by Anria Chiou Lalumin

Past Encounters
Part Seven: A Solution to a Problem

"Unh..."

"He's waking up. Duke Maxwell, are you all right?"

A hoarse whisper. "How many times do I have to tell you, Raberba..."

A soft chuckle. "You're fine."

"I may be fine, but I feel like a horse trampled me." A wince. "Make that a herd of horses."

"You're going to have to get up. The chief judge ordered everyone to the fencing court this morning."

A groan. "They're not gonna make me keep going, are they?"

"The results were already announced, Maxwell. It was a tie. Now they want to show the court who the two fine knights are -- and show the knights each other, of course."

"Does that mean I have to put on a full suit of armor?"

A consoling pat. "I'm afraid so, yes."

A load groan.

+

The fencing court was jammed with as many people as could possibly fit in there. All were nobles wearing their finest, waiting to see who the two incredibly talented knights were. The unmarried ladies were ready with ways to catch the knights' attentions, while the married ladies fumed and berated their husbands for not being as good as those two were. Hundreds of fans were produced, waving violently in the stuffy air. Chatter echoed through the room, more people speculating on the identity of the two, and listing those nobles absent.

The doors crashed open. All, even the royals on their thrones, leaned forward to see the two.

Both knights arrived together in full suits of armor, and threaded a path through the crushing crowd of nobles to stand in front of the throne. Both bowed, hands on sword hilts and armor creaking, to the kings on their thrones.

A herald climbed onto a stool and whacked his metal-tipped staff on the floor three times. The chatter died away.

Clearing his throat, the herald began. "Their Honors, the judges assigned to the decree of the winner of each joust at the Tournament of the Four Kingdoms, have declared that the joust between knights 01 and 02 to be a draw. Following the rules of the tournament, this means that both knights 01 and 02 are equal in the number of jousts they have won; in that they have won every single one. Now it is declared to this court that knight 01 -- " ‘knight 01' removed his helm, unruly brown hair springing free " -- is Prince Yuy of Ylloh, a knight of that realm, and that knight 02 -- " ‘knight 02' removed his helm, braid still hanging down his back under the armor " -- is Duke Maxwell of Irage, a knight of the realm of Yeltneb." The herald stood down.

Prussian eyes met cobalt tinged with violet through the crowd of nobles that suddenly encompassed them. The raucous noise of the nobles' congratulations faded into a background hum as they stared, each only able to see the other.

+

" ‘Prince Yuy of Ylloh, a knight of that realm.' "

It was near midnight. In the Great Hall, the court ball still raged, showing no signs of stopping. Duo had stood it for as long as he could, noting the conspicuous absence of the one person he wanted to talk to more than any giggling young noble lady or any noble asking him what had happened to his cousin Lady Diana. So he had slipped out at the first opportunity and gone looking for Heero.

He had found him upstairs in a little-used antechamber. No torches hung in it, the only light filtering in from the moon outside through the windows. That cold white light lit on Heero's chiseled features and unruly dark hair in stark relief, highlighting him as he sat in one of the alcoves.

Heero's head turned slightly from staring out of the window to staring at Duo, his eyes chips of reflected light in a sunken hollow of black. " ‘Duke Maxwell of Irage, a knight of the realm of Yeltneb,' " he responded to Duo's greeting.

Duo stepped further into the room, his eyes drinking up the sight Heero made sitting there in his court silk and velvet, the foppish court style doing nothing to hide the strong lines of his torso and legs. God, he looked good. "Long time no see, Heero."

Duo was glad his voice came out flippant instead of as shaky as he felt inside. This was it. Now or never...

"Yes," Heero agreed.

Duo took another step closer. He opened his mouth to say something, then reconsidered and shut it again, just staring at Heero.

Does he know how gorgeous he looks just standing there? He's taller than when I last saw him, his braid's longer. I can still remember what that mass felt like in my hands, running through my fingers. I can still remember kissing him, touching him, how much it felt like heaven...

"I found something out," Duo said.

"What?"

He sounds cold. I know he isn't. God, Heero, I can read you like a book... Am I this obvious to someone who knows me? Or is it just that I need you so much I've imprinted every little thing about you into my mind?

Duo sat down at the other end of the seat, still staring at Heero. Moonlight washed over both of them, painting the scene in stark relief. Mimicking Heero, he put the knee nearest the window up on the cushioned seat. "I know what baka means," he said, a small smile playing around his mouth.

That mouth... God, I missed this. I missed hearing him talking about nothing, I missed his smile, I missed everything to do with him... Does he know what he does to me? Can he know?

"And you know, Heero, I am an idiot..."

"Oh?" Heero leaned closer, eyes on Duo's mouth.

God, he looks good. So good. That glint in his eyes . . . it's not just the moonlight. It's not just being away from the one I love for so long. It's just him...

Do you know, Heero? Do you know how much I care?

In the instant before Heero's mouth touched his, Duo whispered, "I let you go..."

And then Heero's mouth was on his, soft warm lips pressed gently to his, a soft wet tongue emerging to swipe across Duo's lips and he opened them, welcoming Heero's kiss and returning it with as much gentle passion as the other. One hand crept up to bury itself in Heero's short hair, the other resting gently on his waist.

Gradually the kiss grew stronger, harder, more forceful as they each tried to convey in one simple gesture how much they had missed each other, and how much they loved each other. Hands cupped the other's face, tongues meshed together, lips swelled under the force of the kiss. If not for the miracle of noses they would have suffocated and died happy in each other's arms.

