far as money went. Their financial troubles could be easily taken care of, of course. Heero could fix the whole problem with one phone call to Quatre. But his pride stood in the way-- and Wufei's pride and dignity were even greater than Heero's. He would never agree to it. Trowa hadn't said anything about making the request, perhaps sensing that neither of his partners would go along with it. That left only one option.
    Trowa had managed to acquire a job as a delivery man for a noodle shop; he had taken to balancing a dozen of the boxes for tips. But while Trowa possessed the ability to blend in and become the mild-eyed robot fast-food services required, Heero's people skills were horrible. He was having the most difficulty finding work-- he tended to scare the shit out of whoever he was trying to get to hire him. Wufei possessed the ability to be extremely polite, but unfortunately it was a side of himself he tended to destroy with his short temper. He also thought it beneath him to take most of the odd, menial jobs the small colony had to offer, which brought up more curious questions about his heritage and upbringing-- none of which he bothered to answer. His imperious manner sometimes suggested a wealthy background, but if he'd once had a fortune of some sort, it had no doubt been destroyed along with his colony. So his partners were careful not to bring it up anymore.
    Putting the paper back in the pocket of his unfamiliar vest made Heero's mind flit to the other two pilots. Had Duo thought of changing his attire? His outfit was the most noticeable of the five. Heero wouldn't know; he hadn't heard from Duo since they'd parted ways at Quatre's estate where he'd been healing. It was a little strange, considering the other boy's last words to him. Of course, some of what he said hadn't started to make sense until just recently.
    "You watch out for yourself, man," he'd said with one of his big grins, throwing his arm around Heero's shoulders and poking him in the cheek-- just to irritate him, Heero was sure. "You're a free man, now. Try to spread a little happiness around instead of death and destruction. I'm sure you have someone that can help you with that."
    "Someone?" Heero had repeated, dead-pan, as he pushed the finger from his face patiently.
    Duo had rolled his eyes, as if to say "we both know what I'm talking about, but I'll humor you and let you think it's your little secret". Heero had stared at him blankly. "Listen, Heero, here's a tip: be patient. And be willing to give things a try, OK? Don't spend the rest of your life alone. Anyway... take care, buddy. And keep in touch, yeah?"
    Keep in touch. But he hadn't seen or heard from the other boy since that day. Quatre either, for that matter. That was stranger than Duo's silence. Quatre had always been the most outgoing and friendly of them, yet it was as if he'd disappeared. Even while he'd been recuperating under the watchful eyes of Duo and the nurses, he had only briefly seen Quatre, whose usually sunny smile had seemed so tired every time he'd seen him. Wufei didn't seem to give the two pilots a second thought, but Trowa had tried to get in touch with Quatre once. When he'd been unable to, he hadn't brought it up again, but Heero sensed his enigmatic partner thought about it often.
    Heero stared down at the gleaming gun in his hand before glancing around the bare room once more, shaking off thoughts of his other comrades.
    This, then, had been Trowa's plan. Since the question of what they were to do about whatever it was between them was a touchy subject, Trowa had suggested they try an experiment. First they would see if they could live with each other. "We'll give it a few months," he'd said. "Three months. If by the end of those three months it's obvious we can't even stay in the same place without killing each other, we'll each go our own ways. Sound fair?"
    So that was what they were trying. Heero didn't have high hopes for the mission. Plan, he corrected himself with an internal wince. They were all still too high-strung to stay together in such close quarters. Often they would each find an excuse to leave and go wandering on some errand or other to be by themselves. And words between them were often short and impersonal. "Shower's free", "I'm going out", "That one", "Are you hungry?" and so forth.
    Not very promising.
