By Orla

Gundam Wing, its concepts and characters, belong entirely to Bandai, Sunrise and so forth.

Rating: G
Pairings: 5 + S

He had always considered himself a loner. For as long as he could remember he had scorned the company of others, preferring solitary study and contemplation. When forced to socialise he made an unconscious effort to be brisk and cold so as to deter any further intimacies. He never missed close confidences or even considered that he needed the comfort of another person and he was quite content to remain that way. At the end of the war, he and the other pilots formed an odd team, but even then they weren't close emotionally - at least, not with him. Even Maxwell had not really pushed the issue and refrained from pursuing an unwelcome friendship. He was happy about this result. He did not need `buddies'.

Or at least so he _thought_.

She had no scruples about respecting his wishes. Oh, she appeared not to force her presence on him, but he would continually find himself meeting her eyes as they passed in the corridors or she would be seated beside him during meals. He tried to remain aloof, to sneer at her clumsy attempts to befriend him, but most disturbingly he found that if she was _not_ where he expected her to be then he missed her. And that infuriated him no end.

And somehow (he could never work it out exactly) she managed to trick him into writing to her during AC196, before he met Dekim. And she would write back - banal, boring letters about nothing, that to his horror he discovered he liked reading! Ridiculous! It was idiotic for one such as he to miss this. woman.

Yet, despite this, he admitted that he respected her, even admired her - to a very small degree, naturally. She was always so calm and collected, her sense of self so well defined. She had several disagreeable quirks - that subversive sense of humour for one. It was disturbing how she always seemed to be amused by him.

And so, he couldn't stop himself wondering what she must be thinking once his new allegiance was revealed. Would she be sad? Disappointed? He was surprised how shaken he felt when he imagined this - how had her good opinion come to mean so much? Of course, he sat himself down and forced away such foolish feelings, clearly he was just tired. But.

Strangely enough, he knew she would understand why he was doing this and that thought was more comforting that any rallying words of strength.

At the end of everything, once Heero's words had thundered through his brain and he realised what a mistake he had made, he went to China and put Nataku to rest once and for all. He felt at peace then and prepared to continue in a world that didn't need soldiers, to enjoy the solitary life he had sort for so long. However, no sooner had he thought about this then he felt an odd wave of sorrow and he realised - with an unwelcome jolt - that he was going to miss working with others and he would miss.



She told him that Noin was gone and she needed someone to help her with the Preventers. Did he want to join her?

He smiled slightly, glad that his back was to her so she couldn't see the pleasure gleaming in his eyes.

"All right."

He turned then and Sally's smile held equal parts of amusement, relief and happiness.

He could be infuriating, so closed and control. She knew that her inner demon liked to push his buttons, get him to react with some emotion, even if it was irritation. From the moment she saw him standing on his Gundam, his expression closed, but his eyes betraying an inner turmoil, her heart had ached to touch him. For a while she thought it was some `mother' instinct and acted accordingly, but she soon realised that it wasn't and therefore reassessed her feelings. Being a practical, astute woman, Sally quickly noted that she felt an undeniable attraction to him, but she was well aware that he (nor she) was ready to deal with _that_ sort of thing. Besides, an attraction doesn't always mean deep feeling, so she resolved to be his friend - for despite his preference of solitude, she could see that he sorely needed friendship.

She held out her hand. "Come on, let's go into town - I'll buy you lunch."

He looked quizzically at her. "How did you know I was here?"

She smiled, that quirky, amused smile that so often infuriated him. "I guessed," she said with a little shrug. "After all, this was the area where we first met. You seemed to like the surroundings the first time, and it's hidden away so it's a good place to say goodbye."

She didn't say what he was saying goodbye to, but he had an odd feeling that she was not just referring to his Gundam. He wondered if this clever woman knew about Nataku, he wouldn't be surprised. she seemed to poke her nose into everything else. He was a little chagrined that he had been so easy to track. He hadn't even been consciously aware that he had chosen the same spot where they had first met.

He conceded defeat - this time - and strode over to her. "You don't have to buy me lunch, I can pay my own way."

"Don't be so stiff," she teased as they started down the steep path. "Call it a superior's privilege."

Oh, yes... she would be his superior now. For a second he almost turned around and stomped back up the hill, but common sense prevailed along with pride. Never for a moment would he allow her the satisfaction of knowing that taking orders from a woman bothered him. slightly.

"Lady Une is adopting Mariemaya," Sally said when they were almost at the bottom.

"Good," he said and meant it. Mariemaya, an odd child who had been moulded by adults and thrust into destiny. He was reminded of his own childhood and how the elders had planned his life path without consulting his wishes. "They will probably do very well together."

"Yes, I think so," Sally glanced at him. "Une will remain Preventer leader, of course."

"Just the three of us then?"

She was pleased by his mention of `us'. "And associated agents."

"Hn. But will the Preventers be effective. after all, you didn't prevent Dekim's coup."

"There were. restraints," Sally admitted. She decided to fill him in later on the debates, arguments and all-round frustrations she and Une had gone through to provide the Preventers with the autonomy needed. "Now we're freer to act."

"Why me?" he asked suddenly, halting her steps.

She blinked at him, shading her eyes against the glare of the sun so she could see his face better. The composed mask had dropped, and he was staring at her in confusion, reminding her that he was still not yet eighteen.

"Why you?"

"Yes. Why not Yuy or the others?"

"Hmmm," she turned away. "Well, there were a number of reasons. Besides, the others are busy with new lives - Quatre has to run the Winner Corporation, Trowa went back to the circus, Duo is quite happy with his scrap business and Heero." she laughed. "I'd have to send out a search party and I do_not_ think that would be well received!"

He stiffened. "So I am the last resort?" That was it, he was going to turn around and walk back.

She looked back at him, smiling. "No, you were my first choice."

He regarded her, eyes narrowed. She looked quite disarmingly girlish standing there in the sunlight with that teasing smile on her lips and her hands clasped behind her back. Such a frustrating woman, so difficult to read!

"I had a feeling that we would work well together," she said simply, blue eyes wide with frank honesty. "And I thought it was important for a person like you to protect the weak?"

Hasty, angry words bubbled to his lips. She thought. She felt.! She was the weak one, a woman who. who.

Who took charge of a flagging resistance, found hidden Gundams, risked her life for a cause she believed in, aided him and the others, and was instrumental in forming a group to ensure peace. How can you truly call that weak? Asked a little voice in the back of his mind, preventing the angry words from spilling out. _You_ are the one who's weak, Chang Wufei. You blame her for disturbing your solitude, but if you are completely honest - and any honourable man should be - then you will admit that you sought her out on Peacemillion and the base. No one forced you to write and reveal your feelings and she most certainly didn't trick you into accepting a position with the Preventers!

Sally's eyebrows shot up. Wufei was laughing? An actual full-bodied laugh? She stared at him, completely confused for the first time she could recall since meeting him. His laughter died and he looked at her, his black eyes dancing.

"What is so funny?" she asked finally, a little annoyed that she didn't understand the cause for his amusement.

"I just realised something," he said.

Her eyes narrowed. "What?"

That you are probably the most trickiest, bravest and most infuriating woman I have ever met.

That I will often be frustrated by you and thrown into a fury by your humour, but I will never regret being your partner.

And even if I claim I would rather be alone, in my heart I know I will be happy that you won't let me retreat into that solitary life again.

"I think you are right," he said. "We will work well together."

The End

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