S Beag, S Mr + Part 7 (cont)

Jay turned to face the king. "Your Majesty, I was your father's top advisor. Now I am yours. So let me advise you. The people outside are beginning to get restless. An Unseleigh spy has been caught on our lands, consorting with a high-ranking member of your Guard." Heero froze as the man appeared to glance in the direction of the bookcase. "You can't take a pacifistic attitude with this matter. The people are calling for war. The army is already assembling. If you let the prisoner go, the people will riot. If you let Yuy go unpunished, they will depose you. Our clan would be thrown into chaos. And since I assume the Unseleigh Court will not take the capture and abuse of their crown prince lightly, they will be preparing to attack us as well. If you are not on the throne to lead us, we will lose."

King Merquise was silent for a long time. Finally, he lowered his eyes in defeat. "Very well. Please inform the rest of the Guard that they are to capture and detain Heero Yuy on sight."

"Zechs! You can't..." Relena protested.

"I have to Relena," the king replied sadly. "The clan comes first."

"A wise decision, Your Majesty," Jay said. "And the prisoner?"

"The Unseleigh prince will be executed tomorrow."

Heero clutched at the back of the bookcase so tightly that his knuckles turned white. He couldn't believe what he'd just heard. His king had ordered Duo's death. 'Please Blessed Mother, let me be dreaming,' he begged silently as he struggled not to rush into the room and demand that the king take back his words.

"We'll see to the preparations," Quinze said as he and Jay walked to the door. Quinze opened it and stepped outside. Jay started to follow but turned back to look at them from the doorway.

"It'd be a shame if the prisoner were to escape before the execution. Perhaps you should double the Guard on the cell? Just in case the traitor decides to try and rescue him." Once again the older man glanced toward the bookshelf. This time, Heero could have sworn he saw the man wink.

"Yes, that would be unfortunate," the king mused quietly. "An excellent suggestion, Jay. I'll see to it myself."

"Very good, Your Majesty." With those final parting words, the old man left, closing the door behind him.

As soon as Jay was gone, Heero stepped out from behind the bookcase, trembling. "Y... your Majesty," he began, his voice shaking at the thought that his king... his friend had just ordered the death of his lover.

King Merquise looked at him with sorrowful eyes. "I'm so sorry, Heero. But it had to be done. Too many people know about the Unseleigh prisoner this time. I can't let him go or the people will revolt."

"But you can't just have him killed!" Relena argued, clutching Heero's hand in her own. "He's a prince! If you have him executed, we will have a war on our hands!"

"War is inevitable now, sister dear," the king replied. "Didn't you hear what Jay said? Simply finding a member of the Unseleigh Court on our lands is enough of a motive for our people. Tensions between our two clans have been building steadily for two summers. This is the breaking point. There will be war."

"So you're just going to have Duo executed in order to save your crown?" Heero asked bitterly, avoiding the king's gaze.

The Seleigh king's eyes narrowed dangerously. "I can understand what you must be going through right now, so I'll ignore your foolishness." He walked over to Heero to lay his hands on the younger man's shoulders. "Heero, I only gave the order for the execution. Your prince is not dead yet."

"Nani?"

The king gave him a small smile. "You must be taking this really hard if you haven't figured it out yet. Jay said it might be a good idea to post extra guards around the prisoner in case the traitor - that's you remember? - tried to rescue him."

Heero's eyes widened in surprise. "You mean..."

"In half a candlemark, I'm sending ten warriors to watch over the prince. If the two of you are not gone by then, there will be nothing I can do to help you."

"Why are you doing this?" Heero asked, staring at his king in amazement. "We're going to war anyway. Why would you take this risk to let me spare his life?"

"I don't like unnecessary killing, Heero," the king replied. "That boy is innocent, as are you. Besides, if what I suspect is true, you wouldn't live much longer past his death anyway."

"What do you mean? Do you know what's happening with us?"

"I don't know for certain, and we don't have time to go into it. All I can tell you is to trust your feelings. And wish you luck."

"Heero," Relena added, her lovely blue eyes filled with concern and sadness. "You know what will happen if you do this. You can never come back. You will be declared an Exile."

