+ Part 20
"You," Heero breathed as he spotted one that was limping from some injury. Not only would he be slower than the others, but it was a kindness. The buck couldn't run with an injury like that one and it would soon fester.
Heero sprang from hiding and the bucks scattered. The injured one slewed in the sand and tried to do the same, but the leg buckled and it staggered. Heero was on him in an instant, snapping the slim neck quickly and landing on top of the heavy weight of the beast as it died and fell.
Heero enjoyed the hunt, but he didn't think that he would ever have Duo's taste for raw meat and hot blood. Fastidiously, he took hold of the buck and began dragging it. He wasn't prepared for the heavy weight that suddenly pinned him down to the ground, his face inches from the dead buck's wide eyes.
Zechs was so very large and powerful. Heero felt himself trembling at the sheer size of the claws on either side of him. He didn't have a chance. The white were lion was going to snap his neck easier than he had the buck's.
"I don't know how you managed to route my clans, but your interference in my plans ceases, now," Zechs hissed in his ear. "These lands are mine. Duo is mine. He will replace Solo as my mate and my right hand. Nothing will stop that."
A nose sniffed along Heero's head, his ears, and then there was a snort of irritation. "What does he see in you? A stinking dog? A hairy, spotted, tailless..."
"Prince," Wu Fei's voice interjected. "My prince. You will release him at once."
Heero dared to turn his head then, feeling the hot breath of Zechs. Wu Fei was armed and standing ready to defend him.
Zechs laughed out right. "You threaten me as if you were a serious threat to me. The sun has baked your brains, were lizard."
"You don't look well, Zechs," Wu Fei observed cooly. "Were there rebellions after your defeat? Did they want to slink home with their tails between their legs? It must be difficult to motivate an army that wants only to fill their bellies and sleep in the sun, especially after they had their noses bloodied. You must have fought many battles to remain their king."
Wu Fei's bravery shamed Heero. The were dragon was willing to die, taunting Zechs in the hope that the were lion would leave Heero and try to kill him instead. That sacrifice was unacceptable. Heero suddenly twisted about under Zech's rising weight as the were lion gathered himself to spring on Wu Fei.
Zechs appearance shocked Heero. He was full of deep gouges and claw marks. His huge body was a war zone of injuries and his mane was soaked here and there with blood. This was a full grown were lion, despite all of that, though, Duo's future size, a small corner of Heero's mind noted in amazement and trepidation. Even injured, Heero wasn't any match for him. Still, he surged up, defying logic, defying fear, and snapped his sharp teeth onto Zech's jugular.
It was unexpected, Zechs thinking that intimidation and fear had made Heero his prey, and his entire focus on the insulting were dragon. Heero knew that it was going to be a short lived victory, though. In another heartbeat, Zechs would tear him with his claws.
"Let him go!" Quatre snarled. Jewelry flashing and fur bristled with anger, the small were fox landed on Zech's back, a dagger sinking into the vulnerable shoulder. He jerked it out again and stabbed down into Zech's heart, as the were lion reared and twisted to get at him, roaring in shock.
"I will kill you all!" Zechs roared. "I will be king of all these lands!"
"No," Wu Fei said as he jumped into the fray and a slash of claws to sink in his own daggers. "You will only be king of the dead."
Zechs died, huge body sinking down slowly as he struggled to fight on. Heero felt claws rake him, but he held on, even when Zech's weight crushed him to the ground and took the breath from him.
Heero whined, ears flat, as he struggled out, trailing blood from wounds and from Zechs. He became quickly aware, though, that Quatre was looking off to the side, eyes wary as he kept his perch on Zechs' back. Wu Fei was staring that way as well, a long line of his scales damaged and bleeding, his daggers lodged in Zech's body.
Were lions, injured and looking ragged, were standing in a loose group. There weren't many. Zechs hadn't been able to control them all.
