Disclaimer: Gundam Wing and the characters are not mine (damn it!), they belong to Sunrise and Bandai.
Through the long-range binoculars the base appeared to be quiet, only a few people moving about in the freezing air. But the weapons those few carried were a bad sign and the blue eyes behind the binoculars darkened with concern.
No one at the base could see the two figures perched on the cliffs above the base. They blended into the snow in their white clothes and fur-trimmed hoods. Both were crouched low, one keeping an eye on any possible encroachers while the other viewed the base below.
Sally Po frowned and lowered the binoculars. Her partner's hand fell onto her shoulders causing her to look up. His dark eyes met hers and she nodded at the unspoken message she saw. She shifted over and he settled down beside her.
"Well?" Chang Wufei asked softly, his breath puffing a small white cloud into the cold air.
"Take a look at the weapons." Sally said passing him the binoculars.
Wufei viewed the scene below and frowned. "Hmmm... That's more of an arsenal than we thought."
Sally smirked. "Well, that's why we do these little scouting missions to find this sort of stuff out." She said. "You'd _never_ get me out to this frozen wasteland otherwise!" She stuffed her hands inside her jacket. "I hate the cold!"
Wufei snorted. "Don't complain so, Woman!" He said. "This is a mission..."
"And such discomforts that there are must be endured!" Sally finished his sentence with a snap. "Can't you change the record, Wu? I've _heard_ that one about five times! Anyway, I wasn't complain, I was making a observation!"
Wufei glowered. "You and your idle chitchat." He muttered.
Sally resisted the urge to push him off the cliff.
"If we have the data we need," Wufei said. "Then there is no reason to stay here."
"No," Sally agreed. "Let's get back to the cabin and the jeep." *And then back to the Preventer base where a HOT shower and a nice WARM bed awaits!* She did a quick scan below, checking that no one would see them, and then started her descent.
Wufei put the binoculars in his pack and then secured it on his back. A few snowflakes drifted in front of his eyes, causing him to look up and frown. "It's starting to snow." He said.
Sally was already halfway down, but she heard him speak and looked back. "What was that?" She asked stepping forward.
"I said..." Wufei was cut off, as there was a sharp cry from Sally and a thud. "Sally?" He hurried carefully down the rocky slope and rounded a corner.
Sally was sitting on the ground, her eyes wide and she was gasping a little. Wufei crouched down in front of her. "What happened?" He asked.
Sally blinked and grimaced. "I wasn't looking and I put my foot down on an unstable piece of rock." She explained.
Wufei raised an eyebrow and Sally scowled. "Don't you say a word!" She warned and pushed herself to her feet. "I'm feeling foolish enough as it is without you... ah!" Sally let out a yelp as pain shot through her left ankle.
Wufei stood up and steadied her as she wobbled. "Looks like you have more than just bruises." He said.
Sally looked sharply at him. Wufei's expression was unreadable, but she could see a gleam of amusement in his dark eyes. She threw off his hand and leant against the rockface. Gingerly she put her left foot down and assessed the extent of the damage.
"It's... just a light sprain..." She said trying to ignore the pain. "Not totally... dehabilitating."
"This will slow our progress back." Wufei remarked.
"Well, -pardon- me!" Snapped Sally. "I'm so -sorry- for my accident!" She straightened. "I will be fine, it will hurt, but I can walk!" Sally assured him, and to prove her words she started walking down the slope.
Wufei watched her for a while and then shook his head. "Such a stubborn woman." He muttered as he followed her.
Sally gritted her teeth as she stumbled down the slope. The medic in her was shrieking to stop or slow down and rest or bind her ankle, especially since the uneven path she had to take was not going to stop anytime soon. In order to keep the evidence of their presence down to a minimum, Wufei and Sally had decided to avoid the smooth snowy slopes and to keep to the rocky walls of the valley.
"This," Sally muttered ruefully. "Is going to hurt."
"Then accept some help." Said Wufei's voice in her ear. Before she could say anything, his arm slipped around her waist and he steadied her. "Lean on me." He offered.
Startled, Sally looked at him. However, she didn't throw off his arm, sometimes pride -had- to take a backseat to practicality.
"We should get out of here before the snow thickens." Wufei said as they made their way over the rocks.
Sally realized that the snowflakes were falling more heavily. She risked a brief look up at the sky. The clouds were a dark, dark gray and looked ominously heavy. "That doesn't look good." She remarked.
"Precisely why we need to move quickly." Said Wufei.
