see ch. 1 for warnings. notes
Claim + Chapter 7
hundreds of years pre-Colony. The records have mostly been lost, so no
one knows exactly how old it is."
Duo stood in front of the massive façade of the cathedral, his
mouth gaping slightly in awe. He'd never seen anything quite like it,
with its high, arching roof, towering so far above the street that he
couldn't quite make out the strange figures guarding it. But it was the
window that captured his attention. An enormous circle of colored glass,
petals radiating out from the center that sparkled like jewels in the
sun of a summer mid-morning. As he looked closer, Duo realized that the
window was really hundreds, possibly thousands, of individual pieces of
glass--some no bigger than the palm of his hand--joined together like
pieces of a puzzle to create the larger picture. He must have made some
sound that gave away his wonder, because Zechs turned his gaze from the
building, looked down at Duo, and smiled.
"Amazing, isn't it?"
Duo nodded. "How did they do that?"
Zechs' smile turned a little sad. "No one knows. That, too, has been lost."
He looked back at the cathedral and sighed. "We can build so much with
our modern machines...but not like this. Something like this--it takes
hands...and time, a lifetime, maybe more. We've lost the patience for
such art, I think."
Duo reached for Zechs' hand and squeezed it, just once. He felt, if dimly,
what Zechs meant. "I never had time to think about things like that...about
what it might have been like--before." The idea of a world before colonization,
somehow, had never occurred to him. "I was always just worried about today.
You know, what was I going to eat and where was I going to sleep. Or who
was I going to fight..." He swallowed, and Zechs returned the squeeze.
"I wonder what it would be like to know that this planet was all there
was, that you couldn't just go somewhere else." He looked up at the soaring
vaults and arches. "Maybe that's why they built things like this. Because
they knew that they would be here to see it, always, and their kids, and
their kids after that." Duo's brows drew together in a frown of concentration
as he tried to imagine the kind of permanence the builders of this cathedral
must have felt. But it was still too foreign to him, and he shook his
head, giving up.
"Do you want to go inside?"
"Inside?" Duo's heart skipped a beat and his mouth went dry. He hadn't
been inside a church since...of course, that one was hardly so grand as
this, but... "No. No, I don't think so. If you don't mind."
"Of course I don't mind." Zechs watched him for a moment, as if he sensed
that Duo's refusal had some meaning beyond a reluctance to leave the sunshine.
Duo shrugged and smiled sheepishly, a little embarrassed by the superstitious
dread he felt at the idea of going into the cathedral. "I'll tell you
about it one of these days."
"I hope so." Zechs tugged slightly on Duo's hand. "Come on, then. We've
only seen a little of the city. And I want to show you all of it."
Apparently, when Zechs said "all," he meant precisely that. Duo thought
they must have walked up and down a hundred streets, although it was probably
only a dozen or two. Some of them were lined with narrow houses, shoulder
to shoulder like people in a crowd. On others, shops butted up against
one another, painted signs and colorful awnings overhanging the narrow
sidewalks. The streets, too, seemed narrow--far narrower than the broad
boulevards that criss-crossed colonial cities--and often paved with stones
or bricks. Some cars braved the cramped, winding streets, but mostly people
seemed to travel on foot or on bicycles.
Duo took all of it in, his eyes wide and round. To him, the city looked
like something out of a fairy tale.
"Granted, I didn't spend a lot of time sightseeing while I was on Earth,
but this isn't anything like the other cities I was in."
Zechs smiled proudly. "There are more modern sections, of course, but
the heart of the city is still the same as it's been for hundreds of years."
"I'll bet not many places can say that."
"No, they can't. It's one of the things that makes Sanc so special." They
stood at the top of a hill, the street winding away into shadow below
them. Beyond the rooftops, they could see the flattened rectangles of
the newer parts of the city and the paved ribbons of the airfield, and
beyond that, the ocean glittering in the afternoon sun. Zechs looked out
over the city, but his eyes seemed distant. "Sanc has been lucky--with
the mountains on one border and the sea on the other, we've been too hard
to conquer and too small to make the effort worthwhile. And of course,
we had a tradition of not becoming involved in the wars of others."
