by RazorQueen
see ch. 1 for warnings. notes

The Claim + Chapter 10

Zechs opened the car door and handed Duo out. The house elbowed aside lush trees to perch on a little knoll that rode above a small peninsula. Waves pounded the rocky shore vigorously on two sides, lapped more gently at the third, where the land formed a more tranquil cove with a long stretch of white beach. The house itself had clearly been built with a mind to the view and access to the beach, but it lacked the grandeur of some of the villas they'd passed on their drive from the airfield. Here, there were no marble statues, no wrought iron arches and gates, just a deceptively simple aura of grace and serenity.

Zechs took a deep breath as he looked with quiet pride on the house and grounds. He'd missed the air here, where it smelled of sea and flowers. He could exist in the palace effortlessly. He'd been born there, spent the first years of his life in its rarified confines. The nuances of its etiquette came as naturally to him as breathing, even if they sometimes suffocated him. But there was nothing there that was truly his. He was just another Peacecraft prince. Perhaps someday his portrait would hang next to his father's, but that was all the mark he could expect to leave. But this place…he'd poured a part of his soul into creating this retreat.

Duo whistled softly in appreciation. "This is yours?"

Zechs nodded. "I had it built a few years ago. It's good to have a place to get away. I know you weren't at the palace for long--" He didn't like speaking of that time, even though ultimately, everything turned out for the best. "But I'm sure you noticed the protocol."

"Hell, yes. Couldn't get a damn cup of coffee without going through half a dozen people."

"Yes. I know it's vitally important to each of those half-dozen people that they be asked, but it gets wearing sometimes. And military protocol is just as tedious. So I come here when I can."

Hesitation showed on Duo's face. "…alone?"

"Not always. Treize has been here a few times--" Abruptly, as though he'd head Duo speak it, Zechs sensed the meaning of Duo's question, and he took him in his arms. "Duo…I can't lie to you. You must have realized that I've had other lovers. Many others…but here…no. I've not let anyone get so close to me. Except you."

"I'm sorry…" Duo squeezed Zechs' hand and rubbed his cheek against his sleeve. "It's just that it's so hard to believe that this is real."

"I know, kit. I look at you and have the same problem myself."

"Yeah, right."

"You don't believe me? I'm crushed. I thought you'd learned to trust me."

Duo elbowed him in the ribs. "As far as I can throw you, and I can't lift you." Then, as if afraid Zechs might not have understood, he added, "I'm just teasing."

"I know that, too. Come on--let's go inside." Zechs led him up the walk, bordered by fragrant, sprawling mounds of flowers. Still holding Duo's hand, he opened the door and stepped in, then drew him across the threshold.

The interior of the house had the same understated refinement, accomplishing more with line and color than most rooms did with elaborate decoration. The rooms glowed around them in the late afternoon sun, but not as the palace rooms glowed, candlelight on gilt and crystal. From the mellow warmth of the sun on plaster walls to the soft sheen of plain wooden furniture, the whole house felt comfortable, welcoming, full of light and air.

Sunlight from a row of windows overlooking the cove splashed across the slate floor. Duo blinked. "Nice…"

"Do you like it?" It surprised Zechs to realize how much Duo's answer mattered.

"Yeah…better than the palace, actually." He prowled through the downstairs, examining his surroundings like a cat deciding if a new house suits it or not, occasionally flouncing with casual grace onto a chair or sofa, testing it.

Zechs stood at the wall of windows, facing the sapphire waters and glittering white sand. "I imagine you'll want to get to the beach. We could go swimming if you wanted."

Duo shrugged, a suddenly tense, anxious gesture. "Maybe later." He pushed himself out of the overstuffed sofa and began to roam restlessly again until he stopped at the bottom of the stairs and peered up the staircase. "What's up there?"

"The bedrooms."

"Oh." Duo paled just a little. Zechs came up behind him and wrapped his arms around him, pressing his cheek against his hair. He loved the feel of Duo's body, his spare, slender strength apparent in the muscles of his arms and back. It made such a contrast with his half-shy smile, his wide eyes that seemed to say "please don't hurt me," the stubborn chin that tried--and failed--to convince that even if someone did hurt him, he wouldn't care. It was this strange mixture of strength and vulnerability that had fascinated him from the very beginning. He could not imagine a day when Duo Maxwell would not continue to fascinate him.

