Author: girl_starfish
Rating: pg13
Warnings: yaoi
Category: romance/adventure/AU/fantasy
Pairings: 1x2
Disclaimer: Standard.

Knight and Novice + Part 3

The Abbot died in the night.

An attitude of melancholy lay over the Abbey and its inhabitants. Most were grieving the loss not only of their leader, but of their home and way of life. Long time friends were parting ways -- some monks talked of travelling to join other abbeys, others of returning to lives long abandoned while they decided what path they would now take. And many, as Howard had predicted, came to offer their services to the Prince.

"We won't have a hard time training these soldiers at least," Milliardo said to me as we watched monks making preparations to leave. "They are already accustomed to a life of discipline, and we won't have to worry about them going out on the town."

"I'm sure they'll make a valuable addition to your force," I said. Milliardo patted me on the back. "Our force, Heero."

One of our soldiers approached with a salute. "There's a messenger from the West just come in. He's says he's got good news."

The West was where Treize's army was.

"This sounds promising. Coming Heero?"

"I'll join you later," I said. I'd caught sight of a braided novice climbing the stairs to the Abbey Walls.

"Duo?" I caught up with him on the wall. He looked at me as I joined him and I saw his eyes were red rimmed. "How are you feeling?"

"I don't rightly know," he sighed. "Everything is changing, slipping away from me so fast -- The novices with homes are being sent to them, the rest, well Brother Gregory is going to stay here and mind them until they can find 'em places elsewhere."

"What will you do?"

"Don't know. I never saw myself as a monk -- but I dunno if I could soldier either -- an' I don't have a home I can go to -- " Duo scrubbed at his eyes. "Howard says he'll look out for me but he's got enough as is -- "

"You're coming with me."

Duo blinked at me. "Excuse me?"

"If a soldier serves in the King's army for five years he gets 20 acres of land. I've been saving my wages too -- I've more than enough for a house and animals and such."

"You want to set up house? As in the both of us?" Violet eyes stared at me.

I nodded.

"Aren't you forgettin' something? Ya know, courtship maybe?" The novice waved his hands in the air. "Do you really think I'm gonna -- "

I seized his arms and pulled him towards. Before he could do more than gasp I had him bent backwards in a desperate kiss. My hands clung tightly to him, trying to express what I could not put into words, while the rest of me sung, reveling in our closeness. He moaned softly as I pulled away.

I cupped his face with the hand that wasn't still holding him close. "I want you -- need you -- Duo -- " I dropped my eyes. "I'm no good with words," I said softly, feathering my fingers over his lips, parted in astonishment. "I can't promise you an easy life or an exciting one -- I'm not the most social of companions either -- but I could care for you, and protect you and I believe I could give you a good life. Think on it, please. I must ask the prince for my land -- if you want to come with me, wait in the main courtyard for me."

"An' if I decide no? What will you do with your land?" Duo spoke at last. "Heero, ya ain't going to loose your job over me -- "

"I've had enough of bearing a sword. I didn't know it until I met you, but there it is. I want to know peace. I want my own hearth, to sleep in the same bed, to do ordinary things -- whatever you decide, I'm glad to have met you Duo. You showed me where my heart lies." I lift his hand and kiss it in the manner of noble lords. "Think on it, Duo," I said and left.

Milliardo was questioning the messenger in an emptied storeroom that had been converted into a sort of office. "You're sure of what you say? The Lords of Romefeller have rebelled?"

"As sure as I am of my own two feet, your Highness. Treize had to flee his own camp."

Differing emotions flitted over Milliardo's face. "This will only delay him," he said. "Treize is too ambitious to bear this long. But all the same -- it is good news!"

"Your Highness," I bowed.

"Heero," He laughed, pulling me into a light hug. "Have you heard?"

"I have. I am well pleased with the news."

"It could not have come at a better time -- " Milliardo turned to a messenger. "Dispatch runners to my father at once -- he must know of this!"

"Your Highness?" I ventured. "I am glad of these tidings -- it makes what I am about to say easier."

"Easier?" Milliardo looked at me sharply. "Is something wrong, Heero?"

"I would ask for my land, my lord."

Milliardo stared at me. "Heero -- you're not proposing to leave, are you?"

I nodded. "That is my intention, your Highness."

"But -- you're my general! You can't leave!"

"I have served your Highness for longer than my allotted five years," I reminded him.

