Chapter 42: "Diplomacy"

The bag hit the ground with a muffled thump, clothes and toiletries spilling out. Quatre managed to bite down on his fist just in time to stop the cry that almost strangled him. Shuddering, he stood hunched, frantically trying to get control of his own body.

The wash of intense desire and pleasure had hit him out of nowhere, catching him completely off guard. He reached out blindly with his free hand and pressed against the wall of the ship for support, breathing harshly around his fist.


Quatre drew in a deep, shaky breath. Oh jesus, how could he have been so stupid? Of course. Heero and Wufei must be doing... that. They must have realized this would be their last chance...

This explained Duo's willingness to take first watch. Scheming matchmaker--

"Nnngh!" Quatre closed his eyes tightly and bit harder against his knuckles as his body spasmed with another onslaught of pleasure. Fuckfuckfuck. He certainly couldn't bring himself to begrudge them this last opportunity, but...

In such close quarters, on such a small ship, it was affecting his empathy to an alarming degree. His eyes shot frantically towards the door. If anyone were to come in and see him like this.... He blushed furiously. It would be bad enough if they saw him panting and aroused for no reason. If it was Trowa, however, he would immediately guess where such feelings were coming from. He might try to stop the other two...

Pleasure hit him again, sharply, and he couldn't quite muffle the cry that burst out. He found himself suddenly crouching on the ground, shoulder pressed against the wall as he fought an internal battle. He had to get himself under control... had to block out whatever was going on behind that soundproof door...

In a way, it was harder than blocking out another's pain. Because his traitorous body wanted this pleasure; it was harder to convince himself to shrug it off than it was to screen himself from unwanted pain.

"Quatre? The shower's free if-- Quatre??"

Oh damn it all to hell. Quatre hunched up further to hide the tightness of his pants. He flicked a mortified glance towards the figure in the doorway. Well, he tried to comfort himself, at least it wasn't Junbao or Shen. Talk about awkward.

Trowa dropped his small bag of toiletries by the door and hurried over-- ohjesus he was still wet from the shower, and dressed only in sleeping slacks--

"I'm fine!" Quatre squeaked in a panic, waving one hand to keep his friend away.

"No you're not," Trowa insisted with a slight frown, crouching down in front of him and clasping his shoulders. "It's not the poison, is it? Did Mariemaia poison you too??"

"N-no.." Quatre tried to scoot away and keep his eyes away from that wet, well-built chest. "I'm fine! Really!" Pleasedon'ttouchme, he added in a frantic silent plea.

"You're not fine," Trowa repeated with a slight edge of impatience to his voice. "What--" he froze, eyes widening slightly. He peered more closely at Quatre's face, taking in the panting breath, flushed cheeks, and glazed eyes. Almost unconsciously, his eyes flickered downwards.

"Let GO!" Quatre shoved his friend hard in startled embarrassment and scrambled to his feet.

Trowa caught himself before he fell over, and stared up at him, surprise flashing across his normally impassive mask. Then his eyes narrowed and slid towards the door. "Ah," he said in quiet understanding. He got to his feet.

"Trowa-- no!" Quatre leapt for him, seizing his arm. "Don't! You know they'll never get another-- chance--" he bit his tongue hard in an attempt to focus on his partner rather than the next wave of pleasure. A small whimper escaped despite his efforts.

Trowa pulled his arm free and gripped his shoulders, gazing at him intently, which, given the circumstances, Quatre rather wished he wouldn't. "I won't stop them," he said simply.

The surprise at that statement actually muffled the false pleasure for a moment. "Wha-- really??"

"While what they're doing is technically a mistake..." Trowa shook his head slightly. "When I realized it was more than casual interest... and when I realized the consequences of my actions..." he glanced away. "I was almost hoping they'd find the chance to do something before we got back home. So that at least they'd have something."

"Trowa..." Another pulse of heat and pleasure had him hunching his shoulders and fighting for breath. God, this was humiliating, and... he wasn't sure... if he could stand this much longer....