Duo thought he noticed the slightest emphasis on "had."
They walked on a little, turned a corner into yet another quaint, old-fashioned
neighborhood. To Duo, it seemed indistinguishable from the others they
had strolled through, although Zechs pointed out landmarks as though he
were a tour guide. "Do you see that building there, the one through the
trees?" Duo could make out the broad, gray edifice, rows of windows glinting
through the leaves. "That's the House of Parliament."
"Parliament? But I thought Sanc had a king--" Duo hesitated, uncertain
of how Zechs would feel to be reminded of his dead father and his unclaimed
"It did." Zechs' voice was quiet and a little solemn. "My father, the
last Peacecraft king, was still ruler in a very real sense. But the Parliament
was the voice of the people. Of course," his voice turned bitter. "That
ended with the Alliance."
"Yeah. Lots of things ended with the Alliance."
They stood in silence, each alone with his painful memories. Finally,
Duo prodded Zechs gently. "Come on. Let's finish the tour."
Zechs' answered with a grateful, if pale, smile and started walking again.
They passed the trees and now Duo could see that the House was only a
burned-out shell. The front section still stood, but behind it, the great
building lay in shattered, blackened ruins. In fact, the entire neighborhood
that lay behind the House and the park that bordered it was pitted by
fire and bombs. Zechs pointed to another structure, crushed as though
an apathetic giant had trod on it.
"That used to be a school. It was full of children the day an Alliance
bomb missed the House and fell here instead."
Duo stared at the gray ruins, then turned his back, blinking rapidly.
He couldn't look. Too many of his own ghosts hunkered in the lengthening
Zechs laid a tentative hand on Duo's shoulder. "I'm sorry...I wanted you
to see all of it, but--"
Duo shook himself. "No, you're right. This is part of Sanc, too. It has
war wounds, just like everywhere else. You can't ignore them."
"No, I can't. And I don't mean to." Zechs turned with Duo and steered
him back down the sidewalk. He stayed quiet until the row of trees once
again obscured the evidence of war. They crossed the street, and Zechs
stopped, finally. "I've dragged you all over the old city for half the
day and not even offered you lunch. Forgive me?"
Duo shook off the gloom of the war-scarred quarter behind them. He looked
up at Zechs and grinned. "Sure--as long as you make amends. Soon."
"What would you say to now?"
"I'd say that suits me just fine." He and Zechs entered a little café
and found a seat in the cool dimness. Duo flopped into a chair with careless
grace, then ran a finger under his collar. "You've got some nerve, you
know. Not even sweating in your uniform."
Zechs laughed. "Well, I am more accustomed than you to both a uniform
and Sanc summers. But a cold drink would certainly be welcome."
As if on cue, a middle-aged woman approached their table, and Zechs ordered
for them both. The woman looked curiously at him, and then her eyes widened.
She dropped an awkward curtsy and scurried back to the kitchen. In a matter
of minutes, several heads poked around the kitchen door and just as quickly
disappeared. Duo watched the performance curiously, then looked back at
Zechs. The prince shrugged a little, and Duo was surprised to see that
he was blushing, if only faintly.
Before Duo had a chance to say anything, teasing or otherwise, a man about
the same age as the waitress--her husband, perhaps, and clearly the owner
of the café--approached them. He welcomed Zechs profusely as "my
gracious prince," then served them three times the food they'd ordered
and declared that he could accept no payment in exchange for the honor
of serving Prince Milliard. Duo thought that Zechs seemed distinctly uncomfortable
during the entire little ceremony, although how he knew that, he wasn't
sure, as nothing in Zechs' demeanor gave away his discomfort. Still, when
the man finally left them to eat their lunch, Zechs rolled his eyes a
little and attacked the food with as much good grace as possible.
Duo leaned over the table and asked quietly, "You're not really going
to eat all this, are you?" Unlike his General, Zechs was not by nature
a hedonist and usually seemed to approach food as little more than a necessity,
when he made time to eat at all.
With a slight grimace, Zechs nodded. "I've got to give it a shot, Duo.
I'd insult the poor man if I didn't." Then he smiled. "But of course,
I have you with me, so it shouldn't be a problem."
