Title: Peace Children 3/8ish: Tuesday
Author: Zillie
Rating: to be safe I'll call this one R
Category: AU Fantasy
Warnings: Sex. 3+4 sex, even. What? You're not running away screaming?
for your pleasure. . . .

Peace Children + Tuesday

Hilde, Lady Maxwell, was the last to arrive, but she did so in grand style. Her smile was genuine, Sally thought, and her entourage impressive. "My companions," she said. "My maid, Anna, and my longtime friend, Duo. Please make them comfortable -- the journey has been long.

Sally eyed the long haired boy dubiously. This was. . . unexpected. Was he the girl's lover? The maid's? A bodyguard, perhaps, she thought, watching he way he walked. She would mention him to Princess Relena. Then she blushed as large violet eyes caught hers and winked.

Hilde had him by the arm. "I just don't know what I'd do without Duo," she said. "He keeps me company. Always has. I was so upset when I thought I'd be leaving him that my father rushed to assure me that he could accompany me." She blinked innocently. "Why, I'd be lost without him." And indeed she clung to him like her lifeline, though she seemed bubbly and confident. Sally noticed that he seemed even more so. He almost bounced as she led them to Hilde's rooms, commenting several times on the art and the décor. He praised her favorite vase, and she smiled at him. He smiled back. Oh, she would definitely mention him to Relena.

Hilde rushed to look around her suite, but Duo lingered by Sally. "So just what is it you do around here, milady?" he asked, making the title sound more like an endearment.

"I help keep things moving," Sally said. "I'm the king's hostess."

"Aren't you rather young for that?" he asked.

"It was my mother's job," she explained. "I took over after she passed away last winter."

He blinked. "I'm sorry for your loss."

She had heard the words, or similar, a thousand times in a thousand voices. Blank courtesy, no more; but something about the way he said it had her throat tightening and her eyes stinging. "I thank you for your kindness," she managed, and blinked rapidly.

He smiled gently. "So I bet you've been real busy lately."

She fell on the new subject eagerly. "Yes, yes, arranging rooms and meetings and dinners and such. I've prepared a schedule for Lady Hilde. I wasn't aware of you, so I'll have to prepare one for you."

Duo flashed her a grin. "No hurry. I'm not anxious. I can go to things if I have to."

"Have you a rank?" she asked him bluntly.

"Who, me?" he asked, looking surprised. "Well -- my father was a sir, I think. Is that right, Hilde?"

"You know very well it is," she said. "His father was a knight, and his mother, Lady Helen, was my grandfather's ward. He has no lands or title, but he's of gentle birth."

"That always seemed like a silly phrase to me," Duo said, winking at Sally. "I mean, from what I hear -- "

"From what you overhear, you eavesdropper," Hilde called out from the room she had disappeared back into.

"From what I hear, birth isn't gentle for even the noblest of ladies," he continued, deepening his voice at the end of his sentence. He winked. "I daresay my mother cursed a bit bringing me into the world."

Sally bit back a snicker and leveled an appropriate glare at him. "I trust you will not speak of such things in her highness's presence."

"Her highness's present!" Duo said, hopping up. "Yep -- we kept it safe. Fought of some thieves least night, didn't we, Hil?"

"Nobody robs a Maxwell," Hilde called back.

"Honor among thieves," Duo mock-whispered. Hilde whirled back out long enough to throw something at him. He caught it easily -- a book from Hilde's collection -- and set it down beside the vase on the table. "So, milady, what do we do around here?"

"Well, there's a general welcome dinner this evening," Sally said. "Preceded by an intimate meeting." She ignored the waggling of his eyebrows and added, "Attended by the Peace Children."

Duo smirked. "Whoever thought of that name had never met Hilde."

"His Majesty chose the name," Sally told him.

"Ah," Duo said. "Forgive me. Do I need to be there?"

Sally studied him and made a quick decision. "Yes. We will expect you and the Lady Hilde at seven. A footman will show you the way."

Duo stretched and stood. "Well, that's a few hours away, and I have a few things I need to pick up. Hilde forgets things very easily," he confided, "and I confess to having left a few essentials behind myself."

"I am sure we can provide you with all you need," Sally offered, but he cut her off.

"Oh, please don't. I've been shut in a coach -- with her -- for almost two weeks. I need a good walk and a bit of air."

"You won't find much fresh in this city, I fear," Sally said, but smiled. "Any footman can show you the way out."

He smiled, again, that slightly crooked smile of his, and pulled a flower from his sleeve. She took it, noting that it matched the ones in the vase beside him, and left.

Oh, she would definitely keep an eye on that one.

It would be no trouble at all.

+

Hilde and Anna, as they had decided to call the Poet, emerged from the bedroom once Lady Sally had left. Duo was staring at the closed door.

"Bit of a sharp one, that," the Poet said.

Hilde whacked her lightly. "Mind that accent. Anna."

"Yes, milady," the Poet said. "What you be thinking, Duo?"

Duo turned with a smile. "I think that the lady Hilde is as beautiful as a rose and as clever as, well, as me! Almost."

"You'd do well to worry more about what my father will say when my maid arrives at home with the rest of my escort," Hilde said.

Duo shrugged. "He'll be sent a letter. I'll see to it." He grinned at her. "All those times we met, and you never told me you were a fine lady."

"And you never told me you were a highwayman," she said. "I thought you lot were a bit above that."