Duo snuggled back into Zechs' arms, looking around in obvious amazement. "Funny…this feels more like you than the palace. I thought you fit in there, but this…" He squirmed around so he could see Zechs, his eyes alight. "This is just like you. Solid…secure. Warm. Elegant, but not like Treize's kind of elegance, with all that silver and lace and fuss." He looped one arm around Zechs' neck, then swept his other hand to indicate the whole house. "This…it's just…I don't know, natural. Effortless." He blinked, and his eyes shimmered, both arms tightening around Zechs, although his smile remained. "Like…home ought to feel, I guess."

Even Treize had never understood so well. Zechs gave Duo a grateful squeeze. "Yes. Yes, that's it, exactly. It's home."

Duo's face flushed, not with embarrassment, but with an emotion that might have been pride. Perhaps he understood that he shared something private and precious with Zechs, something no one else had ever reached. The remains of his doubts left his face, and his eyes glowed. A few shadows of fear remained, but Zechs guessed that those were only natural qualms about the night to come.

Zechs bent down and kissed Duo sweetly, with only undertones of hunger. Duo sighed when the kiss ended and burrowed his head happily against Zechs' shoulder. Zechs dreamily stroked his hair, . Impulsively, he caught the end of Duo's braid and pulled off the tie at the bottom. Duo gasped as he began to unwind the heavy skein, but as Zechs combed it with his fingers, he relaxed and wrapped his arms around Zechs' trim waist.

"Mmm. You know I don't let just anybody do that."

"I know." With a mock scowl, he lifted Duo's chin. "You'd better not let anyone else at all do it. I'm a generous man, but some things I simply won't share."

Duo grinned, but he answered with a meekness as genuine as Zechs' scowl. "Yes, Your Highness. Whatever you want, Your Highness."

Zechs raised an eyebrow. "Whatever I want?"

Duo's eyes widened. "I--"

"What I want right now is to change my clothes. Then I thought we could have dinner." Zechs felt some of the tension go out of Duo's body. He caught Duo's earlobe in his teeth and tugged, then whispered, "You'll need your strength later."

"Hmph." Duo crossed his arms and pretended to be annoyed at Zechs' assumption of his own prowess, but Zechs saw the smile playing at his lips. Good. He wanted Duo to relax. They had waited a long time for today, and he wanted it to be perfect. And he liked the imp in Duo-no one else could make him smile, make him laugh like his love could.

He released Duo from his embrace but captured his hand and pulled him up the stairs toward the master suite. Zechs saw him eye the wide bed and bite his lip. Then he pulled his hand away and flopped backwards on it with a grin, bouncing a little.

"Now, this is definitely okay."

"I'm glad it meets your approval, since I hope you'll be spending a lot of time in it."

"Your wish is my command, Your Highness." Duo batted his eyelashes like a cartoon coquette. Stifling a laugh, Zechs leaned forward over him, fists planted on either side of his arms.

"Then I wish--"

"Oops!" Duo rolled and ducked under Zechs' arms, playfully squirming away. "No wishes granted until I get dinner!"

Zechs groaned and rolled over on his back. He sighed in barely exaggerated frustration, then pleaded dramatically, "How long will you make me suffer?"

"You're suffering? I'm starved!"

Duo grinned and kissed him, but he darted away before Zechs could make a grab for him. He didn't really try very hard to catch Duo, content for the moment just to lean up on his elbows and watch him.

Their luggage had been sent ahead and unpacked by Zechs' staff, a local married couple who lived in their own house on the property and served as housekeeper and gardener. Duo spent several minutes opening drawers and closets, identifying his clothes. Finally, he fished a pair of cut-off jeans from a drawer. He gave Zechs a saucy wink and wiggle, flipped his heavy hair, then disappeared into the bathroom.

Zechs smiled helplessly. He'd never intended to fall in love and certainly not with a prisoner. Not that his intentions seem to have made a damn bit of difference, because here he was, loving Duo as he'd never dreamed it was possible to love someone. He smiled at the closed bathroom door, then heaved himself off the bed and shed his uniform for a pair of jeans and a loose, white cotton shirt. Barefoot, he started for the stairs, calling back, "I'll be in the kitchen. Come on down when you're ready."

In the kitchen, he looked over their stores. Mrs. Marzetti had left them well stocked. He shook his head, wondering how much she thought the two of them could eat in a week, but then he considered Duo's usual appetite. They might have just enough.

Deciding to keep things simple, Zechs took out two steaks, potatoes, salad, and bread. He rolled up his sleeves and began to cook. A few minutes later, Duo pounded down the stairs. He poked his head into the kitchen. "Dinner ready?" He grinned. "No? What's taking you so long?"