"But -- that's madness! As my general, you're entitled to your own palace, the rank of duke, a fairly large stipend -- you can't seriously prefer a mere 20 acres of farmland to all that!"

"My life with your Highness has not been altogether unpleasant," I acknowledged. "But I want to explore peace. What better time than now? Treize is not currently a threat -- "

"But he will return," Milliardo argued. "And what then? Would you leave me unprepared?"

"You have many loyal soldiers, some of whom have the intelligence and leadership qualities needed to lead an army well," I said. "Walker, for example -- and Howard strikes me as capable of advising your Highness well. I have no qualms about leaving your army to their hands."

Milliardo sighed. "And what of the princess?"

"She will, I'm sure, be delighted to know I've taken her advice and hung up my sword."

"Heero -- " Milliardo sighed running a hand through his blond hair. "Fine! I'll write out the deed of ownership for you."

I bowed to him and left.

I retrieved Wing from the stables. My horse was glad to see me, doing his best to nibble on my fringe. I pushed him aside, reflecting that my steed would have a ball with Duo's long plait --

If he came.

And what if he didn't? Could I bear it?

"Morning Heero -- going somewhere? I thought the Prince was marching out this afternoon."

I nodded to Brother Howard. "I have asked the prince for my land."

He whistled. "I can't imagine the Prince being happy to hear that."

"Would you mind keeping an eye on him? He's not bad, a little idealistic at times -- and sometimes he lets his honor get in the way of things. If you see him doing something stupid, let him know."

Howard smiled. "Aye, I think I can manage that. You think he'd listen to an old ex-monk, though?"

"He was very much impressed by the Abbey and Abbot -- I was sorry to learn of his death."

"Nice of you to say so, lad. To tell the truth, I don't think it could have happened better -- he died peacefully in his sleep, in the Abbey that he loved. I don't think he could have stood leaving." Howard patted me on the back. "I have to go now, Heero, but may the Lord keep you well."

"Thank-you," I said.

Wing stood patiently as I saddled him, but I fancied he was eager to get on his way, like I was.

I packed the saddle bags with oats for the journey, then led him out to the main courtyard. I told myself not to get my hopes up as I looked around, that Duo would not have had time to consider properly -- I caught sight of him standing across the courtyard swinging a small sack from is fingers.

If anything, my chest just got tighter.

I drew Wing over to him. "Duo."

"Heero," he stared over my shoulder. "Is that your horse?"

"His name is Wing." I said, patting his sides. "He is strong enough to carry both of us."

"I've never ridden before," Duo stretched out one shy hand to pat Wing. The horse was just as interested in him, sniffing his head.

"Are these your belongings?" I took the sack and fixed it to the saddlebags. "I must go and get mine -- I -- " I turned to him. "I'm glad you decided to come with me."

Duo ducked his head embarrassed. "I figured why not? I've never had what you might call a home before -- "

I smiled at him, squeezing his hand, then left to fetch the few belongings I considered it worthwhile to take.

Milliardo met me coming out of what had been my tent. "You're really serious about this Heero."

"I am, your Highness." I continued walking towards Wing.

"I think you're making a big mistake. You're giving up an awful lot you know -- "

"I know," I said, as we reached the main courtyard.

"Ack! Heero! Help! Your horse is eating my hair!"

I shooed Wing away from Duo's plait. "Stop that," I told the horse. "Are you ready to go?" I asked Duo.

He nodded. "Whenever you are. Though I don't know how I'm going to get onto Wing's back in my habit -- kinda restricting these things -- "

I picked him up before he could protest, placing him on Wing's back with all the care a knight might give to his lady. "There."

His mouth was a perfect 'o' of surprise and a faint pink blush spread over his cheeks. "Um, thanks."

"You're welcome," I said, turning back to Milliardo.

He stood at the entrance to the courtyard watching us with a funny expression on his face. I went over to join him.

"Your Highness?"

"I must say a few things are becoming clearer now," the prince said. "Well, here's your land. You won't reconsider?"

"I've made my choice my lord."

"I see. Well I wish you luck. And what should I tell Relena?"

I shrugged. "Whatever you like."

"You have no message to her?"

"I thank her for her kindness and wish her well in her future life," I bowed to Milliardo. "Likewise I bid you well, your Highness."

