+ Part 6
The mountain were wolf always made Heero nervous. He was quiet, tall, and his black bands were distracting. It was also hard to forget that mountain weres were mercenaries and killed for a living. It was hard to believe that Trowa had turned his back on that lineage and had fallen head over paws for the hyper, sparkling desert were fox, Quatre.
"Come in," Heero said, finding his tongue, and motioned Trowa inside. When the mountain were saw the sleeping lion, his hand went to the short sword at his belt. Ears forward and nose twitching, he said nervously, "I smell blood... chickens."
"Dinner," Heero explained. "Duo isn't used to cooked food."
Trowa didn't take his eyes from the were lion as he warned, "Your Highness, you do realize how dangerous a were lion is... how quick... This one is small, but their speed and claws are deadly."
"He's a friend," Heero assured him, not certain whether that was true or not. "While he sleeps, I need someone to guard him."
"Your highness, I have skill, but even I am not a match for this kind of creature," Trowa protested.
Heero looked over at the sleeping were lion. Duo had rolled onto his back and his bulging stomach and splayed paws were almost comical. Heero couldn't imagine that lazy, sated, were suddenly killing them all. "I want you to keep anyone from entering my rooms," Heero told Trowa, "and to inform me if Duo leaves them. Don't harm him... unless it's necessary, of course."
"And who else will be on guard detail with me?" Trowa wondered sharply.
Heero lowered his ears, realizing that he was asking Trowa far more than he had thought. "No one, "Heero replied. "I don't think I can trust anyone except you right now. The guards are loyal to Warden J."
"And Warden J wishes this creature caged or destroyed, I am assuming?" Trowa replied as his green eyes glared at him.
"Yes," Heero admitted.
"And you don't see the wisdom of that?" Trowa wondered acidly.
Heero stiffened and found his temper. "I am your prince and this is an order."
Trowa dared a lifted lip and a very faint growl. "I will not die for your order."
"I don't expect you to," Heero retorted.
"As long as we understand one another," Trowa grunted and moved to leave the apartment. "I will stand outside the door. That will lessen my danger."
"Acceptable," Heero agreed.
"Trowa!" Quatre came in like sunlight, bangles of gold chiming together and earrings tinkling. He pressed right up against the tall mountain were, smiling happily as Trowa bent briefly to touch noses. Quatre gave Trowa's nose a brief lick. Quatre's tail twitched straight up and bristled and the gold band at the base seemed even more outrageous.
"Quatre," Heero warned and pointed to the were lion. Heero had a strong feeling that Duo was well aware of their presence, but that he was ignoring them. He couldn't imagine that a creature, with the senses of a cat, could still be sleeping through their noise.
"He's sleeping?" Quatre asked. His tail drooped contritely, but his sparkling eyes didn't lose an ounce of excitement . He stepped a bit away from Trowa, though he kept a small hand on his chest as he peered at Duo. That intimate touch made Heero blush. Heero had only a sketchy knowledge of sex, and none of it dealing with two males, but he had enough imagination to have a sudden mental picture of the much larger Trowa... and the bright, excited Quatre... mating...
Heero turned suddenly for the door, pushing past Trowa. "Now you have someone to keep you company," he managed to say. "I'll be at practice with Chang Wu Fei."
The heat that was coursing through Heero's body was almost unbearable. He began to walk away, embarrassed and confused, but his sharp ears could hear Quatre asking, "What's wrong with Heero?"
Trowa's reply was amused, "Where is your nose? Your little Prince is not a cub any longer."
Quatre sounded confused," What?" and then exclaimed as realization hit, "Oh! With you? I don't share," he growled fiercely."Not even with my friend."
"Not me, I think," was Trowa's knowing reply before Heero was out of hearing range.
Heero blushed, which made the heat in his body that much worse. Trowa's words were making his mind reel. Heero was finally feeling adulthood, he realized, but... not with females... and not with... wolves. With...
Heero fisted his hands and drove his claws into flesh. He was attracted to Duo, to a were lion? As soon as he thought it, he knew that it was true. What else would explain his reaction to Duo; his unreasoning fascination? Heero thought of Duo sleeping beside him; his warmth, his soft fur, his gentle rumble, and his pleasing scent. The heat within Heero grew and it centered in those places luckily covered in thick fur.