Zechs' heart missed a beat when Duo walked in wearing nothing but the cut-off shorts. He gave the impression of being all legs, surprisingly so for his height. He'd left his hair down, and it covered him just enough to tease, glimpses of ivory flesh flashing through, or the darker rose of his nipples. Zechs kissed him again, quickly, knowing that once he began, he might not be able to stop. "I just started. Will you help me?"

"Me? My lack of skill as a cook is legendary."

"I'm sure there's something you can do."

"I don't know…" Duo looked warily at the glistening, red steaks, the brown-skinned potatoes, the greens for salad.

"Here." Zechs sat him down on a stool at the counter and put the salad greens and a large bowl in front of him. "Tear these up."

He left Duo to abuse the salad while he grilled the steaks. A few times, Duo wandered out to the terrace to ask questions or to watch him at the barbecue in fascination. Each time, he stole a brief squeeze or a kiss, or simply stood at Zechs' side, his head resting unselfconsciously on Zechs' shoulder. Surrounded by the rhythmic lapping of the sea and the green walls of gardens and woods, they could have been the only two people on Earth.

The quiet intimacy lasted through dinner. They carried their plates and glasses of wine outside and ate on the terrace, talking sometimes or not, content in each other's company. Zechs couldn't get enough of looking at Duo. He would never get enough of looking at him. He thought back to the war, to the last days of constant battle, but his mind refused to make the connection between the young man he'd come to know and the ferocious, unpredictable Gundam pilot who'd nearly defeated him more than once. Still, they both inhabited that most desirable body, and Zechs found he respected--and loved--both sides of Duo's personality.

Duo leaned back in his chair, surveying the terrace, the gardens, the beachfront. "This really is amazing. I bet it's hard just to come here for a little while and then have to leave again."

"It is." Zechs swirled his glass, watching the little sparkling whirlpool of wine. "But…I have responsibilities…"

To Zechs' surprise, Duo reached across the table and covered Zechs' hand with his own. "Yeah. And your people love you for the way you take care of them. You should have seen the crowds when you were hurt. Thousands of them, just standing outside the hospital, waiting for news. Bunches of them had candles, they left pictures and flowers…I've never seen anything like it."

"It's really not an uncommon phenomenon. And I have the advantage of being the son of their murdered king." Zechs shrugged and rolled his eyes. "I'm a 'tragic figure,' according to the tabloids. Not to mention, they'd have loved anyone who booted out the Alliance."

"You're not just anyone. You're their prince." Duo's brow furrowed slightly. "I don't get one thing, though."

"What's that?"

"How come you're not king? Your father's dead…"

"The Alliance--"

"The Alliance is gone."

"Treize needs my help."

"You think you couldn't help him just as much, if not more, as King Milliard instead of Colonel Merquise? Sounds like a lot of bullshit excuses to me. What's the real deal?"

Zechs took a deep breath. Duo saw through him in a way that no one else did, told him the truth as no one else had the courage to. Zechs found it a little disconcerting, but at the same time, it only increased the feeling that Duo Maxwell was his perfect match.

"My father stood for total nonviolence." Zechs' voice turned distant, bleak. "I betrayed everything he lived for. Everything he died for."

"More bullshit. That's what he lived for. Good for him. What you live for is okay, too. It's a damn sight better than what most people live for, when it comes down to it." Duo's eyes filled with understanding. "Zechs--don't feel guilty because he died and you lived. That wasn't your fault. And spending your life trying to punish yourself for it doesn't change a thing. It doesn't bring anyone back." Shadows stirred in his violet eyes, and Zechs saw that ghosts haunted Duo, too. "Trust me on this one."

"I do." Zechs lifted Duo's hand to his lips. After he kissed it, he held it there, his eyes closed. "But King? I don't know." He opened his eyes. "Perhaps I could…but only if you're beside me."

Duo opened his mouth, then shut it. He shook his head and sighed. "Damn it, I walked right into that one. Guess I can't accuse you of peddling bullshit, then give you a line of my own. But Zechs…" He blinked, and suddenly he looked terribly young and uncertain again. "I'm just…who I am. I don't think I'm exactly who your people would expect you to hook up with. For lots of reasons."

"I think they've already begun to get used to the idea."

"You really think so?"

"If you think that the Chief Surgeon of the Royal Memorial Hospital personally delivers lunch to the families of all her patients…well, Dr. Vicente is dedicated, but not that dedicated. Oh, yes. They like you, kit."

Duo started to smile, but then his mouth dropped open a little and his eyes widened. "…family?"