Heero panted, ignored his pain and injuries, and straightened his body. He walked out to them, but kept a healthy distance. In a loud, clear voice, he said, "Your king is dead. Go back to your clans and live as you were meant to. This is done."
They looked at each other, dazed, as if only Zechs' will, his fierce personality, had given them purpose and cohesion. Then, almost as one, they turned and began loping back into the sand of the desert, heading home.
Quatre said a small prayer of thanks and then slid off of Zechs. "It's done," he said in disbelief, "How did we accomplish what they couldn't?"
Wu Fei snorted as he examined his damaged scales. He picked a few off. "Sometimes, fear is enough. They feared him."
"We feared him," Heero reminded him softly as he looked down at the body of Zechs. It didn't seem so frightening now, empty of the were lion's personality and limp on the ground. Heero took a deep, steadying breath and then moved around it.
"What are you doing, my prince?" Wu Fei asked.
"Getting Duo's buck and going home," Heero replied as he took hold of the carcass.
"Home?" Quatre asked as he thought of the long journey back to the Keep.
"My tent," Heero told him.
Quatre smiled, understanding then.
"Where ever Duo is, that's home," Heero explained and then began the painful journey back to his love.
"I like this place," Duo sighed as he stretched out on a warm rock, a morning breeze drifting over them and the sun just starting to bake pleasantly."I'm glad that we decided to stay."
Heero yawned and rolled an eye at Duo. He was using Duo's distended belly as a pillow. Full of desert buck, Duo wouldn't be inclined for much more for days to come. "It's not the forest," Heero agreed, "but I'm finding a love for it as well. I only wish..." He trailed off and became thoughtful.
Duo turned his head and became worried. "What is it?"
"I'd like to know what's happening to my kingdom," Heero finally confessed. "I might have been irresponsible, not a wise choice as their prince, but I do still care."
Duo nodded. "I understand that, but were you truly ruling? Did you truly have a hand in their welfare?"
Heero grimaced. "No. In fact, J wasn't doing a bad job. I only thought that he was wanting war. It seemed that it was necessary after all. Zechs really had been a threat. I can't believe that Relena would ever want anything other than peace, either. She will make sure that my land is taken care of."
Duo licked one of Heero's ears. "Send a note with a trade caravan, if it will make you feel better, but you know in your heart there isn't any need."
Heero smiled. Duo's tail end flicked along his face. He caught it between his teeth, grinned, and began thinking that, perhaps, Duo could be convinced into mating even with a full stomach.
"Not in front of the children," Wu Fei said cooly. He was suddenly there and stretching out on warm rock. Smaller versions of himself came to settle all around him, sighing contentedly. Sahri settled with a more imperious air higher up.
Heero blushed and then smiled at the sight of a maternal Wu Fei and his new clan. He didn't show an ounce of affection, but Heero saw him watching his children under half closed eyes, making certain that they didn't get too close to the rock's edge.
Heero thought of his own lack of children, and his lost chance with Relena. If he had stayed, he would have been Prince, ruling his land and siring heirs.
"You can, you know?" Duo whispered.
Heero looked at Duo in surprise.
"Have pups, you know, if you wanna?" Duo elaborated. "I'm sure there's some were fox lady who might oblige. They aren't that different from you."
Heero snorted. "I'm not interested in that," he replied and rose to nuzzle Duo's face. Lying side by side, he kissed his mate. He frowned in the next moment. "Pups?"
"Yes, dog," Duo snickered, but seemed relieved.
Heero nipped a rounded ear. "That for your insolence, cat."But then more seriously, "There is no other for me, but you."
"And you are the only one for me," Duo breathed and kissed him again.
"Children," Wu Fei reminded them irritably.
"There are other rocks," Heero said to Duo suggestively.
"Let's find one... a private one," Duo agreed.
They rose as one and moved away. Wu Fei watched them go, ungainly were cat and tailless prince. Love was indeed blind, he thought, but then blinked against the sun to look up at his own mate. He smiled warmly. Very blind.
[part 19] [back to Kracken's fic]