notes: parts of this
are written about Heero while he has a fever; I wrote them while I did.
Please forgive the somewhat disjointed feel of the narrative--I thought
it added to the feel. let me know if you disagree ;) comments, comments,
pretty pretty please? i would love to know what you all think. . . . .
He was covered with a layer of heat; he moaned, restlessly, and tried
to toss it from him. It stuck-he scraped at it with his fingernails.
"No, Heero," a voice came; another hand stopped his. "Shh.
We're almost there."
"Duo," he croaked. "Duo."
"Be still, love, be still. We're almost there."
He could never remember later if the other boy had really called him that
or if it had been an effect of the fever as it took him.
Shifting-almost falling from the horse-in the familiar haven of Duo's
arms. "I bring your lord!" the thief shouts. "He is not
well! For the love of you lord, by the gods, open these gates or I will
set Death upon you!"
The cool water running over him; the familiar hardness of his childhood
bed. His fathers' voices, one low and rumbling, the other quiet with restraint.
The empty bed. "Duo."
His mother, even, but he did not recognize her at first and called out
for his father. "Heero," she said, stroking his head, holding
him against her. He knew the curves of her body, the flat space where
as a young woman she had taken a sword and cut her left breast from her
body for the sake of war. She had nursed him with one breast, held a bow
against the scar that marked the lack of the other.
It burned inside him; he could feel it attacking his blood, like small
bubbles exploding inside his veins. It swept through him, conquered him.
If the fever had come before he had met Duo he would not have known what
this feeling was; until he met Duo he had not known that falling in love
"Duo," he cries, the night air cool with cicada voices, his
body writhing on the sweaty sheets. He is alone and his eyes will not
open-his eyelids are weighted with hot irons-"Duo."
The Odin, his father. A man of strength. He and Heero look alike only
around the eyes. In all other things Heero more resembles his other father,
who is at once his mother's first cousin and his father's sworn love.
He is tall and skinny, with the same shaggy hair, the same prominent cheeks
and small ears. His hands are comforting to Heero; he bathes his son with
cool water and speaks in low tones. "Heero," he says. "Heero."
Quatre. Wufei. Trowa. His companions have arrived. "Is he. . . ?
Has he. . . ? We hurried. . . we hoped."
Quatre is playing for him, the sound of peace and cool and strength. Inside
his body the fever laughs. "I would not leave you for a song,"
"Duo," he calls, he calls, but his lover is not there and does
"My lady Po."
Sally recognized the voice and steeled herself for another battle. "My
The pouty young nobleman regarded her haughtily. Sally forced herself
to smile calmly at him. "May I help you?" She had a feeling
she knew what this was about: Lord Forest had been given the honor of
playing tutor to the street children. Privately, Sally thought that his
time would have been best spent in his usual occupation of buying new
clothes, but he was overeducated. And self- important. Sally remembered
her own lessons quite well; those had been two of the prime qualifications.
"I cannot teach these," and here his lips curved as he spat
the words, "rodents if they do not at least show up."
Sally let her smile drop-it was too much work. "They've gone off
"Some of them," Forest sniffed. "The girl, Zika-I imagine
you'll find her shagging the nearest guard. That boy who insists on being
called Bloody-he's undoubtedly run off to watch the king again. Should
we be keeping a closer eye on him? He might decide to" the man waved
a hand in a gesture Sally was hard put to describe as anything but effeminate
"strike a blow for the common people and attack his majesty."
Sally thought of the underfed young boy. "I assure you the king is
"It is completely ridiculous that you allow him such freedom,"
"Would you rather I locked her highness' guests up in the dungeon?"
Sally asked, drawing herself up. Not that she hadn't had similar thoughts
herself, but to have Forest, of all men, chastising her!
