11-25-2001

Author's Notes: I made a pretty sad mistake in the last part, and I thank the person who pointed it out to me. I had named Une as the cleaning woman, and she isn't. I'm not sure why I did that, but the woman's name is Darla, and she is an original character. Sorry. This is a fusion with the book: So Worthy My Love by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. While there will be no text reproduced here, the story line will follow the book's almost exactly, any changes made not too drastic.
Category: Yaoi, AU, Gundam Wing, fusion with a book
Pairings: 5+2, 1+2/2+1, assumed 3x4, will be 1x2
Warnings: shonen ai, minor limish, hints of minor angst
Author: Arigatomina
Email: arigatoumina@hotmail.com
Complete Archive: www.geocities.com/arigatomina

 

Bonds of Love

Part 13

 

"And this...Duo, I knew that color would be beautiful on you."

The boy blushed with obvious pleasure and Heero watched from across the room, taking in how bright he was. He'd ducked his head, but he could see Duo's grin when he finally glanced up at Wufei. The two of them were completely absorbed in Duo's outfit, but he didn't mind as it gave him the opportunity to look as well. And what the man said was true, his continual compliments well deserved as Heero too thought the boy kept getting more and more lovely.

"I usually wear black," Duo said, meeting the man's eyes. His smile widened a bit as he was careful to focus on Wufei. The captain had come back just that morning, and Duo doubted if he'd ever been so happy to see someone. Since it was impossible to avoid Heero completely, he'd been glad to have someone to talk to. But it didn't help that much as he could feel those eyes on him at that very moment.

"Yes," Wufei nodded, his dark eyes sparkling. "And the color definitely suits you, but this." He ran a hand over the silk shirt Duo wore, barely feeling the boy's arm beneath before pulling back. "It matches your eyes." The boy laughed, and Wufei turned, glancing back at the table near the fireplace. His eyes narrowed for a moment when he caught sight of the intense way Heero was watching them, then he lifted his chin. Stepping away from the boy, he got his friend's attention before glancing at Duo again. "I'm not sure I should leave you here any longer." Duo blinked, and he gave a wry smile, his eyes flicking toward Heero again. "If you keep getting prettier, you may become too much of a temptation for Heero."

Duo looked before he thought about it, and he was frozen for a moment, dark blue eyes staring into his. Tearing away, he managed to snort softly, a weak smile curving his lips. "I wouldn't worry about that," he laughed quickly. "Heero's much too busy thinking about his beloved Relena. After all the trouble he went to." Wufei smiled, and Duo lay a hand on the man's offered arm, letting himself be escorted to the table. The black-haired captain pulled a chair out for him, and he sat down, still keeping a smile on his face. He glanced at Heero as Wufei sat down, and he blinked, uncomfortable that he couldn't read the man's statement. They hadn't spoken for days, but he couldn't believe the man had forgotten the encounter; especially when he felt he was being devoured by that gaze. "Nothing to say, Heero?"

He didn't so much as blink, his eyes swallowing the boy. It was obvious Duo was trying to taunt him into something, but he wasn't interested. Heero wasn't interested in verbal games, especially since the boy had been ignoring him up until now. To give Duo credit, he didn't know how to deal with what had happened any more than the boy did. Despite his lust, he knew that it was a good thing they'd stopped. While he wasn't a nobleman, Duo's father had been a very respected man, and he understood that the boy wouldn't willingly disgrace himself. Unfortunately, that didn't leave much of an alternative for Heero and he didn't think the boy was up to hearing his proposal just yet. The fact that Wufei was planning his trip in two day's time didn't help matters either.

"You're in an odd mood," Duo said softly, a cool chill moving over his back. He turned his head a bit and saw that Wufei was watching him with one eyebrow raised, and he smiled at the man. Leaning forward, he took a tray of delicacies from the table and offered it to the black-haired man with an impish grin. "Care for a sweetmeat, Wufei? I simply adore your chef."

"To no one else would I have sent him," Wufei said solemnly, selecting one. "But I can't have you go hungry," his eyes narrowed, and a smile curved his lips, "You're much too thin."

"Enough of these and I'll be as big as the cook." The man laughed softly, and Duo smiled, pleased that he'd managed to lighten the mood a bit. Then he held his statement, turning to Heero to offer him the tray. The man stared at him again, and Duo felt like groaning, well aware that the long looks weren't lost on Wufei. Then Heero dropped his eyes to the offered sweets and he sighed.

"Actually," Heero said slowly, his eyes flicking up to Duo's as he took one, "I've been craving something sweet...for a long time now." Holding the boy's gaze, he took a small bite, violet eyes widening as Duo stared at his mouth. Finishing it off, he heard Wufei clear his throat, and he glanced to the man, raising an eyebrow.

"Well," Wufei murmured, not quite glaring at his friend as he pushed back in his chair. "I brought something." Duo turned in his seat, and he enjoyed the curiosity in the boy's eyes. Reaching into a pocket on the inside of his vest, he pulled out a small bundle, unwrapping the white handkerchief slowly. He didn't show what he had, crossing the room till he stood in the doorway. Duo followed quickly, and he sent a smile over his shoulder. "It's mistletoe," he said softly, tying the stem so it hung over them. "The druids believed that kissing under a mistletoe inevitably led to marriage."

Wary, Duo looked from the small, seemingly harmless white berries to the dark-eyed man. "They did?"

"Yes," Wufei nodded, stepping forward. "Tell me, Duo. Would you hold to the custom if I were to kiss you?" Violet eyes widened, but he didn't wait for an answer, an arm curving around the boy's waist as he drew him close. He vaguely heard the sound of a chair being pushed back, then he kissed him, brushing Duo's soft lips. Lifting his head, he took in the boy's wide eyes with a pleased statement. "Are we engaged now?"

"I...no!" Pulling away, Duo let out a quick breath, shaking his head as he tried to smile at the man. "Of course not..." Suddenly he felt horrible for having played up to the man, and he felt as if his back were on fire; he could feel a dark glare scorching his skin without even looking to where Heero was. "Wufei, don't be ridiculous."

Smiling slowly, Wufei brushed the knuckles of one hand over Duo's cheek. "Well, then. I suppose I'll have to settle for that...for now. Sleep well, Duo."

His breath was still quick, but Duo turned, following the man's progress as he climbed the stairs to the room he was staying in. The burn in his cheeks told him he was still blushing, but he quickly forgot his embarrassment, and his guilt, as his shoulders were caught and he was turned roughly. "Heero." The man was glaring at him, and he nearly flinched from the tight hold on his shoulders. For good reason, he was suddenly very nervous.

Heero didn't speak for a minute, his rage still blazing through him. He'd nearly killed Wufei, and he wanted nothing more than to take his anger out on the suddenly skittish boy. Instead, he slowly trailed his eyes up, glancing from the small plant back to Duo. The boy's violet eyes seemed to grow wider than humanly possible, and Duo gulped audibly. "We must honor tradition, right?" He didn't give the boy a chance to respond as he jerked him forward, his mouth bearing down on Duo's.

He kissed the boy with bruising force, pulling back almost immediately. Duo seemed dazed, and he gasped a quick breath. Heero's eyes latched onto his open mouth and he dove for it, tongue thrusting inside as his arms wrapped around the boy's slender waist. Duo seemed to forget his decision quickly, kissing him back and encouraging him. One arm curved upward, his hand closing around the boy's thick braid as he rubbed his other palm against the small of Duo's back, fingers tracing his waistband. The boy pulled away for a quick breath, then he pressed forward again, fingers digging into Heero's shirt.

A loud humph broke them from their embrace, and Heero's fists clenched as he whirled to glare at the woman who stood behind them. He was about to curse at her when Duo stepped forward and he blinked at the dark tint in those eyes, contrasting with the boy's furious blush.

"I am very displeased with your manners," Duo said coldly, his own embarrassment surpassed by pure fury. He knew the woman had no reason to respect him, especially since she'd just caught him playing the whore once more. But it was inexcusable for a servant to show such disrespect of her lord and he could tell that Heero was included in her derogatory gaze. "You will show proper respect, do you understand?"

Darla nearly sneered at the presumptuous boy, but her sense of self- preservation kept her calm. Looking past the boy, she took in the furious glare Heero was sending her and bowed her head quickly. "Forgive me, Lord Yuy, for...interrupting. I'll just clear the table now."

Turning, Duo followed the woman with his eyes, then he looked at Heero, reading the hunger in the man's dark blue eyes. "Heero..." He sighed, shaking his head slowly, a small pained smile marring his face. Not speaking, he walked past the man, not stopping till he reached his room. There wasn't anything he could think of to say to the man, once again his baser instincts had gotten the better of him. //This can't keep happening. Not only is it unfair to Wufei, but Heero...I can't keep leading him on like this. I won't be his lover, I won't!//

* * *

~--~--~--~

He sighed, tilting his head as warm lips move over his neck, hot kisses sending sparks of fire through his skin. Warm hands caressed his chest, fingers massaging his sides and he opened his mouth, kissing the man. Wrapping his arms around the man's strong back, he leaned into the embrace, warmth rising inside him as he was held close. Then the hands left his back and his wrists were taken suddenly, the grip tight enough to bruise and his eyes flew open. A face, hidden in shadows moved towards him and he shook his head suddenly, struggling to pull away.