Zechs nodded. Duo's mouth twitched, then he leapt out of his chair and flung himself onto Zechs' lap, clinging fiercely.

"Family…never had one of those before." Duo's voice, muffled against Zechs' hair, hovered somewhere between laughing and crying. "Never had a home before, either. Never had any of the things you give me."

Zechs parted a shiny skein of hair and kissed Duo's bare shoulder. "I like giving you things."

Duo nuzzled against him. He nipped at Zechs' chin, turning up a deceptively guileless face to look at him with absurdly violet eyes. Those eyes, Zechs realized, were going to cause him trouble. He had a feeling he'd never be able to say no to anything with those eyes blinking at him like that.

"Then please…would you give me some dessert?"

Zechs crushed him close, then set him down with a laugh. Like his body, Duo's moods never seemed to hold still for long. "I see this has all been a clever ploy to satisfy your sweet tooth." He patted Duo's round bottom fondly, his fingers tracing the tantalizing curve. He caught the smug grin on Duo's face and gave him a slight pinch on that pretty ass.

"Hey!"

"The price of chocolate, kit…" Zechs brought dessert, and they lingered over the table long enough that the afternoon shadows lengthened toward evening, but as the day faded, so did Duo's ease. He grew more skittish, starting like a nervous foal if Zechs touched him, then blushing and apologizing.

Duo's nerves stirred Zechs' tenderness, but he'd been too close to that nearly--naked, nearly--perfect body for too long and not done anything about it. If he waited much longer, he wouldn't have the patience to love Duo slowly, carefully, the way he wanted to the first time. He stood and held out his hand. "Come on. I have something to show you."

As always, Duo's curiosity got the better of him. "What is it?"

"Just come with me."

Duo took Zechs' hand, and the prince led him off the terrace, down the steps toward the beach. The sun poised over the sea, a glowing orange fireball that hovered just above the horizon.

"What is it?" Duo looked around at the empty beach. "Why--"

"Shhhh. Just watch." Zechs pulled Duo into his arms and turned him westward to face the ocean. As they waited, the sun teetered on the edge of the horizon, suspended in the moment, then slipped beneath the waves.

Duo drew in a sharp breath. "Oh…oh…wow." Duo still stared at the ocean, at the waves, breaking one after another on sand that gleamed like burnished copper in the dying light. "I never thought that there's an actual minute of sunset. That you could really, truly watch the sun go down…"

Zechs let Duo go, and he wandered closer to the water's edge. Duo's loose hair caught the breeze and billowed around him, caressing his bare skin. He still wore only his cut-off denim shorts, but in the growing darkness, he might as well have been wearing nothing, the last feeble light shimmering on his pale arms, his long, slender legs.

Duo stood mutely at the place where ocean and land met. Watching him, Zechs understood why so many peoples believed such places to be enchanted, gateways to the Otherworld. Duo looked liked a creature from such a place, of air and darkness, who'd stumbled accidentally onto human shores. Toe pointed like a dancer, he hesitantly dipped his foot into the froth that lapped at the sand. Zechs smiled as he took one tentative step into the water, then another.

He watched Duo inch his way toward the vastness of the ocean. He'd been afraid of it until now, Zechs realized, although he'd never admit it. Without the protective shell of his Gundam, the deep could be unknowable, threatening. But at last, the mystery and magic of the sea captured him, and he toyed with it, skirting the shore, wanting to try the waters but still a little fearful.

Zechs crossed the little stretch of beach between him and Duo, his own feet sinking in the sand as he walked. He was just behind the slender, elfin figure when he called softly, "Duo?"

Duo turned his head, startled. "I didn't hear you…"

Zechs touched Duo's cheek. "Don't be afraid of the water."

"I'm not!" The denial came too quickly for Zechs to believe.

"Don't be afraid of me, either."

"I…I…"

Zechs took a step closer. The waves foamed around their feet, soaking his jeans, but he had no attention for anything but Duo. Slowly, deliberately, Zechs kissed him, pushing deeper with his tongue even when he felt Duo's resistance. He kept up the kiss until the younger man finally relaxed in his arms, shivering a little, then nestling close.

He stroked the skin of Duo's back, mapping his spine. His fingers slipped over the expanse of satin skin, hungry for more, and when he spoke finally, his voice roughened, low, almost savage with desire. "Now, Duo. It's time…right now."

"N-now? Here?" Duo's voice squeaked just a little. His eyes deepened to rival the blue-black sea, fathomless depths where innocence, experience, and the overriding need as old as nature churned together.

