+ Part 7
"We can go back," Heero almost begged. "You don't have to do this."
"I'll... get used to it," Duo replied, but his assurance wasn't wholly steady. "I feel better already, being out of that place."
"We'll meet here, tomorrow, at midday," Heero promised. "I'll bring food."
Duo snarled. "I can hunt!"
Heero's hackles rose, but he willed them down in the next instant. He wasn't going to part in anger. "I know you can," he decided to agree. "But it may be a few days before you learn how to hunt here."
"Nothing is his equal, here," Trowa grumbled. "Leave him and let's go back. I feel danger in the air. I'm certain we were followed. The sooner he goes into the ferns and the darkness, the better. "
Heero felt hesitant, but determined. He could barely make out Duo in the dappled moonlight. It made it harder to say, "I feel that we've become friends. I don't want you to suffer... to go hungry."
"Friends?" Duo sounded surprised and then thoughtful as he replied, "Yes, I think... All right. I'll be here... midday."
Heero was relieved, but it took very little away from his anxiousness for Duo's safety.
"I'll have fresh meat," Heero promised.
"Warm?" Duo asked.
"Warm," Heero promised, though he didn't know how he as going to accomplish that. He would have given Duo the moon, just then, for his promise to meet with him.
"I need a lot of meat," Duo worried. "You'll bring enough?"
"What happened to, 'I can hunt'? " Trowa wondered under his breath.
Duo growled, "If he is determined to meet, he might as well bring what I need!"
"Of course," Trowa snorted sarcastically.
Duo crouched as if he were about to spring. Trowa gripped his sword tightly and backed up a few, wary paces.
"That's enough!" Heero ordered sharply. He stepped between Trowa and Duo and inadvertently brushed against Duo's soft, warm fur. That touch caused a rush of heat to flood Heero's body.
"You... smell," Duo said suddenly.
Trowa snickered. Heero glared and blushed.
"What... What is that?" Duo wondered.
"Love," Trowa laughed and Heero felt like murder.
"I don't understand. It smells like..." Duo trailed off and Heero heard an audible swallow. Duo was suddenly moving off into the woods. "I have to go. I need to find a den."
He was gone into the night then, like a shadow, without a leaf crunching under his paws. Heero stood, ears cocked, trying to catch a sound or a scent on the wind blowing back to him. He smelled it then... like... warm milk... spices... heat... sizzling vanilla...
Trowa smelled it too. "It seems that your were lion isn't a cub any longer either."
Heero wanted to follow Duo, follow that incredible scent that was sending every hormone in his body into overdrive. The hard tug on his ruff made him snarl and whirl on Trowa. Trowa backed up a pace, but his _expression was stern.
"We must go, prince," Trowa urged.
Heero made a sound of frustration, but he followed Trowa obediently. After a few paces, though, it came to him that here was the one person who could answer his questions. It seemed appropriate too, to be in the shadows while he asked them.
"You and Quatre..."
"Yes, we mate."
"Why... why with each other and not... with females?"
There was a long pause and then Trowa replied, sounding puzzled himself, "I don't know. I have always been attracted to males."
Heero swallowed hard, feeling hot with embarrassment. "So... you and Quatre..."
There was a small chuckle. "Yes."
Heero steeled himself. "How?"
Another silence. "DO you know anything about mating, even in the normal way?"
Trowa sounded curious, "Have you tried...?"
"Ah... It's somewhat the same," Trowa explained, "But more difficult and in... another place."
Heero choked. He'd suspected but... "Does it... hurt?"
"It can, if you're a fool and don't go slowly and if you don't have a care for your mate," Trowa replied. "I can explain... if you like?"
Trowa sounded uncomfortable. Heero felt that he was going to burst into flames. "Yes... I think I need to know."
Trowa sounded thoughtful now, cautious, "Of course, anything I tell you pertains to were wolves and were foxes. I've never... I don't know anyone who's been with a were lion."
Heero ducked his head and his ears drooped. "I've seen... I've seen that they are the same as we are."
"Have you?" Trowa snorted, but then he became serious again. "A were wolf might bite, might claw, but a were lion... if you hurt or offend him, he could easily kill you."
"I know," Heero replied. "That's why I need to know... in case... not that I think... he's probably not interested-"
"Oh, I think he is, Prince," Trowa interjected.
"How..." Heero struggled. "How do you know who is...mated?"