"Hrmph." Duo gave Zechs a slight pout, then laughed as well--and helped
himself to the food. They spent the better part of an hour that way, eating
and laughing, sharing stories of mostly trivial mishaps or embarrassments.
Finally, Duo leaned back in his chair, rubbing his flat belly. "I can't
eat another bite, I don't care whose honor is at stake."
Zechs leaned on his elbow, resting his cheek against his fist. "I would
say that you've done a fine job of preserving my good name." He made a
teasing bow. "You have my gratitude."
"What? Not even your royal gratitude?"
"Very well." He bowed again, more deeply, sweeping his arm in a dramatic
flourish. "You have my most high and puissant royal gratitude."
"Huh? How can you be pissed and grateful at the same time?"
For a moment, Zechs looked puzzled. Then his expression brightened, although
he didn't laugh. "Oh, I see. No, Duo, 'puissant' means powerful or strong."
Finally, an amused smile quirked his expressive mouth. "Not that I'm...pissed."
"Oh." Duo looked askance for a moment, then stifled a laugh himself. "It
just doesn't sound right to hear you say 'pissed.' It's too...common."
Zechs stood, offering his hand to Duo. "I'll take that as a compliment--whether
you meant it as one or not."
Duo let Zechs take his hand-it would be silly not to, all things considered.
And anyway, he liked the way it felt. Zechs' hands were so much bigger
than his, and when his fingers disappeared in that warm, firm grasp, he
felt strangely as though no one else could touch him. That as long as
Zechs held his hand like that, no one could ever hurt him again. Yeah,
he liked feeling that way. A lot.
As Duo got to his feet, Zechs started to release his hand, and he made
a small, disappointed mewl. Long, warm fingers tightened around his again,
and he felt that strange, secure feeling return. Still sheltering Duo's
hand in his, Zechs spoke again to the owner, then left more than enough
money to pay for their food. With a final bow to their host, Zechs guided
Duo out of the café.
Duo went with him outside into the drowsy, late afternoon heat. "I don't
get it...he said it was free, but you paid anyway?"
Zechs tucked Duo's hand under his arm, escorting him down the street back
toward the Palace. "Yes...I suppose you could say it was a thank-you gift.
I couldn't refuse his food, but to offer to pay would have been an insult.
But for me not to pay at all would have been mean-spirited and greedy.
So...I left him a gift."
"Oh." Duo walked beside Zechs for a few blocks, quietly trying to decipher
that bit of logic.
They'd been gone from the Palace now for hours, and the end of the work
day had come. The streets seemed to swell with laborers on their way home,
on foot and on bicycle, jostling past Duo and Zechs in a noisy swarm.
Duo used the cover of the bustling street to think about the day. Underneath
the fairy-tale surface, Sanc was a wounded country. They had walked past
other war-damaged neighborhoods, burned and boarded-shut buildings, blackened
piles of rubble, cracked foundations and tottering walls. Duo had seen
the pain in Zechs' face, like he was bleeding inside.
The words of the man who'd tried to kidnap him on the Libra came back
to him, that Zechs had somehow used Sanc for his own gain. But what gain?
True, Zechs was an officer in OZ, second only to Treize. But the throne
still sat empty...of course, so did the House of Parliament, and the OZ
banner flew over the Palace. Had Zechs used his country to barter for
a broader power for himself? But then, there was the unmistakable pride
in his eyes when he showed the city to Duo, and the pain. Duo sighed.
His body--and his heart--told him one side of the story, but his head
persisted in trying to put a different spin on the evidence.
Zechs somehow must have heard his sigh, even over the street noise. "Duo?
Is something wrong?" He pulled Duo aside, under the shade of an awning.
"It's still quite warm-do you need to rest a minute?"
Duo smiled in spite of himself. "I'm not going to melt or die of heat
stroke or something." Still, it did feel good to stand in the shade for
a few minutes. The OZ uniform he wore was heavy and hot and scratched
where the high collar rubbed his neck.