Heero found a quiet, shadowed corner behind a roof support and crouched tightly around his discomfort. What was the cure for this? Trowa and Quatre were barely tolerated, but at least they could claim to be cousins of the same species. If the people found out that a were wolf and a were lion were... lovers? Two males? Two males from two clans who were on the verge of war? Outrage at the perversion would hardly cover their reaction. Heero wasn't sure how he felt about it himself. A combination of the fear for his situation, and the cold floor, took away the heat at last and Heero was left feeling hollow and strange. He needed to talk to someone, someone he could trust with his secret, someone who might scoff and insult, but listen, too, and give him some sort of advice. Heero sprang up from his hiding place and went in search of Chang Wu Fei.
Change Wu Fei was stretched out in a sunlit bay window, eyes closed. A myriad of window panes made the spot very warm. Heero stopped a respectful distance and waited, knowing that the were dragon was well aware of his presence. The were dragon's crest spines went up, twitched, and then Wu Fei opened his dark eyes.
"You've finally decided to leave your new toy?" Wu Fei's voice was curt. He wasn't expecting an answer as he slowly rose.
"Duo isn't a toy," Heero replied, keeping his voice calm and not showing his anger. "He's..."
Heero sat down and sighed, ears drooping. Wu Fei stared never having seen that dejected look on his Prince before. "I need to talk to you," Heero told him darkly.
"You do," Wu Fei agreed as he stretched out again and closed his eyes. "So, my Prince... speak."
Heero watched the light sparkle over Wu Fei's dark scales, wondering how a creature near his own age could seem so much older... and wiser. He had always wanted Wu Fei's respect and had worked hard to become his equal. Lessons with the were dragon had been his only real pleasure in his strict and lonely life. To jeopardize that now by admitting perversion, weakness, and a tremendous failing of his teachings...but who else could advise him? Who else could he trust?
Wu Fei's tongue flicked out and tasted the air. His face grimaced and he sighed deep in his chest. "So, it's come to that? Am I supposed to teach you how to court a female now?"
Heero ducked his head, ears going lopsided as he struggled to explain. "Not... females..."
"No?" Wu Fei said. "That Relena has come of age too. I smelled her when she went by with her pack of fawning attendants. Shameless." The last he hissed disapprovingly. "Someone else then?"
"Not females," Heero repeated. "I know about females...I..."
Wu Fei sighed again. "I am attempting to avoid what I know you are about to reveal. If you are wise, you will agree with me, allow me to advise you to ask a were wolf instead of a were dragon, and begin your exercises."
"I... can't do that," Heero admitted. "I'm sorry... It's Duo."
"The lion," Wu Fei clarified as he stood up again and paced the room.
"Were lion," Heero corrected in a small voice.
"As far as Warden J is concerned, he's a spotted skunk that needs killing, and the truth is of little importance!" Wu Fei fumed. He stopped in front of Heero and glared. "Of all creatures... If your urges are for males, there are many forest were wolves that would be eager to lift their tails for you and keep it behind their teeth."
Heero went white and then red. "It's Duo... just Duo," he said in a choked voice.
"A were lion... Can you even mate with it?" Wu Fei demanded incredulously.
That was too blunt. Heero wasn't about to retort that he had seen that he could, or that Duo had purposefully shown him that. "It's more than that," he said instead. "I feel... something for him. I don't know how it happened, but, it's there."
"Your warden will not stand for this," Wu Fei warned. "You have signed the were lion's death warrant for certain."
"We haven't done anything!" Heero couldn't help exclaiming, and then more quietly, "I doubt Duo even feels the same way. He just wants his freedom."
"Best you keep that in mind," Wu Fei warned, his dark eyes hard. "You know the darkness in a person's soul. You see it every day here. Don't let your wayward heart make you drop your guard with that one. He may use it to his advantage."
"I'm not a child!" Heero retorted fiercely.
"I can smell that you aren't," Wu Fei replied. "You can't let anyone know about this. You can't pursue it unless you plan to leave this place and your title behind." He leaned close for emphasis. "And if you do choose that road, make sure you leave quickly and under cover of night, because Warden J will not lose his power through you so easily."
Heero knew that he was right, but he also knew that one thing was true. "I will not give up my title to Warden J, no matter how I feel."
Wu Fei straightened and he looked down his full height at Heero. "Make sure that you have the stomach for the consequences of that decision then." He stepped back, hands held wide. "Now, shall we leave hearts behind and practice your fighting skills? I think, my Prince, that you are going to need them very shortly."