Something solid hit his back, and the man pressed forward, a hard body digging into him and Duo gasped, turning his head aside. He tried to cry out, but he couldn't move. His hands were released and he hit the man with both fists, his heart pounding painfully in his chest when the blows didn't faze him at all. Then his face was gripped, turned towards that dark face and he stared in horror as only glints were visible in the shadow. Closing his eyes, he made a mournful sound as his mouth was forced open, the man kissing him. He gasped when his face was released, but he didn't dare look, not wanting to see those glowing eyes.

"Duo..."

His eyes snapped open, and he lunged forward with a sharp cry as Heero was suddenly there, dark blue eyes warm. He wrapped his arms around the man's neck, burrowing against him as he was lifted from his feet. Then he was being lowered onto softness, Heero pulling him close. Strong arms held him tight and he looked up at him, staring for a long moment before pressing his face to the man's neck. "Heero."
~--~--~--~

Violet eyes snapped open to a dark, empty room, the dull flickers from the fire sending pale red shadows over the ceiling. "I don't believe this," Duo whispered, brushing dampness off his cheek as he blinked slowly. "I can't be in love with him..."

* * *

Part 14

It was during the journey to Wufei's home that Duo realized he still had no idea where they were. He hadn't really thought about it, as the cold climate had been enough at the time, but he didn't even know what country they were in. They'd crossed the ocean, but he wasn't sure which direction they'd gone in, and at the time he hadn't thought to ask; he didn't think he'd get an answer if he did. Now, the lack of information gave him an excuse for conversation, and he employed it in order to dispel the tension in the carriage. From what Wufei had told him when they'd left the castle, the journey would take days. The thought was not an encouraging one.

"Where does your mother live?" Duo asked, leaning against the corner of the seat as he turned to look at the black-haired man beside him. Heero was seated across from them, but he didn't think he was up for conversation. The man had been cold since they'd left, and he didn't want to do anything that might rile him.

"In Drammen."

//Norway?// Blinking in surprise, Duo glanced at Heero for a moment before focusing on the man again. Wufei was describing the town, but he didn't pay that much attention to him. He was wondering why Heero had taken shelter in this country. It was so near England, but then, he had to admit that anyone searching for him would have difficulty on the snow-covered terrain.

The carriage was rocked by wind as they moved, and the sound drowned out the soft movement before and behind them. Wufei hadn't taken any chances with their safety, and while Duo wasn't sure where he'd gotten the men who accompanied them, they were obviously in his service. The man had gone all out, and he knew the guards and the luxurious carriage were for his sake. He seriously doubted if Heero and Wufei had taken guards with them on their previous trips. No, it had to be for him and that was one more reason for his already low spirits to plummet.

He didn't think he was using Wufei, at least, he didn't like to think that. In the beginning, he had genuinely enjoyed the man's attention. It was flattering, to think that someone as refined as Wufei would take interest in him. And he was so honorable in his intentions, Duo was certain he was a match his father would have been proud of. But he wouldn't marry him. He knew that, without a doubt, he just couldn't think how to tell the man. Wufei was sweet, but he was still a man filled with pride and he couldn't imagine him taking rejection easily. He didn't want to lose the man's friendship, but he didn't want to use him either. By toying with him, leading him on with his silence, he was hurting not just Wufei but Heero and himself as well.

Time passed slowly, but it did pass. While Duo didn't lift the furs to look out the window, Wufei had done so occasionally, calling to his men, so he knew they were making progress. On the most part, it was a matter of conserving heat and Duo wondered how the men on horseback were fairing. With Wufei pampering him, they had very warm wraps and blankets, but he doubted if the ones truly exposed had such comfort. Thinking of them, he helped to divert himself, but he was still relieved when they halted for the evening. Heero hadn't said more than two words so far, and Duo was glad to put some distance between them.

In keeping with his chivalry, Wufei led Duo to a tent of his own, before they went to the main one. This was a larger tent, with one wall open to the fire to allow for more heat as well as seating room. Upon inquiry, Duo learned that Wufei's men were supplementing their supplies as a few left to hunt. Their meal for the night was, however, a stew that the cook prepared for them. The man was also accompanying them on the journey although this was one convenience Duo didn't think was for him alone. He'd noticed that Wufei had particular tastes, and Heero had told him more than once that the man enjoyed fine cuisine. He had, of course, been speaking of something other than food, but it was true either way.

They ate as if they were still in the castle, and the cook produced a bottle of wine for them. Duo avoided this, not willing to imbibe and risk his tongue revealing himself, but he couldn't help but notice that both Wufei and Heero made up for his lack of thirst. It took a while before he was certain, but the two men seemed to be competing, almost as if Wufei were aware of Heero's interest in him. While he hoped that wasn't the case, the black-haired man had not said any such thing to him, so Duo was careful not to be the one to reveal it if he hadn't noticed. After all, he was as much to blame as Heero. Actually, he was more to blame since he had yet to tell Wufei what he felt, Heero obviously already knew.

The drinking binge seemed to end without a climax, and they sat in silence for a few moments before Wufei excused himself. Left with Heero, Duo kept his eyes glued to the fire, not wanting to incite conversation. But he'd never been one to sit still very long, and he finally looked away, gazing in the direction Wufei had gone.

"You should tell him," Heero said suddenly. "Tell him you don't love him."

Duo's eyes snapped to the man, and he paled before dropping his eyes just as quickly. There was nothing he could say to counter that, he knew he needed to tell Wufei. He just didn't want to.

"Unless I'm mistaken," Heero said softly, glaring at the boy's lowered eyes. "Maybe you've just been using me as a release, but I didn't imagine your reaction when we touched. You are young, Duo, but you know what you want, don't you." The boy looked away, and he had to clench his fists to keep from grabbing and shaking him. "If you really want Wufei, all you have to do is say so. But don't use him like this. If marriage is what it takes then say so."

Duo swallowed sharply, glancing up so he could search Heero's face. Those dark blue eyes were so intense he nearly flinched back, longing to put more space between them. It was hard to think, but he straightened his back with effort, glaring at Heero. "You're forgetting Relena. I won't be a replacement for anyone, especially her."

"You know nothing about how I feel for her. Her name is an excuse for you, you use it to deny what you're feeling." The boy blinked, and he nodded sharply. "I know more about you than you think. I know how concerned you are about your name, your father's honor. What do you think the people back in England are saying right now? You have to know that your name will be stripped of virtue whether you've lost yours or not. We stayed in the castle, you said yourself that the people will talk of that whether their accusations are true or not. I'm offering you protection from slander. And that without taking advantage of Wufei's kindness to you. We understand each other, don't we."

He was serious, and as far as Duo could tell he'd obviously thought things through. Heero was proposing to him, as unromantic as it was, and he grabbed his boots suddenly, pulling them on with rough jerks. "I have to think about this," he murmured, not looking at the man as he stood.

The boy had stepped toward the side of the open tent and Heero caught his arm quickly, glaring when Duo didn't meet his eyes. "What is there to think about?" he hissed, holding the boy's arms as he leaned close to him. "I know you feel the same way I do. Admit it."

"Heero, don't. I just need to think," Duo whispered, pulling at his arms. Heero jerked him closer till they were pressed together, and he glared, pushing against him. "Damnit, Heero, let go."

"Not until you admit it. You want me to make love to you. Every time we touch you are just as amorous as I am." Duo was shaking his head and Heero's glare darkened, his hand tightening on the boy's back.

"Don't talk like that," Duo said quietly, his anger draining away. The man hadn't said anything that wasn't true, but he had no right to force him into anything. A simple admission would be enough for Heero, but it wasn't for him. This wasn't just a conquest, it was his life they were talking about.

"Do you have any idea what you do to me?" Heero demanded, giving the slender boy a rough shake. "All I want to do is throw you down right here in the snow, anyone who sees be damned." Duo flinched as if he'd hit him, and he glared for a moment before dropping his own eyes. "I'm sorry," he said after a long silence. "You don't torment me on purpose, I know that. Duo? I'm sorry, I had no right to say that to you." Releasing his hold, he watched Duo's downcast eyes before taking the boy's hand. "I'll escort you, and you can have your privacy to...think."

The two moved past the campfire, not noticing that they were being watched closely by one of the guards. The man followed them with his eyes until the pair disappeared into the dark woods, then he turned to find Wufei. It was clear to him that the Captain's associate was making a play on Duo, in direct violation of the claim the man had made. Wufei had been very blunt as to his intentions, and he wasn't about to let him be cuckolded.