Zechs smiled, too, and laid his hand on Duo's shoulder, a small, possessive
gesture that made Duo's skin tingle. They stood that way for a little
while, and Duo found himself wishing they were back at the Palace already
so that Zechs might do more than touch his shoulder. Since their last
day on the Libra, they'd had little time for more...training exercises.
But Duo had found himself thinking about it often, the feel of Zechs'
hands gently stripping away his clothes, of those hands on his body, of
his mouth....Duo remembered how it had felt, and how he had squirmed and
cried out and begged, and his cheeks flamed, as though he had indeed been
in the sun too long.
"Duo, your face is flushed--you are overheated." Zechs drew him
toward a bench. "Come on, sit down and catch your breath."
Duo felt his blush deepen. "No, really, I'm fine. I--"
Duo stopped as someone jostled past them. Even though he didn't see the
young man clearly at first, some thrill of recognition shot through him.
Zechs' attention was still focused on getting him to rest, and Duo allowed
himself to be guided to a narrow bench against the window of a shop. Even
as Zechs fussed over him, opening his collar, Duo barely felt the cool
touch of air on his perspiring skin. The young man who had brushed against
them stopped and turned. From under disheveled dark bangs, a pair of Prussian
blue eyes met his in a long, cool, appraising stare. Then the young man
turned away, opened a door between the shops that led to the upper stories
of the building, and disappeared. Duo bit his lip, his heart racing.
Heero was in Sanc.
Duo stood with his back to
Zechs, looking out over the balcony at the sea. Zechs watched him, mostly
for the pure pleasure of it. Duo leaned forward against the balustrade,
elbows planted, hands clasped loosely. The tail of his untucked white
shirt fluttered in the soft wind just over the curve of his hip. His braid
hung over his shoulder, and he played with the end of it without conscious
attention, as though it were an old habit.
He had taken off his jacket--or rather, Zechs had taken it off of him
as soon as they were inside their suite. Duo had spent his life in the
controlled environment of the Colonies, and Earth's extremes clearly still
taxed him, if the way he'd flushed and then gone pale was any indication.
Zechs had been afraid he was going to be ill. Duo protested he was fine
all the way home, but when Zechs relieved him of the heavy blue jacket,
"Thanks. I-I need a little air, I think..."
Zechs nodded, and Duo had stepped out onto the balcony, where the sea
breeze ruffled his damp hair. The prince had called for some cold drinks,
and a servant brought them, lemonade in tall glasses on a silver tray.
Zechs dismissed the girl, then carried a glass to Duo. Ice tinkled against
crystal as he offered it.
Duo met his eyes for a moment, then looked down, his "thank you" nearly
a whisper. He took a tentative sip of the lemonade, then a bigger drink.
"Yeah." Duo took another swallow, then turned his head, looking out over
the ocean again. "I guess the heat got to me more than I thought."
Zechs brushed his fingers over Duo's ivory cheek. "You're not used to
"Must be it."
"Duo...is something wrong? You seem distracted." Zechs frowned slightly,
wondering if he ought to have avoided the bombed-out areas of the city
after all. Duo had been unusually quiet ever since.
Duo managed a wan smile. "No, really. I think it's just the heat..."
Perhaps it wasn't the war that was disturbing Duo. It had been days since
he had come close to taking the pilot on the floor of his quarters on
the Libra. Since then, there had been little time for much physical attention
except quick kisses, hurried hugs and pats. He'd barely had the energy
at night for even the brief, weary cuddles they'd managed. Perhaps Duo
was only feeling neglected--with good reason.
"Then you need to cool off." He took Duo's half-empty glass out of his
hand and set it aside. "Let me help."
Duo's breath caught sharply, but he made no attempt to stop Zechs, who
slowly opened the white cotton shirt one button at a time. A faint sheen
of perspiration covered Duo's skin, and he quivered a little when the
air touched his bare chest. Other than that involuntary movement, he stood
motionless, lips slightly parted, eyes open and wide. Zechs bent down
and kissed the hollow of Duo's throat, savoring the clean, salty taste.
Duo laughed shakily. "This isn't c-cooling me off much--"
"No?" Zechs opened another button, then blew lightly over Duo's damp skin.
"Ohhh--" Duo shivered and he closed his eyes. One hand still gripped the
edge of the stone balustrade. The other trembled, reaching toward Zechs
a little before falling back at his side.