Zechs didn't answer. He unbuttoned Duo's cut-offs and slowly pulled down the zipper. Duo's eyes grew to enormous proportions, and his breath quickened to short, shallow gasps, but he didn't resist. With the same slow deliberation, Zechs pushed Duo's shorts over his hips, to his knees, let them fall to his ankles, leaving him naked but for the scrap of denim pooled around his feet. Then he took Duo's hand and led him forward a step or two, forcing him to abandon his clothing.

"Z-Zechs…" Duo trembled wildly and tried to turn back, but Zechs drew him a few more steps down the beach, away from his discarded shorts, farther from the safety of the house. "Can't we wait until…I'm not ready, I can't--"

Duo's body belied his denial, and Zechs' hand brushed Duo's hardness. "Yes, you are. Yes, you can." He pulled Duo into his arms and kissed him again, ran his hands over Duo's arms, his back, his buttocks. He could tell each time he encountered a place where Duo was unused to being touched because he squirmed and bucked in Zechs' arms. He felt Duo's body twitch against his, and he sought more of those virgin places.

"Oh…God, Zechs, please…"

Zechs pulled Duo down to the sand. For a while, he kept him like that, both on their knees, locked in an embrace that Duo no longer resisted. Always managing to keep at least one hand on Duo's skin, Zechs shed his own shirt. He took one of Duo's hands and pressed it against his chest.

"You can touch me, too."

At first, Duo ducked his head and refused to answer. But Zechs guided the small hand over the contours of his muscle, and slowly, Duo's touch became more certain, until he eagerly explored Zechs' body on his own. Zechs held still, but the sharp intake of his breath, the way his heart jumped and his flesh quivered revealed the power Duo's touch had over him.

At last, Duo's hands dropped to the waist of Zechs' jeans. He looked up, his eyes huge and shining in the moonlit darkness. "Can I?"

"Yes."

Duo's fingers trembled as he unbuttoned Zechs' jeans, but it seemed they trembled now from eagerness. Zechs let him pull them as far as he could, then stood and finished stripping them off, tossing them aside when he was done. Duo remained in front of him, still kneeling and looking up at him with an expression that he could only call worshipful.

"You promised to teach me…"

Zechs crooked his fingers under Duo's chin. "Yes, I did." He tugged slightly, tipping Duo's head toward him. "You remember what felt good…that's all you have to do."

Duo's face shimmered up at him, fey and insubstantial in the moonlight, then hid under his lavish fall of hair. Zechs caught his breath as he felt the hesitant, warm pressure of Duo's tongue against his own flesh. He started to murmur something encouraging, but the words transmuted into a groan as Duo took him in his mouth. He buried his fingers in that impossible mane, struggling against the primitive urge to take control and thrust.

Zechs managed a few strangled words, but mostly he allowed Duo to experiment. Too soon, he had to push Duo's head away.

"What…Zechs? Is something…did I do something--?"

Zechs dropped back to his knees in front of Duo, stroked his cheek. "I don't want to finish so quickly, that's all. And if you keep going--"

"Oh." Duo looked at him with shy pride. "Then I was okay?"

"More than okay." Zechs tasted himself on Duo's mouth. "Much, much more…"

Duo sat back on his haunches, knees spread, supporting himself with his hands. His chest rose and fell quickly as he waited for Zechs to show him what to do. He shook back his hair until it spilled behind him in a puddle of shadows. He looked untamed, a wild thing, as natural as the sand and sea. On his hands and knees, Zechs circled behind him. He slid his hands around Duo's slender waist, then lower, savoring his body, from the sharp bones of his hip to the tense, corded muscles of his thighs. Duo's small, breathless cries spurred Zechs to reach under him, searching for his entrance. He leaned forward, one hand splayed against Duo's face, holding him close as his teeth caught at the creamy skin of his neck. He felt the muscles of Duo's arms tense as he clenched his fists, gasping for breath as Zechs' other hand found the tiny, tight opening.

The water had crept up around them, splashing at their knees, and Zechs dipped his fingers into it, wetting them. Still covering Duo's neck and jaw with kisses, he traced the rim of his entrance, rubbing in teasing circles until he could feel Duo pushing against him. Zechs licked at the shell of Duo's ear, smiling at the feral, frustrated growl that rumbled in Duo's throat.

"What do you want, kit? Tell me."

"Zechs--" Duo's voice whined, petulant and needy. "You know what I want." He squirmed, wriggling his bottom against Zechs' hand.

"Yes…but I want to hear you say it."