Duo's boots sank in the deep snow, and he held back a shiver, as they weren't made for the weather. But he hadn't planned on hiking, and he had no intention of complaining. The fact that Heero held his hand firmly made him less inclined to speak, and he was consumed with frustration as well as a little hopelessness. The man's words had struck painfully, so crude yet he couldn't fault Heero for his honesty or his bluntness. He didn't really need to think to know that Heero's offer of marriage had a bad taint to it. The man wanted him for purely carnal reasons, and in return he would have Heero's name and the questionable protection of it. Despite that, he knew that he wouldn't hold out for long if Heero continued to ask him. His weakness was humiliating.

Finding a suitable clearing, Heero relinquished his hold, watching as Duo stood for a moment without looking at him. Then the boy took a step away and he moved forward suddenly, pulling him into a tight embrace. Duo was still at first, but he slowly relaxed, and he could feel the tension draining out of him. Heero's eyes stayed on the boy's forehead, and he sighed when violet eyes finally looked up at him. "Duo..."

A sharp call startled them, and Duo jumped back with flushed cheeks as he recognized Wufei's voice. He didn't have to speak to know that Heero was furious, and the man dropped his arms with a dull glare. But he couldn't just let Wufei find them like that, he had to tell him personally, he couldn't let him find out by catching them together. It was too horrible. His eyes grew moist when Heero wouldn't meet his gaze, and he turned quickly, trudging off into the trees. He felt dirtier for hiding than he would have for holding still, but he couldn't help but do it.

Heero's eyes flicked up when Wufei moved into the clearing, and he took in the man's anger with a blank statement. As far as he was concerned, Wufei had every right to be furious, but he didn't care at the moment. The man opened his mouth, no doubt to curse at him, and Heero waved a hand at Duo's footprints, looking away. "He should be back shortly," he said, his voice cold.

"I will wait for him," Wufei said, his voice just as dark. "Thank you for seeing to his welfare, but there is no need for you to wait."

"Fine."

He watched Heero leave, and Wufei's eyes narrowed till they were dark slits. It wasn't as if he were surprised, not really. After all, he'd been aware of the fact that Heero's eyes had been lingering longer on the lovely boy. But the man had gone too far, taking him off into the night. He had respect for Heero as a person, but as a man he knew his friend took first and thought later. There was no way he trusted him alone with Duo, especially since Heero had made no claim on the boy. His was a commitment, given outright, but his rival hadn't said a single word. Even if Duo decided not to marry him, he would not allow the boy to be dishonored by anyone, certainly not Heero.

The air was cold and tart, and Wufei didn't have long to wait before Duo came into the clearing. Those bright eyes were wary enough for him to know without a doubt that he had come just in time. The boy looked guilty, but he kept his own statement clear as he moved to him with a proprietary demeanor. "Duo." The smile he was given was so forced he wanted to glare. But he didn't blame him, Duo wasn't aware of Heero's prowess, he didn't have a defense. "Your boots are soaked," he said suddenly, frowning down at the boy's feet.

"What?" Blinking, Duo gave a soft sigh, relieved that the man hadn't railed at him for his indiscretion. If Wufei had any idea what was going on between Heero and him he gave no evidence. "I didn't realize they were so susceptible to water. But it's all right. I'll just change them as soon as I get to my tent."

"I could carry you back," Wufei said slowly, watching the boy's face.

"No!" The man raised an eyebrow at him, and Duo flushed, shaking his head. "I mean, it really isn't necessary. After all, they're already wet."

He wasn't sure, but the boy's embarrassment seemed more than a result of shyness. While he preferred to see Heero as the stalker, he was not blind and he searched Duo's face. The boy had never once admitted to feelings similar to his own, and he hadn't fooled himself into believing that he felt the same as he did. But he hadn't yet turned down his advances. Duo looked decidedly uncomfortable now, and he wondered if his guilt was for more than being caught alone with Heero. He wasn't a fool, but Wufei did not jump to conclusions either. If Duo was playing a game with him, he would have sensed it. At best, the boy had seemed confused lately, and he thought that to be a sign of indecision. It was a case he was making, he was playing the suitor, and he had no intention of stopping until he received a blatant answer. "I can't have you catching a cold," he commented, watching as Duo shifted. "Unless my touch bothers you?"

"I..." Duo's mouth went dry and he dropped his eyes, holding his arms close to him. This was his chance to tell him, all he had to do was answer honestly, but all he wanted to do was run away. Those dark eyes were so direct, he couldn't stand the thought of hurting him. He'd never imagined Wufei as being vulnerable, but he looked so open, as if completely unaware that he was moments away from rejection. "Wufei..."

He heard him before the man came into sight, and Wufei's hands curled into fists as he turned to glare at Heero. Whether Duo had been about to accept his offer or not, obviously he wouldn't have the chance. His friend wasn't giving him a chance. The horse slowed a bit as it broke the clearing, and Wufei folded his arms over his chest, stepping back as he knew what the man intended. Sure enough, Heero slowed enough to reach a hand down to Duo, swinging the boy up in front of him. Dark hooded eyes met his for a brief moment and he raised an eyebrow, wondering if the man was going to be blunt.

"I thought I would take him back," Heero said sharply, aware of Wufei's questioning glare. "He's not dressed for the cold." The black-haired man turned away from him, and he wheeled his horse back, kneeing it into a canter without another word. Duo was seated half across his lap and he wrapped an arm around the boy's waist, not slowing until a reasonable distance was between them and Wufei. "I'm sorry again, Duo. I admit, I was jealous. I don't want him touching you." The boy's head was bowed, so he couldn't see his statement, but he knew he may have just made an enemy of a long-time friend. "Duo, if you love him, if you really do, tell me before it's too late. I can't keep this charade up any longer."

* * *

Part 15

The winding streets took forever to navigate, but they went in on horseback, Duo riding next to Wufei with Heero on the other side of him. The black-haired man had grown increasingly animated as they seemed to near their location and Duo wasn't sure what to make of it. The man was usually calm, though he did have a hidden tendency to tease. But those black eyes were bright as Wufei talked about the town. He called it the Queen of the Hansa and Duo was certain he should know what that meant. He didn't, though, and he reminded himself to ask Heero about it later. They stopped in front of a large house and Duo's eyes were caught as someone glanced out a window. Then the door opened and Wufei dismounted quickly, someone in a flurry of petticoats jumping into his arms.

The boy looked shocked and Heero smirked a bit at the way Wufei was hugging the girl. He obviously didn't realize how suggestive the greeting was. Dismounting, Heero turned to Duo, not answering that curious gaze.

"Wufei! You do take your precious time between visits, I thought you might have forgotten your family." Dark brown eyes narrowed and the girl pulled away, frowning up at Wufei.

"You know I would do nothing of the sort," Wufei said easily, his eyes glinting at how pretty she was. Every time he came home, he found that she'd grown even more. She was practically a woman. Then his mother cleared her throat and he let out a small laugh, stepping forward to give her a quick hug. The woman raised an eyebrow at him and he turned to where Heero and Duo were standing. "Come inside, both of you. Mother, this young man is Duo Maxwell, a close friend of mine." His words didn't imply anything, but the woman's raised eyebrow told him she hadn't misunderstood.

"Yes, inside," the older woman said, her eyes crinkling a bit as she shot her son a knowing look. "It's much too cold to have long reunions on the doorstep."

"My manners have not improved, then?" Wufei murmured, holding her gaze for a moment before turning toward Duo. He'd planned to escort the boy in, but soft silk brushed the back of his hand and he remembered his manners. Meiran was watching him and he flashed her a quick smile before offering her his arm.

Once inside, the first thing Duo noticed was how nicely furnished the house was. Obviously, Wufei's wealth had spread to his family, if it hadn't originated there. A young man was leaning against the wall and he flashed a quick smile at Duo before his gaze latched onto Wufei. Blinking, Duo followed it, again wondering who the girl was. He wasn't jealous, in fact, he felt a rush of hope that Wufei had a perspective bride waiting at home for him. It would make his guilt much less if it were true. The girl laughed at something Wufei had said, then she stepped to where Heero and Duo were.

"We usually aren't so rude," she said quickly, smiling at Duo. Heero snorted and she flashed him an irritated look before ducking her head with embarrassment. "You are not kind, Lord Yuy. I cannot fathom why Wufei spends so much time with you instead of us."

The girl shot a quick look at him from beneath her black bangs and Heero smirked, taking in Duo's frown. "Don't mind her, Duo, she plays."

"He has never been nice," the girl told Duo, nodding when the boy's lips twitched. "But I am used to it, now. I'm Meiran Hamilton and that," she waved at the man who was still leaning against the wall, "is my incredibly impolite brother, Justin."

"I'm not impolite," the young man said suddenly, his expression careless though he did flash another smile at Duo before looking at his sister. "I'm simply watching you act your age."

"You..."

"Don't start," Wufei said, stepping into the room after his mother. He'd explained his hopes to her, and the woman had accepted better than he'd thought. He knew she kept hopes that he might some day marry Meiran, but the girl was much too young for him, no matter how old she was. The girl turned to give him a happy look and he laid a hand on her shoulder, smiling at Duo. "My cousin is a bit overly enthusiastic at times."

