Author's Notes: Another fairy tale, GW style. Just in case anyone missed
it from the title, this is my version of the Princess and the Pea.
Category: Yaoi, Gundam Wing, AU, fairy tale
Warnings: Shonen ai, possible humor, minor Relena bashing
The Prince and the Bullet
Once upon a time, there lived a sullen yet handsome young prince whose unwedded state was drawing problems from his family. His name was Heero, and at the age of seventeen, he was already two years past the date at which he should have been properly wedded down. As a result, his father and brother decided to force the boy into marriage. There was only one stipulation; the prince refused to be wed to anyone other than a true prince or princess. And this meant more than the title, he demanded the person be royalty in more than just name, that he or she have a royal soul.
After careful deliberation, it was his younger brother who came up with the plan, and Quatre announced it during their dinner, Wednesday night. Normally, the youth was not exactly outspoken, but he had a romantic tendency that had led him to research the old legends regarding many things. So, he knew the perfect way of determining who was actually royalty. Unfortunately, his inspiration was not met well with his older brother.
"A pea?" Heero said coldly, metallic blue eyes narrowing as he raised an eyebrow at the boy who sat across from him. Quatre was naïve, but that was no excuse for not being realistic. "There is no way it would work, the dynamics are impossible."
"Please, just hear me out. If you place the pea at the bottom of a large stack of mattresses, only a true princess would be able to feel it. Because they're more sensitive than normal people. It's a fact, that's how it works." Quatre's wide eyes slowly dimmed, and he glared when his brother stood suddenly.
Leaning over the table, Heero snatched one of the small green vegetables they were talking about and dropped it on the floor. He pushed his chair to the side, and motioned for the blonde boy to join him. His father was watching with a half smirk, and he knew the man guessed what he planned to do. "First of all, Quatre, you have the mattresses. Do you know how much a single mattress weighs? Multiply that by more than ten and you're talking about an enormous weight. But forget that. A person alone," he held the boy's disappointed gaze, and let his foot fall on the small orb, crushing it with the slightest pressure, "and all you have is a green smear on an expensive mattress."
"But Heero, the legend says that a princess would feel the pea. There has to be some way to..." He trailed off, his lips twitching helplessly as Heero scowled at the green mess on the bottom of his boot. "Okay, so a pea won't work. That doesn't mean the idea won't. We just use something the size of a pea, that should do it, right?"
"Is this the only test you could come up with?" Wufei's dark eyes were still glinting, and he couldn't help but enjoy the way Heero slowly wiped the smear off his shoe. His elder son was sometimes funny, even if he was the most dull boy he'd ever heard of. Then again, Wufei wasn't much in the laughing department, so he couldn't blame the boy for having taken some of his mannerisms. Luckily, Quatre had taken after his mother.
"Well no," Quatre said, turning quickly as he smiled at his father. The man had been young when he'd had them, and he was a kind if strict role model, but he was also reasonable and willing to listen to him. "There are some other tests I've found, but the pea is definitely the most full proof one."
"Well then, I'll send out the invitations immediately, you can devise the tests." The blonde boy beamed at him, and Wufei gave a slight nod. Quatre pale blue-green eyes sparkled wonderfully, and he was again reminded of how sweet the boy was. He would undoubtedly be easy to marry off, unlike his stubborn brother. The boy in question was once again seated, and he continued to eat, seemingly uncaring as to the plans being made for his future. Obviously, he didn't expect them to work.
"Yes, of course." With a quick look to Heero, Quatre offered a slightly sympathetic smile. "I'll use a bullet, all right? Would that suit you better, Heero?"
"It's more appropriate," Heero muttered, stabbing his fork into his food without really thinking about it. "Besides, I'd rather have a prince who knows what a gun is than some sniveling princess who expects to be pampered her entire life."
"Oh, don't start. We find the royalty, and you marry, that's the deal." Wufei's eyes narrowed at the boy's soft snort, but he refused to be irritated. "And you better hold to your bargain, Heero. Because this is going to happen soon. In fact, I think two days is enough time for the guests to get here." Blue eyes snapped to him, and he smirked at Heero's wide and cornered gaze, knowing the boy hadn't expected it to be so sudden. "That's right. I think I can find enough candidates that one of them would have to be royal enough for you. Yes...you can be married by Sunday."
