The Temp or Taking Time Off


By Ashura


Wufei was in the shower, and already Duo, curled up in bed, resisted getting up. He had no idea what to do with himself. What he dreaded most was the time when Wufei would have to go back to work at the Preventers and Duo would be left to fend for himself for most of a day.

So far, he hadn't been able to let the Chinese boy out of his sight for more than fifteen minutes before panic started setting in.

Well, there was no reason to worry about it just yet. Worrying hurt. He crawled gingerly out of bed and into Wufei's warmup pants and t-shirt. They didn't fit just right, but they were workout clothes after all, not a tailored suit. And they smelled a little like Wufei, and it made him a little calmer to be close to them.

If Duo had been a little more himself, he would have been worried about some of the issues he was having.

But now something else caught his attention, distracting him from spiraling into the perilous depths of depression and anxiety: someone was humming the Ode to Joy.

Wufei, he was fairly certain, had never sung or hummed in the shower in his entire life. In fact, there was only one person Duo had ever encountered who had been known to hum that particular Beethoven song. And this humming did have a certain feminine tint.

Curious, he padded into the living room, twisting his braid in his hands nervously. After all, if it wasn't who he thought it was--or for that matter, even if it was--somebody had gotten into Wufei's house and started making his or herself at home, which took either a lot of guts, or dementia. Or possibly both.

No, definately both, he realised as he entered the kitchen and spotted a familiar redheaded figure setting up the coffeepot. "Um...hi."

The humming broke off, and the former Moebius pilot spun to greet him with an enthusiastic--if tentative, once it actually came to touching his injured body--hug. "Hey Duo! Didn't expect you to be up, really."

"Ashura," Duo asked patiently--and a little alarmed--"What are you doing here?"

She shrugged, flipping on the coffee pot and wandering back into the living room, where she tossed herself unceremoniously onto the sofa. "Filling in for Wufei."

Duo blinked. "Huh?"

Ashura shrugged, winking at him. "Well somebody has to do his job, if he's going to need time off to keep an eye on you." He must have made a face of some kind, he decided, because she wrinkled her nose at him and nodded. "Yeah, I know. I've got about as much chance of filling Wufei's shoes as I do of growing wings, but it's better than nothing, right?"

Duo considered this information, rolling it over in his mind. It all led to one simple and all-important question: "But why are you /here/?"

She cocked her head, gauging his reaction. "I have to stay somewhere while I'm here."

Duo sighed. His haven, his sanctuary with Wufei, was being invaded, and he wasn't happy about it at all Still, he could do just as he'd done with the rest of his former friends--ignore them until they decided to go away on their own.

He should have known better.

"Don't you dare." He had barely started to turn away--and then she was on the floor, kneeling in front of him, her fingers wrapped around his braid, gentle pressure turning his head back toward her. And he had neither the strength nor willpower to push her away. "Unless you think that dimension-hopping has gotten /easier/ lately, especially without you to help out. You were always the expert, after all. Or how about the part where you try to come up with a plausible explanation for your boss why you suddenly need an indefinate amount of time off, during which you will be completely incommunicado--and of course might not come back at all, if you end up on the wrong end of something explosive."

Duo glared at her. "Don't get mad at me. I didn't ask you to."

"No," she agreed, neither moving nor giving him the opportunity to escape. "Quatre did. And I'm not mad. You already know I'd do anything for you--or you should, at least. If I was upset about it I would have said no. I just want you to realise what lengths your friends are willing to go to for you--and that maybe they're not really horrible, just human and occasionally stupid and make mistakes."

Whether or not anything she said made sense to Duo, he realised part of him really didn't /want/ to listen to it. "You don't understand," he snapped bitterly. "They abandoned me. I've been dealing with that for so long....Even if you're right, it's not that easy. I can't force myself to trust them again. I thought I was important to them--"

"And they didn't make the effort to keep in touch," Ashura interrupted calmly. "Not an easy thing to deal with, is it? When people you care for only get ahold of you when they need you for something?"

Duo nibbled on his lip. It was fairly obvious they weren't /only/ talking about him anymore. "Ashura--"

Her green eyes flashed dangerously, but the sad smile that curved her lips seemed almost hurt. "You had my address the whole time, Duo Maxwell," she said simply. "Don't blame me that you didn't use it--that you let yourself become this instead."

The silence that stretched between them was far from comfortable, and showed no signs of easing until Wufei cleared his throat from the entrance to the hallway.

