The mood was oddly sober as Duo slipped the leather collar from Wufei’s throat. Obtrusive as it had been when it was first buckled around his neck, Wufei now felt rather naked without it, almost as much as when he didn’t have his family’s sword at his side.
“You’re a free man now, Chang,” said Duo with an ironic smile. “What’s the first thing you’re gonna do?”
He’d had a year to consider that, but it hadn’t been a very difficult decision. Without a word Wufei turned and was out of Duo’s – their – small flat in just a few strides. Duo had to hurriedly stuff the Blade collar into his pocket and jog a bit to keep up, then pull himself up short with a muffled curse to keep from smashing his nose into the back of Wufei’s head. He opened his mouth to ask why they were standing in front of Babka’s door, but on a second thought closed it again and waited silently.
Wufei’s knock was short and businesslike. When the door opened, he bowed low at the waist in front of the surprised old woman.
“I wished to thank you for everything you have done,” he said with grave sincerity. Drawing his weapon, he laid it flat across his palms between them and continued, “I’m no longer Duo’s Blade, but as far as I’m concerned this only means that I may now afford you the same honor and protection.”
He heard Duo make a soft noise from behind, but his attention was focused solely on Babka. She was looking at him with a lifetime’s weight of experience.
Then a smile spread over her lined face and she returned his bow, a little awkwardly. “If such a situation came up, anyone with half an eye can see you aren’t the kind to stand around idly, my dear. Would you and Duo come in for a cup of tea?”
Wufei was well-aware by now that the tea would be generic, probably stale to some degree, about as comparable to his family’s green tea as rusted tin to gold. He sheathed his sword and bowed again, less formally, and gave her a slight smile. “That would be wonderful.”