"What?!" While he usually never raised his voice, Heero's shock had been too intense to put a damper on, and he was standing suddenly. "But..." His eyes grew hard, and he returned to his seat with ease, his own smirk as wide as Wufei's. "Fine, you'll never find a real Prince or Princess, anyway." He knew for a fact, because his father had been bringing potential mates to him for years, and he'd never found one who he'd wed. That was why he'd made the deal, marriage wasn't something he cared for.
"Oh, I'd best get busy," Quatre said suddenly, smiling at his father as the man nodded again, excusing him without words. "Don't worry, Heero, my tests will be full-proof, I promise."
* * *
The guests began arriving early on Friday afternoon, and their coaches were sheltered in the royal carriage houses as they were escorted inside. Young, the eldest wasn't more than eighteen, and they were all beautiful people. Of course, the fact that they were royalty naturally meant they had to be lovely, but Wufei had chosen carefully. As much as he wanted Heero married, he refused to pair his son with anyone who wasn't deserving of him. He also wanted grandchildren, so he invited more girls than boys, despite his son's disapproval. It wasn't that he didn't want his son married to a male, but it would be difficult to get children from such a pairing.
Heero stared at the multitude that slowly gathered in the main hall, his critical eyes marking each and every flaw. They were dressed to the hilt, bright colors making his gaze burn a bit, and the silver and gold sparkled with a gaudy light that made him sneer. It was one thing to have wealth, but flaunting it was unnecessary, and he had no need to marry for money. Still, it was good to have the flashier people easily spotted, and he quickly tossed them aside, mentally since his father wouldn't allow physical harm brought to the guests.
As each youth arrived, he or she was introduced to him, and Heero was obligated to be at least courteous. As a result, he soon found the need to rub his shoes on the carpet as he was sure they were covered with drool. Whether it was from lust for him or his money was a moot point and he couldn't stand being fawned over. One girl was better than the rest, and he had to give her credit for the way she behaved, ever so politely. Her hair was a sandy blonde, and she had it curled on the top of her head, a small, elegant rather than flashy crown circling her forehead. Her dress was also demure, a simple white without the colors and jewels the others were adorned with. Unfortunately, she also had a voice that was painful to his ears and he swore to himself the next time she whispered his name he'd puke...on her.
The weather turned sour just as the last guests arrived, and they counted heads as the doors were shut, blocking out the sudden rain. Heero leaned lazily against the wall, his statement carefully blank as he was wary to so much as glance at any of the royal youths. Each time he did so, the person seemed to feel authorized to speak to him, and this was best avoided as Wufei had already told him not to hurt anyone. His eyes actually widened when Quatre gave a whispered sound, so deep in his uncaring concentration that he'd almost forgotten where he was.
"Oh no, we're missing someone." Wufei scowled at his words, and Quatre shrugged helplessly. "There are only twenty-nine, thirty were supposed to come. I wonder who we're missing " His words were broken as the doors were suddenly pushed inward, and he stared at the dripping figure who stood there. Outlined by the dark, lightning-striped sky, the person seemed a mere shadow, and Quatre stepped forward, waving to the guards who stepped back to allow the guest entrance. Then, as he stepped into the room, the boy was visible and everyone stared in shock.
When he'd first stepped forward, his face had been hidden by a dark hood, but he threw this back quickly. Wet dark bangs clung to his face, masking it partly, and he grinned at them all as he drew a long, chestnut brown braid over his shoulder. Wringing it out, he shook his head and seemed not to notice the way the others were staring at him. "You wouldn't believe the trouble I had getting here," he said brightly, large blue-violet eyes blinking as he turned to the king. "Sorry I'm late, but this night's been awful."
"And you are ?" Quatre regained use of his tongue quickly, but his eyes were again drawn to the boy's wet clothing as he was surprised by the dark colors. In fact, if he didn't know better, he'd think the boy was wearing black, something only those in mourning did. Then his kind side pricked him as he realized the boy was undoubtedly cold. Turning, he waved to the servant who stood in the doorway to the dining room. "Get a towel for our guest."
"Duo," the boy answered, still wringing water out of his thick hair. His gaze dropped as he realized he was making a pool on the marble floor, and he winced at it before looking again to the king and the blonde boy at his side. "Sorry."
"Who are you?"