"You're running a bit late," he remarked.

Ashura nodded. "Gotcha. I better get going."

"And try not to make a mess of my desk."

She glared at him. "If you're that worried about your desk, go to work yourself. I'll stay here and be domestic."

Wufei, whose laugh was heard so seldom that his friends tended to mark such occasions on their calendars, nearly choked. "You? Be domestic?" He snorted. "It took us a while to learn our lesson, but we finally did. And that lesson was that leaving you and Duo alone for any length of time frequently results in serious injury and irreparable property damage."

"Besides, he doesn't want to let you out of his sight," Ashura said bluntly. Duo winced, but it wasn't really saying anything they didn't all know. Before he really had a chance to recognise the fact, the redhead had kissed both the boys on the cheek, pulled away from him, and slung her borrowed Preventers jacket over her shoulder. "Take good care of yourselves, meine lieblinge Junge."

The door swung shut behind her.


"For once," the Chinese boy interrupted, "the baka onna is right about something. This will be best for all of us. Now what do you want for breakfast?"

Duo subsided...for a while. It did mean he had Wufei to himself for an indefinate amount of time, and wouldn't lose him to work. //Besides,// a small guilty part in the back of his mind muttered, //she's right about something else, too. You didn't call her either, but she's here. Even if you don't want to share Fei's house with her, you can't be upset at Ash.//

"Whatever you fix is fine, Fei," he said wearily. It was only morning, and he was still so tired....


Slipping into the Preventers office virtually unnoticed, Ashura found Wufei's desk with surprisingly little difficulty--and it was
easy to tell which one was his; it was the one utterly lacking in any decouration or personal touch. She rolled her eyes, but
spent a few minutes making herself comfortable and finding her way around before she flipped on the computer. //Well, time to see if Quatre's
message got through, and they got my login set up already.//

Login: anagisa
Password: basTet007


The computer whirred to life, and almost immediately another message appeared: YOU HAVE NEW MAIL.

Ashura clicked on it curiously--"Already..?"


From: Heero Yui <>
To: Ashura <>
Subject: Testing


Got you set up with a login and email and password and all that. Just testing to make sure it works, let me know you received it.


From: Chang Wufei <>
To: Ashura <>
Subject: Fill-in

All pertinent files in right-hand drawer. Semi-classified information in the locked drawer beneath it, Une has extra key. Pencils, etc. in top left, do not rearrange.



From: Ashura <>
To: Heero--work <>
Subject: Re: Testing


Got it fine, everything looks like it works. Thanks.


From: Ashura <>
To: Wufei <>
Subject: Re: Fill-in

Found the pencils and the files. Already picked the lock on the bottom drawer, but don't worry, it still works fine. I'll get the key from Une later. I repeat, if you're so worried about things getting rearranged, come in and do your own work. Oh, and do you know what your co-workers say about you when you're not here?

One more thing--had to adjust your chair, my feet couldn't reach the floor.

Love you, have fun!



From: Chang Wufei <>
To: Ashura <>
Subject: Re: Re: Fill-in

When I do get back, I expect to find everything in the exact condition I left it in. And I could care less what they say about me. Surely you have more to do than indulge in frivolous gossip.



Ashura stuck her tongue out at the computer screen and started flipping through Wufei's semi-classified files.


"Excuse me--run that by me one more time?" Sally asked Lady Une, failing utterly to conceal her surprise.

Une looked up at her calmly. "Quatre said he knew someone who could fill in for Wufei while he's taking care of Duo. Heero, Trowa, and even Wufei himself said it was a good idea, so they went and retrieved her yesterday."

"Her?" Sally shook her head in disbelief. "I'm about to agree with you about the alien abduction theory. Whoever we're dealing with here, it isn't behaving much like our Wufei."

Une shrugged delicately. "If he's taking care of Duo, and somebody's doing his job, I've got nothing to complain about, and neither do you."

Sally took it for the dismissal it was. "I've got some work to do," she said, letting herself out of the office. //Besides, I want to see this replacement for myself....//

She slipped into Wufei's office, with the entirely logical explanation of saying hello. Suspicion began crawling from her belly up to her throat at the flash of red hair just vanishing underneath the desk. //Wait a minute....//

Another movement, and a pert face with a crooked smile and that same red hair poked up from the other side of the desk. "Oh, hi!"

Sally supposed, later, that she didn't mean to sound quite so unenthusiastic. "Oh. It's you."