Heero nodded. He knew. Being declared an Exile was the worst punishment a sidhe could face short of death. Even Mueller and his cronies hadn't been declared Exiles. They'd only been banished to the outskirts of Seleigh lands. Being declared Exile meant one had to completely leave the safety of his homeland. An Exile could never return, and no one would ever be allowed to speak the Exile's name again. All records of an Exile would be destroyed. He or she would disappear from the memory of the clan forever. No one had been declared an Exile for hundreds of years. But Heero didn't care about his impending fate. All he cared about was getting Duo safely out of Seleigh territory before it was too late.

"I have already been branded a traitor," he said, squeezing Relena's hand. "I am not afraid of being declared an Exile if I can save Duo's life. I love him."

Relena smiled up at him, unshed tears shining in her eyes. "I don't care what the rules are - I will always say your name in my prayers."

"Be careful, cousin," the king added. He glanced at the time-keeping candle on the mantle. "You don't have much time."

"Thank you, Your Majesty."

Relena reached up to bring Heero's head down to her own. She kissed him deeply for a moment before breaking away. "May the Great Mother watch over you two. I'll miss you terribly."

"I'll miss you too, 'Lena," Heero said, smiling down at her. Then, with one last look at two of his closest friends, he turned and slipped behind the bookcase once more.

He ran down the passages with ease, trying hard not to think of the fact that this would be the last time he'd travel down these corridors. His heart clenched at the thought of leaving his home and friends forever. But if he didn't, Duo would die. The choice was simple really. Duo was more important. He would see his love safe no matter what he had to sacrifice.

He rushed down a flight of stairs and came to what appeared to be a blank wall. He pressed on one of the bricks and cautiously swung a portion of the wall outward. He peered around the bricks, looking for signs of life. Finding none, he stepped into the well-lit corridor, closing the passage behind him. Quietly he walked down the hall leading to the dungeon cells. Reaching the corner, he glanced around to see only one Guard on duty.

'Good. The king has kept his word. The extra Guard members have not arrived yet. But I don't have much time...'

Stepping back, he spread his wings and flew down the hall at break- neck speed. The Guard had time to give one startled yell before Heero was on him. They grappled for a moment before Heero hit him hard on the back of the neck. He caught the sidhe as he slumped forward, unconscious. He lay the Guard down gently on the floor. He knew the man from their training days and bore him no ill will.

'Forgive me, friend. But I need to get past you.'

He grabbed the iron keys off the man's belt and hurriedly opened the door. Beyond the locked wooden door was a large, circular room. More locked doors were spaced evenly around the room. In the center of the room was a Guard's station consisting of a table and several chairs. Heero walked in with his sword drawn, ready to face whoever was inside. But there was no one there.

Flickering light and murmuring voices drew his attention to one of the cells off to his left. The door to the cell was slightly ajar. Heero crept up to it and peered inside. He let out a sigh of relief as he caught sight of the figures within. He pushed open the door and stepped inside.

"Trowa, Wufei..." His voice trailed off as he saw the small figure huddled on the threadbare cot in the corner. With stumbling steps, he moved forward. Wufei, who had been sitting on the cot next to the bruised and battered form of the Unseleigh prince, moved aside for Heero. The Seleigh warrior sat down gingerly by his lover's side, taking one small hand in his own.

Duo's eyes were closed. Heero had felt the young prince slip back into unconsciousness a moment before he had entered the cell. His skin, the parts that weren't darkening with ugly purple bruises, was a sickening shade of ash gray. A fine sheen of sweat covered the boy's skin, soaking through the thin tunic Duo wore. One wing was bent at a sickening angle. Trowa had had to tear the wing slits in the back of the garment to get the wing through without harming it further. Duo's hand was clammy, and his skin felt hot to the touch. Heero looked at Trowa imploringly.

"Wufei managed to wrap his ribs and set his dislocated arm while I was away, but we don't have anything here to set the wing with," the green-eyed sidhe said, placing a wet cloth on Duo's forehead. "He needs to see a healer. He's going into shock."

"King Merquise won't send a healer," Heero replied flatly, brushing chestnut bangs away from Duo's face. "Duo's to be executed in the morning."

