Author: FancyFigures
Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, wish I did, just enjoy writing about 'em for free etc
Pairings: 1+2
Category: AU, romance
Warnings: Yaoi, (literary) abuse of Rapunzel
Spoilers: None
Notes: Heero's Quest is to seek out and rescue his Princess. What - or who - could possibly distract him from that?
Feedback: I'm sure it's been done before, but please try my own slant on the tale. If you liked it, PLEASE let me know!

Bad Hair Day or From Cynicism to Sap

Heero sat high upon a jet black steed, champing at its bit, impatient with the delay as they waited at the entrance to the castle. He was a tall, dark and extremely handsome young man (of course), dressed in the armour of a warrior, but with the rich and colourful hat, badges and cloak of a mission less military. And the unmistakeable bearing of a noble Prince.

When he had gathered his aides around him, and smoothed some of the travel stains from his cloak, he rode into the castle forecourt.

Ladies in waiting leaned out of bedchamber windows, and swooned. Young manservants peered around the door of the dining hall, through the rising portcullis, and also swooned.
Grooms chucked bales of hay around, shovelled horseshit, and scratched at any itches they felt in their peasant groins. They knew they'd never get a look in on anything so hot.

He was the most attractive thing any of them had seen for months.

*

The king and queen also found him attractive. The queen, because she hadn't felt a man's touch for some years now, and Heero seemed to ooze touchability. The king, because he had a major problem, and here was another candidate to take it off his hands.

The pleasantries were over. The best wishes from the respective dynasties had been exchanged. The food had been eaten, the good wine drunk. The young cellar slave (a tall, spotty, drunken boy) had been peeled away from their esteemed and gorgeous guest's leg, and taken away for a beating.

"Our daughter, the Princess - she has been abducted by a witch," said the king. The queen's sniffles were but a background. "I would wish that you had met her - you would have been impressed with her grace and beauty." There was a stifled sound from a courtier at the back of the room.

"She must be rescued," sighed the queen; a thin, pale woman. It sounded as if she'd been through this routine many times before. As - indeed - she had. Heero was the third Prince to approach the Quest, this month alone. "And then she will be presented to the successful Prince as a devoted and gracious wife."

"I think she will find you a worthy husband," mused the king, his eyes ranging up and down the new Prince's athletic form. "And, of course, she has a sizeable dowry. Do you wish to take on the Quest?"

"I would be proud to consider this prestigious Quest as my own," replied Heero, as he'd been taught to do by his mother. His voice was strong and confident, and the queen flushed a little at the fantasy thought of being Heero's own. "May I ask why she was abducted from such a well protected castle?"

It was the king's turn to flush. "It is a punishment. I - I was unfortunate enough to have - taken - something that the witch perceived as her own. In return, she took our child and imprisoned her in that tower."

"Tower? And is that Tower far from here?"

Heero had visions of a longer Quest than he'd originally planned for. He had a prior engagement at a harvest parade, later in the month.

"It is in the forest, not far from our land. You will be escorted there tomorrow, and any provisions you may need will be packed up for you. We will be eternally grateful for your help and bravery, good Prince." The king and queen were up and out of their chairs, and passing out of the dining hall with indecent haste.

Heero remembered that he had many other questions to ask about this Quest. He didn't seem to have had any time to put them forward.

He wondered if it were important.

*

The next afternoon, Heero set up camp a few yards into the forest. Or rather, his manservant and grooms set up the camp, and set out his personal effects, and cooked him a meal. Then they retreated respectfully, back to the castle, leaving him in a relatively comfortable position, though considerably further than a bugle call away. He had rarely been alone like this in all his life.

He felt like the brave adventurer. And possibly on the trail of the love of his life!

Heero didn't know how he felt about love. Or Princesses; or marriage. It had never really occurred to him. For sure, there had been an exciting exploration with the young niece of one of his mother's friends. And there had been several exciting explorations with the two, older nephews of that same friend....

But it had been Mother's expectation that he seek out a Princess - preferably one that required a dashing rescue and possibly even the slaying of dragons or wizards - and marry. Quickly. He thought it may have been to do with the fact that she'd caught him with the nephews, just as things were getting even more exciting -

Anyway, he had been as obedient as ever, and now he was on an appropriate Quest.