Duo's eyes sparkled as he turned to look at the boy who'd spoken, and he couldn't stop the smirk that came to his lips. This was definitely the prince he'd heard about, and the way those blue eyes looked so shocked was pleasing to no ends. "Duo," he said quickly, reminding the boy. "I'm from the Maxwell Kingdom."
"Oh! I've heard of that." Stepping away from the crowd of horrified royalty, Relena blinked quickly. "It's that tiny place south of here, isn't it."
"Heh right." Duo's statement grew a bit wary, and he was surprised that the girl didn't seem to notice how she'd insulted him. In fact, she was smiling at the crown prince as if her intelligent realization should receive some sort of reward.
"Heero," the prince said slowly, his eyes making one more travel over the wet boy's form before he allowed himself a tiny smirk. It wasn't often that he had the privilege to see such a sight, and unlike the prudes that were their guests, he wasn't one to let it pass without taking advantage of it. The servant had returned, and the boy was soon wrapping a towel around his shoulders. Then Quatre moved forward and drew him from the room, no doubt in order to get him some dry clothing. Meanwhile, the guests were being directed to the dining room, and Heero proceeded them, Wufei's significant look reminding him of his responsibilities.
* * *
Dinner was an enlightening event, and Heero found himself watching the long-haired boy as he ate differently from the others. As he'd expected, they picked at their food, taking tiny bites and pausing as they chewed ever so politely. They were obviously on their best behavior, and he smirked as he wondered briefly if that wasn't why they were so scrawny. But then, most females seemed convinced that they had to be tiny, and he'd grown used to the fact. Still, Duo seemed to have no problem with his meal, and Heero found himself hard-pressed not to watch the boy.
It wasn't that he ate sloppily, or that he made unpleasant noises the way commoners often did. No, his every move was deft and precise, but he ate quickly, as if time was short. Long before anyone else had so much as finished a single portion of his or her meal, the boy was finished, and Heero noted that he seemed impatient with the wait. He fidgeted.
Looking at his empty plate, Duo masked a sigh as a servant appeared to take it away, a goblet of champagne set before him. The pale liquid bubbled ever so slightly, and he frowned at it, his fingers lightly tapping the rim of the glass. Then he gazed up, letting his eyes move around the large table. The girl across from him froze as she caught his look, and he blinked for a moment before he realized she wouldn't eat with him watching. A smirk graced his face, then he began staring at the princesses at random, enjoying the way they seemed guilty when he looked at them. It was as if they felt it was wrong to be caught eating, ridiculous as it seemed.
He was making a game of it, Heero realized, as he followed the boy's eyes. He'd been very careful when he'd looked at the others, accustomed to the fact that it was impolite to dine when someone was gazing at you. After all, one never talked with his mouth full, and someone who looked at you might strike up a conversation. He knew this unstated rule well, and he'd kept his eyes on his plate when he'd eaten what little he'd wanted. Oddly enough, there had been absolutely no discussion during the meal, so it hadn't been a problem. Watching as the boy startled one girl after another, Heero wondered what sort of kingdom he came from.
It wasn't until the last person had finished eating that Quatre slowly stood, his eyes bright. "As you all know, the reason you were invited was to find a mate for my brother, Prince Heero. And in order to find the very best person, I've devised a few tasks that will display the merits each of you has."
"What sort of tasks?" one girl asked, her brown eyes wary as she looked around the table.
"Well, if you are all ready, we'll move to a better location for the first one." Quatre noted that Heero seemed smug about something, and it wasn't until he met his brother's gaze that he understood. He'd told both Heero and Wufei about his tests, and the young prince was no doubt eager to see how the polite people handled them. In actuality, Quatre had found that most of the tests weren't like the pea, and he'd ended up taking Heero's advice a bit. So they would be doing some things that weren't exactly normal, but in their household, that was commonplace. Any person who married Heero would have to get used to it.
* * *
Heero nearly laughed as the second girl fell into the water, her thick skirts making her hit her face for a moment before she managed to sit up. It wasn't deep, but she acted like she was drowning, and his humor faded when she abruptly began to cry. Luckily, a servant quickly escorted her out of the room. It really wasn't that hard of a test, but he'd made sure it wasn't that easy either. Mostly, all it entailed was grace, or so he'd assured Quatre.