"I…I want you to…" Duo rubbed against him again. "Come on…just do it…"

Zechs glided his hand from Duo's face down his neck, his shoulder, reaching over him to catch a nipple between his thumb and forefinger. He rolled the hard little nub between his fingers, his other hand leaving Duo's entrance to reach forward until he stroked his peach-soft balls.

Duo's back bowed as Zechs' fingers explored him. Zechs kissed the white, arched neck and wrapped his hand around Duo's shaft. He couldn't see Duo's eyes, but he imagined them, half-closed, dazed with hunger. The image drove Zechs to increase his efforts, his fingers tormenting Duo in endless, teasing variations. Duo's muscles went rigid, and he gave a startled cry as he spent himself in Zechs' hand. As the last pulses of Duo's pleasure throbbed against his palm, Zechs smiled a little and bent down to kiss him.

To his surprise, Duo jerked himself out of Zechs' arms, scuttled away to slump mournfully on the sand a few feet from Zechs. Zechs followed, cupped his hands around Duo's shoulders.

"What's wrong?"

"Wrong?" Duo's voice choked, as though with unshed tears. "What do you think is wrong? I just…I couldn't even…" He hid his face between his knees. "Just leave me alone, okay?"

"Duo…" Zechs gently lifted Duo's hair away from his face. "Don't. You did nothing--"

"Nothing. Yeah, right." Duo shrank away from Zechs' hand, and misery clogged his voice. "Go away."

"No." Zechs put his arms around Duo, preventing him from escaping again. He nuzzled against Duo's hair, his skin, murmuring his appreciation.

"Why?" Duo shivered a little in his arms as Zechs traced the shell of his ear with his tongue.

"I'm not done with you, kit." Zechs' hands wandered again, over Duo's shoulders, his chest, his hips. "Watching you come was the sweetest of pleasures, but it's only the beginning."

Duo gasped as Zechs' fingers brushed his already hardening sex. "The b-beginning? But I…I already…I…I don't understand…"

Zechs nipped at Duo's neck with his teeth, then soothed the tiny, reddened bites with his tongue. "Then let me show you."

+

Zechs held him still, his legs spread wide and draped over his prince's powerful thighs, his back pressed against Zechs' broad chest. The warm water lapped at his flanks, a languorous tongue that never quite reached high enough. He squirmed, trying to get closer to the teasing waves. "Zechs, please…I need to…"

"I know what you need." Zechs tipped Duo's head back and kissed his neck with undisguised hunger. "Do you know how long I've wanted you? Since the first time I saw you, after we captured you during the war. I saw the reports, and I thought, 'That is the most beautiful creature in the universe.' All I could think of was doing this--" He slid a hand down Duo's chest to pinch his nipple. The sharp pressure sent an electric charge straight to Duo's groin, and he arched and moaned.

Duo whimpered as a wave broke over their legs, caressing him in long, silk strokes from his waist to his feet. A vague feeling of familiarity washed over him, even as Zechs touched him as no one had ever touched him before. "…dreamed of this…for so long…"

"My dearest love…I am the dream…"

Duo shuddered, then bucked, as Zechs' hand slid between his legs. He felt open, revealed, but not afraid. Zechs' arm held him around his waist, anchoring him firmly to the shore, even as his other hand did things that made him feel like he could float away. So strong, his prince was, and so gentle… the reality went beyond even the fantasies of his lonely imagination. Duo reached back and locked his arms around Zechs' neck, pressing upward with his body into his touch. Long fingers circled him, stroked him, spread him, until he wailed, crying out like one of the sea birds.

Zechs was right. All his dreams…they all came together, right here, right now. They converged in the gentle torment of the sea, in Zechs' hands, in the strength of his body, the hardness that pressed against him, undeniable. Only one dream left to come true…

"Take me." Duo's whisper trembled on the breeze, almost swept out to sea with the sand that pulled away under them in the tide. The water shivered softly against his open thighs again, both torment and promise. "Make it real…"

Duo felt the ocean's cool breath against his bare shoulders as Zechs moved. He whimpered, trying to reach for his prince, but Zechs laid him back on the sand. Duo pulled him down, needing the closeness, the weight of Zechs' body on his. Instinctively, he spread his legs. This was the moment he'd longed for and feared, and now that it was here, it seemed so easy. Duo lifted his hips, rubbing his hardness against Zechs'. He knew what he wanted and where he wanted it. Zechs' hand was on him again, stroking the length of him until he begged. He could feel his own liquid leaking out of him, a prelude to ecstasy. It slicked his skin as Zechs toyed with him, swirled his thumb over wet, aching flesh. Zechs gathered a drop on his fingers and licked it off, eyes heavy with pleasure. Duo felt fingers swirl over him again, and he writhed. But this time, Zechs brought his fingers, glistening with wetness, to Duo's lips.