"Great Mother!" Wufei swore, leaning against Trowa for support. "That will send us headlong into another war for certain."

"We're headed for war either way," Heero answered. "If the king hadn't given the order, the people would riot and we'd be without a leader when the Unseleigh do attack."

"Has it come to this then? Is war our only option?" Trowa asked sadly.

"It is. The king had no choice but to order his death," Heero replied, stroking Duo's face.

"Damn it, Yuy! How can you sit there and talk so calmly about your lover's death?" Wufei demanded.

Heero looked at Trowa.

"I told him," his tall friend said.

Heero shrugged. "You'd have heard the rumors soon enough anyway. And Duo's not going to die."

"What? I thought the king..."

"King Merquise did order his execution, but you can't execute someone who isn't here."

Trowa stared at him. "You're going to help him escape."

"Heero you can't be serious," Wufei added incredulously. "If you do that, you'll..."

"I've already been branded a traitor, Wufei. It's of no concern to me if I am declared Exile as well."

"You really do love him," Trowa said, somewhat in awe.

"With all my heart and soul." Heero stood up and wrapped Duo in the threadbare blanket on the cot. "I don't have much time. We have to leave before the other Guard members get here."

"I can't just let you walk out, Heero," Trowa said, stepping in front of the Seleigh warrior.

Heero's eyes narrowed. "I won't let you stop me, Barton."

"And I don't intend to, Yuy. But I can't just let you walk out of here without a fight. You need to knock me out."

"Trowa..." the taller sidhe's dark-eyed lover began but closed his mouth when Trowa held up a hand.

"I trust you, Heero."

"Thank you, old friend." Heero smiled then reached out and delivered a sharp blow to the base of Trowa's neck. The green-eyed warrior slumped forward. Heero caught his friend and gently handed his limp form into Wufei's waiting arms.

"You came in after I had left and found him on the floor," Heero explained as he picked up the bundled form of his own unconscious lover, cradling him in his arms.

"Where will you go?" Wufei asked, holding his lover's body close.

"He needs a healer."

Wufei sucked in a breath. "You're taking him home."

Heero nodded.

"But Heero, you'll be taken prisoner. And with their prince in that shape, they'll probably kill you."

"I know."

The two warriors regarded each other in silence for a long moment before the noise of approaching feet echoed through the corridor outside. Wufei gave Heero a weak smile.

"May we see each other again, Heero."

"I hope we will one day. It was an honor to serve with you, Wufei."

"As with you." The footsteps grew louder. "Go now, Yuy. And don't get caught. I'd hate for you to have had to knock poor Trowa out for no reason."

Heero smiled. "Good-bye, Wufei."

He left his friends on the dungeon floor and hurried down the corridor in the opposite direction of the approaching footsteps. He moved in the shadows, clutching Duo tightly in his arms. He knew he couldn't carry Duo all the way to the Unseleigh Court in his arms. He needed to get to the Royal stables. Unfortunately there were no secret passages to the stables. He'd have to reach them the hard way.

The Great Mother must have been smiling down upon them. He didn't see a soul as he hurried down the path to the stables.

'All the Guard must be out front trying to placate the crowd in the courtyards.'

He could hear voices being carried on the wind as he walked down the darkened path. From the sound of things, there was quite a gathering going on just outside the palace walls. Heero was amazed at how quickly word of Duo's capture and his apparent betrayal had spread. And all this would lead them to war...

Heero sighed as he pushed the stable door open with his shoulder. He'd had hoped that he could have gotten to know Duo's people by associating with the young prince. If all the Unseleigh Court were like this boy, Heero couldn't understand why their two clans were enemies. He'd wanted to learn about his lover's people, find some common ground on which to build some kind of peace. But that fragile hope had been irrevocably destroyed. All he could do is somehow make amends by returning the prince to his people.

He gently set Duo on the ground just inside the door. Running into the tack room, he grabbed a saddle, bit, and bridle from their place on the shelves. He hurried back out and ran further into the building. Opening the first stall he came to, Heero saw two bright eyes staring back at him from the darkness.

"Easy girl," he said to the startled creature within. Reaching into a nearby trough, he pulled out a large sliver of acorn. Come on, girl. I have a treat for you."