"There isn't a rule, Prince," Trowa explained. "Some like to be mated and some like to mate. Some like both. There is a way, though, to see whether someone is predisposed to... being mated."
"How?" Heero demanded anxiously.
"You hold the neck, at the back. It doesn't have to be hard. If a were wolf is... submissive, he'll lift his tail for you," Trowa explained. "I'm not certain this works with were cats, but..."
"Does Quatre... lift his tail for you?" Heero wondered.
"That's personal," Trowa growled.
Heero moved away from that question quickly, not wanting to anger Trowa and lose his chance to have his questions answered. "Could you tell me... how... how I do it?"
Trowa explained then, and Heero felt waves of heat assail his body until...
Heero grunted and crouched, ears down.
Trowa stopped and looked back at him. "Prince?"
Heero remained crouching and hid his face in his hands.
"Think of G, bathing, with Relena," Trowa suggested, guessing his problem.
Heero tried to imagine it, but it was hard.
"I could help you," Trowa suggested. "I don't stray, but you are a Prince. Quatre wouldn't have to know."
The thought of Trowa mating him did more than a face full of cold water. Heero snarled and raised his short ruff. His painful excitement went away and he stood up.
"Never," Heero snapped.
"I'm not that bad," Trowa chuckled.
Heero snarled and stormed past him toward the keep. After a moment, and a chuckle, Trowa followed.
Duo nosed through the ferns, hating the heavy smell of earth, plants, and the pungent smell of strange animals. The darkness was his friend. His eyes caught the moonlight and flashed with a rainbow of purple as he stepped softly and tried to keep low.
He marked a few trees discretely, so that he would remember his way back, and hoped someone else wouldn't use that scent to trap him again. Nervously, Duo moved far downwind before he began his search for a place to sleep. On the Savannah, they built small huts, but Duo had rarely slept in them. He preferred a smooth rock high up above the tall grasses, the clear, starry sky, and the moon sailing over head.
The ground grew rocky and sloped sharply upward. Duo picked his way carefully and then found a small opening half hidden by ferns and the roots of trees. Duo squeezed in, hating the chill of the rock, the cold ground, and the lack of space. He didn't want to be out in the open, though, not when his senses were so confused.
Duo curled up into a ball, tucking himself inward so that he was protected by the thick fur on his legs. He stared out at the darkness and listened to the sound of tree branches rubbing together in a breeze. Leaves rustled and there was the small noises of animals. Crickets made and endless symphony punctuated by croaking frogs. That told Duo where there was water and food. He would eat frogs if that was all he could manage to kill.
Grimacing at having to fall that low, Duo's thoughts wandered toward home and what must be happening there. It pained him when he thought of Solo. The were lion had been as close as a brother to Duo. It hadn't surprised him when he had declined to challenge Zechs for his sake. The white leader of their pride was a huge were lion and skilled at fighting. Challenging him would have meant death. It did hurt that Solo hadn't followed him into the Savannah. Male were lions often paired when they were cast out from their prides, and it wasn't unusual for such friends to share the leadership of a pride. If there were many females, it would take more than one male to satisfy them and to keep other males from trying to claim them. Such partnerships were almost necessary.
Zechs had broken that tradition though. He hadn't driven out all males, just Duo. Solo, and other males who had pledged their allegiance, he had kept close and, it seemed, he was using them to take over all the prides. Zechs was determined to take them to war. It was unheard of, strange to contemplate. Were lions belonged on the Savanna. They weren't meant for forests.
Duo thought of his foster mother and the pain in his heart grew. She had broken tradition to adopt him. If she had tried to stop Zechs from sending him away, Duo hadn't seen it. He closed his eyes and tried to think of her soft, warm fur and her comforting voice. In the cold of a small hole in the rocks of a strange forest, it was impossible to breathe life into that memory. It was much easier, far easier, to remember the warmth of a certain were wolf.
Duo felt that uncomfortable heat again, the same heat that had come over him when he had caught Heero's new scent. Something about the Prince drew him, but Duo didn't understand what that something might be. The prince was arrogant, rude, and commanding... yet, he had shown Duo kindness. Duo didn't want to warm to him or be grateful. He was still hurting from his capture by the were cheetahs and he had seen enough of the political and social intrigue of the Keep to have a bad taste in his mouth. Allowing any kind of... friendship... to develop, between himself and a prince of such a place... Common sense told him that it could only end badly. Better to stay by himself and hope that the hyper were fox would keep his promise to take him home.
