Illusions of Love + Part 6 (cont)

"I should've killed you in Antarctica," Heero said, circling closer to Zechs, nearly ready for his next attack. "Then you wouldn't be in the way now."

"You're the one confusing him. Duo was happy until you came back into his life."

"What the---" Duo said, dumbfounded. This fight was over him?

"Funny, he didn't seem unhappy when he was kissing me this morning," Heero said, half smiling with the confession.

Zechs's eyes narrowed on his opponent. So Heero had dared to meet with Duo again. "A mere trifle considering that he's been in my bed for the last two months," Zechs shot back.

"Hey!" Duo shouted in protest. His face was red with anger and embarrassment as he looked from the duel to the ogling bystanders. He rushed to one of the open doors and tried to close them out. "Get the hell out of here!"

Shocked by his display of emotion and sheer force of will, a portion of the group stepped back, and Duo was able to close and bolt one door. He hurried to the other side, and began swinging that door shut as well, needing desperately to close out the world as he prepared to deal with his lovers privately.

Just then Noin and Relena burst into the room.

"We just heard..." Noin said as she looked from Duo to the duel. "Oh my God, it's true!"

"Milliardo! Heero!" Relena called as she rushed in, distressed to see the two men she cared most about battling each other. "Stop this foolishness immediately!"

Duo rolled his eyes, knowing her pleas would be unheard. "This doesn't concern you."

"I thought their rivalry ended with the war..." Noin was saying, but then shut her mouth as the taunts began to fly between the warring parties once again.

"It's time for you to give Duo up and find a new hobby," Heero said, with much resentment.

"And how long will you fuck him this time before you walk out on him... again?" Zechs replied, angrily.

The pair clashed once again, their swords connecting and ringing out with the high ping of metal on metal.

"You sons of bitches!" Duo cried out as he stalked forward, blood boiling in his veins. He would tear them apart, limb from limb with his bare hands. Anything to stop this bullshit.

Noin was on Duo in an instant, grabbing his arms from behind and jerking him away from the fight. "Stay out of this, Duo," she said, her tone a warning.

"You stay out of it!" Duo yelled as he worked to break free of her grasp.

Zechs and Heero were fighting over him as if he were a trophy to be won. How dare they think that his heart could be secured by a duel! He was horrified that they would have so little respect for him. Maybe he was just a bed warmer after all...

Duo twisted out of Noin's hold, stumbling back and onto his ass. He hit the wooden floor hard. Damn them all. Damn Zechs for using him as a convenient fuck and damn Heero for making Duo think that things could be different between them.

"I'm outa here," Duo said, trembling with rage as he got to his feet. "They can kill each other for all I care."

"Duo don't..." Noin said, reaching out and trying to delay his departure. Despite what she felt for Zechs, she knew that Duo made him happy.

Duo slapped her hand away as he tore out of the hall. He had been insulted enough for one day.

With Duo gone, Noin turned to calming Relena.

"Have the guards stop this!" Relena demanded.

"Oh, Miss Relena, this needs to run its course or they'll never resolve their rivalry."

Relena huffed in frustration. She had never understood the need for violence.

Zechs and Heero were equally matched, and there was no doubt that this duel could drag on for hours. Their match in Antarctica had gone on for three hours before being interrupted by Relena and an army of OZ mobile suits. This time it seemed that nothing would stop them from settling their rivalry once and for all. The winner would gain more than just bragging rights, he could make demands.

"I'm growing bored of this contest," Zechs said, dismissing Heero as though suddenly not a worthy opponent.

"Then finish it... if you can," Heero dared.

Zechs gave a feral grin and then with explosive speed bolted forward, swinging his sword down on Heero. The move was so fast and so unlike the others Zechs had used that Heero was caught off guard. He jumped aside and turned, but not in time. His left arm was grazed by Zechs's blade slicing through his white shirt and into his skin.

The sight of blood made Relena scream, but Noin held her back from running into the fray.