    But every now and then, something a little lighter would slip in. If Wufei was in a relatively good mood, he'd get into a ranting argument with Heero that held no heat behind it. Heero would goad him for reactions, always careful not to push it into taboo topics, and Trowa would perch nearby and observe with a silent, tiny smile of amusement. When Trowa was relaxed or in a peaceful mood, he showed scraps of affection that Heero found surprisingly refreshing and wanted. It wasn't much-- fingertips on his face, just briefly; idly examining the scars or calluses on either boy... simple little things that Heero had found strange at first, but had quickly come to appreciate. Such a simple thing, touch... But before Trowa, he couldn't remember the last time someone had touched him so gently. Wufei always seemed to be patiently tolerant of Trowa's brief signs of affection, but Heero could tell the swordsman needed it just as much as he himself did. Wufei had given himself away once, turning unconsciously into a hand on his cheek.
    Unfortunately, Trowa was the only one brave enough to do these things. Heero found himself tugging Wufei's ponytail to get his attention sometimes, or placing his hand on Trowa's shoulder to see something the other boy was looking at, but these instances were mostly unconscious, and tended to be rare. And Wufei almost never touched them. Heero wasn't sure if it was from his upbringing, or if he was still extremely insecure about it all, but the last time he could remember the dark-eyed boy touching him had been a quick swat to the arm to get his attention.
    Heero thought again of those rare moments, of the almost invisible crumbs of affection, and decided to go with his previous opinion.
    Not promising.
    He made a decision right then, as he stared at his sleeping partners with a determined glint to his eye. This wouldn't work unless an effort was made. Heero would make an effort to make this work because, if he was brutally honest with himself, he wanted it to work; he wanted to see where this strange partnership could lead. He would follow his emotions; he would obey his basest, most human instincts and run with them. And maybe if he gave into these impulses, it would give courage to the others. If he showed them that he wanted this to work, would they respond in kind? Would it help? Would it give them an answer to what was really going on beneath the surface? Maybe. It was worth a shot, anyway.
    Mission accepted.


    Heero released the pole he'd set in the doorframe when they'd moved in, dropping lightly to the ground and reaching up to wipe sweat from his brow.
    "How many pull-ups was that?" came Trowa's dry voice. "A hundred?"
    "Fifty," Heero corrected automatically, missing the sarcasm completely. He turned, leaning in the doorframe to see his partner.
    Trowa gave a quiet snort of amusement, but otherwise didn't respond. He was doing pushups beside his mattress, one after the other, steadily and without any expression on his face. After a few moments he finished and rolled over to sit with his back against the wall, breathing a little hard after his exercise. He reached for his water bottle, twisting off the cap. He glanced at his watch in doing so. "I have to go to work in half an hour," he reported. "I'll bring dinner home."
    Noodles again. Heero bit back a grimace. He had never thought he would get sick of any one food-- what did it matter, as long as it kept his belly from attaching itself to his spine? But after almost three weeks of eating nothing but ramen, Heero was almost beginning to long for a good, old-fashioned MRE. Wufei would probably say something nasty in his native tongue when Heero reported the night's menu. He was just as sick of the fare. He was currently out job hunting, though Heero didn't have to be a psychic to guess the outcome of the day's efforts.
    Trowa got to his feet and walked over to take the towel from Heero. But when he reached for it, Heero pulled it calmly out of reach. At first it was because he wasn't done with it-- then, suddenly, it was for no real reason at all. Not to be malicious. Just to see his reaction. Sort of for the same odd reason he followed the impulse to pull Wufei's hair to get his attention; the explosion of temper was always expected afterwards, yet he still continued to do it.
    Trowa hesitated when Heero didn't use the towel, but merely held it out of immediate reach. Hesitantly, not sure what the hell his partner was up to, he reached for it again. And again Heero pulled it back, holding it over his head and looking up at Trowa calmly. Trowa reached one more time-- and realized he was practically stepping on Heero's toes in his attempts to retrieve the prize. He could easily snatch it if he wanted; his arms were longer than the other boy's. But that would be rude. He glanced down unconsciously as he reached one final time for the towel held just out of reach, and caught the hint of a glimmer of amusement to Heero's normally stony eyes.
    Trowa was so startled at his sudden revelation he almost trod on the other pilot's feet. Heero Yuy was slowly learning the art of teasing, even if he didn't understand what it was or why he did it.