Milliardo nodded and departed without further word -- I fancied he was still annoyed at my decision. I turned to return to Duo and paused. The performer was talking to him. I could not hear the words but I saw Duo was blushing heartily. Suspicious I walked over to them.

"Ah, Heero," Trowa said. "Just who I was looking for." He threw me a package. "A little something for the two of you. Duo was too embarrassed to accept, but I'm sure you'll find it useful."

I frowned. "Thank-you."

"Not a problem. Uh -- is your horse eating my fringe?"

"He does that." I shooed Wing away from Trowa's hair and swung myself onto his back. Duo slid his arm around my waist as Wing shifted, ready to leave.

"Farewell," I said to Trowa.

He nodded. "Take care -- both of you. Goodbye Duo."

I flicked Wing's reigns and we were off.

"What did the wanderer want?"

"You know -- wanderer is a good name for him," Duo said. "He wanted to give me some advice."

"Be careful of putting too much faith in him," I said, urging Wing into a steady trot. "There's something about him -- "

"I know. I think I know what it is -- The books in the library speak of a wizard that three hundred years ago kept the scrolls from bringing darkness upon the land. Afterward he disappeared, an' no-one knew what became of him -- "

I snorted. "You're not suggesting Trowa is three hundred years old? He's no older than I am!"

Duo shrugged. "A wizard who can defeat the minions of darkness should be powerful enough to make himself look like a youth."

I snickered. "If he's such a great wizard wouldn't he have s spell for warding off hungry horses?"

Duo laughed, like a peel of sunshine. "Heero!"

I glowed at the sound. I would go to any lengths to hear him repeat it -- I swore an oath to do all in my power to see he laughed every day of his life.

We rode all day, except for when we both walked to give Wing a rest. I was keen to put as much distance between us and the Prince as possible -- I did not put it past Milliardo to change his mind and come seeking us.

By nightfall we reached a small town with an end. Both Duo and Wing were beginning to show signs of hunger so we stopped. While I stabled Wing, Duo went ahead to engage rooms for us, and to order a meal. As I detached the stable bags, the package Trowa had given us fell loose. Curious I opened it to find a jar, the sort used in medicines. Inside it was a thick ointment of some sort. There was a note, in which Trowa had detailed the intended use of the ointment. I smirked -- no wonder Duo had been blushing. Feeling in much better spirits now I knew I had no real reason to feel suspicious of the conversation between Trowa and Duo, I went inside to join the no-longer novice. The Inn's food was good.

Duo had carried our servings over to the window and as we ate he kept looking out the window until it became too dark to see.

"I can't believe how far we travelled today," Duo said. "An' I've never even been beyond Galloway before."

"We have a lot farther to go," I warned him.

"Where is it exactly? Your land I mean."

"The land the prince gives his soldiers is usually in the North," I said. "I'll have to find someone to read the deed to me to know exactly where."

"I can read," Duo said. "Let me see."

The prince hadn't limited the expression of his displeasure to his words. Milliardo had given me my 20 acres in a town so far North as to be practically in the Ever Winter. I smirked, as Duo returned the scroll to me. If the prince thought that would make me reconsider, he was more than wrong. In fact the isolated nature of the property only increased its appeal. Duo too did not seem concerned.

"Brother Jarvis forbade us novice's from sledding outside the Abbey, or even playing in the snow. Said that our frivolity was an insult to the seriousness of our situation, that we charity brats should be so thankful t'even have a home, we should be down on our knees prayin' for it. Of course that didn't go down well, and well, when he found the snow-replica of himself tucked up in 'is bed, well, that pretty much put an' end t'us playing in the snow at all. I've always missed it."

"You'll play in the snow as much as you want," I promised him.

He blushed, playing with the end of his braid and we finished our meal in silence.

I wondered what he thought of. It was now two full days since I'd first seen him, coming with the monk to deliver the surrender. I didn't know everything about him to be sure -- but what I knew was enough. Wasn't it?

The innkeeper collected our plates. "I trust your room is to your satisfaction, sirs?" he said, dark eyes cold.

Room? I looked across to Duo who was blushing and felt my heartbeat quicken.

"I'm sure it will be fine," I said. "But I shall inspect it now. Come on, Duo."

Duo led me upstairs, so he didn't see the sneer the innkeeper cast at his novice's habit. I did, however, and it angered me. I would have to get Duo some new clothes in the morning -- and that man would not look at Duo like that again.

I would see to it.

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