Zechs saw the small movement. He was right, then, about Duo wanting some
attention. Smiling seductively, he reached for Duo's free hand and tugged
him away from the railing. Violet eyes opened, searched his face--for
reassurance, perhaps? Zechs gave it with a kiss, his mouth urging Duo
With a tiny noise, like that of a curious kitten, Duo returned his nuzzle.
His hands began to roam a little over Zechs, tentative at first, then
with more confidence as Zechs murmured encouragement. Duo might be inexperienced,
but his eagerness made up for any lack of finesse.
Duo wrapped his arms around Zechs' neck, enthusiastically responding to
his kisses, even pursuing a few of his own. Zechs had half-forgotten how
Duo's mouth tasted, how it felt to have that little tongue caressing his.
But the memory came back to him in a sudden rush, and kissing no longer
satisfied him. And this time, he had no reason to stop. He would take
his time--no crude, quick tumble on the floor of his quarters, but a long,
slow night of love...
"Let's go in." Zechs cupped his hand over Duo's bottom, fingers rubbing,
Nervousness edged Duo's voice. "In? Like...inside?"
"Yes." Zechs looked down at Duo, who suddenly seemed apprehensive, skittish
almost. "Inside--to our bedroom..." His voice trailed off, the invitation
left to hang in the air.
Duo's body tensed slightly, but he nodded. Zechs took his hand and let
him across the balcony, through the wide doors that opened into the bedroom.
Somehow, Duo seemed even smaller here, in the midst of the marble floors,
the silk tapestries, the satins and velvets. He reminded Zechs of a wild
little animal that someone had tried to make into a housepet. The look
in his wide eyes only added to the image--wary, but a little awestruck,
perhaps even hungry for the comforts and safety captivity could provide.
Not docile, though. Never that.
Duo's aura of grudgingly-tamed wildness quickened Zechs' pulse. He pulled
Duo into the room and started to shut the doors behind them, but Duo grasped
at his sleeve.
"Don't-please? I-I like to hear the ocean...to smell it..."
Zechs smiled. "Of course. As you wish."
Duo smiled a little in return, and a hint of eagerness returned to his
"My pleasure." Zechs' voice roughened slightly as his desire spiked. "And
speaking of pleasure..." Mindful of Duo's nervousness on the balcony,
Zechs reined in his need. Slowly, he removed Duo's shirt. He leaned down
and followed the cloth with a trail of kisses from Duo's neck to his shoulder,
then down the other side. Duo's eyes closed. He bit his lip, as though
to stifle himself. Zechs gently rubbed his fingertips over Duo's nipples,
then slid his hands over his ribcage and waist. Duo moaned faintly as
Zechs' hands skimmed his body, but when Zechs began to unfasten Duo's
uniform trousers, he shied away.
Puzzled by Duo's sudden withdrawal, Zechs let his hands drop. "Duo, what--?"
"Zechs...I-I don't think I can...not now--" His voice faltered and broke.
"You're--sorry?" Zechs frowned, his voice sharp from disappointment. "I
Duo pulled away from him. A shadow of the old, belligerent look returned,
and his mouth set in a stubborn line. "I said I don't want to."
Frustration began to condense into anger. "On the ship--"
"Look, I changed my mind, okay? I'm allowed to do that, aren't I?" A faint
sneer pulled at Duo's mouth, and even in his anger, Zechs thought it sat
ill on Duo, looked false somehow. "Or maybe I'm not. After all, I belong
to you. I'm yours--like your boots or your gun."
The shock of having his own words thrown back at him made Zechs gasp.
"Duo--what is this about? What's changed?"
"Changed? Nothing's changed." Duo looked around the room, his eyes hardening
at the grandeur. "The ship...this palace. It's all the same to me. I'm
still a prisoner, and this is still a cage."
"A prisoner? After all that I...is that what you think?" Zechs' voice
turned cold, as though the chill might soothe the burning of the bright,
hot barb of pain lodged in his chest. "Then...go."
Duo stared at him, dumbstruck.