Zechs attacked again, not waiting for Heero to recover from the flash of pain racing down his arm. This time he came in from Heero's right and strategically went for the grip of his opponent's blade. Zechs's sword slid past Heero's hand and hooked under the guard, and then Zechs swung out, yanking the sword out of Heero's hand. The sword flew high into the air, tumbling over end to end until it hit the floor with a clatter.

Heero stared at it disbelieving until he registered the feel of cold metal at his throat. His eyes turned back to Zechs who held his sword to Heero's neck.

"The duel is over," Zechs said, his tone no less threatening than it had been during the conflict.

"And once again we've proven our weakness to fight," Heero said.

Zechs gave a toss of his head, clearing the hair from his eyes. "It's over, Heero," he repeated.

"Please don't hurt him, Milliardo!" Relena cried from across the room.

Zechs glanced at his sister. No, he would not hurt Heero... physically. That kind of pain meant nothing to soldiers such as them.

"Are you prepared for the terms of your surrender?" Zechs asked, purposefully choosing the language of war.

"You won honorably," Heero said, accepting the fact that he was in no position to argue.

"Then listen carefully, Heero Yuy... We may well meet again, but it will never be on Sankian soil. This is a peaceful nation and as such, I hereby exile you from the Sank Kingdom... never to return!"

"No!" Relena cried, tearing away from Lucrezia and running to Heero's side. "Take that back, Milliardo! Heero is my friend and protector!"

"I will protect you now, dear sister," Zechs said, slowly lowering his sword.

Heero stared intently at Zechs. He might have guessed that Zechs would want him out of his life for good... and away from Duo. But Heero also gave Zechs credit, the man understood that the two of them could not live peaceably, and Sank was a peaceful nation.

"He's right, Relena," Heero said, turning to look at the girl. "It's your brother's job to protect you now. Had I known he was alive, I might never have come here."

"Oh, Heero, please don't go... Milliardo will take it back," the girl pleaded with tears in her eyes.

"No, he won't," Heero said, flatly. "We'll see each other again Relena, it just won't be in Sank."

Relena threw her arms around the boy and gave him a fierce hug. "Where will you go?"

"I don't know," Heero said, truthfully.

"The guards will escort you to your room to pack your belongings," Zechs said, softening at the scene before him, but not enough to recant his demands.

Heero nodded at Zechs and then gently pushed Relena away. "I'll be fine," he said and then walked from the hall with the stoicism of a true soldier.

+

The guards never left Heero's side. He was escorted back to his room and given just enough time to throw a few things into his backpack, change his torn shirt and slip on his black jean jacket. No problem, he always did pack light. Then Heero was taken on a circuitous route through the palace, avoiding the busiest corridors, but surprisingly ending up at the grand entryway with Relena waiting.

"I'm sure you didn't expect to see anyone," she said, sadly. "But it's wrong to send you away with no one here."

Heero's mind flashed on the day of Duo's arrival. He had purposely not been present, but it was not for lack of wanting. And now Duo wasn't here to see him off. Oh, that he could have seen Duo one last time....

Relena gave the guards a harsh look, prompting them to step back several paces. With a bit more privacy, she held out her hand, revealing a long, snow-white envelope emblazoned in blue with the official crest of the Peacecraft dynasty.

"This is not charity," she said as she handed it to him. "This is your last month's pay. Please accept it and my fondest wishes for a happy life."

Heero took the envelope and opened it to find several thousand sovereigns. Though it was awkward receiving such a large sum this way, it was owed him, and the cash would come in handy. His previous months' pay had been banked and could be transferred when he had settled in a new place.

"Thank you," he said, barely meeting her eyes.

"Oh, there's one more thing," Relena said brightly, gesturing for him to follow her outside.

A servant opened the ornate door for the princess, and Heero followed her into the sunny day. They stood on the stone landing, a surprisingly cool breeze meeting them.

"Isn't it wonderful?" Relena asked as she breathed in deeply. "I love it when the wind comes in off the sea."

Heero's bangs stirred about his face, but he did not reply. Sank was a beautiful country, but he was in the process of trying to forget it now.