Not that a shirtless Trowa in close proximity was any help. A shirtless clueless Trowa.

Trowa was frowning. "However," he added with a bit more steel, "you shouldn't have to suffer for it."

"S-suffer?" Quatre gave a strange, high-pitched giggle. His body was shaking now with the effort of keeping himself under some amount of control. "Um.. I wouldn't really call it 'suffering'... Just... kind of embarrassing. I'll be OK. I'll take care of it--" he flushed crimson. "Um! Um! That's not what I meant," he babbled incoherently.

Trowa released him abruptly. For just a second, Quatre thought he saw a bit of coloring in Trowa's cheeks, but he couldn't be sure. "I'm sorry," he muttered. "You're right. I'm sure having someone witness this is only more uncomfortable." He stepped back. "I'll leave you alone so you can....ah..." This time there was definite color on his cheeks. "Until they're finished," he wrapped up lamely. He turned sharply on his heel and strode from the room.

The door shut before Quatre could decide whether to stop him or not.

Quatre slid to the floor with a thump and struggled to control his breathing. Stop him?? Was he insane? No. Trowa... didn't look at him like that. He never had. Never would. Quatre would never be so presumtuous as to.......

His hand dipped downwards to take care of the problem, and he allowed himself the guilty pleasure-- just for a moment --of imagining the hand belonged to another.


Wufei woke up slowly, mind fuzzy and slow from his deep sleep. He blinked a few times, wondering why his vision was obscured. There was hair in his face. What the... why the hell was his hair down? While he usually let it loose for bed, he'd often forgotten in the course of the exhausting journey, and had gotten used to waking up with it still in a somewhat messy tail. He started to reach up to push the bothersome strands from his face, but his hand seemed trapped by something warm. He blinked again. He was asleep on his stomach. He never slept on his stomach... He moved his head against the pillow, shifting his hair out of his vision, and stared at the face inches from his own.

Oh yeah.

A slow flush rose to his cheeks as the memory of what had occurred just hours before quickly rushed back.

He glanced around quickly, almost as if paranoid that someone might have gotten past the locked door and might be staring at them in horror from the other side of the room... but no. The room was empty and silent, aside from Heero's slow, even breathing. He allowed himself to relax, returning his attention to the face on the pillow beside his. Heero's face was completely relaxed in slumber, making him for once look his age. Wufei felt a smirk tug at his lips. Heero had fallen asleep with one arm thrown possessively across his back; Wufei's left hand was trapped between the bed and Heero's arm. He moved his right arm slowly instead, wincing as feeling rushed back into the limb. It had fallen asleep from being stretched over his head so long. He flexed his fingers to awaken the dead limb, wondering how long he'd been out. He lifted his head slightly-- some of his hair was trapped underneath Heero's head, limiting movement --and peered anxiously at the door. Sooner or later-- especially if they'd slept through the night --someone was going to come by and request entrance. And if it was his aunt, things were going to get ugly.

He managed to lever his left hand up just enough to tweak Heero's nose. Heero's face wrinkled, and he turned his head slightly to escape the touch. Grinning slightly, Wufei pinched his cheek instead, hard. Heero's eyes opened quickly, focusing on Wufei's face after only a moment's tired confusion. Wufei could feel the body pressed against his own go tense all over, the arm across his back tightening in an unconsciously protective gesture as he turned his head quickly to check out the room as Wufei had done.

Wufei shrugged his shoulders, and Heero obediently pulled his arm away. "I don't think anyone's come by yet," he admitted quietly, stifling a yawn as he propped himself up on his elbows and rubbed at his face to waken himself further. "But I'm sure Mingzhu will eventually to finish yesterday's talk."

"Aa." Heero sat up, running a hand through his mussed hair. He watched as Wufei rolled over, frowning when Wufei started to sit up and then collapsed immediately on his back instead with a hissed curse. "Wufei?"

"Shiiit..." Wufei gritted his teeth, glaring up at the ceiling.

Heero hovered over him, concerned. "What's wrong?"