"The Maxwell Clan's private thieves?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. "You should have known better. We belong to no noble, lady, even one so sweet as yourself."

"And you should have known that my father wouldn't trust negotiations to just any little girl," Hilde said. "Even one so sweet as myself. Surely you didn't think I came to those negotiations twice a year just to play with you?"

Duo shrugged. "That's why I came!" He laughed at the look on her face. "Hilde, Hilde, Hilde, I can find things to steal anywhere."

"Aye and that's the truth," the Poet put in.

"But fun? That, my dear, is a rare commodity."

"Is that why you're here now, cousin Duo?" Hilde asked, batting her eyes.

"Oh, indeed," Duo said. "For the fun that the court ladies wear around their necks."

"If you get me in any trouble my clan will not be pleased," she warned him.

He bowed extravagantly. "Dear Hilde, your name will be as pure when you leave as it is now. At least as far I'm concerned. What you do on your own time is another matter."

"Oh, you!" Hilde said, but she was laughing. "You're hopeless. Go away. Now. Come back with something you can wear tonight -- you'll be meeting royals and nobles and -- "

"Bears, oh my!" he laughed, and was gone.

Hilde turned to the Poet. "I don't know how you put up with him more than twice a year," she grinned.

The Poet ran her fingers over the vase of roses. "You'll be finding out, Hilde, and I fear for you indeed."

The two old friends smiled over the flowers at each other and went to unpack.

+

Quatre didn't care if he was caught and imprisoned or flung off a mountain or tortured or whatever happened to those who snuck away from where the king had put them -- he had to get away. Faiza was nervous and still upset about her dresses and he was half ready to kill her himself. He had excused himself for a minute about half an hour ago -- he only hoped that she wouldn't raise a fuss.

"Ah, who am I kidding," he asked himself, wandering down another passageway in this endless maze. "She'd raise a fuss over anything -- if things were perfect, she'd probably fuss because she had nothing to complain about."

He sighed and looked at his new home. Everything was so. . . gray. The sky outside, the stones that made up the walls. He was used to the sun, to buildings connected by open walkways and courtyards. This cold, dreary place -- he tried to convince himself that he didn't hate it. He wasn't convinced.

He rounded a corner and bumped into a table. "Oh, gods damn it!" he hissed, trying to keep the vase from falling. He reached for it --

And somebody else caught it.

"Careful. That's an old vase. You'd get fired just for looking at it."

Quatre stared at the hands -- long, slender fingers, capable hands, beautiful hands -- holding the vase. He followed them up. And up.

Green eyes, almost hidden by a lock of brown hair, looked back at him. "I, uh, thank you," he said.

The taller boy shrugged and put the vase back on the table. "Can't you do better than that? I just saved your skin. That vase is worth a king's ransom."

Quatre frowned. "I don't -- uh, thank you very much?"

"I bet if I told the housekeeper you'd be let go," the taller boy told him, stepping a bit closer. Quatre could smell a faint hint of alcohol. Faint? Hell, he was about to faint, from the quantity of it. "Are you sure you're supposed to be here?"

Quatre blinked. "Um. . . perhaps not. . . ."

The taller boy shook his head. "So you're wandering the halls, endangering vases, and you're not supposed to be here." The boy looked at the vase, then back at him. "I think you owe me more than just a thank you for that."

Quatre felt himself frown. The vase was hideous. What the hell -- "what do you want?"

"Meet me at the west tower at midnight and I'll show you all about thank yous," the boy told him. "For now, though, just this." And he stepped closer again.

Quatre found himself against a wall, the alcoholic breath of the stranger clouding his brain. It must be, because he wasn't trying to break free, was just watching the boy come closer.

"Who are you?" he gasped.

The boy paused a minute. "Who, me? I'm nobody. . . no name. . . just a jack of all trades. Court drunk. Call me Nanashi."

And then he kissed him.

And then he was walking away, with a tossed "midnight!" over his shoulder, and Quatre was left staring after him with the taste of whiskey and green eyes in his mouth.

+

The damned palace had too many flowers.

He had come to the conclusion that that was the biggest problem.

Sure, the beds were too soft, but he'd managed to get by on the floor. It was almost as firm as his bed at home. The blankets were soft, and they actually had pillows, but, well, one had to make some concessions. That blue blanket was sort of nice, and in a crunch he thought it would make nice bandages. The wall hangings were practical, under all that decoration -- they kept the temperature from getting too cold (even soldiers can't function with pneumonia, after all) and prevented drafts that would make it harder to hear enemies approaching. But the flowers -- they smelled. He kept sneezing. He glanced around the market. This, this was much better.

It smelled of dung and meat and people. Heero allowed a small smile and kept one hand on his purse and the other on the hilt of a knife. Yes, this wasn't bad at all.

Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of hair shining in the sunlight. He turned -- a warrior is always alert -- and stiffened.

There was a back, a shining braid -- and right in front of that back, deep in conversation with the mouth that he was sure was attached, was a face he had seen the other night. "Thief," he breathed.

"Aye and I'm not! You'll not find prices like this anywhere!"

Heero glanced down at the man who had taken his words as an insult, then looked back up.

They were gone.

He bit back a curse -- must be stoic, after all -- and moved on, keeping his eyes peeled for that dark haired thief. Or for his companion.

+

[cont]