The garden was properly wet, as the rain had come at an opportune time. As a result, nearly two feet of water had collected in the trenches the servants had dug. Stepping stones stood, mere inches above the liquid, and they were placed in a straight line that led a few yards to where a small platform was. The task was to open a locked box, the difficulty being that the key was on the platform and had to be retrieved first. He smirked again as a young man also splashed down, and he shook his head. Then he blinked as his ears caught a muffled sound coming from the group of participators who were waiting for their turn. His smirk widened when he saw Duo smothering laughter, not minding the fact that the princesses near the boy were highly insulted by his rudeness. There wasn't anything wrong with appreciating humor.
Duo's eyes narrowed as one of the females managed to complete the test. She moved very slowly, with tiny steps, but she managed to retrieve the key, and the box was soon opened to reveal a silver crown. He was making up his mind to get angry, but the king quickly had the box shut again and the key returned to its place, making it clear that everyone would get a turn.
"This is just the first test," Quatre said, more to reassure those still waiting than anything. "The person who best completes and passes each test will be chosen."
Duo nodded along with the ten or so people he waited with, then it was his turn, and he stepped forward, looking at the first stone. "What's the task again?"
Heero frowned, wondering how the boy could have forgotten so quickly. Obviously, this one also had a flaw, he just hadn't expected it to be ignorance. "To open the box," he said coldly. It was infuriating to learn that the one possibility he'd found was just as bad as all of the others.
"Okay." Duo grinned suddenly, and he turned his back on the stones, kneeling beside the box.
"What are you doing?!" Relena demanded, her voice rising just a bit. She'd been disappointed that completing the task hadn't been enough, but it was unthinkable that the boy be allowed to cheat. "You have to get the key."
"No," Duo said slowly, his voice just a bit sarcastic. "He said to open the box and " he paused, his fingers moving carefully as he hid what he held in his hands, "there. All done."
Heero blinked sharply, leaving his place near the wall as he stared down at the kneeling boy. The box was, indeed, open, and he was almost astonished to see Duo slip a silver sliver into his hair. It was a pin, the same sort of thing many people wore, yet the boy had managed to undo a lock with it. Obviously, the boy wasn't stupid at all.
"That's not fair!" Relena blushed a bit as she realized she'd raised her voice, but she shook her head. "He has to get the key, too. Doesn't he? After all, the task was to determine how graceful we are."
"Yes," Quatre nodded, leaning back when Heero glared at him. "That was the reason for the testtask. Opening the box was the end result."
"Hey, you guys don't have to argue about it." Duo smiled as he straightened, dusting off pants in case he'd gotten anything on them. "I'll get the key, too. I don't mind." Without another word, he stepped over the stones, never so much as slipping as he grabbed the key and hurried back.
The boy made it seem easy, and Heero's eyes glinted as, for him, it was. After all, they were just stones, and they weren't as slippery as some of the unfortunate people had acted. Duo was smiling again, and Heero nodded to him, accepting the key with an indecipherable statement. He didn't speak as he handed it to the servant who replaced it for the next guest.
* * *
"Please, you really shouldn't fight. It doesn't solve anything in the end. I'm sure if you took some time to talk things through, you can decide this peacefully."
Heero's upper lip curled at the girl's words, and he winced as the two men ceased their fight, staring at her in doubt. They obviously didn't know what to make of her, and they had been warned not to harm any of the contestants. Still, for two men that had been hired to fight for them, they were rather wary of one young girl. Then again, the way she was rambling on about peaceful methods, he didn't blame the men for ceasing their battle, if only to shut her up. Unfortunately, this meant she had passed the test, as her task had been to calm the fight. It was an ability that royalty should have, and Heero slapped a hand over his face as he realized she had just passed her second test. Then, it was Duo's turn, and he looked at the boy with ill-concealed hope.
Smiling, Duo managed not to shoot a dirty look at the happy princess who'd managed to cease the fight. His eyes moved to Quatre, and he nodded his head toward the men who were once again yelling at each other and exchanging shoves that were not quite violent. "So, I have to stop the fight, right?"
"Yes," Quatre smiled. He was starting to like the boy, even if his manner was odd. Still, he could tell that Heero favored him, and this was a wonderful thing since Heero never favored anyone. "Your task is to stop the men from fighting. That's it."
"Okay." Walking forward slowly, Duo watched the two men, taking in the fact that they were carefully ignoring him. They played their parts well, and he was standing less than a foot from them without either glancing in his direction. Needless to say, neither were prepared for his move, and they lay on the ground in less than five seconds.