"Being caught outside in a snowstorm is -not- my idea of fun!" Sally agreed. She paused. "Uh... Wufei?"
"What now Woman?" He asked in an irritated tone. "We need to keep moving, not stand around -chattering- all day!"
Sally let out an exasperated sigh. "I was just going to
-thank- you!" She said wearily.
Wufei blinked. "Oh..." He said nothing, but continued to walk with her, supporting Sally's weight. Eventually his eyes slid over to look briefly at her face. "Think nothing of it," he said stiffly. "You would have only aggravated your injury if I left you to your own devices."
Sally smiled. Beneath Wufei's arrogant words she could hear his apology and his appreciation, and her anger at him melted away. It always pleased her when his mask cracked, even if it was only a tiny bit, and he showed his true self buried underneath the traditional training. She resisted the urge to hug Wufei and continued to walk, leaning on him.
The snow was falling quite heavily by the time they reached the tiny mountain climbers cabin and the jeep.
"I don't think we should try to drive in this." Sally said as she eyed the black clouds boiling over the ranges and felt the sting of the cold snowflakes on her face.
Wufei looked at the snow-covered jeep. "It wouldn't take much to get the snow off it..." He began.
Sally pulled on his arm. "Don't be foolish, by the time we're half-way it will be dark and I think there's a good chance that this snowstorm is going to get worse!"
"Woman, the longer we stay here, the more we risk being discovered!" Wufei argued.
Sally pushed open the door to the cabin. "It's -highly- unlikely that
anyone is going to be out here looking for
-anything-." She said dryly. "Besides, mountain climbers use this place all the time and we brought all the right gear just in case someone looked in here." She yanked him inside with her. "Face it Wufei, we're just going to have to wait the storm out. With any luck it'll be over by tomorrow."
Wufei shut the door and regarded the interior of the cabin as Sally limped over to the table by the fireplace and sat down. She pushed her hood off her head, leaned down and started to take off her boots.
Wufei brushed the snow from his coat and took it off. He immediately regretted this as the air inside the cabin was almost as frozen as the air outside. He noticed Sally was shivering as she pulled off her boots and frowned. "I'll light the fire," he said, crossing over to the deep-set, open fireplace and kneeling in front of it. "You rest." He told Sally as he pulled wood from the pile by the fireplace and began putting the material together.
Sally sat up and grinned at him. "It's okay, Wufei. I can hop around and sort out something to eat."
Sally put her boots down and wriggled her toes in her thick socks. Her ankle still hurt, but it wasn't as bad as before. She stood up, putting her weight on to her right side and considered her next move. There wasn't very much space for her to hop around -in-, Sally noted. The cabin was tiny, one room with a smaller room serving as the bathroom. The only furnishings were the table, two chairs, a sink, a double bed and two cupboards - one by the bed and the other next to the fireplace.
Sally looked over at the bed. It was covered with a white dustsheet, which she pulled off and folded. The bed itself consisted of a thin looking mattress and two lumpy looking pillows. Sally's stomach rumbled quietly and she grinned, it was more important to think about food she decided and limped over to the cupboard by the fireplace. Upon opening it she found several cans, a large iron pot, some plates and cutlery, two oil lamps and some matches.
Sally smirked. "Well Wufei, which do you prefer? Baked beans or spaghetti with sausages?"
Wufei turned and looked at her. "Neither sounds appealing." He said crossly. "Is that -all- there is?"
Sally looked a bit more. "Ummm... there's some canned soup, vegetable I think it is, and some sweetcorn as well." She pulled out the oil lamps and the matches. "I think that's our lot!" She said as she lit the lamps and set them on the table.
Wufei grimaced at her list and stood up. "The fire's done," he said. "But the wood pile is quite low, we have enough to see us through... if we don't keep the fire lit during the night."
Sally frowned. "Then it -will- get very cold in here..." She said and glanced over at the bed. "Hmmm..."
Wufei followed her gaze and looked properly at the bed for the first time. His eyes widened.
Sally shrugged and turned her attention back to sorting out dinner. "Oh well," she said, picking up the can opener. "There's not much we can do about it."
"Sally..." Wufei's voice was strangled.
"There's only one bed."
Sally blinked. "Yes, I am aware of that, Wufei."
"But... there's only -one- bed!"
"I -know- that, Wufei!" Sally looked at him in exasperation. "What is your point?"
"There is -two- of us!" Wufei turned and frowned at her.