"Then you're cousins?" Duo asked, trying to hide his disappointment. The girl had been frowning at Wufei, but her face cleared as she turned to look at him.

"Our mothers were distant cousins," Meiran said, corrected Wufei. "After our father died, Wufei's mother was wonderful enough to take us in."

"Something I might regret, seeing how you treat your guests."

Duo let out a surprised laugh when Wufei flinched and flushed. Turning, Wufei bowed his head. "Forgive me, Duo, this is my mother, Therese."

"I raise them to be polite," Therese said slowly, taking a subtle measure of the longhaired boy. Duo smiled at her and she sighed. "But my son is a continual disappointment, so wild."

"Mother, really. I am the best behaved man I know." Duo laughed at him and Wufei's eyes sparked at the sound. He loved his family, but he was even gladder he'd visited now. With so many people around, he wouldn't have to worry about other things. His eyes slid to Heero and he frowned a bit to see those dark blue eyes on Duo. There were matters he had to take care of while in Drammen, but he knew he could leave Duo with his family. Heero wasn't the type of man who would dishonor him in his own home, no matter what the temptation. The man glanced at him and they stared at each other for a long moment before Heero gave a small smile.

"His words are true, Madam," Heero said slowly, holding Wufei's gaze. "He is a perfect gentleman."

"Oh?" The two men were watching each other and Therese frowned, looking between them. She'd met Heero a few times, and he and Wufei seemed to have a strong friendship. Looking at them now, however, made her wonder and her eyes flicked to the young boy who was listening to something Meiran said. She prided herself on being quick to judge and her eyes turned back to Wufei, taking in his dark gaze. "Wufei, show your friends upstairs. The trip must have been long." He glanced at her, blinking in evident surprise, but she turned away. "Your stay will be for days, right? There is plenty of time to visit at dinner."

"Of course." Heero was smirking at him and Wufei smiled suddenly, clapping a hand on his friend's shoulder. There wasn't anything to say, their conversation had been silent but complete. It was a competition, a rivalry, but it didn't mean they had to be enemies. "She knows best."

"Your mother is a very perceptive woman," Heero said softly, watching Wufei. The man nodded and he followed him to Duo who'd been taken to Justin. The two young men were listening to Meiran relate a childhood story that Heero had heard more than once.

"But he didn't think it was my fault," Meiran was saying, her eyes wide. "And of course, it wasn't my fault. He was the one who sat down on it. It was so sad, he couldn't walk straight for days-"

Heero snorted when Wufei promptly clapped a hand over the girl's mouth, the man's cheeks dark red. "She loves that story, doesn't she."

"Wufei," Duo laughed, staring at the man in surprise. "Don't be like that, it's a great story."

"I'm sure no one wants to know about that, right Meiran?" The girl glared at him but she nodded slowly and Wufei stepped back.

"One quick question," Duo said, grinning at the embarrassed man. "How many needles were in the pincushion?" The girl opened her mouth to answer, but Wufei's hand covered it again and Duo laughed, shaking his head. "That's okay, I guess I can use my imagination."

"Well, if you're finished humiliating me," Wufei muttered, glaring at Meiran as he slowly let her go again, "I'll show you two to your rooms."

* * *

Despite his confidence in Heero's sense of honor, Wufei was glad to escort his friend to the wing opposite Duo's room. It was the same wing the man usually used, so there wasn't anything odd about putting him there. But he was still relieved to have distance between the two of them. The dark-haired man had a thoughtful expression as he stopped before the door and Wufei leaned against the wall, watching him carefully. "You have plans?"

"This trip comes conveniently," Heero nodded, his dark blue eyes sliding to Wufei. He was aware that his friend didn't like to discuss his ties with the Hansa, but they were the ones Heero suspected most. The murder he'd been accused of had to have been done by someone with a plot against the queen. The ones with the most power, within a reasonable distance, were the Hansa. "I have plans to seek out Zechs Merquise while I'm in Drammen." As he'd expected, the black-haired man's eyes narrowed abruptly.

"I wouldn't recommend that," Wufei frowned, his back moving from the wall. "He does not like to be sought out." They were friends, it was true, but he was not about to risk his life by speaking to the leader of the Hansa on Heero's behalf. The man in question was more powerful than any lord, and he had ways of making those who got in his way disappear. He'd done some smuggling in the past, so he did have connections within the group, but he was not at all close to the leader.

"I don't plan to seek him out," Heero said casually, glancing to the door. "I'll merely be asking a few questions and letting them know I'm here. I expect an invitation before the week is out."

"You're leaving, then?" The man gave a sharp nod and Wufei turned away, glaring at the floor. He knew what Heero planned, and he was certain the man's expectations would be fulfilled. Heero's name was one he'd heard before, whispered within the Hansa and he imagined Zechs would be interested in knowing the man was in Drammen. Wufei had been careful not to reveal his friendship with the man, keeping silent when the name was mentioned. But if Heero planned to go asking questions, then there would be no hiding it. The man could cause him trouble and it was disheartening to know that Heero didn't seem worried. His hands curled into fists and he stepped away, only slowing a bit when his friend called to him.

"I won't let anyone know where I'm staying," Heero said softly, his expression hard. "No one will know that we are acquainted, you have my word on that."

"Good," Wufei commented, glancing back to throw the man a frown, "just don't get yourself killed." His friend raised an eyebrow at him and his anger eased a bit, enough for him to smirk. "Not until you repay the advance I gave you."

* * *

Wufei's family was as strictly polite as the man himself, but Meiran's good nature undid any discomfort Duo might have felt. Both of his escorts left the large house before he rose, leaving him alone to face the strangers seated around the breakfast table. He'd been a little angry until Wufei's mother explained that Wufei usually came when he had work to do within the city. She didn't know where Heero had gone, but after a bit of thought, Duo decided the man wouldn't have left merely to avoid him. Whatever the two had to do, he'd spent the day visiting with Justin and Meiran and learning more about Wufei's younger days than he thought appropriate. It was one thing to hear a few humorous episodes, but the black-haired girl seemed determined to tell every single embarrassing incident she'd ever witnessed. Only Justin's smirking glances kept him wondering if she were trying to make Wufei look bad. After a few hours of non-stop stories, Duo was convinced she related them as much for her own pleasure as to entertain her guest.

Although the two led most of the conversation, Duo was forced to tell a little about himself. He'd kept it short, telling how he'd been stranded on the coast because of the winter seas and thereby met Wufei. The tale wasn't quite a lie, but Duo was glad when Justin prodded Meiran into changing the subject. The girl only needed a breath before she launched into more stories. It seemed she and Wufei had spent a lot of time together before the man became a true captain of his own ship, and Duo was glad to let her ramble. Just looking at her sparkling eyes made him feel better about himself. Even if Wufei didn't return the girl's interest, he did have someone as enamored with him as the man proclaimed to be enamored with Duo.

Dinner came and went without either man returning, and Duo bid his hosts goodnight with less frustration than he'd bid them good morning. But then, he wasn't actually planning to sleep. He returned to his room only long enough to grab a light wrap, then went back to the cozy den. And he found that he wasn't the only one not quite ready to sleep. Justin was reclining on the large sofa, and Duo hesitated in the doorway, forcing a quick smile when the young man glanced up at him.

"Couldn't sleep?" Justin drawled, his eyes glinting as he moved back on the couch and waved a hand at the other end. The long-haired boy shook his head and he smiled when Duo sat quietly. "So tell me, Duo, now that my sister is out of the room, which one are you waiting up for?"

Eyes widening, Duo was stricken for a second, his mind flying to think of what he might have said to give himself away. "Excuse me?"

"You just didn't seem too caught on Wufei last night," Justin explained, relaxing and lighting a cigarette. "Every time he's around Meiran hangs all over him, now that is obvious. But you...you didn't even look the slightest bit jealous when you saw her." Violet eyes were watching him and he shrugged, his lips curving a bit. "So I figure it's one of three things. You're not upset because Wufei explained about his obsessed cousin, you're confident that she's not competition, or you just don't care."

The dark-haired youth smiled at him and Duo frowned back, his shoulders tensing. "I really don't think it's your business," he said sharply, his brows narrowing when Justin laughed softly at him. "That's between Wufei and I."

"I thought you might say something like that." The boy was really scowling at him, knuckles whitened on the dark cloth wrapped over his shoulders. Waving a hand at him, Justin sighed. "I won't pry. It's just that Meiran has been waiting for him for so many years...I can't believe Wufei is still blind to it. We all expected him to propose to her eventually, but he never has. So when he showed up with you my first thought was that he'd finally found someone even more obsessed than my sister. I couldn't believe how...detached you were."

Duo blinked, his eyes falling as he shook his head. He wasn't going to tell anything to Justin that he didn't have the courage to say to Wufei first, but he had to admit the young man had a point. He hadn't shown much interest in his suitor. And if Justin knew Wufei's intentions, then the man's mother probably did to. He couldn't imagine what she thought of him. "Well, Meiran has known him longer than I have," he said slowly, his expression clear when he looked at Justin.