    Trowa felt a smile tug at the corner of his mouth. It was a small thing, but for Heero, it was a big step. Trowa rewarded this sign of humanity by ducking his head and stealing a quick kiss.
    Heero jumped a little; there had been no kissing since the end of the war. None of them had had the courage to do such a thing, unsure how the other pilots would take it. He was so startled by it that he didn't move in time to hide the towel; Trowa reached out and plucked it away with a tiny smile before turning away and heading for his side of the room again.
    Heero didn't realize how much he'd missed kissing and touching the other pilots until that moment.
    He reached out and snagged a finger in the taller pilot's belt loop, jerking him to a halt. When Trowa half-turned to look at him questioningly, he stepped up in his personal space and lifted his chin to press his mouth to Trowa's in a hard, demanding kiss of his own. Somehow, within a heartbeat, it became more than just a quick peck, and the temperature of the room seemed to hike up several degrees.
    Trowa's hands were buried in thick dark hair, tilting his head for a deep kiss. Heero wasn't sure how the hands had gotten there, but then, he wasn't complaining, either. His own traitorous hands had each seized a slender hip and were dragging the other boy insistently closer. He could remember once again with perfect clarity how it had felt when Trowa had pinned him against the table in that carrier-- and pressed up against him in the hangar on earth.
    Either Trowa was thinking along the same lines, or he'd read Heero's body language like brail. In the next instant Heero found his back flat against the wall and a strong, willowy body leaning into him at just the right angle to make casual interest take a flying leap over the edge into unexpected, roaring need. A thigh pressed between his legs and a hand worming its way up his shirt were making it difficult to think straight, much less breathe properly. Not to mention the fact that every time they broke away for air, their mouths found each other again seconds later.
    Slender yet strong hands skimmed down his back and seized..- Heero jerked his mouth away to make a startled noise at the bold move. Before he could protest-- or encourage, he wasn't sure at this point --Trowa, in a brief show of hidden strength, lifted Heero clear off the floor without so much as a grunt.
    Heero reacted instinctively, like a surprised cat. His arms snagged strong shoulders and he lifted his legs to pin narrow hips between his knees. Propped this way, and with the wall supporting his back, he was eye to eye with the other boy, and so close--
    There was no telling how far things would have gone if they'd but had more time. But after perhaps a minute or two of almost desperate kissing and near-grinding, Trowa reluctantly pulled away and let the other boy drop to the ground. Heero's hands found auburn hair and latched on fiercely. Trowa froze with a wince, looking guiltily into burning cobalt eyes.
    "I have to get to work," he explained, his voice husky to his own ears. He reached up to carefully pull the strong hands free. "Gomen."
    Heero's eyes flashed defiantly, and his scowl could have melted lead. But duty had come before anything else for most of his young life, so he was able to back down, though the frustrated glare he offered made it obvious he did so only reluctantly and with great resentment.


    Heero was still sulking-- and telling himself he was not sulking --when Wufei returned from his fruitless search an hour later.
    The weary ex-pilot took one look at his glowering partner as he shut the door behind him and hung up the battered denim jacket Heero had gotten him at the flea market, and felt his already gloomy spirits darken. He wasn't sure what had Heero in such a funk-- he was just hoping whatever it was, it wasn't his fault. He was too grumpy himself to listen to the other boy shoot off at the mouth. He was sick of looking for demeaning jobs and getting turned down. He knew there wasn't any other choice-- the way to get to his family's fortune had been lost when his few remaining relatives had been killed in the destruction of L5 --but it still rankled him that he had to stoop to searching for jobs as a dishwasher or a waiter. It was an insult to his pride that he tried to deal with day after day. Being turned down because of his cold attitude or simply a lack of jobs didn't help matters.
    So he was not in a good mood, having been turned down thrice in a row in just the two hours he'd been out. He wanted some food and a quiet spot to meditate. The look on Heero's face promised anything but a peaceful atmosphere, however, and Wufei couldn't hold back his replying scowl as he walked by to fetch something hopefully still edible from the tiny kitchenette.