Wufei reached up and cuffed him upside the head. "Quit with the mother hen routine," he grumbled, embarrassed at having to admit to the pain. "I'm just sore." Understatement of the year, he added silently. His lower back was killing him. His only saving grace was that the pain was just bad enough to muffle the other ache a bit lower down.

"Ah." Heero winced slightly in guilt. "Sorry."

"Whatever. I'll live." Wufei took a deep breath and forced himself to sit up. Ohhhh it hurt like a bitch. He forced himself to deal with it. Besides, he reminded himself, flushing despite himself, it's not like you're ever going to regret the act that brought this pain on. That thought only brought on helpful visual reminders from last night, and he coughed to hide his sudden awkwardness. "I might as well get over it now; I think Mingzhu will think it a little odd if I refuse to sit down when she comes to talk to me later."

"..Yeah..." Heero sat up as well, scratching his scalp. His hair was a complete disaster, the very definition of bedhead. Wufei's fingers in his hair during last night's... "encounter" had probably only made it worse. Heero frowned at Wufei's amused grin, trying to flatten his hair with one hand in one of the first self-conscious gestures Wufei had caught him at. "Don't say it."

Wufei shrugged innocently and carefully got out of bed, biting his tongue as his lower back protested the movement viciously. He must have been moving stiffly, because Heero scooted to the edge of the bed and caught his wrist as he went by in search of his hairband. "Wait. Maybe I can take some of the pain away."

Wufei hesitated, looking back at him, and caught his lover studying his Mark. "Before it was only because someone had hurt me through the Mark," Wufei pointed out. "I don't know if you can fix this. And besides, it exhausts you. Just smuggle some of those painkillers from Quatre. Make up an excuse about a headache or something."

"I won't have to," Heero said, looking around a bit blearily for his boxers.

"Huh?" Wufei finally found his hairband and pulled his hair back in a hasty tail. He started wandering around the room, picking up their scattered clothes.

Heero hesitated, peering at him strangely, as if he almost regretted speaking. Finally, being Heero, he just went with being blunt. "Quatre already knows what happened last night."

"Wha--" Wufei stumbled. "Oh-- shit," he hissed, mortified. The boy's blasted empathy-- how could he have forgotten? His face felt hot. "You mean he..."

"Sensed it, yes." Heero got up and walked over to retrieve his boxers from Wufei's numb grip. "I think he'll keep his mouth shut about it, however. He has to have figured out that it was a one-time thing, and there's no point starting something over it."

Wufei buried his face in his crumpled shirt and groaned. "That doesn't make it any less embarrassing," he muttered.

Heero shrugged, tugging on his boxers and retrieving his shirt from under the desk chair. He paused after pulling the shirt on, eyes scanning Wufei's still-naked form. Wufei lifted his head from his hands and jumped at the other boy's close proximity. "Wh--"

A strong hand pressed to his back tugged him closer, a hard mouth claiming his own, and he gave a quiet snort of vague amusement, reaching up to slide his fingers past an ear and into ruffled hair.

There was a short but firm knock on the door that caused them both to jump guiltily. The sound only brought reality creeping in like a dark shadow.

Don't think about tomorrow, Wufei ordered himself fiercely as he dressed hastily. Because now the cold fact that this was quite possibly the last time he and Heero would be able to so much as kiss was finally settling in.

Shoving such thoughts to the back of his mind in immature denial, he strode to the door and checked to make sure Heero was out of sight before unlocking it and letting it slide open.

Trowa was just outside the door, and his eyes skipped from Wufei, checking over his shoulder. "Is Heero still in here?" he asked quite calmly.

Good god, did everyone know? Wufei turned his head away to hide his blush, and cleared his throat to signal his lover. Heero slowly stepped into view, face already set in its stern unbreakable lines.

Trowa didn't even pretend to look surprised. He gestured over his shoulder. "We're not far from the colony, it seems. Mingzhu is going to be down here any minute with those other two to finish the conversation from yesterday. I suggest you both make yourselves a bit more presentable."