"That's certainly true," Justin nodded. "And that's the problem. She just doesn't understand that he sees her as a sister, more than a distant cousin. But enough about that, Wufei would kill me if he knew I was talking about this." The boy frowned at him and he smirked. "He'd think I was trying to scare you away, or nab you for myself." A slender eyebrow rose at that and his eyes glinted suddenly. Stretching his arms above his head, he caught Duo's gaze and shifted on the couch. He managed to let one arm fall behind the boy's shoulders without cracking into a grin. "I'm quite the rouge, you know."

Only a few seconds passed before Duo gave in to a quick laugh, leaning away from Justin's arm with a smirk. "Oh, really. I'd never have guessed."

"Justin."

The voice was low, with just a hint of warning, but it was enough to make the young man in question jump up with a big grin. "Wufei, so glad you made it back safely."

"I'm sure you are," Wufei said slowly, his eyes glinting with a touch of humor for his cousin's sheepish expression. "Keeping Duo company, I see?"

"He's been very courteous," Duo nodded solemnly, not missing the way Wufei's lips twitched. "He was just warning me about his reputation."

"Complete with an example," Wufei snorted, his eyes narrowing in a slight glare when Justin scratched the back of his head and looked away. His cousin really wasn't as young as he thought of him as, but there was no real reason to be wary of leaving Duo with him. The young man tried to act like a suave character, but he rarely succeeded. "Isn't it past your bedtime?"

"What?!" Justin snapped his mouth shut when a muffled snicker reached him from the couch and he glowered at Wufei's smirk. "You know, cousin, one of these days I'm going to be higher on the food chain than you are. Just you wait."

"Until then, you'd better get plenty of sleep." With a wave of his arm and a dark smile, Wufei watched the man leave the room. Sometimes, Justin was as young as Meiran, but not nearly so cute. Duo was still watching him, and he smiled at the boy, shaking his head. "He really is harmless, most of the time."

"He's nice," Duo admitted. He had been wanting to see Wufei and Heero when they got in, but he didn't feel up to having a private conversation with Wufei. It was true that he had something to tell the man, but he was no more eager to do it now than he'd been last night. The black-haired captain nodded to him before taking Justin's spot beside him, and Duo curled up in the other corner, making a show of snuggling into his wrap. "He kept me company while you two were gone."

"Then Heero isn't back yet?" The boy blinked at him, and Wufei leaned forward, elbows on his knees. "I see."

"I thought you two had gone together," Duo said, not quite prodding. "You were both gone when I woke up."

"I had business to attend to," Wufei said, his eyes shifting away. This was something he didn't want to share, but he knew Duo would have to be told eventually. If he actually planned to have a future with the boy, Duo would have to know about his darker relations. And even there were bound to be no more than friends, he had an idea Duo would need to know about the Hansa, especially if Heero met up with them. The man must have left after him, and if he hadn't returned yet, then he'd probably managed to succeed with his 'plans.' Duo was watching him, and Wufei sighed. "Have you heard of the Hansa?" he asked quietly. A sharp frown told him the answer. It was the one he'd expected. "They're an underground organization, based here in Drammen. I've had dealings with them in the past, most captains in this area have. No one gets a ship without going through their network."

"Is it...smuggling?" Duo's eyes glinted when the man looked surprised. "I don't know about the 'Hansa,' but I've heard plenty about smuggling. Pirates take things from ships that leave England. And others move things across borders despite the laws." A slow nod followed his words and Duo raised an eyebrow at Wufei's closed expression. "Are you a pirate, then?"

"Sometimes. But not as much lately." The boy didn't seem upset by his revelation, encouraging him to explain. "One of the reasons I was able to get a ship from the Hansa is because I agreed to join their group. I hold no standing within the Hansa, but I have done a few small tasks for them occasionally."

"And that's where you went today? To see them?"

For some reason, Duo's easy acceptance bothered him, and Wufei nodded slowly. "I went because of Heero." This got a reaction that bothered him even more. Frowning at the boy's concerned expression, he shook his head. "He wanted to contact someone while he's here. And from what I heard today, the news is out."

"Is it about the murder?" Wufei seemed so surprised at his question that Duo was absolutely certain he was right. "Does he think someone in the Hansa is responsible for the murder of the Queen's man?"

"Did he tell you?" Wufei asked, his dark eyes wide. He didn't know whether he should be surprised or angry, but he was definitely a tad relieved when Duo shook his head. If Heero had left before Duo woke, then the man hadn't told the boy anything that morning. Meaning any conversation they might have had would have taken place last night. It was reassuring to know there hadn't been any late-night encounters between the two. While he was sure Heero wouldn't try anything in his mother's home, Wufei didn't intend to give the man a chance to even think of trying something. He liked to be on the safe side. But Duo was waiting with curiosity and visible worry. "The Hansa is the most likely choice."

"So if he finds the ones who did it," Duo said quickly, "he can tell the Queen."

"He'd have to do more than find the guilty party," Wufei muttered, "but that's his plan. Unfortunately, they aren't likely to just tell him. And if they do tell him who did it, then you can bet it's because they want Heero to join them on another, successful attempt."

"He could just pretend to join them, couldn't he?"

"I'm sure that's what he'll do." It had been a long night, and Wufei stood slowly, frowning when Duo didn't shift at all. He didn't want to leave the boy alone on the couch to be found when Heero wandered in. But he simply had no excuse to get the boy to retire without revealing his suspicions. "Do you plan to wait up for him?" Wide eyes snapped up, and Wufei's own gaze darkened for a second before he shrugged. "I certainly can see why you would. It would be much better for you if Heero cleared his name before your return."

"Yes..." A cool chill was tickling his back, and Duo stared at Wufei, trying to determine what he saw in the man's dark eyes. There was something different about his demeanor. He hadn't spoken to him like he normally did. He'd actually sounded as if he were addressing a comrade, more than a marriage prospect. And it was the first time the man had ever come into a room and not kissed his hand. That should have been a wonderful thing, perhaps a signal that Wufei wouldn't be hurt when he turned down the man's proposal, but for some reason it made his stomach sink. Obviously, he'd grown accustomed to the treatment, and Duo had to bite his tongue to remind himself not to be so greedy. "I would like to hear how his progress is going," he admitted, meeting Wufei's gaze with a clear expression.

"You might hear more than that," Wufei commented, turning and crossing the room. He paused in the doorway, still unable to smile at the boy as he was used to doing. After hearing that Zechs was aware of Heero's presence in Drammen, he couldn't bring his mood any higher. "If you're awake when he gets in, ask him about your father." A gasp broke the air and he nodded when Duo stood suddenly. "I don't want you to get your hopes up," he warned, his eyes softening a bit when the boy nodded quickly, "but his name was mentioned. All I know is that the man Heero spoke to had news of your father. I'm sure Heero asked when he met him."

"Do you think so?" Duo asked, his eyes very bright. He had an incredible urge to hug the man, and he curled his hands to resist that need. Now was not the time to act so irrationally. He still hadn't told him. "It's been so long since he disappeared..."

"As I said," Wufei murmured, his expression falling into a sad smile, "don't get your hopes too high. All I heard was that the man had mentioned Maxwell, not that he knew his location." He knew his warning fell on deaf ears despite Duo's quick nod and he shook his head. "I must leave you for the evening," he said, his voice softening despite his heavy limbs. "I'll make certain to see you in the morning, this time."

"I'd like that. Not that your family isn't wonderful, of course." Duo smiled when Wufei let out a very quiet laugh, and he followed the man, pausing in the doorway. He was prepared to watch him climb the stairs, and he nearly dropped his wrap when the black-haired man turned suddenly. His hand was taken in a strong grip and he blinked in surprise as the combination of sadness and relief that shot through him when Wufei smiled at him.

"I apologize for not being more suave," Wufei said softly, brushing his lips over the boy's hand.

His gut wrenched at his complacency, and Duo shoved his muscles into action when the man released his hand. He had to tell him now. There was no excuse not to. "Wufei-"

"I'll see you in the morning." The boy stared at him, but Wufei didn't wait, turning and ascending the stairs.

* * *

Whether Heero had a key for the front door or not, the man managed to enter it without making a sound. In fact, he was so quiet that he almost slipped past the doorway without Duo spotting him. Only the slight shadow caught the corner of the boy's eye and he was on his feet in an instant. His sudden movement in turn gained Heero's attention, the man pausing with his foot lifted over the bottom step. Wide violet eyes sparkled in the dim light and Heero would have followed the boy even if Duo hadn't beckoned to him. The den was mostly dark, save for the fire at the far end, but it was more than bright enough for Heero to know Duo had waited up for a reason. The boy didn't give him a chance to sit or anything before clutching one of his hands and turning a look on him that made him burn.