He was tired. Four days of travelling, three duels, two ambushes and a posse of goblins along the way. He'd been kept busy. And never had his confidence and ability with the sword let him down.

He slept with a clear and comfortable conscience.

*

Even at his alfresco breakfast, (bread, cold meats and assorted fruits left in a carefully covered basket by the manservant) Heero felt the dominating presence of the Tower. How could he avoid it? It was the tallest structure for miles around, and its stark, grey stone walls reared above the verdant forest like a spike through its heart. The stone was naturally finished, yet it was deadly smooth all round, and its face struck a cold atmosphere in the clearing that surrounded it.

It was his plan to enter the Tower, defeat any opposition, face the witch and her minions, and carry the grateful Princess away.

The plan of an unimaginative soldier.

It took him some time to work through the foliage, and approach the Tower itself; the distance had been deceptive. And it was only when he approached it in the full, sharp light of mid-morning that he realised the first, critical flaw to the plan. There was no door to enter. He circled the building several times, but never with any luck. No door; no hidden entrance among the seams of the stone bricks; no underground passages. There was a high window, but he could see nothing through it. There was no evidence of life anywhere around or in the whole place.

Was it all a trick?

He sat for a while, back against a tree, watching it. With some frustration, and a little dismay. He slipped off his breastplate, and unbuckled his sword, though it always stayed within a hand's reach. He may have been unimaginative still, but he was far from stupid.

And then, as a sudden shock in the still, crisply cool air, he heard a voice strike up a song. Well, fragments of a song; with variable volume. The sound seemed to come from within the Tower. The words weren't entirely intelligible, but that didn't seem to matter, as the song lapsed into enthusiastic, noisy humming for much of the time. Perhaps the singer had problems remembering the words.

It was a happy tune; a tuneful voice. The notes ran up and down a wide scale. It wasn't the sound of a siren, nor of a nymph. It was too obviously mortal for that. Earthy, thought Heero to himself. Human. Lusty, even. Then he wasn't sure where that word came from. He shook off a rather unusual shiver that ran up his spine. It was far from unpleasant, but was surely inappropriate at this critical moment. He found he was reluctant to move; to investigate further. He was enjoying listening to the singing. Something about the carefree, cheerful tone appealed to him in a way that the whining and simpering of his obsequious camp followers did not.

His eyes were drawn back to the Tower. There was no doubt it was coming from there. He lifted his head to the window, seeing that it was open. His heart rose a little in his throat - it may be the Princess herself! He may at last see the woman he sought - well, that he was meant to be seeking.

Instead, he saw a strange sight. He saw a hank of hair appear over the sill, and flap impatiently against the smooth brick. It was damp with washing (he assumed). And then there was another. The colour was dark; the hair was thick and rich. And there was still more of it. Much more. The original tresses slid over the sill and down the wall, and just kept on flowing. Heero watched, almost comically open-mouthed, as the longest hair he had ever seen poured out of the window, waving in the chill wind.

Eventually it stopped. It shook as if by itself, but he realised that its owner was probably shaking it out to dry. He did the same himself sometimes, when he had no time for his manservant to comb and fuss over it after washing. He'd stick his head out the window and shake it dry, running fingers through it when it felt clean and soft. He wondered what it would be like to run his fingers through that hair. He felt that same frisson that he had when he first heard the voice. It must be the autumn weather, he reasoned, for he wasn't exactly accustomed to such fanciful things as 'frissons'.

He had led a very sheltered life in many ways.

The hair was being waved gently in the air, as if it was being parted carefully for braiding, and he had a glimpse of thin, pale fingers on the sill. He imagined the delicate, feminine hand that possessed them. They had looked to be fairly long digits, even from this distance - but he had no objections to a girl with hands larger than average, did he? And besides, what knowledge did he have, to know what was average?

She will play the harp, he thought. And weave. And stroke my hair in the evening. And those fingers will play deliciously down the front of my britches...

He fought the strange feelings again, for he thought they may conflict with the discipline of his military training. Is this love? he thought, abstractedly. Might I be in love already? Just with a voice - with hair?

His naiveté should be excused. He was a young man who didn't get out much, except into battle and on official parades.

He was bright. He would learn.