Relena regained her focus and pointed below them to the foot of the steps. "There," she said, her face alight. At the place where the drive curved in to the wide, stone steps was a motorcycle---the type used by the border patrols. "I know you can manage on your own," Relena said with the familiarity of old friends, "but I thought it would be good for you to have your own mode of transportation."

"Does Zechs know about this?" Heero asked, a bit sharply.

Relena giggled. "He may be running this country, but he doesn't need to know everything that goes on!"

Heero couldn't help a little grin. The girl's logic was on target and it was only right that he accept her help this once.

Relena smiled, delighted that her gift was appreciated. "I won't say goodbye, Heero," she said, biting her lower lip to keep it from trembling.

He nodded, slipping the envelope into his pack and then descending to the driveway below. Shit, was he really leaving? Without turning back, he went about his preparations for final departure, securing his pack, donning the helmet and finally mounting the bike. There was a moment's hesitation before he started the engine, his thoughts and his heart racing back to Duo... mapping out how he could get back into the palace and find Duo before anyone could stop him. He shook his head. If Duo wanted him, he would have told Heero by now.

With a final nod to Relena, Heero started the engine and set off on his journey. Relena's eyes had glistened with tears and he thought once again how he admired her determination and bravery. Of course, he felt some relief in knowing that the responsibility for her preservation was now in another's hands. Whether he liked it or not, he was a free man... in more ways than one.

Nearly one mile from the palace, Heero slowed his bike, and despite his better judgment gazed back. The open fields surrounding the palace were blossoming with spring, and the Sankian palace gleamed white in the distance. The tranquil setting belied the struggle that had gone on within, a struggle that had ended with his leaving.

"Duo... please...."

Heero said, nearly begging for his lover to return to him. He had done everything possible to help Duo see the change inside of him. Now it was time to let Duo go, and so a different plea formed on Heero's lips and he whispered it into the breeze...

"Please, Duo... be happy."

With a hard swallow and the shedding of a single tear, Heero turned away from Sank for good, heading out onto the open road.

+

Despite his great victory, Zechs was not in the mood to receive congratulations from his staff. He was exhausted and pushed through the circle of admirers with nods and half smiles. All he wanted right now was a hot, scented bath, a bottle of his best champagne, and a very naked and wet Duo to enjoy it with. Thoughts of his lover stirred Zechs back to life when only moments before he doubted he could walk back to his suite of his own volition.

Zechs headed upstairs contemplating how he would spend the rest of the day fucking Duo, his Duo, and making a final claim on him. Now there would be no more Heero to interfere and to distract. Duo would settle down and they could begin making a life together in Sank.

That little fantasy lasted until Zechs opened the door into his Royal suite. The once pristine chamber was now torn apart. The bed linens were stripped from the bed, the draperies askew, and every drawer open and its contents---clothing and otherwise---tumbled onto the floor. It looked quite literally as though a storm had torn through the room... and in seconds, Zechs would meet that storm.

"Stupid, fucking, no good, son of a bitch...," came the litany of profanity from the bathroom.

Zechs straightened. Okay, maybe he shouldn't have expected a victor's welcome.

"Duo?" Zechs called, tentatively.

A second later, Duo emerged from the bathroom with his duffel bag in hand and a look on his face that Zechs had never seen before... one a mix of frazzled nerves, grief and wild anger. Duo flashed Zechs a threatening glare and then set his bag down and proceeded to look through the piles of clothes on the floor.

"You're leaving?" Zechs asked, confused.

"Where the fuck's my cap?" Duo replied snappishly, ignoring the question.

"Your cap?" Zechs asked. Why was Duo acting this way?

"Yeah, my fucking black cap!" Duo shouted, pointing to his head, but not looking up.

Zechs blinked. "That's why you've torn apart our room?"

Duo shot up, standing tall for all of five feet, one inch. "You mean YOUR room! I am so gone..."

"You're upset about the duel?" Zechs reasoned.

Duo sighed heavily. "Oh, gee, I can't imagine why," he said, sarcastically. "It's not like I should mind being treated like a commodity."

"You could never be that..."

"Oh, no? Well, you and Heero sure made it clear that I'm a Grade A piece of meat!"

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