"Go!" Anguish tore ragged strips from Zechs' composure, left his voice
tattered. "Leave, if that's what you wish. The door of the cage is open.
No one will stop you." He turned his back and closed his eyes against
the sight of Duo, sheet-pale and poised for flight. He waited, hoping...for--what?
An apology? To hear Duo's voice, as choked as his own, begging to make
things right, to clear up this misunderstanding?
He waited in vain. For a long moment, there was only silence behind him.
Then a soft rustle of cloth and the swift, light clatter of Duo's heels
on the marble floors. A door opening and closing. And then...nothing.
The emptiness of the palace swelled around him, crashed like the waves
just beyond the balcony. After Duo escape, the silence became palpable,
a pall, dark and smothering. The need to break it--break something--overwhelmed
him. He grabbed at the first thing at hand, an ornate ormolu clock. Snarling
with blind rage, he flung it wildly. The heavy bronze clock smashed against
a mirror, and the glass exploded in a rain of silver shards. One struck
his cheek, leaving a small, clean cut that leaked steady drops of blood.
Zechs felt the warmth on his skin as he stared at the ruin he'd made.
Blood ran down his face in a thin stream, but he didn't move. The pain
comforted him somehow, as did the blood, still warm and wet on his cheek
like the tears he refused to cry.
He couldn't tell how much time had passed while he'd stared, unseeing,
at the shattered mirror, but at last, Zechs turned away, his boots crunching
the broken glass to powder. He wiped his cheek and his blood smeared red
on his fingers. If any of his servants had heard the crash and the slamming
doors, they hadn't come to investigate. He supposed that over the years,
they'd become accustomed to his outbursts and to cleaning up after them.
They'd deal with the mess while he was out, quietly and efficiently. When
he came back to his rooms later, it would simply be gone.
This time, he'd demolished far more than a mirror. The brittle trust Duo
had begun to show lay broken at his feet as surely as the ruined glass.
Or maybe there had never been trust, and he'd only seen what he wished
to see. Perhaps Duo's hesitant belief and eager desire were no more real
than reflections, and when the mirror shattered, so did the illusions.
Zechs' anger toward Duo had burned itself out in the hot flash of his
temper. But a slow burn remained-at himself. He'd been a fool, an idealist,
a...romantic. He sneered at himself, at his naïveté in believing
that Duo Maxwell could actually grow to trust him. To want him. Perhaps,
"Stop it!" Zechs snarled at himself. He could scarcely blame Duo for deceiving
him. He'd have done the same himself, had he been a prisoner--said anything,
behaved any way to make his captor trust him. Duo had played it well.
He felt a grudging respect for the pilot's shrewdness. Wufei had been
right all along; he'd never given Duo half the credit he deserved.
Yes, it had been well played. Well enough to make the OZ colonel behave
like a smitten schoolboy over his ward. Zechs had no doubt he'd done precisely
what the pilot had intended in brining him to Earth and then in giving
him a chance to escape. Demanding that he escape, in fact.
"Holy Mother of God."
He had let a Gundam pilot slip through his fingers, turned him loose to
stir up God knows what trouble. This was exactly what Treize's entire
scheme was supposed to avoid. And he might well have destroyed all the
General's fragile plans in one idiotic burst of temper.
Zechs squared his shoulders, his hand resting on his gun. He had to find
Duo, now, before any more damage was done, bring him back here. He had
to lock him in the cage again. Duo might never forgive him, but that made
no difference. No difference at all.
Except to him.
The sun had long since set,
and the city quieted as it prepared for sleep. A damp mist crawled in
from the sea, but Duo scarcely noticed as he ran. His heart pounded and
his legs burned, but he neither slowed nor stopped until long after the
palace disappeared behind him in the evening fog.
When he could no longer see the lights of the palace, Duo halted his aimless,
frantic dash. He leaned against a building, head tilted back against the
brick, eyes closed. His chest heaved, and try as he might, he couldn't
smother the little moaning gasps that escaped with each breath. He hadn't
pushed himself that hard in a long time. But it wasn't exertion that dragged
those mewls of pain out of him.
Oh God, he'd done it again. Fucked up. Ruined everything. Everything.
Like he always did.