"You know," Ashura said conversationally, "the next time Quatre arrives on my doorstep and asks me to drop everything and come running back here and help you people out, I'm going to take that boy's temperature. You could at least /pretend/ to be glad to see me."

"Sorry," said Sally with a shrug. "Just--you have to admit, last time we didn't really meet under the best circumstances."

"It was a battle," the redhead pointed out rationally. "Of course it wasn't the best circumstances. Now are there any of these I should be dealing with first...?"

Sally leaned over the desk to peer through the files herself. "Well, let's see...."


Hours later, Ashura had pulled her hair back in a tail to keep herself from pulling it out in frustration, but with Sally's help had almost managed to decode Wufei's bizarre personal filing system. "Is he that afraid somebody's going to come in and look at his stuff?" she asked in frustration.

Sally just arched an eyebrow.

"Yeah, okay. It's Wufei." Ash growled and banged out a message on the computer--the fourth such message that had already been sent, with no answer as of yet. Sally escaped out of the office to get back to her own work.


From: Ashura <>
To: Wufei <>
Subject: Goddammit Wufei, check your blasted email!

Wufei, what alphabet do you use to file things? Did you make it up, or is it one I can buy a dictionary for? Where the hell is the Lieberg file, I'm supposed to stand in for you in a meeting about it tomorrow and I have no idea what it even is. And if you don't answer one of these soon I'm going to decourate your office with Chippendale's posters, do you understand?



From: Wufei <>
To: Ashura <>
Subject: Be patient!

Calm down. I just got your message, I was taking care of Duo, which is what I'm staying home for after all. The file is under M for MO-4, it's relatively simple and you should have no problems with tomorrow's meeting. If you have questions I will brief you tonight. Refrain from redecourating. And yes, the ringer is still off on the phone, that is why you didn't get an answer (as per the second panic-stricken message).



From: Wufei <>
To: Ashura <>
Subject: Addendum

Sally says Duo needs the protein from meat, so I bought some hamburger yesterday, even though it's not part of my usual diet. How do I cook it?



From: Ashura <>
To: Wufei <>
Subject: Re: Addendum

Wufei, I'm a vegetarian, I don't make hamburgers. Make it into a patty, put it in a frying pan on med, and keep flipping it over until it's done. Put it on a bun with some ketchup or cheese or something. Or ask Duo, I think he's made them before.



From: Wufei <>
To: Ashura <>
Subject: Re: Re: Addendum

I don't want to wake Duo up, I thought I would have some lunch ready when he wakes up on his own. It doesn't sound hard. Keep me updated on the filing situation.


From: Wufei <>
To: Ashura <>
Subject: AAAAAASHYYYYYY!!!!!!!!

You do NOT want to see what Wufei did to a perfectly innocent hamburger. If you really love me, you'll come home and make me spaghetti. Oh, and don't tell him I complained, he's really trying and I don't want him to feel bad.



From: Ashura <>
To: Wufei <>
Subject: Re: AAAAAASHYYYYYY!!!!!!!!


You got it. As long as you protect me when he realises I had to rearrange his pencil drawer. Now delete this before he wakes



"Well," she told the computer screen with a satisfied sigh, "he doesn't sound too upset that I'm staying there now." The newly-found Lieberg file stared up at her smugly, waiting to be read. It was boring. In fact, all of Wufei's files were boring. He didn't write mission reports the way one should. They were all less than a paragraph long, without any exciting details whatsoever.

Of course, judging from the itinerary she had for the next few days, they weren't exciting enough to /have/ details. Meeting this. Escort that. It was all marginally less interesting than her own real-life job playing with satellite radio equipment. At least there she had lots of buttons to push, and numbers to read off a screen and pretend that they meant something important. And except for lunch, when Trowa and Quatre had stopped in and they had all gone to the deli across the street, there was nobody fun to talk to.

Oh well. It was almost time to call it a day. She flipped open the (boring, very boring!) Lieberg file and started to read.


"...resulted in the accidental deaths of the three mine employees, but can not be proven to have been caused by deliberate negligence on the part of the foreman...." Ashura pressed her fingers to her aching temples and waited for her eyes to refocus. She had decided to appreciate in Wufei the same conciseness she'd been making fun of earlier, because he seemed to be the only one capable of it. The rest of the field reports in this particular case seemed to aspire desperately to be as long, dry and complicated as tax manuals. "God. Say there was an accident and somebody died, and be done with it...."