*

He had called up to the window three times now. His throat hurt. His dignity felt rather sore, as well. It was obvious that she was there, for the hair was still spread out upon the sill, but he'd had no reply at all.

And then, when he'd drawn an even larger breath, and had bawled a rather inelegant shout up the smooth, impenetrable walls, there was a response.

"Go away!"

Heero thought for a moment. His strength in battle was his ability to plan well, and to anticipate his enemy's moves. He hadn't anticipated this move in any manner. He questioned - briefly - what previous experience he had to guide him in a campaign such as this.

The voice had been warm, though rather angry, and fairly low for a young, virgin Princess. It was very difficult to make it out clearly, because of the distance to the high window, and because of the autumn winds through the forest. However, he was sure that the speaker must be beautiful, if such a sweet singing voice had come from her. And when her anger had abated, she would be kind, and gentle, and probably very accommodating in bed...

His thoughts had run away with him again, in rather an unruly - and warming - direction. He didn't see how the mere sound of a voice could have that effect on him. That never happened in battle!

"I am here to see the Princess!" he announced. His voice sounded a little reedy, and the wind whipped it away as it crept its way up the unforgiving brick wall. He wished he'd brought the trumpeter with him. Or some of his aides. Someone, anyway, who would reassure him as to his importance.

He wasn't used to presenting himself as a singular man.

"Let me see you, lovely Princess! I come from your dear parents, who have sent me to rescue you from this cruel and barren imprisonment!"

"Ahhh..." came the low reply. It sounded suspiciously like there was a laugh attached to it. "You're another one of them, then!"

"Them?"

"Those bright young things, who ride in with pomp and circumstance and shining boots, to rescue the Princess - and who then ride away when they fail, with rather less pomp, and rather more humiliation, and their metaphoric tail between their legs."

Heero stared down at his new boots and felt strangely uneasy.

"I will succeed where others have failed!" he announced. "I am of a different calibre!"

"Sweet cakes," came the murmured reply, "you're gonna have to be!"

It was an astonishing comment, and with an attitude and tone that he had personally never heard from a discreetly raised young girl. The hair was suddenly swept up from the sill, and back into the room. Heero swore he could smell the wafting perfume of spring water as it moved, and could see the glints of the evening sun on its dazzling coppery colour.

There was no further communication from the window, except for the snap of a shutter.

He stood for a long while, because if he were truthful, he wasn't quite sure what to do. The afternoon got darker and the chill of the encroaching evening teased at his boots. They were a little too tight for him.

Heero went back to his camp.

*

He was back, earlier in the morning this time. As if it were truly a military campaign. He searched the Tower for any hint of a weakness; any chink in its implacable armour. He could find none. He tried to crawl up the walls, but grazed skin off his hands, and scraped the fine new boots. He tried to use his sword for purchase, but blunted the edge. He had a rope, but it would never reach to the window, and there was no other point to fix it to.

He cursed. It was a half-hearted attempt, using some of the words he'd heard under his manservant's breath on a day when he'd been a difficult master. He didn't think he'd been so frustrated before in all his life.

"You gonna give up now, then?" came the soft voice from above.

He looked up sharply, but there was no sign of the speaker. The window had obviously been opened. And then, as he stared, still angry with the Tower and its resistance, the hair started to flow again. He watched, entranced, as it slid softly down the walls, strands of it lifting in the breeze. If he stretched right up, all six foot plus of him, he could just touch the ends.

He did that - very quickly, in case he offended, or in case it was withdrawn again. It felt very soft, and still damp - it felt like a warm, viscous liquid between his fingers.

"It's beautiful!" he said, abruptly. His breath felt tight in his chest, and he didn't think it was from his physical exertion.

"Thanks," came a murmur. Heero didn't realise he had spoken loudly enough to be heard, and he flushed. There was emotion in the voice from the high window that he could not recognise. "It's a pain to wash daily, but hey - what the hell else do I have to do here?"

"Will you look out at me, Princess? Will you give me a word of encouragement?"

"Why do you need encouragement?" came the low reply. Cautious.

"Because I need to find a way to enter this Tower, and to rescue you. Because - I would like to know that you welcome that." Heero was surprised at his own words - he suspected that they hinted at uncertainty of some kind. He didn't suffer uncertainty. Though that was before he encountered this dastardly Tower.