Heero frowned in question, running a hand through his hair in another failed attempt to settle it in place.

But Wufei looked at the taller pilot sharply. After a moment, he nodded, and Trowa left without another word.

Wufei noticed for the first time the skinny door on the far wall with the symbol for washroom on it. "Go clean up, get those painkillers from Quatre, and hurry back," he ordered, stripping all over again as he headed for the tiny shower room.

"But Trowa--"

"You're always asking me to trust you, Heero," Wufei shot over his shoulder, pausing with his hand on the door handle, a fleeting grim smile touching his lips. "You can at least return the favor."

Heero hesitated, then nodded once. He took one last look at Wufei's bared body before dressing hastily and leaving the room.


"They did 'it', didn't they?"

Quatre nearly choked on his coffee. Duo calmly continued to munch on his breakfast bar. Trowa's eyes flickered, but he offered no comment as he patted his blond friend helpfully on the back.

"H-Hilde," Quatre sputtered once he'd regained his breath.

"What?" Hilde frowned at him. "Oh, please. Like they'd pass up a chance like this. They better not have, anyway. It's the last chance they'll ever get, right?"

Quatre lowered his eyes, and a sober silence fell.

They were taking a hasty breakfast in the small room that served as the boys' bedroom and the ship's kitchenette all in one. Small cots lined one wall, while a cupboard of nonperishable foods and a tiny round table were pushed against the opposite wall.

"It's not fair," Hilde whispered harshly, hands tightening around the sturdy plastic mug of coffee. "They can't do this. I don't care how corny it sounds-- those two are almost made for each other. I'd always worried that Wufei would never find someone, and now these people have to...." She sighed quietly. "It's like..."

"Interrupting fate," Duo finished without looking up, scowling slightly at his meager breakfast.

"...Yeah." Hilde chanced a quick peek at him, then looked quickly away before he noticed.

"These people are his family," Quatre reminded her gently. "They have their reasons..."

"It's marriage, isn't it?" Hilde glared around at them all. "There's no point in hiding anything anymore. It's the only reason I can think of behind all these strict rules concerning Wufei's love life. He's obviously important to them somehow. Important people are expected to get married, pop out kids, and carry on the family bloodline, right?"

Trowa nodded once. "His Clan was the most powerful on L5; his father was their Lord. Wufei was always destined to follow in his footsteps."

"And he has... 'that'..." Quatre murmured.

"That?" Hilde echoed. "Does this have anything to do with his Mark? You're still not saying everything. There's something else, isn't there?"

The boys glanced at each other a bit uneasily. "There's... something very special about Wufei," Quatre started delicately.

"Oh, I slept in."

Hilde shut her mouth with a click of teeth, jumping slightly in guilt. They looked up as Relena appeared in the doorway, rubbing the last of sleep from her eyes. "You should have woken me, Hilde."

"Er.. Sorry." Hilde's eyes were glued to her coffee mug. "You looked pretty bushed."

"I'm just relieved that this whole trip will be over with soon," the blonde admitted as she padded over to the cupboards to find something edible. "I can't wait to actually just stop and catch my breath, feel firm ground under my feet, and have a real honest-to-god hot shower."

A smile twitched at Hilde's face despite herself. "Real food," she added wistfully.

"Real answers," Relena murmured just as airily.

The others looked at each other, then very carefully avoided eye contact with Relena as she turned, hands clasped behind her back, to face them all sternly. "Don't you three think this has gone on long enough? What's really going on here?"

"You'll prob'ly find out soon enough," Duo muttered around his breakfast bar. "Your dad's the one who wanted you to come, and Wufei's auntie dearest looked decidedly not surprised to see you. For some reason they seem to think you're a part of all of this. They'll probably give you your answers soon enough. You'll have to wait in line, though. They're probably filling W-- I mean Fei's head with all sorts of neat fun facts."

"Oh!" Quatre turned quickly to Trowa in a mild panic. "Trowa! You're supposed to be there! You'll upset Mingzhu if you're late!"

"It's taken care of," Trowa assured him calmly, attention on his coffee. Sip. Sip.