"Well, we'll just have to deal with it." Sally said. "Besides, the body heat will keep us from noticing the cold."
Wufei stared at her. "Are you saying..." he swallowed. "That we sleep... there... -together-?!"
"Well, what else do you suggest?" Sally asked. "It's going to be -much- too cold to sleep on the floor."
Wufei's eyes flashed. "The cold doesn't bother -me-, Woman!" He snapped.
"Well, it bothers -me-!" Sally argued. "And I am -not- going to sleep in the bed while you -nobly- freeze your butt off on the floor!"
Wufei gritted his teeth. "Stubborn woman!" He growled.
#WHAM!# Sally slammed her hand down on the table. "Wufei! This is no time to argue! There is nothing wrong with the two of us sleeping in the same bed in order to keep warm!"
Wufei's scowl deepened. "It's -your- reputation that I'm concerned about!" He yelled at her.
"Oh for..." Sally glared back at him. "Who's going to know except you and me? -I- certainly won't say anything!" She took a deep breath, yelling at Wufei would not mend matters, she told herself sternly, not matter -how- satisfying it was. No, she needed to be... sneaky...
"Wufei..." Sally tempered her tone to a more reasonable level. "I understand that you are nervous about this situation and I -quite- understand that your fear is..."
"FEAR?!" Wufei exploded. "I'm not frightened of -you-, Woman!" He folded his arms and gazed arrogantly at her. "I am not afraid to share a bed with you and I -will- do it!"
Sally opened her eyes very wide. "Are you sure?" She asked hesitantly.
"YES!" Wufei cried.
Sally made a helpless gesture with her hands. "Well, I guess I can't argue with you." She said resignedly and turned away from him to start opening the cans of food.
"Of course not," said Wufei, picking up a log and throwing it on the fire. "I am right, as usual. You..." He paused as his anger died and the conversation trickled through his mind. He straightened abruptly and stared at Sally who was emptying some baked beans into the iron pot. I've been suckered... he realized half-furious and half-admiring. However, there was nothing he could now, because that would acknowledge Sally's victory.
Sally peeked at Wufei under her lashes. She saw the realization dawn on his face and smiled inwardly.
Wufei poked the dying fire and tried not to shiver. Although the fire had only started it's descent into ashes the air inside the cabin was already getting chillier. He glanced over at the bed, which was made up, piled with all the blankets from the nearby cupboard and their two sleeping bags. Wufei swallowed and then frowned at his nervousness. Surely he, a warrior, was not -afraid- of sharing a bed with his partner? Surely it didn't matter that she was a woman? This was -Sally-, the woman who had fought beside him for three years! He shook his head.
"Don't be so foolish!" He scolded himself in a harsh whisper.
"What?" Sally emerged from the bathroom. "Did you say something?"
Wufei blinked. "No." He stood up. "You took your time, Woman!" He chided her.
She made a face at him. "Hey, I was washing in -cold- melted snow! It wasn't pleasant!" She moved into the light and picked up one of the oil lamps and blew it out, leaving one lit.
Wufei looked at her. She was dressed in black sweat-pants and a white thermal long-sleeved top. Her hair was unbound and fell about her shoulders. He found himself staring at the long honey-coloured tresses and observing the way they framed and softened her fine features. Wufei shook his head again and fought off the odd constricting feeling in his chest.
"Get into bed." He said gruffly. "Keep warm."
"I plan to!" Sally smiled at him. She picked up the last lamp and took it over to the bed and put it on top of the cupboard, turning it to a low setting.
Wufei nodded curtly. He pushed his treacherous thoughts about Sally aside and stalked into the bathroom to change.
Sally lay on her side and listened to Wufei open and close the bathroom door, then he walked softly over to the other side of the bed and hesitated. She suppressed a sigh of exasperation. Eventually the mattress moved and the springs creaked as he climbed into bed. Sally bit her lip and wondered if she should turn around and meet him halfway. No, she decided, he's nervous enough as it is, let him make the move.
Then Sally frowned. Wufei had not come near her and she was getting -colder-. She raised her head and twisted around to look at him. She blinked and then rolled her eyes. "Wufei..."
He was on the very edge of the bed, on his side. His whole body posture was stiff and defensive. He was also shivering.
"Wufei," Sally spoke louder. "The point is to keep each other warm." She shook her head. "It really doesn't help if we don't lie... together."
Wufei remained silent.
Sally scooted over to his side and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Wufei, please..."