The ocean breeze that felt pleasantly cool in the late afternoon took
on a chill, and mist soaked unpleasantly through the thin fabric of his
shirt. Duo shivered, cold and miserable. The street seemed less quaint
than menacing in the dark, the warm sun a distant, hopeless memory--like
the memory of Zechs' hand clasping his as they walked.
More immediate were his memories of Zechs' face when Duo had pushed him
away. Of his eyes, full of confusion and anger. And hurt. Duo groaned
again, feeling Zechs' shock and pain as sharply as if it were his own.
Maybe it was his...he couldn't be sure. Couldn't be sure of anything.
Why? Everything he'd ever dreamed of had been within his reach.
A prince in a palace, for God's sake. It had been just like he'd imagined
it as a little boy, spinning fantasies to escape the gnawing hunger that
made sleep impossible. Everything--the tapestries and paintings, the gilt
and mirrors, the silk and satin bed. And the prince...his prince.
Looking at him with desire. Kissing him, touching him...
And with one stupid, stubborn impulse, he'd thrown it away. What was wrong
with him? This was what he'd waited for, why he'd never... Even when he'd
been so lonely he thought he would die of it, he'd never given in, never
settled. Even fought when he had to, because he believed in his dream.
In his prince. Then...why? Why wasn't it enough, to know that Zechs
wanted him? What more was he waiting for?
Duo dragged the sleeve of his shirt over his eyes, then stared at the
cloth as though he'd never seen if before. White shirt, white pants...who
was he? He looked like a ghost, a shade, insubstantial and powerless.
Everything he had been, turned inside out. There'd been a time when he
had made things happen. But since their defeat and capture, he'd been
drifting, letting things happen to him instead. Even his "escape"--Christ,
he'd waited until Zechs gave him permission to run.
Enough of that shit. Yeah, and enough of believing in fairy tales. Time
to get off his sorry ass and get moving. Duo straightened, wincing a little
as the rough brick snagged at his long hair. Kids believed in fairy tales
and princes and happy endings. He was no kid any more, and it was time
he stopped acting like one. Acting like someone was going to show up and
take care of him. That was crap, and he ought to know it by now.
Duo looked around him, paying attention to his surroundings for the first
time. He thought the street looked familiar, but it was hard to tell.
Yes, he recognized that store front--he remembered the sign, a rearing
unicorn, decked with garlands of flowers, facing a disarmed knight. And
then beyond that, that place with the red and white awning, and next to
it, the little café where they'd eaten lunch.
The sight of the tiny restaurant stabbed through Duo's belly like a physical
pain. His heart began the endless, aching chorus of why? but his
mind screamed stop! No more fairy tales. No castles in the air,
no knights in shining armor, no happily ever after. Not for him.
The streets were deserted now, windows shuttered like eyes in so many
sleeping faces. Duo clung to the shadows out of habit, creeping close
to storefronts, slipping into the darkness between buildings. This was
what felt right, he told himself. This was where he belonged, not on an
OZ ship or in a palace. Not with Zechs.
Whatever he'd been thinking in trying to fit in, to make the choice Wufei
had made, he'd been wrong. There was no place for him in OZ, regardless
of Treize Khushrenada's intent. It didn't matter if they were right. He
could never be part of that world, of military discipline and uniforms
and protocol. The freedom of the night began to ease some of his hurt.
Not all of it--there would always be a place in his heart that ached with
longing for his prince. But that, at least, was a familiar pain, and he
could live with it.
It was better this way. Even if he'd stayed, he'd have been a misfit,
always awkward and out of place. He thought of how easily Wufei seemed
to wear the OZ uniform, how comfortable he appeared at Treize's side.
He'd only had to look in his friend's eyes to know that he was where he
belonged. Lucky Fei, to be able to fit so neatly into his lover's world.
