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. . . . . .

Journey in Blue
Part 1
: Odin (cont)

+

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 would hurt.

"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," it says.

"Duo," he calls, he calls, but his lover is not there and does not answer.

+

"My lady Po."

Sally recognized the voice and steeled herself for another battle. "My lord Forest."

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 again?"

"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 well protected."

"It is completely ridiculous that you allow him such freedom," Forest sniffed.

"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," Forest sniffed.

"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 grandly away.

+

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 mate. Chaya."

When Chaya died all the songs stopped. His lips are dry and hot. He croaks her name.

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 cured.

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.

+

"Good morning."

Meiran started. "Oh! Lady Sylvia. I didn't hear you approaching. Surreptiously she folded the letter in her hand. "Did you, uh, sleep well?"

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 simply.

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 to be.

"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 humanly possible."

"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. "Never."

"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 in surprise.

"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, then."

"Thank you, no," Sylvia said, rising as well. She offered Meiran her arm; the two Clan Heirs headed regally back towards the de Flores manor.

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."

+

[cont]