Relena blinked, looking around. "Where's Heero? Don't tell me he slept in, too?"

Three sets of eyes swung in wide disbelief towards Trowa.

Trowa was the picture of unruffled innocense. "What?" Sip.


Mingzhu took five steps into Wufei's room and stopped dead in her tracks. Junbao and Shen halted just in time to prevent a collision.

Wufei stared at them balefully from where he was seated at his desk, one hand gripping his armrest, the other on the desk, fingers drumming out a sharp stacatto beat of impatience and nerves. "What's the problem?" he snapped.

"..." Mingzhu flicked her narrowed eyes from her nephew back to the boy standing stiffly behind his chair. "Where is your Primary Guardian, Fei?"

Wufei turned his head and looked pointedly at Heero. "Is that a trick question?"

Mingzhu's shoulders stiffened. Junbao and Shen took a prudent step back, though they were watching Wufei thoughtfully from the corners of their eyes.

"I don't have time for your childish games or your tantrums, Fei," Mingzhu said in clipped tones. She gestured towards the door dismissively. "Yuy, fetch Barton. I'll speak with you la--"

"Don't move," Wufei ordered without looking back at Heero. He stared in open challenge at his aunt. "There seems to have been a mistake on your part. Trowa isn't my Primary Guardian. Heero is. He has been practically since birth, so far as I understand. If you ask me, it seems a little foolish to swap them around like that at the last minute. I don't know if you had Barton as some kind of 'back-up', but although it might have seemed like a good idea a few years ago or even a few months ago, now it's just a thoughtless move on your part. As far as trust goes, Trowa's fairly far down on my list. He's been lying to me for years, and we hardly speak. Yet you expect me to trust him completely at the drop of a hat."

"Barton didn't 'lie' to you, he was merely undercover," Mingzhu said with forced patience. "And this is neither the time or place for your--"

"I think it's the perfect time," Wufei cut her off rudely. "This needs to be cleared up before we arrive. It seems rather foolhardy to me for such a drastic change to be made at the last minute. The Primary Guardian is supposed to be ultimately responsible for my protection, isn't he? Which means I have to trust him above anyone else."

"This is not up for debate, Chang Fei," Mingzhu declared in an icy tone. "It's out of your hands-- or mine, for that matter. This decision was made by your grandfather, and his word is law."

"Maybe it is on your colony," Wufei admitted, eyes flashing, "but we're not ON your colony, yet, are we?"

"It's our colony," she reminded him harshly. "And your grandfather's rules."

Wufei leaned back in his chair, eyes hooded as he stared her down. "If it's up to my grandfather, then I'll discuss this with him when we land. But for now, while we're still in-flight, you've given me the impression that I have at least some clout around here. Normally I wouldn't care less, but in this, I'm not going to back down. And I can be very stubborn. Ask Heero."

"You can't just--"

Wufei rose to his feet slowly, leaning his hands on his desk and glaring at her as he threw her own words back in her face. "This," said in a steely voice, "is not up for debate."

Standing unmoving behind him, Heero thought he saw the faintest suggestion of a smile hovering on the normally stern Junbao's lips. He tried not to gape foolishly at his lover. He'd known Wufei could be a hard-headed unyielding little ball of aggravation (it was, unfortunately, one of the traits Heero was most fond of), but he'd never thought Wufei would go so far as to stand up to his family like this. Especially over something Heero found fairly unimportant in the big scheme of things. He didn't like the fact that Wufei was going through all this on account of him, but he knew better than to voice his opinion right now. It would only belittle Wufei in the others' eyes, and he might get a frustrated fist to the face for his troubles. And he really didn't feel like getting into a fistfight first thing in the morning.

Besides... He glanced quickly at Shen and Junbao again. Mingzhu might be internally dancing with rage, if her dark expression was anything to go off of, but the other two seemed to have gained some new amount of respect for Wufei. They must have been expecting him to back down in front of his overbearing aunt.

There was a tense staredown for all thirty seconds before the silent victor was declared.