A nose twitched in the darkness, stretching towards the proffered treat. Slowly, the furry creature stepped forward out of the shadows. Its big, bushy tail twitched excitedly as it took the acorn in its front paws and began to nibble.

Heero grabbed the tack and quickly secured the saddle on the squirrel's back while the animal finished its treat. The bridle was next, and a moment later, they were ready to go.

Heero led the squirrel out of the stall and over to where Duo lay. Gently he picked the boy up, trying not to jar his injured ribs or wing. He fluttered his own wings slightly, mounting their steed from the air so as not to jostle Duo any more than was necessary. Settling down in the saddle, Heero grabbed the reins and spurred the squirrel out of the stables.

Immediately they took to the trees, using the thick summer foliage for cover. Heero clutched Duo as tightly as he dared, not wanting to lose his grip on the boy as they jumped from limb to limb. The Seleigh city was quickly left behind. And while Heero felt a pang of sadness at leaving his home, he did not once look back.

The tightly bundled figure in his arms stirred. "H...Heero?"

The Seleigh warrior brushed a kiss across Duo's forehead. "Shhh, Duo love. I'm here. I'm never going to let you go again."

Pain-filled violet eyes looked up at him. "I can feel you... inside my head."

"I know. I can feel you too."

"Where are we going?"

"I'm taking you home."

"Home?" Duo smiled weakly.

"We'll be there shortly."

"Good. 'm tired."

"Go back to sleep, love," Heero admonished gently. "I'll wake you when we get there."

Duo nodded sleepily and closed his eyes. Heero knew the exact moment the boy drifted off to sleep. Duo's presence in the back of his mind, while always constantly there, wasn't as noticeable when he was asleep or unconscious. Which was a good thing at the moment. Duo was in so much pain. Again Heero felt a surge of anger towards Mueller. One day, he vowed, Mueller would pay dearly for hurting his love.

He reined the squirrel in as they approached the borderlands. The borders would be patrolled by a number of military units. They'd have to be careful if they were to cross into the borderlands without being seen. By now someone should have discovered Duo missing and would have magically alerted the border soldiers. They'd be watching for them.

Heero steered the squirrel down the tree, deciding on a ground approach through the tall grasses. They crept forward slowly, trying not to make any noise. In the distance he could make out the Great Oak which marked the boundary of the borderlands.

He brushed his fingers across Duo's feverish skin. "Hold on, love. We're almost there."

"Halt! Identify yourself!" a voice called out from the darkness.

Heero didn't bother looking for the source of the voice. They were so close... Heero dug his heels into the squirrel's flank. He could hear voices behind him as they scampered across the grass toward the Great Oak. A levin blot exploded just above their heads. Glancing over his shoulder, Heero saw five warriors chasing after them with swords drawn. And they were gaining.

Heero urged the squirrel to go faster. They were so close. Once they reached the borderlands, the Seleigh warriors could not follow. They were forbidden to enter.

Heero heard another magical bolt zipping through the air towards them. He wrenched the reins to the right. The bolt grazed his shoulder. Heero grunted in pain; Duo whimpering as he felt it through their bond. Heero gritted his teeth and held on. He couldn't let go of Duo long enough to fire back. If they could just hold on a little longer...

Bolt after bolt was fired at them. He didn't know how they managed to avoid every one of them, especially since he could feel himself getting weaker as he continued to lose blood from his wound. Then suddenly, the attacks stopped. Through hazy eyes, Heero saw that they had passed the tree and were heading deeper into the borderlands.

The Seleigh warrior slumped forward in relief. They'd made it. Duo would be safe.

He didn't know how long they traveled. He drifted in and out as they rode. Finally, as the first rays of dawn began to light up the world, a movement off to his left caught his attention. Before he knew what was happening, half a dozen Unseleigh warriors had surrounded them. One of them said something to him, but Heero was too weary to make out what it was. As the sidhe came closer, he handed the man his precious burden.

The Unseleigh warrior looked down and cried out in surprise. "It's the prince!"

Other voices joined in. Heero barely heard them. His Duo was safe. "Take care of him," he implored as darkness began to creep up on him. And then, he knew nothing more.

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