Gasping, Heero buried his face in Duo's neck, blurting, "Aishiteru, Duo." He buried his face deeper. "Aishiteru."

Duo planted a kiss on Heero's nape. "I love you too, Heero," he whispered.

Arms wrapped around each other, holding the loved one who had been gone for so long tight.

+

Late that night -- or rather, early that morning -- Duo stared up at the canopied top of a familiar double bed, smiling blissfully. Heero was lying beside him, propped up on one elbow, playfully flicking the end of Duo's braid over his bare chest.

"I've been thinking," Heero said abruptly, still playing with Duo's hair.

"Oh, have you? What an unusual pastime."

Heero whacked him with the handful of hair he had in his hand. "Baka. I've been thinking of changing my name to Heero. Legally, I mean."

Duo rolled onto his side and stared up at him. "Why?"

"Because I think of myself as Heero. My mother called me Yuy the other day and I didn't realize she was talking to me."

"Since when did you start thinking of yourself as Heero?"

"Since I met you."

Duo was silent. Then, slowly, he said, "I'm thinking of leaving BR."

"Nani? Why?"

"Nani means 'what', right?" Duo smiled somewhat weakly. "If neither of us leaves BG or BR, we won't be able to stay together. It just won't be an option. And I want it to be an option."

Heero stared down at Duo, knowing his lover spoke the truth but knowing that if Duo was anything like him, leaving BR would kill him.

But Duo would do that . . . for him.

"No." He stroked long chestnut strands away from the heart-shaped face. "Duo, you can't. You've put too much into BR, just like I've put to much into BG. We'll have to find some other way."

"What? What other way is there, Heero?" Duo pulled away from his hand. "Secret meetings, furtive kisses, stolen moments? And all the while knowing we should be trying to kill each other?"

"We'd have to do much of that anyway," Heero said. "Duo, there will be another way. At some point this will all end and we'll have an opportunity. But if you're anything like me at all, I can't ask you to leave BR."

"You're not asking me to. I'm saying I will. And what other way could there possibly be?"

Heero sighed and flopped onto his back so he could look up at Duo. "I know a way," he said softly.

"Oh? What?" It sparked interest in Duo's beautiful eyes.

"You know the two foreigners staying at court? The blond Arabian and his companion?"

"Yes, Raberba Winner and Barton. We're friends."

"I overheard a conversation between the two of them. There are five organizations, not two, Duo. And those two each come from another one we haven't heard of."

Duo sat upright, staring down at Heero. "What?"

"I heard the blond saying that H had told him to make contact with J and G and ask them why they had not conformed to the ‘original plan' and what the hell they were doing fighting each other. Then he said that if they couldn't contact J and G they were to go for the next best thing -- ‘Duo and Heero'."

Duo's mouth pursed. "Anything else?" he asked.

"Yes. It appears the blond's name is actually Quatre, and Barton's is Trowa. Quatre's organization, from what I overhead, is BY, and Trowa's is GB."

"What would that have to do with the fight between BG and BR?"

"It seems that J and G weren't supposed to be fighting, and that they were originally comrades. If those two have been sent to find out why they aren't comrades any more, then there has to be a way to get the two to stop fighting. That would probably mean we'd end up working together."

Duo frowned, thinking, then his face cleared and he smiled a not particularly nice smile down at his lover. "I think it's time we paid them a visit, since they've been looking for us."

+

Quatre plonked himself down on Trowa's bed, letting out a frustrated sigh. "Nothing!" he declared, throwing himself backwards, arms spread-eagled. "Nothing at all. No sign of J or G, or of Duo or Heero!"

"Patience, little one," Trowa said as calmly as ever, not looking up from where he was polishing his bow, working it to keep the wood supple. "It's only a matter of time."

There was a knock at the door. "The door's open," Quatre called. "Please come in."

Whoever was outside obliged, opening the door and filling it with a grinning braided figure dressed all in black.

"Duke Maxwell!" Quatre cried, delighted, sitting up. He liked the man. Then his eyes widened as Maxwell walked in and another figure followed, this one with intense blue eyes that pierced him from under a mop of unruly chestnut hair. "And -- Prince Yuy?" Quatre stood, holding out his hand.

"Quatre, how many times do I have to tell you just to call me Maxwell?" the Duke said, leaning against a desk with his arms crossed over his chest.

"I don't know, maybe -- " Quatre stopped suddenly, eyes wide.

Maxwell stood up, Prince Yuy sliding into his place. "It appears we've been keeping secrets from each other," he said, then walked over and locked the door. Turning back, he took Quatre's outstretched hand, and said, "Hello. My name is Duo, and this is Heero. I understand you've been looking for us."

+

Duke: I wish to take this opportunity to announce that my real surname is Maxwell. I was born with that surname, I shall die with that surname. I am insistent on marrying a man. Screw my father. Or rather, don't.

Anria: Shut up, Duke.

Duke: Most people don't realize that my full name is actually Duke Donatello Raphael Maxwell. So I am Duke Maxwell, and therefore I am Duo.

Anria: Yeah, yeah, whatever. Get back in the closet. <To the masses> Apologies. There's no dealing with him sometimes.

<Muffled voice from the closet> Hey Anria, I found your G-string!

Anria: See what I mean?

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