There was silence for a while.

Then, suddenly, Heero caught the glimpse of movement above his head, and the hair swished heavily to one side. There was a face at the window, though it was in shade from the bright light of the morning sun. It was a heart-shaped face - it had a wide brow and a firm chin, and for a second he also saw a glint from a pair of large, bright eyes.

And then it was gone again.

His heart was beating very quickly, and his knees felt a little unsteady. He couldn't understand why his attempts to scale the Tower might have exhausted him so much.

"I - don't suppose that was the sort of encouragement you were after?" The voice was a little distant - the face was speaking to him from a way back into the room. As if it had retreated. As if it were nervous of having shown itself.

"I think it was," said Heero, quite clearly. And truthfully, though he had no real idea why.

"Don't laugh at me!" warned the voice.

"I'm not laughing at you," he replied, surprised. "Why should I do that?"

But there was no further answer for him that day.

*

It was another day, and Heero was getting used to preparing his own meals; choosing pieces of meat from his provisions, collecting water from a nearby spring. He found a few fruit trees, and ate well from them. It all tasted much better than the meals he remembered at the castle.

And then he would make his way to the Tower.

He tried each day to climb it, and failed. But he never stopped trying. He threw the rope a few times, experimentally, up to the window. It always fell short. One day, he sought to make a ladder from tree vines, but his knots were inadequate, and it fell apart on his first step.

And then he would settle down at the foot, and talk to the prisoner within.

He enjoyed that a lot more than the vain battles with inanimate stone. He enjoyed that a lot more than most anything he could recall from his life at home. There was a pleasant, relaxing ambience in the air when he sat on the flattened grass, and the window above was thrown open to the day.

The hair would tumble out across the sill every day; long, thick, shining with health. It was like silk to the touch; Heero wished it would touch more of him than his fingertips. He never said such a thing. His companion was obviously an unusual type of person; but his own upbringing dictated that he be more respectful.

It would be divided into strands, then aimlessly braided. Sometimes the exercise would be abandoned with a laugh. Sometimes Heero would sit and watch the slow, sensual combing of each hank individually. There would often be a song to accompany it. The singing would start a little self-consciously - but the obvious enjoyment would overcome that, until notes and snatches of melodies would race and catch and fall like leaves in the wind. It would often end with more rich, genuine laughter. He would join in with that. That was his favourite time.

He tried to catch further glimpses through the window, but that never happened again. He tried to imagine the inmate's bearing; the clothes; the facial features. He tried various permutations of Beautiful Princess in Golden Gown and Silver Slippers. It just made him slightly nauseous. And somehow the visions would not connect with the songs and the bold, careless speech.

He wondered why. His imagination was being stretched - and not before time.

"You're not like the other guys, you know." The voice was thoughtful today.

He liked its timbre. It struck a chord in his own self. It continued to have the power to tease at his senses; to touch his nerves as if the endings were raw. It continued to make his blood race around between his legs. It was all very unnerving.

"Why am I not like them? What did they do?"

"They tried to climb, like you have. But rarely more than once. They threw stones - they shouted more than a few obscenities. As if it were my fault that they couldn't succeed."

A sigh. "All eminently suitable for the purpose of Rescuing. All of noble lineage. Most of them stupid as pig shit. Some of them handsome."

Heero felt a ridiculous emotion that he believed may be jealousy.

"You are a handsome man, Prince." The words sounded almost surprised. As if the realisation had crept up on them, and forced them out of the mouth.

Heero felt a strange, warm flush start down between his toes. He hoped he wasn't taking a chill, for it would curtail his Quest.

"They didn't talk to me like this. None of them. Not like you..."

The window was shuttered rather abruptly.

Heero was restless on his bedding that night. The creature was a mystery to him.

The feeling in his groin was becoming less so.

*

Heero was looking a little tousled. He'd torn his silk tunic on one of his attempts to climb, and his hair had been washed in the spring and left to dry naturally. But his cheeks shone with exposure to the fresh air, and the sparse food was starting to lend a leanness to his already fit body.