"I simply don't see why her highness decided to take in street rodents,"
"It is not your place to question her highness' charity," Sally
told him with a quiet dignity she knew from experience he would find all
the more offensive. "It is simply your place to do as you have been
bidden; in this case, to teach those children." She allowed herself
a second to enjoy the querulous look on the man's face before she went
on. "We have decided it would be beneficial for the young man so
quaintly known as Bloody to observe some political activities; her highness
does, after all, wish them to receive a complete education while they
are her guests. I find myself sure you will not mind too much having me
borrow the boy now and then." A bit of intelligence her maid had
slipped her the night before sprung to mind. "As for Zika, you might
try the palace greenhouse."
Forest looked thunderstruck. "She likes plants?"
Sally smiled politely. "Either that or she's shagging the gardener."
She quite enjoyed knowing that his mouth was hanging open as she swept
His mother's voice.
"I haven't seen him this sick since he was four. The plague that
took his mother's life."
Duo. Finally, finally, Duo. "His mother? I thought you. . . ."
His mother's sadness as she remembered her fallen lover. "My shield
When Chaya died all the songs stopped. His lips are dry and hot. He croaks
His mother moves swiftly to the bed. "Heero," she says, dropping
water into his mouth. "It's me. Kaasan."
Chaya. He says it again. "Sing," he begs.
Chaya is dead and his mother cannot sing a note. But there is music, suddenly,
a rough voice pressed against his heart. Duo.
He closes his hand around the boy's braid and falls back into the fever.
When he was four years old the sickness came. It was a year of omens,
and not all of them were good. His mother, Chaya, held him to her in sickness;
his mother, Asa, pressed him to her scarred breast. His father the Odin
watched him weaken; his father Lowe forced remedies down his throat.
On the third day he was sick the star fell from the sky.
A patrol brought the star metal to the Odin; his shield mate, desperate
to cure their son, had taken a small bit and made a potion. Lowe had tipped
it down the dying boy's throat with a prayer; the next day Heero had been
His mother had died two days later; the same draught that had cured him
had hastened her death.
When Chaya died the songs stopped singing; there was no music in the world
until Duo came to Odin.
Meiran started. "Oh! Lady Sylvia. I didn't hear you approaching.
Surreptiously she folded the letter in her hand. "Did you, uh, sleep
Sylvia studied her intently through lazy eyes. "Well enough. After
her highness stopped screaming."
Meiran laughed ruefully. "I could not believe the nerve of that boy."
"I think her highness enjoyed it, really," Sylvia mused, perching
on the edge of the bench beside Meiran. "I don't imagine that many
people do things like put frogs in her bed." She wondered if the
Nataku knew that when she let her hand play on her upper thigh like that
it gave away the location of her weapon.
"I would have cut his head off, if it were me," Meiran said
Sylvia felt a brief surge of pity for all the young pranksters in Nataku
lands. "You must not have had many younger siblings, growing up."
"No," Meiran acknowledged. "A brother, one year younger,
but he was sent off to my uncle when I was four. I've only seen him three
times since then." She tapped the letter against her leg. "Did
you have tricks played on you, when you were. . . growing up?"
"Oh, aye; there had been the time that a jealous comrade had made
it look like she'd kept more than her share of the profits, not long after
she'd joined Solo's group. There had been the rival gang and the trap
that had given her an intimate acquaintance with three now-deceased drunkards
when she was thirteen-that day had been notable for several reasons. She'd
killed her first man-slept with Duo, who'd killed the other two-and, when
she had awoken to find Solo standing over the two of them with an expression
that would have meant death for the average street rat, had hoped for
the first time that her feelings for him were in some small way requited.
There had been a thousand tricks, a thousand struggles for dominance that
had ended only when Solo had made it perfectly clear what her role was
"A few played on me," she said eventually, "but the one
that comes to mind happened to a friend of mine. A year or so back she
was to be married."
"Married?" Meiran asked in surprise.
"Aye and it's not a custom exclusive to the nobility," Sylvia
said with a wry smile.
"I did not mean-I simply-how old was your friend?"
"Fifteen," Sylvia said softly.
Meiran bit her lip. "That's my age."
"It's not so old," Sylvia acknowledged, "and some might
say too young for a marriage. But she was intent on marrying the boy."