Wu Fei trained Heero hard and he was exhausted and aching by the time he was allowed to go. Loping quickly back to his rooms, he found the door closed and Trowa nowhere to be found. In a state of near panic and red fury, Heero opened the door and hurried inside, only to run right into Trowa's back. Trowa grunted and half turned, but his attention was on a laughing Quatre, who was being bowled over by a leaping Duo. Heero felt his blood chill as he watched Duo use his large hands to grab Quatre in close and then almost envelope him as his back legs cushioned their impact with graceful ease. The were lion's head dipped and fangs gleamed as he latched them onto Quatre's throat. Quatre, still laughing, went limp, supple, sand colored were fox looking defeated and fragile in Duo's strong grip.
Heero felt a rush of heat all through his body as he watched Duo's tightly knit muscles ripple and the primal ease of his 'kill'. The were lion's tail balanced him, swinging up and wide, and his knees were springs in cinnamon colored fur with razor sharp claws digging through thick carpet. One snap of jaws, Heero knew, and Duo would be tasting Quatre's blood.
"Deadly, isn't he?" Trowa murmured appreciatively. "We're made for the long chase and for group kills. This creature... he is death, all by himself, every part of him meant for one thing.
Heero blushed hotly as some voice inside of him replied, "Not every part."
Trowa didn't miss his agitated state. The mountain were's nose wrinkled. "My Prince, you are reeking."
And that was the problem. Heero couldn't help the scent of sexual interest. How long would it be before Warden G, or other enemies, noticed that it was strongest with Duo?
Duo released Quatre and settled back on his haunches, looking pleased. Quatre sat up as well, rubbing at his throat. He was grinning and his blue eyes were sparkling, large ears pricked excitedly. "That was incredible! Thank you, Duo, for showing me how a were lion hunts. I was often told about it, but I've never been graced with the sight myself." He almost went nose to nose with Duo, his banded tail waving. "You really must come home with me to the desert. My people aren't so close minded to strangers, or provincial. You would be an honored guest."
Duo looked nervous and overwhelmed and then he backed a few steps away and settled again. "I don't have any... manners or civilization, I'm told. I would be lost there, I think, just as I am here. I want to go back to the Savannah. It's all I know."
Duo spotted Heero and his playfulness disappeared completely. He approached eagerly and Heero noticed that his full belly was gone and that he was sleek and slim again. "Prince," he said seriously and Heero felt a tiny flare of jealousy, that Quatre had been shown a side of him that Heero hadn't. It seemed that he wasn't going to be granted it now. Duo went to the door and looked back at Heero. "I wish to go now, into the forest. I've fed and I've rested." He added, unsure and with a hint of wariness, "You did promise that I could go."
"It's dangerous," Heero replied, unable to keep his disappointment out of his voice.
"Very dangerous," Trowa agreed. "Especially for a young cub who barely knows how to hunt."
Heero and Quatre looked at Trowa in confusion, but Duo hunched in on himself and lowered his ears.
"You attack very fiercely," Trowa said, "but you clearly lack true hunting skills. You must have been driven from your pride before the females could teach you, am I right?"
Duo gave one, small nod, but he said with conviction, "I can do it."
Trowa snorted. "And how well were you doing it before the were cheetah's enslaved you?"
Duo turned away and looked very angry and embarrassed.
"Duo," Heero was afraid now, afraid that Duo was about to make a very bad decision. "I know this place bothers you, but out there... You don't know anything about hunting in a forest or what dangers live there. We've found something that you can eat. It's warm and comfortable here. I can keep you safe-"
"Can you?" Duo hissed and glared at him, purple eyes almost glowing with temper."And what difference is there in this than in being in a were cheetah's cage?"
"Here, you're promised a chance to return home, under escort, and alive," Heero argued. "Out there, I can't help you."
Duo was suddenly very close; warmth, soft, purring breath, and Savannah scent. His eyes bored into Heero's and he said distinctly, "I am going. Will you stop me?"
Was it a threat? Heero heard one, but Duo's body language said something else. It was pleading, wanting him to give in without a fight. Heero let out a long breath and closed his eyes. Then he opened them again and they were harder. He ordered Trowa briskly, "Accompany us out of the city after nightfall. I doubt that we can keep everyone from knowing that Duo is leaving, but we will try to keep it from happening. Tell no one, not even Wu Fei."
Trowa nodded. Quatre looked distressed.
"Duo! You can't mean to go?" Quatre reached out and touched Duo's arm boldly. "I don't understand why you would risk yourself when Heero is offering you protection until we leave here for my home."
"Being free is more important than being safe," Duo replied, and then he went to a window and looked out, waiting for nightfall.
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