"Taste yourself, love. Taste yourself on me…"

Duo did. Like a young and hungry animal, he suckled on Zechs' fingers. Mostly, he tasted clean, salty skin, but over the strangely delicious tang of Zechs' flesh was another flavor, more delicate. Not salty, exactly, nor bitter…Duo realized it was him, his own essence, blending intimately with Zechs'. Suddenly, he felt on fire, the waters that splashed over them doing nothing to cool him.

"Please, Zechs…please…now. Do it now."

Zechs slipped his hands under Duo's rump, lifting him a little. He spread Duo's thighs wide, leaning closer, and Duo held his breath, his body involuntarily resisting Zechs' pressure. He thrust once, hard and irresistible, and Duo squealed at the startling, sharp pain, then whimpered at the slow burn as Zechs pushed deeper into him. He wrapped his legs around Zechs' waist, clinging tightly, his blunt nails digging into Zechs' arms, his eyes screwed shut.

Feather soft, Zechs' fingers brushed over his face. "Open your eyes. I want you to see me."

Duo obeyed, but he felt something suspiciously like a sob building in his chest. It wasn't that it hurt--God, it did, but it was a wonderful sort of hurt, and he reveled in it. No…this was more like something inside him wanted out, like all the darkness and emptiness he'd tried to keep caged for so long was about to escape. He tried to hang on to it--it had been part of him for so long, he didn't know what to do without it. But he couldn't. The heat of Zechs' rhythm spread upward through his body, from his tight, hot core to his chest, driving it out. The wave of fire reached his throat, and he cried out again--and again, matching the cadence of Zechs' thrusts as each one burned away another barrier.

Water broke over them, and Duo felt the sand wash back to the sea under him. For a dizzying instant, he felt as though he were being taken by the waves, too. Like the shifting sand, everything he'd thought solid and understandable gave way as Zechs moved inside him.

A wave swirled around him, splashing salt water on his lips. Drowning…he must be drowning. What else could explain this reeling, heart-pounding giddiness? Half panicking, he clawed at Zechs' arms. He was losing himself, and no one but his prince could save him…

Zechs leaned down and kissed him, even as he drove himself deeper into Duo's body. "Don't be afraid…don't be afraid to give yourself to me."

Duo felt the last wall inside him crumble. Defenseless, he surrendered himself to Zechs, and in giving himself utterly, found that he took from his prince, as well. Duo's body tightened, shuddered as Zechs tipped back his head, gasping. Need unlike any he'd ever felt before gripped him, overriding pain and pleasure. He pushed harder against Zechs, searching, begging for release before the hunger consumed him.

"More…I need more. Zechs…"

Zechs gave him all that he asked for. Waves swelled over him, inside him, and he rode the crests until they broke in a white-hot flash of foam and fire, his climax searing and soothing. In an echo of his own deliverance, Duo felt Zechs thrust deep, fingers digging with bruising strength into his hips. Duo's whole vision filled with his prince, moonlight washing his hair to palest silver, eyes smoky with pleasure, unseeing until they fastened on Duo's face. Full awareness returned to them, although they still smoldered with desire. Duo reached up and brushed his fingers over his prince's cheek, his lips.

"Give yourself to me," Duo whispered. "Don't be afraid to give yourself to me."

Blue eyes widened as Duo wrapped his legs around Zechs' waist, taking all of him in a single, burning thrust. Zechs gasped again and groaned, then cried out Duo's name, like the victorious cry of a conqueror. Duo watched Zechs' face, not sure whether the ecstasy he felt was his prince's or his own. Then Zechs' essence filled him, warmed the core of him, and he decided that it didn't matter. It was all the same. They were one.

+

Zechs held Duo tight against him. Slender arms wound around his neck, and Duo tipped his face up in invitation, his eyes closed, a soft smile playing on his mouth. Zechs pressed his lips against Duo's in a tender kiss, still savoring the afterglow of their lovemaking.

Duo nuzzled against him. "Is it always like that?"

"Like what?"

"So…wonderful."

Zechs smiled and kissed him again. "It's never been so wonderful before…but from now on, yes. Because it's you."

Duo pressed his cheek against Zechs' chest, but he didn't answer, just squirmed even closer, molding his body against the long, lean one of the prince. Zechs closed his eyes, luxuriating in the feel of Duo's skin against his. He ran his hand over Duo's hip, and his lover shivered a little.