"Agh!" He jerked in surprise at her touch and tumbled out of the bed.
Sally winced as he hit the floor with a loud thump. "Are you alright?" She enquired as he picked himself up.
Wufei glared at her. "Woman! I was asleep and you so rudely woke me!" He blustered trying to cover his nervousness.
Sally lifted an eyebrow. If he was asleep then he's the
-tensest- sleeper I know! She thought. Aloud she said. "I'm sorry, but... when I said that we had to keep each other warm I meant that we have to be lying -next- to each other. Sleeping at opposite ends doesn't build up the warmth that body-heat can provide." She remarked gently.
Wufei looked away from her. "I will be fine." He said.
Sally swallowed an acerbic comment. It was painfully obvious that reason was not going to work here, no, she would have to trick him... again.
"Wufei..." She looked at him appealingly and shivered as she spoke.
"I'm sure you -will- be fine, but... I'm so cold..." She shivered more.
It wasn't a lie really, she
Wufei looked down at her and she hoped her expression was as pitiful as she could make it. Wufei grunted. "I forgot that women are more susceptible to the cold."
Sally clenched her fist under the covers. Sometimes I wonder -why- I put up with him, she thought. You know why, a little voice whispered though her mind, because you can see what others can't and it's worth the wait. Calmly she answered him. "Yes Wufei, I'm -very- susceptible to the cold. So..." She lay down. "Are you going to help me or not?" She asked irritably.
She closed her eyes and waited.
There was a long silence. Then, the mattress moved again as Wufei once more got onto the bed. He pulled the covers over himself and moved, slowly, over to Sally. His breath wafted onto her cheek as he settled himself down beside her and she could feel the heat from his body.
"Are you happy now, Woman?" Wufei asked her, his voice sounding strained to her ears.
Sally opened her eyes. He had forgotten to turn off the oil lamp so there was still some light in the room. She turned her head and looked at him. He was on his back, his eyes closed. Sally smiled at the profile he presented and sighed. "Yes, Wufei, I'm feeling warmer now," She hesitated. Her inner voice was urging her forward, but... Sally shook off her doubts. "But, we'd be warmer if I do this..." She moved closer and deftly slipped one arm around his waist, their bodies touched and she rested her head against his shoulder.
Wufei's eyes flew open and he stiffened as she touched him, but he made no sound nor did he pull away. Sally continued to hold him and his body slowly relaxed. She smiled and closed her eyes, letting the exhausting events of the day pull her into sleep.
Every fibre of Wufei's body was aware of Sally's proximity. Her arm around his waist, her breath tickling his throat and the soft touch of her body on his side. He lay in the dim light, staring at the ceiling and wondering at this sudden turmoil in his mind.
Sally... his partner... his... friend. A woman who had his utmost respect. He remembered their first meeting with complete clarity; he recalled his behaviour and her forbearance. He frowned, she was a strong woman, no, a strong -person- that fought well and used her head in a crisis. Often she exasperated him with her stubbornness and her irreverent humour, but her company was...
"Good." Wufei whispered the realization hitting him like a blow to the stomach. He turned his head and looked at Sally.
She was sleeping on her side, her free hand tucked under her chin. Wufei's mouth stretched into an involuntary smile. Sally looked so relaxed and peaceful... and beautiful. The dim lamplight cast a golden glow on her face and traced the smile on her lips. Carefully, making sure not to move her, Wufei twisted around so that he was face to face with her. He moved forward and encircled her in his arms, pulling her gently so that they were only an inch apart. He could smell the scent of her hair and the plain soap on her skin, and her body was warm against his.
What am I doing? He asked himself. I swore never to feel... these feelings again. But this is different... contentment? The sense that this is -right-? Is that it?
Wufei gently removed strands of blond hair from Sally's face and his fingers lightly traced the contours of her features. An over-whelming urge to trace her lips with his own pulled at him and he moved his head forward, closing the inch wide gap between them. Delicately he kissed her mouth and then he deepened the kiss, tracing her mouth before moving to her cheek and up to place a kiss on her soft hair.
Wufei sighed. "I'm going to regret this." he whispered to himself.
But he didn't really believe it.
And Sally breathed in his warm scent and felt his kisses burn on her mouth and cheek. Enclosed in his arms she was no longer aware of the hiss of the snow outside or the cold, she was warm and happier than she could remember. A single phrase formed in her mind... she couldn't speak it, not yet, but...
Wufei... I love you...
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