"Heero, I thought you'd never come back," Duo said quickly. He'd waited for hours, fighting off sleep, and he squeezed the man's hand eagerly. "Wufei said you--" A long sigh made him break off his words, and he blinked in confusion when the dark-haired man scowled at him. "What?"

"Don't greet me like that if you're going to talk about him," Heero muttered, his rapid pulse dropping along with the corners of his mouth.

"What do you mean?" Duo frowned, letting go of the man's hand. "I've been waiting forever for you to get back. I was starting to think you weren't coming back."

The lovely boy simply didn't get it, and Heero admitted defeat with a long sigh. "What did Wufei say?"

With a quick blink, Duo gathered his excitement again. "He said you might know something about my father. He told me about the Hansa and how you were trying to find the ones responsible for the murder, and he said they guy you talked to mentioned my father's name, so I-"

"Calm down," Heero drawled, his lips curving upward again as he looked at the boy's sparkling violet eyes. Duo spoke so quickly, he wouldn't have caught it all if he hadn't been watching the animated face with some high degree of appreciation. "Yes, I'm looking for the ones who killed the queen's man, and yes, the man I talked to mentioned your father." The boy's mouth flew open and Heero placed his hand over it, fingertips brushing soft lips. "But...I don't know if the man he saw was your father or not. He saw someone a few weeks ago who looked like your father, but his description may not be accurate. He was drunk at the time."

Duo's face fell and he huffed against Heero's hand. "Oh."

"Right," Heero nodded, his eyes glinting when the boy didn't pull away. That was enough encouragement for him to turn his hand, fingers brushing at the long chestnut bangs that fell over Duo's forehead. "I didn't go there looking for him," he admitted, holding those violet eyes, "but you know, Duo, I'll do what I can to help you find your father. It's the least I can do."

The thought of actually finding his father was foremost in his mind, but Duo found that excitement slipping slowly away, replaced by an awareness that tingled along his spine. Heero's palm rubbed his cheek and he sighed, unconsciously turning his face into the caress. Dark blue eyes glimmered at him until he dropped his gaze, another sigh passing his lips. "I never thought I'd find him. Certainly not here. To think...I would come so far, so far from home to find the ones I love..." The hand stroking his cheek moved into his hair and Duo's eyes snapped open suddenly, heat rushing over his face as he realized what he'd said. His tongue made it between his teeth and he bit down, closing his eyes again in complete embarrassment.

"Duo..." Glaring violet eyes flicked up to him and Heero stared into them, his lips curving into a sly smile. "Duo, would you like to repeat that?" The boy's down-turned lips combined with those red cheeks made his smile widen and he took a long step closer. "Duo."

"What?" Duo snapped, his shoulders shaking for a second before he clenched his fists. "What did I say? I love my father, I always have. Stop looking at me like that." Dark blue eyes bore into him and he clenched his teeth, his face blazing even hotter when he saw the man's smile. "Damn it, Heero..."

"Loved ones," Heero murmured, easing closer still. "Ones." The boy's face was more adorable than lovely with that embarrassed and angry shade of red, but he liked it nonetheless. "You said loved ones, and you sure as hell weren't talking about Wufei." Duo glared at him for another second then tried to pull away. Tightening his hold on that thick hair, Heero slipped his other arm around the boy's waist, slowly pulling him forward. "Duo."

"Leave me alone," Duo groaned, closing his eyes tight. "I never said I loved you!"

That harsh whisper made a low chuckle break past his smile, and Heero tilted his head, brushing his face against the boy's thick hair. "Yes you did..." He could feel Duo's palms against his chest, but they weren't pushing, not at all. Closing his eyes, he inhaled the sweet scent of that thick hair. The boy's head tilted back, almost asking for him to shift his mouth, and he did, lips trailing over Duo's soft cheek. His lashes parted enough for him to see that angry red had faded to passion-tinted pink and he smiled, brushing Duo's lips. "Yes you did."

The man was killing his pride, absolutely massacring it, but Duo couldn't help himself. Sighing against Heero's mouth, he leaned into the man's embrace. "Fine," he groaned, pushing his chin up when those lips receded, "I did. But I didn't mean to."

The petulant tone made him want to laugh, and Heero diverted that rise by kissing the boy, his arms pulling Duo flush against him. Those palms shifted up to his shoulders, fingers threading into and clutching his hair. The delicious boy returned his passion until he fell into the kiss, tasting with fervor. His free hand moved by itself to tug Duo's shirt free, fingers aching to press smooth skin. And they did, running up and down the boy's back, massaging the skin until their bodies were crushed together. They were separated by layers of cloth, a thick wrap as well, but he could feel Duo's rapid heartbeats as he trailed his lips down the boy's cheek. His own pulse racing at the soft breaths that brushed his ear. His tongue lapped hungrily at Duo's neck, and he nuzzled the edge of that offending cloth.

Whatever pride Heero had destroyed, he made up for it with the burning life his touch aroused. Duo's lips moved unerringly to the man's ear, touching it before dipping lower. His skin seemed to pulse where Heero's hand rubbed it and he found himself tugging urgently at the man's shirt. Fingers curling around cool material, he opened his eyes slowly, gazing at the dark hair that fell over Heero's tan skin. He was doing it again. A moist kiss pressed his neck and his eyes closed, his sigh ruffling thick hair before he ducked his face against Heero's shoulder. "It's..." His lips rubbed Heero's cool coat and he opened his eyes to stare at it, forcing his mouth to obey even if his body wouldn't. "Heero..."

The boy was not going to stop him, he wouldn't stop, Duo didn't even want him to stop and he wasn't going to. Even as the angry clamoring tried to drown out that soft voice, Heero's eyes were opening to view shadowy skin. This was no the time or the place. He knew that. But he could forget it if he tried, just one glimpse of the silken skin he'd kissed told him he could ignore everything but Duo. Unfortunately, Duo was the one speaking.

"It's wrong," Duo whispered, his eyes closing painfully as he tried to loosen his fingers. They were clenched around Heero's shirt as if they'd never let go and he groaned, forcing his hands to flatten and push against the man. "Heero, we can't do this here. Even if I love you...it's wrong...not here, not like this." A long sigh met his ears and he turned guilty eyes to Heero. He knew he deserved any reproach the man might give him. Once again, he was to blame just as much as Heero, if not more. "I'm sorry, Heero-" Dark blue eyes flashed at him and he blinked, not pulling away when the man kissed him again. This touch lasted mere seconds and he almost dove forward without thinking. It took most of his self-control to hold still. "I could never shame Wufei by doing this-not in his mother's house, not when we're not married. I'm sorry, but I-"

"I know," Heero muttered, his smirk belying the angry ache that was responsible for his bitter tone. "I know. All evidence to the contrary, I would not shame him either. Besides..." His hands tried to hesitated when he removed them from Duo's hair and clothing, and he managed a tight smile for the boy's wide eyes. "I know myself too well. There's no way I could keep touching you like this without taking you." A dark flush spread over Duo's cheeks and he sighed, pushing the boy firmly away from him. "Tomorrow."

The man turned away from him so quickly that Duo almost couldn't break his paralysis. Then he stepped forward and caught Heero's sleeve, his confused gaze flying over the dark eyes that glanced back at him. "Tomorrow...?"

"Tomorrow," Heero nodded, his eyes glinting for a second before he turned again. "Go to sleep, Duo. We'll deal with this tomorrow."

Mouth open, Duo stared as the man left the den. Nearly a minute passed before he realized he had gotten exactly what he'd wanted. At least, he'd gotten what his mind and common sense wanted. His body was another matter. With a long sigh of his own, he jerked the wrap closer around him and trudged up the lone stairs. Tomorrow. It had to be the oddest, most callous, and undecipherable thing the man could have said to him. And he just knew he'd be up all night wondering exactly what Heero had in mind for 'tomorrow.'

* * *
Part 16

There was an extra face at the breakfast table the next morning, but it wasn't the one Duo had hoped to see. Despite Wufei's courteous attention, the boy was almost too distracted to appreciate it. His mind was consumed with bitter irritation, wondering how Heero had planned to do anything 'tomorrow' when he'd left early again. But he didn't let himself get too far along that train of thought. Wufei, at least, had kept his promise to see him before he left, and after a few moments of silent fuming, Duo found himself enjoying the company. Of course, it was easy to enjoy the breakfast when he got to watch his would-be suitor receive very obvious stares from the girl sitting across from him. That visible proof of affection just eased his guilt even more than Justin's little revelation the night before. And the black-haired captain didn't stay long enough to lower his spirits. He had to get back to work. This bit of news was delivered with a meaningful look to Duo, since the man definitely didn't seem to want his mother or relatives to know what he was doing. And it served to remind Duo that Heero had more important things to take care of then that odd message he'd delivered last night.