Meiran's hand tightened on the letter she had received four days ago-and
read seventy times since. "Did he love her?"
"Aye, and he did, and does still, or so it seemed the last time I
saw them together," Sylvia answered with a wistful grin. "There
were those that said she made a fool of him-he would smile every time
she walked into a room. Me, I thought her to be the fool. He wasn't the
kind of man any girl imagines marrying. A right bastard, really."
Meiran laughed lightly. "But she married him."
"Aye, but not without a trouble or two along the way. Another friend-our
own Duo, come to think of it-decided to tease these two as much as was
"I bet you were in on a trick or two, as well," Meiran said,
cocking her head to the side.
Sylvia remembered the look on Solo's face when she'd piously told him
that she would not sleep with him in the month leading up to the wedding;
when he'd stepped into his wedding trousers for a fitting and found that
they barely reached past his knees; when she had told him that she'd accidentally
dropped the ring he'd bought for her-paid for and everything-in the bread
he'd just eaten. "Who, me?" There had been a dozen things that
she had done, in a wild exploration of her power over this man who called
no one master, and he had let her, amazingly, get away with them all.
"So what did Duo do?" Meiran asked.
"He dressed up as my-friend's priest. He looked about forty, with
skin the color of walnuts and a pursed up little mouth. And he listened
to what she had to say at confession, then sadly told her that she couldn't
marry her lover. He told her, quite seriously, that she was already married,
and that he was quite disappointed in her for forgetting."
The younger girl was wide eyed. "Did she believe him?"
"Not for longer than a second, for as soon as her mouth dropped open
he was laughing. She got her hands around his neck while he was thus distracted,
and a knee in the crotch while she was at it." There had been a nice
little scar dug by her nail into the side of his neck; he had a tendency
to rub it whenever he referred to her as "poetry in motion."
She had a tendency to kick him whenever he said that.
Meiran was gazing off into space. "My mother was married by the time
she was twelve. She didn't meet my father for another four or five years,
though." She blinked and brought her attention back to Sylvia. "So
they got married? Despite Duo' s tricks?"
Do you, Poet, take Solo. . ..
"Yes, do tell us more about your friend and the bastard she married."
The two girls jerked around and stared at the man standing behind them
"And who, may I ask, are you?" Sylvia asked haughtily. Meiran,
showing the top inch of a lethal knife, smiled ferally.
The man shrugged. "I'm nobody. Well-I'm Vittorio de Flores' keeper.
Currently in disgrace."
"After last night I should imagine so."
"Don't let me interrupt your story," he said earnestly. "I'm
always quite curious to hear about women who actually love bastards. It
gives me hope, you see."
Meiran stood. "The lady and I were just leaving."
He stood up easily. "Allow me to accompany you back to the house,
"Thank you, no," Sylvia said, rising as well. She offered Meiran
her arm; the two Clan Heirs headed regally back towards the de Flores
He loped along behind them. "Ah, don't be like that," he said.
"After all, we're going to be traveling companions."
Sylvia stopped dead in her tracks. "Whatever do you mean?"
He grinned, a lopsided grin that she told herself firmly was not at all
endearing. "The baron has decided that her highness simply cannot
travel on without guards-especially since it was so easy for Vittorio
to sneak into her room last night."
Meiran flushed. "He came in with a bunch of flowers! How was I supposed
to know that he had nefarious intentions?"
Sylvia said nothing; they both knew that Meiran and Catherine, who had
been with her, should have noticed the frogs before Relena climbed into
bed with them.
"And so the baron has decided that Vittorio should accompany you
on your journey," the man said cheerfully. "Which means that
I shall be there, too."
Sylvia's lips tightened. "What did you say your name was?"
"I didn't. It's Bane." He bent and plucked a daisy growing wild,
offering it to her with a flourish.
"You will kindly remember who you are addressing," she said,
her words clipped. She hesitated for a second, then reached out and snatched
the daisy. "My lady Nataku, let us return to the house."