"How could you?!" Relena stared in horror at the boy who turned surprised eyes in her direction, and she rushed forward, looking at the men.
"What? I didn't hurt them, not really. I just knocked the wind out of them and stopped the fight." Duo turned to Quatre, wincing a bit at the boy's shocked statement. "That was the task, right? I mean, you didn't say how to stop them, and this was the quickest way. Without a gun, of course."
His lips were moving before he realized it, and suddenly he found himself smiling. It wasn't a big smile, but it was a smile, and Heero shook his head at the long-haired boy. Somehow, he'd expected something odd, but the way Duo had hit the men so quickly and with such strength...he was impressed despite himself. The boy really was unique; especially for a prince. Blue violet eyes turned to him, and Heero quickly wiped the smile from his face as he raised an eyebrow. Duo grinned.
* * *
The evening flew by quickly, with each task completed by two of the contestants, the same two. By the time they were brought to their rooms, the guests were exhausted and not a little disappointed. Everyone realized that either Duo or Relena would be chosen as they'd succeeded in completing each test. It was with high hopes that Quatre directed each of the people to his and her bed. There were some shocked expressions, but no one was rude enough to question the boy as he pointed up the tall stack of mattresses.
Ladders were held, and beds were scaled, and soon they were all tucked in for the night. Morning would tell the winner, and even Wufei was holding his breath.
* * *
Heero was ready to jump out of a window, and his heart had fallen into his stomach. The breakfast table was lined with twenty-nine fresh-looking young people, and only one seemed to have had a bad night's sleep.
"Well, did you sleep well?" Quatre's statement was wistful, but he was careful not to glance at Heero. Affirmations were given, and he was complimented repeatedly on the comfortable accommodations.
"You didn't have any trouble going to sleep?" Duo looked at him in surprise, but Heero couldn't help it. The fact that Relena's eyes were red told him the girl hadn't slept well at all, and he wanted to scream at the boy to say something. Anything but that he'd slept peacefully.
"Not really," Duo said slowly. The prince was staring at him as if his life were in danger, and he swallowed, glancing at Quatre. Heero looked ready to kill someone, and those intense eyes were directed at him.
"And you, Princess Relena?" Quatre couldn't help the small sigh that escaped his lips when the girl scowled and shook her head.
"I didn't sleep well at all," Relena said. Her statement was as dark as Heero's, and she looked very unhappy. "First of all, the bed was much too high. Do you realize? I could have fallen off of it? But that wasn't the worst." Heero had turned to look at her, and she managed to look indignant. "I was all set to sleep when someone made the most horrendous noise in the room next to mine. Why, it lasted for nearly two hours!"
Duo winced, flushing as he looked down at the table. "Sorry about that..." When he glanced up, he found himself the object of too many gazes for him to control his blush and it became darker since Heero, Quatre, and Wufei were also staring at him. "I sort of tore the bed apart."
"What?" Quatre blinked at the boy, trying to control his hope. "Why? And how?"
"Oh, I just took mattresses off. I had to!" Duo nodded sharply, his gaze turning dark as he stared around the table. "Would you believe someone put a bullet beneath the bottom mattress? It took forever for me to find the thing. Sorry I kept you up, Relena." The girl sniffed and turned her head away, and he dropped his gaze again, wondering if he sounded as much like an idiot as he thought. Then he heard a chair scraping the floor and he watched in surprise as Heero suddenly rounded the table with long strides.
Duo was looking up at him, his statement very wary, and Heero smirked as he leaned over the boy. Then he reached out and took the boy's slender hand, pulling him to his feet. "Marry me."
"What?!" After nearly a full minute of staring into intense eyes, Duo shook his head. "Okay. I mean, that's why I'm here and all. I wouldn't have come if I hadn't wanted to" His words were cut off as Heero was kissing him, and he leaned into the boy as strong arms moved around his waist.
"That was easy," Wufei commented, glancing at Quatre who was watching the two boys with very wide eyes. Then he noticed that one of the guests was missing, the others staring in disappointment at the couple. Standing, he leaned forward and smirked as he caught sight of Relena. "She didn't take that well at all."
Blinking, Quatre followed his father's gaze, and he stared at the girl who'd fallen over in her chair and was lying on the floor, blue eyes very wide. "No...she didn't..."