An hour after Wufei's departure found Duo back in the position he'd held the day before, and he'd just resigned himself to a long, if rather interesting, bout of embarrass-Wufei stories when Heero came back. It wasn't easy to hide his bright eyes, especially from Justin's interested stare, but Duo tried to. Luckily, Heero turned down the dark-haired young man's offer to go with them for a day on the town. Duo just kept quiet until they were out the door, nearly grinding through his tongue to keep himself from asking what they were going to do now that 'tomorrow' had finally arrived. Heero's dark eyes glittered so much he gave in the moment the door to the carriage closed behind them.

"Well," Duo said, his voice rising with just a hint of his earlier irritation mixed with excitement, "it's tomorrow."

"I noticed," Heero returned with a slight smirk. He made a show of shifting on the seat across from the boy, pressing his back into the side closest to the door. Duo frowned, but he raised an eyebrow before the longhaired boy could speak again. "Come here," he said softly, that smirk still curving his lips.

That tone immediately turned him wary, and Duo scowled, looking over the offered seat next to Heero with not a little bit of distaste. "Tell me what we're doing and I might think about it," he offered, folding his arms over his chest. "Otherwise, you can sit by yourself."

Heero's eyes sparked at the stubborn tone, and he sighed, shaking his head. "If you're so adverse to being near me, it might cause us some problems when we go before the Priest. He may get the impression you're being coerced." Violet eyes blinked at him, widening suddenly, and Heero let out a muffled laugh when the boy promptly darted over to the seat next to him, that lovely face turned on him with a bright glow.

"You're serious," Duo whispered, staring at the man's amused expression, "you really are serious, right? I mean, I know you're...that is...that quickly? How did you manage to get permission to-"

"Actually," Heero cut in, his demeanor clouding a bit, "this isn't proper according to England's rules. A lord cannot marry without his queen's permission, but here that isn't a problem. And once we return to England, I'm convinced I can smooth this over with the Queen. As for your question, I am serious, and it's easy to get a marriage license in this town. I simply mentioned the Hansa."

"Wufei-" Duo closed his mouth when Heero frowned at him, but his eyes expressed his misgivings well enough for the man to read clearly.

"Don't think of him today," Heero said, his tone strict. "We'll tell him after the marriage is finalized. I don't want anything interfering with my meeting with the Hansa, and as much as I respect Wufei's honor when it comes to friends, I wouldn't put anything past a man scorned."

Duo hadn't really thought of that, but he still shook his head. "This is going too far, though," he said softly, frowning down at his arms. "It's one thing not to tell him, but to run off and get married behind his back seems so...dirty."

The thought had not failed to pass through Heero's mind, and it did bother him to think of how very upset and angry Wufei was going to be when they told him the truth. But his meeting with the Hansa was integral to his own future, and especially now that he was going to actually marry the boy. He'd never be able to return to England without proof that he hadn't plotted an assassination of the queen, and Duo's already tarnished reputation would be doubly so if it was learned that the boy had married a renowned traitor. And that didn't even touch onto the possibility of finding Duo's father. All those things hinged on his being able to get into the Hansa, and one word from Wufei would be enough to eliminate his chances. Besides that, he didn't want Duo to be thinking of another man tonight. That reason held precedence above all the others. "Duo, I understand how you feel," he said slowly, catching the boy's eyes, "but believe me, this is the best way."

The man had pulled him close, and Duo frowned at Heero's neck, doing his best to hold onto his disagreement. Unfortunately, he seemed to have developed a weakness for the man's hands when they petted his hair like that. Shaking his head, he finally gave in and leaned against Heero, his lips easing out of their frown. "I think you're going to regret this, as much as I am," he muttered.

"I never thought you'd be so pessimistic," Heero murmured, his fingers digging into the thick beginnings of that long chestnut braid. He didn't want to muss it, but he couldn't resist. "This is supposed to be a happy day, don't you think so? How often do you get to marry someone you love?" The boy turned his head, cloudy violet eyes flicking up to him, and Heero brushed aside dark bangs with a small smile. "Don't think of anything unhappy, Duo. You're supposed to cherish this day. I know I will."

That simple statement sent Duo's mind to climbing in odd spirals. Why did Heero want to marry him? He'd already gone through this before, it was the lust, pure and simple. He knew that. He'd resigned himself to that. But his tenacious little mind was clutching that word, cherish. Heero would cherish this day, just like he would. Dark blue eyes were watching him with a warmth he would never have expected months before, and Duo moved suddenly. His hands shoved on the man's shoulders, and he shifted on the seat until he could press his lips against Heero's, not paying the least bit of mind at how the dark-eyed man blinked in surprise. The shock must have worn off quickly enough, because strong arms pulled him closer as Heero returned the kiss with just as much eagerness as he'd initiated it.

* * *

Duo had only seen one wedding, but he doubted even the ones in Drammen were usually so abrupt. If he hadn't been floating in an odd state of happiness and impatience, he might have been a bit irritated by how short the 'ceremony' was. The man said a few words, asked them a question or two, and then handed them a certificate that Heero immediately folded and placed inside his coat. And then it was over. The only thing noteworthy about the entire thing was the kiss, and that merely added to Duo's impatience. It didn't help any that Heero had kept dark and intense eyes on him throughout all of the old Priest's words. He wouldn't have been able to pay attention even if he'd cared. Heero's gaze made him burn so much he wondered how he'd managed to resist as long as he had. But he didn't actually have to wonder. He knew his new husband was going to cherish this day, and that was enough to satisfy him.

He wasn't actually certain what would come next, especially since there were no witnesses besides the Priest's hired man. In his experience, modeled after Relena's wedding, and not a thought he wanted to pause over, the ceremony was usually followed by a party, and then the eventual trip upstairs. They didn't even have an upstairs. This thought pushed at him when he found himself back in the carriage next to Heero, and he finally frowned at the man whose arm was wrapped warmly around him. "Where are we going?"

The tint of irritation and impatience in that soft voice made Heero's lips twitch, and he tugged on the boy's braid, brushing his lips before giving into his smile. "I've secured us a place not too far. It's popular, but the food is delicious, and their rooms are very clean." Duo blinked at him for a second before a light blush crept over his cheeks. Brushing his fingertips over that warmth, Heero shook his head. "I hope you can keep doing that all night long. It might prove interesting to see how long it takes to get past your shyness." The boy scowled suddenly, batting his hand away as his face darkened and Heero smirked.

"Shut up," Duo muttered, ducking his head against his husband's shoulder. It was odd how easily he thought of Heero as that, husband, but it seemed to come naturally. Thinking of the night to come, on the other hand, was not natural. Despite how close he'd come to jumping into the man's bed, especially the time he'd literally fallen into his bed, Duo couldn't help but be a little shy of his prospects. Except for their infrequent and interrupted encounters, he didn't know any more about marriage beds than he had when he'd escorted Relena to hers. That thought made his lips curve into a half smirk, half sneer, and he nuzzled Heero's neck, abruptly wrapping possessive arms around his mate. The love for her might have led Heero to England, but it certainly hadn't lasted very long.

The boy was squeezing him with surprising strength, and Heero blinked in surprise, looking down at the hidden face. "Duo?"

Rubbing his face against the man's neck, Duo huffed against the warm skin, his smirk turning into a hidden grin. "Mine." His husband let out a small laugh, and Duo echoed it, not lifting his head.

"I return those sentiments," Heero smirked, his arms pulling the boy closer against him. A soft, muffled 'humph,' answered him, and he sighed, tilting his head to look out the window. "And just so you know, Duo, you made a lovely bride."

Face red, Duo jerked back to glare at his husband, his hands clenching in the man's shirt. "You-"

Heero smirked, darting his head forward to cut off the boy's words with a lingering kiss. After a long moment, those eyes eased their glare, just a bit, and he pulled back with a small smile. "I couldn't have found a lovelier mate if I searched England over, that's all I meant."

Sniffing, Duo frowned before relaxing against his husband again, his face moving back into that warm nook on Heero's shoulder. "That better have been all you meant. Or you'll be staying at that hotel alone, count on it."

"I can't have that," Heero agreed, smirking when Duo nodded against him. "It would be a bad beginning for us."

"That's right," Duo murmured, turning his face a bit so his words weren't muffled. "And you don't want me remembering this place with a bad light, not with the trouble we're bound to have once we go back to England."

"Duo-"

"I'm not worrying about it," Duo said quickly, anticipating what his husband was going to say, "I was just thinking. My father was a close subject of the queen's. I'm sure that if I spoke to her on your behalf she wouldn't hold our marriage against us. Even if you get proof to clear your name, I've heard she gets angry when her vassals marry without permission, especially the male ones." The shoulders beneath him tensed a bit, and Duo smiled, rubbing his cheek against Heero's neck. "I'll bet she liked looking at you when you served, that just explains how angry and upset she was to think you were a traitor. I can just imagine how angry she'll be when she finds out I snatched you up."

"You certainly say that without the least bit of concern," Heero commented, "that's good. But don't think about England right now. I don't want you to think about anything but us, for the rest of this night. The future can wait."