A saner soul would have stopped his or herself upon discovering that he was having such a once-sided conversation. Ashura was quite used to the idea of talking to herself, and didn't care.

"Hey, you okay in here?" Startled, she glanced up at the face poking through the door. "Sorry, didn't mean to scare you. I just wasn't expecting anybody to be in here, since Chang's gone."

She shrugged. "Yeah, it was kinda short notice. I'm the fill-in. Ashura."

The girl took that as an invitation, entering the office and closing the door behind her. "I'm Leah, I work down the hall. So you're taking over for Chang?" She sounded almost sympathetic. "Lucky you. Guess that means he'll be out for a while, then."

"I guess so. I haven't really figured out what's going on yet," Ashura admitted. It was true--Quatre had given her a half-hysterical, guilt-ridden, abridged version of the entire Duo story on their way from her universe to theirs. "I'm still trying to catch up."

Leah nodded sympathetically. "Well, if you need help, I'm down the hall. Not that I'll be too useful, I don't know how he works any more than you do."

Ashura smiled. "Thanks. Be forewarned, though, I'll actually remember that you said that."

Leah grinned. "Figured you would. Anyway I'm heading out for the night--see you tomorrow though."

She left, and Ashura stared at the computer, willing it to beep, whir, even crash, just do something to preempt her having to go back and finish that horrific field report.


A grin broke across the Bastet pilot's face. "Good what've you got for me? Eventually, you know, we'll have to find you a name."

The computer purred under this attention and delivered an announcement of yet more email.


From: Wufei <>
To: Ashura <>
Subject: Dinner

Duo says something about you promising him spaghetti. Does this mean you're on your way soon? He's hungry, and it's almost 7.



From: Ashura <>
To: Wufei <>
Subject: Re: Dinner

Yes, I said I'd cook, yes, I'm on my way. Bringing a couple files home to ask you about. Leaving now.



Ash slid out of the (lowered) chair, pulled a pencil from where she'd tucked it behind her ear and popped it into the (right-hand) drawer, nudged shut the (still unlocked) buttom drawer with her toe, and waved goodbye to the little Sandrock and Deathscythe action figures now living on the desk. Maybe before this was over she could find one of Nataku to leave there for him, when he came back.....


Duo was bored. Bored, bored, bored. Fortunately he was also full, which was an improvement. He'd managed to eat almost an entire plate, and now his malnourished stomach felt very heavy and a bit distended. He was ready to curl up next to Wufei and sleep it all off.

Unfortunately, Wufei was briefing Ashura on the incident she was supposed to be dealing with the next day, though both of their eyes were starting to glass over. Duo had stopped paying attention long ago.

"I'm tired."

The others both turned to look at him. Ashura flipped closed the file folder, with something very like relief, which Wufei didn't notice in his concern for Duo. "Time to call it a night then. That was plenty helpful, Wufei, thanks."

The Chinese boy nodded with the same relief, though his had a different origin. He enjoyed talking about work, and instructing his temporary replacement in the proper handling of such matters. But he was far more concerned with taking care of Duo. //And of course, the fact that he'll probably curl up with you again when he falls asleep has nothing to do with it...right. Nobody believes you, you know.//

Ashura yawned, arcing backward in the sort of stretch only someone who believes themself part feline can accomplish. "You guys go on. I'll take care of the dishes this time. Sleep sweet." //Why am I being nice to Wufei? Because of Duo, I guess. And because whatever I tell them, I'm actually glad to be back here.// The boys departed, and true to her word, she washed up the dishes before curling up on the sofa with Wufei's spare quilt and drifting slowly into sleep.


"Wufei?" Little more than a sleepy whimper from the frail boy curled at his side.

"Yes, Duo?"

"I don't mind that Ash's stayin' here you know. I'd rather it were just you, but it's okay. 'm not mad at her."

"That's good, Duo."

"And it means you don't have to go back t' work as soon."

"Yes, Duo."

"G'night Fei."

"Good night, Duo."

"Sleep sweet Fei." Even though he knew /he/ probably wouldn't.

But strangely enough, he did.




AUTHOR'S NOTE: Despite claims of not being domestic, I can actually cook. Well, even. Especially spaghetti. Duo would not have
been the first person to ask for it, or to eat more than he thought he could. Besides, it's fun proving Wufei wrong. But he's in charge of dinner tomorrow



Gundam Wing


















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