Yet... Duo sighed. Were lions fought for leadership so that they could mate with females. Duo had never felt the urge, had never wanted to challenge Zechs or leave to find his own pride. He had been comfortable among the females and being friends with Solo. Solo had joked that he was still a cub, and to give it time, but even Solo had begun to wonder about his friend when he himself had followed the scent of a female and dallied in secret, while Duo had felt complete indifference.
The strong feelings that Heero's scent had ignited... was that what he was supposed to feel for females? Duo chewed on the end of his tail, ears down, as he thought about it. What had he wanted to do when he had smelled Heero's scent? Duo blushed hotly and tucked his head down, curling up tighter. He had wanted to... dally... Duo was honest with himself. He had seen Zechs mate. He knew how it was done. Somehow, he didn't think it was something that two males were supposed to do, though. His imagination painted options, painted a detailed picture of Heero and himself doing something like...
Duo groaned and hid his face completely. The need between his legs was suddenly very intense. It wasn't pain, but it was something that begged the same respite. He felt... this had to be wrong, what he felt. It had to be something to be ashamed of. He was wanting a were wolf, a male were wolf; a bad tempered Prince of a foreign land who was about to go to war with the prides.
It had to be wrong. This new place was confusing him. If he just ignored it, until he returned to the prides, he would become normal and he would want females like he was supposed to. He would meet up with Solo and he would convince the were lion to go with him and make their own pride.
In the dark, and in a strange place, it was hard to convince himself of those things. Duo's thoughts wandered back to Heero as if Heero had become his mental lodestone. Why had Heero suddenly become more appealing than his best friend? At that moment, it was Heero he'd rather be with, Duo realized, Heero whom he wished would follow him, not Solo.
Duo bit into his tail, punishing himself. He needed sleep. He needed to be sharp and ready to hunt and defend himself. Worrying about something he was sure would never come to pass, was a dangerous waste of time. Even if his body had lost it's senses and wanted a were wolf, Prince Heero didn't have any interest in him like that.
Duo slipped into sleep at last, but he wasn't given any rest by his confused hormones even then. In dreams, Heero chased him playfully. Duo bounded ahead, laughing, and then suddenly allowed Heero to catch him. They tumbled together, rough chocolate and white fur mingling with cinnamon brown, and then Heero kissed him...
Heero started from a dream, feeling heat and hormones raging. Ducking his head into cold water banked it, but it simmered under the surface and refused to go away entirely. He tried to remember the dream as he loped to the kitchens. Something about a wide, brown Savannah and chasing Duo...
The were wolves in the kitchen were honored to have their prince visit them so early in the morning. The butcher slaughtered fresh meat and then packed it into a metal pot, with a lid, to keep it as warm and as fresh as possible. Heero sprinted out of the back door with a barely muttered, thank you, and slipped as inconspicuously as possible from the Keep.
Without guards or friends, Heero felt doubts about his mental state, but he knew that the more people who knew where Duo was hiding, the more likely it would be for word to spread. It was better to leave a few false trails, use his hunting skills to lay low long enough to make certain that no one was following, and to meet Duo by himself.
Heero hoped that Wu Fei wouldn't find out.
The meeting place was empty when Heero arrived, but he wasn't surprised. He sat in plain sight with his gift and waited.
Duo stared at Heero from the ferns, belly on the ground and ears back. He longed to go to him. The struggle made him pant. Heero's ears cocked, hearing the sound. Duo tried to quiet himself. These feelings were frightening, painful, and confusing.
"Duo," Heero called softly and Duo heard the slight begging tone.
Duo was frozen, the part of him that wanted to be free, that wanted home, that wanted to deny what it felt, fighting with the other part of him that wanted close to Heero, that wanted to feel his fur, nuzzle his skin, and see what two males could do together.
Heero put down his pot. He looked angry, lost, and then looked hurt as he turned and loped back the way he had come.
Duo slipped out of the ferns and approached the pot. It smelled like Heero. He nuzzled the metal, rubbing the scent against his face, and then he picked up the pot and slipped back into the forest's shadows.
Heero had stopped. He had slipped back and seen Duo. When he saw Duo rub against the pot, the rush of heat was blinding. Heero felt a very alpha urge to pounce on Duo, to over power him, to show him who was dominant. Heero throttled that with all the training that Wu Fei had taught him. He was not his urges. He was not an animal. He would come back the next morning, and the next, however long it took for Duo to trust him and come to him.
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