"How romantic," Duo smiled, placing a quick pecking kiss on his husband's neck before snuggling comfortably against him. Heero sighed, and he curved his arms around the man's waist again, enjoying the easy contact. Moments passed pleasantly before he felt the hand on his back shift, just a bit, to rub small circles on him. It was just enough to send a tingling down his spine and Duo frowned, pulling back. "You're messing up my mood," he complained, blinking when Heero smirked at him. "Why would you want to do that?"

"Because," Heero said, tugging on that tantalizing braid. "I don't want you to fall asleep, and it's time to move this little...romance, to a more comfortable location. We're here."

Although Duo hadn't noticed the carriage coming to a stop, a quick look out the window proved the man's words and he straightened quickly, pressing wrinkles out of his clothes. His husband exited first, and Duo smiled when the man offered his arm, leading him into the building they'd halted in front of. It was odd to have Heero being so...courteous, but for some reason he rather liked it. It certainly helped that the man's expression wasn't the least bit mocking when he escorted him. He didn't really think of Heero as 'romantic,' so he put it down to the man's usual fondness of touching him. And he admitted, he had the same 'fondness.' He was almost disappointed when they were shown to a table and he lost that contact, sitting down across from his husband.

Appetizers were the first to be served to them, and Heero picked up one of the little bites with a thoughtful expression, catching Duo's eye. "You know, I still find myself with a preference for sweetmeats." Violet eyes widened as the boy remembered their past encounter, and Heero's eyes sparked in response. "From what I've noticed, you certainly have a sweet taste. I'd be willing to wager the rest of you tastes even sweeter."

A dark flush was creeping to his face at the man's bold words, but Duo managed to answer that challenge with a tiny smirk. "And what's the wager?" he asked, his voice only faltering a little.

"A night in my bed," Heero said, his expression solemn. The longhaired boy smiled and shook his head.

"I'll take that bet," Duo laughed, the blush easing, just a bit. "Because you'll never know if I don't spend a night in your bed." Dark blue eyes blinked at him and he smirked as he plucked up one of the appetizers and ate it, very slowly.

"Keep that up," Heero muttered, his voice soft, "and we won't make it through the meal."

"I'll keep that in mind," Duo teased, his face clearing as he relaxed in his chair. "Your...rutting appetites aside, I'm starved."

"You still think I'm a stag," Heero frowned, "don't you."

"Yes," Duo nodded, not looking away from his food, "but I think I like that about you." A short silence was followed by a low laugh and Duo smiled, shaking his head. "I really did have a lot worse things to call you that day," he commented. "I just couldn't think of them at the time."

"I understand completely," Heero murmured, his voice dropping as he caught Duo's wrist and took the bit of food from him. Eating it slowly, he enjoyed the way those violet eyes locked on his lips. "I was distracted myself."

Blinking quickly, Duo tore his gaze away to scowl at the remaining food. "I wasn't kidding about being hungry," he warned, pulling the plate closer to him, "so be good."

A quick response nearly made it past Heero's lips, but he bit down on it before it could. As passionate as the boy was, he was still far too innocent to make comments like that. Although, a smirk curved his lips as he though the comment to himself, and he knew Duo wouldn't have to worry about having his 'fill' before the night was over. It wasn't something to say in reassurance to a young boy like him, but the very thought was enough to make Heero quite impatient for the meal to be over. With that in mind, he hurried the waiter along with a quick, but dark glare. His eyes immediately softened when he turned them back to his husband, and he watched as the boy rapidly finished off the appetizers. Evidently, Duo hadn't eaten much for breakfast. But it was just as well that he ate plenty now, he'd need to conserve energy. Heero smiled again.

The food came in what Duo was sure had to be record time, but he didn't attack it nearly as quickly as he'd intended to. His husband had the oddest expression, and that small smile did something to his stomach, creating a little shiver of nervousness he didn't quite like. That expression on Heero's face just didn't bode well for him, of that he was certain. Still, the man nodded to the food and began eating his own. Nodding back, a tad warily, Duo noted that those dark blue eyes never left him as he ate. And that small, reappearing smile really did a number on his nerves to the point where he half-bolted his food, all the time wondering if he should have eaten slower and postponed the inevitable trip upstairs. The tension between him and that stare was enough that he ended up ducking his head a bit, eating with a focus he hadn't held since he was a little child. He'd just finished his meal when he felt that hot look shift from him, and he blinked in surprise to find Heero's expression one of pained irritation, those dark blue eyes focused on something beyond him.

"Heero, I've been looking all over for you! I have..." Wide violet eyes turned up to him, and Wufei halted suddenly, a dark cloud falling over his face. He hadn't thought who his 'friend' was with, the lowered head not seeming too worrisome. Now he understood why Heero had looked at him as if he were the last person he'd expected, or wanted to see. And the man's visible irritation didn't come close to matching the absolute violence raging inside him. Duo's guilty, shocked expression, Heero's malice, and their location all pointed to one thing. All of his certainties over his 'friend's' trustworthiness fell aside and he blanked his face, dark eyes falling to Heero. "I see I interrupted you," he said tightly, his hands falling on the back of Duo's chair. "How rude of me."

"Would you care to join us for lunch?" Heero asked, his own voice low with a match for the warning Wufei had given. "They have excellent food here."

"No," Wufei drawled, meeting the sparks sent from those dark blue eyes, "though I'm sure the cuisine is excellent. I have news for you, Heero. It seems your little ploy has worked wonders. Zechs wants to meet with you, and he's sent word all over the Hansa. I thought since we're friends that I should tell you myself, I wouldn't want to risk your missing the appointment. Unless, of course, you have other commitments?" His eyes darted to Duo's hair for a second before sparking at Heero.

Wide upset violet eyes were staring at him, and Heero glared for a second before pushing back from the table. "I take it the appointment is tonight?"

"Yes," Wufei said sharply, not quite frowning when the man immediately withdrew money for the bill. Heero had glared at him a second ago, and he'd been convinced he'd just interrupted a rendezvous between the two. He couldn't imagine the man bringing Duo here just for 'lunch,' but his 'friend' really didn't seem upset now. Those dark eyes had a hint of something that might have been resignation, but that could easily come from the proposed meeting. Wufei fought with his certainty and his sudden doubt, but both were discarded when Heero moved around the table and offered a hand to Duo. His glare returned immediately. "I can take him back," he offered, his tone tight, "I'm sure you'll want to keep your appointment."

"No," Heero said, his eyes glinting at Wufei, "that wouldn't be polite, now would it? I brought him here, the least I can do is see him home. I'll be back to discuss this in a few minutes." Dark black eyes burned into him, but Heero dropped his gaze, pulling Duo out of his chair. The boy's eyes were on the floor, but he didn't prod him to look up, taking Duo's arm and steering him past Wufei. The black-haired man remained near the table, and Heero led his husband out of the restaurant area without a word.

By the time Heero managed to call a carriage, Duo's eyes were burning fiercely, and he nearly leapt onto his husband once they were inside. "Heero," he managed, squeezing the man tight, "couldn't we have told him? He was so angry! He must have thought that we-that you-"

"This meeting will settle all of my dealings with the Hansa," Heero said quietly, holding tight to the upset boy. "Once this is assured, we can tell him. I can't risk his interfering with this out of jealous anger. I hate to interrupt our wedding day like this, you know I do, but there isn't any choice in the matter. I'm sorry, Duo, believe me."

"He just looked so...angry," Duo said, pressing his face into Heero's neck. "I never wanted to make him so angry, hurt. I don't care about myself, it's so wrong-how can I just go back to his mother's home like nothing happened?! He thinks we were going to...and we were..."

"But he doesn't know we're married," Heero reminded him, rubbing Duo's back gently, "and he doesn't blame you. For some reason he doesn't seem capable of blaming you. It's funny, actually. I've been friends with Wufei for so many years, and yet he's so very quick to doubt me. You have no need to be worried that his anger is directed at you, Duo, it's me who he sees as the bastard here."

"I don't want that either," Duo said, shoving back to stare up at his husband's solemn face. "Look what I've done to you both-years of friendship-"

"He'll calm down as soon as he learns we're married," Heero said, "after he spouts off about it for a week or so." Violet eyes frowned at him and he smirked, brushing at Duo's bangs. "He'll rant at me for a while, but eventually he will calm down, I promise. I just don't want him angry about anything he can prove until after tonight. And Duo? I will be back tonight. I'll send over the man I spoke to last night, the one who spotted someone resembling your father. You can occupy yourself with that while I deal with the Hansa. And after that, I'll come back and make you my husband in fact, as well as name."

* * *
TBC
--notes--
This part was a couple pages too short, but I'll add that to the next one, I figure this is a nice place to cut off for now. I know I promised I'd work on updating some other fics next, but I was trying to think of fic ideas for a Yami no Matsuei fic (I just saw the series) and for some reason I ended up working on this one. Gomen. I *really* am half-done with the next part of 'Dark Tournament,' and I still plan to update 'Into the Wild' after that. I just had to write on this while I had the motivation-
Short_attention_span
+
Real_life_distractions
=
My_greatest_weakness
[Equation to live by...]