"Are you cold?"

"Cold?" Duo's voice was distant, dreamy. "No…the water is so warm. And so are you. Let's just stay right here. All night."

"Mmmm…it would be nice, but we can't do that, kit. The tide's coming in." Confirming Zechs' observation, a wave splashed over them, reaching their shoulders, and Duo sat up, sputtering.

"Oh!" Duo's squeak of dismay made Zechs open his eyes.

"Hm?"

Duo held a gritty, sodden lock of hair in his hand. "I'll never get the sand out…"

Zechs laughed. He stood, then pulled Duo to his feet and led him into the sea. "Come on. I'll rinse it out for you."

Still a little wobbly, Duo followed without resistance. Zechs led him out until the gentle tides reached his lover's waist. Duo clung to him, a bit apprehensive yet about the great, dark expanse, its silver skin glistening in the moonlight.

"Relax. I'm not going to let go of you."

Duo smiled. "Promise?"

"I promise." Zechs cupped his hand over Duo's cheek. "Forever."

Duo stared up at him, his eyes enormous, his mouth quivering. He reached up and touched Zechs' hand where it rested against his face, and his voice was full of wonder. "Forever…that's a long time."

"Yes…almost long enough." Looking down at Duo, Zechs felt an onslaught of tenderness and desire. He'd never imagined that love felt like this, this wild need to possess, and yet this deep, still calm at the core of his being, this sense of total completeness. "I claimed you once, out of hunger and duty. This time, I claim you out of love." Zechs kissed him on the forehead, then pulled him against his own body. "I do love you, kit. Forever."

"Then show me again..." Duo clung to Zechs as though afraid the tide might take him away. "Show me how much you love me…let me show you how much I love you."

With the help of the water, Zechs lifted him. Duo needed no instruction this time, and he wrapped his legs tightly around Zechs' waist, looped his arms around the prince's neck. In the silver and black ocean, they claimed each other, and Zechs no longer knew--or cared--who was the captor and who the captive.

+

It wasn't dawn, but the next thing to it, by the time they lay in their own bed. Duo watched the stars through the window, listened to the steady beat of the waves breaking against the shore. The breeze billowed the curtains, turning the room pleasantly chilly. He sighed, utterly content, and snuggled close to Zechs' warm, solid body.

At Duo's sigh, Zechs raised a hand to caress Duo's hair. "What's the matter, kit?"

"Matter? Nothing. Nothing at all. In fact, everything is damn near perfect."

"Yes." Zechs kissed him gently. "I wish--" He stopped, his eyes still tender, but a little apprehensive.

"Cut it out. I know what you're thinking." Duo leaned up on his elbow to look down at Zechs. Idly, he traced the strong lines of Zechs' cheek and chin. "Aren't you the one who told me not to borrow trouble from the future?"

"So I did." Zechs caught Duo's hand and pressed it to his lips. "But there are some rough times ahead…"

"So? That just makes the ride more fun." Duo nipped playfully at Zechs' shoulder. "And anyway, I know how the story ends. So don't worry about it."

"Oh, you do, do you? And how does it end?"

"Duh." Duo tugged on Zechs' arm, and his prince obligingly rolled over, covering Duo with his body. Duo wound his arms around Zechs' neck and wondered if it was really possible to die from happiness. "The prince takes me back to his palace--and we live happily every after."

"You really don't mind going back?"

"For a prince, sometimes you're kind of dense." Duo kissed Zechs soundly. "Like I'd be anywhere else, if that's where you are."

"But the palace…you said it made you feel like you were in a cage." Zechs smoothed Duo's hair out of his face, a faint frown lining his forehead. "I don't want you to feel caged."

"Zechs, let it go. We both said some dumb stuff that night. I didn't mean it."

"But--"

"Did you mean it when you told me to leave?"

"No. Of course I didn't."

"All right, then. So forget it. All I want is to be with you. It doesn't matter to me if it's on a ship or in a palace or in a house by the ocean. I don't care if it means wearing a uniform. None of that matters--as long as we're together. And besides, we can always come here. Home will always be waiting for us."

"Yes. We can always come home. It seems you got the ending right." Zechs kissed him again. "And they lived happily ever after…"

Duo returned the kiss enthusiastically, and Zechs' hands began to roam over him again, as eager as if they'd never touched. The stars faded to morning, but neither noticed. The sun caught them sleeping at last, twined together in a tangle of snowy linen, smiling, as each dreamed of a fairy tale that had in its end their beginning.

The End

[ch. 9] [back to RazorQueens' fic]