He found himself whistling this day. The third and fourth attempt at climbing had been as unsuccessful as ever, but he didn't really care. He had a new scheme, involving a rope strung up between two trees, and a form of catapult, using his horse blanket. His military training told him it should be feasible. His growing commonsense told him he was a moron if he even considered trying it out.

He sat on the grass instead, and played dice quite comfortably for a while.

"I'm not the Princess, you know," came his daily conversationalist.

"I have guessed that by now," he replied, quite calmly.

He was rewarded with an unbridled laugh that made his toes curl. "You're not as green as you're cabbage looking, are you? What's your name, Mr New Prince?"

"Prince of the Third Kingdom, First Born of the family Yuy, Master of Sword and -"

"Your name, sweet cakes," drawled the voice, "not your job description!"

"I am Prince Heero."

A period of companionable silence. These were developing nicely between the two of them nowadays.

"If you are not the Princess, who are you?"

"One of her other, many relations. My name is - Duo."

An unusual name - Heero had never heard of a girl with that name before. Or any person for that matter. Though most of his acquaintances began as Lord-or-Lady, and he often switched his attention off before they elaborated. He'd never had much interest in names before. But he liked the sound of this one.

"I know nothing about other relations."

"Yeah well, I'm no social success!" sighed the voice. The hair - as it often was - was switched briskly to demonstrate an impatience with life and families in general. "I erred twelve times too many with my family. They were happy to offer me up to the witch as general factotum-come-slave-come-companion to the sacrificed Princess."

"She is inevitably a caring, just mistress - "

A bitter, loud laugh. "She's a nagging, selfish bitch! Did no-one tell you at the castle?"

Heero, despite his newfound tolerance, was shocked. "You should show respect as a servant to a Princess -!"

"I should kiss my ass, sunshine!" came the sharp rebuff. "I'll show some respect when I'm shown some in return. I've been banished by my family, mistreated by a frigid, miserly, razor-tongued hag of a Princess, threatened with eternal frostbite by a witch - and a bird crapped on my hair last week! Do you think I have any concern for social niceties at this stage of my less than glorious career?"

Heero was stunned.

"I've never heard anyone speak in that way before."

"You should get out more," murmured the voice, with some sympathy.

Which is, of course, what anyone would have said about Prince Heero.

"But where, then, is the Princess?" he asked. His voice was a little faint with trying to cope with a whole new raft of emotions and experiences.

There was a definite tinge of sympathy now in the reply.

"She's not here, for sure."

"What do you mean, she's not here?" Heero mustered up some unusual spirit. "Where the hell else could she go?"

"She's gone. She's gone long ago. Shortly after the last of July's brave fools came to try and scale the Tower and carry her off."

This was too much to absorb! "What? How?" He'd tried to breach that Tower a hundred times already (well, almost, but he wasn't really counting), and he could see no way of escape for a prisoner.

"Calm yourself, I-am-Prince Heero. D'you know why the witch snatched her in the first place? Because her father the king was little better than a thief, and had been systematically robbing the witch's prize crops from her treasured garden. The abduction of the Princess was a calculated revenge. The pair of 'em tried negotiation for months, while the Princess was imprisoned here. Never came to any agreement. She'd have rotted here, I daresay, before her father would've given an inch away of his position.

"But the Princess took matters into her own hands. Her vicious tongue wasn't restricted to me alone! She nagged the witch like night follows day and then turns into night again - until it was one time too many, and she got her reward."

"She - the witch released her?"

Peals of laughter, now. "The witch ate her! With boiled potatoes, and an apple sauce made from the fruit of that tree by your camp. You want to pass that message on to the dear family?"

Heero felt a chill settle round his heart. What did this mean for his Quest? "No, I don't."

He found he couldn't think very clearly about the Quest, and the unknown Princess of his (supposed) dreams. All he could think about was the singing from the Tower each day. The fabulous waterfall of hair from the window, and the thin, skilful hands combing the locks. The sharp, saucy speech that he was learning to accept and respond to.

"And you -? You are still here?"

There was a chilly silence from the window. The shutter creaked, as if the speaker was unsure whether to close it or to keep it open. "I got forgotten - as always eh? Always the poor relation. They were best rid of me, I think."

"What did you do to incur such displeasure?"