    He'd told himself he wouldn't give the other boy any reason to focus that bad mood on him, but Wufei couldn't help himself. He was frustrated, and it was his habit to take his frustration and rage out on the nearest target. Since his sword was closer to Heero than to him, across the room, and there weren't even any mobile suits to crush into scrap metal, he shot a few waspish words Heero's way and waited for the return fire as he disappeared into the kitchen. "You look like you just failed a priority mission, Yuy," he snapped over his shoulder. "Either that, or you're severely constipated, and you need to the hell away from my mattress before you soil it."
    Just a few weeks ago Heero wouldn't have picked up on the biting sarcasm. But he'd been around the other two pilots enough by now to pick up their versions of humor. As Wufei returned from the kitchen with the last granola bar, he got caught in the blast of Heero Yuy's infamous death glare. But the glare that had made adult soldiers wet themselves in terror made no impression on the dark-eyed pilot who leaned stiffly against the kitchen doorframe and frowned back at him darkly.
    The tension had shot up a notch, when it had already been high to begin with. But it wasn't just an angry tension, Wufei noted belatedly, studying his partner; it was more like dangerous restlessness. Like a soldier trapped in a box with nothing to shoot at, or a child kept inside out of the rain for too long...
    Heero's glare shifted subtly from deadly to intense scrutiny.
    Or, Wufei corrected himself, mouth gone suddenly dry, like a wolf who'd been hunting all day with no luck, and had just run across his first meal of the day.
    Heero was up and across the room in the time it took Wufei to recognize that look and take a hasty step back.
    "Wait a mi-- Mmmph!" A hard, demanding mouth muffled his protests, and the granola bar ended up on the floor.
    Strong hands seized his hips and dragged him forward, crushing him against the wiry body of his partner, and Wufei moved his own hands up unconsciously to clench unruly brown hair in his fists. He responded immediately to the rough kiss, focusing all the day's frustrations and pent-up aggression into it. The bruising kiss shot from his mouth to the soles of his feet-- it had been too long since anything like this had transpired between the three of them. Nothing since the end of the war.. too long.
    An impatient hand pushed its way past cloth to skim up his bare back, and he shuddered, pushing his tongue past the one in his mouth in an attempt to gain dominance. When Heero shoved him against the wall and twisted his hips against Wufei's own, he no longer had the self control to stop the startled groan that escaped his throat.
    Definitely too long.
    It took every last shred of Wufei's willpower to wrench his mouth away and push the other boy to arm's length. Heero froze immediately, eyes flicking quickly to study his face. His eyes were still darkened with lust, but his expression was suddenly unreadable, his hands backing off hastily. He had read it as a rejection, and was horrified at himself for pushing such a thing against the other boy.
    But Wufei shook his head quickly to reassure him. "Trowa," he managed to gasp after a moment, chest heaving with desperate want and the need for air.
    Heero hesitated, brows tightening a little in confusion.
    "If we're going to do anything," Wufei said firmly, "we should wait for Trowa." His body wailed at him for being such an idiot, but Wufei refused to give in to its selfish wants. He wasn't going any farther unless Trowa was there, as well. Not only because it would be the right thing to do, but because they all needed to figure this thing out together. It had been their stupid idea that had gotten him into this, and now that his first arguments had failed, he was going to give it his best shot. If Heero couldn't deal with that, then this.. whatever it was between the three of them... wouldn't work.
    Heero seemed to be figuring it out slowly, his face relaxing into comprehension and the rigidness of his body seeping away. He nodded once and stepped back, out of Wufei's personal space. Wufei breathed a silent sigh of relief and ignored his body's plaintive complaints at his retreat as he scooped the granola bar from the floor and headed for his mattress, putting as much space between himself and the other boy as possible. They'd agreed to wait for Trowa, but better safe than sorry. If he had to look into Heero's intense gaze much longer, he wasn't sure he could trust himself to behave.
    The two boys settled on their respective sides of the room and awaited the return of their unsuspecting partner.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 17
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