But would Wufei have chosen to be by Treize's side if OZ were the evil
they'd been told it was? Duo knew the answer. As much as Wufei loved Treize-and
Duo knew that he did-he would never have dishonored his mission. Wufei
was with Treize not only out of love, but because he believed in Treize's
Duo paused and turned, but the mist still obscured the palace from his
view. He believed them, too, he realized. Treize and Wufei and Zechs-it
had not been an act when they'd said that what they wanted was a united
Earth at peace with the Colonies. All the evidence was there, and he'd
been too stubborn to really accept it. But Treize was not a dictator,
and Zechs was not his partner in oppression. Not that it mattered so much
now, but the knowledge gave him a little peace. At least he knew that
he had not fallen in love with a tyrant or a monster.
Duo's breath caught. Fallen in love. In love...the force of that
realization brought him up short. He stopped, his hand groping against
the building for support. He loved Zechs, one more thing he'd been too
stubborn to admit. He understood now why he'd run. Because it wasn't enough
just to be wanted, to be desired. He needed to be loved.
"Fuck," he whispered to the dark, the only confidant he'd ever had. Even
Deathscythe had just been darkness solidified. "You're a greedy bastard,
Maxwell. Gotta have it all." The night stayed quiet. It had no answers
for him. Come to think of it, it never had. "Some friend you are," he
muttered to nothing, then looked around, truly processing his surroundings
for the first time. He'd followed the same path he'd taken with Zechs.
Maybe he'd been hoping to find some echoes of that warmth remaining, some
remnant of their closeness. Duo shrugged. Whatever. Time to quite whining
and do something.
Maybe he didn't fit into OZ. Maybe he couldn't fight at Zechs' side. That
didn't mean he couldn't fight on his side. But he had to do it his own
way. Stealth and silence had always been his weapons, only now he was
about to use them for OZ, and if that wasn't fucking strange, nothing
was. But Duo knew what he knew, and if there really was a chance for lasting
peace and freedom, not just for Earth but for the Colonies, it lay with
the success of Treize Khushrenada's plans.
Duo scanned the street. He wasn't far from the spot where Zechs had made
him stop and rest. His eyes narrowed at another memory, this one of a
young man elbowing past him, a young man with unruly brown hair and cold,
blue eyes. This was where he'd seen Heero. Shit. How could he have forgotten
He snorted, disgusted with himself. Heero Yuy was loose in Sanc, and all
he could do was carry on like a goddamn drama queen, moaning about his
poor broken heart. Duo gave his anguish a final shove, stuffing it into
the little place inside where he always packed away his pain, and closed
So what brought Heero to city where OZ had headquartered? Coincidence,
that he and his guardian had dropped off the radar screen, then conveniently
resurfaced here--just as Zechs returned to clear the way for Treize? Uh
huh. Sure it was. He'd seen Heero's eyes clearly enough, and he knew that
look. Heero was on a mission, just like old times. Duo would have bet
his life on it.
A sudden cold gripped Duo, and he wrapped his arms around himself. Just
like old times...both of them, up to their old tricks. He was sneaking
through the shadows like a thief, and Heero...
"Holy fucking shit."
The men who'd trained Duo had taught him to fight, sure, but they'd focused
more on developing his natural talents as a sneak. Heero, though--his
training went so far back that it seemed like second nature to him, long
before he'd been taught to pilot a Gundam. Duo guessed that it wasn't
his piloting skills that had attracted the attention of OZ's opponents.
Of them all, Heero was the trained killer. The assassin.
It had to be the explanation. Why else was Heero here, now? Someone wanted
Treize dead, and probably Zechs, too. And they'd picked Heero to pull
But Heero didn't know what he knew, hadn't seen or heard the things he
had. He didn't know that if he killed Treize and Zechs, he'd be destroying
the Colonies' best hope for peace. He couldn't know...
Duo straightened. He had to find Heero first. If Treize and Zechs were
murdered, that fragile hope would be destroyed. The war would start all
over again, all the useless killing, all the waste. If he could explain,
tell Heero what he knew, then maybe he could stop it.
But what if Heero wouldn't listen to him? What if...? His mouth set into
a tight line. He'd shot Heero once before. If he had to do it again, to
save the Colonies from another war--to save Zechs--he would. He tossed
back his braid, forced his lips into a sardonic grin. After all, he reminded
himself, fists planted on his slim hips, he was still the God of Death.
[ch. 6] [ch. 8] [back
to RazorQueens' fic]