A deep sigh of resignation. The need to share the confession, perhaps. "I kissed someone. I kissed - a boy, Heero. Could a family be more scandalised? No - the best place for me is here, obviously. Out of sight, out of narrow mind. I don't expect you to understand, my sweet, sheltered Prince. You must go back to your camp, now, for you'll need to rethink your Quest."

The shutter closed, abruptly.

Heero was very confused. We know that he had a limited knowledge of love, to say nothing of a love that was obviously unsuitable. He tried to imagine why - unless, of course, the boy had been of the wrong social class. That he could find understandable. But that - he knew - was not the issue here.

He went back to camp. He slept badly.

His dreams were vividly erotic - when he awoke in the morning, his hand was clasped tightly to his groin. The bedding was a little damp and sticky, and his limbs felt unusually lethargic. He rather wished he were back in the dream, but he couldn't have explained why.

*

"Are you back, Prince?" came the voice, sharper than usual this morning. "You must be due to return to the castle."

"I find myself reluctant to leave," he replied gently. "Do you think that the witch will return here soon?"

The voice laughed, and it was a relieved sound. "I doubt it! The indigestion from eating that Royal Cow was enough to resurrect her hiatus hernia. She'll not want to come back to this forest for a while yet!"

"Good," he said.

He gazed up to the window, and for a second he thought he saw the pale flash of the hidden face. Glimpsed the shocked glint of the eyes.

"Aren't you keen to get back to whatever castle is yours? There'll be another shortlist of eligible, rescuable Princesses that you need to start work on."

Heero heard himself saying, "I'm not that keen on Princesses, in all truth. I have five sisters myself. I find them a trial."

The reply was wary. "You're beginning to sound as eccentric as me, Heero! You must watch that. No-one wants a smart-arse Prince!"

Heero chose his words as carefully as he could - he, a Prince who had rarely considered any of his words as needing to be measured in any way. "It can be tedious, to be a Prince. I do not always enjoy it, I think. The pomp, as you said - the formality, the parades, the duties. And always the expectation of my mother - to find a bride. To find my Princess."

The voice was now so low that he had to stand on tiptoes to catch it. "You need someone to keep you company, Heero. Someone to share your life with. Someone to keep you warm, indeed!"

"You mean - physical intimacy?" He remembered his father's disjointed, confused 'talk' about such matters, when he was a teenage boy. He winced at the embarrassed memory. Far better the education he'd received at the hands of the nephews -!

"I confess, Duo, that I find that a trial as well."

"Have you kissed a girl before, Heero?"

"Yes, I have."

Heero didn't know what made him say the next thing, except that he badly wanted to. He was unused to following such uncontrolled urges. "And I have kissed a boy, too. It was - far more satisfying to me."

There was a sharp intake of breath from above, which sparked out across the suddenly still air.

Heero realised now how he was always waiting for conversation with this astonishing person. Looking forward to it. It made him feel warm. No longer lonely. Heavens, he'd grown up in a court full of people, yet he knew now he had always been lonely. He'd never really thought of it before.

Like we know, he was bright enough. He was learning very rapidly now.

"Duo - do you want to be rescued?"

A pause.

"A quaint idea, Heero, and not unattractive. Seems no-one else is returning for me. And I am so damn bored here!"

Heero's heart was racing again. "But how am I supposed to scale the tower?"

"That's your role, Prince," came the reply, laced with amusement that was slightly nervous. "Don't they issue you with some kind of instruction booklet on that?"

"I think not," said Heero, rather too seriously. "What about your hair?" His dream had come back to him in a flash of (what he saw as) inspiration. He had been grasping those thick, soft tresses - he had been wrapping them around his wrists. He had been steadily climbing the sheer, smooth walls, and he had been mere feet from the window sill -

"What the hell are you thinking, you lunatic Prince?"

"Throw down your hair!" he called, poetically. "Throw it down, so that I may use it to climb the Tower and rescue you!"

The braid came spinning out of the window, and stopped a foot above his head. It was tightly tied today, and was therefore shorter and sturdier than its usual, free falling guise. Heero jumped, and stretched, and took hold of the end. He bound it around his wrist, and he tugged.

"Ouch!"

"Be patient, Duo! I'll soon be there!" He held tightly to the copper-coloured rope of hair, braced his foot against the stone, and launched himself on his first steps up the wall.