Face pinched with displeasure, Mingzhu finally lowered her gaze. Wufei took his seat again, and his three visitors sat down in the chairs before the desk.

"Any questions before we begin?" Mingzhu asked primly, mouth still tight with disapproval.

Wufei chose to ignore her obvious irritation. "Something occurred to me last night," he admitted with a small frown. "What happened to the Gundams? This ship is too small to carry them, but I don't see you leaving them with Howard and his crew."

Shen spoke up. "There was a freight ship on our tail, a few hours behind us. They'll retrieve the Gundams and return them to the colony."

Wufei nodded. "And this colony... Does it have a code? I know I came from L5, but no one's mentioned the new colony's number yet."

"Numbered colonies are official, and have to be registered," Shen pointed out. "Obviously we couldn't afford to do so with our own. No, we built it ourselves, so we named it as we wished-- Yeong."

"Eternity," Wufei translated in a murmur, staring at his fingers spread on the surface of the desk.

"Now it is time to listen, Fei," Mingzhu said firmly. "I very much doubt you want to embarrass yourself when we arrive. Your grandfather insists on answering the majority of your questions, but there are some small details you must be aware of before we land. There will be people there to greet you-- important people. Relatives from your Clan and representatives of the others. Most importantly, your grandfather and the Council will be there."

"The Council?"

"A group of elected, highly respected citizens and elders who act as the voice of the people," Shen explained, tilting his hand towards his silent companion. "Junbao and I are a part of this Council. Our job is to make sure Lord Chang is aware of his peoples' opinions and problems. In the end, decisions are up to your grandfather as our Lord, but we are allowed to argue a case with him if we hope to sway the decision one way or the other."

"I'm assuming my cousin taught you some measure of respect and decorim, even if what I've seen lately has been rather... discouraging," Mingzhu said haughtily. Wufei managed to keep his face blank. "You will present yourself proudly but respectfully to those who come to greet you, and to your grandfather you must..." she paused searching for the right words to convey the importance of the situation.

"Be on my best behavior?" Wufei prompted dryly.

She gave him a frosty look.

Wufei held up his hands in defeat. "You've stressed my grandfather's seemingly lofty position enough for me to get the idea. I'll treat him with the respect such a title deserves."

She relaxed minutely and nodded once. "You will be expected to dine with the Council and other representatives, and afterwards I've no doubt your grandfather will want to speak with you. I suggest you go to bed early after dinner; you'll be formally greeting the Clans of Yeong first thing in the morning." Her hard gaze settled on Heero. "Your status as Primary Guardian is temporarily under investigation until Lord Chang makes a final decision. Though..." her lips curled just barely in an unamused little smile. "I wouldn't hold your breath."

Wufei got to his feet. "If that's all, we're going to breakfast."

The others rose as well, but Mingzhu wasn't finished yet. "You're a lot more headstrong and impetuous than is perhaps good for you," she remarked. "You would do well with a lesson in restraint and civility."

Wufei inclined his head slightly as she turned to go, his tone carefully neutral. "Aunt Mingzhu, my 'civility' is tuned only to the amount of respect I get in turn."

She offered him one last frosty look and marched out. Shen hesitated before following, turning to Wufei. "Sometimes being stubborn is a good thing," he warned. "But too much can cause disaster."

"I can be diplomatic when I put my mind to it," Wufei assured him dryly.

Shen offered a fleeting little smile, then was gone.

"Diplomatic?" Heero murmured. "You?"

Wufei rewarded that smart remark with a thwack to the shoulder as they left the room in search of breakfast.

Author's Notes: I believe this is the first time there's actually somewhat-concrete evidence in the story about poor Quatre's crush >_O; Hm.
Also, sooo sorry for the long delay @__@;;; I got most of this chapter done, then suddenly was OBSESSED with working on "Mystery Man". Now that it's finished, I can concentrate on HB again ^^;;; Thank you for your patience~
Oh, and SGM, thanks for catching that rather important typo XD;; *runs to fix*

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