There was a yell that sounded suspiciously like 'Get the fuck off!" though Heero would not necessarily have understood that profanity. The braid was yanked sharply out of his hands, and he fell to the ground with an awkward thump.

They were both silent for a while, Heero regaining his breath, but not his dignity.

"Guess I'm stuck here, I-am-Prince. Go back to your camp and pack. I insist on it!"

There was a sob of frustration from the window, and the shutter slammed shut.

Heero stood up and felt the waves of a strange and deep disappointment swamp him.


*

The day dawned, and the tall, dark and handsome Prince stood patiently at the foot of the Tower. The window shutter opened with a lazy creak.

"Back again, I-am-Prince Heero? I'll admit, you have more stamina than any of the others. I told you she's gone! There's no Princess here to satisfy your Quest!"

"But I came to see you," he said, simply.

"Me?"

"I fail to see how your family could forget you, Duo. You are - unique. You are unforgettable. You are - truly worthy of rescue!"

The figure at the window was a shadow behind the shutter. It held itself very still. "You are a bright boy after all, aren't you? To look beyond the depths of my disgrace."

Heero spoke as bravely as he could. He had, after all, stayed up most of the night practising what he would say. "I think that I like you because of your disgrace, Duo! You have been a good companion to me. The best I have ever had."

"You're a damn fine listener, Heero," came the warm reply.

"And I don't think you are a maidservant," persisted Heero. His throat was a little dry.

"I think you're getting brighter by the minute..." The tone was wary again.

"I love you, Duo! I think you're the most beautiful thing I've ever seen!"

"You've barely seen me!" the voice exclaimed.

"I don't care about that. I have seen your voice, and your opinions, and your companionship. I have seen your glorious hair, the touch of which binds me to you and affects my senses in a way that's frightening and yet totally thrilling! I've not seen you with my eyes, no indeed. But I have with my heart."

He paused, almost scared of his own excitement. "I do not know the words, Duo. I need your help to tell me what I feel!"

"More than bright..." came the murmur. It sounded pleased. "But Heero - I don't think I'm quite your type, am I?"

"What's my type?" he argued, bullishly. "How do you know?"

"I answer you back, I argue with you. And you - a Prince!"

"Now you are laughing at me!" Heero said, rather miserably.

"I'm hardly very submissive. I don't play the harp - I don't weave -"

"That matters less than the badger crap on my boots!" snapped Heero. His boldness had come along tremendously since he arrived in the forest.

"I'm not a virgin..."

"Neither am I!" he growled.

"Heero..." the voice sighed. "I'm a boy."

"I know!" Heero almost yelled. "Isn't that the most wonderful stroke of luck?"

*

There was a strange, painful creak, as if the very earth was splitting open. The seam around a section of the cold, grey bricks crumbled as if it had suddenly grown very tired of life, and it dribbled to the ground. The segment of wall, as large as a doorway, slowly swung out from its moorings. For it was, indeed, a hitherto secret doorway.

A young boy stepped out, stretching a little, and staring at the view around him with some disorientation. Heero knew why he had never pictured him in a maiden's clothes. He was tall, like Heero himself, and slender, but with long, strong legs and broad, masculine shoulders. His clothes were rough, but well cut; the shirt was open at his throat, showing a long, pale neck. His britches were tight around narrow hips, hugging his calves down to soft, well-worn boots. Heero thought that maybe he would like his long, strong fingers to play inside of those britches. And the hair! - it was as glorious as ever, thrown carelessly over a shoulder, and a little dusty from his emergence. The golden chestnut colour shone amongst the green of the forest; the thick, soft fringe fell over wide, blue, cautious eyes. And the tips of that silken curtain teased at the base of his buttocks.

Somehow that had all been reflected in his voice. Heero knew without a doubt.

Duo's eyes accustomed themselves to the new setting, and his feet back on solid ground. They accustomed themselves to a proper, face-to-face view of I-am-Prince Heero, and they shone with delight and excitement.

"I'll give your mother a heart attack!" came the dry drawl that Heero had grown to know so well. Duo's hand was reaching out rather tentatively to the Prince, and for a second their fingers touched.

"I sincerely hope so!" came the reply. And Heero dropped his sword, and drew the boy into his embrace.

End

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